« PreviousContinue »
Mr. Holland : Very well, sir.
Mr. Cuffing : With all due respect to the Bench and to my learned friend, I contend that the case should be dismissed; but as we are really anxious that the matter should go on to the end, I shall be quite satisfied to accept the adjournment, the prisoner being released on entering into his own recognisances to appear.
Mr. Holland, having consulted with Lord St. Barnard, said he had no objection to offer, and the magistrate thereupon adjourned the case for a week, binding over the prisoner in the sum of £100 to appear.
During the evening there was a rumour that Lady St. Barnard had levanted. The newspapers did not venture to repeat it; but the story was current in society. It was chronicled over dinner, discussed between the acts at the Opera ; men spoke of it at the clubs; and before midnight the rumour had spread to taverns and public-houses. Lady St. Barnard's
Lady St. Barnard's disappearance alone could reconcile the public to the peculiar phase which the case had entered that day. She had broken down ; she could brazen out her shame no longer; the dreadful story of guilt was true; the adjourn. ment was only for the purpose of gaining time to think. London soon summed the matter up; and the clubs decided in their smokerooms that Lord St. Barnard had been “awfully sold” and that his resignation of all his public positions would be absolutely necessary.
It was only too true that Clytie had broken down. She had fled. On the Sunday she had gone down to Grassnook to sleep with her children, Lord St. Barnard finding it absolutely necessary to stay in
Her ladyship was to return on Monday morning. She did not do so. She had fled. His lordship had received from her the following hurried note, blurred with tears :
“My brain is on fire. I should die under another day's torture. I cannot bear it : not yet at all events, never again perhaps. Stop that dreadful trial. Stop it. I do not know what to say to you. I am weak and ill; but innocent. How can even the purest innocence stand against a league such as that which defames your poor unhappy wife? The time is not yet, but it will come, when the clouds will clear and the true sun will shine out. Do not follow me. Wait and watch, and find that woman who was with me at Piccadilly. Heaven will surely help you. This is the third letter I have tried to write to you. Forgive me, dearest ; forgive me. I do not know why I take this rash step. There was not breathing room for me in London, not in England, unless I had gone to Dunelm, dear Dunelm. Oh ! my lord, my own good generous husband, do with me what you will. I shall find my mother's grave, it will give me strength. Kiss our dear little ones for me-kiss them, and think of their maligned and unhappy mother."
The habit of living almost alone had made Kalmat a great observer. Men educated in large cities are not necessarily the best
. judges of character ; they do not always weigh motives with the nicest accuracy; they are impulsive in their judgments, quick to conceive an opinion, often hasty in acting upon it. The Dervish who had lived long and alone found ample scope for the exercise of his observant faculties even in a desert. The story of the lost camel and this Eastern philosopher's clue to the animal is perhaps one of the best illustrations extant of the logic of observation.
Kalmat’s faculties had been sharpened not only by living alone in a new world, but from often holding his life in his own hand among hostile tribes of Indians. What we call instinct had become second nature with him; it was the outcome of observation, the fruit of a logical mind trained in the school of solitude, danger, and adventure. He was the first to see that Clytie was gradually but surely breaking down under the fiendish cross-examination of Cuffing. Something told him that it was his duty to watch her closely, to constitute himself her body-guard, to keep her continually in view, to be near her, prepared to be of service on the shortest notice.
On the Sunday of the adjournment he thought he had discovered a clue to the woman who had been Clytie's nurse and attendant at the Piccadilly Chambers on that night when Ransford had planned her downfall; but instinct led him in the direction of Westminster, to reconnoitre the house which held the poor lady who had been literally broken on the wheel of legal licence.
It was a warm summer afternoon. London looked far lonelier to Kalmat than a Californian waste. It was good for him that his mind was thoroughly occupied.
He had walked only twice up and down the pavement opposite the Westminster Palace Hotel, when Lord St. Barnard's carriage drew
up at the main entrance. Clytie came out, escorted by her noble husband, who put her into the carriage and took leave of her with much affection and with some evident anxiety.
“You are sure you feel better?” said his lordship, before the footman closed the door.
Kalmat could not hear the lady's reply. “And you will come up by the first train on Monday morning ?”
His lordship was standing by the open door of the carriage. He spoke with a marked expression of solicitude.
I do not like you to go alone ; but it is necessary I should see Holland and the others. Yes; kiss the children—God bless you."
The next moment the horses were clattering over the granite stones, which rang under their iron hoofs; and Kalmat had quietly slipped into a hansom to follow the carriage, which presently pulled up at the Paddington railway station, where the lady alighted. Kalinat concluded that the footman would obtain a ticket for her ladyship and that she would wait the arrival of the train in the ladies' room. But she carried a season ticket, and the servant followed her to the platform. Kalmat kept as near them as he could without attracting attention. He was still dressed in warm costume, despite the summer weather-a dark brown velvet coat and grey trousers, his iron-grey hair and beard still partly disguising his bronzed features.
“You may go, Thomas,” said her ladyship addressing the servant.
“Shall I not see your ladyship into the train ?” he asked respectfully, disobeying the command.
“No, thank you, his lordship may want the carriage; I shall get on very well. You may go.”
The servant was loth to leave his mistress without going through all the usual formalities of the occasion; but at a significant glance indicating her wishes imperatively, the servant joined his companion on the box in the station yard, and left his mistress in far safer and better hands.
No sooner was Clytie alone than she looked round anxiously as if she expected some one. For a moment the action surprised Kalmat.
"Inspector,” she said, addressing an official, who seemed to anticipate her desire to speak to him. He was a polite, white-haired
"I beg your pardon," she said, “I want to ask you several questions."
Certainly, madam,” said the inspector, pocketing a half-sovereign, which did not seem to astonish him-no doubt he thought it was sixpence.
“The next train to Cookham leaves in ten minutes ?”
“Yes, my lady,” said the inspector, recognising her now, from having seen her ladyship travelling to and from Cookham with an
Her ladyship did not like the recognition. It seemed to flurry and trouble her. For a moment Kalmat thought she would ask no more questions, but she did.
“Now tell me, please, if that train arrives punctually." “Yes, your ladyship,” said the official, touching his hat.
This special attention and recognition evidently closed her ladyship's inquiries prematurely.
“Is that the train ?"
“Yes, my lady,” said the official, leading the way to the coaches, as they still call them upon the Great Western Railway.
Lady St. Barnard entered a carriage ; Kalmat went to the booking office and took a return ticket for Cookham; and presently the train was gliding away through pleasant meadows and by the banks of the calm, gentle Thames.
At Maidenhead they had to change trains, the half-dozen carriages. belonging to the local line being already in waiting for them. Kalmat noticed that Lady St. Barnard had a time-table in her hand. She had hitherto carried it in her pocket. Kalmat watched her curiously, and. felt alarmed at her manner. She looked suspiciously about her, and now and then with an uncertain manner in her gait. What was she about to do? Did she really know herself? She was going to Grassnook at all events; that was one comfort, he thought, and he was glad to see her seated at last in the local train.
In a few minutes the train had reached its destination. Waiting for it was an open carriage with two children and a round-faced, happylooking woman in attendance. The children stood up to catch the first glimpse of their mamma, and Kalmat saw with what a wild, feverish look Clytie regarded them as she took her seat in their midst and presently disappeared in a cloud of dust down the leafy lane that leads to the quiet little village beloved of boating men and anglers.
Kalmat wandered behind the cloud, which presently cleared away, and left him in the village, with its common and bridged rivulet; its long, straggling, nubbly street; its one-story post-office; its farmyard opening on the street; its half-dozen Cockneys smoking on the door-step of the King's Arms; its unpretentious chapel at the corner,
with earnest voice in earnest prayer coming in confused murmurs through the windows; its fine old church tower beyond, standing out darkly and grandly against the blue sky, and glassing itself deep down in the Thames, which murmurs gently by the churchyard, where the tall grass seems in reply to whisper something sad and low. Kalmat walked through the churchyard and listened to the closing hymn, and watched the happy worshippers as they came trooping out with prayer-books in their hands; watched them start on their Sunday morning's walk prior to the early dinner, and thought of the long past days in Dunelm. The younger portion of the congregation mostly chose the meadows for their walk, and passed Kalmat, who stood by the stile near the river. He singled out one fair girl who walked with an old man, the clergyman of the parish-singled her out as if to help his memory back to those summer days of yore.
of yore. The maiden and her grandfather passed ove the bridge and through the mowing grass, and disappeared in the wood beyond, the wood that looked down upon another wood in the deep waters that were flowing onwards to Grassnook.
Then the poet's eyes came back to the river with its gay boats, its steam launches, its lazy little yachts, its shooting outriggers, its shallops with awnings to shelter happy lovers. There were some boats for hire close by. He stepped into one and pulled it out into the stream. A pair of swans looked gravely at him out of their beadlike eyes as if they wondered what a sober grey-beard, without a vestige of boating costume, wanted upon the river sacred to jerseys and ducks, to nautical hats and pretty fluttering ribbons. A gentle breeze tempered the heat of the sun. The scent of the mowing grass was fresh ; but for the level beauty of the scene, the soft delicate colours, the cultivated luxuriance of the banks, Kalmat could indeed have fancied himself back again in the city of his youth. Presently he found himself in a lock with a little crowd of craft. The lock-keeper made pleasant remarks about the weather; two of his chubby children looked down upon the voyagers, while the wife handed to each captain the ticket receipt for the toll. It was a pretty scene, especially when the huge gates opened at last and let out the pent up stream of boats, Kalmat shooting out in their midst like some strange wayfarer who had got accidentally mixed up with pleasure-seekers. He took his boat upon the other side of the river, down among a grey clump of rushes, and there he moored it and lighted his pipe. When he felt that he was quite unobserved he stood and looked towards Grassnook. He could see two grown people and two children upon the lawn. One was Lady St.