Anthony Trollope.

John Caldigate online

. (page 21 of 46)
Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeJohn Caldigate → online text (page 21 of 46)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


he remembered how he had determined to break away from the woman at
Sydney, and to explain to her, as he might then have done without
injustice, that they two could be of no service the one to the other,
and that they had better part. It seemed now, as he looked back, to have
been so easy for him then to have avoided danger, so easy to have kept a
straight course! But now, - now, surely he would be overwhelmed.

And then how easy it would have been, had he been more careful at the
beginning of these troubles, to have bought these wretches off! He had
been, he now acknowledged, too peremptory in his first refusal to refund
a portion of the money to Crinkett. The application had, indeed, been
made without those proofs as to the condition of the mine which had
since reached him, and he had distrusted Crinkett. Crinkett he had known
to be a man not to be trusted. But yet, even after receiving the letter
from Euphemia Smith, the matter might have been arranged. When he had
first become assured that the new Polyeuka Company had failed, he should
have made an offer, even though Euphemia Smith had then commenced her
threats. With skill, might he not have done it on this very day? Might
he not have made the man understand that if he would base his claim
simply on his losses, and make it openly on that ground, then his claim
should be considered? But now it was too late, and the thunderbolt had
fallen.

What must he do first? Robert Bolton had promised to tell him on the
morrow whether he would act for him as his lawyer. He felt sure now that
his brother-in-law would not do so; but it would be necessary that he
should have an answer, and that necessity would give him an excuse for
going into Cambridge and showing himself among the Boltons. Let his
sufferings or his fears be what they might, he would never confess to
the world that he suffered or that he was frightened, by shutting
himself up. He would be seen about Cambridge, walking openly, as though
no reports, no rumours, had been spread about concerning him. He would
go to the houses of his wife's relations until he should be told that he
was not welcome.

'John,' his wife said to him that night, 'bear it like a man.'

'Am I not bearing it like a man?'

'It is crushing your very heart. I see it in your eyes.'

'Can you bear it?' He asked his question with a stern voice; but as he
asked it he turned to her and kissed her.

'Yes,' she said, 'yes. While I have you with me, and baby, I can bear
anything. While you will tell me everything that happens, I will bear
everything. And, John, when you were out just now, and when I am alone
and trying to pray, I told myself that I ought not to be unhappy; for I
would sooner have you and baby and all these troubles, than be back at
Chesterton - without you.'

'I wish you were back there. I wish you had never seen me.'

'If you say that, then I shall be crushed.'

'For your sake, my darling; for your sake, - for your sake! How shall I
comfort you when all those around you are saying that you are not my
wife?'

'By telling me that I am,' she said, coming and kneeling at his feet,
and looking up into his face. 'If you say so, you may be sure that I
shall believe no one who says the contrary.'

It was thus, and only now, that he began to know the real nature of the
woman whom he had succeeded in making his own, and of whom he found now
that even her own friends would attempt to rob him. 'I will bear it,' he
said, as he embraced her. 'I will bear it, if I can, like a man.'

'Oh, ma'am! those men were saying horrid things,' her nurse said to her
that night.

'Yes; very horrid things. I know it all. It is part of a wicked plot to
rob Mr. Caldigate of his money. It is astonishing the wickedness that
people will contrive. It is very very sad. I don't know how long it may
be before Mr. Caldigate can prove it all.'

'But he can prove it all, ma'am?'

'Of course he can. The truth can always be proved at last. I trust there
will be no one about the place to doubt him. If there were such a one, I
would not speak to him, - though it were my own father; though it were my
own mother.' Then she took the baby in her arms, as though fearing that
the nurse herself might not be loyal.

'I don't think there will be any as knows master, will be wrong enough
for that,' said the nurse, understanding what was expected of her. After
that, but not quite readily, the baby was once more trusted to her.

On the following morning Caldigate rode into the town, and as he put his
horse up at the inn, he felt that the very ostler had heard the story.
As he walked along the street, it seemed to him that everyone he met
knew all about it. Robert Bolton would, of course, have heard it; but
nevertheless he walked boldly into the attorney's office. His fault at
the time was in being too bold in manner, in carrying himself somewhat
too erect, in assuming too much confidence in his eye and mouth. To act
a part perfectly requires a consummate actor; and there are phases in
life in which acting is absolutely demanded. A man cannot always be at
his ease, but he should never seem to be discomfited. For petty troubles
the amount of acting necessary is so common that habit has made it
almost natural. But when great sorrows come it is hard not to show
them, - and harder still not to seem to hide them.

When he entered the private room he found that the old man was there
with his son. He shook hands, of course, with both of them, and then he
stood a moment silent to hear how they would address him. But as they
also were silent he was compelled to speak. 'I hope you got home all
right, sir, yesterday; and Mrs. Bolton.'

The old man did not answer, but he turned his face round to his son. 'I
hear that you had that man Crinkett out at Folking yesterday,' said
Robert.

'He was there, certainly, to my sorrow.'

'And another with him?'

'Yes; and another with him, whom I had also known at Nobble.'

'And they were brought in to breakfast?'

'Yes.'

'And they afterwards declared that you had married a wife out there in
the colony?'

'That also is true.'

'They have been with my father this morning.'

'I am very, very sorry, sir,' said Caldigate, turning to the old man,
'that you should have been troubled in so disagreeable a business.'

'Now, Caldigate, I will tell you what we propose.' It was still the
attorney who was speaking, for the old man had not as yet opened his
mouth since his son-in-law had entered the room. 'There can, I think, be
no doubt that this woman intends to bring an accusation of bigamy
against you.'

'She is threatening to do it. I think it very improbable that she will
be fool enough to make the attempt.'

'From what I have heard I feel sure that the attempt will be made.
Depositions, in fact, will be made before the magistrates some day this
week. Crinkett and the woman have been with the mayor this morning, and
have been told the way in which they should proceed.' Caldigate, when he
heard this, felt that he was trembling, but he looked into the speaker's
face without allowing his eyes to turn to the right or left. 'I am not
going to say anything now about the case itself. Indeed, as I know
nothing, I can say nothing. You must provide yourself with a lawyer.'

'You will not act for me?'

'Certainly not. I must act for my sister. Now what I propose, and what
her father proposes, is this, - that she shall return to her home at
Puritan Grange while this question is being decided.'

'Certainly not,' said the husband.

'She must,' said the old man, speaking for the first time.

'We shall compel it,' said the attorney.

'Compel! How will you compel it? She is my wife.'

'That has to be proved. Public opinion will compel it, if nothing else.
You cannot make a prisoner of her.'

'Oh, she shall go if she wishes it. You shall have free access to her.
Bring her mother. Bring your carriage. She shall dispose of herself as
she pleases. God forbid that I should keep her, though she be my wife,
against her will.'

'I am sure she will do as her friends shall advise her when she hears
the story,' said the attorney.

'She has heard the story. She knows it all. And I am sure that she will
not stir a foot,' said the husband. 'You know nothing about her.' This he
said turning to his wife's half-brother; and then again he turned to the
old man. 'You, sir, no doubt, are well aware that she can be firm to her
purpose. Nothing but death could take her away from me. If you were to
carry her by force to Chesterton she would return to Folking on foot
before the day was over. She knows what it is to be a wife. I am not a
bit afraid of her leaving me.' This he was able to say with a high
spirit and an assured voice.

'It is quite out of the question that she should stay with you while
this is going on.'

'Of course she must come away,' said the banker, not looking at the man
whom he now hated as thoroughly as did his wife.

'Consult your own friends, and let her consult hers. They will all tell
you so. Ask Mrs. Babington. Ask your own father.'

'I shall ask no one - but her.'

'Think what her position will be! All the world will at least doubt
whether she be your wife or not.'

'There is one person who will not doubt, - and that is herself.'

'Very good. If it be so, that will be a comfort to you, no doubt. But,
for her sake, while other people doubt, will it not be better that she
should be with her father and mother? Look at it all round.'

'I think it would be better that she should be with me,' replied
Caldigate.

'Even though your former marriage with that other woman were proved?'

'I will not presume that to be possible. Though a jury should so decide,
their decision would be wrong. Such an error could not effect us. I will
not think of such a thing.'

'And you do not perceive that her troubles will be lighter in her
father's house than in yours?'

'Certainly not. To be away from her own house would be such a trouble to
her that she would not endure it unless restrained by force.'

'If you press her, she would go. Cannot you see that it would be better
for her name?'

'Her name is my name,' he said, clenching his fist in his violence, 'and
my name is hers. She can have no good name distinct from me, - no name at
all. She is part and parcel of my very self, and under no circumstances
will I consent that she shall be torn away from me. No word from any
human being shall persuade me to it, - unless it should come from
herself.'

'We can make her,' said the old man.

'No doubt we could get an order from the Court,' said the attorney,
thinking that anything might be fairly said in such an emergency as
this; 'but it will be better that she should come of her own accord, or
by his direction. Are you aware how probable it is that you may be in
prison within a day or two?'

To this Caldigate made no answer, but turned round to leave the room. He
paused a moment at the doorway to think whether another word or two
might not be said in behalf of his wife. It seemed hard to him, or hard
rather upon her, that all the wide-stretching solid support of her
family should be taken away from her at such a crisis as the present. He
knew their enmity to himself. He could understand both the old enmity
and that which had now been newly engendered. Both the one and the other
were natural. He had succeeded in getting the girl away from her parents
in opposition to both father and mother. And now, almost within the
first year of his marriage, she had been brought to this terrible misery
by means of disreputable people with whom he had been closely connected!
Was it not natural that Robert Bolton should turn against him? If Hester
had been his sister and there had come such an interloper what would he
have felt? Was it not his duty to be gentle and to give way, if by any
giving way he could lessen the evil which he had occasioned. 'I am sorry
to have to leave your presence like this,' he said, turning back to Mr.
Bolton.

'Why did you ever come into my presence?'

'What has been done is done. Even if I would give her back, I cannot.
For better or for worse she is mine. We cannot make it otherwise now.
But understand this, when you ask that she shall come back to you, I do
not refuse it on my own account. Though I should be miserable indeed
were she to leave me, I will not even ask her to stay. But I know she
will stay. Though I should try to drive her out, she would not go.
Good-bye, sir.' The old man only shook his head. 'Good-bye, Robert.'

'Good-bye. You had better get some lawyer as soon as you can. If you
know any one in London you should send for him. If not, Mr. Seely here
is as good a man as you can have. He is no friend of mine, but he is a
careful attorney who understands his business.' Then Caldigate left the
room with the intention of going at once to Mr. Seely.

But standing patiently at the door, just within the doorway of the
house, he met a tall man in dark plain clothes; whom he at once knew to
be a policeman. The man, who was aware that Caldigate was a county
magistrate, civilly touched his hat, and then, with a few whispered
words, expressed his opinion that our hero had better go with him to the
mayor's office. Had he a warrant? Yes, he had a warrant, but he thought
that probably it might not be necessary for him to show it. 'I will go
with you, of course,' said Caldigate. 'I suppose it is on the allegation
of a man named Crinkett.'

'A lady, sir, I think,' said the policeman.

'One Mrs. Smith.'

'She called herself - Caldigate, sir,' said the policeman. Then they went
together without any further words to the mayor's court, and from
thence, before he heard the accusation made against him, he sent both
for his father and for Mr. Seely.

He was taken through to a private room, and thither came at once the
mayor and another magistrate of the town with whom he was acquainted.
'This is a very sad business, Mr. Caldigate,' said the mayor.

'Very sad, indeed. I suppose I know all about it. Two men were with me
yesterday threatening to indict me for bigamy if I did not give them a
considerable sum of money. I can quite understand that they should have
been here, as I know the nature of the evidence they can use. The
policeman tells me the woman is here too.'

'Oh yes; - she is here, and has made her deposition. Indeed, there are
two men and another woman who all declare that they were present at her
marriage.' Then, after some further conversation, the accusers were
brought into the room before him, so that their depositions might be
read to him. The woman was closely veiled, so that he could not see a
feature of her face; but he knew her figure well, and he remembered the
other woman who had been half-companion half-servant to Euphemia Smith
when she had come up to the diggings, and who had been with her both at
Ahalala and at Nobble. The woman's name, as he now brought to mind, was
Anna Young. Crinkett also and Adamson followed them into the room, each
of whom had made a deposition on the matter. 'Is this the Mr.
Caldigate,' said the mayor, 'whom you claim as your husband?'

'He is my husband,' said the woman. 'He and I were married at Ahalala in
New South Wales.' 'It is false,' said Caldigate.

'Would you wish to see her face?' asked the mayor.

'No; I know her voice well. She is the woman in whose company I went out
to the Colony, and whom I knew while I was there. It is not necessary
that I should see her. What does she say?'

'That I am your wife, John Caldigate.'

Then the deposition was read to him, which stated on the part of the
woman, that on a certain day she was married to him by the Rev. Mr.
Allan, a Wesleyan minister, at Ahalala, that the marriage took place in
a tent belonging, as she believed, to Mr. Crinkett, and that Crinkett,
Adamson, and Anna Young were all present at the marriage. Then the three
persons thus named had taken their oaths and made their depositions to
the same effect. And a document was produced, purporting to be a copy of
the marriage certificate as made out by Mr. Allan, - copy which she, the
woman, stated that she obtained at the time, the register itself, which
consisted simply of an entry in a small book, having been carried away
by Mr. Allan in his pocket. Crinkett, when asked what had become of Mr.
Allan, stated that he knew nothing but that he had left Ahalala. From
that day to this none of them had heard of Mr Allan.

Then the mayor gave Caldigate to understand that he must hold himself as
committed to stand his trial for bigamy at the next Assizes for the
County.




Chapter XXX

The Conclave at Puritan Grange



John Caldigate was committed, and liberated on bail. This occurred in
Cambridge on the Wednesday after the christening; and before the
Saturday night following, all the Boltons were thoroughly convinced that
this wretched man, who had taken from them their daughter and their
sister, was a bigamist, and that poor Hester, though a mother, was not a
wife. The evidence against him, already named, was very strong, but they
had been put in possession of other, and as they thought more damning
evidence than any to which he had alluded in telling his version of the
story to Robert Bolton. The woman had produced, and had shown to Robert
Bolton, the envelope of a letter addressed in John Caldigate's
handwriting to 'Mrs. Caldigate, Ahalala, Nobble,' which letter had been
dated inside from Sydney, and which envelope bore the Sydney postmark.
Caldigate's handwriting was peculiar, and the attorney declared that he
could himself swear to it. The letter itself she also produced, but it
told less than the envelope. It began as such a letter might begin,
'Dearest Feemy,' and ended 'Yours, ever and always, J.C.' As she herself
had pointed out, a man such as Caldigate does not usually call his wife
by that most cherished name in writing to her. The letter itself
referred almost altogether to money matters, though perhaps hardly to
such as a man generally discusses with his wife. Certain phrases seemed
to imply a distinct action. She had better sell these shares or those,
if she could, for a certain price, - and suchlike. But she explained,
that they both when they married had been possessed of mining shares,
represented by scrip which passed from hand to hand readily, and that
each still retained his or her own property. But among the various small
documents which she had treasured up for use, should they be needed for
some possible occasion such as this, was a note, which had not, indeed,
been posted, but which purported to have been written by the minister,
Allan, to Caldigate himself, offering to perform the marriage at
Ahalala, but advising him to have the ceremony performed at some more
settled place, where an established church community with a permanent
church or chapel admitted the proper custody of registers. Nothing could
be more sensible, or written in a better spirit than this letter, though
the language was not that of an educated man. This letter, Caldigate
had, she said, showed to her, and she had retained it. Then she brought
forward two handkerchiefs which she herself had marked with her new
name, Euphemia Caldigate, and the date of the year. This had been done,
she declared, immediately after her marriage, and the handkerchiefs
seemed by their appearance to justify the assertion. Caldigate had
admitted a promise, admitted that he had lived with the woman, admitted
that she had passed by his name, admitted that there had been a
conversation with the clergyman in regard to his marriage. And now there
were three others, besides the woman herself, who were ready to
swear, - who had sworn, - that they had witnessed the ceremony!

A clerk had been sent out early in November by Robert and William Bolton
to make inquiry in the colony, and he could not well return before the
end of March. And, if the accused man should ask for delay, it would
hardly be possible to refuse the request as it might be necessary for
his defence that he, too, should get evidence from the colony. The next
assizes would be in April, and it would hardly be possible that the
trial should take place so soon. And if not there would be a delay of
three or four months more. Even that might hardly suffice should a plea
be made on Caldigate's behalf that prolonged inquiry was indispensable.
A thousand allegations might be made, as to the characters of these
witnesses, - characters which doubtless were open to criticism; as to
the probability of forgery; as to the necessity of producing Allan, the
clergyman; as to Mrs. Smith's former position, - whether or no she was
in truth a widow when she was living at Ahalala. Richard Shand had been
at Ahalala, and must have known the truth. Caldigate might well declare
that Richard Shand's presence was essential to his defence. There would
and must be delay.

But what, in the meantime, would be the condition of Hester, - Hester
Bolton, as they feared that they would be bound in duty to call
her, - of Hester and her infant? The thing was so full of real
tragedy, - true human nature of them all was so strongly affected, that
for a time family jealousies and hatred had to give way. To father and
mother and to the brothers, and to the brother's wife, it was equally
a catastrophe, terrible, limitless, like an earthquake, or the falling
upon them of some ruined tower. One thing was clear to them all, - that
she and her child must be taken away from Folking. Her continued
residence there would be a continuation of the horror. The man was not
her husband. Not one of them was inspired by a feeling of mercy to
allege that, in spite of all that they had heard, he still might be her
husband. Even Mrs. Robert, who had been most in favour of the Caldigate
marriage, did not doubt for an instant. The man had been a gambler at
home on racecourses, and then had become a gambler at the gold-mines in
the colony. His life then, by his own admission, had been disreputable.
Who does not know that vices which may be treated with tenderness,
almost with complaisance, while they are kept in the background, became
monstrous, prodigious, awe-inspiring when they are made public? A
gentleman shall casually let slip some profane word, and even some
friendly parson standing by will think but little of it; but let the
profane word, through some unfortunate accident, find its way into the
newspapers, and the gentleman will be held to have disgraced himself
almost for ever. Had nothing been said of a marriage between Caldigate
and Mrs. Smith, little would have been thought by Robert Bolton, little
perhaps by Robert Bolton's father, little even by Robert Bolton's wife,
of the unfortunate alliance which he had admitted. But now, everything
was added to make a pile of wickedness as big as a mountain.

From the conclave which was held on Saturday at Puritan Grange to decide
what should be done, it was impossible to exclude Mrs. Bolton. She was
the young mother's mother, and how should she be excluded? From the
first moment in which something of the truth had reached her ears, it
had become impossible to silence her or to exclude her. To her all those
former faults would have been black as vice itself, even though there
had been no question of a former marriage. Outside active sins, to which
it may be presumed no temptation allured herself, were abominable to
her. Evil thoughts, hardness of heart, suspicions, unforgivingness,
hatred, being too impalpable for denunciation in the Decalogue but lying
nearer to the hearts of most men than murder, theft, adultery, and
perjury, were not equally abhorrent to her. She had therefore allowed
herself to believe all evil of this man, and from the very first had set
him down in her heart as a hopeless sinner. The others had opposed
her, - because the man had money. In the midst of her shipwreck, in the
midst of her misery, through all her maternal agony, there was a certain
triumph to her in this. She had been right, - right from first to last,
right in everything. Her poor old husband was crushed by the feeling
that they had, among them, allowed this miscreant to take their darling
away from them, - that he himself had assented; but she had not assented;
she was not crushed. Before Monday night all Cambridge had heard
something of the story, and then it had been impossible to keep her in
the dark. And now, when the conclave met, of course she was one. The old
man was there, and Robert Bolton, and William the barrister, who had
come down from London to give his advice, and both Mr. and Mrs. Daniel.
Mrs. Daniel, of all the females of the family, was the readiest to



Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeJohn Caldigate → online text (page 21 of 46)