fatuation which costs the happiness of two lives.
Such was Arthur Conway ; a man who, under brighter circum-
stances, would have shone in the world ; but who, as it was, would
never shine ; who, far from shining, would glimmer on, disre-
putably rather than otherwise, an exile from his country and his
home, with the one pure desire of his life ungratified, till the
prophecy of the insurance agent should come to pass. That pro-
phecy, which had rendered his attempt to provide for his loved one,
and to remedy the wrong he had done her mother, void, had
seemed the last drop in his full cup of bitterness. He had started
on the present expedition partly to oblige his friend, but also partly
to save money, since, until he returned to his regiment, he would
be incurring no expenses ; but it had not been au expedition of
pleasure to begin with, and how miserably was it about to end I
These thoughts, and many others, and all devoid of cheer,
crowded on x\rthur Conway's mind as he sat alone at the open
158 BY PROXY.
window of the cabin, watching the moonlight on the level stream.
How calm and quiet it was, yet how much calmer up yonder in the
blue sky, among the quiet stars.
Where the wicked cease from troubling-, and the weary are at rest ! —
was the line that haunted him as he gazed out upon them. How
weary of the world he, was, and how he longed to be at rest !
Then, all of a sudden, a thought shot through him, swift as light-
ning, and, like it, of livid brightness : ' Ealph Pennicuick is doomed
to die, and would give 20,000L for a substitute. Why should T
not take the money, and die for him — and my Nelly ? '
COJVJVAY'S WILL. 159
By persons who pride themselves upon their ' ballast,' Arthur
Conway would without doubt have been termed ^ a creatm-e of im-
pulse ; ' and to a certain extent this was true ; but, unlike the class
of men thus designated, his impulses were lasting. And this was
especially the case with his good impulses. When he did think of
doing an unselfish act, he at once put it into effect, where a better
man would often ' tliink it over,' and, upon mature consideration, not
do it. Perhaps Conway thus acted from a doubt of his o-wn con-
stancy, or from a sense that he had many ' back payments ' of the
kind to make, and had better not have another score set down to
his discredit ; but at all events so it was. He never went from his
word to another man, nor broke — to himself — a determination he
had once formed for good. This extraordinary resolve of his to sell
his life at a great price for the benefit of his belongings, instead
therefore of ^ passing through his mind,' as so many fine notions of
self-sacrifice do pass with many of us, remained there, as much a
settled plan as though he had been 1 evolving it for years. The
obstacle that would have occurred to most men in such a case, that
Pennicuick would not consent to such an arrangement, did not
occur to him, because he knew his friend so well. However the
i6o BY PROXY,
man might seem to struggle against such a temptation, he would,
Conway felt, give way at last ; the view that would present itself
to Pennicuick's mind would, after the first words of grateful acknow-
ledgment, be of the most sensible and matter-of-fact description.
' This poor devil has little to live for, whereas I have a great deal :
it is deuced hard lines on him to have to put his neck in a halter
for another man ; but he cannot do better with himself as regards
his daughter, to benefit whom seems to be the one wish of his
heart ; it's like drawing for the militia ; one man finds it to his
advantage to serve, and another to purchase a substitute.'
This estimate of his friend's views (though he felt his mood was
bitter) would turn out, Conway was persuaded, to be essentially
correct. He had long ago lost his illusions ; and now, within a
few hours of his end, it was not likely any of them should return.
The poet's statement that no one is such a prey to dull despondency
that he can resign this ' pleasing anxious being ' without a sigh, is
not of universal application ; his being was so ' anxious ' to poor
Conway, and so little ' pleasing,' that lie could not sigh about it ;
but before leaving the ' warm precincts of the cheerful day,' it was
natural that he should cast a lingering though not a longing look'
He opened his old desk and spread out the contents before
him ; there were some twenty letters in it, almost all from Nelly,
with one or two from his wife. The former were all long ones ;
some containing whole pages of mere childish prattle, but singu-
larly frank and tender ; about the weather and her walks ; about
a caged bird she had purchased witli the guinea he had sent her
on her birthday, years ago ; about a visit to the Zoological
Gardens, where she had seen some creatures that had come from
CON WATS WILL i6i
China, such perhaps as he saw every day at large ; about a visit to
the play. These little nothings — which all ended with her ' dearest
love,' and hopes to see him home — were cruel daggers now, and
pierced his heart. It was worse still, when, growing older, she be-
wailed his absence, and spoke of her affection for the kind father who
was always reaching out his hand from far to give her pleasure ;
of how nice dear Eaymond was, and of how much they saw of him,
though their home in Grower Street could scarcely be attractive to
the bright young fellow ; of Mrs. Wardlaw's kindness, and how
often she talked about her papa to the good-natured old lady,
whom she was sure he would like ' when he came home ' — that was
always dwelt upon — if it was only because she spoilt his Nelly so.
There were tender fears, too, that he was pinching himself as to
money matters, in order to provide indulgences for her and dear
mamma at home. [' She shall never hnow^ he murmured to him-
self, while the hot tears rolled down his sunburnt cheeks that had
been strangers to them for many a year, ' she shall never know.']
In her last letter she had sent her photograph, and over that he
hung in a burst of grief. How beautiful she was ; how good and
true she looked ; how he had dreamt of seeing her one day he
knew not when, but some day surely — and clasping her to his
loving heart I And now that would never be. The idea was
almost unendurable. He dared not even write to her one word of
farewell. At such a time he could not write a lie ; and if he told
the truth, he would be embittering the very life to secure whose
happiness he was about to die. Even as it was, she would weep
for him ; those bright eyes would be dim for many a day, after the
news got home. For she had looked forward too, sweet soul, to
seeing him. And that would never be.
VOL. I. M
i62 BY PROXY.
Then he took the letters one by one, tore them up into small
pieces, — so sharp was the pain as he did it, that it was the ' Ling-
chih ' (thought he bitterly) already for him, — and cast them out of
the window ; but over the photograph he pored and pored, and could
not part from it, as from the letters, but placed it next his heart,
the only treasure he — who was to die so rich — had left to him.
For a little this unmanned him quite ; but there was something,
as he knew, to make his purpose firm again, and which he had
reserved with that intent. The letters of his wife still lay before
him, and these, he was well aware, would steel his heart, and
give him courage ; for they were arguments, keen, strong, and un-
compromising, upon the other side. They might not have seemed
so to a less sensitive mind, nor even to a well-regulated one, con-
scious of having given cause of offence, but to Arthur Conway
they were powerful incentives to the act he had in contemplation.
They were not vituperative in their language, although there was
a sharp hit now and then ; but the whole tone of them— even to
their very brevity — was that of reproach. If there was a gleam of
affection beyond the ' My dear Arthur ' and ' Your affectionate
^ife ' and now and then there was — the effect of it was at once
erased — it almost seemed designedly — by the next sentence. If
Mrs. Conway permitted herself to express a hope that her husband
was comfortable in his circumstances, she added an intimation that
it was more than he deserved ; if she dropped an apprehension that
he might be lonely, she took care to guard against the possibility
of a mistake that he had anybody to blame for it but himself ; if
she lamented his exile, she reminded him that with ordinary pru-
dence there would have been no necessity for it. This is the sort
of behaviour that has driven some married men out of their minds.
CONIVAV'S WILL. 163
and many more out of their homes ; to one of Conway's type it
was torture. He was remorseful for what he had done, and did
not need such vulgar reminders ; he felt confident (and perhaps
with justice) that had he been in his wife's place he could never
have ' gone on ' in this aggravating style against one who had ex-
pressed sorrow for his misdeeds, and had gone into volantary exile
to atone for them. A man endures some things in a woman because
she is his wife, but for that very reason other sins of hers appear
less pardonable. ' The woman is a shrew ' was Conway's verdict
upon her ; though he knew she had good qualities ; and it was
this last knowledge that gave her the power of being so unpleasant.
Every line of her handwriting cost him a pang, though of a very
different sort from that inflicted by the correspondence of his
daughter : he had taken the best way to put himself out of love
with life in the perusal of this second batch of letters, which, like
the others, he presently tore up and cast away.
So certain was he, by this time, of what would be his course of
conduct, that he then sat down and remade his will : the old one
was already in his desk, so that he had but to copy the legal form ;
but the sums at his disposal were different indeed from what they
had been. To his wife he left the dowry he had squandered — he
made especial reference to that fact — and also the same amount of
property he had himself possessed at the date of his marriage.
She could therefore have nothing to complain of in the way of
loss. To his daughter he left the residue, amounting to 1 6,000/.
He hesitated as to making some statement which should account
foi' his possession of the sum, but in the end determined to omit it.
He had been always a truthful man, and the idea of his last act on
earth being a lie revolted him. Besides, Pennicuick was a much
i64 BY PROXY.
better hand at making up a story than he, and would have no
scruples about it : he might say that he had realised this fortune
on the race-course, or in a speculation upon tea or opium; only he
must be careful to show that this had happened recently. It
would be terrible that his wife and daughter should imagine he
had been in the enjoyment of this wealth for any time, and yet
had not shared it with them. His friend (with the gaoler, perhaps)
would be a witness to this will, and therefore the properest person
to explain it. This might be a little difficult ; but after all, when
money is left, the recipients are not very curious as to how it came \
though, when money is lost, folks are very importunate to know
what has become of it.
His worldly affairs being thus disposed of and those belonging
to him well provided for, he began for the first time to look his
own fate in the face. He had no doubt that, for a few hundred
pounds which Pennicuick had with him, and for the expenditure
of which he could repay himself if he chose out of his own
(Conway's) property at Shanghae, the officials could be bribed
to make the proposed substitution ; but it might be necessary, for
the deception of the public, that he should actually suffer the cruel
punishment the law had decreed ; the escape from it by laudanum,
though easy enough to the real culprit, might not be open to him-
self, on account of the investigations that it would necessitate, the
risk of which the Mandarin and the rest would be unwilling to
face. He might have no choice but to trust to the purchased
humanity of the executioner. Viewed in this light, his case was
even worse than Pennicuick's had been, and it had seemed to him
a few hours ago that the position of Pennicuick had been very
terrible. Curiously enough, now that he himself stood in
CONIVATS WILL. 165
his friend's place, there was no terror in it, except for the
physical fear in connection with the execution itself. Without
being what would be considered, by a meeting of Convocation,
orthodox, Conway entertained a wholesome faith that matters
would be better arranged for him upon the other side of
the grave than he had arranged them for himself on this ;
after all, there could be but an hour's intense pain, at moot —
probably it would last but a second — to be followed by an eter-
nity of — what he felt would to him be Heaven, even though there
shoud be nothing better — Rest ; there would be no more carking
cares, nor vain regrets, nor unsatisfied longings, and Xelly's life
would be made smooth for her.
These reflections were interrupted by the retm-n of the soldiers
and sailors to the boat, who in the daytime now went where they
would, passing only the night on board ; it was understood, how-
ever, that they were to hold themselves in readiness to return to
Shanghae with the surviving Englishman when his friend should
have expiated his offence against the law. From their unwonted
loquacity, more than from what he actually overheard, Conway
judged they had already become acquainted with the nature of the
Lieut-enant-Governor's sentence, and that it gave them no little
satisfaction. A few hours ago he would have felt indignant against
them for this brutality towards ' poor Pennicuick,' though he was
well aware that the latter's manners had been the reverse of con-
ciliatory ; but, as it was, it mattered nothing. They would be
aware, of course, of the substitution of his friend for himself; but as
that would be done under authority, he knew that they would be
far too wise to stir in the matter from any abstract devotion to the
principles of justice.
i66 BY PROXY.
If expectation might ever plead excuse for wakefulness, it will
be thought that it might have done so that night with Arthur
Conway ; but such was not the case. The anxieties that had
hitherto haunted his pillow were now in fact laid to rest, and tlie
personal apprehensions that occupied their place were altogether
disproportionate to them. He desired to sleep, not so much to
forget his woes, as to gain strength and courage for the endurance
of them : and he soon fell into a tranquil slumber, from which (as
generally happens to those who have cause to wake) he woke long-
before his usual hour. A task lay before him such as has rarely
fallen to the lot of man to undertake, and the time allotted to him
between that present hour and the commencement of eternity — or
mere ' cold obstruction,' as the case might be — was short indeed.
Upon one thinghe was resolverl : that neither by bribes nor persuasion
would he endeavour to move the Mandarin to postpone the execu-
tion. He was too sensible — and it may be added, perhaps, too self-
conscious — to underrate the greatness and rarity of the sacrifice he
was about to make ; but he felt like a man who has some painful
operation to undergo, and wishes to have it over, rather than
like one who, about to lose it, clings to dear life.
THE BARGAIN. 167
Early as it was when Arthur Conway took his way that morning
to the prison where his friend lay, but which he had resolved
was henceforth to be his own dwelling-place, there were people in
that land of Morning already astii\ On a waste piece of ground
adjoining the gaol, the existence of which had somewhat excited
his curiosity— for in China it is unusual to see any spot unculti
vated— a knot of natives were collected, one of whom was raised
above the others on a ladder. As he drew near he heard the
' thump thump ' of a wooden mallet, and perceived that they were
fixing into the earth a post about eight feet high. He felt a
sickness at his heart, and knew that his face grew pale as he ap-
proached these men— for the object of their preparations was plain
to him — but nevertheless he gave them a ' good morning.'
' This is the execution ground, I suppose, my friends ? '
« Yes,' answ^ered one subserviently, ' and this is the post for the
" Ling-chih " to-morrow. There will be half the province come to
see it, but there will be ever so good a view for your honourable
worship from the roof of the gaol yonder.'
There was no intentional cruelty in the man's speech: he
knew the destined victim was Conway's friend; but since the
i68 BY PROXY.
executicn was to be, he thought it was probable that he would wish
to witness the spectacle. There is a great deal of philosophy in
China besides that which is cultivated by the learned, and as-
tonishingly little sentiment.
Conway found his friend — who was usually a late sleeper — very
much awake, and in a state of anxiety the expression of which he
strove in vain to conceal. He had discovered by some behaviour of
the under-gaoler on the preceding night that the decree from the
lieutenant-governor had arrived, but had been too proud — or
perhaps too nervous — to inquire what it was.
'I am sure it has come, Connie. Why was I not told at
once ? '
' Because I wished you to pass as good a night as might be
possible, Penn,' answered his friend gravely.
' The news is bad, then, is it ? '
' It is as bad as can possibly he, Pennicuick.'
*It is not to be that infernal " Ling-chih," surely.'
* Yes, that is the sentence.'
Pennicuick turned very pale, and sat down on his little bed.
He seemed to swallow something twice or thrice in his throat
before he spoke.
' And wlien is it to be, Conway ? '
' That is not quite certain. It will probably be to-morrow, but
the Mandarin will, I think, consent — for a consideration — to put it
oli for a little; perhaps a day or so.'
Pennicuick made an impatient movement with his hands. ' No,'
said he ; ' if the d d thing is to be done, let it be done quickly.
It was strange, Conway thought, that he did not even allude to
the plan cf the feub&titute, alout which he had been apparently so
THE BARGAJA, 169
confident a few hours ago, notwithstanding that the difficulty of
procuring one had been stated to him. Perhaps the fact was that
he had never really had much hope cf it.
' How long will it last ? ' inquired Pennicuick presently ; * I
mean, the pain of the thing.' Then Conway told him what Fu-
chow had said about feeing the executioner.
' Well, well, that is no matter,' said Pennicuick grimly. * The
scoundrels shall have no more of my money. I am independent
of them, so far, thanks to what I have here ; ' and he tapped his
waistcoat pocket where lay the bottle of laudanum. Curiously
enough, Conway had for the moment forgotten the laudanum,
which would certainly not have happened had he had his friend's
case only to think about, and not his own.
' Still, it's deuced hard lines, Connie, to die like a dog, and
twenty times worse than a dog, at the hands of these idiots.' He
uttered a fierce oath and gnashed his teeth.
Still Conway did not speak ; it was not that he did not pity
his friend, and was willing enough to put an end to his apprehen-
sions. But he felt that it was necessary for his purpose to bide
his time. In that supreme hour, all pretences, all delusions, were
swept away from his mind ; he felt that it was within the bounds
of possibility that if Kalph Pennicuick were cognisant of his
friend's necessities he might drive a bargain with him even for his
life. At last the other touched upon the desired topic.
' It is the fact, then, that these scoundrels could not be bought
even with 20,000^. ? I should have thought that such a sum as
that would have induced Twang-hi himself to take my place.'
' It would be easy enough, Pennicuick, for such a sum, to bribe
these men all round, and of course to find a substitute ; but, as I
ryo .BY PROXY.
gave you to understand last night, no Chinese could carry out the
deception. The trick would be discovered at once, and all who
connived at it would be punished.'
' That is only a question of risk, which again is a question of
" How much," ' urged Pennicuick. ' Sooner than lose my skin, I
would pay 30,000^. Think of what such a fortune would be in
England — how much more, then, in China ! '
* No money would do it, Pennicuick ; unless some European
could be induced to die for you.'
' That is as much as to say " You're a dead man," ' answered
' Not quite. I know one Englishman who would not shrink —
at least, I think so — with such a prize in view, from such a sacrifice.'
' What matters, since he is not here ? '
' He is here, Pennicuick ; he stands before you.'
' You ! Fou, Conway ? Are you mad ? '
'No, Penn, although things have gone with me almost ill
enough to drive me mad. To me life has long been valueless,
except for a hope that draws no nearer to its fulfilment. I had
wished to see my dear daughter before youth and beauty had
passed away from her ; but, if I die for you, I must be content to
feel that, in so doing, I purchase for her ease and comfort. I owe
her mother, too, some reparation. The 20,000^. — you spoke just
now of 30,000^., but the first sum will suffice — that you were pre-
pared to give to some Chinaman, will be given to your friend in-
stead ; a change with which you will not be inclined to quarrel.
Some more money will be necessary, doubtless, to induce the
authorities to consent to the substitution ; but that, I think, may
be^arranged for a small sum. We are like enough — being both
THE BARGAIN, 17 1
Englishmen — to pass for one another on the scaffold ; for it will
perhaps be necessary for me to go thither. It is not certain that
that easy way of going out of the world — the laudanum — will be
open to me, as it was for you. It will probably be made a sine
qua non that I should be made a show of. Do you hear that
hammering, Penn, outside ? They are putting the pobt into the
earth, to which I shall be tied before the torment.'
* Conway, I can't permit it,' exclaimed Pennicuick suddenly :
his face was pale and wet, and his voice greatly agitated. ' AVhat
will they say at home when they come to hear that I let you die
for me ? '
' They must never know it at home, Pennicuick. I must for-
feit the last poor privilege of writing one line of Farewell — lor a
lie I could not write. You must explain it all — what way you
please. They threw me into prison, say at once, and cut off all
communication between us ; I was allowed no writing materials ;
you will have time enough between this and when you see — when
you see my Nelly, to invent the best excuse. The truth would
kill her. I should have thrown my life away, since the money for
which I sold it for her sake would never give her pleasure. Do
you follow me ? '
' Yes, I am listening. I do not say 1 will consent, Connie. It
seems a baseness, somehow.'
' It is not a baseness if I wish it : if I had rather die and make
my daughter happy, than live on, and know her to be poor and
wretched. It is a voluntary act on my part ; it is not as if you
asked me to make the bargain.'
' That is true,' said Pennicuick, moistening his dry lips.
' Of course that makes all the difference,' continued Conway.
172 BY PROXY.
' I have looked at the matter all round, and am not acting on the
impulse. Here is my will, in which I have left the 20,000^. as
though it were already mine. It shall be witnessed, and then you
will take charge of it and give it into my wife's liands. There will
be nothing more to give of mine — not one line of my hand-
writing, no word of Grood-bye.' Here Conway's voice broke down
for the first time.
' But my dear Connie, supposing this sad matter should be thus
arranged, how is your possession of so much money to be ac-
counted for ? '
' I have thought of that, of course ; but you have a better head
than mine for invention. Say I made some fortunate investment
in opium, don't say I won it on the turf, if you can help it ; it
will have been gained honestly enough, and hardly enough. Heaven
knows. There is something in the Bible about dying for one's
friend. " Yet for a good man some would even dare to die," I