and know nothing of this vile and impious sacrilege.'
' And yet it was my friend, and not I,' urged Conway, ' whose
hand has fed you.'
' Ay, and struck me,' whispered Fu-chow fiercely, and touching
for an instant his scarred cheek. ' See, yonder, what he has taken,,
and reckon what he is like to pay for it.'
He pointed to the family altar, erected, as usual, in the hall,,
and on which by this time a priest from the temple had placed the
missing Shay-le with every demonstration of reverence . The faces-,
of all the spectators, including even those of the soldiers who had'
THE INFORMER. 59.
just been employed in binding Pennicuick's limbs with ropes, ex-
pressed a superstitious awe.
' How much shall I get for this, as they say at the Old Bailey,
Connie ? ' inquired the prostrate Pennicuick, taking advantage
of the solemn silence ; ' I suppose that friend of yours — whom you
will do me the justice to say I always took for a scoundrel — will
tell us as much as that.'
Conway murmured a few words to the captain, who answered
in the same low tone, but with a look which fortunately Pennicuick
could not see.
' You will be fined and perhaps imprisoned, he says,' answered
It was an effort for him to speak with hope, for what the
captain had hissed into his ear was this : ' As sure as that is the
Shay-le of Buddha, he will be Cut into Ten Thousand Pieces.' Such
is in China the punishment invariably inflicted on those who com-
mit sacrilege, as Conway was well aware ; but no less did the corro-
boration of the fact from Fu-chow's lips cost him a shudder. Far
from European aid, and in the heart of a hostile and superstitious
people — even had he had no personal enemy to urge the law upon
its cruel course — Ealph Pennicuick was surely doomed.
60 BY PROXY.
THE GARDEN AT RICHMOND.
Welcome everywhere as is the spring, it is nowhere hailed with
more genuine satisfaction than in the outlying neighbourhoods near
London, where so many families reside in reality to be spared
the London rent, but professedly because the country is ' so delight-
ful,' or ' so much more healthy for the dear children.' As for the
healthiness, that is a matter to be settled between the Eegistrar-
Greneral (who holds a different opinion) and themselves ; but as to
the delightfulness, we believe that under cross-examination they
will withdraw that statement except as regards the summer months.
From October to March there is not a man whose house is thus
located, and whose business or pleasure lies in town, that does not,
rising early in the morning, curse his fate ; and again, when prema-
turely leaving some hospitable roof, or the theatre before the play
is finished, because he has to ' catch the train.' This difficult feat
has to be accomplished so often, and at such inconvenient hours,
and in such winds, and snows, and rains, that a hundred times he
vows that, as soon as he can g-et that hateful suburban mansion off
his hands, he will come and dwell in Piccadilly. His wife and
daughters too, during his absence the whole day in town, find
Twickenham or Kichmond, Hampton or Norbiton, as the case may
THE GARDEN AT RICHMOND. 6r
be, excessively dull ; especially so as regards the young ladies, since
all the young gentlemen go off to town with their elders, and leave
these localities in the same state as the cities of old, which a
general levy of the nation in the field has left guarded only by
women and children, and a few quite ' ineligible ' old fogies. This
is the invariable state of things during the winter ; but with the
return of spring the young men return from town by earlier trains
for a row on the river, and other country joys, in which
ladies can partake. Paterfamilias, too, finds getting up ' with the
lark ' no longer a fiction, and appreciates that bird's society ; and
in the evening, after the din and smoke and toil of London, takes
kindly to the green earth and budding trees, and likens the family
garden at home, however small, to that of Eden. Some of the
gardens are very small indeed. Let us introduce the reader to
one of them, with an apology for the scantiness of the accommo-
dation. It is situated at Eichmond, not by the river-side, where
gardens are large and houses costly, but somewhere near the old
church in the back pait of the town, of wliich fashionable London
frequenters of the 'Star and G-arter' and the ' Castle ' know nothing
at all. It is a quiet old-world locality, the inhabitants of which
should be by rights (if appearance has rights) reduced gentlefolks,
or at the worst ' decayed ' clergy. It is dull, but not dreary ; com-
fortable, though cheap ; and has certain picturesque features of its
uwn, not of the tumbledown sort born of absolute decadence, but
which belong to genteel old age, and the absence of a vulgar flush
of ready money. There are no fountains, nor fishponds, nor any of
those pocket conservatories which attach themselves to the side of
our brand-new villas as if they were being treated for pleurisy — with
blieters ; the gardens are long strips of greensward, not very much
■62 BY PROXY.
"broader, some might scornfully say, than the strips of carpet rolled
forth from the portals of town mansions on ball nights to save
white satin shoes from contact with the pavement ; but they are
^reen in spring-time nevertheless, and often boast a crop of daisies,
that outshines all the patterns of the upholsterers. They are quite
private too, being shut in by high brick walls of very old standing,
whereon are trained peach-trees and pear-trees, which, though sel-
dom giving any account of themselves such as would be received
in Covent Garden, bear here and there a cherished fruit or two,
^hich is reserved by the proprietor for great occasions, and de-
scanted on as ' home-grown.'
In one of these gardens, on the selfsame spring morning, as it
happens, on which Arthur Conway, thousands of miles away, is
paying with his friend that fatal visit to the mansion of his trans-
parency Twang-hi, his daughter Nelly is sitting before an easel,
in front of her mother^s house ; she is painting a picture of it in
water-colours for her far-away father, whose artistic talent and
something more she has inherited, and she calculates that it will
reach him, some three months hence or so, upon his birthday. He
has never seen the house ; for when he left his wife and child, years
and years ago, they were in lodgings in London, where they had
continued to live on until lately, when some slight change for the
better in his circumstances enabled them to remove to Richmond.
To what that change was owing Nelly does not know, nor even does
her mother. Papa is reticent about such matters. He is always
poor, but sometimes a little less so than at others ; and then the wife
and child at home, or ' his belongings,' as he lightly calls them,
always derive advantage from it. The quarterly cheque to Mrs.
Oonway has another twenty pounds in it, and Nelly gets some
THE GARDEN AT RICHMOND. 63
pretty ornaments from China to wear in her bright brown hair or
around her shapely neck, which sets her thinking what this dear
distant papa is like, whom she has not seen since she was a little
child, but who never forgets her. The cheque sometimes comes to her
mother without a letter, but for herself there are always some loving
lines by the China mail that fill her with unuttered yearnings. The
subject of her father is not one upon which her mother encourages
her to speak. That there is ' nothing absolutely wi'ong ' about papa,
she is well convinced, but she also knows that mamma and he
are not quite in accord. This gives her affection for him a tinge
-of sorrow, which does not, however, abate it. She has been told by
some of her fathers friends that she is the ' very image of him,'
but that does not help her much towards picturing him to herself.
He cannot, for example, be only a few inches more than five feet
high ; wear brown hair in masses about his forehead, and in a heap
at the back of his head ; have hands so ridiculously small that he
is obliged to ask for his gloves as ' first child's size ' instead of any
number known to adults ; all which are among the personal cha-
racteristics of * his image.' Were Xelly inclined to be vain, which
is not the case, she might have given a more favourable description
of herself. She is small, it is true, but light and bright as a fairy.
How that little head, set so airily on its slender neck, can carry such
a harvest of gold-brown hair, awakens wonder ; her brown eyes, too,
are very large for her face, gi^^rig almost the impression of one of
those charming initial letters which magnify the female graces in
' Punch ; ' though, after all — as one looks at them — who would have
them smaller? Softer and brighter they could not be; if you
borrowed a pair of any bird to prove it, and placed them beside
Nelly's, you would own yourself in the wrong. As sweetly as any
64 BY PROXY.
bird, whom heartless man has robbed of sight to make its song
more ravishing, does Nelly sing ; and here, too, is a wonder how
so frail a body can trill forth such far-sounding melodies as are now
filling the spring air around her. When she works alone with her
brush or pencil, it is her habit so to sing ; and the two occupations
harmonise together like the voice and the instrument.
' My dear Nelly, I do hope you are not putting your paint-
brush in your mouth,' exclaimed an agitated female voice, and at
the same moment an elderly lady appeared at the top of the little
flight of steps that led down from the dining-room window to the
garden. As Nelly was in full song at the time, the question ap-
peared a little superfluous, but she hastened to reply to it never-
' No, mamma, dear ; I hope I gave up that practice once for
all when Mrs. Wardlaw bought me my first " grown-up " paint-box,
nearly five years ago.'
' My dear child, it feels very cold,' resumed Mrs. Conway, with
a lady-like little shudder ; ' there is nothing so treacherous as these
warm days in early spring, as you will come to know when you
have lived as long as I have, and got the sciatica through sitting
out in them. I think you had much better paint indoors.'
' But, my dear mother, I can't paint the outside of the house
from the inside,' returned Nelly, laughing. ' Now, do come down
and see how I am getting on.'
Mrs. Conway frowned, not that she was at all annoyed, but
because she always did frown when invited to do anything. It was
her standing protest against the unsatisfactoriness of life and all
its acts, of the world and all its ways. Like her daughter,
she was small, though by no means slight, and doubtless had
THE GARDEN AT RICHMOND. 65
been at one time a pretty piquant little woman, though
never, like her, of the spiritual sort ; but years and cares had
furrowed her brow, and set their marks upon her generally. Her
light eyes, from being constantly thrown up in astonished repro-
bation, had assumed a permanent position of amazement, though
still capable of further movement in the same direction. If
annoyed, thwarted, or astonished — to all three of which conditions
of mind she was very prone — her hands and eyes flew up together,
like those of a mechanical doll ; only, it was not necessary to press
any particular spring, for she was all spring.
Her complexion was very fair and good, and she would have
looked comparatively young, but for those furrows and for the
wrinkles about her mouth, where a painful smile was working (for
you couldn't call it playing) in sign that for all that had come and
gone to her in the way of sorrow, and for all the unsatisfactoriness
of the scheme of creation, she was, thank Heaven, still cheerful.
But it was no more like real cheerfulness than a gas-fire is like
one of wood or coal. Her father, a plain blunt man, with a turn
for drollery, used to say of her when a child, that she had got ' the
Toos.' She was always too hot or too cold, or the weather was ;
and all about her were too hard, or too rude, or too unsympathising ;
and she never forgave him that little joke, though it was greatly
appreciated by the rest of the family. The poor man went to his
gmve, she was wont to say, without ever knowing what his poor
daughter suffered ; which, so far as any particular ailment was
concerned, was certainly true. If she had ever heard of the
poet's advice to ' suffer and be strong ' — which she had not — she
would have retorted that ' it was all very well for a great rough
man like him, but she would just like to see him trying to
VOL. I. F
66 BY PROXY.
bear for half an hour what she had had to bear all day and
every day of her life, not to mention her nervous headaches.
Nobody could call her repining who knew the meaning of words ;
but any other poor creature in her position would be sorely
tempted to inquire why such misfortunes befell ^6r, who had really
not the physical strength to endure them.' Mrs. Conway was
really a kind-hearted good woman, and yet men had been known
to say that, if there was no other woman in the world, they could
never have married her : but this was after the days of her piquant
prettiness had passed away ; during that time she had had wooers
enough, for in addition to her personal charms she had had some
trifling attractions in the three per cents, though, to do her (and
him) justice, they had weighed as nothing with Arthur Conway.
Speculations as to what on earth could have induced this or that
man to marry this or that woman are always idle when indulged
in twenty years after the catastrophe. In this case it was only
certain that Mrs. Conway still had her virtues ; and among them
this important one, that she had done her duty by her child. Tt is
easier perhaps to be a good mother than a good wife ; but, at all
events, Nelly and her mamma were not only united by a bond of
the most genuine affection, but — which does not always happen,
even under those favourable circumstances — ' got on ' together per-
The eddies and ripples upon the surface of her mother's cha-
racter, perplexing and misleading as they were to superficial
observers, did not hinder the girl from seeing the clear pure stream
that ran below them ; and, moreover, she had discovered, what
scarcely anyone else suspected, that, although strangely deficient
in what is very properly called Cv^mmon sense, her mother vvas
THE GARDEN AT RICHMOND. 67
possessed of an intuitive sagacity that shone forth on occasion with
great keenness, though it lay for the most part in the scabbard of
^Well, mamma, dear, what do you think of it?' inquired
Nelly, when Mrs. Conway had stood regarding her picture for some
moments, with her hand over her eyes, and her head on one side at
the critical angle.
' Well, it's like the house, of course ; indeed, I should know it
almost an3rwhere : it strikes me, however — though it's only my
opinion, which goes for nothing, of course, — that it is rather out of
' Nay, that 's not a matter of opinion, but of fact, mamma ;
here's the ruler ; now, if you place it along the line here, you will
see it's as straight as can be.'
' I only meant that the copy differed from the original, my
dear ; it is the house that's out of the perpendicular, that's all,'
observed Mrs. Conway confidently.
' Indeed, I hope not, mamma,' said Nelly, laughing ; * because
you know we have got it for a year.'
' And nothing more likely, my dear, than that it should come
down before the time expires. These old houses often do. How-
ever, I had no choice in the matter ; I never have.'
* You don't regret coming here, dear mamma, I hope,' said
Nelly, with a gravity which I am afraid was not wholly genuine.
' I am sure it was very nice of papa to get us out of those dreary
London lodgings. I do hope he will be pleased with this picture of
our new home, and that it will come as a little surprise to him
very near his birthday ; perhaps upon the very day.'
' Well, that will depend upon the mails, my dear,' observed
6S BY PROXY.
Mrs. Conway with sudden stiffness. ' And as to a surprise, how can
there be anything of the sort when your father knows we are here ? ''
' I merely meant as far as the present goes, mamma.'
Then there was the little silence that follows upon the intro-
duction of an unwelcome topic.
' Well, I hope you won't spoil your things, Nelly, with these
horrid paints,' observed Mrs. Conway presently. ' Oil never comes
out, remember, and that is the only spring dress I can afford you
' I will be very careful, dear mamma. It isn't oil, however ; it
is a water-colour drawing.'
' My dear, it's paints, and that's the point ; as for its being a
water-colour, as you call it, and at the same time a drawing — that
' It is the name that it always goes by in art, mamma.'
' Very likely, my dear ; I only observed that it was ridiculous.'
And if all the members of the Eoyal Academy, including its
associates, honorary lecturers, and the chaplain, had been collected
together in that back garden, Mrs. Conway would have still main-
tained her opinion.
' I suppose we shall see nothing of Mr. Raymond Pennictiick
now that we have come out of town,' continued she, after a pause.
' Well, mamma, we have only been here a week, and he is
working hard at Lincoln's Inn, you know. It can scarcely be ex-
pected that he can look in upon us at Richmond so often as when
we were in Grower Street.'
' I did not say anything about " so often," my dear. To-day
is Saturday, when even the humblest clerk is given a half-holiday ;
and Raymond is his own master, and could come if he chose. Not
THE GARDEN AT RICHMOND. 69
that I want him, goodness knows. If he feels no wish to ^'isit us
— if he forgets that when he was an orphaned child I was a second
mother to him — let him stop away.'
' He was not an orphan, surely, mamma,' said Nelly, smiling.
' Now, that's what I call hair-splitting,' returned Mrs. Conway
•quickly. ' He was worse than an orphan ; for a man that has a
bad father is more to be pitied than one who has none. The child
was utterly neglected. I don't believe Ralph Pennicuick cared
one fourpenny-piece whether it lived or died. But there, men are
all alike ; self, self, self is all they think about from the cradle to
' Oh, mamma, I cannot believe that ! '
' Of course not ; I didn't believe it myself when I was your
age, but I have come to learn it by experience. You imagine, I
dare say, that Raymond, for example, is a high-principled, un-
selfish, dutiful young gentleman ; and I grant he seems all that.
But a woman can no more judge of a man's character before she
marries him, than you can tell how a house is furnished by looking
at the outside walls. Seeing that it's our first Saturday in our new
house, and that we know none of our neighbours except Mrs.
Wardlaw, one would think it would be only common civility in
Raymond to run down. But, no ; it is too fine a day to waste on
that, especially when the whitebait season has just begun at
G-reenwich — my goodness gracious, there's the front-door bell !
Now, you mark my words, that's Mrs. Wardlaw. She has come to
lunch ; and we have nothing in the house but that cold leg of lamb,
and the mint sauce has been thrown away by that idiot Jenny.'
' I don't think that will much distress Mrs. Wardlaw, mamma,*
said Nelly quietly.
70 BY PROXY.
' Ah, that shows how little you are acquainted with human
nature ; you imagine that because she was not brought up, as I have
been, to all the delicacies of the season, she won't miss her mint
sauce. But not a bit of it ; she'll say to Perkins, " Mint sauce,"
as naturally as, when cold beef is before one, you would say^
" Mustard, Perkins ; " and then Perkins will look at me, and I
sha'n't know where to look ; or as likely as not she will blurt out,
" Please, marm, it's all throw'd away." I must say it's very incon-
siderate of Mrs. Wardlaw Law, bless me, it's Eaymond ! Why^
my dear boy, who would have thought of seeing you ! '
' Well, I should have hoped you would, Mrs. Conway,'
answered a cheery voice. ' It surely required no great gift of pro-
phecy to foretell that out of Lincoln's Inn, upon the last day of
the week, being a holiday, should come one who useth the pen
and wasteth the ink, even unto Richmond. Forgive my Eastern
imagery, but our chief is engaged in the great case of Ramchunder
versus Jeejeebhoy ! and we are all May I come down ? '
' Stop, sir ! ' cried Nelly, as Mr. Raymond Pennicuick, a very
handsome young gentleman of nineteen or twenty, stood salaaming
in oriental fashion at the top of the steps. ' First tell us whether
you can eat cold lamb without mint sauce for luncheon ? '
' My dear Nelly, there is nothing that I could not eat — and I
may even add drink — this morning, for I have walked every step
of the way from London ; I am stakving.'
^ There, mamma,' cried Nelly, ' that will be a relief to your
mind ' But Mrs. Conway had already vanished, on hospitable
thoughts intent, into the kitchen department ; and the two young-
people were left under the necessity of making themselves agree-
able to one another.
A BARGAIN RATIFIED. 71
A BARGAIN EATIFIED.
Eatmond Pennicuice: was dark like his father, but without his
stem and almost truculent expression. His eyes were not black,
but hazel ; and, in place of that astonishing black beard his father
wore, he had a slight moustache and a smooth chin. The people
who caUed the elder 'hard Pen,' sometimes called the younger
' soft Pen ; ' not that he was weak and yielding, but because he was
gentle and conciliatory. His behaviour as a son, too, was exem-
plary ; and, since it is by no means fashionable to be filial, this was
set down by some to want of strength of mind. As a matter of
fact, Raymond had a good deal of independence of character, though
mitigated in expression by a strong sense of duty as respected his
parent, and by the gift of charity as regarded others. It was this
latter quality which had won him the esteem of Mrs. Conway, whose
recent denunciation of him Nelly had set down at its just value.
She had not even taken the trouble to defend him against her
mother's accusations, which were like the charges of a pet goat,
made in wilfulness and not in malice. At that very moment she
was assisting Jenny in the basement story to cook a sweetbread for
72 BY PROXY.
' What a charming picture, Nelly ! But, dear me — it will be
finished too late.'
' Why, you don't even know, you silly boy, for what it is in-
tended ! '
' Why, of course, for exhibition at the Koyal Academy. And
to-day is closing day.'
' Raymond, you're a tease. This picture is intended, sir, for a
birthday present for somebody.'
'Dear, dear, I am so sorry to have precipitated matters. I
had no notion you were intending anything so kind. It happens
on June 4, you know — same day as that of Greorge III., which is
curious and interesting. But now I know of it, you may just as well
give it to me as soon as it is done. It is for me, is it not, Nelly ? '
' It certainly is not^ sir ; nothing was further from my inten-
tion. The picture is for dear papa ; it will go out on the 14th of
this month, and reach him, I hope, just in time. Don't you think
it will please him ? '
' If it doesn't, I'll take it off his hands,' answered Eaymond,
regarding it with admiration. ' It pleases me uncommonly.'
' Yes ; but you are not an artist as he is, and, in short, know
nothing about it.'
' That's quite true, dear ; yet somehow one feels what's good.
There will be scores of pictm-es of old red-brick houses, in sunny
gardens, at the exhibition this year, which will not please me so
well as this ; which will only please me, perhaps, because they are
Nelly stepped back a pace or two from her easel, and executed
a curtsey down to the very ground.
' Spare my blushes, sir ; you overwhelm me quite.'
A BARGAIN RATIFIED. 73
' I did not mean a mere empty compliment, Nelly,' answered
the young man gravely. ' Everything done by those little hands
of yours is dear to me.'
' That takes the gilt off the criticism though, Mr. Raymond,'
answered Nelly steadily.
' Well, I confess I can't criticise in your presence. I can only
admire. You say " spare my blushes ; " but I can't spare one of
them. I can't, indeed.'
' My dear Eaymond, I think you are mistaking the day,' said
Nelly gravely. 'It is not February 14; and it's not the 1st of