a I E) RAR.Y
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in 2009 with funding from
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
THE CANON'S WARD
NEW NOVELS AT EVERY LIBRARY.
MAID OF ATHENS. By Justin McCarthy, M.P.
ALL IN A GARDEN FAIR. By Walter Besant.
THE LAND-LEAGUERS, By Anthony Trollope.
ANNAN WATER. By Robert Buchanan. 3 vols.
THE FOREIGNERS. By E. C. Price. 3 vols.
BEATRIX RANDOLPH. By Julian Hawthorne.
THE CANON'S WARD, By James Payn. 3 vols.
FRESCOES : Dramatic Sketches. By OuiDA. i vol.
CHATTO & WIxVDUS, Piocadilly, W.
THE CANON'S WARD
AUTHOR OF bY PROXY HIGH SPIRITS KIT: A MEMORY ETC.
IN THREE VOLUMES
CHATTO & WINDUS, PICCADILLY
[AH rights reserved'^
LONDON : PRINTED BY
SPOTTISWOODE AND CO., NEW-STREET SQUARE
AND PARLIAMENT STREET
THE SECOXD VOLUME.
A TERRIBLE ERRAND ....
TO A SOX IX IXDIA ....
AX OPPORTl'XITY ....
' THE EXEAT ' . ....
OX THE BRIXK OF CONFESS I OX
ENMESHED AGAIN ....
A LITTLE DINNT:R PARTY .
DIFFERENT OPINIONS ....
THE tutor's PROPOSAL
LITTLE PITCHERS HAVE LONG EARS
AiTER FIVE YEARS ....
THE SHADOW OF TROUBLE
AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR . . . .
THE CANON'S WARD.
* CHAPTER XYIII.
A TEKRIBLE EREAND.
The instant that Sophy found herself alone
she flew to the bell which summoned her
' Jeannette, come here, I want you ! ' she
cried, in a hoarse whisper. ' You know what
has happened, of course ? '
' Yes, indeed, Miss : it's an awful thing to
have chanced to anybody. I can't say I'm
so sorry as I should wish to be ; but I dare
say, notwithstanding all that's come and gone,
you feel it ; one's husband is one's husband.'
' Hush, hush ! I am not safe yet, Jenny.'
' Good heavens ! ' The waiting-maid
2 THE CANON'S WARD.
turned pale as ashes ; one would have almost
thought she anticipated what her mistress was
going to say.
' No, not safe. When poor Herbert left
me at the mill, this afternoon, he informed me
it was his fixed intention to write to his
father and tell him all.'
' Oh, indeed ! ' Jeannette strove to throw
some interest into her tone, but the words fell
flat. It would have been plain to any one not
wrapt in other matters that the girl had ex-
pected a much more serious communication.
' Do you not see,' continued Sophy, im-
patiently, ' that such a letter would be as
ruinous to me as though he had told the
Canon ? '
' It would have been if it had been written ;
but the poor young gentleman never got home
to write it.'
' He did, he did^ answered Sophy, with
intense excitement. ' Henny tells me that
what took place happened this evening, not
A TERRIBLE ERRAND. 3
this afternoon. He went out on the water a
second time, and in the meanwhile that letter
may have been written.'
' Let us hope for the best, Miss ; perhaps
it was not written.'
' I have had enough of hope and fear,'
replied Sophy, wildly. ' Oh, Jeannette, help
me now, and I shall never forget it.'
' I will do anything in the world for you,
dear mistress. But what can I do ? If the
letter 's gone '
' But it has not gone,' put in Sophy,
eagerly. ' It may have been written, but it
could not have been in time for the post. If
it was written at all, it will still be lying in
poor Herbert's room. Jeannette, you must
get that letter.'
' Oh, Miss Sophy, but I cannot, and I dare
A picture had presented itself to her coarse
but ready imagination, from which she shrank
with horror, albeit she was a bold m.v\.
4 THE CANON'S WARD.
' Yet, Jeannette, you have done more than
this for me,' pleaded her mistress, ' and with a
wiUing mind. You have done wrong for
my sake, even though you disapproved of it,
and you cannot disapprove of this. If the
letter gets to its destination my secret is out.
It will be almost as bad for me as it seemed
to have been yesterday.'
^ Nay, it will not be so bad as that, Miss.'
In saying those words there was no in-
tention in Jeannette' s mind to minimise the
calamity of which her 3^0 ang mistress stood in
fear, and thereby excuse herself from the task
suggested to her ; she spoke them with ex-
treme naturalness and naivete ; nothing in
her opinion could be so bad, or nearly so
bad, as the future that had so lately seemed
to present itself to her young mistress — the
being mated with Herbert Perry for life.
' At all events, it will be a terrible mis-
fortune,' pleaded Sophy ; ^ it will lose me my
aunt's affection, and my guardian's regard ;
A TERRIBLE ERRAND. 5
my name will become a by- word ; I could
never survive it. On the other hand, if you
will but do me this great service, the last I
shall ever ask of you that may not be known
to the whole world, nothmg need be revealed ;
all will be well with me as it was before.
Think, oh think of that.'
' I do think of it, Miss ; it seems too
good to be true, don't it ? To get out of
such a hole as this without even the trace of
mud about you.'
' You speak as if I had disgraced myself,
Jeannette I ' exclaimed Sophy, vehemently.
' How dare you ? '
' Oh, I don't mean nothing disagreeable,
Miss Sophy. You were married safe enough,
worse luck to it. And thanks be to goodness
you are a widow.'
' But the letter, Jeannette,' moaned her
young mistress ; ' the letter. I've thought of
a plan to get possession of it.'
' Independent of me, I hope, Miss ; least-
6 THE CANON'S WARD.
ways, I couldn't go into his room to get it,
' It will not be where you think it is,'
said Sophy, ghastly pale, and speaking in
hushed tones ; ' it will be in his sitting-room,
on his writing-table, near the window. You
know his landlady, Mrs. Aylett? '
' Yes, I know her ; to be sure, we can get
at it through her. Perhaps for a ten-pound
note she may be induced to let us have the
letter, and to hold her tongue.'
' No, no. What ! another one to share
my secret, and to keep me under her thumb
for life ! You miust be mad to think of it.
We must give her money, of course, but not
as a bribe. Now listen to me. It is a
shocking thing, but it must be done. You
must take these flowers — you may say they
came from my Aunt Maria, or even from
myself ; there will be no harm in that.'
' What, to put them on him ! No, Miss,
I couldn't do it, not to save my life. I always
A TERRIBLE ERR A .YD. 7
feared him, but I fear him now ten thousand
times as much. Xot if you gave me a
hundred pounds I couldn't do it.'
' Xo one wants you to do it,' said Sophy,
earnestly. ' Give them to Mrs. Aylett, she
will do it ; and while she is about it, you
will be left alone in the sitting-room. While
you have the chance, lose not a moment ; the
letter will be in the desk or in the blottino;-
pad, if it has been written at all.'
' Very good. Miss ; for your sake I will
do my best. I will go to Green Street the
very first thing to-morrow morning.'
' To-night I to-night I ' exclaimed her
mistress, wringing her little hands. ' To-
morrow it will be too late. To-day. nothing
will be touched ; it alwa3^s is so when there
is to be an inquest.'
Sophy's reading of sensational novels had
not been labour lost in this case.
'I'd rather lose my thimble first. Miss
Sophy, than venture on such a thing,' replied
3 THE CANON'S WARD.
the girl. ' Yet for your sake I'll try it*
Give rae the flowers.'
' Good Jeannette, dear Jeannette, you are
the best of friends ; think how I shall count
the moments till you come back again.'
Then Sophy took the flowers, and, not-
withstanding the need for haste, with neat-
handed skill and taste arranged them, and
gave them to her maid ; for woman's fingers
are not as those of men, but will deftly work
when the heart is sick with sorrow and heavy
with trouble, and devise things of beauty for
the tomb as if they were for the altar.
For a few minutes after Jeannette' s de-
parture her young mistress sat sick at heart,
and already tremulous with expectation of
her return ; then suddenly she rose, and went
to her desk. It had for the first time occurred
to her that therein also lay proof of her
clandestine relations with the dead man ;
which, though indeed they did not hint of
marriage, were significant enough of the
A TERRIBLE ERRAND. 9
affection that had once existed between them.
She had not hitherto destroyed them, partly
because her husband, if he was bent on dis-
closure, stood in no need of them to prove
his case ; and partly perhaps from woman's
vanity. Though the man had been dead to
her, and fear had usurped love's place long
before he had met his death, he had been her
lover once. Here were protestations of pas-
sions, pleas for haste, and assurances of
eternal affection, some true, some false, but
all breathing an incense which had at one
time been very gi^ateful to her. They had
none of them passed thi^ough the post — for in
those days he had been veiy cautious — but
had been conveyed to her by his own hand,
under circumstances wherein confidential
speech had been impossible. As they had
met, or parted company, at balls, or during
some morning call, the hand, which was now
cold and nerveless, had thrust them into her
too willing palm.
lo THE CANON'S WARD.
If such evidence as this had escaped her
attention, might there not be other such in
existence which could one day be brought to
light ? Upon consideration, she felt confident
that such was not the case. Gifts he had .
had from her ; but such as he might have
received, and probably had received, from
other girls (a reflection that gave her comfort
rather than pain), but no letters. She had
never been so reckless as to write to him,
either before or since their marriage. The
witnesses of that ceremony, mere officials in
one of the City churches, arid Jeannette her-
self, were now the only repositories of her
secret. If Herbert had not put his threat of
writing to his father into effect, or if that
letter could be secured, she would be safe.
But would it be secured ? It was ten o'clock
when Jeannette had departed on her errand,
and the sudden sound of the quarter, brought
upon the wings of the north wind from some
college clock, had but just died away. How
A TERRIBLE ERRA\D. ii
terrible was this . time of waiting I Books, to
which she had hitherto been indebted, when
alone, for many hours of forgetfulness and
comparative ease, had now no power to en-
chain her attention : her eyes, her ears, her
every sense (though she knew that at least
an hour must elapse before her messenger's
return) were on the watch.
The letters of the dead man were in her
hand, and she was about to put them into
the empty grate, previous to setting fire to
them, when a sudden impulse — or the attrac-
tion of repulsion — prompted her to read
them. She sat down and took them out one
by one from the indiarubber band that held
them together, and, as it happened, in their
inverse order as to date. There were one or
two written after their marriage, appointing
time and place for their clandestine meetings ;
but even these were not fi-ee from reproaches
and expressions of disappointment, as well
as impatience — even threats. ' I give you
12 THE CANON'S WARD.
fair warning/ he wrote, ' that I am getting
tired of this hide-and-seek existence.' There
were references of a disrespectful kind to her
guardian, and then there came an opinion,
bluntly enough expressed, that she might
' play her cards ' in such a manner as to ' get
on the blind side of him,' and confess all
without much hurt. ' It was all very well
for her,' he said, ' to enjoy herself at balls
and parties, just as though she were her own
mistress,' and ' condescend ' to see him when
she had a mind ; but it was not so pleasant
to him, who was short of money, worried by
duns, taken to task by the ' governor ' about
his degree ; he was treated, in short, like a
schoolboy, and was pretty well determined to
put an end to it and assert himself The Canon
might not make them a very handsome
allowance just at first, perhaps ; but he
(Herbert) wanted to be his own master. In
reply, apparently, to some remonstrance of
hers, where she reminded him of his solemn
A TERRIBLE ERRAND. 13
promise to keep matters secret until she came
of age, he hinted that ' all things were fair
(lies included) in love or war.' Harsh
letters these — cruel letters, which she burned
one by one, with set lips and a frowning
brow. Presently she came against one
written on the eve of their secret marriaofe.
This was couched in very different terms — it
breathed not only affection, but promises of
eternal love and fidelity. The paper trembled
in her hand as Sophy read it, He had pro-
cured, he said, ' a special license,' and ful-
filled the legal conditions by living in the
same parish for so many days. She remarked
how at the time she had smiled over his bad
spelhng, and resolved to undertake the task
of improving him in this particular. He
had then seemed ready enough to submit
himself to her wishes ; to sit at her feet,
and generally to be guided by her in social
and domestic matters. But instead of a
pupil she had found him to be a master ;
14 THE CANON'S WARD.
obstinate of temper, intolerant of the least
interference or suggestion, impracticable,
churlish, vain. Still, remembering what he
had been, or had seemed to be, she destroyed
this memento with a sigh.
There remained the letters of the lover.
In them was no trace of ill-humour — all was
sunshine with no shadow. He had seemed
to be like some young Greek god stooping
from the clouds to woo her, and not only to
woo but to worship. When she had first
read those fervent words of admirati(m and
devotion, she had felt herself more than
mortal, though, in fact, she had been only
too human. What promises, what protesta-
tions, what passion ! It is not necessary to
spell correctly to use the language of love
with eloquence. Even now, when it was all
falsified, and those vows had been proved to
be but dicer's oaths, it carried her away with
it. For the moment, as she read, the past
returned to her. Once more she was a young
A TERRIBLE ERRAND. 15
girl, without experience of the world, full of
tender dreams ; the man of her choice had
declared himself : he was the handsomest of
created beings, and one of the best, though
(as is always the "case) there was a want of
appreciation of him in some quarters. It was
only, however, necessary to know him (as she
did) to love him. AVhat a future had seemed
to lay before her !
At the remembrance of all these thino-s
Sophy's heart melted within her, and she
burst into tears — not because the man we
knew was dead, but another man, whom, to
say truth, no one but herself had known, and
because all the hopes and joys of her life had
perished with him. As she sat with bowed
head over the grey, ghostly ashes of these
letters, Jeannette came softly into the room.
Tier face was deadly pale, and her head
moved from side to side, but not m negation ;
it was only that trembling motion which,
when their nerves are hio-hlv wrought, some
j6 the CANON'S WARD.
women, otherwise self-possessed, are unable
' You have found it ? ' cried Sophy,
starting to her feet.
' Yes, I have found it. And when you
have done thanking Heaven, Miss Sophy ' (for
her mistress had broken out into the most
passionate expressions of devotional grati-
tude), ' you may consider a little what / have
gone through to get it., There it is. It was
terrible to have to hold it in my hand ; but it
is what you wanted, I hope.'
' Yes, yes,' murmured Sophy, gazing at
the letter, the envelope of which was un-
fastened, with eager, heated eyes. ' This is
his father's address. I have no doubt it is
what I wanted ; but would you mind making
sure, Jeannette ? I — I hardly like to read it.'
It was not the notion of infringing a
private right (since she had, indeed, become
possessed of the thing by so doing) that
caused her to feel this scruple ; but a certain
A TERRIBLE ERRAND. 17
tenderness for the dead man himself, which,
now that all danger was over, began for the
first time to stir within her. She did not
wish to have any new cause of dislike or
dread against him, such as the contents of
this missive were almost sure to prove.
' Eead it ! ' exclaimed Jeannette. ' I
wouldn't read it if you gave me fifty pound.
Is it not enough that you made me steal it,
with him lying dead and cold — there, there, I
didn't mean to cast it up against you, Miss
Sophy,' put in the girl, frightened at her mis-
tress's look of horror ; ' it was not quite so
bad as you are thinking, after all.'
There was silence between the two women
for a moment or two.
' Would you mind telling me all that
happened ? ' said Sophy, gently.
Did she iliind ! As if the one real guerdon
of such an enterprise had not been the right
and privilege of narrating it ! As if the sole
thought which had lately buoyed her up in
VOL. II. C
1 8 THE CANON'S WARD.
a sea of superstitious terror had not been the
reflection that she would hereafter pose before
an audience (limited though it must needs be
to one person) as the heroine of a melodrama!
She told her story with a solemn face and
in a gru3som9 tons, which, as she flattered
herself, enhanced its horror.
' I let myself out quietly, Miss Sophy, by
the back door, and hurried down the street
to do 3^our bidding. It seemed to me as if
every one I met must needs know what I was
bent upon, and nobody can tell the shivers
that seized hold upon me as I neared my
journey's end. When I got to the house in
Green Street the blinds were down ; and
somehow that reminded me so of what lay
within it, that you might have knocked me
down with a feather. However, I rang the
bell, which was answered by Mrs. Aylett
herself. Perhaps she found it company, poor
woman, to attend to the door ; and, anyway,
she seemed very pleased to see me. She told
A TERRIBLE ERRAND. 9
me how it had all happened, of course, and how
he had been brought on a stretcher, with his
beautiful face covered up, which gave her
such a turn, she said, as she thougfht she
should never get over to her dying day.
There was nobody had been to see him,
though many had called to hear if the news
was true ; and Mr. Mavors, the Tutor, had
just been and seemed frightened almost to
death, thouo^h there was nothinof now to
frighten anybody she said, for he looked as
comely as could be with his fine limbs show-
ing through the sheet, poor fellow, anrl would
I like to see him. " Xo," said I, thanking her
kindly, " I wouldn't like that, if it was ever
so ; but I had brought some flowers from my
mistress, who had known the poor voung
' " Oh, yes," she said, •• she knew that,"
and in such a meaning tone that it almost
made my heart stop ; '" but I must not sup-
pose," she went on, '" that you were the only
20 THE CANON'S WARD.
one, for that there would be many a sore
young heart in Cambridge, by reason of the
news that day." '
' Mrs. Aylett said that, did she ? ' in-
quired Sophy, in a low, cold tone.
' She said so. Miss Sophy ; but, bless you,
there's no need to fash yourself upon that
account : young men are all alike, it's my
belief, except that some is worse than others ;
and, besides, Mrs. Aylett is one of those
people as like to make a mountain out of a
mole-hill. No one else, she allowed, had
thought of sending him any flowers, which
was not only kind and tender, but a deal
better plan, she said, than putting them on a
coffin — wreaths that might have cost a guinea
or more, perhaps — only to be buried in the
damp cold earth, and to be of use to nobody ;
she would take care that those should be upon
his breast above the coverlet, where his dead
e3'es might rest upon 'em. Don't ye cry,
Miss Sophy ; don't ye cry ; it's better for you
A TERRIBLE ERRAXD. 21
as matters are, and better, may be, for him,
for it's my belief he would never, never have
come to any good had he lived to the age
of Methusaleh. Then, calling to mind my
errand, I said that it was your T^^sh that I
should bear witness to the flowers being
placed where you would have them, only that
I dared not venture into the room ; and Mrs.
Aylett, saying that could easily be contrived,
beckoned me to follow her upstairs. Xow,
as you ^:emember, Miss, poor Mr. Perry's
rooms communicate with one another by
folding doors, but there is a step or two
between them, so that one cannot pass from
one to another in a moment.'
Sophy bowed her head and trembled. She
remembered it very well.
' Then when Mrs. Aylett left me in the
sitting-room I lost not an instant, but ran up
straightway to his writing-table, as you had
enjoined on me, and the very first thing I
saw, leamng up against the upper portion of
22 THE CANON'S WARD.
the desk, as if waiting to be posted, was that
letter, directed to his father. I thrust it in
my pocket in a flash, and was ready for the
landlady when she came out, close by the
folding door, with the money you had given
me for her. She took it, though not very
willingly, saying that she did not need a
present for doing what was nothing but a
pleasure to her, though a sad one ; and then
I came home with my heart beating pit-a-pat,
with the letter in my bosom, feeling like
Sophy rose with grateful looks and kissed
the girl. ' Until you brought this to me,
Jeannette,' she said, ' my heart was lead.
Though this sad matter is now over, and all
belonging to it ' — here she put the closed
letter into the flame of the candle, and held
it till it was utterly destroyed — ' I shall never
forget the service you have done for me —
never, never ; but we will talk of that to-
morrow. It is getting late, and you must
A TERRIBLE ERRAND. 23
be tired enouofh after all you have sfone
you nave g(
' Very good, Miss Sophy/ returned the
other, lingering at the door ; ' are you sura
you would not like me to sleep in your
room to-night ? '
' No, thank you, Jeannette,' answered
her mistress, simply, so buried in her own
thoughts that she could not perceive what
could be plainly read in Jeannette' s frightened
face, that the waiting-maid was saying two
words for herself and one for her mistress.
How diverse and opposite, within the
space of a few moments, are the emotions of a
human soul I How sudden are its changes
from apprehension to self-complacency, and
how, in a flash (like the ten thousand faces
on a race- course), its outlook on existence
alters from dark to light ! Left once more by
herself, Sophy seemed a different being from
that watcher in the night of a few seconds
ago. A weight had been renioved from her,
24 THE CANON'S WARD.
the absence of which gave an unutterable
sense of relief : she felt a new creature,
blessed beyond all hope or expectation ; and
yet, unhappy girl, she dared not thank God
for it. She was confident that all was now
secure ; that her old life was over and done
away with, and that a new one was about to
dawn, in which, taught by bitter experience,
she would avoid all quicksands.
Whereas, alas ! it was only one chapter of
the old life that had closed. There is no Eed
Sea in which by any incantation known to
man the Ghost of Folly and Falsehood can be
laid at rest.
Between the deathbed tind the charnel a
battle often arises concerning the departed,
like the buzzing of flies over garbage. His
virtues are magnified, his ^dces are exagge-
rated ; he is ' made more of in every way
than when he was in life. In the case of a
man of loose life, and who has omitted to
make himself popular, we can believe nothing
of what is said, though from the very extra-
vagance of it some truth may be gathered.
Mr. Herbert Perry's memory suffered Hke the
rest, and a little more, as a young gentleman
who combines vice with economy, in my
opinion, deserves to suffer. Miss Jeannette
26 THE CANON'S WARD,