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up that smile! How hard to get that tone of voice! Even those
commonplace words had been so difficult of selection! 'Was it you I saw
yesterday in the College gardens?'

'Yes, it was me, no doubt.'

'I turned round, and then thought that it was impossible We have just
been christening my child. Will you come up to our breakfast?'

'You remember Jack Adamson, - eh?'

'Of course I do,' said Caldigate, giving his hand to the second man, who
was rougher even than Crinkett. 'I hope he will come up also. This is my
uncle, Mr. Babington; and this is my father-in-law, Mr. Bolton.' 'These
were two of my partners at Nobble,' he said, turning to the two old
gentlemen, who were looking on with astonished eyes. 'They have come
over here, I suppose, with reference to the sale I made to them lately
of my interests at Polyeuka.'

'That's about it,' said Adamson.

'We won't talk business just at this moment, because we have to eat our
breakfast and drink our boy's health. But when that is done, I'll hear
what you have to say; - or come into Cambridge to-morrow just as you
please. You'll walk up to the house now, and I'll introduce you to my
wife?'

'We don't mind if we do eat a bit, - do we, Jack?' said Crinkett. Jack
bobbed his head, and so they walked back to Folking, the three of them
together, while the two Mr. Boltons and Uncle Babington followed behind.
The ladies and the baby had been taken in a carriage.

The distance from the church to the house at Folking was less than half
a mile, but Caldigate thought that he would never reach his hall door.
How was he to talk to the men, - with what words and after what fashion?
And what should he say about them to his wife when he reached home? She
had seen him speak to them, had known that he had been obliged to stay
behind with them when it would have been so natural that he should have
been at her side as she got into the carriage. Of that he was aware, but
he could not know how far their presence would have frightened her.
'Yes,' he said, in answer to some question from Crinkett; 'the property
round here is not exactly mine, but my father's.'

'They tell me as it's yours now?' said Crinkett.

'You haven't to learn to-day that in regard to other people's concerns
men talk more than they know. The land is my father's estate, but I live
here.'

'And him?' asked Adamson.

'He lives in Cambridge.'

'That's what we mean, - ain't it, Crinkett?' said Adamson. 'You're boss
here?'

'Yes, I'm boss.'

'And a deuced good time you seem to have of it,' said Crinkett.

'I've nothing to complain of,' replied Caldigate, feeling himself at the
moment to be the most miserable creature in existence.

It was fearful work, - work so cruel that his physical strength hardly
enabled him to support it. He already repented his present conduct,
telling himself that it would have been better to have treated the men
from the first as spies and enemies; - though in truth his conduct had
probably been the wisest he could have adopted. At last he had the men
inside the hall door, and, introducing them hurriedly to his father, he
left them that he might rush up to his wife's bedroom. The nurse was
there and her mother; and, at the moment, she only looked at him. She
was too wise to speak to him before them. But at last she succeeded in
making an opportunity of being alone with her husband. 'You stay here,
nurse; I'll be back directly, mamma,' and then she took him across the
passage into his own dressing-room. 'Who are they, John? who are they?'

'They are men from the mines. As they were my partners, I have asked
them to come in to breakfast.'

'And the woman?' As she spoke she held on to the back of a chair by
which she stood, and only whispered her question.

'No woman is with them.'

'Is it the man, - Crinkett?'

'Yes, it is Crinkett.'

'In this house! And I am to sit at table with him?'

'It will be best so. Listen, dearest; all that I know, all that we know
of Crinkett is, that he is asking money of me because the purchase he
made of me has turned out badly for him.'

'But he is to marry that woman, who says that she is - ' Then she
stopped, looking into his face with agony. She could not bring herself
to utter the words which would signify that another woman claimed to be
her husband's wife.

'You are going too fast, Hester. I cannot condemn the man for what the
woman has written until I know that he says the same himself. He was my
partner, and I have had his money; - I fear, all his money. He as yet has
said nothing about the woman. As it is so, it behoves me to be courteous
to him. That I am suffering much, you must be well aware. I am sure you
will not make it worse for me.'

'No, no,' she said, embracing him; 'I will not. I will be brave. I will
do all that I can. But you will tell me everything?'

'Everything,' he said. Then he kissed her, and went back again to his
unwelcome guests. She was not long before she followed him, bringing her
baby in her arms. Then she took the child round to be kissed by all its
relatives, and afterwards bowed politely to the two men, and told them
that she was glad to see her husband's old friends and fellow-workmen.

'Yes, mum,' said Jack Adamson; 'we've been fellow-workmen when the work
was hard enough. 'T young squire seems to have got over his difficulties
pretty tidy!' Then she smiled again, and nodded to them, and retreated
back to her mother.

Mrs. Bolton scowled at them, feeling certain that they were godless
persons; - in which she was right. The old banker, drawing his son Daniel
out of the room, whispered an inquiry; but Daniel Bolton knew nothing.
'There's been something wrong as to the sale of that mine,' said the
banker. Daniel Bolton thought it probable that there had been something
wrong.

The breakfast was eaten, and the child's health was drunk, and the hour
was passed. It was a bad time for them all, but for Caldigate it was a
very bitter hour. To him the effort made was even more difficult than to
her; - as was right; - for she at any rate had been blameless. Then the
Boltons went away, as had been arranged, and also Uncle Babington while
the men still remained.

'If you don't mind, squire, I'll take a turn with you,' said Crinkett at
last; 'while Jack can sit anywhere about the place.'

'Certainly,' said Caldigate. And so they took their hats and went off,
and Jack Adamson was left 'sitting anywhere' about the place.




Chapter XXVIII

Tom Crinkett at Folking



Caldigate thought that he had better take his companion where there
would be the least chance of encountering many eyes. He went therefore
through the garden into the farmyard and along the road leading back to
the dike, and then he walked backwards and forwards between the ferry,
over the Wash, and the termination of the private way by which they had
come. The spot was not attractive, as far as rural prettiness was
concerned. They had, on one hand or the other as they turned, the long,
straight, deep dike which had been cut at right angles to the Middle
Wash; and around, the fields were flat, plashy, and heavy-looking with
the mud of February. But Crinkett for a while did not cease to admire
everything. 'And them are all yourn?' he said, pointing to a crowd of
corn-stacks standing in the haggard.

'Yes, they're mine. I wish they were not.'

'What do you mean by that?'

'As prices are at present, a man doesn't make pinch by growing corn and
keeping it to this time of the year.'

'And where them chimneys is, - is that yourn?' This he said pointing
along the straight line of the road to Farmer Holt's homestead, which
showed itself on the other side of the Wash.

'It belongs to the estate,' said Caldigate.

'By jingo! And how I remember your a-coming and talking to me across the
gate at Polyeuka Hall!'

'I remember it very well.'

'I didn't know as you were an estated gent in those days.'

'I had spent a lot of money when I was young, and the estate, as you
call it, was not large enough to bear the loss. So I had to go out and
work, and get back what I had squandered.'

'And you did it?'

'Yes, I did it.'

'My word, yes! What a lot of money you took out of the colony,
Caldigate!'

'I'm not going to praise myself, but I worked hard for it, and when I
got it I didn't run riot.'

'Not with drink.'

'Nor in any other way. I kept my money.'

'Well; - I don't know as you was very much more of a Joseph than anybody
else.' Then Crinkett laughed most disagreeably; and Caldigate, turning
over various ideas rapidly in his mind, thought that a good deed would
be done if a man so void of feeling could be drowned beneath the waters
of the black deep dike which was slowly creeping along by their side.
'Any way you was lucky, - infernally lucky.'

'You did not do badly yourself. When I first reached Nobble you had the
name of more money than I ever made.'

'Who's got it now? Eh, Caldigate! who's got my money now?'

'It would take a clever man to tell that.'

'It don't take much cleverness for me to tell who has got more of it nor
anybody else, and it don't take much cleverness for me to tell that I
ain't got none of it left myself; - none of it, Caldigate. Not a d - - -
hundred pounds!' This he said with terrible energy.

'I'm sorry it's so bad as that with you, Crinkett.'

'Yes; - you is sorry, I daresay. You've acted sorry in all you said and
done since I got taken in last by that - - mine; - haven't you? Well; - I
have got just a few hundreds; what I could scrape together to bring me
and a few others as might be wanted over to England. There's Jack
Adamson with me and - - just two more. They may be wanted, squire.'

The attack now was being commenced, and how was he to repel it, or to
answer it? Only on one ground had he received from Robert Bolton a
decided opinion. Under no circumstances was he to give money to these
persons. Were he to be guilty of that weakness he would have delivered
himself over into their hands. And not only did he put implicit trust in
the sagacity of Robert Bolton, but he himself knew enough of the world's
opinion on such a matter to be aware that a man who has allowed himself
to be frightened out of money is supposed to have acknowledged some
terrible delinquency. He had been very clear in his mind when that
letter came from Euphemia Smith that he would not now make any rebate.
Till that attack had come, it might have been open to him to be
generous; - but not now. And yet when this man spoke of his own loss,
and reminded him of his wealth; - when Crinkett threw it in his teeth
that by a happy chance he had feathered his nest with the spoils taken
from the wretched man himself, - then he wished that it was in his power
to give back something.

'Is that said as a threat?' he asked, looking round on his companion,
and resolving that he would be brave.

'That's as you take it, squire. We don't want to threaten nothing.'

'Because if you do, you'd better go, and do what you have to do away
from here.'

'Don't you be so rough now with an old pal. You won't do no good by
being rough. I wasn't rough to you when you came to Polyeuka Hall
without very much in your pocket.' This was untrue, for Crinkett had
been rough, and Caldigate's pockets had been full of money; but there
could be no good got by contradicting him on small trifles. 'I was a
good mate to you then. You wouldn't even have got your finger into the
"Old Stick-in-the-Mud," nor yet into Polyeuka, but for me. I was the
making of your fortin, Caldigate. I was.'

'My fortune, such as it is, was made by my own industry.'

'Industry be blowed! I don't know that you were so much better than
anybody else. Wasn't I industrious? Wasn't I thinking of it morning,
noon, and night, and nothing else? You was smart. I do allow that,
Caldigate. You was very smart.'

'Did you ever know me dishonest?'

'Pooh! what's honesty? There's nothing so smart as honesty. Whatever you
got, you got a sure hold of. That's what you mean by honesty. You was
clever enough to take care as you had really got it. Now about this
Polyeuka business, I'll tell you how it is. I and Jack Adamson and
another,' - as he alluded to the 'other' he winked, - 'we believed in
Polyeuka; we did. D - - - the cussed hole! Well; - when you was gone we
thought we'd try it. It was not easy to get the money as you wanted, but
we got it. One of the banks down at Sydney went shares, but took all the
plant as security. Then the cussed place ran out the moment the money
was paid. It was just as though fortin had done it a purpose. If you
don't believe what I'm a-saying, I've got the documents to show you.'

Caldigate did believe what the man said. It was a matter as to which he
had, in the way of business, received intelligence of his own from the
colony, and he was aware that he had been singularly lucky as to the
circumstances and time of the sale. But there had been nothing 'smart'
about it. Those in the colony who understood the matter thought at the
time that he was making a sacrifice of his own interests by the terms
proposed. He had thought so himself, but had been willing to make it in
order that he might rid himself of further trouble. He had believed that
the machinery and plant attached to the mine had been nearly worth the
money, and he had been quite certain that Crinkett himself, when making
the bargain, had considered himself to be in luck's way. But such
property, as he well knew, was, by its nature, precarious and liable to
sudden changes. He had been fortunate, and the purchasers had been the
reverse Of that he had no doubt, though probably the man had exaggerated
his own misfortune. When he had been given to understand how bad had
been the fate of these old companions of his in the matter, with the
feelings of a liberal gentleman he was anxious to share with them the
loss. Had Crinkett come to him, explaining all that he now explained,
without any interference from Euphemia Smith, he would have been anxious
to do much. But now; - how could he do anything now? 'I do not at all
disbelieve what you tell me about the mine,' he said.

'And yet you won't do anything for us? You ain't above taking all our
money and seeing us starve; and that when you have got everything round
you here like an estated gentleman, as you are?'

There was a touch of eloquence in this, a soundness of expostulation
which moved him much. He could afford to give back half the price he had
received for the mine and yet be a well-to-do man.

He paid over to his father the rents from Folking, but he had the house
and home-farm for nothing. And the sum which he had received for
Polyeuka by no means represented all his savings. He did not like to
think that he had denuded this man who had been his partner of
everything in order that he himself might be unnecessarily rich. It was
not pleasant to him to think that the fatness of his opulence had been
extracted from Jack Adamson and from - Euphemia Smith. When the
application for return of the money had been first made to him from
Australia, he hadn't known what he knew now. There had been no eloquence
then, - no expostulation. Now he thoroughly wished that he was able to
make restitution. 'A threat has been used to me,' he muttered almost
anxious to explain to the man his exact position.

'A threat! I ain't threatened nothing. But I tell you there will be
threats and worse than threats. Fair means first and foul means
afterwards! That's about it, Caldigate.'

If he could have got this man to say that there was no threat, to be
simply piteous, he thought that he might even yet have suggested some
compromise. But that was impossible when he was told that worse than
threats was in store for him. He was silent for some moments, thinking
whether it would not be better for him to rush into that matter of
Euphemia Smith himself. But up to this time he had no absolute knowledge
that Crinkett was aware of the letter which had been written. No doubt
that in speaking of 'another' as being joined with himself and Adamson
he had intended that Euphemia Smith should be understood. But till her
name had been mentioned, he could not bring himself to mention it. He
could not bring himself to betray the fear which would become evident if
he spoke of the woman.

'I think you had better go to my lawyer,' he said.

'We don't want no lawyering. The plunder is yours, no doubt. Whether
you'll have so much law on your side in other matters, - that's the
question.' Crinkett did not in the least understand the state of his
companion's mind. To Crinkett it appeared that Caldigate was simply
anxious to save his money.

'I do not know that I can say anything else to you just at present. The
bargain was a fair bargain, and you have no ground for any claim. You
come to me with some mysterious threat - - - '

'You understand,' said Crinkett.

'I care nothing for your threats. I can only bid you go and do your
worst.'

'That's what we intend.'

'That you should have lost money by me is a great sorrow to me.'

'You look sorry, squire.'

'But after what you have said, I can make you no offer. If you will go
to my brother-in-law, Mr. Robert Bolton - '

'That's the lady's brother?'

'My wife's brother.'

'I know all about it, Caldigate. I won't go to him at all. What's he to
us? It ain't likely that I am going to ask him for money to hold our
tongues. Not a bit of it. You've had sixty thousand pounds out of that
mine. The bank found twenty and took all the plant. There's forty gone.
Will you share the loss? Give us twenty and we'll be off back to
Australia by the first ship. And I'll take a wife back with me. You
understand? I'll take a wife back with me. Then we shall be all square
all round.'

With what delight would he have given the twenty thousand pounds, had he
dared! Had there been no question about the woman, he would have given
the money to satisfy his own conscience as to the injury he had
involuntarily done to his old partners. But he could not do it now. He
could make no suggestion towards doing it. To do so would be to own to
all the Boltons that Mrs. Euphemia Smith was his wife. And were he to
do so, how could he make himself secure that the man and the woman would
go back to Australia and trouble him no more? All experience forbade him
to hope for such a result. And then the payment of the money would be
one of many damning pieces of evidence against him. They had now got
back for the second time to the spot at which the way up to the house at
Folking turned off from the dike. Here he paused and spoke what were
intended to be his last words. 'I have nothing more to say, Crinkett. I
will not promise anything myself. A threatened man should never give
way. You know that yourself. But if you will go to my brother-in-law I
will get him to see you.'

'D - - your brother-in-law. He ain't your brother-in-law, no more than I
am.'

Now the sword had been drawn and the battle had been declared. 'After
that,' said Caldigate, walking on in front, 'I shall decline to speak to
you any further.' He went back through the farmyard at a quick pace,
while Crinkett kept up with him, but still a few steps behind. In the
front of the house they found Jack Adamson, who, in obedience to his
friend's suggestion had been sitting anywhere about the place.

'I'm blowed if he don't mean to stick to every lump he's robbed us of!'
said Crinkett, in a loud voice.

'He do, do he? Then we know what we've got to be after.'

'I've come across some of 'em precious mean,' continued Crinkett; 'but a
meaner skunk nor this estated gent, who is a justice of the peace and a
squire and all that, I never did come across, and I don't suppose I
never shall.' And then they stood looking at him, jeering at him. And
the gardener, who was then in the front of the house, heard it all.

'Darvell,' said the squire, 'open the gate for these gentlemen.' Darvell
of course knew that they had been brought from the church to the house,
and had been invited in to the christening breakfast.

'If I were Darvell I wouldn't take wages from such a skunk as you,' said
Crinkett. 'A man as has robbed his partners of every shilling, and has
married a young lady when he has got another wife living out in the
colony. At least she was out in the colony. She ain't there now,
Darvell. She's somewhere else now. That's what your master is, Darvell.
You'll have to look out for a place, because your master'll be in quod
before long. How much is it they gets for bigamy, Jack? Three years at
the treadmill; - that's about it. But I pities the young lady and the
poor little bastard.'

What was he to do? A sense of what was fitting for his wife rather than
for himself forbade him to fly at the man and take him by the throat.
And now, of course, the wretched story would be told through all
Cambridgeshire. Nothing could prevent that now. 'Darvell,' he said, as
he turned towards the hall steps, 'you must see these men off the
premises. The less you say to them the better.'

'We'll only just tell him all about it as we goes along comfortable,'
said Adamson. Darvell, who was a good sort of man in his way, - slow
rather than stupid, weighted with the ordinary respect which a servant
has for his master, - had heard it all, but showed no particular anxiety
to hear more. He accompanied the men down to the Causeway, hardly
opening his mouth to them, while they were loud in denouncing the
meanness of the man who had deserted a wife in Australia, and had then
betrayed a young lady here in England.

'What were they talking about?' said his wife to him when they were
alone. 'I heard their voices even here.'

'They were threatening me; - threatening me and you.'

'About that woman?'

'Yes; about that woman. Not that they have dared yet to mention her
name, - but it was about that woman.'

'And she?'

'I've heard nothing from her since that letter. I do not know that she
is in England, but I suppose that she is with them.'

'Does it make you unhappy, John?'

'Very unhappy.'

'Does it frighten you?'

'Yes. It makes me fear that you for a while will be made miserable, - you
whom I had thought that I could protect from all sorrow and from all
care! O my darling! of course it frightens me; but it is for you.'

'What will they do first, John?'

'They have already said words before the man there which will of course
be spread about the country.'

'What words?'

Then he paused, but after pausing he spoke very plainly. 'They said that
you were not my wife.'

'But I am.'

'Indeed you are.'

'Tell me all truly. Though I were not, I would still be true to you.'

'But, Hester, - Hester, you are. Do not speak as though that were
possible.'

'I know that you love me. I am sure of that. Nothing should ever make me
leave you; - nothing. You are all the world to me now. Whatever you may
have done I will be true to you. Only tell me everything.'

'I think I have,' he said, hoarsely. Then he remembered that he had told
much to Robert Bolton which she had not heard. 'I did tell her that I
would marry her.'

'You did.'

'Yes, I did.'

'Is not that a marriage in some countries?'

'I think nowhere, - certainly not there. And the people, hearing of it
all, used to call her by my name.'

'O John! - will not that be against us?'

'It will be against me, - in the minds of persons like your mother.'

'I will care nothing for that. I know that you have repented, and are
sorry. I know that you love me now.'

'I have always loved you since the first moment that I saw you.'

'Never for a moment believe that I will believe them. Let them do what
they will, I will be your wife. Nothing shall take me away from you. But
it is sad, is it not; on that the very day that poor baby has been
christened?' Then they sat and wept together and tried to comfort each
other. But nothing could comfort him. He was almost prostrated at the
prospect of his coming misery, - and of hers.




Chapter XXIX

'Just by Telling Me that I Am'



The thunderbolt had fallen now. Caldigate, when he left his wife that he
might stroll about the place after the dusk had fallen, told himself
again and again that the thunderbolt had certainly fallen now. There
could be no longer a doubt but that this woman would claim him as her
husband. A whole world of remorse and regrets oppressed his conscience
and his heart. He looked back and remembered the wise counsels which had
been given him on board the ship, when the captain and Mrs. Callender
and poor Dick Shand had remonstrated with him, and called to mind his
own annoyance when he had bidden them mind their own affairs. And then



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