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been here, and had expressed an intention of returning, from respect to
yourself personally I desired that you might be shown into my room. But
I could not have done that had it not been that I myself have not been
concerned in this matter.' Then he got up from his seat, and Mr.
Caldigate found himself compelled to leave the room with thanks rather
than with indignation.

He walked out of the big building into Downing Street, and down the
steps into the park. And going into the gardens, he wandered about them
for more than an hour, sometimes walking slowly along the water-side,
and then seating himself for a while on one of the benches. What must he
say to Hester in the letter which he must write as soon as he was back
at his hotel? He tried to sift some wheat out of what he was pleased to
call the chaff of Mr. Brown's courtesy. Was there not some indication to
be found in it of what the result might be? If there were any such
indication, it was, he thought, certainly adverse to his son. In whose
bosom might be the ultimate decision, - whether in that of the Secretary,
or the judge, or of some experienced clerk in the Secretary's
office, - it was manifest that the facts which had now been proven to the
world at large for many days, had none of the effects on that bosom
which they had on his own. Could it be that Shand was false, that Bagwax
was false, that the postage-stamp was false, - and that he only believed
them to be true? Was it possible that after all his son had married the
woman? He crept back to his hotel in Jermyn Street, and there he wrote
his letter.

'I think I shall be home to-morrow, but I will not say so for certain. I
have been at the Home Office, but they would tell me nothing. A man was
very civil to me, but explained that he was civil only because he knew
nothing about the case. I think I shall call on Mr. Bagwax at the
Post-office to-morrow, and after that return to Folking. Send in for the
day-mail letters, and then you will hear from me again if I mean to
stay.'

At ten o'clock on the following day he was at the Post-office, and there
he found Bagwax prepared to take his seat exactly at that hour.
Thereupon he resolved, with true radical impetuosity, that Bagwax was a
much better public servant than Mr. Brown. 'Well, Mr. Caldigate, - so
we've got it all clear at last,' said Bagwax.

There was a triumph in the tone of the clerk's voice which was not
intelligible to the despondent old squire. 'It is not at all clear to
me,' he said.

'Of course you've heard?'

'Heard what? I know all about the postage-stamp, of course.'

'If Secretaries of State and judges of the Court of Queen's Bench only
had their wits about them, the postage-stamp ought to have been quite
sufficient,' said Bagwax, sententiously.

'What more is there?'

'For the sake of letting the world know what can be done in our
department, it is a pity that there should be anything more.'

'But there is something. For God's sake tell me, Mr. Bagwax.'

'You haven't heard that they caught Crinkett just as he was leaving
Plymouth?'

'Not a word.'

'And the woman. They've got the lot of 'em, Mr. Caldigate. Adamson and
the other woman have agreed to give evidence, and are to be let go.'

'When did you hear it?'

'Well; - it is in the "Daily Tell-tale." But I knew it last night, - from
a particular source. I have been a good deal thrown in with Scotland
Yard since this began, Mr. Caldigate, and, of course, I hear things.'
Then it occurred to the squire that perhaps he had flown a little too
high in going at once to the Home Office. They might have told him more,
perhaps, in Scotland Yard. 'But it's all true. The depositions have
already been made. Adamson and Young have sworn that they were present
at no marriage. Crinkett they say, means to plead guilty; but the woman
sticks to it like wax.'

The squire had written a letter by the day-mail to say that he would
remain in London that further day. He now wrote again, at the
Post-office, telling Hester all that Bagwax had told him, and declaring
his purpose of going at once to Scotland Yard.

If this story were true, then certainly his son would soon be liberated.




Chapter LVIII

Mr. Smirkie Is Ill-used



It was on a Tuesday that Mr. Caldigate made his visit to the Home
Office, and on the Thursday he returned to Cambridge. On the platform
whom should he meet but his brother-in-law Squire Babington, who had
come into Cambridge that morning intent on hearing something further
about his nephew. He, too, had read a paragraph in his newspaper, 'The
Snapper,' as to Crinkett and Euphemia Smith.

'Thomas Crinkett, and Euphemia Smith, who gave evidence against Mr. John
Caldigate in the well-known trial at the last Cambridge assizes, have
been arrested at Plymouth just as they were about to leave the country
for New Zealand. These are the persons to whom it was proved that
Caldigate had paid the enormous sum of twenty thousand pounds a few days
before the trial. It is alleged that they are to be indicted for
perjury. If this be true, it implies the innocence of Mr. Caldigate,
who, as our readers will remember, was convicted of bigamy. There will
be much in the whole case for Mr. Caldigate to regret, but nothing so
much as the loss of that very serious sum of money. It would be idle to
deny that it was regarded by the jury, and the judge, and the public as
a bribe to the witnesses. Why it should have been paid will now probably
remain for ever a mystery.'

The squire read this over three times before he could quite
understand the gist of it, and at last perceived, - or thought that
he perceived, - that if this were true the innocence of his nephew
was incontestable. But Julia, who seemed to prefer the paternal
mansion at Babington to her own peculiar comforts and privileges at
Plum-cum-Pippins, declared that she didn't believe a word of it; and
aunt Polly, whose animosity to her nephew had somewhat subsided,
was not quite inclined to accept the statement at once. Aunt Polly
expressed an opinion that newspapers were only born to lie, but added
that had she seen the news anywhere else she would not have been a bit
surprised. The squire was prepared to swear by the tidings. If such a
thing was not to be put into a newspaper, where was it to be put? Aunt
Polly could not answer this question, but assisted in persuading her
husband to go into Cambridge for further information.

'I hope this is true,' said the Suffolk squire, tendering his hand
cordially to his brother-in-law. He was a man who could throw all his
heart into an internecine quarrel on a Monday and forget the
circumstance altogether on the Tuesday.

'Of what are you speaking?' asked the squire of Folking, with his usual
placid look, partly indifferent and partly sarcastic, covering so much
contempt of which the squire from Suffolk was able to read nothing at
all.

'About the man and the woman, the witnesses who are to be put in prison
at Plymouth, and who now say just the contrary to what they said
before.'

'I do not think that can be true,' said Mr. Caldigate.

'Then you haven't seen the "Snapper"?' asked Mr. Babington, dragging the
paper out of his pocket. 'Look at that.'

They were now in a cab together, going towards the town, and Mr.
Caldigate did not find it convenient to read the paragraph. But of
course he knew the contents. 'It is quite true,' he said, 'that the
persons you allude to have been arrested, and that they are up in
London. They will, I presume, be tried for perjury.'

'It is true?'

'There is no doubt of it.'

'And the party are splitting against each other?' asked Mr. Babington
eagerly.

'Two of them have already sworn that what they swore before was false.'

'Then why don't they let him out?'

'Why not, indeed?' said Mr. Caldigate.

'I should have thought they wouldn't have lost a moment in such a case.
They've got one of the best fellows in the world at the Home Office. His
name is Brown. If you could have seen Brown I'm sure he wouldn't have
let them delay a minute. The Home Office has the reputation of being so
very quick.'

In answer to this the squire of Folking only shook his head. He would
not even condescend to say that he had seen Brown, and certainly not to
explain that Brown had seemed to him to be the most absurdly-cautious
and courteously-dilatory man that he had ever met in his life. In
Trumpington Street they parted, Mr. Caldigate proceeding at once to
Folking, and Mr. Babington going to the office of Mr. Seely the
attorney. 'He'll be out in a day or two,' said the man of Suffolk, again
shaking his brother-in-law's hand; 'and do you tell him from me that I
hope it won't be long before we see him at Babington. I've been true to
him almost from the first, and his aunt has come over now. There is no
one against him but Julia, and these are things of course which young
women won't forget.'

Mr. Caldigate almost became genial as he accepted this assurance,
telling himself that his brother magistrate was as honest as he was
silly.

Mr. Babington, who was well known in Cambridge, asked many questions of
many persons. From Mr. Seely he heard but little. Mr. Seely had heard
of the arrest made at Plymouth, but did not quite know what to think
about it. If it was all square, then he supposed his client must after
all be innocent. But this went altogether against the grain with Mr.
Seely. 'If it be so, Mr. Babington,' he said, 'I shall always think
the paying away of that twenty thousand pounds the greatest miracle
I ever came across.' Nevertheless, Mr. Seely did believe that the two
witnesses had been arrested on a charge of perjury.

The squire then went to the governor of the jail, who had been connected
with him many years as a county magistrate. The governor had heard
nothing, received no information as to his prisoner from any one in
authority; but quite believed the story as to Crinkett and the woman.
'Perhaps you had better not see him, Mr. Babington,' said the governor,
'as he has heard nothing as yet of all this. It would not be right to
tell him till we know what it will come to.' Assenting to this, Mr.
Babington took his leave with the conviction on his mind that the
governor was quite prepared to receive an order for the liberation of
his prisoner.

He did not dare to go to Robert Bolton's office, but he did call at the
bank. 'We have heard nothing about it, Mr. Babington,' said the old
clerk over the counter. But then the old clerk added in a whisper, 'None
of the family take to the news, sir; but everybody else seems to think
there is a great deal in it. If he didn't marry her I suppose he ought
to be let out.'

'I should think he ought,' said the squire, indignantly as he left the
bank.

Thus fortified by what he considered to be the general voice of
Cambridge, he returned the same evening to Babington. Cambridge,
including Mr. Caldigate, had been unanimous in believing the report. And
if the report were true, then, certainly, was his nephew innocent. As he
thought of this, some appropriate idea of the injustice of the evil done
to the man and to the man's wife came upon him. If such were the
treatment to which he and she had been subjected, - if he, innocent, had
been torn away from her and sent to the common jail, and if she,
certainly innocent, had been wrongly deprived for a time of the name
which he had honestly given her, - then would it not have been right to
open to her the hearts and the doors at Babington during the period of
her great distress? As he thought of this he was so melted by ruth that
a tear came into each of his old eyes. Then he remembered the attempt
which had been made to catch this man for Julia - as to which he
certainly had been innocent, - and his daughter's continued wrath. That a
woman should be wrathful in such a matter was natural to him. He
conceived that it behoved a woman to be weak, irascible, affectionate,
irrational, and soft-hearted. When Julia would be loud in condemnation
of her cousin, and would pretend to commiserate the woes of the poor
wife who had been left in Australia, though he knew the source of these
feelings, he could not be in the least angry with her. But that was not
at all the state of his mind in reference to his son-in-law Augustus
Smirkie. Sometimes, as he had heard Mr. Smirkie inveigh against the
enormity of bigamy and of this bigamist in particular, he had determined
that some 'odd-come-shortly,' as he would call it, he would give the
vicar of Plum-cum-Pippins a moral pat on the head which should silence
him for a time. At the present moment when he got into his carriage at
the station to be taken home, he was not sure whether or no he should
find the vicar at Babington. Since their marriage, Mr. Smirkie had spent
much of his time at Babington, and seemed to like the Babington claret.
He would come about the middle of the week and return on the Saturday
evening, in a manner which the squire could hardly reconcile with all
that he had heard as to Mr. Smirkie's exemplary conduct in his own
parish. The squire was hospitality itself, and certainly would never
have said a word to make his house other than pleasant to his own girl's
husband. But a host expects that his corns should be respected, whereas
Mr. Smirkie was always treading on Mr. Babington's toes. Hints had been
given to him as to his personal conduct which he did not take altogether
in good part. His absence from afternoon service had been alluded to,
and it had been suggested to him that he ought sometimes to be more
careful as to his language. He was not, therefore ill-disposed to resent
on the part of Mr. Smirkie the spirit of persecution with which that
gentleman seemed to regard his nephew. 'Is Mr. Smirkie in the house,' he
asked the coachman. 'He came by the 3.40, as usual,' said the man. It
was very much 'as usual,' thought the squire.

'There isn't a doubt about it,' said the squire to his wife as he was
dressing. 'The poor fellow is as innocent as you.'

'He can't be, - innocent,' said aunt Polly.

'If he never married the woman whom they say he married he can't be
guilty.'

'I don't know about that, my dear.'

'He either did marry her or he didn't, I suppose.'

'I don't say he married her, but, - he did worse.'

'No, he didn't,' said the squire.

'That may be your way of thinking of it. According to my idea of what
is right and what is wrong, he did a great deal worse.'

'But if he didn't marry that woman he didn't commit bigamy when he
married this one,' argued he, energetically.

'Still he may have deserved all he got.'

'No; he mayn't. You wouldn't punish a man for murder because he doesn't
pay his debts.'

'I won't have it that he's innocent,' said Mrs. Babington.

'Who the devil is, if you come to that?'

'You are not, or you wouldn't talk in that way. I'm not saying anything
now against John. If he didn't marry the woman I suppose they'll let him
out of prison, and I for one shall be willing to take him by the hand;
but to say he's innocent is what I won't put up with!'

'He has sown his wild oats, and he's none the worse for that. He's as
good as the rest of us, I dare say.'

'Speak for yourself,' said the wife. 'I don't suppose you mean to tell
me that in the eyes of the Creator he is as good a man as Augustus.'

'Augustus be - - .' The word was spoken with great energy. Mrs.
Babington at the moment was employed in sewing a button on the
wristband of her husband's shirt, and in the start which she gave stuck
the needle into his arm.

'Humphrey!' exclaimed the agitated lady.

'I beg your pardon, but not his,' said the squire, rubbing the wound.
'If he says a word more about John Caldigate in my presence, I shall
tell him what I think about it. He has got his wife, and that ought to
be enough for him.'

After that they went down-stairs and dinner was at once announced.
There was Mr. Smirkie to give an arm to his mother-in-law. The squire
took his married daughter while the other two followed. As they crossed
the hall Julia whispered her cousin's name, but her father bade her be
silent for the present. 'I was sure it was not true,' said Mrs.
Smirkie.

'Then you're quite wrong,' said the squire, 'for it's as true as the
Gospel.' Then there was no more said about John Caldigate till the
servants had left the room.

Mr. Smirkie's general appreciation of the good things provided, did not
on this occasion give the owner of them that gratification which a host
should feel in the pleasures of his guests. He ate a very good dinner
and took his wine with a full appreciation of its merits. Such an
appetite on the part of his friends was generally much esteemed by the
squire of Babington, who was apt to press the bottle upon those who sat
with him, in the old-fashioned manner. At the present moment he eyed his
son-in-law's enjoyments with a feeling akin to disappointment. There was
a habit at Babington with the ladies of sitting with the squire when he
was the only man present till he had finished his wine, and, at Mrs.
Smirkie's instance, this custom was continued when she and her husband
were at the house. Fires had been commenced, and when the dinner-things
had been taken away they clustered round the hearth. The squire himself
sat silent in his place, out of humour, knowing that the peculiar
subject would be introduced, and determined to make himself
disagreeable.

'Papa, won't you bring your chair round?' said one of the girls who was
next to him. Whereupon he did move his chair an inch or two.

'Did you hear anything about John?' said the other unmarried sister.

'Yes, I heard about him. You can't help hearing about him in Cambridge
now. All the world is talking about him.'

'And what does all the world say?' asked Julia, flippantly. To this
question her father at first made no answer. 'Whatever the world may
say, I cannot alter my opinion,' continued Julia. 'I shall never be able
to look upon John Caldigate and Hester Bolton as man and wife in the
sight of God.'

'I might just as well take upon myself to say that I didn't look upon
you and Smirkie as man and wife in the sight of God.'

'Papa!' screamed the married daughter.

'Sir!' ejaculated the married son-in-law.

'My dear, that is a strange thing to say of your own child,' whispered
the mother.

'Most strange!' said Julia, lifting both her hands up in an agony.

'But it's true,' roared the squire. 'She says that, let the law say what
it may, these people are not to be regarded as man and wife.'

'Not by me,' said Julia.

'Who are you that you are to set up a tribunal of your own? And if you
judge of another couple in that way, why isn't some one to judge of you
after the same fashion?'

'There is the verdict,' said Mr. Smirkie. 'No verdict has pronounced me
a bigamist.'

'But it might for anything I know,' said the squire, angrily. 'Some
woman might come up in Plum-cum-Pippins and say you had married her
before your first wife.'

'Papa, you are very disagreeable,' said Julia.

'Why shouldn't there be a wicked lie told in one place as well as in
another? There has been a wicked lie told here; and when the lie is
proved to have been a lie, as plain as the nose on your face, he is to
tell me that he won't believe the young folk to be man and wife because
of an untrue verdict! I say they are man and wife; - as good a man and
wife as you and he; - and let me see who'll refuse to meet them as such
in my house?'

Mr. Smirkie had not, in truth, made the offensive remark. It had been
made by Mrs. Smirkie. But it had suited the squire to attribute it to
the clergyman. Mr. Smirkie was now put upon his mettle, and was obliged
either to agree or to disagree. He would have preferred the former, had
he not been somewhat in awe of his wife. As it was, he fell back upon
the indiscreet assertion which his father-in-law had made some time
back. 'I, at any rate, sir, have not had a verdict against me.'

'What does that signify?'

'A great deal, I should say. A verdict, no doubt, is human, and
therefore may be wrong.'

'So is a marriage human.'

'I beg your pardon, sir; - a marriage is divine.'

'Not if it isn't a marriage. Your marriage in our church wouldn't have
been divine if you'd had another wife alive.'

'Papa, I wish you wouldn't.'

'But I shall. I've got to hammer it into his head somehow.'

Mr. Smirkie drew himself up and grinned bravely. But the squire did not
care for his frowns. That last backhander at the claret-jug had
determined him. 'John Caldigate's marriage with his wife was not in the
least interfered with by the verdict.'

'It took away the lady's name from her at once,' said the indignant
clergyman.

'That's just what it didn't do,' said the squire, rising from his
chair; - 'of itself it didn't affect her name at all. And now that it is
shown to have been a mistaken verdict, it doesn't affect her position.
The long and the short of it is this, that anybody who doesn't like to
meet him and his wife as honoured guests in my house had better stay
away. Do you hear that, Julia?' Then without waiting for an answer he
walked out before them all into the drawing-room and not another word
was said that night about the matter. Mr. Smirkie, indeed, did not utter
a word on any subject, till at an early hour he wished them all
good-night with dignified composure.




Chapter LIX

How The Big-Wigs Doubted



It's what I call an awful shame.' Mr. Holt and parson Bromley were
standing together on the causeway at Folking, and the former was
speaking. The subject under discussion was, of course, the continued
detention of John Caldigate in the county prison.

'I cannot at all understand it,' said Mr. Bromley.

'There's no understanding nothing about it, sir. Every man, woman, and
child in the county knows as there wasn't no other marriage, and yet
they won't let 'un out. It's sheer spite, because he wouldn't vote for
their man last 'lection.'

'I hardly think that, Mr. Holt.'

'I'm as sure of it as I stands here,' said Mr. Holt, slapping his thigh.
'What else 'd they keep 'un in for? It's just like their ways.'

Mr. Holt was one of a rare class, being a liberal farmer, - a Liberal,
that is, in politics; as was also Mr. Bromley, a Liberal among
parsons, - _rava avis._ The Caldigates had always been Liberal, and Mr.
Holt had been brought up to agree with his landlord. He was now beyond
measure acerbated, because John Caldigate had not been as yet declared
innocent on evidence which was altogether conclusive to himself. The
Conservatives were now in power, and nothing seemed so natural to Mr.
Holt as that the Home Secretary should keep his landlord in jail because
the Caldigates were Liberals. Mr. Bromley could not quite agree to this,
but he also was of opinion that a great injustice was being done. He was
in the habit of seeing the young wife almost daily, and knew the havoc
which hope turned into despair was making with her. Another week had
now gone by since the old squire had been up in town, and nothing yet
had been heard from the Secretary of State. All the world knew that
Crinkett and Euphemia Smith were in custody, and still no tidings
came, - yet the husband, convicted on the evidence of these perjurers,
was detained in prison!

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick, and Hester's heart was very sick
within her. 'Why do they not tell me something?' she said when her
father-in-law vainly endeavoured to comfort her. Why not, indeed? He
could only say hard things of the whole system under which the
perpetration of so great a cruelty was possible, and reiterate his
opinion that, in spite of that system, they must, before long, let his
son go free.

The delay in truth was not at the Home Office. Judge Bramber could not
as yet quite make up his mind. It is hoped that the reader has made up
his, but the reader knows somewhat more than the judge knew. Crinkett
had confessed nothing, - though a rumour had got abroad that he intended
to plead guilty. Euphemia Smith was constant in her assertion to all
those who came near her, that she had positively been married to the man
at Ahalala. Adamson and Anna Young were ready now to swear that all
which they had sworn before was false; but it was known to the police
that they had quarrelled bitterly as to the division of the spoil ever
since the money had been paid to the ring-leaders. It was known that
Anna Young had succeeded in getting nothing from the other woman, and
that the man had unwillingly accepted his small share, fearing that
otherwise he might get nothing. They were not trustworthy witnesses, and
it was very doubtful whether the other two could be convicted on their



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