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Desperate remedies : a novel. In three volumes (Volume 2) online

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bed-clothes were flung back, certainl}^, but the
bed was scarcely disarranged. " Anybody
would almost fancy,'' she thought, " that he
bad made it himself after rising."

But these evanescent thoughts vanished as
they had come, and Mrs. Crickett set to work ;
she dragged off the counterpane, blankets and


sheets, and stooped to lift the pillows. Thus
stooping, something arrested her attention ; she
looked closely — more closely — very closely.
" Well, to be sure ! " was all she could say.
The clerk's wife stood as if the air had sud-
denly set to amber, and held her fixed like a
fly in it.

The object of her wonder vas a trailing
brown hair, very little less than a yard long,
which proved it clearly to be a hair from some
w^oman's head. She drew it off the pillow, and
took it to the window ; there holding it out she
looked fixedly at it, and became utterly lost in
meditation : her gaze, which had at first actively
settled on the hair, involuntarily dropped past
its object by degrees and was lost on the floor,
as the inner vision obscured the outer one.

She at length moistened her lips, returned
her eyes to the hair, wound it round her
fingers, put it in some paper, and secreted the
whole in her pocket. Mrs. Crickett's thoughts
were with her w^ork no more that morning.

She searched the house from roof-tree to


cellar, for some other trace of feminine exist-
ence or appurtenance ; but none was to be

She went out into the yard, coal-hole, stable,
hay-loft, green-house, fowl-house, and piggery,
and still there was no sign. Coming in again,
she saw a bonnet, eagerly pounced upon it, and
found it to be her own.

Hastily completing her arrangements in the
other rooms, she entered the village again, and
called at once on the post-mistress, Mrs. Leat,
an intimate friend of hers, and a female who
sported several unique diseases and afflictions.

Mrs. Crickett unfolded the paper, took out
the hair, and waved it on high before the per-
plexed eyes of Mrs. Leat, which immediately
mooned and wandered after it like a cat's.

" What is it % " said Mrs. Leat, contracting
her eyelids, and stretching out towards the
invisible object a narrow bony hand that would
have been an unmitigated delight to the pencil
of Carlo Crivelli.

"You shall hear," said Mrs. Crickett, com-


placently gathering up the treasure into her
own fat hand ; and the secret was then
solemnly imparted, together with the accident
of its discovery.

A shaving-glass was taken down from a nail,
laid on its back in the middle of a table by the
window, and the hair spread carefully out upon
it. The pair then bent over the table from
opposite sides, their elbows on the edge, their
hands supporting their heads, their foreheads
nearly touching, and their eyes upon the hair.

*' He ha' been mad a'ter my lady Cytherea,"
said Mrs. Crickett, " and 'tis my very belief the
hair is "

" No 'tidn'. Hers id'n so dark as that,"
said Mrs. Leat.

" Mrs. Leat, you know me, and have known
me for many years," said the clerk's wife

" True, I have, Mrs. Crickett."

" And you know that as the faithful wife of
a servant of the Church, I should be glad to
think as you do about the hair. Mind I don't


wish to say anything against ]\Iiss Graye, but
this I do say, that I beHeve her to be a nameless
thing, and she's no right to stick a moral clock
in her face, and deceive the country in such a
way. If she wasn't of a bad stock at the out-
set, she was bad in the planten, and if she
wasn't bad in the planten, she w^as bad in the
growen, and if not in the growen, she's made
bad by what she's gone through since."

" But I have another reason for knowing it
idn' hers," said Mrs. Leat.

"Ah ! I know whose it is then — Miss Ald-
clyflfe's, upon my song ! "'

" 'Tis the colour of hers, but I don't believe
it to be hers either."

" Don't you believe what they d' say about
her and him 1 "

" I say nothen about tliat ; but you don't
know^ what I know about his letters."

" What about 'em 1 "

" He d' post all his letters here except them
for one person, and they he d' take to Creston.
My son is in Creston Post Office, as you know,


and as he d' sit at desk he can see over the
blind of the window all the people who d' post
letters. Mr. Manston d' unvariably go there
wi' letters for that person ; my boj' d' know
^em by sight well enough now."

"Is it a she?"


"What's her name?"

" The litttle stunpoll of a fellow couldn't call
to mind more than that 'tis Miss Somebody of
London. However, that's the woman who ha'
been here, depend upon't — a wicked one —some
poor street-wench escaped from Sodom, I
warrant ye."

"Only to find herself in Gomorrah, seem-


'' That may be."

" No, no, Mrs. Leat, this is clear to me. 'Tis
no Miss who came here to see our steward last
night — whenever she came, or wherever she
vanished. Do you think he would ha' let a
Miss, get here how she could, go away how she
would, without breakfast or help of any kind ? "


Mrs Leat shook her head — Mrs. Crickett
looked at her solemnly.

"Mrs. Leat, I ask you, have you, or ha'n't
you known me many years '? "

" True, I have/"'

''And I say I d' know she had no help of
any kind, I know it was so, for the grate was
quite cold when I touched it this morning with
these fingers, and he was still in bed. No, he
wouldn't take the trouble to write letters to a
airl and then treat her so off-hand as that.
There's a tie between 'em stronger than feelen.
She's his wife.''

"He married! The Lord so 's, what shall
w^e hear next. Do he look married now ? His
are not the abashed eyes and lips of a married

"Perhaps she's a tame one — but she's his
wife still."

" No, no : he's not a married man."

"Yes, yes he is. I've had three, and I
ought to know."

"Well, w^ell," said Mrs Leat, giving way,


"Whatever may be the truth on't I trust
Providence will settle it all for the best, as he
always do."

" Ay, ay, EHzabeth," rejoined Mrs. Crickett
with a satirical sigh, as she turned on her foot
to go home, " good people like you may say so,
but I have always found Providence a different
sort of feller."

§ 5. November the twentieth.

It was Miss Aldclyffe's custom, a custom
originated by her father, and nourished by her
own exclusiveness, to unlock the post-bag
herself every morning, instead of allowing the
duty to devolve on the butler, as was the case
in most of the neighbouring county families.
The bag was brought up-stairs each morning
to her dressing-room, where she took out the
contents, mostly in the presence of her maid
and Cytherea, who had the entree of the
chamber at all hours, and attended there in
the morning at a kind of reception on a small


scale, ^N'hicli Avns held by Miss Aldclyffe of her
namesake only.

Here she read her letters before the glass,
whilst undergoing the operation of being
brushed and dressed.

" What woman can this be, I wonder '? " she
said on the morning succeedmg that of the last
section, '"London, N!' It is the first time
in my life I ever had a letter from that out-
landish place the North side of London.*'

Cytherea had just come into her presence to
learn if there was anything for herself ; and on
being thus addressed, walked up to Miss Ald-
clyffe's corner of the room to look at the
curiosity which had raised such an exclamation.
But the lady, having opened the envelope and
read a few lines, put it quickly in her pocket,
before Cytherea could reach her side.

" Oh, 'tis nothing," she said. She proceeded
to make general remarks in a noticeably forced
tone of sang-froid, from wdiicli she soon lapsed
into silence. Not another word was said about
the letter : she seemed very anxious to get her


dressing done, and the room cleared. There-
upon Cjtherea went away to the other window,
and a few minutes later left the room to follow

her own iDursuits.


It was late when Miss AldclyiFe descended to
the breakfast-table, and then she seemed there
to no purpose ; tea, coffee, eggs, cutlets, and
all their accessories, were left absolutely un-
tasted. The next that was seen of her was
when walking up and down the south terrace,
and round the flower beds ; her face was pale,
and her tread was fitful, and she crumpled a
letter in her hand.

Dinner-time came round as usual ; she did
not speak ten words, or indeed seem con-
scious of the meal ; for all that Miss Aldclyffe
did in the way of eating, dinner might have
been taken out as perfect as it ^vas taken

In her own private apartment Miss Aldclyfi'e
again pulled out the letter of the morning.
One passage in it ran thus : —

" Of course, being his wife, I could publish

VOL, ir. D


the fact, and compel him to acknowledge me at
any moment, notwithstanding his threats, and
reasonings, that it w411 be better to wait. I
have waited, and waited again, and the time for
such acknowledgment seems no nearer than at
first. To show you how patiently I have
waited, I can tell you that not till a fortnight
ago, when by stress of circumstances I had been
driven to new lodgings, have I ever assumed
my married name, solely on account of its
having been his request all along that I should
not. This writing to you, madam, is my first
disobedience, and I am justified in it. A
woman wdio is driven to visit her husband fike
a thief in the night and then sent away like a
street dog ; left to get up, unbolt, unbar, and
find her way out of the house as she best may,
is justified in doing an^^thing.

" But should I demand of him a restitution of
rights, there would . be involved a publicity
which I could not endure, and a noisy scandal
flinging my name the length and breadth of the


"What I still prefer to any such violent
means is that you reason with him privately,
and compel him to bring me home to your
parish in a decent and careful manner, in the
way that would be adopted by any respectable
man, whose wife had been living away from him
for some time, by reason, say, of peculiar family
circumstances which had caused disunion, but
not enmity, and who at length was enabled to
reinstate her in his house.

"You will, I know, oblige me in this,
especially as knowledge of a peculiar transaction
of your own, which took place some years ago,
has lately come to me in a singular way. I
will not at present trouble you by describing
how. It is enough, that I alone, of all people
living, know all (lie sides of the story, those from
whom I collected it having each only a partial
knowledge which confuses them and points to
nothing. One person knows of your early en-
gagement and its sudden termination ; another,
of the reason of those strange meetings at inns
and coffee-houses ; another, of what was suffi-

D 2


cient to cause all this, and so on. I know what
fits one and all the circumstances like a key,
and shows them to be the natural outcrop of a
rational (though rather rash) line of conduct for
a young lady. You will at once perceive how
it was that some at least of these things were
revealed to me.

"This knowledge then, common to, and
secretly treasured by us both, is the ground
upon which I beg for your friendship and help,
with a feehng that you will be too generous to
refuse it to me.

" I may add that, as yet, my husband knows
nothing of this, neither need he if you re-
member my request.''

" A threat — a flat, stinging threat ! as deli-
cately wrapped up in words as the woman
could do it ; a threat from a miserable unknown
wench to an Aldclyffe, and not the least proud
member of the family either ! A threat on his
account— 0, 0, shall it be '? "

Presently this humour of defiance vanished,


and the members of her body became supple
again, her proceedings proving that it was
absolutely necessary to give way, AldclyfFe as
she was. She wrote a short answer to Mrs.
Manston, saying civilly that Mr. ^Manston's
possession of such a near relation was a fact
quite new to herself, and that she would see
what could be done in such an unfortunate

§ 6. November the twenty-first.

Manston received a message the next day
requesting his attendance at the house punctu-
ally at eight o'clock the ensuing evening. Miss
Aldclyffe was brave and imperious, but with
the purpose she had in view she could not look
him in the face whilst daylight shone upon her.

The steward was shown into the library. On
entering it, he was immediately struck with the
unusual gloom which pervaded the apartment.
The fire was dead and dull, one lamp, and that
a comparatively small one, was burning at the


extreme end, leaving the main proportion of the
lofty and sombre room in an artificial twihght,
scarcely powerful enough to render visible the
titles of the folio and quarto volumes "which
were jammed into the lower tiers of the book-

After keeping him w^aiting for more than
twenty minutes (Miss Aldclyffe knew that
excellent recipe for taking the stiffness out of
human flesh, and for extracting all pre-arrange-
ment from human speech) she entered the room.

Manston sought her eye directly. The hue
of her features was not discernible, but the calm
glance she flung at him, from which all attempt
at returning his scrutiny was absent, awoke him
to the perception that probably his secret was
by some means or other known to her ; liow it
had become known he could not tell.

She drew forth the letter, unfolded it, and
held it up to him, letting it hang by one corner
from between her finger and thumb, so that the
light from the lamp, though remote, fell directly
upon its surface.


'' You know whose writing this is 1 " she said.

He saw the strokes plainly, instantly resolv-
ing to burn his ships and hazard all on an

" My wife's," he said calmly.

His quiet answer threw her off her balance.
She had no more expected an answer than does
a preacher when he exclaims from the pulpit,
" Do you feel your sin ? " She had clearly
expected a sudden alarm.

'' And why all this concealment ? " she said
again, her voice rising, as she vainly endea-
voured to control her feelings, whatever the}^

'' It doesn't follow that, because a man is
married, he must tell every stranger of it,
madam," he answered, just as calmly as

" Stranger ! well, perhaps not ; but Mr.
Manston, why did you choose to conceal it, I
ask again 1 I have a perfect right to ask this
question, as you will perceive, if you consider the
terms of my advertisement."'


" I ^Yill tell you. There were two simple
reasons. The first was this practical one ; you
advertised for an unmarried man, if you
remember 1 "

" Of course I remember."

" Well, an incident suggested to me that I
should try for the situation. I was married ;
but, knowing that in getting an office where
there is a restriction of this kind, leaving one's
wife behind is always accepted as a fulfilment of
the article, I left her behind for a while. The
other reason is, that these terms of yours
afforded me a plausible excuse for escaping (for
a short time) the company of a woman I had
been mistaken in marrying."

" Mistaken ! what was she 1 " the lady in-

" A third-rate actress, whom I met with
during my stay in Liverpool last summer,
where I had gone to fulfil a short engage-
ment with an architect."

" Where did she come from 1 "

*' She is an American by birth, and I grew


to dislike her when we had been married a

" She was ugly, I imagine 1 "

" She is not an ugly woman by any means."

" Up to the ordinary standard V

" Quite up to the ordinary standard, indeed
handsome. After a while we quarrelled and

" You did not ill-use her, of course," said Miss
Aldclyffe, with a little sarcasm.

" I did not."

" But at any rate, you got thoroughly tired of

Manston looked as if he began to think her
questions out of place ; however, he said quietly,
'' I did get tired of her. I never told her so,
but we separated ; I to come here, bringing
her with me as far as London and leaving
her there in perfectly comfortable quarters ;
and though your advertisement expressed a
single man, I have always intended to tell
you the whole truth ; and this was when I was
going to tell it, when your satisfaction with my


careful management of your affairs should
have proved the risk to be a safe one to

She bowed.

" Then I saw that you were good enough to
be interested in my welfare to a greater extent
than I could have anticipated or hoped, judging
you by the frigidity of other employers, and this
caused me to hesitate. I was vexed at the
complication of affairs. So matters stood till
three nights ago ; I was then walking home from
the pottery, and came up to the railway. The
down-train came along close to me, and there,
sitting at a carriage window, I saw my wife :
she had found out my address, and had there-
upon determined to follow me here. I had not
been home many minutes before she came in,
next morning early she left again — "

" Because you treated her so cavalierly ? "

" — And as I suppose, wrote to you directly.
That's the whole story of her, madam/' What-
ever were Manston s real feelings towards the
lady who had received his explanation in these


supercilious tones they remained locked within
him as within a casket of steel.

"Did your friends know of your marriage,
Mr. Manston % " she continued.

" Nobody at all ; we kept it a secret for
various reasons."'

" It is true then that as your wife tells me in
this letter, she has not passed as j\Irs. Manston
till within these last few days 1 '*'

" It is quite true ; I was in receipt of a very
small and uncertain income when we married ;
and so she continued playing at the theatre
as before our marriage, and in her maiden

" Has she any friends % ''

" I have never heard that she has any in
England. She came over here on some
theatrical speculation, as one of a company
who were going to do much, but who never
did anything ; and here she has remained."

A pause ensued, which was terminated by
Miss Aldclyffe.

" I understand, '' she said. " Now, though I


have no direct right to concern myself with
your private affairs, (beyond those \\^hich arise
from your misleading me and getting the office
you hold)—"

" As to that, madam," he interrupted, rather
hotly, ''as to coming here, I am vexed as much
as you. Somebody, a member of the Society of
Architects, — who, I could never tell — sent to
my old address in London your advertisement
cut from the paper ; it was forwarded to me ;
I wanted to get away from Liverpool, and it
seemed as if this was put in my way on
purpose, by some old friend or other. I
answered the advertisement certainly, but I was
not particularly anxious to come here, nor am I
anxious to stay."

Miss Aldclyffe descended from haughty
superiority to womanly persuasion with a haste
which was almost ludicrous. Lideed the Quos
ego of the whole lecture had been less the
genuine menace of the imperious ruler of
Knap water than an artificial utterance to hide
a failing heart.


" Now, now, Mr. j\[anston, you wrong me ;
don't suppose I wish to be overbearing, or any-
thing of the kind ; and you will allow me to
say this much at any rate, that I have become
interested in your wife, as well as in yourself."

"Certainly, madam,'' he said, slowly, hke a
man feeling his way in the dark. Manston was
utterly at fault now. His previous experience
of the effect of his form and features upon
womankind en masse, had taught him to flatter
himself that he could account by the same law
of natural selection for the extraordinary
interest Miss Aldclyflfe had hitherto taken in
him, as an unmarried man ; an interest he did
not at all object to, seeing that it kept him near
Cytherea, and enabled him, a man of no wealth,
to rule on the estate as if he were its lawful
owner. Like Curius at his Sabine farm, he had
counted it his glory not to possess gold himself,
but to have power over her who did. But at
this hint of the lady's wish to take his wife
under her wing also, he was perplexed : could
she have anv sinister motive in doing: so 1 But


he did not allo^Y himself to be troubled with
these doubts, which only concerned his wife's

'' She tells me/' continued Miss AldclyfFe,
"how utterly alone in the world she stands,
and that is an additional reason why I should
sympathise with her. Instead, then, of request-
ing the favour of your retirement from the post,
and dismissing your interests altogether, I will
retain you as my steward still, on condition
that you bring home your wife, and live with
her respectably, in short, as if you loved her ;
you understand. I ivish you to stay here if
you grant that everything shall flow smoothly
between yourself and her."

The breast and shoulders of the steward rose,
as if an expression of defiance was about to
be poured forth ; before it took form, he con-
trolled himself and said, in his natural voice, —

" My part of the performance shall be carried
out, madam.''

*' And her anxiety to obtain a standing in
the world ensures that her's wdll,'"' replied


Miss AldclyfFe. "That ^vill be satisfactory,

After a few additional remarks, she gently sig-
nified that she wished to put an end to the inter-
view. The steward took the hint and retired.

He felt vexed and mortified ; yet in walking
homeward, he was convinced that telling the
whole truth as he had done, with the single
exception of his love for Cytherea (which he
tried to hide even from himself,) had never
served him in better stead than it had that

Manston went to his desk and ' thought of
Cytherea's beauty with the bitterest, wildest
regret. After the lapse of a few minutes he
calmed himself by a stoical effort, and wrote
the subjoined letter to his wife.

" Knapwatee, iVor. 215^, 1864.

"Dear Eunice,

"I hope you reached London safely
after your flighty visit to me.

"As I promised, I have thought over our con-


versation that iiiglit, and your ^vish that your
coming here should be no longer delayed.
After all, it was perfectly natural that you
should have spoken unkindly as you did,
ignorant as you were of the circumstances
which bound me.

*' So I have made arrangements to fetch you
home at once. It is hardly worth while for
you to attempt to bring with you any luggage
you may have gathered about you (beyond
mere clothing). Dispose of superfluous things
at a broker's ; your bringing them would only
make a talk in this parish, and lead people to be-
lieve we had long been keeping house separately.

" Will next Monday suit you for coming '?
You have nothing to do that can occupy you
for more than a day or two, as far as I can see,
and the remainder of this week will aflbrd
ample time. I can be in London the night
before, and we will come down together by the
mid-day train.

" Your very affectionate husband,



"Now, of course, I shall no longer write to
you as Mrs. Rondlej."

The address on the envelope was, —


'* 41, Chaeles Squaee,


" London, N."

He took the letter to the house, and it being
too late for the country post, sent one of the
stable-men with it to Froominster, instead of
troubling to go to Creston with it himself as
heretofore. He had no longer any necessity
to keep his condition a secret.

§ 7. From the twenty-second to the twenty-
seventh of November.

But the next morning Manston found he had
been forgetful of another matter, in naming the
following Monday to his wife for the journey.

The fact was this. A letter had just come,



reminding him that he had left the whole of
the succeeding week open for an important
business engagement with a neighbouring land-
agent, at that gentleman's residence thirteen
miles off.

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