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The time was nine o'clock in the morning. The place was a private
room in one of the old-fashioned inns which still remain on
the Borough side of the Thames. The date was Monday, the 11th
of August. And the person was Mr. Bashwood, who had traveled
to London on a summons from his son, and had taken up his abode
at the inn on the previous day.
He had never yet looked so pitiably old and helpless as he looked
now. The fever and chill of alternating hope and despair had
dried, and withered, and wasted him. The angles of his figure had
sharpened. The outline of his face had shrunk. His dress pointed
the melancholy change in him with a merciless and shocking
emphasis. Never, even in his youth, had he worn such clothes as
he wore now. With the desperate resolution to leave no chance
untried of producing an impression on Miss Gwilt, he had cast
aside his dreary black garments; he had even mustered the courage
to wear his blue satin cravat. His coat was a riding-coat of
light gray. He had ordered it, with a vindictive subtlety of
purpose, to be made on the pattern of a coat that he had seen
Allan wear. His waistcoat was white; his trousers were of the
gayest summer pattern, in the largest check. His wig was oiled
and scented, and brushed round, on either side, to hide the
wrinkles on his temples. He was an object to laugh at; he was an
object to weep over. His enemies, if a creature so wretched could
have had enemies, would have forgiven him, on seeing him in his
new dress. His friends--had any of his friends been left--would
have been less distressed if they had looked at him in his coffin
than if they had looked at him as he was now. Incessantly
restless, he paced the room from end to end. Now he looked at
his watch; now he looked out of the window; now he looked at
the well-furnished breakfast-table--always with the same wistful,
uneasy inquiry in his eyes. The waiter coming in, with the urn
of boiling water, was addressed for the fiftieth time in the one
form of words which the miserable creature seemed to be capable
of uttering that morning: "My son is coming to breakfast. My son
is very particular. I want everything of the best--hot things and
cold things--and tea and coffee--and all the rest of it, waiter;
all the rest of it." For the fiftieth time, he now reiterated
those anxious words. For the fiftieth time, the impenetrable
waiter had just returned his one pacifying answer, "All right,
sir; you may leave it to me"--when the sound of leisurely
footsteps was heard on the stairs; the door opened; and the
long-expected son sauntered indolently into the room, with a neat
little black leather bag in his hand.
"Well done, old gentleman!" said Bashwood the younger, surveying
his father's dress with a smile of sardonic encouragement.
"You're ready to be married to Miss Gwilt at a moment's notice!"
The father took the son's hand, and tried to echo the son's
"You have such good spirits, Jemmy," he said, using the name in
its familiar form, as he had been accustomed to use it in happier
days. "You always had good spirits, my dear, from a child. Come
and sit down; I've ordered you a nice breakfast. Everything of
the best! everything of the best! What a relief it is to see you!
Oh, dear, dear, what a relief it is to see you." He stopped
and sat down at the table, his face flushed with the effort
to control the impatience that was devouring him. "Tell me about
her!" he burst out, giving up the effort with a sudden
self-abandonment. "I shall die, Jemmy, if I wait for it any
longer. Tell me! tell me! tell me!"
"One thing at a time," said Bashwood the younger, perfectly
unmoved by his father's impatience. "We'll try the breakfast
first, and come to the lady afterward! Gently does it, old
gentleman--gently does it!"
He put his leather bag on a chair, and sat down opposite to
his father, composed, and smiling, and humming a little tune.
No ordinary observation, applying the ordinary rules of analysis,
would have detected the character of Bashwood the younger in his
face. His youthful look, aided by his light hair and his plump
beardless cheeks, his easy manner and his ever-ready smile,
his eyes which met unshrinkingly the eyes of every one whom he
addressed, all combined to make the impression of him a favorable
impression in the general mind. No eye for reading character, but
such an eye as belongs to one person, perhaps, in ten thousand,
could have penetrated the smoothly deceptive surface of this man,
and have seen him for what he really was--the vile creature whom
the viler need of Society has fashioned for its own use. There
he sat--the Confidential Spy of modern times, whose business
is steadily enlarging, whose Private Inquiry Offices are steadily
on the increase. There he sat--the necessary Detective attendant
on the progress of our national civilization; a man who was, in
this instance at least, the legitimate and intelligible product
of the vocation that employed him; a man professionally ready
on the merest suspicion (if the merest suspicion paid him) to get
under our beds, and to look through gimlet-holes in our doors;
a man who would have been useless to his employers if he could
have felt a touch of human sympathy in his father's presence;
and who would have deservedly forfeited his situation if, under
any circumstances whatever, he had been personally accessible
to a sense of pity or a sense of shame.
"Gently does it, old gentleman," he repeated, lifting the covers
from the dishes, and looking under them one after the other all
round the table. "Gently does it!"
"Don't be angry with me, Jemmy," pleaded his father. "Try, if you
can, to think how anxious I must be. I got your letter so long
ago as yesterday morning. I have had to travel all the way from
Thorpe Ambrose--I have had to get through the dreadful long
evening and the dreadful long night--with your letter telling me
that you had found out who she is, and telling me nothing more.
Suspense is very hard to bear, Jemmy, when you come to my age.
What was it prevented you, my dear, from coming to me when I got
here yesterday evening?"
"A little dinner at Richmond," said Bashwood the younger. "Give
me some tea."
Mr. Bashwood tried to comply with the request; but the hand with
which he lifted the teapot trembled so unmanageably that the tea
missed the cup and streamed out on the cloth. "I'm very sorry;
I can't help trembling when I'm anxious," said the old man, as
his son took the tea-pot out of his hand. "I'm afraid you bear me
malice, Jemmy, for what happened when I was last in town. I own
I was obstinate and unreasonable about going back to Thorpe
Ambrose. I'm more sensible now. You were quite right in taking it
all on yourself, as soon as I showed you the veiled lady when we
saw her come out of the hotel; and you were quite right to send
me back the same day to my business in the steward's office
at the Great House." He watched the effect of these concessions
on his son, and ventured doubtfully on another entreaty. "If you
won't tell me anything else just yet," he said, faintly, "will
you tell me how you found her out. Do, Jemmy, do!"
Bashwood the younger looked up from his plate. "I'll tell you
that," he said. "The reckoning up of Miss Gwilt has cost more
money and taken more time than I expected; and the sooner we come
to a settlement about it, the sooner we shall get to what you
want to know."
Without a word of expostulation, the father laid his dingy old
pocket-book and his purse on the table before the son. Bashwood
the younger looked into the purse; observed, with a contemptuous
elevation of the eyebrows, that it held no more than a sovereign
and some silver; and returned it intact. The pocket-book,
on being opened next, proved to contain four five-pound notes.
Bashwood the younger transferred three of the notes to his own
keeping; and handed the pocket-book back to his father, with
a bow expressive of mock gratitude and sarcastic respect.
"A thousand thanks," he said. "Some of it is for the people at
our office, and the balance is for myself. One of the few stupid
things, my dear sir, that I have done in the course of my life
was to write you word, when you first consulted me, that you
might have my services gratis. As you see, I hasten to repair
the error. An hour or two at odd times I was ready enough to give
you. But this business has taken days, and has got in the way of
other jobs. I told you I couldn't be out of pocket by you--I put
it in my letter, as plain as words could say it."
"Yes, yes, Jemmy. I don't complain, my dear, I don't complain.
Never mind the money--tell me how you found her out."
"Besides," pursued Bashwood, the younger, proceeding impenetrably
with his justification of himself, "I have given you the benefit
of my experience; I've done it cheap. It would have cost double
the money if another man had taken this in hand. Another man
would have kept a watch on Mr. Armadale as well as Miss Gwilt.
I have saved you that expense. You are certain that Mr. Armadale
is bent on marrying her. Very good. In that case, while we have
our eye on _her_, we have, for all useful purposes, got our eye
on _him_. Know where the lady is, and you know that the gentleman
can't be far off."
"Quite true, Jemmy. But how was it Miss Gwilt came to give you
so much trouble?"
"She's a devilish clever woman," said Bashwood the younger;
"that's how it was. She gave us the slip at a milliner's shop.
We made it all right with the milliner, and speculated on the
chance of her coming back to try on a gown she had ordered. The
cleverest women lose the use of their wits in nine cases out of
ten where there's a new dress in the case, and even Miss Gwilt
was rash enough to go back. That was all we wanted. One of the
women from our office helped to try on her new gown, and put her
in the right position to be seen by one of our men behind the
door. He instantly suspected who she was, on the strength of what
he had been told of her; for she's a famous woman in her way.
Of course, we didn't trust to that. We traced her to her new
address; and we got a man from Scotland Yard, who was certain to
know her, if our own man's idea was the right one. The man from
Scotland Yard turned milliner's lad for the occasion, and took
her gown home. He saw her in the passage, and identified her in
an instant. You're in luck, I can tell you. Miss Gwilt's a public
character. If we had had a less notorious woman to deal with,
she might have cost us weeks of inquiry, and you might have had
to pay hundreds of pounds. A day did it in Miss Gwilt's case; and
another day put the whole story of her life, in black and white,
into my hand. There it is at the present moment, old gentleman,
in my black bag."
Bashwood the father made straight for the bag with eager eyes and
outstretched hand. Bashwood the son took a little key out of his
waistcoat pocket, winked, shook his head, and put the key back
"I haven't done breakfast yet," he said. "Gently does it, my dear
sir--gently does it."
"I can't wait!" cried the old man, struggling vainly to preserve
his self-control. "It's past nine! It's a fortnight to-day since
she went to London with Mr. Armadale! She may be married to him
in a fortnight! She may be married to him this morning! I can't
wait! I can't wait!"
"There's no knowing what you can do till you try," rejoined
Bashwood the younger. "Try, and you'll find you can wait. What
has become of your curiosity?" he went on, feeding the fire
ingeniously with a stick at a time. "Why don't you ask me what
I mean by calling Miss Gwilt a public character? Why don't you
wonder how I came to lay my hand on the story of her life, in
black and white? If you'll sit down again, I'll tell you. If you
won't, I shall confine myself to my breakfast."
Mr. Bashwood sighed heavily, and went back to his chair.
"I wish you were not so fond of your joke, Jemmy," he said.
"I wish, my dear, you were not quite so fond of your joke."
"Joke?" repeated his son. "It would be serious enough in some
people's eyes, I can tell you. Miss Gwilt has been tried
for her life; and the papers in that black bag are the lawyer's
instructions for the Defense. Do you call that a joke?"
The father started to his feet, and looked straight across the
table at the son with a smile of exultation that was terrible
"She's been tried for her life!" he burst out, with a deep gasp
of satisfaction. "She's been tried for her life!" He broke into
a low, prolonged laugh, and snapped his fingers exultingly.
"Aha-ha-ha! Something to frighten Mr. Armadale in _that_!"
Scoundrel as he was, the son was daunted by the explosion
of pent-up passion which burst on him in those words.
"Don't excite yourself," he said, with a sullen suppression
of the mocking manner in which he had spoken thus far.
Mr. Bashwood sat down again, and passed his handkerchief over his
forehead. "No," he said, nodding and smiling at his son. "No,
no--no excitement, as you say--I can wait now, Jemmy; I can wait
He waited with immovable patience. At intervals, he nodded,
and smiled, and whispered to himself, "Something to frighten
Mr. Armadale in _that_!" But he made no further attempt, by word,
look, or action, to hurry his son.
Bashwood the younger finished his breakfast slowly, out of pure
bravado; lit a cigar with the utmost deliberation; looked at
his father, and, seeing him still as immovably patient as ever,
opened the black bag at last, and spread the papers on the table.
"How will you have it?" he asked. "Long or short? I have got her
whole life here. The counsel who defended her at the trial was
instructed to hammer hard at the sympathies of the jury: he went
head over ears into the miseries of her past career, and shocked
everybody in court in the most workman-like manner. Shall I take
the same line? Do you want to know all about her, from the time
when she was in short frocks and frilled trousers? or do you
prefer getting on at once to her first appearance as a prisoner
in the dock?"
"I want to know all about her," said his father, eagerly. "The
worst, and the best--the worst particularly. Don't spare my
feelings, Jemmy--whatever you do, don't spare my feelings! Can't
I look at the papers myself?"
"No, you can't. They would be all Greek and Hebrew to you. Thank
your stars that you have got a sharp son, who can take the pith
out of these papers, and give it a smack of the right flavor
in serving it up. There are not ten men in England who could tell
you this woman's story as I can tell it. It's a gift, old
gentleman, of the sort that is given to very few people--and it
He tapped his forehead smartly, and turned to the first page
of the manuscript before him, with an unconcealed triumph at the
prospect of exhibiting his own cleverness, which was the first
expression of a genuine feeling of any sort that had escaped him
"Miss Gwilt's story begins," said Bashwood the younger, "in the
market-place at Thorpe Ambrose. One day, something like a quarter
of a century ago, a traveling quack doctor, who dealt in
perfumery as well as medicines, came to the town with his cart,
and exhibited, as a living example of the excellence of his
washes and hair-oils and so on, a pretty little girl, with a
beautiful complexion and wonderful hair. His name was Oldershaw.
He had a wife, who helped him in the perfumery part of his
business, and who carried it on by herself after his death.
She has risen in the world of late years; and she is identical
with that sly old lady who employed me professionally a short
time since. As for the pretty little girl, you know who she
was as well as I do. While the quack was haranguing the mob and
showing them the child's hair, a young lady, driving through the
marketplace, stopped her carriage to hear what it was all about,
saw the little girl, and took a violent fancy to her on the spot.
The young lady was the daughter of Mr. Blanchard, of Thorpe
Ambrose. She went home, and interested her father in the fate
of the innocent little victim of the quack doctor. The same
evening, the Oldershaws were sent for to the great house and were
questioned. They declared themselves to be her uncle and aunt--a
lie, of course!--and they were quite willing to let her attend
the village school, while they stayed at Thorpe Ambrose, when
the proposal was made to them. The new arrangement was carried
out the next day. And the day after that, the Oldershaws had
disappeared, and had left the little girl on the squire's hands!
She evidently hadn't answered as they expected in the capacity
of an advertisement, and that was the way they took of providing
for her for life. There is the first act of the play for you!
Clear enough, so far, isn't it?"
"Clear enough, Jemmy, to clever people. But I'm old and slow.
I don't understand one thing. Whose child was she?"
"A very sensible question. Sorry to inform you that nobody can
answer it--Miss Gwilt herself included. These Instructions that
I'm refering to are founded, of course, on her own statements,
sifted by her attorney. All she could remember, on being
questioned, was that she was beaten and half starved, somewhere
in the country, by a woman who took in children at nurse. The
woman had a card with her, stating that her name was Lydia Gwilt,
and got a yearly allowance for taking care of her (paid through a
lawyer) till she was eight years old. At that time, the allowance
stopped; the lawyer had no explanation to offer; nobody came to
look after her; nobody wrote. The Oldershaws saw her, and thought
she might answer to exhibit; and the woman parted with her for a
trifle to the Oldershaws; and the Oldershaws parted with her for
good and all to the Blanchards. That's the story of her birth,
parentage, and education! She may be the daughter of a duke,
or the daughter of a costermonger. The circumstances may be
highly romantic, or utterly commonplace. Fancy anything you
like--there's nothing to stop you. When you've had your fancy
out, say the word, and I'll turn over the leaves and go on."
"Please to go on, Jemmy--please to go on."
"The next glimpse of Miss Gwilt," resumed Bashwood the younger,
turning over the papers, "is a glimpse at a family mystery. The
deserted child was in luck's way at last. She had taken the fancy
of an amiable young lady with a rich father, and she was petted
and made much of at the great house, in the character of Miss
Blanchard's last new plaything. Not long afterward Mr. Blanchard
and his daughter went abroad, and took the girl with them in the
capacity of Miss Blanchard's little maid. When they came back,
the daughter had married, and become a widow, in the interval;
and the pretty little maid, instead of returning with them to
Thorpe Ambrose, turns up suddenly, all alone, as a pupil at a
school in France. There she was, at a first-rate establishment,
with her maintenance and education secured until she married and
settled in life, on this understanding--that she never returned
to England. Those were all the particulars she could be prevailed
on to give the lawyer who drew up these instructions. She
declined to say what had happened abroad; she declined even,
after all the years that had passed, to mention her mistress's
married name. It's quite clear, of course, that she was in
possession of some family secret; and that the Blanchards paid
for her schooling on the Continent to keep her out of the way.
And it's equally plain that she would never have kept her secret
as she did if she had not seen her way to trading on it for her
own advantage at some future time. A clever woman, as I've told
you already! A devilish clever woman, who hasn't been knocked
about in the world, and seen the ups and downs of life abroad
and at home, for nothing."
"Yes, yes, Jemmy; quite true. How long did she stop, please,
at the school in France?"
Bashwood the younger referred to the papers. "She stopped at the
French school," he replied, "till she was seventeen. At that time
something happened at the school which I find mildly described in
these papers as 'something unpleasant.' The plain fact was that
the music-master attached to the establishment fell in love with
Miss Gwilt. He was a respectable middle-aged man, with a wife and
family; and, finding the circumstances entirely hopeless, he took
a pistol, and, rashly assuming that he had brains in his head,
tried to blow them out. The doctor saved his life, but not his
reason; he ended, where he had better have begun, in an asylum.
Miss Gwilt's beauty having been at the bottom of the scandal,
it was, of course, impossible--though she was proved to have been
otherwise quite blameless in the matter--for her to remain at the
school after what had happened. Her 'friends' (the Blanchards)
were communicated with. And her friends transferred her to
another school; at Brussels, this time--What are you sighing
about? What's wrong now?"
"I can't help feeling a little for the poor music-master, Jemmy.
"According to her own account of it, dad, Miss Gwilt seems
to have felt for him too. She took a serious turn; and was
'converted' (as they call it) by the lady who had charge of her
in the interval before she went to Brussels. The priest at
the Belgium school appears to have been a man of some discretion,
and to have seen that the girl's sensibilities were getting into
a dangerously excited state. Before he could quiet her down, he
fell ill, and was succeeded by another priest, who was a fanatic.
You will understand the sort of interest he took in the girl, and
the way in which he worked on her feelings, when I tell you that
she announced it as her decision, after having been nearly two
years at the school, to end her days in a convent! You may well
stare! Miss Gwilt, in the character of a Nun, is the sort of
female phenomenon you don't often set eyes on."
"Did she go into the convent?" asked Mr. Bashwood. "Did they let
her go in, so friendless and so young, with nobody to advise her
for the best?"
"The Blanchards were consulted, as a matter of form," pursued
Bashwood the younger. "_They_ had no objection to her shutting
herself up in a convent, as you may well imagine. The pleasantest
letter they ever had from her, I'll answer for it, was the letter
in which she solemnly took leave of them in this world forever.
The people at the convent were as careful as usual not to commit
themselves. Their rules wouldn't allow her to take the veil till
she had tried the life for a year first, and then, if she had any
doubt, for another year after that. She tried the life for the
first year, accordingly, and doubted. She tried it for the second
year, and was wise enough, by that time, to give it up without
further hesitation. Her position was rather an awkward one when
she found herself at liberty again. The sisters at the convent
had lost their interest in her; the mistress at the school
declined to take her back as teacher, on the ground that she was
too nice-looking for the place; the priest considered her to be
possessed by the devil. There was nothing for it but to write
to the Blanchards again, and ask them to start her in life as
a teacher of music on her own account. She wrote to her former
mistress accordingly. Her former mistress had evidently doubted
the genuineness of the girl's resolution to be a nun, and had
seized the opportunity offered by her entry into the convent to
cut off all further communication between her ex-waiting-maid and
herself. Miss Gwilt's letter was returned by the post-office. She
caused inquiries to be made; and found that Mr. Blanchard was
dead, and that his daughter had left the great house for some
place of retirement unknown. The next thing she did, upon this,
was to write to the heir in possession of the estate. The letter
was answered by his solicitors, who were instructed to put the
law in force at the first attempt she made to extort money from
any member of the family at Thorpe Ambrose. The last chance was
to get at the address of her mistress's place of retirement.
The family bankers, to whom she wrote, wrote back to say that
they were instructed not to give the lady's address to any one
applying for it, without being previously empowered to do so by
the lady herself. That last letter settled the question--Miss
Gwilt could do nothing more. With money at her command, she might
have gone to England and made the Blanchards think twice before
they carried things with too high a hand. Not having a half-penny
at command, she was helpless. Without money and without friends,
you may wonder how she supported herself while the correspondence
was going on. She supported herself by playing the piano-forte
at a low concert-room in Brussels. The men laid siege to her,
of course, in all directions; but they found her insensible as
adamant. One of these rejected gentlemen was a Russian; and he
was the means of making her acquainted with a countrywoman of
his, whose name is unpronounceable by English lips. Let us give
her her title, and call her the baroness. The two women liked
each other at their first introduction; and a new scene opened
in Miss Gwilt's life. She became reader and companion to the
baroness. Everything was right, everything was smooth on the
surface. Everything was rotten and everything was wrong under
"In what way, Jemmy? Please to wait a little, and tell me in
"In this way. The baroness was fond of traveling, and she had
a select set of friends about her who were quite of her way of
thinking. They went from one city on the Continent to another,
and were such charming people that they picked up acquaintances
everywhere. The acquaintances were invited to the baroness's
receptions, and card-tables were invariably a part of the
baroness's furniture. Do you see it now? or must I tell you, in
the strictest confidence, that cards were not considered sinful
on these festive occasions, and that the luck, at the end of the
evening, turned out to be almost invariably on the side of the
baroness and her friends? Swindlers, all of them; and there isn't
a doubt on my mind, whatever there may be on yours, that Miss
Gwilt's manners and appearance made her a valuable member of the
society in the capacity of a decoy. Her own statement is that she
was innocent of all knowledge of what really went on; that she
was quite ignorant of card-playing; that she hadn't such a thing
as a respectable friend to turn to in the world; and that she
honestly liked the baroness, for the simple reason that the
baroness was a hearty good friend to her from first to last.
Believe that or not, as you please. For five years she traveled
about all over the Continent with these card-sharpers in high
life, and she might have been among them at this moment, for
anything I know to the contrary, if the baroness had not caught
a Tartar at Naples, in the shape of a rich traveling Englishman,
named Waldron. Aha! that name startles you, does it? You've read
the Trial of the famous Mrs. Waldron, like the rest of the world?
And you know who Miss Gwilt is now, without my telling you?"
He paused, and looked at his father in sudden perplexity. Far
from being overwhelmed by the discovery which had just burst on
him, Mr. Bashwood, after the first natural movement of surprise,
faced his son with a self-possession which was nothing short of
extraordinary under the circumstances. There was a new brightness
in his eyes, and a new color in his face. If it had been possible
to conceive such a thing of a man in his position, he seemed to
be absolutely encouraged instead of depressed by what he had just
heard. "Go on, Jemmy," he said, quietly; "I am one of the few
people who didn't read the trial; I only heard of it."
Still wondering inwardly, Bashwood the younger recovered himself,
and went on.
"You always were, and you always will be, behind the age,"
he said. "When we come to the trial, I can tell you as much
about it as you need know. In the meantime, we must go back
to the baroness and Mr. Waldron. For a certain number of nights
the Englishman let the card-sharpers have it all their own way;
in other words, he paid for the privilege of making himself
agreeable to Miss Gwilt. When he thought he had produced the
necessary impression on her, he exposed the whole confederacy
without mercy. The police interfered; the baroness found herself
in prison; and Miss Gwilt was put between the two alternatives of
accepting Mr. Waldron's protection or being thrown on the world
again. She was amazingly virtuous, or amazingly clever, which
you please. To Mr. Waldron's astonishment, she told him that she
could face the prospect of being thrown on the world; and that
he must address her honorably or leave her forever. The end of it
was what the end always is, where the man is infatuated and the
woman is determined. To the disgust of his family and friends,
Mr. Waldron made a virtue of necessity, and married her."
"How old was he?" asked Bashwood the elder, eagerly.
Bashwood the younger burst out laughing. "He was about old
enough, daddy, to be your son, and rich enough to have burst that
precious pocket-book of yours with thousand-pound notes! Don't
hang your head. It wasn't a happy marriage, though he _was_ so
young and so rich. They lived abroad, and got on well enough at
first. He made a new will, of course, as soon as he was married,
and provided handsomely for his wife, under the tender pressure
of the honey-moon. But women wear out, like other things, with
time; and one fine morning Mr. Waldron woke up with a doubt
in his mind whether he had not acted like a fool. He was an
ill-tempered man; he was discontented with himself; and of course
he made his wife feel it. Having begun by quarreling with her,
he got on to suspecting her, and became savagely jealous of every
male creature who entered the house. They had no incumbrances in
the shape of children, and they moved from one place to another,
just as his jealousy inclined him, till they moved back to
England at last, after having been married close on four years.
He had a lonely old house of his own among the Yorkshire moors,
and there he shut his wife and himself up from every living
creature, except his servants and his dogs. Only one result
could come, of course, of treating a high-spirited young woman in
that way. It may be her fate, or it may be chance; but, whenever
a woman is desperate, there is sure to be a man handy to take
advantage of it. The man in this case was rather a 'dark horse,'
as they say on the turf. He was a certain Captain Manuel, a
native of Cuba, and (according to his own account) an ex-officer
in the Spanish navy. He had met Mr. Waldron's beautiful wife
on the journey back to England; had contrived to speak to her
in spite of her husband's jealousy; and had followed her to her
place of imprisonment in Mr. Waldron's house on the moors. The
captain is described as a clever, determined fellow--of the
daring piratical sort--with the dash of mystery about him that
"She's not the same as other women!" interposed Mr. Bashwood,
suddenly interrupting his son. "Did she--?" His voice failed him,
and he stopped without bringing the question to an end.
"Did she like the captain?" suggested Bashwood the younger, with
another laugh. "According to her own account of it, she adored
him. At the same time her conduct (as represented by herself) was
perfectly innocent. Considering how carefully her husband watched
her, the statement (incredible as it appears) is probably true.
For six weeks or so they confined themselves to corresponding
privately, the Cuban captain (who spoke and wrote English
perfectly) having contrived to make a go-between of one of the
female servants in the Yorkshire house. How it might have ended
we needn't trouble ourselves to inquire--Mr. Waldron himself
brought matters to a crisis. Whether he got wind of the
clandestine correspondence or not, doesn't appear. But this
is certain, that he came home from a ride one day in a fiercer
temper than usual; that his wife showed him a sample of that high
spirit of hers which he had never yet been able to break; and
that it ended in his striking her across the face with his
riding-whip. Ungentlemanly conduct, I am afraid we must admit;
but, to all outward appearance, the riding-whip produced the most
astonishing results. From that moment the lady submitted as she
had never submitted before. For a fortnight afterward he did what
he liked, and she never thwarted him; he said what he liked,
and she never uttered a word of protest. Some men might have
suspected this sudden reformation of hiding something dangerous
under the surface. Whether Mr. Waldron looked at it in that
light, I can't tell you. All that is known is that, before the
mark of the whip was off his wife's face, he fell ill, and that
in two days afterward he was a dead man. What do you say to
"I say he deserved it!" answered Mr. Bashwood, striking his hand
excitedly on the table, as his son paused and looked at him.
"The doctor who attended the dying man was not of your way of
thinking," remarked Bashwood the younger, dryly. "He called in
two other medical men, and they all three refused to certify the
death. The usual legal investigation followed. The evidence of
the doctors and the evidence of the servants pointed irresistibly
in one and the same direction; and Mrs. Waldron was committed
for trial, on the charge of murdering her husband by poison.
A solicitor in first-rate criminal practice was sent for from
London to get up the prisoner's defense, and these 'Instructions'
took their form and shape accordingly.--What's the matter? What
do you want now?"
Suddenly rising from his chair, Mr. Bashwood stretched across
the table, and tried to take the papers from his son. "I want
to look at them," he burst out, eagerly. "I want to see what
they say about the captain from Cuba. He was at the bottom of it,
Jemmy--I'll swear he was at the bottom of it!"
"Nobody doubted that who was in the secret of the case at the
time," rejoined his son. "But nobody could prove it. Sit down
again, dad, and compose yourself. There's nothing here about
Captain Manuel but the lawyer's private suspicions of him, for
the counsel to act on or not, at the counsel's discretion. From
first to last she persisted in screening the captain. At the
outset of the business she volunteered two statements to the
lawyer--both of which he suspected to be false. In the first
place she declared that she was innocent of the crime. He wasn't
surprised, of course, so far; his clients were, as a general
rule, in the habit of deceiving him in that way. In the second
place, while admitting her private correspondence with the Cuban
captain, she declared that the letters on both sides related
solely to a proposed elopement, to which her husband's barbarous
treatment had induced her to consent. The lawyer naturally asked
to see the letters. 'He has burned all my letters, and I have
burned all his,' was the only answer he got. It was quite
possible that Captain Manuel might have burned _her_ letters when
he heard there was a coroner's inquest in the house. But it was
in her solicitor's experience (as it is in my experience too)
that, when a woman is fond of a man, in ninety-nine cases out
of a hundred, risk or no risk, she keeps his letters. Having his
suspicions roused in this way, the lawyer privately made some
inquiries about the foreign captain, and found that he was as
short of money as a foreign captain could be. At the same time,
he put some questions to his client about her expectations from
her deceased husband. She answered, in high indignation, that
a will had been found among her husband's papers, privately
executed only a few days before his death, and leaving her no
more, out of all his immense fortune, than five thousand pounds.
'Was there an older will, then,' says the lawyer, 'which the new
will revoked?' Yes, there was; a will that he had given into her
own possession--a will made when they were first married.
'Leaving his widow well provided for?' Leaving her just ten times
as much as the second will left her. 'Had she ever mentioned that
first will, now revoked, to Captain Manuel?' She saw the trap set
for her, and said, 'No, never!' without an instant's hesitation.
That reply confirmed the lawyer's suspicions. He tried to
frighten her by declaring that her life might pay the forfeit
of her deceiving him in this matter. With the usual obstinacy
of women, she remained just as immovable as ever. The captain,
on his side, behaved in the most exemplary manner. He confessed
to planning the elopement; he declared that he had burned all
the lady's letters as they reached him, out of regard for her
reputation; he remained in the neighborhood; and he volunteered
to attend before the magistrates. Nothing was discovered that
could legally connect him with the crime, or that could put him
into court on the day of the trial, in any other capacity than
the capacity of a witness. I don't believe myself that there's
any moral doubt (as they call it) that Manuel knew of the will
which left her mistress of fifty thousand pounds; and that he was
ready and willing, in virtue of that circumstance, to marry her
on Mr. Waldron's death. If anybody tempted her to effect her own
release from her husband by making herself a widow, the captain
must have been the man. And unless she contrived, guarded and
watched as she was, to get the poison for herself, the poison
must have come to her in one of the captain's letters."
"I don't believe she used it, if it did come to her!" exclaimed
Mr. Bashwood. "I believe it was the captain himself who poisoned
Bashwood the younger, without noticing the interruption, folded
up the Instructions for the Defense, which had now served their
purpose, put them back in his bag, and produced a printed
pamphlet in their place.
"Here is one of the published Reports of the Trial," he said,
"which you can read at your leisure, if you like. We needn't
waste time now by going into details. I have told you already
how cleverly her counsel paved his way for treating the charge
of murder as the crowning calamity of the many that had already
fallen on an innocent woman. The two legal points relied on
for the defense (after this preliminary flourish) were: First,
that there was no evidence to connect her with the possession
of poison; and, secondly, that the medical witnesses, while
positively declaring that her husband had died by poison,
differed in their conclusions as to the particular drug that
had killed him. Both good points, and both well worked; but
the evidence on the other side bore down everything before it.
The prisoner was proved to have had no less than three excellent
reasons for killing her husband. He had treated her with almost
unexampled barbarity; he had left her in a will (unrevoked so far
as she knew) mistress of a fortune on his death; and she was, by
her own confession, contemplating an elopement with another man.
Having set forth these motives, the prosecution next showed by
evidence, which was never once shaken on any single point, that
the one person in the house who could by any human possibility
have administered the poison was the prisoner at the bar. What
could the judge and jury do, with such evidence before them as
this? The verdict was Guilty, as a matter of course; and the
judge declared that he agreed with it. The female part of the
audience was in hysterics; and the male part was not much better.
The judge sobbed, and the bar shuddered. She was sentenced to
death in such a scene as had never been previously witnessed
in an English court of justice. And she is alive and hearty at
the present moment; free to do any mischief she pleases, and to
poison, at her own entire convenience, any man, woman, or child
that happens to stand in her way. A most interesting woman! Keep
on good terms with her, my dear sir, whatever you do, for the Law
has said to her in the plainest possible English, 'My charming
friend, I have no terrors for _you_!'"
"How was she pardoned?" asked Mr. Bashwood, breathlessly. "They
told me at the time, but I have forgotten. Was it the Home
Secretary? If it was, I respect the Home Secretary! I say the
Home Secretary was deserving of his place."
"Quite right, old gentleman!" rejoined Bashwood the younger. "The
Home Secretary was the obedient humble servant of an enlightened
Free Press, and he _was_ deserving of his place. Is it possible
you don't know how she cheated the gallows? If you don't, I must
tell you. On the evening of the trial, two or three of the young
buccaneers of literature went down to two or three newspaper
offices, and wrote two or three heart-rending leading articles
on the subject of the proceedings in court. The next morning
the public caught light like tinder; and the prisoner was tried
over again, before an amateur court of justice, in the columns
of the newspapers. All the people who had no personal experience
whatever on the subject seized their pens, and rushed (by kind
permission of the editor) into print. Doctors who had _not_
attended the sick man, and who had _not_ been present at the
examination of the body, declared by dozens that he had died
a natural death. Barristers without business, who had _not_ heard
the evidence, attacked the jury who had heard it, and judged the
judge, who had sat on the bench before some of them were born.
The general public followed the lead of the barristers and the
doctors, and the young buccaneers who had set the thing going.
Here was the law that they all paid to protect them actually
doing its duty in dreadful earnest! Shocking! shocking! The
British Public rose to protest as one man against the working
of its own machinery; and the Home Secretary, in a state of
distraction, went to the judge. The judge held firm. He had
said it was the right verdict at the time, and he said so still.
'But suppose,' says the Home Secretary, 'that the prosecution
had tried some other way of proving her guilty at the trial
than the way they did try, what would you and the jury have done
then?' Of course it was quite impossible for the judge to say.
This comforted the Home Secretary, to begin with. And, when he
got the judge's consent, after that, to having the conflict of
medical evidence submitted to one great doctor; and when the one
great doctor took the merciful view, after expressly stating,
in the first instance, that he knew nothing practically of the
merits of the case, the Home Secretary was perfectly satisfied.
The prisoner's death-warrant went into the waste-paper basket;
the verdict of the law was reversed by general acclamation;
and the verdict of the newspapers carried the day. But the best
of it is to come. You know what happened when the people found
themselves with the pet object of their sympathy suddenly cast
loose on their hands? A general impression prevailed directly
that she was not quite innocent enough, after all, to be let out
of prison then and there! Punish her a little--that was the state
of the popular feeling--punish her a little, Mr. Home Secretary,
on general moral grounds. A small course of gentle legal
medicine, if you love us, and then we shall feel perfectly easy
on the subject to the end of our days."
"Don't joke about it!" cried his father. "Don't, don't, don't,
Jemmy! Did they try her again? They couldn't! They dursn't!
Nobody can be tried twice over for the same offense."
"Pooh! pooh! she could be tried a second time for a second
offense," retorted Bashwood the younger--"and tried she was.
Luckily for the pacification of the public mind, she had rushed
headlong into redressing her own grievances (as women will), when
she discovered that her husband had cut her down from a legacy
of fifty thousand pounds to a legacy of five thousand by a stroke
of his pen. The day before the inquest a locked drawer in Mr.
Waldron's dressing-room table, which contained some valuable
jewelry, was discovered to have been opened and emptied; and
when the prisoner was committed by the magistrates, the precious
stones were found torn out of their settings and sewed up in
her stays. The lady considered it a case of justifiable
self-compensation. The law declared it to be a robbery committed
on the executors of the dead man. The lighter offense--which had
been passed over when such a charge as murder was brought against
her--was just the thing to revive, to save appearances in the
eyes of the public. They had stopped the course of justice, in
the case of the prisoner, at one trial; and now all they wanted
was to set the course of justice going again, in the case of the
prisoner, at another! She was arraigned for the robbery, after
having been pardoned for the murder. And, what is more, if her
beauty and her misfortunes hadn't made a strong impression on her
lawyer, she would not only have had to stand another trial, but
would have had even the five thousand pounds, to which she was
entitled by the second will, taken away from her, as a felon,
by the Crown."
"I respect her lawyer! I admire her lawyer!" exclaimed Mr.
Bashwood. "I should like to take his hand, and tell him so."
"He wouldn't thank you, if you did," remarked Bashwood the
younger. "He is under a comfortable impression that nobody knows
how he saved Mrs. Waldron's legacy for her but himself."
"I beg your pardon, Jemmy," interposed his father. "But don't
call her Mrs. Waldron. Speak of her, please, by her name when she
was innocent, and young, and a girl at school. Would you mind,
for my sake, calling her Miss Gwilt?"
"Not I! It makes no difference to me what name I give her. Bother
your sentiment! let's go on with the facts. This is what the
lawyer did before the second trial came off. He told her she
would be found guilty _again_, to a dead certainty. 'And this
time,' he said, 'the public will let the law take its course.
Have you got an old friend whom you can trust?' She hadn't such
a thing as an old friend in the world. 'Very well, then,' says
the lawyer, you must trust me. Sign this paper; and you will have
executed a fictitious sale of all your property to myself. When
the right time comes, I shall first carefully settle with your
husband's executors; and I shall then reconvey the money to you,
securing it properly (in case you ever marry again) in your own
possession. The Crown, in other transactions of this kind,
frequently waives its right of disputing the validity of the
sale; and, if the Crown is no harder on you than on other people,
when you come out of prison you will have your five thousand
pounds to begin the world with again.' Neat of the lawyer, when
she was going to be tried for robbing the executors, to put her
up to a way of robbing the Crown, wasn't it? Ha! ha! what a world
The last effort of the son's sarcasm passed unheeded by the
father. "In prison!" he said to himself. "Oh me, after all that
misery, in prison again!"
"Yes," said Bashwood the younger, rising and stretching himself,
"that's how it ended. The verdict was Guilty; and the sentence
was imprisonment for two years. She served her time; and came
out, as well as I can reckon it, about three years since. If you
want to know what she did when she recovered her liberty, and how
she went on afterward, I may be able to tell you something about
it--say, on another occasion, when you have got an extra note or
two in your pocket-book. For the present, all you need know, you
do know. There isn't the shadow of a doubt that this fascinating
lady has the double slur on her of having been found guilty of
murder, and of having served her term of imprisonment for theft.
There's your money's worth for your money--with the whole of my
wonderful knack at stating a case clearly, thrown in for nothing.
If you have any gratitude in you, you ought to do something
handsome, one of these days, for your son. But for me, I'll tell
you what you would have done, old gentleman. If you could have
had your own way, you would have married Miss Gwilt."
Mr. Bashwood rose to his feet, and looked his son steadily in
"If I could have my own way," he said, "I would marry her now."
Bashwood the younger started back a step. "After all I have told
you?" he asked, in the blankest astonishment.
"After all you have told me."
"With the chance of being poisoned, the first time you happened
to offend her?"
"With the chance of being poisoned," answered Mr. Bashwood,
"in four-and-twenty hours."
The Spy of the Private Inquiry Office dropped back into his
chair, cowed by his father's words and his father's looks.
"Mad!" he said to himself. "Stark mad, by jingo!"
Mr. Bashwood looked at his watch, and hurriedly took his hat
from a side-table.
"I should like to hear the rest of it," he said. "I should like
to hear every word you have to tell me about her, to the very
last. But the time, the dreadful, galloping time, is getting on.
For all I know, they may be on their way to be married at this
"What are you going to do?" asked Bashwood the younger, getting
between his father and the door.
"I am going to the hotel," said the old man, trying to pass him.
"I am going to see Mr. Armadale."
"To tell him everything you have told me." He paused after making
that reply. The terrible smile of triumph which had once already
appeared on his face overspread it again. "Mr. Armadale is
young; Mr. Armadale has all his life before him," he whispered,
cunningly, with his trembling fingers clutching his son's arm.
"What doesn't frighten _me_ will frighten _him_!"
"Wait a minute," said Bashwood the younger. "Are you as certain
as ever that Mr. Armadale is the man?"
"The man who is going to marry her."
"Yes! yes! yes! Let me go, Jemmy--let me go."
The spy set his back against the door, and considered for a
moment. Mr. Armadale was rich--Mr. Armadale (if _he_ was not
stark mad too) might be made to put the right money-value on
information that saved him from the disgrace of marrying Miss
Gwilt. "It may be a hundred pounds in my pocket if I work it
myself," thought Bashwood the younger. "And it won't be a
half-penny if I leave it to my father." He took up his hat and
his leather bag. "Can you carry it all in your own addled old
head, daddy?" he asked, with his easiest impudence of manner.
"Not you! I'll go with you and help you. What do you think of
The father threw his arms in an ecstasy round the son's neck. "I
can't help it, Jemmy," he said, in broken tones. "You are so good
to me. Take the other note, my dear--I'll manage without it--take
the other note."
The son threw open the door with a flourish; and magnanimously
turned his back on the father's offered pocket-book. "Hang it,
old gentleman, I'm not quite so mercenary as _that_!" he said,
with an appearance of the deepest feeling. "Put up your
pocket-book, and let's be off." "If I took my respected parent's
last five-pound note," he thought to himself, as he led the way
downstairs, "how do I know he mightn't cry halves when he sees
the color of Mr. Armadale's money?" "Come along, dad!" he
resumed. "We'll take a cab and catch the happy bridegroom before
he starts for the church!"
They hailed a cab in the street, and started for the hotel which
had been the residence of Midwinter and Allan during their stay
in London. The instant the door of the vehicle had closed, Mr.
Bashwood returned to the subject of Miss Gwilt.
"Tell me the rest," he said, taking his son's hand, and patting
it tenderly. "Let's go on talking about her all the way to the
hotel. Help me through the time, Jemmy--help me through the
Bashwood the younger was in high spirits at the prospect of
seeing the color of Mr. Armadale's money. He trifled with his
father's anxiety to the very last.
"Let's see if you remember what I've told you already," he began.
"There's a character in the story that's dropped out of it
without being accounted for. Come! can you tell me who it is?"
He had reckoned on finding his father unable to answer the
question. But Mr. Bashwood's memory, for anything that related
to Miss Gwilt, was as clear and ready as his son's. "The foreign
scoundrel who tempted her, and let her screen him at the risk of
her own life," he said, without an instant's hesitation. "Don't
speak of him, Jemmy--don't speak of him again!"
"I _must_ speak of him," retorted the other. "You want to know
what became of Miss Gwilt when she got out of prison, don't you?
Very good--I'm in a position to tell you. She became Mrs. Manuel.
It's no use staring at me, old gentleman. I know it officially.
At the latter part of last year, a foreign lady came to our
place, with evidence to prove that she had been lawfully married
to Captain Manuel, at a former period of his career, when he
had visited England for the first time. She had only lately
discovered that he had been in this country again; and she had
reason to believe that he had married another woman in Scotland.
Our people were employed to make the necessary inquiries.
Comparison of dates showed that the Scotch marriage--if it was
a marriage at all, and not a sham--had taken place just about
the time when Miss Gwilt was a free woman again. And a little
further investigation showed us that the second Mrs. Manuel was
no other than the heroine of the famous criminal trial--whom we
didn't know then, but whom we do know now, to be identical with
your fascinating friend, Miss Gwilt."
Mr. Bashwood's head sank on his breast. He clasped his trembling
hands fast in each other, and waited in silence to hear the rest.
"Cheer up!" pursued his son. "She was no more the captain's wife
than you are; and what is more, the captain himself is out of
your way now. One foggy day in December last he gave us the slip;
and was off to the continent, nobody knew where. He had spent
the whole of the second Mrs. Manuel's five thousand pounds,
in the time that had elapsed (between two and three years) since
she had come out of prison; and the wonder was, where he had got
the money to pay his traveling expenses. It turned out that
he had got it from the second Mrs. Manuel herself. She had filled
his empty pockets; and there she was, waiting confidently in
a miserable London lodging, to hear from him and join him as soon
as he was safely settled in foreign parts! Where had _she_ got
the money, you may ask naturally enough? Nobody could tell at the
time. My own notion is, now, that her former mistress must have
been still living, and that she must have turned her knowledge
of the Blanchards' family secret to profitable account at last.
This is mere guess-work, of course; but there's a circumstance
that makes it likely guess-work to my mind. She had an elderly
female friend to apply to at the time, who was just the woman to
help her in ferreting out her mistress's address. Can you guess
the name of the elderly female friend? Not you! Mrs. Oldershaw,
Mr. Bashwood suddenly looked up. "Why should she go back," he
asked, "to the woman who had deserted her when she was a child?"
"I can't say," rejoined his son, "unless she went back in the
interests of her own magnificent head of hair. The
prison-scissors, I needn't tell you, had made short work of it
with Miss Gwilt's love-locks, in every sense of the word
and Mrs. Oldershaw, I beg to add, is the most eminent woman in
England, as restorer-general of the dilapidated heads and faces
of the female sex. Put two and two together; and perhaps you'll
agree with me, in this case, that they make four."
"Yes, yes; two and two make four," repeated his father,
impatiently. "But I want to know something else. Did she hear
from him again? Did he send for her after he had gone away
to foreign parts?"
"The captain? Why, what on earth can you be thinking of? Hadn't
he spent every farthing of her money? and wasn't he loose on the
Continent out of her reach? She waited to hear from him. I dare
say, for she persisted in believing in him. But I'll lay you any
wager you like, she never saw the sight of his handwriting again.
We did our best at the office to open her eyes; we told her
plainly that he had a first wife living, and that she hadn't the
shadow of a claim on him. She wouldn't believe us, though we met
her with the evidence. Obstinate, devilish obstinate. I dare say
she waited for months together before she gave up the last hope
of ever seeing him again."
Mr. Bashwood looked aside quickly out of the cab window. "Where
could she turn for refuge next?" he said, not to his son, but
to himself. "What, in Heaven's name, could she do?"
"Judging by my experience of women," remarked Bashwood the
younger, overhearing him, "I should say she probably tried
to drown herself. But that's only guess-work again: it's all
guess-work at this part of her story. You catch me at the end
of my evidence, dad, when you come to Miss Gwilt's proceedings
in the spring and summer of the present year. She might, or
she might not, have been desperate enough to attempt suicide;
and she might, or she might not, have been at the bottom of those
inquiries that I made for Mrs. Oldershaw. I dare say you'll see
her this morning; and perhaps, if you use your influence, you may
he able to make her finish her own story herself."
Mr. Bashwood, still looking out of the cab window, suddenly laid
his hand on his son's arm.
"Hush! hush!" he exclaimed, in violent agitation. "We have got
there at last. Oh, Jemmy, feel how my heart beats! Here is the
"Bother your heart," said Bashwood the younger. "Wait here while
I make the inquiries."
"I'll come with you!" cried his father. "I can't wait! I tell
you, I can't wait!"
They went into the hotel together, and asked for "Mr. Armadale."
The answer, after some little hesitation and delay, was that Mr.
Armadale had gone away six days since. A second waiter added that
Mr. Armadale's friend--Mr. Midwinter--had only left that morning.
Where had Mr. Armadale gone? Somewhere into the country. Where
had Mr. Midwinter gone? Nobody knew.
Mr. Bashwood looked at his son in speechless and helpless dismay.
"Stuff and nonsense!" said Bashwood the younger, pushing his
father back roughly into the cab. "He's safe enough. We shall
find him at Miss Gwilt's."
The old man took his son's hand and kissed it. "Thank you, my
dear," he said, gratefully. "Thank you for comforting me."
The cab was driven next to the second lodging which Miss Gwilt
had occupied, in the neighborhood of Tottenham Court Road.
"Stop here," said the spy, getting out, and shutting his father
into the cab. "I mean to manage this part of the business
He knocked at the house door. "I have got a note for Miss Gwilt,"
he said, walking into the passage, the moment the door was
"She's gone," answered the servant. "She went away last night."
Bashwood the younger wasted no more words with the servant.
He insisted on seeing the mistress. The mistress confirmed the
announcement of Miss Gwilt's departure on the previous evening.
Where had she gone to? The woman couldn't say. How had she left?
On foot. At what hour? Between nine and ten. What had she done
with her luggage? She had no luggage. Had a gentleman been to see
her on the previous day? Not a soul, gentle or simple, had come
to the house to see Miss Gwilt.
The father's face, pale and wild, was looking out of the cab
window as the son descended the house steps. "Isn't she there,
Jemmy?" he asked, faintly--"isn't she there?"
"Hold your tongue," cried the spy, with the native coarseness
of his nature rising to the surface at last. "I'm not at the end
of my inquiries yet."
He crossed the road, and entered a coffee-shop situated exactly
opposite the house he had just left.
In the box nearest the window two men were sitting talking
"Which of you was on duty yesterday evening, between nine and ten
o'clock?" asked Bashwood the younger, suddenly joining them, and
putting his question in a quick, peremptory whisper.
"I was, sir," said one of the men, unwillingly.
"Did you lose sight of the house?--Yes! I see you did."
"Only for a minute, sir. An infernal blackguard of a soldier
"That will do," said Bashwood the younger. "I know what the
soldier did, and who sent him to do it. She has given us the slip
again. You are the greatest ass living. Consider yourself
dismissed." With those words, and with an oath to emphasize them,
he left the coffee-shop and returned to the cab.
"She's gone!" cried his father. "Oh, Jemmy, Jemmy, I see it in
your face!" He fell back into his own corner of the cab, with
a faint, wailing cry. "They're married," he moaned to himself;
his hands falling helplessly on his knees; his hat falling
unregarded from his head. "Stop them!" he exclaimed, suddenly
rousing himself, and seizing his son in a frenzy by the collar
of the coat.
"Go back to the hotel," shouted Bashwood the younger to the
cabman. "Hold your noise!" he added, turning fiercely on his
father. "I want to think."
The varnish of smoothness was all off him by this time. His
temper was roused. His pride--even such a man has his pride!
--was wounded to the quick. Twice had he matched his wits against
a woman's; and twice the woman had baffled him.
He got out, on reaching the hotel for the second time, and
privately tried the servants with the offer of money. The result
of the experiment satisfied him that they had, in this instance,
really and truly no information to sell. After a moment's
reflection, he stopped, before leaving the hotel, to ask
the way to the parish church. "The chance may be worth trying,"
he thought to himself, as he gave the address to the driver.
"Faster!" he called out, looking first at his watch, and then at
his father. "The minutes are precious this morning; and the old
one is beginning to give in."
It was true. Still capable of hearing and of understanding, Mr.
Bashwood was past speaking by this time. He clung with both hands
to his son's grudging arm, and let his head fall helplessly on
his son's averted shoulder.
The parish church stood back from the street, protected by gates
and railings, and surrounded by a space of open ground. Shaking
off his father's hold, Bashwood the younger made straight for
the vestry. The clerk, putting away the books, and the clerk's
assistant, hanging up a surplice, were the only persons in the
room when he entered it and asked leave to look at the marriage
register for the day.
The clerk gravely opened the book, and stood aside from the desk
on which it lay.
The day's register comprised three marriages solemnized that
morning; and the first two signatures on the page were "Allan
Armadale" and "Lydia Gwilt!"
Even the spy--ignorant as he was of the truth, unsuspicious as he
was of the terrible future consequences to which the act of that
morning might lead--even the spy started, when his eye first fell
on the page. It was done! Come what might of it, it was done now.
There, in black and white, was the registered evidence of the
marriage, which was at once a truth in itself, and a lie in the
conclusion to which it led! There--through the fatal similarity
in the names--there, in Midwinter's own signature, was the proof
to persuade everybody that, not Midwinter, but Allan, was the
husband of Miss Gwilt!
Bashwood the younger closed the book, and returned it to the
clerk. He descended the vestry steps, with his hands thrust
doggedly into his pockets, and with a serious shock inflicted
on his professional self-esteem.
The beadle met him under the church wall. He considered for
a moment whether it was worth while to spend a shilling in
questioning the man, and decided in the affirmative. If they
could be traced and overtaken, there might be a chance of seeing
the color of Mr. Armadale's money even yet.
"How long is it," he asked, "since the first couple married here
this morning left the church?"
"About an hour," said the beadle.
"How did they go away?"
The beadle deferred answering that second question until he had
first pocketed his fee.
"You won't trace them from here, sir," he said, when he had got
his shilling. "They went away on foot."
"And that is all you know about it?"
"That, sir, is all I know about it."
Left by himself, even the Detective of the Private Inquiry Office
paused for a moment before he returned to his father at the gate.
He was roused from his hesitation by the sudden appearance,
within the church inclosure, of the driver of the cab.
"I'm afraid the old gentleman is going to be taken ill, sir,"
said the man.
Bashwood the younger frowned angrily, and walked back to the cab.
As he opened the door and looked in, his father leaned forward
and confronted him, with lips that moved speechlessly, and with
a white stillness over all the rest of his face.
"She's done us," said the spy. "They were married here this
The old man's body swayed for a moment from one side to the
other. The instant after, his eyes closed and his head fell
forward toward the front seat of the cab. "Drive to the
hospital!" cried his son. "He's in a fit. This is what comes of
putting myself out of my way to please my father," he muttered,
sullenly raising Mr. Bashwood's head, and loosening his cravat.
"A nice morning's work. Upon my soul, a nice morning's work!"
The hospital was near, and the house surgeon was at his post.
"Will he come out of it?" asked Bashwood the younger, roughly.
"Who are _you_?" asked the surgeon, sharply, on his side.
"I am his son."
"I shouldn't have thought it," rejoined the surgeon, taking the
restoratives that were handed to him by the nurse, and turning
from the son to the father with an air of relief which he was
at no pains to conceal. "Yes," he added, after a minute or two;
"your father will come out of it this time."
"When can he be moved away from here?"
"He can be moved from the hospital in an hour or two."
The spy laid a card on the table. "I'll come back for him or send
for him," he said. "I suppose I can go now, if I leave my name
and address?" With those words, he put on his hat, and walked
"He's a brute!" said the nurse.
"No," said the surgeon, quietly. "He's a man."
* * * * * * *
Between nine and ten o'clock that night, Mr. Bashwood awoke in
his bed at the inn in the Borough. He had slept for some hours
since he had been brought back from the hospital; and his mind
and body were now slowly recovering together.
A light was burning on the bedside table, and a letter lay on it,
waiting for him till he was awake. It was in his son's
handwriting, and it contained these words:
"MY DEAR DAD--Having seen you safe out of the hospital, and back
at your hotel, I think I may fairly claim to have done my duty by
you, and may consider myself free to look after my own affairs.
Business will prevent me from seeing you to-night; and I don't
think it at all likely I shall be in your neighborhood to-morrow
morning. My advice to you is to go back to Thorpe Ambrose, and
to stick to your employment in the steward's office. Wherever
Mr. Armadale may be, he must, sooner or later, write to you on
business. I wash my hands of the whole matter, mind, so far as
I am concerned, from this time forth. But if _you_ like to go on
with it, my professional opinion is (though you couldn't hinder
his marriage), you may part him from his wife.
"Pray take care of yourself.
"Your affectionate son,
The letter dropped from the old man's feeble hands. "I wish Jemmy
could have come to see me to-night," he thought. "But it's very
kind of him to advise me, all the same."
He turned wearily on the pillow, and read the letter a second
time. "Yes," he said, "there's nothing left for me but to go
back. I'm too poor and too old to hunt after them all by myself."
He closed his eyes: the tears trickled slowly over his wrinkled
cheeks. "I've been a trouble to Jemmy," he murmured, faintly;
"I've been a sad trouble, I'm afraid, to poor Jemmy!" In a minute
more his weakness overpowered him, and he fell asleep again.
The clock of the neighboring church struck. It was ten. As the
bell tolled the hour, the tidal train--with Midwinter and his
wife among the passengers--was speeding nearer and nearer to
Paris. As the bell tolled the hour, the watch on board Allan's
outward-bound yacht had sighted the light-house off the Land's
End, and had set the course of the vessel for Ushant and
THE END OF THE THIRD BOOK.
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