‘If you love the man, let him come.’ It was thus that the judge had declared to his daughter his opinion of what had better be done in that matter of Felix Graham. Then he had gone on to declare that he had given his permission to Felix Graham to say anything that he had got to say, and finally had undertaken to invite Felix Graham to spend the assize week at Noningsby. Of course in the mind of the judge all this amounted to an actual giving away of his daughter. He regarded the thing now as done, looking upon the young people as betrothed, and his reflections mainly ran on the material part of the business. How should Graham be made to earn an income, and what allowance must be made to him till he did so? There was a certain sum set apart for Madeline’s fortune, but that would by no means suffice for the livelihood of a married barrister in London. Graham no doubt earned something as it was, but that was done by his pen rather than by his wig, and the judge was inclined to think that the pen must be abandoned before the wig could be made profitable. Such were the directions which his thoughts took regarding Madeline’s lot in life. With him the next week or two, with their events, did not signify much; whereas the coming years did signify a great deal.
At that time, on that Sunday afternoon, there still remained to Madeline the best part of a month to think of it all, before Felix should reappear upon the scene. But then she could not think of it by herself in silence. Her father had desired her to tell her mother what had passed, and she felt that a great difficulty still lay before her. She knew that her mother did not wish her to marry Felix Graham. She knew that her mother did wish her to marry Peregrine Orme. And therefore though no mother and child had ever treated each other with a sweeter confidence, or loved each other with warmer hearts, there was as it were a matter of disunion between them. But nevertheless she must tell her mother, and the dread of this telling weighed heavy upon her as she sat that night in the drawing-room reading the article which Felix had written.
But she need not have been under any alarm. Her father, when he told her to discuss the matter with her mother, had by no means II.194 intended to throw on her shoulders the burden of converting Lady Staveley to the Graham interest. He took care to do this himself effectually, so that in fact there should be no burden left for Madeline’s shoulders. ‘Well, my dear,’ he said that same Sunday evening to his wife, ‘I have had it all out with Madeline this afternoon.’
‘About Mr. Graham, do you mean?’
‘Yes; about Mr. Graham. I have promised that he shall come here for the assize week.’
‘It’s done, my love; and I believe we shall find it all for the best. The bishops’ daughters always marry clergymen, and the judges’ daughters ought to marry lawyers.’
‘But you can’t give him a practice. The bishops have livings to give away.’
‘Perhaps I may show him how to make a practice for himself, which would be better. Take my word for it that it will be best for her happiness. You would not have liked to be disappointed yourself, when you made up your mind to be married.’
‘No, I should not,’ said Lady Staveley.
‘And she will have a will of her own quite as strong as you had.’ And then there was silence in the room for some time.
‘You’ll be kind to him when he comes?’ said the judge.
‘Oh, yes,’ said Lady Staveley, in a voice that was by no means devoid of melancholy.
‘Nobody can be so kind as you when you please. And as it is to be——’
‘I always did like him,’ said Lady Staveley, ‘although he is so very plain.’
‘You’ll soon get used to that, my dear.’
‘And as for poor young Mr.
‘As for poor young Mr. Orme, as you call him, he will not die of a broken heart. Poor young Mr. Orme has all the world before him and will soon console himself.’
‘But he is so attached to her. And then The Cleeve is so near.’
‘We must give up all that, my dear.’
‘Very well,’ said Lady Staveley; and from that moment it may be said that she had given in her adhesion to the Graham connection. When some time after she gave her orders to Baker as to preparing a room for Mr. Graham, it was made quite clear to that excellent woman by her mistress’s manner and anxiety as to the airing of the sheets, that Miss Madeline was to have her own way in the matter.
But long previous to these preparations Madeline and her mother had discussed the matter fully. ‘Papa says that Mr. Graham is to come here for the assize week,’ said Lady Staveley.
‘Yes; so he told me,’ Madeline replied, very bashfully.II.195
‘I suppose it’s all for the best.’
‘I hope it is,’ said Madeline. What could she do but hope so?
‘Your papa understands everything so very well that I am sure he would not let him come if it were not proper.’
‘I suppose not,’ said Madeline.
‘And now I look upon the matter as all settled.’
‘What matter, mamma?’
‘That he—that he is to come here as your lover.’
‘Oh, no, mamma. Pray don’t imagine that. It is not so at all. What should I do if you were to say anything to make him think so?’
‘But you told me that you loved him.’
‘So I do, mamma.’
‘And he told your papa that he was desperately in love with you.’
‘I don’t know, mamma.’
‘But he did;—your papa told me so, and that’s why he asked him to come down here again. He never would have done it without.’
Madeline had her own idea about this, believing that her father had thought more of her wants in the matter than he had of those of Felix Graham; but as to this she said nothing. ‘Nevertheless, mamma, you must not say that to any one,’ she answered. ‘Mr. Graham has never spoken to me,—not a word. I should of course have told you had he done so.’
‘Yes, I am sure of that. But, Madeline, I suppose it’s all the same. He asked papa for permission to speak to you, and your papa has given it.’
‘I’m sure I don’t know, mamma.’
It was a quarter of an hour after that when Lady Staveley again returned to the subject. ‘I am sure Mr. Graham is very clever, and all that.’
‘Papa says that he is very clever indeed.’
‘I’m quite sure he is, and he makes himself very nice in the house, always talking when there are people to dinner. Mr. Arbuthnot never will talk when there are people to dinner. But Mr. Arbuthnot has got a very nice place in Warwickshire, and they say he’ll come in for the county some day.’
‘Of course, mamma, if there should be anything of that sort, we should not be rich people, like Isabella and Mr. Arbuthnot.’
‘Not at first, dear.’
‘Neither first nor last. But I don’t care about that. If you and papa will like him, and—and—if it should come to that!—Oh, mamma, he is so good, and so clever, and he understands things, and talks about things as though he knew how to make himself master of them. And he is honest and proud. Oh, mamma, if it should be so, I do hope you will love him.’II.196
And then Lady Staveley promised that she would love him, thinking nevertheless that had things gone differently she would have extended a more motherly warmth of affection to Peregrine Orme.
And about this time Peregrine Orme made another visit to Noningsby. His intention was to see the judge, explaining what steps his grandfather had taken as to The Cleeve property, and then once more to have thrown himself at Madeline’s feet. But circumstances as they turned out prevented this. Although he had been at some trouble to ascertain when the judge would be at Noningsby, nevertheless, on his arrival, the judge was out. He would be home, the servant said, to dinner, but not before; and therefore he had again seen Lady Staveley, and after seeing her had not thrown himself at Madeline’s feet.
He had made up his mind to give a systematic and detailed account of his pecuniary circumstances, and had selected nearly the very words in which this should be made, not actuated by any idea that such a process would have any weight with Madeline, or by any means assist him with her, but hoping that he might thus procure the judge’s permission to press his suit. But all his preparation and all his chosen words were of no use to him. When he saw Lady Staveley’s face he at once knew that she had no comfort to offer to him. ‘Well,’ he said; ‘is there any chance for me?’ He had intended to speak in a very different tone, but words which have been prepared seldom manage to fit themselves into their appropriate places.
‘Oh, Mr. Orme,’ she said, taking him by the hand, and holding it. ‘I wish it were different; I wish it could be different.’
‘There is no hope then?’ And as he spoke there was a sound in his voice as though the tidings would utterly unman him.
‘I should be wicked to deceive you,’ she said. ‘There is no hope.’ And then as she looked up at the sorrow so plainly written in the lines of his young, handsome face, tears came into her eyes and rolled down her cheeks. How could it be that a daughter of hers should be indifferent to the love of such a suitor as this?
But Peregrine, when he saw her sorrow, repressed his own. ‘Very well,’ said he; ‘I will at any rate know how to take an answer. And for your kindness to me in the matter I am much obliged. I ought to have known myself better than to have supposed she could have cared for me.’
‘I am sure she feels that you have done her great honour.’
‘Psha! honour! But never mind—Good-bye, Lady Staveley.’
‘Will you not see her?’
‘No. Why should I see her? Give her my love—my best love——’
‘I will—I will.’II.197
‘And tell her that I hope she may be happy, and make some fellow happy who is more fortunate than I am. I shall get out of the way somewhere, so that I shall not make a fool of myself when I see And then he took his departure, and rode back again to The Cleeve. This happened two days before the commencement of the trial, and the day before that on which Graham was to arrive at Noningsby.
When Graham received the judge’s note asking him to put up at Noningsby for the assize week, he was much astonished. It was very short.
‘As you are coming down to Alston, special in Lady Mason’s case, you may as well come and stay here. Lady Staveley bids me say that she will be delighted. Your elder brethren will no doubt go back to London each night, so that you will not be expected to remain with them.
‘Yours always, &c.’
What could be the intention of the judge in taking so strange a step as this? The judge had undertaken to see him in three months, having given him some faint idea that there then might be a chance of hope. But now, before one month was over, he was actually sending for him to the house, and inviting him to stay there. What would all the bar world say when they found that a young barrister was living at the judge’s house during the assizes? Would it not be in every man’s mouth that he was a suitor accepted both by the judge’s daughter and by the judge? There would be nothing in that to go against the grain with him, if only the fact were so. That the fact should be so he could not venture to hope even on this hint; but he accepted the judge’s invitation, sent his grateful thanks to Lady Staveley;—as to Lady Staveley’s delight, he was sure that the judge must have romanced a little, for he had clearly recognized Lady Staveley as his enemy;—and then he prepared himself for the chances of war.
On the evening before the trial he arrived at Noningsby just in time for dinner. He had been obliged to remain an hour or two at Alston in conference with Mr. Aram, and was later than he had expected he would be. He had been afraid to come early in the day, lest by doing so he might have seemed to overstep the margin of his invitation. When he did arrive, the two ladies were already dressing, and he found the judge in the hall.
‘A pretty fellow you are,’ said the judge. ‘It’s dinner-time already, and of course you take an hour to dress.’
‘Mr. Aram—’ began Felix.
‘Oh, yes, Mr. Aram! I’ll give you fifteen minutes, but not a II.198 moment more.’ And so Felix was hurried on up to his bedroom—the old bedroom in which he had passed so many hours, and been so very uneasy. As he entered the room all that conversation with Augustus Staveley returned upon his memory. He had seen his friend in London, and told him that he was going down to Noningsby. Augustus had looked grave, but had said nothing about Madeline. Augustus was not in his father’s confidence in this matter, and had nothing to do but to look grave. On that very morning, moreover, some cause had been given to himself for gravity of demeanour.
At the door of his room he met Mrs. Baker, and, hurried though he was by the judge’s strict injunction, he could not but shake hands with his old and very worthy friend.
‘Quite strong again,’ said he, in answer to her tender inquiries.
‘So you are, I do declare. I will say this, Mr. Graham, for wholesomeness of flesh you beat anything I ever come nigh. There’s a many would have been weeks and weeks before they could have been moved.’
‘It was your good nursing, Mrs. Baker.’
‘Well, I think we did take care of you among us. Do you remember the pheasant, Mr. Graham?’
‘Remember it! I should think so; and how I improved the occasion.’
‘Yes; you did improve fast enough. And the sea-kale, Mr. Graham. Laws! the row I had with John Gardener about that! And, Mr. Graham, do you remember how a certain friend used to come and ask after you at the door? Dear, dear, dear! I nearly caught it about that.’
But Graham in his present frame of mind could not well endure to discuss his remembrances on that subject with Mrs. Baker, so he good-humouredly pushed her out of the room, saying that the judge would be mad if he delayed.
‘That’s true, too, Mr. Graham. And it won’t do for you to take up Mr. Augustus’s tricks in the house yet; will it?’ And then she left the room. ‘What does she mean by “yet”?’ Felix said to himself as he went through the ceremony of dressing with all the haste in his power.
He was in the drawing-room almost within the fifteen minutes, and there he found none but the judge and his wife and daughter. He had at first expected to find Augustus there, but had been told by Mrs. Baker that he was to come down on the following morning. His first greeting from Lady Staveley was something like that he had already received up stairs, only made in less exuberant language. He was congratulated on his speedy recovery and made welcome by a kind smile. Then he shook hands with Madeline, and as he did so he observed that the judge was at the trouble to II.199 turn away, so that he should not watch the greeting. This he did see, but into Madeline’s face he hardly ventured to look. He touched her hand, however, and said a word; and she also murmured something about his injury. ‘And now we’ll go to dinner,’ said the judge. ‘Give your arm that is not broken to Lady Staveley.’ And so the meeting was over. ‘Augustus will be in Alston to-morrow when the court is opened,’ said the judge. ‘That is to say if he finds it possible to get up so soon; but to-day he had some engagements in town.’ The truth however was that the judge had chosen to be alone with Felix after dinner.
The dinner was very pleasant, but the judge talked for the whole party. Madeline hardly spoke at all, nor did Lady Staveley say much. Felix managed to put in a few words occasionally, as it always becomes a good listener to do, but the brunt of the battle lay with the host. One thing Felix observed painfully,—that not a word was spoken about Lady Mason or Orley Farm. When he had been last there the judge had spoken of it openly before the whole party, expressing his opinion that she was a woman much injured; but now neither did he say anything nor did Lady Staveley. He would probably not have observed this had not a feeling crept upon him during the last fortnight, that that thorough conviction which men had felt as to her innocence was giving way. While the ladies were there, however, he did not himself allude to the subject.
When they had left the room and the door had been closed behind them, the judge began the campaign—began it, and as far as he was concerned, ended it in a very few minutes. ‘Graham,’ said he, ‘I am glad to see you.’
‘Thank you, judge,’ said he.
‘Of course you know, and I know, what that amounts to now. My idea is that you acted as an honest man when you were last here. You are not a rich man——’
‘Anything but that.’
‘And therefore I do not think it would have been well had you endeavoured to gain my daughter’s affections without speaking to me,—or to her mother.’ Judge Staveley always spoke of his wife as though she were an absolute part of himself. ‘She and I have discussed the matter now,—and you are at liberty to address yourself to Madeline if you please.’
‘My dear judge——’
‘Of course you understand that I am not answering for her?’
‘Oh, of course not.’
‘That’s your look out. You must fight your own battle there. What you are allowed to understand is this,—that her father and mother will give their consent to an engagement, if she finds that she can bring herself to give hers. If you are minded to ask her, you may do so.’II.200
‘Of course I shall ask her.’
‘She will have five thousand pounds on her marriage, settled upon herself and her children,—and as much more when I die, settled in the same way. Now fill your glass.’ And in his own easy way he turned the subject round and began to talk about the late congress at Birmingham.
Felix felt that it was not open to him at the present moment to say anything further about Madeline; and though he was disappointed at this,—for he would have wished to go on talking about her all the evening—perhaps it was better for him. The judge would have said nothing further to encourage him, and he would have gradually been taught to think that his chance with Madeline was little, and then less. ‘He must have been a fool,’ my readers will say, ‘not to have known that Madeline was now his own.’ Probably. But then modest-minded young men are fools.
At last he contrived to bring the conversation round from the Birmingham congress to the affairs of his new client; and indeed he contrived to do so in spite of the judge, who was not particularly anxious to speak on the subject. ‘After all that we said and did at Birmingham, it is odd that I should so soon find myself joined with Mr. Furnival.’
‘Not at all odd. Of course you must take up your profession as others have taken it up before you. Very many young men dream of a Themis fit for Utopia. You have slept somewhat longer than others, and your dreams have been more vivid.’
‘And now I wake to find myself leagued with the Empson and Dudley of our latter-day law courts.’
‘Fie, Graham, fie. Do not allow yourself to speak in that tone of men whom you know to be zealous advocates, and whom you do not know to be dishonest opponents.’
‘It is they and such as they that make so many in these days feel the need of some Utopia,—as it was in the old days of our history. But I beg their pardon for nicknaming them, and certainly ought not to have done so in your presence.’
‘Well; if you repent yourself, and will be more charitable for the future, I will not tell of you.’
‘I have never yet even seen Mr. Chaffanbrass in court,’ said Felix, after a pause.
‘The more shame for you, never to have gone to the court in which he practises. A barrister intending to succeed at the common law bar cannot have too wide an experience in such matters.’
‘But then I fear that I am a barrister not intending to succeed.’
‘I am very sorry to hear it,’ said the judge. And then again the conversation flagged for a minute or two.
‘Have you ever seen him at a country assize town before, judge?’ asked Felix.II.201
‘Whom? Chaffanbrass? I do not remember that I have.’
‘His coming down in this way is quite unusual, I take it.’
‘Rather so, I should say. The Old Bailey is his own ground.’
‘And why should they think it necessary in such a case as this to have recourse to such a proceeding?’
‘It would be for me to ask you that, seeing that you are one of the counsel.’
‘Do you mean to say, judge, that between you and me you are unwilling to give an opinion on such a subject?’
‘Well; you press me hard, and I think I may fairly say that I am unwilling. I would sooner discuss the matter with you after the verdict than before it. Come; we will go into the drawing-room.’
There was not much in this. Indeed if it were properly looked at there was nothing in it. But nevertheless Graham, as he preceded the judge out of the dining-room, felt that his heart misgave him about Lady Mason. When first the matter had been spoken of at Noningsby, Judge Staveley had been fully convinced of Lady Mason’s innocence, and had felt no reserve in expressing his opinion. He had expressed such an opinion very openly. Why should he now affect so much reticence, seeing that the question had been raised in the presence of them two alone? It was he who had persuaded Graham to undertake this work, and now he went back from what he had done, and refused even to speak upon the subject. ‘It must be that he thinks she is guilty,’ said Graham to himself, as he lay down that night in bed.
But there had been something more for him to do before bedtime came. He followed the judge into the drawing-room, and in five minutes perceived that his host had taken up a book with the honest intention of reading it. Some reference was made to him by his wife, but he showed at once that he did not regard Graham as company, and that he conceived himself to be entitled to enjoy the full luxury of home. ‘Upon my word I don’t know,’ he answered, without taking his eye off the page. And then nobody spoke to him another word.
After another short interval Lady Staveley went to sleep. When Felix Graham had before been at Noningsby, she would have rebelled against nature with all her force rather than have slept while he was left to whisper what he would to her darling. But now he was authorized to whisper, and why should not Lady Staveley sleep if she wished it? She did sleep, and Felix was left alone with his love.
And yet he was not altogether alone. He could not say to her those words which he was now bound to say; which he longed to say in order that he might know whether the next stage of his life was to be light or dark. There sat the judge, closely intent no doubt upon his book, but wide awake. There also sat Lady II.202 Staveley, fast asleep certainly; but with a wondrous power of hearing even in her sleep. And yet how was he to talk to his love unless he talked of love? He wished that the judge would help them to converse; he wished that some one else was there; he wished at last that he himself was away. Madeline sat perfectly tranquil stitching a collar. Upon her there was incumbent no duty of doing anything beyond that. But he was in a measure bound to talk. Had he dared to do so he also would have taken up a book; but that he knew to be impossible.
‘Your brother will be down to-morrow,’ he said at last.
‘Yes; he is to go direct to Alston. He will be here in the evening,—to dinner.’
‘Ah, yes; I suppose we shall all be late to-morrow.’
‘Papa always is late when the assizes are going ,’ said Madeline.
‘Alston is not very far,’ said Felix.
‘Only two miles,’ she answered.
And during the whole of that long evening the conversation between them did not reach a more interesting pitch than that.
‘She must think me an utter fool,’ said Felix to himself, as he sat staring at the fire. ‘How well her brother would have made the most of such an opportunity!’ And then he went to bed, by no means in a good humour with himself.
On the next morning he again met her at breakfast, but on that occasion there was no possible opportunity for private conversation. The judge was all alive, and talked enough for the whole party during the twenty minutes that was allowed to them before they started for Alston. ‘And now we must be off. We’ll say half-past seven for dinner, my dear.’ And then they also made their journey to Alston.[II.202a]
It is a great thing for young ladies to live in a household in which free correspondence by letter is permitted. ‘Two for mamma, four for Amelia, three for Fanny, and one for papa.’ When the postman has left his budget they should be dealt out in that way, and no more should be said about it,—except what each may choose to say. Papa’s letter is about money of course, and interests nobody. Mamma’s contain the character of a cook and an invitation to dinner, and as they interest everybody, are public property. But Fanny’s letters and Amelia’s should be private; and a well-bred II.203 mamma of the present day scorns even to look at the handwriting of the addresses. Now in Harley Street things were so managed that nobody did see the handwriting of the addresses of Sophia’s letters till they came into her own hand,—that is, neither her father nor her mother did so. That both Spooner and Mrs. Ball examined them closely is probable enough.
This was well for her now, for she did not wish it to be known as yet that she had accepted an offer from Lucius Mason, and she did wish to have the privilege of receiving his letters. She fancied that she loved him. She told herself over and over again that she did so. She compared him within her own mind to Augustus Staveley, and always gave the preference to Lucius. She liked Augustus also, and could have accepted him as well, had it been the way of the world in England for ladies to have two accepted lovers. Such is not the way of the world in England, and she therefore had been under the necessity of choosing one. She had taken the better of the two, she declared to herself very often; but nevertheless was it absolutely necessary that the other should be abandoned altogether? Would it not be well at any rate to wait till this trial should be over? But then the young men themselves were in such a hurry!
Lucius, like an honest man, had proposed to go at once to Mr. Furnival when he was accepted; but to this Sophia had objected. ‘The peculiar position in which my father stands to your mother at the present moment,’ said she, ‘would make it very difficult for him to give you an answer now.’ Lucius did not quite understand the reasoning, but he yielded. It did not occur to him for a moment that either Mr. or Miss Furnival could doubt the validity of his title to the Orley Farm property.
But there was no reason why he should not write to her. ‘Shall I address here?’ he had asked. ‘Oh yes,’ said Sophia; ‘my letters are quite private.’ And he had written very frequently, and she had answered him. His last letter before the trial I propose to publish, together with Sophia’s answer, giving it as my opinion that the gentleman’s production affords by no means a good type of a lover’s letter. But then his circumstances were peculiar. Miss Furnival’s answer was, I think, much better.
‘Orley Farm, —— —— ——.
‘My own Sophia,
‘My only comfort—I may really say my only comfort now—is in writing to you. It is odd that at my age, and having begun the world early as I did, I should now find myself so much alone. Were it not for you, I should have no friend. I cannot describe to you the sadness of this house, nor the wretched state in which my mother exists. I sometimes think that had she been really guilty II.204 of those monstrous crimes which people lay to her charge, she could hardly have been more miserable. I do not understand it; nor can I understand why your father has surrounded her with lawyers whom he would not himself trust in a case of any moment. To me she never speaks on the subject, which makes the matter worse—worse for both of us. I see her at breakfast and at dinner, and sometimes sit with her for an hour in the evening; but even then we have no conversation. The end of it is I trust soon coming, and then I hope that the sun will again be bright. In these days it seems as though there were a cloud over the whole earth.
‘I wish with all my heart that you could have been here with her. I think that your tone and strength of mind would have enabled her to bear up against these troubles with more fortitude. After all, it is but the shadow of a misfortune which has come across her, if she would but allow herself so to think. As it is, Mrs. Orme is with her daily, and nothing I am sure can be more kind. But I can confess to you, though I could do so to no one else, that I do not willingly see an intimacy kept up between my mother and The Cleeve. Why was there that strange proposition as to her marriage; and why, when it was once made, was it abandoned? I know that my mother has been not only guiltless, but guileless, in these matters as to which she is accused; but nevertheless her affairs will have been so managed that it will be almost impossible for her to remain in this neighbourhood.
‘When all this is over, I think I shall sell this place. What is there to bind me,—to bind me or you to Orley Farm? Sometimes I have thought that I could be happy here, devoting myself to agriculture,’—‘Fiddlesticks!’ Sophia exclaimed, as she read this,—‘and doing something to lessen the dense ignorance of those around me; but for such work as that a man should be able to extend himself over a larger surface than that which I can influence. My dream of happiness now carries me away from this to other countries,—to the sunny south. Could you be happy there? A friend of mine whom I well knew in Germany, has a villa on the Lake of Como,’—‘Indeed, sir, I’ll do no such thing,’ said Sophia to herself,—‘and there I think we might forget all this annoyance.
‘I shall not write again now till the trial is over. I have made up my mind that I will be in court during the whole proceedings. If my mother will admit it, I will remain there close to her, as her son should do in such an emergency. If she will not have this, still I will be there. No one shall say that I am afraid to see my mother in any position to which fortune can bring her, or that I have ever doubted her innocence.
‘God bless you, my own one.
Taking this letter as a whole perhaps we may say that there was not as much nonsense in it as young gentlemen generally put into their love-letters to young ladies; but I am inclined to think that it would have been a better love-letter had there been more nonsense. At any rate there should have been less about himself, and more about the lady. He should have omitted the agriculture altogether, and been more sure of his loved one’s tastes before he suggested the sunny south and the Como villa. It is true that he was circumstanced as few lovers are, with reference to his mother; but still I think he might have been less lachrymose. Sophia’s answer, which was sent after the lapse of a day or two, was as follows:
‘Harley Street, —— —— ——.
‘My dear Lucius,
‘I am not surprised that you should feel somewhat low-spirited at the present moment; but you will find, I have no doubt, that the results of the next week will cure all that. Your mother will be herself again when this trial is over, and you will then wonder that it should ever have had so depressing an influence either upon you or upon her. I cannot but suppose that papa has done the best as to her advisers. I know how anxious he is about it, and they say that he is very clever in such matters. Pray give your mother my love. I cannot but think she is lucky to have Mrs. Orme with her. What can be more respectable than a connection at such a time with such people?
‘As to your future residence, do not make up your mind to anything while your spirits are thus depressed. If you like to leave Orley Farm, why not let it instead of selling it? As for me, if it should be fated that our lots are to go together, I am inclined to think that I should still prefer to live in England. In London papa’s position might probably be of some service, and I should like no life that was not active. But it is too early in the day to talk thus at present. You must not think me cold hearted if I say that what has as yet been between us must not be regarded as an absolute and positive engagement. I, on my part, hope that it may become so. My heart is not cold, and I am not ashamed to own that I esteem you favourably; but marriage is a very serious thing, and there is so much to be considered! I regard myself as a free agent, and in a great measure independent of my parents on such a matter as that; but still I think it well to make no positive promise without consulting them. When this trial is over I will speak to my father, and then you will come up to London and see us.
‘Mind you give my love to your mother; and—if it have any value in your eyes—accept it yourself.
‘Your affectionate friend,
I feel very confident that Mrs. Furnival was right in declining to inquire very closely into the circumstances of her daughter’s correspondence. A young lady who could write such a letter to her lover as that requires but little looking after; and in those points as to which she may require it, will—if she be so minded—elude it. Such as Miss Furnival was, no care on her mother’s part would, I think, have made her better. Much care might have made her worse, as, had she been driven to such resources, she would have received her letters under a false name at the baker’s shop round the corner.
But the last letter was not written throughout without interruption. She was just declaring how on her part she hoped that her present uncertain tenure of her lover’s hand might at some future time become certain, when Augustus Staveley was announced. Sophia, who was alone in the drawing-room, rose from her table, gracefully, slipped her note under the cover of the desk, and courteously greeted her visitor. ‘And how are they all at dear Noningsby?’ she asked.
‘Dear Noningsby is nearly deserted. There is no one there but my mother and Madeline.’
‘And who more would be wanting to make it still dear,—unless it be the judge? I declare, Mr. Staveley, I was quite in love with your father when I left. Talk of honey falling from people’s mouths!—he drops nothing less than champagne and pineapples.’
‘How very difficult of digestion his conversation must be!’
‘By no means. If the wine be good and the fruit ripe, nothing can be more wholesome. And is everybody else gone? Let me see;—Mr. Graham was still there when I left.’
‘He came away shortly afterwards,—as soon, that is, as his arm would allow him.’
‘What a happy accident that was for him, Mr. Staveley!’
‘Happy!—breaking three of his ribs, his arm, and his collarbone! I thought it very unhappy.’
‘Ah, that’s because your character is so deficient in true chivalry. I call it a very happy accident which gives a gentleman an opportunity of spending six weeks under the same roof with the lady of his love. Mr. Graham is a man of spirit, and I am by no means sure that he did not break his bones on purpose.’[II.206a]
Augustus for a moment thought of denying the imputation with regard to his sister, but before he had spoken he had changed his mind. He was already aware that his friend had been again invited down to Noningsby, and if his father chose to encourage Graham, why should he make difficulties? He had conceived some general idea that Felix Graham was not a guest to be welcomed into a rich man’s family as a son-in-law. He was poor and crotchety, and II.207 as regards professional matters unsteady. But all that was a matter for his father to consider, not for him. So he held his peace as touching Graham, and contrived to change the subject, veering round towards that point of the compass which had brought him into Harley Street.
‘Perhaps then, Miss Furnival, it might answer some purpose if I were to get myself run over outside there. I could get one of Pickford’s vans, or a dray from Barclay and Perkins’, if that might be thought serviceable.’
‘It would be of no use in the world, Mr. Staveley. Those very charitable middle-aged ladies opposite, the Miss Mac Codies, would have you into their house in no time, and when you woke from your first swoon, you would find yourself in their best bedroom, with one on each side of you.’
‘And you in the mean time—’
‘I should send over every morning at ten o’clock to inquire after you—in mamma’s name. “Mrs. Furnival’s compliments, and hopes Mr. Staveley will recover the use of his legs.” And the man would bring back word: “The doctor hopes he may, miss; but his left eye is gone for ever.” It is not everybody that can tumble discreetly. Now you, I fancy, would only disfigure yourself.’
‘Then I must try what fortune can do for me without the brewer’s dray.’
‘Fortune has done quite enough for you, Mr. Staveley; I do not advise you to tempt her any further.’
‘Miss Furnival, I have come to Harley Street to-day on purpose to tempt her to the utmost. There is my hand——’
‘Mr. Staveley, pray keep your hand for a while longer in your own possession.’
‘Undoubtedly I shall do so, unless I dispose of it this morning. When we were at Noningsby together, I ventured to tell you what I felt for you——’
‘Did you, Mr. Staveley? If your feelings were anything beyond the common, I don’t remember the telling.’
‘And then,’ he continued, without choosing to notice her words, ‘you affected to believe that I was not in earnest in what I said to you.’
‘And you must excuse me if I affect to believe the same thing of you still.’
Augustus Staveley had come into Harley Street with a positive resolve to throw his heart and hand and fortune at the feet of Miss Furnival. I fear that I shall not raise him in the estimation of my readers by saying so. But then my readers will judge him unfairly. They will forget that they have had a much better opportunity of looking into the character of Miss Furnival than he had had; and they will also forget that they have had no such opportunity II.208 of being influenced by her personal charms. I think I remarked before that Miss Furnival well understood how best to fight her own battle. Had she shown herself from the first anxious to regard as a definite offer the first words tending that way which Augustus had spoken to her, he would at once have become indifferent about the matter. As a consequence of her judicious conduct he was not indifferent. We always want that which we can’t get easily. Sophia had made herself difficult to be gotten, and therefore Augustus fancied that he wanted her. Since he had been in town he had been frequently in Harley Street, and had been arguing with himself on the matter. What match could be more discreet or better? Not only was she very handsome, but she was clever also. And not only was she handsome and clever, but moreover she was an heiress. What more could his friends want for him, and what more could he want for himself? His mother did in truth regard her as a nasty, sly girl; but then his mother did not know Sophia, and in such matters mothers are so ignorant!
Miss Furnival, on his thus repeating his offer, again chose to affect a belief that he was not in earnest. I am inclined to think that she rather liked this kind of thing. There is an excitement in the game; and it is one which may be played without great danger to either party if it be played cautiously and with some skill. As regards Augustus at the present moment, I have to say—with some regret—that he abandoned all idea of caution, and that he showed very little skill.
‘Then,’ said he, ‘I must beg you to lay aside an affectation which is so very injurious both to my honour and to my hopes of happiness.’
‘Your honour, Mr. Staveley, is quite safe, I am certain.’
‘I wish that my happiness were equally so,’ said he. ‘But at any rate you will let me have an answer. Sophia——’
And now he stood up, looking at her with something really like love in his eyes, and Miss Furnival began to understand that if she so chose it the prize was really within her reach. But then was it a prize? Was not the other thing the better prize? The other thing was the better prize;—if only that affair about the Orley Farm were settled. Augustus Staveley was a good-looking handsome fellow, but then there was that in the manner and gait of Lucius Mason which better suited her taste. There are ladies who prefer Worcester ware to real china; and, moreover, the order for the Worcester ware had already been given.
‘Sophia, let a man be ever so light-hearted, there will come to him moments of absolute and almost terrible earnestness.’
‘Even to you, Mr. Staveley.’
‘I have at any rate done nothing to deserve your scorn.’
‘Fie, now; you to talk of my scorn! You come here with soft II.209 words which run easily from your tongue, feeling sure that I shall be proud in heart when I hear them whispered into my ears; and now you pretend to be angry because I do not show you that I am elated. Do you think it probable that I should treat with scorn anything of this sort that you might say to me seriously?’
‘I think you are doing so.’
‘Have you generally found yourself treated with scorn when you have been out on this pursuit?’
‘By heavens! you have no right to speak to me so. In what way shall I put my words to make them sound seriously to you? Do you want me to kneel at your feet, as our grandfathers used to do?’
‘Oh, certainly not. Our grandmothers were very stupid in desiring that.’
‘If I put my hand on my heart will you believe me better?’
‘Not in the least.’
‘Then through what formula shall I go?’
‘Go through no formula, Mr. Staveley. In such affairs as these very little, as I take it, depends on the words that are uttered. When heart has spoken to heart, or even head to head, very little other speaking is absolutely necessary.’
‘And my heart has not spoken to yours?’
‘Well;—no;—not with that downright plain open language which a heart in earnest always knows how to use. I suppose you think you like me?’
‘Sophia, I love you well enough to make you my wife tomorrow.’
‘Yes; and to be tired of your bargain on the next day. Has it ever occurred to you that giving and taking in marriage is a very serious thing?’
‘A very serious thing; but I do not think that on that account it should be avoided.’
‘No; but it seems to me that you are always inclined to play at marriage. Do not be angry with me, but for the life of me I can never think you are in earnest.’
‘But I shall be angry—very angry—if I do not get from you some answer to what I have ventured to say.’
‘What, now; to-day;—this morning? If you insist upon that, the answer can only be of one sort. If I am driven to decide this morning on the question that you have asked me, great as the honour is—and coming from you, Mr. Staveley, it is very great—I must decline it. I am not able, at any rate at the present moment, to trust my happiness altogether in your hands.’ When we think of the half-written letter which at this moment Miss Furnival had within her desk, this was not wonderful.
And then, without having said anything more that was of note, Augustus Staveley went his way. As he walked up Harley Street, II.210 he hardly knew whether or no he was to consider himself as bound to Miss Furnival; nor did he feel quite sure whether or no he wished to be so bound. She was handsome, and clever, and an heiress; but yet he was not certain that she possessed all those womanly charms which are desirable in a wife. He could not but reflect that she had never yet said a soft word to him.
As the day of the trial drew nigh, the perturbation of poor John Kenneby’s mind became very great. Moulder had not intended to frighten him, but had thought it well to put him up to what he believed to be the truth. No doubt he would be badgered and bullied. ‘And,’ as Moulder said to his wife afterwards, ‘wasn’t it better that he should know what was in store for him?’ The consequence was, that had it been by any means possible, Kenneby would have run away on the day before the trial.
But it was by no means possible, for Dockwrath had hardly left him alone for an instant. Dockwrath at this time had crept into a sort of employment in the case from which Matthew Round had striven in vain to exclude him. Mr. Round had declared once or twice that if Mr. Mason encouraged Dockwrath to interfere, he, Round, would throw the matter up. But professional men cannot very well throw up their business, and Round went on, although Dockwrath did interfere, and although Mr. Mason did encourage him. On the eve of the trial he went down to Alston with Kenneby and Bolster; and Mr. Moulder, at the express instance of Kenneby, accompanied them.
‘What can I do? I can’t stop the fellow’s gab,’ Moulder had said. But Kenneby pleaded hard that some friend might be near him in the day of his trouble, and Moulder at last consented.
‘I wish it was me,’ Mrs. Smiley had said, when they talked the matter over in Great St. Helens; ‘I’d let the barrister know what was what when he came to knock me about.’ Kenneby wished it also, with all his heart.
Mr. Mason went down by the same train, but he travelled by the first class. Dockwrath, who was now holding his head up, would have gone with him, had he not thought it better to remain with Kenneby. ‘He might jump out of the carriage and destroy himself,’ he said to Mr. Mason.
‘If he had any of the feelings of an Englishman within his breast,’ said Mason, ‘he would be anxious to give assistance towards the punishment of such a criminal asII.211
‘He has only the feelings of a tomtit,’ said Dockwrath.
Lodgings had been taken for the two chief witnesses together, and Moulder and Dockwrath shared the accommodation with them. As they sat down to tea together, these two gentlemen doubtless felt that Bridget Bolster was not exactly fitting company for them. But the necessities of an assize week, and of such a trial as this, level much of these distinctions, and they were both prepared to condescend and become affable.
‘Well, Mrs. Bolster, and how do you find yourself?’ asked Dockwrath.
Bridget was a solid, square-looking woman, somewhat given to flesh, and now not very quick in her movements. But the nature of her past life had given to her a certain amount of readiness, and an absence of that dread of her fellow-creatures which so terribly afflicted poor Kenneby. And then also she was naturally not a stupid woman, or one inclined to be muddle-headed. Perhaps it would be too much to say that she was generally intelligent, but what she did understand, she understood thoroughly.
‘Pretty well, I thank you, Mr. Dockwrath. I sha’n’t be sorry to have a bit of something to my tea.’
Bridget Bolster perfectly understood that she was to be well fed when thus brought out for work in her country’s service. To have everything that she wanted to eat and drink at places of public entertainment, and then to have the bills paid for her behind her back, was to Bridget Bolster the summit of transitory human bliss.
‘And you shall have something to your tea,’ said Dockwrath, ‘What’s it to be?’
‘A steak’s as good as anything at these places,’ suggested Moulder.
‘Or some ham and eggs,’ suggested Dockwrath.
‘Kidneys is nice,’ said Bridget.
‘What do you say, Kenneby?’ asked Dockwrath.
‘It is nothing to me,’ said Kenneby; ‘I have no appetite. I think I’ll take a little brandy-and-water.’
Mr. Moulder possessed the most commanding spirit, and the steak was ordered. They then made themselves as comfortable as circumstances would admit, and gradually fell into a general conversation about the trial. It had been understood among them since they first came together, that as a matter of etiquette the witnesses were not to be asked what they had to say. Kenneby was not to divulge his facts in plain language, nor Bridget Bolster those which belonged to her; but it was open to them all to take a general view of the matter, and natural that at the present moment they should hardly be able to speak of anything else. And there was a very divided opinion on the subject in dispute; Dockwrath, of course, expressing a strong conviction in favour of a verdict of guilty, and II.212 Moulder being as certain of an acquittal. At first Moulder had been very unwilling to associate with Dockwrath; for he was a man who maintained his animosities long within his breast; but Dockwrath on this occasion was a great man, and there was some slight reflection of greatness on the associates of Dockwrath; it was only by the assistance of Dockwrath that a place could be obtained within the court, and, upon the whole, it became evident to Moulder that during such a crisis as this the society of Dockwrath must be endured.
‘They can’t do anything to one if one do one’s said Kenneby, who was sitting apart from the table while the others were eating.
‘Of course they can’t,’ said Dockwrath, who wished to inspirit the witnesses on his own side.
‘It aint what they do, but what they say,’ said Moulder; ‘and then everybody is looking at you. I remember a case when I was young on the road; it was at Nottingham. There had been some sugars delivered, and the rats had got at it. I’m blessed if they didn’t ask me backwards and forwards so often that I forgot whether they was seconds or thirds, though I’d sold the goods myself. And then the lawyer said he’d have me prosecuted for perjury. Well, I was that frightened, I could not stand in the box. I aint so green now by a good deal.’
‘I’m sure you’re not, Mr. Moulder,’ said Bridget, who well understood the class to which Moulder belonged.
‘After that I met that lawyer in the street, and was ashamed to look him in the face. I’m blessed if he didn’t come up and shake hands with me, and tell me that he knew all along that his client hadn’t a leg to stand on. Now I call that beautiful.’
‘Beautiful!’ said Kenneby.
‘Yes, I do. He fought that battle just as if he was sure of winning, though he knew he was going to lose. Give me the man that can fight a losing battle. Anybody can play whist with four by honours in his own hand.’
‘I don’t object to four by honours either,’ said Dockwrath; ‘and that’s the game we are going to play to-morrow.’
‘And lose the rubber after all,’ said Moulder.
‘No, I’m blessed if we do, Mr. Moulder. If I know anything of my own profession——’
‘Humph!’ ejaculated Moulder.
‘And I shouldn’t be here in such a case as this if I didn’t;—but if I do, Lady Mason has no more chance of escape than—than—than that bit of muffin has.’ And as he spoke the savoury morsel in question disappeared from the fingers of the commercial traveller.
For a moment or two Moulder could not answer him. The portion of food in question was the last on his plate; it had been considerable II.213 in size, and required attention in mastication. Then the remaining gravy had to be picked up on the blade of the knife, and the particles of pickles collected and disposed of by the same process. But when all this had been well done, Moulder replied—
‘That may be your opinion, Mr. Dockwrath, and I dare say you may know what you’re about.’
‘Well; I rather think I do, Mr. Moulder.’
‘Mine’s different. Now when one gentleman thinks one thing and another thinks another, there’s nothing for it in my mind but for each gentleman to back his own. That’s about the ticket in this country, I believe.’
‘That’s just as a gentleman may feel disposed,’ said Dockwrath.
‘No it aint. What’s the use of a man having an opinion if he won’t back it? He’s bound to back it, or else he should give way, and confess he aint so sure about it as he said he was. There’s no coming to an end if you don’t do that. Now there’s a ten-pound note,’ and Moulder produced that amount of the root of all evil; ‘I’ll put that in John Kenneby’s hands, and do you cover it.’ And then he looked as though there were no possible escape from the proposition which he had made.
‘I decline to have anything to do with it,’ said Kenneby.
‘Gammon,’ said Moulder; ‘two ten-pound notes won’t burn a hole in your pocket.’
‘Suppose I should be asked a question about it to-morrow; where should I be then?’
‘Don’t trouble yourself, Mr. Kenneby,’ said Dockwrath; ‘I’m not going to bet.’
‘You aint, aint you?’ said Moulder.
‘Certainly not, Mr. Moulder. If you understood professional matters a little better, you’d know that a professional gentleman couldn’t make a bet as to a case partly in his own hands without very great impropriety.’ And Dockwrath gathered himself up, endeavouring to impress a sense of his importance on the two witnesses, even should he fail of doing so upon Mr. Moulder.
Moulder repocketed his ten-pound note, and laughed with a long, low chuckle. According to his idea of things, he had altogether got the better of the attorney upon that subject. As he himself put it so plainly, what criterion is there by which a man can test the validity of his own opinion if he be not willing to support it by a bet? A man is bound to do so, or else to give way and apologize. For many years he had insisted upon this in commercial rooms as a fundamental law in the character and conduct of gentlemen, and never yet had anything been said to him to show that in such a theory he was mistaken.
During all this Bridget Bolster sat there much delighted. It was not necessary to her pleasure that she should say much herself. II.214 There she was seated in the society of gentlemen and of men of the world, with a cup of tea beside her, and the expectation of a little drop of something warm afterwards. What more could the world offer to her, or what more had the world to offer to anybody? As far as her feelings went she did not care if Lady Mason were tried every month in the year! Not that her feelings towards Lady Mason were cruel. It was nothing to her whether Lady Mason should be convicted or acquitted. But it was much to her to sit quietly on her chair and have nothing to do, to eat and drink of the best, and be made much of; and it was very much to her to hear the conversation of her betters.
On the following morning Dockwrath breakfasted by appointment with Mr. Mason,—promising, however, that he would return to his friends whom he left behind him, and introduce them into the court in proper time. As I have before hinted, Mr. Mason’s confidence in Dockwrath had gone on increasing day by day since they had first met each other at Groby Park, till he now wished that he had altogether taken the advice of the Hamworth attorney and put this matter entirely into his hands. By degrees Joseph Mason had learned to understand and thoroughly to appreciate the strong points in his own case; and now he was so fully convinced of the truth of those surmises which Dockwrath had been the first to make, that no amount of contrary evidence could have shaken him. And why had not Round and Crook found this out when the matter was before investigated? Why had they prevented him from appealing to the Lord Chancellor when, through their own carelessness, the matter had gone against him in the inferior court? And why did they now, even in these latter days, when they were driven to reopen the case by the clearness of the evidence submitted to them,—why did they even now wound his ears, irritate his temper, and oppose the warmest feelings of his heart by expressing pity for this wicked criminal, whom it was their bounden duty to prosecute to the very utmost? Was it not by their fault that Orley Farm had been lost to him for the last twenty years? And yet young Round had told him, with the utmost composure, that it would be useless for him to look for any of those moneys which should have accrued to him during all those years! After what had passed, young Round should have been anxious to grind Lucius Mason into powder, and make money of his very bones! Must he not think, when he considered all these things, that Round and Crook had been wilfully dishonest to him, and that their interest had been on the side of Lady Mason? He did so think at last, under the beneficent tutelage of his new adviser, and had it been possible would have taken the case out of the hands of Round and Crook even during the week before the trial.
‘We mustn’t do it now,’ Dockwrath had said, in his triumph. ‘If II.215 we did, the whole thing would be delayed. But they shall be so watched that they shall not be able to throw the thing over. I’ve got them in a vice, Mr. Mason; and I’ll hold them so tight that they must convict her whether they will or no.’
And the nature and extent of Mr. Dockwrath’s reward had been already settled. When Lucius Mason should be expelled from Orley Farm with ignominy, he, Dockwrath, should become the tenant. The very rent was settled with the understanding that it should be remitted for the first year. It would be pleasant to him to have back his two fields in this way;—his two fields, and something else beyond! It may be remembered that Lucius Mason had once gone to his office insulting him. It would now be his turn to visit Lucius Mason at his domicile. He was disposed to think that such visit would be made by him with more effect than had attended that other.
‘Well, sir, we’re all right,’ he said, as he shook hands with Mr. Mason of Groby; ‘there’s no screw loose that I can find.’
‘And will that man be able to speak?’ Mr. Mason was alluding to John Kenneby.
‘I think he will, as corroborating the woman Bolster. That’s all we shall want. We shall put up the woman first; that is, after I have done. I don’t think they’ll make much of her, Mr. Mason.’
‘They can’t make her say that she signed two deeds if she is willing to tell the truth. There’s no danger, you think, that she’s been tampered with,—that she has taken money.’
‘No, no; there’s been nothing of that.’
‘They’d do anything, you know,’ said Mr. Mason. ‘Think of such a man as Solomon Aram! He’s been used to it all his life, you know.’
‘They could not do it, Mr. Mason; I’ve been too sharp on them. And I tell you what,—they know it now. There isn’t one of them that doesn’t know we shall get a verdict.’ And then for a few minutes there was silence between the two friends.
‘I’ll tell you what, Dockwrath,’ said Mr. Mason, after a while; ‘I’ve so set my heart upon this—upon getting justice at last—that I do think it would kill me if I were to be beaten. I do, indeed. I’ve known this, you know, all my life; and think what I’ve felt! For twenty-two years, Dockwrath! By ——! in all that I have read I don’t think I ever heard of such a hardship! That she should have robbed me for two-and-twenty years!—And now they say that she will be imprisoned for twelve months!’
‘She’ll get more than that, Mr. Mason.’
‘I know what would have been done to her thirty years ago, when the country was in earnest about such matters. What did they do to Fauntleroy?’
‘Things are changed since then, aint they?’ said Dockwrath, II.216 with a laugh. And then he went to look up his flock, and take them into court. ‘I’ll meet you in the hall, Mr. Mason, in twenty minutes from this time.’
And so the play was beginning on each side.
And now the judge was there on the bench, the barristers and the attorneys were collected, the prisoner was seated in their presence, and the trial was begun. As is usual in cases of much public moment, when a person of mark is put upon his purgation, or the offence is one which has attracted notice, a considerable amount of time was spent in preliminaries. But we, who are not bound by the necessities under which the court laboured, will pass over these somewhat rapidly. The prisoner was arraigned on the charge of perjury, and pleaded ‘not guilty’ in a voice which, though low, was audible to all the court. At that moment the hum of voices had stayed itself, and the two small words, spoken in a clear, silver tone, reached the ears of all that then were there assembled. Some had surmised it to be possible that she would at the last moment plead guilty, but such persons had not known Lady Mason. And then by slow degrees a jury was sworn, a considerable number of jurors having been set aside at the instance of Lady Mason’s counsel. Mr. Aram had learned to what part of the county each man belonged, and upon his instructions those who came from the neighbourhood of Hamworth were passed over.
The comparative lightness of the offence divested the commencement of the trial of much of that importance and apparent dignity which attach themselves to most celebrated criminal cases. The prisoner was not bidden to look upon the juror, nor the juror to look upon the prisoner, as though a battle for life and death were to be fought between them. A true bill for perjury had come down to the court from the grand jury, but the court officials could not bring themselves on such an occasion to open the case with all that solemnity and deference to the prisoner which they would have exhibited had she been charged with murdering her old husband. Nor was it even the same as though she had been accused of forgery. Though forgery be not now a capital crime, it was so within our memories, and there is still a certain grandeur in the name. But perjury sounds small and petty, and it was not therefore till the trial had advanced a stage or two that it assumed that importance which it afterwards never lost. That this should II.217 be so cut Mr. Mason of Groby to the very soul. Even Mr. Dockwrath had been unable to make him understand that his chance of regaining the property was under the present circumstances much greater than it would have been had Lady Mason been arraigned for forgery. He would not believe that the act of forgery might possibly not have been proved. Could she have been first whipped through the street for the misdemeanour, and then hung for the felony, his spirit would not have been more than sufficiently appeased.
The case was opened by one Mr. Steelyard, the junior counsel for the prosecution; but his work on this occasion was hardly more than formal. He merely stated the nature of the accusation against Lady Mason, and the issue which the jury were called upon to try. Then got up Sir Richard Leatherham, the solicitor-general, and at great length and with wonderful perspicuity explained all the circumstances of the case, beginning with the undoubted will left by Sir Joseph Mason, the will independently of the codicil, and coming down gradually to the discovery of that document in Mr. Dockwrath’s office, which led to the surmise that the signature of those two witnesses had been obtained, not to a codicil to a will, but to a deed of another character. In doing this Sir Richard did not seem to lean very heavily upon Lady Mason, nor did he say much as to the wrongs suffered by Mr. Mason of Groby. When he alluded to Mr. Dockwrath and his part in these transactions, he paid no compliment to the Hamworth attorney; but in referring to his learned friend on the other side he protested his conviction that the defence of Lady Mason would be conducted not only with zeal, but in that spirit of justice and truth for which the gentlemen opposite to him were so conspicuous in their profession. All this was wormwood to Joseph Mason; but nevertheless, though Sir Richard was so moderate as to his own side, and so courteous to that opposed to him, he made it very clear before he sat down that if those witnesses were prepared to swear that which he was instructed they would swear, either they must be utterly unworthy of credit—a fact which his learned friends opposite were as able to elicit as any gentlemen who had ever graced the English bar—or else the prisoner now on her trial must have been guilty of the crime of perjury now imputed to her.
Of all those in court now attending to the proceedings, none listened with greater care to the statement made by Sir Richard than Joseph Mason, Lady Mason herself, and Felix Graham. To Joseph Mason it appeared that his counsel was betraying him. Sir Richard and Round were in a boat together and were determined to throw him over yet once again. Had it been possible he would have stopped the proceedings, and in this spirit he spoke to Dockwrath. To Joseph Mason it would have seemed right that Sir II.218 Richard should begin by holding up Lady Mason to the scorn and indignation of the twelve honest jurymen before him. Mr. Dockwrath, whose intelligence was keener in such matters, endeavoured to make his patron understand that he was wrong; but in this he did not succeed. ‘If he lets her escape me,’ said Mason, ‘I think it will be the death of me.’
To Lady Mason it appeared as though the man who was now showing to all the crowd there assembled the chief scenes of her past life, had been present and seen everything that she had ever done. He told the jury of all who had been present in the room when that true deed had been signed; he described how old Usbech had sat there incapable of action; how that affair of the partnership had been brought to a close; how those two witnesses had thereupon appended their name to a deed; how those witnesses had been deceived, or partially deceived, as to their own signatures when called upon to give their testimony at a former trial; and he told them also that a comparison of the signatures on the codicil with those signatures which were undoubtedly true would lead an expert and professional judge of writing to tell them that the one set of signatures or the other must be forgeries. Then he went on to describe how the pretended codicil must in truth have been executed—speaking of the solitary room in which the bad work had been done, of the midnight care and terrible solicitude for secrecy. And then, with apparent mercy, he attempted to mitigate the iniquity of the deed by telling the jury that it had not been done by that lady with any view to self-aggrandisement, but had been brought about by a lamentable, infatuated, mad idea that she might in this way do that justice to her child which that child’s father had refused to do at her instance. He also, when he told of this, spoke of Rebekah and her son; and Mrs. Orme when she heard him did not dare to raise her eyes from the table. Lucius Mason, when he had listened to this, lifted his clenched hand on high, and brought it down with loud violence on the raised desk in front of him. ‘I know the merits of that young man,’ said Sir Richard, looking at him; ‘I am told that he is a gentleman, good, industrious, and high spirited. I wish he were not here; I wish with all my heart he were not here.’ And then a tear, an absolute and true drop of briny moisture, stood in the eye of that old experienced lawyer. Lucius, when he heard this, for a moment covered his face. It was but for a moment, and then he looked up again, turning his eyes slowly round the entire court, and as he did so grasping his mother by the arm. ‘He’ll look in a different sort of fashion by to-morrow evening, I guess,’ said Dockwrath into his neighbour’s ear. During all this time no change came over Lady Mason’s face. When she felt her son’s hand upon her arm her muscles had moved involuntarily; but she recovered herself at the II.219 moment, and then went on enduring it all with absolute composure. Nevertheless it seemed to her as though that man who stood before her, telling his tale so calmly, had read the secrets of her very soul. What chance could there be for her when everything was thus known?
To every word that was spoken Felix Graham gave all his mind. While Mr. Chaffanbrass sat fidgeting, or reading, or dreaming, caring nothing for all that his learned brother might say, Graham listened to every fact that was stated, and to every surmise that was propounded. To him the absolute truth in this affair was matter of great moment, but yet he felt that he dreaded to know the truth. Would it not be better for him that he should not know it? But yet he listened, and his active mind, intent on the various points as they were evolved, would not restrain itself from forming opinions. With all his ears he listened, and as he did so Mr. Chaffanbrass, amidst his dreaming, reading, and fidgeting, kept an attentive eye upon him. To him it was a matter of course that Lady Mason should be guilty. Had she not been guilty, he, Mr. Chaffanbrass, would not have been required. Mr. Chaffanbrass well understood that the defence of injured innocence was no part of his mission.
Then at last Sir Richard brought to a close his long tale, and the examination of the witnesses was commenced. By this time it was past two o’clock, and the judge went out of court for a few minutes to refresh himself with a glass of wine and a sandwich. And now young Peregrine Orme, in spite of all obstacles, made his way up to his mother and led her also out of court. He took his mother’s arm, and Lady Mason followed with her son, and so they made their way into the small outer room which they had first entered. Not a word was said between them on the subject which was filling the minds of all of them. Lucius stood silent and absorbed while Peregrine offered refreshment to both the ladies. Lady Mason, doing as she was bid, essayed to eat and to drink. What was it to her whether she ate and drank or was a-hungered? To maintain by her demeanour the idea in men’s minds that she might still possibly be innocent—that was her work. And therefore, in order that those two young men might still think so, she ate and drank as she was bidden.
On their return to court Mr. Steelyard got up to examine Dockwrath, who was put into the box as the first witness. The attorney produced certain documents supposed to be of relevancy, which he had found among his father-in-law’s papers, and then described how he had found that special document which gave him to understand that Bolster and Kenneby had been used as witnesses to a certain signature on that 14th of July. He had known all the circumstances of the old trial, and hence his suspicions had been aroused. Acting II.220 upon this he had gone immediately down to Mr. Mason in Yorkshire, and the present trial was the result of his care and intelligence. This was in effect the purport of his direct evidence, and then he was handed over to the tender mercies of the other side.
On the other side Mr. Chaffanbrass rose to begin the battle. Mr. Furnival had already been engaged in sundry of those preliminary skirmishes which had been found necessary before the fight had been commenced in earnest, and therefore the turn had now come for Mr. Chaffanbrass. All this, however, had been arranged beforehand, and it had been agreed that if possible Dockwrath should be made to fall into the clutches of the Old Bailey barrister. It was pretty to see the meek way in which Mr. Chaffanbrass rose to his work; how gently he smiled, how he fidgeted about a few of the papers as though he were not at first quite master of his situation, and how he arranged his old wig in a modest, becoming manner, bringing it well forward over his forehead. His voice also was low and soft;—so low that it was hardly heard through the whole court, and persons who had come far to listen to him began to feel themselves disappointed. And it was pretty also to see how Dockwrath armed himself for the encounter,—how he sharpened his teeth, as it were, and felt the points of his own claws. The little devices of Mr. Chaffanbrass did not deceive him. He knew what he had to expect; but his pluck was good, as is the pluck of a terrier when a mastiff prepares to attack him. Let Mr. Chaffanbrass do his worst; that would all be over in an hour or so. But when Mr. Chaffanbrass had done his worst, Orley Farm would still remain.
‘I believe you were a tenant of Lady Mason’s at one time, Mr. Dockwrath?’ asked the barrister.
‘I was; and she turned me out. If you will allow me I will tell you how all that happened, and how I was angered by the usage I received.’ Mr. Dockwrath was determined to make a clean breast of it, and rather go before his tormentor in telling all that there was to be told, than lag behind as an unwilling witness.
‘Do,’ said Mr. Chaffanbrass. ‘That will be very kind of you. When I have learned all that, and one other little circumstance of the same nature, I do not think I shall want to trouble you any more.’ And then Mr. Dockwrath did tell it all;—how he had lost the two fields, how he had thus become very angry, how this anger had induced him at once to do that which he had long thought of doing,—search, namely, among the papers of old Mr. Usbech, with the view of ascertaining what might be the real truth as regarded that doubtful codicil.
‘And you found what you searched for, Mr. Dockwrath?’
‘I did,’ said Dockwrath.
‘Without very much delay, apparently?’II.221
‘I was two or three days over the work.’
‘But you found exactly what you wanted?’
‘I found what I expected to find.’
‘And that, although all those papers had been subjected to the scrutiny of Messrs. Round and Crook at the time of that other trial twenty years ago?’
‘I was sharper than them, Mr. Chaffanbrass,—a deal sharper.’
‘So I perceive,’ said Chaffanbrass, and now he had pushed back his wig a little, and his eyes had begun to glare with an ugly red light. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘it will be long, I think, before my old friends Round and Crook are as sharp as you are, Mr. Dockwrath.’
‘Upon my word I agree with you, Mr. Chaffanbrass.’
‘Yes; Round and Crook are babies to you, Mr. Dockwrath;’ and now Mr. Chaffanbrass began to pick at his chin with his finger, as he was accustomed to do when he warmed to his subject. ‘Babies to you! You have had a good deal to do with them, I should say, in getting up this case.’
‘I have had something to do with them.’
‘And very much they must have enjoyed your society, Mr. Dockwrath! And what wrinkles they must have learned from you! What a pleasant oasis it must have been in the generally somewhat dull course of their monotonous though profitable business! I quite envy Round and Crook having you alongside of them in their inner council-chamber.’
‘I know nothing about that, sir.’
‘No; I dare say you don’t;—but they’ll remember it. Well, when you’d turned over your father-in-law’s papers for three days you found what you looked for?’
‘Yes, I did.’
‘You had been tolerably sure that you would find it before you began, eh?’
‘Well, I had expected that something would turn up.’
‘I have no doubt you did,—and something has turned up. That gentleman sitting next to you there,—who is he?’
‘Joseph Mason, Esquire, of Groby Park,’ said Dockwrath.
‘So I thought. It is he that is to have Orley Farm, if Lady Mason and her son should lose it?’
‘In that case he would be the heir.’
‘Exactly. He would be the heir. How pleasant it must be to you to find yourself on such affectionate terms with—the heir! And when he comes into his inheritance, who is to be tenant? Can you tell us that?’
Dockwrath here paused for a moment. Not that he hesitated as to telling the whole truth. He had fully made up his mind to do so, and to brazen the matter out, declaring that of course he was to be considered worthy of his reward. But there was that in the II.222 manner and eye of Chaffanbrass which stopped him for a moment, and his enemy immediately took advantage of this hesitation. ‘Come, sir,’ said he, ‘out with it. If I don’t get it from you, I shall from somebody else. You’ve been very plain-spoken hitherto. Don’t let the jury think that your heart is failing you at last.’
‘There is no reason why my heart should fail me,’ said Dockwrath, in an angry tone.
‘Is there not? I must differ from you there, Mr. Dockwrath. The heart of any man placed in such a position as that you now hold must, I think, fail him. But never mind that. Who is to be the tenant of Orley Farm when my client has been deprived of it?’
‘Just so. You were turned out from those two fields when young Mason came home from Germany?’
‘You immediately went to work and discovered this document?’
‘You put up Joseph Mason to this trial?
‘I told him my opinion.’
‘Exactly. And if the result be successful, you are to be put in possession of the land.’
‘I shall become Mr. Mason’s tenant at Orley Farm.’
‘Yes, you will become Mr. Mason’s tenant at Orley Farm. Upon my word, Mr. Dockwrath, you have made my work to-day uncommonly easy for me,—uncommonly easy. I don’t know that I have anything else to ask you.’ And then Mr. Chaffanbrass, as he sat down, looked up to the jury with an expression of countenance which was in itself worth any fee that could be paid to him for that day’s work. His face spoke as plain as a face could speak, and what his face said was this: ‘After that, gentlemen of the jury, very little more can be necessary. You now see the motives of our opponents, and the way in which those motives have been allowed to act. We, who are altogether upon the square in what we are doing, desire nothing more than that.’ All which Mr. Chaffanbrass said by his look, his shrug, and his gesture, much more eloquently than he could have done by the use of any words.
Mr. Dockwrath, as he left the box and went back to his seat—in doing which he had to cross the table in the middle of the court—endeavoured to look and move as though all were right with him. He knew that the eyes of the court were on him, and especially the eyes of the judge and jury. He knew also how men’s minds are unconsciously swayed by small appearances. He endeavoured therefore to seem indifferent; but in doing so he swaggered, and was conscious that he swaggered; and he felt as he gained his seat that Mr. Chaffanbrass had been too much for him.
Then one Mr. Torrington from London was examined by Sir II.223 Richard Leatherham, and he proved, apparently beyond all doubt, that a certain deed which he produced was genuine. That deed bore the same date as the codicil which was now questioned, had been executed at Orley Farm by old Sir Joseph, and bore the signatures of John Kenneby and Bridget Bolster as witnesses. Sir Richard, holding the deed in his hands, explained to the jury that he did not at the present stage of the proceedings ask them to take it as proved that those names were the true signatures of the two persons indicated. (‘I should think not,’ said Mr. Furnival, in a loud voice.) But he asked them to satisfy themselves that the document as now existing purported to bear those two signatures. It would be for them to judge, when the evidence brought before them should be complete, whether or no that deed were a true document. And then the deed was handed up into the jury-box, and the twelve jurymen all examined it. The statement made by this Mr. Torrington was very simple. It had become his business to know the circumstances of the late partnership between Mason and Martock, and these circumstances he explained. Then Sir Richard handed him over to be cross-examined.
It was now Graham’s turn to begin his work; but as he rose to do so his mind misgave him. Not a syllable that this Torrington had said appeared to him to be unworthy of belief. The man had not uttered a word, of the truth of which Graham did not feel himself positively assured; and, more than that,—the man had clearly told all that was within him to tell, all that it was well that the jury should hear in order that they might thereby be assisted in coming to a true decision. It had been hinted in his hearing, both by Chaffanbrass and Aram, that this man was probably in league with Dockwrath, and Aram had declared with a sneer that he was a puzzle-pated old fellow. He might be puzzle-pated, and had already shown that he was bashful and unhappy in his present position; but he had shown also, as Graham thought, that he was anxious to tell the truth.
And, moreover, Graham had listened with all his mind to the cross-examination of Dockwrath, and he was filled with disgust—with disgust, not so much at the part played by the attorney as at that played by the barrister. As Graham regarded the matter, what had the iniquities and greed of Dockwrath to do with it? Had reason been shown why the statement made by Dockwrath was in itself unworthy of belief,—that that statement was in its own essence weak,—then the character of the man making it might fairly affect its credibility. But presuming that statement to be strong,—presuming that it was corroborated by other evidence, how could it be affected by any amount of villainy on the part of Dockwrath? All that Chaffanbrass had done or attempted was to prove that Dockwrath had had his own end to serve. Who had ever doubted it? II.224 But not a word had been said, not a spark of evidence elicited, to show that the man had used a falsehood to further those views of his. Of all this the mind of Felix Graham had been full; and now, as he rose to take his own share of the work, his wit was at work rather in opposition to Lady Mason than on her behalf.
This Torrington was a little old man, and Graham had watched how his hands had trembled when Sir Richard first addressed him. But Sir Richard had been very kind,—as was natural to his own witness, and the old man had gradually regained his courage. But now as he turned his face round to the side where he knew that he might expect to find an enemy, that tremor again came upon him, and the stick which he held in his hand was heard as it tapped gently against the side of the witness-box. Graham, as he rose to his work, saw that Mr. Chaffanbrass had fixed his eye upon him, and his courage rose the higher within him as he felt the gaze of the man whom he so much disliked. Was it within the compass of his heart to bully an old man because such a one as Chaffanbrass desired it of him? By heaven, no!
He first asked Mr. Torrington his age, and having been told that he was over seventy, Graham went on to assure him that nothing which could be avoided should be said to disturb his comfort. now, Mr. Torrington,’ he asked, ‘will you tell me whether you are a friend of Mr. Dockwrath’s, or have had any acquaintance with him previous to the affairs of this trial?’ This question he repeated in various forms, but always in a mild voice, and without the appearance of any disbelief in the answers which were given to him. All these questions Torrington answered by a plain negative. He had never seen Dockwrath till the attorney had come to him on the matter of that partnership deed. He had never eaten or drunk with him, nor had there ever been between them any conversation of a confidential nature. ‘That will do, Mr. Torrington,’ said Graham; and as he sat down, he again turned round and looked Mr. Chaffanbrass full in the face.
After that nothing further of interest was done that day. A few unimportant witnesses were examined on legal points, and then the court was adjourned.
The bishops’ daughters always marry clergymen, and the judges’ daughters ought to marry lawyers.
[“Lawyers shouldn’t marry lawyers. This is known as inbreeding, and leads to the birth of idiot children. Lawyers should marry musicians.” —David Wayne as Kip Lurie in Adam’s Rib.]
‘And as for poor young Mr. Orme——’
close quote missing
so that I shall not make a fool of myself when I see it.’
close quote missing or invisible
the Empson and Dudley of our latter-day law courts
[When I went to look them up, the very first hit was a page headed “Henry VII’s hatchet men”, which about sums it up. When Henry VIII took over, he lost no time having the pair executed.
If Dudley’s name seems familiar, it’s because his grandson Robert was chummy with Henry VII’s granddaughter Elizabeth, who created him Earl of Leicester.]
‘Papa always is late when the assizes are going on,’
text has going one
He should have . . . been more sure of his loved one’s tastes before he suggested the sunny south and the Como villa.
[Can’t say I blame him. Until Sophia’s “I’ll do no such thing”, it would not have occurred to me that a young woman might prefer not to live in Italy instead of England.]
nothing less than champagne and pineapples
[I couldn’t find a locus classicus, but Sophia doesn’t seem to have made this up herself. Augustus’s reply, incidentally, suggests that he is cleverer than the novel generally lets us see.]
It is not everybody that can tumble discreetly.
[Did I mention how much I admire Sophia Furnival? She is admittedly not a nice person, and her aversion to Italy is inexplicable, but she’s definitely more interesting than the book’s other ingenues.]
towards the punishment of such a criminal as that.’
close quote missing
‘They can’t do anything to one if one do one’s best?’ said Kenneby
the nature and extent of Mr. Dockwrath’s reward
[Ongoing head-scratcher: has everyone—including the author—
it was so within our memories
[Assuming for the sake of discussion that the reader is old enough to remember past 1836.]
and then hung for the felony
[Anthony, you know perfectly well the word is “hanged”.]
With all his ears he listened
[Fun fact: In Kalaallisut (Greenlandic), dual forms are only used when some other number is also possible. If you have two younger brothers, or caught two fish, they’re dual; natural pairs, such as body parts, are plural.]
Sir Richard Leatherham brought to a close his long tale
text has Leatheram
‘And now, Mr. Torrington,’ he asked
open quote missing
The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.