P. Fitzgerald


THE house was pointed out by a young Arab of the crossing, who had been skipping on before the decent inquirer in black, as the manner of his tribe is. And he pattering away to his Augean beat, the decent stranger looks up through his glasses at the house with much relish—as though it were a ripe and luscious fruit. He seemed to have ample value for his money, and literally gorged his eyes with the prospect.
Had he been a miser he might have groaned over his misspent pennies : for the spot was advertised ever so conspicuously by a group of the great unclean—men and women of the broad rag world hanging about, in the middle of the road—leaning on the rails, and on the gate, kept fast locked, to have their full of staring. Scraps of this shabby community dribbled away at one end, while other scraps came and restored the fit balance at the other. And though no one of them could say that they expected the front to tumble flat like a "practical" scene out of a pantomime, or that the doors were to be flung open and they were to be invited in to hospitality, and be otherwise handsomely treated, still they all had some good purpose in staring at the house, and found the process satisfactory. They had been staring since eight o'clock on that morning, and would stare on until dark. And, it may be repeated, they had good method in their staring.


THE next question is—for those not of the locality—what these units of the great corps of the unwashed were staring at. At a house; but this is too general. At number five, then, Daffodil Terrace—number five being but an inch out of so many hundred yards of neat, bright-red brick ribbon, reeled off in a terrace ad infinitum—a row of pantomime houses projected in aternum—beautifully chastened, and in a manner Ruskinized by little edging and confectionery work of parti-colored bricks, mainly mustard color, and producing a very " tasty " effect Contractor had done his work nobly and was actually reeling off miles of a similar pattern, just like an expert shopman at his counter—on the new building grounds out towards the country. But why should the unwashed, and the butcher-boy element, and the strap-and-pot element so fancy this special number five, particularly when they had a whole file, stretching to number two hundred and eighty or so to pick from ? Why the fact is, it was whispered that a very ugly business had taken place there that morning—very painful for the immediate family, and most undesirable for the neighborhood, in reference to a letting or other view. The life of a line of respectable tenements should move in smooth, equable course, and should not be disturbed by vulgar spasmodics. As it is with your true persons of quality, who have nothing marked in dress or man-ner, so with your true houses of quality. And yet here was nothing short of suicide, gross, flagrant, outspeaking suicide entailing a distressing publicity—and the whole notorious train of coroner, police, doctors, post-mortems, and the other disagreeable incidents. The curious part of the business was, that this was about the last sort of catastrophe man-kind, in that neighborhood, might reasonably have looked for. For only a few days back they had been very busy with an expected nuptial rite, whereof the scene was to be in that very house. The actors, properties, incidents, and decorations of that ceremonial had all been in possession of the public for some time. The neighborhood had been rife with the particulars. It was a common fund, in which all had a common interest. They knew the name of the man, the woman, his substance, her substance, what difficulties lay between—in short, the whole prelude of the thing. It was to be a very gay thing, and a very happy thing; much desired too by all parties. The name of the woman or girl (so people from within the rails told it to those without) was Margaret—Margaret Joy—an only daughter. The house was the house of the Joy family, father and mother; the name of the man, who was to take this woman for his wedded wife, was Mr. Hengist, a City person who had travelled, and the name of what lay upstairs, covered up with a sheet, was Martha Toy, wife of the house.
Now for this marriage, and this suicide, and the tangled yarn that led to both. Suicide lies up there in ghastly reality: marriage is scattered to the winds now beyond hope of re-establishment.


To begin by looking back a few years or so, when the Joy family first came o the decent neighborhood, and the placid respectability of speckless brickwork. The head of the Joy family, then about forty-five; the gentlewoman who was titularly mistress, but in plain fact, a sort of lady-like upper-servant, ordering meals and I oking after all things—about eight-and-thirty. She and he bright brick house had about come together; for Joy, elderly as he was, had married and moved into the neighborhood almost simultaneously. House and wife came together; house quite new and brilliant; wife second-hand and a little worn—nay, bringing with her drags impedimenta in the shape of human baggage—a growing youth—her only jointure as a widow. Joy, this ripe bridegroom of forty-six, was a quiet, placid merchant-man, with a cold, dry, calm face, not overcharged with blood;—one who crept along the walls and dark lanes of life, keeping out of the light, and avoiding brushing skirts with all he met—a tall man, a bent man, a slight man, a silent man, a man that had made money silently ; without emotion or agitation had married, and moved into the staring brick neighborhood almost simultaneously—a man that had been perhaps proved by fire in the earlier portion of his days; that had been wrung and wasted by the hot winds of tremendous domestic tribulation. It was said, indeed, that his whole family, mother, sisters, and one brother, had been swept away suddenly—in about a week's time—by a destroying plague, then epidemic. Such a bit of tragedy was in good keeping with that sad and impassive face, and might be read there in plain, bold figures. Some sort of tragedy had been scorched and seared into his face, and he wore the scars very palpably.
He then, wandering along this sad sea-shore, fell in with this Calypso of a widow, and finding she had some sort of balm, which, without curing, did somewhat allay the pain of his open wounds, took her in—love they were both past—she, perhaps, more moved by a sort of compassion or sympathy for the poor silent wayfarer. However, on what ever pretext, they were joined, and came to the house together, taking with them, too, her daughter, soft Margaret—a sweet, milky-looking child, whose destiny it was to be passive in every possible relation of life. The son was an evil scapegrace, who had rushed away into open wickedness, and it had been well had he been never more heard of. But, unhappily, he showed himself, comet-like, at irregular intervals, and always under circumstances of dubious color, in a sort of disreputable halo ; so that this fitful manifestation, though satisfactory as allaying any personal fears that might be entertained as to his safety, was attended with such pain and discomfort to his surviving relation, that on the whole it had been better he had sunk at once for ever into the limbo or worse place prepared for such disreputable meteors.
On the new Mrs. Joy these wearing sorrows told with nearly the same characteristic handwriting as on her husband's features. They had each their own private store of affliction ; and what little balance of cheerfulness was over and above they spent with all good heart upon each other. And so they made their lives somewhat sweeter—after a fashion.


He was in a sort of traffic or business, as has been already mentioned, and had brought together a decent sufficiency, to which he was daily adding. Thus the true bitter of sorrow, poverty, had not oozed into their cup. Grief is more tolerable when it can sob on soft cushions, and recline undisturbed, without work or labor, in handsome apartments. For such sorrows there are luxuries. And so they moved forward upon the even tenor of their way, inhabiting the bright vermilion house and, in some sort, one of the pillars of that select villa neighborhood. Naturally all persons round took pride in denizens of such position ; and thus they moved forward steadily and peacefully—impelled by the sure hand of destiny—on to the fatal beginning of that end which has been shadowed at the opening of this story. For though we know that grim and pitiless Greek notion of fate has been swept away, still to us, who look down at the inarch of a story and its characters, it has very much the look of that old cruel force ; and we see the men and women of the piece walking on unconsciously to their doom; and as they walked, the Chorus in those old Greek plays chanted Ai! Ai! compassionately bewailing their fate in, as it were, a monk's hymn.


THERE had come to live, some few doors below them, a wealthy man called Hengist, but of a somewhat curious nature. A man touching five-and-thirty, solitary, and hurrying with extraordinary swiftness down the headlong montagne Russe of old bachelorhood. He would have been at the bottom and lost irretrievably had not some one laid hold of him and checked him.
But of a very curious nature—suspicious, and slightly eccentric, which comes of living alone—an avaricious creature, which was strange in one so young; who had been abroad in India, and come home invalided, and tolerably wealthy; had been left more moneys; and now, too delicate to add more moneys still to that, had retired to watch life and look on jealously. Everybody, of course, had designs against his personal liberty; all—more particularly the women—were banded together to suspend the Habeas Corpus specially in his behalf Along those trimly carved walks female bandits were abroad. They lay in ambuscade.
And yet he was amiable in his character; full of charities, and the test of charities, local subscriptions. For him kept house a matron of tolerably and satisfactory antiquity. He read of the long evenings by his shaded lamp; walked abroad during the day ; went into London now and again, but with terrible reluctance; and fancied he was killing weary days with good effect. So he, too, moved forwards, slowly, yet surely, to whatever crisis our modern Fate kept in store for him.
This was not so very long arriving. We may guess easily enough. These lonely wrecks are easy spoil. Betimes every morning, the soft, milk-faced girl used to go forth to take her country walk, as she fancied it, and inhale the morning air well charged with copious villa particles. Regularly would she flit by the window—somewhere near the same hour—where this Hengist would be seen framed in his huge sheet of plate glass, in a miscellany of urn and teapot and rolls, and the newspaper in full sail, making his lonely breakfast Regular, too, used this Hengist lift his bead, and look out on her as she passed. The true, charitably-minded will see a purpose in this steady morning, artful baiting of traps, and such unhandsome hints. But she was wholly innocent of any such purpose. In the long file of shining brick mansions there was much more company, just as busy, and with about the same unflagging regularity. That breakfasting behind plate glass was an ordinary ceremony enough along the line of villas.
The course of these things we may all guess out pretty easily. In what comes by custom we take interest This strange suspicious Hengist began to look for her regularly, as he did for his rolls and newspaper; and if rain or other reason hindered her coming, became uncomfortable, as though he had been defrauded of a portion of his breakfast With him all women were more or less marauders—in respect to monied men at least; but here he was impregnable, and perfectly secure, for he could look on unperceived and unsuspected. By and by came opportunity, as opportunity will come always. The "administration" charged with the arrangement of such little matters contrived it by the agency of a lost dog, or bird, or kitten. Bird it was. The young lady's parrot had one evening fluttered away, having a chain to its foot, taking the intervening walls like fences, and hotly pursued Mr. Hengist was in his garden at the time, and captured it promptly. Presently the sad-faced parent comes and knocks, and to him the prisoner was handed over—not, however, before he is bidden to sit down and rest, though he be not tired, and they condole with each other on some district grievances—ill scavengering, inefficient watering of streets, and the like. Then he goes his way. Such a foundation the other is not slow to improve. Sometimes they meet going into London, by. rail or stage, sometimes along the public highway; the sad-faced gentleman accepting tolerantly rather than seeking him. By and by he gets on a stage further—still in his old cautious way; receding now with mistrust—now advancing—until at last he has entered, has been made known to the sober sorrowful mistress of the mansion, and to the damsel that was wont to trip past his window as he breakfasted.
He was not unamiable, this Hengist, and soon domesti cated himself readily enough. Not one of them sough him. The parents were glad because they thought such an acquaintance would vary the somewhat monotonous exist once of their daughter's life. For, odd as he was, his oddity came not of vacuity. He had seen much and travelled a good deal, and was ready enough with a dry speech and caustic remark, not altogether unamusing So he was very soon dovetailed into their course of life : came in of evenings when it suited him, played cards, read books to them, or to himself when it pleased him, and on the whole found it a rather agreeable sort of club.
There was a cousin, too, who came out occasionally from London; a gay, open-faced, open-mouthed carle, rather boisterous, and wearing his heart, not exactly upon his sleeve, but displayed conspicuously upon every part of his person. The cousin, Wilsden by name, came out in rather conspicuous contrast beside the somewhat crusted nature of the other. He, in truth, rather looked down on him, as deficient; was merry at his expense, and gave him a private nickname. But he could rarely come of evenings; so that Hengist had a tremendous advantage over him. Night, after all, is the true season for social business.
Sometimes it flashed upon him that he was standing on the edge of a precipice—that here was a band of insidious plotters, artfully leagued against his person and liberty. At this notion he would take fright and stay away a week, sometimes two; until, as they made no sign, and did not come with violence to storm him in his castle, he was much relieved, and came back of his own motion, with a sort of penitential air. Then he would find the loud cousin in firm possession, and feel a sort of curious resentment within himself for having given him such an advantage Perhaps it was a diluted jealousy.
So he came and went, and stayed away, and came again ; and all the while was growing rather fond of this white-faced girl. The sad-eyed parents looked on from afar, and let him have his way. They did not see into these things ; they did not heed them. The pale-faced child did not consider him much in any light whatsoever—just tolerated him ; but it is to be suspected, was seriously inclined to the boisterous cousin. So the thing went on, but growing, in some shape, all the while.
The wild comet still reached its perihelion occasionally, and flashed upon the horizon as usual; but latterly with a steadily increasing recurrence. Every six months there was some fresh disgrace—every month—and presently every fortnight, or so. And for all these rescues had to be found. By and by came bill transactions, ugly in character, and all but reaching to an exposé, but happily warded off at a large sacrifice. There was no end to these trials. The worn face of the parent became yet more worn.


WITH her husband, also, things had not rone so pro-perously of late. Real languid insouciance of affliction and coæur brisé does not do for the world of business. A heavy loss came, and he looked on insensibly. He set himself, without much exertion, to repair this casualty, and did not succeed. Thus was much capital being nibbled. After all, what was dross to the poor coæur brisé ! He only followed the thing for distraction's sake. And so the money began to drip—drip away through his fingers—like so much water. One evening he told his wife quite plainly that they should have to live very savingly now, and stint themselves a good deal; for that he had met with very heavy losses, and nearly all his money was gone—a statement which she accepted with more trepidation and alarm than one would have expected from her dulled nature. But the fact was, at that moment it came most unfortunately, and she was thinking, not of herself, nor of that pale-faced girl, but of the wild, erratic comet, then gyrating with its most tremendous velocity, and commuting the worst extravagances in its course. All along the had furnished secret supplies; fed its fires from her own private stores; pinched her own moderate expenses to have yet a greater surplus. And yet the drain seemed endless. It lay upon her as a tremendous weight, that this lost youth would one day break out into some great and indelible disgrace, such as would fix upon him the attention of the kingdom. And to avert some most horrible catastrophe, by evoking pecuniary emollients, was her pious aim. That destiny would bring such a thing about before the end came, she firmly believed; but her wish was to avert as long as possible what was to come inevitably. It was before her of nights; and disturbed even such unquiet dreams as she had. It made her restless during the day; and, above all, she had to carry this about within her, unsupported—for her husband had troubles sufficient of his own : and, indeed, had the errors of this scapegrace never very glaringly laid open before him.
Thus it will be seen what curious elements were all working together simultaneously within the spick and span red-brick house, each in a channel of its own, and mostly unsuspected by the others. The father had his private tabulation—the mother hers ; the visitor, his little bit of disquietude; and the pale-faced daughter, such sorrow as she found in her parents' sorrow.
It was found, after some fruitless efforts to retrieve his ill-luck, that they had barely sufficient for a contracted existence, and that they must, before the end of the year, actually quit the staring brick bouse, and seek some more suitable residence.
On this there came a visible change in the pale-faced girl. She was gracious to the visitor; soothed his dudgeon; all but broke with the cousin. It looks doubtful, yet it came from the best of motives. She would save those she loved, from shipwreck, at whatever risk or sacrifice. Cousins' loves must all go overboard when wreck is at hand.


AT last it came to one gloomy evening in the month of misfortunes, November—or at least that month which supplies fitting scenery and furniture for troubles of all kinds—when the two are sitting in the shadow, each with their own private weight of care upon their hearts. Things were coming to a yet poorer pass. The world was using them yet more and more cruelly still. Something like a catastrophe was impending over their heads, and could not be delayed more than a month or so. His was not the mind for a crisis, and therefore ill-suited to finding out a remedy. His was not a bold, fighting nature, that would struggle before it would die, but would surrender tamely, and without a blow.
To the door then comes the scarlet postman of the district, and a letter is brought. In troubled times all letters bring evil news, or, at least, are expected to do so. This one was opened by Mrs. Joy, and read privately in her own chamber:
"MADAM,—I am sorry to be obliged to communicate to you so unpleasant a piece of intelligence as this letter contains, but it is better for you that you should learn the worst at once. A bill was presented to me for payment a few days since, bearing what appeared to be my own signature.
I saw at once it was a forgery, and had no doubt whose was the hand that did it As you are aware I had been obliged to discharge your son from my employment about a month ago; but he was very soon discovered, and admitted the charge.
"I have lone hesitated between my duty to public justice and to friendship, as to what course I shall take in this matter. However, feeling for your situation acutely, and knowing that you have other troubles sufficient, I would be willing on receipt of the sum (150l.) to forego any further proceedings in the business. I hope it will be a lesson to the young man.
"The money I must have in a few days, as the bill must be taken up.
"I am, dear madam, yours, etc.,


This was a terrible stroke—both the moral blow, as well as the physical inconvenience. Moneys were not to be found now ; and this was truly the last straw breaking the camel's back. And yet it did not come with such a shock; for previous misfortunes had toned them to a suitable frame of mind. And so they sat on, in the gloom of that miserable evening, without proposing remedy or relief, until their daughter, now out for some time, came in.


SHE was nervous and shy, and somewhat flurried. She had a wonderful piece of news to break to them which she did almost joyfully. She had been out walking ; had met Mr. Hengist, who had turned around and walked with her; had spoken with her seriously, and in that odd, jerky way of his had actually proposed to her. He was very good, very generous, and all the rest of it; and she was sure in time she would come to like him. So for that night, at least, the angel of trouble folded up his wings. The clouds were dispersed, the mists and unwholesome damps of pecuniary embarrassment were shattered. There was jubilee in the bright brick house. Still, for the present, money was lacking ; and though things pointed to the new bridegroom as deliverer, there came difficulties in the way, which effectually cut off that hope of rescue. For this curious nature of Hengist was so strange and flighty, there was no knowing at what turn it would be scared and take flight. And in an early interview with the father, it was very soon apparent that this was dangerous ground. For when it was told to him that no fortune could be offered to him with the girl, he fell into great disorder, and spoke of mistakes and misapprehensions, and finally said he had been deceived, and went his way, leaving them with the impression that all was over. There are rich men who think it due to their dignity that riches should be brought to them. So for three or four days he was not heard of; but then re-appeared as usual, and made no further allusion to the money question. Then came another difficulty. From him had to be concealed the whole of the pecuniary difficulties ; for he often made loud proclamation that he had a horror of bankrupt men and women—that such persons seemed to be decayed and mouldy, and to be eaten away with the leprosy of debt He used to add, too, that he took such pride in his father-in-law being a sound, substantial man; and that hereafter they would one day join their capital and work wonders in the fiscal world. This was a favorite theme of his, and he laid out grand schemes sitting with them over the fire ; and pointed with unutterable disgust to such and such a one who had broken down and failed. All the while they listened ruefully, and with a flutter at their hearts. Pity them we must, for they knew not where to turn : and the girl herself was wholly innocent, for they had been careful only to let her know in a misty way of their embarrassments. Then there was another and last difficulty. For a few weeks, indeed, by desperate exertion, they might tide over the danger : but here was this man very slack indeed about his nuptials. He must have time to wind up his affairs. He must go up to the North to sell houses or lands; in short, there must be a couple of months, or six weeks at the least, before he could be ready. And his humor was so fretful; it was dangerous to press him much by way of remonstrance or argument. And, by and by, he gave up that shiny brick house of his in the Terrace, meaning to take one in London—and went away, as he said, to wind up his affairs for matrimony.


THE business of the scapegrace son had been tided, though temporarily, by the agency of a short bill at three weeks.
Mr. Jaspar Brown, a matter-of-fact, business man, had agreed to stay destiny by execution, for that brief span. But this they knew to be but a poor shift—a mere staving oft by the very frailest barrier. And though here a sort of delivery was held out to them with one hand, there was a certain inevitable thunderbolt of destruction menacing them from the other. No possible mode of extrication could they discover. Poor suffering souls ! Theirs was not the spirit of youth, fertile in devices, daring and vigorous. Misfortune had made them sluggard. And so they were hurried along, through the gloom and shadows, to the day of reckoning, for sins scarcely their own.
And the day of Joy, too, drew on with equal speed. Hen-gist, the bridegroom, reappears by-and-by, elated, buoyant, having wound up all things, but more than ever repugnant to broken, bankrupt men. Joyful too was the girl, for she saw deliverance from these gloomy times close at hand-deliverance for herself and parents. Dark care sat beside them alone, and yet they told not of the Nemesis that hung over them. And so the days wore on.
All this time the future bridegroom stopped with them, for his home was gone, and he was shrewd and saving, like all rich men. He had the best bedroom, and was made much of, as was only fitting—at least for the short span the thing would hold out to. Often he said to his future father, regretfully, " Could you not make me out some little money—say five hundred pounds—three—two—one hundred ? " And the other had to take refuge in some poor weak pretence about a vow, and about all coming to her eventually, after his death. And the marriage-day was now good three weeks away, and Nemesis but a day or two !
From Jaspar Brown delay had been begged, nay, implored, in piteous letters from Mrs. Joy. Which procedure rather fortified that gentleman in his stern denials; all humblings and self-abasements in money matters being, as is well known, the most fatal instruments. They are confessions of weakness and danger, in a stiff letter Jaspar Brown buttoned up his pockets and refused an hour's delay. He was astounded at such ingratitude ; disgusted, perhaps, at a man reputed wealthy breaking up so disreputably. The law should take its course. Not an hour—not an hour. Nemesis advancing slowly.


OF a Saturday evening Mrs. Joy is sitting dismally over her fire; the others have gone out, and will be in by dinnertime. A weary Saturday ; always a day of battle, of seige, of expostulation and entreaty. The gates and approaches were now tolerably clear, and Mrs. Joy sitting over her fire. Suddenly a knock, and she draws a deep sigh, for she knows here is yet another battle to fight, when she thought all was over for the day. She goes out wearily on the old errand, and is face to face with two shabby, scrubby fellows, whose type proclaims itself even to those who have never before been acquainted with it The flaming red muffler and heavy sticks were sufficient. We know these sort of men, and their errand So did the poor woman then, without the aid of that fluttering piece of paper. They were sheriff's men, and they were now in possession. These were civil and considerate fellows on the whole, and gave no pain in working out their dirty work.
Her wits nearly deserted her at the first, then came back to her with an extraordinary force and vitality. What was 10 be done ? What could be done ? Time but a few minutes; for they might return at any moment Servant abroad, 'in garden or yard, so that exposure was happily spared At this moment not a soul in the house but she herself and those earthly emissaries. And there were twenty pounds or thereabouts—about as much use as twenty pence—a mere scrap. But there was more money than that in the house! There was absolutely no help near. The very sight of those sheriff's aides-de-camp—in their drab uniform—waiting in the hall, scared her. The bare notion of that process of the law maketh the heart sink ; and praying to these coarse emissaries for a few moments' grace, she fled away, shrinking, fluttering, and almost gasping with terror, to her own room, there to strive desperately and see if anything in the world could suggest itself At such a crisis, hemmed up into a moral corner, with such cruel wolves at the gate, no wonder if the wildest, even the most unlawful thoughts of extrication, suggested themselves importunately. Some one had received moneys for sale of interest in lease—or lands—and had gone to London too late for banking hours, and had brought his moneys back, and had surely not taken. them out with him in his walk. They were Vying, in all probability, upstairs in that leathern case of his, in the best bedroom—good yellow gold and notes. We must not judge this poor broken soul too harshly. Think of the two figures before her, now masters of the house ; think of the foul associations connected with such ministers; think of those who were walking home with sure steps, and perhaps now not a hundred yards away; think of the fair marriage hanging on a thread; think of black despair at her heart, clouding her eyes, and senses, and moral conscience; think of these things, and let us pity—if we must condemn—that poor frail creature now stealing upstairs.


THERE, the air is cleared; the foul sheriff's ministers are gone; but not a minute too soon, for here return the trio from their walk, two very gay and cheerful. That evening passes by ; so does the Sunday morning, and public worship, at which all attend. Not until the noon of Sunday does Mr. Hengist come tearing down from his room crying aloud that he has been robbed; that he is undone ; that he is ruined ; that he will bring every one to justice.
There is the usual esclandre and hubbub. Policemen enter; search, and inspect, and inquire. Three hundred pounds nearly. It is a heavy loss. On whom does suspicion naturally rest in such cases? On the servants. Call them up : and some wretched trembling Susan, or Mary Jane, in brought in and put to the question. She cries and sobs-circumstances of strong suspicion. Strange to say the box had been neatly opened with a false key; but no key could be found. Still there was nothing beyond suspicion, until in the passage leading to the kitchen, or scullery, or outhouse, was found just such a little Bramah key, which Mrs. Joy identified as hers. This was enough ; and Susan or Mary Jane was led away disgracefully in custody.
All this while Mrs. Joy said not a word, looking quite stony and immoveable. Her eyes had a cold, glassy stare. She was as that Nemesis of whom we have been speaking. She was determined to go through with her part, whatever she had undertaken. And she did it bravely ; for it is a painful and unpleasant thing to have such a scene in a respectable family. Then when all was over, and the pur-loining maid taken away, she passed upstairs to her own room.
Hengist was nigh to being distracted, and sat at the fire moaning over his lost treasures. Mr. Joy took his daughter into another room, and told her wearily of what she had not known before. He was tired of the struggle, he said. It must end in a day or two. He could fight it off no longer. It was better that she should know all at once. This unfortunate business of the robbery would finish it To-morrow, he saw, would bring the end. She was much confounded at such speeches, yet soothed him affectionately, telling him that all would yet be well. He was to cheer up, and all would yet be well. Ah ! vain, but fond speech ! There is a day when all will yet be well—yet how far away.
She trips off, and passes into the parlor, where there is the other still moaning over his lost ingots. She sets herself to sooth him, humoring him, encouraging him with hope that they will be found. He is at first sour and pettish. But it is hard to resist that sweet face and voice. It was this man's bent of mind to be cheerful, and before very long she had brought him to be tranquil, to say, what did he care for a few guineas ? that he had plenty more as good; with other speeches to the same tune.
Then on this favorable basis she went something further. She brought him to remark what dismal, downcast faces her parents bore, and to ask what sorrows troubled them. Gently she broke it all to him, saying it in a sweet voice, telling him even of that immediate danger which was to come to-morrow. " It is better,n she said, "that you should know these things now than later; I myself have only learnt them this evening. I thought we were rich and flourishing; it has turned out otherwise. It is not fair to you that you should enter into our family not knowing of these things; and therefore it is only right that you should be set free."
Hengist was much astonished at this straightforward proposal That it should have come from him, he could under-stand ; but from her, it was utterly incomprehensible. He was troubled. At first he almost thought there must be something behind, some little plot or deception. Then he became aggrieved. Why did she treat him in this way ?— what had he done ? It has been mentioned that his was a very curious nature; not very firm or vigorous, and full of contradiction. Presently he had forgotten his money losses, and had fallen into a generous mood, and was ready even to furnish such aid as might ward off present difficulties.


With a light heart she flew to her father. Re took ft placidly: he was past any violent emotions of joy or sorrow. "You have saved us," he said; "you are an angel. But run now and tell your poor mother; she is in her room upstairs, and takes this to heart more than any of us." The angel kissed her father's pale forehead, and bade him be of good heart "We shall all be very happy together yet," she said; "bright days are in store for us." And she glided away very softly upstairs. That sweet-sounding but delusive anthem has been sung over and over again. The night of troubles in this instance was passing away, and it did seem fairly open to them to suppose that here a glimmer of dawn was breaking. It was likely they were all going to be very happy.
From many weary and wakeful nights it was natural that the poor woman of sorrows upstairs should be seeking a little rest during the daytime. And so her daughter entered cautiously and on tiptoe, fearing to disturb her. It was growing on to be very dark, and through the window came but a half light No doubt she was sleeping profoundly. And yet, dark as it was, there was light to perceive that on the table lay a letter or packet newly folded and directed. There are occasions when there will be a chain of arguments in the sight of a straw; and a sudden instinct made her turn to the bed where the dark shadowy figure was lying, in her daily dress, so profoundly still and motionless, that—
She darted to the bedside, and then she saw it all.

* * * * *

Now we can guess at the secret of that crowd of unwashed waiting outside the railing of the bright red house on that Monday morning. The coroner came that day; and his jury came ; and policemen came. There was not much investigation needed. There was the unfailing little phial, with the strange scent; and the doctor came and told his story. It was very clear. The packet, however, was not submitted to those intelligent persons, for it contained a confession so piteous and dismal—the last outpouring of a heart broken, and a spirit crushed. Well might the old formula of insanity—temporary or not—be read in the daily papers ; often but a fiction soothing to afflicted relatives, but in this instance to be regarded with all indulgence. Decayed and deserted, the whole story may be now read in that tenement itself! A blight has seized it, and I do not believe that any projected marriage ever took place.


Главная Попытка (сказки)
Артур Конан Дойл и его последователи