East Lynne/Chapter 37
A sighing morning wind swept round the domains of East Lynne, bending the tall poplar trees in the distance, swaying the oak and elms nearer, rustling the fine old chestnuts in the park, a melancholy, sweeping, fitful wind. The weather had changed from brightness and warmth, and heavy, gathering clouds seemed to be threatening rain; so, at least, deemed one wayfarer, who was journeying on a solitary road that Saturday night.
He was on foot. A man attired in the garb of a sailor, with black, curling ringlets of hair, and black, curling whiskers; a prodigious pair of whiskers, hiding his neck above his blue, turned collar, hiding partially his face. The glazed hat, brought low upon his brows, concealed it still more; and he wore a loose, rough pea-jacket and wide rough trousers hitched up with a belt. Bearing steadily on, he struck into Bean lane, a by-way already mentioned in this history, and from thence, passing through a small, unfrequented gate, he found himself in the grounds of East Lynne.
"Let me see," mused he as he closed the gate behind him, and slipped the bolt. "The covered walk? That must be near the acacia trees. Then I must wind round to the right. I wonder if either of them will be there, waiting for me?"
Yes. Pacing the covered walk in her bonnet and mantle, as if taking an evening stroll—had any one encountered her, which was very unlikely, seeing that it was the most retired spot in the grounds—was Mrs. Carlyle.
"Oh, Richard! My poor brother!"
Locked in a yearning embrace, emotion overpowered both. Barbara sobbed like a child. A little while, and then he put her from him, to look at her.
"So Barbara, you are a wife now?"
"Oh, the happiest wife! Richard, sometimes I ask myself what I have done that God should have showered down blessings so great upon me. But for the sad trouble when I think of you, my life would be as one long summer's day. I have the sweetest baby—nearly a year old he is now; I shall have another soon, God willing. And Archibald—oh, I am so happy!"
She broke suddenly off with the name "Archibald;" not even to Richard could she speak of her intense love for, and happiness in her husband.
"How is it at the Grove?" he asked.
"Quite well; quite as usual. Mamma has been in better health lately. She does not know of this visit, but—"
"I must see her," interrupted Richard. "I did not see her the last time, you remember."
"All in good time to talk of that. How are you getting on in Liverpool? What are you doing?"
"Don't inquire too closely, Barbara. I have no regular work, but I get a job at the docks, now and then, and rub on. It is seasonable help, that, which comes to me occasionally from you. Is it from you or Carlyle?"
Barbara laughed. "How are we to distinguish? His money is mine now, and mine is his. We don't have separate purses, Richard; we send it to you jointly."
"Sometimes I have fancied it came from my mother."
Barbara shook her head. "We have never allowed mamma to know that you left London, or that we hold an address where we can write to you. It would not have done."
"Why have you summoned me here, Barbara? What has turned up?"
"Thorn has—I think. You would know him again Richard?"
"Know him!" passionately echoed Richard Hare.
"Were you aware that a contest for the membership is going on at West Lynne?"
"I saw it in the newspapers. Carlyle against Sir Francis Levison. I say, Barbara, how could he think of coming here to oppose Carlyle after his doing with Lady Isabel?"
"I don't know," said Barbara. "I wonder that he should come here for other reasons also. First of all, Richard, tell me how you came to know Sir Francis Levison. You say you did know him, and that you had seen him with Thorn."
"So I do know him," answered Richard. "And I saw him with Thorn twice."
"Know him by sight only, I presume. Let me hear how you came to know him."
"He was pointed out to me. I saw him walk arm-in-arm with a gentleman, and I showed them to the waterman at the cab-stand hard by. 'Do you know that fellow?' I asked him, indicating Thorn, for I wanted to come at who he really is—which I didn't do. 'I don't know that one,' the old chap answered, 'but the one with him is Levison the baronet. They are often together—a couple of swells they looked.'"
"And that's how you got to know Levison?"
"That was it," said Richard Hare.
"Then, Richard, you and the waterman made a mess of it between you. He pointed out the wrong one, or you did not look at the right. Thorn is Sir Francis Levison."
Richard stared at her with all his eyes.
"He is, I have never doubted it since the night you saw him in Bean lane. The action you described, of his pushing back his hair, his white hands, his sparkling diamond ring, could only apply in my mind to one person—Francis Levison. On Thursday I drove by the Raven, when he was speechifying to the people, and I noticed the selfsame action. In the impulse of the moment I wrote off for you, that you might come and set the doubt at rest. I need not have done it, it seems, for when Mr. Carlyle returned home that evening, and I acquainted him with what I had done, he told me that Thorn and Francis Levison are one and the same. Otway Bethel recognized him that same afternoon, and so did Ebenezer James."
"They'd both know him," eagerly cried Richard. "James I am positive would, for he was skulking down to Hallijohn's often then, and saw Thorn a dozen times. Otway Bethel must have seen him also, though he protested he had not. Barbara!"
The name was uttered in affright, and Richard plunged amidst the trees, for somebody was in sight—a tall, dark form advancing from the end of the walk. Barbara smiled. It was only Mr. Carlyle, and Richard emerged again.
"Fears still, Richard," Mr. Carlyle exclaimed, as he shook Richard cordially by the hand. "So you have changed your travelling toggery."
"I couldn't venture here again in the old suit; it had been seen, you said," returned Richard. "I bought this rig-out yesterday, second-hand. Two pounds for the lot—I think they shaved me."
"Ringlets and all?" laughed Mr. Carlyle.
"It's the old hair oiled and curled," cried Dick. "The barber charged a shilling for doing it, and cut my hair into the bargain. I told him not to spare grease, for I liked the curls to shine—sailors always do. Mr. Carlyle, Barbara says that Levison and that brute Thorn—the one's as much of a brute as the other, though—have turned out to be the same."
"They have, Richard, as it appears. Nevertheless, it may be as well for you to take a private view of Levison before anything is done—as you once did by the other Thorn. It would not do to make a stir, and then discover that there was a mistake—that he was not Thorn."
"When can I see him?" asked Richard, eagerly.
"It must be contrived somehow. Were you to hang about the doors of the Raven—this evening, even—you'd be sure to get the opportunity, for he is always passing in and out. No one will know you, or think of you, either: their heads are turned with the election."
"I shall look odd to people's eyes. You don't get many sailors in West Lynne."
"Not odd at all. We have a Russian bear here at present, and you'll be nobody beside him."
"A Russian bear!" repeated Richard, while Barbara laughed.
"Mr. Otway Bethel has returned in what is popularly supposed to be a bear's hide; hence the new name he is greeted with. Will it turn out, Richard that he had anything to do with the murder?"
Richard shook his head.
"He couldn't have, Mr. Carlyle; I have said so all along. But about Levison. If I find him to be the man Thorn, what steps can then be taken?"
"That's the difficulty," said Mr. Carlyle.
"Who will set it agoing. Who will move in it?"
"You must, Richard."
"I!" uttered Richard Hare, in consternation. "I move in it!"
"You, yourself. Who else is there? I have been thinking it well over, and can hit upon no one."
"Why, won't you take it upon yourself, Mr. Carlyle?"
"No. Being Levison," was the answer.
"Curse him!" impetuously retorted Richard. "Curse him doubly if he be the double villain. But why should you scruple Mr. Carlyle? Most men, wronged as you have been, would leap at the opportunity for revenge."
"For the crime perpetrated upon Hallijohn I would pursue him to the scaffold. For my own wrong, no. But the remaining negative has cost me something. Many a time, since this appearance of his at West Lynne, have I been obliged to lay violent control upon myself, or I should have horsewhipped him within an ace of his life."
"If you horsewhipped him to death he would only meet his deserts."
"I leave him to a higher retribution—to One who says, 'Vengeance is mine.' I believe him to be guilty of the murder but if the uplifting of my finger would send him to his disgraceful death, I would tie down my hand rather than lift it, for I could not, in my own mind, separate the man from the injury. Though I might ostensibly pursue him as the destroyer of Hallijohn, to me he would appear ever as the destroyer of another, and the world, always charitable, would congratulate Mr. Carlyle upon gratifying his revenge. I stir in it not, Richard."
"Couldn't Barbara?" pleaded Richard.
Barbara was standing with her arm entwined within her husband's, and Mr. Carlyle looked down as he answered,—
"Barbara is my wife."
It was a sufficient answer.
"Then the thing's again at an end," said Richard, gloomily, "and I must give up hope of ever being cleared."
"By no means," said Mr. Carlyle. "The one who ought to act in this is your father, Richard; but we know he will not. Your mother cannot. She has neither health nor energy for it; and if she had a full supply of both, she would not dare to brave her husband and use them in the cause. My hands are tied; Barbara's equally so, as part of me. There only remains yourself."
"And what can I do?" wailed poor Dick. "If your hands are tied, I'm sure my whole body is, speaking in comparison; hands, and legs, and neck. It's in jeopardy, that is, every hour."
"Your acting in this affair need not put it any the more in jeopardy. You must stay in the neighborhood for a few days—"
"I dare not," interposed Richard, in a fright. "Stay in the neighborhood for a few days! No; that I never may."
"Listen, Richard. You must put away these timorous fears, or else you must make up your mind to remain under the ban for good; and, remember, your mother's happiness is at stake equally with yours—I could almost say her life. Do you suppose I would advise you for danger? You used to say there was some place, a mile or two from this, where you could sojourn in safety."
"So there is. But I always feel safer when I get away from it."
"There your quarters must be, for two or three days at any rate. I have turned matters over in my own mind, and will tell you what I think should be done, so far as the preliminary step goes, though I do not interfere myself."
"Only the preliminary step! There must be a pretty many to follow it, sir, if it's to come to anything. Well, what is it?"
"Apply to Ball & Treadman, and get them to take it."
They were now slowly pacing the covered walk, Barbara on her husband's arm, Richard by the side of Mr. Carlyle. Dick stopped when he heard the last words.
"I don't understand you, Mr. Carlyle. You might as well advise me to go before the bench of magistrates at once. Ball & Treadman would walk me off there as soon as I showed myself."
"Nothing of the sort, Richard. I do not tell you to go openly to their office, as another client would. What I would advise is this—make a friend of Mr. Ball; he can be a good man and true, if he chooses; tell the whole story to him in a private place and interview, and ask him whether he will carry it through. If he is fully impressed with the conviction that you are innocent, as the facts appear to warrant, he will undertake it. Treadman need know nothing of the affair at first; and when Ball puts things in motion, he need not know that you are here, or where you are to be found."
"I don't dislike Ball," mused Richard, "and if he would only give his word to be true, I know he would be. The difficulty will be, who is to get the promise from him?"
"I will," said Mr. Carlyle. "I will so far pave the way for you. That done, my interference is over."
"How will he go about it, think you, if he does take it up?"
"That is his affair. I know how I should."
"You cannot expect me to say, Richard. I might as well act for you."
"I know. You'd go at it slap-dash, and arrest Levison offhand on the charge."
A smile parted Mr. Carlyle's lips, for Dick had just guessed it. But his countenance gave no clue by which anything could be gathered.
A thought flashed across Richard's mind; a thought which rose up on end even his false hair. "Mr. Carlyle," he uttered, in an accent of horror, "if Ball should take it up in that way against Levison, he must apply to the bench for a warrant."
"Well?" quietly returned Mr. Carlyle.
"And they'd send and clap me into prison. You know the warrant is always out against me."
"You'd never make a conjurer, Richard. I don't pretend to say, or guess at, what Ball's proceedings may be. But, in applying to the bench for a warrant against Levison—should that form part of them—is there any necessity for him to bring you in—to say: 'Gentlemen, Richard Hare is within reach, ready to be taken?' Your fears run away with your common sense, Richard."
"Ah, well, if you had lived with the cord around your neck this many a year, not knowing any one hour but it might get tied the next, you'd lose your common sense, too, at times," humbly sighed poor Richard. "What's to be my first move, sir?"
"Your first move, Richard, must be to go to this place of concealment, which you know of, and remain quiet there until Monday. On Monday, at dusk, be here again. Meanwhile, I will see Ball. By the way, though, before speaking to Ball, I must hear from yourself that Thorn and Levison are one."
"I will go down to the Raven at once," eagerly cried Richard. "I'll come back here, to this walk, as soon as I have obtained sight of him." With the last words he turned, and was speeding off, when Barbara caught him.
"You will be so tired, Richard."
"Tired!" echoed Richard Hare. "A hundred miles on foot would not tire me if Thorn was at the end of them, waiting to be identified. I may not be back for two or three hours, but I will come, and wait here till you come out to me."
"You must be hungry and thirsty," returned Barbara, the tears in her eyes. "How I wish we dare have you in, and shelter you. But I can manage to bring some refreshments out here."
"I don't require it, Barbara. I left the train at the station next before West Lynne, and dropped into a roadside public house as I walked, and got a good supper. Let me go, dear, I am all in a fever."
Richard departed, reached the part of West Lynne where the Raven was situated, and was so far favored by fortune that he had not long to wait. Scarcely had he taken up his lounge outside, when two gentlemen came forth from it, arm-in-arm. Being the headquarters of one of the candidates, the idlers of the place thought they could not do better than make it their headquarters also, and the road and pavement were never free from loitering starers and gossipers. Richard Hare, his hat well over his eyes, and his black ringlets made the most of, only added one to the rest.
Two gentlemen came forth, arm-in-arm. The loiterers raised a feeble shout of "Levison forever!" Richard did not join in the shout, but his pulses were beating, and his heart leaped up within him. The one was Thorn; the other the gentleman he had seen with Thorn in London, pointed out to him—as he had believed—as Sir Francis Levison.
"Which of those two is Levison?" he inquired of a man near whom he stood.
"Don't you know him? Him with the hat off, bowing his thanks to us, is Levison."
No need to inquire further. It was the Thorn of Richard's memory. His ungloved hand, raised to his hat, was as white as ever; more sparkling than ever, as it flashed in the street gaslight, was the diamond ring. By the hand and ring alone Richard would have sworn to the man, had it been needful.
"Who is the other one?" he continued.
"Some gent as came down from London with him. His name's Drake. Be you yellow, sailor, or be you scarlet-and-purple?"
"I am neither. I am only a stranger, passing through the town."
"On the tramp?"
"Tramp? No." And Richard moved away, to make the best of his progress to East Lynne and report to Mr. Carlyle.
Now it happened, on that windy night, that Lady Isabel, her mind disordered, her brow fevered with its weight of care, stole out into the grounds, after the children had left her for the night, courting any discomfort she might meet. As if they could, even for a moment, cool the fire within! To the solitude of this very covered walk bent she her steps; and, not long had she paced it, when she descried some man advancing, in the garb of a sailor. Not caring to be seen, she turned short off amidst the trees, intending to emerge again when he had passed. She wondered who he was, and what brought him there.
But he did not pass. He lingered in the walk, keeping her a prisoner. A minute more and she saw him joined by Mrs. Carlyle. They met with a loving embrace.
Embrace a strange man? Mrs. Carlyle? All the blood in Lady Isabel's body rushed to her brain. Was she, his second wife, false to him—more shamelessly false than even herself had been, inasmuch as she had had the grace to quit him and East Lynne before—as the servant girls say, when they change their sweethearts—"taking up" with another? The positive conviction that such was the case seized firm hold upon her fancy; her thoughts were in a tumult, her mind was a chaos. Was there any small corner of rejoicing in her heart that it was so? And yet, what was it to her? It could not alter by one iota her own position—it could not restore to her the love she had forfeited.
Coupled lovingly together, they were now sauntering up the walk, the sailor's arm thrown round the waist of Mrs. Carlyle. "Oh! The shameless woman!" Ay; she could be bitter enough upon graceless doings when enacted by another.
But, what was her astonishment when she saw Mr. Carlyle advance, and that his appearance caused not the slightest change in their gracelessness, for the sailor's arm was not withdrawn. Two or three minutes they stood—the three—talking together in a group. Then the good-nights were exchanged, the sailor left them, and Mr. Carlyle, his own arm lovingly pressed where the other's had been, withdrew with his wife. The truth—that it was Barbara's brother—dashed to the mind of Lady Isabel.
"Was I mad?" she cried, with a hollow laugh. "She false to him? No, no; that fate was reserved for me alone!"
She followed them to the house—she glanced in at the windows of the drawing-room. Lights and fire were in the room, but the curtains and windows were not closed for the night, for it was through those windows that Mr. Carlyle and his wife had passed in and out on their visits to the covered walk. There they were, alone in their happiness, and she stopped to glance in upon it. Lord Mount Severn had departed for London, to be down again early in the week. The tea was on the table, but Barbara had not begun to make it. She sat on the sofa, by the fire, her face, with its ever loving gaze upon it, turned up to her husband's. He stood near, was talking with apparent earnestness, and looking down at Barbara. Another moment, and a smile crossed his lips, the same sweet smile so often bent upon her in the bygone days. Yes, they were together in their unclouded happiness, and she—she turned away toward her own lonely sitting-room, sick and faint at heart.
Ball & Treadman, as the brass plate on their office door intimated, were conveyancers and attorneys at law. Mr. Treadman, who attended chiefly to the conveyancing, lived at the office, with his family. Mr. Ball, a bachelor, lived away; Lawyer Ball, West Lynne styled him. Not a young bachelor; midway, he may have been between forty and fifty. A short stout man, with a keen face and green eyes. He took up any practice that was brought to him—dirty odds and ends that Mr. Carlyle would not have touched with his toe—but, as that gentleman had remarked, he could be honest and true upon occasion, and there was no doubt that he would be so to Richard Hare. To his house, on Monday morning, early, so as to catch him before he went out, proceeded Mr. Carlyle. A high respect for Mr. Carlyle had Lawyer Ball, as he had had for his father before him. Many a good turn had the Carlyles done him, if only helping him and his partner to clients whom they were too fastidious to take up. But the two, Mr. Carlyle and Lawyer Ball did not rank alike, though their profession was the same; Lawyer Ball knew that they did not, and was content to feel humble. The one was a received gentleman; the other was a country attorney.
Lawyer Ball was at breakfast when Mr. Carlyle was shown in.
"Halloo, Carlyle! You are here betimes."
"Sit still; don't disturb yourself. Don't ring; I have breakfasted."
"The most delicious pate de foie," urged Lawyer Ball, who was a regular gourmand. "I get 'em direct from Strasbourg."
Mr. Carlyle resisted the offered dainty with a smile. "I have come on business," said he, "not to feast. Before I enter upon it, you will give me your word, Ball, that my communication shall be held sacred, in the event of your not consenting to pursue it further."
"Certainly I will. What business is it? Some that offends the delicacy of the Carlyle office?" he added, with a laugh. "A would-be client whom you turn over to me in your exclusiveness?"
"It is a client for whom I cannot act. But not from the motives you assume. It concerns that affair of Hallijohn's," Mr. Carlyle continued, bending forward, and somewhat dropping his voice. "The murder."
Lawyer Ball, who had just taken in a delicious bonne bouche of the foie gras, bolted it whole in his surprise. "Why, that was enacted ages and ages ago; it is past and done with," he exclaimed.
"Not done with," said Mr. Carlyle. "Circumstances have come to light which tend to indicate that Richard Hare was innocent—that it was another who committed the murder."
"In conjunction with him?" interrupted the attorney.
"No: alone. Richard Hare had nothing whatever to do with it. He was not even present at the time."
"Do you believe that?" asked Lawyer Ball.
"I have believed it for years."
"Then who did do it?"
"Richard accuses one of the name of Thorn. Many years back—ten at least—I had a meeting with Richard Hare, and he disclosed certain facts to me, which if correct, could not fail to prove that he was not guilty. Since that period this impression has been gradually confirmed by little and by little, trifle upon trifle and I would now stake my life upon his innocence. I should long ago have moved in this matter, hit or miss, could I have lighted upon Thorn, but he was not to be found, neither any clue to him, and we now know that this name, Thorn, was an assumed one."
"Is he to be found?"
"He is found. He is at West Lynne. Mark you, I don't accuse him—I do not offer an opinion upon his guilt—I only state my belief in Richard's innocence; it may have been another who did it, neither Richard nor Thorn. It was my firm intention to take Richard's case up, the instant I saw my way clearly in it, and now that that time has come I am debarred from doing so."
"What debars you?"
"Hence I come to you," continued Mr. Carlyle, disregarding the question. "I come on the part of Richard Hare. I have seen him lately, and conversed with him. I gave him my reasons for not personally acting, advised him to apply to you, and promised to come here and open the matter. Will you see Richard in good faith, and hear his story, giving the understanding that he shall depart unmolested, as he came, although you do not decide to entertain the business?"
"I'll give it with all the pleasure in life," freely returned the attorney. "I'm sure I don't want to harm poor Dick Hare, and if he can convince me of his innocence, I'll do my best to establish it."
"Of his own tale you must be the judge. I do not wish to bias you. I have stated my belief in his innocence, but I repeat that I give no opinion myself as to who else may be guilty. Hear his account, and then take up the affair or not, as you may think fit. He would not come to you without your previous promise to hold him harmless; to be his friend, in short, for the time being. When I bear this promise to him for you, my part is done."
"I give it to you in all honor, Carlyle. Tell Dick he has nothing to fear from me. Quite the contrary; for if I can befriend him, I shall be glad to do it, and I won't spare trouble. What can possibly be your objection to act for him?"
"My objection applies not to Richard. I would willingly appear for him, but I will not take proceedings against the man he accuses. If that man is to be denounced and brought before justice, I will hold neither act nor part in it."
The words aroused the curiosity of Lawyer Ball, and he began to turn over all persons, likely and unlikely, in his mind, never, according to usage, giving a suspicion to the right one. "I cannot fathom you, Carlyle."
"You will do that better, possibly, when Richard shall have made his disclosure."
"It's—it's—never his own father that he accuses? Justice Hare?"
"Your wits must be wool-gathering, Ball."
"Well, so they must, to give utterance to so preposterous a notion," acquiesced the attorney, pushing back his chair and throwing his breakfast napkin on the carpet. "But I don't know a soul you could object to go against except the justice. What's anybody else in West Lynne to you, in comparison to restoring Dick Hare to his fair fame? I give it up."
"So do I, for the present," said Mr. Carlyle, as he rose. "And now, about the ways and means for your meeting this poor fellow. Where can you see him?"
"Is he at West Lynne?"
"No. But I can get a message conveyed to him, and he could come."
"To-night, if you like."
"Then let him come here to this house. He will be perfectly safe."
"So be it. My part is now over," concluded Mr. Carlyle. And with a few more preliminary words, he departed. Lawyer Ball looked after him.
"It's a queer business. One would think Dick accuses some old flame of Carlyle's—some demoiselle or dame he daren't go against."