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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWhat Will He Do With It - Book 10 - Chapter 5
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What Will He Do With It - Book 10 - Chapter 5 Post by :golferboy Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :2669

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What Will He Do With It - Book 10 - Chapter 5

BOOK X CHAPTER V

NO WIND SO CUTTING AS THAT WHICH SETS IN THE QUARTER FROM WHICH THE SUN RISES.

The town to which I lend the disguising name of Ouzelford, which, in years bygone, was represented by Guy Darrell, and which, in years to come, may preserve in its municipal hall his effigies in canvas or stone, is one of the handsomest in England. As you approach its suburbs from the London Road, it rises clear and wide upon your eye, crowning the elevated table-land upon which it is built;--a noble range of prospect on either side, rich with hedgerows not yet sacrificed to the stern demands of modern agriculture--venerable woodlands, and the green pastures round many a rural thane's frank, hospitable hall;--no one Great House banishing from leagues of landscape the abodes of knight and squire, nor menacing, with "the legitimate influence of property," the votes of rebellious burghers. Everywhere, like finger-posts to heaven, you may perceive the church-towers of rural hamlets embosomed in pleasant valleys, or climbing up gentle slopes. At the horizon, the blue fantastic outline of girdling hills mingles with the clouds. A famous old cathedral, neighboured by the romantic ivy-grown walls of a ruined castle, soars up from the centre of the town, and dominates the whole survey--calm, as with conscious power. Nearing the town, the villas of merchants and traders, released perhaps from business, skirt the road, with trim gardens and shaven lawns. Now the small river, or rather rivulet, of Ouzel, from which the town takes its name, steals out from deep banks covered with brushwood or aged trees, and widening into brief importance, glides under the arches of an ancient bridge; runs on, clear and shallow, to refresh low fertile dairy-meadows, dotted with kine; and finally quits the view, as brake and copse close round its narrowing, winding way; and that which, under the city bridge, was an imposing noiseless stream, becomes, amidst rustic solitudes, an insignificant babbling brook.

From one of the largest villas in these charming suburbs came forth a gentleman, middle-aged, and of a very mild and prepossessing countenance. A young lady without a bonnet, but a kerchief thrown over her sleek dark hair, accompanied him to the garden-gate, twining both hands affectionately round his arm, and entreating him not to stand in thorough draughts and catch cold, nor to step into puddles and wet his feet, and to be sure to be back before dark, as there were such shocking accounts in the newspapers of persons robbed and garotted even in the most populous highways; and, above all, not to listen to the beggars in the street, and allow himself to be taken in; and before finally releasing him at the gate, she buttoned his greatcoat up to his chin, thrust two pellets of cotton into his ears, and gave him a parting kiss. Then she watched him tenderly for a minute or so as he strode on with the step of a man who needed not all those fostering admonitions and coddling cares.

As soon as he was out of sight of the lady and the windows of the villa, the gentleman cautiously unbuttoned his greatcoat, and removed the cotton from his ears. "She takes much after her mother, does Anna Maria," muttered the gentleman; "and I am very glad she is so well married."

He had not advanced many paces when, from a branchroad to the right that led to the railway station, another gentleman, much younger, and whose dress unequivocally bespoke him a minister of our Church, came suddenly upon him. Each with surprise recognised the other.

"What!--Mr. George Morley!"

"Mr. Hartopp!--How are you, my dear sir?--What brings you so far from home?"

"I am on a visit to my daughter, Anna Maria. She has not been long married--to young Jessop. Old Jessop is one of the principal merchants at Ouzelford--very respectable worthy family. The young couple are happily settled in a remarkably snug villa--that is it with the portico, not a hundred yards behind us, to the right. Very handsome town, Ouzelford; you are bound to it, of course?--we can walk together. I am going to look at the papers in the City Rooms--very fine rooms they are. But you are straight from London, perhaps, and have seen the day's journals? Any report of the meeting in aid of the Ragged Schools?"

"Not that I know of. I have not come from London this morning, nor seen the papers."

"Oh!--there's a strange-looking fellow following us; but perhaps he is your servant?"

"Not so, but my travelling companion--indeed my guide. In fact, I come to Ouzelford in the faint hope of discovering there a poor old friend of mine, of whom I have long been in search."

"Perhaps the Jessops can help you; they know everybody at Ouzelford. But now I meet you thus by surprise, Mr. George, I should very much like to ask your advice on a matter which has been much on my mind the last twenty-four hours, and which concerns a person I contrived to discover at Ouzelford, though I certainly was not in search of him--a person about whom you and I had a conversation a few years ago, when you were staying with your worthy father."

"Eh?" said George, quickly; "whom do you speak of?" "That singular vagabond who took me in, you remember--called himself Chapman--real name William Losely, a returned convict. You would have it that he was innocent, though the man himself had pleaded guilty on his trial."

"His whole character belied his lips then. Oh, Mr. Hartopp, that man commit the crime imputed to him!--a planned, deliberate robbery--an ungrateful, infamous breach of trust! That man--that! he who rejects the money he does not earn, even when pressed on him by anxious imploring friends--he who has now gone voluntarily forth, aged and lonely, to wring his bread from the humblest calling rather than incur the risk of injuring the child with whose existence he had charged himself!--the dark midnight thief! Believe him not, though his voice may say it. To screen, perhaps, some other man, he is telling you a noble lie. But what of him? Have you really seen him, and at Ouzelford?"

"Yes."

"When?"

"Yesterday. I was in the City Reading-Room, looking out of the window. I saw a great white dog in the street below; I knew the dog at once, sir, though he is disguised by restoration to his natural coat, and his hair is as long as a Peruvian lama's. ''Tis Sir Isaac,' said I to myself; and behind Sir Isaac I saw Chapman, so to call him, carrying a basket with pedlar's wares, and, to my surprise, Old Jessop, who is a formal man, with a great deal of reserve and dignity, pompous indeed (but don't let that go further), talking to Chapman quite affably, and actually buying something out of the basket. Presently Chapman went away, and was soon lost to sight. Jessop comes into the Reading-Room. 'I saw you,' said I, 'talking to an old fellow with a French dog.' 'Such a good old fellow,' said Jessop; 'has a way about him that gets into your very heart while he is talking. I should like to make you acquainted with him.' 'Thank you for nothing,' said I; 'I should be-taken in.' 'Never fear,' says Jessop, 'he would not take in a fly--the simplest creature.' I own I chuckled at that, Mr. George. 'And does he live here,' said I, 'or is he merely a wandering pedlar?' Then Jessop told me that he had seen him for the first time two or three weeks ago, and accosted him rudely, looking on him as a mere tramp; but Chapman answered so well, and showed so many pretty things in his basket, that Jessop soon found himself buying a pair of habit-cuffs for Anna Maria, and in the course of talk it came out, I suppose by a sign, that Chapman was a Freemason, and Jessop is an enthusiast in that sort of nonsense, master of a lodge or something, and that was a new attraction. In short, Jessop took a great fancy to him--patronised him, promised him protection, and actually recommended him to a lodging in the cottage of all old widow who lives in the outskirts of the town, and had once been a nurse in the Jessop family. And what do you think Jessop had just bought of this simple creature'! A pair of worsted mittens as a present for me, and what is more, I have got them on this moment-look! neat, I think, and monstrous warm. Now, I have hitherto kept my own counsel. I have not said to Jessop, 'Beware--that is the man who took me in.' But this concealment is a little on my conscience. On the one hand, it seems very cruel, even if the man did once commit a crime, in spite of your charitable convictions to the contrary, that I should be blabbing out his disgrace, and destroying perhaps his livelihood. On the other hand, if he should still be really a rogue, a robber, perhaps dangerous, ought I--ought I--in short--you are a clergyman and a fine scholar, sir-what ought I to do?"

"My dear Mr. Hartopp, do not vex yourself with this very honourable dilemma of conscience. Let me only find my poor old friend, my benefactor I may call him, and I hope to persuade him, if not to return to the home that waits him, at least to be my guest, or put himself under my care. Do you know the name of the widow with whom he lodges?"

"Yes--Halse; and I know the town well enough to conduct you, if not to the house itself, still to its immediate neighbourhood. Pray allow me to accompany you; I should like it very much--for, though you may not think it, from the light way I have been talking of Chapman, I never was so interested in any man, never so charmed by any man; and it has often haunted me at night, thinking that I behaved too harshly to him, and that he was about on the wide world, an outcast, deprived of his little girl, whom he had trusted to me. And I should have run after him yesterday, or called on him this morning, and said, 'Let me serve you,' if it had not been for the severity with which he and his son were spoken of, and I myself rebuked for mentioning their very names, by a man whose opinion I, and indeed all the country, must hold in the highest respect--a man of the finest honour, the weightiest character--I mean Guy Darrell, the great Darrell."

George Morley sighed. "I believe Darrell knows nothing of the elder Losely, and is prejudiced against him by the misdeeds of the younger, to whose care you (and I cannot blame you, for I also was instrumental to the same transfer which might have proved calamitously fatal) surrendered the poor motherless girl."

"She is not with her grandfather now'! She lives still, I hope! She was very delicate."

"She lives--she is safe. Ha--take care!"

These last words were spoken as a horseman, riding fast along the road towards the bridge that was now close at hand, came, without warning or heed, so close upon our two pedestrians, that George Morley had but just time to pluck Hartopp aside from the horse's hoofs.

"An impudent, careless, ruffianly fellow, indeed!" said the mild Hartopp, indignantly, as he brushed from his sleeve the splash of dirt which the horseman bequeathed to it. "He must be drunk!"

The rider, gaining the bridge, was there detained at the toll-bar by some carts and waggons, and the two gentlemen passed him on the bridge, looking with some attention at his gloomy, unobservant countenance, and the powerful fraune, in which, despite coarse garments and the change wrought by years of intemperate excess, was still visible the trace of that felicitous symmetry once so admirably combining herculean strength with elastic elegance. Entering the town, the rider turned into the yard of the near est inn. George Morley and Hartopp, followed at a little distance by Morley's travelling companion, Merle, passed on towards the other extremity of the town, and, after one or two inquiries for "Widow Halse, Prospect Row," they came to a few detached cottages, very prettily situated on a gentle hill, commanding in front the roofs of the city and the gleaming windows of the great cathedral, with somewhat large gardens in the rear. Mrs. Halse's dwelling was at the extreme end of this Row. The house, however, was shut up; and a woman, who was standing at the door of the neighbouring cottage, plaiting straw, informed the visitors that Mrs. Halse was gone out "charing" for the day, and that her lodger, who had his own key, seldom returned before dark, but that at that hour he was pretty sure to be found in the Cornmarket or the streets in its vicinity, and offered to send her little boy to discover and "fetch" him.

George consulted apart with Merle, and decided on despatching the cobbler, with the boy for his guide, in quest of the pedlar, Merle being of course instructed not to let out by whom he was accompanied, lest Waife, in his obstinacy, should rather abscond than encounter the friends from whom he had fled. Merle, and a curly-headed urchin, who seemed delighted at the idea of hunting up Sir Isaac and Sir Isaac's master, set forth, and were soon out of sight. Hartopp and George opened the little garden-gate, and strolled into the garden at the back of the cottage, to seat themselves patiently on a bench beneath an old appletree. Here they waited and conversed some minutes, till George observed that one of the casements on that side of the cottage was left open, and, involuntarily rising, he looked in; surveying with interest the room, which he felt sure, at the first glance, must be that occupied by his self-exiled friend; a neat pleasant little room-a bullfinch in a wicker cage on a ledge within the casement-a flower-pot beside it. Doubtless the window, which faced the southern sun, had been left open by the kind old man in order to cheer the bird and to gladden the plant. Waife's well-known pipe, and a tobacco-pouch worked for him by Sophys fairy fingers, lay on a table near the fireplace, between casement and door; and George saw with emotion the Bible which he himself had given to the wanderer lying also on the table, with the magnifying-glass which Waife had of late been obliged to employ in reading. Waife's habitual neatness was visible in the aspect of the room. To George it was evident that the very chairs had been arranged by his hand; that his hand had courteously given that fresh coat of varnish to the wretched portrait of a man in blue coat and buff waistcoat, representing, no doubt, the lamented spouse of the hospitable widow. George beckoned to Hartopp to come also and look within; and as the worthy trader peeped over his shoulder, the clergyman said, whisperingly, "Is there not something about a man's home which attests his character?--No 'pleading guilty' here."

Hartopp was about to answer, when they heard the key turn sharply in the outer door, and had scarcely time to draw somewhat back from the casement when Waife came hurriedly into the room, followed, not by Merle, but by the tall rough-looking horseman whom they had encountered on the road. "Thank Heaven," cried Waife, sinking on a chair, "out of sight, out of hearing now! Now you may speak; now I can listen! O wretched son of my lost angel, whom I so vainly sought to save by the sacrifice of all my claims to the respect of men, for what purpose do you seek me? I have nothing left that you can take away! Is it the child again? See--see--look round-search the house if you will--she is not here."

"Bear with me, if you can, sir," said Jasper, in tones that were almost meek; "you, at least, can say nothing that I will not bear. But I am in my right when I ask you to tell me, without equivocation or reserve, if Sophy, though not actually within these walls, be near you, in this town or its neighbourhood?--in short, still under your protection?"

"Not in this town--not near it--not under my protection; I swear."

"Do not swear, father; I have no belief in other men's oaths. I believe your simple word. Now comes my second question--remember I am still strictly in my right--where is she?--and under whose care?"

"I will not say. One reason why I have abandoned the very air she breathes was, that you might not trace her in tracing me. But she is out of your power again to kidnap and to sell. You might molest, harass, shame her, by proclaiming yourself her father; but regain her into your keeping, cast her to infamy and vice--never, never! She is now with no powerless, miserable convict, for whom Law has no respect. She is now no helpless infant without a choice, without a will. She is safe from all, save the wanton, unprofitable effort to disgrace her. O Jasper, Jasper, be human--she is so delicate of frame--she is so sensitive to reproach, so tremulously alive to honour--I am not fit to be near her now. I have been a tricksome, shifty vagrant, and, innocent though I be, the felon's brand is on me! But you, you too, who never loved her, who cannot miss her, whose heart is not breaking at her loss as mine is now--you, you--to rise up from the reeking pesthouse in which you have dwelt by choice, and say, 'Descend from God's day with me'--Jasper, Jasper, you will not--you cannot; it would be the malignity of a devil!"

"Father, hold!" cried Jasper, writhing and livid; "I owe to you more than I do to that thing of pink and white. I know better than you the trumpery of all those waxen dolls of whom dupes make idols. At each turn of the street you may find them in basketfuls--blue-eyed or black-eyed, just the same worthless frippery or senseless toys; but every man dandling his own doll, whether he call it sweetheart or daughter, makes the same puling boast that he has an angel of purity in his puppet of wax. Nay, hear me! to that girl I owe nothing. You know what I owe to you. You bid me not seek her, and say, 'I am your father.' Do you think it does not misbecome me more, and can it wound you less, when I come to you, and remind you that I am your son!"

"Jasper!" faltered the old man, turning his face aside, for the touch of feeling towards himself, contrasting the cynicism with which Jasper spoke of other ties not less sacred, took the father by surprise.

"And," continued Jasper, "remembering how you once loved me--with what self-sacrifice you proved that love--it is with a bitter grudge against that girl that I see her thus take that place in your affection which was mine,--and you so indignant against me if I even presume to approach her. What! I have the malignity of a devil because I would not quietly lie down in yonder kennels to starve, or sink into the grade of those whom your daintier thief disclaims; spies into unguarded areas, or cowardly skulkers by blind walls; while in the paltry girl, who you say is so well provided for, I see the last and sole resource which may prevent you from being still more degraded, still more afflicted by your son."

"What is it you want? Even if Sophy were in your power, Darrell would not be more disposed to enrich or relieve you. He will never believe your tale, nor deign even to look into its proofs."

"He might at last," said Jasper, evasively. "Surely with all that wealth, no nearer heir than a remote kinsman in the son of a beggared spendthrift by a linendraper's daughter--he should need a grandchild more than you do; yet the proofs you speak of convinced yourself; you believe my tale."

"Believe--yes, for that belief was everything in the world, to me! Ah, remember how joyously, when my term of sentence expired, I hastened to seek you at Paris, deceived by the rare letters with which you had deigned to cheer me--fondly dreaming that, in expiating your crime, I should have my reward in your redemption--should live to see you honoured, honest, good--live to think your mother watched us from heaven with a smile on both--and that we should both join her at last--you purified by my atonement! Oh, and when I saw you so sunken, so hardened, exulting in vice as in a glory--bravo and partner in a gambler's hell--or, worse still, living on the plunder of miserable women, even the almsman of that vile Desmarets--my son, my son, my lost Lizzy's son blotted out of my world for ever!--then, then I should have died if you had not said, boasting of the lie which had wrung the gold from Darrell, 'But the child lives still.' Believe you--oh, yes, yes--for in that belief something was still left to me to cherish, to love, to live for!"

Here the old man's hurried voice died away in a passionate sob; and the direful son, all reprobate though he was, slid from his chair, and bowed himself at his father's knee, covering his face with fell hands that trembled. "Sir, sir," he said, in broken reverential accents, "do not let me see you weep. You cannot believe me, but I say solemnly that, if there be in me a single remnant of affection for any human being, it is for you. When I consented to leave you to bear the sentence which should have fallen on myself, sure I am that I was less basely selfish than absurdly vain. I fancied myself so born to good fortune!--so formed to captivate some rich girl!--and that you would return to share wealth with me; that the evening of your days would be happy; that you would be repaid by my splendour for your own disgrace! And when I did marry, and did ultimately get from the father-in-law who spurned me the capital of his daughter's fortune, pitifully small though it was compared to my expectations, my first idea was to send half of that sum to you. But--but--I was living with those who thought nothing so silly as a good intention--nothing so bad as a good action. That mocking she-devil, Gabrielle, too! Then the witch's spell of that d----d green-table! Luck against one-wait! double the capital ere you send the half. Luck with one--how balk the tide? how fritter the capital just at the turn of doubling? Soon it grew irksome even to think of you; yet still when I did, I said, 'Life is long, I shall win riches; he shall share them some day or other!'--_Basta, basta_!--what idle twaddle or hollow brag all this must seem to you!"

"No," said Wife, feebly, and his hand drooped till it touched Jasper's bended shoulder, but at the touch recoiled as with an electric spasm.

"So, as you say, you found me at Paris. I told you where I had placed the child, not conceiving that Arabella would part with her, or you desire to hamper yourself with an encumbrance-nay, I took for granted that you would find a home as before with some old friend or country cousin:--but fancying that your occasional visits to her might comfort you, since it seemed to please you so much when I said she lived. Thus we parted,--you, it seems, only anxious to save that child from ever falling into my hands, or those of Gabrielle Desmarets; I hastening to forget all but the riotous life around me till--"

"Till you came back to England to rob from me the smile of the only face that I knew would never wear contempt, and to tell the good man with whom I thought she had so safe a shelter that I was a convicted robber, by whose very love her infancy was sullied. O Jasper! Jasper!"

"I never said that--never thought of saying it. Arabella Crane did so, with the reckless woman-will to gain her object. But I did take the child from you. Why? Partly because I needed money so much that I would have sold a hecatomb of children for half what I was offered to bind the girl to a service that could not be very dreadful, since yourself had first placed here there;--and partly because you had shrunk, it seems, from appealing to old friends: you were living, like myself, from hand to mouth; what could that child be to you but a drag and a bother?"

"And you will tell me, I suppose," said Waife, with an incredulous, bitter irony, that seemed to wither himself in venting it, so did his whole frame recoil and shrink--"you will tell me that it was from the same considerate tenderness that you would have again filched her from me some months later, to place her with that 'she-devil' who was once more by your side; to be reared and sold to--O horror!--horror!--unimaginable horror!--that pure helpless infant!--you, armed with the name of father!--you, strong in that mighty form of man!"

"What do you mean? Oh, I remember now! When Gabrielle was in London, and I had seen you on the bridge? Who could have told you that I meant to get the child from you at that time?"

Waife was silent. He could not betray Arabella Crane; and Jasper looked perplexed and thoughtful. Then gradually the dreadful nature of his father's accusing words seemed to become more clear to him; and he cried, with a fierce start and a swarthy flush: "But whoever told you that I harboured the design that it whitens your lip to hint at, lied, and foully. Harkye, sir, many years ago Gabrielle had made acquaintance with Darrell, under another name, as Matilda's friend (long story now--not worth telling); he had never, I believe, discovered the imposture. Just at the time you refer to, I heard that Darrell had been to France, inquiring himself into facts connected with my former story, that Matilda's child was dead. That very inquiry seemed to show that he had not been so incredulous of my assertions of Sophy's claims on him as he had affected to be when I urged them. He then went on into Italy. Talking this over with Gabrielle, she suggested that, if the child could be got into her possession, she would go with her in search of Darrell, resuming the name in which she had before known him--resuming the title and privilege of Matilda's friend. In that character he might listen to her, when he would not to me. She might confirm my statement--melt his heart--coax him into terms. She was the cleverest creature! I should have sold Sophy, it is true. For what? A provision to place me above want and crime. Sold her to whom? To the man who would see in her his daughter's child, rear her to inherit his wealth--guard her as his own honour. What! was this the design that so shocks you? _Basta, Basta! Again, I say, Enough. I never thought I should be so soft as to mutter excuses for what I have done. And if I do so now, the words seem forced from me against my will-forced from me, as if in seeing you I was again but a wild, lawless, wilful boy, who grieved to see you saddened by his faults, though he forgot his grief the moment you were out of sight."

"Oh, Jasper," cried Waife, now fairly placing his hand on Jasper's guilty head, and fixing his bright soft eye, swimming in tears, on that downcast gloomy face. "You repent!--you repent! Yes; call back your BOYHOOD--call it back! Let it stand before you, now, visible, palpable! Lo! I see it! Do not you? Fearless, joyous Image! Wild, lawless, wilful, as you say. Wild from exuberant life; lawless as a bird is free, because air is boundless to untried exulting wings; wilful from the ease with which the bravery and beauty of Nature's radiant Darling forced way for each jocund whim through our yielding hearts! Silence! It is there! I see it, as I saw it rise in the empty air when guilt and ignominy first darkened round you; and my heart cried aloud, 'Not on him, not on him, not on that glorious shape of hope and promise--on me, whose life, useless hitherto, has lost all promise now--on me let fall the shame.' And my lips obeyed my heart, and I said--'Let the Laws' will be done--I am the guilty man.' Cruel, cruel one! Was that sunny Boyhood then so long departed from you? On the verge of youth, and such maturity in craft and fraud--that when you stole into my room that dark winter eve, threw yourself at my feet, spoke but of thoughtless debts, and the fear that you should be thrust from an industrious honest calling, and I--I said, 'No, no; fear not; the head of your firm likes you; he has written to me; I am trying already to raise the money you need; it shall be raised, no matter what it cost me; you shall be saved; my Lizzie's son shall never know the soil of a prison; shun temptation henceforth: be but honest, and I shall be repaid!'--what, even then, you were coldly meditating the crime that will make my very grave dishonoured!"

"Meditating--not so! How could I be? Not till after what had thus passed between us, when you spoke with such indulgent kindness, did I even know that I might more than save myself--by monies--not raised at risk and loss to you! Remember, you had left me in the inner room, while you went forth to speak with Gunston. There I overheard him talk of notes he had never counted, and might never miss; describe the very place where they were kept; and then the idea came to me irresistibly, 'better rob him than despoil my own generous father.' Sir, I am not pretending to be better than I was. I was not quite the novice you supposed. Coveting pleasures or shows not within my reach, I had shrunk from draining you to supply the means; I had not had the same forbearance for the superfluous wealth of others. I had learned with what simple tools old locks may fly open; and none had ever suspected me, so I had no fear of danger, small need of premeditation: a nail on your mantelpiece, the cloven end of the hammer lying beside, to crook it when hot from the fire that blazed before me! I say this to show you that I did not come provided; nothing was planned beforehand; all was the project and work of the moment. Such was my haste, I burnt myself to the bone with the red iron--feeling no pain, or rather, at that age, bearing all pain without wincing. Before Gunston left you, my whole plan was then arranged--my sole instrument fashioned. You groan. But how could I fancy that there would be detection? How imagine that even if monies, never counted, were missed, suspicion could fall on you--better gentleman than he whom you served? And had it not been for that accursed cloak which you so fondly wrapped round me when I set off to catch the night train back to--; if it had not been, I say, for that cloak, there could have been no evidence to criminate either you or me-except that unlucky L5 note, which I pressed on you when we met at ----, where I was to hide till you had settled with my duns. And why did I press it on you?--because you had asked me if I had wherewithal about me on which to live meanwhile; and I, to save you from emptying your own purse, said, 'Yes'; showed you some gold, and pressed on you the bank-note, which I said I could not want--to go, in small part, towards my debts; it was a childish, inconsistent wish to please you: and you seemed so pleased to take it as a proof that I cared for you."

"For me!--no, no; for honour--for honour--for honour! I thought you cared for honour; and the proof of that care was, thrusting into these credulous hands the share of your midnight plunder!"

"Sir," resumed Jasper, persisting in the same startling combination of feeling, gentler and more reverential than could have been supposed to linger in his breast, and of the moral obtuseness that could not, save by vanishing glimpses, distinguish between crime and its consequences--between dishonour and detection--"Sir, I declare that I never conceived that I was exposing you to danger; nay, I meant, out of the money I had taken, to replace to you what you were about to raise, as soon as I could invent some plausible story of having earned it honestly. Stupid notions and clumsy schemes, as I now look back on them; but, as you say, I had not long left boyhood, and, fancying myself deep and knowing, was raw in the craft I had practised. _Basta, basta, basta!_"

Jasper, who had risen from his knees while speaking, here stamped heavily on the floor, as if with anger at the heart-stricken aspect of his silenced father; and continued with a voice that seemed struggling to regain its old imperious, rollicking, burly swell.

"What is done cannot be undone. Fling it aside, sir--look to the future; you with your pedlar's pack, I with my empty pockets! What can save you from the workhouse--me from the hulks or gibbet? I know not, unless the persons sheltering that girl will buy me off by some provision which may be shared between us. Tell me, then, where she is; leave me to deal in the business as I best may. Pooh! why so scared? I will neither terrify nor kidnap her. I will shuffle off the crust of blackguard that has hardened round me. I will be sleek and smooth, as if I were still the exquisite Lothario--copied by would-be rufflers, and spoiled by willing beauties. Oh, I can still play the gentleman, at least for an hour or two, if it be worth my while. Come, sir, come; trust me; out with the secret of this hidden maiden, whose interests should surely weigh not more with you than those of a starving son. What, you will not? Be it so. I suspect that I know where to look for her--on what noble thresholds to set my daring foot; what fair lady, mindful of former days--of girlish friendship--of virgin love--wraps in compassionate luxury Guy Darrell's rejected heiress? Ah, your looks tell me that I am hot on the scent. That fair lady I knew of old; she is rich--I helped to make her so. She owes me something. I will call and remind her of it. And--tut, sir, tut--you shall not go to the workhouse, nor I to the hulks."

Here the old man, hitherto seated, rose-slowly, with feebleness and effort, till he gained his full height; then age, infirmity, and weakness seemed to vanish. In the erect head, the broad massive chest, in the whole presence, there was dignity--there was power.

"Hark to me, unhappy reprobate, and heed me well! To save that child from the breath of disgrace--to place her in what you yourself assured me where her rights amidst those in whose dwellings I lost the privilege to dwell when I took to myself your awful burthen--I thought to resign her charge for ever in this world. Think not that I will fly her now, when you invade. No--since my prayers will not move you--since my sacrifice to you has been so fruitless--since my absence from herself does not attain its end there, where you find her, shall you again meet me! And if there we meet, and you come with the intent to destroy her peace and blast her fortune, then I, William Losely, am no more the felon. In the face of day I will proclaim the truth, and say, 'Robber, change place in earth's scorn with me; stand in the dock, where thy father stood in vain to save thee!"'

"Bah, sir--too late now; who would listen to you?"

"All who have once known me--all will listen. Friends of power and station will take up my cause. There will be fresh inquiry into facts that I held back--evidence that, in pleading guilty, I suppressed--ungrateful one--to ward away suspicion from you."

"Say what you will," said Jasper swaying his massive form to and fro, with a rolling gesture which spoke of cold defiance, "I am no hypocrite in fair repute whom such threats would frighten. If you choose to thwart me in what I always held my last resource for meat and drink, I must stand in the dock even, perhaps, on a heavier charge than one so stale. Each for himself; do your worst--what does it matter?"

"What does it matter that a father should accuse his son! No, no--son, son, son--this must not be;--let it not be!--let me complete my martyrdom! I ask no reversal of man's decree, except before the Divine Tribunal. Jasper, Jasper--child of my love, spare the sole thing left to fill up the chasms in the heart that you laid waste. Speak not of starving, or of fresh crime. Stay--share this refuge! I WILL WORK FOR BOTH!"

Once more, and this time thoroughly, Jasper's hideous levity and coarse bravado gave way before the lingering human sentiment knitting him back to childhood, which the sight and voice of his injured father had called forth with spasms and throes, as a seer calls the long-buried from a grave. And as the old man extended his arms pleadingly towards him, Jasper, with a gasping sound-half groan, half sob-sprang forward, caught both the hands in his own strong grasp, lifted them to his lips, kissed them, and then, gaining the door with a rapid stride, said, in hoarse broken tones: "Share your refuge! no--no--I should break your heart downright did you see me daily--hourly as I am! You work for both!--you--you!" His voice stopped, choked for a brief moment, and then hurried on: "As for that girl--you--you--you are--but no matter, I will try to obey you--will try to wrestle against hunger, despair, and thoughts that whisper sinking men with devils' tongues. I will try--I will try; if I succeed not, keep your threat--accuse me--give me up to justice--clear yourself; but if you would crush me more than by the heaviest curse, never again speak to me with such dreadful tenderness! Cling not to me, old man; release me, I say;--there--there; off. Ah! I did not hurt you? Brute that I am--you bless me--you--you! And I dare not bless again! Let me go--let me go--let me go!" He wrenched himself away from his father's clasp--drowning with loud tone his father's pathetic soothings--out of the house-down the hill--lost to sight in the shades of the falling eve.

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