Hard Cash, by Charles Reade

Chapter 26

LONG before this open rupture Jane Hardie had asked her father sorrowfully, whether she was to discontinue her intimacy with the Dodds: she thought of course he would say “Yes;” and it cost her a hard struggle between inclination and filial duty to raise the question. But Mr. Hardie was anxious her friendship with that family should continue; it furnished a channel of news, and in case of detection might be useful to avert or soften hostilities; so he answered rather sharply, “On no account: the Dodds are an estimable family: pray be as friendly with them as ever you can.” Jane coloured with pleasure at this most unexpected reply; but her wakeful conscience reminded her, this answer was given in ignorance of her attachment to Edward Dodd, and urged her to confession. But at that Nature recoiled: Edward had not openly declared his love to her; so modest pride, as well as modest shame, combined with female cowardice to hold back the avowal.

So then Miss Tender Conscience tormented herself; and recorded the struggle in her diary; but briefly, and in terms vague and typical; not a word about “a young man”— or “crossed in love”— but one obscure and hasty slap at the carnal affections, and a good deal about “the saints in prison,” and “the battle of Armageddon.”

Yet, to do her justice, laxity of expression did not act upon her conduct and warp that as it does most mystical speakers.

To obey her father to the letter, she maintained a friendly correspondence with Julia Dodd, exchanging letters daily; but, not to disobey him in the spirit, she ceased to visit Albion Villa. Thus she avoided Edward, and extracted from the situation the utmost self-denial, and the least possible amount of “carnal pleasure,” as she naively denominated an interchange of worldly affection, however distant and respectful.

One day she happened to mention her diary, and say it was a present comfort to her, and instructive to review. Julia, catching at every straw of consolation, said she would keep one too, and asked a sight of Jane’s for a model. “No, dear friend,” said Jane: “a diary should be one’s self on paper.”

This was fortunate: it precluded that servile imitation, in which her sex excels even mine; and consequently the two records reflect two good girls, instead of one in two skins; and may be trusted to conduct this narrative forward, and relieve its monotony a little: only, of course, the reader must not expect to see the plot of a story carried minutely out in two crude compositions written with an object so distinct: he must watch for glimpses and make the most of indications. Nor is this an excessive demand upon his intelligence; for, if he cannot do this with a book, how will he do it in real life, where male and female characters reveal their true selves by glimpses only, and the gravest and most dramatic events give the diviner so few and faint signs of their coming?

Extracts from Julia Dodd’s Diary.

“Dec. 5th.— It is all over; they have taken papa away to an asylum: and the house is like a grave, but for our outbursts of sorrow. Just before he went away the medal came — oh no, I cannot. Poor, poor mamma!

“8 P. M. In the midst of our affliction Heaven sent us a ray of comfort: the kindest letter from a lady, a perfect stranger. It came yesterday; but now I have got it to copy: oh, bless it; and the good, kind writer.

“‘DEAR MADAM— I scarcely know whether to hope or to fear that your good husband may have mentioned my name to you: however, he is just the man to pass over both my misbehaviour and his own gallantry; so I beg permission to introduce myself. I and my little boy were passengers by the Agra; I was spoiled by a long residence in India, and gave your husband sore trouble by resisting discipline, refusing to put out my light at nine o’clock, and in short by being an unreasonable woman, or rather a spoiled child. Well, all my little attempts at a feud failed; Captain Dodd did his duty, and kept his temper provokingly; the only revenge he took was a noble one; he jumped into the sea after my darling Freddy, and saved him from a watery grave, and his mother from madness or death; yet he was himself hardly recovered from a wound he had received in defending us all against pirates. Need I say more to one who is herself a mother? You will know how our little misunderstanding ended after that. As soon as we were friends I made him talk of his family; yourself, Edward, Julia, I seem to know you all.

“‘When the ruffian, who succeeded our good captain, had wrecked poor us, and then deserted us, your husband resumed the command, and saved Freddy and me once more by his courage, his wonderful coolness, and his skill. Since then the mouse has been at work for the lion: I despair of conveying any pleasure by it to a character so elevated as Captain Dodd; his reward must be his own conscience; but we poor little women like external shows, do we not? and so I thought a medal of the Humane Society might give some pleasure to you and Miss Dodd. Never did medal nor order repose on a nobler heart. The case was so strong, and so well supported, that the society did not hesitate: and you will receive it very soon after this.

“‘You will be surprised, dear madam, at all this from a stranger to yourself, and will perhaps set it down to a wish to intrude on your acquaintance. Well, then, dear madam, you will not be far wrong. I should like much to know one, whose character I already seem acquainted with; and to convey personally my gratitude and admiration of your husband: I could pour it out more freely to you, you know, than to him. — I am, dear Madam, Yours very faithfully,

‘LOUISA BERESFORD.’

“And the medal came about an hour before the fly to take him away. His dear name was on it and his brave courageous acts.

“Oh, shall I ever be old enough and hard enough to speak of this without stopping to cry?

“We fastened it round his dear neck with a ribbon. Mamma would put it inside his clothes for fear the silver should tempt some wretch; I should never have thought of that: is there a creature so base? And we told the men how he had gained it (they were servants of the asylum), and we showed them how brave and good he was, and would be again if they would be kind to him and cure him. And mamma bribed them with money to use him kindly: I thought they would be offended and refuse it: but they took it, and their faces showed she was wiser than I am. He keeps away from us too. It is nearly a fortnight now.”

“Dec. 7th.— Aunt Eve left today. Mamma kept her room and could not speak to her; cannot forgive her interfering between papa and her. It does seem strange that any one but mamma should be able to send papa out of the house, and to such a place; but it is the law: and Edward, who is all good sense, says it was necessary. He says mamma is unjust; grief makes her unreasonable. I don’t know who is in the right: and I don’t much care; but I know I am sorry for Aunt Eve, and very, very sorry for mamma.

“Dec. 8th.— I am an egotist: found myself out this morning; and it is a good thing to keep a diary. It20 was overpowered at first by grief for mamma: but now the house is sad and quiet I am always thinking of him; and that is egotism.

20 Egotism. The abstract quality evolved from the concrete term egotist by feminine art, without the aid of grammar.

“Why does he stay away so? I almost wish I could think it was coldness or diminished affection; for I fear something worse; something to make him wretched. Those dreadful words papa spoke before he was afflicted! words I will never put on paper; but they ring in my ears still; they appal me: and then found at their very door! Ah! and I knew I should find him near that house. And now he keeps away.”

“Dec. 9th.— All day trying to comfort mamma. She made a great effort and wrote to Mrs. Beresford.”

POOR MAMMA’S LETTER

“DEAR MADAM— Your kind and valued letter reached us in deep affliction; and I am little able to reply to you as you deserve. My poor husband is very ill; so ill that he no longer remembers the past, neither the brave acts that have won him your esteem, nor even the face of his loving and unhappy wife, who now thanks you with many tears for your sweet letter. Heart-broken as my children and I are, we yet derive some consolation from it. We have tied the medal round his neck, madam, and thank you far more than we can find words to express.

“In conclusion, I pray Heaven that, in your bitterest hour, you may find the consolation you have administered to us: no, no, I pray you may never, never stand in such need of comfort — I am dear madam, yours gratefully and sincerely,

“LUCY DODD.”

“Dec. 10th, Sunday.— At St. Anne’s in the morning. Tried hard to apply the sermon. He spoke of griefs, but so coldly; surely he never felt one; he was not there. Mem.: always pray against wandering thoughts on entering church.”

“Dec. 11th.— A diary is a dreadful thing. Everything must go down now, and, amongst the rest that the poor are selfish. I could not interest one of mine in mamma’s sorrows; no, they must run back to their own little sordid troubles, about money and things. I was so provoked with Mrs. Jackson (she owes mamma so much) that I left her hastily; and that was Impatience. I had a mind to go back to her; but would not; and that was Pride. Where is my Christianity?

“A kind letter from Jane Hardie. But no word of him.

“Dec. 12th.— To-day Edward told me plump I must not go on taking things out of the house for the poor: mamma gave me the reason. ‘We are poor ourselves, thanks to ——’ And then she stopped. Does she suspect? How can she? She did hear not those two dreadful words of papa’s? They are like two arrows in my heart. And so we are poor: she says we have scarcely anything to live upon after paying the two hundred and fifty pounds a year for papa.

“Dec. 13th.— A comforting letter from Jane. She sends me Hebrews xii. 11, and says, ‘Let us take a part of the Bible, and read two chapters prayerfully at the same hour of the day: will ten o’clock in the morning suit you? and, if so, will you choose where to begin?’ I will, sweet friend, I will; and then, though some cruel mystery keeps us apart, our souls will be together over the sacred page, as I hope they will one day be together in heaven; yours will, at any rate. Wrote back, yes, and a thousand thanks, and should like to begin with the Psalms; they are sorrowful, and so are we. And I must pray not to think too much of him.

“If everything is to be put down one does, I cried long and bitterly to find I had written that I must pray to God against him.

“Dec. 14th.— It is plain he never means to come again. Mamma says nothing, but that is out of pity for me: I have not read her dear face all these years for nothing. She is beginning to think him unworthy, when she thinks of him at all.

There is a mystery; a dreadful mystery; may he not be as mystified, too, and perhaps tortured like me with doubts and suspicions? They say he is pale and dejected. Poor thing!

But then, oh why not come to me and say so? Shall I write to him? No, I will cut my hand off sooner.”

“Dec. 16th.— A blessed letter from Jane. She says, ‘Letter writing on ordinary subjects is a sad waste of time and very unpardonable among His people.’ And so it is; and my weak hope, daily disappointed, that there may be something in her letter, only shows how inferior I am to my beloved friend. She says, ‘I should like to fix another hour for us two to meet at the Throne together: will five o’clock suit you? We dine at six; but I am never more than half an hour dressing.’

“The friendship of this saint, and her bright example, is what Heaven sends me in infinite mercy and goodness to sooth my aching heart a little: for him I shall never see again.

“I have seen him this very evening.”

“It was a beautiful night: I went to look at — the world to come I call it — for I believe the redeemed are to inhabit those very stars hereafter, and visit them all in turn — and this world I now find is a world of sorrow and disappointment — so I went on the balcony to look at a better one: and oh it seemed so holy, so calm, so pure, that heavenly world I gazed and stretched my hands towards it for ever so little of its holiness and purity; and, that moment I heard a sigh. I looked, and there stood a gentleman just outside our gate, and it was him. I nearly screamed, and my heart beat so. He did not see me: for I had come out softly, and his poor head was down, down upon his breast; and he used to carry it so high, a little, little, while ago — too high some said; but not I. I looked, and my misgivings melted away, it flashed on me as if one of those stars had written it with its own light in my heart —‘There stands Grief; not Guilt.’ And before I knew what I was about I had whispered ‘Alfred!’ The poor boy started and ran towards me: but stopped short and sighed again. My heart yearned; but it was not for me to make advances to him, after his unkindness: so I spoke to him as coldly as ever I could, and I said, ‘You are unhappy.’

“He looked up to me, and then I saw even by that light that he is enduring a bitter, bitter struggle: so pale, so worn, so dragged! — Now how many times have I cried, this last month? more than in all the rest of my life a great deal. —‘Unhappy!’ he said; ‘I must be a contemptible thing if I was not unhappy.’ And then he asked me should not I despise him if he was happy. I did not answer that: but I asked him why he was unhappy. And when I had, I was half frightened; for he never evades a question the least bit.

“He held his head higher still, and said, ‘I am unhappy because I cannot see the path of honour.’

“Then I babbled something, I forget what: then he went on like this — ah, I never forget what he says — he said Cicero says ‘AEquitas ipsa lucet per se; something significat21 something else:’ and he repeated it slowly for me — he knows I know a little Latin; and told me that was as much as to say ‘Justice is so clear a thing, that whoever hesitates must be on the road of wrong. And yet,’ he said bitterly, ‘I hesitate and doubt, in a matter of right and wrong, like an Academic philosopher weighing and balancing mere speculative straws.’ Those were his very words. ‘And so,’ said he, ‘I am miserable; deserving to be miserable.’

21 Dubitatio cogitationem significat injuriae.

“Then I ventured to remind him that he, and I, and all Christian souls, had a resource not known to heathen philosophers, however able. And I said, ‘Dear Alfred, when I am in doubt and difficulty, I go and pray to Him to guide me aright: have you done so?’ No, that had never occurred to him: but he would, if I made a point of it; and at any rate he could not go on in this way. I should soon see him again, and, once his mind was made up, no shrinking from mere consequences, he promised me. Then we bade one another good night and he went off holding his head as proudly as he used: and poor silly me fluttered, and nearly hysterical, as soon as I quite lost sight of him.”

“Dec. 17th.— At church in the morning: a good sermon. Notes and analysis. In the evening Jane’s clergyman preached. She came. Going out I asked her a question about what we had heard; but she did not answer me. At parting she told me she made it a rule not to speak coming from church, not even about the sermon. This seemed austere to poor me. But of course she is right. Oh, that I was like her.”

“Dec. 18th.— Edward is coming out. This boy, that one has taught all the French, all the dancing, and nearly all the Latin he knows, turns out to be one’s superior, infinitely: I mean in practical good sense. Mamma had taken her pearls to the jeweller and borrowed two hundred pounds. He found this out and objected. She told him a part of it was required to keep him at Oxford. ‘Oh indeed,’ said he: and we thought of course there was an end: but next morning he was off before breakfast and the day after he returned from Oxford with his caution money, forty pounds, and gave it mamma; she had forgotten all about it. And he had taken his name off the college books and left the university for ever. The poor, gentle tears of mortification ran down his mother’s cheeks, and I hung round her neck, and scolded him like a vixen — as I am. We might have spared tears and fury both, for he is neither to be melted nor irritated by poor little us. He kissed us and coaxed us like a superior being, and set to work in his quiet, sober, ponderous way, and proved us a couple of fools to our entire satisfaction, and that without an unkind word! for he is as gentle as a lamb, and as strong as ten thousand elephants. He took the money back and brought the pearls home again, and he has written ‘SOYEZ DE VOTRE SIECLE’ in great large letters, and has pasted it on all our three bed-room doors, inside. And he has been all these years quietly cutting up the Morning Advertiser, and arranging the slips with wonderful skill and method. He calls it ‘digesting the Tiser!‘ and you can’t ask for any modern information, great or small, but he’ll find you something about it in this digest. Such a folio! It takes a man to open and shut it. And he means to be a sort of little papa in this house, and mamma means to let him. And indeed it is so sweet to be commanded; besides, it saves thinking for oneself, and that is such a worry.

“Dec. 19th.— Yes, they have settled it: we are to leave here, and live in lodgings to save servants. How we are to exist even so, mamma cannot see; but Edward can: he says we two have got popular talents, and he knows the markets (what does that mean, I wonder), and the world in general. I asked him wherever he picked it up, his knowledge: he said, ‘In the ’Tiser.‘ I asked him would he leave the place where she lives. He looked sad, but said, ‘Yes: for the good of us all.’ So he is better than I am; but who is not? I wasted an imploring look on him; but not on mamma: she looked back to me, and then said sadly, ‘Wait a few days, Edward, for —my sake.’ That meant for poor credulous Julia’s, who still believes in him. My sweet mother!”

“Dec. 21st.— Told Mamma today I would go for a governess, to help her, since we are all ruined. She kissed me and trembled; but she did not say ‘No;’ so it will come to that. He will be sorry. When I do go, I think I shall find courage to send him a line: just to say I am sure he is not to blame for withdrawing. Indeed how could I ever marry a man whose father I have heard my father call ——” (the pen was drawn through the rest).

“Dec. 22nd.— A miserable day: low spirited and hysterical. We are really going away. Edward has begun to make packing-cases: I stood over him and sighed, and asked him questions: he said he was going to take unfurnished rooms in London, send up what furniture is absolutely necessary, and sell the rest by auction, with the lease of our dear, dear house, where we were all so happy once. So, what with his ‘knowledge of the markets, and the world,’ and his sense, and his strong will, we have only to submit. And then he is so kind, too: ‘Don’t cry, little girl,’ he said. ‘Not but what I could turn on the waters myself if there was anything to be gained by it. Shall I cry, Ju,’ said he, ‘or shall I whistle? I think I’ll whistle.’ And he whistled a tune right through while he worked with a heart as sick as my own, perhaps. Poor Edward!”

“Dec. 23rd.— My Christian friend has her griefs, too. But then she puts them to profit: she says today, ‘We are both tasting the same flesh-crucifying but soul-profiting experience.’ Her every word is a rebuke to me: torn at this solemn season of the year with earthly passions. Went down after reading her letter, and played and sang the Gloria in Excelsis of Pergolesi, with all my soul. So then I repeated it, and burst out crying in the middle. Oh shame! shame!”

“Dec. 24th.— Edward started for London at five in the morning to take a place for us. The servants were next told, and received warning; the one we had the poorest opinion of, she is such a flirt, cried, and begged mamma to let her share our fallen fortunes, and said she could cook a little and would do her best. I kissed her violently, and quite forgot I was a young lady till she herself reminded me; and she looked frightened at mamma. But mamma only smiled through her tears and said, ‘Think of it quietly, Sarah, before you commit yourself.’”

“I am now sitting in my old room, cold as a stone: for I have packed up some things: so the first step is actually taken. Oh, if I but knew that he was happy! Then I could endure anything. But how can I think so? Well, I will go, and never tell a soul what I suspect, and he cannot tell, even if he knows: for it is his father. Jane, too, avoids all mention of her own father and brother more than is natural. Oh, if I could only be a child again!

“Regrets are vain; I will cease even to record them; these diaries feed one’s selfishness, and the unfortunate passion, that will make me a bad daughter and an ungrateful soldier of Him who was born as tomorrow: to your knees, false Christian! to your knees!”

“I am calmer now; and feel resigned to the will of Heaven; or benumbed; or something. I will pack this box and then go down and comfort my mother; and visit my poor people, perhaps for the last time: ah me!

“A knock at the street door! his knock! I know every echo of his hand, and his foot. Where is my composure now? I flutter like a bird. I will not go down. He will think I love him so.

“At least I will wait till he has nearly gone.

“Elizabeth has come to say I am wanted in the drawing-room.

“So I must go down whether I like or no.

“Bedtime. Oh that I had the pen of a writer to record the scene I have witnessed, worthily. When I came in, I found mamma and him both seated in dead silence. He rose and looked at me and I at him: and years seemed to have rolled over his face since last I saw it. I was obliged to turn my head away; I curtseyed to him distantly, and may Heaven forgive me for that: and we sat down, and presently turned round and all looked at one another like the ghosts of the happy creatures we once were altogether.

“Then Alfred began, not in his old imperative voice, but scarce above a whisper; and oh the words such as none but himself in the wide world would have spoken — I love him better than ever; I pity him; I adore him; he is a scholar; he is a chevalier; he is the soul of honour; he is the most unfortunate and proudest gentleman beneath the sun; oh, my darling! my darling!!

“He said, ‘Mrs. Dodd, and you Miss Dodd, whom I loved before I lost the right to ask you to be mine, and whom I shall love to the last hour of my miserable existence, I am come to explain my own conduct to you, and to do you an act of simple justice, too long delayed. To begin with myself, you must know that my understanding is of the Academic School: I incline to weigh proofs before I make up my mind. But then I differ from that school in this, that I cannot think myself to an eternal standstill; (such an expression! but what does that matter, it was his;) I am a man of action: in Hamlet’s place I should have either turned my ghost into ridicule, or my uncle into a ghost; so I kept away from you while in doubt, but now I doubt no longer. I take my line: ladies, you have been swindled out of a large sum of money.

“My blood ran cold at these words. Surely nothing on earth but a man could say this right out like that.

“Mamma and I looked at one another; and what did I see in her face, for the first time? Why that she had her suspicions too, and had been keeping them from me. Pitying angel!

“He went on: ‘Captain Dodd brought home several thousand pounds?’

“Mamma said ‘Yes.’ And I think she was going to say how much, but he stopped her and made her write the amount in an envelope, while he took another and wrote in it with his pencil. He took both envelopes to me, and asked me to read them out in turn: I did, and mamma’s said fourteen thousand pounds: and his said fourteen thousand pounds. Mamma looked such a look at me.

“Then he turned to me: ‘Miss Dodd, do you remember that night you and I met at Richard Hardie’s door? Well, scarce five minutes before that, your father was standing on our lawn and called to the man, who was my father, in a loud voice — it rings in my ears now —“Hardie, Villain! give me back my money, my fourteen thousand pounds! give me my children’s money, or may your children die before your eyes.” Ah, you wince to hear me whisper these dreadful words: what if you had been where I was and heard them spoken, and in a terrible voice; the voice of Despair; the voice of Truth! Soon a window opened cautiously, and a voice whispered, “Hush! I’ll bring it you down.” And this voice was the voice of fear, of dishonesty, and of Richard Hardie.’

“He turned deadly white when he said this, and I cried to mamma, ‘Oh, stop him! stop him!’ And she said, ‘Alfred, think what you are saying. Why do you tell us what we had better never know?’ He answered directly.

“‘Because it is the truth: and because I loathe injustice. Some time afterwards I taxed Mr. Richard Hardie with this fourteen thousand pounds: and his face betrayed him. I taxed his clerk, Skinner: and Skinner’s face betrayed him: and he fled the town that very night.

“My mother looked much distressed and said, ‘To what end do you raise this pitiable subject? Your father is a bankrupt, and we but suffer with the rest.’

“‘No, no,’ said he, ‘I have looked through the bankrupt’s books, and there is no mention of the sum. And then who brought Captain Dodd here? Skinner? and Skinner is his detected confederate. It is clear to me poor Captain Dodd trusted that sum to us before he had the fit; beyond this all is conjecture.’

“Mamma looked at me again, and said, ‘What am I to do; or say?’

‘I screamed, ‘Do nothing, say nothing: oh pray, pray make him hold his tongue, and let the vile money go. It is not his fault.’

“‘Do?’ said the obstinate creature: ‘why tell Edward, and let him employ a sharp attorney: you have a supple antagonist and a daring one. Need I say I have tried persuasion, and even bribes: but he defies me. Set an attorney on him, or the police. Fiat Justitia, ruat coelum.’ I put both hands out to him and burst out ‘Oh, Alfred, why did you tell? A son expose his own father? For shame; for shame! I have suspected it all long ago: but I would never have told.’

“He started a little; but said, ‘Miss Dodd, you were very generous to me: but that is not exactly a reason why I should be a cur to you; and an accomplice in a theft by which you suffer. I have no pretensions to religion like my sister: so I can’t afford to tamper with plain right and wrong. What, look calmly on and see one man defraud another? I can’t do it. See you defrauded? you, Mrs. Dodd, for whom I profess affection and friendship? You, Miss Dodd, for whom I profess love and constancy? Stand and see you swindled into poverty? Of what do you think I am made? My stomach rises against it, my blood boils against it, my flesh creeps at it, my soul loathes it:’ then after this great burst he seemed to turn so feeble: ‘Oh,’ said he, faltering, ‘I know what I have done; I have signed the death warrant of our love, dear to me as life. But I can’t help it. Oh, Julia, Julia, my lost love, you can never look on me again; you must not love a man you cannot marry. Cheat Hardie’s wretched son. But what could I do? Fate offers me but the miserable choice of desolation or cowardly rascality. I choose desolation and I mean to stand by my choice like a man. So good-bye, ladies.’

“The poor proud creature rose from his seat, and bowed stiffly and haughtily to us both, and was going away without another word, and I do believe for ever. But his soul had been too great for his body; his poor lips turned pale and he staggered; and would have fallen, but mamma screamed to me, and she he loves so dearly, and abandons so cruelly, woke from a stupor of despair, and flew and caught him fainting in these arms.”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/r/reade/charles/hard-cash/chapter25.html

Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 15:33