One morning the man who went once a-week from old Hawker’s, at the Woodlands, down to the post, brought back a letter, which he delivered to Madge at the door. She turned it over and examined it more carefully than she generally did the old man’s letters, for it was directed in a clerk-like hand, and was sealed with a big and important-looking seal, and when she came to examine this seal, she saw that it bore the words “B. and F. Bank.” “So, they are at it again, are they?” she said. “The deuce take ’em, I say: though for that matter I can’t exactly blame the folks for looking after their own. Well, there’s no mistake about one thing, he must see this letter, else some of ’em will be coming over and blowing the whole thing. He will ask me to read it for him, and I’ll do so, right an end. Lord, what a breeze there’ll be! I hope I shall be able to pull my lad through, though it very much depends on the old ‘uns temper. However, I shall soon know.”
Old Hawker was nearly blind, and, although an avaricious, suspicious old man, as a general rule, trusted implicitly on ordinary occasions to George and Madge in the management of his accounts, reflecting, with some reason, that it could not be their interest to cheat him. Of late, however, he had been uneasy in his mind. Madge, there was no denying, had got through a great deal more money than usual, and he was not satisfied with her account of where it had gone. She, we know, was in the habit of supplying George’s extravagances in a way which tried all her ingenuity to hide from him, and he, mistrusting her statements, had determined as far as he could to watch her.
On this occasion she laid the letter on the breakfast table, and waited his coming down, hoping that he might be in a good humour, so that there might be some chance of averting the storm from George. Madge was much terrified for the consequences, but was quite calm and firm.
Not long before she heard his heavy step coming down the stairs, and soon he came into the room, evidently in no favourable state of mind.
“If you don’t kill or poison that black tom-cat,” was his first speech, “by the Lord I will. I suppose you keep him for some of your witchwork. But, if he’s the devil himself, as I believe he is, I’ll shoot him. I won’t be kept out of my natural sleep by such a devil’s brat as that. He’s been keeping up such a growling and a scrowling on the hen-house roof all night, that I thought it was Old Scratch come for you, and getting impatient. If you must keep an imp of Satan in the house, get a mole, or a rat, or some quiet beast of that sort, and not such a vicious toad as him.”
“Shoot him after breakfast if you like,” she said. “He’s no friend of mine. Get your breakfast, and don’t be a fool. There’s a letter for you; take and read it.”
“Yah! Read it, she says, and knows I’m blind,” said Hawker. “You artful minx, you want to read it yourself.”
He took the letter up, and turned it over and over. He knew the seal, and shot a suspicious glance at her. Then, looking at her fixedly, he put it in his breastpocket, and buttoned up his coat.
“There!” he said. “I’ll read it. Oh yes, believe me, I’ll read it. You Jezebel!”
“You’d better eat your meat like a Christian man,” she answered, “and not make such faces as them.”
“Where’s the man?” he asked.
“Outside, I suppose.”
“Tell him I want the gig. I’m going out for a drive. A pleasure drive, you know. All down the lane, and back again. Cut along and tell him before I do you a mischief.”
She saw he was in one of his evil humours, when nothing was to be done with him, and felt very uneasy. She went and ordered the gig, and when he had finished breakfast, he came out to the door.
“You’d best take your big coat,” she said, “else you’ll be getting cold, and be in a worse temper than you are — and that’s bad enough, Lord knows, for a poor woman to put up with.”
“How careful she is!” said Hawker. “What care she takes of the old man! I’ve left you ten thousand pounds in my will, ducky. Good-bye.”
He drove off, and left her standing in the porch. What a wild, tall figure she was, standing so stern and steadfast there in the morning sun! — a woman one would rather have for a friend than an enemy.
Hawker was full of other thoughts than these. Coupling his other suspicions of Madge with the receipt of this letter from the bank, he was growing very apprehensive of something being wrong. He wanted this letter read to him, but whom could he trust? Who better than his old companion Burrows, who lived in the valley below the Vicarage? So, whipping up his horse, he drove there, but found he was out. He turned back again, puzzled, going slowly, and as he came to the bottom of the hill, below the Vicarage, he saw a tall man leaning against the gate, and smoking.
“He’ll do for want of a better,” he said to himself. “He’s an honest-going fellow, and we’ve always been good friends, and done good business together, though he is one of that cursed Vicarage lot.”
So he drew up when he came to the gate. “I beg your pardon, Mr. Troubridge,” he said, with a very different tone and manner to what we have been accustomed to hear him use, “but could you do a kindness for a blind old man? I have no one about me that I can trust since my son is gone away. I have reason to believe that this letter is of importance; could you be so good as to read it to me?”
“I shall be happy to oblige you, Mr. Hawker,” said Tom. “I am sorry to hear that your sight is so bad.”
“Yes; I’m breaking fast,” said Hawker. “However, I shan’t be much missed. I don’t inquire how the Vicar is, because I know already, and because I don’t think he would care much for my inquiries, after the injury my son has done him. I will break the seal. Now, may I trouble you?”
Tom Troubridge read aloud:—
“B. and F. Bank. [Such a date.]
“SIR — May I request that you will favour me personally with a call, at the earliest possible opportunity, at my private office, 166, Broad Street? I have reason to fear that two forged cheques, bearing your signature, have been inadvertently cashed by us. The amount, I am sorry to inform you, is considerable. I need not further urge your immediate attention. This is the third communication we have made to you on the subject, and are much surprised at receiving no answer. I hope that you will be so good as to call at once.
Yours, sir, &c., P. ROLLOX, Manager.”
“I thank you, Mr. Troubridge,” said the old man, quietly and politely. “You see I was not wrong when I thought that this letter was of importance. May I beg as a favour that you would not mention this to any one?”
“Certainly, Mr. Hawker. I will respect your wish. I hope your loss may not be heavy.”
“The loss will not be mine though, will it?” said old Hawker. “I anticipate that it will fall on the bank. It is surely at their risk to cash cheques. Why, a man might sign for all the money I have in their hands, and surely they would be answerable for it?”
“I am not aware how the law stands, Mr. Hawker,” said Troubridge. “Fortunately, no one has ever thought it worth while to forge my name.”
“Well, I wish you a good day, sir, with many thanks,” said Hawker. “Can I do anything for you in Exeter?”
Old Hawker drove away rapidly in the direction of Exeter; his horse, a fine black, clearing the ground in splendid style. Although a cunning man, he was not quick in following a train of reasoning, and he was half-way to Exeter before he had thoroughly comprehended his situation. And then, all he saw was that somebody had forged his name, and he believed that Madge knew something about it.
“I wish my boy George was at home,” he said. “He’d save me getting a lawyer now. I am altogether in the hands of those Bank folks if they like to cheat me, though it’s not likely they’d do that. At all events I will take Dickson with me.”
Dickson was an attorney of good enough repute. A very clever, quiet man, and a good deal employed by old Hawker, when his business was not too disreputable. Some years before, Hawker had brought some such excessively dirty work to his office, that the lawyer politely declined having anything to do with it, but recommended him to an attorney who he thought would undertake it. And from that time the old fellow treated him with marked respect, and spoke everywhere of him as a man to be trusted: such an effect had the fact of a lawyer refusing business made on him!
He reached Exeter by two o’clock, so rapidly had he driven. He went at once to Dickson’s, and found him at home, busy swinging the poker, in deep thought, before the fireplace in his inner office. He was a small man, with an impenetrable, expressionless face, who never was known to unbend himself to a human being. Only two facts were known about him. One was that he was the best swimmer in Exeter, and had saved several lives from drowning, and the other was, that he gave away (for him) large sums in private charity.
Such was the man who now received old Hawker, with quiet politeness; and having sent his horse round to the inn stable by a clerk, sat down once more by the fire, and began swinging the poker, and waiting for the other to begin the conversation.
“If you are not engaged, Mr. Dickson,” said Hawker, “I would be much obliged to you if you could step round to the B. and F. Bank with me. I want you to witness what passes, and to read any letters or papers for me that I shall require.”
The attorney put down the poker, got his hat, and stood waiting, all without a word.
“You won’t find it necessary to remark on anything that occurs, Mr. Dickson, unless I ask your opinion.”
The attorney nodded, and whistled a tune. And then they started together through the crowded street.
The bank was not far, and Hawker pushed his way in among the crowd of customers. It was some time before he could get hold of a clerk, there was so much business going on. When, at last, he did so, he said —“I want to see Mr. Rollox; he told me to call on him at once.”
“He is engaged at present,” said the clerk. “It is quite impossible you can see him.”
“You don’t know what you are talking about, man,” said Hawker. “Send in and tell him Mr. Hawker, of Drumston, is here.”
“Oh, I beg your pardon, Mr. Hawker. I have only just come here, and did not know you. Porter, show Mr. Hawker in.”
They went into the formal bank parlour. There was the leather writing table, the sheet almanac, the iron safe, and all the weapons by which bankers war against mankind, as in all other sanctuaries of the kind. Moreover, there was the commander-inchief himself, sitting at the table. A bald, clever, gentlemanly-looking man, who bowed when they came in. “Good day, Mr. Hawker. I am obliged to you for calling at last. We thought something was wrong. Mr. Dickson, I hope you are well. Are you attending with Mr. Hawker, or are you come on private business?”
The attorney said —“I’m come at his request,” and relapsed into silence.
“Ah!” said the manager. “I am, on the whole, glad that Mr. Hawker has brought a professional adviser with him. Though,” he added, laughing, “it is putting me rather at a disadvantage, you know. Two to one — eh?”
“Now, gentlemen, if you will be so good as to close the door carefully, and be seated, I will proceed to business, hoping that you will give me your best attention. About six or eight months ago — let me be particular, though,” said he, referring to some papers — “that is rather a loose way of beginning. Here it is. The fourth of September, last year — yes. On that day, Mr. Hawker, a cheque was presented at this bank, drawn ‘in favour of bearer,’ and signed in your name, for two hundred pounds, and cashed, the person who presented it being well known here.”
“Who?” interrupted Hawker.
“Excuse me, sir,” said the manager; “allow me to come to that hereafter. You were about to say, I anticipate, that you never drew a cheque ‘on bearer’ in your life? Quite true. That ought to have excited attention, but it did not till, a very few weeks ago, our head-clerk, casting his eye down your account, remarked on the peculiarity, and, on examining the cheque, was inclined to believe that it was not in your usual handwriting. He intended communicating with me, but was prevented for some days by my absence; and, in the meantime, another cheque, similar, but better imitated, was presented by the same person, and cashed, without the knowledge of the head-clerk. On the cheque coming into his hands, he reprimanded the cashier, and he and I, having more closely examined them, came to the conclusion that they were both forgeries. We immediately communicated with you, and, to our great surprise, received no answer either to our first or second application. We, however, were not idle. We ascertained that we could lay our hands on the utterer of the cheques at any moment, and tried a third letter to you, which has been successful.”
“The two letters you speak of have never reached me, Mr. Rollox,” said Hawker. “I started off on the receipt of yours this morning — the first I saw. I am sorry, sir, that the bank should lose money through me; but, by your own showing, sir, the fault lay with your own clerks.”
“I have never attempted to deny it, Mr. Hawker,” said the manager. “But there are other matters to be considered. Before I go on, I wish to give you an opportunity of sending away your professional adviser, and continuing this conversation with me alone.”
They both turned and looked at the lawyer. He was sitting with his hands in his pockets, and one would have thought he was whistling, only no sound came. His face showed no signs of intelligence in any feature save his eyes, and they were expressive of the wildest and most unbounded astonishment.
“I have nothing to do in this matter, sir,” said Hawker, “that I should not wish Mr. Dickson to hear. He is an honourable man, and I confide in him thoroughly.”
“So be it, then, Mr. Hawker,” said the manager. “I have as high an opinion of my friend Mr. Dickson as you have; but I warn you, that some part of what will follow will touch you very unpleasantly.”
“I don’t see how,” said Hawker; “go on, if you please.”
“Will you be good enough to examine these two cheques, and say whether they are genuine or not?”
“I have only to look at the amount of this large one, to pronounce it an impudent forgery,” said Hawker. “I have not signed so large a cheque for many years. There was one last January twelvemonth of 400 pounds, for the land at Highcot, and that is the largest, I believe, I ever gave in my life.”
“There can be no doubt they are forgeries. Your sight, I believe, is too bad to swear easily to your own signature; but that is quite enough. Now, I have laid this case before our governor, Lord C— — and he went so far as to say that, under the painful circumstances of the case, if you were to refund the money, the bank might let the matter drop; but that, otherwise, it would be their most painful duty to prosecute.”
“I refund the money!” laughed Hawker; “you are playing with me, sir. Prosecute the dog; I will come and see him hung! Ha! ha!”
“It will be a terrible thing if we prosecute the utterer of these cheques,” said the manager.
“Why?” said Hawker. “By-the-bye, you know who he is, don’t you? Tell me who it is?”
“Your own son, Mr. Hawker,” said the manager, almost in a whisper.
Hawker rose and glared at them with such a look of deadly rage that they shrank from him appalled. Then, he tottered to the mantelpiece and leant against it, trying to untie his neckcloth with feeble, trembling fingers.
“Open your confounded window there, Rollox,” cried the lawyer, starting up. “Where’s the wine? Look sharp, man!”
Hawker waved to him impatiently to sit down, and then said, at first gasping for breath, but afterwards more quietly:
“Are you sure it was he that brought those cheques?”
“Certainly, sir,” said the manager. “You may be sure it was he. Had it been any one else, they would not have been cashed without more examination; and on the last occasion he accounted rather elaborately for your drawing such a large sum.”
Hawker recovered himself and sat down.
“Don’t be frightened, gentlemen,” he said. “Not this time. I’ve something to do before that comes. It won’t be long, the doctor says, but I must transact some business first. O Lord! I see it all now. That cursed, cursed woman and her boy have been hoodwinking me and playing with me all this time, have they? Oh, but I’ll have my vengeance on ’em one to the stocks, and another to the gallows. I, unfortunately, can’t give you any information where that man is that has the audacity to bear my name, sir,” said he to the manager. “His mother at one time persuaded me that he was a child of mine; but such infernal gipsy drabs as that can’t be depended on, you know. I have the honour to wish you a very good afternoon, sir, thanking you for your information, and hoping your counsel will secure a speedy conviction. I shall probably trouble you to meet me at a magistrate’s tomorrow morning, where I will take my oath in his presence that those cheques are forgeries. You will find alterations in my banker’s book, too, I expect. We’ll look into it all tomorrow. Come along, Dickson, my sly little weasel; I’ve a gay night’s work for you; I’m going to leave all my property to my cousin Nick, my bitterest enemy, and a lawsuit with it that’ll break his heart. There’s fun for the lawyers — eh, my boy!”
So talking, the old man strode firmly forth, with a bitter, malignant scowl on his flushed face. The lawyer followed him, and, when they were in the street, Hawker again asked him to come to the inn and make his will for him.
“I’ll stay by you, Hawker, and see that you don’t make a fool of yourself. I wish you would not be so vindictive. It’s indecent; you’ll be ashamed of it tomorrow; but, in the meantime, it’s indecent.”
“Ha, ha!” laughed Hawker; “how quietly he talks! One can see that he hasn’t had a bastard child fathered on him by a gipsy hag. Come along, old fellow; there’s fifty pounds’ worth of work for you this week, if I only live through it!”
He took the lawyer to the inn, and they got dinner. Hawker ate but little, for him, but drank a good deal. Dickson thought he was getting drunk; but when dinner was over, and Hawker had ordered in spirits-and-water, he seemed sober enough again.
“Now, Mr. Dickson,” said he, “I am going to make a fresh will tomorrow morning, and I shall want you to draw it up for me. After that I want you to come home with me and transact business. You will do a good day’s work, I promise you. You seem to me now to be the only man in the world I can trust. I pray you don’t desert me.”
“As I said before,” replied the lawyer, “I won’t desert you; but listen to me. I don’t half like the sudden way you have turned against your own son. Why don’t you pay this money, and save the disgrace of that unhappy young man? I don’t say anything about your disinheriting him — that’s no business of mine — but don’t be witness against him. The bank, or rather my Lord C— — has been very kind about it. Take advantage of their kindness and hush the matter up.”
“I know you ain’t in the pay of the bank,” said Hawker, “so I won’t charge you with it. I know you better than to think you’d lend yourself to anything so mean; but your conduct looks suspicious. If you hadn’t done me a few disinterested kindnesses lately, I should say that they’d paid you to persuade me to stop this, so as they might get their money back, and save the cost of a prosecution. But I ain’t so far gone as to believe that; and so I tell you, as one man to another, that if you’d come suddenly on such a mine of treason and conspiracy as I have this afternoon, and found a lad that you have treated as, and tried to believe was, your own son, you’d be as bad as me. Every moment I think of it, it comes out clearer. That woman that lives with me has palmed that brat of hers on me as my child; and he and she have been plundering me these years past. The money that woman has made away with would build a ship, sir. What she’s done with it, her master, the devil, only knows; and I’ve said nought about it, because she’s a witch, and I was afraid of her. But now I’ve found her out. She has stopped the letters that they wrote to me about this boy’s forgery, and that shows she was in it. She shall pack. I won’t prosecute her; no. I’ve reasons against that; but I’ll turn her out in the world without a sixpence. You see I’m quiet enough now!”
“You’re quiet enough,” said the lawyer, “and you’ve stated your case very well. But are you sure this lad is not your son?”
“If I was sure that he was,” said Hawker, “it wouldn’t make any difference, as I know on. Ah, man, you don’t know what a rage I’m in. If I chose, I could put myself into such an infernal passion at this moment as would bring on a ‘plectic fit, and lay me dead on the floor. But I won’t do it, not yet. I’ll have another drop of brandy, and sing you a song. Shall I give ‘ee ‘Roger a-Maying,’ or what’ll ye have?”
“I’ll have you go to bed, and not take any more brandy,” said the lawyer. “If you sing, get in one of the waiters, and sing to him; he’d enjoy it. I’m going home, but I shall come to breakfast tomorrow morning, and find you in a different humour.”
“Good night, old mole,” said Hawker; “good night, old bat, old parchment skin, old sixty per cent. Ha, ha! If a wench brings a brat to thee, old lad, chuck it out o’ window, and her after it. Thou can only get hung for it, man. They can only hang thee once, and that is better than to keep it and foster it, and have it turn against thee when it grows up. Good night.”
Dickson came to him in the morning, and found him in the same mind. They settled down to business, and Hawker made a new will. He left all his property to his cousin (a man he had had a bitter quarrel with for years), except 100 pounds to his groom, and 200 pounds to Tom Troubridge, “for an act of civility” (so the words ran), “in reading a letter for a man who ought to have been his enemy.” And when the will (a very short one) was finished, and the lawyer proposed getting two of his clerks as witnesses, Hawker told him to fold it up and keep it; that he would get it witnessed by-and-by.
“You’re coming home with me,” he said, “and we’ll get it witnessed there. You’ll see why, when it’s done.”
Then they went to the manager of the bank, and got him to go before a magistrate with him, whilst he deposed on oath that the two cheques, before mentioned, were forgeries, alleging that his life was so uncertain that the criminal might escape justice by his sudden death. Then he and Dickson went back to the inn, and after dinner started together to drive to Drumston.
They had been so engaged with business that they had taken no notice of the weather. But when they were clear of the northern suburbs of the town, and were flying rapidly along the noble turnpike-road that turning eastward skirts the broad Exe for a couple of miles before turning north again, they remarked that a dense black cloud hung before them, and that everything foreboded a violent thunder-storm.
“We shall get a drowning before we reach your place, Hawker,” said the lawyer. “I’m glad I brought my coat.”
“Lawyers never get drowned,” said Hawker, “though I believe you have tried it often enough.”
When they crossed the bridge, and turned to the north, along the pretty banks of the Creedy, they began to hope that they would leave it on the right; but ere they reached Newton St. Cyres they saw that it was creeping up overhead, and, stopping a few minutes in that village, perceived that the folks were all out at their doors talking to one another, as people do for company’s sake when a storm is coming on.
Before they got to Crediton they could distinguish, above the sound of the wheels, the thunder groaning and muttering perpetually, and as they rattled quickly past the grand old minster a few drops of rain began to fall.
The boys were coming out of the Grammar School in shoals, laughing, running, whooping, as the manner of boys is. Hawker drove slowly as he passed through the crowd, and the lawyer took that opportunity to put on his great-coat.
“We’ve been lucky so far,” he said, “and now we are going to pay for our good luck. Before it is too late, Hawker, pull up and stay here. If we have to stop all night, I’ll pay expenses; I will indeed. It will be dark before we are home. Do stop.”
“Not for a thousand pound,” said Hawker. “I wouldn’t baulk myself now for a thousand pound. Hey! fancy turning her out such a night as this without sixpence in her pocket. Why, a man like you, that all the county knows, a man who has got two gold medals for bravery, ain’t surely afraid of a thunderstorm?”
“I ain’t afraid of the thunderstorm, but I am of the rheumatism,” said the other. “As for a thunderstorm, you’re as safe out of doors as in; some say safer. But you’re mistaken if you suppose I don’t fear death, Hawker. I fear it as much as any man.”
“It didn’t look like it that time you soused in over the weir after the groom lad,” said Hawker.
“Bah! man,” said the lawyer; “I’m the best swimmer in Devon. That was proved by my living at that weir in flood time. So I have less to fear than any one else. Why, if that boy hadn’t been as quiet and plucky as he was, I knew I could kick him off any minute, and get ashore. Hallo! that’s nearer.”
The storm burst on them in full fury, and soon after it grew dark. The good horse, however, stepped out gallantly, though they made but little way; for, having left the high road and taken to the narrow lanes, their course was always either up hill or down, and every bottom they passed grew more angry with the flooding waters as they proceeded. Still, through darkness, rain, and storm, they held their way till they saw the lights of Drumston below them.
“How far is it to your house, Hawker?” said the lawyer. “This storm seems to hang about still. It is as bad as ever. You must be very wet.”
“It’s three miles to my place, but a level road, at least all up-hill, gently rising. Cheer up! We won’t be long.”
They passed through the village rapidly, lighted by the lightning. The last three miles were done as quickly as any part of the journey, and the lawyer rejoiced to find himself before the white gate that led up to Hawker’s house.
It was not long before they drew up to the door. The storm seemed worse than ever. There was a light in the kitchen, and when Hawker had halloed once or twice, a young man ran out to take the horse.
“Is that you, my boy?” said Hawker. “Rub the horse down, and come in to get something. This ain’t a night fit for a dog to be out in; is it?”
“No, indeed, sir,” said the man. “I hope none’s out in it but what likes to be.”
They went in. Madge looked up from arranging the table for supper, and stared at Hawker keenly. He laughed aloud, and said —
“So you didn’t expect me to-night, deary, eh?”
“You’ve chose a bad night to come home in, old man,” she answered.
“A terrible night, ain’t it? Wouldn’t she have been anxious if she’d a’ known I’d been out?”
“Don’t know as I should,” she said. “That gentleman had better get dried, and have his supper.”
“I’ve got a bit of business first, deary. Where’s the girl?”
“In the other kitchen.”
“Call her. — Lord! listen to that.”
A crash of thunder shook the house, heard loud above the rain, which beat furiously against the windows. Madge immediately returned with the servant girl, a modest, quiet-looking creature, evidently in terror at the storm.
“Get out that paper, Dickson, and we’ll get it signed.”
The lawyer produced the will, and Madge and the servant girl were made to witness it. Dickson, having dried the signatures, took charge of it again; and then Hawker turned round fiercely to Madge.
“That’s my new will,” he said; “my new will, old woman. Oh, you cat! I’ve found you out.”
Madge saw a storm was coming, worse than the one which raged and rattled outside, and she braced her nerves to meet it.
“What have you found out, old man?” she said quietly.
“I’ve found out that you and that young scoundrel have been robbing and cheating me in a way that would bring me to the workhouse in another year. I have found out that he has forged my name for nearly a thousand pounds, and that you’ve helped him. I find that you yourself have robbed me of hundreds of pounds, and that I have been blinded, and cozened, and hoodwinked by two that I kept from the workhouse, and treated as well as I treated myself. That’s what I have found out, gipsy.”
“Well?” was all Madge said, standing before him with her arms folded.
“So I say,” said Hawker; “it is very well. The mother to the streets, and the boy to the gallows.”
“You wouldn’t prosecute him, William; your own son?”
“No, I shan’t,” he replied; —“but the Bank will.”
“And couldn’t you stop it?”
“I could. But if holding up my little finger would save him, I wouldn’t do it.”
“Oh, William,” she cried, throwing herself on her knees; “don’t look like that. I confess everything; visit it on me, but spare that boy.”
“You confess, do you?” he said. “Get up. Get out of my house; you shan’t stay here.”
But she would not go, but, hanging round him, kept saying, “Spare the boy, William, spare the boy!” over and again, till he struck her in his fury, and pulled her towards the door.
“Get out and herd with the gipsies you belong to,” he said. “You witch, you can’t cry now.”
“But,” she moaned, “oh, not such a night as this, William; not to-night. I am frightened of the storm. Let me stay to-night. I am frightened of the lightning. Oh, I wouldn’t turn out your dog such a night as this.”
“Out, out, you devil!”
“Oh, William, only one —”
“Out, you Jezebel, before I do you a mischief.”
He had got the heavy door open, and she passed out, moaning low to herself. Out into the fierce rain and the black darkness; and the old man held open the door for a minute, to see if she were gone.
No. A broad, flickering riband of light ineffable wavered for an instant of time before his eyes, lighting up the country far and wide; but plainly visible between him and the blaze was a tall, dark, bare-headed woman, wildly raising her hands above her head, as if imploring vengeance upon him, and, ere the terrible explosion which followed had ceased to shake the old house to its foundations, he shut the door, and went muttering alone up to his solitary chamber.
The next morning the groom came into the lawyer’s room, and informed him that when he went to call his master in the morning, he had found the bed untouched, and Hawker sitting half undressed in his arm-chair, dead and cold.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:52