And this was the man as to whom it had been acknowledged that his evidence, if it could be obtained, would be final. The return of Dick himself was to the Shands an affair so much more momentous than the release of John Caldigate from prison, that for some hours or so the latter subject was allowed to pass out of sight. The mother got him up-stairs and asked after his linen — vain inquiry — and arranged for his bed, turning all the little Rewbles into one small room. In the long run, grandmothers are more tender to their grand-children than their own offspring. But at this moment Dick was predominant. How grand a thing to have her son returned to her, and such a son — a teetotaller of two years’ growth, who had seen all the world of the Pacific Ocean! As he could not take whisky-and-water, would he like ginger-beer before he went to bed — or arrowroot? Dick decided in favour of ginger-beer, and consented to be embraced again.
It was, I think, to Maria’s credit that she was the first to bring back the conversation to John Caldigate’s marriage. ‘Was she a very horrible woman?’ Maria asked, referring to Euphemia Smith.
‘There were a good many of ’em out there, greedy after gold,’ said Dick; ‘but she beat ’em all; and she was awfully clever.’
‘In what way, Dick?’ asked Mrs. Rewble. Because she does not seem to me to have done very well with herself.’
‘She knew more about shares than any man of them all. But I think she just drank a little. It was that which disgusted Caldigate.’
‘He had been very fond of her?’ suggested Maria.
‘I never knew a man so taken with a woman.’ Maria blushed, and Mrs. Rewble looked round at her younger sisters as though desirous that they should be sent to bed. ‘All that began on board the ship. Then he was fool enough to run after her down to Sydney; and of course she followed him up to the mines.’
‘I don’t know why of course,’ said Mrs. Posttlethwaite defending her sex generally.
‘Well, she did. And he was going to marry her. He did mean to marry her; — there’s no doubt of that. But it was a queer kind of life we lived up there.’
‘I suppose so,’ said the doctor. Mrs. Rewble again looked at the girls and then at her mother; but Mrs. Shand was older and less timid than her married daughter. Mrs. Rewble when a girl herself had never been sent away, and was now a pattern of female discretion.
‘And she,’ continued Dick, ‘as soon as she had begun to finger the scrip, thought of nothing but gold. She did not care much for marriage just then, because she fancied the stuff wouldn’t belong to herself. She became largely concerned in the “Old Stick-in-the-Mud.” That was Crinkett’s concern, and there were times at which I thought she would marry him. Then Caldigate got rid of her altogether. That was before I went away.’
‘He never married her?’ asked the doctor.
‘He certainly hadn’t married her when I left Nobble in June ‘73.’
‘You can swear to that, Dick?’
‘Certainly I can. I was with him every day. But there wasn’t anyone round there who didn’t know how it was. Crinkett himself knew it.’
‘Crinkett is one of the gang against him.’
‘And there was a man named Adamson. Adamson knew.’
‘He’s another of the conspirators,’ said the doctor.
‘They won’t dare to say before me,’ declared Dick, stoutly, ‘that Mrs. Smith and John Caldigate had become man and wife before June ‘73. And they hated one another so much then that it is impossible they should have come together since. I can swear they were not married up to June ‘73.’
‘You’ll have to swear it,’ said the doctor, ‘and that with as little delay as possible.’
All this took place towards the end of August, about five weeks after the trial, and a day or two subsequent to the interview between Bagwax and the Attorney-General. Bagwax was now vehemently prosecuting his inquiries as to that other idea which had struck him, and was at this very moment glowing with the anticipation of success, and at the same time broken-hearted with the conviction that he never would see the pleasant things of New South Wales.
On the next morning, under the auspices of his father, Dick Shand wrote the following letter to Mr. Seely, the attorney.
‘POLLINGTON, 30th August, 187-.
Sir — I think it right to tell you that I reached my father’s house in this town late yesterday evening. I have come direct from one of the South Sea Islands via Honolulu and San Francisco, and have not yet been in England forty-eight hours. I am an old friend of Mr. John Caldigate, and went with him from England to the gold diggings in New South Wales. My name will be known to you, as I am now aware that it was frequently mentioned in the course of the late trial. It will probably seem odd to you that I had never even heard of the trial till I reached my father’s house last night. I did not know that Caldigate had married Miss Bolton, nor that Euphemia Smith had claimed him as her husband.
‘I am able and willing to swear that they had not become man and wife up to June 1873, and that no one at Ahalala or Nobble conceived them to be man and wife. Of course, they had lived together. But everybody knew all about it. Some time before June — early, I should say, in that autumn — there had been a quarrel. I am sure they were at daggers drawn with each other all that April and May in respect to certain mining shares, as to which Euphemia Smith behaved very badly. I don’t think it possible that they should ever have come together again; but in May ‘73 — which is the date I have heard named — they certainly were not man and wife.
‘I have thought it right to inform you of this immediately on my return, and am, your obedient servant,
Mr. Seely, when he received this letter, found it to be his duty to take it at once to Sir John Joram, up in London. He did not believe Dick Shand. But then he had put no trust in Bagwax, and had been from the first convinced, in his own mind, that Caldigate had married the woman. As soon as it was known to him that his client had paid twenty thousand pounds to Crinkett and the woman, he was quite sure of the guilt of his client. He had done the best for Caldigate at the trial, as he would have done for any other client; but he had never felt any of that enthusiasm which had instigated Sir John. Now that Caldigate was in prison, Mr. Seely thought that he might as well be left there quietly, trusting to the verdict, trusting to Judge Bramber, and trusting still more strongly on his own early impressions. This letter from Dick — whom he knew to have been a ruined drunkard, a disgrace to his family, and an outcast from society — was to his thinking just such a letter as would be got up in such a case, in the futile hope of securing the succour of a Secretary of State. He was sure that no Secretary of State would pay the slightest attention to such a letter. But still it would be necessary that he should show it to Sir John, and as a trip to London was not disagreeable to his professional mind, he started with it on the very day of its receipt.
‘Of course we must have his deposition on oath,’ said Sir John.
‘You think it will be worth while?’
‘Certainly. I am more convinced than ever that there was no marriage. That post-office clerk has been with me — Bagwax — and has altogether convinced me.’
‘I didn’t think so much of Bagwax, Sir John.’
‘I dare say not, Mr. Seely; — an absurdly energetic man — one of those who destroy by their over-zeal all the credit which their truth and energy ought to produce. But he has, I think, convinced me that that letter could not have passed through the Sydney post-office in May ‘73.’
‘If so, Sir John, even that is not much — towards upsetting a verdict.’
‘A good deal, I think, when the characters of the persons are considered. Now comes this man, whom we all should have believed, had he been present, and tells this story. You had better get hold of him and bring him to me, Mr. Seely.’
Then Mr. Seely hung up his hat in London for three or four days, and sent to Pollington for Dick Shand. Dick Shand obeyed the order, and both of them waited together upon Sir John. ‘You have come back at a very critical point of time for your friend,’ said the barrister.
Dick had laid aside the coat and waistcoat with the broad checks, and the yellow trousers, and had made himself look as much like an English gentleman as the assistance of a ready-made-clothes shop at Pollington would permit. But still he did not quite look like a man who had spent three years at Cambridge. His experiences among the gold diggings then his period of maddening desolation as a Queensland shepherd, and after that his life among the savages in a South Sea island, had done much to change him. Sir John and Mr. Seely together almost oppressed him. But still he was minded to speak up for his friend. Caldigate had, upon the whole, been very good to him, and Dick was honest. ‘He has been badly used any way,’ he said.
‘You have had no intercourse with any of his friends since you have been home, I think?’ This question Sir John asked because Mr. Seely had suggested that this appearance of the man at this special moment might not improbably be what he called a ‘plant.’
‘I have had no intercourse with anybody, sir. I came here last Friday, and I hadn’t spoken a word to anybody before that. I didn’t know that Caldigate had been in trouble at all. My people at Pollington were the first to tell me about it.’
‘Then you wrote to Mr. Seely? You have heard of Mr. Seely?’
‘The governor — that’s my father — he had heard of Mr. Seely. I wrote first as he told me. They knew all about it at Pollington as well as you do.’
‘You were surprised, then, when you heard the story?’
‘Knocked off my pins, sir. I never was so much taken aback in my life. To be told that John Caldigate had married Euphemia Smith after all that I had seen — and that he had been married to her in May ‘73! I knew of course that it was all a got-up thing. And he’s in prison?’
‘He is in prison, certainly.’
‘Indeed he is, Mr. Shand.’
‘And how about his real wife?’
‘His real wife, as you call her ——’
‘She is, as sure as my name is Richard Shand.’
‘It is on behalf of that lady that we are almost more anxious than for Mr. Caldigate himself. In this matter she has been perfectly innocent; and whoever may have been the culprit — or culprits — she has been cruelly ill-used.’
‘She’ll have her husband back again, of course,’ said Dick.
‘That will depend in part upon what faith the judge who tried the case may place in your story. Your deposition shall be taken, and it will be my duty to submit it to the Secretary of State. He will probably be actuated by the weight which this further evidence will have upon the judge who heard the former evidence. You will understand, Mr. Shand, that your word will be opposed to the words of four other persons.’
‘Four perjured scoundrels,’ said Dick, with energy.
‘Just so — if your story be true.’
‘It is true, sir,’ said Dick, with much anger in his tone.
‘I hope so — with all my heart. You are on the same side with us, you know. I only want to make you understand how much ground there may be for doubt. It is not easy to upset a verdict. And, I fear, many righteous verdicts would be upset if the testimony of one man could do it. Perhaps you will be able to prove that you only arrived at Liverpool on Saturday night.’
‘Certainly I can.’
‘You cannot prove that you had not heard of the case before.’
‘Certainly I can. I can swear it.’ Sir John smiled. ‘They all knew that at Pollington. They told me of it. The governor told me about Mr. Seely, and made me write the letter.’
‘That would not be evidence,’ said Sir John.
‘Heavens on earth! I tell you I was struck all on a heap when I heard it, just as much as if they had said he’d been hung for murder. You put Crinkett and me together and then you’ll know. I suppose you think somebody’s paying me for this — that I’ve got a regular tip.’
‘Not at all, Mr. Shand. And I quite understand that it should be difficult for you to understand. When a man sees a thing clearly himself he cannot always realise the fact that others do not see it also. I think I perceive what you have to tell us, and we are very much obliged to you for coming forward so immediately. Perhaps you would not mind sitting in the other room for five minutes while I say a word to Mr. Seely.’
‘I can go away altogether.’
‘Mr. Seely will be glad to see you again with reference to the deposition you will have to make. You shall not be kept waiting long.’ Then Dick returned, with a sore heart, feeling half inclined to blaze out in wrath against the great advocate. He had come forward to tell a plain story, having nothing to gain, paying his railway fare and other expenses out of his own — or rather out of his father’s pocket, and was told he would not be believed! It is always hard to make an honest witness understand that it may be the duty of others to believe him to be a liar, and Dick Shand did not understand it now.
‘There was no Australian marriage,’ Sir John said as soon as he was alone with Mr. Seely.
‘You think not?’
‘My mind is clear about it. We must get that man out, if it be only for the sake of the lady.’
‘It is so very easy, Sir John, to have a story like that made up.’
‘I have had to do with a good many made-up stories, Mr. Seely; — and with a good many true stories.’
‘Of course, Sir John; — no man with more.’
‘He might be a party to making up a story. There is nothing that I have seen in him to make me sure that he could not come forward with a determined perjury. I shouldn’t think it, but it would be possible. But his father and mother and sisters wouldn’t join him.’ Dick had told the story of the meeting on the lawn at great length. ‘And had it been a plot, he couldn’t have imposed upon them. He wouldn’t have brought them into it. And who would have got at him to arrange the plot?’
Sir John shook his head. ‘Neither old Caldigate nor young Caldigate knew anything of that kind of work. And then his story tallies altogether with my hero Bagwax. Of Bagwax I am quite sure. And as Shand corroborates Bagwax, I am nearly sure of him also. You must take his deposition, and let me have it. It should be rather full, as it may be necessary to hear the depositions also of the doctor and his wife. We shall have to get him out.’
‘You know best, Sir John.’
‘We shall have to get him out, Mr. Seely, I think,’ said Sir John, rising from his chair. Then Mr. Seely took his leave, as was intended.
Mr. Seely was not at all convinced. He was quite willing that John Caldigate should be released from prison, and that the Australian marriage should be so put out of general credit in England as to allow the young people to live in comfort at Folking as man and wife. But he liked to feel that he knew better himself. He would have been quite content that Mrs. John Caldigate should be Mrs. John Caldigate to all the world — that all the world should be imposed on — so that he was made subject to no imposition. In this matter, Sir John appeared to him to be no wider awake than a mere layman. It was clear to Mr. Seely that Dick Shand’s story was ‘got up,’— and very well got up. He had no pang of conscience as to using it. But when it came to believing it, that was quite another thing. The man turning up exactly at the moment! And such a man! And then his pretending never to have heard of a case so famous! Never to have heard this story of his most intimate friend! And then his notorious poverty! Old Caldigate would of course be able to buy such a man. And then Sir John’s fatuity as to Bagwax! He could hardly bring himself to believe that Sir John was quite in earnest. But he was well aware that Sir John would know — no one better — by what arguments such a verdict as had been given might be practically set aside. The verdict would remain. But a pardon, if a pardon could be got from the Secretary of State, would make the condition of the husband and wife the same as though there had been no verdict. The indignities which they had already suffered would simply produce for them the affectionate commendation of all England. Mr. Seely felt all that, and was not at all averse to a pardon. He was not at all disposed to be severe on Caldigate senior if, as he thought, Caldigate senior had bribed this convenient new witness. But it was too much to expect that he should believe it all himself.
‘You must come with me, Mr. Shand,’ he said, ‘and we must take your story down in writing. Then you must swear to it before a magistrate.’
‘All right, Mr. Seely.’
‘We must be very particular, you know.’
‘I needn’t be particular at all; — and as to what Sir John Joram said, I felt half inclined to punch his head.’
‘That wouldn’t have helped us.’
‘It was only that I thought of Caldigate in prison that I didn’t do it. Because I have been roaming about the world, not always quite as well off as himself he tells me that he doesn’t believe my word.’
‘I don’t think he said that.’
‘He didn’t quite dare; but what he said was as bad. He told me that some one else wouldn’t believe it. I don’t quite understand what it is they’re not to believe. All I say is, that they two were not married in May ‘73.’
‘But about your never having heard of the case till you got home?’
‘I never had heard a word about it. One would think that I had done something wrong in coming forward to tell what I know.’ The deposition, however was drawn out in due form, at considerable length, and was properly attested before one of the London magistrates.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01