John Caldigate, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter LV

How the Conspirators Throve

There had been some indiscretion among Caldigate’s friends from which it resulted that, while Judge Bramber was considering the matter, and before the police intelligence of Scotland Yard even had stirred itself in obedience to the judge’s orders, nearly all the circumstances which had been submitted to the judge had become public. Shand knew all that Bagwax had done. Bagwax was acquainted with the whole of Dick’s evidence. And Hester down at Folking understood perfectly what had been revealed by each of those enthusiastic allies. Dick, as we know, had been staying at Folking, and had made his presence notable throughout the county. He had succeeded in convincing uncle Babington, and had been judged to be a false witness by all the Boltons In that there had perhaps been no great indiscretion But when Bagwax opened a correspondence with Mrs. John Caldigate and explained to her at great length all the circumstances of the postmark and the postage-stamps, and when at her instance he got a day’s holiday and rushed down to Folking, then, as he felt himself, he was doing that of which Sir John Joram and Mr. Jones would not approve. But he could not restrain himself. And why should he restrain himself when he had lost all hope of his journey to Sydney? When the prospect of that delight no longer illumined his days, why should he not enjoy the other delight of communicating his tidings, — his own discoveries — to the afflicted lady? Unless he did so it would appear to her that Joram had done it all, and there would be no reward — absolutely none! So he told his tale — at first by letter and then with his own natural eloquence. ‘Yes, Mrs. Caldigate the postmarks are difficult. It takes a lifetime of study to understand..all the ins and outs of postmarks To me it is A B C of course. When I had spent a week or two looking into it I was sure that impression had never been made in the way of business Bagwax was sitting out on the lawn at Folking and the bereaved wife, dressed in black, was near him, holding in her hand one of the photographed copies of the envelope. ‘It’s A B C to me; but I don’t wonder you shouldn’t see it.’

‘I think I do see a good deal,’ said Hester.

‘But any babe may understand that,’ said Bagwax, pressing forward and putting his forefinger on the obliteration of the postage-stamp. ‘You see the date in the postmark.’

‘I know the date very well.’

‘We’ve had it proved that on the date given there, this identical postage-stamp had not yet been manufactured The Secretary of State can’t get over that. I’ll defy him.’

‘Why don’t they release him at once then?

‘Between you and me, Mrs. Caldigate, I think it’s Judge Bramber.’

‘He can’t want to injure an innocent man.

‘From what I’ve heard Sir John say, I fancy he doesn’t like to have the verdict upset. But they must do it. I’ll defy them to get over that.’ And again he tapped the queen’s-head. Then he told the story of his love for Jemima, and of his engagement. Of course he was praised and petted — as indeed he deserved; and thus, though the house at Folking was a sad house, he enjoyed himself — as men do when much is made of them by pretty women.

But the result of all this was that every detail of the story became known to the public, and was quite common down at Cambridge. The old squire was urgent with Mr. Seely, asking why it was that when those things were known an instant order had not come from the Secretary of State for the liberation of his son. Mr. Seely had not been altogether pleased at the way in which Sir John had gone to work, and was still convinced of the guilt of his own client. His answer was therefore unsatisfactory, and the old squire proclaimed his intention of proceeding himself to London and demanding an interview with the Secretary of State. Then the Cambridge newspapers took up the subject — generally in the Caldigate interest from thence the matter was transferred to the metropolitan columns — which, with one exception were strong in favour of such a reversal of the verdict as could be effected by a pardon from the Queen. The one exception was very pellucid, very unanswerable, and very cold-blooded. It might have been written by Judge Bramber himself, but that Judge Bramber would sooner have cut his hand off than have defiled it by making public aught that had come before him judicially or officially. But all Judge Bramber’s arguments were there set forth. Dick wished his father at once to proceed against the paper for libel because the paper said that his word could not be taken for much. The postmark theory was exposed to derision. There was no doubt much in the postage-stamp, but not enough to upset the overwhelming weight of evidence by which the verdict had been obtained. And so the case became really public, and the newspapers were bought and read with the avidity which marks those festive periods in which some popular criminal is being discussed at every breakfast-table.

Much of this had occurred before the intelligence of Scotland Yard had been set to work in obedience to Judge Bramber. The papers had been a day or two in the Home Office, and three or four days in the judge’s hands before he could look at them. To Hester and the old squire at Folking the incarceration of that injured darling was the one thing in all the world which now required attention. To redress that terrible grievance, judges, secretaries, thrones, and parliaments, should have left their wonted tracks and thought of nothing till it had been accomplished. But Judge Bramber, in the performance of his duties, was never hurried; and at the Home Office a delay but of three or four days amounted to official haste. Thus it came to pass that all that Bagwax had done and all that Shand had said were known to the public at large before the intelligence of Scotland Yard was at work — before anybody had as yet done anything.

Among the public were Euphemia Smith and Mr. Crinkett — Adamson also, and Anna Young, the other witness. Since the trial, this confraternity had not passed an altogether fraternal life. When the money had been paid, the woman had insisted on having the half. She, indeed, had carried the cheque for the amount away from the Jericho Coffee-house. It had been given into her hands and those of Crinkett conjointly, and she had secured the document. The amount was payable to their joint order, and each had felt that it would be better to divide the spoil in peace. Crinkett had taken his half with many grumblings, because he had, in truth, arranged the matter and hitherto paid the expenses. Then the woman had wished to start at once for Australia, taking the other female with her. But to this Crinkett had objected. They would certainly, he said, be arrested for breaking their bail at whatever port they might reach — and why should they go, seeing that the money had been paid to them on the distinct understanding that they were not pledged to abandon the prosecution. Most unwillingly the woman remained did so fearing lest worse evil might betide her. Then there had arisen quarrels about the money between the two females, and between Crinkett and Adamson. It was in vain that Crinkett showed that, were he to share with Adamson, there would be very little of the plunder left to him. Adamson demanded a quarter of the whole, short of a quarter of the expenses, declaring that were it not paid to him, he would divulge everything to the police. The woman, who had got her money in her hand, and who was, in truth, spending it very quickly, would give back nothing for expenses, unless her expenses in England also were considered. Nor would she give a shilling to Anna Young, beyond an allowance of £2 a week, till, as she said, they were both back in the colony again. But Anna Young did not wish to go back to the colony. And so they quarrelled till the trial came and was over.

The verdict had been given on the 20th July, and it was about the middle of September when the newspapers made public all that Shand and Bagwax between them had said and done. At that time the four conspirators were still in England. The two men were living a wretched life in London, and the women were probably not less wretched at Brighton. Mrs. Smith, when she learned that Dick Shand was alive and in England, immediately understood her danger — understood her danger, but did not at all measure the security which might come to her from the nature of Dick’s character. She would have flown instantly without a word to any one, but that the other woman watched her day and night. They did not live under the same roof, nor in similar style. Euphemia Smith wore silk, and endeavoured to make the best of what female charms her ill mode of life had left to her; while Young was content with poor apparel and poor living — but spent her time in keeping guard on the other. The woman in silk knew that were she to leave her lodgings for half a day without the knowledge of the woman in calico, the woman in calico would at once reveal everything to the police. But when she understood the point which had been raised and made as to the postmark — which she did understand thoroughly — then she comprehended also her own jeopardy, and hurried up to London to see Crinkett. And she settled matters with Young. If Young would go back with her to Australia, everything there should be made pleasant. Terms were made at the Brighton station. Anna Young was to receive two thousand pounds in London, and would then remain as companion with her old mistress.

In London there was a close conference, at first between the two principals only. Crinkett thought that he was comparatively safe. He had sworn to nothing about the letter; and though he himself had prepared the envelope, no proof of his handiwork was forthcoming that he had done so. But he was quite ready to start again to some distant portion of the earth’s surface — to almost any distant portion of the earth’s surface — if she would consent to a joining of purses. ‘And who is to keep the joint purse?’ asked Mrs. Smith, not without a touch of grand irony.

‘Me, of course,’ said Crinkett. ‘A man always must have the money.’

‘I’d sooner have fourteen years for perjury, like the Claimant,’ said Mrs. Smith, with a grand resolve that, come what might, she would stick to her own money.

But at last it was decided. Adamson would not stir a step, but consented to remain with two thousand pounds, which Crinkett was compelled to pay him. Crinkett handed him the money within the precincts of one of the city banks not an hour before the sailing of the Julius Vogel from the London Docks for Auckland in New Zealand. At that moment both the women were on board the Julius Vogel, and the gang was so far safe. Crinkett was there in time, and they were carried safely down the river. New Zealand had been chosen because there they would be further from their persecutors than at any other spot they could reach. And the journey would occupy long, and they were pervaded by an idea that as they had been hitherto brought in question as to no crime, the officers of justice would hardly bring them back from so great a distance.

The Julius Vogel touched at Plymouth on her outward voyage. How terribly inconvenient must be this habit of touching to passengers going from home, such as Euphemia Smith and Thomas Crinkett! And the wretched vessel, which had made a quick passage round from the Thames, lay two days and two nights at Dartmouth, before it went on to Plymouth. Our friends, of course, did not go on shore. Our friends, who were known as Mr. Catley and his two widowed sisters, Mrs. Salmon and Mrs. York, kept themselves very quiet, and were altogether well-behaved. But the women could not restrain some manifestation of their impatience. Why did not the vessel start? Why were they to be delayed Then the captain made known to them that the time for starting had not yet come. Three o’clock on that day was the time fixed for starting. As the slow moments wore themselves away, the women trembled, huddled together on the poop of the vessel; while Crinkett, never letting the pipe out of his mouth, stood leaning against the taffrail, looking towards the port, gazing across the waters to see whether anything was coming towards the ship which might bode evil to his journey. Then there came the bustle preparatory to starting, and Crinkett thought that he was free, at any rate, for that journey. But such bustle spreads itself over many minutes. Quarter of an hour succeeded quarter of an hour, and still they were not off. The last passenger came on board, and yet they were not off. Then Crinkett with his sharp eyes saw another boat pushed off from the shore, and heard a voice declare that the Julius Vogel had received a signal not to start. Then Crinkett knew that a time of desperate trouble had come upon him, and he bethought himself what he would do. Were he to jump overboard, they would simply pick him up. Nor was he quite sure that he wished to die. The money which he had kept had not been obtained fraudulently, and would be left to him, he thought, after that term of imprisonment which it might be his fate to endure. But then, again, it might be that no such fate was in store for him. He had sworn only to the marriage and not to the letter. It might still be possible that he should be acquitted, while the woman was condemned. So he stood perfectly still, and said not a word to either of his companions as to the boat which was coming. He could soon see two men in the guise of policemen, and another who was certainly a policeman, though not in that guise. He stood there very quiet, and determined that he would tell his own name and those of the two women at the first question that was asked him. On the day but one following, Crinkett and Euphemia Smith were committed in London to take their trial for perjury.

Adamson, when he had read the reports in the newspapers, and had learned that the postage-stamp had been detected, and that Shand was at home, also looked about him a little. He talked over the matter at great length with Crinkett, but he did not tell Crinkett all his own ideas. Some of them he did make known to Crinkett. He would not himself go to the colonies with Crinkett, nor would he let Crinkett go till some share of the plunder had been made over to him. This, after many words, had been fixed at two thousand pounds; and the money, as we have seen, had been paid. Crinkett had been careful to make the payment at as late a moment as possible. He had paid the amount — very much to his own regret when he saw that boat coming — because he was quite sure that Adamson would at once have denounced him to the police, had he not done so. Adamson might denounce him in spite of the payment; — but the payment appeared to him to be his best chance. When he saw the boat coming, he knew that he had simply thrown away his two thousand pounds.

In truth, he had simply thrown it away. There is no comfort in having kept one’s word honestly, when one would fain have broken it dishonestly. Adamson, with the large roll of bank-notes still in his pocket, had gone at once to Scotland Yard and told his story. At that time all the details had been sent by the judge to the police-office, and it was understood that a great inquiry was to be made. In the first place, Crinkett and Euphemia Smith were wanted. Adamson soon made his bargain. He could tell something — could certainly tell where Crinkett and the women were to be found; but he must be assured that any little peccadillo of which he himself might have been guilty would be overlooked. The peccadillo on his part had been very small, but he must be assured. Then he was assured, and told the police at once that they could stop the two travellers at Plymouth. And of course he told more than that. There had been no marriage — no real marriage. He had been induced to swear that there had been a marriage, because he had regarded the promise and the cohabitation as making a marriage — ‘in heaven.’ So he had expressed himself, and so excused himself. But now his eyes had been opened to the error of his ways, and he was free to acknowledge that he had committed perjury. There had been no marriage; — certainly none at all. He made his deposition, and bound himself down, and submitted to live under the surveillance of the police till the affair should be settled. Then he would be able to go where he listed, with two thousand pounds in his pocket. He was a humble, silent, and generally obedient man, but in this affair he had managed to thrive better than any of the others. Anna Young was afterwards allowed to fill the same position; but she failed in getting any of the money. While the women were in London together, and as they were starting, Euphemia Smith had been too strong for her companion. She had declared that she would not pay the money till they were afloat, and then that she would not pay it till they had left Plymouth. When the police came on board the Julius Vogel, Anna Young had as yet received nothing.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01