THE dusty, smoky
sunbeams were shooting down into Mr. Cottenham's room about three
o'clock on a warm afternoon, when his clerk knocked at the door.
He may have been dozing, for he seemed desirous to show himself more
alert, and to speak a little more sharply, than usual; while some
one was shown in, and the door shut behind him.
"Decidedly I must have been asleep—bad habit. Don't
remember saying this young fellow was to be shown up—don't remember
what he is come about," thought Mr. Cottenham. "Can't recall
it at all." He looked at his guest—at Don John, in fact,
remarked his very light hair and fair complexion, the frank,
good-tempered air, and was sure he had never seen him before.
He said to himself,
"A gentlemanly-looking young fellow, and in no hurry to
speak. I see that he knows I have been napping."
The young man spoke at last, not without a slight air of
deference, which was very agreeable.
"You sent a message to me."
"By a young lady."
The smiling, chubby face took on an air of concern and
"She was to ask me whether I had ever heard of such a thing
as compounding of felony."
"I am an articled clerk to a lawyer. Criminal cases are
not in his line, but I have access to the best law-books."
"I consider that the young lady, innocently of course, and in
ignorance—" interrupted Mr. Cottenham.
"Pardon me, I come only in reply to your message, to inform
you according to the best authorities what is meant by compounding
"Well, well, this is remarkable."
Don John unfolded a sheet of foolscap paper, on which was
some writing in the round hand of a copying clerk, and began,―
"'Compounding of felony is the taking of a reward for
forbearing to prosecute a felony; and one species of this offence
(known in the books by the more ancient appellation of theft-base)
is where a party robbed takes his goods again, or other amend, upon
agreement not to prosecute.' "
"I thought as much!"
"It could not be more clear. Shall I go on? 'This
was formerly held to make a man an accessory to the theft, but is
now punished only with fine and imprisonment.'"
"Only!" ejaculated the listener, "only with fine and
imprisonment. Now what could possess you, to read all this
"It defines the compounding of felony."
"It defines it very clearly! I am much afraid of the
law. I have got into the clutches of the law three times."
"That could only have been innocently, as you said of the
young lady, and through ignorance."
"You are sure of this? You don't require much time for
making up your mind."
"I have had time enough already to feel grieved to think that
when a certain thing is explained and arranged I shall probably
never have the pleasure of seeing you again in this world. I
shall be obliged to wish indeed that you may never know even my
The round, childlike face took on its sweetest expression.
"Explained and arranged! Well, well, the confidence of
youth is amazing!"
"There's a good deal more of it," said Don John. "This
perversion of justice in the old Gothic constitutions was liable to
the most severe and infamous punishment. Indeed the Salic law
'la troui eum similem habuit, qui furlum'—"
"Stop! That I will not stand. What is such jargon
"I had better go on then to the English, 'And by statute 24
and 25Vict. c. 96, s. 102 (amended by 33 and 34 Vict. c. 65), even
publicly to advertise a reward for the return of property stolen or
lost, and in such advertisement to use words purporting that no
questions will be asked; or purporting that a reward will be paid
without seizing or making inquiry after the persons producing the
same; or promising to return to a pawnbroker or other person any
money he may have advanced upon, or paid for such property; or
offering any other sum of money or reward for the return of the
same: subjects the advertiser, the printer, and the publisher to a
forfeiture of fifty pounds each."'
"Is that all?" There was the least little touch of
sarcasm in the tone of this question.
"I could have multiplied authorities, I could have copied a
great deal more, but I thought that was enough."
"I think so too. Compounding of felony is now very
clearly explained; what I still fail to understand is the meaning of
your conduct! I am not expected to consider it disinterested,
"I had something to hope for, of course."
"And I should like to know whether, when you searched through
the law-books for these definitions, you instructed yourself as to
what compounding of felony was, at the same time that you prepared
to instruct me?"
Don John for the moment endeavoured to serve a stolid
expression, but as he could not,—as he felt himself detected, he
glanced furtively at the round, chubby face, and then looked again,
and seemed to gather confidence and comfort.
"I want to dismiss that subject, now if you will let me, and
mention to you a poor young man who has behaved very wickedly to
you, and who is very miserable."
"In short, John Ward. I trusted John Ward; I was very
kind to him."
"He told me so; it aggravates his crime. He robbed you
of the sum of three thousand and fifteen pounds and fifteen
"He told you that! you have seen him then."
"Yes; he is very miserable. He says that he deeply
"I am sorry for him,—and for myself,—and for you.
"By a quite unexpected circumstance, some property was left,
on which both he and his mother thought that he had a claim; at
first his claim was disallowed, but now it is admitted."
"Indeed, indeed. Well, I don't know what to make of
"I have seen him a second time, and I am thankful to say that
when I was explaining to him about this claim, he asked whether the
money would amount to as much as three thousand and fifteen pounds
and fifteen shillings. I was less miserable about him after I
had heard him say that. It shows that he really does repent."
"You are his good friend."
"He humbly begs your forgiveness for what he has done, and he
humbly desires to restore to you by me the whole of the money that
he stole. Here it is." He handed over the table a parcel
"Here it is," repeated Mr. Cottenham, as if this unexpected
turn of affairs confused him to the point of leaving him devoid of
any original words. He took up his eye-glass and leaned over
the parcel without touching it. Then he drew towards him the
paper Don John had read, and carefully considered that. In the
shrewdness with which he scrutinized it there was something
childlike and simple; but in the silent pity with which he turned
over the yet unopened parcel, there was something that childhood
At last he broke the seal, and slowly spread out the notes,
and opened the little packet of gold.
Don John's heart danced.
"It was a large sum to lose," muttered Mr. Cottenham.
"And his behaviour cut me to the heart too. I suppose," he
went on, but not addressing Don John; "I suppose I cannot be bound
to prosecute now?"
He appeared to fix his eyes on a map which was hanging on the
opposite wall, and to address his remark to that. "I have been
bitten by the law three times already."
Don John chose out an opposite map, and in his turn made some
cautious remarks. "A fellow must be prosecuted on some
particular charge, either he is accused of a crime against the
prosecutor, or against 'Our Sovereign Lady the Queen.' Now if
a man tried for murder could produce in court the supposed murdered
man, and prove that he was alive and well—"
"The two might walk out of court, arm in arm, for ought the
judge could say! There was no crime!"
"Or again, a man accused of a robbery, if he can produce a
receipt in full, for the money in question, cannot be brought to
trial, the intending prosecutor has no charge to bring against him.
Only," continued Don John, "if writs are out against such a man, and
when he has paid he is arrested before he has the receipts to show,
his people are liable to be disgraced; his story might get wind."
Mr. Cottenham lost himself in cogitation here, then he said,
"I shall give John Ward a receipt in full, and write him a
short letter by you. What can I say better than, 'Sin no more,
lest a worse thing happen to thee?' You may trust me to do all
I can for you."
He began to write, and having put a certain stamp at the end
of the letter, handed it to Don John, who received it with eager joy
and fervent thanks.
"This has been a great trouble to you, since you first heard
"So it has to me. I felt that he had ruined himself,
and I had trusted him."
"But I felt not only that he was ruined, but that his trial
would disgrace my people. They know nothing of this, not one
"Well, if it depends on me, they never shall; for I think
they never need. You have conducted this case very well for
your first client. I suppose I am your first?"
"Father and mother both living?"
"Yes, both, I thank God."
"As doubtless they do for you. It is a fine thing to
have a son. I lost my son—he was my only one. I have
still a daughter, about the age, as I think, of that beautiful young
girl whom you sent to me. She is not your sister, of course."
At this mention of Charlotte, a sudden change came over Don
John's face in spite of himself. The denial had leaped out of
his eyes before he answered, "That young lady is not my sister—no."
"If she is in any sense under your charge, or influence, I
cannot but express a hope that you may never have to send her on an
errand again which has to begin by her informing the one person
present that she must conceal her name—"
Don John looked up.
"I fervently hope that young lady may never be sent on such
an errand again. Being what she is, and looking what she is,
you could not have thought any evil of her, for a moment—any evil at
"I did not."
"And you being what you are, and looking what you are, she
could think nothing but good of you. On what better errand (if
you had understood it) could I have sent her to you, unless I had
sent her to ask for your blessing?"
"Sir! no man was ever so acceptably reproved."
"We are not strangers to you, we both know you by
"Indeed! there is nothing else that I can do for you?"
"Unless you will shake hands with me."
Thereupon they parted, and Don John with the precious receipt
buttoned up in his coat, ran clattering downstairs, and sped towards
the Great Northern Railway, getting out at a station agreed upon
between the two, and walking about in search of the poor acrobat.
He wandered through the suburban streets, and stared into the eating
houses, till he was getting tired out; but he did not feel alarmed,
for he knew Lancey might have taken fright, thinking himself
At last he came home.
The next morning before breakfast, his mother with an ivory
paper-knife was cutting open the newspapers, and laying them before
his father's plate, when glancing one over, she remarked, "I often
wonder what some of these queer advertisements mean. Here is
one odder than usual: 'The acrobat may wash his face."'
"I've been told they concern some smuggling operations; they
are signals it is thought," said Marjorie, "signals to vessels that
have smuggled goods on board."
"Perhaps the 'Acrobat' is the name of one of those vessels,"
"Perhaps," answered the father carelessly, and with a smile.
Don John and Charlotte exchanged glances: that was all which
passed. The talk concerned Marjorie's wedding, which was to be
in three days. The bridegroom was already in the house, the
grandmother was expected in an hour. The wedding presents were
frequently arriving, and all was pleasant bustle and cherished
confusion. It was so nice to have so much to do. Nobody
wanted to think about the parting, especially the bride's father.
But the acrobat made no sign, and one day, two days, and then
the wedding-day passed over, and still he was not to be found.
Don John wearied himself with researches under hedges all about
Hornsey, and out beyond Barnet; he had large bills posted up over
walls in waste places, on hoardings, and outside the railway
stations. "It's all right. The acrobat May wash his
face." A great many eyes became familiar with that strange
announcement, but apparently not Lancey's, and yet Don John was
moderately easy in his mind. He felt sure Lancey had not been
arrested. Mr. Cottenham would have taken care of that.
At the wedding everybody behaved very badly; almost all wept,
some because they were sorry, some because they were glad, and some
because the others did.
The bridegroom stuck fast in returning thanks, when his
bride's health was drunk. Her grandmother openly prompted him.
The bride's father stuck fast in remarking how much he was blessed
in his dear sons and daughters. People will say such things.
This happy remark caused a good deal of piteous sniffing. The
grandmother prompted him also, but not so audibly; he was glad to
avail himself of her words, and then she counselled him to sit down.
The day was hot, and there was an intermittent downfall of
pouring rain. The bridesmaids' gowns, in spite of awnings, got
wet at the bottom. The rain poured through openings in a tent
which had been pitched in the field, and splashed into the bountiful
bowls of custard, and weakened the claret-cup, and cooled the gravy.
In that tent, the inhabitants of "the houses" were being feasted.
The rain was not held on the whole to be a disadvantage, because, as
some of the guests remarked, it cooled the air, and made the
victuals seem to go down more sweetly.
At last, in a heavier downfall than ever, and with more
tears, both from gentle and simple, the bride drove away. The
father shut himself up in his study; the mother and her little Mary
went upstairs to console themselves together. All the guests
took their leave; and Naomi and Mr. Brown, settling themselves
comfortably in a corner of the drawing-room, sat hand in hand.
There was nobody left in the great dining-room but the
grandmother, Don John, and Charlotte.
"I shall not come up to Naomi's wedding," remarked the
former, "if ye all mean to go on in this way. I'm quite
ashamed of you! Charlotte too; what had you got to cry for, I
should like to know?"
"It was so affecting," said Charlotte demurely, and trifling
with the flowers of her bouquet.
"Affecting! Yes; your little nose is quite swelled with
crying!" (Charlotte went and peeped at herself in a glass) "and your
eyelashes are wet yet. I hope ye'll behave better when your
own wedding-day comes."
"I shall never have one," said Charlotte, in the same demure
fashion, and with a little smile, which seemed to betoken superior
"What, do ye really mean to tell me that ye never intend to
"Oh, no!" said Charlotte, "I think I should like to be
married. I always have a theory that I should." She
laughed. "If anybody that was nice would have me."
The grandmother sat bolt upright.
"What!" she exclaimed rather sharply.
"I shall not be married, because nobody wants to marry me,"
persisted Charlotte, not the least put out of countenance. "I
never had a lover" (excepting once for a day or two, and then he
changed his mind), "and they think I never shall have."
"'THEY,' repeated the grandmother, with infinite emphasis;
"and who are they, I beg to know?"
"Oh," said Charlotte carelessly, "Don John and the girls."
The grandmother looked steadily at Don John, and he appeared
"Don John said it, did he? said ye had no lover! I
thought he knew better!"
Charlotte had not eaten much breakfast, and was dipping some
ripe strawberries into the sugar, and eating them with bread.
"But I forgot," she continued, "that we mean to call him laird
now. Marjorie made us promise not to forget. Laird, shut
"He may hold it open a moment for me first," said the
grandmother, rising, and slightly tossing her head—there were a good
many feathers in the wedding-bonnet, and they wagged as she walked.
She laughed when she reached the door; but before it was shut behind
her she was heard to murmur,―
"No lover has she. Well, I thought ye knew better, I
Lancey," exclaimed Charlotte, "and I do think"—Don John had come up
to her by this time—"I do think, considering what friends we have
always been, and considering how I have helped you about him, you
ought not to let her suppose it." She put her hand to her
throat. "No, I am not going to cry again; but two or three
times grandmamma has hinted at this kind of thing to me, and
remembering all the piteous truth, I feel as if her thinking of him
as my lover was almost a disgrace to me, and that was why I was so
anxious to tell her that I had no lover."
"She did not mean Lancey," said Don John.
Charlotte had finished her strawberries.
"She must have meant Lancey," she answered, "for there's
The grandmother had much exaggerated the traces of tears.
Charlotte had never looked so lovely in her life. That may
have been partly because she had never been so beautifully adorned
before. The shimmering white silk set off her dark hair, and
there was lace round her throat, from which it rose like a small
alabaster column, and then the rosebuds in her bouquet, how they
matched the hues of her mouth! and it softened, and the dimple came
in her cheek.
"Look," she exclaimed, pointing into the garden, and there
was the grandmother marching about among the dripping flowers, with
a certain air of determination, "she is quite cross still."
"Yes; but not with you. Do not be vexed. She did
not mean Lancey."
"Then whom could she mean?"
"A mere nobody; for as you have said (and I deserve it),
'there is nobody else.'"
"She meant ME."
All the sweetest changes that Charlotte's face was capable of
came into it then. She pouted as one cogitating, and her long
lashes drooped, then she blushed—it was that real old-fashioned
maiden blush, which is rather rare now, and so exquisitely beautiful
that when seen under such interesting circumstances it can never be
She sat down on a sofa in the corner of the room, where she
could not be seen from the garden, and quickly recovering herself,
began, "Then go to her at once, of course, and say—"
"Yes; what may I say?"
"I ought not to have been told this at all," said Charlotte,
in a tone not quite free from reproof. "It is your affair to
find out how to say—that she is mistaken."
"But she is not mistaken."
Charlotte had got the corner of the sofa, and looked forth
from it. Under such circumstances people cannot sit side by
side; but Don John sat as near to her as he could.
"No?" she murmured again, almost in a whisper, and she lifted
up her eyes, and looked into his, which denied and denied that there
was any mistake, in a fashion more convincing than words.
Just for a moment she felt as if a kiss was impending.
Don John did not kiss her. He thought that was owing to his
own new-born modesty, deference, and devotion, and did not know that
she had already made him remote from her lips. He wanted to
take her hand, but she scarcely let him hold it for an instant.
Even at that pass it flashed into his recollection how often in
their childhood he had lent her his own pocket-handkerchief to dry
her fingers on, when they were inked. All was different now,
and he must make the best of the change. It would seem so
natural to go down on his knees—but would she laugh at him? On
one knee—but would she laugh at him? He started up on his
feet, and burst forth with his love, and his entreaty, that she
would not remember his boyish impertinence, and before he knew what
he was about, he was on one knee, and the door being suddenly flung
open, his grandmother entered. She was heard to utter a short
laugh, and she hastily withdrew.
Don John sprang to his feet. He and Charlotte looked at
one another, and they both laughed also. Charlotte as overcome
by a surprising and absurd incident, Don John as one who accused his
He had been pleading with her for a rose—bud only one, out of
her bouquet—and Charlotte had been so taken by surprise, that she
knew not what to do. But she was mistress of the situation
now, new as it was to her.
"Come and sit down here," she entreated. "Let us be our
old selves again, and tell me what this means."
But he still wanted the rose-bud, that he might get her hand
to kiss, and when she withdrew it, she looked at it as if it might
"All this is very amazing," she began; and repeated, "Let us
be our old selves again."
"I cannot be my old self; I love you." He looked down:
her little feet in their white satin shoes peeped forth, and seemed
to nestle on the carpet, he thought, like two young doves; but of
course he had the sense not to say this, he knew she would laugh at
him if he did.
"But I meant that I want you to explain what all this means.
You always had a theory, you know, which—which I thought a very
sensible one," said Charlotte, suddenly giving her sentence a fresh
Don John heaved up a great sigh. "Yes, I know I have
chiefly my own insolence and folly to thank, if you cannot
understand or believe me."
"At any rate there's no occasion to be so melancholy about
it," said Charlotte; and then, overcome by the absurdity of this
sudden change in her old comrade, she burst into a delightful little
laugh, which was quite irresistible.
Don John could not possibly help seeing how ridiculous the
thing was as regarded in the light of his whole former conduct, and
the two young creatures laughed together, both at themselves, and at
the irony of fate.
"I never would have believed it of you," exclaimed Charlotte,
"It's poetical justice done upon me."
"I suppose it is."
"I deserve it."
"I had not reached to the point of thinking so!"
"But what are you going to do with me?"
"Do with you!" exclaimed Charlotte, laughing again.
"Yes. You make me laugh, but it's no laughing matter.
If you only knew. Don't you think you can say—something?"
"Something appreciative?" suggested Charlotte, when he
paused. "Yes, laird; I can say that your property becomes you
vastly in the giving of it away. I can say that this must
certainly have been a pleasant day to you, for you have got uncle
out of a pecuniary scrape, made Marjorie happy, and are going to do
as much for Naomi. I did say the other morning that I thought
you had grown better-looking. I now see the reason of it; your
bosom was glowing with virtue and generosity; you pose before my
mind's eye as on your first return I saw you—classically bundled up
in your new plaid, and smoking your cigar like a sort of Scotch
"It was only right you should know I had parted with that two
thousand pounds. You, and only you!"
Charlotte blushed; the hint was rather a strong one.
"I shall have something much more difficult to tell you
"It's not at all becoming to you to be tragical. You
cannot have forgotten that in our charades you never would do the
tragic parts; because, as you said, a fellow to act tragedy well
ought to have a Roman nose."
"But I am not acting now."
"No; I never meant to insinuate anything of the sort.
But look how the sun shines and glitters on the wet roses, don't you
think if you were to take a cigar and go out, and think this over,
you would come back in a different humour?"
"I am always thinking it over.",
"Since how long?"
"Since I came home from Scotland the first time, and you met
me—waiting for me at the green gate—don't you remember?"
"Remember! No. Why, that's months ago."
"You leaned on the green gate—and I saw you."
"I always lean on the green gate. It couldn't be that."
"I saw how beautiful you were, and how sweet—and—I loved
"All on a sudden?"
"But what for?"
"It was not for anything in particular, then?"
"It was for everything in general. I am always finding
out more reasons for loving you. If you send me out to walk
among the rose-trees I shall find them in the shadows at their
roots, and in the rain-drops that they shake from their buds.
All the reading in the book of my life is about you, and the world
outside tells me of you. Things fair and young and good I must
needs love, because they are like you; there is pity in me, and I
find a pathos in what is unlovely and old, because it is unlike."
"Don't be unkind, Charlotte."
So many charms in one small face—such dimples and blushes,
and shy dropping of black lashes, and such a whimsical pathos, and
almost tenderness—when she was not laughing at him—were hardly ever
"Don't you think you could afford me one kiss, Charlotte?"
"But you will think of all this—you are not displeased?"
"Displeased! I always used to think nothing was so
"As love—such love as this—as mine?"
"Yes; and so I think still. Nothing can be so
interesting, in the abstract!"
"Well, you might at least let a fellow kiss your hand; I
never heard of a lover yet who was not allowed to do that."
"If it were any other fellow—but you! Don't be so
"It's cruel of you to make game of me."
"And yet I love you better than any excepting Aunt Estelle,
and my uncle and mother. I liked you, I believe, better than
any one at all till now."
"Liked me best. Oh, do tell me what is the difference
between that and loving?"
"People whom we like are those who (we suppose) will never
astonish us; people whom we are not obliged to explain things to,
because they know; people whom we perfectly trust—they are partners,
"You like me less now?"
"Perhaps so, laird."
"It is my belief that your poetic mind eschews with distaste
the notion of prosperity; if a fellow has, as you think, all he
wants in this world, he is less interesting to you."
"That is not impossible."
"And it is nothing to me. Not that I allude to Captain
Leslie's bequest. Between Lancey and the girls, I have
despoiled myself already of most of the money, and I shall not have
the land much longer."
"What can you mean, Don John?"
"Why you knew that I had parted with enough money to set poor
Lancey straight. You helped me to do it, my lady and queen."
"But the land?"
"Ah! yes, the land; there's the rub. You have always
thought of me as rather a jolly fellow, haven't you? Not a
fellow that had ever known misfortune, or had anything weighing on
The rose hue faded out of Charlotte's face now, and by
absence helped its new expression to a deeper emphasis.
"When you were ill," she began, "I thought you had something
on your mind. My heart ached for you. I felt that you
must have some sorrow clouding your nights and days. Even when
you were getting better, I often saw it come over like a dark cloud
to veil out all the sunshine."
"And you liked me then, better than any one, and
"No, I did not understand; for I could not help thinking,
that in some way it had to do with Lancey, and your distress at his
"It had something to do with Lancey."
"Lancey, and his place here, and their love for him, and
yours, have been wonderful to me all my life; but at least he can
have nothing to do with this strange thing, that I thought you said
about Captain Leslie's land. You cannot possibly want to give
that to him?"
"Certainly not, and yet it has to do with him, that I cannot
keep it for myself."
"You make him more important than ever," said Charlotte
faltering, and obviously shrinking from she knew not what.
"But he became ten times more important after I got better,
after I had seen you leaning on the green gate, and you had told me
about his trying to make you like him, and of his mother's
entreaties. I thought indeed for a long time that you did care
for him. Till in fact you went with me to offer old Cottenham
the title-deeds as a pledge. Then I knew for the first time
that you did it for all our sakes rather than for his."
"Lancey is at least not going to have that estate."
"No; nor I either."
"Amazing! Oh, my uncle is no doubt in debt more than we
"No; nothing of the sort. Mother is going to tell you
"Your mother! Aunt Estelle. Why should she tell
"Because it might concern you."
Charlotte blushed and flushed, and the dimple went away into
hiding. "Aunt Estelle," she repeated; "but how should she
"How should my mother not know? Could she see me day by
day, and never divine that I loved you? She always knows
without being told what concerns the happiness of her children."
"And she consented to—"
"She proposed to tell you several things. She
said I ought not to ask you to be my wife till you knew them."
"Yes; whether you can ever love me, or whether you cannot,
you will always love mother ten times more when she has told you."
"Wait a minute, let me think."
Don John had no objection. He leaned over the end of
the sofa. He knew all the expressions of Charlotte's face—the
beautiful pouting mouth, and shining tender eyes. How she
pondered and wondered!
"There really is something?" she sighed at last.
"And I cannot catch the remotest glimpse of it." But
the mother's knowledge, and the mother's apparent sanction, gave a
strange, sweet surprise and reality to the thing.
True love it was evident had come near her. She foresaw
that there would soon be a response to it; but she thought most of
the mother, her aunt who had brought her up, and been so loving to
her. It was manifest that nothing could be denied to her; but
how amazing that she should be brought into the story. "I
cannot make it out," she exclaimed.
Then remembering how she had laughed at this mother's son,
and teazed him, and denied him the small comfort of a drooping
rose-bud, she went on,
"But Don John, if you will let me tell you beforehand exactly
what it means, I think after all I had better give you that kiss."
"Oh, yes! do tell me then what it is to mean."
"First, it is to be for the past, for a parting with all the
old yesterdays. We used to be such friends, and I am glad we
"Tell me the rest, and give it me."
"I knew so little of my mother. I always loved yours
best of all. There was something more, but I forget it."
"But give me the kiss."
AFTER all, when
we read the parable of the Prodigal Son, we find him for all his
faults more interesting than that blameless brother who was at work
in his father's field.
It was now twelve days after the wedding. In a small
bare room, on a truckle bed, a poor disfigured patient was lying.
A medical man without touching, leaned towards him, and regarded him
with attention. He gave directions to two women, one of whom
was seated on either side of the bed, then said, before retiring,
"He'll do now. You'll do very well now, my poor fellow.
Do you hear me?"
The patient assented, but scarcely in articulate words, and
presently dozed again.
After he had taken some food, and had his pillows altered to
his mind, he began to look about him with interest and attention,
specially to look at the face of his elder nurse, a simple and
rather foolish face, but full of goodwill.
"I should like to see myself in a glass," he presently said.
"There aint a glass in the house, my pore young man," she
answered. "It's an empty house that you was brought into."
"What is it that has been the matter with me?" he next asked.
"Well, it's what they call an eruptive fever," said the
"Is it infectious?"
"Yes, it is; but it's my business to nurse such cases."
"I thank you for your goodness to me."
"You should thank God, my pore boy," said the other, "that He
has made some of us with a liking for such a business."
"That's my aunt, Miss Jenny Clarboy," said the younger; "I
had to have somebody here to cook, and wait, and help; so she came."
"For the love of God," explained Miss Jenny.
The patient sighed distressfully. "Then I am not to
have a glass; but if I tell you that I hope my face is very much
changed, you'll let me know whether it is, or not, won't you?"
"My poor young man, we don't ask you why you should want it
to be changed; but I may say, that though you'll be like yourself
again some day, your own mother wouldn't know you now, though she
should look at you hard."
"I'm thankful," said the patient faintly; but whether for his
present disfigurement, or for the promise of recovery, did not
The younger nurse now retired to take some rest. The
patient for awhile was very still. He looked about, but there
was little in the room for his eyes to rest on. The clean
ceiling and the sloping walls, were whitewashed and bare. A
small green blind was hung before the curtainless window.
There was nothing to look at but his nurse, and he contemplated her
till the circumstance attracted her attention, and the simple
creature was a little put out of countenance for she had a clean,
but exceedingly shabby, old print gown on, which was patched in
various places. She actually began to explain.
"It's a one as I've kept for cleaning, and washing days.
I've respectable things for going to my chapel in."
"Anything is good enough for me, Miss Jenny," said the
patient gently. "Won't you draw the other chair nearer, and
put your feet on the spoke to rest them?"
"I will, my pore young man. Now you can talk so as to
be understood, I warrant there's not much of the tramp on your
"I was only a tramp, because I've thrown myself away."
"That's a sad hearing."
"I heard you pray by my bed, when you thought I should die."
"There was little else to be done for you."
"And you said I was a poor lost creature."
"We're all lost till Christ finds us—Jesus Christ, the
Saviour of the world."
"Till Christ finds us—yes—but I have tried hard to prevent
Him from finding me. I have tried to hide myself from Him
under the darkness of a great many evil deeds."
"You talk very faint and very hollow. I may not let you
go on, and I'll only say this, my pore lad, that if nobody else will
have anything to say to you, and you are so lost that you have
nothing but misery to call your own, why then lie still and wish
(for you're too weak to pray), wish that He may find you, and He
will, for you are the right sort for Him."
There were many days of pain and sickness after this; there
were many drawbacks, and sometimes it almost seemed as if the poor
young patient would sink.
"Who's going to pay for all this?" he one day asked.
"You've no call to think of that," answered the younger
nurse, "for there's nothing asked for from you, John Ward."
John Ward sighed; how could he tell that he ever should be
able to repay this money. During the first stages of his
illness, which had come on suddenly, he had been delirious; he was
lying under a hedge wet with dew, and ghastly with smeared paint and
whitewash, when a policeman found him. He had some
recollection of this, and that he had been able repeatedly to make
known his wish that a penny paper might be bought for him. Of
course no notice was taken of this request; but his intervals of
sense for several days were spent in repeating it; and even after he
became so weak and confused that he by no means knew himself what he
had wanted it for, he could often be soothed by having some old
piece of newspaper put into his hand, when he would fumble over it,
and guard it jealously. Thus his desire for a newspaper was
always regarded by these women as a proof of delirium, and one of
his worst symptoms.
Of course, though they did what was right by him and never
left him, his sick bed was not surrounded by those delicate,
attentive cares that he would have had if he had been in the midst
of a loving, cultured family. Nobody tried to find out a
meaning in his fancies, or made experiments to discover whether this
one or that would please him. So when he was a little better
and again approached the subject of the papers, he was cut short by
the remark that the doctor would by no means let them go to the
bookstalls fresh from the sick-room; for the doctor was a very
conscientious gentleman, and particular to prevent the spread of
"As you may jedge," Miss Jenny would say, "when you
see saucers here and saucers there full of Condy's Fluid [Ed.―a
disinfecting solution of sodium and potassium permanganates]
that costs a pretty penny; and that he doesn't grudge you, my pore
young man, more than if it was water."
Miss Jenny finding herself for the very first time in her
life in a position of authority, took advantage of it, and seemed to
rise to it strangely. She gave John Ward a good deal of
advice, and he listened to it, wide as it was of the mark, with
wonder and interest. It was advice suited to an acrobat and a
tramp. Such she thought him. That this should be
possible was a thing so piteous as to give it often a keener edge
than any satire; but then she would go on in her simplest fashion to
teach some of the most comforting doctrines of our faith. John
Ward had heard these all his life, and yet they seemed new now.
It is only those who have known what it is to be lost who can truly
long to be found. He listened, and was comforted. The
Saviour does not often walk in high places. John Ward, who
knew himself to be a disgrace, and felt that he was wretched, had
been cast out as the unclean thing, and lying in the dust had met
He was sitting up in bed for the first time when his nurse
thus let him know that he had been dependent on charity. His
head had been shaved again during his illness.
"And those wretched callicoes and that sash and wig of yours
were burnt because of infection," she continued; "but see what good
friends have been raised up for you, they are going to make a
gathering for you at our chapel to get you some decent second-hand
clothes and a pair of shoes so soon as you are strong enough to wear
"Her brother," said Miss Jenny, indicating her niece, "is a
waiter, and waits in the best of families, so you'll jedge
that he has to wear good clothes in his calling. That white
shirt you have on is an old one of his."
"Yes," said the niece; "he gave it to me for you, being fine
and fitter for a sick patient than the coarse things they sell in
the slop-shops. And he says he'll give you a waistcoat when
you go out, one that he has done with."
John Ward cast his eyes on the frayed wristband of his shirt.
If ever in his life he had felt shame for himself it was then.
"I am very much obliged to your brother that is a waiter," he said,
with the peculiar gentleness of intonation that he always used
towards his nurses.
Miss Jenny was about to depart home. The patient could
now be very well attended to by one person. She talked of her
sister, who was a respectable dressmaker, and always paid her way,
and then of the Johnstones. Not, of course, as the poor speak
of the rich to the rich—but as they speak to one another—"My sister,
'Mrs. Carboy,' and 'Johnstones people,' that live at the great
What a pang it gave poor John Ward to hear these familiar
names, and feel himself remote!
"Well, good-bye, aunt," said the niece, "you're not to shake
hands with the patient now you're dressed, nor go nigh him."
"I'm truly obliged to her," said John Ward.
"How respectable and how well you look in that Sunday gown,"
continued the niece. "And nobody knows what a deal of use
you've been to me."
"Kept up your spirits, did I, dear?" answered Miss Jenny
"No, I don't say that," replied the niece; "I never feel my
spirits half so good as when I've got a right down bad case, that
anybody else might be afraid to come near; nor so well in my health
"It's a providence," replied Miss Jenny; "and as for my pore
nerves, I don't know where they're gone to, since here I came."
So then she nodded to John Ward, and was gone. He might
not send any message by her: shame and probable danger to himself
prevented that. He laid himself down again and cried feebly.
Then his nurse gave him food.
"Don't you take on," she said, "it's bad for you."
"But I don't seem to get well," said the poor fellow.
"Get well," she repeated with the merciless directness always
used by the poor to those of their own class, "there's a deal to be
done before you get well."
"What's to be done?"
"Why, for one thing, there's your skin to come off —when you
see it coming off your hands and face in bits as big as sixpences
you'll know you're getting well."
John Ward inquired whether the process would hurt him much.
"Not a bit," she replied; "but I may tell you for your own
comfort that the parish authorities are very particular in this
union; they'll keep you here, and let you have the best of food till
that's over. In short, they won't let you go—or every
lodging-house you went and slept in you'd spread the infection, and
that would soon raise the rates."
John Ward received that he was a pauper, and felt it.
Also he felt that charity, at least national charity, was largely
indebted to enlightened self-interest.
"As cold as charity" has become a proverb; he was guarded
here, and lodged and fed, as he was informed, because by coming out
he might raise the rates.
"And how thankful that ought to make you," she continued;
"all your meals coming up as regular as can be, and there's a
gathering to be made, to buy you clothes, and you've time to think
upon your ways."
John Ward was not at all thankful to the parish authorities;
but he did much relish his meals, simple as they were, and for many
an hour he did lie still and think upon his ways.
With a certain humbleness and simplicity he tried to pray.
The chapters in the Bible that his nurse read to him appeared fresh
and interesting; the words were familiar, but they meant something
new, and her homely comments, which seemed to take for granted that
he had broken almost all the commandments of the Decalogue, did not
rouse in him any resentment. It was all true, truer than she
thought; the wonder was that even now, even yet, there might be
found a remedy.
And so the hours and days went on, till at last, a poor,
hollow-eyed young man, he went forth from the cottage where he had
been nursed, with a benefaction of two shillings in his pocket, and
an ample meal of meat and bread tied up in a pocket-handkerchief,
for the gathering at Little Bethel had provided even this last
He had a loud, hollow cough, and with faded eyes he surveyed
his grotesque habiliments—one of the waiter's old coats, very white
at the seams, a shirt and hat contributed by the preacher, and
trousers a world too wide for him; also a pair of new boots, of
strong workmanship, and heavy with hob-nails. He must spend
the half of his money in sending a telegram, and before he reached
the station he saw, torn and faded, and not perfect in any case, the
token he longed for. On hoardings and walls, and on empty
houses, glaring and disreputable portions of it greeted him
everywhere. His heart leaped with joy once more, and echoed
"It's all right; the acrobat may wash his face."
He doubted awhile in sheer delight, and spelt over the
disjointed sentence; but at last he found a perfect copy, and
creeping into the railway station, sent his telegram, and rested on
a bench to await the event.
His troubles now were soon over. In less than an hour
Don John appeared. Lancey was very quiet, very humble; he
could say little more than that he had been extremely ill, and he
was thankful to be taken in hand, decent lodging found for him, and
proper clothes bought for him; then, weak as he was, shaken by his
cough, and ashamed of the pauper position that he had just emerged
from, he asked nothing but that he was safe from prosecution, and
laid himself on his bed, leaving Don John to do and say what he
So he was left to rest and food, and his own salutary and
bitter reflections. He did not betray much emotion the next
day, when his foster-brother gave him old Cottenham's letter; but he
wept when he was told how anxious the Johnstones had been at his
disappearance. They often said it was certain he had gone to
America, but no suspicion of his crime had ever crossed their minds.
They hoped he would write soon to them. So far so good; his
crime had been condoned, and had caused them neither misery nor
disgrace, and of his sufferings they had not known. But what
next? Could it be right, or would it be possible to bring him
under their roof again? Fortunately the deciding of this was
not left to Don John.
Lancey had no sooner found himself alone, than he had written
a letter to "his mamma," setting forth that he had been extremely
ill, and giving her his address with directions to come to him.
He directed the letter to her old lodgings in which he had left her.
He knew nothing of her visit to Scotland, or her wish to follow him
Fortunately for her, Don John's advice, that she should wait
in England for tidings from Lancey, had taken some effect on her
She felt that if he did not want her, he would take care she
did not find him, whether she followed him or not; but if he did
want her he would certainly write to her at the only address he
knew. So, after waiting awhile in the north, she came back as
cheaply as she could, took a garret in that same house, and waited
At last a letter came; and he was close at hand.
She hastened to him, bringing with her the few clothes he had
not taken with him when he went on his nefarious errand. She
was much shocked at his appearance and his cough, but there was
little for them to talk about. He merely told her that he had
had a dreadful illness, which he had entirely brought upon himself.
She saw that he was humbled, and that all the spirit seemed to have
gone out of him; but he said little more, and never complained.
"I wish you had another suit," she said, holding up a
dress-coat, "for that one you have on seems rather heavy for you
"I have another," he answered, "a whole suit, I left in the
box in our old play-room at 'the house.'"
"Then ask Mr. Don John to send it you."
"Perhaps I shall some day; he has enough trouble with me just
"And how did it come there?"
Lancey seemed confused, and did not tell her how, in the
middle of summer night, tramping down from Liverpool, he had reached
that once-beloved home, and wandered about in the garden; then,
knowing it, and where everything was kept so well, had got the
longest fruit-ladder and put it against the play-room window, which
was open, and there, the better to hide himself, had put on the
wretched clothes and the wig, in which he had been found, and had
folded up his own clothes and put them into the box. The
rubbish in which they had been used to array themselves when they
acted their charades! He put on the worst of it. There
was bread in the room; Mary had been having her supper; he took the
loaf, went cautiously down the ladder, and replaced it, then filled
his pockets with fruit, and went his way.