페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

“Oh, how horrible it seems, nurse! Oh,

in the course of a week, and had just passed let us try to get him out of his chair! Oh, it over to her father, who read it with much poor Uncle Richard---my dear-my dear!" satisfaction. Mrs. Heathcote, too, read it,

He was a heavy weight--dead weight -- but with different feelings, which she was for he could not move hand or foot-both studying how to express with due effect, when sides were palsied now; but the arms of the the messenger of evil tidings from the bank nurse were as strong as a man's. With little arrived in Dick's own dogcart. help from Lucy she got him on to his bed. The farmer was with him for five minutes.

The girl-sole one among his relatives He came back with pale cheeks and quiverwho had ever loved old Ready-money Morti- ing lips. boy-fell on her knees by the bedside, and “Dick," he gasped—“Dick-he's goneprayed to God.

dead-he shot himself by accident last night, The old man turned his eyes towards her. and died an hour afterwards. Poor Dick! She saw he was still conscious.

poor Dick!" He recovered after a little. “Oh! uncle,” she implored, "try-try to "Strange they both died at the same hour. A pray — try to follow my words. Uncle telegram came to the police office this mornRichard," she cried, in an agony of grief, ing at eight. They sent round to Ghrimes. "oh! Uncle Richard — try to make your

Ghrimes has sent for me. Poor Dick!-poor peace with God."

Dick!" But Mr. Mortiboy was unconscious again. The presence of a tragic event like this

The doctors came in a few minutes. Their melted for a moment the animosity of her language was plain: they did not try to dis-mother to Grace. They fell into each other's guise the truth. The period of the old man's arms, sobbing and crying. Dick was dead ! life might be reckoned in minutes. They Dick the generous: Dick the noble: Dick could do nothing, but they stayed to see the true and brave! Dick was dead! Nor the end.

was it for a full half-hour that Mrs. Heathcote, Ghrimes was sent for. He alone knew recovering herself the first, was able dimly Dick's London address. It was past eight to realize the change that this event might o'clock before he came back from the cause to her. Dick was dead-alas! poor country, where he had been on business. Dick! But then--but then all the fortuneHe came—touched his old master's power- the half million of money-whose would this less, helpless hand, and hurried away to the be? Whose should it be, she asked herself, telegraph office to summon Dick from Lon- but her own? And already beginning the don. Vain errand !

imaginary reign of splendour over which she For five hours from the time of his last had brooded so many years, a dream interstroke, the old man lay on his bed like one rupted by Dick's return, she held her handdead. He breathed, but every moment with kerchief to her eyes, and in the intervals of less strength. To Lucy Heathcote it seemed weeping indulged in delicious visions of like five days. Her father and mother were grandeur. there with her, but she thought only of him Mr. Heathcote found Market Basing who lay dying with them all round his bed. literally in tears. The people, nearly all

The death struggle came at nine o'clock. tenants of the great Mortiboy estates, were There was an inarticulate sound first from gathered in knots, discussing the event. No the old man's lips. Then he spoke. They news was come except by telegram; but all heard it.

there was scarcely any room for doubt. He said, "My-son-Dick," and lay there Dick Mortiboy was dead. The women wept -dead.

aloud: the men in silence: all had lost a

friend, the kindest-hearted friend they ever “Dick ought to be here at half-past ten,” had—the most ready to help. Not one to John Heathcote whispered to his wife. whom Dick, in his short reign of four months,

had not done some kind action: not one CHAPTER THE FORTY-EIGHTH.

who could not speak from experience of his DICK'S letter to Grace arrived at Parkside soft heart and generous nature, As the before

besieged brought by one of the bank clerks sent out the bank with inquiries, the fresh tears rose by Ghrimes at eight o'clock. Grace was read to his own eyes, and he got down at the ing the letter which promised to find Frank | door almost crying like a child.

[ocr errors]

No one cared about the old man now. “We must have a coroner's inquest,” said Dead? Ready-money dead? Well, he had Mr. Battiscombe. “There must be a funeral. been a long time dying. He had passed There is everything to be done. Will you away, four months ago, from men's minds. come to town with me?"

John Heathcote arrived at the bank, went “No-yes—what shall I do, Ghrimes?" through to the manager's office, where he “Go, by all means.

The train starts in found Ghrimes was there with Battiscombe, half an hour. I will send a message to to whom Ghrimes had sent, after despatch- Parkside. Go up to town, and see the last ing his message to Parkside.

of

your poor cousin." “Do you know of any will, Mr. Battis- They went to London-down to Dick's combe?” asked Ghrimes.

chambers, where they found the doctor and “None. I have the keys—I suppose we the old woman in charge. The doctor was ought to look."

standing by the bedside, with his chin on his In Dick's private safe, business papers in hands, thoughtfully gazing on the stark and plenty; but no will. Stay, a packet labelled, stiff form which lay covered with a sheet. “Private: to be opened after my death.” He gently took off the sheet from his face. “Open it,” said the lawyer.

“ You are his cousin?" he said.

“ I am Ghrimes opened and read it. It was taking a last look at the unfortunate man. short and concise. It was the confession of It is a singularly handsome face-a face of Polly Tresler. As he read it, his face as- wonderful sweetness and goodness: a good sumed a puzzled expression. He handed it man, I should say. And the most splendidly

: over to Mr. Battiscombe, who read it un-built man I ever saw. How could he have moved. Lawyers are seldom surprised at done it?" anything which appears abnormal to the rest The lawyer was reading Dick's last words, of mankind. Ghrimes was shocked at the his only will and testament. John Heathidea of Dick's secret marriage.

cote solemnly looked upon the features of “That explains,” he whispered, “the him who had been almost his own son. early quarrel between himself and his father. “He says he did it by accident," said Mr. That is the reason why Dick ran away.” Battiscombe.

"Perhaps. It is hard to say. No great “Yes, yes; but how?-how? Look here." crime for a young fellow to be beguiled by The doctor drew back the sheet, and showed a woman into making a fool of himself," the spot where the wound had been inflicted. said the lawyer. "It is as pretty a confes- “ You see the place. Very well, then. Now sion of bigamy—trigamy, even-as ever I take this pencil, hold it any way you like, read. Names, dates, churches, all given. and see if you could shoot yourself in the Upon my word, this woman is an exceed- left side, so far back, if the pencil was a ingly clever person. It is signed by her, pistol. I defy you to do it. It is very odd.

I and written by poor Mr. Mortiboy himself; Yet he said he did it.” dated, too, only a fortnight ago. Mary Coroner's inquest that evening. IntelliTresler, Mary Tresler-I know her, daugh- gent jury, after viewing the body, and readter of that drunken old gipsy woman who ing the paper-Dick's last imposture-heard married my father's gardener a long time the doctor's doubts, and pooh-poohed them. ago. Ah, dear me!”

Shot himself?-of course he did. What did What is to be done?”

it matter how? As if a man would lie about Clearly, we must first establish the truth such a thing as that. Verdict, " Accidental of her statements. I think, Ghrimes, I had death "—the worthy coroner adding some better go to town and see to this myself, severe strictures upon the frequency of gun to prevent complications. Meantime, say accidents, and men's carelessness in the nothing to the Heathcotes--to anybody. handling of weapons. There may, besides, be a will. To prevent Dick was dead. The good that he had raising hopes in their minds, tell them, what time to do lives still; the lives that he quickis quite true, that you don't know whether ened, which were dead under the weight of any will was made or not. You know, of grinding poverty and servitude, if they have course, that if there is no will, Mrs. Heath- relapsed to their old misery-which some cote is the sole heiress. She inherits every- may have done—have still the memory of thing-everything."

better things, and therefore nourish a healthy Then Mr. Heathcote arrived.

discontent. The stirring of the blood which

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

his example and his words caused: his factor. From highest to lowest, from Lord oration to the children, which will never | Hunslope to the beggarman, all came to die out of their minds: his charity, for the shed tears over the untimely death of Dick first time in Market Basing unconnected Mortiboy. with religion and three sermons every Sun- “Truly,” said the Rector, “charity coday: his sympathy with the fallen: his ten- | vereth a multitude of sins." derness to the falling: his kind and rough It was all over now. His burly form was wis lom: his unbookish maxims: his ready with them no more. The vault was closed, hand: his quick insight into humbug-all the service read. They would never again these things, and many more, make him to hear his ringing laugh, his soft and sympabe remembered still. These live after him. thetic voice. The women would no longer, The good that he did was a seed sown in if they were poor, go to him to pour out fruitful soil, still growing up, destined to be their tales of want; if they were well-to-do, in the after-years a goodly tree indeed. And look after him in the street-so handsome, the evil-does that still live? I know Pal- so good, so soft-hearted, so strong. The miste pretty well, because I've lived in the men would no longer admire him for his island: he never did harm there, except to skill and strength, or envy him for his proshimself. Well, you see, I haven't been to perity. All was over. Dick Mortiboy was California, or to Texas, or to Mexico, so I buried. do not know. If ever I do go to either or all of these places, I will inquire.

MARGUERITE. Poor old Ready-money was buried, three days after his death, in the family vault-un

I

PLUCK the petals one by oneostentatiously, quietly. No one was pre

They fall upon the daisied plot; sent at his funeral but Ghrimes and Mr.

I sing for every petal gone,

He loves me, or he loves me not. Heathcote, with the lawyer. No one followed in token of respect. All his money

I pluck them anxious, one by one.

Are all the sweet old vows forgot? had gone from him before he died: there

Is all my heart's long strength undone? fore, all his respect. No property left: of

He loves me, or he loves me not. course, he was no longer of any account.

But as my task is well-nigh done, It was felt that a public funeral was due

A voice rings through the quiet spot to his son. Mr. Hopgood, the mayor, had

Betwixt the shadow and the sun, orders to prepare a simple funeral. But all

"Why fear that I should love you not?” Market Basing turned out to it. There was no mock mourning. It was no feeling of WILLIAM HEPWORTH DIXON. simple respect for property which brought all them

on a space, and had made himself so loved by all. fourth of what the ex-editor of the Athenæum Not one but had a kind word of his to re- has done. In the catalogue of the British member him by; no poor man but had Museum--excluding his last work, “The more than a kind word; no eye that was Switzers”—there are fisty-four titles bearing dry when the earth rattled upon his coffin,

Mr. Dixon's name. He has, from his first and the sublime service of the Church was literary effort-a play-to his last book of read over his remains.

travel, written successively history, bioHis pensioners, the old men and women, graphy, essays, and travel, besides having were there, loudly wailing. Those whom filled the post of editor of the first among he had saved from starvation, like old Mr. literary papers. His books have been transSanderson, the cashier of Melliship's bank, lated into several of the languages of Europe, were there;—those whom he had saved from and there have been many American ediruin, like little Tweedy, the builder; those tions of his popular works. whom he had saved from shame, like Sulli- He is the son of Mr. Abner Dixon, of van, the clerk; those for whom he had ever Holmfirth and Kirk Burton, in the West found a word of rough sympathy, and a Riding of Yorkshire, and was born June 30, hand ready to help; above all, the children, 1821. Early in life, Mr. Dixon was assoawe-stricken and terrified, in whose memory ciated with Douglas Jerrold and the great he lived as the universal friend and bene-writers of that day; and, after publishing

the women with the men, to see the last of THE reputation of a very successful dite

;

[graphic]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“HER MAJESTY'S TOWER.”

« 이전계속 »