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The Golden Calf: A Novel, a novel by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Chapter 20. Was This The Motive?

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Brian Walford came back to The Knoll after the younger members of the family had gone to their rooms.

'Where have you been all this time?' asked the Colonel, who was strolling on the broad gravel drive in front of the house, soothing his nerves with a cheroot, after the agitations of the last hour. 'You are to have your old room, I believe; I heard it was being got ready.'

'You are very kind. I walked half way to the Abbey with my cousin. We had a smoke and a talk.'

'I should be glad of a little more talk with you. This business of to-night is not at all pleasant, you know, Brian. It does not redound to anybody's credit.'

'I never supposed that it did; but it is not my fault that there should be this fuss. If my wife had been true to me all would have gone well.'

'I don't think you had a right to expect things to go well, when you had so cruelly deceived her. It was a base thing to do, Brian.'

'You ought not to say so much as that, sir, knowing so little of the circumstances. I did not deliberately deceive her.'

'That's skittles,' said the Colonel, flinging away the end of his cigar.

'It is the truth. The business began in sport. Bessie asked me to pretend to be my cousin, just for fun, to see if Ida would fall in love with me. Ida had a romantic idea about my cousin, it appears, that he was an altogether perfect being, and so on. Well, I was introduced to her as Brian of the Abbey, and though she may have been a little disappointed--no doubt she was--she accepted me as the perfect being. As for me--well, sir, you know what she is--how lovely, how winning. I was a gone coon from that moment. We kept up the fun--Bess, and the boys, and I--all that evening. I talked of the Abbey as if it were my property, swaggered a good deal, and so on. Then Bess, knowing that I often stayed up the river for weeks on end, asked me to go and see Ida, to make sure that old Pew was not ill-using her, that she was not going into a decline, and all that kind of thing. So I went, saw Ida, always in the company of the German teacher, and took no pains to conceal my affection for her. But I said not another word about the Abbey. I never swaggered or put on the airs of a rich man; I only told her that I loved her, and that I hoped our lives would be spent together. I did not even suggest our marriage as a fact in the near future. I knew I was in no position to maintain a wife.'

'You should have told her that plainly. As a man of honour you were bound to undeceive her.'

'I meant to do it, but I wanted her to be very fond of me first. Then came the row; old Pew expelled her because she had been carrying on a clandestine flirtation with a young man. Her character was compromised, and as a man of honour I had no course but to propose immediate marriage.'

'Her character was not compromised, because Miss Pew chose to act like a vulgar old tyrant. The German governess, everybody in the school, knew that Miss Palliser was unjustly treated. There was no wound that needed to be salved by an imprudent marriage. But in any case, before proposing such a marriage, it was your bounden duty to tell her the truth about your circumstances, not to marry her to poverty without her full consent to the union.'

'Then I did not do my bounden duty,' Brian Walford answered sullenly. 'I believed in her disinterested affection. Why should she be more mercenary than I, who was willing to marry her without a sixpence in her pocket, without a second gown to her back? How could I suppose she was marrying me for the sake of a fine place and a fine fortune? I thought she was above such sordid considerations.'

'You ought to have been sure of that before you married her; you ought to have trusted her fully,' said the Colonel. 'However, having married her, why did you consent so tamely to let her go? Having let her go, why do you come here to-night to claim her?'

'Why did I let her go? Well she shrewed me so abominably when she found out my lowly position that my pride was roused, and I told her she might go where she pleased. Why did I come here to-night? Well, it was an impulse that brought me. I am passionately fond of her. I have lived without her for nearly a year--angry with her and with fate--but to day was the anniversary of our first meeting. I knew from Bessie that my wife was here, happy. There was even some hint of a flirtation between her and _the real Brian,'_--these last words were spoken with intense bitterness,--'and I thought it was time I should claim my own.'

'I think so to,' said Colonel Wendover, severely; 'you should have claimed her long ago. Your whole conduct is faulty in the extreme. You will be a very lucky man if your married life turns out happy after such a bad beginning.'

'Come, Colonel, we are both young,' remonstrated Brian, with that careless lightness which seemed natural to him, as a man who could hardly take the gravest problems of life seriously; 'there is no reason why we should not shake down into a very happy couple by-and-by.'

'And pray how are you to live?' inquired the Colonel. 'You are taking this girl from a most comfortable home--a position in which she is valued and useful. What do you intend to give her in exchange for the Homestead? A garret and a redherring?'

'Oh, no, sir; I hope it will be a long time before we come to that--though Beranger says that at twenty a man and the girl he loves may be happy in a garret. I think we shall do pretty well. My literary work widened a good deal while I was in Paris. I wrote for some of the London magazines, and the editors are good enough to think that I am rather a smart writer. I can earn something by my pen; I think enough to keep the pot boiling till briefs begin to drop in. My cousin was generous enough to offer me an income just now--four or five hundred a year so long as I should require it--but I told him that I thought I could support my wife with my pen for the next few years.'

'Your cousin is always generous,' said the Colonel.

'Yes, he is an open-handed fellow. I suppose you know that he helped me while I was in Paris.'

'I did not know, but I am not surprised.'

'Very kind of him, wasn't it? The fact is, I was dipped rather deeply, in my small way--tailor, and hosier, and so on--before I left London; and I could not have come back unless Brian had helped me to settle with them, or I should have had to go through the Bankruptcy Court; and I daresay some of you would have thought that a disgrace.'

'Some of us!' exclaimed the Colonel; 'we should all have thought so. Do you suppose the Wendovers are in the habit of cheating their creditors?'

'Oh, but it was not a question of cheating them, only of paying them a rather insignificant dividend. My only assets are my books and furniture, and unluckily some of those are still unpaid for.'

'Assets? You have no assets. You are a spendthrift and a scamp!' protested his uncle, angrily. 'I am deeply sorry for your wife. Good night. If you want any supper after your journey there are plenty of people to wait upon you.'

And with that the Colonel turned upon his heel and went into the house, leaving his nephew to follow at his leisure.

_'Comme il est assommant, le patron,'_ muttered Brian, strolling after his kinsman.

Brian Walford was not ordinarily an early riser, but he was up betimes on the morning after Bessie's birthday; breakfasted with the family, and strolled across dewy fields to the Homestead a little after nine o'clock. But although this was a late hour in Miss Wendover's household, his young wife was not prepared to receive him. It was Aunt Betsy who came to him, after he had waited for nearly a quarter of an hour, prowling restlessly about the drawing-room, looking at the books, and china, and water-colours.

'I have come for Ida,' he said abruptly, when he had shaken hands with his aunt. 'There is a train leaves Winchester at twenty minutes past eleven. She will be ready for that I suppose?'

He was half prepared for reproaches from his aunt, and wholly prepared to set her at defiance. But if she were civil he would be civil: he did not court a quarrel.

'I don't know that she can be ready.'

'But she must. I have made up my mind to travel by that train. Why should there be any delay? Everybody is agreed that we are to begin our lives together, and we cannot begin too soon.'

'You need not be in such a hurry. You have contrived to live without her for nearly a year.'

'That is my business. I am not going to live without her any longer. Please tell her she must be ready by half-past ten.'

'I will tell her so. I am heartily sorry for her. But she must submit to fate. What home have you prepared for her?'

'At present none. We can go to an hotel for a day or two, and then I shall take lodgings in South Kensington, or thereabouts.'

'Have you any money?'

'Yes enough to carry on,' answered Brian.

'Truthfulness was not his strong point, although he was a Wendover, and that race deemed itself free from the taint of falsehood. There may have been an injurious admixture of races on the maternal side, perhaps; albeit his mother personally was good and loyal. However this was, Brian Walford had, even in trifles, shown himself evasive and shifty.

His aunt looked at him sharply.

'Do not take her to discomfort or want,' she said earnestly. 'She has been very happy with me, poor girl; and although she deceived me, I cannot find it in my heart to be angry with her.'

'There is no fear of want,' replied Brian. 'We shall not be rich, but we shall get on pretty comfortably. Please tell her to make haste. The dog-cart will be round in half an hour. I'll walk about the garden till it comes.'

Miss Wendover sighed, and left him, without another word. He went out into the sunlit garden, and walked up and down smoking his favourite meerschaum, which was a kind of familiar spirit, always carried in his pocket ready for every possible opportunity. He had arranged with one of his uncle's men to drive the dog-cart over to Winchester; his travelling-bag was put in ready; he had taken leave of his kindred--not a very cordial leave-taking upon anybody's part, and on Bessie's despondent even to tears. He was not in a good humour with himself or with fate; and yet he told himself that things had gone well with him, much better than he could reasonably have expected. Yet it was hard for a young man of considerable personal attractions and some talent to be treated like one of the monsters of classical legend, a damsel-devouring Minotaur, when he came to claim his young wife.

The dog-cart was at the gate for at least ten minutes, and Brian had looked at his watch at least ten times before Ida appeared at the glass door. He was pale with anxiety. There were reasons why it might be ruin to him to lose this morning train; and yet he did not want to betray too much eagerness, lest that should spoil his chances.

Here she was at last, white as a corpse, and with red swollen eyelids which indicated a night of weeping. Her appearance was far from flattering to her husband, yet she gave him a wan little smile and a civil good morning.

'Here, Pluto, take your Proserpine,' said Miss Wendover, trying to make light of the situation, though sore at heart. 'I wish you would be content to keep her six months of the year, and let me have her for the other six.'

'It needn't be an eternal parting, Aunt Betsy,' answered Brian, with assumed cheeriness; 'Ida can come to see you whenever you like, and Ida's husband too, if you will have him. We are not starting for the Antipodes.'

'Be kind to her,' said Miss Wendover, gravely, 'for my sake, if not for her own. It shall be the better for you when I am dead and gone if you make her a happy woman.'

This promise from a lady who owned a snug little landed estate, and money in the funds, meant a good deal. Brian grasped his aunt's hand.

'You know that I adore her,' he said. 'I shall be her slave.'

'Be a good husband, honest and true. She doesn't want a slave,' replied Miss Wendover, in her incisive way.

Ida flung her arms round that generous friend's neck, and kissed her with passionate fervour.

'God bless you for your goodness to me! God bless you for forgiving me,' she said.

'He is a Being of infinite love and pity, and He will not bless those who cannot pardon,' answered Miss Wendover. 'There, my dear, go and be happy with your young husband. He may not be such a very bad bargain, after all.'

This was, as it were, the old shoe thrown after the bride and bridegroom. In another minute the dog-cart was rattling along the lane, Brian driving, and the groom sitting behind with Ida's luggage, which was more important by one neat black trunk than it had been a year ago.

Bessie and the younger children were standing on the patch of grass outside The Knoll gates, in garden hats, and no gloves, waving affectionate adieux. Brian gave them no chance of any further leave-taking driving towards the downs at a smart pace. 'Do you remember my driving you to catch the earlier train, a year ago this day?' he asked his pale companion, by way of conversation.

'Yes, perfectly.'

'Odd, isn't it?--exactly one year to-day.'

'Very odd.'

And this was about all their discourse till they were at Winchester Station.

'London papers in yet?' asked Brian.

'No, sir. You'll get them at Basingstoke.'

He took his wife into a first-class carriage--an extravagance which surprised her, knowing his precarious means.

'I hope you are not travelling first-class on my account,' she said; 'I am not accustomed to such luxury.'

'Oh, we can afford it to-day. I am not quite such a pauper as I was when I offered you those two sovereigns. If you would like to buy yourself a silk gown or a new bonnet, or anything in that line to-day, I can manage it.'

'No, thank you; I have everything I want,' she answered with a faint shiver.

The memory of that bygone day was too bitter.

'What a wonderful wife! I thought that to be in want of a new bonnet was a woman's normal condition,' said Brian, trying to be lively.

He had bought _Punch_ and other comic journals at the station, and spread them out before his wife--as an intellectual feast. The breezy drive over the downs had revived her beauty a little. The eyelids had lost their red swollen look, but she was still very pale, and there was a nervous quiver of the lips now and then which betokened a tendency to hysteria. She sat at the open window, looking away towards those vanishing hills. A moment, and the tufted crest of St. Catherine's had gone--the low-lying meadows--the winding stream--the cathedral's stunted tower--it was all gone, like a dream.

'Dreadful hole of a place,' said Brian, contemptuously; 'a comfortably feathered old nest for rooks and parsons and ancient spinsters, but a dungeon for anybody else.'

'I think it is the dearest old city in the world.'

'Old enough, and dear enough, in all conscience,' answered Brian. 'My uncle's tailor had the audacity to charge me thirty shillings for a waistcoat. But it's the most deadly-lively place I know. All country towns are deadly-lively; in fact, there are only two places fit for young people to live in--London and Paris!'

'I suppose you mean to live in London?' said Ida, listlessly. She did not feel as if she were personally interested in the matter. If she were forced to live with a man she despised, the place of her habitation would matter very little.

'I mean to oscillate between the two,' answered Brian. 'Were you ever in Paris?'


'I envy you. You have something left to live for--a new sensation--a new birth. We will go there in November.'

He looked for a smile, an expression of pleasure, but there was none. His wife's face was still turned towards the landscape, her sad eyes still fixed on the vanishing hills--no longer those familiar hill-tops around the cathedral city, but like them in character. Soon the last of those chalky ridges would vanish, and then would come the heathy tracts about Woking, and the fertile meads in the Thames valley.

The train stopped for five minutes at Basingstoke, and Brian offered his wife tea, lemonade, anything which the refreshment-room could produce, but she declined everything.

'We two have not broken bread together since we were one,' he said, still struggling after liveliness; 'let us eat something together, if it be only a Bath bun.'

'I am not hungry, thanks,' she answered listlessly.

'Papers! papers!' shouted the small imp attached to the bookstall. 'Morning paper--_Times, Standard, Telegraph, Daily News, Morning Post!_'

Brian drew up the window abruptly, as if he had seen a scorpion.

An elderly gentleman trotted up to the carriage, opened the door, and came in, his arms full of newspapers. He settled himself in his corner, and looked about him with a benevolent air, as if courting friendly intercourse. Brian seated himself opposite his wife, looking black as thunder. Ida was indifferent to such petty details of life as unknown elderly gentlemen. Her mind was full of troubled thoughts about the friends she had left--most of all that one friend whose thrilling voice still sounded in her ears--that one voice which had power to move her deepest feeling.

'And come what may, I _have been_ bless'd.' That is a woman's first thought in any desperate case of this kind. The poet struck a note of universal truth in that immortal line. There is endless consolation in the knowledge that heart has answered to heart; that the fond futile love to which Fate forbids a happy issue has not been lavished on a dumb, irresponsive idol. If there has been madness, folly, it has not been one-sided foolishness. He too has loved; he too must suffer. Bind Eloisa with what vows, surround her with what walls you will, even in her despair there is one golden thought: her Abelard has loved her--will love on till the end of life--since such a flame should be eternal as the stars.

He had loved her! Pride and rapture were in the thought. She told herself that such pride, such delight was sinful, and that she must fight against and conquer this sin. She must shut Brian of the Abbey out of her mind for evermore; she must school herself to believe that he and she had never met; so train and subjugate herself that a few months hence she might be able to read the announcement of his marriage--should such a thing occur--without one guilty pang.

And then she looked back and tried to recall her life before she had known him. What was it like? A blank? She felt like one who has received some injury to the brain, or endured severe illness which has blotted out all memory of the life which went before. She sat with her pale fixed face turned towards the open window, her eyes gazing on the landscape with a vacant, far-away look--her husband watching her every now and then, furtively, anxiously.

The elderly gentleman in the corner beamed at her occasionally through his spectacles. She was young, handsome, and looked unhappy. He was interested in her; in a benevolent, paternal spirit. He thought it likely that the young man was her brother, though there was no likeness between them; and that she was being parted by family authority from some other young man who was less, and yet more, than a brother. He made up his little story about her, and then, by way of consolation, offered her his _Times_, which he had done with by this time.

Brian turned quickly, and stretched out his hand, as if to intercept the paper; but he was too late. Ida had taken it, and was staring absently at the leading articles. She read on listlessly, vaguely, for a little while, going over the words mechanically, reading how Sir Somebody Something, a leading light of the Opposition, had been holding forth at an agricultural meeting, arguing that never since the date of Magna Charta had the national freedom been in such peril as it was at this hour; never had any Ministry so wantonly trifled with the rights of a great people, or so supinely submitted to the degradation of a once glorious country; never, within the memory of man, or, he would go further and say, within the records of history, was our agricultural interest so wantonly neglected, our commercial predominance so supinely surrendered, our army so unprepared for action, and our influence in the affairs of Europe so audaciously set at naught. The right honourable gentleman gave the Ministry another year to complete the ruin of their country. They might do it in six months; yes, he would venture to say, or even in three months; but he gave them at most a year. Favourable accidents, against which even the blind fatuity and garrulous pig-headedness of septuagenarian senility could not prevail might prolong the struggle; but the day of doom was inevitable, unless--and so on, and so on, with a running commentary by the leader writer.

Ida read without knowing what she was reading, till presently her eyes glanced idly to another part of the page, and there were arrested by a short paragraph headed, FATAL STORM IN THE HEBRIDES.

Was it not in the Hebrides she had last heard of Sir Vernon's yacht the _Seamew?_

'Among other accidents in the terrible gale on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, we regret to number the loss of the schooner yacht _Seamew_, which was capsized in a squall off the Isle of Skye, with the loss of the owner, Sir Vernon Palliser, his brother, Mr. P. Palliser, Captain Greenway, and seven of the crew. Three men and the cabin-boy were saved by a fishing boat, the crew of which witnessed the sad catastrophe, but were too far off to be of much help.' And then followed a description of the accident, which had been caused by the violence of the storm, rather than by bad seamanship or carelessness on the part of the captain, who, with Sir Vernon and his brother, both skilled seamen, had the vessel well in hand a few minutes before she went down.

Ida let the paper fall from her hand with a cry of horror.

'Vernon, poor Vernon, and Peter too--those good, kind-hearted young men--dead--both--dead!'

She burst into tears, remembering the two frank, kind faces looking at her from the marble portico, in the afternoon sunlight, the warm welcome, the feeling of kindred which had shown itself so thoroughly in their words and looks. And they were gone--they who a month ago were full of life and gladness. The cruel inexorable sea had devoured their youth and strength and all the promises and hopes of their being.

The elderly gentleman moved to the seat next hers full of compassion.

'Look at that,' she said, as Brian picked up the paper; 'my cousins, both of them.'

'I am sorry you have found bad news in the paper,' said the elderly stranger, looking at her sympathetically through his spectacles.

'My two cousins, sir,' she said, 'they have both been drowned. Such fine, honest young fellows. It is too dreadful.'

'That wreck in the Hebrides? Yes, it is a sad thing; and Sir Vernon Palliser and his brother were your cousins?' I am so sorry I showed you the paper. But I wonder you had not heard of this sooner; it was in the evening papers yesterday.'

'Then you must have known that my cousins were dead when you came to Kingthorpe last night?' said Ida, looking up at her husband.

Suddenly, in a flash of memory, came back those thoughtless words of hers spoke at Les Fontaines, when her father talked of the possibility of inheriting a fortune and a baronetcy. She remembered how she had said, in bitterness of spirit, 'Of course they will live to the age of Methuselah. Whoever heard of luck coming our way?' And now this kind of luck, which meant sudden death for two amiable, open-handed young men, had come her way. How lightly she had spoken of those two young lives! how bitter had been her thoughts about the rich and happy!

This thing had been known in London yesterday afternoon. It was this knowledge which had sent Brian Walford to Kingthorpe to claim his wife. She had suddenly become a wife worth claiming--the daughter of Sir Reginald Palliser of Wimperfield.

'You knew this,' she repeated, looking at her husband, with infinite scorn expressed in eye and lip.

'No, upon my soul,' he answered; 'I left town early. It flashed upon me that it was Bessie's birthday--you would be all assembled at The Knoll--there was just time for me to get there before the fun was over--don't you know--'

'And you had not seen the papers? you did _not_ know this?' added Ida, fixing him with her eyes.

'No, upon my word. I had no idea!'

She knew that he was lying.

'Then it was a very curious coincidence,' she said freezingly.

'How a coincidence?'

'That after so long an absence you should happen to come to Kingthorpe on the day that made such a change in my father's fortunes.'

'I came because of Bessie's birthday--as I told you before. Does this sad event make any difference to your father?' he asked innocently. 'Are there not----nearer relatives?'

'None that I know of.'

The elderly gentleman, a little hard of hearing, as he called it, looked on and wondered at this somewhat eccentric young couple, who seemed, from those snatches of speech which reached him, to be on the verge of a quarrel. He felt very sorry for the lady, who was so handsome, and so interesting. The young man was gentlemanlike and good looking, but had not that frank bright outlook which is the glory of a young Englishman. He was dressed a little too foppishly for the elder man's liking, and had the air of being over-careful of his own person.

And now the train had passed Sandown, was rushing on to Wimbledon and the London smoke. All the blue had gone out of the sky, all the beauty had gone from the earth, Ida thought, as small suburban villas followed each other in a monotonous sequence, some old and shabby, others new and smart; and then all that is ugliest in the great city surrounded them as they steamed slowly into Waterloo station.

A four-wheel cab took them to an hotel in the purlieus of Fleet Street, a big new hotel, but so shut in and surrounded by other buildings that Ida felt as if she could hardly breathe in it--she who had lived among gardens and green fields, and with all the winds of heaven blowing on her across the rolling downs, from the forest and the sea.

'What a hateful place London is!' she exclaimed. 'Can any one like to live in it?'

'All sensible people like it better than any other bit of the world, bar Paris,' answered Brian. 'But it is not particularly pretty to look at. City life is an acquired taste.'

This was on the stairs, while they were following the waiter to the private sitting-room for which Mr. Walford had asked It was a neat little room on the first floor, looking into a stony city square, surrounded by business premises.

The waiter, after the manner of his kind, was loth to leave without an order. Ida declined anything in the way of luncheon; so Brian ordered tea and toast, and the man departed with an air of resignation rather than alacrity, considering the order a poor one.

When they were quite alone Ida went up to her husband, laid her hand upon his arm, and looked up at him with earnest, imploring eyes.

'Brian,' she said, 'I have come with you because I was told it was my duty to come--told so by people who are wiser than I.'

'Of course it was your duty,' Brian answered impatiently. 'Nobody could doubt that. We have been fools to live asunder so long.'

'Do you think we may not be more foolish for trying our lives together--if we do not love each other--or trust each other.'

'I love you--that's all I know about it. As for trusting--well, I think I have been too easy, have trusted you too far.'

'But I do not either love you--or trust you,' she said, lifting up her head, and looking at him with kindling eyes and burning cheeks--ashamed for him and for herself. 'I thought once that I could love you. I know now that I never can; and what is still worse that I never can trust you. No, Brian, never. You told me a lie to-day.'

'How dare you say that?'

'I dare say what I know to be the truth--the bitter, shameful truth. You lied to me to-day in the railway-carriage, when you told me that you did not know of my cousin's death last night--that you did not know of the change in my fathers position.'

'You are a nice young lady to accuse your husband of lying,' he answered, scowling at her. 'I tell you I saw no evening papers: I left London at half-past five o'clock. But even if I had known, what does that matter? It makes no difference to my right over your life. You are my wife and you belong to me. I was fool enough to let you go last October: you were in such a fury that you took me off my guard; I had no time to assert my rights: and then _vogue la galere_ has always been my motto. But the time came when I felt that I had been an ass to allow myself to be so treated; and I made up my mind to claim you, and to stand no denial of my rights. This determination was some time ripening in my mind; and then came Bessie's birthday, the anniversary of our first meeting, the birthday of my love, and I said to myself that I would claim you on that day, and no other.'

'And that day and no other made my father a rich man. Poor Vernon! poor Peter! so brave, so frank, so true! to think that _you_ should profit by their death!' this she said with ineffable contempt, looking at him from head to foot, as if he were a creature of inferior mould. 'But perhaps you mistook the case. I am not an heiress, remember, even now. I have a little brother who will inherit everything.'

'I have not forgotten your brother. I don't want you to be an heiress. I want you--and your love.'

'That you never will have,' she cried passionately; and then she fell on her knees at his feet--she to whom he had knelt on their wedding-day--and lifted her clasped hands with piteous entreaty, 'Brian Walford, be merciful to me. I do not love you, I never loved you, can never love you. In an evil hour I took the fatal step which gives you power over me. But, for God's sake, be generous, and forbear to use that power. No good can ever come of our union--no good, but unspeakable evil; nothing but misery for me--nothing but bitterness for you. We shall quarrel--we shall hate each other.'

'I'll risk that,' he said; 'you are mine, and nothing shall make me give you up.'

'Nothing?' she cried, rising suddenly, and flaming out at him like a sibyl--'nothing? Not even the knowledge that I love another man?'

'Not even that. Let the other man beware, whoever he is. And you beware how you keep to your duty as my wife. No, Ida, I will not let you go. I was a fool last year--and I was taken unawares. I am a wiser man now, and my decision is irrevocable. You are my wife, my goods, my chattels--God help you if you deny my claim.' _

Read next: Chapter 21. Taking Life Quietly

Read previous: Chapter 19. After A Calm A Storm

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