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- OF THE PRIME MINISTER - 120/159 -


during the first week in March. By the end of that month old Mr Wharton had probably reconciled himself to the tragedy, although in fact it had affected him very deeply. In the first days after the news had reached him he seemed to be bowed to the ground. Stone Buildings were neglected, and the Eldon saw nothing of him. Indeed, he barely left the house from which he had been so long banished by the presence of his son-in-law. It seemed to Everett, who now came to live with him and his sister, as though his father was overcome by the horror of the affair. But after a while he recovered himself, and appeared one morning in court with his wig and gown, and argued a case,--which was now unusual with him,--as though to show the world that a dreadful episode in his life was passed, and should be thought of no more. At this period, three or four weeks after the occurrence,--he rarely spoke to his daughter about Lopez; but to Everett the man's name would often be on his tongue. 'I do not know that there could have been any other deliverance,' he said to his son one day. 'I thought it would have killed me when I first heard it, and it nearly killed her. But, at any rate, now there is peace.'

But the widow seemed to feel it more as time went on. At first she was stunned, and for a while absolutely senseless. It was not till two days after the occurrence that the fact became known to her,--not known as a certainty to her father and brother. It seemed as though the man had been careful to carry with him no record of identity, the nature of which would permit it to outlive the crush of the train. No card was found, no scrap of paper with his name; and it was discovered at last that when he left the house on the fatal morning he had been careful to dress himself in shirt and socks, with handkerchief and collar that had been newly purchased for his proposed journey and which bore no mark. The fragments of his body set identity at defiance, and even his watch had been crumpled into ashes. Of course the fact became certain with no great delay. The man himself was missing, and was accurately described both by the young lady from the refreshment room, and by the suspicious pundit who had actually seen the thing done. There was first belief that it was so, which was not communicated to Emily,--and then certainty.

There was an inquest held of course,--well, we will say on the body,--and, singularly enough, great difference of opinion as to the manner, though of course none as to the immediate cause of the death. Had it been accidental, or premeditated? The pundit, who in the performance of his duties on the Tenway platform was so efficient and valuable, gave half-a-dozen opinions in half-a- dozen minutes when subjected to the questions of the Coroner. In his own mind he had not the least doubt in the world as to what had happened. But he was made to believe that he was not to speak his own mind. The gentleman, he said, certainly might have walked down by accident. The gentleman's back was turned, and it was possible that the gentleman did not hear the train. He was quite certain that the gentleman knew of the train; but yet he could not say. The gentleman walked down before the train o'purpose; but perhaps he didn't mean to do himself an injury. There was a deal of this, till the Coroner, putting all his wrath into his brow, told the man that he was a disgrace to the service, and expressed a hope that the Company would no longer employ a man so evidently unfit for his position. But the man was in truth a conscientious and useful pundit, with a large family, and evident capabilities for his business. At last a verdict was given,--that the man's name was Ferdinand Lopez, that he had been crushed by an express train on the London and North Western Line, and that there was no evidence to show how his presence on the line had been occasioned. Of course, Mr Wharton had employed counsel, and of course the counsel's object had been to avoid a verdict of felo de se. Appended to the verdict was a recommendation from the jury that the Railway Company should be advised to signalize their express trains at the Tenway Junction Station.

When these tidings were told to the widow she had already given way to many fears. Lopez had gone, purporting, as he said,--to be back to dinner. He had not come then, nor on the following morning, nor had he written. Then she remembered all that he had done and said;--how he had kissed her, and left a parting malediction for her father. She did not at first imagine that he had destroyed himself, but that he had gone away, intending to vanish as other men before now had vanished. As she thought of this something almost like love came back upon her heart. Of course he was bad. Even in her sorrow, even when alarmed as to his fate, she could not deny that. But her oath to him had not been to love him only while he was good. She had made herself a part of him, and was she not bound to be true to him, whether good or bad? She implored her father and she implored her brother to be ceaseless in their endeavours to trace him,-- sometimes seeming almost to fear that in this respect she could not fully trust them. Then she discerned from their manner a doubt as to her husband's fate. 'Oh, papa, if you think anything, tell me what you think,' she said late on the evening of the second day. He was then nearly sure that the man who had been killed at Tenway was Ferdinand Lopez;--but he was not quite sure, and he would not tell her. But on the following morning, somewhat before noon, having himself gone out early to Euston Square, he came back to his own house,--and then he told her all. For the first hour she did not shed a tear or lose her consciousness of the horror of the thing;--but sat still and silent, gazing at nothing, casting back her mind over the history of her life, and the misery which she had brought to all who belonged to her. Then at last she gave way, fell into tears, hysteric sobbings, convulsions so violent as for a time to take the appearance of epileptic fits, and was at last exhausted and, happily for herself, unconscious.

After that she was ill for many weeks,--so ill that at times both her father and her brother thought that she would die. When the first month or six weeks had passed by she would often speak of her husband, especially to her father, and always speaking of him as though she had brought him to his untimely fate. Nor could she endure at this time that her father should say a word against him, even when she obliged the old man to speak of one whose conduct had been so infamous. It had all been her doing! Had she not married him there would have been no misfortune! She did not say that he had been noble, true, or honest,--but she asserted that all the evils which had come upon him had been produced by herself. 'My dear,' her father said to her one evening, 'it is a matter which we cannot forget, but on which it is well that we should be silent.'

'I shall always know what that silence means,' she replied.

'It will never mean condemnation of you by me,' said he.

'But I have destroyed your life,--and his, I know. I ought not to have married him, because you bade me not. And I know that I should have been gentler with him, and more obedient when I was his wife. I sometimes wish that I were a Catholic, and that I could go into a convent, and bury it all amidst sackcloths and ashes.'

'That would not bury it,' said her father.

'But I should at least be buried. If I were out of sight, you might forget it all.'

She once stirred Everett up to speak more plainly than her father ever dared to do, and then also she herself used language that was very plain. 'My darling,' said her brother once, when she had been trying to make out that her husband had been more sinned against than sinning,--'he was a bad man. It is better that the truth should be said.'

'And who is a good man?' she said, raising herself in her bed and looking at him full in the face with her deep-sunken eyes. 'If there be any truth in our religion, are we not all bad? Who is to tell the shades of difference of badness? He was not a drunkard, or a gambler. Through it all he was true to his wife.' She, poor creature, was ignorant of the little scene in the little street near Mayfair, in which Lopez had offered to carry Lizzie Eustace away with him to Guatemala. 'He was industrious. His ideas about money were not the same as yours or papa's. How was he worse than others? It happened that his faults were distasteful to you--and so, perhaps, his virtues.'

'His faults, such as they were, brought all these miseries.'

'He would have been successful now if he had never seen me. But why should we talk of it? We shall never agree. And you, Everett, can never understand all that has passed through my mind during the last two years.'

There were two or three persons who attempted to see her at this period, but she avoided them all. First came Mrs Roby, who as her nearest neighbour, as her aunt, and as an aunt who had been so nearly allied to her, had almost a right to demand admittance. But she would not see Mrs Roby. She sent down word to say that she was too ill. And when Mrs Roby wrote to her, she got her father to answer the note. 'You had better let it drop,' the old man said at last to his sister-in-law. 'Of course she remembers that it was you who brought them together.'

'But I didn't bring them together, Mr Wharton. How often am I to tell you so? It was Everett brought Mr Lopez here.'

'The marriage was made up in your house, and it has destroyed me and my child. I will not quarrel with my wife's sister if I can help it, but at present you had better keep apart.' Then he had left her abruptly, and Mrs Roby had not dared either to write or call again.

At this time Arthur Fletcher saw both Everett and Mr Wharton frequently, but he did not go to the Square, contenting himself with asking whether he might be allowed to do so. 'Not yet, Arthur,' said the old man. 'I am sure she thinks you one of her best friends, but she could not see you yet.'

'She would have nothing to fear,' said Arthur. 'We knew each other when we were children, and I should be now only as I was then.'

'Not yet, Arthur, not yet,' said the barrister.

Then there came a letter, or rather two letters from Mary Wharton;--one to Mr Wharton and the other to Emily. To tell the truth as to these letters, they contained the combined wisdom and tenderness of Wharton Hall and Longbarns. As soon as the fate of Lopez had been ascertained and thoroughly discussed in Hertfordshire, there went forth an edict that Emily had suffered punishment sufficient and was to be forgiven. Old Mrs Fletcher did not come to this at once,--having some deep-seated feeling


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