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Title: The Day of Judgment
Author: Hocking, Joseph, 1860-1937
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Day of Judgment" ***

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THE DAY OF JUDGMENT

by

JOSEPH HOCKING

With Frontispiece by Charles B. Buchel



[Frontispiece: "The two knelt . . . in the silence of the evening"
(_see page_ 12).]



Cassell and Company, Ltd
London, New York, Toronto and Melbourne
1915



_DEDICATION_

To T. HARTLEY ROBERTS, Esq., J.P.

_MY DEAR FRIEND,_

_I am dedicating this book to you, partly because when you read it in
MS. you told me you liked it better than any story I have ever written;
but more because, although words are at best utterly inadequate, I want
to tell you that one of the things I value most in life is your
friendship._

_JOSEPH HOCKING._

PRIOR'S CORNER,
  TOTTERIDGE.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER

     PROLOGUE
  1. A LEGACY OF HATE
  2. PAUL BEGINS HIS WORK
  3. PAUL IS SENT TO PRISON
  4. PAUL MEETS MARY BOLITHO
  5. PAUL'S MADNESS
  6. PAUL GOES TO SCOTLAND
  7. THE FIGHT AND THE RESULT
  8. THE COMING OF PAUL'S MOTHER
  9. THE SHADOWS OF COMING EVENTS
 10. THE NEW MEMBER FOR BRUNFORD
 11. PAUL'S DARING
 12. A NIGHT OF DOOM
 13. HOW MARY BOLITHO RECEIVED THE NEWS
 14. PAUL IS APPREHENDED FOR MURDER
 15. THE CORONER'S INQUEST
 16. AWAITING THE TRIAL
 17. THE LOVERS
 18. THE FIRST DAY OF THE TRIAL
 19. PAUL DISCOVERS HIS FATHER
 20. MAN AND WIFE
 21. TRAVAIL
 22. THE DAY OF JUDGMENT
 23. THE DAY OF JUDGMENT (_continued_)
 24. FATHER AND SON
 25. MR. JUSTICE BRANSCOMBE
 26. PAUL'S DEFENCE
 27. THE VERDICT
 28. PAUL'S MOTHER AND MARY
 29. MARY'S ACCUSATION
 30. THE TESTIMONY OF ARCHIE FEARN
 31. EZEKIEL ASHWORTH, HERBALIST
 32. IN THE CONDEMNED CELL
 33. THE HOME-COMING
 34. JUDGE BOLITHO'S CONFESSION



THE DAY OF JUDGMENT


PROLOGUE

Three young men sat in an old inn not far from the borderline which
divides England from Scotland.  They were out on a holiday, and for
more than two weeks had been tramping northward.  Beginning at the
Windermere Lakes, they had been roaming amidst the wild mountainous
scenery which is the pride and joy of all lovers of beauty who dwell in
that district.  For two of them the holiday had practically come to an
end, and now, smoking their pipes after dinner in the old inn, they
were reviewing their experiences.

"I envy you, Douglas," said one whose holiday was practically finished.
"We have to get back to work but you have yet nearly three weeks before
getting into harness again.  It must be glorious, too, this going into
Scotland."

"Yes," said the other, "and somehow Scotland is different from England.
I believe, if I knew nothing about the geography of the district, that
directly I put my foot on Scottish soil I should know it.  Everything
is different there: the outlook on life, the customs, the laws and the
prevailing sentiments of the people.  Why, we cannot be far from Gretna
Green now--think of the scenes which took place around here a few years
ago!"

"Have the laws changed much in relation to marriage?" asked the first
speaker.  "You are studying for the Bar, Douglas, you ought to know."

The young man who had not yet spoken was different from the others.  He
was cast in a more intellectual mould, and, although bronzed by the sun
and wind of the Cumberland Hills, his demeanour suggested the student.

"I really don't know much about Scottish laws," he replied, "they are
so different from those of England.  It is wonderful how people living
so close together could have framed laws so entirely dissimilar.  Of
course, marriage laws have been a curious business both in England and
Scotland.  Before Lord Hardwicke's Act the marriage arrangements in
England were very peculiar, but with that Act things took a different
course.  In Scotland, however, I believe they remained pretty nearly
the same as before.  As a matter of fact, marriage in Scotland is very
difficult to define."

"In what way?"

"Well, I believe, even now, a marriage is valid even although there are
no witnesses, no minister, no religious ceremony, and no formula
whatever."

"But, my dear fellow," said one of the others, "that is surely
impossible."

"I think not," replied the young man called Douglas.  "I was talking
with an old Scotch lawyer only a few months ago, and he was telling me
that even yet Scotch marriages are about as loose as they can possibly
be.  He explained to me that Scotch marriage is a contract constituted
by custom alone, and although generally of a well-attested nature, a
marriage may be completed by a solemn and deliberate consent of the
parties to take each other for husband and wife, and that such a
marriage is absolutely binding.  No writing or witnesses are necessary.
He also explained to me that a marriage could be legally constituted in
Scotland by a _promise_ to marry followed by the parties living
together for a few hours.  By the way, I wonder whether in this old inn
there is an encyclopaedia of some sort.  Yes, here is one; evidently it
has not been opened for years.  Here we are, 'Marriage,' yes, 'Scotch
Marriage':

    "A marriage will also be constituted by declarations
    made by the man and the woman that they presently do
    take each other for husband and wife.  These declarations
    may be emitted on any day, at any time, and without the
    presence of witnesses, and either by writing or orally, or
    by signs of any nature which is clearly an expression of
    intention.  Such a marriage is as effective to all intents
    and purposes as a public marriage.  The children of it
    would be legitimate, and the parties to it would have all
    the rights in the property of each other given by the law
    of Scotland to husband and wife."


"But if there are no documents, how can anything be proved?"

"I cannot say," replied Douglas, "but there it is.  Of course, at
Gretna Green, which, as you say, is not far away, the blacksmith used
to witness marriages, although his presence was unnecessary.  Old
stories have it that the contracting parties jumped a broomstick or a
pair of tongs, or something of that sort, but whether there were any
signatures I really do not know.  Anyhow, the law in Scotland, as I
have been informed, is that if a man and a girl agree to take each
other as husband and wife, a marriage is legally performed, and is as
binding as if it took place in Westminster Abbey and was performed by
the Archbishop of Canterbury."

There was silence for a few minutes, then one exclaimed, "I wonder we
do not hear more of divorces and marriage difficulties in Scottish law
courts."

"Oh, these Scotch are canny people and wonderfully logical.  They seem
to regard present arrangements as inevitable, and act upon them.  After
all, what is marriage when one comes to think about it?  It is really
the promise of the man and the woman to take each other as husband and
wife.  All the rest, Church services and legal documents, are mere
attestations to the fact.  Marriage, true marriage, is simply a matter
for the parties in question who have determined upon union."

"Evidently you are not a High Churchman," remarked one of the others.

From this the conversation drifted on to other matters, and presently
dwindled down to mere snatches, freely punctuated by yawns.  Then the
young men, having finished their pipes, retired to rest.

Two days later, Douglas Graham found himself alone.  He had made
arrangements to pay a visit to a house near the borders of Scotland.
He was of Scotch descent on his father's side, while his mother's
family had always lived in the South of England.  For that matter the
Grahams had lived in the South for three generations, so that, while he
was greatly interested in Scotland, he always called himself an
Englishman.  The characteristics of both countries were clearly
expressed in both his mind and character.  The Scotch side of him was
intellectual, practical, with, perhaps, a suggestion of hardness; but
to counteract this, he had inherited the gentleness and the softer
elements which appertain to the Southern peoples.  He was only just
three and twenty; he had taken a good degree at Oxford, and then set
himself to qualify for the Bar.  His personal appearance likewise
indicated a mixture of races--tall and well-knit, he suggested a strong
and determined nature; on the other hand, there was something almost
effeminate in the regularity of his features, and his lips were
somewhat sensuous.  A passing stranger would be immediately attracted
by him.  Blue eyes, brown hair, and well-formed features, together with
a sunny and kind-hearted disposition, had made him a popular man.
While very ambitious, he also possessed a happy disposition which made
him the best of companions.  He was now on his way to visit a distant
relative on his father's side, and looked forward with exceeding
interest to spending the last weeks of his holiday in an old Scottish
stone mansion, situated among the wild hills.

As a lover of beauty, he could not help being charmed by the scenery
through which he passed: the purple heather, which was now in its
glory, made the wild moorlands wondrous for their beauty, while the
valleys through which the rushing streams passed simply enchanted him.

Presently he came to a lonely valley in a district which seemed almost
entirely uninhabited.  Not a soul was in sight, and scarcely a sound
disturbed the silence.  On each side of him, great heather-covered
hills sloped up to the sky, while at his feet a stream coiled its way
down the valley.  Tramping along the narrow road which skirted the
stream, he presently saw some cattle rushing wildly around, and he
judged by the cries he heard that someone was greatly distressed.  It
was not long before he saw what this meant.  A young girl was trying to
keep some cattle together, but they, being in a turbulent mood, refused
to go the way she wished.  Vainly she went hither and thither, seeking
to guide them into a path which led over the hills.  For two or three
minutes Douglas Graham watched her, and then, seeing her dilemma, went
up to her.

She was evidently a Scotch peasant girl, as indicated by the clothes
she wore and by her hard, toilworn hands.  Nevertheless, at first sight
of her Douglas was attracted, and for good reason--the face of the
girl, once seen, was not soon forgotten.  During the time he had been
in Scotland it had seemed to him that the Scotch women were
hard-featured, uninteresting, and altogether unlovely; but this girl
was different.  There was something of the savage in her, and yet she
possessed a charm which fascinated the young man.  Her black hair hung
in curling and tangled tresses over her shoulders; her eyes were almost
as black as her hair and shone brightly.  A kind of gipsy beauty she
possessed, and her eyes, her sensitive mouth, her square chin spoke of
a nature out of the ordinary.

"If you will tell me what you wish," he said, "I will help you."

She looked at him with a start of surprise, and for a moment he thought
she shrank from him.  She seemed as shy as a young colt, and was
apparently frightened at his sudden appearance.  As she looked at him,
however, her confidence came back.  He was different from the raw
Scottish youths to whom she was accustomed.  His pleasant smile and
laughing eyes reassured her.  "I am trying to take the kine home," she
said, "but I think the witches have got hold of them.  I never saw them
like this before."  She spoke with a strong Scotch accent, and was
evidently what she seemed, either a servant at a farmhouse or, perhaps,
the daughter of some small tenant farmer who lived in the district.

"We'll see if we can't destroy the witches' power," laughed Douglas,
and set to work to gather the cattle.  It took some little time, but
the feat was accomplished at last.  Then the two walked side by side,
driving the beasts before them.

The romance in the young man's nature was aroused.  There, amidst the
wild moorland scenery and in the light of the setting sun, it was
vastly pleasant to be walking beside this young creature, so instinct
with life.

"Is your home far away?" he asked.

"It must be more than two miles," she replied.

"And do you know the house called 'Highlands'?"

"It will be where Mr. Graham lives, I expect."

"Yes," he said.

"Then it will be only a mile beyond my father's farm," was her reply.

"Oh, that is capital!" laughed Graham.  "I shall get there before dark,
and be able to help you with the cattle at the same time."

"But you are not the son at 'Highlands,'" she said, looking at him
curiously.

"Oh, no," he replied.  "The Grahams are distant relatives of mine, that
is all.  There is just a little Scotch in me, that is why I love
Scotland so.  Of course, you love Scotland too?"

A far-away look came into her eyes.  "I don't know," she said.

"Not know if you love your own country?"  And he laughed as he spoke.

"I am not sure that it is my own country," was her reply.  "You
see----"  And then she stopped.  "It will be nothing to you," she added
after a minute, and for some time they walked along together in silence.

"It must be just lovely to live amid such surroundings as these; still,
I should find it lonely sometimes," he ventured at length.

"You would, if--if--"  And then the girl looked at him curiously.  "But
I expect you'll not be understanding what I mean," she added.

Again they walked on in silence, Douglas longing to ask her what she
meant, and yet shrinking from taking what he felt might be a liberty,
for there was something about the girl that kept him from speaking
freely.  Dressed like a peasant as she was, he instinctively felt that
here was no ordinary farmer's drudge.  She had uttered nothing beyond
commonplaces, but the look in her eyes, the tremor of her lips
suggested romance and mystery and poetry.

"You see," she said a minute later, as if talking to herself, "I have
no mother.  I never saw her; at least, I cannot remember ever seeing
her, and she was not Scotch."

"No?" said Douglas.  "Then we have something in common: my people on my
father's side were Scotch, but all my mother's people belong to the
South."

"And mine, too," said the girl.  "But what can it be to you?"  And
again she seemed to be thinking of something far away.

"Do you know," said the young man, "you are the first person I have
spoken to since morning?  I have been on the tramp all the day.  I had
my lunch by the side of a stream, and I have kept away from every
house.  I wanted to be alone.  I expect that is why I want you to tell
me why you don't seem happy."

Again the girl looked at him curiously.  "I think I should go mad
sometimes," she said, "if I did not think my dead mother was near me.
I do not mean when I am out here alone on the moors, but it's home that
makes it so hard."

"Tell me," said the young fellow.  It did not seem to him as though he
were talking to a stranger at all.  The girl did not belong to his
class, and evidently her associations and education removed her far
from him, yet he had an instinctive sympathy with her.  After all, I
suppose every young fellow is attracted by a young pretty face, wild,
longing eyes, and beautiful features suggestive of romance and poetry
and unsatisfied yearnings.

"You see," said the girl, "my father was a fisherman.  Years ago, when
he was a young man, he sailed down the West of England, and his boat
harboured at a little Cornish village called St. Ives.  There he met my
mother, and I have heard him say that she had Spanish blood in her
veins.  Anyhow, they fell in love with each other and got married.

"I suppose her father and mother were very angry, and so he took her
away from St. Ives altogether, and came back here to Scotland.  Just at
that time his father died, and left our farm to him.  So my father gave
up fishing, and brought mother here, but I had not been born long
before mother died, so you see I never knew her.  My father did not
remain unmarried long: the second time he married a Scotswoman, and I
hate the Scotch."

"Why?" asked Graham.

"Oh, well, my father says that the Cornish people are wild and
imaginative, and my stepmother hasn't any imagination.  Years ago I
used to read Burns's poems and Sir Walter Scott's stories, but mother
took the books from me.  She says a farmer's daughter has no time for
poetry and romance, but I love it all the same.  That is why I am only
happy when I am out on the moors alone."

A few minutes later a lonely farmhouse appeared to view.  It was little
more than a cottage, and Graham judged that the farm consisted of only
about fifty acres of stony and barren land.

"Good night," she said presently, "and thank you for helping me with
the kine."

"Perhaps I shall be seeing you again," said the young man.  "I am sure
I shall come round this way in the hope that you may be visible."  And
he laughed almost nervously as he spoke.  The girl had appealed to him.
She seemed to him like a flower in the wilderness, and aroused all the
romance of his nature.

She shook her head.  "No," she said, "you will never see me again."

"At least you will tell me your name?" said Graham; "why, do you know,
we have been nearly an hour together?  I am called Douglas Graham."

"And my name is Jean Lindsay," she said, looking at him shyly; "not
that it matters much, for if you are staying with the Grahams you will
be a gentleman."

"And do you go to fetch the cattle home every night?" he asked eagerly;
but she did not answer him.  A hard-featured woman came up to the
farmyard gate as he spoke, while Jean silently, and with an almost
sullen look on her face, drove the cattle into the yard.  He lifted his
cap and passed on.

"Who is yon?" asked the woman in a harsh, strident voice.

"I do not know," replied the girl; "he helped me with the cattle, that
is all."

Douglas Graham climbed the hill which lay between him and his
relative's house with a strange feeling at his heart.  Somehow life
seemed different, and the picture of this black-eyed girl remained with
him.  "I should like to see her again," he said, as presently he came
up to the gates which led to the house; "yes, and I will, too!"

During the next two days he made no attempt to see Jean Lindsay.  He
found among his relatives at "Highlands" several young people, who not
only gave him a warm welcome, but entirely claimed his companionship,
and amidst the entertainments provided he almost forgot the meeting on
the moors.  The third day, however, found him wandering away by himself
towards the lonely farmhouse.  Had he tried to analyse his feelings, he
would have told himself that Jean Lindsay was only a chance
acquaintance, who was vastly interesting, but nothing more.  But he
could not altogether drive her picture from his mind; the black,
speaking eyes, the strange longings which were revealed in the girl's
half-uttered sentences, filled his mind with unaccustomed thoughts.
That was why he found himself near the farmhouse, wondering whether he
should see her again.  But he found no one there: the place might have
been forsaken.  Wandering down the valley, however, he thought he heard
someone sobbing, and quickly discovered Jean Lindsay sitting by a
brook, crying as though her heart would break.

"What is the matter?" he asked.

For a moment the girl gave no reply.  She seemed to resent his
presence, to be angry that he should have seen her in this frame of
mind.

"I am sure you must be in trouble," he went on; "tell me about it."

"She struck me," was her almost sullen reply.

"Struck you!  Who?"

"My stepmother," she replied, "and I will not stand it, I will run
away; besides----"  And then she stopped suddenly.

A little later her passion seemed to have subsided, and she was able to
speak more freely.  For more than an hour they talked, and when they
parted she told him that on the following day she had to go to a
village some four miles distant.

That evening, at "Highlands," Douglas Graham was not an interesting
companion.  The young people joked him about his solemn appearance, and
wondered why he looked so troubled.

"Anyone would think you were crossed in love, Douglas," said one.
"Tell us all about it now; has she run away with her father's coachman,
or has she jilted you for a handsomer man?"

But while Douglas replied to their good-tempered raillery in laughing
tones, it was easy to see that his mind was far away.  For hours he lay
in bed that night without being able to sleep.  The picture of the
dark-eyed sobbing girl remained with him, and all sorts of longings
filled his heart.  It seemed as though the Scotch side of his nature
was altogether repressed.  He was no longer cautious and calculating,
his mind and heart were full of the half savage beauty of the young
girl of the moors.

The next day he left his friends at "Highlands" without any excuse
whatever, and again wandered away alone.  Near the village Jean Lindsay
had mentioned he saw her returning with a basket on her arm, and again
he entered into eager conversation with her.  He forgot the foolishness
of his action, forgot the wrong he was doing to the girl by filling her
mind with thoughts about himself--for he could see that she was
attracted by him.  To her he seemed some knight-errant like those she
had read about in the stories which her stepmother had forbidden her to
read.  His mode of speech, his appearance, his sunny laugh, all made
her realise that there was a world hitherto unknown to her, but which
she now longed to enter.

This meeting led to others, until Douglas's friends began to wonder why
he so often desired to leave them and wander away alone.  A few days
before the time when his visit to "Highlands" was to come to an end he
found Jean strangely perturbed.  She was overwhelmed by some great
emotion, but she would not speak to him concerning it.  At length,
however, with much hesitation, she confessed to him that she was
troubled greatly.  "I have to be married," she said.

"Married, Jean!" he cried; "to whom--why?"

"To Willie Fearn," was her reply.  "Father told me so last night."

"But why?  Do you love him?" he asked.

"Nay, I hate him," was the reply, "especially since----"  And then she
ceased speaking, her face becoming crimson.  "Father says I shall never
get such a good chance again," she went on presently.  "He has the best
farm hereabouts, and could give me a good home, and my stepmother, she
wants to get rid of me--but I hate him, I hate him!"

"Then you will not marry him?" said Douglas.

"What can I do?" replied the girl; "for more than a year they have been
trying to persuade me, and father owes him money, too, and Willie says
he will forgive him ever paying if I will marry him."  And the girl
burst out sobbing.

Douglas was young and romantic.  The Scotch side of his nature told him
that the resolution born in his mind was utterly mad, but this was
utterly destroyed by feelings of pity, and what to him was greater than
pity--a wild passion for the girl at his side.  So, not thinking of
what his determination might mean, nor dreaming of what the future had
in store for him, he told Jean that she must never think of marrying
the farmer.

"But how can I help it?" she asked.  "They never let me rest, and,
while I hate him, how can I dare disobey my father and my mother?
Besides, when the minister came to tea at our house last week, he spoke
of it as a thing settled, and said that Willie would soon be made an
elder of the kirk.  He thought it would be a grand thing for me, I
suppose, to be an elder's wife--but how can I--how can I?"

I need not describe at length what followed.  The young fellow casting
caution to the winds, mapped out his plan, and before parting they
arranged to meet again the next day.

On his way back to "Highlands" the conversation which took place
between himself and his companions came back to him.  He remembered
what he had read in the old Encyclopaedia about Scotch marriages, and
it possessed him strongly.  He believed himself to be in love with this
peasant girl.  To him she was a creature apart from all the rest of the
world--young, romantic, beautiful with a kind of beauty he had never
seen in any other.  He felt he could not live his life apart from her.
He wanted to take her away from this barren farm among the hills and
make her life happy.  And yet the madness of his thought appealed to
him too.  How could he make her his wife?  How could he introduce her
to his friends?  Beautiful she might be, but was it not the beauty of a
savage?  The Poles lay between her and the women into whose society he
would be cast in coming days.  He was very ambitious for his own
future.  He dreamed of becoming a popular barrister, of winning fame
and renown, of gaining a name throughout the country as a brilliant
lawyer and a pleader of eloquence and power.  Like every other young
law student he had read of famous lawyers who had risen from obscurity
to renown, from poverty to wealth.  His career at the University had
assured him that he had more than average abilities, while his speeches
at the Oxford Union had been received with so much applause that he
knew he had the gift of public speech in no ordinary degree.  What then
should hinder him from attaining to high position in the world he had
chosen as his sphere?  But all this seemed as nothing in comparison
with the mad passion which had been aroused in his heart by this
beauteous being of the moors.  What was law, what was fame, what were
riches in comparison with the joy which her presence gave him?
Besides, it did not seem to him that the marriage he had in his mind
was the same as that in the English churches.  It might be legal, but
there was something unreal, unstable about it, and who need know?  A
Scotch marriage!  It appealed to him almost as a joke, while at the
same time he knew it would satisfy this young girl's conscience.  It
would make her his wife.  And so, although he had many doubts, he made
his plans.

All through the night he lay thinking.  He wished he had some of his
law books with him, so that he could study the matter carefully, for he
was strangely ignorant.  No minister, no church, no documents, no
witnesses--simply taking each other by the hand and declaring that he
took her as his wife.  It seemed so easy, and surely, surely----

He was not a bad young fellow, this Douglas Graham.  Some spoke of him
as a kind of dual personality, strong and weak at the same time--but he
had never been known to do anything dishonourable, and his career at
Oxford had been an unblemished one.  To an extent he was cast in a
religious mould, and was susceptible to religious influences.  He had
indeed been a communicant at a Presbyterian church, and thus, while
determined to carve out for himself a great career, he always dreamed
of acting honourably and conscientiously, and he would do so now,
only----  And then he thought out the whole matter again.  Yes, it did
seem different from a marriage in an English church, but it would
satisfy Jean, and it would be a real marriage.

Two days later he left the "Highlands," to walk to Carlisle, he said,
and take the train from there.  So, packing in his knapsack the
absolute necessities of life, he took his departure from his relatives.
He did not tell them what he had in his mind--did not give a hint that
that afternoon he was to meet Jean Lindsay alone on the moors.  He
tried to appear calm, but his mind was full of the plans he had made,
full of what Jean would say when he met her.  Just as he was leaving
"Highlands" a servant brought him a letter, but he was too excited to
read it; he simply put it in his pocket with the thought that it could
wait, and then, bidding his relatives farewell, he started on his walk.

Two hours later Jean and he were walking side by side away from her
father's farm.  "You are sure it is all right, Douglas?"

"Yes, sure."

"And you love me?"

"I love you more than my own life," he said, and into the girl's eyes
came a look of infinite trust and infinite joy.  She had no qualms
about the Scotch marriage.  She had heard of them again and again, and
they were mere commonplaces to her.  It did seem strange, walking away
with him alone, but she had given him her heart's love, and she had a
perfection of trust in him.

It was a strange experience, and Douglas Graham felt awed, as presently
they took each other by the hand, and he said, "Jean Lindsay, I do here
take you as my wife, and, God helping me, I will be a good and faithful
husband to you."

The girl's eyes burned brightly with joy as she heard the words.

"Douglas Graham," she said, "I, Jean Lindsay, do take you as my
husband, and, God helping me, I will love you and obey you and be
faithful to you till death."

The sun was just setting, and the whole of the Western sky was ablaze
with glory.  The hills, heather-covered, were enveloped in a purple
haze.  The evening was windless; not a sound was heard; not a bird
chirped; and no one was near.  He kissed the girl fondly.

"There, Jean," he said, "I kiss you as my wife."

The girl sobbed for joy.

"I never knew what happiness meant before," she said; "but, but----"

"What?" he asked eagerly.

"Must there not be a word of prayer?" she said, and her voice shook
with emotion.

The two knelt down by the roadside, and in the silence of the evening
they asked fervently for God's blessing on their union.

When night came, they found themselves in the inn across the border
where Douglas had parted from his companions, and then he remembered
the letter which the servant had given him at "Highlands" just before
he parted from the family.  He had read only a few lines when he
started and changed colour.

"What is it, Douglas?" asked the girl.

"It is all right," he said, but his voice was hoarse and troubled.

The following morning Douglas Graham parted from his newly-made wife at
a railway station some distance from the inn.

"You are sure you must go?" she asked, and her voice was trembling.

"I simply must, Jean!" he replied.  "But do not be afraid.  I will be
back in a few days.  You can tell your father everything.  In a month
from now you shall be publicly proclaimed as my wife."

"I don't like letting you go!" sobbed the girl.

"I would give anything if I could stay, but I simply dare not--my whole
future depends upon my going!"

The train swept into the station.

"Good-bye, Douglas, my husband!" she said.  "You'll soon be back?"

"Good-bye, Jean, my wife!  May God bless you!  Yes, I'll soon be back."



CHAPTER I

A LEGACY OF HATE

Their meeting-place was on the Altarnun Moors, eight miles from the
town of Bodmin, perhaps as many from the rugged peaks--the highest
peaks in Cornwall--Router and Brown Willy.  Almost as far as the eye
could reach was bare moorland.  A white streak, the road which ran
between Altarnun and Bodmin, was the most striking thing seen.  On
either side of the road were only bare, uncultivated, uninteresting
moors; and yet, perhaps, I do the district injustice.  Here and there
was a rugged tor, and again a few fields taken in from the moorland by
some enterprising labourer who wanted to earn a living by farming.
Near this road, too, is the famous Dozmary Pool, known to all those who
love folk-lore and are acquainted with the legends of the most Western
county in England--a dismal piece of water, black as ink, and, so the
old stories have it, bottomless.  It was here that Tregellas, of
Cornish myth, was set by the Devil to scoop out its water by means of a
limpet-shell.  Here, too, in old times, coaches were robbed and dark
deeds done.  At the time of which I am writing, however, it was simply
one of the most unattractive and bleak districts in what is otherwise
perhaps the most beautiful county in England.  The woman had walked all
the way from Launceston, a distance of not less than a dozen miles.
The youth had come from Bodmin, and he had covered nearly the same
length of road.  The afternoon was drawing to a close as they met.  It
was a November day, and darkness would be upon them by five o'clock.
No one was near, for since the days of stage-coaches the traffic on
this road has been small.  Occasionally a farmer's cart passes along,
or again a vehicle of more ornamental description, used by those who
wish to travel either to Bodmin or to Launceston.  There is no railway
station within ten miles of that drear region, and it seemed a fitting
meeting-place for the couple who came there that day.  The woman was
perhaps thirty-five years of age, and suggested the fact that in her
girlhood she must have been strangely beautiful.  Even yet there were
times when one would have spoken of her as one possessing more than
ordinary attraction.  That was when her eyes became soft, and her
features relaxed into a smile, but these times were very rare.  As she
trudged along the dreary road her face was set and stern, her lips were
compressed, her eyes hard and relentless.  As she passed through Five
Lanes and asked for a cup of tea at a cottage there, the villagers
remarked upon her and wondered who she was.  "She might be a witch,"
said one.

"No, too young for that," said another.

"But where can she be goin'?  She is a straanger in thaise paarts."

"Up to no good, I reckon."

But the woman gave no confidences.  Evidently her purpose was clear
before her mind, and after she had obtained her cup of tea she stepped
forward with the same resolution in her eyes, turning neither to the
right nor to the left.  She seemed as little impressed by the
suggestion of beauty contained in the valley where the old Altarnun
Church stands, as she was by the bleak moors on to which she presently
entered.  She might be looking into her own soul rather than on the
vast sweep of hill and dale which presently stretched out before her.
Now and then she muttered like one talking to herself, but she never
faltered on her way.  She seemed to know no weariness.  Firmly and
resolutely she went her way, her mind evidently set upon some grim
purpose.  It was two o'clock when she left Five Lanes, and considerably
past three when she saw a dark object in the road in front of her.  "It
must be he," she said to herself, and her lips quivered and her eyes
shone with a new light.  As they drew nearer she quickened her
footsteps.

"My boy!" she said; "what will he say--what will he do?  But he must
know, for his own sake and for mine.  He must know that his mother is
an honest woman and tried to do right."

The day was dark and drear.  Clouds hung heavily in the sky and the
moorland was wrapt in a fine mist so peculiar to that district.  The
roads were heavy, and one could hear the silt crush beneath her feet as
she walked.

A little later the two met, and the relationship was evident at the
first glance.  They were mother and son.  The youth was about seventeen
years of age, tall and muscular.  He wore the dress of a mechanic, and
there was in his appearance a suggestion of capability and of resolute
resolve.  Strangely handsome he was, and yet no one seemed attracted by
him.  During his journey from Bodmin a labourer would pass the time of
day, but he seemed to take no notice.  And once the driver of a
farmer's cart offered to give him a lift, but he only shook his head
and trudged on.  There was an eager questioning look in his eyes, and
he seemed to be wondering greatly as to the result of his journey.  Two
days before he had received a letter, urging him to come to a certain
spot on Altarnun Moors, and promising him that he should hear of things
concerning which he had long been anxious to know.  The letter had no
signature, but the address given was "Lancroft, near Launceston."  Who
the writer of the letter was the youth had not the slightest idea, but
he never thought of refusing the request made.  Almost ever since he
could remember he had wondered concerning his father and mother, and
now he felt sure that the time of revelation was come.

Presently the two met, and each looked steadily into the other's face,
as if wondering who the other might be.

"You received a letter two days ago?" said the woman.

"Yes," was his reply.

"I wrote it."  Simple as the words were, they were uttered with a sob.

He saw that she was under very strong emotion, and noted the yearning
look in her eyes.

"You have wondered all your life who your father and mother are?" and
the woman controlled her voice with difficulty.  "I know you have.  You
want to know all about them, don't you?"

"I shouldn't have come here if I hadn't!" was his reply.

"I'm your mother!" said the woman.

He looked at her curiously.  He had been thinking, ever since they had
met, whether this might not be so; nevertheless the news came to him as
a kind of shock.  A woman with sad eyes and an expression of
unsatisfied yearning in her face; yet handsome withal.

"Do you not believe it?" she asked.  "My boy! my boy!  I'm your mother,
and, if I have kept silent about it, it has been for love of you!"

And she held out her hands towards him.

It seemed as though something touched his heart, as though his whole
being thrilled with a recognition of the truth, and, in a way he could
not understand, a great love for this lonely woman sprang suddenly into
his heart.

"Yes, I believe you are my mother."

"I have come to tell you everything, Paul," she said.  "It's a sad
story, but I believe you'll understand."

"Yes," he replied, "I shall understand!"

The woman looked at him, still with the same expression of tender
yearning in her eyes.

"It's a hard question to ask," she said, "but can you feel towards me
as a laddie should feel to his mother?"

"Yes," he replied, "I do."

"Then call me 'Mother,' and kiss me!" she cried passionately.

"Mother!" he said, and held her close to him.

A few minutes later she began to tell him the things which for years he
had been longing to know, and concerning which gossip had been rife.

"I want to know, mother," he said, "who my father is, where I was born,
and why the truth has been so long kept from me."

"Born," she said, and her face became hard; "you were born in a
workhouse, and your father would call himself a gentleman, and we were
married in Scotland!"

A bright light came into the youth's eyes at the last part of the
sentence.  "But is my father alive?" he asked eagerly.

"I do not know," she replied; "I think he must be.  I feel sure he is,
but I cannot tell.  Listen.  I was reared in Scotland, not far beyond
the English border.  My name was Jean Lindsay.  My father had been a
fisherman as a young man, but came to Cornwall for his wife, and soon
after he brought her to Scotland and I was born, she died.  He had a
farm in Scotland, and there I lived with my stepmother and stepbrothers
and sisters, who made life a misery for me until I was eighteen, and
then one day I met a gentleman.  Oh, my lad, it was no wonder I loved
him; he was different from all the lads I had met in those parts,
young, handsome, laughter-loving, just the man to captivate a lassie's
heart.  He married me, Scottish fashion, and on the day we were wed he
told me he had received a letter which urged him to go back to his home
at once.  We were married secretly, my boy, because I was afraid for my
father and stepmother to know.  They wanted me to wed a young farmer,
and would have forced me to do so but for him, and I could not--how
could I when I loved him and he loved me?  And I believed in him too;
he was all the world to me.  No one knew but he and me.  But when we
were married and he came to the inn, he told the landlady I was his
wife."

The boy nodded.  "And the letter, mother?" he said, "the letter, what
of that?"

"It urged him to go to his home," she replied.  "You must remember, my
boy, that I was young and ignorant.  I knew nothing of the ways of the
world, nothing of men, but I loved him devotedly.  He was my king, my
life!  When he had read the letter, he said he must leave the following
morning, and urged me to go back to my home and wait until he could
come and fetch me.  I was to tell them, he said, that we were married,
and that thus I was free from the attentions of Willie Fearn, the
farmer they wanted me to wed."

The youth did not seem to understand her, but looked at her with wild
wonder in his eyes, trying to comprehend the story she was telling.  It
seemed utterly unreal to him.  He wondered whether she fully realised
what she was saying.

"Yes, mother," he said at length, "go on."

"What could I do but obey him?" she said.  "I had promised before God
that I would, and I did.  I went back to my father--he had wondered
where I had gone--and told him I had wedded a young Englishman named
Douglas Graham.  I think my father thought that all was right, for,
while he spoke harsh words to me, he seemed presently to settle down to
the conviction that my husband would soon come to me, and that I should
be a lady.  But my stepmother said awful things.  I will not tell you
what!  Even now her words cut me like a knife."

"Well," said the youth, "and what then?"

"Day after day I waited for a letter from him," she replied.  "At first
I hadn't a doubt; he had promised me and I believed him.  But when one
month had gone, and then two, I grew desperate."

"And he never wrote to you at all?" asked the youth.

"At the end of three months," she replied, "I got a letter."

"Yes"--and his voice was eager--"what did he say?"

"Here it is," she replied, and she passed him a crumpled piece of
paper.  The envelope was stamped with a London post-mark, but the paper
within had no address of any sort.  It simply contained the words:


    "DEAR JEAN,--It cannot be helped now, and
    of course we were never really married.  It
    was only a joke.--DOUGLAS."


"And that was all?" said the youth.

"That was all, God helping me, that was all."

"And you have heard nothing from him since?"

"Never a word since the morning he bid me good-bye at the station, and
told me to go back to my father, saying he would write to me at once,
and come to me soon.  No, I have never seen nor heard of him since."

The eyes of the youth became red with anger.  His hands clenched and
unclenched themselves passionately, but he did not speak.  It seemed as
if he could not.  Then an oath escaped him, and his voice was hoarse.

"But, mother," he cried presently, "tell me more.  There must be more
than this.  What about this marriage?  Were there no witnesses?  Have
you no marriage lines?"

"Things are different in Scotland, my boy," was her answer.  "There
many people just take each other as man and wife, and that is all, and
the marriage is legal.  Do you know"--and her voice trembled with
passion--"that on the afternoon when he took me as his wife we knelt
down by the roadside, and he prayed with me that God would help us to
be true man and wife to each other?"

"But, but----" he cried, and he was trembling with emotion, "and he
treated you like that?"

The woman did not reply, but looked away across the moors with a hard,
stony stare.

"My mother, my poor, poor mother!"  He seemed incapable of saying more,
and for two or three minutes there was a silence between them.

"And then, mother?" he went on presently.

"Months later," she went on, "I was driven from home.  I had no
friends, no relatives, no one to whom I could go, and I thought I
should go mad!"

"And what did you do?" he asked.

"There seemed to me only one thing I could do," she said.  "I could not
stay near my old home, I was ashamed--besides, my father and stepmother
drove me away with a curse.  They said I had disgraced the name of
Lindsay.  I always hated Scotland, and as my heart turned to my
mother's home, I determined I would go to Cornwall.  I had just three
pounds, and with that I commenced my journey."

"You came by train?" he asked.

"No, I walked.  I wanted to hoard my money.  You see it was very
little."

"You walked all the way to Cornwall from Scotland?"

"Every step," she said.  "It was winter time, too, and it often rained,
but somehow I felt as though Cornwall would give me a home, a welcome.
It took me weeks to do it, but I got there at last.  Often I slept in a
farmer's barn; more than once I walked all through the night."  And
into her eyes came a far-away look, while her lips quivered as if with
pain.

"And did you find a home and welcome?" he asked.

She shook her head.  "How could I?  I went straight to St. Ives, but
everyone had forgotten my mother, and her people were dead.  You see, I
looked like a vagrant, my clothes were weather-stained, my boots were
worn out, I had no money, and no one wanted me.  More than once I
thought I should have died of starvation."

"And what did you do?" he asked.

"I did not know what to do.  I went from place to place.  Here and
there I got a day's work, but I never begged.  I would rather have died
than have done that."

A kind of grim satisfaction settled in the youth's face as he heard
this, but it was easy to see that the pain which lay in his mother's
heart also passed into his.  He was not pleasant to look at at that
moment, and if murder can ever be seen in a man's eyes, it could be
seen in his at that moment.

"Well, mother?" he said at length, "and what afterwards?"

"I began to tramp northward again," she said.  "I hoped that surely,
surely, someone would help me.  And then one day I fell down by the
roadside.  It was spring time now but terribly cold, and I thought,
'Now I shall die, and all will be over.'  I think I went to sleep,
because I knew nothing of what happened.  A great darkness fell upon
everything, and then, when I woke again, I found myself in a workhouse.
I knew it was a workhouse by the clothes the people wore and by the way
they talked; but I did not care much--I had got beyond that."  She
hesitated, like one who did not know how to continue her story.  Her
teeth became set, her lips quivered, her eyes were hard.  "Oh, my boy,
my boy!" she said, "I could not help it, I thought I did what was
right!"

The youth took hold of her hand almost awkwardly.  He wanted to try and
comfort her, but knew not how.  Perhaps the affectionate action, even
although accompanied by no words, was the best thing he could have done
to ease her aching heart.  She laid her head upon his chest as though
she were tired.  And then she sobbed convulsively.  "There you were
born, my boy."

"They always called me a workhouse brat," he said; "but never mind,
mother, never mind; what then?"

"They never thought I would live, I suppose," she replied.  "For weeks
I lay between life and death.  I believe I should have died, but
presently I came to know that you were alive, and that you were a
great, strong, handsome boy.  But you are not like him, thank God!  He
had blue eyes and light hair, but your eyes are black, your hair is
black, and you are like me.  They christened you in the workhouse,
unknown to me.  The chaplain gave you a name.  If I had had the
choosing of it, I should have called you Ishmael or Esau, but they
called you Paul.  They wanted me to tell them my surname, but I would
not--I could not--so they called you Stepaside, the name of the little
hamlet where I fell down, as I thought, to die."

"Well, I know everything after that," he replied.

"Very nearly," was her answer.  "You were brought up in the workhouse,
while I, as soon as I was strong enough, had to go away into service.
On the whole, I suppose, they did as well as one could expect for you.
They gave you good schooling, and taught you a trade, and now you are
beginning to earn your own living."

"Yes, mother," he replied.  "I have got a job as a blacksmith in the
Pencarrow Mines.  Soon I shall be getting a pound a week, and later on
you must come and live with me."

She shook her head.  "No, Paul.  While I am not with you, people will
not insult you.  Now that you are away from the place where you were
born and reared, no one knows your history.  No one knows that you were
born in a workhouse and that your mother does not know where your
father is."

"But you were married, mother?"

"Yes," she cried eagerly, "and that is why I have told you everything
to-day.  When you were seventeen, I said to myself, 'Directly I can get
to him we will meet, and I will tell him, tell him with my own lips.'
Paul, that man has covered your mother with black shame.  If he is
alive you must find him.  The day he wrote me that letter he killed all
the love I had for him.  The last feeling I had, when I lay down and
thought I was going to die on the roadside, was a feeling of hatred for
him.  When I first saw you, although my heart went out to you with a
great love, I hated your father.  For seventeen long years I have hated
him, and I hate him still."

She looked like a savage, and there was a snarl in her voice as she
spoke.  "But for him, but for him----"  And then she stopped.  "Paul,
find him out, wherever he is.  Find him out!"

The passion which burned in the mother's eyes passed into those of the
youth.  She need not have told him what was in her heart.  Paul
Stepaside hated his father from that day.

"Yes, I will," he said grimly.  "I will find him.  An eye for an eye; a
tooth for a tooth; disgrace for disgrace; misery for misery.  Mother,
all you have suffered he shall suffer, and a thousand times more.
Wherever he is, whatever he is, I will find him."  His eyes turned away
towards the dreary moors.  Router and Brown Willy stood like grim
sentinels watching over the scene.  A slight wind had arisen, which
soughed its way across the great silent spaces, dispelling the mists.
The black tors in the near distance became visible again; frogs croaked
in the marshes near by.

"But tell me more, mother.  I know nothing yet.  Who is he?  What is
he?  Tell me all you know of him."

"There is little I can tell," said the mother.  "He told me his name
was Douglas Graham.  I believe that to be true.  I found out that from
the people at 'Highlands,' the big house close by my father's farm."

"Ah, they can tell us," he cried.

"Nay," replied the mother.  "They only had the house for a short time,
and then left.  They are gone, I know not whither, and I, fool that I
was, was too ignorant to find out in those days more about him.  But he
was called Douglas Graham, there is no doubt about that."

"And is that all?"

"Only this," replied the mother, "he is a lawyer--what they call an
English barrister.  I have heard that books are kept, containing a list
of such people.  I expect they'll be in London; but these barrister men
go around the country, some of them.  Anyhow, that is for you to find
out."

He nodded his head.  "Yes, I will find out," he said; "but the thing
will be difficult, mother.  I see what you mean now, and why you cannot
live with me.  I must go to London, or to one of the other big places
where I can find out the truth about such things.  Oh, I shall know,
and I will not spare him.  Don't be afraid, mother, you shall be
avenged for all he's done to you."

A kind of evil joy flashed from the woman's eyes.  "Yes, Paul," she
said presently, "and you are clever, you were the cleverest lad in the
workhouse school.  I found out that.  You were always ahead with your
lessons, and you are quick with your brains and you are strong.  But
remember, he is clever and strong too, and he has much book-learning,
and he knows all about the law, English law especially.  You must be
able to meet him on equal terms.  You must learn, my boy--you must know
everything.  You need not fear for me.  I have a place now where I can
live comfortably; but remember, I shall never be happy until either he
sets me and you right before the world, or I have made him suffer all I
have suffered and all you have suffered."

For half an hour more they stood talking, he asking questions, she
answering and explaining.  Night had fallen now, but the moon had risen
and made darkness impossible.  The mists had cleared away, too, and
patches of blue were to be seen in the sky.  Here and there a star
peeped out.

"Good night, Paul," she said at length.  "You will write me often,
won't you?  Remember, you are the only thing I love on earth."

"You know what I will do," he replied.  "Good night, mother."

For a few seconds he held her like a man might hold the maid he loved,
and then, turning, he walked slowly back towards Bodmin, from which
town he intended to take the train to the place where he lived.  Mile
after mile he walked, seeming to take no notice of his surroundings.
It might be day, it might be night; it might be summer, it might be
winter, for all he cared.  The iron had entered his soul, the poison of
hatred had filled his heart.  He loved his mother with a kind of
savage, passionate love, but the man who was his father he hated, and
on him he swore to be revenged.  "That is my work in life," he said to
himself; "that is the purpose for which I shall live, and I will do
it--yes, I will do it."



CHAPTER II

PAUL BEGINS HIS WORK

In some senses Paul Stepaside had suffered but little because of his
being a pauper.  His education was quite equal to that of the lads who
had gone to the elementary school in the district.  He had passed what
was called the sixth standard, and although this meant very little more
than a knowledge of the three "r's," he was considered by the workhouse
schoolmaster as his cleverest pupil.  After leaving school at the age
of fourteen he was apprenticed to a local blacksmith, with whom it was
arranged he should remain for four years.  John Tresidder, the
blacksmith, however, died two years after Paul's apprenticeship, and so
at sixteen, with his trade half learned, he found himself homeless and
friendless.  But that did not trouble him much.  He knew, or, at least,
he thought he knew, practically all that Tresidder could teach him, and
he was eager to start life on his own account.  During the two years he
had been an apprentice, moreover, he had attended a night-school, and
had studied subjects which were beyond the range of the curriculum in
the ordinary day-schools.  He had some knowledge of geometry, and had
mastered the first book of Euclid.  He also knew a little of history,
and the schoolmaster, having some acquaintance with chemistry, and
finding Paul an apt pupil, had given him some lessons in that science.
Being a strong, healthy lad, he had no difficulty in finding work in
the blacksmith's shop at the Pencarrow Mines, where he was called an
Improver.  He had been working here for a year, and, as he had told his
mother, his wages had just been raised to one pound a week.

Paul was not popular among his companions.  The Cornish people are
extremely proud, and have a proper scorn for those who have been reared
on charity.  Moreover, a shadow rested upon his name, and he was often
insulted as a consequence.  Epithets were constantly hurled at him,
which aroused black rage in the boy's heart.  Being of an exceedingly
sensitive disposition, he resented the things that were said even while
he made no reply; many, as they caught the flash of his eyes, realised
something of the passion that lay smouldering in his heart.  Still, he
was respected as a well-behaved, although uncompanionable lad.  Like
all other youths in the district, he attended the Methodist chapel, and
seemed to listen attentively to the teachings enunciated there, but no
apparent impression was made upon him.  Revival services were
frequently held, but no one could induce Paul to find his way to the
penitent form.  Many looked upon him as an unbeliever.  On more than
one occasion the evangelist, who was appointed to the St. Mabyn
circuit, had tried to get into conversation with him, but found his
task extremely difficult.  Paul would listen in silence, but would make
no response whatever to the minister's eager questionings.

On his return to St. Mabyn, after his meeting with his mother on the
Altarnun Moors, he seemed more grim and taciturn than ever.  Silently
he went to his work, and silently he continued the whole day, paying
but little heed to the gibes of the miners, and never laughing at their
elementary jokes.  During his evenings he read eagerly concerning life
in the big towns, of the means of education there, and of opportunities
for obtaining knowledge, but he said nothing about it to the cottagers
with whom he lived.  He never uttered a word concerning what his mother
had told him.  The secret lay deep in his heart, and his purposes must
be made known to none.

In truth, a new passion had entered his heart: a greater bitterness
than he had yet known completely possessed him.  Hitherto, while he had
resented the insults which had been heaped upon him by those who
sneered at the place of his birth and upbringing, he never seemed to
think of himself as hardly treated; now he pondered deeply over the
black shadow that lay upon his life.  What had he done that he should
be treated so?  Why should he be homeless and friendless while other
lads were situated so differently?  What was the good of the minister
talking about a kind Providence and the love of God?  He remembered the
previous Sunday evening sermon on the "Duty of forgiving one's
enemies."  What did the preacher know about it?  He called to mind the
look on his mother's face, the agony of her voice; he realised the
bitter years she had spent in silence and misery, and remembered who
was responsible for it all.  Thus Paul became a kind of atheist.  He
was not yet old enough to think deeply about it, but incipient unbelief
was in the boy's mind and heart.  It darkened his thoughts and gave a
sombre hue to life.  In any case he was not going to trouble about
religion.  He remembered the vow he had made after he had left his
mother, and he determined that nothing should stop him from carrying
out his purposes.

As chance would have it, too, events seemed to shape his course
quickly.  A few weeks after his journey to Altarnun Moors, a young
fellow who was commonly called Jacker, a kind of half-gipsy lad who
worked at the mines, and who was looked upon as the champion boxer in
that district, made a dead set on Paul.  Jacker had often sought his
friendship, and Paul had as often repulsed his advances.  Jacker's own
parentage lay under a cloud, and he felt angry that Paul, whom he
regarded as in a like predicament, should refuse to be friendly with
him.  One evening, therefore, when Paul seemed less inclined than ever
to be sociable, Jacker determined to have it out with him.  He was
passing through what is called the Church Town, when a number of
youths, among whom Jacker was conspicuous, asked him to go into the
public house.  Paul refused.  On being asked his reason for his
refusal, he replied that he was on his way to the night-school.  A few
minutes later there was an uproar.  Things were said about Paul's
parentage that roused the young fellow beyond the pitch of endurance.
"I have borne with you a long time," he said, "but, remember, if you
say that again you shall pay for it."

"Iss, and I be willing to pay for it!" cried Jacker, who was eager for
a fight.  The youths had often accused him of being afraid of Paul, and
Jacker, true to his nature, wanted to prove his superiority to any
youth in the district.  A little later the group of lads had adjourned
to a field, and Paul and Jacker appeared as combatants.  The result of
it was that Paul, in a mad passion, nearly killed his opponent, and was
that same evening apprehended by the police as drunk and disorderly.
He was taken to the nearest lock-up, and detained there until the next
sittings of the magistrate.  The landlord at the inn, being Jacker's
friend, had appeared as a witness on his behalf, and had declared that
Jacker was always a quiet, well-behaved youth, while Paul was a surly
villain, with whom it was impossible for quiet lads to live in peace.
Of course the truth presently came out, and, while Paul suffered no
imprisonment, he had to pay a fine for what had taken place, and was
bound over to keep the peace.

This incident, although seemingly unimportant, bore fruit in Paul's
life.  It determined him to leave the neighbourhood at once.  But where
should he go?  He hated Cornwall, hated the Pencarrow Mines, and longed
to get away where he could begin what he regarded as his life's work.
As it happened, a man, whose father had left Cornwall several years
before, paid a visit to St. Mabyn, and declared that there was always
good work for men in Lancashire.  When Paul heard of it he made his way
to this man.  "Peter Wadge," he said, "you have come from Lancashire, I
am told?"

Wadge admitted that he had.

"Where do you live?" he asked.

"Brunford," replied Wadge; "and Brunford is the place for a chap like
you.  No questions will be asked about you there, and the wage is
double what it is here!"

"You see," continued Wadge, "the working man has a chance in
Lancashire, and we stand no nonsense with the masters."

Paul looked at him questioningly.

"You don't believe me?" said Wadge.  "Why, think.  Lately, owing to the
change in the price of cotton, the manufacturers were making money hand
over fist.  Well, what did the weavers do?  They just went to them and
demanded more wages.  The manufacturers refused; they were having a big
harvest, and did not mean to allow the weavers to have a share in it.
But you see we are organised there, and a meeting of the Weavers' Union
was called, and the next thing was that they all went on strike.  Of
course the manufacturers could do nothing without them, and so there
was an increase of wage right away.  That's the way we deal with them
up there.  Why, I knew a chap who was sacked because one of the
manufacturer's sons didn't like him.  Do you think we stood it?  Not
we!  We sent a deputation to the master, and told him that unless the
chap were taken back we should all 'come out.'"

"And was he taken back?" asked Paul.

"I should think he was," was the reply.  "Why, we working people are
somebody up there.  We have our representatives on the town council and
on the board of guardians.  Down here it is the parson and squire that
do everything; up there we are alive, and there's a chance for a chap
who's got brains.  Why, a fellow like you up in Brunford, with your
education and gifts, could be a big man in a few years."

Paul thought quietly for a few minutes.  There was something in what
Wadge said that appealed to him.  He longed to put his finger on the
pulse of the great busy life of the world, but he remembered the object
for which he lived.  He longed to get on, but only for that purpose,
and he remembered that the man whom he had determined to punish was
educated and had a high position.

"And are there any chances," he asked, "for a poor man to be educated?
I mean to be educated in the higher things--to learn law and government
and that sort of thing?"

"Chances?  I should think there are!" replied Wadge.  "Why, think of
our Mechanics' Institute.  We have more than a thousand students there.
They all come of an evening, after work, and they pay next to nothing
for their lessons; but I've known lots of them who have got on so well
that they have been able to go to Owens College at Manchester--even
taken degrees.  And there is no end to the possibilities for the chap
who has taken a degree."

Paul had only a vague idea of what this might mean, but he knew it
meant something of importance, and his heart beat quickly at the
thought of it.  Still, the idea of Lancashire did not appeal to him.
He felt sure that Douglas Graham would be in London, and, after all,
London was the great heart of things.  It was there all these big men
went, and it was there, he felt sure, his work lay.  Nevertheless, he
went on asking Wadge many questions about life in the big towns of
Lancashire, and more and more became enamoured by the thought of going
there.

"Look here," continued Wadge presently, "I have got a copy of the
_Brunford Mercury_ where I am staying, and I'll lend it you.  You can
see then what's going on."

A few hours later Paul was perusing the journal he had been promised.
At first he was disappointed.  After all, there did not seem to be
anything much more attractive going on in Brunford than in Cornwall.
The _West Briton_ was, as far as he could see, a more interesting
paper.  Presently, however, his heart gave a leap.  He saw that a law
case of some sort had been going on in Manchester, and as the counsel
for one of the parties, he saw the name of "G. D. Graham."  At first he
could scarcely believe his own eyes.  He did not realise that there
might be hundreds of Grahams, many of whom might be barristers.  With
his small parochial ideas, there could be only one Graham who could
occupy such a position--and Manchester was only a few miles from
Brunford.  Of course all the barristers could not live in London.
There must be many all over the country, and Graham lived there.  A
strange feeling filled his heart; he felt sure he had found his father,
the man who had wronged his mother, who had blighted her life.  Again
the picture of her as he saw her last flashed back to his mind, the
care-worn, tired, sad-looking woman whom he loved as his mother; and
she was going back to servitude, to misery, and all this because of the
man who had deceived her, ruined her life.  He had taken her as his
wife, and then written her that cruel, insulting letter, and left her
to the scorn and mercilessness of a hard world.  And he would see him.
If he lived in Manchester he would be employed for other cases.  It
would be easy to find out all about them, and he could go there and
watch.  He realised that he could do nothing while he was ignorant.
Perhaps this G. D. Graham was a great man by now, and he would deny all
knowledge of what he had done; therefore he must find out, he must
prepare himself, and he could only do that through getting a knowledge
of the world, a knowledge of law, a knowledge of men.

This decided him.  He remembered what Wadge had said about the
Mechanics' Institute, and about working-lad students belonging to Owens
College and obtaining University degrees.  Of course that must mean
knowledge, and knowledge was power.  So much he had learnt, at all
events, at the night-school where he had attended.

He counted up his money, of which he had been very saving, and
determined to leave Cornwall at once, and shortly after Christmas he
found himself in the train bearing him northward.  He had never been
out of Cornwall before, and his heart beat high with hope.  New scenes,
new experiences, new modes of life and thought, a new world--and he was
going to enter it!  It was on a Monday morning that he started on his
journey, and it was dark when he left the little village of St. Mabyn,
carrying in his hand a portmanteau which contained all his earthly
possessions.  It was several miles to the nearest railway station, but
that did not trouble him at all.  Young and strong as he was, a
five-mile walk was nothing, and he found it no hardship to get up in
the cold, dark morning in order to catch the first train, northward.
He did not arrive in Manchester until late that night, and then found
that the last train for Brunford had left some time before he came.
Like all lads country-reared, he had heard about the dangers of big
towns, of thieves, of midnight murder--and Manchester frightened him.
He could not understand it at all, and in his ignorance and fear he
shrunk from asking questions.

"You'll go to some pub., I suppose?" said a porter who had told him
about the last train to Brunford.

"I don't know," said Paul.

"But you must, man.  You can't stay out all night.  It's cold, too.
Will you have a cab?"

"I don't know where to go," said Paul.  "Can you tell me of a
respectable place?"

But before the porter could answer, someone else claimed his attention,
and Paul was left alone.  He took his bag and looked around, then,
seeing the notice, "Left Luggage Office," he acted upon impulse, and
left his portmanteau there, after which he went out into the streets.
He had missed the connection at Bristol, and, the later train having
been delayed, it was now past ten o'clock.  He had bought some
sandwiches on his way, so he did not feel hungry.  But he was terribly
depressed and lonely.  The traffic of the city was subsiding somewhat,
but still the rush and roar of the great northern metropolis stunned
and bewildered him.  Presently he came to the Town Hall, which stood in
a great square not far from the station.  Around him were trams, cabs,
and a hurrying multitude of people.  This was life--life in a great
city!  It was utterly different from what he had expected; and it was
bitterly cold.  A damp fog hung over the city, the air was depressing,
and the streets were black with slimy mud.  Still, the thought that
more than half a million of people were around him was wonderful to
him.  He was in the heart of the manufacturing North, where poor
friendless boys had risen to position and power.  That Town Hall stood
for something--stood for the government of this great metropolis.  It
seemed to him that London could be nothing compared with this, and in
his ignorance he felt as though Manchester were the centre of the
world.  He wandered on and on, passing through St. Anne's Square until
he came to Market Street.  Here all was a blaze of light, even although
the crowd had largely departed.  It was all fascinating, bewildering.
He felt strangely afraid, and he did not know what to do.  A tram
stopped just in front of him, and he noticed the words, "Rusholme,
Oxford Road."  And, again acting on impulse, he entered the tram.  A
few minutes later the conductor came to him.

"Where do you want to go?" he asked.

Paul had not the slightest idea, and looked at him in a kind of dazed
way.

"Where do you want to get out?" went on the conductor.  "We only go as
far as the tramway shed at Rusholme.  Do you want to go as far as that,
or where?"

"I don't know," said Paul.  "Where do we pass?"

"Why, we go up Oxford Road, and pass Owens College."

"That's it," cried Paul eagerly; "I want to get out at Owens College."

The conductor eyed him curiously, but he was a man of large experience,
and took very little notice of the vagaries of his passengers.

"Here you are," he said at length, as the tram stopped.  "This is Owens
College."

Paul got out, and the tram went on.  He looked at the great building
like one spell-bound.  He had heard, in a vague sort of way, that this
was the head-quarters of the Victoria University.  He did not know much
as to what this meant, but it appealed to him, captivated him.  It was
the centre of learning--knowledge.  Here men taught the knowledge that
meant power, progress, achievement.  It was not quite so foggy here as
in the heart of the city, and the moon did its best to pierce the
clouds, and in its pale light Paul could see something of the
proportions of this great centre of learning.  He wandered around it,
and noted what he supposed were the various departments of education.
He almost forgot where he was; he did not heed the lapse of time.  This
was Owens College!  It seemed to him the heart of the universe, the
centre of the world of knowledge, and he would go there some day, he
would learn things; and before his eyes flashed a vision of a brilliant
future.  What others had done he could do.  It meant work; but what of
that?  He loved it.  It meant suffering; but then he had never known
anything else.

Presently he found himself in Oxford Road again, and then, like one in
a dream, he tramped back to the centre of the city.  He had been
travelling from early morning, but he felt no weariness.  Manchester
was the city of dreams.  By the time he had got back to Market Street
again the streets were deserted, save for a few late stragglers.  The
trams had ceased running, the theatres had emptied themselves while he
had been away, and only an occasional vehicle passed him.  All through
the night he wandered through the dark, murky streets, and as he did so
the mystery of it all, the wonder of it all, filled his heart.  Yes, he
was in a new world, and in this new world were new thoughts, new modes
of life.  In after-years Paul recalled the experiences of that night;
it seemed to him that it marked a new era in his life.  Especially did
he feel this as again and again he came to the Town Hall.  The place
had a strong attraction for him, because it was here he believed that
the G. D. Graham of whom he had read had defended the man who, as it
appeared to him, was guilty of a crime.  More than one policeman
noticed him as he stood there looking at its lofty towers and listening
for the deep tones of the bell which told of the passing time.  But no
one molested him; he was respectably dressed, and did not appear to be
a suspicious character.  Strange to say, the squalor, the misery, the
poverty did not impress him: it was the size, the wondrousness, and the
vast avenues of life, which the city suggested, that appealed to his
mind.

Early in the morning he found himself at the Central Station again,
where, having obtained his bag, he made his way towards Victoria
Station and caught the early train for Brunford.

By the time he had reached Haslingden the grey light of morning
revealed the dreary scenes through which he passed.  He wished he had
stayed in Manchester.  The district through which he passed seemed
nothing but a procession of dreary houses, built apparently without
thought of order or architecture.  He saw stunted men and pale-faced
girls with shawls over their heads as if on their way to their work.
He heard the clatter of their iron-ringed clogs on the hard
paving-stones.  Here was a new life indeed, but there was no romance.
It was all sordid, grimy.  Still he must go on, and presently, when the
porter shouted the word, "Brunford," he got out of the train feeling
that his new life had really commenced.



CHAPTER III

PAUL IS SENT TO PRISON

The next few years of Paul Stepaside's life must be described somewhat
briefly, although they were not without importance.  They were the
formative period of the young man's history and naturally shaped his
whole future.  Habits of thought were formed, and the tendencies of his
boyhood were hardened and fashioned by the circumstances which
surrounded him.  Consequently, the passing from youth to manhood, with
all its shaping, moulding forces, is doubtless the most vital in the
life of any man.  Nevertheless there is not much to say about them, as
only a few outstanding events happened to him.  The development of his
character went on, but that development was silent and almost unnoticed
by those with whom he came into contact.  Still, there were certain
things of which cognisance must be taken, because not only did they
affect his future but they formed a part of the chain of events which
led to the tragic issues which presently evolved.

His first few days in Brunford were not happy ones.  The life of a busy
manufacturing town was utterly different from that of St. Mabyn.  The
long rows of ugly houses, the black, slimy streets, the smoke-begrimed
atmosphere, the roar of machinery, and the life of the operatives, all
made him feel that here was a new world indeed!  It seemed to him
harsh, sordid, ugly, and more than once he longed for the clear skies,
the green fields, and the quiet restfulness of his old Cornish home.
Nevertheless it had its compensations.  He was at the heart of a great,
busy, manufacturing centre, and the life there could not help but be
educational in the highest degree.  He had no difficulty in finding
work.  A loom manufacturer took him on for a few days to give him a
trial, and then, finding that Paul was skilful with his blacksmithing
tools, he engaged him as one of his permanent hands.  He obtained
lodgings near the centre of the town, with an old couple who took quite
an interest in him.  They were Methodists, and, learning that Paul was
acquainted with a minister who had formerly been in the Brunford
circuit, felt quite at home with him.  This led, moreover, to his being
visited by the minister of Hanover Chapel, who took a great interest in
him, notwithstanding Paul's unconcealed contempt for anything like
religious influences.  The legacy which his mother had left him seemed
to close up all those avenues of life and thought.  His programme was
clearly marked out, and in order to carry it through, everything must
become subservient to it.  His trade, the earning of wages, were merely
means to an end, and that end he constantly kept before his eyes.
First he must become educated; he must have knowledge--knowledge
sufficient to enable him to fulfil the purpose which was born in his
mind on the night he met his mother on the Altarnun Moors.  If he could
satisfy his ambitions, so much the better; but he determined that
nothing should stand in the way of his carrying out the grim resolution
which was the great purpose for which he lived.

He had not been in Brunford many months when he saw in the _Manchester
Guardian_ an account of a trial which was being conducted in that city,
and noticed that the leading counsel was G. D. Graham, the name which
had determined him to come to Brunford.  He had made up his mind that
this man was his father.  He knew he had very insufficient data on
which to go; nevertheless, it became a sort of fixed idea with him.
But he determined to make sure, and so, obtaining leave from his work,
he started one morning to Manchester, in order to be present at the
trial which was attracting some notice in the county.  It was with a
grim sort of feeling in his heart that he entered the Manchester Law
Courts and climbed the steps leading to the room wherein the trial was
being held.

"I shall know him," he Said to himself, "know him among a thousand!"

He did not seem to consider that this visit would lead to anything; he
only wanted to see the man who had blackened his mother's life.  The
justice chamber was very full as he entered it, and he could not help
being impressed by the scene before him.  The judge, with his legal
robes and his formidable-looking wig, sitting grave and stern on his
seat of eminence; the eager faces of the barristers; the watchful eyes
of the solicitors; the important look on the faces of the twelve
jurymen who sat huddled in a kind of square box; the anxious face of
the man who stood in the witness-box giving evidence; all appealed to
the young fellow's imagination, and caused his pulses to throb
violently.  So great was the impression made upon him that for the
moment he almost forgot the purpose for which he came.  This was life
indeed, and the work of making looms appeared to him as a kind of
sordid drudgery.  The ambitions which had lain smouldering in his heart
for a long time sprang into flame again, and he determined that, while
he saw no chance of his being a judge, or even like one of the
barristers who sat around the table beneath the judge's bench, he at
least could become prominent in the great busy life of the world.  The
case itself, too, cast a kind of spell upon him; he listened eagerly to
the questions that were being asked, and as he caught the meaning of
the things for which these men were fighting, the picture of his
mother's sorrows became less real and less vital.  But this was not for
long.  Presently one of the counsel rose to address the jury, and there
was a kind of flutter among the spectators as he did so.

"Yon's Graham," he heard a man say by his side, and then the purport of
his coming to Manchester laid hold of him.

"Which is Graham?" he asked of the man.

"Yon man who has just got on his feet," was the reply.  "He's a rare
'un, is Graham.  I wouldn't like 'im to cross-examine me!  You'll see,
he'll tear t'other chap's case all to flitters!"

Paul turned his eyes towards the barrister in question, and then, he
could not tell why, but his heart became like lead.  This was not the
man he had come to see.  It was true he could not see the colour of his
hair, because It was hidden by his barrister's wig, but the face was
different from any he had ever seen in his dreams.  The eyes were dark
and piercing, the features were almost classical.  No, this was not the
man who had robbed his mother of her youth and of her beauty.  After
this he took only an academical interest in the proceedings.  He still
remained interested in the case, but only as a case; and the man Graham
was only a name to him.  This fact altered his outlook for a time.
Hitherto he had fancied he knew where he might find the man whom he
called his enemy, but now he did not know; and, as a consequence,
everything became different.  Not that he troubled much.  He never
meant to try to do anything until he was ready.  Somehow he knew that
when he set himself to struggle against the man he hated, the battle
would be long and hard; therefore he must be prepared; and he was not
ready yet--he had only just begun.  That was why he did not trouble to
find him.  When the time came he would surely have no difficulty in
discovering his whereabouts.  Still, the visit to Manchester was not
without its effects.  He saw a new vision of life, and that vision made
him discontented with being a mere operative.  He would not, in the
future, be one who was led--he would be a leader.

When he returned to Brunford, therefore, he worked harder than ever.
He took classes at the Mechanics' Institute, and spent all his spare
time in study.  By the time he was twenty Paul Stepaside could have
matriculated at the London University; but he never thought of doing
so.  After all, what was passing examinations?  It was a mere knowledge
of certain specified subjects, and he felt that these would not enable
him to perform the great work which he had set himself to do.

Paul was naturally greatly influenced by the life of the town in which
he lived.  Brunford was a huge manufacturing centre, and was typical of
its class.  The minds of the people were keenly alive, especially to
those questions which, as they believed, affected their welfare.  All
sorts of socialistic schemes were discussed eagerly, and before long
Paul was keenly interested in them.  He found that the town was a very
Mecca of revolutionary thoughts concerning the accepted order of
things.  There were many who were of the "down-with-everything" order.
They did not believe in kings or governments, and although their
anarchism was of a mild order, there were some who proclaimed it with
such enthusiasm that Paul for a time was influenced by it.  Others
there were who did not believe in private ownership of property, and
advocated that everything should be taken over by the State.  There
were also several atheistic societies in the town, and before long Paul
found himself standing at street corners listening to orators who
proclaimed that there was no God, that man had no soul, that there was
no future life, and that Christianity was a great organised fraud.  In
opposition to this, on the other hand, there were many who held the
wildest opinions about religion.  Every conceivable sect seemed to be
represented in the town.  Seventh-Day Adventists, Spiritualists,
Theosophists, Christadelphians, and innumerable others, claimed to have
the exclusive possession of the Truth.

For a time he was influenced by all these contradictory views, but
presently his strong common sense asserted itself, and he began to
laugh at the fallacies which first of all fascinated him.  Nevertheless
the life of Brunford influenced him greatly, and his whole intellectual
outlook was coloured by what he saw and heard.  As a working man he
naturally allied himself with the working classes, even although he did
not share many of their views, and by the time he was a little over
one-and-twenty he began to be regarded as a leader.  He became an adept
in public speaking too, and the announcement that he was to be present
at a meeting was almost sure to draw a crowd.  He ceased attending any
place of worship, and indeed the incipient atheism of his earlier years
seemed to settle into a kind of general unbelief in anything spiritual
or supernatural.

One evening the minister of the Hanover Chapel called at the house in
which he was lodging, and, seeing him deeply engrossed in his books,
complimented him upon his studious habits.  "I hear you are becoming
quite a scholar, Mr. Stepaside," he said.

Paul shook his head.

"Why, but it's becoming well known in the town," persisted the
minister.  "I noticed that you took a lot of prizes on prize-giving day
in the Mechanics' Institute, and all sorts of complimentary things were
said about you in the papers.  I am sorry, however, that I've not seen
you at chapel lately."

Paul remained silent.

"You've not forgotten the advice which the wise man gave in the last
chapter of Ecclesiastes, I hope?" said the minister.

"What advice?" asked Paul.

"'Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth,'" replied the
minister.  "I hope you have not forgotten that."

"Where is He--what is He?" asked Paul.  "Who can tell?"

"Why," asked the minister, "do you not believe that there is a God in
the heavens--a God Who is at once our Father and our Judge?"

"I see little signs of either," he replied.  "It is easier to believe
in the Devil than to believe in God!  All we know is that we are here,
and we have to fight our battles and do our work."

"But do you mean to say," asked the minister, "that you feel no
responsibility towards God?"

"Look here, sir," replied Paul, "this world in which we live is not a
very big affair, and it's one of millions upon millions of other
worlds.  Now I put it to you: What do you think the God Who made all
this--if there is a God at all--Who made all these millions of worlds
swirling through space, cares about little insects like you and me, who
just crawl upon the face of this tiny globe.  Still, as I said, we have
our life to live and our work to do, and we must act according to the
instincts of our being."

"But if the instincts of your being lead you to do something wrong?"
said the minister.

"What is right, and what is wrong?" asked Paul.  "All I know is that I
have my own plans of life.  I have my programme marked out, and I mean
to carry the programme through."

The minister did not quite understand what he meant.  "But what about
your relations with your fellow-men, my young friend?" he asked.

"What of them?" asked Paul.  "I was reading the other day the life of
Napoleon, who said that if a million men stood between him and the
objects he desired to obtain he would sacrifice those million men."

The minister, a simple-minded man, who thought but little outside the
narrow groove in which he worked, was somewhat aghast at this statement.

"And do you mean to say that is your sentiment?" he said.

For the moment the spirit of mischief entered Paul's heart.  It seemed
pleasant to him to shock this godly man and to make him feel that he
had no sympathy with the conventional morality he preached.

"It seems to me," said Paul, "that, if there is a God, He helps those
who help themselves.  The battle is to the strong, and the race to the
swift.  If you do not win, somebody else does.  Well, I don't mean to
be beaten in the battle, and if there is someone who stands in my way
of getting to the goal I desire to reach, that someone has got to be
swept out of the way."

One event we must mention which was destined to have a marked influence
on Paul's life.  It need not be described at length, but it is
necessary that it be referred to briefly.  A certain manufacturer had a
son some few years older than Paul.  This manufacturer was named
Wilson.  He was one of the largest employers in the town, and his son
Ned was looked upon as one who would one day be one of the most
important men in Brunford.  He was a fellow of some intelligence, and,
while essentially of the manufacturing class, he had, perhaps owing to
his education, ambitions to be associated with the older families of
the county.  He was strongly opposed to the democratic feeling which
prevailed among the working classes, and, on more than one occasion
strongly resented the expression of certain opinions by his father's
employees.  When Paul was about twenty years of age a quarrel sprang up
between him and young Ned Wilson.  Paul, burning with enthusiasm for
the class whose fortunes he had espoused, spoke at a public gathering,
and exposed the ill-treatment of one of Wilson's employees.  Wilson
appeared at the gathering and denied the statement which Paul made, and
hurled many offensive epithets at him.  It was a sordid affair
altogether, and the matter would not have been mentioned but for its
influence on Paul's after-life.  The result of the quarrel was that
Paul was discharged from the position he had held ever since he came to
Brunford, and was, as a consequence, for some time out of work.
Moreover, lying stories were set afloat, which, while they did not harm
him greatly, caused him to feel bitterly towards the man who had
maligned him.

When Paul had been in Brunford about five years a strike took place
which convulsed the whole town.  Like many another of these
manufacturing disturbances, the cause seemed trivial in the extreme.
Nevertheless, it spread from mill to mill, and from trade to trade, in
such a way that practically the whole of the operatives had ceased
working.  As all the world knows by this time, the unions of the North
of England are so closely connected as to form them into one
homogeneous body.  In this case, two people, a man and his wife, became
at cross purposes with what was called the tackler.  This tackler, or
foreman, had insisted upon something which to the man and his wife was
utterly unfair.  Eventually they were discharged, and on their appeal
to the secretary of the union to which they belonged, the whole case
was taken up seriously and discussed with a great deal of warmth.  The
employer in question supported his foreman and refused to take the
couple back.  Thereupon the union threatened to call out all their
members if they were not reinstated.  This led to a pitched battle
between the operatives and the employers.  The masters naturally
supported their own class, while the operatives, feeling that their
position was endangered, stood to their guns.  As a consequence,
therefore, the trade of the whole town was in a state of stagnation.
The employers declared that they refused to be dictated to by the
people to whom they paid wages; and the operatives, feeling that their
liberties and rights were in danger, would concede nothing to them.  As
is ordinary in such cases, a great deal of unruly behaviour was
witnessed, the public-houses reaped a rich harvest, and acts of
violence became general.  In this case, a number of youths, utterly
foolish and irresponsible, conceived a plot to "pay out," as they call
it, the employers, and, in order to carry it out, held secret meetings,
the purport of which, unknown to them, gradually leaked out.  Into this
plot Paul found himself drawn, but instead of encouraging the youths in
their design, he did his best to dissuade them.  This, as may be
imagined, did not please them.  To those who have studied the history
of strikes in the northern manufacturing towns, it is well known that
nothing appeals to a certain element of the population more strongly
than acts of violence, and Paul found that his well-meant efforts met
with great disfavour.  Still, a kind of loyalty held him to them, even
while he refused to participate in what they proposed to do.  One night
a number of these lads found their way to a certain mill, with the
intention of destroying some new machinery that Mr. Wilson, who has
already been mentioned, had lately bought at great cost.  When Paul
heard of it he also hastened thither, in order to do his best to put an
end to the mischief.  As I have said, the designs of these lads had
leaked out, and, as a consequence, the owner of the mill was prepared.
A number of policemen had ambushed themselves, together with some of
the foremen.  The result was that when the lads were making their way
towards this machinery they were stopped, and an endeavour was made to
make them prisoners.  This led to a pitched battle between the youths
on one side and the representatives of the employers on the other, and
Paul, in spite of himself, was found on the side of the youths.  In the
struggle which followed two policemen and one of the foremen were badly
injured, while several of the lads bore marks which they would carry to
their graves.

That same night Paul found himself, with nearly all the others, in
Brunford police-station, in order to await his trial.  The case was
regarded so seriously that bail was not allowed; and therefore Paul,
with the others, had to remain in durance vile until the case could be
publicly tried.

During the time he lay in prison he felt himself deeply humiliated and
vastly ashamed.  He called himself a fool for having been led into such
a false position.  While sympathising with the attitude which the
operatives, as a whole, had taken, he utterly disapproved of the
foolish plot into which he had been drawn, and yet here he was, not
only regarded as equally culpable with the rest, but as a kind of
leader; he, who had always prided himself upon his respectability, and
upon appealing to the intelligence of the people instead of to brute
force, was guilty of mixing himself up in this vulgar squabble which
had led to such an ignominious end.  The disgrace of it, too, was hard
to bear; keenly sensitive as he was, and with an abhorrence of anything
like brawls of any sort, he felt as though he was dragged through mire.
Of course the unions took up their case and promised to defend them.
They had a large amount of money at their disposal in the union funds,
and they promised that the best legal advice obtainable should be
employed in their behalf.  As I have said, feeling ran very high in the
town, and the magistrates before whom the case was brought in the first
instance, being in the main manufacturers, and therefore strongly
prejudiced in favour of their class, were not likely to regard the
action of Paul and of others from a favourable standpoint.  They
accordingly committed the accused for trial at the Quarter Sessions in
Manchester.  The secretary of one of the unions visited Paul before the
trial.

"It's a serious business, Stepaside," he said, "and I am afraid it will
go hard with you!"

"But no one was seriously hurt," said Paul.

"I doan't know so much about that," replied the secretary.  "One of th'
bobbies has been i' bed ever since.  Wilson's tackler is said to be i'
queer street.  His head was bashed in, and one of his arms broken.  I
tell thee, it was a bad thing for us all.  You see it's turned public
opinion agin us, and we weavers are lost when that's the case.  Still,
we mun fight it out."

"I don't want to back out from anything," said Paul; "but, as a matter
of fact, I did my best to keep the chaps from going up to Wilson's
mill."

"That may be," replied the secretary, "but the general opinion is that
thou wert the leader of th' gang, and we shall have rare hard job to
get thee off, whatever happens to the rest.  Still, we think none the
worse of thee, lad, and if thou hast got to go to quod, thou shalt have
a rare big home-coming when thou comes out.  We'll have bands of music
and a big feed, and all that sort of thing."

"Who have you got to defend us?" said Paul.

"Eh, well, we have got Sutcliffe, our own lawyer, and he's briefed
Robson, the barrister."

"Is Robson a good man?" asked Paul.

"Good! why he's got off more of our chaps than any other man.  Still,
it looks black, because the case is clear agin us.  There is no doubt
the chaps were up to mischief, they got into Wilson's mill, and
there'll be some turncoats in the town who'll say as 'ow they knaw that
they meant to break the machinery.  Then there's the two bobbies and
Wilson's tackler, all of them i' bed, and the doctor'll be there to
give evidence.  There's no getting out of that."

When he had gone, Paul thought over the whole case very seriously.
What part should he play?  He knew he could bring witnesses to prove
that he had done his best to dissuade the lads from their act of
violence, but, by so doing, should he be playing the game?  He wanted
to be loyal to his companions, even while he was innocent of willingly
acting with them.  It was rather a delicate point.  If he failed to
speak he would be regarded as a kind of ringleader of the gang.  If, on
the other hand, he told the truth, and brought witnesses to attest to
what he had to say, he would be looked upon as a kind of sneak.

When the day of trial came, therefore, he was not in an enviable frame
of mind.  He knew that hundreds of eyes would be upon him, and that he
would have a very undesirable publicity.  Only a few weeks before the
strike he had been spoken of as a possible candidate for the town
council, and he, young as he was, had rejoiced in the thought.  He had
pictured himself speaking at public meetings and receiving the votes of
the townspeople; he saw himself, too, elected at the head of the poll,
and having a seat in the council chamber among the most prominent men
in the town.  But now his publicity would be of an entirely different
nature.  He was spoken of as the leader of a gang of roughs who
attempted to break up machinery, and who had half-killed three men who
represented peace and order.  Still, he set his teeth together and
thought of his plan of action.

"I suppose Wilson will be well represented," he said to the secretary
of the union, to whom he had spoken before.

"Ay, he's got Bolitho for th' senior and Jordan for th' junior."

"Bolitho!" said Paul, "I never heard of him."

"Where have you lived?" asked the secretary.  "'E's the smartest chap
in the Northern Circuit, and there's many as ses he's makin' several
thousand a year.  I have 'eard as 'ow Wilson 'ad a 'ard job to get him,
'e's that thronged with work, and when they 'ad got him, he said as 'ow
it meant six months more to every one of you."

"What sort of a chap is he?" asked Paul.

"Eh, one of those smooth-spoken fellows.  You think when he's
cross-examining you 'e's on your side, and all the time 'e's worming
out the most damning things against you.  He's a kind Of oily voice,
too, and he makes people believe in him, whether they will or no.  You
must be careful about that, for directly he comes to address the jury
he takes the meanest advantages of what he has dragged out of the
witnesses."

Presently Paul found himself and the others in the same room wherein he
had watched the trial of some months before.  He thought of the G. D.
Graham about whom he had such strange fancies, and remembered the shock
he had received when he discovered that he was altogether mistaken.  He
little thought then that he would be here to-day as a dangerous
character, and as one who had committed a grave offence against the
public weal.  Presently he was able to take note of his surroundings.
The lofty chamber; the solemn-looking magistrates; the barristers at
their benches; the jury in their box; the prisoners standing sullen and
defiant, yet wondering how they would acquit themselves in the trial;
and as many of the public as could gain admission into the room, eager,
and wondering what the upshot would be.

Evidently the case was going to be a long one.  The counsel for the
prosecution opened it with a long and vigorous speech.  He described
the history of the strike, told of the excitable condition of the
people, and related how difficult it had been for the police to keep
order in the town.  After this he went on, with more or less accuracy,
to tell of the plot of the prisoners who had been brought there that
day, and of the charges that were brought against them.

"Is that Mr. Bolitho?" asked Paul of the secretary of the union, who
was allowed to stand near him.

"Nay," was the reply, "yon's Jordan, the junior.  Bolitho's not here
yet.  I wish summat would happen to him on the way.  I tell yo' I'm
feared of him.  This chap is but a beginner, so to speak--a sort of
John the Baptist, that prepares the way for t'other; but Bolitho's a
fair terror and no mistake."

Somehow the name had a familiar sound with it.

"Bolitho, Bolitho, why it's a Cornish name!" said Paul.  "I've heard it
many a time down in St. Mabyn.  Perhaps when he knows I am a
Cornishman--that is, if he is Cornish, too--he may not be so hard on
me."

Still, this was only a passing thought, and he steeled his heart
against the worst.  When the case had dragged on for some time, Paul
noticed that there was a flutter in the court.  A man he had not
hitherto seen came in and took his place beside the junior counsel for
the prosecution.  He heard a whisper go round the court, "There's
Bolitho."  And Paul's eyes were drawn to him as if by magic.  There was
something in the face that held his attention, fascinated him.  He
found his heart beating faster than was its wont and his muscles
contracting as if he were about to meet an enemy.  For the moment he
forgot the reason why he was brought there, so keenly intent was he on
examining the face of the barrister who had just come in.  And yet it
was not a face to be feared.  It was somewhat florid, and certainly
pleasant to look upon.  His eyes were blue and had a somewhat dreamy
expression in them, while the features suggested gentleness rather than
harshness.  A handsome man was this Mr. Bolitho, a man who looked as
though he might have many friends.  The counsel all round smiled at
him, while the magistrate nodded benignly.  He seemed to create an air
of pleasantness.  He relieved the somewhat sordid atmosphere which
pervaded the chamber.  How much time he had given to the case it was
impossible to say, but, certainly, when he rose to cross-examine, he
seemed to know every detail of it.

Presently the examination came to an end, and Mr. Bolitho rose to
address the jury for the prosecution.  In a way which Paul could not
quite comprehend, and yet which seemed perfectly reasonable as he did
it, he laid the whole blame for the trouble at Paul's door.  It was his
that had been the master mind.  It was he who was guilty of inciting
these ignorant, thoughtless youths to the act which had ended almost
fatally for three men.  He dragged in the quarrel which Paul had had
with the son of Mr. Wilson, the owner of the mill, and insinuated that
it was a matter of personal revenge which had inspired him to commit
this outrage.  In a few minutes it seemed to Paul that there was no
blacker criminal in England than himself.  This man Bolitho had created
a new atmosphere in the court; his suave, almost smiling, features had
changed.  When he was examining he pretended to be kind and assumed a
confidential and almost friendly manner.  In this way he had wormed
statements out of men which Paul knew to be diametrically opposed to
the truth--he had even obtained the admission, from some of the youths
whom he had tried to dissuade from their deed of violence, that he,
Paul, had incited them rather than otherwise.

And now, in addressing the jury, this Mr. Bolitho had laid special
emphasis upon it.  Paul was perfectly sure that the man did not believe
all he said, but he wanted to make a case, and he had fastened upon
himself as the chief culprit.

"Gentlemen," said Mr. Bolitho, "I wish you to pay special attention to
this man, young in years, apparently respectable, well educated,
especially for his class, and intelligent beyond the ordinary; but I
want to point out to you that he is of that class of which agitators
are made, and, as such, he is a danger to the community.  In the eyes
of the law all these men are equally guilty, all of them were engaged
in this wild, lawless deed, which has ended almost fatally for three
men, two of them trustworthy officers of the law, and one a respected
townsman of Brunford, and a man holding a position of trust under his
employer.  But think, gentlemen--these other youths were simply led by
this stronger personality of Paul Stepaside.  He, inspired by personal
enmity towards Mr. Wilson, determined to be revenged on him for some
fancied wrong done to him years before, has taken the opportunity to
perpetrate this awful outrage.  It is true he has not definitely said
so, but he has insinuated that he tried to dissuade the others from
taking part in this crime.  But can such a thing be believed?  The
others were never capable of this plot, and, without a leader, would
never have thought of participating in it.  On several occasions, too,
since he has been in Brunford he has made public speeches.  Extracts
from those speeches I will now read to you."

On this, Mr. Bolitho read certain statements which Paul was reported to
have made--statements from which it would appear that he hated the
class of employers who were prosecuting him that day.

"I am urging these things, gentlemen," continued Mr. Bolitho, "because
I wish the guilt to be fastened where it ought to be fastened.  It has
been clearly proved that all these men were guilty of the charges of
which they are accused, but surely it should be borne in mind that more
guilt should be attached to the leader and the inspirer of these
outrageous deeds than to those thoughtless and almost irresponsible
fellows who were led like sheep to the slaughter."

Paul listened like one bewildered, and presently his heart became
filled with black rage.  He realised now the meaning of what the
secretary of the union had said to him.  He could not understand why it
was that this clever counsel had tried to make him a scapegoat for all
the rest; but now he saw it was really so.  The others, who were really
guilty of a thing which he himself condemned, were made to appear as
almost innocent, while he, who had done his best to dissuade them from
their mad act, was condemned as one who had acted like a devil.  Once,
during Mr. Bolitho's speech, Paul lost control over himself.  "Liar!"
he exclaimed.  And his voice rang out above that of the counsel.  A
wave of excitement swept over the crowd.  The judge looked at him with
stern eyes, but before he had time to speak Paul persisted, "I say he
is a liar, my lord.  He has said things that are not true.  He has
twisted things out of their true meaning.  He has made inferences
appear like facts!"

He was unable to proceed further after this, owing to the action of the
presiding magistrate--indeed it was a wonder that he had been allowed
to say so much--but the intensity of his voice for the moment startled
this grave man, and this caused him to allow what under ordinary
circumstances would never have been possible.

As may be imagined, Mr. Bolitho made the most of this interruption.
For some reason or other, he seemed to have taken a personal dislike to
the young man before him, and now he used the interruption to emphasise
what he had hitherto said.

"I ask you, gentlemen," he insisted, "to consider the evidence of these
men"--and from the way he spoke it might seem as though he were acting
as counsel for the others--"and then think of who is likely to be
really guilty.  These youths are just ordinary, ignorant, irresponsible
fellows, waiting to be led, but incapable of leading--without
education, and with no more than ordinary intelligence.  But here is
this Stepaside, regarded as a leader among a certain class in the town,
an agitator, a dangerous man."

And so on, until at length his speech came to a close, and all felt
that, whatever might happen to the others, the jury would regard Paul
as the one who was responsible for what had taken place, and who, if
either of the three injured men should die, would be regarded as guilty
of not only outrage, but perhaps of manslaughter.  Presently the judge
summed up the case, and then waited while the jury left their box to
consider their verdict.

By this time Paul was almost careless as to results.  He felt perfectly
sure that the punishment meted out to him would not be a light one; but
he did not care.  He was past that.  His mind and heart were filled
with rage against the man who had blackened his name.  He fell to
studying him while he waited, and again he was fascinated.  While he
had addressed the jury his eyes had shone with apparently righteous
indignation; he was eager, almost passionate, in his denunciation of
crime.  But now it might seem as though his interest in the matter had
gone.  He chatted and laughed with the other barristers, and accepted
their congratulations upon his speech.  As Paul listened, too, he heard
him accept an invitation to go with one of them to dinner that night,
and afterwards accompany them to a place of amusement.  And this was
the man who had so ruthlessly, so cruelly, and so untruthfully defamed
his own character.

Presently the jurymen returned, and the court awaited their verdict.  A
little later Paul knew that the others were committed to one month's
imprisonment, while he himself was condemned to six months' hard
labour.  The young man's face never moved a muscle.  He stood perfectly
rigid, perfectly silent, as the judge pronounced the sentence, and
then, when all was over, he turned towards the barristers' table, and
his eyes met those of the man who, he knew, was practically responsible
for the extreme punishment meted out to him.  Mr. Bolitho smiled, and
then, turning, left the court, while a policeman laid hold of Paul's
arm and led him away to his cell.



CHAPTER IV

PAUL MEETS MARY BOLITHO

There is no need to describe at length Paul's experiences during the
time he was imprisoned in Strangeways Gaol.  The moral effect of prison
life is rather harmful than good.  In Paul Stepaside's case, at all
events, it was so.  He knew his punishment was unjust, he knew he was
guiltless of the crime which had been attributed to him; knew, too,
that for some purpose which he could not understand a case was made out
against him which had no foundation in fact.  These things alone would
have had a tendency to embitter his heart and to make him rail at the
so-called justice of the land.  But when we add to this the fact that
he was of a proud, sensitive nature, that he shrank from the unenviable
notoriety to which he had been exposed, and that he writhed under the
things that had been said about him, it can be easily seen that his
whole nature rose up in revolt.  Everything in the gaol aroused his
antagonism, and made him bitter and revengeful.  The daily routine, the
constant surveillance of the warders, the thousand indignities to which
he was subjected, made him, even while he said nothing, grind his teeth
with passion and swear to be revenged in his own time.

One thing, however, interested him during his stay there: it was his
study of the Book of Job, and he read through this old Eastern poem
which fascinated him.  At first he was prejudiced against it because it
was in the Bible, but the majesty of the poem charmed him, overwhelmed
him.  He had read the plays of Shakespeare; he had closely studied what
many consider to be the great dramatist's masterpiece, but "Macbeth"
seemed to him poor and small compared with the Book of Job.  The
picture of Satan going to and fro on the earth, the story of Job's
calamities, of his sorrows, and of the dire extremity in which he found
himself, appealed to him and fascinated him.  Yes, it was fine.  The
old Eastern poet had seen into the very heart of life.  He had enabled
Job to answer tellingly, brilliantly, these three wise fools who poured
out their platitudes.  In spite of himself, too, he was influenced by
the conclusion of the poem.  It was not only poetically just, but there
was something in it that comforted him, that gave him hope in spite of
himself, Was there, after all, he wondered, a God Who spoke out of the
whirlwind, Who laughed at men's little theories, and worked His own
will?  It would be splendid if it were so.  The idea possessed him; God
behind all, in all, through all, the God Who made and controlled all
the swirling worlds, and yet, in His infinite compassion, cared for
every living creature that moved.  Yes, it was stupendous; and if it
were true, then----  But, again, he brooded over his wrongs, and his
heart became closed and bitter.

And so the days passed by and lengthened into weeks, and the weeks into
months, and at last Paul found himself free again.  It was ten o'clock
in the morning when he was set at liberty, and he realised that during
the time he had been in prison the winter had passed away.  It was
early in November when he had been committed, and now it was the
beginning of May.  And so Lancashire was looking at its best.  The sun,
even through the smoke-begrimed atmosphere, was shining almost
brightly, and the twitter of birds welcomed him as he left the prison a
free man.  To his surprise, he found outside the prison gates a number
of men awaiting him, who, on his appearance, raised a shout of welcome.
Paul had hoped to have escaped without notice.  As we have said, he was
keenly sensitive to the disgrace which he had suffered, and hated the
thought that questioning eyes would be upon him.  Therefore, when he
saw that the crowd of men who had come from Brunford to give him a
welcome had also attracted a number of people in the district, he was
almost angry at their coming, and yet he could not help feeling
grateful.  After all, it showed a kind spirit, and he appreciated their
presence accordingly.

"Come on, lad," said one of the men.  "We'll just have a drink and then
we'll catch the train for Brunford.  We've ordered a rare dinner for
thee at 'The Black Cow,' and to-night there's goin' to be a meeting in
the Primitive Methodist schoolroom in honour of thy return."

"Is the strike all over?" asked Paul.

"Ay, the strike's all over.  The matter's been patched up, and we are
making fair brass i' Brunford now."

"And what has become of the other chaps?" asked Paul.

"You mean the chaps as wur tried with thee?  Two on 'em are still i'
Brunford; the rest have gone to Canada.  We've summat to tell thee
about that."

"What?" asked Paul.

"Weel, you see, they confessed as 'ow 'twere not thee who set 'em on to
smashing Wilson's machinery, but that thou didst thy best to stop them,
so, I tell thee this, thou art a sort of hero i' Brunford now.  It's
all over th' place that thou art a sort of martyr, and that thou
suffered in their stead, instead of letting on and proving, as thou
couldst easily prove, that thou wert agin their plan.  Thou just kept
quiet, so that they might get off easy, even though thou wert kept
longer in quod thysen.  The papers have had articles about it, too, and
the affair has been called 'A Miscarriage of Justice.'"

"The people think I'm not disgraced, then?" said Paul, and there was a
flash of eagerness in his eyes.

"Disgraced!  Nay, it's all t'other way, and I can tell thee this, that
many think that Wilson and his son Ned are disgraced for setting on
Bolitho to make it hard for thee."

"Did they do this?" asked Paul.

"Ay, they did an' all.  From what we can hear, Bolitho had special
instructions to let t'other chaps down easy.  It was not hard to do
this, because thou art a chap with eddication and brains, and art a bit
of a leader, while t'others were nowt but ninnies.  Anyhow, the truth's
out at last, and nobody i' Brunford will look upon thee as disgraced."

In spite of himself Paul could not help being pleased, and he no longer
resented the presence of the people who had gathered round the prison
gates and who had listened eagerly to what had been said.  Rather there
was a feeling of triumph in his heart as cheer after cheer was raised.
He was thought of as one who fought the battles of the working people,
and he had suffered as a consequence  No one looked on him as one
disgraced, but rather as one who had suffered for their cause.

Nevertheless the marks of the prison were still upon his heart.  No man
could spend six months in Strangeways Gaol as he had spent them, and
suffer as he had suffered, without being influenced thereby.  The iron
had entered his soul, and even kindly words and hearty cheers could not
remove from him the fact that he had been treated unjustly, and that
his character had been blackened.

When the train arrived in Brunford, another crowd, far larger than that
which met him at Manchester, had gathered at the station, and there was
quite a triumphal march down the Liverpool Road towards the town hall.
Arrived there, Paul could not help noticing a number of the councillors
leaving the steps of this great civic building, and among others he
noticed both Mr. Wilson and his son, who were responsible for his
imprisonment.

"Sitha, Ned Wilson," shouted one of the men.  "This is the chap that
thou set on Bolitho to persecute, and this is the chap that thou told
lees about."

The two men laughed uneasily and passed up the road without comment.
Evidently the tables were turned on them.  As for the others, they
spoke to Paul kindly.  There was no ill-will remaining because of the
strike, the relations between master and men in these manufacturing
districts being sometimes almost confidential.  In many cases they
belong to the same social order, even although the one is rich and the
other comparatively poor.  Many of the manufacturers, who were now
employers of labour, were themselves operatives twenty or thirty years
before, and had worked side by side with those whom they now employed.
As a consequence, it was the order of the day for a weaver to call his
employer by his Christian name; indeed, many would think it beneath
their dignity to call an employer "Mister."  On one occasion the son of
a large employer of labour in Brunford was sitting in his father's
office when one of the operatives entered.  He wanted to find his
employer's groom, so he said to his young master, "Arthur, canst thou
tell me where Mester Smith is?"

Paul quickly found that he lost no prestige whatever on account of his
incarceration in Strangeways Gaol.  On every hand he was met with
kindness, and to his delight he found the place where he had been
working still kept open for him.  The day passed away amidst
expressions of goodwill on every hand, and Paul, wellnigh worn out with
the excitement of the last few hours, was about to return to his
lodgings, when an event happened which altered the course of his life.

He was walking down the main street of the town, when, remembering that
he needed to do some shopping, he dropped in at a hosier's place of
business, the owner of which met him with great heartiness.

"Ay, Paul, lad," he said, "I'm delighted to see you.  Mr. Whitman and I
were just talking about you."  And he turned, as he spoke, to an old,
pale-faced, kindly man who stood by his side.  Old William Whitman was
the town missionary for Brunford, and was beloved by everybody.

"Ay," assented the old man, "and we've been praying for thee too, lad.
I'm afraid your cross has been hard to bear, but, never mind, the sun
will shine again now."

"It will, too," assented the hosier.  "We think none the worse of thee,
lad, for what thou hast undergone, and 'appen thou wilt find that this
strange working of Providence 'll be oal for thy good."

"I don't see much of Providence in it," said Paul, "except that it
makes me realise how kind the people here are.  There seems a great
deal more of the Devil than of God."

At that moment the shopkeeper's attention was drawn away from him by
the coming of another customer, leaving him and the town missionary
together.

"Nay, but you mustn't say that, Paul lad," said the missionary.
"Happen in a few months you will get over all these things."

"I shall never get over it," said Paul.  "For six months I have been
wearing prison clothes; I have been sleeping in a cold, dark cell; my
name has been taken away from me, and I have simply been known by a
number, and I have been looked upon not as a man, but as a beast.
There's not much to make one think of God in all that, Mr. Whitman!"

"Ay, it's been hard on thee," replied the old man, "and there's many a
one in Brunford who thinks something should have been done for thee.  I
suppose Ned Wilson felt very bitter towards you, and when he was
instructing the counsel, he made him believe that you were the
ringleader.  There's more than one who have said that Bolitho was very
unfair.  However, the Lord will make everything right."

"I shall never believe that the Lord has made everything right until
Bolitho and Wilson have suffered as I have suffered," replied Paul
bitterly.  "If I could see Bolitho in prison clothes; if he were known
by a number; if he had to tramp the prison yard among the scum of the
earth, as I have; if he had to lie in a cold cell with the darkness of
hell in his heart, as I have, then I could believe in Providence
perhaps.  But when I remember that I was regarded as a beast and not as
a man, while he was drinking wine and faring sumptuously, there did not
seem much justice in the world."

Hearing a rustle by his side as he spoke, Paul turned and saw that the
customer who had been talking with the shopkeeper was looking straight
at him, and his heart beat violently as the eyes of the two met.  It
was a young girl he saw, not more than twenty years of age, and, as far
as he knew, she was a stranger to the town.  He had never seen her
before, and she appeared different from the young women with whom he
had happened to meet.  He noticed, too, as their eyes met, that hers
were full of horror.  She seemed to regard him as she might regard a
snarling dog.  He saw her lips quiver, and he thought for a moment that
she was about to speak to him.  The intensity of her gaze made him
almost beside himself, and then, acting on the impulse of the moment,
and speaking with the freedom so common to the Lancashire operative
class, he went on: "Yes, miss, and I mean it too.  You, by the look of
you, belong to that class, but, remember, the time will come when men
like Bolitho will be paid for what they have done.  But, there!"  And
he laughed.  "I suppose he had to speak to his brief, and, justice or
no justice, he had to do what his employer told him to do.  'Ten pounds
more for every extra month you get him,' would be Wilson's cry, and
Bolitho would be anxious to get the ten pounds."

The girl's eyes shone with a fierce anger, and then, without a word,
walked away.

"I say, Paul," said the shopkeeper, "that's not the way to treat my
customers!"

Paul looked ashamed of himself.  "I know, I know, Mr. Sutcliffe, it was
mean of me," he said, "and I know I ought to apologise to her.  But if
you had seen the look on her face, and had suffered what I have
suffered, you'd have spoken too.  Why, she might think I was an adder.
But there, I dare say she knew who I was, and that I had just come out
of prison."

"As you know, I'm all on your side, Paul," said the shopkeeper, "but I
cannot afford to have my customers driven away."

"Nay, I know," said Paul; "and if she doesn't come back and pay for the
things that are on the counter there, I'll take them myself and pay for
them.  But there, I must be going."  And, having got the things he came
to buy, he left the shop, little realising the influence the interview
would have upon his future.

He had barely gained the street when a man, whom he had known almost
ever since he had come to Brunford, met him.  "Ay, Paul," he said.  "I
have just been to your lodgings, and I want to see you particular."

Paul's heart was still embittered with the scene through which he had
passed, and he met the man rather coldly.  "Is it anything particular?"
he said.

"Yes, I think so," replied the man.

"Because if it isn't," said Paul, "I don't want to talk about it.  I've
had a hard day, and I'm pretty well worn out."

"That's so," replied the other, "and we'll say nothing more about it if
you don't feel like talking, but I thought as 'ow you might look upon
it as good news."

"Forgive me, Preston," he said, recognising the man's kindly tone.  "I
know I spoke like a brute, but my nerves are all on edge, and while
everybody is very kind to me, I'm easily upset.  What is it, old man?"

"I can't tell you here," replied Preston.  "It'll take me an hour,
anyhow."

"Is it so important as that?" said Paul, with a questioning look in his
eyes.

"Ay, I think so," replied the other.

George Preston was a teacher in the Hanover Sunday-school, and was some
two years older than Paul.  He had more than average intelligence, and
had been known for years as a hard-working, saving fellow.  They had
met at the Mechanics' Institute, where they had gone for classes, and,
while they had gone their different ways, mutual respect existed
between them.

"I expect Mrs. Dixon will have got my little room all ready," said
Paul, "so we shall be able to have a chat without interruption."  And
the two threaded their way along the busy street towards Paul's
lodgings.  Never did Paul realise how much he was liked until that
evening.  It happened to be market day, and the streets were crowded
with people.  Not only had the townspeople gathered together in the
centre of Brunford, but many had come in from a distance, and thus to a
casual visitor it might seem as though a fair were being held.  Every
minute or so he was stopped by someone who came up to congratulate him
on his return, and to bid him welcome.

"Never fear, Paul lad," it was said to him again and again.  "You shall
noan suffer for this, and 'appen Wilson and that lot will noan be the
happier for what they have done to thee.  Art short of money, lad?  If
a sovereign 'll be of any use to thee, thou can have it."

And from the ring of sincerity in their voices Paul knew that every
word was meant.  For I should like to say here that, although the
Lancashire operative is rough, and sometimes a little coarse, there are
no kinder people on earth than those who live in the great
manufacturing centres of the North.  In the main they are loyal to a
man, and as true as steel.  Brunford is by no means an ideal place to
live in; indeed, from November to April its atmospheric conditions are
horrible beyond words.  It rains nearly all the time, and, the air
being smoke-begrimed, the streets are covered with black, slimy mud,
offensive both to sight and to smell.  The very conditions, too, under
which the people live must have a tendency to coarsen and to destroy
artistic feelings.  The artisans know practically nothing about the
gardens common to the South-country peasant.  Houses are often built
back to back, or only divided by a small paved yard, the front door is
nearly always right on to the street, and, even in cases where some
strip of garden is obtained, the flowers, which are the pride of the
South-country people, simply come up hideous and black with grime.

The writer of these lines once lived in a manufacturing town in the
North, and, there being a strip of garden to his house, he asked the
gardener to plant for him some white hyacinth bulbs, hyacinths being
one of his favourite flowers.  When the spring came, the hyacinths
appeared, but alas! they were not white, but as black as the soot which
is belched forth from a hundred chimneys.

So moved was Paul by the kindness which was manifested, that a great
sob came into his throat, and his heart became full of love towards the
people.  He longed, as he had never longed before, to work for them, to
live for them; and before his mind came a vision of what the future
might have in store.  He knew what their life was, understood
thoroughly the hard conditions under which they laboured.  Yes, he
would make some return for all this goodwill, and for the love which
they evidently bore to him.  He would live for them!  He would work
night and day for the betterment of their conditions!  He would make
Brunford a town to rejoice in!  He would remove the wrongs under which
the people suffered, and bring music and gladness into their lives!
How he was to do this he did not know; indeed, it seemed impossible for
him to commence as yet, but the time would come, and when that time
came he would not spare himself.  He did not forget what he had
regarded as the chief purpose of his existence--that, at all costs,
must be performed--but he must not live wholly for that; he must live
for the people who loved him, and whom, in spite of everything, he
loved.

"Well, Preston," he said, "what is it?" when at length they reached his
lodgings, and were sitting alone in the little room which the old
couple had allotted to him.

"I was thinking," said Preston, "of what you mean to do in the future."

"I don't think I shall go to work to-morrow," said Paul.  "I shall need
one day's holiday to get things straightened out a bit, but, as you
know, my place is kept open for me."

"Have you any brass?" asked Preston abruptly.

"Not much," said Paul; "but I've saved a few pounds."  And then, with a
laugh, "It's cost me nothing to live during the winter, you know.  All
the same, I've had to work hard for the black bread and skilly."

"Come, now," said Preston, "let's say no more about that.  I know you
had a bad time, but you know by this time that no one in Brunford
thinks the worse of you because of it, and no one thinks the better of
Wilson.  And it's not Christian to cherish black thoughts about them,
or about Bolitho either.  As you say, he was paid for his job, and he
did it.  How much money have you saved?"

"Two hundred pounds," said Paul.

"So much?" said the other in a tone of surprise.  "Ay, I did not think
you had done as well as that!"

"Well, you see," replied Paul, "I have had good wages and I've lived
hard.  I have spent nothing on luxuries.  I have had no holidays."

"It must have cost you something for these," said Preston, looking at
the well-filled bookcases on the wall.

"Oh, I forgot them," said Paul.  "Yes.  But, then, you see, I needed
most of them, and books are my one extravagance.  But why did you ask?"

"I want to propose a partnership," said Preston.

"Yes," said Paul.  "In what?"

"In a weaving shed."

"A weaving shed?  That's not my trade!"

"No, I know; but what you don't know about weaving isn't worth knowing.
Although you started in Brunford as a loom-maker, you've picked up all
there is to know about manufacturing.  And you're a bit of a scientist,
too.  Well, I don't know so much about that part of it, but I do know
about the buying and selling.  I've not been a salesman with Robinson's
for nothing, and I worked in the mills as a boy.  You've got two
hundred pounds, you say; so have I, and a bit more.  It's enough for us
to start on, lad.  We can hire a shed, and we can hire power, and we
can hire looms, and we can buy cotton."

Paul looked at him in astonishment.  "But, man alive, Preston, four
hundred pounds is not enough."

"Four hundred pounds is enough," replied the other.  "And we can make
the thing go; we will make it go, too.  And I want to tell you this,
too: I've a promise of a good backer."

"Who?" asked Paul.

"Well, to-day, as you know, your home-coming has been the talk of the
town, and Ben Bierly was talking with me about you.  As you know, he's
a teacher at Hanover Sunday-school, and a few years agone he was a poor
man himself, while now he's one of the biggest manufacturers in
Brunford.  Well, Paul, he sympathised with you, and he admires you too,
and he told me that if you were willing to go into partnership with me
he'd back us.  He believes in you, and he believes in me, and if we
want a thousand pounds, we can have it."

"You're surely not serious, Preston?"

"Ay, but I am.  I mean every word of it, and I know this, too: cotton
can be bought at great advantage just now, and trade's good.  What do
you think of it?"

"I have had no time to think yet," said Paul.  "Give me till to-morrow
night and let me look round a bit.  But tell me this, what shed can we
hire?"

"There's a shed at the back of St. James's Street," replied Preston.
"I was looking at it only to-day.  It'll suit us down to the ground,
and we can get it cheap."

For an hour or more they talked, Paul asking keen, searching questions,
which could only have been thought of by one who had thoroughly
mastered the mysteries of cotton-weaving.  Afterwards he went to bed,
and thought long on the experiences of the day.

The next morning the town presented a new aspect.  It no longer looked
_en fête_, as on the previous evening.  On every hand halt-consumed
coals and strange smelling steams were being emitted from a hundred
factories.  The streets were empty save for heavy lorries and tramcars.
Presently, at twelve o'clock, the mills would belch forth thousands of
pale-faced operatives, who for long hours had been standing at the
looms, but who, at present, were immured in those great noisome,
prison-like buildings which form the main features of the town.

Paul made several visits that morning, and presently found his way to
the empty weaving shed of which Preston had spoken the previous
evening.  After some difficulty he had an interview with its owner.
Preston had told him that Fletcher was anxious to let this shed.  It
had been on his hands for several months, and no one seemed to want it.
To his surprise, therefore, Fletcher met him coolly.  "Well, they've
let you out?" he said to Paul.

"Evidently, or I should not be here," laughed Paul.

"Well, be careful not to get up to your larks again!" said the other,
and his tones were almost surly.

Paul took notice of this gibe, but as soon as he thought wise brought
the conversation round to the object of his visit.

"I don't know that it's to let," replied Fletcher.

"No?" queried Paul.  "Then I must have been misinformed."

"It wur to let," said Fletcher, "and I don't say it isn't now, but I'm
noan sure."

"Why, George Preston told me yesterday that you had practically given
him the refusal of it."

"Ay, practically, but that noan settles the business.  I've had another
offer since then."

"May I ask who has made the offer?" asked Paul.

"Thou may ask, but I don't say I shall tell.  However, 'appen ow of the
biggest manufacturers in the town 'll have it."

"A big manufacturer wouldn't look at it," said Paul.  "It's only fit
for a man in a small way of business."

Fletcher looked at him and laughed.  "Good-morning," he said.  "'Appen
I can go into it further to-morrow, but not now."  And then he turned
on his heel and left Paul thinking.

Before the day was out Paul heard that young Edward Wilson, the son of
the man who had prosecuted him, had hired the shed for a warehouse,
although there seemed no reason at all why he should do so.

"This settles me," said Paul to Preston that night.  "It's evident that
Wilson has got his knife into me, and he, hearing what you had in your
mind, determined to make it impossible.  But, never mind," and Paul's
somewhat prominent jaws became rigid and stern.  "I don't know that I
was so keen about manufacturing before, but I'd like to fight Wilson,
and he shall see that I'm not easily beaten.  But we must go quiet,
Preston, and we'll have to be careful.  There's not the slightest doubt
about it that Wilson thinks he owes me a grudge for what happened
nearly three years ago.  But for that I shouldn't have had six months
at Strangeways.  Still, I'm not a chicken, neither are you."

And then the two young men talked long and seriously concerning other
alternatives.

A week later the final step was taken, and Paul and Preston had signed
a contract to hire a larger weaving shed than they had intended, and
arrangements were pushed forward to start work immediately.  Indeed,
Paul's mind was so filled with the project he had in hand that almost
everything else was forgotten.  Two matters, however, must be
mentioned.  The one was a letter from his mother, to whom he had
written, giving an account not only of his experiences in prison and of
his home-coming, but also of the venture that he was making.  "If I
succeed, mother," he said, "you must come to Brunford to live.  And I
mean to succeed.  In twelve months from now I am going to be a
well-to-do man.  I've learnt pretty much all there is to know about
manufacturing, and I've a good partner.  And I mean to get on.  But
don't think I've forgotten the real purpose for which I came to the
North.  I have not found out much about my father yet, although I've
tried, tried hard.  I can't understand it either.  I've got hold of law
books containing lists of the names of the barristers in England, and
while there are a good many Grahams, none of them seem to tally with
the descriptions you gave me.  However, once let me get on with
manufacturing and I shall have more time.  I mean to go up to your
father's farm and ask questions there, and you need not fear.  I've got
the name in Brunford for carrying out the thing I start upon, and I've
promised you.  But, as I said, as soon as I get on, you must come to
Brunford to live with me, and then we can work together."

To this his mother had replied that she could never be a burden to him.
"You don't want a woman worrying you, Paul," she had said.  "I'm well
enough off down here.  You want to be free and unfettered.  At the
proper time I'll come to you, but not yet, and don't trouble about me."

Paul brooded long over this letter.  He pictured her hard, lonely life
away down in Cornwall, a few miles from Launceston, where she earned
her living as a servant.  On several occasions he had sent her money,
but each time she had returned it, and it made him sad to think of what
she must be suffering.  He remembered his promise to her, and his
resolution, dark and grim as it was, remained one of the most powerful
factors in his life.  "I wish she would come and live with me," he
reflected.  "I think I could bring some brightness into her life, and
yet, perhaps, it's just as well she is not here with me.  She would
have broken her heart during the trial; but I'll not forget--no, I'll
not forget."

A fortnight after his return from Manchester he was walking with
Preston to a village some distance from; Brunford, where they had
arranged to inspect some machinery.  By this time he had practically
forgotten the meeting with the girl to whom he had spoken so rudely in
John Sutcliffe's shop.  But this afternoon, even while his mind ought
to have been filled with the work he had in hand, his mind turned to
her.  He remembered the look of anger in her eyes, and the scorn which
shone from them as she gazed on him.  He wondered who she was, and why
she should seem so deeply moved by what he had said.

In order to reach the village of Northcroft, the place towards which
they wended, they had to cross some fields, and George Preston and he
had scarcely climbed the stile when, coming towards them, they saw two
girls.  Evidently they were coming from a large house in the near
distance, and were walking towards Brunford.  Paul saw in a moment that
they were not of the operative class.  They were well-dressed, and it
was plainly to be seen that they were strongly differentiated from
those women whom it was his lot to meet.  He had barely gone half-way
across the field, when he stood still and gazed at one of them like a
man spell-bound.  He recognised her as the girl whom he had met in
Sutcliffe's shop.  Scarcely knowing what he did, he stood still in the
path, thus making it impossible for them to pass him.  Preston,
evidently deep in his calculations about the looms he proposed to buy,
had for the moment forgotten Paul's presence and had left him behind.

"Will you kindly stand aside?"

Paul recognised the speaker.  It was the daughter of Edward Wilson, but
he paid no heed to her, he was gazing intently at the other, and he saw
the colour mount to her cheeks as their eyes met.  He had taken but
little notice of her when he had first seen her.  He recognised that
she belonged to a class entirely different from his own, but he
remembered little else beyond the anger which she evidently felt
towards him.  That she had resented his words was evident, but to that
he had attached but little importance; now, however, all was different.
He could not understand how or why--she had not only crossed the
pathway of his life, but she had entered his life.  She seemed to
arouse within him all sorts of unthought-of possibilities.  His ideas
of the world became different.  She made him think of the poetry and of
the romance of life, even although she still looked upon him with
scorn, if not with anger.  The morning had been rainy, and the long
grass on either side of the pathway was as wet as a pond, but he did
not move aside that she might pass by, in spite of what her companion
had said.  Neither did he speak, but stood looking at her.  She was
utterly different from Emily Wilson, whom he had often seen; indeed,
the poles seemed to lie between them.  Miss Wilson was tall and largely
made, and, in spite of the fact that her dressmaker was an artist,
seemed to look poor and shabby beside the stranger.  This girl was
almost diminutive, and yet she carried herself like a queen.  He could
not have described a single feature, and yet he knew he would never
forget her face.  It made him think of the fields around St. Mabyn.  It
caused him to remember the love song of the birds, the music of a
streamlet, as it murmured its way down a valley near his old home.  It
suggested the countryside, far removed from the smoke and grime of that
northern town, a countryside that was peaceful, sweet and beautiful.

"Will you kindly move aside?"

This time he realised what he was doing, and he stepped into the wet
grass.

"I beg your pardon," he said, and then unconsciously he lifted his hat.
He knew that the girl was thinking of their former meeting, thinking of
his own rudeness, thinking, too perhaps, of the circumstances under
which he had come back to Brunford.  He walked on like a man in a
dream.  "I had just come out of prison," he said, "and I spoke to her
like a clown.  What must she think of me?"  And then a feeling of
bitterness came over his heart.  "She's with that Wilson girl," he
said, "and I know what they'll say."

But why should he care?  What had he in common with this young girl,
whose thoughts and feelings must be far removed from his own?

The Lancashire operatives pay little attention to caste or class
distinction.  With them one man is as good as another, even although
they are greatly influenced by the fact of success and the amassing of
money.  But the inwardness of the word Aristocracy has little or no
meaning to them; it is too elusive, too intangible.  But at that moment
Paul realised something of what it meant.  This girl belonged to a
class of which he knew nothing.  She created an atmosphere utterly
different from that breathed in a Lancashire manufacturing town.  He
could not put it into words, but he knew it was there, a refinement, a
suggestion of thoughts to which he was a stranger.  What was she doing
there?  She had nothing in common with that Wilson girl, even although
the Wilsons were the wealthiest people in Brunford.  And then there was
something more, he knew not what, only somehow it made life different.
It made him feel how small his world had been, what a little thing
money-making was.  It suggested a larger world, a higher life of which
hitherto he had been ignorant.

When he reached the next stile he found George Preston waiting for him.
"Been talking with Wilson's lass?" asked he with a laugh.

Paul shook his head.  "Who's the other one?" he asked.  "Is she not a
stranger in these parts?"

"Don't you know?" asked Preston.

"No, I don't know."

"Why, she's Miss Bolitho.  She's the daughter of the man who had so
much to do in sending you to quod."

It seemed as though someone had struck him a blow.  Unconsciously he
had been weaving fancies around her, unconsciously, too, something had
come into his life to which hitherto he had been a stranger.  And now
to hear that she was the daughter of the man whom he could not think of
save as his enemy, almost made him reel!  For a few minutes he walked
on by Preston's side without speaking, while his companion, almost
unconsciously realising that he was in no humour for speech, was
likewise silent.

"I suppose," said Preston presently, "that Bolitho and Wilson got
friendly through thy trial.  Of course, Bolitho's a big man, and knows
a lot of the big people in London, still, he's allowed his daughter to
come visiting here, and I hear, too, that young Ned Wilson is sweet on
her."

Paul did not speak.  His mind was dazed, but he felt sure that, for
weal or for woe, he and this girl would be associated in the future.

"Are you sure she's Bolitho's daughter?" he said to Preston a little
later.

"Oh, yes, I'm quite sure.  Bolitho was staying at Wilson's house while
you were in prison.  And it is said that the two families went away to
Switzerland together just after Christmas.  Besides, Ned Wilson won't
be a bad catch.  It is said that the firm is making fifty thousand a
year, and Ned is the only son.  But there, Paul, that's not for us to
talk about.  They're not in our world at all.  We're just beginning,
and we shall have hard work to get on.  And we must be careful of Ned
Wilson, too.  But for him, as you know, we should have had Fletcher's
weaving shed, and that would have saved us twenty pounds a year in
rent."

"Yes," said Paul, and his lips were compressed as he spoke.  "I fancy
the time will come when Ned Wilson and I will have a lot of old scores
to pay off, and I tell you what, Preston, when the time comes I'll not
have the worst of it."

A year from that date two events took place which need recording.
Preston and Paul had been going carefully through their books, and had
been engaged in what might be termed a kind of stocktaking.

"We have had a great year, Paul," said Preston.

"Yes, I suppose so," replied Paul.

"And I doubt if any two chaps, beginning as we did, have had such
success as we have had."

"Perhaps not," said Paul, "but we've not had enough yet.  I've got a
scheme in my mind which I want to talk with you about, Preston."

"You're always full of schemes," replied the other.

"Yes but have they not turned out well?" was the answer.

"Ay, I know," was the reply.  "But sometimes I've felt as though we
have been walking on eggs.  I never thought, twelve months ago, that I
should have dared to launch out so!  Why, man, think of our
liabilities!"

"Yes," replied Paul, "but think of our success, too; think of our
assets!  As you say, we've had a big year, but we must have a bigger
next year, and big years are not got by nibbling at things.  We've got
this place for three months longer.  At the end of that time we must
clear out."

"Clear out!"

"Ay, clear out.  A hundred looms are no use to us now.  We must
multiply them by eight."

"Why, Paul, you must be mad!"

"No, I've gone into it all.  Mind you, this is no speculation which I
have in my mind.  It may seem like it, but I have calculated everything
to a nicety.  I've made inquiries at the bank, and I know to a penny
how we stand, and what the bank will back us for.  And I've been making
inquiries about Thorncliffe Mill."

Preston looked at Paul as though he had doubts about his sanity.
"Thorncliffe Mill," he replied.  "Why, it's one of the biggest places
in Brunford!"

"I mean not only to have one of the biggest places, but the biggest
place," said Paul.  And although he did not mention the fact to
Preston, he knew that his new-found ambition was associated with the
meeting of Mr. Bolitho's daughter a year before.

The other event, which happened that day, was entirely different.  He
had moved into larger rooms, and his surroundings were now more
congenial to his taste.  It was evident, too, that Paul knew the value
of a good tailor, so much so that more than one young manufacturer
declared that he was the best-dressed man in Brunford.  When Paul
returned to his lodgings that night he found four men awaiting him.
Wondering as to what their visit meant, he asked them to sit down, and
then waited for them to state their business.  One of these men was the
secretary of the Weavers' Union, whom we have mentioned earlier in
these pages, another was the chairman of the Working Men's League, a
powerful political body in the town.

"Well, what is it?" asked Paul, noticing that they hesitated.

"You know, I suppose, that Mr. Carcliffe is resigning?  He was returned
to Parliament four years ago, but he's had enough of it, it seems."

"Yes, I heard about it," said Paul.

"Well, now's our chance," continued one of the men.

"You mean that you're going to return a working-man?" said Paul.

"Well, I don't know so much about that," was the reply.  "But we want
to return a man who understands us, who can voice our needs and who has
sympathies with our struggles."

"And have you thought of anyone?"

"Ay," replied the other, "we have."

"Who?"

"His name is Paul Stepaside," was the reply.  "We've had him in our
minds for months.  In fact, we've thought of him ever since he went to
gaol, in Manchester, a year ago."

To say that Paul was surprised at this proposal is but to suggest the
state of his feelings.  For years he had had all sorts of romantic
ideas as to what the future of his life was to be, and thoughts
concerning a parliamentary career were not strange to him.  Now,
however, that an actual proposal had been made, he could scarcely
believe his own ears.  Ever since he had come to Brunford he had been
interested in political questions, and had been a popular speaker,
young as he was, on many political platforms.  He remembered the vision
he had on the day he came out of prison.  He had determined to work and
live for these people of Brunford, to ameliorate their woes, and to
bring more sunshine into their lives.  But to go into Parliament, to
take his part in the legislation of the country; to stand face to face
with men whose names he held almost in awe, was too wonderful to be
true.  Still, there were the facts: these men had come to him, telling
him that Mr. Carcliffe, the present Member, had either resigned or was
going to resign, and suggested to him that when an election came he
should fight their battle.

Well, why should he not do it?  He was no longer a poor man.  It is
true his position in the financial world was far from being a safe one,
but he had calculated concerning the future with great care, and he
believed that in a few years' time his position would be secured.  He
believed in the cause these men stood for, too, and he could fight
their battles wholeheartedly.  Above and beyond all this, moreover, was
something else which he scarcely dared to put into words.  He had not
seen the young girl who had so strangely affected him since their
meeting in the fields, more than a year before, but the memory of that
meeting remained with him.  At the back of all his plans for the future
was the thought of her, and although he did not know it, he had made up
his mind to win her as his wife.  The difficulties seemed almost
insurmountable.  She belonged to a class far removed from his own, and
he knew by the look on her face that she regarded him with anger, if
not with contempt.  To her he was an agitator of the worst kind, one
who had broken the laws of his country, and had outraged the feelings
of her class.  Through her own father's influence he had been sent to
gaol as a criminal, and she would naturally stand by her father's
position.  Even without this stain upon his life, his case seemed
hopeless: he was only a working-man who had "got on," while she was the
daughter of a man who stood high in one of the most influential
professions.  He knew that the doors of the best houses in the land
were open to prominent King's Counsels like Mr. Bolitho, while he was a
nobody.  And yet, with that dogged determination by which he had become
known in Brunford, he had determined to overcome all difficulties, and
to make her love him.  He did not see how he was to do it, he did not
know her address in London, he did not know how he could see her again;
nevertheless, he held by his resolution.  There was only one woman in
the world to him, and that was one who despised him.  Indeed, Paul
Stepaside was not sure that he loved her at all.  Sometimes he thought
he hated her; nevertheless, she dominated his being, she was the goal
of his hopes, and in everything he undertook her influence was felt.

Perhaps this was partly the reason why the proposal made to him had
such a strong attraction.  As a struggling cotton manufacturer he was a
nobody, but as a young Member of Parliament he would have a position.
The difficulties in the way of his advancement did not daunt him, and
he felt sure he could make his name prominent among the legislators of
the land.

"Did you say that Mr. Carcliffe had definitely resigned?" he asked.

"Well, he's told the committee that he wants to resign; we know that,"
was the reply.  "And there's bound to be a general election in a few
months, and he has declared definitely that he'll not stand again."

"Who is the man that the other party are going to nominate in his
place?" he asked.

"We don't know yet," was the answer.  "But we hear that a meeting is
going to be held at Edward Wilson's in a few days.  But never mind the
other side, Paul; if you'll stand we'll send you to Parliament.  We're
not going to allow these fine-fingered gentry to have it all their own
way.  You're our man, and we'll stand by you, as you have stood by us."

Paul did not give them a definite answer that night.  He wanted to
think about it, he said.  All the same, when he bade them "Good-night"
his mind was practically made up, although he did not know it.



CHAPTER V

PAUL'S MADNESS

Howden Clough was a big house standing in its own grounds, some two
miles from the town of Brunford.  Considering the vicinity, it was a
very handsome place of residence.  The house itself was of grey stone,
and occupied a commanding position.  Having been built some two hundred
years before, by an old county magnate, the grounds were well matured.
Indeed, Mr. Edward Wilson was envied by his fellow manufacturers for
having obtained so desirable a place of residence.  The very fact that
he lived in a house which had been owned by the Greystones gave him a
kind of position, and this, added to his being a rich man, and
abundantly able to keep up the place he occupied, gave him a feeling of
superiority.

Edward Wilson and his son were sitting together in the room which they
called the library, although there were but few evidences of the name
being deserved.

"Mr. Bolitho will be here in half an hour," said the father.

"Do you know if he is bringing Mary with him?" asked Ned.

"I am not sure," replied the father.  "I have done my best for you, my
lad."

"I mean to have her," said the young man.  "I never really cared for a
girl before, and I shall never care for another.  Besides, why is the
case hopeless?"

"I mean you shall have her," replied the father.  "But you must
remember, my lad, that these Bolithos belong to a very old family, and
they don't look upon money as everything.  We're not county people, and
they are, although they visit us as friends.  Still, I can buy up half
the county people, and I've done my best to persuade him to bring Mary
with him.  When I was at Mr. Bolitho's house last, I inquired if she
had any matrimonial engagement, but as far as I could gather she's
still fancy free, so let's hope for the best, Ned."

"What time does the meeting commence?" asked the son.

"Not until nine o'clock," was the reply.  "We shall have plenty of time
for a smoke and a chat after dinner before those fellows come."

A little later there was a sound of wheels upon the drive.  Both father
and son rushed to the door, and to their delight they found not only
Mr. Bolitho but his daughter as well.

"This is splendid!" cried Mr. Wilson senior.  "I was afraid Miss
Bolitho would not be able to come.  Ah, Emily, here's your friend.  We
are glad to see you.  I am afraid you'll think that Lancashire people
are a little rough, but we yield to none in the warmth of our welcome."

Although this speech seemed correct enough, young Edward Wilson felt
rather uneasy.  He wondered whether those of Mr. Bolitho's class would
have met him in a similar way.  In spite of the fact that he declared
himself deeply in love with the young lady who had now gone upstairs
with his sister, he did not feel comfortable in her presence.  There
seemed to be always an invisible barrier between them.  Still, she was
there, and he meant to make the most of his opportunities; and if the
plans which had been made bore fruit, he trusted that he would see a
great deal of her in the future.

The party that sat round the dinner table was gay, but no reference was
made to the ostensible object of Mr. Bolitho's visit.  When nine
o'clock came, however, it was evident that there were several
new-comers, and presently the two Wilsons led the way to the library,
while Mr. Bolitho followed with a half-interested, half-bored look on
his face.  He shook hands with a number of men who had gathered in the
room.  Evidently they were nearly all opulent, keen-minded, successful
men, but he could not help feeling pleased at the deference which each
of them paid to him.  Even as they did, he realised that he was not of
their class.  After all, a wealthy cotton manufacturer occupies a
different position from that of an eminent barrister who belongs to an
old county family.

They quickly made known their business.  "The truth of it is, Mr.
Bolitho," said the leading spokesman, "Mr. Carcliffe is resigning, and
we want someone to fight our battles.  The socialistic and labour
element has become very strong, and unless we are strongly led, our
side will be beaten.  And so we have come to the conclusion that if you
will say 'Yes,' you are our best man."

It was a roughly spoken speech, but Mr. Bolitho understood perfectly,
and the proposal appealed to him strongly.  He had long encouraged
political aspirations, and here was his opportunity.  To be the Member
of the important borough of Brunford, which lay at the heart of the
manufacturing district, promised all sorts of scope for his ambition.
Owing to his success at the Bar he had a large income, and more than
one had suggested to him that if he entered Parliament he would be a
most eligible candidate for the post of either Solicitor- or
Attorney-General, while even higher things might be within his grasp in
the future.  As it was, he discussed the various pros and cons with
considerable eagerness and cordiality.  As far as he could see, there
was every probability of success.  The present Member had been elected
by a clear thousand majority, and he had sufficient faith in himself to
believe that he could not only maintain that majority but increase it.

"By the way," he said at length, "have the other side selected their
man?"

"Well, yes and no," was the reply.  "From what we hear they have not
fastened upon a party man, but they have approached young Paul
Stepaside."

Mr. Bolitho gave a look of astonishment.  "What!" he cried.
"Stepaside! the fellow who a year or two ago----"  And then he stopped.

"Yes," was the reply.

"But he hasn't been long out of prison."

"No," was the rejoinder.  "But he's a remarkable chap, is Stepaside,
and there have been all sorts of foolish notions in the town so that
he's become very popular."

"I suppose these working-men's unions will pay his expenses, then?"
said Mr. Bolitho.

"I am not so sure of that," replied the chairman of the association.
"You see, Stepaside started manufacturing a little more than a year
ago, and he's been phenomenally successful.  His partner is a very able
chap, too, and they know their business.  So that I fancy Stepaside
will be able to pay his own expenses."

"And has he the confidence of the people?"

"He's the confidence of a certain class," was the reply, "and he would
be a strong candidate."

Mr. Bolitho looked thoughtful.  "This is very awkward!" he said.

"You don't mean to say," said the chairman, "that this fact will alter
your decision?"

"No," he replied slowly.  "I don't quite say that, but it puts a new
face on the question.  You see, it will be awkward for me to oppose a
man in politics whom, less than two years ago, I practically sent to
gaol.  Still, it gives a certain piquancy to the situation.  Does he
know much about politics, by the way?"

"No, I don't think he does," replied the chairman of the association.
"And that's where our strength will lie.  He's just an agitator, just a
clever speaker who can appeal to men's passions, but when he's faced
with facts he will be nowhere."

There was a short silence after this.  It was evident that some present
did not agree with what had been said, but no one spoke a word.  All
seemed to be afraid lest Mr. Bolitho would fail them at this juncture,
and they looked upon him as the man most likely to lead them to victory.

After they were gone Mr. Bolitho talked long and gravely with Mr.
Wilson.

"I tell you," said the manufacturer, "if you fail us now, Mr. Bolitho,
your conduct will be misinterpreted."

Mr. Bolitho looked at the other questioningly.

"The truth of it is," went on Mr. Wilson, "a great many foolish things
have gone abroad since Stepaside's trial, and the belief is that he
wasn't treated fairly.  The chaps who got off easily confessed, after
their imprisonment, that Stepaside had tried to dissuade them from
doing what they did, and so he has been looked upon as a kind of
martyr.  Many have blamed us for this, and now if you refuse to fight
him--well, they'll say you are afraid."

"Afraid!"

"Yes, afraid.  They'll say you're afraid to face a public audience, to
stand up in a public fight."

Mr. Bolitho gazed steadily on the carpet for a few seconds, and then
relit his cigar, which had gone out.

"That settles it, Wilson," he said.  "That settles it.  I will quickly
let the people of Brunford know whether I am afraid or not.  You can
tell your chairman that I accept."

The manufacturer caught the other man's hand with delight.  "By goom,"
he said, lapsing into the Lancashire dialect, "that's the ticket."

"You can tell him, too," went on the barrister, and his eyes flashed as
he spoke, "that I'll fight this for all I'm worth.  We'll leave no
stone unturned, Wilson, and I'm inclined to think at the end of this
election that your man Stepaside will be no longer regarded as a hero."

The following Saturday _The Brunford Times_ announced the fact that Mr.
Bolitho, K.C., had accepted a hearty invitation to stand as their
candidate for the next election, and a leading article was devoted to
him, declaring that, if they had sought all over England, a worthier
candidate could not have been found.

Paul had no knowledge of the true facts of the case until he saw _The
Brunford Times_ on the Saturday morning.  He was returning from his
mill when he heard a boy shouting in the street, "Bolitho accepted for
Brunford," and, buying the paper, he read the news eagerly.

"Thou looks as though thou had lost a thousand pounds, Paul," said a
voice.

"Nay," replied Paul.  "I've not lost a thousand pounds."  And he
noticed that the man to whom he spoke was the chairman of the league
who had visited him some time before.

"Well, what's the matter that you look so glum?" said the other.

"I've come to a serious conclusion," replied the young man between his
set teeth.

"And what's your conclusion?"

"I'm going to be Member for Brunford," he replied, and walked on
without another word.

"Ay, and he will, too," said the other, as he watched Paul's retreating
figure.  "The chap as licks Paul Stepaside will have to be a bigger man
than any lawyer that ever lived!"

The consequence of this meeting in the street was that, before the day
was over, all the town knew that Paul Stepaside, who had been doubtful
so long as to whether he would fight the people's battle, had now made
up his mind, and that he would oppose the man who had been instrumental
in sending him to prison nearly two years before!

"You remember him, Mary," said Emily Wilson.  "You remember the man who
stopped us in the path last summer?"

"Yes, I remember him," said the girl quietly.  "He struck me as a
dangerous kind of man."

"He's thought to be very good-looking," said the other.  "He came to
Brunford a few years ago, a nobody, and now there's no man so much
talked about."

"But do you think he'll succeed?" asked the girl.

"There's no telling," replied Miss Wilson.  "You see, here in Brunford
the working people form the great bulk of the population, and they are
very determined; when they have set their minds on a thing they stop at
nothing in order to obtain it.  Besides, among a certain class, your
father is not very much liked."

"No, I understand that," replied the other quietly.  "But, of course,
they must understand that, as a barrister, my father was obliged to do
what he did."

"Well, you know, these working people have all sorts of foolish
notions."

"I should like to hear him speak," said Mary Bolitho.  "I wonder if I
should be noticed if I went to one of his meetings."

"I expect not," replied the other.  "But still, no meetings will be
held for a little time yet  When the election comes we shall have great
doings here."

At that minute they were joined by young Edward Wilson.

"We were just talking about Paul Stepaside," said his sister.  "And I
was saying that the people are very strongly attached to him."

"Oh, I don't fear," replied Wilson.

"Why, you said only yesterday that you greatly doubted what the result
would be," replied his sister.

"Yes, but I've been thinking it all over since then," replied Wilson,
"and I can see how we can beat him."

"How?" asked the two girls eagerly.

"Well, there are two things," he replied.  "One of them depends upon
you, Miss Bolitho."

"Upon me!" replied the girl.  "How?  What do you mean?"

"You really wish your father to beat this fellow?"

"Of course I do!" replied the girl.  "I should be horribly ashamed if
my father did not get in by a big majority."

"Well, then," said Wilson, "it can be done.  You see, Stepaside's
chances all depend upon the working people.  Of course, we have a good
many of them on our side, but he has more on his.  Now I know what
these factory hands are, and although they profess to be very
democratic, there's no Englishman that ever lived but who is a snob at
heart.  If you, Miss Bolitho, will make a house-to-house visitation,
you can win enough votes to put your father in, whatever the other side
does."

"But that would mean my staying in the town for months!" said the girl.

"It would mean your spending a great deal of time here," said Wilson,
who thought he was very clever, "but what of that?  We shall always be
delighted to see you at Howden Clough, and I am sure Emily, here, would
be only too glad to help you."

"Why, indeed I would, Mary," replied the girl, "and, after all, it
would be great fun!"

Mary Bolitho looked across at the great town which lay in the valley
beneath her.  She saw the hundreds of chimneys belching out black,
half-consumed coals, she saw the long lines of uninteresting cottages,
in which these toilers of the North lived, and she thought of the work
that Wilson's suggestion would entail.  She did not know why, but she
had taken a strong dislike to Paul Stepaside.  Perhaps it was because
she remembered his words in the shop in Brunford.  Perhaps because he
had roused some personal antipathy.  Anyhow, in her heart of hearts was
the longing to see him beaten.  And yet she was afraid.  She did not
like the idea of spending so much time at Howden Clough.  She was too
clear-sighted to be blind to Wilson's intentions, and she felt sure as
to what his hopes were.

"What's the other thing you have in your mind, Mr. Wilson?" she said
presently.

"The other thing is personal," was the reply.  "After all, who is Paul
Stepaside?  Who is his father?  Who is his mother?  Who are his people?
We Lancashire people may profess to be very democratic, but we've got a
lot of pride in us.  I have heard--well, I won't tell you what I've
heard, but I'll manage that!"

A few weeks later the contest between Paul Stepaside and Mr. Bolitho
commenced in the Brunford district.  There were no immediate signs that
an election would take place, but each knew that they must be ready
when the time came.  Mr. Bolitho held crowded meetings in various parts
of the constituency, and, according to newspaper reports, was
enthusiastically received.  This, however, was to be expected.  There
were fifteen thousand voters on the lists, and Mr. Carcliffe, whom Mr.
Bolitho sought to succeed, had at the last election obtained over a
thousand majority.  Paul also addressed several meetings, which were
largely attended, and his supporters spoke to him very confidently
about the result.  But Paul was not satisfied; he could not help
noticing that a subtle change was coming over the town.  His
experiences of a year ago, and the tremendous enthusiasm which they had
raised on his behalf were practically forgotten.  His imprisonment was
a thing of the past, and the share which Mr. Bolitho had taken in it
was no longer very seriously considered.  Paul was not long in
attributing this change to its real cause.  For one thing, he was being
constantly met with rumours about his birth.  He knew that the artisans
of the North, while professing advanced democratic views, were
nevertheless influenced by such things.  More than once he had been
asked what his father did, where he lived, where his mother and father
were married, and where he had been born?  And presently, when it was
rumoured that he had been born in a workhouse, Paul could not help
feeling that a subtle force was at work.  In addition to this, too, he
heard that Mr. Bolitho's daughter had been visiting among the poorer
streets in the town, and that on every hand she had been winning golden
opinions.  It seemed to him from what he had heard that there was a
kind of witchcraft in her presence, and that many who had been among
his great admirers, and promised supporters, now seemed to think that
the other side had a great deal to say.  Paul quickly discovered, too,
that this girl was no ordinary canvasser.  She had been able to meet
the working-class politician on his own grounds, and to answer him very
effectively.  Everyone who has taken part in a political contest knows
the influence which a young, educated, intelligent and beautiful girl
can wield, and she had gone into the people's cottages and talked, not
only with the women, but with the men.  She had caught, too, the rough
humour of the district, and had acquainted herself with the peculiar
needs and desires of the people who worked in the North.  More
quick-witted and better informed than they, she had apparently been
able to answer Paul's arguments, and had, therefore, left them in doubt.

This, too, seemed apparent to Paul.  The questions asked concerning his
parentage and birthplace synchronised with the advent of this girl.
Never once had he met her, and yet he was constantly hearing of the
converts that she was making.  As may be imagined, his heart grew
bitter at the thought of it, even while he grimly determined that he
would win this battle.  It is true that the election seemed months
away, but the ground seemed slipping from under his feet, and his
chances, in spite of what his supporters told him, appeared to grow
less each day.

Paul called to mind the time he had met her, in the field close by
Howden Clough.  He remembered, too, the wild vow he made.  This girl,
the daughter of the author of his disgrace, one who evidently regarded
him with contempt and anger, nevertheless filled his horizon.  He knew
that the feelings he bore towards her, feelings which no one but
himself ever dreamed of, seemed to be madness, while the election that
loomed ahead, and on which he had built such great hopes, seemed to
divide them rather than to bring them together.  If he were beaten in
the fight, she would look upon him with more contempt than ever.

This feeling caused his speeches to be somewhat bitter in their tones,
and, as a consequence, did not advance his interests--indeed, he felt
as though his own supporters were growing half-hearted, if not
indifferent, and he attributed it all to the persistent work of Mary
Bolitho.  Moreover, there were constant rumours about her being engaged
to young Ned Wilson--and Ned Wilson, as he knew, was his enemy.

One evening, it was toward the end of September, Paul was walking in
some fields beyond Howden Clough.  He had been reflecting that he had
as yet done nothing towards carrying out the purpose for which he had
come North.  He remembered that the work his mother had given him to do
remained undone.

"I promised her I would go to Scotland," he reflected, "and I've not
done it.  I've become so wrapped up in this business that I've almost
forgotten mother.  She still has that cloud of disgrace hanging over
her head, while I've been thinking of my own advancement and my own
desires.  Besides, even if I were to win, I should never be able to
speak to her until this matter is cleared up.  Of course, she has heard
everything, and she will look upon me as----"  And then Paul set his
teeth together and his eyes flashed with anger.

These thoughts had scarcely passed through his mind when his heart gave
a sudden leap.  Coming towards him was the girl of whom he had been
thinking, and she was alone!  Evidently she was on another visit to the
Wilsons'; no doubt, too, she was carrying out her purpose of winning
voters from him.  Almost without thinking he determined to speak to her.

There was no definite thought in his mind, but it seemed to him as
though he must speak to her and set himself right with her.  He felt it
was his right to do so, and that it was her duty to hear.

He lifted his hat on her approach.  "I beg your pardon, Miss Bolitho,"
he said, "but may I presume on your kindness a little?"

The girl looked at him in astonishment.  Perhaps she was a little angry
too, for the footpath on which he met her was in a somewhat lonely
district.

"I know I'm very rude in stopping you in this way," went on Paul, as
though he divined her feelings, "and I would not have done so had not
the reason seemed to me sufficient.  Besides"--and there was a touch of
anger in his voice--"it seems to me that it would not only be generous
on your part if you would, but just."

As he spoke she could not help reflecting on the change that had come
over him since he first spoke to her on the night following his release
from prison.  Then he was rude, almost truculent; now, even while he
seemed angry, his demeanour suggested a refinement of feeling which did
not manifest itself then.

"Of course, you know who I am," he went on.  "I am Paul Stepaside, and
I am your father's opponent in this political contest."

"Is it about the election that you wish to speak to me?" she asked.

"Yes, and no," replied Paul.  "Perhaps the contest may be called the
occasion of my asking you to speak with me, but the reason lies deeper.
I am sure you do not wish to be unjust?"

"I think," she replied, "if you wish to say anything about the
election, that you had better seek an interview with my father.  He
will be in Brunford to-morrow."

"It's not to your father that I wish to speak," he replied.

"I am altogether at a loss," said Mary Bolitho, "to know what there can
be that you wish to discuss with me."

He could not mistake the tones in which she spoke.  He knew,
instinctively, that she did not regard him as belonging to her own
class.  Her every word suggested to him that he was to her an outsider,
one to whom she could speak only as an inferior.  A thousand things
which he thought he wanted to say to her had altogether escaped him,
and for a few seconds he stood dumb and confused.

"Of course, it is about this election, in a way," he stammered
presently.  "I--I--you see, it means a great deal to me----"  And then
he ceased speaking again.  Somehow the words would not come.

He saw the smile of contempt which passed over her face, and he thought
he understood the meaning of it.  Perhaps it was the best thing that
could have happened to him, for now his anger was aroused, and he saw
his way clearly.

"No, no, Miss Bolitho.  Do not think that I have come to whine to you,
or to make complaints in any way--that is about the things you are
thinking of.  It's not that.  I am prepared to fight my battle without
seeking quarter in any direction--that is, any direction that is fair.
I have never had a public-school education, but I think I know the
meaning of the term, 'Playing the game.'"

She looked puzzled for a minute, and then he saw a flush mount her face.

"I am afraid I do not understand you!"

"The circumstances of my life have not made me an adept in talking with
young ladies," said Paul.  "Doubtless you think me rude and clownish,
and perhaps you are right, but I hope I have nothing but true feelings
at heart.  You are fighting for your father in this election, Miss
Bolitho, and I do not complain in the least.  You hope he will win, and
you are using every legitimate means to obtain votes for him--that is
right, that is fair; but, Miss Bolitho, there is something which I
regard very sacred: perhaps the most sacred thing in the world to me is
the love of my mother, and the thought of her good name.  I will not
tell you how she has suffered for me, and how she loves me, but I hope
you will believe me when I say that I regard anything which will
blacken her name as the greatest insult that can be offered to myself.
Have I made myself understood?"

The flush on the girl's face deepened; she knew what he meant.

"I do not mind what people say about me so much," said Paul.  "I am
able to defend myself, at least when I have fair play.  There have been
times when I have not been able to do so successfully, still time has
been on my side, and justice has been done to me.  But can you
understand, Miss Bolitho, what a man feels, when, in order to win an
election, his opponents have not been ashamed to heap shame upon one of
the purest women and the best mothers that ever lived?"

"I am at a loss to know why you say this to me," retorted the girl.

"I do not complain," said Paul, "at least at this juncture, that your
father was my enemy years ago.  Although he had no foundation for it,
he pleaded that I was a dangerous man, an agitator and a leader of a
gang of knaves.  Through him I spent six months in gaol among felons; I
wore prison clothes; I was treated like a dog; I lay there one long,
cold winter, night after night, in a damp cellar.  This was through
your father--not because he believed I was guilty, but because he
wanted to make a case against me.  I say I have never complained of
this, never mentioned it once in this contest.  I have tried to fight
fairly, on broad general principles, but, Miss Bolitho, my mother's
good name is sacred to me.  Can you, as a woman, understand this?"

"I do not know why I should answer you," she said, and there was
hauteur in her voice.  "I cannot help understanding your accusation,
and although I am utterly ignorant concerning it, I will say this:
never, since I have taken any interest in this contest, have I
mentioned your mother's name.  Perhaps you do not believe me, and
perhaps the reason is that you cannot understand?"

She spoke quietly and naturally, and yet her words stung Paul like
whip-cord.  Although she did not say so in so many words, he felt that
she despised him, and again his anger was aroused.

"You deny, then, that you have----"

"There are certain things, Mr. Stepaside, that one cannot deny, not
that they are true, but because it is impossible for one to take notice
of them!"

"Forgive me," he said, almost humbly, "if I have believed what I have
so often been told, but if there is one person about whom I am
sensitive, it is my mother.  I will not detain you any longer, Miss
Bolitho.  Perhaps it would have been better if I had not spoken to you
at all.  Do not think that I complain because you are fighting against
me.  You can do no other--besides, I am sure"--and here he spoke
bitterly--"that your father and the Wilsons will have poisoned your
mind against me!"

He saw an angry flash from her eyes.

"I am afraid you are wrong there, Mr. Stepaside, as far as I know there
have been no reasons why I should think of you at all; as for enmity,
such a thing would be impossible!"

His heart seemed like a great hot fire as he left her.  He knew he had
broken all conventions, and acted like a madman; he knew that whatever
she had felt towards him before, her feelings towards him now must be
of utter scorn and derision, and yet he would not recall one word he
had spoken, even if he could.  He was glad that he had said these wild,
incoherent things to her.  He had spoken to her, she had spoken to him.
In the future she would think of him, not as a nonentity, not as
someone who could be easily passed by, but as one whose life meant
something.  She would never be able to forget him.  He knew it and
rejoiced in it!  She would be reminded of him by a thousand things in
the days to come.  She would never be indifferent about him again, and
throughout the whole of the contest that was coming on she would regard
him differently from the way in which she had thought of him before.
Somehow, too, he felt less jealous of Ned Wilson.  He had not spoken of
this man, who was said to be his rival, but he was in the background of
his thoughts all the time.  For weeks the stories which the gossips had
bandied had wounded him, but now he felt different.  After their talk
this girl would never think of Ned Wilson; she could not.  He did not
belong to her order of beings.  He breathed a different atmosphere, he
spoke a different language, lived in a different world.

The next day Paul started for Scotland, to try and discover the truth
concerning which his mother had told him.



CHAPTER VI

PAUL GOES TO SCOTLAND

When Mary Bolitho returned to Howden Clough that evening she went
straight to her own room.  She wanted to be alone.  Under ordinary
circumstances she would have, girl-like, sought out her friend, Emily
Wilson, and given her a full report of what had taken place, but her
desire was for silence rather than for speech.  In spite of her anger she
felt that there was something sacred in what this young man had said to
her.  There could be no doubt that he felt strongly, and she knew, by the
tones of his voice and the look in his eyes, that he was greatly moved.
Of course, she felt indignant that he should dare to speak to her at all,
and she wondered why she had resolved to say nothing to her father about
their meeting.  When all allowances had been made, he had been rude in
the extreme.  He had stopped her in a lonely part of the countryside, and
had roughly commanded her to listen to him!  And Mary Bolitho was a proud
girl, and was not accustomed to being dictated to.  All the same, she
felt much interested in what he had said, and she found herself thinking
of him again and again.  There was something romantic, too, in his story
which, in spite of its improbability, she could not help believing, and
although she felt very angry with him, she sympathised with the feelings
he had expressed.  Months before she had been annoyed at the thought that
her father should have been opposed by one who was little removed from
the working classes.  She remembered him as she had first seen him, at
the shop in Market Street, pale, angry, and, as it seemed to her, coarse.
He spoke as one of his own class, too, and he was rough and rude.  But
that view had become somewhat corrected, and she had to admit to herself
that Paul Stepaside was no awkward, ignorant, ill-dressed clown.  Indeed,
for that matter, he had the advantage of most young men of her
acquaintance.  His coal-black eyes and hair, his pale face and stalwart
figure, would be noticed anywhere.  Besides, he was well-dressed, and
although he knew but little of the ways of her world, she knew that he
would never be passed without notice.  Besides all this, there was a
suggestion of strength in nearly every word he said, in every tone of his
voice, and Mary Bolitho had a great admiration for strong men.  Young
Edward Wilson, whose pointed attentions she could not mistake, seemed but
as a pigmy compared with him.  Still, she felt angry, and she rejoiced in
the thought that, on his own admission, she was helping towards his
defeat.

Later in the evening, Paul Stepaside became the subject of a conversation
at Howden Clough, but Mary said no word as to their meeting.  Indeed, she
was silent whenever his name was mentioned.  On the following day, young
Ned Wilson was much chagrined when she declared her intention of
returning home.  "Why, Miss Bolitho," he said, "you told me you had
arranged to canvass Long Street this week, and that will take you at
least three days.  Yesterday I heard that you had converted at least a
dozen people, and we cannot afford to lose you now.  It is all over the
town, too, that Stepaside is awfully mad at your success.  I think he
hates you nearly as much as he hates your father."

"I don't feel like canvassing now," she replied.  "And I'm anxious to get
back home."

"But you will come again soon?" he urged.  "The house seems like a tomb
without you, and I don't know what I shall do if you go away!"

She was angered by his tones of proprietorship, and almost instinctively
she compared him with the young fellow who had spoken so rudely to her
the night before.  Wilson was commonplace, unlettered; he had only the
tastes of the ordinary common, money-making manufacturer, and for the
first time a feeling amounting to revulsion came into her heart as she
thought of the hopes which she knew he entertained.

That afternoon she left Brunford, in spite of the protests that were
made, and found her way to London.

"Returned so soon, Mary?" said her father when she arrived.  "I quite
expected you to stay another week.  I have heard about the success of
your work in Brunford, and I imagined that you were going to win me a
great many more votes before you returned.  I had no idea that you would
be such a valuable asset when I started this fight, and although I am
awfully glad to have you back, we shall have to strain every nerve if we
are to beat that fellow."

"Do you think you will beat him, father?" she asked.

"If we go on as we are doing, we shall," he replied.  "I know he has a
tremendous hold upon the town, and I know that a great deal of prejudice
has been roused against me, but we must beat him, Mary; we must."

"Why, is there any special reason for this?" she asked, noting the tone
of her father's voice.

"Of course, I want to win," was his reply.  "I never like to engage in a
fight without winning.  I think that my success at the Bar has been
mainly owing to the fact that I've always set out to win.  Besides all
that, I don't know how it is, but I've taken a personal dislike to that
fellow.  By the way, have you ever met him?"

"Yes," replied the girl.

"Of course, you've never spoken to him?"

To this she made no reply.  She did not know why it was, but she felt she
could not tell her father of their meeting in the fields behind Howden
Clough.

"Well, I shall have to go up to Brunford myself in two or three weeks,"
continued Mr. Bolitho, "and, if you can, I hope you will go with me."

"Can we not stay at an hotel when we go again, father?" she asked.

"Why?" asked Mr. Bolitho, turning upon her quickly.  "Have not the
Wilsons always been kind to you?  And do you not feel comfortable there?
Besides, there is no hotel in Brunford that I care to stay at, and
there's a sort of general understanding between Wilson and myself that we
shall be his guests."

The girl was silent, and looked steadily on the floor.

"What is it, Mary?  There's something wrong."

"Of course, I cannot be blind to young Wilson's attentions," she said,
and her voice was hard as she spoke.

"Well, he's a decent fellow, and, on the whole, I like these Lancashire
people.  They may be a trifle rough, and, of course, the Wilsons belong
to _nouveaux riches_ class, but young Ned cannot help that; besides, say
what we will, any girl might do worse than take Ned Wilson.  I know, as a
fact, that his father is making an enormous income, and Ned, being the
only son, will be one of the richest men in Lancashire."

"He has the mind of a navvy and the tastes of a bookmaker."  And her
voice was almost bitter as she spoke.

Her father laughed uneasily.  "That's all nonsense, Mary!" he said.
"But, tell me really, what do you think my chances are?  You know the
town now better than I do.  Do you think I shall beat Stepaside?"

"He's not a man to be easily beaten," was her reply.  "I believe that,
unless----"

"Yes, unless what?"

"Unless extreme means are used, he will win."

"I will not be beaten!" said Mr. Bolitho, and his eyes flashed as he
spoke.  "That fellow insulted me in the Manchester Law Courts, and I was
glad when he got six months.  Fellows of his order need to be taught a
lesson, and he shall be taught, too."

"I don't think you understand him, father," she said.  "He's one of those
men who will never be beaten.  He'll rise above every difficulty, and
move every obstacle out of his way.  I don't know why it is, but I don't
feel comfortable about this contest, and I feel afraid of him."

"Afraid, Mary!"

"Yes," replied the girl.  "I am afraid.  I know I've no reason to be, but
whenever I think of him I become angry, and yet I don't know why I should
be angry.  In a sense, he makes me admire him.  He came to Brunford a few
years ago utterly poor and unknown, and now he's become quite a
personality.  He's just one of those strong men that always wins his way.
And he hates you, too, father."

And then, without any apparent reason, the girl left the room.

Meanwhile, Paul Stepaside was in a train that carried him northward.  He
was doing now what he had meant to have done long months before.  He had
constantly been making endeavours to discover the truth about the Douglas
Graham of whom his mother had spoken, but he had done so without a plan,
and in a kind of haphazard way, and this was not like Paul.  He felt,
too, as though he had a new motive in his life.  Mary Bolitho had said
nothing that seemingly accounted for this, and yet he knew that her words
had determined his action.  A feeling of pride which he had never known
before possessed him.  He wanted to go to this girl with a name as good
as her own.  Money, he knew he could get, yes, and position, too.  During
the last few months he had listened to several fairly prominent Members
of Parliament.  He had analysed their speeches and estimated their
powers, and he was not afraid of them.  He was as big a man as any of
them; yes, bigger, stronger, and with more will power.  No, he was not
afraid that he could not win position, but with this black cloud hanging
over him he felt as though he were paralysed.  And so, when a local train
left Carlisle towards the station nearest to his mother's old home, it
was with a fixed determination that he would not leave Scotland until he
had discovered all that could be known.  Perhaps it might end in nothing,
but he must find out.

It was with a curious feeling in his heart that he presently arrived at
the little farmhouse where his mother was born and reared.  In spite of
the fact that he was a country lad, he had never realised the meaning of
loneliness as he realised it now.  No other house was near; the little
farmhouse was the only building in sight.  As far as the eye could reach,
beyond the few acres of land which had been reclaimed from the moors,
there seemed to him nothing but wild desolation.  Hill rose upon hill,
and while the scene was almost majestic, it made him understand how
lonely his mother's life must have been.  He stood for several minutes
looking at the house before entering.  He did not know whether his
grandfather was living or not, and for the first time it struck him that
he might have relatives living there, to whose existence he had
previously been indifferent.  The day was as still as death, and it
seemed to him as though the place were uninhabited.  Presently, however,
he heard the sound of a human voice, and, turning, he saw a rough-looking
lad driving some cattle before him.  The lad eyed him strangely as he
came up to the little farm buildings, and seemed to wonder why he should
be there.  The time was evening, an evening of late summer, and Paul
remembered that it was in the late summer-time when Douglas Graham, his
father, had first come into the district.  He called to mind, too, that
he had seen his mother as she was driving home the cattle from the moors.
He watched the lad almost furtively, and he wondered why it was that he
was afraid to speak.  It seemed to him as though some mysterious power
were brooding over this lonely dwelling and forbidding him to learn the
secrets that lay within.

"Does Donald Lindsay live here?" he asked presently.

The lad looked at him for a few seconds before replying, and then, in his
strong Scotch accent, replied, "Nay.  He's dead."

"And Mrs. Lindsay, is she alive?"

"Ay," replied the lad.  "She'll be inside.  She's my mother."

Paul remembered his own mother's story about this hard Scotswoman's
unkindness, and felt little disposed to go into the house; yet, for the
sake of learning what he had come to learn, he determined to enter.  The
cottage, for it was little more than a cottage, was clean, but
comfortless and bare of any adornment whatever.  It might seem as though
no woman entered this building, for there were no marks of a woman's
handicraft, none of those little suggestions of the feminine presence.

"Mother!" shouted the youth.  "There's someone wants you."

A minute later Paul heard a heavy step on the uncarpeted stairway, and a
tall, angular, hard-featured woman, with cold blue eyes and scanty light
hair, entered the room.  She looked at him steadily, as if there was
something in his face that she recognised.

"And what might ye be wantin'?" she asked presently.  "Ye'll not be from
these parts, I fancy."

"No," said Paul.  "I came from England.  I was born and reared in
Cornwall.  Years ago, a man named Donald Lindsay came there and married
into my family.  I was wanting to find out something about him."

He knew it was a clumsy explanation of his appearance there, but it was
the best he could think of for the moment.

"What'll you be to Donald Lindsay?" asked the woman, as she scanned him
closely.  "He died two years since, and it's getting on for forty years
ago since he was down South.  He's told me about it many a time.  You're
in no way related to him, are you?"

And then, giving him a second glance, she went on:

"No, no, you're no Lindsay.  Donald was blue-eyed and fair-haired, and
you are black-eyed and black-haired."

"But did not Donald have a daughter?" asked Paul.  "You see, I've heard
he married a Cornish girl, and that they had a daughter.  Did you know
her?  Did she ever live here?"

"What's that to you?" asked the woman.  "You don't mean to say that
there's any siller coming to her?"

"I don't say but what there is," replied Paul, seeing that this might be
the key which might help to unlock the mystery of his mother's life.

"And are you a lawyer chap?"

"Do I look like a lawyer?" he asked with a laugh.  He was wanting to get
the woman into a communicative mood.

"You might be," she replied.  "You're just one of those keen-eyed men of
the lawyer class, but I ken nothing about her, except that she's dead."

"Who's dead?" asked Paul.

"Donald's lass, Jean," was the reply.  "She that was born to his first
wife.  And a good thing, too!" she added vindictively.

"Why a good thing?" asked the young man.

"Better dead than disgraced," replied the woman in her hard Scotch
fashion.  And Paul understood the fear that his mother must have had of
this woman whom her father had placed in authority over her.  A pain shot
through his heart, and he felt like answering the woman angrily.  Ever
since their meeting on the Altarnun Moors Paul had been keenly sensitive
about his mother's good name, and resented any approach to light words
concerning her.

"I am trying to find out all about her," he said presently.  "And I would
be very glad if you could give me any information concerning her
childhood and girlhood up here."

"Why should I?" asked the woman.  "It'll not be to my advantage."

"Please don't be so sure of that," replied Paul.  He knew instinctively
that she was avaricious by nature, and would be likely to do anything for
gain.

"You wouldn't thank me for telling," she replied.

"If you promise to tell me all you know," said Paul, "I am empowered to
give you five guineas."

"And it'll get me into no trouble?" she asked, with that suggestion of
Scotch caution of which Paul had so often heard.

"No," replied he, "your name need never be mentioned; but I'm anxious to
find out all I can concerning the childhood and girlhood of Jean Lindsay
up to the time of her marriage."

"Her marriage!" said the woman scornfully.  "Weel, it may be she was
married, after all, and it may be I was hard on her, and it may be, too,
it was because I thought Donald cared more for her than for my children.
Anyhow, she never liked me, and I don't say that I liked her.  She was a
good lass as lasses go, although never tractable--always stubborn.  An
unnatural way she had with her, too: she always wanted to be out on the
moors alone, and I used to tell Donald it would never come to any good.
She might have married well.  Willie Fearn, who owns a farm over the
moors here, would have had her, and he's worth thousands of pounds now,
is Willie.  But she would have nothing to say to him.  One day I saw a
stranger coming up the path with her, one of these handsome Southerners,
and they used to meet in secret, and I suppose he courted her.  Anyhow,
she ran away with him, or said she did, and then came back the next day
telling us that she was married."

"Yes?" said Paul eagerly.  He knew all this before, but it seemed to him
as though he was getting nearer the truth that he longed to learn.  "And
did she stay with you long?"

"Not long," replied the woman.  "You see----"  And a look almost of shame
came into her eyes.  "Well, she stayed as long as she dared."

"And have you heard what has become of her since?" he asked.

"We've heard that she died.  We've no proof of it, but we saw in the
papers a few weeks afterwards that a girl was found dead, and from the
description given of her we concluded that it was Jean."

"But did you not try and find out?" he asked.  "Surely your husband would
not be so callous towards his daughter?"

"My husband did what I told him," she said.  "Besides, the girl had
disgraced herself, and we did not want to be dragged into it.  Mind, I'm
not sure, after all, but what she was properly married, and it may be I
did wrong.  But there it is--she's dead."

"And did you hear anything more--have you ever heard anything more about
this young Southerner?"

"Well, we are not so sure about that," replied the woman.  "You see, I
never saw him but once before the time Jean said he married her, and so I
cannot swear to him anywhere.  But some time after Jean left a man came
here, and, in a roundabout way, he found out what we knew about her."

"And did you tell him she was dead?"

"I told him just what I've told you," replied the woman.

"And how did he take the news?" asked Paul.

"Oh, nothing particular," replied the woman.  "He just went on talking
about something else, but I believe that was a bit of make-up."

"Wasn't he a friend of the Grahams at a house called 'Highlands'?" asked
Paul presently.

"I believe there were some people called Graham at the time.  It is said
that they came there for their summer holidays, but they left before we
had guessed about Jean's trouble, and so we could never find out anything
about them."

"What kind of a man was he--I mean the one who came asking questions?"

"Oh, a middle-aged man, perhaps forty or fifty.  He had iron-grey
whiskers, and he was bald, I remember."

"And he was the only one who ever came making inquiries?" asked Paul.

"Yes, the only one."

Paul's hopes were dashed to the ground again.  Still, the man must have
had some reason for coming North; no one would come all the way from
England to make inquiries unless something of importance lay at the back
of it.

"What kind of questions did he ask?" continued the young man.

"It is a good many years since," replied the woman, "and I am afraid I
did not encourage him much.  But as far as I can call to mind now, he
asked how long since she had left, and whether anything had happened to
her."

"And did you tell him"--and Paul's voice was almost hoarse as he
spoke--"did you tell him of--of what you call her disgrace?"

"No," replied the woman harshly.  "I am not one of that kind.  Donald
Lindsay's name is a good one, and I'm proud of it myself.  Besides, I
thought she was dead, and so--well, I said nothing."

"And that is all you can tell me?"

"That is all."

From the little farmstead Paul went to "Highlands," but his visit seemed
in vain.  The people who occupied the house had lived there for some
twelve years, and they had bought it from an agent as a summer residence.
They had heard that the previous owner lived in Edinburgh, but they were
not sure.  They only knew he was in the habit of letting the house during
the summer months.

"Did you know the Grahams?" Paul asked.

"No.  I've heard they lived in England, in London, in fact, but we knew
nothing about them.  I have been told that they were a large family, and
came here during the three summer months, but that's twenty years ago
now, and so nothing is known."

"And they have not been here during your time?" asked Paul.

"No," was the reply.

And this was all he learnt.  He asked many questions, but the answers
were all vague and tentative.

From "Highlands" he went to Willie Fearn's farm.  He thought perhaps his
mother's one-time admirer might be able to give him some information, but
Willie Fearn was a dour Scotsman, who said he knew nothing.  When Paul
approached the subject of Willie's former relation to Jean Lindsay and
his hopes of making her his wife, the Scotsman set his lips firmly
together and refused to speak.  He admitted presently how he had heard
"that the lass had gut into sore trouble, and then went away and died.
But there's nae proof," he said, "there's nae proof.  And it's a warning
to Scotch lasses to have nothing to say to Southern strangers.  And Jean
was a good lass," he added confidentially, "and would have made a good
saving wife for a sober man with a little siller.  She had a grip of
doctrine, too.  She was well versed in the fundamentals and would have
made a good elder's wife.  But, ay, man, the tempter comes in many a
form, and it behoves us all to be very careful."

So far, Paul's visit to his mother's old home had been entirely without
result.  As far as he could see, he could make not one step forward.
Moreover, in spite of the looseness of thought concerning Scotch
marriage, he saw that there was a doubt as to whether the wedding was
legal or not.  But he had not finished yet.  He had from time to time
read such books as came in his way bearing upon Scotch law, and in one of
these was a definite statement that if a man and woman were known to take
each other as husband and wife, this was proof that their marriage was
legal.  So, remembering his mother's words, he made his way towards the
little inn where they had stayed on the night of their marriage.  He took
the road which she had told him of, and presently came to the spot where
she and Douglas Graham had taken each other as man and wife.  The woman
must have described the scene with great accuracy, for he recognised it
the moment he came to it.  The patch of lonely pine trees, the little
lake by which the road ran, the burn coming down the rocky valley, and
the great wild moorlands stretching away northward.  And they had stood
within the shade of the pine trees while the setting sun sent its rays of
light through the branches.  He believed he recognised the spot on which
they knelt when Douglas Graham prayed that their union might be blessed.
A shiver passed through him as he stood there, and he called to mind the
words they had spoken: "I, Douglas Graham, take thee, Jean Lindsay, to be
my wife, and I promise to be faithful to thee as long as I live."  In
spite of sad memories, it seemed like holy ground, and however the
marriage had appeared to the bridegroom, to him it was real and sacred.

It was late that night when he came to the inn near the Scottish border,
but the innkeeper welcomed him eagerly.  It had been a wet summer, and
they had had but few visitors.  Both the innkeeper and his wife,
therefore, were glad to see Paul, and were hoping he would spend some
days with them.  Both of them were Scotch people, although they had lived
for many years on the English side of the border.

"Have you kept this inn long?" asked Paul after supper.

"For more than thirty years," replied the man.  "When we came here first
it was very lonely, and there were few people who came.  Just a stopping
place it was for wagoners and that sort of people.  But now, both English
and Scotch people are realising that there's no lovelier part in the
whole of the British Isles.  That's why they come.  You see, there's many
associations around this neighbourhood too.  Tammy Carlisle was born and
reared not many miles from here.  And then, as you know, Gretna Green is
not very far away."

"But the days of Gretna Green are over?" suggested Paul.

"Ay," he replied.  "But not altogether.  We've had many a couple come to
us directly after their marriage, and I believe that lots of them have
just gone over the border for a Scotch marriage."

"By the way," asked Paul, "do you remember twenty-five years ago this
very month that a young man brought his wife here?  It was on the
twenty-ninth of August.  Think, now; do you remember it?"

"Ay, I think I do, but my wife has a better memory than I.  Meg!  Will
you come here?"

The old lady was keenly interested in Paul's questions.  "Why, of course,
Angus.  I've thought about them many a time since.  He was fair and she
was dark."

"That's it," said Paul eagerly.  "That's it."

"She had black een, I remember," said the woman.  "Een as black as sloes,
and her hair was like the sheen of a raven's wing.  And they did love
each other, too, I could see that."

"And did they sign any register or anything of that sort?" said Paul.
"Do you keep a register of your visitors?"

"Nay," said the woman.  "We kept no register then, but we do now.  People
came and went then, and we thought not so much of it.  All the same, they
did write something."

"Both of them?" asked Paul.

"Ay, both of them.  You see, I wasna so sure about them, and I wondered
whether it was a runaway match.  The lad introduced the lass as his wife,
but they seemed mighty nervous, and the lad had been here a few weeks
previously with some others, and I am sure he had nae thought of marrying
then."

"Did you say he wrote his name and she wrote hers?" asked Paul eagerly.

"You seem mighty interested," said the woman.  "One might think----  Ay,
now I look at your face again, ye remind of the lass.  Your eyes and hair
are as black as hers, and ye have the same kind of face, too.  It might
be that she was your mother."

"Think for a moment that she is my mother," said Paul.  "Let me see the
writing in the book."

The woman went to the bookcase by her side and took down an
encyclopaedia, and there, on the flyleaf, he saw the names, "Douglas
Graham, Jean Graham, August 29th, 18--."

"And they left the next day, didn't they?" asked Paul.

"Ay, they left the next day, and they looked as though they were going to
a funeral, both of them.  I wondered if they had quarrelled or something,
but they seemed so loving that that seemed impossible.  But I've thought
of them many a time since."

"Let me see," said Paul.  "This is on the English side of the border,
isn't it?"

"Ay," replied the woman.  "It is the English side."

On leaving the next day Paul made his way to the nearest town of
importance on the Scotch side, and was soon closeted with a lawyer.

"I am come to ask for information," said Paul.

The Scotsman looked at him keenly, and wondered how much he could charge
him.

"Maybe you are in trouble?" he said.

"No," replied Paul; "I'm not in trouble.  I only want information
concerning a matter of Scotch law."

"And there's no man north of the Tweed that knows more about Scotch law."
And the old lawyer stroked his chin thoughtfully.  "But what phase of
Scotch law are ye interested in?"

"Scotch marriage."

"Maybe you're thinking of getting wed?  If ye are, take the advice of a
man who has had to do with hundreds of weddings, and don't!  If there's
one thing for which I'm thankful to Providence, it is that I've always
been strong enough to resist the lasses.  Trouble came with the coming of
a woman into the world, and they have been at the heart of nine-tenths of
it ever since."

"No doubt your advice may be very wise," said Paul, "but it's not of that
I'm thinking now.  The question with me is what makes a Scotch marriage?"

"Nay, nay, man, don't try and sail as near to the rocks as ye can.  If ye
are going to wed, have the matter done publicly and openly."

"I'm not going to wed," said Paul.  "But this is what I want to know:
what is a Scotch marriage?"

"For the life of me, I can't tell you," he replied.  "But ye have some
case in your mind, I see.  Tell it."

"Well, supposing a man and woman took each other as husband and wife
according to the old ideas?"

"Ay, I follow," said the Scotsman.  "No kirk, no minister, no witnesses,
no anything?"

"Yes," said Paul.  "Would they be married?"

"Ay, they would.  But if one of them tried to back out, ye see,
difficulties come in.  In that case they would have to declare themselves
before someone that they were married."

"Well, then," continued Paul, "suppose they went to an inn that night and
the man called the woman his wife before the innkeeper and his wife?"

"Ah, then you have got something to go on," said the lawyer.  "That
certainly would clinch the nail.  Ye're thinking of property, I expect?"

"There's another question I want to ask," said Paul, not noticing the
query which the old Scotsman had interposed.  "Supposing that directly
they were married in Scotland they went to England, and the inn wherein
the man called the woman his wife was in England.  Would that make any
difference?"

The old Scotsman scratched his head.  "Ay, man," he said, "it might.  But
I'm no sure."

"Not even if both the man and the woman signed their names in a book that
they were married?"

"I'm no sure," repeated the lawyer.  "But I could find out for you, say,
for a matter of five pounds, and I would let you know.  But I would have
to write to Edinburgh and, it may be, have to consult many documents."

Paul could not get beyond this, and when, at the end of three days, he
returned to England, he felt that, although his visit to his mother's
home and the scenes associated with their marriage were extremely
interesting, he had made no real forward step.  One statement of the old
lawyer, however, remained in his memory, and he brooded over it during
his journey back to Brunford: "If ye could find the man," said the old
lawyer, "who took the lass to the inn on the English side of the border
and declared her to be his wife and signed his name in the book, I think
you would have such a hold on him, if ye faced him with these things,
that he couldna get out of it.  But beyond this I daurna go."

And so Paul felt he had moved forward in spite of himself.  Somehow the
marriage seemed more real, and he felt that he was nearer the day when
the shame which had so long rested upon his mother's life would be lifted.

No sooner had he reached Brunford, however, than these thoughts were
driven from his mind.  Rumours were in the air that the Government was
about to resign and that an election was imminent.

"Bolitho is coming to-morrow," said old Ezra Bradfield, the chairman of
the Workmen's League.  "And I hear he means to move heaven and earth to
keep you out of Parliament."

"And I mean to get in," said Paul grimly.



CHAPTER VII

THE FIGHT AND THE RESULT

A little later Brunford was wild with excitement.  It is true the
Government had not yet resigned, and as a consequence the General
Election was not yet upon them, but all felt that there was a crisis in
the political situation, and that the battle would be a very keen one
indeed.  Mr. Bolitho was spending all the time he possibly could in
Brunford, while Mary Bolitho had resumed her work of canvassing the
poorer streets.  More than once Paul, in going round the town, had seen
her, but she never looked toward him, and seemed to be utterly
regardless of his presence.  All the same, Paul felt sure she had seen
him, and her presence, even although she had become the fixed star of
his life, strengthened his determination to get the better of her
father in this fight.  So entirely did he devote himself to his
political work that, in the main, he left business matters to his
partner.

"Things are safe in your hands, Preston," he said, "and everything is
going smoothly.  Now I'm on this job I mean to win."

"I'd rather you'd stick to business, Paul," said Preston.  "We're
walking on slippery ground just now.  You know we've made our money by
a speciality, and it needs a lot of watching."

"Yes," said Paul.  "It was because we decided to specialise that we've
been so successful.  We discovered our secret and we've made the most
of it."

"Yes," urged the other, "but we've a lot of stuff in our warehouse just
now; as you know, we've kept it because we believed that prices would
go up.  If the prices were to go down now, we should be ruined."

"But they won't go down," said Paul; "they can't.  We've the monopoly
of it.  And when winter comes everybody will be buying it."

"I should feel safer," said Preston, "if you'd give more of your time
to it.  But there, I'll do my best, although I don't like the look on
Ned Wilson's face."

"Ned Wilson's face!" said Paul.  "What do you mean, lad?"

"I mean that yesterday he met me in the reading-room of the Mechanics'
Institute and he just laughed.  'How goes the speciality, Preston?' he
said.  'Is it a speciality?  Are you the only people who manufacture
it?'  And I didn't know what to say, Paul, for I know he hates us like
poison, while I believe he has a special grudge against you.  We can't
afford to play pranks, while Ned Wilson can."

But Paul paid little attention to this.  He had now fully embarked on
this political fight.  The town had to be canvassed.  Meetings had to
be addressed.  Committees had to be formed.  In fact, he had to devote
the whole of his time to the fight which had engrossed him completely.

The whole country was at that time agog with the expectation that the
Government would resign and that an election would be immediately upon
them, and Paul, being fully aware of this, had determined to leave
nothing to chance.  He had complete confidence in Preston's business
capacity, and felt that everything was safe.  Thus, when one day the
news flashed along a thousand wires that the Government had resigned
and that a General Election was upon them, he was glad he had given
himself heart and soul to this political struggle.  He did not know why
it was, but it seemed to him that upon it depended everything.  If he
could win in this fight, he was sure, although it would alienate Mary
Bolitho from him, it would also open up the way to their future
meetings.  It would enhance her respect for him.  He believed he read
her like a book.  She was ambitious even as he was, and she would scorn
the man who was easily beaten.  He felt his chances had improved; at
each meeting he addressed he became more confident and spoke with more
effect.  The inwardness of politics, too, possessed him more fully.
During his spare hours he had been reading the lives of eminent
politicians.  He called to mind those words of Disraeli: "Read no
history, nothing but biography, for that is life without theory."  He
had followed this advice, and in reading the life of great politicians
had laid hold of the history of the century.  Everything had been made
vivid to him, especially the struggles of the working classes.
Moreover, in studying the lives of great men, he had grasped the
principles on which they worked, and politics had become to him not a
mere abstraction, not a matter of expediency, but something concrete, a
great working philosophy.  This fact had enriched his speeches, and
thus it came about that when Mr. Bolitho read them, he discovered that
he was fighting not with an ignoramus, but with a man with a powerful
mind, a man who, given reasonable circumstances, would be bound to make
himself felt.

Mr. Bolitho, too, realised the force of what his daughter had said to
him; Paul was not a man to be easily beaten, and that, unless some
extraordinary events took place, he, Mr. Bolitho, would not be able to
gain the victory.  He discussed this matter long and seriously with Mr.
Wilson and his son Ned, and presently, when they were within a
fortnight of the polling day, he began to look serious indeed.  It is
true Mary Bolitho had won many votes and had removed much of the
personal prejudice that had been created against him; nevertheless, he
saw that Paul had gripped the town in a way which he was unable to do,
and because the young man had entered into the life and thoughts of the
people, he was able to express their feelings in a way not possible to
him.

"It would be the bitterest blow of my life if I failed," he said to
young Ned Wilson and his father one night, on their return from one of
their meetings.  "I should never dare to put my foot in Brunford again,
neither would Mary, if this young upstart got the better of us."

"Never fear!" said young Ned.  "I'll promise you he shall not win this
election, Mr. Bolitho."

A little later Mr. Wilson was called away to see someone, and Ned and
Mr. Bolitho were left together.

"You speak with great certainty, Ned," said Mr. Bolitho, who had come
to address the young manufacturer with great freedom.

"I do," replied Ned.  "Mr. Bolitho, I'm a plain man, may I say
something to you now?"

"Say what you will, my lad!"

"Well, then, I love your daughter, and I want to make her my wife.
Will you let me have her?"

"I don't know Mary's feelings about the matter," said Mr. Bolitho.

"But supposing you win this election, will you do your best for me?"
There was a kind of challenge in Ned's voice as he spoke.

"I'll promise not to oppose you, anyhow."

"No, that will not do," said Ned, and his voice became tremulous.
"Look here, this is a tremendous business to me.  I want you to
understand that life, happiness, everything depends upon my being able
to win Mary.  With her I feel I could do great things.  I could go into
Parliament myself, ay, and make a name too.  I'm not a fool, Mr.
Bolitho.  There are but few men who know more about Lancashire life
than I do, I am intimately acquainted with every detail of Lancashire
business, and although I ought not to say it, since I've been made a
partner in our firm, I have more than doubled our income.  I have a
great deal of power, Mr. Bolitho, too, more than you think; I could
cause you to lose this election, and I can make you win it."

"How?" asked the other.  His voice was keen and sharp.

"I will not tell you how," replied Ned.  "But I can make you win it.
Perhaps there's not another man but myself that can.  And you shall,
too, if you'll promise to do your best for me with Mary.  Is it a
bargain?"

Mr. Bolitho did not speak.  For the moment he was under great
excitement.  The fear that he would lose the seat had entered his
heart, and, as he had more than once said, the desire to win in
everything he undertook was a kind of passion with him.  He would do a
great deal, and give a great deal, to win this election, not because he
thought it would add much either to his fame or to his position, but
because the eagerness to be conqueror was almost like a disease.

"Come, now," repeated Ned.  "Is it a bargain?  If I win you this
election, will you do your best for me with Mary.  Of course, I don't
ask you to force her--she's not a girl to be forced--but will you do
your best?  Mind you, I love her like my own life, and I'll devote
every power I have to make her happy!"

"I'll say this," said Mr. Bolitho, still labouring under great
excitement, "I'll not oppose you, and if I can make the way easy for
you, I will--there!"

"Very well," cried Ned, with flashing eyes.  "That's a bargain, then.
You may regard the seat as safe!"

Within a week from that time there were strange rumours in Brunford.
It was said that the financial position of Stepaside and Preston was
not safe.  They were only rumours at first, and people paid little
attention to them, but they grew in volume, grew in directness of
statement.  Five days before the election Preston came to Paul with a
white face.  He looked as though he had spent a sleepless night.  "Look
here, Paul," he said.  "You must give up this political business!"

"Give it up!" said Paul.  "I cannot.  We are only five days from
polling, and I cannot spare a minute for anything else."

"I tell you you must give it up!" cried Preston.  "And even now you
must come and give me two hours right away!"

Paul shook his head.  "I've got to meet my committees, my canvassers.
I wouldn't lose this fight now for a thousand pounds."

"It means more than the loss of a thousand pounds, it means the loss of
everything!"

"Everything!"

"Yes, everything.  Look here, Paul, you know we've kept ourselves hard,
and we've overdrawn at the bank, because we felt sure our stuff was
going up.  Well, it hasn't gone up.  There's been a sudden drop in it!
Look here."  And he showed him that morning's newspaper.  Paul looked
at his watch.  "I must go to these committee meetings," he said.

"But you can't," urged Preston.  "I am not strong enough to deal with
these things.  Only you can get us out of this hole, and I doubt
whether it's not too late even now!  There's something at the bottom of
this, Paul, and you must go into it.  There's an enemy in the camp
somewhere.  There's no reason why our stuff should go down, the demand
for it is greater than ever, but somebody's underselling us.  Why, it
can't be manufactured at the price mentioned there."  And he pointed to
the paper.

"Very well," said Paul, "you go round to the committee-rooms and tell
them I can't be there to-day."

He went towards his office with a great fear in his heart.  Before the
day was out he realised the truth of Preston's words.  He found that,
unknown to them, someone else had gained the secret of the special
stuff that they had been manufacturing.  That, unknown to them, a large
amount of it had been placed upon the market, and placed upon it at
such a price that even if they sold every piece they manufactured they
would have to do so at a very great loss.  Indeed, it seemed to him as
though ruin stared him in the face!  He hurried from Brunford to
Manchester, then back again--he went from mill to mill, and had various
interviews with the most important people in the town, and everywhere
he was met with the same difficulty.

Still, he would not give up the political fight.  More than
money--honour, life were at stake, and he must carry the thing through.

Three days before the election every voter in the town received, not
merely their usual election literature, but an anonymous circular.  It
made no statements, but asked a series of questions concerning the
financial obligations of Messrs. Stepaside and Preston.  It showed the
most minute knowledge of all Paul's liabilities, of the work he had
undertaken, of the position in which he stood.  Before the day was out
there was not a voter in Brunford but who had read and discussed the
circular which had been sent.  No libellous statement had been made,
and yet a hundred things had been suggested--inability, carelessness,
ignorance, fraud, chicanery had all been hinted at, and hinted at
cleverly.  And yet no word of libel had been used, only the sting of
the circular lay in the tail, and it was contained in these words:
"Stepaside is the man that controls Stepaside and Preston.  Is he the
man whom we can trust to represent Brunford?"

A meeting of the general committee was called next night.  If anything
could be done, it must be done quickly.  No one knew who had issued
this circular--the name of the printer was not there.  It had come by
post from London.  Who had sent it no one could tell.  But here was the
fact--its contents were of the most damning nature.  It hinted that
Paul was on the verge of bankruptcy, and that he owed his position to
wild speculation, if not to fraudulent dealings.  Paul's face was pale
when he met the committee.  "I want to face this matter fairly,
gentlemen," he said.  "You know that it was under pressure that I
consented to fight for the seat, and to represent your interests.  I
did so in good faith.  I believed my business was on a sound basis;
nevertheless, many things in the circular are true."  He then went on
to tell how he stood commercially.  He described his position in terms
with which his hearers were familiar, but which I need not try and
reproduce here.  Indeed, it will be well that I should not, because the
matter is still discussed in the town of Brunford.  But he had no
difficulty in convincing all present that he had acted honourably, and
that an enemy had been at work.  Still, what was he to do?  He could
not deny the statements made, and it was, doubtless, a fact that he
stood on the verge of ruin.  His supporters, moreover, were mainly of
the working class, and the rich men, the employers, were supporters of
Mr. Bolitho.  Besides, as was natural, the bank which had backed him
was anxious concerning the whole matter.

"The question is," said Paul, "what do you wish me to do?  Shall I
resign, now at the eleventh hour?  If I do, it will be a sign of
weakness.  It will be a confession that every word in this circular is
true.  It will proclaim the fact that I am afraid to face the future."

"Can'st a face the future, Paul?" asked one.

"I believe I can," he said, "and yet it is so uncertain that I feel I
must place myself in your hands."

"And let t'other side beat us?" cried an old weaver.  "Nay, nay, Paul.
We mun fight to the end!"

This was unanimously agreed upon, but Paul knew that a deadly blow had
been struck, struck by an unseen hand, and in such a way that he had no
means of parrying it.  He knew, too, that nothing was so fickle as
popular favour.  A fortnight before, a week before, he felt sure of a
clear thousand majority, but he knew that there were thousands in
Brunford who would be influenced by what they had been discussing, and
would as likely as not turn against him.  Still, now that his committee
had resolved to fight to the end, he determined he would not fail them,
and during the next few days he threw himself into the fray with
renewed ardour.  He seemed to do ten men's work, and although the
clouds hung heavily over his head, he roused his meetings to tremendous
enthusiasm.  At factory gates, at crossroads, in the market square and
in the public halls, he proclaimed his views, and did his best to
answer the thousand insulting queries which were constantly flung at
him.  But he fought as one who despaired.  He knew he was fighting a
losing battle, and even although there was ever a ring of defiance in
his voice, there was never a note of victory.

At length the polling-day came, and he watched the course of events
eagerly.  Up to now he had never once come into personal contact with
Mr. Bolitho.  Perhaps he had studiously avoided meeting his opponent,
and certainly Mr. Bolitho had not been anxious to meet him.  They had
passed each other in the streets, but neither had taken notice of the
other, and Paul had never once made reference to the treatment he had
received at the barrister's hands years before.  Let this be said, too,
as far as Mr. Bolitho was concerned, he had never, at any of his
meetings, referred to the circular which had created such commotion.
Whether he had kept silent as a matter of policy, or because he felt it
would have been striking below the belt to do so, I cannot say, but
certain it is that neither in public nor in private had he ever been
known to pass any opinion on the crisis through which Paul was passing.

The polling booths closed at eight o'clock on the fourteenth of
December, and then crowds moved towards the town hall, where the voting
papers were to be counted.  It had been announced that the figures
would be known soon after eleven o'clock, and thousands of people
waited outside the huge building, wondering as to the result of the
day's voting.  Of course, Paul and some of his supporters were in the
counting chamber, and Paul noticed that Mr. Bolitho passed from table
to table, talking eagerly with his friends.  Evidently the voting was
very close.  The little heaps of voting papers were placed along the
table, and it seemed as though neither had the advantage.  More than
once Paul was within a foot of his opponent, but neither spoke a word.
It seemed as though something sealed their lips.  There was something
more than parties that divided them--something deeper, something
personal, something that went down to the roots of life.

At length a hush came over the counting chamber.  The last of the
voting papers had been taken from the boxes, and the little piles of
fifty were duly placed and counted.  The mayor of the town was at his
post, looking very pale and important.  A half-sheet of paper was in
his hand.  "Gentlemen," he said, "I am now prepared to make known the
results of the day's voting.  It's been a very close fight, and there
are less than two hundred votes in it."  He did not know whether he was
using the correct words or not.  In fact he did not care.  He was,
perhaps, the most excited man in the room, not even excepting the two
candidates.  "It is as follows," he went on.  "Bolitho----"  He went no
farther, for there was a great shout throughout the chamber.  The
employers looked at each other with gladness and satisfaction--their
side had won!  The working-men element looked grim and defiant.

"Silence!" proceeded the mayor.  "Bolitho, 7,213; Stepaside, 7,080.  It
is my duty to declare that Mr. Bolitho is elected."

For the first time Mr. Bolitho turned towards Paul, and the young man
noticed the look of triumph in his face.  "You see, we've won!" he
said.  "In spite of everything, we've won!"

It was not the words so much, but the tone of his voice that maddened
Paul.  Throughout the day he had been in a state of intense excitement.
It seemed to him as though his nerves were raw, and he knew that he was
on the point of a breakdown.  Bolitho's tones, therefore, maddened him,
and he was almost beside himself.  "Yes, you have won," he said.  "But
how?"

"How?" laughed the other, and he was ashamed of himself for speaking
the words, but he, too, was strangely wrought upon.  "How?  By honour
and fair play!"

"Gentlemen," said the mayor, "I must announce the numbers to the crowd
outside.  There are thousands of people who have been waiting for hours
to know the results, and they will not go away until they hear them.
Of course, too, they will expect a few words from Mr. Bolitho and Mr.
Stepaside."

It took some minute or two to make the arrangements for this, and Paul,
smarting under the sting of what his opponent had said, burst forth,
"Honour and fair play!  Was it honour and fair play to besmear my
mother's name, to throw reflections upon my birth?  Was it honour and
fair play to speak of me as an atheist?  Was it honour and fair play to
send out a circular, unsigned and untraceable, which threw out
innuendoes about my financial position?  And, more than all, was it
honour and fair play to seek to ruin me?"

"I never once referred to the circular!" replied Mr. Bolitho.

"You never condemned it!" cried the young man.  "You allowed the poison
to work, and took advantage of it!  And more than that, you know as
well as I that the whole thing was arranged for.  In order to win this
election, you stopped at nothing, even my ruin!"

Paul had barely ceased speaking when he saw that Mary Bolitho stood
immediately behind her father and had heard all he said.  He saw, too,
that Mr. Bolitho's face had become pale as ashes, and he felt sure that
his words had wounded him.

"I did nothing to ruin you," he said at length.

"But were glad when you heard of it!" replied the young man.  "And you
did not hesitate to drag in the religious business.  That, at all
events, you cannot deny!"

At this the older man's face cleared, except that the mocking smile
remained on his lips.

"That, of course, was inevitable," he replied.  "We had to deal with
the question of education, of religious education.  How could I keep,
then, from dealing with personal matters?  You believe in a mere
secular education, and proclaim your views with no uncertain voice.  I,
who am convinced that a mere secular education would ruin the country,
had to oppose you, and had to deal with your personal attitude to the
whole matter.  You cannot deny that!  Have the courage of your
convictions, man, and stand by them!"  And Paul noted the taunt in his
voice.

"I have!" he replied.  "I deny nothing of what I have said, and your
attitude has made me believe less in your religion than ever.
Why"--and his voice became tense and bitter--"I'm willing to allow my
religion to be tested by this election.  I have not uttered one wrong
word about you.  I have done nothing to defame your character, in spite
of what has passed.  And yet you have sneered at my 'ignorant atheism
and blatant unbelief.'  Is that religion?  Is that playing the game?
You, who profess to be a gentleman!  You, who have had all the
advantages of education!  You, who boast of playing the game, and not
fouling the pitch!  Even if you have not openly said these things, you
have allowed your supporters to blacken my mother's name.  You have
used foul gossip as a weapon with which to fight.  You have allowed a
devilish circular to be sent out, and never condemned it.  And you have
been willing to benefit by the attempts to ruin me!"

Paul watched Mary Bolitho's face as he spoke, and he noted the
vindictive anger in her eyes, he knew that he was alienating himself
more completely from her by the words he used.  But he did not care; he
was past caring!  The election was lost.  He had failed in the fight.
The woman he loved and hated at the same time scorned him more than
ever--and ruin stared him in the face!

Mr. Bolitho shrugged his shoulders.  He had been too long before the
public to heed attacks of this sort.  He had been hardened by many a
fight in the law courts, and he knew how little such words might mean.
Besides, he was naturally in a good humour.  He had won the fight.  He
was Member for Brunford.

"Do not let us dwell on personalities, Mr. Stepaside!" he said.  "After
all, it's the principles of our party which have won.  You have fought
a good fight"--and his voice became very condescending as he
spoke--"but truth and right were too strong for you, and the country is
turning against you."

"Come, gentlemen," said the mayor.  "We are all ready."  And with that
he stepped through the window on to the balcony above the entrance to
the town hall, while the opponents and their supporters followed.  The
whole of the street outside the town hall was brilliantly lit by
torches, and by the street lamps, so that the eager, upturned faces of
the thousands who surged between the steps of Hanover Chapel and those
of the town hall could be plainly seen.  Directly they saw the mayor
the people gave a great shout, and then a silence followed like the
silence of death.

"Gentlemen," said the mayor, "I am here to announce the results of the
election.  They are as follows: Bolitho-----"  At that word a roar from
the people seemed to rend the heavens.  With some it was a shout of
victory, with others it was a cry of defeat and anger.  It was easy to
see the excitement on their faces.  One could even tell what they were
saying, so vivid was the light which fell upon them.  "Bolitho's in,
good!"  "Stepaside is out, it's a shame!"  "It's noan been a fair
fight!"  "We mun 'a' a petition!"  "Nay, nay, it's no use now!"  And so
on.  Only those close to the balcony heard the figures.  The noise of
the crowd made it impossible for the people standing near Hanover
Chapel gates to bear a word which the chief magistrate had uttered.

Presently, however, a great hush came over the crowd again.  The people
saw Mr. Bolitho step forward, but only one sentence was heard,
"Gentlemen," he said, "we have fought a good fight, and we have won
it!"  Of course, his supporters shouted wildly, but the cries of
antagonism were stronger.  Voices became more and more angry.  It might
seem as though a riot were possible.

Mr. Bolitho, however, continued his speech, which, although the people
in the street could not hear, was plain to those who stood on the
balcony.  He thanked the people for supporting him.  He remarked that
he had come there a stranger, and was now their friend.  He declared
that his duty was no longer to a part but the whole of the voters, that
he should recognise no difference between one section of the people and
another.  It was for him to represent the town as a whole, which he
intended to do faithfully and loyally.  He desired, also, to compliment
his opponent on the spirit in which he had conducted his part of the
battle, and for the straight fight which had been the consequence.  He
referred to a few of his most prominent supporters, and then, raising
his voice so loudly that it reached to the extreme limits of the crowd,
he said: "It may seem bad taste on my part to refer to one without whom
I should never have won this election."  At this even the most
turbulent became silent again, they wanted to hear what he had to say.
"I owe my victory," he said, "and you owe your victory, to my daughter,
Mary."  And placing his hand upon her shoulder, he drew her forward.
"Here!" he cried, "is your real victor in the battle!"

There was great cheering at this, and even his bitterest opponents did
not resent it.  The light fell strongly upon the girl's face, and even
Paul could not help reflecting how beautiful she looked.  Her eyes were
flashing with excitement, her lips wreathed with smiles.  No wonder she
had fascinated him, no wonder, in spite of the fact that he hated her
father, he almost worshipped her, even while he hated her.

"Speech, speech!" yelled the crowd.  "Speech from Miss Mary Bolitho!"

She looked at her father, who nodded, and then the girl stepped
forward, while every ear was strained so as not to miss a word she
should say.  It was a picture long to be remembered.  Even to this day
it is talked about in Brunford.  She only spoke a few words, but her
voice rang out clearly in the still air.

"I am glad I ever came to Brunford," she said.  "I have learnt to love
the people, and--thank you!"

That was all, but the laugh on her face, the laugh in her voice, her
girlish presence, her winsome manner had done a great deal to soften
the hardest heart.  Indeed, many believed that she had kept thousands
from angry words, and perhaps from angry deeds, by her presence.

"Ay, but oo is bonnie!"  "No wonder her feyther is proud on her!"  "A
gradely lass and a'!" was heard everywhere.  And then a silence fell
upon the crowd again, which was followed by another mighty shout,
louder than any which had yet been heard.

Paul Stepaside came forward, his face pale to the lips, his eyes
burning like coals of fire.  Black rage was in his heart, for he felt
himself to be ignominiously beaten, and yet, with that stubborn
persistency which characterised him, and a pride which rose above
everything, he would not show it.  "My good friends and comrades," he
said, "we've been beaten this time, but we'll win yet.  If you will
have me, I mean to be Member for Brunford, in spite of everything.  Mr.
Bolitho has won this time, but it will not be for long.  He and I will
meet again, for I'm not one who gives up.  For the moment I'm under a
cloud, but only for a moment.  The stars in their courses are on the
side of those who are on the side of right.  And we are on the right,
and I've fought a straight battle.  Yes, Mr. Bolitho and I will meet
again--it may be under circumstances different from these, but we shall
surely meet, and always to fight!  He must not think, because he has
gained this victory, that he will always be victorious.  If I'm not
your Member to-day, I will be to-morrow.  And the time will come when
he will not rejoice in the victory to-day as he has rejoiced in it
to-night!"

Afterwards Paul was angry with himself that he had said this.  He had
meant to utter no vindictive word, and yet he knew that every sentence
he uttered contained a threat, a threat which at that time seemed to
him to have no meaning.  He felt ashamed of himself, too, and it seemed
to him on reflection that he had been churlish even almost to
childishness.  And yet the words came to him in spite of himself, and
he had flung them out eagerly, almost triumphantly.  Even Mr. Bolitho
felt a shiver pass through his body as Paul spoke.  His speech seemed
to contain a kind of prophecy.  There was something ominous about it.
It seemed to tell of dark days to come, of tragedy--why, he could not
understand, but so it was.

It was all over at length.  The crowd broke up and wended their way
towards their various homes.  Mr. Bolitho went to the club, supported
by his followers, while Paul also resorted to the gathering-place most
frequently used by the class whose cause he had hoped to represent.
For hours there was speechifying and loud talking.  For hours words
were bandied, explanations offered, and threats made.  At length,
however, silence reigned in the town; and Paul was about to find his
way back to his lodgings, when his partner, George Preston, came to
him, accompanied by a man whom they had employed to try and find out
the secret cause of the ruin which stared them in the face.

"Paul," said Preston, "you've finished now.  Can I go with you to your
lodgings?"

"Yes," replied Paul.  "What is it?"

"Something that will keep till we are alone," replied the young man
laconically.  "On the whole, I'm glad we didn't know two days ago what
I know now.  It's best as it is, Paul.  I can see you are terribly
disappointed at not getting in, but, for my part, I'm glad.  After all,
business, with me, is more than politics.  You should have waited, lad,
waited till our position was safe, before you started this fight.
Still, you couldn't help it.  It was not your fault that the election
came on this year instead of next, and the chaps meant to have you."

"But tell me, what is it?" asked Paul.  His mind had become so confused
by the scenes of excitement through which he had passed that he could
not realise the drift of his partner's words.

"No," replied the other sternly; "let's wait until we get to your
lodgings.  We must be alone.  I tell you, if you knew what you'll know
now, when you were speaking from the balcony, there would have been a
row.  But, never mind, it's best as it is."

They walked on through the narrow, comparatively deserted streets,
until presently they arrived at a comfortable-looking house in the
Liverpool Road, where Paul's rooms were now situated.

"Now, then, tell me," said the young man, when they were seated.

"Is everybody here gone to bed?" asked Standring, the man who had
accompanied them, but who had not yet spoken.

"Hours since," replied Paul.  "No election ever fought would keep them
out of bed after eleven o'clock."

"That's well."  And he took out a bundle of papers from his pocket and
laid them on the table.

"You don't expect me to read them to-night?" said Paul.  "I tell you, I
couldn't.  My brain's too fagged."

"No," replied Standring, "they need not be read tonight, but I put them
there in case you should want to refer to them.  They are proofs of
what I'm going to tell you."  Paul noted that this young fellow's voice
was set and stern; he realised that the matter he wished to discuss was
serious.  He was a pale-faced, quiet-looking young fellow, this Enoch
Standring, not given to talking much, or to assert himself to any great
degree.  Up to a year before he had been a book-keeper in one of the
mills, and Paul, recognising in him what others had failed to see, had
given him a position of trust in his own employ.  Directly the circular
to which I have referred was sent out to the voters of Brunford, Paul
had instructed him to discover what it meant and who was the man who
was responsible for it.  Enoch Standring had something of the
sleuthhound in his nature.  For three days and nights he had worked.
Almost without sleep, and with but little food, he had laboured
quietly, unobtrusively, never arousing suspicions, but always
effectively.  And now he was prepared to give the result of that work.

"You must cast your mind back a bit, Mr. Stepaside," he said, "and then
ask yourself one thing.  Is there anyone in Brunford who has a grudge
against you?"

"Yes," said Paul.  "It's known, is that grudge.  It is well known that
several years ago Ned Wilson and I had a quarrel which neither of us
have forgotten."

"Yes," said Enoch, "and remember what's happened since.  There was a
riot, and you were dragged into it in spite of yourself."

"I know," said Paul.  "But surely you don't mean----"

"I mean nothing," replied Standring.  "I only ask you to bear it in
mind.  You were dragged into it in spite of yourself.  Although you
tried to dissuade the chaps who were engaged in it from doing anything
rash, it seemed as though you were the ringleader.  For that you were
sent to Strangeways Gaol for six months.  Who employed Bolitho for the
prosecution?  I needn't go into particulars about it; but that's one
fact.  Then there's something else.  When you came out, you decided to
start manufacturing, and you got the promise of a factory, with some
looms and power, cheap.  Then, without any reason, you were told you
couldn't have it.  Somebody else got it.  Who got it?  We know.  I make
no comment, but there it is.  Presently the election came on, and nasty
stories got to be afloat about your birth and parentage.  It was
whispered about that you were a come-by-chance child, and your mother
was a bad woman.  Who was responsible for that?  We don't know, or, at
least, we can't prove; but, put two and two together.  In spite of
everything you began to gain ground.  People began to support you, and
it looked very bad for the other side.  You know that; everyone knows
it.  And then came this other affair.  You didn't know that anyone else
was manufacturing what you manufactured.  You thought it was your
secret; but the secret leaked out.  I don't say who betrayed you, but
there it is.  But this I've found out: an old, disused mill was taken
the other side of Manchester.  Who took it?  The name of the owner was
kept quiet.  It was said to be run by a little private company.  That
was some time ago now, and ever since that mill was taken there's been
a kind of secret as to who owned it.  But I've discovered this: they
manufactured the same stuff that you manufacture.  But they did not try
to sell it.  They kept piling it up in their warehouses.  Can you see
the meaning of this?  It was kept quiet, mind; as quiet as death.
Nobody seemed to know the stuff they were turning out.  Then suddenly
that stuff was pushed on the market at a price which left no margin for
profits; nay, they offered it at a price less, far less, than you can
manufacture it for.  For months they had been piling it up in the
warehouses, and they were able to flood the market.  Now you know why
the prices went down, and why you could not sell your stuff except at a
ruinous loss!"

Paul listened to the young man with pale face and set features.  He
spoke no word, but it was easy to see that he grasped every detail
which the young man mentioned.  He saw the purport of his words too.

"I see," he said quietly.  "And have you found out who the owner of
that factory is?"

"Yes," replied Enoch Standring, "I have found out."

"Ned Wilson, of course," said Paul.

"Ay," replied the other laconically.

"And you have proofs?"

"Yes, I have proofs.  They are all here docketed and numbered.  I will
go into them whenever you're ready.  They are all there."

For a few seconds a silence fell upon them, and both Enoch Standring
and George Preston watched Paul's face eagerly.  They were wondering
what he was thinking.  Standring felt sure that he was planning some
scheme of revenge.

"I'll be even with him for this!" said Paul presently.

Neither of them answered.  They felt it was no use talking.

"But," continued Paul, "I can hardly see through it.  Ned Wilson is a
man capable of the riots trick.  That's just the kind of thing he would
do, but is he the man to lose money in order to satisfy his hatred?"

"Yes," said Standring, "the kind of hatred he has towards you.  You
see, he's a deeper chap than you think, is Ned Wilson.  I've known him
from a boy.  He would carry a grudge for years.  But he's been a chap
who's always been noted for paying off old scores, and he's paid you
off."

"You've not told me all yet, Standring," said Paul.  "Ned Wilson had
other motives than that of paying off an old score.  I see--I see!"
And he clenched his fists angrily.  "Why didn't I see it before?  Yes,
that's it."

"What's it?" asked Preston.

"Never mind what it is; but I see it plainly.  Yes, I understand, and
he shall rue it."

For an hour they discussed the matter, and then, when presently the
others had left him, Paul sat alone thinking.  It seemed to him as
though the day marked an epoch in his history.  It was an end and it
was a beginning.  For hours he lay in his bed, sleepless.  He was
thinking of his plans for the future, thinking of the work he had to do.

The next morning he was up betimes.  His mind was made up, for he saw
his way clearly now.  Knowing the enemy he had to fight, he selected
the weapons that he must use, and he was no longer afraid.  He went
quietly to his mill, and for hours studied his position.  After that he
went to the bank and had a long talk with the manager.  Then he paid a
visit to an old manufacturer who had retired, and who had shown great
friendliness towards him.  After that his face cleared somewhat.  The
crisis was over, at least for a time.  He would have six weeks in which
to move, and in six weeks he believed that the complexion of everything
would be changed.

"No," he said to himself, "it will not be ruin.  I know my man.  If I
make no sign Ned Wilson is not the man who will continue to lose money
for me.  He thinks I'm ruined, and so he will take this opportunity of
making his pile.  He thinks he has a corner in this particular stuff.
Well, he hasn't, and this will be my opportunity."

He was some little distance from Brunford as these thoughts passed
through his mind.  Old Abel Bowyer to whom he had gone, lived some
three miles from the town and he was returning from his house now.
Indeed he was entering the footpath where he had met Mary Bolitho long
months before, and he had only gone a short distance when he saw her
coming towards him.



CHAPTER VIII

THE COMING OF PAUL'S MOTHER

Mary Bolitho had returned to Howden Clough on the night of the
election, her heart filled with conflicting emotions.  Naturally, she
had rejoiced in her father's election.  No one had worked harder than
she, and she felt that her father had not spoken untruthfully when he
said that she had been largely responsible for his election.  She had
thrown herself eagerly into the work of gaining voters, and she knew
she had been supremely successful.  During the last three weeks a list
of names had been given to her almost daily of those who seemed
doubtful and undecided, and she had gone to them, and where others had
failed she had secured their promises.  She was naturally, therefore,
elated at the result.  The margin was so narrow that, but for her, both
she and her father would have left the town feeling that the enemy had
triumphed.

But she was not altogether satisfied.  For one thing, she felt
uncomfortable at the long stay she had been making at Howden Clough.
Again and again she had spoken to her father, asking him to take rooms
at an hotel, but Mr. Bolitho had persisted that it would offend the
Wilsons deeply, and that he knew of no sufficient reason for acting
upon her suggestion.

"What excuse can I give, Mary?" he said.  "It was understood from the
beginning that I was to make Howden Clough my home during our visits
here.  They have become personal friends of ours, and not only should
we wound them by going to an hotel, but at this stage of the business
we should cause a great deal of gossip."

Though yielding to her father's wishes, however, she was far from
satisfied.  It seemed to her that Ned Wilson looked on her with an air
of proprietorship.  He did not say this in so many words, but she
couldn't help seeing what his thoughts and determinations were.  Not
that she disliked Ned--indeed, she had become more and more favourably
impressed by him.  He had more brains than she imagined, too, and had
given evidence that, from the standpoint of business, he was thoroughly
versed in the questions at issue.  He had thrown himself with
tremendous ardour into the fight, and had spared himself in no way in
order to win the election, and yet she was not satisfied.  There seemed
something at the back of everything which she could not understand.
She had seen the circular referred to in the last chapter, and, in
spite of the explanations which had been made, could not help feeling
that the sending out of this same circular was unfair and even base.
Everyone at Howden Clough professed ignorance concerning it, and there
were many surmises as to who was responsible for it.  The printer's
name did not appear, and it was sent from London.  That of itself
looked to her very suspicious.  But more than this, she could not
understand Ned Wilson's behaviour.  She had discussed with him who had
been guilty of it, and while he, like the rest, professed to know
nothing, he did not appear to be at all at ease.

"But is Mr. Stepaside on the brink of ruin, as is suggested here?  And
will he not be able to pay his debts?" she asked.

"Oh, I daresay it's true," cried Ned.  "You see, the fellow is a
bounder.  He started manufacturing on practically nothing, not knowing
very much about it.  That's why he's got into this hole.  You see, he's
no conscience, and his ambition oversteps everything.  You should have
heard him last Sunday morning haranguing his followers, as I was coming
home from church.  You would realise, then, what kind of a fellow he
is--just a blank, blatant atheist, and, as your father has always
maintained, a man who has given up faith in religion is very doubtful
as to his morals."

"Then, you mean he'll become a bankrupt?"

"Most likely," replied Ned.  "And serve him right, too.  He's only
himself to blame.  But what worries me is not that he will most likely
be a bankrupt, but the sufferings of the people to whom he owes money."

Mary was naturally impressed by this conversation.  While she regarded
Paul Stepaside with a certain amount of admiration because of his
strong personality and the position he had, in spite of difficulties,
obtained in Brunford, she had a certain horror of his irreligion and
his apparent vindictiveness.  She recalled the words he had spoken to
her on the two occasions on which they had met, words which revealed
the passionate nature of the man.  She was sorry she had spoken to him
at all.  She ought to have treated him with the scorn and contempt he
deserved.  After all, what had she to do with a Lancashire operative
who, because he was possessed of a kind of vulgar aggressiveness, had
become an employer of labour?

The scene in the chamber where the votes were counted, however,
strengthened the uncomfortable feelings which had hitherto possessed
her.  He had openly accused her father of encouraging means which he
regarded as disgraceful.  He had declared that Mr. Bolitho had used
these methods by which to destroy him.  Of course, she could not help
being offended, if not angry, at Paul Stepaside's demeanour and at his
almost savage attack.  She reflected that he was guilty of the conduct
of a clown, and attributed it not only to his own savagery, but to the
instincts of his class.  And yet she was impressed by his strength.
She almost admired him, as he savagely proclaimed the fact that he
would yet be Member for Brunford.  She felt his strength, too, and saw
how he moved the multitude.  Yes, in spite of everything, he was a
strong man, and she loved strength.  He had the instincts of a leader,
and she admired men who could lead.  And he was right, too--he was not
crushed, although he was beaten, and he would fight again.

She was very silent at Howden Clough when they all returned from the
gathering at the club.  Everyone was jubilant except her, and although
she was interested in all that was said, there was a strange feeling at
her heart which she could not understand.  She had a kind of fear, too,
that Ned Wilson was on the point of making an avowal of his love, and
for that reason she had determined that nothing should keep her from
leaving Brunford on the morrow.  Her father, however, had arranged to
stay in the town until late in the afternoon, and she must perforce
stay with him.  But she determined to be alone, and that was why she
found herself out in the fields at the back of Howden Clough when Paul
was returning from his visit to old Abel Bowyer.  She did not mean to
speak to him, and yet she instinctively walked more slowly as he
approached.  In spite of herself, too, she found herself admiring him.
He gave no suggestion of a beaten man.  His step was firm and quick,
and he walked almost like a victor.

Paul, scarcely knowing what he was doing, lifted his hat as he came
close to her.  "Miss Bolitho," he said, "will you convey a message to
your father from me?"

She had meant to pass by without speaking, but the manner in which he
addressed her made this impossible.

"If you wish to send a message to my father," she answered, "would it
not be well for you to write to him?  Good afternoon."  And she moved
as if to pass on.

"No," replied Paul quietly.  "I want you to take a message direct from
me, and doubtless he will tell Wilson.  Please inform him that I have
discovered the author of the circular which was sent broadcast during
the election, and that I have proofs of the plot to ruin me.  Doubtless
he will be interested."

Without another word he passed on.  A little later, Mary Bolitho left
Brunford with her father.  A fairly large crowd gathered at the
Brunford station to see them off, and there were all sorts of shouting
and congratulations; but Mary was very silent, and during the whole of
the journey to Manchester she scarcely spoke a word.  She said nothing
of her meeting with Paul that day.  It seemed to her that something had
closed her lips.  She knew not why.  One thing, however, gave her a
feeling of gratification--she had made it impossible for Wilson to make
his declaration of love.  She knew she had only put it off for a time,
and she dreaded the evil day.

Meanwhile, she was glad that he had not spoken to her, for Mary knew
that if she accepted him, she would do so largely, if not altogether,
at the wish of her father.  For some reason or other Ned Wilson and he
had become exceedingly friendly, and she believed, although her father
had said nothing definite to her about it, that he favoured Ned's suit.
And she loved her father with a great love, and would not, if she could
help it, do anything to displease him.  For Mary belonged to those who
were held fast by old-fashioned views concerning the obedience due from
children to their parents.  In this respect she was a child of a past
generation.  She had a horror of anything like the modern woman
movement, and did not claim that so-called emancipation by which they
give up their superiority to men, in order to become their equals.

She determined, too, that she would go away on a long visit to a
friend, giving as an excuse to her father that she was overwrought by
the election and needed a rest.  In this way she thought she would, for
a time at all events, postpone the day of decision in relation to the
suit which she knew Ned Wilson was longing to urge.

In a few days the excitement of the election had calmed down at
Brunford.  The jubilation of the victors spent itself, as did the
disappointment of those who were vanquished.  Bolitho was elected and
Paul Stepaside didn't get in.  And that, for the time being, was the
end of it.

Meanwhile, Paul went on with his work silently, doggedly.  His affairs
were in a critical condition, and he needed all his energy and all his
wits to put everything right.  He no longer fought in the dark,
however.  He knew who and what had brought about the crisis which had
faced him, and Paul was a man of many resources.  For more than a month
he had only been able to give half his mind to his business, and George
Preston, while a trustworthy and reliable fellow, was not strong enough
to face the problems which lay before them.  Freed from the demands of
the political contest, however, he threw his whole energies into the
disentanglement of his affairs, and little by little he succeeded.  The
prices for the stuff which he had been manufacturing went up again, and
although they had not reached the figures of a few months before, he
was able to sell enough to help him to meet his most pressing
creditors.  In three months, matters had assumed their normal
condition.  Evidently Ned Wilson regarded him as no longer dangerous,
and was not prepared to lose more money to bring about his revenge.  In
addition to this, Paul had worked in a way whereby Wilson had been
deceived.  Mind for mind, Wilson was no match for him.  He was not so
far-seeing, neither had he so broad a grasp of affairs.  He had been
able to gain an immediate advantage because of his large capital, and
Paul knew that Wilson's father was too fond of money to consent to
heavy and continuous losses.  At the end of six months Paul's position
was pretty well assured.  In spite of everything he had overcome the
evil circumstances, and, more than that, he had even used what seemed a
disaster to the furtherance of his own ends.

All this time he had not been unmindful of the great quest of his life.
He never forgot, even when the fight was at the highest, the loneliness
of his mother's life and the shadow that rested upon her.  Indeed he
had, from the time of his returning from Scotland, made constant and
continuous efforts to discover the man who had blackened her name.  All
his efforts, however, were unavailing.  Every road seemed to be a
cul-de-sac.  Either Douglas Graham had given his mother a false name or
else he had left the country, and thus made it impossible for him to
find him; or he might be dead--it was quite possible.  During the lapse
of twenty-five years anything might happen.  Still, he had a feeling
that his father was alive, and he owed it to his mother, he owed it to
himself, to penetrate the mystery.  Why he should connect Mary Bolitho
with all this he did not know; nevertheless, it was a fact that her
face was never missing from the picture which he drew of the future.
Somehow she was always connected with the efforts he was making.  Often
he dreamed of the time when he would be able to get her and say, "My
name is as honourable as yours, as free from stain as yours.  I have
found my father."  But the months went by and his search was
unavailing, and the questions he was constantly asking were never
answered.

He had never seen his mother since the day he left her on the Altarnun
Moors.  More than once he had suggested that she should come and live
with him, but she had refused.  Frequently, too, when writing to her,
he had asked her whether he might come and see her, but she had
persistently opposed this.  "No, Paul," she said.  "Your coming would
only lead to questions.  Here I am allowed to bury my secret in my own
heart, and while my life is lonely enough, I can bear it until the day
when justice is done to me."

At length, however, Paul could bear it no longer.


"MOTHER (he wrote),--I am now what you would call a rich man.  I have
more money than I need to spend, and I cannot bear that you should be
living away in that lonely farmhouse.  You say you are treated more
like a housekeeper than a servant, more like a member of the family
than a stranger, but that's not enough for me.  You are my mother, and,
although I know little of you, I love you dearly.  Besides, I am very
lonely.  I have but few friends, neither do I wish to make any, but I
want you to come to me, mother.  If you can keep house for that farmer,
you can keep house for me.  And I want to see you constantly.  I want
you by my side.  I want you to be here to bid me 'Good-morning' when I
go out to my work and welcome me when I come home at night.  I want a
home of my own, and I want my mother to be at the head of it.  You must
do this, mother.  I have my eye now upon an old-fashioned house just
outside Brunford.  It is hidden from the town, and was at one time, I
suppose, owned by a sort of yeoman.  It has a large garden, and there
are old trees round it, and that, I can assure you, is something to be
desired here, in a town where there are few gardens and where the trees
grow with difficulty.  It will give me joy to furnish this home for
you, mother, and to make your life one of ease.  Besides, I want your
help.  Ever since I came here, I've been trying to find the man of whom
you spoke to me; I cannot call him 'Father,' even although he is.  If
you came, you could help me, and together we could think of means
whereby the truth could be brought to light.  Will you, mother?  I know
you say you are comfortable as you are, and that you don't wish to be a
burden to me.  You would not be a burden, but you would help me to bear
mine, and so I don't ask you to come for your own sake, but for mine.
I am your son, and I am lonely, and I need my mother."


Three days later he received his mother's reply:


"MY DEAR PAUL (she wrote),--I will come to you.  Great fear is in my
heart as I write this, but I can't resist you.  You are my own flesh
and blood, and although I have scarcely seen you from a child, you are
the only thing I love.  So, Paul, while I do not wish you to spend
money for me, and while I shall be contented with a very little house,
I will come as soon as ever you say you are ready for me."


A new interest came into Paul's life directly he had received this
letter, and without hesitating a second he took the house he had
mentioned.  It was a wonder the place had been unoccupied for so long,
because it was one of the best specimens of architecture in the
neighbourhood.  Perhaps the reason why it had not been taken was that
it did not accord with the prevailing ideas in relation to houses.  Of
course, it was too large for an operative to think of taking, and as
for the ordinary prosperous business man, he loved a more showy house,
with plate-glass windows and high ceilings.  This house had been built
before Brunford became a manufacturing town, and was looked upon as
utterly inconvenient and lacking in those characteristics which the
prosperous Lancashire man loves.  It was low ceiled; it looked somewhat
dark.  Its windows were stone-mullioned, and instead of great
plate-glass windows it had small diamond-leaded lights.  And so Paul
was able to get it at a comparatively nominal rent, especially as the
place was in shocking repair.  In a few weeks, however, a
transformation had been wrought.  The building had been thoroughly
overhauled, and by the wise expenditure of a comparatively small amount
of money, modern conveniences had been installed.  The old oak floors
had been thoroughly cleaned, the walls distempered; the roof and
windows repaired, and the sanitation made perfect.  Paul took a
wondrous delight in doing this.  Each evening, when the day's work was
over, he hastened to it, and rejoiced in the new beauties which the old
place was constantly revealing.  All the woodwork was of oak, and the
old staircase, with its quaintly carved banisters and newels, the
oak-panelled walls, which the last tenant had allowed to become dirty
and damaged, appealed to his artistic nature.  He loved the great oak
beams which stretched across the ceilings, and rejoiced in the quaint
nooks which were a characteristic of the old building.  The furnishing,
too, brought him constant pleasure.  There happened to be a man in the
town who dealt in antique furniture, and he also manufactured new
furniture from old models.  Why, Paul did not know, but since he had
been in the habit of visiting wealthy men's residences, he had taken a
great dislike to the bright, showy and costly, though very substantial,
furniture which he saw.  It had newness written everywhere, and
utilitarianism and wealth seemed to be the great things to proclaim.
But in this old dealer's warehouse he was able to resurrect things
which had been bought from old manor houses, and which the Brunford
people regarded as rubbish.  These articles, when cleaned and repaired
according to their original design, rejoiced him greatly.  So that
when, a few weeks after he had written to his mother, he saw them
placed in his house, he felt for the first time that he had a home.
One room especially attracted him--the room he meant to be sacred to
his mother and to himself.  Two-thirds of the wall space was covered
with bookcases, while on the rest he hung some very good pictures.  All
these bookcases, as well as the chairs and writing-desk, made him think
of the days of rest and comfort before Brunford became a scene of rush
and turmoil.  He pictured his mother seated by the fire, while he,
after his day's work was over, would sit by her side with a pipe and a
book.  If he could not find his father, he could, at least, give his
mother a home, and he vowed that he would make her happy.  She was only
a young woman even yet.  It is true she looked careworn and sad when he
had seen her on that day when she had told him her story, but he would
smooth the lines from her face, and by his love and devotion would
bring joy to her heart.  He vowed, too, that Brunford should recall the
words which had been uttered about her, and that the best people in the
town should pay their respects to her.  The time was now summer, and
although it is hard to make a garden beautiful, even while two miles
away from the grime and smoke of the town, he had done all that was
possible in that direction.

"She will be here to-morrow night," he said to himself, as one evening
he wandered from room to room.  "This is her bedroom," he thought.  "I
hope she'll find everything comfortable.  Yes, I believe she'll be
happy here.  It will ease her aching heart as I come to kiss her
good-night, and my bedroom is close by, and she'll always know that I'm
near.  And then there is the kitchen, too.  I must take care that
everything is right there.  I wonder whether she will like the servant
I have got for her.  At any rate, she will be able to set that right
herself, if it is not right now, and I have money enough to give her
every comfort.  I was lucky to get such a dear old house, and she shall
enjoy it; at least, I owe her that."  And then, as her picture came
before him as he had seen her that night when she had bidden him
good-bye, the tears came into his eyes and his lips trembled.  All the
next day he was strangely excited, and George Preston declared that he
had never known him so careless about business.  "People are finely
talking about your taking that house!" he said.  "Some are saying
you're going to get wed!  Why have you been so close about it?  And
what makes you spend all that brass?"

"My mother is coming to live with me," said Paul; "coming to-day."

"You don't mean it!" said the other.  "Why, you looked as though you
might be expecting your sweetheart!"

"I am," replied Paul with a laugh.  And, indeed, he felt as though he
were; for Paul was more happy than he had ever known himself to be
before.  The clouds somehow seemed to have lifted, and brightness came
into his heart in spite of himself.

"She'll be very tired," he reflected, as that night he wended his way
to the station.  "She will have been travelling all day.  She left
Launceston early this morning, and it will have been a rush for her."
So he was careful to engage a cab some time before the train was due,
and then walked up and down the station with a fast-beating heart.
Yes, life was becoming new to him in, a way that he could not
understand.  He felt less bitter towards the world, less bitter towards
Mr. Bolitho, less angry at what had happened to him.  The six months in
Strangeways Gaol seemed but a horrible dream.  The struggles of the
past were far behind.  He, while yet but a youth, had succeeded beyond
all expectations, and, added to all this, his mother was coming to live
with him; and for the first time in his life he would have a home!

No youth waiting for his sweetheart was ever more impatient than Paul.
He was angry that the train was late, and wondered why the porters
could be so indifferent about it.  He had all sorts of fears, too,
concerning his mother's welfare.  Had she been able to catch the
connection at Bristol and Manchester?   Had some accident happened?
Presently the signal fell, and a little later the train swept into the
station.  There were but few people present, because it was late, and
it happened to be a wet day.  Eagerly he looked at the carriage
windows, and then suddenly he felt as though his heart were too great
for his bosom.  He saw a lonely, tired-looking woman step from the
carriage and look expectantly round.  "Mother!" he cried.  "My dear,
dear mother!"  And then the sad-eyed, weary woman laid her head on his
broad shoulder and sobbed for very joy.

A little later Paul and his mother were riding through the now silent
streets of Brunford towards his new home.  A strange feeling possessed
his heart, for while he knew that the woman who sat by his side was his
mother, she was a stranger to him.  His heart had gone out to her with
a great rush of pity and love when she first stepped from the train,
but now that they were alone in the darkness it seemed as though his
lips were sealed.  He had nothing to say to her, and she, wellnigh
overcome by her long, weary journey and her new experiences, seemed
almost afraid.  This was no wonder, for the situation was strange.  She
had left her boy at the workhouse when he was but an infant in arms.
It had almost broken her heart to do this, but she felt that for Paul's
sake it would be better for her to go away, better that he should not
know of the sadness of his mother's life.  And for seventeen years she
had kept away from him.  It is true she had made inquiries concerning
his life at St. Mabyn, but very little more.  Paul had grown up with
the idea that he was fatherless and motherless, or even if that were
not the case he knew nothing about either of them.  Then, presently,
when the time came for her to tell him the miserable story of the past,
she had written asking him to meet her on the lonely moors, and after
that she had gone away again in silence.  So they were strangers to
each other, even although the ties that bound them were so strong that
only death could break them.  The woman was almost startled when,
stepping from the train, she saw the tall, well-dressed fellow rushing
towards her.  But her heart had claimed her son, and for the moment
that was enough.  Now, however, that they were alone in the cab,
everything seemed in darkness again.  She could not recall a feature of
her boy's face.  He might be an absolute stranger to her.  Ere long the
cab drew up to the door of a house, and when once ushered into bright
and cheerful surroundings everything became changed.  For the moment
she did not pay any attention to the room, she looked only at him.  She
put her hands upon his shoulders and scanned his face, feature by
feature.  Her own face was a study as she did this.  She seemed to be
looking for something in him.  She might be trying to read his heart.
Her own eyes almost grew young again as she looked, and her lips were
tremulous with a great emotion.

"My mother's a beautiful woman," said Paul to himself.  "She looks
terribly sad under the great sorrow in her life, but when she's happy,
as I will make her happy, I shall be proud of her."

But for a time neither of them spoke.  Each seemed to be trying to
realise the situation, trying to understand that they were mother and
son.  At length the woman spoke.

"Thank God," she said.  "You are nothing like him!  You are my
child--black hair, black eyes, dark-skinned, strong, resolute.  No, you
are nothing like him.  You are my laddie, all mine!  Kiss me again, my
boy!"

Paul, nothing loth, enfolded her in his arms as a lover might his lass.
"I have tried to make things nice for you, mother.  How do you like the
house?" he said at length.

She looked round the room and her eyes were full of wonder.  "Why,
Paul," she said, "this is a gentleman's house!"

"Of course," he said.  "Come, let me show you the other rooms.  And
then the maid shall take you up to your own room.  I am sure you must
want something to eat badly."

He led her around the house, his heart full of pride.  It was easy to
see she was pleased, easy to see that she wondered at all the luxuries
he had provided for her.

"Are you sure you ought to have done this, Paul?" she said at length.

"Why, mother?"

"Why, these things must have cost you such a lot of money.  I don't
need them.  I have lived in poverty all my life, and you're making a
lady of me!"

"Of course I am, mother!"  And he laughed a glad laugh.  "Of course I
am!  Everyone in the town shall respect and love you."

"And you've done all this for me?"

"All because I wanted to see you with me, mother.  All because I wanted
you to be happy.  I've only you and you've only me.  And don't fear
about the money.  In spite of everything I've been very successful, and
I can afford all I've bought, aye, and more.  I've only got one servant
for you, mother, but, of course, you'll want others.  Only I didn't
know how to choose them, and I thought you might like to do it
yourself."

"I want no servants, Paul!" she said.  "I want to do everything for you
with my own hands.  I want to cook for you, and scrub for you, and wash
for you, and live for you!"

"Yes, mother.  But I don't wish to make you a slave, and so, whatever
you say, you must have help to do all the hard work.  I am going to
make you very happy here.  Do you like the house?"

"Like it!" she replied.  "It's a paradise, my boy!  Just a paradise!"

He called the servant to him, and told her to take his mother to her
room, and then to have the evening meal ready.

A little later they sat in the dining-room, and for the first time Paul
broke down.  He was not an emotional man, nor one who gave way to
weakness, but when he sat there in his own house with his mother by his
side, and realised that they would be able to live together, that he
would have a companion for the lonely evenings, and that he would be
able to brighten his mother's life, the great deeps of his nature were
aroused.  It seemed to him as though something, which had been long
dead in his being, had burst forth into life.

"I'm too happy to eat!" she said at length.  "I will put away these
things and then we can talk."

"Oh, no, mother," he said.  "You're tired, and the maid is here for the
purpose of doing that.  Come into our little snuggery here."  And he
led the way into the room on which he had bestowed so much thought.

"Paul, my boy," she sobbed.  "I'm proud of you, I'm proud of you!  Aye,
even although I cursed the day that you were born, and cursed God in
the bitterness of my heart for the sorrow that came upon me, I'm proud
of you!  You are my own laddie!  And now tell me everything, my lad!"

"No, mother, you're too tired and my story will take a long time!"

"No, I'm not tired," she said.  "I feel as though I should never be
tired again.  It's all so wonderful--this beautiful home, given to me
by my son!  Oh, my lad, my lad!"

They sat down side by side, Paul holding his mother's hand in his.
"To-morrow," he thought, "or as soon as she is well enough, I'll take
her to Manchester, and she shall have the best clothes that money can
buy!  And when she's dressed as she ought to be, she will look young
and handsome!"

And so, as they sat alone, he told the story of the past few years.
Told of his struggles, of his fightings, and of his failures and
successes, and how, little by little, he had obtained an education.
Then he described the strike in the town, and the trial which ended in
his imprisonment, and of his homecoming and his business life, and then
of the election.

"But you'll win yet, Paul!"  And her eyes flashed eagerly as she spoke.
"My boy, you'll win yet!"

"Yes, I believe I shall win yet," he said.  "Ay, I will, I must!"

"And what kind of a man is this Bolitho?" she asked.  And Paul told
her.  He described the long duel he had had, and how up to the present
Mr. Bolitho was the victor.

"And he's the Member of Parliament now?" said his mother.

"Yes," he replied.  "He's Member of Parliament now."

"But never mind," was her reply.  "It's coming, Paul.  It's coming!"
And then, looking straight into his eyes, she said, "You've not told me
all yet, my lad."

"What can there be more to tell?" he said.

"Ay, Paul.  I'm a woman, I'm a woman, and I know how laddies feel.
There's a lass somewhere.  Tell me about her.  Nay, I'm not jealous.  I
know it must be so, it ought to be so, because each lad must have his
lass.  Only tell me about her!"

"It's a poor story, mother," he said.  "And I think I hate my lassie as
much as I love her.  And I've scarcely ever spoken to her.  Besides----"

"Besides what, Paul?"

"Well, you see," he replied, "she's the daughter of Mr. Bolitho, the
man who's worsted me in everything.  It was he who sent me to
Strangeways Gaol.  It was he who blackened my name.  It was he who beat
me in the fight!  And I love her and hate her at the same time!"

There was a silence for some time and Paul saw that her face was dark
with anger.

"And have you ever spoken to her?" she asked.  "Does she know what you
feel?  Forgive me for asking, Paul, but I've been thinking about all
these things through the years, and wondering about them down there in
the lonely farm.  For I've had scarcely anyone to speak to.  My one
thought and my one comfort has been you!  And I've said to myself,
'He's a young man now, and, like all young men, he'll love his lass.'
I'm your mother, Paul, and I think I can see into your heart.  Have you
ever spoken to her?"

It seemed as though all the barriers of the past were broken down.  He
had thought never to mention his secret to anyone, and yet he found
himself speaking freely.

"Scarcely, mother," he said.  And then he told her of the times they
had met, and of what he had said and what she had said.  He told her,
too, of the rumours concerning Ned Wilson, and of his hopes to make her
his wife.

"And he's your enemy, too?"

Paul nodded, and his eyes became dark with anger as he thought of the
past.

"Paul," she said at length.  "I live only for you now, only for you!
Your enemies are my enemies; your friends are my friends!  Those you
love, I love; and those you hate, I hate!  Whether you're right or
whether you're wrong, my laddie, I love you!"

"Who ever I love, mother," he said, "it makes no difference between me
and you, and my home must ever be yours."

"Ay, I dinna ken about that," she replied, lapsing into the speech of
her girlhood.  "But that doesna matter.  Paul, I must see thy lass.
You must find out when next she comes to Brunford, and I must see her.
And you shall have her, too; whatever stands in the way must be
removed!"

A little later he kissed her good-night at her bedroom door, and her
words seemed to him like a prophecy.



CHAPTER IX

THE SHADOWS OF COMING EVENTS

For the next few weeks Paul's life was utterly changed.  The coming of
his mother had wrought a transformation, and in a very real sense old
things had passed away, and all things had become new.  Each morning he
went to his work with a glad heart, and when the time for returning
came he looked forward to meeting her with a joy unknown to him before.
He had insisted on taking her to Manchester, and, in spite of many
protests, had bought her what she called finery only fit for a lass.
But Paul had taken a peculiar pleasure in this.  He loved to see her
eyes sparkle at some unexpected act of kindness on his part, and as day
by day passed away and he marked the improvement in her looks, saw the
lines of care wiped out and an expression of contentment come on her
face, more genial feelings filled his life.  As he repeated to himself
often, "I have a home and a mother now," and the fact made even the
dirty town in which he lived seem like a paradise.  He was glad, too,
to take business friends to his new home, and noticed with the keenest
pleasure that they regarded his mother with cordiality and respect.  So
great was the change that came over him that for a time he grew
careless about discovering the man who had caused such a dark shadow to
fall upon her life long years before.  It seemed for a time as though
the past were obliterated, and that he had begun a new chapter of his
life.  His business prospered, and all anxiety in that direction seemed
to be removed far from him.

In spite of all this, however, there was still a dull ache in his
heart, a feeling that something was wanting in his life.  He had not
forgotten Mary Bolitho.  He knew he never should.  Never since the day
after the election had he seen her in Brunford, and he often wondered
what this might mean.  Whether Ned Wilson ever saw her or not he had no
idea, but, from the fact that Ned was often away from home, he feared
that such was the case.  Never, since he had discovered who was
responsible for the circular issued at the time of the election, had he
made any remarks about it.  It was never referred to even between
himself and his partner.  Paul remembered it, however, and there were
those in the town who, when they learnt the truth, said one to another,
"Ay, Stepaside will pay Wilson out for that!  He's noan the chap to let
a thing like that bide!"

Mr. Bolitho himself had visited the town only once since the election.
He had on this occasion accompanied a Cabinet Minister, who spoke on
the political situation, in the biggest hall in the town--but Paul had
not gone to hear him.  He heard that the new Member was not accompanied
by his daughter, and then all interest in his visit had ceased.  And so
the months passed away, until more than a year had elapsed since the
counting of the votes in the Town Hall.

Meanwhile, Paul constantly appeared in the town with his mother, and to
his delight she received invitations from some of the most important
people in Brunford.  Not that she accepted these invitations, but
Paul's joy was very great, nevertheless, because he saw it gave her
satisfaction, and because he felt that it eased the burden of her life.

To Ned Wilson he never spoke.  They met in various ways and at various
places, but they ignored each other completely.  This was naturally
remarked upon by the people in the town, and many prophesied that the
time would come when an open rupture would take place between these two
men.

"You see," said one old weaver, when the matter was being discussed,
"Paul's noan religious.  He believes i' nowt--not but what he's a good
lad, but his heart is closed to faith.  He has no anchor anywhere, and
when a man has noan of the grace of God in his heart he's hard.
Onything may happen."

The autumn that his mother came he was invited to stand as a councillor
for one of the wards in the borough.  But this he declined.  He was
glad he had received this invitation, because it gave his mother joy,
but the memory of his failure during the political contest still
remained with him.  He felt he could not be satisfied with the lesser
when he had been refused the greater.

"No, mother," he said when he told her what had happened.  "I'm not
going to do this.  I mean to be Member for Brunford, and if I take on
this work it would stand in my way."

"You've never forgotten that lass, Paul?" said his mother.

"No, and I never shall!"

"You're not much of a lover," she said, looking towards him with a
wistful smile.

"What do you mean, mother?"

"I mean," she said, "that if I were a lad and had made up my mind to
win a lass, I would do it.  I wouldn't stay away from her!  If you love
her, Paul, tell her so.  She'll think none the less of you!"

"How can I?" he asked.  "I don't know where she lives."

"And have never taken the trouble to find out!" was his mother's
retort.  "I tell you, my boy, no lass that ever lived thinks more of a
lad for staying in the background.  You don't know what Wilson's doing!"

"No," replied Paul.  "But I do not think she has promised him anything;
in fact, I am sure she has not.  I saw him only to-day, and if she had
promised him, he would not look as he did look!  All the same, I feel
as though my lips were sealed, mother!  If I went to her now she would
scorn me, and I couldn't bear that.  No, I must wait my time, and when
that time comes neither Wilson nor anyone else shall stand in my way!"

"If she could see you two together," replied his mother fondly,
"there's not the slightest doubt as to which she would choose!"

"Nonsense, mother!" said Paul with a laugh, and yet her words cheered
him in spite of himself.

"I'm not so old, my boy, but what I know what a lass feels, and what
she likes!"

"I'm nobody yet," said Paul.  "I'm only just a beginner, and Wilson is
one of the richest men in Brunford."

"If she is worth having, Paul, she won't think so much about that!  I
went to the kirk last Sunday where Wilson goes, and I saw him.  I tell
you he is not one that a lass would take to if she knew you cared for
her.  But if you don't speak, well, there----"

"I hear she's coming to Brunford soon," said Paul presently.

His mother looked up eagerly.  "Coming to Brunford?" she asked.

"Yes," replied Paul.  "She's coming on a visit to the Wilsons'.  My
partner, George Preston, told me.  It seems that his mother's servant
is friendly with one of the maids up at Howden Clough.  That's how he
got to know."

The mother looked at her son for a few seconds with a strange
expression in her eyes.  It was easy to see how she loved him, and how
her heart went out in strong desire to bring him happiness.  She did
not seem at all jealous that he should love anyone beside her, her one
thought seemed to be how to bring him joy.

"You must meet her, Paul!" she said.  "You must meet her!"

"Ay, that's very likely," he laughed bitterly.  "But what's the good?
She would never think of me, I am nameless!"

He was sorry the moment he had spoken, for he knew he had not only
wounded his mother, he had aroused in her heart feelings which he had
hoped were dying out.

"You have heard nothing more?" she said, and her voice was hard and
almost hoarse.

"No, mother," he replied.  "I seem to be met by a blank wall
everywhere.  I have made every inquiry in my power, and, as I told you,
I went to Scotland in the hope that I should be able to get at the
truth, but I learnt nothing--nothing!  If he's alive he's somewhere in
hiding; he's afraid of what will take place--because the marriage is
clear enough, at least, in my mind."

"But in the eyes of the law, Paul?" she asked eagerly.

"Ay, even in the eyes of the law," he replied.  "If I could find him, I
could face him with what you both wrote in that book in the old inn.
Both the man and the woman are still alive, and they had no doubt about
it.  But I cannot find him.  I've tried, and, as these Lancashire
people say, 'better tried.'  I sometimes think we'll have to give it
up!"

The woman rose to her feet and came towards him like one in anger.
"Paul," she said, "never hint at such a thing again.  For myself it
doesn't matter.  Everyone here calls me Mrs. Stepaside, and there are
but few who ask questions about my marriage, although I know it's been
talked about.  But there is you to consider.  Stepaside is not your
real name.  It is the name of a hamlet, the place where I fell down,
thinking and hoping and almost praying that I should die.  It's a name
of disgrace.  It was given to you because the workhouse master could
think of nothing else.  And I should never rest in my grave thinking
that you did not possess your rights!  We must find him, Paul.  We must
make him do you justice, ay, and make him suffer, too, as I have
suffered!"

"Have you not forgotten or forgiven yet?" he asked, almost startled by
the look on his mother's face.

"Forgotten, forgiven!"  And it did not seem to be like her voice at
all.  "Never, while I have a brain to think or a heart to feel!
Forgiven!  As I said, for myself it does not matter, although for many
a month I was in hell!  But I can never forget the injury he has done
to you--you who were branded in the village where you were reared as a
come-by-chance child, a workhouse brat, reared, upon the rates, a
burden to the parish!  Can I forgive that, while perhaps he--he may
have married again."

"Perhaps he did not," said Paul.  "Perhaps he sent that man to your old
home to inquire because, after all, he was caring for you!"

"What's that?" cried the woman angrily.  "To send to inquire!  Did he
follow the steps I took?  If he cared for me, if he were faithful to
his promise, he would have traced me to Cornwall.  He would never give
up seeking for me until he had found me or discovered the truth about
me.  No, Paul, we must make him pay for it, we must!  And don't ever
hint about giving it up again.  I've had a feeling lately that I'm
going to find him, and when I do--when I do----"

And Paul saw that his mother's eyes burned red.  She seemed to have
lost control over herself entirely.  "I have plans even now," she went
on presently.

"What plans?" he asked.

"I am not going to tell you," she replied.  "But I've not been thinking
all these years for nothing!   Directly you wrote me the account of
your visit to Scotland it all came back to me again.  I've been
thinking it over week after week and month after month.  And I have a
feeling that I shall find him.  I must, for your sake, Paul!  You love
that lass, and you must marry her.  I know that you are dreaming of her
night and day.  I know that you'll never be happy without her!"

He opened his mouth as if to contradict her, but could not.  The woman
had spoken the truth.  Proud and self-contained as he was, he knew that
nothing would ever satisfy him until he had won her love.  And yet how
could he?  What chance was there?

"If she comes to Brunford, as you say, Paul, I am going to see her!"
went on his mother.  "I shall know if she's worthy of you, and if she
is, you needn't fear, Paul--trust a woman!  I'll bring you together
somehow!"

"I have been thinking it over," he replied.  "Months agone I made a vow
that I would compel her to love me.  People in Brunford say that I'm
the kind of man who gets his way, and I vowed that by sheer strength I
would conquer her, but I know it won't do now!  I remember the look in
her eyes when last we met.  She's not the kind of woman whose love can
be forced!"

"No woman's love can be forced," replied his mother.  "It must always
be won!  Still, a lass loves a strong man and despises a weakling.
Trust to me, Paul, trust to me!"

"I'll trust to myself, too," he said grimly.  "But you're right,
mother.  I want a name to offer her, not only the name I've made, but
the name I've inherited--or ought to inherit--and when I've got that,
neither Ned Wilson nor any other man shall stand in my way!"

A few days later Paul entered the Mechanics' Institute, and, standing
in the entrance hall, he saw a number of men he knew.  One of them was
young Wilson.  Paul was about to pass into the reading-room, without
speaking, when one of them called to him.  "Ay, Stepaside," he said,
"hast a' heard the news?"

"What news?"

"It seems that we may have another election on us," replied the man.

"Another election!  What kind of an election?"

"Why, Parliamentary, of course.  There are rumours that they are going
to make a judge of Bolitho, and if they do, he'll have to resign his
seat.  A judge, you know, is supposed to be non-political.  So it seems
as though there'll be another fight.  What do you feel about it?"

"I must know if the gossip is true first," replied Paul.

"There's not so much doubt about it," replied the other.  "Ned Wilson
here is bound to be in the know.  Perhaps," added the man with a laugh,
"Ned'll sign your nomination papers!"

"Or send out a circular without signing it!" said Paul.  And everyone
laughed as he spoke, because it was fully known what he meant.

"My dear fellow," retorted Wilson, "what you and your party do is
nothing to me!  If there is another election I shall have nothing to do
with it.  I am as fond of a fight as any man, and under certain
circumstances I would even fight a man of your calibre, but there is no
necessity for it now!"

Paul's face was pale to the lips.  He hated a scene, hated the thought
that his private affairs were being discussed in such a place.  He
could not help feeling that there was something vulgar about it all,
and he in a moment of forgetfulness had yielded to what, had he been
calmer, he would have resisted to the utmost.  Still, his anger was
aroused, and he saw that those who stood around were enjoying the
situation.

"That's a matter of opinion," he replied.  "At any rate, my name has
never been associated with sending out a lying circular.  And I have
never been ashamed to put my name to any document I wrote!  I never
hired a barrister to tell lies about anyone, and I never stabbed a man
in the back!"

"What do you mean?" asked Wilson.  "Why should I stab a man in the
back?"

"Because you're afraid to meet him face to face!"

"By God! you shall pay for that," said Wilson, and his voice quivered
with rage.

It was the first time Paul had spoken to Wilson for many a long day.
As we have said, he had, ever since the election especially, refrained
from having any intercourse with him, and he would have given anything
to have recalled the words he had uttered.  He had fought with the
weapons of a clown.  He had bandied words with a man who was openly his
enemy, and he felt ashamed of himself.  Still, nothing could be done
now, and, on the whole, he did not think he had had the worst of the
encounter.  All the same, he knew that if Wilson had hated him before,
he hated him more now.  And he was sure that if he were able to harm
him in any way, he would stop at nothing to carry out his purposes.  As
to Paul's financial position, he did not so much fear.  He was on safer
ground now, and was able to meet any ordinary difficulty; but there
were other things.  He wondered whether Wilson ever guessed the secret
of his heart, wondered whether he knew that he was a would-be rival.
That Wilson was enamoured of Mary Bolitho was universally believed, but
whether she in any way returned his affection no one was able to guess.

A fortnight later that which had been rumoured concerning Mr. Bolitho's
resignation actually took place.  He had been made a judge, and, as a
consequence, could no longer remain Member for Brunford.  The result of
it was that the deputation who had come to Paul before, again made
their appeal to him.

"Paul," said old Abel Bowyer, "now is thy chance.  Thou'lt be Member
for Brunford after all.  Thou art noan a Lancashire lad, but we're
proud on thee all the same.  Thou hast made thy money in Brunford, and
all thy interests are here, and while I don't agree with you in all
your views, you're our lad!  Thou mun go to Parliament.  Wilt a' fight?"

"Yes," said Paul, "I will.  But who have I got to fight against?"

"I don't know yet, but that'll noan matter.  If you had been treated
fairly last time you'd have got in, and this time there'll be no doubt
about it.  I'm not sure but what it'll be the better for thee, too.
Thou'lt be the talk of the country.  At a General Election individuals
are noan taken notice of.  It's just a fight for the party, and when
every borough has its election, particular cases are taken no notice
of.  But at by-elections the chap that gets in makes a bit of a stir.
Anyhow, we can set to work."

"Yes," said Paul.  "We must set to work, and we must arrange our
committees right away."

"I hear," went on old Abel, "that Bolitho's coming here to say
'Good-bye' to us.  You see, he's noan taken on the job of judge yet,
and until he does he'll be free to speak for his party.  So I'm told
that he's just coming to pay us a last visit, in order to advise the
people to accept a sort of nominee of his as his successor.  'Appen
thou'lt see him then."

During the last few weeks Paul had been expecting to hear that Mary
Bolitho had come to pay her promised visit to Howden Clough, but no
news of her had arrived.  Presently, however, gossip had it that both
the new-made judge and his daughter were to be guests at Howden Clough
when his opponent made his first appearance.  A few days later huge
placards were posted over the town to the effect that the Honourable
Stephen Boston would speak in the Industrial Hall, and that the chair
would be taken by Mr. Bolitho.

"Would you like to go and hear him?" asked Paul of his mother.

"Hear who?" she asked.

"Why, the man who beat me at the last election," said Paul.  "You see,
he's coming to take the chair for the new candidate."

"No," she replied.  "I've no interest in him.  I should like to see
her, though."

"I am afraid there's no chance of that," said Paul.  "Unless you happen
to be in town when she's driving round."

"I'll see her somehow.  And, my boy, I'll bring you both together!"
And there was a far-away look in her eyes.

On the afternoon of the meeting Paul was at the railway station when
the train from Manchester came in, and as he watched the passengers
alight his heart throbbed violently, for, descending from the train, he
saw not only Mr. Bolitho, but Mary, accompanied by a young fellow who,
he judged, would be the Honourable Stephen Boston.

"Oh, Stepaside," said Mr. Bolitho, going up to him with outstretched
hand, as though nothing but pleasantries had ever passed between them,
"I'm glad to see you.  Of course, you know what's happened?"

"Yes," said Paul.  "I suppose I ought to congratulate you!"  The words
were curtly spoken, and Bolitho was not slow to recognise his tone's,
but he decided to take no notice of it.

"I hear you're to be the candidate on the other side again," he went
on.  "Allow me to introduce to you your opponent.  I am sure you'll
have a good, honest, straight fight!"

"I hope so," said Paul quietly, at the same time holding out his hand
to Mr. Boston.

"We shall not fight on equal terms, I am afraid," said the young man
with a laugh; "that is"--and he corrected himself--"I shall be
altogether at a disadvantage.  You know these people, and I don't.  I
am afraid, too, that many of them regard the land-owning class with
disfavour; still I'll put up the best fight I'm able, and I am sure we
shall have a jolly good time!  I am glad to meet you, Mr. Stepaside,
and I hope, whatever the result of the election is, we shall part good
friends."

"It shall not be my fault if we do not," said Paul heartily.  "But I
warn you that I'm going to beat you!"  And he laughed almost merrily.

"Well, you know what Randolph Churchill used to say about an Englishman
who could not stand a licking!" laughed the other.  "And if I'm licked
I hope I shall take it in good part.  But I don't mean to be.  I am
trying to persuade Miss Bolitho here to canvass for me as she did for
her father!"

"And will you?" asked Paul, turning towards her.

"Would you be very angry with me if I did?" she asked laughingly.

"No," said Paul.  "But I'd give a great deal to have you on my side!"

"If you had," said Boston pleasantly, "I should stand no chance at all.
But if she works for me she will more than counterbalance the fact that
I am a stranger to the town.  Well, we must be going, Bolitho.  Of
course, Wilson is not expecting us by this train, or no doubt he would
have been here to meet us.  But as I have to get back to Manchester
to-night, we must say what we have to say to him at once.  Good
afternoon, Mr. Stepaside.  I have no doubt we shall meet often during
the next few weeks."

"Of course, I can't wish you luck, Stepaside," said Mr. Bolitho
cordially.  "You see, you're on the other side.  All the same, as far
as you and I are concerned, we have decided to let bygones be bygones,
haven't we?"

But Paul did not speak.  He would have given anything to have spoken to
Mr. Bolitho in the same spirit in which he had spoken, but for the life
of him he could not.  A weight seemed to be upon his tongue.

"Perhaps we shall also meet again," he said, turning to Mary Bolitho.
"Do you know, I sometimes think you do not understand me!  And I should
like to have half an hour's chat with you.  It might alter your views
concerning me and the class I represent."  He spoke almost humbly, and
even her father did not resent his words.  Ordinarily he would probably
have been angry that a man of Paul's status should have dared to have
spoken to his daughter in such a fashion--now there seemed nothing
wrong in it.

"I should love to," laughed the girl.  "Perhaps you do not understand
my father either.  I am sure I could convince you that he's right!"
And with a pleasant smile she left him alone on the platform.

Only a few words had passed between them, and if an outsider had been
listening to them, he would have regarded them as of no import
whatever, but Paul felt that they had changed everything.  In a way he
could not understand, the old antagonism had gone, and, stranger to her
as he still was, it seemed to him that a bond of sympathy had been
formed.  On previous occasions when he had met her it had seemed to him
as though he were meeting an enemy, even although she had filled the
whole of his horizon.  But now the very atmosphere was changed, and he
was sure that when they met again he could make her understand him, and
that they would be able to speak on equal terms.

When he returned home that night his mother wondered why his eyes were
so bright and his voice so cheerful.

"Have you heard good news, my boy?" she asked.

"I feel that I'm going to win, mother," was his reply, and his words
meant a great deal more to him than to her.



CHAPTER X

THE NEW MEMBER FOR BRUNFORD

The day following the meeting at the railway station Paul saw Miss
Bolitho in the streets of Brunford and to his delight she greeted him
with a frank smile.

"Have you begun your work of canvassing?" he said, with a laugh.

"Not yet," she replied.  "Indeed, I doubt whether I shall take any part
in this contest.  I have been engaged in a far more feminine
occupation!"

"Shopping?" asked Paul.

She laughed in assent.  "But I've finished now," she said.  "I am just
returning to Howden Clough."

"Are you staying in Brunford long?"

"No, I leave to-morrow."

"May I walk back with you?" he asked, wondering at his own temerity.
They went together some little distance without Paul speaking a word.
He felt he had much to say to her, and yet, now that the opportunity
had come, he was speechless.  He noticed, too, that the people in the
street were watching them, and doubtless many were commenting on the
fact that he, who had no reason to be friendly with Mr. Bolitho, should
be walking with his daughter.  Once or twice he looked shyly towards
her, and could not help thinking how utterly different she was from the
girls of her own age who lived in Brunford.  She seemed to have no
connection with the town at all.  Everything there was smoky and grimy
and harsh.  She seemed more like a country girl than a denizen of a
town or city.  Sometimes, when he had watched people in the market
square selling violets, the incongruity had struck him.  The violets
brought in fresh from the country seemed utterly out of place in the
grimy hands of these Northern people.  As he looked at the young girl
by his side he could not help thinking of the violets.

"I want to apologise to you," he said at length.  "I was rude to you
when I met you in the fields near Howden Clough, and I've been angry
with myself ever since.  It is very good of you to forgive me.  I don't
deserve it."

For the first time Mary Bolitho realised what she was doing.  In a
moment of thoughtlessness she had yielded to his suggestion that he
should walk to Howden Clough with her, and she felt angry with herself.
Had anyone told her that morning that she would have allowed him to
walk by her side through the public street she would have laughed at
the idea.  It is true she had been interested in him ever since she had
first seen him.  There was something masterful in his presence.  His
political campaign had been marked by incidents which appealed to her
imagination, and she felt she could never forget the look on his face
when he had flung out his defiance to her father on the day of the
election.  She felt there was something morose and sullen, if not
savage, in his nature, and even while she spoke pleasantly to him in
her father's presence, the thought of being alone with him in such a
way would have been deemed impossible.  Directly he had suggested
walking home with her, however, she felt she must fall in with his
desire.  There was something in him that interested her and almost
mastered her.

"You thought I was rude, didn't you?" he continued.  "Well, I
apologise, humbly and sincerely.  But perhaps there was some excuse for
me.  Your father treated me badly, and, naturally, I associated you
with him."

"You mistake my father," she said.  "He would never treat anyone badly."

"He was unjust to me," said Paul.  "I know that barristers are supposed
to do their best for their employers, but through him I suffered unjust
imprisonment.  He did not try to arrive at the truth.  He only tried to
win his case, and, in so doing, he stopped at nothing to make it hard
for me.  I am thinking now of that riot trouble.  Of course, you heard
that I was innocent of the affair?"

"Yes, I have," she replied.  "I am very sorry.  But surely you
understand my father's position?"

"I can never understand injustice," he replied.  "Still, it was not
your fault, and I acted to you like a brute.  Besides all that, you
were a friend of the Wilsons, and Ned Wilson hates me."

"Why should he hate you?" asked the girl.

"I will not tell you that," replied Paul.  "That would be stabbing a
man in the back, and I will not be guilty of that.  Anyhow, years ago,
I incurred Ned Wilson's enmity by telling him certain home truths.  He
has never forgiven me.  But for the stories he set afloat and his
action towards me I should have won the last election.  All this made
me bitter towards you."

"I wonder," she replied, "if you feel so angry towards me, that you
should care to make these explanations."  And she did not understand at
all why she spoke.  They were some little distance from the roar of the
traffic now, and could hear each other plainly.

"I want you to think well of me," he said.

"Why should you?" she asked.

"I cannot tell you now," replied Paul.  "But some day I should like to.
You wish me good luck in this fight, don't you?"

"How can I," she asked, "when I look at things so differently?  I think
I admire your pluck, and if I were in your place I should be proud of
the influence you have over the working-men; but, then, I think your
policy is a dangerous one."

"Let me explain that to you," he replied eagerly.  "I think you do not
understand how the working classes feel, and I, even although my father
did not belong to that class, I--well, I have been a working-man.  And
there is a shadow over my name, too, and over my mother's life.  I
should like to tell you about that."

"Really, Mr. Stepaside, I have no right to hear."

"But I want you to," he urged, and his voice was tremulous.  "You
really do not know, Miss Bolitho, all I have been thinking, and how I
long for you to know the truth.  You must know it, too.  You have had
harsh thoughts about me.  Yes, you have been unjust to me, and it's my
right that you should know the truth.  I wish you knew my mother, too.
If you did----"

His speech was here broken off by the advent of Ned Wilson, who came
from a side street.  He seemed utterly surprised at seeing her and Paul
together, but, without taking any notice of Paul, he exclaimed, "Oh,
this is luck, Miss Bolitho!  I am just returning home, and I shall have
the pleasure of walking back with you.  Or, if you like, we will go
back to the mill together.  There's a conveyance there."

"No, thank you," she replied.  "I'd rather walk.  Good-afternoon, Mr.
Stepaside.  I hope you will--that is----"  And then, without finishing
her sentence, she walked away by Ned Wilson's side, leaving Paul alone.

"Well, of all the impudence!" said Wilson angrily.  His tone did not
please the girl.  She was vexed with herself for allowing Paul to
accompany her, especially as she did not know why she should have done
such an unprecedented thing, but she resented Wilson's remark,
nevertheless.  It seemed to suggest proprietorship.

"How in the world did you allow him to walk with you?  Really, Miss
Bolitho, I cannot allow it!"  And his voice was hot with anger.

"I am afraid I do not understand!"  And Wilson saw that he had gone too
far.

"I mean, you do not know him.  He's a low-bred clown, a fellow
who--well, who should not be seen walking with you, Miss Bolitho.
Besides, people will talk; they do not understand."

She did not know why it was, but she felt it was for her to defend
Paul, and, without thinking, she burst out, almost angrily, "I think
he's a magnificent fellow, and I do hope he'll win!"

"You hope he'll win?" cried Ned.

"Yes.  You see, I like strong men--that is, I like men who will never
be beaten, who know what they want, and who never rest until they get
it; men with great purposes, great ambitions.  And he's a man who will
surely be heard of.  Nothing can stop him.  I hear he's becoming a rich
man, but that will not content him.  He's ambitious to take a great
place in life.  I should not be at all surprised if some day he won a
national reputation!"

"Nonsense!" cried Ned.  "National reputation, indeed!  He might have a
national reputation for some great crime, but for nothing else.  He has
the instincts of his class, Miss Bolitho, and I am sorry you were seen
walking with him.  If I were to tell your father, he'd be angry, too."

Ned knew he was doing himself harm by saying these things, but at that
moment his hatred of Paul was increased.  He had never dreamt that Mary
Bolitho could think of him in such a way.  He believed she was
interested in him, and that somehow Paul had fascinated her by his
presence.  Jealousy of him, therefore, was added to the old grudge.

"I am afraid you do not understand, Mr. Wilson.  Oh, here's a tram,
which will take me a long way towards the house."  And without taking
any further notice of him, she walked towards the conveyance.

Three weeks later Brunford was again on the tiptoe of excitement.
Again a great crowd had gathered around the town hall, again there was
the excitement of counting votes, and this time Paul, to his great
delight, found himself Member for Brunford by a big majority.  That he
was gratified goes without saying.  He felt, somehow, that the day
brought him nearer the things he longed for.  All things seemed
possible to him now, and his heart beat high with joy.  It is true, Ned
Wilson bad done his best to defeat him, but this time he had been
powerless.  He was unable to use the methods he had used on the
previous occasion, and while he had resurrected the old stories
concerning Paul's parentage, they had apparently done the young man no
harm.  Paul was delighted, too, with the conduct of his opponent.  The
Honourable Stephen Boston had been true to his word.  He had fought the
battle fairly and with a sportsman's spirit, and when the results were
announced no man in Brunford was more cordial towards the new Member
than the defeated candidate.

"I did my best to lick you, Stepaside," he said, when all the noise and
excitement was over.  "But you were too strong for me.  All the same, I
congratulate you.  You have fought a good fight, and you'll be heard
about in the country yet.  When you come to London, I hope we shall see
more of each other, and it may be I can introduce you to some people
whom you would like to know."

It was long after midnight at this time, and they had met with a number
of men at a kind of social club which had no political bias.  The
leading people of the town were there, and Paul also noticed that Ned
Wilson was among them.  He fancied he had been drinking heavily.  His
eyes were bloodshot, and his voice was loud and truculent.

"It's good of you to say so," said Paul.  "And never do I want to fight
with a fairer opponent.  I hope that neither of us will ever be able to
think of this election with a shadow of regret."

"Yes, but Brunford will!" interposed Wilson.

"Nay, nay, Ned," remarked someone near.  "Hold your tongue.  It's no
use probing old wounds now."

"I say Brunford will!" shouted Ned, heedless of the other's warning.
"The time will come when it will be ashamed of what it's done to-day.
For my own part, I think I will move out of the town.  Politics have
become a dirty business now, when a nameless vagrant can become a
Member of Parliament.  Still, we know the old adage, 'Give a beggar a
horse----'"

Paul did not speak.  For one thing, he was in a great good humour.  He
had been victorious and could afford to forgive Wilson for all he had
done.  Besides, he remembered the last quarrel they had had in a public
place, and he did not want another scene now.  But Wilson was evidently
bent upon a quarrel.  He was deeply chagrined at the other's victory,
and this, added to the whisky he had been drinking, made him more than
ordinarily quarrelsome.

"If I had my way," he went on, "none but those of honourable birth, and
whose parentage was respectable, should legislate for a country like
this.  As for this fellow's parentage----"  And then he gave a sneering
laugh.

"Be quiet, now, Ned!  Do be quiet!  You'll get into trouble presently.

"Trouble!" cried the other.  "I'm going to say my say.  Why, if the
fellow had any sense of shame, he would at least have kept his mother
out of the town."  And then he uttered words which I will not write
down--words which, had Paul's mother heard them, would have made her
long to fly the town.

This proved too much for Paul.  Insults hurled at himself he did not
mind, but for such words to be uttered about his mother in a place like
this was beyond endurance.  With a face as pale as ashes, and a voice
hoarse with passion, he strode towards Wilson.  "You dare not repeat
those words!" he said, scarcely knowing what was passing his lips.

"Repeat!" said Wilson.  "I shall repeat what I like, and scum like you
shall never stop me.  Who are you that you should dare to be here among
gentlemen?  You may have been elected by the riff-raff of the town, but
that does not hinder you from being what you are--a workhouse brat.  It
does not hinder your mother from being----"  And again he uttered words
which I will not write down.

Paul forgot where he was now.  The day's election, his longing to keep
away from vulgar quarrels, all his ambitions became forgotten in the
passion of the moment.  A second later Ned Wilson was lying on the
floor, blood flowing from his mouth.  A blow from Paul had laid him
prostrate, almost senseless.  What Paul would have done to him, I do
not know, but he was held back by many strong arms.  "No, no,
Stepaside," men said.  "This is a bad beginning for your new career.
If this gets out in the town, and it's almost bound to----"

"I don't care," interrupted Paul.  "No man could hear what he has said
without resenting it.  Let me go, I tell you!"

By this time Wilson had risen.  The blow, while it had partially
stunned him, had also to some extent sobered him.  For a few seconds
the two men looked at each other, each with great passion in his eyes.

"Remember," said Wilson, "I'll pay you out for this!  By God!  I'll pay
you for this!  You and I have had our knives in each other for a long
time, and I have always got the better of you, and I will again, in
spite of this!"  And he left the club with a look of murder in his eyes.

Paul also left immediately after.  In spite of his day's victory, he
was heartily ashamed of what he had done, and yet the mad anger in his
heart caused by what Wilson had said kept him from regretting the blow
he had struck.

"He is right," said one of the men who had witnessed the affair.
"He'll pay thee out for this, Paul.  Ned Wilson is a chap that never
forgives, never forgets."

"If it comes to paying out," said Paul, "I've a bigger score than he
has, and he'll always find me ready."

"It serves him jolly well right," said the Honourable Stephen Boston.
"I wonder Stepaside did not kill him!  I know I would if anyone said
such a thing to me!  All the same, I am sorry it has taken place.  Had
I known Wilson was here I would not have asked Stepaside to join us."

When Paul reached his home he found his mother sitting up for him.  She
met him with a look of joy in her eyes.  "Paul," she said, "they've
brought me the news."

"What news, mother?" he asked.

"The news of your victory, my son.  It's glorious!  I little thought
when I saw you first that I should ever live to see such an hour as
this.  But what's the matter with you?"

"What should be the matter?" he asked.

"You're as pale as ashes, and you do not look like one who has won a
great victory.  What has happened?"

"Oh, never mind," he replied.

"But I must mind, Paul.  Something has taken place that has upset you.
Tell me what it is."

Even yet Paul was scarcely master of himself.  The words he had heard
still rang in his ears and rankled in his heart.  He felt as though all
the joy of the day had been destroyed by what Wilson had said.  He
knew, too, that it would become public property by the morrow.  There
were those who witnessed the affair who would not be slow in making it
known.  Perhaps, too, it would come to his mother's ears in a garbled
fashion, and would wound her more than if he told her himself.

"Has the man Bolitho done anything?" she said.  "Or is it your
opponent?  Was he terribly cut up because you beat him, Paul?"

"No," he replied.  "I've never heard of Bolitho, and as for Boston,
he's a splendid fellow.  He took his beating like a man and offered me
his friendship afterwards."

"Then what is it?  Is the news I've heard, that Wilson is engaged to
Miss Bolitho, true?"

"Have you heard that?"

"Yes; I have heard it only to-day."

"I wish I had killed him!" he said, and his voice was hoarse and
unnatural.

"What do you mean, Paul?  Tell me what has happened."

Had he not been excited beyond measure, he would have told the story in
such a way as to take away the sting from it.  As it was, never
dreaming of the results, he related what had taken place, and repeated
the words Wilson had said.  No sooner had he spoken, however, than he
was mad with himself for being so unguarded.  His mother's face became
drawn with agony.  Her eyes shone with a strange light, and he saw her
clench and unclench her hands like one in great pain.

"Did he say that?" she cried.  "Did he say that?"  And he scarcely
recognised her voice.

"Anyhow, he's suffering for it," said Paul.  "Ay, and he shall suffer
for it, too."

"He shall!  He shall!"  And her voice almost rose to a shriek.  "I have
violent blood in my veins, Paul.  Back in the old days my people would
have only been content to wipe out such an insult in blood, and I will
make him suffer for it!"

"I am sorry I told you, mother," said Paul.  "I was a fool to do so;
but I did not think, I did not remember!"

"I am glad you have told me!" was her reply.  "I know now what I have
to do.  I have been so happy that I was almost forgetting; but I will
not forget now!  And that man is your enemy, too.  He means to marry
Mary Bolitho, and he will, too, unless, unless--Paul, you needn't fear!
I tell you, you needn't fear."  And after that she would not speak
another word.

For a long time Paul lay thinking of what his mother had said and of
the strange look in her eyes.  It seemed as though he had roused
something evil in her nature, and for a time he wondered whether her
brain had not been unhinged.  He knew she was a proud woman, and that
she was jealous beyond words of her good name.  The thought of Wilson's
words being bandied around the town must be worse than death to her,
and yet what could he do?  He blamed himself more than he could say for
having told her the truth so brutally.  Had he not himself been so
overwrought he would have acted with more deliberation.  He remembered,
too, what his mother had said when they had first met, and he wondered
whether Wilson had proposed marriage to Mary Bolitho before she had
left Brunford, and whether she had accepted him.  It might be so.  And
then all the joy of his winning the election would be as nothing.

For the last three weeks he had been looking forward to this day with
great anticipation.  He felt sure he would win from the beginning, and
he had wondered whether Mary would send him some word of
congratulation.  He did not expect she would, but she would hear of his
victory, and perhaps their next meeting would be under more favourable
circumstances.  He knew that, in spite of the fact that he had been
elected for Brunford, the sky of his life was black again.  The words
he had heard had filled him with black shame and feelings of deadly
anger, while the look on his mother's face aroused in him an unnameable
fear.

When morning came, however, he felt better.  A few hours' sleep had
restored him to something like normal health.  The excitement of the
last few weeks had told upon him, and the strain upon his nerves had
been tremendous.  Now that the fight was over, however his splendid
constitution stood him in good stead, and he felt strong and vigorous.
That which had appeared black at night assumed less sombre colours in
the light of day.  After all, he had won a great victory.  He had
received nearly a thousand votes more than his opponent.  He had
wrested a seat for the cause in which he believed, and he was member
for Brunford!

He slept until nearly nine o'clock, and when he came downstairs he
found, to his delight, a heap of congratulatory messages lying upon the
table.  After all, it was delightful to be a victor, delightful to have
won in the battle of life!  He noticed, too, that his mother had become
like her old self again.  She spoke in her natural voice, and made no
reference whatever to what had taken place the night before.

"I shall have to go to London, to-day or to-morrow, mother," he said.
"I hope you won't be lonely while I'm away."

"Oh, never fear for me, Paul, my son!" she replied.  "I shall be all
right."

"I do not like the idea of your being alone, though," said Paul.  "And
I shall have to be away from Brunford a great deal when Parliament
meets.  I think I shall have to take you to London with me!"

"No," she replied.  "I would rather stay here.  I should only be in
your way if I went to London, besides increasing your expenses--and
that I must not do."

"Why not, mother?  I can afford it very well.  We're having a specially
good run of luck just now, and the extra expense would not bother me at
all.  Besides, I want you to be near me!"

"No, Paul.  I would rather remain in Brunford.  I have my work to do."

"Your work, mother!  What do you mean?"

She did not reply, and Paul could not understand the look on her face.

"Tell me, mother," he said, "what do you mean by having your work to
do?"

"There's only one work for me now, Paul--only one thing I care
about--and that is to give you your rightful name, and to make you
happy!"

"I have thought lately he's dead," said Paul.

"No," she replied, "he is not dead.  I feel it in every fibre of my
body.  He is not dead!  And I am going to find him.  And I must not
leave Brunford--something has told me I must not.  And I must watch
Wilson, too."

"I have been thinking about that, mother," he said; "and, after all,
it's not so bad.  The man was drunk, or he would not have said such a
thing!"

"Drunk or sober," was her reply, "he shall pay for those words.  But do
not trouble, Paul.  You shall be happy.  And you shall have your
rightful name, in spite of everything."

A week or two later, Paul had forgotten almost everything in the new
life which he led.  He had journeyed to London to take his seat in the
House of Commons, and, amidst the excitement of his new experiences,
even the incidents of the election faded away.  It was wonderful to
him, the nameless lad who had come to Brunford a few years before, to
be one of the legislators in the greatest Empire of the world.  Even
yet he was little more than a youth, and he had practically no
experience of life.  Thus London, with all its excitement, and the
world of possibilities which it revealed, made everything new to him.
Never had he realised the meaning of history until now.  Never had the
greatness of his country so impressed him.  Hitherto he had not
realised what his ambitions meant.  Now they became clear.  The House
of Commons became the pivot of the world, and it seemed to him as
though he had his hand upon the pulse of humanity.  London was the
great heart of the Empire, sending out its streams of life-blood
through the length and breadth of the world.  And the heart of London
was the great pile of buildings on the banks of the Thames.  He was no
one as yet--just one of the unknown men among nearly seven hundred who
gathered there.  He had an obscure seat in the House, and, unlike many
of the other men with whom he came into contact, he had few friends.
Still, he rejoiced in his isolation, and dreamed dreams of the time
when he would emerge from his comparative obscurity, and when his voice
would be heard in the councils of the Empire.  No one was more regular
than he in his attendance at the House, and he took a supreme delight
in wandering through the buildings, and in trying to understand their
significance.  Westminster Hall, especially, attracted him.  He thought
of the scenes which had taken place in that historic building, and
remembered how it had stood there through the centuries.  The greater
part of the parliament houses was comparatively new, but this remained
almost unchanged by the ravages of time and of fire.  Here great trials
had taken place.  Here great battles had been won--battles which had
changed the destinies of the nation.  Brunford, which had seemed so
important to him a few years ago, was now only an insignificant
manufacturing town.  It had but little history, little meaning; but
London--London was everything.  There, in Westminster Abbey, close by
him, kings had been crowned and monarchs were buried.  There, too, the
great ones of the world had come.  Men whose names were imperishable
were buried in that mausoleum of the illustrious dead!  And he--well,
he was nothing now, but men should hear of him in the future.  While
keenly observant of the procedure of the House, he sometimes found
himself dreaming dreams.  He thought of the time when Disraeli was
refused a hearing in that historic assembly, remembered how the Irish,
led by the great Daniel O'Connell, refused to listen to him, and how,
when at length he had sat down, after trying to make a speech, he shook
his fist in the faces of the excited crowd, and cried: "You will not
hear me now, but one day you'll be glad to hear me!"  Well, why not he?
It is true Disraeli was a man of genius, but he was handicapped on
every hand.  He was a Jew, and when he commenced his career the
prejudice against Jews was stronger even than it was to-day.  He was in
debt, too, and was hampered on every hand, and yet he had broken down
all opposition.  He had conquered prejudice, had mastered one of the
greatest prime ministers of the age, and was for years the central
figure of the Government of the Empire.  It just showed what one strong
man could do; and he would do it.  But at the back of everything was
the face of Mary Bolitho.  It was for her he was going to win fame and
renown.  It was at her feet that he would lay all he could win.

Of course many will feel like smiling at these dreams of youth.  All
the same, the young man who does not dream impossible dreams and
determine to win impossible battles will never do much.  It is these
things which keep the world young and eternally hopeful.  Sad will it
be for the youth of England when they cease to be!

Fleet Street, too, fascinated him beyond words.  Next to the Houses of
Parliament, he loved to walk along this busy thoroughfare.  Sometimes
he would stand there and watch the crowd as it went hurrying
by--perhaps the most interesting crowd in the world.  Here nameless
vagrants rubbed shoulder to shoulder with men who were influencing the
thought of the nation.  This was the home of one of the greatest
estates of the land.  It was from here that millions of newspapers were
sent, containing the hopes, the aspirations, the life of the people.
None of these papers mentioned his name as yet, for he had never dared
to try to catch the Speaker's eye, but the time would come when he
would.  Leading articles should be written about him, and his views of
life and politics should be discussed.

In spite of all these things, however, the session came to an end
without Paul Stepaside having tried to speak a word in the British
House of Commons.  His time had not come yet, but it was coming, and he
knew how to wait.  Those months were to him months of education.  He
was accustoming himself to his surroundings and preparing for the
future.  He was studying the methods of the men whose words carried
weight.  He was seeing the inwardness of this great parliamentary game
which was being played, and he was learning to understand how he could
use his knowledge, not simply as a means of self-aggrandisement, but
for the betterment of the people he loved.

Three times during the session he had gone to Brunford on matters of
business, but nothing had happened worthy of recording.  His mother had
inquired eagerly concerning his doings in London, and had stored within
her memory every incident which he had related to her.

"I'm glad you have not spoken in the House yet, Paul," she said, again
and again.  "When you speak it must be on something which is near and
dear to you--something which has gripped your life.  Then you will make
them feel what you feel.  Ay, and you will, too, my boy!  It's coming!
I can see it!"

"Yes," replied Paul.  "I'm going to do it, mother.  I'm going to make
the name of Stepaside honoured."

"Nay, but you're going to have another name, Paul--your own!"

"Have you found out anything yet?" he asked repeatedly.  But at this
she would shake her head, as if all her efforts had been in vain, and
yet Paul felt assured that she knew more than she cared to tell him.

During the second session Paul made his first speech.  As he thought of
it afterwards, he was terribly disappointed.  It seemed to him that he
had not said the things he wanted to say, while the things he had said
seemed crude and unimportant.  The atmosphere of the House of Commons
was so utterly different from that of any assembly he had ever
addressed, and he knew that he was speaking to what was perhaps one of
the most critical audiences in the world.  As fortune would have it,
too, the House was full when he spoke, and a great deal of interest was
attached to the Bill that was being discussed.  That was why he was so
disappointed that his language, especially during the first few
minutes, was so poor and stilted.  He imagined, too, that he had been
listened to respectfully, and even cordially, because it was his maiden
speech.  As a matter of fact, however, Paul had made a great
impression.  Something of his history was known, and his striking
appearance told in his favour.  Indeed, it was remarked freely that his
speech was one of the most promising that had been heard for years from
a new and untried member.  Consequently, when Paul returned to Brunford
the next time, he was met with congratulations on every hand.  He was
beginning to fulfil the promises he had made, and many prophesied a
great career for him.

And Paul was greatly elated.  Indeed, so much was he carried away by
visions of the future that he never dreamed of the dark, ominous clouds
that were filling his horizon.



CHAPTER XI

PAUL'S DARING

One of the results of Paul's success was entirely unexpected by him.
He suddenly found himself made much of by what is called Society.
Hitherto he had been altogether unnoticed in this direction.  While he
was scarcely looked upon as a Labour Member, he was regarded by many as
belonging to that class.  Moreover, he had done nothing to bring
himself into notice, and so, having no advantages of birth, and no
circle of acquaintances in London, he had been comparatively neglected.
Suddenly, however, he had become a public man.  His speech was not only
talked about in the Members' Lobby, but it was discussed by a number of
society women who professed to be interested in politics.  More than
one paper devoted articles to him, and many spoke of him as a coming
man.  This meant that Paul received invitations to society functions
which hitherto had been unknown to him.

The wife of a Cabinet Minister gave a reception, and Paul was among the
invited guests.  "It's a risk!" said that lady to her husband, when the
invitations had been sent out, "but, as you know, I love risks, and
these things are usually so tame!  Will he come in his working-clothes,
do you think?"

"Everything is possible!" laughed her husband.  "Still, I don't think
you need be afraid!"

"I do hope he'll do something shocking!" said the lady.  "From what
I've heard, he's young and handsome, and if he does something
outrageous it'll make the thing go!"

"I should not be surprised if he does not appear in good clothes," said
the Cabinet Minister.

"Let's hope they'll be badly fitting, anyhow!" said the wife.

Paul felt very strange as he joined the gay throng.  It was his first
experience of that sort, and he had not the slightest idea as to what
would be expected of him.  He had always refused to go to the social
functions in Brunford, and now to be ushered suddenly into what he had
heard was to be one of the most brilliant political gatherings of the
season was staggering.  With a fast-beating heart he saw conveyance
after conveyance arrive at the scene of gaiety, and men in immaculate
evening clothes and ladies in gay attire emerging from them.  But Paul
quickly gained the mastery over himself.  "After all, what does it
matter?" he said.  "I don't care about this kind of life.  These
chattering, overfed women have no attraction for me!  Still, it may be
interesting."

It was a large gathering, and he noticed that many of the most
prominent people in the country were present.  When he heard his name
mentioned to the host and hostess he saw a look of surprise on the
latter's face.  Evidently she was altogether disappointed, although she
was much interested.

"Mr. Paul Stepaside!" said a man in a loud voice, and Paul was shaking
hands with one of the leaders of London society.

"So glad to see you," said the lady.  "Did I catch your name
aright--Mr. Stepaside?"

Paul bowed, uttered a few commonplaces, and passed on.

"I thought you told me he was a working-man?" said the lady to her
husband.  "I hoped he would come in his working-clothes.  This fellow
is immaculate!"

"He's a fine figure of a man, anyhow," said the Cabinet Minister.

"The most striking-looking man in the room!" was the lady's answer.
And then her attention and smiles were given to the next comers.

Paul was not long left alone, and quickly found himself quite a centre
of interest.  More than one Member of Parliament brought his lady
friends to see the new star.  Indeed, he was so much monopolised that
for a time he had little opportunity to take notice of the guests as a
whole.  By and by, however, he managed to get away by himself, and to
take the part of a spectator.

It was all very strange to him, this gay throng--and he was not very
favourably impressed.  If this was Society, he did not want it!
Everyone seemed blasé and satiated with pleasure.  The conversation was
clever, but superficial.  It seemed to him as though almost everyone
lacked earnestness--lacked reality.

"I am glad you are interesting!" said one lady to him during the
evening.  Paul had been with her some time, and had given expression to
some very unconventional opinions.  "The greatest sin I know of is to
be dull, and you can't be dull."

"No?" said Paul.  "I think I'm a fairly good actor."

"No, you have a good deal of the devil in you, and I like a man of your
sort.  Do you know I saw a criticism of a book the other day of which
you remind me?"

"And of course you've read the book?"

"Oh no!  The critique said that the only bad book was the book which
was badly written, no matter what its morals might be, and this book,
although excellently intentioned, was not well written.  You know I
have a similar feeling about men.  The greatest crime in the calendar
is to be dull.  Men may break all the other commandments if they like,
but he who breaks that is impossible.  And I find you so interesting!"

"And I feel myself so dull," said Paul.  "I don't follow your simile a
bit."

"Ah, but you're not conventional.  The great charm of a man is that
he's always going off the beaten tracks.  When he gets back to those he
is impossible!  Do you know, I hoped you would come in your
working-clothes.  Our hostess told me you were coming, and I quite
looked forward to seeing you."

"My working-clothes are very shabby," said Paul.  "Still, if I had
thought you wanted to see them, I would have brought them."

The lady laughed good-humouredly.  "Oh, but do remain unconventional!"
she said.  "Don't become a polished Society man.  If you are to be
interesting, always keep off the beaten tracks."

"Even at the expense of politeness?" said Paul.

The lady looked at him quizzically.  "Yes, even at the expense of
politeness."

"Then I'll run away.  There's someone over here I want to speak to," he
said.

The truth was, at that moment he had caught sight of a face which had
set his heart beating wildly, for he felt sure it was that of Mary
Bolitho.  "Oh, I wonder, after all, whether it can be!" he said to
himself.

Regardless of passing faces, he found his way toward the spot where he
thought he had seen her, and to his delight he discovered that he had
not made a mistake.  Their eyes met as he came up, and she held out her
hand with a smile.

"This is splendid!" he said.  "It's so pleasant to see a face that one
knows amid a crowd of strangers!"

"But surely you must know hosts of people here," was her response.

"No, I know very few," replied Paul.  "Some of the men I have met in
the Members' Lobby, but nearly everyone is a stranger to me."

"And yet I find that many people are talking about you!" was her reply.
"You are quite the lion of the evening.  It must be very gratifying to
you."

"Do you know," replied Paul, "that I am not so unsophisticated as not
to know the value of these things?"

She looked at him inquiringly.

"I can see how much a moment's popularity is worth," he said, almost
bitterly.  "A lifetime of good work is passed by unnoticed, but if one
happens to make a speech that causes a certain amount of discussion, no
matter how silly it may be, one gets noticed until someone else
appears.  And my speech was a very poor one!  I feel ashamed every time
I am complimented on it!"

There was something in the way he spoke that annoyed her, why she could
not tell.  "Then I will not add to your shame," she said.

"No," he replied eagerly.  "But I do want you to think well of it even
although I know it was a failure.  I have been wondering lately if I
should meet you, and I was afraid once or twice lest I had seen you."

"I do not quite understand."

"I am comparatively new to this sort of function," said Paul.  "And, to
tell you the truth, I have been very weary of it all."

"How disappointed your hostess would be if she knew!"

"No," said Paul, "I don't deserve that.  But I suppose it's because I
have not been brought up in this world.  I am a plain, humble fellow,
and have had to work my way through the grimy and sordid things of
life.  Still, there's something real in it, something healthy, too,
compared with this--at least, some of it.  The other night I was at a
banquet, and I was afraid I saw you.  You see, I have all sorts of
old-fashioned ideas.  I'm a Puritan of a sort, and am what these people
would call bourgeois."

"What in the world do you mean?"

"I saw a girl who looked like you smoking a cigarette.  She had the
same coloured hair, and bore such a strong resemblance to you that my
heart became as heavy as lead.  A little later I saw the same girl, or
someone very much like her, drinking a liqueur.  Of course, it seemed
quite the order of the day, and I ought not to be shocked, but had it
been you I should have been very sad."

"Why, what is there so terrible in a cigarette or a liqueur?" asked
Mary Bolitho.

"I don't know, I'm sure," he replied.

"You'd have taken no notice if a man smoked a cigarette or drank a
liqueur.  Is a woman different from a man?"

"She ought to be," said Paul.  "At least, so it seems to me; but then,
as I tell you, I am altogether out of place among that kind of people.
I have all sorts of old-fashioned ideas about women.  I know they are
unpopular.  They are thought to be bourgeois, and entertained only by
the middle classes.  But there you are--I am bourgeois; or perhaps I
belong to a lower class even than that.  I'm a working man."

"Can you find a chair for me somewhere?" asked the girl.  "Of course I
don't agree with you in the least, but it's rather interesting to hear
you."

He found a chair for her and stood by her side.  "I'm so glad it wasn't
you."

"How do you know it wasn't I?" she asked.

"Because you're not that sort! You don't drink liqueurs.  You don't
smoke cigarettes!"

"Why not?"

"I don't know," replied Paul; "but you don't.  If you did--well, it
would be wrong somehow.  I can't explain it, but it feels to me
something like--well, what I think a Roman Catholic would feel if he
found someone trying to caricature the Virgin Mary."  His voice was so
earnest and sincere that she could not be offended.

"I am not like all these men here," went on Paul.  "I was brought up
among the working-classes, and I have, in spite of everything,
idealised women.  I expect it is because I love my mother.  And when I
see a girl drinking liqueurs, smoking cigarettes, and doing things like
that, I feel that somehow my ideal is, well, besmirched somehow.  I
believe less in the modesty of women, and I think it's a bad thing for
any man to lower his ideals concerning women!  Yes, I am so glad it
wasn't you!"

"Still I don't understand why."

"Because you are the most sacred thing in my life!" he answered.  "I
have tried to tell you that before now, only somehow I haven't been
able.  You are the most wonderful thing in the world to me, and you
hate these things too, don't you?"

"Why should you think so?  There are many better girls than I who smoke
and drink liqueurs."

"No," said Paul.  "No.  Do you know that, although I have hated you,
you've been the one dream of my life, and that you've made everything
possible to me?  You're angry with me, aren't you?"

"No," she replied, "not angry.  But still, you must not speak to me
like that!"

"I cannot help it," he replied.  "Do you know that but for you I should
not have been a Member of Parliament now?"

"But for me?"

"Yes," said Paul.  "From the first time I saw you, just after I came
out of Strangeways Jail, you've always inspired me, even while you
angered me, and have determined me to win when otherwise I should have
lost.  Tell me honestly now, do you think I shall ever overcome life's
handicap?"

"Does it not depend what the handicap is?"

"My handicap is that I'm nameless," he replied.  "I told you the story,
didn't I?  At least, I tried to.  Miss Bolitho, am I mad?"

"You are certainly talking very strangely."

"I hate your father," went on Paul, and his voice, although very quiet,
was very intense.  "The first time I saw him I hated him.  No, no one
is listening, you need not fear.  I believed he was the tool of the
Wilsons.  I believe it still!  I don't think he fought me fairly
either.  I think he dislikes me, too.  But, but--shall I tell you
something?"

"I think you had better not," she replied.  Even although she was
surrounded by a crowd of people, and their voices were wellnigh lost in
the hum of conversation, she was afraid.

"I do not think I can help myself.  Miss Bolitho, I have been sustained
in all the work of my life by one thought--I want to win you for my
wife!  Do you think it's possible?"  And then, without waiting for her
reply, he went on: "It must be possible.  It shall be possible!  I will
make it so."

"I must ask you to excuse me.  I have some friends over here wishing to
speak to me."

"Not yet," he said.  "You must forgive my rudeness, but when a man
feels as I feel, and have felt for years, niceties of behaviour don't
count.  You, in spite of everything, have become the one thing in life
worth living for, and yet I ought to be ashamed of speaking to you now.
I have no right!"

She looked at him wonderingly, as if not understanding what he meant.

"You see, I have no name," he said.  "I don't know who my father is or
where he is.  I only know that he and my mother were married in
Scotland, and he left her the day after the wedding.  She, in her
trouble, went to her mother's old home in Cornwall, and was looked upon
as a poor outcast thing.  She lay down on a bank near a little hamlet
called Stepaside, and thought she was going to die.  From there she was
taken to a workhouse, where I was born.  She would not tell her name,
and that was why I was called Stepaside.  It's a terrible handicap,
isn't it?  No father, no name!  Ned Wilson made the most of that at the
election; but there, I've fought it down so far.  Will you promise me
something?  I hope you will, I think you will.  I don't think I'm
altogether a clown, and I feel sometimes as though I can do great
things if you----  You see, you are everything to me, everything!
Promise me this: If I find out who my father is, may I speak to you
again?  Do you think--do you think it is possible for you----?"

At that moment some acquaintances came up, and Mary Bolitho turned as
if to leave him.

"But give me an answer before you go!" he said eagerly.  "Is there any
possibility--in spite of my handicap?"  And then he felt that his heart
had, for a moment, ceased to beat.  He forgot where he was.  The
chatter of the crowd was nothing to him; it did not exist.

"Everything is possible to a man who doesn't know when he's beaten!"
she said with a radiant smile, and then turned towards her friends.

Paul remembered little of what took place after that, and he soon found
himself walking near Hyde Park alone.  It was very wonderful to him--so
wonderful that he could not altogether realise it.  She had seemed to
promise him so much, even though she had said so little.  He felt as
though the sky had become higher, the world bigger.  He had never dared
to hope for so much, never dreamt she would speak to him so kindly.
They belonged to different worlds, were reared amidst different
associations, and yet she had not treated him with scorn.  Yes,
everything was possible!  And he would translate that possibility into
the actual.  He would win her a name and a position that even she might
be proud of.  For he had idealised her.  To him she was far removed
from all the others that he had ever met, and he must do something
worthy of her.  For hours he walked around the Park alone, wondering
how he should begin to carry out the object nearest and dearest to his
heart.  Poor Paul, he knew little of the ways of the world, especially
of the world in which Mary Bolitho lived.  Among the lads and lasses in
Brunford courtship and marriage were very simple.  The boy met his girl
there, and they married each other without difficulty.  But Paul knew
that there were certain formalities that had to be complied with in the
class to which Mary Bolitho belonged.  She was a judge's daughter, and
he, although he had succeeded beyond his hopes, was still looked upon
as little more than a working man.  One thing, he knew he ought to ask
Judge Bolitho for his permission to seek his daughter's hand.  He had
no right to pay her attentions otherwise.  It was a frank and
honourable course of action, too, and appealed to him strongly, and if
he succeeded, then the way was made plain.  Not that he liked the idea
altogether, for he had still an instinctive hatred of the man who had
treated him, as he believed, so unfairly.  But he must destroy that
hatred now.  He must think kindly of the father of the woman who was
all the world to him.

Before the night was over he wrote Judge Bolitho a letter, asking for
his permission to try and win Mary Bolitho for his wife.  He did not
refer to the shadow that rested upon his name, told him nothing of what
he had said to Mary.  He only told him of his hopes and ambitions, and
of his undying love.

Three days later the answer came, and when Paul read it his heart was
filled with black rage.  It contained only a few words, but they seemed
to blot out the sun from his horizon.  Without saying so in so many
words, Judge Bolitho treated the proposal made in his letter with
thinly veiled scorn and contempt.  He made him feel, although he did
not say so, that what he had said was an impertinence.  It was true the
letter was couched in terms of politeness, and yet it might have been
written to a groom who had the temerity to seek his mistress's hand,
and it contained a command that he must never dare to speak to her
again.

Paul was scarcely master of himself as he read, and every evil passion
of his nature was aroused.  This man had added insult to injury.  Ever
since the day of his trial he had been his enemy, and now he had sent
him this!  "But I will speak to her again," he vowed.  "I will win her
in spite of everything; by fair means or foul she shall be mine!"

Shortly afterwards he returned to Brunford for the Christmas vacation.
Only a few days were allowed by the leader of the Government, because
much and important business had to be transacted; but those few days
were destined to change the course of Paul Stepaside's life.  His
mother met him when he returned to Brunford with unusual manifestations
of affection.  He had sent her a copy of the _Times_, wherein was a
full report of his speech.  He had also forwarded to her a number of
other papers which had spoken kindly of him, and she was elated beyond
measure at his success.  To her Paul was everything, the one object of
her love, the one hope of her life.  For him she would brave
everything, suffer everything.  In her inmost heart there was only one
thing she desired, and that was Paul's happiness.  She had stifled all
thoughts of jealousy when she had learnt that Paul loved the daughter
of the man who had treated him so badly.  She would have loved to have
had him all to herself, so that they might have been all in all to each
other, but she had seen into his heart, and knew that he loved this
girl.  And he must have her, and whatever stood in his way must be
removed.  For that she lived and thought and planned.

The day before his home-coming she had seen that which grieved her
sorely, and angered her beyond words.  A local newspaper had it that
Ned Wilson and Mary Bolitho were engaged, and she wondered how she
could break the news to her boy.  That the engagement should be broken
she had fully made up her mind--no matter what happened Paul must have
the woman of his choice!

After dinner they sat alone in the little room on which Paul had
bestowed so much attention, and she wondered whether he had beard the
news which bad brought her so much pain.

"It was a great speech you made, Paul!" she said, when they had been
sitting quietly for some time.

"Nonsense, mother!" was his reply.  "Nonsense; it was a failure!"

"No, no.  I read every word, Paul, and it was not a failure.  You're
going to be a great man, my son!"

He laughed bitterly.  He remembered the letter which Judge Bolitho had
written to him.  "I feel as though I don't care about anything!" he
went on at length.  "What's the good of success?  What are we in the
House of Commons, after all, but a lot of voting machines?  What does
it matter which party is in power?"

"Nay, nay, Paul.  That's not like you to talk so!"

"I'm tired of it--tired of everything!" he went on.

"You're thinking about that lass!" said his mother, and although he
made no reply, she knew she was right.

"Have you ever seen her?" she asked at length.

He nodded.

"And done nothing, I expect?"

"I wrote to her father," was his reply.  "I asked him in a
straightforward, honourable manner to let me try and win her for my
wife."

The woman's eyes shone bright with excitement.  "And, and----?" she
said.

"Here's his letter!" he replied.  "I carry it around with me to tell
myself what a fool I've been.  You can read it if you like!  You can
see it's written in the third person, and evidently typed by his
secretary.  That of itself is an insult, when one bears in mind the
kind of letter I wrote to him!"

The woman read it carefully, word by word.  She could not help seeing
the insult contained in every line, could not help realising that Judge
Bolitho regarded Paul's request as an unpardonable piece of
impertinence.

"Can't you be happy without her?" she asked at length.

"Never!" he replied.  "Everything I may get in life could be but Dead
Sea fruit now!  Oh, mother, if only I had a name, if we could find out
the truth!"

He was sorry he had spoken the moment the words passed his lips.  He
saw that her face became hard and set, that her eyes burnt with deadly
anger.  "Do you know that she is engaged to young Wilson?" she asked at
length.

"What!"

"It's all over the town, Paul; there can be no doubt about it!  It's in
the newspaper."

"She does not care for him!" he cried.  "She cannot!"

"But he'll be one of the richest men in Lancashire, Paul!"

"But she could not!  She could not!"

"Perhaps it explains this letter," said his mother.  "Judge Bolitho has
doubtless set his heart upon his daughter marrying a rich man, and her
feelings are not considered.  But don't give up hope, Paul.  Don't give
up hope.  Ned Wilson shall never have her!"

"But what can we do, mother?"

"Are you a son of mine to talk like that?" she asked.  "Can you, a
strong man, give up tamely?"

"No," cried Paul.  "I'll not give up tamely; but of course her father
is against me, and he has chosen Ned Wilson for her.  As you say, he'll
be one of the richest men in Lancashire, and now that Mr. Bolitho has
become a judge, his income will not be so much as it was.  However,
I'll put a stop to it; I can and I will!"

"How can you do it?" asked the mother.

"Never mind," replied Paul.  "But it shall be done."  That same night
he wrote a letter to Ned Wilson.


"Dear Sir," he wrote.

"Circumstances necessitate that I shall have an interview with you
immediately on a very important matter.  Will you kindly let me have a
note by return of post when and where I can see you?  I may add that
the matter is of such importance that you must not think of refusing
me."


The next day he received a type-written letter from Wilson, in the
third person:


"Mr. Edward Wilson is sorry that he cannot see Mr. Paul Stepaside, as
there is no conceivable matter on which he could think of granting him
an interview."


Paul read this curt note with a grim smile upon his lips and an almost
murderous look in his eyes.  But he made no comment.

Before many hours were over he had discovered Wilson's whereabouts, and
had determined to waylay him.  They met in a lane not far from Howden
Clough.

"Mr. Wilson," said Paul.  "Just a word, please."

Ned looked at him with great hauteur, and then was about to pass by
without further notice.

"No," said Paul, "That will not do.  You received my letter."

"And you received mine."

"That was why I followed you here," said Paul.  "I told you that the
matter on which I wished to see you was of the utmost importance."

"I do not transact any business with you," said Wilson.  "And there is
no other matter in which we can be mutually interested.  Let me pass,
please."

"You cannot pass until you have heard what I have said to you.  I am
sorry to have to meet you in this way----"

"Not so sorry as I am!" interrupted Wilson.  "Still, I will hear you.
What is it?"  He spoke as though Paul were a persistent beggar, and
seemed to regard him as a millionaire might regard a pauper.

"It's this," said Paul.  "I noticed in the _Brunford Gazette_ this
morning that you are engaged to marry Miss Mary Bolitho."

"And what then?" said the other.  "I do not discuss such matters with
men of your class."

"It must be contradicted immediately," said Paul quietly.  Wilson
looked at Paul in astonishment.  "I think you must be out of your
mind!" he said.

"No, no; I am sane enough.  Will you write a letter to the editor,
denying this rumour, or must I?"

"In Heaven's name, why should I?"

"I know it's not true"--and Paul still spoke quietly--"that is why this
paragraph must be contradicted at once."

Wilson laughed as though he were enjoying a joke, but it was easy to
see that he was far from comfortable.  He did not like Paul's quiet way
of talking.  He did not understand the tone of his voice.

"Of course," said Wilson, at length.  "I cannot discuss these matters
with you.  I would sooner discuss them with one of our grooms.
Whatever be the truth of the report, it cannot have anything to do with
such as you.  Still, I will humour you.  What's the matter?"

"This is the matter," replied Paul.  "You are not fit to associate with
such as she."

"Come, come, my good fellow.  I have borne a good deal, and I am nearly
at the end of my patience.  Besides, I cannot allow Miss Bolitho's name
to be bandied about by such as you."

"Will you kindly deny that statement which appears in the _Brunford
Gazette_?" persisted Paul, still quietly.

"Certainly not!"

"Then I must make you," said Paul.

"Make me!  You!"

"Yes, I!"

"And how, pray?"

"Simply that I shall tell Miss Bolitho the truth about you if you
don't."

"The truth about me?"

"The truth about you.  You see, I happen to know a good deal about you.
Oh, you needn't start.  I have all particulars and proofs to the
minutest detail.  If you do not wish Miss Bolitho to know exactly the
kind of man you are, what your responsibilities are, and your duties
are, you must send a note to the editor, signed by yourself, declaring
that there is no truth whatever in the announcement."

"You spy!  You sneaking hound!" said the other, quite losing control
over himself.

"Spy, if you like," said Paul.  "Sneaking hound also comes well from
such as you; but, as it happens, I have had my reasons for a long time
for forming certain impressions about you; and as Miss Bolitho is a
friend of mine--naturally, I take an interest."

"A friend of yours!" said Wilson.

"Of mine," said Paul.  "Now then, will you do what I tell you?"

Neither of them knew that they were being watched, and neither of them
knew that, although their conversation was not overheard, two men could
hear angry voices, and were wondering what it could be about.  These
two men knew of the feud which existed between them, and knew that each
hated the other.

"Will you write that letter, and give up all thoughts of such a thing
for all time?"

Wilson answered in language which I will not set down.  This time his
words were loud enough for the two men to hear--words which were
calculated to rouse anger in the heart of the mildest of men, and Paul
was not a mild man.  They saw Paul look towards the other with murder
in his eyes, saw his hand uplifted as if to strike, then they saw him
master himself.

"Very well, then," he said.  "I shall do what I say," and turned on his
heel to walk away.

He had not gone six steps, however, before Wilson, blind with rage and
the pent-up fury of years burning in his heart, rushed after him, and
with all the strength that he possessed struck Paul on the head with an
ivory-handled walking stick.  The young man fell to the ground with a
thud, for the moment stunned, while Wilson stood over him trembling
with passion, and as if waiting for an attack.

Paul quickly recovered himself, and rose to his feet.  He wiped the
blood from his face, and then seemed undecided what to do.  He struck
no blow, but spoke in tones loud enough for the watchers to hear him
plainly.  "I might have expected this," he said.  "It was a coward's
blow, the kind of blow such as you always strike.  But, remember, I
always pay my debts--always, even to the uttermost farthing."  Then he
walked away without another word.



CHAPTER XII

A NIGHT OF DOOM

Paul found his way back to his home, thinking over what had taken
place.  He was still half-dazed by the blow he had received, and his
heart was filled with black rage.  Perhaps, too, he was the more angry
because he found it difficult to perform what he had threatened.  In
spite of himself he shrank from writing to the paper contradicting the
engagement.  He had no right to do so.  For all he knew, the engagement
might be an actual fact.  He did not believe that Mary Bolitho had
consented of her own free will to marry Wilson, and yet he did not
know.  Rumour had it that her father was not a wealthy man; and, after
all, Wilson was one of the richest men in Lancashire, the home of huge
fortunes.  It might be, therefore, that Judge Bolitho had persuaded her
against her will to marry this man.  It would relieve him of all
financial worries.  From some standpoints it would be a brilliant
match.  It was true, Wilson was not a man who would shine in Mary
Bolitho's circle, but money can do a great deal, and here he was almost
all-powerful.  But that was not all.  Brunford, like all provincial
towns, was noted for its gossip, and if he contradicted the engagement,
all sorts of wild rumours would be afloat.  Mary Bolitho's name would
be discussed by all sorts of people, and things would be said which
would madden both him and her.  Still, she must know the truth.  If he
told her certain things he knew about Wilson, he believed he could save
her from him.  But even here difficulties presented themselves.  Could
he prove these facts in such a way that Mary Bolitho would be
convinced?  And should he not, by so doing, make himself appear to her
a spy and an informer?  He did not know much about such matters, but it
was not a dignified rôle to play.  In a way it would be striking below
the belt.  He would not be playing the game.  And the thought was
hateful to him.  "But she must know, she must know!" he said to
himself, as he trudged along the road.  "And I'll not be beaten,
especially by a man like that."  And then he remembered the blow which
had been struck.  "Yes, he shall pay for it!" he said grimly, as he
wiped the blood away from his face.  "He shall pay for it to the
uttermost farthing!"

When he reached his home it was dark, and he was still undecided as to
the exact course he should pursue.  He opened the door with his
latch-key, and switched on the electric light.  As he did so his mother
came into the hall.  "Paul," she said, "what is the matter?"

"Nothing," he replied, trying to evade her gaze.

"But your face is bleeding.  There's an ugly wound in your temple!"

"It's nothing," he replied.  "Just a slight scratch, that's all."

"It's no scratch," said the mother.  "Tell me, what is it, Paul?  I
must know!"  And she caught him by the arm.

"It's no use telling you, mother," he said, facing her.  "And you
needn't trouble; I am not hurt very much."

The woman looked searchingly at his face, and knew by its extreme
pallor and the tremor of his lips that he was much wrought upon.

"Paul," she said.  "This is Wilson's doing!"

"Is it?" he said, with an uneasy laugh.  "Well, he shall pay for it,
anyhow!"

"I was right, then.  It's true.  Has he beaten you?"

"No, mother," he said.  "I'm not to be beaten by Wilson."

"You shall not!  You shall not!"  And her voice was hoarse.  "Tell me,
Paul, tell me.  What is it?  I must know--I will know!"

"Very well," he said.  "If you will know, come into my study."  And
then he described the scene which had taken place.

The woman fixed her eyes upon him, and kept them fixed all the time he
was speaking.  Her face never moved a muscle, although her hands
clenched and unclenched themselves nervously.  "And you'll pay him out
for this?" she said at length, when he had finished his story.

"Yes," he said, "he shall be paid out."

"But how?  Tell me, Paul?"

"I have not quite made up my mind yet, mother.  I must sleep on it."

"Sleep on it!"  And there was an intensity in her tones which almost
frightened him.  "Sleep on it--sleep on it!  Will you let a man like
that get the better of you?  Will you have a wound like that--a wound,
the marks of which you'll carry to your grave, and then say you'll
sleep on it?  Paul, you're chicken-hearted."

"No," he replied.  "I'm not chicken-hearted; but whatever is done,
mother, I must save Mary Bolitho's name from being dragged into the
mire.  But you need not fear."

For an hour or more they talked, the woman asking questions, and Paul
answering them.

"Come," said his mother presently, "you'll be wanting some supper!"

"No," he said.  "I want no supper, but I think I want to be alone,
mother.  I have a great deal to think about."

"I wish you'd let me do your thinking for you, Paul."  And Paul almost
shuddered as he saw the look in her eyes.  "You think I'm a weak
woman," she went on.  "You think I know nothing, and can do nothing.
But you're mistaken, my boy.  I know a great deal, and can do a great
deal."

She reached towards him, and put her arms round his neck.  "Oh, my lad,
my lad!" she said.  "You're the only thing I love.  All through those
long years in Cornwall I had nothing to brighten my life but the
thought of you.  I had only one thing to live for and to hope for, and
that was your happiness; and you shall have it.  All that you hope for,
Paul--all that you hope for shall come to pass.  Sometimes a weak,
ignorant woman can do more than a clever man; and you're clever.  Oh,
yes, you are!  You've got into Parliament, and you'll make a name in
the world; but you haven't found the things you started out to find.
You haven't got your rightful name.  But you shall have everything,
Paul: you shall have revenge, and you shall have love; and I, your
mother, will give it you.  As for that man Wilson, never fear, Paul,
you shall have your revenge!"

"What do you mean, mother?"

"I mean all I say, Paul; never fear.  But you want to be alone now, so
I'll go and leave you."

As she went towards the door, he heard her muttering something about
Howden Clough, but he did not pay much attention to her; his mind was
too full of other things.

She closed the door behind her, and left him to his thoughts.  He went
into the lavatory and bathed his face, and as he looked at the wound on
his temple a curious smile played around his lips.  Presently he went
back to his study again, and sat for hours brooding and planning,
Murder was in his heart.  "And they talk of God," he said.  "They talk
of a beneficent Providence that controls all and arranges all!  A man
has to be his own Providence.  He has to shape his own destiny.  He has
to fight his own battles."

It was nearly midnight when at length he rose to his feet.  His mind
seemed to be made up as to what he intended to do.  His course was
mapped out.  "Why, it's nearly twelve o'clock," he said.  "And mother
has not come to bid me 'Good-night.'  I wonder why."  He left the room,
and found that the house was in absolute silence.  All the lights were
turned out; the ticking of an eight-day clock in the hall sounded
clearly in the silence of the night.  "I'll go up into her room," he
said.  Forthwith he went noiselessly up the thickly carpeted stairway,
and knocked at her bedroom door.  There was no answer.  "Mother," he
said, "mother.  I want to speak to you."  But there was no reply.  All
was silent.

He opened the door and went in.  The room was empty, and the bed was
unruffled.  A strange feeling possessed him; he did not know what it
was.  It seemed as though something terrible had happened, but he could
see nothing.  Almost mechanically he opened some of the cupboards in
the room, and saw his mother's dresses hanging--the dresses which he
had bought for her with a great love in his heart.  "I wonder where she
is," he said.  "I think I will go up to the top floor, and rouse the
servants."  Suiting the action to the thought, he went up the next
flight of stairs.  He stood for a moment and listened.  He thought he
heard the servants breathing heavily.  Evidently they were fast asleep,
and would know nothing about his mother.  "I should only start them
talking if I asked them where she is," he thought to himself.
"Perhaps, after all, she is in one of the other rooms!"

Feeling almost like a thief, he visited every part of the house, but no
one was there, and everything was as silent as death.  "I can't go to
bed and not know where she is," he reflected.  "I wonder what she meant
when she talked to me so strangely--what she had in her mind!  I must
know, I must know!"  He opened the door, and went out into the night.
The sky was moonless, but for a wonder it was resplendent with stars.
All the factory fires were low, and the air was no longer smoke-sodden.
The wind came from the sea, and he breathed deeply.  It seemed as
though a great healing power passed over his heart.  He went into the
little garden upon which he had bestowed such care, and stood still,
listening.  Not a sound broke the silence.  Not a footstep was to be
heard.  A thought struck him, and he hurried back to the house again.
The bonnet and boots which his mother usually wore when she went out
were missing, and, as he noticed it, a great fear entered his heart.
He looked at his watch; it was nearly midnight.  "I wonder--I wonder!"
he said to himself.  A minute later he had closed the door, and was
walking in the direction of Howden Clough.

It was six o'clock in the morning when he returned; but the month being
December, darkness still reigned supreme.  Black clouds now covered the
sky, and a wailing wind passed round the house.  He turned up the
electric light, and saw that his mother's boots were placed ready for
cleaning.  They were covered with mud.  Evidently she had had a long
tramp.

"At any rate, she has returned," he said to himself.  He went into all
the downstairs rooms, but she was nowhere visible.  Then he climbed the
stairs again, and stood at his mother's bedroom door.  He opened it and
went in.  The bed had not been used at all, but sitting in an armchair,
just under the electric light, was his mother, her face buried in her
hands.

"Mother," he said, "where have you been?"

She took no notice; perhaps she did not hear him.  He came up to her
side and touched her, upon which she started to her feet.  "Mother," he
repeated, "where have you been?"  And he could not help noticing a kind
of unholy triumph in her face.  "Why are you not in bed?" he asked.
"It is six o'clock in the morning, and your bed has not been slept on."

"It's all right, Paul," she said.  "It's all right.  Never mind; you
needn't fear.  I've found out something.  I've done something!"

"Found out something!  Done something!  What?"

"I am not going to tell you," she said, and the look on her face
frightened him.  It might be that some long-desired thing had been
given to her--some great object attained, some unholy desire gratified.
For the look on her face was not one that a man loves to see in the
face of his mother.

"All you hoped for shall come to pass, Paul.  Yes, all--all, my boy;
don't be afraid.  I've done it!"

Her words sounded like a knell in his soul.  It seemed to him that they
had a dark, ominous meaning.  He was not a nervous man, rather he was
strong, determined, not easily moved; but it seemed as though something
had gripped him, and he was afraid.

"I never dreamt when I went out," she said, "that I should do such a
good night's work--never dreamt that everything would come so easily."
And then she laughed.

"Tell me what you mean, mother."

"No, Paul, nothing.  But you'll have a surprise--yes, you'll have a
surprise!"

She might have been mad.  Her face was strange, her words were strange,
the look on her face was such as he had never seen before.

"Go to bed," she said.  "Go to bed quickly.  The maids will be up soon,
and they must suspect nothing.  Sleep in peace, my boy; your debts
shall be paid, paid to the utmost farthing!"

He stooped to kiss her, and she threw her arms wildly round his neck.
"Oh, my lad, my lad!" she said; "morning is coming, the morning is
coming.  There's a God in the Heavens after all!   And yet, and yet----
Oh, Paul, I forgot, I forgot!  Did I tell you that everything could be?
Nothing can be, my boy, nothing!  I forgot!  I forgot!"

And her voice almost rose to a scream.

"What is it, mother?"

She walked round the room like one demented.  "I did not think of
that," she said.  "I did not think of that.  I thought I had made
everything plain.  I thought, I thought, and now----"

"Tell me, mother, tell me!"

"No, I can't tell you.  It would kill you--kill you; and I thought
there was a God in the heavens.  And there isn't, Paul.  There isn't.
Only the Devil lives.  Oh, my boy! my boy!  But leave me, leave me.  I
must think, I must think.  There, go away.  Don't trouble about me,
Paul.  I'm all right, I'm all right.  But go away!  Go away!"  She
pushed him out of the room as she spoke, and locked the door behind him.

"She's right in one thing, at all events," said Paul.  "I can do no
good by staying with her, and I had better go to bed.  The servants
will be talking, else, and they must know nothing."  He threw himself
on the bed, and tried to understand all that had taken place.  It
seemed as though something terrible had happened, some dire calamity
had taken place.  The world seemed a different place from what it had
been a few hours before.  Since meeting with Ned Wilson, that had
happened which had altered the whole course of his life.  The very air
seemed laden with terror, the skies were black with doom.  It seemed to
him as though ravens were croaking, and the church bell tolling for the
dead; and then, while trying to drive the black scenes of the night
from his mind, it seemed as though his senses became dulled.
Everything became unreal.  The past might have been blotted out, even
those years at St. Mabyn were like a dream, while all the events since
were just as a tale that is told.  It was simply Nature taking him into
her arms, and rocking him on her broad bosom.  His strength had given
way.  The events of the night, his home-coming, his mother's strange
behaviour, and the excitement which it all meant had simply worn him
out, and now Nature was trying to restore him.  He fell into a deep,
dreamless sleep, and lay like a log upon his bed.  How long he slept he
did not know, but presently he heard a sharp knock at the door.

"It's half-past eight o'clock, sir.  Are yo noan gettin' up?"

"What?" he cried, half asleep.

"Half-past eight o'clock, sir.  Are yo noan gettin' up?  And summat
terrible has happened!"

"What's happened?" he asked.

"Mr. Ned Wilson is dead.  He's been murdered!  He was found this
mornin'."

He did not reply.  It seemed as though he had lost the power of speech.
Mechanically he looked out of the window, and saw the murky,
smoke-laden air.  It seemed to him as though the roar of a thousand
looms reached his ears.  He pictured the weavers standing in their
weaving sheds.  He did not know why he did this; in fact, it did not
seem to matter.  Nothing mattered.  Mechanically he dressed himself.
There seemed no reason why he should go downstairs, but he was merely a
creature of habit.  "I wonder where she is!" he said to himself again
and again.  "I wonder where she is.  I wonder, too----"  Again a knock
came at his door.

"Well?" he said.  "What is it?"

"A sergeant of the police and two constables are at the door.  They
want to see you particular," said the servant.

"All right," he said.  "I shall be down in a minute."

He remembered tying his necktie with great care, and then went down
into the hall.  No sooner had he done so than the sergeant came
forward, and put his hand upon his shoulder.

"Paul Stepaside," he said, "I apprehend you for the murder of Mr.
Edward Wilson."



CHAPTER XIII

HOW MARY BOLITHO RECEIVED THE NEWS

Just before Christmas Mary Bolitho returned to her father's house from
London, where she had been visiting some friends.  It was during this
visit that the meeting between herself and Paul, which we have
previously described, took place.  During the rest of her stay in
London she constantly thought of what he had said to her, and wondered
whether, in the excitement of the moment, she had spoken foolishly.
She admired Paul greatly, even in spite of the dislike which still
lurked in her heart.  She had an admiration for strong, capable men,
and had been greatly interested in the career which she felt sure lay
before him.  Nevertheless, a strong feeling of antagonism possessed
her.  His air of masterfulness irritated her, and in her quiet hours
she felt angry because he possessed a kind of fascination for her.  She
could not help being pleased at his evident admiration for her, and she
thought of his avowal with feelings almost akin to delight, and yet she
never meant to encourage him.  A great gulf lay between them, and the
thought of crossing it was not seriously entertained.  He might be
ambitious, and he might carve out a great future; but still he was of
the working class, and doubtless had the instincts of his class.

On her return home she found her father much preoccupied.  During the
whole of the dinner hour he scarcely spoke, but presently, when the
servants had left them, he seemed desirous of entering into
conversation with her.

"Have you had a good time in London, Mary?" he said.

"A very interesting time indeed," was her reply.  "The Scotmans were
very kind."

"I suppose Stepaside's speech was talked about a good deal?"

"Yes," replied the girl.  "He seems to have made a great impression.
People are very much interested in him, too; and he was at the house of
Sir John Sussex on the night when he gave that reception."

"Did you see him?"

"Yes," she replied.

"And speak to him?"

"It was difficult to avoid doing that.  You see, I had met him once or
twice, and when he came to me I had to be civil."

"The impertinent upstart!" cried Mr. Justice Bolitho, and there was
almost a snarl in his tones.

"He's not looked upon in that light in London," said the girl.
Somehow, she knew not why, she wanted to defend him against her
father's evident dislike.

"We live in a topsy-turvy age," said the Judge.  "Do you know what the
fellow did?  He actually had the temerity to write, asking for my
consent to pay his addresses to you!  You did not know of this, of
course?"

"No."  The word escaped her almost mechanically, but she felt a warm
flush pass over her face.

"I never knew of such impertinence!  Fancy the fellow whom I sent to
jail only a few years ago daring to think of such a thing!  Had he come
to me in person, I think I should have had him horsewhipped.  And he
ought to be horsewhipped, too.  Why----"  And then he laughed harshly.

Mary Bolitho did not reply.  Somehow words did not come easily to her.
All the same, a feeling of hot rebellion came into her heart.

"I answered him, of course," went on the Judge.  "At first I thought of
returning his letter without any remark whatever.  Still, I sent him a
few words which I think will have a beneficial effect on his colossal
cheek!"

"What did you say?" asked the girl.

"I have a copy of it here somewhere," went on the Judge.  "Would you
like to see it?"

He took some papers from a drawer, and, having selected one, passed it
to her.  Mary Bolitho's face crimsoned as she read.  She knew what Paul
would feel.  There was an insult in every line, almost in every word,
veiled by conventional politeness, it is true, but still a note which,
to a proud man, would wound like a poisoned knife.

"I had to put a stop to that sort of thing, of course.  Just because he
has made a little money, and has become a Member of Parliament, he has
dared to----  But I say, Mary, this leads me on to something else; and,
as we have an hour alone, it is well to have an understanding.  How old
are you?"

"Nearly twenty-one," she answered.

"I don't want to lose you, of course, but the time must come when I
shall have to do so, and--of course, you'll not be surprised to know
Ned Wilson was here two or three days ago, and I fancy he considers the
matter settled.  Do you know that he has spoken to me more than once?"

"But I gave him no encouragement," said the girl.  "I have promised him
nothing."

"No; but you have not repulsed him."

"You did not wish me to meet his appeal with a blank refusal," said the
girl.  "You said you had special reasons for that.  But I gave him no
encouragement.  I do not want to marry him."

"But you do not dislike him; in fact, you told me you felt very kindly
towards him."

"But not in that way, not in that way!"

"Mary, I want to be absolutely frank with you," said the Judge.  "I
wish you to marry young Wilson."

"Is that a command?" said the girl, and her voice was as cold as ice.

Her father looked at her steadily for a few seconds.  He seemed to be
on the point of resenting her tones, but presently decided not to do so.

"Let us put it this way," he said quietly, "Your marriage with Wilson
would help me out of many difficulties, and save me from many troubles."

"I don't understand, father."

"You've always looked upon me as a rich man," said Judge Bolitho.  "I'm
not.  I have been unfortunate in my investments, and while I was
practising at the Bar I made a good income; but we have always lived up
to it.  You see, I have had to entertain a good deal; and then my
Parliamentary career, though short, was very expensive.  I know I have
been very foolish, but I kept on that London house when I ought not to
have done so.  A man who keeps up two establishments should be rich.  I
thought I could afford it at one time, as my investments promised well.
Still, everything has gone to pieces, and I have enormous liabilities.
Had I known how things would have turned out I would never have
accepted the judgeship.  You see, the salary is but small compared with
what I could make before.  Within the next few months I have to find
huge sums of money; and--well, when you are Wilson's wife, it'll be
easy.  But, for the life of me, I do not know another man who could
help me out of my troubles!  There, Mary; I am sorry to have to make
such a confession, but it is best for you to know."

"Then I am to be sold!" said the girl.  "Sold like a bale of cotton!"

"Don't put it in that way," said the father.  "It's not fair.  Besides,
consciously or unconsciously, you have doubtlessly encouraged Wilson.
You've repeatedly gone to the house, and you have known what gossips
have said."

"I have refrained from contradicting gossip for your sake," replied
Mary.

"Yes, I know.  But you've always seemed pleased to see him, and as far
as I can judge, always found pleasure in his society.  He's a good
fellow, too.  I have made inquiries about him.  He has a blameless
record, and I am sure would make you a good husband.  As for
position--it is true he belongs to the manufacturing classes, but trade
is no longer regarded as it used to be.  Why, how many men in Ned's
position have, during the last few years, obtained peerages!  Among all
our circle of friends in London there is not one who could do for us
what Ned can do; and--Mary, as far as a father can promise for his
daughter, I promised for you.  I knew you liked him, and Ned regards it
as settled."

"Have you fixed the date, too, and decided where the wedding's to take
place?"  And there was a world of scorn in her voice.

"Come now, Mary.  Don't be unreasonable!"

"Unreasonable!" cried the girl.  "Surely I have my own life to live.
If I have been friendly with the Wilsons it has been at your request.
You know that, during the election, I begged of you to stay at an
hotel, instead of continually accepting their hospitality.  But you
practically commanded it, and so I went with you.  But when you promise
that I shall take a man like Wilson for my husband I think it's going
too far.  I should loathe his presence.  I should shrink from him every
time he came near me."

"But, Mary," said her father, evidently determined to keep his temper,
"surely this is strange.  You knew his feelings towards you years ago,
and you never evinced any repugnance.  You liked to spend hours upon
hours with him at the time of the election.  You have been seen with
him a great deal.  And when you have known that people have coupled
your name with his, you've still consented to go to Howden Clough."

"As though a girl may not think differently at twenty-one from what she
thinks at nineteen!"  And her voice was tremulous with anger.

"Why should you think differently?" he asked.  "You've seen no one else
whom you like better?"

Mary was silent.

"Perhaps you would like to marry this fellow?"  And her father placed
his hand upon the letter which they had been discussing.

"A thousand times rather than him!"

"Mary, Mary!"

"A thousand times rather than him!" repeated the girl.  "At least, Paul
Stepaside cannot be despised."

"And what is there to despise about Wilson?"

"Oh, nothing!" said the girl.  "But had he been placed in Mr.
Stepaside's position years ago, what would he have been?"

"Well, think it over," said the Judge, rising.  "In fact, if you care
anything about me, you will do what I say.  Surely you've not fallen in
love with that fellow?"

"No," said the girl.  "I've fallen in love with no one.  But, father,
can't you see, can't you understand what a girl feels?  Marriage is, or
ought to be, the most sacred thing in life, and to think that I am sold
to such a man, because--because----"

"Oh, you'll think better of it by to-morrow," said Judge Bolitho as he
left the room.  "I know that young girls are silly.  But remember,
Mary, I am older and wiser than you, and I am thinking of your future
as well as of my own."  He left the room as he spoke, while Mary sat
for a long time thinking deeply.

Every fibre of her being revolted against her father's proposal.  She
hated the thought of a marriage of convenience, and her heart hotly
rebelled.  All the same, she loved him greatly, and she knew that he
must have been in dire straits or he would not have told her of his
financial troubles.  For Judge Bolitho was a proud man, and did not
talk freely of such matters.  Had it been simply because her father
wished her to marry a rich man, she would never have given the question
a second thought; but when he asked her to save him from what seemed
like ruin, what could she do?  She knew that a judge could not afford
to get into financial difficulties, and knew that his honour must be,
as far as the world is concerned, stainless.  How, then, could she
refuse?  All the same, her whole nature rose in angry rebellion against
such a thing.

Again she thought of what Paul Stepaside had said to her, and wondered
whether, if she had never seen him, she would have been so angry at
what her father had done.  For hours that night she lay sleepless,
trying to think of a plan whereby what seemed to her now as a calamity,
and worse than a calamity, could be avoided.

When she came down the following morning her face was pale and almost
haggard.  Although she did not realise it, what Paul Stepaside had said
to her had altered the whole outlook of her life.  A heap of letters
lay on the breakfast-table, but they were all for her father.  A
servant moved quietly round the room, arranging for their morning meal,
while she stood listlessly looking over the garden.  It was now nine
o'clock, and her father always came punctually to the minute.

The clock on the mantelpiece had barely ceased striking when he came
into the room.  He kissed her perfunctorily, and then turned to his
letters.

"Nothing important, Mary.  Nothing important," he said, with an evident
desire to be cheerful.  "I think we're going to have a nice day, too,
although we are so close to Christmas.  But it's really too warm for
this time of year."

For several minutes he evidently tried to make conversation, with but
little success.  The girl made no response to anything he said, but sat
silently toying with the food that was placed before her.

The meal was nearly at an end when a servant came in bearing a
telegram.  The Judge took it from the salver and opened it almost
indifferently, but a second later his eyes were wild with terror, and
his hands trembled like an autumn leaf shaken with the wind.

"My God!" he exclaimed.

"What is it, father?"

He had risen from his seat.  He did not speak.  He seemed unable to
answer her.

"What is it, father?  Is someone ill--dying--what?"

And she snatched the wisp of thin paper from her father's hand.


"Ned murdered," she read.  "Found early this morning with a knife in
his heart.  Stabbed from the back.  Stepaside apprehended for murder.
We're all distracted.--WILSON."


For a moment the words seemed to swim before her eyes.  She could not
grasp their purport; and yet, even then, that which filled her heart
with terror was not the fact that Ned Wilson was dead but that Paul
Stepaside was apprehended as his murderer.  She knew of the long feud
that had existed between them.  She had heard a garbled account of
Paul's attack on Wilson on the night when he had been elected a member
for Brunford.  She remembered all that rumour had said during her
father's political contest in Brunford, knew that it was the talk of
the town that Wilson had tried to ruin him.  And Paul Stepaside was not
a gentle man.  He was strong, passionate--a man who in his anger would
stop at nothing.  Had Wilson, she wondered, aroused him to some
uncontrollable fury?  And had Paul, in his anger, struck him down?  But
a knife in his back, what did it mean?  Paul could never do that, and
yet----

She felt her head swim.  It seemed to her as though her senses were
leaving her.  The vision of her father standing before her, pale-faced
and horror-stricken, was a blurred one.  Nothing was real except that
ghastly terror was everywhere.

"Of course, it can't be true!" she said, at length.

"But don't you see, it's from his father?  It was sent off this
morning.  I wonder--no, I wonder at nothing!  My God! what shall I do?"

Even at this moment he seemed to be thinking more of himself than of
the agony which must be realised in Brunford.  It was not Ned Wilson's
death which had whitened his face and caused him to tremble so.  It was
the thought of his own ruin.  Unless he could meet his liabilities, he,
an English judge, might be disgraced.  Still, no; he thought he could
manage everything.  It only wanted time, and perhaps--well, things
might not be so bad after all.

"But it can't be true!" repeated the girl.  "Paul Stepaside could never
do such a thing."

Judge Bolitho had mastered himself by this time.  His eager quick mind
had grasped all the bearings of the case.  He remembered his last
interview with young Wilson, and the arrangement which had been made.
Yes, things were not so bad, after all.  He could manage.

"Of course he did it!" was his answer.  "Who else could there be?
Stepaside was Ned's only enemy."

"What will the Wilsons feel?" said the girl.  "The horror of it!  But
surely he could not be capable of it!  He could not do it!"

"He's capable of anything devilish!" replied her father.  "I felt it
years ago, when I got him sent to prison.  Of course, his name was
cleared somewhat, but he was always an incipient criminal of the worst
order--clever, if you like--ambitious, undoubtedly, but he belonged to
the criminal class.  And yet----  There, don't you see, 'Stepaside
apprehended.'  I thought he was too cunning for that, anyhow.  I judged
that a man of his order would have done the deed in such a way that the
guilt would seem to belong to someone else.  However, such fellows
always overreach themselves."

"But he could not do it, father.  He could not do it!" cried the girl.

"A man of Stepaside's character could do anything."  He was almost calm
now, and able to consider the bearings of the case judicially.  "The
thing has been growing for years.  Event after event has prepared the
way for it.  Stepaside has never forgiven the Wilsons for sending him
to prison.  As you know, too, he has always hated me for that.
Besides, Stepaside has always had the belief that Wilson has been
trying to ruin him financially.  You know what was said during the
election?  There have been rumours lately to the effect that this
fellow and his partner have lost a good deal of money.  Very likely he
tried to fasten that on Wilson; and so in the end he murdered him.  But
we shall see!  We shall see!  There will be more detailed news
presently."

"But he could never have done it!" and the girl reiterated it with
weary monotony.  It seemed to her as though she must fight for Paul
Stepaside's life, as though she were called upon to proclaim his
innocence.

"Who else could have done it?" said the Judge.  "Don't you see, events
must have pointed to him clearly, or they would never have dared to
apprehend him.  Besides, Ned Wilson hadn't an enemy in Brunford besides
Stepaside; no other in the world as far as I know.  The Wilsons have
always been kind masters, always popular with their employees.  Ned was
a general favourite in the town.  He's always borne a good character,
too.  During the years we've known him, there's never been a breath
against him.  Yes, it's all plain enough.  But I must make inquiries,
and find out."

He wandered round the room for more than a minute like one demented,
while the girl sat watching him with a hard, fearsome look in her eyes.

"Do you remember what he said that night when I was elected for
Brunford?" said the Judge presently.  "Do you remember how he defied
me, and proclaimed savagely that we should meet again, and always to
fight?  Well, it seems as though we shall meet again, but this time it
will be as judge and criminal!"

"But, father," cried the girl, "you don't mean that you would ever sit
in judgment on him?"

"It seems probable that it will be so," said Mr. Bolitho, after a
moment's reflection.  "Yes, and I will see that he shall have justice,
too, full justice.  The atheistic scoundrel!  You can now see the
logical outcome of the opinions of such men.  He has vaunted for years
that he believed neither in God nor Devil.  He admitted no
responsibilities to a Supreme Being, and when a man occupies such an
attitude, what moral standard can he have?  He hated Ned--poor
Ned!--and then, having no standard of right before him, having no
religion to sustain him, or to rebuke him, he became, in fact, what he
was at heart--a murderer!  You know what I have always said, Mary,
about these socialistic fellows: Atheism lies at the root of it all!
When a man ceases to believe in God he can be trusted for nothing.  If
religion is destroyed then all is destroyed!"

Each word seemed to ring like a knell in the girl's heart.  It was as
though judgment were passed already, and Paul Stepaside were condemned.

"But I must find out more about it," he went on.  "Particulars will be
flashing over a thousand wires by this time.  I must send a wire to
Howden Clough, too.  I must try and find out the truth, the whole
truth!"

And then he went out of the room, leaving Mary bewildered.



CHAPTER XIV

PAUL IS APPREHENDED FOR MURDER

"Paul Stepaside, I apprehend you for the murder of Mr. Edward Wilson!"

The words stunned him, and for the moment he scarcely realised their
purport--but only for a moment.  His mind asserted itself, and the
meaning of what he had just heard came to him in all its grim reality.

"I have to inform you," said the sergeant of the police, "that anything
that you may say to me may be used against you as evidence hereafter."

Paul looked at the man's face with a kind of curiosity.  For the moment
he seemed to be watching some drama of events with which he had nothing
to do.  The three policemen were of the ordinary well-fed and somewhat
self-satisfied class of men.  They acted upon order, without much
intelligence.  Paul hesitated a moment, and began to reflect deeply.
He called to mind all the events of the last few hours, and his heart
was filled with a great terror.  That which, a little while before, had
seemed only a dark shadow now assumed tangible shape.

"Very well, I will go with you," he said quietly.  And then, again
reflecting a moment, he continued: "But first of all I would like to
speak to my mother."

"No," said the sergeant.  "I can't allow you to go out of my sight."

"Think what you're saying, my man!" said Paul sharply.

"I can't help it, sir," replied the sergeant.  "I'm only acting upon
orders"; and he spoke humbly, apologetically.  Even at that moment a
passing stranger could not have helped noticing the difference between
the men.  The policemen were stolid, commonplace, the mere creatures of
formula; the young man whom they had come to apprehend was, to the most
casual observer, a man of mark.  Neither of them could help feeling it.
Pale of face, clear-cut features, black, flashing eyes, square
forehead, a well-shaped head covered with black, glossy hair--tall,
erect, well-dressed--it might seem as though he were their master and
they his servants; and yet each realised that he was a prisoner,
apprehended for murder.

"Very well, Broglin," said Paul quietly.  "I see you take this thing
seriously, and, of course, I do not wish to hinder you from doing your
duty.  But, at least, I have the right to know what authority you have
for apprehending me?"

"I have a magistrate's warrant," replied Broglin, the sergeant.

"Yes; but they cannot have made out a warrant without some sufficient
reason for so doing.  To be charged with murder is a serious affair!"

"I know it, sir," replied Broglin.  He had forgotten the part he had
intended to play.  He was altogether conquered by the stronger
personality with which he had come into contact.

"Well, what are the grounds for apprehending me, then?"

"First," said the policeman, after a moment's reflection, "Mr. Ned
Wilson was found dead this morning.  This man here, Police-Constable
Ashworth, was on his beat, not far from Howden Clough, when he found
him lying face on the ground, the knife driven into his heart."

"Very sad, very terrible," said Paul.  "But pray, what have I to do
with that?"

"Of course, he started to work," said the constable, "and before long
two men who are well known in Brunford, Abel Scott and James Thomas
Dixon, stated that they saw you the previous night.  They heard what
took place between you; they saw Mr. Wilson knock you down with a heavy
stick--you can't deny that; there's the wound on your temple now--and
they heard you threaten to pay him out."

"Yes," said Paul, "but that's not enough on which to apprehend me."

"I have got the magistrate's warrant," said the policeman.

"Still, there must be something more.  What is it?"

The policeman did not feel himself obliged to answer the question; but,
still yielding to Paul's stronger presence, went on humbly: "Well, sir,
of course the people at Howden Clough were knocked up at once, and a
letter was discovered from you to young Master Edward, asking him to
meet you."

"Still, that's not enough to apprehend me," said Paul.

"Maybe not," replied the constable.  "But the knife which was buried in
Mr. Ned Wilson's heart is known to be yours.  It was seen on the desk
in your office only yesterday."

Paul's lips became pale as these words were spoken.  He knew it was
damning evidence.  He remembered the knife; he had reason to.  "Very
well," he said.  "I will go with you; but, first of all, let me ring
for a servant.  No, I do not wish to move away from you farther than
the bell here."  He pressed a button as he spoke, and the servant, who
had been listening, eagerly rushed to him.

"Mary," said Paul, "where's my mother?"

"I don't know," replied the girl.  "I don't think she's up yet."

"Perhaps she's not well," said Paul.  "Tell her for me that I have to
go down into the town with these men, on a matter of business, but that
she need be under no apprehension about me.  Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir," replied the girl.

She had heard all that had been said.  She knew that her young master
was accused of murder, and in a way she believed it, but she could not
treat him disrespectfully.  There was something in his presence that
made it impossible.

"The cab's outside," said Broglin.  "I'd better put on the handcuffs, I
suppose?"

Paul lifted his eyebrows.  For the first time he fully realised what
was taking place.  All the ghastly disgrace, the terrible notoriety,
became real to him.  He knew that in a few minutes the whole town would
be agog with excitement.  His most intimate affairs would be discussed
by every gossip in Brunford.  Still, it could not be helped.  The thing
had to be gone through, and he must go through with it.  But he must be
careful not to betray himself or anyone else.

"There is no need of the handcuffs, Broglin," he said.  "Still, do your
duty."

"I am sorry," said the man.  "But, you see, it's a serious affair,
and--and----"

"Never mind," interrupted Paul, "put them on!"

He stepped into the cab, and the three burly forms of the policemen
also went with him.  The word was given to the driver, and a few
minutes later he felt himself drawn towards the Town Hall.

"Shall I pull down the blinds, Mr. Stepaside?" said Broglin.

For a moment he was tempted to say "Yes," but only for a moment.  It
was no use.  What would be the good of blinds?  Every one would know.
Even now he saw groups of people in the street, talking excitedly,
while more than one looked curiously at the cab in which he rode.  He
had no doubt that reporters were near, eager to get a sensational
account for the local papers.  It would be a godsend to them.  Paul
Stepaside, Member of Parliament for Brunford, the man who had been
spoken of as the idol of the people--he, whose one speech in the House
of Commons had given him an almost national reputation, would now be
notorious for one of the foulest deeds of which a man is capable.
Still, he did not lose control over himself.  He sat quietly, grimly,
thoughtfully.  There was that in his heart which he dared not reveal,
and which at all hazards must be kept buried.

Presently the cab reached the Town Hall.  A number of loafers were
hanging around, while many had gone so far as to leave their work in
order not to miss such a sight.  It was not like an ordinary murder.
Ned Wilson was the son of one of the most prominent men in the
district; and Paul Stepaside, who had come to Brunford only a few years
before, had become the most noted man in the town--and now it had come
to this!  A few minutes later he found himself in a cold, dark cell.

Of what he thought during the many hours he remained there it is not
easy to tell, but that he felt the terror of it and the grim tragedy
which pervaded everything can be easily realised.  He was apprehended
for murder, and he had been taken to that gloomy cell because of it.
Of course, the reasons were plain enough, and as far as he could see,
the police officials could not evade their duty.  The long-standing
feud between himself and Wilson was well known.  Many threats had been
uttered on both sides, while the quarrel which had taken place the
previous night had evidently become public property.  It seemed to him
as though the hand of Fate had been at work in order to encompass his
ruin.  Of course, he was innocent of the deed.  He had never struck Ned
Wilson the blow which deprived him of life; nevertheless, every
circumstance seemed to point to him; and, to crown all, it was his
knife that had been found in Wilson's heart.

During the time he had been in the cab he had been thinking of the
means he should use to clear himself, for he felt sure he could do so.
Sitting alone in the cell, however, this became impossible.  Such a
terror as he had never known before filled his heart.  He believed he
knew who had committed this ghastly deed, but his lips must be sealed.
He must not tell; he would rather die than tell of what he knew.  His
mother, out of love for him, and with a desire to be revenged upon the
man who had been his enemy, had, in her mad passion, taken away his
life.

He called to mind the incidents of the previous day.  He remembered
that, not long after he had arrived at his office that morning, his
mother came to see him.  She had come in by a side entrance and had
found her way across a little piece of intervening yard, and had thus
come to his office without the notice of others--at least, he hoped so;
at any rate, it was quite possible that she should have done so.  He
wondered why she had come that morning, because she seemed to have
nothing to say to him of importance.  But while they were there, she
had noticed a large knife lying upon his desk.  It had been sent to him
some time before by a man from South America, with whom he had done
business.  It was an ugly, murderous-looking weapon, and keen as a
razor.  He remembered her asking questions about it.  Soon after he had
been called out of the office, and when he returned he noticed that it
was not lying on the table.  He had paid no particular attention to
this fact at the time, because his mind had been filled with other
things.  He had been trying to discover Ned Wilson's whereabouts, and
he had been thinking of the things he meant to say to him.

During the afternoon he had forgotten all about his mother--he had
reason to--but on his return, after he had told her all that had taken
place, he remembered she seemed like one bereft of her senses.  Every
detail of the interview they had together came to him there, as he sat
alone in the darkness, thinking and remembering.  He called to mind
every word she had spoken; and, in the light of after events, he
thought he could plainly see their meaning.  She had told him that he
need not fear, that he should be avenged, that the desires of his heart
should be realised.  She had said something about Howden Clough.  He
had paid no particular attention to it then, as he fancied she was
thinking of the place where he had quarrelled with Wilson; but now he
knew.

He remembered going into his mother's bedroom and looking into the
wardrobe where she kept her dresses.  He had noted that it was nearly
midnight, and her bed had been untouched.  He called to mind, too, how
presently he had left the house, determined to find her; how he had
walked for hours in vain, not daring to make inquiries; and then, when
presently he had returned, he had found her in her bedroom, evidently
under the stress of a great emotion.  There was a look of unholy joy in
her eyes, and she had uttered wild words.  He could not understand them
then, but he understood now.  His mother, wrought up almost to a pitch
of insanity, roused to hatred of Wilson, not only because of what he
had done to him but of what he had said about her, and madly thinking
that she was going to help him, had gone out and committed this deed.

Of course, there were many things he could not explain; but the grim
logic of facts stared him in the face, and they explained the
unnameable fear which had come into his heart, the black shadow which
had rested upon everything.

In a way, he was almost glad that they had apprehended him; and there
in the silence he made a vow that, whatever should happen, he must see
to it that no suspicion should ever rest upon her.  Evidently she had
not been in the mind of the officials at all.  No one would suspect
that she had not gone to bed when she left him.  He was the only one
who knew, and he must guard the secret at whatever cost.

He knew something of the course of the procedure which would be taken
against him.  Whether he were committed for trial or not--ay, whether
any jury might find him guilty or not, he must say nothing, and do
nothing, which should have the slightest tendency to connect her with
this terrible thing.

The meaning of the tragedy itself did not appeal to him.  The fact that
Wilson, the man who through the long years had been his enemy--yes, and
his rival, too--was dead did not appeal to him.  The ghastliness of the
tragedy was not what he thought about at all.  Ever and always his mind
reverted to his mother.  She must be saved.

He had wondered the night before whether she were quite sane, and he
wondered now; but that did not matter.  Under no conceivable
circumstances must the thoughts of men be directed to her!

But what should he do?  He did not want to die; he hated the very
thought of death.  He remembered, too, the smile that Mary Bolitho had
given him when last they met.  He thought of the hopes she had inspired
in his heart, of the dreams which had made the world beautiful.  That
was all over now.  His mother had made everything impossible.  But
whatever she had done, she had done out of love for him, and he could
not think harshly of her.  Rather, in a way he could not understand, he
loved her more than ever.

"Poor mother!" he said to himself.  "It was all for love of me--all
because she wanted to make me happy!"

Again he went over the whole miserable story, and tried to see whether
he had not been mistaken in the suspicion which haunted his brain, but
he saw no loophole anywhere.  Who could have committed the deed but
she?  There was the fact of the knife, the fact of the wild threats she
had uttered, the fact of her going out into the night alone, the fact
that when he returned in the morning he had found her in an almost
hysterical state of mind in her bedroom, the fact that his knife was
buried in Wilson's heart.  No, no; there could be no doubt about it.
He did not love her the less, rather the more.  He did not regard her
as a murderess, and yet he felt sure it was she, even although he lay
there apprehended for one of the foulest deeds man could commit.

The following morning Paul was brought before the magistrates.  He knew
that their duty was largely a matter of form.  It was for them to
justify the warrant that had been taken out against him, the warrant to
arrest him on a charge of murder.

When he entered the justice room he was perfectly calm.  He had mapped
out his course of action to the minutest detail, and he had no doubt
about the findings of the magistrates.  Up to the present no coroner's
inquest had been held on the body of Edward Wilson.  That might not
take place for another day or so.  Certain preliminaries would have to
be arranged first.

The court was thronged, and he afterwards learnt that the street
outside was literally deluged with people who had tried to obtain
admission.  He had no doubt that thousands who had shouted with
exultation when he became Member for Brunford now believed him to be a
murderer; while others, with that morbid interest which is ever
associated with crime, wanted to be present while he was tried.  Every
seat on the magistrates' bench was occupied; both the victim and the
supposed murderer were well known.

Several witnesses were examined; the two men who had seen the quarrel
between Paul and Wilson gave evidence of the very angry scene which
took place.  They described Wilson's rage, and told how he had struck
Paul a very heavy blow on the head with a stick; and that Paul, on his
recovery, had threatened to be revenged.  The knife, also, which had
been found in Wilson's body, was proved to be Paul's property, and had
been known to be in his possession, while the long enmity between the
accused and the murdered man was the talk of the town.

The results of the magistrates' sitting were, of course, inevitable.
No bench of magistrates could do other than they were obliged to do.
He had set up no defence nor made any statement.  Paul Stepaside was
remanded, and sent to Strangeways Gaol in Manchester to await the
coroner's inquest.

By a little after six that evening Paul found himself again a prisoner
in the gaol where he had previously spent six months.  But this time
all was different.  On the former occasion, even although he knew he
had been unjustly accused and more unjustly prosecuted, he was aware
that much public sympathy was felt for him.  He was regarded as a kind
of hero among a large class of people.  He felt sure, too, that in due
course his name would be cleared, and even although the marks of his
prison life would ever remain upon him, he would be outwardly very
little the worse for what he suffered.

Now, however, the situation was worse.  The sky was black and murky;
the air was smoke-laden; the atmosphere seemed to be tense with gloom;
but it was not blacker than the sky of his life.  Everything was
hopeless, and he could do nothing.

Hour after hour he sat in Strangeways Gaol, thinking and wondering.
When the magistrates had remanded him for trial, he had shown no sign,
but had stood proud, calm, erect, and had shown no perturbation
whatever at their judgment.  It might have been the most commonplace
thing imaginable.  But now that he was alone in his cell everything was
different.  He saw what it all meant, and he knew, too, where the
pathway in which he had elected to tread would lead.

He was not a coward, and he had steeled his heart against the worst.
Death he did not fear; but even although he believed that to no man who
was dead was there any life hereafter, and, as a consequence, he would
know nothing of what took place, he dreaded the thought of disgrace.
He knew that throughout the whole land his portrait would be printed in
a thousand papers.  He knew he would be discussed by people whom he
despised.  He knew that his name would be a byword and a hissing in the
country, while his mother----  But no, he would not think of her.

And what of his hopes?  What of his ambitions?  What of his life's
work?  All seemed to be at an end.  He called to mind what his mother
had said to him years before on the Altarnun Moors.  "Find your
father," she had said.  "Clear your name from reproach, and be revenged
for all he did."  And now he would have to die, with his work
unaccomplished.  In spite of everything, he had failed to find his
father, failed to find the slightest clue to his whereabouts.  Thus, as
far as that went, his life's work would be unaccomplished.  He thought
of his career, the career which he was just beginning to make
brilliant.  He had become a Member of Parliament.  He had risen from
obscurity to what was the promise of fame.  He had been invited to the
houses of the rich and great.  His name had been spoken of as one that
would have a great future, and now all that was at an end.

But more than all this, he thought of Mary Bolitho.  He remembered the
words she had spoken to him on the night of the gathering in London,
remembered the flash of her eyes, the smile on her lips.  What if her
father had written an insulting note of refusal?  It weighed nothing
with him.  He had sworn to win her, and he believed--yes, he believed
that he could have done so.  But now all that was impossible, too.  Of
course, she had heard of what had taken place, heard of the accusation
which had been laid against him.  She would look on him as a murderer;
yes, and as the perpetrator of a gross, vulgar murder, too.  What would
she think of him?  Yes, that maddened him.  The rest seemed small in
comparison with this, and he knew what would take place, too.  Next
there would be a coroner's inquest, then another meeting before the
magistrates, and then he would have to meet judge and jury at the
Manchester Assizes.  Every detail of his life would be discussed, no
matter how sacred it might be, while the vilest thoughts and feelings
would be attributed to him by a gaping, vulgar crowd, and he must
suffer it.  And this was to be the end of life.  A few weeks more and
the end would come, and he, Paul Stepaside, who had such hopes of a
brilliant future, would end his life on the scaffold.  A hangman's cord
would be around his neck, and he would drop into Eternity, reviled and
spurned despite his innocence.



CHAPTER XV

THE CORONER'S INQUEST

The next day he was brought back to Brunford again, this time to be
present at the coroner's inquest.  A prison van took him from
Strangeways Gaol to the station, and thence he went to the town in
which, to use the words of one of the morning papers, "he had won an
almost unique position."  He dreaded this inquest almost more than he
dreaded anything else, for he knew that the inquiry which would be made
would not be hedged in by so many formulae as those which are
associated with the Assizes.  The business of this coroner's inquest
would not be to condemn a murderer or even to apprehend a murderer, but
officially to decide upon the means whereby Ned Wilson came to his end,
and, as a consequence, anyone could elect to give evidence, and anyone
could tell not only of what he was sure, but of what he believed.  All
sorts of irrelevant matter might be adduced here--gossip, suspicion,
unsupported statement.  All belonged to the order of the day.  He knew
what Brunford was.  On the whole the people were kind-hearted and
well-meaning.  Many of them might be coarse and somewhat brutal, but on
the whole they were people he loved.  But he knew their morbid interest
in crime, their love of gossip; knew that they were eager to hear and
to discuss every bit of scandal which might be adduced.

The place in which the inquest was held was crowded.  The jurymen who
had been sworn had examined the body according to the dictates of the
law, and had now met to decide as to the cause of his death.  A number
of people were there, ready to give evidence or to state what they knew
or believed concerning the matter.  All were eager, and many enjoyed
the situation as they had not enjoyed anything for years.

"I would not miss being here for a week's work," said one man to
another.

"I see George Preston is over there.  He looks pale, does George.  It
must be an awful blow to him!"

"Dost believe Stepaside did it?"

"I don't know.  I never thought him to be that sort of chap; but then,
you know, he and Ned Wilson have been at it for years."

"I can't see that the motive is sufficient," said another.  "What
motive had he for killing Ned Wilson?  Here he wur in Parliament, and
making a name for hissen.  Is it likely that for a bit of spite he'd
kill a chap in that way?  Besides, he's fair clever, is Stepaside.
Would he be such a fooil as to kill him wi' a knife as was known to be
his own?"

"No; but when a man is in a passion he thinks o' nowt.  He just becomes
like a savage.  And Paul always had a bit of a temper."

"Ay, but he were a quiet chap, too, and he must ha' known that he'd ha'
been suspected.  I can't believe that he would be such a fooil--and
yet, as tha ses, nobody knows."

At length the proper business of the inquest commenced.  The coroner,
who was a local doctor, sat grave and disturbed.  He knew Paul well,
and the two had often fought side by side on public questions.  The
jurymen, too, although they in a way enjoyed their position, were sad
at heart.  Nearly every one of them knew Paul and respected him.  It
was terrible to them to see him before them there as a prisoner, and
yet they could not help admiring him.  He was carefully dressed, and he
had seen to it that his clothes were brushed, and that his linen was
spotless.  Not by a tremor of his lips or by the movement of a muscle
did he show what he felt.  Pale, haughty, calm, dignified, he stood
before them as though he were a mere spectator of a scene which he
despised.

The case was taken in the ordinary way.  The first to give evidence was
old Mr. Edward Wilson, the father of the murdered man.  Even Paul
almost pitied him as he saw him.  His face was haggard and drawn.  He
who had been usually so florid looked as pale as ashes.  His cheeks
were baggy and his voice was unnatural.  He identified the murdered man
as his son.  He confessed to his having returned that night after his
quarrel with Paul, when he had seemed much disturbed.  Two letters
awaited him, both of which he had read and then destroyed by throwing
them into the fire.  About nine o'clock he went out, saying that he was
going to his club.  Since that time he had never been seen alive.
Where he had gone he could not tell; certain it is he never came home
again.  He told of the feud which had existed between his son and Paul
Stepaside.  He knew that Paul hated the murdered man with an intense
hatred, and had been known on many occasions to threaten him with
violence.  He adhered strictly to the truth, and yet that truth was so
coloured by his own feelings and prejudices that it was evident he had
no doubt about who killed his son.  He enlarged upon the fact that, as
far as he knew, his son had not a single enemy in the world besides
Paul Stepaside, and certainly no other had a sufficient motive to
murder him.

After this came the statement of the policeman.  He had been walking on
his beat about seven o'clock, and had seen the body of a dead man lying
in a lane not far from Howden Clough.  He quickly identified it as that
of Mr. Edward Wilson.  He described the position in which it lay.  He
told of the knife which was driven through the body.  He immediately
reported the matter to his superiors, whereupon the usual steps were
taken.  A doctor was summoned, who had made an examination, and so
forth.

After the constable's statement the doctor gave his evidence.  He had
no doubt as to the cause of death.  He had died as a result of a knife
that was driven through his heart.  The blow was struck from behind.
As far as he could judge, Mr. Edward Wilson had been murdered between
half-past four and five that same morning.  While the doctor was
speaking there was a deathly silence in the room.  It seemed as though
there were another nail driven into the scaffold on which Paul
Stepaside was to hang.  Up to now Paul's name had been seldom
mentioned, and yet his was the personality which dominated everything.
Eyes were constantly turned towards him.  Whispered remarks were often
heard concerning him.  All that the magistrates had asked at their
meeting was remembered.  The story of the past became vivid again.

Presently the two men who had watched the quarrel between Paul and Ned
Wilson told their story.  It may be that they did not adhere strictly
to the letter of the truth.  Perhaps they were anxious to make an
impression at the gathering.  Certain it is that, in their own rough
way, they made it almost certain that Paul was the murderer.

"You say," said the coroner to one of them, who was more gifted with
speech than the other, "that you saw the deceased and Paul Stepaside
quarrelling?"

"Ay, I did.  I were just going down t' lane wi' my mate here, and I
heard a sound of voices.  It wur gettin' dark, but I could see plainly
who they were.  We wur a bit curious, and so we both on us waited and
listened.  They did not see us."

"Did you hear what was said?"

"Weel, nowt what you would call anything connected like, but it were
easy to see as 'ow Stepaside were threatenin' Wilson.  They were both
on 'em pale wi' passion."

"Was Stepaside armed at the time?"

"No--at least, as far as I could see, he'd nowt in 'is hands, but
more'na once he lifted his fist as though he would strike Mr. Wilson."

"You say you heard no connected speech between them?" said the coroner.

"Not much," replied the man; "but we heerd summat."

"Well, tell us what you heard."

"I heerd Wilson say to Stepaside, 'You spy!  You sneaking hound!'  And
then I heerd Stepaside tell Wilson he must do summat, but what it was I
couldna rightly say.  It seemed to be summat about a letter."

"Well, and what then?"

"Well, then Wilson was in a fair fury, and he spoke loud."

"And you heard what he said?"

"Ay, I heerd."

"What did he say?"

"Well, he insulted Stepaside's mother.  I cannot remember the exact
words, but he said she were no better'na she ought to be, in fact that
she were--I'd rather write it down, maaster," he said.

"And after that?" said the coroner presently.

"And after that I saw Stepaside look murder.  No one could help seeing
it.  His great black een just shot fire, and I thought he was going to
knock Wilson down, but he didn't.  He just stopped hissen, and he only
said, 'Very well, then, I shall do what I say.'  Upon that he turned on
his heel to walk away, but he had not gone more than six steps when
Wilson lifted that stick of his with an ivory handle to it, and struck
Stepaside a smashing blow on th' head.  I thought first of all he had
killed him, for he fell on t' ground like a lump o' coll, and lay there
for maybe a minute, while Wilson stood over him."

"And then?" asked the coroner.

"Presently he picked himself up.  'I might have expected this,' he said
after a bit.  'It's a coward's blow, a kind of blow such as you always
strike.  But remember, I always pay my debts, always; even to the
uttermost farthing!'  And then he went away without another word, and I
shall never forget the look on his face as he did go away."

"And after that?" asked the coroner.

"After that I know no more," replied the man.

The question of the knife was then considered, and there were several
who testified that this knife belonged to Paul.  It had been sent to
him from abroad by a man with whom he did business, and his partner,
George Preston, admitted that he had often seen it lying on Paul's desk.

During this evidence it was noticed that Paul listened intently.  It
seemed as though he were specially interested.  Never once did he relax
his attention.  It might seem as though he regarded this as the most
important piece of evidence.  During the earlier part of the
examination he had seemed almost careless, but now every faculty was on
the alert, every nerve was in tension.

"Did Stepaside ever carry this knife with him?" asked the coroner.

"Not to my knowledge," replied Preston.

"Has he ever discussed the knife with you?"

"Well, I can hardly say that," he replied.  "But when it was sent I
remember him saying that it was a murderous weapon, and it would be
easy to kill a man with it.  It was as sharp as a razor, too."

"Do you know whether he had it on the day in question?"

"I only know that it was on the office desk that day."

"Do you know of anyone who entered the office that day who would be
likely to take it?"

"No," replied Preston; "I know of no one.  You see, since we took the
new mill my partner had one office and I had another.  Of course, we
were constantly going into each other's offices, but each of us
regarded the other's room as private."

"Is your office situated close to his?"

"Not far away."

"Could anyone go into his office without your hearing or knowing?"

"Yes, I suppose so, but I do not think it likely."

"And you say you know of no one who entered Stepaside's room that day?"

"No, I can remember no one."

"Were you in it that day yourself?"

"Yes.  We always meet and discuss matters every morning when I do not
go to Manchester."

"And you met that morning?"

"Yes."

"Did you happen to see the knife?"

"Yes, I saw it lying on his table."

"Was Stepaside in the habit of locking his office before he went out?"

"Always.  He was very particular about that.  He thought he had reason
to be."

"What reason?"

"Well, he believed that we had enemies.  I do not wish to enlarge upon
it now, but it's well known in the town."

This led to a number of questions wherein Paul's relationships with the
murdered man were freely discussed.  Witness after witness gave
evidence of this.  There could be no doubt about it.  A long-standing
quarrel had existed between the late Edward Wilson and Paul Stepaside.

"There's one further question I would like to ask of Mr. Preston," said
the coroner presently.  "It seems to me of very vital importance.  A
knife known to belong to Paul Stepaside was found driven into the body
of the deceased.  The question I wish to ask is this: Do you think it
possible that anyone could have obtained this knife without Stepaside's
knowledge and consent?"

"I am afraid not," and Preston spoke the words with a kind of gasp.

"And you, who were in your room most of the day, have no knowledge of
anyone going into his office who would be likely to take it?"

"I have no knowledge.  Indeed, my partner left at midday, and I do not
remember him coming to the place at all afterwards."

At the close of this evidence Paul gave a sigh, seemingly of relief.
This might seem strange, for every word that had been spoken had seemed
to fasten the guilt more securely on himself.  Presently he was asked
whether he wished to make a statement, and again all present were
struck by his demeanour.  His face was very pale, and his eyes had a
peculiar light in them, but otherwise he showed no excitement or fear.
His voice was perfectly steady; his lips did not quiver; his hands did
not tremble.  The evidence against him was as black as night.  Indeed,
no one seemed to have any doubt as to the finding of the jury--but he
did nothing to clear himself.  It is true, he declared emphatically
that he had no hand in killing the deceased man; he also said that when
he had last seen the knife it was lying on his office desk, but he made
no endeavour to show how it might have been taken away without his
knowledge.

He was also just as reticent about his whereabouts on the night of the
murder.  During the examination of the other witnesses, especially that
of his partner, he had seemed perturbed and anxious, but directly that
was over he became calm and almost indifferent.

If there was one ray of light in the whole of the ghastly business, it
was that Mary Bolitho's name had never been mentioned.  The truth was,
no one knew of his dreams concerning her.  No one fancied that he had
ever given her a thought.  It was generally believed in the town that
she was to become the wife of young Edward Wilson, but the thought that
the deceased man had a rival in Paul was outside the realm of their
calculation.  Consequently, the words which he had dreaded were never
spoken.

The inquest came to an end presently, and the jury found what had been
a foregone conclusion throughout the day.  Their verdict was that the
deceased man had been wilfully murdered, and that the murderer was Paul
Stepaside.

Everyone felt and knew that this was but another preliminary step;
everyone knew that the trial was yet to be held, and yet no one doubted
but that this, as far as Paul Stepaside was concerned, was another step
towards the gallows.  Many had hoped with a great hope that some
evidence would be adduced whereby a shadow of suspicion might be thrown
on someone else, but none was forthcoming.  Every hand seemed to point
to Paul Stepaside.  When the jury gave their verdict, even although all
knew it was not final, a great sobbing sigh was heard.  The air seemed
to be charged with calamity.  The faces of many were white, and tears
flowed from the eyes of many unused to weeping.

"Thou'st hanged tha partner," said one man to George Preston.  "Thine
was the most damning evidence of th' lot."

Preston's face was pale as ashes.  He could scarcely speak.  "I
couldn't help it," he said.

"Nay, I suppose not.  But it seemed to me that every answer tha gave
was another strand in the rope which shall hang him."

"God knows," said Preston, "if I could have answered in any other way
than I did I would have done so."

"Then tha doesna believe he did it?"

"I don't know what to believe.  I know he hated Wilson.  I know they've
been at daggers drawn for years, but I can't believe that Paul did it
that way.  He isn't that kind of man.  Besides, it doesn't stand to
reason that he should have taken the knife that was known to be his to
do such work."

"That's where I'm stalled."

"And yet, what could I do?  As far as I know, nobody did go into the
office, and nobody could take it without his knowing."

"We've noan heard the last on it yet.  Things'll come to light."

"Ay," whispered another man in another part of the room.  "'He that
hateth his brother is a murderer'--that's Scripture, ain't it?  And
Paul hated Wilson.  Besides, he had no faith in owt.  He believed in
neither God nor devil.  Ay, it's a sad thing when a chap's given up
faith in religion."

And so men talked, while many shook their heads and wondered.  Many did
not believe in his guilt, and yet when the question was asked as to who
could be guilty if not he, no reply was given.

"He'll have a weary Christmas," remarked an old weaver as the prison
van went towards the station.  "I wish I could send him summat to make
it a bit brighter, but what can us do?"

"At ony rate, we can pray for his soul."

A little later Paul was brought back to Brunford again.  He had to
appear a second time before the magistrates, who, after another
examination, committed him for trial to the Manchester Assizes.

"What'll happen to him now?" asked someone after the committal.

"He'll have to stay in Strangeways Gaol in Manchester until the Assizes
are held," was the reply.

"When will that be?"

"It may be weeks; it may be months.  But I expect it'll be held
somewhere about the end of January."  It was a young lawyer who said
this, who was hoping that the trial would mean some work for him.

"Poor Paul!" was the response.  "I wonder how his mother is takin' it?"



CHAPTER XVI

AWAITING THE TRIAL

Of course, the newspapers were full of the accounts of the murder of
young Edward Wilson.  The two Brunford papers were filled with
practically nothing else.  The Manchester dailies devoted several
columns to it.  Not only were the Wilsons an important family in
Lancashire, but Paul Stepaside was a Member of Parliament, who had
lately made a speech of note in the House.  Even the London dailies
gave a large amount of space to it; and on the morning following the
coroner's inquest Mary Bolitho felt as though someone had struck her a
blow, when, on the first page of the newspaper which had been sent to
her father's house, she saw the staring headlines: "Brunford Murder.
Coroner's Inquest.  Paul Stepaside, M.P., committed for trial."  She
had no breakfast that day, but went straight to her room, where she
spent hours reading and re-reading the reports given.  Everything
pointed to the fact that Paul was guilty, and yet she felt sure he was
not.  The shock of Ned Wilson's death, of course, had been very great,
and she had written a letter of condolence to the family.  But even her
horror at the murder was nothing compared with her feelings as she
realised that Paul Stepaside, even at that moment, lay in Strangeways
Gaol.  She remembered him as they spoke together the last time they had
met.  She called to mind her admiration of him, and reflected that,
although he had been brought up among the working classes, his
appearance gave no suggestion of it.  Perfectly dressed, perfectly
calm, and possessed of that _savoir faire_ which seems to be innate
with a certain class of people, Paul was infinitely removed from the
class of men with whom one associates criminal deeds.  She knew enough
of law, and had talked sufficiently often with her father, to know how
absolutely false circumstantial evidence may be, even although it seems
absolutely conclusive; and now, despite the fact that her father seemed
to have no doubt about Paul's guilt, her mind simply refused to accept
it.

He had never done the deed.  He simply could not!  If she were asked
her reason for this she could not have given one, only she knew--she
was absolutely sure.

Like many others, too, she tried to think who could have been guilty of
the murder.  The fact that young Ned Wilson was dead was, of course,
beyond doubt.  Someone must have killed him.  Who was it?  Her father
had repeatedly declared that, excepting Paul, Ned had not an enemy in
the world.  He had lived all his life in Brunford; he was known to the
people.  His father was a large employer of labour, and was regarded as
a good master.  Ned lived on good terms with everybody.  Who, then,
could have killed him?  Of course, every finger pointed to Paul--the
long feud, the repeated quarrels, the injuries which Wilson had often
done to him, the blow on his head on the very night of the murder, and
Paul's threat.  Then, again, there was his refusal to give an account
of his actions between midnight and six in the morning--and, last of
all, the knife acknowledged to be the property of Paul, with which the
deed was done.  The chain seemed complete; there did not appear to be a
loophole anyhow, and yet she was certain Paul had never committed the
deed.  Was it likely that a clever man such as he, even if he had
wanted to commit murder, would have used such brutal means?  Would he
have left behind him the knife which must inevitably be traced to him?
The thing was impossible!  Paul could not have done it.  Then she
remembered the strong, passionate nature of the man, the flash of his
eyes, his grim resolves, and her mind became torn by conflicting
thoughts.  Why did he persist in being silent?  Was there someone whom
he desired to shield, and, if so, who was it?  And again and again
there were the old haunting questions.

When the news was presently announced that the Brunford magistrates had
committed him to the Manchester Assizes for wilful murder, her father
was in the room.

"You've seen this, Mary?" he said, and he noted how pale her face was,
noted, too, the dark rings round her eyes.

She nodded.

"I haven't had time to go to Lancashire," continued the Judge.  "Of
course, I wrote a long letter of sympathy to the Wilsons.  I hope
you've also done this?"

"Yes," she replied.

"Poor Ned!  He was a good lad," said the Judge.  "To think that such a
life as his should have been cut short by that atheistic villain!"

"Are you sure it was he?" she could not help saying.

"Nothing is sure in such cases," replied the Judge.  "But I have read
every line of the evidence.  I've had full reports sent to me from
Brunford, and I have carefully weighed everything.  Besides, you see, I
know the history of both men, and I know the motives likely to be at
work.  Unless something comes out at the trial which utterly alters the
impression made by what has previously taken place, nothing can save
him.  Any jury in the world would condemn him!"

Her heart became like lead as he spoke, but she remained silent.

"Poor Mary!" continued the Judge.  "Of course, you feel Ned's death
keenly, and it must be ten times harder for you to bear than if it had
taken place in the natural way.  Talk about not believing in capital
punishment after this!  Why, the people would tear him to pieces if
they could get hold of him!"

"What do you mean?" asked the girl, and her voice was hoarse as she
spoke.

"From what I can gather, public feeling against him is terribly
strong," went on Judge Bolitho.  "It seems that the news has got afloat
that he had been planning this for months."

"It's a lie!" cried the girl.

"What?" asked the Judge in surprise.

"It cannot be true.  I saw him only a few days before the murder.  He
is not capable of such a thing, father."

The Judge laughed sarcastically.  "I ought to be the last man to
prejudge a case," he said.  "But when you talk about such a thing being
impossible I cannot help being amused.  Besides, no one can look at his
face without realising the streak of the savage that is in him.  He
always looked like an incipient criminal.  Anyhow, we shall see, and
justice must be done."

Christmas passed away and the New Year came, and there was nothing
further in the newspapers about Paul Stepaside save that he was lying
in Strangeways Gaol in Manchester awaiting the coming Assizes.  Early
in the New Year, however, Mary noticed that her father's face looked
strangely perturbed.  He was very silent, and seemed very anxious.

"What is the matter?" she asked.  "Aren't you well?"

"Oh, yes, quite well," he replied.

"What is it, then?"

"I don't like it," said the Judge.  "As far as I can see, I shall have
to try Stepaside.  I thought I should have escaped it, but for some
reason or other Leeson has dropped out, and I am the next on the rota.
There is not sufficient reason, either, why I should raise any
objection, and, after all, the jury will have to decide his guilt, not
I.  Besides, if I did, it would cause a certain amount of comment.
Still, I don't like it."  And it was easy to see, by the look on his
face, that he meant what he said.  Much as he had always disliked Paul
Stepaside, he shrank from having to give judgment against him--and
that, he seemed to believe, would be inevitable.

"It is settled," he said a day or two later.  "I have to go to
Lancashire next week."

"Father," said the girl, "let me go with you, will you?"

"Go with me, Mary?  Surely you do not mean to say that you wish to stay
at the Wilsons'?"

"Oh, no," she cried quickly.  "But I should like to be near you.  There
are good hotels both in Manchester and Liverpool, and I dread the
thought of staying here alone."

"The Gordons have invited you to go to their place.  Why not accept the
invitation?"

"I don't wish to," she replied, "Let me go with you."

"Come, come, Mary.  I shall begin to think that you are getting morbid.
This vulgar affair can be nothing to you, after all.  Of course, I know
you feel Wilson's death keenly, but why--why----"

"Don't ask me any questions, father.  I want to go with you.  I want to
be near to you."

"Oh, very well," he replied.  "If you can find any pleasure in being in
Lancashire at this time of the year by all means come.  But I think
you'll repent of it."

A few days later, however, she started upon the journey northwards with
her father, knowing that, according to all probability, he would be the
judge who would try Paul Stepaside for murder.

Meanwhile the accused man lay in Strangeways Gaol.  Up to the present
he had been treated with leniency, if not kindness.  First of all,
according to the English law, every man is regarded as innocent until
he's proved to be guilty, and as yet this had not taken place in Paul's
case.  He was allowed to see whom he would.  If he wished lawyers to
come and consult with him with regard to the method of his trial, or to
arrange for counsel, it was in his power to do so.  He could also see
friends.  Of course, he was held in strict confinement, but until the
word of doom was spoken certain privileges were allowed to him which
would be impossible afterwards.  As a matter of fact, too, many people
came to see him.  An ambitious young solicitor from Brunford, a friend
of Paul's, came to urge him to be defended and to offer his services.
"You and I, Stepaside," he said, "have known each other for years.
Won't you allow me to prepare your defence?"

"No," said Paul.

"But why?"

"Because I have none."

"Do you mean to say, then, that you're going to plead 'guilty'?"

"I don't say that--no, I shall plead 'Not guilty.'"

"Then will you allow yourself to be undefended?"

"I choose to defend myself," he replied.

"But, my dear fellow, you minimise your own chances that way!"

"Nevertheless, what defence is made on my part I shall make myself," he
replied.

The young solicitor looked at him in astonishment.  "You must be mad!"
he said.  "It isn't as though you can't afford it."

"No, it's not a matter of money," said Paul.

"You're going to plead 'Not guilty,' you say?"

"Yes."

"Then what is the line of defence you're going to offer?"

"That will be seen when the time comes."

"Come now, Stepaside, do be reasonable.  I know a man, perhaps the most
brilliant K.C. on the Northern Circuit.  Won't you let me bring him to
you?"

Paul shook his head.  "No," he said.  "I want to see no one."

"No one?"

"No, no one for that purpose.  I shall make my own defence in my own
way."

The interview which affected him most during the first weeks after he
had been committed for trial was that between himself and his mother.
He had been sitting alone for hours, brooding over the terrible
position in which he found himself placed, and, naturally, his mind
reverted to Brunford and to its many associations.

"She has never been to see me," he reflected.  "Never once.  Well,
after all, perhaps it is better not.  If she does come I must be very
careful.  I was afraid she might have been subpoenaed as a witness at
the inquest, but we were both spared that.  It would have been too
terrible.  Still, I am afraid they will insist on her being here at the
Assizes.  I wonder, I wonder----"

A few seconds later he felt as though his heart had grown cold within
him.  He heard his mother's voice as she spoke to a warder; and a
little later they were together.  The light was very dim, but still, he
could see the ravages which the last few days had made in her
appearance.  During the last few months Paul had reflected on his
mother's looks.  She had been growing young and handsome.  Her face had
been ruddy and free from marks of care.  In spite of everything, the
life with her son had renewed her youth.  Her hair was still black and
glossy; her form unbent.  It was no wonder--she was still but young in
years, and the effects of the tragedy of her girl-life had begun to
wear away.  Many a one in the town had remarked what a handsome woman
Paul Stepaside's mother was, and she, although she professed to care
nothing for her appearance, could not help being pleased.  Now,
however, all was changed.  The last few days seemed to have added years
to her life.  The ruddy hue of health was gone.  Her face had become
almost ashen, while in her eyes was a haunted look.  Paul was almost
startled as he caught sight of her, although he said nothing.  But he
drew his own conclusions, nevertheless.

Neither of them spoke for some time.  The woman's arms were round her
son, and her cheek close to his, and that was all.  She did not sob
convulsively as one would have expected under such circumstances; she
did not cry out in agony, rather she appeared like a dumb, half
lifeless creature, while in her eyes was a look of mute inquiry.

"My poor boy!  My poor boy!" she said presently.

"It's all right, mother."

"I thought we'd come to the end of our troubles.  I thought the new day
was dawning," she said.  "I thought that God was in the heavens after
all, and that He had used me, a poor, weak woman, instead of a strong
man like you.  But, oh, Paul, my boy, my boy!"

He did not understand her at all, and he fancied that her mind had
become somewhat unhinged by the experiences through which she had been
passing, but he said nothing.  He thought he had better not.

"What is the good of speech?" he reflected.  "She loves me.  I am
everything to her, and I would not add to her pain for worlds!"

"I tried so hard, Paul," she said presently.  "And I thought--no, never
mind what I thought; besides, even now I can say nothing that would----
But oh, my dear, dear boy!  When I was a lass on my father's farm
everything seemed hopeful--everything!  Of course, I had my
troubles--my stepmother was cruel to me, and she did not understand the
longings and fears of a lass such as I was; but still, I did not
trouble.  But ever since, Paul, ever since he came, it seems as though
everything has added to the confusion, to the mystery, to the misery!
I don't know how it is, but it seems as though Almighty God has placed
a curse upon me.  Whatever I've done has turned out wrong.  I don't
blame you, Paul.  No, I don't blame you; but to think--to think----"

"I don't understand, mother."  He was obliged to say this, although he
still believed his mother's mind was wandering.

"Of course, you've got your defence?" she said.  "You would say nothing
about it at the trials at Brunford, but I know you have something at
the back of your mind.  You have, my boy, haven't you?"

His voice was almost grim as he replied, "Yes; I have something at the
back of my mind."

"What maddens me," she went on, "is that everything one does seems to
be so futile--it ends in nothing!  I thought I had done that which made
everything plain for you.  I thought the sun was going to shine on you
continually, and that the desires of your heart should be gratified.
And now I find I'm a fool.  Almighty God laughs at me--just laughs at
me!  I've done and suffered in vain.  But, of course, you'll clear
yourself?"

Again the young man looked at his mother steadily.  What did she mean
by this--"Of course, you'll clear yourself"?

"It will be very difficult," he could not help saying.

A look of terror came into her eyes.  "But not impossible, Paul.  No, I
see you mean that you'll get out of it.  You're so clever.  You can see
your way out of things which to other people would be impossible.
You've got your plans all made, haven't you?"  And she looked at him
with a mad light in her eyes.

"Yes," he replied with a sigh; "I have my plans all made."

"Someone told me that you refused to have anyone to defend you.  Better
so, Paul, better so.  You're cleverer than any of these barrister men,
'King's Counsels,' I think they call themselves.  If you got one of
them to defend you you'd have to tell them too much, and you mustn't do
that.  You know what to say, what not to say, what to tell and what to
keep back.  It'll be very hard for you, Paul, but I can trust you.
You're my own brave, clever lad.  About that knife, Paul, I think I can
help you."

Still he did not understand her.  She seemed to be talking riddles.

"George Preston said that no one was near your office, Paul.  As you
know, I was there, and I saw the knife lying on your desk.  Paul, Paul,
let me confess to it!  After all, it doesn't matter about me.  Let me
confess to it, so that you can go free--I will if you like.  I don't
mind the shame, I don't mind the disgrace.  Let people say it was his
mad mother, let them say----"

"No, no, mother."  His voice became harsh and almost unnatural as he
spoke.  "No, mother, not you.  Whatever is borne, I will bear it.  You
needn't fear.  My business affairs are all arranged satisfactorily;
even while I'm lying here, money is being made.  The contracts I made
were good, and Preston is an honest, capable fellow; and you can live
on at the old house, mother."

He hardly knew what he was saying, so great was the terror which filled
his heart and life.  His mother had practically confessed to him the
thing he feared, but he was not angry with her.  Instead, his heart was
filled with a great yearning pity.  Oh, what she must have suffered!
the agonies through which she must have passed; and it was all for him,
all for him.  He would a thousand times rather plead "Guilty" to the
crime than that one shadow of suspicion should fall upon her.  Besides,
he did not believe she was altogether responsible for what she had
done.  Even on the night of the murder, he had noticed the madness in
her eyes.  He remembered the look which had haunted him almost ever
since.  In her love for him, a love which was unreasoning, and which
rendered her anger almost uncontrollable, she had done what under
ordinary circumstances would never have been possible.

"Poor mother!" he reflected.  "All her life she has blamed herself for
having brought, as she thought, disgrace upon me.  Her only object in
life has been that I might find happiness, and that justice should be
done to me.  No thought of self ever came into any deed she has done
since I have been born.  She was silent for me; she suffered for me;
she thought for me; she slaved for me; and now she has become----  But
it was all for me.  No, she shall suffer nothing that I can defend her
from.  But, oh, her burden must be a ghastly one!  And I must try hard,
too; yes, I must make her think bright thoughts."

"It's all right, mother," he said.  "You needn't fear!"

"It'll all come out right," she said, and there was a kind of hysteria
in her voice.

"It must," was his reply.  "I have thought it all out, mother.  I have
gone over the ground, step by step, and you needn't fear."

"That's why you're going to defend yourself, isn't it?" and she almost
laughed.  "You're going to surprise them at the trial?  You won't tell
what your thoughts are to anyone, for fear they shall make a bungle of
it?  Half these barristers, I'm told, are very muddle-headed, and make
all sorts of foolish admissions; and you're going to defend yourself in
your own way, aren't you?"

"Yes, mother," he replied, "in my own way."

"I expect they'll bring me as a witness."

"Well, what if they do, mother?  You must know nothing, absolutely
nothing.  Do you see?  You went to bed that night in the ordinary way,
don't you remember?  I came home from London, and we had a long talk
together, and then you asked me to go to bed, and I told you I had a
great many things to think about, many plans to arrange; and, of
course, you went to bed.  You saw nothing, suspected nothing.  That's
your line, mother.  Don't hazard any opinion when they ask you
questions.  Say 'Yes,' or 'No.'  Do you see?"

"Is that what you want?" she said.

"That's what you must do."

She looked at him steadily, searchingly.  "And I can trust you, Paul?"
She seemed on the point of telling him something--something which he
was afraid to hear.  So he went on hastily:

"Of course you can.  You must fear nothing, absolutely nothing; and you
have nothing to do, nothing to say.  Yes, it will be awful for you, for
they will be sure to bring you as a witness, but that's your line."

"Yes, I understand, Paul.  You can trust me.  Perhaps they will not
bring me at all."

"I hope, I hope----  No, it's all right; nothing will be said."

When they parted a little later, Paul thought his senses were leaving
him.  He understood nothing, except that he was in a cell in
Strangeways Gaol, awaiting his trial for murder.

Presently the news came to him that the assizes had commenced, but when
his own trial would come on no one seemed to know.  He still refused
all offers of defence.  The truth was, he dared not open his heart to
any lawyer.  He saw that if he were to allow anyone to defend him, he
must of necessity give them a certain amount of confidence.  He must
trust them.  That he could not afford to do.  He was not afraid to die,
and at least he had courage enough to be silent.

Presently the news reached him that he was to be brought to the bar of
judgment on the following day, but still he refused all offers of
defence.  He gave no reason for this; indeed, he became more and more
grimly silent than ever.  He simply shook his head when those who
pretended to wish him well pleaded that they might be allowed to appear
for his defence.

On the night before his trial, therefore, he sat in his cell alone.
The day had been black and grimy, and not a shadow of sunshine
penetrated the gloom.  Perhaps there is no town in England which looks
more grey and sordid than Manchester does in the dead of the winter.
The streets are covered with black, slimy mud; the atmosphere is dank
and smoke-laden; the houses are grey and enveloped in gloom; even the
crowds which throng its streets seem oppressed by the grime-laden air.
And Strangeways Gaol is perhaps the most forbidding place in the whole
of this great northern metropolis.  As someone has said; "Manchester is
one of the best places in the world to get out of."  Of course, there's
another side to that; it is a city full of strong, clear-headed,
progressive people.  On the whole, too, there are but few people in the
world more loyal and more kind-hearted than those in what a great
divine used to call, "Dear, black, old, smoky Lancashire."  But in the
dead of the winter, and to a man with the shadow of the gallows resting
upon him, there can be no place in the world so little to be desired.
The black night of despair was resting upon Paul's heart.  On the
morrow the great trial would commence, and although he thought he had
arranged everything perfectly, he could not help fearing the results.
And then, while his thoughts were at their blackest, he heard a voice
which thrilled his being and caused every nerve to quiver with delight.

"This is the one," he heard a warder say.  And a minute later he was
alone with Mary Bolitho.



CHAPTER XVII

THE LOVERS

Had anyone told Mary Bolitho, even when her father consented for her to
accompany him to Lancashire, that she would have sought admission into
Paul's cell, she would have repudiated the idea.  Even while she could
not help believing that there was some awful mistake, and that Paul was
utterly incapable of such a deed, she felt that there was nothing for
her to do.  When she arrived in Lancashire, however, and the assizes
had commenced, she realised the terrible issues at stake.  If Paul were
found guilty, he would be hanged.  The thought was like a death-knell
in her heart, and all its grim horror possessed her.  Day by day passed
away, and she could not shake it off.  She pictured Paul lying in
Strangeways Gaol, waiting his trial, and realised something of the
loneliness and the terror which must have encompassed his life.

One day, while visiting a shop in Market Street, she heard some people
talking.  "He's said no word, I suppose?" said one man.

"I've never heard of anything."

"A curious business, isn't it?"

"Ay, very curious.  It don't seem right, somehow, that a man like Paul
Stepaside should do such a thing.  Of course, the jury will have to go
upon evidence, and the evidence is all against him.  I've heard as 'ow
he's refused to be defended."

"What'll that mean?"

"I don't know, but what I am thinking is, why should he take such a
step?"

"Perhaps he's guilty, and wants to get it over!"

"Ah, but what if he's wanting to shield someone?  Anyhow, unless
something happens, he'll swing!  My word, though, I wouldn't like to be
in his place!  Fancy lying in yon Strangeways Gaol day after day!  It's
not a cheerful place at any time.  I've heard that when they're
condemned to die, they can hear the carpenters nailing the scaffold
together.  Hellish, isn't it?"

"Ah, and he must be very lonely.  Fancy the terror of it!"

It was only gossip, which might be expected under such circumstances,
but it fired Mary Bolitho's imagination.  It helped her to realise the
situation more keenly even than she had yet realised it.  Paul swinging
on a scaffold!  Paul dead!  Then she knew the secret of her heart.
What she had never dreamt of as possible became a tremendous reality.
He was the one man in all the world for her.  Without him life would be
a great haggard misery.  She did not know why it was, or how it was,
but the man had become king of her life; and he was lying in a prison
cell accused of murder!

She must do something; she must!  She felt as though she were going
mad; she free in the streets of Manchester, free to live her own life,
to follow her desires, while he lay there alone, with the shadow of the
scaffold resting upon him!  And he was innocent.  She was sure he was
innocent.  She had no more a doubt about it than of her own existence.
The evidence at the Brunford Town Hall and at the coroner's inquest was
nothing to her.  Circumstantial evidence was nothing.  The gossip which
was so freely bandied was nothing.  Paul was innocent, and she loved
him.  But what could she do?  Rather, what must she do?  Regardless of
the consequences, she immediately took steps whereby she might be
enabled to see the prisoner.

Naturally Paul had no idea of the thoughts that were surging in her
mind.  He never dreamed of what she intended to do.  He sat alone in
his cell, thinking and wondering.  He had given up all hope of ever
seeing Mary again.  All his fond imaginings had come to nothing.  The
resolutions he had made were but as the wind.  One day he was full of
hope, full of determination; he would conquer difficulties, he would
laugh at impossibilities; the next day all hope had gone; defeat,
disgrace, horror blotted out everything else.

That was the greatest burden he had to bear.  His life broken off in
the middle?  Yes, he could face that.  The career which promised great
things utterly destroyed--well, that did not seem to matter.  The
destruction of the dreams of a lifetime?  Terrible as it was, he met it
with a kind of grim despair.  But the loss of Mary Bolitho--to feel
that he would never see her again, never hear her voice again, never
enter into the joy which he had promised himself should be his--that
was terrible beyond words.

He had no belief in a future life, even while his heart demanded it.
When the last act was over, then came a pall of eternal silence,
eternal unconsciousness.  Of course it was a great, grim, ghastly
tragedy, but he had to accept facts as they were.  There was no God, no
Providence, no justice; life was a hideous mockery, a meaningless
tangle.  No; he would never see her again, never hear her voice again,
never catch that glad flash of her eyes which he had seen during their
last meeting.  It seemed to him as though he had entered an inferno,
over the portals of which was written: "All hope abandon, ye who enter
here."

Then, suddenly, the heavens opened.  It seemed as though the black
night had ended in the shining of a summer morning.  The blackness of
his cell, the grim future of his life were as nothing.  He heard her
voice, and they stood face to face.

For a moment they did not speak.  He looked at her like one fascinated.
It was too wonderful to be true.  Presently he would wake from his
dream, as he had wakened from other dreams, and everything would mock
him again.  He passed his hand across his brow, as if to wipe away the
shadows which hung between him and reality.  Yes, Mary was there; she
was looking at him with kind eyes, and her lips were tremulous.  Then
in a moment the meaning of what she had done became real to him.  If
there was one thing for which he had feared, it was Mary's good name.
One of the great objects of his life had been to save her from being
connected with the shame which surrounded his name.  Little as he cared
for gossip under ordinary circumstances, he dreaded it now.  What would
be said if it were known that she had come to see him?  And people
would know!  Would not a thousand suspicions be aroused?  Would not
evil tongues wag?  His own suffering he could bear, but she must not
suffer.

"Why have you come?"  It was not a bit what he intended to say, but the
words seemed drawn from him in spite of himself.

"I came to see you," she said.  "How could I help it?"

Again he looked at her wonderingly.  He did not understand.  He fancied
that his brain must be giving way.  He could not connect cause with
event.  He could not grasp the issues of the situation.

"Why could you not help it?"

"Paul, you know!" she said.

He thought his heart would have burst; the excitement of the moment was
too great.  His head whirled with a mad wonder, and yet he would not
have exchanged places with a king.  The prison cell seemed like a
palace; that second of joy more than atoned for all he had suffered.

"Mary!" he cried, "do you mean that?  You know what is in my heart.
You know what for months I have been afraid to tell you.  You must have
known!  Why, it has been like fire in my brain; it has been the great
passion of my heart.  You knew it when we were in London together, even
before I told you, didn't you?"

She nodded her head, and Paul saw that her eyes were brimming with
tears.

"And you cared enough to come and see me?" he said.

"I could not help coming, Paul," was her reply.  "How could I, when I
knew that you were alone, and that you needed me?"

"But you must go away," he said.  "It's heaven to have you near, but
you must go away.  No one must know.  Why, think of what the world
would say!"

"As though I care what the world says," was her reply.  "As a matter of
fact, I obtained admission to you without difficulty, and I do not
think anyone knows who I am.  You see, I have means unknown to other
people.  But I do not care who knows.  Why should I care?  I came to
you because I--I----  But you know, Paul!  You know!"

"And you came to tell me that?" he said.

"Yes, to tell you that," she replied.  "Of course, I could never have
told you had things been as they were; but now--I can't help it.  How
can I?  And I've come to save you, too!"

"To save me?"

"Yes, to save you."

"But do you know what I am accused of?" he asked, and his voice was
hoarse.

"Of course I know.  How can I help it?  But that's nothing."

"But, Mary, you don't understand."

"I understand everything," she said.  "That is, everything that
matters.  You and I are all the world, Paul.  For days I've been
fighting; perhaps I've been a little mad; I sometimes think I have.
But that's all over.  I have thrown fear to the wind.  I don't care
what the world says.  I don't care though all the gossips in the world
talk about me.  I came to you because you needed me, and because I love
you, Paul."

Her words were simple, but there was something glorious in her
self-abandonment.  To her the non-essentials of life did not seem to
exist.  She had thrown everything to the winds.  The wondrousness of
her womanhood had burst forth.  Her heart had spoken, and she had
listened to it.  The ways of the world, the conventionalities of
society, the gossip of tongues were no more than thistledown.  The
great thing in life was the love which had been born in her heart, a
love which overwhelmed and submerged everything else.  For that she had
dared everything, and she had found her way to the cell of this man
accused of murder.

"But even yet I do not think you realise," he said.  "Oh, don't
misunderstand me, Mary.  You know how my heart rejoices in this
moment--how I would gladly suffer ten times more than I have suffered
for the joy of this hour.  Why, the thought of your love has been life
to me.  It has been the inspiration of everything I've done.  Ever
since that day I caught the flash of your angry eyes--the day when I
came out of prison, you have dominated everything.  Your presence has
filled everything.  Even while I hated you, I loved you.  Even when I
steeled my heart against you, you were everything to me.  I did not
know you, but that did not matter.  What is knowledge?  Of course, I
only thought that you regarded me as a thing beneath your notice, but
that did not matter.  You were born for me, and I swore that you should
be mine, even although I went to hell to get you.  And now, now that
you've come to me like this, Great God, Mary, you know what it must
mean to me!  Words are such poor little things, aren't they?  But
you're here, here!"

He caught her hand as he spoke, and again looked into the depths of her
eyes; while she, although she was half-afraid, stood steadily gazing at
him.

"I'm accused of murder, Mary.  Do you understand?  Murder!  I was never
jealous of him, and yet men said that you and he were to be wedded.
You know all about it?"

"Yes, I know," she said.

"And you believe I'm guilty, don't you?"

"Guilty!"  The girl laughed as she spoke.  "Guilty!  I believe in my
own guilt rather than yours."

"But I'm going to be hanged for it," he said.  "The knife which was
found in his heart, is my knife.  Don't you see?"

"I see everything," she replied.  "I see nothing.  But you guilty!"
And again she laughed.

"You don't believe it, then?  You have seen what the newspapers have
said?  You have read every bit of damning evidence against me?  You
know that I have been lampooned in a thousand newspapers?  You know
that I have been discussed by every pothouse villain in the land?  And
it is said that there is not one link wanting in the chain that binds
me to the scaffold."

"I don't know, I don't care about that," she replied.  "You are as
innocent as the angels in heaven.  Why, Paul, if all the juries in the
land were to condemn you; if all the newspapers in the world were to
lampoon you; if your best friends told me they had seen you do it, I
would not believe it."

"Then you believe me innocent?"  And his voice was tremulous with joy.

"I don't believe," was her reply.  "I know."

"How do you know?" He spoke like one bewildered.

"Because I know you, Paul.  I've seen into your heart; and my own heart
has spoken to me, and God has spoken to me.  You guilty!"

He felt as though the shadow of death were lifted from his life.  The
great terror which had enveloped him for days had been that Mary
Bolitho would look upon him as a murderer; and now, with the
self-abandonment which was to him past all thought, she had come to him
of her own accord, she had thrown conventions to the winds, and she had
confessed, as only she could confess, that she believed in him and that
she loved him.

The heart-hunger which had consumed him during the long weeks was too
great to be borne.  He opened his arms; and each, forgetful of where
they were, forgetful of the grim prison walls, forgetful of the painful
silence of the prison, held the other.

Years before Mary Bolitho had admired the words of Lovelace, the poet:

"Stone walls do not a prison make, or iron bars a cage."

But now the lines seemed poverty itself.  How little it expressed the
deep feeling of her life.  They were not in prison.  The solemn bell of
doom was not tolling.  She was in heaven.  So great is the power of a
pure love.  As for Paul, at that moment everything faded but the
blissful present.  There was no past, there was no future.  Nothing
mattered but the now.  He had entered into the joy of which he dreamt,
and he would not think of anything else.  How long they remained in
that condition of untold happiness he did not know, he did not care.
But presently all the grim realities came back again.  He knew where he
was.  Mary would shortly have to leave him.  He thought of the warder
peering curiously into her face and making surmises as to why she came.
He thought of whispering tongues; but more than all that, he thought of
the terrible future which awaited him.  Paul's temptation had not yet
come, but the hand of the tempter was even at that moment knocking at
the door of his heart.

"Now, Paul," she said, and her voice was changed, "now we must think
about the future."

"Not yet, not yet, Mary.  Let me remain in heaven while I can.  Hell
will come soon enough."

"No, Paul, you must think about the future.  You must think about it at
once.  You are not guilty of this, and you must know who is.  You must
tell me.  Hitherto you have refused to confide in anyone.  You have
maintained a silence which has been misunderstood, and which has caused
so many to think of you as guilty.  It must be broken, Paul.  You must
tell me everything, and I will save you."

It was then that he realised what he had to face.  For Paul Stepaside
believed that he knew who had killed Wilson.  For many a weary hour he
had thought over his mother's strange behaviour, thought of the flash
of madness which had shot from her eyes, thought of the wild words she
had uttered.  He remembered, too, the sight that met his gaze on the
morning of the murder.  He saw her again, sitting in her bedroom, saw
the look of unholy joy in her face; and in his heart of hearts he felt
sure of what she had done.  It was all for him.  She had loved him with
a mad, unreasoning frenzy; for him she was willing to sacrifice her own
life.  How much wonder, then, that she had been willing to sacrifice
another's life.  She had believed that Ned Wilson stood between him and
happiness, and she had determined to move him out of life's pathway.
He had seen her on the day before the murder, with the knife which had
killed Ned Wilson in her hand.  She, unknown to his partner, George
Preston, had come to his office.  He had seen her handling this
murderous weapon, and he remembered the look in her eyes; remembered,
too, what she had said.  How could he doubt?  Indeed, she had
practically confessed the deed to him, and he had sworn that not a
shadow of suspicion should rest upon her name.  She was his mother.
She had suffered for him.  She had committed a crime for him.  But he
could not let her pay the penalty for it.  No, no; he was willing to
die himself, but he could not bear the thought of his mother's name
being tarnished.  He shuddered at the very suggestion of her being held
up before the world's gaze.

"You see, Paul," went on Mary Bolitho; "I know you never did this, and
I know you're hiding something.  And you must clear your name, for my
sake.  You see, don't you?"

It seemed as though the god of silence sealed his lips.  He could not
speak.  How could he speak, when, if he told what was in his heart, his
words would be of such terrible portent?  Then, like lightning, the
issues became clear to him.  They were written from sky to sky.  If he
did not speak, if he maintained the silence which he had hitherto
maintained, the jury would find him guilty, and he would be hanged.
But his mother's name would be saved from disgrace.  She would not have
to pay the penalty of the deed which she had done out of love for him.
No one could associate crime with her.  He had gone carefully into his
business matters, and he knew that he would leave her enough to live
comfortably.  The hand of want would never knock at her door.  Of
course, it was all very terrible; but she would never be branded, and
she might find some measure of peace.  Anyhow, he was willing to pay
the price for what happiness she could get.  He would be an ingrate
indeed if he were not.  Had she not done everything for him?  Ah! but
there was the other side.  Mary's coming had made everything a thousand
times harder to bear.  He did not mind it before, for he believed that
everything had become impossible, but now that she had come to him, now
that she had freely told him with her own lips of the love she bore for
him, now that she was willing to link her life with his, regardless of
what the world might say, now that a happiness such as he had never
dreamt of was possible, how could he do it?  In that moment Paul
Stepaside seemed to live an eternity.  Whichever way he turned, he was
met by blank impossibilities.  How could he enter into happiness,
knowing that in order to do so he had sent his mother to the gallows?
Rather a thousand times that his tongue should be paralysed than that
he should utter a word to fasten the crime upon her.  And yet, if he
did not do so, he must lose Mary for ever.  He must end his days in a
way which has become a byword and a shame for every right-thinking man.

"You'll tell me what you know, and all you know, won't you?  It's for
my sake, Paul.  It's for both our sakes, our life's happiness is at
stake.  You see it, don't you?  Tell me, my dear, tell me?"

What would he not have given to have been able to have told her!  But
how could he?

"No, Mary," he said at length.  "There is nothing to tell."

"You mean you will not tell?"

"There is nothing to tell," he repeated.

"Paul, you're not guilty; you know you're not guilty.  You are
absolutely innocent of everything with which you are charged.  You know
it.  I don't want you to answer me.  You know it, and I know it."

He looked at her with a glad light shining from his eyes, even although
her words were laden with such a terrible meaning.  It was heaven to
know that she believed in him so--heaven to realise that her trust was
so infinite.

"There is nothing to tell," he repeated with dreary monotony.

"But there is, Paul.  You can save yourself if you will, you know you
can."  He did not speak, but sat still, looking at her with steady gaze.

"Will you leave me so?" she went on.  "I will not plead with you for
your own sake, or for your own happiness, but will you not for mine?
Think, Paul!  I love you.  All that I have and am belong to you.  To
lose you will be losing everything.  Will you not, for my sake, speak?
There, Paul"--she threw her arms round his neck and kissed him--"there,
Paul, I love you; I love you more than life.  Will you not tell me for
my life's happiness?"

He knew what temptation meant then, as he had never known it before.
His heart hungered for her as even he had never thought it could
hunger.  His whole being cried out for her and for happiness, and if he
would but speak, then everything became possible; while if he were
silent----

It seemed as though his mind were giving way, as though the trial were
too hard to bear.  God, if there were a God at all, could never expect
him to give up such a joy.  He was young--only a little more than a lad
in years--with life all before him, with glorious possibilities, and
the love of Mary Bolitho.  While she, she who stood there, was glorious
in her youth and in her beauty.  She, who, with the sacrifice of all
that lesser women hold so dear, had come to him and besought him to
enter into the joy he longed for.  Oh, he could not give her up; he
must speak.

He nerved himself to tell her, nerved himself to relate the story of
his life, and the story of what he was sure his mother had done; but
even as he did so, he saw his mother's face.  He remembered her years
of loneliness and disappointment and sorrow.  He remembered how her
life had been blackened and broken, and that she had done everything
for him.  No, he could not, he could not.

"There is nothing to tell."  He reiterated the words as though they
were some formula, and he thought indeed all was over.  But to his
surprise, the girl laughed again.

"Do you think I don't know you, Paul?  Do you think I am going to give
up our happiness without a struggle?  Do you think I am going to allow
you to go down to your grave without fighting for you?  You will not
tell me, but I'm going to find out!  I know you are shielding someone.
Your eyes have told me the truth, and you cannot deny what I have said.
Who it is doesn't matter.  But I'm going to find out.  I'm going to
save you, Paul.  And we shall be happy in spite of everything."

"No, no."  His voice was hoarse and unnatural.

"But I will," she said.  "Do you think my love is something that makes
me helpless?  Do you think I can stand by knowing that you are
innocent, and allowing you to appear guilty of such a crime?  I don't
love you for nothing, Paul.  I love you to serve you--to save you."

Never, even in those hours when he had thought most fondly of her, had
he dreamt of the depths of her nature, or thought of what she was
capable.  Now he realised that Mary Bolitho was no ordinary woman, that
all along there had been depths in her being which he had never
fathomed, knew that she meant what she said.

"No, no, Mary," he repeated, "you must not.  If you love me, you will
promise me this.  You will promise to be silent.  You will promise that
you will give no hint or suggestion of what you fancied.  Besides, I'm
guilty, Mary.  I'm guilty, Mary.  That is, promise me, for the love you
bear me."

There were footsteps in the stone corridor outside.  It was a warder
coming to tell her that her time was up, and that she must leave him.

"Promise me, Mary."  He caught her and held her close to him.  "Tell me
you'll do nothing!" he cried.

"On one condition I will," was her answer.

"What is it?" he asked eagerly.

"That you'll tell the truth before my father and the jury."

"Your father?"

"Yes, did you not know?  He is the judge who has to try the case."

"Then, then, Mary, promise me----"

The key turned in the lock, and Mary and Paul separated.  Neither had
made a promise.

Presently Mary Bolitho went back to her hotel, where she sat in her
room alone for hours, thinking and planning; while Paul Stepaside sat
in his cell, with heaven in his heart; yes, heaven, even although he
suffered the torments of hell.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE FIRST DAY OF THE TRIAL

It was the morning of the trial, and the Assize Court was crowded.
Before daylight a number of people, hungry for excitement, had hung
round the strangers' entrance, and as soon as the doors were opened had
rushed with a kind of savage curiosity to the part of the hall where
the public was admitted.  Long before the trial was opened every inch
of space was occupied by a seething, excited crowd.  So great was the
interest created that many, who might not have been expected to witness
the scene, were so eager to be present that the officials were
inundated with applications for admission.  Long before the court began
its sitting, the air was hot and tense with eager curiosity.  Some,
indeed, talked casually and carelessly, as though a murder trial were
an everyday occurrence, but in the main the atmosphere was electric.
Men's faces were set and stern, and more than one woman showed signs of
hysteria.  Outside, a great throng of people, who were unable to gain
admission, waited as if held by a spell.  The ushers found difficulty
in maintaining anything like order.  The hum of voices was heard
everywhere.

"I wonder how he'll look," said one.  "I'll warrant he'll be as pale as
death."

"Nay," said another, "he's noan that soort.  He'll look as proud as
ever.  He'll mak it seem as though we were th' murderers, and he wur
innocent."

"Ay, but he must have had a terrible time!" said another.  "He's been
waiting there for weeks.  Just think of it!  I've heerd he's given in,
too."

"Given in?  What dost a' mean?"

"Ay, I've heerd as 'ow he's consented to have a counsel."

"Who has he got, then?"

"I don't know for certain, but it is said that young Mr. Springfield
hev took on th' job."

"But he can noan clear hissen."

"I'm noan so sure.  He's a rare clever chap, is Paul!"

"It would be fun to see him swing, wouldn't it?  It's a shame that they
hang people in private now, instead of in public like they used to."

And so on.  To them it was like a scene in a theatre.  Their appetites
were morbid, and they had come thither to appease their hunger.

One by one the barristers found their way to their seats.  Clerks were
busy writing at their desks, while the reporters sat at the table
allotted to them, writing descriptive articles.  To them the occasion
offered a fine opportunity.  It was no ordinary trial.  Paul Stepaside
was a young member of Parliament, and had become popular throughout the
whole county.  He had been freely discussed as a coming man.  What
wonder then that tongues wagged!  What wonder the crowd eagerly waited
his coming!

The murdered man, too, was well known in the county.  He was a big
employer of labour, and had freely moved in Lancashire society.

Sitting close to the barristers' seats, ladies belonging to some of the
best families in Lancashire had gathered.  They, too, were eager,
hungry for excitement.  Some of them were educated women, delicately
nurtured, and it seemed strange that they should find an interest in
such gruesome proceedings.  Yet, with a kind of reversion to the savage
instincts of former days, they had gathered with the rest.  After all,
civilisation is only a veneer, and the old, elementary, savage feelings
lie dormant in it all.

"Bakewell's for the prosecution, I suppose," said one young barrister
to another.

"Yes; and it couldn't be in better hands.  I wish Stepaside were not
such a fool!"

"Why, would you like the job?"

"Like it!  I should think I would!  It's one of the finest
opportunities since I've been called."

"But he's no defence, man!"

"Oh, a defence could easily be made.  It would give a fellow a splendid
chance.  You see the case is the talk of the country, and the question
of motive has to figure largely.  Why, the evidence could be riddled!
To say the least of it, one might get a verdict for manslaughter."

"You mean to say he won't give you the chance you want."  And the other
laughed.

"Anyhow, it seems jolly mean of him not to allow one to make the most
of such an opportunity.  You know Binkley, don't you?  He's now making
thousands a year.  For years he used to hang around the courts, unable
to get a brief, and then a case something like this turned up, and he
acted for the prisoner."

"But he didn't get him off."

"No; but, don't you see, it gave him his chance.  His cross-examination
was clever, and his speech for the defence was so brilliant that it
gave him a reputation.  It made him!  After that, briefs came in like
mad.  But I see time is up."

A minute later the clerk of the assizes came into the court.  Then a
great hush fell upon all present.  From a door at the back of the hall
came Mr. Justice Bolitho and took his seat.  Immediately all eyes were
turned towards him.

"Handsome, isn't he?"

"Yes; a striking figure of a man."

"Isn't it strange though?  Only a year or two ago he and Stepaside
fought for the Brunford seat.  They ran neck and neck too, and he got
in.  Of course that was before he was made a judge.  Do you know what
Stepaside said when the figures were announced?  He said that he and
Bolitho would meet again, and always to fight; and now it's come to
this!"

"Ay; and he appeared against him years ago, when he was up for the
riot.  Then he only got him sent to gaol for six months, and now it
seems as though he'll put on the black cap and condemn him to be
hanged.  My word, though, I shouldn't like to be a judge!"

Judge Bolitho was indeed a striking figure as he sat there in his
judicial robes and heavy wig.  His features were large and commanding.
His eyes had the look of authority.  His mouth was set and stern.  He
looked every inch of what he was, a representative of the dignity of
the law, a man set apart to do justice--a cultured, able man, too, with
fine, almost classical features, even although they were somewhat
heavy.  Not a cruel man--at least he did not appear so; indeed, he was
well known as one who could tell a good story and pass a timely joke.
A popular man, too, with those of his own order--one who by ability and
worth had risen to his present exalted position.

One of the ushers shouted "Silence" as he sat down; but there was no
need for him to speak.  The place was as still as death.  Everyone
waited for what should happen next.  Then, if possible, the atmosphere
became more than ever charged with the spirit of the day's trial.
Distant footsteps were heard, and then, accompanied on either side by a
policeman, came Paul Stepaside.

Paul had scarcely slept a wink that night; not that he feared the
trial--that seemed to be in the background of his life now.  Everything
else was swallowed up in the interview which he had had with Mary
Bolitho.  Throughout the long night he had been fighting a great
battle.  What should he do?  If he were to tell the whole truth----
But he would not think of it.  Still, all the old questions recurred to
him again with weary reiteration, the old battle had to be fought and
re-fought.  Love for his mother, love for the woman who was to him a
thousand times more than his mother yet in a different way, struggling
for ascendancy.  What should he do?  What should he do?

The chaplain came to him again that morning--as he had done once or
twice before--to offer him his ministrations, but Paul was still as
hard as adamant.  The chaplain was an earnest, good man, narrow in his
faith, but deeply in earnest.  He believed in Paul's guilt, and would
have given a great deal to have brought him to a state of repentance.

"If you'd only accept the consolations, the help of religion!" he had
said to him.

"What consolations?" asked Paul.

"Do you not realise the need of pardon?" asked the clergyman.  "Do you
not need to feel the atonement made for sin?"

"I only want justice.  Look, sir," said Paul.  "What is the practical
result of religion?  Does it make men do justice and love
righteousness?  I will tell you something.  There was once a man who
betrayed a woman.  He was a religious man.  He partook of the
sacraments.  But all his religion did not keep him from forsaking the
woman he betrayed and allowing her to spend her life in disgrace and
misery.  If religion could cause that man to come forward, confess his
wrong, and atone for his guilt by doing justice to her, perhaps I could
believe.  But all these little theories of yours are so many parrot
cries."

It was in this state of mind that Paul was led from his cell to the
dock.  He was still wearing his own clothes, for although he was an
accused man, he was not yet proved to be guilty; and with that innate
pride and that care for personal appearance which was natural to him,
he had carefully dressed himself.  His garments were well cut, and
fitted his figure perfectly.  His linen was spotless, and he stood
upright, with a proud look on his face.

There was a kind of gasp when he entered the dock.  He was not the kind
of man whom many had expected to see.  Tall, erect, muscular, pale
cheeks, clear-cut features, well-shaped head, dark flashing eyes,
sensitive lips and nostrils, he was a direct contrast to those who are
usually associated with the crime of which he was accused.  Even the
judge, who looked at him with keen, penetrating eyes, could not help
being impressed by the fact.  He was a man capable of controlling other
men, a man who could deal with large affairs.  Passionate, perhaps, and
vengeful, but not likely to wreak his passion like a brute.

"Handsome, isn't he?" said one lady to another.  "I'd no idea!"

"Yes, terrible pity, isn't it?  But still, I suppose he's had a grudge
against Mr. Wilson for years.  He belongs to the working classes, too,
although by his cleverness he's risen above them.  But it's always the
same, my dear--common people are common people."

Paul looked steadily round the court.  His eyes did not rest long on
the judge, although he gave him a keen, searching glance.  Even then he
felt that the circumstances were far out of the ordinary.  Only the
previous evening this man's daughter had confessed her love to him.
She had defied all conventions, defied the possibility of malign
gossip, but of course Judge Bolitho did not know that.  They met there
as judge and accused, and such were the relations that they must
maintain.  A few weeks before, this man had written a letter to him--an
insulting letter--forbidding him to approach his daughter; and now he,
the judge, sat in his seat of authority, while Paul was in the dock.

His gaze swept round the room.  He recognised many faces.  He saw
Edward Wilson, father of the murdered man, pale as ashes, and with set,
stern face.  He saw the Mayor of Brunford and some of the councillors.
He saw men who had fought for him at the last election--men with whom
he had done business.  He saw people of the common orders--some of them
were his own employees--who a week or two before had paid him homage in
so far as any Lancashire man pays homage to his employer.

No; it was not like an ordinary trial at all, and yet the issues were
tragic.  The air seemed to pulsate with doom.  No word had yet been
spoken, and yet men's hearts were beating wildly.  Even the barristers,
who sat looking at the prisoner, seemed strangely moved.

The clerk of the assizes rose, arranged his wig, settled his gown.

"Order!  Order!" shouted the ushers.

The clerk read the indictment in solemn and impressive tones.  Few
remembered the words he said, but all realised their purport.  Paul
Stepaside, standing there in the prisoner's dock, was indicted for the
murder of Edward Wilson.

"Are you guilty or not guilty?"

"Not guilty," replied the prisoner.  There was not a tremor in his
voice, and many thought, as they looked at him, that he seemed to
regard the question as an insult.

The jury had been sworn.  This was a somewhat tedious proceeding, the
swearing of the jury, and on Paul's face passed a look of contempt.  It
seemed so tiresome, this reading of a formula to twelve men, making
them promise that they would consider the case "without fear or favour,
upon the evidence given," and so on and so on.  Still it was necessary,
even although in many cases it might have become a mere matter of form.
Certainly, too, each juryman seemed to realise the importance of his
position and the seriousness of what he had to do.  They were not men
of great intellectual acumen, these jurymen--just kind-hearted,
commonplace men who had been selected for the purpose.  Still, they
would do as well as others who might be got.  They would hear the
evidence given.  They would listen attentively to the counsel's words
and to the judge's summing up.

At length all was ready, and the jurymen settled in their seats, each
with his note-book, and each prepared to listen attentively.  No sooner
had they sat down than the counsel for the prosecution rose.  Mr.
Bakewell was a man well known on the Northern Circuit.  He had for many
years appeared in the Assize Courts of Manchester, and had been spoken
of as an able man.  It had even been said of him that he cared more for
verdicts than for justice.  But this did not seem to annoy him.  After
all, the verdict is what a barrister has to think of.  He had his
reputation to maintain, his case to win, and he was the counsel for the
prosecution.  He had studied the case thoroughly, point by point.  In
this instance, too, he was more than ordinarily interested.  He had met
Paul Stepaside.  On one occasion there had been a slight passage of
arms between them, and Paul had come off best in the encounter; and
ever since, Mr. Bakewell, while bearing no grudge against him, had been
somewhat chagrined that this young man, who had never been trained in
the law, should have got the better in their encounter.

"I am for the prosecution, my lord," he said, and sat down.

"Who is for the defence?" asked the judge.

This question was met by deathly silence.

"Have you no one to defend you?" asked the judge, turning towards Paul.
And even then both of them felt the incongruity of the situation.

"No," replied Paul.

"But I advise you very seriously to accept counsel for defence."

"No," replied Paul.  "I wish no one."  His voice rang out clearly in
the hall, even although he spoke in low tones.  No one seemed to
breathe.  What could be the meaning of such an attitude?

Again Judge Bolitho spoke:

"I repeat," he said, and his voice was very solemn, "that you will be
wise if you accept someone for defence.  Mr. Langefield, now?" and he
nodded towards the man who had that same morning regretted Paul's
obstinacy in not securing his services.

"No," said Paul.  "I must decline your lordship's suggestion.  What
defence is offered I will offer myself."

"Of course this is not usual," said the judge.  "And I think it my duty
to tell you that you will have a perfect right to cross-examine any
witness who may be called."

"Thank you, my lord."

The counsel for the prosecution here rose to address the jury and to
give a statement of the case.  This he did in a lengthy speech, a
speech which showed that he had not only thoroughly studied the facts,
but had gone to some trouble to trace Paul's history.

"My lord and gentlemen," said Mr. Bakewell, "this is no common case,
and the prisoner is no ordinary man.  Although he came to Brunford as a
poor lad, he soon rose to a distinguished position.  So much ability
did he show, and such was his influence in the town of his adoption,
that he was at length invited to stand for Parliament in the interests
of the working classes of the town.  I would not mention this but for
the fact that it bears upon the case we are now considering.  It was
during this contest that the prisoner accused the murdered man of
acting against his, the prisoner's, interests, and of doing his best to
ruin him.  I shall also bring evidence to show that during this part of
his history he repeatedly swore to be revenged on the deceased.  By and
by he was elected as Member of Parliament for Brunford, and immediately
after that election, as I shall prove to you, a quarrel took place
between him and the murdered man, during which the prisoner struck him
a murderous blow, and was only kept back from a renewal of the attack
by those who were standing round."

He then went on to describe the scenes immediately associated with the
murder, and told in minutest detail the happenings which we have
recorded in these pages.

As he went from point to point, all present could see, as if in the eye
of imagination, link fastened to link, and every one was riveted with
care and precision.  The whole chain of evidence seemed perfect.  Even
Paul himself, as he listened, could not help feeling that, as far as
circumstantial evidence was concerned, no stronger case could be
brought to prove a man's guilt.  Indeed, had a vote been taken at that
moment, not only among the jury, but among all present, there would
have been a general admission that Paul was guilty of the murder of
Edward Wilson.

"It remains now, my lord and gentlemen, for me to call witnesses to
prove the facts which I have laid before you.  And it is for you,
gentlemen, to judge whether those facts are not sufficient to pronounce
the verdict of guilty upon the prisoner who now stands before you."

There was a rustle in the court as he sat down.  It seemed as though
everyone wanted to find relief from the tense excitement which had been
created by his words.  The judge shuffled in his chair and looked at
his notes.  The barristers who sat round nodded to each other and
seemed to say that undoubtedly Bakewell had made a very fine speech.
Many eyes were turned towards Paul, who remained perfectly calm.  His
face was hard and stony.  Not a tremor was to be seen.  He seemed to
have no nerves.  Then, before the first witness was called, he looked
round the court and saw, for the first time, the face of Mary Bolitho.
He had no idea that she would be present, and for a moment his heart
became cold and heavy.  Their eyes met, and she smiled.  It is true her
face was deadly pale, but there was no lack of confidence in the look
she gave him.  As plainly as words could say them she said: "Do not
fear, Paul.  I love you.  I know you're innocent, and I will save you."

In spite of all that had taken place, his heart became light again.  He
still adhered to his resolution to keep his secret in his heart, but
that one look changed the whole atmosphere of the place.  He knew that
the one, and the only one, for whom he cared, believed in his innocence
and looked upon him with eyes of love.

The counsel was about to call the first witness when there was a sound
of confusion.  Through the crowded court a woman was making her way,
and Paul, looking, saw his mother.  How she got there he did not know,
but got there she had.  He saw how pale and haggard her face was, saw,
too, that her eyes gleamed with the old light which had shone from them
on the night of the murder.  He thought she seemed to be making
straight for him, but she presently stopped.  The judge was at that
moment busily making notes.  Presently, however, he lifted his head as
if in wonder at the counsel's delay.  She looked at Paul, but only for
a moment.  Her eyes were fixed upon Judge Bolitho.

"It's Stepaside's mother," whispered someone to Mr. Bakewell, and many
eyes were turned towards her.

Then a scream rent the air--a scream of agony, of madness, and the
woman fell down in the court insensible.



CHAPTER XIX

PAUL DISCOVERS HIS FATHER

As may be imagined, the sensation in the court was very great, but it
quickly died away.  Paul's mother was immediately removed, and the
order of the day was resumed.  For some time, however, Paul was unable
to give due attention to what was taking place.  The sight of his
mother's face, added to the stress of the scene through which he was
passing, was affecting his iron nerves in spite of himself.  Presently,
however, when someone whispered to him, saying that his mother was
quite recovered, he seemed more at ease, and was able to devote his
attention to the evidence which was being elicited from the witnesses.

He did not know why it was, but he seemed to be the only man in the
court who was unmoved by what was taking place.  On every hand was
strained attention to every word that was spoken.  The most
insignificant question seemed to be carefully noted, not only by the
jury but by the spectators.  But to Paul there was a sense of unreality
in everything.  All these same questions he had heard before.  All
these witnesses had appeared at the Coroner's inquest and before the
Brunford magistrates.  It seemed to him, too, that the way the counsel
for the prosecution dwelt on insignificant details, details which could
have nothing whatever to do with the real issues, was childish.
Indeed, Mr. Bakewell appeared not only to have a positive genius for,
but also a personal interest in, dragging out the case as long as
possible.  In a way Paul supposed it was necessary to inquire into the
minutest details concerning the evidence that was given, nevertheless,
it was wearying in the extreme.  As far as he could judge, too, both
counsel and witnesses were supremely anxious to acquit themselves in a
way that should give satisfaction to the spectators.  It was a matter
of intellectual juggling rather than a desire to arrive at the truth.
The counsel evidently hoped that his examination would be commented
upon as clever and searching, while the witnesses, aware that the eyes
of the many who knew them watched them closely, were eager to be spoken
of as having acquitted themselves with some amount of distinction.
Hours passed away, and, it seemed to him, they failed to get at the
heart of the case, while such a large amount of irrelevant matter was
allowed and discussed that, from the standpoint of a spectator, it
seemed to the prisoner that the methods of an English law-court needed
to be rigidly revised.  During the afternoon sitting, however, they got
nearer to the heart of things.  The counsel began to ask questions
which had a vital bearing upon the case, and, as a consequence, the
attention of all present became more tense.  It was then that Paul
could not help feeling that the judge had already made up his mind.
During that part of the proceedings when he had advised him to obtain
counsel to defend him, and told him that he was at liberty to
cross-examine the witnesses, he felt more kindly towards him.  There
seemed a desire to do him justice, and to give him every chance to put
his own case in the best possible light.  But as matters proceeded, the
judge appeared to have arrived at a conclusion, and to regard the
prisoner as guilty.

He renewed his determination, too, to maintain his attitude of rigid
silence.  Had he been free to act, he felt he could have destroyed the
effect of the evidence which was given, but he could not have done so
without throwing suspicion upon someone else.  If he were not guilty,
then someone else was.  Who was that someone?

For a long time therefore he did not seek to interpose, and witness
after witness left the box without any attempt on his part to
cross-examine them.

Only once did he really interpose in the proceedings, and that was
after a short cross-examination by the judge himself.  Whether it was a
mere matter of form or not, the judge had asked each witness a number
of questions on the evidence which had been given, and as Paul listened
to those questions, they seemed utterly unsatisfactory to him.  He
remembered Judge Bolitho's career, remembered, too, that when he was
practising at the Bar, he was said to be one of the most severe
cross-examiners on the Northern Circuit.  But now his queries seemed to
be trivial and unworthy.  The questions he asked might have been those
of a newly-fledged barrister, who had not learnt the ABC of his
profession!

This, as it seemed to him, was especially noticeable when he questioned
Mr. Edward Wilson, the father of the murdered man.  Mr. Wilson's
evidence, of course, created a great sensation.  He stated that, as far
as he knew, his son did not possess a single enemy in the world except
the prisoner in the dock.  He also went on to say that almost ever
since Paul had come to Brunford he had been the sworn enemy of his son.
He spoke of the prisoner as clever, ambitious, unscrupulous, a man who
would adopt any means to accomplish his own purposes.  He stated that
his son, although a brave, strong man, had told him, his father, that
he feared what the prisoner might do to him.  He denied that his son
had sought to ruin Paul Stepaside, although he admitted that the
prisoner might have had reasons for believing that his son would not be
sorry if he could be driven out of the town.  And he related certain
incidents which went to prove that Paul hated his son Ned with deadly
hatred.

No one could help feeling when the counsel sat down after examining Mr.
Edward Wilson that the case looked blacker than ever against Paul.  He
had supplied the motive which had caused Paul to commit this crime.  It
was personal hatred, personal enmity, and a desire for revenge.  The
gossip of years had been dragged into the court, and the picture which
he drew of Paul was that of a relentless, persistent enemy of his son.
When Mr. Bakewell had sat down after this examination, Judge Bolitho
asked the witness certain questions, and it was at this time that Paul
felt as though the judge were seeking to help the counsel for the
prosecution rather than to do justice to the accused man.

"My lord," he said, when the judge had finished, "I will take advantage
of what you said at the commencement of the trial and cross-examine the
witness."

The judge nodded.

"Then I will ask Mr. Wilson two or three questions bearing on his
evidence," said Paul.  "Mr. Wilson, you have stated more than once that
I have uttered threats concerning your son?"

"Yes."

"Would you mind telling me what those threats were?"

"You threatened to do him injury."

"What injury?"

The witness looked confused.

"Have I at any time in your hearing threatened your son with harm?"

"No, not in my hearing."

"Then you have been repeating gossip rather than telling of what you
actually know?"

"You've threatened my son himself."

"With what?"

"Well, you have said to him, 'I'll pay you out for this.'"

"For what?"

"For certain supposed injuries."

"But I am here on the charge of murder.  Did I ever threaten to murder
him?  Did he ever tell you that I had threatened to murder him?"

"No, not in so many words."

"That's all, my lord," said Paul.  "I would not have interposed, only,
since you have so kindly allowed me to cross-examine witnesses, I
thought you would not mind if I mentioned such an obvious thing!"

On this the judge made no comment, and the case was proceeded with.
They had made but little headway when the business of the day came to
an end, and Paul was taken back to his cell.

When he again found himself alone, everything became unreal to him.  It
seemed to him as though he had been dreaming a horrible dream.  Every
actor in the grim tragedy which had been played seemed but a phantom of
the brain.  Everything was intangible, even although he knew how
terrible the issues were.  By and by, however, he was able to grasp
things more clearly, and to remember the events of the day, as well as
to call to mind the faces of the people who had been in the court.  He
knew that the evidence had been very black against him; knew, too, by
the look on the faces of the twelve jurymen, that even although they
might not be convinced of his guilt, circumstances were leading them in
that direction.  All the same, the thought of death was far away.  He
could not believe that he, so young and strong and vigorous, full of
physical and intellectual life, would soon cease to be; could not
believe that those twelve commonplace unimaginative-looking men who sat
in the box could condemn him to die.  It was so absurd, so foolish.
Then he remembered his little passage of arms with the judge, and he
wondered what Mary Bolitho would say.  He did not realise her presence
at the time, but now it all came back to him.  His words had been
polite enough, and yet his insinuation had roused a doubt concerning
the judge's impartiality.  What would she say?  What would she think?
He was sorry now he had spoken.  Why could he not have remained silent?
If he had roused doubts, if he had made the jury see how absurd it was
to fancy that he could be guilty of this crime, the sleuthhounds of the
law would set to work to find the real criminal, and that was what he
wanted to avoid.  Better bear anything than that the real truth should
come to light.

He remembered his mother's face, too, as she came into the court,
remembered the look of agony in her eyes, remembered the unearthly
scream she had given.  What did it mean?  His mother was not a weak
woman, she was not given to hysterics, rather she was cold and grim and
hard to all the rest of the world.  She was only tender towards him.
What did she mean by coming in such a way?  What led her to cry out
with such intense pain?  The thought had scarcely passed his mind when
he heard the key of the warder in his door, and a moment later his
mother came into his cell.  For some time neither of them spoke.  The
woman came towards him slowly, and then, throwing her arms round his
neck, held him close to her for a long time.  Paul felt the quiver of
her body, and realised the intensity of her feelings.

"Are you better, mother?"  He was able to speak quite calmly by this
time, and was determined that neither by look nor sign would he say
anything of his suspicions concerning her.

But she did not answer him.  She still held him close to her, her face
pressed hard against his chest.

"I saw you come into court this morning," he said, as though the matter
were the most casual thing imaginable.  "You seemed frightened, mother.
Why was it?"

Still she did not speak, but Paul knew by her quivering hands and by
her convulsive sobs that something had aroused her to the depths of her
being.

"I hope you are better now," he went on.  "It was very thoughtful of
you to let me know you had recovered.  You mustn't trouble about me,
mother.  I shall be able to manage all right."

"Yes, yes," she gasped presently, "but you don't know, Paul!  You don't
know!"

"I think I know all that is necessary," he said, and then he stopped,
for he was on the point of mentioning the ghastly thought which had
been haunting him throughout the day.  He believed he had read his
mother's motive in coming into the court, and that, but for her falling
down in a faint, she would have carried out her purpose.  He felt sure
she had come there that day to tell of her own guilt, and thus to save
him.  He imagined that she would have found it easy to gain admission
by telling the officials that she was the accused man's mother, and
that had she carried out her purpose he would by that time have been a
free man.

"You must not give way to these feelings, mother," he said.  "I am
abundantly able to take care of myself, and I am afraid neither of
judge nor jury."

"The papers say you asked some awfully clever questions," she said, and
there was a mirthless laugh in her voice.  "People are saying in the
city, too, that you've got something up your sleeve, and that
presently, when the right time comes, you will confound them all.  But,
oh, Paul, Paul, my poor boy, my dear boy!  I've come to tell you
something!"

"Don't tell me, mother," he said.  "I'm sure it will give you pain, and
there's not the slightest need.  Everything is right and perhaps
there's truth in what the people say."

He was still possessed with the idea that his mother was referring to
her own guilt, and he determined at all hazards to keep her from making
any confession.  He did not quite know what the course of procedure
might be during the coming days, but he knew that according to English
law no prisoner accused of murder can be obliged to answer any
questions before a judge and jury.  He had, during his preliminary
trials, evaded everything which might arouse the suspicions he feared,
but if his mother told him that which he felt sure was on her lips, he
did not know what he might have to do at some future period of the
trial.

"But I must tell you, Paul.  I must tell you.  It will be terrible for
you.  It will drive you mad.  But you must know!  You must! you must!"
Her voice rose almost to a shriek as she spoke, and he feared lest any
warder listening at the door might hear what she should say.

"Speak low," he whispered, "or, better still, do not speak at all.  No,
don't speak, mother.  I know all there is any need to know!"

"But you must hear.  Yes, yes, I won't speak aloud, but you must know.
I must tell you.  Paul, Paul, I--I----"

"No, no, mother, be quiet!"  His voice was low and hoarse.  "I tell you
nothing matters.  Everything will be all right.  You needn't fear for
me, I'll be a match for them all!"

"But I must tell you, Paul, even although it may drive you mad.  It'll
alter everything, everything!  I've found out something.  To-day,
to-day----"  The tones of her voice had changed, and there was a mad
intensity which he could not understand.  She had grown calmer, too,
and her body had become as rigid as a stone.

"Listen, Paul," she went on, "I've found your father!"

"Is that what you wanted to tell me?"  And although he was excited
beyond words, he also realised a great relief.

"Yes, I've found your father."

"My father!  Who is he?  You cannot mean it!"

"Yes.  Don't you know?  Can't you guess?"

His mind was bewildered, the blow was too stunning.  After all these
years of unavailing search for the truth, to come to him like this
almost unbalanced his mind.

"No, I can't guess," he said.  "How did you do it, mother?  How?  Where
is he?"

"The judge, the judge," she said hoarsely.  She stood back from him as
she spoke, and the dim light of the room fell upon her face.  She
looked years older now than she had looked when they spent their last
evening together in their home in Brunford.  Her face was marked with
deep lines.  Her eyes were sunken.  Her hair had become dull, and her
hands trembled as though she had the palsy.

"The judge, the judge!" she repeated.  "He's your father, Paul."

"The judge!  What judge?  Great God, you don't mean that--that----"

"Yes, Judge Bolitho.  That was not the name he gave to me.  He said he
was called Douglas Graham.  I expect it was only a ruse to deceive me.
I don't know how it would affect my marriage, Paul.  You see, Scotch
marriage is so strange, and it may be that the change of name would
alter everything.  And yet I don't see how it could.  Do you, Paul?
But never mind.  He married me!  I told you about it, didn't I?  Up
there on the wild moors, in the light of the setting sun, with only God
as our witness, he took me to be his wife.  He promised to love and
cherish me, Paul.  He told me I was all the world to him, and that he
would die to save me from pain.  I told you about it, didn't I?  And we
knelt down together, too, on the heather, and it seemed as though God's
angels were all around us as we knelt.  And he prayed, Paul.  He told
me he was a man of faith and took the Communion.  And I believed him.
Oh, yes, we were married.  And now he's your judge.  My God, think of
it!  You the criminal and he the judge, and he your own father!"

"And he never told you his name was Bolitho?"  He asked the question
mechanically, as though his mind were far away.

"Never mentioned it.  I never thought of it until--but never mind that.
Of course, you told me about Judge Bolitho, but at that time I never
thought of him as being the man I married.  Why, he had been your
enemy.  He sent you to prison, years ago.  He fought you in Brunford.
Well, on the night of the--the murder, I--I--but there is no need to
talk about that now.  I--I went into the court, and when I saw him, I
thought I was going mad.  He has changed, yes, of course, he has grown
older, his face is fuller, but I knew him in a second.  I could take my
Bible oath.  I could swear a thousand oaths it is he, Paul.  He is the
man who married me.  He is the man who is your father, the man who you
swore that night on the Altarnun Moors should do me justice, the man on
whom you said you'd have your revenge.  It is the man whom I have hated
and whom you have hated, Paul.  When I saw him first, I thought I was
going out of my mind.  It seemed as though everything became as black
as night.  Only his face was plain.  He did not look at me.  I do not
think he saw me at all, but, oh, I saw him, and then--and then--but you
know what happened after that, Paul.  Throughout the day I have just
wandered, and wandered, and wandered, thinking and thinking.  At first
I thought I dared not tell you.  I could not, it was too terrible.  But
at last my feet were dragged to you.  I could not help myself.  I came
here and gained admission.  Of course, they could not keep me out.  I
am your mother.  Paul, Paul, what are you looking like that for?  You
don't hate me, do you?  You understand?"

Her words brought him back to the reality of the situation.  At first
he seemed utterly confounded by the blow.  He forgot all about the
murder now.  It did not seem to exist, or if it did it was somewhere
far back in the background, and everything was altered.  He had dreamed
of the time when he would find his father for himself--thought, too, of
what he would say to him, painted pictures of their first meeting.  But
now everything seemed shattered.  Nothing was real!  Everything was
real, terribly real!

Even yet he could not understand the whole bearings of the case.  His
brain was confused.  Every issue seemed involved, but he did not doubt
his mother's words.  It seemed to him the key of the puzzle which had
been haunting him for years.  Judge Bolitho his father!  Yes, his
treatment of him had been a part, a natural part, of the whole history.
What wonder that he who had deceived and betrayed his mother should
also be the enemy of his son!  He understood his feelings now,
understood why when he had first seen this proud, clever man he had a
feeling of instinctive hatred towards him.  He had been cruel to him in
the examination when he was tried years before for the part he had
taken in the riot.  As the counsel for the prosecution he had seemed to
delight in fastening all the guilt upon him, his son.  He remembered
the look of satisfaction upon his face when the justice committed him
to six months' imprisonment in Strangeways Gaol.  Yes, he had hated him
then, for that matter they had hated each other.  Then came the
election at Brunford.  Every incident of the fight came back to him.
He had felt then that this man Bolitho was fighting him unfairly, using
devil's tools to beat him, allowing his mother's name to be dragged in
the mud, in order to gain the victory, while all the time he--he----

"Don't speak, mother, don't speak for a minute.  Let me try to
understand."

He walked around the cell like one demented, his face set, his eyes
flashing.  Again and again he dashed his hand across his forehead as if
to sweep away the shadows which rested upon his brain, as if trying to
untangle the skeins of his life.

Yes, he had defied him even to the very last.  When the votes were
counted, and when his father, his enemy, had won the victory, he had
defied him.  He had told him before the surging mob that they would
meet again, and always to fight, yes, and they would, too.  He had a
new weapon in his hands now!

What would the world say if it knew?  He almost felt like laughing at
the thought.  What would the world say if it knew that the judge and
the man accused of murder were father and son?  How the tongues of the
gossips would wag!  What headlines there would be in the newspapers!
What a sensation it would create throughout the country!

He laughed aloud, a half-mad laugh.  His brain reeled at what his
mother had told him.  Even yet he did not realise fully the issues of
her momentous communication.  That would come later!  The thing which
appealed to him now was that he had found his father, and his father
was the man who was sitting in judgment on him!

Never did he hate him as he did at that moment.  This man had deceived
his mother, blackened her life, allowed her to remain in loneliness,
misery and disgrace.  Because of him a shadow had rested upon his own
life, a shadow which nothing had been able to lift.  Yes, he hated him.
He thought of the cross-examination that day.  This man at the
beginning of the trial had pretended to act as his friend, had advised
him to accept counsel, had told him that he might defend himself and
ask questions.  And, utilising the power which he possessed as a judge,
had himself asked the witnesses questions, on the pretence that he was
trying to do the prisoner justice!

And what questions!  To his excited and poisoned mind he had simply
supplied the deficiencies of the counsel for the prosecution.  Every
word he had uttered was only meant as another nail in his scaffold.  He
was glad he had said what he had said now.  He had made both jury and
court feel that the judge was unjust because of his prejudice against
him.  But that was nothing to what he could do, nothing to what he
would do.  Why, supposing on the next day--yes, and he could do it,
too--supposing on the next day of the trial he, the prisoner, were to
proclaim before the court, before the twelve jurymen, before the eager
counsel, before the gaping, excited crowd, that this Judge Bolitho,
this man who assumed an immaculate air, was one of the most damnable
villains that ever crawled upon the earth, that this man, who looked so
virtuous and spoke of the majesty of justice, had foully deceived a
poor, ignorant, innocent girl, dragged her name in the mire, left her
to die, as far as he was concerned, in disgrace!  He, the judge, had
done this, and all the world should know it.  Yes, all the world.  This
man should be pilloried before all England, and every healthy,
clean-minded man in the nation would shudder at his name.

Yes, he saw his revenge now.

"No, mother, do not speak yet," he cried, as he stamped around the
cell.  "Do not speak yet.  I've got it!"

He hugged himself with delight, for at that moment Paul Stepaside was
possessed of the devil.  He was filled with unholy joy.  "It makes one
believe, after all, that there's a God in the heaven.  'Vengeance is
Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.'  Yes, I've heard a man read that
in the old chapel down at St. Mabyn, in Cornwall.  'Vengeance is Mine;
I will repay.'  And I will repay too."

Never had he realised that such vengeance would be possible.  Why, it
some mighty wizard had been scheming to place a weapon in his hands
whereby he could avenge his mother's wrongs, avenge his own wrongs, and
punish the man who had been his enemy even before he was born, he could
not have placed a more powerful weapon than this.  He seemed to possess
the very genius of victory.  He did not care one iota about the murder
now, did not trouble as to what verdict any jury might find.  The
evidence which might be adduced against him was as nothing.  He held in
his hands the sword of justice, which should surely fall on the head of
the man who had that day sat as judge.

He laughed aloud again.  "Thank you, mother," he said.  "You did right
in coming to me.  Yes, it makes everything right--everything,
everything.  And to-morrow I'll do it.  To-morrow shall be my day of
victory.  Dead or alive, it shall be my day of victory.  Right shall be
done, justice shall be done, and this scheming, hypocritical villain
shall be dragged in the dust and disgrace and infamy!"

The words had scarcely passed his lips when he came to a sudden stop,
and he gave a low, terrible cry.

"What is it, Paul?"  The mother was startled by the look in his eyes,
by the mad agony expressed in his face.

"Mary!" he said.

Oh, the world of sorrow, of defeat, of terror, which seemed to be
expressed in that one word.  Yes, he would rejoice, rejoice beyond
words at his father's ignominy and shame.  But what of her, the woman
who believed in him, trusted in him against all evidence, the woman who
had defied all conventions in coming to see him, the woman whom he had
held to his heart, and whom he loved more than life?  Every blow struck
at her father was also struck at her.  His shame would be her shame,
his ignominy would be her ignominy.

It seemed as though the foundations of his life were being broken up.
Why, then, too, if that marriage up on the Scotch hill-side were legal,
as he believed it was, and thus all stain were wiped away from his
name, what of Mary's name?  If Judge Bolitho had married another woman
while his mother was alive, then he would not only be a bigamist, but
Mary's name would be tarnished--Mary, whose happiness was to him the
most precious thing in the world.  But even that was not all.  He
understood now what his mother meant when she said he would be driven
mad, understood why she was afraid to tell him.  Mary was his own
sister!  His sister!

"Forgive me, Paul, for telling you;" and his mother looked at him with
hungry, beseeching eyes.  "Forgive me, I could not help it.  You
see--well, it was necessary that you should know."

"And I for the moment felt like believing in God," he said, like one
talking to himself.  He thought he was going to fall on the hard stone
floor.  His head was whirling, his limbs were trembling.  He seemed to
have lost all control over himself.

"My sister!" he said.  "Great God!  My sister!  And I love her as a man
loves his wife!"  A new passion, a new force had entered his life now.
His longing for revenge was conquered by another feeling, a nobler
feeling.  Love for Mary Bolitho was stronger than a desire to be
revenged on his father.  At all hazards she must not suffer.
But--but----  No, he could not grasp it.  His brain refused to fasten
upon the real issues of the case.  His thoughts were as elusive as a
mist cloud.  His brain swam.  Everything was real, terribly real, but
nothing was real!  What could he do?

Never, surely, was man placed in such a horrible position.  He had
thought a few nights before, when he had fought his battle between love
for his own mother and the desire to keep disgrace and death from her,
and the love for his own life, a life which could be made bright and
beautiful, that the great struggle was over.  It seemed to him then
that he had fought his last battle and had won it.  Duty had overcome
self-love.  But it seemed as nothing compared with the issues which now
stared him in the face.

"My sister!  My sister!" he repeated.  "The same father, although not
the same mother.  Do I love her the less?  Does my heart cry out for
her one whit the less because we are children of the same father?"

No.  Why, he could not understand, but she seemed even more to him than
ever.  The new link which bound them together seemed also, if possible,
to strengthen his love and to make him more than ever long for her
happiness.

"He's your father; you believe that?" said the woman, who had been
looking at him as though she would read his very soul.

"Yes," he replied.

"And she is your sister."

"Yes."

"Then if your birth is honourable, hers is base," said the mother
passionately.  Even at that moment the longing to do justice to her son
was uppermost in her mind and heart.  "I am his true wife; remember
that!  He married me.  I can't be robbed of that, Paul, can I?"

He saw what her questions meant, knew the thought that was burning in
her brain, realised her mad desire to proclaim her right as a wife and
as an honourable mother.

Paul Stepaside loved his mother, and never more than then.  All those
feelings of filial affection which had been aroused in his heart by the
remembrance of her sad story were intensified at that moment.  Yes, she
was his mother, and she must have her rights.  But if she had them?

That was the question, the supreme question.  His desire for revenge
had lost its power now.  A new motive force was at work, a new set of
circumstances clamoured for recognition.

Oh, what a muddle life was!  Who could explain its mystery?  Who could
unravel the entanglement?

The steps of the warder were heard in the corridor outside, and Paul
knew that his mother's visit must come to an end.

"What will you do?  What will you do?" she asked.

"I must wait--I must think," was his reply.  "Of course, you have told
nothing to anyone else?"

"No, Paul.  How could I?"

"And that man has no suspicion?"

"No; he did not see me."

He could not see a ray of light in the darkness anyhow.  He saw no
means whereby he could solve this great puzzle.  Everything was mad
confusion.

He heard the key turning in the lock.

"I must wait; I must think, think, mother.  Meanwhile, do nothing."

The door opened, and a moment later his mother left the cell, leaving
Paul alone.



CHAPTER XX

MAN AND WIFE

A number of men were dining in the principal hotel in Manchester.  They
all belonged to the legal profession, and had been drawn thither by the
assizes which were being held.  Most of them were men who had won a
position in the realm of the law, and were now visiting Manchester
because their profession had called them thither.  They were attached
to the Northern Circuit, and were doing their best to make their stay
in the smoky metropolis as pleasant as possible.  A few there were who
were as yet hungry for briefs and could not get them, but who deemed it
a privilege and an honour to be invited to dine with their more
successful brethren.

Perhaps there is no profession in the land which offer greater
possibilities than that of the Bar.  On the other hand, there is no
calling more fraught with disappointment.  Many there are who, after a
brilliant University career, and having adopted the Bar as a
profession, have to wait year after year without even earning the
salary of a four-loom weaver.  Proud, sensitive men as some of them
are, to have to wait around on the chance of getting a brief must be
exquisite torture.  Yet such are the chances of the Bar that many
undergo the ordeal in the hope that by and by success will come.  There
were some of these at the gathering which I have just mentioned.  They
had accepted the invitation to dine with their successful brethren, not
without hope that some crumbs might fall from the rich man's table and
be enjoyed by them.  Added to this, Judge Bolitho, who had won such
renown while practising as a barrister on the Northern Circuit, and now
appointed judge at the High Court of Justice, was also present.  Some
of the younger men regarded him with a certain amount of awe, and they
wondered whether the time would come when they, who now depended upon
the goodwill of their friends, might aspire to the heights which he had
reached.  After all, it was not impossible, for the Bar, like every
other profession, was a gamble.

It had been a merry gathering.  They had dined well.  The hotel was
noted for its cuisine and for the quality of its wines, and the best
which the great establishment afforded had been placed at their
disposal.  Many good stories were told.  Those who were now at the top
of the tree related incidents of their younger days, when they, like
the young fellows who now listened to them so eagerly, were hungry for
briefs.  Mr. Bakewell, in particular, the man who that day was the
counsel for the prosecution in Paul Stepaside's case, was an utterly
different man from what he had been when he appeared in court.  Then he
was solemn, pompous, and almost lugubrious; now he cracked a joke with
the best, and told humorous stories with infinite gusto.  The judge,
too, while naturally patronising and unable to throw aside in entirety
the dignity of his office, so far unbent as to be the best of
companions.

Naturally, the case which had excited the whole country loomed large on
the horizon.  Indeed, it gave rise to most of the stories which had
been told that night.  More than one barrister related incidents of
some murder trial in which he had been engaged, and tried to trace
connections between them and the one which was now being tried.

If the issues were not so momentous, moreover, the way they discussed
the question would have been amusing.  Paul's life or death was to many
of them a mere secondary consideration.  To them he was a case, and
they judged of the merits and demerits of the case as if it were some
purely imaginary or academical affair especially manufactured for their
delectation.  It is true the judge did not look at it in this light,
but he was not in a talkative humour that night, although he added a
certain share to the conversation, and his presence gave a kind of
éclat to the proceedings.  They had reached the stage of nuts and wine,
and most of them were in great good humour.

"I am inclined to think," said one, "that Stepaside has something up
his sleeve.  The fellow is as sharp as a needle, and although he hasn't
yet offered anything like a defence, one can't believe that he was
guilty of such a thing."

"I don't know," said another.  "Of course, circumstantial evidence has
often been proved to be false, nevertheless, a jury has to go upon such
evidence as is adduced in court, and the evidence is damning!"

"Think of the point he made this afternoon when he cross-examined Mr.
Wilson."

"I make nothing of that," said Mr. Bakewell rather pompously.  "Of
course, he put it strongly, and for the moment made a point, but that
kind of thing is not going to save him!"

"Do you think, then," asked a member of the local Bar, "that the jury
will find him guilty?"

"I do indeed," said Mr. Bakewell.  "Even although he had a man like
Montague Williams or Russell to defend him he would stand no chance.
You see, the thing is a perfect chain of reasoning, because there is a
perfect chain of events."

"Yes, but how can one think of such a man as Stepaside, keen as a
surgeon's knife, cool as the devil himself, as watchful as a
sleuth-hound, and having everything before him in the way of a career,
so far committing himself as to use the knife known to belong to him,
and then to leave it in the body.  Why, the thing is absurd!"

"Exactly.  But then the cleverest and most daring criminals in the
world have been known to have done similar things.  Why, think of that
Blackburn murder in which I was engaged years ago.  It was almost
identical with this affair, and there was not the slightest doubt that
he was guilty.  Why, he confessed it to the chaplain afterwards.  You
must remember that Stepaside was in a mad passion at the time.
Besides, you see, he's never accounted for those hours between midnight
and six in the morning!"

"Yes, but no prisoner charged for murder is obliged to account for his
time."

"Exactly, but a jury has to give its verdict upon evidence.  And
remember this, too," and Mr. Bakewell would not perhaps have spoken so
freely had his tongue not been unloosed by the generous wine he had
been drinking.  "Remember this, too, and, of course, we are all friends
here, and what I say will not go beyond this room--but the evidence
to-morrow will surprise you!"

"In what way?"

"Well, one of the witnesses to-morrow will swear that he saw him not
half a mile from Howden Clough, in a state of excitement, about five
o'clock on the morning of the murder, that is to say, about half an
hour after it took place, according to the doctor's evidence.  You see,
we have the servants' testimony that they heard him come up to the top
storey of the house; that he stood at their bedroom door and then went
down again; that they, wondering what had happened, followed, and saw
him go out into the night alone.  Of course, on the face of it, it does
seem unlikely that a clever fellow such as Stepaside undoubtedly is,
with a great career possible for him, should have done the deed so
clumsily.  But, don't you see, everything points to him, and unless he
brings some extraordinary witnesses on the other side, which he isn't
trying to do, mind you, the jury have no alternative but to find him
guilty."

"My own belief is that he's hiding something in his sleeve, and that if
he's hanged it'll be a miscarriage of justice."

A waiter then came into the room bearing a slip of paper, which he took
to Judge Bolitho.  The judge received it calmly and unfolded it,
talking meanwhile to his neighbour at the table.  After reading a few
lines, however, a puzzled expression came on to his face, which was
followed by a look almost amounting to terror.  More than one who
watched him thought he saw his hands tremble somewhat; nevertheless, he
held himself in check, like one who was trying to appear to be calm, as
he read it the second time.  The men who were at the bottom of the
table went on with their stories, but Judge Bolitho evidently did not
listen.  His mind was far away.  His cigar had gone out, too, but he
did not seem conscious of it.

"I wonder what is in that letter?" asked a man of his neighbour, as he
watched the judge's face.

"Oh, there's no knowing.  Fellows in Bolitho's position are always
getting queer missives."

"He looks mighty uncomfortable, anyhow."

The judge took a wineglass in his hand and began toying with it, but it
was evident that he did not know what he was doing.

"I say, Bolitho"--it was a county court judge who spoke to him--"Did
you notice that woman's face who fell down in a faint this morning?  It
was positively ghastly when she looked at you."

Evidently Judge Bolitho did not hear.  He took not the slightest notice
of the remark.  He was still toying with the wineglass.

"I say, Bolitho, aren't you well?"

And still the judge's face was rigid, and his eyes had in them a fixed
far-away look.  The other caught him by the sleeve.

"Aren't you well, Bolitho?"

The judge gave a great start.

"What's that?" he asked.

"Aren't you well?  You look deathly pale.  Have another glass of wine,
my dear fellow."

But the judge rose to his feet.

"No; I'm not very well," he said.  "I think I must ask you to excuse
me."

By this time the attention of all present was drawn to him, and there
were general expressions of sympathy.  But of these Judge Bolitho
seemed unconscious.

"Good-night, gentlemen," he said.  "I am sorry to be obliged to leave
you, but I don't feel very well."

"There was something in that letter," was the general whisper.
"Something that disturbed him!"

But the fact was almost forgotten as soon as he had left the room.

The judge found his way to his own apartment.

"Where's Mary, I wonder?" he said.  But Mary was nowhere visible.  He
knocked at her bedroom door, but received no answer.  He went into all
the rooms set apart for their use, but she was nowhere to be seen.

"She did not tell me she was going out, either," he reflected.  But it
was evident he had very little interest in her whereabouts.  He acted
more like a man in a dream than one in full possession of his
faculties.  He threw himself into an arm-chair and again carefully read
the letter which had been sent to him.  When he had finished, he looked
around the room as though he were afraid he were being watched.

"No; no one is here," he said.  "No one knows."

For fully five minutes he sat holding the letter in his hand, staring
into vacancy.

"What can it mean?  What can it mean?"

He put on a heavy ulster and left the hotel.  "I don't think anyone
noticed who I am," he reflected.  And then he made his way down past
the Free Trade Hall, towards Deansgate.

"Twenty-five Dixon Street," he kept on repeating to
himself--"twenty-five Dixon Street, off Dean Street."

He did not seem to know where he was going.  More than once he hustled
someone on the sidewalk and then passed on as if unconscious of what he
had done.  Presently he reached Dean Street and walked along it some
little distance; then, turning, he found himself in a network of short,
dark streets, evidently inhabited by a working-class community.  He
looked at the numbers carefully as he passed along.  After some little
time he stopped.  He knocked at one of the doors and was immediately
admitted.

A second later the light fell on the form of a woman.  Her face was
pale and haggard.  In her eyes was a look of madness.  The gaslight
also shone upon Judge Bolitho's face.  He had placed his hat upon the
table, and his every feature was exposed.

The woman came close to him and looked at him steadily, while he, like
one fascinated, fixed his eyes upon her face.

"Douglas Graham," she said, "do you know me?"

For a few seconds he did not speak, but looked steadily at her.  Then,
as if with difficulty, words escaped him.

"Jean!" he gasped.  "Jean!  Then you're not dead!"

"You know me, then, Douglas Graham?  I have waited a long time for this
night.  Sometimes I thought it would never come.  Year after year I've
watched, all in vain, and then suddenly I learnt the truth!"

She did not seem like one in a passion.  Her voice was low and hard.
Her hands were steady.  Her eyes burnt with a mad light.  It seemed as
though all the passion, all the hatred, all the despair of more than
twenty years were expressed in them just now.

"What do you want of me, Jean?"

He did not seem to know what he was saying, and the words escaped his
lips as if in spite of himself.

"Want of you?  Want of you?  Can you ask that?  Your memory is not
dead.  You know, and I know----  Why, I am your wife!  Do you remember
that day up among the Scotch hills, when, before God, you took me, you
swore you would be faithful to me?  Do you remember the promise you
made on the day you left me?  'I will soon come back to you,' you said,
'and make our marriage public.'  And I have never seen you since, until
to-day!  But now my hour has come!"

Usually Judge Bolitho was a man of resource.  He seldom lost possession
of his power to act wisely.  He was seldom taken at a disadvantage.  He
was cool and daring.  But now he seemed to have lost the _sang froid_
for which he was so noted.

"Jean!  Jean!" he said again and again.

"Yes, Jean," replied the woman.  "The girl you deceived!  The girl you
married and then deserted!  The woman whose life you have blighted and
ruined!  I had almost given up believing in God; but now--now--faith
may come back to me; but it's only a faith inspired by hatred!"

"You hate me, then?" he said.

"Is it possible to do anything else?" she replied.

"Wait a minute," he said.  "Let me think.  I shall be able to speak
connectedly presently.  For a moment I've lost hold of things.  Yes,
yes; I don't deny anything; but wait a minute!  What have you done with
yourself all these years, Jean?"

"Done with myself?  What could I do?  I was almost without a penny.  A
few months after you left me my father drove me from home.  I was in
disgrace, and only hell seemed to gape at my feet!"

"But you're here," he said in a dazed kind of way.  "You're well
clothed.  This cottage, though poor, shows a degree of comfort.  You're
not penniless, then?  Have--have you married--again?"

The woman started back from him at these words, and lifted her hand as
if to strike him.

"Douglas Graham," she said, "do not drive me too far!"

"But how have you been supported all these years?  What have you done?"

"You know!  You know!" she almost screamed.

"I know nothing," was his reply.  "Where have you lived?  Where do you
live now?  Is this your home, or are you only staying here temporarily?"

He seemed to be trying, in a confused sort of way, to understand how
things stood.  Evidently the shock of meeting her, after all the long
years, had wellnigh unbalanced his mind.

"But don't you know?  You must know!  No; it may be that you don't,"
and the woman laughed like one in glee.  "Then I will tell you," she
said.  "I am Paul Stepaside's mother, and Paul Stepaside is your son!"

The man gave a gasp as if for breath.  His body swayed to and fro as
though he found it difficult to stand upright.  Then a hoarse cry
escaped him:

"Paul Stepaside my son!"

"Ay, your son," replied the woman.  "Yes, I have read what the man said
this morning.  It was in the evening paper, so I know that you know all
about it.  I had no name, so he was given the name of the hamlet where
I was lying when they found me, thinking I was dead.  They took me to
the workhouse, where Paul was born, and because I refused to give them
my name they called him Stepaside.  But he's your son, don't you see?
Your son!  Your son!"

And the woman laughed harshly.

He seemed to be trying to understand the full meaning of her words.

"My son!  My son!" he repeated again and again.

"Yes, your son!  And he's accused of the murder of Ned Wilson, and you
are the judge who is trying his own son!  Truly, the ways of the Lord
are as a deep sea.  Yet he's a God of justice, too!  I never believed
in it as I believe in it now."

"But tell me more," he said presently; and his voice was hoarse and
unnatural.

"What is there to tell?" replied the woman.  "You deserted me, and Paul
was born--born in a workhouse, reared in a workhouse, educated in a
workhouse.  He was called a 'workhouse brat' by the people.  He lived
on the rates for years--your son!  And I have only to speak and all the
world will know of it.  Have you nothing to say for yourself?"  And she
turned to him just as a caged lioness might turn to a keeper with whom
it was angry.

He stood with bowed head and never answered her a word.  He seemed to
have forgotten everything in the thought that Paul Stepaside was his
son and he was accused of murder, and that he, his father, was his
judge.

"Have you nothing to say for yourself?" continued the woman.  "Oh,
it'll be a beautiful story to tell to the world!  I've been hearing
many things about you through the day.  I'm told you speak at great
religious meetings, that you're a prominent religious leader, that you
advocate sending the Gospel to the heathen, that you're very particular
about attending to all religious observances.  I've been reading what
you said about Paul being an atheist.  You declared that men who had
given up faith in God were not to be trusted.  When I tell my story,
won't the world laugh!"

He made no answer.  He still stood perfectly motionless, with bowed
head.  The woman's words did not seem to reach him.

"You know my Paul's story," she went on.  "Therefore, I needn't repeat
it.  He came to Brunford, and was falsely accused in this very city,
and you--because you were well paid and because I think your conscience
smote you and you felt an instinctive hatred towards him--you did your
best to get him a heavy punishment.  Through you he was sent to
Strangeways Gaol for six months, he an innocent man!  Then you fought
him at the election.  You told all sorts of lies about him, and you
besmirched my name; he your son, and I your wife, the woman you
promised to love and cherish, and then deserted.  Do you understand?
Do you understand?"

"Yes, I understand," he said; but still it did not seem like Judge
Bolitho's voice at all.

"But mind," and here her voice rose somewhat.  "But mind, I'm your
wife.  You married me.  I'm your true lawful wife.  You don't deny
that?"

"Jean," he said, "you don't know; you cannot know.  But you'll forgive
me, won't you?  I do not know myself, that is----  No, of course I
can't expect you to forgive me."

"Forgive you?" said the woman, and there was a world of scorn in her
tones.  "Forgive you, when I've suffered twenty-five years of disgrace
because of you!  Forgive you, when my son has been lying in gaol
because of you!  Forgive you, when, but for you, he might be free now!
But there's a God in the heaven."

"And Paul Stepaside is my son, my son!"

The thought seemed to have a kind of fascination for him.  He repeated
it over again and again, as though he took a certain pleasure in doing
so.  He remembered all that had taken place, remembered that ever since
they had first met there had seemed to be a kind of fatality which
caused them to feel antagonism for each other.  He remembered Paul's
words: "Mr. Bolitho and I will meet again, and always to fight, always
to fight!"  And he was his son!  He had never dreamed of this.  Often
during the years which had elapsed since he last saw the girl he had
married, he had wondered what had become of her, but never once had he
dreamed of this.  It seemed to him as though the foundations of his
life were taken away from him.  His brain refused to act.  His eyes
refused to see.  A great blackness fell upon everything.  He who was
usually so keen witted, so clear sighted, could not grasp the meaning
of all he had heard, could not understand the issues.  He only knew
that he was enveloped in a great black cloud, and that he could not see
which way to turn or what to do.

"Oh, my God, forgive me!"

The woman turned to him as he uttered these words.  "God forgive you!"
she cried.  "How can God forgive you?  I would cease to believe in Him
if He did.  What, you! who basely deserted me; you! who married me
under a false name; you! who during the years have never taken a step
to try and find out what had become of me; you! who have hunted my son
as though you were a sleuthhound; you! who have dragged him to prison.
God forgive you!  Tell me, why did you do it?"

There seemed no logical sequence between her last cry and the words
which had preceded it.  She was a creature of passion, and seemed
incapable of thinking coherently.

"Let me sit down," he said presently.  "I think perhaps if I do I may
be able to see more clearly.  At present I hardly know where I am, and
my mind is almost a blank; but, my God, what a blank!"

The woman looked at him grimly.  "Yes, you are suffering," she said.
"That's what I meant.  No, I'm not going to do you any bodily harm.  I
needn't do that.  I needn't do anything to punish you except to tell
the truth!"

Judge Bolitho sat down in an arm-chair which, had been placed close to
the fire and tried to understand what he had heard.  He had no doubt
about the truth of everything.  It was impossible to fail to recognise
the woman who stood before him--the very incarnation of hatred and
vengeance.  He knew by the look in her eyes of what she felt concerning
him.  There was no suggestion of tenderness in her face, no thought of
pity in her heart.  Well, it was no wonder.  The secret which he had
hidden for so long could no longer remain a secret, and his name, the
name of which he had been so proud, would be blackened before all the
world!  How long he sat in the chair, with bowed head and aching brain,
trying to understand, he did not know, but presently he was drawn to
look at her.  He had no thought of denying what he had done.  It had
never entered his mind.  He had made no defence; that did not come
within the realm of his calculation.  He was simply stunned by what he
had heard, by the revelation which had shaken his life to the very
foundations.  But presently he was led to look at her, to study her
features, and as he did so he called to mind the face of the young girl
whose heart he had won a quarter of a century before.  Yes, she was
beautiful still, even although her face was drawn and haggard and the
hair which he remembered so well was lustreless.  It needed but
happiness to bring back all the winsomeness of her girlish
days--happiness!  Yes, he had loved her, and he had promised to cherish
her.  He knew he had taken her to wife as truly as if their marriage
had been attended by all the pomp and ceremony which might attend the
marriage of a king.  She had come to him trustful and innocent, and
he--he----  No, he did not attempt to deny it; he would not.  What the
future had in store for him he did not know, he did not care.  But that
was not the great thing that oppressed him, that crushed his power of
thinking, that made the heavens black with the thunder of the clouds of
God.  It was that Paul Stepaside was his son!  He had always admired
him, even while he was angry with him; and he was his son!  That very
day he had sat in judgment upon him--that very day even he had helped
to forge a chain which would bind him to the scaffold--and he was his
son!  Presently he spoke aloud, and his voice was almost natural again.

"And so you have lived at Brunford," he said, "and kept house for him?
I've heard it is a beautiful home."

"Ay, my boy always loved me--always!"

"And, of course, you hate me, Jean?"

"How can I do otherwise?" she asked.  "Nay, that word is too weak to
express what I feel towards you!  How can it be otherwise?"

"I quite understand," said Judge Bolitho.

"Are you going to make no defence?" said the woman.  "Are you going to
bring up some little tale to excuse yourself?  Are you going to try and
manufacture a few lies?"

"No," he replied.  "None of these things.  I can't think to-night,
Jean.  You must think my conduct very strange.  I simply can't think!
It will be all real to me in a few hours.  You know what these
Manchester fogs are, don't you?  You know that sometimes you get lost
in them.  You cannot recognise the street in which you were born and
reared.  Everything is blotted out.  Then presently, when the fog has
rolled away--everything becomes clear.  Perhaps that is what it will be
with me by and by, but now I simply cannot think.  I do not blame you
in the slightest degree.  It's just that you should hate me!  It's just
that I should suffer!  Is there nothing more you wish to say to me?"

"Not now," said the woman.

"I do not ask you to forgive me; you cannot do that.  It's not to be
expected."

"But what are you going to do?" she asked.

"I do not know.  I cannot tell yet.  When my mind gets clear I shall
understand.  But I seem to be falling and falling and falling into a
bottomless abyss just now."

"You don't expect me to keep quiet?"

"I expect nothing."

"You do not ask me to be merciful to you?"

"I do not ask anything.  I've no right to expect anything or to ask
anything.  I think I will leave you now--that is, unless I can do
anything for you.  You do not need money, do you?"

He did not know what he was saying.  His bewildered brain was
expressing itself in an inconsequent sort of way.  He was just a
creature of impulse, and that was all.

"Money!" snarled the woman.  "Money! when my son is lying in a prison
cell waiting for the hangman!"

"Yes," he said, and his voice seemed as the voice of one far away.  "In
a prison cell, my son! my son!  It is right that I should suffer, but
surely he ought not to suffer!"

He rose to his feet and walked unsteadily towards the door.

"May I go now?  You know where I am staying.  If I can be of any
service to you, let me know."

"And that's all?  You have nothing more to say?"

"What can there be more?" he said.  "You can do what you will; I will
deny nothing."

"But what are you going to do?" she asked again.

"Do?  What is there to do?  I cannot tell; I am just in the dark, Jean,
but perhaps a light will come presently."  And then, without another
word, he found his way along the narrow passage into the dark,
forbidding street.



CHAPTER XXI

TRAVAIL

For more than an hour Judge Bolitho tramped the streets of Manchester,
unheeding whither he went and as little knowing.  He was vainly trying
to understand what he had heard, trying to bring some order out of the
chaos of his thoughts and feelings.  Everything was confused,
bewildering.  He was like a man in a dream.  The experiences through
which he had passed refused to shape themselves definitely.  A mist
hung before the eyes of his mind, and yet he knew it was no dream.  It
was all real, terribly real, and presently everything would stand out
before him with a ghastly clearness.  Even now one thing was plain
enough, one fact impressed itself upon the tablets of his brain--Paul
Stepaside was his son.  The interview he had had with the woman he
deceived was in the background; even although past memories had been
roused and the deeds of his youth had been brought before him with
awful clearness, they were as nothing compared with this fact of facts.
He did not know he had a son; he never dreamt of such a thing.  During
the long years which had elapsed since he parted with Jean at the
lonely inn near the Scottish border he had often wondered what had
become of her, wondered, too, whether those past days would ever be
resurrected; but the thought that he had a son had never occurred to
him.  And now the knowledge overwhelmed everything else.

Little by little things shaped themselves in his mind.  He saw them as
others would see them.  The events of the past few years, since he had
first met Paul, began to stand out with clearness.  He remembered his
own impressions on the day when Paul was first brought before him,
accused of rioting and of inciting others to deeds of violence.  He
remembered, too, that he had a kind of pleasure in obtaining a hard
sentence for him.  He recalled the fact that both Mr. Wilson and his
son Ned had spoken of him as an evil-dispositioned fellow, who deserved
the utmost penalty of the law, and he had fallen in with their ideas,
and had taken a kind of grim pleasure in doing so.  It was a strange
business altogether.  For the moment he seemed to be a kind of third
party considering a curious phenomenon.  He seemed to have no direct
connection with it at all.  But as he remembered after events, when he
called to mind the fact that he fought Paul at the election and failed
to condemn those who made use of slanderous gossip, then he was more
than a spectator.  He realised all too vividly against whom he had been
fighting.  And it had come to this: this man whom he had always
disliked, and against whom there seemed to be always a feeling of
antagonism, was revealed to him as his own son!  His treatment of Jean,
bad though it was, took a second place; indeed, at that time he
troubled very little about it.  He felt as though he could deal with it
later on.  Everything was centred upon the situation, which was summed
up in a few words: He had a son, his son was accused of murder, and he
was the judge!

Presently he found himself in Oxford Road.  He did not know how he had
come there.  He had no recollection of passing through the streets
which led him there, but as he noticed the gables of Owens College he
realised where he was.  He remembered some time before being an
honoured visitor at this centre of education.  The principal of the
college had sought to do him honour.  The professors made much of him.
He was strangely interested in the fact.  Why should it be?  Owens
College was nothing to him.  It was simply the centre of one of the
newer universities.  Why, then, did it interest him?  Then he
remembered that Paul had been a student there.  He had travelled all
the way from Brunford so that he might attend certain classes--and Paul
was his son!

Always this!  Always this!  In whichever direction his mind travelled,
it always came back to this point--Paul Stepaside was his son!

Slowly he trudged back towards the city again.  Presently he found
himself outside Strangeways Gaol.  He looked at the grim,
forbidding-looking building.  He thought of the creatures who lay
there, some awaiting trial, others suffering the penalty of their
misdoings.  During the very assizes which he was now attending he had
committed several to suffer there; but it was not of them he thought.
What were they?--merely the off-scourings of Lancashire life.  The only
one who mattered was his own son, and he lay there in a dark cell,
waiting for the morrow.  He did not ask himself whether he was innocent
or guilty.  At that moment it did not seem of importance.  Paul was his
son!  He, Judge Bolitho, was his father.  He, who had never realised
that he had a son, suddenly woke up to the fact that his son lay there
in Strangeways Gaol, while he, his father, was the judge.

If he could only go to him, talk with him, it might help him to clear
his mind, help him to understand.  But he could not do that.  He had
been too long a servant of the law to so far transgress against the
most elementary usages of the law.  No judge was allowed to see a
prisoner alone while his case was being tried.  But if he could--if he
could!

He called to mind Paul's face as he had seen it through the day.  Even
when he sat on the Bench he remembered being struck by it.  It was so
calm, so proud, so unyielding.  He had felt angry that this man,
accused of murder, had seemed to treat his accusers, as well as his
judge and counsel, with a kind of contempt.  Now he felt almost proud
of him.  Paul Stepaside was no ordinary man.  And he was his son!

Again he looked at the gloomy, grim pile.  Of what was his boy
thinking?  He lay in a black prison cell, with the shadow of death
hanging over him.  What were his feelings?  During his career Judge
Bolitho had been brought into contact with some of the darkest
characters in the land.  He knew something of what men suffered for
their crimes.  And at that moment he realised what Paul was suffering.

"Oh, if I could only go to him!" he repeated to himself--"if I only
could!"

He did not know why it was, but he felt a change coming over him.  He
realised that he had a wondrous interest in this man whom he pictured
lying in Strangeways Gaol.  He knew that the anger and scorn which he
had felt for him were passing away.  A kinder feeling was coming into
his heart.  It seemed as though old bitternesses were being removed,
and he began to long with a great longing to do something.  The young
girl whom he had met as a boy, and who was Paul's mother, was for the
moment forgotten.  That stormy interview did not possess his mind at
all, only in so far as she had revealed to him the relationship between
him and the prisoner.  Then, suddenly, it seemed to him as though the
barriers around his heart were broken down.  He loved, as he never
realised that he could love, the prisoner who lay waiting for the next
day's trial.  He wanted to go to him with words of comfort.  He wanted
to kneel before him and beseech his forgiveness.  He wanted to tell him
that all the strength of his being were given to him.  It seemed to him
as though he had become a new man, capable of new feelings, realising
new emotions.  His knowledge had swallowed up everything else.  He no
longer regarded the prisoner as a case, or even as one with whom he had
had associations in the past.  He was everything to him--his son, his
only son!

But he could not go to him.  Even the warders would not allow him.
They knew their duty too well for that.  He was the judge and Paul was
the prisoner.  But, oh! how his heart went out to him!  How he longed
to go to him!

"I wonder what he would say to me if I went to him, supposing I defied
all law and all usage?" he asked himself.  "Supposing I found my way
into his cell, what would he say on seeing me?  What would he do?"

And then into Judge Bolitho's heart came a great, haunting fear.  He
knew that his son must hate him, even as Jean hated him.  Paul had
heard her side of the story.  He knew only of his mother's wrongs, her
years of loneliness, the unworthy betrayal!  The punishment seemed
almost too hard for him to bear.  Whatever Paul had suffered, whatever
his mother had suffered, Judge Bolitho was sure that neither of them
suffered as he did at that moment.

Slowly his mind asserted itself more and more.  His vigorous intellect,
strengthened by long years of training, caused him to grasp the whole
situation more and more clearly.  He began to take a practical view of
everything, and to form plans as to what must be done in the future.
And even as he did so the grimness of the tragedy faced him.
Throughout the day he knew that he had, to a large extent, prejudged
Paul's case.  His own inherent dislike of the man had caused him to
feel sure he was guilty.  Of course there were difficulties, and of
course a clever counsel would mercilessly riddle the evidence which had
been adduced.  Nevertheless, he had felt convinced that the jury would
find him guilty.  There was a perfect chain of circumstantial evidence,
and he, with his long experience, knew what juries were.  They could
only judge according to evidence.  He went over the points one by
one--the years of enmity between Paul and the murdered man; the threats
he had made; the injuries which the murdered man had persistently done
to the accused; the knife which was known to belong to Paul, and which
could only have been in his possession; the quarrel on the eve of the
murder; the fact that Paul had left his own house at midnight and had
not returned till just before dawn; Wilson found not far from his own
house with Paul's knife in his heart; and the evidence which would be
surely adduced that Paul had been seen not far from Howden Clough that
same morning, acting in a most strange and distracted manner.  Added to
this was the fact that Wilson was respected in the town; that he was
not known to have an enemy in the world but Paul.  No, no!  Unless Paul
could bring evidence of the strongest nature, the jury would find him
guilty.

Then the terror of it seized him.  His own son would be hanged!

He lifted up his hands to heaven like a man distraught.

"Great God, forgive me and help me!" he cried.  But it seemed to him
even then as though his prayer were a mockery, as though the black,
cloud-laden sky were filled with doom.

Almost mechanically he turned his face towards his hotel.

"I must think this out," he said to himself.  "Besides----  Oh, my son!
My son!"

He had not walked far towards his hotel when he suddenly stopped in the
middle of the pavement.  His intellect, which had wakened from its
torpor, awakened something else.  He began to realise his own share in
this tragedy.  It was not Paul who was guilty of murder at all--it was
he, the judge.  If long years before he had done his duty, if he had
not listened to the voice of self interest, if he had been true to the
pleadings of his own heart and openly confessed to having married the
girl whose love he had won, then Paul would have grown up honoured, and
this deed would never have been committed.  He, he, Judge Bolitho, was
guilty.  But he could do nothing; how could he?

A few minutes later he found himself back at the entrance to the hotel,
and the porter saluted him respectfully.  Judge Bolitho had often
spoken to this man in a friendly sort of way, and the man was proud of
his notice.

"A dark, dreary night, my lord?"

"Yes; a dark, dreary night," repeated the judge.

He found his way to the suite of rooms which he had engaged, and as he
divested himself of the heavy ulster he had worn he planned a kind of
programme for the night.  He had no thought of going to bed.  During
his early days at the Bar, whenever a complicated case presented itself
to him, he had always written out a kind of resume, or synopsis of the
whole situation, so as to have everything clear before his mind.  After
that he had been able to classify and to arrange with precision and
accuracy.  He made up his mind to do this now.  But on entering the
room where he intended to work he was startled to find that his
daughter Mary was awaiting him.

"Not in bed, Mary?" he said.  "It's very late!"

"No, father.  I've been waiting for you."

"Why?" he asked; and there was something almost suspicious in his
voice.  He had a kind of feeling that his daughter knew something of
where he had been that night.

"I could not go to bed," said the girl.

"But why, my child?  By the way, did you go to the Gordons?  I was glad
when I heard that they had asked you, because I had to attend a dinner,
and I did not like the idea of your being alone."

"No; I did not go to the Gordons'," she replied.

"What have you been doing, then?"

"I have been sitting alone all the evening, part of the time in my
bedroom, part of it here."

"What have you been doing?"

"Thinking.  Father, I was at the trial to-day."

"I am very sorry," he replied.  "Such places are not for you."

"Why?  There was no one so interested as I."

"Of course you are naturally interested in the murder of Ned Wilson,"
he replied.  "All the same, it is unhealthy and morbid, this desire to
be present at murder trials.  But good-night, Mary.  I want to be
alone.  I have a great deal to do."

"Not yet, father," she said.  "I want to talk with you about this
trial.  Of course you do not believe him guilty?"

"Why not?"

Somehow the presence of his daughter had made him cool and collected
again, and he had a kind of instinctive feeling that she must be kept
in the dark concerning what had happened.  He was so far able to
control himself, too, that he spoke to her quite naturally.

"You do not believe him guilty, father?" she repeated.

"Don't you?"  And there was something eager in his voice as he uttered
the words.

"Why, father, how could he be?  It is madness to suppose such a thing!"

"I cannot discuss it with you," he said; and his voice was almost
harsh.  "Go to bed, my child.  Good-night."

She looked at him searchingly, and for the first time in her life she
felt almost afraid of him.  His face was drawn and haggard, and in his
eyes was a look she never saw before.

"You do not believe him guilty, do you?"

"My God, I don't know," he replied hoarsely.  "I would give--I would
give----"  And then he ceased speaking.

"I tell you he's innocent," replied the girl.  "And I am going to----"

But Judge Bolitho did not hear her.  "Go to bed--go to bed!" he said;
and taking her by the arm he led her from the room, and, closing the
door, turned the key.  A moment later he had unlocked the door and
called her back.

"What is that you said about--about something you were going to do?" he
asked.

"Surely, father, you do not believe him guilty?" was her reply.  "I
know that the evidence is black against him; but he could not do it!
He could not do it!"

As the judge looked at his daughter's face, a ray of hope shone into
his heart.  If the trial had impressed her in this way, might not the
jury also be led to doubt the evidence given?  He knew that many men
had been hanged on circumstantial evidence, but it might be that they
would refuse to accept the evidence in this case as sufficient.

"You see," persisted the girl, and he noticed that her lace was full of
anguish, that her eyes shone with an unnatural light--"he could not do
it, father."

"Do you mean to say that you regard the evidence as insufficient?"

It was utterly unlike him to talk with her about any trial in which he
was engaged.  Such things, he had always maintained, were not for
women.  They had neither the training nor the acumen to give an opinion
worth considering.  But now he caught at the girl's words like a
drowning man might catch at a straw.

"Oh, I know the evidence is terrible enough," she replied.  "But that
doesn't convince me a bit.  Father, you cannot allow them to hang him."

He stood still looking at her steadily, and as he did so the horror of
the whole situation seized him more terribly than ever.  He knew what
she did not know.  His mind was filled with thoughts of which she was
in utter ignorance.

"I can do nothing, my child," he said, "nothing!  It is a case for the
jury.  They have to hear the evidence, and then they pass judgment
accordingly.  If they condemn him as guilty, I must pass judgment of
death, I cannot help myself.  I am as helpless as the hangman.  If the
jury says 'Guilty,' I must pronounce death, and the hangman must do the
horrible thing!"

"But, father, don't you see?  He has refused to have counsel, and you
would have to sum up the evidence.  And when you are summing up you
could say how inconclusive it was, how terrible it would be to hang a
man because a set of circumstances seemed to point in a certain
direction."

He was silent for a few seconds.  The old numbness had come over his
mind again.  But he determined to let his daughter know nothing of it.

"You see, Mary," he said, "a judge can do so little, even in the way of
summing up, and he must do justice.  A judge sits on the bench as a
representative of justice, and all he can do is to analyse the
evidence.  And you know what the evidence is!"

"But he could not do it," said the girl.

"Think," went on the judge, and he spoke more like a machine than a
man.  "Think of the terrible train of events: the long years of
personal enmity between them; the injuries which the prisoner suffered
at the hands of the murdered man; the blow struck on the night of the
murder; and then--don't you see, Mary?  Besides, there is something
else, something which has never come to light, something which must
never come to light.  Wilson had been, as you know, spoken of as your
fiancé, and you know the letter I received from Stepaside.  He asked
that you might be his wife, and he would be jealous of Wilson.  Don't
you see?  Don't you see?  Mind you, this must not come to light.  It
must not be spoken of at all.  Nobody guesses that Stepaside cared
anything about you.  But what am I saying?  Drive it out of your mind,
Mary--it's of no consequence at all, and you must not consider it for a
moment.  Oh, my God, the horror of it!  Don't you see, Mary?  The
horror of it!"

Evidently she did not understand altogether what he was thinking.  She
did not realise that Paul was her half-brother, and therefore could not
altogether understand her father's cry of anguish.

For a moment the two stood together, silent, each looking into the
other's face and trying to read each other's thoughts.

"Father," she said at length, "I want to tell you something.  I have
been to see Paul."

"Been to see Paul!  Where?  When?"

"I went to see him in prison."

Her father seemed to be staggered by the thought.

"You went to see the prisoner?" he said.  Even yet he could not call
him by the name that was so dear to him.  The legal formulae were
almost a habit with him.

"I went to see Paul," she said.

"Why?"

"I went to tell him that I loved him," she replied simply.  "I knew
what he must be suffering, and I know that he loves me, because he told
me so.  And I wanted to comfort him.  I wanted to assure him that all
would be well."

The judge started back as though someone had struck him.  "You love----"

"Yes," she interrupted.  "I told him so, too.  I never loved Mr.
Wilson, father.  You know I didn't.  I had not thought that I really
cared for anyone until, until----"

"But you love Paul Stepaside?"

The words came from him as if mechanically.  Indeed, he had no
knowledge that he had uttered them.

"I do," she replied.  "And when he's at liberty I shall be his wife."

For a moment the judge rocked to and fro like a drunken man, and then,
staggering towards a chair, fell into it, and covered his face with his
hands.

"Father!" cried the girl.  "Did you not guess?"

"Oh, my God, that I should suffer this too!  I never thought, I never
dreamt----"

"I know that Paul is shielding someone," went on the girl presently.
"He did not do this.  He could not do it.  He is utterly incapable of
it!  You see that's why I am so certain.  And I'm going to find out who
did it.  Do you understand, father?  That's why I wanted to speak to
you to-night.  You must give me time.  You can make the case last for
days, if you want, and I'm going to find out who did it.  He's hiding
someone."

The judge lifted his head, and in his eyes was a gleam of hope.

"You believe this, Mary?" he said.

"I am sure of it!" she replied.  "You can do this to help me, can't
you?"

"But, my child, don't you see the utter hopelessness of it?  You must
not love Paul Stepaside.  You dare not!  Why--why----"

"But I do dare," replied the girl.  "This charge is nothing to me.  He
is not guilty, and I love him.  Don't you see, father?  And I'm going
to save him.  And you must give me time.  Make the case drag on,
father.  Of course, it will be suffering for him, but I cannot help
that.  When I'm ready I'll let you know."

The judge sat for some minutes as though in deep thought.  Confused and
bewildered as his mind was by the events of the night, there was
something in his daughter's demeanour that gave him hope for the future.

"I must think, Mary," he said.  "I've had a trying day, and I do not
think I'm very well.  I want to be alone a little while, and
then--well, perhaps in the morning I shall know better what I can do.
Good-night, little girl!"

He rose to his feet as he spoke and kissed her.  Then he led her out of
the room again.

"Oh, my God!" he said.  "My punishment is greater than I can bear.  For
that one deed of wrong, of cowardice, must I suffer this?"

He went into the dressing-room and bathed his head in cold water.  It
seemed to him as though his brain were on fire.  A few minutes later he
felt better.  He could think again.  He sat in an arm-chair beside the
fire and reviewed the past.  His mind went back to the time when he, a
free-hearted lad, went on a walking tour with some other fellows among
the English lakes, and then on to Scotland.  He had been full of good
resolutions, and his heart was light and free.  He had meant no harm
when he made Jean Lindsay love him, but he had never dreamt of what
would follow.  And then, then all the ensuing events passed before his
mind in ghastly procession.  What must he do?

In spite of everything, Judge Bolitho believed himself to be a
religious man.  He had identified himself with religious movements, had
professed himself a believer in prayer.  In one sense he was a man of
the world, keen as far as his profession went, eager for his own
advancement.  But in another he had held fast to the faith of his
childhood.  He had had a religious training, and while both his father
and mother had died when he was young, he had never forgotten their
teaching, and had never been able to shake himself free from early
associations.

Almost like a man in a dream, he knelt down by the chair and tried to
pray.  What must he do?  Life was a tangle, but he entangled it yet
farther himself.  He, by his own act, had made everything difficult,
terrible, tragic.  His conscience was roused within him, and as he
prayed he seemed to see, as though in a vision, the road he ought to
take.

"No, not that!" he cried.  "Not that!  Great God, not that!  I could
not do it!  I could not do it!"

He rose from his knees and began to pace the room.  His mind was clear
enough now, for God had spoken.

"But I cannot do it," he said.  "If I do what seems right, I shall
bring pain, disgrace on so many.  No, I cannot do it!  It cannot be
right to do right!  It cannot!"

And still he paced the room, struggling, fighting, and sometimes
offering wild, inarticulate prayers.



CHAPTER XXII

THE DAY OF JUDGMENT

On the morning of the second day of the trial Paul Stepaside woke from
a troubled sleep.  Throughout the night he had been living again in his
dreams the scenes of the trial.  They had been confused and bewildered;
but one fact dominated everything else: the man who was his judge was
his father!  When he woke, that was the first thought that appeared
clear in his mental horizon.  Before he had gone to sleep he realised
that he hated his father with a more intense hatred than when his
mother had told her story on the Altarnun Moors.  No thought of
tenderness came into his mind.  No feeling of affection entered his
heart.  It seemed to him as though all the darkness of his life, all
the pain he had ever suffered, all the wrongs he had ever endured, were
because of the man who, his mother declared, was his father.  And he
hated him!  It was through him he lay in prison.  It was through him
the shadow of the gallows rested upon him.  He realised, too, even
although his heart refused to assent to the finding of his brain, that
he must no longer love the woman who was dearer to him than his own
life.  His sister?  His heart made mockery of the thought!  No man
loved a sister as he loved Mary Bolitho.  Only a half-sister, it is
true, but they were both children of the same father.  Oh, the bitter
mockery, the terrible irony of it!  And this man, who stood for
justice, who represented the majesty of the law, who had risen to one
of the highest places in the realm of the law, had been in reality a
criminal ever since he came to manhood.  And this man had made it, as
it seemed to him, a sin for him to love the woman who was all the world
to him.  His sister!  His sister!  He had some idea that the English
law did not forbid a man marrying his own stepsister, but something in
his heart revolted against that.  And yet, and yet----  But what did it
all matter?  He lay there in Strangeways Gaol charged with murder.  The
first day of the trial had gone black against him, and, although he
knew no more as to who murdered Ned Wilson than the veriest stranger,
he realised that he stood in the most imminent danger.  And the man who
was really responsible for everything, the man who was at the heart of
it all, was the judge!  What should he do?  If he did what was in his
heart, he could make him a byword and a hissing through the whole
country; but that, again, meant disgrace for Mary, and he had sworn
that she must suffer nothing.  The warder brought him his morning meal,
which he ate silently.  He was thinking what the day would bring forth.
He wondered how long the trial would last, and what the jury would say.
He could not see his way through the tangle of his life.  But as he
thought of everything a grim resolve mastered him.  He would not die;
he simply would not!  He would fight to the very last.  He would tear
the evidence which had been adduced in fragments.  He would proclaim
his innocence, and not only proclaim it, but prove it.  He was sadly
handicapped, for whatever else he must do he must see to it that no
suspicion would attach to his mother.  But without allowing anyone to
think of her in such a relation, he would make it impossible for the
jury to condemn him.

When breakfast was over, he tramped his little cell, thinking,
thinking, considering a score of plans, and discarding them, yet all
the time fighting his way towards his course of action.

He laughed as he reflected on the irony of the situation.  The judge
would not know what he knew, but sitting there in all his stately
dignity, arrayed in his robes of office, he would not realise that the
man charged with murder was his son.  He wondered how he could let him
know it, wondered how he could bring his own villainy home to him.  He
had not one tender thought for his father, not one--only scorn,
contempt, hatred was in his heart when he thought of him.  And yet he
was his own father--father, too, of the woman he loved, the woman whom
he had held in his arms and who had expressed her infinite faith in him.

Not long before the hour of the trial the chaplain again paid him a
visit.  But Paul was in no humour to receive him.

"I am afraid you only waste your time coming to me," he said.  "I
appreciate the fact that you are a kind-hearted man, but see, I haven't
an atom of faith, not an atom.  I do not believe in the value of your
religion.  I am an atheist."

"You believe nothing?" said the chaplain.

"Nothing as far as your profession is concerned," said Paul, "nothing."

"Would nothing convince you?" said the chaplain.

"Nothing," replied Paul grimly.  And then he laughed.  "I am wrong,
though," he added.  "Yes, I think one thing would convince me.  You
remember the story I told you yesterday--or shall we call it an
incident, and not a story?"

"I remember.  I suppose it had something to do with your own life?"

"You have heard the miserable stories, then?" said Paul.

"I have heard a great many things about you," replied the chaplain.

"Well, then," said Paul.  "Let me say this to you: I think this would
convince me that there might be something in religion if my father
confessed his wrong, publicly confessed it, mind you, and sought to do
right; if he proclaimed his ill-deeds before the world, and did all in
his power to rectify the wrong he had done.  Then I might believe."

"And nothing else would convince you?" said the chaplain.

"Nothing else," said Paul.

"But who is your father?  Where is he?"

"Ah," said Paul.  "But it's no use thinking of it any more.  The whole
thing is hopeless, and life is just a great mockery."

The chaplain left him with a sad heart.  He was a kind man, and sought
to do his duty, and Paul had interested him strangely.

The court that day was, if possible, more crowded than ever.  The
morning papers had been filled with reports of the previous day's
trial.  The wildest of rumours had been afloat.  Descriptive articles
had been written about the young Member of Parliament who was accused
of such a terrible crime.  His every word had been commented on.  His
appearance had been discussed.  The evidence given had been the subject
of thousands of gossiping tongues.  And so the court that day was
simply thronged with an intense, eager crowd.  Moreover, the inwardness
of the trial had seized upon the imaginations of the people.  It was
more real, more vivid to them than it had been the day before.  And
when Paul entered the dock, accompanied by two policemen, a great
silence fell upon the court, while every eye was fixed upon him.

"He looks as hard and proud as ever!"

"Yes, there's not much sign of repentance!"

"I wonder if the trial will close to-day?"

"There's no knowing.  I've heard as 'ow several witnesses will be
brought into court which was never thought of at the beginning.  Will
Ashley says as 'ow he saw Paul about half-past five on the morning of
the murder not far from Howden Clough.  Will says as 'ow there was a
look in his eyes like the eyes of a madman."

"But Will never appeared before the coroner's inquest?"

"No; I suppose he wanted to be kept out of it.  But he 'appened to tell
his missis, and his missis told it to somebody else, who told it to one
of the policemen, and that's 'ow it came about."

In another part of the court, not far from the barristers' seats, two
ladies discussed Paul.  They, too, had been brought there by morbid
curiosity aroused by this trial.

"Did you know that Judge Bolitho's daughter was here yesterday?"

"No.  Was she?"

"Yes.  I watched her face during the trial.  It was as pale as death.
I wonder how she dared to come."

"Why, what do you mean?"

"Oh, you know she was engaged to young Wilson."

"I've heard that was denied."

"Well, anyhow, there's something about it in one of the Brunford
papers, and there's no doubt Wilson was in love with her."

"Then no wonder she was pale."

"Mrs. Jackson told me she saw her smile on the prisoner."

"She must have been mistaken.  It's terribly interesting, isn't it?"

"I wonder when they will commence.  It's five minutes past time."

This was true.  Five minutes had passed away since Paul had been led to
the dock, and still the trial had not commenced.  The reason for this
was evident--the judge had not yet appeared.  The jurymen were in their
places, conversing in low whispers one with another.  More than one was
anxious and pale.  A number of barristers were also present, eager for
the commencement of the day's trial.  They were wondering what new
factor would be at work that day.  To most of them it was a case that
was deeply interesting, one which they wished to study and which might
help them in days to come.  Newspaper reporters sat busily writing.
Each was trying to vie with the other to produce a sensational
description.  Presently, as if by magic, a great silence fell upon the
court.  It was now ten minutes past the time when the trial should
commence, and still the judge had not appeared.  Each seemed to be
wondering what was the matter.  The air was tense with excitement.
Could anything have happened?  What did the judge mean by being late?
And still they waited and watched, until at last the silence became
almost painful.

Presently a deep sigh rose from the crowded seats.  It seemed as if the
spectators wanted to give vent to their feelings.  A curtain at the
back of the hall was drawn aside, and Judge Bolitho, with bowed head
and staggering footsteps, found his way to his accustomed seat.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE DAY OF JUDGMENT (_continued_)

The attention of all present, which had been directed towards Paul, was
now diverted to the judge.  It seemed for the moment as though Paul
were no longer the centre of interest, nor indeed did he occupy the
chief place in the great drama of life which was played before him.  It
was no longer Hamlet who held the stage, but the King.

There was little wonder at this.  He fell into his chair as if he were
unable to support himself, and everyone saw at a glance that something
of terrible import must have happened to him.  His eyes were bloodshot;
his face, usually so healthful looking and florid, was pale and
haggard; his cheeks were baggy; and he was bowed down as if by some
great calamity.  Everyone felt this, although no one spoke.  All eyes
were riveted upon him; everyone took note of his slightest movement.

For a few seconds he sat with bowed head, apparently looking at the
papers before him, but really seeing nothing.  He seemed to be
pondering what to do, what to say.  More than one noticed that his
hands trembled.  The clerk of the assizes mentioned something to him,
but the judge took no notice; the man might not have spoken at all.

At length he seemed to gather himself up as if by a great effort.
Twice he essayed to speak, and twice he failed.  It might appear as
though the power of language were gone.

If the silence had been intense when he had entered the court, it was
more than ever so now.  People seemed afraid to breathe.  The jurymen
looked towards him in wonder, and barristers who were _habitués_ of
courts of law, and who had grown callous even with regard to the most
interesting cases, watched him with an eagerness that they had never
known before, while the spectators seemed to be afraid to breathe.

And yet nothing had been said.  From the casual observer's point of
view the case was to recommence in the ordinary way, save that the
judge was a few minutes late.  But everyone knew something was about to
happen.  The very air they breathed was tense with emotion.

"Gentlemen," said the judge presently--and it did not seem like his
voice at all, it was so hoarse and unnatural--"Gentlemen, I wish to
make a statement which is of the utmost importance.  I wish to say that
I can no longer sit in judgment on this case, and that therefore, to
all intents and purposes, the court is dismissed."

No one moved or made a sound, save that the reporters at their desks
were busily writing.  Their pencils, as they swept over their
note-books, made quite a noise, so tense was the silence which
prevailed.  More than one of these reporters declared afterwards that
they did not know what they were writing.  They were simply like
automata, acting according to custom.

Although the judge had dismissed the court, no one moved.  As if by
instinct, all felt that there was something more to be said.  What had
prompted Judge Bolitho to make this statement they did not know, they
could not conceive; but they felt rather than thought that something
tremendous was at stake.  Old, habitual theatre-goers declared to each
other in talking about the matter afterwards that no drama they had
ever witnessed had ever been so exciting as the scene that day.  But
nothing had depended upon what was said.  The words of the judge were
few and simple, but the very place seemed laden with doom.

"In abandoning all associations with this case," went on the judge, and
his voice was more natural now, "I wish to make a further statement.
Perhaps there seems no sufficient reason why I should do so,
nevertheless I must.  I can no longer sit in judgment upon the prisoner
for the gravest of all reasons----"  Again he stopped.  He did not know
how to proceed.  Perhaps such a thing was almost unprecedented in the
history of trials.  Up to that moment Paul had been like a man in a
dream.  On entering the dock and finding that the judge was not present
he fell to wondering at the reason of his lateness, and presently could
not help being affected by the influences which surrounded him.  He,
too, felt there was something in the air which, to say the least of it,
was not usual.  He had come there with his heart full of bitter hatred,
with a feeling that the man who was to sit in judgment upon him, even
although he were his father, was his enemy.  In a vague way he wondered
what would happen through the day, wondered whether he should be able
to keep his knowledge to himself, wondered whether, at some moment when
the judge manifested some particular injustice to him, he might not
yield to the passion of the moment and proclaim the relationship.
Outwardly he was still cool and collected, although his face was very
pale and his eyes burned like coals of fire.

When the judge entered the court he, too, was much moved by his
appearance.  He saw that he had been suffering terribly, and into his
heart came a kind of savage joy.  There seemed something like poetical
justice in the thought of this man's suffering, and he wondered whether
he had in some way learned the truth.

When Judge Bolitho opened his mouth to speak, Paul's heart seemed to
stop.  So intense was his interest in what he would say that, for the
moment, he forgot his own position.  The shadow of death was somehow
removed from him; that grimness and the horror of the trial had lost
their meaning.  That "Gentlemen, I wish to make a statement which is of
the utmost importance.  I wish to say that I can no longer sit in
judgment on this case . . ."--what did it mean?  A thousand wild
fancies flashed through his mind.  He wondered whether Mary Bolitho had
been at work, whether this was the first step in her endeavours to
prove him innocent.  He did not know how it could be, but, like
lightning, his mind and heart flew to her.

He gave a quick glance around the court and turned towards the spot
where he had seen her on the previous day.  Even then he realised that
all attention was turned from him to the judge, realised that everyone
waited with breathless interest for the next words that should fall
from his lips.  But he could not see Mary.  Again his eyes swept over
the crowded benches which held the spectators, but she was not there.
He wondered why.  In a sense he was glad.  At least she no longer
looked upon his ignominy and shame.  And yet he felt the loss of her
presence.  The day before she had cheered him in spite of himself,
strengthened him to bear the brunt of the battle; but now he was alone.

Again the judge spoke, and Paul listened to every word that passed his
lips.  Like the other spectators, he was eager to know what would
follow.

"I cannot continue to sit in judgment upon the prisoner," went on the
judge; and every word was clearly enunciated.  "And my reason for this
is all-sufficient--I cannot sit in judgment upon him because I have
learnt that he is my own son!"

Paul's heart gave a leap as he heard the words.  It seemed to him as
though the atmosphere of the court changed as if by magic.  There was
something electric in it, something that seemed to alter the whole
state of affairs and change the current of events.  His heart beat with
a new hope and burned with a strange joy.  He had not yet grasped what
it meant.  He could not yet read the thoughts that were passing in the
judge's mind, but he felt their consequence, felt that, in spite of
everything, the sky was becoming brighter.

The effect on the court, as may be imagined, was tremendous.  The
barristers sat in their seats open-mouthed.  Never in all their
experience had they witnessed such an event.  The jury seemed incapable
of moving, but many of the spectators, unable to restrain their
emotions, sobbed hysterically.

"I wish to say," went on the judge, "that I have had no communication
in any form with the prisoner, neither did he know of what was in my
mind as I came here to-day.  I have not seen him during the trial
except in this court.  Realising our relations as judge and prisoner
this was impossible.  But no sooner did I learn of the relationship
which existed between us than I realised the impossibility of my
continuing to sit on this case."

For the moment he stopped, as if he had said all that he intended to
say.  Perhaps he felt that it was not for the jurymen to know, or for
that gaping crowd to know the real thoughts that were in his heart.
But no one made a movement as if to go.  Men and women sat there,
hungry to hear more, eager for the continuance of the exciting scene
which had aroused them to the very depths of their nature.  One man who
was there has told me since that he forgot, just as others had
forgotten, that Paul Stepaside was being tried for murder.  It was
rather some great drama of life which was being acted for their
benefit, and which held them all spellbound as if by some magician's
power.  They could not understand the why and the wherefore.  Their
minds were too bewildered and excited to realise what lay behind it
all, but all felt that there was something momentous, tragic.

Presently the judge lifted his head as if to speak again.  That he was
suffering terribly, and undoubtedly that he was under the influence of
mighty emotions all were sure.  Many there were who, forgetful of all
else, pitied him.  But the prevailing feeling was that of wonder and
eager expectation of what might come next.

"I need not say," went on the judge, "that the proceedings of yesterday
are nullified by my action to-day.  I need not say that another of his
Majesty's judges will have to sit in my place, that a new jury will
have to be sworn, and the case will have to be re-tried from the
beginning.  But with that I have nothing to do, and for the moment,
although it is not in accordance with any law or usage, I want to say
what is in my heart.  It was only late last night that I learnt of the
relationship between the man who is known as Paul Stepaside and myself,
and therefore I could not make known my intentions before; but this I
do wish to say, here, in the presence of all who have gathered together
to witness this trial--Paul Stepaside is my lawful son, and,
unknowingly, I have sinned against him grievously and greatly.  His
mother is my lawful wife--how and where she became so it is not for me
to tell you or for you to know--but such is the truth.  Concerning the
fact itself, however, I wish it to be made known--as it will be made
known--that his mother is my lawful wife, and that he is my lawful son,
and that I do here and now confess the wrong which I have done to him,
even although that wrong was to me largely unknown.  In a sense there
is no need that I should make this explanation in this way; but I do it
because my conscience compels me to do so and because I wish here and
now to ask my son's forgiveness."

He still spoke in the same slow, measured tones, his voice somewhat
husky, but every word reaching the ears of all present.  And as he
spoke, Paul seemed to feel as though the foundations of the world were
slipping away from under his feet.  His thoughts of revenge were being
scattered to the winds.  He had never dreamt of this; never in the
wildest of his imaginings had he thought Judge Bolitho would have made
such a confession.  Even now he could not understand it, much less
realise it; but he felt it to be the most tragic moment of his life.
He felt as if the world could never be the same to him again.  And yet
he hated the judge.  Why it was he could not tell; but even as he
spoke, even as he made this most momentous confession, his heart
steeled against his father.  In spite of his humility, in spite of his
suffering, in spite of what it must have cost him to have spoken the
words to which he had just listened, he still hated him.  The man had
wrecked his mother's life, robbed her of her girlhood, sent her away
into loneliness and sorrow, allowed her to bear her disgrace in
solitude.  He had robbed him also of his boyhood, of his name.  He had
ever been his enemy.  From the first time they had met he had sought to
crush him; and he wondered, even now, with a mad wonder, whether there
were not some kind of ulterior motive prompting him to say these things.

The effect, however, upon the spectators, was entirely different.
Although his words seemed commonplace enough, there was something
pathetic in them.  All present realised something of the inwardness of
that to which they had just been listening.  Although it was no
distinct thought in their minds, all realised what it must have cost
him to make such a confession.  When he said that he had made it in
order to ask his son's forgiveness, a great sobbing sight swept like a
wave over the court.

Still the judge spoke on in the same slow, measured tones, although all
felt that he was a man in agony.

"Of the rights and wrongs of this trial," he went on, "it is for me to
say nothing.  Whether I believe Paul Stepaside, my son, to be guilty of
the murder of the late Edward Wilson I must not say.  It will be for
another to listen to the evidence.  It will be for another to advise
the jury concerning their verdict.  I am simply the judge who has been,
and therefore can say nothing except this--that if Paul Stepaside is
guilty of the murder of Edward Wilson, I am not innocent.  If he struck
him the blow which has been described, a measure of the guilt belongs
to me.  If I had done my duty to him as a child, as a youth, and as a
young man, he would, in all probability, not have been here.  And
therefore, although technically and legally I know nothing of the
murder, if he is guilty I must share in his guilt.  This I say that the
truth may be understood and realised."

Again he ceased speaking.  It seemed now as if he had said all he
intended to say--much more than any of the spectators thought a man in
his position could have said; but still they sat in silence, except for
an occasional sob, or the hoarse breathing of some woman who could not
control her excitement.  The pencils of the reporters were still.  They
were waiting eagerly for the next word that should fall from the
judge's lips should he speak further.  They realised by now the
tremendous possibilities of the case.  No murder trial on record ever
gave such an opportunity for a descriptive journalist as this, and they
knew what effect their report would have upon the excited public.

The judge rose to his feet.

"That is all I think I need say," he said.

He turned as if to leave the court, then paused, and his eyes moved
towards his son.  For a moment the two men stood looking at each other.
Paul, pale, erect, tense, almost overwhelmed by what he had heard, yet
strong in his mastery over himself and wondering what it all might
mean; the judge bowed, haggard, with bloodshot eyes and trembling
limbs.  For several seconds they stood looking at each other, while the
crowd, forgetful of where they were, sat watching, waiting, listening.

"Paul, my son, can you forgive me!" said the judge.

But Paul made no sign, and then Judge Bolitho, like a man who had
received his death warrant, staggered out of the court.

Immediately the whole place was in confusion.  So affected was everyone
by what had taken place that they even forgot the presence of the
prisoner.  Each talked excitedly with his neighbour concerning the
revelation which had been made.  No attempt at keeping order was made.
Ushers, barristers, jurymen, spectators were all eagerly discussing
what they had heard.

"Never heerd owt like it!" said one weaver to another.  He had come all
the way from Brunford that morning to be present at the trial.  "They
can never hang him after this!"

"Nay," said the other.  "But, after all, it's got nowt to do with th'
murder.  Either Paul killed him or he didn't; and if he killed him
he'll be hanged for it."

"I'm noan so sure," was the reply.  "Why, the king would interfere.
I've heerd as 'ow Judge Bolitho is very friendly with his Majesty, and
he would never let his son get hanged."

"Nay, king or no king, people'll cry out for justice.  If Paul
Stepaside killed Ned Wilson, no matter if he is the son of a thousand
Judge Bolithos, he'll swing."

"But did'st ever hear owt like it?  I wouldn't have missed it for a
month's wage.  Just think on it!  The judge gets up and says as 'ow he
canna go ony further 'cause the murderer is his son!"

"I never liked th' chap before," was the response, "but I canna 'elp
liking him now, a bit 't ony rate.  It must have cost him summat to get
up in t' court like that."

"But just think on 't!" said the other.  "If what he says is true, the
woman as we have known as Mrs. Stepaside is Judge Bolitho's wife!  Weel
then, canst a' see?  Judge Bolitho must be a bigamist.  His daughter is
in the town at this very time, and he must have married her mother
while Paul's mother was alive.  I tell thee, there'll be rare doings."

"Ay," replied the other; "but I expect they'll patch it up.  These
lawyer chaps can do onything.  I heerd one on 'em say once that all law
was a matter of interpretation, and you may be sure that they'll
interpret it to suit theirsen."

"Nay; I'm noan so sure," replied the other.  "But it's a rare business.
By goom!  All t' preachers i' Lancashire will have this affair for a
text!"

In another part of the court the two ladies who had been discussing
Paul on the previous day were now discussing his father.

"Did you ever dream of such a thing?"

"Well," was the reply.  "When I come to think of it, there is a
resemblance between them."

"How can you say that?  The prisoner is tall, dark; he has black hair
and black eyes, while Judge Bolitho is florid and has light hair."

"No; but their features are the same.  Do you know, after all, there's
something in blood.  No one can help seeing that Stepaside is a
gentleman."

"Why, I thought you said before that his common blood showed itself."

"My dear, you misunderstood me.  See the way he has risen in the world.
I am told that Judge Bolitho comes from one of the oldest families in
the West of England, and family tells, my dear, family tells!"

"But just think of it!  Would you have believed that a proud man like
Judge Bolitho would have stood up and made such a revelation to a
gaping crowd like this?"

"Conscience, my dear, conscience!"

"Yes; but what about his conscience during the years?  I tell you we've
not seen the end of this business yet.  Can't you see the
complications?"

"Do you know, I've often been tempted to invite Stepaside to my house.
I wish I had now; he must be an interesting man."

"They'll never hang him after this.  Do you think so?"

"I don't know.  If these things had come to light a few days ago,
before the trial commenced, they might have hushed it up; but I don't
see how they can now."

"But wasn't it tremendously exciting.  I wouldn't have missed it for
anything.  I felt a shiver down my back all the time the judge was
speaking.  What a splendid scene for a play!"

And so they continued talking.  The real deep issues of the case were
as nothing.  To them it was an event which interested them beyond
words.  It fed their love for excitement, and promised to be a subject
of conversation for many days to come.

Meanwhile the barristers had gathered together in excited groups.  They
discussed the matter in an entirely different way.  To them the case
was everything, and they fastened upon all the legal difficulties which
might arise.  More than one wondered, too, whether out of such a
maelstrom of events work would not be bound to fall to them.

"Who will be appointed judge, I wonder?" said one.

"Oh, Branscombe, I expect."

"I wonder whether Stepaside had some inkling of the truth.  Perhaps
that was the reason he refused to engage counsel."

"Do you think Stepaside knew all the time?"

"There's no knowing; he's such a secretive fellow.  Did you notice the
expression on his face all day yesterday when he looked at the judge?
And this morning I couldn't help noticing it.  I tell you, Stepaside
knew a great deal more than we imagined, and he's had something up his
sleeve the whole time.  There'll be an interesting _dénouement_ to all
this."

"Will he be hanged, think you?"

"Ask me another!  As far as circumstantial evidence goes, the man's
dead already, unless he has something to fire forth at the last."

"I see now," said another.  "That was the reason Bolitho was so excited
last night.  Don't you remember how he trembled when that note was
brought to him, and how he left the room like a man in a dream?  That's
it.  There was some hint of this in the letter he received.  Then he
went out and made certain."

"But how could he do that?"

"Who knows?  The fact remains that he didn't know till last night.  He
said as much just now.  Anyone can see he didn't have a wink of sleep
last night."

"Yes, that was plain enough.  He must have suffered the torments of the
damned!"

"All the same, it was a plucky thing to do!  Would you have done it if
you had been in his place?"

"A man doesn't know what he would do under such circumstances.  All the
same, we can't help admiring him.  You see, Bolitho always had a strain
of religion in him, and although he was as hard as nails in many
respects, he possessed the remains of an old conscience."

Slowly the court emptied itself, and the people found their way into
the street, still eagerly discussing every phase of the question, still
asking and answering questions.

"I tell thee what," a rough collier was heard to say.  "God Almighty's
been to work, and when God Almighty gets to work wonderful things
happen!  When I get back to Brunford I'm going to our minister straight
away and ask him to call a meeting for prayer.  We mun pray, I tell
you.  We mun!"

During this time Paul was led back to his cell.  The warders would far
rather have remained in the court and talked the matter over with the
others, but still the influence of discipline was upon them, and they
had to do their duty.  As a consequence, Paul was soon away from the
noise of the excited crowd, and a few minutes later was alone in his
cell.  As may be imagined, if the scene that morning had caused such
excitement among the spectators, it had aroused his nature to the very
depths.  Everything was so unexpected, so unthought of.  In all his
calculations Paul had never thought of this.  He had wondered in what
way Judge Bolitho, whenever the truth became known to him, would meet
the difficulties which arose, but he had never dreamt he would stand up
in a crowded court like that and make such a confession.  Paul knew him
to be a proud man, knew, too, that he was sensitive to the least
approach of shame, knew that he valued the name he owned--one of the
oldest in England.  One part of the judge's speech remained in his
memory.  He repeated the words over again and again to himself as if
trying to understand their inwardness: "In a sense there is no need
that I should make this explanation in this way, but I do it because my
conscience binds me to do so and because I wish, here and now, to ask
my son's forgiveness."

In spite of himself he was moved.  He realised what it must have cost
the judge to utter such words; realised, too, the battle which he had
fought during the night, before he had decided to make such a
statement.  "Because I wish, here and now, to ask my son's forgiveness."

Even yet he hated his father, and fought against the kinder feelings
which surged up in his heart.  He could not forget the dastardly deed
which the man had committed before he was born: the base betrayal, the
almost baser desertion, and those long years when his mother suffered
in silence and solitude.  For himself he did not care so much, but his
mother he loved with all the strength of his nature.  And a few
lachrymose words could not atone for the misery of a lifetime.  Still,
they had their effect upon him.  He called to mind, too, the look in
the judge's eyes as he left the court, the simple words he had spoken:
"Paul, my son, can you forgive me?"

He wanted to forgive him.  A thousand forces which he could not
understand seemed to be pleading with him.  All the same, his heart
remained adamant.  The shadow of the gallows was still upon him, the
weary weeks he had been lying in a dark cell, covered with ignominy and
shame.  His portrait had appeared in almost every scurrilous rag in the
country.  His name and history had been debated among those who always
fastened upon every foul bit of garbage they could find.  And in a way
Paul traced everything to this man, Judge Bolitho; why, he did not
know, but he could not help it.

Still, the happenings of that morning impressed him.  They seemed to
change his intellectual and spiritual whereabouts.  They broke the hard
crust of his nature.  They appealed to him in a way which he thought
impossible, and he wondered with a great wonder.

Everything was bewildering, staggering!  Where was his mother? he
wondered, and, more than all, where was Mary?  The thought of the
relationship between them almost drove him mad.  He could not bear to
think that he and Mary were children of the same father.  It outraged
something in his heart and mocked the dreams which he still dared to
dream.  Somehow, the battle for his own life which he had determined to
fight more passionately than ever had sunk in the background now.  It
was not the only issue at stake.  Other forces were liberated, other
interests overwhelmed him.

Still, as he sat there, brooding and planning and dreaming, one thing
became clear to his mind and heart--he would not die!  He would not
betray his mother, but he would fight for his own life.  He was a
prisoner, and he had refused, and would still refuse, to engage counsel
to defend him or lawyers to gather evidence.  He knew too well the
danger of that.  No, no, whatever happened to him, no breath of
suspicion should fall upon his mother; but he would fight for his own
life step by step, inch by inch.  He would tear the circumstantial
evidence to pieces.  He would convince the jury that it was impossible
to condemn him.  Whatever else must be done, that must be done--he owed
it to Mary.

Directly he thought of her his heart grew warm and tender.  She
believed in him.  She had declared her faith in his innocence in spite
of circumstantial evidence.  She had laughed at it; she would laugh at
it; and he would prove himself worthy of her faith.  That at length
became the dominant thought in his mind, the great motive power of his
life.

Outside, the city of Manchester was stirred to its depths.  Like
lightning the news had passed from one lip to another of what had taken
place that morning, while the reporters rushed to their various offices
to transcribe their notes and to prepare copy for the papers.  In an
almost incredibly quick time the evening newspapers appeared.  Newsboys
were rushing through the streets shouting excitedly, and there was a
mad scramble among the people to buy.  The printing presses could not
turn them out fast enough; the machinery was insufficient to meet the
demands of the excited crowd.  "Great murder trial!" shouted the boys.
"Wonderful revelations!"  "Judge Bolitho confesses that he is the
prisoner's father!"  "Tremendous excitement in court!  Many women
fainted!" and so on and so on.  Factories became emptied as if by
magic.  At every corner crowds gathered.  Business was at a standstill.
The members of the Manchester Exchange had forgotten to think of the
rise or fall of cotton.  Everything was swallowed up in the news of the
day.

Every telegraph office, too, was filled with eager people, and the
means of communication from one part of the country to another was
taxed to its utmost.  Some few months before the Prime Minister of the
country had come to Manchester to speak on a question which was
exciting not only England but the whole Empire, but even then the
telegraph wires had never been so congested with news as on that
morning.  In a little over an hour after the judge had left the court
the London papers were full of it.  Stirring headlines were on the
placards of all the evening papers, and people bought them with almost
the same avidity as they had bought them in Manchester.  In a sense
there seemed no reason why so much interest should have been aroused,
but in another there was.  Such a confession on the part of the judge
was almost unprecedented, and as both Judge Bolitho and Paul Stepaside
were so largely in the public eye, their sayings and doings seemed of
the utmost importance.  There was something romantic in it, too.  A
father sitting in judgment upon his own son, and not knowing until a
few hours before that he was his son!

But Judge Bolitho was unconscious of all this.  He never thought of it.
When he left the court that morning he retired for a few minutes into
the judge's room; but he could not remain there--he was too excited,
too overwhelmed.  He must do something.  For now that he had made his
confession the whole case appeared to him in a different way from what
it had appeared to the public.  They, in their wonder at the revelation
of the facts which Judge Bolitho had made known, had almost ceased to
think of the possible doom of the prisoner.  But that became of supreme
importance to him.  In a way which no man can explain, his heart had
gone out to his son.  Nature had asserted itself.  Years had become as
nothing, past events seemed to lose their force, in the thought that
Paul Stepaside was his son; and he feared for his future, he was in
danger of his life.  When the new judge was appointed, whoever it might
be, he knew that he would consider this case impartially on the
evidence given.  Young Edward Wilson was murdered, there could be no
doubt about that, and all the evidence pointed to Paul Stepaside.

When he reached the street he got into a cab, and was driven to his
hotel, and there he thought out the whole case again.  On the previous
night, during the long hours when he was sleepless, it was a difficult
battle he had to fight.  It was then for him to make known his son to
the world.  Perhaps it had been a quixotic, almost a mad thing to do;
but, although the suffering it entailed was horrible, he could not help
doing it.  He had fought a long battle over what he conceived to be his
duty, and duty had won.  Now that was over, and he had done his duty,
the other problem faced him: how could he save his son?  But again his
mind refused to work.  Nothing seemed clear and definite to him.  The
great feeling in his heart was hunger for his boy.  He wanted to be by
his side--nay, he wanted to kneel at his feet, to plead with him, to
beg for his love.

He had not been long in his room before a look of determination came
into his eyes.  He had yielded to the overmastering feeling in his
heart, and a few minutes later he was in the street again, on his way
to Strangeways Gaol.



CHAPTER XXIV

FATHER AND SON

Daylight was now dying, although it was only a little after three
o'clock.  The sky was murky and smoke-laden, the air was utterly still.
All round the centre of the city the people still discussed the events
of the morning.  Outside the Town Hall, in the Square, outside the
Hospital, all down Market Street, along Corporation Street, the people
stood in excited groups; and although the intense feeling which had
been aroused in the morning had somewhat subsided, there was only one
subject which was of paramount interest.  Strange as it may seem,
however, the district round Strangeways Gaol was comparatively
deserted.  The Assize Courts were no longer the centre of interest,
even although they were the source from which everything emanated.

By this time Paul Stepaside had become almost in a state of torpor.  He
was suffering a reaction from the intense feeling which had possessed
him that morning.  When he had at first returned to his cell his mind
was intensely alive, and a thousand plans were flashing through his
brain, a thousand questions occurred to him which demanded an answer.
Now, however, that numb, dull feeling which ever follows such
experiences possessed him.  After all, what mattered?  Mary Bolitho
could never be his wife, and if Fate had decided upon his death, die he
must.  Indeed, he did not seem to care very much.  It seemed as if, for
the time being, his nature had become almost paralysed.  Of course, the
experiences through which he was passing were only transitory.
Presently his strength would assert itself again, and everything would
become vivid and vital.  And so he lay in a semi-comatose condition on
the comfortless couch which had been provided for him, and the
realities of the situation seemed far away.  He had been lying thus for
perhaps an hour, and was on the point of falling asleep, when there
were footsteps in the corridor outside, and the door of his cell opened.

At first he felt almost annoyed at the intrusion.  Why could they not
let him rest?  After all, everything was hopeless, and he did not very
much care.  Still, he turned his eyes towards the door, and when he saw
that it was Judge Bolitho who entered, he started to his feet.  His
nerves grew tense again, and his mind active.  The judge waited while
the door was closed, and then turned to Paul.  The older man looked
around the little room like one trying to take in the situation, noted
the light of the dying day as it penetrated the prison window, let his
eyes rest upon the little couch where Paul had been lying, and made a
survey of the items of the room as though it were his business to care
for the prisoner's comfort.

Neither of them spoke for some seconds.  Paul was silent because, in
spite of everything, there seemed an insurmountable barrier between him
and the man who had come to visit him; the judge, because he almost
feared the son whom he had come to see.

Presently their eyes fastened upon each other's faces, and each
scrutinised every feature as if trying to read the other's mind.  It
was Paul who spoke first.

"Why have you come here?" he asked.

"Surely you can guess?" was the reply.  "I could not stay away.  There
was but one place to which I could go."

"You must know that I have nothing to say to you, even as you have
nothing to say to me."

"You are wrong," replied the judge.  "I have a great deal to say to
you.  How can it be otherwise?  Have you no pity, my boy?"

Paul looked at him angrily.  "Pity!" he replied, and there was a world
of scorn in his voice.

The judge stood with bowed head.  "Yes, I understand," and he spoke
almost in a whisper.  "I understand, and I deserve your scorn.  I
deserve it a thousand times over.  But do not think I have not
suffered, Paul."

Paul gave an impatient shrug and took two steps across his little cell.

"I am afraid I cannot give you a welcome befitting your lordship's
position," he said.  "As you will see, my _ménage_ does not suggest
very great luxury, and I think my servants are in a state of
revolution.  But will you not be seated?"

"You see," he went on, "when a man is being tried for murder, even
although the English law says that every man must be regarded as
innocent until he has been proved to be guilty, it does not provide any
luxuries!"

"Paul, my boy, do you not know?  Do you not understand?" said the
judge.  "Yes, I have been guilty of all those things of which you are
thinking.  I deserve all the contempt and all the anger you feel for
me, but I come to you as a suppliant."

"For what?"

"For your forgiveness, your love.  I am no longer your judge.  If I
were I could not be here.  That's over now.  Another will take my
place.  If I can do anything to atone, my boy, I will do it, if you
will let me know what it is.  Do you not see?  Do you not understand?"

There was a world of pleading in his voice, while in his tired eyes was
a look of yearning and longing that Paul could not understand.

"If you will tell me what you wish," said the younger man, "if you will
explain to me your desires, perhaps--although, as you see, I am so
curiously situated--I will do what I can to meet your wishes."

His voice was still hard, and there was no look in his eyes which
suggested yielding or pity.

"I deserve nothing from you," replied the judge.  "How can I?  And yet
I could not help coming.  After all, you are my son!"

"How did you learn it?" asked Paul.

"Last night I went to see your mother," he replied.  "She is staying at
a little house not far from here.  I received a letter asking me to go
to a certain number in Dixon Street.  It was couched in such language
that I could not refuse.  I went there, and I saw your mother.  I had
thought she was dead--at least, I had no reason to believe her alive.
There I learnt everything.  Since then there's been only one thought in
my mind, only one longing in my heart----"

"And that?" said Paul.

"The one thought in my mind," said the judge, "has been that you are my
son; the one longing in my heart has been that you would forgive me and
love me.  It took some time to shape itself, but there it is, and I
have come.  I cannot put my feelings into words properly.  Words seem
so poor, so inadequate!  Can't you understand?"

The picture of his mother's face rose up before Paul's eyes as his
father spoke, and with it the remembrance of the long years of pain,
sorrow, and loneliness.

"Do you not understand?" asked the judge again.

"I understand my mother's sufferings," said Paul.  "I understand how,
when she was a young girl, forsaken, disgraced, she suffered agonies
which cannot be put into words.  I understand how she tramped all the
way from Scotland to Cornwall, the home of her mother's people.  I
understand what she felt towards the man who betrayed her, especially
when her only child was born in a workhouse, a nameless pauper!  I
understand that!"

The judge stood with bowed head.  He might have been stunned by some
heavy blow.  He rocked to and fro, and for a moment Paul thought he was
going to fall.

"Yes," he said presently, "I deserve it all.  Even the circumstances
which I might plead do not extenuate me."

"What were they?" asked Paul.

For a moment he had become interested in the past.  He wanted to know
what this man had to tell him, what excuses he had to make.

"You won my mother as Douglas Graham.  Whence the change of name?  I
suppose you masqueraded in Scotland as Douglas Graham because you did
not wish your true name to be known?  You're a villain, and you thought
if you called yourself Bolitho that villainy could not be traced.  I am
not one who quotes rag-tags of religious sentiment as a rule, but there
are two sayings which occur to my mind just now.  One is, 'Be sure your
sin will find you out,' and another, 'Though the mills of God grind
slowly, yet they grind exceeding small.'  It may be all nonsense in
most cases, but just for the moment it seems as though there were
something in it!"

"Paul," said the judge, "as I have said, I know I deserve nothing at
your hands save the scorn and contempt which you evidently feel for me,
but is there no means whatever of bridging over this awful gulf?  I
would give my life to do so!"

"No," said Paul.  "I am no theologian, and yet I cannot close my eyes
to the fact that sin and penalty go together--only, the injustice of it
is that the penalty not only falls on the head of the one who sins but
on the head of the innocent."

"Then you can never forgive me?" said the judge, and there was a world
of pleading in his voice.

"If your lordship will just think a moment," said Paul.  "You have
asked me to try and understand you; will you try and understand me?  I
am here in a prison cell, accused of murder.  Possibly I shall be
hanged--although I mean to fight for my life," this he added grimly,
with set teeth and flashing eyes.  "I am twenty-five years of age, and
it is not pleasant to think that one's life shall end in such a way!
Let me remind you of something, Mr. Justice Bolitho, and, in reminding
you of it, perhaps you will see that I have no reason to play the part
of the yielding and affectionate son.  I was born in a workhouse.  My
only name has been the name given to me because my mother was found
lying near a little hamlet called Stepaside.  I was educated a pauper.
The parish paid the expenses of my learning a trade.  When I was
seventeen my mother told me the story of her life, told me of my
father's villainy.  What such a story would do for most men I don't
know, but this it did for me: it robbed me of everything most dear.  It
killed in me all faith.  It destroyed in me all belief in God and
Providence.  When I went out into the world it seemed to me that the
only legacy I had was a legacy of hatred for the man who had robbed my
mother of her youth and of her honour, and me of my boyhood and of all
the things that make youth beautiful.  I need not tell you my story
since.  You know it too well.  But, if I am hard and bitter, you have
made me what I am.  Consciously or unconsciously, yours has been the
hand that has moulded me.  Do you wonder, then, that I cannot respond
to this appeal for filial affection--that I cannot clasp my arms round
your neck like a hero in a fourth-rate melodrama?  When you rob a man
of his faith in human nature and God, you rob him of everything, you
dry up the fountains of tenderness."

For a moment there was a silence between them, and then Paul went on:
"But where's my mother now?  You say you saw her last night.  What did
she tell you?  What did you tell her?  Do you know what has become of
her?"

"I scarcely know what I did tell her," replied the judge.  "I was so
overwhelmed when she told me that you were my son that I was scarcely
capable of thinking.  Besides, she seemed in no humour for asking
questions.  She felt very bitterly towards me, naturally, and my mind
was numbed; I could not think."

"Perhaps you will tell _me_?" said Paul presently.

"I will tell you everything that you ask, my boy."

"Then tell me why you masqueraded in Scotland under a false name?  Tell
me why you left my mother on the day you married her."

"Douglas Graham was my name," he replied.  "I had no thought of
masquerading."

"Then why have you become Bolitho?" asked Paul.  "My mother told me
that on the night of your wedding day you read a letter which had been
given to you which seemed to surprise you very much.  Tell me the
meaning of it."

The judge gave no answer, and again he rocked to and fro in his misery.
"Paul, my son," he said.  "I cannot!"

Again the two men looked at each other steadily.  Paul's mind was
active again now.

"You know what your confession meant this morning," he said at length.
"You declared to the court that I was your son, your lawful son; that
my mother was your lawful wife.  But what of Mary?  Tell me that.  You
know what I wrote to you concerning her.  I asked you to allow me to
try and win her as my wife, not knowing of the relations which existed
between us--not knowing anything.  You know, too, the cruel reply you
sent to me--a reply which contained an insult in every line, in every
word.  But let that pass.  If my mother is your lawful wife, what of
Mary's mother?  Will you answer me that?"

Still the judge stood with bowed head.  It seemed as though he had been
struck a death-blow.  More than once he essayed to speak, but no words
passed his lips.  It seemed an eternity to Paul before the judge spoke
again.

"At least I tried to do you justice, Paul," he stammered.  "I tried to
do--that is, I tried to proclaim to the world that your mother was a
lawful wife."

"Yes," cried the young man, and his voice was hard with anger.  "And do
you not see what it means?  It means that Mary's name is tarnished.
For your sin and your punishment I do not care so much; but what of
her?  Think of the stories which gossiping tongues will be telling
about her just now!  Think of the sneering lies, the scornful gibes
which will be uttered about her!  My disgrace did not matter so much; I
had become used to it.  But what of her?"

"Stop, stop, Paul!  In pity stop!  Great God!  Yes, it's true; but I
did not realise this."

"Then the name of Bolitho is assumed," said Paul.  "It is not your true
name at all.  Will you tell me the meaning of this?"

"I cannot," said the judge.  "I know what you must be thinking, Paul,
but I cannot do it."

"Then," cried the young man angrily, "it was cruel to her to make the
confession you did this morning.  I would a thousand times rather
suffer myself--ay, and see my mother suffer, too--than see her suffer.
And this is what you've done.  Had you not better go away and leave me
alone?  Had you not better recant what you said this morning, and say
you spoke while your mind was unhinged?"

"Paul," said the judge, "will you let me sit down on your couch here?
I realise the truth of every word you have said, although you have
spoken cruelly.  Perhaps I did wrong in coming to you; but I could not
help it.  Believe me, my son, much as you have suffered, it is nothing
to what I suffer at this moment."

There was no whine in his voice, no appeal to pity.  It was a simple
statement of fact, and for the first time Paul had a feeling in his
heart which he could not understand.  After all, the man before him was
his father, and his haggard face, his bent form, his bloodshot eyes,
all told of the agony through which he was passing.

"Son," said the judge, "some time, at all events, I hope I may be able
to make known the things which you have asked, but I cannot trust
myself to try and do so now.  Will you let me be quiet for a few
minutes, my boy?  I want to think.  And will you try and forget this
part of the story?"

The judge sat down on the couch, while Paul, leaning against the prison
wall, watched him.  Minute after minute passed away, and then the judge
spoke again.

"Paul," he said.  "Are you guilty of this murder?"

"I would rather not discuss it with you," said Paul.

"My son," said the judge, "you do not believe what I have told you.  To
you my words are a mockery.  But I love you like my own life.  Even
now, if I could die in your place I would be glad.  At any rate I may
be able to help you.  Mary doesn't believe you are guilty.  She told me
so last night.  I can speak freely of this now, for I am no longer the
one who shall sit in judgment on you, and I want to help you."

Paul looked at his father and wondered what was passing in his mind;
wondered, too, how much he knew.  He could not tell him of his
suspicions, could not even hint at the fact that he believed his mother
was guilty of the murder for which he was accused.  He knew of Judge
Bolitho's reputation; knew, too, that he would eagerly fasten upon
everything he learnt and follow it to its logical sequence.

In spite of everything, however, a change seemed to be coming over
their relationship.  The feeling of half an hour before had somewhat
passed away.  The sensations caused by their first meeting had become
less powerful.

"Whatever else I can do, Paul," said the judge, "I want to help you in
this.  Can't you trust me?"

Paul was silent.  He was afraid to answer directly, afraid lest the
haunting fear in his heart would become known.  Then, in a way he could
not understand, he found himself talking with his father more freely,
found himself telling something of his life in Brunford, until by and
by he realised that he had been subjected to a close examination.  It
seemed to him as though it had become a battle of wits between him and
his father; and although he was angry with himself afterwards, he knew
he had disclosed many things which he had sworn should never pass his
lips.  Still, he had said nothing definite.  He had never even hinted
at the possibility of his mother's guilt.

"If you could only trust me!" said the judge at length.  "If you would
tell me exactly what happened, I might even yet be able to save you."

"Do you not believe me guilty, then?" said Paul.

"Mary does not," replied the judge.

"I know that," was Paul's answer.  "And for her sake I mean to fight
for my own life."

"Even although you did this thing?"

"Even _if_ I did it!"

"But have you any evidence to add that shall tell in your
favour--anything that will destroy the impression which has been made?"

"Do you believe they will hang me if I don't?"

"I mean to say, as far as circumstantial evidence is concerned, the
case is terribly black against you, and the jury must act upon evidence
given.  And, oh, Paul, Paul!  Can't you realise?  Can't you understand
what I feel?  If I must tell the truth, one of the reasons I decided to
say what I did this morning in the court was that I might be free to
try and save your life.  Will you not tell me what is in your mind?"

Paul shook his head.  "You have wormed a great many things out of me,"
he said, "which I did not mean to tell; still, I think I have been a
match for you."

"Don't you realise, Paul, what your life is to me?  Can't you
understand what the knowledge that you are my son means to me?  Don't
you believe that I would give everything I possess, everything I am, to
bring you happiness?  Oh!  I know what you feel, and I do not wonder at
it.  I know, too, what you must be thinking about me now, and I cannot
help myself.  But, Paul, if there's a possibility, let me save you.
Tell me the truth--the whole truth!"

"You would not thank me for doing so," replied Paul grimly.

For a little while there was another silence between them, then the
judge seemed to change his tactics.

"I think you do wrongly, my son, not to employ counsel.  I do not doubt
that your brains are quite as good as anyone's you might engage to
defend you; but you cannot understand the methods of cross-examination
as a trained barrister can.  You do not know the hundred weapons he can
use in your defence."

"I think I know," replied Paul.

Both of them had become calm by this time, and each talked in an almost
unrestrained manner.  The judge was no longer almost overwhelmed by
that through which he had been passing, and Paul had seemingly, to a
very large extent, forgotten the bitterness which he had felt at the
beginning of their interview.

"May I come to see you again?" asked Judge Bolitho.

"To what end?" asked Paul.

"Because I love you, my son.  Because I long to be near you.  Because I
want to win your love; to hear you say you forgive me.  I have sinned
against you; but, believe me, I have done all in my power to atone.  I
must go now, but I shall be thinking for you, hoping for you, working
for you, praying for you."

There was something so humble and so sincere in the tones of his voice
that, in spite of the past, Paul could not longer repel him.

"Won't you shake hands?" he said.  "Won't you tell me that you will try
to forgive me?--only _try_, Paul!"

But Paul stood as still as a statue.  He felt himself yielding to his
father's pleadings, and he was angry with himself because of it.  And
yet he could not destroy the tender feelings which were coming into his
heart.

"Will nothing move you, my son--nothing?"

Still Paul did not reply.  He was afraid to speak.  He felt as though,
if he uttered a word, it would end in a sob.  They had been together
more than an hour, and in the near distance a clock began to chime.

"I must go now," said the judge.  "But I shall come again.  I shall
never cease coming until I have won your love.  Paul, I cannot live
without it now!  Look into my eyes, my son; can you not see?  Can you
not understand?"

In spite of himself Paul did as his father had told him, and realised
how the proud man was humbling himself.  He saw the lines of pain upon
his face, saw, too, the look of infinite yearning and tenderness in his
eyes; and he felt that his own were filled with tears.  But still he
hardened himself and made no sign.

The judge threw his arms round Paul's neck.

"Paul, my son, my son!  Forgive me!" he said, "and love me!"

And Paul did not repulse him, even although he did not yield to his
father's entreaties.

There was a sound of footsteps in the corridor, the noise of the key
turning in the lock.  A minute later Judge Bolitho had left the cell;
and then Paul threw himself on the couch, while his frame shook with
mighty sobs.

Judge Bolitho left Strangeways Gaol without speaking a word.  In spite
of everything he felt his visit had not been in vain.  There was a joy
in his heart for which he could not account.

"Some day he will know," he said to himself.  "Some day he will know,
if he lives!  And I must save him.  I do not believe he is guilty--he
cannot be.  He is hiding something from me.  He is shielding someone.
I must find out."

It was quite dark by now, and it was some time before he found a cab.
A little later, however, he was back in his hotel again.  It seemed to
him as though his powers of action were coming back.  He was no longer
bewildered and overwhelmed as he had been.

"Is Miss Bolitho here?" he said to a servant who answered his call.

"No, my lord.  She left this morning."

"Left this morning?"

"Yes, my lord."

"Did she leave no message?"

"No, my lord."

He remembered what she had said, and began to realise.

"All right," he said.  "Will you bring me a cup of tea?"

A few minutes later he was in the street again.  This time he used no
conveyance, but walked rapidly towards Deansgate.  Ere long he found
himself in the region where he had been on the previous night, and,
finding his way into Dixon Street, he went to the house where Paul's
mother had met him.  When he knocked at the door, however, it was
answered by a stranger.

"Is Mrs. Stepaside in?"

"No; she left here to-day."

"She's coming back again, I suppose?"

"No; I do not think so."

"Did she say where she was going?"

"I think she has gone back to Brunford, but I cannot tell."

"She left no message concerning her intentions?"

"No, she left nowt."

He was about to turn away when evidently a thought struck him suddenly.

"Had she any visitors to-day?" he asked.  "Has a young lady been to see
her?"

"Ay; a young woman came this morning about ten o'clock."

"Did you know her?"

"Nay, she was not from these parts.  She was dressed i' furs and all
that sort of thing."

"I see," said the judge.  "Thank you very much."

He returned to the hotel, and began studying a timetable.

"Yes, I think I understand," he said to himself.



CHAPTER XXV

MR. JUSTICE BRANSCOMBE

For some days after Judge Bolitho had made his confession in court no
further steps were taken in the trial of Paul.  Another judge had to
sit upon the case, and this meant delay.  What took place in certain
judicial circles I have no knowledge.  It is for me simply to relate
was actually resulted.  Undoubtedly, the judge's unprecedented
confession caused some stir in the realms of legal authority.  Many
forms had doubtless to be complied with, and, as a consequence, Paul
had to wait one weary day after another without anything publicly
taking place and without any knowledge of what was being done.

During this time not one of the three people whom he expected again
came to see him.  After the interview which I have tried to describe in
the last chapter the judge, in spite of what he had said, failed to
seek admission again to Paul's cell.  As for Mary Bolitho or his
mother, he had no knowledge concerning them.  No word was sent to him,
and as a consequence day succeeded day in the dull, dreary monotony of
a Lancashire prison.

Not that he was without visitors.  Two lawyers who had been friends of
his came to see him, and each tried to change his mind in relation to
the conduct of his own defence.  They felt sure, they said, that they
could do better for him than he had done for himself, and each pleaded
with him to allow them to prepare his case and to place it in the hands
of some leading counsel.  But Paul persistently refused.  He knew that
if he trusted in them he must state certain facts which, although they
might release him, would throw suspicion of the strongest nature upon
his mother.  He wanted to live in spite of everything.  But even
although the worst came to the worst, he would rather suffer the
extreme penalty of the deed of which he was accused than that the
mother who had suffered all for him and done all for him should be
dragged before the eyes of the world as it had been his lot to be.  The
interviews with these lawyers were long and trying, and while he did
not yield to them in the slightest degree, they were not without
advantage to him.  They helped him to arrange his plans with more
clearness, and they let drop many hints which he felt sure would be of
service to him.  When he had entered upon the trial everything had been
confused; he could not decide upon any method of procedure.  But now
things began to take shape.  He felt as if he had had some experience,
and that he would not enter upon the fight for his life without some
knowledge of the weapons he had to use.

Presently the news came to him that his re-trial was to come on, and
one morning he was taken from his cell, as in the first instance,
accompanied by two policemen, who led him into the prisoner's dock.

His experiences had left their mark upon him.  He was still
scrupulously precise about his dress, and every detail of his person
was attended to as carefully as if he had arranged to make a set speech
in the House of Commons.  But no one could help remarking on the change
which had passed over him.  He looked thin and haggard; in his eyes was
an expression of weariness; his skin was grey and almost
parchment-like; and, instead of seeming to be without nerves, as on the
previous occasions, his hands trembled as they rested upon the rail in
front of him.  But no one could suggest that he asked for pity.  There
was still the same proud look upon his face, the same expression of
defiance.  He stood perfectly straight and upright, too, and seemed to
regard both judge and jury with a feeling of contempt.  In addition to
all this there was something in his square jaw and set teeth which
denoted a grim determination.  Here was not a man who was going to
deliver himself over to the butcher without a protest.  Everyone felt
that he would fight, and fight to the very last.

Although he had been told that it would be so, he did not realise until
that moment that the trial would have to commence _de novo_.  He looked
at the judge with keen interest, and noted the difference between him
and the one who had last sat there.  He could not help remembering,
too, what had taken place.  The things he had heard had shaken his life
to its very foundation; he who had regarded himself as fatherless had
found his father, and this fact had altered everything.  Perhaps, too,
Judge Branscombe, who from his elevation looked at Paul, felt this.  In
any case, it was evident he had a keen interest in him.  He noted his
every movement, marked his every feature, and formed his impressions
concerning the man who was there for trial.

Judge Branscombe was utterly different from his predecessor.  As we
have said, Judge Bolitho was florid, somewhat heavy featured, in spite
of the fact that his face was cast in a classical mould.  He was fresh
coloured, too, and suggested a _bon vivant_.  Judge Branscombe, on the
other hand, was a little man, with small, watchful eyes and
sharp-pointed features.  He was a lawyer to his very finger-tips, keen,
penetrating, and a master of detail.  He was a judge who did not deal
with broad issues.  He dealt with facts, hard, incontrovertible facts,
rather than what might lie beyond them.  What might be called "internal
evidence" had little weight with him.  What any prisoner might be
likely to do under a given set of circumstances had little or no weight
with him.  It was what the prisoner had been known to do that he
fastened upon and held to with the tenacity of a terrier.  Not a cruel
man by any means, but in a sense a little man; a man of keen intellect
but of narrow outlook; a man who followed out a certain set of
circumstances to their logical issue regardless of all other
probabilities which might appear.  Such was the judge who sat to hear
Paul's case that day.  Such was the man who in time would have to
advise the jury concerning their verdict.

Paul was not long in summing up the nature of Judge Branscombe, and he
felt sure that under his guidance the trial would more than ever rest
upon circumstantial evidence.  This man was not a reader of character,
not one who studied probabilities, therefore he felt his battle would
be hard to fight.

The court was again crowded to its utmost capacity, and the excitement
which had prevailed at the first trial had not lessened in the
slightest degree.  Everyone there knew of what had taken place and
realised the reason for the change of judges.  All sorts of rumours had
been afloat concerning what had become of Judge Bolitho, what had been
said in high places, and what the result would be in his future career.
The whole affair had been the talk of the country.  People had come
from afar to witness the outcome of this strange case, and, as on the
previous occasion, the atmosphere was tense with excitement and keen
with expectation.

Again the clerk of the assizes rose and read the indictment, and again
the judge turned to Paul and asked him whether he were guilty or not
guilty.

"Not guilty, my lord," he replied.

Everyone noted that there was a tone of defiance in his voice which
they had missed on the first occasion.  He found himself examining the
jurymen.  As far as he could judge, they were of the same
calibre--unimaginative, commonplace, and, to a large extent,
self-satisfied men.  He thought, however, that they looked toward him
with an expression of sympathy which he had not noted before.  Perhaps
they, too, had been influenced by the happenings of the previous trial.

Then Mr. Bakewell rose and said, "I am for the prosecution, my lord."

"Who is for the defence?" asked the judge.

And again there was deathly silence.

"Have you not engaged anyone to defend you?" said Judge Branscombe,
turning to Paul.

"No one," replied Paul.  "I wish to defend myself."

The judge uttered an exclamation of surprise.  It might seem as though
he knew nothing of the previous trial.  He was a lawyer of the very
strictest class.  What had been was nothing to him.  He was there to
begin the trial at the beginning, and he would act as though nothing
had taken place and as though he were utterly ignorant of what had been
discussed throughout the whole land.

"I strongly advise you to accept the service of someone to undertake
your defence," he said; and he mentioned one or two names of those whom
he felt sure would be willing to act for him.  To Paul this seemed like
a repetition of a formula.  It was all artificial, unreal.

"No, my lord," he replied.  "I intend to defend myself."

"Then you will know," said the judge, "that you have the right to
cross-examine the witnesses."

"Thank you, my lord."

Again Mr. Bakewell rose for the prosecution.  His speech was very
nearly a repetition of the one he had delivered on the previous
occasion, but for some reason or another it did not have the same
effect as during its first deliverance.  The jury were acquainted with
the facts that had been discussed a hundred times in a hundred
different ways during the last few days.  Still, there could be no
doubt about it, the case looked very black for Paul when it concluded.
The long feud which was known to exist between Paul and the murdered
man; the many threats which had been uttered; the quarrel which had
taken place on the night when Paul was elected member for Brunford; the
open insults which the murdered man had hurled at the prisoner; the
scene which had taken place on the night before the murder, and the
threat he had made to avenge the injury.  Mr. Bakewell also dwelt upon
the excited state in which Paul was when he returned to the house, as
would be proved by the evidence of the servants; of his going upstairs
to the landing outside the servants' quarters at midnight; of his going
out into the night alone; of his return early in the morning, pale and
haggard; then, as the crowning evidence of all, the knife, which was
known to be Paul's, which had been lying in his office--an office which
was always locked when the owner of it was not present--the sharp,
murderous weapon was found in the body of the murdered man, struck from
behind.

All these things Mr. Bakewell described, and spoke with telling
emphasis on the main features of the case.  Possibly he knew the
character of the judge to whom he addressed himself, and he had so
arranged his speech that the chain of evidence was apparently complete.
When he sat down a great pent-up sigh arose, not only from the jurymen,
but from the excited spectators.  Although during the early part of
what he had said the emotion was not so great as during the first
trial, yet, as he summed up the case for the prosecution, fastened one
link to another of the chain of events, and declared in solemn tones
that the witnesses he had to call would prove everything he had said to
the minutest detail, it seemed as though they expected the judge to put
on the black cap and to utter the terrible words which have to be
uttered on every condemned prisoner.

Paul, however, was not greatly moved by Mr. Bakewell's speech.  He
listened keenly, attentively, to all he had to say, made a note, and
that was all.

It is not my purpose to follow the trial step by step.  Those who care
to do so can turn up the files of the Manchester papers, where they can
find it in every detail; but in this history I do not purpose dwelling
at length upon the many examinations that were made and on the
voluminous evidence given.  As far as Paul was concerned, he did not
endeavour to cross-examine many of the witnesses.  As far as he could
see, their evidence was in the main true.  They had given a statement
of facts, and he felt that it would be utter waste of time to deal with
details which might show discrepancies, but which were, as far as he
could judge, of but little importance.  He wanted to fasten upon the
main features of the case, and then, without in the slightest degree
hinting at anything which would connect his mother with the murder of
Ned Wilson, to prove how utterly improbable, if not impossible, it was,
that he should be guilty of the deed of which he was accused.

Still, he did cross-examine some of the witnesses, and it was evident
by the look in the judge's eyes that he appreciated the cleverness of
the cross-examination.  Indeed, so successful was Paul that on more
than one occasion he made this keen-minded lawyer--more lawyer, indeed,
than man--realise that circumstantial evidence might be false, and that
a jury would assume tremendous responsibility in passing judgment of
death upon anyone upon such evidence.  Especially was this true in the
case of the examination of the murdered man's father.  He, as on the
opening day of the first trial, was the most important witness, and
after Mr. Bakewell had elicited from him practically the same
admissions as had been given on the previous occasion, Paul rose to
cross-examine him.

"Mr. Wilson," he said, "you have stated more than once that beside
myself your son had no other enemy.  Do you still adhere to this?"

"Certainly."

"Do you mean to say that during his life he has never gained the
ill-will or the enmity of anyone besides me?"

"Not that I know of."

"You insist on this?"

"Yes.  That is, no enmity of importance."

"What do you mean by importance?"

"I mean any enmity that would lead anyone to murder him."

"I want to ask you further questions about this.  One of the witnesses
who gave evidence concerning the quarrel between your son and myself on
the night prior to his death is called Scott, is he not?"

"Yes."

"John Scott?"

"Yes."

"John had a son called Nick; is that not so?"

"Yes."

"Some three years ago he had a quarrel with your son?"

"Yes."

"It ended in Nick Scott being sent to prison.  Is that true?"

"It is true that Nick Scott was sent to prison, but it had nothing
whatever to do with his quarrel with my son.  That was about a very
trivial affair."

"But did not Nick Scott say that he'd pay your son out if he had to
swing for it?"

"There was some such rumour, I believe.  I paid no attention to it."

"I am taking this line, my lord," continued Paul, "because of the
witness's evidence.  He says that his son had no enemy in Brunford.  I
am going to prove to you that he had."

The judge nodded, while Paul again turned to the witness.

"You still adhere to the fact, then, do you, that your son had no enemy
beside myself?"

"I did not think of Scott, because he was not in the country; besides,
it was of no importance.  Men often utter threats like that."

"It pains me to bring up another case," said Paul.  "But please
remember I am here accused of murder.  Do you know a woman named Mary
Bradshaw?  She lives in Clough Street."

"I have heard of such a woman; yes."

"Your son was once very friendly with her.  Had that woman no reason to
hate him?"

"That was years ago."

Paul asked many questions concerning this woman which I will not set
down here, because they were necessarily of a sordid nature, but which
went to prove that although in neither case could these people have had
anything to do with the murder, Ned Wilson was not universally beloved,
as his father had stated, but bitterly hated.

"You have admitted to me," went on Paul at length, "that he was
believed to have wronged two people, and that both of them had reason
to bear him enmity.  Might there not have been others of whom you never
heard?"

"Of course my son was thirty years of age, and he lived his own life.
At the same time it is universally admitted that he was respected in
the town and beloved by practically everyone."

"With the exception of these people, who, as you have admitted, uttered
dark threats against him?"

At this the witness was silent.

"We will now go on to the question of the knife," said Paul,
"concerning which you have made so much."  And he dealt with this
question in a similar way to that with which he had dealt with it on
the previous occasion.  The tendency of his questions was to show how
unlikely it was that he, whom the witness still called a clever,
scheming, cold-blooded villain, should use a knife known to be his, a
knife that had been seen on his office desk, and leave it in the
murdered man's body, knowing that all the time it could be traced to
himself.

"There is still something more important," said Paul.  "From the
evidence given it is known that I parted from your son at twilight on
the night before the murder."

"Yes."

"On that occasion he struck me down when I was walking away from him.
The blow almost deprived me of my senses, and I lay stunned for some
seconds."

"Yes."

"When I rose I made no attack on him."

"No."

"But I uttered a threat that I would be even with him."

"Yes.  I regard your words as practically a threat of murder."

"Do you know what your son was doing between that time and the time
when he was supposed to meet with the person who murdered him?"

"No; I cannot tell."

"You say he came into the house where two letters awaited him; those
two letters he read, and then threw them into the fire.  Do you know
what was in those letters?"

"No; I have no idea."

"You saw the envelopes.  In what handwriting were they--that of a man
or a woman?"

"I did not take particular notice, but I thought one was written by a
man and the other by a woman."

"Just so! and he threw these letters into the fire?"

"Yes."

"Did he seem to be pleased at seeing them?"

The witness was silent for a second, then he said: "It is difficult to
tell."

"That is not an answer to my question.  Did he not show anger, or at
least annoyance, as he read one of these letters?"

"Well, perhaps he did."

"Thank you.  Now then, I want to ask you this: You say he went out
after dinner that night.  Did he tell you where he was going?"

"No.  I thought he was going to his club."

"You know, too, that he did not go to his club.  That has come out in
the evidence."

"I am told that he was not seen there."

"Now then for the question that I regard of such importance.  Do you
know of any woman likely to write to your son and ask him to meet her?"

Again the witness looked confused.  "I think the question unfair," he
said.  "One might have all sorts of suspicions, but it would be wrong
to give expression to them, as I have no definite knowledge."

"I must insist on the question, my lord," said Paul, turning to the
judge.

"Certainly," replied the judge.  "It has a strong bearing upon the
case."

"Then I must repeat the question," said Paul, turning to the witness.

Whereupon Mr. Wilson admitted that he had more than once seen his son
in company with a woman whom he did not know.

"Might it not have been her letter that night?"

"Of course, I cannot tell," replied the witness.  "Everything I say
upon the question is pure surmise, and I can substantiate nothing."

"Was the writing on the envelope that of an educated woman?"

"No, I should say not; but it might have been disguised."

"Thank you," said Paul.  "You say you saw your son in company with this
woman.  Where did you see them?"

"At some little distance from the Coal Clough Golf Links."

"Did they seem on good terms?"

"I cannot say.  I should not think so."

"Was the woman angry with him?"

"She might have been."

"You judged that she was?"

"Yes; I thought she was."

"Now to return to the night of the murder.  You say that your son did
not tell you where he was going?"

"No."

"That you thought he was going to his club?"

"I thought it probable; yes."

"Don't you think it probable that he went to meet this woman?"

"I don't know."

"You see how important the question is.  You say your son left the
house at ten o'clock that night, and that he was not seen until the
following morning, when he was discovered by the policeman, murdered.
According to the doctor's evidence he had been dead some little time
before that.  Thus there are several hours to account for.  Have you no
idea where he was during those hours?"

"None at all beside what I have told you."

This part of the examination continued for some time; though beyond
what I have written nothing of importance was elicited.  But the
evidence given created an impression which could not be gainsaid.

Paul had made it abundantly evident that the murdered man was not
without enemies, as had been so strongly insisted, and he had also
raised doubts concerning what he had been doing between the hours when
Wilson left his father's house and the time of the murder.

In this cross-examination, however, Paul was much handicapped.  He
dared not refer to the conversation which had taken place between
himself and Ned Wilson during their quarrel, for fear of in any way
bringing Mary's name into evidence.  Up to the present, no one thought
of connecting her with the matter in any definite way, and Paul was
determined that, whatever took place, this must be avoided.  Neither
could he remove the difficulty of the knife without connecting it with
his mother.  As we have said, she was in his office on the morning of
the day of his quarrel with Wilson, and was, as far as he could see,
the only one who could have obtained possession of it.  Still, he had
made the most of his opportunities, and although on this murderous
weapon the issues of the trial seemed largely to rest, he made more
than one juryman feel that he was not the kind of man to use it in such
a fashion and then leave it as evidence against himself.

During his cross-examination of the next witness, too, he further
destroyed the statement that Wilson was a man without enemies.

John Scott was one of the two men who had witnessed the quarrel between
himself and Wilson.  Mr. Bakewell examined him very closely.

"You say," he said, "that you saw the prisoner and the murdered man
together?"

"Yes."

"You heard angry words pass between them, but you could not tell what
they were?"

"No."

"You saw the prisoner walk away, and as he was doing so, saw Mr. Edward
Wilson strike him with a stick?"

"Yes; he knocked him down."

"Will you tell us what followed?"

"I saw Mr. Stepaside get up, and I thought he was going to attack
Wilson.  There was a look of murder in his eyes, as I thought, but he
didn't do owt.  He simply said that he'd pay him out for this, or
summat of that sort.  And I said to my mate, 'Stepaside'll kill Wilson
for that.'"

This evidence, which was given in the rough Lancashire dialect, was
nevertheless very impressive.  The witness and Mr. Bakewell made the
jury see, as if in a picture, the two men quarrelling, Wilson striking
an angry blow, and Paul breathing out murder against him.

"John Scott," said Paul, when he rose to cross-examine him, "you've
known me a good many years?"

"Ay; I've known you ever since you came to Brunford."

"You know the kind of man I am?"

"Ay; I think so."

"You say you saw me walk away from Wilson, who lifted his stick and
struck me down?"

"Ay, I did."

"After I had been stunned for two or three minutes I rose to my feet?"

"Ay."

"We were in a lonely place at that time, and you say I was unaware of
your presence?"

"Yes; that is so."

"Do you not think if I meant to murder Wilson that I should not have
done it at the time when my anger was aroused, rather than wait several
hours?"

"Weel, I should think so; but there's no knowing."

"Just so.  Now I want to ask you another question.  As you know, it has
been stated many times that the murdered man had no enemy in Brunford
beside myself: would you say that was true?"

"No, I shouldn't.  My Nick hated him like he hated the devil.  He were
a kind-hearted lad, but Ned Wilson treated him terribly bad.  Nick is
out of the country now, but there's no doubt he has a grudge against
Wilson."

"Do you know of any others in Brunford who have a similar feeling
towards him?"

"Weel, I know that there was no love lost between Ned Wilson and lots
of people."

This led to many more questions and answers which went to destroy the
illusion that the murdered man had been universally popular.  And for
some time after that the trial seemed to go in Paul's favour rather
than against him.

Then it seemed as though a bolt came from the blue.  A man was called
into the box who had not appeared in the previous trial.  He was a
collier, who appeared in a great state of nervousness.

"You were returning to Brunford on the night of the murder, and had to
pass near Howden Clough?"

"Ay; I wur."

"What time did you pass near Howden Clough?"

"It must have been about five o'clock in the morning.  But I'm noan
sure, and it wur dark."

"What were you doing there?"

"I had been to see my lad, who lives over Rakes Royd.  He wur married
twelve months ago, and his missis sent me word that he were very
poorly.  I stayed wi' him most o' th' night, and then walked back so's
to be in time for my wark."

"And you say you think it was about five o'clock when you passed Howden
Clough?"

"Ay, it wur."

"Tell the jury what you saw."

"Well, I were going along th' road, when I thought I heerd somebody
moaning.  I wondered what it could be, and I stopped still.  I wur in
the lane not far from the big 'ouse, and I heerd footsteps."

"Was it a man's voice or a woman's voice you heard?"

"I thought it were a man's voice."

"Well, go on."

"I had not been standing still above 'aaf a minute when I see'd a man
coming toward me.  He come close to where I was, and then he stopped
still."

"Did he see you?"

"Nay; he couldna see me, for I was standing close t' th' edge, and he
was looking straight on."

"Did you recognise who it was?"

"Ay, I did.  It were Maaster Paul Stepaside."

"You are certain of this?"

"Ay, I'm certain."

"But you said it was dark, just now.  How could you be certain who it
was in the dark?"

"Well, it was noan so dark as all that, and as I had been walking four
mile, my eyes had got accustomed to the darkness; and more than that,
there was a break in the clouds just then, and I think there must have
been a bit of moonlight.  Anyhow, I can swear it were Mr. Paul
Stepaside."

"Did he speak to you?"

"Nay; he never spoke to me.  As I told you, he never seed me, but were
looking straight on."

"Did he seem calm, self-possessed?"

"Nay; all t' other way.  He looked like a man beside hissen."

"Did you hear him say anything?"

"Ay, I did.  I heerd him say, 'My God!  I never thought it would come
to this,' or summat like that.  I won't be sure as to the exact words,
but it was summat like that."

"Did he stand beside you long?"

"Nay, not more than while one could count ten, perhaps.  Then he rushed
off, and he were muttering to hissen; but what he were saying aw could
noan make out."

"And that was all?"

"Ay, that was all."

"But you did not tell this at the inquest."

"Nay; I didn't want to be dragged into it.  Besides, I didn't know what
it meant; but I did mention it to my missis, and my missis mentioned it
to the wife of a policeman, who told it to her 'usband; and that's how
it come out."

As may be imagined, the effect of this evidence was remarkable.  It
supplied a kind of link in the chain.  It was now proved beyond
question that Paul was in the vicinity of the murder very near to the
time when it actually took place.  And in the face of it all, all that
had been said in his favour seemed to be as nothing.  Not only was it
Paul's knife that was found in Wilson's body, but Paul, although he had
not been seen to strike the blow, had been seen close to the spot where
the murder took place almost at the time of its actual occurrence, and
he had been heard to utter words such as a guilty man would have been
likely to utter.

At this time the court adjourned, and all felt that Paul's doom was
sealed.



CHAPTER XXVI

PAUL'S DEFENCE

The next morning the trial was resumed, and to the surprise of many it
did not come to an end that day.  Many other witnesses were called
which at first were unthought of, and thus the case was dragged out to
what seemed to Paul an interminable length.  On the third day, however,
the examinations were concluded, and Mr. Bakewell rose to address the
jury on the evidence which had been given.  Some spoke of his speech
afterwards as one of the finest that had ever been delivered in
Manchester, while others declared it to be devilish in its cleverness,
but that, in view of the fact that the prisoner would have no one to
defend him, it was unfair.  One eminent counsel, who would gladly have
taken Paul's case, said that it was the custom of counsel for
prosecution in the case of murder to seek to give absolute fair play to
the prisoner, and to suppress nothing which might tell in his favour,
but that it seemed to be the set purpose of Mr. Bakewell to secure a
sentence of death for Paul, just as he would try to secure a verdict in
favour of any client for whom he was trying to obtain damages.  But
this was mentioned in private, and could, of course, have no weight
with the jury.  Certain it is that he made a very strong case against
Paul.  He opened his speech with the usual remarks about the
seriousness of the case before them and the difficulty he had in
approaching it in the right spirit.  He also admitted that Paul was a
young man who bore a good character in the town, and had so far secured
public favour as to be rewarded with the highest measure of confidence
with which any town could reward him.  But having said all that, it was
his duty to deal with the facts which had been brought before them, and
it was for the jury to say whether, in the face of that evidence, the
prisoner was not guilty of the terrible deed of which he was accused.
He referred to the fact that the prisoner had chosen to defend himself,
and as a consequence lessened hid chances of acquittal, but they had
also to consider the inwardness of that fact.  What was the prisoner's
reason for being undefended?  It was not that he could not afford to
obtain the most eminent counsel at the criminal bar, or because he was
not advised by the judge to secure such counsel.  An innocent man had
nothing to hide.  It was only the guilty who sought to shelter himself
behind silence.  He would like to testify to the prisoner's ability in
cross-examination and of his power to nullify the force of certain
evidence which told against him.  But they had not to deal with
sophistries.  They had to deal with the hard facts which had been
submitted to them.  These facts he enumerated one by one, dealing with
the evidence which had been given in support of them.  He admitted that
there might be certain difficulties in their way, certain things hard
to explain, and which could only be explained by the prisoner.  Still,
certain facts remained--facts upon which they would have to judge.
Presently came the summing-up of his speech, and it was here that Mr.
Bakewell justified the reputation he had won as one of the cleverest of
criminal lawyers.  Everything in Paul's disfavour was set before them
in cold, clear, terse language.  One point after another was emphasised
with terrible precision, and so great was the impression made that it
seemed as though both judge and jury could see only with his eyes.  All
the things which appeared as difficulties were apparently removed.  The
facts of the case pointed to one man as the murderer of Edward Wilson,
and that one man was Paul Stepaside.  Mr. Bakewell seemed to be under
strong emotion, but that very emotion strengthened the impression which
he had made, especially when he spoke of the sacredness of human life,
spoke of the terrible responsibility of a jury in condemning a prisoner
to death.  Nevertheless, he seemed to make it impossible for them to do
anything else.  When he sat down it seemed as though the scaffold were
already erected, and the ghastly rope swinging from it.

Of course, the court was again crowded almost to suffocation.  Mr.
Bakewell had spoken for more than two hours, and during the whole time
the interest had been intense, the excitement almost overwhelming.
Whenever he paused it seemed as though they could hear the wings of the
Angel of Death fluttering over them.  Women sobbed aloud, strong men
breathed forth quivering sighs.  Even the barristers who sat watching
the case, and who as a rule regarded murder cases with an air of
nonchalance, could not hide their emotion.  Everything seemed to be
prejudged.  No evidence had been adduced strong enough to save the
prisoner, and each juryman, who sat with eyes fixed upon the eloquent
counsel, looked as though there were only one thing to do, and that was
to pronounce the word "Guilty."

Paul had sat during the whole time of the delivery of this speech,
listening to every word with breathless eagerness.  Never until that
day had he realised how near death was to him.  Throughout the whole
trial he had never really believed that the jury could find him guilty.
Now, however, it seemed as though they could do nothing else.  Never
had he felt his loneliness as he felt it then.  The judge did not seem
to be a man, but merely a legal machine, uninfluenced by great
emotions, and considering his case only as a case.  No one had been to
see him since the trial had recommenced under Judge Branscombe, save
the warders and the chaplain.  In one way he was glad it was so, but in
another he longed for society, longed for comfort.  Eagerly on each
morning of the trial had he looked around the court, dreading yet
hoping to see the face of Mary Bolitho, whom he still loved as a man
should love the woman he hopes to marry, even although he knew her to
be his sister.  Each morning, too, he had longed to see the face of his
mother, although he hoped she would not be there.  And while he still
declared that nothing could soften his heart against Judge Bolitho, he
felt as though the sight of his face would have helped him.

What were they doing?  he wondered, the man whom he had lately learnt
was his father, and his mother, and his half-sister--no, he could not
call her sister even now, and he wondered why it was.  When Mr.
Bakewell had finished his speech he heaved a sigh of relief.  At least
the worst had been told.  All that could be done to hang him had been
done--at least, as far as evidence was concerned.  And then there came
back to him the old determination to fight to the bitter end.  At least
he had his chance to reply, and he nerved himself for the work he had
to do.  He had no idea of time.  He had never thought of it.  He knew
it was at the beginning of the afternoon session when Mr. Bakewell rose
to address the jury, but he had no thought of the time which had
elapsed.  He had been simply listening, listening, as if it were a
matter of life and death--as in reality it was--to the address which
had been made.  He was expecting the judge to call upon him to make his
speech for his own defence, and was arranging his thoughts in order to
do so, when the judge turned towards him and asked him if his defence
would take any considerable time.

"Yes," replied Paul, "it will."

"Then we will adjourn the court until to-morrow."

"Perhaps," added the judge, with a wan smile, "you will be glad of
this.  It will allow you some little time to make your preparations."

"Thank you, my lord," he replied.

And then he was led away to his cell.

When Paul entered the dock on the following morning he carried with him
a sheaf of papers, the result of the previous night's work.  When he
returned to his cell he asked for writing materials, and then for
several hours worked steadily.  A strange calm possessed him while he
was doing this, not without a certain sense of enjoyment, grim as the
circumstances were.  He was fighting for his own life, and there was a
kind of intellectual pleasure in framing his arguments and in meeting
the statements which Mr. Bakewell had so forcibly expressed in his
final speech.  He had always loved a battle of wits, and, terrible as
the circumstances were, the pleasure which an intellectual struggle
gave him was not absent even on this occasion.

When he had concluded writing he was utterly exhausted, but here his
splendid physique came to his aid, and he slept several hours
peacefully.  At least he had one satisfaction.  Whatever might be the
issue of the terrible day which lay before him, terrible whatever might
happen, he was an innocent man.  He had struck no murderous blow, and
he could go down to the grave with a clear conscience, knowing that he
had tried to do what was right under the circumstances.  Sometimes a
shadow of doubt came into his mind as to whether his mother were really
guilty of the terrible deed of which he was accused, but as he reviewed
the circumstances, and remembered what she had said to him, it seemed
as though a cold hand had gripped his heart, and it convinced him that
it was she in spite of himself.  Considering all the events, he could
think of no one else who was likely to commit the deed; and so, while
he determined to fight to the very last, he could at least do his
utmost to keep any shadow of suspicion from falling on her.

Great as the excitement had been on the previous day's trial, it
seemed, if possible, greater now, or rather it was an excitement of a
different nature.  Hitherto a sense of strangeness and wonder had
predominated; a morbid curiosity and a desire for sensationalism had
possessed the minds and hearts of those who had witnessed the trial.
But to-day another element was added--an element of terror.  On the
previous days there had been a suggestion of a stage trial.  Many,
although they had breathlessly followed the evidence given, did not
seem to realise that it might end in death.  But that was all over now.
The inwardness of everything, the ghastly issues of the scene, became
tremendously real.  All felt that now Paul Stepaside was indeed
fighting for his life.  The shadow of the scaffold rested upon him.  A
thousand unseen enemies seemed to be there trying to drag him to his
doom.  And he, unaided and alone, had to meet not only the terrible
charge which was laid against him, but a kind of fiendish cleverness
with which that charge had been urged.  Men held their breath as he
entered the dock; reporters forgot their duty as they watched his face;
the jurymen, bearing in mind the terrible speech which Mr. Bakewell had
delivered on the previous evening, and believing that nothing could
remove the impression of that speech, looked on him with gloomy
interest.  Even the judge, legal machine as he appeared to be, showed
more than ordinary interest and seemed to be wondering what he had to
say for himself.

To all appearance, indeed, Paul was the most self-possessed man in the
court.  Pale he was, it is true, but upright, clear-sighted,
determined.  Unversed as he was in the intricacies of the law and
possessing none of the experience which characterised the counsel for
the prosecution, Mr. Bakewell felt that here indeed was a foeman worthy
of his steel, and that had he been trained for the bar he would not
have long remained an obscure member of that learned profession.

The formalities of the day were quickly gone through, and Paul rose to
address the jury.

I cannot here give in detail the speech which he delivered, cannot
describe the intensity with which he spoke, although I watched the
trial from day to day.  I can only convey a vague impression, not only
of the speech which he delivered, but of the effect of his words.  Even
now I can see him standing in the dock, quietly arranging his papers
with firm, steady hands, and then pushing them away as if they could be
of no use to him.  I can see the steady light in his eyes; the pale,
clear-cut face; strong, determined features, upright form.  I can feel,
too, the tremendous emotion which seemed to overwhelm all present.  But
these things cannot be conveyed in cold print; they can only be hinted
at.

He commenced by saying that he stood there accused of the most serious
of charges.  It had been urged that he was guilty of murder, and there
could be no doubt that a murder had been committed.  It was not a
question of pleading for partial forgiveness.  No question of mercy
could be considered.  Either he was guilty of murder or he was not, for
undoubtedly the deceased man had been murdered.  If he had been guilty
of that murder, then the jury would do right to pronounce that verdict;
if not, then they took upon themselves the responsibility of condemning
an innocent man to death.

"The counsel for the prosecution," urged Paul, "has mentioned something
about giving me the benefit of a doubt.  There is no matter of benefit
in it, and I decline to accept the term.  It is only a matter of
justice.  It is only justice I desire.  My lord and gentlemen of the
jury, I have refused to enter the witness-box, not because I desired to
keep back anything in relation to the murder, for in truth I know
absolutely nothing, but because I might be, probably should be, asked
questions on matters on which I desire to remain silent.  I appeal to
your understanding in relation to this.  There are secret matters--ay,
and sacred matters--in everyone's life which one does not wish to be
discussed by the world at large, and it is for this reason, and this
reason only, that I have declined to go into the witness-box.  If it
were simply a matter of dealing with my connection with the death of
the deceased man, I would gladly answer any question that may be asked,
because, as I repeat, I know nothing.

"The learned counsel has also referred to my decision to be my own
defender, and has admitted that I may possibly suffer some disadvantage
because of it.  I did so for more than one reason.  The first I have
just suggested.  No counsel could be of any value to me unless I gave
him my absolute and complete trust.  Again I say, there are certain
matters utterly and wholly removed from the crime of which I am accused
which I do not wish to make known.  Possibly this may tell against me;
but, gentlemen, when you think of the happenings of the last few days,
when you remember, my lord, the wonderful and unprecedented confession
which was made from the chair you now occupy, a confession which
vitally affects me, you can understand that there are other things in
my life--perfectly innocent, yes, and in a vital sense very
sacred--which I do not wish to confide to any man.  More on that
question I will not say.  The other reason I have for defending myself
is that while an abler man than myself might be obtained, a more
eloquent man, a far more learned man, I could secure no one who is so
certain of my own innocence as I am myself, and as a consequence no one
could plead with the same earnestness, albeit haltingly, yet no one can
plead with the same conviction that I can.  For, my lord and gentlemen,
at the very outset of what I wish to say I must again urge that I know
absolutely nothing of this man's murder.  I struck no blow, and am as
far removed from his death as the little children who were born in this
city last night!

"Now, my lord and gentlemen, the whole weight of the accusation brought
against me depends entirely upon circumstantial evidence, and you, my
lord, who are so learned in the law, know full well the value that can
be attached to such evidence.  You know that again and again it has
proved to be false.  You know one particular case especially, when a
man, who was condemned to die on circumstantial evidence, was three
times brought to the scaffold, and three times the rope broke, and
then, because of what may be called the superstitious feelings of the
community at large, that sentence was reduced to penal servitude for
life.  I say you know, my lord, that although that circumstantial
evidence seemed complete, when a renowned thief and murderer was
brought to his trial and condemned to die, he confessed to this very
murder.  Moreover, you can see that when a man's life or death depends
upon circumstantial evidence, that evidence must be complete.  No link
in the chain must be missing.  If it is missing, then it would be a
crime, and worse than a crime, to take away the life of a man because
of it.  And I shall show you, my lord and gentlemen, that not only is
the chain of evidence incomplete in this case, but that many links are
wanting in that chain, and therefore it has no strength whatever."

Paul paused here, and for a moment seemed to have forgotten his line of
defence.  He turned towards his notes, which he had placed beside him,
as if with the intention of refreshing his memory, and then, like one
angered at his seeming unreadiness, he appeared to make a mighty effort
to gather together his scattered thoughts and to concentrate them.  He
gazed around the crowded court, watched the pale, set faces, not only
of the jury, but of the spectators, noted the strained attention of the
barristers and the steady scrutiny of the judge.  He seemed for the
moment like a man put upon his mettle and determined to play his part
manfully.

"I would like," he said, "first of all to refer to the question of
motive.  The learned counsel has urged that I committed this murder
because of personal hatred.  The evidence which he sought to deduce,
and upon which he dwelt almost to the point of tediousness, was that
there was a long-standing feud between the murdered man and myself.  He
related incident after incident which went to show that, to say the
least of it, no love was lost between us.  I have no word to say
against that evidence, no word to say against his methods of urging it
against me.  It was his duty as counsel for the prosecution.  But I
must ask you to examine this more closely.  It is true that the
murdered man had been my enemy for years.  But should I be likely,
because of his enmity, to murder him?  Or, even if I belonged to the
class of criminals which he would make me out to belong to, should I
have chosen such an hour to commit that murder?  Should I not have
committed it, not in my hour of triumph, but in my hour of defeat?

"It has come out in the evidence that at the first election at Brunford
the deceased man did his utmost to ruin me.  He not only tried to
tarnish the name of my mother as well as my own, but he did his best to
ruin me financially.  This has been proved, proved beyond a doubt; and
as a result of what he did I lost that election.  I say, if I had
intended to murder him, would not that have been the time when I should
have done it?  Or again, would it not have been likely that I should
have done it while in the heat of passion?  As far as I can remember,
the quarrel, which took place between us on the evening prior to the
murder, has been correctly described.  When I left him he struck me
down.  Gentlemen, I am not a weak man, but a strong man.  If it was my
desire to do him bodily harm, should I not be likely to do it then?  We
were there alone.  As far as I knew, no eye was watching us, and
naturally my passions would be roused by the cowardly blow he struck
me; but I did nothing.  I, so it was said, uttered a threat that I
would be equal with him for this blow which he had struck, and then
went away.  Then, the learned counsel has urged, after I had walked
nearly two miles back to my own home, after I had dressed for dinner, I
waited until midnight, and then, with cool calculation, went out to
kill this man.  Can anyone in his senses believe such a thing?
Besides, think of another thing.  I was in a position to laugh at
Wilson's enmity.  I had won an eminent position in the town of my
adoption.  I had risen from obscurity to be a member of Parliament for
that town.  I had made a speech in the House of Commons which had
attracted notice throughout the whole country.  I was the subject of
leading articles in newspapers.  What was Wilson's enmity to me?  I
could have afforded to have left Brunford altogether.  I could have
lived in London, where I need never have seen him.  Was I likely,
then--not in a moment of mad passion, mark you--not in resentment for a
coward's blow which had been struck immediately before, but after seven
hours--was I likely to go out into the dead of the night to kill him?
Forgive me for urging this matter, but the question of motive must come
in, and to say that this deed was the outcome of a long personal feud
is, under the circumstances, preposterous.  Is this link in the chain
strong enough to hold?  Nay, is it a link at all?  And does not the
chain break in consequence?"

It was at this point that Paul held both judge and jury strongly.  I
know I altogether fail to convey the impression he made.  In cold
print, while his words may seem reasonable, and even forcible, they
only give a hint at their power when they were uttered as he uttered
them.

The next point with which he dealt was with that of the knife.  This
knife, known to be Paul's, was found driven through Edward Wilson's
heart, driven from behind.  And it had been used with great skill by
the counsel for the prosecution.  He had considered it from every
standpoint, and it had seemed, at the time, that no one but Paul could
have used it.

"This," said Paul, "is the one definite thing urged against me.
Everything else is pure surmise, but the knife was known to be mine.
The knife was in my office, an office which is always locked when I
have occasion to leave it.  Therefore, no one but myself could have
used it.  Such is the counsel's argument.  Again I ask you to consider
this carefully.  Remember that no secret was ever made about my
possessing this knife.  It had been sent to me by a customer from
abroad.  It had been used as a paper-knife.  It had been frequently
seen by those who visited me lying on my office desk.  It was not some
secret thing, something about which the world knew nothing.  It was
known to be mine by scores of people--please bear that in mind.  Then
there is another thing-.  It has come out in the evidence that I was
not in the habit of carrying it.  It is a sharp, murderous-looking
blade, and it has been examined, my lord, not only by you, but by every
member of the jury.  I admit that this knife is mine.  I admit all that
my partner, Mr. George Preston, has said about it.  But I want you to
consider the tremendous gap between the fact of the knife known to
belong to me, and the accusation that with this knife I murdered Mr.
Edward Wilson.  Now, will you please think carefully.  It has been
urged that I did this deed in cold blood.  It was between three and
four o'clock in the afternoon when I had a quarrel with Wilson and he
struck me down.  My servants have given testimony to the fact that I
came home, talked with my mother, went into my study, stayed there for
several hours.  Then it is urged that I went out, carrying this knife
with me; and, mark you, they did not see the knife in the house, no one
saw me take it away from the office; but it is urged that I went out,
after several hours' cool and calculated thought, at midnight; that I
caught the murdered man unawares, drove the knife into his body, and
then ran away and left it there.  Now, think of this, gentlemen, and
remember that my life or death depends upon the reasonableness of it,
depends upon this link in the chain of circumstantial evidence.  It has
been urged again and again that whatever I am, I am not a fool, that I
am capable of careful and connected thought, that I commenced my career
in Brunford in a very small way, and that in a few years I have made it
to be what it is, large and prosperous.  It has been urged that I am
far-seeing, careful, calculating, and that as a rule I am not a man who
acts upon sudden impulses.  Now, my lord and jury, I ask you, would
such a man as I be likely to do this?  I could have understood the
accusation if in the heat of the passion which I naturally felt when
the deceased man struck me a cowardly blow, I had, if I carried such a
knife with me, which I never did, seized it and struck the murderous
blow, and then in a state of panic rushed away for fear of the
consequences.  But after several hours had elapsed, during which time I
should have time to think about it, and to realise the results of such
a deed, that I should then, in a cool and calculated fashion, seek out
a victim, strike the blow, and then leave the weapon in the body which
must be inevitably traced to me, is a deed of such madness that I can
only wonder that a gentleman with the erudition of the counsel should
have thought it worth while to mention it!"

From this point Paul went on to deal with another matter, of which the
counsel for the prosecution seemed to have taken no notice, but which,
put as he put it, strengthened his case very considerably.

"I want you to consider the circumstances connected with the accusation
again," he said presently.  "It is known that I had only returned from
London the day before.  It has come out in the evidence that I wrote a
letter to Wilson, asking him to meet me, and that Wilson replied
refusing to do so.  It has also been proved that I waylaid him not far
from his own house, and that we had a quarrel.  Concerning the nature
of that quarrel I am not going to speak, but a quarrel there was, this
I admit.  Now, please bear in mind that I had only returned from London
the previous day; that I knew nothing of Wilson's possible whereabouts;
that I could have known nothing of his plans.  It was impossible for me
to tell what he was going to do, or where he was going to be.  It has
also come out in the evidence that I asked certain questions about him
on the afternoon of the day before the murder.  I went from one place
to another where he had been, in order to find him--remember this was
not done in secret, but openly--therefore I must have been utterly
ignorant of his movements, or of his plans, except what I openly
gathered that afternoon.  Then we had a quarrel.  He struck me down,
and I, when I recovered from the blow, rose, said a few words to him,
and walked away.  I went back to my own house, and, on the testimony of
the servants, was there the whole evening.  I did not go out at all.
It is also admitted that no messenger of any sort came to me that
night, that no letters were received.  Please bear these things clearly
in mind.  Then I went out at midnight, on a dark night, with the intent
to murder 'him.  Now think of the position.  Would he not in all
probability be in bed, as far as I knew?  Brunford is not a town of
late hours.  Ordinarily, except when there is a social gathering, or
something of the sort, people retire to rest between ten and eleven
o'clock.  But it is urged I went out with the intention of murdering
him, carrying the knife with me, and yet having no means of even
suspecting that he would be out; and that then I met him by chance, and
having the knife ready, killed him, and left the knife in his body.  My
lord, and gentlemen, does not the chain of evidence entirely break?  Is
there any connecting link here at all?  Can you condemn a man upon such
evidence?  Think of the tremendously long arm of coincidence which has
to be imagined before you can connect me with it!

"With regard to the evidence which the counsel for the prosecution has
urged with so much effect: I admit it is true.  I was worried and
perplexed that night.  I did not utter the words which he has
mentioned, but I do remember walking along a lane at no great distance
from Howden Clough.  I was troubled about a personal matter, and, if I
may so put it, a secret matter, a matter which I cannot discuss, but
which does not even by a gossamer thread connect me with the crime of
which I am accused.  And if you condemn me on such an evidence, then no
man's life is safe.  No man can be worried and perplexed without, under
similar circumstances, being accused of a crime of which he would never
dream!"

Again Paul made the jury feel as he felt, see as he saw.  The evident
sincerity of his tones, the force of his language, language which I
have utterly failed to reproduce, carried conviction with every word.
For the time being, at least, they felt that such an accusation
bordered on the edge of the absurd, and to say the least of it, there
was a tremendous gulf which had to be filled up, and that to fill it up
by the belief in the long arm of coincidence, and to commit a man to
the scaffold because of it, would be criminal indeed.

"There's only one point more that I wish to urge," said Paul.  "It is
this.  It is plain to me that the deceased man was murdered.  It is
plain to us all, therefore, that someone must have been guilty of the
deed.  Who would be likely to be guilty?  The statements which found
credence here in the early part of the trial, that the deceased man had
no enemy beside myself has been shattered and destroyed.  It has been
shown that one woman, at least, had reason to hate him with a deadly
hatred, and that case alone throws a tremendous light upon the
character of the deceased man.  Far be it from me to throw suspicion
upon any innocent person--I have suffered too much myself to think of
doing such a thing--but even the deceased man's own father has made
terrible admissions.  Do these admissions mean nothing?  Are they to
count for nothing?  That woman whose name has been mentioned, and who,
from the evidence given, could have no connection with this crime, had
a thousand times more reason to hate him than I.  May there not be
others?  Nay, there must be others----"

At this point Paul, knowing that he was drawing near to the end of what
he had to say, felt that he was indeed fighting for his life, and I
will not endeavour to describe his speech further.  Possessing a mind
of more than ordinary clearness, having the gift of language to a
marked degree, and also having the strongest motive to make the most of
the facts which stood out clearly before him, he spoke almost like a
man inspired.  With trembling voice, he was outwardly calm in
appearance.  He again reviewed the evidence, showed its weakness, tore
the sophistries of Mr. Bakewell to pieces, and moved the hearts of all
present by his passionate appeal.  More than once the spectators broke
in applause, while the barristers nudged each other with nods of
approval, as he made some special point in his defence.  And presently,
when he sat down, everyone felt that Paul had saved his own life, that
he had fought a great battle and won it, that he not only did not
commit the deed of which he was accused, but that he was utterly
incapable of it, and that he would leave the court amid shouts of
triumph.  Even to this day his speech is spoken of as one of the most
triumphant efforts ever made in the Manchester Assize Courts.

But this was only for a time.  It is true he had seemingly answered Mr.
Bakewell in every point.  It is true, too, that it seemed a crime
beyond all description to pronounce the Verdict of guilty upon him, but
naturally it was an _ex-parte_ Statement, it was the speech of a clever
man fighting for his life, who naturally did the best with the material
at his disposal.  He had been talking for nearly two hours, and during
that time all were under the spell not only of his words but of his
personality.

When he had finished, the judge waited for perhaps a minute, and seemed
to be looking at his notes, and presently all eyes were transferred
from the prisoner's dock to the judge's chair.  What had this keen
legal machine to say?  Throughout Paul's speech he had listened with
close attention, and had evidently admired the points he had made.  But
as we have said, Judge Branscombe was a lawyer, a lawyer to the finger
tips, and he was one who thought much of outward facts, and little of
what might be probable or not probable.  Long associated with the law
as he was, he had known many cases where criminals had done the most
unlikely things, and where facts had scattered theories to the winds.
He had won eminence at the Bar because of this attitude of mind.  He
cared nothing about probabilities.  He cared little about theories, but
dealt with facts.

He began his summing-up by speaking of the unusual way in which the
trial had been conducted.  The prisoner had elected to be his own
advocate, and that, as a consequence, he, the judge, had not been so
particular about formalities as he would have been under different
circumstances.  He had allowed matters to be introduced in the
cross-examination which were not strictly evidence.  He also referred
in high terms to the prisoner's defence.  He spoke of him as a man of
more than ordinary intellectual ability, who, with the gift of an
orator, had played upon the various emotions of the jury as a clever
musician plays with an instrument of which he is a master.  And then,
little by little, he went back to what he called "the cold hard facts
of the case."  From the pure lawyer's standpoint, his summing-up was
perhaps just, but from the standpoint of the prisoner it was deadly.
With a cleverness of which Paul did not believe anyone capable, he wore
away the effect of what he had said, until, as it seemed to him, his
speech seemed to be like that of another counsel for the prosecution.
And yet, as I said, no one could accuse him of being unfair.  He
admitted the responsibility of the jury, spoke of the tremendous Issues
at stake, and seemed desirous of guiding them into right paths.  For
nearly an hour he spoke, and then, amidst an excitement which was
painful in the extreme, the jury went away to consider their verdict.

Minute after minute passed away, while everyone waited in painful
suspense for the jurymen to return.  The old feeling of uncertainty had
come back to the spectators, the barristers, who had been so eagerly
listening to the case, discussed in whispers what the probable result
would be, and more than one woman had to be carried out of the court in
a state of collapse.  Men sat with hard, set faces, scarcely daring to
move.  How long they were away I do not know, but it seemed to all
present like an eternity.

Presently the foreman of the jury appeared, and the judge returned to
his chair.

"Gentlemen, are you agreed as to the verdict?"

"No, we are not agreed."

It was as though a mighty sob arose from the throats of all present.
The judge, who wore an uneasy look as he reentered the court, seemed
perturbed.  A look of eager expectation was on the faces of the
barristers.  As for Paul, he became instinct with new life.  His case
was not hopeless--they were not agreed.  The fiendishly clever speech
of Mr. Bakewell and the deadly summing-up of the judge had not secured
a verdict of guilty.  He felt almost like a conqueror.  Hope was in his
heart.  He would live even yet.  The judge looked at his watch, as if
in doubt what to do, but it was evident that he quickly made up his
mind.



CHAPTER XXVII

THE VERDICT

"If you will tell me the points on which you are disagreed," said the
judge at length, "I may be able to throw some light upon them, and
also, perhaps, advise you."

"The points are these," said the foreman of the jury.  "First of all,
some among us are far from being convinced that the prisoner, if he
were the murderer, would be likely to leave the knife in the murdered
man's body.  If he had struck the blow in a passion, and had then,
overcome by panic, run away for fear of the consequences of what he had
done, we could have understood it.  But as we are dealing with
circumstantial evidence, it seems utterly unlikely that a man who had
premeditated a murder should have run away leaving a weapon which could
be easily traced to him.  That, at least, is the feeling of some
members of the jury, and is one of the points which causes us to be
divided.

"The second is this: there are some among us who feel very strongly the
point of the prisoner's remarks concerning the probability of his
knowing where the deceased was at the time of the murder.  As he has
stated, he would probably have been in bed at the time when he was
actually killed.  If the murder was premeditated, there are some who
feel the utter unlikelihood of the prisoner going out alone at midnight
on the chance of finding his victim.

"These are the points, my lord, on which we are not agreed, and unless
further light is thrown upon them, there is no likelihood of agreement."

The juryman spoke in a hesitating fashion.  He was evidently labouring
under a very strong emotion, and was unable to control his voice or to
express his thoughts with anything like clearness.  Still, what we have
just stated conveys a rough idea of the difficulties which faced them.

Again an intense silence pervaded the court as the foreman of the jury
sat down.  The suspense seemed almost too horrible to be borne.  There
was not a man in the court who was not pale to the lips, and whose
nerves were not quivering with painful excitement.  Again the reporters
almost forgot their duty.  In their eagerness to know what would be
said they forgot to write.  Suppressed sobbing was heard almost
everywhere.  Even the judge looked exceedingly grave, and for the
moment seemed unable to decide what to say.

As for Paul, it seemed to him as though his fate hung on a delicately
poised balance.  The weight of a hair in either scale might decide
either his life or his death.  It was one of those tragic moments which
seldom occur in any man's life, and it was only by a tremendous effort
that he remained outwardly calm.  But pride came to his aid even now.
He had not shown weakness yet, and he would not show it now.  He would
not break down before this gaping, excited crowd, but retain quiet
dignity even to the last.  In spite of the intense excitement, too, he
was becoming almost callous.  Nature has its own way of alleviating
pain, and the way she chose now to help Paul to continue to bear the
dreadful strain was to numb his feelings, and to make him almost
indifferent concerning what should take place.  For the past few hours
every nerve had been at full tension, and so greatly had he been
wrought upon that he could not have remained in such a condition much
longer.  And so kindly Nature had lessened the pangs he was suffering,
and made him able to bear to the end by her own anaesthetics.

"I quite understand your position, gentlemen," said the judge, "and I
will do my best to help you.  We will take the points in the order in
which you mention them.  First, there is the question of the knife, and
in order to fully understand the sequence of this, we will again
consider it from the very beginning.  We must remember that the
prisoner was very careful about locking his office.  No one was allowed
to enter it when he was absent.  He kept the key in his own pocket.  We
have to remember, too, that his own partner declared that he knew of no
one who entered the prisoner's office that day, and even if anyone
entered the office, there was no one who, as far as he knew, would dare
to take that knife from the prisoner's desk.  The fact remains,
however--and it is facts we must consider, gentlemen, and give them
their due significance--the fact remains that the murdered man was
found with this knife in his heart.  Now, gentlemen, it is for you to
decide how that knife could have left the prisoner's office.  Was there
someone who could have entered the office, and, with set purpose, take
it away without the prisoner's knowledge, and use it in the way
mentioned?  Or, did the prisoner take it away himself and use it as has
been described by the counsel for the prosecution?  I say you must
decide on this question because it is most vital.  You have heard all
the evidence in relation to this matter, and it is for you to decide
now first whether any outsider obtained entrance into the prisoner's
office and took away that knife and used it for the purpose of murder,
or whether the prisoner himself took it away in the way described?
That is the first point to be considered in relation to the knife.  Now
with regard to the ostensible difficulty which appears to you.  From
one standpoint, it seems utterly unlikely that a man of the prisoner's
evident intellectual acumen should have used this knife, known to be
his, for the purpose of murdering an enemy, and then have left it in
his body in such a way that it would be inevitably traced to him.  I
understand your difficulty, gentlemen, and I appreciate it, and it is a
point that you must keep clearly before your mind.  There is, however,
another side which you must also keep just as clearly in view.  It is
this.  If the prisoner had made up his mind to do this, would not a
clever man, such as he undoubtedly is, probably come to the conclusion
that it would seem so absurd that he should leave the knife in the body
of his victim that he might do so as a mere matter of bluff?  A clever
man, a far-seeing man will sometimes do things which a duller man would
not do, and it is for you to decide whether these things might not have
been in the mind of the prisoner when he decided to act in this way.

"You have also to consider this.  It is true it has been urged that the
murderous deed was uninterrupted, but we cannot be sure of this.  Might
not the one who struck the blow have heard approaching footsteps at the
time, and then in a state of panic have rushed away?  These things you
must carefully consider.  But the real point at issue, the vital point
which you have to consider is: could anyone else have become possessed
of the knife in the first place?  Did anyone else become possessed of
that knife?  If not, then the difficulty in your minds is easy to
explain.

"That is the first point.  Now for the second.  What you urge, and most
rightly urge, too--and I fully appreciate the evident thought and care
which you have bestowed upon it--is the unlikelihood of the prisoner
going out at midnight to commit murder, when he had no knowledge
whatever that the murdered man would not be in his own home.  You say
that some of you feel that his going out under such circumstances, and
depending on chance as to whether he should meet him, was altogether
unnatural.  I will admit that you have to consider this point
carefully, remembering that a man's life or death depends upon the
decision at which you arrive.  But there is another thought which you
must keep clearly before your minds.  You have no knowledge that the
prisoner was not aware of the murdered man's whereabouts.  They had a
quarrel the previous evening.  How do we know that the murdered man did
not tell the prisoner something of his plans, or where he intended to
be?  He has not submitted himself to cross-examination, and therefore
we have not been able to hear from him.  Consequently, we have no
knowledge that the murdered man did not, during the excited
conversation, say something of his intentions, or let fall some hint
whereby a man with the quick perception of the prisoner, might find out
what he intended to do.  If this were the case--and while there is no
proof that it is so, it is not at all improbable--it would remove your
difficulty.  If they met, it is probable that another quarrel ensued,
and then in the heat of passion the prisoner might have struck the blow
which resulted in his victim's death, and then rushed away and uttered
the words which the man Ashley overhead.  This is all I can say on
these points, gentlemen, and you have to consider, in the light of the
evidence to which you have listened, whether this might be the case.
As has been repeatedly said, the whole case rests upon circumstantial
evidence, and it is for you carefully to consider the matter again, and
may Almighty God guide you in your momentous deliberations!"

Again it was evident that the judge tried to be fair, but again his
elucidation of the points at issue was deadly, as far as the prisoner
was concerned.  Rightly or wrongly, more than one felt that the judge
had made up his mind as to the guilt of Paul Stepaside, and speaking as
he did, in cold, calculated words, yet with all the authority of his
position behind him, many felt that each sentence strengthened the
chain of evidence which would hang the prisoner.

Paul listened without moving a muscle or uttering a sound, nevertheless
his eyes were fixed upon the judge with a kind of stony stare.  It
seemed to him that there was a kind of malignant cunning in the judge's
words, that the man was conjuring up possibilities in support of the
evidence which seemed to point to him.

Again the jury retired, and a solemn silence reigned.  This time there
was not even the sound of whispered consultations as to what the
verdict might be.  It was a kind of ghastly waiting for the jurymen to
return.  Slowly the clock ticked on, and it seemed to be numbering the
seconds of Paul Stepaside's life.  And yet there were many who simply
could not believe that any jury could find him guilty.  Standing there
alone in the dock, tall, erect, calm, his features refined by the long
weeks of suffering through which he had passed, thin and pale as a
consequence of his confinement and anxiety, many felt that it was
impossible he should be guilty of such a bloodthirsty deed.  And yet in
face of the judge's summing up, in face of the terrible speech which
Mr. Bakewell had delivered, it seemed as if the gallows would surely
claim their victim.

Minute after minute passed, until the waiting seemed unbearable.  At
length, however, the door of the room in which the jury sat opened, and
one by one they returned.  With strained eyes, all looked at their
faces, trying to read there what their decision was.  It seemed almost
grotesque that these twelve, commonplace, unimaginative men, with no
ability out of the common order, with little or no knowledge of the
law, with minds unfitted to grasp the inwardness of the evidence which
had been given, should have to pronounce the verdict of life or death
upon the young man who stood in the dock.  Under ordinary circumstances
Paul's voice, Paul's opinion, would have weighed more than all theirs
put together.  Yet such was the case.  They held in their hands the
issues of life and death.  What they had decided upon would be final.

"Gentlemen, are you agreed as to your verdict?"  And as the listeners
heard the question asked it seemed as though their heart-strings were
strained, and as though they could not bear to hear the answer.

"Yes."

"Do you find the prisoner guilty, or not guilty?"

"Guilty!"

It seemed like a knell of doom in the court.  The pent-up feelings of
the crowded spectators burst forth in a mighty sob.  More than one
gasped, "No, no."  The utmost confusion prevailed, and more than one
had to be carried out of the court, overcome by emotion.  The jurymen
sat each in his place pale and evidently moved.  The verdict had been
according to the best of their abilities.  Perhaps had the judge's
summing up been different they would have given the alternative
finding, but the feeling was that the judge, who was far wiser than
they, believed in the prisoner's guilt, and they, carried away by his
weight and authority, and by his cold, yet telling, words, pronounced
the verdict of "Guilty."

Paul, when he heard the verdict, reeled for a moment, and felt as
though his limbs were giving way under him; but only for a moment.  His
resolution and his pride, which had borne him through the rest of the
trial, should bear him through this.  He would not show any weakness.
His face was blanched, and his lips were white, but his eyes still
burned with a steady light, and in a few seconds he again stood erect
and calm, and looked at the judge's face.

The judge communicated for a moment with the Clerk of Arraigns, who
went through the usual formula, and then the clerk, addressing the
prisoner in the dock, said to him:

"Paul Stepaside, you have been found guilty of the wilful murder of
Edward Wilson.  Have you anything to say why sentence of death should
not be passed upon you in due form?"

Paul hesitated a moment as if undecided whether ho should
speak--everything seemed to be pure mockery now.  The end of all things
had come.  He knew that when a jury pronounced a verdict of guilty of
wilful murder, especially as there were no extenuating circumstances
sufficient in any way to lessen the guilt, all hope was gone.  And yet
he felt as though he must say something.  It seemed like allowing
himself to be led as a lamb to a butcher if he uttered no word of
protest.

"My lord and gentlemen of the jury," he said, "I feel impelled to say a
few words, even although I realise their uselessness.  I have no
complaint to make concerning the motives which inspired the jury.  I
have no doubt that each one has tried to do his duty.  Neither do I
complain of the action of the counsel for the prosecution in doing his
utmost to fasten the guilt upon me.  I suppose it was his duty so to
do, and he has done it.  Neither, I suppose, ought I to complain of
your lordship's summing up, although it struck me as more like another
speech by the counsel for prosecution than the judicial analysis of
evidence by an impartial judge.  But then my position has been of such
a nature that perhaps my own judgment is warped.  Be that as it may,
however, and knowing that, whatever I may say, I cannot alter anything
that has been done, I wish to repeat that I am utterly and wholly
guiltless concerning this murder.  My hand never struck the blow that
killed Edward Wilson, and I have no knowledge whatever concerning the
murder.  In the course of events, I suppose I shall be hanged, but, my
lord and gentlemen, you will hang an innocent man, and by your finding
to-day, you will send a man into eternity who is not only altogether
innocent of the murder, but altogether unconnected with it!  I shall go
into the great silence, into the land of forgetfulness, but of this I
am sure, you, my lord, and you, gentlemen of the jury, must for ever be
haunted by the thought that you have sent an innocent man to an
unmerited doom."

The tones of his voice gathered in strength and condemnatory intonation
as he proceeded, and when he had finished it seemed to many as though
he were the judge and those to whom he spoke were criminals.  More than
one of the jury, who had been unconvinced, but who had given way to the
opinions of others, felt as though his words were true.  They shuddered
as he spoke, and it seemed to them that they were guilty, even as he
said they were.

But the word had gone forth and could not be recalled.  When once a
jury, after careful deliberation, has uttered the verdict of "Guilty,"
that verdict is final.  Even although the judge were convinced of
Paul's innocence, he could only pronounce sentence of death.  In that
respect he was no more responsible than the hangman who had to fasten
the rope around his neck.  Each would play his part in the grim
tragedy, and each would have to do so, because he had accepted the
responsibilities of his office.

It was evident that the judge was greatly wrought upon.  His hands
trembled, his face was haggard, and in his eyes was an expression that
looked like fear.  He turned for a moment and saw that the chaplain was
standing behind him, a pale, cadaverous-looking man indeed, a veritable
death's-head.

The judge put on the black cap.

"Paul Stepaside," he said, "you have this day been found guilty of
wilful murder.  The jury have, upon the evidence given, passed that
verdict upon you," he stopped.  He had seemed on the point of saying
something else, but was unable to do so.  Perhaps, as is often the
case, he was going to preach him a homily upon a wasted life, or upon a
career cut off in the middle, destroyed by an act of brutal passion,
but he did not do so.  Perhaps there was something in Paul's face which
forbade him.  Perhaps he almost feared the scornful smile which was on
Paul's lips, and the steady look in his eyes.

A painful silence followed, a silence of nearly a minute, and then the
judge pronounced his sentence.

"You will be taken from this place to the place from whence you came,
and from there to the place of execution, and there you will be hanged
by the neck until you are dead, and your body will be buried in the
precincts of the prison where you will have been confined after your
conviction, and may the Lord have mercy on your soul."

He spoke the words in slow, measured tones, and with deathly
impressiveness.  Although he was a little man, his voice was deep,
almost sonorous, and thus when the chaplain followed him with a thin,
piping voice, "Amen!" there was something so incongruous in the
contrast that many who had been wrought up to a high state of
excitement felt like giving way to hysterical laughter.  Nevertheless,
the utmost silence prevailed, until Paul spoke again.

"Thank you, my lord," he said.  "I am an innocent man, and when my time
comes, I will meet death as an innocent man should!"

For a moment he looked around the court, scanned the faces of those
present with an expression almost like curiosity.  It seemed as if he
realised he was looking at them for the last time.  It was a look of
farewell.  He was no longer a prisoner, he was a condemned man.  He
nodded to some of the people whom he had known in Brunford, and then,
with a proud smile, he left the box, under the vigilance of two
policemen, who led him to the condemned cell.



CHAPTER XXVIII

PAUL'S MOTHER AND MARY

When Mary Bolitho left her father on the night following the first day
of the trial, she was naturally much excited.  She could not understand
the great change which had come over him.  Never before had she known
him to be so much moved by any case with which he had to do.  She
wondered why it was, and in the solitude of her room began to think of
reasons.  Had he learnt something about Paul of which she was ignorant?
Had he discovered the real murderer?  She had sat throughout the day's
trial, and no word had fallen, no argument of whatever sort had been
urged, that in the slightest degree shook her faith in the man she
loved.

She quickly dismissed this from her mind, however.  Whatever her
father's conduct might mean, she saw no sign that he believed in Paul's
innocence.  Still, her conversation with him caused all sorts of
fancies to flash through her brain, and, sitting down before her fire,
she, for the thousandth time, tried to think of means whereby she could
save him.

"I must save him; I must!" she said to herself.  "Paul knows of
something which he refuses to tell me.  He is shielding someone."

Naturally she knew nothing of what her father had learnt that night,
had no suspicion of the revelations which, when they became known to
her, would destroy the thousand fancies which she had cherished and
revolutionise her life.  The one dominant thought in her mind was that
the man whom, in spite of herself, she had learnt to love, was charged
with murder, and that unless something was done to nullify the evidence
which had been brought to court that day he would have to pay the
penalty with his life.  Paul, for some reason unknown to her, would not
use the means she was sure he had in his power in order to save his
life.  Of course it was pure surmise on her part, but she was perfectly
certain of it; and what he would not do she must do.

Throughout the evening she had been reading the Brunford papers, in
which the whole story had been described.  Paul's first appearance
before the magistrates; the coroner's inquest; and, again, the second
appearance before the local justices; and his final committal.  No
detail of these reports had escaped her notice, and now, after her talk
with her father, she again set herself to consider the whole question,
determined, at whatever hazards, to save her lover.

Finally her mind fastened upon two or three thoughts, and these
thoughts became the centre around which everything revolved.  To begin
with, Ned Wilson was murdered.  Next, Paul Stepaside, who was being
tried for that murder, was guiltless of it; that also was a settled
conviction in her mind.  Who, then, was guilty?  Someone must have done
the deed, but who?  In whatever light murder could be considered, it
was something ghastly beyond words.  The person who had driven Paul's
knife into the murdered man's heart must have had a terrible motive.
What could that motive have been?  Who would be likely to do it?  Who
had a motive sufficiently strong to commit such a crime?  She thought
of one person after another, realising all the time that her imaginings
were vain.  Yet she knew that it was in this direction that the truth,
if it were to be discovered, must be found.

She went over the whole story of the knife, and remembered the deadly
words which the counsel for the prosecution had uttered about it.  The
knife was known to belong to Paul.  It was lying in his office, an
office which he always locked when he left it.  She remembered that
Paul's partner had sworn that he knew of no one who would be likely to,
or, indeed, could, enter the office and take it away without Paul's
knowledge and consent.  And yet someone must have done so, for she was
still certain that Paul had never done the deed.

Presently she began to think of the question from another standpoint.
She had told Paul that he was trying to shield someone.  She did not
attach much importance to it at the time, but now its consequence
became very real.  If her surmise were true, then Paul would rather
suffer death himself than tell what he knew.  She had pleaded with him,
only as a woman moved by a great love could plead.  With her arms round
his neck and her eyes fastened on his she had besought him to tell the
truth, and he had been silent.  Only the strongest of all reasons could
have kept him silent.

Her heart gave a great leap.  With that swift intuition of which only a
woman is capable her mind leapt to its conclusion.  There was only one
person in the world besides herself whom Paul loved dearly, and that
was his mother.

Like lightning she began to connect the evidence, and it seemed to her
that at last she had found the key to unlock the mystery.  It was for
his mother's sake that Paul was bearing the shame and was suffering the
torments of a man accused of murder.  She felt sure she had found the
truth, and she was at last in a position to save his life.  Everything
fitted in with the thought which had so suddenly flashed into her mind.
Who would have free access to Paul's office?  His mother.  Why should
he refuse to engage a counsel to defend him?  Because he feared to
incriminate his mother.  Again she read the evidence at the coroner's
inquest, and noted each point.  And she saw, or thought she saw,
evidence in every word he had uttered of his endeavour to keep all
thoughts from being directed to her.

Presently, however, difficulties began to appear before her mind.  What
motive could she have had to do this deed?  Again her mind worked
swiftly.  She was, according to all she had heard of her, a passionate
woman.  She loved Paul with all the strength of her being.  For him she
had toiled.  For him she had suffered.  And it was the gossip of the
town that Paul's mother loved her son with a wild and almost
unreasoning love.  She knew of Ned Wilson's enmity towards Paul, knew
how he had persecuted him through the years.  Possibly, probably, she
knew of her son's love for herself, Mary Bolitho; knew, too, that
gossip had connected her own name with that of Ned Wilson.  Of course,
a great deal of it was surmise, but everything pointed to the one fact.
Besides, Paul, on his return home after his quarrel with Wilson, would
probably tell her about it.  He would not be able to hide his wounded
forehead.  The blood would be trickling down his face, and she would
ask him questions about it.  Would not a vindictive, passionate woman
such as she was said to be, seek to avenge her son?  And, of course,
Paul would discover everything.  The evidence of the servants had
proved that Paul had left the house during the night.  Why?  Yes, that
was it.  Of course, he would do everything to keep even a shadow of
suspicion from resting upon her.  It would be like him to do so.
Paul's mother had come back, and he had discovered what she had done.
That would explain the mystery of the knife.  Paul, even though he
might have so far yielded to the spirit of revenge as to kill his
enemy, would never leave a knife in his victim's body known to be his,
and which could be identified and traced to him.  But a woman was
different, especially such a woman as Paul's mother.  Of course, there
were motives which she could not understand, thoughts in her mind which
were yet hidden from her; but this was the key, this would unlock the
door of the mystery, and this would save her lover's life.  No, no;
much as Paul might love his mother, much as he owed to her, she could
not allow him to suffer death in his mother's stead.  It was too
horrible.

She called to mind the scene she had witnessed that morning.  She
remembered being startled by the face of the woman who found her way
into the court.  She had seen the look of madness in her eyes as she
looked first at Paul and then at her father.  After which she uttered
the scream of a maniac and then fell to the ground.

Another thought struck her.  Was Paul's mother sane?  Would not this
account for the difficulties which, in spite of everything, she could
not explain away?  If she were mad, and carried away by the passion
which had been aroused by Wilson's attack on her son, would she not,
regardless of consequences, commit this deed of which Paul was accused?

Again and again she considered the circumstances, pondered over each
fact, weighed every scrap of evidence which had been adduced; and the
more she thought about it the more she was convinced that she had
arrived at the truth.  By and by, however, the terror of the whole
tragic scene came home to her.  What would Paul think of her if she
were instrumental in bringing his mother to the gallows?  Even his love
could not bear that test.  But she would do it.  Rather than see Paul
die a thousand should die; for while a woman's love is the most
beautiful and the most holy thing on earth, it is also the most
merciless and the most pitiless.  And at that moment no pity for others
entered the heart of Mary Bolitho.  Her one thought was of Paul.

No thought of sleep was possible.  Every faculty was awake, every nerve
in tension.  During the years in which she had been interested in her
father's work she had, out of pure curiosity, and because of her love
of intellectual problems, studied the cases with which he had been
connected, and her knowledge of the intricacies of the law and of the
value of evidence came to her aid now.  All she had was laid at Paul's
feet.  It was for him she must think, for him she must work.

But she must do something.  She must test her theories.  Surmises,
however true they might be, would not save the man she loved; and save
him she would, at whatever cost.

Her mind was made up at length.  She saw her course of action, and she
believed, too, that she saw a way whereby the truth might be
demonstrated.

"Paul, Paul, my love!" she cried.  "Do not fear.  I will save you, in
spite of everything."

She threw herself beside her bed and prayed for wisdom, prayed for
strength.  She cared nothing for the sacrifices she might be called
upon to make, or the sufferings which she might have to endure.  She
only asked God to help her to save the man she loved.

The following morning Mary Bolitho left the hotel and found her way to
the assize courts.  Early as it was, she found some of the officials
present.  One of them, who had seen her the day before and had been
informed who she was, touched his hat respectfully.

"I've been wondering," said Mary, smiling at the man, "whether you
could help me?"

"I'm sure I will if I can, miss," he replied.

"You were here at the courts all day yesterday?" she asked.

"Yes, miss, I was, and a sad business it was too, wasn't it?  Ah, miss,
it's not all fun being a judge, as I've no doubt you know very well.  I
was saying to my missis only last night as 'ow I wouldn't like to be in
your father's place.  T'other day, afore th' assizes were opened, and
people saw his lordship coming into the city, they thought what a grand
thing it were, but they don't realise what he's got to do."

The man was of a friendly, garrulous disposition, and seemed pleased at
the opportunity of talking to his fair visitor.

"Are you interested in this case?" she asked.

"Ay, miss, who isn't?  I heard Mr. Stepaside speak in the Free Trade
Hall here once, and I cannot believe he is a murderer.  It were a grand
speech he gave.  There were a Cabinet Minister who spoke before he did,
and people thought he were doing grandly, but when young Stepaside got
up he took the wind out of his sails completely.  As the manner of
saying is, he made the people stand on their heads.  It's noan for the
likes of me to pass opinions, but I can never believe as 'ow Mr.
Stepaside is guilty."

"Did you notice the woman who came into the court yesterday morning?"

"What, the one as fainted?  Ay, but that were Mr. Stepaside's mother.
She fair made me shiver.  Well, it was no wonder.  Fancy a mother
seeing her son in the dock.  I heerd as 'ow she was going to be called
to give evidence."

"Is she staying here in Manchester, do you know?"

"Ay, she is.  I hear as 'ow she's been here a week, waiting for her
son's trial to begin.  I know where she's staying, too--25 Dixon
Street, just off Strangeways.  An old man and an old woman live there,
and th' old man is very deaf.  I hear she's practically got the house
to hersen."

This was what Mary had come to find out, and she was glad that she had
been able to obtain her information without ostensibly asking for it.
A little later she found her way towards Dixon Street, and with a
trembling hand knocked at the door or the house which had been
mentioned.  As she heard footsteps in the passage her heart almost
failed her, for she realised the object which she had in mind, and she
believed that she would soon be face to face with the murderer of Ned
Wilson.  Still, she was not to be shaken in her purpose, as she had
determined the night before, no matter who might suffer, Paul must not
suffer.  A pale, near-sighted old woman opened the door to her.

"Is Mrs. Stepaside in?" asked Mary.

"Ay, she is."

"I would like to see her, if I may."

"Who might you be?"

"If you will take me to her I will tell her who I am."

The woman looked at her suspiciously.

"Has it got anything to do with the murder?" she said; and then added:
"Nay, the likes of you can have nowt to do with that!"

"Will you please take me to her?" said Mary.

"I don't know.  She's noan so well this morning.  Last night I left her
i' th' house alone.  Me and my old man went over to Crumpsall to see
our lass.  She said as 'ow she didn't mind being left alone, and so we
were away several hours.  But I was sorry afterwards that we went, for
she was in a fair way when we come back.  She looked just like a
corpse.  You see, she's brooding over her son.  Ay, but it's a terrible
business!"

"Will you please tell her a young lady wishes to see her?" urged Mary.

"She's in the little room behind, having her breakfast," said the
woman.  "Ay, I s'pose I may as well."

She led the way and Mary followed her, and a minute later entered the
room where Paul's mother was.

"Here's a young woman come to see you."

Paul's mother rose as the woman spoke, and looked at Mary intently.

"I've something to say to you," said Mary, "something very important."

"What is it about?"

"I'll tell you when we are alone," was Mary's reply.  And then, at a
nod from Paul's mother, the owner of the cottage left them together.

For a few seconds there was a silence between them, as each looked
steadily at each other.  In Mary's eyes were wonder and a sense of
horror.  She was speaking to Paul's mother, the mother of the man to
whom she had given her heart.  She was speaking, too, to the woman whom
she believed guilty of the crime for which Paul would be again tried
that day.  The other met her gaze steadily, and looked at her
searchingly.  She seemed to be trying to read her thoughts, trying to
understand her heart, for she knew, as if by instinct, who Mary
was--knew that she was looking at the maid whom Paul loved.  She did
not know that Mary had been to see her son, knew nothing of what had
passed between them, knew nothing of what Mary had confessed.  For the
moment she seemed to think of her only as the girl to whom Paul had
given his heart.

"Do you know who I am?" asked Mary.

"Yes, I know.  Why have you come here?"

The girl was silent.  She could not answer the question.  Determined to
save Paul as she was, she could not, at such a moment, make the reply
which she longed to make.

"Has your father told you anything?"

"Told me anything?  I do not understand."

"Ah!" replied the older woman, and she knew that Mary knew nothing of
what had taken place between her and Judge Bolitho in that very room
the night before.

"Let me look at you," she said presently.  "Come here to the light,"
and taking hold of Mary's arm, she led her to the window, and
scrutinised her face slowly.

"You're the lass that my Paul loves," she said, after some seconds.
"You know he loves you, don't you?  Of course you do.  He told me about
it himself.  Oh, my laddie, my laddie!"

Mary did not speak.  She seemed to be fascinated by something in the
woman's eyes, while the tones of her voice thrilled her.  She felt now
how she loved her son, realised a how deep was the passion which filled
her whole being.

"He's in prison, accused of murder--you know that?  He's to be tried
again to-day."

Still Mary was silent.  There seemed nothing for her to say.

"You love my lad, don't you?  Ay, I see you do.  Trust a mother to
know.  Yes, you love him, and he would die for you, willingly.  Do you
know that?"

"Yes," said Mary.

The interview was turning out altogether differently from what she had
expected.  This woman was leading her into paths she had not dreamt of.

"I'm his mother," went on the older woman, "and he's everything to me,
everything!  And I would stop at nothing to make him happy.  I'd lay
down my life, willingly, to bring joy into his heart.  But do you
understand?  Do you know the truth?"

"What truth?" asked Mary.  "I do not quite understand you.  Do I
believe Paul guilty?  No, I don't.  He could never do such a thing.
He's too great, too noble."

"Do you say that?  You?"

"Yes," replied Mary.  "I am sure he never did such a thing.  He's
simply incapable of it.  You know it, too, don't you?  Of course you
do."

"Then you take no notice of the evidence?"

"What's evidence?" asked the girl.  "The one thing I'm sure of is that
Paul never did what he is accused of.  He simply couldn't."

"And you're _his_ child!" said Paul's mother.  "_His_ child.  Let me
look at you again."  She scrutinised Mary's face feature by feature.
She seemed to be looking for something.

"You're a good lass," she said presently.  "And you love Paul, don't
you?"

"Yes," replied the girl, "I do."  There seemed nothing incongruous in
the confession, nothing strange in making it to the woman to whom she
was speaking for the first time.  And yet the interview was
bewildering.  Her thoughts, as she found her way along the grimy
street, were clear enough.  Now they were being scattered to the winds.
Neither could she adhere to her resolution.  How could she accuse this
woman of such a terrible deed?

"What have you come here for?" asked Paul's mother presently.

"Need you ask?" asked Mary.  "I've come to you because we must save
Paul."

"Do you think Paul needs our help?" asked the other.  "When the time
comes Paul will clear himself.  You do not know what a clever lad he
is.  I know what is being said about him.  I read it all in the papers,
but I don't fear.  Paul is cleverer than all of them put together, and,
of course, he never did it; he'll surely come triumphant out of this.
Oh, I know it's terrible for him; but it's not that that makes me fear,
it's something else!"

Again Mary's eyes met those of the other, and she was sure she detected
a look of madness.  The woman's mind was unhinged.  She was not
altogether responsible for what she was saying.

"No, it's not that," continued Paul's mother.  "It's not that.  Paul is
so clever that he will beat them all."

"Not unless the real murderer confesses," replied Mary.  "You see, I
know what Law Courts are, and what juries are, and I've read every word
of the evidence, and unless the real murderer is found, I am
afraid--terribly afraid!"

"You mean that they will hang him?"

Mary was silent.  She felt she could not utter the words that hung upon
her lips.

"That's why I've come to you," said Mary.  For the moment she felt like
uttering the thoughts which had been haunting her throughout the night,
but it seemed as though something sealed her lips.

"Will you not help me?" she said.  "We must work together."

For a moment Mary had made the other feel what she felt herself--that
Paul's life was really in danger--but only for a moment.

"No, no," she cried.  "They'll never hang him when they know what I
know!"

"What do you know?  Tell me," cried Mary, feeling that she was nearing
the object after which she strove.

"Yes, you must know.  The truth must come out.  After last night it
cannot be hidden long."

"My father, as you know, is the judge," said Mary.  "And he must do his
duty.  It's not he who's responsible; it is the jury, you know."

There was something unreal in her words, and they seemed to pass her
lips without any effort on her own part.  Paul's mother almost laughed.

"Why is it I feel so tender towards you?" she said, "when you are his
child?  I expect it is because I know that Paul loves you and that you
love him.  I ought to hate you.  I can't understand why I don't.  And
then everything is so tangled too."

Mary was sure now that she was talking to a mad woman.  Her words were
meaningless.  They were simply the ravings of a disordered mind.

"Can a man condemn his own son to death?" continued the older woman.
"Now that he knows the truth, can he send him to be hanged?"

Mary began to be afraid.  The woman's wild, unreasoning words and the
strange look in her eyes almost frightened her.

"I do not think you realise what you are saying."

"Not realise?" was the reply.  "Oh, my lass, my lass!  Yes, I see you
think I'm mad.  It would be no wonder if I were.  I've gone through
enough to unhinge any woman's mind; but, no, I am not mad.  Yes, I may
as well tell you, for you must know sooner or later, that judge--Judge
Bolitho as you call him--your father, is Paul's father too, and my
husband.  Paul has told you about it, hasn't he?  He married me when I
was a girl up among the Scotch hills, and he's Paul's father, and he's
your father too.  Don't you see?"

For a moment Mary was almost stunned.  In spite of the wild words which
she heard, she could not help being convinced of their truth.  Her mind
fled to the interview she had had with her father on the previous
night, and what the woman had said seemed to explain the terror in his
eyes and the mystery of his words.

"My father, Paul's father!"

"Yes; he courted me as Douglas Graham.  How he changed his name I don't
know yet; that will come, I suppose.  He is my husband and Paul's
father.  I told him so last night, so he knows--knows everything.  Why
didn't he tell you?  But--don't you see?--he cannot condemn Paul to
death.  How can a father condemn his own son?"

The two stood close by the window, and Paul's mother still had her hand
upon Mary Bolitho's shoulder, and was looking into her face.  Mary felt
the hand tremble, and saw the strong woman reel to and fro.

"You are ill, Mrs. Stepaside," cried Mary; and then, scarcely knowing
what she was doing, she led her to a chair.

"My lass," said the woman, "take me home.  Take me to the home Paul
gave me.  I cannot think here.  I cannot stay any longer.  Will you?"

"You mean that you wish me to go to Brunford with you?" asked Mary.

"Ay, if you will, my lassie.  I think I am going to be ill.  I feel as
though I have borne all I am able to bear, and I want to get home--to
the home which Paul gave me.  Will you come with me?"

Mary was almost overwhelmed by what she had heard during the last few
minutes.  She was not sure that the woman's story was true, and yet she
felt it might be, that it probably was.  She wanted to be alone to
think.  If her father were Paul's father, then, then----

The thought was staggering, overwhelming, but above and beyond
everything, Paul's safety, Paul's salvation was her great and paramount
thought.  She quickly made up her mind what to do.  She could do no
good in Manchester, and if she accompanied this woman to Brunford she
might be able to find proofs to confirm her convictions.

"Yes; I will go with you," she said.

"Thank you, my lassie.  Ay, but you're a good child, and you're bonnie,
too.  No wonder my Paul loves you better than he loves his mother!"

"Are you sure you are well enough to travel?" asked Mary.

"Yes, I am sure I'm well enough to get home."

"Then excuse me for a little while," said Mary.  "I will go back to the
hotel and pack a few things, and come for you with a cab.  In half an
hour I will be here.  Can you get ready in that time?"

"Ay, I'll be ready; you need not fear."

A few minutes later Mary was back at the hotel again.  When she arrived
there she found that her father had gone.  It was still early for the
assize courts, but she paid no attention to it.  There was doubtless
sufficient reason for her father's early departure.  Perhaps,
perhaps----  But she could not formulate the thoughts which one after
another flashed through her mind.  Seizing a piece of paper, she
scribbled a hasty note and gave it to the hall porter.

"This is for Judge Bolitho," she said, and then, entering the cab which
waited for her, she drove quickly to Dixon Street.  Arriving there she
found Paul's mother was ready for her, and ere long they were in the
train bound for Brunford.

During the journey scarcely a word passed between them.  Mary was busy
with her own thoughts.  She was trying to bring some order out of the
confusion of the events which had been narrated to her.  Everything was
altered.  If what the woman had told her was true--and in spite of
everything she believed it was--then Paul was her half-brother; and if
Paul were her half-brother and his mother were still alive, then,
then----

But she would not trouble about this, bewildering as it was.  What
mattered her own future?  What mattered what the world might say?  Her
first business was to save Paul, and save him she would, at all
hazards.  She looked at her companion, who sat near to her staring into
vacancy.  Mary's excited imagination began to conjure up wild fancies
as she looked.  She thought of what Paul's mother must have been
twenty-five years before, tried to picture her as a girl.  Yes, she
must have been very beautiful, and might easily have attracted such a
young man as her father was at the time.  She fancied the two up among
the bare Scottish hills, saw the flash of the young girl's eyes when
the stranger told her he loved her, realised the throbbing of her
heart, the joy, the wonder which must have possessed her when she
promised to be his wife.  For the moment all the grim realities of the
present seemed to retire to the background.  She lived in the world of
fancy, of imagination, and the poetry and the romance of the past
became very beautiful to her.  Strange to say, her own part in the
affair did not for the moment trouble her.  The terrible logic of
events were not yet real to her.  By and by they would appear to her in
all their ghastly nakedness, but now they did not seem to matter.

"If I am going to be ill," said Paul's mother, "you'll stay with me,
won't you?"

"Yes," she replied, not realising what the words might mean.

"You see I shall be all alone.  I have no friends in Brunford.  Many
would have liked to be friends with me for Paul's sake, but I kept them
all at a distance.  You see I waited until my name was cleared, and it
will soon be cleared now."

"What do you mean?"

"Why, he knows, he knows everything--I mean your father.  He's afraid
of Paul, I know he is; he always has been.  It's strange that Paul is
not anything like him, isn't it?  Paul has black hair and black eyes,
just as I have.  He's my boy, my boy!  Thank God for that!  And they
can't harm him, can they?  You are sure of that."

Mary was silent.  The meaning of the work she had to do became real to
her now.  She, too, believed that no harm could come to Paul, but she
realised the cost of his salvation.  Paul could never be saved until
the true murderer was found and proved to be the murderer.

"I am afraid I am going to be ill," went on the older woman.  "These
last few weeks have been too much for me.  And you've promised to stay
with me, haven't you?"

"Yes," replied Mary eagerly.  "I'll stay with you, and you must tell me
everything."

"Everything?  What do you mean?"

"Oh, everything," replied Mary, and into her heart came the
determination to wring the confession from her at whatever cost.

Presently the smoky chimneys of Brunford appeared, and Mary looked out
of the carriage window over the great, ugly town; but somehow it did
not seem ugly to her--the grey sky, the long rows of cottages, the
hundreds of chimneys belching out half-consumed coals did not repel
her.  This was Paul's town.  He was member of Parliament for it.  It
was here he had made his position.  It was here, too, she had first
seen him, and here he had learnt to love her.

"You've never seen the home Paul has given me?" she heard her companion
say.  "It is the prettiest home in Brunford.  Paul did it all for me.
You won't think you're in Brunford when you get there.  It's quiet and
clean up there.  The birds sing in the springtime, and the smoke
doesn't blow that way as a rule.  I never saw another house like it.
Oh!  I would gladly die there.  All I want now is to see my Paul happy.
As for the other man----"

She ceased speaking here, and Mary noted the angry flash of her eyes,
watched the quivering lips, and wondered of what she was thinking.

"There will be no servants in the house," went on Paul's mother
presently.  "They are in Manchester.  They have been summoned for
witnesses.  But I told Mrs. Bradshaw to keep everything bright and
clean, as I might come home any minute.  I thought that before now Paul
and I would be back together, and so she'll be expecting us.  You're
not hungry, are you?"

"No," said Mary.

"I expect he'll be acquitted to-day," she went on.  "That man can't sit
in judgment on him any longer now, and the people will be glad.  Won't
there be shouting when my Paul comes home?"

When they arrived at Brunford station, Mary noted how the porters
looked curiously at them and spoke one to another in whispers.  She
knew that before an hour was over the whole town would be talking about
them.  They would be wondering why she, the judge's daughter, should
accompany the mother of the man who was accused of murder.  But she did
not trouble about it.  She called a cab, and a few minutes later they
were on their way to Paul's home.

Mary began to get excited.  Once in Paul's house she would be able to
examine everything, and would perhaps discover things that would lead
the woman by her side to make her confession.  She felt sure that she
was on the track of discovery, felt convinced that before long the
truth would come to light.

When they arrived at the house Mary found the door standing open, and a
motherly-looking woman waiting to receive them.

"I've done as yo' told me, Mrs. Stepaside," said Mrs. Bradshaw the
woman.  "There's a fire in the kitchen range, and another in the study,
and everything is clean and nice."

"Mrs. Stepaside is not very well," said Mary quietly.  "I've come with
her from Manchester.  But she will be all right with me."

"And who might yo' be?" asked Mrs. Bradshaw suspiciously.

"I'm Mrs. Stepaside's friend," she replied.  "Will you lead the way to
the room where the fire is?"

A few minutes later they were in the house alone.  Mrs. Bradshaw had
brought a cup of tea, and then, saying she'd be back again presently,
had left them.

"Somehow I don't feel a bit lonely now you're here.  Why is it, I
wonder?" and the older woman looked into Mary's face curiously.

"I'm glad you're not lonely," said Mary.  "Are you well enough to talk?"

"Ay, I'm feeling ever so much better.  I wonder why it is?"

"Did you sleep last night?" asked Mary.

"Nay, I couldn't sleep.  Was it any wonder?  You see we met after all
those long years, and I told him the truth.  Ay; but he's
suffering--he's suffering!  And it's right he should, too.  Ay, and I'm
suffering, too, my lassie.  I feel strange.  I think I'll go to bed if
you'll help me."

As Mary helped her upstairs she felt like one in a dream.  Everything
was intangible, unreal.  What was she doing in this house?  What right
had she to be waiting on this woman so carefully and tenderly, when she
was guilty of the awful deed which threatened to bring Paul to the
gallows?  But she spoke no word.

A little later they were in the bedroom together, and Mary was
ministering to her with almost tender solicitude.

"Sit by me while I sleep, won't you?  I don't know how long it is since
sleep came to me, but I feel now as though I could rest.  Ay, lass, but
you are bonnie!  It's no wonder that my Paul loves you."

Her overwrought powers had doubtless given way.  The scenes through
which she had passed had made her incapable of realising the true
consequences of everything.  Mother Nature had come to her aid, and in
her own way was applying healing balm.

A little later she was sleeping like a child.

Mary sat almost motionless by her side for some time.  Things were
turning out altogether differently from what she had expected.  Up to
the present she had made no accusation.  She had not even suggested
what she was sure was the truth.  She wondered why it was.  All the
same, she waited, feeling sure that her time would come.

Presently, noting that Paul's mother was not likely to wake, she left
the room; and then, led by a strange curiosity, wandered round the
house.  She went into Paul's bedroom.  She knew it was his by a
thousand things.  Here he had dreamed his dreams and made his plans.
He had dreamed of her, doubtless, not knowing that she was his
sister--his sister!  She could not realise it.  Her brain, her heart,
refused to accept it as a fact, and yet she felt sure it was so.  Again
she went into the study, the little den which Paul had taken so much
care to furnish.  She looked lovingly at his books and noted those
which he had evidently used most.  She went to the writing-table where
he had done his work, and noted the various pictures which hung around
the room.  It was not like the ordinary Lancashire manufacturer's house
at all.  It suggested the student, the man of letters, the lover of
art.  And how silent it was!  Away in the distance was the hum of the
busy town, but here, sheltered by the great hills which sloped away
behind, all was peace.  After sitting for a time, she went into Paul's
mother's bedroom again, and watched her as she lay asleep.  Could what
she had dreamt of be true?  Could this woman who lay sleeping as
peacefully as a child be guilty of the terrible crime of which she had
accused her?  In her sleep she looked almost like a girl.  The lines
had somehow left her face, as though an angel's hand had wiped them
out.  A smile was upon her lips.  In her sleep she did not suggest a
strong, passionate woman, but the girl whom any lad might love.

She left the room again and wandered aimlessly around.  She found a
strange interest in being in Paul's home.  She felt, too, as though she
had a right there; and why should she not have that right, since Paul
was her brother?  More than once she looked toward the garden gate as
if expecting that he would come in.  She did not think of him as being
tried for his life in the assize courts at Manchester.  But she had
strange fancies of what was happening there.  What would her father
say?  What would he do?

Presently she heard shrill cries in the road not far distant.  She
listened attentively.

"Wonderful confession at Manchester!"  It was a boy's voice she heard,
and every word reached her clearly.

"Strange confession by the judge!  Paul Stepaside's father!"

Heedless of what she was doing, she rushed down the garden path, and
found her way into the street in the near distance.  A boy was selling
newspapers.  She bought one, and hurried back to the house.  She had no
idea of the lapse of time, did not realise that it was now three
o'clock in the afternoon.  She had come by a slow train from
Manchester, and Paul's mother had been sleeping for hours.

Eagerly she opened the paper, and there, great staring headlines met
her gaze.  For a long time she was absorbed by what she read.  There,
in cold, plain words, was her father's confession.  It was true, then;
every word of it was true.  She did not know why she did it, but,
taking the paper in her hand, she hurried upstairs to the bedroom where
she had left Paul's mother asleep.  The town hall clock was chiming in
the distance.  She looked at her own watch, and saw that it was
half-past four.  She had been reading the paper for an hour.  As she
entered the woman on the bed awoke.

"Something's happened, my lassie.  What is it?"

"It's all here," said Mary.  "It's all here.  Shall I read it to you?"



CHAPTER XXIX

MARY'S ACCUSATION

As Mary looked at Paul's mother she noted the improvement in her looks.
The wild, mad expression of her eyes had gone.  She appeared more
human, more womanly.

"Yes, read it to me," she said.  "It's something about Paul, isn't it?
Have they acquitted him?"

"Listen!" said Mary.  "A wonderful thing's happened.  What you told me
was true.  My father has made a confession before the court.  Oh! what
it must have cost him!"

"Confession?  Read it!  Read it!"

And Mary read, while the woman lay still and silent.

The paper which she had obtained was one of the principal Manchester
evening journals.  The members of its staff had, immediately after
Judge Bolitho's confession, rushed eagerly to the office with their
copy.  Perhaps it was one of the most graphic descriptions of the scene
which appeared in any journal, and caught more truly the inwardness of
the event which set all Lancashire talking, than any other.  Mary read
the whole story from beginning to end; read the description of Paul's
entrance into the prisoner's dock, the great excitement which pervaded
the court as all present waited for the judge; read the description of
how his lordship looked, and of the tremendous emotion under which he
was labouring.  It was a fine piece of journalism, done by a man who
afterwards occupied a high position on one of the great London dailies.
He made the scene live, made everything so real and vivid that these
women, who were so terribly interested in the story, saw everything as
he saw.

Paul's mother lay rigid as Mary read the judge's words, until finally
she came to the confession.  "This I do wish to say, here in the
presence of those who have gathered together to witness this trial.
Paul Stepaside is my lawful son, and, unknowingly, I have sinned
against him grievously and greatly; his mother is my lawful wife.  He
is my lawful son, and I do here and now confess the wrong which I have
done to him, and I do it because my conscience commands me to do so,
and because I wish to ask my son's forgiveness."

As Mary read these words the woman rose in her bed and gave a cry of
joy.

"At last!  At last!" she said.  "But I never thought he would do this.
No, no; I never dreamed of it.  He's confessed it before everyone.
Don't you see, my lassie?  He's confessed it there in the open court
that I'm his lawful wife and that Paul is his lawful son!  There's no
stain upon his name now--and no stain on mine either!"

She sat up in the bed, her eyes aglow.  She was radiant.  She did not
think of what this might mean to Mary, did not realise that the
vindication of her own honour might mean Mary's shame.  That never
entered into her mind.  All her thought was of Paul; and even her joy
that all disgrace was taken away from her was because thereby Paul's
name would be honoured.  She looked years younger.  It seemed as though
a great weight had rolled from her mind, as though the dark skies had
been made clear and the sun were shining.

"Are you not glad, my lassie?  Does it not rejoice your heart?  Think
of it!  Think of it!"

But Mary was silent.  Naturally, the happenings of the day had
bewildered her, almost unhinged her own mind.  She thought, too, of
what her father had suffered.  No one knew better than she what a proud
man he was and what it must have cost him to have made this confession.
But more than all this she realised Paul's danger.  Although she was
greatly moved by the revelations which had been made, although her
being had been aroused to its very depths and her life become
revolutionised, the thought which was above every other thought was
Paul's safety.  She knew what her father's confession would mean.  If
he could no longer be the judge, then another would be appointed; and
as she read her father's words she seemed to feel that he believed his
son to be guilty of the deed of which he was accused.  And if her
father believed this, would not the judge who would try the case anew
believe it also?  And if the judge believed it, would not the jury
believe it, and condemn him?

"What is the matter, my lassie?  You don't look glad.  You are pale.
What do you fear?"

Even then Paul's mother did not think of what it might mean to Mary.
Nothing mattered but her own son.

"But what of Paul?" Mary said.  "We must save him!"

"Paul, Paul?  What do you mean?"

"I am afraid," said Mary.  "Do you not see what my father said?  'If
Paul Stepaside is guilty of the murder of Edward Wilson----'  Oh, don't
you see--don't you see?"

"But they cannot harm my Paul--they cannot, they cannot!"

"But we must save him!" cried Mary.  "Do you know of anything?  You do,
don't you?  Paul never committed this murder.  He couldn't do it.  But
unless the real murderer is found he will have to die.  Don't you
understand?"

"Paul die?  Paul die?"

"Yes; they will condemn him unless the real murderer appears.  Everyone
says so.  And you know who did it, don't you?"

"Do you mean to say that you think my Paul cannot get himself off?"

"Oh, don't you realise?" cried Mary.  "Jurymen are stupid.  They only
look at the surface of things.  Of course I know he didn't do it.  I
know he couldn't!  But unless the truth comes to light, the jury will
condemn him, and then, no matter who is judge, he will be hanged!
Don't you see--don't you see?"

"Do you believe this?"

"I can't help believing it," replied the girl.  "I've heard my father
discuss law cases again and again, and I know what will happen.  Won't
you tell what you know?  Won't you confess?  For you do know, don't
you?"

"But do you mean that you, who love my Paul, who believe in him, who
know how clever he is, and who are sure he's innocent, do you believe
that he can't clear himself?"

"How can he, when the evidence all points to him?  Someone killed Ned
Wilson.  Someone struck the blow with Paul's knife.  Don't you see?
Who did it?  You know!"

"I know?"

"Yes, you know.  Paul is trying to shield someone; you know he is.  Who
is he trying to shield?  He's giving his life for someone.  Who would
he give his life for?  He's refused to go into the witness-box, refused
to confide in anyone.  Don't you see the meaning of it?  Who is there
in Brunford or anywhere else that Paul would be willing to die
for?--for that is what it means.  Why is he silent?  You know; tell me."

The girl was wrought up to such a pitch of excitement now that she did
not care what she said; neither had she any pity in her heart.  She
felt almost angry, too, that this woman should be so rejoiced because
of what she had read to her when all the time Paul was in danger of
death.  What mattered name, what mattered honour, what mattered
anything if Paul were pronounced guilty?

"_I_ know, my lassie.  _I_ know," cried the woman.

"Of course you know--you _must_ know.  Who is Paul trying to shield,
tell me that?  Who went into Paul's office and got the knife?  Paul did
not kill Ned Wilson.  Who did?  Tell me that!"

She fixed her eyes on the elder woman, and there was such intensity in
her look, such passion in the words she had spoken, that at length Paul
Stepaside's mother guessed what was in her heart.

"You believe that Paul is shielding me?" she said quietly.  "You
believe that I murdered him?" and her voice was hard and stern.

"It was not Paul who did it," said Mary.  "Although a thousand men were
to swear they saw him do it, I would not believe them.  Who did it,
then?"

"And you believe that?"

"Who is Paul trying to shield?" repeated the girl, with almost
monotonous iteration.

For a few seconds a painful silence fell between them, and it was
evident by the look on the face of the elder woman that she was
thinking deeply.

"Do you believe," and her voice was almost hoarse, "do you believe, my
lassie, that Paul is lying in that gaol charged with murder because he
wants to shield me?"

"What else can I believe?" cried Mary.  "Tell me the truth.  You say
you love your son; if your love is worth anything, you will confess to
the truth!"

Again a painful silence fell between them.  The elder woman, who sat up
in bed, seemed to be trying to realise the meaning of the other's
words.  She might have been living over the night of the murder again.

Presently she fixed her gaze upon Mary, and the girl saw that the old
mad light was coming back into her eyes again.

"You believe that--that!" she gasped.  Her body swayed to and fro for a
moment, and then she fell back on the bed like one dead.

A great fear came into Mary's heart.  She believed that Paul's mother,
stricken to the heart by her accusation, and realising the terrible
import of her silence, had been killed by her words.  For a moment she
did not know what to do, but, soon overcoming her weakness, she tried
to restore her to life.  She put her ear over the heart of the
prostrate form on the bed, and gave a cry of satisfaction.  "No; she's
not dead, she's not dead!"

But what could she do?  She was there alone in the house with this
unconscious woman.  She had little or no knowledge of nursing, and she
did not know how to obtain help.  But help she must obtain.  This woman
must not die--at least, before she had made her full confession.  Even
yet Paul's safety was the great thought in her mind.  Nothing seemed to
matter beside that.

There was a sound of footsteps, and she heard Mrs. Bradshaw's voice
asking whether she could do anything.  It seemed like Providence that
the woman should have entered at this moment, and eagerly she rushed to
her.

"Mrs. Stepaside is worse!" she cried.  "She ought to have a doctor.
Could you run and fetch one?"

"My boy's at home," said Mrs. Bradshaw.  "I'll send him up to Dr.
White's house at once.  He's the best man in Brunford, and he's
friendly with Paul, too."

"Does he live far away?"

"No, not so far.  There are one or two others who live nearer, but I
don't reckon much on 'em."

"Run, then, quick!" said Mary.  "There's no time to be lost."

"Ay, and after I've sent Peter Matthew I'll come in again and get you
something to eat.  You must be fair pined."

Mary returned to the room again, and waited what seemed to her an
interminable length of time, looking anxiously at the sick woman the
whole time.  She lay very still, almost motionless in fact, but Mary
was sure she was not dead, and she prayed as she had never prayed
before that she might live.  As it seemed to her, it was not Paul's
mother's life that hung in the balance, but Paul's.

At length Dr. White came, and went quickly into the bedroom.  Dr. White
was a tall, spare man, between forty and fifty years of age.  He was
one of those doctors who loved his profession with a love almost
amounting to passion, and he had worked himself almost to a skeleton.
People said that he ought to be a very rich man, but he was not.  A
great part of the service he rendered was a labour of love.  Scores of
people in Brunford wondered why he never sent a bill to them, and when
he was asked the reasons for his remissness, he always put the
inquirers off with a laugh.  "Oh, you'll be getting it some day."  The
truth was he hated sending bills to poor people, and his great delight
was not in receiving cheques or payment for his services, but in seeing
his patients restored to health and strength again.  He was almost
worshipped in the town, and, indeed, no one worked so hard for the good
of the people as he did in his own way.

When he entered the room he looked at Mary rather wonderingly, but
asked no questions.  He went straight to the patient's bedside, and
examined her carefully.  When he had completed his examination he
turned to the young girl, who was watching him with wide, staring eyes.

"When did this happen?" he said.

Mary began to explain Mrs. Stepaside's relationship to the accused man
in Manchester and of the sufferings through which she had gone.

"I know all about that," said the doctor.  "But tell me the immediate
cause of this."

As may be imagined, this was a difficult task, but Mary's ready wit
helped her through with it.

"I brought her from Manchester this morning," she said.  "She did not
seem very well then, and she asked me to come with her.  Then,
then----"  And her eyes rested upon the newspaper which she had been
reading.

"Oh, I see," said the doctor.  "It was a sudden shock.  Yes; it's quite
understandable--long weeks of suspense and agony, and then this on the
top of it!"  He did not ask any further questions, for Dr. White was a
wise man.  He knew the whole circumstances of Paul's arrest, and was
therefore able to estimate the truth.

"Mrs. Stepaside has had a great shock.  Of course, I need not repeat
that, and she may lie like this for some days.  One cannot tell the
developments which will take place."

"Do you think she will die?" asked Mary anxiously.

"She's had enough to kill her, anyhow!" replied the doctor, "but she
may pull through.  We'll do our best.  Whatever happens, nothing must
be said or done to agitate her--you understand that?  I fancy she will
have fleeting periods of consciousness, but she must be always met with
a smile.  I am sure you understand this?"

"But how long will it be before--before she is allowed to talk?"

"Weeks!" replied the doctor shortly; and the word seemed like a knell
of death.  If Paul's mother were not allowed to speak, if she could not
make her confession, then Paul might die!  The thought was horrible,
yet what could she do?  Even if she became strong enough to speak and
to make her confession, it would not be of any value.  Any judge or
jury would regard it as the ravings of a disordered mind.

"You're here alone," went on the doctor.  "Of course I understand why
you came with her," and again he looked at the newspaper which Mary had
been reading.

The girl did not reply, and the doctor went on.  "But you must have
help.  It would be madness for you to remain here alone.  Of course the
servants are in Manchester.  They have been summoned as witnesses.  But
do not trouble; I'll help you.  I'll send a nurse at once, and I think
I can manage about the servants, too--that's the best of knowing
everyone, Miss Bolitho.  I'll call again in a couple of hours.
Good-day."

To Mary the man's conduct seemed utterly brutal.  He uttered no word of
comfort.  The few words he spoke were curt, almost harsh; and yet she
knew he was a kind man.  She continued to sit by the bed, looking at
the sick woman's face, her heart filled with a great dread.  She could
do nothing.  She must only remain there and wait and watch.

In about an hour Dr. White returned.  This time there was a nurse with
him.  Mary did not know that he had, on leaving her, driven to the
hospital at a speed which endangered the community, obtained the
services of a nurse, and then came back at the same headlong pace.  She
did not know, either, that he had set means on foot whereby a capable
woman would be secured to look after the house.  Dr. White was not a
man who talked much, but he did a great deal.  He seemed to be pleased
with the patient's condition on his return.  As far as he could judge
there were no evil signs.

"Now, Miss Bolitho," he said as he went away, "I want you to understand
that Paul Stepaside's mother is not the only patient I have.  You are
another.  You must go to bed immediately."

"I could not--I could not!" she cried.

"Very well, then," said the doctor.  "I noticed as I came up that there
was a fire in Stepaside's study.  There's a comfortable sofa there.  Go
and lie down."

"I could not lie down!"

"But I say you can, and you must!" said the doctor.  "Here, I've
brought something for you."

He poured a powder into a glass of water, and bade Mary drink it.  The
girl obeyed him.

"Now," he said.  "Come down at once."

He led her downstairs by the arm into Paul's study, and having arranged
the cushions on the sofa, he insisted on her lying down.  Seizing a
rug, he wrapped her up in it just as a father might.

"I'm not going to have you ill," he said.  "Remember that!  I'll call
again to-night, but not before ten o'clock.  I've a busy evening before
me.  In less than half an hour you'll be asleep, and you'll sleep for
at least three hours; then you'll wake up better.  By that time some
dinner will be ready for you.  What a grand thing it is to have a
meddling fellow who takes everything out of your hands, isn't it?" and
he gave the ghost of a laugh.

A few minutes later Mary felt a sense of drowsiness creeping over her,
and then became unconscious.

When she awoke again it was to find her father sitting by her side.

She started up from the couch, for the moment unable to realise the
situation.  At first she thought she was back in the hotel in
Manchester, but in a few seconds she realised the truth.

"Father!" she exclaimed.

"Yes, Mary.  I felt sure you'd come here.  Directly I could get away I
came as fast as I could, but the trains are terribly slow.  I've only
been here a few minutes."

For a few seconds there was a silence between them.  Each seemed to
know all that the other was thinking.

"I felt I must have a talk with you, Mary," said Judge Bolitho at
length.  "There are so many things to say, and so many things to do.
Could I stay here to-night, I wonder?  I must go back to Manchester
again to-morrow morning."

"Why, father?"

"Of course you have read the newspapers.  You know what took place in
Manchester this morning?"

He spoke calmly and collectedly now.  In one sense it seemed as though
a great burden had been lifted from his mind.  From the way he spoke,
too, he might regard his confession as of little import.

"Father," cried the girl, "it's so bewildering, so terrible!"

"Yes, yes; I know.  I've a great deal to tell you some time, Mary, but
not now.  You see I've passed through a great deal during the last
twenty-four hours.  All life has changed.  What the future may bring
forth God only knows.  But I've done the right thing now.  I sometimes
think, Mary, that one of the greatest sins in life, the sin which leads
the way to more than any other, is that of cowardice; and I was a
coward.  My God! what a coward I was!  And I'm paying for it now.  But
for that I might have been a happy man; I might have had----"

He rose to his feet as he spoke and walked across the room.  He seemed
to be pondering deeply.

"Of course you despise me, Mary," he said.  "You cannot help it.
Everyone despises me.  It's right and natural.  I needn't tell you any
further about it now, need I?  You've read what is in the paper?  You
understand?"

"Yes, I think, I--I--I think I understand.  But, father, we must save
Paul!  Whatever happens, we must save Paul!"

"If it is possible," said the judge.  "For, oh!  God helping me----
Yes, I should die!  It would kill me if--if the worst comes to the
worst!  That's why I came, Mary.  I must have another talk with her.  I
think after to-morrow I shall be free; but I must go to Manchester
then, perhaps to London.  There are so many formalities to be complied
with.  But never mind, formalities or no formalities, nothing must
stand in the way of his salvation."

"He's not guilty, father; you know that?  He's been shielding someone
all the time.  That's why he would have no one to defend him.  That's
why he confided in no one.  I'm sure of it!"

The judge nodded his head.  He, too, had been thinking deeply, and his
trained mind had gone farther into the matter than that of Mary.

"Yes; I've been thinking of that," was his reply.  "In fact, I felt
almost sure of it when I went to see him to-day."

"You've, been to see him to-day?  What?  Since what you said in the
court?  What did he say?  How did he look?  Did he--did he----"

"The thing that troubles me," said the judge, interrupting, "is
this--who is Paul trying to shield?"

The girl looked anxiously around the room, then went to the door and
peered into the passage outside.

"Can't you think, father?  Whom would he be likely to shield?  I
accused her of it this afternoon.  I could not help it.  The doctor
doesn't know, but that's why she's so ill now.  When she realised what
I meant, she seemed like one struck down by a blow."

"You mean to say," he gasped, "that you believe Jean--that is, his
mother--was----"  He did not finish the sentence.  It seemed too
horrible, too terrible.

"No, Mary," he continued at length.  "That's not it."

"But it must be, father."

"No; that's not it.  Now then, tell me everything you know.  You went
to Dixon Street this morning; the woman told me all about it.  You
brought her here.  You had a talk with her.  Tell me everything that
has taken place.  You went to see Paul before the trial, too.  Tell me
everything."

Half an hour later Judge Bolitho was in possession, not only of all
that Mary knew, but of all her suspicions and her reasons for those
suspicions.  He had submitted her to a very thorough cross-examination.
His mind had fastened upon a hundred things of which she had taken no
cognisance.  He saw through the fallacies of her reasoning, and drew
his conclusions accordingly.  His mind was quick and active now.  It
seemed as though his freedom from the responsibilities of his judgeship
gave him a sense of liberty.  The fact that he had work to do had done
something to lessen the remorse which was gnawing at his heart.

"I must go over this whole business again, Mary," he said.  "Did you
say that you had those Brunford papers here with you?"

"Yes, father; every one."

"And I have all the other facts since.  Oh, my boy, my boy!"

"You believe you can save him?"

"I will, I will!" he cried.  "I have sinned, but God will never allow
me to suffer this.  He could not.  One thing my confession to-day will
do, too--it will give me time.  There's sure to be some delay before
another judge is appointed, and the whole case will have to be tried
again.  Meanwhile I must be up and doing."

"Oh, if she were only conscious!" said Mary.  "But the doctor says that
perhaps she will be unconscious for weeks, and under no circumstances
must she be questioned."

"Did she speak of me?" asked the judge.

"Only indirectly."

"Did she seem to despise me--hate me?"

The girl was silent, and the judge understood what her silence meant.

"It's just," he said.  "It's just.  But I must save Paul!"

A knock came to the door, and the woman whom Dr. White had obtained
told them there was food in the dining-room.

"Thank you," said the judge.  "Yes, we must eat, Mary; it seems like
waste of time, but we must.  And after we have had some dinner I'll
read through everything again.  There must be a way out.  Are you well
enough to run upstairs, Mary, and ask how--how--she is?"

There was a strange, yearning look in his eyes as he spoke.  He might
have been ashamed, too--there was indeed a change in Judge Bolitho.

"She's no worse," said Mary, coming down a few minutes later.  "The
nurse says she is sleeping peacefully.  The doctor will be here in a
little while now.  He seems a very hard-hearted man, but he admires
Paul greatly, and he's very clever."

During the meal both of them were silent.  Each, of them had much food
for thought, and there are times when words are vain.

"To think," said the judge, when they had finished their dinner, "that
I should be here in this way, in my son's house, and that his
mother----  Mary, bring me those papers, will you?"

A little later he was deeply immersed in the early history of the
trial, noting each detail, fastening upon every weakness of the charge
and the difficulties of defence.  It seemed to him as though he were
practising at the bar again, and he were preparing his case for the
defence of the prisoner.  But this time he had an interest never known
to him before.  It was for him to fight for the life of his own son.

Presently he heard the doctor's step on the stairs.  He had been in the
sick-room, and when he had finished his visit, Mary had led him to the
room where her father was.  Dr. White looked at the judge curiously.
At each house he had called that afternoon there was but one subject of
discussion.  No one knew that Judge Bolitho was in Brunford; had they
done so, excitement would have exceeded all bounds; but as it was, the
confession which he had made had set the whole town talking.

"Will you tell me how my wife is?" asked the judge.

"Your wife?" queried the doctor.

"Yes, my wife.  Will you tell me how she is?"

The doctor gave a significant glance at Mary, which the judge was not
slow to interpret; but he made no sign.  Now that he had made his
confession and told the truth, he was the same proud man who, not long
before, had been Member of Parliament for that town.

"She's very ill," said the doctor.

"But she will not die, will she?"

"Of course, that's impossible to say.  She's a strong woman, but she's
had--well, you know what she's had to bear."

The judge nodded.  "But will she get better?"

"I do not think she will die just yet."

"What do you mean by that?"

"I think it is possible her body may recover."

"But her mind?" said the judge, noting the significance of the doctor's
words.

"Concerning her mind I can promise nothing," said the doctor.  "The
strain she has borne for so long has been enough to drive one of her
sensitive nature mad."

The judge was silent for a few seconds, then he spoke in his old,
almost authoritative tones.

"Let nothing be left undone, doctor," he said.  "Engage any help you
think may be of value to you.  You know the best man in your
profession.  Get into communication with him at once.  We must fight,
man; we must fight!"

There was a ring of defiance in his voice, and even then Mary thought
how different he was from the preceding night, when she had parted from
him in Manchester.

"Have you made up your mind what to do, father?" she asked, when the
doctor had gone.

"Yes, I have.  By the way, Mary, I know you must be longing to ask
questions about yourself, but----"

"Don't trouble about me now, father.  I know what you are thinking of.
But my name, my future, are nothing compared with----  Oh, father, we
must save Paul!"

"If it is within the realm of human possibility we will, Mary."

"And you believe it is?"

"Give me three days," said the father, "and then perhaps I can tell
you."



CHAPTER XXX

THE TESTIMONY OF ARCHIE FEARN

"Father, have you discovered anything?"

"Nothing," and the judge shook his head despondently.  "It seems as
though every road is a cul-de-sac.  I have followed up hundreds of
clues, and they have all ended in nothing."

"You know what I believe, father?"

"I know, Mary; but you're wrong."

"But Paul never did it!"  She seemed never to grow weary of making this
assertion.  No matter how strong the evidence might be, no matter what
the world might say, nothing shook her.

"Branscombe thinks so."

"He has not told you, has he?"

"Oh, no.  I have not said a word to him about the trial; but I've been
reading the evidence this evening--you know, the case came on again
this morning--and it's clear to me from his questions that he has no
doubt about the matter.  Things looked very black against Paul when the
case was adjourned this evening."

A look of wild terror came into Mary's eyes.  "But, father, don't you
see?" she cried.  "Paul had no secrets from his mother.  He told her
everything--everything.  When he came home that night, after his
quarrel with Wilson, he would tell the whole story to her.
Afterwards----  Can't you see, father?  Can't you see?"

"We've gone over this ground a hundred times," said the judge.  "But it
won't do, Mary.  In any case, it would be impossible to make an
accusation against her.  No one saw her that night, and, as far as I
can see, nothing can be traced to her in any way.  And even if it
could----  Don't you understand, Mary?"

"And will you allow Paul to be hanged?"

The judge was silent.  They were sitting alone in Paul's study some
days after the judge had made his confession.  He had been true to his
promise, and had devoted every possible moment to the elucidation of
the mystery which faced him.  He had brought all his knowledge of the
law to bear upon it; he had utilised all his experience in the
discovery of criminals; he had exerted himself to the utmost; but there
was not a ray of light anywhere.

"Do you know anything?  Have you heard anything more?" he asked.

"As you know," replied Mary, "she has not been fully conscious ever
since that day.  But I have found out something.  This afternoon she
has been much better, and now and then there seemed to be some return
of reason."

"Well?"

"Well, her mind is full of this trial, full of the horror of Paul's
situation--you can tell that from her wanderings--and this afternoon I
heard her say these words: 'They make a great deal about the knife.
They say no one could have got into the office; but I was in the
office, and I saw the knife.  Paul and I spoke about it.'"

"Yes," said the judge eagerly.  "Was there anything else?"

"No, nothing more, nothing more; but surely it is enough?"

The judge was silent for a few seconds.

"If she had been able to attend as a witness this would have come out,"
he said.  "I find that she was subpoenaed, but her illness makes it
impossible for her to be there."  And he gave a sigh, half of relief,
half of sorrow.

"And can you do nothing, nothing?" asked Mary.

"Nothing yet," said the judge.

"But you cannot believe they will find him guilty?"

"Paul will be allowed to make a speech in his own defence.  He may work
wonders that way.  He has done very little cross-examining to-day, but
that may be part of his method.  I think he's going to rely on his
analysis of evidence.  It's not an unsound process.  Cross-examinations
ofttimes mean very little.  Justice Hawkins, you may remember, when he
was practising at the Bar, used to depend almost entirely on his
closing speech, and he won more cases than perhaps any other man.
Still, we must not depend upon that.  Nothing shall be left undone,
Mary."

"Father, I'm going to see Paul."

"Better wait, better wait," he replied.  "I am afraid a visit from you
would do him more harm than good.  You'd have to tell him about his
mother's illness."

"I'm going to write to him to-night, anyhow," said Mary.

"But tell him nothing that will pain him, Mary."

When Mary left the room Judge Bolitho nearly lost control over himself.
The days were slipping away, and nothing had been done.  In spite of
every inquiry he had made, he seemed to be getting no nearer to the
solution he sought for.  Like Mary, he was convinced that Paul had
never done the deed; and yet, unless the murderer could be discovered,
he could not close his eyes to Paul's face.  For more than an hour he
went over the whole miserable story again, connecting link with link,
incident with incident, opinion with opinion.  Still the same blank
wall met him.

"I can't stay indoors any longer," he muttered.  "I must get out into
the open air."

It was now about nine o'clock, and, almost heedless whither he went, he
found his way into the heart of the town.  Judge Bolitho had by this
time become an almost familiar figure among the people of Brunford.  He
had gone all over the town making inquiries.  He had spent much time in
the neighbourhood of Paul's factory making investigations.  He had
talked with all sorts of people, and all, knowing what he desired, had
told him everything they knew.  But still the secret remained a secret.

Presently he found himself in the market-place, where there were
excited groups of people discussing that day's trial.  The judge
wandered from one group to another listening eagerly.  A large ulster
almost covered his face, for the nights were very cold, and but few
recognised him.  It seemed to be the settled conviction among the
people that Paul's case was hopeless.  At length he heard someone
speaking who attracted his attention strangely.  It was not because of
what he said, but because of the unfamiliar accent which the judge
immediately recognised.  The man was a Scotsman, and he spoke with the
accent common to that district where Jean was reared.  The judge drew
nearer and listened attentively.

"I tell you," said the man, "I saw this Bolitho when he was but a lad.
My brother, Willie Fearn, courted Jean, and it was Bolitho who took her
away from him.  Ye dinna believe me?  Am I not called Archie Fearn?
Ay, but I know."

The men to whom he spoke laughed incredulously.

"Yo've been drinking too much Scotch whisky," said one with a laugh.

"I can carry more whisky than any man in Brunford," was his reply.  "I
was ne'er a steady, God-fearing man like my brother Willie.  It might
have been better for me if I had been.  He's a rich man the noo, while
I have to come to this dirty hole to get a living.  Ay, I know more
about this business than you think."

At this there was much incredulous laughter, and then Judge Bolitho
heard the man cry out something about his having seen someone on the
very night of the murder.  The conversation was not by any means
connected, but Judge Bolitho, anxious to catch at any straw, determined
not to allow the Scotsman to escape him.  It might end in nothing;
still, there was possibly something in what the man had said.

A few minutes later Archie Fearn left his companions, evidently with
the purpose of making his way to a public-house which stood at the
corner of the Market Square.  Before he reached it, however, the judge
had come up to him and touched his arm.

"So you call yourself Archie Fearn now, do you?" he said quickly.

"Ay, and who dares say I'm not Archie Fearn?" replied the man.  "Was I
no born in Scotland?  And do I not speak like a Scotsman?"

"You did not call yourself Archie Fearn the last time I saw you," said
the judge.

"And when might ye have seen me?"

"I saw you in Liverpool two years ago.  You called yourself John
McPhail then, and it was my duty to give you six months with hard
labour."

The man looked at the judge coolly.  "Ay, very likely," he replied.
"Ay, I remember noo, I remember noo," and he laughed significantly.

"Why do you laugh?" asked the judge.

"I was thinking," was the reply.  "I think of mony things.  The Scotch
are a canny people.  You'll be knowing that yourself, my lord."

"And you say you're Willie Fearn's brother?" said the judge.

"Ay, I am and all.  It's perfectly true that Willie is an elder in the
kirk, while I am--weel, what you see me; but, for all that, I know more
about the fundamentals of doctrine than he does.  I know the second
catechism by heart, and I could put any meenister in this toon to
shame.  Ay, man, but if you want to hear preaching you must go to
Scotland.  It's there that the meenisters are groonded in the faith.
In these English kirks they are very lax in the faith."  And again the
man laughed as though something amused him.

"You seem to boast a good deal of your knowledge," said the judge,
trying to estimate the man.

"I ne'er boast," was the reply.  "I'm just a canny Scotsman, that's
all.  If I told all I kenned--weel, I might become popular.  But a
still tongue makes a wise heid."

"If you are Willie Fearn's brother," said the judge, and it pained him
to say what next passed his lips, but as I have said, he was eager to
catch at any straw, "you knew Jean Lindsay?"

"Ay, I kenned her weel," was the reply.  "But I was aboot to go into
the 'Hare and Hoonds,' Mr. Judge Bolitho.  Perhaps for the sake of the
time when you called yourself Graham you might like to give me a drop
of whisky?"

"Come with me," said the judge.  "I want to talk with you.  If we go up
Liverpool Road it will be quiet there.  But stay, come with me to the
house I'm staying at."

"Dootless you keep a bottle of good whisky in the cupboard there?"

"You shall not regret going," said the judge, and he led the way to
Paul's house.

Half an hour later the two sat together in Paul's study.  During their
walk thither the man of the law had been thinking deeply.  He had been
trying to piece together the conversation he had heard in the
market-place, trying to understand the significance of what Archie
Fearn had said.  He had no great hope of important revelations, but a
lifetime of legal training and practice had proved to him that
oft-times the greatest issues depended on the most trivial
circumstances, and he could not afford to allow the most insignificant
happening to pass by unnoticed.

"How long have you been in Brunford?" asked the judge.

"Since a month before Christmas," was the reply.

"You came here to get work?"

"I came here because I wasn't known in the toon, and because I thought
I might be able to pick up an odd sax-pence."

"You say you knew Jean Lindsay when she was a girl?"

"Syne I expected her to be my ain sister-in-law, it was very natural
that I should," was the reply.

"Do you think you'd know her again if you saw her?"

"I kenned her the moment I saw her in the streets of this toon, not
long before Christmas," was the reply.

"You saw her then?"

"Ay, I did.  I saw her and recognised her, just as I recognised you.
But it took me longer to mak you oot.  Although, as you say, you gave
me six months in Liverpool, did not, at that time, connect you with my
ain hame.  But when I saw your picture as large as life in the house
where I lodged, I began to put things together.  When I saw you in
Liverpool you had your big wig on, and your judge's goon, that's what
put me off there, I expect.  But in your picture you looked more
natural, and I said: 'That's the lad who took away my brother Willie's
lass.'"

The judge's mind was working quickly by this time, and he saw that the
incident might have great possibilities.

"And you say you saw Jean in the streets of Brunford?"

"Ay, I did."

"And did you speak to her?"

"Nay, not at the time.  The sight of her gave me a shock, as you may
say.  But as I tell't you, the Scots are a canny race, so I asked a man
in the street who she was, and he told me she was Mrs. Stepaside, and
that led to other inquiries, till presently I found out all there was
to know."

"And what then?" asked the judge.

"Your lordship is a rich man," replied Archie.  "And you'll not be
expecting me to tell all I know for nothing.  And I'm in sair need of a
drop of whisky, too!"

The judge took a couple of sovereigns from his pocket.

"When you tell me all you know, you shall have these," he said.

The Scotsman's eyes glittered greedily.  "Two sovereigns; weel, it's a
sma' sum, a sma' sum for the likes of you, and I think I can say
something that will interest you, too.  In Scotland we think a great
deal of a five-poon note!"

"Very well," said the judge.  "If you know anything worth telling me,
and you speak plainly, you shall have the five-pound note."

"Of course, your lordship is a fair-minded man as far as money is
concerned?  I'll say nothing about anything else," and again the
Scotsman laughed like one enjoying himself.

"You'll have to trust me for that," said the judge.  "In any case, if
you speak freely I'll give you the two sovereigns.  If I judge your
information to be important you shall have the five-pound note."

"It's this way," said Archie Fearn, "--and I think your lordship will
see that what I have to tell ye is worth five poons, although I doot
whether ye'll be pleased--when I discovered all aboot Jean, and what
people were saying aboot her, and when I had made up my mind aboot Mr.
Bolitho, who was at one time the Member of Parliament for this toon, I
fell to thinking, and I was not long in assuring myself that Mr.
Bolitho was the same lad who came to the Highlands lang years syne as
Douglas Graham.  Of course, I had heard a great deal about Paul
Stepaside, and being, as I tell't ye, a reasoning man, I put two and
two together.  So I sent a letter to Jean, and asked her to meet me."

"A likely story!" said the judge.

"Like or not, it's true.  And more than that, she came to see me on the
very night that young Wilson was murdered, so noo then!"

"Then you spoke to her that night?"

"Ay, I did.  I thought to myself, 'Now that Jean has plenty of siller
she'll be glad to know the truth!'"

"And you told her the truth?"

"Ay, I did.  I showed her your photograph which I'd brought with me.
We were standing under a street-lamp, and I showed it to her.  And
there's not the slightest doot but she recognised you."

"What time was that?" asked the judge.

"It were late," said the man.  "It must have been well after eleven
o'clock."

"How long was she with you?"

"A goodish time, for she had many questions to ask, and we talked a
good deal about old times.  And I was not long in convincing her of the
truth, I can tell ye.  Ay, man, but you should have seen her face when
she looked at your photograph.  'Oh, that's he, that's he!' she said."

"And then," said the judge, "did she come back here alone?"

"Nay, I walked back with her.  Do ye think I'd be likely to allow a
lass who was to have been my ain sister-in-law to come hame alone?"

"In what part of the town did you meet?"

"It was near the part they call Howden Clough."

"And at what hour did you return?"

"Oh, it must have been after midnight.  You see," went on the Scotsman
imperturbably, "I asked her to come and see me, and I fixed a late hour
because I thought--weel; she might be a little more leeberal late at
night than in the middle of the day.  I have made a profound study of
women, and I was in want of money at the time, and I thought I could
make a better bargain with her.  That's why I fixed a late hour for
meeting.  But I brought her home safely, and left her at the door here.
It must have been in the early hours of the morning when I left her."

"Did you come into the house?"

"No; in that I thought Jean didn't act like an old neighbour
should--seeing that at one time she was likely to be my sister-in-law!
She didn't ask me in.  Still, she seemed very grateful for the
information I gave her."

"And you saw her go into the house early in the morning, you say?"

"Ay, I did."

"And then, did you go away immediately?"

"Nay, I waited out of curiosity for a few minutes.  I heard the door
snick, and then I waited until I saw a light in her bedroom.  I said to
myself, 'Jean will have a good deal to think about to-night.'  I didn't
think then that things would be so unfavourable to me."

"What do you mean?" asked the judge.

"Well, being, as I tell't you, a Scotsman, and a canny Scotsman at
that, I naturally thought that the man who had discovered her husband
for her would have a slight claim on her when she came into her own."

"Ah, I see," said the judge.

For more than an hour they sat talking, the Scotsman cool and
self-contained, the judge asking keen, searching questions.

Presently Archie Fearn wended his way towards the part of the town
where he had a lodging.  "It's a peety the public-houses are all
closed," he said, as he lovingly felt the five-pound note which the
judge had given him.  "Still, there's a to-morrow; and it may be I've
done a good night's work after all."

As for the judge, he sat for a long time thinking.  The house was now
in silence.  Everyone had gone to bed.  He went upstairs and listened
outside Mary's bedroom door.  Evidently his daughter had retired.  He
went to the door of the room where his wife lay.  All was silent.  Then
he came downstairs again.

"I am in my son's house," he said to himself, "and he--he's lying in
Strangeways Gaol!  I wonder whether, after all, this night may not mean
a great deal.  Anyhow, it's narrowed the circle of inquiry.  It proves
Jean was guiltless of this thing, and Mary altogether mistaken.  I
wonder what she will say when I tell her!"

The following morning he related to Mary what had happened on the
previous night; told her in detail all that the man Fearn had said to
him.

"You see, Mary," he said, "your suspicions were utterly wrong.  The
man's story has made it practically impossible for what you have
thought to be true.  Whoever committed the deed, it was not she--thank
God for that!"

In spite of herself Mary was at length convinced.  For hours she sat
thinking over what her father had told her, considering the
consequences of every point, and trying to see what they meant.  Yes,
he was right; and yet she felt sure that Paul believed in his mother's
guilt, and that the reason of his silence was that he was trying to
shield her.  Then the old question came back to her.  Paul did not
commit this deed; who did it?

Presently Mary Bolitho gave a start as though some new thought had come
into her mind.  Her eyes flashed with a bright light.  She seemed to
see something which in the past had been hidden from her.

A few minutes later she was in the street, walking rapidly to Paul's
factory.  Arrived there, she asked for George Preston.

"He's in Manchester," was the reply.  "He's there for the trial."

"But someone must be left in charge?" she urged.

"Ay, Enoch Standring is looking after things while they're away."

"I want to see him," said Mary.  "Where is he?"

Without a word the youth to whom she had spoken led the way to Paul's
office, where Enoch Standring was busily writing.

"I am Miss Bolitho," she said to the young man.  "Perhaps you know me?"

"Yes," replied the other.  "I know you very well by sight.  What can I
do for you?"

"You will naturally understand," said Mary, "that I am keenly
interested in--in the trial in Manchester?"

"Naturally," said the young man.

"I suppose," said the girl, "you have in your books a record of all the
people you employ?"

"Certainly."

"When they are engaged and when they leave?"

"Certainly--that is, we put their names down in a book when they come,
and cross them off when they cease working for us."

"And you have all these books at hand?"

"Certainly," replied Standring.  He was proud of the way in which the
books of the firm of Stepaside and Preston were kept.

"How many hands do you employ?"

Standring told her.

"Will you let me see your books?"

"It's not usual," replied Standring.  "You see, it's the wage-book, and
the account is kept there of the amount each person earns."

"But I'm sure you will let me see it?" said Mary, looking at the young
man with a smile.  "Believe me, I do not ask without serious reason!"

The young man hesitated a few seconds and then put the books before
her.  "Here they are," He said.  "Every name is put down here, and what
each has earned."

"I want to see the pages for the month of December," said Mary.  "By
the way, do you often discharge your hands?"

"We never discharge anyone except for a serious reason," said Standring.

"Have you discharged anyone since--since--Mr. Stepaside went to
Manchester?"

"No," said Standring.  "You see, there was no reason.  Business has
gone on just the same as ever."

The girl looked eagerly down the list, and noted each name and the
wages paid, while Standring watched her suspiciously.  He wondered what
this girl could mean by wanting to examine the wage-book.

"Do you keep on names after the people have ceased working for you?"

"Not after they've been discharged.  There, you see, that man was
discharged early in December.  His name was crossed out.  It doesn't
appear the following week.  On the other hand, if anyone is taken ill,
we keep their names on, although they may not work.  There, you see,
Eliza Anne Bolshawe, she was taken ill at the beginning of December,
but we kept on her name; the second week in December, no wages; the
third week, no wages; the fourth week she came back again, and there's
the amount she earned put opposite her name."

"I see," said Mary.

At that moment someone came into the office.  "You're wanted in the
mill, Enoch," said the visitor.

"Pray do not let me keep you, Mr. Standring," said Mary.  "I'll do no
harm while you're away."  And she gave him a smile which removed any
doubts which he might have had concerning leaving her alone.

Eagerly Mary went on examining the books, until presently her hands
began suddenly to tremble.  It seemed as though the idea which had been
born in her mind were bearing fruit.  Snatching a piece of paper from
the office desk, she began to write rapidly.

When Enoch Standring returned, Mary was still busily examining the
books, but the piece of paper on which she had made her notes was put
out of sight.

"Have you seen what you want, Miss Bolitho?" said Standring.

"Yes, I think so," said Mary, "and I must congratulate you on the way
these books are kept.  The penmanship is perfect, and everything is
clear, and easy to understand.  I am sure Mr. Stepaside will be pleased
with everything when he returns."

Standring looked at her sadly.  He was one of those who believed that
Paul Stepaside would never be acquitted, and he wondered what the
future might bring forth.

When Mary returned to the house, she took the piece of paper from her
pocket and looked at the notes she had made.

"I wonder, I wonder!" she said.  "At any rate, I'll go and see her.
Brunclough Lane, Brunclough Lane," she repeated to herself.  "27
Brunclough Lane."

Heedless of the fact that she had had no food since the morning, she
went out again, and presently found herself in a long narrow street
where all the houses partook of the same character, each jutting on the
causeway.  At one of the corner houses she saw the words, "Brunclough
Lane."  Her heart was beating wildly, and she was excited beyond
measure.  The more she reflected, the more she became convinced of the
importance of what she had done.  She told no one of what she was
thinking, or of the chain of reasoning which had led her to go to
Paul's office that morning.  But she had not acted thoughtlessly.  Her
father's account of the meeting with Archie Fearn, and what the man had
said to him, had altogether changed her plans.  Hitherto she could not
help acting on the assumption that Paul's mother was guilty of this
dread deed, consequently all her inquiries had been influenced by this
belief.  Up to now they had ended in nothing, even as had those of her
father.  Directly she had become convinced, however, that Paul's mother
could have known nothing of the murder, and that on the very night when
it took place her mind must naturally have been filled with other
things, she saw that she must go on entirely different lines.  As a
consequence of this she had made her seemingly unaccountable visit to
Paul's office, and had made what Standring regarded as an almost
unprecedented request, to examine the wage-books.  When she had gone,
Standring went through those same books again.  He was trying to
discover Mary's motive in all this, and was wondering whether she
suspected him of immoral practice in relation to the wages of the
operatives.  No suspicion of the truth, however, entered his mind, and
although many curious eyes watched her as she came into Brunclough Lane
that afternoon, no one dreamed of her reason for going there.

She was not long in finding the number she sought.  A hard-featured
woman, about forty-five years of age, came to the door in response to
her knock.

"Does Emily Dodson live here?"

"Ay," said the woman, looking at her suspiciously.  "And who might yo'
be?"

"I'm Mr. Paul Stepaside's sister," said Mary.

The woman did not speak, but looked at her visitor suspiciously.  Had
Mary been watching her face just then, she would have noted that her
eyes seemed to contract themselves, and that her square jaw became set
and defiant.

"Are you Emily Dodson's mother?"

"Ay, I am."

"Is she in now?"

The woman looked up and down the street like one afraid, but answered
quietly, "Ay, she is."

"I'm given to understand," said Mary, "that she was one of my--that is,
Mr. Stepaside's workpeople?"

The woman was silent.

"Is she ill?"

"What's that to yo'?"

To a South country person the woman's attitude might have seemed rude,
but a Lancashire man would have regarded her answers to Mary's
questions as natural.  As I have before stated, there is nothing
obsequious in a Lancashire operative's behaviour.  They are rough,
oft-times to the point of rudeness, although no rudeness is meant.
Possibly this woman might have regarded Mary's visit as a piece of
impertinence.  If a neighbour had come, that neighbour would have been
received kindly, but Mary's appearance suggested that she did not
belong to the order of people who lived in that street, and there were
many who resented anything like what seemed interference.

"But your daughter is not very well, is she?"

"I never said owt o' th' so'ort."

"I hear she's not been at work for several weeks, and as Mr. Stepaside
is unable to attend to business just now, I thought I might be of some
service."

The woman laughed sourly.  "Ay, you're Bolitho's lass, are you?" she
said.  "A pretty tangle things have got into; and what I want to know
is if, as newspapers say, according to the confession your feyther made
on the Bench, he married Paul's mother, where do yo' come in?"

Mary's face blanched, not only because of the woman's words, but
because of the look she gave her.  Still she held on her way.

"I'm naturally interested in the people Mr. Stepaside has employed,"
she said, "and as I am given to understand that she's been unable to
work for several weeks, I thought I might be of service."

"I'm noan asking for charity," replied the woman.

"No, I know," replied Mary.  "Still, if your daughter is out of
employment she won't be earning anything, and I thought if I could be
of any help to you----"

"I want no 'elp.  I never asked anyone for charity yet, and never took
none owther, and I'm noan going to begin now."

There was a defiant ring in the woman's voice, and Mary realised that
here was one of those strong, determined characters who are not easily
moved, and which are not rare among the Lancashire operatives.

"But if your daughter is ill," went on Mary, "she must be lonely.  Has
she had the doctor, may I ask?"

"Would you mind my telling you, miss, that that's noan o' your
business.  If our Emily has no mind to work, she'll noan work.  Good
afternoon."  And the woman closed the door in her face.

As Mary turned to walk away she noticed that a number of people were
watching her, as if wondering what she should be doing there.  But no
one spoke to her, and presently she found herself again near Paul's
home, pondering deeply over what had taken place.  She recalled every
word that had been spoken, every question she had asked, and every
answer the woman had given.  She had said nothing that might arouse any
suspicions, and her action was quite natural.  She had simply gone to
ask after one of Paul's employees, and therefore no one could attach
undue importance to her visit, although they would be naturally curious
to know why she went.  During the time she had canvassed these people,
when her father was candidate for Brunford, she had got to know many of
their characteristics and to understand their methods of thinking, and
this fact helped her to form her conclusions now, helped her to know
how to act under the circumstances by which she was surrounded.

When she reached the house she asked for her father, and was informed
that he was not in.  He had left early that morning and had not yet
returned.  Hour after hour Mary sat alone, thinking, planning,
wondering.  She was afraid to attach too much importance to what had
taken place that day, yet she felt sure that what she had seen and
heard was not without meaning.  But she felt her inexperience greatly.
Oh, if her father would only come!

Presently a telegram was brought to her.  Eagerly she opened it and
read the contents.  She saw that it was sent from Manchester, and it
told her that her father was returning by the last train, and that
there was no need for her to wait up for him.

Mary seized a time-table that lay on the table, and saw that the last
train arrived at Brunford at eleven o'clock.  There were four long,
weary hours to wait, but she could not think of going to bed.
Consequently, when Judge Bolitho returned that night he found his
daughter awaiting him.

"Has something happened, Mary?" he said, as he noticed the look in her
eyes.

"Have you found out anything?" she asked.

He shook his head sadly.  "Nothing," he said.  "I am afraid the trial
has gone against Paul to-day too.  I suppose it'll end to-morrow.  Paul
is to give his speech for his defence then.  I wish I could be there;
but I cannot; I dare not interfere in any way.  It would prejudice his
case too."

"Father," she said, "listen to me."

"Have you discovered anything?"

"I don't know yet," she said.  "Listen."



CHAPTER XXXI

EZEKIEL ASHWORTH, HERBALIST

"Yes, Mary, what is it?"

"It may be I have been foolish, father, but for days I have been
thinking about nothing except this.  Being absolutely certain that Paul
is innocent, I--well, you know what my suspicions were, father.  But
since you told me what that man Archie Fearn said, I was obliged to
come to the conclusion that you were right."

The girl hesitated a second, and then went on excitedly: "I believe
I've found out something."

The judge looked at his daughter questioningly, but there was no look
of hope in his eyes.  He could not believe that what he had failed to
do she could accomplish.  He had, as far as he knew, examined every
possible source of evidence, and although he was still fain to believe
as she believed, his reason still pointed to one dread conclusion.

"Until this morning," she went on, "I expect all my inquiries had been
coloured by my belief, but when you destroyed that belief I was obliged
to think on new lines.  It's still a question of the knife, isn't it,
father?"

"Yes," said the judge.  "It's still a question of the knife.  You see
this is the fact, the salient fact, upon which the jury will have to
fasten.  Who could have become possessed of it?  Paul was always
careful about locking his office, and although it seems unlikely he
should have done what it is believed he has done, what other
explanation can be given?"

"Yes, I see," replied the girl.  "But after you'd gone this morning I
remembered lots of things which seemed to have no meaning before.  We
know now that Ned Wilson has not borne as good a character in the town
as we thought."

The judge nodded.

"I heard all sorts of strange rumours," went on the girl, "to which I
did not attach much importance.  But when you convinced me that Paul's
mother could not possibly have done it, I began to think those rumours
might have some meaning.  It may be the thing that I have found out has
no meaning."

"What have you found out?" he asked sharply.

"This.  First of all gossip associated Ned Wilson's name with a girl in
this town by the name of Emily Dodson.  People say she is very
good-looking."

"Yes.  And what then?"

"She worked for Paul," replied the girl.  "She has worked in his
factory for some months.  Well, this morning a thought struck me, and
I've been to Paul's factory and have examined his books.  And I found
out this: Emily Dodson was at work on the day preceding the murder, and
she has never been near the place since.  Of course, that of itself may
mean nothing, but the coincidence struck me.  It seemed a little
strange that she has never been to work since that day.  I went to the
house where she lived and saw her mother.  I asked to be allowed to see
her, but the door was closed in my face.  It seems that she's been ill
ever since that time, and practically nothing is known of her."

The judge was silent for a considerable time.  Evidently Mary's words
had given him food for thought.

"It may mean nothing, father," she went on.  "But don't you see?  Her
name has been associated with that of Wilson.  Gossips say he has
treated her badly.  She is also spoken of as one of those dark,
handsome, gipsy-looking girls, who is very passionate.  Now then,
think.  Might she not have had an opportunity of going to Paul's
office?  Might she not by some means have got hold of this knife?
Remember, she was one of his workpeople."

The judge shook his head.  "You have very slender evidence for your
assumption, Mary," he said sadly.

"Yes, but is it not strange that she never returned to work, and that
she's been ill in bed ever since?  From what I can gather, she's had no
doctor, no one has been allowed to see her, and the night she ceased
working was the night when Ned Wilson was murdered."

"Her illness is easily accounted for," said the judge.  "If she were
fond of Wilson, might not his death have so overwhelmed her that her
health broke down?  Still----"

"I have seen all these objections," urged Mary.  "But don't you see:
Paul didn't do it--he couldn't--his mother could not have done it, and
someone did!  I know that what I've been thinking seems to rest upon
pure coincidence, but, father, I've thought, and thought, and thought,
until I'm sure!"

"Tell me more about it," said the judge.

Mary related her experiences of the day, told in detail of her visit to
the factory, described her examination of the books, and then related
her conversation with Emily Dodson's mother.

"Of course, prima facie," he said presently, "you have reasons for your
suspicions, but even if your suspicions are true, what can be done?
Unless we can prove that she took the knife, unless someone saw her
under suspicious circumstances, we are helpless.  She might have done
the deed and still Paul might have to be hanged."

"But, father!" cried the girl, and there was a wail of agony in her
voice.

"Oh, do not fear, my child, the thing shall be tested.  Everything
shall be sifted to the very bottom.  No stone shall be left unturned, I
can assure you of that!"

Again the judge sat for a long time thinking.  Presently he started to
his feet.  "Mary, you're a clever girl!" he said.  "And it seems to me
that if Paul's life is saved, we shall owe everything to you!
But--but----  Go to bed, my child, my brain is weary now, as yours must
be.  Let us try and get a little sleep.  To-morrow we can act."

The following morning, when the two met again, there was a new light in
Judge Bolitho's eyes, a ring of determination in his voice.  His step
was firm, and his whole demeanour suggested an eagerness which for a
long time had been absent.

"I ought to go to Manchester this morning," he said.  "You see, my
position is very peculiar.  But I shall not go, no matter what happens!"

"You believe there's something in what I told you?" and her voice was
almost hoarse with eagerness.

"There may be something in it," was his reply.  "If--if----"

"What?" asked Mary.

"Paul's fate will be decided to-day," replied the judge, and his voice
trembled.  "Bakewell finished last night--of course, you have read the
newspapers?--and this morning Paul will speak in his own defence.
Perhaps that will take nearly the whole morning.  Then Branscombe will
sum up."

"And you believe----?" cried the girl.

"From what I can see of Branscombe's questions, I should say it is his
opinion that Paul is guilty."

"But it will depend upon the jury!" cried the girl.

"Juries are influenced by the judge's summing-up."

"Oh, if--if----!" cried Mary.

"Yes, I see what is in your mind; but nothing can happen in time to
influence the finding of the jury.  You must not build upon that.  But
all hope is not lost yet, Mary.  We will not give up until the last
moment."

That morning Judge Bolitho's mode of action was not easily to be
explained.  He went to all sorts of strange and unthought-of places,
and made many inquiries which, from the standpoint of the casual
observer, were utterly irrelevant to the purpose he had in mind.
Still, he kept on his way, asking his questions, keeping his own
counsel.  He visited Paul's factory, asked many questions of the
employees, examined the books which had so interested Mary on the
previous day, went to the scene of the murder.  But no one could guess
from his face as to what his conclusions might have been.  That he was
anxious and perturbed no one could have doubted; but whether his
inquiries gave him any reason for hope it was impossible to tell.
Strange as it may seem, he did not go to Brunclough Lane, but by means
of many out-of-the-way inquiries he discovered the name of the doctor
who attended the Dodsons in case of illness.  He found out, too, that
this doctor was not a fully qualified medical practitioner.  Lancashire
is a very Mecca for quack doctors.  Long years ago, before legislation
became stringent in this direction, many unqualified men earned large
incomes among the factory hands.  Herbalists of all sorts and men who
pretended to cure diseases which baffled all the doctors were in great
demand.  In later years, although this practice had been considerably
curtailed, a number of unqualified people managed to eke out a living.
Judge Bolitho discovered that one of these--a certain Ezekiel Ashworth,
who pretended to a knowledge of herbs, and who was also one who held
high place among the spiritualists of the town--had attended in a
medical capacity on various occasions at 27 Brunclough Lane.  He also
found out that this man had, during the last few weeks, sent a good
deal of medicine to Mrs. Dodson's house, and, more than all this, that
he had been called in on the previous evening some two hours after Mary
had been in the street.

A little after noon Judge Bolitho found his way to Ezekiel Ashworth's
house.  He lived in a small, narrow street in one of a row of cottages
which was let to him for four and sixpence a week.  Ezekiel Ashworth
had in his younger days been a weaver, but his mother, who was renowned
as a very wise woman, had imparted her secrets to him before she died,
and he had from that time followed his mother's calling.  He also
claimed that the spirits told him many things which doctors were unable
to find out, and thus he imposed upon the credulity of ignorant people.
Indeed, Ezekiel had quite an extensive practice, and many there were,
even among those in affluent circumstances, who sought his aid.

When Judge Bolitho knocked at Ezekiel's door it was opened by the man
himself.  He was attired in a suit of shabby broadcloth; a greasy
frock-coat hung below his knees, and his linen had evidently been a
stranger to the laundry for some considerable time.  His feet were
encased in a pair of gaily coloured carpet slippers.

On seeing Judge Bolitho he assumed quite a professional air.  "What can
I do for you, my dear sir?" he said.  "You don't look very well."

"No, I am far from well," replied the judge.

"Ay, I thought so.  You're a stranger in these parts, I reckon?"

"I am not a Brunford man," replied the judge; "but I happened to be
here, and, hearing about many of your wonderful cures, thought I would
call and see you."

"Ay," replied Ezekiel.  "I know a good deal more about doctorin' than
half of these chaps with a lot of letters to their names; but the
Government has made it very hard on us, and we can't do what we would."

"I see," replied the judge.  "But I hear you have a fairly extensive
practice, all the same."

"And no wonder," replied Ezekiel.  "I cure cases which the doctors give
up, and I don't charge a quarter as much as they do.  Just think on
't--only sixpence for a bottle of medicine and a shilling a visit!"

"But what do you do in the case of a fatal illness?" asked the judge.

"That's where the hardness comes in," replied Ezekiel.  "Then the poor
people have to get a fully qualified man for the certificate.  But
you'll noan come about that, I reckon?  You've come about yoursen?"

"No," said the judge.  "I've come to inquire into your rights to
practise medicine!"

"What do you mean?  You're noan one of these inspectors, are you?  I
call this a sort of snake-in-the-grass proceeding!  It's noan fair to
come in like one ill, and then pounce upon a chap!"

Ezekiel gave another look at the judge, and then decided that he had
better be civil.  He realised that the man before him was not one who
could be bullied.

"Look here, maaster," he said, "I never do owt agin law, and although,
as you say, I've attended a lot of people, I've never been had before
the beaks.  Whenever a patient of mine gets near the danger line I
always insist upon a fully qualified doctor being sent for.  I hope
you'll noan be hard on me."

"That depends," replied the judge.  "The truth of it is, Mr. Ashworth,
I've heard strange rumours about you, and, while I do not wish to take
any harsh measure, I want a proper understanding.  You often treat
patients without ever having seen them, I'm told?"

"But never in a way as can do them any harm," replied Ezekiel.  "When
people come and describe symptoms, I send medicines to them; but my
medicines are made up of yarbs, and canna hurt onybody."

"Are you sure of that?" asked the judge.

"Ay, I'm sure."

"Then what about the girl Emily Dodson, in Brunclough Lane, whom you've
been treating for several weeks?  You've repeatedly sent medicine there
without having seen the patient."

Ezekiel looked uncomfortable.  "Her mother told me she was just low
like," he said, "and all she needed was some strengthening medicine."

"But no doctor should go on giving medicine without seeing the patient."

"Well, I'm noan going to give her any more," replied Ezekiel.  "I were
called in there last night 'cause Maria Ellen told me her lass was
worse."

"Oh, you went to see the girl last night, did you?  And what did you
discover?"

"The lass were in a very bad way.  But I can cure her all right."

From that time Judge Bolitho assumed a very severe air, and, when
presently he left the house, Ezekiel looked exceedingly anxious.

"Of course, you'll understand," said the judge, on leaving him, "that
it'll be to your interest that this interview remains a secret?"

"Ay, I see that," replied Ezekiel, with conviction.

"You'll understand also that Doctor White must be sent for at once?"

"Doctor White's no friend of mine," said Ezekiel.  "He's always been
hard on those of us who were not in the regular line of things."

"I insist on Dr. White," replied the judge.

"Weel, if you insist, it shall be done.  But you'll not make it hard
for me, will you?"

"I'll see what can be done," replied the judge.  And then he walked
away in a very thoughtful frame of mind.

A little later he was at Dr. White's surgery.

"I want half an hour's private talk with you," he said.

"Important?"

"Very important!"

When the judge had informed the doctor of the purport of his visit the
latter looked very grave.  "This cannot be decided off-hand," he said
presently.  And then, leaving the room, he spoke to his dispenser.

"Daniel," he said, "I have to leave the surgery at three o'clock, and
it only wants half an hour to that time now.  Are there many people
waiting?"

"Ay, a good number."

"Take down their names and send them all away.  Tell them I cannot see
them until six to-night."

"Very well."

The doctor returned to Judge Bolitho again.  "Now let's hear your story
from end to end," he said.

When their interview closed, Dr. White looked, if possible, grimmer
than usual, and when he visited his patients that afternoon more than
one wondered what was the matter with him.  He did not seem himself at
all.  Evidently his mind was much perturbed.

Judge Bolitho did not return to Paul's house until nearly five o'clock.
As he came to the door, Mary met him with eager questions on her lips,
but those questions were never asked.  The ghastly look on his face
made it impossible for her to speak.

"It's all over," he said hoarsely.

"All over?  What's all over?"

"The trial.  I've just telephoned to Manchester."

The girl stood looking at him with horror in her eyes.

"They've found him guilty," said the judge hoarsely.  "He's condemned
to be hanged!"



CHAPTER XXXII

IN THE CONDEMNED CELL

Paul Stepaside was alone in his condemned cell.  He was no longer
merely a prisoner waiting his trial for the most terrible deed a man
can commit; he was condemned for that deed, and his whole circumstances
were altered accordingly.  No one could see him except in the presence
of a warder, and he was under the most rigorous inspection.  Care was
taken that no means were offered him whereby he could take his own
life.  Thus, grim and horrible as had been his previous conditions,
they were far worse now.  The days of hope were gone, because the days
of action were gone.  Nothing he could say or do now promised a
possibility of escape from the terrible doom which had been pronounced.

For many hours he had been thinking over his fate, and wondering what
had become of those he loved.  Vague rumours had reached him that his
mother was not well, but he had no definite knowledge of anything
concerning her.  A short letter from Mary had also reached him.  It was
only a few words, but it had been his great source of solace and
comfort.  But that, too, had lost much of its meaning.  It was written
before his sentence had been pronounced.  It had told him to hope, and
it had expressed the undying faith and love of the writer.  But even in
this short letter he seemed to see a change.  It was like the letter of
a sister rather than the outpourings of the woman whom he had hoped to
make his wife.  Of course it was right and natural that this should be
so.  She had discovered their relationship, and believing herself to be
his half-sister, she could no longer think of him as on that night of
their meeting in the prison.  Then they had met as lovers, and she had
promised him that when he was free--as she felt sure he soon would
be--to be his wife.  But that was all over now.  Even although he had
been set at liberty, all his hopes would have been in vain.  It seemed
as though the facts of his life had mocked every hope, as though a grim
destiny had fore-ordained that everything he longed for and believed in
should mock him.

Since the last hour of the trial, when the judge had pronounced the
dread words which made his name a by-word and a shame, and held him up
for ever to the reproach of the world, he had been practically alone.
He knew nothing of the heart-pangs of others; nothing of great
determinations which alternated with wild despair; nothing of agonised
prayers, of sleepless nights, and of vain endeavours to prove his
innocence.  He was a condemned man, alone in a condemned cell, waiting
for the last hour.  For the first few hours after the final words had
been spoken he had a sort of gruesome pleasure in thinking of the
future.  He fancied that some few days would elapse, during which his
case would be considered by the Home Secretary; and then this
highly-placed official, having no reason for showing him any special
mercy, would go through the formula necessary to his death.  Then would
come the erecting of the scaffold, the symbol of disgrace and shame.
What the cross had been to the old Romans the scaffold was to the
modern Englishman.  After that, under the grey, murky sky, he would be
led out, and the dread formula would be gone through.  He would be
asked whether he had anything to say before the fatal act was
committed, after which the hangman would do his work.

Well, well, he would go through that as he had gone through all the
rest.  It was a ghastly tragedy, a grim mockery, but he would bear it
like a stoic.

Presently, however, his feelings underwent a change.  Memories of his
early days came back to him--his life in the workhouse, his schooldays,
when he took his place among the rest of the pauper boys, the learning
of a trade, and his work in the mine.  Always his life had been
overhung with shadow, and yet he had enjoyed it.  He had found pleasure
in fighting with difficulty, in overcoming what seemed insuperable
obstacles.  He remembered the visits of the minister of Hanover Chapel,
and of what he had said to him.  Yes, the incipient atheism of his
boyhood had become more pronounced as the years went by.  His unbelief
had become more settled, and yet, and yet----

He called to mind the hour he had first seen Mary.  How wonderful she
had been to him.  She had brought something new, something nobler into
his life.  How, in spite of his anger, he had loved her!  Ay, and he
loved her still.  He thought of his dream of going into Parliament, of
fighting for the rights of the working people of the town in which he
lived and for the class to which he had belonged.  Yes, above and
beyond his ambition to be a noted man he had a great consuming desire
to do something for the betterment of the condition of the people whom
he loved, a great passion to advance their rights.  And, to a degree,
he had done it.  Brunford was the better, and not the worse, because he
had lived.  If it had been his fate to live, he would have continued to
work for the toiling masses of the people.  He thought of the dreams
which had been born in his brain and heart, and which he hoped to
translate into reality; of the Bills he had framed, and which he had
meant one day to bring before Parliament, Bills which he had hoped
would become Acts, and which would have a beneficent influence on the
life of the nation.

But this was all over now.  The end of all things had come.  His doom
had been pronounced.  What a ghastly mockery life was--and men talked
about God!  He, an innocent man, was about to end his days in the most
shameful way imaginable because he had been found guilty of a crime of
which he knew nothing.  But at least he had saved his mother.  There
was something in that.  No shadow of shame or disgrace rested upon her
name.  Whether her days were many or few, nothing evil could be
associated with the life of his mother.  How it all flashed back to
him.  That night in the cell, when she had told him her story, told him
that the man who had sat in judgment upon him was his father and her
husband!  Then came that great day in the court, when Judge Bolitho had
made his confession.  How still people were.  The court was almost as
silent as the cell in which he now lay.  After all, his father could
not have been a villain.  It is true he had steeled his heart against
him even after that confession.  Had he been right?  He remembered the
visit of Judge Bolitho on the evening of his confession; how he had
pleaded with him; how he had sought his love.  It is true he would
explain nothing of the mysteries which he, Paul, desired to learn.  He
was dumb when he had questioned him concerning the shame in which
Mary's name lay.  Nevertheless he had to confess in his heart that his
father had tried to do his duty by him and his mother.

He recalled the words which he had spoken to the chaplain who had
visited him one day.  He had told this man that if his father would
confess his evil deeds and seek to make atonement, he might believe in
God, in Providence.  It was a poor thing to say after all.  God, if
there was a God, must not be judged by poor little paltry standards.
The God Who made all the worlds, who controlled the infinite universe,
Who was behind all things, before all things, in all things, through
all things--that God must have ways beyond his poor little
comprehension.  But was there such a Being?  Or was everything the
result of a blind fate, a great mysterious something which was unknown
and unknowable, a force that had no feeling, no thought, no care for
the creatures who crawled upon the face of this tiny world?

Then the great Future stared him in the face.  Was this life the end
and the end-all?  Could it be that he, who could think and feel, who
had such infinite hope and longings and yearnings, would die when he
left the body?  After all, was not Epictetus, the old Greek slave,
right when he said that the body was only something which he carried
around with him, and that his soul was something eternal which the
world could never touch.  If that were so, there must be a great
spiritual realm into which he had never entered.

He thought of the opening words of the Old Testament: "In the beginning
God----"  It was one of the most majestic sentences in the literature
of the world, sublime, almost infinite in its grandeur.  Then he
remembered the words of Jesus.  Years had passed since he had given
attention to these things, yet the memory of the words he had learnt as
a boy was with him now.  What a wonderful story it was!  What a Life,
too!  The mind of Jesus had pierced the night like stars.  He had torn
to pieces the flimsy sophistries of the age in which He had lived, and
looked into the very heart of things.  What a great compassion He had
for the poor, how tender He was to the sinning.  Yes, He understood, He
understood.  And what a death He had died, too.  He might have escaped
death, but He had died believing that by dying He would enrich, glorify
the life of the world.  In a sense it was illogical, but there was a
deeper logic which he eventually saw.  After all, it was the death of
Jesus that made Him live in the minds and hearts of untold millions
during nineteen centuries.  According to the standards of man, His
death was unjust, and He knew it to be unjust, but He never flinched or
faltered.  "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do," He had
said when the ignorant rabble had railed at Him.  "Father, into Thy
hands I commend My spirit," He had said, and then gave up the ghost.
It was wonderful!

In that hour Paul Stepaside realised that he had been less than an
infant crying for the light, and with no language but a cry.  He had
shut out the light by a poor little conceit of his own.  He had dared
to judge life by paltry little standards.  He had dared to say what was
and what was not--he!  He knew less than nothing!

After all, that which had embittered him more than anything else, that
which he said had robbed him of his faith--even in that he had been
proved to be wrong.  It was a great thing his father had done.  Of
course he had sinned, of course his life had been unworthy.  His
treatment of his mother was the act of a dastardly coward--the base
betrayal, the long absence, the marrying another woman--oh! it was all
poor and mean and contemptible!  Nothing but a coward, ay, a villain,
could have done it.  And yet there was something noble in his
atonement.  Of course sin must be followed by suffering and by hell.
He saw that plain enough.  He saw, too, that not only the sinner
suffered, but others suffered.  Yet who was he to judge?  His father--a
proud man, proud of his family name, proud of the position he had
obtained, one of the highest in the realm of law--had, in face of a
crowd hungry for sensation, eager to fasten upon any garbage of gossip
which might come in its way, confessed the truth, even although that
truth had made his name the subject of gossip for millions of tongues.
Yes; there was something noble in it, and Paul felt his heart soften as
he thought and remembered.  Whatever else it had done, it had made his
own fate easier to bear.

He thought of the look on Judge Bolitho's face as he came to his cell
on the day of the confession, remembered the pleading tones: "Paul, my
son, I want your forgiveness, your love."

Perhaps it was because his heart was so weighed down with grief, and
his life was unutterably lonely, that he cried out like one whose life
was filled with a great yearning: "Father, father!"

He heard a sound at the door of the cell.  The warder entered, followed
by the form of a woman.  His heart gave a great bound.

"Mary!" he cried.

He had not expected this.  It had become a sort of settled conviction
in his mind that he would have to die alone and uncomforted.  He had a
vague idea that people would be allowed to see him, but no definite
hopes had ever come into his mind.  Perhaps he had wondered why he had
been left so long alone, but he had never doubted Mary's love.

Regardless of the fact that the warder stood there, the man who, as it
seemed to him, was coarse and almost brutal, watching his every action,
listening to his every word, he threw open his arms: "Mary, my love!"

A minute later she was sobbing out her grief on his shoulder.

"I wanted to come before, Paul," she said; "but father did not think it
best."

"No, no; I understand.  Oh, Mary, it's heaven to me to see you, to hear
you speak, to hold you like this; but I almost wish you had not come.
Why should you suffer?"

"I have come, Paul, because I could not help it, and because----  Oh, I
want to tell you something.  Must this man stay?"

"Can you not go and leave us alone?" said Paul to the man.

The warder shook his head.  "Against rules!"

"But surely you need not listen to what--to what--my--that is, this
young lady has to say to me."

The man did not speak.  Perhaps he had some glimmering of
understanding, perhaps he realised the position better than they
thought.

"Whisper it, Mary," said Paul, still holding her to his heart.

"Paul, you are innocent."

"Yes," he said.  "I am innocent.  I fought for my life as hard as I
could; but law is not justice, Mary.  It's a huge legal machine."

"And Paul," she whispered, "you have believed all along that someone
else was guilty.  You have believed it was your mother."

She felt him shudder as she spoke the words.

"_I_ believed it, too.  It came to me one day that you were trying to
shield her, and that was why you have allowed yourself to be here.  You
could have cleared yourself else, couldn't you?"

She knew by the deep sigh that escaped him how her words moved him.

"On the day when my father made that confession," she went on, "I found
out where your mother was, and went to see her.  I had made up my mind
to obtain a confession of guilt from her.  Oh, Paul, it's terribly hard
to tell you this, and I know that you'll hardly be able to forgive me;
but it was all for you!  You believe that, don't you?"

"Go on, Mary.  Tell me what it is."

"I went back to Brunford with her.  You see she knew who I was by this
time, and I think she liked me.  She said she was ill and was afraid to
stay in Manchester any longer, and she asked me to go back to Brunford
with her."

"Yes, and you did, Mary."

"Yes, I did.  And then I begged her to tell me the truth.  I made her
see who I suspected."

"Yes, and then----" he whispered.

"I don't know what it was, whether it was the shock of my words, or
whether it was because she could no longer stand the strain she had
been suffering, but her senses forsook her, and--oh, Paul! forgive
me--but she's been ill ever since.  She's had no knowledge of anything
that's been going on."

He was silent a moment, then he said: "It's best so, Mary.  If she does
not know she cannot suffer, and no shame can attach to her name now."

"No, Paul; but I haven't told you all yet.  It wasn't she who did it!
She was as ignorant of the crime as I was!"

"How?  Tell me!" he almost gasped.

She related the story of what took place between her father and the man
Archie Fearn, while he, with hoarse whispers, besieged her with
questions.

"Thank God!" he said at length.  It seemed as though a great burden had
gone from his life, and as though the only way in which he could
express his feelings was by thanking the Being in Whom he had said he
had no belief.

"Paul, could you have saved yourself if you had known this?"

"I don't know," he replied.  "I might--that is--no, I don't know.  I
went out that night to seek her, Mary.  When I had told her of my
quarrel with Wilson, you remember, on the night of the murder, she
acted as though she were mad.  She promised me I should be revenged,
that I should have justice.  She said things which, when I began to
think about them afterwards, made me afraid.  I thought she had gone to
bed, and I sat in my study for hours, alone, thinking and wondering.
Then, when I went to her room to bid her good night, I found she was
gone, and I went out to seek her.  Undoubtedly it was a senseless thing
to do, because I had no knowledge of the direction in which she had
gone.  She had, however, uttered one sentence which guided me: 'I am
going to Howden Clough,' she said.  'It's near there I shall see him.'"

For a long time they spoke in whispers, the warder standing as far away
from them as possible, and seemingly taking no notice.

"It's just as well, Mary," he said.  "Perhaps I couldn't have saved
myself if I'd known; and it might be--yes, it might be that if I had
said what was in my heart----  No, it's just as well!  It's just as
well!"

"Time's up!" said the warder.

"Let me stay a little longer," pleaded Mary.

"Against rules!" was the reply.  "Time's up!"

"Paul, lean down your head again."

She kissed him passionately, and then whispered in his ear: "All hope's
not gone even yet, Paul."

"I want no King's Pardon," said Paul almost bitterly.  "I wouldn't have
it!"

"It's not that.  I have been trying and trying, and my father has been
trying----"

"You mean----"

"I mean that he's with us at Brunford, Paul.  He's at your house.  He
has been working night and day, and, and----"

The warder opened the door.  "This way, please, Miss!"

"Don't give up, Paul!" she cried.  "And remember this, I'm working and
praying for you, and father is working and praying for you.  It
may--oh! it may end in nothing; and I dare not say more, but Paul,
Paul----"

Again Paul was alone.  Mary's kisses were still warm upon his lips.  He
felt her breath upon his face.  Her presence pervaded the room even
although she was gone--Mary, whom he loved like his own life!  It was
not as though his sister had been to see him at all.  It was still
Mary, the woman he loved as his wife!

Day followed day, and no further news reached him.  Eagerly he had
listened to every echoing footstep in the corridor.  Feverishly he had
watched the face of the warder who had brought him food.  Like one who
had hoped against hope, he had at stated times scanned the faces of
other prisoners when he had been allowed to go for exercise into the
prison yard.  But he heard nothing, saw nothing which could give him
hope.

One night the chaplain entered his cell, and Paul saw, from the look on
the man's face, of what he was thinking.

"It's to be to-morrow, isn't it?" he said.

The chaplain nodded and was silent.

"What o'clock is it now?"

"Half-past three."

"And what time to-morrow?"

"Early.  I don't know the exact hour."

"Is it known outside--I mean, does the world know?"

"I don't know; I expect so."

"Ah," said Paul.  "She will come to-night; so will he.  But mother
cannot come--no, of course she cannot come; but I am glad she knows
nothing."

"My brother," said the chaplain, "may I not speak to you about higher
things?   Remember that in a few hours----"

"Stop!" said Paul.  "It's good of you to come, and I'm afraid that in
the past I've sometimes spoken rudely to you.  I have regarded you as
one who has done his duty, just as the warders have done theirs; and
just as they are paid to lock the door upon me and bring me food at
stated intervals, so you've been paid to utter your shibboleths and to
say your prayers.  But perhaps you've meant all right.  Still, nothing
that you can say would help me.  I have no confession to make to you,
not a word, except that I adhere to what I said in the courts: I am
absolutely innocent of this murder.  There's no crime on my soul!"

"But are you ready to meet your God?" said the chaplain.

"Pardon me," said Paul, and his voice quivered with emotion, "but
that's a subject too sacred to talk about.  Hark! what's that?"

There was a sound of hammering outside.

"Does it mean--that?"

Again the chaplain nodded.  "Think, my brother----"

"No, no," said Paul.  "If I am soon to meet God face to face, as you
say, well then--no, I'm neither ashamed nor afraid; that is, as you're
regarding it.  I am ashamed--but, there, you could not understand.
Please leave me, will you?"

Again there was a dull sound of the impact of the head of a hammer upon
the head of a nail outside.


Silence reigned over Brunford, and for a wonder the night was clear.
Overhead unnumbered stars shone brightly.  The wind came from the sea,
and more than one declared that they felt the salt upon their lips.  In
spite of this, however, gloom rested upon the town.  It had gone forth,
that, on the following morning Paul Stepaside was to be hanged, and
hundreds, as they trod the granite pavements of the streets, seemed to
be trying to walk noiselessly.  At almost every corner groups of men
were to be seen evidently discussing the news they had heard.

"He was a rare fine lad, after all, ay, he wur.  I canna think, in
spite of everything, as 'ow he did it.  He wur noan that sort."

"Ay, but the judge and jury, after hearing all th' evidence, and after
hearing one of the grandest speeches ever made in Manchester, found him
guilty.  Ay, and it wur a grand speech, too; I heerd every word on it,
and I shall never forgeet it to my dying day.  When he finished I said,
'He's saved hissen!'  I thowt as no judge and jury in the warld would
ever condemn a man after that.  It seemed to me as though he had
knocked Bakewell's legs from right under him, and I nearly shouted out
loud."

"Ah, but he could not get over th' judge; nay, the judge seemed to have
made up his mind, and his summing up were just terrible.  Mark you,
I've heard a lot of complaints about it.  You know what Paul said after
he were condemned?  He said as 'ow the judge's summing up might have
been another speech by the counsel for the prosecution; and I watched
the judge's face when he said it, and I tell you he went as white as a
sheet.  But theer, 'tis done, and tomorrow morning he'll have to stand
afore the Judgment Seat of God!"

"'Twould be terrible, wouldn't it, if he didn't do it after all?
S'posing it should turn out that someone else did it!"

"But how could it be, man?  'Twere that knife.  Who could ha' got it?
Paul never allowed onybody to get into the office.  The door was
locked, the window was locked.  No, no!  Ay, but it's terrible!"

"Haaf-past seven, as I've heerd, it's going to take place," said
another.

"Nay, haaf-past eight."

"I wonder if he's made his peace with God?"

"Perhaps; we shall never know.  Paul was never a chap to say much about
that kind of thing."

"I've just come from a prayer-meeting at Hanover Chapel.  Never was
there such a prayer-meeting before.  Paul never went to chapel, but,
but there----"

"Well, God Almighty knows if he's innocent," said another.

"Yes," was the reply.  "And it's a good thing, too, that his mother'll
know nothing about it.  I've heerd as 'ow Dr. White says that even if
she lives her mind'll never come back to her again."

"I suppose Judge Bolitho's still in th' town?"

"Ay; I hear he's been writing to th' Home Secretary.  I know he's been
to London more nor once."

"The nurse up at Paul's house say as 'ow he hasn't slept for three
nights, and he's acted fair and strange, too.  I wonder if there's
onything in his mind?"

"I never thowt," said another, "as 'ow they would have ever hanged him
when it coom to be known that Paul's feyther was a judge.  I wonder 'ow
it'll turn out."

And so they gossiped.  Even in the public-houses a kind of solemn awe
was present.  No jokes were passed, even among those who were drunken.
It seemed as though the Angel of Death were hovering over the town in
which Paul had lived for so many years.

When midnight came, a messenger went from Brunclough Lane to Dr.
Wilson's house.  It was a neighbour of Mrs. Dodson's, who had been
aroused from his sleep, and who had been requested to fetch the doctor,
as her daughter was worse.

There was a communication by means of a tube between the front door and
the doctor's bedroom.

"Hallo, Dr. White!"

"Yes, who are you?"

"I'm Amos Gregson.  I come fro' Mrs. Dodson.  She says as 'ow Emily's
worse, and you must come at once."

"Very well; I'll be on in a few minutes."

The doctor might not have retired at all, for he was out in the street
fully dressed a very few seconds after the man had left.  With long,
rapid strides he made his way to Paul's house, which stood in the near
distance, and from one of the windows of which a light was burning.  He
knocked at the door, which was opened by Judge Bolitho.

"I told you to wait," he said.  "I knew the crisis would come to-night."

"Has she sent for you?" asked the judge hoarsely.

"Yes, the man left my door not ten minutes ago.  You have Crashawe with
you?"

"Yes; he's been with me all the evening, and he's now lying on the sofa
asleep."

"Come, then."

A few seconds later three men left the house and made their way rapidly
towards Brunclough Lane.  Presently they stopped at the door of number
twenty-seven and knocked.  It was immediately opened by a neighbour,
who looked suspiciously at Dr. White's two companions.

"Mrs. Dodson is up in th' room," she said.

"And Emily?" said the doctor.

"She says she mun see you."

"Remain here," said Dr. White to the others, and went straight
upstairs.  Evidently he had been there many times, and knew his way
perfectly.

He entered a room which was lit by a cheap, common lamp, and which
threw a sickly light upon the bed.  A girl lay there who must have been
extremely beautiful when in health; even although the hand of death was
upon her now, she gave evidence of that beauty.  Her eyes were
coal-black, her face was a perfect oval, and every feature was striking
and handsome.  Her hair was raven-black and lay in great waving tresses
upon the pillow.

When the doctor entered, she looked towards him eagerly.

"Mother," she said, "go out!" for her mother sat by the bedside.

"Why mun I go, Emily?"

"I want to tell th' doctor something," she said.

"And why may I not hear it?  I suppose I can guess, can't I?"

The woman spoke angrily even then.

"Don't thee be white-livered, Emily, or say owt for which you'll be
sorry afterwards."

The doctor noted the look on the girl's face.  Even then there was
something strong and defiant about her.  She had a Juno-like appearance
which would have attracted notice anywhere, and her firm, square chin
denoted a nature which could withstand almost any opposition.

"Go, mother," she said; and the woman sullenly left the room.

"Doctor," said the girl, and although the death dews were even then
upon her forehead and she spoke between sobbing gasps of breath, there
was a kind of defiance in her tone.  "Doctor, you've been trying for
days to wheedle summat out of me--you know you have."

The doctor did not speak.

"While I thought I was going to live," went on the girl, "I would say
nowt.  Nay, if the king on his throne and all the judges and juries in
the land were to try and drag from me what I'm going to say I wouldn't
have said it.  Ay, but I'm afear'd to die, doctor!  Am I going to die?"

"Yes, you're going to die, Emily."

"How long can I live?"

"Perhaps a few hours, perhaps not so long."

For some seconds the girl lay silently.  Even yet she seemed to be
fighting some great battle.

"Mrs. Cronkshaw was up here a little while ago, and she said as 'ow
Paul Stepaside was to be hanged to-morrow morning.  Is that true?"

"Yes, that is what I've heard," said the doctor.

"Ay; you've tried to get out of me if I know summat about it," said the
girl.  "Ay; but you've tried hard, doctor!" and there was almost a
triumphant tone in her voice.  "But have I said a word?  Nay, not a
word!  While I thought I should live I wouldn't speak for onybody.  And
you've believed I knowed summat about it."

"And I was right," said the doctor, "wasn't I?"

"You're sure, now?" and the girl's tone was almost angry.  "You're sure
I can't live?"

"You can live but a few hours, Emily."

"And can onybody do owt to me if I tell you summat now?"

"No; no one can do anything."

"Weel, then, look 'ere--I killed Ned Wilson!"

Although Dr. White expected this, the words made him shudder.

"I've ne'er said a word to onybody," went on the girl.  "I believe my
mother guessed, but she's noan one to talk, is mother.  Besides, I've
been very poorly.  But I've ne'er said a word to onybody, although I
could see by yar questions that you thought I knowed summat about it.
I'm going to tell you everything now.  I don't want Mr. Paul Stepaside
to die when it can do no good.  If I were going to live, I'd ha' let
him die, no matter what happened; but now----  It wur like this
'ere----"

"Wait," said the doctor.  "I want someone to come and listen to what
you have to say."

"Nay, nay; I'll tell no one but you."

"But you must!" said the doctor.  "If you don't, your confession will
be of no use.  There must be witnesses."

"You mean that I couldn't save him from hanging if I only told it to
you?"

"Yes, I mean that," replied the doctor.

"Who do you want to come up?" said the girl presently.  "Nay, I don't
care who comes now.  I did it, and there'll soon be an end to it.  Let
'em come, whoever they may be!"

In a few seconds Judge Bolitho and the other man came into the room.
The doctor whispered to the judge.

"There must be someone else," said the judge.  "I am afraid my evidence
would be valueless, although I want to be here.  You see, I'm Paul's
father."

"Wait a minute," said the doctor, and he ran quickly downstairs.  "Mrs.
Cronkshaw," he said.  "Come into the bedroom at once!"

The girl who lay upon the bed looked from one face to another, as if
wondering what was happening.

"Give me some strengthening stuff," she said, "or I shall noan be able
to speak."

While the doctor poured some liquid into a glass, the judge passed
round to the other side of the bed, while the lawyer--Crashawe by
name--sat under the light with writing materials to hand.  The woman
who went by the name of Cronkshaw eagerly watched the proceedings, and
looked like one vastly curious.

"It wur like this 'ere," said the dying girl.  "Ned Wilson courted me,
and he promised me that he'd marry me.  He did it on the quiet, nobody
knew, and I, like a fool, trusted him.  Ay, but I wur fond on him.  You
see, well, I knowed I wur a good-looking lass, but I wur always a bit
rough, and it seemed wonderful to me that a great gentleman like he
should have cared owt for me.  And when we had met two or three times,
and he told me that he loved me, I wur ready to worship the very ground
he walked on!  As I told you, he promised to marry me; ay, and it were
his duty to do so, too, for I wur i' trouble.  Then he tried to get me
out of Brunford, but I wouldn't go.  I tried to make him stand by his
word.  As you know, people said as 'ow he wur going to marry Miss
Bolitho, but I wouldn't believe that.  Ned had promised me fair.  He
swore to me by the God above us that he'd marry me.  Then I saw in the
Brunford paper it wur arranged that he should marry Miss Bolitho.  For
a day or two I think I wur mad, and he kept out o' the way o' me.  Then
I axed him about it, and he laughed at me.  He said he wur only joking
when he promised to marry me, and that a lass like I couldn't expect
him to throw away his life by marrying a mill girl.  He offered me
brass to leave the town--a good deal on it, too--but I wur noan going
to be treated like that.  I said, 'No.'  Give me some more stuff,
doctor."

The doctor raised the girl and placed another pillow under her head,
while she eagerly drank what remained in the glass.  The room was in
intense silence, save for the scratch of the lawyer's pen, who was
taking down what the girl was saying, word by word.

"I 'eerd as 'ow Paul Stepaside had come back from London," she went on,
"and I thought to myself, 'He'd help me.  I'll tell him all about it.
He's very clever, and he doesn't like Ned Wilson,' for by this time a
fair hate got hold of me, and I thought to myself, 'I'll see him on the
quiet.'  I saw him go to his office that morning.  I wur just walking
across the mill yard; but as he wur talking with someone I just waited
a bit.  I didn't want no one to see me.  Presently I see his mother
come, I don't think onybody else saw her, because she came in by a side
way, and as you know, Paul's office is shut off from the mill.  So I
waited around, and after a bit I saw his mother go out, and I said to
myself, 'Now's my time.'  So I went up a little passage, and no one
could see me; but just as I wur coming up close to the door he came out
quickly.  I think he wanted to speak to his mother about something.
Anyhow, he left th' office door open, and I said to myself, 'I'll go in
there now, and wait till he comes back.'  Well, I did; and I waited
perhaps two minutes, but he didn't come.  And then I seed the knife on
th' table, and I got 'andlin' it, and all sorts of black thoughts came
into my mind.  And I said to myself, 'I'll say nowt to Mr. Stepaside at
all.'  I can't explain why it was, but I took 'old o' th' knife and
come away.  When I got home for dinner, I just wrote a letter to Ned
Wilson, and I told him I must see him that night late.  It wur
something very particular.  And I told him that, as it was the last
time I should ask him to do onything for me, he mustn't refuse."

"Well," said the doctor.  "What then?"

"Weel, I wur at the place I told him about, and he coom'd.  It wur very
late.  You see I made the hour late, 'cause I know'd if it wur early,
and he wur likely to be seen with me, he wouldn't come.  So I made it
late, and I told him, too, that if he didn't come I'm make everything
known.  I never said owt to anybody, but I kept t' knife with me.  Give
me some more stuff, doctor; I feel as though my head is all swimming!"

The doctor did as the girl desired, and made her pillow more
comfortable.

"Ay, that's better," she said.  "Weel, we met, and I begged him again,
begged him as I thought I should never beg onybody to do anything--for
I am a proud lass--to marry me.  But he wouldn't.  He said he wur going
to marry Miss Bolitho, if only out of spite to Paul Stepaside.  So I
said to him, 'What has Paul Stepaside to do with it?'  And he laughed.
So then I axed him what I wur to do, and he told me that I might go to
Manchester and get my living as best I could.  And after that hell got
hold of me, but I kept quiet.  And I said, 'Good-night, Ned,' and he
said, 'Good-night, Emily.  Be a sensible lass.'  And then he turned
round to go back home, and then I up with the knife and stabbed him in
the back.  I thought my heart was going to leap into my mouth when I
saw him fall on his face without a word and without a sound, and I
never stayed a minute, but I run all the way home."

The scratch of the lawyer's pen continued some seconds after the girl
had ceased speaking.

"That's all," she said.  "I'm glad I've told you.  A've been i' 'ell
for mony a week, and, and--but there, it's all over now!"

"Just a minute," said the lawyer.  "Let me read through what you have
said."

"I can noan bear it; my head's swimmin' again!"

Dr. White administered another dose of powerful stimulant, and the girl
breathed more easily.

"You can bear it now, Emily," he said kindly.  "And you've been a brave
lass."

"I know I ought not to have killed him," said the girl, "but he treated
me bad, and he said things to me which no man ought ever to say to ony
lass.  But theer----"

The lawyer came close to the bed and read the girl's confession aloud.

"Ay, that's right," she said when he had finished.  "It's all true,
every word, so help me God!"

"Will you sign your name here?" said the lawyer.

They propped her up in bed, and a pen was placed in her hand.  Judge
Bolitho was afraid for the moment that she would never have strength
enough to perform the task of writing her name; but the girl, almost by
a superhuman effort, conquered her weakness.  She seized the pen and
wrote her name.

"Thank you," he said.  "That will do."

The girl lay back on her pillow, panting for her very life.  A minute
later the document was witnessed by the others in the room.

Two hours later Emily Dodson was dead.



CHAPTER XXXIII

THE HOME-COMING

The warder came into Paul's cell bearing his breakfast.

"There," he said.  "I've got something good for you this morning.  How
did you sleep?"

"Scarcely at all," replied Paul quietly.  "You can take away this; I
shall not eat it."

"Eat it, man; it is the best breakfast you've had for many a day, and
it'll help you to go through with it."

"No," replied Paul quietly; "I'll go through it without that."

There was a sad, wistful look in his eye.  He knew that the dread hour
had nearly come, and that he must bid good-bye to everything.  During
the previous evening he had been in a state of great excitement.  He
had listened eagerly for the coming of Mary and his father, but they
never came.  In a numb sort of way he wondered why.  He would like to
have bidden them good-bye.  He longed to hold Mary in his arms once
more, and longed, too, to tell his father that he forgave him.  For he
had to confess to himself at last that he had done this.  With death
knocking at the gates of life, it seemed to him he could do no other.
His father had sinned, but he had done his best to atone.  Of course,
all was vain, and the tangled skein of life had not been straightened
out.  He felt that somehow life with him had begun wrong, and it had
continued wrong to the end.  Still, there was a quiet resignation in
his heart which almost surprised him.  At that moment he could have
said with Tennyson, "And yet we trust that somehow good will be the
final goal of ill."  As for the future--well, he would soon solve its
mystery.  He did not want to die; rather, he longed to live--he had so
much to live for in spite of everything.  Of course, Mary could never
be his wife, but he could love her and guard her and cherish her all
the same.  As for the rest----

He felt a kind of curiosity as to what the future would bring forth.
He looked at his hands, so strong, nervous, vigorous, and thought that
in a few hours they would be inert, lifeless.  That something which men
call "life" would be gone.  Where would he be?  For the first time in
his life he felt almost certain that the essential "he" would continue
to be.  Where, and under what circumstances, he wondered?  Well, he
should know soon.

A little later he was out under a dark, gloomy sky.  He saw a great
black cloud hanging in the heavens.  Here and there was a patch of blue
where the stars peeped out.  It was bitterly cold, and he felt himself
shivering.  Others were there, too; strange, shadowy looking figures
they appeared to be, but he took very little note of them.  Only one
man was perfectly clear to him; that was the chaplain, who wore a gown
and carried a black book in his hand.  It was his duty to read the
Burial Service.  He heard a bell tolling, but it did not affect him as
he thought it would.  Of course, it was the very refinement of torture,
and ought not to be allowed.  No man, whatever he had done, should be
made to suffer in this way.  But he did not care much.  He was not
afraid.  In the dim light he saw that a scaffold had been erected--a
gaunt, ghastly thing, the very symbol of despair and shame and death.
He wondered what took place next.  He supposed there would be certain
formulae to go through.  The parson would utter a homily as well as
read the miserable Burial Service.

"What's going to happen next?" he said to the warder; and he spoke
rather as a spectator than as the one who was the chief figure in this
terrible scene.

But before the man had time to reply there was a strange confusion.
Something had happened.  Excited voices were heard.  The governor of
the gaol said something, the purport of which did not reach Paul, but
still something which seemed to change the atmosphere and made the grey
dawn bright with the light of day.  Another moment, and his heart
thrilled.  He felt soft arms around his neck, a warm face close to his,
while on his lips were burning kisses.

"Paul!  Paul!"

"Mary!"

He wondered what it all meant, for even yet the truth had not dawned in
his mind.

"You should not have come, Mary," he said.  "You see I can bear it all
right."

"Paul, don't you understand?"  And she laughed and sobbed at the same
time.  "You are not going to die.  You are saved!"

"Saved?"

"Yes.  She has confessed, Paul."

"No, no!"  And there was agony in his voice.  "No, no!  Better I should
die than that she should!"

"No; but, Paul, it was another--a woman named Emily Dodson.  You were
right, you see, in your defence.  He had deceived her, wronged her, and
she killed him.  She confessed it last night.  It's all written down
and signed.  Don't you understand, my love?"

"Then, then----?"

"I congratulate you, Mr. Stepaside!"  It was the governor of the gaol
who spoke.  "Thank God, the news has come in time!  Yes, my lord, of
course you can speak to him."

"Paul, my son."  And his heart thrilled at the sound of his father's
voice.  "Thank God!  Thank God!  Will you shake hands and forgive me?"

It seemed to Paul at that moment as though the foundations of his life
were broken up.

"Oh, God, I thank Thee!" he cried, "Oh, Mary, Mary!  My love!"  And
again he strained the young girl to his heart.


For many days Paul Stepaside's mother lay sleeping calmly in the room
where sickness had confined her.  Her face was tranquil, the lines
which had been so deep a few weeks before had passed away.  She had
been unconscious ever since the day on which Mary had made known to her
the terrible suspicion which filled her mind.  Sometimes there had come
to her minutes when the past became partially real, but those minutes
were only as dream phantoms.  She knew nothing of what had taken place,
did not seem to realise that Mary Bolitho had been in the house with
her, or that the man to whom she had given her heart long years before
slept beneath the same roof.  She knew nothing either of the agony
through which they had passed or of their feverish endeavours to save
her son.  She suffered no pain.  She simply lay there as though nothing
mattered and as though the windows of her mind had been closed.

The nurse sat by her bedside watching her.  The doctor had been that
morning, and had remarked that he saw no change either one way or the
other.

"I have seldom seen anything like it, nurse!" he had said.
"Physically, she seems to be improving.  Her pulse is quite
satisfactory; she has no temperature; and her strength is well
maintained.  But I do not understand this long condition of coma.  I
wonder how it will end!"

The nurse, as she sat by the patient's bedside, was thinking of what
the doctor had said, and was curiously watching her face.

The woman's eyes opened, and the nurse thought she saw the light of
reason in them.  She looked curiously around the room.

"Who are you?" she said.

"I'm a nurse from the hospital, Mrs. Stepaside.  You haven't been very
well."

"Ay, I remember being poorly.  Where's Paul?"

"He's not come back yet," said the nurse.

"What do you mean?  Ay, but he's near!  Don't you hear them shouting?"

In spite of the fact that she still believed her patient to be
unconscious, she listened, and thought she heard distant shouting.

"I know, I know!  It's Paul coming home!  He's cleared himself.  Do you
see?  He's proved himself innocent!  I knew he would!  My own clever
boy!  There!  There!"

Again the nurse listened, and this time she knew that something was
taking place.  It seemed to her like a shout of great multitudes, the
roar of a mighty sea of voices, and it was coming nearer and nearer the
house.

"Hurrah!  Hurrah!"

"God bless ye!"

"He's saved!"

"He's innocent!"

"The truth has come out!"

She could only faintly distinguish the words, but this was what she
thought she heard.  It was like the roar of a great storm, the shout of
a mighty multitude.

Still it came nearer and nearer, and the volume of sound ever increased.

The woman in her bed laughed.  "Don't you see?" she said.  "I left
Manchester only yesterday, and that lassie came with me.  Where is she
noo?  She'll be gone to meet Paul.  Just think of it!  I didn't think
he could clear himself so soon, but she thought--ah, never mind what
she thought!"

Still the roar of voices continued, ever increasing in volume and
jubilancy.

"Don't you see?" went on Paul's mother.  "The crowd knew he would come,
and they met him at Brunford station, and they're bringing him home as
he ought to be brought home.  But I must not be here, in bed, I must
get up!"

"No, no," said the nurse.  "You're not well enough for that!"

"Not well enough!  I'm all right.  My Paul must not find me like a sick
woman when he comes.  He must find me up and dressed, ready to meet
him.  Quick, quick!"

She got out of bed of her own accord.  "There," she said.  "You say I'm
not strong enough!  They are at the door, do you hear?  Hark how
they're shouting!  Ay, my own Paul, the light's come to him at last!"

She ceased speaking.  Her mind seemed to be gathering up the events of
the past weeks.  She remembered the visit which Judge Bolitho had made
to her in Dixon Street--called to mind, too, the confession he had
made, and which Mary had read to her.

"And there is no stain upon his name now.  No one can twit him now!"
she continued, jubilantly.  "There they are at the door!  Now then,
bring me that dressing-gown.  Oh, if I'd only woke up sooner, I would
have put on that new dress which Paul brought me, the one he likes so
much.  He said it made me look like a lassie."

The front door opened, and both of them heard the confusion of tongues
beneath.  Then there was a heavy tread upon the stairs.  The door of
her bedroom opened, and Paul entered.

He had expected to see her lying on a bed of sickness, pale and
emaciated, instead of which she stood erect.

"Mother!" he said, and folded her in his arms.

"Ay, my laddie!" she cried.  "You've beaten them all, then?"

He did not know what was in her mind, but he thought it best to humour
her.  "Yes, mother, I've beaten them all."

"I knew you would.  When I left Manchester yesterday I knew you'd beat
them.  Why, to think of you, my Paul, doing such a thing!  And that
crowd I heard shouting, Paul?  They came to meet you at the station,
didn't they?"

"I believe hundreds of them came from Manchester," was the reply.
"Then, of course, there were many at the station, too."

"That's well, my son!"

"Mother, what is it?" cried Paul, noting the change that passed over
her face.

"I'm not so well, my laddie, and I'm not so strong as I thought I was.
But it's all right.  I think I'll lie down again."

He lifted her in his arms and placed her back in the bed, and in a few
seconds she was asleep.


The crowds departed after a while, but there was little work done in
Brunford that day.  Never was such an excitement known before, never
such joy manifested.  Directly the news had become known that the real
murderer had confessed, the news flashed over many wires and the Press
of the whole country was flooded with the wonderful story.  Throughout
Lancashire it passed, from town to town, from mill to mill, from
cottage to cottage, like wild-fire.  People who had been certain of
Paul's guilt the day before had known all along that he was innocent,
and pretended to rejoice accordingly.  No sooner did the news reach
Brunford than all the mills in the town ceased running.  The streets
were filled with excited multitudes, talking over what had taken place.
Paul Stepaside, for whom the scaffold had been erected and the cord
made ready, had been proved innocent at the last moment, and stood
before the world a free man!  It would be impossible for me to describe
in detail the rejoicings of the people or the demonstrations that were
made.  Even to this day the people in Brunford talk about it as a
red-letter day in the history of the town, as a time when it was moved
beyond all thought or imagination.

Meanwhile, Paul sat with Mary in his own house.  The past weeks seemed
like a hideous nightmare to him now.  But he had awakened from his
sleep, the dark clouds had rolled away.  He was home again!  The crime
of which he had been accused was as nothing.  His innocence had been
proclaimed to the world.  His name was without a stain.  But he felt
strangely restrained.  It seemed as though a weight were put upon his
lips, and while he grudged every moment that Mary was out of his sight,
he almost feared to be alone with her.

"Paul," she said to him late that afternoon, "your mother does not seem
to suffer at all because of the excitement this morning!"

"No," he said quietly.  "It's very wonderful!  When I was with her just
now she was quite cheerful and happy.  Even yet she does not know all
the truth.  Of course, she'll have to know it some day, but we will
keep it from her as long as we can.  But I do not quite understand the
look in her eyes, all the same!  She seemed as though she were
expecting some one."

"I think I know whom she expects."

"You mean your father?" replied Paul.  Even yet he was unable to speak
of Judge Bolitho as his own father.

"Yes, I believe she is wondering why he has not come."

"I think I rather wonder, too," said Paul.  "You see, he left us
directly after I was--after--after the truth was made known, and I've
heard nothing from him since.  Have you, Mary?"

"No," said the girl.  "I've heard nothing.  I think he went to London.
You see, as far as you're concerned, there are heaps of formalities to
be complied with!"

"Yes, yes, I know!" said Paul almost hastily.  It seemed as though he
wanted to drive the whole terrible thing from his mind.

"Mary," said Paul at length, "have you ever spoken with your father
about the past?"

"No," she replied, "never.  I was afraid; I don't know why.  Once or
twice he seemed to be trying to broach the subject, but there was such
an awful look in his eyes that I could not bear to hear him speak about
it.  Besides, I had no time to think about myself!  How could I, when,
when----  But you know, Paul!"

It was very wonderful to him to be sitting alone in his own house with
Mary in this way.  Sometimes he thought he was in a dream, and that he
would wake up presently to find all the wild, ghastly realities come to
him.  But it was no dream.  The hundreds of telegrams which came to him
expressing delight at the proof of his innocence, and the innumerable
messages of goodwill which constantly reached him, made all his black
fancies impossible.

He was not happy in a full and complete sense of the word.  Even yet he
felt his life to be enshrouded in mystery.  It seemed to him the
problem was not yet solved, and never could be solved this side of
eternity.  Still, his heart was joyful, for was not Mary by his side?
Was he not for ever seeing her winsome smile and the flash of her
bright eyes?  Was she not for ever seeking to minister to his comfort
and to bring sunshine into his life?

He dared not go into the town.  He feared to meet the people.  He could
not bear to hear their kindly words, their exclamations of delight and
joy.  He knew that the sight of homely faces would unman him, and that
he would break down like a child.  While the shadow of guilt was upon
him, he could be strong even as a stoic might be strong.  He could bear
hard words and suspicious looks.  All through the long trial he had
been composed and self-reliant, but that was over now.  In a way he
could not understand, the hard crust of his nature had been broken up.
Paul felt a new man.  That black, grimy town was no longer dirty and
sordid to him.  It was the home of tens of thousands of kind hearts,
the home of the people he loved.  He saw a meaning in their life which
he had never seen before.  He had dreams of their future to which he
was a stranger in the old days.  But he could not go out and meet them,
could not clasp friendly hands, could not meet smile with smile.
Perhaps it was no wonder.  Paul had passed far down the deep, dark
Valley of the Shadow of Death, and it seemed at one time as though he
would never emerge into the light again, and so it was not strange he
should desire to be alone with Mary.

Night came on, and still Judge Bolitho did not come.  The last train
had arrived in Brunford, but there was no news of him.

"He'll be back when he's done his work," said Mary.

"What work?" asked Paul.

"I don't know," she replied.  "But, Paul, you are grieving about me.
Don't!  I know what's in your mind, but it doesn't matter one bit, not
one bit, Paul!"

"But, Mary----"

"No, Paul, not one word!  There, it's time for you to go to bed.  Kiss
me, my love!"

He went towards her, meaning to give her a brotherly kiss, but when he
came close to her he caught her in his arms again, and held her
passionately to him.

"Good-night, Mary.  May God bless you!"

"God?" she said, looking up into his face wonderingly, and there was
almost a sob in her voice.  "Do you believe in Him at last?"

"May God bless you, my--no, I can't say it.  Good-night!"

When Paul went to his room that night, the first night he had slept
there since the dread things which had so altered the whole of his life
came to him, he sat for a long time thinking.  Again he reviewed the
past, tried to see its deeper meaning.  Then he knelt down by his
bedside.  He uttered no words, formulated no prayer, but he knew he was
very near to the heart of things.

Days passed, and still there was no news of Judge Bolitho.  Paul's
mother, as steadily she grew stronger, seemed ever to be listening and
watching, but she asked no questions and spoke no word about the man of
whom both Paul and Mary were sure she was thinking.  Both of them
rejoiced as they saw her health coming back to her, saw a new light in
her eyes, a tenderer expression on her lips.  All the same, each of
them wondered what the future would bring forth.  Neither Mary nor Paul
referred again to the shadow which hung upon the former's name.  Not
one question did Paul ask about her mother, or about the days before
they first met each other.  He was afraid it would give her pain, and
he would rather suffer anything than do that.

On the fourth day after his return, Paul's mother was well enough to
come downstairs again.  She had clothed herself in the last new dress
Paul had bought her, and she blushed like a girl when he told her how
young and handsome she looked.

"Nay, Paul, I'm an old woman," she protested.  All the same, it was
easy to see that she was pleased.

"You're just young and handsome, mother," he repeated.  "There's many a
lass in Brunford who'd give anything to have your good looks."

"And they say you're the very image of me, Paul!  Think now, when
you're praising my good looks you're just praising your own!"

In spite of their pleasantries, however, it was easy to see that she
was wondering about and longing for something of which she spoke no
word.

"Mother, it's eight o'clock.  It's time for you to go to bed.  You must
not take liberties with yourself."

"No," she said.  "I'm going to stay up a little longer.  I'm not so
weak as you think.  Did I give way when--when--when I heard how near
you were to----?  Oh, Paul! my boy! my boy!  Thank God!  No wonder you
love Mary.  It was she who saved you!  I fancied you had got yourself
off by your own cleverness, but, without her----"

"Without her everything would have been impossible," said Paul, but he
did not lift his eyes.  He was afraid what his mother might see there.

"All the same, you'd better go to bed, mother.  You'll be overtired!"

"Listen," she said, and both Mary and Paul saw her hands tremble.
"There!  There!  Don't you hear?"

All plainly heard the sound of wheels outside, an eager step on the
path, and then a knock at the door.  Paul Stepaside's mother sat rigid.
She seemed like one afraid; yet there was a bright light in her eyes
all the time.

"Run, my lassie," she said quickly.  "Run.  Don't wait for one of the
maids to go, perhaps it will be----"

But Mary did not hear the end of her sentence.  She ran to the door,
and opened it, and both mother and son heard whispering voices in the
little hall.

A few seconds later Mary returned again, accompanied by Judge Bolitho.
He looked from one face to another, as if uncertain of his welcome.  He
had evidently come from a long journey, for he looked travel-stained
and weary, but each noticed how eager his face was.  Paul's mother sat
rigidly in her chair.  She gave no word of welcome, no sign of
recognition.  It seemed as though the presence of the judge had placed
the seal of silence upon her lips.  Paul rose and held out his hand.

"No," said the judge.  "I will not take your hand."

Paul looked at him in astonishment.  It seemed strange to him, after
what had passed at their last meeting, for him to act in this way.

"I will not take your hand, Paul, until I have told my story, until you
have heard all there is for me to say," said the judge.



CHAPTER XXXIV

JUDGE BOLITHO'S CONFESSION

As Judge Bolitho spoke, Paul saw that his mother drew herself up in her
chair and fixed her eyes upon the newcomer with a look of feverish
inquiry.  No word had passed between them about the past ever since his
return home.  Never once had she mentioned an incident of her girlhood,
neither had she spoken to Paul about the judge's confession, or what it
had meant to them both.  The servants still spoke to her as "Mrs.
Stepaside," even as they spoke of Paul as Paul Stepaside.  There seemed
something strange in their relations to the judge even yet.  There was
still, however, that look of continual watchfulness and inquiry in her
eyes.  It seemed as though she were waiting for something, something of
which she dared not speak.

"I feel as though I had no right to sit here," went on the judge, "no
right to a welcome of any sort until I have told the truth.  When I
have spoken you may drive me from your doors, but at least what there
is to be made known shall be told truthfully."

No one spoke, but it was easy to see that all were greatly moved.  Mary
Bolitho, although she had not spoken a word concerning the story of her
past, even to Paul, waited with intense eagerness.  Her face had become
pale and her lips were tremulous.  Paul, too, felt as though the issues
of light and darkness lay within the next few minutes, while his mother
sat rigid in her chair, never moving a muscle, her eyes fixed on the
man who had just come into the room.

The judge pulled off his heavy fur-lined coat and went to the door.  He
seemed afraid lest someone might be listening.

"What I have to say," he said, "is between ourselves alone.  A great
deal of it is not for the ears of the world, although some of it must
perforce be made known."

Silence followed for some time, and the listeners seemed almost too
much moved to breathe, while the speaker appeared to find his task even
harder than he had imagined.  There was a look which suggested fear in
his eyes, and although he constantly glanced at the woman opposite him,
he seemed unable to gaze at her steadily.

"I need not describe at length that visit to Scotland," he said
presently.  "You all know practically what there is to know.  I was an
orphan.  On my father's side I belonged to the Scotch people, on my
mother's to Cornwall.  They died when I was very young, leaving a sum
sufficient to educate me and to start me in life--at least, so they
thought.  I had chosen the profession of the law, and when I took my
degree at Oxford I began reading for the Bar.  I had imagined that I
had an income sufficient to keep me during the time I was passing my
examinations and while I might have to wait for briefs.  It was at this
time that I went to Scotland with some companions.  There I met with
you, Jean.  There I fell in love with you."

The woman gave a quivering sigh as he spoke, but uttered no word.  Her
eyes were fixed on him steadily.  She seemed to be trying to read his
soul.

"I do not think I was a bad lad," he went on, "and I loved you truly.
I meant every word I said to you.  Doubtless from the worldly-wise
man's standpoint I was foolish and acted without due thought, but I
yielded to the promptings of my heart, and--and so, at least, I can
tell you that, Jean."

He was evidently speaking to her rather than to the others.  For the
moment they might not have existed at all.

"Badly as I may have treated you, you may believe that, at all events,
I loved you with all the fresh, warm affection of a boy, and meant
nothing but what was right and true."

Again he paused, as if trying to recall the scenes among the Scottish
hills.

"You know I had arranged to leave 'Highlands' that morning and to meet
you later in a lonely valley among the mountains.  Naturally I was much
excited and eager to get to your side.  Yet even then I was a coward.
Had I acted as I ought, I should have taken you to a minister and have
married you before witnesses, but the other way appeared easy, and you
did not seem to mind.  I must confess, too, that the idea of a Scotch
marriage was, in some ways, unreal to me.  It did not appear to me as
binding as a marriage service should.  I expect that was why I
suggested this method of our becoming man and wife, for I can see it
now--I was a coward even then!

"Still, as I have said, I longed to get to your side, longed to make
you my wife, even although I felt I might be acting foolishly.  So
excited was I that when a servant brought me a letter just as I was
leaving, I did not trouble to open it.  Had I done so, our future might
have been different; I do not know; but I'm telling you this that I may
keep nothing from you, for I am determined that you shall know the
truth and the whole truth.  I thought nothing of the letter through the
day; my joy at being with you was too great for that, and the
excitement of the thought that I was taking you as my wife made me
forgetful of everything else.  You remember the scene, Jean?  You
remember how we took each other as man and wife, there amidst the
silence and loneliness?  You remember, too, how you suggested that we
should ask God to bless our union, and how we knelt side by side and
prayed?  The memory of that hour has whipped me like scorpions ever
since.

"When presently we reached the inn, I thought of the letter and read
it.  It was from my mother's cousin, who had charge of my affairs and
acted as a guardian to me.  It seems that he loved her when they were
boy and girl, and although she married another man, his love never
died.  Perhaps that was why he was fond of me.  But he never liked my
father, and hated the name Graham as a consequence.  In the letter he
wrote, he told me that the little property which I had thought to be
mine had all vanished.  It seems that it had been invested in what were
thought to be perfectly safe securities, but which had become
worthless; therefore I, who was not yet called to the Bar, and had no
profession, was penniless.  He told me it was necessary for me to
return immediately, as he had other news of the gravest import to
convey to me, but which I could not properly understand through the
medium of a letter.

"I've been reading that letter to-day," went on the judge, "and I do
not wonder at my being moved by it.  It was written in the most solemn
fashion, and hinted at a great deal more than it said.  It urged me in
the most impressive way to return to Cornwall immediately, and told me
that I must allow nothing to stand in the way of my coming.

"Well, Jean, you know what happened.  I left you on the morning
following, telling you to return to your father, to inform him of our
marriage, assuring you that I should return very shortly."

Again the judge was silent for some time.  He seemed to be fighting
with himself, seemed to be unable to express the thoughts which filled
his mind.

"My guardian's name," he went on, "was Bolitho.  As I told you, he had
always been fond of me from a boy, and he was more to me than most
fathers are to their sons.  When I returned to him late that night,
for, as you know, I caught an express train from Carlisle early in the
morning and travelled continuously for fourteen hours, I found him
eagerly awaiting me, and I thought he looked pale and ill.  In spite of
my protests, he would not wait until the morning before telling me what
he had in his mind.  Ever since he had discovered the truth about my
affairs, it seemed that he had been making plans about me, and it was
not long before I discovered them.  As I told you, he hated the name of
Graham, because my father had robbed him of the woman he loved, and he
told me that he wanted me to take his name and become his son.  On
condition that I would do this, he would make my future secure and
leave me what fortune he possessed.  But there was something more than
this, and here comes the story of my fall."

Paul's mother moved slightly in her chair, and then, if possible, her
form became more rigid than before, but she did not speak.

"Are you sure you can bear this?" asked the judge.  "Are you strong
enough?"

"I'm not strong enough to leave this room until I know," replied the
woman, and each of them realised that every nerve in her body was in
tension, and that her suffering, although not physical, defied all
description.

"He told me something else," went on the judge.  "He told me that he
had lately visited his doctor, who had informed him that it was
essential to his life for him to go to some Southern land, and
suggested New Zealand or Australia, for at least two years.  He said
that a lengthy sea voyage was first of all absolutely necessary, and
that then a residence for a considerable time in a suitable climate
must be a condition of his life.  If he did not do this he would die.

"You can see what this meant," continued the judge, for the first time
looking at Mary and Paul, "and his words almost staggered me.  But this
was not all.  He had promised to care for a widowed sister's child, a
girl who was at that time about eighteen years of age; promised her,
too, the protection which she had never known from her father.  She was
called Mary Tregony, and, like the Bolithos, the Tregonys are among the
oldest families in England.  Of course, I had known her all her life,
and in a way looked upon her as a sister."

"'You like Mary?' said my uncle to me.

"And I had to confess that I did, although I only thought of her as a
kind of sister.

"'Douglas, my boy,' he said, 'I want you to marry Mary; not yet, for
she has not yet left school, but in, say, two years' time, when I am
well enough to return to England; then I want you to make her your
wife.'"

"It was here," said the judge, "that my cowardice first appeared.  I
ought to have told Mr. Bolitho that I was already married, and that I
had only left my wife early that morning, but I did not.  There was no
excuse for me, I know; all the same, although I still loved you, Jean,
or thought I did, our marriage seemed shadowy, unreal.  I forgot what I
owed you, forgot my duty to you.

"Mr. Bolitho, although he loved me dearly, was a man who was stern and
unbending, a man of iron will, a man always accustomed to have his way.
For years I had looked on him with a kind of awe, and had never once
dared to disobey him.  His word had always been law to me, and even
although practically I had reached man's estate, the influence of the
past was strong upon me.  I dared not tell him the truth, dared not say
that I could not do what he asked.  I know I was a coward, worse than a
coward, but I was silent.

"Presently, however, I made a feeble sort of opposition.  I demurred
against changing my name, for one thing, and I remember saying that I
had no reason to believe that Mary cared for me.  But, in his strong,
imperious way, he swept down all my opposition.  The influence of the
past was strong upon me, and I forgot my present duty.  Besides, as I
said, he was adamant.  He grew angry even at the little opposition I
offered, and told me that if I did not care enough for him to do what
he asked, I must look to myself for my future.  And I was penniless,
dependent upon him for every farthing.  I had no means of earning a
living.  It is true I had taken a degree at Oxford, but I had no
knowledge of any trade, no early prospect of earning money in a
profession.  What could I do?  Besides, I was a coward.  No one can
scorn that cowardice more than I, but there it was.  He appealed to my
pity, too.  He told me that if I did not go with him abroad he would
have to go alone, a sick man among strangers.  I soon found out, too,
that even my belief in my own property was largely a figment of my own
imagination.  It is true some little money had been left to me, and had
been lost in the way I have indicated, but without him I could never
have gone to Oxford, without him I should have been practically a waif.
Besides, he was a man of strong personality, and, as I said, of iron
will."

The judge made a movement as if of impatience.  "What is the use of
enlarging upon all this?" he went on presently.  "I promised to do what
he asked, promised to change my name.  That was not much.  I knew
little and cared less about my father, but my mother was a Bolitho, and
I almost adored her memory.  I was willing to be called Bolitho instead
of Graham.  That cost me very little.  As to the other, the thought of
travelling for two years appealed to me.  It is true I was fond of my
studies, but I reflected that I could take my books with me, and
although it might delay my being called to the Bar by some year or
two--I was young, and it did not matter; and so, God forgive me, I
forgot the vows I made, forgot my honour.  I was a coward!  Added to
all this, the marriage on the moors became less and less reality.
Indeed, after I had been in Cornwall two or three days, it seemed
little more than a joke, an episode in a boy's life.  I was forgetful
of what the consequences of such a deed might be, and I began to look
forward to coming days.  Presently I wrote that letter.  No wonder you
could not forgive me.  No wonder Paul hated me for it.  But there, I
wrote it!  One thing, and one thing only may be urged in my favour.
Although I seemingly consented to the marriage with Mary Tregony, I
hoped that something would happen to make it impossible.  It all lay in
the distance, and that made everything easy to an optimistic youth.  I
never breathed a word concerning my marriage with Jean.  Indeed, I came
to look upon it as something that was utterly illegal, and that I could
never be expected to stand by what was only, after all, a mere farcical
thing, the act of a madcap boy."

The judge wiped the perspiration from his brow before going on again.
It was evident that he was suffering greatly.  It seemed as though he
had not yet reached that point of his story which was more difficult to
tell than any other, still, he plodded on his weary way, although the
words came with difficulty.

"In two years' time we returned from abroad.  By this time I was
accustomed to the name of 'Bolitho.'  Steps had been taken to make it
legal, and I had to a very large extent forgotten my former name.  I
was Mr. Bolitho's adopted son, and I called him 'father.'  During the
years we had been away together, too, his influence upon me had grown
stronger.  I was afraid to do anything in opposition to his will.  His
resolute, imperious nature made me almost like an obedient slave, and
not only that, I loved him too.  I knew I owed everything to him, and
he was almost uniformly kind to me.  Thus, while I feared him, my fear
was mingled with filial love.

"When we returned to England I started in earnest with my law studies.
I had not altogether neglected them while I had been away, and so I
went to London for my dinners, and in due time was called to the Bar,
with, it was said, a great deal of distinction.  By this time my
experiences in Scotland became, to my shame, almost a shadowy memory to
me.  I cared for no other woman, and there were times, too, when I
dreamed of Jean, and thought of her fondly, but only rarely.  The
Scotch episode was but an episode.  One thing gladdened me, Mary
Tregony seemed to care nothing for me, and in spite of Mr. Bolitho's
persuasions, there were no definite arrangements made about our
marriage.  Presently, however, after I had been practising some time,
and had obtained a modicum of success, indeed, a success great enough
to promise well for the future, my adopted father wrote to me saying
that Mary had at length consented to our wedding.  It was at this time
that I began to be afraid.  What I had laughed at in my heart as the
Scotch episode, became real.  I remember, too, that at that time I was
engaged in a bigamy trial, and I remember the terms which the judge
used concerning the man who was found guilty.  Yet here was I, who had
acted as junior counsel for the prosecution of this man, contemplating
taking a woman to wife, when I had promised before God to be faithful
to another.  I tried to persuade myself that the Scotch marriage was
not only informal but illegal, and could have no weight of whatever
nature, yet my heart swept away all the sophistries of my mind, and
proclaimed me to be a villain.  So much moved was I by this that I at
length decided to send a man to Scotland to make inquiries.  Of course,
he never dreamed of my connection with the affair, and thought that I
was only hunting up evidence for some case in which I was interested
professionally.  After a time he returned with the news that Jean
Lindsay was dead, that she died some months after I had left her,
probably of a broken heart, certainly in disgrace.  Need I say what I
suffered?  You would not believe me if I told you!  How could anyone
who had acted a coward's part as I had, suffer?  Yet so it was.  And
yet in my suffering was a sense of freedom.  Nothing now seemed to
depend upon the possible legality or illegality of my former marriage.
The woman I had wedded was dead, at least so I was assured, and so I
believed.  I went to Cornwall prepared to do my adopted father's
bidding.

"When I arrived there, I found him almost in a state of panic.  Mary
was missing!  What had become of her no one knew.  Personally I
believed that she so hated the thought of marrying me that she had
determined to escape.  More than five years had now passed away since
my visit to Scotland, and, as I said, I had been called to the Bar with
fair prospects of success.  The name I bore was old and respected.  It
was a passport into any society that I desired.  Again I felt as though
the fates were fighting for me.  After all, in spite of everything, I
should be free to live my own life, and the consequences of my
cowardice and sin would never be visited upon me.  The fact that my
name had been changed from Graham to Bolitho was practically unknown,
and even those with whom I forgathered as a student had become
accustomed to my new name.  It seemed natural to them, I suppose, that
I, in order to become my adopted father's heir, should also adopt his
name.  Indeed, I have been described in certain handbooks as the only
son of Hugh Bolitho of Tredinnick, Cornwall.

"More than a year passed before I heard anything again of Mary Tregony,
and then I received an urgent message summoning me to the West of
England.  It seems that my adopted father had at length found out where
she was, found out, too, that she had been the victim of a villain.  A
wild rake, a man of no character, who had been kicked out of the army,
and who was already married, had deceived her.  I need not mention his
name now, indeed it is well that I should not, and it has no real
bearing upon what I am telling you, but he was a handsome dare-devil
kind of fellow who appealed to the heart of a romantic young girl, and
she trusted him.  Soon after their supposed marriage she found out what
she had done."

The judge ceased speaking for a few seconds.

"There was no one louder in his condemnation than I, no one called him
viler names than I, and yet I knew in my heart all the time that my
villainy was as great as his.

"My adopted father met me at Plymouth and led me to a low part of the
town where she had taken lodgings.  It was here her child had been
born, a child she dared not own, a child to whom the stigma of disgrace
would be attached if the truth were made known.  As I told you, my
adopted father loved Mary Tregony almost as he loved me, and it was the
dream of his heart that we should be man and wife.  It seems almost
like a fairy story now, but at that time it was terribly real.  Even
yet I can hardly believe in its truth.  We found Mary lying in a
miserable room, with her child sleeping by her side--a little girl."

The judge turned, and gave a hasty glance at Mary as he spoke.  It was
only for a second, but he saw that her face was blanched and set, while
in her eyes was a look of horror.

"The doctor who had been called in had said that Mary Tregony was
dying, that at most she could live only a few hours, and my adopted
father demanded that I should marry her, and thus save her name from
dishonour, and take the child as my own.  I have told you of the power
he had over me, how practically all my life I had never thought of
disobeying him, and in spite of myself he persuaded me now."

During the whole of this recital Paul's mother had never uttered a
word, save in answer to the one question which Judge Bolitho had spoken
to her, but she had sat rigid in form and face, her hands clasped to
the arms of her chair, her eyes fixed on the speaker's face, never
missing a word that was uttered.  Now, however, she spoke.

"And did you dare to marry her?" she said passionately.  "You--you, who
had----"

"Wait a minute," said the judge.  "There were certain legal formalities
to be complied with, a certain time to wait before any marriage could
be made legal.  We were no longer in Scotland, as in the days when I
married you, Jean.  We were in England.  Yes, I decided to obey my
adopted father's command.  As it seemed to me, I owed everything to him
and I could not withstand his pleadings.  For he did plead, pleaded as
I never thought a man could, pleaded his love for Mary, his love for
her honour, pleaded that her child should have an honourable name--and
I yielded to him."

"Then I am not your child really?" cried Mary.

"Wait a little," said the judge.  "Before the time came when Mary could
legally be made my wife, she died."

"Then you never married her?" said Paul's mother, her voice hoarse and
unnatural.

"No.  I never married her."

"Then--then?" said Mary.

"Then my adopted father made me solemnly promise that I would take you
as my child, that it should be made known that I had married your
mother secretly, and that she was dead.

"I suppose I was much excited.  Certain I am that my mind did not fully
comprehend the real issues of the case.  Anyhow, I promised him.  As
you know, Mary, I have never told you much about your mother, neither
have I since visited that part of Cornwall where she was known.  All
you have heard has been that your mother died when you were born, and
you have regarded me as your father from the time you understood
anything."

There was a silence in the room for some time, save for the tick of the
clock on the mantelpiece.  All seemed to be so overwhelmed by what they
had heard that for the moment they were incapable of speech.

"It is ever the same," said the judge.  "Lying, cowardice are followed
by the most terrible penalties.  I have felt many a time that cowardice
is the father of nearly all our crimes."

"But," cried Paul, and his voice was vibrant with strong emotion, "then
Mary is not my sister, she is--she can be----  Oh, Mary, forgive me!  I
did not think!  I did not remember!"

Mary did not appear to hear him.  Her eyes were fixed on Judge
Bolitho's face, and she seemed to be trying to understand.

"I could say nothing about this before," went on the judge, "even when
the truth which was revealed during the trial came to me.  I had sworn
to be silent.  I dared not make known the truth.  I dared not let this
shadow rest upon Mary's name, even although it seemed as though a
greater shadow rested upon it.  You know what followed after that day
in the courts, when I confessed that Jean was my wife and that Paul was
my son.  At last I had made up my mind that I would be a coward no
longer, that, whatever the consequences might be, I would walk in the
straight path.  I could not tell all the truth because of my solemn
oath to my adopted father.  Besides, the great thought in my mind was
to save Paul.  I need not refer to that now, you know all about it!
But for Mary, here--well, thank God, Mary saved him!  But for her, the
truth would never have come to light.  But directly I knew that Paul
was free, I left you, determined to make the crooked places straight.
I hastened to London, and after doing what needed to be done there, I
hurried on to Cornwall.  I saw my adopted father--he's an old man now,
but he's lost none of the strength of his younger manhood.  I fought a
hard battle with him, but that's nothing--the result is that I am able
to tell you what I've told you."

The judge's eyes sought those of the older woman, who still sat rigidly
in her chair.  He seemed to be on the point of speaking to her, but
before he could do so Paul broke in.

"Then the shame which has been attached to my name must be attached to
Mary's!" he cried.

"Never," replied the judge.  "That need not be.  Concerning Mary's
birth no word need be uttered.  There is no need that we should deceive
anyone, nevertheless the truth is not for the world.  I need only say
that Mary is not my child, but that I have simply reared her as my own.
Her mother was a pure woman, but concerning her parentage we need say
nothing."

"I would rather," cried Paul, "that my own name----"

"Stop, Paul!" said Mary.  "It does not matter at all.  How can it,
when--when----  Oh, Paul, Paul, my love!"

"I've always loved you like my own child," said the judge, "and under
ordinary circumstances these revelations should never have passed my
lips, but--but I--I thought, I understood----"

Paul dared not speak again.  The truth was that the knowledge which had
come to him in such a strange way overwhelmed him with joy.  It seemed
to him as though that dark winter night had changed into a June
morning.  Everything was possible.  His mind had swept aside the little
conventions of men.  Mary's presence and Mary's love were all the world
to him.

The judge again looked towards Paul's mother.  "I have not quite
finished yet," he said, and his voice trembled as he spoke.  "And I
want to say something more.  You know all now, Jean, know what a coward
I've been, know how that cowardice meant your misery and your disgrace.
I do not seek to excuse my conduct.  It cannot be excused, and yet I
must speak the truth, I must----"

He hesitated a second, and then went on, "Can you forgive me, Jean?
Through all you have been pure and worthy, while I have been unworthy.
My name has been spoken of with honour, and yours has been covered with
shame through me.  Can you forgive me?  And more--perhaps you will
scorn me and repel me when I tell you this--but after that night when I
saw you in Manchester and knew that you still lived, all my old love
came back to me; I know that really it had never died.  Jean, can you
forgive me?"

The eyes of the man and the woman met.  At first hers seemed hard and
unyielding--she was evidently fighting a great battle.  Then slowly,
little by little, they underwent a change, and Paul saw that the tears
were welling up.

"Jean!  Jean!" said the judge, holding out his hands.  "Have you no
word for me?"

"Come, Mary," said Paul.  "Let us go into the other room."

And they went out, leaving the two together.





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