In answer to this Hester, in a long letter, acknowledged her mother’s love, and said that the memory of those two days at Chesterton should lessen neither her affection nor her filial duty; but, she went on to say that, in whatever distress might come upon her, she should turn to her husband for comfort and support, whether he should be with her, or whether he should be away from her. ‘But,’ she added, concluding her letter, ’beyond my husband and my child, you and papa will always be the dearest to me.’
There was not much to enliven the house at Folking during these days. Caldigate would pass much of his time walking about the place, applying his mind as well as he could to the farm, and holding up his head among the tenants, with whom he was very popular. He had begun his reign over them with hands not only full but free. He had drained, and roofed, and put up gates, and repaired roads, and shown himself to be an active man, anxious to do good. And now in his trouble they were very true to him. But their sympathy could not ease the burden at his heart. Though by his words and deeds among them he seemed to occupy himself fully, there was a certain amount of pretence in every effort that he made. He was always affecting a courage in which he felt himself to be deficient. Every smile was false. Every brave word spoken was an attempt at deceit. When alone in his walks,—and he was mostly alone,—his mind would fix itself on his great trouble, and on the crushing sorrow which might only too probably fall upon that loved one whom he had called his wife. Oh, with what regret now did he think of the good advice which the captain had given him on board the Goldfinder, and of the sententious, timid wisdom of Mrs. Callender! Had she,—his Hester, ever uttered to him one word of reproach,—had she ever shuddered in his sight when he had acknowledged that the now odious woman had in that distant land been in his own hearing called by his own name,—it would have been almost better. Her absolute faith added a sting to his sufferings.
Then, as he walked alone about the estate, he would endeavour to think whether there might not yet be some mode of escape,—whether something might not be done to prevent his having to stand in the dock and abide the uncertain verdict of a jury. With Mr. Seely he was discontented. Mr. Seely seemed to be opposed to any great effort,—would simply trust to the chance of snatching little advantages in the Court. He had money at command, if fifty thousand pounds,—if double that sum,—would have freed him from this trouble, he thought that he could have raised it, and was sure that he would willingly pay it. Twenty thousand pounds two months since, when Crinkett appeared at the christening would have sent these people away. The same sum, no doubt, would send them away now. But then the arrangement might have been possible. But