‘So be it,’ said he. ’There is the cheque. Mr. Gray will see that I put it into both their hands.’ This he did, each of them stretching out a hand to take it. ’And now you can go where you please and act as you please. You have combined to rob me of all that I value most by the basest of lies; but not on that account have I abstained from doing what I believe to be an act of justice.’ Then he left the room, and paying for the use of it to the woman at the bar, walked off with his friend Gray, leaving Crinkett, Bollum, and the woman still within the house.
Waiting For The Trial
As he returned to Cambridge Caldigate was not altogether contented with himself. He tried to persuade himself, in reference to the money which he had refunded, that in what he had done he had not at all been actuated by the charge made against him. Had there been no such accusation he would have felt himself bound to share the loss with these people as soon as he had learned the real circumstances. The money had been a burden to him. For the satisfaction of his own honour, of his own feelings, it had become necessary that the money should be refunded. And the need of doing so was not lessened by the fact that a base conspiracy had been made by a gang of villains who had thought that the money might thus be most readily extracted from him. That was his argument with himself, and his defence for what he had done. But nevertheless he was aware that he had been driven to do it now,—to pay the money at this special moment,—by an undercurrent of hope that these enemies would think it best for themselves to go as soon as they had his money in their hands. He wished to be honest, he wished to be honourable, he wished that all that he did could be what the world calls ‘above board’; but still it was so essential for him and for his wife that they should go! He had been very steady in assuring these wretched ones that they might go or stay, as they pleased. He had been careful that there should be a credible witness of his assurance. He might succeed in making others believe that he had not attempted to purchase their absence; but he could not make himself believe it.
Even though a jury should not convict him, there was so much in his Australian life which would not bear the searching light of cross-examination! The same may probably be said of most of us. In such trials as this that he was anticipating, there is often a special cruelty in the exposure of matters which are for the most part happily kept in the background. A man on some occasion inadvertently takes a little more wine than is good for him. It is an accident most uncommon with him, and nobody thinks much about it. But chance brings the case to the notice of the police courts, and the poor victim is published to the world as a drunkard in the columns of all the newspapers. Some young girl fancies herself in love, and the man is unworthy. The feeling passes away, and none but herself, and perhaps her mother, are the wiser. But if by some chance, some treachery, a letter should get printed and read, the poor girl’s punishment is so severe that she is driven to wish herself in the grave.