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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 617 pages of information about John Caldigate.

Mr. Smirkie had not, in truth, made the offensive remark.  It had been made by Mrs. Smirkie.  But it had suited the squire to attribute it to the clergyman.  Mr. Smirkie was now put upon his mettle, and was obliged either to agree or to disagree.  He would have preferred the former, had he not been somewhat in awe of his wife.  As it was, he fell back upon the indiscreet assertion which his father-in-law had made some time back.  ‘I, at any rate, sir, have not had a verdict against me.’

‘What does that signify?’

’A great deal, I should say.  A verdict, no doubt, is human, and therefore may be wrong.’

‘So is a marriage human.’

‘I beg your pardon, sir;—­a marriage is divine.’

’Not if it isn’t a marriage.  Your marriage in our church wouldn’t have been divine if you’d had another wife alive.’

‘Papa, I wish you wouldn’t.’

‘But I shall.  I’ve got to hammer it into his head somehow.’

Mr. Smirkie drew himself up and grinned bravely.  But the squire did not care for his frowns.  That last backhander at the claret-jug had determined him.  ’John Caldigate’s marriage with his wife was not in the least interfered with by the verdict.’

‘It took away the lady’s name from her at once,’ said the indignant clergyman.

‘That’s just what it didn’t do,’ said the squire, rising from his chair;—­’of itself it didn’t affect her name at all.  And now that it is shown to have been a mistaken verdict, it doesn’t affect her position.  The long and the short of it is this, that anybody who doesn’t like to meet him and his wife as honoured guests in my house had better stay away.  Do you hear that, Julia?’ Then without waiting for an answer he walked out before them all into the drawing-room and not another word was said that night about the matter.  Mr. Smirkie, indeed, did not utter a word on any subject, till at an early hour he wished them all good-night with dignified composure.

Chapter LIX

How The Big-Wigs Doubted

It’s what I call an awful shame.’  Mr. Holt and parson Bromley were standing together on the causeway at Folking, and the former was speaking.  The subject under discussion was, of course, the continued detention of John Caldigate in the county prison.

‘I cannot at all understand it,’ said Mr. Bromley.

’There’s no understanding nothing about it, sir.  Every man, woman, and child in the county knows as there wasn’t no other marriage, and yet they won’t let ’un out.  It’s sheer spite, because he wouldn’t vote for their man last ‘lection.’

‘I hardly think that, Mr. Holt.’

‘I’m as sure of it as I stands here,’ said Mr. Holt, slapping his thigh.  ’What else ’d they keep ‘un in for?  It’s just like their ways.’

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