On the 5th of July in the following year, Gilbert Fenton landed in England, after nearly ten months of exile. He had found hard work to do in the colonial city, and had done it; surmounting every difficulty by a steady resolute course of action.
Astley Fenton had tried to shelter his frauds, heaping falsehood upon falsehood; and had ended by making a full confession, after receiving his cousin’s promise not to prosecute. The sums made away with by him amounted to some thousands. Gilbert found that he had been leading a life of reckless extravagance, and was a notorious gambler. So there came an evening when after a prolonged investigation of affairs, Astley Fenton put on his hat, and left his cousin’s office for ever. When Gilbert heard of him next, he was clerk to a bookseller in Sydney.
The disentanglement of the Melbourne trading had occupied longer than Gilbert expected; and his exile had been especially dreary to him during the last two months he spent in Australia, from the failure of his English letters. The first two mails after his arrival had brought him letters from Marian and her uncle, and one short note from John Saltram. The mails that followed brought him nothing, and he was inexpressibly alarmed and distressed by this fact. If he could by any possibility have returned to England immediately after the arrival of the first mail which brought him no letter, he would have done so. But his journey would have been wasted had he not remained to complete the work of reorganization he had commenced; so he stayed, sorely against the grain, hoping to get a letter by the next mail.
That came, and with the same dispiriting result to Gilbert Fenton. There was a letter from his sister, it is true; but that was written from Switzerland, where she was travelling with her husband, and brought him no tidings of Marian. He tried to convince himself that if there had been bad news, it must needs have come to him; that the delay was only the result of accident, some mistake of Marian’s as to the date of the mail. What more natural than that she should make such a mistake, at a place with such deficient postal arrangements as those which obtained at Lidford? But, argue with himself as he might, this silence of his betrothed was none the less perplexing to him, and he was a prey to perpetual anxiety during the time that elapsed before the sailing of the vessel that was to convey him back to England.
Then came the long monotonous voyage, affording ample leisure for gloomy thoughts, for shapeless fears in the dead watches of the night, when the sea washed drearily against his cabin window, and he lay broad awake counting the hours that must wear themselves out before he could set foot on English ground. As the time of his arrival drew nearer, his mind grew restless and fitful, now full of hope and happy visions of his meeting with Marian, now weighed down by the burden of some unspeakable terror.