Then Edward Cossey signed, and placing his thumb on the familiar wafer delivered the various documents as his act and deed. The witnesses with much preparation and effort affixed their awkward signatures in the places pointed out to them, and in a few minutes the thing was done, leaving Mr. Quest a richer man by thirty thousand pounds than when he had got up that morning.
“Now give Mr. Cossey the packet, Mrs. Jeffries,” he said, as he blotted the signatures, “and you can go.” She did so and went.
When the witnesses had gone Edward looked at the letters, and then with a savage oath flung them into the fire and watched them burn.
“Good-morning, Mr. Cossey,” said Mr. Quest as he prepared to part with the deeds. “You have now bought your experience and had to pay dearly for it; but, upon my word, when I think of all you owe me, I wonder at myself for letting you off at so small a price.”
As soon as he had gone, Edward Cossey gave way to his feelings in language forcible rather than polite. For now, in addition to all the money which he had lost, and the painful exposure to which he had been subjected, he was face to face with a new difficulty. Either he must make a clean breast of it to Ida about the mortgages being no longer in his hands or he must pretend that he still had them. In the first alternative, the consideration upon which she had agreed to marry him came to nothing. Moreover, Ida was thereby released from her promise, and he was well aware that under these circumstances she would probably break off the engagement. In the second, he would be acting a lie, and the lie would sooner or later be discovered, and what then? Well, if it was after marriage, what would it matter? To a woman of gentle birth there is only one thing more irretrievable than marriage, and that is death. Anyhow, he had suffered so much for the sake of this woman that he did not mean to give her up now. He must meet the mortgages after marriage, that was all.
Facilis est descensus Averni. When a man of the character of Edward Cossey, or indeed of any character, allows his passions to lead him into a course of deceit, he does not find it easy to check his wild career. From dishonour to dishonour shall he go till at length, in due season, he reaps as he has sown.
HOW GEORGE TREATED JOHNNIE
Some two or three days before the scene described in the last chapter the faithful George had suddenly announced his desire to visit London.
“What?” said the Squire in astonishment, for George had never been known to go out of his own county before. “Why, what on earth are you going to do in London?”