Monckton, during his long imprisonment at Dartmoor, came under many chaplains, and he was popular with them all; because when they inquired into the state of his soul he represented it as humble, penitent, and purified. Two of these gentlemen were High-Church, and he noticed their peculiarities: one was a certain half-musical monotony in speaking which might be called by a severe critic sing-song. Perhaps they thought the intoning of the service in a cathedral could be transferred with advantage to conversation.
So now, to be strictly in character, this personage not only dressed High-Church, but threw a sweet musical monotony into the communication he made to Colonel Clifford.
And if the reader will compare this his method of speaking with the matter of his discourse, he will be sensible of a singular contrast.
After the first introduction, Monckton intoned very gently that he had a communication to make on the part of a lady which was painful to him, and would be painful to Colonel Clifford; but, at all events, it was confidential, and if the Colonel thought proper, would go no further.
“I think, sir, you have a son whose name is Walter?”
“I have a son, and his name is Walter,” said the Colonel, stiffly.
“I think, sir,” said musical Monckton, “that he left your house about fourteen years ago, and you lost sight of him for a time?”
“That is so, sir.”
“He entered the service of a Mr. Robert Bartley as a merchant’s clerk.”
“I doubt that, sir.”
“I fear, sir,” sighed Monckton, musically, “that is not the only thing he did which has been withheld from you. He married a lady called Lucy Muller.”
“Who told you that?” cried the Colonel. “It’s a lie!”
“I am afraid not,” said the meek and tuneful ecclesiastic. “I am acquainted with the lady, a most respectable person, and she has shown me the certificate of marriage.”
“The certificate of marriage!” cried the Colonel, all aghast.
“Yes, sir, and this is not the first time I have given this information in confidence. Mrs. Walter Clifford, who is a kind-hearted woman, and has long ceased to suffer bitterly from her husband’s desertion, requested me to warn a young lady, whose name was Miss Mary Bartley, of this fact. I did so, and showed her the certificate. She was very much distressed, and no wonder, for she was reported to be engaged to Mr. Walter Clifford; but I explained to Miss Bartley that there was no jealousy, hostility, or bitterness in the matter; the only object was to save her from being betrayed into an illegal act, and one that would bring ruin upon herself, and a severe penalty upon Mr. Walter Clifford.”
Colonel Clifford turned very pale, but he merely said, in a hoarse voice, “Go on, sir.”