‘Tom is dying,’ wrote Everard, early in February, to his cousin in Queen’s Road. ’Dr. Swain assures me that unless he be removed he cannot last more than a month or two. This morning I saw the woman’—it was thus he always referred to his sister-in-law—’and talked to her in what was probably the plainest language she ever had the privilege of hearing. It was a tremendous scene, brought to a close only by her flinging herself on the sofa with shrieks which terrified the whole household. My idea is that we must carry the poor fellow away by force. His infatuation makes me rage and curse, but I am bent on trying to save his life. Will you come and give your help?’
A week later they succeeded in carrying the invalid back to Torquay. Mrs. Barfoot had abandoned him to his doctors, nurses, and angry relatives; she declared herself driven out of the house, and went to live at a fashionable hotel. Everard remained in Devon for more than a month, devoting himself with affection, which the trial of his temper seemed only to increase, to his brother’s welfare. Thomas improved a little; once more there was hope. Then on a sudden frantic impulse, after writing fifty letters which elicited no reply, he travelled in pursuit of his wife; and three days after his arrival in London he was dead.
By a will, executed at Torquay, he bequeathed to Everard about a quarter of his wealth. All the rest went to Mrs. Barfoot, who had declared herself too ill to attend the funeral, but in a fortnight was sufficiently recovered to visit one of her friends in the country.
Everard could now count upon an income of not much less than fifteen hundred a year. That his brother’s death would enrich him he had always foreseen, but no man could have exerted himself with more ardent energy to postpone that advantage. The widow charged him, wherever she happened to be, with deliberate fratricide; she vilified his reputation, by word of mouth or by letter, to all who knew him, and protested that his furious wrath at not having profited more largely by the will put her in fear of her life. This last remarkable statement was made in a long and violent epistle to Miss Barfoot, which the recipient showed to her cousin on the first opportunity. Everard had called one Sunday morning—it was the end of March—to say good-bye on his departure for a few weeks’ travel. Having read the letter, he laughed with a peculiar fierceness.
‘This kind of thing,’ said Miss Barfoot, ’may necessitate your prosecuting her. There is a limit, you know, even to a woman’s licence.’
‘I am far more likely,’ he replied, ’to purchase a very nice little cane, and give her an exemplary thrashing.’