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"He will not do it."
"He will if you ask him: for me he would not."
"He never will," she repeated. "I know Thomas Kage too well. He is the most perfectly straightforward, honourable man breathing, ridiculously so. I am right, Barnaby, cross as you look over it: he would no more consent to lend a pound of Tom's money than he would lend the whole.”
Major Dawkes's temper rose again. "Then more foolish you, to appoint him trustee! When those, named in Mr. Canterbury's will, died, could you not have kept the power in your own hands? Why need you have given it over to that worthless Tom Kage?"
Mrs. Dawkes smiled. "If you and I were but half as worthy as he is, Barnaby!"
"Will you lend it me?" growled the major.
"No. I have not the power. And if I had, I would not suffer Tom's money to be played with."
The major was angry and wroth: and the little boy, alarmed at the raised voices, left his picture-book, and stole timidly forward, halting in the middle of the room.
"You see how necessary was the precaution you find fault with," said Mrs. Dawkes. "Had I kept the control of his fortune in my own hands, it might have been wasted in supplying emergencies like the present. I should ill fulfil my duty to my child, to suffer him to grow up a beggar. I am very sorry, Barnaby, that you should have got into this dilemma, but it is not Tom's money that can extricate you.'
Major Dawkes turned round and stepped against the child, not knowing he was so near: at the encounter his fury broke bounds. little villain!" he foamed, with a worse imprecation, "do you dare to stand between me and-and-your mother? There's for you."
It was a cruel blow he struck the child, and it felled him to the ground. The major kicked him there, in his dark hatred, his irrepressible passion, and went foaming from the room. Mrs. Dawkes raised the boy in her arms and tottered with him to a seat: she was weak from her late illness, but indignation gave her strength. For ten minutes, at least, neither
spoke; the child sobbed on her neck, and she sobbed over him.
Mamma, what had I done?"
"You had done nothing, my darling. He wants to spend your money,'
she added, in her indignation.
"Oh, mamma, let him have it; and we will go away from here. Papa is never kind to me now."
"You do not understand, dear," was the reply of Mrs. Dawkes.
"We shall not want money in heaven, mamma."
"Yes, we will go away-we will go to the Rock, my boy, your own home. If papa likes to follow us, and behave himself, he can; and if not, he can stay away."
"Let papa have my money," repeated Tom Canterbury. "I don't care for money."
"No, that we shall not."
"I wish I was there," sighed the child. "It is full of flowers and sunshine; and no one is cruel; Jesus will not let them be. Mamma, I wish I was there."
"Why, who has been talking to you about wishing to be there, Tom?" asked Mrs. Dawkes, in surprise.
He made no direct reply, he appeared to be lost in thought. "It is better than the Rock, mamma," he whispered.
Presently the nurse came in. It was Master Canterbury's hour for walking out.
"The streets are damp, after last night's rain," observed Mrs. Dawkes to her. "He shall not walk this afternoon; he does not seem over well: you must take him in the carriage, Judith. Order it at once."
The nurse did as she was bid, and then took Tom up-stairs to get him ready. The major came into the room as they left it. He was ready to strike himself down, as he had struck the boy, for giving way to so impolitic a gust. His wife listened to his apologies in haughty silence.
"Caroline, believe me," he continued; "I was betrayed out of myself, but it was in my over anxiety for your peace and comfort."
"It is for my peace and comfort that you ill-treat my child!" sarcastically rejoined Mrs. Dawkes.
"He is an angel, and I love him as such," apostrophised the major, as emphatically as he could bring himself to utter. "I was in a whirlwind of passion, Caroline, and did not know in the least what I did. I was agonised at the prospect before you: yes, my dear: for if I can't pay that poor dead man's creditors, they'll come in, into this very house, and seize upon it, and all that is in it."
"Seize our house and all that is in it!" she repeated, in consternation. "Will they seize me and Tom ?"
The major gave vent to a dismal groan; but it was to hide a laugh. "No, no, my dear, but they'll take every stick and stone it contains, and you'll be left here with bare walls, you and the servants, and I shall be in prison, unable to comfort you. And think of the shock such a scandal will cause in society."
The last sentence told on the lady's ear. Society! ay, there's the terrible bugbear of civilised life. What will society think? What will society say? We care a vast deal more for society than we do for our "sticks and stones." Mrs. Dawkes was eager herself, now, to void off these disagreeable consequences, and after some mental debate, she despatched a note to her cousin, Thomas Kage.
He answered it in person. It was evening, and Mrs. Dawkes was alone. She explained to him the embarrassment, so far as she was acquainted with it, and preferred the request her husband had suggestedthat he would advance some twelve thousand pounds of the child's money.
"Major Dawkes has been prompting you to ask this," observed Mr. Kage.
"He pressed me to ask it to-day, and I refused, and it caused an unpleasant scene between us," she answered, her cheek reddening with the remembrance. "But when he explained the frightful position we are in -that rude rough men, harpies he called them, will break in here and seize upon our things, and leave the house empty, of course it startled me into feeling that something must be done to prevent it. The major says they'll bring vans to take the furniture away, and pitch beds, and
such like, out of the window into them. Only think the uproar the neighbourhood would be in, at seeing it!" (6 Caroline," said Mr. Kage, in a low tone, solicited me to take upon myself this trusteeship, I informed you that if I did so, I must identify myself with the child's interest. I told you that I should never, under any inducement, be prevailed upon to advance you, or your husband, or any other person, any portion of the money. member that I accepted it on those conditions only."
You must re
"Certainly I remember it; it is not so long ago: and the reason of my appointing you was that it should be safe."
Then-remembering this-how can you prefer such a request as the present? I foresaw that a man, with your husband's extravagant habits, would probably become embarrassed, and-"
"And that was why you made the stipulation beforehand," she interrupted, " that, come what would, Tom should not suffer. I see your motive now, but I wondered then. But they are not the major's own debts; they are liabilities he has entered into for a brother-officer." Mr. Kage looked at her. "Did Major Dawkes tell you this?"
She knew her cousin well, every turn of his countenance and voice. 66 Thomas, you don't believe this!"
"I prefer not to discuss the matter with you, Caroline."
"Whichever way it may be, however contracted, the debts are not the less real," she continued, "and nothing but the scandal, likely to arise in our home, would have induced me to apply to you for a loan to him of Tom's money. Will you let him have it ?"
"No. And I am sorry that Major Dawkes should have suggested this to you. I gave him a decisive negative eight or ten weeks ago." "Has he asked you before?"
"He asked me then."
"Oh, indeed," she uttered, in a tone of pique against her husband, "he might have had the grace to consult me first, considering whose money it is. But you will advance it now, Thomas, for
"I would do a great deal for your sake, Caroline; but I will not be a false trustee, or part with my own integrity."
Some thought, some recollection, came over Mrs. Dawkes, and she betrayed for a moment vivid emotion. Thomas Kage took up a book that lay on the table, and turned over its leaves: he would not so much as glance at her.
"What am I to do-if people do come in here and take the furniture ?" "Go to the Rock, Caroline; that is my advice to you: go at once, and leave the major to fight out the battle with his creditors!"
They cannot come into the Rock?" she exclaimed, in sudden apprehension.
"Most certainly not. The major's liabilities could no more touch that, or anything it contains, than mine could. It is yours for your life, and your child's after you."
"But won't the seizing these things be a lasting disgrace?"
"It is a disgrace occurring every day in families, higher in position than yours, and it is thought little of. But in this case, Caroline, no disgrace will be reflected on you; you are shielded from it by your own
fortune, and in the possession of the Rock. It will be looked upon as an affair of the major's entirely; one not touching you. If these things must go, let them go, and it may be a warning to the major for the future."
"He said if he could not have the money, he would shoot himself," said Mrs. Dawkes.
Mr. Kage's eyes twinkled with a merry expression. "I remember, some years ago, when the major was in want of money, he said he must have it, or drown himself. I don't think he had it; and he is alive yet. Tell him, Caroline, he will do well to forget that Tom has money. And do you go at once to the Rock, where the major's grievances cannot disturb your peace."
Mrs. Dawkes did not immediately act upon this advice. She could not tear herself, all at once, from her fashionable friends, and she suffered some days to elapse. Before they were over, little Tom Canterbury was taken ill with a violent attack of inflammation of the chest. He was in great danger, and Mrs. Dawkes hung over him, now giving way to hope, now to despair: she scarcely left his bedside.
One afternoon when he was at the worst, the major came up. The child was lying with his eyes closed, breathing with difficulty.
"I am sure there is no further hope," Mrs. Dawkes whispered, in heartfelt anguish.
The major was of the same opinion: and he most devoutly trusted it might prove a correct one. He was looking at him, when one of the servants appeared, and beckoned to the major: he was wanted below.
"You did not say I was in ?" he uttered, after closing the door on the sick-room.
"The gentleman would not listen to me, sir. He walked straight in, when I answered the door, and sat down in the dining-room: and he says he shall sit there till he sees you. Mr. Rosse, he said."
Major Dawkes nearly fainted: it was one of the firm who held that dangerous bill. Go to him he was obliged, and the conference, though carried on in cautious tones, was a stormy one.
"Only a few days more," implored Major Dawkes, wiping his forehead, which had turned cold and damp. "It is impossible that he can survive, and then I shall have thousands and thousands at comma mand, and will amply recompense you. You have waited so long, you can surely accord me this little additional grace: I will pay the bill twice over for it."
"Upon one plea or another we have been put off from day to day and from week to week. This may be as false an excuse as the others have been."
"But it is not a false excuse: the child is lying upon his bed, dying. If Mrs. Dawkes were not with him, you might go up and see for yourself that it is so. Hark! that is the physician's step."
The physician it was: he had been up-stairs, and was coming down again. Major Dawkes threw wide the door of the dining-room.
"Doctor, what hope is there? I fear but little."
"There's just as much as you might put in your hand and blow away," replied the doctor, who was a man of quaint sayings, and knew that Major Dawkes bore no blood relationship to the child. "The only hope that remains, lies in the elasticity of children: they seem ready to be
shrouded one hour, and are running about the room the next. We can do nothing more for our little patient, and if he does recover, it will be owing to this elasticity; this tenacity of life in the young. I do not think he will,"
The doctor passed out at the hall door, and the major turned to his visitor. "You hear what he says: now will you give me the delay?"
"Well-under the circumstances-a day or two longer," replied the lawyer, whose firm would prefer their money, even to the exposure of the major. Let them once get clear of Major Dawkes, and he might swindle all the firms in London afterwards, for what they cared. He stepped across the hall towards the door, and the major attended him.
"But if the child should not die; if he should recover; what then?" he suddenly stopped to ask.
The major's heart and face alike turned sickly at the supposition: it was one he dared not dwell upon. "There is no 'if' about it; he is quite sure to die. When I was up with him, but now, he looked at the last gasp: the nurse thought he was dead then, up to the knees. I'll drop you a note as soon as it's over."
Night came on. The child lay in the same state; his eyes closed, and quite unconscious; battling with death. The medical men came, and came; but they could render no assistance; and it seemed pretty certain that no morning would dawn for little Tom Canterbury. Mrs. Dawkes would sit up with him, in spite of her husband's remonstrances, who told her that the incessant fatigue and watching would make her ill again. He went to rest himself, and slept soundly, for his troubles seemed at an end. The sick-room was near his own, and Major Dawkes was suddenly aroused by a movement in it. He heard the nurse come out, call to a servant, and tell him to run for the doctor. The man had been kept up all night, to be ready, if wanted. The major looked at his watch: five o'clock.
"It's over at last," thought he. "What a mercy! I did not think he'd hold out so long. Ah, they may send, but doctors cannot bring the dead to life. And now I am a free man again!"
He would not go into the death-chamber: he did not admire death scenes personally; and it would be time enough to condole with Mrs. Dawkes by-and-by. So he lay, indulging a charming vision, of the golden paradise which had at length opened to him.
The return of Richard disturbed him. He heard the latch-key in the door, and the man enter, and come softly up the stairs. The major rose, put on his slippers, and drew open his own door an inch or two.
"You have been round to the doctor's, Richard?"
"Yes, sir. He'll be here in a minute or two."
"There was no necessity to disturb him: only that it may be more satisfactory to your mistress. The child is dead, I suppose."
"Dead, sir! No; he has took a turn for the better."
"What?" gasped Major Dawkes.
"He seems to have took a turn, sir, and has rallied: and that's why my mistress sent for the doctor. Judith says she's sure he will get over it now."
Major Dawkes retreated within his room and closed the door. He felt as though the death-blow, which was to have overtaken the child, had fallen upon him.