|Chapter Number||FIRST PERIOD. X.|
|Newspaper Title||South Australian Weekly Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1881 - 1889)|
|Trove Title||The Legacy of Cain|
THE LEGACY OF -CAIN.
By WILKIE COLLINS, .Author of 'The Woman in White,' 'The Evil Genius,', &c, &c.
Published by special arrangement with the author. All rights reserve 3.] FIRST PERIOD : 1858—1859. -EVEKTS IN THE PEISON, BELATED BY THE GOVERNOR. Chapter X.
A -week had passed since the minister's -wife had left me when I received a letter from the minister himself. After surprising me, as he Innocently ?supposed, by announcing the birth of his -child he mentioned some circumstances ^connected with that event which I now
ieard for the first time. ' Within an easy journey of the populous scene of my present labors,' he wrote, ' there is a seclnded country vil lage called Low Lanes. The rector of toe place is my wife's brother. Before the Irirth of our infant he had asked his sister to stay for a while at his house, and the doctor thought she might safely be allowed to accept the invitation. Through some ?error in the customary calculations, as I suppose, the child was born unexpectedly at the rectory, and the ceremony of bap tism was performed at the church under circumstances which. I am not able to re late within the limits of a letter. Let me only say that I allnde to this incident without any sectarian bitterness of feeling, -for I am no enemy to the Church of England. Yon have no idea what .treasures of virtue and treasures of Jjeauty maternity has revealed ia my jErife'e sweet nature. Other mothers In her proud position might find their iove cooling towards the poor child -9fhom we have adopted ; but my house bold Is irradiated by the presence of an angel, who giveB an equal share in her .affections to the two little ones alike.' In this semi-hysterical style of writing, -She poor man unconsciously told me how ..cunningly and how cruelly his wife was ^deceiving him. I longed to exhibit that wicked woman In her true character — but what could I ?do? She must have been so favored by circumstances as to be able to account for Jxer absence from home without exciting iihe slightest suspicion of the journey which ehe had really taken. If I declared., in my reply to the minister's letter, that I had received her in my rooms, and if I repeated the conver sation that had taken place what would Ahe result be? She would find an easy refuge in positive denial of the truth ; ~and in that case which of us would her infatuated husband believe 2 The one part of the letter which I read ^jrlth some satisfaction was the end of it. I was here Informed that the minister's plans for concealing the parentage of his adopted daughter had proved to' be entirely successful. The members of the jiew domestic household believed the tiro ?children to be infant-sisters. Neither was there any danger of the adopted child fwing identified as the oldest child of the two by consultation of the registers. Before he left our town the minister had :«een for himself that no baptismal name had been added after the customary regis tration of birth, and that no entry of baptism existed in the registers kept in §-lacea of worship. He drew the inference — in all probability a true inference, con sidering the characters of the parents— that the child had never been baptised ; «nd he performed the ceremony privately, abstaining for obvious reasons from adding her Christian name to the register of her birth, 'I am not aware,' he -wrote, ' whether I have or have not com knitted an offence against the law. In any -easel may hope to have made atonement t-y obedience to the gospeL ' Six weeks passed, and I heard from my reverend friend once more. £Qs second letter presented a marked contrast to the first. It was written in sorrow and anxiety, to inform me of an -alarming change for the worse In his wife's health. I showed the letter to my medical colleague. He had told me what was the matter with the lady (when she was taken ill in my rooms) in one word — Heart. After reading the letter he predicted the event that might be expected in two words — Sudden death. On the next occasion when I heard from the minister the doctor's grim reply proved to be a prophecy fulfilled. When we address expressions of condo lence to bereaved friends the principles of popular hypocrisy sanction indiscrimi nate l$Ing as a duty which we owe to the
dead— no matter what their lives may have been — because they are dead. Within my own little sphere I have always been silent when I could not offer to afflicted persons expressions of sym pathy which I honestly felt. To have condoled with the minister on the loss that he had sustained by the death of a woman, eelf-betrayed to me as shame lessly deceitful, and pitilessly determined to reach her own cruel ends, would have been to degrade myself by telling a de liberate lie. I expressed in my answer all that an honest man naturally feels when he is writing to a friend in distress, carefully abstaining from any allusion to the memory of his wife, or to the place place which her death had left vacant in his household. My letter, I am sorry to eay, disappointed and offended him: He wrote to me no more until years had passed and time had exerted its influence in producing a more indulgent frame of mind. These letters of a later data have been preserved, and will probably be UBed at the right time for purposes of ex planation with which I may be connected in the future. The correspondent whom I had now lost was succeeded by a gentleman en tirely unknown to me. Those reasons which induced me to conceal the names of persons while I was relating events in the prison, do not apply to correspondence with a stranger writing from another place. I may there fore mention that Mr. Dunboyne, of Fairmonnt, on the west coast of Ireland, was the writer of the letter now addressed tome. He proved, to my surprise, to be one of the relations whom the prisoner under sentence of death had not cared to see -when I offered her the oppor tunity of Baying farewell. Mr. Danboyne was a brother-in-law of the murderess. He had married her sister. His wife, he informed me, had died In childbirth, leaving him but one consola tion — a boy, who already recalled all that was brightest and best in his lost mother. The father was especially anxious that the son should never become acquainted with the disgrace that had befallen the family. Owing his social position to his own honest exertions, he was especially sensitive to any slur that might be cast on his name. The letter then proceeded in these terms — ' I heard yeBterday, for the first time, by means of an old newspaper cutting sent to me by a friend, that the miserable woman who suffered the ignominy of public execution has left an Infant child. Can you tell me what has become of the . orphan ? If this poor little girl is, as I fear, not well provided for, I only do what my beloved wife would have done if she had lived, by offering to make the child's welfare my especial care. 1 am willing to place her in an establishment well-known to me, in which she will be kindly treated, well educated, and fitted to earn her own living honorably in later life. 'If you feel some surprise at finding that my good intentions towards this ill fated little creature (my niece by marriage) do not go to the length of receiving her as a member of my own family, I beg to sub mit some considerations which will, I hope, weigh with you as they have weighed with me. 'In the first place, there is at least a possibility — however carefully I might try to conceal it — that the child's parentage would sooner or later be discovered. In the second place (and assuming that I succeeded in keeping the secret) if this girl and my boy grew up together, there is another possibility to be reckoned with ; they might become attached to each other. Does the father live who would allow his son ignorantly to marry the daughter of a convicted murderess 2 1 should have no alternative but to reveal the truth, and to wound the hearts of two young creatures innocently devoted to each other. Who would run such a risk as this? Not I, for one.' The letter ended wibh some compli mentary expressions addressed to myself. And the question was, how ought I to answer it 9 My correspondent has strongly im
pressed me in his favor ; I o*uld not doubt that he was a highminded and honorable man. But the interest of the minister in keeping bis own benevolent action secure from the risk of discovery — increased as it was by the filial relations of the two children* towards him, now publicly established — had, as I could not doubt, the paramount claim on me. The absolutely safe course to take was to admit no one, friend or stranger, to our confidence. I replied accordingly, ex preBBing sincere admiration of Mr. Dun boyne's motives, and informing him that the child was already provided for. After that, I heard no more of the good Irish gentleman. It is perhaps hardly necessary to add that I kept the minister in ignorance of my correspondence with Mr. Danboyne. I was too well acquainted with my friend's sensitive and self- tormenting nature to let him know that a relative of the pri soner was living and was aware that she had left a child. One last event remains to be related before I close these pages. During the year of which I am now writing, our chaplain added one more to t'he many examples that I have seen of his generous readiness to serve his friends. He had arranged to devote his annual leave of absence to a tour among the Eng lish lakes, when he received a letter from clergyman resident in London, whom he had known from the tune when they had been schoolfellows. This old friend wrote under circumstances of the severest domestic distress, which made it abso lutely necessary that he should leave London for a while. Having failed to find a representative who could relieve him of his clerical duties, he applied to the chaplain to recommend a clergyman who might be in a position to help him. My excellent colleague gave up his holi day plans without hesitation and went to London himself. On his return I asked if he had seen anything of some acquaintances of his and of mine who were then visitors to the metropolis. He smiled significantly when he answered me. 41 1 have got a card for you from an acquaintance whom you have not men tioned ,' he said : 'and I rather think It
will astonish you.' It simply puzzled me. When he gave me the card this is what I found printed on it — Mrs. Tenbbuggeu, of South Beveland. ' Well ?' said the chaplain. . ' Well,' I answered ; ' I never even heard of 'Mrs. Tenbruggen, of South Beveland.' Who is she ?' ' I married the lady to a foreign gentle man only last week at my friend's church,' the chaplain replied. ' Perhaps you may remember her maiden name?' He mentioned the name of the dangerous creature who had first presented herself to me in charge of the prisoner's child — otherwise Miss Elizabeth Chance. The reappearance of this woman on the scene —although she was only represented by her card— caused me a feeling of vague uneasiness, so contemptibly superstitious In its nature that I now remember it with ehame. I asked a stupid question — ' How did It happen?' ' In the ordinary course of such things, ' my friend said. ' They were married by license, In their parish church. The bridegroom was a fine tall man, with a bold eye and a dashing manner. The bride and I recognised each other directly. When Miss Chance had become Mrs. Tenbruggen she took me aside and gave me her card. 'Ask the Governor to accept it,' she said, 'in remembrance of the time when he took me for a nursemaid. Tell him 1 am married to a Dutch gentle man of huh family. If he ever comes to Holland we ehall be glad to see him in our residence at South Beveland.' There
Is her message to you, repeated word for word.' ** I am glad she is going to live out of England.' ' Why 1 Surely yon have no reason to fear her ?' ' None whatever.' ' You are thinking perhaps of some body else ?' I was thinking of the minister ; but it seemed to be safest not to say so. My pen is laid aBide, and my many pages of writing have been sent to their destination. To take a metaphor from the stage — the curtain falls here on the Governor and the Prison.