The Mathematican by Anonymous
"A glorious morning, Hassell," said a spruce middle-aged man, as he walked
up one side of the old square of Furnival's Inn, with a small valise under
his arm, to a short, pale, elderly gentleman, who was listlessly
strolling, in a morning gown, slippers, and velvet cap, on the opposite
pathway, and in a contrary direction;—"a glorious morning as ever
was seen,—bright—clear—but by no means sultry:—an
excellent morning, I protest, and just to my taste."
"Why, sir," replied the pale old gentleman, "I must say it's fine country
weather; and, I dare swear, delightful to you, who are just on the brink
of quitting the miserable metropolis until the morrow of All Souls."
"No, no," interrupted the first speaker, in a brisk tone; "I shall only be
away a month; Trout and Thomas is appointed at bar early in the term, and
I must be home after the first three days of pheasant shooting to marshal
my evidence. I've a subpoena duces tecum to produce the papers in
Wagstaff's commission at the Cornwall assizes;—that carries
me clear to Bodmin: and I'm going on a visit to an old client, who lives
but eleven miles further; so that the costs out of pocket of my autumnal
rustication, this year, will be but a flea-bite."
"Ah! thou'rt a fortunate fellow," said Hassell, with a sigh; "here have I
been tied by the leg, ever since Trinity term, with annoyances growing out
of Joshua Kesterton's will; and fine weather makes me rabid, because I
can't go into the country to enjoy it. Adam Burdock and I will now be the
only two principals left in the Inn, except bed-ridden Bailey and poor mad
"Burdock does not ruralize, I believe."
"Not he: and if he had a mind so to do, he couldn't just now; for he's
shackled with the same case as myself."
"But can't you meet each other half-way, and close it at once?"
"Impossible:—it's such an Augean stable, that a regiment of
attornies, with a legal Hercules at their head, could not do the needful
in a night. We can't get at the facts,—at least we could not until
within these few days; and the results of our investigations are so
unexpected and staggering, that Adam and I,—and, indeed, all parties
concerned,—are well nigh paralysed. Such a case has not come under
my cognizance for years: if you were not in such a hurry I'd surprise
"I'm not pressed,—not at all. I share a chaise with another witness
who picks me up in his way from the city; so I have only to keep my eye on
the gates:—pray step across."
"No, hang it! the sun shines there; see how it exposes the clefts and
time-worn face of the building, so that the entire side of the Inn looks
as though it were in the last stage of decrepitude: it even makes you
look ten years older than you say you are, friend Waters. An elderly man
should always walk in the shade."
"What whims and fancies!" said Waters, stepping lightly across the square.
"You're the strangest fellow!—but come, your case, in a few words."
"Thus it is with us, then excuse me, but even in the shade you look really
past the figure you put yourself at:—let me Bee, fifty-four, isn't
"Forty-seven! my good fellow! What the deuce—"
"Rely upon it you're labouring under a mistake: it's full thirty years
since I first met you in Jay's writ of right.—Speaking of you, I
should say, in defiance of verbal statement founded on memory,—which
is treacherous, I find, with regard to age, when we are getting grey,—but
judging from the date written by the hand of time on the face of the deed,
in wrinkles as crabbed as court-hand—"
"I'm sixty. Well, well, be it so; and now for your case."
"No, Waters, you are not sixty; because if you were, by my reckoning, I
should be sixty-seven, which I am not: but to resume. This is our case:—Joshua
Kesterton came to London with no character, and nothing but a penny loaf
in his pocket Good luck threw him in the way of the well-known Paul
Winpennie: Paul had compassion on him, and raised him, by degrees, from an
errand boy in his office, to first clerk; and, at last, took him in as
joint partner in all his concerns. After some time, Paul retired to enjoy
a splendid ease for the rest of his life. At the end of five years, he
discovered a secret, namely, that an immense quantity of leisure was the
worst stock a mercantile man could possibly have on hand. He was suddenly
seen in the city again: whether he was not so keen as when he left it, or
men had grown keener during his retirement, I know not; but Paul
Winpennie, under whose touch every thing used to turn into gold, made
ducks and drakes of his money; and, by half-a-dozen unlucky, or, as the
world says, mad-cap speculations, was reduced from affluence to
"Well, all this occurs every day, Hassell," said Waters.
"Ay, ay; but these are only preliminary facts."
"Hold your tongue, and hear me out. Well, the inquest jury—I omitted
to say he was found dead one morning in his room;—the inquest jury
returned a verdict of' 'died by the visitation—'"
"But I thought it was generally believed that he died of a broken heart,
produced by grief."
"We have nothing to do with broken hearts and grief, as a man of your
standing on the rolls ought to feel; we can only be governed by the
record. But if the coroner's return had been felo de se, there
would have been little for the crown to take but his wife; and she, I
think, from all I know of her, would have been deemed an incumbrance, by
most people; although she soon got another husband."
"What! pauper as she was?"
"I said no such thing: if you interrupt me, I shall punish you by being
prolix. Joshua Kesterton departed this life very shortly after his friend
and benefactor, Winpennie, and, in a spirit of gratitude to the founder of
his fortune, bequeathed a legacy of ten thousand pounds to Paul's widow."
"No, sir, it was not 'bravo!'—he acted like an ass; for his own
daughter, whom he left residuary legatee, was beggared by the bequest.
Partly through his own ignorance of the actual state of his affairs,—partly
through unexpected but apparently valid claims, made on his estate after
his death, and the failure of a firm, who were his principal creditors,—when
we obtained a tolerable insight to his affairs, we discovered that, after
satisfying the creditors, and paying the legacy to Mrs. Winpennie, which,
you perceive, was a positive bequest, whereby she had a clear claim of
priority over his residuary legatee, the poor girl, instead of having, as
her father doubtlessly expected, a fine fortune, will scarcely get enough
to pay for her mourning."
"A had case," said Waters; "but won't Mrs. Winpennie do something for the
"That's a riddle which I can't solve," said Hassell; "for, before she had
an opportunity to do so, or, in fact, before she knew that her legacy
would make a skeleton of the estate, she got snapped up by a young fellow,
who says he's a Dane, but whom I suspect to be a Kerryman. From all I can
learn, he doesn't feel disposed to forego a farthing; and, as the woman
married him without a settlement, he can do as he pleases, you know, with
the money, when he gets it. I sincerely wish it may be soon, so that I can
get out of town. The investigation of the claims of the principal
creditors for whom I am concerned, is now within an ace of being
concluded. As soon as the executors get our releases, of course, this
gentleman, as he calls himself, who married the widow Winpennie, will
insist on the full legacy; and however well inclined our friend Burdock,
and his clients the executors, may be towards the poor girl, who, I must
tell you, was married into a mighty high, but very poor family, before her
father's death, I can't see how they can help her. By George! here she
comes,—I dare say, on a visit to Burdock,—and without her
husband! That's odd. Poor thing! I'd rather not seem to see her. Let us
cross over, and I'll stroll with you to the gateway.—Don't stare at
her, and I'll be obliged to you."
The two attornies walked to the other side of the square, and the lady
passed hastily down the Inn towards Burdock's chambers. As she ascended
the staircase she heard him speaking, in rather a tender tone, at the door
of his office, apparently, to some person who was taking leave of him;
and, on reaching the first landing-place, she met a female, attired in a
very gaudy manner, and altogether of rather singular appearance, whose
handkerchief was held to her eyes as though she were weeping, or desirous
of concealing her face. When his fair client reached the office door,
which still remained open, Burdock was pacing to and fro within, evidently
much vexed and agitated.
"Are you alone, Mr. Burdock?" timidly inquired the lady, after she had
stood at the door for a short time without being able to attract the
notice of the attorney.
"My dear madam, I ask a thousand pardons," replied Burdock, advancing
towards her; "I have been so annoyed that—Did you meet a lady in
sulphur and sky-blue?"
"I did, sir: she appeared to be in tears."
"All! poor woman! she is much to be pitied; and yet, I protest, her
appearance is so questionable, that I sincerely regret that the unhappy
state of her affairs led her to pay me a visit. Had she not brought a
letter, which I hold in my hand, from a most respectable friend in the
country, I should certainly have scrupled to receive her. She's very
unfortunate, though, I declare."
"But what are her griefs to mine, sir?"
"My dear Mrs. Wyburn, as I have often told you, bad as your case is, there
are thousands who would deem your situation a state of bliss compared with
what they suffer. Here, for instance, is this poor woman, forty years of
age at least, weak enough to come to me with paint on her cheeks, and
dressed in blue and brimstone, but with acute feelings, notwithstanding
her folly, who marries a man for love, and, in a few days after the
ceremony, is deserted and robbed by him of what should have supported her
in old age."
"Wretched woman! like me, then, she is a beggar, I suppose!" said Mrs.
"I fear the poor creature is almost penniless, indeed:—her business
with me was to receive a small sum, which my friend, from whom she brought
the letter I hold, had confided to me three years ago, to invest for her.
I placed it in the hands of your late lamented father; and she holds his
note for the amount: but we can't pay her. If she had not told me she had
a husband in whom the title now vested, having had no notice from him of
the marriage, she must, of course, have had her money:—but now it's
impossible. And the woman implored me so not to let her starve, that, in
order to pacify and get rid of her, I have been compelled to request her
to call again; for which I am now most heartily sorry. I feel ashamed to
have her seen go out of my office. But, odso! my dear madam! how is it
that I see you alone?—Where is your husband?"
"At whose suit?"
"In truth, I cannot tell: it is enough for me to know that he is a
prisoner, and that I do not possess the means of setting him at liberty.
Kind Mr. Burdock, will you still listen to me?—Will you give me your
"I am grieved—heartily grieved," said Burdock; "but I really feel at
a loss how to advise—how to benefit you."
"Oh! you can—you can, indeed; or, if you cannot, there is none on
earth who will. You know not half of my distresses. I am a thousand-fold
more wretched than you imagine. Pity me, sir;—pity me, and I will
pray for you."
"I do pity you, most sincerely," said Burdock, considerably affected; "but
let me implore you to be calm."
"I will be calm as marble, sir. I have told you my husband is in prison,
without shedding a tear;—and now, without a sigh, I will tell you,
that my sorrows are of such a nature that I cannot—dare not—must
not breathe a hint to him of what I suffer."
"You positively alarm me, my dear madam. I cannot imagine you to have been
guilty of any imprudence: and if not, what is there that a wife devotedly
attached, as I know you are, to her husband, cannot confide to his bosom?"
"Oh! much, much, Mr. Burdock. I have no friend,—none in the world,
to whom I can tell my afflictions, but you; and I have no claim on you to
hear them: you have endured too many vexations, in your struggles for my
"I regret that no better success has attended my poor endeavours, Mrs.
Wyburn; but, believe me, that as far as prudence will allow, my best
exertions are still at your service."
"Then you will hear and advise me?"
"I will, as I hope for mercy, to the best of such judgment as I am endowed
"Oh! thank you, thank you!—on my knees I will thank you."
"Nay, nay! I must not be repaid thus: I shall charge the consultation in
my bill, and I hope you will one day pay it," said the attorney, with a
smile. "Come, again let me entreat you to be calm."
"I am sure I shall be so:—I have overcome the bitterness of bringing
my mind to tell you my little tale, and I feel capable of doing so
properly. Your kindness gives me additional courage and self-command. I
shall endeavour to restrict myself to simple facts, and I will go through
the task, unless my heart break in the attempt. Are we free from
"Entirely so; my clerks are both out, and I will answer no one until you
"Then I will begin at once. I solemnly enjoin you, sir, not to reveal what
I am about to tell you to any mortal; for, alas! it concerns my husband's
honour,—nay, even his life. Much as he loves me, I think he would
deprive me of existence, rather than let me make you acquainted with his
weakness,—I will say his crime: but as it may save us both from
being even more wretched than we are, I will trust it to your ear. When
George Wyburn married me, he knew I had considerable expectations, and,
therefore, did not demand a settlement. My poor father allowed us a
handsome income, while he lived; George was high-spirited and gay, but not
extravagant; and we had enough,—nay, something to spare, after our
yearly expenses were paid, until within a few months before my father's
death, when a sad and sudden change came over us. At Harrowgate, my
husband,—Heaven knows how,—formed an acquaintance with a man,
who, after a short time, was our constant visitor and George's bosom
friend. In three months, under the influence of his associate, my husband
became a gambler and a duellist! He was still kind to me, and I concealed
his faults from my father. Vain were all my attempts to reclaim him: I had
lost my power of persuading him, but yet I feel sure he loved me. I now
bitterly lament my folly in keeping his proceedings a secret from my
father; for he went on in his evil ways. At last the climax arrived: he
lost more than he could pay; and, unable to bear up against the dishonour
which his default would have brought upon him, he abruptly quitted
Harrowgate with a determination to destroy himself. He wrote to his new
friend, stating that, ere the letter reached its destination, he should be
numbered with the dead. He declared that he felt unable to address his
poor wife; but he warmly recommended her to the care of him to whom he
wrote, and begged that her unfortunate husband's fate might be revealed to
her as gradually as possible. The wretch came to me as he was desired: he
told me a little, and I learnt the rest from the letter which George had
sent him. Accompanied by this man, I made all possible haste to the place
whence George had written. I found him alive and unhurt. His pistols were
lying on the table before him, when I rushed into the room, and he was
writing to me: he could not leave the world without bidding me an eternal
adieu! He had lingered over the paper, which was damped by his tears; but,
from the language of the sentence which he was penning when we entered,
his resolution to destroy himself seemed to have been unshaken; and I am
convinced that, had we not arrived sooner than he expected, and had not
his heart urged him to assure me that he loved and blessed me in his last
moments, I should that day have been a widow. He embraced and wept over
me, but blushed before his friend, and seemed dreadfully enraged at our
arrival. When I, at length, succeeded in soothing him a little, he asked
my companion to advise him how he ought to act. The reply I can never
forget. It was this:—'Why, truly, Mr. Wy-burn, after having stated
that you were going to commit suicide, there is but one course to save
your reputation, namely,—to keep your word: but as I suppose no one
but myself, except your wife, is acquainted with the circumstance, no
doubt you will see the wisdom of suffering certain notions, which,
perhaps, are rather too rigorously attended to, in some quarters, giving
place to the dictates of religion, et cetera;—that is, if you feel
satisfied that I can be depended on to keep your secret.' 'Will you swear
to do so?' asked my husband. 'Nay,' replied the other, 'if you doubt me,
you have your remedy. Were I capable of wronging my friend, I surely
should not be prevented from so doing by the comparatively cobweb fetters
of a private oath.' Subsequently, I prevailed upon him, by reproaches and
entreaties, to promise me solemnly that he would relinquish all thoughts
of carrying his fatal resolution into effect: but he made the most solemn
vow, that if either I or his friend betrayed the weakness, or, to use his
own words, the cowardice he had shewn, in not completing what he had
meditated, he should certainly blow out his brains the first opportunity;
for he never could exist under the idea that he was the laughing-stock of
the world. Summoning up his fortitude, he returned with us to Harrowgate:
and, in a few days, a portion of what he had lost at the gaming-table was
paid; for the remainder, he gave bonds payable on the death of my father;
and I firmly believe he has never touched the dice-box since."
"Then I am glad to say all seems to have ended more happily than could
have been expected," observed Burdock.
"Not so, sir,—not so, indeed," replied Mrs. Wyburn; "that fatal
friend still hovers near him;—my husband still hugs the snake that
destroys while he embraces him. Those gambling debts, I am certain, were
contracted by my husband with the villain's confederates."
"Then the bonds have been, at length, put in force against him?"
"They have; and I now owe my husband's loss of liberty, as I once almost
did the loss of his life, to the machinations of Blennerhagen?"
"Blennerhagen!" exclaimed the attorney, considerably surprised; "you
surely do not mean our Mr. Blennerhagen,—he who married Paul
"He is the man," replied Mrs. Wyburn: "he obtained an introduction to Mrs.
Winpennie by means of my husband. Foolish as she is, and lucky as she has
been, in one respect,—alas! to my sorrow,—I sincerely pity
her; for miserable will be her fate. She is linked to a calm, determined
villain, who entertains no spark of affection for her: the possession of
my poor father's legacy, and not her person, was his object in marrying
"And how do you know this, my dear madam?"
"Oh, sir! Blennerhagen has thrust his confidence upon me, and I have been
compelled to listen to him. Unhappily, he has, or pretends to have, a
passion for me; and I have endured the confession from his own lips. He
has boldly told me, that, had George committed suicide, he should have
offered me his hand, as soon as decency would have permitted him to do so.
You find, sir, that I am as good as my word: I tell you this without a
blush or a tear, while you shudder!"
"Shudder! ay, and I well may. Thou dost not blush or weep, indeed, my poor
young sufferer; but thy cheek is deathly pale, and thy eyes seem burning
in their sockets. I beseech you, let us postpone this."
"Nay, nay, pray hear me to an end: I have brought my courage to bear it
all; if I relapse, I cannot work upon myself to go through the ordeal
"But why not unmask this villain—this hypocrite—this wolf?"
"Your honest indignation makes you forget that my husband's life is in his
power. That fatal letter, which George wrote to him when he quitted
Harrowgate with a determination to commit suicide, is still in the
possession of Blennerhagen; I saw him take it from his pocket-book but two
days ago, although he protests to George that it is destroyed: and the
publication of it would, I fear, hurry my husband to self-destruction at
once. I know George's temper so well, that I tremble at the idea of
incurring so great a risk; and yet what else to do I know not; for the
demon, after persecuting me in vain, for months, now holds that
hand-writing before my eyes, and dares me to be virtuous!"
"The monster! I will move mountains, but he shall be defeated,—ay,
"Thank you, thank you!—my heart thanks you: I knew your will would
be good: but, alas! I doubt your power. You know not with whom you have to
deal. Blennerhagen prides himself on being impregnable: he talks to me of
working like a mathematician: he says that all his plans are laid down
with such geometrical precision that they cannot fail. He has thrown such
a magic web about me, that I have felt myself to be almost his slaye; and
yet, thank heaven, I am innocent, and loathe him. Save me, Mr. Burdock!—but
not at the expense of my husband's life: save me, I implore you!—I
have no other friend."
"I will save—I will extricate you, if it be in the power of man. I
have worked like a negro for my money, and may soon be past working, and
want it. I have debarred myself of every indulgence; but I can—I
will afford to gratify my feelings, for once in my life, even at the risk
of diminishing some of my hard-earned little hoard. Mrs. Wyburn, I'll back
myself, if need be, with a thousand pounds, and,—confound the
fellow,—have at him! Excuse me for swearing; but I'm warmed, and
feel a pleasure in indulging—"
"Be temperate, sir, in your proceedings, lest you forget that next to my
own innocence, my husband's life—"
"Do not fear, madam. Is Mr. Wyburn in prison, or at a lock-up house?"
"At the lock-up house, sir, in Serle's Buildings."
"Then I'll bail him. Hassell may laugh at me, when he hears that I have
stepped out of my cautious path, if he likes; but I'll begin by bailing
Wyburn: for his liberty, at this time, is of the utmost value. Within a
few days, the great straggle will come on, which must settle the main
question between Hassell's clients and the executors: on the fortunate
result of that depends your only hope; and a poor hope it is, I must
confess: still, Wyburn should be at large to fight it out, and strive to
the last After to-day, I ought to be in hourly consultation with him.
"Blennerhagen knows all this; and, not expecting God would raise up such a
friend to George, has caused him to be arrested. As he boasts of generally
making his actions produce double results, he flatters himself, also, that
I, being thus overwhelmed with this new misfortune, and deprived of the
protecting presence of my husband,—"
"Curse him!—he shall be foiled! I won't put up with it, while I have
"I must tell you,—for, as you now have heard so much, you should
know all,—that one of the threats or temptations he holds out to me,
is this:—'Wyburn,' he says, 'will soon, in all probability, be
entirely dependent on my bounty; for having, through my marriage with Mrs.
Winpennie, an entire control over the ten thousand pounds legacy, which
will, apparently, eat up the whole of your father's property, after
payment of the debts, I can starve Wyburn, if I like.' This is a specimen
of the language which he dares to use to me. Had I my jewels left, I could
have raised a sufficient sum, perhaps, to procure George his liberty,
without troubling you; but Blennerhagen obtained them from me long ago,
without Mr. Wyburn's knowledge, by protesting that he had spent all he
possessed to keep the bondholders quiet, and wanted money to enable him to
make a figure before Mrs. Winpennie. I have been very weak and very
foolish, you will say; but what could I do? Blennerhagen dares me to
reveal a syllable of what passes at our interviews, to my husband: he
tells me that he should instantly detect my treachery by George's conduct.
I am forced to see—to hear him:—he is the worst of tyrants. If
I strive to extricate myself from his wiles, I plunge deeper in his toils.
To remain passive is to offer up myself a willing victim to a being, whom,
of all others, I abhor. Could I have taken counsel of my husband, all
might have been well: but I have not dared to breathe a word to him of my
sorrows; and Blennerhagen well knows how to obtain advantages over a wife,
deprived, as I have been, of her natural supporter."
"It shall be at an end, I tell you: Wyburn shall be bailed, and I'll try
if I can't play off a few tricks. We'll countermine this scoundrel.
I'll insure your husband's life for my security, and then, if he have so
high a sense of honour as you think, he won't fix me as his bail by
shooting himself; for I shall make him understand that the office won't
pay, if the insured perishes by his own hands; so that we're safe until
November: and, in the interim, I'll sacrifice a little to those feelings
which laudable prudence has taught me, hitherto, to smother. It's hard if
a man cannot make a fool of himself once in his life; and, should I lose
my time and money both, humanity will be a plea for me, with my own
conscience, and that of every honest man in the world. Besides, I'm only
fifty, and shall not die a beggar if it comes to the worst, perhaps. I
will fulfil my promise, madam, be assured! Time is precious:—have
you anything more to ask of me?"
"A glass of water," faintly replied Mrs. Wyburn; "a glass of water and a
little air; for my strength is gone."
Burdock, with great alacrity, opened the little window of his room, and
brought Mrs. Wyburn some water, in a broken cup, time enough to save her
from fainting. Some one knocked at the outer door, and she almost
immediately afterwards rose to depart. Burdock conducted her to the foot
of the staircase, begging her to keep up her spirits, and protesting that
he thought he should prove himself as good a mathematician as
Blen-nerhagen: "for," added he, "I have dabbled in the science, and Euclid
still affords me amusement in my hours of relaxation from legal business."
The person who had knocked at the office door just before Mrs. Wyburn's
departure, was the bearer of a note from Blennerhagen's wife, in which she
earnestly requested the favour of a consultation with Burdock, at her own
house, on an affair of the utmost importance. The lady stated that she was
confined to her room by indisposition, otherwise she would have paid him a
visit in Fumival's Inn; and she protested that, if he did not so far
indulge her as immediately to obey her summons, she would, at the risk of
her life, wait upon him at his office.
"Paul Winpennie's choice was always a fool," muttered Burdock, as he threw
the letter on his table, after having perused its contents; "she was
always fantastical, and apt to magnify atoms into elephants; but I don't
think she would write me such an epistle as this, if something
extraordinary had not occurred: ergo, I'll go to her at once. Perhaps I
may glean something which may assist me in extricating Wyburn: I hope I
shall; for though I have promised his wife so much, at this moment I can't
see my way clear a single inch beyond my nose,—except so far as
regards bailing him, which I'll do as soon as I return. It is possible,
that the woman has discovered something; for the most silly of her sex
possess an astonishing acuteness on particular occasions. I may meet
Blennerhagen with his wife, too:—at all events I'll go, and ponder
on the way as to what proceedings I ought to take against this
mathematical monster:—for act against him, I will; on that I'm fixed—that
is—if I can find out a way to do so, with any prospect of success."
As Burdock concluded this little soliloquy, one of his clerks returned;
and the old gentleman, without a moment's delay, set off towards
Blennerhagen's house. On reaching the corner of the street in which it
stood, he was accosted by a female, who begged him, in a very mysterious
manner, to follow her.
"My good woman," said Burdock, "you are in error, I apprehend."
"Not if I am speaking to Mr. Burdock, and if you are going to Mrs.
Blennerhagen," replied the woman.
"I certainly am that man," said Burdock; "and you are quite right in
supposing that I am on my way to visit that lady:—what then?"
"Follow me and I will conduct you to her. I am her woman, and act by her
"Mighty odd!" exclaimed the attorney; "but lead on;—I'll follow you.
I suppose she has her reasons for this; and it matters but little to me
which way I go, so that—mark me, woman—so that I am not led a
dance: for though I walk slowly, on account of an infirmity in my knees,
time, I assure you, is precious to me. Go forward."
The woman immediately walked on towards a little back street, down which
she proceeded a short distance, and then turned under an old arched
gateway into a solitary yard. The buildings on one side of this place
appeared, by a weather-beaten notice board, to have been long without
tenants. Through a low wall, on the opposite side of the yard, there were
entrance-doors to the back gardens of a range of respectable houses.
"I perceive," said Burdock, as the woman opened one of the garden doors,
"that you are smuggling me in the back way.—Give my compliments to
your mistress, and tell her, that I prefer entering in the ordinary
manner. If you will step through the house, I dare say I shall be at the
front door nearly as soon as you have opened it."
Burdock then turned on his heel, and strode away from his guide at rather
a brisk pace. On reaching the front door, he found the woman there waiting
for him. Casting on the old gentleman a look of reproach, and
significantly putting her finger to her lips, she conducted him up stairs,
and silently ushered him into Mrs. Blennerhagen's dressing-room. The lady,
who was reclining on a sofa, attired in an elegant morning dress, rose as
he entered; and, between jest and earnest, reproached him for not having
given a more prompt attention to her note. Burdock protested that he had
not been guilty of the least delay in obeying her commands.
"Well, well!" said the lady, "perhaps I am wrong; but to a woman of my
nerves, suffering at once under indisposition, and the most agonizing
suspense, every moment seems to be an age."
"What's the matter, madam?" inquired Burdock. "Where is Mr. Blennerhagen?"
"Thank Heaven! he is out:—my anxiety has been intense lest you
should not arrive before he returned. My dear Mr. Burdock, I'm in the
"Then, upon my honour and conscience, madam, I don't see how I can be of
any assistance to you; for my hands are so full of female distress just
"Oh, sir!—but not such pressing—such important distress as
mine. Recollect that I'm a wife;—a wife, Mr. Burdock, and not
altogether indifferent to my husband."
"Well, madam! there are many wives who can say quite as much, I assure
you.—But now for your facts: I am bound to hear, even if I cannot
"Ah! you're a kind—a dear old gentleman:—I always said so, and
now I find that I am right. You have a heart formed to sympathize with
those who are in sorrow."
"The world thinks rather differently of me," replied Burdock: "my
feelings, I know by experience, will bear as much as most men's. Business,
madam,—business has hardened them:—but, allow me to ask, what
has occurred? You seem to have been ruffled."
"Do I?" said Mrs. Blennerhagen, turning to a looking-glass which stood on
the table by her side, and glancing at the reflection of her still lovely
face, with a look of anxiety. "Well, now I see myself, I declare I'm quite
frightened. I positively look like a hag! don't I?—I ought not to
suffer such trifles to affect me so severely."
"Trifles, my dear madam!" emphatically exclaimed the attorney: "I beg your
pardon; but I was led to understand, from the tenor of your language—"
"Attribute it to the excess of my womanly fears,—increased, perhaps,
by indisposition,—and excuse me. We are weak creatures, as you must
know; even the very best of us are agitated into agony, by phantoms of our
own creation. My suspicions—"
"Am I summoned to advise you on suspicion, then?"
"Nothing more, I assure you: and, really, I ought to be ashamed to
entertain, for one instant, so poor an opinion of Mr. B.'s taste; and,
permit me to say it, of my own person. Now I reflect, it was exceedingly
wrong of me, perhaps, to be jealous of the woman."
"I wish, with all my heart, madam, you had reflected an hour ago."
"Would that I had! I should have been saved much—much uneasiness:—but
I now laugh at my fears," said the lady, affecting to titter.
"I am sorry I cannot join you, madam."
"Ah, Mr. Burdock! I know the interest you take in my happiness; and,
therefore, I sent for you to advise,—to comfort me. I look up to you
as to my father."
"You do me an honour, Mrs. Blennerhagen, to which I never had an idea of
"The honour is entirely on my side, Mr. Burdock," replied the lady, taking
one of Burdock's hands in both her own; "I feel proud to be permitted to
make free with so worthy and respectable a character. My confidence in you
is unbounded, Mr. Burdock: you see, I receive you in my dressing-room—"
"For mine own part," interrupted the attorney, "I should have preferred
the parlour; and so, most probably, would Mr. Blennerhagen."
"Don't talk so foolishly, Mr. Burdock:—attorneys, like physicians,
are privileged persons, you know."
"True, true, madam," said Burdock, rather hastily quitting his seat; "and
now, as the cause of our conference is at an end, I will take my leave."
"My dear sir, you surely are not going to quit me in this state:—you
have not heard my complaint."
"I thought your mind was easy on the subject."
"Oh! by no means! I am far from soothed,—far from tranquillized:
your discrimination may shed a new light upon my mind. I must insist on
throwing myself upon your consideration."
"For consistency's sake, don't blow hot and cold in the same moment, Mrs.
Blennerhagen. Be in a rage, or be pacified: and if I must hear your tale
of woe, the sooner you tell it the better."
"You'll promise not to call me a silly, foolish woman, then, if you think
my apprehensions were groundless."
"Of course, madam, I should scarcely call a lady a fool to her face, even
if I thought she deserved it."
"How deeply I am indebted to you!—you cannot conceive how much the
cast of your countenance, when you look pleasant, reminds me of my late
excellent husband,—poor Mr. Winpennie!—Alas! I never was
jealous of him, with or without a cause. He was the best—the kindest—"
"Excuse me, madam; but, however I may reverence the memory of Mr.
Winpennie, my time is of too much value, and too seriously engrossed just
now, by my duties towards the livings to listen to an eulogy on the dead."
"Well! no doubt you are perfectly right: the value of your time, I know,
must be great. In a few words, then, about two hours ago, my servant
acquainted me that there was a strange-looking creature inquiring at the
door for Mr. Blennerhagen: she was painted up to the eyes, and dressed in
a vulgar amber-coloured pelisse, with staring sapphire ribbons—"
Burdock here interrupted the lady, by exclaiming, "Hang me if it isn't the
woman in brimstone and blue!" and bursting into a hearty laugh.
"Why, Mr. Burdock, you astonish me!" exclaimed Mrs. Blennerhagen; "I
beseech you to cease;—my head will split;—you shatter my
nerves to atoms. I insist upon your explaining yourself;—I shall
scream if you don't cease laughing, and tell me the meaning of this
"Oh, madam!" replied Burdock, endeavouring to resume his gravity, "do not
be alarmed at that unhappy creature:—I sent her here."
"Is it possible, Mr. Burdock, that a man of your respectability can have
"The woman is not what she appears, Mrs. Blennerhagen. I saw her, for the
first time in my life, to-day. Her business with me was briefly as
follows:—About three years ago, a certain sum was remitted to me by
a country attorney, for whom I act as agent, to invest for this woman; and
I deposited it in the hands of Joshua Kesterton. Circumstances now compel
her to call in her money; but a legal difficulty occurs in paying her off;
and I referred her to Mr. Blennerhagen, who, in all probability, will be
the party most interested in the matter; thinking that, as the sum was
small, he might, perhaps, from motives of charity, relieve the woman's
wretchedness, by waiving the legal objection at his own risk. Ha, ha! And
so I have to thank the woman in sulphur and blue for my walk, eh?"
"Mr. Burdock, I vow, sir, that you overwhelm me with confusion: but if you
were a woman, I am sure you would admit, that when a female of this lady's
appearance makes such particular inquiries after a newly-married man, and
refuses to tell her business to his wife—"
"Ha, ha, ha!" exclaimed the attorney again; "that, too, I plead guilty of
producing. I told her, that you had nothing to do with the matter: for
that the legal estate was vested, by your marriage, in Blennerhagen. I am
willing to acknowledge, that the circumstances were suspicious: and, as
long as I live, be assured that I will never send a female, in a yellow
and azure dress, to a married man again. Hoping you will forget the
uneasiness which I have innocently brought upon you, I now, madam, beg
permission to withdraw."
Burdock had risen from his chair, and was on the point of taking up his
hat and cane, when Mrs. Bleunerhagen's servant entered the room, and said,
in a hurried tone, that her master was at the street door.
"Then, I'll wait to see him," said Burdock, placing his hat and cane on
the table again, and resuming his seat.
"Heavens, sir! are you mad?" exclaimed Mrs. Blennerhagen. "Unfortunate
woman, that I am!—I did not expect him this half-hour. What is to be
"Don't be alarmed, madam," replied the woman; "there's quite time enough
for the gentleman to get into the cupboard."
"Is there no other resource left, Wilmot?"
"None that I can see, madam!" replied the woman; "he'll meet master on the
stairs if he goes down: and though there's time enough, there's no time to
be lost. Sir," added she, taking up the attorney's hat and cane, "you'd
better slip in at once."
"Slip in!" exclaimed Burdock; "why should I slip in?—What do you
"Don't speak so loud, sir:—master will hear you," said Wilmot.
"What do I care?" cried Burdock, in a stern tone; "are you out of your
senses? Why should I hide like a galivanting beau in a farce?"
"Oh! the wretch! he'll be the ruin of my reputation!" exclaimed the lady.
"Reputation!—What have I to do with your reputation, Mrs
"This is my mistress's dressing-room, you see, sir."
"Well, you brought me here, woman: and if it is, as your mistress says,—attorneys,
like physicians, are privileged persons."
"Oh! he won't discriminate, Wilmot. Don't you know, you cruel man, that we
can't blind others with what we blind ourselves? I am as pure as an angel;
but appearance is every thing; and Mr. Blennerhagen is more jealous than a
"That I am sure he is, madam; for he doats on you."
"And you, Mr. Burdock, will not be complaisant enough to save our
connubial bliss from being wrecked for ever.—If you don't comply, I
must scream out, and say you intruded yourself."
"Will you hear me speak?" cried the enraged attorney.
"Hark, how he bawls! And he knows well enough the wife of Cæsar must not
even be suspected," said Mrs. Blennerhagen; "let the wretch ruin me;—do,
"Indeed I won't, madam, if I can help it. Come, sir, if you are a
gentleman, prove yourself to be so."
"Bedlamites! will you hear me?—is not my character—"
"Oh! he is a bachelor attorney, and lives in chambers, Wilmot: and you
know the character of that class of men is quite obnoxious in cases of
reputation: but let him have his way; I must be his martyr, I see."
"Come, come, sir,—right or wrong, be civil to a lady."
"What, do you think I'll make a Jack-pudding of myself?"
"Stop his mouth, Wilmot: don't let him speak; for I hear the creak of Mr.
The lady and her woman now seized on the astonished attorney, and thrust
him into a closet. The door was instantly closed on him, and the key
turned in the lock. Mrs. Blennerhagen returned to the sofa; and Wilmot was
applying a smelling-bottle to her nose, bathing her brows, &c., as
though she was just reviving from a fainting fit, when the majestic
Blennerhagen entered the room.
With a keen and hurried glance he seemed to survey every object around
him, while he closed the door: he then approached the sofa, and uttered a
few endearing epithets while he relieved Wilmot from the task of
supporting her mistress. 'Anxious to get rid of him, Mrs. Blennerhagen
rapidly recovered; and her husband having, apparently by accident,
mentioned that he had left a friend in the parlour, she urged him, by all
means, to return ta his guest, as she found herself comparatively well,
and desirous of obtaining a little repose. Blennerhagen kissed her cheek;
and after recommending her to the care of Wilmot, passed round the sofa to
a writing-desk, which was placed on a table behind it, where he remained a
few moments, and then hastily withdrew.
Mrs. Blennerhagen immediately resumed her activity. "Now, my dear Wilmot,"
said she, "our only hope is to get the attorney down the back stairs, and
away through the garden."
"That is how I have settled it, madam, in my own mind," said the woman:
"master won't be up again at least these ten minutes."
"If you have any pity, emancipate me from this state of torture," groaned
poor Burdock: "I would face a roaring lion rather than remain here any
longer; my reflections are most poignant."
"Gracious Heaven!" exclaimed Mrs. Blennerhagen, "I've lost the key."
"Then, of course, you will permit me to burst open the door," said the
"Not on any account: be patient, I beseech you. Wilmot, where could I have
"I don't know, madam; you locked the door yourself: search in your bosom."
"I have; but it is not there:—nor on the sofa,—nor any where.
You must have had it."
"Indeed, madam, I never saw it since you took it off the shelf to lock the
"Women!" exclaimed Burdock, whose patience was completely worn out; "rash,
mischievous, accursed women! take notice that I am become desperate; and
if you do not find the key and release me instantly, I shall certainly
break out, and depart, at all hazards."
"For all our sakes have patience, sir," said the lady, in a soothing tone;
"be quiet but for a few moments: I hear Mr. Blennerhagen's boot again."
Before his wife could reach the sofa, Blennerhagen strode in, accompanied
by a stranger.
"Outraged, injured, as I am," said he, fixing his dark eye indignantly on
his wife, "I make no apology for thus introducing a stranger to your
apartment. This gentleman is my friend, and comes here with me, at my own
request, to be a witness of my shame; so that I may be able to obtain
legal reparation, at least, from the unknown assassin of my happiness.
Peterson," added he, turning to the stranger, "take the key and open that
"Lord! Mr. Blennerhagen," said the lady, with a forced laugh; "don't carry
on the joke, by making such serious faces: I told you, Wilmot, he would be
too deep for us:—see, now, if he hasn't got the key. Where did you
find it, love?"
"I took it, madam, from your hand," replied Blennerhagen, "when your mind
was occupied in affecting a painful and languishing recovery from syncope.
This may be a jest to you, but it is none to me; nor shall it be to him
who has wronged me. I have set my mark upon the villain:—perceiving
a portion of male attire, which I could not recognise as my own, hanging
from the crevice of the closet-door, while I appeared to be busy at the
desk behind you, I cut it off: I have it here," added Blennerhagen,
producing a triangular piece of brown cloth from his pocket; "let the man
who owns it claim it if he dare."
"Adam Burdock dares to claim his own in any place," exclaimed the
attorney, bursting the door open with one furious effort: "that's a piece
of the tail of my coat."
"Mr. Burdock!" exclaimed Blennerhagen.
"Ay, sir, Mr. Burdock,—heartily ashamed of himself, for being made a
ninny by your wife, or a dupe by both of you and my precious friend, Mrs.
Wilmot. You all look astonished; but, be assured, there is no one here
half so much astonished as myself. I believe you to be capable of
anything, Blennerhagen; but, on a moment's consideration, I think your
wife is too much of a simpleton to act as your confederate, in a plot on
my pocket; and notwithstanding your skill in mathematics, I am willing to
attribute all this to mere accident."
"He calls me a simpleton, Wilmot;—he casts a slur on my intellects,
Mr. Blennerhagen," exclaimed the lady.
"In that he is more uncharitable than myself, madam," said Blennerhagen:
"it may be an accident, it is true; but I question whether the gentleman,
with all his professional skill, will be able to persuade a special jury
to think so."
"I am sure my mistress is as innocent as the child unborn," observed Mrs.
"Hold your tongue, woman, and leave the room," said Blennerhagen, angrily.
"Indeed, I shall not leave the room," said Wilmot: "I'll stand by my
mistress to the last, and won't leave her for you or anybody else. You're
a couple of vile wretches; and there isn't a pin to choose between you."
"Oh! Wilmot, thou art thy poor heart-broken mistress's only friend, after
all," sobbed Mrs. Blennerhagen; "she is the victim of circumstances and
her own refined feelings."
"Peterson," said Blennerhagen, "I am under the unpleasant necessity of
requesting you to remember all that you have just witnessed. You will
agree with me, I think, that I ought to make this man quit my house before
I leave it myself."
"Unquestionably," replied Peterson.
"I shall do no such thing," said Burdock; "conscious of my innocence, I
defy you;—I laugh at you: and, before I quit this roof, I will make
you wish you had sooner crossed the path of a hungry wolf than mine. I
dare you to give me half an hour's interview."
"Ought I to do so, Peterson?" calmly inquired Blennerhagen. "Not without a
witness, I think," was the reply.
"With a score of witnesses, if you will," said Burdock:—"events have
precipitated my proceedings:—with a score of witnesses, if you will.
But mark me, man, you shall lament, if we are in solitude, that there will
be still one awful witness of your villany. I will unmask your soul; I
will shew you to yourself, and make you grind your teeth with agony,
unless you are, indeed, a demon in human form."
"Heavens! Mr. Burdock," exclaimed Mrs. Blennerhagen, "what can you have to
say against my husband?"
"It matters not, madam; he shall hear me in this place, or elsewhere
"I scorn your threats, sir," said Blennerhagen; "and publicly or
privately, I will meet any accusation you may have to make against me."
"Privately be it, then, if you dare."
"Dare, sir! Leave the room every body:—nay, I insist;—Peterson
and all. Now, sir," said Blennerhagen, closing the door after his wife,
Wilmot, and Peterson, who, in obedience to his command, had left the room;
"now, sir, we are alone, what have you to say?"
"Blennerhagen," said the attorney, fixing his keen eye on that of the
Mathematician, "George Wyburn has been arrested."
"It is an event that has been long looked for. I am rather hurt that, in
communicating with his friends on the subject, he should have given you a
priority over myself. I lament to say that he has fallen into bad hands."
"He has," replied Burdock; "but I will endeavour to release him"
"I thank you on behalf of my friend," said Blennerhagen, with a malicious
smile; "but I would suggest, with great humility, that you will find
sufficient employment, at present, to extricate yourself."
"Sir," said Burdock, "I wanted but the key-note to your character: every
word you utter is in unison with your actions."
"We are alone," said Blennerhagen, "and I can allow you to be
vituperative. Detection renders you desperate: that philosophy which
enables me to gaze calmly on the wreck of my own peace, teaches me, also,
to bear with those who are so unfortunate as to be guilty. I would not
personally bruise a broken reed: I cannot descend to chastise the man, who
has injured me deeply, for an insult in words. The highwayman who has
robbed us, may defame our characters with impunity; the lesser merges into
the greater offence: we do not fly into a passion, and apply the cudgel to
his back; we pity, and let the law hang him. If your hands were quite at
liberty, pray what course would you adopt to benefit George Wyburn?"
"I am so far at liberty, I thank Providence," replied Burdock, "as to be
able to bail him; and I mean to do so within an hour."
"Ay, sir, to the confusion of his enemies, as sure as I'm a sinner. You
"I am indeed,—to say the least,—surprised, and naturally
delighted to find fortune should so unexpectedly raise him up a friend."
"I am rather surprised myself; but I'll do it, I'm determined, hap what
"It is truly grievous,—a matter of deep regret,—that I cannot
fold you in my arms," said Blennerhagen. "How strange it is that the same
bosom should foster the most noble and the basest of thoughts. In the
human heart, the lily and the hemlock seem to flourish together. If it
were possible that your offence against my honour could admit of
palliation or forgiveness—but I beg pardon; I must be permitted to
write a hasty line, on a subject of some importance, which, until this
moment, I had forgotten. It is the miserable lot of man, that, in the
midst of his most acute trials, he is often compelled to attend to those
minor duties, the neglect of which would materially prejudice some of
those about him. I shall still give you my attention."
"Every syllable—every action of this man, now amazes me," said
Burdock to himself, walking towards the window: "he almost subdues me from
"I shall be entirely at your service in an instant," said Blennerhagen,
advancing to the door with a note, which he had hastily written, in his
hand: "I beg pardon,—oblige me by ringing the bell."
Burdock mechanically complied with his request; and Blennerhagen stepped
outside the door to give his servant some directions, as Burdock
conceived, relative to the note. During his brief absence, the attorney,
acting either from experience or impulse, cast a glance on the little pad,
consisting of several sheets of blotting-paper, which lay on the
escrutoire. Blennerhagen had dried his note on the upper sheet: it was
rapidly penned in a full, bold hand: and the impression of nearly every
letter was quite visible on the blotting-paper. To tear off the sheet, to
hold it up against the looking-glass, so as to rectify the reverse
position of the words, and to cast his eye over those which were the most
conspicuous, was the work of a moment. It ran thus:—"Gillard—I
must change my plan—let Wyburn be instantly released—contrive
that he shall suspect he owes his liberty to my becoming security for the
Burdock had conveyed this precious document to the side-pocket of his coat
before Blennerhagen returned: he resolved not to act rashly upon it, but
to consider calmly what would be the most efficacious mode of using it. He
felt highly gratified that he now possessed the means of supporting Mrs.
Wyburn's statement as to Blennerhagen's treachery. It afforded him
considerable satisfaction, also, that he might, in all probability, not
only, in some measure, benefit Wyburn, but, by politic conduct, force
Blennerhagen to desist from giving him any trouble on account of the
awkward situation into which he had been placed by Mrs. Blennerhagen's
All these ideas darted through his brain with the rapidity of lightning.
He felt pleased; and, doubtless, exhibited some symptoms of his internal
satisfaction in his countenance; for Blennerhagen resumed the conversation
by saying, "You smile, sir: the prospect of doing a good action lights up
your countenance, and makes you forget your personal troubles. Until this
day, you have, to me, been an object of respect. What could induce you to
act as you have done,—to injure and then brave me? You threatened to
unmask me—to make me crouch and tremble before you: I am still
erect, and my hand is firm."
"Let that pass, sir," said Burdock; "the novelty—the ridiculous
novelty, of my situation, must be my excuse. You can, perhaps, imagine the
feelings of an innocent man, labouring under a sudden and severe
"I can, indeed," replied Blennerhagen. "Do you say you are innocent?"
"I scorn to answer such a question."
"Truly, your manner staggers me;—your character has its weight, too:
I should be exceedingly glad to see you exculpated. May I ask what brought
you to my wife's dressing-room?"
"To that I will reply:—I received a summons from Mrs. Blennerhagen,
and was conducted to this apartment by her servant: the idiot wanted to
smuggle me in the back way, but I wouldn't put up with it."
"One inquiry more, and I have done. On what occasion, and for what
purpose, were you so summoned?"
"Eh! why—gadso! it's very absurd, to be sure; but there I stand at
bay. I must consider before I answer your question: I'll speak to Hassell
about it, and hear what he says on an A B case, without mentioning names.
Perhaps it wouldn't be a breach of professional confidence either; but we
"Mr. Burdock, I am almost inclined to think, although appearances are
powerful, that I have not been wronged. Mrs. Blennerhagen, although I
respect and have married her, is not a woman for whom a man, with any
philosophy, would carry an affair of this kind to extremities,
particularly where the internal evidence is weak. I am willing to give you
the full benefit of my doubts: but, sir, at the least you have been
indiscreet. Your conduct may cost me much: my reputation is at the mercy
of other tongues; which, however, I must admit, may be silenced. Should I
consent to smother this matter, will you, in return, comply with such
request as I may make, without questioning my motives or betraying my
"What if I decline to do so?"
"Then I will accept nothing less than a thousand pounds."
"As hush-money, I suppose, you mean."
"Call it what you please. I shall put you to the test, most probably,
within a week. You know the alternative:—if you decline that too, I
shall go on with the action, which, in justice to myself, I am compelled
to commence immediately. That I may not be defeated, I must also leave my
house, or turn my wife out of doors, to wait the result. But do not be
alarmed, I will abide by what I have said,—your services or a
thousand pounds. After this, I need scarcely say to you, that I do not
think I have been actually injured: but the case is clear against you;
other eyes have witnessed appearances, which go to impeach Mrs.
Blennerhagen's virtue; and I act as any other man would, in demanding
atonement, in some shape or other. I shall now send up my friend to see
"Hem quocunque modo rem!" ejaculated the attorney, as Blennerhagen
closed the door after him. "This fellow is a fearful one to strive with;
and I am, unfortunately, in some degree, fettered by the fact he alludes
to. But cheer up, Adam!—your cause is good; be courageous, and you
shall surely conquer." Without waiting for the arrival of Peterson,
Burdock snatched up his hat and cane, hastily descended the stairs, and,
without looking to the right or left, quitted the house. He got into a
coach at the first stand he came to, and directed the coachman to set him
down, as quickly as possible, in Serle's Buildings, Carey Street. On
arriving at the lock-up house, he found that George Wyburn had already
been liberated. He was, in some degree, prepared for this intelligence, by
Blennerhagen's letter to Gillard, of which he had so luckily obtained a
copy. His regret at being thus anticipated by the agent of Blennerhagen,
did not make him forget that it was a full hour beyond his usual
dinnertime: he hastened to Symond's Inn coffee-house; where,
notwithstanding the unpleasant scenes of the morning, he ate a very hearty
dinner, drank an extra half pint of wine, and perused the daily papers,
before he returned to his chambers.
On entering his office, one of the clerks informed him that there was a
lady in his private room, waiting, in the utmost anxiety, for his return.
Burdock immediately walked in, and, to his great indignation and
amazement, beheld Mrs. Blennerhagen. He recoiled from the sight of her
unwelcome countenance, and would, perhaps, have fairly run away from her,
if the lady had not pounced upon him before he could retrograde a single
pace. She dragged him into the centre of the room; where, clasping one of
his arms in her hands, she fell on her knees, and implored him to pity and
relieve the most ill-starred gentlewoman that ever breathed. "Nothing
shall induce me to rise from this spot," continued Mrs. Blennerhagen,
"until you promise, at least, to hear me."
"I submit to my fate," replied Burdock. "Pray release my hand; these
buildings are old, and I stand exposed to a murderous rush of air. I am
naturally susceptible of cold, and have been taught by experience to avoid
this spot. Release me instantly, or I must call the clerks to my
"Promise, then, to hear me."
"Anything, madam!—Odso!—have I not already told you I would
submit to my fate? And a hard fate it is," continued Burdock, taking up a
strong position behind his writing-table as soon as his arm was at
liberty; "I consider myself particularly unfortunate in ever having heard
of the name of Burdock, or Winpennie either."
"Don't asperse my late husband," said the lady; "call me what you
like, but don't asperse Paul. I am a wretched woman, Mr. Burdock."
"You're a very silly, self-sufficient woman, Mrs. Blenner-hagen," replied
the attorney. "Are you not ashamed to look me in the face, after having,
by your absurd conduct, and the assistance of your satellite, your female
familiar, brought me into a situation so distressing to a man of my
"Don't speak against my poor Wilmot;—don't call her names: call me
names, if you must be abusive, and I'll bear it all patiently. As to your
sneer upon my being familiar with her, I can safely say that, faithful as
she is, I have never forgotten that Wilmot is a servant. A woman who has
seen so much of this vile, odious world, as I have, is not to be told that
too much familiarity breeds contempt."
"You misunderstand me, madam;—but to explain would be useless. Allow
me to ask you, coolly and temperately,—after what has taken place,
what the devil brings you here? You must be out of your senses—I'm
sure you must—or you'd never act thus."
"You will not say so when you know my motives: but, anxious as I feel to
explain them, I can't help observing, how cruel it is for you to upbraid
me with what took place to-day. I can lay my hand upon my heart, and
declare that I acted for the best: any prudent woman would have done
exactly as I did; for who could expect that ever a man of your years and
experience would let the tail of his coat be caught in the closet-door?"
"Pray don't go on at this rate:—go home, my good woman,—go
home at once."
"Good woman, indeed, Mr. Burdock! You forget, sir, that you are talking to
the relict of the late Paul Winpennie. I hope you do not mean to add
insult to the injury you have done me."
"Zounds! Mrs. Blennerhagen, it is I who have been injured,—injured
by you, madam."
"Oh! I beg your pardon; if you had only recollected that your coat—"
"Talk no more about it;—it shall be as you please, if you will drop
the subject, and come to the point at once. Why do I see you here?"
"I hope I may be permitted to sit."
"Oh! certainly,—I beg pardon," said Burdock, handing Mrs.
Blennerhagen a chair, and immediately returning to his position behind the
"I am, at this moment, exceedingly indisposed, you will recollect," said
the lady; "and I ought to be in bed, with a physician by my side, rather
than in Furnival's Inn, talking to an attorney."
"You are perfectly right, madam; and I beg to suggest that you should
avoid the fatigue of conversation as much as possible."
"I thank you for your friendly hint, Mr. Burdock, and I will endeavour to
profit by it. Now I'm going to surprise you. Wilmot—no matter how—contrived
to overhear a great part of your conversation with Mr. Blennerhagen. It
seems that a thousand pounds was the sum mentioned; but Wilmot thinks, and
so do I, that, by good management, with a solemn declaration and her oath,
half the money would settle the matter. Now, my dear Mr. Burdock, as you
are a little obstinate and self-willed,—you know you are, for you've
too much sense to be blind to your own little failings,—I thought I
would come down at once, and, if you wavered, throw my eloquence and
interest into the scale. I need not point out to you how much trouble it
will save us both, if you can prevent this little affair from being made
public. What say you?"
"Why, truly, madam, your matchless absurdity almost deprives me of
utterance. You heap Pelion upon Ossa with such celerity, that, before I
can recover from the surprise which one ridiculous action has produced,
you stun me with a still more prodigious achievement."
"And can you really hesitate?"
"Hesitate, woman! Not at all:—I'm resolute!—Blennerhagen shall
never see the colour of my coin."
"Why, Mr. Burdock! are you a man? Can you, for a moment, seriously think
of suffering an injured lady's reputation to be placed in jeopardy for the
sake of so paltry a sum?"
"Pray hold your tongue, or, vexed as I am, I shall positively laugh in
your face. Do you think I am mad, or that I find my money in the streets?
But that I can scarcely conceive Blennerhagen is fool enough to think I am
such a gudgeon as to bite at his bait, I should certainly be led to
suspect what I hinted this morning to be true."
"That I am his confederate? and that we had laid our heads together to
entrap you?—I would rather die than you should imagine that I was so
vile a wretch! Oh! Mr. Burdock, I could not exist under such an
imputation. To prove that I, do not merit your odious suspicions, and as
you are so ungenerous as not to come forward with your own money on this
occasion, I'll tell you what I'll do:—I'll pledge the pearl
necklace, tiara, ear-rings, &c., which poor Mr. Winpennie gave me on
my wedding-day, and never would let me part with even when he was
distressed,—I'll pledge those, and the ruby suite I was last married
in, with my two gold watches, and as many little trinkets as will make up
the money, which I'll give you before I sleep, if you will promise to keep
the secret, and make the matter up with Blennerhagen; so that there may be
no piece of work about it.—Now what do you think of that?"
"Mrs. Blennerhagen," said Burdock, advancing from the situation which he
had hitherto occupied, and kindly taking the lady's hand, "you are a very
weak, imprudent woman;—excuse me for saying so;—it is the
fact: and if you are not more careful, you will, in all probability, get
into a position, from which you will find it impossible to extricate
yourself. The present case is bad enough, in all conscience; but I have
some reason to hope, that it is to be got over without the sacrifice of
your pearl necklace, or the ruby suite in which you were last married; at
all events, let them remain in your own jewel-box for the present. We will
not have recourse to either, unless, and until, all other earthly means
fail. Let me, however, advise you as a friend, should you escape scot-free
on this occasion, to be more careful in your conduct for the future. Now
don't say another word, but go home and make yourself easy."
"Oh! Mr. Burdock," exclaimed the lady, "this is, indeed, most fatherly of
you. Your words are balm to my agitated spirits; a sweet calm begins to
pervade my bosom;—good Heavens! what's that?"
"What, madam?" eagerly inquired Burdock, casting a hurried glance around
"As I'm a living creature, I heard the creak of Blenner-hagen's boot!—He's
coming! I'm sure he's coming!"
As the lady spoke, some one knocked at the outer door; and, immediately
after, one of the clerks came in to announce, that the moment Mr. Burdock
was disengaged, Mr. Blennerhagen would be glad to speak with him.
The attorney and his fair visitor gazed upon each other in a very
expressive manner, at this information: the lady whispered, "I shall
faint; I'm sure I shall!" Burdock, after a brief pause, told the clerk
that he should be at liberty in one minute, and the young man retired.
"How exquisitely annoying!" exclaimed the attorney, as soon as the door
was closed; "this is the consequence of your indiscretion, madam."
"Don't abuse me, sir;—don't tread upon a worm!" replied the lady.
"We should not lose time in talking, but set our wits to work at once. Oh!
if Wilmot were here, now!—That stupid clerk! couldn't he as well
have said you were out, or particularly occupied, and told Mr.
Blennerhagen to call again?—Where shall I conceal myself? Have you
no little room?"
"Not one, I am happy to say."
"Nor even a cupboard?—of course you have a cupboard:—I can
squeeze in anywhere, bless you!"
"There is not a hiding-place for a rat; the window is two stories from the
ground, and excessively narrow into the bargain: so that circumstances
luckily compel you to adopt the plain, straight-forward course, which is
always the best. I strongly suspect your husband has followed you here: to
conceal yourself would be useless,—nay, fatal. You must face him."
"Oh! Mr. Burdock, you drive me frantic!"
"Nay, nay, madam;—pray be calm: don't tear your hair in that
"Talk not of hair:—besides, they're only ringlets which I wear in
charity to Wilmot; it takes her an hour to dress my own:—I scarce
know what I'm doing or saying.—Stay! if I open the upper and lower
right-hand doors of that press or bookcase, or whatever it is, won't they
reach to the other wall?"
"Possibly they may."
"Then I can hide myself in the corner."
"Notwithstanding my caution, you are acting as unwisely as ever. I protest
against all this, and give you notice that I will be no party to the
"Do hold your tongue, and be guided by me:—you men have really no
brains. There," said the lady, placing herself behind the two doors,
which, as the side of the piece of furniture to which they belonged stood
within a short distance of the corner of the room, effectually concealed
her from observation, "now, if you'll only get rid of him quickly, I'll
warrant you I shall be safe." Burdock immediately rang a little table
bell, and his clerk ushered in the Mathematician.
"You are doubtless surprised to see me so soon, sir," said Blennerhagen.
"Not at all; I shall never be surprised again."
"A wise man should wonder at nothing, perhaps. Unexpected circumstances,
which I will explain, have led me to visit you this afternoon. In the
first place, I understand, from my servant, that a female has been sent to
my house by your directions: her appearance and story, it seems, were
equally extraordinary. May I be excused for having a natural curiosity to
know who she was, and what she wanted? She was sent up, I hear, to Mrs.
Blennerhagen: I have no wish that she should trouble my wife again."
"Are you anxious to keep her business with you a secret from Mrs.
"Possibly I may be; but I don't know until I discover what it is:—we
have all been young. Why do you ask?"
"Simply because your wife is in this room."
"I don't understand you."
"Mrs. Blennerhagen is now within hearing: she stands behind the doors of
that old book-case."
"Excuse me, sir;—you have dined, no doubt;—but I am serious."
"And so am I," replied Burdock. "If you disbelieve what I say, go and
"Oh! you vile creatures!" exclaimed Mrs. Blennerhagen, rushing from the
place of her concealment:—"you pair of wretches! A plot! a plot!
There's a vile plot laid between you to delude—to vilify—to
destroy me. I see through it all. And you,—you old, abandoned man,"
added the lady, addressing Burdock, "to lend yourself to such a scheme!—I'm
ashamed of you!—You've played your parts well; but I will be a match
for you. Oh! Heavens! is this the way to treat a wife? Mr. Blennerhagen,
you may well look confounded."
"Confounded!" exclaimed Blennerhagen; "I'm thunderstruck!"
"Ay! no doubt you are. What I am to be got rid of, I suppose, by this
vamped-up affair between you and your satellite,—as he dares to call
poor Wilmot,—to make room for your creature in sapphire and yellow.
If I die in the attempt, I will see the bottom of it all, and expose you
both!" Mrs. Blennerhagen now bustled out of the office.
"This woman is foolish," said Blennerhagen.
"I think so, decidedly," quoth the attorney.
"What brought her here, pray?"
"Why, as I was a little obstinate and self-willed, she came to throw her
interest and eloquence into the scale, (I use her own words,) and induce
me to prevent our little affair from being made public. Her woman, who
overheard the conversation which I had with you this morning, seems to
think that, although you ask a thousand pounds, with a little management,
a solemn declaration of innocence, and her own oath, half the money would
settle the matter. Ha, ha!"
Blennerhagen bit his lip. After a short pause, he inquired if the attorney
had yet made up his mind to state, on what occasion, and for what purpose,
he had visited Mrs. Blennerhagen in her dressing-room.
"I have not spoken to Hassell on the subject," replied Burdock; "but I
feel no repugnance, under present circumstances, to say that she sent for
me because she was jealous of the woman in brimstone and blue. I have her
note, if you wish to look at it. When she heard you coming, I was pushed,
nolens volens, into the cupboard, by your wife and her maid. That,
briefly, is the whole of the matter. By-the-by, I should add, that I
acquainted Mrs. Blennerhagen with the lady's business, and I am now
willing to do you the same service."
"You are very obliging:—to ascertain that, is partly my object in
calling on you."
Burdock now went through the particulars of the poor woman's case with
great minuteness. Blennerhagen listened very attentively, and, at the
conclusion of the recital, observed, "This is all new to me."
"Of course it is," replied the attorney; "because, legally speaking, you
have nothing to do with it. It concerns the executors, in the first
instance; and not you, who, by your marriage, merely represent the
legatee: their straight-forward course is to send the woman about her
business, because she is a feme covert, and cannot give a release,—the
title being in her blackguard husband. The executors are bound to act
strictly; but if you, who are the party beneficially interested, out of
motives of feeling think fit to run the risk of consenting to her paltry
claim being paid off, out of your enormous legacy, why, of course, they
would willingly do it. To give her a chance, I took leave to refer her to
you, in order that you might hear the story from her own lips."
"I shall be happy to be guided by you," said Blennerhagen; "but I see
nothing, for my own part, in this case that should induce us to go out of
the usual course. Were we to put our hands into our pockets to relieve
every deserving object that occurs to our notice, we should soon become
paupers ourselves. Those who are rich have often as powerful calls on
their charity for hundreds—nay, thousands—as pence; but they
are compelled to exert their philosophy, and conquer their inclinations to
relieve; in fact, for their own sakes, to marshal reason against mere
feeling. You ground your appeal on the score of charity; but I could name
much greater objects of charity than this woman. She must abide by the
consequences of her own folly. She has been stripped of her property, and
deserted by her husband, you say: well,—that's hard, I confess; but
you know such cases are continually occurring. It would require the
exchequer of a Croesus to remunerate,—for that is the proper word,—to
remunerate all the women who have been plundered by those whom they have
chosen to make legal proprietors,—observe me,—legal
proprietors of their property. Besides, we have only this person's own
word in support of her strange statement: how do we know but what she was
quite as improvident as her husband? And who is to say that, instead of
his deserting his wife, the lady herself might not have driven him from
his home? It is in the power of some of the sex to do such things."
"That may be true enough," said Burdock; "but I am warranted in saying the
contrary is the fact, in the present case, by the letter of a most
respectable correspondent, which the woman brought with her. That the
husband was a most consummate villain, I have ample evidence. My informant
states,—but I will read that portion of his epistle," continued
Burdock, taking a letter from his desk: "speaking of the husband, he says,
during his short stay in our neighbourhood, previously to the marriage, he
contrived, by obtaining goods on credit from several tradesmen, to support
a respectable appearance; and my unfortunate client, believing him to be a
man of some property,—although nobody knew who he was, or where he
came from,—encouraged his addresses,' And then, a little below, it
is stated, that 'on account of a sudden indisposition with which she was
attacked, the wedding was postponed. The delay thus produced had nearly
proved fatal to the hopes of our adventurer: bills, which he had given to
some of his creditors, became due, and were dishonoured. Proceedings being
hinted at, he called the tradespeople together, and very coolly requested
them to give him time. The creditors said they did not feel inclined to do
so, because'—favour me with your attention, Mr. Blennerhagen—'because
they had strong suspicions that the bills were forgeries; and that, if
such were the case,—and they had but little doubt of the fact,—it
was in their power to hang him. This intimation, which would have
staggered any man but him to whom it was addressed, did not produce any
visible effect on his feelings. He very calmly told them, in reply, that
even if the bills were forgeries,—which, of course, he could not
admit,—he should feel under no apprehension; for, said he, I know
that you are all too needy to sacrifice your own interests for the sake of
public justice: you cannot afford to lose your money; and lose it, you
certainly would, as you all very well know, if you prosecuted me to
conviction. Were I a wretch, without present means or future expectations,
I should expect no mercy; but as you are aware that I am on the eve of
marriage with a woman of some property, you will act upon that excellent
maxim—charity begins at home, and keep the alleged forgeries in your
pockets, in hopes that I shall take them up as soon as I am married. You
owe a duty to the public, but you owe a greater to yourselves and to your
families; and you'd much rather take ten shillings in the pound, than see
me, even if I were guilty, dangling at your expense in any devil's larder
in the country.'"
"Well, sir, the creditors waited."
"They did; but the deuce a bit did he pay them: he got what money he could
together, as soon as he was married, and left them, as well as his wife,
in the lurch. They have now sent me up the bills, as there's no hope of
his paying them, and begged me to get hold of him if I can: they say he
has been seen in London without his whiskers; and that, in a few days,
they hope to afford me some clue to his present haunts. They refer me to
his wife for a description of his person, which I mean to get of her at
our next interview, if I can persuade the woman to be calm enough to give
"What is her name?"
"Then I am right in my suspicions."
"To what do you allude?"
"Mr. Burdock," said Blennerhagen, "I will not scruple to confess that I
know the man. Tainted as his character now is, he has been worthy of
esteem. Once in his life, sir, he did me so essential a service,—greatly
to his own detriment,—that I have ever since groaned under the
obligation, and never, until this moment, did I entertain a hope of being
able to relieve myself from its weight."
"This is very odd," said the attorney; "but I am resolved not to be
amazed. And, pray, on what do your hopes to help him rest?"
"On my interest with you."
"That is not worth a button; and, if it were, I don't see how you could
benefit the man. Professional pursuits have not altogether destroyed my
feelings; but I don't think that I should repent having been instrumental
in bringing such a villain as this to justice."
"Do not let us be too hasty in consigning a man to infamy," replied
Blennerhagen. "Circumstances are often powerful palliatives of guilt; and
circumstances, you know, are not always—are they ever?—under
our own control. Offences, which, abstractedly considered, appear heinous,
would lose much of their odium, were we in possession of the whole chain
of consequences, from the first inducement to commit crime, to its final
consummation; and it would be but common charity to hope that such may
have been the case in the present instance. I stand excused, at least, I
trust, for endeavouring to evince my gratitude to this man."
"How can you possibly do so?"
"By procuring the destruction of those bills."
"What did you say?"
"Destroy those acceptances in my presence, and do me a trifling favour
which I shall presently mention,—understanding, of course, that you
will solemnly assure me I have not been injured,—and the events of
this morning shall be buried in oblivion."
"Why, I really thought you had more sense than to make so absurd a
proposal," said the attorney: "how am I to account to my clients for the
loss of their papers?"
"Oh! every one knows that man is fallible, and may mislay things: clerks,
too,—who have access to an attorney's private room,—are poor,
and open to temptation: laundresses frequently sweep valuable documents
off the floor and burn them: even iron chests are not impregnable; and
robberies take place in spite of every precaution."
"I certainly never met with your equal, Blennerhagen: and I'll tell you a
piece of my mind presently;—something has just struck me."
"I'll hear you with pleasure; but let us dispose of this little matter at
once:—hand me over the bills, pay the woman what she wants, and send
her back into the country to-morrow morning. Tonks has many excuses for
his conduct, with which, however, it is needless to trouble you. He has
acted improperly,—I will even say, criminally,—but I cannot
let this opportunity escape of balancing our obligations. I shall feel
much more easy after it. I must, therefore, press you to oblige me."
"You stated, just now, that you had some other little favour to ask."
"Had we not better settle this affair first? My plan is always to clear
away as I proceed."
"I, on the contrary, when any arrangement is contemplated between parties,
like to bring every point into hotch-pot, as a preliminary step."
"Say no more, Mr. Burdock;—I will yield with pleasure. It is rather
a disagreeable subject on which I am compelled to touch; but I will go
into it at once. Wyburn's wife has been with you to-day;—she stated
something to my disadvantage."
"What induces you to suppose so?"
"To be candid,—your threats this morning aroused my suspicions. I
have since seen Mrs. Wyburn, and extracted the facts from her."
"Imprimis,—that she has visited you to-day."
"Item,—that she has thrown out hints which, if founded in
truth, would not, perhaps, tend materially to the enhancement of my
"I shall say nothing on that subject."
"Can you deny it?—If I am wrong, why not deny it?—Will you
"No, I won't."
"Then it is as I imagined.—Now, sir, as you are kindly disposed
towards my friend, I wish to warn you, seriously, against that young
woman. She labours under gross delusions: an idea has entered her head,
that I am her husband's enemy, and an admirer of her person. Nothing can
be more preposterous. She has reproached me, bitterly, for every step that
I have taken to benefit George Wyburn, under the impression that my
proceedings would be prejudicial to him. I acquit her of malice; but she
certainly is very deficient in common sense. Perhaps, however, I am
uncharitable in saying this; for women, in her sphere of life, are totally
incapable of forming a just opinion on the actions of man in mere matters
of business. They are like those spectators of a chess-match, who, having
obtained only a slight glimmering of the mysteries of the game, consider
those moves of a piece which are, in fact, master-strokes of skill, as
tending to bring the king into check-mate."
"You are a chess-player, I presume, Mr. Blennerhagen," said Burdock.
"I am, sir; chess is my favourite game. But to proceed with my statement:—George
Wyburn himself is by no means a man of business. Proud, and ridiculously
affecting independence, although he scarcely possesses a shilling, he
would disdain the slightest favour I could offer him: he will not
willingly be under an obligation to any man. That assistance, which in
extremity he might accept from a stranger, he would scorn if proffered by
a friend: I am, therefore, under the necessity of acting in the most
circuitous manner, to benefit him. If I do good, in my office as his
friend, I must do so by stealth. Mrs. Wyburn has not mind enough to
perceive this: a combination of manouvres is to her mysterious, and
consequently fearful; for she cannot imagine how anything can be fair that
is not manifest to her limited capacity. Now, sir, I have already made
considerable progress in relieving my friend from his difficulties, and I
do not wish to be thwarted, either by this woman's weakness, her whims, or
her delusions. I can convince you, at once, of the honesty of my
intentions; and I call on you, as at least a well-wisher to George Wyburn,
not to countenance his wife's follies, but to put on the wisdom of the
adder, and be deaf to her tales;—in fact, not to bring yourself into
trouble, by becoming the confidant of another man's wife, and her abettor,
without his knowledge, in counteracting such measures as his best friend
may think fit to adopt for his ultimate, if not immediate, benefit. I am
urged to make this communication; I do it unwillingly, but I think you
will feel that I am right."
"And this is your request, Mr. Blennerhagen?"
"Have you any thing else to ask?"
"Absolutely nothing:—I require nothing but your promise on this
"And the bills—"
"Oh!—of course, the bills:—your promise and the bills."
"You have omitted to prove to me the honesty of your intentions towards
"I will do so in a few words.—Although piqued at George for not
immediately acquainting me with the circumstance of his being arrested,
the moment I quitted you this morning, I flew to his creditors, and
procured his instant release, by becoming security for payment of the
bonds on which he had been arrested. You, doubtless, have ascertained that
he is discharged: if not, you may do so at once, by sending one of your
clerks to the lock-up house. This, you must allow, is a tolerably good
proof of my intentions towards him. You will understand, that I do not
wish him to know how far I have gone, as it would be needless, at
pre-tent, to hurt his pride. We should reverence a friend's feelings,
although, to our minds, they may appear failings. You are now convinced, I
"I am!" exclaimed Burdock, with unusual energy; "I am convinced that you
are an atrocious scoundrel!—Don't frown, or pretend to be in a
passion, or I'll shew you no mercy. You're check-mated, Blennerhagen."
"Mr. Burdock! what's the matter?—What has possessed you?"
"A spirit to put out and amove such a monster as you are from honest
society. To dumb-founder you, if it be possible, without more ado, know
that I am fully acquainted with the contents of the note you wrote in my
presence this morning:—'Gillard—I must change my plans—let
Wyburn be instantly released—contrive that he shall suspect he owes
his liberty to my having become security for his debts—Blennerhagen.'
I have the words, your hear, by heart; and what's better, for my purpose,
I have them in your own hand-writing, in my iron chest. I tore off the
impression which you made with the note on your blotting-paper. Now, sir,
what say you?"
"Nothing," replied the Mathematician, with his ordinary composure of
manner; "nothing, but that I shall be under the necessity of entering into
a longer explanation than I could wish at this moment, in order to clear
up the circumstance."
"I will hear no more of your plausible explanations:—I have heard
enough already. It is time for me to speak."
"With all my heart."
"Where is the letter which George Wyburn wrote to you,—that letter
in which he stated he was about to destroy himself?—Be brief in your
reply—where is it?"
"'Tis false! I must be explicit: you shewed it to Mrs. Wyburn very lately;—say
within these two days."
"I beg to suggest, that before you gave me the lie, (I postpone the insult
for a moment,) you should have reflected that even in two days there is
time enough to burn ten thousand letters, and that I have not been
deprived of volition during that period."
"Admitted. But I know more than you imagine; and I will not be trifled
with. You deem it to be so valuable a document, that you commonly have it
about your person. Allow me merely to run my eye through your
"You carry this with too high a hand, Mr. Burdock," said Blennerhagen;
"you ask too much, sir; and in a manner, that one who possessed less
calmness than myself, would not tolerate. I am not to be intimidated. It
would be as well, perhaps, if we postponed this discussion, until you are
in a cooler mood."
"Not yet, sir; not yet, if you please. I have something more serious to
"You are not going to unmask a battery on me, I hope," said Blennerhagen,
with apparent gaiety.
"It may be that I am. Hear me:—I hope I shall be forgiven if I am
wrong: should I, however, be in error, a few hours will set me right. I
strongly suspect—I will not call you Blennerhagen, for I have little
doubt but that—"
"Hold!" exclaimed Blennerhagen, placing his hand on Burdock's lips;—"hold!
I beseech, I entreat you. Before you utter another word, I demand, I
implore the favour of being allowed to commune for a few moments with
Burdock intimated his acquiescence by a nod to this request. Blennerhagen
rose from his seat, and paced rapidly up and down the room. A multitude of
thoughts seemed to be hurrying through his mind; and large drops of
perspiration trickled unheeded from his brow. After a few moments had
elapsed, he began to recover his composure, and resumed his chair.
"Mr. Burdock," said he, "I am grateful for this indulgence. It is, I
believe, an established principle, with professional men, that the
confidential communications of a client should be held most sacred."
"So far as regards myself, and many whom I know, that is certainly the
case," replied Burdock.
"Allow me to ask—for whom do you consider yourself concerned under
the late Joshua Kesterton's will?"
"First, for the executors; next, for your wife and yourself; and, lastly,
for Mrs. Wyburn and her husband."
"I have the honour to be your client up to this moment, I believe."
"Then, sir, I beg to acquaint, you, in that character, that I am Tonks."
"You don't surprise me at all," said Burdock; "I thought as much, and was
just going to tell you so."
"I hope I shall do myself no injury by confessing that I perceived you
were; and availed myself of the opportunity of stating the fact, in order
to obtain the benefit of your silence, and allow me to add,—your
"Nay, nay," replied Burdock, "I really must decline advising you."
"Well, be it so," said Blennerhagen; "I have sense enough to see that my
only safety is in immediate flight. I have been careless in some minute
points of my calculations, and my air-built castle topples about my ears;
but I must not be overwhelmed by its ruins."
"Understand that I cannot assist you," said Burdock; "understand that most
positively. Here's a clear felony;—at least, I'm afraid it would
turn out so. And you see, (it has just occurred to me,) although you're my
client under Kesterton's will, yet, as the bills have actually been
transmitted to me—"
"I have heard you say, Mr. Burdock," interrupted Blennerhagen, "that while
you were concerned for a man, you would never act against him."
"I admit it; but, you see, in a case of felony—"
"Allow me to go on:—without my confidential communication, you
would, at this moment, have nothing but conjecture to warrant you in
calling me Tonks."
"I don't deny it."
"I am under your roof, too."
"Lastly,—villain as you deem me, I am unfortunate as well as guilty.
My actions have been culpable, I confess. Money, money, has been my
object: I have been compelled to catch little fish, to bait my hooks for
great ones. The woman who calls herself Tonks (which is not my real name)
has been, unfortunately for herself, one of my victims. I wanted money,
and I scrupled not at any scheme that appeared safe, to get it:—the
end sanctified the means. I have a father, Mr. Burdock,—a greyheaded
man, who has pined in prison during three miserable years: I am the
wretched cause of his sufferings. He was convicted, in large penalties,
for offences against the revenue committed by me,—by me alone, Mr.
Burdock. I attempted to bring the onus of the offence on myself, and to
relieve him from the accusation; but justice, in this case, was blind,
indeed. My father is in his cell, sir; but, although balked in my designs
at present, yet still, while I have existence, in other scenes, in other
lands, rather,—for I'm no longer safe here,—I will wrestle
with fortune, at all hazards, until I procure a sufficient sum to effect
"Suppose, for a change, as you have hitherto been unsuccessful, you were
to adopt some honest course,—I mean, if you escape."
"Perhaps I may:—guilt, however, is but comparative, and—"
"Well, enough of this. What have you to say to your attempt on the virtue
of Mrs. Wyburn?"
"I was under the influence of a passion which I could not control."
"You'll be hung as sure as you're born, if you suffer yourself to be
governed by such sophistry as you preach."
"I hope not," replied the Mathematician, "for it would break that old
man's heart, who has no joy to support him in his captivity but his joy as
a father in me. If I had freed him, he must not have known how I obtained
the means to do so."
"Another reason for your being honest," observed Burdock; "make a
beginning, and you'll find the path pleasant afterwards:—only make a
"I will, immediately," replied Blennerhagen, taking several papers from
his pocket-book, and laying them open on the attorney's table: "there is
George Wyburn's letter," added he; "and there are the bonds on which he
has been arrested.—Hush! Was not that a knock at the door of your
Voices were now heard in the outer office; and, in a short time, Burdock's
clerk came into the room to announce the arrival of Mrs. Blennerhagen and
"My second wife, doubtless, obtained her predecessor's address this
morning," said Blennerhagen, "and has been to fetch her. Come in and shut
the door, young man," continued he, addressing the clerk:—"I think I
heard you close your shutters just now: how many candles have you on your
"Only one, sir," replied the clerk, "at this moment."
"Oblige me by snuffing it out, apparently by accident, when you return to
your seat, and utter some exclamation when you have done it:—do not
The clerk paused for a moment; but, as Burdock made no remark, the young
man interpreted his silence as a tacit acquiescence to Blennerhagen's
request, and withdrew. In a few seconds he gave the signal: Blennerhagen
immediately strode out, rushed across the outer office, and effected his
As soon as the clerk had procured a light, Burdock informed the ladies, in
a few words, of Blennerhagen's villanies; and then left them, weeping in
each other's arms, to go in quest of Wyburn and his wife.
Within a week, the claims on Joshua Kesterton's estate were finally
determined; and the amount proved to be so much less than either Hassell
or Burdock had anticipated, as to leave a considerable sum after deducting
the legacy. Mrs. Blennerhagen,—or, to speak more correctly, the
widow Winpennie,—not only paid poor Mrs. Tonks her full claim, but
very generously augmented Wyburn's residue, by allowing a handsome
deduction in his favour out of her ten thousand pounds. Neither of his
wives ever heard of the Mathematician again; and, to quote a facetious
entry in the old attorney's private memorandum-book,—George Wyburn
was convinced of the folly of his conduct,
He thought no more of reading Plato,
And acting like that goose, old Cato.