en-es  THE BISHOP'S SECRET by FERGUS HUME - Chapter 30
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CHAPTER XXX - BLACKMAIL.
For some moments Graham did not speak, but looked with pity on the grief-shaken frame and bowed shoulders of his sorely-tried friend. Indeed, the position of the man was such that he did not see what comfort he could administer, and so, very wisely, held his peace. However, when the bishop, growing more composed, remained still silent, he could not forbear offering him a trifle of consolation.
'Don't grieve so, Pendle!' he said, laying his hand on the other's shoulder; 'it is not your fault that you are in this position.
The bishop sighed, and murmured with a shake of his head, 'Omnis qui facit peccatum, servus est peccati!
'But you have not done sin!' cried Graham, dissenting from the text. 'You! your wife! myself! everyone thought that Krant was dead and buried. The man fled, and lied, and forged, to gain his freedom—to shake off the marriage bonds which galled him. He was the sinner, not you, my poor innocent friend!
'True enough, doctor, but I am the sufferer. Had God in His mercy not sustained me in my hour of trial, I do not know how I should have borne my misery, weak, erring mortal that I am.
'That speech is one befitting your age and office,' said the doctor, gravely, 'and I quite approve of it. All the same, there is another religious saying—I don't know if it can be called a text—"God helps those who help themselves." You will do well, Pendle, to lay that to heart.
'How can I help myself?' said the bishop, hopelessly. 'The man is dead now, without doubt; but he was alive when I married his supposed widow, therefore the ceremony is null and void. There is no getting behind that fact.
'Have you consulted a lawyer on your position?
'No. The law cannot sanction a union—at least in my eyes—which I know to be against the tenets of the Church. So far as I know, if a husband deserts his wife, and is not heard of for seven years, she can marry again after that period without being liable to prosecution as a bigamist, but in any case the second ceremony is not legal.
'Mrs Krant became your wife before the expiration of seven years, I know,' said Graham, wrinkling his brow.
'Certainly. And therefore she is—in the eyes of the law—a bigamist'—the bishop shuddered—'although, God knows, she fully believed her husband to be dead. But the religious point of view is the one I take, doctor; as a Churchman, I cannot live with a woman whom I know is not my wife. It was for that reason that I sent her away!
'But you cannot keep her away for ever, bishop!—at all events, unless you explain the position to her.
'I dare not do that in her present state of health; the shock would kill her. No, Graham, I see that sooner or later she must know, but I wished for her absence that I might gain time to consider my terrible position. I have considered it in every way—but, God help me! I can see no hope—no escape. Alas! alas! I am sorely, sorely tried.
Graham reflected. 'Are you perfectly certain that Jentham and Krant are one and the same man?' he asked doubtfully.
'I am certain of it,' replied Pendle, decisively. 'I could not be deceived in the dark gipsy face, in the peculiar cicatrice on the right cheek. And he knew all about my wife, Graham—about her family, her maiden name, the amount of her fortune, her taking up parish work in Marylebone. Above all, he showed me the certificate of his marriage, and a number of letters written to him by Amy, reproaching him with his cruel desertion. Oh, there can be no doubt that this Jentham is—or rather was—Stephen Krant.
'It would seem so!' sighed Graham, heavily. 'Evidently there is no hope of proving him to be an impostor in the face of such evidence.
'He came to extort money, I suppose?
'Need you ask!' said the bishop, bitterly. 'Yes, his sole object was blackmail; he was content to let things remain as they are, provided his silence was purchased at his own price. He told me that if I paid him two hundred pounds he would hand over certificate and letters and disappear, never to trouble me again.
'I doubt if such a blackguard would keep his word, Pendle. Moreover, although novelists and dramatists attach such a value to marriage certificates, they are really not worth the paper they are written on—save, perhaps, as immediate evidence. The register of the church in which the ceremony took place is the important document, and that can neither be handed over nor destroyed. Krant was giving you withered leaves for your good gold, Pendle. Still, Needs must when Sir Urian drives, so I suppose you agreed to the bribe.
The bishop's grey head drooped on his breast, his eyes sought the carpet, and he looked like a man overwhelmed with shame. 'Yes,' he replied, in low tones of pain, 'I had not the courage to face the consequences. Indeed, what else could I do? I could not have the man denounce my marriage as a false one, force himself into the presence of my delicate wife, and tell my children that they are nameless. The shock would have killed Amy; it would have broken my children's hearts; it would have shamed me in my high position before the eyes of all England. I was innocent; I am innocent. Yes, but the fact remained, as it remains now, that I am not married to Amy, that my children are not entitled to bear my name. I ask you, Graham—I ask you, what else could I do than pay the money in the face of such shame and disgrace?
'There is no need to excuse yourself to me, Pendle. I do not blame you in the least.
'But I blame myself—in part,' replied the bishop, sadly. 'As an honest man I knew that my marriage was illegal; as a priest I was bound to put away the woman who was not—who is not my wife. But think of the shame to her, of the disgrace to my innocent children. I could not do it, Graham, I could not do it. Satan came to me in such a guise that I yielded to his tempting without a struggle. I agreed to buy Jentham's silence at his own price; and as I did not wish him to come here again, lest Amy should see him, I made an appointment to meet him on Southberry Heath on Sunday night, and there pay him his two hundred pounds blackmail.
'Did you speak with him on the spot where his corpse was afterwards found?' asked Graham, in a low voice, not daring to look at his friend.
'No,' answered the bishop, simply, not suspecting that the doctor hinted at the murder; 'I met him at the Cross-Roads.
'You had the money with you, I suppose?
'I had the money in notes of tens. As I was unwilling to draw so large a sum from the Beorminster Bank, lest my doing so should provoke comment, I made a special journey to London and obtained the money there.
'I think you were over-careful, bishop.
'Graham, I tell you I was overcome with fear, not so much for myself as for those dear to me. You know how the most secret things become known in this city; and I dreaded lest my action should become public property, and should be connected in some way with Jentham. Why, I even tore the butt of the cheque I drew out of the book, lest any record should remain likely to excite suspicion. I took the most elaborate precautions to guard against discoveries.
'And rather unnecessary ones,' rejoined Graham, dryly. 'Well, and you met the scamp?
'I did, on Sunday night—that Sunday I was at Southberry holding a confirmation service, and as I rode back, shortly after eight in the evening, I met Jentham, by appointment, at the Cross-Roads. It was a stormy and wet night, Graham, and I half thought that he would not come to the rendezvous, but he was there, sure enough, and in no very good temper at his wetting, I did not get off my horse, but handed down the packet of notes, and asked him for the certificate and letters.
'Which, no doubt, he declined to part with at the last moment.
'You are right,' said the bishop, mournfully; 'he declared that he would keep the certificate until he received another hundred pounds.
'The scoundrel! What did you say?
'What could I say but "Yes"? I was in the man's power. At any cost, if I wanted to save myself and those dear to me, I had to secure the written evidence he possessed. I told him that I had not the extra money with me, but that if he met me in the same place a week later he should have it. I then rode away downcast and wretched. The next day,' concluded the bishop, quietly, 'I heard that my enemy was dead.
'Murdered,' said Graham, explicitly.
'Murdered, as you say,' rejoined Pendle, tremulously; 'and oh, my friend, I fear that the Cain who slew him now has the certificate in his possession, and holds my secret. What I have suffered with that knowledge, God alone knows. Every day, every hour, I have been expecting a call from the assassin.
'The deuce you have!' said the doctor, surprised into unbecoming language.
'Yes; he may come and blackmail me also, Graham!
'Not when he runs the risk of being hanged, my friend.
'But you forget,' said the bishop, with a sigh. 'He may trust to his knowledge of my secret to force me to conceal his sin.
'Would you be coerced in that way?
Dr Pendle threw back his noble head, and, looking intently at his friend, replied in a firm and unfaltering tone. 'No,' said he, gravely. 'Even at the cost of my secret becoming known, I should have the man arrested.
'Well,' said Graham, with a shrug, 'you are more of a hero than I am, bishop. The cost of exposing the wretch seems too great.
'Graham! Graham! I must do what is right at all hazards.
'Fiat justitia ruat cœlum!' muttered the doctor, 'there is a morsel of dictionary Latin for you. The heavens above your family will certainly fall if you speak out.
The bishop winced and whitened. 'It is a heavy burden, Graham, a heavy, heavy burden, but God will give me strength to bear it. He will save me according to His mercy.
The little doctor looked meditatively at his boots. He wished to tell Pendle that the chaplain suspected him of the murder, and that Baltic, the missionary, had been brought to Beorminster to prove such suspicions, but at the present moment he did not see how he could conveniently introduce the information. Moreover, the bishop seemed to be so utterly unconscious that anyone could accuse him of the crime, that Graham shrank from being the busybody to enlighten him. Yet it was necessary that he should be informed, if only that he might be placed on his guard against the machinations of Cargrim. Of course, the doctor never for one moment thought of his respected friend as the author of a deed of violence, and quite believed his account of the meeting with Jentham. The bishop's simple way of relating the episode would have convinced any liberal-minded man of his innocence and rectitude. His accents, and looks, and candour, all carried conviction.
Finally Graham hit upon a method of leading up to the subject of Cargrim's treachery, by referring to the old gipsy and her fortune-telling at Mrs Pansey's garden-party. 'What does Mother Jael know of your secret?' he asked with some hesitation.
'Nothing!' replied the bishop, promptly; 'it is impossible that she can know anything, unless'—here he paused—'unless she is aware of who killed Jentham, and has seen the certificate and letters!
'Do you think she knows who murdered the man?
'I—cannot—say. At that garden-party I went into the tent to humour some ladies who wished me to have my fortune told.
'I saw you go in, bishop; and you came out looking disturbed.
'No wonder, Graham; for Mother Jael, under the pretence of reading my hand, hinted at my secret. I fancied, from what she said, that she knew what it was; and I accused her of having gained the information from Jentham's assassin. However, she would not speak plainly, but warned me of coming trouble, and talked about blood and the grave, until I really believe she fancied I had killed the man. I could make nothing of her, so I left the tent considerably discomposed, as you may guess. I intended to see her on another occasion, but as yet I have not done so.
'Is it your belief that the woman knows your secret?' asked Graham.
'No. On consideration, I concluded that she knew a little, but not much—at all events, not sufficient to hurt me in any way. Krant—that is Jentham—was of gipsy blood, and I fancied that he had seen Mother Jael, and perhaps, in his boastful way, had hinted at his power over me. Still, I am quite certain that, for his own sake, he did not reveal my secret. And after all, Graham, the allusions of Mother Jael were vague and unsatisfactory, although they disturbed me sufficiently to make me anxious for the moment.
'Well, bishop, I agree with you. Mother Jael cannot know much or she would have spoken plainer. So far as she is concerned, I fancy your secret is pretty safe; but,' added Graham, with a glance at the door, 'what about Cargrim?
'He knows nothing, Graham.
'Perhaps not, but he suspects much.
'Suspects!' echoed the bishop, in scared tones. 'What can he suspect?
'That you killed Jentham,' said Graham, quietly.
Dr Pendle looked incredulously at his friend. 'I—I—murder—I kill—what—Cargrim—says,' he stammered; then asked him with a sharp rush of speech, 'Is the man mad?
'No; but he is a scoundrel, as I told you. Listen, bishop,' and in his rapid way Graham reported to Dr Pendle all that Harry Brace had told him regarding Cargrim and his schemes.
The bishop listened in incredulous silence; but, almost against his will, he was obliged to believe in Graham's story. That a man whom he trusted, whom he had treated with such kindness, should have dug this pit for him to fall into, was almost beyond belief; and when the truth of the accusation was forced upon him, he hardly knew what to say about so great a traitor. But he made up his mind to one thing. 'I shall dismiss him at once!' he said determinedly.
'No, bishop. It is unwise to drive a rat into a corner; and Cargrim may prove himself dangerous if sharply treated. Better tolerate his presence until Baltic discovers the real criminal.
'I don't like the position,' said the bishop, frowning.
'No man would. However, it is better to temporise than to risk all and lose all. Better let him remain, Pendle.
'Very well, Graham, I shall take your advice.
'Good!' Graham rose to depart. 'And Gabriel?' he asked, with his hand on the door.
'Send him to me, doctor. I must speak to him.
'You won't scold him for seeing me first, I hope.
'Scold him,' said the bishop, with a melancholy smile. 'Alas, my friend, the situation is too serious for scolding!
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CHAPTER XXX - BLACKMAIL.
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'Don't grieve so, Pendle!'
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'But you have not done sin!'
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cried Graham, dissenting from the text.
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'You!
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your wife!
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myself!
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everyone thought that Krant was dead and buried.
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He was the sinner, not you, my poor innocent friend!
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'True enough, doctor, but I am the sufferer.
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You will do well, Pendle, to lay that to heart.
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'How can I help myself?'
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said the bishop, hopelessly.
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There is no getting behind that fact.
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'Have you consulted a lawyer on your position?
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'No.
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'Certainly.
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It was for that reason that I sent her away!
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I have considered it in every way—but, God help me!
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I can see no hope—no escape.
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Alas!
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alas!
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I am sorely, sorely tried.
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Graham reflected.
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he asked doubtfully.
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'I am certain of it,' replied Pendle, decisively.
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'It would seem so!'
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sighed Graham, heavily.
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'He came to extort money, I suppose?
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'Need you ask!'
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said the bishop, bitterly.
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'I doubt if such a blackguard would keep his word, Pendle.
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Krant was giving you withered leaves for your good gold, Pendle.
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Indeed, what else could I do?
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I was innocent; I am innocent.
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'There is no need to excuse yourself to me, Pendle.
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I do not blame you in the least.
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'But I blame myself—in part,' replied the bishop, sadly.
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But think of the shame to her, of the disgrace to my innocent children.
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I could not do it, Graham, I could not do it.
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asked Graham, in a low voice, not daring to look at his friend.
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'You had the money with you, I suppose?
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'I had the money in notes of tens.
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'I think you were over-careful, bishop.
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I took the most elaborate precautions to guard against discoveries.
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'And rather unnecessary ones,' rejoined Graham, dryly.
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'Well, and you met the scamp?
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'Which, no doubt, he declined to part with at the last moment.
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'The scoundrel!
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What did you say?
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'What could I say but "Yes"?
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I was in the man's power.
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I then rode away downcast and wretched.
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'Murdered,' said Graham, explicitly.
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What I have suffered with that knowledge, God alone knows.
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Every day, every hour, I have been expecting a call from the assassin.
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'The deuce you have!'
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said the doctor, surprised into unbecoming language.
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'Yes; he may come and blackmail me also, Graham!
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'Not when he runs the risk of being hanged, my friend.
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'But you forget,' said the bishop, with a sigh.
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'Would you be coerced in that way?
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'No,' said he, gravely.
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The cost of exposing the wretch seems too great.
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'Graham!
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Graham!
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I must do what is right at all hazards.
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'Fiat justitia ruat cœlum!'
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muttered the doctor, 'there is a morsel of dictionary Latin for you.
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The heavens above your family will certainly fall if you speak out.
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The bishop winced and whitened.
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He will save me according to His mercy.
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The little doctor looked meditatively at his boots.
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His accents, and looks, and candour, all carried conviction.
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'What does Mother Jael know of your secret?'
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he asked with some hesitation.
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'Nothing!'
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'Do you think she knows who murdered the man?
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'I—cannot—say.
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'I saw you go in, bishop; and you came out looking disturbed.
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'Is it your belief that the woman knows your secret?'
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asked Graham.
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'No.
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'Well, bishop, I agree with you.
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Mother Jael cannot know much or she would have spoken plainer.
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'He knows nothing, Graham.
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'Perhaps not, but he suspects much.
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'Suspects!'
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echoed the bishop, in scared tones.
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'What can he suspect?
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'That you killed Jentham,' said Graham, quietly.
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Dr Pendle looked incredulously at his friend.
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'No; but he is a scoundrel, as I told you.
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But he made up his mind to one thing.
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'I shall dismiss him at once!'
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he said determinedly.
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'No, bishop.
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Better tolerate his presence until Baltic discovers the real criminal.
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'I don't like the position,' said the bishop, frowning.
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'No man would.
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However, it is better to temporise than to risk all and lose all.
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Better let him remain, Pendle.
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'Very well, Graham, I shall take your advice.
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'Good!'
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Graham rose to depart.
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'And Gabriel?'
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he asked, with his hand on the door.
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'Send him to me, doctor.
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I must speak to him.
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'You won't scold him for seeing me first, I hope.
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'Scold him,' said the bishop, with a melancholy smile.
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'Alas, my friend, the situation is too serious for scolding!
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For more info, please see "discussion tab" by clicking on the title of this chapter.

CHAPTER XXX - BLACKMAIL.
For some moments Graham did not speak, but looked with pity on the grief-shaken frame and bowed shoulders of his sorely-tried friend. Indeed, the position of the man was such that he did not see what comfort he could administer, and so, very wisely, held his peace. However, when the bishop, growing more composed, remained still silent, he could not forbear offering him a trifle of consolation.
'Don't grieve so, Pendle!' he said, laying his hand on the other's shoulder; 'it is not your fault that you are in this position.
The bishop sighed, and murmured with a shake of his head, 'Omnis qui facit peccatum, servus est peccati!
'But you have not done sin!' cried Graham, dissenting from the text. 'You! your wife! myself! everyone thought that Krant was dead and buried. The man fled, and lied, and forged, to gain his freedom—to shake off the marriage bonds which galled him. He was the sinner, not you, my poor innocent friend!
'True enough, doctor, but I am the sufferer. Had God in His mercy not sustained me in my hour of trial, I do not know how I should have borne my misery, weak, erring mortal that I am.
'That speech is one befitting your age and office,' said the doctor, gravely, 'and I quite approve of it. All the same, there is another religious saying—I don't know if it can be called a text—"God helps those who help themselves." You will do well, Pendle, to lay that to heart.
'How can I help myself?' said the bishop, hopelessly. 'The man is dead now, without doubt; but he was alive when I married his supposed widow, therefore the ceremony is null and void. There is no getting behind that fact.
'Have you consulted a lawyer on your position?
'No. The law cannot sanction a union—at least in my eyes—which I know to be against the tenets of the Church. So far as I know, if a husband deserts his wife, and is not heard of for seven years, she can marry again after that period without being liable to prosecution as a bigamist, but in any case the second ceremony is not legal.
'Mrs Krant became your wife before the expiration of seven years, I know,' said Graham, wrinkling his brow.
'Certainly. And therefore she is—in the eyes of the law—a bigamist'—the bishop shuddered—'although, God knows, she fully believed her husband to be dead. But the religious point of view is the one I take, doctor; as a Churchman, I cannot live with a woman whom I know is not my wife. It was for that reason that I sent her away!
'But you cannot keep her away for ever, bishop!—at all events, unless you explain the position to her.
'I dare not do that in her present state of health; the shock would kill her. No, Graham, I see that sooner or later she must know, but I wished for her absence that I might gain time to consider my terrible position. I have considered it in every way—but, God help me! I can see no hope—no escape. Alas! alas! I am sorely, sorely tried.
Graham reflected. 'Are you perfectly certain that Jentham and Krant are one and the same man?' he asked doubtfully.
'I am certain of it,' replied Pendle, decisively. 'I could not be deceived in the dark gipsy face, in the peculiar cicatrice on the right cheek. And he knew all about my wife, Graham—about her family, her maiden name, the amount of her fortune, her taking up parish work in Marylebone. Above all, he showed me the certificate of his marriage, and a number of letters written to him by Amy, reproaching him with his cruel desertion. Oh, there can be no doubt that this Jentham is—or rather was—Stephen Krant.
'It would seem so!' sighed Graham, heavily. 'Evidently there is no hope of proving him to be an impostor in the face of such evidence.
'He came to extort money, I suppose?
'Need you ask!' said the bishop, bitterly. 'Yes, his sole object was blackmail; he was content to let things remain as they are, provided his silence was purchased at his own price. He told me that if I paid him two hundred pounds he would hand over certificate and letters and disappear, never to trouble me again.
'I doubt if such a blackguard would keep his word, Pendle. Moreover, although novelists and dramatists attach such a value to marriage certificates, they are really not worth the paper they are written on—save, perhaps, as immediate evidence. The register of the church in which the ceremony took place is the important document, and that can neither be handed over nor destroyed. Krant was giving you withered leaves for your good gold, Pendle. Still, Needs must when Sir Urian drives, so I suppose you agreed to the bribe.
The bishop's grey head drooped on his breast, his eyes sought the carpet, and he looked like a man overwhelmed with shame. 'Yes,' he replied, in low tones of pain, 'I had not the courage to face the consequences. Indeed, what else could I do? I could not have the man denounce my marriage as a false one, force himself into the presence of my delicate wife, and tell my children that they are nameless. The shock would have killed Amy; it would have broken my children's hearts; it would have shamed me in my high position before the eyes of all England. I was innocent; I am innocent. Yes, but the fact remained, as it remains now, that I am not married to Amy, that my children are not entitled to bear my name. I ask you, Graham—I ask you, what else could I do than pay the money in the face of such shame and disgrace?
'There is no need to excuse yourself to me, Pendle. I do not blame you in the least.
'But I blame myself—in part,' replied the bishop, sadly. 'As an honest man I knew that my marriage was illegal; as a priest I was bound to put away the woman who was not—who is not my wife. But think of the shame to her, of the disgrace to my innocent children. I could not do it, Graham, I could not do it. Satan came to me in such a guise that I yielded to his tempting without a struggle. I agreed to buy Jentham's silence at his own price; and as I did not wish him to come here again, lest Amy should see him, I made an appointment to meet him on Southberry Heath on Sunday night, and there pay him his two hundred pounds blackmail.
'Did you speak with him on the spot where his corpse was afterwards found?' asked Graham, in a low voice, not daring to look at his friend.
'No,' answered the bishop, simply, not suspecting that the doctor hinted at the murder; 'I met him at the Cross-Roads.
'You had the money with you, I suppose?
'I had the money in notes of tens. As I was unwilling to draw so large a sum from the Beorminster Bank, lest my doing so should provoke comment, I made a special journey to London and obtained the money there.
'I think you were over-careful, bishop.
'Graham, I tell you I was overcome with fear, not so much for myself as for those dear to me. You know how the most secret things become known in this city; and I dreaded lest my action should become public property, and should be connected in some way with Jentham. Why, I even tore the butt of the cheque I drew out of the book, lest any record should remain likely to excite suspicion. I took the most elaborate precautions to guard against discoveries.
'And rather unnecessary ones,' rejoined Graham, dryly. 'Well, and you met the scamp?
'I did, on Sunday night—that Sunday I was at Southberry holding a confirmation service, and as I rode back, shortly after eight in the evening, I met Jentham, by appointment, at the Cross-Roads. It was a stormy and wet night, Graham, and I half thought that he would not come to the rendezvous, but he was there, sure enough, and in no very good temper at his wetting, I did not get off my horse, but handed down the packet of notes, and asked him for the certificate and letters.
'Which, no doubt, he declined to part with at the last moment.
'You are right,' said the bishop, mournfully; 'he declared that he would keep the certificate until he received another hundred pounds.
'The scoundrel! What did you say?
'What could I say but "Yes"? I was in the man's power. At any cost, if I wanted to save myself and those dear to me, I had to secure the written evidence he possessed. I told him that I had not the extra money with me, but that if he met me in the same place a week later he should have it. I then rode away downcast and wretched. The next day,' concluded the bishop, quietly, 'I heard that my enemy was dead.
'Murdered,' said Graham, explicitly.
'Murdered, as you say,' rejoined Pendle, tremulously; 'and oh, my friend, I fear that the Cain who slew him now has the certificate in his possession, and holds my secret. What I have suffered with that knowledge, God alone knows. Every day, every hour, I have been expecting a call from the assassin.
'The deuce you have!' said the doctor, surprised into unbecoming language.
'Yes; he may come and blackmail me also, Graham!
'Not when he runs the risk of being hanged, my friend.
'But you forget,' said the bishop, with a sigh. 'He may trust to his knowledge of my secret to force me to conceal his sin.
'Would you be coerced in that way?
Dr Pendle threw back his noble head, and, looking intently at his friend, replied in a firm and unfaltering tone. 'No,' said he, gravely. 'Even at the cost of my secret becoming known, I should have the man arrested.
'Well,' said Graham, with a shrug, 'you are more of a hero than I am, bishop. The cost of exposing the wretch seems too great.
'Graham! Graham! I must do what is right at all hazards.
'Fiat justitia ruat cœlum!' muttered the doctor, 'there is a morsel of dictionary Latin for you. The heavens above your family will certainly fall if you speak out.
The bishop winced and whitened. 'It is a heavy burden, Graham, a heavy, heavy burden, but God will give me strength to bear it. He will save me according to His mercy.
The little doctor looked meditatively at his boots. He wished to tell Pendle that the chaplain suspected him of the murder, and that Baltic, the missionary, had been brought to Beorminster to prove such suspicions, but at the present moment he did not see how he could conveniently introduce the information. Moreover, the bishop seemed to be so utterly unconscious that anyone could accuse him of the crime, that Graham shrank from being the busybody to enlighten him. Yet it was necessary that he should be informed, if only that he might be placed on his guard against the machinations of Cargrim. Of course, the doctor never for one moment thought of his respected friend as the author of a deed of violence, and quite believed his account of the meeting with Jentham. The bishop's simple way of relating the episode would have convinced any liberal-minded man of his innocence and rectitude. His accents, and looks, and candour, all carried conviction.
Finally Graham hit upon a method of leading up to the subject of Cargrim's treachery, by referring to the old gipsy and her fortune-telling at Mrs Pansey's garden-party. 'What does Mother Jael know of your secret?' he asked with some hesitation.
'Nothing!' replied the bishop, promptly; 'it is impossible that she can know anything, unless'—here he paused—'unless she is aware of who killed Jentham, and has seen the certificate and letters!
'Do you think she knows who murdered the man?
'I—cannot—say. At that garden-party I went into the tent to humour some ladies who wished me to have my fortune told.
'I saw you go in, bishop; and you came out looking disturbed.
'No wonder, Graham; for Mother Jael, under the pretence of reading my hand, hinted at my secret. I fancied, from what she said, that she knew what it was; and I accused her of having gained the information from Jentham's assassin. However, she would not speak plainly, but warned me of coming trouble, and talked about blood and the grave, until I really believe she fancied I had killed the man. I could make nothing of her, so I left the tent considerably discomposed, as you may guess. I intended to see her on another occasion, but as yet I have not done so.
'Is it your belief that the woman knows your secret?' asked Graham.
'No. On consideration, I concluded that she knew a little, but not much—at all events, not sufficient to hurt me in any way. Krant—that is Jentham—was of gipsy blood, and I fancied that he had seen Mother Jael, and perhaps, in his boastful way, had hinted at his power over me. Still, I am quite certain that, for his own sake, he did not reveal my secret. And after all, Graham, the allusions of Mother Jael were vague and unsatisfactory, although they disturbed me sufficiently to make me anxious for the moment.
'Well, bishop, I agree with you. Mother Jael cannot know much or she would have spoken plainer. So far as she is concerned, I fancy your secret is pretty safe; but,' added Graham, with a glance at the door, 'what about Cargrim?
'He knows nothing, Graham.
'Perhaps not, but he suspects much.
'Suspects!' echoed the bishop, in scared tones. 'What can he suspect?
'That you killed Jentham,' said Graham, quietly.
Dr Pendle looked incredulously at his friend. 'I—I—murder—I kill—what—Cargrim—says,' he stammered; then asked him with a sharp rush of speech, 'Is the man mad?
'No; but he is a scoundrel, as I told you. Listen, bishop,' and in his rapid way Graham reported to Dr Pendle all that Harry Brace had told him regarding Cargrim and his schemes.
The bishop listened in incredulous silence; but, almost against his will, he was obliged to believe in Graham's story. That a man whom he trusted, whom he had treated with such kindness, should have dug this pit for him to fall into, was almost beyond belief; and when the truth of the accusation was forced upon him, he hardly knew what to say about so great a traitor. But he made up his mind to one thing. 'I shall dismiss him at once!' he said determinedly.
'No, bishop. It is unwise to drive a rat into a corner; and Cargrim may prove himself dangerous if sharply treated. Better tolerate his presence until Baltic discovers the real criminal.
'I don't like the position,' said the bishop, frowning.
'No man would. However, it is better to temporise than to risk all and lose all. Better let him remain, Pendle.
'Very well, Graham, I shall take your advice.
'Good!' Graham rose to depart. 'And Gabriel?' he asked, with his hand on the door.
'Send him to me, doctor. I must speak to him.
'You won't scold him for seeing me first, I hope.
'Scold him,' said the bishop, with a melancholy smile. 'Alas, my friend, the situation is too serious for scolding!