en-es  THE BISHOP'S SECRET by FERGUS HUME - Chapter 36
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CHAPTER XXXVI - THE REBELLION OF MRS PENDLE.
'Thank God!' said the bishop, when he heard from Gabriel's lips that the criminal, who knew his secret, had promised to be silent, 'at last I can breathe freely; but what a price to pay for our safety—what a price!
'Do you mean my marriage to Bell?' asked Gabriel, steadily.
'Yes! If she was undesirable before, she is more so now. So far as I have seen her I do not think she is the wife for you; and as the daughter of that blood-stained man—oh, Gabriel, my son! how can I consent that you should take her to your bosom?
'Father,' replied the curate, quietly, 'you seem to forget that I love Bell dearly. It was not to close Mosk's mouth that I consented to marry her; in any case I should do so. She promised to become my wife in her time of prosperity, and I should be the meanest of men did I leave her now that she is in trouble. Bell was dear to me before; she is dearer to me now; and I am proud to become her husband.
'But her father is a murderer, Gabriel!
'Would you make her responsible for his sins? That is not like you, father.
The bishop groaned. 'God knows I do not wish to thwart you, for you have been a good son to me. But reflect for one moment how public her father's crime has been; everywhere his wickedness is known; and should you marry this girl, your wife, however innocent, must bear the stigma of being that man's daughter. How would you, a sensitive and refined man shrinking from public scandal, bear the shame of hearing your wife spoken about as a murderer's daughter?
'I shall take steps to avert that danger. Yes, father, when Bell becomes my wife we shall leave England for ever.
'Gabriel! Gabriel!' cried the bishop, piteously, 'where would you go?
'To the South Seas,' replied the curate, his thin face lighting up with excitement; 'there, as Baltic tells us, missionaries are needed for the heathen. I shall become a missionary, father, and Bell will work by my side to expiate her father's sin by aiding me to bring light to those lost in darkness.
'My poor boy, you dream Utopia. From what I saw of that girl, she is not one to take up such a life. You will not find your Priscilla in her. She is of the world, worldly.
'The affliction which has befallen her may turn her thoughts from the world.
'No!' said the bishop, with quiet authority. 'I am, as you know, a man who does not speak idly or without experience, and I tell you, Gabriel, that the girl is not the stuff out of which you can mould an ideal wife. She is handsome, I grant you; and she seems to be gifted with a fair amount of common sense; but, if you will forgive my plain speaking of one dear to you, she is vain of her looks, fond of dress and admiration, and is not possessed of a refined nature. She says that she loves you; that may be; but you will find that she does not love you sufficiently to merge her life in yours, to condemn herself to exile amongst savages for your sake. Love and single companionship are not enough for such an one; she wants—and she will always want—society, flattery, amusement and excitement. My love for you, Gabriel, makes me anxious to think well of her, but my fatherly care mistrusts her as a wife for a man of your nature.
'But I love her,' faltered Gabriel; 'I wish to marry her.
'Believe me, you will never marry her, my poor lad.
Gabriel's face flushed. 'Father, would you forbid—?
'No,' interrupted Dr Pendle. 'I shall not forbid; but she will decline. If you tell her about your missionary scheme, I am confident she will refuse to become your wife. Ask her by all means; keep your word as a gentleman should; but prepare yourself for a disappointment.
'Ah, father, you do not know my Bell.
'It is on that point we disagree, Gabriel. I do know her; you do not. My experience tells me that your faith is misplaced.
'We shall see,' said Gabriel, standing up very erect; 'you judge her too harshly, sir. Bell will become my wife, I am sure of that.
'If she does,' replied the bishop, giving his hand to the young man, 'I shall be the first to welcome her.
'My dear, dear father!' cried Gabriel, with emotion, 'you are like yourself; always kind, always generous. Thank you, father!' And the curate, not trusting himself to speak further, lest he should break down altogether, left the room hurriedly.
With a weary sigh Dr Pendle sank into his seat, and pressed his hand to his aching head. He was greatly relieved to know that his secret was safe with Mosk; but his troubles were not yet at an end. It was imperative that he should reprove and dismiss Cargrim for his duplicity, and most necessary for the rearrangement of their lives that Mrs Pendle should be informed of the untimely resurrection of her husband. Also, foreseeing the termination of Gabriel's unhappy romance, he was profoundly sorry for the young man, knowing well how disastrous would be the effect on one so impressionable and highly strung. No wonder the bishop sighed; no wonder he felt depressed. His troubles had come after the manner of their kind, 'not in single spies, but in battalions,' and he needed all his strength of character, all his courage, all his faith in God, to meet and baffle anxieties so overwhelming. In his affliction he cried aloud with bitter-mouthed Jeremiah, 'Thou hast removed my soul far off from peace; I forget prosperity.
In due time Mrs Pendle reappeared in Beorminster, wonderfully improved in health and spirits. The astringent waters of Nauheim had strengthened her heart, so that it now beat with regular throbs, where formerly it had fluttered feebly; they had brought the blood to the surface of the skin, and had flushed her anæmic complexion with a roseate hue. Her eyes were bright, her nerves steady, her step brisk; and she began to take some interest in life, and in those around her. Lucy presented her mother to the bishop with an unconcealed pride, which was surely pardonable. 'There, papa,' she said proudly, while the bishop was lost in wonder at this marvellous transformation. 'What do you think of my patient now?
'My dear, it is wonderful! The Nauheim spring is the true fountain of youth.
'A very prosaic fountain, I am afraid,' laughed Mrs Pendle; 'the treatment is not poetical.
'It is at least magical, my love. I must dip in these restorative waters myself, lest I should be taken rather for your father than your—' Here Dr Pendle, recollecting the falsity of the unspoken word, shut his mouth with a qualm of deadly sickness—what the Scotch call a grue.
Mrs Pendle, however, observant rather of his looks than his words, did not notice the unfinished sentence. 'You look as though you needed a course,' she said anxiously; 'if I have grown younger, you have become older. This is just what happens when I am away. You never can look after yourself, dear.
Not feeling inclined to spoil the first joy of reunion, Dr Pendle turned aside this speech with a laugh, and postponed his explanation until a more fitting moment. In the meantime, George and Gabriel and Harry were hovering round the returned travellers with attentions and questions and frequent congratulations. Mr Cargrim, who had been sulking ever since the arrest of Mosk had overthrown his plans, was not present to spoil this pleasant family party, and the bishop spent a golden hour or so of unalloyed joy. But as the night wore on, this evanescent pleasure passed away, and when alone with Mrs Pendle in her boudoir, he was so gloomy and depressed that she insisted upon learning the cause of his melancholy.
'There must be something seriously wrong, George,' she said earnestly; 'if there is, you need not hesitate to tell me.
'Can you bear to hear the truth, Amy? Are you strong enough?
'There is something serious the matter, then?' cried Mrs Pendle, the colour ebbing from her cheeks. 'What is it, George? Tell me at once. I can bear anything but this suspense.
'Amy!' The bishop sat down on the couch beside his wife, and took her hand in his warm, encouraging clasp. 'You shall know all, my dearest; and may God strengthen you to bear the knowledge.
'George! I—I am calm; I am strong; tell me what you mean.
The bishop clasped her in his arms, held her head to his breast, and in low, rapid tones related all that had taken place since the night of the reception. He did not spare himself in the recital; he concealed nothing, he added nothing, but calmly, coldly, mercilessly told of Krant's return, of Krant's blackmail, of Krant's terrible end. Thence he passed on to talk of Cargrim's suspicions, of Baltic's arrival, of Mosk's arrest, and of the latter's promise to keep the secret of which he had so wickedly become possessed. Having told the past, he discussed the present, and made arrangements for the future. 'Only Gabriel and myself and Graham know the truth now, dearest,' he concluded, 'for this unhappy man Mosk may be already accounted as one dead. Next week you and I must take a journey to some distant parish in the west of England, and there become man and wife for the second time. Gabriel will keep silent; George and Lucy need never know the truth; and so, my dearest, all things—at least to the public eye—shall be as they were. You need not grieve, Amy, or accuse yourself unjustly. If we have sinned, we have sinned innocently, and the burden of evil cannot be laid on you or me. Stephen Krant is to blame; and he has paid for his wickedness with his life. So far as we may—so far as we are able—we must right the wrong. God has afflicted us, my dearest; but God has also protected us; therefore let us thank Him with humble hearts for His many mercies. He will strengthen us to bear the burden; through Him we shall do valiantly. "For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly".
How wonderful are women! For weeks Bishop Pendle had been dreading this interview with his delicate, nervous, sensitive wife. He had expected tears, sighs, loud sorrow, bursts of hysterical weeping, the wringing of hands, and all the undisciplined grief of the feminine nature. But the unexpected occurred, as it invariably does with the sex in question. To the bishop's unconcealed amazement, Mrs Pendle neither wept nor fainted; she controlled her emotion with a power of will which he had never credited her with possessing, and her first thought was not for herself, but for her companion in misfortune. Placing her hands on either side of the bishop's face, she kissed him fondly, tenderly, pityingly.
'My poor darling, how you must have suffered!' she said softly. 'Why did you not tell me of this long ago, so that I might share your sorrow?
'I was afraid—afraid to—to speak, Amy,' gasped the bishop, overwhelmed by her extraordinary composure.
'You need not have been afraid, George. I am no fairweather wife.
'Alas! alas!' sighed the bishop.
'I am your wife,' cried Mrs Pendle, answering his thought after the manner of women; 'that wicked, cruel man died to me thirty years ago.
'In the eyes of the law, my—.
'In the eyes of God I am your wife,' interrupted Mrs Pendle, vehemently; 'for over twenty-five years we have been all in all to one another. I bear your name, I am the mother of your children. Do you think these things won't outweigh the claims of that wretch, who ill-treated and deserted me, who lied about his death, and extorted money for his forgery? To satisfy your scruples I am willing to marry you again; but to my mind there is no need, even though that brute came back from the grave to create it. He—.
'Amy! Amy! the man is dead!
'I know he is; he died thirty years ago. Don't tell me otherwise. I am married to you, and my children can hold up their heads with anyone. If Stephen Krant had come to me with his villainous tempting, I should have defied him, scorned him, trod him under foot.' She rose in a tempest of passion and stamped on the carpet.
'He would have told; he would have disgraced us.
'There can be no disgrace in innocence,' flashed out Mrs Pendle, fierily. 'We married, you and I, in all good faith. He was reported dead; you saw his grave. I deny that the man came to life.
'You cannot deny facts,' said the bishop, shaking his head.
'Can't I? I'd deny anything so far as that wretch is concerned. He fascinated me when I was a weak, foolish girl, as a serpent fascinates a bird. He married me for my money; and when it was gone his love went with it. He treated me like the low-minded brute he was; you know he did, George, you know he did. When he was shot in Alsace, I thanked God. I did! I did! I did!
'Hush, Amy, hush!' said Dr Pendle, trying to soothe her excitement, 'you will make yourself ill!
'No, I won't, George; I am as calm as you are; I can't help feeling excited. I wished to forget that man and the unhappy life he led me. I did forget him in your love and in the happiness of our children. It was the sight of that student with the scarred face that made me think of him. Why, oh, why did I speak about him to Lucy and Gabriel? Why? Why?
'You were thoughtless, my dear.
'I was mad, George, mad; I should have held my tongue, but I didn't. And my poor boy knows the truth. You should have denied it.
'I could not deny it.
'Ah! you have not a mother's heart. I would have denied, and lied, and swore its falsity on the Bible sooner than that one of my darlings should have known of it.
'Amy! Amy! you are out of your mind to speak like this. I deny what is true? I, a priest—a—?
'You are a man before everything—a man and a father.
'And a servant of the Most High,' rebuked the bishop, sternly.
'Well, you look on it in a different light to what I do. You suffered; I should not have suffered. I don't suffer now; I am not going back thirty years to make my heart ache.' She paused and clenched her hands. 'Are you sure that he is dead?' she asked harshly.
'Quite sure; dead and buried. There can be no doubt about it this time!
'Is it necessary that we should marry again?
'Absolutely necessary,' said the bishop, decisively.
'Then the sooner we get it over the better,' replied Mrs Pendle, petulantly. 'Here'—she wrenched the wedding ring off her finger—'take this! I have no right to wear it. Neither maid, wife, nor widow, what should I do with a ring?' and she began to laugh.
'Stop that, Amy!' cried the bishop, sharply, for he saw that, after all, she was becoming hysterical. 'Put the ring again on your finger, until such time as I can replace it by another. You are Krant's widow, and as his widow I shall marry you next week.
As a drop of cold water let fall into boiling coffee causes the bubbling to subside, so did these few stern words cool down Mrs Pendle's excitement. She overcame her emotion; she replaced the ring on her finger, and again resumed her seat by the bishop. 'My poor dear George,' said she, smoothing his white hair, 'you are not angry with me?
'Not angry, Amy; but I am rather vexed that you should speak so bitterly.
'Well, darling, I won't speak bitterly again. Stephen is dead, so do not let us think about him any more. Next week we shall marry again, and all our troubles will be at an end.
'They will, please God,' said the bishop, solemnly; 'and oh, Amy, dearest, let us thank Him for His great mercy.
'Do you think He has been merciful?' asked Mrs Pendle, doubtfully, for her religious emotion was not strong enough to blind her to the stubborn fact that their troubles had been undeserved, that they were innocent sinners.
'Most merciful,' murmured the bishop, bowing his head. 'Has He not shown us how to expiate our sin?
'Our sin; no, George, I won't agree to that. We have not sinned. We married in the fullest belief that Stephen was dead.
'My dear, all that is past and done with. Let us look to the future, and thank the Almighty that He has delivered us out of our troubles.
'Yes, I thank Him for that, George,' said Mrs Pendle, meekly enough.
'That is my own dear Amy,' answered the bishop; and producing his pocket Bible, he opened it at random. His eye alighted on a verse of Jeremiah, which he read out with thankful emotion,—.
'And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked; and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible.
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CHAPTER XXXVI - THE REBELLION OF MRS PENDLE.
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'Thank God!'
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'Do you mean my marriage to Bell?'
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asked Gabriel, steadily.
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'Yes!
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If she was undesirable before, she is more so now.
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how can I consent that you should take her to your bosom?
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'But her father is a murderer, Gabriel!
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'Would you make her responsible for his sins?
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That is not like you, father.
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The bishop groaned.
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'I shall take steps to avert that danger.
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Yes, father, when Bell becomes my wife we shall leave England for ever.
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'Gabriel!
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Gabriel!'
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cried the bishop, piteously, 'where would you go?
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'My poor boy, you dream Utopia.
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From what I saw of that girl, she is not one to take up such a life.
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You will not find your Priscilla in her.
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She is of the world, worldly.
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'No!'
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said the bishop, with quiet authority.
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'But I love her,' faltered Gabriel; 'I wish to marry her.
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'Believe me, you will never marry her, my poor lad.
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Gabriel's face flushed.
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'Father, would you forbid—?
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'No,' interrupted Dr Pendle.
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'I shall not forbid; but she will decline.
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'Ah, father, you do not know my Bell.
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'It is on that point we disagree, Gabriel.
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I do know her; you do not.
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My experience tells me that your faith is misplaced.
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Bell will become my wife, I am sure of that.
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'My dear, dear father!'
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Thank you, father!'
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No wonder the bishop sighed; no wonder he felt depressed.
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'What do you think of my patient now?
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'My dear, it is wonderful!
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The Nauheim spring is the true fountain of youth.
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'It is at least magical, my love.
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This is just what happens when I am away.
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You never can look after yourself, dear.
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'Can you bear to hear the truth, Amy?
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Are you strong enough?
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'There is something serious the matter, then?'
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cried Mrs Pendle, the colour ebbing from her cheeks.
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'What is it, George?
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Tell me at once.
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I can bear anything but this suspense.
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'Amy!'
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'George!
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I—I am calm; I am strong; tell me what you mean.
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You need not grieve, Amy, or accuse yourself unjustly.
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So far as we may—so far as we are able—we must right the wrong.
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How wonderful are women!
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'My poor darling, how you must have suffered!'
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she said softly.
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'You need not have been afraid, George.
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I am no fairweather wife.
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'Alas!
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alas!'
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sighed the bishop.
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'In the eyes of the law, my—.
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I bear your name, I am the mother of your children.
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He—.
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'Amy!
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Amy!
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the man is dead!
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'I know he is; he died thirty years ago.
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Don't tell me otherwise.
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She rose in a tempest of passion and stamped on the carpet.
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'He would have told; he would have disgraced us.
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'We married, you and I, in all good faith.
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He was reported dead; you saw his grave.
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I deny that the man came to life.
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'You cannot deny facts,' said the bishop, shaking his head.
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'Can't I?
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I'd deny anything so far as that wretch is concerned.
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He married me for my money; and when it was gone his love went with it.
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When he was shot in Alsace, I thanked God.
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I did!
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I did!
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I did!
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'Hush, Amy, hush!'
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I wished to forget that man and the unhappy life he led me.
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I did forget him in your love and in the happiness of our children.
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Why, oh, why did I speak about him to Lucy and Gabriel?
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Why?
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Why?
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'You were thoughtless, my dear.
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'I was mad, George, mad; I should have held my tongue, but I didn't.
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And my poor boy knows the truth.
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You should have denied it.
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'I could not deny it.
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'Ah!
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you have not a mother's heart.
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'Amy!
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Amy!
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you are out of your mind to speak like this.
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I deny what is true?
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I, a priest—a—?
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'You are a man before everything—a man and a father.
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'And a servant of the Most High,' rebuked the bishop, sternly.
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'Well, you look on it in a different light to what I do.
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You suffered; I should not have suffered.
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She paused and clenched her hands.
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'Are you sure that he is dead?'
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she asked harshly.
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'Quite sure; dead and buried.
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There can be no doubt about it this time!
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'Is it necessary that we should marry again?
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'Absolutely necessary,' said the bishop, decisively.
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'Here'—she wrenched the wedding ring off her finger—'take this!
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I have no right to wear it.
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Neither maid, wife, nor widow, what should I do with a ring?'
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and she began to laugh.
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'Stop that, Amy!'
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You are Krant's widow, and as his widow I shall marry you next week.
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'Well, darling, I won't speak bitterly again.
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Stephen is dead, so do not let us think about him any more.
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Next week we shall marry again, and all our troubles will be at an end.
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'Do you think He has been merciful?'
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'Most merciful,' murmured the bishop, bowing his head.
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'Has He not shown us how to expiate our sin?
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'Our sin; no, George, I won't agree to that.
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We have not sinned.
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We married in the fullest belief that Stephen was dead.
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'My dear, all that is past and done with.
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'Yes, I thank Him for that, George,' said Mrs Pendle, meekly enough.
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For more info, please see "discussion tab" by clicking on the title of this chapter.

CHAPTER XXXVI - THE REBELLION OF MRS PENDLE.
'Thank God!' said the bishop, when he heard from Gabriel's lips that the criminal, who knew his secret, had promised to be silent, 'at last I can breathe freely; but what a price to pay for our safety—what a price!
'Do you mean my marriage to Bell?' asked Gabriel, steadily.
'Yes! If she was undesirable before, she is more so now. So far as I have seen her I do not think she is the wife for you; and as the daughter of that blood-stained man—oh, Gabriel, my son! how can I consent that you should take her to your bosom?
'Father,' replied the curate, quietly, 'you seem to forget that I love Bell dearly. It was not to close Mosk's mouth that I consented to marry her; in any case I should do so. She promised to become my wife in her time of prosperity, and I should be the meanest of men did I leave her now that she is in trouble. Bell was dear to me before; she is dearer to me now; and I am proud to become her husband.
'But her father is a murderer, Gabriel!
'Would you make her responsible for his sins? That is not like you, father.
The bishop groaned. 'God knows I do not wish to thwart you, for you have been a good son to me. But reflect for one moment how public her father's crime has been; everywhere his wickedness is known; and should you marry this girl, your wife, however innocent, must bear the stigma of being that man's daughter. How would you, a sensitive and refined man shrinking from public scandal, bear the shame of hearing your wife spoken about as a murderer's daughter?
'I shall take steps to avert that danger. Yes, father, when Bell becomes my wife we shall leave England for ever.
'Gabriel! Gabriel!' cried the bishop, piteously, 'where would you go?
'To the South Seas,' replied the curate, his thin face lighting up with excitement; 'there, as Baltic tells us, missionaries are needed for the heathen. I shall become a missionary, father, and Bell will work by my side to expiate her father's sin by aiding me to bring light to those lost in darkness.
'My poor boy, you dream Utopia. From what I saw of that girl, she is not one to take up such a life. You will not find your Priscilla in her. She is of the world, worldly.
'The affliction which has befallen her may turn her thoughts from the world.
'No!' said the bishop, with quiet authority. 'I am, as you know, a man who does not speak idly or without experience, and I tell you, Gabriel, that the girl is not the stuff out of which you can mould an ideal wife. She is handsome, I grant you; and she seems to be gifted with a fair amount of common sense; but, if you will forgive my plain speaking of one dear to you, she is vain of her looks, fond of dress and admiration, and is not possessed of a refined nature. She says that she loves you; that may be; but you will find that she does not love you sufficiently to merge her life in yours, to condemn herself to exile amongst savages for your sake. Love and single companionship are not enough for such an one; she wants—and she will always want—society, flattery, amusement and excitement. My love for you, Gabriel, makes me anxious to think well of her, but my fatherly care mistrusts her as a wife for a man of your nature.
'But I love her,' faltered Gabriel; 'I wish to marry her.
'Believe me, you will never marry her, my poor lad.
Gabriel's face flushed. 'Father, would you forbid—?
'No,' interrupted Dr Pendle. 'I shall not forbid; but she will decline. If you tell her about your missionary scheme, I am confident she will refuse to become your wife. Ask her by all means; keep your word as a gentleman should; but prepare yourself for a disappointment.
'Ah, father, you do not know my Bell.
'It is on that point we disagree, Gabriel. I do know her; you do not. My experience tells me that your faith is misplaced.
'We shall see,' said Gabriel, standing up very erect; 'you judge her too harshly, sir. Bell will become my wife, I am sure of that.
'If she does,' replied the bishop, giving his hand to the young man, 'I shall be the first to welcome her.
'My dear, dear father!' cried Gabriel, with emotion, 'you are like yourself; always kind, always generous. Thank you, father!' And the curate, not trusting himself to speak further, lest he should break down altogether, left the room hurriedly.
With a weary sigh Dr Pendle sank into his seat, and pressed his hand to his aching head. He was greatly relieved to know that his secret was safe with Mosk; but his troubles were not yet at an end. It was imperative that he should reprove and dismiss Cargrim for his duplicity, and most necessary for the rearrangement of their lives that Mrs Pendle should be informed of the untimely resurrection of her husband. Also, foreseeing the termination of Gabriel's unhappy romance, he was profoundly sorry for the young man, knowing well how disastrous would be the effect on one so impressionable and highly strung. No wonder the bishop sighed; no wonder he felt depressed. His troubles had come after the manner of their kind, 'not in single spies, but in battalions,' and he needed all his strength of character, all his courage, all his faith in God, to meet and baffle anxieties so overwhelming. In his affliction he cried aloud with bitter-mouthed Jeremiah, 'Thou hast removed my soul far off from peace; I forget prosperity.
In due time Mrs Pendle reappeared in Beorminster, wonderfully improved in health and spirits. The astringent waters of Nauheim had strengthened her heart, so that it now beat with regular throbs, where formerly it had fluttered feebly; they had brought the blood to the surface of the skin, and had flushed her anæmic complexion with a roseate hue. Her eyes were bright, her nerves steady, her step brisk; and she began to take some interest in life, and in those around her. Lucy presented her mother to the bishop with an unconcealed pride, which was surely pardonable. 'There, papa,' she said proudly, while the bishop was lost in wonder at this marvellous transformation. 'What do you think of my patient now?
'My dear, it is wonderful! The Nauheim spring is the true fountain of youth.
'A very prosaic fountain, I am afraid,' laughed Mrs Pendle; 'the treatment is not poetical.
'It is at least magical, my love. I must dip in these restorative waters myself, lest I should be taken rather for your father than your—' Here Dr Pendle, recollecting the falsity of the unspoken word, shut his mouth with a qualm of deadly sickness—what the Scotch call a grue.
Mrs Pendle, however, observant rather of his looks than his words, did not notice the unfinished sentence. 'You look as though you needed a course,' she said anxiously; 'if I have grown younger, you have become older. This is just what happens when I am away. You never can look after yourself, dear.
Not feeling inclined to spoil the first joy of reunion, Dr Pendle turned aside this speech with a laugh, and postponed his explanation until a more fitting moment. In the meantime, George and Gabriel and Harry were hovering round the returned travellers with attentions and questions and frequent congratulations. Mr Cargrim, who had been sulking ever since the arrest of Mosk had overthrown his plans, was not present to spoil this pleasant family party, and the bishop spent a golden hour or so of unalloyed joy. But as the night wore on, this evanescent pleasure passed away, and when alone with Mrs Pendle in her boudoir, he was so gloomy and depressed that she insisted upon learning the cause of his melancholy.
'There must be something seriously wrong, George,' she said earnestly; 'if there is, you need not hesitate to tell me.
'Can you bear to hear the truth, Amy? Are you strong enough?
'There is something serious the matter, then?' cried Mrs Pendle, the colour ebbing from her cheeks. 'What is it, George? Tell me at once. I can bear anything but this suspense.
'Amy!' The bishop sat down on the couch beside his wife, and took her hand in his warm, encouraging clasp. 'You shall know all, my dearest; and may God strengthen you to bear the knowledge.
'George! I—I am calm; I am strong; tell me what you mean.
The bishop clasped her in his arms, held her head to his breast, and in low, rapid tones related all that had taken place since the night of the reception. He did not spare himself in the recital; he concealed nothing, he added nothing, but calmly, coldly, mercilessly told of Krant's return, of Krant's blackmail, of Krant's terrible end. Thence he passed on to talk of Cargrim's suspicions, of Baltic's arrival, of Mosk's arrest, and of the latter's promise to keep the secret of which he had so wickedly become possessed. Having told the past, he discussed the present, and made arrangements for the future. 'Only Gabriel and myself and Graham know the truth now, dearest,' he concluded, 'for this unhappy man Mosk may be already accounted as one dead. Next week you and I must take a journey to some distant parish in the west of England, and there become man and wife for the second time. Gabriel will keep silent; George and Lucy need never know the truth; and so, my dearest, all things—at least to the public eye—shall be as they were. You need not grieve, Amy, or accuse yourself unjustly. If we have sinned, we have sinned innocently, and the burden of evil cannot be laid on you or me. Stephen Krant is to blame; and he has paid for his wickedness with his life. So far as we may—so far as we are able—we must right the wrong. God has afflicted us, my dearest; but God has also protected us; therefore let us thank Him with humble hearts for His many mercies. He will strengthen us to bear the burden; through Him we shall do valiantly. "For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly".
How wonderful are women! For weeks Bishop Pendle had been dreading this interview with his delicate, nervous, sensitive wife. He had expected tears, sighs, loud sorrow, bursts of hysterical weeping, the wringing of hands, and all the undisciplined grief of the feminine nature. But the unexpected occurred, as it invariably does with the sex in question. To the bishop's unconcealed amazement, Mrs Pendle neither wept nor fainted; she controlled her emotion with a power of will which he had never credited her with possessing, and her first thought was not for herself, but for her companion in misfortune. Placing her hands on either side of the bishop's face, she kissed him fondly, tenderly, pityingly.
'My poor darling, how you must have suffered!' she said softly. 'Why did you not tell me of this long ago, so that I might share your sorrow?
'I was afraid—afraid to—to speak, Amy,' gasped the bishop, overwhelmed by her extraordinary composure.
'You need not have been afraid, George. I am no fairweather wife.
'Alas! alas!' sighed the bishop.
'I am your wife,' cried Mrs Pendle, answering his thought after the manner of women; 'that wicked, cruel man died to me thirty years ago.
'In the eyes of the law, my—.
'In the eyes of God I am your wife,' interrupted Mrs Pendle, vehemently; 'for over twenty-five years we have been all in all to one another. I bear your name, I am the mother of your children. Do you think these things won't outweigh the claims of that wretch, who ill-treated and deserted me, who lied about his death, and extorted money for his forgery? To satisfy your scruples I am willing to marry you again; but to my mind there is no need, even though that brute came back from the grave to create it. He—.
'Amy! Amy! the man is dead!
'I know he is; he died thirty years ago. Don't tell me otherwise. I am married to you, and my children can hold up their heads with anyone. If Stephen Krant had come to me with his villainous tempting, I should have defied him, scorned him, trod him under foot.' She rose in a tempest of passion and stamped on the carpet.
'He would have told; he would have disgraced us.
'There can be no disgrace in innocence,' flashed out Mrs Pendle, fierily. 'We married, you and I, in all good faith. He was reported dead; you saw his grave. I deny that the man came to life.
'You cannot deny facts,' said the bishop, shaking his head.
'Can't I? I'd deny anything so far as that wretch is concerned. He fascinated me when I was a weak, foolish girl, as a serpent fascinates a bird. He married me for my money; and when it was gone his love went with it. He treated me like the low-minded brute he was; you know he did, George, you know he did. When he was shot in Alsace, I thanked God. I did! I did! I did!
'Hush, Amy, hush!' said Dr Pendle, trying to soothe her excitement, 'you will make yourself ill!
'No, I won't, George; I am as calm as you are; I can't help feeling excited. I wished to forget that man and the unhappy life he led me. I did forget him in your love and in the happiness of our children. It was the sight of that student with the scarred face that made me think of him. Why, oh, why did I speak about him to Lucy and Gabriel? Why? Why?
'You were thoughtless, my dear.
'I was mad, George, mad; I should have held my tongue, but I didn't. And my poor boy knows the truth. You should have denied it.
'I could not deny it.
'Ah! you have not a mother's heart. I would have denied, and lied, and swore its falsity on the Bible sooner than that one of my darlings should have known of it.
'Amy! Amy! you are out of your mind to speak like this. I deny what is true? I, a priest—a—?
'You are a man before everything—a man and a father.
'And a servant of the Most High,' rebuked the bishop, sternly.
'Well, you look on it in a different light to what I do. You suffered; I should not have suffered. I don't suffer now; I am not going back thirty years to make my heart ache.' She paused and clenched her hands. 'Are you sure that he is dead?' she asked harshly.
'Quite sure; dead and buried. There can be no doubt about it this time!
'Is it necessary that we should marry again?
'Absolutely necessary,' said the bishop, decisively.
'Then the sooner we get it over the better,' replied Mrs Pendle, petulantly. 'Here'—she wrenched the wedding ring off her finger—'take this! I have no right to wear it. Neither maid, wife, nor widow, what should I do with a ring?' and she began to laugh.
'Stop that, Amy!' cried the bishop, sharply, for he saw that, after all, she was becoming hysterical. 'Put the ring again on your finger, until such time as I can replace it by another. You are Krant's widow, and as his widow I shall marry you next week.
As a drop of cold water let fall into boiling coffee causes the bubbling to subside, so did these few stern words cool down Mrs Pendle's excitement. She overcame her emotion; she replaced the ring on her finger, and again resumed her seat by the bishop. 'My poor dear George,' said she, smoothing his white hair, 'you are not angry with me?
'Not angry, Amy; but I am rather vexed that you should speak so bitterly.
'Well, darling, I won't speak bitterly again. Stephen is dead, so do not let us think about him any more. Next week we shall marry again, and all our troubles will be at an end.
'They will, please God,' said the bishop, solemnly; 'and oh, Amy, dearest, let us thank Him for His great mercy.
'Do you think He has been merciful?' asked Mrs Pendle, doubtfully, for her religious emotion was not strong enough to blind her to the stubborn fact that their troubles had been undeserved, that they were innocent sinners.
'Most merciful,' murmured the bishop, bowing his head. 'Has He not shown us how to expiate our sin?
'Our sin; no, George, I won't agree to that. We have not sinned. We married in the fullest belief that Stephen was dead.
'My dear, all that is past and done with. Let us look to the future, and thank the Almighty that He has delivered us out of our troubles.
'Yes, I thank Him for that, George,' said Mrs Pendle, meekly enough.
'That is my own dear Amy,' answered the bishop; and producing his pocket Bible, he opened it at random. His eye alighted on a verse of Jeremiah, which he read out with thankful emotion,—.
'And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked; and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible.