Foul Play

Contents:
Author: Charles Reade

Chapter V.

THE moon went down; the stars shone out clearer.

Eleven o’clock boomed from a church clock in the town.

Wardlaw did not come, and Seaton did not move from his ambush.

Twelve o’clock boomed, and Wardlaw never came, and Seaton never moved.

Soon after midnight General Rolleston’s hall door opened, and a figure appeared in a flood of light. Seaton’s eye gleamed at the light, for it was young Wardlaw, with a footman at his back holding a lighted lamp.

Wardlaw, however, seemed in no hurry to leave the house, and the reason soon appeared; he was joined by Helen Rolleston, and she was equipped for walking. The watcher saw her serene face shine in the light. The general himself came next; and, as they left the door, out came Tom with a blunderbuss and brought up the rear. Seaton drew behind the trees, and postponed, but did not resign, his purpose.

Steps and murmurings came, and passed him, and receded.

The only words he caught distinctly came from Wardlaw, as he passed. "It is nearly high tide. I fear we must make haste."

Seaton followed the whole party at a short distance, feeling sure they would eventually separate and give him his opportunity with Wardlaw.

They went down to the harbor and took a boat; Seaton came nearer, and learned they were going on board the great steamer bound for England, that loomed so black, with monstrous eyes of fire.

They put off, and Seaton stood baffled.

Presently the black monster, with enormous eyes of fire, spouted her steam like a Leviathan, and then was still; next the smoke puffed, the heavy paddles revolved, and she rushed out of the harbor; and Seaton sat down upon the ground, and all seemed ended. Helen gone to England! Wardlaw gone with her! Love and revenge had alike eluded him. He looked up at the sky and played with the pebbles at his feet, stupidly, stupidly. He wondered why he was born; why he consented to live a single minute after this. His angel and his demon gone home together! And he left here!

He wrote a few lines on the paper he had intended for Wardlaw, sprinkled them with sand, and put them in his bosom, then stretched himself out with a weary moan, like a dying dog, to wait the flow of the tide, and, with it, Death. Whether or not his resolution or his madness could have carried him so far cannot be known, for even as the water rippled in, and, trickling under his back, chilled him to the bone, a silvery sound struck his ear. He started to his feet, and life and its joys rushed back upon him. It was the voice of the woman he loved so madly.

Helen Rolleston was on the water, coming ashore again in the little boat.

He crawled, like a lizard, among the boats ashore to catch a sight of her. He did see her, was near her, unseen himself. She landed with her father. So Wardlaw was gone to England without her. Seaton trembled with joy. Presently his goddess began to lament in the prettiest way. "Papa! papa!" she sighed, "why must friends part in this sad world? Poor Arthur is gone from me; and, by and by, I shall go from you, my own papa." And at that prospect she wept gently.

"Why, you foolish child!" said the old general tenderly, "what matters a little parting, when we are all to meet again in dear old England. Well then, there, have a cry; it will do you good." He patted her head tenderly as she clung to his warlike breast; and she took him at his word; the tears ran swiftly and glistened in the very starlight.

But, oh, how Seaton’s heart yearned at all this!

What? mustn’t say a word to comfort her; he who, at that moment, would have thought no more of dying to serve her or to please her than he would of throwing one of those pebbles into that slimy water.

Well, her pure tears somehow cooled his hot brain, and washed his soul, and left him wondering at himself and his misdeeds this night. His guardian angel seemed to go by and wave her dewy wings, and fan his hot passions as she passed.

He kneeled down and thanked God he had not met Arthur Wardlaw in that dark lane.

Then he went home to his humble lodgings, and there buried himself; and from that day seldom went out, except to seek employment. He soon obtained it as a copyist.

Meantime the police were on his track, employed by a person with a gentle disposition, but a tenacity of purpose truly remarkable.

Great was Seaton’s uneasiness when one day he saw Hexham at the foot of his stair; greater still, when the officer’s quick eye caught sight of him, and his light foot ascended the stairs directly. He felt sure Hexham had heard of his lurking about General Rolleston’s premises. However, he prepared to defend himself to the uttermost.

Hexham came into his room without ceremony, and looking mighty grim. "Well, my lad, so we have got you, after all."

"What is my crime now?" asked Seaton sullenly.

"James," said the officer, very solemnly, "it is an unheard-of crime this time. You have been running away from a pretty girl. Now that is a mistake at all times; but, when she is as beautiful as an angel, and rich enough to slip a flyer into Dick Hexham’s hands, and lay him on your track, what the use? Letter for my man."

Seaton took the letter, with a puzzled air. It was written in a clear but feminine hand, and slightly scented.

The writer, in a few polished lines, excused herself for taking extraordinary means to find Mr. Seaton; but hoped he would consider that he had laid her under a deep obligation, and that gratitude will sometimes be importunate. She had the pleasure to inform him that the office of shipping clerk at Messrs. White & Co.’s was at his service, and she hoped he would take it without an hour’s further delay, for that she was assured that many persons had risen to wealth and consideration in the colony from such situations.

Then, as this wary but courteous young lady had no wish to enter into a correspondence with her ex-gardener, she added:

"Mr. Seaton need not trouble himself to reply to this note. A simple ’yes’ to Mr. Hexham will be enough, and will give sincere pleasure to Mr. Seaton’s

"Obedient servant and well-wisher,

"HELEN ANNE ROLLESTON."

Seaton bowed his head over this letter in silent but deep emotion.

Hexham respected that emotion, and watched him with a sort of vague sympathy.

Seaton lifted his head, and the tears stood thick in his eyes. Said he, in a voice of exquisite softness, scarce above a whisper, "Tell her, ’yes’ and ’God bless her.’ Good-by. I want to go on my knees, and pray God to bless her as she deserves. Good-by."

Hexham took the hint and retired softly.

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Chicago: Charles Reade, "Chapter V.," Foul Play, ed. Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915 and trans. Evans, Sebastian in Foul Play Original Sources, accessed January 20, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PW1SM66RLW1J64B.

MLA: Reade, Charles. "Chapter V." Foul Play, edited by Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915, and translated by Evans, Sebastian, in Foul Play, Original Sources. 20 Jan. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PW1SM66RLW1J64B.

Harvard: Reade, C, 'Chapter V.' in Foul Play, ed. and trans. . cited in , Foul Play. Original Sources, retrieved 20 January 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PW1SM66RLW1J64B.