The Wharf by the Docks by Florence Warden


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Page 2

The doctor nodded as he filled his pipe.

"The young barrister I've met here, who's engaged to your elder
daughter?"

"Well, she was all but engaged to him," admitted Mr. Wedmore, in a
grudging tone. "But I'm going to put a stop to it, and I'll tell you
why." Here he got up, as if unable to keep still in the state of
excitement into which he was falling, and stood with his hands behind
him and his back to the fire. "I have a strong suspicion that the young
man's not quite right here." And lowering his voice, Mr. Wedmore touched
his forehead.

"Good gracious! You surprise me!" cried the doctor. "He always seemed to
me such a clever young fellow. Indeed, you said so to me yourself."

"So he is. Very clever," said Mr. Wedmore, shortly. "I don't suppose
there are many young chaps of his age--for he's barely thirty--at the
Bar whose prospects are as good as his. But, for all that, I have a
strong suspicion that he's got a tile loose, and that's why I wanted to
speak to you. Now his father was in a lunatic asylum no less than three
times, and was in one when he died."

The doctor looked grave.

"That's a bad history, certainly. Do you know how the father's malady
started?"

"Why, yes. It was the effect of a wound in the head received when he was
a young man out in America, in the war with Mexico in '46."

"That isn't the sort of mania that is likely to come down from father to
son," said the doctor, "if his brain was perfectly sound before, and the
recurrent mania the result of an accident."

"Well, so I've understood. And the matter has never troubled me at all
until lately, when I have begun to detect certain morbid tendencies in
Dudley, and a general change which makes me hesitate to trust him with
the happiness of my daughter."

"Can you give me instances?" asked the doctor, although he began to feel
sure that whatever opinion he might express on the matter, Mr. Wedmore
would pay little attention to any but his own.

"Well, for you to understand the case, I must tell you a little more
about the lad's father. He and I were very old friends--chums from
boyhood, in fact. When he came back from America--where he went from a
lad's love of adventure--he made a good marriage from a monetary point
of view; married a wharf on the Thames, in fact, somewhere Limehouse
way, and settled down as a wharfinger. He was a steady fellow, and did
very well, until one fine morning he was found trying to cut his throat,
and had to be locked up. Well, he was soon out again that time, and
things went on straight enough for eight or nine years, by which time he
had done very well--made a lot of money by speculation--and was thinking
of retiring from business altogether. Then, perhaps it was the extra
pressure of his increased business, but, at any rate, he broke out
again, tried to murder his wife that time, and did, in fact, injure her
so much that she died shortly afterward. Of course, he had to be shut up
again; and a man named Edward Jacobs, a shrewd Jew, who was his
confidential clerk, carried on the business in his absence. Now, both
Horne and his wife had had the fullest confidence in this Jacobs, but he
turned out all wrong. As soon as he learned, at the end of about twelve
months, that Horne was coming out again, he decamped with everything he
could lay his hands on; and from the position of affairs you may guess
that he made a very good haul. Well, poor Horne found himself in a maze
of difficulties; in fact, his clerk's fraud ruined him. Everything that
could be sold or mortgaged had to go to the settlement, and when his
affairs had been finally put straight, there was only a little bit left,
that had been so settled upon his wife that no one could touch it. He
made a good fight of it for a little while, with the help of a few old
friends, but, in the end, he broke down again for the third time. But he
escaped out of the asylum and went abroad, without seeing his friends or
his child, and a few months afterward the announcement of his death in
an American asylum was sent by a correspondent out there. Happily there
were no difficulties about securing the mother's money for the son, and
it was enough to educate the boy and to give him a start; but, of
course, he had to begin the world as a poor man instead of a rich one.
Perhaps that was all the better for him--or so I thought until lately."

"And what are these signs of a morbid tendency that you spoke of?" asked
the doctor.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Tue 15th Oct 2019, 21:28