Marlocks of Merriton (IV)
Home Up Spring Blossoms Ab-o'th'-Yate Vol. I. Ab-o'th'-Yate Vol. II. Ab-o'th'-Yate Vol. III. Waverlow Chronicles Yankeeland Short Stories etc. Main Index Site Search
 


 

[Previous Page]



CHAPTER VII.


THE office of "Mortimer Tact, solicitor and conveyancer," was situated in a frowsy court, off Market Street, Manchester, as a small dilapidated tin signboard, that could hardly be distinguished from the rusty padlock on the door, testified.  Like a thing that had committed some professional misdemeanour, and thereby lost caste, it was entirely cut off from the society of its more respectable brethren; inasmuch as it was shouldered on one side by a storage for cotton waste, old ropes, and miscellaneous scraps of sacking—and on the other by a seedy remnant of a manufactory for silk, whose business was in the last stage of consumption.  Overhead was what Mr. Tact supposed to be a playroom for idle boys, as he had frequently to complain of repeated and determined efforts on the part of an uncertain number of juveniles to extemporise a "trap" in the floor, and make an unceremonious descent upon his bald head.  These mischievous practices were generally regulated by music—often by the time of "Jack's the Lad," or the "College Hornpipe."  But when the "Cure" set the world jumping, and revealed "soft places" in people's heads who were not suspected of unsoundness, that most idiotic of all measures became the rage.  Then the danger became more imminent, as the cracks in the ceiling bore witness.  Everything took to jumping—the cobwebs in the corners, the penholders on the desk, and the letter-scales on the mantelpiece.  Even the gasalier caught the insane spirit of the time, and bobbed up and down in thoroughly "perfect" style, whenever the boys chose to set the example.  Add to these annoyances the creaking of a teagle that had seen better days; the rumbling of beer-barrels in a cellar beneath, and the almost incessant clanking of horses' feet in front—and it will seem wonderful how Mr. Tact managed to draw up conveyances, make out deeds, and perform the nameless acts of mental drudgery inseparable from a solicitor's profession.  But our legal adviser was an exception to most of his brethren.  He had the patience of a spider; and could hang a case upon slender thread.  He could insinuate himself into rolls of parchment with the subtlety of office dust, and knock law terms about like ninepins.  In fact he was the very working-bee of miscellaneous practice and was never known to decline the acceptance of a "job" on account of its pitchy character.  He would have dived to the bottom of the caldron had it been necessary.

    Not to be thought hard upon a profession that some people, ignorantly or otherwise, regard as a sort of human skinnery—be it understood that Mr. Mortimer Tact was one of that unfortunate class of practitioners disparagingly denominated "hedge lawyers,"—who are supposed to take up cases in a seemingly surreptitious manner, and lay them down when they are only fit to be decided by a jury of pickpockets.  You would never catch him speaking loud to a client, or otherwise than confidentially to anyone.  He was distrustful of people who stared at him, and became uneasy if the person ogling should happen to turn up his coat-sleeves.  He was an ear-biter in company, and mostly talked with a pencil or a toothpick in his hand; and whenever he made an appointment at a tavern, he was certain to drop in just at the moment his client was sitting down.  This, it is thought, was done to save expense, and could only be brought about by diligent watching at the street corner.

    In minor professional matters, such as sending "lawyer's letters" to litigious washerwomen, or "arranging" the proceedings consequent upon a tavern brawl, Mr. Tact was assisted by a clerk—a fast young fellow on eighteen shillings per week, and as much beside as he could "nail."  This indispensable appendage to the coat-tails of pettifoggery was remarkable for the precocious efflorescence of his face, the shortness of his pipe, and the extreme "horsiness" of his get up.  Material must have been very scant when his clothes were made, as their tightness suggested the probability that, had the tailor appropriated another inch of "cabbage," "Ned Tipham" would have been forced to adopt an exceedingly primitive style of costume.  He wore the loudest things in shirt-collars and fronts, the latter articles being devoted to the stabling of a very small brass horse, stuck on the top of a brass pin in the centre.  He never spoke of shillings or pence.  That degenerate species of coinage was, in Ned's estimation, exclusively intended for cads "and small shopkeepers, or people who stuck to the old coach" method of making money.  It was rarely he would condescend to speak of anything of less value than a "quid," "pots" of which were everlastingly on the point of getting into his pockets, and were only prevented by an "if."  As to his friends, they were as high-blooded as the "four-legged fortunes" that were continually running for his especial profit.  Who could doubt his being on the most intimate terms with Lord This, the Earl of That, and the Marquis So-and-So, when he had dined with one, cracked a dozen of "phiz" with another, and the third had promised that if "Scatter-wit" came "all right" after next season, he should become the owner of as prime-blooded a piece of horseflesh as ever cantered over Epsom Downs.  These grand instances of aristocratic recognition, which were, of course, "nothing" to Ned, were confided to a select circle of acquaintances at the "King;" after which he borrowed a "bob" of his friend "Joe Stubbs," the fashionable "counter-jumper" (who usually drove to dinner in a cab), and went to invest the insignificant coin with "Bart," on "Lee," for a forthcoming "event."

    Mr. Ned Tipham was colouring his meerschaum (i.e., a threepenny "cherrytree") at the office door, and otherwise amusing himself with the fruitless attempts of a sparrow to find its way out of the court, which suggested to our legal friend that it must have been dabbling in law, and got its wings burnt—when he became conscious that "Richard Holmroyd, Esq., of Red Windows Hall, Merriton," was threading the maze formed of lorries, handcarts, and musty, out-at-elbows bales of rubbish—and was making his best endeavours to reach the office.  People unacquainted with Ned's code of etiquette would imagine that, seeing the approach of one of his employer's clients, he would have subsided at once into the little back room wherein his "vaulting ambition," to his inconsolable regret, had for years been ruthlessly confined.  But, instead of paying this sneaking deference to a "champ" who had probably never grasped the amber glove of aristocracy, our sporting friend spat out a familiar "good morning," and shook the ashes of his pipe into Mr. Holmroyd's face.

    "Is Mr. Tact in?" inquired the latter gentleman, dusting his coat and eyeing the clerk disdainfully.

    "No, gone to get his bitter at the 'Thatch;' wown't be back for half an hour," was the curt reply.

    "What time do you call it?" asked Mr. Holmroyd, taking out his watch and looking at it, as if he thought it had been deceiving him.

    "Cawn't say," replied Ned, slapping his waistcoat pocket with an air of mock disappointment; "My ticker's at the jeweller's, and the old blowke in the oaffice has been stiff since Saturday.  Guess it's about haw-p'st ten."

    "Just eleven, by my time," said Mr. Holmroyd, thoughtfully.

    "Then Mr. Taict ought to have been in.  I usually gow out myself at eleven.  Cawn't think what the deuce is keeping him.  It aint anything I can do for you?"  And Ned again shook the ashes from his pipe.

    "I don't suppose it is.  I must see Mr. Tact.  I have an appointment with him for eleven," said the client, looking impatiently at the clerk.

    "Ow, yes—Mr. Holmroyd—of course.  Step in please.  I see so many people that I had quite forgot your face."  And Ned backed himself into the doorway, and gave a final dusting of his pipe.

    Mr. Holmroyd followed; and the two were presently seated in the little back office, exchanging remarks about the weather and the probabilities of the current season's shooting.

    "Down't object to smoking, I suppowse?" said Ned taking from his pocket the neatest thing in tobacco pouches, out of which he proceeded to fill his pipe.

    "Not at all," was the reply.

    "Sorry I cawn't offer you a cigaw.  I'm out just now.  Doing anything on the Leger?"

    "Beg your pardon?"

    "Doing anything on the Leger?"

    "Oh, I see.  No."

    "Got a good thing if you'd like to invest."

    "Indeed!"

    "Yes, pull it oaff like old boots.  Safe as a bird."

    "I don't do anything in that way," said the heir to Red Windows Hall, adjusting the bows of a newly-assumed white cravat.

    "Ow! more in the white chowker line—doing bazaws, and jolly good feeds with folks who've got the sugar, eh?  Shouldn't I like a gow-in at that precious game?  Ow, nowe—I suppowse not!"

    "You mistake me," said Richard.

    But the far-sighted and keenly-scenting clerk shook his head and shrugged his shoulders in a doubting manner, and intimated, in the interval of his efforts to rekindle his pipe, that he knew the whole "stud" were a "downy lot," and up to a thing or two in the "Jowey line;" that "pulling a loang faice was ownly to get their money on;" and that when they did "collar," they stuck like "champs."

    "Better let me git you on," he said, when he had got his pipe fairly going.  "Splendid tip—right from the stable.  Put on a fiver, and you'll pot two-eighty quid straight.  Backed it to win a thawsand for a friend o' mine.  What say you?  Nobble's the word."

    Mr. Holmroyd, if guilty of worse pursuits, was thoroughly ignorant of horse-racing; so that the sporting phraseology made use of by the clerk was "downright Greek" to him; and adding that it was discoursed in a sort of bastard "West End" vernacular, which Cockneys regard as the purest English, it was doubly incomprehensible.  What were "fivers," and "joweys," and "champs?"  Who was "Old Boots;" and what was the meaning of "sugar," as applied to wealthy people?  Mr. Ned Tipham would undoubtedly explain these things in the course of conversation, or render his discourse more intelligible by gliding into a more generally used style as he went on.  Mr. Ned Tipham, however, did not do this, but dived deeper into the mud of "Isthmian" slang, and so bespattered the listener's ears with it, that the latter was forced to shelter himself behind the cover of feigned deafness, which led him to make replies and observations quite apart from the subject of the other's propositions.

    "If a fiver's above yer mawk, put on a quid, and try yer lack," said Ned, seeing that Mr. Holmroyd was ruminating on something.  "A quid wown't smawsh you.  Sixty to one; charge you five quid commission if it pulls it oaff; then you cop fifty-six quid for your own exchequer; down't you see?"

    Mr. Holmroyd did not, but looked round the room to see if he could discover some object that would be to him an oasis in that desert of slang, and relieve him from the distraction to which he was being driven.  He failed in his purpose, as every foot of wall so reflected Ned's classical tastes that there were no means of escape except in assumed deafness, or in the seasonable arrival of Mr. Tact.

    "You down't seem to nibble," Ned observed, seeing that the other either did not comprehend his discourse, or was averse to making a fortune by four-legged aid.

    "No," said Mr. Holmroyd; "as I said before, it is quite out of my way."

    Ned took a long pull at his pipe, then spouting out a cloud of smoke that put the room in immediate fog, gave forcible utterance to an opinion that there were people in the world who, if a "gowld" mine was to be opened at their feet, would run away from it as they would from a "church-yawl ghowst."

    "Are you admiring my fine-awt gallery, Mr. Holmroyd?" said Ned, seeing that gentleman was engaged in the casual inspection of a variety of strongly-coloured prints that, irrespective of frames, were fixed against the walls.  "That," said he, pointing to what appeared to be the representation of a couple of turnips, each terminating a clumsily-built column springing from a basement of "burglarious" looking boots, "is the celebrated 'mill' between Bawney Bloggs and the Chowbent Angel.  Fought twenty-seven rounds in fifty-five minutes, and went out of the ring without a scraitch, but got a splendid pammelling on the rowd howme, to make the thing look respectable.  I dropped two quid on that event, and got my ticker nobbled in the bawgain."

    If Mr. Holmroyd's eyes were so dazzled by this ray of pugilistic glory that they could no longer gaze upon it, they were not so much injured as to be prevented from imbibing the many artistic beauties of the picture that shone by its side.

    This was a print of an equally popular character, and represented in its foreground a group of very enthusiastic faces, directed towards a number of horses with painfully elongated necks, in the act of flying past.  In the background was a sort of monster clockhead, the sloping part of which was dotted over with what appeared to be rows of "pandean pipes," set in the primmest attitude, and the whole suggestive of a public-house organ, with automaton accessories.

    "That," said Ned, "is the graind staind at Epsom on the Dawby Day.  But how the deuce the awtist managed to sketch the horses I cawn't tell, because they shot pawst the winning-powst like a streak of lightning; nothing seen of them but their tails, I can assure you.  I picked up a pot of money on that ere raice; backed the winner at long odds."

    "Perhaps you'd an interest in it," Mr. Holmroyd suggested, either from ignorance of turf matters, or from a desire to be facetious.

    "Ow, not at all.  Never saw the animile in my life.  But maybe in three or four years you'll be hearing of Edward Tipham, Esquire's, stables.  Then wown't I gow in for the blue ribbon, and no mistake?  No joweys with me.  Come down on the legs like fire; if I down't, blow me!"

    Mr. Holmroyd was floundering hopelessly in a sea of "fine awt" terms, and classical allusions to the flourishing condition of the "noble science," when the welcome ringing of a bell announced the entrance of Mr. Tact.

    "That's gav'nor," said the clerk, springing from his seat, and consigning his pipe to its leathern case.  "Shall I announce you?"

    "If you please," said Mr. Holmroyd.

    Ned darted out of the "gallery," and immediately returned with the notification that Mr. Tact would be glad to see his client.

    "Precious old blowke, that is," said Ned, as soon as he had the room to himself.  "No more gamption in him than a blessed kid.  Wonder what he's ap to?  Robbery, fifty to one, or he wouldn't have cam here.  Good mind to ferret.  Gav'nor says I ought to have an eye to bizness.  Cawn't object to an ear on the same principle, surely; so here gowes for a plawnt on the keyhole."

    Ned, after giving utterance to these complimentary remarks upon official eaves-dropping, crept to the door of Mr. Tact's private office, and applied his ear assiduously to the keyhole.

    "Ow!" he whispered to himself, after about five minutes' listening, "thought there was something not very square.  A will, eh! and what's this about a mo'gage!  Ow! to be nobbled, eh!  Old blowke in Merriton—Thomas Troater—croaked, eh!  Who's the other old blowke?  Sam o' Dackey's.  Rummy name!  Lives in Treater's hut.  Where the deuce is Merriton?  Some outlandish Laincashire pigsty.  Blowed if I down't think so!  Ow! I am to be the plawnt—gow over to Merriton—drink their infernal swipes —and ferret.  Nasty jobe.  Blowed if this child does all that, Mr. Taict!  That would be a caution.  No; not me!  Ow, you blessed pair o' long-headed champs.  No; not if I know it.  See you half rowd to the old sawpint's country house first, Mr. Taict, and then I wown't, ow!"

    Uttering the last monosyllable in a louder whisper than the rest of the soliloquy was given in, Ned Tipham sprang from the door with the agility of a game-cock, and the next moment was perched upon his stool, engaged in ruling imaginary lines on his writing pad.  The conference had suddenly come to an end.  Richard Holmroyd, Esq., was bowed out of the office, whither he was followed by a peculiar style of blessing from the conscientious clerk, and immediately the court became relieved of his presence.


____________


CHAPTER VIII.


A SOMBRE procession moves out of the courtyard of Red Windows Hall, and down the avenue leading to the village.  It is a funeral; but amongst the followers in this last act of mortal pageantry there is but one real mourner.  The black plumes nod over the remains of Roger Winwood, and the wheels that bear them roll with a muffled sound over the pavement; but therein is all the solemnity of the scene.  True, that in the leading coach of this gloomy train a young man is weeping; but other eyes are as dry as if they were looking on a Maypole dance, or watching a bride elect's last act of spinsterhood.  In the second coach sits Richard Holmroyd, emotionless as a statue, and almost as cold.  He is planning improvements on the lands surrounding, and not how a six-foot enclosure in the distant prospect can be converted into a shrine, before which loving hearts shall pour benisons, and humble knees shall bend.  Nor does he behold in the still farther distance a tearful maiden stretched on solitary couch, the world shut out from the sympathies that beat against her caged breast, and the walls only listening to the wild beseechings that issue from her burning lips.  No; Richard Holmroyd sees not, nor hears these things.  Let the grave receive its due; let the lying slab present its unblushing surface to outraged Heaven, and other visions than those of funereal pomp and madhouse ravings shall possess him.  A penitent girl restored to home and kindred; gentle wooings under the lindens, and beyond these a happy bridal morn, with the wedding-peal ringing so merrily, are things now mingling strangely in the young man's mind, with the mournful utterances of the solemn bell, and the shadows the black plumes fling upon the path.

    The churchyard is reached; the gates, obsequious even to unhonoured clay, open wide, and the voice of the steeple strikes tremulously on the ear.  Now the organ-peal rolls full and sonorous along the vacant aisles, and the villagers standing near the door listen with wondering awe.  But in these sounds the second mourner hears not the trump of the archangel summoning the dead to the great judgment-seat, but the dulcet voice of some golden-winged syren, opening the gates to love and fortune.  "Awake to righteousness, and sin not," may stir the best resolves in breasts that yield too soon to worldly influences, but to Richard Holmroyd, pondering over certain bonds and mortgages that will float through the golden vision he hath conjured up, the warning falls with an empty sound.

    "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust!"  Be quick, thou laziest of sextons—shovel down the earth, lest the dead should rise, and confront the living with an angry face.  Thou need'st not go daintily about thy work, for the coffin-lid is strong, and it is only clay thou coverest.  If thou art waiting for it to be hallowed with our tears, lend me thy spade the angels that attend on mortal obsequies, and set free the floods of love when the good are laid at rest, forbid their falling here!

    The last departure of funeral guests had scarcely quitted the threshold of Red Windows Hall, when Geoffrey Winwood rose from the chair he had occupied at the table, where he had sat during dinner silent and gloomy, and began to pace hurriedly about the room in which he and his cousin were now alone.

    "Geoffrey," said Richard, on whom the young man's altered manner was lost, "I would advise you to-morrow to prepare for a new career.  You are yet young; you are intelligent.  The world is before you; and when you have proved yourself equal to occupying a good place in it, my hand is yours."

    Geoffrey was still silent; and, if aught, his face was gloomier.

    "Come, cousin," Richard continued, "what do you say?  Are you prepared to lead a more useful life?  Mind—I ask you as a friend."

    "Dick," said Geoffrey, turning suddenly round, and striking the table with his clenched fist—"I care not for life—nor for you—nor for the world!  Where is my sister? I ask again.  She is all I care for just now.  Where is she, I say?"

    "You need not be so demonstrative, Geoffrey," said Richard, with a complacency that would almost have subdued a less sensitive nature.  "I can only again refer you to those who know.  If I had known anything of Alice, do you imagine for a moment that I should have concealed it from you?"

    "I feel assured you do know where she is, and that it was by your orders she was conveyed away."

    "Geoffrey, you do me wrong—you mistake me—I assure you, you mistake me."

    "I have mistaken you a long time.  If you have been worldly, I have thought you upright.  I knew you loved my sister—or pretended to love her—and I have been foolish enough to believe, should anything happen to my father, the old house would remain as it was, even if you were at the head of it, which I do not gainsay.  I have been deceived."

    "And, so far as I am concerned, the old house may remain as it is," said Richard, unmoved by the other's passion.  "If I think of Alice, I am wondering how she may be restored to us.  But if adventurous lovers find their way to her chamber, and spirit her away, am I to be held responsible for the act?"

    "She had no lovers—none except"—

    Geoffrey checked himself, and an unbidden suspicion suddenly flashed upon his mind.

    "Except an old acquaintance whom fortune has made successful in spite of his humble birth," said Richard, finishing the sentence in his own way.  "And whose new position," he continued, "has armed him with the effrontery he dared not assume when but "—

    "When but what?"

    "A poor weaver lad."

    "Great Heaven!  Who do you mean?" demanded Geoffrey, again seating himself, and looking earnestly at his cousin.

    "Who can I mean but one man?  Are you blind?  Has the fellow been haunting these premises for years without your knowledge?  Who writes songs?  Who sends these songs covertly by the gardener or one of the servants?  Who presumes upon your sister's love?  Who has carried her away?  Who—but that brazen upstart, Dolmey Turtingtower?  Now, then."

    "Dolmey Turtingtower!" Geoffrey exclaimed, a deathlike paleness coming over his face.  "It cannot be.  I saw him that very night; was with him when Alice disappeared.  How could it be Dolmey?"

    "I suppose it would have been impossible for him to have an accomplice.  A man who has risen by scheming would never think of such a thing; not he.  It would be quite as impossible as that you should not believe in the perfect honesty and straightforwardness of one you have hitherto trusted.  Has Dolmey on no occasion, when you have met him, let fall a sentence or a word that might cause you to suspect he had designs upon Alice?"

    "Never!"

    "Bethink yourself, Geoffrey.  You have more than once complained to me of his coldness towards you.  Did you ever give him offence?"

    "Not that I am aware of."

    "There, then, is the secret.  After having formed his designs and resolved in his mind to execute them, he had not the courage to meet you; besides its being convenient not to be questioned upon such matters."

    "How long have you had these suspicions?"

    "Years.  I have watched the fellow, feeling an interest, apart from my regard for my cousin, in his career.  Before he disappeared from Merriton, where he had the heartlessness to leave a starving parent to the generosity of the neighbours, I took note of his conduct.  I often found him loitering like a thief about the lanes; and whenever he chanced to see me, he would skulk out of the way, or disappear altogether.  On one occasion I caught him beneath Alice's window.  I feel sure it was Dolmey.  Had it been a stranger, Baron would have interfered.  But you know Dolmey was always a favourite with the dog, and could go about the premises unmolested."

    "But Baron barked that night my sister disappeared."

    "For the best of reasons, the accomplice would undoubtedly be a stranger."

    "Do you think Alice went away entirely against her will?" said Geoffrey, feeling somewhat reconciled to his cousin's views.

    "I have my doubts about that," replied Richard.  "We heard no noise except the dog's barking, and that only caused the discovery of her absence to be made.  I am afraid she must have been a party to her own abduction."

    "Now I remember," said Geoffrey, becoming confidential, "Dolmey questioning me very much about my sister the night I met him, and he seemed quite disappointed when I mentioned a circumstance connected with those sonnets she used to write.  You remember them?"

    "Don't you think he's the unknown lover about whom there was such a mystery at the time."

    "Now I think of it, it may be possible."

    "Possible!  It is more—it is exceedingly probable."

    "I must admit it; and yet, after all, Dick, it is hard to be suspicious of an old friend."

    "Is it always?  You suspected me, and without any apparent compunction."

    "Well, I beg your pardon.  What could I do under the circumstances?"

    "All right, Geoffrey; say no more.  What think you of your modest friend now?"

    "I know not what to think.  I am stunned."

    "And does your manhood, let alone your brotherly regard, suggest no action in the matter?"

    "Not if she went away of her own free will.  If she'd leave a home where her father had just taken his last breath, I cannot regard her as a sister."

    "What if the contrary?  What if she'd been forced away?"

    "I would strangle the man who did it, if I could find him; yes, if he was first cousin to Her Majesty the Queen!"

    "I admire your pluck, Geoffrey," said Richard, not, however, without feeling about his shirt-collar, as if he felt his cousin's fingers grappling uncomfortably about his throat.  "But perhaps the tongue of the deceiver was more powerful than the arm of an accomplice.  In that case your revenge, though perfectly justified, society would not sanction."

    "Ah, Dick! this is a strange world," said Geoffrey, throwing himself upon the table, as if in despair of ever finding that virtue in it that he had fondly believed existed.  "I once thought it full of honour and honesty; but the more I see of it—"

    "The more you become conscious that you've been a dreamer.  How must society be maintained but by fraud and deceit, if a portion of it is to be kept in unproductive idleness?  Look round, and see if you can discover no one to whom the question can apply."

    Geoffrey blushed, but offered no remark.

    "Now look here, cousin," Richard continued, "you have led an easy, thoughtless life.  How to live, and how to embellish life, has not concerned you.  You have looked upon yourself as provided for.  You were to be Fortune's pet, enjoying the helplessness of perpetual childhood, whilst the bees around you were gathering the honey you were to feed upon.  A sorrowful event has dispelled that illusion, and you find yourself struggling with a world whose existence has hitherto been unknown to you.  Is it not so?"

    "I plead guilty," replied Geoffrey, still blushing; "but I suppose I'm only one of many thousands.  Well, give me a chance.  If all can live who deserve to live, I'll try to find a humble place among them.  Good night, Dick!  I suppose this is the last time I shall sleep under my father's roof.  To-morrow, I shall be a stranger here."

    "And to-morrow may see you on the road to fortune."

    "It may.  Let me hope.  But what of Alice?"

    "To-morrow I set out to seek her.  I think I have a clue to her whereabouts."

    "Indeed!"

    "You can wait here till I return.  I may be absent several days.  In the meantime, Geoffrey, I shall hold my promise good.  If you are not heir to Red Windows Hall, your position here may yet be a satisfactory one.  Good night!  Should you happen to come across Dolmey Turtingtower, treat him as hitherto.  Don't let him see you suspect him.  Leave him to me for the present.  Good night!"

    Poor Geoffrey Winwood!  What was he to do in the world?  Hath it never struck you, reader, that one half the men and women whom you daily meet are merely grown-up children?—pets that society should have taken in its lap, and sheltered from the storms that might assail them.  How many parents are there who claim position in the world, who do not assign to their offspring such easy duties amongst men who toil and struggle, that their future may be a lifelong holiday?  With every accomplishment but the how to work, the how to be useful—what sadder spectacle does society present than one of these helpless creatures flung upon the rough sea of life, with only his own untrained hands to save him?  But Geoffrey had been no pet.  He had simply been neglected; so that it is a pleasure to think, after all, that there are few parents such as Roger Winwood.


――――――――――――


CHAPTER IX.


IN the will of the late Thomas Trotter (this was the real name of the person who bore it, notwithstanding Tabby Charlesworth's doubts about the matter), it was ordered that a legacy of twenty-five pounds per annum be paid to Samuel Bradshaw, otherwise Sam o' Ducky's, conditional on the legatee's never wearing shoes, never tying a handkerchief round his neck, or appearing in company in other than the clothes he wore when the will was made.  The latter articles were once stolen by a larkish neighbour, while the owner was in bed; but on the morning following, the village was scandalised by Sam's marching down to the "Jolly Carter" in a style of dress more easy than fashionable, and surprising old Tabby into a belief that he was a ghost.  The cot, also, in which the testator lived and died, was left to Sam, and he being a widower at the time, with no signs of ever "clogging" again, he gave up the home which he shared with one of his sons, and took to living alone in thorough bachelor style.

    The cot had but one room, and that not a very large one.  In fact, it was so small that it was often Sam's boast that he could lie in bed and close the door with his foot.  The walls of this tenement were composed of rough stones; the roof was of thatch, and the whole presented quite a model of amateur architecture, for it had been built by the founder's own hands.  The place was curiously furnished.  A bed, a table, two chairs, a stool, a cupboard—all as black as the panels of a hearse—were the only articles visible on a first acquaintance with the interior. #But there were other and nondescript things squatting here and there, as if the only purpose assigned to them was to keep out of the way as much as possible. In each of the upper corners of a very small window a pair of "chitties" (redpoles) hopped and sang;—inhabiting cages of scant dimensions, that they, after the manner of their owner, might perch in the middle and close the doors with their claws.  One of the nooks near the fireplace was appropriated to kitchen purposes.  The other was the "refectory," in which the lord of the mansion held his solitary banquets.  This would be the order of his eating—porridge at seven, oatcake and cheese at ten, bacon and potatoes at one, and an indescribable mess of onions, "browis," turnips, and black-pudding at six; after which he would trundle down to the "Jolly Carter," to drink and gossip, and get himself primed for battling with ghosts, should they happen to venture too near his pillow.  Often would the cot ring with song and laugh, for Sam was seldom alone in it except at sleeping time.  Neighbours would come in and chat, on the pretence of buying "pot-yarbs," which the old fellow grew to perfection, a spacious garden affording him ample means for the study and pursuit of kitchen botany.  Lassies would come to buy "posies"—formed of "lad's love," "ladies' grass," "Sweet Williams," thyme, red and white roses, and the indispensable pink, which the old gallant would liken to their pretty selves.  Lads would intrude on no pretence whatever, and would retire disappointed if Sam did not think it worth his while to chase them out, as he sometimes did, with a formidable pole: however, without any intention of using it.

    Visitors, if they came for legitimate purposes, were always welcome at "Tummy Trotter's Hut," as the little cabin was called; and it would have been a strange occurrence if they had gone away without having had a good laugh at Sam's stories and oddities, and the quaint sayings that were continually tumbling from his lips.

    It was said the old fellow was in possession of some secret of Tummy Trotter's that was the cause of his being remembered in his will; but this he stoutly denied, and averred that it was because he was a "gradely sort of a chap," and "a bit after Tummy's own heart," that he had been singled out for the demi-recluse's especial favour.  They were both odd, and it was but fit that after the one died the other should take his place.  It was so ordained, no matter from what cause, and the characteristics of Tummy Trotter's hut were kept alive by the founder's successor.

    Sam o' Ducky's was standing at the garden gate one morning in the week following Squire Winwood's death, when a spruce young fellow, dressed after no fashion that had yet found favour in Merriton, came up and accosted him with—

    "Cain you tell me where one Samuel Braidshaw lives, please?"

    "Young Sam, or owd Sam?" asked the old man.

    "Cawn't say.  Funny blowke, I b'lieve.  Lives alowne in a small cottage," was the reply.

    "I reckon that 'll be me.  What dost' want wi' me?"

    "Ow!—beg yer pawd'n," said the other, whom the reader will at once recognise as Ned Tipham, the sporting clerk. "Didn't know you—'pon my honour."

    "Well, I'll let thee off this time; but see thou never does nowt no moore," said Sam, almost bursting with a still-born chuckle.  "What's thy arrand, my pratty pair o' tongs?"

    "Sir?"

    "What dost' want to see me for?"

    "Ow! a little business; that's all."

    "Well, if it's owt ut wants mich talkie about, come this road."  And Sam opened the gate, and intimated that the visitor was expected to follow.

    The two proceeded into the hut, Sam offering his new acquaintance a chair, and seating himself on the side of the bed.

    "Rummy place this," Ned observed, scanning the narrow limits of the houseplace.

    "Big enoogh for a chap to be quiet in.  When I want t' feight, I goo outside," and Sam o' Ducky's winked at Ned, and throwing one leg over the other, exhibited a clog of rather formidable dimensions.

    Whether the clerk understood Sam's language and movements was scarcely apparent; for he did nothing but open his mouth, and stare in response.

    "Now, then," said Sam, seeing that the other was somewhat puzzled with his situation.  "What's this business thou's come about?  Wheere dost' come fro?"

    "Ow!  Where do I come from.  Is that what you mean, Mr. Braidshaw?"

    "Sartinly.  Conno' thou understond good plain English?  If thou conno', thou'd better go to a tuppence-a-week skoo, an' get thy yead hommert int' a fuzzbo for no' bein able to spell wax.  Dost' come fro' Manchester?"

    "Yes."

    "I thowt so by th' shap o' thy toes.  Thou's no' bin used to puncin.  Well, an' what art' come about?  Art' a putter-out?"*

    "Down't understaind you."

    "What warehouse art' in?"

    "Not in any warehouse at all.  I'm in a solicitor's oaffice."

    "Is that bein a bum-baily?"

    "Bum-bailiff!  I should think not.  Do I look like anything of the sort?"

    "Nawe; thou looks moore like a toothdrawer, or a pluckt sparrow.  Dost' want t' buy a napkinful o' potyarbs or summat?  I've some very nice uns."

    "Doesn't know what they are; so cawn't want them."

    "Well, thou'll happen tell me what it is thou does want, when thou's etten that stick; so I'll wait till th' mealtime's o'er."

    Ned was sucking the knob of a very smart cane, which he always carried about with him, whenever business or pleasure took him more than a hundred yards from the "oaffice" door.

    "Well," said that young gentleman, throwing himself into a "consulting" attitude, after a manner he had often seen his employer assume—"did you ever know one Mr. Thomas Troater?"

    "Tummy Trotter, thou meeans, if thou'd nobbut spake like a Christian," said Sam, putting on a very learned look.

    "Have your own way, and proceed with the case," said the clerk, with a forensic wave of the hand.  "Did you know the gentleman?"

    "I did know him."

    "What did you know of him?"

    "I know he's lyin now wheere he winno' tumble th' clooas off th' bed in a hurry."

    "Ow—yau're chawfing;—coming the evasion dodge; I shall have to put you under croass-examination at once.  Now then, sir, would you please to tell the court what you know about the prisoner at the baur?  Kiss the book.  There's chawf for chawf, my learnèd and talented friend."

    "Thou'rt a wakken brid, chus wheere thou's bin hatched," said the old man, striking his clogs together in admiration of Ned's aptitude for rejoinder.  "It's a pity thou's had thy wings cut.  If ther's any moore i'th' same neest as thou coome fro', I could like to catch one i' full fither.  'Now then, my beauty, what is it thou wants?' as Clog-bant said when he'd put th' youngest choilt in his pocket, in a mistake for a hound whelp.  What dost want to know partikilar about owd Tummy Trotter?"

    "That's the point I wanted to bring you to," said Ned, trying to look grave.  "What kind of habits had Mr. Troater?"

    "Habits, dost say?"

    "Yessir,—habits."

    "Well, he wore a blue cooat wi' brass buttons, an' knee breeches like mine.  Sometimes he wore clogs, an' sometimes shoon; but mooestly clogs."

    "You're not answering my question.  Wasn't Mr. Treater rather odd in his way?"

    "Well, that's just as folk mit think.  I never see'd him try to get drunken wi' churn milk; nor chop a stone trough up for firewood.  He wur odd i' one thing, too, now I bethink me."

    "What was that?"

    "He never made hissel even?"

    "How do you mean?"

    "He never tee'd a pair o' pattens to his heels—he never wur wed."

    "Ow!—I see—bachelor."

    "Ay, summat o' that mak."

    "Wasn't he pawsimownious?"

    "I think thou'd better cut that word i' two, an' give it me at twice.  It's too mich fort' swallow at one mouthful."

    "Wasn't he gweedy?"

    "Ay, to hissel, but no' to other folk.  He're as good an owd trump as ever grew a beart; but what he'd that grey mop hanging at his chin for, like a frosty Jew, I never could tell."

    "Wealthy, I believe—wasn't he—though he came the seedy dodge?"

    "I dar'say he wur."

    "Was he very wealthy?"

    "I dunno' know.  I never felt th' weight of his owd stockin.  It wur a wapper, too, I've no doubt."

    "You saw the will, I suppowse?"

    "I yerd it read."

    "Wasn't there something in it about a mo'gage?"

    "What's a mow-gidge?  Is it some new-fangled thing for cuttin hay with?"

    "You're a rummy blowke not to know what a mo'gage is."

    "Con thou tell me what a windin-on-pow is?"

    "I down't suppowse I cain."

    "Well, then, thou'rt a fampt doo, ift' knows what that is."

    As Ned did not comprehend the epithet so covertly insinuated by the sarcastic old weaver, and did not care for any further indulgence in what he considered to be "chawf," he went as directly to the point of inquiry as he possibly could aim, whilst suiting his language to the other's understanding.

    "A mo'gage," he said, "is a deed made on property in pledge.  Down't you see? if I was to borrow, say fifty thousand pounds of you"―

    "Stop a bit," said Sam; "a wayver conno' gawm o' o that at once.  Say summat less."

    "Well, if I was to borrow a thousand, we'll say, and I had property worth the amount, I give you an assignment of that property as security for the money.  Down't you see?"

    "Oh, thou meeans a morgish, I see.  Why didt' no' say a morgish at th' fust?  This is England, mon, we're livin in, and no' France, nor th' Cannibal Islands noather, wheere they makken suet dumplins o' bees'-wax an' lamp-oil, an' roasten childer like suckin pigs for a Sunday dinner."

    "Ow! very glad you understand me," said Ned, with an implied sneer in his manner.  "We shall get on in a couple o' months or sow, I see.  Well, was there anything said in the will about this—this mo'gage?"

    "Ay, there wur," replied the old fellow, indulging himself in a process of winking that plainly intimated he was minding his p's and q's.

    "Do you remember what it was?"

    "Part I do an' part I dunno."

    "What do you remember?"

    "What wouldt' give t' know?"

    "Ow! it isn't of much consequence."

    "Then thou wouldno' ha' come so far a-axin."

    "Well, you might tell me, that's a good fellow!"

    "I will when beefsteaks begin a-grooin like mushrooms, an' th' Moss Bruck turns into rum an' tae."

    "That means you wown't, I suppowse?"

    "Thou may 'powse what thou likes; thou'll get nowt out o' me ut ud be wo'th th' tow-brass for a dobby-hoss."

    "Ah! that's very unkind of you, my dear friend, very unkind, indeed," said Ned, looking as though he had been subjected to the most cruel treatment.  "If you wown't tell me that, perhaps you'll tell me where the deed is to be found."

    "Well," said the old wag, apparently relenting, "I did dreeam one neet ut it wur sheaved (sewed) up i' owd Tummy's coffin shirt, as a sort of a plaister for t' keep th' damp off his stomach."

    "Do you mean to say you down't know where the deed is?" said Ned, sharply.  "Do you mean to say you haven't got it?"

    "Well, if I had, dost' think I shouldno' turn it up to thoose it belongs to?"

    "Who may that be, pray?"

    "Mee-aa-w-w!" exclaimed the weaver, putting his hand to his mouth, and giving an attempted imitation of those sweet sounds we sometimes hear when we would rather be sleeping.

    The clerk threw himself back in his chair, and thrusting both hands into his pockets, and hitching up his shoulders, gave vent to a series of risible explosions that were quite entertaining to his friend.

    "Well," he said, "you are the rummiest old baffer I iver came across—blow me if you ain't!  Never knew such a queer old swell.  You ought to be the Lo'd Chawncellor, by Jowve!  You'd be a credit to the woolsack—you would, and no mistake.  Blowed if I doesn't stand treat for that!  Do you know what this is?" and Ned drew a sovereign from his pocket and tossed it towards the ceiling.

    "Californy," said Sam, with a knowing wink.

    "Yes; no Jowey, that.  Correct likeness of Her Majesty in the real thing.  What say you to a bottle of the rowsy

    "What's that?"

    "Wine."

    "I never drink sich like stuff.  Nowt for one's teeth to get howd on.  Too thin—too thin by th' hawve for comfortable seawkin."

    "Doesn't know that.  You've the appearance of having done something in that line.  Jolly face of your own.  Cost you something."

    "Ay—oather me or someb'dy else."

    "Belong to the Constitutional 'Sociation, perhaps?"

    "What's that?"

    "Half a dozen bitters in the forenoon, ditto grogs in the awfternoon, phiz under the twinklers, and a stretcher in the mornin.  That's what we call taking a constitutional."

    "Ay, well, it may suit yo' gentlefolk; but gi'e me a waistcoatful o' good honest fourpenny. Never maks a chap knockakneed; an' if he tumbles int' a gutter, he's nowt to do nobbut poo th' stars o'er him, an' he'll be as reet as if he're under a yep o' Yor'shur blankets."

    "Well, cawn't we git a drop o' your own sort?" said Ned, with the germ of what he would esteem a "good dodge" expanding in his mind.  I'm as thirsty as a coach-hoss."

    "We con goo down as far as owd Tabby's, if thou's a mind," suggested Sam, smacking his lips at the prospect of "a day o'th' owd sort."

    "Old Tabby's!  Where's that?"

    "Th' 'Jolly Carter,' down th' lone.  It'll be as quiet as an empty loomhouse just now, I dar'say.  Then ther's a pratty wench theere, wi' arms as reawnt as a pickin-peg, an' a pair o' een ut'll fetch th' skin off thy face like th' sun in a hayfielt, ift' doesno' mind.  Gradely howsome mak."

    "Ow! the very thing.  Glad you named it.  Is the girl engaged?"

    "Well, o th' lads i'th' country thinken they're gooin to have her; but as soon as hoo claps her e'en upo' thee, it'll be wo-up wi' th' whul lot on 'em.  Now Alice Winwood's gone, an' nobody knows wheere hoo is, poor lass!—Matty Charleswo'th's nicest wench i' Merriton."

    "Alice Winwood!" exclaimed Ned; "is that the young lady at the Hall?"

    "Her ut wur theere," Sam replied, with a shake of the head.  "I'd give summat beside th' skin off my porritch for t' know wheere hoo is."

    Ned put his forefinger to his lip, and looked thoughtful.  "Splendid bait," he said to himself, after considering for a moment.  "I know where the girl is.  Heard it at the keyhole.  If I was to give the old cove the tip, he'd perhaps tell me all about the mo'gage deed, if he knows where it is.  Capital idea!  Git him well primed wi' swipes—then out comes the snitch.  It'll be the making of me—or rather the saving.  Did too much on the Dawby.  'Fraid I cawn't pull ap, if this doesn't turn out a good thing."

    "I conno' think but Dicky Holmroyd has had summat t' do with her gooin," pursued the weaver, in so changed a tone and manner, that Ned could not help being struck with it.

    "Mr. Holmroyd has had something to do with it," said the latter, rising from his chair and slapping the old man on the shoulder.  "All right, my boy.  I know where the young lady is."

    "Then tell me, for th' sake of hersel, an' that great God ut's now lookin down on us, an' knows when we're dooin reet an' when we're dooin wrong,—tell me, do, an' if that lass is at the world's end, an' these owd legs 'll carry me theere, I'll goo an' find her."  And with the energy of a man much younger in years, Sam o' Ducky's sprang from the bedside, and stood before the astonished emissary, for the moment an altered being.

* Putter-out, a person who gives out work to weavers.


――――――――――――


CHAPTER X.


SAM o' DUCKY'S and Ned Tipham, having entered into a compact to render each other mutual service in certain matters, agreed to ratify the same by a "stoop" of the "Jolly Carter's" best.  They accordingly left the confined limits of Tummy Trotter's hut, and sauntered down to the village hostelry, both in lively anticipation of a good day's fun and frolic.

    There were a number of haymakers assembled at the tavern, holding the "harvest home" in their own peculiar manner.  The hay was a good crop, and had been "housed" without a single drop of rain upon it.  As a matter of course, Dame Charlesworth was liberal with her helpers, who were equally liberal with their attentions to the good things provided.  There was "Sogger" and "Pincher," and "Jammie o'Tum's," "Bowzer," "Swankey," "Lunger," "Toppin," "Lobber," and "Snuffle," all as merry as crickets who have just laid in their stock of music for Christmas chirping.  There was the smell of sweet hay in the room, and mingling with it the odour of the shippon, coming in at the opened back door.  Hayseeds and sand fraternised on the floor; and, for once in a time, the day being hot, the fireplace had been permitted to retain its suit of black, and give coolness instead of heat to the room.  A stack of oatcakes stood upon the table, in company with a crescent of cheese, and pats of butter that had the resemblance of a bed of marigolds.  Oatcake, cheese, and butter were rapidly disappearing; for the men were hungry, and most of them had unexceptionable grinders.  No one durst venture to sing as yet, or tell a story, for fear of being behind in the race of eating.  But they were all merry notwithstanding—letting off jokes like crackers, and roaring and showing their teeth until the little pats of butter looked frightened.

    Matty Charlesworth was a sort of harvest-queen amongst these revellers—her head crowned with a tiara of ribbons, in which real flowers were inwoven.  Along with the cat and the flies, and the birds in their wire palaces, she had imbibed the spirit of the occasion, and frisked and buzzed and sang with the heartiest glee.  I wonder who durst have "made up to her" then, as the local term for popping the question goes?  Nobody who knew her, or had heard of her antecedents—how she had befooled "Pincher," "Jammie o' Tum's," and "Bowley"—the latter having gone to the Indies, it was said, through her.  I say nobody who knew her; but wait until Sam o' Ducky's and Ned Tipham make their appearance, and we'll see if there be not gallantry elsewhere than in Merriton.

    Sam and his cockney friend arrived in due time, and were received in a style peculiar to the locality—the offering of sundry jugs, out of which to drink anybody's health.

    The lawyer in perspective took off his hat, and bowed his acknowledgments to the company.  His companion neither took off his hat nor bowed, but shouted, "How are yo', lads?" and made a scramble among the jugs, as if with the intention of housing an ale harvest.

    "Reet, owd crayther," was the many-voiced response to Sam's inquiry.

    "Ay, yo' looken so," said the old weaver, talking down to the bottom of the measure he was in the act of draining.  "Yo're as howsome a lot as I've seen for mony a rent day.  Noane o' yo'r town's colour here (turning to his companion).  Gradely good hard sort.  No tub i' Manchester could dye that.  An' yo' couldno' blaitch 'em, noather' beaut whitewesh.  Just tak a snift o'th' smell there is about.  No candle-broth that, nor soot-porritch, I'll have yo' to know.  Nawe, nawe—howsome as a milk-wench."  And again he looked at his other self in the jug.

    "Art' gooin to join our company?" shouted "Sogger," from under the clock.

    "Oh, I dunno' care," Sam replied, giving his cockney friend a hint with his elbow, as he took his seat beside that worthy.  "Any road 'll do for me, so as I find mysel th' reet eend up.  Ay, I dunno' mind."  The latter sentence was in answer to an inquiry whispered by his friend.  After which it appeared Matty Charlesworth had to be consulted.

    That young lady, in response to a very polite movement of Ned Tipham's finger, tripped across the room with the majestic grace of a stage shepherdess advancing to meet an Arcadian lover somewhere about the footlights.

    "Git us a quo't o' six ale," said Ned, ogling the bit of coquetry before him as if he would like to eat it, ribbons and all.  He had purposed ordering only a pint at first, but receiving such a smile from Matty as never "Lavinia" bestowed on "Palemon," his lips, somehow, could not fashion anything less than a "quo't."  Had she smiled again, I have no doubt it would have been half a gallon.

    The girl, after taking the order, tripped back to the bar, followed by the eyes of her new customer, which met her own as she turned the corner of the doorway.

    It was all over with Ned.  He could have stood an hour's cross-examination in the witness-box, and come out without as much as a "hair turned."  He could have faced a whole circuit of judges, and given them "lip for lip."  He could have listened to all manner of threats from a bench of the "great unpaid," and slyly hinted that they were "duffers;" but sharpshooting from behind the cover of a woman's eyelashes he could not stand—and he didn't, for he was brought down by the first shot.

    "Well, what dost' think about you bit o' impidence?" said Sam o' Ducky's to his friend, giving his elbow a little exercise against the other's ribs.  "Is nor hoo a tulip?"

    "The splendidest piece o' gimcrackry that ever blest my eyes," Ned replied, diving his hand into his pocket, and bringing out the "quid," which he felt half disposed to spend at one "gow."

    "Ay, ther's no dirt about her," observed the weaver—"o gradely atin.  If hoo're melted down, hood be like guineagowd—aulus th' same weight—as Little Nopper used to taich us.  I could like t' know what hoo's thinkin about now."

    "Why?" Ned asked.

    "Becose I never seed her sken at nob'dy as hoo did at thee," was the reply.

    "Do you think I've made an impression?"

    "I dunno' know what thou meeans by that, but if hoo doesno' see thy picthur i' every pot i'th' bar, it'll be becose hoo's stricken dateless.  I dar'say her yead's gooin round just now like a whip-top.  Mind if hoo doesno' mak a blunder.  Theigher, I towd thee.  Hoo's bringin a pint i'stid of a quart.  Thou's made a job ov her benow, that thou has.  Ift' stops o day th' krunner (coroner) 'll ha' to goo o'er her, an' thou'll be hanged for murther.  I con see it's comin to that straightforrad.  What hast' browt that for, Matty?"  This was addressed to the girl, who had made the blunder Sam predicted.  "He said a quart."

    "Eh, I'd forgetten," said Matty, jerking herself round, as if to avoid the strangely expressive glance with which her new admirer fancied he was subduing her.

    "Ay, thou'll forget who thou art e'ennow," said Sam, "an' think thou art somebody else, same as Lung Jammie did when he thowt he're a brid, an' ne'er fund th' difference out till he tried to fly out of a tree, an' dropped to th' ground like a seckful o' porritoes."

    Matty blushed, and catching Ned Tipham's eye as she turned about, sent that young gentleman into such a transport of admiration, that he felt as if his own head was not secure in its position.  The latter had quite made up his mind that when the girl returned he would speak to her—say something sweet, if he did not go further—and declare his newly-inspired passion.  He had seen nothing like her, never!  The nearest approach to such an angel was the girl who had driven him from his home in Pimlico, to seek peace and forgetfulness in the cold and barbarous north.  Matty soon gave him an opportunity of putting forth his gallant intentions, as she immediately returned to correct the mistake she had previously made.

    "Theigher! that's summat like," said Sam o' Ducky's, winking in a very antiquated manner at his companion; then he whispered—"Dunno' set her agate o' tremblin o at once.  Thoose tother chaps happen mit notice, an' thou'd be gettin thy yead int' a wasp neest.  Ther's some on 'em ud think nowt ut splittin they clogs again a chap's yead, if ther a wench concarned in it; so mind what thou'rt dooin; thou'll ha' plenty o' chances, thou'll see."

    "Thank you," said Ned, feeling highly flattered by the old man's advice.  "Cawn't help being haindsome, you know.  Didn't make my own figure, or I mightn't have put it on so.  Can you give me change for a quid he said, addressing Matty, and tendering her the only respectable coin in his possession.

    "Eh, nawe, I conno', mesther," replied the girl, shaking her head, and involuntarily consulting her pocket, which only yielded a brassy, jingling sound, suggestive of thimbles, girdle-buckles, and twopenny diamond rings.  "I'st ha' to goo out for it."

    "Sorry to give you so much trouble," said Ned, feeling half inclined to say "Keep the change," only it was not convenient to mature the disposition, "but it's the ownly blant I've got, except a fiver.  What must we do?"

    "Yo'n happen be comin this road again some time," said Matty, with a smile expressive of confidence in her admirer's honesty.

    "Ow! sure to be owver again—fifty times in the course of next week, if I can get out of the oaffice.  Saturday awfternoon I shall be here, and no mistake, flying on the wings of"—

    "Dunno' try to fly," said Sam, interrupting his companion, and checking him in his rhetorical expedition.  "Ift' does thou'll happen be th' same as Long Jammie—get thy nose brasted wi' tuppin owd England.  Dunno' try flyin.  Keep on thy legs, ift' meeans t' keep thy carcase whul."

    "But I'd fly on the wings of love," said Ned, completing the sentence in another burst of enthusiasm.

    "Ay, well, but I dunno' think that chap's as safe as a tumbler pigeon.  Th' owd plan's th' best yet."  And Sam chuckled in his quiet, gleeful manner.

    "I say, my dawling!"Ned exclaimed, seeing that Matty was turning away.

    "They're knocking at th' tother table," said the girl.  And she tripped away just as her admirer was on the point of making known what a storm of love was gathering in his breast.

    "Well, isnor hoo a bouncer?" said Sam o' Ducky's, with another of his old-fashioned winks.

    "Splendid creature! and no mistake," was Ned's reply.  "What think you of her eyes?"

    "The'r enoogh to fetch a duck off th' wayter."

    "And her smiles?"

    "The'r calkilated for makkin moore sinners nor ever Tum Payne did wi' his praichin."

    "Do you think she's nuts on me?"

    "Nuts! ay, men—an' gingybread, an' towffy, an' lozengers—a whul sweetstuff shop, hoo is.  It's like gooin into a garden, bein' at side o' her.  But just thee mind what thou'rt dooin.  Yon chaps are watchin.  I con see Pincher's yore risin like a cat's back o'ready.  If he barks he'll fly at thee like a bulldog; for he thinks th' wo'ld o' yon wench."

    "Can he box?" inquired the other, feeling that, if occasion offered, he would be bound to do something valiant, as the knights of old did to win the favour of their mistresses.

    "Nawe, I dunno' think he con, nobbut wi' his clogs," was the reply.  "An' thoose he con use same as if they'rn born with him.  Nowt like ticklin ther shins wi' a bit o' owler, if they wanten a battle to be o'er soon."

    "Ow!—that's bawbarous, savage, beastly!—couldn't for the world staind that."

    "Well, just stond thrate for 'em, no' becose they wanten it; for I dar'say they'n plenty to do on, an' if folk ud nobbut sup when they feel'n it ud do 'em good, they'd be less drinkin nor ther is; but then it ud show thou'd nowt again 'em; an' then they'd say thou'rt best chap they ever set een on; an' if any on 'em geet reausty after that, th' tother ud polish 'em int' ther good behaviour afore thou could get thy jacket off."

    "Ow!—I'm not a champ.  Don't mind stainding treat, just to see there's no ill-feeling."

    "Well, I dunno' think owd Tabby's used any choke (chalk) for mony a year; an' as thou's getten int' her books o'ready, it shows someb'dy thinks summat.  Con thou sing?"

    "No; cawn't sing at all."

    "That's a bad job.  If thou could ha' sung that tweedlin-twidlin sort o' singin, same as those ragged chaps wi' shoiny hats dun ut come out o'th' town a-beggin, thou'd ha' made Matty hoo'd ha' set her ears like a rappit at a hontful o' clover."

    "Well, I down't mind just trying a verse, if you'd git order," said Ned, looking round, and giving a few slight coughs to clear his throat.  "But you know I cawn't sing.  Will you git order?"

    "Oh, they'n be as quiet as moice as soon as thou cocks thy nose; so brast off."  And the old weaver commenced stamping, to command attention.

    "Hallo!" shouted Sogger, from the other table, "yon pikel's (hayfork) gooin to sing.  Just shut your boaxholes* a bit, chaps, an' give o'er heawsin while's he's done."

    "Ay, tak yo'r wynt a bit," sung out Jammie o' Tum's.

    "Husht, chaps," shouted several—when Ned Tipham got upon his feet, and passing his fingers through his hair, as if to rake up the music and put it in trim order, said—

    "Gentlemen—down't expect a song from me.  I down't profess to be a singer—not at all.  Ownly done a thing or two at the 'Pipe and Goblet' Free-and-Easy, of which I've the honour to be chairman—doing the hammer bizness, and calling to order.  Light my cigaw at eight, prompt.  A-hem.  You'll excuse me, gentlemen, if I break down—a-hem—a-hem!"

    He then, in a rather severe treble, evidently pitched several notes too high, commenced singing something about would-ing he "were a bird," that he "might fly" to somebody referred to only in the second person; but, breaking down at the end of the fourth line, substituted another song.  In this he was no more fortunate than in the first; so a third was attempted, and got through with only a few false starts, and one or two pauses, such as the best singers will sometimes make.  He was loudly applauded on sitting down; and the "quid" in his pocket got remarkably hot.  It would have to be "melted"—most certainly.

    Jammie o' Tum's declared he "never yerd nowt like it sin' that chap ut forgeet to pay his lodgin-brass coome a-singin at th' 'Shewer an' Cop,' one wakes time."  Sogger said he should "sing any brid i' Merriton for a new seed-box, an' give 'em a sung at five."  Swankey would like to "tramp with him, an' show th' hat-limn for him."  He knew they'd "mak a fortin straightforrad."  All which compliments Ned swallowed with such a modest repudiation of personal merit, that it is a wonder he was not so disgusted with himself as never to "appear in public" again.

    While this was going on, Sam o' Ducky's, taking advantage of his companion's musical engagement, had installed himself in the bar, and was apparently making such proposals to Matty Charlesworth as ought to have set the whole eligible youth of Merriton in a blaze of jealousy.

    "Matty," said the old man, in a confidential whisper, "yon chap knows wheere Alice Winwood's gone to."

    "Yo' never sayn!" exclaimed the girl, with a look of astonishment.

    "Yigh but I do; an' I want thee to get it out on him, for he winno' tell me."

    "Well, but how con I?"

    "As yezzily as drawin a pint o' drink.  He's i' love wi' thee—now then."

    "Wi' me, Sam?"

    "Ay, up to th' tips of his ears, an' they middlin long uns."

    "Well, an' what by it?"

    "If thou could mak him believe 'at thou're i' love wi' him, he'd lose his wits straightforrad.  He'd be wurr nor bein' drunken, an' that's bad enoogh."

    "Well?"

    "Well, thou could get owt out of him thou'd a mind to ax."

    "But he mit be impident, an' I should be forgettin mysel, an' givin him a smack i'th' face."

    "Ay, but thou munno' do that.  Thou mun draw him out like pin wire.  I know thou con.  Beside, thou'rt not to an odd buss, areta?  Thou'd ha' plenty laft."

    "Get out, yo' owd sinner?  I'll smack yo' e'ennow."  And Matty did raise her hand, and gave the old fellow a slap that he made believe would increase the size of the lump behind his shoulders.

    "Eh, thou little pousement!" Sam exclaimed, patting the girl on the head.  "If owd Time ud knock me sixty year off, an' put as mony saycrets (secrets) i' my yead, thou should have every one on 'em for axin for."

    "I see now," said Matty, a little more thoughtfully than she was accustomed to regard most things; "yo' wanten me to get t' know wheere Alice Winwood is, by shammin to like yon chap; dunno'yo'?"

    "Ay, I do, my little angel beaut wings."

    "Well, then, if I con get to know I will."

    "Bless thee, Matty!  Thou desarves a gingybread sweetheart for that, an' then thou could bite his yead off when thou geet out o' concait wi' him.  But thou'll do as t' says?"

    "Ay, I will, Sam, for th' sake o' Alice.  Not ut I think it's reet for t' plague a chap, an' mak him believe things ut are no' true."

    "But thou's done it mony a time for nowt, Matty."

    "I know I have, wi' foos."

    "Well, do it once moore for th' sake o' somebody ut is nor a foo."

    "I will, bless her—wheerever hoo is."

    "An' bless thee, too, thou little buzzert!  Thou's made wayter t' come i' my owd een—thou has.  But I'll goo an' mak yon chap's yure t' stood ov his yead like th' pikes on th' Ho gates."  Saying which, the old weaver toddled out of the bar, and went to join his "learnèd and talented friend" in the other room.

* Boazhole is the aperture through which hay is put when "housing" it in a common hayloft.


――――――――――――


CHAPTER XI.


AND now let the curtain rise on the principal act of this little drama.  Raise it slowly, that we may linger in sweet anticipation of what it may disclose.

    The scene is a snug parlour that usually hath that quiet, jaunty air about it suggestive of single life, for it is a small room, and the furniture is so dainty, the covers on the chairs so coquettish, and the kettle on the hob so diminutive and so merry, that you might take oath none of them had ever listened to those exceedingly unpoetical discourses that generally follow late hours and lost latch-keys: when it has been found impossible to unlock the door with a cigar, or creep upstairs without a disagreeable reference being made to the performances of the Dutch clock on the mantel-piece.  The little table, standing in the centre of the room, is set out with books, that look as if they had all been born at Christmas, and ushered into the world along with presents of plumcake and gilt-labelled bottles.  They are small and daintily bound, and would be fit company for wax dolls, placed in little cabinets, and surrounded by groves of formal trees in extravagantly-coloured samplers.  Even the lustres—one of them making rainbows on the wall, while the other appears to be thinking the sun ought to shine on both—are suggestive of—no, not of old-maidhood, but of some presiding spirit whose only companions are the cat, the fire, the kettle, the books, and the little saucy-looking tea-service peeping from its nest of cupboard in the chimney-corner.  It is the matron's parlour in this big, many-roomed retreat for the humanity that hath lost all power of caring for itself.

    And now that the curtain is up, who are the actors?  Who are those two people sitting on the sofa?  Why do they whisper to each other so low and tenderly?  And what has the kettle to do with it that it should pause in its singing, and listen?  Well might a certain advocate of single-blessedness think he was in the way when he saw in what quarter the wind was setting.  First recognition, then deep grief, and anon a confession of love so wild and rapturous, that the hearts of both are carried away as if by magic, from out the world they were living in, to breathe a magic, purer, holier atmosphere, in a world of their own creating.  And what little tendernesses are being interchanged; what delightful memories are being recalled, and incidents that give colouring to a whole life restored, with the yearnings, jealousies, and heartburnings, of a period that, with all its storms and shadows, existence knows none brighter!  Surely that is not a maniac's face looking up so sweetly into eyes that feast on its light.  That is not a maniac's hair that flows so freely round a forehead that may be likened to the East—tearing away the clouds that it may shine in fullest splendour.  No; yet it has been stormy there, and the rain has fallen in showers; but the elements that have made this pother are settling into a quiet lull, and the arch of promise is spanning the earth.

    "It does not seem to me, Alice," said Dolmey Turtingtower, "that it was only yesterday your father was buried.  I can scarcely realise that such an event has happened at all."

    "No more can I, Dolmey—not just now," said Alice Winwood, nestling her head on Dolmey's breast, where it shall lie many and many a happy hour, when this troublous time hath passed away—"not now, when I have found another.  Oh! Dolmey, you won't think me silly, will you, when I say things that I have thought before, but could not say then?"

    "Think you silly, darling!  No; not unless all love be silliness."  And Dolmey raised a curl to his lips, which drew them down to other lips, and sealed an expression there that words were never known to give full utterance to.

    "It makes me think," said Alice, after this fond caress, "of the time you used to loiter about the gate, when I thought you had nothing to stay for, because Geoffrey was in bed, and the whole house retiring.  I could see you from my window in those long twilights; and to me you were so different from others, that I have caught myself thinking about you when I wondered why I should be.  Must I tell you when I first thought about you?"

    How could Dolmey say "No," with all that music chiming in his ears?  He didn't.  Nobody could have done.  If he could not fashion his lips to say "Yes," he could look the word, and Alice required no further encouragement.

    "Do you remember," she said, "you and Geoffrey building a castle by the brook-side?"

    "I do, well," Dolmey replied.

    "Geoffrey set a 'craddie,' as he called it.  He jumped the brook, and dared you to follow.  He was a stronger boy than you, and I was afraid you could not reach so far.  But you had such a spirit in your face, that I could see you would have followed had the brook been twice as wide.  You did follow, but no farther than the middle.  You dropped up to your waist in the water, and looked so pitiable when you crawled out, with those poor clothes you wore so wet.  My heart jumped with you, and it pitied you, and then it loved; for you were such a quiet boy, and you had such a strong hope in your eyes, that it made everyone happy about you; and we had need of comfort sometimes, Heaven knows."

    "And Heaven, I think, has brought about this meeting.  I see its hand in it."

    There was another hand than that of Providence near; for a knock was heard at the door.

    "Come in."

    The hand did come in, and it was raised in Dolmey's face.  It was the hand of Geoffrey Winwood.

    Geoffrey did not strike, though his hand was raised.  Something there was in his sister's face that bridled his passion; and the look of wonder with which Dolmey Turtingtower met his fierce glance, induced the sudden thought that some explanation might be offered which would relieve his friend of the imputation of being concerned in the abduction of Alice.  He had never thoroughly believed Richard Holmroyd's insinuations against Dolmey.  He had rather encouraged the suspicion that his cousin was at the bottom of it all; that the latter had of late so pressed his suit upon Alice as to compel her flight, now that there was double opportunity for these persecutions to be renewed.  But he could in no way account for his sister's motive in selecting the workhouse for an asylum, unless it was that she considered it the place least likely to be visited by anyone in search.  These views had modified Geoffrey's anxiety about the fugitive; hence the leisurely manner in which he set about her pursuit.  But when he appeared at the gates, and upon inquiry was told that a gentleman was in company with Alice, and that there had been no little excitement about the circumstance among the officials, the worst suspicions flashed upon his mind, and he prepared himself for an act of vengeance.  Still, why were they at the workhouse, and on what pretence had they been admitted?  It was an enigma that must find immediate solution.

    "How is this, Alice,—Dolmey?  Why do I find you here, and together?" Geoffrey demanded, his hand clinched at the time, but with less of menace in his action.

    If not answered in a moment, he was to a certain degree assured; for Alice had entwined her arms round his neck before a word of explanation could be uttered.  And she looked with her two sweet eyes into his own; and if there was guilt in their expression, what form or light must innocence borrow to make its identity manifest?

    "Oh, Geoffrey, what is the matter?" exclaimed the girl, still clinging about her brother's neck with all a sister's fondness.  "But I see by your looks you suspect an old friend of something he is not guilty of.  I mean――"  Here she blushed, and looked at Dolmey, who blushed in turn, and put on a very awkward look, as if it was the hardest thing in the world to appear innocent when accused of a wrongful act.

    "Do you mean to say you've not done this at the instigation of this man?" said Geoffrey, doubtful whether he ought not to have flung the girl from him instead of allowing her to cling about his person.

    "Geoffrey, I don't understand you," said Alice, with a look of astonishment at her brother.

    "What—you don't?  Tell me what you are doing here?  Who brought you?"

    "Was it without your knowledge that I was sent here, brother?"

    "Why do you ask that?  Do you think I could be a party to your running away?"

    "Running away, Geoffrey?  You astonish me.  Did you not send me here?"

    "Not I.  I didn't know you were here at all until this morning; and it was quite an accident that I got to know then.  How comes it? "

    "You ask me more than I can answer.  All I know is that I was brought here, and much against my will."

    "By whom?"

    "Nay, don't ask me.  It is quite a dream to me, I can assure you."

    "On what pretence were you brought?"

    "Madness, they say, and I think with some reason; for I have not been my own person since.  It is strange you know nothing of it."

    "So far from knowing that you were here, I was led to suspect you had eloped, and circumstances favoured that suspicion."

    "Eloped!  With whom, Geoffrey?"

    "With the very man in whose company I have found you."

    "What!  Dolmey Turtingtower?  Oh, brother! how could you?"

    Dolmey Turtingtower?  How tenderly the name was uttered by the timid and astonished girl let the thrill that shot through Dolmey's heart attest, and the altered demeanour of Geoffrey towards his old friend otherwise than gainsay.

    "Who, then, am I to suspect—who believe?  Dolmey Turtingtower—let me hear from you some explanation of this mystery; for to me it is one."

    Geoffrey tenderly relieved himself of his sister's embrace, and, turning towards his old companion, suffered the expression of a not deeply-rooted, but fiery resentment to take leave of a face upon which it sat with so unfamiliar a presence, and he spoke with a calmer utterance.

    "Geoffrey Winwood," said Dolmey, rising and holding out his hand, which the other hesitated to grasp, "it is but natural that you should suspect me of having at least participated in this affair, from the situation in which you have found me.  But I assure you, on the faith of an old friend, that until this morning I knew nothing of your sister's whereabouts, or that she had left home at all.  Like you, I owe it to an accident that I met with her.  Believe me, or believe me not, that is the truth.  I will not say it is the whole truth?"

    Here he looked at Alice, and Geoffrey could not help observing that there was something in the glances they exchanged that was calculated to help him over a considerable difficulty.  He saw, and had heard, sufficient to induce him to accept the hand his friend offered, and to take a seat beside him.

    Dolmey Turtingtower here began to describe the circumstance of his meeting with Miss Winwood; the purpose of his visit to the workhouse, and his surprise at the result; but forbore to enter upon matters that needed no explanation with Alice leaning so lovingly upon his shoulder, and listening.  Geoffrey Winwood required not that explanation should take a course that delicacy hinted was too sacred for curious inquiry; and he contented himself with drawing inferences from what he could observe.  He could not mistake the relations which existed betwixt his sister and his friend, and inwardly rejoiced that things were not taking the turn he had been led to anticipate.  Still, by whose authority had Alice been sent away?  A light suddenly broke upon him, and turning to his sister, he said――

    "Alice, do you think cousin Dick has had anything to do with this?"

    "I do not know," Alice replied, turning pale at the recollections of incidents it was painful to reflect upon.  "All that I am conscious of is being seized by two men, and forced into Doctor Splintworth's carriage, and brought to this place.  They said I was insane, and that they were afraid I should commit myself at the funeral, if I did not do worse things.  I screamed and struggled, but it was of no use.  They drove me away, and I was unconscious of anything further until I found myself here.  I dare say the master and everybody about me took me to be mad, and with reason, for I felt such strange sensations come over me."

    "Why didn't you write, or make complaints?" Geoffrey inquired.

    "I did write, several times," Alice replied, "but receiving no answer, I thought you had all concluded I was insane, and that it was best to leave me to the care of those who had charge over me."

    "Strange!" said Geoffrey, "I never saw any letters."

    "But I wrote, and always to you; and I thought it cruel that I could not be permitted to perform my last duties to my dead father's remains."  Here Alice sobbed, and an expression of sadness came upon her face.

    "I see it now!" Geoffrey exclaimed, laying his hand on Dolmey's knee, "Cousin Dick is at the bottom of it all.  I have suspected him from the first, and now I am convinced.  Dolmey, give me your hand, old fellow!  God bless you! we shall have need of your friendship.  Your love, I see, is already bespoken; she (glancing at Alice) has secured all that.  But come, we must find some means of getting quit of this place.  Oh, Dick, what treachery thou art capable of!  He loved Alice, Dolmey, and suspected you of standing in his way."

    "How could he be suspicious of me?" asked Dolmey.

    "Never mind, he was, for he told me so, and not only that, but he tried to foist upon you the responsibility of my sister's disappearance.  Has he ever been to see you, Alice?"

    "Once," was the reply.

    "There you have it.  He denied to me all knowledge of her whereabouts, and set out this morning on pretence of seeking her.  Oh, the villain!  But come, Dolmey, we must lay this case before the master.  I know him to be a man of right feeling, and have no doubt that he will accede to our wishes.  Alice—oh, I beg your pardon, Dolmey; I had forgotten she had more than one protector.  I see she prefers your arm to mine.  Well, I'm not at all jealous of the preference.  I wonder what old Sam o' Ducky's will say to this discovery.  I left him outside to wait my return.  He'll be astonished when he finds I've been more fortunate than I expected to be."

    "Why wouldn't the old man come in?" asked Dolmey, feeling the soft pressure of Miss Winwood's hand upon his arm, as they turned to leave the room.

    "Oh, it would have taken a carthorse to have dragged him in," Geoffrey replied, opening a door which entered upon a gravelled walk in the enclosure.  "You know the feeling that some classes of working people have against applying to the parish."

    "Yes, I know their antipathy towards pauperism to be strong," Dolmey replied.  "I shall be sorry if ever it comes to be otherwise."

    "Well, it was that feeling that prevented old Sam being of much assistance to me, though he came purposely to take a part in what he looked upon as something like rescuing a prisoner from a giant's stronghold.  I fancy the old man knows something more than what he chooses to tell me.  He has been very mysterious to-day."

    "Indeed!" said Dolmey.

    "Yes; something he's going to do to-night"—

    "Oh, by the by," said Dolmey, interrupting his friend, "have you seen the papers to-day?"

    "No."

    "I see Red Windows Hall is in the market."

    "What, already?"

    "Yes; a sale is advertised for next week.  I forget the exact date."

    "I might have expected it, though not so soon.  Dick won't allow grass to grow under his feet.  He believes there is a mortgage on the estate; but who is the mortgagee has never transpired.  Father had once some transactions in cotton that nearly upset him.  There was a good deal of mystery about it at the time, and I think Dick could never bottom it.  I don't think he means to part with the estate.  I rather suppose he merely wants to test its value, and the amount of encumbrance upon it."

    "What do you think it will fetch?"

    "I've not the slightest idea."

    "Do you think it will fetch fifty thousand?"

    "I'm afraid it won't."

    "Well, suppose I commission you to bid up to that sum."

    "Dolmey!"

    "Never mind your surprise.  What say you?"

    "Without wishing to offend, Dolmey, are you prepared to follow it up?"

    "That is my business, Geoffrey.  If fifty thousand will buy the estate,—you know what I promised you when we parted the night your father died."

    "I do.  I felt hurt at the time by your saying you were glad."

    "But you mistook my meaning.

    "Yes; I see it now."

    "Well, Geoffrey, you attend the sale; bid for me, and—you know the rest.  Fifty thousand, and the rightful heir to Red Windows Hall shall have his own."

    This conversation was conducted in an underbreath, so that Alice heard it not.  She felt concerned, however, when she saw that tears were starting out of her brother's eyes, and she thought of their former miseries.

    "What is the matter with Geoffrey?" she said, turning to her lover.

    Dolmey, too, was full.  He took hold of the hand within his arm, and a tear fell upon it.

    "Never mind, my dear," he said, it is happiness."

    In a short time after entering the master's office they were seen to emerge from it; sundry boxes that had come up from Red Windows Hall being sent after them.  The cab that had brought Dolmey Turtingtower from Manchester was chartered for another journey.  The boxes were hoisted on the top, and Dolmey led his affianced to the door.


――――――――――――

 
CHAPTER XII.


IN the quiet village where "Tummy Trotter" sleeps in his still quieter grave, stands a detached cottage, with a triangular-shaped garden in front, entered by a small wicket of such an odd construction that you might safely have concluded an eccentric lived, or had lived there.  The garden at the time these incidents took place was suffering from neglect, and the creepers which climbed about the cottage walls had been allowed to have so much of their own way as almost to shut out what little light the windows, in even their unobstructed nudity, were calculated to admit.  There was a swarm of poultry about the premises, presided over by a venerable-looking donkey, whose worn and ragged coat was seamed in places so as to resemble the rough and wrinkled exterior of a rhinoceros, and who amused himself occasionally by presenting his heels to the impertinences of a gamecock, who would not consent quietly to have his dominion interfered with.  A cart of very homely construction was up-ended at one corner of the dwelling; and sundry black and much-worn sacks hung from nails that had been driven into the walls.  A litter of hay, straw, and potato peelings was strewn about the door of a small box of a place intended for, in fact, doing the duty of a palace for the long-eared potentate who was lording it over the garden.  The cottage appeared to have been brought up in an atmosphere of coal dust, judging from its grimy exterior; but the interior was neat and comfortable notwithstanding, as most cottages are where want, or habits of drunkenness, do not prevail.

    Towards this cottage Sam o' Ducky's bent his legs.  Arriving at the gate, he looked round to reconnoitre, paying particular attention to the donkey and the fowls, and wondering if the garden would have been in its then neglected state if "Coal Jimmy" had been living.  He thought not, and mused upon the change, then casting his eyes towards the door, beheld something that brought out grins and chuckles in abundance.

    A middle-aged woman, habited in a blue printed bed-gown, with under-garments that were not too long to display a good development of ankle, which a tightly-fitting white stocking did its best to set off, was slushing and mopping the floor.  She wore ringed pattens, and clinked about in them as if performing some kind of figure allied to a Scotch sword dance.  As she approached the door, Sam sang out—

    "Thou'rt swillin thy cote out, owd crayther!"

    The dame brought her mop to a stand, and, stroking back the hair which had fallen over her face, said—

    "Is that yo', Sam?"

    "A bit o'th' owd turmit," Sam replied, opening the gate and walking forward.  "How arta, owd wench?"

    "I'm as reet as fourpenno'th o' copper," said the dame, who rejoiced in the cognomen of "Coal Betty."  "How are yo', Sam?"

    "Well, thou sees," replied the weaver, "my chin's gettin nar my garters nor it used to be, an' I feel a bit shaky upo' my props.  But I'm sound about th' karnil, an' quite laddish about th' yead.  Thou looks prime, owd damsel!  How are th' childer?"

    "Eh, they'n o getten wed obbut our Sarah, an' hoo'll no' be lung, for hoo's coortin very dree," said Betty, motioning with her head towards the interior of the cottage.

    "Ay, ay," said the weaver, musingly.  What sort o' sons an' dowters-in-law hast' gotten?  Are they of a farrantly mak?"

    "Middlin," replied Betty.  "Two of our wenches are wed to colliers, gettin good wage, but they can ate welly o they getten.  An' our Joe has wed a manty-makker; but hoo hasno' mich wark, becose wenches about here are begun o' dooin their own sewin."

    "Oh, thou'rt gettin quite among th' quality, I yer.  Thou'll be larnin to talk fine th' next, an' gettin a tinklin box i'th' house; tho' I think thy fingers are rayther too wark-proud for t' do mich music o' that sort.  Kayther (cradle) music has bin moore i' thy road.  What sort of a chap has yo'r Sarah getten?"

    "Oh, he's a quality, gradely, our Sarah felly is.  He wears a watch, an' goes into bar-parlours."

    "Ay, does he wear a watch?  I dunno' like that.  I never knew a mon yet ut wore a watch but he went too fast.  He're sure to gallop when he should ha' walked, an' get to th' end of his bant i' no time.  An' as for gooin into bar-parlours, I never knew mich sense come out o' theere.  If they gotten a bit o' yure o' their top lip, an' a fine word or two i' ther mouth, an' con tickle a barmaid beaut gettin a clout o' th' side o' th' yead, they thinken they're everybody, when they're nob'dy at th' same time.  I'm down on 'em, speshly if their hats are greasy, an' their yure as oily as th' middle of a cart-wheel, an' their trousers chattert at th' bottom, an' their dickies about th' colour of a marigowd, an' as mony rings o' their fingers as ud mak a clog cheean.  I wouldno' give a scaudin o' crabs for a whul kennelful o' sich like whelps.  Is thy hearthstone getten dry, dost think?"

    "Oh, ay—come in, if yo' wanton to sit yo' down.  Yo' munno' think nowt at me not axin yo' afore.  One is forgetful sometimes."

    "Well, I'll just have a bit of a cank wi' thee, as thou maks so mich trouble.  Thou looks weel i' pattens, owd crayther!  How owd dost' co thysel i'?"

    "I'm gettin on for fifty, Sam, if I dunno' look so owd."

    "Ay, thou'll be turnin back to about forty i' ten year fro' now, I reckon.  Women aulus gooan backort wi' their age as soon as their leaves begin o' droppin.  But thou's plenty o' summer time i' thee yet, owd wench!  I reckon thou wears white stockins, so as nob'dy 'll look at thee?  Eh, whorr!  Heigh, heigh, heigh!"

    "Eh, Sam, yo'n never mend!" said Betty, twisting herself round and displaying such a broadside of personal charms as put the old weaver in quite an ecstasy of admiration.

    The two then entered the cottage.  Betty took down her pinned-up skirts, sprinkled a few handfuls of sand over the floor, made a hasty washing of her face, adjusted her hair in about half the time it would have taken my lady to unpaper a single curl, put on a clean white cap and apron, shuffled her pattens into the nook, and, placing a chair on the opposite side of the hearth to that on which her visitor had taken up a position, said—

    "How dun we look now, Sam?"

    "Just like a picthur," said the weaver, looking round, and finishing his survey by a particular inspection of the hearth and all about it.

    "I thowt I'd have an afternoon to mysel to-day," said the widow, "fettling" about her gown, and smoothing the creases out of her apron, "so I went to th' coalpit by six o'clock this mornin, our Bill an' me—that's th' jackass— an' we temd two jags o' coals by breakfast-time.  What dun yo' think about that for th' beginnin of a day's wark?"

    "Well, I think it's a shawm thou hadno' someb'dy for t' do it for thee," said Sam, giving a meaning glance at Betty.  "But I reckon thou's no notion o' gettin someb'dy for t' fill thoose empty clogs o' yo'r Jimmy's."

    "Eh, Sam!" sighed the widow.

    "Very likely," said the other; "it shows thou's a bit o thowt about thee."

    "Well, I did say once," Betty observed, looking thoughtfully at the fireplace, "ut I'd never have a felly again as long as I drew breeath.  But, yo' seen, if our Sarah gets wed, I'st be laft by mysel; an' I feel as if th' house ud be too big for nobbut one body to live in."

    "Ay, just as mich too big as yon cote o' mine is too little.  Things are awk'ardly shapt, areno' they?"

    "Well, they conno' be helped sometimes."

    "I reckon," said Sam, prefacing his remark with a cough, "it isno' sich very hard wark droivin a donkey cart?"

    "Eh, nawe.  It wants a bit o' strength when yo'r teemin; but besides that, if yo'n a good jackass, ut doesno' lay his ears down too oft, nor throw his heels up too mich; it's wark ut anybody could follow.  Our Bill's as quiet as an owd sheep, an' draws like a waggin-hoss."

    "Dost think yo'r Bill an' me could agree wi' one another if we wur t' try?"

    "What dun yo' meean by that, Sam?"

    "Nowt; nobbut I aulus thowt coal cartin wur a nice sort of a job, an' pays better than knockin a shuttle backort an' forrad."

    "Dun yo' think o' startin, then?"

    "Well, it depends.  Thou winno' be vexed, wilta, if I tell thee what it depends on?"

    "Eh, nawe, Sam—yo' couldno' vex me, chus what yo' said, becose I know yo' aulus meean weel."

    "Just so, just so—thou'rt clearin my road bravely, owd crayther!  But I're just gooin to ax thee if thou thowt yo'r Jimmy's clogs ud fit me.  Thou munno' say aye o at once; becose it ud mak thee look too keen an' too chep.  Tak thy time, an' dunno' goo in a fit o'er it."

    "Eh, Sam!" exclaimed Betty, raising her hands in astonishment, and letting them fall very demonstratively upon her apron; "whoever would ha' thowt at that?  Wheay, yo're above twenty year owder than me!"

    "I know that," replied the old gallant.  "Thou'd be so mich sooner ready for another, an' that's summat when ther's a bit o' buryin brass at th' eend of o.  Beside, I've a bit o' summat comin in ut ud keep yo'r Bill i' clooas an' provant, an' a bit o'er for Sunday dinners, an' sich like.  What saysta?"

    "Yo'r never i' good matter, surely, Sam?"

    "Dost think I should ha' come so far if I hadno' bin i' good yearnest?  Come, what dost say?  I'm not to twothri copper at a bargain."

    "I hardly know what to say.  Yo'r a great age."

    "Well, there's this satisfaction about it, thou'll be my age afore I'm thine."

    "How dun yo' mak that out?"

    "It's as plain as a pike-staff.  An' beside that, thou'll ha' no 'casion to be jealous o' anybody else, an' that's a good deeal toart makkin a hearthstone comfortable.  I see thou'rt makkin thy mind up as fast as egg-boilin.  I'st ha' no chance o' gettin out o' th' road e'ennow, if I wanted."

    "Dunno' talk so loud, Sam.  Our Sarah's upstairs.  Sarah!" shouted Betty, turning towards the foot of the stairs.

    "I'm comin," responded a voice from overhead.

    "Thou's no 'casion to come down yet," said the mother.  "I nobbut want to tell thee thou mun mak a porrito-pie for th' dinner, an' mak it i'th' biggest dish."  Then turning to her suitor, said, "Yo' liken porrito-pie; dunno' yo', Sam?"

    "I do, owd wench, when I can get howd on't," was the reply.

    "An' yo'n stop to dinner?"

    "If thou thinks I'd best, I've no objection."

    "An' mak a bit of a custart, too, Sarah," was shouted to the girl upstairs.  "Yo' liken custart, too, dunno' yo', Sam?"

    "Yigh; I think I like owt ut thou likes."

    "An' mak a fayberry cake, too, Sarah.  Yo' liken fay-berry cake, too, dunno' yo', Sam?"

    "Ay; made wi' berm crust, an' sweetest wi' traycle."

    "Win yo' just shift back a bit, while I put a bit o' fire under th' oon?"

    "I dunno' mind bein dusted a bit, owd crayther; so powse away.  Wheay, thou's an arm as hard as a hommer stail."

    "It's a deeal o' wark to go through, Sam.  Now, just leeave loce; yo'r as ill as a young lad."

    "If thou flutters thy capstrings about my yead, thou mun tak th' consequence.  Dost keep thy clooas i' neps?"

    "Ay; I aulus do.  Now, be quiet, an leeave loce o' my arms! "

    "Thou's no' towd me yet whether I con hang my hat up or not."

    "I'll tell yo' sometime else.  Yo'n be comin again happen in a day or two.  I'st be awhoam o' Sunday neet; an' I'st have a new dress on ut our Joe's wife has made me.  Yo' never seed me in a dress?"

    "Nawe; but I will do.  I hope thou hasno' had it made too long for thee."

    "I con have tucks put on, if it is."

    "Dost wear boots ov a Sunday?"

    "To be sure I do."

    "I'st come, then.  But thou mit as weel tell me now whether I'st be allowed for t' use yon empty hatpeg or not.  I dar'say thy mind's made up just now.  If t' meeans ay, give me a buss; if t' meeans nawe, give me a smack i'th' face.  Whorr?—Oh, ay; I thowt thou'd be feart o' hurtin me.  Theigher, that's a sattler.  Nowt like a smeauch for puttin a finish upo' things.  It's like a tabbin at th' eend of a cut.  Polishes a bit o' coortin off like sweet milk to Friday porritch.  Now, then, I'll goo an' see if yo'r Bill con agree wi' me as weel as thou con, while thou gets th' dinner ready."  Saying which, Sam o' Ducky's got up from his chair, and drawing his sleeve across his beard as he turned the corner of the "speer," added—"If thou looks as weel i' boots as thou does i' pattens, owd brid! we'n ha' some merry churchbells afore long.  But stop," he said, turning back a step or two—"I're forgettin part o' my arrand.  Has thou a shoo (spade) thou'd land me a bit?"

    "What for?" Betty inquired.

    "Never mind, hast one?"

    "Ay, I've a garden shoo."

    "That's just what I want."

    "Well, I'll find it yo' in a minit."

    "Thou's no 'casion to be in a hurry; I shanno' want it till dark."

    "Then yo'n stop to yo'r baggin?"

    "Ay, my duck! if thou's an odd cup an' saucer to spare, an' a corner o' thy table ut wants fillin up."

    "Well, I con find yo' th' shoo at after.  But yo' mit as weel tell me what yo' wanton it for."

    Sam put on a mysterious grimace, shook his head, and strode out of the house.  The next minute he was heard to salute the donkey with, "Wo-up, Billy!  Keep thy heels off my shins, an' thou'st ha' summat better than thistles afore long."

    Night had not yet put on its darkest garment, when Sam o' Ducky's stole into the churchyard of the little village of and crept to a retired part of the enclosure.  He had a spade over his shoulder, and a lantern, yet unlighted, in his hand.  The spade and lantern he set down beside the headstone which marks the grave where "Tummy Trotter" lies, and he looked round to see that he was not observed.  All was silent.  The village might have been abed an hour ago, it was so tranquil.  There was here and there a light twinkling in cottage windows; but these were disappearing one by one, and darkness closed in like a gently-drawn curtain, shutting out the world, and leaving only a mysterious void where the pulsations of life had so lately throbbed.  Our adventurer felt this silence, and the awe it inspired in him was reverent and profound.  There seemed to him to be a spirit hovering about the tombs that had no relation to this earth, but had come to commune with the dead sleeping below; and this spirit was fanning the old man's heart with its wings, and calming the rapid beating which had set in, and which the near fulfilment of his purpose had augmented.

    All at once, as if heaven had opened its windows and poured down a ray of Divine glory, the welkin grew strangely luminous to his eyes, and angels were seen fluttering in its light.  A faint breath of music arose; it was not the music of sublunary choristering, but a strain that sounded like a voiced emanation from all things beautiful in the universe; and a whisper seemed to rise out of its dying tones, saying, "Dig, dig, old man, dig in the grave where thy brother sleeps, and there the treasure thou seekest shall be found!"

    Sam took up the spade, and struck it in the earth; and he sighed to think what ruin he was making among the flowers, awakening them out of their sleep, and scattering their tears over the grave.  The soil yields bravely, and the spade is plied industriously; but as yet, nothing.  Dig and rest, dig and rest, old man!  Wipe thy perspiring face with thy humble napkin and persevere!  Surely the prize is not far off.

    "We're getting to close quarters now, Tummy," he muttered, after about a quarter of an hour's digging in rather a limited space, "but I'll not disturb thee, owd lad, if I con help it.  I never wur so deep in a grave before, an' I'll tak good care I never am again while I'm wick.  Nawe, nawe, I'll turn my toes up for it, like a weel-fouten un, an' tak it quietly.  It doesno' smell quite like garden mould.  Rayther stronger to th' nostril, an' no' quite as howsome.  Ugh! it goes stronger as I go deeper.  I could do wi' a pint of owd Tabby's haymakkin drink.  It ud go down like a wayterfo, an' no' leet o' mony steps on th' road.  Hallo! what's that?"

    The spade had struck upon something hard, and Sam proceeded to light his candle.

    "I hope it is no' th' coffin lid," he muttered, as he closed the door of the lantern.  "It ud tak th' wynt out o' me if it wur split, an' I could see th' owd lad grinnin through th' crack.  It is no' th' coffin; it's summat else, by owd Harry!"

    He had lowered the lantern into the hole, at the bottom of which he could make out what appeared to be the corners of a small iron box protruding through the clay.

    "Husht!" he said in a whisper, and as if talking to the dead, "ther's nob'dy comin, is they?"  And he looked round.  "Nawe; o's as still as owd Tummy here.  If he oppens his cofer an' gets howd of a leg, I'st be a bit gloppent.  Another shooful, an' out it comes.  Theigher here it is, no' mich bigger nor a tae-caddy.  How fast th' lid is!  A stroke o'th' shoo ud happen oppen it.  Let's try."

    Click, click went the spade, and the lid gave signs of having been shaken loose.  The digger picked up the box; the lid yielded, and disclosed all that Sam o' Ducky's wanted.

    "Ay, here it is!" he exclaimed, "an' as reet as a trivet.  He wanted it buried with him, an' this is th' resurrection."  Then, closing the lid, he said—"Now, Dick Holmroyd, if I am not a match for thee after this minit, I'll have a sod-hole o' my own, an' tumble mysel into it, like a barrowful o' owd lumber, that I will."  He put the box carefully aside, and commenced refilling the grave.

    Whilst this operation was going on, ghosts were flitting about the spot, and hovering near, some grinning, some smiling, and others grave as the night.  Everyone seemed bent upon purloining the box, and Sam had to keep such a watchful look-out, that refilling was almost as tedious a process as digging.  But the grave was filled at last; the signs of its having been disturbed as nearly obliterated as was possible under the circumstances, and the weaver bore his treasure away in silent triumph.

    Leaving the churchyard, our old friend retraced his steps to "Coal Betty's," but ventured not to enter her domicile for fear his secret should be discovered by the inquisitive dame.  Meeting Betty at the door, he thanked her for the use of the spade and lantern—again called her "owd crayther," and bade her "good neet."

    Betty observed that the spade smelled "deeathly," but she had no suspicion that it had been employed in grave-digging.  She rather favoured the thought that it had been delving out a "foumart" (polecat), as one of those animals had been seen about.  Her visitor had become quite altered in his manner, and she could not help noticing as he turned away that his step was firmer, and his body more erect than on a former occasion; and that his shadow faded into the night like the departure of a mysterious presence.


――――――――――――

 
CHAPTER XIII.


DOLMEY TURTINGTOWER suggested that, instead of driving to Merriton, the horse's head should be turned in the direction of Manchester.  It was hardly possible that Alice Winwood could find a desirable refuge in a place so closely associated with her recent misfortunes, and in so near neighbourship with her persecutor.  In the intricate mazes of the city she might wander unmolested—unknown, for no "silken clue" could lead to her whereabouts, nor would the creatures of an unscrupulous and avaricious squireling dare to intrude, even if her retreat was discovered.  Geoffrey Winwood acquiesced in these suggestions, preferring to return home alone, and for the present demean himself towards his cousin as if nothing out of the way had happened.  In a few days his sister would have more than one legal protector, if the hints thrown out by Dolmey had any significance.  That gentleman had expressed a desire to look up the office of the surrogate, and through that worthy transact a little business with that important institution known as "Doctor's Commons;" and, as Alice had shown no particular aversion to such an arrangement, it would perhaps be best for all parties that it was carried out.  It would bring matters to a settlement, and Geoffrey might begin the world—as yet he had not set his staff—under more favourable auspices.

    "Drive to the Gloster Hotel, Well Parade, Manchester," shouted Dolmey to the cabman.

    "All right, sir," was the response; and to the Gloster Hotel our little party were driven.

    "Accommodation for a lady? yessir," said a short, stout, fussy person, in answer to an inquiry made by Dolmey Turtingtower, as the party entered the hotel.  "This way, please."  And they were immediately shown upstairs, and into a room looking out on the front—a cozy, unostentatious room, in which the appointments looked private and domestic, as if intended to make the occupant feel as much at home as possible where the tones of a father's or mother's voice could not be heard.  Alice Winwood seated herself on a couch, and shaded her face with the window curtains, and though the great city organ was playing from every stop, she felt as if the world was sinking into repose.

    The chambermaid was shortly in attendance, and, leaving Alice to her care, Geoffrey and Dolmey descended to the coffee-room.

    Crossing the entrance lobby, Geoffrey's eye caught sight of a large placard suspended against the wall, and on which stood forth in conspicuous characters—"Sale of Property," "Red Windows Hall Estate," "Gloster Hotel," &c., &c.

    "Dolmey," he said, pointing to the poster, "do you see nothing?"

    "I saw it as we came in, but didn't like to draw your attention to it," replied Dolmey.  "I see the sale takes place on Monday next.  You must take care to be present."

    "I shall not fail, but"—

    "But what?"

    "Think nothing of your promise; let me do something for myself."

    "You forget you've a sister."

    Their eyes met.

    "God bless you, Dolmey!  I didn't think of that."

    The two entered the coffee-room, and took seats near one of the front windows.  Having rung for the waiter, and been attended to by that obsequious gentleman, who might have been mistaken for a curate, in training for croquet and a dowried wife, they commenced talking over certain arrangements, which one of them insisted should be carried out.

    "As you seem to have a desire to work your own way," said Dolmey, "what do you think of a partnership with me?"

    "What do I know about cotton?" said the other, with a most self-depreciatory look.

    "What do you know about anything?" asked Dolmey, with an indulgent smile, that took away all offensiveness from the question.

    "There you have me.  What, indeed, am I fit for?  Nothing—nothing, Dolmey," Geoffrey gloomily replied.

    "You will soon learn the business," said Dolmey, encouragingly, "and I can afford to put up with such shortcomings as may not be the result of inattention.  What say you?"

    "I'm now as low in the world as I can be," Geoffrey replied; "but if ever it be my luck to rise, I wish to be like you—able to say to myself, this is my own doing."

    "There are few men can say that in all conscientiousness, I assure you," Dolmey observed; "and it may be a little satisfaction to you, and also a means of modifying your delicacy, when I tell you that I am not one of those who can lay his hand on his heart, and say, I am a thoroughly self-made man."

    "You don't say so?"

    "I do say it.  Had it not been for an old friend, who has helped others than me, I might still have been in Merriton.  But he taught me all I know, Geoffrey, assisted me with his advice, and when, in addition, his purse was wanted, it was always there.  I do not believe, Geoffrey, in the possibility of thoroughly self-made men.  There may be a thousand circumstances helping them to their success that they give no credit for, and which, if every man had confined his attention to his own business—which is another way of putting a vulgar aphorism—would not have been theirs.  It is to such generous minds as that of our deceased friend that society owes its check upon the race of selfishness, and the maintenance of that equilibrium which is so important to all classes.

    "I daresay I can guess who you allude to," said Geoffrey, a light suddenly breaking in upon him.

    "I will save you the trouble," Dolmey replied; "it was old Tommy Trotter."

    "I thought so.  Strange!  Old Sam o' Ducky's would call to see him this morning."

    "How do you mean?"

    "Call at his grave.  He stood by it, and talked to the old man as though he'd been living.  Some matters he spoke of that I couldn't understand, but which I could make out had reference to my father and some transactions he had with old Tommy."

    "Is it not remarkable, Geoffrey, that most good men have some peculiarity in their nature that gives them as broad a distinction as their benevolence?  Look at old Tommy.  How singular of him to request that his tobacco-box should be buried along with his remains!"

    "Very singular!"

    Geoffrey had turned towards the window, and as he glanced across the street he gave a start.

    "Hallo!" he exclaimed, springing from his seat, "here's cousin Dick coming over, and I believe his solicitor, Mr. Tact, is with him.  If he pops into this room he'll be surprised to see us together."

    "I hope they'll turn another way," said Dolmey, at the same time his heart fluttering in with expectation.

    But the door swung ajar, and Richard Holmroyd and Mr. Tact entered the room.  The former looked round as he closed the door, and his eye fell upon his cousin and Dolmey Turtingtower.  The discovery was too much for him.  With a desperate grasp he seized the handle, and, flinging back the door with a violence that almost started the hinges, rushed into the lobby.  Had he misgivings that his career of avarice and duplicity was closing in upon him?

    A few days after the occurrence above narrated Geoffrey Winwood and Dolmey Turtingtower were again seated in the coffee-room of the Gloster Hotel.  It was the day of sale, and they were awaiting the appointed hour.  Alice still occupied apartments at the hotel, where she was daily visited by her brother.

    One day they were seen getting into a coach together and it was noticed, also, that simultaneously another lady and gentleman entered a similar coach, and that the drivers of both vehicles wore favours in their breasts, and appeared to be very knowing.  Alice was in deep mourning, but the other lady was attired in a robe of white moiré antique, and looked exceedingly pretty in it.  There could be no mistaking the business they were upon, even if there were no church bells ringing for them.  As they drove off there was a shout raised by a crowd of fusee merchants, who had gathered about the door, and who wished the party all kinds of good luck, because Geoffrey had invested largely in "Vesuvian" ware on purpose to propitiate their throats.  That day Dolmey Turtingtower and Alice Winwood were made one indissolubly.

    Geoffrey Winwood and Dolmey Turtingtower were once more seated in the coffee-room of the Gloster Hotel, awaiting the hour appointed for the sale of Red Windows Hall estate.  As they were discussing the conditions of sale, which were set forth in an elaborately-worded document lying on the table, they had their attention drawn towards a slight commotion going on in the lobby, and amongst the noise occasioned they could distinguish a not unfamiliar voice, engaged in very high-worded remonstrance.  Presently a strange gentleman burst into the room, laughing so as almost to choke himself.

    "What is the matter, sir?" asked Dolmey Turtingtower of this gentleman.

    "Oh, such a lark!  There's a sale of property about to come off upstairs, and an old man in clogs insists upon being present," was the answer.  "He was threatening the waiters with a taste of something he called 'owler pie' if they didn't let him pass; and old as he is he appears to be a match for more than one of them.  Just hear what a dog-battle there's going on!"

    "It's never Sam o' Ducky's, surely," Geoffrey observed, with a smile.

    "As sure as we are here, it's Sam," said Dolmey, getting up from his seat, and pushing past the table.  Suppose we see."

    Both gentlemen left the room, and were just in time to prevent the individual who had caused the disturbance being summarily pitched into the street.  It was Sam o' Ducky's, as Dolmey had anticipated, and the old man was struggling in the midst of a bevy of "white-chokered" collegians of St. Boniface, and letting his "timber" fly about him in such a manner as caused the matter of his ejectment to be an exceedingly perilous undertaking.

    "Here, here," said Dolmey, making a dash at the bevy of collegians, and scattering them on each hand, "what is all this about?"

    "Why, this old fool wants to go upstairs," replied one, to whom had been given the not inappropriate name of "Alexander-the-anything-but-Great."

    "Hallo, Dolly, owd lad," shouted Sam, shaking himself free from a many-handed grasp, "do'st see what they're dooin at me?"

    "Why, what are you doing here?" demanded Dolmey, scarcely able to refrain from laughing.

    "Well, I wanted to go upstairs to th' sale, an' these young parsons here wouldno' let me.  If they'd nobbut goo whoam an' mind ther praichin, i'stead o' comin here, makkin ther bother, it ud look better on 'em."

    "These are not parsons," said Dolmey, laughing; "they're waiters only, and are supposed to be doing their duty."

    "What! these waiters?" the weaver exclaimed with astonishment.  "It's come to summat, that it is, when we conno' tell a pa'son fro' a waiter-on at an alehouse.  Things are no' reet o' somehow."

    "Gentlemen," said Dolmey, turning to the pair of shiny black-coated gentry,—"This is an old friend of mine.  I have no doubt he has come here for a legitimate purpose, and I shall be obliged to you if you'll let him pass."

    "But we can't allow him to smoke tobacco here," said Alexander the—&c., &c.

    "I don't think he intends to smoke," said Dolmey.

    "Then why does he bring such a tobacco-box as that he's got under his arm?" demanded the waiter.

    Dolmey turned to his old friend, saw the box pointed out; knew it at a glance to be the one Tommy Trotter used to have in his possession, and wondered at its production there.

    "What do you intend doing with that box?" he said, giving a searching look at the weaver.

    "I meean takkin it wi' me upstairs," was the reply—, "an' if anybody smookes owt out on't, they'n have a queer notion o' what 'bacco is."

    "It didn't always belong to you, Sam."

    "Nawe; it doesno' belung to me now.  I'm nobbut a sort of a trustee for someb'dy else till th' sale's o'er; an' then I'st 'liver it up."

    "You hear that, gentlemen," said Dolmey, turning to the waiters.  "The old gentleman is concerned in the sale, and must be permitted to attend it."

    "This way, please," said Alexander the—&c., &c., making a polite rush towards the staircase.

    Dolmey Turtingtower and Geoffrey Winwood followed; Sam o' Ducky's lumbering after them, and causing such a commotion in the stairs, that a waiter, passing at the time, so far allowed his nerves to be overcome, as to cause him to spill the contents of a tumbler he was in the act of carrying past.


――――――――――――

 
CHAPTER XIV.


THE room usually appropriated to auction purposes at the Gloster Hotel was about half filled with gentlemen when our friends entered.  These were mostly of a professional character—brokers, money-lenders, bill-discounters, and the like, and a very hawkish lot they looked.  Those who bore no tint of office dust were substantial-looking yeomen, with very expansive waistcoats, and deep, creasy cravats and who had a way of handling their wine-glasses that reminded one of quiet drinking bouts in country mansions, when the "black jack" held its place as lord of the feast.  These were congregated round a long green-baize-covered table, at the head of which sat a specimen of humanity that it was perfect summer sunshine to behold.  He was John Bull all over, was this man—from the tip of his short white hair to his shoes, which were neither high-heeled nor French-spanked; but flat, spacious, and hospitable looking, as though they carried gold dust in their roomy recesses with which to sprinkle everybody's path through life.  His face was of the richest strawberry, of the highest polish, and of a brand that would carry itself unchallenged through all society.  His shirt collar seemed to open its arms to mankind in general, being, if you will, a compromise of fashion—neither a stickup, nor a turndown, but acting as a kind of saucer to the cup of his manifold chin, or as a plate upon which a monster peach displayed its tempting mellowness.  Upon his waistcoat and shirt front sat substance.  If every other portion of his wardrobe had been as ragged as that of a Shetland colt, these would have obtained credit anywhere; and the double eye-glass suspended by a black ribbon over his right hand waistcoat pocket, was a protest against all leanness; against all attempts to lower the franchise; against the hazardous experiment of "shooting Niagara," and plunging into the gulf of "Swannery."  He must have been a Tory of the bluest blood, who would have suffered annihilation, sooner than have moved one inch out of the "constitutional path."

    On the right of this "fine old English gentleman," one of (I hope) all time, sat a man of most remarkable contrast.  This individual seemed to have some affinity to the fieldmouse, and to have worked himself up in society by the instrumentality of his nasal organ, which he continued to feed with snuff, as if to keep up steam.  This was Mr. Tact, the solicitor to the estate about to be put under the hammer, and who was incessantly writing bits of notes, and passing them over the table to Mr. Richard Holmroyd, who was in stately, but nervous presence on the left.  Neither of these gentlemen had observed the entrance of our other friends, being so much engaged at the time in looking over plans of the estate, several of which were spread upon the table, and in pushing about the wineglasses, which were continually dancing erratic quadrilles amongst them.

    As the clock struck four, the man at the head of the table adjusted his eye-glass upon his nose, took out a gold watch of such magnitude and solidity as would have rendered it fatal to carry about one's person in case of shipwreck, and knocked for silence.  He then rose, and, throwing a goodly shadow over the table, said—

    "Gentlemen, according to the advertisement announcing this meeting, it is my duty to offer you for sale all that very desirable freehold property called Red Windows Hall estate, situated in Merriton, in the county of Lancaster, late the residence of Roger Winwood, Esquire, deceased, consisting of a capital mansion, with the requisite outbuildings, excellent garden, orchard, and several pieces of land, the whole containing so many acres, so many roods, so many perches, statute measure, or thereabouts.  The estate is bounded by the Manchester and Birchwood turnpike road, by the road leading to Hazelworth, and by the lane connecting Barrowfield and Trundleworth.  It is well drained, and lies about four miles from Manchester, in a thriving neighbourhood.  The property will be first offered as a whole, but if not sold it will immediately afterwards be put up in the following or such other lots as may be determined upon, &c., &c., &c.  Now then, gentlemen, what will anyone say as a first bidding for this fine and noble estate?  Waiters, pass round the wine to all present."

    The waiters did pass round the wine, and when they had finished a squeaking voice was heard to call out—

    "Ten thousand."

    "Eh, bless you!" exclaimed the auctioneer, smiling incredulously, "you surely don't mean it?  However, there's nothing like beginning low in the world; we generally get the best foundation."

    "I advance two thousand," said a modest little fellow from amongst a roll of towels that enveloped his neck.

    "Thank you—you're very kind," said the auctioneer, laughing a good-humoured laugh, as though he thought it the best joke in the world, advancing by such slow steps.  "Twelve thousand bid, gentlemen; waiters, ply the wine we're getting on too slowly."

    "Twenty thousand," shouted Geoffrey Winwood, from the remotest corner of the room.

    Richard Holmroyd had not noticed the presence of his cousin, and the familiar voice made him start.  He raised his head, and observing Geoffrey in company with Dolmey Turtingtower, his countenance fell, and his lips assumed a death-like paleness.

    "Twenty thousand bid," said the auctioneer, "for that beautiful and noble estate, which ought to have fetched one hundred thousand at the first bidding.  Look at that splendid mansion, in which I have no doubt the cavaliers feasted at the time of the civil wars; those umbrageous trees, which may have sheltered the royal Charles when pursued by the psalm-singing, tinpot-helmeted Roundheads (a laugh from the old gentleman with white-towelled neck); those verdant fields; those flowery gardens; that fruit-laden orchard; that broad expanse of rich meadow land, clothed knee-deep with grass already half-made milk and butter—the possibility, too, of its containing lead ore, copper ore, silver ore—nay, even goold; for the surface will yield goold in abundance every harvest-time, and every year in increased quantities.  The fortunate individual into whose possession this estate happens to fall will have no inducement to quit his native land for Peru or California, as here at home he will have a goold mine of his own; and which will require no digging for, no washing, no smelting, will come forth as pure goold as ever bore the impress of Her Majesty's most blessed countenance, and only twenty thousand bid.  I am afraid, gentlemen, I shall have to put in a reserve, which I don't wish; but if you don't advance more encouragingly, I shall be compelled to do it.  Come, what say you?"

    "Twenty-five thousand," was the immediate response to this appeal.

    "Thirty," was thundered out, and the company began to look warm.

    "Thirty-five," shouted Geoffrey Winwood, at which Richard Holmroyd grew exceedingly nervous.

    "Pass the wine, waiters—we're getting on bravely," the auctioneer.  "Any advance upon thirty-five—for all that very desirable freehold property.  Thirty-five bid, gentlemen, and the hammer is raised.  If no advance upon thirty-five—"

    "Forty thousand," squeaked the gentleman who had made the first bidding.

    "Forty-five thousand," by Geoffrey Winwood and as Richard Holmroyd raised the glass to his lips, a portion of its contents fell upon his waistcoat.

    "Any advance upon forty-five?" said the auctioneer, getting himself excited.  "Forty-five, gentlemen—all that splendid property, and only forty-five bid.  No advance on forty-five?"

    "The hammer was raised, and the hand that held it was not so steady as it had been.

    "I'm afraid, gentlemen, the reserve will have to be put in.  Forty-five thousand.  Going at that, going, going, for the last time—go――"

    "Fifty thousand," stammered Richard Holmroyd, and he ventured to look round to see what effect the reserve bidding had upon the company.

    Geoffrey Winwood's head had fallen on Dolmey Turtingtower's shoulder, and a smile of secret triumph was on his cousin's face.  The smile, however, was of short life, for an apparition arose in the form of Sam o' Ducky's; and the countenance of that apparition had to him a deep and ominous meaning in it.

    "Sixty thousant," shouted Sam, flinging his hat on the floor, and making such a demonstration with his stick as added not to the self-possession of those about him.

    All eyes were turned towards Sam, and remained fixed there for some time, as if there was a peculiar fascination in his person.  Whispering followed; then tittering, and at last a loud laugh broke forth from every part of the room.  But Sam stood there, immovable, as if fifty times more merriment, and the forcible expostulation of blows added, would not have shaken him from his purpose.

    The auctioneer regarded the thing as an audacious joke, intended to disturb the equanimity of the proceedings, and good-humouredly told the intruder that a reference to his banker would have to be made before the bidding could be considered valid.  If he would produce his banking-book it would be all the same; but one or other of the conditions must be complied with before he could proceed further.

    "My bankin-book's here," said Sam, holding up the box he had brought with him, so that everybody could see it "an' it's wo'th every farthin' aw've bid.  What dun yo' want moore?"

    A loud whisper buzzed round the room, and the company began to look a little more serious, as if they could see something more than a joke in the old man's pertinacity.  Geoffrey Winwood and Dolmey Turtingtower pressed him with questions as to what he meant; but Sam only shook his head in reply, and muttered something about knowing what he was doing.

    The auctioneer looked puzzled, and the manner in which he toyed with his eye-glass betrayed a feeling of doubt on some important point.  Was the old man a millionaire in disguise, he wondered; and had he come in that garb on purpose to hoodwink some unwary competitor?  He had a good mind to test the validity of the offer by knocking down the property to him.  If it turned out to be a hoax, the matter could be rectified by reopening the bidding.

    "One condition of the sale," he said, "is that the purchaser pay down a deposit of £10 per cent before the property can be made over to him.  Is the last bidder prepared with such a deposit?"

    "I con pay yo' every farthin—now; an' that I meean to do if aw buy," said the weaver, setting his foot on the box, and casting a defiant look round the table.

    "Gentlemen—going at sixty—thousand," said the auctioneer, raising his hammer, and making an impressive pause.  "Any advance on sixty?  Mr. Holmroyd, are you unwell?" he said, addressing that gentleman, who in the endeavour to raise a glass to his lips, had spilled the contents over his person.

    "No, no—proceed," gasped Mr. Holmroyd.  "There's nothing the matter—only an accident."

    He told a lie.  There was something wrong with him, or he would not have shook as he did, nor would his lips have been so colourless.

    "Sixty thousand bid," said the auctioneer again, and for the last time raising his hammer.  "Are you all done at sixty?  No advance on sixty?  Is property worth two hundred to be knocked down at sixty?  Well, if you will have it so—going—going—gone!" and down went the hammer.  "Now then, Mr. What's-your-name," he said, addressing Sam o' Ducky's, "this way please."

    Sam hobbled across the room, carrying his box under his arm, and setting his stick as though he intended planting it in the floor.  The box he handed over to the auctioneer, who opened it, and tumbled out its contents.

    "What have we here?" exclaimed the latter, holding up a document to the light.  "A mortgage deed?  Roger Winwood—Thomas Trotter—sixty thousand pounds!  How did you come by this?"

    "Never mind, it's theere; is nor it?" said the weaver, giving a triumphant look at Richard Holmroyd, who had been seized with a fit of stupefaction.

    "It is here, as you say," said the auctioneer, making such a demonstration with his eyeglass as would have led one to suppose he had mistaken himself for a sort of human Hydra.  "And here's another document, bequeathing the mortgage deed to Geoffrey, the only son of Roger Winwood, on the latter gentleman's demise; the executor in this instance being Samuel Bradshaw, better known as Sam o' Ducky's"—

    "An' that's me!" said Sam, interrupting the auctioneer, and striking the table with his stick.  "I've bowt th' property, an' that's th' payment for it.  But just yo' mak it out to Geoffrey Winwood, so ut I sha' not ha' th' trouble o' dooin it mysel."

    "But the sale," said the auctioneer, "is invalidated by this document, unless Mr. Holmroyd can pay off the mortgage"—

    "Which Mr. Holmroyd never will," said the owner of that name, rising, and throwing down a quill pen, which he had almost chewed into a pulpy mass.  "Take it, and be ――!"  Uttering this climax, the late possessor of Red Windows Hall rushed out of the room, and was heard tumbling downstairs at an almost perilous speed.



    A soft evening light suffused the grey front of Red Windows Hall with its glowing mellowness, as a carriage and pair drove along the avenue leading to the mansion.  Another, but more humble conveyance was at the door, on the roof of which were piled boxes, packages, and other evidences of a contemplated journey.  A man stood in the doorway, with eyes fixed on the carriage approaching, and once the door had been on the swing.  A sudden impulse seized him, however, and he put out his hand to hold back the door.  "No, no," he exclaimed to himself, "let me not shut myself out from a home I have loved, but outraged.  I will throw myself on their mercy; and if I cannot depart with their blessing, I may, at least, entreat their forgiveness."

    Meanwhile the carriage and pair drew up; a lady and two gentlemen alighted from it, and a formal, very formal, salute was exchanged.  Richard Holmroyd, as he stood there on the hall steps, had felt himself prepared for what was destined to follow.  There were no further discoveries to be made to him, except it was, that in the breasts of other people existed feelings that were strangers to his own—feelings of mercy and loving-kindness.  His lawyer's clerk had told everything he did not want to hear—of a discovery made at the workhouse, and a subsequent marriage ceremony.  These communications had so overwhelmed him that his other misfortunes had grown old and indistinct, as if he scarcely remembered their existence.  He had, however, misestimated his strength.  He was not prepared to meet one whose love he had striven to coerce, now that that love was beyond all hope of attainment.  It was to him as if a fiery bolt had shot through his heart—beholding Alice in that glorious sunlight, perfect in her loveliness, but as a vision to be beheld once, then shut out from his gaze for ever.  The sunlight immediately turned to shade, and his eyes wandered about as if pursuing the last fleeting ray that was to illumine the now dark void before him.

    It was not in the nature of either Geoffrey Winwood or Dolmey Turtingtower to strike a fallen foe, and he was fallen—to such prostration as Heaven alone could raise him from.  The two looked at each other as they approached their kinsman, and a dreadful doubt seized both.  The poor man had only just power left him to hold out two trembling hands, and to faintly articulate "Forgive me!" ere his jaw fell, and his eyes assumed a blank stare.  It was all over with Richard Holmroyd then, though be must wander about on this earth many, many years, yet see none of its light and beauty—feel none of its life and gladness.  He is led back to his room—a hopeless, jabbering idiot.

    As the sun in its setting reddened the windows of the hall, its rays streamed over a face where their light availed not.  Well had it been had those rays lighted Death to his harvest work, as they had done only a few days before in that same chamber, where, in a lucid moment, Richard Holmroyd had expressed his wish to rest.  But it was not Heaven's will this time.  At the bedside stood Geoffrey Winwood, Alice, and Dolmey Turtingtower.  They had tendered their forgiveness to the blank but breathing mass before them, and even prayed for his restoration to light and consciousness; but he felt not their forgiveness; and if their prayers reached the throne of grace, they brought not yet its pleasure clown to the sufferer.  He was dead to this world, but with the functions of life beating through him.  Retribution had done its worst.


――――♦――――


 

 


 

[Home] [Up] [Spring Blossoms] [Ab-o'th'-Yate Vol. I.] [Ab-o'th'-Yate Vol. II.] [Ab-o'th'-Yate Vol. III.] [Waverlow Chronicles] [Yankeeland] [Short Stories etc.] [Main Index] [Site Search]
 

Correspondence should be sent to Webmaster@Gerald-Massey.org.uk