Part 2 out of 3
impracticable schemes for the discomfiture of the foe next door.
He saw Mr. Evans next morning as he passed on his way to work. The
constable was at the door smoking in his shirt-sleeves, and Mr. Grummit
felt instinctively that he was waiting there to see him pass.
"I heard you last night," said the constable, playfully. "My word! Good
"Wot's the matter with you?" demanded Mr. Grummit, stopping short.
The constable stared at him. "She has been knocking you about," he
gasped. "Why, it must ha' been you screaming, then! I thought it
sounded loud. Why don't you go and get a summons and have her locked up?
I should be pleased to take her."
Mr. Grummit faced him, quivering with passion. "Wot would it cost if I
set about you?" he demanded, huskily.
"Two months," said Mr. Evans, smiling serenely; "p'r'aps three."
Mr. Grummit hesitated and his fists clenched nervously. The constable,
lounging against his door-post, surveyed him with a dispassionate smile.
"That would be besides what you'd get from me," he said, softly.
"Come out in the road," said Mr. Grummit, with sudden violence.
"It's agin the rules," said Mr. Evans; "sorry I can't. Why not go and
ask your wife's brother to oblige you?"
He went in laughing and closed the door, and Mr. Grummit, after a
frenzied outburst, proceeded on his way, returning the smiles of such
acquaintances as he passed with an icy stare or a strongly-worded offer
to make them laugh the other side of their face. The rest of the day he
spent in working so hard that he had no time to reply to the anxious
inquiries of his fellow-workmen.
He came home at night glum and silent, the hardship of not being able to
give Mr. Evans his deserts without incurring hard labour having weighed
on his spirits all day. To avoid the annoyance of the piano next door,
which was slowly and reluctantly yielding up "_The Last Rose of Summer_"
note by note, he went out at the back, and the first thing he saw was Mr.
Evans mending his path with tins and other bric-a-brac.
"Nothing like it," said the constable, looking up. "Your missus gave 'em
to us this morning. A little gravel on top, and there you are."
He turned whistling to his work again, and the other, after endeavouring
in vain to frame a suitable reply, took a seat on an inverted wash-tub
and lit his pipe. His one hope was that Constable Evans was going to try
and cultivate a garden.
The hope was realized a few days later, and Mr. Grummit at the back
window sat gloating over a dozen fine geraniums, some lobelias and
calceolarias, which decorated the constable's plot of ground. He could
not sleep for thinking of them.
He rose early the next morning, and, after remarking to Mrs. Grummit that
Mr. Evans's flowers looked as though they wanted rain, went off to his
work. The cloud which had been on his spirits for some time had lifted,
and he whistled as he walked. The sight of flowers in front windows
added to his good humour.
He was still in good spirits when he left off work that afternoon, but
some slight hesitation about returning home sent him to the Brick-layers'
firms instead. He stayed there until closing time, and then, being still
disinclined for home, paid a visit to Bill Smith, who lived the other
side of Tunwich. By the time he started for home it was nearly midnight.
The outskirts of the town were deserted and the houses in darkness. The
clock of Tunwich church struck twelve, and the last stroke was just dying
away as he turned a corner and ran almost into the arms of the man he had
been trying to avoid.
"Halloa!" said Constable Evans, sharply. "Here, I want a word with you."
Mr. Grummit quailed. "With me, sir?" he said, with involuntary respect.
"What have you been doing to my flowers?" demanded the other, hotly.
"Flowers?" repeated Mr. Grummit, as though the word were new to him.
"Flowers? What flowers?"
"You know well enough," retorted the constable. "You got over my fence
last night and smashed all my flowers down."
"You be careful wot you're saying," urged Mr. Grummit. "Why, I love
flowers. You don't mean to tell me that all them beautiful flowers wot
you put in so careful 'as been spoiled?"
"You know all about it," said the constable, choking. "I shall take out
a summons against you for it."
"Ho!" said Mr. Grummit. "And wot time do you say it was when I done it?"
"Never you mind the time," said the other.
"Cos it's important," said Mr. Grummit.
"My wife's brother--the one you're so fond of--slept in my 'ouse last
night. He was ill arf the night, pore chap; but, come to think of it,
it'll make 'im a good witness for my innocence."
"If I wasn't a policeman," said Mr. Evans, speaking with great
deliberation, "I'd take hold o' you, Bob Grummit, and I'd give you the
biggest hiding you've ever had in your life."
"If you wasn't a policeman," said Mr. Grummit, yearningly, "I'd arf
The two men eyed each other wistfully, loth to part.
"If I gave you what you deserve I should get into trouble," said the
"If I gave you a quarter of wot you ought to 'ave I should go to quod,"
sighed Mr. Grummit.
"I wouldn't put you there," said the constable, earnestly; "I swear I
"Everything's beautiful and quiet," said Mr. Grummit, trembling with
eagerness, "and I wouldn't say a word to a soul. I'll take my solemn
davit I wouldn't."
"When I think o' my garden--" began the constable. With a sudden
movement he knocked off Mr. Grummit's cap, and then, seizing him by the
coat, began to hustle him along the road. In the twinkling of an eye
they had closed.
Tunwich church chimed the half-hour as they finished, and Mr. Grummit,
forgetting his own injuries, stood smiling at the wreck before him. The
constable's helmet had been smashed and trodden on; his uniform was torn
and covered with blood and dirt, and his good looks marred for a
fortnight at least. He stooped with a groan, and, recovering his helmet,
tried mechanically to punch it into shape. He stuck the battered relic
on his head, and Mr. Grummit fell back--awed, despite himself.
"It was a fair fight," he stammered.
The constable waved him away. "Get out o' my sight before I change my
mind," he said, fiercely; "and mind, if you say a word about this it'll
be the worse for you."
"Do you think I've gone mad?" said the other. He took another look at
his victim and, turning away, danced fantastically along the road home.
The constable, making his way to a gas-lamp, began to inspect damages.
They were worse even than he had thought, and, leaning against the
lamp-post, he sought in vain for an explanation that, in the absence of a
prisoner, would satisfy the inspector. A button which was hanging by a
thread fell tinkling on to the footpath, and he had just picked it up and
placed it in his pocket when a faint distant outcry broke upon his ear.
He turned and walked as rapidly as his condition would permit in the
direction of the noise. It became louder and more imperative, and cries
of "Police!" became distinctly audible. He quickened into a run, and
turning a corner beheld a little knot of people standing at the gate of a
large house. Other people only partially clad were hastening to-wards
them. The constable arrived out of breath.
"Better late than never," said the owner of the house, sarcastically.
Mr. Evans, breathing painfully, supported himself with his hand on the
"They went that way, but I suppose you didn't see them," continued the
householder. "Halloa!" he added, as somebody opened the hall door and
the constable's damaged condition became visible in the gas-light. "Are
"Yes," said Mr. Evans, who was trying hard to think clearly. To gain
time he blew a loud call on his whistle.
"The rascals!" continued the other. "I think I should know the big chap
with a beard again, but the others were too quick for me."
Mr. Evans blew his whistle again--thoughtfully. The opportunity seemed
too good to lose.
"Did they get anything?" he inquired.
"Not a thing," said the owner, triumphantly. "I was disturbed just in
The constable gave a slight gulp. "I saw the three running by the side
of the road," he said, slowly. "Their behaviour seemed suspicious, so I
collared the big one, but they set on me like wild cats. They had me
down three times; the last time I laid my head open against the kerb, and
when I came to my senses again they had gone."
He took off his battered helmet with a flourish and, amid a murmur of
sympathy, displayed a nasty cut on his head. A sergeant and a constable,
both running, appeared round the corner and made towards' them.
"Get back to the station and make your report," said the former, as
Constable Evans, in a somewhat defiant voice, repeated his story.
"You've done your best; I can see that."
Mr. Evans, enacting to perfection the part of a wounded hero, limped
painfully off, praying devoutly as he went that the criminals might make
good their escape. If not, he reflected that the word of a policeman was
at least equal to that of three burglars.
He repeated his story at the station, and, after having his head dressed,
was sent home and advised to keep himself quiet for a day or two. He was
off duty for four days, and, the Tunwich Gazette having devoted a column
to the affair, headed "A Gallant Constable," modestly secluded himself
from the public gaze for the whole of that time.
To Mr. Grummit, who had read the article in question until he could have
repeated it backwards, this modesty was particularly trying. The
constable's yard was deserted and the front door ever closed. Once Mr.
Grummit even went so far as to tap with his nails on the front parlour
window, and the only response was the sudden lowering of the blind. It
was not until a week afterwards that his eyes were gladdened by a sight
of the constable sitting in his yard; and fearing that even then he might
escape him, he ran out on tip-toe and put his face over the fence before
the latter was aware of his presence.
"Wot about that 'ere burglary?" he demanded in truculent tones.
"Good evening, Grummit," said the constable, with a patronizing air.
"Wot about that burglary?" repeated Mr. Grummit, with a scowl. "I don't
believe you ever saw a burglar."
Mr. Evans rose and stretched himself gracefully. "You'd better run
indoors, my good man," he said, slowly.
"Telling all them lies about burglars," continued the indignant Mr.
Grummit, producing his newspaper and waving it. "Why, I gave you that
black eye, I smashed your 'elmet, I cut your silly 'ead open, I----"
"You've been drinking," said the other, severely.
"You mean to say I didn't?" demanded Mr. Grummit, ferociously.
Mr. Evans came closer and eyed him steadily. "I don't know what you're
talking about," he said, calmly.
Mr. Grummit, about to speak, stopped appalled at such hardihood.
"Of course, if you mean to say that you were one o' them burglars,"
continued the constable, "why, say it and I'll take you with pleasure.
Come to think of it, I did seem to remember one o' their voices."
Mr. Grummit, with his eyes fixed on the other's, backed a couple of yards
and breathed heavily.
"About your height, too, he was," mused the constable. "I hope for your
sake you haven't been saying to anybody else what you said to me just
Mr. Grummit shook his head. "Not a word," he faltered.
"That's all right, then," said Mr. Evans. "I shouldn't like to be hard
on a neighbour; not that we shall be neighbours much longer."
Mr. Grummit, feeling that a reply was expected of him, gave utterance to
a feeble "Oh!"
"No," said Mr. Evans, looking round disparagingly. "It ain't good enough
for us now; I was promoted to sergeant this morning. A sergeant can't
live in a common place like this."
Mr. Grummit, a prey to a sickening fear, drew near the fence again. "A--
a sergeant?" he stammered.
Mr. Evans smiled and gazed carefully at a distant cloud. "For my bravery
with them burglars the other night, Grummit," he said, modestly. "I
might have waited years if it hadn't been for them."
He nodded to the frantic Grummit and turned away; Mr. Grummit, without
any adieu at all, turned and crept back to the house.
[Illustration: "Bob's Redemption."]
"GRATITOODE!" said the night-watchman, with a hard laugh. "_Hmf!_ Don't
talk to me about gratitoode; I've seen too much of it. If people wot
I've helped in my time 'ad only done arf their dooty--arf, mind you--I
should be riding in my carriage."
Forgetful of the limitations of soap-boxes he attempted to illustrate his
remark by lolling, and nearly went over backwards. Recovering himself by
an effort he gazed sternly across the river and smoked fiercely. It was
evident that he was brooding over an ill-used past.
'Arry Thomson was one of them, he said, at last. For over six months I
wrote all 'is love-letters for him, 'e being an iggernerant sort of man
and only being able to do the kisses at the end, which he always insisted
on doing 'imself: being jealous. Only three weeks arter he was married
'e come up to where I was standing one day and set about me without
saying a word. I was a single man at the time and I didn't understand
it. My idea was that he 'ad gone mad, and, being pretty artful and
always 'aving a horror of mad people, I let 'im chase me into a
police-station. Leastways, I would ha' let 'im, but he didn't come,
and I all but got fourteen days for being drunk and disorderly.
Then there was Bill Clark. He 'ad been keeping comp'ny with a gal and
got tired of it, and to oblige 'im I went to her and told 'er he was a
married man with five children. Bill was as pleased as Punch at fust,
but as soon as she took up with another chap he came round to see me and
said as I'd ruined his life. We 'ad words about it--naturally--and I did
ruin it then to the extent of a couple o' ribs. I went to see 'im in the
horsepittle--place I've always been fond of--and the langwidge he used to
me was so bad that they sent for the Sister to 'ear it.
That's on'y two out of dozens I could name. Arf the unpleasantnesses in
my life 'ave come out of doing kindnesses to people, and all the
gratitoode I've 'ad for it I could put in a pint-pot with a pint o' beer
already in it.
The only case o' real gratitoode I ever heard of 'appened to a shipmate
o' mine--a young chap named Bob Evans. Coming home from Auckland in a
barque called the _Dragon Fly_ he fell overboard, and another chap named
George Crofts, one o' the best swimmers I ever knew, went overboard arter
'im and saved his life.
We was hardly moving at the time, and the sea was like a duck pond, but
to 'ear Bob Evans talk you'd ha' thought that George Crofts was the
bravest-'arted chap that ever lived. He 'adn't liked him afore, same as
the rest of us, George being a sly, mean sort o' chap; but arter George
'ad saved his life 'e couldn't praise 'im enough. He said that so long
as he 'ad a crust George should share it, and wotever George asked 'im he
The unfortnit part of it was that George took 'im at his word, and all
the rest of the v'y'ge he acted as though Bob belonged to 'im, and by the
time we got into the London river Bob couldn't call his soul 'is own. He
used to take a room when he was ashore and live very steady, as 'e was
saving up to get married, and as soon as he found that out George invited
'imself to stay with him.
"It won't cost you a bit more," he ses, "not if you work it properly."
Bob didn't work it properly, but George having saved his life, and never
letting 'im forget it, he didn't like to tell him so. He thought he'd
let 'im see gradual that he'd got to be careful because of 'is gal, and
the fust evening they was ashore 'e took 'im along with 'im there to tea.
Gerty Mitchell--that was the gal's name--'adn't heard of Bob's accident,
and when she did she gave a little scream, and putting 'er arms round his
neck, began to kiss 'im right in front of George and her mother.
"You ought to give him one too," ses Mrs. Mitchell, pointing to George.
George wiped 'is mouth on the back of his 'and, but Gerty pretended not
"Fancy if you'd been drownded!" she ses, hugging Bob agin.
"He was pretty near," ses George, shaking his 'ead. "I'm a pore swimmer,
but I made up my mind either to save 'im or else go down to a watery
He wiped his mouth on the back of his 'and agin, but all the notice Gerty
took of it was to send her young brother Ted out for some beer. Then
they all 'ad supper together, and Mrs. Mitchell drank good luck to George
in a glass o' beer, and said she 'oped that 'er own boy would grow up
like him. "Let 'im grow up a good and brave man, that's all I ask," she
ses. "I don't care about 'is looks."
"He might have both," ses George, sharp-like. "Why not?"
Mrs. Mitchell said she supposed he might, and then she cuffed young Ted's
ears for making a noise while 'e was eating, and then cuffed 'im agin for
saying that he'd finished 'is supper five minutes ago.
George and Bob walked 'ome together, and all the way there George said
wot a pretty gal Gerty was and 'ow lucky it was for Bob that he 'adn't
been drownded. He went round to tea with 'im the next day to Mrs.
Mitchell's, and arter tea, when Bob and Gerty said they was going out to
spend the evening together, got 'imself asked too.
They took a tram-car and went to a music-hall, and Bob paid for the three
of 'em. George never seemed to think of putting his 'and in his pocket,
and even arter the music-hall, when they all went into a shop and 'ad
stewed eels, he let Bob pay.
As I said afore, Bob Evans was chock-full of gratefulness, and it seemed
only fair that he shouldn't grumble at spending a little over the man wot
'ad risked 'is life to save his; but wot with keeping George at his room,
and paying for 'im every time they went out, he was spending a lot more
money than 'e could afford.
"You're on'y young once, Bob," George said to him when 'e made a remark
one arternoon as to the fast way his money was going, "and if it hadn't
ha' been for me you'd never 'ave lived to grow old."
Wot with spending the money and always 'aving George with them when they
went out, it wasn't long afore Bob and Gerty 'ad a quarrel. "I don't
like a pore-spirited man," she ses. "Two's company and three's none,
and, besides, why can't he pay for 'imself? He's big enough. Why should
you spend your money on 'im? He never pays a farthing."
Bob explained that he couldn't say anything because 'e owed his life to
George, but 'e might as well 'ave talked to a lamp-post. The more he
argued the more angry Gerty got, and at last she ses, "Two's company and
three's none, and if you and me can't go out without George Crofts, then
me and 'im 'll go out with-out you."
She was as good as her word, too, and the next night, while Bob 'ad gone
out to get some 'bacca, she went off alone with George. It was ten
o'clock afore they came back agin, and Gerty's eyes were all shining and
'er cheeks as pink as roses. She shut 'er mother up like a concertina
the moment she began to find fault with 'er, and at supper she sat next
to George and laughed at everything 'e said.
George and Bob walked all the way 'ome arter supper without saying a
word, but arter they got to their room George took a side-look at Bob,
and then he ses, suddenlike, "Look 'ere! I saved your life, didn't I?"
"You did," ses Bob, "and I thank you for it."
"I saved your life," ses George agin, very solemn. "If it hadn't ha'
been for me you couldn't ha' married anybody."
"That's true," ses Bob.
"Me and Gerty 'ave been having a talk," ses George, bending down to undo
his boots. "We've been getting on very well together; you can't 'elp
your feelings, and the long and the short of it is, the pore gal has
fallen in love with me."
Bob didn't say a word.
"If you look at it this way it's fair enough," ses George. "I gave you
your life and you give me your gal. We're quits now. You don't owe me
anything and I don't owe you anything. That's the way Gerty puts it, and
she told me to tell you so."
"If--if she don't want me I'm agreeable," ses Bob, in a choking voice.
"We'll call it quits, and next time I tumble overboard I 'ope you won't
He took Gerty's photygraph out of 'is box and handed it to George.
"You've got more right to it now than wot I 'ave," he ses. "I shan't go
round there any more; I shall look out for a ship to-morrow."
George Crofts said that perhaps it was the best thing he could do, and 'e
asked 'im in a offhand sort o' way 'ow long the room was paid up for.
Mrs. Mitchell 'ad a few words to say about it next day, but Gerty told
'er to save 'er breath for walking upstairs. The on'y thing that George
didn't like when they went out was that young Ted was with them, but
Gerty said she preferred it till she knew 'im better; and she 'ad so much
to say about his noble behaviour in saving life that George gave way.
They went out looking at the shops, George thinking that that was the
cheapest way of spending an evening, and they were as happy as possible
till Gerty saw a brooch she liked so much in a window that he couldn't
get 'er away.
"It is a beauty," she ses. "I don't know when I've seen a brooch I liked
better. Look here! Let's all guess the price and then go in and see
They 'ad their guesses, and then they went in and asked, and as soon as
Gerty found that it was only three-and-sixpence she began to feel in her
pocket for 'er purse, just like your wife does when you go out with 'er,
knowing all the time that it's on the mantelpiece with twopence-ha'penny
and a cough lozenge in it.
"I must ha' left it at 'ome," she ses, looking at George.
"Just wot I've done," ses George, arter patting 'is pockets.
Gerty bit 'er lips and, for a minute or two, be civil to George she could
not. Then she gave a little smile and took 'is arm agin, and they walked
on talking and laughing till she turned round of a sudden and asked a big
chap as was passing wot 'e was shoving 'er for.
"Shoving you?" ses he. "Wot do you think I want to shove you for?"
"Don't you talk to me," ses Gerty, firing up. "George, make 'im beg my
"You ought to be more careful," ses George, in a gentle sort o' way.
"Make 'im beg my pardon," ses Gerty, stamping 'er foot; "if he don't,
knock 'im down."
"Yes, knock 'im down," ses the big man, taking hold o' George's cap and
rumpling his 'air.
Pore George, who was never much good with his fists, hit 'im in the
chest, and the next moment he was on 'is back in the middle o' the road
wondering wot had 'appened to 'im. By the time 'e got up the other man
was arf a mile away; and young Ted stepped up and wiped 'im down with a
pocket-'andkerchief while Gerty explained to 'im 'ow she saw 'im slip on
a piece o' banana peel.
"It's 'ard lines," she ses; "but never mind, you frightened 'im away,
and I don't wonder at it. You do look terrible when you're angry,
George; I didn't know you."
She praised 'im all the way 'ome, and if it 'adn't been for his mouth and
nose George would 'ave enjoyed it more than 'e did. She told 'er mother
how 'e had flown at a big man wot 'ad insulted her, and Mrs. Mitchell
shook her 'ead at 'im and said his bold spirit would lead 'im into
trouble afore he 'ad done.
They didn't seem to be able to make enough of 'im, and next day when he
went round Gerty was so upset at the sight of 'is bruises that he thought
she was going to cry. When he had 'ad his tea she gave 'im a cigar she
had bought for 'im herself, and when he 'ad finished smoking it she
smiled at him, and said that she was going to take 'im out for a pleasant
evening to try and make up to 'im for wot he 'ad suffered for 'er.
"We're all going to stand treat to each other," she ses. "Bob always
would insist on paying for everything, but I like to feel a bit
independent. Give and take--that's the way I like to do things."
"There's nothing like being independent," ses George. "Bob ought to ha'
"I'm sure it's the best plan," ses Gerty. "Now, get your 'at on. We're
going to a theayter, and Ted shall pay the 'bus fares."
George wanted to ask about the theayter, but 'e didn't like to, and arter
Gerty was dressed they went out and Ted paid the 'bus fares like a man.
"Here you are," ses Gerty, as the 'bus stopped outside the theayter.
"Hurry up and get the tickets, George; ask for three upper circles."
She bustled George up to the pay place, and as soon as she 'ad picked out
the seats she grabbed 'old of the tickets and told George to make haste.
"Twelve shillings it is," ses the man, as George put down arf a crown.
"Twelve?" ses George, beginning to stammer. "Twelve? Twelve? Twel--?"
"Twelve shillings," ses the man; "three upper circles you've 'ad."
George was going to fetch Gerty back and 'ave cheaper seats, but she 'ad
gone inside with young Ted, and at last, arter making an awful fuss, he
paid the rest o' the money and rushed in arter her, arf crazy at the idea
o' spending so much money.
"Make 'aste," ses Gerty, afore he could say anything; "the band 'as just
She started running upstairs, and she was so excited that, when they got
their seats and George started complaining about the price, she didn't
pay any attention to wot he was saying, but kept pointing out ladies'
dresses to 'im in w'ispers and wondering wot they 'ad paid for them.
George gave it up at last, and then he sat wondering whether he 'ad done
right arter all in taking Bob's gal away from him.
Gerty enjoyed it very much, but when the curtain came down after the
first act she leaned back in her chair and looked up at George and said
she felt faint and thought she'd like to 'ave an ice-cream. "And you
'ave one too, dear," she ses, when young Ted 'ad got up and beckoned to
the gal, "and Ted 'ud like one too, I'm sure."
She put her 'ead on George's shoulder and looked up at 'im. Then she put
her 'and on his and stroked it, and George, reckoning that arter all
ice-creams were on'y a ha'penny or at the most a penny each, altered 'is
mind about not spending any more money and ordered three.
The way he carried on when the gal said they was three shillings was
alarming. At fust 'e thought she was 'aving a joke with 'im, and it took
another gal and the fireman and an old gentleman wot was sitting behind
'im to persuade 'im different. He was so upset that 'e couldn't eat his
arter paying for it, and Ted and Gerty had to finish it for 'im.
"They're expensive, but they're worth the money," ses Gerty. "You are
good to me, George. I could go on eating 'em all night, but you mustn't
fling your money away like this always."
"I'll see to that," ses George, very bitter.
"I thought we was going to stand treat to each other? That was the idea,
"So we are," ses Gerty. "Ted stood the 'bus fares, didn't he?"
"He did," ses George, "wot there was of 'em; but wot about you?"
"Me?" ses Gerty, drawing her 'ead back and staring at 'im. "Why, 'ave
you forgot that cigar already, George?"
George opened 'is mouth, but 'e couldn't speak a word. He sat looking at
'er and making a gasping noise in 'is throat, and fortunately just as 'e
got 'is voice back the curtain went up agin, and everybody said,
He couldn't enjoy the play at all, 'e was so upset, and he began to see
more than ever 'ow wrong he 'ad been in taking Bob's gal away from 'im.
He walked downstairs into the street like a man in a dream, with Gerty
sticking to 'is arm and young Ted treading on 'is heels behind.
"Now, you mustn't waste any more money, George," ses Gerty, when they got
outside. "We'll walk 'ome."
George 'ad got arf a mind to say something about a 'bus, but he
remembered in time that very likely young Ted hadn't got any more money.
Then Gerty said she knew a short cut, and she took them, walking along
little, dark, narrow streets and places, until at last, just as George
thought they must be pretty near 'ome, she began to dab her eyes with 'er
pocket-'andkerchief and say she'd lost 'er way.
"You two go 'ome and leave me," she ses, arf crying. "I can't walk
"Where are we?" ses George, looking round.
"I don't know," ses Gerty. "I couldn't tell you if you paid me. I must
'ave taken a wrong turning. Oh, hurrah! Here's a cab!"
Afore George could stop 'er she held up 'er umbrella, and a 'ansom cab,
with bells on its horse, crossed the road and pulled up in front of 'em.
Ted nipped in first and Gerty followed 'im.
"Tell 'im the address, dear, and make 'aste and get in," ses Gerty.
George told the cabman, and then he got in and sat on Ted's knee, partly
on Gerty's umbrella, and mostly on nothing.
"You are good to me, George," ses Gerty, touching the back of 'is neck
with the brim of her hat. "It ain't often I get a ride in a cab. All
the time I was keeping company with Bob we never 'ad one once. I only
wish I'd got the money to pay for it."
George, who was going to ask a question, stopped 'imself, and then he
kept striking matches and trying to read all about cab fares on a bill in
front of 'im.
"'Ow are we to know 'ow many miles it is?" he ses, at last.
"I don't know," ses Gerty; "leave it to the cabman. It's his bisness,
ain't it? And if 'e don't know he must suffer for it."
There was hardly a soul in Gerty's road when they got there, but afore
George 'ad settled with the cabman there was a policeman moving the crowd
on and arf the winders in the road up. By the time George had paid 'im
and the cabman 'ad told him wot 'e looked like, Gerty and Ted 'ad
disappeared indoors, all the lights was out, and, in a state o' mind that
won't bear thinking of, George walked 'ome to his lodging.
[Illustration: "Afore George had settled with the cabman, there was a
policeman moving the crowd on."]
Bob was asleep when he got there, but 'e woke 'im up and told 'im about
it, and then arter a time he said that he thought Bob ought to pay arf
because he 'ad saved 'is life.
"Cert'nly not," ses Bob. "We're quits now; that was the arrangement.
I only wish it was me spending the money on her; I shouldn't grumble."
George didn't get a wink o' sleep all night for thinking of the money he
'ad spent, and next day when he went round he 'ad almost made up 'is mind
to tell Bob that if 'e liked to pay up the money he could 'ave Gerty
back; but she looked so pretty, and praised 'im up so much for 'is
generosity, that he began to think better of it. One thing 'e was
determined on, and that was never to spend money like that agin for fifty
There was a very sensible man there that evening that George liked very
much. His name was Uncle Joe, and when Gerty was praising George to 'is
face for the money he 'ad been spending, Uncle Joe, instead o' looking
pleased, shook his 'ead over it.
"Young people will be young people, I know," he ses, "but still I don't
approve of extravagance. Bob Evans would never 'ave spent all that money
"Bob Evans ain't everybody," ses Mrs. Mitchell, standing up for Gerty.
"He was steady, anyway," ses Uncle Joe. "Besides, Gerty ought not to ha'
let Mr. Crofts spend his money like that. She could ha' prevented it if
she'd ha' put 'er foot down and insisted on it."
He was so solemn about it that everybody began to feel a bit upset, and
Gerty borrowed Ted's pocket-'andkerchief, and then wiped 'er eyes on the
cuff of her dress instead.
"Well, well," ses Uncle Joe; "I didn't mean to be 'ard, but don't do it
no more. You are young people, and can't afford it."
"We must 'ave a little pleasure sometimes," ses Gerty.
"Yes, I know," ses Uncle Joe; "but there's moderation in everything.
Look 'ere, it's time somebody paid for Mr. Crofts. To-morrow's Saturday,
and, if you like, I'll take you all to the Crystal Palace."
Gerty jumped up off of 'er chair and kissed 'im, while Mrs. Mitchell said
she knew 'is bark was worse than 'is bite, and asked 'im who was wasting
his money now?
"You meet me at London Bridge Station at two o'clock," ses Uncle Joe,
getting up to go. "It ain't extravagance for a man as can afford it."
He shook 'ands with George Crofts and went, and, arter George 'ad stayed
long enough to hear a lot o' things about Uncle Joe which made 'im think
they'd get on very well together, he went off too.
They all turned up very early the next arternoon, and Gerty was dressed
so nice that George couldn't take his eyes off of her. Besides her there
was Mrs. Mitchell and Ted and a friend of 'is named Charlie Smith.
They waited some time, but Uncle Joe didn't turn up, and they all got
looking at the clock and talking about it, and 'oping he wouldn't make
'em miss the train.
"Here he comes!" ses Ted, at last.
Uncle Joe came rushing in, puffing and blowing as though he'd bust.
"Take 'em on by this train, will you?" he ses, catching 'old o' George by
the arm. "I've just been stopped by a bit o' business I must do, and
I'll come on by the next, or as soon arter as I can."
He rushed off again, puffing and blowing his 'ardest, in such a hurry
that he forgot to give George the money for the tickets. However, George
borrowed a pencil of Mrs. Mitchell in the train, and put down on paper
'ow much they cost, and Mrs. Mitchell said if George didn't like to
remind 'im she would.
They left young Ted and Charlie to stay near the station when they got to
the Palace, Uncle Joe 'aving forgotten to say where he'd meet 'em, but
train arter train came in without 'im, and at last the two boys gave it
"We're sure to run across 'im sooner or later," ses Gerty. "Let's 'ave
something to eat; I'm so hungry."
George said something about buns and milk, but Gerty took 'im up sharp.
"Buns and milk?" she ses. "Why, uncle would never forgive us if we
spoilt his treat like that."
She walked into a refreshment place and they 'ad cold meat and bread and
pickles and beer and tarts and cheese, till even young Ted said he'd 'ad
enough, but still they couldn't see any signs of Uncle Joe. They went on
to the roundabouts to look for 'im, and then into all sorts o' shows at
sixpence a head, but still there was no signs of 'im, and George had 'ad
to start on a fresh bit o' paper to put down wot he'd spent.
"I suppose he must ha' been detained on important business," ses Gerty,
"Unless it's one of 'is jokes," ses Mrs. Mitchell, shaking her 'ead.
"You know wot your uncle is, Gerty."
"There now, I never thought o' that," ses Gerty, with a start; "p'r'aps
"Joke?" ses George, choking and staring from one to the other.
"I was wondering where he'd get the money from," ses Mrs. Mitchell to
Gerty. "I see it all now; I never see such a man for a bit o' fun in all
my born days. And the solemn way he went on last night, too. Why, he
must ha' been laughing in 'is sleeve all the time. It's as good as a
"Look here!" ses George, 'ardly able to speak; "do you mean to tell me he
never meant to come?"
"I'm afraid not," ses Mrs. Mitchell, "knowing wot he is. But don't you
worry; I'll give him a bit o' my mind when I see 'im."
George Crofts felt as though he'd burst, and then 'e got his breath, and
the things 'e said about Uncle Joe was so awful that Mrs. Mitchell told
the boys to go away.
"How dare you talk of my uncle like that?" ses Gerty, firing up.
"You forget yourself, George," ses Mrs. Mitchell. "You'll like 'im when
you get to know 'im better."
"Don't you call me George," ses George Crofts, turning on 'er. "I've
been done, that's wot I've been. I 'ad fourteen pounds when I was paid
off, and it's melting like butter."
"Well, we've enjoyed ourselves," ses Gerty, "and that's what money was
given us for. I'm sure those two boys 'ave had a splendid time, thanks
to you. Don't go and spoil all by a little bit o' temper."
"Temper!" ses George, turning on her. "I've done with you, I wouldn't
marry you if you was the on'y gal in the world. I wouldn't marry you if
you paid me."
"Oh, indeed!" ses Gerty; "but if you think you can get out of it like
that you're mistaken. I've lost my young man through you, and I'm not
going to lose you too. I'll send my two big cousins round to see you
"They won't put up with no nonsense, I can tell you," ses Mrs. Mitchell.
She called the boys to her, and then she and Gerty, arter holding their
'eads very high and staring at George, went off and left 'im alone. He
went straight off 'ome, counting 'is money all the way and trying to make
it more, and, arter telling Bob 'ow he'd been treated, and trying hard to
get 'im to go shares in his losses, packed up his things and cleared out,
all boiling over with temper.
Bob was so dazed he couldn't make head or tail out of it, but 'e went
round to see Gerty the first thing next morning, and she explained things
"I don't know when I've enjoyed myself so much," she ses, wiping her
eyes, "but I've had enough gadding about for once, and if you come round
this evening we'll have a nice quiet time together looking at the
OVER THE SIDE
[Illustration: "Over the Side."]
Of all classes of men, those who follow the sea are probably the most
prone to superstition. Afloat upon the black waste of waters, at the
mercy of wind and sea, with vast depths and strange creatures below them,
a belief in the supernatural is easier than ashore, under the cheerful
gas-lamps. Strange stories of the sea are plentiful, and an incident
which happened within my own experience has made me somewhat chary of
dubbing a man fool or coward because he has encountered something he
cannot explain. There are stories of the supernatural with prosaic
sequels; there are others to which the sequel has never been published.
I was fifteen years old at the time, and as my father, who had a strong
objection to the sea, would not apprentice me to it, I shipped before the
mast on a sturdy little brig called the _Endeavour,_ bound for Riga. She
was a small craft, but the skipper was as fine a seaman as one could wish
for, and, in fair weather, an easy man to sail under. Most boys have a
rough time of it when they first go to sea, but, with a strong sense of
what was good for me, I had attached myself to a brawny, good-natured
infant, named Bill Smith, and it was soon understood that whoever hit me
struck Bill by proxy. Not that the crew were particularly brutal, but a
sound cuffing occasionally is held by most seamen to be beneficial to a
lad's health and morals. The only really spiteful fellow among them was
a man named Jem Dadd. He was a morose, sallow-looking man, of about
forty, with a strong taste for the supernatural, and a stronger taste
still for frightening his fellows with it. I have seen Bill almost
afraid to go on deck of a night for his trick at the wheel, after a few
of his reminiscences. Rats were a favourite topic with him, and he would
never allow one to be killed if he could help it, for he claimed for them
that they were the souls of drowned sailors, hence their love of ships
and their habit of leaving them when they became unseaworthy. He was a
firm believer in the transmigration of souls, some idea of which he had,
no doubt, picked up in Eastern ports, and gave his shivering auditors to
understand that his arrangements for his own immediate future were
We were six or seven days out when a strange thing happened. Dadd had
the second watch one night, and Bill was to relieve him. They were not
very strict aboard the brig in fair weather, and when a man's time was
up he just made the wheel fast, and, running for'ard, shouted down the
fo'c's'le. On this night I happened to awake suddenly, in time to see
Bill slip out of his bunk and stand by me, rubbing his red eyelids with
"Dadd's giving me a long time," he whispered, seeing that I was awake;
"it's a whole hour after his time."
He pattered up on deck, and I was just turning over, thankful that I was
too young to have a watch to keep, when he came softly down again, and,
taking me by the shoulders, shook me roughly.
"Jack," he whispered. "Jack."
I raised myself on my elbows, and, in the light of the smoking lamp, saw
that he was shaking all over.
"Come on deck," he said, thickly.
I put on my clothes, and followed him quietly to the sweet, cool air
above. It was a beautiful clear night, but, from his manner, I looked
nervously around for some cause of alarm. I saw nothing. The deck was
deserted, except for the solitary figure at the wheel.
"Look at him," whispered Bill, bending a contorted face to mine.
I walked aft a few steps, and Bill followed slowly. Then I saw that Jem
Dadd was leaning forward clumsily on the wheel, with his hands clenched
on the spokes.
"He's asleep," said I, stopping short.
Bill breathed hard. "He's in a queer sleep," said he; "kind o' trance
more like. Go closer."
I took fast hold of Bill's sleeve, and we both went. The light of the
stars was sufficient to show that Dadd's face was very white, and that
his dim, black eyes were wide open, and staring in a very strange and
dreadful manner straight before him.
"Dadd," said I, softly, "Dadd!"
There was no reply, and, with a view of arousing him, I tapped one sinewy
hand as it gripped the wheel, and even tried to loosen it.
He remained immovable, and, suddenly with a great cry, my courage
deserted me, and Bill and I fairly bolted down into the cabin and woke
Then we saw how it was with Jem, and two strong seamen forcibly loosened
the grip of those rigid fingers, and, laying him on the deck, covered him
with a piece of canvas. The rest of the night two men stayed at the
wheel, and, gazing fearfully at the outline of the canvas, longed for
It came at last, and, breakfast over, the body was sewn up in canvas, and
the skipper held a short service compiled from a Bible which belonged to
the mate, and what he remembered of the Burial Service proper. Then the
corpse went overboard with a splash, and the men, after standing
awkwardly together for a few minutes, slowly dispersed to their duties.
For the rest of that day we were all very quiet and restrained; pity for
the dead man being mingled with a dread of taking the wheel when night
"The wheel's haunted," said the cook, solemnly; "mark my words, there's
more of you will be took the same way Dadd was."
The cook, like myself, had no watch to keep.
The men bore up pretty well until night came on again, and then they
unanimously resolved to have a double watch. The cook, sorely against
his will, was impressed into the service, and I, glad to oblige my
patron, agreed to stay up with Bill.
Some of the pleasure had vanished by the time night came, and I seemed
only just to have closed my eyes when Bill came, and, with a rough shake
or two, informed me that the time had come. Any hope that I might have
had of escaping the ordeal was at once dispelled by his expectant
demeanour, and the helpful way in which he assisted me with my clothes,
and, yawning terribly, I followed him on deck.
The night was not so clear as the preceding one, and the air was chilly,
with a little moisture in it. I buttoned up my jacket, and thrust my
hands in my pockets.
"Everything quiet?" asked Bill as he stepped up and took the wheel.
"Ay, ay," said Roberts, "quiet as the grave," and, followed by his
willing mate, he went below.
I sat on the deck by Bill's side as, with a light touch on the wheel,
he kept the brig to her course. It was weary work sitting there, doing
nothing, and thinking of the warm berth below, and I believe that I
should have fallen asleep, but that my watchful companion stirred me with
his foot whenever he saw me nodding.
I suppose I must have sat there, shivering and yawning, for about an
hour, when, tired of inactivity, I got up and went and leaned over the
side of the vessel. The sound of the water gurgling and lapping by was
so soothing that I began to doze.
I was recalled to my senses by a smothered cry from Bill, and, running to
him, I found him staring to port in an intense and uncomfortable fashion.
At my approach, he took one hand from the wheel, and gripped my arm so
tightly that I was like to have screamed with the pain of it.
"Jack," said he, in a shaky voice, "while you was away something popped
its head up, and looked over the ship's side."
"You've been dreaming," said I, in a voice which was a very fair
imitation of Bill's own.
"Dreaming," repeated Bill, "dreaming! Ah, look there!"
He pointed with outstretched finger, and my heart seemed to stop beating
as I saw a man's head appear above the side. For a brief space it peered
at us in silence, and then a dark figure sprang like a cat on to the
deck, and stood crouching a short distance away.
A mist came before my eyes, and my tongue failed me, but Bill let off a
roar, such as I have never heard before or since. It was answered from
below, both aft and for'ard, and the men came running up on deck just as
they left their beds.
"What's up?" shouted the skipper, glancing aloft.
For answer, Bill pointed to the intruder, and the men, who had just
caught sight of him, came up and formed a compact knot by the wheel.
"Come over the side, it did," panted Bill, "come over like a ghost out of
The skipper took one of the small lamps from the binnacle, and, holding
it aloft, walked boldly up to the cause of alarm. In the little patch of
light we saw a ghastly black-bearded man, dripping with water, regarding
us with unwinking eyes, which glowed red in the light of the lamp.
"Where did you come from?" asked the skipper.
The figure shook its head.
"Where did you come from?" he repeated, walking up, and laying his hand
on the other's shoulder.
Then the intruder spoke, but in a strange fashion and in strange words.
We leaned forward to listen, but, even when he repeated them, we could
make nothing of them.
"He's a furriner," said Roberts.
"Blest if I've ever 'eard the lingo afore," said Bill. "Does anybody
Nobody did, and the skipper, after another attempt, gave it up, and,
falling back upon the universal language of signs, pointed first to the
man and then to the sea. The other understood him, and, in a heavy,
slovenly fashion, portrayed a man drifting in an open boat, and clutching
and clambering up the side of a passing ship. As his meaning dawned upon
us, we rushed to the stern, and, leaning over, peered into the gloom, but
the night was dark, and we saw nothing.
"Well," said the skipper, turning to Bill, with a mighty yawn, "take him
below, and give him some grub, and the next time a gentleman calls on
you, don't make such a confounded row about it."
He went below, followed by the mate, and after some slight hesitation,
Roberts stepped up to the intruder, and signed to him to follow. He came
stolidly enough, leaving a trail of water on the deck, and, after
changing into the dry things we gave him, fell to, but without much
appearance of hunger, upon some salt beef and biscuits, regarding us
between bites with black, lack-lustre eyes.
"He seems as though he's a-walking in his sleep," said the cook.
"He ain't very hungry," said one of the men; "he seems to mumble his
"Hungry!" repeated Bill, who had just left the wheel. "Course he ain't
famished. He had his tea last night."
The men stared at him in bewilderment.
"Don't you see?" said Bill, still in a hoarse whisper; "ain't you ever
seen them eyes afore? Don't you know what he used to say about dying?
It's Jem Dadd come back to us. Jem Dadd got another man's body, as he
always said he would."
"Rot!" said Roberts, trying to speak bravely, but he got up, and, with
the others, huddled together at the end of the fo'c's'le, and stared in a
bewildered fashion at the sodden face and short, squat figure of our
visitor. For his part, having finished his meal, he pushed his plate
from him, and, leaning back on the locker, looked at the empty bunks.
Roberts caught his eye, and, with a nod and a wave of his hand, indicated
the bunks. The fellow rose from the locker, and, amid a breathless
silence, climbed into one of them--Jem Dadd's!
He slept in the dead sailor's bed that night, the only man in the
fo'c's'le who did sleep properly, and turned out heavily and lumpishly in
the morning for breakfast.
The skipper had him on deck after the meal, but could make nothing of
him. To all his questions he replied in the strange tongue of the night
before, and, though our fellows had been to many ports, and knew a word
or two of several languages, none of them recognized it. The skipper
gave it up at last, and, left to himself, he stared about him for some
time, regardless of our interest in his movements, and then, leaning
heavily against the side of the ship, stayed there so long that we
thought he must have fallen asleep.
"He's half-dead now!" whispered Roberts.
"Hush!" said Bill, "mebbe he's been in the water a week or two, and can't
quite make it out. See how he's looking at it now."
He stayed on deck all day in the sun, but, as night came on, returned to
the warmth of the fo'c's'le. The food we gave him remained untouched,
and he took little or no notice of us, though I fancied that he saw the
fear we had of him. He slept again in the dead man's bunk, and when
morning came still lay there.
Until dinner-time, nobody interfered with him, and then Roberts, pushed
forward by the others, approached him with some food. He motioned, it
away with a dirty, bloated hand, and, making signs for water, drank it
For two days he stayed there quietly, the black eyes always open, the
stubby fingers always on the move. On the third morning Bill, who had
conquered his fear sufficiently to give him water occasionally, called
softly to us.
"Come and look at him," said he. "What's the matter with him?"
"He's dying!" said the cook, with a shudder.
"He can't be going to die yet!" said Bill, blankly.
As he spoke the man's eyes seemed to get softer and more life-like, and
he looked at us piteously and helplessly. From face to face he gazed in
mute inquiry, and then, striking his chest feebly with his fist, uttered
We looked at each other blankly, and he repeated them eagerly, and again
touched his chest.
"It's his name," said the cook, and we all repeated them.
He smiled in an exhausted fashion, and then, rallying his energies, held
up a forefinger; as we stared at this new riddle, he lowered it, and held
up all four fingers, doubled.
"Come away," quavered the cook; "he's putting a spell on us."
We drew back at that, and back farther still, as he repeated the motions.
Then Bill's face cleared suddenly, and he stepped towards him.
"He means his wife and younkers!" he shouted eagerly. "This ain't no Jem
It was good then to see how our fellows drew round the dying sailor, and
strove to cheer him. Bill, to show he understood the finger business,
nodded cheerily, and held his hand at four different heights from the
floor. The last was very low, so low that the man set his lips together,
and strove to turn his heavy head from us.
"Poor devil!" said Bill, "he wants us to tell his wife and children
what's become of him. He must ha' been dying when he come aboard. What
was his name, again?"
But the name was not easy to English lips, and we had already forgotten
"Ask him again," said the cook, "and write it down. Who's got a pen?"
He went to look for one as Bill turned to the sailor to get him to repeat
it. Then he turned round again, and eyed us blankly, for, by this time,
the owner had himself forgotten it.
THE FOUR PIGEONS
[Illustration: "The Four Pigeons."]
The old man took up his mug and shifted along the bench until he was in
the shade of the elms that stood before the _Cauliflower_. The action also
had the advantage of bringing him opposite the two strangers who were
refreshing themselves after the toils of a long walk in the sun.
"My hearing ain't wot it used to be," he said, tremulously. "When you
asked me to have a mug o' ale I 'ardly heard you; and if you was to ask
me to 'ave another, I mightn't hear you at all."
One of the men nodded.
"Not over there," piped the old man. "That's why I come over here," he
added, after a pause. "It 'ud be rude like to take no notice; if you was
to ask me."
He looked round as the landlord approached, and pushed his mug gently in
his direction. The landlord, obeying a nod from the second stranger,
"It puts life into me," said the old man, raising it to his lips and
bowing. "It makes me talk."
"Time we were moving, Jack," said the first traveller. The second,
assenting to this as an abstract proposition, expressed, however, a
determination to finish his pipe first.
I heard you saying something about shooting, continued the old man, and
that reminds me of some shooting we 'ad here once in Claybury. We've
always 'ad a lot o' game in these parts, and if it wasn't for a low,
poaching fellow named Bob Pretty--Claybury's disgrace I call 'im--we'd
'ave a lot more.
It happened in this way. Squire Rockett was going abroad to foreign
parts for a year, and he let the Hall to a gentleman from London named
Sutton. A real gentleman 'e was, open-'anded and free, and just about
October he 'ad a lot of 'is friends come down from London to 'elp 'im
kill the pheasants.
The first day they frightened more than they killed, but they enjoyed
theirselves all right until one gentleman, who 'adn't shot a single thing
all day, shot pore Bill Chambers wot was beating with about a dozen more.
Bill got most of it in the shoulder and a little in the cheek, but the
row he see fit to make you'd ha' thought he'd been killed. He laid on
the ground groaning with 'is eyes shut, and everybody thought 'e was
dying till Henery Walker stooped down and asked 'im whether 'e was hurt.
It took four men to carry Bill 'ome, and he was that particular you
wouldn't believe. They 'ad to talk in whispers, and when Peter Gubbins
forgot 'imself and began to whistle he asked him where his 'art was.
When they walked fast he said they jolted 'im, and when they walked slow
'e asked 'em whether they'd gone to sleep or wot.
Bill was in bed for nearly a week, but the gentleman was very nice about
it and said that it was his fault. He was a very pleasant-spoken
gentleman, and, arter sending Dr. Green to him and saying he'd pay the
bill, 'e gave Bill Chambers ten pounds to make up for 'is sufferings.
Bill 'ad intended to lay up for another week, and the doctor, wot 'ad
been calling twice a day, said he wouldn't be responsible for 'is life if
he didn't; but the ten pounds was too much for 'im, and one evening, just
a week arter the accident, he turned up at this _Cauliflower_ public-'ouse
and began to spend 'is money.
His face was bandaged up, and when 'e come in he walked feeble-like and
spoke in a faint sort o' voice. Smith, the landlord, got 'im a
easy-chair and a couple of pillers out o' the parlour, and Bill sat there
like a king, telling us all his sufferings and wot it felt like to be
I always have said wot a good thing beer is, and it done Bill more good
than doctor's medicine. When he came in he could 'ardly crawl, and at
nine o'clock 'e was out of the easy-chair and dancing on the table as
well as possible. He smashed three mugs and upset about two pints o'
beer, but he just put his 'and in his pocket and paid for 'em without a
"There's plenty more where that came from," he ses, pulling out a handful
Peter Gubbins looked at it, 'ardly able to speak. "It's worth while
being shot to 'ave all that money," he ses, at last.
"Don't you worry yourself, Peter," ses Bob Pretty; "there's plenty more
of you as'll be shot afore them gentlemen at the Hall 'as finished.
Bill's the fust, but 'e won't be the last--not by a long chalk."
"They're more careful now," ses Dicky Weed, the tailor.
"All right; 'ave it your own way," ses Bob, nasty-like. "I don't know
much about shooting, being on'y a pore labourin' man. All I know is I
shouldn't like to go beating for them. I'm too fond o' my wife and
"There won't be no more shot," ses Sam Jones.
"We're too careful," ses Peter Gubbins.
"Bob Pretty don't know everything," ses Dicky Weed.
"I'll bet you what you like there'll be some more of you shot," ses Bob
Pretty, in a temper. "Now, then."
"'Ow much'll you bet, Bob," ses Sam Jones, with a wink at the others.
"I can see you winking, Sam Jones," ses Bob Pretty, "but I'll do more
than bet. The last bet I won is still owing to me. Now, look 'ere; I'll
pay you sixpence a week all the time you're beating if you promise to
give me arf of wot you get if you're shot. I can't say fairer than
"Will you give me sixpence a week, too?" ses Henery Walker, jumping up.
"I will," ses Bob; "and anybody else that likes. And wot's more, I'll
pay in advance. Fust sixpences now."
Claybury men 'ave never been backward when there's been money to be made
easy, and they all wanted to join Bob Pretty's club, as he called it.
But fust of all 'e asked for a pen and ink, and then he got Smith, the
land-lord, being a scholard, to write out a paper for them to sign.
Henery Walker was the fust to write 'is name, and then Sam Jones, Peter
Gubbins, Ralph Thomson, Jem Hall, and Walter Bell wrote theirs. Bob
stopped 'em then, and said six 'ud be enough to go on with; and then 'e
paid up the sixpences and wished 'em luck.
Wot they liked a'most as well as the sixpences was the idea o' getting
the better o' Bob Pretty. As I said afore, he was a poacher, and that
artful that up to that time nobody 'ad ever got the better of 'im.
They made so much fun of 'im the next night that Bob turned sulky and
went off 'ome, and for two or three nights he 'ardly showed his face; and
the next shoot they 'ad he went off to Wickham and nobody saw 'im all
That very day Henery Walker was shot. Several gentlemen fired at a
rabbit that was started, and the next thing they knew Henery Walker was
lying on the ground calling out that 'is leg 'ad been shot off.
He made more fuss than Bill Chambers a'most, 'specially when they dropped
'im off a hurdle carrying him 'ome, and the things he said to Dr. Green
for rubbing his 'ands as he came into the bedroom was disgraceful.
The fust Bob Pretty 'eard of it was up at the _Cauliflower_ at eight
o'clock that evening, and he set down 'is beer and set off to see Henery
as fast as 'is legs could carry 'im. Henery was asleep when 'e got
there, and, do all he could, Bob Pretty couldn't wake 'im till he sat
down gentle on 'is bad leg.
[Illustration: "The fust Bob Pretty 'eard of it was up at the
_Cauliflower_ at eight o'clock that evening."]
"It's on'y me, old pal," he ses, smiling at 'im as Henery woke up and
shouted at 'im to get up.
Henery Walker was going to say something bad, but 'e thought better of
it, and he lay there arf busting with rage, and watching Bob out of the
corner of one eye.
"I quite forgot you was on my club till Smith reminded me of it," ses
Bob. "Don't you take a farthing less than ten pounds, Henery."
Henery Walker shut his eyes again. "I forgot to tell you I made up my
mind this morning not to belong to your club any more, Bob," he ses.
"Why didn't you come and tell me, Henery, instead of leaving it till it
was too late?" ses Bob, shaking his 'ead at 'im.
"I shall want all that money," ses Henery in a weak voice. "I might 'ave
to have a wooden leg, Bob."
"Don't meet troubles arf way, Henery," ses Bob, in a kind voice. "I've
no doubt Mr. Sutton'll throw in a wooden leg if you want it, and look
here, if he does, I won't trouble you for my arf of it."
He said good-night to Henery and went off, and when Mrs. Walker went up
to see 'ow Henery was getting on he was carrying on that alarming that
she couldn't do nothing with 'im.
He was laid up for over a week, though it's my opinion he wasn't much
hurt, and the trouble was that nobody knew which gentleman 'ad shot 'im.
Mr. Sutton talked it over with them, and at last, arter a good deal o'
trouble, and Henery pulling up 'is trousers and showing them 'is leg till
they was fair sick of the sight of it, they paid 'im ten pounds, the same
as they 'ad Bill.
It took Bob Pretty two days to get his arf, but he kept very quiet about
it, not wishing to make a fuss in the village for fear Mr. Sutton should
get to hear of the club. At last he told Henery Walker that 'e was going
to Wickham to see 'is lawyer about it, and arter Smith the landlord 'ad
read the paper to Henery and explained 'ow he'd very likely 'ave to pay
more than the whole ten pounds then, 'e gave Bob his arf and said he
never wanted to see 'im again as long as he lived.
Bob stood treat up at the _Cauliflower_ that night, and said 'ow bad he'd
been treated. The tears stood in 'is eyes a'most, and at last 'e said
that if 'e thought there was going to be any more fuss of that kind he'd
wind up the club.
"It's the best thing you can do," ses Sam Jones; "I'm not going to belong
to it any longer, so I give you notice. If so be as I get shot I want
the money for myself."
"Me, too," ses Peter Gubbins; "it 'ud fair break my 'art to give Bob
Pretty five pounds. I'd sooner give it to my wife."
All the other chaps said the same thing, but Bob pointed out to them that
they 'ad taken their sixpences on'y the night afore, and they must stay
in for the week. He said that was the law. Some of 'em talked about
giving 'im 'is sixpences back, but Bob said if they did they must pay up
all the sixpences they had 'ad for three weeks. The end of it was they
said they'd stay in for that week and not a moment longer.
The next day Sam Jones and Peter Gubbins altered their minds. Sam found
a couple o' shillings that his wife 'ad hidden in her Sunday bonnet, and
Peter Gubbins opened 'is boy's money-box to see 'ow much there was in it.
They came up to the _Cauliflower_ to pay Bob their eighteen-pences, but he
wasn't there, and when they went to his 'ouse Mrs. Pretty said as 'ow
he'd gone off to Wickham and wouldn't be back till Saturday. So they 'ad
to spend the money on beer instead.
That was on Tuesday, and things went on all right till Friday, when Mr.
Sutton 'ad another shoot. The birds was getting scarce and the gentlemen
that anxious to shoot them there was no 'olding them. Once or twice the
keepers spoke to 'em about carefulness, and said wot large families
they'd got, but it wasn't much good. They went on blazing away, and just
at the corner of the wood Sam Jones and Peter Gubbins was both hit; Sam
in the leg and Peter in the arm.
The noise that was made was awful--everybody shouting that they 'adn't
done it, and all speaking at once, and Mr. Sutton was dancing about
a'most beside 'imself with rage. Pore Sam and Peter was 'elped along by
the others; Sam being carried and Peter led, and both of 'em with the
idea of getting all they could out of it, making such 'orrible noises
that Mr. Sutton couldn't hear 'imself calling his friends names.
"There seems to be wounded men calling out all over the place," he ses,
in a temper.
"I think there is another one over there, sir," ses one o' the keepers,
Sam Jones and Peter Gubbins both left off to listen, and then they all
heard it distinctly. A dreadful noise it was, and when Mr. Sutton and
one or two more follered it up they found poor Walter Bell lying on 'is
face in a bramble.
"Wot's the matter?" ses Mr. Sutton, shouting at 'im.
"I've been shot from behind," ses Walter. "I'd got something in my boot,
and I was just stooping down to fasten it up agin when I got it.
"But there oughtn't to be anybody 'ere," ses Mr. Sutton to one of the
"They get all over the place, sir," ses the 'keeper, scratching his 'ead.
"I fancied I 'eard a gun go off here a minute or two arter the others was
"I believe he's done it 'imself," says Mr. Sutton, stamping his foot.
"I don't see 'ow he could, sir," ses the keeper, touching his cap and
looking at Walter as was still lying with 'is face on 'is arms.
They carried Walter 'ome that way on a hurdle, and Dr. Green spent all
the rest o' that day picking shots out o' them three men and telling 'em
to keep still. He 'ad to do Sam Jones by candle-light, with Mrs. Jones
'olding the candle with one hand and crying with the other. Twice the
doctor told her to keep it steady, and poor Sam 'ad only just passed the
remark, "How 'ot it was for October," when they discovered that the bed
was on fire. The doctor said that Sam was no trouble. He got off of the
bed by 'imself, and, when it was all over and the fire put out, the
doctor found him sitting on the stairs with the leg of a broken chair in
'is hand calling for 'is wife.
Of course, there was a terrible to-do about it in Claybury, and up at the
Hall, too. All of the gentlemen said as 'ow they hadn't done it, and Mr.
Sutton was arf crazy with rage. He said that they 'ad made 'im the
laughing-stock of the neighbourhood, and that they oughtn't to shoot with
anything but pop-guns. They got to such high words over it that two of
the gentlemen went off 'ome that very night.
There was a lot of talk up at the _Cauliflower,_ too, and more than one
pointed out 'ow lucky Bob Pretty was in getting four men out of the six
in his club. As I said afore, Bob was away at the time, but he came back
the next night and we 'ad the biggest row here you could wish for to see.
Henery Walker began it. "I s'pose you've 'eard the dreadful news, Bob
Pretty?" he ses, looking at 'im.
"I 'ave," ses Bob; "and my 'art bled for 'em. I told you wot those
gentlemen was like, didn't I? But none of you would believe me. Now you
can see as I was right."
"It's very strange," ses Henery Walker, looking round; "it's very strange
that all of us wot's been shot belonged to Bob Pretty's precious club."
"It's my luck, Henery," ses Bob, "always was lucky from a child."
"And I s'pose you think you're going to 'ave arf of the money they get?"
ses Henery Walker.
"Don't talk about money while them pore chaps is suffering," ses Bob.
"I'm surprised at you, Henery."
"You won't 'ave a farthing of it," ses Henery Walker; "and wot's more,
Bob Pretty, I'm going to 'ave my five pounds back."
"Don't you believe it, Henery," ses Bob, smiling at 'im.
"I'm going to 'ave my five pounds back," ses Henery, "and you know why.
I know wot your club was for now, and we was all a pack o' silly fools
not to see it afore."
"Speak for yourself, Henery," ses John Biggs, who thought Henery was
looking at 'im.
"I've been putting two and two together," ses Henery, looking round, "and
it's as plain as the nose on your face. Bob Pretty hid up in the wood
and shot us all himself!"
For a moment you might 'ave heard a pin drop, and then there was such a
noise nobody could hear theirselves speak. Everybody was shouting his
'ardest, and the on'y quiet one there was Bob Pretty 'imself.
"Poor Henery; he's gorn mad," he ses, shaking his 'ead.
"You're a murderer," ses Ralph Thomson, shaking 'is fist at him.
"Henery Walker's gorn mad," ses Bob agin. "Why, I ain't been near the
place. There's a dozen men'll swear that I was at Wickham each time
these misfortunate accidents 'appened."
"Men like you, they'd swear anything for a pot o' beer," ses Henery.
"But I'm not going to waste time talking to you, Bob Pretty. I'm going
straight off to tell Mr. Sutton."
"I shouldn't do that if I was you, Henery," ses Bob.
"I dessay," ses Henery Walker; "but then you see I am."
"I thought you'd gorn mad, Henery," ses Bob, taking a drink o' beer that
somebody 'ad left on the table by mistake, "and now I'm sure of it. Why,
if you tell Mr. Sutton that it wasn't his friends that shot them pore
fellers he won't pay them anything. 'Tain't likely 'e would, is it?"
Henery Walker, wot 'ad been standing up looking fierce at 'im, sat down
agin, struck all of a heap.
"And he might want your ten pounds back, Henery," said Bob in a soft
voice. "And seeing as 'ow you was kind enough to give five to me, and
spent most of the other, it 'ud come 'ard on you, wouldn't it? Always
think afore you speak, Henery. I always do."
Henery Walker got up and tried to speak, but 'e couldn't, and he didn't
get 'is breath back till Bob said it was plain to see that he 'adn't got
a word to say for 'imself. Then he shook 'is fist at Bob and called 'im
a low, thieving, poaching murderer.
"You're not yourself, Henery," ses Bob. "When you come round you'll be
sorry for trying to take away the character of a pore labourin' man with
a ailing wife and a large family. But if you take my advice you won't
say anything more about your wicked ideas; if you do, these pore fellers
won't get a farthing. And you'd better keep quiet about the club mates
for their sakes. Other people might get the same crazy ideas in their
silly 'eads as Henery. Keepers especially."
That was on'y common sense; but, as John Biggs said, it did seem 'ard to
think as 'ow Bob Pretty should be allowed to get off scot-free, and with
Henery Walker's five pounds too. "There's one thing," he ses to Bob;
"you won't 'ave any of these other pore chaps money; and, if they're men,
they ought to make it up to Henery Walker for the money he 'as saved 'em
by finding you out."
"They've got to pay me fust," ses Bob. "I'm a pore man, but I'll stick
up for my rights. As for me shooting 'em, they'd ha' been 'urt a good
deal more if I'd done it--especially Mr. Henery Walker. Why, they're
hardly 'urt at all."
"Don't answer 'im, Henery," ses John Biggs. "You save your breath to go
and tell Sam Jones and the others about it. It'll cheer 'em up."
"And tell 'em about my arf, in case they get too cheerful and go
overdoing it," ses Bob Pretty, stopping at the door. "Good-night all."
Nobody answered 'im; and arter waiting a little bit Henery Walker set off
to see Sam Jones and the others. John Biggs was quite right about its
making 'em cheerful, but they see as plain as Bob 'imself that it 'ad got
to be kept quiet. "Till we've spent the money, at any rate," ses Walter
Bell; "then p'r'aps Mr. Sutton might get Bob locked up for it."
Mr. Sutton went down to see 'em all a day or two afterwards. The
shooting-party was broken up and gone 'ome, but they left some money
behind 'em. Ten pounds each they was to 'ave, same as the others, but
Mr. Sutton said that he 'ad heard 'ow the other money was wasted at the
_Cauliflower,_ and 'e was going to give it out to 'em ten shillings a
week until the money was gorn. He 'ad to say it over and over agin afore
they understood 'im, and Walter Bell 'ad to stuff the bedclo'es in 'is
mouth to keep civil.
Peter Gubbins, with 'is arm tied up in a sling, was the fust one to turn
up at the _Cauliflower,_ and he was that down-'arted about it we couldn't
do nothing with 'im. He 'ad expected to be able to pull out ten golden
sovereigns, and the disapp'intment was too much for 'im.
"I wonder 'ow they heard about it," ses Dicky Weed.
"I can tell you," ses Bob Pretty, wot 'ad been sitting up in a corner by
himself, nodding and smiling at Peter, wot wouldn't look at 'im. "A
friend o' mine at Wickham wrote to him about it. He was so disgusted at
the way Bill Chambers and Henery Walker come up 'ere wasting their
'ard-earned money, that he sent 'im a letter, signed 'A Friend of the
Working Man,' telling 'im about it and advising 'im what to do."
"A friend o' yours?" ses John Biggs, staring at 'im. "What for?"
"I don't know," ses Bob; "he's a wunnerful good scholard, and he likes
writin' letters. He's going to write another to-morrer, unless I go over
and stop 'im."
"Another?" ses Peter, who 'ad been tellin' everybody that 'e wouldn't
speak to 'im agin as long as he lived. "Wot about?"
"About the idea that I shot you all," ses Bob. "I want my character
cleared. O' course, they can't prove anything against me--I've got my
witnesses. But, taking one thing with another, I see now that it does
look suspicious, and I don't suppose any of you'll get any more of your
money. Mr. Sutton is so sick o' being laughed at, he'll jump at
"You dursn't do it, Bob," ses Peter, all of a tremble.
"It ain't me, Peter, old pal," ses Bob, "it's my friend. But I don't
mind stopping 'im for the sake of old times if I get my arf. He'd listen
to me, I feel sure."
At fust Peter said he wouldn't get a farthing out of 'im if his friend
wrote letters till Dooms-day; but by-and-by he thought better of it, and
asked Bob to stay there while he went down to see Sam and Walter about
it. When 'e came back he'd got the fust week's money for Bob Pretty; but
he said he left Walter Bell carrying on like a madman, and, as for Sam
Jones, he was that upset 'e didn't believe he'd last out the night.
THE TEMPTATION OF SAMUEL BURGE
[Illustration: "The Temptation of Samuel Burge."]
Mr. Higgs, jeweller, sat in the small parlour behind his shop, gazing
hungrily at a supper-table which had been laid some time before. It was
a quarter to ten by the small town clock on the mantelpiece, and the
jeweller rubbing his hands over the fire tried in vain to remember what
etiquette had to say about starting a meal before the arrival of an
"He must be coming by the last train after all, sir," said the
housekeeper entering the room and glancing at the clock. "I suppose
these London gentlemen keep such late hours they don't understand us
country folk wanting to get to bed in decent time. You must be wanting
your supper, sir."
Mr. Higgs sighed. "I shall be glad of my supper," he said slowly, "but I
dare say our friend is hungrier still. Travelling is hungry work."
"Perhaps he is thinking over his words for the seventh day," said the
housekeeper solemnly. "Forgetting hunger and thirst and all our poor
earthly feelings in the blessedness of his work."
"Perhaps so," assented the other, whose own earthly feelings were
particularly strong just at that moment.
"Brother Simpson used to forget all about meal-times when he stayed
here," said the housekeeper, clasping her hands. "He used to sit by the
window with his eyes half-closed and shake his head at the smell from the
kitchen and call it flesh-pots of Egypt. He said that if it wasn't for
keeping up his strength for the work, luscious bread and fair water was
all he wanted. I expect Brother Burge will be a similar sort of man."
"Brother Clark wrote and told me that he only lives for the work," said
the jeweller, with another glance at the clock. "The chapel at
Clerkenwell is crowded to hear him. It's a blessed favour and privilege
to have such a selected instrument staying in the house. I'm curious to
see him; from what Brother Clark said I rather fancy that he was a little
bit wild in his younger days."
"Hallelujah!" exclaimed the housekeeper with fervour. "I mean to think
as he's seen the error of his ways," she added sharply, as her master
"There he is," said the latter, as the bell rang.
The housekeeper went to the side-door, and drawing back the bolt admitted
the gentleman whose preaching had done so much for the small but select
sect known as the Seventh Day Primitive Apostles. She came back into the
room followed by a tall stout man, whose upper lip and short stubby beard
streaked with grey seemed a poor match for the beady eyes which lurked
behind a pair of clumsy spectacles.
"Brother Samuel Burge?" inquired the jeweller, rising.
The visitor nodded, and regarding him with a smile charged with fraternal
love, took his hand in a huge grip and shook it fervently.
"I am glad to see you, Brother Higgs," he said, regarding him fondly.
"Oh, 'ow my eyes have yearned to be set upon you! Oh, 'ow my ears 'ave
longed to hearken unto the words of your voice!"
He breathed thickly, and taking a seat sat with his hands upon his knees,
looking at a fine piece of cold beef which the housekeeper had just
placed upon the table.
"Is Brother Clark well?" inquired the jeweller, placing a chair for him
at the table and taking up his carving-knife.
"Dear Brother Clark is in excellent 'ealth, I thank you," said the other,
taking the proffered chair. "Oh! what a man he is; what a instrument for
good. Always stretching out them blessed hands of 'is to make one of the
fallen a Seventh Day Primitive."
"And success attends his efforts?" said the jeweller.
"Success, Brother!" repeated Mr. Burge, eating rapidly and gesticulating
with his knife. "Success ain't no name for it. Why, since this day last
week he has saved three pick-pockets, two Salvationists, one bigamist and
a Roman Catholic."
Brother Higgs murmured his admiration. "You are also a power for good,"
he said wistfully. "Brother Clark tells me in his letter that your
exhortations have been abundantly blessed."
Mr. Burge shook his head. "A lot of it falls by the wayside," he said
modestly, "but some of it is an eye-opener to them as don't entirely shut
their ears. Only the day before yesterday I 'ad two jemmies and a dark
lantern sent me with a letter saying as 'ow the owner had no further use
The jeweller's eyes glistened with admiration not quite untinged with
envy. "Have you expounded the Word for long?" he inquired.
"Six months," replied the other. "It come to me quite natural--I was on
the penitent bench on the Saturday, and the Wednesday afterwards I
preached as good a sermon as ever I've preached in my life. Brother
Clark said it took 'is breath away."
"And he's a judge too," said the admiring jeweller.
"Now," continued Brother Burge, helping himself plentifully to pickled
walnuts. "Now there ain't standing room in our Bethel when I'm
expounding. People come to hear me from all parts--old and young--rich
and poor--and the Apostles that don't come early 'ave to stand outside
and catch the crumbs I throw 'em through the winders."
"It is enough," sighed Brother Higgs, whose own audience was frequently
content to be on the wrong side of the window, "it is enough to make a
"I struggle against it, Brother," said Mr. Burge, passing his cup up for
some more tea. "I fight against it hard, but once the Evil One was
almost too much for me; and in spite of myself, and knowing besides that
it was a plot of 'is, I nearly felt uplifted."
Brother Higgs, passing him some more beef, pressed for details.
"He sent me two policemen," replied the other, scowling darkly at the
meanness of the trick. "One I might 'ave stood, but two come to being
pretty near too much for me. They sat under me while I gave 'em the Word
'ot and strong, and the feeling I had standing up there and telling
policemen what they ought to do I shall never forget."
"But why should policemen make you proud?" asked his puzzled listener.
Mr. Burge looked puzzled in his turn. "Why, hasn't Brother Clark told
you about me?" he inquired.
Mr. Higgs shook his head. "He sort of--suggested that--that you had been
a little bit wild before you came to us," he murmured apologetically.
"A--little--bit--wild?" repeated Brother Burge, in horrified accents.
"ME? a little bit wild?"
"No doubt he exaggerated a little," said the jeweller hurriedly. "Being
such a good man himself, no doubt things would seem wild to him that
wouldn't to us--to me, I mean."
"A little bit wild," said his visitor again. "Sam Burge, the Converted
Burglar, a little bit wild. Well, well!"
"Converted what?" shouted the jeweller, half-rising from his chair.
"Burglar," said the other shortly. "Why, I should think I know more
about the inside o' gaols than anybody in England; I've pretty near
killed three policemen, besides breaking a gent's leg and throwing a
footman out of window, and then Brother Clark goes and says I've been a
little bit wild. I wonder what he would 'ave?"
"But you--you've quite reformed now?" said the jeweller, resuming his
seat and making a great effort to hide his consternation.
"I 'ope so," said Mr. Burge, with alarming humility; "but it's an
uncertain world, and far be it from me to boast. That's why I've come
Mr. Higgs, only half-comprehending, sat back gasping.
"If I can stand this," pursued Brother Burge, gesticulating wildly in the
direction of the shop, "if I can stand being here with all these 'ere
pretty little things to be 'ad for the trouble of picking of 'em up, I
can stand anything. Tempt me, I says to Brother Clark. Put me in the
way o' temptation, I says. Let me see whether the Evil One or me is the
strongest; let me 'ave a good old up and down with the Powers o'
Darkness, and see who wins."
Mr. Higgs, gripping the edge of the table with both hands, gazed at this
new Michael in speechless consternation.
"I think I see his face now," said Brother Burge, with tender enthusiasm.
"All in a glow it was, and he patted me on the shoulder and says, 'I'll
send you on a week's mission to Duncombe,' he says, and 'you shall stop
with Brother Higgs who 'as a shop full o' cunning wrought vanities in
silver and gold.'"
"But suppose," said the jeweller, finding his voice by a great effort,
"suppose victory is not given unto you."
"It won't make any difference," replied his visitor. "Brother Clark
promised that it shouldn't. 'If you fall, Brother,' he says, 'we'll help
you up again. When you are tired of sin come back to us--there's always
"But--" began the dismayed jeweller.
"We can only do our best," said Brother Burge, "the rest we must leave.
I 'ave girded my loins for the fray, and taken much spiritual sustenance
on the way down from this little hymn-book."
Mr. Higgs paid no heed. He sat marvelling over the fatuousness of
Brother Clark and trying to think of ways and means out of the dilemma
into which that gentleman's perverted enthusiasm had placed him. He
wondered whether it would be possible to induce Brother Burge to sleep
elsewhere by offering to bear his hotel expenses, and at last, after some
hesitation, broached the subject.
"What!" exclaimed the other, pushing his plate from him and regarding him
with great severity. "Go and sleep at a hotel? After Brother Clark has
been and took all this trouble? Why, I wouldn't think of doing such a
"Brother Clark has no right to expose you to such a trial," said Mr.
Higgs with great warmth.
"I wonder what he'd say if he 'eard you," remarked Mr. Burge sternly.
"After his going and making all these arrangements, for you to try and go
and upset 'em. To ask me to shun the fight like a coward; to ask me to
go and hide in the rear-ranks in a hotel with everything locked up, or a
Coffer Pallis with nothing to steal."
"I should sleep far more comfortably if I knew that you were not
undergoing this tremendous strain," said the unhappy Mr. Higgs, "and
besides that, if you did give way, it would be a serious business for me
--that's what I want you to look at. I am afraid that if--if unhappily
you did fall, I couldn't prevent you."
"I'm sure you couldn't," said the other cordially. "That's the beauty of
it; that's when the Evil One's whispers get louder and louder. Why, I
could choke you between my finger and thumb. If unfortunately my fallen
nature should be too strong for me, don't interfere whatever you do. I
mightn't be myself."
Mr. Higgs rose and faced him gasping.
"Not even--call for--the police--I suppose," he jerked out.
"That would be interfering," said Brother Burge coldly.
The jeweller tried to think. It was past eleven. The housekeeper had
gone to spend the night with an ailing sister, and a furtive glance at
Brother Burge's small shifty eyes and fat unwholesome face was sufficient
to deter him from leaving him alone with his property, while he went to
ask the police to give an eye to his house for the night. Besides, it
was more than probable that Mr. Burge would decline to allow such a
proceeding. With a growing sense of his peril he resolved to try
"It was a great thing for the Brethren to secure a man like you," he
"I never thought they'd ha' done it," said Mr. Burge frankly. "I've 'ad
all sorts trying to convert me; crying over me and praying over me. I
remember the first dear good man that called me a lorst lamb. He didn't
say anything else for a month."
"So upset," hazarded the jeweller.
"I broke his jor, pore feller," said Brother Burge, a sad but withal
indulgent smile lighting up his face at the vagaries of his former
career. "What time do you go to bed, Brother?"
"Any time," said the other reluctantly. "I suppose you are tired with
Mr. Burge assented, and rising from his chair yawned loudly and stretched
himself. In the small room with his huge arms raised he looked colossal.
"I suppose," said the jeweller, still seeking to re-assure himself, "I
suppose dear Brother Clark felt pretty certain of you, else he wouldn't
have sent you here?"
"Brother Clark said 'What is a jeweller's shop compared with a 'uman
soul, a priceless 'uman soul?'" replied Mr. Burge. "What is a few
gew-gaws to decorate them that perish, and make them vain, when you come
to consider the opportunity of such a trial, and the good it'll do and
the draw it'll be--if I do win--and testify to the congregation to that
effect? Why, there's sermons for a lifetime in it."
"So there is," said the jeweller, trying to look cheerful. "You've got a
good face, Brother Burge, and you'll do a lot of good by your preaching.
There is honesty written in every feature."
Mr. Burge turned and surveyed himself in the small pier-glass. "Yes," he
said, somewhat discontentedly, "I don't look enough like a burglar to
suit some of 'em."
"Some people are hard to please," said the other warmly.
Mr. Burge started and eyed him thoughtfully, and then as Mr. Higgs after
some hesitation walked into the shop to turn the gas out, stood in the
doorway watching him. A smothered sigh as he glanced round the shop bore
witness to the state of his feelings.
The jeweller hesitated again in the parlour, and then handing Brother
Burge his candle turned out the gas, and led the way slowly upstairs to
the room which had been prepared for the honoured visitor. He shook
hands at the door and bade him an effusive good-night, his voice
trembling despite himself as he expressed a hope that Mr. Burge would
sleep well. He added casually that he himself was a very light sleeper.
To-night sleep of any kind was impossible. He had given up the front
room to his guest, and his own window looked out on an over-grown garden.
He sat trying to read, with his ears alert for the slightest sound.
Brother Burge seemed to be a long time undressing. For half an hour
after he had retired he could hear him moving restlessly about his room.
Twelve o'clock struck from the tower of the parish church, and was
followed almost directly by the tall clock standing in the hall
down-stairs. Scarcely had the sounds died away than a low moaning from
the next room caused the affrighted jeweller to start from his chair and
place his ear against the wall. Two or three hollow groans came through
the plaster, followed by ejaculations which showed clearly that Brother
Burge was at that moment engaged in a terrified combat with the Powers
of Darkness to decide whether he should, or should not, rifle his host's
shop. His hands clenched and his ear pressed close to the wall, the
jeweller listened to a monologue which increased in interest with every
"I tell you I won't," said the voice in the next room with a groan, "I
won't. Get thee behind me--Get thee--No, and don't shove me over to the
door; if you can't get behind me without doing that, stay where you are.
Yes, I know it's a fortune as well as what you do; but it ain't mine."
The listener caught his breath painfully.
"Diamond rings," continued Brother Burge in a suffocating voice. "Stop
it, I tell you. No, I won't just go and look at 'em."
A series of groans which the jeweller noticed to his horror got weaker
and weaker testified to the greatness of the temptation. He heard
Brother Burge rise, and then a succession of panting snarls seemed to
indicate a fierce bodily encounter.
"I don't--want to look at 'em," said Brother Burge in an exhausted voice.
"What's--the good of--looking at 'em? It's like you, you know diamonds
are my weakness. What does it matter if he is asleep? What's my knife
got to do with you?"
Brother Higgs reeled back and a mist passed before his eyes. He came to
himself at the sound of a door opening, and impelled with a vague idea of
defending his property, snatched up his candle and looked out on to the
The light fell on Brother Burge, fully dressed and holding his boots in
his hand. For a moment they gazed at each other in silence; then the
jeweller found his voice.
"I thought you were ill, Brother," he faltered.
An ugly scowl lit up the other's features. "Don't you tell me any of
your lies," he said fiercely. "You're watching me; that's what you're
doing. Spying on me."
"I thought that you were being tempted," confessed the trembling Mr.
An expression of satisfaction which he strove to suppress appeared on Mr.
"So I was," he said sternly. "So I was; but that's my business. I don't
want your assistance; I can fight my own battles. You go to bed--I'm
going to tell the congregation I won the fight single-'anded."
"So you have, Brother," said the other eagerly; "but it's doing me good
to see it. It's a lesson to me; a lesson to all of us the way you
"I thought you was asleep," growled Brother Burge, turning back to his
room and speaking over his shoulder. "You get back to bed; the fight
ain't half over yet. Get back to bed and keep quiet."
The door closed behind him, and Mr. Higgs, still trembling, regained his
room and looked in agony at the clock. It was only half-past twelve and
the sun did not rise until six. He sat and shivered until a second
instalment of groans in the next room brought him in desperation to his
Brother Burge was in the toils again, and the jeweller despite his fears
could not help realizing what a sensation the story of his temptation
would create. Brother Burge was now going round and round his room like
an animal in a cage, and sounds as of a soul wrought almost beyond
endurance smote upon the listener's quivering ear. Then there was a long
silence more alarming even than the noise of the conflict. Had Brother
Burge won, and was he now sleeping the sleep of the righteous, or----
Mr. Higgs shivered and put his other ear to the wall. Then he heard his
guest move stealthily across the floor; the boards creaked and the handle
of the door turned.
Mr. Higgs started, and with a sudden flash of courage born of anger and
desperation seized a small brass poker from the fire-place, and taking
the candle in his other hand went out on to the landing again. Brother
Burge was closing his door softly, and his face when he turned it upon
the jeweller was terrible in its wrath. His small eyes snapped with
fury, and his huge hands opened and shut convulsively.
"What, agin!" he said in a low growl. "After all I told you!"
Mr. Higgs backed slowly as he advanced.
"No noise," said Mr. Burge in a dreadful whisper. "One scream and I'll--
What were you going to do with that poker?"
He took a stealthy step forward.
"I--I," began the jeweller. His voice failed him. "Burglars," he
"What?" said the other, pausing.
Mr. Higgs threw truth to the winds. "I heard them in the shop," he said,
recovering, "that's why I took up the poker. Can't you hear them?"
Mr. Burge listened for the fraction of a second. "Nonsense," he said
"I heard them talking," said the other recklessly. "Let's go down and
call the police."
"Call 'em from the winder," said Brother Burge, backing with some haste,
"they might 'ave pistols or something, and they're ugly customers when