Part 2 out of 4
finger to-night as a re-minder."
He got out of bed and began to wash 'is face, and Ginger Dick, who was
doing a bit o' thinking, gave a whisper to Sam and Peter Russet.
"All right, Bill, old man," he ses, getting out of bed and beginning to
put his clothes on; "but first of all we'll try and find out 'ow the
"Landlord?" ses Bill, puffing and blowing in the basin. "Wot landlord?"
"Why, the one you bashed," ses Ginger, with a wink at the other two. "He
'adn't got 'is senses back when me and Sam came away."
Bill gave a groan and sat on the bed while 'e dried himself, and Ginger
told 'im 'ow he 'ad bent a quart pot on the landlord's 'ead, and 'ow the
landlord 'ad been carried upstairs and the doctor sent for. He began to
tremble all over, and when Ginger said he'd go out and see 'ow the land
lay 'e could 'ardly thank 'im enough.
He stayed in the bedroom all day, with the blinds down, and wouldn't eat
anything, and when Ginger looked in about eight o'clock to find out
whether he 'ad gone, he found 'im sitting on the bed clean shaved, and
'is face cut about all over where the razor 'ad slipped.
Ginger was gone about two hours, and when 'e came back he looked so
solemn that old Sam asked 'im whether he 'ad seen a ghost. Ginger didn't
answer 'im; he set down on the side o' the bed and sat thinking.
"I s'pose--I s'pose it's nice and fresh in the streets this morning?"
ses Bill, at last, in a trembling voice.
Ginger started and looked at 'im. "I didn't notice, mate," he ses. Then
'e got up and patted Bill on the back, very gentle, and sat down again.
[Illustration: "Patted Bill on the back, very gentle."]
"Anything wrong, Ginger?" asks Peter Russet, staring at 'im.
"It's that landlord," ses Ginger; "there's straw down in the road
outside, and they say that he's dying. Pore old Bill don't know 'is own
strength. The best thing you can do, old pal, is to go as far away as
you can, at once."
"I shouldn't wait a minnit if it was me," ses old Sam.
Bill groaned and hid 'is face in his 'ands, and then Peter Russet went
and spoilt things by saying that the safest place for a murderer to 'ide
in was London. Bill gave a dreadful groan when 'e said murderer, but 'e
up and agreed with Peter, and all Sam and Ginger Dick could do wouldn't
make 'im alter his mind. He said that he would shave off 'is beard and
moustache, and when night came 'e would creep out and take a lodging
somewhere right the other end of London.
"It'll soon be dark," ses Ginger, "and your own brother wouldn't know you
now, Bill. Where d'you think of going?"
Bill shook his 'ead. "Nobody must know that, mate," he ses. "I must go
into hiding for as long as I can--as long as my money lasts; I've only
got six pounds left."
"That'll last a long time if you're careful," ses Ginger.
"I want a lot more," ses Bill. "I want you to take this silver ring as a
keepsake, Ginger. If I 'ad another six pounds or so I should feel much
safer. 'Ow much 'ave you got, Ginger?"
"Not much," ses Ginger, shaking his 'ead.
"Lend it to me, mate," ses Bill, stretching out his 'and. "You can easy
get another ship. Ah, I wish I was you; I'd be as 'appy as 'appy if I
hadn't got a penny."
"I'm very sorry, Bill," ses Ginger, trying to smile, "but I've already
promised to lend it to a man wot we met this evening. A promise is a
promise, else I'd lend it to you with pleasure."
"Would you let me be 'ung for the sake of a few pounds, Ginger?" ses
Bill, looking at 'im reproach-fully. "I'm a desprit man, Ginger, and I
must 'ave that money."
Afore pore Ginger could move he suddenly clapped 'is hand over 'is mouth
and flung 'im on the bed. Ginger was like a child in 'is hands, although
he struggled like a madman, and in five minutes 'e was laying there with
a towel tied round his mouth and 'is arms and legs tied up with the cord
off of Sam's chest.
"I'm very sorry, Ginger," ses Bill, as 'e took a little over eight pounds
out of Ginger's pocket. "I'll pay you back one o' these days, if I can.
If you'd got a rope round your neck same as I 'ave you'd do the same as
He lifted up the bedclothes and put Ginger inside and tucked 'im up.
Ginger's face was red with passion and 'is eyes starting out of his 'ead.
"Eight and six is fifteen," ses Bill, and just then he 'eard somebody
coming up the stairs. Ginger 'eard it, too, and as Peter Russet came
into the room 'e tried all 'e could to attract 'is attention by rolling
'is 'ead from side to side.
"Why, 'as Ginger gone to bed?" ses Peter. "Wot's up, Ginger?"
"He's all right," ses Bill; "just a bit of a 'eadache."
Peter stood staring at the bed, and then 'e pulled the clothes off and
saw pore Ginger all tied up, and making awful eyes at 'im to undo him.
"I 'ad to do it, Peter," ses Bill. "I wanted some more money to escape
with, and 'e wouldn't lend it to me. I 'aven't got as much as I want
now. You just came in in the nick of time. Another minute and you'd ha'
missed me. 'Ow much 'ave you got?"
"Ah, I wish I could lend you some, Bill," ses Peter Russet, turning pale,
"but I've 'ad my pocket picked; that's wot I came back for, to get some
Bill didn't say a word.
"You see 'ow it is, Bill," ses Peter, edging back toward the door; "three
men laid 'old of me and took every farthing I'd got."
"Well, I can't rob you, then," ses Bill, catching 'old of 'im.
"Whoever's money this is," he ses, pulling a handful out o' Peter's
pocket, "it can't be yours. Now, if you make another sound I'll knock
your 'ead off afore I tie you up."
"Don't tie me up, Bill," ses Peter, struggling.
"I can't trust you," ses Bill, dragging 'im over to the washstand and
taking up the other towel; "turn round."
Peter was a much easier job than Ginger Dick, and arter Bill 'ad done 'im
'e put 'im in alongside o' Ginger and covered 'em up, arter first tying
both the gags round with some string to prevent 'em slipping.
"Mind, I've only borrowed it," he ses, standing by the side o' the bed;
"but I must say, mates, I'm disappointed in both of you. If either of
you 'ad 'ad the misfortune wot I've 'ad, I'd have sold the clothes off my
back to 'elp you. And I wouldn't 'ave waited to be asked neither."
He stood there for a minute very sorrowful, and then 'e patted both their
'eads and went downstairs. Ginger and Peter lay listening for a bit, and
then they turned their pore bound-up faces to each other and tried to
talk with their eyes.
Then Ginger began to wriggle and try and twist the cords off, but 'e
might as well 'ave tried to wriggle out of 'is skin. The worst of it was
they couldn't make known their intentions to each other, and when Peter
Russet leaned over 'im and tried to work 'is gag off by rubbing it up
agin 'is nose, Ginger pretty near went crazy with temper. He banged
Peter with his 'ead, and Peter banged back, and they kept it up till
they'd both got splitting 'eadaches, and at last they gave up in despair
and lay in the darkness waiting for Sam.
And all this time Sam was sitting in the Red Lion, waiting for them. He
sat there quite patient till twelve o'clock and then walked slowly 'ome,
wondering wot 'ad happened and whether Bill had gone.
Ginger was the fust to 'ear 'is foot on the stairs, and as he came into
the room, in the darkness, him an' Peter Russet started shaking their bed
in a way that scared old Sam nearly to death. He thought it was Bill
carrying on agin, and 'e was out o' that door and 'arf-way downstairs
afore he stopped to take breath. He stood there trembling for about ten
minutes, and then, as nothing 'appened, he walked slowly upstairs agin on
tiptoe, and as soon as they heard the door creak Peter and Ginger made
that bed do everything but speak.
"Is that you, Bill?" ses old Sam, in a shaky voice, and standing ready
to dash downstairs agin.
There was no answer except for the bed, and Sam didn't know whether Bill
was dying or whether 'e 'ad got delirium trimmings. All 'e did know was
that 'e wasn't going to sleep in that room. He shut the door gently and
went downstairs agin, feeling in 'is pocket for a match, and, not finding
one, 'e picked out the softest stair 'e could find and, leaning his 'ead
agin the banisters, went to sleep.
[Illustration: "Picked out the softest stair 'e could find."]
It was about six o'clock when 'e woke up, and broad daylight. He was
stiff and sore all over, and feeling braver in the light 'e stepped
softly upstairs and opened the door. Peter and Ginger was waiting for
'im, and as he peeped in 'e saw two things sitting up in bed with their
'air standing up all over like mops and their faces tied up with
bandages. He was that startled 'e nearly screamed, and then 'e stepped
into the room and stared at 'em as if he couldn't believe 'is eyes.
"Is that you, Ginger?" he ses. "Wot d'ye mean by making sights of
yourselves like that? 'Ave you took leave of your senses?"
Ginger and Peter shook their 'eads and rolled their eyes, and then Sam
see wot was the matter with 'em. Fust thing 'e did was to pull out 'is
knife and cut Ginger's gag off, and the fust thing Ginger did was to call
'im every name 'e could lay his tongue to.
"You wait a moment," he screams, 'arf crying with rage. "You wait till I
get my 'ands loose and I'll pull you to pieces. The idea o' leaving us
like this all night, you old crocodile. I 'eard you come in. I'll pay
Sam didn't answer 'im. He cut off Peter Russet's gag, and Peter Russet
called 'im 'arf a score o' names without taking breath.
"And when Ginger's finished I'll 'ave a go at you," he ses. "Cut off
"At once, d'ye hear?" ses Ginger. "Oh, you wait till I get my 'ands on
Sam didn't answer 'em; he shut up 'is knife with a click and then 'e sat
at the foot o' the bed on Ginger's feet and looked at 'em. It wasn't the
fust time they'd been rude to 'im, but as a rule he'd 'ad to put up with
it. He sat and listened while Ginger swore 'imself faint.
"That'll do," he ses, at last; "another word and I shall put the
bedclothes over your 'ead. Afore I do anything more I want to know wot
it's all about."
Peter told 'im, arter fust calling 'im some more names, because Ginger
was past it, and when 'e'd finished old Sam said 'ow surprised he was
at them for letting Bill do it, and told 'em how they ought to 'ave
prevented it. He sat there talking as though 'e enjoyed the sound of 'is
own voice, and he told Peter and Ginger all their faults and said wot
sorrow it caused their friends. Twice he 'ad to throw the bedclothes
over their 'eads because o' the noise they was making.
[Illustration: "Old Sam said 'ow surprised he was at them for letting
Bill do it."]
"_Are you going--to undo--us?_" ses Ginger, at last.
"No, Ginger," ses old Sam; "in justice to myself I couldn't do it. Arter
wot you've said--and arter wot I've said--my life wouldn't be safe.
Besides which, you'd want to go shares in my money."
He took up 'is chest and marched downstairs with it, and about 'arf an
hour arterward the landlady's 'usband came up and set 'em free. As soon
as they'd got the use of their legs back they started out to look for
Sam, but they didn't find 'im for nearly a year, and as for Bill, they
never set eyes on 'im again.
Lawyer Quince, so called by his neighbours in Little Haven from his
readiness at all times to place at their disposal the legal lore he had
acquired from a few old books while following his useful occupation of
making boots, sat in a kind of wooden hutch at the side of his cottage
plying his trade. The London coach had gone by in a cloud of dust some
three hours before, and since then the wide village street had slumbered
almost undisturbed in the sunshine.
[Illustration: "Lawyer Quince."]
Hearing footsteps and the sound of voices raised in dispute caused him to
look up from his work. Mr. Rose, of Holly Farm, Hogg, the miller, and
one or two neighbours of lesser degree appeared to be in earnest debate
over some point of unusual difficulty.
Lawyer Quince took a pinch of snuff and bent to his work again. Mr. Rose
was one of the very few who openly questioned his legal knowledge, and
his gibes concerning it were only too frequent. Moreover, he had a taste
for practical joking, which to a grave man was sometimes offensive.
"Well, here he be," said Mr. Hogg to the farmer, as the group halted in
front of the hutch. "Now ask Lawyer Quince and see whether I ain't told
you true. I'm willing to abide by what he says."
Mr. Quince put down his hammer and, brushing a little snuff from his
coat, leaned back in his chair and eyed them with grave confidence.
"It's like this," said the farmer. "Young Pascoe has been hanging round
after my girl Celia, though I told her she wasn't to have nothing to do
with him. Half an hour ago I was going to put my pony in its stable when
I see a young man sitting there waiting."
"Well?" said Mr. Quince, after a pause.
"He's there yet," said the farmer. "I locked him in, and Hogg here says
that I've got the right to keep him locked up there as long as I like. I
say it's agin the law, but Hogg he says no. I say his folks would come
and try to break open my stable, but Hogg says if they do I can have the
law of 'em for damaging my property."
"So you can," interposed Mr. Hogg, firmly. "You see whether Lawyer
Quince don't say I'm right."
Mr. Quince frowned, and in order to think more deeply closed his eyes.
Taking advantage of this three of his auditors, with remarkable
unanimity, each closed one.
"It's your stable," said Mr. Quince, opening his eyes and speaking with
great deliberation, "and you have a right to lock it up when you like."
"There you are," said Mr. Hogg; "what did I tell you?"
"If anybody's there that's got no business there, that's his look-out,"
continued Mr. Quince. "You didn't induce him to go in?"
"Certainly not," replied the farmer.
"I told him he can keep him there as long as he likes," said the jubilant
Mr. Hogg, "and pass him in bread and water through the winder; it's got
bars to it."
"Yes," said Mr. Quince, nodding, "he can do that. As for his folks
knocking the place about, if you like to tie up one or two of them nasty,
savage dogs of yours to the stable, well, it's your stable, and you can
fasten your dogs to it if you like. And you've generally got a man about
Mr. Hogg smacked his thigh in ecstasy.
"But--" began the farmer.
"That's the law," said the autocratic Mr. Quince, sharply. "O' course,
if you think you know more about it than I do, I've nothing more to say."
"I don't want to do nothing I could get into trouble for," murmured Mr.
"You can't get into trouble by doing as I tell you," said the shoemaker,
impatiently. "However, to be quite on the safe side, if I was in your
place I should lose the key."
"Lose the key?" said the farmer, blankly.
"Lose the key," repeated the shoemaker, his eyes watering with intense
appreciation of his own resourcefulness. "You can find it any time you
want to, you know. Keep him there till he promises to give up your
daughter, and tell him that as soon as he does you'll have a hunt for the
Mr. Rose regarded him with what the shoemaker easily understood to be
"I--I'm glad I came to you," said the farmer, at last.
"You're welcome," said the shoemaker, loftily. "I'm always ready to give
advice to them as require it."
"And good advice it is," said the smiling Mr. Hogg. "Why don't you
behave yourself, Joe Garnham?" he demanded, turning fiercely on a
Mr. Garnham, whose eyes were watering with emotion, attempted to explain,
but, becoming hysterical, thrust a huge red handkerchief to his mouth and
was led away by a friend. Mr. Quince regarded his departure with mild
"Little things please little minds," he remarked.
"So they do," said Mr. Hogg. "I never thought--What's the matter with
you, George Askew?"
Mr. Askew, turning his back on him, threw up his hands with a helpless
gesture and followed in the wake of Mr. Garnham. Mr. Hogg appeared to be
about to apologise, and then suddenly altering his mind made a hasty and
unceremonious exit, accompanied by the farmer.
Mr. Quince raised his eyebrows and then, after a long and meditative
pinch of snuff, resumed his work. The sun went down and the light faded
slowly; distant voices sounded close on the still evening air, snatches
of hoarse laughter jarred upon his ears. It was clear that the story of
the imprisoned swain was giving pleasure to Little Haven.
He rose at last from his chair and, stretching his long, gaunt frame,
removed his leather apron, and after a wash at the pump went into the
house. Supper was laid, and he gazed with approval on the home-made
sausage rolls, the piece of cold pork, and the cheese which awaited his
"We won't wait for Ned," said Mrs. Quince, as she brought in a jug of ale
and placed it by her husband's elbow.
Mr. Quince nodded and filled his glass.
"You've been giving more advice, I hear," said Mrs. Quince.
Her husband, who was very busy, nodded again.
"It wouldn't make no difference to young Pascoe's chance, anyway," said
Mrs. Quince, thoughtfully.
Mr. Quince continued his labours. "Why?" he inquired, at last.
His wife smiled and tossed her head.
"Young Pascoe's no chance against our Ned," she said, swelling with
"Eh?" said the shoemaker, laying down his knife and fork. "Our Ned?"
"They are as fond of each other as they can be," said Mrs. Quince,
"though I don't suppose Farmer Rose'll care for it; not but what our
Ned's as good as he is."
"Is Ned up there now?" demanded the shoemaker, turning pale, as the
mirthful face of Mr. Garnham suddenly occurred to him.
"Sure to be," tittered his wife. "And to think o' poor young Pascoe shut
up in that stable while he's courting Celia!"
Mr. Quince took up his knife and fork again, but his appetite had gone.
Whoever might be paying attention to Miss Rose at that moment he felt
quite certain that it was not Mr. Ned Quince, and he trembled with anger
as he saw the absurd situation into which the humorous Mr. Rose had led
him. For years Little Haven had accepted his decisions as final and
boasted of his sharpness to neighbouring hamlets, and many a cottager had
brought his boots to be mended a whole week before their time for the
sake of an interview.
He moved his chair from the table and smoked a pipe. Then he rose, and
putting a couple of formidable law-books under his arm, walked slowly
down the road in the direction of Holly Farm.
The road was very quiet and the White Swan, usually full at this hour,
was almost deserted, but if any doubts as to the identity of the prisoner
lingered in his mind they were speedily dissipated by the behaviour of
the few customers who crowded to the door to see him pass.
A hum of voices fell on his ear as he approached the farm; half the male
and a goodly proportion of the female population of Little Haven were
leaning against the fence or standing in little knots in the road, while
a few of higher social status stood in the farm-yard itself.
"Come down to have a look at the prisoner?" inquired the farmer, who was
standing surrounded by a little group of admirers.
[Illustration: "'Come down to have a look at the prisoner?' inquired the
"I came down to see you about that advice I gave you this afternoon,"
said Mr. Quince.
"Ah!" said the other.
"I was busy when you came," continued Mr. Quince, in a voice of easy
unconcern, "and I gave you advice from memory. Looking up the subject
after you'd gone I found that I was wrong."
"You don't say so?" said the farmer, uneasily. "If I've done wrong I'm
only doing what you told me I could do."
"Mistakes will happen with the best of us," said the shoemaker, loudly,
for the benefit of one or two murmurers. "I've known a man to marry a
woman for her money before now and find out afterward that she hadn't got
One unit of the group detached itself and wandered listlessly toward the
"Well, I hope I ain't done nothing wrong," said Mr. Rose, anxiously.
"You gave me the advice; there's men here as can prove it. I don't want
to do nothing agin the law. What had I better do?"
"Well, if I was you," said Mr. Quince, concealing his satisfaction with
difficulty, "I should let him out at once and beg his pardon, and say you
hope he'll do nothing about it. I'll put in a word for you if you like
with old Pascoe."
Mr. Rose coughed and eyed him queerly.
"You're a Briton," he said, warmly. "I'll go and let him out at once."
He strode off to the stable, despite the protests of Mr. Hogg, and,
standing by the door, appeared to be deep in thought; then he came back
slowly, feeling in his pockets as he walked.
"William," he said, turning toward Mr. Hogg, "I s'pose you didn't happen
to notice where I put that key?"
"That I didn't," said Mr. Hogg, his face clearing suddenly.
"I had it in my hand not half an hour ago," said the agitated Mr. Rose,
thrusting one hand into his trouser-pocket and groping. "It can't be
Mr. Quince attempted to speak, and, failing, blew his nose violently.
"My memory ain't what it used to be," said the farmer. "Howsomever, I
dare say it'll turn up in a day or two."
"You--you'd better force the door," suggested Mr. Quince, struggling to
preserve an air of judicial calm.
"No, no," said Mr. Rose; "I ain't going to damage my property like that.
I can lock my stable-door and unlock it when I like; if people get in
there as have no business there, it's their look-out."
"That's law," said Mr. Hogg; "I'll eat my hat if it ain't."
"Do you mean to tell me you've really lost the key?" demanded Mr. Quince,
eyeing the farmer sternly.
"Seems like it," said Mr. Rose. "However, he won't come to no hurt.
I'll put in some bread and water for him, same as you advised me to."
Mr. Quince mastered his wrath by an effort, and with no sign of
discomposure moved away without making any reference to the identity of
the unfortunate in the stable."
"Good-night," said the farmer, "and thank you for coming and giving me
the fresh advice. It ain't everybody that 'ud ha' taken the trouble.
If I hadn't lost that key----"
The shoemaker scowled, and with the two fat books under his arm passed
the listening neighbours with the air of a thoughtful man out for an
evening stroll. Once inside his house, however, his manner changed, the
attitude of Mrs. Quince demanding, at any rate, a show of concern.
"It's no good talking," he said at last. "Ned shouldn't have gone there,
and as for going to law about it, I sha'n't do any such thing; I should
never hear the end of it. I shall just go on as usual, as if nothing had
happened, and when Rose is tired of keeping him there he must let him
out. I'll bide my time."
Mrs. Quince subsided into vague mutterings as to what she would do if she
were a man, coupled with sundry aspersions upon the character, looks, and
family connections of Farmer Rose, which somewhat consoled her for being
what she was.
"He has always made jokes about your advice," she said at length, "and
now everybody'll think he's right. I sha'n't be able to look anybody in
the face. I should have seen through it at once if it had been me. I'm
going down to give him a bit o' my mind."
"You stay where you are," said Mr. Quince, sharply, "and, mind, you are
not to talk about it to anybody. Farmer Rose 'ud like nothing better
than to see us upset about it. I ain't done with him yet. You wait."
Mrs. Quince, having no option, waited, but nothing happened. The
following day found Ned Quince still a prisoner, and, considering the
circumstances, remarkably cheerful. He declined point-blank to renounce
his preposterous attentions, and said that, living on the premises, he
felt half like a son-in-law already. He also complimented the farmer
upon the quality of his bread.
The next morning found him still unsubdued, and, under interrogation from
the farmer, he admitted that he liked it, and said that the feeling of
being at home was growing upon him.
"If you're satisfied, I am," said Mr. Rose, grimly. "I'll keep you here
till you promise; mind that."
"It's a nobleman's life," said Ned, peeping through the window, "and I'm
beginning to like you as much as my real father."
"I don't want none o' yer impudence," said the farmer, reddening.
[Illustration: "'None o' yer impudence,' said the farmer."]
"You'll like me better when you've had me here a little longer," said
Ned; "I shall grow on you. Why not be reasonable and make up your mind
to it? Celia and I have."
"I'm going to send Celia away on Saturday," said Mr. Rose; "make yourself
happy and comfortable in here till then. If you'd like another crust o'
bread or an extra half pint o' water you've only got to mention it. When
she's gone I'll have a hunt for that key, so as you can go back to your
father and help him to understand his law-books better."
He strode off with the air of a conqueror, and having occasion to go to
the village looked in at the shoe-maker's window as he passed and smiled
broadly. For years Little Haven had regarded Mr. Quince with awe, as
being far too dangerous a man for the lay mind to tamper with, and at one
stroke the farmer had revealed the hollowness of his pretensions. Only
that morning the wife of a labourer had called and asked him to hurry the
mending of a pair of boots. She was a voluble woman, and having overcome
her preliminary nervousness more than hinted that if he gave less time to
the law and more to his trade it would be better for himself and
Miss Rose accepted her lot in a spirit of dutiful resignation, and on
Saturday morning after her father's admonition not to forget that the
coach left the White Swan at two sharp, set off to pay a few farewell
visits. By half-past twelve she had finished, and Lawyer Quince becoming
conscious of a shadow on his work looked up to see her standing before
the window. He replied to a bewitching smile with a short nod and became
intent upon his work again.
For a short time Celia lingered, then to his astonishment she opened the
gate and walked past the side of the house into the garden. With growing
astonishment he observed her enter his tool-shed and close the door
For ten minutes he worked on and then, curiosity getting the better of
him, he walked slowly to the tool-shed and, opening the door a little
way, peeped in. It was a small shed, crowded with agricultural
implements. The floor was occupied by an upturned wheelbarrow, and
sitting on the barrow, with her soft cheek leaning against the wall, sat
Miss Rose fast asleep. Mr. Quince coughed several times, each cough
being louder than the last, and then, treading softly, was about to
return to the workshop when the girl stirred and muttered in her sleep.
At first she was unintelligible, then he distinctly caught the words
"idiot" and "blockhead."
"She's dreaming of somebody," said Mr. Quince to himself with conviction.
"Wonder who it is?"
"Can't see--a thing--under--his--nose," murmured the fair sleeper.
"Celia!" said Mr. Quince, sharply. "Celia!"
He took a hoe from the wall and prodded her gently with the handle. A
singularly vicious expression marred the soft features, but that was all.
"Ce-lia!" said the shoemaker, who feared sun-stroke.
"Fancy if he--had--a moment's common sense," murmured Celia, drowsily,
"and locked--the door."
Lawyer Quince dropped the hoe with a clatter and stood regarding her
open-mouthed. He was a careful man with his property, and the stout door
boasted a good lock. He sped to the house on tip-toe, and taking the key
from its nail on the kitchen dresser returned to the shed, and after
another puzzled glance at the sleeping girl locked her in.
For half an hour he sat in silent enjoyment of the situation--enjoyment
which would have been increased if he could have seen Mr. Rose standing
at the gate of Holly Farm, casting anxious glances up and down the road.
Celia's luggage had gone down to the White Swan, and an excellent cold
luncheon was awaiting her attention in the living-room.
Half-past one came and no Celia, and five minutes later two farm
labourers and a boy lumbered off in different directions in search of the
missing girl, with instructions that she was to go straight to the White
Swan to meet the coach. The farmer himself walked down to the inn,
turning over in his mind a heated lecture composed for the occasion, but
the coach came and, after a cheerful bustle and the consumption of sundry
mugs of beer, sped on its way again.
He returned home in silent consternation, seeking in vain for a
satisfactory explanation of the mystery. For a robust young woman to
disappear in broad day-light and leave no trace behind her was
extraordinary. Then a sudden sinking sensation in the region of the
waistcoat and an idea occurred simultaneously.
He walked down to the village again, the idea growing steadily all the
way. Lawyer Quince was hard at work, as usual, as he passed. He went by
the window three times and gazed wistfully at the cottage. Coming to the
conclusion at last that two heads were better than one in such a
business, he walked on to the mill and sought Mr. Hogg.
"That's what it is," said the miller, as he breathed his suspicions.
"I thought all along Lawyer Quince would have the laugh of you. He's
wonderful deep. Now, let's go to work cautious like. Try and look as if
nothing had happened."
[Illustration: "I thought all along Lawyer Quince would have the laugh of
Mr. Rose tried.
"Try agin," said the miller, with some severity. "Get the red out o'
your face and let your eyes go back and don't look as though you're going
to bite somebody."
Mr. Rose swallowed an angry retort, and with an attempt at careless ease
sauntered up the road with the miller to the shoemaker's. Lawyer Quince
was still busy, and looked up inquiringly as they passed before him.
"I s'pose," said the diplomatic Mr. Hogg, who was well acquainted with
his neighbour's tidy and methodical habits--"I s'pose you couldn't lend
me your barrow for half an hour? The wheel's off mine."
Mr. Quince hesitated, and then favoured him with a glance intended to
remind him of his scurvy behaviour three days before.
"You can have it," he said at last, rising.
Mr. Hogg pinched his friend in his excitement, and both watched Mr.
Quince with bated breath as he took long, slow strides toward the
tool-shed. He tried the door and then went into the house, and even
before his reappearance both gentlemen knew only too well what was about
to happen. Red was all too poor a word to apply to Mr. Rose's
countenance as the shoemaker came toward them, feeling in his waist-coat
pocket with hooked fingers and thumb, while Mr. Hogg's expressive
features were twisted into an appearance of rosy appreciation.
"Did you want the barrow very particular?" inquired the shoemaker, in a
"Very particular," said Mr. Hogg.
Mr. Quince went through the performance of feeling in all his pockets,
and then stood meditatively rubbing his chin.
"The door's locked," he said, slowly, "and what I've done with that there
"You open that door," vociferated Mr. Rose, "else I'll break it in.
You've got my daughter in that shed and I'm going to have her out."
"Your daughter?" said Mr. Quince, with an air of faint surprise. "What
should she be doing in my shed?"
"You let her out," stormed Mr. Rose, trying to push past him.
"Don't trespass on my premises," said Lawyer Quince, interposing his
long, gaunt frame. "If you want that door opened you'll have to wait
till my boy Ned comes home. I expect he knows where to find the key."
Mr. Rose's hands fell limply by his side and his tongue, turning prudish,
refused its office. He turned and stared at Mr. Hogg in silent
"Never known him to be beaten yet," said that admiring weather-cock.
"Ned's been away three days," said the shoemaker, "but I expect him home
Mr. Rose made a strange noise in his throat and then, accepting his
defeat, set off at a rapid pace in the direction of home. In a
marvellously short space of time, considering his age and figure, he was
seen returning with Ned Quince, flushed and dishevelled, walking by his
"Here he is," said the farmer. "Now where's that key?"
Lawyer Quince took his son by the arm and led him into the house, from
whence they almost immediately emerged with Ned waving the key.
"I thought it wasn't far," said the sapient Mr. Hogg.
Ned put the key in the lock and flinging the door open revealed Celia
Rose, blinking and confused in the sudden sunshine. She drew back as she
saw her father and began to cry with considerable fervour.
"How did you get in that shed, miss?" demanded her parent, stamping.
[Illustration: "'How did you get in that shed?' demanded her parent."]
Miss Rose trembled.
"I--I went there," she sobbed. "I didn't want to go away."
"Well, you'd better stay there," shouted the over-wrought Mr. Rose.
"I've done with you. A girl that 'ud turn against her own father I--I--"
He drove his right fist into his left palm and stamped out into the road.
Lawyer Quince and Mr. Hogg, after a moment's hesitation, followed.
"The laugh's agin you, farmer," said the latter gentleman, taking his
Mr. Rose shook him off.
"Better make the best of it," continued the peace-maker.
"She's a girl to be proud of," said Lawyer Quince, keeping pace with the
farmer on the other side. "She's got a head that's worth yours and mine
put together, with Hogg's thrown in as a little makeweight."
"And here's the White Swan," said Mr. Hogg, who had a hazy idea of a
compliment, "and all of us as dry as a bone. Why not all go in and have
a glass to shut folks' mouths?"
"And cry quits," said the shoemaker.
"And let bygones be bygones," said Mr. Hogg, taking the farmer's arm
Mr. Rose stopped and shook his head obstinately, and then, under the
skilful pilotage of Mr. Hogg, was steered in the direction of the
hospitable doors of the White Swan. He made a last bid for liberty on
the step and then disappeared inside. Lawyer Quince brought up the rear.
BREAKING A SPELL
"Witchcraft?" said the old man, thoughtfully, as he scratched his scanty
whiskers. No, I ain't heard o' none in these parts for a long time.
There used to be a little of it about when I was a boy, and there was
some talk of it arter I'd growed up, but Claybury folk never took much
count of it. The last bit of it I remember was about forty years ago,
and that wasn't so much witchcraft as foolishness.
There was a man in this place then--Joe Barlcomb by name--who was a firm
believer in it, and 'e used to do all sorts of things to save hisself
from it. He was a new-comer in Claybury, and there was such a lot of it
about in the parts he came from that the people thought o' nothing else
He was a man as got 'imself very much liked at fust, especially by the
old ladies, owing to his being so perlite to them, that they used to 'old
'im up for an example to the other men, and say wot nice, pretty ways he
'ad. Joe Barlcomb was everything at fust, but when they got to 'ear that
his perliteness was because 'e thought 'arf of 'em was witches, and
didn't know which 'arf, they altered their minds.
[Illustration: "He got 'imself very much liked, especially by the old
In a month or two he was the laughing-stock of the place; but wot was
worse to 'im than that was that he'd made enemies of all the old ladies.
Some of 'em was free-spoken women, and 'e couldn't sleep for thinking of
the 'arm they might do 'im.
He was terrible uneasy about it at fust, but, as nothing 'appened and he
seemed to go on very prosperous-like, 'e began to forget 'is fears, when
all of a sudden 'e went 'ome one day and found 'is wife in bed with a
She was standing on a broken chair to reach something down from the
dresser when it 'appened, and it was pointed out to Joe Barlcomb that it
was a thing anybody might ha' done without being bewitched; but he said
'e knew better, and that they'd kept that broken chair for standing on
for years and years to save the others, and nothing 'ad ever 'appened
In less than a week arter that three of his young 'uns was down with the
measles, and, 'is wife being laid up, he sent for 'er mother to come and
nurse 'em. It's as true as I sit 'ere, but that pore old lady 'adn't
been in the house two hours afore she went to bed with the yellow
Joe Barlcomb went out of 'is mind a'most. He'd never liked 'is wife's
mother, and he wouldn't 'ave had 'er in the house on'y 'e wanted her to
nurse 'is wife and children, and when she came and laid up and wanted
waiting on 'e couldn't dislike her enough.
He was quite certain all along that somebody was putting a spell on 'im,
and when 'e went out a morning or two arterward and found 'is best pig
lying dead in a corner of the sty he gave up and, going into the 'ouse,
told 'em all that they'd 'ave to die 'cause he couldn't do anything more
for 'em. His wife's mother and 'is wife and the children all started
crying together, and Joe Barlcomb, when 'e thought of 'is pig, he sat
down and cried too.
He sat up late that night thinking it over, and, arter looking at it all
ways, he made up 'is mind to go and see Mrs. Prince, an old lady that
lived all alone by 'erself in a cottage near Smith's farm. He'd set 'er
down for wot he called a white witch, which is the best kind and on'y do
useful things, such as charming warts away or telling gals about their
future 'usbands; and the next arternoon, arter telling 'is wife's mother
that fresh air and travelling was the best cure for the yellow jaundice,
he set off to see 'er.
[Illustration: "Mrs. Prince was sitting at 'er front door nursing 'er
Mrs. Prince was sitting at 'er front door nursing 'er three cats when 'e
got there. She was an ugly, little old woman with piercing black eyes
and a hook nose, and she 'ad a quiet, artful sort of a way with 'er that
made 'er very much disliked. One thing was she was always making fun of
people, and for another she seemed to be able to tell their thoughts, and
that don't get anybody liked much, especially when they don't keep it to
theirselves. She'd been a lady's maid all 'er young days, and it was
very 'ard to be taken for a witch just because she was old.
"Fine day, ma'am," ses Joe Barlcomb.
"Very fine," ses Mrs. Prince.
"Being as I was passing, I just thought I'd look in," ses Joe Barlcomb,
eyeing the cats.
"Take a chair," ses Mrs. Prince, getting up and dusting one down with 'er
Joe sat down. "I'm in a bit o' trouble, ma'am," he ses, "and I thought
p'r'aps as you could help me out of it. My pore pig's been bewitched,
and it's dead."
"Bewitched?" ses Mrs. Prince, who'd 'eard of 'is ideas. "Rubbish. Don't
talk to me."
"It ain't rubbish, ma'am," ses Joe Barlcomb; "three o' my children is
down with the measles, my wife's broke 'er leg, 'er mother is laid up in
my little place with the yellow jaundice, and the pig's dead."
"Wot, another one?" ses Mrs. Prince.
"No; the same one," ses Joe.
"Well, 'ow am I to help you?" ses Mrs. Prince. "Do you want me to come
and nurse 'em?"
"No, no," ses Joe, starting and turning pale; "unless you'd like to come
and nurse my wife's mother," he ses, arter thinking a bit. "I was hoping
that you'd know who'd been overlooking me and that you'd make 'em take
the spell off."
Mrs. Prince got up from 'er chair and looked round for the broom she'd
been sweeping with, but, not finding it, she set down agin and stared in
a curious sort o' way at Joe Barlcomb.
"Oh, I see," she ses, nodding. "Fancy you guessing I was a witch."
"You can't deceive me," ses Joe; "I've 'ad too much experience; I knew it
the fust time I saw you by the mole on your nose."
Mrs. Prince got up and went into her back-place, trying her 'ardest to
remember wot she'd done with that broom. She couldn't find it anywhere,
and at last she came back and sat staring at Joe for so long that 'e was
'arf frightened out of his life. And by-and-by she gave a 'orrible smile
and sat rubbing the side of 'er nose with 'er finger.
"If I help you," she ses at last, "will you promise to keep it a dead
secret and do exactly as I tell you? If you don't, dead pigs'll be
nothing to the misfortunes that you will 'ave."
"I will," ses Joe Barlcomb, very pale.
"The spell," ses Mrs. Prince, holding up her 'ands and shutting 'er eyes,
"was put upon you by a man. It is one out of six men as is jealous of
you because you're so clever, but which one it is I can't tell without
your assistance. Have you got any money?"
"A little," ses Joe, anxious-like-- "a very little. Wot with the yellow
jaundice and other things, I----"
"Fust thing to do," ses Mrs. Prince, still with her eyes shut, "you go up
to the Cauliflower to-night; the six men'll all be there, and you must
buy six ha'pennies off of them; one each."
"Buy six ha'pennies?" ses Joe, staring at her.
"Don't repeat wot I say," ses Mrs. Prince; "it's unlucky. You buy six
ha'pennies for a shilling each, without saying wot it's for. You'll be
able to buy 'em all right if you're civil."
"It seems to me it don't need much civility for that," ses Joe, pulling a
"When you've got the ha'pennies," ses Mrs. Prince, "bring 'em to me and
I'll tell you wot to do with 'em. Don't lose no time, because I can see
that something worse is going to 'appen if it ain't prevented."
"Is it anything to do with my wife's mother getting worse?" ses Joe
Barlcomb, who was a careful man and didn't want to waste six shillings.
"No, something to you," ses Mrs. Prince.
Joe Barlcomb went cold all over, and then he put down a couple of eggs
he'd brought round for 'er and went off 'ome agin, and Mrs. Prince stood
in the doorway with a cat on each shoulder and watched 'im till 'e was
out of sight.
That night Joe Barlcomb came up to this 'ere Cauliflower public-house,
same as he'd been told, and by-and-by, arter he 'ad 'ad a pint, he looked
round, and taking a shilling out of 'is pocket put it on the table, and
he ses, "Who'll give me a ha'penny for that?" he ses.
None of 'em seemed to be in a hurry. Bill Jones took it up and bit it,
and rang it on the table and squinted at it, and then he bit it agin, and
turned round and asked Joe Barlcomb wot was wrong with it.
"Wrong?" ses Joe; "nothing."
Bill Jones put it down agin. "You're wide awake, Joe," he ses, "but so
"Won't nobody give me a ha'penny for it?" ses Joe, looking round.
Then Peter Lamb came up, and he looked at it and rang it, and at last he
gave Joe a ha'penny for it and took it round, and everybody 'ad a look at
[Illustration: "He took it round, and everybody 'ad a look at it."]
"It stands to reason it's a bad 'un," ses Bill Jones, "but it's so well
done I wish as I'd bought it."
"H-s-h!" ses Peter Lamb; "don't let the landlord 'ear you."
The landlord 'ad just that moment come in, and Peter walked up and
ordered a pint, and took his ten-pence change as bold as brass. Arter
that Joe Barbcomb bought five more ha'pennies afore you could wink
a'most, and every man wot sold one went up to the bar and 'ad a pint and
got tenpence change, and drank Joe Barlcomb's health.
"There seems to be a lot o' money knocking about to-night," ses the
landlord, as Sam Martin, the last of 'em, was drinking 'is pint.
Sam Martin choked and put 'is pot down on the counter with a bang, and
him and the other five was out o' that door and sailing up the road with
their tenpences afore the landlord could get his breath. He stood to the
bar scratching his 'ead and staring, but he couldn't understand it a bit
till a man wot was too late to sell his ha'penny up and told 'im all
about it. The fuss 'e made was terrible. The shillings was in a little
heap on a shelf at the back o' the bar, and he did all sorts o' things to
'em to prove that they was bad, and threatened Joe Barlcomb with the
police. At last, however, 'e saw wot a fool he was making of himself,
and arter nearly breaking his teeth 'e dropped them into a drawer and
stirred 'em up with the others.
Joe Barlcomb went round the next night to see Mrs. Prince, and she asked
'im a lot o' questions about the men as 'ad sold 'im the ha'pennies.
"The fust part 'as been done very well," she ses, nodding her 'ead at
'im; "if you do the second part as well, you'll soon know who your enemy
"Nothing'll bring the pig back," ses Joe.
"There's worse misfortunes than that, as I've told you," ses Mrs. Prince,
sharply. "Now, listen to wot I'm going to say to you. When the clock
strikes twelve to-night----"
"Our clock don't strike," ses Joe.
"Then you must borrow one that does," ses Mrs. Prince, "and when it
strikes twelve you must go round to each o' them six men and sell them a
ha'penny for a shilling."
Joe Barlcomb looked at 'er. "'Ow?" he ses, short-like.
"Same way as you sold 'em a shilling for a ha'-penny," ses Mrs. Prince;
"it don't matter whether they buy the ha'pennies or not. All you've got
to do is to go and ask 'em, and the man as makes the most fuss is the man
that 'as put the trouble on you."
"It seems a roundabout way o' going to work," ses Joe.
"_Wot!_" screams Mrs. Prince, jumping up and waving her arms about.
"_Wot!_ Go your own way; I'll have nothing more to do with you. And
don't blame me for anything that happens. It's a very bad thing to come
to a witch for advice and then not to do as she tells you. You ought to
"I'll do it, ma'am," ses Joe Barlcomb, trembling.
"You'd better," ses Mrs. Prince; "and mind--not a word to anybody."
Joe promised her agin, and 'e went off and borrered a clock from Albert
Price, and at twelve o'clock that night he jumped up out of bed and began
to dress 'imself and pretend not to 'ear his wife when she asked 'im
where he was going.
It was a dark, nasty sort o' night, blowing and raining, and, o' course,
everybody 'ad gone to bed long since. The fust cottage Joe came to was
Bill Jones's, and, knowing Bill's temper, he stood for some time afore he
could make up 'is mind to knock; but at last he up with 'is stick and
banged away at the door.
A minute arterward he 'eard the bedroom winder pushed open, and then Bill
Jones popped his 'cad out and called to know wot was the matter and who
"It's me--Joe Barlcomb," ses Joe, "and I want to speak to you very
"Well, speak away," ses Bill. "You go into the back room," he ses,
turning to his wife.
"Whaffor?" ses Mrs. Jones.
"'Cos I don't know wot Joe is going to say," ses Bill. "You go in now,
afore I make you."
His wife went off grumbling, and then Bill told Joe Barlcomb to hurry up
wot he'd got to say as 'e 'adn't got much on and the weather wasn't as
warm as it might be.
"I sold you a shilling for a ha'penny last night, Bill," ses Joe.
"Do you want to sell any more?" ses Bill Jones, putting his 'and down to
where 'is trouser pocket ought to be.
"Not exactly that," ses Joe Barlcomb. "This time I want you to sell me a
shilling for a ha'penny."
Bill leaned out of the winder and stared down at Joe Barlcomb, and then
he ses, in a choking voice, "Is that wot you've come disturbing my sleep
for at this time o' night?" he ses.
"I must 'ave it, Bill," ses Joe.
"Well, if you'll wait a moment," ses Bill, trying to speak perlitely,
"I'll come down and give it to you."
Joe didn't like 'is tone of voice, but he waited, and all of a sudden
Bill Jones came out o' that door like a gun going off and threw 'imself
on Joe Barlcomb. Both of 'em was strong men, and by the time they'd
finished they was so tired they could 'ardly stand. Then Bill Jones went
back to bed, and Joe Barlcomb, arter sitting down on the doorstep to rest
'imself, went off and knocked up Peter Lamb.
Peter Lamb was a little man and no good as a fighter, but the things he
said to Joe Barlcomb as he leaned out o' the winder and shook 'is fist at
him was 'arder to bear than blows. He screamed away at the top of 'is
voice for ten minutes, and then 'e pulled the winder to with a bang and
went back to bed.
Joe Barlcomb was very tired, but he walked on to Jasper Potts's 'ouse,
trying 'ard as he walked to decide which o' the fust two 'ad made the
most fuss. Arter he 'ad left Jasper Potts 'e got more puzzled than ever,
Jasper being just as bad as the other two, and Joe leaving 'im at last in
the middle of loading 'is gun.
By the time he'd made 'is last call--at Sam Martin's--it was past three
o'clock, and he could no more tell Mrs. Prince which 'ad made the most
fuss than 'e could fly. There didn't seem to be a pin to choose between
'em, and, 'arf worried out of 'is life, he went straight on to Mrs.
Prince and knocked 'er up to tell 'er. She thought the 'ouse was afire
at fust, and came screaming out o' the front door in 'er bedgown, and
when she found out who it was she was worse to deal with than the men 'ad
She 'ad quieted down by the time Joe went round to see 'er the next
evening, and asked 'im to describe exactly wot the six men 'ad done and
said. She sat listening quite quiet at fust, but arter a time she scared
Joe by making a odd, croupy sort o' noise in 'er throat, and at last she
got up and walked into the back-place. She was there a long time making
funny noises, and at last Joe walked toward the door on tip-toe and
peeped through the crack and saw 'er in a sort o' fit, sitting in a chair
with 'er arms folded acrost her bodice and rocking 'erself up and down
and moaning. Joe stood as if 'e'd been frozen a'most, and then 'e crept
back to 'is seat and waited, and when she came into the room agin she
said as the trouble 'ad all been caused by Bill Jones. She sat still for
nearly 'arf an hour, thinking 'ard, and then she turned to Joe and ses:
[Illustration: "She sat listening quite quiet at fust."]
"Can you read?" she ses.
"No," ses Joe, wondering wot was coming next.
"That's all right, then," she ses, "because if you could I couldn't do
wot I'm going to do."
"That shows the 'arm of eddication," ses Joe. "I never did believe in
Mrs. Prince nodded, and then she went and got a bottle with something in
it which looked to Joe like gin, and arter getting out 'er pen and ink
and printing some words on a piece o' paper she stuck it on the bottle,
and sat looking at Joe and thinking.
"Take this up to the Cauliflower," she ses, "make friends with Bill
Jones, and give him as much beer as he'll drink, and give 'im a little o'
this gin in each mug. If he drinks it the spell will be broken, and
you'll be luckier than you 'ave ever been in your life afore. When 'e's
drunk some, and not before, leave the bottle standing on the table."
Joe Barlcomb thanked 'er, and with the bottle in 'is pocket went off to
the Cauliflower, whistling. Bill Jones was there, and Peter Lamb, and
two or three more of 'em, and at fust they said some pretty 'ard things
to him about being woke up in the night.
"Don't bear malice, Bill," ses Joe Barlcomb; "'ave a pint with me."
He ordered two pints, and then sat down along-side o' Bill, and in five
minutes they was like brothers.
"'Ave a drop o' gin in it, Bill," he ses, taking the bottle out of 'is
Bill thanked 'im and had a drop, and then, thoughtful-like, he wanted Joe
to 'ave some in his too, but Joe said no, he'd got a touch o' toothache,
and it was bad for it.
"I don't mind 'aving a drop in my beer, Joe," ses Peter Lamb.
"Not to-night, mate," ses Joe; "it's all for Bill. I bought it on
purpose for 'im."
Bill shook 'ands with him, and when Joe called for another pint and put
some more gin in it he said that 'e was the noblest-'arted man that ever
"You wasn't saying so 'arf an hour ago," ses Peter Lamb.
"'Cos I didn't know 'im so well then," ses Bill Jones.
"You soon change your mind, don't you?" ses Peter.
Bill didn't answer 'im. He was leaning back on the bench and staring at
the bottle as if 'e couldn't believe his eyesight. His face was all
white and shining, and 'is hair as wet as if it 'ad just been dipped in a
bucket o' water.
"See a ghost, Bill?" ses Peter, looking at 'im.
Bill made a 'orrible noise in his throat, and kept on staring at the
bottle till they thought 'e'd gone crazy. Then Jasper Potts bent his
'ead down and began to read out loud wot was on the bottle. "P-o-i--
POISON FOR BILL JONES," he ses, in a voice as if 'e couldn't believe it.
You might 'ave heard a pin drop. Everybody turned and looked at Bill
Jones, as he sat there trembling all over. Then those that could read
took up the bottle and read it out loud all over agin.
"Pore Bill," ses Peter Lamb. "I 'ad a feeling come over me that
something was wrong."
"You're a murderer," ses Sam Martin, catching 'old of Joe Barlcomb.
"You'll be 'ung for this. Look at pore Bill, cut off in 'is prime."
"Run for the doctor," ses someone.
Two of 'em ran off as 'ard as they could go, and then the landlord came
round the bar and asked Bill to go and die outside, because 'e didn't
want to be brought into it. Jasper Potts told 'im to clear off, and then
he bent down and asked Bill where the pain was.
"I don't think he'll 'ave much pain," ses Peter Lamb, who always
pretended to know a lot more than other people. "It'll soon be over,
"We've all got to go some day," ses Sam Martin. "Better to die young
than live to be a trouble to yourself," ses Bob Harris.
To 'ear them talk everybody seemed to think that Bill Jones was in luck;
everybody but Bill Jones 'imself, that is.
"I ain't fit to die," he ses, shivering. "You don't know 'ow bad I've
"Wot 'ave you done, Bill?" ses Peter Lamb, in a soft voice. "If it'll
ease your feelings afore you go to make a clean breast of it, we're all
"And it's too late for you to be punished for anything," ses Peter, arter
Bill Jones groaned agin, and then, shaking 'is 'ead, began to w'isper 'is
wrong-doings. When the doctor came in 'arf an hour arterward all the men
was as quiet as mice, and pore Bill was still w'ispering as 'ard as he
The doctor pushed 'em out of the way in a moment, and then 'e bent over
Bill and felt 'is pulse and looked at 'is tongue. Then he listened to
his 'art, and in a puzzled way smelt at the bottle, which Jasper Potts
was a-minding of, and wetted 'is finger and tasted it.
[Illustration: "The doctor felt 'is pulse and looked at 'is tongue."]
"Somebody's been making a fool of you and me too," he ses, in a angry
voice. "It's only gin, and very good gin at that. Get up and go home."
It all came out next morning, and Joe Barlcomb was the laughing-stock of
the place. Most people said that Mrs. Prince 'ad done quite right, and
they 'oped that it ud be a lesson to him, but nobody ever talked much of
witchcraft in Claybury agin. One thing was that Bill Jones wouldn't 'ave
the word used in 'is hearing.
Mr. Richard Catesby, second officer of the ss. _Wizard_, emerged from the
dock-gates in high good-humour to spend an evening ashore. The bustle of
the day had departed, and the inhabitants of Wapping, in search of
coolness and fresh air, were sitting at open doors and windows indulging
in general conversation with any-body within earshot.
[Illustration: "Mr. Richard Catesby, second officer of the ss. _Wizard_,
emerged from the dock-gates in high good-humour."]
Mr. Catesby, turning into Bashford's Lane, lost in a moment all this life
and colour. The hum of distant voices certainly reached there, but that
was all, for Bashford's Lane, a retiring thoroughfare facing a blank dock
wall, capped here and there by towering spars, set an example of
gentility which neighbouring streets had long ago decided crossly was
impossible for ordinary people to follow. Its neatly grained shutters,
fastened back by the sides of the windows, gave a pleasing idea of
uniformity, while its white steps and polished brass knockers were
suggestive of almost a Dutch cleanliness.
Mr. Catesby, strolling comfortably along, stopped suddenly for another
look at a girl who was standing in the ground-floor window of No. 5. He
went on a few paces and then walked back slowly, trying to look as though
he had forgotten something. The girl was still there, and met his ardent
glances unmoved: a fine girl, with large, dark eyes, and a complexion
which was the subject of much scandalous discussion among neighbouring
"It must be something wrong with the glass, or else it's the bad light,"
said Mr. Catesby to himself; "no girl is so beautiful as that."
He went by again to make sure. The object of his solicitude was still
there and apparently unconscious of his existence. He passed very slowly
and sighed deeply.
"You've got it at last, Dick Catesby," he said, solemnly; "fair and
square in the most dangerous part of the heart. It's serious this time."
He stood still on the narrow pavement, pondering, and then, in excuse of
his flagrant misbehaviour, murmured, "It was meant to be," and went by
again. This time he fancied that he detected a somewhat supercilious
expression in the dark eyes--a faint raising of well-arched eyebrows.
His engagement to wait at Aldgate Station for the second-engineer and
spend an evening together was dismissed as too slow to be considered. He
stood for some time in uncertainty, and then turning slowly into the
Beehive, which stood at the corner, went into the private bar and ordered
a glass of beer.
He was the only person in the bar, and the land-lord, a stout man in his
shirt-sleeves, was the soul of affability. Mr. Catesby, after various
general remarks, made a few inquiries about an uncle aged five minutes,
whom he thought was living in Bashford's Lane.
[Illustration: "Mr. Catesby made a few inquiries."]
"I don't know 'im," said the landlord.
"I had an idea that he lived at No. 5," said Catesby.
The landlord shook his head. "That's Mrs. Truefitt's house," he said,
Mr. Catesby pondered. "Truefitt, Truefitt," he repeated; "what sort of a
woman is she?"
"Widder-woman," said the landlord; "she lives there with 'er daughter
Mr. Catesby said "Indeed!" and being a good listener learned that Mrs.
Truefitt was the widow of a master-lighterman, and that her son, Fred
Truefitt, after an absence of seven years in New Zealand, was now on his
way home. He finished his glass slowly and, the landlord departing to
attend to another customer, made his way into the street again.
He walked along slowly, picturing as he went the home-corning of the
long-absent son. Things were oddly ordered in this world, and Fred
Truefitt would probably think nothing of his brotherly privileges. He
wondered whether he was like Prudence. He wondered----
"By Jove, I'll do it!" he said, recklessly, as he turned. "Now for a
He walked back rapidly to Bashford's Lane, and without giving his courage
time to cool plied the knocker of No. 5 briskly.
The door was opened by an elderly woman, thin, and somewhat querulous in
expression. Mr. Catesby had just time to notice this, and then he flung
his arm round her waist, and hailing her as "Mother!" saluted her warmly.
The faint scream of the astounded Mrs. Truefitt brought her daughter
hastily into the passage. Mr. Catesby's idea was ever to do a thing
thoroughly, and, relinquishing Mrs. Truefitt, he kissed Prudence with all
the ardour which a seven-years' absence might be supposed to engender in
the heart of a devoted brother. In return he received a box on the ears
which made his head ring.
"He's been drinking," gasped the dismayed Mrs. Truefitt.
"Don't you know me, mother?" inquired Mr. Richard Catesby, in grievous
"He's mad," said her daughter.
"Am I so altered that you don't know me, Prudence?" inquired Mr.
Catesby; with pathos. "Don't you know your Fred?"
"Go out," said Mrs. Truefitt, recovering; "go out at once."
Mr. Catesby looked from one to the other in consternation.
"I know I've altered," he said, at last, "but I'd no idea--"
"If you don't go out at once I'll send for the police," said the elder
woman, sharply. "Prudence, scream!"
"I'm not going to scream," said Prudence, eyeing the intruder with great
composure. "I'm not afraid of him."
Despite her reluctance to have a scene--a thing which was strongly
opposed to the traditions of Bashford's Lane--Mrs. Truefitt had got as
far as the doorstep in search of assistance, when a sudden terrible
thought occurred to her: Fred was dead, and the visitor had hit upon this
extraordinary fashion of breaking the news gently.
"Come into the parlour," she said, faintly.
Mr. Catesby, suppressing his surprise, followed her into the room.
Prudence, her fine figure erect and her large eyes meeting his steadily,
took up a position by the side of her mother.
"You have brought bad news?" inquired the latter.
"No, mother," said Mr. Catesby, simply, "only myself, that's all."
Mrs. Truefitt made a gesture of impatience, and her daughter, watching
him closely, tried to remember something she had once read about
detecting insanity by the expression of the eyes. Those of Mr. Catesby
were blue, and the only expression in them at the present moment was one
of tender and respectful admiration.
"When did you see Fred last?" inquired Mrs. Truefitt, making another
"Mother," said Mr. Catesby, with great pathos, "don't you know me?"
"He has brought bad news of Fred," said Mrs. Truefitt, turning to her
daughter; "I am sure he has."
"I don't understand you," said Mr. Catesby, with a bewildered glance from
one to the other. "I am Fred. Am I much changed? You look the same as
you always did, and it seems only yesterday since I kissed Prudence
good-bye at the docks. You were crying, Prudence."
Miss Truefitt made no reply; she gazed at him unflinchingly and then bent
toward her mother.
"He is mad," she whispered; "we must try and get him out quietly. Don't
"Keep close to me," said Mrs. Truefitt, who had a great horror of the
insane. "If he turns violent open the window and scream. I thought he
had brought bad news of Fred. How did he know about him?"
Her daughter shook her head and gazed curiously at their afflicted
visitor. She put his age down at twenty-five, and she could not help
thinking it a pity that so good-looking a young man should have lost his
"Bade Prudence good-bye at the docks," continued Mr. Catesby, dreamily.
"You drew me behind a pile of luggage, Prudence, and put your head on my
shoulder. I have thought of it ever since."
Miss Truefitt did not deny it, but she bit her lips, and shot a sharp
glance at him. She began to think that her pity was uncalled-for.
"I'm just going as far as the corner."
"Tell me all that's happened since I've been away," said Mr. Catesby.
Mrs. Truefitt turned to her daughter and whispered. It might have been
merely the effect of a guilty conscience, but the visitor thought that he
caught the word "policeman."
"I'm just going as far as the corner," said Mrs. Truefitt, rising, and
crossing hastily to the door.
[Illustration: "'I'm just going as far as the corner,' said Mrs.
The young man nodded affectionately and sat in doubtful consideration as
the front door closed behind her. "Where is mother going?" he asked, in
a voice which betrayed a little pardonable anxiety.
"Not far, I hope," said Prudence.
"I really think," said Mr. Catesby, rising--"I really think that I had
better go after her. At her age----"
He walked into the small passage and put his hand on the latch.
Prudence, now quite certain of his sanity, felt sorely reluctant to let
such impudence go unpunished.
"Are you going?" she inquired.
"I think I'd better," said Mr. Catesby, gravely. "Dear mother--"
"You're afraid," said the girl, calmly.
Mr. Catesby coloured and his buoyancy failed him. He felt a little bit
"You are brave enough with two women," continued the girl, disdainfully;
"but you had better go if you're afraid."
Mr. Catesby regarded the temptress uneasily. "Would you like me to
stay?" he asked.
"I?" said Miss Truefitt, tossing her head. "No, I don't want you.
Besides, you're frightened."
Mr. Catesby turned, and with a firm step made his way back to the room;
Prudence, with a half-smile, took a chair near the door and regarded her
prisoner with unholy triumph.
"I shouldn't like to be in your shoes," she said, agreeably; "mother has
gone for a policeman."
"Bless her," said Mr. Catesby, fervently. "What had we better say to him
when he comes?"
"You'll be locked up," said Prudence; "and it will serve you right for
your bad behaviour."
Mr. Catesby sighed. "It's the heart," he said, gravely. "I'm not to
blame, really. I saw you standing in the window, and I could see at once
that you were beautiful, and good, and kind."
"I never heard of such impudence," continued Miss Truefitt.
"I surprised myself," admitted Mr. Catesby. "In the usual way I am very
quiet and well-behaved, not to say shy."
Miss Truefitt looked at him scornfully. "I think that you had better
stop your nonsense and go," she remarked.
"Don't you want me to be punished?" inquired the other, in a soft voice.
"I think that you had better go while you can," said the girl, and at
that moment there was a heavy knock at the front-door. Mr. Catesby,
despite his assurance, changed colour; the girl eyed him in perplexity.
Then she opened the small folding-doors at the back of the room.
"You're only--stupid," she whispered. "Quick! Go in there. I'll say
you've gone. Keep quiet, and I'll let you out by-and-by."
She pushed him in and closed the doors. From his hiding-place he heard
an animated conversation at the street-door and minute particulars as to
the time which had elapsed since his departure and the direction he had
"I never heard such impudence," said Mrs. Truefitt, going into the
front-room and sinking into a chair after the constable had taken his
departure. "I don't believe he was mad."
"Only a little weak in the head, I think," said Prudence, in a clear
voice. "He was very frightened after you had gone; I don't think he will
trouble us again."
"He'd better not," said Mrs. Truefitt, sharply. "I never heard of such a
She continued to grumble, while Prudence, in a low voice, endeavoured to
soothe her. Her efforts were evidently successful, as the prisoner was,
after a time, surprised to hear the older woman laugh--at first gently,
and then with so much enjoyment that her daughter was at some pains to
restrain her. He sat in patience until evening deepened into night, and
a line of light beneath the folding-doors announced the lighting of the
lamp in the front-room. By a pleasant clatter of crockery he became
aware that they were at supper, and he pricked up his ears as Prudence
made another reference to him.
"If he comes to-morrow night while you are out I sha'n't open the door,"
she said. "You'll be back by nine, I suppose."
Mrs. Truefitt assented.
"And you won't be leaving before seven," continued Prudence. "I shall be
Mr. Catesby's face glowed and his eyes grew tender; Prudence was as
clever as she was beautiful. The delicacy with which she had intimated
the fact of the unconscious Mrs. Truefitt's absence on the following
evening was beyond all praise. The only depressing thought was that such
resourcefulness savoured of practice.
He sat in the darkness for so long that even the proximity of Prudence
was not sufficient amends for the monotony of it, and it was not until
past ten o'clock that the folding-doors were opened and he stood blinking
at the girl in the glare of the lamp.
"Quick!" she whispered.
Mr. Catesby stepped into the lighted room.
"The front-door is open," whispered Prudence. "Make haste. I'll close
She followed him to the door; he made an ineffectual attempt to seize her
hand, and the next moment was pushed gently outside and the door closed
behind him. He stood a moment gazing at the house, and then hastened
back to his ship.
"Seven to-morrow," he murmured; "seven to-morrow. After all, there's
nothing pays in this world like cheek--nothing."
He slept soundly that night, though the things that the second-engineer
said to him about wasting a hard-working man's evening would have lain
heavy on the conscience of a more scrupulous man. The only thing that
troubled him was the manifest intention of his friend not to let him slip
through his fingers on the following evening. At last, in sheer despair
at his inability to shake him off, he had to tell him that he had an
appointment with a lady.
"Well, I'll come, too," said the other, glowering at him. "It's very
like she'll have a friend with her; they generally do."
"I'll run round and tell her," said Catesby. "I'd have arranged it
before, only I thought you didn't care about that sort of thing."
"Female society is softening," said the second-engineer. "I'll go and
put on a clean collar."
[Illustration: "I'll go and put on a clean collar."]
Catesby watched him into his cabin and then, though it still wanted an
hour to seven, hastily quitted the ship and secreted himself in the
private bar of the Beehive.
He waited there until a quarter past seven, and then, adjusting his tie
for about the tenth time that evening in the glass behind the bar,
sallied out in the direction of No. 5.
He knocked lightly, and waited. There was no response, and he knocked
again. When the fourth knock brought no response, his heart sank within
him and he indulged in vain speculations as to the reasons for this
unexpected hitch in the programme. He knocked again, and then the door
opened suddenly and Prudence, with a little cry of surprise and dismay,
backed into the passage.
"You!" she said, regarding him with large eyes. Mr. Catesby bowed
tenderly, and passing in closed the door behind him.
"I wanted to thank you for your kindness last night," he said, humbly.
"Very well," said Prudence; "good-bye."
Mr. Catesby smiled. "It'll take me a long time to thank you as I ought
to thank you," he murmured. "And then I want to apologise; that'll take
"You had better go," said Prudence, severely; "kindness is thrown away
upon you. I ought to have let you be punished."
"You are too good and kind," said the other, drifting by easy stages into
Miss Truefitt made no reply, but following him into the room seated
herself in an easy-chair and sat coldly watchful.
"How do you know what I am?" she inquired.
"Your face tells me," said the infatuated Richard. "I hope you will
forgive me for my rudeness last night. It was all done on the spur of
"I am glad you are sorry," said the girl, softening.
"All the same, if I hadn't done it," pursued Mr. Catesby, "I shouldn't be
sitting here talking to you now."
Miss Truefitt raised her eyes to his, and then lowered them modestly to
the ground. "That is true," she said, quietly.
"And I would sooner be sitting here than any-where," pursued Catesby.
"That is," he added, rising, and taking a chair by her side, "except
Miss Truefitt appeared to tremble, and made as though to rise. Then she
sat still and took a gentle peep at Mr. Catesby from the corner of her
"I hope that you are not sorry that I am here?" said that gentleman.
Miss Truefitt hesitated. "No," she said, at last."
"Are you--are you glad?" asked the modest Richard.
Miss Truefitt averted her eyes altogether. "Yes," she said, faintly.
A strange feeling of solemnity came over the triumphant Richard. He took
the hand nearest to him and pressed it gently.
"I--I can hardly believe in my good luck," he murmured.
"Good luck?" said Prudence, innocently.
"Isn't it good luck to hear you say that you are glad I'm here?" said
"You're the best judge of that," said the girl, withdrawing her hand.
"It doesn't seem to me much to be pleased about."
Mr. Catesby eyed her in perplexity, and was about to address another
tender remark to her when she was overcome by a slight fit of coughing.
At the same moment he started at the sound of a shuffling footstep in the
passage. Somebody tapped at the door.
"Yes?" said Prudence.
"Can't find the knife-powder, miss," said a harsh voice. The door was
pushed open and disclosed a tall, bony woman of about forty. Her red
arms were bare to the elbow, and she betrayed several evidences of a long
and arduous day's charing.
"It's in the cupboard," said Prudence. "Why, what's the matter, Mrs.
Mrs. Porter made no reply. Her mouth was wide open and she was gazing
with starting eyeballs at Mr. Catesby.
"Joe!" she said, in a hoarse whisper. "Joe!"
Mr. Catesby gazed at her in chilling silence. Miss Truefitt, with an air
of great surprise, glanced from one to the other.
"Joe!" said Mrs. Porter again. "Ain't you goin' to speak to me?"
Mr. Catesby continued to gaze at her in speechless astonishment. She
skipped clumsily round the table and stood before him with her hands
"Where 'ave you been all this long time?" she demanded, in a higher key.
"You--you've made a mistake," said the bewildered Richard.
"Mistake?" wailed Mrs. Porter. "Mistake! Oh, where's your 'art?"
Before he could get out of her way she flung her arms round the horrified
young man's neck and em-braced him copiously. Over her bony left
shoulder the frantic Richard met the ecstatic gaze of Miss Truefitt, and,
in a flash, he realised the trap into which he had fallen.
"Mrs. Porter!" said Prudence.
"It's my 'usband, miss," said the Amazon, reluctantly releasing the
flushed and dishevelled Richard; "'e left me and my five eighteen months
ago. For eighteen months I 'aven't 'ad a sight of 'is blessed face."
She lifted the hem of her apron to her face and broke into discordant
"Don't cry," said Prudence, softly; "I'm sure he isn't worth it."
Mr. Catesby looked at her wanly. He was beyond further astonishment, and
when Mrs. Truefitt entered the room with a laudable attempt to twist her
features into an expression of surprise, he scarcely noticed her.
"It's my Joe," said Mrs. Porter, simply.
"Good gracious!" said Mrs. Truefitt. "Well, you've got him now; take
care he doesn't run away from you again."
"I'll look after that, ma'am," said Mrs. Porter, with a glare at the
[Illustration: "I'll look after that, ma'am."]
"She's very forgiving," said Prudence. "She kissed him just now."
"Did she, though," said the admiring Mrs. Truefitt. "I wish I'd been
"I can do it agin, ma'am," said the obliging Mrs. Porter.
"If you come near me again--" said the breathless Richard, stepping back
"I shouldn't force his love," said Mrs. Truefitt; "it'll come back in
time, I dare say."
"I'm sure he's affectionate," said Prudence.
Mr. Catesby eyed his tormentors in silence; the faces of Prudence and her
mother betokened much innocent enjoyment, but the austerity of Mrs.
Porter's visage was unrelaxed.
"Better let bygones be bygones," said Mrs. Truefitt; "he'll be sorry
by-and-by for all the trouble he has caused."
"He'll be ashamed of himself--if you give him time," added Prudence.
Mr. Catesby had heard enough; he took up his hat and crossed to the door.
"Take care he doesn't run away from you again," repeated Mrs. Truefitt.
"I'll see to that, ma'am," said Mrs. Porter, taking him by the arm.
"Come along, Joe."
Mr. Catesby attempted to shake her off, but in vain, and he ground his
teeth as he realised the absurdity of his position. A man he could have
dealt with, but Mrs. Porter was invulnerable. Sooner than walk down the
road with her he preferred the sallies of the parlour. He walked back to
his old position by the fireplace, and stood gazing moodily at the floor.
Mrs. Truefitt tired of the sport at last. She wanted her supper, and
with a significant glance at her daughter she beckoned the redoubtable
and reluctant Mrs. Porter from the room. Catesby heard the kitchen-door
close behind them, but he made no move. Prudence stood gazing at him in
"If you want to go," she said, at last, "now is your chance."
Catesby followed her into the passage without a word, and waited quietly
while she opened the door. Still silent, he put on his hat and passed
out into the darkening street. He turned after a short distance for a
last look at the house and, with a sudden sense of elation, saw that she
was standing on the step. He hesitated, and then walked slowly back.
"Yes?" said Prudence.
"I should like to tell your mother that I am sorry," he said, in a low
"It is getting late," said the girl, softly; "but, if you really wish to
tell her--Mrs. Porter will not be here to-morrow night."
She stepped back into the house and the door closed behind her.
THE CHANGING NUMBERS
The tall clock in the corner of the small living-room had just struck
eight as Mr. Samuel Gunnill came stealthily down the winding staircase
and, opening the door at the foot, stepped with an appearance of great
care and humility into the room. He noticed with some anxiety that his
daughter Selina was apparently engrossed in her task of attending to the
plants in the window, and that no preparations whatever had been made for
[Illustration: "Mr. Samuel Gunnill came stealthily down the winding
Miss Gunnill's horticultural duties seemed interminable. She snipped off
dead leaves with painstaking precision, and administered water with the
jealous care of a druggist compounding a prescription; then, with her
back still toward him, she gave vent to a sigh far too intense in its
nature to have reference to such trivialities as plants. She repeated it
twice, and at the second time Mr. Gunnill, almost without his knowledge,
uttered a deprecatory cough.
His daughter turned with alarming swiftness and, holding herself very
upright, favoured him with a glance in which indignation and surprise
were very fairly mingled.
"That white one--that one at the end," said Mr. Gunnill, with an
appearance of concentrated interest, "that's my fav'rite."
Miss Gunnill put her hands together, and a look of infinite
long-suffering came upon her face, but she made no reply.
"Always has been," continued Mr. Gunnill, feverishly, "from a--from a
"Bailed out," said Miss Gunnill, in a deep and thrilling voice; "bailed
out at one o'clock in the morning, brought home singing loud enough for
half-a-dozen, and then talking about flowers!"
Mr. Gunnill coughed again.
"I was dreaming," pursued Miss Gunnill, plaintively, "sleeping
peacefully, when I was awoke by a horrible noise."
"That couldn't ha' been me," protested her father. "I was only a bit
cheerful. It was Benjamin Ely's birthday yesterday, and after we left
the Lion they started singing, and I just hummed to keep 'em company. I
wasn't singing, mind you, only humming--when up comes that interfering
Cooper and takes me off."
Miss Gunnill shivered, and with her pretty cheek in her hand sat by the
window the very picture of despondency. "Why didn't he take the others?"
"Ah!" said Mr. Gunnill, with great emphasis, "that's what a lot more of
us would like to know. P'r'aps if you'd been more polite to Mrs. Cooper,
instead o' putting it about that she looked young enough to be his
mother, it wouldn't have happened."
His daughter shook her head impatiently and, on Mr. Gunnill making an
allusion to breakfast, expressed surprise that he had got the heart to
eat any-thing. Mr. Gunnill pressing the point, however, she arose and
began to set the table, the undue care with which she smoothed out the
creases of the table-cloth, and the mathematical exactness with which she
placed the various articles, all being so many extra smarts in his wound.
When she finally placed on the table enough food for a dozen people he
began to show signs of a little spirit.
"Ain't you going to have any?" he demanded, as Miss Gunnill resumed her
seat by the window.
"Me?" said the girl, with a shudder. "Breakfast? The disgrace is
breakfast enough for me. I couldn't eat a morsel; it would choke me."
Mr. Gunnill eyed her over the rim of his teacup. "I come down an hour
ago," he said, casually, as he helped himself to some bacon.
Miss Gunnill started despite herself. "Oh!" she said, listlessly.
"And I see you making a very good breakfast all by yourself in the
kitchen," continued her father, in a voice not free from the taint of
The discomfited Selina rose and stood regarding him; Mr. Gunnill, after a
vain attempt to meet her gaze, busied himself with his meal.
"The idea of watching every mouthful I eat!" said Miss Gunnill,
tragically; "the idea of complaining because I have some breakfast! I'd
never have believed it of you, never! It's shameful! Fancy grudging
your own daughter the food she eats!"
Mr. Gunnill eyed her in dismay. In his confusion he had overestimated
the capacity of his mouth, and he now strove in vain to reply to this
shameful perversion of his meaning. His daughter stood watching him with
grief in one eye and calculation in the other, and, just as he had put
himself into a position to exercise his rights of free speech, gave a
pathetic sniff and walked out of the room.
She stayed indoors all day, but the necessity of establishing his
innocence took Mr. Gunnill out a great deal. His neighbours, in the hope
of further excitement, warmly pressed him to go to prison rather than pay
a fine, and instanced the example of an officer in the Salvation Army,
who, in very different circumstances, had elected to take that course.
Mr. Gunnill assured them that only his known antipathy to the army, and
the fear of being regarded as one of its followers, prevented him from
doing so. He paid instead a fine of ten shillings, and after listening
to a sermon, in which his silver hairs served as the text, was permitted
to depart. His feeling against Police-constable Cooper increased with
the passing of the days. The constable watched him with the air of a
proprietor, and Mrs. Cooper's remark that "her husband had had his eye
upon him for a long time, and that he had better be careful for the
future," was faithfully retailed to him within half an hour of its
utterance. Convivial friends counted his cups for him; teetotal friends
more than hinted that Cooper was in the employ of his good angel.
[Illustration: "The constable watched him with the air of a proprietor."]
Miss Gunnill's two principal admirers had an arduous task to perform.
They had to attribute Mr. Gunnill's disaster to the vindictiveness of
Cooper, and at the same time to agree with his daughter that it served
him right. Between father and daughter they had a difficult time, Mr.
Gunnill's sensitiveness having been much heightened by his troubles.
"Cooper ought not to have taken you," said Herbert Sims for the fiftieth
"He must ha' seen you like it dozens o' times before," said Ted Drill,
who, in his determination not to be outdone by Mr. Sims, was not
displaying his usual judgment. "Why didn't he take you then? That's
what you ought to have asked the magistrate."
"I don't understand you," said Mr. Gunnill, with an air of cold dignity.
"Why," said Mr. Drill, "what I mean is--look at that night, for instance,
He broke off suddenly, even his enthusiasm not being proof against the
extraordinary contortions of visage in which Mr. Gunnill was indulging.
"When?" prompted Selina and Mr. Sims together. Mr. Gunnill, after first
daring him with his eye, followed suit.
"That night at the Crown," said Mr. Drill, awkwardly. "You know; when
you thought that Joe Baggs was the landlord. You tell 'em; you tell it
best. I've roared over it."
"I don't know what you're driving at," said the harassed Mr. Gunnill,
"H'm!" said Mr. Drill, with a weak laugh. "I've been mixing you up with
Mr. Gunnill, obviously relieved, said that he ought to be more careful,
and pointed out, with some feeling, that a lot of mischief was caused
"Cooper wants a lesson, that's what he wants," said Mr. Sims, valiantly.
"He'll get his head broke one of these days."
Mr. Gunnill acquiesced. "I remember when I was on the _Peewit,_" he
said, musingly, "one time when we were lying at Cardiff, there was a
policeman there run one of our chaps in, and two nights afterward another
of our chaps pushed the policeman down in the mud and ran off with his
staff and his helmet."
Miss Gunnill's eyes glistened. "What happened?" she inquired.
"He had to leave the force," replied her father; "he couldn't stand the
disgrace of it. The chap that pushed him over was quite a little chap,
too. About the size of Herbert here."
Mr. Sims started.
"Very much like him in face, too," pursued Mr. Gunnill; "daring chap he
Miss Gunnill sighed. "I wish he lived in Little-stow," she said, slowly.
"I'd give anything to take that horrid Mrs. Cooper down a bit. Cooper
would be the laughing-stock of the town."
Messrs. Sims and Drill looked unhappy. It was hard to have to affect an
attitude of indifference in the face of Miss Gunnill's lawless yearnings;
to stand before her as respectable and law-abiding cravens. Her eyes,
large and sorrowful; dwelt on them both.
"If I--I only get a chance at Cooper!" murmured Mr. Sims, vaguely.
To his surprise, Mr. Gunnill started up from his chair and, gripping his
hand, shook it fervently. He looked round, and Selina was regarding him
with a glance so tender that he lost his head completely. Before he had
recovered he had pledged himself to lay the helmet and truncheon of the
redoubtable Mr. Cooper at the feet of Miss Gunnill; exact date not
"Of course, I shall have to wait my opportunity," he said, at last.
"You wait as long as you like, my boy," said the thoughtless Mr. Gunnill.
Mr. Sims thanked him.
"Wait till Cooper's an old man," urged Mr. Drill.
Miss Gunnill, secretly disappointed at the lack of boldness and devotion
on the part of the latter gentleman, eyed his stalwart frame indignantly
and accused him of trying to make Mr. Sims as timid as himself. She