MARK looked round
on the scene before him with a rush of feeling that almost dazed
him. Mr. Ebenezer had jumped to his feet, and with his wig
gripped firmly in his left hand, stood gazing around with wonder and
delight on his ruddy face, whilst his brother, abashed and confused
for the moment, stepped back to his place near the fire-grate, and
stood glaring at his daring niece.
"Begone, bold hussy! this is no place for thee," he cried,
waving his hand to dismiss her. But Kinty, clutching Mark's
arm more firmly, drew herself up, and cried:
"My place is by the side of my man! my brave, true man!"
Mark, scarcely knowing either where he was or what he was
saying, bent over to persuade her to let him go; but she ignored him
altogether for the moment, she had evidently not finished what she
wanted to say.
"Yea, uncle. Yea, truly; I am a bold, bad hussy!
I've been spy-holing and eavesdropping, and have heard it all.
You would thrust your niece down a young man's throat, would you?
I thank you for't; you did me honour, and I'll thrust myself down
enow. You thought him a weak-backed Jack-pudding, I thought
him a greedy self-seeker; but he's a MAN! a man, I say; and I love
"But, woman, he's a Methodist! a canting, whining Methodist!"
But with a royal sweep of her free arm, and a most unladylike
snap of her fingers, she cried:
"I heed not! I mind not what he may be; Methodist,
Episcopalian, or—or— What do you call 'em, Uncle Tebby—Muggletonian?
he's a man, a strong, brave man; and that suffices."
According to all precedents, Mark ought to have snatched his
brave little defender in his arms at this stage; but so many and so
exhausting had been the emotions he had endured that day, that he
seemed incapable of any new sensation, and stood there dazed and
Josephus was getting desperate; the authority he had
exercised unchallenged so long seemed to be about to slip away from
him, and he must assert it now or lose it for ever. Besides,
he was a shamefully ill-used man. He had swallowed his pride,
and made a most condescending overture to his own apprentice, only
to have it flung in his teeth, and the Methodism his narrow soul
hated, flaunted before him as something to be proud of. He
foamed at the mouth, stamped on the floor, shook his clenched fist
at the rebels, and seemed ready to quarrel even with the inoffensive
"Wilta begone, knave! bundle? Take thy scurvy carcase
"Master," began Mark, recovering speech at last, "I will go.
I would not bring strife into this beloved household. I will
But here, with demure face and steady eyes, Kinty looked up
at her uncle, and repeated: "Where he goes I go."
"Thou brazened baggage! Thou impudent trollop!" and
with a furious curse the enraged man sprang at the lovers with the
evident intention of separating them by main force; but before he
could reach them, Ebenezer, who, whilst he had been speaking, had
glided softly round the table, interposed his portly form, and
gripping his brother by the arms, forced him back into his seat.
"Let a-be, man, let a-be!" he cried, panting from his
unwonted exertions. "'As you brew, so shall you bake.' "Tis a
good horse that knows its own stable.'"
And then he stooped down and searched upon the floor for his
wig, and having carefully put it upon his head, he beckoned the two
young people to seats, and commenced the longest oration he was ever
known to utter. He recalled to Josephus's mind the fact,
almost always forgotten in the house, that he was master equally
with his brother—though this part of his speech was more roundabout
than the rest, in consequence of his evident desire to put the point
as delicately as he could, and, finding no way out of the confusion
into which he thus got, he finished that part of his discourse by
lamely quoting the proverb about the number of people it takes to
make a bargain.
Then he enlarged, with many a snuffle and many an awkward
hiatus, upon the affection they both bore to their niece, and the
obligation they were under to the memory of the dead parents of that
young lady. From this he passed to a review of the years Mark
had been with them in the business, and the faithfulness and
diligence of his service.
Next he took up the subject of the Methodists, frankly avowed
a more than passing partiality for that despised sect, and asserted
that it was the unjustifiable cruelty of others towards them that
had first excited his sympathy. Then he proceeded to point out
that a man's religion need not interfere with his duties to his
employers or his friends, and stoutly maintained that by recent
observation he could prove that Methodism was making bad servants
into good ones, and bad citizens into patriots all over the country,
and especially in Helsham.
He paused many a time in this novel effort of his, and quoted
proverbs to support his arguments at every step; but when he came to
speak finally of the long years he and his brother had lived
together, and the comfort and amity in which they had always dwelt,
interlaced as his statements were with pathetic little declarations
of his own great regard for Josephus, he fairly broke down and ended
with a number of choky, spasmodic little sobs which were drowned in
louder sounds of the same kind which came from Kinty and Mark.
There was a pause for a moment or two when he concluded, and
whilst he sank into his chair, and for lack of handkerchief began to
rub his eyes once more with his wig, Kinty raised her face and
looked anxiously in the direction of Uncle Josephus. What she
saw there must have encouraged her, for, relinquishing Mark's arm,
she cast herself upon her knees before her uncle, and sliding her
soft little hand into his as it lay on his lap, she began to stroke
it coaxingly and kiss it.
Josephus looked moody still and excessively uncomfortable;
but she pulled at his arm until his face was near enough to salute,
and then pressed her hot lips upon his and began to plead.
Every term of affection she could command was brought into service;
she called him all the pet names she had used in her childhood, and
vowed it would break her heart to have to leave him.
And, after all, poor Josephus was but a man, and had
somewhere a heart which the earnest little pleader found means of
reaching, and so presently he stooped down and kissed her hair and
bade her go to bed.
"But Mark, uncle? dear brave Mark, what of him?"
Uncle Josephus shook his head and sighed heavily, and Mark
was just commencing to beg her not to consider him, when she cried:
"Let me tell you, uncle, let me tell you how I was brought to
love him. I liked him ever for himself, but I could not abide
his hot temper and pride. Besides, I feared he was ambitious,
and wanted my few guineas, and I mistrusted him. And when I
saw him swallow his manhood to become a cruel hunter of heretics I
despised him. But one day I heard say that he had defended the
Methodists out o' pure pity, and that pleasured me. Then I saw
him strike down the sottish Barny for mobbing the poor preacher, and
I loved him, for I saw he was a man. Sin' then I've watched
him shrewdly, and seen his manhood struggling with his ambition.
I've seen him sink, and I've seen him rise, but to-night I've seen
him conquer. 'Twas a poor compliment he paid me, uncle, but I
loved him for't; an' when he wouldna sell his manhood even for silly
Kinty I loved him wi' all my heart."
But at this moment there came a sharp ran-tan at the side
door, followed by impatient shouts from some one either drunk or
very excited. Mark and Kinty sprang apart, the two brothers
turned to each other with looks of startled surprise, and after a
moment's pause Josephus curtly bade Mark go to the door.
"Have a care, boy! Parley wi' em!" cried Ebenezer,
hurriedly adjusting his wig and backing to his chair.
Mark, disappointed at the interruption, but remembering the
danger of the times, stepped backwards, and cried:
"What is't? Who's there?"
Another curse and a heavy lunge at the door.
"Open, 'Prentice. Open i' th' King's name."
"'Tis the mayor," cried Mark, between relief and
astonishment. But almost before he could unfasten the heavy
wooden bars the door was pushed roughly in upon him, and he was
jammed against the wall, whilst the maltster, accompanied by two
serving-men, strode into the parlour.
"Curse me, Man Kirke! Art kalling [chatting] here with
Papists and lousy Methodists whilst the country's i' danger, and the
jabbering French are marching upo' London!" And the irate
magistrate glanced first at Mark and then at Ebenezer, and finally
fixed a savage glare upon Josephus.
"Nay, nay, worship; not so bad neither. Sit, man, and
tell the news." And the hatter stamped on the floor for ale.
"Sit! Sit, says ta, and the country ruined? The French
King and his army down on us, and the barelegs [Highlanders] crying
But his worship dropped into a chair for all that, and
glanced with looks of surly suspicion at Mark and Ebenezer.
Knowing that this blustering mood was not the maltster's most
serious one, and that therefore the news he brought might be safely
discounted, Mr. Josephus nodded to the others to leave the room, and
stamped impatiently upon the floor again. Ebenezer, still
nervously arranging his wig, got up and sauntered towards the
staircase for bed, and Mark and Kinty withdrew shyly into the dark
"Tut, worship! 'Tis but an idle buzz," Josephus was
saying as the others vanished.
"Buz! 'Tis God's truth, Kirke! The Mounseers are
coming, and twenty thousand men in ships. Brickett, the
aletaster, got the news from the driver of the north coach at
Wetgate. By the Lord, I'll hang every Papist in the town, and
pitch every Methodist Jacobite into the mews-pond " (horse-pond).
Mr. Josephus was divided between interest in the news and
impatience for liquor, and so he strode to the head of the kitchen
"Kerry, Kerry, thou maggot head! A tankard! A
tankard wi' thee?"
As there was no response, he began to grope his way with
muttered curses down the steps, and whilst his back was turned, his
worship stole on tip-toes to the corner behind Mr. Ebenezer's chair.
There he picked out a bundle of pamphlets, hastily scanned their
titles, and then skipped back to his seat with a grunt.
Mr. Josephus returned, followed by Kerry with a can of
small-ale. The domestic had evidently retired to rest, and now
appeared with blinking eyes, protesting face, and hastily assumed
garments that too imperfectly concealed her charms. She was
proud of her small-ale, and the thick foam on the mouth of the
tankard certainly justified her; but the mayor glanced at it in
sulky scorn and pushed it away from him.
Josephus made wild signals behind his visitor's back for
Kerry to bring something better, and she presently returned with a
dirty leathern bottle of old October, which she dumped down on the
table in evident anger. The sight of the stronger liquor
pacified the mayor somewhat, and after a prodigious pull he drew his
chair a little nearer to that of his host, and proceeded to supply
such details of the battle of Fontenoy as had reached him, and then
abandoned himself to doleful vaticinations of an approaching
Jacobite rebellion; but it was clear to his host that he was keeping
something back, and kept glancing towards the shop door with growing
Then Kinty returned to the parlour, having dismissed her
lover for the night. She began to adjust out-of-place articles
of furniture, but as their visitor's restlessness increased,
Josephus curtly ordered her to bed. After listening intently
for her receding footsteps, the maltster drew his chair still closer
to the hatter's, bent his tall frame forward, and tapping Josephus
on the knee, he dropped into a thick whisper, and demanded:
"Dost know there's treason i' this old house?"
Josephus stopped in the act of recharging his pipe, stared at
his visitor with indignant resentment, and cried:
"Tut, man! the lad's honest; his Methodism will pass, he's no
"Lad! 'tis not the lad. 'Tis the other, I tell thee!"
Josephus rapped out an oath, and sprang angrily to his feet.
But the mayor rose with him, and still staring hard into his face,
he went on:
"'Tis he got 'em the flax mill, man; he's the owner on't."
Josephus went white and then swollen-red with indignant
"I tell thee, Kirke, I've seen the deed; the mill is his,
man! But for him the rascals 'ud 'a' been stamped out o' the
The hatter could not speak; that he should have to listen to
such insinuations in his own house, and from his closest friend, was
intolerable; and that Ebenezer's silly dabbling in curious creeds
and movements should have made such insinuations possible, only
added fuel to his wrath.
But the mayor, who, now they were alone, had dropped his
half-drunken bluff, was carefully watching his man; and so, when at
last Josephus ceased to storm and curse, he leaned forward still
farther, and said, in the same husky whisper:
"Kirke, who's the head o' the Helsham Methodists?"
"Who? Why, Bridge, the rascally tinker not Ebenezer.
'Tis monstrous, man!"
"And what was Bridge i '15?"
Josephus's jaw dropped in sudden recollection.
"An' what wants a tinker wi' horse-pistols, an' hangers?"
Josephus stared stupidly.
"An' what wants a tinker wi' two saddle-horses? Where
got he 'em? Who paid for 'em?"
A long, uneasy silence; and then, seeing how profound an
impression he had made, his worship changed his tone and went on:
"Teb is more fool than rebel; but the canting rogues have got
him by the nose, and they'll lead him into th' muck. As for
that Methody pup o' mine, he's like to grime my good name; but, by
the Lord, I'll have him pressed first."
The thought that his friend was, after all, as much involved
as himself mollified Josephus somewhat, and he began to talk more
freely. And as they talked they drank the old October, and
became more and more confidential. A common sense of danger
drew them together, and a common hatred of Methodism made them
regard it as the cause of all their perplexities.
As they conversed, the mayor noticed that his companion never
alluded to young Mark, and did not even take the bait when it was
thrown out to him. A straight question or two set Josephus
explaining, but his language was so vague and apologetic, that his
visitor's suspicions were aroused; and so, bit by bit, he discovered
that there was more than a possibility of Mark's Methodism being
condoned, and of his being accepted as nephew-in-law and partner at
the hat-shop. He felt that he ought to go warily here, but he
was angry and in drink; and so, losing all control of himself, he
stamped on the oak floor, cursed the Methodists to everlasting
destruction, and, finally, concentrating his indignation on the
amazed Josephus, he called him every evil name he could think of.
Why this particular development of the case should so inflame
his worship, the hatter could not see; but presently a loose word or
two gave him the clue, and also revealed the real object of the
Josephus became alert and curious again, and asked a
tentative question or two.
"That baggage of a Sue of ours has been visiting her rascally
brother in spite o' me, and she tells her mother that he's fancying
thy niece again, and weakening on his confounded Methodism. In
short, if he can have the wench he'll come home again, and throw
over the Conventicle."
Now in the rebellion of '15 both these men had been ardent
Jacobites, but now, old and prudent, and with a strong sense of the
value of worldly position, they were only too anxious to avoid the
possibility of suspicion; and here, it seemed, they were being
involved in spite of themselves.
For two hours they talked; now in portentous whispers, and
now in protesting shouts; every aspect of the complicating case was
discussed, but they reached no definite conclusion. Josephus
was experiencing strong, mental recoil, and thanking his stars for
the lucky interruption which had saved him from diving a consent
that might have been dangerous. And yet he saw how serious
were the difficulties. If he explained himself to Ebenezer,
that worthy might turn stubborn, especially as Kinty's happiness was
concerned. He had a mortal dread also of that young damsel's
tongue, and went cold as he thought what the impetuous and love-sick
Mark might do if driven to extremes.
Moreover, though the mayor's fortunate arrival had stopped
his consent on his very lips, he could not but feel that the other
parties to the affair would regard the matter as settled. He
put his position to his confederate; but his worship brushed his
scruples aside, and insisted that he had only to consent to the
marriage of Kinty with his son, and leave the rest to him.
Midnight passed, the cracked bell in the court-house tower
struck one, but no decision had been arrived at; and at last the two
parted with the understanding that they were to meet next morning at
the mayor's office and come to some arrangement. But when the
magistrate had been gone some twenty odd minutes and Josephus was
preparing to carry his perplexities to bed with him, a stealthy rap
at the passage door arrested him, and, opening it, he stood face to
face with his friend.
"I've got it, neighbour. Leave all to me. A fine
ripe plan, egad! I'll do the Methodist's business, and save
the wench also. Leave it to me, and do nought till you see
And before Josephus could reply, he had vanished again into
THE MAYOR'S STRATAGEM
DAWSON had never spent a
sweeter half-hour than the one he passed in the dark hat-shop with
his lady-love. They were too excited and too much interested
in each other to pay any heed to what was going on in the parlour;
and though a word or two did reach them now and then, it was usually
something about politics, and therefore supremely uninteresting.
Presently Kinty grew uneasy, and urged him to depart by the
front door, assuring him again and again that their fortunes were
better left at that particular juncture in her hands. Mark
exhausted every excuse he could think of for remaining, but at last
took a reluctant though demonstrative leave. It was very dark
in the narrow street for the time of year, and somehow he felt
strangely depressed as he strode along.
When he reached home, however, he entered softly, lest he
should awaken his sister, who still occupied the little room under
the thatch. Then he had to struggle with a wish to call her up
and tell her the great joy that had come to him that day; but
conquering the desire, he groped to the side of his own truckle bed,
sniffed at the pungent odour of a recently extinguished rushlight,
and, feeling about on the little table, found a bowl of skimmed milk
and a hunk of barley-bread, and sat down to eat and think.
One after another the events of that most marvellous day in
his history passed before him, and one moment he was overgrowing
with gratitude to God, and the next burning with intense admiration
at the noble stand made by Kinty. And still there was always
that strange misgiving; the interruption caused by the arrival of
the mayor seemed, in his over-wrought state of mind, ominous.
He tried to laugh and reason himself out of the feeling, and at last
he dropped upon his knees in prayer.
But do what he would the feeling was there, and, in fact,
grew heavier every moment. Long and anxiously he sat thus in
the darkness, one moment resolving to call his sister up, and the
next deciding to reserve his joyful tidings until he could tell her
all. But depression and foreboding grew upon him, some one he
must talk to, and the clear-eyed, practical Nancy was just the one
to see the rights of a difficulty complicated to him by
superstitious fears. And so he was just about to step to the
foot of the little ladder and awake her, when he noticed that it was
growing lighter, and at the same moment a heavy footfall struck his
ear, and he turned aside and took a peep through the blindless
window. It was some early labourer going to the fields
doubtless. The footsteps came nearer, but it was not light
enough to see much, and so he was just selecting the best bit of
glass in the knotted window, when he sprang back, with a cry he
could not suppress:
"Good God! 'tis the mayor!
His worship was coming straight to the cottage, and so,
remembering the sleeping woman upstairs, Mark stepped to the door
and softly opened it. The maltster pulled up a couple of yards
"Good lack! up a'ready?
"Ay, worship. But what's your will, sir?"
Astonished and suspicious, his worship drew back a little,
and then, dropping his voice into a loud whisper, he cried:
"'Tis said thou'rt a Methodist Jacobite
"Nay, worship, no Jacobite, please God."
"Tut, man, ye are all traitors. 'Tis found out, I tell
thee. Methodism is a popish plot, no less."
"God forbid! We're all loyal, we honour the King."
The maltster looked cautiously around, took a step nearer,
hesitated a moment, and then, sinking his voice, said:
"Ay, but which king?"
"King George, sir; no other. Give me occasion, and I'll
With another suspicious glance around His Worship took a step
nearer, stopped, and sprang back with a fierce:
"Nay, then, ye're traitors all!"
Mark came forward eagerly, and, provoked as the mayor
intended he should be by his insinuations, he cried:
"Let me prove it! Give me a task an' I'll show you
Eyeing him over studiously from head to foot, the magistrate
wavered a little, or pretended to do so, and then said softly:
"Man Rawson, I could make a man o' thee, an I could but trust
"Trust me and try me, whatsoever it be." The mayor
shook his head.
"Man, I could do thy business with the Kirkes an' fix thee
"Then tell me, master, and trust me to do it."
Still studying his man dubiously, the maltster sank his voice
again, and asked:
"Canst ride a horse?"
Disappointed, but still eager, his worship continued:
"Dost know the way to Nettleton?"
"Nay, I was never farther that gate than the Pilbury
cow-downs; but I could find it."
Nettleton was a river port of evil fame some forty odd miles
away, with no road to it but country lanes, and sheep or
bridle-paths. Mark guessed that the mayor had an errand for
somebody, but why him? Why not send one of his own or the
town's servants? Besides, on foot it would be a three days'
affair, and at this juncture of his affairs it was not to be thought
of for a moment, at any rate not until he had seen his masters
But his visitor was impatient and curiously angry.
"Loyal, ay truly! Ye're traitors, and, by the Lord,
I'll make you dance."
Mark steadied himself; it came into his head that here might
be an opportunity of rendering service to the Methodists to whom he
owed so much, only his restless suspicion was too strong just at
that moment, and so instead of offering to serve his worship he
"Why fix upon me, worship?"
"Why, good lack! Am not I giving thee a chance to clear
thyself and thy Methodists? How can I protect ye till I have
true proof of ye?"
"But you have servants, master."
"Hoots! send them, and let every spying Jacobite in the
country know! 'Tis secret service, man; I must have a man
unknown and safe."
In struggling indecision Mark looked hard at his visitor and
sighed. The mayor was plainly inconsistent with himself, and
that aroused his suspicions; if on the other hand he refused—but
here the impetuous maltster broke in.
"Ay, ay; ye're traitors all, but by the Lord, I'll—"
"Master," interrupted the young hatter, "what of my
"Tut, man! have I not come from the shop direct? Thy
master commands it."
Mark still hesitated; he could not tell this blusterous man
why he so much wanted to be free that day. It was a fine thing
that was offered him if all were straight and square about it, but
somehow his heart seriously misgave him, and to go without any
satisfaction about the thing that was nearest his heart seemed
He was still staring at the impatient magistrate and
pondering, when a dark figure flitted for a moment out of a narrow
passage, and he beheld the tall form of Goody Wagstaffe who, with
puckered brow and uplifted finger, was warning him.
"But, master," he cried, more to gain time for thought than
anything else, "ye accuse me in one breath an' would trust me i' the
"Man, am not I loth to think ill of thee? Take this
message and that will certify me, and the Methodists shall have
Goody was still darkly signalling, but Mark could make
nothing of it, and in the tenderness of young spiritual life was
strongly tempted by the idea of sacrifice for the sake of his
fellow-religionists, and so at last he said hesitatingly:
"I'll do your bidding, master, an you'll promise to protect
Goody was now gesticulating wildly, but as the mayor promptly
closed with the offer and then turned round, as he fumbled in his
fob, she had to vanish.
"Here's a couple of crowns for thee. Get thee gone on
the instant. Nay, man," he added, as Mark began to demur,
"I'll let the hussy inside know thou art safe. Take this
packet to one Tester at the sign of the Wooden Mallet in Labour
Lane, and get it truly delivered to him by noon to-morrow, and then
take thy pleasure and see the town."
It was a strange business, full of suspicious circumstances,
but the sweet sense of service to his religion overcame everything,
and so, though his heart sank with disappointment and uneasy fear,
he stepped softly into the house, put on his coat, possessed himself
of a stout oak staff, and then turned and looked with strange
longings at the familiar objects around him.
As it was now about daylight and a youth was passing with a
herd of lean cattle, the mayor followed his young companion into the
cottage. But the moment the animals were gone he became all
impatience for Mark's departure, and as he was not too certain of
his man he walked along with him until they were out of the town.
Then he stopped and repeated his instructions, assured Mark that he
would make all right both at the hat-shop and his own cottage, and
then stood in the rutty lane and watched him up Wetgate bank until
he disappeared over the hilltop.
Meanwhile, Kinty was lying awake in bed, not even desiring to
sleep. Her brave little heart warmed again as she thought of
the heroic stand made by her lover, and though a characteristically
whimsical regret arose within her now and then that the days of her
maiden liberty were ended, that was soon swallowed up in glowing
pleasure at the wonderful turn events had taken.
Most heartily did she ban the mayor for his untimely
intrusion, and again and again she put back the bed-curtains to look
for the slow-footed dawn. She must have dozed off some time,
however, for about six o'clock she suddenly sat up with a startled
cry of "Mark! Mark!" and found the tears standing on her cheeks and
the daylight streaming in through the corners of the hangings.
"I saw him tossed," she murmured, as a deep sob quivered
upwards to her lips, "I saw him tossed, and the bull had the
maltster's face! Oh, lack a day! what can it foretend?"
Nervous reaction from the excitement of the previous evening
was doubtless affecting her, but she knew nothing of such things and
dressed in fretful uneasiness. The maid, struggling with flint
and tinder-box, was surprised to see young mistress astir so early,
and the journeymen hatters, as they dropped down the front steps
into the workshop, were puzzled somewhat to see Mistress Kinty open
the kitchen door to scrutinise each new-comer.
Mr. Ebenezer came down into the parlour humming a country
catch, and though he was evidently struggling to keep his face under
control, there were funny twitchings about his mouth corners, and
his eyes overflowed with amusement.
"Ho, ho! give a man luck and throw him i' the' sea," he
murmured, apparently to himself, as Kinty, duster in hand, began to
flit about the room on morning duties, and when, on hearing the old
proverb, she dashed at him with a hug and a kiss, he chuckled
delightedly and went on, "Set a beggar on horseback and he'll ride,
egad!" Kinty merrily shook her duster at him, which set him
off crowing again. "Hoots, woman! Ah, 'A man's a man
still if he hath but a hose on his head,' and 'Ah man may be learnèd
without a long wig."
But it was getting time for both Mark and Uncle Josephus to
appear, and Kinty felt herself growing restless. Presently she
went to the shop-door and glanced down the street, lingering there a
few moments with growing impatience, and when she returned she found
Uncle Ebenezer busy chalking on the plain stone mantelpiece with a
piece of ruddle:
"AT THE SIGN OF THE MONMOUTH CAP,"
KIRKE & RAWSON,
"BEST IS BEST CHEAP."
Kinty laughed at the obvious double entendre of the
added motto, but hastily rubbed the inscription out as she heard
Uncle Josephus coming down the creaking stairs. Her first
glance at him drove the blood from her cheeks, and when, with
tightening mouth and flashing eyes, he flung the door going into the
shop open and bawled "Mark!" her heart sank. The shopman
called back to say that the ex-apprentice had not yet arrived, and
Josephus, after consulting a big tortoiseshell-cased watch, turned
to stare in moody wrath at the fireplace.
Ten minutes passed. Kinty, with trembling fingers, was
assisting the preparations for breakfast. Mr. Josephus drew up
to the table with a smothered snort, and then, rising hastily, went
to the glass-door again, and ordered the shopman to "go after the
Still Kinty held her peace; the more so as there were most
unwonted indications of wrath upon Ebenezer's usually sunny face.
Her colour came and went rapidly, the food seemed to choke her, and
she could scarcely draw her breath. "Oh, why should the
thoughtless Mark be late on this of all mornings?" Ebenezer ate
rapidly as though to check his rising wrath, Josephus sat stiff and
stern and did not so much as look at his food. The shopman had
had time to go to Mark's house, he must surely have met him before
this! What could be detaining them?
"He has o'erslept himself, belike," she murmured
apologetically, and was surprised at the huskiness of her own voice.
Josephus laughed, but there was scorn and rage in his voice.
"Curse me, brother!" and Ebenezer, purple with sudden anger,
sprang to his feet; but at that moment the door was burst open, and
the shopman, with wonder and alarm on his face, cried out:
"He's gone, masters! He's not so much as been abed!"
Kinty rose with a sharp cry, Ebenezer opened his mouth in
amazement, and Josephus flung himself back, with a hard, crackling
laugh, and cried:
"Buss me, but the rascal's shrewd! Oho! not such a
pudding-head as he looketh! Ho! Oho!"
"Uncle! speak you thus of my lover?" and Kinty, with quick
self-recovery, stepped forward, with eyes flashing and mouth set and
hard, and then turning abruptly to the shopman, she demanded, "His
sister, what saith she?"
"She can tell naught, mistress, she is gone to the flax mill
to find him."
"Go! quick, man!―"
But before Kinty could get any further the hop door swung
back, and Nancy Rawson, staggering forward, cried, as she flung up
"Oh, lack-a-day! He's gone!"
"Thou liest, vixen!" roared Ebenezer.
"Oh, master, 'tis true! I met the mayor's man but now,
and he tells me that he has stolen Crackey Leech's mare and rode off
to the Pretender!"
There was a moment's astounded silence, and then a sudden
babel of tongues.
Ebenezer fell on the sobbing Nancy with fiercest
objurgations, Josephus danced about the room, uttering malicious
little laughs, and Kinty assailed the shopman with incoherent
exhortations to go and search for the missing one in all likely
places; whilst Kerry, coming upstairs with a dish of salt pork,
threw meat and wooden platter from her hands, and, dropping into a
chair, began to shriek in sympathy with the excitement about her.
But the very confusion steadied the intrepid little mistress
of the house. Mark's absence had deeply alarmed her,
especially after her dream; and that common terror of the times, the
pressgang, made her dread what might have happened to her lover.
But the news Nancy brought, by overshooting the mark, really
relieved her; and so she bundled the tearful Kerry downstairs,
hurriedly whispered something to Ebenezer which sent him out through
the shop with his wig, as usual, in his hand, rebuked the sobbing
Nancy, and then, stepping up to her uncle and facing him, she cried:
"Uncle, those that hide can find. Where is Mark?"
The old hatter, showing his dingy, broken teeth in malicious
triumph, made answer:
"Gone to the north to Charlie."
"North, south, east, or west, I'll to him!"
"Wench, he's a traitor! a Methodist Jacobite rebel!"
"And so am I, Methodist, Jacobite, rebel!" and, in the height
of her angry defiance, she snatched up a wooden cup, and raising it
above her head, she cried shrilly, "To the King! to the King that's
robbed of his own!"
But in the very act of defiance her head dropped, the mug
slipped from her suddenly nerveless fingers, and, with a rush of
passionate tears, she flung herself on the settle, and sobbed as if
her heart would break.
The scared horror on Joseph's face slowly faded out, he
watched the weeping woman with glazing eyes, hesitated, looked
stupidly round, and then, snatching at his cocked hat, vanished.
NEITHER of the two young women left thus in the parlour were of the
class that wastes time in useless lamentation, and so in a few
minutes they were deep in debate on the anxious situation. That Mark
had gone to the Pretender was too ridiculous to be believed, but the
fact that he was missing was not to be got over, and the charge
involved in the only explanation of his disappearance which they had
heard had a sinister significance, and showed but too clearly that
Mark had enemies, and enemies of a most unscrupulous kind.
Kinty, of course, knew much more of the exact position of affairs
than her visitor, but her more complete information only increased
her perplexities, and even when she had briefly summarised the
proceedings of the previous night for Nancy's enlightenment, they
neither of them saw any further into the mystery.
But they could not be still, something definite must be ascertained,
even though it increased their troubles; and so presently they
separated, Nancy to interview Big Barny and the Methodists, and
Kinty to make inquiries in other directions.
Nancy's researches only increased her alarm, for the Methodists,
knowing nothing definitely of Mark's conversion, and remembering his
previous attitude towards them, were reticent and suspicious; and Kinty, whose love for the apprentice was, of course, unknown in the
town, was regaled with such wildly improbable stories that she grew
heart-sick until it suddenly occurred to her to interview the
It was well into the forenoon when she turned into the lane leading
to Goody's tumbledown mud-and-wattle cottage, and she pulled up with
a little cry of dismay when on coming in sight of the house she
discovered that the rickety shutters were closed, and Goody was
either abroad or ill in bed.
Hoping against hope—for the wise-woman had mysterious ways—she
approached the door and knocked. But there was no answer, and when
she repeated her summons, she noted that the string, which was
Goody's substitute of a latch, had been drawn inside, and there was
no smoke issuing from the drunken-looking mud chimney. She was
neither more nor less superstitious than any other girl of her rank
and time, but all the gruesome stories she had ever heard of Goody
on the one hand, and the Methodists on the other, returned to her in
a flood, and she began to shake with vague uncanny fear.
Evils of a devilish kind had perhaps overtaken her hapless lover.
"Good day, mistress!"
With a start and a little frightened cry, Kinty whisked round, and
there stood gaunt Mother Wagstaffe, glum and weird-looking as ever. Kinty felt a sudden cold chill in the presence of this awesome
creature, and she shrank away with a little shudder.
"Affected, mistress? Ah, Goody has no more wicked spells, she's
washed in the blood of the Lamb."
With quick revulsion of feeling Kinty burst out: "Oh, Goody! Where
is he? Tell me, where is my lover?"
"Ay, Mark the 'prentice, I took him but last night, and now he is
The wise-woman stood looking at her visitor in a manner that sent
the blood back to her heart; and then, without answering, she
stepped to the door, opened it by some mysterious and complicated
means, led the way inside, carefully closed the door and shot the
bolt, and then, turning round, she demanded:
"Dost love him truly, mistress?"
"Ay, dame, oh ay; but where—"
" An' does he love thee?"
"Ay, does he! But tell me, good woman, where he is. I dreamed a bad
dream of him in the night. Oh, Goody, I saw him tossed with a bull."
"Mistress!" and the dame almost shrieked out her exclamation.
"I did, dame! Oh, tell me not 'tis an evil dream!"
The light went out of the wise-woman's eyes, her chin dropped upon
her breast, and in a low husky voice she groaned:
"Good lack! I dreamed the like myself!"
There was dead silence; Kinty's heart went cold, then relieving
tears rose to her eyes, and she was just about to speak when Mother
Wagstaffe drew herself up, dropped her crooked walking-stick, and
with her black eyes glowing and her sallow face shining, with
strange inspiration she began in the tone and manner of an ancient
"'He shall give His angels charge concerning him; He shall cover
him with His feathers, He shall hide him in His pavilion. There is
no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination
against Israel. He shall deliver his soul from going down to the
pit. A thousand shall fall at his side, and ten thousand at his
right hand, but they shall not come nigh him; only with his eyes
shall he see the destruction of the wicked!'"
This weird rhapsody was more terrifying to Kinty than a torrent of
curses would have been, the succession of unfamiliar Scripture
quotations sounded like an incantation, and she gasped for breath
and gripped the arms of a chair to support herself.
But Goody, dropping her strange manner as suddenly as she had
assumed it, began to unfasten the shutters, and when the daylight
came in it seemed to break the spell, and Kinty sank trembling into
the chair upon which she had been leaning.
"But, dame, can you tell me naught? Can you not read his—"
"Why, mistress, I saw him go!"
But another idea had evidently entered the subtle brain of the
old-time witch. She made a quick step forward and stood right before
her visitor, looking keenly down upon her with a calculating,
"Tell me, mistress, has he aught to fear from the mayor?"
"Nay. Yea, oh, yea! He is—what do you name it?—converted, and 'tis
said the Methodists are all Jacobites!"
Goody frowned and shook her head.
"Mistress," she said slowly, "the mayor got him from his bed at
break o' day and sent him—O God!—to Nettleton!"
And Kinty with a new horror on her face, sprang to her feet, and the
two stood looking almost fiercely into each other's eyes. They had
neither of them the least suspicion of the real motive of the
mayor's action, but they saw clearly enough that his worship wanted
to get rid of Mark, and if so it would be perilous to bring him back
even if he could be found; for the Government wanted men badly just
then, and Mark would make an ideal recruit either for army or navy.
"Perhaps 'tis but an errand he hath gone upon," said Kinty, with a
faintness of voice that belied her words.
"And what then of our dreams?" was the chilling reply.
Kinty shuddered, and then with a fresh thought she said eagerly:
"But can you not divine, Goody? Can you not break the evil spell?"
"Toots! Get thee behind me, Satan!" But with change of tone, the
weird creature went on: "I can do better than that, mistress. I
can pray. Ay, an' I can move the Methodists to pray." And then
softening suddenly she asked, "Can you pray, mistress?"
But to Kinty this was mere solemn trifling; the old beldam was
demented with her new religion. She was for instant action;
something must be done and done at once, so presently she asked:
"Went he riding?"
"Then he can be overtook?"
"There be many ways to Nettleton, mistress, and none of them
"But a horseman could o'er-ride him and stop him going near the
"And what then?"
"He would be saved; he could come back."
But even as she spoke the momentary eagerness
died out of her voice, and she was not surprised when the old woman
shook her head sadly and answered:
"'Twould but be walking into another trap."
"But there's the law."
"There's no law, mistress, for the Methodists."
"But the mayor's son is a Methodist."
"Ay, that is why he so hates us all."
Kinty sighed heavily, but the necessity of action was strong upon
her, and seeing no further help in the dame she moved disconsolately
to the door.
"I cannot rest! I must do something!" she cried with querulous
And Goody, as they parted, put her hand out, and
touching her respectfully, said:
"God is above, and young Mark is His servant, so fear not."
But as Kinty was hastening away, she called her back, and said:
"Pray for him, mistress. Come and join us to-night at the flax
Kinty shrugged her shoulders and hurried off. She had a grudge
against the mill and against the people who resorted there: but for
them her lover would have been safe.
During her hurried walk home she decided that her next application
should be made to Uncle Josephus if she could find him. She could
not think that he knew anything about the mayor's proceedings, but
at any rate she would learn what view he took of the matter.
He was in the parlour unexpectedly when she
arrived, but so changed in this short forenoon that she felt a fresh
pang of fear. His sneering, malicious manner had given way to
one of nervous apprehension, and as she entered he sprang at her,
"Hussy, where is thy uncle?"
"I know not," she began loftily; and then, though she noticed his
extreme concern, she went on recklessly, "Gone to Nettleton, belike!" and stood watching the effect of her shot. She was more than
justified, for Josephus went positively green.
"Nettleton? why Nettleton?" he shouted.
But seeing how the first chance shot had told, she repeated the
"Nay, uncle, you should know best."
"Baggage!" he yelled, but with sudden change of manner, he seized
his hat once more and dashed out through the shop.
Breathless and bewildered, Kinty sat down to collect her thoughts. Why, her reckless guesses seemed to have hit the mark! Uncle
Ebenezer gone? There was some comfort in the fact, at any rate; at
his age there was no danger of his being pressed, and for his years
and bulk he was still an expert rider, and might easily overtake her
lover. Only there were many possible roads to Nettleton, and a man
on horseback would scarcely go the same way as a foot passenger.
Perhaps he had not gone, after all; his habits were such that there
was really little cause as yet for fear, and as her head began to
throb and her lips to quiver, she leaned on the table, buried her
face in her hands, and sobbed again.
That proved an awful day for the distracted girl, fits of helpless
depression were followed by fits of fruitless activity. She dare not
go down to the kitchen, for Kerry was in a state of collapse, and
would overwhelm her with useless lamentations; neighbours came in
every hour or so to madden her with suggestions probable and
otherwise, but chiefly the latter. Uncle Josephus never came near
her even for his meals, and not a word could be learnt about dear
old Uncle Ebenezer.
Towards evening, however, her fears were confirmed, Ebenezer had
gone off to Nettleton, and was by that time probably far on his way; and we in these times can have no conception of the feelings of a
lonely girl in those days of dangerous travel under such
As the day drew to its close and no relief came, a feeling of
helpless loneliness crept over her. Nancy called twice, but brought
no fresh news except that the Methodists had lost their suspicion of
Mark, and were rejoicing over him as a brand plucked from the
Her sense of burden and loneliness deepened after Nancy's last
visit, for it came to her gradually that Uncle Josephus, however
near he had been to yielding the night before, was now of quite
another mind, and she could not for the life of her think of any
reason for the change. Perhaps it was no change, and she had been
deceived when she thought he had relented. Even if Mark came back,
therefore, there would still be that difficulty to surmount, and it
seemed harder and more dreadful in her present depressed condition.
Utterly wretched and full of fearful forebodings, she began to long
for something, she knew not what. There must be help and sympathy
somewhere, surely. Oh for some one who knew and would understand! It
was the mute blind groping of a stranded soul after God, but she did
Then another thought stole upon her; the only people who were in
sympathy with her present feelings were the despised Methodists. Yes, she would go and join them in their prayers. She knew not the
time of meeting, but guessed it would be some time after sunset, and
so a little before eight o'clock she stole out of the back door, and
a few minutes later gently pushed the heavy flax mill door before
her and entered.
The worshippers, about a score in number, were assembled at the
farther end of the room singing, and as she was seeking a shy place
behind the door, Mother Wagstaffe came towards her and led her
forward. The others did not turn round to look at her, but stood
with closed eyes and rapt faces absorbed in their melody, which was
read out to them in fragments of about two lines by the tinker.
Kinty kept her eyes down, but as the singing concluded, and the
others were going to their knees, she was dimly aware that she was
being observed, and, glancing timidly up, she caught the mayor's
disinherited son eyeing her with burning looks. But she was in no
mood for coquetry, and in a few moments young Giles was forgotten as
she drank in the spirit of the supplications that were being made.
A strange spell fell upon her; these people were praying to a real
God, and they prayed much as they talked. They spoke to their Maker
as though they could see Him, and asked in definite terms for the
one thing that was upon their hearts. They called Mark "the
new-born babe," and asked that he might be "snatched from the jaws
of the lion."
And the most amazing but fascinating thing was that they believed
that they were being heard, and that God would do literally what
they asked. If this was prayer, and her heart told her it was, she
had never before understood it. Gradually she warmed towards these
simple people, she felt as though they were building a sheltering
wall around her absent lover, and when the meeting closed she rose
from her knees with wet eyes.
"I never thought to see you here!"
Kinty turned with a little start and met the ardent gaze of the
young maltster. She was abashed for the moment, but her heart was
full, and so she bowed her head and walked on.
Drawing closer to her and dropping his voice
almost to a whisper, he asked:
"Are you feeling the drawings of the Spirit? are you seeking after
"Nay; I am seeking my lover, Mark Rawson, my lover!"
Giles flushed to the eyes and looked like one stunned.
"Your lover? Mark the 'Prentice?"
"Yea, Mark the 'Prentice! Know ye aught of him? What hath thy
father done wi' him?"
But he was thinking hard on other lines, and so,
ignoring her question, he said:
"But he cannot be a Methodist and your lover!"
"Cannot he! but he is i' faith, and a right forward one, too."
And she laughed wistfully as she recalled certain lover-like
proceedings in the dark hat-shop the night before.
"But a Methodist may marry only in the Lord."
"Let him but come safe back an' he shall marry me as he lists."
"But, mistress,"—and great beads of perspiration began to appear on
his face,"—if—if Why, I had to give up father and mother and you,
too, to save my soul!"
"And I thank you for't, Master Giles, and so will Mark."
A battle royal was going on within the young maltster, the presence
of the girl he had deliberately given up for his soul's sake had
most unexpectedly revived the old Adam in him; his whole nature went
out to her, he had never felt that he loved her until now. His
dull eyes gleamed like balls of fire, he was driving his nails deep
into his clenched fists, a sickly pallor spread over his face, and
at last he stammered out:
"If one man may risk his soul for a woman, why not another?"
The theological point involved took Kinty out of her depth, but the
idea suggested reached the old spirit of banter within her, and so,
though her heart was cold and heavy, and they had by this time
reached the market-place where groups of people stood, she made a
pretty little gesture of dismay, and cried:
"Mercy, Master Giles, but I cannot marry two men!"
The untimely frivolousness of the answer did what
serious argument might not have accomplished. The young
maltster felt first offended and then rebuked, and so recovering
himself with a great effort he turned the conversation by asking:
"But what has my father to do with it?"
Kinty opened her eyes wide, and then checked herself.
Evidently he knew nothing of his father's motives, and if the
Methodists did he would have heard of them. Perhaps Goody
would not wish the fact that she had seen the interview between Mark
and the mayor known. At any rate, it was as well to be
careful, and so she answered:
"Does he not hate and persecute all Methodists?"
But he was studying her intently. Certain overtures he had recently
had through his sister made him aware that if he wished to be
reconciled to his father the way was open, at least upon certain
terms. Mark was now out of the way; he had doubtless gone, like
many another in those times, to feed the greedy god of war; for it
was no uncommon thing just then, when the authorities were
unscrupulous and bounties for recruiting high, for a strapping young
fellow to disappear, and when he did so nobody thought twice as to
In a short time the bewitching young beauty at his side would
doubtless forget her lowly lover and even be thankful that she had
escaped a misalliance. The first glow of new religious life had
waned somewhat of late, and if he could get reinstatement in his
father's favour, recover the prospects he had forfeited, and obtain Kinty, the matter was, at any rate, worth considering. And so, as
they had now reached the hat-shop, and he noticed that the
neighbours were observing them curiously, he took a ceremonious
And that night there was another young soul in the throes of
fiercest moral conflict, and as the sun broke over Purstone Hill
another well-built young Helshamite rode out of the town end towards
that place of ill repute—Nettleton.
ADVENTURES BY THE WAY
NO sooner had
Mark Rawson turned the crest of the hill after parting with the
mayor, than he became the prey to distracting fears. There was
something worse than cruel in his being sent away from the town on
the very day that was to see the consummation of his life's dreams,
and he could not overcome the feeling that the circumstance was
He was angry with himself now, for not having awakened his
sister, and he pulled up, and was strongly tempted to run back and
tell her both what had befallen him at the hat-shop, and on what
errand he had been dispatched. But the mayor had undertaken to
explain all that was necessary to her, and if he should see him
returning he would most certainly be angry.
As he reached the corner of Baking Lane, it occurred to him
to run round to the back door of the hat-shop, and scribble a
message on the flag before the kitchen door; Kerry could not read,
but she would be sure to call her mistress's attention to it.
And yet why waste time? Mr. Josephus knew all about the matter
and there was really no cause for the foolish fear that troubled
Then he remembered the strange conduct of the wise-woman.
Why had she signalled so earnestly? Well, he was near, two
minutes' walk would bring him to her door, why not see her and
settle that point, at any rate? Slipping down the lane,
therefore, and along the "Beck" side under the willows he approached
the cottage and knocked.
There was no response; the door was fast and evidently the
old woman had not returned. For several minutes he lingered
about in the hope that she might appear, but at last he gave it up
and went back into the road. Then his reflections began to
pull him in another direction; calculating time and distance, he
realised that starting so early, it was just possible with push and
good luck to reach Nettleton that night, and then with the money
provided him by the mayor, get some sort of ride back on the morrow.
It would be an unheard-of feat, but surely he had reason
enough for more than ordinary effort, and so in a few minutes he was
scudding along the road, staff in hand, at a fine swinging pace.
The callow morning air braced and freshened him, activity also
contributed its recuperative influence, the keen edge of his
disappointment wore off, and even his misgivings became less heavy.
As he passed through Freedale hamlet sounds of waking life
began to stir. He could hear the striking of flint and steel
in the cottages, and now and then he met a haymaker going to the
fields. For an hour longer he trudged along, his spirits
rising with every mile he travelled.
It was too early to be very hot, and the roads for the
locality were fairly good. He stumbled occasionally in the
deep grass-hidden ruts, passed now and again the ruins of rough
country vehicles which had been stranded in the rainy spring and
abandoned, more than once he had to turn aside to avoid putrifying
carcases of animals lying on the roadside; but altogether he thanked
his stars that he encountered nothing worse, and about eight o'clock
he entered the faded old town of Higher Wincott, where the present
road ended, and where also he came to the limit of his topographical
Calling at an inn, he found some difficulty in ascertaining
his nearest way forward, but a horse-dealer came to his assistance
and bade him take the fields to Wincott Bottoms, then cross the
pack-saddle moors to Munderham. But "The Bottoms" proved a
labyrinth, and the moors apparently endless, and when a little
before noon he came in sight of Munderham his hopes of reaching
Nettleton that night had sunk to zero.
It was now exceedingly hot, and though he bared his neck and
carried his coat on his arm, he was perspiring profusely and had
become footsore and overpoweringly sleepy. As it was noon and
the beginning of the haymaking season, he was not surprised to find
the little village quiet; but when he pulled up for a moment the
stillness become noticeable and he observed that grass was growing
up long and rank between the cobble-stones of the street, and most
of the cottage window-shutters were closed.
He seemed to have walked suddenly into a veritable deserted
village. Looking wonderingly around he spied a little alehouse
farther on, and made at once for it. But this also was closed
up, and he was just gazing perplexedly round, and wondering what it
all meant, when a footstep fell on his ear, and wheeling round he
came face to face with one of the most hideous-looking objects he
had ever beheld.
It was a man, certainly, but the hungry, cadaverous face, the
glittering green eyes, the stubbly unshaven chin, and the tufts of
coarse iron-grey hair that projected through the holes of a tattered
wig presented to Mark's horrified gaze one of the most grotesque and
terrifying figures he had ever seen.
"Laugh! " cried the wretched object with a fierce grin, and
glaring savagely into Mark's face. "Laugh, man! there hasn't
been a laugh heard i' old Munderham these two months! Laugh,
"Whaa-t! What is't?" cried the traveller awestruck.
"What is't! the vengeance o' God! 'Tis wrath and hell,
'tis the plague!—H-u-s-h!"
The sound of slow rumbling wheels was heard on the
cobble-stones, and the weird creature snatched at Mark's arm and
drew him into the shadow of the doorway.
The young hatter had already half-guessed the terrible truth,
and a moment later there came into sight a rude springless cart led
by two mournful-looking men. A dingy piece of cloth was thrown
over the load, but as it passed, one terrible glance told Mark all
he needed to know; and with a gasp and a horrified cry he sprang
from his repulsive companion, darted down the deathly street, and
did not stop until he had left the place a mile and a half behind
He had walked into a plague-stricken village, paralysed and
decimated by the ravages of small-pox. In his scare he had
paid no heed to his directions, and now found himself sorely
puzzled; and as he stood reflecting and getting his breath, he heard
the sound of hoofs coming towards him. But when the
approaching horseman saw him emerge from the Munderham lane, he
shouted, pulled up, wheeled round his horse, and dashed hurriedly
Hot, hungry, disheartened and drowsy, Mark threw himself into
the long grass by the wayside with a fretful moan, and lay there in
the sun wondering where he would get food, and when his journey
would be completed. It was clear he could not get to Nettleton
that night, and he was so stiff and sore that he would have been
glad to get shelter and rest anywhere.
What was the secret purpose of his journey, and why had he
been required to take it just at this time? And as he wondered
and sighed, he grew drowsy, and though he roused himself once or
twice he was soon overpowered and lay in the deep grass fast asleep.
It was late in the afternoon when he awoke, and an hour's
walk brought him to a cottage where a woman sat in the doorway
working a spinning-wheel. She gave him food promptly enough,
and then offered ointment for his bleeding feet, accompanying her
ministrations with vague references to the balm of Gilead.
She was a Methodist it turned out, and when Mark had told her
of his own recent conversion, and such details of his present
journey as he thought prudent, she informed him that he had come
many miles out of his way, but that at the next village five miles
farther on he would find a Methodist webster who would give him
shelter for the night.
He could scarcely move his stiffened limbs when he rose to
depart, and cried out more than once with pain; but a little
exercise eased matters, and he pushed on towards Gunnell. The
road dipped sharply into a valley, and he began to pant with the
stifling closeness of the air. The sides of the valley were
well wooded, and he came every now and again into delightful bits of
A sound of distant hoofs made him look round, and there some
distance above him on the hillside was a horseman on another road,
but evidently making in the same direction as himself. The
traveller was coming down the hillside at a fine rate, and was soon
some little in advance of him. He seemed to be talking to his
horse somewhat excitedly Mark thought.
Presently the rider plunged into a shady bit of wood, and the
young hatter had almost forgotten him when he heard a cry, a
succession of dull blows and the discharge of a pistol. He
pulled up, listened a moment, gripped his ashen staff and, weary as
he was, dashed forward.
The cries and knocks increased as he ran, and he shouted in
response, and then coming into the straight he beheld the horseman
with riding-whip in one hand and horse-pistol in the other
struggling with two ragged footpads in the road, whilst a third
ruffian was in the very act of mounting the stranger's horse.
"Help! help!" bawled the rider.
A shock went through Mark, the voice was strangely familiar;
he shouted again and sprang forward. Yes! Oh heavens!
yes, the horseman was Mr. Ebenezer.
With an amazed yell Mark smote the nearest footpad with his
staff, and began to belabour him about the head and shoulders until
he turned upon his new assailant. Mr. Ebenezer discovering his
helper, sprang back, roared out a volley of mingled oaths and
proverbs, and the roughs were just being beaten off when there came
a crash in the wood behind, a succession of oaths, Mark was smitten
heavily on the head by some blunt instrument and fell senseless to
When he came to himself all was quiet again, only Mr.
Ebenezer, with face all smeared with blood and tears, was looking
anxiously down upon him, and he had only time to observe that his
old master was coatless, when all went dark again.
"Lack-a-day! 'A fool's bolt is soon shot.' 'Who
reacons without his host must twice reacon."'
Mark raised his head, and then became conscious that his own
outer garment was gone, as well as his master's.
"Hoots, man, I've found thee! ' 'Tis an ill wind that blows
nobody good.' Thou cam'st i' th' very nick, lad. Ah,
lousy rascals, 'Twixt cup and lip is many a slip.'"
"But, master, where are our coats?"
"Tut, man! heed not the garments; near is my coat, but nearer
is my skin. The rascals gave thee a bat [blow]."
"But, master, the letter! the letter was in my coat!"
"Nay, nay, man; thy wound, what of it?"
Thus reminded, Mark put his hand to the back of his head and
drew it away again all wet with blood. The sight sickened him,
but with a great effort he staggered to the rotting stump of an old
tree and propped himself against it. Ebenezer, rapping out
energetic oaths on their vanished assailants, bound up Mark's head
with his snuffy old handkerchief, muttering as he fumbled with the
unwonted exercise, "Need makes e'en the old wife trot." But he
gave no sign that there was anything amiss with himself, and it was
some time before the younger man discovered that his companion also
In a few minutes Mark comprehended what had happened.
The two who were assaulting Ebenezer had been reinforced upon his
appearance by others out of the wood. They had achieved their
purpose only too successfully—pistols, saddle-bag, money, coats were
all gone, Mr. Ebenezer's outer garment having disappeared most
mysteriously; for he would not admit for a moment that he had been
knocked down and stripped whilst unconscious.
A sudden sense of the Divine protection fell upon Mark as he
leaned against the tree trying to realise the situation, and he
dropped upon his knees and began to return thanks to God.
Ebenezer watched these proceedings, first with astonishment and then
with a dull stare, and when at length the younger man rose and
looked round he found his companion kneeling with his face to a
wayside bush and his wig gripped firmly in one hand, repeating the
Apostles' Creed with headlong rapidity.
With his head singing and swimming Mark felt that the first
thing to do was to get assistance, and so they started forward to
the next village. It had grown a little cooler, but as they
soon emerged from the shelter of the trees, and strange sharp pains
in the scalp began to distress him, he doubted whether he could
travel the uncertain distance to the place of refuge. Mr.
Ebenezer, however, was optimism itself, and laughed at the
difficulties Mark saw.
"Tush, man! we canna always have good news from Holland.
Robbed? Ay, but we're safe enough now; naught's never in
danger."' But here he became incoherent and reeled in the
road, and Mark insisted that he was hurt and was concealing it.
The old fellow stoutly denied any such thing, but almost
immediately staggered again, and Mark was just insisting on knowing
the truth when his master gave a faint whoop, and pointed forward;
and following the direction indicated, he beheld a broad shallow
streams crossing the bridgeless road, and they both pushed onward
for a drink.
Mark arrived first, and with a sigh of satisfaction threw
himself down, and sank mouth and face in the cooling waters.
Ebenezer was following and dropped on his knees, and began to crawl
towards the stream. Mark drank deep and dipped his face again
and again, and was just rising from his knees, when, glancing round,
he found his brave old companion lying half length in the stream,
apparently in a dead faint.
For the next twenty minutes Mark with swimming head was
struggling to bring his master back to consciousness, and when at
length he got him to sit up, he noticed that the sun was sinking
fast and night would be soon upon them. They were at the
lowest point of the road, and the shoulder of the hill hid the
village beyond from view. It must be nearly two miles off,
Mark calculated, and how they were to reach it in their present
condition he was unable to see.
Mr. Ebenezer seemed to prefer a prostrate condition and lay
on his back muttering the Creed, and Mark, in utter exhaustion, had
to struggle with an overwhelming desire to fling himself down by the
old man's side and give up. But Ebenezer raised his head and
sat up in a listening attitude.
Yes, some one was coming, for there was a sound of hoofs, and
Mark prayed it might not be the return of the robbers. The
still evening enabled the sound to travel easily, but several
minutes passed before the traveller hove in sight. The strain
of listening must have drained Mark's strength, for the next thing
he knew he was lying on his back, and John Snaith, the Methodist
preacher, was rubbing his limp hands.
An hour later he found himself reclining on a comfortable
long settle in the inglenook of a large kitchen, a rosy-checked,
meek-looking woman was attending upon him, and a rubicund yeoman,
half-farmer, half-tradesman, was deep in conversation with Snaith.
A lugubrious groan and a muttered "When the bad is highest
the good is nighest" made him aware that Mr. Ebenezer was somewhere
near, and raising his bandaged head he beheld his old master seated
in a corner chair, with his arm bound up and a face as white as a
sheet, whilst two gentle-looking damsels were waiting upon him; one,
in fact, being just in the act of helping him to a pinch of snuff.
Mark soon found he was in the best of hands, and when at last
he was able to sit up and eat, he told as much of his story as he
thought prudent, and then listened with growing distress to Mr.
Ebenezer's account of his disappearance from Helsham, and the alarm
which it had caused.
"But the mayor! said he naught of where he had sent me?" he
In an energetic but unprintable monosyllable, the old hatter
consigned his worship to woeful regions, and then gave Mark to
understand that he had been put upon the scent by Goody Wagstaffe,
and that he thought him well rid of the letter which he swore meant
mischief to its bearer.
The rosy old dame mildly deprecated both the old fellow's
language and his surmises, and as Mr. Ebenezer was without the clue
to the mayor's motives held by the reader, and John Snaith added
exhortations about "thinking no evil" and "speaking evil of
dignitaries," the old man was in danger of losing his temper; and
so, to divert his attention, the women began to urge the necessity
of rest, and in a few minutes our two adventurers were lying side by
side in a cool room, soft linen sheets about them, and soft pillows
under their aching heads.
A STEADY snore
soon proclaimed the older man asleep, but Mark found it impossible
to soothe his excited mind. Had the mayor played him false?
and if so, why? Was the losing of the letter a Providence, as
his old master insisted and even Snaith seemed to think? Why,
at any rate, had not the magistrate explained his absence, as he
promised, and what, oh, what were they thinking of at that moment in
He dozed now and again, and woke with frightened starts, but
when at last slumber seized him he slept heavily, and lay tossing
and moaning about until bright daylight filled the room, and sounds
of returning life could be heard from all parts of the house.
Ebenezer was still snoring, but Mark was soon back in the incidents
of the previous day and the anxieties connected with them.
He had lain thus, and was debating with himself his best
course of action when a sound of distant singing floated softly into
the room. Yes, he knew the tune, some Methodists were
evidently worshipping somewhere not far away. A goodly
company, too, by the volume of sound; why should he not join them?
But when he tried to move, his limbs seemed fast to the bed,
and the least effort gave him pain. He groaned and sighed and
waited a while, but at last the sweet morning, the alluring melody,
and his own restlessness, were too strong for his aching bones, and
he got up and hastily dressed. He was met at the foot of the
stairs by the mistress of the house, who protested that he must
remain in bed for one day, at least.
Mark admitted his soreness, and then, dropping into a
cautious tone, informed her that he was a recently converted
Methodist, and longed to go to the service. Then the dame
called one of her daughters, and bade her accompany their guest and
see that he took no harm. With demurest smile the damsel,
fair-haired and pretty almost as Kinty herself, led him through the
farmyard, along the side of an orchard, and across a field to a
shady nook, where he beheld some sixty people gathered for worship.
Some of them had their reaping-tools in their hands, and
others held the bridles of horses. John Snaith was praying
when Mark came up to the edge of the little dell, and so he accepted
the timidly offered assistance of his fair companion's arm, and
watched the newcomers as they arrived.
The Scriptures were read next, another soft, tender hymn was
sung, and the preacher commenced his sermon. The girl at
Mark's side was soon listening with rapt attention, but he found it
difficult to follow the preacher at all. Do what he would, his
eyes wandered over the assembly, and his thoughts returned to the
absent ones at Helsham.
For some fifteen minutes the sermon proceeded, and Mark was
just beginning to get interested when he caught a movement out of
the corner of his eye, and, slightly turning his head, he observed
three men steal sheepishly up to the edge of the company, look round
with sly, suspicious glances and finally settle down to listen.
There was something about the last of the newcomers that
seemed familiar, and yet as he looked at him he could not decide
what it was. He checked himself and turned his thoughts to the
preacher, but a moment later he was eyeing the stranger again with
an earnest, struggling sort of look.
Suddenly light came, and he started forward with an
astonished cry. It was not the man, nor his face, but he was
wearing Mark's own coat. A chill crept over him as he stared
along the dell-side. He turned to speak to his fair companion,
and then, glancing back at the stranger, became so fascinated in
watching him that he forgot coat, sermon, and everything.
Snaith was discoursing on the Judgment, and he had just
commenced to give lurid and terribly realistic descriptions of the
last great assize, and the wearer of the stolen coat, with his big
mouth wide open, and his eyes bulging out in growing fear, was
drinking in every word. Now and then he licked his coarse
lips, unconsciously took a step nearer the preacher, pulled
nervously at his frowsy beard, and gave every sign of being
interested to the point of helplessness.
Mark, forgetful of everything else but what he saw, held his
breath and watched. The stranger began to grind his teeth, and
great beads of perspiration stood on his forehead. The
preacher's voice had fallen to a whisper, not a sound could be heard
but the sibilant accents of the sermon, and Mark, stiff and
spellbound, saw the footpad move like one mesmerised towards the
centre of the ring.
Nobody saw, nobody heeded. The whispered descriptions
of the Great Judgment were holding every heart in thrall.
Suddenly the preacher flung out a sentence, high, shrill, terrific;
the man Mark was watching sprang into the air with a shriek, loud
moans broke out on every side, and, a moment later, the thief was
grovelling at Snaith's feet, crying for mercy to an accompaniment of
cries and groans and tears.
The scene, though repugnant even to Mark's untutored
instincts, thrilled, repelled, and even frightened him, and he was
just sighing in an effort of self-assertion when there was a roar
and a crash, kneeling worshippers were toppled incontinently over, a
well-known figure dashed into the ring, and with shouts of "Rascal!
thief!" Mr. Ebenezer was seen fiercely dragging Mark's coat from the
back of the kneeling penitent.
With a startled glance the thief looked up, and, recognising
his assailant, realised that the preacher's warnings were being
fulfilled with swift and most appalling literality; Nemesis had
overtaken him indeed, and with another yell he threw his arms round
Ebenezer's legs and began to cry out for mercy.
The old hatter kicked and sputtered, and finally, with a
lurch and a roar, toppled over on the top of his prey and lay on the
soft grass, proclaiming vociferously that "Old birds were not to be
caught with chaff."
The appearance of Mark, who now sprang into the ring,
completed the wretched footpad's terror, and as he was now joined by
his two companions and his coat was in Ebenezer's hands, he
grovelled there in ragged, dirty shirt, through the plentiful rents
of which a dirtier skin was visible, and cried for pity from God and
It took all John Snaith's powers of command to obtain
anything like order, and when this was at length accomplished he
dismissed the worshippers to their work and invited Mark and the
footpads to stay behind.
The congregation, standing in little knots on the edge of the
dell, watched the proceedings with intense interest. The three
penitents were notorious characters, and their capture by the
Methodists was regarded as a most signal triumph. Mr.
Ebenezer, still upon the grass, was alternately denouncing the
thieves and fortifying himself with proverbial philosophy, and Mark
began to search the pockets of his recovered coat for the letter.
At this moment, however, the farmer came down the dell-side
and, after saying a word or two to Snaith, he turned to Mark and his
master and invited them back to the house. But Mark demanded
his letter, and Mr. Ebenezer, declaring he would have the villains
gibbeted, bawled out for some one to fetch the constable.
Snaith checked the old man somewhat sternly, and assured Mark
that the letter and all other matters should be adjusted as far as
might be if only they would return to the house. Ebenezer
announced that "A bird in the hand was worth two in the bush," and
was not to be pacified, and it was clear to Mark that the old fellow
was very much overwrought.
At length they prevailed upon him to depart; but he went away
muttering threats of vengeance against Snaith if the culprits
escaped him. The women of the house placed food before them;
but to Mr. Ebenezer this was a species of corruption and bribery,
and he tramped about the kitchen denouncing the three penitents as
highwaymen and the Methodists as villainous Jacobites and
Then he tried to induce an old man-servant, who sat in the
chimney-corner making wooden spoons, to fetch a magistrate, and,
failing in that, he sat down in a pet, sulkily refused to eat, and
kept up a series of mutterings to the effect that "A bird in the
hand is worth two in the bush," and "Save a thief from hanging, and
he'll cut your throat."
Presently Snaith and the farmer entered the kitchen.
"The letter! What of my package?" demanded Mark
"The men know naught of any letter, they have not even seen
"But 'twas in the pocket! Where are they?"
"The men are gone."
"Gone?" shouted Ebenezer, and with a savage laugh he went on,
"So, so! 'Set not the fox to watch the geese.'
Scoundrels are ye all!"
Mark had risen from the table with a flushed, angry face, and
Ebenezer, clutching at his wig with his uninjured hand and waving it
about, began to denounce the Methodists as villains and vagabonds.
"Silence!" commanded the preacher sternly. "Old man,
thy language ill becomes thy years. The men are true
penitents, and will return."
"Return! return, says ta!" and rushing at Mark the excited
and indignant old fellow seized him by the arm and began dragging
him out of the house. "Come forth, come forth! We've
gotten 'out o' the fry pan into the fire.' 'Set a thief to
catch a thief.' Rascals are they all! Come forth, man!"
But Mark, in spite of his distress about the letter, was
interested. Could such wretches as these be influenced by
religion? To see three such scamps genuinely penitent and
bringing forth fruits that were meet would be a marvel indeed.
In spite of his confident language, however, Snaith seemed
strangely anxious and restless. The men, he explained, were
not really criminals, but mere broken men, who had turned poachers
and hen-roost robbers out of sheer starvation. Their attack
upon Ebenezer was their first serious plunge into crime, and he was
anxious that they should have a chance of justifying his kindness
and faith in their sincerity.
Mark hastened to assure the preacher that if he could only
recover his letter he would be glad to forgive the rest; but his old
master obstinately announced his intention of having the "rascals"
gibbeted, and laughed to scorn the idea that they would be such
"pudding-heads" as to put themselves within the power of the law.
"'Love can bow down the stubborn neck,
The stone to flesh convert;
Soften and melt, and pierce and break
The adamantine heart,"'
quoted Snaith, but it was evidently quite as much to confirm his own
wavering confidence as to convince the mocking hatter.
And, as if to justify his faith, the back door opened and in
stepped the three culprits. They had hastily washed their
faces and there were fringes of wet hair hanging over their brows
and marginal dirt-stains round the edges of their cheeks.
A strange stillness fell on the company, surprise and wonder
appearing on every face. The men drew up in the middle of the
room and looked inquiringly around, shame and high purpose curiously
blended in their faces. The wearer of Mark's coat, who was now
a picturesque pillar of dirty rags, glanced shyly round upon the
company and then down at a pistol in his hand, and groaned.
"Lord, help him," said Snaith fervently, and the tears stood
in the women's eyes, whilst Mark had sudden difficulty in seeing
The footpad stepped up to Ebenezer and laid the pistol before
"Glory!" cried Snaith under his breath.
The thief hesitated a moment with quivering mouth, and then
quietly laid a purse by the side of the weapon; the preacher
breathed out another deep ejaculation.
Then, turning to his companions, the penitent took from them
saddle-bag, straps, and a small wallet, and laid them before the old
hatter. With fascinated eyes the lookers-on watched the
proceedings in dead silence, and when the chief actor hesitated for
a moment the preacher said, in low stern voice:
"Keep back naught of the price, brother. Remember
Ananias and Sapphira."
The thief looked up in perplexity, he evidently did not
understand the not too obvious reference.
"Go on, brother, make an end; hold naught back."
The penitent seemed still at sea, and so Snaith added
"The horse, brother, what of the horse?"
Light came into the dull face, and dropping his head again,
he said humbly:
"The horse is in the yard, master, and the constable."
"The constable?" cried two or three at once.
"The constable!" echoed Snaith. "Nay, then, I meant not
that; this is righteous overmuch."
Two of the culprits were glancing nervously towards the back
door, and they heard Snaith's protestations with most evident
relief; but their spokesman, labouring to swallow something, opened
lips that cracked as they separated, and answered huskily:
"But we want the peace of God, master."
Snaith looked round on the company with a flash of holy
triumph, and burst out "Praise God!" and then, stepping forward, he
explained to the culprit that Mark and Ebenezer were willing to
pardon their offence, and that, unless they had the guilt of some
other crime upon their souls, there was no need to give themselves
up to justice.
The two assistants murmured words of gratitude, but their
leader shook his head wearily and repeated:
"We want the peace of God."
With the flash of a new thought in his eye, Snaith strode to
the back door, and returned with a little pock-marked, wiry man, who
had "officer of the law" written large on every feature of his fussy
face. The women uttered cries of protesting pity, Mark sprang
to his feet and caught at the preacher's arm, but Snaith threw off
the grasp, and, stepping back, said:
"Officer, do thy duty!"
"In the King's name," began the little constable; but before
he could get any further, he was sent spinning against the pot-rack,
and a husky voice cried "Touch 'em not!" and Mr. Ebenezer, his red
face all smeared with hot tears, thrust himself between the culprits
and the man of law, and turning suddenly round, flung his free arm
round the neck of the man who had worn Mark's coat, and hugging him
convulsively to his breast he cried:
"Bless, bless thee, for a man and a Christian!"
Joyful little sobs broke from the women, the thieves looked
round in perplexity, Mark tried to speak but could not, and Snaith,
looking on with folded arms and glowing eyes, laughed in the excess
of his triumph; for he was beholding and demonstrating to others the
marvellous transformation which the Gospel could produce upon even
the most hopeless cases.
But the constable had picked himself up, and began to assert
the majesty of the law, and so Ebenezer, who seemed to have taken
command, picked up his restored purse, pushed a guinea into the
irate officer's hand and thrust him incontinently out of the house,
then turning to the penitents he emptied all the silver left in his
fob before them, slapped them heartily on the back, and invited them
to return with him to Helsham.
And then, as a sort of winding up of the ceremonies, he
grabbed at Mark's arm and cried, whilst the tears rose into his eyes
"Boy, these rascals have made me a Methodist. State
Church, man! State Church is balderdash!"
exhausted by the trying experiences of the day, the old feeling of
loneliness descended upon Kinty again as she entered the house after
parting with the young maltster. Uncle Josephus in his hardest
mood would have been welcome just then, and she peered into the dark
corners of the unlighted room with a weary, sinking heart. She
was too preoccupied and miserable to think of calling for a light,
and so after groping about a little, she found Mr. Ebenezer's chair,
and with a sobbing sigh sank into it, impulsively kissed the hard
polished arm, and then dragged herself upstairs.
Under ordinary circumstances her anxiety about her uncle
would have kept her astir, but she had reached the point of
suffering where sorrow loves to feed upon itself, and she found
herself seeking the very loneliness which oppressed her so much.
Listlessly she took off her cloak and hat, and as listlessly
sank upon her knees to repeat her ordinary evening prayer. She
went through it as mechanically as she had done a hundred times
before, and was just rising again when her pressing sorrows overcame
her, and, sinking back, she laid her head upon her hands and began
to think. Oh, for some one to talk to, some one who could
comprehend; some one to whom she could open her heart!
Tears of soft self-pity began to flow, and kneeling there in
the still twilight she realised for the first time in her life what
it was to be an orphan. For years she had reigned a happy
giddy queen over the hearts and home of two old bachelors, and now,
when a full-grown woman, she had a sudden aching longing for the
parents she had never known.
For a long time she knelt thus, yearning pensively for she
scarcely knew what. Suddenly she opened her eyes with a
startled look; a curious self-consciousness came over her, awesome
stillness seemed to enwrap her, and she held her breath in a sort of
half-trance. At first it was as though some faithful old clock
had stopped ticking; but that feeling gradually died away, and a
chilly sense that some one was near came over her.
She dared not move or even breathe; a moment more and she
must have either shrieked or fainted. But just then a soft
humming cadence, a snatch of music that came and went and slipped
away when she tried to catch it floated into her brain and began to
entice her. "What was it?" "Where had she heard it?"
Ah, yes; the flax mill came slowly back before her mind, the rapt
faces of humble Methodists appeared and went again, the chill
vanished, a gush of warm tingling emotion, like a soft south wind on
frozen land, passed over her, and she found herself repeating with
swimming eyes and quivering lips:
"In darkest shades if Thou appear
My dawning is begun."
This was the daybreak of Kinty's spiritual life, had she
known it; it was not an orthodox one—real awakenings seldom are—but
it was hers, and as she murmured the sweet words over and over
again, the far-off, hazy, lord-chief-justice-of-the-universe deity
of her former days faded for ever away, and into the vacant place
there came a real friendly fatherly God, who was tempting her to
tell the full tale of her woes into His sympathetic ear.
And so she began to pray. It was a simple, confused,
altogether earthly prayer, the petition of a maiden for her absent
lover; but she seemed to know that it was entering into feeling
ears, and told out her love and apprehensions with guileless
Meanwhile Mr. Josephus was being greatly exercised in his
mind about the absence of his brother, and whilst we must do him the
justice of admitting that much of his concern arose from genuine
anxiety for his old comrade's welfare, we scarcely need say that it
was intensified by uneasy fear of what Ebenezer might discover.
His brother was very fond of Mark, and hated all foul play,
and if he found out — But Josephus did not care to contemplate what
might happen in such a contingency. He drank more heavily than
usual that night, and never knew how he got to bed; but when he came
down next morning, somewhat late, he found the mayor waiting for
Turning away from the breakfast-table without so much as
looking at his food, he seized a tankard of ale, filled his
worship's pot, took a long pull at the liquor, and then sat down in
surly silence opposite his visitor.
The mayor, who was watching him with ill-concealed
impatience, grabbed at the vessel offered him, and then as he raised
it to his lips he looked over the top, and burst out:
"The rascal's absconded!"
"And what of Tebby?"
But his worship was on the rack, and so with sudden heat he
"Hang Ebenezer! I speak of the boy—my own boy.
He's gone, man."
The hatter's jaw dropped in dull, stupefied amazement.
"Gone? How? Where?"
"Gone to Nettleton! Gone after thy lousy apprentice!
Gone to the devil!"
And the magistrate, now on his feet, poured out a volley of
oaths and curses that shocked even the case-hardened Josephus.
Relapsing each into his chair, the two conspirators stared
hard at each other. They were elderly, experienced, and for
their times intelligent men; but as they glowered glumly into each
other's face each man was telling himself that there was something
uncanny in the whole business. They were being played with by
some mocking Nemesis which was leading them on and laughing at them.
Kinty came into the room just then on some domestic errand,
and so, waiting until she had gone, the maltster said:
"Dance and Jerry are gone to Nettleton, Podger to Derby, and
Dick along the south road, but, curse me, I cannot rest!"
"No lad is safe nigh to Nettleton these times, 'prentice or
gentleman," replied Josephus with serious conviction.
"Tut, man, my son! The scoundrels 'ull never put finger
on my son."
"What of Grigsby's boy?"
Young Grigsby was the scapegrace son of a wealthy brewer, and
had been pressed within a mile of his father's house, and so far
neither money nor influence had succeeded in recovering him.
Josephus, in his many perplexities, had a sneaking sort of
satisfaction in the fact that his friend was now in the same boat as
himself; a view of the case which the mayor hotly resented, and all
the more so as his own heart strangely misgave him.
"Hoots! these are times, truly!" he snarled, "No man can go
safely now." And once more he banned the Methodists as
Jacobites and disturbers of the country's peace.
For half an hour longer they talked the thing over, but the
guilty fact they held between them caused all sorts of miserable
apprehensions. They were the prey too of a peevish fretfulness
which made them hyper-sensitive, and so they parted to avoid
Afternoon brought a clergyman traveller into the town, and
this worthy, interviewed at the Hanover Arms, reported that he had
met a young fellow at the Luggerholme cross-roads, who was inquiring
the way to Nettleton.
"He rode hard," he added, "but he cannot come to the town
before dark, and not then if he misseth the way again."
His worship cursed his son under his breath as he wandered to
the door, listened absently whilst the landlord questioned the
cleric about Mr. Ebenezer, and then, with another bitter burst of
blasphemy, he hastened away. But at nightfall he drove out of
the town-end in a heavy, old-fashioned carriage, accompanied by two
armed men-servants, on his way to that place of sinister mesmeric
And, as the father went out of Helsham, the son, on a lame
and jaded mare, was turning the brow of Snelson top and going
wearily down the hill towards Nettleton. Though evening was
gathering in he could still see the town, some three miles below
him, and the sluggish, leaden-looking river beyond. Wherever
he had come that day he had made inquiries after Mark, but without
success, and that for the very sufficient reason that for the last
twenty miles he had chosen a much nearer road than the one taken by
It had been a hard ride, and he was almost ill with soreness,
thirst, and hunger. He was approaching a little hedgeside
alehouse, and though eager to get to the end of his journey, he
pulled up and shouted, "House! house!" and then, unable to wait for
the response, he flung himself with a groan from the saddle, threw
the bridle over a rusty hook near a link socket, and stumbled
stiffly into the inn.
"Ale, there, ale!" he cried faintly, and sank into the
It was almost dark, but one of the two persons in the room,
brushed hastily past him to fulfil his demands, and Giles was too
self-absorbed to notice the other.
"You are spent, young sir," said a gruff voice from the other
end of the room.
"Ah, spent enough! How far to Nettleton, good man?"
"Nettleton?" cried the pipe-voiced host, coming in with the
ale, "three miles, and down hill every yard. The night is
young, sit and sup, sir."
Giles took a long, deep pull at the liquor, wiped his mouth
with the back of his hand, and then, throwing his legs on the bench
beside him, he turned to the host and asked:
"Know you one Tester i' Nettleton?"
"Ah, marry! 'tis the brazier in Labour Lane," said the
"Bottom o' the town near to the wharf," added the other man.
But another thought had entered Giles's head, and so he said:
"Any other young fellow asked after Tester here to-day?"
The landlord reflected, and was just about to reply, when
"A lad on foot; an apprentice."
"Ah, a runaway?"
And with a sudden quickening of interest, the host came
nearer to his customer. Before he could reply, however, the
stranger, now almost invisible in the gathering shadows, asked:
"Then you are for Tester's to-night, young sir?"
"Please God, good man!"
"Then hand these to him, and tell him that Toby Greener, the
Chapman, picked them up in the old Gunnell Road."
Giles took what appeared to be a small book and a letter, and
was putting them into his side-pocket, when the feel of the volume
struck him as being familiar, and so he tried to examine it, and
then got up and went to the door for better light.
It was a thin little Methodist hymn-book and on the fly-leaf
was written "Mark Rawson: his book." The backs were curled
somewhat, and the colour of the binding seemed to have run a little
and then dried suddenly.
"Man, where got you this?"
"In the Gunnell Road, as I told thee; it was wet when I
picked it up; had lain there all night beelike."
With a little gasp and a flutter at his heart, Giles turned
up the letter. It had thumb-and-mud-marks upon it, but the
writing on the outside was his father's! He stared at it with
sinking heart and buzzing brain.
"But, Mark? the 'prentice, saw you aught of him?" he cried,
springing back into the dim room, and approaching the chapman.
A long shake of the head and a stare of questioning surprise
were the only responses.
A thousand wondering questions rushed into Giles's mind.
What did this discovery signify? Was it a good omen or
an evil one? How had Mark come to part with it?
What had happened to him, and where was he now? Would Mark, if
he had lost the letter, return home, or had he gone forward into the
Perplexity and caution struggling together within him, he
first blurted out a string of questions, and then closed up and made
reticent and evasive remarks. At any rate, the letter had
strangely miscarried, and the question was, what to do next.
He only suspected that mischief was intended against the young
hatter, and he had started in pursuit of him in order to be near and
protect him amid the dangers of the town he was going to; but if
Mark had discovered his loss, he would, in all probability, return
home. As he mused he turned the letter dubiously over and
longed to open it.
Next moment, however, he felt prompted to hand the missive
back to the chapman and let it take care of itself, whilst he
returned in search of his rival; but, detecting in his own heart a
sort of unholy regret at the thought that Mark was escaping, and
might get safely back to Helsham, he determined to ride on, deliver
the note, and return as best he could.
The two men were watching his waverings curiously, and this
annoyed him, and so, flinging a coin on the table, he asked the
chapman another question as to the exact whereabouts of the
brazier's residence, flung himself heavily into his saddle and
turned his horse towards the town.
He pulled up several times, however, as he went down the hill
and turned back once; but at the end of half an hour he rode slowly
into Nettleton, and a few minutes later he led his tired mare down a
cobblestone yard towards a low squat door in the far corner of the
It was as dark now as it ever would be that night, and the
yard was still and empty. There were no lights in the little
diamond-paned windows looking into the court, but a dingy
swing-bracket overhung a door in the corner, and so he made for
that. As he drew up under the sign and reached out his hand
towards the heavy old knocker, however, he was conscious of a sudden
fit of fear and drew back with most painful misgivings.
Why, he was walking into the very trap out of which he had
come to rescue his rival! Goody had insisted, with that
strange, prophetic manner of hers, that harm was intended to Mark,
and his knowledge of the circumstances of the case confirmed her
contentions; and here he was carrying the very instrument that was
to accomplish Mark's ruin!
Then he remembered something else and glanced down at his
garments. Since his conversion he had adopted the simpler
style of dress affected by his fellow religionists, and now, dusty
and disordered as his clothes were, there was little to distinguish
him from an ordinary apprentice. The risk was too great; he
would go back and spend the night at the Green Man, where his father
at any rate was known, and then consider the situation during the
night and act as his judgment directed in the morning. As for
"Soft, soft, my lad."
He jumped back with a frightened start and his heart began to
beat rapidly. He gripped the rein of his horse tightly and
peered suspiciously round, but nothing at all could he see.
"Tarry, tarry, lad! I'll be with thee in a twinkle."
Ha, there it was. In the window just at one side of the
door and right above his head was the grinning face of a cross-eyed,
cadaverous, toothless old man, and before he could collect his
thoughts the door near him opened, the wearer of the face he had
just seen emerged, accompanied by two men-servants carrying horn
"The Green Man, neighbour! Which is the Green Man?"
cried Giles in flurried, caught-in-the-act manner.
"Green Man! Ho, ho! yea, truly; this is the Green Man
and the Red Man and the Blue Man? The Green Man, Gobbs?
The Green Man, Gobbs?"
"The Green Man," answered the servant addressed as Gobbs.
"The Green Man," echoed the other, who, as he spoke, glided
round in the gloom and laid a stealthy hand on the outer rein of the
Giles did not see this latter performance, but the manner of
the three increased his suspicions, and so stepping a pace back he
"But this is no hostel, master!"
"Yea, verily, the best hostel and the cheapest the
'prentice's hostel—and the slip-master's hostel," and the old wretch
came nearer, thrust his ugly face in Giles's, and leered horribly.
But Giles was getting seriously alarmed.
"Out, man!" he cried. "Take you me for a runaway
'prentice seeking hidey-hole! I am a tradesman's son from
Helsham, and want a decent inn."
The old fellow's bantering manner changed suddenly, and
snatching a lantern from Gobbs he came near, scanned his visitor
from head to foot, and then asked suspiciously:
"Know you one Twist i' Helsham?"
"Ay, marry; he's the mayor and my father!"
"What! Tut-tut-tut! Ha, well-a-day! Enter,
young sir, enter!"
And taking Giles by the elbow in a respectfully caressing
manner, he tried to lead him into the house. But the young
maltster's suspicions were not so easily laid.
"Nay, nay, good man; I want the inn."
"What inn? My old friend's boy go to an inn! Nay,
nay! Enter, young man!"
Still far from easy, Giles allowed himself to be led indoors,
and was ushered into a passage, and from thence upstairs into a
dimly lighted but comfortable room. Everything looked so cosy
and decent that he began to be ashamed of his own fears, and when he
had been fussily pressed into a chair and had answered a string of
eager questions about the well-being of his father, meat was placed
before him, and he was pressed to eat in the most cordial and
Still struggling with his uneasiness, Giles drew up to the
table and ate; watching and carefully studying his host as he did
so. But the old fellow's manner was now respectfulness itself,
the ill-looking servants had disappeared, and the air of homely
cheerfulness that pervaded everything had a most reassuring effect.
The old brazier seemed not to notice his guest's taciturnity,
and rattled on merrily about the rumoured invasion by the Pretender,
the doings of the much-talked-of Methodists, and the prevalence of
crimps and press-gangs in the town of Nettleton. His manner
when he spoke of these last was artlessness itself, and Giles began
to reproach himself for evil-minded suspicions.
Then he began to ask wary questions, and soon found that the
brazier had seen nothing of Mark, or, in fact, of any Helsham
person, and this discovery set him off into a debate with himself as
to whether he should present the letter; and the fact that the old
fellow showed no curiosity as to the object of his visit seemed
encouraging. The brazier lolled back in his chair with a
little sigh of lazy indifference, and Giles began, in spite of his
inward restlessness, to feel somewhat drowsy. The conversation
dragged a little, there were several long silences, and Giles had
not yet settled his problem when the old fellow, in the tone of one
who talks for the sake of talking, said:
"Thy father send no message for me?"
Giles gave a little start, and noticed that the brazier was
watching him now with curious intentness. There was no help
for it, he could not lie about the thing, and so he fumbled in his
inner pocket and produced the packet.
Tester took it and examined the outside with absent
indifference, then he arose, slowly lighted another rushlight,
carried the note to a windowsill, set the light down and opened the
message; Giles the while watching him intently. It seemed to take a
lot of deciphering, for the old man was some time before he could
comprehend it. The letter ran as follows:
"To John Tester, at the sign of the Wooden Mallet,
these. The bearer is a King's man most evident, and I send him to
thee for my own greater comfort and the peace of this good town. Let
him be shipped post haste."
Two or three times the brazier perused this brief epistle,
carefully keeping his face averted so that Giles could not watch
him. Then he coughed thoughtfully and strolled back to his
seat. "Curse the Pretender and all his rascally followers!" he
muttered, as he dropped upon a long settee, and Giles, supposing
that the exclamation had reference to the subject of the letter,
felt no little relieved.
But the conversation flagged now more than ever, Tester
answering very absently, and, as he twice caught the old fellow
eyeing him sharply when he turned his head, Giles's uneasiness
returned, and so to try his man he arose, wearily stretched himself,
and announced his intention of going to the Green Man to sleep.
To his surprise the brazier offered no more serious objection
than decent hospitality required, and respectfully offered to escort
him to the inn himself, which, he explained, was on the far side of
the town. Then he excused himself for a moment and went
downstairs, and Giles, still suspicious, heard voices talking in
undertones, and finally the sound of footsteps going out of the
Tester, however, was quite talkative when he returned, and
retained Giles for several minutes longer, whilst he told him
amusing stories of the jolly landlord of the Green Man. Then
he led the way down into the yard, still extolling that wonderful
At the corner of the lane he was so absorbed in narrative
that he pulled up, and, apparently forgetful of the time and the
errand they were on, took hold of Giles's coat, whilst he finished
his tale. Then, suddenly remembering himself, and with the shy
apologies of a garrulous old man who is wearying his friend, he made
a sudden dash forward. A little way down the lane he took a
sharp turn into what seemed a backyard, but which led them out upon
Then Giles remembered that the Chapman had said the Green Man
was near the wharf and felt reassured; but in a few moments Tester
doubled again into another dim passage. It looked so dark and
ugly that after a few steps Giles held back and finally stopped, but
as he did so his companion, doubling his hand, made a peculiar
hooting sort of whistle; two dark figures sprang out in front, a
door Giles had not seen opened behind them, men from front and back
sprang upon him, gagged and bound him, and then he felt himself
raised on rough shoulders and, struggling and kicking, carried off
towards the wharf side.
Once he threw himself out of their hands and fell heavily to
the ground; but they were too many for him, and in a few minutes he
found himself thrust into a dark, stinking cabin, and when the day
broke he was far out at sea.
By strange mischance, or series of mischances, he had walked
into the trap which his father had laid for Mark Rawson.
AND whilst her
lovers were thus experiencing perilous adventure, Kinty was
consuming herself with anxieties, and found her only relief in
stealing away to her little bedroom and pouring out her troubles
into the Divine ear. She was too preoccupied to observe how
great a change this denoted in herself; the exercise was intensely
and increasingly comforting, and, in the same unconsciousness, her
heart was going out more and more to the despised Methodists, who
were the only persons who seemed to understand and sympathise with
The men who had gone out in search of her uncle returned, but
could give her no comfort, no trace of the old man having been met
with by any of them. Her only consolation was that they seemed
very confident that nobody would think of harming so well-known and
good-natured a person as Ebenezer Kirke.
At dusk she crept out to the Methodist prayer-meeting, but
what comfort she derived from that was speedily taken away when she
learnt on her way home that the mayor himself had gone after his
son. This, she noted with a sinking heart, was regarded by her
friends as a most serious sign, and had it not been that Goody
Wagstaffe, seeing her woeful plight, accompanied her homewards, and
expressed unfaltering confidence that God would protect His own, she
must have given way to utter despair. Goody would give no
reasons; she was mysterious and reticent, but very sure, and for
once Kinty's superstitious trust in the old wise-woman was of
service to her, and she did her best to believe.
But the next day her fears grew stronger every hour.
Uncle Josephus ate nothing and carefully avoided her, and the one
solitary glimpse she got of him showed that he was haggard,
unshaven, and more than half-drunk. Goody came twice, and
Kerry was sent every hour to inquire for news; but neither of them
brought the least scrap that relieved the tension, and dull, heavy
grief settled down on her soul.
Twice during the day she roused herself in dazed wonder.
This was never Christiana Kirke! and she rushed off to do she
scarcely knew what. But beyond interviewing and almost
quarrelling with the Methodist carpenter, who preached resignation
to the Divine will, she accomplished nothing, and there came over
her a bitter realisation of how helpless a thing it was, under such
circumstances, to be a woman.
It was Saturday, and the Methodists, who were expecting John
Snaith to preach on Sunday, had arranged to hold an all-night
prayer-meeting on behalf of the absent young men. During the
afternoon flying rumours which raised high hopes or excited
cruellest fears, were carried to Kinty, and at dusk, the arrival of
a rickety, lumbering waggon from Nettleton itself sent her scudding
off to the Blue Griffin to question the driver.
She found the fellow, the profits of whose trade were
obtained quite as much from the secret conveyance of uncustomed
goods as from legitimate traffic, surly and taciturn at the
inconvenient attention which his coming was receiving. He had,
it appeared, bluntly refused to answer any questions, and when Kinty
arrived he was revenging himself by giving harrowing descriptions of
the dangers of the town from whence he had come.
It was "as full as a fitch," he declared, of Government men,
pressmen, soldiers, and even marines, and Kinty, at the edge of the
crowd, listened to his oath-embellished communications with a
shudder, and then, with Goody Wagstaffe's assistance, got him aside
into the stable, and, slipping a gold coin into his hands, drew out
of him all the information he had to give.
He had neither seen nor heard of any of the missing ones,
either in Nettleton or on the way; but if any strange young fellow
had gone at this particular time into the ill-reputed town, they
might say good-bye to him, for he was by this time serving the King
on the high seas.
Then Kinty broke down utterly, and, leaning against the
cobwebbed wall, sobbed as if her heart would break. In vain
the softened teams-man drew on his imagination and told clumsy
stories of hair-breadth escapes which likely young fellows had had,
even in Nettleton. Kinty was inconsolable, and drew with the
perversity of despair only the worst possible conclusions from the
driver's extemporary romances.
Goody led her away to her own little cottage and coaxed her
to drink a little small-ale, and even eat a morsel of rye bread, and
at last they went together to the all-night prayer-meeting.
And by this time Kinty's persistent despair had infected her
companion, and her optimistic predictions grew faint and feeble, and
Kinty, seizing on these as proofs that the worst was to be expected,
abandoned herself to utter hopelessness.
But the atmosphere of the flax mill chamber was softly,
quietly hopeful. A bright Methodist battle-hymn was being sung
as they entered, and Kinty's sore, dead heart awoke again and went
out in melting gratitude to these pathetic manifestations of
sympathy. For over an hour the singing and praying proceeded,
the numbers of the suppliants being gradually increased until the
room was nearly full.
And as the numbers increased so did the confidence and
fervour of the worshippers. Lamentations, prayers for
resignation and patience grew fewer, whilst notes of hope and
confidence became louder and more emphatic. Following every
word that was said or sung, the cold hopelessness melted within the
struggling girl warm gushes of thankful affection towards these
strange friends of hers welled up within her, a sense that there was
help if it could be got, stole into her heart; the reality, the
nearness, the sympathy of God became clear to her, and she found
herself following the broken simple petitions with smothered but
Then a sense of passionate longing came over her. Oh to
be God's! to be God's own child and secure for ever! In a
short time she had forgotten where she was, forgotten her condition,
forgotten even her lover, and was crying with the deepest that was
"Rock of ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee."
Suddenly another voice broke upon her ear, and she heard, in
the strident tones of Goody Wagstaffe:
"Thou art God. Thou wilt answer prayer.
Thou wilt keep from the snare of the fowler. Thou didst
save Peter out of prison, and Paul from shipwreck. Save our friends.
Save those dear lads, and save them now. Thou cans, Thou wilt.
I believe ――"
There was a loud bang at the door, a shout and a clamour of
voices, and Kinty, springing to her feet in sudden awakening, felt
strong arms thrown about her, a pair of blazing eyes met hers, her
glad cry was smothered with passionate kisses, and she was folded to
her lover's breast.
Goody's prayer came to an abrupt conclusion. There was
a confused babel of triumphant voices, and when Kinty looked shyly
round, there a few yards from her stood Uncle Ebenezer and John
Snaith, encircled by a company of tearful, laughing Methodists, and
behind them three frowsy ragged ruffians who were looking on in
But that had taken place in Kinty whilst she was on her knees
which was more even than the happy return of her lover, and in a few
moments, unconscious of all else, swimming eyes were looking into
swimming eyes, and Mark was hearing the sweet tale of how her
troubles had almost unconsciously brought her to her God.
Breaking off, however, in the midst of her story, she dashed
across the room and flung herself into the arms of her uncle, who,
in spite of one bandaged limb which she had not noticed, hugged her
close to his breast, and proclaimed through quivering lips that,
"When the bad is highest, the good is nighest."
Congratulations and exclamations of wondering gratitude to
God were heard on every side, whilst Mr. Ebenezer shouted out
incoherent little scraps of information about his recent experiences
which only perplexed the excited listeners.
Presently he remembered something else, and, leaving the
Methodists to continue their rejoicings, he took Kinty by the arm
and marched her off homewards, Mark following at her side and the
ex-footpads bringing up the rear.
But Mr. Josephus had heard the news, and now came rushing
down the street without either hat or wig. The meeting between
the two brothers was touching to behold; but when Josephus,
releasing the fat palm of his brother, turned eagerly to Mark and
Kinty, and joining their hands together there under the still stars,
stammered out, "Bless ye both!" Ebenezer made the dark street ring
with "Yoicks! Tally ho! Hallelujah!" and then, springing forward to
meet a half-dressed figure that was rushing towards them, he hugged
the amazed serving-maid to his breast with his sound arm, and
proclaiming loudly that a "Bird in the hand is worth two in the
bush," hurried her along to the hat-shop.
Next day word came to the town that the mayor had arrived in
Nettleton to find that his worst fears with regard to his son had
been fulfilled; but it was only some time afterwards that it was
known how Giles had been overtaken in the very snare laid for Mark.
When his worship returned home it was observed that he had
not a word good or evil to say of the Methodists, and, in fact,
manifested a superstitious fear of them which was significant of
It took three months of incessant negotiation to procure the
young maltster's release, but he arrived in time to assist at a
modest little wedding at the hat-shop, where Mr. Ebenezer surpassed
all former efforts of proverbial moralising, and announced amongst
other things that his brother and he were about to build a chapel
for the Methodists.
Mr. Josephus somehow took a great fancy that day to John
Snaith, and in one of his most confidential moments informed the
preacher that the best day in the history of old Helsham was the day
that saw "The Coming of the Preachers."
Printed by Hazell, Watson, & Viney, Ld., London