THE NEW LANDLORD RECEIVES A CHECK
BEFORE Dolly had
been gone five minutes from Simpson's dingy office, that wise young
man was aware that he had made a most terrible mistake. He did
not as yet realise the full extent of it—it remained for his wiser
sister to show him that; but without being able to see all the
reasons of it, he felt acutely self-condemned. Dolly had come
upon him when he was in the very height of his first wrathful
ragings over the just discovered freak of the fantastic cooper, and
if ever a man had just cause for strong language, surely it was he.
All those beautiful dreams, involving as they did £3000 in hard
cash, had been wrecked in a moment, and wrecked by a hopeless,
whimsical fad. It was intolerable, it was simply maddening;
and any words or deeds almost were justifiable under the
circumstances. But one of the first maxims of his sister and
mentor's philosophy had always been, "Have your feelings by all
means, and indulge them, but never to the injury of your own
interests," or, as she more idiomatically put it, "Don't cut off
your nose to spite your face."
Hitherto he had had such reliance on Dolly's transparent good
nature and amiable pliability that he had never seriously doubted
his power to recover his position with her; but his reckless words,
the hottest and rashest he could command at the moment, must have
stung her to the quick, and there was no knowing what undiscovered
depths had been reached or what latent propensities awakened.
If she had any trace of her father in her, the case was as good as
lost, and even on her mother's side independence and dogged
self-reliance were not unknown.
Excuses for his conduct were plentiful enough, but
unfortunately they did not alter the facts; every door of hope was
now closed, and—oh, bitterest thought of all!—by his own hand.
Simpson feared nobody on earth as he feared his sister; she never
spared him, but always insisted on dragging out every detail and
remorselessly showing its egregious folly. She would talk in
low but biting tones, such as no one else dare use towards him; but
she was wedded to his interests, was secretly his legal partner in
the bobbin business, and was the heart and brain of the whole
concern. For good or evil he could not do without her, and to
her he must sooner or later go. But he could not face her at
once; in vain endeavour to find some palliating circumstance in his
tantalising situation, he took a long walk in the lanes, turning the
matter over again and again in his slow, unfertile way. There
was no hope anywhere; he had quarrelled with the father, quarrelled
irretrievably with the daughter, and the extinction of the King's
Arms licence was already an accomplished fact. What was there
left to cling to or scheme for? What possible peg of hope on
which to hang? Unfortunately, the one inevitable thing to
do—namely, give the matter up—was impossible to him; he had dwelt so
long on the alluring idea of possessing this lucrative inn that he
had become a slave to it, and the more hopeless the situation the
more doggedly he clung to it. As he walked about and pondered,
stopping every now and then to curse his own folly, the thought of
his sister grew less fearful, and presently he found himself
desiring that which, under less depressing conditions, would have
been repugnant to him. Just on the edge of dark, therefore, he
turned indoors, and sitting in their small living room, his face
mercifully screened by the gathering shadows, he poured out his
dismal, self-accusatory story.
Now, Clara Simpson was what is known as a sharp woman.
Her features taken singly were passable enough, but the sum of them
gave the impression of acuteness. She had sharp eyes, a long
sharp chin, sharp ways, and a hard, sharp sort of voice. More
than one man had fancied her at first sight, but nobody who could
help it kept her company long. She had already heard—trust
her!—of the ridiculous dénouement at the King's Arms, and was
sufficiently sobered thereby to give her brother a patient hearing.
Simpson seemed to find a sort of perverse satisfaction in telling
every detail, and was a little piqued to see how coolly she took
things. But when he came to his last scene with Dolly, there
were signs enough. She sniffed, she laughed in short
incredulous snatches, she grinned, and finally she settled down into
grim, tight-lipped silence. She was quicker always than her
brother and very much deeper; she was a woman also, and had long
since taken the measure of things with regard to his relations with
Dolly. That the cooper's daughter had never been really in
love with Simpson was as clear to her as anything could be, and she
realised, as even he could not, how tremendous were the difficulties
his impetuous rage had created. It was exasperating to realise
how shockingly the thing had been bungled, but she was shrewd enough
to see that she could not help matters by interfering herself.
It was her incessant nagging about that old shed that had egged
Simpson on to the course which had been the first cause of the
lovers' estrangement; and as nothing makes us so angry with our
confederates as their blamelessness, she felt so bitter and
resentful that she could not trust herself to speak, and there was a
long and painful silence.
"Every day they stop in that house knocks a hunderd pound off
its value," she said at last with grimmest conviction.
"And every day there's another chance for somebody to get a
licence in its place," he retorted sullenly.
"That great rambling shop is worth precious little without
the licence," she snarled, as though Simpson had extinguished it.
"It's worth fifty pound a year less than nothin'," was the
"That an' his crazy fads 'ull ruin him," said she.
"The sooner the better," he replied.
It was no use: chagrined and baffled, they were both
perversely longing for and drifting towards an explosion which would
only make matters very much worse; and so Clara, having nothing to
suggest and needing time to think, got up and left him; and he,
chafing and moody, lusting for a quarrel he knew he dare not
commence, lounged out of the house and down the street in the
direction of the hated but hypnotically attractive public-house.
But in a few minutes he was back with news. His face, as he
told it, was eager and hungry, though dubious shadows lurked in the
corners; whilst she, listening with stony grimness, was maliciously
and quite successfully trying to keep all expression out of her
His first announcement was that the two chief local brewery
firms, whose business Phineas and his predecessors had done for
generations, had peremptorily withdrawn their custom from the
cooper, and were negotiating with Bob Dribble, Phineas's foreman, to
start business in opposition to his master. But this was only
what might have been anticipated; and as Clara could see he had not
told all his tale, but was keeping the most interesting item back,
she looked bored and wearily patient, and so he was compelled to
deliver his more important news. That, when it came, was
suggestive and exciting enough. Phineas's lawyer had sent his
chief clerk over from Benderton to say that Mrs Polling, old Joshua
Wenyon's housekeeper and heiress, was disputing the cooper's
interpretation of the will, and that, pending the decision of the
legal point thus formally raised, Phineas had better continue the
usual business of the public-house.
Clara listened without a sign of emotion; and though Simpson
waited eagerly enough for her verdict, he was disappointed, for
after hearing all he had to say and appearing to attend more as a
matter of reluctant politeness than interest, she turned away with a
curling sneer, a face of wood, and an aggravating and inscrutable
THE NEW SIGNBOARD
Hay, bless yo, they may be handy for odd things nows and thens, bud
they're terble things to live wi', is men-folk."
Mrs Wenyon wagged her head in sententious resignation, whilst
Dolly, sitting, not in the best resignation, of spirits, at the
window of the back sitting-room, stitched away and listened absently
to the conversation of the elder women.
"I'm druv out of my own best feather bed as my mother left to
me, an' sleepin' on a flock turn-up as is as hard as nails, while
he's rawlin' and bawlin' all night o'er wi' a merry-anderin
"'Many are the afflictions of the righteous,'" moaned Mrs
Wenyon with solemn sympathy.
As the reader may have conjectured, the visitor was Thomasina
Twigg, who, having formerly served in the cooper's family as
char-woman, still kept up her connection with the house, Mrs Wenyon
being her chief earthly confidant. Her real motive in visiting
the King's Arms was curiosity to see her old friends in their new
quarters, and hear from their own lips the wonderful story which was
filling all Snelsby with rumours and reports. Having
commenced, as a kind of introduction, the tale of her own most
recent domestic troubles, however, the topic had become so absorbing
that she had apparently—but only apparently—forgotten her original
errand. In her own odd way she was as much attached to their
queer lodger as her husband, but she would not have been a true wife
if she had not had some chronic grievance against her lord and
master; and having opened upon that, she was postponing other
matters, and Mrs Wenyon's sympathy was supplying the necessary
"When he's in them tantrums, bless yo, he bawls out his
pothry an' rubbitch, till my pore head rings like Jeff's owd bell;
an' hay—it's plain trewth, missis—that, there big lollopin' man o'
mine gapes at him wi' a mouth like a funnel, an' calls it Scripter."
"What does he—what is the poetry like, 'Siná?" asked Dolly
from the window.
"Like, woman? Hay, don't ask me that! No dacent
female—hay, I wodn't sile my mouth wi' it for all Snelsby!" and the
two wives turned reproving faces towards the inconsiderate Dolly as
though she had suggested something indecent.
Dolly turned towards the window to hide a light blush and a
smile, and Mrs Twigg, returning to her older and more discreet
friend, went on—
"He gapes at me, an' rowls his eyes, and calls me the
"What does he call you?" asked Dolly the daring.
'Siná turning a grieved, scandalised face upon Mrs Wenyon,
lifted her hands in holy horror, and "mother" elevated her brows and
returned the look with compound interest, as though the
communication she was making out of pure compulsion was only fit for
maturely discreet ears. 'Siná dropped her voice, and looking
hard at the new landlady, she proceeded—
"He calls me Florey an' Goddess!"
Mrs Wenyon shook her head in slow but very decided
disapproval, and Thomasina, secretly revelling in the double
delights of sensation-mongering and minor martyrdom, went on—
"Bless yo, missis, I'm just nowt at all now! That there
lump of a man o' mine might never have no wife. He goes out wi'
him an' he come's in wi' him, he preiches to him an' he cries over
him, he gets him down on his knees an' he convarts him; he fetches
pledge-books out of his Pocket an' he signs him, an' there's his
poor wife as never says a word, an' he taks no more notice of her,
not if I wur a hocksioneer's bill!"
There was a short pause, Mrs Wenyon sitting and looking with
sorrowful pity on her visitor, and Thomasina shaking her head and
sighing in mute appeal for adequate sympathy.
"But why should he? Who is the fellow?" asked the
cooper's wife at length.
"He calls him 'my wandering child' an' 'my prodigal brother,'
an' sitch like rubbitch," replied 'Siná with an air of quoting what
she did not for a moment pretend to understand.
"But why should you be upset an' bothered with him?"
"Hay, bless yo, missis! that's moor nor a boss knows 'at's a
bigger head nor me."
"But he's nothin' to you; you're not compelled to keep him?"
"He keeps sayin' as he'll ha' ta' give in, an' onct he did
give in and sent him packin', but, bless yo, when he came in t'
house, he seed one o' my texes, an' ran after him an' brung him
"And what was the text?"—this very quietly from the
"Summat about 'turnin' a sinner' an' 'multichude o' sins.'
It's blue and red readin' wi' a yaller ground," and 'Siná supplied
the abbreviated quotations as though they were of no moment except
to make confusion more confounded. But Dolly, who was
unusually tender that morning, blinked her eyes rapidly.
Mrs Twigg was still dwelling on her many delicious
tribulations, and as neither of her friends replied to her, she
began to search her memory for more pity-exciting details; but
arriving by mental processes peculiar to her sex, and which we do
not for a moment pretend to be able to follow, at another aspect of
the case, she resumed—
"I'm not sayin' as he isn't good-lookin'. Hay, woman,
he's dreadful nice an' kind when his figarreys is off him! "
"But why does Jeff bother about him?" asked Dolly, more to
conceal than express her interest.
"He say's he's his cross an' mun be carried," and then she
added, with an aggrieved glance at Mrs Wenyon, "Our Jeff's like a
lot o' moor folk; he likes crosses as other folk has to carry."
But the moral aspects of the case evidently did not interest
the younger listener; she was dwelling upon other things, and the
trend of her thoughts peeped shyly out of her next remark.
"He is a freak. I've seen him once—er—a—you
haven't a summer-house, have you, 'Siná?"
"Uz? Nay; bud bless you, woman, it's only his ravin's;
it's all about 'beauty's bleeching bower' an' honeysuckles an'
Beatrices, an' sitch like jabberings. Hay, woman, it's
pitiful! It's flowery goddess an' bowery goddess, all—Oh, eh?
The interruption was caused by the blustering entrance of the
cooper, who, inflated with excitement and conceit, came in to invite
his women-folk to inspect his last caprice. All that day
Phineas had been standing or sitting about in front of the inn
holding at arm's length a long churchwarden, basking in the double
rays of summer sun and sudden popularity, and superintending the
operations of workmen who were replacing the signboard which had
been previously removed to be touched up and re-inscribed. The
King's Arms stood some way back from the road, and the open space in
front was paved with cobble stones. The fine old
black-and-white structure had been recently repainted by the now
deceased owner; but as the signboard had not been finished when he
died, Phineas had stopped operations upon it, and then started them
again in a great hurry and under a sudden and most wonderful
inspiration. The putting up of the signboard, therefore, was
the finishing stroke of his grand coup, and he had called his
women-folk out to behold its glory.
The bracket upon which the sign was to swing hung over the
low, wide front door, and was just being hoisted into its place.
Little knots of interested spectators stood about, all intent on the
business in hand, and Dolly, who was in front of her mother, noticed
at once that old Jeff Twigg and the ridiculous Billy Stiff were
amongst them. But her father was claiming her attention for
the board. One side of it was emblazoned with a newly gilded
picture of the Royal Arms, but the spectators were all screwing
their heads round and scrutinising with incredulous laughs the
reverse side. Dolly, following their eyes, stepped out of the
door to look for herself, and, as she did so, came all unconsciously
under the bracket to which the sign was to be raised. The men
had already commenced their task, and with little shouts were
raising the great sign from the ground.
"Now then, woman, look at that! There's poethry for
thee, there's compressed philosophy!" and Phineas pushed his
daughter forward so that she could read the inscription.
"Stop! good traveller, stop and think,
Do not sell thy soul for drink
Tea or coffee, milk or cake,
Safe and sober, come and take."
"Now then, woman, look at that! There's poethry
The board, now being steadily hoisted by willing hands, rose
gradually until the rhyme came on a level with her eyes, and she
could read easily. Her father stepped out upon the cobbles to
direct operations, and Dolly, turning an amused face to the crowd,
caught the watery eyes of Billy Stiff fixed upon her with wondering
stare. He seemed unconscious of everything but her, and did
not seem to know even that she was observing him. The colour
began to rise into her face, and her glance fell to the shabby and
grotesque garments he was wearing. The men at the signboard,
some on ladders, some on the ground, were tugging away at their
work, and Phineas was shouting out his orders in excited tones.
Suddenly, without the slightest warning, Dolly saw the crazy
Billy spring at her with a scream; with hands spread out, he sent
her staggering back into her mother's arms. There was a series
of startled cries at the same instant, a terrible crash and a chorus
of groans, and Dolly, turning her head and looking at her feet, saw
the great signboard on the ground, and Billy Stiff lying by its side
with both legs underneath it. And as she stood there pallid as
a sheet, sick at heart, and shaking from head to foot, she caught
one momentary glance of triumphant adoration from the prostrate man,
and realised with feelings too deep for words that the poor,
half-crazed drunkard had saved her life at the risk of his own.
WHEN GREEK MEETS GREEK
THERE was no love
lost between Simpson Crouch and his sister. They were too
intensely selfish and too much alike for that; and as he was a man
and doggedly insisted upon his man's prerogatives, in spite of the
irritating consciousness that the grey mare was the better horse,
and she was perfectly aware of her intellectual superiority, and
found an outlet for her chronic disappointment with life by
incessantly demonstrating that superiority, their intercourse was,
at the best of times, a precarious sort of thing, and useful chiefly
as a vent for spleen; whilst their conversations were, for the most
part, made up of acrid and spiteful interchanges. But they
were necessary to each other; their interests were identical, their
little heritage from their parents was all in the bobbin mill, and
they were neither of them able either to live without it or pay the
other out. Dull and narrow, they were both possessed of the
small man's inevitable ambition, the love of money; and so the
King's Arms, with its attractive and secure profits, had laid strong
grip upon their limited imaginations. The coveted thing had
come so tantalisingly near, and might so easily have been theirs—at
least in prospect—that they had a deep sense of injury, felt they
were being robbed, and that Phineas Wenyon was a monster of
exasperating stupidity. The more they thought, therefore, the
nearer and more desirable became the coveted hostel, and the more
maddening the sense of helplessness with which they racked their
brains for possible schemes of recovery. The most galling
consideration now was that of time. If all had gone well with
the courtship they could at the worst have waited, but every day the
King's Arms did not transact its ordinary business its value in the
market was depreciating, and, what they were even more afraid of,
the chances of someone else getting a licence in its stead were
increased. Neither of them, therefore, slept much on the night
of the conversation recorded in Chapter IX; and when they met in the
little parlour next morning, Simpson had thought of nothing better
than a hazy plan, beset with difficulties, of setting up a rival
ale-house himself, whilst Clara's many emotions had concentrated
into indignant contempt at her brother's inexcusable bungling.
Eyeing each other askance, each hoping the other had
something to suggest, and each resenting the other's dumbness, they
sat down to breakfast and ate their food in ominous, thundery
silence. But Simpson knew by past experience who would have to
commence, and knew also who would be most likely to have a
practicable suggestion; and so, perfectly aware through what
disagreeable recriminations he would have to come at what he wanted,
he bent his head over his egg and bacon, and growled—
"I haven't slept a blessèd wink."
"Of course! I've slept like a top."
The acrid satire of the first sentence stung him to the
quick, but the cool falsehood of the second struck him dumb again,
and so, after watching her as she nibbled with mocking daintiness at
a bit of bacon on her fork, he snarled—
"Thou'd sleep in an earthquake. Thou hasn't brains
enough to keep awake."
Still playing with her bacon, holding it out and inspecting
it dreely, and then putting it to her lips as though to kiss it, she
smiled a smile that raised a very devil of passion within him, as
she answered in slow, rasping mockery—
"No, nor I haven't fooled away three thousand pounds."
Even this bitter creature winced as she finished her
sentence, for all the black blood in his nature rushed into his
face, and it looked as though his reply would be a brutal blow.
With a desperate effort, however, he choked back his passion,
glaring across the table and trying vainly to catch her eye.
But when he succeeded he failed; for the hard, cold insolence in her
eyes was too strong for him, and she relentlessly looked him down
until his eyes dropped to his plate again, and there was another
It took him some time to collect himself; but the crisis was
too acute, the thing at stake too precious, for trifling. He
was fast reaching the condition also in which he could not help
himself on this question.
Some day it might be his turn, but the situation was
desperate, and he could not do without her. His voice,
therefore, was subdued, almost appealing, as he said—
"What's t' use o' cryin' over spilt milk?" and then, raising
his voice for emphasis, he added, "What mun we do?"
Slowly, with demurest face, she looked at him, turned her
head away and affected to be considering; and then, glancing round
at him again, she remarked with a blandness more biting than the
"Dolly's a nice soft-hearted lass. Go an' cuddle her
an' make it up."
She did not seem to hear him, but was still busy with her
thoughts; a smile of gentle indulgence, followed by the shadow of
mild disappointment, played about her mouth.
"Well, then, Phineas is an easy-going chap. Anybody
that likes can twist him round their finger, an' he's never violent,
This was the first hint he had had that she knew about his
ignominious ejection from the cooperage and choking with inward
rage, he made a snatch at his fork and a plunge forward as if to
drive it into her. She did not move; she did not even look at
him; and as he struggled with his surging passion, she leaned her
head on one side consideringly and said—"How would it be to blow t'
owd chap's brains out and run off wi' her in a carriage an' pair wi'
a pistol at her head like they do i' th' tale books?"
"Huzzy! Vixen!" and he was on his feet and standing
over her with clenched fist and blazing eyes. "Get her!
I'll get her now to get rid o' thee!"—but she was on her feet also
and surveying him with white, sneering, insolent face.
"And doesn't thou think I know? Haven't I seen it from
t' first? It isn't her thou wants; it's me thou wants rid on!"
And Simpson stared at her stupefied. The fact that she
had so accurately read his deepest thought amazed and intimidated
him; it was another proof of her intellectual superiority, and
seemed to suggest something uncanny.
But the cat was out of the bag now, and, spiteful though she
was, she was essential if anything was to be done; and so, dropping
his voice again and sinking back into his chair, he said sulkily—
"What's t' use o' talkin'? Show me t' way out, an' then
splutter as thou likes."
"Me! Me! I'm a poor brainless woman," and then
she stopped to think, and presently, turning to him once more, she
said, looking him calmly in the face as she did so, "Whatever thou
gets fro' me now, Simmy, thou pays for."
"Ay, pays for. The day thou gets t' alehouse I get t'
Simpson, on his feet once more, moved a step back; and if a
look could have killed her, she would have dropped at his feet.
As it was, she folded her angular arms with a cold indifferent smile
and returned his stony stare with interest.
And Simpson, realising that his only hope was in her sharper
wits and greater daring, sullenly yielded; and then and there, in
the sweet light of that early autumn morning, they made their sordid
bargain, and Simpson went off to the mill.
Clara sat down to make a detailed examination of the bargain they
had just struck and to further ransack her brains for a scheme that
would put her brother into possession of the King's Arms. But Clara
could not think quietly; she was one of those with whom physical
activity is the best stimulant to mental fruitfulness; to sit down
and give herself up to any one subject was the surest means of
driving that particular topic from her brain and inviting a
confusing rush of distracting thoughts as far away from the matter
in hand as they could well be; and so when the writing was finished,
and she had tried vainly to collect her ideas for several moments,
she rose to her feet and began to move rapidly about the house, her
hands mechanically employed with her daily duties and her brain at
work on the problem of the hour. Her face was clouded and did not
improve; for the situation, the more she surveyed it, became
increasingly depressing each moment.
It might be possible to undo the mischief between her brother and
Dolly. She burned to do something in the matter herself; but simple
and pliable though Dolly Wenyon was, she was still a woman, and
Clara sighed as she realised that only Simpson could repair
Simpson's blunder. With the ex-cooper the prospect was not much more
encouraging, especially as time was the all-important consideration. Phineas was to her a conceited pharisee; and though he was weak
enough on the point of his foibles, he had never shown anything but
veiled dislike of her, and his suspicions would now be alert as
another consequence of her brother's miserable mistake. She realised
also that what she supposed the new innkeeper would call his
"principles" would be very strong, and he was just now basking in
the genial rays of a wonderful popularity as a consequence of
maintaining them. And suppose she succeeded—suppose Simpson got back
into Dolly's favour and the two were married—Phineas was as stubborn
as a donkey, and, inflated with pride at the sensation he had
caused, he would be less tractable than ever, and the flattery of
the public would only make him more and more pigheaded.
little chance, therefore, of their getting possession of the
alehouse during the cooper's life; and he was hale and hearty, as
sound, apparently, as a nut, and of a notoriously long-lived family. The more she brooded the more cheerless the outlook appeared, and it
took all her native tenacity to keep down despair. She belonged,
however, to the sex which takes courage from despair itself, and,
having all a woman's reserve of superstition, she clung to the
belief that when things are at the worst they mend, and so continued
her plottings. Between whiles she had the usual daily callers, and as
she was an inveterate gossip, she held long "cracks" that day with
everyone who came to the door. The postman was full of news, but it
was all old and all glowing admiration of the cooper, and so he was
curtly, almost rudely, dismissed. The milkman was a misanthrope, and
came brimming over with cynical contempt for the cooper and his
achievements, and so, though his news also was somewhat belated,
Clara parted from him with something approaching to hope. The
greengrocer, however, had something to tell. The cooper was for
defying the law and continuing the temperance atmosphere at the inn,
legal or illegal; he was also threatening to dismiss the local
lawyer who had given him the advice about not interfering with the
regular business of the place, for pusillanimity; and so far from
being intimidated by the conspiracy of the brewers to take his
ordinary business away, he had determined to take the bull by the
horns, burn his boats behind him, and offer the cooperage as a going
concern to the highest bidder. Clara, listening eagerly to the very
tortuously told tale, thought she saw a gleam of hope, and
astonished the hawker by paying the price he asked without so much
as a hint of bantering.
"Why, yes, of course," thought Clara, "the more they persecute and
bully Phineas the more obstinate and reckless will he become." But
law meant money, and whatever he got by the sale of his old business
would be swallowed up by law in no time. Phineas, though living
easily out of his trade, was never known to be a saving man or a
capitalist, and had certainly nothing to spare for expensive and
protracted litigation. If rumour was to be trusted about old Wenyon's middle-aged heiress, she would be as stubborn as Phineas
himself, and she would be shrewd enough to know that with her longer
purse she could wear him out. Dolly's father was exactly the man to
stick at nothing and to fight until he was ruined. But law was
notoriously slow. The more money Phineas had the longer he would
struggle, and every day thus wasted took so much off the value of
the much-coveted hostel. It would be months, long months, before the
end came, and even if Phineas won, the public-house would be
comparatively worthless, for somebody would be sure to get some
other premises licensed in place of the old inn. But if Simpson
married Dolly and became a sort of partner in the case, Phineas
would insist on him lending money to continue the struggle, and
every day the thing went on her brother would be more seriously
involved, whilst the chances of recouping himself would be growing
smaller and smaller. Phineas was at that moment the most popular man
in Snelsby—with the religious part of the population at anyrate. If
they saw him suffering for conscience' sake they would rally to his
support, make collections and what not, and thus prolong the
conflict. Moreover, the religious folk in the town were what Clara
called "downy," quiet-living, frugal people, and she suspected that
most of them had sly, fat old stockings somewhere, and that these
might be placed at the cooper's disposal. Whatever, therefore, was
done by Simpson and herself must be done at once, for, having
unlimited faith in the power of money, she realised that Mrs Podling
could wait and wear opposition out, and must therefore inevitably
win; but if she and her brother were already committed to the
ex-cooper's schemes, their money as well as his would be spent, and
spent to no purpose.
Oh! it was an exasperating situation, full of risks and tantalising
allurements. 'Twenty times that morning Clara told herself that
there was nothing for it but to accept the inevitable and let things
go; twenty more times she argued with herself that she and her
brother ought to be thankful that they were not already involved,
and could wash their hands of the miserable business altogether. Three months earlier she would have decided upon this course without
a moment's hesitation, and taken means to ensure that the separation
of her brother from his sweetheart should be final; but since the
fatal moment when the vision of the fat, well-established King's
Arms had floated into her vision and laid upon her its soft but
ever- tightening grip, it had obtained a mastery over her she did
not herself realise.
The more she reasoned with herself, the more prudent and sensible
became the course of abandoning their project, the more tenaciously
did the lust after possession hold her; and the more cool judgment
showed reasons for caution, the more did strong desire settle itself
down in her heart and lay its strong, relentless hold upon her
Temptation begins as an enticing, conciliatory, accommodating
playmate, and ends as a jealous tyrant. As the day wore on she
became absentminded, limp, drooping, her natural
decisiveness changing into petulant hesitation. In Simpson's
presence she preserved a sullen, repellent silence throughout the
whole dinner-hour, and in the afternoon indulged in the—to
her—unwonted luxury of a good cry. But all day long the King's Arms
was there, its comfortable promise of competency bulking out large
in her mind; and whilst the slumbering fires of her hatred burned
hot against the Wenyons, the income from the public-house—at least
double their present resources—grew fairer and fairer to her mind.
She did not forget that she was on her mettle. She had mocked her
brother's hesitations so remorselessly that if she would retain her
dominion over him she must justify herself. Cold prudence gave its
monotonous and depressing verdict of "hands off," but ordinary
hereditary cupidity had suddenly grown into ungovernable lust of
possession, and she was being pulled every moment in contrary
directions and almost torn to pieces with conflicting desires. Presently she rose from the bed upon which she had thrown herself
and began to stare drearily out of the window.
Then she slid to the floor, moved waveringly towards the
dressing-table, played for a moment or two with the knob of a small
drawer, and then took out a little key from her bosom. A moment
later she was sipping at a glass of water into which she had dropped
a few drops of a seductive drug, not unknown to fashionable ladies. This she drank with an uneasy self-conscious look, and half an hour
later, with eyes of suggestive brightness and mind clear and
hopeful, she was leaving her residence without any fixed purpose,
perhaps, but with a brain open and eager for any "lead" which luck,
fate, accident, or Providence might provide.
A sense of the hourly diminishing value of the coveted ale-house was
urging her one way, and the knowledge that it was as yet too soon
for Phineas to feel his need of help was pulling her the other, and
at the same time she was perplexed with misgivings that they might easily place themselves in circumstances worse even than the
difficulties of the moment. She left the house just about the same
time on the same day that the King's Arms signboard was being raised
to its place; but not having any definite plan as yet, she made two
or three calls, and it was some time before she heard of the
accident. The news, however, had an instantaneous effect: she did
not as yet see what use might be made of the occurrence, but, at
least, the fact that the injured man was her brother's clerk would
give her a sort of right of entry to the public-house; and so away
she went post-haste, cudgelling her brains as she hurried along for
some scheme whereby she might take advantage of the opening thus
Meanwhile, all was excitement and consternation at the inn. Old Thomasina Twigg was the first to spring to Billy's relief, and began
tugging the heavy signboard with lamentations and pitiful words of
sympathy, which, remembering her recent speeches to Mrs Wenyon and
Dolly, did more credit to her heart than her consistency. Phineas
and the painter's men were at her side instantly, and had the board
lifted away from the crushed and prostrate Billy before the
onlookers had recovered from their shock. But the greatest
transformation was that which took place in the new landlady. Slow,
heavy, and pensive as a rule, she suddenly became another person. Dolly, who had fainted, was somewhat unceremoniously handed over to
the maids. Phineas was curtly told to "git out," and in another
moment this ordinarily drooping woman, under the transforming
inspiration of "something to nurse," had taken possession of the
whole business, and cool, alert, peremptory, and almost smiling, was
superintending the removal of the injured man to the best bedroom. Thomasina burst in with a clamorous demand that Billy should be
taken to the tollhouse, and went away injured, scandalised, and
weeping, because the man she had been so anxious to get rid of had
been appropriated by somebody else. Jeff had to listen to
recriminations against himself and the Wenyons all that night, with
the empty bed of his poor friend before his eyes, the ceaseless
clamour of his wife's tongue in his ears, and nothing to relieve the
Under Mrs Wenyon's prompt directions, Billy was conveyed to the
chamber upstairs, the fact that he was unconscious, if not dead,
being tearfully whispered by one scurrying attendant to another. Phineas, venturing part way up the stairs, was peremptorily ordered
down again by his now masterful wife, and the doctor arriving at
that moment and meeting him as he came down, assailed him with a
string of opprobrious epithets very characteristic of the man, but
terribly distressing to the already conscience-smitten and
brow-beaten Phineas. The new landlord, simpleminded and tender as a
child, had conceived the idea that he was responsible for the
dreadful catastrophe, and was, in fact, a sort of murderer. The
master painter had suggested that the signboard should be put up
again into its place in the small hours of the morning when there
was nobody about; but Phineas, who was constitutionally impetuous,
was so anxious to see his name blazoned up as the first of a new and
reforming race of inn-keepers, and so impatient to give an admiring
public an example of his poetic genius, that he would not wait an
hour after the board had come.
And now, where was he? He had, by his
stupid impatience and stubbornness, lamed, perhaps even killed, a
fellow-creature, and all for ungodly vanity and mere childish
self-conceit! It was a dreadful thought; and the cooper, with his
hands deep in his pockets, his head sunk into his shoulders, and his
brain awhirl, slunk guiltily out of the back door of the inn,
ashamed to show his face to his neighbours, and agitated with all
sorts of painful apprehensions. As all the people were discussing
the accident at the front door he had the back to himself. He paced
about with a dejected hang-dog look, he rubbed his hair, called
himself terrible names, stopped every now and then to hold his
breath and listen, and expected every moment to hear the dreadful
tidings that the poor stranger was no more. His recent great triumph
and the amazing popularity it had brought him seemed a hideous
nightmare, and the extensive hotel and its out-buildings became
hateful, eye-blistering sights. Up and down and in and out, first in
one direction and then in another, he paced, until the silent walls
seemed to be accusing him, and the innocent pigeons were cooing
jeering accusations. Presently he heard the bawling voice of the
doctor and the clattering of hoofs as he rode away. Phineas heaved a
great sigh of relief, for the sufferer was evidently not
dead. Then he caught the sound of a cart coming up the arched
passage into the yard, and with sudden shame glanced here and there
for a place to hide; and finding nothing quite secure enough, he
turned tail and skulked indoors.
Avoiding the kitchen, from which came the sounds of many feminine
voices all speaking in undertones that were louder than their
natural ones, he wandered into the deserted bar-parlour, stood
staring for a few moments at the reproachful-looking polished
pewter, turned restlessly about once or twice, and then returned
aimlessly into the passage. There was one room he suddenly
remembered which was sure to be quiet enough, the left-hand room at
the front which was kept as a retiring and reserve room; and to this
he made his doleful way. At another time it would have struck him as
being singular that the door was not quite closed; but thinking of
infinitely sadder things, he pushed the door before him, lounged
moodily forward, and then drew up with a start and a stammering
apology. The room was occupied. There in the far corner, her head
buried in her hands and her face hidden in a handkerchief, sat a
woman. Phineas turned tail and was retiring; but the stranger,
raising her head, made a short exclamation, and before he could
escape, had him by the arm.
"Oh, Wenyon, he's not dead! Oh, say he's not dead! Oh, what shall I
do! what shall I do!"
"He's not dead! Oh, say he's not dead!"
It was Clara Crouch. The moment she heard of the accident her
instinct had told her that there was help in it, though she could
not all at once discern the connection between this occurrence and
her great desire. She knew little of her brother's clerk—had, in
fact, greatly opposed the engagement of this or any other assistant; but now it seemed like Providence—Clara, in fact, like
others not a whit better called it so—his connection with her
brother, would give her entry to the inn and an opportunity of
conversation with one or other of the inmates. Well, that was
something—much, in fact, if she knew herself, and—yes! oh, yes!
Billy was a valuable servant. The accident meant serious loss to
Simpson, and the Wenyons were sensitive, what she called "silly,"
people, who would be greatly distressed at what had happened and
very anxious to make any sort of atonement possible. Clara, with
rising spirits and quickened wits, made her way to the inn; and had
she known how exactly the innkeeper was being prepared for her
visit, the misguided woman would have made another little
encouraging note to herself as to the evident favour and manifest
help of "Providence." The servants scarcely noticed her, were too
flurried to attend to a mere caller, and so she had been put into
this reserve room and—and forgotten. That Phineas himself should be
the first to enter was a matter for congratulation.
"Oh, beg pard—no, no! I didn't know! No, no, woman, he's not dead!"
"Oh, poor fellow! Poor, poor fellow! What shall we do? What
shall we do?" and Clara, hiding her face in her hands again, but
keeping her faculties alert, waited for opportunities, and rocked
herself about like one demented. The cooper scarcely knew Billy at
all, but did dimly remember that Simpson had been reported to have
engaged a clerk. Why, then, this accident had injured them also; and Phineas had expatiated too often on the far-reaching effects of sin
at temperance meetings not to realise that here was another terrible
fruit of his vain folly.
"Why—why—I didn't know. I—I couldn't—No, no, he's not dead, woman!
He isn't, for sure!" and the conscience-smitten cooper stammered
helplessly, scarcely knowing what he was saying.
"But he will, he will! And what shall I do? Oh, what shall I do?"
But Phineas had all a simple but conceited person's pride of
sharpness and insight into character; and as Clara seemed even to
him to be rather overdoing her part, he cried protestingly—
"Why, woman! Clara Crouch, he's nothin' to you!"
The question underlying his protest was the last thought in Clara's
head, but seeing the advantage of it, she caught at it eagerly.
"Oh, don't! Don't, Wenyon! Nobody knows, and—and he's Simpson's
Phineas, though still incredulous, stared at her with an
ever-increasing sense of misery; and Clara, realising her advantage,
wrung her hands and moaned—
"Poor fellow! Dear, dear fellow! Oh, whatever shall I do?"
The overwhelmed innkeeper, covered with shame and confusion, uttered
a prolonged groan; and, moving towards the sobbing woman, began
patting her soothingly on the shoulder, and promising compensation,
help, atonement, anything and everything he could think of, to give
her consolation. Then he enlarged on the splendour of poor Billy's
act and the lifelong obligation under which he had placed both him
and his family. He assured her again and again of his deep regret
and his entire repentance of the stubborn pride which bad been the
immediate cause of the accident. And Clara listened and refused to
be comforted. Then he blundered out some sort of apology for the
injury he had done to her private feelings, and made rash assurances
as to what he would do to requite her for the unintended wrong. And
Clara sighed and sighed and begged him whatever happened not to
betray her to the "unfeeling world." Finally, the astute damsel left
the King's Arms carrying a pressing invitation to Simpson to visit
his once prospective father-in-law as soon as possible, and an open
invitation to herself to visit the inn and see the patient at any
hour of the day. With this and a repeated assurance that he would
not breathe the tender secret she had betrayed to him to a soul,
Clara, not at all disappointed with the result of her visit,
But the first news the troubled landlord heard after Clara Crouch
left him effectually extinguished what little hope that clever woman
had raised within him. The injured man was not expected to
recover—to live, in fact, many hours and had Clara known it, Phineas
would just then have relinquished the public-house and all the proud
schemes his brain had conceived to anyone who could have guaranteed
the recovery of the suffering outcast and the return of himself and
his family to the once despised monotony of their simple life at the
cooperage. Phineas felt doubly guilty: he had brought trouble,
anxiety, and shame on wife and daughter, and blood-guiltiness—yes,
no other word would do—upon his own soul. And all for a mere stupid
fad, a weak and wicked whim! Conscience-smitten and utterly
hopeless, he felt that all the reproachful proverbs his wife could
accumulate upon him would be too feeble to do justice to his
transgression; and realising that, he felt somehow a sudden, strong
desire to see and listen to her. Twice he ventured with that thought
in his mind into the kitchen, and twice he slunk back again in
disappointment. Then, sitting in the lonely parlour and brooding, he
heard her voice, and stole into the passage to listen. She was
giving orders, and giving them with a quiet self-possession that
surprised him. He peeped round the door corner; she looked serious
enough, that was true, but there was a curious change in her. Her
meek eyes positively shone with purposeful determination, and there
was a set about her mouth that greatly puzzled him. She was issuing
her orders with quite unwonted celerity and firmness, and seemed to
see and think of everything. A casual reference to the just
departed doctor brought a curious half-smile upon her lips, and in a
moment she was quoting the proverb about the physician who kills
to-day to prevent you dying to-morrow. Presently she caught sight
of him, and, delivering another string of crisp commands as she
went, followed him into the parlour.
"He called t' poor lad a swilling sot," she cried indignantly, as
she closed the door and set her back against it.
"And a walking whisky-tub!"
"Well? Go on!"
"And he swore at me dreadful and declared he'd never get better i'
As she spoke, Mrs Wenyon was the picture of offended dignity, and
looked for all the world as though the professional verdict was a
Phineas groaned at the news; but his now excited wife demanded—
"Will Providence let him die after doing that splendid thing?"
And Phineas, to whom the question came unexpectedly, flushed with
sudden emotion, and clenching his teeth to keep back starting tears,
clenching he cried—
"Die?" cried she, giving full vent to her outraged resentment,
"we'll show him! He shan't kill him! He can't kill him! Why, man,
the cook can beat the doctor any day, and we'll save him to spite
him," and fairly on her mettle now to defend her one pride of life,
her skill in nursing, Mrs Wenyon, more excited than her husband had
ever seen her, and with a confidence purposely exaggerated to infect
and cheer her miserable spouse, hurried off to her all-important and
But before that sultry summer's night was over the good nurse had
need of all her courage and confidence. Her indignation had been
aroused first of all by the fact that the hardhearted medico had
strapped the patient down to the bed; but in the weary watches of
that exacting night she thanked God again and again for those bonds. Fits of delirium and fits of half-conscious wildness succeeded each
other with bewildering rapidity. The patient raved and shouted, and
spouted poetry one minute and the next was kissing the hand that
adjusted his slight bed-covering, sobbing like a whipped child, and
crying out in pleading tones, and with haggard, beseeching eyes, for
drink. As the slow, humid hours wore by and her strength was
exhausted, the light of hope grew dimmer and dimmer within her; for
she realised but too well that such excitements would have drained
the strength of even a strong person, and this poor, drink-cursed
fellow had not an ounce to spare. After daybreak the patient lapsed
into comatose helplessness, and his despairing watchers could
scarcely tell sometimes whether he was alive or dead. The doctor,
who came earlier than usual in spite of his pretended contempt for
the case, went about his work with surly growls and odd, half-spoken
mutterings about "fools i' petticoats, mad women," and the like; and
then told Mrs Wenyon with quite unusual gravity that the patient
would not last the day.
"His leg—Woman? Measly foot! That's nothing! He's no more vitality
than a bootjack! His body's starved, long starved, much starved, and
poisoned by the confounded drink! That fellow's had D.T.'s as oft as
you've had tic. Why, woman, he hasn't the strength of a measly
There was heavy depression and much lamentation at the King's Arms
that day; and late in the afternoon Dolly, who was not told the
desperate condition of the patient, was posted off to the toll-house
in search of additional help. There was only one person her mother
could trust, and they had been expecting Thomasina to call about the
patient she so very much wanted to have all day. But as neither she
nor her husband had been near, Dolly had started out to seek them.
THE OFFENDED TWIGGS
WHEN she started
on her errand to the tollhouse, our young heroine was, of course, in
an excited though strangely softened condition. Tramp,
ticket-of-leave man, drunkard, or what else, the poor wretch lying
in the best bedroom had saved her life; and she was so young and
romantic, and the whole incident was so very like the charming
occurrences in those sweet stories she delighted so much in, that he
had come all at once to be a gallant hero in her eyes; the mystery
about him, his fantastic manners, his bravery, and his present
precarious condition, appealed strongly to her unsophisticated and
susceptible nature, and as she went along the road many a fervent
little prayer went up to heaven that the jeopardised life might be
A small basket containing a few new-laid eggs and a cream cheese was
swung on her round, dimpled arm, and she was eagerly anticipating
that 'Siná would be only too ready to come and assist them once
more. She had known the Twiggs all her life; 'Siná had been
present at her birth and helped to nurse her through all her
infantile disorders. As a child, she had assisted all
unconsciously in bringing the prolonged and precarious courtship of
the bill-sticker to its present happy consummation, and had ever
since been the most honoured of all guests at the tollhouse.
Jeff had carried her many a long mile on his shoulders, and was, in
fact, her chief male friend and confidant, until the interloping
Simpson came along. Jeffrey had sulked for a whole month and
pretended to be offended for a much longer period when she began
courting, and Dolly had always attributed his dislike of the
bobbin-maker to jealousy, real or pretended. Her visits to the
Twiggs were generally frolicsome little holidays for the old couple;
but this afternoon, with many strange thoughts and much foreboding,
she approached the little cottage very soberly. The weather
being hot and close, the door was open, and she caught sight of Jeff
sitting in the corner with his elbow on his knee and his doleful
face propped upon his big hand. He was evidently in the dumps,
and she wondered—not for the first time—why neither the old man nor
his wife had been at the inn that day. At the sound of her
footsteps the moody bill-sticker turned his head to look at her and
immediately sat bolt upright and stared before him: there was no
delighted grin of welcome as of old, and he neither moved nor spoke
as she stepped over the threshold.
"She caught sight of Jeff sitting in the corner, his
doleful face propped
upon his big hand."
"Good afternoon, Jeffrey—er—a—where's 'Siná?"
The mistress of the house was in the little scullery; but as
Dolly spoke, the door was snappishly banged and there was a noisy
rattling amongst the dinner-pots.
"Jeff! Jeff cried Dolly, glancing distressfully from the
stony bill-sticker to the sullen door, "what's to do? Wh—what's
Stiff as a statue, Jeff rolled his eyes round to the little
window at his left elbow, whilst his eyes blinked rapidly and his
face grew longer; but he did not speak.
"Jeff, what is—'Siná?—Oh—" and then, with sudden
recollection, "Oh, no! no! he's not dead. I've come straight
from home, and he's not dead!"
The scullery door opened, and Thomasina, with face of flint,
brought a few still smoking plates to the little corner cupboard.
"'Siná, tell me—you must tell me—what is the matter?"
But as the amazed Dolly put out her hand, 'Siná evaded it
with an indignant little jerk of her pudgy body; and Jeff, still
glowering through the side window, emitted several highly
significant sniffs. Dolly stood in the midst of the floor and
glanced helplessly from one mysterious and evidently offended friend
to the other in wonder and distress.
"We haven't robbed nobody o' nothin'," and 'Siná,
banging the cupboard door, stalked stubbornly back to the scullery.
Jeff, with face all a-work, sniffed again and again and
nipped his little red eyes together in vain attempt to stifle his
"Friends, both of you, oh, don't make me worse than I am!"
and there were tears in the poor girl's voice that set Jeff off
crying without disguise.
But from behind the half-open scullery door came a deep,
sepulchral "Thou shalt not steal!"
Dolly, dumfounded at this unlooked-for and utterly
inexplicable salute, paused perplexedly a moment, and then,
springing at Jeff as the more vulnerable of the pair, gave him a
petulant little shake and cried piteously—
"Oh, do say something! Oh, what is to do?"
A snuffling attempt at self-recovery; a long, undecided
"m–f–ph–m," and Jeffrey was commencing some reply, when there was a
sound behind them, and Mrs Twigg, red as a turkey-cock, but on the
verge of mortified weeping, stood hands on hips before her visitor
"Did you pick him out o' t' deep road gutter? Did you
nuss him an' coax him an' give him your vary own crust out of your
mouth? Did you set up wi' him an' bring him to? Did you
doctor him an' convart his soul an' mend his breeches an' sign him
With a blank, breathless look Dolly stared at the outraged
little tempest amazedly; but before she could speak or Jeff could
finish his long, half-endorsing, half-deprecatory groan, 'Siná had
"We found him, didn't we? an' findin's keepin', isn't it?
I hadn't niver a bairn o' my own, an' God sent me him. Our
Jeff hadn't no cross and couldn't show his mettle. It's
robbery! It's nothin' else!" and poor 'Siná dropped into a
chair and began to rock herself to relieve her struggling emotions.
"The Lord gave, the Lord taketh away," sighed Jeff with
And then Dolly understood. She knew this old couple
through and through, and, though the idea in their minds was to her
a ridiculous distortion of truth, she knew how intensely real it was
to them, and began gently and cautiously to make explanations and
apologies; and in a few moments, helped by their deep affection for
her, the three were as friendly as ever. But she had need of
all her tact and all their regard for her, for the old folk were in
deadly earnest, and nothing but the invitation to share in the
nursing of the invalid would ever have reconciled 'Siná.
Presently, when they were on safer grounds, Dolly asked—
"But, 'Siná, I thought he was—you said he was a trouble to
"Ay, like enough; women 'ull say owt but their prayers.
Trouble, lass! It's a fine sight more trouble to be 'bowt
"But I thought he was a drunken tramp and—and not quite
"Right, bless you? Why, woman, he's more sense nor a
book, and when he gets in his tantrums wi' his Scriptur and his
gibberitch he talks like a Lord Bishop!"
"She means his potry," explained Jeff with the condescending
blandness of superior knowledge.
"But what is he like when he's sober?"
"Bud he niver is," replied 'Siná, secretly delighting in the
wonder of their guest; and then she qualified it by a musing,
reluctant "hardlings ever."
"But he's nothing to you! Why should you trouble?
He ought to go to the poorhouse or the asylum."
"He never will!" snapped 'Siná with sudden, fierce defiance.
"Not while we have a roof and a crust," added Jeff almost as
"But why not? What is he to you?" and Dolly, though
bold, realised that she was treading on very thin ice. "It
isn't as though he were your—"
"He's our own bairn, our luv, our angel," broke in 'Siná in a
voice that began in hot indignation and broke suddenly into tears;
and before she could finish, Jeff had jumped to her side, and,
towering over the scared Dolly, was demanding fiercely—
"Didn't the Lord send him? Hasn't He given him to us?
Doesn't it say a 'man shall be a hidin' place,' and doesn't it say
'restore sitch an one' and 'lift hup the hans that hang down,' an'
'cover a multichude o' sins' seventy times seven? Well, then,
And as Dolly listened with eyes that shone until they
glistened with tears, she looked from one enthusiastic old face to
the other. 'Siná, proud of the impression they were making,
and most evidently anxious to deepen it, touched their visitor on
the arm, and pointing to Jeff's chair, cried—
"See, yo, woman! If you was sittin' up o' that there
chair an' he came in wi'out his tantrums, an' he came an' sat down
in that rocker just like that, an' started o' talkin' to you, you'd
luv him!" And as the blushing girl was breaking out into
protestations, 'Siná added with profoundest conviction, "You could
no more help it nor you could fly. He's beautiful!"
But at this moment the little hanging clock gave warning in
tones that seemed impossible from so frail a structure, and Dolly,
with exclamations of alarm, began to exhort Thomasina to get ready.
That good woman, though leisurely enough as a rule, began to bustle
about in great haste, but was distressed to find twenty little jobs
that could on no account be left. Being a woman, 'Siná had
always most to do when she had least time.
Usually there was no need of circumspection in conversation
with these old friends, but there was a certain shyness and
hesitation in the questions Dolly asked, and even her frequent
exhortations to 'Siná to make haste generally ended in another
query. They had picked Billy out of the hedge-bottom, the very
spot being shown; they had nursed him back to something as near to
health as seemed possible to him; they had so entered into his
pitiable condition and necessities that they loved him before they
knew it, and since then had almost worn themselves out in patient,
quixotic, but, in Dolly's eyes, very beautiful efforts to reclaim
him. Who he really was they knew no more than she did, but
that he was no common tramp they were very sure. He had
"quality ways," "fine grammery talk," was as "gentle as a lamb," and
always "most piteously grateful," but in the presence of drink he
became both fool and madman; would do anything, say anything, risk
anything, to gratify a craving that had long since become his
When, with the liberty of old friendship, Dolly asked whether
this very undesirable lodger paid them anything, Jeff put on a
stupid, doggèd look and appeared not to hear, whilst 'Siná, gave a
monosyllabic answer which would have deceived a stranger, and
noisily changed the subject.
When the bustling and chattering Thomasina was at last ready
and Dolly rose to depart, Jeff turned his face away and was secretly
contorting it into all kinds of dubious shapes through the little
side window; but presently he turned abruptly, put his two great
hands on Dolly's shoulders, and looking down into her fresh, young
face, with solemn earnestness he said—
"You're my own lassie, my own dear girlie, aren't you?"
"Yes, Jeff, but why—?"
"An' you'll take care on him, won't you?"
"Yes, oh yes! Mother and I and 'Siná will pull him
through, you'll see."
"Yes, but t' other, lass; his body's nothin'— his soul!
You'll keep the drink from him?"
"Of course; there'll be none at the King's Arms, and he'll be
weeks yet before—"
"That's it, woman! Hay, it's the Lord's doin's, an' its
marvellious in our eyes. He's done this o' purposs! He's
done it to save him! And we will save him, all on us,
and you'll help?"
"But what are we when he gets abroad again with his great
And removing his hands and pointing a dusty finger upwards,
Jeff cried with shining eyes and quavering voice—
"'He chooseth the weak things of the world to confound the
things that are mighty.' You'll help us, and we'll all help
him, and—and we'll save him yet."
And Dolly, full of the memory of the drunkard's dread
necessity, and full also of a hundred tender, womanly emotions she
could not have explained, quietly put her hand into Jeff's, and
nodded a consent she could not speak, and then turned and hurried
away after Thomasina.