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´╗┐Title: Nearly Lost but Dearly Won
Author: Wilson, Theodore P.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Nearly Lost but Dearly Won" ***

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Nearly Lost but Dearly Won

by the Reverend T.P. Wilson, M.A.
________________________________________________________________
Wilson wrote several books around the end of the 1880s.  He had won a
prize some ten years previously for the best book assessed by The Band
of Hope, a Society devoted to helping the young never to take up
drinking.  This present book gives you the impression that it might well
have been another one written to be entered into the competition.
Anyway, if it was, it didn't win.

It's quite a good story, but I think its trouble is, that it is neither
a book that would appeal directly to teenagers, which one supposes was
its target audience, nor yet to young adults.  There is nothing like the
amount of action we saw in "Frank Oldfield."

it is rather a short book, but one of its crowning glories is the set of
ten line drawings by "MDH".  These are really superb, full of action and
life, particularly where there are children or horses.  I wish all
childrens' books were as well illustrated. NH
________________________________________________________________

NEARLY LOST BUT DEARLY WON

BY THE REVEREND T.P. WILSON, M.A.



CHAPTER ONE.

ESAU TANKARDEW.

Certainly, Mr Tankardew was not a pattern of cleanliness, either in his
house or his person.  Someone had said of him sarcastically, "that there
was nothing clean in his house but his _towels_;" and there was a great
deal of truth in the remark.  He seemed to dwell in an element of
cobwebs; the atmosphere in which he lived, rather than breathed, was
apparently a mixture of fog and dust.  Everything he had on was faded--
everything that he had about him was faded--the only dew that seemed to
visit the jaded-looking shrubs in the approach to his dwelling was
_mil_dew.  Dilapidation and dinginess went hand-in-hand everywhere: the
railings round the house were dilapidated--some had lost there points,
others came to an abrupt conclusion a few inches above the stone-work
from which they sprang; the steps were dilapidated--one of them rocked
as you set your foot upon it, and the others sloped inwards so as to
hold treacherous puddles in wet weather to entrap unwary visitors; the
entrance hall was dilapidated; if ever there had been a pattern to the
paper, it had now retired out of sight and given place to irregular
stains, which looked something like a vast map of a desolate country,
all moors and swamps; the doors were dilapidated, fitting so badly, that
when the front door opened a sympathetic clatter of all the lesser ones
rang through the house; the floors were dilapidated, and afforded ample
convenience for easy egress and ingress to the flourishing colonies of
rats and mice which had established themselves on the premises; and
above all, Mr Tankardew himself was dilapidated in his dress, and in
his whole appearance and habits--his very voice was dilapidated, and his
words slipshod and slovenly.

And yet Mr Tankardew was a man of education and a gentleman, and you
knew it before you had been five minutes in his company.  He was the
owner of the house he lived in, on the outskirts of the small town of
Hopeworth, and also of considerable property in the neighbourhood.
Amongst other possessions, he was the landlord of two houses of some
pretensions, a little out in the country, which were prettily situated
in the midst of shrubberies and orchards.  In one of these houses lived
a Mr Rothwell, a gentleman of independent means; in the other a Mrs
Franklin, the widow of an officer, with her daughter Mary, now about
fifteen years of age.

Mr Tankardew had settled in his present residence some ten years since.
_Why_ he bought it nobody knew, nor was likely to know; all that people
were sure of was that he _had_ bought it, and pretty cheap too, for it
was not a house likely to attract any one who appreciated comfort or
liveliness; moreover, current report said that it was haunted.  Still,
it was for sale, and it passed somehow or other into Mr Tankardew's
hands, and Mr Tankardew's hands and whole person passed into _it_; and
here he was now with his one old servant, Molly Gilders, a shade more
dingy and dilapidated than himself.  Several persons put questions to
Molly about her master, but found it a very discouraging business, so
they gave up the attempt as hopeless, and it remained an unexplained
mystery why Mr Tankardew came to Hopeworth, and where he came from.  As
for questioning the old gentleman himself, no one had the hardihood to
undertake it; and indeed he gave them little opportunity, as he very
rarely showed his face out of his own door; so rumour had to say what it
pleased, and among other things, rumour said that the old dressing-gown
in which he was ordinarily seen was never off duty, either day or night.

Mr Tankardew employed no agent, but collected his own rents; which he
required to be paid to himself half-yearly, in the beginning of January
and July, at his own residence.

It was on one crisp, frosty, cheery January morning that Mr Rothwell,
and his son Mark, a young lad of eighteen, were ushered into Mr
Tankardew's sitting-room; if that could be properly called a sitting-
room, in which nobody seemed ever to sit, to judge by the deep unruffled
coating of dust which reposed on every article, the chairs included.
Respect for their own garments caused father and son to stand while they
waited for their landlord; but, before he made his appearance, two more
visitors were introduced, or rather let into the room by old Molly, who,
considering her duty done when she had given them an entrance into the
apartment, never troubled herself as to their further comfort and
accommodation.

A strange contrast were these visitors to the old room and its
furniture.  Mr Rothwell was a tall and rather portly man with a
pleasant countenance, a little flushed, indicating a somewhat free
indulgence in what is certainly miscalled "good living."  The cast of
his features was that of a person easy-going, good-tempered, and happy;
but a line or two of care here and there, and an occasional wrinkling up
of the forehead showed that the surface was not to be trusted.  Mark,
his son, was like him, and the very picture of good humour and light-
heartedness; so buoyant, indeed, that at times he seemed indebted to
spirits something more than "animal."  But the brightness had not yet
had any of the gilding rubbed off--everyone liked him, no one could be
dull where he was.  Mrs Franklin, how sweet and lovable her gentle
face!  You could tell that, whatever she might have lost, she had gained
grace--a glow from the Better Land gave her a heavenly cheerfulness.
And Mary--she had all her mother's sweetness without the shadow from
past sorrows, and her laugh was as bright and joyous as the sunlit
ripple on a lake in summer time.

The Rothwells and Franklins, as old friends, exchanged a hearty but
whispered greeting.

"I daren't speak out loud," said Mark to Mary, "for fear of raising the
dust, for that'll set me sneezing, and then good-bye to one another; for
the first sneeze 'll raise such a cloud that we shall never see each
other till we get out of doors again."

"O Mark, don't be foolish!  You'll make me laugh, and we shall offend
poor Mr Tankardew; but it is very odd.  I never was here before, but
mamma wished me to come with her, as a sort of protection, for she's
half afraid of the old gentleman."

"Your first visit to our landlord, I think?" said Mr Rothwell.

"Yes," replied Mrs Franklin.  "I sent my last half-year's rent by
Thomas, but as there are some little alterations I want doing at the
house, and Mr Tankardew, I'm told, will never listen to anything on
this subject second-hand, I have come myself and brought Mary with me."

"Just exactly my own case," said Mr Rothwell; "and Mark has given me
his company, just for the sake of the walk.  I think you have never met
our landlord?"

"No, never!--and I must confess that I feel considerably relieved that
our interview will be less private than I had anticipated."

Further conversation was interrupted by the entrance of Mr Tankardew
himself.  He was tall and very grey, with strongly-marked features, and
deeply-furrowed cheeks and forehead.  His eyes were piercing and
restless, but there was a strange gentleness of expression about the
mouth, which might lead one, when viewing his countenance as a whole, to
gather that he was one who, though often deceived, _must_ still trust
and love.  He had on slippers and worsted stockings, but neither of them
were pairs.  He wore an old black handkerchief with the tie half-way
towards the back of his neck, while a very long and discoloured
dressing-gown happily shrouded from view a considerable portion of his
lower raiment.

The room in which he met his tenants was thoroughly in keeping with its
owner: old and dignified, panelled in dark wood, with a curiously-carved
chimneypiece, and a ceiling apparently adorned with some historical or
allegorical painting, if you could only have seen it.

How Mr Tankardew got into the room on the present occasion was by no
means clear, for nobody saw him enter.

Mark suggested to Mary, in a whisper, that he had come up through a trap
door.  At any rate he was there, and greeted his visitors without
embarrassment.

"Sorry to keep you waiting," he muttered, "sorry to see you standing.
Ah!  Dusty, I see;" and with the long tail of his dressing-gown he
proceeded to raise a cloud of dust from four massive oak chairs, much to
the disturbance of Mark's equanimity, who succeeded with some difficulty
in maintaining his gravity.  "Sorry," added Mr Tankardew, "to appear in
this _dishabille_, must excuse and take me as I am."

"Pray don't mention it," replied both his tenants, and then proceeded to
business.

The rent had been paid and receipts duly given, when the old man raised
his eyes and fixed them on Mary's face.  She had been sitting back in
the deep recess of a window, terribly afraid of a mirthful explosion
from Mark, and therefore drawing herself as far out of sight as
possible; but now a bright ray of sunshine cast itself full on her
sweet, loving features, and as Mr Tankardew caught their expression he
uttered a sudden exclamation, and stood for a moment as if transfixed to
the spot.  Mary felt and looked half-confused, half-frightened, but the
next moment Mr Tankardew turned away, muttered something to himself,
and then entered into the subject of requested alterations.  His
visitors had anticipated some probable difficulties, if not a refusal,
on the part of their landlord; but to their surprise and satisfaction he
promised at once to do all that they required: indeed he hardly seemed
to take the matter in thoroughly, but to have his mind occupied with
something quite foreign to the subject in hand.  At last he said,--

"Well, well, get it all done--get it all done, Mr Rothwell, Mrs
Franklin--get it all done, and send in the bills to me--there, there."

Again he fixed his eyes earnestly on Mary's face, then slowly withdrew
them, and striding up to the fireplace opened a panel above it, and
disclosed an exquisite portrait of a young girl about Mary's age.
Nothing could be more striking than the contrast between the gloomy,
dingy hue of the apartment, and the vivid colouring of the picture,
which beamed out upon them like a rainbow spanning a storm-cloud.  Then
he closed the panel abruptly, and turned towards the company with a deep
sigh.

"Ah!  Well, well," he said, half aloud; "well, good-morning, good-
morning; when shall we meet again?"

These last words were addressed to Mrs Franklin and her daughter.

"Really," replied the former, hardly knowing what to say, "I'm sure,
I--"

Mr Rothwell came to the rescue.

"My dear sir, I'm sure I shall be very glad to see you at my house; you
don't go into society much; it'll do you good to come out a little;
you'll get rid of a few of the cobwebs--from your mind"--he added
hastily, becoming painfully conscious that he was treading on rather
tender ground when he was talking about cobwebs.

"Wouldn't Mr Tankardew like to come to our juvenile party on Twelfth
Night?" asked Mark with a little dash of mischief in his voice, and a
demure look at Mary.

Mrs Franklin bit her lips, and Mr Rothwell frowned.

"A juvenile party at your house?" asked Mr Tankardew, very gravely.

"Only my son's nonsense, you must pardon him," said Mr Rothwell; "we
always have a young people's party that night, of course you would be
heartily welcome, only--"

"A juvenile party?" asked Mr Tankardew again, very slowly.

"Yes, sir," replied Mark, for the sake of saying something, and feeling
a little bit of a culprit; "twelfth cake, crackers, negus, lots of fun,
something like a breaking-up at school.  Miss Franklin will be there,
and plenty more young people too."

"Something like a breaking-up," muttered the old man, "more like a
breaking-_down_, I should think--I'll come."

The effect of this announcement was perfectly overwhelming.  Mr
Rothwell expressed his gratification with as much self-possession as he
could command, and named the hour.  Mrs Franklin checked an exclamation
of astonishment with some difficulty.  Poor Mary coughed her suppressed
laughter into her handkerchief; but as for Mark, he was forced to beat a
hasty retreat, and dashed down the stairs like a whirlwind.

The way home lay first down a narrow lane, into which they entered about
a hundred yards from Mr Tankardew's house.  Here the rest of the party
found Mark behaving himself rather like a recently-escaped lunatic: he
was jumping up and down, then tossing his cap into the air, then leaning
back on the bank, holding his sides, and every now and then crying out
while the tears rolled over his cheeks.

"Oh dear!  Oh dear!  What _shall_ I do?  Old Tanky's coming to our
juvenile party."



CHAPTER TWO.

THE JUVENILE PARTY.

Let us look into two very different houses on the morning of January
6th.

Mr Rothwell's place is called "The Firs," from a belt of those trees
which shelter the premises on the north.

All is activity at "The Firs" on Twelfth-day morning.

It is just noon, and Mrs Rothwell and her daughters are assembled in
the drawing-room making elaborate preparations for the evening with
holly, and artificial flowers and mottoes, and various cunning and
beautiful devices.  On a little table by the grand piano stands a tray
with a decanter of sherry, a glass jug filled (and likely to remain so)
with water, and a few biscuits.  Mrs Rothwell is lying back in an
elegant easy-chair, looking flushed and languid.  Her three daughters,
Jane, Florence, and Alice, are standing near her, all looking rather
weary.

"What a bore these parties are!" exclaimed the eldest.  "I'm sick to
death of them.  I shall be tired out before the evening begins."

"So shall I," chimes in her sister Florence.  "I hate having to be civil
to those odious little frights, the Graysons, and their cousins.  Why
can't they stay at home and knock one another's heads about in the
nursery?"

"Very aimiable of you I must say, my dears," drawls out Mrs Rothwell.
"Come, you must exert yourselves, you know it only comes once a year."

"Ay, once too often, mamma!"

"I'm sure," cries little Alice, "I shall enjoy the party very much:
it'll be jolly, as Mark says, only I wish I wasn't so tired just now:
ah!  Dear me!"

"Oh!  Child, don't yawn!" says her mother; "you'll make me more fatigued
than I am, and I'm quite sinking now.  Jane, do just pour me out another
glass of sherry.  Thank you, I can sip a little as I want it.  Take some
yourself, my dear, it'll do you good."

"And me too, mamma," cries Alice, stretching out her hand.

"Really, Alice, you're too young; you mustn't be getting into wanting
wine so early in the day, it'll spoil your digestion."

"Oh!  Nonsense, mamma!  Everybody takes it now; it'll do me good, you'll
see.  Mark often gives me wine; he's a dear good brother is Mark."

Mrs Rothwell sighs, and takes a sip of sherry: she is beginning to
brighten up.

"What in the world did your father mean by asking old Mr Tankardew to
the party to-night?" she exclaims, turning to her elder daughters.

"Mean!  Mamma--you may well ask that: the old scarecrow!  They say he
looks like a bag of dust and rags."

"Mark says," cries her sister, "that he's just the image of a stuffed
Guy Fawkes, which the boys used to carry about London on a chair."

"Well, my dears, we must make the best of matters, we can't help it
now."

"Oh!  I daresay it'll be capital fun," exclaims Alice; "I shall like to
see Mark doing the polite to `Old Tanky,' as he calls him."

"Come, Miss Pert, you must mind your behaviour," says Florence;
"remember, Mr Tankardew is a gentleman and an old man."

"Indeed, Miss Gravity, but I'm not going to learn manners of you; mamma
pays Miss Craven to teach me that, so good-bye;" and the child, with a
mocking courtesy towards her sister, runs out of the room laughing.

And now let us look into the breakfast-room of "The Shrubbery," as Mrs
Franklin's house is called.

Mary and her mother are sitting together, the former adding some little
adornments to her evening dress, and the latter knitting.

"Don't you like Mark Rothwell, mamma?"

"No, my child."

"Oh!  Mamma!  What a cruelly direct answer!"

"Shouldn't I speak the direct truth, Mary?"

"Oh!  Yes, certainly the truth, only you might have softened it off a
little, because I think you must like some things in him."

"Yes, he is cheerful and good-tempered."

"And obliging, mamma?"

"I'm not so sure of that, Mary; self-indulgent people are commonly
selfish people, and selfish people are seldom obliging: a really
obliging person is one who will cross his own inclination to gratify
yours, without having any selfish end in view."

"And you don't think Mark would do this, mamma?"

"I almost think not.  I like to see a person obliging from principle,
and not merely from impulse: not merely when his being obliging is only
another form of self-gratification."

"But why should not Mark Rothwell be obliging on principle?"

"Well, Mary, you know my views.  I can trust a person as truly obliging
who acts on Christian principle, who follows the rule, `Look not
everyone on his own things, but everyone also on the things of others,'
because he loves Christ.  I am afraid poor Mark has never learned to
love Christ."

Mary sighs, and her mother looks anxiously at her.

"My dearest child," she says, earnestly, "I don't want you to get too
intimate with the young Rothwells.  I am sure they are not such
companions as your own heart would approve of."

"Why, no, mamma, I can't say I admire the way in which they have been
brought up."

"Admire it!  Oh!  Mary, this is one of the crying sins of the day.  I
mean the utter selfishness and self-indulgence in which so many young
people are educated; they must eat, they must drink, they must talk just
like their elders; they acknowledge no betters, they spurn all
authority; the holy rule, `Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for
this is right,' is quite out of date with too many of them now."

"I fear it is so, mamma.  I don't like the girls much at `The Firs,' but
I cannot help liking Mark; I mean," she added, colouring, "as a light-
hearted, generous, pleasant boy."  A silence of a few moments, and then
she looks up and says, timidly and lovingly, "If you think it better,
dearest mamma, I won't go to the party to-night."

"No, Mary, I would not advise that; _I_ shall be with you, and I should
like you to see and judge for yourself.  I have every confidence in you.
I do believe that you love your Saviour, and loving Him, I feel sure
that you will not knowingly enter into any very intimate acquaintance
with any one who has not the same hope; without which hope, my precious
child, there may be much amiability and attractiveness, but can be no
solid and abiding happiness or peace."

Mary's reply is a child's earnest embrace and a whispered assurance of
unchanging love to her mother, and trust in her judgment.

Six o'clock.--Both drawing-rooms at "The Firs" were thrown into one, and
brilliantly lighted up.  Mysterious sounds in the dining-room below told
of preparations for that part of the evening's proceedings, by no means
the least gratifying to the members of a juvenile party.  Friends began
to assemble: young boys and girls in shoals, the former dazzling in
neckties and pins, the latter in brooches and earrings: with a
sprinkling of seniors.  The host, hostess, and her daughters were all
smiles; the last-named especially, unable, indeed, to give expression to
their satisfaction at having the happiness of receiving their dear young
friends.  Mark was there, of course, full of fun, and really enjoying
himself, the life and soul of everything.

And now, when Mrs Franklin and Mary had just taken their seats and had
begun to look around them, the door was thrown widely open, and the
servant announced in a loud voice, "Mr Esau Tankardew!"

Every sound was instantly hushed, every head bent forward, every mouth
parted in breathless expectation.  Mark crept close up to Mary and
squeezed his white gloves into ropes; the next moment Mr Tankardew
entered.

Marvellous transformation!  The faded garments had entirely disappeared.
Was this the man of dilapidation?  Yes, it was Mr Tankardew.  He was
habited in a suit of black, which, though not new, had evidently not
seen much service; his trousers ceased at the knee, leaving his silk
stockings and shoes conspicuous.  No reproach could be cast on the
purity of his white neckcloth, nor on the general cleanliness of his
person.  His greeting of the host and hostess, though a little old-
fashioned, was thoroughly easy and courteous, after which he begged them
to leave him to himself, and to give their undivided attention to the
young, whose special evening it was.  Curiosity once gratified, the
suspended buzz of eager talk broke out again, and allowed Mr Tankardew
to make his way to Mrs Franklin and her daughter.  These he saluted
very heartily, and added, "Let an old man sit by you awhile, and watch
the proceedings of the young people, and realise if he possibly can that
he was once young himself--ah yes!  Once young," and he sighed deeply.

Fun and frolic were soon at their height.  Merry music struck up, and
the larger of the two drawing-rooms was cleared for a dance.  Mark
hurried up to Mary.  "Come, Mary," he cried, "I want you for a partner;
we shall have capital fun; come along."

"Thank you," she replied; "I prefer to watch the others--at present, at
any rate."

"Oh!  Nonsense!  You _must_ come, there'll be no fun without you; it's
very hot though, but there'll be lots of negus presently."

"Mary will do her part by trying to amuse some of the very little ones,"
said her mother; "I think that will be more to her taste."

"Oh!  Yes, dear mamma, that it will.  Thank you, Mark, all the same."

"Good, very good, very good," cried Mr Tankardew, in a low voice, and
beating one hand gently on the other; "keep to that, my child, keep to
that."

Mark retired with a very bad grace, and Mary, slipping away from her
mother's side, gathered a company around her of the tinier sort, with
glowing cheeks and very wide eyes, who were rather scared by the more
boisterous proceedings of those somewhat older; she amused them in a
quiet way, raising many a little happy laugh, and fairly winning their
hearts.

"God bless her," muttered Mr Tankardew, when he had watched her for
some time very attentively; "very good, that will do, very good indeed;
keep her to it, Mrs Franklin, keep her to it."

"She's a dear, good child," said her mother.

"Very true, madam; yes, dear and good; some are dear and bad--dear at
any price.  I see some now."

Wine and negus were soon handed round; the tray was presented to Mary.
Mr Tankardew lent forward and bent a piercing look at her.  She
declined, not at all knowing that he was watching her.

"Good again; very good, good girl, wise girl, prudent girl," he murmured
to himself.

The tray now came to Mrs Franklin.  She took a glass of sherry.  Mr
Tankardew's brow clouded.  "Ah!" he exclaimed, and moved restlessly on
his chair.  The servant then approached him and offered the contents of
the tray, but he waved it off with an imperious gesture of his hand, and
did not vouchsafe a word.

The more boisterous party in the other room now became conscious of the
presence of the wine and negus, and rushed in, surrounding the maid who
was bringing in a fresh supply.  Mark was at the head of them, and
tossed down two glasses in rapid succession.  The rest clamoured for the
strong drink with eager hands and outstretched arms.  "Give me some,
give me some," was uttered on all sides.  Self reigned paramount.

Mr Tankardew's tall form rose high above the edge of the struggling
crowd, which he had approached.

"Poor things, poor things, poor things!" he said gloomily.

"A pleasant sight, these little ones enjoying themselves," said Mr
Rothwell, coming up.

Mr Tankardew seemed scarcely to hear him, and returned to his place by
Mrs Franklin.

"Enjoying themselves!" he exclaimed, in an undertone, "call it pampering
the flesh, killing the soul, and courting the devil."

"Rather hard upon the poor dear children," laughingly remarked a lady,
who overheard him: "why, surely you wouldn't deny _them_, their share of
the enjoyment of God's good creatures?"

"God's good creatures, madam!  Are the wine and negus God's good
creatures?"

"Certainly they are," was the reply: "God has permitted man to
manufacture them out of the fruits of the earth, and to make them the
means of pleasurable excitement, and therefore surely we may take them
and give them as His good creatures."

Mr Tankardew made no answer, but striding up to Mary, where she sat
with a circle of little interesting faces round her, eagerly intent on
some simple story she was telling them, he said, "Miss Franklin, will
you favour me by bringing me a few of your young friends here.  There,
now, my dear," (speaking to one of the little girls), "just hand me that
empty negus glass."  The child did so, and Mr Tankardew, producing from
his coat pocket a considerable sized bottle, turned to the lady who had
addressed him, and said:

"Madam, will you help me to dispense some of the contents of this bottle
to these little children?"

"Gladly," she replied.  "I suppose it is something very good, such as
little folks like."

"It is one of God's good creatures, madam:" saying which, he turned
towards the other's astonished gaze the broad label on which was printed
in great black letters, "Laudanum--Poison."

"My dear sir, what do you mean?"

"I mean, madam, that the liquid in this bottle is made from the poppy,
which is one of the fruits of the earth; therefore it is one of God's
good creatures, just as the wine and negus are.  It produces very
pleasurable sensations, too, if you take it, just as _they_ do;
therefore it is right to indulge in it, and give it to others, just as
it is right for the same reasons to indulge in wine and negus and
spirits, and to give them to others."

"I really don't understand you, sir."

"Don't you, madam?  I think you won't be able to pick a hole in my
argument."

"Ah!  But this liquid is poison!"

"So is alcohol, madam, only it is not labelled so: more's the pity, for
it has killed thousands and tens of thousands, where laudanum has only
killed units.  There, my child," he added, turning to Mary, and taking
an elegant little packet from his pocket, "give these _bonbons_ to the
little ones.  I didn't mean to disappoint them."

While this dialogue was going on, the rest of the party was too full of
noisy mirth to notice what was passing.  Mark's voice was getting very
wild and conspicuous; and now he made his way with flushed face and
sparkling eyes to Mary, who was sitting quietly between her mother and
Mr Tankardew.  He carried a jug in one hand, and a glass in the other,
and, without noticing the elder people, exclaimed, "It is an hour yet to
supper time, and you'll be dead with thirst; I am sure I am.  You must
take some of this, it is capital stuff; our butler made it: I have just
had a tumbler--it is punch.  Come, Mary, you must," and he thrust the
glass into her hand: "you must, I say; you shall; never mind old Tanky,"
he added, in what he meant to be a whisper.  Then he raised the jug with
unsteady fingers, but, before a drop could reach the tumbler, Mr
Tankardew had risen, and with one sweep of his hand dashed it out of
Mary's grasp on the ground.  Few heard the crash, amidst the din of the
general merriment, and those who noticed it supposed it to be an
accident.  "Nearly lost!" whispered Mr Tankardew in Mary's ear; then he
said, in a louder voice, "Faugh!  The atmosphere of this place does not
suit me.  I must retire.  Mrs Franklin, pray make an old man's excuses
to our host and hostess."

He was _gone_!



CHAPTER THREE.

THE SWOLLEN STREAM.

It is the morning after the juvenile party at "The Firs."  A clear,
bright frost still: everything _outside_ the house fresh and vigorous:
half-a-dozen labourers' little children running to school with faces
like peonies; jumping, racing, sliding, puffing out clouds of steaming
breath as they shout out again and again for very excess of health and
spirits.

Everything _inside_ the house limp, languid, and lugubrious; the fires
are sulky and won't burn; the maids are sulkier still.  Mr Rothwell
breakfasts alone, feeling warm in nothing but his temper: the grate
sends forth little white jets of smoke from a wall of black coal,
instead of presenting a cheery surface of glowing heat: the toast is
black at the corners and white in the middle: the eggs look so truly new
laid that they seem to have come at once from the henhouse to the table,
without passing through the saucepan: the coffee is feeble and the milk
smoked: the news in the daily papers is flat, and the state of affairs
in country and county peculiarly depressing.  Upstairs, Mrs Rothwell
tosses about with a sick headache, unable to rest and unwilling to rise.
The young ladies are dawdling in dressing-gowns over a bedroom
breakfast, and exchanging mutual sarcasms and recriminations, blended
with gall and bitterness flung back on last night's party.  Poor Mark
has the worst of it, nausea and splitting headache, with a shameful
sense of having made both a fool and a beast of himself.  So much for
the delights of "lots of negus, wine, and punch!"  He has also a
humbling remembrance of having been rude to Mr Tankardew.  A knock at
his door.  "Come in."

"Please, sir, there's a hamper come for you," says the butler; "shall I
bring it in?"

"Yes, if you like."

The hamper is brought in and opened; it is only a small one.  In the
midst of a deep bed of straw lies a hard substance; it is taken out and
the paper wrapped round it unfolded; only a glass tumbler!  There is a
paper in it on which is written, "To Mr Mark Rothwell, from Mr Esau
Tankardew, to replace what he broke last night: keep it empty, my boy;
keep it empty."

Nine o'clock at "The Shrubbery."  Mary and her mother are seated at
breakfast, both a little dull and disinclined to speak.  At last Mary
breaks the silence by a profound sigh.  Mrs Franklin smiles, and says:

"You seem rather burdened with care, my child."

"Well, I don't know, dear mamma; I don't think it is exactly care, but
I'm dissatisfied or disappointed that I don't feel happier for last
night's party."

"You don't think there was much real enjoyment in it?"

"Not to _me_, mamma; and I don't imagine very much to anybody--except,
perhaps, to some of the very little ones.  There was a hollowness and
emptiness about the whole thing; plenty of excitement and a great deal
of selfishness, but nothing to make me feel really brighter and
happier."

"No, my child; I quite agree with you: and I was specially sorry for old
Mr Tankardew.  I can't quite understand what induced him to come: his
conduct was very strange, and yet there is something very amiable about
him in the midst of his eccentricities."

"What a horror he seems to have of wine and negus and suchlike things,
mamma."

"Yes; and I'm sure what he saw last night would not make him any fonder
of them.  Poor Mark Rothwell quite forgot himself.  I was truly glad to
get away early."

"Oh!  So was I, mamma; it was terrible.  I wish he wouldn't touch such
things; I'm sure he'll do himself harm if he does."

"Yes, indeed, Mary; harm in body, and character, and soul.  Those are
fearful words, `No drunkard shall inherit the kingdom of God.'"

"I wish I was like Mr Tankardew," says Mary, after a pause; "did you
see, mamma, how he refused the negus?  I never saw such a frown."

"Well, Mary, I'm not certain that total abstinence would suit either of
us, but it is better to be on the safe side.  I am sure, in these days
of special self-indulgence, it would be worth a little sacrifice if our
example might do good; but I'll think about it."

It was a lovely morning in the September after the juvenile party, one
of those mornings which combine the glow of summer with the richness of
autumn.  A picnic had been arranged to a celebrated hill about ten miles
distant from Hopeworth.  The Rothwells had been the originators, and had
pressed Mary Franklin to join the party.  Mrs Franklin had at first
declined for her daughter.  She increasingly dreaded any intimacy
between her and Mark, whose habits she feared were getting more and more
self-indulgent; and Mary herself was by no means anxious to go, but
Mark's father had been particularly pressing on the subject, more so
than Mrs Franklin could exactly understand, so she yielded to the joint
importunity of father and son, though with much reluctance.  Mary had
seen Mark occasionally since the night of the 6th of January, and still
liked him, without a thought of going beyond this; but she was grieved
to see how strongly her mother felt against him, and was inclined to
think her a little hard.  True, he had been betrayed into an excess on
Twelfth night; but, then, he was no drunkard.  So she argued to herself,
and so too many argue; but how strange it is that people should argue so
differently about the sin of drunkenness from what they argue about
other sins!  If a man lies to us _now and then_, do we call him
_habitually_ truthful?  If a man steals _now and then_, do we call him
_habitually_ honest?  Surely not; yet if a man is _only now and then_
drunken, his fault is winked at; he is considered by many as
_habitually_ a sober man; and yet, assuredly, if there be one sin more
than another which from the guilt and misery that it causes deserves
little indulgence, it is the sin of drunkenness.  Mary took the common
view, and could not think of Mark as being otherwise than habitually
sober, because he was only now and then the worse for strong drink.

It was, as we have said, a lovely September morning, and all the members
of the picnic party were in high spirits.  An omnibus had been hired
expressly for the occasion.  Mark sat by the driver, and acted as
presiding genius.  The common meeting-place was an old oak, above a mile
out of the town, and thither by ten o'clock all the providers and their
provisions had made their way.  No one could look more bright than Mark
Rothwell, no one more peacefully lovely than Mary Franklin.  All being
seated, off they started at an uproarious signal from Mark.  Away they
went, along level road, through pebbly lane, its banks gorgeous with
foxgloves and fragrant with honeysuckles, over wild heath, and then up
grassy slopes.  There were fourteen in the party: Mr Rothwell, Mark and
his three sisters, and a lady neighbour; Mrs Franklin and her daughter,
with a female friend; and five young gentlemen who were or seemed to be
cousins, more or less, to everybody.  Five miles were soon passed, and
then the road was crossed by a little stream.  Cautiously the lumbering
vehicle made its way down the shelving gravel, plunged into the
sparkling water, fouling it with thick eddies of liquid mud, and then,
with some slight prancings on the part of the willing horses, gained the
opposite bank.  The other five miles were soon accomplished, all feeling
the exhilarating effect of drinking in copious draughts of mountain
air--God's pure and unadulterated stimulant to strengthen the nerves,
string up the muscles, and clear the brain, free from every drop of
spirit except the glowing spirit of health.  And now the omnibus was
abandoned by a little roadside inn to the care of a hostler, who took
the horses (poor dumb brutes!) to feast on corn and water, God's truly
"good creatures," unspoilt by the perverse hand of self-indulgent man!

The driver, with the rest of the party, toiled up the hill-side, and
all, on gaining the summit, gazed with admiration across one of those
lovely scenes which may well make us feel that the stamp of God's hand
is there, however much man may have marred what his Creator has made:
wood and lane, cornfields red-ripe, turnip fields in squares of dazzling
green, were spread out before them in rich embroidery with belts of
silver stream flashing like diamonds on the robe of beauty with which
Almighty love had clothed the earth.  Oh!  To think that sin should
defile so fair a prospect!  Yet sin was there, though unseen by those
delighted gazers.  Ay, and thickly sown among those sweet hills and
dales were drunkards' houses, where hearts were withering, and beings
made for immortality were destroying body and soul by a lingering
suicide.

An hour passed quickly by, and there came a summons to luncheon.  Under
a tall rock, affording an unbroken view of the magnificent landscape
outspread below, the tablecloth was laid and secured at the corners by
large stones.  Pies both savoury and sweet were abundant, bread
sufficient, salt scanty, and water absent altogether.  Bottles were
plentiful--bottles of ale, of porter, of wines heavy and light.  Corks
popped, champagne fizzed, ale sparkled.  Mark surrendered the eatables
into other hands, and threw his whole energies into the joint
consumption and distribution of strong drink.  He seemed in this matter,
at least, to act upon the rule that "Example is better than precept": if
he pressed others to drink, he led the way by taking copious draughts
himself.  The driver, too, was not forgotten; the poor man was getting a
chance of rising a little above his daily plodding as he looked out on
the lovely scenery before him: but he was not to be left to God's
teachings; ale, porter, champagne, he must taste them all.  Mark
insisted on it; so the unfortunate man drank and drank, and then threw
himself down among some heath to sleep off, if he could, the fumes of
alcohol that were clouding his brains.

And what of Mrs Franklin and Mary?  Both had declined all the
stimulants, and had asked for water.

"Nonsense," cried Mark; "water!  I've taken very good care that there
shall be no water drunk to-day; you must take some wine or ale, you must
indeed."

"We will manage without it, if you please," said Mrs Franklin quietly.

Mark pressed the intoxicants upon them even to rudeness, but without
effect.  Mr Rothwell was evidently annoyed at his son's pertinacity,
and tried to check him; but all in vain, for Mark had taken so much as
just to make him obstinate and unmanageable.  But, finding that he could
not prevail, the young man hurried away in anger, and plied the other
members of the company with redoubled vigour.

So engrossing had been the luncheon that few of the party had noticed a
sudden lull in the atmosphere, and an oppressive calm which had
succeeded to the brisk and cheery breeze.  But now, as Mary rose from
her seat on the grass, she said to her mother:

"Oh, mamma, how close it has become!  And look there in the distance:
what a threatening bank of clouds!  I fear we are going to have a
storm."

"I fear so indeed, Mary; we must give our friends warning, and seek out
a shelter."

All had now become conscious of the change.  A stagnant heat brooded
over everything; not a breath of wind; huge banks of magnificent storm-
cloud came marching up majestically from the horizon, throwing out
little jets of lightning, with solemn murmurs of thunder.  Drop, drop,
drop, tinkled on the gathered leaves, now quicker, now quicker, and
thicker.  Under a huge roof of overhanging rock the party cowered
together.  At last, down came the storm with a blast like a hurricane,
and deluges of rain.  On, on it poured relentlessly, with blinding
lightning and deafening peals of thunder.  Hour after hour!  Would it
never cease?  At last a lull between four and five o'clock, and, as the
tempest rolled murmuring away, the dispirited friends began their
preparations for returning.  Six o'clock before all had reached the inn.
Where were the driver and Mark?  Another tedious hour before they
appeared, and each manifestly the worse for liquor.  Past seven by the
time they had fairly started.  And now the clouds began to gather again.
On they went, furiously at first, and then in unsteady jerks, the
omnibus swaying strangely.  It was getting dark, and the lowering clouds
made it darker still.  Not a word was spoken by the passengers, but each
was secretly dreading the crossing of the stream.  At last the bank was
gained--but what a change!  The little brook had become a torrent deep
and strong.

"Oh!  For goodness' sake, stop!  Stop!  Let us get out," screamed the
Misses Rothwell.

"In with it!  In with it!" roared Mark to the driver; "dash through like
a trump."

"Tchuck, tchuck," was the half-drunken driver's reply, as he lashed his
horses and urged them into the stream.

Down they went: splash!  Dash!  Plunge!  The water foaming against the
wheels like a millstream.  Screams burst from all the terrified ladies
except Mary and her mother, who held each other's hand tightly.  Mrs
Franklin had taught her daughter presence of mind both by example and
precept.  But now the water rushed into the vehicle itself as the
frightened horses struggled for the opposite bank.  Mark's voice was now
heard in curses, as he snatched the whip from the driver and scourged
the poor bewildered horses.  Another splash: the driver was gone: the
poor animals pulled nobly.  Crash!  Jerk!  Bang!  A trace had snapped:
another jerk, a fearful dashing and struggling, the omnibus was drawn
half out of the water, and lay partly over on its side: then all was
still except the wails and the shrieks of the ladies.  Happily a lamp
had been lighted and still burned in the omnibus, which was now above
the full violence of the water.  The door was opened and the passengers
released; but by whom?--certainly not by Mark.  A tall figure moved
about in the dusk, and coming up to Mary threw a large cloak over her
shoulders, for it was now raining heavily, and said in a voice whose
tones she was sure she knew:

"Come with me, my child, your mother is close at hand; there, trust to
me; take my other arm, Mrs Franklin: very fortunate I was at hand to
help.  The drink, the drink," he muttered in a low voice; "if they'd
stuck to the water at the beginning they wouldn't have stuck _in_ the
water at the end."

And now a light flashed on them: it was the ruddy glow from a forge.

"Come in for a moment," said their conductor, "till I see what is to be
done.  Tom Flint, lend us a lantern, and send your Jim to show some of
these good people the way to the inn; they'll get no strong drink
there," he said, half to himself.

And now several of the unlucky company had straggled into the smithy,
which was only a _few_ yards from the swollen stream.  Among these was
Mark, partially sobered by the accident, and dripping from head to foot.

"Here's some capital stuff to stave off a cold," he said, addressing
Mrs Franklin and her daughter, whose faces were visible in the forge
light: at the same time he rilled the cover of a small flask with
spirits.  "Come, let us be as jolly as we can under the circumstances."

"Thank you," said Mrs Franklin; "perhaps a very little mixed with water
might be prudent, as Mary, I fear, is very wet."

Mark stretched out the cup towards her, but before a drop could be taken
the tall stranger had stepped forward, and snatching it, had emptied its
contents on the glowing coals.  Up there shot a brilliant dazzling flame
to the smoky roof, and in that vivid blaze Mrs Franklin and Mary both
recognised in their timely helper none other than Mr Esau Tankardew.



CHAPTER FOUR.

A MYSTERIOUS STRANGER.

"This way, this way," said Mr Tankardew, utterly unmoved by the
expression of angry astonishment on the face of Mark Rothwell at the
sudden conversion of his cup of liquid fire into harmless flame--"Come
this way, come this way, Mrs and Miss Franklin: Tom, give me the
lantern, I'll take the ladies to Sam Hodges' farm, and do you be so good
as to see this young gentleman across to the `Wheatsheaf'; Jones will
look well after them all, I know."

So saying, he offered his arm to Mrs Franklin, and bade Mary follow
close behind.

"It will be all right, madam," he added, seeing a little hesitation on
the part of his companion; "you may trust an old man to keep you out of
harm's way: there, let me go first with the lantern; now, two steps and
you are over the stile: the path is rather narrow, you must keep close
to the hedge: just over three fields and we shall be there."

Not a word was uttered as they followed their guide.  Mrs Franklin
lifted up her heart in silent praise for their preservation, and in
prayer for present direction.  Backward and forward swayed the lantern,
just revealing snatches of hedge and miry path.  At last the deep
barking of a dog told that they were not far off from a dwelling: the
next minute Mr Tankardew exclaimed, "Here we are;" and the light showed
them that they were come to a little gate in a paling fence.

"Hollo, Sam," shouted out their guide: the dog's barking was instantly
changed into a joyful whine.  A door opened a few yards in front of
them, and a dark figure appeared in the midst of a square opening all
ablaze with cheerful light.

"Hollo, Sam," said Mr Tankardew again, in a more subdued voice.

"Is that you, mayster?  All right," cried the other.

"I've brought you some company, Sam, rather late though."

"You're welcome, mayster, company and all," was the reply.  In a few
moments all three had entered, and found themselves in an enormous
kitchen, nearly large enough to accommodate a village.  Huge beams
crossed the low white ceiling; great massive doors opened in different
directions rather on the slant through age, and giving a liberal
allowance of space at top and bottom for ventilation.  A small colony of
hams and flitches hung in view; and a monstrous chimney, with a fire in
the centre, invited a nearer approach, and seemed fashioned for a cozy
retiring place from the world of kitchen.  Everything looked warm and
comfortable, from the farmer, his wife and daughter, to the two cats
dozing on the hearth.  Vessels of copper, brass, and tin shone so
brightly that it seemed a shame to use them for anything but looking-
glasses; while tables and chairs glowed with the results of perpetual
friction.

"Come, sit ye down, sit ye down, ladies," said Mrs Hodges; "there, come
into the chimney nook: eh!  Deary me!  Ye're quite wet."

"Yes, Betty," said Mr Tankardew, "these ladies joined a party to the
hills, and, coming back, they've been nearly upset into the brook, which
is running now like a mill stream; they came in an omnibus, and very
nearly stuck fast in the middle; it is a mercy they were not all
drowned; no thanks to the driver, though."

"Poor things," exclaimed the farmer's wife; "come, I must help you to
some dry things, such as they are: and you must stay here to-night; it
is not fit for you to go home, indeed it is not," she added, as Mrs
Franklin prepared to decline.

"I'll make you as comfortable as ever I can.  Jane, go and put a fire in
the Red-room."

"Indeed," said Mrs Franklin, "I can't think of allowing you to put
yourself to all this trouble; besides, our servants will be alarmed when
they find us not returning."

"Leave that to me, madam," said Mr Tankardew; "I shall sleep at the
`Wheatsheaf' to-night, and will take care to send a trusty messenger
over to `The Shrubbery' to tell them how matters stand; and Mr Hodges
will, I am sure, drive you over in his gig in the morning.  Hark how the
rain comes down!  You really must stop: Mrs Hodges will make you very
comfortable."

With many thanks, but still with considerable reluctance, Mrs Franklin
acquiesced in this arrangement.  Their hostess then accommodated them
with such garments as they needed, and all assembled round the blazing
fire.  Mr Tankardew had divested himself of a rough top coat, and,
looking like the gentleman he was, begged Mrs Hodges to give them some
tea.

What a tea that was!  Mary, though delicately brought up, thought she
had never tasted anything like it, so delicious and reviving: such ham!
Such eggs!  Such bread!  Such cream!  Really, it was almost worth while
getting the fright and the wetting to enjoy such a meal with so keen a
relish.

"They've got a famous distillery in this house," remarked Mr Tankardew
when they had finished their tea.

"A famous what?" asked Mrs Franklin, in great surprise.

"Dear me," said Mary aghast, "I really thought I--"

"Oh!  You thought they were teetotalers here: well, you should know that
it is a common custom in these parts to put rum or other spirits into
the tea, especially when people have company.  Now, Hodges and his wife
are not content with putting spirits into the tea, but they put them
into everything: into their bread, and their ham, and into their eggs."

Mrs Franklin looked partly dismayed and partly puzzled.

"Yes, it is true, madam.  The fact is simply this: the spirits which my
good tenants distil are made up of four ingredients--diligence, good
temper, honesty, and total abstinence; and that is what makes everything
they have to be so good of its kind."

"I wish we had more distilleries of this kind," said Mrs Franklin,
smiling.

"So do I, madam; but it is a sadly dishonest, unfaithful, and self-
indulgent age, and the drink has very much to do with it, directly or
indirectly.  Here, Sam," to the farmer and his wife who had just re-
entered the kitchen, "do you and your mistress come and draw up your
chairs, and give us a little of your thoughts on the subject; there's
nothing, sometimes, so good as seeing with other people's eyes,
specially when they are the eyes of persons who look on things from a
different level of life."

"Why, Mayster Tankardew," said the farmer, "it isn't for the likes of me
to be giving my opinion of things afore you and these ladies; but I
_has_ my opinion, nevertheless."

"Of course you have.  Now, tell us what you think about the young people
of our day, and their self-indulgent habits."

"Ah!  Mayster!  You're got upon a sore subject; it is time summut was
done, we're losing all the girls and boys, there'll be none at all
thirty years hence."

"Surely you don't mean," said Mrs Franklin anxiously, "that there is
any unusual mortality just now among children."

"No, no, ma'am, that's not it," cried the farmer, laughing: "no, I mean
that we shall have nothing but babies and men and women; we shall skip
the boys and girls altogether."

"How do you mean?"

"Why, just this way, ma'am: as soon as young mayster and miss gets old
enough to know how things is, they're too old for the nursery; they
won't go in leading strings; they must be little men and women.  Plain
food won't do for 'em; they must have just what their pas and mas has.
They've no notion of holding their tongues--not they; they must talk
with the biggest; and I blames their parents for it, I do.  They never
think of checking them; they're too much like old Eli.  The good old-
fashioned rod's gone to light the fire with."

"Ay, and Sam," broke in his wife, "what's almost worst of all--and oh!
It is a sin and a shame--they let 'em get to the beer and the wine and
the spirits: you mustn't say them nay.  Ay, it is sad, it is for sure,
to see how these little ones is brought up to think of nothing but
themselves; and then, when they goes wrong, their fathers and mothers
can't think how it is."

"You're right, wife; they dress their bodies as they like, and eat and
drink what they like, and don't see how Christ bought their bodies for
Himself, and they are not their own.  Ah!  There'll be an awful
reckoning one day.  Young people can't grow up as they're doing and not
leave a mark on our country as it'll take a big fire of the Almighty's
chastisements to burn it out."

Mrs Franklin sighed, and Mary looked very thoughtful.

Mr Tankardew was about to speak when a faint halloo was heard above the
noise of the storm, which was now again raging without.  All paused to
listen.  It was repeated again, and this time nearer.

"Somebody missed his road, I should think," said Mr Tankardew.

"Maybe, sir; I'll go out and see."

So saying, Sam Hodges left the kitchen, and calling to quiet his dog who
was barking furiously, soon returned with a stranger who was dressed in
a long waterproof and felt hat, which he doffed on seeing the ladies,
disclosing a head of curling black hair.  He was rather tall, and
apparently slightly made, as far as could be judged; for the wrappings
in which he was clothed from head to foot concealed the build of his
person.

"Sorry to disturb you," he said, in a gentlemanly voice.  "It is a
terrible night, and I've missed my way.  I ought to have been at
Hopeworth by now, perhaps you can kindly direct me."

"Nay," said the farmer, "you mustn't be off again to-night: we'll manage
to take you in: we'll find you a bed, and you're welcome to such as we
have to eat and drink: it is plain, but it is wholesome."

"A thousand thanks, kind friends," replied the other; "but I feel sure
that I am intruding.  These ladies--"

"We are driven in here like yourself by the storm," said Mrs Franklin.
"I'm sure I should be the very last to wish any one to expose himself
again to such a night on our account."

Mr Tankardew had not spoken since the stranger's entrance; he was
sitting rather in shadow and the new-comer had scarcely noticed him.
But now the old man leant forward, and looked at the new guest as though
his whole soul was going out of his eyes; it was but for a moment, and
then he leant back again.  The stranger glanced from one to another, and
then his eyes rested for a moment admiringly on Mary's face--and who
could wonder!  A sweeter picture and one more full of harmonious
contrast could hardly be seen than the young girl with her hair somewhat
negligently and yet neatly turned back from her forehead, her dress
partly her own and partly the coarser garments of her hostess's
daughter, sitting in that plain old massive kitchen, giving refinement
and gaining simplicity, with the mingled glow of health and bashfulness
lending a special brilliancy to her fair complexion.  This was no
ordinary man's child the stranger saw, and again he expressed his
willingness to retire and make his way to the town rather than intrude
his company on those who might prefer greater privacy.

"Sit ye down, man, sit ye down," said Hodges; "the ladies 'll do very
well, the kitchen's a good big un, so there's room for ye all.  Have you
crossed the brook?  You'd find it no easy matter unless you came over
the foot bridge."

"I'm sorry, my friend, to say," was the reply, "that I have both crossed
the brook and been _in_ it.  I was about to go over by a little bridge a
mile or so farther down, when I thought I saw some creature or other
struggling in the water.  I stooped down, and to my surprise and
consternation found that it was a man.  I plunged into the stream and
contrived to drag him to the bank, but he was evidently quite dead.
What I had taken for struggling was only the force of the stream swaying
him about against the supports of the bridge.  His dress was that of a
coachman or driver of some public conveyance.  I got help from a
neighbouring cottage, and we carried him in, and I sent someone off for
the nearest doctor, and then I thought to take a short cut into the
road, and I've been wandering about for a long time now, and am very
thankful to find any shelter."

During this account Mrs Franklin and her daughter turned deadly pale,
and then the former exclaimed:

"I fear it was our poor driver--I heard a splash while our omnibus was
struggling in the water.  Oh!  I fear, I fear it must have been the
unfortunate man; and oh!  Poor man, I'm afraid he wasn't in a fit state
to die."

"If he was like your young friend at the forge, I fear not indeed," said
Mr Tankardew.  "That drink that accursed drink," he added, rising and
approaching the stranger, who was now divesting himself of his wet outer
garments.  He was tall, as we have said, and his figure was slight and
graceful; he wore a thick black beard and moustache, and had something
of a military air; his eyes were piercing and restless, and seemed to
take in at a glance and comprehend whatever they rested on.

But what was there in him that seemed familiar to Mrs Franklin and
Mary?  Had they seen him elsewhere?  They felt sure that they had not,
and yet his voice and face both reminded them of someone they had seen
and heard before.  The same thing seemed to strike Mr Tankardew, but,
as he turned towards the young stranger, the latter started back and
uttered a confused exclamation of astonishment.  The old man also was
now strangely moved, he muttered aloud:

"It must be--no--it cannot be: yes, it surely must be;" then he seemed
to restrain himself by a sudden effort, he paused for a moment, and then
with two rapid strides he reached the young man, placed his left hand
upon the other's lips, and seizing him by the right hand hurried him out
of the kitchen before another word could be spoken.

Poor Mrs Franklin and her daughter looked on in astonishment, hardly
knowing what to say or think of this extraordinary proceeding, but their
host reassured them at once.

"Never fear, ma'am, the old mayster couldn't hurt a fly; it'll be all
right, take my word for it; there's summut strange as _we_ can't make
out.  I think I sees a little into it, but it is not for me to speak if
the mayster wants to keep things secret.  It'll all turn out right in
the end, you may be sure.  The old mayster's been getting a bit of a
shake of late, but it is a shake of the right sort.  He's been coming
out of some of his odd ways and giving his mind to better things.  He's
had his heart broke once, but it seems to me as he's been getting it
mended again."

For the next half hour, the farmer, his wife, and daughter were busy
about their home concerns, and their two guests were left to their own
meditations.

At last a distant door opened, and Mr Tankardew appeared followed by
the young stranger.  By the flickering fire Mrs Franklin thought she
saw the traces of tears on both faces, and there was a strange light in
the old man's eyes which she had not seen there before.

"Let me introduce you to a young friend and an old friend in one," he
said, addressing the ladies; "this is Mr John Randolph, a great
traveller."

Mrs Franklin said some kind words expressive of her pleasure in seeing
the gratification Mr Tankardew felt in this renewal of acquaintance.

"Ah!  Yes," said the old man; "you may well say gratification.  Why,
I've known this young gentleman's father ever since I can remember.
Sam," he added to the farmer, who had just come in, "I'm going to run
away with our young friend here, we shall both take up our quarters at
the inn for to-night.  I see it is fairer now.  Mrs Franklin, pray make
yourself quite easy.  I shall despatch a messenger at once to `The
Shrubbery' with full particulars.  Good-night!  Good-night!"

And so Mary and her mother were left to their own musings and
conjectures, for the farmer and his family made no allusion afterwards
to the events of the evening.



CHAPTER FIVE.

THE YOUNG MUSICIAN.

A Grand piano being carried into Mr Esau Tankardew's!  What next!  What
_can_ the old gentleman want with a grand piano?  Most likely he has
taken it for a bad debt--some tenant sold up.  But say what they may,
the fact is the same.  And, stranger still, a tuner pays a visit to put
the instrument in tune.  What can it all mean?  Marvellous reports, too,
tell of a sudden domestic revolution.  The dust and cobwebs have had
notice to quit, brooms and brushes have travelled into corners and
crevices hitherto unexplored, the piano rests in a parlour which smiles
in the gaiety of a new carpet and new curtains; prints have come to
light upon the walls, chairs and tables have taken heart, and now wear
an honest gloss upon their legs and faces; ornaments, which had hitherto
been too dirty to be ornamental, now show themselves in their real
colours.  Outside the house, also, wonderful things have come to pass;
the rocking doorstep is at rest, and its fellow has been adjusted to a
proper level; _ever_-greens have taken the place of the old _never_-
greens; knocker and door handle are not ashamed to show their native
brass; the missing rails have returned to their duty in the ranks.  The
whole establishment, including its master, has emerged out of a state of
foggy dilapidation.  Old Molly Gilders has retired into the interior,
and given place above stairs to a dapper damsel.  As for the ghosts,
they could not be expected to remain under such _dispiriting_
circumstances, and have had the good sense to resort to some more
congenial dwelling.

While gossip on this unlooked-for transformation was still flying in hot
haste about Hopeworth and the neighbourhood, the families both at "The
Firs" and "The Shrubbery" were greatly astonished one morning by an
invitation to spend an evening at Mr Tankardew's.

"Well," said Mr Rothwell, "I suppose it won't do to decline; the old
gentleman means it, no doubt, as an attention, and it would not be
politic to vex him."

"I am sure, my dear," said his wife, "_I_ can't think of going.  I shall
be bored to death; you must make my excuses and accept the invitation
for the girls.  I don't suppose Mark will care to go; the old man seems
to have a spite against him--I can't tell why."

"I'll go," interposed Mark, "if it be only to see the fun.  I'll be on
my good behaviour.  I'll call for tea and toast-and-water at regular
intervals all through the evening, and then the old gentleman will be
sure to put me down for something handsome in his will."

"You'd better take some music with you," said his mother, turning to her
eldest daughter; "Mr Tankardew has got his new piano on purpose, I
suppose."

"Ay, do," cried Mark; "take something lively, and you'll fetch out the
old spiders and daddy-long-legs which have been sent into the corners
like naughty boys, and they'll come out by millions and dance for us."

So it was settled that the invitation should be accepted.  The surprise
at "The Shrubbery" was of a more agreeable kind.  Mrs Franklin and her
daughter had learnt to love the old man, in spite of his eccentricities;
they saw the sterling strength and consistency of his character.  They
had, however, hardly expected such an invitation; but the reports of the
strange changes in progress in Mr Tankardew's dwelling had reached
their ears, so that it was evident that he was intending, for some
unknown reasons, to break through the reserve and retirement of years,
and let a little more light and sociability into the inner recesses of
his establishment.  That he had a special object in doing this they felt
assured; what that object was they could not divine.  Had Mrs Franklin
known that the Rothwells had been asked, she would have declined the
invitation; but she was unaware of this till she had agreed to go; it
was then too late to draw back.

All the guests were very punctual on the appointed evening, curiosity
having acted as a stimulant with the Rothwells of a more wholesome kind
than they were in the habit of imbibing.  What a change!  It was now the
end of October, and the evenings were chilly, so that all were glad of
the cheery fire, partly of wood and partly of coal, which threw its
brightness all abroad in flashes of restless light.  Old pictures,
apparently family portraits, adorned the walls, relieved by prints of a
more modern and lively appearance.  One space was bare, where a portrait
might have been expected as a match to another on the other side of the
fireplace.  The omission struck every one at once on entering.  The
furniture, generally, was old-fashioned, and somewhat subdued in its
tints, as though it had long languished under the cold shade of neglect,
and had passed its best days in obscurity.

Not many minutes, however, were given to the guests for observation, for
Mr Tankardew soon appeared in evening costume, accompanied by the young
stranger who had taken refuge on the night of the storm in Samuel
Hodges' farm kitchen.  Mr Tankardew introduced him to the Rothwells as
Mr John Randolph, an old-young friend.  "I've known his father sixty
years and more," he said; then he added, "my young friend has travelled
a good deal, and will have some curiosities to show you by-and-by--but
now let us have tea.  Mrs Franklin, pray do me the honour to preside."

While tea was in progress, Mr Tankardew suddenly surprised his guests
by remarking dryly, and abruptly:

"You must know, ladies and gentlemen, that my mother was a brewer."

"Indeed!" exclaimed Mr Rothwell, in considerable astonishment; and then
asked, "was the business an extensive one?"

"Pretty well, pretty well," was the reply.  "She brewed every morning
and night, but she'd only one _dray_ and that was a _tray_, and she'd a
famous large teapot for a vat; we never used hops nor sent our barley to
be malted, what little we used we gave to the fowls; and we never felt
the want of porter, or pale ale, or bitter beer."

"It is a pity that more people are not of your mother's mind," said Mrs
Franklin, laughing.

"So it is indeed; but I shouldn't, perhaps, have said anything about it,
only the teapot you've got in your hand now was my dear old mother's
brewery, and that set me thinking and talking about it."

It was not their host's fault, nor Mr John Randolph's, who acted as
joint entertainer, if their guests did not make a hearty tea.  The meal
concluded, Mr Tankardew requested his young friend to bring out some of
his curiosities.  These greatly interested all the party--especially
Mrs Franklin and Mary, who were delighted with the traveller's
liveliness and intelligence.

"Show our friends some of your sketches," said the old man.  These were
produced, and were principally in water colours, evidently being the
work of a master's hand.  As he turned to a rather un-English scene, the
young artist sighed and said, "I have some very sad remembrances
connected with that sketch."

"Pray let us have them," said Mr Tankardew.  Mr Randolph complied, and
proceeded: "This is an Australian sketch: you see those curious-looking
trees, they are blue and red gums: there is the wattle, too, with its
almond-scented flowers, and the native lilac.  That cottage in the
foreground was put up by an enterprising colonist, who went out from
England some fifteen years ago; you see how lovely its situation is with
its background of hills.  I was out late one evening with a young
companion, and we were rather jaded with walking, when we came upon this
cottage.  We stood upon no ceremony, but marched in and craved
hospitality, which no one in the bush ever dreamt of refusing.  We found
the whole family at supper: the father had died about a year before of
consumption, after he had fenced in his three acres and built his house,
and planted vineyard and peach orchard.  There were sheep, too, with a
black fellow for a shepherd, and a stock yard with some fine bullocks in
it; altogether, it was a tidy little property, and a blooming family to
manage it.  The widow sat at the head of the table, and her son, a young
man of two-and-twenty, next to her.  There were three younger children,
two girls and a boy, all looking bright and healthy.  We had a hearty
welcome, and poured out news while they poured out tea, which with
damper (an Australian cake baked on the hearth), and mutton made an
excellent meal.  When tea was over we had a good long talk, and found
that the young farmer was an excellent son, and in a fair way to
establish the whole family in prosperity.  Well, the time came for
parting, they pressed us to stay the night, but we could not.  Just as
we were leaving, my companion took out a flask of spirits, and said,
`Come, let us drink to our next happy meeting, and success to the farm.'
I shall never forget the look of the poor mother, nor of the young man
himself; the old woman turned very pale, and the son very red, and said,
`Thank you all the same, I've done with these things, I've had too much
of them.'  `Oh!  Nonsense,' my friend said; `a little drop won't hurt
you, perhaps we may never meet again.'  `Well, I don't know,' said the
other, in a sort of irresolute way.  I could see he was thirsting for
the drink, for his eye sparkled when the flask was produced.  I
whispered to my friend to forbear, but he would not.  `Nonsense,' he
said; `just a little can do them no harm, it is only friendly to offer
it.'  `Just a taste, then, merely a taste,' said our host, and produced
glasses.  The mother tried to interfere, but her son frowned her into
silence.  So grog was made, and the younger ones, too, must taste it,
and before we left the flask had been emptied.  I took none myself, for
never has a drop of intoxicants passed my lips since I first left my
English home.  I spoke strongly to my companion when we were on our way
again, but he only laughed at me, and said, `What's the harm?'"

"And what _was_ the harm?" asked Mark, in a rather sarcastic tone.

"I will tell you," replied John Randolph, quietly.  "Four years later I
passed alone across the same track, and thought I would look in on my
old entertainer.  I found the place, but where were the owners?  All was
still as death, little of the fence remained, the stock yard was all to
pieces, the garden was a wilderness, the cottage a wreck.  I made
inquiries afterward very diligently, and heard that the young farmer had
taken to drinking, that the younger children had followed his example,
the poor mother was in her grave, and her eldest son a disreputable
vagabond; where the rest were no one knew.  Oh!  I resolved when I heard
it that never would I under any circumstances offer intoxicating drinks
to others, as I had previously, while myself a total abstainer,
occasionally done."

"But surely," said Mr Rothwell, "we are not answerable for the abuse
which others may make of what is lawful and useful if taken in
moderation.  The other day I offered the guard of my train a glass of
ale; he took it; afterward the train ran off the line through his
neglect; it seems he was drunken, but he appeared all right when I gave
him the ale; surely I was not answerable there?  The guard ought to have
stopped and refused when he knew he had had enough."

"No, not answerable for the accident, perhaps," said Mr Tankardew; "but
your case and the case just related by my young friend are not quite
parallel, for his companion knew that the farmer had, by his own
confession, been in the habit of exceeding; _you_ didn't know but that
the guard was a moderate man."

"Exactly so," replied the other; "I presumed, of course, that he knew
when to stop."

"And yet, my dear sir," rejoined the old man, earnestly, "isn't it
perilous work offering a stimulant which is so ruinous to tens of
thousands, and has emptied multitudes of homes of health, and peace, and
character?"

"Well, it may be so; I'm certainly beginning to think it anything but
wise getting children into the habit of liking these things;" and he
glanced anxiously at Mark, who appeared intensely absorbed in looking at
some photographs upside down.

There was a few moments' pause, and then the old man said, "Come, let us
have a little music, perhaps Miss Rothwell will favour us."

Nothing loth, the young lady led off in a brilliant sonata, displaying
in the execution more strength of muscle than purity of taste; then came
a duet by the eldest and youngest sisters, and then a song by the
second.  Mr Tankardew expressed his satisfaction emphatically at the
conclusion, possibly more at finding the performance ended than at the
performance itself.

Mr John Randolph then seated himself at the piano, at the host's
request, and addressed himself to his work with a loving earnestness
that showed that the soul of music dwelt within him.  The very first
chords he struck riveted at once the attention of every one, an
attention which was deepened into surprised delight, as he executed with
perfect finish passages of surpassing brilliancy growing out of the
national airs of many countries--airs which floated out from the
entanglements of the more rapid portions with an earnest pathos that
held every hearer as with a spell of enchantment.

"Marvellous, marvellous!  Bravo!" cried both Mr Rothwell and Mark at
the conclusion.

"My young friend," said Mr Tankardew, "will be glad to give lessons in
music, as an occupation.  He will be making my house his home at
present."

There was a slight expression of surprise on every face, and of
something like scorn or contempt on the Rothwells'.  However, both the
young ladies at "The Firs" and Mrs Franklin expressed their wish to
engage Mr Randolph's services, and so it was arranged.



CHAPTER SIX.

HEARTLESS WORK.

Music certainly flourished at "The Firs" and "The Shrubbery" under the
able instructions of Mr John Randolph.  The young man's manner was
puzzling to his pupils at both houses.  With the Misses Rothwell (who
gave _themselves_ airs, besides practising those which were given them
by their master), he was quietly civil and deferential, and yet made
them sensible of his superiority to them in a way which they could not
help feeling, and yet equally could not resent.  With Mary Franklin his
respectful manner was mingled with an almost tenderness, ever kept in
check by a cautious self-restraint.  What did it mean?  It made her feel
embarrassed and almost unhappy.  She had no wish to entangle the young
musician's affections, and indeed felt that her own were getting
entangled with Mark Rothwell.  Mark contrived to throw himself a good
deal in her way at this time, far more than her mother liked, but Mr
Rothwell himself seemed bent on promoting the intimacy, and his son laid
himself out to please.  There was, moreover, rankling in Mary's heart
the impression that Mark was being harshly judged by her mother; this
helped to draw her closer to him.  He was, besides, an excellent
performer on the flute, and would sometimes come over on lesson mornings
and accompany her, much to the annoyance of her instructor.

On one of these occasions, a little more than a year after the party at
his house, Mr Tankardew was present, having made an unusually early
call.  Mark wished him gone, and when the music lesson was over, and Mr
Randolph had retired, hoped that the old man would take his leave; but
nothing seemed farther from that gentleman's thoughts, so that Mark was
obliged to bottle up his wrath (the only spirit, alas!  That he ever did
bottle up), and to leave Mr Tankardew in possession.  When he was gone,
the old man looked keenly at mother and daughter.  Mrs Franklin
coloured and sighed.  Mary turned very red and then very pale, and took
an earnest passing interest in the pattern of the hearthrug.

"A very musical young gentleman, Mr Mark Rothwell," said their visitor
dryly.  "I wish he'd breathe as much harmony into his home as he
breathes melody out of his flute."  Neither mother nor daughter spoke,
but Mary's heart beat very fast.  "Hem!  I see," continued the other,
"you don't believe it!  Only slander, malice, lies.  Well, take my word
for it, the love that comes out of the brandy flask will never get into
the teapot.  I wish you both a very good morning; ay, better one than
this, a great deal;" and with a sternness of manner quite unusual, the
old man took his leave.

"How cruel!  How unjust!" exclaimed Mary, when Mr Tankardew was gone.
"Poor Mark!  Every one strikes at him."

But _was_ it cruel? _was_ it unjust?  Let us go with Mark Rothwell
himself, as he leaves his house that very night, sneaking out at the
backdoor like a felon.

A few hundred yards to the rear of the outbuildings stood a neat and
roomy cottage; this was occupied by John Gubbins, the coachman, a man
bound to Mark by unlimited donations of beer, and equally bound to a
gang of swindlers who had floated their way to his pocket and privacy on
the waves of strong drink.  John had been gambling with these men, and
had of course lost his money to them, and somebody else's too: the hard-
earned savings of one of the maids who had trusted him to put them in
the bank: of course he meant to repay them, with interest; that is to
say, when the luck turned in his favour; but luck, like fortune, is
blind, and tramples on those who court her most.  It was very dark
outside, as Mark groped his way along; but a muffled light showed him
where the cottage window was.  Three times he gave a long, low whistle,
and then knocked four distinct raps on the door, which was cautiously
opened by a man with a profusion of hair, beard and whiskers, which
looked as though they did not belong to him, as was probably the case,
not only with his hair, but with everything else that he wore, including
some tarnished ornaments.

"All right, sir, come in," he said, and Mark entered.

What a scene for a young man brought up as he had been!  Could he really
find any satisfaction in it?  Yes, birds that love carrion flock
together, and there was plenty of moral carrion here.  A long deal table
occupied the middle of the room, a smaller round one stood under the
window and supported a tray loaded with glasses and pipes, with a tall
black bottle in the midst of them.  The glasses were turned upside down
for the present, a pity it should not have been for the future too; they
looked with the bottle in the centre like a little congregation
surrounding a preacher.  Oh!  What a sermon of woe that bottle might
have preached to them!  But it didn't speak; it was to set on fire the
tongues of other speakers.  There was a coloured print over the
mantelpiece of Moses smiting the rock.  What a solemn contrast to the
streams of fire-water soon about to flow!  John Gubbins sat at the top
of the table, looking fat and anxious, half shy and half foolish; the
man with the false hair and ornaments placed himself next to him.  Three
other strangers were present, a mixture of sham gentility and swagger,
of whom it would be difficult to say which had descended into the lowest
depths of blackguardism.  And now business was begun; the glasses were
transferred to the larger table, the bottle uncorked, lemons and sugar
produced, and the poor kettle, made for better things, forced to defile
its healthful contents by mixture with liquid madness, in the shape of
whisky; then out came cards and dice.  But what sound was that?  Three
very faint trembling whistles, followed by four equally feeble taps at
the door?  Another madman, who was he?  Could it really be Jim Forbes,
the footman, that respectable, steady-looking young man, who waited
daily at the dining tables?  Alas!  It was indeed.  Jim was the son of a
poor widow, whose husband, a small farmer, had died of fever, leaving
behind him a large family, a small cottage, smaller savings, and a good
character; Jim was the eldest sort, and next to him was a poor crippled
sister, whose patient hands added a little to the common stock by
sewing; Jim, however, had been his widowed mother's mainstay since his
father's death, and a willing, loving helper he was: ay, he _had_ been,
but was he still?  Jim had got a place at "The Firs"; first of all as a
general helper, then as a footman, in which latter capacity he enjoyed
the very questionable privilege of waiting at table, and hearing what
was said at meals by Mr and Mrs Rothwell, their children, and guests.
What Jim learnt on these occasions was this, that money and strong drink
were the chief things worth living for.  He didn't believe it at first,
for he saw in his mother's cottage real happiness where there was little
money and less alcohol; he saw, too, on his suffering sister's brow a
gilding of heaven's sunshine more lovely than burnished gold, and a
smile on her thin pale lips, which grace and love made sweeter than the
most sparkling laugh of unsanctified beauty.  Still, what he heard so
constantly on the lips of those better educated than himself left its
mark; he began to long for things out of his reach, and to pilfer a
little and then a little more of what _was_ in his reach, not money, but
drink.  Indeed he heard so much about betting and gambling, his master's
guests seemed to find the cards and the dice box so convenient a way of
slipping a few pounds out of a friend's pocket into their own without
the trouble of giving an equivalent, that poor Jim got confused.  True,
he had learnt in the eighth commandment, when a boy, the words, "Thou
shalt not steal"; but these better-informed guests at Mr Rothwell's
seemed able to take a flying leap over this scriptural barrier without
any trouble, so he swallowed his scruples and his master's wine at the
same time, and thought he should like to have an opportunity of turning
a snug little legacy of a hundred pounds, left him by an uncle, into
something handsomer by a lucky venture or two.  Conscience was not
satisfied at first, but he silenced it by telling himself that he was
going to enrich his poor mother, and make a lady of his crippled sister.
Somehow or other there is a strange attraction that draws together
kindred spirits in evil.  Mark Rothwell found out what was going on in
Jim's mind, and determined to make use of him; only, of course, so as to
get himself out of a little difficulty.  Oh!  No!  He meant the poor lad
no harm; nay, he intended to put him in the way of making his fortune.
So one day after dinner Mark and the young man were closeted together
for an hour in the butler's pantry; wine flowed freely, and Jim was
given to understand that his young master was quite willing to admit his
humble companion into a choice little society of friends who were to
meet at the coachman's cottage on certain evenings, and play games of
chance, in which, after due instruction from Mark, a person of Jim's
intelligence would be sure to win a golden harvest without the tedious
process of tilling and sowing.  The instructions commenced there and
then in the pantry; several games were played, nearly all of which Jim
won to his great delight.  They only played "for love" this time, Mark
said, but it was difficult to see where the "love" was, except for the
drink, and there was plenty of that.  One little favour, however, was
required by the young master, for initiating Jim into the mysteries and
miseries of gambling, and that was that he should lend his instructor
what money he could spare, as Mark happened to be rather short just at
this time.  So Jim drew out a part of his legacy from the bank, and
deposited half in Mark's hands; the other half he took with him to the
coachman's cottage.  Oh!  It was a grand thing to be allowed to sit with
such company, and to hear the wonderful stories of the gentlemen who
condescended to come and place their stores of gold and silver within a
poor footman's reach.  What with the tales, and the songs, and the
whisky punch, Jim thought himself the happiest fellow alive the first
night he joined the party, especially when he found himself the winner
of three or four bright sovereigns, which had become his own for the
mere throwing down of a few cards, and a rattle or two of the dice box.
But all was not so pleasant the next morning.  Jim awoke with a sick
headache and a sore heart.  And what should he do with his winnings?  He
would take them to his mother: nay, the very thought stung him like a
serpent.  His mother would want to know how he got the gold; or, when he
threw it into her lap, she would say, "The Lord bless you, Jimmy, and
give it you back a hundredfold"; and his sister would clasp her wasted
hands in thankfulness, and he could not bear to think of a mother's
blessing and a sister's prayers over gains that were tainted with the
leprosy of sin.  So he kept the money, and the next night of meeting he
lost it, and more besides; and then another night he was a gainer; and
the gambler's thirst grew strong in him.  But loss soon followed loss.
His legacy was slipping surely down into the pockets of his new friends.
Cruel!  Cruel!  Heartless Mark!  And oh!  The cursed drink!  What
meanness is there to which it will not lead its slaves?

And now the night came we have before referred to.  John Gubbins sat at
the top of the table; Jim Forbes took his place near him.  The spirits
went round; the cards and dice were busy.  John Gubbins lost, and Mark
won.  Jim Forbes lost; and his cheeks flushed, and his eyes glittered
with excitement, and he ground his teeth together.  The strangers
affected to be surprised at his ill luck; really they couldn't
understand it, they said; they were quite sorry for him; but, "nothing
venture, nothing win"; _his_ turn would come next.  But it did not come
that night.  Jim had now drawn the whole of his legacy from the bank.
The last sovereign was staked; it was lost.  He sprang to his feet,
seized the uncut pack of cards, and hurled it to the further end of the
room; then he shook his fist at his new companions, calling them cheats
and villains.  Up darted the man with the exuberant hair, and up rose
Mark and Gubbins.  But what was _that_?  A strange noise outside.  The
dog in the kennel muttered a low growl, and then began to bark
furiously; then the approach of footsteps was plain; a deathlike
stillness fell on the whole party; the strangers caught up the cards and
dice, and looked this way and that, pale and aghast.  And now there came
a loud and peremptory knocking at the door, as of men who were
determined to find entrance.

"Who's there?" asked Gubbins, in quivering tones.

"Open the door," was the reply from a deep, loud voice.

"I can't, by no means, do nothing of the sort, at this unseasonable
hour," said the coachman, a little more boldly.

"Open the door, or I'll force it," said the same voice.

Poor Mark!  And poor, wretched Jim!  How utterly guilty and crestfallen
they looked!  As for the gamblers, they cowered together, in abject
terror, not daring to attempt a retreat by the back, lest the enemy
should be lurking for them there.

"Will you open the door, or will you not?"

No answer from within.

Then came a tremendous blow; then a foot was seen forcing its way over
the doorsill, another moment, and the barrier to the entrance of the
invaders gave way with a rattling crash.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

BITTER FRUIT.

No sooner was the door burst open, than in rushed several stout men, who
proceeded to seize and handcuff the four strangers, who made but the
faintest show of resistance.  John Gubbins shook with abject terror, as
he tried in vain to double up his fat person into a small compass in a
corner.  Jim Forbes stood speechless for a moment, and then darted out
through the open doorway.  As for Mark Rothwell, what with shame and
dismay, and semi-intoxication from whisky punch, his position and
appearance were anything but enviable.  He recovered himself, however,
in a few minutes, and turned fiercely on the intruders.

"By what right, and by whose authority," he cried, "do you dare to break
into my coachman's house, and to lay violent hands on these gentlemen?"

"By this warrant, young sir," said the chief of the invading party,
producing a parchment.  "I'm a detective; I've been looking after these
_gentlemen_ a long time; they are part of a regular gang of pickpockets
and swindlers, and we've a case or two against 'em as 'll keep 'em at
home, under lock and key, for a bit.  I'm sorry we've been so rough, but
I was afraid of losing 'em.  I didn't think to find 'em in such company,
and I hope, young gent, if you'll let me give you a word of advice, that
you'll keep clear of such as these for the future for your own sake."

Alas!  Poor Mark!  Crestfallen and wretched, he slunk away home.

And what had become of Jim Forbes?  Nobody knew at "The Firs."  He was
missing that night and the next day.  Mr Rothwell asked for him at
breakfast, and was told that he had not slept in the house the night
before, and was nowhere to be found.  The day passed away, but Jim did
not make his appearance.

It was a dark November evening: a dim light twinkled through the
casement of Mrs Forbes' cottage: the wind was whistling and sighing
mournfully, sometimes lulling for a while, and then rising and rushing
through crack and crevice with a wild complaining moan.  Inside that
little dwelling were weeping eyes and aching hearts.  Upstairs all was
peace; four little children lay fast asleep in the inner chamber, twined
in each other's ruddy arms, their regular breathing contrasting, in its
deep peace, with the fitful sighings of the wind; yet on the long
eyelashes of one of the little sleepers there stood a glistening tear,
and from the parted lips there came, now and again, the words, "Brother
Jim."

But ah!  No blessed sleep stilled the throbbing hearts of those who
cowered over the scanty fire in the kitchen below; Jim's mother and
crippled sister.  Was it poverty that made them sad?  No.  Poverty was
there, but it was very neat and cleanly poverty.  No, it was not poverty
that wrung the bitter tears from the eyes of those heart-sick watchers;
they were rich in faith; they could trust God; they could afford to
wait.  It wasn't _that_.  Jim!  Poor Jim!  Poor erring Jim!  How changed
he had been of late; none of his old brightness; none of his old love.
It wasn't so much that he brought his mother no welcome help now; it was
hard to miss it, but she could battle on without.  It wasn't that
crippled Sally's cheek grew paler because she was forced to do without
the little comforts supplied so long by a brother's thoughtful love,
though it was harder still to miss these.  No, but it was that mother
and daughter both saw, too plainly, that Jim was going down-hill, and
that too with quickening steps.  They saw that he was getting the slave
of the drink, and they feared that there was worse behind; and, of
course, there was: for when did ever the drink-fiend get an immortal
being into his grasp without bringing a companion demon along with him?
And now, this very day, Jim was reported to them as being missing from
"The Firs," and dark suspicions and terrible rumours were afloat, and
John Gubbins' name and the young master's name were mixed up with them.
Mother and daughter sat there together by the dying embers, and
shuddered closer to one another at each moaning of the blast.

"Oh, mother!  I'm heartbroke," at last burst out from the poor girl's
lips: "to think of our Jim, so kind, so good, 'ticed away by that
miserable drink, and gone nobody knows where."

"Hush!  Hush!  Child, ye mustn't fret; I've faith to believe as the Lord
'll not forsake us: He'll bring our Jim back again: He'll hear a
mother's prayer: He'll--"

But here a sudden sound of uneven footsteps made the poor widow start to
her feet, and Sally to cry out.  The next moment the door was rudely
shaken, and then Jim staggered into the room, haggard, blear-eyed,
muttering to himself savagely.  The sight of his mother and sister
seemed partially to sober him, for the spirit within him bowed
instinctively before the beauty of holiness, which neither poverty nor
terror could obliterate from the face of those whom he used to love so
dearly.  But the spell was soon broken.

"I say," he exclaimed, "what's to do here?  I want my supper; I haven't
scarce tasted to-day, and nobody cares for me no more nor a dog.  I say,
mother, stir yourself, and get me my supper."  He flung himself into a
chair, with an oath, as he almost lost his balance.

Oh!  Misery!  Misery!  Every word was a separate stab, but Mrs Forbes
restrained herself.

"Jim, dear," she said, soothingly, "we've nothing in the house for
supper: we didn't expect you: we hoped you'd gone back to your
master's."

"Ah!  There it is!  Didn't expect me!  No supper!  This is all I'm to
get after spending all my wages on them as don't care to give me a
mouthful of meat and a drop of drink when I want 'em!"

"Jim!  Jim!  Don't," exclaimed his poor sister, "oh!  Don't!  For the
Lord's sake!  You'll repent it bitterly by-and-by!  Oh!  It can't be our
dear, kind Jim, as God sent to help and comfort us!  We'd give you meat
and drink, if we had them, but the last crumb's gone, and mother's never
bitten to-day!"

"Nonsense!  Don't tell _me_!  None of your humbug and cant with me!  If
I can't get supper where I ought, I'll get it where I can!  I'll not
darken this door again as sure as my name's Jim Forbes!"

With a scowl, and a curse, and a slam of the door that startled the
little ones from their sleep, the miserable son flung himself out of his
home.  The next day he enlisted; the day following he was gone
altogether.

Weep!  Weep!  Ye holy angels!  Howl with savage glee, ye mocking fiends!
See what the drink can do!  And yet, O wondrous strange!  There are
thinking men, loving men, Christian men, who tell us we are wrong, we
are mad in trying to pluck the intoxicating cup away from men and women,
and to keep it wholly out of the hands of little children and upgrowing
boys and girls.  Mad are we?  Be it so; but there's method, there's holy
love, there's heavenly wisdom in our madness.

A month had passed away, but no tidings of Jim Forbes; no letter telling
of penitence or love.  Oh!  If he would only write: only just a word:
only to say, "Mother, sister, I love you still."  But no; hearts must
wither, hearts must break, as the idol car of intemperance holds on its
way, crushing out life temporal and eternal from thousands and tens of
thousands who throw themselves madly under its wheels.  But must it be
so for ever?--No!  It cannot, it shall not be, God helping us; for their
rises up a cry to heaven against the unholy traffic in strong drink; a
cry that _must_ be heard.

The snow was falling fast, but not faster nor more softly than the tears
of the widowed mother and the crippled daughter, as they bowed
themselves down before the cold bars, which ought to have enclosed a
mass of glowing coals on that pitiless December day; but only a dull red
spark or two, amid a heap of dust, just twinkled in the grate, and
seemed to mock their wretchedness.  Cold!  Cold!  Everything was cold
there but faith and love.  Food there was none!  But on the little table
lay the open Bible; and just beneath those weary, swollen _eyes_, were
the words, "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither
shall the sun light on them nor any heat; for the Lamb which is in the
midst of the throne shall feed them, and lead them to living fountains
of waters, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."  But what
were those voices?  Were they the voices of angels?  Poor, shivering,
weary watchers!  They might almost seem so to you.  Anyhow, they were
very gentle, loving voices; and now they ask admittance.  Mrs Franklin
and Mary entered; and, though not angels, they were come to do angels'
work, as messengers of love and mercy.  Tea, and bread and butter, and
eggs, and divers other comforts came suddenly to light from under the
wide folds of the ladies' cloaks, and then the visitors sat down, and
stopped the outburst of tearful thanks by bright loving words of pity
and interest.

"Oh, ma'am!  It is true, but I never knowed afore how true it was that
God will never forsake His own.  I'd well nigh given up all for lost."

"Nay, mother," said Sally; "it wasn't you, it was me; _your_ faith held
out still."

"I was very, very sorry to hear of your troubles," said Mrs Franklin
after a pause; "but you mustn't despair; God will bring your poor son
back again."

"Oh!  I believe it, ma'am, but it is hard not to doubt when one's cold
and hunger-bitten; he was such a good lad to us afore he took to that
miserable drink."

"Well, we must pray for him, and I daresay Mr and Mrs Rothwell will
stand your friends."

"Friends!  Ma'am," cried the poor woman; "oh!  You don't know, ma'am;
look, ma'am, at yon empty cupboard; there ought to be meat and drink
there, ma'am, and earned by honest labour.  It is not an hour, ma'am,
since I was up at `The Firs,' taking back some work as my poor Sally did
for the young ladies (she's a beautiful sewer, is our Sally, there's
none to match her in all Hopeworth), and I'd a fortnight's charing as I
was owed for.  I'd left the little ones with a kind neighbour, so I went
up to the house and asked to see the missus: she couldn't see me, but I
begged hard; and they showed me up into the drawing-room.  Mrs Rothwell
was lying on a `sofy,' and there was wine on a table close by, and the
young ladies was all crowding round the fire, contradicting their
mother, and quarrelling with one another.  `Oh!  For goodness' sake
don't interrupt us,' says one of the young ladies, and their mamma bids
me sit down; and there I sat for a long time, till Miss Jane had
finished a fairy tale; something about a young lady as was shut up in a
castle to be eaten by a giant; and how a young gentleman fell in love
with her, and got a fairy to turn her into a bird, and get her out of
the castle: and they all cried over the story as if their hearts would
break, and when it was over they all had some wine; and Mrs Rothwell,
who had been crying very much too, asked me what I wanted.  So I told
her as I'd come to my last penny, and I should be very thankful if she'd
be so good as to pay me for my work, and for what our Sally had been
doing for the young ladies.  Then she fired up at once, and told me she
thought it very impertinent in me coming and teasing her in that way, as
she meant to pay me as soon as it was convenient; and oh!  Ma'am!  Then
she asked me what I wanted for Sally's work; and when I told her, she
said I charged too much, though I didn't ask above half as they'd ask
for it in Hopeworth; and then she nearly cut my heart in two by saying
(Oh, ma'am!  I can't scarce bear to repeat it), that I shouldn't have
come to pester her if it hadn't been for my idle vagabond of a son (them
was the very words she used, ma'am), as had run away and left his place.
Oh, Mrs Franklin!  You're a mother; you know how I must feel for my
poor wanderer, for he's my own flesh and blood still.  I dursn't speak;
I couldn't stay; and I've come back penniless as I went: but the Lord
has sent you to help me, and I'll never doubt Him again."

"Never do," said her visitor; "I'll find you and Sally work for the
present, and try and think charitably of Mrs Rothwell; she may mean
more kindly than she has spoken."

"Mean kindly!  Oh!  Dear Mrs Franklin!  The drink has washed out all
kindness: there's ruin hanging over that house, not as I wishes it to
them, but it is so.  The children's been brought up to think of just
nothing but themselves; their eating and drinking, and dressing, and
playing: there's sipping in the parlour all day long; drinking in the
dining-room; swilling in the kitchen.  Our poor Jim's seen his betters
there living as if men, women, and children had nothing to do in this
world but to drown the thoughts of the next in drink and pleasure, and
he's learnt his lesson too well; but I trust the Lord 'll take the book
out of his hand, and teach him the better way again."

"I'm afraid what you say is too true," remarked Mrs Franklin, sadly;
"if our young people continue to be brought up in such self-indulgent
habits, we may well expect to hear God crying aloud by His judgments,
`Woe to the drunkards of England,' as He once cried, `Woe to the
drunkards of Ephraim.'"



CHAPTER EIGHT.

A DOUBLE PERIL.

"I'll tell you what it is, Mark, I _must_ have a stop put to this: my
patience is quite worn out.  Do you think I'm made of money?  Do you
think I can coin money as fast as you choose to spend it?  You'll ruin
me with your thoughtless, selfish extravagance, and break your mother's
heart and mine by your drunkenness and folly, that you will."

These words, uttered in a tone of passionate bitterness, were spoken by
Mr Rothwell to his son in the hall at "The Firs," as the young man was
urging his father to grant him a considerable sum to pay some pressing
debts.  At the same moment Mr John Randolph came out of the drawing-
room, and could not help overhearing what was being said.

Mr Rothwell turned fiercely upon him:

"What right have _you_, sir, to be intruding on my privacy?" he cried,
nettled at his rebuke having been overheard by a stranger.

"I am not conscious of being guilty of any intrusion," said the other
quietly.

"You _are_ intruding," cried Mark, glad to vent his exasperation at his
father's reproaches on somebody, and specially glad of an opportunity of
doing so on the music-master.

"You shall not need to make the complaint again then," said Mr
Randolph, calmly, "my lessons to your sisters will cease from to-day;"
and with a stiff bow he closed the door behind him.

Rather more than two years had elapsed since Jim Forbes' enlistment when
the scene just described took place.  Mark had been sinking deeper and
deeper in the mire; he was scarcely ever sober except when visiting the
Franklins, on which occasions he was always on his guard, though his
excited manner, and the eagerness with which he tossed down the few
glasses of wine to which he, evidently with difficulty, restricted
himself, made a most painful impression not only _on_ Mrs Franklin, but
also on her daughter.

Mary was now nineteen, and shone with the brightness which the gentle
light of holiness casts on every word and feature.  She was full of
innocent cheerfulness, and was the joy of all who knew her.  Mark loved
her as much as he could love anything that was not himself, and tried to
make himself acceptable to her.  Mary _hoped_ the best about him, but
that hope had begun to droop for some time past.  He had never yet
ventured to declare his affection to her; somehow or other he could not.
A little spark of nobleness still remained in him unquenched by the
drink, and it lighted him to see that to bind Mary to himself for life
would be to tie her to a living firebrand that would scorch and shrivel
up beauty, health and peace.  He dared not speak: before her unsullied
loveliness his drink-envenomed lips were closed: he could rattle on in
wild exuberance of spirits, but he could not yet venture to ask her to
be his.  And she?  She pitied him deeply, and her heart's affections
hovered over him; would they settle there?  If so, lost!  Lost!  All
peace would be lost: how great her peril!

Another visit from Mr Tankardew: the old man had been a frequent
caller, and was ever welcome.  That he cherished a fatherly love for
Mary was evident; indeed his heart seemed divided between herself and
the young musician, Mr John Randolph, who, though he had ceased to give
lessons at "The Firs," was most scrupulously punctual in his attendance
at "The Shrubbery."

It was a bright summer's morning as the old man sat in the drawing-room
where Mary and her mother were engaged in the mysteries of the needle.

"Let me hear your last piece, my child," he said; "John tells me that he
will soon have nothing more to teach you."

Mary sat down and played with loving grace, till the old man bowed his
head upon his hands and wept.

"`Home, sweet home!'" he murmured.  "Ay; you have played that lovely air
with variations as if you felt it: you know what a sweet home is, Mary;
I knew it once.  `Home, sweet home!'" he added again, with a sigh.

There was a pause: then he went on: "There are plenty of homes that
aren't sweet; homes with variations enough and to spare in them; but
they're variations of misery.  I hope you'll never have one of those
homes, my child."

Mary coloured deeply, and her mother's eyes filled with tears.  Mr
Tankardew looked earnestly at them both.

"No danger of any but sweet variations _here_," he said; "but all new
homes are not sweet homes--there's no sweetness that will last where the
barrel, the bottle, and the spirit-flask play a trio of discords:
they'll drown all the harmonies of harp and piano.  Promise me two
things, my child;" he added, abruptly.

"What are they?" asked Mary, timidly and tearfully.

"Just these: promise me to become a pledged abstainer; and promise me
that you'll never marry a man that loves the drink."

Poor Mary burst into tears, but her mother came to her aid, and said:

"I don't quite see what good Mary's signing the pledge will do.  She has
taken neither beer nor wine for some time past, so that she does all
that is needed in the way of example."

"No, she does not, madam, if you'll excuse my being so blunt.  She just
does not do what will make her example _tell_.  Power for good comes
through combination; the devil knows it well enough, and he gets
drunkards to band together in clubs; and worldly people band together in
clubs, and back one another up and concentrate their forces.  All who
see the curse and misery of the drink should sign, and not stand apart
as solitary abstainers; they won't do the same good; it is by uniting
together that the great work is done by God's blessing.  A body of
Christian abstainers united in the same work, and bound by the same
pledge, attract others, and give them something to lean on and cling to:
and that is one reason why we want children to combine in Bands of Hope.
Why, I've seen a man light a fire with a piece of glass, but how did he
do it?  Not by putting the fuel under one ray of the sun; not by
carrying it about from place to place in the sunshine; but by gathering,
with the help of the glass, all the little rays together into one hot
bright focus.  And so we want to gather together the power and influence
of total abstainers in Total Abstinence Societies and Bands of Hope, by
their union through the pledge as a common bond.  We want to set hearts
on fire with a holy love that shall make them burn to rescue poor slaves
of the drink from their misery and ruin.  Won't you help?  Can you hold
back?  Are not souls perishing by millions through the drink, and is any
sacrifice too dear to make, any cross too heavy to take up in such a
cause?"

The old man had risen, and was walking up and down the room with great
swinging strides.  Then he stopped abruptly and waited for an answer.

"I'm sure," said Mrs Franklin, "we would both sign if it could do any
real good."

"It _will_ do good, it _must_ do good: sign now;" he produced a pledge-
book: "no time like the present."

The signatures were made, and then Mr Tankardew, clasping his thin
hands together, and lifting up his eyes to heaven, offered a short
emphatic prayer that God would bless and strengthen these His servants,
and enable them by His grace to be a blessing to others as pledged
abstainers.  And then he turned again to Mary, and said:

"You have given me the one promise; will you give me the other?  Will
you promise me that you will never knowingly marry a man who loves the
drink?"

Mary buried her face in her hands.  A few moments, and no one spoke.

"Hear me, my child," cried the old man, again beginning to pace the room
with measured strides; "you are dear to me, very dear, for you're the
image of one lost to me years ago, long weary years ago.  I cannot bear
to see you offered as another victim on the altar of the Drink-Moloch:
he has had victims enough: too many, too many.  Do you wish to wither
into a premature grave?  Do you wish to see the light die out of your
mother's smile?  Then marry a drink-worshipper.  Do you wish to tremble
every time you hear the footstep of the man who has turned `sweet home'
into a shuddering prison? then marry a drink-worshipper.  Do you wish to
see little children hide the terror of their eyes in your lap and
tremble at the name of father?  Then marry a drink-worshipper.  Stay,
stay, I'm an old fool to break out in this way, and scare you out of
your wits;" for Mary and her mother were both sobbing bitterly: "forgive
me, but don't forget me; there, let us change the subject."

But Mary had checked her sobs, and, rising up calm and beautiful in her
tears, she laid her hand lovingly on the old man's arm, and said, gently
but firmly:

"Dear old friend, thank you for what you have said.  I promise you that
never will I knowingly marry one who loves intoxicating drinks."

"God bless you, my child.  You have taken a load off the old man's
heart, and off your mother's too, I know."

Would Mary keep her word?  She was soon to be put to the test.  Though
Mark hesitated to propose to Mary Franklin, his mother had no scruples
on the subject.  He had now come to man's estate, and she wished him to
marry; specially she wished him to marry Mrs Franklin's daughter, as
Mary would enjoy a nice little income when she came of age, and Mark's
prospects were cloudy enough as far as anything from his father was
concerned.  Besides, she hoped that marrying Mary would steady her son--
a favourite scheme with mothers of drunkards.  As for Mary's own peace
or happiness, she never gave them a thought.  The experiment would be
something like caging a tiger and a lamb together for the purpose of
subduing the tiger's ferocity; pleasant enough for the tiger, but simply
destruction to the lamb.  However, Mrs Rothwell pressed Mark to
propose, so he yielded after a faint resistance, and now watched for his
opportunity.

It was a sweet July evening: the sun was near his setting, and was
casting long shadows across the lawn at the back of "The Shrubbery."
Mrs Franklin was sitting on a garden seat reading, her attention
divided between her book and the glowing tints of a bed of flowers all
ablaze with variegated beauty.  A little shaded walk turned off near
this seat into the kitchen garden, which was separated from the flower
garden in this quarter by a deep ravine, at the bottom of which ran a
trout stream.  The ravine was crossed by a rustic bridge.  Mr John
Randolph had been calling at the house with some music, and, being now
looked upon more in the light of a friend than an instructor, had the
privilege of making a short cut to the turnpike road over this foot
bridge and through the kitchen garden.  Mark Rothwell also usually
availed himself of this more direct approach to the house.  On the
present occasion the two young men met in the kitchen garden, and passed
each other by without recognition, Mark hurrying forward to make his
proposal, his already intense excitement inflamed by strong drink, which
he had taken with less caution than on his ordinary visits to "The
Shrubbery"; John Randolph lingering on his way in a somewhat
discontented mood, which was not improved by the sight of Mark.
Suddenly the stillness was broken by a loud scream and cry for help: it
was Mary Franklin's voice.  Both the young men rushed towards the
bridge, and beheld a sight which filled them with dismay.  Mary had
strolled from her mother's side to the little foot bridge, and, filled
with sorrowful thoughts, leant against the rustic parapet.  The
woodwork, which was inwardly decayed, gave way beneath her weight; she
tried to recover herself but in vain, and fell over the side of the
bridge, still, however, managing to keep herself from plunging into the
stream by clinging to a creaking fragment of the broken rails.  Her
dress also helped to stay her up, having become entangled with the
woodwork.  Mark reached the bridge first, but was so confused by drink
and excitement that he scarcely knew what he was doing, when he felt
himself flung aside by the strong arm of John Randolph, who sprang
forward, and stooping down endeavoured to raise the poor terrified girl,
but for a few moments without success: indeed his own strength began to
fail, and it seemed as if both must be precipitated into the stream, if
assistance had not come from another quarter.  The gardener hearing the
cries hurried up, and, lending his powerful help, Mary was delivered
from her peril, and was carried, fainting and bruised, into the house by
her two rescuers, before Mark Rothwell had fairly recovered himself from
the fall which John Randolph had given him in his haste.  But now,
boiling with wrath and vexation, Mark made his way to the front door,
and disregarding in the blindness of his passion the sight of Mary just
recovering consciousness, and of Mrs Franklin who was bending over her
in mingled grief and thankfulness, he turned furiously upon John, who
was just retiring, and shaking his fist in his face, cried out:

"How dare you interfere with me, sir?  I'll not put up with this
insolence from my sisters' discarded music-master."

The face of the other flushed crimson for a moment, then with unruffled
voice he replied:

"Better, Mr Mark, to be a master of music and of one's self, than a
slave of the drink.  I wish you good evening."



CHAPTER NINE.

THE CRISIS.

Several weeks had passed by after the accident and timely rescue, weeks
of anxious watching and tender nursing, before Mary Franklin was
sufficiently recovered from the shock and injuries she had received to
appear again among her friends.  Many had been the inquiries made by
Mark and Mr Tankardew, and once or twice by John Randolph.

It was on a calm Sabbath morning that mother and daughter first walked
beyond their own grounds, and made their way to the little village
church.  Public thanks were offered that day for Mary's wonderful
preservation, and many a loving eye looked through tears at the pale,
serene face of her who had been so mercifully rescued.  Was Mark
Rothwell there?--no; but there was one who could not help gazing for a
few moments, with a deeper sentiment than admiring pity, at the fair
young girl, as the words of holy praise "for the late mercies vouchsafed
unto her" were uttered by the minister: it was John Randolph.  They met
after service at the gate of the churchyard, and the young man having
expressed his heartfelt congratulations, after a moment's hesitation
offered Mary his arm, which she gently declined.  A slight shade of
mingled shame, sadness, and annoyance clouded his face for a moment, and
as quickly passed away.  Mary was struggling to say something to him
expressive of her gratitude, but before she could put it into shape he
was gone.

The next day brought Mr Tankardew to "The Shrubbery."  The old man drew
Mary to him in the fulness of his heart, and blessed her, calling her
his child.  "Well, what have the doctors made of you?" he asked, rather
abruptly.

"Made of me?" asked Mary, laughing.

"Yes, made of you, they never could make anything _of_ me or _by_ me;
but what have they made of _you_?"

"You puzzle me," replied the other.

"Did they put labels on all their physic bottles?"

"My dear sir," interposed Mrs Franklin, "I'm thankful to say that our
doctor has prescribed little else than rest and tonics."

"And were the tonics labelled?"

"Oh!  I understand you now.  Mary has not broken her pledge, she would
take no wine."

"Excellent girl!  Of course she was ordered wine?"

"Oh!  Yes; and ale or porter too.  The doctor almost insisted on it."

"Of course he did; they always do.  Ah!  Well!  Brave girl!  You said
no."

"Yes, I felt convinced that I should do as well without beer or wine,
and I have had no cause to regret that I did not take them."

"Bravo!  You'll _never_ regret it.  You must help us to fight the
doctors: they mean well, some of them; but most of them are building up
the palace of intemperance faster than we can pull it down.  `The doctor
ordered it;' that's an excuse with thousands to drown their souls in
drink.  I wonder if they'd swallow a shovelful of red hot coals if the
doctor ordered it?"

Summer had now given place to autumn; it was a bright September day when
the above conversation took place.  When Mr Tankardew rose to go, Mrs
Franklin and Mary volunteered to accompany him a little way.  So they
went forth, and a sweet and pleasant sight it was, the hale, grey-haired
veteran still full of fire, yet checking his steps to keep pace with the
young girl's feebler tread: she, all gentleness and sober gladness, and
her mother happy in the abiding trust of a believing heart.

They passed out of the grounds across a lane thickly shaded by trees,
whose foliage was beginning to change its summer hue for the gorgeous
varieties of autumnal colouring.  Then they followed a winding path that
skirted a wide sea of wheat, which rose and fell in rustling waves,
disclosing now and again bright dazzling gleams of the scarlet poppy.
At the end of this field was a stile leading into the highroad to
Hopeworth.  Here they paused, and were just about to part, when the
sound of a horse's feet in rapid but very irregular motion arrested
their attention.  The animal and his rider soon came into view, the
latter evidently keeping his seat with difficulty.  There was plainly a
struggle of some kind going on between the brute and the _rational_
being who was mounted on him, and while drawing the reins tight with one
hand, was belabouring the poor creature about the head most unmercifully
with a heavy hunting whip.  The horse not appreciating the advantages of
this treatment at the hands of its _intellectual_ owner, was resisting
by a shuffling, remonstrating sort of gallop; while his rider, who was
evidently a practised horseman, seemed to stick to his saddle by a kind
of instinct, having little else to guide him, for his hat was completely
shaken down over his eyes.

Mr Tankardew's indignation was kindled in a moment.

"The wretch!  The drunken beast!" he cried; "serve him right if his
horse pitches him head foremost into the first ditch with any dirty
water in it."

On came the contending pair, the man swaying from side to side, but
nevertheless marvellously retaining his seat.  At the sight of the
ladies, or at a sudden movement forward of Mr Tankardew, the animal
swerved and almost unseated his tormentor, who, however, recovered
himself, but in doing so lost his hat, as the poor beast again plunged
forward with his almost unconscious burden.  The horseman took no notice
of his loss, nor did he see who were the spectators of his sinful
degradation, but to them he was fully revealed: it was Mark Rothwell.
Another minute and he was out of sight.

Mary sank, with a bitter cry, into her mother's arms, while Mr
Tankardew sprang forward to support them both.  In a moment or two,
however, the ladies had recovered themselves, and turned homewards.  The
old man saw that they would prefer to be alone, so, with a kind and
courteous farewell, he made his way with slow strides towards the town.

"Humph!" he muttered to himself; "`Good entertainment for man and
beast,' that's what they put over some of these alcohol shops.  I'd like
to know which was the beast just now.  Entertainment!  Ay, very
entertaining, such a sight to the devil and his angels.  O miserable
drink!  Haven't you drowned souls enough yet?"

Two days after this disgraceful exposure of himself, Mark Rothwell made
an early call at "The Shrubbery."  He was utterly ignorant of his having
been seen in his drunkenness by Mrs Franklin and her daughter, and was
scrupulously sober on the present occasion, and full of good
resolutions, as habitual drunkards very commonly are after an outbreak
of more than usual violence.  He was quite convinced--at least he was
enjoying a good deal of cheerful self-congratulation on the supposed
conviction--that he never would exceed again; so in the strength of this
conviction, he entered the room where Mary and her mother were sitting,
with a confident step, though he could not quite keep down every feeling
of misgiving.  Still, it never occurred to him that Mary could possibly
refuse him.  He had too high an opinion of himself: he was such a
general favourite and so popular, that he felt sure any young lady of
his acquaintance would esteem herself honoured by the offer of his hand.
He was well aware, it is true, that Mary had a horror of drunkenness;
but he flattered himself, first, that he could persuade her that he
meant to be sober for the future, and a total abstainer too if she
required it; and then, that he had got a sufficient hold upon her heart,
or at any rate regard, to make her willing to accept him without any
stipulations rather than lose him.  Strong in these impressions, he had
now come over to make a formal proposal.  The manner, however, of mother
and daughter disturbed him; something he saw was amiss; there was a
sadness and constraint in the words of both which distressed and
embarrassed him.  After a brief conversation on commonplace topics Mary
rose hastily and left the room.  Mark hesitated, but feeling that he
must seize the opportunity, he at once asked Mrs Franklin's permission
to avow his attachment to her daughter.

A long and painful pause: broken, at last, by Mrs Franklin's reply,
that she could not advise her daughter to encourage his addresses.

Mark was thunderstruck!  For several minutes surprise and mortification
kept him silent.  At last he exclaimed:

"But what does Mary wish herself?  We've known each other so long; she
knows I love her, she must know it.  I'm sure she would not refuse me;
may I not see her?  May I not have `yes,' or `no,' from her own lips?"

"I will ask her," was the reply; and poor Mark was left for half an hour
to his own not very agreeable reflections.  At the end of that time Mrs
Franklin returned, with a sealed letter in her hand.

"Mary does not feel equal to seeing you now," she said, "and indeed I
could not recommend her doing so at present.  She sends you this letter
instead; do not read it now," for Mark was tearing it open, "but wait
till you can give it your calm and full attention."

Mark would have remonstrated, but Mrs Franklin's quiet decision
restrained him; he flung himself out of the house, and on reaching the
highway, burst open the envelope and read as follows:--

  "Dear Mark,--We have always been friends, and I hope shall remain so;
  but we can never be anything more to one another.  I have solemnly
  resolved in God's sight that I will never marry a drunkard, and I
  never will.  I was witness to your ill-usage of your poor horse the
  other day, when you were intoxicated; I cannot forget it; my mind is
  made up, I cannot alter it, and my dear mother entirely approves of my
  decision.  I thank you for your offer, and pray that you may have
  grace given you to forsake the sin which has made it impossible that
  there can ever be more than a feeling of sincere interest and
  kindliness towards yourself, from yours truly,--

  "Mary Franklin."

Mark Rothwell tore the letter, when he had glanced through it, into
bits, dashed them on the ground, and, with loud imprecations, stamped on
them.  There was a fire in his heart, a mad desire for revenge; he was,
what drunkards must be, essentially selfish.  Wounded vanity,
disappointed affection, bitter jealousy, were the fuel to that fire.  He
had no thought now of remonstrance with Mary: he had no _wish_ to
remonstrate: his one great burning desire was to be revenged.  He rushed
home, but found little to cheer him there.  For months past a cloud had
hung over "The Firs," which had become denser and darker every day.  And
now it was come abroad that Mr Rothwell was bankrupt.  It was too true:
the reckless expenditure of Mark, and the incautious good nature of Mr
Rothwell, which had led him, under the influence of free living, to
engage in disastrous speculations, had brought ruin on the miserable
family.  A few more weeks and "The Firs" was untenanted.

But, in the midst of all this darkness, there shone forth a ray of
heavenly light.

It was near midnight of the day when the sale of Mr Rothwell's effects
had taken place at "The Firs."  A candle twinkled still in the cottage
of Mrs Forbes, for there was work to be sent home early on the morrow,
and neither lateness nor weariness might suspend their anxious toil.
Lame Sally and her mother had been talking over, what was in everyone's
mouth and thoughts, the sad downfall of the Rothwells.  They saw God's
hand in it, but they did not rejoice; they had found their Saviour true
to His word, and enjoyed a peace in casting their care on Him which they
knew all the wealth of the world could not have given them.  Only one
thing they still prayed for which the Lord had not yet granted: Jim,
poor Jim!  But what was that?  A footstep: how their hearts beat!  Could
it be the old familiar tread?  Yes; Jim, but no longer drunken,
gambling, prodigal Jim, was next moment at his mother's feet, and a
minute after with his arms round his sister's neck.  And there was
weeping, but not for sorrow, in that cottage, and there was joy before
the angels of heaven over a repentant sinner.  Jim was come back.  A
mother's and sister's prayers had reached him and drawn him home.  He
was sober now: he was a pledged abstainer: he had brought his pay in his
hand and love in his heart; and that night, while the shadows lay thick
around the deserted mansion of "The Firs," and not even the wail of
sorrow broke the stillness, there was light and music and peace in that
humble cottage; the light of love, the music of thanksgiving, and "the
peace of God which passeth understanding."



CHAPTER TEN.

DESPERATE DOINGS.

It is not to be supposed that Mary Franklin could mourn very deeply the
departure of Mark Rothwell.  Recent events had worn out the old
impressions of tenderness.  All that was bright and attractive in Mark
had melted away before the scorching, withering flame of alcohol.  She
had heard his cruel taunts to her preserver on the evening of her
rescue; she had seen him shamefully intoxicated when ill-using his poor
horse.  Could she cherish love or tenderness for such a being as this?
Impossible!  She was thankful to forget him.  O misery!  Why do so many
of the good and noble frown upon those who would keep the intoxicating
cup altogether out of the hands of the young?  What do the young lose by
never tasting it?  Not health, not cheerfulness, not self-respect, not
self-control.  No!  And what do they gain by tasting?  Too often, habits
of ruinous self-indulgence; too often a thirst which grows with years;
too often a withered manhood or womanhood, and a decrepit and
dishonoured old age.

October was drawing to its close: nothing had been heard of the
Rothwells, and their old dwelling was now occupied by another tenant.
John Randolph's visits to "The Shrubbery" began to be more frequent, and
were certainly not unacceptable.  Gratitude to him for her rescue
forbade Mary's repelling him; and, indeed, the more she and her mother
came to know him, the more they learnt to value his manly and Christian
character.  They began likewise to perceive that he was more than he
seemed to be.  Mr Tankardew had given them to understand latterly that
he was their equal both in birth and fortune.  A mystery there was about
him, it was true; but the veil was now getting so thin that they could
both see pretty distinctly through it, but were content to wait for the
proper time of its withdrawal.  And so it was felt by all that, in time,
John Randolph and Mary Franklin would be drawn together by a closer bond
than that of esteem and respect, but no one as yet gave outspoken
expression to this conviction.

Things were thus hanging in no unpleasing suspense, when, in the
twilight of an October evening, two men of rather suspicious appearance
might have been seen climbing the paling _fence_ at the back of "The
Shrubbery."  Scarcely had one of them reached the top, when a third
person approached, at first hastily; then he suddenly checked himself,
and cautiously crept along, so as to keep himself out of the sight of
the two others who were climbing into the grounds.  This third person
was John Randolph, who had lately left "The Shrubbery," and had come
round by the road at the back, to call, by Mrs Franklin's request, on a
poor sick cottager in the village.  The road in this part was lonely,
and the trespassers evidently imagined themselves unobserved.  The first
who scaled the palings was a stoutish, middle-aged man: but who was the
other?  Randolph's heart beat violently with a terrible suspicion.  Did
he know this second figure?  He could not be quite sure, for he was
afraid to approach too near; but he was almost convinced that he had
seen him before.  When fairly over the fence, both men crept along as
quietly as possible under the shelter of a large bank of evergreens.  He
who had climbed over last led the way, and was plainly well acquainted
with the grounds; he was a much younger man than his companion, and
seemed scarcely sober, yet without having lost self-possession and the
knowledge of what he was doing.  John waited till they were fairly out
of hearing, and then himself rapidly and noiselessly followed them
towards the house under cover of the laurels.  It was now getting very
dusk, but he could manage to track them till they had reached some
outhouses, along the wall of which they crawled, crouching down.  And
now they had arrived at the rear of the house, and stood in shadow
opposite a back passage window.  Randolph crept silently up and squeezed
himself behind a huge water-butt, where he was perfectly concealed, and
could overhear part of the conversation now hurriedly held between the
two burglars, if such they were.

"You're sure the man does not sleep in the house?" asked the elder man.

"Sure," replied the second, in a husky whisper.  John Randolph felt
pretty certain that he knew the voice, but he hardly dared think it.

"Where's the plate chest?"

"Don't know: most likely in the pantry."

John was now confident that he knew the speaker.

"Hush!" whispered the elder man, fiercely, "this passage window 'll do:
it won't take much to prise it open: you'll look after the women."

"Trust _me_ for that," muttered the other; and Randolph thought he heard
a click, as of the cocking of a pistol.

"Hush, you fool!" growled the older burglar, with an oath: then there
was a few moments' silence, and the two crept back.  They sat down under
the shelter of some large shrubs, with their backs to John, who could
only just make them out from his hiding-place, for it was now getting
quite dark.  A little while, and they rose, and passed very near their
unsuspected watcher, who could just catch the words "Two o'clock," as
they made their way back to the fence.  A few moments more, and they
were clear of the grounds.

John Randolph's mind was made up in a moment what to do.  Having
cautiously followed the two men into the road, and ascertained that they
were not lurking anywhere about "The Shrubbery," he hurried off at once
to Hopeworth, and communicated what he had seen and heard to the police.
He was very anxious that no unnecessary alarm should be given to Mrs
Franklin or Mary, and that they should be kept, if possible, in
ignorance of the whole matter till the danger was over; so he resolved
to accompany the constables, who, with the superintendent, were
preparing to encounter the housebreakers.  It was presumed, from what he
had overheard, that an attempt was to be made on "The Shrubbery" that
very night, and that the two men seen by John Randolph were only part of
a larger gang.  Help was therefore procured, and about one o'clock a
party of a dozen, including John, all disguised in labourers' clothes,
had noiselessly scaled the fence in different parts by two and two, and,
recognising one another by a password previously agreed upon, were soon
clustered together under some dense shrubs not far from the passage
window before mentioned.  It was a tranquil morning, but very cloudy.
All was deep stillness in the house.  Little did Mrs Franklin and her
daughter think, as they read together before parting for the night those
comforting words, "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that
fear Him, and delivereth them," that such foes and such protectors were
so close at hand.  But they laid them down in perfect peace, and their
heavenly Father's loving power was as a wall of fire about them.
Patiently did the watchers listen from their hiding-place to every
sound.  Two o'clock, at last, rang out clear from the great timepiece on
the stairs; they could hear it distinctly outside.  What was that sound?
Only the distant barking of a fox.  But now there are other sounds.
One, two, three, at length six men in all have crept to the part of the
yard opposite the back door.  All paused and looked carefully round:
everything seemed safe.

"Well," said one who appeared to be a leader, "it does not seem as if we
need be over particular: there's neither dog nor man about, and the
women won't _do_ much.  Where's the crowbar?"

"Here."

Just at this moment a bright ray of light flashed out along the passage,
and a female figure could be seen crossing the landing.  The
housebreakers shrunk back.

"It will not do," said the leader, half aloud; "they've got scent of us
somehow: pr'aps they've some men inside to help them, we'd better be
off."

"Fools!  Cowards!" exclaimed a younger man, in a fierce whisper, as the
others began to slink away; "are you afraid of a parcel of women?  But
I'll not be baffled: she's there:" and he raised a pistol, and pointed
it towards the figure which had descended close to the passage window
with the light in her hand, and was trying to peer into the darkness
outside.  His companion pulled down his arm with a savage imprecation.
All was still for a few minutes, and the female retired to the landing
and then disappeared.  The burglars hesitated, when, just at the moment
of their indecision, one of the police imitated the low growling of a
dog close at hand.  Instantly the whole gang took to their heels,
closely followed by the constables.  No shout had been raised, no word
had been spoken, for John Randolph had been most anxious that the
thieves should be captured without alarming the ladies.  And now in the
darkness, pursuers and pursued were scattered in different directions.
John sprang after the young man who had raised the pistol, and succeeded
in grappling with him before he could mount the fence.  The clouds were
now dispersed, and there was light enough for one to recognise another.
Randolph could not doubt; the intended murderer was Mark Rothwell.
Fiercely did the two young men strive together, and at last both fell,
Mark undermost; and, relaxing his hold, John was rising to his feet,
when the other drew a pistol, but before he could fire his adversary had
turned it aside; it went off, wounding the unhappy young man who held
it.  Randolph drew back in dismay, hearing the injured man's involuntary
groan, but in another instant Mark had drawn a second pistol and fired.
The ball grazed the other's forehead, and he staggered back stupefied.
When he recovered himself Mark had disappeared, and never from that
night was heard of or seen in Hopeworth or its neighbourhood.  Near the
part of the fence where the scuffle took place were afterwards found
marks of a horse's hoofs, and traces of blood.  The miserable young man
contrived to get clear away: the rest of the gang were all captured by
the police.

The day after this adventure old Mr Tankardew and John Randolph paid a
visit together to "The Shrubbery."  Of course the wildest tales were in
circulation, the central point in most being the murder of Mrs Franklin
and her daughter.  "I trust," said the old man to Mary and her mother,
"that you have suffered nothing but a little fright.  All's well that
ends well, and I'm thankful that my young friend here was able to be of
some service; you see, God can take care of His own."

"It has been so, indeed," replied Mrs Franklin; "Mary could not sleep,
she cannot tell why; she felt restless and uneasy, and just about two
o'clock she was crossing to my room, when she thought she heard some
unusual sounds in the yard.  She looked out of the passage window, but
could see nothing; then she heard a sort of scuffle, and, after that,
all was still; and, though we were rather alarmed, we heard nothing
more.  But this morning has brought us strange tidings, and I find that
we are again indebted to our kind young friend here for help in time of
need, and that, too, I fear, at his own imminent risk."

"Don't mention this," said the young man; "it has been a privilege to me
to have been able to render this assistance.  I am only too thankful
that I was put in the way of discovering what might have otherwise been
a very serious business.  But we must see that you are better protected
for the future."

"True, true, John," interrupted Mr Tankardew, smiling; "I see I must
put in a word.  My dear child, Miss Franklin seems more willing than
able to speak just now.  Yes; let me make a clean breast of it.  Let me
introduce our young friend in a new character, John Randolph Tankardew,
my only son, my only surviving child."  His voice trembled, and then he
added, "He has twice been the protector of my dear adopted daughter, let
me join their hands together as a pledge that he may shortly obtain a
better title to be her protector while life shall last."

And so, placing the half-shrinking hand of Mary in the young man's
stronger grasp, he held them together with a fervent blessing.

"And now," he added, as they sat in a loving group, too full of tearful
peace to wish to break the charmed silence by hasty words, "now let me
tell my story, and unravel the little tangle which has made me a mystery
to my neighbours, and a burden to my friends.  But all that is past;
there are brighter days before us now."



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

MR. TANKARDEW'S STORY BEGUN.

"You must know, dear friends," began the old man sadly, "that I'm a
wiser man now than I was once.  Not that there's much wisdom to boast of
now; only I have learnt by experience, and he is a sharp schoolmaster.

"I was born to trust others; it was misery to me to live in distrust and
suspicion; I couldn't do it.  People told me I was a fool; it was true,
I knew it, but I went on trusting.  David said in his haste, `all men
are liars.'  I said in my haste, or rather my folly, `all men are true.'
They might lie to others, but I thought they couldn't, or wouldn't, or
didn't lie to me.  At any rate I'd trust them; it was so sad to think
that a being made in God's image could go about wilfully deceiving
others.  I'd take a brighter view of my fellow-men and women.  I never
could abide your shrewd, knowing people, who seemed to be always living
with a wink in their eyes, and a grin on their lips, as if they believed
in nobody and nothing but their own sharpness.  I loathed them, and I
loathe them still.  But I wasn't wise.  I had to smart for it.  I had
plenty of money when I came of age, and I had plenty of friends, or
rather acquaintances, who knew it.  But I was shy, and not over fond of
many companions; my weakness wasn't in that direction.  I had sense
enough to see through your common gold-hunters.  I was never over fond
of sugar-candy; coarse flattery made me sick, and I had no taste for
patching up the holes in the purses of profligates and spendthrifts.  I
never was a worshipper of money, but I knew its value, and wasn't
disposed to make ducks and drakes of it, nor partridges and pheasants
either.  So the summer flies, after buzzing about me a little, flew off
to sunnier spots; all except one.  He puzzled me a bit at first, but I
blamed myself for having a shadow of suspicion of him.  All seemed so
open about him, open hands, open eyes, open brow; he wound himself round
my heart before I knew where I was.  Mine was a fair estate (it will be
yours one day, Mary, my child, I trust; John's and yours together).  I'd
lived away from home many years before I came into it, for both my
parents died while I was young, and when I came of age, my nearest
relations were only distant.  I never had brother nor sister.  When I
came to reside on my property the neighbours called, and I returned
their calls, and it didn't go much beyond that.  They thought me cold
and unfeeling, but they were mistaken.  But I must go back and take up
my dropped thread.  I said there was one man who got hold of my heart.
I had a good stout fence of prejudices, and an inner paling of reserve
about that heart of mine, but he contrived to climb over both, and get
inside.  I could have done anything for him, but he did not seem to want
anything but my affection; so I thought.  He had a sister: well, what
shall I say?  I'm a poor, weak, old fool; it is all past and gone now.
I must go straight on; but it is like ploughing up my heart into a
thousand deep furrows with my own hand.  But; well, he had a sister;
I'll not tell you her name, nor his either: at least not now.  He
brought her with him to call on me one day.  She had never been in the
neighbourhood before, for her brother was only a recent settler in the
place.  I was charmed with her; the more so because she was so like her
brother, so bright and so open; so thoroughly transparent.  She beamed
upon me like a flood of sunshine, and gilded my cloudy reserve with her
own radiance, so that I shone out myself in her company; so they told
me, and I believed it.  I was young then, you'll remember.  I wasn't the
wrinkled old pilgrim that I am now.  We got attached to one another, it
would seem, at once; others may _fall_ in love; _we leapt_ into it; I
never thought to ask myself whether she loved God.  I was content to
know that she loved _me_.  I was aware that I had a heart, but at that
time I hadn't learnt that I had a soul.  Well, my friend (shall I drop
the `r,' and call him `fiend'?  'Twould be truer); he did all he could
to hasten on our marriage.  He did it very quietly, so openly, too.  He
was so radiant with joy at the thoughts of my coming happiness.  `She
was such a sister,' he said, `she would be such a wife to me.'  I never
had any misgivings but once, and then the shadow was but as the passing
of a white cloud before summer's noonday sunshine.  I was going from
home for a week, but unexpected business detained me for another day.  I
walked over to my future brother-in-law's in the afternoon.  It was
summer time.  I went in, as was my habit, by the garden door, and was
crossing the lawn, when I heard sounds of wild laughter proceeding from
a little summer-house; they were sounds of boisterous and almost idiotic
mirth.  There was a duet of merriment, in which a male and female each
took a part.  I hardly knew what I was doing, or whether to go back or
advance.  As I hesitated, all was hushed.  I saw a female figure dart
like lightning into the house, and then my friend (I must call him so
for want of a better title) came forward, and holding out both his hands
to me, said `Welcome, welcome, this is an unexpected pleasure.  I
thought you were far away on your journey before now; my sister and I
have been almost dying with laughter over a book lent to us by a friend.
I do think I never read anything so irresistibly ludicrous in all my
life.'  I hardly knew what to say in reply, I was so completely taken
aback.  I was turning, however, towards the summer-house in which I just
caught a glance of a table with a bottle and glasses on it, when my
companion, catching my arm in his, hurried me away to another part of
the garden, where, he said, he was going to make some improvements,
about which he must have my judgment and suggestions.  As we afterwards
went into the house, we again passed the summer-house, but the glasses
and bottle were gone.  We entered into one of the sitting-rooms, and the
servant came to tell us that her mistress had just been sent for to see
a poor sick cottager, who wanted her immediately.  This led her brother
to break out into raptures about his sister's benevolence, self-denial,
and charity!  Indeed, I never heard him so eloquent on any subject
before.  I left, however, in a little while, for he seemed unnaturally
restless and excited during my stay, and a cloud lowered upon me all the
way home, but it had melted away by the next morning.  But I must hasten
on.  We were married soon after this, and I settled a handsome allowance
on my wife for her own private use.  She had no parents living, but had
kept house for another brother before she came to reside in our
neighbourhood.  I wished to suppose myself happy as a married man, but,
somehow or other, I was not.  My wife made large professions of
affection, but, spite of myself, I mistrusted them.  Her brother, too,
seldom came now to see me, unless he had some private business with his
sister; and they were often closeted together alone for an hour or more.
Then she would come out to me, radiant with smiles, and full of
excitement; and her brother would rattle on, hurrying from one topic to
another, so as to leave me no power to collect my thoughts, or shape any
questions which I was anxious to ask him.  I am given to trust, as I
have told you, and ever shall be, if I live to be a dozen centuries old.
Still, I couldn't help having my doubts, my grievous doubts.  Well, one
morning, my brother-in-law called; he seemed agitated, and in much
distress, saying that he must give up his house and join his brother,
with whom he was in partnership; as he found his presence was required
for the investigation, and, he feared it might be, the winding-up of
their affairs.  I pitied him, and offered him help.  He refused it
almost with indignation, but I pressed it, and he accepted a loan,
merely as a loan, he said, of a thousand pounds, for which I gave him a
cheque on the spot.  With tears in his eyes, and a warm pressure of the
hand, he was gone.  I never saw him again.  A _few_ mornings after this;
it was about six months after we were married; my wife and I were
sitting at breakfast when she threw a paper to me across the table,
saying, `I suppose you'll see to that.'  It was a bill for a
considerable amount, contracted by herself before our marriage, and for
articles which were certainly no part of a lady's toilet or wardrobe,
nor could be of any possible use to one of her sex.  I was astonished;
but she treated the matter very coolly, or appeared to do so.  When I
asked for an explanation, she avoided my eye, and turned the matter off;
and when I pressed her on the subject, she said, `Well, it is no use my
entering into explanations now; you'll find it all right.'  I was
greatly disturbed, for there was something in her manner that showed me
she was ill at ease, though she endeavoured to wear a nonchalant air.
There was a wild light, too, in her eyes, which distressed and almost
alarmed me, and a suspicion came over me which almost made me faint.
She left the breakfast table abruptly, and I saw no more of her till
luncheon time; but when I went to my library, I found a packet on my
table which I had not noticed there before.  I opened it; it was full of
unpaid bills, all made out to my wife in her maiden name, and most,
indeed nearly all of them, for articles unsuited for female use.  A
horrible suspicion flashed across my mind.  Could it possibly be that
these were her brother's debts: that he had got these articles in her
name, and had had the bills sent in to her?  And could it be that
brother and sister had been in league together, and that he with all his
assumption of openness and candour and large-heartedness, had entrapped
me into this marriage that I might liquidate the debts of an abandoned
and reckless profligate?  And could it be, farther, (madden ing
thought!) that the _whole_ extravagance was not his, and that numerous
unpaid accounts for wine and spirits were, partly, for what she had
taken as well as her brother?  Then I thought of the scene in the
garden, of the wild laughter, of her sudden disappearance, of the signs
of drinking in the summer-house.  Oh!  My heart turned sick; was I
tricked, deceived, ruined in my peace for ever?  I paced up and down my
library, more like a lunatic than a sane man.  Luncheon time came: we
met: she threw herself into my arms, and wept and laughed and implored;
but I felt that a drunkard was embracing me, and I flung her from me,
and rushed out of the house.  O misery!  Whither should I go, what
should I do?  It was all too true: her brother was the basest of men:
she did love _him_, I believe, it was the only unselfish thing about
her.  Well, I had to go back home; _home_!  Vilest of names to me then!
`home, _bitter_ home!'  And yet I loved that poor guilty, fallen
creature.  There was a terrible light in her eyes as we sat opposite one
another at dinner.  We had to play a part before the footman.  Oh!  What
a dreadful meal that was!  I seemed to be feeding on ashes, and drinking
wormwood.  I felt as if every morsel would choke me.  We spoke to one
another in measured terms.  Would the miserable farce of a dinner never
be over?  It came to an end at last.  And then she came to me trembling
and penitent, and, laying her head on my shoulder, wept till tears would
fall no longer.  She was sober then; she had taken nothing but water at
dinner.  She unburdened her heart to me (so I thought), and confessed
all.  She told me how she and her brother had been brought up, as
children, in habits of self-indulgence, especially in having free access
to the wine and spirits.  She told me that she and her unworthy brother
had been all in all to one another, that gambling and drink had brought
him into difficulties, and that she had allowed him to run up accounts
in her name.  She declared that he really loved and valued me, and that
the thought of hurrying on our marriage for any selfish object, was
quite a recent idea, suggested by distress under pecuniary
embarrassment.  She asserted passionately that she truly loved me; she
implored me to overlook the past, and promised, with solemn appeal to
Heaven, that she would renounce the drink from that hour, and give me no
more uneasiness.  Ay, she promised; a drunkard's promise!  Lighter than
the lightest gossamer; brittle as the ice of an April morning.  I
believed her: did she believe herself?  I fear not.  But the worst was
to come, the shadows were deepening, the storm was gathering.  A year
had passed over our wedded life, when a little girl was given to us.
Every cord of my heart that had been untwined or slackened of late wound
itself fast round that blessed little one."



CHAPTER TWELVE.

MR. TANKARDEW'S STORY FINISHED.

"All was joy for a time.  We called our little one Mary; it was a name I
loved.  I had not lived as a total abstainer; though, as I told you
once, my mother, whom I can only recollect as a widow, had banished all
intoxicants from our table.  But I was young when she died, and I
became, and continued for many years a moderate drinker.  But now when
our little girl was born, I had swept the house clear of all alcoholic
drinks; we hadn't a drop in the place from cellar to attics, so I
thought.  And my wife agreed with me that our little one should never
know the taste of the strong drink.  We had not many friends, for I was
shy and reserved still, and my home was my world and society; at least I
wished it to be so.  Sometimes I thought my wife strangely excited, it
looked very like the old misery, but she solemnly declared that she
never tasted anything intoxicating.  I hoped she spoke the truth, even
against the evidence of my senses.  After a while she persuaded me that
I wanted change, that I was rusting out in my loneliness.  She would
have me accept an invitation to a friend's house now and then: it would
do me good.  _She_ was happy in her home, she said, only she should be
happier still if she could see me gaining spirits by occasional
intercourse with like-minded friends.  Not that she wished me to leave
her; it was for my own good she said it, and she should be delighting in
the thoughts of the good it would do me, and should find abundance to
cheer her in my absence, in the care of our darling child.  She said all
this so openly, so artlessly, that I believed her.  I thought she might
be right; so I went now and then from home for a few days, and, by
degrees, more and more frequently.  And my wife encouraged it.  She said
it did me so much good, and the benefit I reaped in improved health,
spirits, and intelligence quite reconciled her to the separation.  We
went on so till our Mary was five years old; I could not say that my
wife was ever manifestly intemperate, but painful suspicions hung like a
black cloud over me.  At last one summer's day, one miserable day: I can
never forget it: I set out to pay a week's visit to a friend, who lived
some ten miles distant from my home.  I drove myself in a light, open
carriage; my horse was young and rather shy.  I was just going round a
bend in the road, when a boy jumped suddenly over a hedge, right in
front of us.  Away went my horse at the top of his speed, and soon
landed me in a ditch, and broke away, leaving the carriage with a
fractured shaft behind him.  I was not hurt myself, so I got assistance
from the nearest cottage; and, having caught my horse, and found someone
to whom I could trust the repairing of my vehicle, I walked home.  It
was afternoon when I arrived.  I walked straight in through the back of
the premises, and entered the dining-room; there was no one there.  I
was going to ring for one of the servants, when the door opened, and
little Mary toddled (I ought rather to say tottered) up to me.  Her
mother was close behind her, but, at the sight of me, she uttered a wild
cry, shut the door violently, and rushed upstairs.  I had seen enough in
her face: too much, too much!  And the little child, our darling little
Mary, what was amiss with her?  Could it be?  Had that cruel woman dared
to do such a thing?  Yes: it was so indeed: the little child was under
the influence of strong drink; I drew the horrible truth from her by
degrees.  The mother had taught that little babe to like the exciting
cup; she had sweetened and made it specially palatable.  She had done
this to make the child a willing partaker in her sin, to bribe her to
secrecy, and to use her as a tool for the gratifying of her own vile
appetite.  Thus was she deliberately poisoning the body and soul of her
child, and training her in deceit, that she might league that little
one, as she grew up, with herself in procuring the forbidden stimulant,
and in deceiving her own father.  O accursed drink, which can thus turn
a mother into the tempter and destroyer of her own guileless and
unsuspecting child!  I rushed out of the room, and was about to hurry
upstairs, but I shrank back shivering and heart-sick.  Then I went up
slowly and heavily: my bedroom door was bolted; so was the door of my
wife's dressing-room; I came downstairs again, and, taking Mary by the
hand, went into my library.  There the storm of trouble did its work,
for it drove me down upon my knees.  I poured out my heart in strong
crying to God; I owned that I had lived without Him, and that I had not
loved nor sought Him.  I prayed for pardon and a new heart, and that He
would have mercy on my poor wife and child.  As I knelt in my agony of
supplication I felt two little hands placed on my own, then mine were
gently pulled from me, and my precious little child, looking up in my
face with streaming eyes, said, `Papa, don't cry; dear papa, don't cry.
I _will_ be a good girl.'  I pressed her to my heart, and blessed God
that it was not yet too late.  Before nightfall I had driven away with
that dear child, and had placed her with a valued friend whom I could
trust, one of the few who had ever visited at our house, a total
abstainer, and, better still, a devoted Christian.  My child had always
loved her, and I felt that I could leave her in such hands with the
utmost confidence.  But I had a home still, in name at least, for all
the sunshine had gone out of the word `home' for me.  I returned the
next day to our childless house: where was the mother?  She lay on the
floor of her dressing-room, crushed in spirit to the dust.  I raised her
up; she would not look at me, but hid her face in her hands; her eyes
were dry, she had wept away all her tears.  I could not bear her grief,
and I tried to comfort her; all might yet be well.  Again she confessed
all, her deceit, her heartlessness; but she laid it to the drink.  True,
she was in this a self-deceiver, but how terrible must be the power for
evil in a stimulant which can so utterly degrade the soul, cloud the
intellect, and benumb the conscience!  Well, she poured forth a torrent
of vows, promises, and resolutions for the future.  I bade her turn them
into prayers, but she did not understand me.  However, there was peace
for awhile: our Mary came home again, and I watched her with an
unwearying carefulness.  Another year brought us a son: he sits among us
now: John Randolph we call him.  There was a sort of truce till John was
ten years old.  I knew that my poor unhappy wife still continued to
obtain strong drink, but she did not take it to excess to my knowledge,
and it was never placed upon our table.  I was myself, at this time,
practically a total abstainer, but I had signed no pledge.  I didn't see
the use of it then, so I had not got my children to sign.  My poor wife
_professed_ to take no alcoholic stimulants, yet I could not but know
that she was deceiving herself.  She was, alas!  Too self-confident.
She seemed to think that all danger of _excess_ was now over, and that a
white lie about taking none was no real harm, so long as it satisfied
_me_; but it neither deceived nor satisfied me.  At last, one winter's
day, she proposed that John should drive her in her pony-carriage to the
neighbouring village, where there was an old servant of ours who was
ill, whom she wanted to see.  The pony was a quiet one, and was used to
John's driving, so I did not object, as I was very busy at the time, and
could not therefore drive myself.  It was very late before she came
back; she had kept the poor boy at the cottage door nearly two hours,
and when she returned to the carriage was so excited that he was in fear
and trembling all the way home.  That night his miserable mother lay
hopelessly intoxicated on a sofa when I retired to my resting-_place_,
for to rest I certainly did not retire.  From that day she utterly broke
down, and became lost to all shame; one appetite, one passion alone,
possessed her; a mad thirst for the drink.  We separated by mutual
consent, and I made her an allowance sufficient to supply all her lawful
wants.  Alas!  Alas!  The sad end hurries on.  She wrote to me for a
larger allowance; I knew what she wanted it for, and I refused.  She
wrote again and I did not reply.  Then she wrote to Mary with the same
object.  Of course, I need hardly tell you that the children remained
with me.  Poor dear Mary loved her mother dearly, and sent her all her
own pocket money.  I found it out, and forbade it for the future.  Two
more years passed by.  From time to time I heard of my miserable wife;
she was sinking lower and lower.  At last, in the twilight of an autumn
evening, as Mary was returning home alone, a wild-looking, ragged woman
crept towards her with a strange, undecided step: it was her mother.
She flung herself at her child's feet, imploring her, if she still had
any love for her, to find her the means of gratifying her insatiable
thirst.  She must die, she said, if she refused her.  Poor Mary, poor
Mary!  Terror-stricken, heart-broken, she spoke words of love, of
entreaty, to that miserable creature; she urged her to break off her
sin; she pointed her to Jesus for strength; she told her that she dared
not supply her regularly with money, as she had promised me that she
would not, and it would do her no good.  The wretched woman slunk away
without another word.  Next day her body was found floating on the
river; she had destroyed herself.  Poor, dear Mary never looked up after
that.  She connected her mother's awful end with her own refusal to give
her money for the drink, though there could be no blame to her: and so
she faded away, my lovely child, and left me, ere another spring came
round, for the land of eternal summers.  I was heart-sick, hopeless;
life seemed objectless; I gave way to despondency, and forgot my duty as
a man and a Christian.  I felt that I was no proper guide nor companion
for poor John; so I sent him first to France, where he gained his skill
as an artist and musician; and since then he has, by his own desire,
been a traveller in distant lands.  I let my house, and came over to
Hopeworth, to be out of the way of everything and everybody that could
remind me of the past.  Yet, I could not forget.  You noticed the vacant
space in my sitting-room, where a picture should have been; that empty
space reminded me of what might have been, had my wife, whose portrait
should have been there, been a different wife to me.  But light came at
last.  When I saw _you_, Mary my child, for the first time, I scarce
knew what to say or think.  You were, and are, the very image of my own
loved and lost one, my Mary my beloved child; the portrait behind the
panel is hers.  I longed to have you for my own.  I determined, however,
to see what you were; I went to the juvenile party merely for that end.
And then, when John came home unexpectedly, I resolved in my heart that,
if I could bring it about, you _should_ be my own dear child.  So John
and I talked it over; and John, who is a true branch from the old tree,
a little crotchety or so, was resolved to win you in his own fashion;
and, having learnt a little colonial independence, he wished to look at
you a bit behind the scenes; so he would come before you, not as the
heir of an eccentric old gentleman, with a good estate and plenty of
money to speak for him, but as the travelled artist and music-master.
And now, I think I've pretty well unravelled the greater part of the
tangle; the rest you can easily smooth out for yourselves.

"So you see it has been `nearly lost, but dearly won.'  My child, Mary,
you nearly lost old Esau's heart, when you seemed bent on throwing your
own away; but you've won it, and won it dearly, like a dear good child.
You nearly lost your peace to one who would soon have drowned it out of
home, but you won it dearly and bravely, I know, at no little sacrifice.
And John, my son, I once thought you'd nearly lost the noblest and best
of wives; but you've won her, and dearly, too, but she's worth the price
of a little stooping, ay, and of a great deal too.  And old Esau
Tankardew nearly lost his peace and his self-respect, in selfish
unsanctified sorrow, but he has won something better than respect,
though it cost him a hard struggle; he has won a daughter who hates that
drink which blotted out light and joy from the old man's home and heart;
and he has won, through grace, a peace that passeth understanding, and
can say, `Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord
Jesus Christ.'"

THE END.





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