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Title: The Life of Thomas Wanless, Peasant
Author: Wilson, Alexander Johnstone
Language: English
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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.

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    THE LIFE
    OF
    THOMAS WANLESS,
    PEASANT.

    Manchester:
    JOHN DALE, 296 & 298, STRETFORD ROAD.
    ABEL HEYWOOD & SON, 56 & 58, OLDHAM STREET.

    London:
    SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, & CO., STATIONERS' HALL COURT.

    INDEX.

    CHAP.  	                        PAGE.
           INTRODUCTORY,                     1
       I. A HELOT'S NURTURE,                11
      II. A PHILANTHROPIC PARSON,           24
     III. THE "ALLOTMENT" CURE FOR HUNGER,  31
      IV. MANUFACTURING CRIMINALS,          48
       V. JAIL LIFE,                        69
      VI. NATURE OF A SERMON,               85
     VII. MEN FOR A STANDING ARMY,          96
    VIII. VERY ARISTOCRATIC COMPANY,       115
      IX. AN OLD, OLD STORY,               123
       X. THE PARSONAGE,                   131
      XI. A MERE PEASANT MAIDEN,           139
     XII. HIGH AND LOW BREEDING,           150
    XIII. PREACHERS OF "WORDS",            157
     XIV. "CHRISTIAN" RESPECTABILITY,      166
      XV. TOO BAD FOR DESCRIPTION,         179
     XVI. A BETTER QUEST,                  186
    XVII. NOTHING THAT IS NEW,             195
   XVIII. SWEET ARE THE USES OF ADVERSITY, 209
     XIX. THE LOST ONE IS FOUND,           217
      XX. THE LAST LONG SLEEP OF ALL,      226
     XXI. THE JOURNEY'S END,               236



    THE LIFE OF
    THOMAS WANLESS,
    PEASANT.


INTRODUCTORY.

Some years ago it was my habit to spend the long vacation in a quiet
Warwickshire village, not far from the fashionable town of Leamington. I
chose this spot for its sweet peace and its withdrawnness; for the
opportunities it gave me of wandering along the beautiful tree-shaded
country lanes; for its nearness to such historical spots as Warwick,
Kenilworth, and Stratford-on-Avon, to all of which I could either walk
or ride in a morning. But I love a quiet village for its own sake above
most things, and would rather spend my leisure amongst its simple
cottage folk, take my rest on the bench at the village alehouse door,
and walk amid the smock-frocked peasantry to the grey village church,
than mingle with the fashionable, over-dressed, prurient,
hollow-hearted, and artificial products of civilisation that constitute
themselves society--yea a thousand-fold rather. To me the restfulness
of a little village, with its cots nestling among the drowsy trees in a
warm summer day, is a foreshadowing of the rest of heaven. So I settled
myself in little Ashbrook, in a room sweet and cool, of its little inn,
and laughed at the foolish creatures who, with weary, purposeless steps
trode daily the Leamington Parade with hearts full of all envy and
jealousy at sight of such other descendants of our tattooed ancestors as
fortune might enable to gaud their bodies more lavishly than they. These
droned their idle life away flirting, reading the skim-milk, often
unwholesome, literature of the fashionable library; jabbering about
dress, and picking characters to pieces; shooting in the gardens at
archery meetings; patronising religious shows and thinking it
refinement. And I? I wander forth alone, filling my sketch-book with
whatsoever takes my fancy, or, in sociable moods, drink my ale in rustic
company, talking of hard winters and low wages, the difficulty of
living, of rural incidents, and the joys and sorrows of those toilers by
whose hard labour the few are made rich. They are not faultless, these
rustics, but they are very human, and their vices are unsophisticated
vices--the art of gilding iniquity, of luxuriously tricking out a
frivolous existence in the most subtle conceits of dress and demeanour,
has not yet reached them. When they sin they do not sublimise their sins
into the little peccadilloes and amusements incident to civilisation. So
I love them; marred and crooked and dull-witted though they may be, they
suit my humour, and fall in with my tastes for the open air, the free
expanse of landscape, the grand old trees, and the verdure-clothed
banks of the sleepy streams.

It was in this village that I met my peasant. He was not a man easy to
pick acquaintance with, for he mingled little among the gossips of the
place. Never once did I see him at the village inn or in church. He
lived apart in a little cottage near the Warwick end of the village,
with his wife and a little lass of ten or eleven summers--his
granddaughter. I often met him in the early morning going to market with
his baskets of vegetables, or in the cool of the evening, when he would
go out with his little girl skipping and dancing by his side. And the
very first time I saw him he awakened in me a strong interest. There was
something striking in his aspect--a still calm was on his face, and at
the same time a hardness lay about the mouth, and in the wrinkles around
the eyes, which was almost repellant. His figure had been above the
middle height; and although now bent and gaunt-looking, had still an
aspect of calm energy and decayed strength. But what struck me most was
the grand, almost majestic outline of his profile, and the keenness of
his yet undimmed eye, which flashed from beneath grey shaggy eyebrows
with a light that entered one's soul. The face was thoroughly English in
type, with features singularly regular, the forehead broad, the nose
aquiline, the chin large; and still in old age round and clean and full,
though the cheeks had fallen in and the mouth had become drawn and hard.
Had one met this man in "society," dressed in correct evening costume,
surrounded by courtly dames in half-dress, one would have been struck
by the individuality of that grand, grey face. Meanly clad, bent, and
leaning on a common oaken staff, the face and figure of this old peasant
were such as once looked at could not be easily forgotten. This also was
a man with a soul in him; ay, and with a heart too; for does not his eye
rest with an inexpressibly sad tenderness on the slim girl by his side
when she interrupts his reverie with the eager query, "Grand-dad,
grand-dad! Oh look at this poor dead bird in the path; who could have
killed it?"

My interest in this solitary man was keenly roused; and, from the
inquiries I made, I learned enough of his history to make me anxious to
know him. But that was not a desire easily gratified. Although always
courteous in returning my "good evening," he did so with an air that
forbade conversation, and gave me back but monosyllables to any remarks
I might make about the weather, the crops, or the child. He was not
rude, only reserved and dry, and that not with me only. To nearly all
the villagers his manner was the same. Only two may be said to have been
frequenters of his house, the old schoolmaster and the sexton. Even his
wife had few or no gossips. Yet everyone seemed to respect him, and many
spoke of him with a kind of friendly pity. Whether or not the respect
was partly due to the fact that the old man was supposed to have
means--that is, that although no longer able to do more than cultivate
his little garden and allotment patch, he was yet not on the parish--I
cannot say, but it was clear that the kindliness at least was genuine.
And so no one intruded on him. All saluted him respectfully and left
him to himself, save perhaps when one of the village milk dealers might
give him a lift on his way to market. Sometimes on a warm evening I have
seen him seated at his cottage door with a newspaper on his knee,
smoking his evening pipe, and answering the greetings of passers by. But
except his two old friends, and perhaps some village children playing
with his little one, there was no gathering of neighbours; no gossips
leant over his fence to discuss village scandals and local politics. He
was a man apart; and thus it happened that my first holiday in the
village passed away leaving me still a stranger to old Thomas Wanless.

But for an accident we might have been strangers still, and I would not
have troubled the world with this old peasant's history. I was walking
home one morning from Leamington, whither I had gone to buy some fresh
colours and a sketch-book, when I heard in a hollow behind me a vehicle
of some sort coming along the road at a great pace. Almost immediately a
dog-cart driven tandem overtook and passed me. It contained a stout,
rather blotched-looking man, who might be any age from thirty-five to
fifty, and a groom. Just beyond the road took rather a sharp turn to the
right, dipping into another hollow, and the dog-cart had hardly
disappeared round the corner when I heard a shrill scream of pain,
followed by oaths, loud and deep, uttered in a harsh, metallic, but
husky voice. I ran forward and immediately came upon Thomas Wanless's
little girl lying moaning in the road, white and unable to move,
grasping a bunch of wild flowers in one hand. Half-a-crown lay amongst
the dust near her, and the dog-cart was dashing over the crest of the
further slope, apparently on its way to the Grange. Without pausing to
think, but cursing the while the heartlessness of those who seemed to
think half-a-crown compensation enough for the injury done to this
little one, I flung my parcel over the hedge, and gathering the
half-fainting child as gently as I could in my arms, hurried with her to
her grandfather's cottage. It was a good half-mile walk, partly through
the village. The child was heavy, and I arrived hot and out of breath,
followed by several matrons who had caught sight of me as I passed by,
and who stood round the door with anxious faces. A milkman's cart met me
on the way, and I begged its occupant to drive with all speed to Warwick
for a surgeon, as the child had been run over. The man answered yes, and
went.

When I burst into Thomas's house he was dozing in his armchair, but the
noise woke him and brought his wife in from the garden. "Oh, my God,"
cried Thomas, as he caught sight of the child; and he tried to rise, but
sank again into his seat pale as death, and trembling all over. His wife
burst into tears, but immediately swept an old couch clear of some
clothes and child's playthings, and there I laid poor Sally, as the old
woman called her, half unconscious and still moaning. Rapidly Mrs.
Wanless loosened the child's clothes, and as she did so I told them what
had occurred. When I described the man who had run over the child, I was
startled by a sudden flash of angry scorn, almost of hate, that mantled
over the old man's face. He clutched the arms of his chair
convulsively, and half rose from his seat as he almost hissed out the
words--"By Heaven, the child has been killed by its own father." He
seemed to regret the words as soon as uttered, and tried to hide his
confusion by eagerly inquiring of his wife if she had found out where
Sally was hurt. The effort failed him, however, and he remained visibly
embarrassed by my presence. I would have left, but I too was anxious to
see where Sarah was hurt, so I turned to the couch to give Thomas time
to recover himself. As I did so, Sally screamed. Her grandmother had
attempted to draw down her loosened dress, and in doing so had disturbed
the child's legs, causing acute pain.

I judged at once that a leg was either bruised or broken, and begged
Mrs. Wanless to feel gently for the hurt. Almost immediately the child
uttered a scream, crying, "Oh, my right leg, my right leg;" and a brief
examination proved the fact that it was broken just a little way below
the knee. The sobbing of the child unnerved Mrs. Wanless, and she seemed
about to faint, so I led her to a seat, gave her a glass of water, and
returned to Sarah, turning her carefully flat on her back, and kneeling
down, gently removed her stocking from the broken limb, which I then
laid straight out on the couch, propping it on either side with such
soft articles as I could lay hands on. That done, I told Sarah to lie as
still as she could until the doctor came, when he would soon ease her
pain. Soothing the child thus, and hardly thinking of the old people, I
was suddenly interrupted by Thomas. He had risen from his chair, and,
leaning on his staff, had approached the couch. He stood there for a
little, looking at his little maiden with an expression of intense pain
and sorrow on his face. Then he turned to me, and, without speaking,
held out his hand. I rose to my feet, grasped it, and, suddenly
bethinking myself for the first time, uncovered my head. The tears
gathered in my eyes in spite of myself. I knew in my heart that Thomas
Wanless and I were friends.

And great friends we became in time. At first I went to the cottage
daily to enquire after little Sarah, who progressed favourably under the
Warwick surgeon's care; and when she was past all danger and pain, I
went to talk with old Thomas. Gradually his heart opened to me; and bit
by bit I gathered up the main incidents of his history. A commonplace
history enough, yet tragic too; for Thomas was no commonplace man. There
was a depth of passion beneath that still hard face; a wealth of
feeling, a range of thought that to me was utterly astounding. What had
not this village labourer known and suffered; what sorrow; what baffled
hope; yea, what despair; and, through despair, what peace! As I sat by
his chair on the summer evenings and listened to his talk with his old
friends, or walked with him in the by-lanes, gathering from his lips the
leading events of his life, my heart often burned within me. Yet,
refined reader, gentle reader, Thomas Wanless was only a peasant; a man
that sold vegetables and flowers from door to door in little Warwick
town to eke out his means of subsistence. His was the toiler's lot; the
lot without hope for this world, whose natural end is want, and a
pauper's grave.

Can I hope to interest you in this man's history? I confess I have my
doubts. There is tragedy in it; it is mostly tragedy; but then it is the
tragedy of the low born. I shall not be able to introduce you to any
arch plotter; to groups of refined adulteresses clad in robes of satin
and blazoned with jewels and gold, at once the sign and the fruit of
their shame. Nor can I promise to unweave startling plots, or to deal in
mysterious horrors such as cause the flesh of dainty ladies to creep
with a delicious excitement. No; the incidents of Thomas Wanless's story
are mostly those of a plain English villager, doomed to suffer and to
bear his share of the load of our national greatness; one above the
common level in his personal qualities to be sure, but nowise above the
common lot. Those who cannot bear to read of such, had better close the
book.

Read by you or not, Thomas Wanless's story I must write, for it is a
story that all the upper powers of these realms would do well to
ponder--from the serene defenders of the faith, with their high
satellite, lord bishops in lawn sleeves, downwards. The day is coming,
and coming soon, when the men of Thomas Wanless's stamp will invite
these dignitaries to give an account of themselves, and to justify the
manner of their being under penalty of summary notice to quit.



CHAPTER I.

WHEREIN IS SET FORTH THE BLESSEDNESS OF A HELOT'S NURTURE.


The grandfather of Thomas Wanless had been a small Warwickshire yeoman,
whom the troublous times towards the latter end of the last century,
family misfortunes, and the pressure of the large landowners, had
combined to reduce in circumstances. His son Jacob had, therefore, found
himself in the position of a day labourer on the farms around Ashbrook,
raised above his fellow labourers only by the fact that he could sign
his name, and that, through his wife, he owned a small freehold cottage
with about a quarter of an acre of garden in the village. His unusual
literary accomplishments, and his small possession did little to relieve
him from the common miseries which pressed more or less on all, but
most, of course, on the lowest class, during the years that succeeded
the "glorious" Napoleonic wars. The winter of 1819, therefore, found him
wrestling with the bitter energy of a hungry despair to get bread for a
family of six children. The task proved too much for him, and he was
reluctantly driven to let his oldest boy Thomas go to work on the
Whitbury farm for a shilling a week. Thomas had been trying to pick up
some inkling of the art of reading at a dame's school in the village,
but had not made much progress--could, when thus launched on the world,
do no more than spell out the Sermon on the Mount, or the first verses
of the 1st chapter in John's Gospel, and ere a year was well over he had
forgotten even that. There were no demagogues in those days disturbing
peaceful villages with clamours for education; no laws prohibiting the
labour of little children at tasks beyond their strength.

The squires, the parsons, and the larger farmers had the law in their
own hands, and combined to keep the lower orders in ignorance, giving
God thanks that they had the power so to do. The sporting parson of
Ashbrook of that day even thought it superfluous to teach those d----d
labourers' brats the Catechism. He appeared to think his duty done when
he had stumbled through the prayers once a week in church. That, at
least, was the range of his spiritual duties. For the rest, he
considered it of the highest moment that his tithes should be promptly
paid; that all poaching should be summarily punished, and that the
hunting appointments of the shire should always be graced by his
presence. It was also a point of duty with him always to vote true blue,
and never to miss a good dinner at any aristocratic table within his
reach. He would say grace with fervour, and drink the good wines till
his face grew purple and his eyes bloodshot. If he had another mission
in life, it was to do his best to divert in sublime disregard of merit
or human wants, the charity which some reluctantly contrite sinner of
former days had left for the poor of the parish, to the use of
creatures who had excited his good feeling by their obsequiousness.

So it came to pass that little Thomas Wanless was launched on the world
at the early age of eight, at the age when the well-to-do begin to think
of sending their children to school. Clad in a sort of blue smock and
heavy clog boots; patched, not over-warm breeches and stockings, Thomas
had to face the wintry blasts in the early morning, for it was a good
mile walk to Whitbury Farm. There, all day long, he either trudged
wearily by the sides of the horses at plough, often nearly frozen with
cold, or did rough jobs about the cattle or pigs in the muck-littered
farmyard. Weary, heavy hearted, and hungry, the lad came home at night
to his meagre supper of thin oatmeal porridge, or of black bread
flavoured with coarse bacon, washed down sometimes with a little thin
ale or cider. Often he had for dinner only dry bread and a little watery
cheese, and rarely or never any meat or milk. Supper over the boy crept
straight to bed. For two years this was the life the boy led, and at the
end of these two years his wage was but eighteenpence a week. No food
was given him save, perhaps, an occasional hunch of bread
surreptitiously conveyed to him beneath the apron of a dairymaid endowed
with fellow feeling. What need to fill up the picture of these
years--who does not know it now? The long autumn days spent watching the
corn, often, weary with watching, and hungry, falling asleep by the
hedge side. The dreary winters, the hard pallet, and still harder fare,
the scant clothing and chilled blood, the crowded sleeping rooms and
wan stunted figures; find you not all the history of lives like this set
forth in Parliamentary Blue Books for legislators to ponder over and
mend, if they can or care. Thomas Wanless suffered no more hardships
than millions that have gone before him, or that follow after to this
day, bearing on their weary, patient shoulders the burden of our
magnificent civilization. He and the others suspected not that this was
their allotted mission in our immaculate order of society; but the
concrete sufferings of his lot he could feel. For him the harsh words
and cruel blows of the farmer were real enough, and, in the misery of
his present sufferings, his young life lost its joy and hope. For him
the birds that sang in the sweet spring time brought no melody of
heaven, the autumn with its golden grain no joy. He knew only of labour,
and men's hardness, and was familiar mostly with hunger and cold and
pain. The divine order of the British Constitution had ordained it--why
should he complain? If my lord and my lady lived in wasteful luxury, if
proud squires and their henchmen trod crops under foot in their pursuit
of sport, totally regardless of a people's necessities; if vermin,
strictly preserved, ate the bread of the poor in order that the lordly
few might indulge the wild brute passion for slaughter, deemed by them a
mark of high-breeding, what was that to Thomas and his kind? Had not
those people a right to their pleasure? Was not the land theirs, by
theft or fraud it might be, but still theirs by a power none dared
gainsay? All that was as clear as day, and religion itself was
distinctly on the side of the upper classes. The Church through its
tithes shared in their exclusive privileges, and the parson of the
parish was a diligent guardian of property. On the rare occasions when
he preached a sermon his theme was the duty of the poor to be contented
and obedient. Men who dared to think, he classed as rioters, who, like
poachers and rick-burners, were an abomination to the Lord. Who so dared
to question the divine order of British society, deserved, in the
parson's view, everlasting death. Wealth, in short, according to this
beautiful gospel, was for them that had it or could steal it within the
lines of the constitution, and for the poor there was degradation,
hunger, rags, and, by way of hope, a chance of the pauper's heaven.

It must be all right, of course; but somehow, gradually, to little
Thomas it did not appear so. Very young and ignorant as he was, strange
thoughts began to stir within him. At home he saw his father sinking
more and more into the hopeless state of a man whose only earthly hope
was the parish workhouse; he saw his mother beaten to the earth with the
weary work of rearing a family of six children, without the means of
giving them enough to eat. One by one these went out, like himself, from
their little three-roomed cottage to try and earn the bread they needed.
The girls worked in the fields like the rest. All were, like himself,
uneducated, and, in spite of all, the wolf could hardly be kept from the
door when bread was dear, as it often was in those days. His father's
wages never averaged more than 8s. a-week the year round. But what did
that matter? Had not the parish provided a poorhouse, and did it not
give bread of a kind to every miserable groundling whom it could not
drive beyond its bounds? They ought surely to have been contented. Yet
Thomas, who saw and often felt their hunger, and contrasted it with the
coarse profusion at the farm, and the pampered condition of the squire's
menials at the Grange--he doubted many things.

The sight of a meeting of fox-hunters, and of the rush of their horses
across the cultivated land, filled him with wrath even then. The life he
saw around him had no unity in it. Thus it happened that, by the time he
was 13, though still stunted in body, he had begun to assert some amount
of dogged independence, and was driven away from Whitbury farm because
he flew at his drunken master for striking him with the waggoner's whip.

With some difficulty he got work after this, at 2s. a week and his
dinner, on a small dairy farm called the Brooks, which lay a mile
further from the village, on the Stratford Road. There he got better
treatment. His master was a quiet hard-working man, who had himself a
hard struggle to meet his rent, maintain his stock of nine cows, and get
a living. His own troubles had tended rather to soften than harden his
nature. Thomas, though having to work early and late, at least always
got his warm dinner, and often received a draught of milk from the
motherly housewife. Here, therefore, he began to grow; his stunted limbs
straightened out; his chest expanded, and, by the time he was seventeen
he gave the promise of becoming a more than usually stalwart labourer.

While Thomas was still new at this dairy farm, and while the remembrance
of his defiance was still fresh in the minds of farmer Pemberton, of
Whitbury, and his family, he was subjected to an outrage which almost
killed him, and left a mark on his mind which was fresh and vivid to the
day of his death. Farmer Pemberton's sons resolved to have a lark with
the "impudent young devil." Their first idea was to catch Thomas as he
came home at night, and, after trouncing him soundly, duck him in the
stinking pond formed by the farm sewage. On consulting their friend, the
eldest son of Lawyer Turner, of Warwick, he, however, said that it would
be better to frighten the little beggar into doing something they might
get him clapped into jail for. Led by this young knave, the farmer's
three sons disguised themselves by blackening their faces and donning
old clothes. Then, armed with bludgeons and knives, they lay in wait for
Thomas as he came home from work in the gloom of an October evening.
Their intention was to seize him, and amid great demonstrations of
knives and fearful imprecations, order him to take them to Farmer
Pemberton's rickyard. Once there they intended to force him to set fire
to some straw in the yard, and then seize him for fire-raising. As young
Turner said, they might easily in this way swear him into jail for a
twelvemonth.

This diabolical plot was actually and literally carried out upon this
poor, ignorant, peasant lad by four young men, supposed to be educated
and civilised; and it might have had all the disastrous consequences
they could have wished but for an accident. A labourer on the farm
overheard part of the conversation of the plotters as they marshalled
themselves on the night of the expedition, and, as soon as the coast was
clear, stole off to warn the boy's father. Jacob Wanless and he at once
roused the neighbours; and, after a delay of perhaps twenty minutes,
half a dozen men started for Whitbury Farm, while as many took the
Stratford Road to try to save the boy from capture.

The latter party was too late; Thomas was caught near a cross-road about
a quarter of a mile from the farm. Two disguised men rushed upon him
from opposite sides of the road with savage growls, their blackened
faces half hid in mufflers. Brandishing clubs and knives, they demanded
his name. Thomas gave one piercing yell of terror and dashed forward,
but was seized and held fast. Gripping him by the collar of his smock
till he was nearly choked, young Turner again demanded his name, and, on
Thomas gasping it out, roared in his ear, "then you are the villain we
want. You must take us to farmer Pemberton's rickyard and stables. We
are rick-burners, and will kill you unless you obey." Whereat he
flourished a knife, and drew the back of it across his own throat, with
a significant gurgle. Thomas trembled in every limb, tried to speak, but
his tongue failing him, burst into a wail of crying instead, and sank to
the ground. The scoundrels laughed hoarsely, and, amid a volley of
oaths, hauled him to his feet. Then forcing him on his knees, Turner
ordered him to swear to lead them to the place, and keep faith with
them. As the boy hesitated, they stood over him crying, "Swear, swear,
you obstinate pig, or you die," and Turner held the knife to his heart.
Thoroughly cowed and terror stricken, Thomas gasped out, "I swear." A
man on each side then laid hold of him, hauled him to his feet and led
him towards the farm, the other two ruffians acting guards, muttering
foul oaths, and brandishing their cudgels within an inch of his face in
a way that froze his very heart's blood with terror.

Arrived at the barn, they produced a tinderbox, and, lighting a match,
ordered Thomas to set fire to a heap of loose straw that lay near the
barn door. Thomas refused. A dim glimmer of the fact that he was being
hoaxed had risen through his fears. He thought he knew the voices of at
least two of his tormentors, and he grew bolder. Twice the order was
repeated amid ominous handling of knives, but he sullenly bade them
light the straw themselves, and thrust his hands into his pockets. After
a third refusal one of the Pembertons struck him in the face a blow that
loosened three of his teeth, and made his nose bleed profusely. Then
once more he was asked to light the straw, but the only reply was a
piercing cry for help. In a moment a gag was thrust into his bleeding
mouth, and he was flung on the ground, where they proceeded to pinion
his hands and his feet. Before completing the tying, Turner hissed into
his ear, "Hold up your hand to say you yield, you little devil, or we
will beat you to death." But Thomas lay still, so the whole four of them
commenced to push him about with their feet, and to strike him with
their sticks, amid growls and horrid oaths. Then Thomas lost
consciousness. When he awoke again he was at home in his mother's bed.
His mother was kneeling by his side weeping bitterly, and his father
stood over him holding a feeble rushlight, watching for the return of
life. The boy was in great pain, especially about the legs and abdomen,
and could not move his left arm at all. His face was swollen, his lips
and gums lacerated and sore, and he lay tossing in pain till the grey
morning light, when he dropt off into a fitful sleep. A fortnight
elapsed before he was able to resume work.

The rescuing party had reached the farm barely in time to prevent the
brutal ruffians from carrying their sport to perhaps a fatal conclusion.
Guided by the curses and laughter, Jacob and his friends had rushed upon
the savages in the midst of the kicking, and Jacob himself in a frenzy
of rage wrenched a cudgel from the nearest of them, felled him to the
earth with it, and dragged his son from amongst the others' feet. The
man he struck happened to be Turner; and, seeing him down, the cowardly
young Pembertons took to their heels before the slower moving labourers
could capture them. Turner, all bleeding as he was, they attempted to
take with them in order to give him into custody, but on the way to the
village he tripped up one of his guards, wrenched himself free, and
bolted. An outrage like this surely could not go unpunished. Jacob
Wanless determined that it should not, and went to a Warwick lawyer, a
rival of old Turner's, with a view to get redress. This lawyer, Overend
by name, was a sort of pettifogger, who laid himself out for poor men's
work. In his way he was clever enough; but, unfortunately, he often got
drunk; and, even when sober, was hardly a match for old Turner. When
Thomas's case came before the justices, Jacob, therefore, fared badly.
Overend had just enough drink to make him violent and abusive, and the
result was that his witnesses were so bamboozled and browbeaten by both
Turner and the bench that they became confused, and gave incoherent
answers; so it was not very difficult, false swearing being easy, for
Turner and his clients to make Thomas the criminal. His attack on old
Pemberton's person was raked up in proof of his bad disposition, and his
presence in the farmyard was attributed to motives of revenge. As a
result, instead of obtaining redress, Jacob's case was dismissed by the
magistrates, and he and his son admonished. The chairman of the day,
Squire Polewhele, of Middlebury, told Jacob he might be thankful that
they did not put his son in jail for assault. There could be no doubt in
his opinion that the young scamp had gone to farmer Pemberton's rickyard
with malicious intent, for it was clear that he was an ill-conditioned
rascal, and if his father did not take better care of his upbringing he
might live to see him come to a bad end.

Such was Jacob's consolation. It took him and his son six months to pay
Overend's bill of 30s. The unlucky labourer who had brought the news of
the plot fared perhaps worse than anybody, for old Pemberton, at the
instigation of his sons, turned him off at a moment's notice. It was
nearly four months before the poor fellow could get another steady job,
and he and his family were all winter chargeable on the rates.

As for the boy Thomas, his nervous system had received such a shock
that it became a positive agony to him to have to trudge home from his
work in the dark winter nights, and when his father was unable to go to
meet him he always ran at the top of his speed past Whitbury farm, his
heart within him palpitating like to burst. All his life long, so deep
was the impression that fright made on him, a certain nervous tremor
seized him whenever he found himself alone on a strange road on a
moonless night.

The rest of the boyhood of Thomas Wanless was uneventful. He grew in
mind and in stature, and suffered less withal from hunger than many of
his order. At the age of twenty he took a wife, following in that
respect the habits of those around him. 'Tis the fashion nowadays to
inveigh against early marriages, and especially against the poor who
marry early. By such a practice it is declared miseries are heaped upon
them, and our pauper roll is augmented. This is an easy way to push
aside one of the most perplexing social problems that this country has
ever had to face. With the growth of wealth marriage has become a luxury
even to the rich, and for the comparatively poor a forbidden indulgence.
As a consequence of this the youth of the present day avoid marriage
with all its hampering ties. A code of morals has thus grown up which
may be said to be paving the way for a coming negation of all morality.

A young man may commit almost any crime against a young woman with
impunity so long as he steers clear of all hints of marriage. The
relations of the sexes are under this modern code utterly unnatural and
fruitful of corruption. Nor can it be otherwise while a man is
forbidden under penalty of social ostracism to take a wife. To marry is
almost as sure a way to renounce the world, with all its hopes and
advantages, as of old was the taking of a monastic vow. What the next
generation will be, what licenses it will give itself under the modern
restrictions which outrage all that is best in humanity, I must not
venture to predict. But that corruption is spreading on all hands, that
flippancy, folly, and worse, dominate the relationships of the young of
both sexes is even now too apparent.

But I am travelling far from Thomas Wanless's history. He at all events
felt no social restraint save that of poverty, which he did not fear,
and so he married young. The lad had, indeed, little choice.

His mother died when he was 19, and one of his sisters, the youngest of
the family, was also dead. The other had married and gone to a village
five miles beyond Warwick. Of his three brothers, one only remained at
home, a boy of 14. William, the next in age to himself, had been
kidnapped at Gloucester, and carried off to sea in a Government ship;
and the other boy, Jacob, had a place as stable-boy at Melton Priory,
Lord Raven's place, near which his married sister lived. There was no
woman, therefore, at home to cook food for the three that were left. His
father was too broken down to dream of marrying again, there were no
houses in the miserable overcrowded village where the three could be
taken in to lodge together, and so, unless they separated, what could
Thomas do but marry? He was willing enough, of course, being, like all
country lads of his years, honestly in love; and so at twenty he brought
home his wife to take his mother's place in the old freehold cottage,
soon to be his own. Sarah Leigh was a year or two older than her
husband, and had been an under-housemaid at the Grange, the family seat
of Squire Wiseman, who was the greatest man of the parish, and lord of
the manor. Her experiences there were not, perhaps, such as best fitted
her to be a labourer's wife, and at first she was inclined to
commiserate herself. But at bottom Sarah was a woman of sense, and by
the time her second child arrived had grown into a staid, affectionate
housewife, ever cheerfully busy in making her home comfortable.

Prudent or not, Thomas thus found himself in a humble and modest way
happy. He was now acting as under-waggoner at a farm called Grimscote,
near Warwick, and had as much as 9s. 6d. a week in summer, besides beer
and extra money in harvest. In winter his work was also regular, though
his wages were then only 8s. a week. His duties often took him
considerable distances away from home. He was frequently at Coventry and
Stratford-on-Avon, and he had once been as far as Worcester, and as his
observant faculties were keen, he took mental notes of what he saw. Full
of pity for the misery that he everywhere met, the feelings of his
boyhood became keener, and his independence of spirit more out-spoken.
Already this had attracted in a passing way the attention of the
authorities, and some even went so far as to shake their wiseacre heads
over him, and dubiously hint that he might be dangerous.



CHAPTER II

INTRODUCES THE READER TO A PHILANTHROPIC PARSON AND A GREAT SQUIRE.


In the years that elapsed between the close of the Napoleonic wars and
the passing of the Reform Bill, as indeed often since, the debasement
and misery of the agricultural poor rose to agony point, and soon after
Thomas Wanless's marriage an outbreak of popular discontent, based on
hunger, stirred a little the smooth surface of society. It became
necessary, for very shame, to at least appear to do something for the
pauperised masses on whose backs "society" was supported. Accordingly, a
pseudo philanthropic agitation was started in the rural districts with
the object of bettering, or rather of seeming to better, the peasant's
lot. Mass meetings were held, parsons and even bishops threw themselves
into the movement, patronised it, and sought to guide it to a
consummation safe for themselves and their "dear church," itself then so
great a landowner.

For rustic miseries these high personages had one main panacea, and one
only. This was not free land, fixity of tenure for the besotted farmers
always so content to lie at the feet of their earthly lords; it was not
disendowment of the Church and the distribution of its lands among the
people from whom they had been taken originally by chicane and greed;
nor was it the dismissal, with due payment, of those inheritors of the
ancient marauders and appropriators of the soil, with all that is on it
and under it, for whom the people have been kept as slaves for many
generations. No; none of these things did the servants of the British
deity, that idealisation of the sacred rights of feudal property,
advocate. Far be such traitor conduct from them. Their cure for the
agricultural distress was the "allotment system." To these reformers the
free migration of labour, the abolition of that abomination of the poor
law which prevented the poor from leaving their parishes, was as nothing
compared with allotments. Landlords and parish authorities had but to
permit the labourers to cultivate for themselves little patches of land,
let to them at a good rent, and what opulence would these serfs not
reach.

In the agitation on this tremendous reform, Thomas Wanless took a keen
interest, and then first felt sorely his inability to read. He tried to
recall the lessons of his childhood, but could not, and was ashamed to
apply for help. Few, indeed, amongst his neighbours could have helped
him. His wife was as uneducated as himself, so he had to be contented
with gathering the purport of what was going on from those he met at
market or mill. As far as his mind could comprehend the question it was
very clearly made up. He was convinced that all this agitation about
professed interest in the down-trodden labourers would do them no good,
and he doubted whether any good was meant.

"It's not a bit of charity land we want," he always said. "What I
maintain is that you and me an' the likes of us ought to get 10 acres or
more at a fair honest rent if we can do wi' it, and let's take our
chance. Why shouldn't I be able to keep cows and grow corn as well as
the farmer? He often wastes more than three labourers' families could
live on, and yet pays his rent. I tell ye, lads, this talk of 'lotments
and half acres, and all that, is just damned nonsense, an' that's what
it be."

Sentiments like these did not make Thomas popular with the upper powers,
and had old Parson Field been alive he might have smarted for his
freedom of speech. But the old parson had died shortly before the noise
about allotments came to a head, and the new vicar was supposed to be of
a different stamp. He was reputed to be a favourite of one of those
strange fungoid excrescences of Christianity, the "Lord" Bishop of the
diocese, who recommended him for the vacancy, and as he was young and
ignorant of the world, he began his work with some moral fervour and a
tendency to religious zeal. The Rev. Josiah Codling, M.A., of Jesus
College, Cambridge, was in fact a young man of liberal, not to say
democratic tendencies. He had been sufficiently impressed by some of the
more glorious precepts of the faith he came to teach to wish in a
general sort of a way to do good. Left to follow his higher impulses he
probably might have led a life of active philanthropy, and the
democratic thoroughness of the Christian faith might have enabled him to
do something to lift the down-trodden people who formed the bulk of his
flock. It was well, at all events, that Mr. Codling began with good
intent. He was hardly warm in the parish before he went into the
allotment agitation with the feverish enthusiasm of inexperience, and he
also had the temerity to start a school. Dismissing the old parish clerk
who had drowsily mumbled the "amens" and "we beseech Thee's" for nigh
forty years, he brought a young man from Birmingham who knew something
of the three R's, and was rumoured to have even conned a Latin primer,
and constituted him parish clerk and schoolmaster. The vicarage
coach-house was turned into a schoolroom till better could be provided,
and the vicar and his assistant began, the one to hunt up pupils, and
the other to guide their feet in the way of knowledge.

The farmers for a time looked on, scarce able to realise the meaning of
this innovation, but the more they looked the less they liked what they
saw. So they grumbled when they met in the churchyard on Sundays, and
shook their heads portentously over their beer or brandy punch at market
ordinaries, hinting that the "Squoire" should interfere. In their bovine
manner they soon began to place stumbling-blocks in the vicar's path. A
sudden demand for the services of boys and girls sprang up. Nearly every
farmer in the district found that he needed a new ploughboy or kitchen
wench, and the universal shilling rose to eighteenpence a week, from the
sheer pressure of this demand. Nothing daunted, Parson Codling
determined to start a night school, and if possible get the grown lads
and young men to attend. He succeeded in inducing nearly thirty youths
to come to this night class, and among the first to do so was Thomas
Wanless. Here was his chance, he thought, and he seized it with avidity.
Soon the numbers thinned away. Some left because they could see no good
in learning, but most of them because their masters on hearing of the
class threatened to dismiss them at once unless they promised to stop
"going to play the fool with that young Varsity ninny o' a parson, as
knew nowt o' plain country folks' wants;" and at the end of a month the
young schoolmaster had only seven pupils. To these he stuck fast, and
they made great progress that winter, for the poor pale-faced Birmingham
lad was an enthusiast in his way. Thomas and he became close friends,
and the former drank in the current political ideas which William Brown
brought with him from Birmingham as a sponge drinks up water. Early and
late, at every spare moment, Thomas was busy with his book, and by the
time spring came round again he was able to read with tolerable ease the
small county newspaper that found its way a week old from the Grange to
the village inn. He had read the Pilgrim's Progress, Robinson Crusoe,
and some other books lent him by the vicar, who looked upon him as his
model scholar, and took glory to himself over the labourer's success.

From that winter forth, however, the enthusiasm of the new vicar for
education sensibly died away. Naturally fitful in disposition, he craved
for immediate results, and, if they came not, his hopes were
disappointed, and his efforts at once relaxed. The pressure of the upper
powers of his parish was also beginning to tell on his unsophisticated
mind. He met with little overt opposition, for that might have been
both troublesome and impolitic. But quiet social forces worked on him
continually to bring him round to a proper sense of his position as
local priest of feudalism. When he dined out, which often happened, his
host would chaff him on his attempts to make scholars of those loafing
rascals of labourers. Squire Wiseman in particular gravely assured him
that he was encouraging dangerous ideas among a very dissolute and
indefinitely corrupt lot of pariahs. Educate them and they would
altogether go to the devil.

"Tell you what it is, sir," shouted a half-drunk J.P. one evening as the
vicar and some half dozen others sat over their wine after dinner at
Squire Wiseman's: "Tell you what it is; we must get you a wife; blest if
that wouldn't give you something better to do, my boy, than trying to
make gentlemen of those damn'd skulking labourers."

The company ha ha'd with delight, and the parson blushed to the very
root of his hair.

"Capital idea, 'pon my life!" said the host; "and I know just the girl
for you, Codling--at least my wife does, for she was remarking only last
night what a pity it was--"

"Please, sir," said the butler suddenly, after whispering for a short
time with a maid who had entered the room, "Timms would like to speak
wi' you. He says he's found poacher's snares in the Ashwood coppice, and
he wants two or three fellows to help him watch the place."

"Damn the fellow! can't he let a man eat his dinner in peace! Tell him
to go to the devil, Robins, and--and I'll see him to-morrow morning."

"Yes, sir. But, sir, Timms says--"

"Curse Timms, and you too! Do you hear what I say?" roared the squire,
and Robins vanished.

The conversation did not get back to the subject of Codling's marriage;
and the host, after playing absently with his glass for a minute or two,
got up hastily, and muttering, "Excuse me, gentlemen, only I think I had
better see Timms after all," left the room.

That night three poachers--a Warford villager and two shoemakers from
Warwick--were caught in the coppice, and lodged in Warwick jail.

In two days it was all over Ashbrook village that the vicar was going to
get married. The servants at the Grange had told the news to their
friends in confidence.



CHAPTER III.

EXHIBITS MORE PHILANTHROPY, OF A MIXED SORT, PLUS A LITTLE FIGHTING--THE
"ALLOTMENT" CURE FOR HUNGER.


The village gossips were right. Lady Harriet Wiseman did find the vicar
a wife, though not just then. The vicar's young zeal, his vague ideas,
had first to be moderated or abandoned. Bit by bit he was brought down
to the prosaic realities of parish life, which embraced obligations
unheard of in Holy Writ. That says nothing about the necessity for
upholding feudalism. A mere twelvemonths' labour at reforming the morals
and refining the minds of the rustics by means of the schoolmaster was
not quite enough to bring young Codling to a proper sense of his
position. A few more vagaries, a little further indulgence in the
pleasure of sowing religious wild oats, and then the vicar would be
ready to contract that highly advantageous marriage, which forms the
goal of so many a parson's ambition.

That accomplished, Codling might be considered tamed. The one further
aberration of his which we have to notice was his plunge into the
allotment agitation. As the excitement over teaching the rustics their
alphabet and multiplication table began to die out in his mind, this
new whim came handily to take its place and prevent him from feeling
like a deserter. Here, he declared, was the true remedy for the miseries
of the rural poor; he had become convinced that to educate them first
was to begin at the wrong end. The first thing was to make them
comfortable in their homes, and then they might learn to read with more
advantage. The schoolmaster was by no means to be thrown over, but
meanwhile Codling said the most important thing was that the labourers
should have patches of land to grow cabbages and potatoes.

The vicar's new fad, as it was called, did not excite the same amount of
hostility amongst the squirearchy of the neighbourhood as his effort at
education, but the farmers liked it as ill. Squire Wiseman was indeed
opposed to the experiment, and had there been no other landed proprietor
of influence in the parish, the vicar's fuss would have left no results.
But fortunately, in some respects, for the labourers, nearly all
Ashbrook village, and a good deal of the rolling meadow land to the
south of it, and that lay between wooded knolls, belonged to an
eccentric old fellow, named Hawthorn. The people called him Captain
Hawthorn, perhaps to distinguish him from the Squire, but he had never
known more of military life than three months' service as a subaltern in
a militia regiment. This Hawthorn was an oddity. A dry, withered, rather
small man, of between 50 and 60, slovenly in dress, and full of a
sardonic humour, he was constantly to be met walking in the country
lanes, and as often as not conversing with waggoners, poachers, and
such country people as came in his way. He was therefore distrusted by
the other big people of his neighbourhood; but the common people loved
him. The new vicar had hardly been a week in the parish ere he was
warned by the gentry to beware of this old man. Old Polewhele of
Middlebury roundly declared that Hawthorn was an infidel; and the
Dowager-Countess of Leigholm, Lady Harriet Wiseman's mother, felt sure
that he was in league with the Evil One, for he was always muttering to
himself, or else talking to a one-eyed, mangy, tailless cur, that
followed him everywhere, and which had more than once snarled at her in
a very vicious manner. Her ladyship, however, had a private grudge
against him, in that he had on several occasions been wicked enough to
win money from her at cards, and take it too--a crime she was never
known to forgive.

Whatever his relationship with, or belief in, the unseen powers,
Hawthorn alone of the landed gentry furthered Codling's latest project,
and made it a success in spite of the fact that the fitful zealot was at
the point of throwing the whole thing at his heels in disgust. Codling
felt that he had a right to be disheartened when his projects were not
adopted forthwith, and moreover, he was getting under weigh as a lover,
and that made other occupations irksome. He had done all he could, he
said to himself, and yet nobody was converted. Wiseman laughed at him
good humouredly as usual, and the farmers sent old Sprigg of Knebesley,
as their spokesman, to tell him that in their opinion "'lotments would
be the ruin of all honest labour. Gi'e the labourers land," he said,
"and they'll skulk at home instead of doin' an honest day's work for
us. They're the laziest vagabonds in creation, and the only thing you
can do is to keep them dependent on the rates, and when ye want 'em to
work, stop supplies. Hunger's the only prod for cattle o' that kidney."

The vicar was rapidly becoming convinced that he had made a mistake, but
he had gone so far that he could hardly at once back out, so he resolved
to make one final attempt to carry his point, in which he would obtain
the aid of a brother parson. This device would, he thought, enable him
to retreat gracefully from his false position. The man he summoned to
his help was a Leicestershire rector, whose consuming zeal had induced
him to become a sort of itinerant evangelist of the allotment system.
What could be better than to get such a brilliant apostle to address a
mass meeting at Ashbrook. With the failure of a prophet to convince
landlords and farmers, Codling felt that his weak-kneedness might be
justified.

The Rev. Henry Slocome's services were therefore secured, and notices of
the coming meeting were posted on the church doors and in the
neighbourhood for a fortnight in advance. As there was no building large
enough, the meeting was to be held beneath the old elm on Ashbrook
Green. The news excited great interest amongst the labourers who, on the
Saturday evening in July when the meeting was held, gathered to the
number of about 200 men and women from all the villages in the
neighbourhood. A strange sight they presented as they stood with
upturned faces around the waggon on which the vicar, the parish clerk,
and the speaker of the evening were perched. Grey wizened faces, watery
eyes, blueish hungry-like lips these men and women had--a weird,
hopeless-looking, toil-bent congregation of the have-nots.

Young men were stunted and shrivelled with labour and want, and old men
were gaunt and twisted with exposure, overwork, and rheumatism. Verily
if allotments were to do these people good, the work of the self-chosen
missionary, who had come to set the country on fire, was not to be
contemned. But it boded ill for the success of his efforts that never a
landed proprietor in the district gave the meeting his countenance.
Just, however, as business began the crowd of labourers was recruited by
from 20 to 30 young farmers and farmers' sons. These stood apart,
ranging themselves on the left of the meeting near the churchyard wall,
and rather behind the waggon. They were too far off to hear well, but
near enough for interruptions, and they accordingly indulged frequently
in groans, ironical laughter, or jeers at the labourers. Two of the
Pembertons were there, the two who had succeeded their father at
Whitbury farm, and there also was hulking young Turner from Warwick,
half drunk as usual.

The labourers themselves were in high good humour, and indulged in a
great deal of rough chaff at each other's expense. A noted poacher in
particular came in for much attention, and amongst other things was
asked if he would "haul a cove afore the justices if he caught him
snaring rabbits in his 'lotment?" But all this was hushed when the vicar
and his ally mounted the waggon and began proceedings. I cannot give you
the speech of the Rev. Henry Slocome, for Thomas had but a dim
recollection of it, his attention being too much occupied watching the
ongoings of the farmers. These for a time contented themselves with
making a noise, but that was far too tame a kind of fun to satisfy such
bright sparks long, and they soon began to shy small pebbles among the
crowd, aiming at such hats or sticks as were prominent. This raised a
clamour which interrupted the meeting, and matters were brought to a
crisis by one of these stones hitting Thomas Wanless on the cheek. It
was a sharp-edged bit of flint which cut the cheek open, and made Thomas
furious. Turning his bleeding face, now barely visible in the gathering
dusk, to the crowd, and heedless of the vicar's shouts for silence, he
exclaimed--"Lads, are you going to stand this stone-throwing any longer;
are these slave-drivers to be allowed to bully us on our own village
green?"

"No, no, no," shouted the labourers in a chorus.

"Let us thrash them, then," he replied, "and teach them that we have the
right to live."

He was answered with a shout and a rush. In vain the orator parson and
the vicar gesticulated and roared; in vain the parish clerk, at
Codlings' suggestion, jumped from the waggon and tried to hold the
people back. The tall figure of Thomas Wanless, the sight of blood on
his face, his fiery looks and determined attitude, completely carried
the labourers away. More stones too were thrown, and the jeers that
accompanied them hurt almost more than stones. A conflict was now
inevitable.

Seeing the younger labourers gathering round Wanless for an onset,
Turner, ever the leader in mischief, hastily collected his forces, and
drew them back against the churchyard wall. They had hardly time ere the
labourers were upon them.

"Come on, boys," Wanless shouted, without waiting to form an array,
hardly, indeed, waiting to see who was following him. Clenching his
teeth and drawing himself together he dashed up the slope, and singling
out Turner, closed with him, and sent his stick flying over the
churchyard wall. A moment after Turner himself was rolling amongst the
feet of those who had hurried after Wanless. The strife now became
general, and for a time all was wild confusion. Gradually, however, the
fight, as it were, gathered into knots round the leading men on either
side. Big Tom Pemberton had been struck at by a puny little handful of
pluck, whose slender frame and pinched face indicated an absence of
stamina which ill-fitted him for a struggle with that stalwart bully. He
was instantly caught by the throat and bent backwards. Had Wanless not
happened to look that way Pemberton might have broken his back, for he
proceeded to twist him round and double him over his knee, but Wanless
was passing, and swift as lightning, his stick came down on Pemberton's
head. The blow staggered him, and made him let go. Pushing him aside,
Thomas seized the pale-faced lad and hurried him out of the fight.
Turning, he skirted along the edge of the battle to cheer his comrades
and help others that might be in distress, dealing a blow here, and
tripping up a foe there, and dodging many a stroke aimed at himself.
Comparatively scathless, but somewhat blown, he worked his way back to
the thick of the struggle, and immediately found himself face to face
with the other Pemberton, who had just ended a tough fight with the
blacksmith, and like Wanless, was a little spent. He, however, made for
Thomas the moment he saw him, and they closed in a fierce wrestle. They
tugged and tore at each other for a moment or two, and then went down
together, falling on their sides, Wanless, being, if anything, rather
undermost. In the fight that followed for supremacy, Pemberton's greater
weight, for he was fuller, taller, and stouter than Thomas, seemed to
promise him the victory; but with a violent wrench, Wanless so far freed
himself as to get his knees planted against Pemberton's body, when, with
a final tug, he broke free and sprang to his feet. Bill Pemberton also
scrambled up, and they then began hitting at each other wildly with
their fists. A kind of ring gathered round them, each side cheering its
champion, but the fight was not an equal one. The young farmer was too
fat and heavy, and Thomas's random blows punished him fearfully. Blood
trickled down his face, and he was gasping for breath before they had
fought five minutes, and Thomas finished the contest by rushing at
Pemberton and throwing him crashing amongst his followers' feet. They
dragged him out of the melée, and, their fury redoubled, returned to
make a combined onset on the labourers. Had they been at all equally
matched in numbers, the farmers would now probably have driven their
foes from the field, and, overmatched as they were, they twice forced
the labourers back on the old folks, and women still huddled round the
waggon eagerly watching the fight through the gathering darkness.

But Wanless and his lieutenant, the young blacksmith, again and again
rallied their forces and advanced to the attack. At last, edging round
to the upper end of the churchyard, which lay aslant a considerable
declivity, they bore down on the flank of the farmers' party, with a
rush that carried everything before it. Before they could rally
themselves, the farmers were huddled together, and, amid random blows,
kicks, and oaths, driven pell mell clear off the green, as far as the
vicarage gate. There they tried to make a stand, but the momentum and
numbers of the labourers, now swollen by many of the women, were too
much for them, and they were finally chased from the village, amid the
derisive shouts of the victors. They retired, cursing and vowing
vengeance as they went.

The fight over, the people, panting and exhausted, drew slowly together
by the waggon once more, recounting their exploits and showing their
wounds. One man had got his arm broken, and many had severe cuts,
bruises, and sprains, but, on the whole, the damage done had been
slight.

It was now almost dark, and the crowd soon began to ask whether there
was to be any more speechifying. The old people, who had stayed by the
waggon, thought the meeting must be at an end. "The vicar," they said,
"had gone off in a huff, taking t'other parson wi' him, when he found
nary a one mindin' a bit what he said." So the labourers were in doubts
what to do. Some wanted to go home, having thrashed the farmers, "a
good nights job enough;" others thought a deputation ought to go to the
vicarage to try and mollify the parson, for after all allotments might
be worth having.

Just as the dispute was waxing warm, the light of a lantern shone out
from behind the tree, and, coming round to the waggon, attracted
attention. Thinking it was the parsons come back, the labourers ceased
their talk to listen; but what they heard was the voice of Captain
Hawthorn swearing at his servant for not lighting the way better. The
servant paid no attention to the oaths, but cast his light over the
waggon, and exclaimed: "Here we are, sir. Here's where the strange cove
was a spouting. But, by the Lord Harry! he's hooked it!" he added in a
disappointed tone.

"Strange cove! What's that I hear, Francis? Francis, you scamp, don't
you know that's blasphemy? Hooked it! He! he! D---- the fellow! that
comes of picking up London servants." Then, changing his tone, the
Captain almost shouted, "Help me up, Francis. I want to see these
scoundrels. How the devil is a man to get into this waggon? Find me a
chair, will you, eh?"

"Please, sir, can't you manage to mount by the wheel, sir," answered his
servant, and after some trouble the Captain did get in by the wheel,
swearing much, and followed by his servant with the lantern. The dog
then wanted to mount also, but, being fat and heavy couldn't manage it,
so sat down and began to yelp. This caused a fresh outburst of swearing,
and ultimately Francis had to get out again and hoist the dog in, as
the brute would allow none of the people to touch him.

Quiet and order being restored, Hawthorn stood forward, took the lantern
from his servant's hand, and, raising it, proceeded very deliberately to
survey the crowd before him. Most of their faces, and many of their
names were well known to him; and he addressed some of those he knew
with some characteristic greeting. The wounded men appeared to interest
him specially, and it was ludicrous to hear him rate one fellow for
being unable to protect his handsome face, and condole with another on
the coming interview with his wife. He discovered the countenance of his
own groom disfigured by a cut on the nose and a black eye, and he held
the light over it, chuckling loudly, till the fellow fairly ducked
under. "Ha, Silas, you thief," he said, "I have always told you that you
would get punished some day for your vanity, and sure enough the
dairymaid will marry the blacksmith in less than a month, if you show
that face to her. Gad, you'll frighten my old mare out of her wits, too,
with that diabolical figure-head of yours. You had better go home to
your mother and get it mended."

"By heavens," he exclaimed, again casting his light on another face,
"there's poacher Dick. Were you in the fray, Dick, my boy? No, no, it
cannot be; he's been mauling the gamekeepers, and has taken refuge
amongst you lads, eh?"

"No, no; he fought with us all square," was the answer, and the crowd
laughed, and the Captain chuckled again and again.

Suddenly laying down the lantern he shouted, "Three cheers for the
victors of Ashbrook fight," a call instantly responded to amid great
good humour and much laughter.

"Three cheers for the Captain," called a voice in the crowd, and off
went the huzzas again.

"Drop that nonsense, will you, boys; drop it, I say," roared the
Captain, and added as soon as he could make himself heard above the din,
"what the devil are you cheering me for? I didn't help you to win the
fight, did I?"

"No, but you cheered us for it," answered a dozen voices together.

"And that's more than any other squire in Warwickshire would 'a' done,"
cried young Wanless.

"Is that you, Tom Wanless?" queried Hawthorn.

"Yes, sir."

"Then you are a damned fool, Tom, and know nothing about it. All
Englishmen like to see pluck, don't they, you young rascal?"

The ironical tone of this query was perceptible to all, and raised an
answering laugh of irony, amid which Wanless shouted back--

"We ain't Englishmen, we labourers, except when we list and let
ourselves be shot by the thousand when some big chap with a handle to
his name says, March! An' even then the big chaps get all the rewards,
and such o' the common lot as escape hardly get leave to beg. No, no,
sir; we ain't Englishmen, we are only Englishmen's slaves."

"Drop that, Tom Wanless," interrupted Hawthorn; "drop it. Good Lord,
man, do you suppose I came here to listen to a speech from you, when I
kept well without earshot of the parsons. And, Gad, that reminds
me--Where are the parsons? Francis! Francis!"

"Yes sir, yes sir," answered that staid person, hurriedly coming
forward.

"Humph, making love to the wenches at my very elbow, you graceless dog.
Go and tell the vicar with my compliments, that I want to speak to him
out here in this old waggon with the bottom half out. Gad, I'll be
through it, I do believe, before you get back. Could that shouting
fellow have stamped holes in it," he added to himself, as Francis
disappeared. "Shouldn't wonder," and chuckling again at the idea, he sat
down on the side of the waggon, quite oblivious of the expectant crowd
around him. An impatient hum soon broke on his ear, and he lifted his
head and called out, "Go home to bed, you mutinous pack; you'll be
defrauding your masters of an hour's work to-morrow morning."

"No fear of that, sir; and we want to hear what you have got to say to
us."

"Say to you! Ah, yes, to be sure I have something to say; but we must
wait for the parson, boys."

"Here he comes! Here he comes!" shouted voices from the edge of the
crowd, and after a little bustling the ruddy face of Codling, and the
grey head of his friend gleamed over the side of the waggon in the dim
candle-light.

"Glad to see you, sir, I'm sure," said Hawthorn to the vicar
graciously; "and you, too, sir," turning to Mr. Slocome. "Sorry I didn't
hear your speech; Gad, you have put new life into the boys; they've
smashed the farmers. 'Pon my soul, sir, I didn't think they had it in
them. You must be a powerful orator, and I wish I had been here sooner."

"Pardon me, sir, I have not the advantage," stammered Slocome. "I did
not cause the fight, God forbid. I did all I could to stop it; my
mission is not to stir up sedition, sir, but to preach peace." This last
remark in a tone of high offence.

"He, he, he!" laughed the cynical squire. "Well, well, we shan't dispute
the point. The boys did fight, and well, too, as you must allow. Licked
the farmers, by Jove; and I tell you what, Mr. Vicar," turning again to
Codling, "I mean to show my appreciation of their pluck by doing
something for them. What do you propose it should be?"

"I'm afraid, sir," answered the vicar, pompously, "I can't abet you in
your design, or lend it my countenance. I am deeply grieved that my
humbler parishioners should have so far forgotten themselves as to
create a disturbance in the village to-night. It has been my wish to do
them good, and for that end I held this meeting, and brought my esteemed
brother here to imbue their minds with the principles of forethought and
thrift. But they interrupted his address with an unseemly riot, led, I
am sorry to say, by a young man of whom I had hoped better things.
Bitterness between man and man, class and class, has been created by the
conduct of which you have been guilty to-night, my friends, and you may
be sure, though I wish you well, it will be long before I again make the
mistake of seeking to increase your material comforts." Turning again to
Hawthorn, he added, "I must beg you to excuse me, sir, but I cannot
remain here to behold a landed proprietor of this parish, the landlord,
in fact, of these villagers, acting as an inflamer of sedition," and
with lofty bow, and a wave of his hand, dimly visible to his listeners,
Codling turned to go.

"Stay a moment," roared Hawthorn, reaching forth his stick as if to
catch the vicar by the collar of his coat. "Stop, sir; don't let him go,
boys, I also have something to say." The vicar stood still, looking
rather foolish, and Hawthorn continued--"You have made an accusation
against my tenants, and I, as their representative and spokesman, must
ask you to substantiate those charges. I don't care a curse what you say
about myself, but I'm not going to stand by and see these men slandered.
Tell me, sir, who began the disturbance?"

"It was--I believe--I--fancy--some people on the outskirts of the
meeting--people from Warwick I should imagine."

"Bah! can't you speak out like a man, instead of beating about the bush
like a fool? Who began the disturbance?" The old Captain was clearly
getting excited.

"The--the farmers and--but--" blurted out Codling.

"Ah! the farmers was it?" interrupted Hawthorn, "and would you have had
these lads stand still like asses to be thwacked? Do you mean to come
out here and deliberately blame my tenants for having spirit enough
left to resent insult and abuse? A nice parson you are--a fine preacher
of peace. Suppose it had been the other way, and the farmers had been
taunted and stoned by the labourers until they turned and thrashed them.
What would you have said then? No doubt that these wretches deserved
their fate. I hate all this snivelling cant about the obligation of the
poor to submit to whatever is put upon them."

Hawthorn spoke fast and bitterly, and, as he ended, his audience broke
into ringing cheers much prolonged.

Codling stood dumb, and looked so cowed and sheepish that Slocome tried
a diversion.

"Captain Hawthorn--I believe--and good people," he began, but his voice
was drowned amid cries of "Silence--hold your tongue; we want to hear
the Captain."

"I have a little more to say, my boys," Hawthorn answered. "My chief
object in coming here, and in asking the Vicar to come here, was to tell
you that I have decided to assign to you, the men of my own village, the
twenty acre field just by on Warwick road, to be made into allotment
gardens. I admire"--but he got no further. Shout upon shout, the men
cheered, and the women wept and laughed by turns, as if the speaker had
promised them all fortunes. The announcement was so unexpected, and the
way it was made went so about the hearts of these poor villagers, that
they could have hugged the old Captain to death for joy had he let
himself within their reach. As it was, they crowded round the waggon to
shake hands with him, hustling the Vicar and his friend out of the way,
and it was fully five minutes before order could be restored. During the
hubbub the Vicar and Mr. Slocome managed to slink away. What Codling may
have thought about his own conduct on that evening no one can say, but
he evidently resented Hawthorn's freedom of speech most bitterly. He was
disgusted also that the people should have got their allotments so
obviously without his help, and from this time forth he may be said to
have abjured philanthropy. Henceforth he found it safer and much more
pleasant to confine his attention to Church ritual and the worship of
feudalism.

The labourers never missed the Vicar in their delight over Hawthorn's
announcement. They wanted to escort him home in a body, but he would not
hear of it. He peremptorily ordered them to go home to bed, and departed
with his servant and his dog. A few of the younger men followed him to
the end of the village, then sending a parting cheer after him quickly
dispersed. Thus ended the great Ashbrook allotment meeting. It was a
nine days' wonder in the neighbourhood, and the oddities of Hawthorn
were held to be dangerous by the squires, while farmers cursed him for
his liberality. But these things did not prevent the labourers from
obtaining their allotments, and they were thereby rendered perhaps a
degree less hungry for a time.



CHAPTER IV.

DISCLOSES AN EXCELLENT, INFALLIBLE AND ARISTOCRATIC PLAN FOR
MANUFACTURING CRIMINALS.


Nothing serious came directly of the Ashbrook fight. There was a talk of
bringing certain labourers before the justices, and the Pembertons in
particular uttered loud threats against Tom Wanless, young Satchwell,
the blacksmith, and one or two others; but old Hawthorn let it be widely
known that if any steps were taken to prosecute the labourers, he would
not only provide means for their defence, but enable them also to raise
counter actions, in support of which he would compel the Vicar to enter
the witness-box. That did not suit the farmers or their abettors, still
less Codling, so after a little noisy squabbling the matter dropped.

Henceforth, however, the feud, if such it may be called, between the
Pembertons and Wanless was renewed, and became on their part a sleepless
desire for petty vengeances. They never missed the smallest opportunity
of making him feel their ill-will. Thomas had in other ways enough to
bear with in those days, helped though he was by his freehold cottage
and allotment. His intelligence told against him with most of the
farmers, making them regard him with hatred and suspicion. So he got no
opportunity of bettering himself, was, indeed, hardly able to keep his
head above water by the severest labour. Many a time did he see other
and less skilled workmen preferred before him, and often in harvest had
he to work as one of a gang of reapers under another contractor, instead
of himself taking the lead. This, by and by, caused him to try and find
work at greater distances from home, and he was occasionally away for
months at a time wood-cutting, ditch-cutting, toiling early and late for
what pittance he could pick up, while his wife struggled at home to make
ends meet in spite of her increasing family. By the time Thomas was 35
years old, she had borne him eight children, of whom seven were alive,
and it was almost more than mortal could do to bring these up decently
on 9s. or 10s. a-week. How his neighbours, who had rent to pay, managed,
was more than Thomas could divine, unless they quietly stole what was
not given them; as, indeed, most of them did. Many also were so
demoralised as to look upon poor relief as a perquisite which they
thought it no shame to accept, and even demand, on all occasions. Nearly
all poached game, when they had a chance, and boasted of it to each
other. In regard to game there was, in fact, no consciousness of
wrong-doing in the mind of any labourer, and Thomas himself thought
nothing of killing a rabbit or leveret when he had the chance; the only
anxiety was not to be caught doing it. There was a clear distinction in
his mind between slaying wild animals protected by selfish and
abominable laws, and stealing vegetables, fowls, stray eggs, or fruit,
which many of his comrades made a practice of doing, pleading in their
defence that man must live.

Thomas Wanless had a soul above petty thieving of this kind. Not only
was he naturally high-spirited and jealous of a good conscience, but his
mind had become considerably expanded by diligent cultivation. He did
not again forget his reading, and though his books were few, he still
contrived to read enough on odd Sundays in summer, and in the winter
evenings, to stimulate his naturally strong thinking powers. His
friends, the blacksmith and the parish clerk, were also often in his
company, and the three discussed matters of Church and State in the
freest possible style over their jugs of thin ale. Poor Brown, the
parish clerk and schoolmaster, had not improved his prospects by
settling in Ashbrook, for the vicar had long ceased to interest himself
in the education of the poor, and the school emoluments had become
meagre enough. But Brown had married, and so was, in a measure, rooted
to the spot, not knowing where to better himself.

He eked out his parish clerkship with odd accountant jobs for
surrounding farmers, and occasionally picked up a crown or two by acting
as clerk at country auctions, and his greatest earthly blessing was a
contested parliamentary election. Yet life was hard for him withal, and
his Radicalism naturally was bitter, for adversity is the best nursery
of democratic ideas. It is only the noblest natures that can enjoy
prosperity, and yet be just and considerate towards all men. Too often
the man who when poor was a blatant Radical becomes a hollow tin kettle
sort of creature when he has struggled up from the earth where his
Radicalism took birth. I say not that Brown was of this sort, but
undeniably poverty and disappointment put an edge on his wit when he
dealt with the inequalities of life, and under his leadership Thomas
Wanless stood in no danger of becoming an unquestioning pauper. The
three friends solved social problems in a style that would have amazed
their superiors had they known; nay, that they would have even startled
some of the limp and dilettante friends of the people who, in these
days, haunt London clubs, and dilate with wondrous volubility on social
reform. Thomas's Radicalism, however, never interfered with his work,
for his family was more to him than the ills of the State. He viewed
these wrongs, perhaps, from too narrow a standpoint for him to be a
great social reformer. He felt for his little ones, and for his once
blooming, patient wife--now grown brown, gaunt, and hollow-eyed from
incessant care, toil, and privation--and the disjointed order of society
was to him a personal wrong. His life was, indeed, cheerless; and after
his father died and his brother had been killed by a fall from a rick,
he often felt lonely and sullen at the heart, working against his fate
as a prisoner might in chains. For him this life had no hope, no
prospect of rest but the grave.

Struggling bravely, though bitter at the heart, Thomas dragged his
family through the terrible years that followed the passing of the
Reform Bill--years during which his wife and children were almost as
familiar with want as with the light of the sun. How they survived he
could hardly tell. "My remembrance of that time," he one day said to
me, "is but a kind of confused dream. I ceased to think or feel. I just
worked where and when I could; and I swallowed my crust like a dumb
beast. But now I thank God that I had health, though then to commit
murder would at times to me have seemed as nothing."

In that time Thomas became a strong Chartist, and was a leader among his
fellows; and, feeling as he did, it says much for his force of character
that there were no outbreaks by the Ashbrook villagers such as occurred
in many parts of Warwickshire at that time. His opinions, however, were
well known, and he was called a rogue freely enough by his enemies the
farmers. More than once he might have suffered unjust imprisonment for
his freedom of speech at village gatherings and elsewhere, had not old
Squire Hawthorn stood his friend. Ever since Ashbrook fight, that
strange old man had taken a special interest in Thomas. It only
extended, however, to occasional efforts to keep him out of the grip of
the justices, and could hardly perhaps have gone further, for Thomas was
proud; and, besides, he was a labourer, and in that lowly lot he was
predestined by the laws of the landed oligarchy to remain. Over the
great gulf fixed by that mighty trades union of the Take-alls he could
never pass.

So passed the years of my friend's early manhood. He was familiar with
care; poverty was his abiding portion. A young family gathered round his
knee; which he tried to bring up in less ignorance than had been his
early lot, but whom he could not always keep less hungry. Thomas had
many times difficulty in providing his household with a sufficiency of
coarse dry bread. Insufficiently nourished his children were weakly and
stunted; little able to wrestle with disease. His two eldest boys were
sent to work for good at the age of ten; and the younger of the two died
through exposure and hunger before he was twelve. The girls were kept
longer at home, hard though the fight for life was; but the third boy
(Thomas) was taken on at Squire Hawthorn's own farm, at 2s. per week,
when he was little over nine. That same year, Thomas himself had had a
fine spell of harvesting; and his wife, having no new baby to provide
for, had saved a few shillings by selling vegetables from the allotment
garden, to people in Warwick town, so that the winter was faced by the
couple in better heart than they had known almost since the day they
were married. A pound or two in hand after meeting the bills that the
harvest money had to pay! Surely greater bliss no man could know. The
thought of such riches made Thomas declare that he might yet escape the
workhouse, as, thank God, his father had done. Already, though not forty
years old, the shadow of that accursed refuge of the English poor had
begun to loom over Thomas's future, grim and horrible as the gate of
Hell. As he thought, in his hours of bitterness, of whither his endless
toil was carrying him, of the sole "good" that the Take-alls left to him
and such as him, he set his teeth and cursed his country. Nor would he
believe that for this he had been born. His soul was bitter within him,
and, young as he yet was, hard work and harder fare were telling on his
stalwart frame.

But this autumn had brought him a gleam of hope; and the stirring events
of the time helped to strengthen that hope. All things were changing.
The great towns had been roused into political activity by the Reform
Bill, and railways were fast revolutionising the habits of the people
the land through, as well as opening up new fields of labour. At last,
then, and even in sleepy, wealth worshipping, hide-bound England,
democracy might be considered born. Thomas was sanguine that in the
coming struggles the people would win, and, like all sanguine believers
in the future good, his belief expected instant fulfilment. The apostles
themselves lived in the belief that the end of the world was at hand.
Might not the way-worn and heart-weary agricultural labourer therefore
hope? Thomas Wanless, at least, did so. The world was changing for
others; for him and his also better times might be at hand. Hitherto,
alas, the changes had been mostly to his hurt. Railway-making itself had
done his class harm rather than good, for the new iron roads linked the
country more and more closely to the great centres of industry. Prices
of all kinds of agricultural produce went higher and higher, but without
bringing a corresponding increase in the labourer's pay. The landowner
grabbed all he could of the augmented gains, and what he left the farmer
took. For the hind was there not still the workhouse? Yet the demand for
labour was increasing fast, and not all the hungry kerns of Ireland
seemed able to meet that demand. For once Thomas and his wife had
enjoyed a good year. Was not Leamington Priors growing a big town
moreover, and going to have a college of its own to outshine Rugby
itself? Surely Ashbrook would benefit from the nearness of so much
wealth as this implied. The grounds for this hope were many and obvious.
Thomas might yet rent his own little farm, and be independent. His
ambition ran no higher, yet the indulgence of it proved him to be a
short-sighted fool.

At this time Thomas was an odd or day labourer, taking contract jobs on
his own account when he could get them, and working for a daily wage
when these failed. This winter found him at work grubbing up old hedges,
and helping to lay out anew some land on a farm of Lord Duckford's
beyond Radbury. He had to walk about four miles each way daily to and
from his work, but as the days were short he lost no time, and the
company of a fellow villager engaged with him at the same job made the
trudge lighter. And the hopes that lay around his heart helped him more
than aught else, as they always help us poor will-o'-the-wisp-led
mortals in this dark world.

Alas for these hopes! Thomas Wanless had not been a month at his new
work when an epidemic of scarlet fever broke out at Ashbrook, and
amongst the first to catch the disease was his youngest child, a girl of
two years. Ere ten days had elapsed five out of his seven surviving
children were down with the treacherous disease. His eldest boy and girl
had had it years before, but the boy was sent home from the farm where
he worked for fear of spreading contagion, and the girl was little more
than nine years old, so that she could not do much to help the
overworked mother.

Crowded together in the long low-roofed attic of the cottage, three of
the five lay helpless and wailing for many days. After the first week
the other two whose attack had been slight got out of bed, but were kept
in the same room to avoid cold. The food of all was poor, the medical
attendance miserable and infrequent. Thomas's heart was nearly broken.
All his hopes vanished, and the old bitterness settled down on his
spirit. The rage of helplessness often swept over him as he looked at
his tired and harassed wife, or thought of her left alone, day in and
out, with those sick children. The little savings would mostly be needed
for the doctor's bill; there was only the 10s. a-week that Thomas
happily still earned to stand between the whole family and want. Can
anyone wonder that Thomas grew moody, and glowered at the world to which
he owed so little?

One evening, in the middle of the third week of their affliction, as he
and neighbour Robins were trudging home together through the perplexing
obscurity of a grey November fog, the latter said--

"Couldn't we get a rabbit or two, Tummas? They'd make a nice pot for the
young ones, poor things; better nor barley gruel, any way."

"I don't mind," said Thomas, in an indifferent tone. "But where can we
come at 'em?"

"Oh, there's a warren up in Squire Greenaway's fir coppice to the left
here, just off the Banbury road. We can beat it in five minutes. Come
on," he added, seizing Thomas's arm.

"All right, let's have some o' the wermin," his friend answered, and
presently they turned off the road, making for the coppice.

"You keep up by the fence here, and you'll strike the edge of the wood
in no time," said Robins. "The burrows lie mostly along to the right.
Crouch down by the holes and be ready. I'll walk round the field and
drive the bunnies in. There's sure to be lots feedin' to-night in old
Claypole's turmuts."

Thomas obeyed, and the two at once lost sight of each other. Robins, it
is to be feared, had often helped himself to a rabbit before now, here
and elsewhere, but by some chance Thomas had never yet been a regular
poacher. He could not say why, for certainly he had no respect for the
game laws. Such, however, was the fact, and he said a queer kind of
feeling came over him when he found himself alone, and realised the
errand he was upon. But his mind was in tone to be tempted now, and he
never thought of turning back. There was, indeed, little time to think
of it, for he was among the rabbit-holes in a minute, and choosing a
handy bush where the holes were thick he knelt down, grasped his stick
and waited. Presently he heard a low whistle from the field below, but
quite near, and almost as it reached his ears rabbits by the dozen came
hopping up cautiously, and with frequent pauses of watchfulness. The
foremost caught sight of Thomas and scudded to the left, whither the
whole troop might have followed had not Robins at that instant rushed
up and sent a batch of the scared creatures right amongst Thomas's feet.
Ere they could get under ground he managed to knock over three, and
Robins himself maimed but did not succeed in catching a fourth. Two of
the three knocked over were not quite dead, but Robins at once finished
them, and as he did so, said:--

"Look here Tummas, you takes the two big uns. You're more in need o' 'em
than me," and as he would take no denial the spoil was so divided.

Thomas thanked his friend, and stowing the rabbits inside their coats as
best they could, the two carefully made their way out of the coppice,
and again took the road for home.

By this time it was very dark, and the fog thicker than ever, so that
they had never a thought of danger. Yet they had not been unobserved.
Tom Pemberton, as ill-luck would have it, had been passing the coppice
while the two labourers were after the rabbits, and had either heard
their voices or the whistling, made more audible by the fog. Suspecting
that poachers were at work, and always eager to do his fellow man an ill
turn, Pemberton stopped his walk, and stole along the edge of the field
till he reached the gate, where he crouched for his prey. In a few
minutes the voices of the approaching labourers reached his ears, and
being a coward he crawled along the ground, and lay down in the frozen
ditch lest he should be seen, but still kept well within earshot. To his
intense satisfaction he recognised one at least of the men by his voice,
as they passed him, unconscious of his presence. Robins he could not be
sure of, but he had only too good cause to recollect the voice of
Wanless. The two were talking of the pleasure their families would have
in eating stewed rabbit, and doubtless Pemberton chuckled to himself as
he heard. But he had the prudence to keep quite still until the
labourers got well beyond hearing. Then he arose and went on his mission
of evil. The unsuspecting labourers trudged home in peace. Thomas with
even a flicker of gladness at his heart, a flicker that deepened to a
glow of thankfulness, when he reached his cottage and learned that the
doctor had pronounced the child who had suffered most out of danger. She
was the youngest but one, a little girl of four. Before her illness she
had been a fair-haired, delicate-looking, but healthy child, with
bright, engaging ways, and a sweet merry voice, a great favourite of her
father's. Now she was thin and worn, and her lips had become dry and
cracked with the fire that had burned and burned in her little body,
till all its flesh was consumed. Night after night Thomas had come home,
and, changing his wet clothes, had, after a hasty supper, gone up beside
his little ones to watch and tend them in the early night, while the
mother tried to snatch an hour or two's sleep. Through these weary weeks
nothing had wrung his heart so keenly as the sore battle for life made
by wee Sally. Hour after hour her little transparent feverish hands
would clutch his nervously, as she lay panting in his arms, or wander
pitifully about his weather-worn face, her burning touch causing him to
shiver to the very marrow of his bones.

"I'se so ill, daddy; I'se so ill," she would keep moaning, and sometimes
she would start screaming from an uneasy slumber that gave no rest.
Then she grew too ill to speak, and lay gasping and delirious in the
close, ill-ventilated attic beside her two sisters, who were themselves
part of the time too ill to raise their heads. Thomas thought that death
had come for his little girl the night before he brought the rabbits
home, and the nearer death seemed to come the more agonising grew the
pain at his heart. His wife and he together had watched by Sally's cot
till towards morning, fearing that each moment she would choke. But
about half-past two the breath began to be more free; she swallowed a
little weak tea, and gradually fell into the quietest sleep she had had
for more than ten days.

When Thomas left for his day's work she was asleep still, and he had
held the hope that she would yet get better to his heart all day. So
mixed are the motives that sway men that this very hope made him the
more ready to go after the rabbits. The savoury broth might help his
little ones--and Sally.

So they were glad that night in the little Ashbrook Cottage. Sally had
slept till daylight, and woke quiet, cooler-skinned and hungry. The
doctor said she would live yet. Thomas went up as usual beside his
little ones, and told them about the rabbits that Robins and he had
caught, making them laugh at the thought of to-morrow's treat. He had
not waited for supper, and his wife brought it up stairs, spreading it
out at the foot of the bed where "baby" and "bludder" Jack lay, and then
the whole family enjoyed the luxury of a cup of tea in honour of Sally's
improvement. How little the labourer suspected then that the hand of
vengeance was already stretched forth to blast him and his joys, it
might be, for ever. Yet so it was, and thus does life ever mock us,
especially if we be poor. And had not Thomas sinned against the English
Baal. The sacred laws of property had been violated by him; he had
entered its holy of holies--a game preserve--and must bear the penalty.

The thought did not quite thus shape itself in Tom Pemberton's mind as
he crept from his lair and made off as fast as the thick gloom would
permit him, to Squire Greenaway's gamekeeper's cottage; but his heart
exulted at the thought of the vengeance it was now in his power to
wreak. That very night he hoped to see the hated Wanless locked up. In
this hope, however, he was disappointed. The gamekeeper was not at home,
nor could his wife say exactly where he was. Probably she knew well
enough; and certain gamedealers in Leamington also were likely to know,
for, like most of his class, this fellow was only a licensed poacher;
but Pemberton had to be content with his answer. He told the keeper's
wife that he wanted some poachers apprehended, and that he would return
to-morrow.

Sure enough he came, and came early, but the keeper was again out,
setting his gins probably, and had left word that he would not be back
till dinner-time. Ultimately, Pemberton met his man, and the two decided
to go and seize Wanless at night in his own cottage. Accordingly, that
same evening as Thomas and his family were enjoying their supper
together in the attic, they were disturbed by a rude thumping at the
door and before Thomas himself could get down to see who was there, the
latch was lifted, and in walked Tom Pemberton with the gamekeeper at his
heels. The latter was a squat, ill-favoured, heavy man, with small
piercing eyes that were never at rest. He sniffed noisily as he entered,
and gave vent to a gleeful chuckle as he caught sight of Wanless. Dull
Pemberton had grown fat and bloated-looking since the days of the
allotment agitation, but his usually stolid, sodden-looking features,
were to-night almost animated by the leer of triumph which had displaced
the customary sullen vacuity. Yet he was not at his ease; and when
Thomas, divining the men's purpose, drew himself up, and holding up his
rushlight the better to see the faces of his visitors, flashed a look of
scornful defiance at the farmer, that worthy drew back involuntarily.

But the keeper had no feelings, and at once struck in with--

"Sorry to hinterrup' yer feast, my man; but we want ye, d'ye see. God!
what a prime smell! Kerruberatin' evidence, eh, farmer? Ye've been
poachin', Wanless, that's evident; an' the Squire'll be glad to speak
wi' ye about it. Ha! ha!"

For a moment Thomas felt disposed to fight. A thrill of fury swept
through him, and he wished he could tear keeper and farmer in pieces
with his hands. But that soon passed, and he stood dumbfounded. Hearing
the strange voices, his wife stole down the stair, followed by the three
children who were able to be about the house, and two of these latter,
catching a vague fear of danger, began to cry. Young Tom did not weep,
but stole softly up to his father's side. But a minute before all had
been happiness, such happiness as a family of miserable groundlings
might dare to feel, and now----

Bah! Why give a thought to such wretches. They can have no feelings like
my lord and the squire, or his scented and sanctified parsonship. And
yet the cold night wind made these sick children shiver as you or I
might; and the stricken wife, who had caught the purport of the keeper's
speech, was just as ready to faint with grief and terror, as if she had
had your feelings or mine. Her first act was to protect the children
from harm by trying to shut the door; but Pemberton, with a growl,
pushed her back, and she then gathered them in her arms, and sat down on
an old box by the fire, weeping silently.

Still Thomas stood, silent but not cowed, and the keeper's wrath began
to blaze up.

"Come along, man," he growled, "none of yer hobstinincy, now. We don't
want no scenes here; none o' yer blubberin' wife and family kick-ups.
Come along."

Then Pemberton plucked up heart to laugh. With a mocking hee! hee! hee!
he said--

"We've got you now, Wanless, and no mistake, you d----d old blackguard,
an' we'll tame that devilish spirit of yours afore we're done wi' ye.
Roast me if we don't."

His voice roused the spirit of Wanless once more. Clenching his hands he
stepped forward, moving the keeper aside, and putting his fist in
Pemberton's face, said, in a voice that quivered with concentrated
passion--

"Hold your tongue, you black-hearted scoundrel, and leave my house this
instant, or I'll throw you out at the door. What right have you to enter
my door? Be off!"

Pemberton shrank back and looked as if he thought it might be best for
him to obey; but the keeper grasped Thomas by the collar from behind and
swung him round, at the same time saying--

"Come, come, none o' this nonsense now, Wanless. I'll have no fightin'
here, or, by God, if you do I'll transport you, sure's my name's Crabb.
You must go with us quietly."

At the threat of transporting him, Thomas's wife uttered a shrill cry of
horror, and Thomas himself grew pale, but he was now too much stirred to
yield at once. Instead, he shook off the keeper's hand; and demanded
fiercely what right he had to arrest him.

The keeper laughed mockingly.

"Well now, that is a good un'. Why, damme, you've been poaching."

"How do you know that? And what is it to you if I have?"

"How do I know? Why, bless my life, I can smell it, you fool. But I
beant here to hargify the p'int. I harrest ye on a criminal charge,
Wanless, that's all; and I've brought the bracelets, my boy. Just the
correct horneyments for chaps like you, he, he," croaked the keeper,
with malign glee.

"But where's your warrant?" urged Thomas. "You have no right to enter a
man's own house in this way, and haul him wherever you like when it
suits you to put out your spites on him. Poachers, faith; who's a
poacher, I'd like to know, if you ain't? Leave my house, both of you,
or, by God, I'll rouse the village. Tom, Tom," he added, turning to his
son, who had again crept to his side, "go and find Sutchwell, and Pease,
and----"

"Hold hard there, you ---- fool," roared the keeper. "Curse you, d'ye
suppose we came here to stand your insolence."

Pemberton closed the door and put his back to it.

"Look ye here, my fine haristocrat," continued the keeper in the
boundless wrath of fear, "look ye here, if you don't go quietly, devil
take me if I don't get ye a trip to Botany Bay for this job. I'm a sworn
constable, and I've got the justices' warrant, surely that's 'nuff for
thieves like you. Come, farmer Pemberton," he added more quietly, "help
me to hornament this gent," and in a very brief space the two mastered
and handcuffed the labourer.

He, indeed, made little resistance, for he began to see that he was at
the mercy of these scoundrels. His wife clung to him, but they tore her
roughly away. The children wailed in chorus, and "bludder Jack" crept
downstairs in his thin nightgown to see what was causing the hubbub,
howling like the rest without knowing why. But it was soon all over.
Thomas barely got time to kiss his wife, and to whisper to her to tell
Hawthorn, ere he was out of the cottage and away with his captors. All
down the little village street the shrieks of his family rung in his
ears, and his heart within him was like to burst with grief,
humiliation, and impotent wrath.

That night he was formally committed by Squire Greenaway himself to be
tried for poaching, before the justices at Leamington Priors, on Tuesday
next. This was Friday.

In due course Thomas Wanless appeared before the "Justices"--God save
them! and, after a very brief trial, was "let off," as one phrased it,
with six months' hard labour in Warwick Jail. The only evidence against
him was that of Tom Pemberton, but he made no attempt to deny the
charge, and as the squires already considered him a "dangerous" fellow,
they thought their sentence a model of clemency. So did Pemberton and
Keeper Crabb. His judges were Wiseman, Greenaway, the man whose vermin
he had helped to thin by just three rabbits, Parson Codling, of
Ashbrook, and a bibulous old creature who lived in Leamington Priors, a
retired Birmingham merchant, who had been made J.P. for his subservience
to the Tories. Greenaway was violent, and rather disposed to give an
"exemplary" sentence; Wiseman was contemptuously indifferent, as became
a big acred man and the husband of a woman with a handle to her name;
and Parson Codling was unctuously severe.

An attempt was made to get Wanless to tell the name of his co-offender,
but that he refused, so he was told that his obstinacy had prevented a
more lenient sentence, which was false. But something is due to
appearances at times, and even from such divine personages as justices
of the peace. So careful was the "bench" of proprieties on this
occasion, that Codling, on a hint from the chairman, gave Wanless the
benefit of a short exhortation before consigning him to the salutary
and eminently Christian discipline of the jailer. In the course of this
homily, Codling took occasion to observe that he had once hoped better
things of the prisoner, but had long ago been forced to give him up.
"With grief and sorrow," said the parson, "I have again and again
watched his obduracy, and his tendency to consort with agitators, or
worse. His fate will, I trust, be a warning to others."

This Parson Codling you will perceive had become tame. Once on a time he
had been almost given over to agitation himself; but that danger soon
passed, and he was now a proper ornament to and supporter of the British
hierarchy. Its morals were his morals. He knew no god but the god of the
landed gentry. In his youth the functions of the priestly office had
been misunderstood by him; but he had married soon after we last met him
a gentlewoman of Worcestershire with £2,000 a year, and that cured him
of many weaknesses--amongst others of the foolish craze he once had that
the religion of Christ was a religion to be practised. He now knew that
it was nothing of the kind. Certain tenets of it had been made up into a
creed "to be said or sung," and a singularly complex institution called
the Church had been elaborated for the good of public morals, and the
support of the English aristocracy--that was all. Therefore could he now
wag his head pompously at poor Tom Wanless standing dumb before him;
therefore could he now raise his fat soft hands, and thrust from his
sight with sanctimonious horror that criminal guilty of rabbit murder.
A stranger, unfamiliar with the usages of rural England--that country
whose liberties, we are told, all nations admire and envy--might have
supposed that Wanless was some foul manslayer, some midnight assassin
meeting his just doom. Unhappy stranger, woe on thy ignorance. Know thou
that in England no crime is so heinous as the least approach to
rebellion against the sacred rights of the Have-alls? "Touch not the
land nor anything that is thereon," is to the English landholder all the
law and the prophets. So Codling cursed Wanless for his crime, and the
doom-stricken labourer passed from his sight.



CHAPTER V.

MAKES KNOWN THE EXCELLENT QUALITIES OF JAIL LIFE.


Captain Hawthorn had been duly apprised of Thomas's misfortune, but was
unable to do anything directly to help him. Because of his obnoxious
opinions Hawthorn was not a justice of the peace; and he felt that any
attempt on his part to appear as the labourer's champion might only end
in making the poor fellow's sentence all the heavier. Since the Reform
Bill and the Chartist agitations had alarmed the landholders, they had
shown less disposition than ever to admit such a nondescript radical as
Hawthorn into their society; and his interference in local affairs was
so prominently resented on several occasions that he had almost ceased
to attempt any. He had even some difficulty in obtaining access to
Wanless in jail; but ultimately succeeded, by the help of a little
judicious bribery, and the friendly assistance of a mountebank drunken
parson, who was in jail for debt during six days of the week, but got
bailed out on Sundays, so that he might edify his flock and keep down
expenses.

The old man's first greeting to Wanless was in his customary rough
form.

"Well, Tom, a nice ass you have made of yourself. Why the devil hadn't
you more sense, man? Eh? D--n it, you might have taken some of my
rabbits, my boy, and never a keeper would have said you nay."

This was true enough, for Hawthorn had now no keeper, and, for that
matter, little game. He allowed his tenants to do as they pleased, and
one of the deepest grievances his neighbours had against him, was that
these tenants thinned their game wherever their lands marched with his.

To this sally Thomas, however, made no answer beyond a smothered groan.
The man's spirit was too much broken to bear rough comfort of this kind,
as his visitor instantly perceived. Changing his tone at once, the
Captain bent over the bench where the prisoner sat hanging his head, and
laying his hand on Thomas's shoulder, added--

"Come, come, Tom, my boy; bless my life! don't lose heart because you've
been a fool. I'll see that the chicks don't starve, and you'll soon be
out of this, and a man again."

The kind tones of Hawthorn's voice affected Tom more even than the
promise. He tried to speak, but his voice broke in sobs.

"Tut, tut. 'Pon my life, don't, Tom, d--n it, man, don't," spluttered
the Captain; but, as Tom did not stop, he grasped his hand suddenly and
gave it a hearty grip. Then he turned and fled, afraid probably of
himself betraying his feelings.

His visit did Thomas much good, and he bore his trials more patiently
henceforth, though the bitterness of his heart at times nearly maddened
him. I can never forget the description which he gave me in after days
of the agonies suffered by him during those horrible six months. We were
seated together in his little garden one September evening, the sun was
far down in the west, the ruddy glow of a calm, bright autumn evening
fell athwart Wanless's grey, worn face, lighting it with a sober
brilliance that fitted well the fixed look of sadness that sat on it as
he then told me of that dark time. His voice was calm for the most part,
although full of subdued passion; and the impression his narrative made
on me was so deep that I can almost give you his very words.

"At first," said he, "I felt like a caged wild beast, and could do
nothing but chafe. The night in the keeper's out-house, where the
villain kept me to save himself trouble, with both hands and feet
cruelly tied, had been bad enough; and the nights and days in Leamington
lock-up were hard to bear, but a kind of hope sustained me, and I did
not fully comprehend what loss of liberty was till I lay in Warwick
Jail. For three nights after I entered that hell upon earth I did not
sleep a wink. The very air I breathed seemed to choke me. Sometimes I
felt so mad that I could hardly keep from dashing my head against the
walls of the cell. Had I been alone perhaps I might have done it, but
there were five beside myself cooped up in a den not much bigger than my
kitchen, and in the darkness I was for a time horribly afraid lest one
or other of these men should do me an injury. Though in one sense eager
for death, I did not like being killed; and when not raging I was
trembling with fear. It was nervousness, no doubt, but you can hardly
wonder when I tell you what my neighbours were. One was a burglar from
Birmingham, sentenced to transportation for stealing a coat from
somebody's hall; two were miners from Dudley way, "doing" sixty days for
kicking a chum and breaking his leg, another was a wild, brutish-like
day labourer, who had got six months at last Assizes for cutting his
wife's throat, not quite to the death, and the last was a poor, hungry
youth of a tailor's apprentice, who had got the same sentence for
stealing some cloth. We were a strange lot, and I feared these men in
the darkness. If one moved, my heart leapt to my mouth; and the horrible
language in which some of them indulged, made my flesh creep. That wild
labourer especially terrified me. What if the murderous frenzy was to
come upon him, and he should try to throttle me in the dark.

"After a few nights, exhausted nature asserted herself, and I slept.
Then other thoughts arose in my heart that were still worse to
bear--thoughts about my wife and family. Sarah had been allowed to speak
to me for a minute or two before I was removed from the Leamington
Courthouse to jail, and she then told me that Jack and Fanny caught cold
_that_ night, and threatened dropsy. Lucy, also, had had a relapse of
the fever. Poor woman, she looked so broken-hearted and worn-out like,
and I could say nothing, still less do anything now. 'Oh, Tummas,
Tummas, that it should a' coom to this' she cried, and wept bitterly
behind her thin old shawl. It was the shawl I married her in, sir; and
I thought on the past and the future till I, too, broke down and cried
like a child. But what good was that to her; to either of us? Well; I
couldn't help it.

"Then she picked up a bit, and tried to cheer me, as women will when the
worst comes. She told me that Mrs. Robins was very kind, and had come to
look after the children for her that day, having none of her own, and no
fear of the infection, and she was sure that the neighbours would never
see her want. That was some comfort at the time; but once I came to
myself in jail the thought that I was now helpless, that my family might
be dying and I unable to reach them, raised anew the agony in my mind. I
saw them gathered round our Sally's bed weeping for their absent father.
My wife's weary looks and thin white face haunted me in the night
seasons far worse than the wife mutilator. What could neighbours do for
her in such a strait; what could I do now? The thought of my
helplessness came over me with waves of agonising self-abasement and
disgust, till my nerves seemed to crack and my brain spin round. Often
did I stuff my sleeve into my mouth to stop myself from crying out as I
lay tossing on the floor of the den. I would beat my head with my
clenched hands till the sparks danced in my eyes, and groan till my
neighbours muttered curses through their sleep. Oh, I thought, if I
could but get an hour with my little ones, to see wee Sally and the baby
in their bed, to watch poor Jack and Fan, and help the worn out mother.
An hour! nay, half an hour, only five minutes! God, it was unbearable;
it was hell to be caged like this!

"And what had I done to be thus torn from my wife and children, and made
to consort with brutal criminals? What had I done? Killed three rabbits,
vermin that curse God's earth and devour the bread of the poor. They
belonged to nobody any more'n rats or mice or weasels, and did nobody
good in this world. Why, the man that had nearly killed his wife was not
harder treated than me. What then was my crime? Was I indeed a criminal?
I asked myself again and again, and the answer came--'No, Tom Wanless,
but you were worse; you were a fool. You knew the power of the
landlords; you knew that to them the rabbit was a sacred animal, and
that they could punish you if they caught you. You were a fool ever to
put yourself in their clutches.' Ah yes, there was the sting of it. How
could I hope to escape doom when all the world except the labourers were
on one side.

"But though I saw I had been a fool; that made me no better in my mind;
rather worse; for, as I tossed and raved in my heart, I took to cursing
squire and parson: I cursed, too, the land of my birth, and ended by
cursing the God who made me. Ay, that did I. In the darkness I mocked at
Him, I swore at Him, and told Him that I wouldn't believe there was a
God at all. Why, if He lived, did he suffer scoundrels to call
themselves His chosen people, and mock Him by their chattering prayers
and mumblings all the time that they lived only to oppress the poor.
Life was a curse if that was right.

"Well," Thomas continued, after a short pause, during which he leant
back and watched the changing tints of gold flitting across the western
sky, "well, that mood also passed, and after the old captain had been to
see me I got a little quieter. But the jailers did not make life easy
for me, I can tell you. Because I was silent, speaking little, eating
little, and hardly fit for the task they set me upon that weary
treadmill, they gave me a taste of the whip many a time, and abused me
for a sullen gallows bird, but I paid no heed.

"Within a fortnight after my punishment began, little Tom brought me
word that two of my children, Jack and Lucy, were dead, and that Fanny
was not expected to live. When I heard this news I laughed a bitter
laugh, and said, 'Thank God, some good has been done. The squires won't
imprison them, anyway!' My boy looked terrified for a moment, and then
fell a-weeping bitterly. The sight of him crouching at my feet, and
quivering in passionate grief, brought me a bit to. A vision of my dear
little ones, of my dying wee Fan, swept over me; my heart yearned for
them, and I mingled my tears with my son's. I charged him to be kind to
mother, and tried to comfort him. Poor lad, poor lad! He is in Australia
now, and has a farm of his own. The sorrow of that time is past for him
long ago."

Here my old friend paused, wiping the tears from his eyes furtively, and
sighing softly to himself. The dying glow of the sunset was now on his
face, gleaming in his silvery hair, and making his sad but animated
features shine with a soft glory. I sat still and gazed at him with
feelings too strong for speech. After a little he turned to me with a
smile, and said:--

"Yes, my friend, that's all passed, and many sorrows beside, nor do I
now curse God as I look back upon them. But I cannot tell you more
to-night. I didn't think that I should have been moved so much by
recalling that old story. Let us go indoors, the night is growing
chilly."

Future conversations gave me most of the particulars of that time, but I
cannot harrow the reader's feelings with a full recital of all that
Thomas Wanless felt and suffered in these six months of misery. Three of
his children died while he chafed and toiled in Warwick Jail. The
heart-stricken mother alone received their dying words, heard their last
farewell. Kind neighbours tried to comfort her. The parson's wife even
called, and said, "Poor woman, I'm afraid you've had too many children
to bring up. I'll see if the vicar can spare you a few shillings from
the poor box;" but the shillings never came, much to Thomas's
satisfaction in after days. Perhaps Codling thought the family
altogether too reprobate for his charity.

It would have gone hard indeed with Mrs. Wanless and the little ones
spared to her but for old Captain Hawthorn. Though verging on seventy,
and by no means strong, no single week elapsed all that winter when his
cheery voice was not heard in the cottage. Often he came twice a week,
but never with any ostentation of charity. On the contrary, he went so
far the other way as to pretend to take a bond over the cottage for
money, professedly lent to the family, and without which they must have
gone into the workhouse. He never, perhaps, felt so like a hypocrite in
his life as he did when he took this bond to the jail for Thomas to
sign. Young Tom was put back to his work on the home farm, and his wages
raised on some pretence or other to six shillings a week. The dry, old
man, so hard and repellant, had, after all, a human heart in him that my
Lord Bishop of Worcester might have envied had he ever experienced any
desire for such an organ. More true sympathy with distress was shown by
this hardened old Voltarian since this family had attracted his notice
than by all the squires of the district and the parsons to boot. It had
not yet become fashionable for the latter to rehearse deeds of
philanthropy in pedantic garments. Hawthorn's fault was not want of
heart or of sympathy, but a self-centredness which prevented him from
seeing his duty, except when, as in this instance, it was forced upon
him. Yet, after all, what could he have done to help the poor around him
that would not in some way have redounded to their hurt? Charity doles
would have demoralised them more than their hard lot did; and any
opening of the door for them to help themselves would have brought
hatred, contumely, and perhaps real injury to them and him. He could not
raise wages by his fiat, nor could he break up his land and distribute
it to the people. All the laws of the country, as well as the prejudices
of "society," were against him, if he had ever thought of so wild a
project; which I do not suppose he ever did. He sat apart and mocked at
a world with which he had no sympathy; whose hollowness, self-seeking,
and cruelty, hid beneath infinite hypocrisies, he thoroughly
understood.

And this good, at least, has to be recorded of him, that he saved the
family of Thomas Wanless from want, by consequence, also, in all
probability, saving Thomas himself from becoming an abandoned
Ishmaelite. The sight of his family beggared, homeless, and in the
workhouse, either would have driven him reckless or broken his heart.
From that sight, at least, he was saved; and Thomas has often told me
that the conduct of the old squire during these six months did more to
revive hope in his heart and keep him from losing all faith in God or
man, than any other single event of his life. Yet had his heart
bitterness enough.

"I remember," he said, one night as we conversed together; "I remember
the morning I left jail. It was a warm, May morning, and the air was so
fresh and sweet that the first breath of it made me feel quite giddy
with joy. 'Free! free! I am free!' I whispered softly to myself, and
with difficulty refrained from capering about the road like a madman, as
the joyous thought surged through my heart. It lasted only for a few
moments. Pain took hold of the heels of my joy as usual. I was a man
disgraced. Why should I be glad to get out of jail? Were not its
forbidding, gloomy walls the best shelter left for one like me? Why
should I be glad? The law of the land had branded me a criminal; let the
law makers enjoy paying for their work.

"Ah, no; disgraced as I was, filled with bitter passionate hate of those
above me as my heart might be, I was not yet ready to stoop to
deliberate crime as a mode of revenge. The memory of my lost children
and my lonely, heart-broken wife stole into my heart and brought the
tears to my eyes. The four that were left to me would be waiting on this
May morning for my home coming. I would go home.

"So I started; but when I reached the castle bridge my heart again
failed me. I was weak through long confinement, ill-usage, and want of
food, for the messes served to us in that jail were often worse than I
would have given to my pig. The very thought of meeting a village
neighbour terrified me. My limbs shook, and I crept through a gap in the
fence, resolved to hide till night and steal home in the darkness. For a
little while I sat behind a bush at the water's edge, feeling a coward,
but wholly unable to scold myself for it. Then I crept along the bank of
the Avon towards Grimscote, till I reached a clump of osiers, into which
I plunged. The ground was very damp, and here and there almost swampy;
but presently I found a dry mound, and there I lay down, buried from all
eyes. How long I lay I cannot tell, for I paid no heed to time, though I
gradually became calmer. Once again I was in contact with nature. The
air was full of the music of birds, and the chirp of insects among the
grass sounded almost like the movement of life in the very ground
itself. A sweet smell of hawthorn blossom came to me from some old trees
close by, and now and then I heard the plash of oars on the river, and
voices came to me sweet and clear off the water. Gradually I became more
hopeful. Life was all around me; the bushes themselves seemed moved by
it as I lay beneath their shade. Behind me the traffic of the high road
made a constant rattle, and beyond the river I heard the bleating of
lambs. And life somehow came back to me also. I arose with new hopes in
my breast. All could not yet be lost to me, I somehow felt; and, at any
rate, I would go home, for I began to be very hungry.

"I often stopped on the way with weariness and faint-heartedness, but
did not again turn back, and by two o'clock in the afternoon I reached
my own cottage. My wife welcomed me with a burst of crying. I learnt
from her that she had begun to dread that I had done something rash. She
and the little ones had gone to meet me in the morning as far as the
castle bridge, which they must have reached soon after I lay down among
the willows. There they sat for a while hoping that I would come, but
seeing nothing of me they crept back again with hearts sad enough, you
may be sure. I was not long behind them, and my wife soon brightened
enough to be able to eat some dinner with me; but my heart smote me for
being so selfish and unkind as to go and hide as if no one had to be
considered but myself."

Such in faint outline was Thomas's account of his release from prison.
His meeting with his family was sad beyond description. In the short six
months of his absence three of his little ones had been put under the
sod. Out of a family of eight in all he had now but four left. A great
mercy that it was so, some will say; and possibly they may be right. The
world's goods are so ill distributed that death is for many the only
blessing left. Nevertheless, I question if the sorrow of the labourer
at the loss of his children was not keener than that of many who need
not fear a want of bread for their offspring. He had toiled and suffered
for all the eight, and the love that grows up in the heart through such
discipline as his is akin to the deepest and holiest passion known to
man. Thomas and his wife mourned for their dead to their own life's end,
because the little ones had been part of their life. Is it so with you,
pert censor of the miserable poor?

Though sorrowing, Thomas had yet no time to nurse his sorrow. The world
had to be faced again, and work to be found. For sentimental griefs and
morbid wailings in the world's ear the Wanlesses had no time. At first
Thomas got some jobs from Mr. Hawthorn, but he soon saw that they were
jobs mostly created on purpose for him, and he could not bear the
thought of living on charity, no matter how disguised. Therefore, he
began to hunt about for odd work in the neighbourhood, and found much
difficulty in getting it. His recent imprisonment told against him
everywhere, if not in keeping work from his hands, at all events in low
pay for the work. The farmers had now got their feet on his neck, and
took it out of him, as they alone knew how; for the brutalised slave is
always the cruellest of slave-drivers. But Thomas fought on, and for the
best part of a year contrived to exist with the help that young Tom's
wages gave. He did no more; nay, not always so much; for he and his wife
sometimes wanted their own dinners that their children might have
enough. Still he existed; lived through the year somehow and was
thankful, notwithstanding the fact that he had made no progress in
paying off his debt to the old Captain. "He can take the cottage,
Thomas," said his wife. "Someone will pay him rent enough for it, though
we can't; but we can get a hovel somewhere."

He was spared this last sacrifice, for about this time old Hawthorn
died, and a sealed packet addressed to Thomas Wanless was found among
his papers. When the labourer came to open this, he found that it
contained his bond with the signature torn off, a receipt in full for
the money advanced, and a £20 note. On a slip of paper was written in
the Captain's scraggy, trembling hand, "Don't mention this to a living
soul, Tom Wanless, or by God I'll haunt you.--E.H." Thus the scorned
infidel was soft-hearted and characteristic to the last. His estate
passed to a cousin, who soon gave the tenants cause to remember how good
the old Captain had been. And once more he had kept the labourer's heart
from breaking. The deliverance from debt which this packet brought, and
the prodigious wealth a £20 note appeared to be to Thomas, renewed his
courage and made him resolve to strike further afield in search of
better paid labour. Railway making was at its height all over the
country, and he had often thought of becoming a navvy. Now he decided to
be one if he could get work on the line down Worcester way. A bit of
that line came within fifteen miles of Ashbrook, and he might therefore
see his family now and then at least Young Tom was to stay at home, and
the 5s. a-week, to which his wages was reduced after old Hawthorn's
death, would help to keep house till work was found by his father. The
£20 was not to be touched till the very last extremity, and in the
meantime Thomas put it in as a deposit in a savings bank at
Stratford-on-Avon. He would not deposit it in Warwick lest questions
might be asked, and the Captain's dying command be in consequence
disobeyed.

The new plans succeeded better almost than Thomas had hoped. He got work
on the railway; it was very hard work, but the wages were good; at first
he only got 18s. per week, and he began by stinting himself in order to
send 10s. of this home; but he soon found that to be a mistake. His work
demanded full vigour of body, and to be in full vigour he must be well
fed. The other men had meat of some kind three times a day, and Thomas
followed their example, with the best results. Not only did he stand by
his work with the rest, but he displayed such energy and intelligence
that within a few weeks he obtained charge of the work in a deep cutting
at 28s. per week. Of this he saved from 12s. to 14s. a-week, after
paying for clothes, lodgings, and food. It seemed very little, and he
grudged much the cost of his own living; but there was no help for it.
Besides, what he saved now was more than all he earned in Ashbrook,
except for a few weeks during harvest. Much reason had he to thank the
dairyman's wife for feeding him in his youth so as to fit him now for a
navvy's toil.

Truly the life was rough, and little to Wanless' liking, yet he worked
with a heart and hope rarely his before. Altogether this job lasted for
two years, and regularly all that time Thomas went home once a month
with his savings. Sometimes he had more than 20 miles to walk each way,
but he had health, and never failed. Starting on Saturday evenings, in
wet weather and dry, summer and winter, he would reach home early on
Sunday morning, when after a good sleep, he passed a few happy hours,
and then started on the Sunday afternoon for his work again.



CHAPTER VI.

IS OF THE NATURE OF A SERMON.


During these two years the attitude of Thomas's mind changed much
towards society and its institutions. He may be said for the first time
to have become a religious man, and his religion was of the simpler and
more unsophisticated type which comes to a man who knows little of
dogma, but much of the contents of the Bible. That book was studied by
him as something fresh and altogether new on the lonely Sundays he
passed amongst the navvies. He took to it at first more because he had
no other book to read, but it laid hold of his imagination after a time,
and he began to test the world around him by the lofty morality of the
New Testament. In due course the thoughts that burned within him found
utterance and infected some of his fellow workmen. Almost before he was
aware a certain following gathered round him. They drew together in the
parlour of the inn, which most of the navvies frequented, and discussed
things political and religious on the Saturday and Sunday nights.

The wilder spirits soon nicknamed Thomas and his friends the Saints, and
he himself went by the sobriquet of Methody Tom; but, though jeered at
and sometimes cursed by the wilder sort, their influence spread, and
radical views of society were canvassed among these navvies with a
freedom that would have made parson and squire alike shiver with horror
had they known. But they did not know. How could they? Such creatures as
navvies were not, strictly speaking, human at all. They lived beyond the
pale, like the Irish ancestors of many among them, and were essentially
of the nature of wild beasts, for whom the policeman's baton or the
soldier's musket was the only available moral force.

No parson ever looked near that community of busy workers, whose strong
backed labour was swiftly altering the physical conditions of modern
civilisation, and calling a new world into being for squire and trader
alike. Nay, I am wrong. Thomas informed me that a parson did go astray
among the workmen in the cutting of which he had charge. A poor, deluded
young curate came round once distributing tracts. The fervour of a
yesterday's ordination was upon him, and shone in the rigorous cut of
his garments. He thought he might do the navvies good by the sight of
him, and bless them with his tracts. But his visit was a failure, and
his reception rough. Thomas declared that he felt sorry for the poor
fellow, and yet could not refrain from joining in the laugh at his
expense. One sturdy northerner, to whom he handed a tract, protested
loudly that he "hadn't done nothing to be summonsed for," and when the
curate blandly explained that it was a tract, he blessed his stars, and
swore that he "took the chap for one of the new peelers." Another was of
an opinion that "the parson had a mighty easy job of it," and suggested
his taking a turn at the pick; while one more blasphemous than the
rest, declared that he didn't know who the Lord Jesus might be, and
didn't care; but, in his opinion, it was d----d impudent of him to send
any of his flunkeys down their way "a spyin' and a pryin'." They chaffed
the poor man about his clothes; begged a yard or two of the tail of his
coat to mend their Sunday breeches with; explained how much better he
could walk in a short jacket; wanted to know why he wore a white
choker--and altogether made such a fool of the poor wretch that he soon
turned and fled, amid their jeers and laughter.

That was the only time they ever saw a parson of the Church during these
two years; and no doubt this poor curate felt that they were a reprobate
crew whom the Church did quite right to abandon to their fate. It is so
much pleasanter and easier to play at pietism amongst well-bred,
comfortable people "of good society" than to save souls. The sweet order
of a gorgeous ritual, the vanities of richly-embroidered garments,
squabbles about archaic rites as worthless as an Egyptian mummy--these
things are more valuable to the modern parson, and more pleasing in the
sight of his God, than the lives of such men as Wanless and his
fellow-labourers. For the parson's God is the God of the rich, to whom
gorgeous ritual and sensuous music are necessary as foretastes of the
blessedness of an æsthetic paradise.

So be it: far be it from me to question the taste of parson or parson's
following. They can go their own way, only it may be permitted to one to
point out that outside their charmed circle there are forces at work,
before the power of which their fair fabric may yet crumble and
disappear like sand heaps before the rushing tide. Thomas Wanless and
his friends were rude and unlettered, but they had definite ideas
enough, and a wild sense of justice. In their dim way they tried to fit
together the various parts of the human life that lay around them, and
failing to do so, as better than they have failed, they came to the
conclusion that they and their class were cheated by the rest.
Democracy, communism, subversive ideas of all kinds, therefore, found
currency among them, as in ever-growing volume they find currency now.
Imagine if you can these men trying to evolve the prototype of a modern
Lord Bishop, in lawn sleeves and pompous state, from the simple records
of the New Testament. Can you wonder at their failure in that instance,
or in many such like? Where could they find church or chapel that was no
respecter of persons? in which the possession of money and power was not
the ultimate test of true godliness? Is it astonishing that in placing
the ideal and actual side by side, these men should have come to the
conclusion that the actual was a fraud: that the whole basis of modern
society was corrupt?

Do not, I beseech you, pass lightly by the doings of these men, most
sublime Lord Bishops, most serene peers of the realm, smug buyers of
county votes. These ideas are spreading all around you. Few possessed
them fifty years ago among the agricultural poor; but there, as
elsewhere, democracy is getting educated, is awaking to the reality of
things, and will make its feelings known to you in a manner you little
dream of one of these days. Your Olympus will prove but a molehill when
the earth shakes with the onset of the millions on whose necks you have
sat all these ages. Titles are a mockery, hereditary dignities a
contempt, in the eyes of men who live face to face with the hard
realities of existence. A new life is abroad in the world. The
image-breaker is exalted above my Lord Bishop in all his glory of lawn
sleeves and piety in uniform by men like Wanless and his friends. They
want to know, not what part "my lord" professes to act, what creed this
or that snug Church dignitary chants or drones; but what his life is
worth? What are you? in short, is the question, not what you give
yourself out to be; and, depend upon it, if the answer is
unsatisfactory, you and your hypocrisies will disappear together.

Nothing struck me so forcibly in my intercourse with Wanless as the
extraordinary bitterness with which he spoke of the English Church. To
it he seemed in his later life to have transferred the greater part of
his hatred of the landed gentry. He viewed it as an organised blasphemy,
and worse than that, as the jailor, so to say, by whom the chains of a
miserable captivity had been rivetted for ages on the limbs of the
toiling poor. The ground for this attitude of mind on the part of the
labourer was easily discovered. He read his Bible much, and endeavoured
to fit its precepts and the example of its greatest characters to the
life around him, and of course he failed. The more he tried to bring
together the presentment of Christianity afforded by the modern Church
and teaching of the New Testament, the more he saw their divergencies.
This set him pondering, and he soon came to the conclusion that this
modern institution was not Christian at all, but Pagan. It was a
department of State, paid by the State, and employed by it for the
purpose of deluding the people into the belief that the existing order
of life was divinely appointed. How effectively it had done this work,
he said, let history show. The clergy had aided and abetted the gentry
in all their robberies of the people; it had been the instrument of many
flagrant thefts of endowments left for the education of the poor; there
never had been a reform proposed calculated to benefit the people that
had not been ardently opposed by this organised band of hypocrites, and
no class of the community was so habitually, so flagrantly selfish as
preachers. Take them all in all, Thomas Wanless declared, the people who
preached for a trade, be they dissenters or Anglican, gave him a lower
idea of human nature than any navvy he ever met. "Their trade makes them
bad," he often declared; "and I suppose I ought to pity the miserable
wretches, but they do so much mischief that I really cannot."

Once I recollect urging the commonplace argument that there were many
good men among them, but he caught me up short with--

"Yes, yes, I admit all that; but that proves nothing in favour of either
the Church or the parson's trade. These men would have been good
anywhere, as Papists, Mohamedans, or Hindus, just as certainly as in
church or chapel. It is their nature to, and they cannot help it. But
their very goodness is a curse to people, sir--yes, a curse, for they
prop up fabrics and institutions that but for them would long ago have
been too rotten to stand."

Thus it will be seen that Wanless, though in his way a profoundly
religious man, was in no sense a sectary. He was in fact ranged among
the iconoclasts. He sighed for a living faith, not a dead creed; and
were he living to-day he would certainly give his hearty support to that
band of men who wage war on the shams of modern creeds, who mock
unceasingly at the disgusting spectacle of men who call themselves
disciples of Christ wrangling over the cut and embroidery of garments,
and trying to make themselves martyrs for the sake of a candle or two.
The tractarian movement attracted Thomas's attention in a dim way, and
he was amused at the frightful din made by the conversions to Romanism
which accompanied that curious upheaval of mediævalism. Not that he
understood much of the meaning of what was going on. It was not worth
discovering, he said; but he was amused over it, and roundly declared
that for this and all other ills of the Church there was but one
cure--to take away its money. "Let these parsons try living by faith,"
he would often exclaim. "If they believe in God as they say, why do they
not trust him for a living? Their proud stomachs would come down a bit
if they are just turned adrift in a body and let shift for themselves.
But Lord, what a howl they'll make if the people get up and say we'll
have no more of your mummeries, we want our money for a better purpose.
They won't think much about God then, I can tell you. It will be every
man for himself, and who can grab the most. I never have any patience
with parsons, never. They are bad from the beginning, bad all through,
self-deluders and misleaders of others at the best, and at the
worst--well, not much more except in degree."

"These are the mere ravings of an ignorant peasant," most readers will
exclaim. I do not deny that in a certain sense they may seem only that.
Yet look around and consider the signs of the times before you dismiss
these things as of no significance. What means the spread of secularism
amongst the working classes of the present day, the contempt for
religion and parsons which most of them display? Is it not a most
ominous indication of future trouble for serene lord bishops and their
brood when events bring them face to face with the people? I do not
admire Charles Bradlaugh's teaching on many points; but I cannot deny
the power that he and such as he wield on the common people. It is a
power that increases with the spread of education; and what does it
betoken? Only this; that in time, for one man among the peasantry who
now thinks like Thomas Wanless there will be tens of thousands. The
churches and chapels themselves, with their exceedingly worldly
respectability, produce these men more certainly than all the teachings
of the Bradlaughs; nay, Bradlaugh himself is directly the product of a
corrupt, time-serving and utterly blasphemous church organisation.
Therefore be not too contemptuous of sentiments like those of this
peasant. They are significant of many things--of a coming democracy that
will at least try to burn up the rottenness of our modern ultra
Pagan-civilization.

On other questions than those of Church and State the opinions of
Thomas Wanless were equally uncompromising, and, perhaps, equally
impracticable. His intelligence was far deeper than his reading, and
much of his political economy, as well as of his code of social morals,
was taken from the Bible. To my thinking he could have gone to no better
book, but I am also free to admit that his too exclusive study of it
gave a quaint and sometimes impracticable turn to his conceptions that
may lead many to have a poor opinion of his wisdom.

On the land question, for example, he grew to be a kind of disciple of
Moses. He would have had the whole country parcelled out amongst the
people--each family enjoying the inalienable right to a certain bit of
the soil. The year of jubilee was also, in his eyes, a most merciful and
just provision for freeing the unfortunate, or the children of the
spendthrift, from the grasp of the usurer--always the most relentless of
men--and he often exclaimed--"How much better my lot would have been
to-day had a jubilee year brought back to me and mine the land my
grandfathers sacrificed in the stress of hard times." And not to land
only would he have applied this principle, but to all kinds of
indebtedness. "A limit of time should be fixed," he said, "beyond which
the debtor should be free from his debt, unless he had committed a
crime." The national debt itself he would have treated on this
principle; and few things excited his wrath more quickly than any
mention of the heavy burden which the consolidated debt continued to be
to the English people. In national matters he would have had no debt
remaining beyond 30 years, on the principle that it was a crime to cast
the burdens of the present on posterity. Freedom to borrow indefinitely
was in his eyes, moreover, the cause of much abominable robbery and
crime. Next to the Church, however, the object of his deepest hatred and
strongest contempt was modern kingship; and here again his inspiration
was drawn from the Bible. He told me that he often read Samuel's
description of the curse of kingship to his children on Sunday evenings,
with a view to make them proper Republicans; and his greatest interest
in modern history consisted in tracing the working of this curse in
England for the last 200 years. To this evil principle he declared that
we owed most of our social miseries, all our wars of aggression, our
national debt, our social corruptions, our bad land laws, our standing
army, and perhaps even our Established Church, with all its crop of
spiritual, moral, and social perversions.

It is easy to understand how a man holding opinions like these should
exercise a tremendous influence on the better class of his
fellow-workmen. To those who gathered about him in the evenings he was
never weary of enlarging on topics like these; and had the nature of the
work in hand kept the men permanently together, Thomas must in time have
appeared as the leader of a formidable school of democrats. But the
navvy is here to-day and gone to-morrow, and the seed which Thomas sowed
was scattered far and wide ere two years were over. The good he did is
therefore untraceable, yet doubtless his work bore fruit in ways and
places unseen, and in after days may have increased the receptivity of
the labouring poor after a fashion that the modern agitator thought due
wholly to his own exertions.

Over the wild Irishmen who formed the majority of the gangs on the line
Thomas never obtained any influence; and, in his opinion, they were
either a race of men bad from its very beginning, or whose nature had
been warped and debased by a long course of shameful tyranny and
deep-rooted habits of submission to degrading superstitions. However
produced, the Irish, in his esteem, were wretched creatures. They lacked
honesty and independence, and would beg like pariahs one hour from a man
whom they would treacherously murder the next in their drunken furies.
More than once he had the greatest difficulty in keeping clear of the
devastating fights with which these wild men of the west were in the
habit of finishing up their drunken revels, and once he, and the more
respectable men who followed him, had to arm themselves and help to
protect some villages in the neighbourhood of the line from being
stormed and sacked by a squad of Irishmen out for a spree. Life
surrounded by such elements was dreary at the best, and, good though the
wages might be, Thomas was not sorry when the job was finished, and the
way open for him to return once more to his own little cottage in
Ashbrook.



CHAPTER VII.

MAY INDICATE TO THE READER, AMONGST OTHER THINGS, SOME OF THE ADMIRABLE
ARRANGEMENTS WHEREBY ENGLAND OBTAINS MEN FOR A STANDING ARMY.


Had Thomas Wanless known what was in store for him in the future he
might have elected to leave Ashbrook for ever, and continue the life of
a railway navvy. As such his pay was good, and by thrift he might save
enough money either to venture on small contracts for himself, or start
some kind of business in one of the growing midland towns. But Thomas
did not consider these possibilities. The life he led grew more and more
repulsive to him as time went on; and he yearned unceasingly for the
quietude of his native village, and for his own fireside peace. Besides,
he hungered to get back to work on the land. If he could not get fields
of his own to till, at least he might hope to again help to till the
fields of others, and to watch the corn bloom and ripen as of yore.

So when the local bit of railway was made, Thomas came home to Ashbrook,
and once more went abroad among his neighbours; once more he accepted
the labourer's lot, with its hard fare and starvation pay. He returned
late in autumn when work was scarce; but his wife and he had saved money
in the past two years, and he managed to live with the help of what odd
jobs he could get, and without much trenching on his store till spring
came round. Fortunately his son Thomas had been able to cultivate the
allotment patch in his father's absence, and in spite of the fact that
the new owner of the soil had doubled their rent, it had paid for its
cultivation very well. The growing importance of Leamington provided all
surrounding villages with an improving vegetable and fruit market, of
which Thomas's wife and family had taken full advantage in his absence.
So well indeed had they done, that he himself indulged for a short time
in dreams of becoming a market gardener; but he soon found that there
was no chance for him in that direction. He might get work from the
farmers around, but no landlord would rent him the few necessary acres.
A broken man when he left Ashbrook to become a navvy; his absence had
not improved his position. On the contrary, the parish magnates rather
looked upon him as a greater black sheep than ever. The old ideas about
the rights of landowners to the labour of the hind, as well as to the
lion's share of the products of that labour, had by no means died out,
and it was still a moral crime in the eyes of the landlord for a
labourer to have enough daring and independence of spirit, to enable him
to seek work in another part of the country. In some respects Wanless
was therefore a greater pariah when he came home than when he went away,
and the summit of offence was reached when the report got abroad that
he had actually made some money, and wanted to rent a little farm.
Squire Wiseman had condescended to mention this report to Parson
Codling, and they both agreed that this kind of thing must be
discountenanced, else the country would not be fit for respectable
persons to live in. "The idea," Wiseman had exclaimed, "of this d----d
poacher-thief wanting to become a farmer! why bless my life, we shall
have our butlers wanting to be members of parliament next." And this
seemed to be the general opinion, so that the only practical outcome of
Thomas's ambition was a greater difficulty in procuring work, and a
further advance in the rent of his allotment. The successor of old
Captain Hawthorn took this mode of expressing his concurrence in the
general opinion, rather than that of a summary ejectment, he being a
practical man, and wise in his generation. It was better policy to take
the profits of Thomas's labours than to turn him adrift, and have to pay
rates for the maintenance of him and his family.

Against the odds and prejudices thus at work, Wanless fought manfully
for more than two years. When he could get work he laboured at it early
and late, and when, as often happened, work was denied him, he tended
his little garden and his allotment patch with the closeness of a
Chinese farmer. His flowers were the pride of the village, and his care
coaxed the old trees in his garden into a degree of fruit-bearing that
almost put to shame the vigour of their youth. Yet he could not always
make ends meet; and when he began to see his little hoard melting away,
his heart once more failed him. If the farmers would not have him he
must once more try elsewhere, and again a local railway afforded him a
refuge. He became a "ganger" on the Stratford line at 14s. a-week, and
for more than four years made his daily journey backwards and forwards
on his "beat," winter and summer, in cold and heat, well or ill. In one
sense, this work was not so hard as a farm labourer's or a navvy's is,
but it told on the health as much. Exposure, thin clothing, and poor
food did their work rapidly enough, and Thomas's limbs began to stiffen,
and his back to grow bent before his time. Like his fellows, he promised
to become an old man at 50, but he would have stuck to his work had not
a sharp attack of pleurisy laid him up in the winter of 1855, and once
more compelled him to seek to live by farm labour. He could not face the
bleak unsheltered railway track again, and even if he could, there was
no room for him. His place had been filled up. With a weary heart and a
spirit well-nigh crushed, Thomas once more looked for work on the farms
around Ashbrook. "Is there no hope for us, Sally, lass?" he would often
cry. "Must we go to the workhouse at last?" "Ay, the workhouse, the
workhouse!" he would exclaim. "The parsons promise us a deal in the
other world, but that's the best they think we deserve here. Well,
perhaps they mean to give us a better relish for the other world when it
comes."

Thomas had one thing to cheer him, though, and no doubt that gave him
more courage to face the world again than he otherwise would have had.
His precious son, young Tom, had emigrated to Australia about a year
before this terrible illness had enfeebled his father. He had gone as an
assisted emigrant, but the old man had given him £10 of old Hawthorn's
£20 to begin the New World upon. The parting had cost the family much,
and the father most of all; but they felt it to be for the best. There
was no room to grow in the old land; in the new there was a great
freedom. The lad dreamt of gold nuggets; but the wiser father bade him
stick to the land as soon as he could get a bit to stick to.

This departure was a loss to the family purse, for the youth had
obtained pretty steady work, and generously gave all into the keeping of
his mother. But Jane and Jacob were now also out into the world, winning
such bread as they could get, and the family burden was therefore
lighter. Jane was general servant to a dissenting draper in Leamington,
and Jacob enjoyed the proud distinction of being waggoner's boy at
Whitbury farm, now tenanted by a go-ahead Scotch ex-bailiff, who had
succeeded the Pembertons when they went to the dogs with drink and
horse-dealing. This hard-fisted, ferret-eyed agriculturist worked his
men and boys as they had never been worked before, but he did not make
the hours of labour so long, and he paid them a trifle better than his
neighbours, whose jealousy and dislike he thereby increased. Probably he
rather liked to be contemned by his fellows. It increased the
self-sufficiency of his righteousness, and made him the more proud of
being a strict Calvinistic Presbyterian, endowed with a conscience as
inelastic as his creed. Be that as it may, this man gave Jacob Wanless
10s. a week and made the lad work for it. Jacob was not then 17, and at
his previous place had only obtained half that sum with a grudge. But
then his work had been a long day's drawl too often, while now his duty
as under waggoner was practically a good 10 to 12 hours' toil as stable
assistant, feeder of stalled cattle, and general labourer about the
farm.

From these causes Wanless had some ground for hope, although work was
difficult for him to get, and his power to do it when got less than it
had been. And when he looked round him his causes for thankfulness
multiplied. Was not his neighbour Hewens, the under gardener at the
Grange, worse off than he, with a younger family of seven, one of whom
was an object, and a weekly income averaging about 9s. a week all the
year round. Thomas's old and tried friend Satchwell, the blacksmith,
too, with his three children living and a wife dying in decline, had
surely a harder lot than he, for all the coldness of farmers and
contumely of parish deities.

As spring warmed into summer, indeed, Wanless's strength and heart came
back to him in a measure. His hopes were chastened, but they were there
still, and asserted their life. Good news came from his far-away son,
too. Young Tom had taken his father's advice, and, avoiding the charms
of gold digging, had gone to work at high pay on a sheep run. Already he
spoke of buying a farm of his own, and getting father and mother and all
the rest to join him in the colony. Surely any man's heart would warm at
prospects like these, and Thomas so far entertained the project as to
talk it over with his friends, Brown, Satchwell, and Robins, who agreed
in thinking it "mighty fine," and in wishing that they could mount and
go along. "A vain wish, friends," Brown would say, "vain so far as I am
concerned, for I cannot herd sheep or hold a plough, and they want
neither parish clerks nor schoolmasters in the bush." Robins felt that
he was too old and too poor to think of the change, and Satchwell sighed
often as he thought on what a sea voyage might yet do for his wife. But
as for Thomas, of course he could go when his son sent him the money,
they said; and he, remembering that he had still a few pounds of his
hoard unspent, almost thought that he could. His family should have the
first chance, though. Jane and Jacob might both be able in another year
to get away to the new country so full of hope; and it was best that the
old hulk should stay at home, perhaps. So ran his thoughts for these
two, but he always stopped when he reached Sally, his youngest living
child, and precious to him as the apple of his eye. She was the fairest
of the family, and her father's darling above all the others. Her, at
all events, he felt he could not part with. If she went away at all her
mother and he must go too.

As yet "wee Sal," as she was called, though by this time nigh fourteen
years old, had not been suffered to go out to service. She had got more
schooling than the others, thanks to the better means that her father
had during part of her childish years; thanks likewise to his partiality
for her. In this you will say he was weak; but let him who is strong on
such a point fling stones. I cannot blame Thomas much for committing so
common a sin as to love most yearningly his youngest child; but I admit
that his fondness was perhaps to her hurt. Not that she was taught to
love idleness or things above her station. Far from that. Kept at home
though she was, she had to work. In the summer season she helped her
mother to tend the garden, and to carry flowers, vegetables, and fruit
to Leamington for sale. Under her mother's eye she at other times
learned something of laundry work. But her schooling; what could she do
with that? Did it not tend to give her vain thoughts above her lot; for
her lot was fixed more even than that of her brothers. The peasant maid
could never hope to advance to aught beyond some kind of upper service
in a rich man's family; a service often increasingly degrading in
proportion as it is nominally high. She might become a ladies' maid,
perhaps, and marry a butler in time, or she might fill her head with
vanities, and in apeing those above her sink to the gutter. The love of
Thomas for his child exposed her to many risks, when it took the form of
getting old Brown to teach her all he knew. If she could only get to the
new country at the other end of the world all that might be changed. She
might be happy and prosperous as an Australian farmer's wife. Yes, that
would be best; but they must all go. Neither Thomas nor his wife, who
shared his partiality, could think of parting with Sally. Jacob might go
first to help Tom to gather means to take out the rest; and Jane might
even go with him could a way be found; but not Sally: that sacrifice
would be too much.

In all probability the emigration plan might have been carried out in
this sense that very winter, if an emigration agent could have been got
to take Jacob and Jane, had not misfortune once more found the labourer
and smitten his hopes. Jacob enlisted. He was by no means a bad boy, but
like all youths, enjoyed what is called a bit of fun; and, in fun, he
had betaken himself to a kind of hiring fair held in Warwick, in
November, and called the "Mop." There was no need for him to go, as he
was not out of work, but the day was a kind of prescriptive holiday, and
others were going, so why not Jacob? Idle, careless, and brisk as a
lark, the lad followed where others led; drank for the sake of good
companionship more than his unaccustomed head could carry; and when in a
wild, devil-may-care mood was picked up by a recruiting sergeant, who
soon joked and argued him into taking the shilling. A neighbour saw the
boy, half-tipsy, following the sergeant and his party through the fair
with recruit's ribbons fluttering round his head, and rushed home to
tell Thomas as fast as his legs could carry him. The old man was
horror-struck; and the boy's mother broke into bitter wailing. Thomas,
however, wasted no time in useless grief, but took the road for Warwick,
within three minutes of hearing the news, in the hope of being in time
to buy his boy off. He had an idea that if he managed to pay the
smart-money before Jacob was sworn in, the lad might escape with little
difficulty. But he was too late. The sergeant was too well up to his
work to wait in Warwick all night, in order that parents might come in
the morning and beleaguer him for their betrayed children. Long before
Thomas reached the town and began his search for his son the sergeant
had gone off with his entire netful to Birmingham.

As soon as Thomas found this to be the case he made for the railway
station, intending to follow his boy without asking himself whether it
would do any good. But there again he was baulked. The cheap train to
Birmingham had passed long before, a porter told him, and there was
nothing that night but the late and dear express. For this Thomas had
not enough money in addition to what would be required to buy off Jacob,
so he had no help for it but to go home. This he did with a heart heavy
enough. Well did he know that ere he could reach Birmingham to-morrow he
would be too late. Recruiting sergeants do not linger at their work,
especially after the army had been reduced by war and disease as it then
had been in the Crimea. Before ten o'clock next morning Jacob, still
dazed with yesterday's unwonted debauch, was sworn in before a
Birmingham J.P., and not all the money his father possessed could then
release him. Henceforth, till his years of service were out, he must go
and kill or be killed at the bidding of these "sovereigns and
statesmen," whose business it still, alas, is to make strife in the
world.

This untoward event was in many ways a knock-down blow to the old
labourer and his wife. She, however, sorrowed mostly on personal
grounds, and dwelt on gloomy prospects of wounds and violent deaths as
the only lot now open for her son--bone of her bone, and flesh of her
flesh--whom she had nursed and tended from the womb only for this. Like
a good housewife, she mourned also the loss of Jacob's wages, which not
only helped to keep the wolf from the door, but also served to nourish
the hope that one day all might yet see the new land of promise. If any
savings could be pointed to they were always in the mother's eyes due to
those wonderful earnings of her boy's.

Thomas shared these feelings with his wife, but he had others into which
she did not enter. The emigration scheme had, perforce, to be given up,
and that was to him a far more bitter thought than to his wife, who
declared that she did not mind if they all went, but hung back at the
thought of "putting one after another of her children into a living
tomb," as she phrased it. But the deepest pain of all to Thomas probably
lay in the humiliation he felt in having a son a soldier. The trade of
murder, as he called it, was to his mind the most degrading to which a
man's hands could be set. He firmly believed that standing armies were a
mockery of the Almighty, and that the nations which fostered them would
sooner or later sink to perdition beneath the blows of divine vengeance.
Armies led to wars, and wars were the curse of the world, he averred,
and when contradicted was ready to prove to his antagonist that all the
wars in which England had been engaged since the revolution of 1688,
were dictated by the worst passions of mankind. Either, he said, they
were undertaken to consolidate the power of a rapacious faction over the
lives, liberties, and means of the people at large, or they were
actuated by mere bestial greed, by inordinate vanity and love of power,
or by mulish obstinacy and hatred or fear of liberty, and it was
amazing to hear what arrays of facts he brought forth in support of his
thesis. As a general conclusion he, of course, urged that, but for kings
and priests, most of the wars of the modern world would never have come
about. He did not know which cause was most effective, but inclined to
think it was the priests. Certainly the sight of ministers of Christ
so-called, unctuously blessing red-handed and red-coated murderers by
wholesale, and training their children to go and do likewise, was in his
opinion one of the most revolting things under God's sky.

You can, therefore, well understand with what bitterness of heart he
thought of the fate of his boy. He brooded over it; it became more
terrible in his sight than an actual crime. If Jacob had stolen and been
transported for breaking the law, Thomas could not have felt more shame
and humiliation than now haunted him. He almost cursed his son, and he
did unstintedly curse the system under which the lad had been caught up
by the agent of the State and spirited away from his labour. How it was
done he knew but too well; and when afterwards Jacob himself told the
story, it only confirmed what he had all along felt to be true. The boy
had never intended to enlist; but the drink, imprudently taken, had gone
to his head. The sergeant first cajoled him, and then, when he had taken
the fatal shilling, terrified him with threats of what would befall if
he broke faith with the Queen. So he took the oaths and went away to
practice the goose step, and moralise on the oddness of things in the
world. An officer, he now learnt, could sell out at a high price and
retire; but the common soldier belonged to the State, and had to be
bought back therefrom if he wished to be free. For Jacob there came no
such redress.

Gloom settled on the heart of his father, and on the little home in
Ashbrook after this great blow, and, but for the spur of hard necessity,
Thomas thought he should have laid down his burden altogether. Happily,
duty called him to work for others, if not for himself; and work brought
its usual blessing--a healing of the wounds and a revival of life in the
heart. All was not yet lost, though the buffets of adversity were
frequent and sore.

Indeed, in one sense Jacob's enlistment brought good to the family, for
it gave Thomas work at Whitbury Farm. Once more, after so many
vicissitudes, he came back to the old place. A changed place it proved
to be, but, on the whole, the change was for the better. The work was
hard, but the farmer was not brutal like the Pembertons, who had ruined
themselves by wild living, been sold up, and had disappeared none knew
whither.

Jacob himself had plenty of time to rue his folly, and he did rue it
bitterly. At first in Chatham, and afterwards in various Irish barracks,
he spent seven dreary years, wishing many a time he were dead, and
regretting that his fate did not lead him to India, where a mutineer's
bullet might have ended his career. Possessing much of his father's
energy of nature and many of his father's habits of thought, the idle
and seemingly purposeless life of a barrack became at times almost more
than the young man could endure. Had he fallen into the loose ways of
many among his comrades, it is probable that he would have capped the
folly of enlisting by the military crime of desertion. Fortunately he
kept his soul clean, and managed to utilise some portion of his time in
improving his mind. The mental wants of the soldier were not cared for
in his time, as they have begun to be since; but there were a few books
available in most barracks, and in Ireland a kindly old adjutant, who
had himself risen from the ranks, discovered Jacob's thirst in time to
afford him some assistance. Save for "providences" like these, and for
the stout heart that grew within him as he developed into full manhood,
Jacob's life as a soldier would have represented only wasted years.

Three more years in this way passed over Thomas Wanless and his
family--years marked by no incident of great importance. The dull
uniformity of their struggles with the ills of life has no dramatic
interest. Under it characters may be shaped and twisted like trees by
the east wind; but the graduations of change are mostly imperceptible to
those that endure the daily buffetings, and are beyond the scope of the
chronicler. Some day in the lapse of years, a man wakes up suddenly to
find himself changed, and looks back upon a former self with wonder and
astonishment, with thankfulness, it may be, for the drastic cleansing he
has endured, or with that flash of horror at the sudden vision of the
pit into which he has all the time been slowly sinking. In these years,
while a father labours for his children's bread, and thanks God that the
bread comes to him for his labour, his children grow up, develop
characters, assume attitudes in the world he never suspects, bringing
him joy or sorrow as the fruit is bitter or sweet. All is changing
ever; life moves onward, and the one generation perceives not the path
that the next shall follow. Ah! the mystery of life. What does it all
mean? The wrong triumphs often; the high hopes are dashed; weariness and
pain haunt us wherever we go; the fruit of the sweet blossom is ashes
and exceeding great bitterness; yet we hope on, plod on, battle till the
end comes--and the judgment: then perhaps we shall know.

As yet, however, the unkindly blows of a hard fate had not broken Thomas
Wanless's spirit: far otherwise. His heart might fail him beneath the
greater of his misfortunes, but when the storm had overpassed, his head
rose again, his eye yet brightened, and the laughter of hope broke forth
once more: so was it now. Steady work soothed the pain of Jacob's
disgrace, and in time the boy's own cheerfulness and manifest
improvement made his father begin to think good might be brought forth
out of evil in this case also. His daughter Jane continued to do well,
and was looking towards promotion in her sphere--such promotion as
consists in being one among many fellows, instead of the solitary drudge
in the family of a small retail merchant. With the higher wages that
followed elevation, Jane hoped also to be able to help her parents more.
That was Jane's ambition, so far as confessed, and it did her credit.
There might be something behind that, which was her own; but for the
present her father and mother stood first.

Then the news from Tom was ever good. He prospered with the colony of
Victoria, where he had settled, and might in time be a rich man, though
as yet his means were, for the most part, hid in the land he had bought.

Life, therefore, was not at all dark in those years of quiet toil,
either for Thomas or his family; and yet a cloud was gathering on the
horizon; a little cloud that might grow till all the life became wrapped
in its darkness.

The enlistment of Jacob had compelled Sally to go to service like her
sister. Thomas yielded to this necessity most reluctantly, and his
friends, even his wife, said he was foolishly fond of the girl. He would
not admit that it was over-fondness; it was solicitude, he said. An
undefined feeling of dread haunted him about the last and best loved
that was left. She was fairer than any girl of the village, and without
being exactly giddy, she was thoughtless and merry-hearted; too easily
led away; too guilelessly trustful of others. How could he let this
tender, unprotected maiden go out into the world, and fight her
life-battle alone among strangers? Many a prayer had he prayed in secret
that this sacrifice might be spared; but in this also the heavens were
as brass. The time had come when she must either go or starve, and with
a heavy heart he gave his consent. It was hardly given when his wife in
her turn woke up to the danger of the step. She then sought to bring
Thomas to revoke the decision, and try one more year; but it was too
late. Sally herself was now eager to go. Her pride was touched. She
would no longer be a burden to her parents, and must take a place like
her sister.

"But in another year, Sally, we may all be able to go to Australia," the
mother pleaded.

"Well, I can work for money to help us to go there," was the answer; and
the mother had to yield.

Sally found a place as drudge to a newly-married couple in Warwick--a
young surgeon and his wife. They had imprudently married on his
"prospects," and had to use many shifts to hide their poverty, lest the
world, which can only measure men's worth by the length of their purses,
should pass him by. It was thus a poor place, especially for one like
Sally, who had been better educated than probably any one else of her
class in the whole shire; and the wages were poor. At first they gave
her 1s. 6d. a-week with her food, but after six months they gave her
2s., partly to prevent neighbours from gossiping about their want of
means.

Here the girl remained for two years, not because she liked the place,
but because her parents told her that it was good to be able to say that
she had been so long in one family. Then she removed to the household of
a lawyer as housemaid, where two servants were kept, and had been in
that place over a year when her father met with an accident which laid
him up for many weeks. It seems that in building a rick he had somehow
been knocked off by a sheaf flung up at him thoughtlessly before he had
adjusted the previous one. He raised his one hand mechanically to catch
it, and his other slipped from under him. Being near the edge, he rolled
off heavily, striking the wheel of the waggon as he fell. The rick was
high, and the fall so severe, that, when picked up and examined, Thomas
was found to have badly bruised his shoulder and fractured two of his
ribs.

A long and tedious illness followed, during which Thomas was unable to
earn anything. Until young Tom could know and send money the old folks
were therefore likely again to feel the pinch of want, and it would take
many months to bring help from Australia. Some of the old hoard was
still left, but doctors' bills and necessary dainties soon made a hole
in that. In nursing her husband, too, Mrs. Wanless was prevented from
earning anything herself. There was no one to go to market with the
little garden produce that might be to spare. Neighbours were helpful,
but they could do little where all alike lived in daily converse with
want. Thomas's master was kindly, and declared that he would not see
them starve, but Thomas liked to be independent, and took umbrage at the
tone in which the charity was offered.

Talking of these things, and of the difficulties of the future, one
Sunday evening, when Sally was down from Warwick, the girl suddenly
asked why she could not go to a better place where her wages might be of
more use. She had only 3s. a week where she was, and felt sure she could
earn more.

Her parents were for letting well alone. "All the extra money you can
get, Sally, won't amount to much," her mother said, and her father urged
her to wait for Tom's letter. Who knew that Tom might not be sending
money to take them all away to the new country? But Sally was positive,
according to her impulsive nature. She was now nearly 18, she said, and
was sure she could earn more. "Besides, mother," she added, "I want to
better myself. I am learning nothing where I am, and never will, and I
hate messing about with so many children. They ought to keep a nurse,
but they can't afford it, missis says; and I'm sure I'm nothing but a
slave. Why should you object?"

Why, indeed. There were no good grounds for it in her eyes, and none
tangible to her parents. The result, therefore, was that Sally sought
and found a new place.



CHAPTER VIII.

INTRODUCES THE READER TO VERY ARISTOCRATIC COMPANY.


It so happened that what servants call "a good place" was not so
difficult to find when Sally went to seek it, as it had been some years
before. The growing wealth of a portion of the nation was telling every
year with increased force on the demand for domestic servants; and at
the same time manufacturers were everywhere drawing more and more of the
female population into employments in the great industrial centres of
the Midlands. In any case, therefore, Sally Wanless would probably soon
have found a place of some kind in a gentleman's family; but, unknown to
herself, her good looks had already been working in her behalf. She had
attracted the attention of the housekeeper at the Grange one day that
the two had chanced to meet in a grocer's shop in Warwick. When Sally
went out the housekeeper asked after her, and told the grocer that she
was just in want of "a still-room maid," whatever that may be. The
grocer gave Sally a good character as far as he knew her, and said
further that he believed the girl wanted a new place. What the
housekeeper heard elsewhere also pleased her; and in due time Sally was
engaged at the, to her, fabulous wages of £10 per annum. Perhaps, had
Lady Harriet Wiseman known that the pretty girl who thus entered her
house in the humble capacity of still-room maid, was the daughter of
"that seditious old poaching scamp, Wanless," as the squires called
Sally's father, she might have vetoed her housekeeper's action. But that
finely-distilled aristocrat did not condescend to notice such trivial
matters as the coming and going of menials. She barely knew the names of
some of the oldest servants about the place, and when she had occasion
to speak to any of them--a thing she avoided as much as possible--gave
all alike the name of Jane. She viewed her domestic world from afar. She
was of the gods, and her menials were of the sons and daughters of men.
To her their lives were unknown; of their hopes and feelings she knew
less than she did of the varied dispositions of her dogs. They were
there to minister to her every want and whim, to bend the knee, bate the
breath, and lower the eye before her when she crossed their path, and if
they did these things silently as machinery, it was well. Her sole duty
was to find them food and wages, and she kept her contract. But if they
failed in one iota they were dismissed.

It would be unfair to suppose that Lady Harriet was an exceptionally
hard woman, because this was her relationship with her household. She
was indeed nothing of the kind. On the contrary, in some respects she
was a kind-hearted person enough, and would for example have turned away
her housekeeper on the spot, had she been made aware that the servants
were badly fed or uncomfortable in their bedrooms, or anything of that
sort. Sins of that kind affected the reputation of her mansion, and
jarred, moreover, on her sense of comfortableness. To have life flow
easily, to see and feel none of the roughnesses of existence--this was
Lady Harriet's ideal. For the rest--how could she help it if menials
were low creatures? They were born so, and it was for her comfort
probably that Providence thus ordered the gradations of society. She had
been heard, moreover, to plume herself upon the exceptionally good
treatment her servants got, and to declare that she knew it to be much
better than that of her sister, who was the wife of a lord bishop of a
neighbouring diocese, and a woman of fashion.

Lady Harriet was, in short, an average sample of the modern English
aristocrat. Nay, in some respects she was better than the average woman
of her class, for she was gifted with some touch of the shrewd brains
that had lifted her grandfather, the London clothier, to great wealth
and an Irish peerage. In another sphere, as the parsons say, she might
have distinguished herself as a woman of affairs, but she loved ease,
disliked trouble, and wrapped her mind up in the refinements proper to
high birth and breeding. First amongst these she placed exemption from
all the cares and duties of maternity, and from the worries of household
management. Her aim was not lofty, and even her ladyship had begun to
fear that somehow her life had been a failure. A weary look was often
seen on her face--visible to the meanest domestic--telling all who saw
it that luxury could not insure any poor mortal from care any more than
from disease and death. But cannot one trace the hideous grinning skull
beneath the skin of the fairest and loftiest in the land? Care comes to
all, and sorrow, and pain, and for years before Sally went to the
Grange, the mistress thereof had felt the worm gnawing at her heart.

For one thing, her husband, now a man beyond sixty, was rapidly losing
the little wits he had possessed. His life was to all appearance most
prosperous. To the envy of many, he had made much money through the
railway speculations of the preceding decade; and by material standard
of the time should have been supremely happy. But he drank and over-ate
himself, and his self-indulgences in these and other ways made him gouty
and diseasedly fat. His life had thus become a misery to himself and to
all around him, even before he had become really old; and now his memory
was failing him, a sottish stupidity was stealing over his brain, so
that it was with much difficulty that his wife could rouse him to attend
to the most necessary affairs of his estates. Peevish and
ill-conditioned when in pain, stupified with wine when well, and at all
times of a dreary vacuity of mind, this pillar of the State, wielder of
men's votes, arbiter of parish fates and men's fortunes, was not a
lovable man to live with. To outsiders he might be an object of pity or
scorn; but to his wife! Ah, well, the servants said she looked worried.
Let it pass.

And yet had this been all she might have been in a fashion happy, for
she could turn off much of the ill-humour of her husband on his servants
by simply avoiding him. Other troubles, however, were coming thick upon
her, and making her look as old as the Squire, although she was nigh ten
years younger. Three children of the five she had borne were alive--two
daughters and a son. Of course the son, being also the heir, was made
much of, fawned on by mother and menial alike, and equally, of course,
he grew up a remarkable creature. Who has not known such without longing
for a whip of scorpions, and a strong arm to wield it? One daughter had
married a soldier--a showy man of good family but small fortune, who
sold out, became stock-gambler, and bankrupt in the brief space of
eighteen months; and then bolted to Australia to try sheep-farming with
a few hundreds given him by his friends to get rid of him. He had left
his wife and three children to the care of his mother-in-law. The eldest
daughter--eldest also of the family--was slightly deformed, and had
never left home, though some poor curates had cast longing looks at her,
hoping perhaps, that the money and influence she would have might be the
means of bringing them preferment. But they were not men of family, and
Lady Harriet would have none of them. The deformed daughter was left
otherwise to her own devices; and was probably the happiest in the
house, as she certainly was the gentlest. These were small troubles too,
and Lady Harriet could not afford to make herself long unhappy over
them; but it was otherwise with those of her son.

This pampered darling of his mother, this remarkable youth whose leading
idea was that the world and all that was therein had been created
expressly for him--if, indeed, he had ever stopped in his career of
selfish lust to form an idea so definite--this youth of many privileges,
before whom the path of life was rolled smooth and carpeted, on whom the
sun dare not shine too freely nor any wintry storm beat untempered, was
now causing his mother more agony than she ever imagined she could bear
and live. She felt she was wronged somehow in having so much sorrow by
one she so deeply loved. Had she not done everything for him all his
life, given him all he asked, made the whole household his slaves,
forbidden his masters to task his brain with too many studies, poured
handfuls of pocket-money into his lap, and in all ways treated him like
a demi-god? Yes, yes; she knew that no mother could have done more, felt
it in her heart as she reviewed the past, and yet had not this precious
boy been stabbing her to the heart every day of his life? Lady Harriet
felt that the world was out of joint.

Others, less blind, will say that this nurture would have destroyed the
noblest of natures. On a commonplace mind like Cecil Wiseman's its
effect was disastrous. The young man was, about the time of Sally
Wanless's entry on service at the Grange, some twenty-four years of age,
and handsome enough to look upon. When he liked his manners were
engaging, and his conversation not without shrewdness. But its range was
limited to matters of the stable. He had no acquaintance with literature
outside the sporting papers and some filthy English novels. French he
had never learned to read. He shone more in the stable than in
drawing-rooms, and understood the philosophy of horse jockeys, or racing
touts, better than the difference between right and wrong. If he had a
pet ambition it was to "make a pot of money" on a horse, and if he had
not been the heir to a great estate he might have distinguished himself
as a horse-dealer, that is, had he not come to the treadmill before he
got the chance.

The social position to which he was born saved him the trouble of
choosing a profession, and from the grasp of the law, but it did not
prevent him from being a criminal worse than many a poor wretch in the
dock. A commission had been bought for him some years before in a
regiment of dragoons, and by means of money he was now a captain, but
there was little about him of the soldier. When not bawling on a race
course he was lounging about the clubs of Pall Mall, playing billiard
matches for high stakes, or losing money at cards with the
freehandedness of a gentleman of fashion. What leisure these high
occupations left him was devoted to the society of loose women, by whom
his purse was just as freely emptied.

Naturally a career of this kind cost much, and soon Lady Harriet was
driven to her wits' end to find her son the means he demanded, and at
the same time to hide his extravagance from his father. The old man was
growing stupid, but not on the side of lavishness. On the contrary, he
clung to his money the more tenaciously, the more he felt that, and all
other earthly goods slipping from him, and woke to snappish
inquisitiveness when his name was wanted at the bottom of a cheque.

For a time Cecil's mother smuggled considerable sums for her boy through
the household accounts, and by pinching herself in the matter of new
clothes and jewels, managed to keep him afloat. But soon his
wastefulness went far beyond the range of such petty expedients. From
hundreds his losses grew to thousands, and she was in despair. Again and
again did she beseech her darling to be careful, to restrain himself, to
have pity on her grey hairs. She might as well have prayed to the church
steeple. Cecil abused her, and told her that he would have money, get it
how he might; if she did not give it him the Jews would, and it would be
the worse for her. Sometimes she thought she must tell his father, but
the courage and truth of heart were alike wanting for a course so open.
Once she threatened Cecil with this dreaded alternative, and he wrote
back that he did not see why she could not put his father's name to a
cheque, and be done with it. And he spoke of the old man's grasping
tendencies in terms unfit for transcription.

Verily, Nemesis was overtaking this poor woman, and bitter care had
become her familiar friend, though she knew hardly the fringe of her
son's iniquity. He weltered in a pool of corruption, caring for nobody,
loving no one but himself, despising natural affection, trampling it
under his feet with the unconsciousness of a demon, and crying for
money, money, as a horse leech seeks for blood. Such are some of the
characteristics of the family under whose roof the daughter of Thomas
Wanless now found herself, a stranger, bewildered with the splendour
around her, and the signs of a wealth greater than her imagination had
ever conceived.



CHAPTER IX.

TELLS AN OLD, OLD STORY.


Sarah Wanless did not quite suit the housekeeper, Mrs. Weaver, as
still-room maid. She was not sufficiently acquainted with the work, and
got flurried when the deputy tyrant of the household scolded her, which,
after the first few days, was many times a-day. So, after a month of
this purgatory, she was transferred to the nursery as under-nurse to the
children of Lady Harriet's daughter, Mrs. Morgan. There her position was
in some respects improved, though the head nurse was a woman of vulgar
instincts, and given to nagging, as women verging on forty, face to face
with old maidhood, often are. Doubtless she had had her sorrows and
disappointments, and felt that the world had been unkind to her--a
feeling which justifies much unloveliness here below in other folks than
old maids.

However, Sally endured her lot in hope, and soon began to find a certain
pleasure in her work, for she liked children. There were two boys and a
girl, the girl being youngest, and at this time two years old. The
drudgery was, therefore, less severe than if there had been babies in
arms, and, as the children were not naturally ill disposed, though
imperious as became their birth, they and the new nurse soon got on
very well together. Part of every fine day was spent out of doors, and
that also helped to make petty troubles bearable. It is only bitter care
and sorrow that seem heavier under God's sky than within four walls. At
first the upper nurse always formed one of the party, and was rather a
nuisance in her persistent endeavours to check what she called
"ungenteel beayvour." Her voice was a chorus ever intruding with "Master
Morgan, you mustn't do this," or, "Miss Ethel, you shocking girl, don't
beayve so," and the key did not conduce to harmony, but, like every
other discord in the world, it deafened the ears that heard, and the
young ones enjoyed themselves in spite of it.

Nor did this drawback last long, for, some three months after Sarah
entered the nursery, fate, or the spirit of mischief, ordered things so
that the head nurse once more fell in love. The object of her mature
affection was the new farm bailiff, a gigantic Welshman some few years
her junior, and the prosecution of their courtship made the presence of
Sarah inconvenient. As a stroke of policy, therefore, she was often sent
off with the two elder children to wander through the park and gardens,
or into the woods, as the whims of the children or her own might
dictate, while the "baby," as the youngster was still called, went with
the other nurse in quest of Mr. Peacock. Then Sarah was in bliss. She
danced along with the little ones, singing as she went, romped around
the old park trees or through thickets, and often brought her charges
home splashed and dirty, with their clothes all torn, but in a state of
delight not to be described. And the scoldings that ensued did not
somehow hurt Sarah's feelings much. Life was strong within her, and her
heart was light.

All this time, in fact, Sally Wanless was developing into a lovely
woman. Her slim, rather lanky figure grew rounder and increased in
gracefulness. Her face, ah! how many a lordly dame would have envied
her, would have thanked Heaven for a daughter with such a face! It was
impossible to look on it and not be struck with its beauty. Her
complexion was fair like her mother's, but her features resembled her
father's. The face was a fine soft oval, the nose aquiline, the brow
perhaps narrower than strong intellect demanded, but high and open, and
the eyes of greyish blue were large and full of dancing mirth. A certain
sensuousness lay hid in the lines of the mouth, but it betokened rather
an unformed character than a bent of disposition. Under the right
guidance, Sally's mouth might yet grow as firm in its lines as her
father's. Poor lass, would she get that guidance?

Well, well, think not of evil now. Try rather to picture this fair
peasant maiden in your mind. Behold her all innocent as she is, romping
through the park with the children, dressed in her clean, neat, print
gown, with her rich brown hair perhaps broken loose and tossing about
her shoulders as she runs hither and thither, chased by the shouting
little ones. And as you look, remember that this fair lass was but a
peasant's child, born to serfdom at the best. Between her and those
children there was hardly a human bond.

Think not of evil, I have said; and yet at this very time much evil was
at hand for poor Sally. Just as I have set her before you, all rosy and
bright with exercise, she ran full tilt one day almost into the arms of
Captain Cecil Wiseman. The captain was lounging along with his gun under
his arm, smoking a pipe of wonderful device, and with a couple of
setters at his heels, who barked half in surprise at the sudden
apparition. Sarah came rushing from behind a clump of rhododendrons, and
almost fell at the Captain's feet, through the violent wrench she gave
herself to avoid a collision. Cecil Wiseman opened his heavy eyes,
stared in impudent wonder for a moment, and then, as if moved to
involuntary respect by what he saw, doffed his hat, and mumbled
something or other, Sally did not wait to hear what. Blushing all over
her already flushed face, she darted off to hide her confusion, followed
by the shouting children, from whom she had been fleeing.

After that meeting the captain suddenly found his nephews and niece
interesting. He condescended to play with them so often, that his mother
began to take heart. Her son was going to turn out a fine fellow, after
all, and, poor boy, she had perhaps been too hard on him for his wild
oat sowing. It was part of the education of gentlemen in his position,
and, no doubt, contributed to endow them with that contempt for the
feelings of the common people proper to aristocrats. So Lady Harriet was
happier. Her son found means to come home oftener, and stayed longer
when he did come. He even took some interest in the affairs of the
estate, went to church occasionally, and asked some of the farmers'
names.

Never for a moment did Cecil's mother imagine that he was merely engaged
in stalking down the under nurse of his sister's children, and that the
greater the difficulty he experienced in doing so, the more his passion
incited him to acts of apparent self-denial. He grew an adept in
hypocrisy in order to put the girl, his mother, everyone, off the scent,
and it became positively astonishing to see how his habits changed, and
his wits sharpened, under the stimulus of this now exciting hunt. He
displayed cunning and ingenuity of device worthy of a better cause.

In early summer, for example, he spent whole mornings teaching the two
elder children to ride, walking or trotting with them all round the
park, and to all appearance heedless of the nurse girl, who was left
alone with the youngest, when her superior chose to be elsewhere. At
other times, if he met her with the children, which was often
enough,--it seemed to be always by chance,--he would be busy discussing
horticulture with the gardener, fishing, or going for a row on the pond,
off to the warren to shoot, always occupied, and always ready to express
noisy surprise at finding the "pups" there, as he called the little
ones. When he went on wet days to play in the children's room, it was
always in company with his sister, who, however, was usually driven off
within a few minutes of her entrance, by the row that "Uncle"
systematically started.

All this and much more, Captain Cecil Wiseman, the nobly born
aristocrat, put himself to the trouble to do, and suffer, in order that
he might work the ruin of an innocent, unsuspecting, country maiden. For
long, he had no apparent success, for Sally Wanless was shielded by her
very innocence, and she was also very shy, so that it was most difficult
to get near her. By degrees, however, she became familiar with the
Captain's face and figure, and his presence ceased to be either
repulsive to her or to frighten her. Not very tall, heavy in make, and,
with fluffy, sodden features, and a skin already over red from
dissipation, Captain Cecil was by no means an attractive person. His
voice, too, was harsh, and his eye evil. For all that, patience and
cunning carried the day. Labouring incessantly to throw the girl off her
guard, he succeeded, and as soon as he had done so, he knew the game to
be in his own hands. It is a terrible mystery this power which
evil-minded men gain over women. They fascinate them, as snakes are said
to fascinate birds, till they become powerless, and fall helpless and
abandoned into the jaws of destruction.

By slow degrees then the captain drew Sally into his power, and seduced
her. He had stalked his game, with more than a hunter's patience, but he
triumphed. Bewildered, surprised, horrified, the poor girl scarcely knew
what had befallen her, felt only a vague dread and consciousness that
somehow, for her, the world was all altered, that where joy and hope had
been, there was now the ashes of a burnt-out fire. Ah, poor young lass,
this squire's son, this noble captain of Her Majesty's Dragoon Guards,
had done his best to destroy you, body and soul, and boasted of the
deed. In proportion, as the task was hard, he exulted at his success.
To destroy the life of a virtuous girl was almost a greater triumph to
him than to be first in at the death of a fox. To win this triumph he
had stooped to lies black as hell, and cared not. His end gained, his
interest in his victim at once sank, and soon he hated the sight of her
sad, tear-swollen face. Ah, God! that these things should be, and men
have no shame for the shameless seducer, no horror of his blasting
career.

But had this maiden no guilt, then? Yes, she had guilt of a kind. She
was inclined to be vain of her beauty, and her betrayer fastened on that
weakness. His flattery pleased her, till she grew, half unconsciously,
proud that so fine a gentleman as this captain creature should notice
her. This pride begat conceit and a foolish confidence in herself that
made her betrayal easy. After what her parents had taught her, she ought
to have known better. True pride, a jealous care for her womanhood,
should have possessed her. Instead of that she grew giddy, and so was
allured to her destruction, like the moth to the candle. Thus far she
was guilty; but wilt thou condemn her, O censor? And if so, what of the
man? Is it not strange that he, so much more guilty, should go
scatheless; that to "society," as the froth at the top insolently calls
itself, this base creature, this loathsome seducer, should be as good as
ever? For him the lofty mothers of the aristocracy would have no
censure, in him their daughters, should whispers of his deeds reach
their ears, would have a livelier interest. Amongst most people he would
bear repute as a "man of gallantry," a "dreadful lady-killer;" at
worst, a "rake" of the dirt-heroic kind that heightened rather than
otherwise his eligibility as a match for the fairest of the daughters
exhibited for sale in the markets of Belgravia and Mayfair. A man that
could ruin a country maiden and then fling her from him, all heedless of
her broken heart, with no more thought of her than if she had been a
dead dog, must, in the view of society, be a man of spirit. As for the
ruined one--faugh! speak not of a thing so repulsive. Let her die in the
street.



CHAPTER X.

BRINGS THE READER BACK TO THE RESPECTABILITIES OF THE PARSONAGE.


After the high-born Captain Cecil Wiseman had accomplished his purpose,
Sarah Wanless lost her attraction for him. With a fiendish guile he had
tracked her down, and now that the chase was over, the victory won, why
should he bother himself further? Sarah's beauty was not less; nay, was
rather enhanced by the new sadness that shaded her face; but the Captain
hardly looked at her again. These confounded wenches were so given to
whimpering, and this serene aristocrat hated "scenes." Had Sally been
bold and of brazen iniquity, like many of the stained ones he knew in
the greenrooms of London theatres, she might possibly have held this
lust-consumed reptile a little longer in her power, but being only a
simple village maiden slowly awakening to the horror of the fate that
had befallen her, the sight of her tearful face made him avoid her. What
had he to do with the consequences of sin and folly? Was not the world
bound to make his vices pleasant to him?

This thoroughbred captain in Her Majesty's Dragoon Guards left Sally
then, and sought other attractions, his appetite whetted by his success.
Even as he snared Sarah Wanless his roving eye had sighted other game.

The vicar's wife, Mrs. Codling, had several daughters whom, like a
judicious mother, she was anxious to marry well. These the Captain had
deigned to notice somewhat in the course of his long visits at the
Grange while Sally's destruction was in progress. At church more than
once his greedy eye had rested on the vicar's pew with a hard gaze of
admiration, and on week days his footsteps had begun to stray towards
the vicarage often enough to set Mrs. Codling's brain a-scheming. It
would be indeed a triumph, she felt, if the heir of Squire Wiseman could
be got to marry one of her daughters. But that was a job which needed
the most delicate handling, for if Lady Harriet got wind of her designs,
the consequences would be more than Mrs. Codling felt able to face. At
the best the parson's daughter would have been considered no fit match
for so great a personage as this ill-doing guardsman, but, as things
were, the very idea of such a marriage would have been received at the
Grange with unutterable scorn.

Times were in many ways changed with the vicar since that day now long
past, when his soft, fat hands were uplifted in holy repulsion of the
horrible rabbit-slaying criminal who stood before him doomed. For one
thing he had gathered a family around him, and for another he had been
overtaken by poverty--a poverty that came of greed. The living of
Ashbrook was worth in money about £250 a year, and there was a good
vicarage with a large garden and paddock, so that altogether Mr.
Codling was as well off in the country as he would have been with £500 a
year in town. To this income, itself above starvation point many
degrees, Mrs. Codling had added an income of nearly £2,000, which made
the home more than comfortable. A contented man would have been very
happy with such a provision, judged even by the standard of the
_Spectator_, which admires Christianity with a well filled purse, but
Mr. Codling wanted more, like most parsons. One would think from the
eagerness shown by such to possess themselves either of rich wives or of
large incomes made out of nothing, that somehow Christianity and poverty
are things that cannot exist together. Luxury is certainly essential to
the true faith of the majority of modern parsons. Without it they
shrivel up, grow morose, full of evil thoughts, such as envy and malice,
and instead of an example are a warning.

Parson Codling, then, took the common clerical fever. During the railway
mania he saw men spring suddenly from poverty to great wealth, and very
soon came to the conclusion that nothing would be easier than for him to
do as they did. Entirely ignorant of the game of speculation, Codling
took to speculating with the fearlessness of a master in the art, and
following a common rut of fortune, he for a time succeeded. One land
speculation in which he joined, and where the shareholders of a new line
of railway were fleeced of fabulous thousands, cleared him, it was said,
about £1800, and he did well with sundry purchases of shares. Naturally,
success made him bolder. He bought anything and everything, became an
expert user of stock exchange slang, and deeply versed in the "rigs"
and dodges of the share market. Some of the squires around began to envy
him, others cursed him for a nuisance, but still he made money, and no
doubt would have gone on making it indefinitely had somebody always been
found ready to buy when he wanted to sell. Unluckily for him, the day
came when he could not sell at any price, and as he had been lifted
clean off his feet by the elation of his early speculative successes, he
only came back to the hard earth to find himself ruined. The crisis of
1847 did not break out without much foreshadowing to prudent men, but to
the Rev. Josiah Codling it came like the trumpet of doom. Till the very
last he clung to the hope that a rise in the share markets would set him
free. That fatal October therefore passed like a whirlwind, leaving
Codling stripped of all he had previously made and some £40,000 in debt.
To save him from public exposure and disgrace, his wife had to part with
nearly all her property in Worcester, and they were glad, ultimately, to
escape with as much as yielded about £200 a-year beyond the value of the
living. Had all the creditors been fairly paid they would not have
retained a penny, but Codling struggled and wheedled, and, it is said,
shed copious floods of tears over his hard fate, until pitying people
let him go.

Such an untoward end of the glorious visions in which the vicar had
indulged naturally embittered his home circle. Mrs. Codling could not
forgive her lord for ruining her, and took to reviling the poor wretch
early and late. The miserable fellow would have borne his misfortunes
ill enough even if sympathised with. Being reviled, he bore them not at
all. He drowned them in drink. At first he stupified himself with
brandy; but that proving too dear for his means, he relapsed to gin, and
led a sodden existence.

All too late his wife saw the blunder she had made, and tried to wean
him back to sobriety. Failing in that, her pride and cunning came to the
rescue. She smothered her tears and veiled her sorrows before the world,
hiding at the same time her husband's infirmity as much as possible from
the public eye. The lot was hard, her punishment severe, but she braced
herself to it with a woman's patient courage, and straightway opened her
heart to new hopes and dreams of better days to come. Henceforth the aim
of her life must be to get her four daughters settled in life. Alas! the
settlements would need to be humbler now than those she had once dreamed
of. The tables of the great ones of the parish were not now open to them
as they had been before her money had gone, and before Codling took to
drink. There was not even a barrack in the neighbourhood, with its
successive bevies of foolish young officers to prey upon--only
Leamington with its dawdling crowds of nobodies. Ah, well, the most had
to be made of the opportunities that offered.

These being the circumstances of the family at the vicarage, this the
mental attitude of Mrs. Codling, who could wonder that her soured spirit
rose once more within her with a feeling akin to gratitude towards a
merciful providence, when Captain Wiseman came in her way? Despair had
sometimes nearly marked her down for his prey, and lo! here was the
Prince of the fairy tale. Dresses were forthwith obtained for the girls
such as they had not worn for years, for happily their mother had still
a few jewels left which she could pawn or sell. And being handsome
girls--two of them particularly so--they soon attracted a good deal of
the roving guardsman's attention. At first a little flirtation with them
gave a pleasant variety to his existence, rendered just a little
monotonous by the labour of stalking down Sally Wanless. The shrewd
mother contrived that his opportunities should be frequent. The old pony
chaise was furbished up anew and the girls took to driving the fat,
wheezy, old pony about the country in a manner new and far from
agreeable to it. In this way they managed to cross the Captain's trail
much after his own style with Sally. During that winter he hunted a good
deal, and the Codling girls developed an enthusiasm for the sport which
made them haunt meets far and near. Months before the Captain flung
Sarah from him he had thus become familiar with the sight of these
girls, and no sooner was she well destroyed than he began to develop a
preference for the youngest but one--Adelaide or Adela Codling. Miss
Adela was a buxom, roystering, kind of girl, of handsome features, light
brains, and abundant animal spirits. Already, though but nineteen, she
had a reputation amongst her acquaintances of being what the pump-room
gossip of Leamington styled "fastish." She affected _outré_ fashion in
dress, and was always ready to lead a revolt against established
proprieties. To play the boisterous hoyden at a harvest home or
farmer's Christmas dance, where she could scandalise all the sober
domestic virtue of the parish and make every buxom farmer's lass wild
with jealousy by her extravagant flirtations with the young men,
delighted Miss Adelaide beyond measure.

This free young lady was most to the Captain's taste of all the four,
but her mother felt disappointed at the preference. It not only left the
eldest girl out in the cold, but made Mrs. Codling's task more
dangerous. Adela had no prudence, and unripe plans might become known to
Lady Harriet through her folly. Besides, her ladyship would probably be
harder to persuade into accepting Adela as a daughter-in-law than any of
the other three.

So thought the prudent, anxious mother; but she was too wise to
interfere. A risk must be taken in any case, and she resolved to let the
captain have his way, bracing herself to greater vigilance and higher
flights of matrimonial diplomacy than ever. And she found a much more
efficient ally in the Captain than she had expected. Men, in her
opinion, were never prudent in love matters, but this man was as
cautious as a diplomat on a secret mission. It did not suit him any more
than Mrs. Codling that his mother should scent danger in his visits to
the vicarage. In such a place as Ashbrook and in ordinary circumstances
all their care would have gone for nothing; but, happily for their
plans, her ladyship did not go out much now, and called seldom on any of
her neighbours. Her husband, the estate, her miserable son, any one of
them would have given her grief or work enough to keep her well at home.
When she went abroad, therefore, it was generally for an hour's drive
out and home, or to Leamington or Warwick on business.

Just now she was struggling hard not to lose the dream of hope that had
for a short time gladdened her heart about her boy, and was failing in
the effort. Notwithstanding his long visits to the Grange, his demands
for money continued to be insatiable. He always put his necessities down
to the bad conduct of the Jews. They had got him fast, he said, and
would give him no peace. But as bill after bill got paid, only to be
succeeded by a new crop, Lady Harriet began to doubt the truth of this
tale, and in her unhappiness shut herself up more than ever. The Captain
had only to spend a little of the money wrung from his mother in bribing
her maid, and he was free to destroy all the women of the parish if he
chose.



CHAPTER XI.

REVEALS THE SORROWS OF A MERE PEASANT MAIDEN.


Lady Harriet did not even hear of her son's ongoings with Sally Wanless,
though to the menials of her household and the gossips of the village
they had furnished for months back one of the most delightful and
engrossing topics of conversation that the oldest among them had ever
been permitted to share in. It was better than the most sensational
romance of the _London Journal_; for was not this drama being acted out
before their very eyes? They took the same delight in it, though keener
and deeper, that they would have taken in any sport involving the death
of the weaker creature, and few among them cared in the least for the
girl whose danger they failed not to see. Among the young her beauty
excited envy, and they virtuously rejoiced that her pride would yet
bring her sorrow. All, young and old, loved an intrigue for itself; and
would not have spoiled their sport for the world. The servants at the
Grange carried their tales to the village, and the village gossips drew
together in the fields, on the road, by the pump, at cottage doors, to
roll the sweet morsel of scandal under their tongues.

All this time Sarah's parents were kept in ignorance of what was afoot.
Neither dreamt of danger to their daughter, because neither was aware
of the fiend who pursued her. As for Sarah herself, she behaved better
after she had begun to feel the spell of the Captain's fascination upon
her than before; was more demure and obedient. This she was half
unconsciously, half from a wish to propitiate her father and mother in
view of she knew not what.

Pausing not to think, heedless of the smiles and whispers, the nods and
winks that greeted her wherever she went, all of them signs full of
warning to one disposed to alarm, free, happy-hearted Sally Wanless
plunged into the abyss.

Ruined and forsaken, she came to herself only to find that she had
entered a new world. Sorrow and darkness dwelt within where light had
been; and around her all was changed. The silent hints of her fellow
servants gave place to open taunts and scorn. None pity a fallen woman
so little as her fellow women, and Sally's fellow servants were not long
in making her life an unrelieved agony. The bloom forsook her cheek, her
step became listless, her eyes dull and sunken. She literally withered
before her tormentors, and they pitied her not.

A change so great soon attracted the attention of her parents,
especially as for a little time her manner in her visits to them became
suddenly dashed with recklessness. The wretched girl, in trying to be
her old self, was, like a bad actor, overdoing her part. Her parents
grew uneasy, and the uneasiness gave place to alarm when Sally grew pale
and silent. Afraid to speak, hoping it might be some cross in love
matters, which most young lasses experience, both her father and mother
yearned after their daughter. At length the accidental discovery of some
trumpery trinket of the Captain's, which Sally wore round her neck, led
to the revelation of all their daughter's peril and loss, although the
knowledge came too late.

The ribbon by which the trinket hung had become loose, and it fell on
the floor. Before Sally could pick it up, her mother's hand was on it.
Holding it to the light, she found that it was a gaudy looking locket,
and instantly demanded where Sally had got this. Taken by surprise Sally
answered at once,

"From Captain Wiseman."

"From Captain Wiseman! Oh, Sally!" That was all she said; but the tone
and the look went to the girl's heart and tore it with a new misery. Her
father turned in his chair and looked at her for a minute or two without
speaking. She took his gaze to mean rebuke, and mechanically tried to
escape from the house. Then her father spoke.

"Stay, Sarah," he said. "Go with your mother to the boys' room. We must
know what this means."

Equally mechanically she obeyed, suffering her mother to lead her away.

Left alone, Thomas said that he did not think of anything particular for
some time. He just sat still as if animation was suspended, a dull
feeling of pain, a sense of stunnedness possessing his whole being. The
fate of his pretty daughter was before his inward eye all the time. He
gazed at it and realized it, but it did not move him. His emotions were
frozen up.

It was some time before the mother and daughter came back, and the girl
would not face her father. He rose to bid her good night. She hesitated
a moment and then muttering, "I shall be late," turned and fled from the
house.

Mrs. Wanless told her husband that she could make nothing of the girl.

"I plead with her," she said; "I scolded her and tried to work on her
feelings, but she just hid her face in her hands, and rolled and moaned
like to break her heart."

Poor, lone lass, her tale needed no words to make it plain. Already it
was known to all the village, and this Sunday night the hideous reality
entered the minds of her parents, breeding there a sorrow the keenest
they had ever known.

At the Grange, too, who was there knew not? That Sunday night Sally was
actually late as she had said, and the scolding, seasoned with brutal
taunts, which she had to endure from her superior, might have stung the
girl to retaliation had not a deeper pain laid hold of her spirit. She
paid no heed to the taunts and broad allusions of her neighbour, whose
heart was perhaps the bitterer from the recent failure of her own last
effort at husband-catching. A fire raged in Sally's heart that seemed to
be consuming her very life. Her one hope now was to die. That would be
best. As soon as possible she crept silently away to bed. How blessed is
the darkness to the soul that is ashamed! Sally's grief, deep and
bitter though it might be, was little to the sorrow and pain she had
left that night in the home of her childhood. The deathly calm in her
father's mind was succeeded by a storm before which Sally's sobs were as
the wailings of an infant. His spirit had been stirred to its depths by
many storms in the past, and needed much to rouse it now, but what he
had learned to-night was surely enough. In the darkness of the night the
full horror of what had befallen his daughter and himself was pressed in
upon his thoughts till his heart rose in bitterness unspeakable. Was it
true, then, he asked himself again and again, that his child, the
darling of his old age, had been ruined by this cub of the oppressor?
Had this blackest of all wrongs been added to all the rest? There was
but one answer, and as he brooded over the shame and misery that would
fall upon his daughter and on all the family, as he thought of this
heartless seducer going through the world scathless, passion swelled
within him. An impulse to vengeance swept over him. Had the Captain been
within reach of Thomas's hands then, the old man might have slain him.
Yes, he felt he could die cheerfully for his daughter's sake, were her
wrongs fully avenged. Ah, if he could thus bring back her good name! But
would not mere vengeance be sweet? To take the scoundrel's life-blood!
He set his teeth, his frame shook under the gust of his terrible agony
of grief, hatred, and shame, and he longed for the daylight that he
might go and find the seducer of his precious one. The desire for
revenge was strong upon him with the strength of a great temptation.

Then his mood changed. The fierce fires burnt themselves low. Weary and
exhausted he lay still, and for the first time became aware that his
wife was silently weeping by his side. He had thought she slept. A
softer mood stole into his heart, but he could not speak of the grief
that consumed them both. In the morning he rose, weary and sad, to go
about his day's work. Days passed before he made up his mind what to do,
and during these days, his wife waited with anxious patience, too wise
to worry her husband. At last, he resolved to bring her home. Anger and
revenge were conquered thus far, and love and pity for his child were
victorious.

"We must take Sally's shame to ourselves, mother," he said to his wife,
when his mind was made up. "I know it will be hard for you, harder than
you think; but she is our flesh and blood, and we must stand by her.
What say ye, wife?"

"An' what can I say, Thomas? I've been wishin' her home ever since
Sunday, for I'm sure she'll die where she is. Oh! my poor darling; God
pity her. The sin is surely not hers;" and Mrs. Wanless wept, but her
heart was glad that the father was ready to shield and forgive.
Sometimes, as she watched the hard stern lines of his face, or his fixed
gaze of wrath, she had dreaded a sterner decision. But now again
Thomas's better nature had triumphed, and his faith in the everlasting
justice inclined him to mercy.

As this talk took place on the Thursday evening, it was thought best to
wait for Sally's return on Sunday, rather than to excite comment by
going at once in quest of her. Her mother had stolen to the Grange on
the previous Monday morning, to find out whether Sally had gone back,
and had then seen and heard enough to make her dread another visit.

But they waited in vain for Sally that Sunday. She never came near her
father's house, but spent her hours of liberty alone in the woods,
afraid to face her father, and vaguely wishing she were dead. Her mother
must go and tell her what had been decided on, after all.

So on the Monday morning, Mrs. Wanless again set out for the Grange.
With sickening heart and trembling steps, she crept along the sweeping
avenue like a thief in dread of being seen. The day was grey and cold,
as the latter days of April often are, and the leaden clouds threatened
rain. It was one of those days when spring has, as it were, turned back
to give a farewell hand-shake to winter. A chilly blast swept along the
ground in gusts, and made one shiver; the world looked dreary and
forbidding; birds were silent; and as one looked abroad on the cheerless
world, and mournful sky, one grew unconsciously to have a shut-in kind
of feeling. If only a rift would appear in that grey canopy, then one
might breathe and have hope. Who has not come under the spell of such
days? To whom have they not seemed to increase the bitterness of sorrow,
to add weight to the burden of disappointment?

Mrs. Wanless was probably all the sadder this morning that the day was
sad, though her thoughts were too fixed on Sally to be overborne by any
idle impressions from the leaden aspect of the landscape. Or perhaps
she felt that the day and her feelings were in wonderful unison. A
beautiful spring morning might have jarred on her spirit. Spring
sunshine is so gladsome, so full of hope, and Mrs. Wanless had no hope,
only a longing to bring her daughter home and hide her away out of the
world's sight.

Intent on her errand, she approached the house--a large, square
building, with innumerable staring windows and a bare lawn in front,
where a poor woman could find no hiding place--but as she neared the
servants' door round in the east end of the mansion she paused
irresolute. She remembered the reception of a week ago, the whispers and
nods and innuendos of the wenches who came and went with a wonderful
bustle of extemporized activity as she stood speaking to her daughter
just by the door. If Sally would but come out, she thought, as once and
again she turned back unable to muster courage, and cowered by the
garden wall, which approached that end of the house, wherein lay the
servants' quarters, with her old shepherd's plaid shawl gathered tightly
round her. But no one came save menials, out of whose sight the poor
bruised mother would fain have kept herself. The children of the
gentlefolks would not be out of doors that day. It was too cold.

At last Mrs. Wanless nerved herself to a desperate effort, left the
shelter of the garden wall, and walked as firmly as she could up to the
kitchen door, and feebly knocked. She waited a long time as it seemed to
her palpitating heart, but no answer came. Her knock had not been heard,
so she tried again, this time a little less feebly. It was no
use--nobody minded her. Would she go away? Nay, she dared not do that.
She would wait, somebody was sure to turn up presently. The resolution
was hardly formed when the door opened, and her daughter and she stood
face to face. A scared look came into the girl's eyes as she exclaimed,
"You here again, mother;" the blood mantled to her forehead, and she
half stepped back. But her mother caught her by the arm feverishly, and
led her away from the house, saying--

"Oh, Sally, I do so want to see you, but I didn't like to come in again.
Why didn't you coom home last night?"

Sally tried to frame some excuse, but her voice failed her; she turned
pale as death, and hung her head.

"Why didn't you, dear;" her mother repeated, in a dull, mechanical sort
of way. Sally's feelings overcame her. She burst into tears, and through
her sobs gasped out--

"I thought you--father--wouldn't let me come back."

Her mother did not at once reply, she was too pained, and also too
keenly alive to the eyes that were at many a window gloating over her
daughter's misery. Almost roughly she tightened her grasp on the girl's
arm, and hurried her round the corner of the garden wall, never halting
till safely behind a clump of evergreens. Then she released her
daughter, turned, and clasped her to her breast. Both wept now, and, as
she wept, the poor, stricken mother cried--

"Ah, Sally, Sally, my pet, my pet, you mustn't think on us like that,"
in tones that expressed reproach and love and pity and misery all in
one. But no word of reproach did she utter.

It was some time before the two were composed enough to say much about
anything. Sally roused herself first, for she suddenly recollected that
she had orders to be quick back. She had been sent out for milk for the
nursery.

"I must run, mother," she said hurriedly, "or Mary Crane will nag at
me;" and she made as if to go.

"Wait a moment, Sally dear," her mother answered. "I had nearly
forgotten what I came for; A-dear! a-dear! you mustn't stand no more of
Mary Crane's naggings, Sally; an' if she begins to-day, you're to give
up the place and coom home. Now, mind, Sally," she added, eagerly, "that
will be best, give up your place;" for Sally seemed to shrink from the
idea of coming home.

"But father----he"----

"It was father as said it, Sally dear. Father says you must coom home.
He can't a-bear to see you suffering and abused in this big house as
you've been so wronged in; an' ye'll do what father wishes, won't you,
my pet?"

"Is it really true, mother. Are you sure that father will let me coom
home?"

"My dear, he sent me to tell ye. Oh, say ye'll coom home, Sally?"

"But father'll be angry with me and scold me, mother, and I can't abide
that--oh, I can't, I can't," and Sally shook her head despairingly, the
gleam of hope vanishing from her eyes.

"No, Sally, your father wonnot scold ye. Surely you know him better nor
that. He is too heart-broke about ye a' ready to have any scoldings
left, an' he was never hard to ye. Coom, now; say you'll give up the
place, and it will be all right."

This and much more the mother said, pleading as for her daughter's life,
and she won her point. Once Sally's dread of her father was somewhat
removed, she caught eagerly at the prospect of escape from the Grange.
Any change would be like going from Hell to Heaven that would take her
away from that place of torment. So anxious was she to get away, once
her mind became fixed, that she never once thought of the burden she
would be to her parents. But for the inexorable month's warning, she
would have taken flight that night.



CHAPTER XII.

WHEREIN WE SEE BREEDING--HIGH AND LOW.


Mother and daughter parted almost the moment that the former was assured
of Sally's readiness to come home, and Sally, nearly half-an-hour late,
sped on her errand. It was with a glow on her face and a light in her
eye that had been absent for many a day, that she ultimately reappeared
in the nursery. Her bright looks seemed to add fuel to the wrath of the
upper nurse, who burst out on Sally before she was well in at the door.

"I shan't stand this no longer, miss, depend on't," the soured, elderly
maiden wound up. "I'm a decent woman, I ham, and don't mean to be
disgraced by the likes o' you, not if I knows it. I've stood a lot too
much from you a'ready, shameless gipsy that ye are. Your hongoin's is
just past bearin', and I mean to tell Mrs. Morgan this very day as 'ow
she must get another nurse an she means to keep you."

Nearly if not quite as much as this had been said to Sarah Wanless
before now, and she had borne it silently with a bitter heart, because
she found herself alone in the world. But to-day she was bolder from the
consciousness within her that she was not yet wholly forsaken. Driven to
bay by this woman's tongue, she turned upon her, and with flashing
eyes, a voice trembling with passion, cried--

"And I have stood too much from you, Mary Crane. You have behaved to me
worse than if I had been a dog, and you're a hard-hearted, selfish
woman. What right have you to trample upon me, as if you was a saint and
more? You've a black enough mind any way, and mebbe you've done worse
nor me before now, for all your spiteful pride and down-looking on a
poor, heart-stricken girl, as never did you no harm. Shame on you, Mary
Crane, I would not exchange my lot for yours yet, if it was to give me a
heart like yours. And you need not trouble Mrs. Morgan with your tales.
I've made up my mind to stand your insolence no longer. I'll go to Mrs.
Morgan myself and give up my place, and tell her how you've used me."

This unexpected outburst fairly took the nurse's breath away. She
stuttered with inarticulate passion, and danced again in the agony of
rage. A torrent of abuse was on her tongue, but she only managed to hiss
out an opprobrious epithet at the girl, at the sound of which Sally
faced her like one transformed. Drawing her form up to its full height,
and holding her clenched hands close by her sides, she marched straight
at nurse Crane, and fairly stood over her with her face a-flame and lips
set, every feature rigid with scorn and wrath. Crane's heart died within
her. She cowered and hid her face in her hands.

"Say that word again, Mary Crane," Sally demanded in a low,
passion-thrilled voice, but Mary Crane uttered never a sound.

"Say it again, will you!" Sally repeated in low tones. "Dare to call me
that name again, and I'll----" But Sarah had no threat big enough for
her wrath. She caught her breath sharp, and came closer to her enemy,
suddenly bent down and laid hold of Mary Crane's head with both her
hands, forcing her to turn up her face.

But Crane would not look at her. With a half wail, half shriek, her
knees gave way under her, and she sank on the floor wriggling as if
about to take a fit.

Sarah looked at her for a moment contemptuously, and then turned away,
while the heroic mood was upon her, to seek an interview with Mrs.
Morgan.

That lady received the announcement of her under-nurse with her usual
high-bred indifference, merely saying, "Oh, very well, you can go." But,
as the girl turned away, something in her manner made Mrs. Morgan
scrutinise her keenly. The girl seemed changed even to the eyes of the
aristocratic lady, and, perhaps, she, too, began to suspect her, for
Sally thought that she saw an expression of mingled contempt and
annoyance on Mrs. Morgan's face, of which she caught a last glimpse on
turning to shut the door behind her. It might have been only her own
heated fancy, but, all the same, Sally's brief spell of courage was over
from that moment. Happily Mary Crane vexed her no more openly, but she
took her revenge in secret.

Mrs. Morgan's suspicions had been in reality so far excited as to cause
her to make further inquiries. She called Mary Crane into her room one
day and questioned her about "this girl, Sarah--What's her name?" Mary
Crane for a little time would tell nothing. She now both hated and
feared Sally Wanless, and until she could discover exactly where the
girl stood with her mistress, she was not going to commit herself. Her
remarks were therefore cautiously shaped at first, with a view to draw
her mistress out. She prevaricated, dropped hints, and tried to measure
the extent of Mrs. Morgan's knowledge before revealing her own. There
was not only the girl to consider, but also the Captain. It might be
more than her own place was worth to "blab on the Capting."

Either Mrs. Morgan was obtuse or ignorant, for she gave no response for
some time to Mary's stream of words. "You see, 'm, as Sarah's a light
sort of girl, 'm, as is allus a-runnin' after the men, 'm. She mayn't be
bad, 'm, but she don't beayve proper for one in her station. I'm sure,
'm, I've told her times enough as no good id come of her upsittin' ways,
and her ongoin' with the gentlemens--_a_ gentleman in particler--'as
hoften shocked me, 'm."

Thus she ran on, till Mrs. Morgan, quite bewildered, exclaimed--

"But what has the girl done, then, Mary?"

"Laws, 'm, 'ow should I know, 'm. Hax herself, 'm, hax the--_a_
gentleman as you knows, 'm, knows hintimate, 'm."

"A gentleman I know intimately--what do you mean? I know no gentleman.
Surely you don't mean Captain Wiseman?"

"Well, 'm, I don't know, 'm. You see, 'm, I thought the family mightn't
like it----"

"That will do, Mary, that will do. I want no more beating about the
bush. Tell me, yea or nay, has Captain Wiseman been noticing this girl?"

"Yes, 'm, he 'as, 'm; but I don't think----"

"Never mind what you think, you are sure of that fact?"

"Oh, yes, 'm, quite."

"Ah, thank you; then that'll do for the present," and she motioned to
Crane to leave the room.

That worthy departed not quite satisfied. She had doubts as to whether
her mistress liked to know the truth, doubted also if she had done Sarah
as much harm as she wished to. But she showed none of these mental
clouds in the servants' hall. There, in Sally's absence, she was
triumphant, and the "said she's" and "said I's" with which the tale was
embellished, served to emphasise the triumph which she indicated that
the interview had been to her diplomatic skill. She only confessed to
one regret. Mrs. Morgan had somehow cut the interview short, "just when
I was a-goin' to tell her all about it."

Mrs. Morgan, however, did not need to be told all about it. She knew the
habits of her brother, and, her interest once aroused, managed to put
this and that together so well as to arrive before many minutes at a
tolerably shrewd conclusion. "This, then," she said to herself, "is the
secret of Captain Cecil's wonderful reform." That reflection at once
brought her face to face with the question--Shall I or shall I not tell
my mother? It was not a question so easily answered as it seemed. Mrs.
Morgan was inclined to do it from her dislike of the Captain, who had
always absorbed too much of his mother's attention--ought I to have said
love?--for the good feelings of the rest of the family. But, then, this
very preference made it difficult to decide. She might enrage her
mother, and there were family money matters yet to settle, in the
disposition of which a mother's displeasure might cause permanent
changes. For these and other reasons, "too numerous to mention," Mrs.
Morgan hesitated. She would wait on events, on her mother's moods and
her own; so avoiding a decision.

That seemed easiest, and yet it proved the hardest course to Mrs.
Morgan, who had quite a vulgar woman's delight in retailing scandal.
Before a week was out she found it expedient to tell all. Her mother and
she held a long conference in secret on the Friday after Sally had given
up her place. What they said to each other will never be known; but one
decision came of it that was at once acted upon. Sarah Wanless was
dismissed that night by the orders of Lady Harriet, who sent her own
maid with the message. "Jane," as she was called, delivered it with curt
insolence, and at the same time flung a month's wages, which Lady
Harriet had likewise sent, on the table, with a significant gesture, as
if to say, "You are too unclean, Sally Wanless, to be touched by a
superior person like me."

When Sarah went home, which she did as soon as her small box was packed
up, and told her parents that she was dismissed, her father was so
indignant that he wanted to send the extra weeks' wages back. His wife,
however, persuaded him that it was better to let things alone. "The
money," she said, "is her right, and can do us no harm; and Sally is
well out of _that_ den anyway." And Mrs. Wanless was right.



CHAPTER XIII.

THROWS A LITTLE LIGHT ON A SUBJECT SOMETIMES UNCTUOUSLY CONDESCENDED
UPON BY PREACHERS OF "WORDS."


I wonder where Christians find authority for our modern treatment of
illegitimacy? Preachers of all sects are never tired of telling us that
they preach peace and goodwill among men. Their religion is to redeem
all wrongs, to make mankind better, to lift the fallen, and cheer the
broken-hearted. So at least they say, but when we look for deeds, we do
not find many in this lower world. The fulfilment of the Christian ideal
is prudently (?) adjourned to the next, above or below. Wherever one
turns in contemplation of modern Christianity, one finds a ghastly
divergence between its professions and its practice, and at no point is
this more visible than in the behaviour of the Churches towards women
who have sinned. Taking their tone from a corrupt society, which desires
to enjoy its vices, and to prey upon its women without taking upon
itself responsibilities which the poor besotted Turk even never dreams
of shirking, the dispensers of the gospel of peace lead the chorus of
reprobation which is heaped upon the woman, who, like the virgin mother
so many of them profess to worship, bears the burden of maternity in
shame and loneliness. No distinction is drawn between woman and
woman--rarely or ever is the guilt of the man considered; the duties of
fatherhood can be neglected by the seducer with tacit, nay, often with
the full approbation of society and the Churches. But on the woman a
penalty falls that is worse than death. She has yielded to the seducer,
and henceforth she must be pressed down and cast out, unless--and the
distinction is important--she be a sinner of the highest caste in
society, when the sin may be covered with lies as with an embroidered
garment; or, unless she belong to the lowest, where the
difference between morality and immorality is too often nearly
indistinguishable--thirteen centuries of more or less well-paid-for
priestly instruction notwithstanding. Speaking broadly, however, the law
of social life condemns the "unattached" woman and her offspring to
obloquy and degradation, and it does this not merely without the protest
of the Churches, but by their full sanction. For ages priests of all
hues have arrogated to themselves the power of regulating the union of
the sexes; without their rites and blessings no two human beings could
become man and wife. When two were thus united the universal cry was
"What God hath joined together let no man put asunder." The priest, in
fact, arrogated to himself the power of the Deity. His "joining" was
God's, and none but his held on Earth or in Heaven. Greater blasphemy
has hardly ever been committed even by priests. By this abominable
fraud--this false assumption of authority--deeper social wrongs have
come upon the world than from any other priestly assumption whatsoever.
The priest has habituated society to disregard all ties formed in what
is called an illegitimate manner. It has sanctioned the desertion of
women by their seducers, and what is even worse, the desertion of
children by their fathers and mothers, for, of course, if the parents
were not priest-joined, the offspring must be of the devil. A man may,
according to this dogma, have lived the life of a fiend, ruining women,
bringing children into the world to live or die as the poor law or
hunger should order; but this is no hindrance to his obtaining the
blessing of "the Church" should he one day take it into his head to
submit to be married to one woman--for gain, for any reason, or none.

Scoundrel and saint are alike welcome to the priest's services and
blessings if the marriage fees be paid; and with the full concurrence
and blessing of any sectary in the world, a man may disjoin himself from
a woman or women he has lived with for years in order to take another,
if there was no marriage uniting him to these he deserted. God, of
course, could not be expected to "join" those who never sought a
priest's help. The whole basis of this treatment of the sexes is grossly
and blasphemously immoral, and the fruits of it are visible on every
side. To it we owe the highly nourishing character of the "social evil"
quite as much as to man's inherent depravity, and we shall never really
begin to overcome that evil until the whole of the teachings and
assumptions of the sects, as applied to marriage and divorce, are swept
clean out of the public mind.

Who is there to whom the history of some poor woman betrayed and
deserted is not known--a woman, it may be, tender-hearted and true, as
worthy of wifehood as any of her sex? Did society pity that woman? Have
you pitied her? Perhaps, but would you not also gather up your garments
and pass by on the other side, if you met her in public? Habit is so
strong, you will say in excuse; yes, yes, habit is strong, and the woman
is weak. Why should one heed her? She brought her fate on herself. Leave
her to perish. The man she loved has left her, and the world treats her
no worse than he. If her own sex spits upon her and hisses at her, what
can man do? These be the thoughts of most men over broken lives, and
most readers may therefore feel impatient that I should linger over the
ruin and fall of a poor peasant lass. Yet what can I do? my task is to
write the history of this family; its sorrows and failings, its burdens
and tears, are all that it has wherewith to claim the world's attention.
And to my thinking, they mean much. Their lives were real to them, as
yours, reader, is to you, and they had a part in making up the pitiful
social life of this decrepit old England possibly just as high as yours.

Therefore must I ask you to turn aside with me for a moment to look
again on Sally Wanless, when she reappears from her seclusion--a shame
mother, with a babe born to sorrow and shame in her arms. I have said
reappears, but she has not yet ventured to meet the, to her, scathing
gaze of the people in the village street. She steals into the little
garden behind her father's cottage, and there, in the soft September
afternoons, you would find her seated beneath the shade of an old apple
tree, face to face with her doom, and looking at it as one who has no
hope.

In some people the soul wakes late; some, indeed, appear to pass through
the world without its ever awakening. They may be bright-hearted people,
full of animal life and spirits, capable of much work and a few
sacrifices, yet they have never risen up to full consciousness of the
meaning of life, to its higher impulses, and its terrible risks and
obligations. No great inward commotion has ever visited them; they
vegetate tamely on till they reach the grave. Others, like Thomas
Wanless, awake early to consciousness of the mystery and burden of
existence, and battle with hopes and fears their lives long.

Would that his daughter had also found the realities of living ere the
curse of life had come upon her! But she did not. Her awakening came too
late. While it was possible she hid from herself the meaning of her
fall, and refused to look at the awful questions which for the first
time surged in upon her soul. It was not possible for long. When the
wail of her infant first broke on her ear she awoke and was stricken
with the full consciousness of what she had lost. Her past life stood
out before her as something apart; its hopes belonged to another state
of existence, to a life in which her future could have no part. All
lonely at the heart she had borne the pains of motherhood, and a feeble
infant lay by her side bearing witness against her now and evermore. No
father welcomed it. The sound of its feeble cry brought a forsakenness
about the mother's heart nothing could remove. In vain her mother
soothed her. In vain her true-hearted father, bravely hiding away his
shame and grief, took the little one in his arms and fondled it with a
fatherhood that assumed all the sin and all the responsibilities of his
child. Sarah could not be comforted. Blank despair took possession of
her. Why was she not dead? Why did the child live? Surely they would be
both better dead and buried out of sight for ever? This was the under
tone of her thoughts now, save when at times, and as she grew strong
again, gusts of passion like her father's would sweep over her soul.
Then she felt for moments as if she could compel the world to stop and
witness her revenge. Should a fit like this master her, what might one
so desperate not do? Hers was a soul awake and in prison, but if it
burst its bonds?

Let the gay and frivolous, the light talkers, the young and giddy, the
tempter and the tempted, stop to look upon this ruin. Is it a small
thing, do you think, for a man to have the undoing of this woman and
child laid to his charge. He passes in the world unharmed, nay, admired,
probably, the very women in secret whispering admiringly of his prowess.
But does that make his guilt the less? Is there no retributive justice
dogging his heels, from which all the glories and adulations of earth
cannot shield him? Look at the history of such men, and be they kings or
carters, you will find that they become degraded wretches, moral
abortions, repulsive ruins of humanity, as the result of their crimes
against woman. Yea, the woman is avenged, though only after death comes
the judgment.

But Sally Wanless thought not of revenge, that calm September evening,
on which my memory pictures her through the mirror of other eyes,
seated, half in shadow, half in sunlight, beneath the old apple tree.
Her baby lies asleep on her lap, the sunlight glints through the leaves
on her hair, and flickers now and then across the infant's face--but she
heeds neither child nor light. A far-away look is in her eyes--a look
that tells of longing, for what will never be hers again on earth. The
evening sun-glow throws into relief the pale, pinched face with its
unresigned hungry look, for in that face there is no welcome to the
sober autumn warmth. The dull fire of Sally's eyes is the fire of an
unquenchable pain. Where is there room in her life for joy any more? Her
eye does not trace heaven's battlemented walls, in those grand masses of
white clouds--the blue expanse beyond is not eloquent of the near world
unseen. No; her thoughts are self-centred; she never looks upward. Day
after day she sits here, still and silent, as one stunned. Her spirit
seems at such times as if beaten to the earth, never to rise again. The
child sometimes fails to interest or rouse her. When its wails demand
attention, she will fondle and kiss it much, as if it were made of wood.

Alas; poor Sally, winsome lass. How many such as you go aching through
the world, broken-hearted, and forsaken,--waiting for the judgment to
come, when, as they still, perhaps, lingeringly hope, the wrong shall be
righted for evermore.

Her parents yearned after their daughter, and yet feared to break in
rudely upon her brooding spirit. Neighbours came too, full of kindly
promises and curiosity, ready to speak volumes of comforting words; but
Sally shrank from contact with them,--preferred the garden seat, or her
own garret window.

Thomas became broken-hearted about his child. He could not get her to so
much as look at him. Often times he laid his hands softly on her bent
head, and whispered--"Sally, my lass, cheer up a bit. Don't break
mother's heart and mine, by taking on so." But Sally merely wept, and
bent still lower over her babe. They could not get her to go out during
the day--only at night would she creep along by the hedge-rows, in the
most unfrequented paths, accompanied by her mother, and hiding the child
as much as possible, beneath her shawl, when it was not asleep at home.
Her morbid fancy made her think that everyone knew her shame. She could
not see people talking together without a rush of blood to her face, as
if she felt the talk must be of her.

And how fared it all this time with her seducer? As the world elects, it
shall always fare. From it he had neither frown nor word of rebuke.
Those that knew his sin thought as little about it as he did, and that
was apparently never at all. He took no more notice of Sarah Wanless and
the infant girl she had borne to him, than if they had been dogs. Nay,
far less, for they were hateful to his selfish, ease-loving nature, and
therefore he rigorously banished them from his sight and thoughts. Just
as before, he took his "pleasure" coming and going to town, and living
the life of sottish ease, as became a man of fashion and a court
soldier. At the Vicarage his welcome was just as warm as ever, although
every soul within its walls was quite aware of the ruin he had brought
on the poor peasant's daughter. Mrs. Codling's verdict naturally was,
that it served the gipsy right, and and her father too. He was always an
insolent fellow, who never showed proper respect for the Olympians, and
this would perhaps take down his pride a bit. This was the view of the
matter insinuated to Adelaide, who had become "skittish" when the news
first reached her ears, thereby, however, increasing the ardour with
which the captain followed her. Mrs. Codling had quite made up her mind,
that through Adelaide she would succeed in catching the Captain as a
son-in-law, and therefore took occasion to put "matters in their proper
light."

"Of course, my dear," she would say, "we shall have to get rid of the
girl and her brat, for it might be unpleasant to have them in the
parish; but the Captain can manage all that, never fear, and if the
whole nest of them remove to another part of the country, the parish
will have a good riddance. I daresay a few pounds will do it, for all
that old rascal's pride."

Adelaide was soon satisfied, and soon, also, her flippant tongue had
disseminated this view of the case all over the parish; for Adelaide
would talk to the housemaid when no better listener was to be had.



CHAPTER XIV.

BRINGS THE DOUBTLESS RELUCTANT READER ONCE MORE INTO CONTACT WITH A
"GALLANT" WOOER, AND GIVES FURTHER PROOF OF THE DIFFICULTY WHICH BESETS
ALL ATTEMPTS TO HARMONISE TRUTH AND FASHIONABLE "CHRISTIAN"
RESPECTABILITY.


Thus was the Captain's way made smooth to him, and the country side soon
became as full of his ongoings with "the parson's girl" as ever it had
been about his intrigue with Sally Wanless.

Thomas Wanless himself saw and heard much, for his cottage was not very
far from the Vicarage road, and the Captain sometimes forgot himself,
and passed his very door, instead of taking up the back street.
Doubtless it never entered the Captain's head that any peasant would
accost him about such a trifle as the ruin of his daughter. He ought
rather to feel honoured thereat. What he did fear was the girl
herself--he having a fine gentlemanly dread of "scenes."

Nevertheless, Thomas's wrath was awakened anew at the sight of this
"cool blackguard," as he most irreverently styled the Captain, and soon
the feeling extended to them that "harboured him." It was borne in upon
his spirit, as the Methodists say, that he must denounce the "ruffian."
Yes, yes, he thought, this must be done; till it was done there would be
no relief in his mind. He had borne too much in silence, but that this
harbouring of criminals should go on before his face was more than he
could stand.

"It will do no good," his wife said, as he declared his purpose to her.

"Good!" he answered, "who wants or expects good to come to them or us? I
expect none, but I must and shall tell the blackguard what I think of
him."

Yet this was easier said than done. He could not well stop the Captain
in the street, for he nearly always drove or rode, and never once passed
Thomas's cottage door on foot. It was utterly useless to call at the
Grange, for no one would see him. Obsequious menials might even set the
dogs at him, or trump up a charge against him and put him in jail.
Besides, Thomas had no time except on Sundays to go in quest of his
enemy, and on Sundays the Captain was usually at the Vicarage. In the
bitterness of spirit which these thoughts brought him to, Thomas might
have, perhaps, done something rash, but happily necessity prevented him.
He had now to work, if possible, harder than ever--early and late at the
farm, on his allotment, in the little garden at his cottage, he laboured
for the means of life--and did but poorly, though the work kept him up
and helped him to control the fire that burned within him.

At last the chance he longed for came suddenly, and without his seeking
it. He was passing the Vicarage garden one beautiful Sunday afternoon
in October, and heard voices on the little lawn which lay between the
hedge and the house. Laughter and the chatter of merry tongues fell on
his ear, and one hard man's voice he instantly guessed must be that of
Captain Wiseman. To reach that conclusion and the resolve to face his
daughter's seducer then and there may be said to have constituted one
mental effort. A rush of strong emotion swept over him and made him
feel, as he opened the Vicarage gate and slipped within, as if God had
laid a mission upon him to lay bare the iniquity of this man and of
those who countenanced him. Under the influence of this feeling he
straightened himself and strode across the grass direct to the place
where he heard the voices.

The scene that burst upon his view if possible heightened his courage,
and I can well imagine that the rough, toil-gnarled, weather-buffeted
old man looked like an avenging fate to those whose privacy he had thus
invaded. Always dignified and noble in aspect, the anger at his heart
now doubtless made him heroic.

Mrs. Codling and her four daughters were seated in a group on chairs in
front of a sort of arbour that stood at the further end of the lawn, and
a little behind the western end of the house, not far from the
churchyard, from which it was hidden by a clump of evergreens and a
wall. Behind Adelaide Codling, leaning over her chair, and apparently
teasing her in a familiar _nonchalant_ way, stood Captain Wiseman. As he
faced the gate he was the first to catch sight of Thomas Wanless, and
although he hardly knew Sally's father by sight, he appeared to guess
intuitively that a "scene" was at hand. His red face grew redder still,
his talk suddenly ceased, and an ugly scowl gathered on his fleshly
brow. Mrs. Codling's back was towards the approaching peasant, but the
Captain's sudden silence and the look he gave made her turn round just
as Thomas came up. She also divined that trouble was at hand, and,
bridling up at the idea of that "disgusting creature" parading his
girl's shameless conduct before her pure-minded daughters, prepared at
once for action.

"See if the Vicar can come out, my dear," she said to the girl nearest
to her, and then addressing Thomas, cried in tones meant to be frigidly
severe, but which only succeeded in being savagely spiteful--

"If you want the Vicar, my good man, go to the house. You have no right
to enter this garden."

She might just as well have addressed the nearest tree. Thomas paid no
attention to her, but stalking up to the Captain, glared at him till
that wretched being shivered with fear in spite of himself. Perhaps this
"gallant" soldier thought Wanless would knock him down, and that may
have been the peasant's first impulse. However, he did not, but instead
turned after a minute or so to Mrs. Codling, and asked, with stern
abruptness--

"Madam, do you know who this man is?"

For a brief space the woman seemed scared and cowed by the tones and at
the face she saw looming above her. "Good gracious me!" she exclaimed,
half to herself. "What does the man mean?" Then, recovering courage,
added, "I do believe the creature is crazy. I'm very sorry, Captain
Wiseman, but really I fear you will have to come to the rescue of us
weak women. Do speak to him and order him off."

At this two of the girls began to scream, but Adelaide giggled.

"Since you give me no answer, madam," Thomas struck in, "I shall tell
you who this man is," and he stepped round and backed a little, so as to
be able to look at both the Captain and the Vicar's wife. "This man is
the seducer of my daughter," he continued. "He has committed a crime
against her and against me which is worse than murder in the sight of
God. He is the father of a helpless child that, for all he cares, might
be flung into a roadside ditch to die. For his cold-blooded villainy
that child and my child must suffer all their days. This man, I tell
you," and here his voice rang all over the place, "this man has broken
an innocent girl's heart, and you know it, madam, and you harbour him.
Shame on you!"

Mrs. Codling grew pale with rage, and tried to speak; but before she got
a word out Thomas had turned to the Captain, who took a step forward as
if to collar him.

"Captain Wiseman," he said; and at the sudden, sharp address that wretch
paused, grew mottled in the face, and dropped the raised hand by his
side. "What!" cried the labourer, "would you dare to touch me, you low,
libertine scoundrel? Stand back, lest I have to sully my hands by
choking the life out of you, reptile that you are!"

How much further Thomas might have gone I know not, but by this time
Mrs. Codling had got her voice and charged in turn. She ordered Thomas
to leave the place, and in shrill tones threatened him with the police,
with the Captain's vengeance, with the Vicar's wrath, called him a hoary
old sinner, and well-nigh swore at him for polluting the ears of her
precious daughters with the story of his own girl's immorality. It was a
fearful torrent, Thomas afterwards confessed. Until then he had never
known the length of a woman's tongue. But it came to an end at last, for
Mrs. Codling lost her breath. With a parting shot to the effect that
Thomas had only got what he deserved, and it was like father like
child--low wretches all--the ruffled woman relapsed into a fuming
silence. Somehow the tirade brought relief to Thomas's overcharged
heart. It had an amusing and grotesque side that struck him forcibly in
spite of himself, and it was therefore with a certain sense as of
laughter welling up through his heart of sorrow--a feeling for which he
would fain have reproached himself--that he answered in a voice that
bore down all attempts at interruption--

"Poor lady, I did not come here to quarrel with you, far from it. God
forgive you for having such ill feelings, and you a parson's wife too.
But what could one expect when you harbour scamps like this fine
military seducer here? That's enough to make your heart the abode of all
that is wicked. I bear you no malice though, far from it. I would warn
you to mend your steps in time. You call me names, and accuse me of
bringing my corrupt affairs before the pure ears of your daughters.
Take care, woman, take care. The serpent that destroyed my precious lass
has not lost his fangs, and your turn to mourn as I mourn may be nearer
than you think. Because you have fine clothes and luxuries, and live in
a grand house, you think that the ills of the poor cannot reach you.
Take care, I say, or the day may come when I can return your taunt, and
tell you that if you had set a better example to your children, if you
had guarded them against evil company, you might have been spared much
sorrow and humiliation." With this, Thomas turned to go, but the cries
of Mrs. Codling arrested him.

"The wretch," she shrieked. "Josiah, do, for heaven's sake, speak to
this low fellow. His foul abuse is positively sickening." And as the
Vicar shuffled up in obedience to the summons, his wife, turning to the
gallant rake, added, "I'm so sorry, Captain, that you should have been
insulted here. This must be very disagreeable to you."

The Captain found voice to assure her that it did not matter. He didn't
"care a hang, you know," and gave it as his opinion that a strategic
movement towards the house might be the best end of the affair.

"Yes, yes," cried Adelaide, "let us go indoors and leave that fellow to
speak to the trees. He'll soon tire of that;" and she proceeded to
gather up the stray wraps.

But before this noble plan of out-manoeuvring an enemy could be carried
out, the Vicar and Thomas had encountered each other, and Mrs. Codling
had to rush to the defence of her husband.

"My good man," the Vicar had begun. "Eh, Thomas Wanless is it? Dear me!
You forget yourself, sir. You mustn't behave in this way in my garden,
and before ladies, too. Go away, go away, and come to me to-morrow if
you have anything to complain of. I'll see you in my study."

"Come to you!" answered the peasant in tones of amazement and scorn.
"Come to you! what could you do, you whited sepulchre? You God-forsaken,
poor, tippling creature. Mind your own affairs," and he laughed a bitter
laugh, as once more he turned to go.

The Vicar also turned and slunk away with a scared guilty look, but his
wife's wrath found outlet anew.

"This is too bad," she screamed after Wanless, "the low scoundrel. Oh,
Captain Wiseman, I do wish you would thrash the fellow to within an inch
of his life. Oh dear! oh dear! will nobody pity me," and she fairly wept
with rage.

The last that Thomas heard of them was the Captain explaining in his
most persuasive words that "By Jove, you know, it would hardly be the
thing for me to take to fisticuffs with a low labourer-ruffian, else, by
Gad, nothing would have delighted me more than to beat him to a pulp,
you know."

Thomas turned and gazed in the direction of the speaker as if to invite
him to come and try, but the Captain was busy hurrying the ladies into
the house, and though near enough to see well the look on Thomas's
face, he showed no sign of accepting the implied challenge.

It was Mrs. Codling who, brave to the last, and woman-like, gave the
parting shot.

"Be off, you low blackguard," she screamed, and then disappeared within
the house. It afterwards transpired that she caught sight of some of the
servants watching the encounter with Wanless from a window, and had much
comfort from the blowing up she gave them. Her superfluous temper was
thereby wholesomely expended.

Thomas Wanless went home that afternoon struggling with a feeling of
disappointment in which there mingled a certain degree of shame. He had
never entered the Vicar's grounds with the intention of either wrangling
with the Vicar or his wife. A desire to expose a scoundrel was his sole
motive, and he had felt a sense of the heroic as he proceeded to seek
his daughter's betrayer. Had that man abused him, or struck him, or in
any way given him the opportunity of letting loose his wrath, he would
have, perhaps, felt that a duty had been discharged. Instead of that,
Thomas had merely fallen out with a sharp-tongued, not over-sensitive
woman, and abused a poor parson who, whatever his failings, had not at
the moment the least intention to act otherwise than as a peace-maker.
The heroics had all vanished, and in their place was something grotesque
and ludicrous. The more Thomas thought of it the more he felt that he
had that day vindicated neither his own honour nor his daughter's, and
he resolved that henceforth he should bear his sorrows in silence.

Perhaps this self-condemnation was not quite reasonable, for Mrs.
Codling provoked Wanless most unjustifiably. She, at all events, got no
more than she deserved. But the labourer was sensitive and proud, and
these feelings made him prefer silent endurance to the loss of
self-respect. Could he have foreseen the consequences which seemed at
least to flow from his one effort at bringing home to the sinner his
sin, he might have had still greater doubts about the wisdom of the
course he pursued on that calm October Sunday afternoon.

For one thing, the noise of the row between the Captain and Thomas was
soon heard all over Ashbrook. The Vicarage servants retailed it with
many embellishments to their friends--as a secret, of course--and
Adelaide Codling herself let out some episodes to her then bosom friend.
Presently, and in due course, the tale reached the Grange, where it took
the circumstantial and easily comprehended form of an account of a great
fight between the Captain and the labourer, in which the latter had got
two black eyes, a broken nose, cut lips, a thumb out of joint, and some
said three, some five teeth knocked down his throat by the scientific
handling of the gallant guardsman. It was nothing to the purpose to say
that the labourer had been seen going about his work as usual, for
people of his sort thought nothing of maulings that would have nearly
been the death of superior persons--like flunkeys and valets.

In some such guise, the story ultimately reached the ears of Mrs.
Morgan, who was so much shocked at the idea of a fight between her
brother and a low labouring fellow that she felt constrained to tell
her mother, especially as the fight was alleged to have taken place on
the Vicarage lawn, in presence of the Vicar's family. Mrs. Morgan,
keener sighted than her mother now was, had for some time been aware of
the ambitions of Mrs. Codling, so far at any rate as to disapprove of
the constant intercourse which the Captain had with the Vicarage. In
telling her story, therefore, it was possible for her also to lay
emphasis upon the Captain's relationship with the Codlings, which she
took care to do, and as she flattered herself much that she succeeded
admirably.

At first it seemed as if she had done nothing of the kind. The Juno of
the parish, Lady Harriet Wiseman, forgot everything for a time in her
wrath at the abominable presumption of a labourer in fighting with her
blue-blooded son, and was eager to have him arrested and punished. In
vain Mrs. Morgan pleaded the scandal such a step would cause; her
wrathful ladyship would hear never a word. Nothing pacified her till she
had spoken to her son on the subject, and she had so set her heart upon
making an example of that vagabond fellow, who had troubled the parish
ever since she could remember, that she was positively more angry than
before when her son told her that what she wished could not be done for
the best of all reasons--there had been no fight. Then her wrath fell
partly on her son, and they quarrelled. She asked him what he was doing
at the Vicarage. He replied that it was none of her business, and left
her with the seeds of jealous suspicion in her heart.

Next time the Captain met his sister, he rounded upon her, and,
according to common report, called her "a damned meddlesome fool" for
interfering in his affairs. Thus matters were likely to become ravelled
at the Grange. Perhaps it was to lull suspicion and allow the heated
atmosphere to cool that the Captain soon after this betook himself to
Newmarket, and thence to London. Before he went he gave a private hint
to the head gamekeeper that he would not be inconsolable if that
questionable functionary could manage to make out a case of
night-poaching against Thomas Wanless. An underling heard of the plot
and warned Thomas to take care, and though Thomas never poached, the
warning was probably needful enough.

The row at the Grange was the least significant of the consequences that
flowed from Thomas Wanless's visit to the Vicarage Gardens. Mrs. Morgan
had apparently indicated to her mother the suspicions she entertained as
to the aims of Mrs. Codling, and Lady Harriet, afraid to tackle her son
about his amours, attacked Mrs. Codling instead. It was plainly enough
intimated to that scheming woman that Lady Harriet disapproved of the
constant visits of the Captain to the Vicarage, and Mrs. Codling was
asked to discourage them.

A sensible person would have deferred to the wishes of the greatest lady
in the parish on a point so delicate, but Mrs. Codling proved to be
anything but sensible. Afraid of exciting the wrath of Lady Harriet by
open hostility, she took refuge in underhand plots. The intercourse
between the Captain and her daughter, which had hitherto been carried
on, in a manner, openly, was now changed, with the mother's connivance,
into a secret intrigue. By this change the whole moral attitude of the
family became debased. Captain Wiseman was astute enough to see through
the would-be mother-in-law's motives, and cunning enough to egg her on
in a course of duplicity and folly. His mother need know nothing, he
represented, till all was over. No doubt she would at first resent a
secret marriage, but when she saw she could no longer help it, her wrath
would soon cool down.

With talks like these it may be supposed that Adelaide Codling, apt
pupil as she was, soon came to look upon a secret marriage as just the
one thing desirable and necessary to secure her happiness; and, from
this conclusion, it was but a step to destruction. Probably enough
Captain Wiseman had never any intention of marrying the girl, but
whether or not, he certainly had abandoned it, when, after a few weeks
of secret meetings and clandestine letter writing, he succeeded in
persuading her to join him in London. She left home just after
Christmas, in secret to all appearance, though the village gossips would
have it that her mother knew of her flight beforehand, and nobody
doubted that she had run away after the Captain. In vain did Mrs.
Codling give out that her daughter had been called away suddenly to
visit a sick aunt. Nobody believed her. Secret intrigues cannot be
successfully carried out in a quiet country village, and what was
declared to be the true version of the flight was current in all the
country side within a week of Adelaide's departure.



CHAPTER XV.

IS TOO BAD FOR DESCRIPTION.


Unthinkingly, Mrs. Robins repeated this story to Mrs. Wanless one day in
Sally's hearing, and immediately repented of her folly, for Sally
uttered a low moan and fainted. From that day the gloom of her life
seemed deeper. With unceasing tenderness and watchfulness her parents
had sought to bring back hope to their lost one's heart, and until this
ugly bit of gossip reached her they had hopes of succeeding. Sally had
began to talk a little more freely, and, recognising the burden she was
to her parents, was becoming anxious to get a situation of some
kind--provided always that it might be far away, where no one would know
her. But from the time she came back to consciousness on this unhappy
day, darkness again settled down on her spirit. She sat apart brooding,
as when first her babe lay on her lap. That babe itself appeared to grow
almost hateful in her sight, and was left to the care of her mother,
weary though the old woman was with work and sorrow. With mouth hard set
and eyes looking wistfully sometimes, as if in terror, into a world far
away from the home nest, Sally heeded no one. Her father again grew
deeply concerned about her, and tried casually to draw her out of the
trance that seemed to chain her soul. It was useless. She answered him
in monosyllables or never at all. At times too, and when he spoke to
her, a strange, resolute look would gather on her face. It was not
exactly obstinacy, though she certainly was unyielding. Rather was it a
look as of one who had made up her mind to a great sacrifice, and feared
that she might be betrayed into abandoning a duty. At that look her
father always somehow grew afraid. It was evident to him that his
daughter in some way connected Adelaide Codling's flight with her own
life, but how he could not guess.

But his fears were only too well grounded, for one day, Sally, too,
disappeared. Watching her opportunity when the babe was asleep, her
mother busy washing, and her father away at the farm, she dressed
herself as if for a walk, went out, and did not return. All day her
mother had endured the keenest anxiety in the hope that Sally would come
back. She was unwilling to send for her husband, and could only make one
or two cautious inquiries through her nearest neighbours. They knew
nothing; Sally had been seen, of course, but she looked and walked as
usual, with hasty steps and eyes bent on the ground. Though startled at
the news, Thomas was not surprised. The flight only fulfilled his own
forebodings. Swallowing a morsel of food he started for Warwick, and
soon learnt there that a girl answering to Sally's description had left
by the slow London train at eleven o'clock. On his way home he bitterly
reproached himself that he had not taken means to make such a step
impossible. The two or three pounds that Sally had brought home with her
he had scrupulously left untouched, and these she had taken with her,
as also the few trinkets given to her by the Captain. Thomas had no
doubt whatever that Sally had fled to London.

For a time this blow positively dazed Thomas and his wife. Once more
their nights were nights of sorrow and tears, and for them the mornings
brought no joy. Only the little one that lay sleeping in its wee cot was
all unconscious of trouble, or that its presence added poignancy to the
bitterness with which the labourer and his wife mourned for their lost
one.

Thomas Wanless, however, was not a man to abandon himself long to
useless grief. The more keen the pain the more certain was his nature to
rise and fight for deliverance, and before long he had made up his mind
that, while he had life, his child should not be abandoned. Cost what it
would, he must follow her to that dreadful city whose horrors darkened
his imagination. The lost one should be found, and, if God would but
help him, saved. So he resolved, although as yet he knew not how his
resolution could be carried out.

For a day or two he brooded over it, afraid almost to tell his wife. The
fear was weak. No sooner did Mrs. Wanless know what her husband meant to
do than she became almost cheerful, and brought her ready wit to bear on
all possible plans for enabling him to go. Full of a true woman's
self-sacrificing spirit, she at first proposed to go out charring, and
so make a living, but the child made that impossible. The utmost she
could do was to continue to take in washing, and even that would be a
severe strain upon her, with a babe to tend. At best, too, it would
afford her only a precarious living, and nothing possible could be left
to help her husband in London.

Unable to decide on ways and means, but yet determined to carry out
their one great plan, they ended by casting their trust on Providence,
leaving the future to take care of itself. As a first step, Thomas went
to Stratford, and withdrew the few pounds left in the bank there,--some
£10 or £12. That done, he next went to consult his daughter Jane, as to
what help she could give. Jane had little, and was saving that little to
get married and to emigrate; but when the whole matter was laid before
her, she, too, fell in with her father's plans, and offered him her
money.

"No, no, I cannot take that," he answered. "I hope to get work in
London, and cash enough to keep soul and body together. I only ask you
to help your mother with it, should she be in need--to help her all you
can, in fact."

Jane promised all the more cheerfully, perhaps, that her little all was
not immediately to be taken from her to help in this hunt after Sarah.

Mrs. Wanless also wanted her husband to write to Tom, telling him the
circumstances, and asking for help, but to this he would in nowise
consent.

"Tom," he said, "needs all his money just now, and what he sends must
come of his own goodwill. Besides we shall get Sally back again, and
then the best thing will be to send her out to Tom. She wouldn't go if
she thought Tom knew what had befallen her. Jacob does not yet know,
Jane will keep silence, and there is no need for Tom to be enlightened."

This reasoning was unanswerable, and Mrs. Wanless had to acquiesce with
what heart she could. Nay, more than that, sore against her will, she
had to submit to see her husband start for London with only £5 in his
pocket. The rest he insisted leaving with her, on the same grounds as he
had refused Jane's savings. "I shall get work, my dear," he said; "never
mind me," and she had to yield.

Possibly Thomas would have been less confident had he known what going
to London, and work in London, meant; but in spite of his dread of the
great city, his conceptions were so hazy, that in his heart, as he
afterwards confessed, he never contemplated needing to work there at
all. He hoped to find Sarah in a day or two, or at most within a week,
and once found, was sure that she would come home. His wife, it turned
out, formed a truer conception of the task before him, although she had
never seen a bigger town than Leamington or Warwick. But her fears did
not abate her husband's confidence. Without fixing dates, he told his
master and all whom it concerned, that he expected to be back soon.
Struck, perhaps, by the generous purpose of the man, Thomas's master
thrust a couple of sovereigns into his hand as they parted, but Thomas
would not accept them. In spite of all the farmer could say, Thomas
stoutly maintained that he had enough. "My own means are sufficient," he
said.

"Your own means sufficient," laughed the shrewd Scot. "Well, I like
that! Man, how much hae ye got?"

"Five pounds," said Thomas.

"Five pounds! Five pounds to go to London, and look for a runaway girl
with! Good heavens, man, that'll no keep ye a week. Ye'll starve,
Wanless, lang afore you find the lassie, if ye ever find her. God, man,
if that's a' you can scrape for the job, you'd better bide where ye
are?"

"That I cannot do," Thomas answered. "Starve or not, I must go and seek
my child."

The farmer looked at him for a moment, gave a grunt of amazement, and
turned on his heel, with the remark--

"Well, well, Wanless, a wilful man must hae his way, they say, and you
must have yours, I suppose, but, faith, I doubt you'll rue your folly."

And with that consolatory observation, Thomas parted from a master whom
he had learnt to respect, for the rough outside hid a not unkindly
nature.

The liking was mutual, and was not on Robson's part lessened by the
refusal of his man to take the two sovereigns. The sturdy independence
of his hind was a thing so uncommon, that it excited his admiration, and
stirred his somewhat dulled natural feelings of generosity. Many a time
during the absence of her husband, Mrs. Wanless had cause to bless the
"Missus o' Whitbury Farm" for acts of unostentatious kindness which that
motherly Scotchwoman needed, it must be said, little prompting to
perform. On her husband's suggestion, she called one day at the cottage,
and at once took an interest in the pale, sad woman, and the little
child. Thereafter, many little presents of milk, and of butter and
cheese, found their way to the cottage from Whitbury Farm. And what Mrs.
Wanless felt most grateful of all for, was that these things were never
sent to her by servants, but were brought either by Mrs. Robson herself,
or by one of her daughters. The farmer's wife did not try to make Mrs.
Wanless feel that she was a miserable dependent upon her bounty. She had
not in that respect, as yet, acquired English manners. In the Lowlands
of Scotland, I am told, there is no abject class like the English
agricultural labourer, and these hard Scotch farmer folks had still to
learn that their hinds were not human beings of like passions and
feelings with themselves.



CHAPTER XVI.

TELLS OF A BETTER QUEST THAN THAT OF THE HOLY GRAIL.


Thomas Wanless set out for London, within a week after his daughter's
disappearance, on a dull, cold, January morning. His farewells were
cheerful, but his heart was downcast enough, and the further the slow,
crawling train took him from home the heavier his heart became. It was
dark long before he reached Paddington, to be there turned out upon the
murky bewilderment of London streets, knowing not where to turn his
footsteps.

Mechanically he followed the string of people and cabs flowing out of
the station into Praed Street, the lamps of which showed faintly through
damp, smoke-charged air. Then he paused irresolute. A sense of
loneliness and hopelessness stole over him, intensified probably by
hunger, for he had eaten nothing save a crust of bread and cheese since
early morning. He was as one lost, as helpless in the crush of whirling
humanity as a wind-driven clot of foam on a storm-tossed sea. Amid all
this hurry and bustle of human life, where could he go? how find
lodgings? Fairly overwhelmed by the sense of desolation, he leant
against a wall to try and collect his thoughts, and mentally prayed for
courage and guidance.

For some minutes he stood thus self-absorbed, when a rather kindly
voice, speaking almost in his ear, roused him with a

"Good evening, mate. Be you a stranger?"

"Yes," Thomas answered, looking up. "Yes, I came up from Warwick to-day,
and never was in London before."

"Be ye in want o' work then, or not?" the voice demanded.

"Why, yes, if I can get work I'll be glad of it; but it wasn't that
exactly as brought me here. You see----." But Thomas checked himself,
and turned a scrutinising gaze on his interlocutor. He saw a rather
grimy, ill-clad, thick-set man, whose face seemed as kindly as his
voice, though its expression was barely discernible, except by the eyes,
which shone brightly in the dull, yellow light of the neighbouring lamp.
By the sack-like covering which the man wore on his back, and by his
be-smudged appearance generally, Thomas judged that he must be a
labourer among coals. He was poor at any rate, and he looked kindly; so
after a brief inspection, to which the stranger submitted in silence,
and as a matter of course, Thomas resumed--

"You see, I'm come up to look for a lass of mine as has runned away."

"Ah!" ejaculated the stranger. "Ah!" and then he stopt with his mouth
open, as if embarrassed by this sudden confidence. But he soon recovered
himself, and after relieving his feelings with a "Well, I never! Who'd a
thowt it?" came back to practical business, by asking Thomas if he knew
of a bed anywhere.

Thomas said "No."

"Well, then," answered the man, "you just come along with me. You ain't
likely to find the gal to-night, and you can't stand there till mornin'!
Perhaps my missus can give you a shake-down in the corner somewhere."

Thomas was only too glad to accept the stranger's offer, and, hoisting
his bundle of clothes over his shoulder, with his stick through the
knot, he at once assented, and followed wheresoever the other led. They
trudged along for a good half-hour, mostly in silence, for Thomas was in
no mood for talking, and his companion appeared to have no gifts in that
direction. At length they reached the door of a dingy, tumble-down house
in that now happily abolished slum, Agar Town, and into this the
coal-heaver turned, saying--

"Mind the steps, friend. The stairs is rather out of repair." In this
rickety, filthy, old tenement the coal-heaver rented two rooms on the
third floor. He had a wife and three poor sallow-looking children, who
were frightened when they saw a strange man enter with their father. The
man introduced his wife as Mrs. Godbehere, and said his own name was
William. They invited Thomas, who in turn had given his name, to share
their supper, and he contributed to the feast the remainder of his bread
and cheese. Consulted about a bed, Mrs. Godbehere declared that it was
impossible for her to give Thomas one, and he agreed with her. She knew,
however, a neighbour who had a lodging to let; 2s. 6d. a-week she
charged for a small room with a bed in it--the lodger to find and cook
his own food. In this room Thomas was ultimately installed, and right
thankful he was to find a roof above his head in that appalling city.
The walk along Marylebone and Euston Roads had impressed him more
profoundly than ever with a sense of the vastness of London. It was like
a first lesson in the meaning of infinity, and it struck him with a
feeling of dread. Oft times did he ask himself that night whether he was
not, indeed, mad in attempting to trace Sarah in such a sea of human
beings. But mad or not, he resolved that his task should not be lightly
abandoned.

Thus occupied he passed a restless night, and got up weary next morning.
His bed, he found to his cost, was not over clean, and it was with a
depressing sense of comfortlessness that he went to seek the Godbeheres.
The coal-heaver had already gone to his work, but Mrs. Godbehere
directed him to an eating-house near by, where he went and had some
breakfast. Refreshed a little, he forthwith started on his quest. He
would wander the myriad streets of London till he found his lost one, he
had said to himself.

And day after day, night after night, he did wander hither and thither
through the most frequented thoroughfares of London, returning late and
worn-out to his miserable lodging. A growing hopelessness lay at his
heart, and made him sometimes almost unable to drag his limbs past each
other, but he held on with a dogged persistence that was almost sullen.
Through Godbehere's friendliness, and the pressure of his own heart
agony, he had scraped acquaintance with sundry policemen, but they could
give him no effective help. One would suggest that he ought to keep a
close watch about the Strand, another mentioned Oxford Street and the
Circus, or the Haymarket. All agreed, in their callous sort of way, that
"if she had followed a man to London, she was a'most sure to find her
way to the streets before long." Thomas did not doubt it. He knew the
pride of his daughter too well to doubt it. Rather than bear among her
kindred the brand which her unfallen sisterhood would put upon her, she
would face a life of open shame, where none could cast stones at her. So
Thomas held on his way, but never got a glimpse of his lost one. His
means were nearly exhausted, for, pinch as he might, it costs money to
live in London. Yet he would not surrender. No, he would work. But how
could he get work--he, a mere street loafer, and as lonely in London as
if it had been a desert. London with its hurrying crowds, its rush of
vehicles, its roar and bustle, and flowing lights, fairly broke down his
imagination. He felt himself a helpless atom amid a mass of atoms that
knew nothing of his misery, and grew too weak-hearted almost to seek for
work. But for his quest, he felt--sometimes even said to himself--that
he could lie down in the gutter and die. Possibly his wretched lodging
and the sleepless nights he had passed in his pain had much to do with
this utter collapse of mind. I cannot decide, but he has told me that
never till that time did he realise the sustaining power of a fixed
idea. "I came to find Sally," he said, "and I held to that." For that he
braved not only hunger and cold, but the horrors of the night in the
most abandoned thoroughfares of London. For that he mingled in the
crowds of educated and other roughs that frequented theatre doors, and
the doors of the coffee-houses and prostitute dens in the Haymarket and
Gardens. For that he endured cursing and foul language inconceivable,
stood to see men and women hurrying themselves into worse than a fiend's
condition by their self-indulgence and sin. Into low dancing rooms he
penetrated, often to be bundled out neck and crop as a spy, or at best
to be horrified by filthy jokes or still more filthy exhibitions of
obscenity. That very Agar Town, in which he lived, he again and again
explored, facing its stenches and miseries, its wantonness and riot, and
worst of all, its terrible crowds of weary, sin-rotting, broken-hearted,
down-beaten, and unfortunate humanity. Often did he see women there
peering out of their dingy, rag-stuffed windows, that bore traces of
having once been as fair as rash Sally. Nay, the very rag-pickers who
lodged in its garrets, Godbehere assured him, had many of them once been
"flaunting women of the town." Women of the town, indeed, and was not
the town doomed? Thomas thought that it was. To him London was already
hell. The fumes of abominations choked his mental senses, and made him
long to escape.

Nevertheless, his mind was fixed. He could not go without his child, and
in order to carry out his purpose he must work. By the friendly help of
Godbehere he ultimately obtained employment in the coal yard at
Paddington-wages 2s. 6d. per day. He felt rich and strong for his task
henceforth, and as soon as he could he removed to a rather better
lodging near his work. At a waste, as he considered it, of several
evenings' lodging-seeking, he found a small clean room in the
neighbourhood of Lindengrove, for which, including a plain breakfast, he
paid 5s. 6d. a-week. His landlady was an elderly widow who kept three
lodgers, and she rather demurred to Thomas's demand for a latch-key, so
that he might go in and out at nights as he pleased, but his sad,
earnest face, and his remark that he was looking for a lost daughter,
conquered her fears. Thomas had his key, and felt a kind of thankfulness
that if he did find Sally he could now bring her to a better refuge than
the vermin-filled hole in Agar Town.

Five weeks had well-nigh passed, and Thomas was no nearer his object, to
all appearance, than the day he arrived in London. But now that he had
work he felt more assured of his purpose, and therefore less sad. So he
sent home cheery letters to his wife, bidding her hope yet for Sally,
telling her he felt that God would not forsake her or them. All his
letters his wife got read to her by the schoolmaster, and then passed
them on to Jane. Money he would have sent, but could not. All that was
left after paying his food and the clothes he needed for his work he
spent in his quest. For work did not cause him to abate his vigilance,
nor did it much reduce his wanderings. As soon as the yard closed he
hurried home, changed his clothes, swallowed a cup of tea, and,
sometimes on foot, sometimes on the top of an omnibus, he made his way
to the usual haunts of vice. There he would wander, haunting theatre
doors, peering into refreshment bars, and sometimes spending sixpence
to get inside a low music hall. The sights he saw froze his very heart's
blood with horror, and he often asked himself--Is all this vice, then,
the product of our civilisation? Where is the Christianity in the habits
of a people who permit tens of thousands of their fellow beings to rot
and perish as a matter of course, and prate about the social evil in
their sleek respectable way as if it was a dispensation of heaven? How
many of these poor girls, whose lives had been blasted, who now brazenly
mocked "society," and laid snares for the destruction of its darlings,
had mothers, perhaps, even now weeping for them in secret? As he thought
of these things he felt as if he could wander, like Jonah, through the
streets, preaching the doom of this city of Sodom, whose streets already
savoured of the bottomless pit.

Thoughts of this kind were brought home to him with terrible force one
night that he saw Adelaide Codling. He was standing watching the
play-goers leaving Drury Lane, when his eye suddenly caught the face of
that girl amid a group of women and "swells," amongst the latter of whom
was Captain Wiseman. She was showily dressed, and had a profusion of
glaring jewellery scattered about her person, and she was talking fast,
and laughing in a loud, defiant sort of way. But Wanless could see that
she was not happy. As she drew near where he stood he could mark the
restlessness of her eye, and the nervous boldness of her manner, and he
pitied her. Is this what she has come to already? he thought to himself,
and involuntarily shivered. Ah! if his own sweet lass was now like this,
could he reclaim her? Would it not be too late? Adelaide Codling passed
on, unconscious of the presence of her fellow-villager, saw not the
pleading look that crossed his face, the eager step forward he took as
if to speak with her. She entered a cab with Wiseman and two others, and
disappeared from sight.

The eagerness of Thomas to find his lost one was intensified after that
night. Hardly a night-watchman in all the district escaped his
importunities, and from most of them the old man met with a rough
kindness that soothed him even in his absorbing grief. One old sergeant
he met in the Strand, and who had more than once listened to his
descriptions and his queries, advised him to alter his beat. "There are
a great many haunts of streetwalkers," he said, "besides the Strand and
the Haymarket. Why not try the south side of the river, or up Islington
way? There is the East-end, too, and Oxford Street and Holborn. Yes,
none knew where a girl may get to, once she cuts adrift in London. Such
heaps of them takes to the streets nowadays, that you can find some in
every thoroughfare in London."

Wanless felt the observation true, alas! too true, but what could he do?
His means would not allow him to search the whole city. He took a wider
range, however, going by turns to one part of the town, now another,
sometimes as far as the Angel and Upper Street, Islington, sometimes
south to the Elephant and Castle, and the vice haunts of Walworth and
the Borough. Occasionally, too, he searched the bridges across the
river, but always with a sort of dread that his doing so was a
confession that he believed his girl capable of drowning herself.



CHAPTER XVII.

HAS IN IT, ALAS! NOTHING THAT IS NEW.


The winter was moving away thus, and Thomas Wanless was rapidly losing
his vigour. Hard work and constant vigils, coupled with a sore heart,
and a weak appetite, pulled the man down, and by February he had to
confess that the long walks were too much for his strength. Mercifully,
the weather often made it impossible for him to go out at night, and
when it did clear up, he contented himself with going somewhere to watch
the stream of people passing by. "I will wait," he said to himself, "for
my darling to come to me." He could not even stand very long, but
usually sought the rest of a friendly doorstep, and at times a recess on
a bridge, watching, with tender wistfulness, the stream of life hurrying
on around him. Strange to say, he had more than once seen Adelaide
Codling since that night at the theatre, and somehow that always gave
him hope. Her face seemed to say to him, "Your daughter cannot be far
away."

Often the "unfortunates" came and talked to him, not rudely in their
wantonness--alas! poor, forsaken waifs--forsaken by all save God--but
soberly, as if moved to speak to this still, sad-eyed, grey-faced old
man, who looked out on the world so keenly, and withal, with such
tenderness in his look. They would tell him fragments of their
stories--sad enough all, and wonderfully alike--tales of seduction, and
heartless desertion, varied only by the degree of turpitude usually
exhibited in the man. At one time it would be the tale of a light-headed
girl, seduced by her master--a married man--who huddled her out of
sight, to hide his shame. Many came from garrison towns, the seduced of
the officers there; quiet country parsonages gave their quota of girls
educated to feel, and therefore hurrying the faster to their doom, when
once cut off from their families by the devices of their betrayers. One
woman excited Thomas's pity deeply. Though wasted and fast dying, she
still had traces of great beauty when he first met her, leaning wearily
on the parapet of Waterloo Bridge, looking out on the water below. She
flashed defiance--the defiance of a hunted being--at him when he first
spoke to her, but he soon won her heart, and got her story. A fair
blonde, oval-faced English girl, she had been comely to look upon, and
was wholesome at the heart even yet, for all her misery. She was the
victim of a parson, now high in the counsels of the church. The villain
was but a curate when he seduced her--the only child of her mother, and
she a widow. He promised to marry her, of course, and wiled his way to
her heart. Then when he had got all he wanted, and found that she was
with child, he cast her off, daring her to lay the babe to his
paternity, and spreading a story to the effect that he had found other
lovers at her heels. Broken hearted, she buried her head and obeyed, but
the shame killed her mother. "I could not die," the daughter said to
Wanless; "I have often tried to kill myself, but fear keeps me back now,
after all that's past, and it kept me back then. My child died, thank
Heaven! I was alone in the world. I drifted to London seeking work, and
found it hard to get. When I offered myself for a servant's place,
people said I was too well educated, and suspected that something must
be wrong. I could have taught in a school, perhaps, but had no one to
recommend me. I was hungry; I hated mankind, and cursed them. I said I
would betray and destroy men for revenge! and the way was easy! oh, so
easy. It has led me here; and now if I could but jump over and be done
with it all!"

Involuntarily Thomas put forth his hand to hold her back; but he needed
not to do so. The poor woman sank fainting at his feet. He tried to
rouse her, but could not; and finally put her in a cab and took her to
the hospital. Within a week she died there of brain fever. The doctors
said her strength had been too much reduced by privation before the
disease seized her for her to be able to survive it. And she was only
one among tens of thousands all pressed down the same loathsome course
by our "Christian civilisation." Nay, forgive the epithet, there is
nothing Christian about it. It is only the civilisation of a priest-born
respectableness. The droning hypocrites that we are!

At times Wanless stood by the doors of low music halls and of theatres,
but the door-keepers usually ordered him off. He looked too like a
detective for their taste. Then he would watch the doors of
confectioners' shops, too--those shops which cloak brothels of the
vilest type--staring there in the face of day, unheeded by the
authorities, who must wink at some kind of outlet for the suppressed
brutal passions of polished society. More than once Adelaide Codling had
crossed his path at such times, and still in the company of Wiseman; but
each succeeding time he saw her, Wanless thought the boldness of her
manner had an increased dash of despair in it. The fate that she had
come after was eating into even her light, giddy heart. The last time he
spied her was one night when he stood close by the door of a café near
Regent Street. The light fell full on her face as the Captain and she
passed in from their cab, and her face was painted. Already, then, the
bloom of youth has vanished, Thomas thought. Her hard but not unmusical
laugh had given place to a grating cackle, and a leer of affected gaiety
had replaced the merry eye. Poor, erring wanderer, and had a few months
brought you to this? Already was the shadow of society's ruthless
judgment upon you; could you even now see the blight of your life, the
dreary street, the hard world's scorn, the early grave? Ah! yes, and who
shall describe the devouring agony that gnawed at that girl's heart? Did
she not see day by day the ebbing away of Wiseman's love? Love? God
forgive me for defiling that sacred word. It was only his brutish
passion that was dying. He was becoming tired of this toy his handling
had smudged, and she saw it all--prepared herself for the hour when he
would turn his back upon her and go to hunt down other prey. And only
six months ago! Ah, parson, parson, has the iron not entered your soul?
What is this that your Christian civilisation has done to your daughter?
Has it made you ashamed even to look for her? Poor, hide-bound,
"respectable" sinner that you are, you shall behold her again, though
you sought her not--though her mother bade you close your heart and home
against her for ever, because she had with that mother's help allowed
herself to be betrayed.

One cold March night Thomas Wanless had strayed on to Waterloo Bridge in
his coal-begrimed dress. Something, he could not have said what, had
impelled him to go there that night. He had taken a hasty supper at a
coffee-house near the coal yard to save time. He felt he was
"superstitious," yet he went, whispering to his heart "who knows but I
may see my child to-night," and trying to be cheerful.

Paying the toll at the north side, he wandered backwards and forwards
till the chill from the river began to enter his bones. The one he
looked for came not to him--still he could not drag himself away. He sat
down in a recess and cowered below the parapet for shelter, waiting for
he knew not what. It might have been ten o'clock. He had sat quite an
hour, and was nearly going to sleep with weariness, inaction, and cold,
when a rustle of a woman's dress near him spurred his faculties into
active watchfulness. Peering into the darkness, made visible by the
feeble shimmer of the lamp on the parapet, he discovered a woman
approach him, crouching down in the recess on the other side of the
bridge, weeping bitterly, though almost in silence. Raising himself on
his elbow, he was about to speak to her when she started up with a wild
despairing gesture, and, jumping on the seat, flung away her shawl.

"Yes," he heard her say to herself, with a wailing resoluteness, "I'll
do it; I'll die," and with one look of farewell to the world, where no
hope was left for her, a look of despair and horror that gleamed through
the darkness, she clutched the parapet and drew herself on to it.

It was all the work of a moment, a flash of time, but Wanless had sprung
to his feet at the sound of her voice, and was half across the bridge by
the time the woman got upon the parapet. Then he saw her last look, and
the gleam of a neighbouring lamp revealed her features. She was Adelaide
Codling, and the recognition so startled Wanless that he staggered and
for a moment stopped short. In that moment she was lost. Even as the cry
burst from his lips, "Adelaide Codling, Adelaide, Adelaide," she threw
herself over, as if the sight of a man approaching her had given the
last spur to her despair. He reached the parapet but in time to hear the
dull splash of her body in the dark tide rolling beneath. As she felt
the water close round her, a cry--weird, unearthly, terrible,--broke
from the girl's lips, and then all was silent, till the waves threw her
up again on the other side of the bridge, when a hollow, dying wail
wandered over the river--the last farewell of this poor waif of
humanity, sacrificed to the pleasures of the scoundrels who "bear rule"
among us, and call themselves refined.

Wanless was already at the toll-house, panting and hardly able to speak.
But his look was enough, and presently there arose a shouting to
lightermen and bargemen. Boats were put off by those who had heard the
splash and the cry. A crowd gathered to see. In little more than a
quarter of an hour a shout rose from the water far down towards
Blackfriars, for the tide was running out, and the girl had gone rapidly
down stream. "Saved! saved!" was the cry, and they had, indeed, found
the body of Adelaide Codling. She herself had gone. The cold had killed
her rather than the length of time she had been in the water--the cold
and the shock.

Thomas waited to hear the result of the doctor's efforts at the police
office, and then saw the body deposited in a neighbouring deadhouse. No
clue to her identification was found upon the body, the poor girl had
taken care of that, more mindful of her friends in death than they of
her living. But Thomas felt bound to tell the police sergeant what he
knew. He gave his own address and that of the Rev. Josiah Codling, but
could not tell where the girl lived, or what had been the immediate
cause of her suicide. The police, seeing that the upper classes were in
question, decided to keep names quiet for the present--but communicated
with the girl's father, and arranged that the inquest should be delayed
for two days to permit him to attend. Thomas himself was told that he
would be summoned as a witness, and then went his way.

He hardly knew how he got home to his lodgings that night.

The inquest on the body of Adelaide Codling was held in the upper room
of a low-class public house in Upper Thames Street. Thomas Wanless
obtained liberty to absent himself from work that day, at his own
charges, of course, and punctually at three in the afternoon--the
appointed hour--he entered the parlour of the inn. He was carefully
dressed in the now threadbare and shiny suit of black, which had been
his Sunday costume for many years.

A small knot of men had gathered in the room, and a desultory kind of
chat was going on when Thomas entered. Two or three were grumbling at
the nuisance of these "coroner's 'quests," which took men away from
their business, the majority were "having something to drink," and all
were utterly indifferent to the business that had brought them there.

Presently the coroner bustled into the room with his clerk. The latter
hurriedly called over some names, which were answered, and then produced
a greasy-looking volume in leather which he called "the book." This
talisman he put into the hands of the man nearest him, to whom he
mumbled some cabalistic words, at the end of which the book was passed
along and kissed in a foolish sort of way by the chosen twelve. Having
in this manner "constituted the jury," proceedings commenced with a
procession to "view the body," led by the coroner. It lay in a rough
wooden shell coffin, in a dark hole attached to an old city church, and
used as a mortuary. Wanless followed the little crowd in a stunned sort
of way. To his simple, rustic mind it was a dreadful thing that men
should be able to go so carelessly about such a solemn duty. At the
mortuary he was surprised to see the Vicar. The old man stood by his
child's head, gazing at it in a helpless, dazed way, as if hardly
conscious of what it all meant. No emotion was visible on his face, no
tears broke from his eyes when a policeman, softened by the sight, led
him gently away to the inn parlour out of the way of coroner and jury.

The "viewing" over, the Court returned to the inn to take evidence. Of
that there was very little, beyond the personal testimony of the police,
until Thomas Wanless was called. When his name was mentioned, Thomas saw
the old Vicar start, and for the first time look up with something like
intelligence in his glance, then a scared, shrinking sort of expression
stole across his features, as if he had suddenly thought of home and
cruel village tongues. But he listened quietly to all the old labourer
had to say. It was not much, for a proper-minded coroner would not have
suffered "family secrets" to be too freely exposed, nor had Wanless
himself any desire to tell more than was absolutely needful.

"I saw the deceased," he said, "climb upon the parapet of Waterloo
Bridge opposite where I sat, and I ran towards her, but before I could
reach her she had gone over. As she prepared to spring she gave one last
look behind her, and I knew her to be our Vicar's daughter. I called her
by name, but it was too late."

The sad cadence of Thomas's voice, and his obvious superiority of mien,
did not prevent one of the jury from asking him in a brutal tone--

"And what were _you_ doing there, my man?"

"I was looking for my own child," answered the old labourer. "At first
I thought I had found her, till I saw the face."

"Ah!" ejaculated the coroner. "Had you then----?" but his better impulse
stopped him, and he did not finish the question. Thomas, however,
understood it, and replied at once, almost under his breath--

"Yes, your Honour, I have lost a daughter, and Captain Wiseman, the same
ruffian destroyed her that enticed away the Vicar's poor lass now lying
yonder."

His words sent a shudder through the room, and Thomas was vexed he had
spoken them ere they were well out of his mouth, for they seemed to goad
the Vicar into a state of active terror which gave him energetic
utterance. The more vulgar of the jury pricked up their ears at the
sound of scandal, and one of them said--"Can you give us a clue then as
to how this poor girl came to drown herself?"

"Oh, for God's sake don't," the Vicar interposed, starting to his feet,
and stretching forth his hand beseechingly towards the labourer; "for
God's sake don't expose it, Wanless." Then he collapsed again, and began
to weep violently, so that Wanless felt sorry for him, and was relieved
when the loud voice of the coroner was heard again ruling that "it was
quite unnecessary to rake up disagreeables." He saw the "aristocracy in
the business," in short, and it pleased him to be strict. Thomas,
therefore, was asked a number of venture questions, whether he knew
where the deceased lived, or whether he was aware of her circumstances,
&c., questions to which he had mostly to answer "No." His examination
was, therefore, soon ended, and the coroner was beginning to tell the
jury that it was a common case, requiring the usual verdict, "Suicide
while in a state," merely, when, to everybody's surprise, the Vicar
intimated that he had a statement to make.

He rose, trembling visibly, and looked round with a vacant eye till he
caught sight of Wanless, who had fallen back, and was standing near the
door. Then his look changed, and, with something like energy, he
exclaimed--"I wish to ask you, gentlemen, not to believe what that man
says. He has a spite against my family, and against the family at----"
Here he stopped suddenly, afraid to mention the name of his child's
destroyer, and the solemn voice of the peasant was heard saying--"God
forgive you, Josiah Codling," softly, as if to himself. But the Vicar
heard, and his trembling increased so much that when a blunt juryman
interposed with--"How do you account for your daughter's suicide then?"
he could only stammer a feeble--"I'm sure I cannot say."

"But surely you knew her whereabouts--what she was doing?"

"N-n-no, I cannot say I did quite. My wife--that is her mother--told me
that she was visiting an aunt in Kent, and I believed it was so."

"But were there no letters, then? Didn't your daughter write to you at
times?" persisted the juryman, though the coroner began to fidget and
look black.

"Letters!" repeated the Vicar, as if struck with a new idea; "no, I
believe not. Yes, I think she did write to her mother--to my wife that
is to say. At least I saw the envelope of one letter. I picked it out
of the coal scuttle in the breakfast room, but Adelaide--that is my
daughter--did not write to me--not that I recollect."

"Humph! I see, 'grey mare the better horse,'" muttered the juryman--a
bluff, not unkindly-looking man, and then there fell a moment of deep
silence on the Court. The Vicar stood, bearing himself up with his hands
on the table before him, and seemed to have more to say. But when after
a brief pause, the impatient Coroner ejaculated--"Well, sir! have you
done?" the Vicar answered--"Y-yes, I think so. I only wished you not to
judge my child hastily," and sat down.

A few moments more and the jury had given their verdict--"the usual one"
as the coroner described it--a verdict permitting the corpse to have
Christian burial, and all was over. The majority of the jury adjourned
to the bar to refresh themselves, and interchange opinions on, what one
of them called, "this jolly queer case." The bar-keeper himself joined
in the conversation, and Wanless heard him enlarging upon the
corruptions of the "Hupper classes," as he followed the Vicar down
stairs. But there was no danger that comments of this kind would get
into the newspapers. A paragraph about the suicide did, indeed, appear
in several morning journals, but there was no mention of the seducer's
name. Such a thing as an adjournment to obtain Wiseman's evidence was
not even hinted. The coroner, jury, press, and all might have been
bought up by the Wiseman family, so discreet was the silence--and,
perhaps, some of them were. The press, at all events, was well gagged by
an infamous law of libel; and as there had been no sensational or
melodramatic incidents connected with the girl's end, it was easy to
bury all the story in oblivion--for _time_. The "gallant" Captain might
roll serenely on his way. Nothing could disturb him here except disease
and the moral leprosy bred of his crimes. "After death comes the
judgment."

When the little gathering had dispersed, the Vicar and Thomas Wanless
found themselves alone together. Both had waited to let the unfamiliar
faces disappear. Neither had thought at the moment that this shyness
would bring them face to face. The peasant was the first to realise the
situation, and as he looked at the broken-down old man before him, he
was stirred with pity. On the impulse of the moment he went to where
Codling stood, and laying his hand on his arm, said--

"Can I be of any use to you, sir?"

The Vicar started and turned hastily away, shaking Thomas's hand from
his arm, at the same time answering--"No, no, Thomas Wanless, I have
nothing to say to you. You have done me enough mischief for one day!"

"I have done you no mischief, sir. God forbid that I should harm you.
Had it been possible I would have saved you this pain,--I would have
rescued your daughter."

"Rescued my daughter, would you?" and Codling laughed a low, bitter
laugh. "Rescued my daughter! Why cannot you look after your own, Thomas
Wanless? I do not want your help."

"I watch for my child night and day," said the peasant solemnly. "It was
in seeking her that I met yours--too late. There is ever a prayer in my
heart that when I find my Sally I may not be too late for her also. Ah!
poor Sally!" he sighed, and the Vicar, taking no more notice of him, he
presently added--"Come out of this place, sir. It is not wise for you to
stop here when there is so much yet to be done."

The Vicar took Wanless's words as insinuating that he wanted to drink,
which was far enough from what Thomas intended. But the guilty are ever
prone to think themselves in danger, and it was with more heat and
energy of manner than he had yet shown that the Vicar turned and faced
his fellow-villager.

"Go away, you loafing, good-for-nothing fellow," he almost shouted,
"surely you have gratified your revenge sufficiently for one day,
without standing there to mock at my sorrow, as you have already done
your best to make my name a by-word." With that he moved towards the
door. But Thomas stood dumbfounded between him and it, and the Vicar,
too impatient now to wait for the peasant's slow motions, actually gave
him a shove on one side, and hurried outside, muttering to himself as he
went.



CHAPTER XVIII.

POINTS ONCE MORE TO THE MORAL OF THE POET'S SAYING,--"SWEET ARE THE USES
OF ADVERSITY."


When Wanless crept out a minute or two later, still feeling heart-sore
at the Vicar's treatment, he caught sight of that poor wretch through
the adjoining door of the private bar, which opened to let some one out
as he passed by. Codling was standing, and with trembling hand stirring
a large tumbler of hot brandy and water.

Wanless stopped involuntarily, and then turning back to the bar he had
just left, asked for a glass of ale. It would give him a pretext for
waiting to see what became of the poor parson. In a very short time he
heard Codling's voice beyond the partition ordering another double
glass, and the sound shocked him so much that he put down his glass of
ale half consumed, and, acting on the impulse of the moment, burst in
upon the Vicar through the swing door of the compartment, crying, as he
did so--

"For God's sake, don't, Mr. Codling. Leave that, and come away with me.
It's a shame to see a minister of the Gospel drowning his grief in
liquor. Come away at once." And he again laid hold of Codling's arm.

The drink he had already swallowed had raised the Vicar's courage, and
he turned on Wanless with a look of scornful bitterness that boded a
storm. But Wanless was also wrought to a high pitch, and there was a
commanding sternness in his eye that served to cow the drunkard, whose
wrath seemed to die within him. He looked hesitatingly around, and at
sight of some bystanders grinning, a flush of shame spread over his
face.

"For shame, I say," Wanless continued in a low tone, paying as little
heed to the angry looks as he had done to the former taunts. "Will you
stand here besotting yourself, and allow your child to be flung into a
pauper's grave?"

"What business is that of yours?" the Vicar replied sullenly, but in a
low voice. "Mind your own paupers, and let me and my affairs alone."

"That I will not--cannot do--Mr. Codling," Wanless answered. "Consider,
sir, she was your child. You fondled her on your knee but the other day,
and were proud to hear her lisp the name of father. Come away, sir, for
God's sake, the body may be gone if we waste more time here;" and giving
the Vicar no further chance to remonstrate, Thomas seized his arm, and
dragged him out of the place away to the deadhouse.

They were indeed barely in time. Some men were about to nail up the
remains of Adelaide in the rough shell where it lay, whether preparatory
to burial, or in order to convey it to some hospital dissecting room, I
would not venture to say. At any rate, a small bribe made them desist,
and one of them even directed the Vicar to find an undertaker if he
wished to give his child Christian burial in other than a pauper's
trench.

The sight of his daughter's body, when the lid of the case was removed,
and the Vicar saw it again, moved him more than it had done at first.
The men withdrew, and Thomas and he were left alone with it. Adelaide's
features had settled down to the calm stillness of death, and wore a
faint semblance of a smile. Sweet and pure she looked, in spite of the
soiled garments and tangled hair; but the figure indicated only too
clearly what had sent her to a watery grave. She had been about to
become a mother.

As he looked old memories rose in the Vicar's imagination, and tears
gathered in his dull, sodden eyes. He stooped tremulously and kissed the
cold brow. "Poor Addy, poor Addy," he murmured, "to think that you
should have come to this," and he sobbed outright--weeping like a child.
Like a child too, when the passion was over, he surrendered himself to
the guidance of Wanless, without further resistance, who hurried him off
to the undertaker. He would like, he said, to have _her_ buried that
evening; but that the people said they could not manage; so it was at
last arranged to take her to Highgate Cemetery next morning. Thomas had
then to find a place where the Vicar could pass the night, for the old
man had intended to go home that evening, and ultimately he deposited
him at the Tavistock Hotel.

"Will you have something to drink before you go?" said the Vicar, when
he had arranged for his bedroom, evidently wanting a pretext for
drinking himself, but Thomas said "No," and went away to eat a frugal
supper in a humble coffee-shop in Drury Lane.

They buried Adelaide next morning, Thomas again, though with difficulty,
obtaining leave of absence. As soon as he saw Codling, Thomas knew that
he had been drinking hard the previous night. The poor man's hands shook
as with the palsy, his step was unsteady, his eye dull and bloodshot. A
low fever seemed to consume him; yet he obviously felt keenly that
morning the errand he and the labourer were upon, and though he hardly
spoke a word all the way to the grave, he no longer looked at his
companion with sullen anger. Rather he seemed to cling to Thomas as a
woman clings to her natural protector. And when the earth fell on the
coffin lid as the last words of the solemn burial service of the Church
of England were uttered--solemn even when gabbled over by the unhappy
creatures who have to repeat it every day, and all day long--he broke
down again, sobbing and weeping like a child. They waited till the last
sod had been placed over the lost Adelaide, and ere he went away the
Vicar knelt on the damp earth, praying and weeping bitterly. Then he
rose and stretched out his hand to Wanless, whose cheeks were also wet
with tears, as if seeking one to lead him. Thomas grasped it, and
pressed it, with "God bless and have mercy on you, sir, and on her as
lies here."

"Ah! Thomas"--it was the first time the Vicar had called him kindly as
of old by his Christian name--"ah! Thomas, my friend, and may God bless
you for what you have done this day. But for you I would have deserted
my child in death, as I did in life. God forgive me for it."

These words seemed to open his heart, so that he talked to Wanless, all
the way back to town, in an eager way, like one who had a confession to
make, and could taste no peace till it was done. A sad history enough it
was of domestic bitterness, of an enfeebled will, knowing what was
right, and doing it not. His impulse was to seek his daughter, just as
Thomas's had been, but Mrs. Codling would not hear of it. Her pride did
not even allow her to admit that the girl had gone away after her
betrayer. She talked of a visit to a relative at a distance, who was her
own step-sister, and of Adelaide herself being ill in Kent, poor
thing--not in any danger, but not strong enough to return yet--with many
lies of a like kind, which the Vicar was weak enough to endorse by his
silence.

Wanless also spoke of his quest and his sorrow, and the Vicar listened
with sympathy; but when the peasant ventured to urge that it was his
duty to denounce, and expose the ravenous wolf, who had destroyed the
peace of so many families, Codling shook his head and answered--"No, no,
Thomas, I cannot; I dare not. It is too late."

"Why too late, sir? Are you not a minister of Christ, and bound by the
office you hold to denounce the sinner and his sin?"

The Vicar shuddered, and sat still for more than a minute without
answering. Then he bent forward and took Thomas's hand--they sat on
opposite sides of the cab.

"Thomas," he said sadly, "you remember that day of the row in my garden,
between you and--and that fiend in human shape. You called me a poor
tippling creature that day, and it was true."

"No, no, and I was very sorry," Wanless began--

"Yes, but it was," the Vicar interrupted, "I hated you for exposing me
thus; but I felt and knew it was true. I am not a drunkard, Thomas, as
the world measures drunkenness, but I tipple. I keep myself alive by
stimulants, and bury thus my hopes and aspirations of other days. And I
feel that I can do nothing. Who would listen to me or heed my words? Men
would say I spoke from spite, and perhaps some even might aver that I
was myself the cause of my daughter's ruin. Which also," he added, in a
reflective kind of way, "which also might be true. No, no, Thomas, I
must bear my burden. My--oh, my daughter, my child, my pet, when I think
of you and the past, I have no hope--I can do nothing but tipple."

"Heaven forbid!" exclaimed Wanless; but the Vicar relapsed into silence.
All the rest of the way to Paddington, to which he had ordered himself
to be driven, he lay back in the corner of the cab, silent, with his
eyes closed; but Thomas could see him ever and anon furtively wipe away
the tears from his cheeks.

At Paddington, the two men, now friends again, after so many years of
divergent ways and worldly fortunes, bade each other a sad farewell.
Thomas went back to his coals, and the Vicar went home to his wife and
his gin and water. Yet he was not quite as he had been before. More
than he himself thought the death of his once loved child stirred the
human soul in him, and he was not able again to fall back into
sottishness. Though he bore his domestic woes silently, and still drank
to dull the gnawing at his heart, he became more tender towards the poor
among his flock, more attentive to their wants, more accessible, and
softer in manner towards all men. He even preached with sad pathos that
woke responsive sympathy in the hearts of his flock, though he did not
denounce the ravisher.

But the best proof of all that he had changed much for the better, is
found in his conduct to Mrs. Wanless. The memory of the help and
sympathy he had received from the old, despised labourer in London, lay
warm in his heart, and found frequent expression in visits to the
labourer's wife while she was alone, or to both husband and wife, when
Wanless came back. The very day after he returned from London, he called
and told Mrs. Wanless that he had seen her husband, and that he was
well. He made no allusion to other matters, but he patted the head of
Sally's child, and sighed as he went away. Perhaps the kindly warmth
with which these simple people always greeted him, helped to soothe his
later years. In giving he received more than he gave.

In the village the end of his daughter was never rightly known. Wiseman
naturally never breathed a word. Rarely was his face seen in Ashbrook,
and never in the church while the old Vicar lived. Mrs. Codling gave out
that the poor child had been suddenly cut off by fever, and went the
length of donning mourning, bemoaning the loss to her friends, braving
the scorn of all true hearts, and vainly imagining she was believed, But
the people guessed that Adelaide had not died so, and they suspected
that Wiseman was at the bottom of her disappearance, though the story of
her having committed suicide never got general credence in the
village--was only a faint rumour there. So all pitied the poor Vicar,
despised his uppish, false-hearted wife, and most hated the young
squire. Riches and high station cannot shut men out from the moral
results of their deeds, any more than they can ward off death. Nay, Mrs.
Codling herself, high as she held her head, well as she acted the part
of a sorrowing mother who had been heart-broken by the unexpected news
of her dear daughter's sudden death, so prostrated as to be unable to go
and see her laid in her grave--even Mrs. Codling felt in some sense that
this was true. She grew harder in her ways, and more and more haggard in
her looks, like one even at war with herself, and ever losing in the
fight--till within three years God took her, and she knew her folly.



CHAPTER XIX.

OPENS TO THE INWARD EYE THE CHASTENED JOY THAT GLOWS, WHEN THE LOST ONE
IS FOUND, IN THE SOUL OF HIM "WHOSE GRIEF WAS CALM, WHOSE HOPE WAS
DEAD."


A great additional strain had been put upon the spirit of Thomas
Wanless, by the death of Adelaide Codling, and he was becoming too weak
in body to hold to his purpose. There were nights when he returned to
his lonely lodging wishing that he might die, so great was his physical
and mental exhaustion. At other times he felt an impulse strong upon him
to go home--to "abandon his search for a time," as his inward tempter
whispered. But his will was strong, if strength of body or hope might be
weak, and he only prayed the more and clung the more to his purpose, the
more he felt tempted to turn aside. "How could I face her mother again,"
he would answer himself, "if I had not found her."

In this conflict of mind, though not of purpose, another month rolled
by, and Thomas was threatened with want of work. Fewer men were required
in the coal yards as summer came on, and already several had been
discharged. It was a dreary prospect enough, but what made it more so to
Thomas, were the unbidden flashes of almost gladness that rose in his
breast now and then, as the voice of the tempter then said--"Thomas, you
will be forced to go home." He felt himself a traitor, and inexpressibly
wicked at such moments, and would clench his hand and mutter--"Not yet
anyhow, not yet," as he strode mechanically through the streets.

At last he found her. "When hope was calm, and grief was dead" almost,
he lighted on his lost child unexpectedly, in a place where he would
never have dreamed of looking for her, had it not been for the friendly
advice of the police.

All over London there are coffee-houses, tobacco-shops, and
confectioner-looking shops, whose real use is to be haunts of vice.
Thomas had learned to know this, and his eye was always upon such as he
wandered through the streets. Perchance he might see his Sally in one of
them some night. He was crawling rather than walking along one of the
dingy lanes behind Leicester Square one evening, about eleven o'clock,
when, through the open door of a low eating-house, he heard the voice of
a woman singing. His heart gave a leap within him. Surely that was
Sally's voice. She had been a great singer in her girlhood, and the song
he heard the notes of had once been a great favourite with her. What was
it, think you? None other than that sweet sentimental ditty, "Be kind to
the loved ones at home." Strange melody to be heard in such a place.

The leap of hope in Thomas's heart was followed by a thrill of anguish
as he drew near to listen, more assured each moment that here, indeed,
he had found his daughter. And was she thinking of home then--here, at
the gate of hell. He would go and see. No one was in the outer shop, and
the door of the back room stood ajar, so that Thomas walked straight
through unchallenged. Pushing open the half-closed inner door, he paused
in amazement at the scene disclosed to him. There might have been a
score of people in that low-roofed, dingy, smoke-filled room--men and
women seated at small tables, and on one or two dilapidated benches
against the wall, some were busy eating, all had drink before them--ale,
spirits, and even wine--stuff labelled "champagne." Through the haze of
tobacco smoke, he saw several of the women with cigarettes in their
mouths. All had a reckless, more or less debauched air, and the women in
particular struck Thomas--a transitory flash though his glance was--as
wearing a look of defiance towards all that the world deemed propriety.
Men had women on their knees, or sat on the knees of women, and none
seemed to heed the song. One poor outcast woman lay huddled up on the
floor by the fire, too drunk to sit, but not too drunk to blaspheme. No
one heeded her either.

All these things Thomas saw in the first moment of vision, but he hardly
noted them then. His thoughts and his eyes were for his lost child
alone. The song did not stop at his entrance, for the singer's face was
not towards the door. So the voice guided his eye and--yes, it was she.
There she sat in the middle of the room, nearer the fire than a youthful
debauchee who sat by her with his arm round her waist. Thomas gazed a
moment, and then his whole soul went out in a cry--

"Sally, Sally, oh my pet, my child, I've found you at last," and he
advanced towards her, holding out his hands.

The song died instantly, but in its place rose a Babel of tongues.
Thomas's cry drew all eyes upon him. Involuntarily some of the less
hardened assumed airs of propriety, but the majority of the men started
in anger, and a few of the women began to laugh and jeer.

"Damn your impudence, what do you want here?" shouted a copper-faced
little wretch, who had been lying half asleep in a woman's lap near the
door.

"Get out of this," roared another, and as Thomas made no sign the abuse
grew general. The wits of the party cracked jokes over the "heavy father
doing the pathetic business," and so on, but amid the din the peasant
got close to the table, where his child sat. The instant his call
reached her ears, Sally turned a terror-struck gaze upon him, and then
buried her face in her hands. He could see she wept, for the sobs shook
her, but to his further entreaty to come away she made no response, and
he was trying to pull the table aside so as to reach her, when he was
roughly seized by the brothel keeper, who had rushed up from the kitchen
to see what the noise was about. With an oath he pulled Thomas back.

"What the devil do you want here?" he screeched. "Clear out, or d--n
you, I'll give you in custody." The peasant's garb and appearance had
enabled the experienced scoundrel to guess at once what was up.

Thomas turned sharp on his assailant, who was a fat, flabby-looking
wretch, whose face indicated a vicious career in every line and pimple.
At the moment it was lit up by an expression of elfish rage. But when
in his turn the peasant seized him with a grip of iron and flung him
away as if he had been a street cur barking at his heels, the man's face
grew nearly pale with an expression of mingled wrath and fear. The fear
kept him near the door, where he stood yelling for help, calling on
"Jim" to come and turn this intruder out, volleying oaths and
blasphemies, and finally beseeching the intruder not to ruin him, but
taking good care all the while not to summon the police.

"Jim" came at last--the "waiter" or bully of the place. He was of
stronger build than his master, and at once grabbed Thomas by the
collar, purposing to turn him out. But Thomas was endowed with heroic
strength in that hour, and three such men would not have driven him from
the place. Wrenching himself round, he took his new assailant by the
throat, and dashed him back against his master with such force that they
both rolled over in the narrow doorway. This feat tickled the company
immensely, and they fell to clattering with pewter pots and glasses, and
to shouting in derision as encouragement.

Probably Thomas in the end might have been badly beaten by the fiends
among whom he had fallen, but from that his daughter saved him. Roused,
perhaps, at the sight of the unholy hands laid upon her father, and
sickened by the foul jibes of men and women around her, she sprang to
her feet, and, pushing round the end of the table where she sat, rushed
between the combatants, and flung herself on her father's bosom, in a
passion of weeping.

"Do not get yourself hurt for me," she sobbed, "go away and leave me.
I'm not worth caring for any more."

Thomas answered by clasping her closer to his bosom, and then putting
his arm in hers, he led her from the house, none daring to say him nay.
Oaths, shrieks of hysterical laughter, and obscenities followed them as
they went, but the look on the peasant's face, and the remembrance of
his strength of arm, were enough to protect his daughter and him from
further ill-usage.

"Thanks be to God I've found ye, my lass; found ye, never to let ye out
o' my sight again in this world," Thomas murmured when he found himself
alone in the street with his long-lost one, and there welled up in him a
holy joy which was unutterable.

His daughter hung her head, and answered not, but she suffered him to
lead her to his lodging. A 'bus took them to the head of Portland Road,
and thence they walked. It was past midnight before they got home, and
all the house was silent; but Thomas gave his daughter his bedroom, and
groped his way to the parlour, where he hoped to get a sleep in an easy
chair--first prudently turning the key in Sarah's door, to give her no
room for untimely repentance.

There was no sleep for his eyelids that night. The cold alone might have
kept him awake in any case; but he was too excited to feel it as other
than a stimulus to his thoughts. Past and future rolled before him--his
daughter lost, joy at her discovery, pain at the life she had led. The
grey dawn found him fevered with his thoughts, shivering in body,
burning at the heart. Nevertheless, he had resolved to go home that day
by the early train; and with that view he roused the landlady to beg an
early breakfast for himself and his child. "I have found my lass," was
all he ventured to explain, and the woman answered she was glad to hear
it. In his eagerness to go home he forgot to tell the coal agent for
whom he worked, and forgot also to draw four days' wages due to him--did
not remember till the day after he and his daughter reached Ashbrook.

When Sarah, in answer to her father's summons, came down to breakfast in
the front kitchen, it was easy to see that she also had slept little.
Her eyes were swollen and red, and she could not eat anything. A cup of
hot tea she swallowed, and that was all. Her father spoke to her in the
old familiar Warwickshire dialect, and urged her to "eat summat, as she
had a long day's journey afoore her," but Sally could not, and to all he
spoke answered only in monosyllables. Not until he began to talk
directly of going "home" did she wake to anything like animation. The
very sound of the word made her weep, and her father led her away to his
own room to reason with her.

"Oh, don't ask me to go back," she cried; "I cannot, I cannot; I'm fit
only to die."

But her father soothed her, talked to her of her lonely mother watching
for her coming, praying to see her child's face again before she died;
and when that did not move her, he bade her think of her little babe she
had left last year. "How could ye like her to grow up a-lookin' for a
mother, Sally, lass, an' not findin' one?" That seemed to touch her
more than all his assurances that no one would ever reproach her or cry
shame upon her in her own father's house. Still she yielded not, but
cried out that she was lost to them all, to every good in this world.
"You might not blame me openly," she said, "but I would have the feelin'
in my heart all the time that I was a shame an' disgrace to you, and
that pity alone kept you from telling me so. No, no, no, I will not go
back to Ashbrook."

"Look here, then, Sally," said her father at last, "if you wonnot go
back, I'll stay by you. My mind's made up. I'll never lose sight of ye
again, not while I'm alive; and if you wonnot go home wi' me, I must
bide wi' you. There is no other way. It will kill your mother, and it
will kill me, an' leave your child an outcast orphan, but ye are
determined, an' it must e'en be so."

This staggered her, but still she yielded not, thinking, doubtless, that
her father meant not what he said, till at last, in despair, he told her
the story of Adelaide Codling. He spoke of her despairing looks, her
rapid descent from wild gaiety to death, of her last farewell to this
world, of her lonely grave, and her poor, old, broken-hearted father,
and wound up by asking--"Will you face an end like that, Sally? Dare you
do it, my child? When I saw her jump on the bridge I thought it was
you," he added, with a look that went straight to his daughter's heart.
The story had at first been listened to in dogged silence. Then the
girl's tears began to flow, at first silently, at last with convulsive
sobs. Her father held out his hand as he ceased speaking, and she, moved
so deeply as to be lifted out of herself, laid both her hands in his,
and said--

"Father, I'll do as ye wish. I'll go home wi' ye." He drew her down on
her knees beside him, and prayed fervently for mercy and forgiveness for
them both. "But my heart was too full to beg," he afterwards said to me.
"I could only give God thanks for his infinite mercy in restoring my
lost child."

They missed the morning train, and had to wait till the evening. In the
interval Sarah had stripped off the tawdry ornaments she wore, and
plucked a gaudy feather from her hat--pleasant incidents which her
father noted. In the middle of the night almost they reached the old
cottage in Ashbrook, and both were glad that the darkness hid them from
every eye save God's.



CHAPTER XX.

MAINTAINS THAT FOR THE WRONG SIN-BURDENED MORTAL NO SLEEP IS SO SWEET AS
THE LAST LONG SLEEP OF ALL.


There was deep joy in Mrs. Thomas Wanless's cottage that night--joy all
the deeper for the pain that lay beneath it. Mrs. Wanless was not a
demonstrative woman at any time, but that night she embraced her
daughter again and again, and held her to her heart with passionate
eagerness. Sarah was sad, and after the first momentary flash of
delight, shrank back within herself. She went and looked at her child
sleeping quietly in its grandmother's bed, but did not kiss or caress
it. The joy of the parents was dimmed at sight of this indifference, but
when Sarah had retired to rest, Thomas did his best to encourage his
wife to hope. "It will soon be all right between mother and child," he
prophesied, and this no doubt was their hope. It was long, however, ere
they saw any fulfilment of it. In truth, shame took so deep a hold on
Sarah's mind that she became a sort of terror to herself. She was so
crushed by the past, so utterly incapable of rising out of the darkness
that shrouded her mind, that it is probable she would again have fled
from her father's roof had she not been prevented by illness. The life
of false excitement she had led in London had sapped her constitution,
and she had not long returned when her health began to give way. Fits of
shivering seized her, then a hacking, dry cough, which could not be
dislodged. Her complexion grew transparent, her eye preternaturally
bright. She was, in a word, falling into consumption, and in all
probability would not live long to endure her misery. This was doubtless
the kindest fate that could now befall her, but it was a new grief to
her parents when they awoke to consciousness of the fact that this lost
one, so lately found again, was slowly vanishing from their sight for
ever.

She herself grew happier in the prospect of early death, and from being
silent and cold became gentle, opener in her manner, and more kindly to
all around her, as if striving by her tender care of her child and her
grateful affection for her parents to make the last days of her life on
earth a sweet memory. After a time, too, as she became weaker, her heart
moved her to talk of the past, and she bit by bit told her mother the
story of her flight and her life in the great city. The sum of it all
was misery, an agony of soul unspeakable, from which she ultimately
found no escape save in drink. Her own motive in running away after
Adelaide Codling was not very clear even to herself. Some vague idea of
finding that other victim, and of rescuing her from the doom that she
herself was stricken by, she had, but the governing motives were shame
and pride. Once in the gate of Hell, which London is to tens of
thousands every year, she tried to get access to Captain Wiseman, and
haunted the entrance of his barracks for a week, but he came not. She
did see him at a distance two or three times afterwards, but women such
as she was now dared not approach so great a person in the open streets
by day. With more persistence she sought for Adelaide Codling, but with
no better success. The only occasion when she got near enough to speak
to that poor girl was one day that they met by a shop door in Regent
Street. Adelaide came forth gorgeously dressed, and carrying her head
high just as Sarah passed. They recognised each other, and Sarah stopped
to speak, but the other turned away her head with a toss like her
mother's, and hurried off.

Soon the peasant's daughter had to abandon all thoughts of others, and
face hunger for herself. Her money and trinkets found her in food and
lodgings but for a few short days, and then she, having obtained no
situation, had to leave the servants' home where she had at first found
refuge, and--either starve or take to the streets. Her sin had branded
her; she had no "references," and no hope. Had courage only been given
her she would have died, but she dared not. It seemed easier to go forth
to the streets. The raging "social evil" that mocks in every
thoroughfare Christianity and the serene, tithe-sustained worshipping
machinery of the State, offered her a refuge. There she could welter and
rot if she pleased, fulfilling the excellent economy of life provided
for us in these islands. The army composing this evil only musters some
100,000 in London, and is something altogether outside the pale of
established and other Christian institutions.

That summer and winter when the lost Sarah faded away and died was a
hard time for Thomas Wanless and his wife. Work was precarious, and
thus, added to the pain of seeing their child fade away, was the bitter
sense of inability to do all that was possible to prolong her life.
Nearly all the labourer's savings had disappeared during Thomas's long
quest. But they struggled on, complaining to none but God, nor did their
trials break their trust in His help. They felt that the kindness with
which all friends and neighbours treated them in their sorrow was a
proof that the Divine Father of all had not forgotten them. And their
daughter herself became a consolation to their grief-worn spirits. A
sweet resignation took possession of her mind as she neared the end. The
passions of life died away, and the clouds that had hidden her soul for
the most part disappeared. Her parents might dream for moments, when her
cheeks looked brighter than usual, that she would recover, but she
herself knew that death was near, and thanked God.

During this time the Vicar--poor old man--came oftener than ever to the
labourer's cottage. He could not be said to assert himself against his
wife in doing so, for he came as if by a power stronger than his own
wrecked will. When he was seated by the labourer's fireside, he seemed
to be at peace. Often for an hour at a time he hardly spoke, but just
sat still and looked with a sad kindliness, pathetic to behold, on the
wasting form before him, and either stroked her hand held in his own, or
gently patting the golden head of the little lass that now began to
toddle to his knee. And when the visit was over, the cloud settled down
upon him again. He went forth dejected, a hopeless-looking being, and
crawled helplessly back to the Vicarage. He called on the morning of
Sarah's death. She sank gently to rest on a raw February morning nearly
eight months after her return, and within a week of her twenty-first
birthday. When Mr. Codling was told, he stood for a moment as if dazed,
and then asked to be led to Sarah's bedside. There he stood, gazing
long, with bent head, till the tears rose and blinded him. With them the
higher emotions of his soul welled up within him, and he turned and took
the hand of Wanless, who stood by his side.

"Thomas, my friend," he said, "I envy your daughter that rest. I, too,
long to be as she is. Life has become all a waste desert to me; oh, so
dreary, dreary." Then, after a pause, he went on--"And I envy you,
Thomas, for have you not cause to rejoice that Sarah has died in her
father's house forgiven? Had it been but so with my Adelaide; oh, had it
been but so, I think--I--hope would not have been lost to me. But I wish
I were dead--yes, dead and forgotten," and, letting go the hand he had
held, he knelt down by the bedside, buried his face, and wept as he had
wept only by his daughter's grave.

Unhappy old man. Who shall judge him; who say that the All-pitying had
not forgiven? Calming himself presently, the aged Vicar rose to his
feet, and looked again on the dead face, so different in its white
purity and smile of peace from the one he had looked on in London. He
bent and kissed it, and then suffered the grief-worn but calm old
labourer to lead him quietly away. "God bless you and comfort you, sir,
and give you His peace," was all that Thomas trusted himself to utter;
but sorrow had made these men brothers indeed.

Although Thomas and his wife knew in their hearts that Heaven had been
merciful to their child and to themselves in taking her away, their
sorrow was nevertheless keen. Nay, in some senses it was keener, because
the "might have been" rose before the mind. Here was in truth a waif--a
lost one--mercifully removed from further sorrow, but had there been no
wreck, how short would her life have seemed, how sad its early close. In
Wanless's life, therefore, few days were darker than the day on which he
laid Sarah to rest beside the long-lost little ones in the old
churchyard. It was little consolation to him that half the village
gathered reverently to the funeral, and yet as he thought of the other
grave by which he had stood not many months before, his spirit was
somehow soothed. The contrast must have struck the Vicar likewise, but
he made no sign. He insisted, however, on reading the burial service
himself, in spite of the remonstrances of his young curate, who usually
did this work. Bareheaded and trembling, pale, and feeble looking, with
his white thin hair fluttering in the icy breeze, the sight of their old
pastor that day drew tears to many eyes. His tremulous voice seemed more
solemn to the listeners that day than ever before, and they loved and
pitied the frail old man. More than one villager remarked to his
neighbour as they left the grave that he "did not think Mr. Codling
would be long in following Sally Wanless."

It was in truth to be so. The Vicar did not live long after, but his was
not the next burial. Before he went--months before--old Squire Wiseman
died and was buried in the family vault, with the pomp and circumstance
that became his station. No one sorrowed at his death, but the lack of
grief was hidden by the abundance of display. All the army of underlings
were put in mourning at the new squire's expense. Cecil was now lord of
the Grange, and one of his first steps was to make it too hot a place
for his mother, by filling it with debased men and women--titled
fledglings and their harpies, horsey men, and sharpers. The wealthy
marriage his mother had sought for him never came off. An Irish peer,
needy as Wiseman, but with a more marketable commodity in the shape of
his title, had swooped down and carried off the prize. The carpet or
"turf" soldier consequently came to his inheritance buried in debt, but
that seemed to make him only the more extravagant. His true place was
the gutter, but the land was entailed, tenants were squeezable, and
though hard up, the new squire floundered on, cursing and a curse.

His debts should have ruined him, but they merely ruined his tenants,
impoverished the land, and made those driven to depend on him as
beggarly as their master. The weight of this rottenness lay heaviest of
all on the labouring poor, who stood undermost in the social scale. Poor
farmers meant less labour, badly tilled soil, reduced wages, and the
hinds became a picture of misery. All Ashbrook parish suffered for the
sins of this sprig of the aristocracy. What of that! Are the sacred,
priest-sanctioned, bishop-blessed rights of property to be interfered
with because the people want bread? That would be contrary to all law
and order, as established by these delicate perverters of the Hebrew
Scriptures.

No; better far let the people starve; let the mortgages squeeze those
who do not own; make the fair earth bestowed on man--to be cultivated,
tended, and rendered fruitful--a waste howling desert, peopled by wild
animals, for whose shooting, wealthy pelf-rakers from the centres of
trade are ready to pay high rents. Next to our heaven-bestowed Poor Law,
the Law of Entail, which binds the land to a name or a family, has been
the greatest factor for evil in the national life of England. It has
preserved our "institutions;" gives continuity to our history, men
assert. Perish the people then, but hold fast to this sheet anchor. "It
preserves scoundrels from justice, and the fate they have earned," by
reformers. What of that? These men have the right to be abominable--you
and I, the workers and the sweaters, the privilege only to bear their
abominations.

It has always struck me, though, that the fetish machinery of the
English Establishment is imperfect in one particular. While in actual
fact all "lord" bishops, and most preachers therein, determinedly oppose
whatsoever would emancipate the people from their bondage, the best of
them never daring to strike boldly at the root of the evils that
threaten England with extinction, that fill the land with misery, that
huddle the bulk of our population into the fever dens of her cities--it
has struck me, I say, that their liturgy is incomplete, almost
hypocritical. A prayer like this should be inserted among the collects
of the day, instead, say, of the collect for peace, which comes so ill
from the lips of men whose ambition is usually to train some of their
children as licensed men-slayers. Let the lawn-sleeved "lord" bishops
look to it, then, and take this hint:--

"Sanctify might, O Lord, against right, and make it stronger and
stronger. Bless iniquities in high places, and cause the hypocrisy of
princes to be exalted in the eyes of the people. Protect the nobility
and gentry in their harlotry, and let holiness be measured by the
fineness of the garments. Grind the poor in their poverty, and cause
them to pay that they owe not. And O Lord, we beseech Thee, suffer not
the oppressed to have justice, lest they rise up against us and refuse
to give us the tithes we have filched from the indignant. These things
do, O Lord, and our lips shall praise Thee."

If you will honestly pray thus, serene "lord" bishops, much-wrangling,
gorgeously-embroidered deans, vicars, and incumbents, you will earn the
respect of honest men. Whatever you do, I beseech you go not on as you
do now, lest the people should one day _act_. They think not a little
even now.

Fare ye well, then, Cecil Wiseman, sham soldier, horse racer,
blasphemer, drunkard, seducer, sot, farewell! The upper world "society"
protects you, the Church shields you, nay, the priest must e'en bow when
you abduct his daughter, and the very Jews themselves, wholesome scourge
of your class though they be, cannot utterly ruin you--here. Go your
ways--I leave you to God. What witness, think you, will that diseased
body, that bloated face and hang-dog look of yours, bear against you in
the judgment? In that day your very victims may pity you.

And has not the judgment already come on your mother--cast out,
despised, lonely, poor as she is? Alone, she lives in her little
jointure house at Kenilworth, white-haired, feeble, full of bitterness
of spirit. All the glory of her life has gone. The meanest servant in
Warwickshire may look down on her with commiseration. Your sins have
torn what heart she had, and she begins to awake to the fact that the
law of compensation, the dim foretaste of divine justice, can reach even
such as she. To her likewise let us bid adieu.



CHAPTER XXI.

BRINGS US ALL TO THE JOURNEY'S END.


The closing years of Thomas Wanless's life were years of peace. His
strength never came back to him after his daughter's death. Indeed, all
the summer that followed it he was beaten down by his old complaint
rheumatism, but there was no dread of the workhouse and the pauper's
grave upon him now. His boy, Thomas the younger, was prospering in the
New World, where landlordism had not yet grown a curse, and insisted on
sharing his modest wealth with his parents. Had the old man been well he
would probably have sturdily refused this help, but as things were he
bowed his head and took what God had given, thankful to his son,
thankful to Heaven, and rejoicing above all things that his boy--his
three children that remained--were delivered from the life that he
himself had led. But what would his end have been save for this
assistance? Assuredly a pauper's. Nothing could have saved him from that
fate. The doom of the labourer is written. It is part of the recognised
glory of the English constitution that he shall die in misery as he
lives; that if he becomes disabled, his shall be the pauper's dole.

The prosperity of young Thomas rendered Thomas and his wife less
reluctant to let their other children go to Australia. They clung to
them, of course, and would have fain kept them, as it were, within
sight.

Old Mrs. Wanless was heart-broken at the thought of losing Jane, but she
bore her sorrow and made no complaint, when her husband, his own heart
torn with grief, said--"Let the lass go. There is hope for her and her
husband yonder. Here there is none." Jane therefore married her young
gardener in the autumn of the year of Sarah's death, and went away to
join young Thomas in Victoria. And the soldier-boy, Jacob, went with
them. His time of soldiering was not ended, but his brother Thomas
bought him off, and assisted them all to go to the new country. Jacob
was the labourer's prodigal son, and was loved accordingly. While he
soldiered his parents hardly ever saw him, but he spent a couple of
weeks at home before setting sail for Australia; and then the strength
of his nature, its likeness to that of his father, and the trials he had
endured, brought the old man and him very near to each other. Thus the
wrench of parting was keenest for old Thomas in his case, because the
joy had been but a flash of light in a dark existence.

"I will never see your face again," the old man said to his children the
last Sunday evening they passed together. "To your mother and me this
parting will be bitterer than death, because you will live, and we will
never hear your voices nor see you more in this world."

"Oh, father, do not say that," sobbed Jane; "you and mother will come
out to Australia to us, and we'll all live together and be so happy."

"No, my dear, that will never be. Mother and me are too old to move now.
We will stay behind and pray for you. The time will not be long, and we
have hope. Be brave, my children, and be God-fearing, and, I doubt not,
we shall meet in a better world than this."

In this spirit they parted, and henceforth old Thomas Wanless and his
wife were left alone with only the little child that Sarah had
bequeathed to them--alone, but not miserable. As the keen edge of sorrow
blunted, the old people went about the daily avocations as before,
serene in appearance, if often sad in spirit. Thomas never worked again
as he had been doing before he went to London, but he became strong
enough to tend his garden and his allotment carefully, and to do
frequent light jobs for the Scotch tenant of Whitbury farm, whose friend
he became. He was thus living almost up to the time when I first made
his acquaintance.

Then, as his strength of body failed, his mind, as it seemed to me, grew
keener, broader, and more penetrating. He read much, and watched with
close interest the ebb and flow of home politics, looking ever for the
dawn of a better day for the tillers of the soil. When the Warwickshire
labourers broke out in assertion of their right to live, he hailed the
event as an omen of better times. Too wise a man to be carried away by
the notion that single-handed the unlettered, miserable poor could turn
the world upside down, he nevertheless viewed these stirrings among the
dry bones as the beginning of great changes. "I shall not live to see
the land in the hands of those who till it," he would say, "but I can
die in hope now. England will after all be free, and the people will
have their own again. Thank God."

This belief cheered his last years, and added to the joy of his death.
He died in peace with all men, long indeed, ere his hopes for his
fellow-men had seen fruition, but to the last he declared that it was
coming, that blessed revolution when State Churches should be no more,
and squires, and fox-hunters, and game preservers, and all the social
abominations that ground the poor to the dust would be shaken off and
left far behind in the progress of the nation.

Three years have come and gone since I stood by the side of Thomas
Wanless's eldest son at his death-bed, and by his grave. He almost died
of the joy he felt at seeing that son once more, when he had given him
to God as one gives the dead. A paralytic stroke seized him within a few
hours of young Thomas's arrival, and he never fully recovered his
faculties. Within a fortnight a second stroke carried him off, and all
the village mourned. His son and I, surrounded by many mourners, laid
him to rest in the old churchyard beside his children, among his
forgotten forefathers. There now, to be equally forgotten, lay squire,
and parson, and parson's wife, all peacefully sleeping, life's fever
over, its jealousies and petty dignities laid aside for evermore.

And Mrs. Wanless waits still, attended by her grandchild, young Sarah,
now a bright, intelligent, well-educated young woman. When her
grandmother joins Thomas in the last rest of all, she will be taken
across the ocean to these warm-hearted friends far away, and then the
old land will never more see aught of this sturdy peasant stock. But
our statesmen think it a blessing they should go.


THE END.



Transcriber's Notes

Obvious punctuation errors repaired.

Hyphen added: "ditch[-]cutting" (p. 49), "broken[-]hearted" (p. 72),
"well[-]nigh" (p. 171).

Hyphen removed: "house[-]wife" (p. 15), "ear[-]shot" (p. 58),
"dumb[-]founded" (p. 62), "common[-]place" (p. 120), "now[-]a[-]days"
(p. 194), "man[-]kind" (p. 197), "dead[-]house" (p. 210), "out[-]cast"
(p. 219).

p. 2: "tatooed" changed to "tattooed" (our tattooed ancestors)>

p. 27: "enthusiam" changed to "enthusiasm" (the feverish enthusiasm of
inexperience).

p. 27: "portentiously" changed to "portentously" (shook their heads
portentously).

p. 34: "meeeting" changed to "meeting" (the meeting was to be held).

p. 35: "wizzened" changed to "wizened" (Grey wizened faces).

p. 41: "diarymaid" changed to "dairymaid" (the dairymaid will marry).

p. 59: "famalies" changed to "families" (the pleasure their families
would have).

p. 85: "of of" changed to "of" (sobriquet of Methody Tom).

p. 91: "upheavel" changed to "upheaval" (that curious upheaval).

p. 96: "possibilites" changed to "possibilities" (did not consider these
possibilities).

p. 100: "Calvanistic" changed to "Calvinistic".

p. 136: "opportunites" changed to "opportunities" (contrived that his
opportunities).

p. 139: "exited" changed to "excited" (her beauty excited envy).

p. 144: "Mrs. Wanlass" changed to "Mrs. Wanless".

p. 179: "thought" changed to "though" (weary though the old woman was).

p. 181: "charing" changed to "charring" (to go out charring).

p. 188: "ricketty" changed to "rickety" (rickety, filthy, old tenement).

p. 193: "Dury Lane" changed to "Drury Lane".

p. 203: "Waterleo Bridge" changed to "Waterloo Bridge".

p. 203: "mein" changed to "mien" (his obvious superiority of mien).

p. 220: "deil" changed to "devil" and "screached" changed to "screeched"
("What the devil do you want here?" he screeched).

p. 224: "desparing" changed to "despairing" (her despairing looks).

p. 237: "Jone" changed to "Jane".





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