Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Colin Clink, Volume 1 (of 3)
Author: Hooton, Charles
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Colin Clink, Volume 1 (of 3)" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



COLIN CLINK.

BY CHARLES HOOTON

IN THREE VOLUMES. VOL. I.

LONDON:

RICHARD BENTLEY, NEW BURLINGTON STREET.

1841

COLIN CLINK.


[Illustration: 008]


[Illustration: 008]



CHAPTER I.

_Affords a capital illustration of the way of the world. For, whereas
knaves and fools not unusually take precedence of better men, so this
chapter, though placed at the head of a long regiment, is yet inferior
to any one that comes after._

The famous John Bunyan, or Bunion,--for the true orthography of this
renowned name is much doubted amongst the learned of the present
age,--has laid it down as an axiom in that most glorious of all
Progresses, the Pilgrim’s Progress, that “He that is down, needs fear
no fall.” And who, in good truth, will undertake to dispute the
good pilgrim’s remark? Since nothing can be more clear to an eye as
philosophic as was that of Mr. Bunyan, that if a man be seated on the
ground, he most certainly is not in much danger of slipping through his
chair; or that, being already at the bottom of the water, he “needs fear
no fall” from the yard-arm.

On this assurance, I take courage for Colin Clink. Down in the world
with respect to its goods, down in society, down in the estimation of
his own father and mother, and down in that which our modern political
ragamuffins are pleased to term the “accident” of birth, he assuredly
had not the least occasion for a single instant to trouble his mind with
fears of falling any lower.

From the very earliest, therefore, he had, and could have, but one
prospect before him, and that was, the prospect of rising above his
first condition. To be sure, like Bruce’s spider, he afterwards fell
sometimes; but then he reflected that rising and falling, like standing
up and sitting down, constitute a portion of the lot of every man’s
life.

It is currently related amongst the good folks of the country-side
wherein our hero first saw the light, that while three or four officious
neighbourly women were stealing noiselessly about the room, attending to
the wants of the sick woman, and while the accoucheur of the parish
was inly congratulating himself on having introduced his round
five-thousandth child to the troublesome pleasures of this world, young
Colin turned from the arms of the nurse who held him, and, as though
even then conscious of the obligation conferred upon him by his
admission to the stage of life, stretched out his hand towards the
astonished surgeon, and in a very audible voice exclaimed, “Thank you,
doctor--thank you!”

I do not vouch for the truth of this anecdote; but this I do
say,--whether or not he had anything to be thankful for will be seen,
much as he himself saw it, during the course of this his own true
history.

That he was lucky in opening his eyes, even though in an humble cottage,
amidst the scenes that nature spread around him, is certain enough. To
be born poor as the spirit of poverty herself, is sufficiently bad; but
far worse is it to be thus born in the bottom of some noisome alley of a
vast town, where a single ray of sunlight never falls, nor a glimpse of
the sky itself is ever caught, beyond what may be afforded by that
small dusky section of it which seems to lie like a dirty ceiling on
the chimney-tops, and even then cannot be seen, unless (to speak like a
geometrician) by raising the face to a horizontal position and the eyes
perpendicularly. Fresh air, fields, rivers, clouds, and sunshine, redeem
half the miseries of want, and make a happy joyful being of him who, in
any other sense, cannot call one single atom of the world his own.

Colin Clink was a native of the village of Bramleigh, about twenty
miles west of that city of law and divinity, of sermons and proctors’
parchment, the silent city of York.

Some time previous to his birth, his mother had taken a fancy,
suggested, very probably, by the powerful pleading of a weak pocket, or,
with equal probability, by something else to the full as argumentative,
to reside in a small cottage, (as rural landowners are in the habit
of terming such residences, though they are known to everybody else as
hovels,) altogether by herself; if I except a little girl, of some
five or six years of age, who accompanied her in the capacity of
embryo housemaid, gruel-maker, and, when strong enough, of nurse to the
expected “little stranger.”

For the discharge of the more important and pressing duties incident
to her situation, she depended upon one or two of those permanently
unemployed old crones, usually to be found in country places, who pass
the greater portion of their time in “preserving” themselves, like red
herrings or hung beef, over the idle smoke of their own scanty fires,
and who, as they are always waiting chances, may be had by asking for
at any moment. Their minimum of wages depended upon a small sum of money
derived by Mistress Clink, the mother of our hero, from a source which,
as she then followed no particular employment, we are compelled to
pronounce obscure.

The sagacious reader may perhaps, in the height of his wisdom, marvel
how so young a child as one of five or six years of age should be
introduced to his notice in the capacity above-mentioned; but the
practice is common enough, and may be accounted for, in the way of cause
and effect, upon the most modern philosophical principles. Thus:--Great
states require great taxes to support them; great taxes produce
political extravagance; political extravagance enforces domestic
economy; and domestic economy in the lowest class, where misery would
seem almost rudely to sever the most endearing ties, now-a-days, demands
that every pair of hands, however small, shall labour for the milk that
supports them; and every little heart, however light, shall be filled
with the pale cares and yearning anxieties which naturally belong only
to mature age.

Of such as these was Mistress Clink’s diminutive housemaid, Fanny
Woodruff.

Brought up amidst hardships from the first day of her existence, through
the agency either of the rod, the heavier stick, or of keener hunger,
during at least twelve hours out of every twenty-four that passed over
her head; she presented, at five years of age, the miniature picture,
painted in white and yellow,--for all the carnation had fled from
Nature’s palette when she drew this mere sketch of incipient woman,--she
presented, I repeat, the miniature picture, not of what childhood is,
a bright and joyful outburst of fresh life into a new world of strange
attractive things--not of that restless inquiring existence, curious
after every created object, and happy amidst them all; but of a
little, pale, solemn thing, looking as though it had suddenly fallen,
heart-checked, upon a world of evil--as though its eyes had looked only
upon discouragement, and its hands been stretched in love, only to be
repulsed with indifference or with hatred. The picture of a little baby
soul, prematurely forced upon the grown-up anxieties of the world, and
made almost a woman in demeanour, before she knew half the attractive
actions of a child.

Notwithstanding all this, and in spite of the unnatural care-worn
expression of her little melancholy countenance, Fanny’s features
retained something of that indefinite quality commonly termed
“interesting.” Two black eyes, which showed nothing but black between
the lids, looked openly but fearfully from beneath the arched browless
bones of the forehead, and, with an irrepressible questioning in the
face of the spectator, seemed ever to be asking doubtfully, whether
there was or was not such a creature as a friend in the world; but her
sunken cheeks and wasted arms belied the happy age of childhood, and
spoke only of hard usage and oft-continued suffering.

On the eventful day that gave young Master Colin Clink to the world, and
about twelve hours previous to the time at which he _should have made_
his actual appearance, Mistress Clink, his mother, was lying upon a bed
in an inner ground-floor room of her cottage, think-ing--if the troubled
and confused ideas that filled her brain might be termed thinking--upon
her coming trials; while little Fanny, taking temporary advantage of
the illness of her mistress, and relaxing, in a moment of happy
forgetfulness, again into a child, was sitting upon the ground near the
door, and noiselessly amusing herself by weighing in a halfpenny pair
of tin scales the sand which had been strown upon the floor by way of
carpet, when the abrupt entrance of some one at the outer door, though
unheard by the sick woman amidst her half-dreaming reveries, so startled
the little offender on the ground, that, in her haste to scramble on to
her feet, and recover all the solemn proprieties and demure looks which,
in a returning moment of infantile nature, had been cast aside, she
upset the last imaginary pound of sand-made sugar that had been heaped
up on a stool beside her, and at the same time chanced to strike her
head against the under side of the little round table which stood at
hand, whereby a bottle of physic was tossed uninjured on to the bed, and
a spoon precipitated to the floor. Her countenance instantly changed
to an expression which told that the crime was of too black a dye to be
forgiven. But patience without tears, and endurance without complaint,
were also as visible; virtues which hard necessity had instilled into
her bosom long before.

Ill as Mistress Clink may readily be presumed to have been, she started
half up in bed, leaning with her elbow upon the pillow, her countenance,
pale and ghastly with sickness, rendered still more pale and horrible
with anger, and gasping for words, which even then came faint in sound
though strong in bitterness, she began to rate the child vehemently for
her accidental disaster.

In another instant a female servant of the squire of the parish stood by
the bedside.

Mistress Clink fell back upon the pillow, while her face for a moment
blushed scarlet, and then became again as white as ashes.

“_Don’t_ rate the poor child, if you please, ma’am,” said the woman.
“Poor thing! it’s only a bag of bones at best.”

“Oh, I’m ill!” sighed Mistress Clink.

“Ay, dear! you _do_ look ill,” responded the woman. “I ‘ll run and
fetch the doctor; but, if you please, ma’am, master has sent this little
basket of things for you.”

“What things?” asked the sick woman, slightly rallying, and in an eager
voice.

“Linen, ma’am,” observed the servant, at the same time opening the lid
of the basket.

“How very good of him!” whispered Fanny.

“Yes, child,” replied the serving woman; “he’s always very kind to poor
women.”

The invalid was aroused; she almost raised herself again upon her hand.

“Very kind, is he? Yes, yes--say so, say so. But”--and she hesitated,
and passed her hand across her forehead, as though mentally striving to
recall her flitting senses--“Take ‘em back--away with ‘em--tell him--Oh!
I’m ill, I’m ill!”

[Illustration: 023]

She fell back insensible. The old woman and Fanny screamed first, and
then ran for the surgeon. Within a very brief period Master Colin Clink
appeared before the world, some half a day or so earlier than, to the
best of my belief, nature originally intended he should. But it is the
peculiar faculty of violent tempers to precipitate events, and realize
prospective troubles before their time.

As the reader will subsequently be called upon to make a more close
acquaintance with the professional gentleman now introduced to notice,
it may not be improper briefly to observe, that, amongst many other
recommendations to the notice and favour of the public, the doctor
offered himself as a guardian to “persons of unsound mind,” with, of
course, the kindest and best mode of treatment that could possibly be
adopted. In plain words, he kept a “retreat,” or private madhouse, for
the especial and peculiar accommodation of those eager young gentlemen
who may, perchance, find it more agreeable to shut up their elderly
relations in a lunatic’s cell, than to wait until death shall have
relieved them of the antique burthen. The doctor’s establishment was one
of the worst of a bad kind; and, as we shall eventually see, he was in
the regular practice of making a very curious application of it.

We may now conclude the chapter.

While Doctor Rowel was preparing for his departure, he chanced, in the
course of some casual chat with one of the old gossips present, to ask
where the sick woman’s husband was at this interesting moment of
his life; but, unluckily for his curiosity, all the old women were
immediately seized with a momentary deafness, which totally prevented
them from hearing his question, though it was twice repeated. He then
asked how it came about that the Squire had sent such a pretty basket of
baby-linen to Mistress Clink? But their ears were equally impervious
to the sound of that inquiry as to the other; thus proving to a
demonstration, that while there are some matters which certain ingenious
people imagine they thoroughly understand even from the slightest hints
and innuendoes, which is precisely the case with the good reader himself
at this moment, (so far as our present story is concerned,) there are
other matters that, put them into whatever language you will, can never
be rendered at all comprehensible to discreet grown-up people.

Nevertheless, the doctor did not depart unenlightened. Though the women
were deaf and ignorant, a little child was present who seemed to know
all about it. Finding that nobody else answered the great gentleman,
little Fanny screwed her courage up to the speaking point, and looking
the doctor earnestly in the face, said, “If you please, sir, the lady
that brought the basket said it was because the squire is always so very
kind to poor women.”

The doctor burst into a laugh, though what for nobody present could
imagine, as all the old women, and the child too, looked grave enough in
all conscience.



CHAPTER II.

_Involves a doubtful affair still deeper in doubt, through the attempts
made to clear it up; and at the same time finds Colin Clink a reputable
father, in a quarter the least expected._

Shortly after the maid-servant had returned to Kiddal, (a name by
which Squire Lupton’s family-house had been known for centuries,) and
explained to her master, as in duty bound, how she found Mistress Clink,
and how she left the linen, and how, likewise, another boy had been
added to the common stock of mortals, that benevolent and considerate
gentleman assumed a particularly grave aspect; and then, for the
especial edification and future guidance of the damsel before him, he
began to “improve” the event which had just taken place in the village,
and to express his deep regret that the common orders of people were so
very inconsiderate as to rush headlong, as it were, upon the increase
of families which, after all, they could not support without entailing a
portion of the burthen upon the rich and humane, who, strictly speaking,
ought to have no hand whatever in the business. His peroration consisted
of some excellent advice to the girl herself, (equally applicable to
everybody else in similar situations,) not by any means to think of
marrying either the gardener or the gamekeeper, until she knew herself
capable of maintaining a very large family, without palming any of them
upon either generous individuals or on the parish. She could not do
better than keep the case of Mistress Clink continually before her eyes,
as a standing warning of the evil effects of being in too great a hurry.
The girl retired to her kitchen filled with great ideas of her master’s
goodness, and strengthened in her determination to disbelieve every word
of the various slanders afloat throughout the lower part of the house,
and through the village at large, which turned the squire’s kindness to
mere merchandise, by attributing it to interested motives.

That same evening, as the squire sat alone by lamplight taking a glass
of wine in his library, he was observed by the servant who had carried
in the decanter to be in a humour not the most sprightly and frolicsome
imaginable; and so he told the maid who had been lectured in the
afternoon, at the same time going so far as to say, that he thought if
master was more prudent sometimes than some folks said he was, it might
be that he would not have occasion to be melancholy so often. The maid
replied, that she knew all about it; and if the squire was melancholy,
it was because some people in the world were so very wicked as to run
head-first on to families, and then go for to come on the first people
in the parish to maintain them. It was his own supernumerary goodness
that got imposed on by deceitful and resolute women, who went about
having children, because they knew that the squire was father to the
whole parish, and would not let little innocents starve, let them belong
to whomsoever they might.

John was about rising to reply to this able defence when the library
bell rang, and called him up stairs instead. The squire wanted to see
his steward immediately, but the steward was just then getting his
dinner; and therefore--as the dinner of a steward, in a great house with
an easy master, is not, as Richard Oastler well knows, a matter of
very easy despatch--he sent word that he was at that moment very deeply
engaged in digesting his accounts, but would wait upon his master as
soon as possible. In the mean time, the kitchen was converted into a
debating room by John and the maid; but as the same subject was very
shortly afterwards much better discussed in the second chamber, we will
repair thither and ascertain what passed.

“Come in, Longstaff,” cried the squire, in reply to a tap at the door
which announced the presence of the steward, and in another second that
worthy approached the table.

“Dined, Longstaff?--take a glass of wine? Sit down, sit down. I’ve a
little matter on hand, Longstaff, that requires to be rather nicely
managed, and I know of no man so likely to do it well as you are,
Longstaff, eh?”

“You flatter me, sir--” began Mr. Longstaff: but the squire interrupted
him.

“No, no, Longstaff, no,--I flatter no man. Plain speaking is a jewel;
but I know I can depend upon you for a little assistance when it is
needed, better than upon any other man that ever entered my service.”

“You flatter--” again began the steward, but a second time was
interrupted by his master.

“No, no Longstaff, no, no,--truth’s no flattery, as everybody knows; and
no man need be afraid or ashamed of speaking truth before the best face
in all Christendom.”

Mr. Longstaff mistook this last observation, and interpreted it as a
compliment to his own beauty; he therefore felt himself bound to repeat
his previously intended observation, and accordingly began, “You flat--”
 but for the third time was prevented giving utterance to it, through the
interruption of Squire Lupton.

“I ‘ll tell you what, Longstaff,--the thing is here. A little
secresy and a little manoeuvring are just what’s required. If you can
_Talleyrand_ it a little,--you understand me?”

And the squire eked out his meaning with a certain jerk upwards of the
head more significant than words, but which when dimly translated
into English, seemed to mean as much as the mysterious popular phrase,
“that’s your ticket.” He then drank a bumper, and, pushing the bottle
to Longstaff, waited in seeming anxiety half a minute before he filled
again.

“Well, Longstaff, magistrate as I am, and bound, of course, to carry the
law, while it is law, into execution, I must say this,--and I speak from
my own observation and experience, as you well know,--while the members
of the British Legislature allow that clause of the forty-third of
Elizabeth to remain upon the statute-books, they do not do their duty as
legislators either to man, woman, or child.”

A loud thump on the table, accompanied with corresponding emphasis of
speech, made the word _child_ sound a great deal bigger than either
man or woman. The squire then went on,--“Look at the effect of it,
Longstaff. Any man,--I myself,--you,--any of us, or all of us,--are
liable at any time to have fathered upon us a thing, a brat,--any
tinkers whelp that ever was bred, very likely in Cumberland or Cornwall,
or a thousand miles off,--though, in point of fact, you or I had no
more acquaintance with that child’s mother--no, no more than we had
with Donna Maria! Now mark, Longstaff. You know I’ve been something of
a teazer in the course of my time to people of that sort. I’ve made them
pay for their whistle, as Franklin says, pretty smartly. Well, what is
the consequence?--what ensues? Why, just this. After I’ve ferreted out
some of the worst of them, and put them, as I thought, upon better
manners,--the very next time anything of the kind happens again, they
lay their heads together, and have the audacious impudence,--the
rascality, as I may call it,--the--the--the abominable--However, I should
say, to--to go before the overseers of the parish, and persist in
swearing every child, without exception, every one, girl and boy,--to
_me_. Now, Longstaff, I dare say you have heard reports of this kind in
the course of your acquaintance with one person or another, though I
never mentioned a word about it before. Don’t you think it a shame, a
disgrace to the Parliament of Elizabeth that passed that law, that all
county magistrates were not personally and especially _excepted_ from
the operation of that clause?--and that it was not rendered a
misdemeanour, punishable by imprisonment or the stocks, for any woman,
no matter what her degree, to swear a child to any county magistrate?
Such a provision, Longstaff, would have effectually secured individuals
like me against the malice of convicted persons, and prevented the
possibility of such statements being circulated, as are now quite as
common in the parish as rain and sunshine.”

“Certainly, sir,” replied Longstaff, acquiescingly; “but then, sir,
might it not have operated, in the case of some individuals of the
magistracy, as a sort of warrant of impunity to--”

“Impunity!” exclaimed the squire. “I mean to assert and to maintain
it, that if Queen Bess had been a man, as she ought to have been,
women would never have had it in their power to swear with impunity one
half,--no, nor one-tenth part of that that they are now swearing every
hour of their lives. Why, look ye,--here again to-day,--this very
morning, that young woman Clink is laid up of another; and, as sure as
there’s head and tail to a shilling, so sure am I that, unless something
be done beforehand to find a father somewhere or other for the young
cub, it ‘ll be laid at _my_ door, along with all the rest. But I ‘m
resolved this time to put a stop to it; and, as a man’s word goes for
nothing, though he be magistrate or anything else, we ‘ll try for once
if we cannot fix the saddle on the right horse some other way.”

The complying Mr. Longstaff willingly lent himself to the squire’s
designs; and, after some farther conversation of a similar character
to that above given, it was agreed that the steward, acting as Squire
Lupton’s agent, should make use of all the means and appliances within
his power, in order to ward off the expected declaration by Mistress
Clink, and to induce her to avow before the overseers the real father of
our hero Colin.

Accordingly, as soon as the condition of that good lady would allow of
a visit from Mr. Longstaff, he waited upon her, stuffed with persuasions
to the very throat; and, after an hour and a half’s exhortation, coupled
with a round number of slices of that pleasant root, commonly called
“the root of all evil,” he succeeded, to his great joy and satisfaction,
in extorting from her a solemn promise to confer the honour of her son’s
parentage upon any man in the parish rather than upon Squire Lupton.

As a moral-minded historian, I must confess this whole transaction to be
most nefarious, regard it in whatever light we may.

Longstaff was delighted with the success of his negociation, and,
reflecting that there is nothing like striking while the iron is hot, he
would not be satisfied unless Mistress Clink agreed there and then to
go with him to Skinwell the overseer, to make her declaration respecting
Colin’s father.

On the road to that functionary’s office, Longstaff employed himself
in suggesting to the excellent woman by his side the names of several
individuals, with whom secretly he was upon very ill terms, as fit and
proper persons from amongst whom to select a parent, chuckling with
renewed glee every now and then as the thought came afresh over his mind
of taking revenge upon some one or other of his enemies, through the
medium of two and sixpence or three shillings per week. Mistress Clink
replied to his suggestions by assuring him that she would endeavour to
satisfy him in that particular to his heart’s content.

Skin well, besides being overseer of the parish during the year of which
we are writing, was by profession a lawyer; and, in order to obtain a
living in so small a field, was in the regular practice of getting up
petty squabbles in a friendly way, and merely for the sake of obtaining
justice to all parties, between his neighbours and acquaintances. A
clothes-line across a yard, a stopped-up drain, or the question whether
a certain ditch belonged to the right or to the left land owner, would
afford him food for a fortnight; and while he laboured most assiduously
in order to involve two parties in litigation, he contrived so
ingeniously to gloss over his own conduct with the varnish of “favour
to none, justice to all,” as invariably to come off without offending
either.

On entering Skinwell’s office, Longstaff and the lady found that worthy
at work on one side of a double desk, face to face, though divided by a
miniature railing along the top, with a poor miserable-looking stripling
of a clerk, not unlike, both in shape and colour, to a bricklayer’s
lath.

Skinwell looked vacantly up at Mrs. Clink, recognised the steward by a
nod, and then went on with his work. In the mean time Mrs. C. sat down
on a three-legged-stool, placed there for the accommodation of weary
clients, behind a high partition of boards, which divided the room, and
inclosed, as in a sheep-pen, the man of law and his slave.

At one end of the mantel-shelf stood a second-hand brown japanned
tin box, divided into three compartments, and respectively lettered,
“Delivery,--Received,--Post.” But there appeared not to be anything to
deliver, nor to receive, nor to send to the post; for each division was
as empty as a pauper’s stomach. The remaining portion of the shelf was
occupied by some few fat octavos bound in dry-looking unornamental calf;
while over the fireplace hung the Yorkshire Almanack for the year but
one preceding, Skinwell’s business not being usually in a sufficiently
flourishing condition to allow of the luxury of a clean almanack every
twelve months; and even the one which already served to enlighten his
office had been purchased at half price when two months old.

“_Do_ take a seat, Mr. Longstaff!” exclaimed the legal adviser of the
village, as he raised his head, and, in apparent astonishment, beheld
that gentleman still upon his feet, though without reflecting, it would
seem, that his request could be much more easily made than complied
with, there being not a single accommodation for the weary in his whole
office, with the exception of the two high stools occupied respectively
by himself and his clerk, and the low one of which Mrs. Clink had
already taken possession. Longstaff, however, was soon enabled very
kindly to compromise the matter; for while hunting about with his eyes
in quest of a supporter of the description mentioned, he beheld in
the far corner by the fireplace a few breadths of deal-plank fixed on
tressels, by way of table, and partially covered with sundry sheets of
calf-skin, interspersed with stumps of long-used pens, and crowned with
a most business-like, formidable-looking pounce-box. To this quarter he
accordingly repaired, and having placed one thigh across the corner of
the make-shift table, while he stood plump upright on the other leg,
began very seriously to stare into the fire.

Some minutes of profound silence ensued.

The ghostly clerk stopped short in his half-idle labour, as though
hesitating what to do, and then made this learned inquiry of his
employer, “Pray, sir, should this parchment be cut?”

“Certainly it should,” replied the latter testily. “Don’t you see it’s
an indenture?--and an indenture is _not_ an indenture, and of no force,
until it is cut.”

The novice accordingly, at a very accelerated speed, proceeded to cut
it. Shortly afterwards he again had to trouble his master.

“Should I say ‘before said’ or ‘above said?’”

“Above, certainly,” replied the sage. “‘Before said’ means the first
thing that ever was written in the world,--before anything else that has
ever been written since. Write ‘above,’ to be sure.”

The clerk wrote “above” accordingly, while Longstaff and the lady looked
up in admiration of Mr. Skinwells acuteness, and Skin well himself
looked boldly into the steward’s face, with all the brass of a knowing
one triumphant in his knowledge.

It will be remembered by the reader, that on the occasion of the birth
of our hero Colin, Dr. Rowel expressed to those about him some curiosity
respecting the little fellow’s father.

Happily, then, for the doctor’s satisfaction, he chanced to enter
Skinwell’s office upon private business just as the above brief
conversation had terminated, and before that examination of Mrs. Clink
had commenced, in which a father was legally to be given him. The
doctor, then, was upon the point of being gratified from the very best
authority.

Having now concluded the writing with which he had been engaged, the
joint lawyer and overseer of the parish called to the woman Clink, and
bade her stand up and look at him; and, in order to afford her every
facility for doing so to the best advantage, he planted both his elbows
firmly upon the desk, rested his chin upon both his hands, which
stood up against his cheeks in such a manner as to convey to a casual
spectator the idea that he was particularly solicitous about a pair of
red scanty whiskers, like moles, which grew beneath, and then fixed his
eyes in that particular place above the wooden horizon that inclosed
him, in which the disc of Mrs. Clink’s head now began slowly to appear.
As she came gradually and modestly up, she met first the gaze of the
lawyer, then of his clerk, then of Dr. Rowel, and then of Mr. Longstaff;
so that by the time she was fully risen, four men’s faces confronted her
at once, and with such familiar earnestness, that, though not apt to be
particularly tender-hearted in others’ cases, she burst into tears at
her own.

“Ay, ay, doctor,” sneeringly remarked Skinwell to that worthy
professional, “this is just it. They can always cry when it is too late,
instead of crying out at the proper time.” Then looking fiercely in
the downcast countenance of the yet feeble culprit before him, he
thus continued his discourse. “Come, come, woman, we can’t have any
blubbering here--it won’t do. Hold your head up; for you can’t be
ashamed of seeing a man, I should think.” The surgeon, the steward, the
clerk, and the brutal wit himself smiled.

“Come, up with it, and let us look at you.”

Colin’s mother sobbed louder, and, instead of complying with this
gratuitously insolent request, buried her face so much lower in the
folds of the shawl that covered her neck, and hung down upon her bosom,
as to present to the gaze of the inquiring overseer almost a full-moon
view of the crown of her bonnet.

“Hum!” growled Skinwell; “like all the rest--not a look to be got at
them. Well, now, listen to me, my good woman. You know what you ‘re
brought here for?”

A long-drawn snuffle from the other side of the partition, which sounded
very much like what musicians term a shake, seemed to confess too deeply
the painful fact.

Mr. Longstaff’s merriment was here evinced by a single explosion of the
breath, which would have done much better to blow a lamp out with than
to convince any body that he was pleased. The surgeon did not change
countenance, while the clerk made three or four discursive flourishes
with his pen on the blotting-paper before him, as much as to say he
would take the propriety of laughing into further consideration. Mr.
Skinwell then continued.

“Now, now, woman,--_do_ attend to me. It is impossible that my valuable
time can be wasted in this manner. Who is that child’s father?”

“Yes, yes,” echoed Mr. Longstaff, tapping the poor woman in joyful
expectation upon the shoulder; “just say the word, and have done with
it.”

Every eye was fixed on Mrs. Clink. After a brief pause, during which the
tears yet remaining in her eyes were hastily dried up with the corner of
her shawl, she raised her head with a feeling of confidence scarcely to
be expected, and directing her eyes through the little palisadoes which
stopped the wooden partition full at Mr. Skinwell, she said, in a voice
sufficiently loud to be heard by all present,--

“If you please, sir, it is Mr. Longstaff, the steward.”

The office was amazed; while Mr. Longstaff himself started up in an
attitude of mute astonishment, which Chantrey himself could scarcely
have represented.

“Longstaff, the steward!” ejaculated Skin-well.

“Impossible!” observed Dr. Rowel.

“It’s false!” muttered the clerk.

“It _is_ false!” repeated the accused man in a faint voice. “Why,
gentlemen,--a man with a wife and family,--in my situation;--it’s
monstrous and diabolical. If I could pull your tongue across your
teeth,” he continued, turning to Colin’s mother, and shaking his fist
in her face, “I’d cure it and hang it up, as an eternal example to such
arrant liars. You _know_ I’m as innocent as a March lamb,--you do, you
deceitful woman!”

[Illustration: 049]

Mrs. Clink, however, persisted in her statement, and avowed her
readiness to take her oath upon the fact; so that Mr. Longstaff was
obliged to submit with the best or the worst grace he might.

This small scrap of experience fully convinced him, however, that Squire
Lupton’s views upon the subject of the forty-third of Elizabeth, which
he had formerly opposed, were not only perfectly correct in themselves,
but that they ought to have been extended much further, and that the
exemption of which the squire had spoken, ought to have embraced not
only county magistrates, but their stewards also.

How the matter really was, the reader may decide for himself upon the
following evidence, which is the best I have to offer him:--that Mr.
Longstaff regularly paid the charge of three shillings per week towards
the maintenance of that life which I am now writing, and that he failed
not to account for it in the squire’s books, under the mysterious,
though very ministerial, title of “secret service money.”

Possibly, however, Mr. Longstaff might economically consider the squire
much more capable of paying it than he was himself. Nor, even in case it
was so, would he have been the first steward in these latter days who,
for his own use, has kindly condescended to borrow for a brief season
his master’s money.



CHAPTER III.

_Describes the sufferings endured by Mr. Longstaff, in consequence of
the diabolical proceedings against him recorded in the last chapter; and
also hints at a cowardly piece of revenge which he and his wife planned,
in the middle of the night, upon Mrs. Clink and Colin._

Mr. Longstaff returned towards the old house of Kiddal vexed, mortified,
and ashamed; and while he mentally vowed never again to undertake a
piece of dirty work for the best man living, neither for bribe, nor
place, nor the hope of favour, he also as firmly, and in a spirit much
more to be depended upon, determined to pour, to the very last drop, the
phials of his wrath upon the devoted head of Colin’s mother. “If
there be not power in a steward,” thought he, “to harass such a poor,
helpless, despicable thing as she is, where in the world is it to be
found?--and if any steward knows how to do it better than I do, why,
I ‘ll give him leave to eat me.” With which bold and magnanimous
reflection he bustled along the road, almost heedless of the straggling
briers which every now and then caught hold of his face or his ankles,
and as though fully conscious only of the pleasing fact that each
additional step brought him still a step nearer his revenge. Besides
this, had the truth been fully known, his feelings of resentment against
Mrs. Clink were in no small degree increased by the thoughts that
crowded his brain touching the manner in which he should meet “the
partner of his joys and woes,” Mrs. Æneasina Macleay Longstaff: a lady,
as some years of hard experience had taught him, who well merited
the title of a woman of spirit, and with whom in his soul, though
he scarcely dare allow himself to believe it, he anticipated no very
pleasant encounter.

As for the squire, who naturally enough would wish to know how his
steward had sped in the business, Mr. Longstaff did not feel much of the
humour of eagerness to visit him, having already about as large a load
on his stomach as he could conveniently carry, and being in his own mind
fully persuaded that he really should not have a tithe of the requisite
courage left to meet Mrs. Longstaff, if he ventured to encounter the
jeers of the squire previously. With the view, then, of making the best
of his way unobserved down to his own house, he left the high road, and
exerted himself in a very unusual manner to leap half a score hedges
and ditches which crossed the bird’s-flight path he had taken, and
ultimately stole privily down the side of the boundary-wall which
inclosed the northern side of the plantations, intending to creep
through a small private door, placed there for the convenience of the
gamekeepers, which conducted to a path in the immediate direction of his
own house. But, notwithstanding all his trouble, fortune again turned
her wheel upon Mr. Longstaff; he fell into the very trap that he had
taken so much trouble to avoid, and what--to a man already in a state
of aggravation--was still worse, he fell into it solely because he had
endeavoured to avoid it. Had he taken the common road, he would have
arrived at home uninterrupted; as it was, scarcely had he reached within
twenty yards of the little door when, to his great alarm, he heard the
voice of the squire hailing him from some distance up the fields to
the left hand. Mr. Longstaff pushed forwards with increased speed, and
without taking more notice of his master’s call than if he had not heard
it; but before he could reach the gate of that which had now become as
a fortress to him, Mr. Lupton again hallooed in a tone which even a deaf
man could not, with any show of grace, have denied hearing something
of. Longstaff accordingly stopped, and, on turning his head, beheld the
squire on horseback beckoning to him with his hand. There was now no
alternative; and in a few minutes the steward was by his side.

“Well, Longstaff,” said he, as he carelessly twirled the lash of his
whip upon its stock like a horizontal wheel, “how has it ended? I
suppose you have given a son-and-heir to somebody or other?”

“It has turned out a deal worse job than I expected,” dolefully observed
the steward.

“Ah!--a bad job is it?”

“Very, sir, very!” sighed the unfortunate go-between.

“Why--what--wouldn’t she be persuaded, Longstaff?”

“Oh, yes,” replied the steward, with a deep curse on Mrs. Clink, “she
took all I was authorised to give her--”

“And gave me the whelp in exchange, eh?” added the squire.

“No, sir, no,”--(he inly wished she had)”--worse than that, sir,--a
great deal worse.”

“Worse!” earnestly exclaimed Mr. Lupton; “that is impossible. Have
_you_ got him then?”

Mr. Longstaff cast his eyes to the ground, arranged the shoe-tie of his
left foot with the toe of his right, and with a dolorous face, drawn
nearly as long as his own name, faintly drawled out, “I have, sir!”

Mr. Lupton burst into a fit of laughter, which lasted two whole minutes,
blew out his breath in a prolonged whistle, not unlike an autumn blast
through an out-door key-hole, and then dashed away, cracking his whip
and laughing as long as he could be heard.

“Dang the woman!” exclaimed the steward, as he began to move off the
ground homewards, “I ‘ll kick her and her barn * out of house and home
to-night, or may I be------”

     * A common Yorkshire corruption of the Scottish _bairn_.

Somehow or other, however, he could not screw up sufficient courage to
carry him immediately home, and, as it were, into the very jaws of Mrs.
Æneasina Longstaff. He therefore crossed the corners of two other fields
again, on to the high-road, and walked into the Cock and Bottle, the
only inn in Bramleigh, with the intention of strengthening his shaken
nerves with a respectable potation of brandy and water.

On entering, he thought the landlady--with whom he had always been upon
the best of terms, not only because of his situation, but also of his
excellent moral character,--looked more than usually distant with him.
The landlord, too, cast an eye at him, as much as to say, “I hear, Mr.
Longstaff, you have had something unpleasant this morning?” While the
maid, who formerly used to smile very prettily whenever he appeared,
actually brushed by him as he went down the passage, as though she
thought he was a better man half a mile off than between two such walls.
As he passed the kitchen-door, everybody within turned to look at him;
and, when he got into the parlour, he beheld four of the village farmers
round the table, all of whom were smiling, evidently at something very
funny. Mr. Longstaff, by that peculiar instinct which usually attends
men in suspicious circumstances, knew, as well as if he had been told,
that it was at him. He could not endure the company, the house, the
landlord and his wife, nor himself; and, therefore, he marched out
again, and homeward, in a state, as may easily be supposed, of more
extraordinary preparation for meeting his lady, than if he had thrice
over fulfilled his intention of imbibing at the Cock and Bottle some two
or three glasses of aqua vitæ. The truth was, he had by this time, like
a bull with running about, grown very desperate; and, for the moment, he
cared no more about the temper of Mrs. Æneasina Longstaff than he cared
for the wind that blew around him.

And well was it for the steward that he did not. Everybody of experience
knows that the worst news invariably flies the fastest: and, in the
present case, the result of the examination in Mr. Skinwell’s office,
which has already been described, was made known to poor unhappy Mrs.
Longstaff, through such a rapid chain of communication, as nearly
equalled the transmission of a Government despatch by telegraph. By
the time her husband arrived at home, then, she was, as a necessary
consequence, not only filled with grief at the discovery that had
been made, but also was more than filled,--she was absolutely
overflowing--with feelings of jealous rage against the faithless
barbarian, with whom, as she then thought, the most perverse destiny had
united her. Every moment of cessation in the paroxysms of her grief was
mentally employed in preparing a very pretty rod in pickle for him: with
Cleopatra, she could have whipped him with wire first, and stewed him in
brine afterwards; or she could, with the highest satisfaction, have done
any other thing which the imagination most fertile in painful inventions
might have suggested.

All this latent indignation, however, Mr. Longstaff braved. He did not
relish the undertaking, to be sure; but then, inly conscious of his own
blamelessness, he concluded that, provided he could only get the first
word with her, the storm might be blown aside. But, alas! he could not
get the first word, although he had it on his lips as he entered the
door. Mrs. Longstaff attacked him before he came in sight: and, in all
probability, such an oratorical display of all the deprecatory figures
of speech,--such disparagements, and condemnations, and denunciations;
such hatreds, and despisings, and contempts, and upbraidings,--were
never before, throughout the whole range of domestic disturbances,
collected together within so brief a space of time. In fact, such
an arrowy sleet of words was rained upon the unlucky steward, and so
suddenly, that, without having been able to force in a single opposing
syllable between them, he was at last compelled, after the royal example
of some of our too closely besieged emperors and kings, to make good his
retreat at the rear of the premises.

According to the good old custom in cases of this kind, it is highly
probable that Mr. and Mrs. Longstaff would that night have done
themselves the pleasure of retiring to rest in most peaceable dumb-show,
if not, indeed, the additional felicity of sleeping in separate beds,
out of the very praiseworthy desire of mutual revenge, had it not so
fallen out,and naturally enough, considering what had happened,--that
Mr. Longstaff, contrary to his usual habit, consoled himself as well as
he was able, by staying away from home until very late in the evening:
so late indeed, that, as Mrs. Longstaff cooled, she really began to
entertain very serious fears whether she had not carried matters rather
too far; and, perhaps,--for the thing did not to her half-repentant mind
appear impossible, had driven her husband, in a moment of desperation,
to make away with himself. Hour after hour passed on; and the time thus
allowed her for better reflection was not altogether ill-spent. She
began to consider the many chances there were of great exaggeration in
the report that had been brought to her; the fondness of human kind
in general to deal in atrocities, even though one half of them be
self-invented; the great improbability of Mr. Longstaff’s having really
compromised his character in the manner which it was currently related
he had; and, above all, the very possible contingency that, as in
many other similar cases, open perjury had been committed. Under any
circumstances she now felt conscious that she had too suddenly allowed
her feelings of jealousy to run riot upon the doubtful evidence of a
piece of scandal, probably originating in malice, as it certainly had
been repeated with secret gratification.

These reflections had prepared her to hear in a proper spirit a quiet
explanation of the whole transaction from the mouth of Mr. Longstaff
himself; when, much to her private satisfaction, he returned home not
long afterwards.

That gentleman had already commanded a candle to be brought him, and was
about to steer off to his chamber without exchanging a word, when some
casual observation, dropped in an unexpectedly kind tone by his good
lady, arrested his progress, and induced him to sit down in a chair
about the same spot where he chanced to be standing. By and by he edged
round to the fire; and, shortly afterwards, at her especial suggestion,
he consented--much to his inward gratification--to take a little supper.
This led to a kind of tacitly understood reconciliation; so that,
eventually, the same subject which had caused so much difference in
the afternoon, was again introduced and discussed in a manner truly
dove-like and amiable. Mrs. Longstaff felt perfectly satisfied with the
explanation given by her husband, that he had undertaken the negotiation
with Mrs. Clink solely to oblige the squire; and that that infamous
woman had attributed her disaster to him merely out of a spirit of
annoyance and revenge, for which he expressed himself perfectly unable
to account.

But the steward’s wife was gratified most to hear his threats of
retaliation upon the little hero of our story and his mother. In these
she joined with great cordiality, still farther urging him on to their
immediate fulfilment, so that by the time he had taken his usual nightly
allowance of punch, he found himself in particularly high condition,
late as was the hour, for the instant execution of his cowardly and
cruel enterprise.



CHAPTER IV.

_Mr. Longstaff gets fuddled, and revenges himself upon Mrs. Clink;
together with some excellent discourse of his while in that pleasing
condition. The mother of our hero partially discloses a secret which the
reader has been anxious to know ever since he commenced this history._

While things were thus progressing elsewhere, the poor and destitute,
though erring, creature, over whose head the rod of petty tyranny now
hung so threateningly, had passed a solitary evening by the side of
her small fire, unnoticed even by the neighbours humble as herself;
for adversity, though it is said to make men friends, yet renders them
selfish also, and leaves in their bosoms but few feelings of charity for
others.

Little Fanny, transformed into a miniature washerwoman, and elevated
on two or three lumps of Yorkshire stone to lengthen her out, had been
employed since nightfall, by the hazy light of a candle scarcely thicker
than her own little finger, in washing some few things for the baby;
while young Colin himself, held up in his mother’s arms, with his face
pressed close to her bosom, was silently engaged in fulfilling, as
Voltaire has it, one of the most abstruse laws of natural philosophy.
Having at length resolved this problem perfectly to his satisfaction,
Master Colin betook himself, with the utmost complacency, to sleep, just
as though his mother had had no trouble whatever in the world with him;
or, as though Mr. Longstaff, the steward, had been fast asleep in bed,
dreaming of felled timbers and unpaid arrears, and utterly regardless
of Colin’s existence, instead of preparing, as he was--untimely and
heartlessly--to disturb that baby slumber, and to harass with additional
pains and fears the bosom of one who had already found too abundantly
that folly and vice mete out their own punishment.

The child had already been placed in the cradle, and little Fanny had
taken her seat on a small stool in the chimney-corner, with her supper
in her hand, consisting of a basin of milk and water, thickened with
cold potatoes; while the mother sat before the fire, alternately
knitting a ball of black worsted on the floor into a stocking, and
giving the cradle an additional push, as the impetus it had previously
received died away and left it again almost at rest. Everything was
silent, save one or two of those quiet homely sounds, which fall on the
ear with a sensation that appears to render even silence itself still
more silent. The solitary ticking of an old caseless Dutch clock on
the wall was interrupted only by the smothered rocking of the cradle,
wherein lay the yet unconscious cause of all I have told, or may yet
have to tell. As hand or foot was applied to keep it in motion, the
little charge within was tossed alternately against each blanketed side
of his wooden prison, and jolted into the utterance, every now and then,
of some slight sound of complaint, which as regularly sunk again to
nothing as the rocking was increased, and the mother’s low voice cried--

“Hush, child! peace, peace! Sleep, barn, sleep!”

And then rounded off into a momentary chant of the old ditty, beginning,

     “There was an old woman, good lack! good lack!”

But out of doors, as the rustic village had long ago been gone to rest,
everything was as silent as though the country had been depopulated.

Fatigued by the long day’s exertion, Fanny had fallen asleep, with
half her supper uneaten in her lap; and Mistress Clink, unconsciously
overtaken in a similar manner, had instinctively covered her face
with her hand, and fallen into that imperfect state of rest in which
realities and dreamy fictions are fused together like things perfectly
akin,--when the sound of visionary tongues seemed to be about her.

“Go straight in,” said one. “Don’t stand knocking.”

“Perhaps she’s a-bed,” observed another.

“Then drag her out again, that ‘s all,” replied the same person that had
first spoken; “I ‘ve sworn to kick her and her young ‘un into th’ street
to-night, and the devil’s in it if I don’t, dark as it is. It will not
be the first time she’s lay i’ th’ hedge-bottom till daylight, I ‘ll
swear.”

Mrs. Clink started up, terrified. The door was pushed violently
open, and the village constable, an assistant, and Mr. Longstaff, the
steward,--in a state of considerable mental elevation, arising from the
combination of punch and revenge,--stood in the middle of the room.

“Now, missis!” bawled the steward, advancing, and clenching his fist
before his own face, while he stared at her through a pair of leaden
eyes, with much of the expression of an owl in the sun; “You see me,
don’t you? You see me, I say? Mark that. Did you expect me, I say,
missis? No, no, I think not. You thought you were safe enough, but I’ve
got you! I’ve got you, I tell you, as sure as a gun; and now I’m going
to learn you how to put your whelps down i’ th’ parish books to my
account; I am, my lady. I ‘ll teach you how to touch a steward again,
you may ‘pend on’t!”

“Oh, sir!” began Mrs. Clink imploringly; but she was instantly stopped
by Mr. Longstaff.

“Ay, ay,--you may _oh, sir!_ as long as you like, but I’m not to be
_oh sir’d_, that way. Do you know aught about rent?--rent, I
say--rent?--last year?--t’ other house?--d ‘ye know you hav’n’t paid it?
or are you going to swear _that_ to me, an’ all?--‘Cause if you are, I
wish you may die in a ditch, and your baby under you! Now, look you,
I’m going to show you a pretty trick;--about as pretty, missis, as you
showed me this morning. What d ‘ye think of that, now, for a change? How
d ‘ye like that, eh? I’m going to seize on you--”

[Illustration: 073]

No sooner did Mrs. Clink hear these words from the mouth of the
intoxicated Mr. Longstaff, than she screamed, and fell on her knees;
crying out in broken exclamations, “Oh, not to-night, sir--not to-night!
Tomorrow, if you please, sir,--to-morrow--tomorrow!”

But, though joined in this petition by the tears of little Fanny, and
the unintentional pleadings of Colin, who now began to scream lustily
in his cradle, the steward disregarded all, until, finding prayers and
entreaties vain, the voice of the woman sunk into suppressed sobbings,
or was only heard to utter repeatedly,

“What _will_ become of my poor baby!”

“Become of him?” exclaimed Longstaff, turning towards her as she yet
remained on her knees on the ground. “Why,--take and throw him into th’
horsepond, that’s my advice. He ‘ll never be good for aught in this
world but to hang on th’ work’us, and pull money out of other people’s
pockets. Go on, Bill;--go on, my lad:--put ‘em all down, stick and
stone; and away with ‘em all to-night. There sha’n’t be a single
thing of any sort left in this house for th’ sun to shine on to-morrow
morning.”

The excitement produced by Mr. Longstaff’s discourse upon his own
stomach and brain had the effect of rendering him, in this brief period
of time, apparently much more intoxicated than he was on first entering
the cottage, and he now sunk heavily upon a chair, as though unable to
remain upon his feet any longer.

“Have you put this chair down, Bill?” he asked, at the same time tapping
with his fingers the back of that upon which he was sitting, by way of
drawing attention to it.

The constable answered in the affirmative.

“That’s right, my boy--that’s right. And that clock, there, have you got
him? Bless his old pendulum! we ‘ll stop his ticking very soon:--we ‘ll
show him what o’clock it is,--won’t we, missis?”

But this facetiousness passed unheeded by the poor woman to whom it was
addressed, unless one look of reproachful scorn, which she cast in the
stupid face of the steward, might be considered as an answer to it.

“Why, you ‘re looking quite pretty, tonight, _Miss_ Clink,” said
Mr. Longstaff in a more subdued tone:--“I don’t wonder--though he is
married, and all that sort of thing,--I don’t wonder at the squire, if
he did patronise you a little.”

The cheeks of our hero’s mother blushed scarlet with indignation. She
rose from the cradle-side, on which she had been sitting, and with an
evident struggle to overcome the sobs that were rising in her throat, so
as to enable her to speak distinctly, she stood up before the astonished
steward, displaying a countenance and figure that would have graced many
a far fairer place, and thus addressed him:--

“I’m a poor helpless woman, Mr. Longstaff, and you know it; but such
men as you are always cowards. You may rob me of my few goods; you may
destroy my home, though it is almost too poor to be worth the trouble;
you may turn me out of my house, with that baby, without a roof to put
my head under, because you may have power to do it, and no humanity left
in you. But, I say, he is a mean contemptible man,--whether it be
you, or any one else,--who can thus insult me, bad as I am. I can bear
anything but that, and that I won’t bear from any man. _Especially_--”
 and she laid strong emphasis on her words, and pointed with her finger
emphatically to the person she addressed:--“Especially from such a man
as you: for you know that if it had not been for you and your wife--”

Longstaff began to lose his colour somewhat rapidly, and to look half a
dozen degrees more sober.

“--Yes, I repeat it, you and your wife,--I should not have been the
wretched creature that I am. And yet you seek to be revenged on me,--”
 she continued, growing more passionate as she proceeded, “you have
_courage_ enough to set your foot on such a hovel as this, because it
shelters me, and crush it.”

It was clear beyond dispute, from Mr. Longstaff’s manner, that he had
drawn down upon himself a retort which he never intended--especially in
the presence of two other persons. He leaned half over his chair-back,
with his dull eyes fixed, though evidently in utter absence of mind,
upon the ceiling; while a visible nervous quivering of his pale lips
and nostrils evinced the working of inward emotions, to which his tongue
either could not, or dared not, give utterance.

Meantime, Mrs. Clink had taken little Colin out of his cradle, and
wrapped him warmly round with all the clothes it contained. She then led
Fanny into the inner room, which was occupied as a bed-chamber.

“Come, Fanny,” said she; “if there be still less charity under a bare
sky than under this stripped roof, we cannot do much worse. Put on
all the clothes you have, child, for perhaps we may want them before
morning.”

And then she proceeded to select from her scantily stored drawers such
few trifles as she wished to retain; and afterwards, in accordance with
her own injunction, dressed herself as if for a long night-journey.

“Come, lads,” at length remarked Mr. Longstaff, after a long silence,
“hav’n’t you done yet? You mustn’t take any notice of this woman,
mind;--she’s had her liquor, and hardly knows what she’s talking about.”

“Won’t to-morrow do, sir, to finish off with?” asked the holder of the
distress-war-rant: and at the same moment our hero’s mother, with Colin
in her arms, and Fanny by her side, passed out of the door-way of the
inner room. Mr. Longstaff looked up, and, seeing them prepared for
leaving the place, observed, in a tone very different to that in which
he had before spoken, “We shall not remove anything now; so you may stay
to-night, if you like.”

“No, sir,” replied Mrs. Clink; “your master’s charity is quite enough:
I want none of yours. But, before I go, let me tell you I know that Mr.
Lupton has never sanctioned this; and I doubt your right to do what you
are doing.”

Here again was something which appeared to throw another new light upon
the steward’s mind; for, in reality, his passion had not allowed him for
a moment to consider what might be the squire’s opinion about such an
off-hand and barbarous proceeding. He began to feel some misgivings as
to the legal consequences of his own act, and eventually even went so
far as to request that Mrs. Clink would remain in the house until the
morrow, when something more could be seen about it.

“No,” said she again, firmly, “whatever I may be now, I was not born to
be blown about by every fool’s breath that might come across me. Once
done is not undone. Come, Fanny.”

In another minute, Mr. Longstaff, Bill the constable, and his assistant,
were the only living creatures beneath that roof, which, an hour before,
with all its poverty, seemed to offer as secure a home, as inviolable a
hearth stone, as the castle of the best lordling in the kingdom.



CHAPTER V.

_Introduces to the reader two new characters of considerable importance,
and describes a scene between them to which a very peculiar interest is
attached._

Amongst all those who were most materially concerned in the
circumstances detailed in the preceding chapters, I must now name one
person who has hitherto only been once passingly alluded to in the most
brief manner, but whose happiness was (if not more) at least as deeply
involved in the events which had taken place as was that of any other
individual whatever, not excepting even our hero’s mother herself.
That person--for Mr. Longstaff has already hinted that his master was
married--was Squire Lupton’s wife.

Should the acute reader’s moral or religious sensibilities be shocked
at the discovery of so much human depravity, as this avowal must
necessarily uncurtain to him, it is to be hoped he will lay the blame
thereof upon the right shoulders, and not rashly attack the compiler
of this history, who does only as Josephus, Tacitus, and other great
historians have done before him,--make use of the materials which other
men’s actions prepare ready to his hands, and with the good or evil of
which he himself is no more chargeable, than is the obedient workman who
mouldeth a vessel with clay of the quality which his master may please
to put before him.

During a period of some weeks prior to the time at which our story
commences, Mrs. Lupton had been upon a visit to the family of Mr.
Shirley, a resident in York, with whom she was intimately acquainted
previously to her marriage with the heir of Kiddal House. Owing,
however, to circumstances of a family nature, with which she had early
become acquainted after her destiny had been for ever united with that
of Mr. Lupton, she had hitherto found it impossible to introduce to
her own house, with any degree of pleasure to herself, even the dearest
companions of her youth; and no one was more so, for they had known each
other from girlhood, than Miss Mary Shirley, the only daughter of her
esteemed friend. Like many others in similar circumstances, she long
strove to hide her own unhappiness from the world; but, in doing so, had
been too often compelled to violate the most cherished feelings of her
bosom; and--when at home--had chosen to remain like a recluse in her own
house, when otherwise she would gladly have had some one with whom to
commune when grief pressed heavily upon her; and he who had sworn to be
all in all to her was in reality the cause, instead of the allayer, of
her sorrows.

On the afternoon when those events took place which have been chronicled
in the last chapter, Mrs. Lupton returned to Kiddal, accompanied, for
the first time, by Miss Mary Shirley.

“Here we are at last,” remarked the lady of the house, as they drove up
to the gate, and the highly ornamented oaken gable-ends of the old hall
became visible above the garden-walls. “I have not a very merry home to
bring you to, my dear Mary, and I dare not promise how long you may like
to stay with us; but I hope you will enjoy yourself as well as you can;
and when that is over,--though I could wish to keep you with me till I
die,--when the time comes that you can be happy here no longer, then, my
dear, you must not consider me;--leave me again alone, for I shall not
dare to ask you to sacrifice another hour on my poor account, in a place
so infinitely below the happy little home we have left in yonder city.”

“Nay,” replied the young lady, endeavouring to hide some slight feelings
of emotion, “you cannot forbode unhappiness here. In such a place as
this, these antique rooms, these gardens, and with such a glorious
landscape of farms and hamlets, as lies below this hill, farther almost
than the eye can reach,--it is impossible to be otherwise than happy.”

“Ay, and so _I_ said,” replied Mrs. Lupton, “when Walter first brought
me here; and so _he_ told me too, as we passed under this very gateway.
But I have learned since then that such things have no pleasure in them,
when those we love and with whom we live are not that to us which they
ought to be.” Miss Shirley remained silent, for she feared to prolong
a conversation which, at its very commencement, seemed to recall to the
mind of her friend such painful reminiscences.

On their introduction to the hall, Miss Shirley could not fail to remark
the cold, unimpassioned, and formal manner in which Mr. Lupton received
his lady; while towards herself he evinced so much affability and
kindness, that the degradation of the wife was for the moment rendered
still more striking and painful by the contrast. But, out of respect for
the feelings of her friend, she affected not to notice it; although it
was not without difficulty that she avoided betraying herself, when
she observed Mrs. Lupton suddenly retire to another part of the room,
because she was unable any longer to restrain the tears which now burst,
in the bitterness of uncomplaining silence, from her eyes.

Perhaps no feelings of mortification could readily be imagined more
acute than were those which arose from this slight incident in the bosom
of a sensible, a sensitive, and, I may add, a beautiful woman, too,--for
such Mrs. Lupton undoubtedly was. To be thus slighted when alone, she
had already learned to bear; but to be so slighted, for the first
time, and, as if by a studied refinement of contempt, before another
individual, and that individual a woman, to whom extraordinary
attentions were at the same moment paid, was indeed more than she could
well endure; though pride, and the more worthy feeling of self-respect,
would not allow her openly to confess it. But while the throb-bings of
her bosom could scarcely be repressed from becoming audible, and
the tears welled up in her large blue eyes until she could not see
distinctly for the space of half a minute together, she yet stood at
one of the high-pointed windows of the antique room, and affected to be
beckoning to one of the gallant peacocks on the grass before her, as he
stretched his brilliant neck towards the window, in anticipation of that
food which from the same fair hand was seldom expected in vain.

In the mean time, seated at the farther end of the room, Mr. Lupton was
endeavouring, though, after what had occurred it may be supposed, with
but ill success, to engage the whole attention of the young lady who sat
beside him. They had met some twelve months before at the house of her
father, in York, during the time that he was paying his addresses to her
friend, Miss Bernard, now his wife, and some short period before their
ill-fated marriage.

After inquiring with great particularity after the health of her family
and relatives, and expressing the very high pleasure he felt in having
the daughter of one of his most esteemed friends an inmate of his house,
the squire proceeded to descant in very agreeable language upon the
particular beauties of the situation and neighbourhood of his house, and
to enlarge upon the many pleasures which Miss Shirley might enjoy there
during the ensuing summer,--a period over which, he fully trusted, she
would do himself and Mrs. Lupton the honour and pleasure of her company.

“But shall we not ask Mrs. Lupton to join us?” remarked Miss Shirley.
“It is unfair that we should have all this conversation to ourselves. I
see she is at the window still;--though I remember the time, sir,” she
added, dropping her voice to a more sedate tone, and looking archly in
his face, “when there would have been no occasion, while you were in the
room, for any other person to have made such a request.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Mr. Lupton, “she is happy enough with those birds about
her. She and they are old friends, and it is now some time since they
saw each other. Shall I have the pleasure of conducting you over the
gardens, Miss Shirley?”

“I thank you,” replied she--“if Mrs. Lupton will accompany us.”

“She cannot be better employed,” rejoined the squire, “nor, very
probably, more to her own satisfaction, than she is.”

“But shall we not know that best on inquiry?” rejoined the young lady,
as she rose from her seat, and, without farther parley, bounded across
the room towards the object of their discourse.

A brief conversation, carried on in a subdued tone of voice, ensued,
during which Miss Shirley took a seat by the window, and appeared to
sink into a more pensive mood, as though the contagion of unhappiness
had communicated itself to her from the unfortunate lady with whom
she had been speaking. The proposed walk in the gardens was eventually
declined; and shortly afterwards Mrs. Lupton and her friend retired to
their private apartment.

“In yonder chapel,” remarked the lady of the house, as they passed along
towards the great oaken staircase, “lie buried all the family of the
Luptons during the last three or four hundred years. When we walk out,
you will see upon that projecting part of the great hall where the
stained windows are, a long inscription, carved in stone, just under the
parapet, with the date of 1503 upon it, asking the passer-by to pray for
the souls of Roger Lupton and of Sibylla his wife, whom God preserve! I
hope,” continued Mrs. Lupton, “they will never think of burying _me_ in
that chapel. Not that I dislike the place itself so much; but then, to
think that I should lie there, and that my spirit might see the trailing
silks that would pass above my face, and unhallowed dames stepping
lightly in the place where an honest wife had been a burthen,--and to
hear in the distance their revelry and their hollow laughter of a night!
O Mary! I should get out of my coffin and knock against those stones
till I frightened the very hearts out of them. I should haunt this
house day and night, till not a woman dare inhabit it.”

“Nay,” ejaculated Miss Shirley, “you will frighten me, before all this
happens, till I shall not sleep a wink. Let us go up stairs.”

“But wherefore frighten _you?_” asked Mrs. Lupton,--“why, Mary, should
you fear? You would not flaunt over me if I did lie there,--you would
not sit in my chair, and simper at my husband:--I say it touches not
you. I should not have your heels upon my face, whoever else might
be there. Leave those to fear who have need;--but for you--no one can
approach those pure lips till he has sealed his faith before the altar,
and had Heaven’s approval.”

Mrs. Lupton’s manner, as well as language, so alarmed the young lady,
that she trembled violently, and burst into tears. Her friend, however,
did not appear to observe it; for it was just at that time of the
evening when, in such a place, the turn of darkness obliterates the
individual features of things, and leaves only a shadowy phantom of
their general appearance. She then resumed:

“And, not that alone. There is another reason why I would not be buried
_there_.” The sound of her foot upon the pavement made the gallery ring
again. “Though I have been wed, it has not made me one of this family;
and you have seen and known to-day that, though I am the poor lady of
this house, I am still a stranger. In two months more that man will have
quite forgotten me; and, if I remember myself to the end, why, I shall
thank him, dear heart, I shall. But you are beautiful, Mary; and to
paint such as you the memory is an excellent artist. I saw--oh! take
care, my girl. There is bad in the best of men; the worst of them may
make a woman’s life not worth the keeping, within the ticking of five
minutes. When _we_ go out we will walk in the gardens together. Now we
will go up stairs.”

So saying, she clasped Miss Shirley by the wrist, much more forcibly
than the occasion rendered needful, and hurried her, notwithstanding her
fears, to her own dressing-room. When both had entered she closed the
door, and locked it,--an action which, under present circumstances,
threw her visitor into a state of agitation which she could scarcely
conceal; though, while she strove to maintain an appearance of confident
indifference, she took the precaution of placing herself so as to
command the bell-rope in case--(for the horrible possibility did cross
her mind)--it might be needful for her, though at the instant she knew
not why, to summon assistance.

As I have before hinted, the first shadows of night had fallen on
the surrounding lower grounds and valleys, and had already hidden the
ill-lighted corridors and rooms on the eastern side of the hall in a
kind of visible darkness, although a dull reflection of red light from
the western sky still partially illumined the upper portion of the room
in which the two ladies now were; sufficiently so, indeed, to enable
them perfectly to distinguish each other; a circumstance which, however
slight in itself, enabled Miss Shirley to keep up her courage much
better than otherwise she would have been able to do.

Having, as before observed, turned the key in the lock, Mrs. Lupton
walked on tip toe, as though afraid of being overheard, towards her
visitor, and began to whisper to her, very cautiously, as follows:--

“I have brought you here, Mary, to tell you something that I have heard
since we came back to-day. But, my dear, it has confused my mind till I
forget what I am saying. You will forgive me, won’t you?” Her companion
begged her to defer it until another time, and not to trouble herself by
trying to remember it; but Mrs. Lupton interrupted her with a hysterical
laugh.

“The pain is not because I forget it, but because I can do nothing but
remember it. I cannot get rid of it. It haunts me wherever I go; for,
do you know, Mary, Walter Lupton grows worse and worse. I can never live
under it; I know I cannot! And, as for beds, you and I will sleep in
this next chamber, so that if there be women’s feet in the night, we
shall overhear it all. Now, keep awake, Mary, for sleep is of no use
at all to me: and, besides that, she told me the baby was as like her
master as snow to the clouds; so that what is to become of me I do not
know.--I cannot tell, indeed!”

Here Mrs. Lupton wrung her hands, and wept bitterly.

Miss Shirley grew terrified at this incoherent discourse, and with an
unconscious degree of earnestness begged her to go down stairs.

“Never heed,--never heed,” said she, turning towards the table, and
apparently forgetting her grief: “there will come an end. Days do not
last for ever, nor nights either.”

“Do not sigh so deeply,” observed her companion. “I have heard say it
wears the heart out, though that is idle.”

“Nay,--nay,” replied Mrs. Lupton, “the woman that first said that spoke
fairly, for surely she had a bad husband. It wears mine out, truly;
though not too soon for _him_. You know now that he cares nothing for
me.”

“But, let us hope it is not so,” replied Miss Shirley, somewhat
re-assured from the more sane discourse of her entertainer.

“And yet,” continued Mrs. Lupton, as though unconscious of the last
remark, “I have striven to commend myself to him as my best abilities
would enable me. Mary, turn the glass to me. It is almost dark. How is
this bodice? Is the unlaced shape of a country girl more handsome than
the turn of this?”

“Oh, no--no--no!” answered the young lady, “nothing could be more
handsome.”

“Nay,” protested Mrs. Lupton, “it is not what you think, or what I
think; but with what eyes do the men see? Does it sit ungracefully on
me?”

“Indeed, my dear, I heard my father say that one like you he never
saw--”

“Do not tell me--do not tell me!” she exclaimed emphatically; “it is
nothing to me, so that he who ought to say everything says not one word
that I please him.”

And again she burst into a flood of hysterical tears.

“Come,” at length observed Miss Shirley, “it is too dark to see any
longer here. Look, the little lights are beginning to shine in the
cottage-windows yonder; let us go below. I dare say those poor labourers
are making themselves as happy by their firesides as little kings; and
why should not we, who have a thousand times more to be happy with,
endeavour to do at least as much?”

“Why not?” repeated Mrs. Lupton, “you ask why not?--Ay, why not, indeed?
Let me see. Well, I do not know just now. This trouble keeps me from
considering; or else I could answer you any questions in the world; for
my education was excellent; and, ever since I was married, I have sat in
the library, day and night, because Mr. Lupton did not speak to me.
Now, Mary, you go down stairs, and take supper; but I shall stay here to
watch; and, if that child comes here, if he should come to make me more
ashamed, I will stamp my foot upon him, and crush him out: and then I
will put him for the carrion-crows on the turret top!”

“But, you said before,” observed Miss Shirley, “that you and I should
always go together.”

“Oh!--yes,---so I did; truly. I had forgotten that, too! My memory is
good for nothing: an hour’s lease of it is not worth a loose feather. To
be sure, Mary, I will go down with you. There is danger in waiting for
all of us; and if you should be harmed under my care, your father would
never--never forgive me!”

So saying, she rose, and took her visitor by the hand; unlocked the
door, and, resisting every proposal to call for a lamp, groped her way
down stairs in utter darkness.

Although, as might naturally be expected, the alarm experienced by Miss
Shirley under the circumstances above related was very great, far deeper
was her grief on being thus unexpectedly made aware for the first time
that some additional unanticipated cause of sorrow (communicated most
probably to her friend in a very incautious manner by some forward
ignorant menial of the house,) had had the appalling effect,--if for no
long period, at least for the moment,--of impairing her senses to a very
painful degree. What the real cause of that sorrow might be,--evident as
it is to the reader who has accompanied me thus far,--Miss Shirley could
not fully comprehend, from the broken exclamations and the incoherent
discourse of Mrs. Lupton; though enough had been conveyed, even in that
manner, to give her the right end of a thread, the substance of which,
however, she was left to spin out from conjecture and imagination.
She felt extremely irresolute, too, as to the course most proper to be
adopted by herself; for, though she had left her home with the intention
of staying at Kiddal during a period of at least some weeks, the
impropriety of remaining under the circumstances that had taken place,
impressed itself strongly upon her mind. It might be that Mr. Lupton
would secretly regard her as a kind of familiar spy upon his conduct
and actions; and as one who might possibly report to the world those
passages of his life which he wished to be concealed from it. Or, in
case these conjectures were utterly groundless, it yet remained to be
decided how far her conduct might be considered prudent and becoming,
if she continued to tarry at the residence of Mr. Lupton, while his
wife,--for thus, very possibly, it might happen,--was confined to her
chamber in consequence of either bodily or mental afflictions. These
and similar considerations doubtfully occupied her mind during the
whole evening; but at length the ties of friendship and of feminine pity
prevailed over all objections. She felt it to be impossible to leave the
once happy companion of her girlish days in such a fearful condition
as this; and inwardly resolved, in case of Mrs. Lupton’s increased
indisposition, to request permission of the squire that she might be
allowed to send for her mother from York to keep her company.

With these thoughts revolving in her mind much more rapidly than the
time it has occupied the reader to become acquainted with them, Miss
Shirley, followed by Mrs. Lupton, entered a side-room adjoining the
great banquetting-hall, wainscotted from roof to ceiling with oak,
now almost black with age, and amply filled throughout with ponderous
antique furniture in corresponding taste. An old carved arm-chair,
backed and cushioned with crimson velvet, stood on the farther side of
the fire-place; and as it fitfully caught the glimmering of occasional
momentary flames, stood out with peculiar distinctness, from the deep
background of oaken panels, ample curtains, and dimly visible mirrors,
beyond. On this seat--her favourite place--Mrs. Lupton threw herself;
while Mary Shirley--as though anxious to evince still more attention
to her in proportion as she failed to receive it from others,--seated
herself, with her left arm laid upon the lap of her friend, on a low
ottoman by her side.

As the lady of the mansion persisted in refusing that lamps should be
brought, the apartment remained shrouded in that peculiarly illuminated
gloom, which to some temperaments is the very beau idéal of all
imaginable degrees of light; and which gives to even the most ordinary
scenes all the fulness and rich beauty of a masterpiece from the hand
of Rembrandt. The ladies had been seated, as I have described, scarcely
longer than some few minutes, and had not yet exchanged a word with
each other, when the door of the apartment slowly opened, and the squire
himself entered. Fearful of the consequences of an interview, at this
particular time, between that gentleman and his unhappy wife, Miss
Shirley hastily rose as he entered, and, advancing towards him before
he could open his lips to address them, requested in a whisper that he
would not heed anything Mrs. Lupton might say, lest his replies should
still farther excite her, as she certainly had not the proper command
of her senses some short time ago; and the least irritation might, she
dreaded, render her still worse. The squire expressed a great deal of
astonishment and concern, though not, it is to be supposed, very deeply
felt, as he took a seat somewhat in the darkness beyond the table.

“Who is that man?” asked Mrs. Lupton, in a voice just audible, as
she bent down to Miss Shirley, in order to prevent her question being
overheard.

“My dear, you know him well enough, though you cannot see him in this
light--it is your husband, Mr. Lupton.”

“No, no!” she exclaimed in a loud voice, and with a penetrating look at
the indistinct figure beyond the table; “he cannot be come back again! I
always feared what judgment he would come to, in spite of all my prayers
for him; and to-night I saw a foul fiend carry his ghost away. You are
not he, are you?”

“Be assured I am, indeed, dear wife,” said the squire, rising from his
chair, and advancing towards her; “you know me now. Give me your hand.”

“If you be a gentleman, sir, leave me. The manners of this house have
been corrupted so, that even strangers come here to insult me. Send him
out, Mary; call William. I won’t have men coming here, as though we were
all disciples in the same school.”

Mr. Lupton began to act upon the hint previously given by his fair
visitor, by leaving his seat, and retreating towards the door:--

“Yes, sir,” continued his wife, “begone! for, as the sun shines in the
daytime, and the moon by night, Mary, so I shall be to the end; and
never wed again--never again,--never! Hark! I heard the rustling of a
gown below that window. They are coming!” and she held up her hand in an
attitude bidding silence, and listened. The dull roaring of the wind in
the chimney-top, and the creak of the door-latch as Mr. Lupton closed it
after him, were alone audible to the young lady whom she addressed.

“Stay!” continued Mrs. Lupton, “perhaps his mother is bringing him
home.”

Her voice was at that instant interrupted by the unequivocal and
distinct cry of a babe, uttered apparently within very few yards of
them.

“It is he!” shrieked the lady, as she strove by one energetic and
convulsive spring to reach the window; but nature, overstrained so long,
now failed her, and she fell like a stone, insensible, on the ground.
Miss Shirley had started to her feet with terror, on hearing the first
sound of that little living thing, which seemed to be close upon them in
the room, or hidden behind the oaken panels of the wainscot: but before
she could recover breath to raise an alarm, several of the domestics
of the house rushed into the room; and seeing the situation of their
mistress, raised her up, and by the direction of the squire, conveyed
her up-stairs to her own apartment. While this was going on, others,
at the bidding of Miss Shirley, examined both the room itself, and the
outside of the premises; but as nothing could be seen, or even heard
again, it was concluded either that the ladies had been deceived, or
that the ghost of some buried ancestor had adopted this strange method
of terrifying the present master of Kiddal into better morals. The
logic, however, of this argument did not agree with Miss Shirley’s
conceptions; since, in that case, the squire, and not his lady, would
have been the proper person for the ghost of his grandmother to appeal
to.

The messenger who, meanwhile, had been despatched into the village of
Bramleigh to summon Doctor Rowel to the assistance of his mistress,
returned with another conjectural interpretation of the affair. He had
passed on the road a pedlar woman, with a little girl by her side, and
a child wrapped up in her arms: was it not possible that she had been
lurking about the house for reasons best known to herself, until the
crying of her child obliged her to decamp, through fear of being
detected? The doctor declared it must have been so, as a matter of
course; but the maids, who had other thoughts in their heads, resolved,
for that night at least, to huddle themselves for reciprocal security
all in one room together.



CHAPTER VI.

_Explains the last-recorded occurrence, and introduces Mistress Clink
to an individual whom she little expected to see. Scene in a hedge
alehouse, with a company of poachers. They are surprised by very
unwelcome visitors. A terrible conflict ensues, and its consequences
described._

At the time when Mrs. Clink, with little Fanny by her side, and Colin
snugly wrapped up, like a field-mouse in its winter’s nest, in her arms,
was driven away from her humble home, as related in a previous chapter,
and forced to seek a retreat for the night wherever chance or Providence
might direct her, the hand of Bramleigh church clock pointed nigh upon
eleven. By and by she heard the monotonous bell toll, with a startling
sound, over the deserted fields and the sleeping village; while she,
divided between the stern resolution of an unconquered spirit, and
the yearnings of Nature to provide a pillow for the heads of the two
helpless creatures who could call no other soul but her their friend,
paced the road which led towards the highway from York to Leeds, in
painful irresolution as to the course most proper to pursue. To solicit
the charity of a night’s protection from any of the villagers with whom
she was acquainted, appeared at once almost hopeless in itself, and
beneath the station which she had once held amongst them, when her word
of praise or of blame would have been decisive with him who held the
whole neighbourhood in a state almost approaching to serfdom. Those whom
she had served had nothing more to expect from the same hand; and one
half at least of the world’s gratitude is paid, not so much in requital
of past, as in anticipation of future and additional favours. Amongst
such as had received nothing at her hands, she felt it would be a
bootless task to solicit assistance in her present condition.

With her thoughts thus occupied, the distance over which she had passed
seemed swallowed up; so that, somewhat to her surprise, an exclamation
from the lips of little Fanny unexpectedly reminded her of the fact that
they were now close upon the grounds adjoining the old hall of Kiddal.
Its groups of ornamented stone chimneys, and its high-pointed roofs,
stood black against the sky; while its lightless windows, and its
homestead hushed in death-like silence, which not even the bark of a dog
disturbed, appeared to present to her mind a gloomy, though a fitting,
picture of the residence of such a tenant.

“Here, at least,” thought she, “if I can find a barn open, or a bedding
of dry straw to place under the wall between some of the huge buttresses
of the house, we shall be secure from molestation; for should they even
find us in the morning, the master will scarcely deny, even to me, the
pitiable shelter of his walls for a creature that is indebted to him for
its existence.”

Thus thinking, she passed through the gateway adjoining the road, and
thence on to the lawn and garden in front of the house, intending to
make her way beyond the reach and hearing of the dogs, to a more remote
and unfrequented portion of the out-buildings; but, as she passed the
windows of the old wainscotted room before-mentioned, the sound of
voices within caught her ear. Was it not possible that the squire might
be speaking in some way or other of her?

We are ever jealous of those who have done us wrong; and never more so,
however little we may credit it, than when the sense of that wrong
lies most keenly upon us. Colin was soundly asleep in her arms; she had
nothing to fear. Leaving Fanny, therefore, under cover of a laurel-tree,
she stepped lightly but rapidly up, and placed herself close by the
window, about the same moment that, as previously described, Mr. Lupton
had entered the room. Of the conversation that passed she could only
catch occasional portions; and, in her endeavours to press still closer
to the casement, young Master Colin got squeezed against the projecting
moulding of the stone wall, in a manner which called forth that
instantaneous expression of complaint and resentment, by which Mrs.
Lupton and her friend had been so dreadfully alarmed. It was now no time
for Mrs. Clink to stay any longer in concealment there; she accordingly
smothered her baby’s head in its clothes to stifle the sound; and having
again taken the hand of little Fanny, made the best of her way over
ditch and brier in the direction of the high road.

Beyond the boundary of Mr. Lupton’s grounds she came upon a by-way,
originally intended, (as the blackthorn hedges on either side denoted,)
to be used as a kind of occupation lane, by the farmers who held the
fields adjacent; but which, from the abundant grass, with which it was
overgrown, save where, in the middle, a narrow path meandered, like a
packthread along a strip of green cloth, was evidently but little used,
except as a footway by the straggling bumpkins who so thinly populated
that remote territory. Mrs. Clink remembered, from the local features
of the place, that, at about a mile farther up this road, stood a small
hedge alehouse, of no very brilliant repute to be sure, amongst those to
whom such an accommodation was needless, but highly necessary and useful
to a certain class of persons whose convenience was best attained in
places beyond the immediate reach and inspection of all descriptions of
local and legal authorities. It stood upon a piece of ground just beyond
the domains of Squire Lupton, and, though generally known as the resort
of many lawless characters, was maintained by the proprietor of the
soil in pure spite to his neighbour, the squire, whom he hated with that
cordial degree of hatred not uncommonly existing between great landed
proprietors, and the jealous little freeholders who dwell upon their
skirts. Towards this house, then, Mrs. Clink, in her extremity, bent her
way; and after half an hour spent in stumbling over the irregularities
of a primitive road, winding amongst a range of low hills, studded with
thick plantations and close preserves for game, she arrived in sight of
the anticipated haven. It was not, however, without some degree of fear,
that, several times in the course of the journey, when she chanced to
cast her eyes back upon the way she had passed, the shadowy figure of a
human being, skulking along under cover of the hedgerows, and apparently
dodging her footsteps, had appeared to her; though under an aspect so
blended with the shadows of night as left it still doubtful whether or
not the whole was a creation of imagination and imperfect vision.

A small desolate-looking hut, with a publican’s sign over the door, put
up more for pretence than use, now stood before her. At the same
moment the figure she had seen shot rapidly forward up a ditch by the
road-side, and disappeared behind the house.

As she approached, the sound of several boisterous voices reached her
ear; and then the distinct words of part of an old song, which one of
the company was singing:--

     “As I and my dogs went out one night,
     The moon and the stars did shine so bright,
     To catch a fat buck we thought we might,
                       Fal de ral lu ra la!”

A rushing blast of wind bore away a verse or two of the narrative; but,
as she had by this time reached the door, she stood still a moment,
while the singer went on--

     “He came all bleeding, and so lame,
     He was not able to follow the game,
     And sorry was I to see the same,
                       Fal de ral lu ra la!

     “I ‘ll take my long staff in my han’,
     And range the woods to find that man,
     And if that I do, his hide I ‘ll tan,
                        Fal de ral lu ra la!”

The singer stopped.

“Go on--go on!” cried several voices, “finish it, somehow; let’s hear
th’ end on’t!”

“Dang it!” exclaimed the singer, in a sort of good-natured passion, I
don’t remember it. This isn’t the next verse, I know it isn’t; but I ‘ll
try.

     “!Next day we offer’d it for sale,
     Fal de ral lu ra li to la!
     Unto an old woman that did sell ale,
                        Fal de ral lu ra la!

     “Next day we offer’d it for sale
     Unto an old woman that did sell ale,
     But she ‘d liked to have put us all in gaol,
                        Fal de ral lu ra la!

“There!” he exclaimed again, “I know no more if you ‘d fee me to sing it,
so good b’ye to that, and be dang’d to it! as th’ saying goes.” At the
same time the sound of a huge pot, bounced upon the table, bore good
evidence that the speaker had not allowed his elegant sentiment to pass
without due honour.

Mrs. Clink scarcely felt heart enough to face such a company as this
without some previous notice. She accordingly knocked at the door
somewhat loudly, whereupon every voice suddenly became silent, and
a scrambling sound ensued, as of the gathering up of weapons; or, as
though the individuals within were striving, upon the instant, to put
themselves, from a state of disorder, into a condition fitted for the
reception of any kind of company as might at such an hour chance to do
them the honour of a visit.

“Who’s there?” cried a sharp voice inside the door, which Colin’s mother
recognised as that of the landlady of the house. She applied her mouth
near the keyhole, and replied, “It’s only me, Mrs. Mallory--only Anne
Clink. I want a bed to-night, if you can let me have one.”

“A bed!” repeated Mrs. Mallory. “This time o’ night, and a bed! Sure
there’s nobody else?”

Mrs. Clink satisfied the inquiries of the landlady in this particular,
and gave her very full assurances that no treachery was intended; still
farther giving her to understand that Longstaff, the steward, had turned
her out of house and home, late as it was, not an hour before. The bolt
was undrawn, and Mrs. Clink walked in. The first greeting she
received was from a dogged-looking savage, in a thick old velveteen
shooting-jacket, who sat directly opposite the door.

“It’s well for you, missus, you aren’t a gamekeeper, or I should have
put a leaden pill in your head afore this.” Saying which, he raised from
his side a short gun that had been held in readiness, and put it up the
sleeve of his coat,--to which its construction was especially adapted,
for security.

“Yes; we tell no tales here,” observed another: “a ditch in th’ woods is
longer than th’ longest tongue that ever spoke.”

“What, you think,” added the first speaker, “a crack on th’ scull, and
two or three shovelfuls of dirt, soon stops a gabbler, do ye? Ay, by
Go’! you’re right, lad, there; and so it does.”

An uncouth laugh, which went nearly round the company, at once evinced
their sense of the facetiousness of this remark, and showed the feeling
of indifference with which nearly all present regarded a remedy for
tale-telling of the kind here suggested; but, in the mean time, the
individual whose appearance in the house had elicited these remarks, had
been conducted, with her young charge, into a small inner room, where
we will leave her conversing with Mrs. Mallory, or preparing for very
needful rest, as the case may be. Scarcely, however, had she passed out
of hearing, before some inquiry was made by the ruffian who had first
spoken, and whose name, it may be observed, was David Shaw, as to the
family and genealogy of old Jerry Clink, “Because,” he observed, “this
woman called herself a Clink; and, as Jerry will be here to-night, I
thought they might be summut related.”

The explanation given by another of the company in reply, went on to
state that at the time when Jerry was doing well in business he had
two daughters, whom he brought up like two ladies: “But I thought there
would soon be an end of that,” continued the speaker, “and so there was.
The old man was getting on too fast by half; so that when his creditors
came on him, and he’d all this finery to pay for, he found he’d been
sailing in shallow water; and away he went off to prison. What became
of the gals I don’t know exactly; but, if my memory be right, one of
‘em died; and t’ other was obliged to take up with a place in a
confectioner’s shop. I don’t know how true it is; but report said,
after that, that Mrs. Longstaff here, the steward’s wife at th’ hall,
persuaded her to go over as a sort of school-missis to her children;
though, if that had been the case, she could not have been coming to
such a house as this at twelve o’clock at night, and especially with two
of th’ children along wi’ her. Thou mun be mistaken, David, i’ th’ name,
I think.”

“Am I?” said David sourly; “then _I_ think not.”

A signal-sound near the door, in imitation of the crowing of a pheasant,
announced the arrival at this instant of old Jerry Clink. David drew the
bolt without stay or question, and the individual named walked in. Below
the middle height, and not remarkably elegant in shape, he still bore in
his features and carriage some traces of the phantom of a long-vanished
day of respectability. His habiliments, however, appeared, by their
condition, cut, and colour, to have been gathered at various periods
from as many corners of the empire, A huge snuff-coloured long coat,
originally made for a man as big again as himself, and which stood
round him like a sentry-box, matched very indifferently with a red plush
waistcoat adorned with blue glass buttons, which scarcely kissed the
band of his inexpressibles; while the latter, composed of broad-striped
corduroy, not unlike the impression of a rake on a garden-path,
hung upon his shrivelled legs in pleasing imitation of the hide of a
rhinoceros. Blue worsted stockings, and quarter-boots laced tightly
round his ankles with leathern thongs, completed the costume of the man.

Should the reader feel curious after a portrait of this gentleman,
we refer him to a profile which he will find prefixed to Conyers
Middleton’s Life of Cicero, which bears no contemptible resemblance to
Jerry, save that it lacks the heavy weight of animal faculties in the
occipital region, which, in the head of our friend, seemed to toss the
scale of humanities in front up into the air.

“Well, how are you to-night,--all on you together?” asked Jerry, in
a tone of voice which Dr. Johnson himself might have envied, when he
brow-beat the very worst of his opponents, at the same time assisting
himself to about a drachm of snuff from a tin case drawn from his
coat-pocket, the contents of which he applied to his nasal organ by the
aid of a small ladle, turned out of a boar’s tusk, much as a scavenger
might shovel dust into a cart. A general answer having been returned
that all were in good health.

“Well, well,” replied Jerry, “then tak’ care to keep so, and mark I
clap that injunction on you. What the dickens should you go to make
yourselves badly for! Here, stand away.”

So saying, he pushed Mr. David Shaw on one side, and elbowed half a
dozen more on the other, as he strode forward towards the fire with the
sole but very important object of poking it. He then sat down upon a
seat that had purposely been vacated for him near the fire, and inquired
in the same surly tone, “What are you drinking?”

“Here’s plenty of ale, Jerry,” replied David.

“Now, now,” objected Mr. Clink, “what are you going to insult me for?
Talk of ale!--you know I’ve tasted none now these thirteen year, and
shan’t again, live as long as I will.--Mrs. Mallory, here, d ‘ye hear!
bring me a glass of gin; and then, David,” giving that amiable character
a good-humoured poke under the right ribs, “you can pay for it if you
like.”

“Can I?” asked the person thus addressed, when he was suddenly cut short
by old Jerry.

“Nay, nay, now!--I shall appeal to the company,--I never asked you; so
don’t go to say I did. Can you insure me four brace of birds and a few
good tench by to-morrow morning? ‘Cause if you think you can, the sooner
you set about it, the sooner we shall get rid of you.”

“Well, I ‘ll try, Jerry, if you want ‘em particular.”

“Particular or not particular, what’s that to you? I give you an order,
and that, you’ll admit, is the full extent of your business. Have
you been up to them woods close to the house since t’other night?” he
inquired; and, on being answered in the negative, thus continued,--“Then
go to-night; for I ‘ve spread a report that ‘ll draw most of them that
you have to fear down into the valley; and there’s plenty of time for
you to go, and to get home again before they find out the mistake.”

I need scarcely remind the reader that every part of this conversation
which related to the sports of the field, was carried on in a tone of
voice scarcely audible even half across the room, and also that the
door had been effectually secured, and the candles removed, some minutes
before the bell in Bramleigh tower struck twelve. For the accommodation,
however, of those who might have business to transact abroad after that
hour, there was a private outlet, known only to those in whom confidence
could be placed, at the back of the premises. By this door Mr. Shaw now
left, chanting, rather than singing, to himself as he left the room,

     “We ‘ll hunt his game
     Through field and brake;
     His ponds we ‘ll net,
     His fish we ‘ll take;
     His woods we ‘ll scour
     In nutting time;
     And his mushrooms gather
     At morning prime;
     Since Nature gave--deny’t who can--
     These things in common to ev’ry man.”

“Ay, ay,” remarked old Jerry, as the man departed, “if every man
understood his trade as well as David does, there would be a good deal
more sport by night, and less by light, than there is: but every dog to
his varmint; he knows all the beasts of forest, beasts of chase, beasts
and fowls of warren, and the laws of them, as well as the best sportsman
in England that ever was, is, or will be.”

“But I ‘ll tell thee what he don’t know,” remarked the same individual
who, prior to Mr. Clink’s appearance, had given a brief sketch of the
last-named gentleman’s previous career; “he don’t know, any more nor
some o’ the rest of us, whether or no there’s any relations of yours
living up in this quarter?”

“Why, as to that,” replied Jerry, “if he ‘d wanted to be informed
whether I had any relations here, and I had been in his company at the
time, I could have stated this here. My youngest daughter Anne, was sent
for by Mrs. Longstaff, wife to Squire Lupton’s steward, considerably
above twelve months ago, to eddi-cate her children, and, to the best of
my knowledge, she’s there yet. There is but one action of my life that
gives me anything like satisfaction to reflect on, and that is, I spared
neither expense nor trouble, when I had the means in my power, to fit
my children for something better in the world than I myself was born to.
And well it was I did so; or else, as things have come to this, and I’m
not quite so rich as I once was, I can’t say what might have become
of them. What, wasn’t it So-crates, the heathen philosopher, that
considered learning the best portion a man could bestow on his
children?”

“I don’t know, I’m sure,” replied the other, “what he considered; but
if that’s your daughter, and you don’t know what’s become of her, I can
tell you she _isn’t_ at Mrs. Longstaff’s now. Well, you may put your
pipe down, and look at me as hard as you like, but it will not alter the
truth. _I_ believe she’s under this roof, in that back-room there, with
Mrs. Mallory, at this very minute.”

“Confound it!” exclaimed Jerry, rising and striding towards the door of
the room alluded to, “how is this? Foul play, my lads? By G! if there
is--” and, before the sentence was finished, he had walked in and closed
the door behind him. At that moment a faint shriek of surprise was heard
within, and a cry of--“Oh, father, father!”

The reader will perhaps readily see through the secret of all this
without my assistance. It may, nevertheless, not be without its use, if,
by way of summing up, I briefly state, that during the time the mother
of our hero was placed, as had been hinted in the previous conversation,
in a shop in the great manufacturing town of Leeds, her appearance had
attracted the attention of Mr. Lupton, when on his visits there in his
magisterial capacity, and that he had ingeniously contrived, with the
aid, counsel, and assistance of the complying Mr. Longstaff, to entice
her thence by the offer of a far better situation, in the capacity of
governess to the steward’s children, than that of which she was already
in the enjoyment. When the consequences of the fatal error into which
she had been led became evident to herself, she instantly quitted Mr.
Longstaff’s house; and, by the consent of Mr. Lupton, retired to a
cottage in the village. Here she maintained herself during some months
by the small profits of needlework, sent to her regularly from the hall;
and, in the vain hope of keeping secure the secret of her own bosom, she
had purposely forborne to acquaint any one of her friends of the cause
of the change which had taken place, or even of the change itself.

So far as the events of the night I am describing were concerned,
although Mrs. Mallory was perfectly well acquainted with all the
circumstances of the case, and also with the fact that the leading man
of the night-company who assembled during the season at her house was
Miss Clink’s father, she had sufficient reasons, in the wish to keep
that unfortunate young woman’s secret, to prevent her from discovering
to him any portion of her knowledge. The same feeling had caused
her also to conceal the fact from both father and daughter that
accident,--or misfortune rather,--had now brought them together under
the same roof.

After some time had elapsed, during which we may imagine the old man
was made fully acquainted with the situation in which his daughter was
placed, he re-entered the room where his companions were assembled.

“Lads!” said he, striking the table violently with his fist, while his
lips quivered as with an ague, and his eyes rolled with an expression of
unusual ferocity, “if I live to go to the gallows for it, old as I am, I
‘ll cool the blood of that man up at yonder hall for what he ‘s done to
me and mine! To go in there, and see that wench a mother before she is a
wife,--her character gone for ever,--ruined,--lost!--why, I say, sink
me to perdition this instant! if I don’t redden his own hearthstone with
his own blood, though I wait for it to the last day of my life. As sure
as he sees the day, I’ll make his children fatherless--I’ll have my
knife in him!”

“Stop! stop! Mr. Clink!” cried Mrs. Mallory, laying her hand upon his
shoulder, “do cool yourself, and do not threaten so terribly.”

“Threaten!” he exclaimed; “I say you are as bad as them; and it is high
time somebody not only threatened, but did it.--What! isn’t it enough
that I am ruined as a tradesman for ever, and compelled to this beggarly
night-work, in defiance of the laws, for the sake of a paltry existence,
not worth holding from one day to another? Isn’t this, I say, enough,
but must our children be ruined, and shall we be degraded still lower
besides? What!--we are _poor_, are we?--and it does not matter because
a child is poor what becomes of her! Well, well, it may do for some of
_you_,--it may mix with your dastardly spirits very well; but _I_ am of
a different metal, lads. I never passed by an injury unrevenged yet;
and my memory has not yet got so bad as to let that man slip through it.
There’s some men I should never forgive, if I lived a thousand years,
and some that I would lay my own life down to do five minutes’ justice
on; but, above them, there is one shall never slip me, though I go the
world over after him!”

“Surrender! at the peril of your lives!” exclaimed a bluff coarse voice
behind them, while, to the almost speechless astonishment and dismay of
the company, the speaker advanced from a back doorway, discovering the
person of a giant-looking fellow, considerably above six feet in height,
clothed in a thick dress for the night air, armed with a long pistol in
each hand, and guarded by a ferocious mastiff at his side.

“Down with the lights, and defend yourselves, lads!” cried Jerry: “we
are betrayed!”

Almost before these words had passed his lips, half a dozen shots
whizzed at the intruder, several of which lodged in Mrs. Mallory’s bacon
and hams, that hung from the ceiling of the room. One of the men on the
far side of the table fell from the second shot of the head keeper of
Kiddal, for he it was; while the dog he had brought with him attacked
with the ferocity of a tiger old Jerry himself, who by this time
had drawn a knife nearly nine inches long from his pocket, and stood
prepared in the middle of the room for the reception of his four-footed
antagonist. Meanwhile, five or six other keepers rushed into the room
to aid their leader. Filled with smoke, as the place was, from the
discharge of fire-arms, it became almost impossible to distinguish
friends from foes. The lights were extinguished, the fire threw out only
a dull red light upon the objects immediately contiguous to it, and the
momentary glare of discharged guns and pistols alone enabled each party
to distinguish, as by a lightning flash, the objects of their mutual
enmity. At the same time the fierce howling of, the dog, mingled
with the terrific and thick-coming curses of old Jerry, as those two
combatants rolled together upon the floor in fearful contention for the
mastery, together with the shrieks of the two women on the stairs, made
up a chorus too dismal almost for the region of purgatory itself.

[Illustration: 137]

In the midst of this, succour arrived for the invaded party in the
person of no less a hero than Mr. David Shaw. In a state of exasperation
amounting almost to frenzy, that individual rushed into the house,
crying out as he impetuously advanced, “Where is she?--where is
she?”--the idea that Mrs. Clink had purposely betrayed them being alone
uppermost in his mind. Making his way, as if instinctively, towards
the stairs, he beheld something like the figure of a woman standing
three or four steps above him, for the light was not sufficient to
discover more. A plunge with his right hand, which grasped a common
pocket-knife, was the work of an instant, and the landlady of the
house--for he had mistaken his object--fell with a dead weight under
the blow. At the same instant the fingers of his right hand became fast
bound, and the blood ran down his arm in a bubbling stream. Instead of
doing the murder he intended, the knife blade had struck backwards, and
closed tightly upon the holder, so that three of his fingers and the
fleshy part of the thumb were gashed through to the bone. Regardless
of this, he extricated his hand, cast the knife fiercely amongst the
combatants, and fell to the attack in right good earnest.

Pope, if I recollect aright, very highly extols some of those similes
which Perrault describes as similes with a long tail, introduced by the
greatest of epic poets into his descriptions of the combats between
the Trojans and the Greeks, In humble imitation, then, of Homer, let me
proceed to say, that as a platoon of maggots on a cheese-plate contend
with violent writhings of the body for superiority, as they overrun each
other, and alternately gain the uppermost place, or roll ingloriously to
the bottom in the ambitious strife for mastery;--so did the preservers
and the destroyers of game in the parlour of the poacher’s ken mingle
together in deadly strife, amidst the fall of tables and the wreck of
kegs.

Securely seated, after the struggles of an unequal war, old Jerry Clink
might now, by the aid of some friendly candle, have been seen reposing
himself between the legs of a round table, his countenance and hands
so deeply besmeared with blood as to give him all the grimness of a
red Indian squatting after the operation of scalping, the huge mastiff
stretched before him, with its head bruised until its features were not
discernible, and a gaping wound behind the left fore-leg, into which had
been introduced the weapon that had let out his life; while around lay
strewn in confusion the fragments and ribands of nearly every portion of
dress that Mr. Clink had previously worn. Nothing was left of his large
snuff-coloured coat, save the collar and a small portion of the upper
ends of the arms; his red waistcoat lay in twenty pieces around; and his
unmentionables hung about him like the shattered bark of some old
tree, that has been doomed to experience the lacerating power of a
lightning-stroke. Jerry could do no more. He saw David Shaw, after
a desperate struggle, worthy of a more noble cavalier, subdued, and
pinioned like a market-fowl across the back, without the power to make
even an effort in his favour; while of the remaining portion of his men
some had made their escape, and the rest, having exhausted their means
of defence, were surrendering at discretion.

“Well, if I could I would not leave you, lads,” thought Jerry, as he
witnessed the defeat of his companions,--“I’ve stood by you in good, and
I ‘ll stand by you in evil. Sooner than be guilty of a mean action like
that, I’d do as the great Cato did, and fall upon my own pocket-knife.
Here,” he cried in a loud voice, addressing himself to the head
gamekeeper, “here, you big brute! pick me up, will you? I’m going along
with all the rest.”

“I know that,” responded the individual thus addressed, with an allusion
to Mr. Clink’s eyes, which would not have benefited them, if carried
into effect, quite so materially as might a pinch of Grimston’s snuff;
“I’ll take care of you soon enough, old chap, trust me for that.”

So saying, he cast a cord round Jerry’s body, binding his arms to his
sides; an operation which the latter underwent with the most heroic
fortitude and good will. Not so, however, with the next proceeding;
for the gamekeeper, having by this time discovered the carcass of his
murdered dog under the table, seized hold of the loose end of the rope
with which Jerry was tied, and fell to belabouring him without mercy.

The remaining portion of his confederates being now secured in two
bunches of three and four respectively, the whole were marched off under
a strong escort of their conquerors, to a lock-up in the village, where
they remained under guard all night; two or three hours of this time
being expended in a hot dispute between Jerry and David Shaw, upon the
point whether Mrs. Anne Clink did, or did not, wilfully and maliciously
betray them into the hands of their enemies.

That individually she was innocent, the reader is fully aware; although,
in reality, she still had been the unconscious cause of all the
disasters that had occurred. No sooner had she left her house on this
eventful night, as described at the conclusion of a preceding chapter,
than Mr. Longstaff, being conscious that he had stretched his authority
too far, appointed his assistant, the constable, to steal out, and
trace her footsteps wherever she might go, until he found her in a
resting-place for the night; since, by this precaution, the steward
would be enabled, in case of need, to find her again at any moment he
might think proper. The constable discharged his commission so well,
that he carried back a great deal more than he went for; and not
only reported the lodging which Mistress Clink had taken up, but also
discovered that a number of poachers, as he believed, against whom he
had long held a warrant granted for offences against the game-laws, were
there and then assembled in mischievous cogitation, as he had actually
seen one of them emerge from a pigsty at the back of the premises. To be
able to detect the unfortunate woman whom he had deprived of a home, in
the very act of patronising a house of poachers upon the squire’s manor,
was the very thing for Mr. Longstaff. He lost no time in informing
the guardians of the woods what a pretty garrison might be taken
by surprise; and they, in accordance with that information, and the
direction of the constable, accordingly advanced to the attack with the
success which has already been related.

The injury sustained by Mrs. Mallory when knocked down on the staircase
was not very material; nor did she feel it half so much as the
additional one inflicted on her by the magistrates, when she was, some
short time after, called up and fined ten pounds for the share she had
taken in this little business. Longstaff struggled hard to involve Mrs.
Clink in the same difficulty, on the plea that she had aided and abetted
Mrs. Mallory either in having game in her possession, or in eating
it. He failed, however, to make out a case; and as the squire entirely
disapproved of the step he had taken in breaking up Mrs. Clink’s
house, the steward had the additional mortification of hearing himself
commanded not only to reinstate her therein, but also to make ample
restitution for the loss and misery he had occasioned to her.

In conclusion of this chapter, and of the events recorded therein, I may
briefly observe, that, early on the following morning, old Jerry Clink,
and seven of his associates, were conveyed to the castle at York; and
that, after soliloquizing there during some weeks, they underwent their
trial. Now, if any man can escape an infringement of the game-laws,
especially if accompanied by violence, he can escape anything--in
the items of burglary, manslaughter, and arson, he may be considered
invulnerable. They all were found guilty: and, while some of the lesser
offenders were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment at home, Mr.
David Shaw and Jerry Clink were accommodated with a fourteen years’
residence in New South Wales. This judgment served only to sharpen the
fangs of Jerry’s resentment; but as revenge is a commodity which like
Thorn’s Tally-Ho Sauce, may be warranted to keep in all climates with
equal freshness, Jerry not only carried his resentment out with him, and
preserved it while abroad, but likewise brought it back again, for the
purpose of making use of it after his return to his own country.



CHAPTER VII.

_Though short, would yet be found, could it be measured by time, nearly
fifteen years long. Colin Clink’s boyhood and character. A trap is laid
for him by Mr. Longstaff, into which his mother lets him fall: with
other matters highly essential to be told._

Had not the days of omens and prognostications in great part passed
by at the enlightened period in which our story commences, it would
inevitably have been prophesied that the child, by whose very birth the
passions of jealousy and revenge had been so strongly excited, and
which had gone far to cloud the mind of the lady of Kiddal House, was
predestined to create no common stir when he became a man. In that
little vessel, it would have been contended, was contained a large
measure of latent importance; although, contrary to the most approved
and authentic cases of this nature, neither mark, spot, mole, nor even
pimple, was to be found upon him; no strawberry on his shoulder, no
cherry on his neck, no fairy’s signet on his breast, by which the Fates
are sometimes so obliging as to signify to anxious mothers the future
eminence of their sons, or to stamp their identity. But, in the absence
of all or any of these, he was gifted with that which some people
consider of almost as much importance amongst the elements of future
greatness,--an amount of brain which would have rejoiced the late Dr.
Spurzheim, and put sweetness into the face of Gall himself.

During the earlier years of his childhood, Master Colin did not display
anything uncommon, if I except the extraordinary talent he developed in
the consumption of all kinds of edible commodities, whereby, I firmly
believe, he laid the foundation of that excellent figure in which he
appeared after arriving at the age of manhood. Sometimes, when his
mother was in a mood prospective and reflective, she would look upon him
with grief, and almost wish him appetiteless; but Colin stared defiance
in her face as he filled his mouth with potatoes, and drank up as much
milk as would have served a fatting calf.

Reinstated in the habitation where Colin was born, his mother eventually
established a little shop, containing nearly everything, in a small way,
that the inhabitants of such a locality could require. A bag of flour,
a tub of oatmeal, and half a barrel of red herrings, stood for show
directly opposite the door. A couple of cheeses, and a keg of butter,
adorned the diminutive counter. Candles, long and short, thick and
thin, dangled from the ceiling; half a dozen long brushes and mops stood
sentry in one corner; and in and about the window was displayed a varied
collection of pipes, penny loaves, tobacco, battledores, squares of
pictures twenty-four for a halfpenny, cotton-balls, whipcord, and red
worsted nightcaps. In this varied storehouse, with poor pale little
Fanny for his nurse, until he grew too big for her any longer to carry
him, did our hero Colin live and thrive. After he had found his own
legs, his nurse became his companion; and many a time, as he grew
older,--pitying her hungry looks, and solemn-looking eyes,--has he
stolen out with half his own meals in his pinafore, on purpose to give
them unseen to her who, he thought, wanted them more than he. But in
time the little shop was to be minded, and Fanny had grown up enough to
attend to it. Colin missed his companion in the fields, and therefore
he too stayed more at home; and never felt more happy than when,--his
mother’s daily lessons being ended,--he hurried into the shop, and found
something that he could do to help Fanny in her service.

Possibly it might arise from the bitterness of her own reflections upon
the evils and the misery resulting from the insincerity and deception
so common amongst every class of society, that Mrs. Clink very early and
emphatically impressed upon the mind of her boy the necessity of being,
above all things, candid and truth-telling, regardless of whatever might
be the consequences. Disadvantages, she knew, must accompany so unusual
a style of behaviour; but then, she said to herself, “Let him but carry
it out through life, and, if no other good come of it but this, it will
far outbalance all the rest,--that, by him at least, no other young
heart will be destroyed, as mine has been. No lasting misery will by
him be entailed on the confiding and the helpless, under the promise of
protection: no hope of the best earthly happiness be raised in a
weak heart, only to be broken, amidst pain, and degradation, and
self-reproach, that has no end except with life. If I can bring up but
one such man, thus pure in heart and tongue, I shall die in the full
consciousness that, whatever my own errors may have been, I have left
behind me one in the world far better than any I have found there!”

And so Master Colin was tutored on all occasions to think as correctly
as he could, and then to say what he thought, without fear, or hope of
favour.

While Colin year after year thus continued to advance towards that
period when he should finally peck his way through the shell of his
childhood, and walk out unfledged into the world, his career did not
pass unmarked by that ancient enemy of his mother, Longstaff, the
steward. Wherever that worthy went, he was doomed, very frequently, to
hear the name of young Master Clink alluded to in terms which, in the
inner man of Mr. Longstaff, seemed to throw even the cleverest of his
own little Longstaffs at home totally in the rear. Colin was a daring
fellow, or a good-hearted fellow, or a comical lad, who promised to
turn out something more than common; while Master Chatham Bolinbroke
Longstaff, and Miss Æneasina Laxton Longstaff, the most promising
pair of the family, were no more talked about, save by himself, Mrs.
Longstaff, and the servants, than they would have been had they never
honoured society with their presence. The annoyance resulting to Mr.
Longstaff from this comparison was rendered more bitter in consequence
of the formerly alleged, but now universally disowned, relationship
between himself and our hero. He could not endure that the very child
whose mother had endeavoured to cast disgrace upon him, and whom he
hated on that account with intense hatred, should thus not only, as it
were, exalt poverty above riches, but overtop intellectually in their
native village as fine a family as any Suffolk grazier could wish to
see. Mr. Longstaff determined, at length, to use his utmost exertions in
order to rid the village of him; and, the better to effect his object,
he endeavoured, by descending to meannesses which would not have graced
anybody half so well as himself, to worm himself again into the good
opinion of Colin’s mother, by pretending that the doctrine of forget and
forgive was not only eminently Christian and pious in itself, but that
also, if it were not to be continually acted upon, and practically
carried out, the various members of society might have nothing else to
do but to be at endless war with one another. Though he had at one time
certainly regarded Mrs. Clink as a very great enemy, he yet wished to
let by-gones be by-gones; and, as she had had such a misfortune, if he
could be of any benefit to her in putting the boy out when he was old
enough, he should not refuse his services. Now, although the spirit of
Mrs. Clink only despised this man for his conduct from first to
last, she yet reflected that the benefit of Colin was her highest
consideration; and that any help which might be extended to her for him
ought not to be refused, however much she might dislike the hand that
gave it.

An opening accordingly appeared to the prophetic eye of Mr. Longstaff,
not only for ridding the parish of one whose presence he could not
tolerate, but also of accommodating him with a situation where he would
have the satisfaction of reflecting that Colin would both sleep on
thorns, and wake to pass his days in no garden of roses. He would lower
his crest for him,--he would take the spirit out of him,--he would
contrive to place him where he should learn on the wrong side of his
mouth how to make himself the talk of a town, while the children of his
superiors were passed by as though they had neither wealth, quality, nor
talent to recommend them; and, in doing this, he should at the same time
be paying with compound interest the debt he owed to Colin’s mother.

Such were the steward’s reflections, when he found that the bait he
hung out had been taken by Mrs. Clink, and that he should, at the first
convenient opportunity, have it wholly in his power to dispose of Master
Colin Clink after the best fashion his laudable wish for vengeance might
suggest.

How Mr. Longstaff’ planned and succeeded in his design, and what kind
of people Master Colin got amongst, together with certain curious
adventures which befel him in his new situation, will be related in the
ensuing chapter, as it is imperative upon me to conclude the present
with some reference to the proceedings of the parties whom we left in
trouble at the old hall of Kiddal.

When Dr. Rowel had fully attended to the wants of his unfortunate
patient, Miss Shirley seized the earliest opportunity to make an earnest
inquiry of him as to Mrs. Lupton’s state, and the probabilities of her
speedy recovery.

“Oh, she will soon be better--much better!” encouragingly exclaimed
the doctor. “A slight delirium of this kind is easily brought on by
excitement; but it is only temporary. There is no organic disease
whatever. We shall not have the least occasion to think of removing her
to _my establishment_,--not the least. Mrs. Lupton is constitutionally
very sensitive; but she is not a subject in any way predisposed to
mental affliction. The course of my practice has led me to make perhaps
a greater amount of observation on diseases of this peculiar description
than could be found amongst all the other medical men in England put
together. I do not hesitate at all to state that, because I _know it_
to be the fact; and I have invariably remarked, that amongst the
great majority of insane persons that have been under my care, and
no practitioner could have had more, there is a peculiarity,--a
difference,--an organic something or other, which,--I am as much
convinced of as of my own existence,--might have been perceptible to a
clever man at the period of their very earliest mental development, and
which marked them out, if I may so say, to become at one period or other
of their lives inmates of such establishments as this extensive one of
mine at Nabbfield. But the good lady of this house has nothing whatever
of that kind about her. I pronounce her to be one of the very last
persons who could require, for permanent mental affections, the care,
restraint, and assiduous attentions, only to be obtained in a retreat
where the medical adviser is himself a permanent resident. The course of
treatment I am adopting will soon bring her about again,--very soon. But
I must beg you will be so kind as to take care that she is kept quiet,
and--and prevent her as much as possible from conversing on painful or
exciting subjects,” concluded the doctor, smiling very sweetly as he
looked into Miss Shirley’s eyes and profoundly bowed her a good night.

“That fellow is a quack,” thought Miss Shirley, as she returned to Mrs.
Lupton’s chamber. “There is, as he says, _an organic something_ about
_him_ that renders him very repulsive to me; and, if nothing worse come
of him than we have had to-night, it will be a great deal more than his
appearance promises.”

Thus thinking, she threw herself into an easy-chair by her friend’s
bedside, and remained watching her attentively through the night.

However much of a quack the doctor might be, his opinion respecting Mrs.
Lupton’s recovery proved to be correct. In the course of a few weeks she
might have been seen, as formerly, for hours together, with slow steps,
and a deep-seated expression of melancholy, pacing the gardens and woods
of Kiddal, regardless almost of times and seasons. Though now perfectly
recovered, her recent illness formed a very plausible pretext on which
to found reasons for hastening her again away from her home; for that
she was an unwelcome tenant there will readily be believed from the
facts already related.

One day, after a private consultation with the squire, Dr. Rowel
suddenly discovered that it would prove materially beneficial to the
health of the lady of Kiddal were she to exchange for some time the
dull monotonous life of the gloomy old hall, for the more gay and
spirit-stirring society of some busy city. He therefore impressed upon
her, as a condition absolutely indispensable to a perfectly restored
tone of the mind, the necessity under which she lay of residing for a
while in or about the metropolis. Mrs. Lupton soon mentioned the subject
again to her friend Miss Shirley.

“It has been proposed to me,” said she, “to leave this place, and
reside a while in London. I know the reason well--I feel it in my heart
bitterly. I have been here too long, Mary. My picture on the wall is
quite enough--he does not want _me_; but it is of no use to complain: I
shall be as happy there as I am here, or here as I should be there. The
time that I spend here seems to me only like one long thought of the
hour, whether it come soon or late, when all that I endure shall be
at an end. The only thing I love here, Mary, is that sweet little
churchyard,--it looks _so_ peaceful! When I am away, my only wish is
that of returning, though why I should wish to return appears strange.
But I cannot help it,--I know not how it is; but while I am alive, Mary,
it seems as though I must haunt what ought to be my place, whether I
will or not. Welcome or unwelcome, loved or hated, I feel that I am
still a wife.”

Her unresisting spirit accordingly gave way to the proposed arrangement
without a murmur, and, with the exception of one or two brief visits
which she made during the summer season to her unhappy home, she
remained, for the time of which I have spoken, living apart, as though
formally separated from her husband, during a lengthened period of some
years. Under these circumstances, her friend Miss Shirley continued
almost constantly with her, diverting her mind as much as possible
from the subject which poisoned the happiness of her whole life, and
supporting her in sorrow, when to divert reflection was no longer
possible.



CHAPTER VIII.

_Mr. Longstaff rides over to Snitterton Lodge to obtain Colin a
situation.--Miss Maria Sowersoft and Mr. Samuel Palethorpe,--his future
mistress and master,--described._

At the distance of some five or six miles from Bramleigh, and to the
south-west of that village, lies an extensive tract of bare, treeless
country, which some years ago was almost wholly uninclosed--if we
except a small farm, the property of the Church--together with some few
scattered patches, selected on account of their situation, and inclosed
with low stone walls, in order to entitle them to the denomination
of fields. Owing to the abundance of gorse, or whins, with which the
uncultivated parts of this district were overgrown, it had obtained
the characteristic name of “Whin-moor;” while, in order to cover
the barrenness of the place, and to exalt it somewhat in the eyes of
strangers, the old farm itself, to which I have alluded, was dignified
with the title of Snitterton Lodge, the seat of Miss Maria Sower-soft,
its present tenant.

Early one morning in the spring season, Mr. Longstaff mounted his horse
in high glee, and jogged along the miry by-roads which led towards this
abode, with the intention of consulting Miss Sowersoft upon a piece
of business which to him was of the very greatest importance. He had
ascertained on the preceding evening that Miss Sowersoft was in want
of a farming-boy; one whom she could have cheap, and from some little
distance. Indeed, from a combination of circumstances unfavourable to
herself, she found some difficulty in getting suited from the immediate
neighbourhood where she was known. If the boy happened to be without
friends to interfere between him and his employer, all the better. Peace
would thereby be much more certainly secured; besides that, it would be
all the greater charity to employ such a boy in a place where, she well
knew, he would never lack abundance of people to look after him, and
to chastise him whenever he went wrong. In fact, Miss Maria herself
regarded the situation as so eligible in the matters of little work,
large feeding, and excellent moral tutorage, that she held the addition
of wages to be almost unnecessary; and, therefore, very piously offered
less than half the sum commonly given elsewhere.

Mr. Longstaff had been acquainted with Miss Sowersoft for some years,
and had enjoyed various opportunities of becoming acquainted with her
character. He knew very well, that if he had possessed the power to make
a situation for Master Colin Clink exactly after the model of his own
fancy, he could not have succeeded better in gratifying his own malice
than he was likely to do by getting the boy placed under the care of the
mistress of Snitterton Lodge.

Mr. Longstaff arrived at the place of his destination about two hours
before noon; and, on entering the house, found Miss Sowersoft very
busily engaged in frying veal cutlets for the delicate palate of a
trencher-faced, red-clay complexioned fellow, who sat at his ease in
a home-made stuffed chair by the fire, looking on, while the operation
proceeded, with all the confidence and self-satisfaction of a master of
the house. This worthy was the head farming-man, or director-general
of the whole establishment, not excluding Miss Maria herself; for he
exercised a very sovereign sway, not only over everything done, and
over every person employed upon the premises, but also, it was generally
believed, over the dreary region of Miss Sowersoft’s heart. That he was
a paragon of perfection, and well entitled to wield the sceptre of the
homestead, there could be no doubt, since Miss Maria herself, who must
be considered the best judge, most positively declared it.

In his youth this useful man had been christened Samuel; but time, which
impairs cloud-capped towers, and crumbles palaces, had fretted away
some portion of that stately name, and left to him only the fragmentary
appellation of “Sammy.”

“What!” exclaimed Mr. Longstaff in surprise as he caught the sound of
the frying-pan, and beheld a clean napkin spread half over the table,
with one knife and fork, and a plateful of bread, laid upon it; “dinner
at ten o’clock, Miss Sowersoft?”

“Oh, bless you, no!” replied the individual addressed, “it is only a
bit of warm lunch I was just frizzling for Sammy. You see, he is out in
these fields at six o’clock every morning, standing in the sharp cold
winds till he is almost perished, and his appetite gets as keen as
mustard. Really, I do say sometimes I wonder how he manages to be so
well as he is: but then, you know, he is used to it, and I generally do
him up a bit of something hot about nine or ten o’clock, that serves
him pretty well till dinner-time.” Then, handing up a dish of cutlets
sufficient for a small family, she continued,--“Now, Sammy, do try if
you can manage this morsel while it is hot. Will you have ale, or a sup
of warm gin-and-water?”

Palethorpe was in no hurry to inform her which of the two he should
prefer; and therefore Miss Sowersoft remained in an attitude of
expectation, watching his mouth, until it pleased him to express his
decision in favour of gin-and-water.

While Mr. Palethorpe was intently engaged in putting the cutlets out
of sight, Mr. Longstaff introduced the subject of his visit in a brief
conversation with the mistress of the house. He gave the lady to
understand that he had taken the trouble of riding over on purpose to
name to her a boy, one Colin Clink, who, he believed, would just suit
the situation she had vacant. He was now about fifteen years old, but as
strong as an unbroke filly; he had sense enough to learn anything; had
no friends, only one, in the shape of a helpless mother, so that Miss
Sowersoft need not fear being crossed by anybody’s meddling; and, at the
same time, he thought that by a little dexterous management she might
contrive to obtain him for an old song. For several reasons, which it
would be needless to explain, he himself also strongly wished to see the
boy comfortably settled in her house, as he felt convinced that it would
prove highly advantageous to all the parties concerned. He concluded by
recommending Miss Sowersoft to pay a visit to Bramleigh; when she could
not only see the boy with her own eyes, but also make such statements to
his mother as to her might at the time seem fit.

To this proposal Miss Maria eventually agreed; and this amiable pair
parted on the understanding that she should be driven over by Mr.
Palethorpe in the chaise-cart on the following day. Just as Mr.
Longstaff was passing out at the door, he was invited in again to take
a glass of wine; an appeal which he felt no great desire to resist,
especially as it was immediately reached out and filled for him by the
fair hand of the hostess herself.

“_You’ll_ have one?” asked she, as she placed a glass upon the table
close under the nose of Mr. Palethorpe, “for I’m sure it can do you no
harm such a day as this.”

“Why, thank ‘ee, meesis,” replied he, filling it to the brim, “but I
feel as if I’d had almost enough.”

“Stuff and nonsense about enough!” cried Miss Maria; “you are always
feeling as if you had had enough, according to your account; though you
eat and drink nothing at all, hardly, considering what you get through
every day.”

Palethorpe looked particularly spiritual at this, as though he felt half
persuaded that he did actually live like a seraph, and took off his
wine at a gulp, satisfied, in the innocence of his own heart, that no
reflections whatever could be made upon him by the steward after the
verbal warrant thus given by his mistress, in corroboration of the
extreme abstinence which he endured.

“Well, meesis,” continued Palethorpe, rising from his chair, stretching
his arms, and opening his mouth as wide as the entrance to a hen-roost,
“I ‘ll just go again a bit, and see how them men’s getting on. They do
nought but look about ‘em when I arn’t there.” And, so saying, he walked
out with the cautious deliberation of a man just returning from a public
dinner.

“A man like that,” said Miss Sowersoft, as she gazed after him with
looks of admiration, “Mr. Longstaff, is a treasure on a farm; and I am
sure we could never get our own out of this, do as we would, till he
came and took the direction of it. He is such an excellent manager to
be sure, and does understand all kinds of cattle so well. Why, his
opinion is always consulted by everybody in the neighbourhood; but then,
you know, if they buy, he gets a trifle for his judgment, and so that
helps to make him up a little for his own purse. I could trust him with
every penny I possess, I’m sure. He sells out and buys in everything we
have; and I never yet lost a single farthing by anything he did. Why,
you remember that pony of Dr. Rowel’s; he knocked it to pieces with his
hard riding, and one thing or another: well, Sammy bought that; and,
by his good management of his knees, and a few innocent falsehoods, you
know, just in the way of trade, he sold it again to a particular friend,
at a price that more than doubled our money.”

The steward, weary of Mr. Palethorpe’s praises, and despairing of an end
to them, pulled out his watch, and observed that it was high time for
him to be in his saddle again. On which Miss Sowersoft checked herself
for the present, and, having renewed her promise to go to Bramleigh on
the morrow, allowed Mr. Longstaff to depart.

With such a clever master, and eloquent mistress, Colin could scarcely
fail to benefit most materially; and so he did,--though not exactly in
the way intended,--for he learned while there a few experimental lessons
in the art of living in the world, which lasted him during the whole
subsequent period of his life; and which he finally bequeathed to me, in
order to have them placed on record for the benefit of the reader.



CHAPTER IX.

_Enhances the reader’s opinion of Mr. Palethorpe and Miss Sowersoft
still higher and higher; and describes an interview which the latter had
with Mr. Longstaff respecting our hero._

The benevolent Mr. Longstaff lost no time after his return home in
acquainting Mrs. Clink with the great and innumerable advantages of the
situation at Snitterton Lodge, which he had been endeavouring to procure
for her son. Nor did he fail very strongly to impress upon her mind how
necessary it would be, when Miss Sowersoft should arrive, for her to
avoid stickling much about the terms on which Colin was to go; because,
if by any mishap she should chance to offend that lady, and thus break
off the negotiation, an opportunity would slip through her fingers,
which, it was highly probable, no concatenation of fortunate
circumstances would ever again throw in her way.

Mrs. Clink’s decision not being required before the following morning,
she passed the night almost sleeplessly in considering the affair under
every point of view that her anxious imagination could suggest. Colin
himself, like most other boys, true to the earliest propensity of our
nature, preferred a life passed in fields and woods, amongst horses,
dogs, and cattle, to that of a dull shop behind a counter; or of any
tedious and sickly mechanical trade. So far that was good. What he
himself approved, he was most likely to succeed in; and with success in
field-craft, he might eventually become a considerable farmer, or raise
himself, like Mr. Longstaff, to the stewardship of some large estate.
Visions, never to be realised, now rose in vivid distinctness before the
mental eye of Mistress Clink. The far-off greatness of her son as a man
of business passed in shining glory across the field of her telescope.
But when again she reflected that every penny of his fortune remained
to be gathered by his own fingers, the glass dropped from her eye,--all
became again dark; the very speck of light she had so magnified,
disappeared. But sleep came to wrap up all doubts; and she woke on the
morrow, resolved that Colin should thus for the first time be launched
upon the stream of life.

Early in the afternoon a horse stopped at Mrs. Clink’s door, bearing
upon his back a very well-fed, self-satisfied, easy-looking man, about
forty years of age; and behind him, on a rusty pillion at least three
generations old, a lady in black silk gown and bonnet, of no beautiful
aspect, and who had passed apparently about eight-and-forty years in
this sublunary world. Mistress Clink was at no loss to conjecture at
once that in this couple she beheld the future master and mistress of
her son Colin. Nor can it be said she was mistaken: the truth being
that, after the departure of Mr. Longstaff from Snitterton Lodge on the
preceding day, it had occurred to Miss Sowersoft that, instead of taking
the chaise-cart, as had been intended, it would be far pleasanter to
take the longest-backed horse on the premises, and ride on a pillion
behind Palethorpe. In this manner, then, they reached Bramleigh.

While Mr. Palethorpe went down to the alehouse to put up his horse,
and refresh himself with anything to be found there which he thought he
could relish, Miss Sowersoft was conducted into the house by Fanny; and
in a few minutes the desired interview between her and Mistress Clink
took place.

Colin was soon after called in to be looked at.

“A nice boy!” observed Miss Sowersoft,--“a fine boy, indeed! Dear! how
tall he is of his age! Come here, my boy,” and she drew him towards
her, and fixed him between her knees while she stroked his hair over his
forehead, and finished off with her hand at the tip of his nose. “And
how should you like, my boy, to live with me, and ride on horses,
and make hay, and gather up corn in harvest-time, and keep sheep and
poultry, and live on all the fat of the land, as we do at Snitterton
Lodge?”

“Very much,” replied Colin; “I should have some rare fun there.”

“Rare fun, would you?” repeated Miss Sowersoft, laughing. “Well, that
is finely said. We shall see about that, my boy,--we shall see. Then you
would like to go back with us, should you?”

“Oh, yes; I ‘ll go as soon as Fanny has finished my shirts, thank you.”

“And when you get there you will tell me how you like it, won’t you?”

“Yes, ma’am,” continued Colin; “mother has taught me always to say what
I think. I shall be sure to tell you exactly.”

“What a good mother!” exclaimed Miss Sowersoft.

“I like her better than anybody else in the world,” added Colin.

“What, better than me?” ironically demanded Miss Sowersoft.

“I don’t like you at all, I tell you!” he replied, at the same time
breaking from her hands; “for I don’t know you; and, besides, you are
not half so pretty as my mother, nor Fanny either.”

Miss Sowersoft blushed, and looked confused at this bit of truth--for a
truth it was, which others would certainly have _thought_, but not have
given utterance to.

“I will teach you your manners, young Impudence, when I get hold of you,
or else there are no hazel-twigs in Snitterton plantation!” _thought_
Miss Sowersoft, reversing Colin’s system, and keeping that truth all to
herself which she ought to have spoken.

“You will take care he is well fed?” remarked Mistress Clink, somewhat
in a tone of interrogation, and as though anxious to divert her
visitor’s thoughts to some other topic.

“As to feeding,” replied Miss Maria, once more verging towards her
favourite topic, “I can assure you, ma’am, that the most delicious
dinner is set out every day on my table; with a fine, large, rich
Yorkshire pudding, the size of one of those floor-stones, good enough, I
am sure, for a duke to sit down to. If you were to see the quantities
of things that I put into my oven for the men’s dinner, you would be
astonished. Great bowls full of stewed meat, puddings, pies, and, I am
sure, roasted potatoes past counting. Look at Mr. Palethorpe. You saw
him. He does no discredit to the farm, I think. And really he is such
a clever, good, honest man! He is worth a Jew’s eye on that farm, for I
never in my life could get any man like him. Then, see what an excellent
master he will be for this boy. In five or six years he would be fit to
take the best situation that ever could be got for him, and do Sammy a
deal of credit, too, for his teaching. And as to his being taken ill,
or anything of that kind, we never think of such a thing with us. People
often complain of having no appetite, but it requires all that we can
do to keep their appetites down. A beautiful bracing air we have off
the moor, worth every doctor in Yorkshire; and I really believe it cures
more people that are ill than all of them put together.”

This discourse was not lost upon Mistress Clink. That lady looked
upon the character of her visiter as a sort of essence of honesty,
hospitality, and good-nature; and influenced by the feelings of the
moment, she regarded Mr. Longstaff as really a friendly man, Miss
Sowersoft as the best of women, and Colin the most fortunate of boys.

Under these circumstances it became no difficult matter for Miss Maria
to settle the affair exactly to her own mind; and, under the pretence of
instruction in his business, which was never to be given,--of abundance,
which he never found,--and of good-nature, which was concentrated wholly
upon one individual,--to persuade Mistress Clink to give the services
of her boy on the consideration that, in addition to all his other
advantages, he should receive twenty-five shillings for the first year,
and five shillings additional per year afterwards. This bargain being
struck, it was agreed that Colin should be sent over at the earliest
convenient time; and Miss Sowersoft took her leave.

In order to save the expense of any slight refreshment at the tavern,
Miss Maria called upon her friend the steward, on the pretence of
communicating to him the result of her visit. She found that worthy in
his dining-room, with Master Chatham Bolinbroke Longstaff--whom he was
attempting to drill in the art of oratory,--mounted upon the table, and
addressing his father, who was the only individual in the room, as a
highly respectable and very numerous audience.

While this was proceeding here, Miss Æneasina Longstaff, in an adjoining
room, sat twanging the strings of a harp. On the other side her younger
sister, Miss Magota, was spreading cakes of Reeve’s water-colours upon
sheets of Whatman’s paper, and dignifying the combination with the title
of drawings: while, above stairs, young Smackerton William Longstaff was
acquiring the art of horsemanship on a steed of wood; and the younger
Longstaffs were exercising with wooden swords, with a view to future
eminence in the army; and, altogether, were making such disturbance in
the house as rendered it a perfect Babel.

Into this noisy dwelling did Miss Sowersoft introduce herself;
and, after having stood out with great pretended admiration Master
Bolinbroke’s lesson, eventually succeeded in obtaining a hearing from
the too happy parent of all this rising greatness.

Mr. Longstaff congratulated her upon the agreement she had made, but
advised her to be very strict with the boy Colin, or in a very short
time she would find him a complete nuisance.

“If _you_ do not make something of him, Miss Sowersoft,” said he, “I am
afraid he’ll turn out one of that sort which a parish would much rather
be without than see in it. He has some sense, as I told you yesterday,
but that makes him all the more mischievous. Sense is well enough,
Miss Sowersoft, where parents have discretion to turn it in the right
channel, and direct it to proper ends; but I do conscientiously believe
that when a little talent gets amongst poor people it plays the very
deuce with them, unless it is directed by somebody who understands much
better what is good for them than they can possibly know for themselves.
If you do not hold a tight string over that boy Colin, he ‘ll get the
upper hand of you, as sure as your head is on your shoulders.”

“You are right--very right!” exclaimed Miss Maria. “I am sure, if you
had actually known how he insulted me this morning to my face, though I
was quite a stranger to him, you could not have said anything more true.
It was lucky for him that Palethorpe did not hear it, or there would not
have been a square inch of white skin left on his back by this time. His
mother cannot be any great shakes, I should think, to let him go on so.”

“His mother!” cried Longstaff; “pooh! pooh! Between you and me, Miss
Sowersoft,--though it does not do to show everybody what colour you wear
towards them,--there is not a person in the world--and I ought not
to say it of a woman, but so it is,--there is not a single individual
living that I hate more than I do that woman. She created more mischief
in my family, and between Mrs. Longstaff and myself, some years ago,
than time has been able altogether to repair. I cannot mention the
circumstance more particularly, but you may suppose it was no ordinary
thing, when I tell you, that though Mrs. Longstaff knows the charge to
have been as false as a quicksand; though she has completely exonerated
me from it, time after time, when we happened to talk the matter over;
yet, if ever she gets the least out of temper, and I say a word to her,
she slaps that charge in my face again, as though it were as fresh as
yesterday, and as true as Baker’s Chronicles.”

“Ay, dear!” sighed Miss Maria, “I feared she was a bad one.”

“She _is_ a bad one,” repeated Longstaff.

“And that lad is worse,” added the lady.

“However, we’ll cure him, Mr. Longstaff.” Miss Maria Sowersoft laughed,
and the steward laughed likewise as he added, that it would afford him
very great pleasure indeed to hear of her success.

This matter being settled so much to their mutual satisfaction, Mr.
Longstaff invited his visiter to join Mrs. Longstaff and her daughters,
the Misses Laxton and Magota, over a plate of bread and butter, and a
glass of port, which were always ready when the lessons of the morning
were finished. This invitation, being the main end and scope of her
visit, she accepted at once; and after a very comfortable refection,
rendered dull only by the absence of Palethorpe, she took her leave.
Shortly afterwards Miss Maria might have been seen again upon her
pillion; while her companion, mightily refreshed by the relishable
drinks he had found at the tavern, trotted off his horse towards home at
a round speed, for which everybody, save the landlady of the inn, who
had kept his reckoning, was unable to account.



CHAPTER X.

_A parting scene between Colin and Fanny, with the promises they made to
each other. Colin sets out for his new destination._

Something closely akin to grief was visible in the little cottage at
Bramleigh, even at daybreak, on that gloomy morning which had been fixed
upon for Colin’s departure. It was yet some hours before the time at
which he should go; for his mother and Fanny had risen with the first
dawn of light, in order to have everything for him in a state of
preparation. Few words were exchanged between them as they went
mechanically about their household work; but each looked serious, as
though the day was bringing sorrow at its close: and now and then the
lifting of Fanny’s clean white apron to her eyes, or the sudden and
unconscious fall of big tears upon her hands, as she kneeled to whiten
the little hearthstone of the house, betrayed the presence of feelings
in her bosom which put a seal upon the tongue, and demanded the
observance of silence to keep them pent within their trembling
prison-place. The mother, whose heart was more strongly fortified
with the hope of her boy’s well-doing, felt not so deeply; though the
uppermost thoughts in her mind were yet of him, and of this change.
To-morrow he would be gone. How she should miss his open heart and
voluble tongue, which were wont to make her forget all the miseries she
had endured on his account! She would no longer have need to lay the
nightly pillow for him; nor to call him in the morning again to another
day of life and action. The house would seem desolate without him; and
she and Fanny would have to learn how to be alone.

His little box of clothes was now carefully packed up; and amongst
them Fanny laid a few trifling articles, all she could, which had
been bought, unknown to any one, with the few shillings which had been
hoarded up through a long season. These, she thought, might surprise him
at some unexpected moment with the memory of home, and of those he had
left there; when, perhaps, the treatment he might receive from others
would render the memory of that home a welcome thing. A small phial
of ink, three penny ready-made pens, and half a quire of letter-paper,
formed part of Fanny’s freightage: as she intended that, in case he
could not return often enough on a visit to them of some few hours, he
should at least write to tell them how he fared.

When she was about completing these arrangements Colin entered the
room, in high spirits at the anticipated pleasures of his new mode of
existence.

“Is it all ready, Fanny?” he asked; at the same time picking up one end
of the cord by which the box was to be bound.

“Yes,” she briefly replied; accompanying that single monosyllable with a
sudden and convulsive catching of the breath, which told of an overladen
bosom better than any language.

“Then I shall go very soon,” coolly observed Colin,--“there is no good
in stopping if everything is ready.”

“Nay, not yet,” murmured Fanny, as she bowed down her head under the
pretence of arranging something in the box, though, in reality, only to
hide that grief which in any other manner she could no longer conceal.
“We can’t tell when we shall see you again. Do not go sooner than you
can help, for the latest will be soon enough.”

“What, are you crying?” asked Colin. “I did not mean to make you cry;”
 and he himself began to look unusually serious. “It is a good place, you
know; and, if I get on well, perhaps when I am grown up I shall be able
to keep a little house of my own; and then you, and my mother, and I,
will live there, and be as comfortable as possible together. You shall
be dairy-maid, while I ride about to see that the men do their work;
and, as for my mother, she shall do as she likes.”

Though not much consoled by this pleasing vision of future happiness,
Fanny could not but smile at the earnestness with which Colin had
depicted it. Indeed, he could not have offered this balm to her wounded
spirit with greater sincerity had such a result as that alluded to been
an inevitable and unavoidable consequence of his present engagement at
Snitterton Lodge. But Fanny had still less faith in the prognostications
of the little seer, in consequence of the opinion which she had
secretly formed of the character of his mistress; notwithstanding
the plausibility of her conversation. The natural expression of her
countenance appeared to be that of clouded moroseness and grasping
avarice; while a sort of equivocal crossing of the eyes, though only
occasional, seemed to evince to those who could deeply read the human
face divine, the existence of two distinct and opposite sentiments in
her mind, to either of which she could, with equal show of truth, give
utterance, as occasion might render necessary. Over all this, however,
and, as it were, upon the surface, her life of traffic with the world
seemed to have rendered it needful for her to assume a character which
too often enabled her to impose upon the really honest and innocent;
though it never left, even upon the most unsuspecting, any very deep
feeling of confidence in her integrity. Such, at least, were the
impressions which Miss Sowersoft’s appearance produced upon the mind of
Fanny; though the latter made no other use of them than that of taking
some little precautions in order to be informed truly in what manner she
and Colin might agree, which otherwise she would not have deemed at all
needful.

“You will come over to see us every Sunday?” she asked.

“Yes, if they will let me,” replied Colin.

“Let you!” But she suddenly checked herself. “And, if not, when they
will not let you, you will be sure to write, Colin? Now promise me that.
Or, if anything should be amiss,--if you should not like the place, for
there is no telling till you have tried it; if it _should_ so happen
that they do not use you so well as they ought to do, send, if you
cannot come, directly; and, if there is nobody else to help you that
is better able,”--Fanny stood up, and clasped both his hands with deep
energy between her own,--“I will stand by you as long as I live. I am
not able to do much, but I can earn my living; and, if I work like a
slave, you shall never want a farthing as long as I have one left for
myself in the world! I have nursed you, Colin, when I was almost as
little as yourself; and I feel the same to you as though your mother was
mine too.”

While Colin, with tears in his eyes, promised implicit compliance
with all that had been requested of him, he yet, with the candour and
warm-hearted generosity peculiar to his character, declared that Fanny
ought to despise him if ever he trusted to the labour of her hands for a
single meal, No: he would save all his yearly wages, and bring them home
for her and his mother; and in time he should be able to maintain them
both by his own labour, without their having any need to struggle for
themselves. As for the rest, if anybody ill-used him, he was strong
enough to stand his own ground: or, if not, he knew of another way to
save himself, which would do quite as well, or better.

“What other way? What do you mean?” asked Fanny very anxiously.

“Oh, nothing,” said Colin; “only, if people do not treat us properly, we
are not obliged to stay with them.”

“But you must never think of running away,” she replied, “and going you
do not know where. Come back home if they ill-treat you, and you will
always be safe with us.”

Their morning meal being now prepared, the three sat down to it with
an undefined feeling of sadness which no effort could shake off. Some
little extra luxury was placed upon the table for Colin; and many times
was he made to feel that--however unconsciously to themselves--both
his mother and Fanny anticipated all his slightest wants with unusual
quickness; and waited upon him, and pressed him to his last ill-relished
meal, with a degree of assiduity which rendered the sense of his parting
with them doubly painful.

The hour for going at length arrived. At ten o’clock the village-carrier
called for his little box; and at twelve Colin himself was to set out.
The last half-hour was spent by his mother in giving him that impressive
counsel which under such circumstances a mother best knows how to give;
while Fanny stood by, weeping as she listened to it, and frequently
sobbing aloud when some more striking observation, some more pointed
moral truth, or apposite quotation from the sacred volume, escaped the
mother’s lips. Twelve o’clock struck. At a quarter past our hero was
crossing the fields on the foot-road to Whinmoor; and at about three in
the afternoon he arrived at the place of his future abode.



CHAPTER XI.

_Describes the greeting which Colin received on his arrival at
Snitterton Lodge; together with a very serious quarrel between him and
Mr. Palethorpe; and its fearful results._

As Colin descended a gentle declivity, where the sterility of the moor
seemed imperceptibly to break into and blend with the woods and the
bright spring greenery of a more fertile tract of country, he came
within sight of Miss Sowersoft’s abode. Though dignified with the title
of a seat, it was a small common farmhouse, containing only four rooms,
a long dairy and kitchen, and detached outhouses behind. To increase its
resemblance to a private residence, a piece of ground in front was
laid out with grass and flower-beds. The ground was flanked on either
extremity with gooseberry-bushes, potato-lands, broad-beans, and
pea-rows; and, farther in the rear, so as to be more out of sight,
cabbages, carrots, and onions. The natural situation of the place was
excellent. Standing on the north side of a valley which, though
not deep, yet caused it to be shut out from any distant prospect in
consequence of the long slope of the hills, the little dwelling looked
out over a homely but rural prospect of ploughed and grass land, and
thick woods to the left; over which, when the light of the sun was upon
it, might be seen the white top of a maypole which stood in the middle
of the next village; and, still nearer, the fruitful boughs of an
extensive orchard, now pink and white with bloom; while along the foot
of the garden plunged a little boisterous and headlong rivulet, worn
deep into the earth, which every summer storm lashed into a hectoring
fury of some few days’ duration, and, on the other hand, which every
week of settled fair weather, calmed down into a gentle streamlet,--now
gathering in transparent pools, where minnows shot athwart the
sun-warmed water like darts of light; and then again stretching over
fragments of stone, in mimic falls and rapids, which only required to
be enlarged by the imagination of the listless wanderer, to surpass in
picturesque beauty the course of the most celebrated rivers.

As Colin entered the garden-gate, he observed the industrious Mr.
Palethorpe sitting against the western wall of the house,--the afternoon
being warm and inviting,--smoking his pipe, and sipping the remains of
a bottle of wine. With his legs thrown idly out, and his eyes nearly
closed to keep out the sun, he appeared to be imbibing, in the most
delicious dreamy listlessness, at once the pleasures of the weed and the
grape, and those which could find their way to his inapprehensive soul
from the vast speaking volume of glad nature which lay before him.

“So, you ‘re come, are you?” he muttered, without relieving his mouth of
the pipe, as the boy drew near him.

“Yes, I am here at last,” replied Colin; adding very good-humouredly,
“you seem to be enjoying yourself.”

“And what in th’ devil’s name is that to you?” he savagely exclaimed;
“what business of yours is it what I’m doing?”

“I did not intend to offend you, I’m sure,” said Colin.

“You be dang’d!” replied Sammy. “You arn’t mester here yet, mind you, if
you are at home! I have heard a bit about you, my lad; and if you don’t
take care how you carry yourself, you ‘ll soon hear a little bit about
me, and feel it an’ all, more than we’ve agreed for at present. Get into
th’ house with you, and let meesis see you ‘re come.”

The blood rose in Colin’s face; and tears, which he would have given
half his life to suppress, welled up in his eyes at this brutal
greeting, so different to that which he had expected, and to the
feelings of happiness which a few minutes previously had thronged, like
bees upon a flower, about his heart.

As he passed the wire-woven windows of the dairy at the back of the
house, he observed a maid within busily employed, in the absence of Miss
Sowersoft, in devouring by stealth a piece of cheese.

Colin knocked at the door; but before the maid could swallow her
mouthful, and wipe the signs thereof from her lips, so as to fit herself
to let him in, an ill-tempered voice, which he instantly recognised as
that of Miss Sowersoft, bawled out, “Sally!--why don’t you go to the door?”

“Yes, ‘um!” bellowed Sally, in return, as she rushed to the place of
entrance, and threw the door back.

“Is Miss Sowersoft at home?” asked the boy.

“Oh, it’s you, is it?” cried his mistress from an inner room. “Come in,
come in, and don’t keep that door open half an hour, while I am in a
perspiration enough to drown anybody!”

Colin passed through the kitchen into the apartment from which the voice
had proceeded, and there beheld Miss Sowersoft, with a huge stack of
newly-washed linen before her, rolling away at a mangle, which occupied
nearly one side of the room.

“Why did n’t your mother send you at a more convenient time?” continued
Miss Sowersoft, looking askance at Colin, with her remotest eye cast
crosswise upon him most malignantly. “If she had had as much to do as
I have had, ever since she kept house of her own, she would have known
pretty well before now that folks don’t like to be interrupted in the
middle of their day’s work with new servants coming to their places.
But I suppose she’s had nothing to do but to pamper you all her life. I
can’t attend to you now;--you see I ‘m up to my neck in business of one
sort or another.”

So saying, she fell to turning the mangle again with increased velocity;
so that, had our hero even felt inclined to make an answer, his voice
would have been utterly drowned by the noise.

In the mean time Colin stood in the middle of the floor, doubtful what
step to take next, whether into a chair or out of the house; but, in the
lack of other employment, he pulled his cap into divers fanciful forms,
which had never entered into the head of its manufacturer, until at
length a temporary cessation of his mistress’s labours, during which an
exchange of linen was made in the mangle, enabled him to ask, with some
chance of being heard, whether he could not begin to do something.

“I ‘ll tell you what to do,” replied Miss Maria, “when I ‘ve done
myself,--if I ever shall have done; for I am more like a galley-slave
than anything else. Nobody need sit with their hands in their pockets
here, if their will is as good as their work. Go out and look about
you;--there ‘s plenty of stables and places to get acquainted with
before you ‘ll know where to fetch a thing from, if you are sent for it.
And, if Palethorpe has finished his pipe and bottle, tell him I want to
know what time he would like to have his tea ready.”

Colin very gladly took Miss Sowersoft (who was more than usually sour,
in consequence of the quantity of employment on her hands) at her word,
and, without regarding her message to Palethorpe, with whom he had no
desire to change another word at present, he hastened out of the house,
and rambled alone about the fields and homestead until dusk.

Several times during this stroll did Colin consider and re-consider the
propriety of walking home again without giving his situation any farther
trial. That Snitterton was no paradise, and its inhabitants a nest
of hornets, he already began to believe; though to quit it before a
beginning had been made, however much of ill-promise stared him in the
face, would but indifferently accord with the resolutions he had formed
in the morning, to undergo any difficulties rather than fail in his
determination eventually to do something, not for himself only, but
for his mother and Fanny. The advice which the former had given him not
twelve hours ago also came vividly to his recollection; the sense of its
truth, which experience was even now increasing, materially sharpening
its impression on his memory. It was not, however, without some doubts
and struggles that he finally resolved to brave the worst,--to stand out
until, if it should be so, he could stand out no longer.

Strengthened by these reflections, and relying on his own honesty of
intention, our hero returned to the house just as all the labourers had
gathered round the kitchen-grate, and were consuming their bread
and cheese in the dim twilight. Amongst them was one old man, whose
appearance proclaimed that his whole life had been spent in the hard
toils of husbandry, but spent almost in vain, since it had provided him
with nothing more than the continued means of subsistence, and left him,
when worn-out nature loudly declared that his days of labour were past,
no other resource but still to toil on, until his trembling hand should
finally obtain a cessation in that place which the Creator has appointed
for all living. What little hair remained upon his head was long and
white; and of the same hue also was his week’s beard. But a quiet
intelligent grey eye, which looked out with benevolence from under a
white penthouse of eyebrow, seemed to repress any feelings of levity
that otherwise might arise from his appearance, and to appeal, in
the depth of its humanity, from the helplessness of that old wreck of
manhood, to the strength of those who were now what once he was, for
assistance and support.

“Ay, my boy!” said old George, as Colin entered, and a seat was made for
him near the old man, “thou looks a bit different to me; though I knew
the time when I was bonny as thou art.”

As he raised the bread he was eating to his mouth, his hand trembled
like a last withered leaf, which the next blast will sweep away for
ever. There was so much natural kindness in the old man’s tone, that
instantaneously, and almost unconsciously, the comparison between Miss
Sowersoft and her man Samuel, who had spoken to him in the afternoon,
and poor old George, was forced upon Colin’s mind. In reply to the old
man’s concluding remark, Colin observed, “Yes, sir, I dare say; but that
is a long while ago now.”

“Ay, ay, thou’s right, boy,--it is a long while. I’ve seen more than I
shall ever see again, and done more than I shall ever do again.”

Mr. Palethorpe, who sat in the home-made easy-chair, while the old man
occupied a fourlegged stool, burst into a laugh. “You ‘re right there,
George,” he retorted. “Though you never did much since I knowed you, you
‘ll take right good care you ‘ll not do as much again. Drat your idle
old carcase! you don’t earn half the bread you ‘re eating.”

The old man looked up,--not angry, nor yet seeking for pity. “Well,
perhaps not; but it is none the sweeter for that, I can assure you. If I
can’t work as I did once, it’s no fault of mine. We can get no more out
of a nut than its kernel; and there’s nought much but the shell left of
me now.”

“Yes, yes,” returned Palethorpe, “you don’t like it, George, and you’ll
not do it. Dang your good-for-nothing old limbs! you ‘ll come to the
work’us at last, I know you will!”

“Nay, I hope not,” observed the old man, somewhat sorrowfully. “As I’ve
lived out so long, I still hope, with God’s blessing on my hands, though
they can’t do much, to manage to die out.”

“Come, then,” said Palethorpe, pushing a pair of hard clay-plastered
quarter-boots from off his feet, “stir your lazy bones, and clean my
boots once more before you put on th’ parish livery.”

The old man was accustomed to be thus insulted, and, because he dared
not reply, to take insult in silence. He laid down the remaining portion
of his bread and cheese, with the remark that he would finish it when he
had cleaned the boots, and was about rising from his seat to step across
the hearth to pick them up, as they lay tossed at random on the floor,
when young Colin, whose heart had been almost bursting during this brief
scene, put his hand upon the poor old creature’s knee to stop him,
and, at the same time starting to his own feet instead, exclaimed, “No,
no!--It’s a shame for such an old man as you.--Sit still, and I ‘ll do
‘em.”

“You shan’t though, you whelp!” exclaimed Palethorpe, in great wrath, at
the same time kicking out his right foot in order to prevent Colin from
picking them up. The blow caught him in the face, and a gush of blood
fell upon the hearthstone.

“I will, I tell you!” replied Colin vehemently, as he strove to wipe
away the blood with his sleeve, and burst into tears.

“I’m d----d if you do!” said Palethorpe, rising from his chair with fixed
determination.

“I ‘ll soon put you to rights, young busybody.”

So saying, he laid a heavy grip with each iron hand on Colics shoulders.

“Then if I don’t, _he_ shan’t!” sobbed Colin.

“Shan’t he?” said Palethorpe, swallowing the oath which was upon his
lips, as though he felt that the object of it was beneath his contempt.
“I ‘ll tell you what, young imp, if you don’t march off to bed this
minute, I ‘ll just take and rough-wash you in the horse-pond.”

Miss Sowersoft smiled with satisfaction, both at Mr. Palethorpe’s wit
and at his display of valour.

“Do as you like about that,” replied Colin: “I don’t care for you, nor
anybody like you. I didn’t come here to be beaten by you!”

And another burst of tears, arising from vexation at his own
helplessness, followed these words.

“You don’t care for me, don’t you?” savagely demanded Palethorpe. “Come,
then, let’s try if I can’t make you.”

He then lifted Colin by the arms from the floor, with the intention of
carrying him out; but the farm-labourers, who had hitherto sat by in
silence, though with rising feelings of indignation, now began to watch
what was going on.

“You shan’t hurt him any more,” cried old George, “or else you shall
kill me first!”

“Kill you first, you old fool!” contemptuously repeated Palethorpe.
“Why, if you say another word, I ‘ll double your crooked old back clean
up, and throw you and him an’ all both into th’ brook together!”

“Then I ‘m danged if you: do, and that’s all about it!” fiercely
exclaimed another of the labourers, striking his clenched fist upon his
thigh, and throwing the chair on which he sat some feet behind him, in
his sudden effort to rise. “If you dare to touch old George,” he added,
with an oath, “I ‘ll knock you down, if I leave this service to-night
for it.”

[Illustration: 213]

“Ay,--what you an’ all, Abel!” cried Palethorpe, somewhat paler in the
cheeks than he was sixty seconds before. “Why, what will _you_ do, lad?”

“What will _I_ do?” said Abel, “Why, if you don’t set that lad loose,
you cowardly brute, and sit down in quietness, I’ll thump you into a
jelly in three minutes!--Dang you! everybody hates you, and I ‘ll tell
you so now; for you are the biggest nuisance that ever set foot on a
farm. Talk of that old man being idle!--why, what do you call yourself,
you skulking vagabond? You never touch plough nor bill-hook once
a-week, nor anything else that’s worth a man’s putting his hand to. Your
business is to abuse everybody under you, and sneak after your missis’s
tail like a licked spaniel.--I wish I was your mester, instead of
your being mine, I’d tickle your ears with a two-inch ash plant every
morning, but I ‘d make you do more in a day than you ever did in a week
yet!”

A blow from Palethorpe’s fist drove all the powers of oratory out
of Abel, and caused him to stagger so suddenly backwards, that he would
have fallen, had he not caught hold of the back of one of his comrades’
chairs. All were now upon their feet; while Miss Sowersoft, who
hitherto had sat petrified at the monstrous discourse of Abel, screamed
out that whoever struck Palethorpe again should go out of the house
that night. But as no one interfered farther in the quarrel, on the
supposition that he was already pretty well matched, the penalty she had
proclaimed amounted to nothing, since it did not deter the only man who
at that moment was likely to commit anything so atrocious. Abel had no
sooner recovered his balance than he made a furious lunge at the
head farming-man, which that hero attempted but failed to parry.
His antagonist, who, though less in weight, was yet tall and active,
followed up his advantage; and, by a judicious and rapid application
of his fists, he so far made good his former threat, as to give Miss
Sowersoft’s favourite two tremendous black eyes, and to plump his nose
up to nearly double its original bulk and lustre, within sixty tickings
of the clock. Miss Maria had now summoned the maid to her assistance,
and between them they succeeded in protecting him from further
vengeance. Nor did they find much difficulty in persuading that
courageous man to sit down in his chair, and submit to a grand
mopping with vinegar and hot water, which commenced as soon as active
hostilities ceased, and did not conclude until nearly two hours
afterwards.

Long before that time was expired, as no more comfort could be expected
by the fireside that night, the rustics had moved quietly off to rest,
taking poor Colin along with them, and directing him to occupy one small
bed which stood in a room containing two, and informing him at the same
time, not much to his satisfaction, that Palethorpe always slept in the
other. Old George shook hands with Colin at the door, bidding him good
night, and God bless him; and telling him not to care for what had
happened, as Heaven would reward his goodness of heart at a time when,
perhaps, being old and feeble, he might most want a friend to help him.
As the old man said this, his voice failed, and Colin felt a warm tear
drop upon his hand as it remained clasped in that of the speaker.

Colin rushed into his room, and in great distress, resulting from the
memory of all he had left behind, and the dread of all that might meet
him here, he fell on his knees by the bed-side.

That night the voices of two lonely women, praying for the welfare of
a still more lonely child, and of a child asking for help in his
loneliness, ascended to heaven. Their hearts were comforted.



CHAPTER XII.

_Briefly details a slight love-skirmish between Sammy and Miss
Sowersoft, which took place before Colin, while that youth was supposed
to be asleep, and also illustrates the manner in which old maids
sometimes endeavour to procure themselves husbands.--Colin’s employment
at the lodge.--He becomes involved in a dilemma, which threatens
unheard-of consequences._

After Colin had spent some twenty minutes where we left him at the
conclusion of the last chapter, he crept into bed. The room in which he
lay being partly in the roof, admitted only of a very small window in
the upright portion of the wall, and that was placed so close to the
floor as to throw very little light into the apartment, except during a
strong day or moon light.

The candle being extinguished, Colin could see nothing save a small
square of dim light where the window was. Below stairs he could hear the
muttering of voices, as Miss Sower-soft still endeavoured to restore the
beauty of Mr. Palethorpe’s countenance; and in the false floor over
his head the sound of rats, who were at work in the roof, making noise
sufficient over their labours to keep awake, during the whole night, any
person less accustomed to that kind of nocturnal entertainment than
the inhabitants of country-houses usually are. Colin could usually have
slept soundly had all the rats in Christendom been let loose in a legion
about him, but he could not sleep tonight. It was pitch-dark; he was in
a strange place, with brutal employers, who disliked him only because
he had offered to relieve a poor old man of some portion of his labours.
Who knew--for such things had been heard of, and passionate men often
take their revenge, regardless of consequences--who knew, as Mr.
Palethorpe was to occupy the adjoining bed, that he might not take
advantage of his sleep, and steal out in the night to murder him? He
might do so, and then throw him down the brook, as he had threatened, or
perhaps bury him deep in the garden, and say in the morning that he had
run away.

With these, and similar imaginations, did Colin keep himself awake in
a feverish state of terror during a space of time which to him seemed
almost endless; for, however groundless and ridiculous such fears may be
deemed by the stout-hearted reader who peruses this by broad daylight,
he must be pleased to call to mind that poor Colin was neither of an
age nor in a situation in which great account is commonly made of
probabilities. The boy’s fancies were at length interrupted by the
appearance of something more real. A light shot through the chinks of
the door, and run an ignisfatuus kind of chase round the walls and
ceiling, as it advanced up stairs in the hands of the maid Sally.
Shortly afterwards the door was gently pushed open; and while Colin’s
heart beat violently against the bars of its cage, and his breath came
short and loud, like that of a sleeper in a troubled dream, he saw a
huge warming-pan flaring through its twenty eyes with red-hot cinders,
protruded through the opening, and at the other end of the handle Miss
Sally herself. She placed her candle down in the passage, in order to
avoid awakening Colin with its light, and then commenced warming Mr.
Pale-thorpe’s bed. By the time that operation was about finished, the
feet of two other individuals creeping cautiously up were heard on
the stairs. Then a voice whispered circumspectly, but earnestly, “Now,
Sammy, make haste and get in while it is nice and hot, or else it will
do you no good; and in a minute or two I ‘ll be up again with some warm
posset, so that you can have it when you’ve lain down.”

Palethorpe and Miss Sowersoft then entered, the latter having come up
stairs with no other intention, apparently, than that of frustrating
by her presence any design which Palethorpe might else have had of
rewarding Sally for her trouble with a gentle salute upon the cheek.
Having seen the maid safe out of the chamber, Miss Maria returned down
stairs.

Colin now began to tremble in earnest; for he indistinctly heard
Palethorpe muttering words of violence against every one of them without
exception, and threatening to kick the house upside down before another
day was over his head. By and by the cautious approach of his footsteps
towards Colin’s bed caused the boy to peep out through the merest chink
between his eyelids, when he beheld the hideous face of the farming-man
almost close to his own, with its huge swollen and blackened features
fixed in an expression of deep malice upon him, and a ponderous clenched
fist held threateningly near his face, as the horrible gazer muttered
between his forcibly closed teeth, “I ‘ll pay you your wages for this,
young man! I ‘ll reckon with you in a new fashion before long! You shall
repent this night to the last end of your life, that shall you! I could
split your skull now, if you were not asleep. But you may rest this
time!”

Saying which, he retired to bed. Immediately afterwards Miss Sowersoft
glided noiselessly in, with a huge basin of treacle-posset in one hand,
and one of her own linen nightcaps, which she had been heating by the
fire, in the other. This last-named article she at once proceeded to
place on Mr. Palthorpe’s head, and tie under his chin; because the long
tabs with which it was supplied would cover his bruised face much better
than any cap of his own. As Colin glanced from under the clothes he
could scarcely forbear laughing, in spite of his fears, at the
odd combination which, his mistress’s Cupid suggested,--of a
copper-coloured, black-bearded face, with the primly-starched, snowy
frillings of a woman’s nightcap.

“Is he asleep, Sammy?” asked Miss Maria in a low whisper.

“A deal faster than he deserves to be,” replied that worthy.

“I will just step across, and see,” observed the lady; and accordingly
she trod lightly over the floor, in order to assure herself of that
fact. Colin’s closed eyes, his silence, and his quick full breathing,
confirmed her in the pleasing delusion; and she returned to
Pale-thorpe’s bedside, and deposited herself in a chair with the remark
that, under those circumstances, she would sit with him a few minutes.
As she gazed with admiration on the uncouth countenance of Palethorpe,
set, like a picture, in the white frame of her own cap, and watched him
deliberately transfer spoonful after spoonful of the posset from the
basin into the ill-shaped hole in his own face, she heaved a profound
sigh, which seemed one moment to inflate her bosom like a balloon, and
the next to collapse it again as closely as poor Cocking’s parachute.
Palethorpe went on with his posset.

[Illustration: 225]

“Ay, dear!” she sighed again.

“What ‘s amiss, meesis?” asked Mr. Palethorpe, as soon as the emptied
basin left him at liberty to speak.

“Nothing, Sammy,--nothing. Ay, dear! I’m quite well, as far as that
goes,” replied Miss Maria very despondingly.

“But you have summat not right, I’m sure,” persisted he.

“Oh, it is of no matter!” she sighed again.

“But, what is it?” he a third time asked.

“It does not signify much,” she again remarked; “it will be all the same
a few years hence.”

“You’ve tired yourself to death with that mangle, I suppose?” said
Palethorpe.

“Oh, no!” she exclaimed in a tone of voice which betrayed some slight
offence at the vulgarity of his suggestion; “it is a very different
sort of mangle to that. I am sure I am mangled enough by people’s
indifference.”

“Why, as for that,” replied Sammy, trying to exculpate himself from any
charge of neglect, “you are meesis of the house, and don’t want to be
pressed to your meat and drink like a visiter.”

“Meat and drink!” she exclaimed, as though indignant that such animal
ideas should degrade the present elevation of her soul, “I care nothing
about meat and drink, not I. You seem as if you could see nothing,
though people make the plainest allusions that female propriety allows
any woman to make.”

Mr. Palethorpe looked astonished as he observed, “Well, I’m sure,
meesis, you can’t say that ever I made any allusions to female
propriety.”

“No,--that’s it! there it is!” sighed Miss Sowersoft: “though you get
all the fat of the land, and are treated more like a gentleman in the
house than like what you are, you never make the least allusions.”

Palethorpe protested that under those circumstances he ought to feel
all the more ashamed of himself if he did make allusions, or else other
people would think it very odd of him.

“Oh, then the truth’s out at last, is it?” said Miss Sowersoft,
“you have other people, have you? Ay, dear!” and she apparently fell
a-crying. “It’s impossible, then, for all the goodness in the world to
make any impression. Oh!”

Saying which she rose up, with her handkerchief to her eyes, and walked
towards the door, muttering as she went, that since he seemed so very
fond of other people, other people might feed him, as that was the last
posset he would ever have from her hands. Mr. Palethorpe endeavoured
several times to recall her; but Miss Sowersoft’s new jealousy of other
people had rendered her inexorable; and, in the course of a few more
seconds her own chamber-door was heard to be violently closed and to
be most resolutely bolted and locked behind her. Our worthy uttered
a discontented groan, and composed himself to sleep; an example which
Colin was enabled to follow some long time after, though not before his
weariness had completely overpowered his fears of danger from the savage
sharer of his dormitory.

While yet in the middle of his slumber, and busy with a dream of home,
which placed him again in the bright warm sunshine by the step of his
mother’s door, Colin was suddenly startled by the dragging of every inch
of bed-covering from off him, and the not very sparing application of
a hand-whip about his body, while the voice of Palethorpe summoned him,
under the courteous title of a lazy heavyheaded young rascal, to turn
out, and get off to work. It was nearly broad day-light; and Colin
obeyed the summons with considerable alacrity, though not without
informing his driver at the same time, that there was no occasion for
a whip to him, because a word would have done quite as well, if not
better.

“Then you shall have both, to make sure, and plenty of them too,”
 replied Mr. Palethorpe. “If long scores are ever to be cleared off, we
should begin to pay ‘em betimes; and I have a score chalked on for you
that will want interest before it is discharged, I know. Mark, you will
have this every morning regularly if you are not down stairs as the
clock strikes six, neither sooner nor later. If you get up too soon, I
shall lay on you just the same as if you got up too late,--for a right
hour is a right hour, and six exactly is our time. I ‘ll make you feel
where your mistake was, my boy, when you thought of coming mester here!
There’s last night’s job I owe you for yet, and a good price you shall
pay for it, or else I don’t know how to reckon.”

A blow on the right ear, and another on the left, immediately after,
in order to keep his head in the middle, fell to Colin’s lot at the
conclusion of this harangue; and a push at the back of the neck which
followed directly, enabled him to get out of the room somewhat more
speedily than he would have done without that assistance. But to all
this--though taken much in dudgeon--being mildness itself as compared
with what might have been expected, Colin submitted in a sturdy mood,
and without saying anything; though he did not forget to promise himself
at some future day to adjust the balances between them.

In consequence of the lack-a-daisical turn which Miss Sowersoft’s
interview with Mr. Palethorpe had taken on the preceding night, that
lady denied to the household the pleasure of her company at breakfast,
as she could not meet the ungrateful farm-servant before company again
until an explanation in private had taken place. Poor old George, all
benignity, and looking like an elder of some by-gone age, seemed more
than usually anxious to promote good feeling amongst his fellows, and to
restore the harmony which had been destroyed the evening before, on his
account. But Palethorpe was unforgiving, and Abel unrepentant: so that,
whatever might be the disposition of others, those two characters at
least regarded each other over the table much in the same manner as,
it might be supposed, two of Mr. Wombwell’s beasts, placed on opposite
sides of his menagerie, would do when they address each other before a
meal-time in that language of the eyes of which poets speak, and seem to
intimate a very unequivocal desire to dine upon one another.

That day Master Colin took his first lesson in field-craft, by being
set to gather stones from off the wheat-sown lands, before the blade was
more than an inch or two out of the ground. His out-door labours
were concluded at six in the evening; after which time, as the horses
remained to be put up, he was drilled in the art of cleaning, bedding,
harnessing, and managing those animals; and, after that was done, he was
allowed, by way of amusement, to spend the remaining few hours before
bed-time in setting rat-traps, or accompanying some one or other of the
men in weasel-shooting along the banksides and hedges.

Some few days elapsed without a reconcilement having taken place
between Palethorpe and his mistress; during which time our hero fared
considerably better than otherwise he might have done; partly because
Miss Sowersoft’s attention was not now so completely engrossed as it had
hitherto been by her favourite; and partly because that very pleasant
personage himself, while unsupported by the smiles and attentions of
his mistress, was by no means so formidable in his display of courage as
otherwise he would have been. The prospect which had broken on Colin’s
mind on his first introduction to Snitterton began accordingly to
brighten considerably. He liked his employment in the fields, as well as
all that followed it, so well, that when on the ensuing Sunday he asked
for leave to walk over to Bramleigh for the purpose of seeing his mother
and Fanny, and was at once peremptorily denied, he felt that denial as
no very great hardship; but soon made up his mind to spend the day as
pleasantly as he could, and to write a letter to Fanny, detailing his
thoughts and opinions, his likings and dis-likings, instead.

These resolves he eventually put into execution: and everything very
probably might have gone on smoothly enough, had not a circumstance
utterly unforeseen occurred, whereby he himself was brought into a
second dilemma with his mistress and Palethorpe, still worse than the
previous one; and whereby, also, the plain-spoken epistle which he had
secretly indited for the private and especial perusal of his mother
and Fanny, was in an evil hour thrown into the hands of the identical
parties about whom, in its honest simplicity, it told so many truthful
libels. But the shame of Miss Sowersoft was so deep, and the rage of
Palethorpe so high, and the consequences of both to Colin so important,
that I verily believe it will occupy nearly the whole of the next
chapter to describe them.



CHAPTER XIII.

_Demonstrates, in the case of Miss Sowersoft and Mr. Samuel Palethorpe,
the folly of people being too curious about the truth, in matters better
left in the dark. Colin is subjected to a strict examination, in which
the judge, instead of the culprit, is convicted. Colin’s punishment._

That period of the year having now arrived when the days were materially
lengthened, as well as increased in warmth, Colin selected an hour or
two one evening after his day’s labour was over, for the purpose of
writing that letter to his mother and Fanny which he had projected some
short time before. In order to do this, both by a good light and away
from the probability of intrusion, he selected a little spot of ground,
formed by an obtuse angle of the brook, at the bottom of the garden;
though divided from it by a thick clump of holly, intermingled with
hawthorn and wild brier. On this grassy knoll he sat down to his task;
making a higher portion of its slope serve as a natural table to hold
his ink and paper.

Those vespers which Nature herself offers up to her Creator amidst the
magnificent cathedral columns of her own tall trees, the loud songs
of the blackbird and the thrush, and the occasional shrill cry of the
discontented pewet as it swept in tempestuous circles over the distant
arable land, were loudly heard around him; while, some two or three
yards below the spot where he sat, a ridge of large stones, placed
across the rivulet for the greater convenience of crossing, partially
held up the water, and caused an eternal poppling murmur, as that
portion which forced its escape between them, rushed with mimic velocity
into the tiny gulf that lay some ten or twelve inches below. Colin felt
elevated and happy. He could scarcely write many complainings there;
although he had been so disappointed and ill-used on his arrival. At the
same time he felt bound to tell the truth as far as it went, though
not to represent himself as materially unhappy in consequence of the
behaviour which had been adopted towards him. In this task, then, he
proceeded, until the hundreds of bright twinkling leaves which at first
glittered around him in the stray beams of sunlight, had all resolved
themselves into one mass of broad shade; to this succeeded a red
horizontal light upon the upper portions of the trees to the eastward,
as though their tops were tipped with fire; which also rapidly faded,
and left him, by the time he had about concluded his letter, scarcely
able any longer to follow with his sight the course of his pen upon the
paper.

Having wrapped his epistle awkwardly up, he placed it in his pocket, and
was about to emerge from his rural study, when the leisurely tread of
feet approaching down the garden-path, and the subdued sound of tongues
which he too well knew, caused him to step back, and closer to the
clumps of holly, in the hope of getting away unobserved when the
individuals whom he wished to avoid had passed. They still continued to
converse; and the first distinct words Colin heard were these:--

“I am sure, out of the many, very many excellent offers, I have had made
me,--excellent offers they were,--I might have done so over and over
again; but I never intended to be married. I always liked to be my own
mistress and my own master. Besides that, it does entail so much trouble
on people in one way or another. Really, when I look on that great
family of my brother Ted, I am fit to fancy it is pulling him down
to the ground; and I positively believe it would, if he did not take
advantage of his situation in trade, and rap and wring every farthing
out of everybody in any way that he possibly can, without being at all
particular;--though they are sweet children, they are! Ay, but something
must be risked, and something must be sacrificed in this world. I mean
to say, that when people do get married, they must make up their minds
to strike the best balance between them mutually that they are able.
That is my candid opinion of things; and, when I look upon them in that
light--when I think about them in that manner, and say to myself, there
is this on this side, and nothing on that side, which should I take? I
lose my resolution,--I don’t know; I feel that, by a person to whom I
had no objection in any other shape, I might perhaps be superinduced
to do as others have done, and to make a sacrifice, for the sake of
spending our lives in that kind of domestic combination which binds
people together more than anything else ever can. I am weak on that
point, I know; but then, the home affections, as Mr. Longstaff says,
constitute a very worthy and amiable weakness.”

Miss Sowersoft uttered this last sentence in such a peculiar tone of
self-satisfied depreciation, as evidently proved that she considered
herself a much more eligible subject, on account of that identical
weakness which she had verbally condemned, than she would have been if
wholly free from it.

“Well, meesis,” replied Mr. Palethorpe, with considerate deliberation,
“I should have no objection to our union, if it so happened that we were
not doing very well as we are at present; and, while we are making a
little money to put by every week, I think it is as well just now to let
good alone. I should like--”

“Oh, you misunderstand me!” exclaimed Miss Sowersoft; “I did not make
any allusions to you in particular. Oh, no! I have had very many most
excellent offers, and could have them now for that matter; but then, you
see, I was only just saying, as the thought came across my mind, that
there is something to be said against being married, and something
against keeping single. I remember the time when I could not bear the
very thoughts of a man about me; but, somehow, as one gets older we
see so much more of the world, and one’s ideas change almost as much as
one’s bodies; really, I am as different as another woman to what I once
was. Somehow, I don’t know how, but so it happens--Ah!” shrieked Miss
Sowersoft, interrupting herself in the demonstration of this very
metaphysical and abstruse point in her discourse, “take hold of me,
dear,--take hold of me! I’ve trod on a toad, I believe!”

At the same time she threw her arms up to Mr. Palethorpe for protection;
and, very accidentally, of course, they chanced to alight round that
worthy’s neck. A round dozen of rough-bearded kisses, which even he,
stoic as he was, could not refrain from bestowing upon her, in order to
revive and restore her spirits, smacked loudly on the dusky air, and set
poor little Colin a-laughing in spite of himself.

“Who the deuce is that!” earnestly whispered the farming-man. “There’s
somebody under the brook bank!” and, as he instantly disengaged Miss
Sowersoft from his arms, he rushed round the holly-bushes, and caught
fast hold of Colin, just as that unlucky lad was making a speedy retreat
across the rivulet into the opposite orchard. “What! it is you, you
young divel, is it?” exclaimed he in a fury, as he dragged the boy up
the sloping bank, and bestowed upon him sundry kicks, scarcely
inferior to those of a vicious horse, with his heavy, clench-nailed,
quarter-boots. “You ‘re listening after your meesis, now, are you? Dang
your meddling carcass! I ‘ll stop your ears for you!”

And bang went his ponderous fist on Colin’s organs of Secretiveness and
Acquisitiveness, until his head sung again throughout, like a seething
caldron.

“That’s right!” cried Miss Sowersoft; “make him feel; drag him up; my
face burns with shame at him; I’m as hot as a scarlet-fever, I am--a
young scoundrel!”

And Colin was pulled up on to the level of the garden, more like a
half-killed rat than a half-grown human being.

“We’ll know how this is, meesis,” said Mr. Palethorpe, when he had
fairly landed his cargo. “I ‘ll see to the bottom of it before he goes
into th’ house. He sha’n’t have a chance of being backed up in his
impudence as he was t’other night.”

“Take him into the thrashing-barn,” advised Miss Sowersoft, “and we can
have him there in private.”

Colin now found breath to put in a protest against the bill of
indictment which they were preferring against him.

“I was not listening,” said he; “I was only writing a letter to my
mother, I ‘m sure!”

“What! at dark hour?” ejaculated Palethorpe with a laugh. “Come along,
you young liar! you shan’t escape that way.” Accordingly he dragged
the lad up the garden, and behind the house, into the spacious barn, of
which Miss Sowersoft had spoken: and, while that innocent lady went to
procure a lantern, her favourite held him tightly by the collar; save
when, occasionally, to beguile the time until her return, he regaled him
with a severe shake, and an additional curse or two upon his vagabond
and mischievous carcass.

“Do you think he knows anything about it?” asked Miss Sowersoft aside
to Palethorpe, as she entered the barn, and the dim light of her
horn-lantern summoned to view the spectral appearances--rather than the
distinct objects themselves--of various implements of husbandry, and of
heaps of thrashed wheat and straw scattered around.

“Well, I don’t know; but I should think not much,” said he.

“I hope not,” rejoined his mistress, “or it will get into everybody’s
mouth. But we will question him very closely; we ‘ll have it out of him
by hook or by crook.”

She then held a broken side of the lantern a little above Colin’s face,
in order to cast the better light upon it; and proceeded to question the
culprit.

“Now, before I ask you a single question, promise to tell me the truth,
and nothing but the truth. Now, mark; I shall know whether you speak
the truth or not, so it will be of no use to try to deceive me. Tell
me whether you heard me and Mr. Palethorpe talking in the garden; and
whether you saw him pick me up so very kindly when I slipped down; and
then tell me for what purpose you were standing behind those trees? No
falsehoods, now. The truth, nothing else. Take care; because if you say
anything untrue I shall know it directly; and then woe be to you for
your trouble?”

“I always do tell truth,” replied Colin, crying, “without being
frightened into it that way. I’m sure I had only been writing a letter
to my mother and Fanny; and I stood there because I did not want anybody
to catch me.”

“And why did not you want anybody to catch you?”

“Why, because I didn’t,” answered Colin.

“Because you didn’t!” exclaimed Mr. Palethorpe, as he emerged from out
the shadow of Miss Sowersoft’s figure; “what answer is that, you sulky
ill-looking whelp? Give meesis a proper answer, or I ‘ll send my fist in
your face in a minnit!”

Miss Sowersoft put her hand on Palethorpe’s arm to keep him back,--not
so much to prevent him carrying his threat into execution, as because
his interference seemed to imply a doubt of her own abilities in worming
all she wanted to know out of the boy before her.

“But _why_ didn’t you?” she asked again, more emphatically.

“Because they might want to read my letter.”

“Oh,--there’s something in it not to be seen, is there?” continued the
inquisitor, as her cheeks reddened with fears of she knew not what.

“It is all truth, every word of it!” contended Colin.

“Ay, ay, my lad, we must see about that. I cannot let you send a whole
pack of falsehoods over to Bramleigh, and make as much mischief in my
family as your mother made in Mr. Longstaff’s. It is needful to look
after your doings. Is the letter in your pocket?”

Having received an answer in the affirmative, she directed Palethorpe to
search him for it; an operation which that amiable individual very soon
concluded by drawing the desired document from his trowsers.

“Oh, this is it, is it?” said Miss Sowersoft, as she partly opened it to
assure herself. “Well, well,” folding it up again: “we’ll read this by
and by. Now, what did you hear us talking about? If you say anything
shameful, now, and we shall know whether it is true or not directly that
we hear it,--if you do not say something--a--. You know what Scripture
tells you, always to speak well of your mistress and master. Be careful,
now. What did we say?”

“Please, ‘um,” replied Colin, “you said, that when people get married
they strike a balance between them; and that if one thing was on one
side, and nothing on the other, you should lose your resolution, and
make a sacrifice of the little you possess, whatever it is.”

“Oh, you little wretch!” ejaculated Maria. “Go on with your lies, go on!
and you _shall_ have it on your shoulders when you have done. What else,
you vile toad?”

Colin stood mute.

“What next, I say!” stormed the lady, with a furious stamp of the right
foot.

“Why, then, mum,” added Colin, “I heard Palethorpe kiss you.”

“Kiss me!--kiss me, you young rascal!” and the face of Miss Sowersoft
became as red as the gills of one of her own turkey-cocks at the
discovery. “If you dare to say such a thing as that again, I ‘ll strip
the very skin off your back,--I will, you caitiff! Kiss _me_, indeed! A
pretty tale to tell as ever I heard!”

“I’m sure it’s true,” blubbered the boy; “for I heard it ever so many
times.”

“Oh!” exclaimed the virtuous Miss Sowersoft, “so we have got it out of
you at last. What!--your mother has set you to watch your mistress, has
she? That’s all her schooling, is it? But Mr. Palethorpe shall learn you
to spy about this house,--He shall, you dog!”

That worthy was now about to pounce upon his victim, but was again
arrested by his mistress.

“Stop! stop!--we have not done yet,” pulling the letter before mentioned
from her bosom; “there is a pretty budget here, I ‘ll be bound to say.
After such as this, we may expect anything. There is nothing too bad for
him.”

While Palethorpe held the culprit fast by one hand, and the lantern
in the other, he and Miss Sowersoft enjoyed the high gratification of
perusing together the said letter which follows:--

_“Dear Mother and Fanny,_

_“As I promised to write if they would not let me come on Sunday, which
they did not do, I take this opportunity after tea to tell you all about
it. I like this house very well, and have caught fourteen rats with
traps of my own setting, besides helping Abel to shoot forwards, which
he fired at, and I looked on while. I can harness a horse and curry him
down already. But when I first got here I did not think I should like it
at all, as Palethorpe flew at me like a yard-dog because I spoke to him,
and Miss Sowersoft was mangling, and as cross as patch. I did think of
coming home again; but then I said to myself, ‘Well, I’ll lay a penny
if I do, mother will send me back; so it will be of no use, and I shall
have my walk for nothing.’ I do not like mistress a bit. When she was at
our house, she told you a pack of the biggest fibs in the world. I
never beard of a bigger fibber than she is in my life; for all the good
victuals she made such a bother about are made up for Palethorpe. He
is like a master-pig in a sty, because he crunches up the best of
everything. Mistress seems very fond of him, though; for after we had
had a shindy the first night, and Palethorpe made my nose bleed, I went
to bed, and saw her tie her nightcap on his head, and feed him with a
posset. I could not help laughing, he looked such a fool. Then I heard
her courting him as plain as sunshine; for she tries as hard as she can
to get him to marry her; but I would not have her, if I were him, she
is so very mean and pretending. But then he is a savage idle fellow
himself: and as Abel said to him, said he, ‘You never touch plough nor
bill-hook once a-week,’--no more he does. Our mistress backs him up in
it, and that is the reason. I shall come over as soon as I can, as I
want to see you and Fanny very much indeed._

_“Yours affectionately,_

“Colin Clink.”

At all events the murder was now out, and no mistake. The letter dropped
from Miss Sowersoft’s hand, and she almost fainted in Mr. Palethorpe’s
arms, as she faintly sighed, “Oh!--he ‘ll be the death of me!”

When Miss Sowersoft was somewhat recovered, Palethorpe turned in great
wrath towards Colin, uttering a more fearful asseveration than I can
repeat, that if he could make no better use than that of his eyes when
he went to bed, he would knock them out of his head for him. Seizing the
boy ferociously by the nape of the neck with one hand, and a portion of
his clothes with the other, he lifted him from the ground, like a dog
by head and tail, and carried him straight into the yard, dashing him
violently into the horse-trough, very much to the satisfaction of the
indignant Miss Sower-soft, who had suddenly recovered on beholding this
spectacle, and followed her favourite with the lantern. While Palethorpe
held him down in the trough, Miss Sowersoft proceeded with great
alacrity to pump upon him very vigorously until her arms were tired.

The boy’s cries soon brought several of the domestics of the
establishment together. Sally rushed out of her kitchen inquiring what
Colin had done to be ducked.

“Spying after the secrets of other people!” exclaimed the wrathful Mr.
Palethorpe.

“Spying!” echoed the maid.

“Yes, spying!” added Miss Sowersoft, in corroboration of Palethorpe’s
statement. “We have caught him out, according to his own confession, in
spying after the secrets of everybody about the premises, and sending it
all in writing to his mother!”

“Ay! I’d souse him well!” observed Sally, who began to fear that some of
her own secret interviews with Abel had very probably been registered in
black and white, for the edification of the good people of Bramleigh.

“What has he been a-gate of?” asked Abel, who had come up just in time
to catch the end of the above conversation.

“Oh, he’s been watching you come into the dairy when I was there!” added
Sally, accompanying her remark with a broad simper, and a sly blushing
glance at Abel, which caused Abel to shuffle on his feet, and dangle his
legs about, as though at a loss what to do with them.

“Then a sheep-washing will do him no harm for sheep’s eyes,” rejoined
Abel, rounding off his sharp-pointed wit with a broad laugh.

When the ducking was concluded, they drove him, bruised, drenched, and
weeping, into the kitchen. Old George, who had been a distant and silent
spectator of the scene, stood at the door as he entered.

“Ay, poor boy!” said he, pityingly, as the child passed by him, “they’d
more need to nurse him by the fireside than half drown him this way.
It’s sad wages--sad wages, indeed, for a nest-babe like him! But they
don’t heed what I say. I’m an old man, and have no right to speak.”

Miss Sowersoft seized the earliest opportunity she could to place
Colin’s letter upon the fire, which she did with a spoonful of salt
upon it, in order that its flames should be of the same colour as its
contents.

In the mean time Colin had shuffled off his mortal coil of wet clothes,
and in a moist skin gone silently off to bed. At supper-time old George
carried him up the pint of warm ale which had been served out for
himself. Colin accepted it, less because he relished it, than because he
knew not how at that moment to refuse the hand by which it was offered;
and within ten minutes afterwards, notwithstanding all his troubles, he
fell into a sound state of repose.



CHAPTER XIV.

_The benefits of being soused in a horse-trough.--Some farther specimens
of Miss Sowersoft’s moral excellence.--An unlooked-for discovery is
partially made, which materially concerns Miss Fanny Woodruff and Dr.
Rowel._

On the following morning Palethorpe arose, and finding Colin still
asleep, was proceeding, whip in hand, to help him up according to
custom, when, as he turned down the clothes that almost enveloped the
child’s head, the unusual appearance of his countenance arrested the
man’s attention as well as his hand. His veins were swollen with rapid
bounding blood, and his heart thumped audibly in its place, and with
doubly accelerated motion, as though eagerly hastening to beat out its
appointed number of pulsations, and leave the little harassed life it
contained again free from the pains and vexations of this lower world.

Something like remorse passed for a moment over the man’s dark
countenance as he gazed. What had they done to him?--what was amiss?
He covered the boy carefully up again, and hastened down stairs to
communicate the news to Miss Sowersoft.

“Oh,--it’s all nonsense!” she exclaimed, on hearing all that Mr.
Palethorpe had to say about it. “The lad’s got a bit of a cold,--that’s
all. I ‘ll make him a basin of milk, with a little of that nice feverfew
out of the garden boiled in it, and then if you wake him up, and let
him take that, it will stick to his ribs, and do him an amazing deal of
good.”

But as there was no hurry about such a matter, Miss Sowersoft very
leisurely took her own breakfast before she set about carrying her very
charitable project into execution. When the milk, with some sprigs of
feverfew boiled in it, was ready, Sally was sent up stairs with it.
She found Colin awake, but weak and ill; and, much to her surprise, on
presenting him with a lump of bread and the basin of milk, which more
closely resembled a light green wash for stencilling walls, than any
true Christian dish, he could neither touch nor bear the sight of
either.

“La!” cried Sally, “why, I never heard anything like it, as neither to
eat nor drink! Come, cram a bit down your throat with your finger, and
see if it will not get you an appetite. Why, _I_ can eat and drink very
well, and why shouldn’t you? Come, come, don’t be soft, and refuse what
Gor-amighty sends you, while it lies in your power to get it. I’m sure
this milk is very nice, indeed.”

In corroboration of her statement she took a sip. But Colin shook his
head feebly and heavily, and declared it would do him no good. He could
take nothing,--he wanted nothing, but to be left alone, that he might
think and wish, and weep as he thought and wished that he were but once
more at home, or that his mother or Fanny were but with him.

Shortly after Sally had returned below stairs, and communicated the
astounding intelligence that Colin would take neither bit nor sup, Miss
Sowersoft herself crept up stairs. She assured him he had plenty of
colour in his face; that there could not be anything particularly amiss
with him; advised him against putting on pretences of sickness, lest he
should be struck with sickness in reality as a judgment on him, like the
children that mocked the prophet Elijah, and were eaten up by bears; and
concluded by insinuating, that if he were tickled with a whip-thong, he
would in all probability be a great deal better directly.

“Send me home!” bitterly ejaculated Colin, bursting into tears. “Put
me in a cart, and send me home!--I want to go home!--I must go
home!--Mother’!--Fanny!--Oh, come to me!--I shall die--I shall die!”

Miss Sowersoft felt rather alarmed; but reflecting that there was
nothing like showing a little spirit and resolution when young folks
took such whims as those into their heads, she severely taunted him with
being home-sick and mother-sick; told him that neither she nor Fanny, if
they were present, could do more for him than she could; and threatened
that, if he did not leave off that hideous noise, which was disgraceful
to a great lad of his age, she would tie a stocking round his mouth, and
stop him that way. There being no great consolation in all this, it is
not surprising that our hero made such slight application of it, that,
for the matter of any difference it made in him, Miss Sowersoft might
just as well have tied her stocking across her own mouth, or stuffed it
in, which ever she might prefer, as have given utterance to it. She was
therefore constrained to submit to the lad’s own way, and to confess in
her own mind that there really was something more amiss with him than at
first she had believed.

By mid-day he had become a great deal worse; and in the afternoon, as
his disorder still rapidly increased, Mr. Palethorpe was despatched on
horseback to Bramleigh, for the purpose of consulting Dr. Rowel.

About six o’clock in the evening he returned home, bringing with him a
packet of white powders in little blue papers, tied together much in
the fashion of that little pyrotechnic engine of mischief usually
denominated a cracker.

Certain fears which had by this time crept over the mind of Miss
Sowersoft caused her to be more than usually charitable and eager in her
inquiries after the doctor’s opinion about Colin: but the answers she
received were neither very conclusive nor very satisfactory. She was, in
fact, obliged to seek for consolation, for the present, in the belief,
which she struggled hard to impress firmly upon herself, that the boy’s
illness had arisen wholly in consequence of his sitting on the ground so
late in the evening to write his letter; and that his subsequent sousing
in the horse-trough had no connexion whatever with it; as he might very
easily have fallen accidentally into a river instead, and received no
more harm from it than he had from the aforesaid pumping.

Daring several subsequent days the boy continued in such a state as
filled his mistress with continual apprehensions lest her house should
eventually be troubled with his corpse. About his death, considering
that event solely by itself, she cared very little; he might live or
die, just as his constitution inclined him, for aught she would choose
between the two; only, in case he should not survive, it would annoy
her very much indeed to have all the trouble of getting another body’s
corpse prepared for the ground, without in all likelihood ever receiving
from Mrs. Clink a single halfpenny in return for it. She mentioned
her apprehensions to Mr. Palethorpe, who replied that it was all silly
childishness to allow herself to be imposed on by her own good feelings,
and that to talk about humanity would never do for folks so far north
as they were. On this unquestioned authority Miss Sowersoft would
inevitably have acted that very day, and removed our hero, at any risk,
to Bramleigh, in order to give him a chance of dying comfortably at
home, had not fortune so ordered it, that, while preparations were being
made for taking him from a bed of fever into an open cart which stood
ready in the yard, Dr. Rowel chanced to ride up, and at once put his
veto upon their proceedings. Not that the doctor would by any means have
purposely ridden half the distance for the sake of such a patient; but
as chance not unfrequently favours those whom their own species despise,
it happened that his professional assistance had that afternoon been
required in the case of a wealthy old lady in the neighbourhood; and,
as the doctor’s humanity was not, at all events, so very short-legged
as not to be able to carry him one quarter of a mile when it lay in his
way, he took Snitterton Lodge in his circuit, for the sake of seeing
Master Colin.

It will readily be supposed that during these few days, (as the boy had
not made his appearance at home on the previous Sunday, according to
conditional promise,) both his mother and Fanny had almost hourly been
expecting to hear from him. Nor had various discussions on the cause of
his silence been by any means omitted. Mrs. Clink attributed it to
the fact of his having found everything so very pleasant at Snitterton
Lodge, that he really had had neither time nor inclination to wean
himself for a few short hours from the delights with which he was
surrounded; but Fanny, whose mind had been dwelling ever since his
departure upon the dismal forebodings with which Miss Sowersoft’s
appearance had filled it, expressed to Mrs. Clink her full belief that
something had happened to Colin, or he would never have neglected either
to come himself, or to write, as he had promised.

“I am sure,” she continued, very pensively, “it has made me so uneasy
all this last week, that I have dreamed about him almost every night.
Something has happened to him, I am as certain as if I had seen it; for
I can trust to Colin’s word just as well as though he had taken his oath
about it. However, I will walk over this afternoon and see; for I shall
never rest until I know for a certainty.”

“Walk, fiddlesticks!” exclaimed Mrs. Clink. “If you go over there in
that suspicious manner, as though you fancied they had murdered him, it
is a hundred to one but you will affront Miss Sowersoft, and get Colin
turned out of a situation that may be the making of him. Stay where you
are--do; and if you cannot make anything, do not mar it by interfering
in a matter that you know nothing about. I have had trouble enough with
him one way or another, without his being brought back on my hands, when
he is as comfortable, I dare say, as he possibly can be.”

Though the latter remark was evidently intended to apply to Fanny’s
supposed injudicious solicitude for Colin’s welfare, the girl passed it
by without observation. She hurried her day’s work forwards, in order to
gain the necessary time for making her projected visit; and at about
the middle of the afternoon suddenly disappeared from the eyes of
Mrs. Clink, without informing her previously touching her place of
destination.

While Dr. Rowel was yet in attendance on Colin, Fanny arrived and
introduced herself to Miss Sowersoft, as she was employing herself in
picking the pips off a handful of cowslips which lay in her lap. On
seeing Fanny thus unexpectedly, and under circumstances which she
felt would require some very ingenious explanation or evasion, her
countenance seemed to darken as though a positive shadow had been cast
upon it. A struggle between her real feelings and her consciousness of
the necessity to disguise them ensued; and in the course of a few brief
seconds the darkness of her countenance passed away, and she affected to
salute her unwelcome visitor with much cordiality.

In reply to Fanny’s inquiry respecting Colin, Miss Sowersoft stated that
he was improving very nicely under Mr. Palethorpe’s tuition, although
they had had some trouble to make him do as he was bid; that he had
enjoyed the most extraordinary good health until a few days ago, when he
took a little cold, which had made him rather poorly.

“There!--I was sure of it!” cried Fanny, interrupting her; “I said so to
his mother before I came away. I knew there was something amiss, or he
would have written to us before now. And how did he take such a cold,
Miss Sowersoft?”

“Take cold!--why, you know there are a hundred different ways of taking
cold, and it is impossible sometimes for even a person himself to say
how he took it. I am sure Palethorpe gets tremendous colds sometimes,
and how he gets them is a perfect miracle. But, on my word, cold is so
insinuating, that really, as I say sometimes, there is not a part but it
will find its way to at one time or another.”

“Yes--but where is Colin now?--because I shall want to see him before I
go back.”

“Oh, he is somewhere about the house,” replied Miss Sowersoft, with an
unprecedented degree of effrontery; “but your seeing him is not of the
least consequence. It cannot cure his cold; and as for anything else, it
would very likely make him all the more discontented when you were gone
again. If you take my advice, you would not see him, especially when I
can tell you everything just the same as though you saw it yourself.”

At this moment the foot of the doctor, as he groped his way down stairs,
was overheard by the speaker. She started up instantly, and endeavoured
to hurry Fanny out of the room before that professional gentleman should
enter it; but her manoeuvre failed, and before Miss Sowersoft could
caution him to be silent the doctor remarked, in a sufficiently loud
tone to be heard distinctly by both, that unless the boy was taken great
care of, there was little chance left of his recovery.

“What boy?” exclaimed Fanny, rushing forward. “What _is_ he so ill as
that? For God’s sake let me see him!”

Concluding from the direction in which the doctor had come that Colin
was somewhere in the regions above, she flew rather than walked up
stairs, without waiting for an invitation or a conductor, and soon threw
her arms in an ecstasy of grief upon his neck.

“Oh, Colin! God has sent me on purpose to save you! _Do_ be better, and
you shall go home again very soon.”

But Colin could only put up his pallid arms in an imploring action, and
cry for very joy, as he gazed in the face of one of those only two
who had occupied his das and night thoughts, and been the unconscious
subjects of his unceasing and most anxious wishes.

The trouble of this first meeting being over, some more quiet
conversation ensued; and, although almost too ill and weak to be allowed
to talk, Colin persisted in stating briefly to the horror-stricken Fanny
the kind of reception he had met with on his arrival, his treatment
afterwards, the taking of his letter from him, and the brutal conduct
which had caused his present illness. The girl stood silent, merely
because she knew not what to think, what to believe, what to doubt; and
was besides utterly lost for words to express properly her strangely
mingled thoughts. It was almost impossible--incredible! Why could they
do it? There was no cause for it--there _could_ be no cause for it.
Human nature, and especially human nature in the shape of woman, was
incapable of anything so infamous. Yet Colin was sensible--he had told
an intelligible tale; and, most true of all, there he lay, a mere vision
of what he was so brief a time ago,--a warranty plain and palpable
that grievous wrong had been endured. Her brain was absolutely
bewildered--she looked like one hovering on the doubtful boundary
between sense and insanity. She cast her eyes around for surety--on the
bed--at _him_, A burst of tears, as of a spring that for the first time
breaks its bounds, succeeded,--and then another and another, as she fell
on her knees and buried her face in the clothes that covered him.

By and by, the doctor and Miss Sowersoft were present in the room with
her. Fanny raised her head and beheld Colin’s mistress attempting, in
the presence of the doctor, to do the attentive, by adjusting the sheet
about the boy’s neck to keep off the external air.

“Do not touch him!” exclaimed Fanny, springing to her feet; “he shall
have nothing from your hands!”

“Ay!” cried the doctor: “young woman, what now, what now?”

“What now? Sir, you may well say _what now!_ I have heard all about
it--Colin has told me all. Miss Sowersoft has nearly killed him, and now
wants to show, because _you_ are here, how kind and good she is!”

So saying, Fanny resolutely set about making the arrangement which Miss
Sowersoft had contemplated with her own hands.

“Why--what--who is this young woman?” asked the doctor, somewhat
astonished at the unexpected scene which had just passed before him.

“Nobody!” replied Miss Sowersoft; “she is only Mrs. Clink’s servant, and
a pert impudent hussy, too, as you have heard.”

At the same time she looked in the doctor’s face, and endeavoured to
smile contemptuously, though it “came off” in such a manner as would
inevitably have frightened anybody less accustomed than was Dr. Rowel to
witness the agonies of the human countenance.

“Yes, sir,” added Fanny, “I am only a servant; but I am a _woman_,
whether servant or mistress. I nursed this lad when I was but six years
old myself, and have taken care of him ever since. She shall not drown
him, though she thinks she will!”

“_Me_ drown him!” exclaimed Miss Sowersoft in feigned amazement.

“Yes,” replied Fanny, “_you_ drown him. If you had not half murdered him
in that trough, he would never have been here now.”

“_Do_ let us go down stairs, doctor,” observed Miss Sowersoft; “such
rubbish as this is not worth hearing.” And she made her way towards the
door.

“Where is that letter?” cried Fanny eagerly, fearful lest the lady to
whom she addressed herself should escape.

“Pshaw! nonsense! don’t catechise me!” replied Miss Sowersoft, as
she tripped down stairs; while the doctor, half in soliloquy and half
addressing Miss Sowersoft, remarked, in allusion to Fanny, “She’s a
damsel of some spirit too!” Then addressing the girl herself, “Are you
the little girl I saw at Mrs. Clink’s when this boy was born?”

“Yes, sir, I am,” answered Fanny, as her passion sunk almost to nothing,
and she blushed to be so questioned.

“Ah, indeed!” cried Doctor Rowel. “Well, I should not have thought it.
Why, you are quite a fine young woman now. Dear-a-me! I had quite lost
sight of you. I could not have believed it. Humph!” And the doctor
surveyed her fair proportions with something of astonishment, and a
great deal of satisfaction. To think that from such a little pale,
half-fed, unhappy thing of work and thought beyond her years as she then
was, there should have sprung up the full-sized, the pretty featured,
and naturally genteel-looking girl now before him! But then, he had
not that benefit which the reader enjoys, of reflecting how worldly
circumstances, how poverty and plenty, sway the tempers of mankind; and
that, as Mistress Clink’s circumstances improved, so had Fanny improved
likewise; and from seven or eight years old upwards, Fanny had enjoyed a
much more comfortable home than, on his first introduction to her, might
reasonably have been expected.

Doctor Rowel resumed his conversation.

“And how came you to be put to service so very early? for you had not,
if I remember rightly, either health or strength to recommend you.”

Colin’s eyes as he lay were fixed, as it might have been the eyes of a
picture, on the doctor’s countenance.

“I don’t know, I’m sure, sir,” replied Fanny: but after a few moments’
hesitation, added, “I suppose it was because I had no friends.”

“No friends!” the doctor repeated,--“why, where’s your father and
mother?”

“I never knew them, sir.”

“Indeed! never knew them!”

“No, sir!” and Fanny sobbed at the very recollection of her childhood’s
helplessness.

“Humph!” ejaculated the doctor; “you scarcely seem to have been born for
a servant. Where did Mrs. Clink find you?”

“I do not know, sir. She never told me.”

“Ah!--oh! oh!--well! It’s odd she never told you. So you do not know
either who your father, or your mother, or your friends were?”

“No, sir,--I do not. But I remember------”

“Well,--go on,--you remember,--what do you remember? where did you come
from? Do you know that?”

“I think, from Leeds, sir.”

“Leeds!” exclaimed the doctor; “and what else do you remember?”

“I can remember, sir,--though I can but just remember it,--that my
father was taken away from me once, and I never saw him again.”

“And, what’s your name?” continued the doctor in evident excitement.

“Fanny Woodruff,” she replied.

The doctor’s features became pale and rigid, and his eyes were fixed
upon her almost immoveably.

“God bless my soul!” he slowly ejaculated, as he rose to leave the room;
“she should have been lost, or dead!”

But he turned again when at the head of the stairs.

“Now, young woman,--if you can keep a secret,--tell nobody, not even
your mistress, what has passed. Take no notice; and perhaps I may do
something for you. But I thought we had seen the last of your face
seventeen years ago!”

Fanny and Colin were left alone.

“He knows something about me!” was the first thought that arose in
Fanny’s mind. But she did not utter it, and only asked very softly, if
Colin had heard what the doctor said.

“Yes,” he replied, “and I shall never forget it.”

“But, say nothing,” added the girl: “he promised to do something for me.
I wonder what it is!”

“So do I,” added Colin; “something worth having, I dare say.”

Thus they talked till evening. Colin said how much better he felt since
she had been with him; and Fanny declared she would not leave him again
for another day, until he was well; and, when he was well, then she
would get him away from such unfeeling people, even though she had to go
down on her knees to beg another situation for him elsewhere.

When, some little time afterwards, Fanny went down stairs, and informed
the mistress of the house of her resolution to stay and attend on Colin
until he was better, that amiable creature replied, “I think you won’t
then. We have not any room to spare. As if I was going to keep beds at
liberty, to accommodate any trunnion that may think fit to cram herself
into my house! We’ve plenty of work on our hands without having to wait
on other people’s servants. What do you say, Palethorpe?”

“Well, I don’t know, meesis,” replied Mr. Palethorpe; “it seems as if
Mr. Rowel was understood to say he was very bad, and must be waited on
pretty constantly.”

“I’m sure _I_ sha’n’t wait on him neither constantly nor inconstantly!”
 very pertly exclaimed Miss Sowersoft; and certainly giving a very
ingenious turn to her own views, as soon as she found which way her
lover’s needle pointed; “_I_‘m not going to trot up and down stairs a
thousand times a day for the sake of such a thing as a plough-lad.
Them may wait on him that likes him, if he is to be waited on; but I’m
positive _I_ shan’t, nor anybody else that belongs to me!”

This conclusion left, without another word, the field wholly open to
Fanny; and as Miss Sowersoft, on concluding her speech, bounced off into
the dairy, not another word was needed.

Whatever might be the views entertained by the lady of the house
touching the treatment most proper for Colin, there still were
individuals amongst that rude community whose feelings were of a
somewhat more catholic kind than those of their mistress; so that Fanny
found no difficulty in procuring a volunteer, in the person of Abel,
to go over to Bramleigh for the purpose of informing Mistress Clink how
affairs stood, and of bringing back such few needful articles as Fanny
might require during her stay at the farm.

All that night she passed a sleepless watch by the side of Colin’s bed,
beguiling the hours not devoted to immediate attendance on him, partly
by looking over the little books which had come from home in his
box, but more by employing her mind in the creation of every possible
description of fanciful supposition touching her own origin, her
history, her parents, and the knowledge which the doctor appeared to
have of her earliest life. What was it?--what could it be? and, what
could he mean by enjoining her to mention nothing of all this to any
second person? In her he had unexpectedly found one whom he had known a
baby, and had believed to be dead, or lost in the vast crowds of poverty
long ago. Had she been born to better things than surrounded her now?
Had she been defrauded of her rights? And, did the doctor bid her be
silent because he might have to employ stratagem in order to recover
them again? Perhaps she was born--nay! she knew not what she was born;
nor dare she trust herself to think, scarcely; though, certain it is
that a visionary world of ladies and gentlemen, and fine things, and
wealth to set Colin up in the world and to make his mother comfortable,
and to exalt herself over all the petty enemies by whom they were now
surrounded, passed in pleasant state before her prolific imagination:
while, it is equally certain, that--blushing, though unseen and in
secret, at the very consciousness--a prouder feeling sprung up in her
bosom, and she began to feel as though she must be more genteel, and
more particular, and less like a common servant, than she had hitherto
been.

Such were the golden fancies, and the pretty resolves that crowded round
her brain that night. Neither, as a honest chronicler of human nature,
would I take upon me to assert that she did not once or twice during
these reveries rise to contemplate her features in the glass, and to
adjust her hair more fancifully, and wonder--if it should be so--what
kind of looking lady she should make. Truly, it was a pretty face that
met her eyes in the mirror. As Colin woke up from a partial slumber, and
raised his head slightly from the pillow, to ascertain what had become
of his guardian, the reflection of her countenance as she was “looking
the lady,” chanced to catch his eye: and, though he smiled as he gently
sunk down again, he thought that that face would never again pass from
before him.



CHAPTER XV.

_Fanny is deceived by the doctor.--A scene in Rowel’s “Establishment for
the Insane” at Nabbfield._

Poor girl! What pains she takes--if not to “curse herself,” at least
to form that paradise out of the chaos of her own thoughts, which her
supposed benefactor, the physician, never intended to realize. She was
deceived, utterly and deeply deceived; and deceived, too, by the
very means which the doctor had recommended to her apparently for the
attainment of success. For, great as some of our modern diplomatists
have incontestably been considered in their noble and polite art, I much
question whether the man more capable of aspiring to higher honours in
it than Doctor Rowel of Nabbfield, is not yet to be born.

As the doctor rode homewards, after his interview with Fanny, he several
times over, and with inexpressible inward satisfaction, congratulated
and complimented himself upon having achieved such a really fine stroke
of policy at a very critical moment, as no other man living could, he
verily believed, have at all equalled. Within the space of a few brief
moments he had, to his infinite astonishment, discovered, in the person
of a serving girl, one whom he himself had endeavoured, while she was
yet an infant, to put out of the way; and upon whose father he had
perpetrated one of the most atrocious of social crimes, for the sole
purpose of obtaining the management of his property while he lived, and
its absolute possession on his decease. He had ascertained that the
girl retained some indistinct recollection of the forcible arrest
and carrying away of her parent, of which he himself had been the
instigator; and thus suddenly he found himself placed in a position
which demanded both promptitude and ingenuity in order to secure his
own safety and the permanency of all he held through this unjust tenure.
Since any discovery by Fanny of what had passed between them would
inevitably excite public question and inquiry, the very brilliant idea
had instantaneously suggested itself to his mind that--as in-the girl’s
continued silence alone lay his own hopes of security--no project could
be conceived more likely to prove successful in obtaining and preserving
that silence, than that of representing it as vital to her own dearest
interest to keep the subject deeply locked for the present in her own
bosom. This object, he flattered himself, he had already succeeded
in achieving, without exciting in the mind of Fanny herself the least
suspicion of his real and ultimate purpose. At the same time he inwardly
resolved not to stop here, but to resort to every means in his power
calculated still more deeply to bind the unsuspecting young woman to the
preservation of that silence upon the subject, which, if once broken,
might lead to the utter overthrow of a system which he had now
maintained for many years.

Elated with the idea of his own uncommon cleverness, he cantered along
the York road from the moor with corresponding briskness; turned down
a green lane to the left, cleared several fences and a pair of gates
in his progress, and reached within sight of his “Establishment for
the Insane” at Nabbfield, as the last light of another unwished-for and
unwelcome sun shot through the barred and grated windows of the house,
and served dimly to show to the melancholy habitants of those cells the
extent of their deprivations and their misery.

Far advanced as it was in the evening, the doctor had not yet dined; his
professional duties, together with some other causes already explained,
having detained him beyond his usual hour. Nevertheless, for reasons
best known to himself, but which, it may be supposed, the events of
the afternoon had operated in producing, the doctor had no sooner
dismounted, and resigned his steed to the care of a groom, who appeared
in waiting the instant that the clatter of his hoofs sounded on the
stones of the yard, than, instead of retiring to that removed portion
of the building, in which, for the purpose of being beyond reach of the
cries of those who were kept in confinement, his own private apartments
were situated, he demanded of one of the keepers the key of a particular
cell. Having obtained it,--

“Shall I attend you, sir?” asked the man.

“No, Robson. James is harmless. I will see him into his cell myself
to-night.”

“He is in the patient’s yard, sir,” replied the keeper.

“Very well--very well. Wait outside; and, if I want assistance, I will
call you.”

The man retired, while Doctor Rowel proceeded down a long and
ill-lighted passage, or corridor, in which were several angular turns
and windings; and when nearly lost in the gloom of the place, he might
have been heard to draw back a heavy bolt, and raise a spring-latch
like an iron bar, which made fast the door that opened upon the yard, or
piece of ground to which the keeper had alluded.

It was just at that brief but peculiar time at the turn of day and
night, which every observer of Nature must occasionally have remarked,
when the light of the western atmosphere, and that of a rayless moon
high up the southern heaven, mingle together in subdued harmony,
and produce a kind of illumination, issuing from no given spot, but
pervading equally the whole atmosphere,--like that which we might
imagine of a fairy’s palace,--without any particular source, neither
wholly of heaven nor of earth, but partaking partially of each.

The passage-door was thrown back, and the doctor stood upon its
threshold. A yard some forty feet square, surrounded by a wall about six
yards high, and floored with rolled gravel, like the path of a garden,
was before him. Near the centre stood a dismal-looking yewtree, its
trunk rugged, and indented with deep natural furrows, as though four or
five shoots had sprung up together, and at last become matted into one;
its black lines of foliage, harmonizing in form with the long horizontal
clouds of the north-west quarter, which now marked the close approach of
night. Nothing else was to be seen. As the eye, however, became somewhat
more accustomed to the peculiar dusky light which pervaded this place,
the figure of a man standing against the tree-trunk became visible; with
his arms tightly crossed upon his breast, and bound behind him as though
they had almost grown into his sides; and his hair hanging long upon his
shoulders, somewhat like that of a cavalier, or royalist, of the middle
of the seventeenth century.

The doctor raised his voice, and called, in a lusty tone, “Woodruff!”

The patient returned no answer, nor did he move.

“James Woodruff!” again shouted the doctor.

A slight turn of the head, which as quickly resumed its previous
attitude, was the only response made to the doctor’s summons.

Finding that he could not call this strange individual to him, Doctor
Rowel stepped across the yard, and advanced up to him.

“James,” said he mildly, “it is time you were in your cell.”

The man looked sternly in his face, and replied, “I have been there some
thousands of times too often already.”

“Never heed that,” answered Rowel. “You _must_ go to rest, you know.”

“_Must_ go--ay? Ah! and so I must. I am helpless. But, had I one hand
free--only one hand--nay, with one finger and thumb, I would first put
you to rest where you should never wake again! When am I to go free?”

“Will you go to your room?” said the doctor, without regarding his
question.

“I ask again,” cried the alleged madman, “as I have asked every day past
counting, when am I to be loosed of this accursed place? How long is
this to last?”

“Only until you are better,” remarked, with deep dissimulation, this
worthy member of the faculty.

“Better!” exclaimed Woodruff, with rising passion, as he tugged to
loosen his arms from the jacket which bound him, though as ineffectually
as a child might have tugged at the roots of an oak sapling. “I could
curse you again and doubly for that word, but that I _have_ cursed till
language is weak as water, and words have no more meaning. I am sick of
railing. Better! Till I am _better!_ Thief!--liar!--villain!--for you
are all these, and a thousand more,--I am well. You know it. Sound in
mind and body,--only that these girths have crippled me before my time.
How am I mad? I can think, reason, talk, argue,--hold memory of past
life. I remember, villain! when you and your assassins seized me;
stole my child from me; swore that I was mad; and brought me here,
now seventeen years ago; and all in order that you might rob me of my
property!--I remember that. Is that madness? I remember, before that,
that I married your sister. Was it not so? I remember that she died, and
left me a little pattern of herself, that called you uncle. Was not that
so? Where is that child? What has become of her? Or are you a murderer
besides? All this I remember: and I know now that I have power of will,
and aptness to do all that man’s mind is called to do. How, then, am
I mad? Oh! for one hand free! One hand and arm. Only one! Give me that
half chance to struggle with you. Let us end it so, if I am never to go
free again. Take two to one; and if you kill me, you shall stand free
of the scaffold; for I will swear with my last breath that you did it in
self-defence. Do that. Let me have one grapple--a single gripe--and, if
you can master me, why God forgive you!”

The doctor smiled, as in contempt of the impotent ravings and wild
propositions of his brother-in-law; for such, it is almost needless
to state, James Woodruff was. But the alleged maniac continued his
discourse.

“Then, as you are such a rank, arrant coward, give me my whole liberty;
let me go beyond this house, and I will never touch you. I will not
ruffle a hair of your accursed head. Do that, and I will leave you to
God for the reward of all you have done to me and mine. Set me free!
Untie my limbs, and let me out this night! It is dark. Nobody can tell
where I came from. Let me go, and I will never mention your name in
complaint, nor lift a hand against you. Think, man,--do but think! To
spend seventeen years of nights in that dungeon, and seventeen years of
days on this speck of ground! To you who have been at liberty to walk,
and breathe freely, and see God’s creation, it may be idle; but I have
seen nothing of seventeen springs but their light skies; nor of summers,
but their heat and their strong shadows; nor of autumn, but the random
leaves which the wind whirled over into this yard; nor of winter,
but its snow and clouds. I want to be upon the green earth,--the
grass,--amongst the fields. I want to see my wife’s grave again!--some
other human face than yours I--and--and--Man,--if you be man,--I want to
find my daughter!”

He flung himself on the ground, and groaned as in utter despair.

The doctor was accustomed to witness these fits of frenzy, and therefore
paid no farther attention now than consisted in an effort to raise the
man again upon his feet, and a renewed solicitation to him to retire
into his room.

“No,” said he; “I have something to speak of yet. I have come to another
determination. In my mind, villain! there has been seventeen years of
rebellion against your wrong; and I have sworn, and have kept my oath
till now, that you should never compel me to give up my rights, in
virtue of my wife, to you. But time has outworn the iron of my soul: and
seventeen years of this endurance cannot be set against all the wealth
of the world. What is it to me? To dig the earth, and live on roots; but
to be free with it; to go and come as I list; to be at liberty, body
and limb! This would be paradise compared with the best palace that ever
Mammon built in hell. Now, take these straps from off me, and set me
free. Time is favourable. Take me into your house peaceably and quietly,
and I will make over to you all I have, as a free gift. What you have
stolen, you shall keep. Land, houses, gold, everything; I will not
retain of them a grain of sand, a stone, or a sparkle of metal. But let
me out! Let me see this prison behind me!”

“It would be the act of a lunatic, and of no effect,” replied the
doctor.

“How lunatic? To give that which is of no use to me for that which is
dearer than life? Besides, I am sane--sound of mind.”

“No,” interrupted the doctor, “you are wrong on one question. Your
disease consists in this very thing. You fancy I keep you confined in
order to hold your property myself.”

“_Fancy_ you do!” savagely exclaimed Woodruff, stamping the ground with
rage; “this contradiction is enough to drive me mad. I _know_ it!
_You_ know it. There is no fancy in the case. It is an excuse, a vile
pretence, a lie of seventeen years’ standing. It was a lie at first.
Will you set me free?”

“It cannot be,” said the doctor; “go to your room.”

“It _shall_ be!” replied Woodruff; “I will not go.”

“Then I must call assistance,” observed Rowel, as he attempted to
approach the door at which he had entered.

“You shall not!” replied the patient, placing himself in front of the
doctor, as though resolutely bent on preventing his approach to the
door, although he had not the least use of his arms, which might have
enabled him to effect his purpose.

“Stand aside, fool!” Rowel exclaimed, as he threw out his right arm in
order to strike off the intruder. But Woodruff anticipated him; and, by
a sudden and dexterous thrust of his foot in a horizontal line, knocked
the doctor’s legs from under him, and set him sprawling on the ground.
Woodruff fell upon him instantly, in order to keep him down, and to
stifle the loud cries of “Robson! Robson!” which were now issuing in
rapid succession from the doctor’s larynx. At the same time a tremendous
struggle, rendered still more desperate by the doctor’s fears, took
place on the ground; during which the unhappy Woodruff strove so
violently to disengage his hands from the ligatures of the waistcoat
which bound him, that the blood gushed copiously from his mouth
and nostrils. His efforts were not altogether unavailing. He partly
disengaged one hand; and, with a degree of activity and energy only to
be accounted for from the almost superhuman spirit which burned within
him, and for which his antagonist, with all his advantages, was by no
means an equal match, he succeeded in planting his forefinger and thumb,
like the bite of a crocodile upon the doctor’s throat.

[Illustration: 301]

“Swear to let me free, or I ‘ll kill you!” he exclaimed.

“Yes,--y--e--s,--I sw--ear!” gurgled through the windpipe of Dr. Rowel
as he kicked and plunged like a horse in a bog to shake off his foe. The
light of a lamp flashed upon them, and Robson rushed into the yard.

“Let me out!” again demanded Woodruff.

“I will; I will!” replied the doctor.

Before Robson could interfere, the grasp upon his neck was loosed, and
Woodruff stood quietly upon his feet. The doctor soon followed.

“Seize him, Robson!” said he; and, in an instant, before Woodruff was
aware, the strong man had him grasped as in a vice.

“You swore to set me free!” cried the patient.

“Yes,” replied the doctor, with a triumphant sneer, as he followed the
keeper until he had pitched Woodruff into his room, and secured the
entrance; “Yes,” he repeated, staring maliciously at his prisoner
through the little barred opening in the door,--“yes, you shall be let
out--_of this cell into that yard again_, when you have grown a little
tamer!”



CHAPTER XVI.

_Doctor Rowel argues very learnedly, in order to prove that not only his
wife and himself, but the reader also, and all the world besides, may,
for aught they know to the contrary, be stark mad._

As Dr. Rowel stepped briskly from the scene of his disaster on the way
to his diningroom, he slackened his neckcloth considerably, and with his
most critical finger felt very carefully on each side of his gullet,
in order to ascertain whether those parts had sustained any material
injury; and though he soon convinced himself that no organic
disarrangement had resulted, he yet reflected, in the true spirit of
an observant practitioner, that a fierce gripe by the throat is but an
indifferent stomachic.

Whatever other injury was or was not clone, his appetite, at least,
felt considerably reduced. Disasters like this, however, being common
to every individual who has the care of insane persons, he determined to
pass it by unnoticed, and to shake the very recollection of it from off
his own mind as soon as possible.

Shortly afterwards the doctor sat down to a well-furnished table, in the
place usually appropriated to that second-rate character, the _vice_,
and directly opposite his wife, who, in the absence of other company
than themselves, invariably took the chair. As he helped himself to
the breast of a young turkey, which a week previously had stalked
and gobbled with pride about his own yard, he remarked,--for his
mind reverted to the trick he had put upon Fanny with great
complacency,--that never, during the whole course of his experience, had
he so cleverly handled a difficult affair as he had that day. The lady
to whom he addressed himself might have considered, in the way of the
profession, that he alluded to some case of amputation at the hip-joint,
or other similar operation equally delicate, as she replied by begging
him not to inform her of it that night, as she was already almost
overcome with the nervous excitement consequent on the events of the
afternoon.

“Indeed!” the doctor exclaimed, raising his eyes. “What has occurred? No
patient dead, I hope?”

“Nothing of the kind,” returned the lady; “only that James Woodruff has
been talking again in such an extraordinary manner, that I feel quite
faint even now with it. Do reach me that bottle, dear. Really, Rowel, I
tell you again, that if he cannot be set at liberty very soon, I shall
be compelled to keep out of the way altogether. I will confine myself to
this end of the house, and never go within reach of him any more. What a
horrible creature he is!”

“He has not injured you, has he?” the doctor again inquired, as
he involuntarily run his fore-finger round the inner front of his
neckerchief.

“Of course not--how could he? But then that long hair gives him such a
frightful look, and at the same time, whenever he can catch a glimpse of
me, he always begs and prays me to prevail on you to set him free. I am
sure I wonder you keep him, even for my sake; and, besides that, the
man seems sensible enough, and always has been, if I am to judge by his
conversation.”

“Ah!--what--again?” exclaimed her husband, interrupting her. “How many
more times shall I have to repeat to you, that a madman, when under
restraint, cannot, in some particular cases, be in the most remote
degree depended upon, though his observations be apparently as
intelligent and sane as yours or mine?”

“I remember you have said so,” remarked Mrs. Rowel; “but it seems very
singular.”

“It may appear very singular in your opinion, my dear, because you are
not expected to possess the same erudition and extensive knowledge that
a professional man does in these things; though, with deference,
my dear, common experience and observation might by this time have
convinced you that my theory is perfectly correct. With these unhappy
people you should believe neither your eyes nor your ears; for if
you do, it is a hundred to one but that some of them, at one time or
another, will persuade you that they are perfectly sane and well, when,
were they to be freed from restrain, they would tear you in pieces the
very next instant.”

Mrs. Rowel looked somewhat disconcerted, and at a loss to meet her
husband in a region so scientific that neither seeing nor hearing were
of any use; though secretly she could not but wonder, if neither eyes
nor ears were to be trusted, by what superior faculty, what divining-rod
of intellect, a patient’s madness was to be ascertained. Her doubts
were not wholly overturned by the ploughshare of the doctor’s logic,
and therefore she very naturally, though with considerable show of
diffidence, stuck pertinaciously to her old opinion.

Her husband felt vexed,--and especially as he wished to impose upon her
understanding,--that with all his powers of speech, and his assumption
of profound knowledge, he could not now, any more than hitherto, succeed
in converting her to the faith which he himself pretended so devoutly to
hold, that lunatics sometimes could not be known by their conversation,
and that the individual James Woodruff, in particular, who was the
subject of their conversation, was actually as mad as a March hare,
notwithstanding the actions and appearances, undeviating and regular,
which in his case so obstinately forced upon Mrs. Rowel the private
conviction that he was quite as sound in intellect as any other subject
within the King’s dominions. Nevertheless the doctor stifled the
feelings of petulant resentment which were rising in his bosom, and
satisfied himself simply by assuring his good, though somewhat perverse
lady, that it was no very unusual thing for a certain description of
lunatics to maintain their own sanity by arguments which, in any other
case, would be considered very excellent; though, with experienced
professional men, that very fact went farther in support of their
derangement than almost any other that could be brought to bear.

“Whenever,” continued the doctor, with some degree of warmth, “whenever
I meet with a patient,--never mind whether he is under medical treatment
or not,--a patient who endeavours by argument and proof to show me that
he is _compos mentis_,--who seeks for evidence, as it were, in his own
mind to substantiate the sanity of that very mind,--that is, a man who
appeals for proof to the very thing to be itself proved,--who tests the
mind by the mind,--when I meet with a patient of that description, it
seems to imply a kind of doubt and distrust of his own intellect, and I
set him down, in spite of what anybody can say to the contrary, as _non
compos mentis_, and a proper subject on whom to issue a writ _ideota
inquirendo vel examinando_.”

“I cannot argue with you like that, Frank,” observed the doctor’s wife;
“but do you mean to say that a man cannot himself tell whether he is
mad,--and that nobody else, by what they see and hear, can tell either?”

“I do!” exclaimed Rowel. “I contend that numberless instances exist of
latent mental derangement, which are totally unknown both to the insane
themselves, and to those persons who are about them.”

“Then how do _you_ know it?” asked the lady.

“From the very nature of things, my dear,” Mr. Rowel replied. “Time was
when verdicts of _felo de se_ were returned in cases of self-destruction;
but now every twopenny shopkeeper is wise enough to know, that the very
act of self-murder itself is evidence of mental derangement.”

“But what has this to do with the question?” demanded Mrs. Rowel.

“It has this to do with it,” continued her husband, “that neither you,
nor I, nor anybody else, however wise we may think ourselves, can know
for a certainty, positively and conclusively, whether we are mad or
not.”

“Then do you mean to say that _I_ am mad?”

“I mean to say this, my dear, that for aught you know to the contrary,
you may be.”

“Come, that is foolish, Frank. But you do not think so, do you?”

“Think!--I think nothing about it,” replied Rowel; “only, as you seem
to believe that such a lunatic as James Woodruff is very much in his
senses, it might be supposed you had a bit of a slate loose yourself.”

“Oh, I am sure I have not!” tartly resumed the lady. “You ought to be
ashamed of yourself for saying such a thing.”

“No, no!--I do not say any such thing, by any means. The case of
Woodruff is certainly, in one sense, the most singular I ever knew, and
to me, in my situation, a peculiarly painful one; but what then?--what
can I do?”

“Why, you know, my dear,” replied Mrs. Rowel, in a deprecatory tone of
voice, “that you _do_ manage his property, after all. The man is right
enough as far as that goes?”

“Right enough, truly--I _do_. But how do I? Is not the trouble as great
as the profit? I keep it altogether where it was for him,--prevent him
from squandering it in his mad fits, as he was about to do at the time
I caused him to be placed in confinement,--keep him out of harm’s
way,--clothe him,--feed him,--medicine,--attendance,--everything,--and
not a single item put down against his estate for all this. What was I
to do, do you suppose? Was it likely that I should stand quietly by, and
see all that he had himself, and all that my sister Frances left him, go
to rack and ruin, waste and destruction, as if it were of no more value
than an old song?”

“But what was it that he was doing?” asked Mrs. Rowel; “for I am sure I
could never find out.”

“He was doing nothing actually,” said the doctor. “But what should
you have thought of me, if I had kept my hands in my pockets until the
mischief was past before I attempted to interfere? It was what I foresaw
he _intended_ to do that caused me to step between. Was not he going to
pull that good new house to pieces, for the sake of patching up the old
one with its materials? The man must have been stark raving mad to have
thought of such a thing, and everybody would have said so.”

“_I_ should not have said so,” observed the lady; “though there is
nothing wonderful about that, as you have told me that _I_ may be mad
too. But it was always my opinion that the old family house was worth
ten of the other, if it had but the same fire-grates and chimney-pieces
put in it.”

“The fact is,” replied he, “you were all mad together about that
tumble-down crazy concern, merely because it _was_ the old house; and
I am very glad I put a stop to it when I did, and in the manner I did,
though I think he knows better now, mad as he is at present. To tell you
the truth, my dear,” and the doctor lowered his voice to a more serious
and impressive tone, “I do not think he cares much, or perhaps not
anything at all, about it. His liberty seems to be the principal
thing with him. Do you know, he offered this evening to make the whole
property over to me as a free gift, if I would let him out.”

“Did he indeed!” exclaimed the lady, as tears of pity swam in her eyes.
“Poor fellow!--poor fellow!”

“Why, poor fellow? I didn’t prompt him to say what he did. Besides, I
would not take it. How dare I let him out? His gift would be good for
nothing to me, being void at law. I cannot let him out. And even if I
had ever dreamed of trying such a hazardous experiment, it would, under
present circumstances, be impossible.”

“But why _impossible_, Frank?” asked Mrs. Rowel.

Frank Rowel began to imagine, from the turn which his wife appeared
inclined to take in this business, that the relation of his interview
with Fanny, which had discovered to him so unexpectedly the person
of James Woodruff’s daughter, and his own niece, would not materially
profit him in the eyes of that lady; and therefore, although he had at
first intended to make it known to her, he for the present forbore, and
contented himself by assuring her how exceedingly lucky it was that, for
her own sake, she had some one about her whose knowledge was not so soon
set aside, and whose feelings of compassion were not so easily excited
as her own; or otherwise it would inevitably come about that a whole
establishment of lunatics would some day or other, out of pure kindness,
be let loose to run rampant over and affright the whole country-side.

“Then James is to remain there?” questioned the lady.

“I see no chance for him,” was the reply; “everything is against him. He
_must_ be confined for life.”

Mrs. Rowel sighed, looked at her husband, then at the decanter of sherry
which stood on the table, then smiled significantly, and then added in a
half-jesting tone, though with a very serious and fixed intention,
“I ‘ll take a glass of wine with you, my dear.”

And so she did, and several others after it.

In fact, though I abhor anything that might be supposed to touch on
scandal, Mrs. Rowel liked sherry.



CHAPTER XVII.

_James Woodruff soliloquizes in his cell.--An unlooked-for offer of
liberty is made him, and on what conditions._

While yet the last ominous and deceitful reply which Dr. Rowel had made
to James Woodruff rung in his ear, as a sound incredible and impossible
to have been heard, he threw himself on the loose straw which covered an
iron bedstead that stood in a corner of his cell, and writhed in bodily
and in mental agony, both from what he had just endured, and from the
stinging reflections that, having once had his oppressor in his power,
he should have so spared him, so confided in his promises, and been so
treacherously deceived!

The consciousness of his own magnanimity, and implicit faith in his
brother-in-law’s solemn word and oath, aggravated the bitterness of
these reflections, until the despair within him became worse to endure
than all the horrors without. All hope of freedom had now finally
departed. He had made the last and greatest sacrifice in his power to
obtain it, and it had only been cast back in his face as worthless,
because it would be considered as the act of a madman. He had implored,
promised, threatened,--nay, he had put his very life in peril,--and all
for what? for nothing. What more remained to do?--To wait the
doubtful result of chance for an unforeseen and apparently impossible
deliverance,--to waste away the last pulsations of a worse than
worthless life in the protracted misery of that dungeon,--or to take
heart in this extremity to do a deed that should at once shut the gates
of hope and of fear in this world upon him for ever? Would it not be
better to beat out his brains against the wall, and throw himself,
uncalled, before his God, his wretchedness standing in extenuation of
his crime, than thus to do and to suffer by hours, days, nights, and
years, with no change that marked to-day from yesterday, or this year
from the year that went before, nor any chance of change to distinguish
the years to come from those that had already passed? In the same
monotonous round of darkness passed in that cell, of pacing some few
steps to his day-yard, of turnings and returnings within that limited
space, and then of pacing back to pass hours of darkness in his cell
again,--time seemed to stand still, or only to return at daylight, and
work over again the same well-known revolution that it wrought when
daylight last appeared.

Looking back beyond these dreary seventeen years, what had his mind to
rest upon? Sorrow for his wife’s premature death; solicitude, painful
and unfathomably deep, for the babe she had left to his sole care; his
struggle onwards solely on account of the little helpless thing that
had no friend but him; and then the sudden, the unexpected, and horrible
injustice of an avaricious brother-in-law, which had overwhelmed him as
with an avalanche, deprived him of all he possessed, shut him up in a
place of horrors, and, worst of all, put away that child, motherless and
fatherless, to endure perhaps all that the lowest poverty endures, or to
sink under it when she could endure no longer.

Before him, even under the best circumstances, what had he to look
for, even if he were free? The world had nothing in it for him but that
wife’s burying-place, a house where her dear living picture should be,
and was not, and a hearth of desolation for himself! Why had he pleaded
so earnestly for liberty?--the liberty that had nothing to offer him
even when obtained? Those two beings gone, why should he alone wish to
remain? A bed of earth was, after all, the best place for him.

And yet--for the rebound of the spirits is often in proportion to their
fall--it was possible, were he free, that he might find his daughter
again. The doctor might be compelled to tell him how she had been
disposed of in the first instance, and he might be able to trace her
out. Occurrences less probable had come to pass before, and why not in
this case also? He might find her, and in her--though grown a woman,
whom he should not perhaps know again--one who would yet be like
her mother Frances over again, a pride and joy to his house, and a
consolation in the last years of his existence. But the vision faded
when again and again the withering and insurmountable question recurred
to him,--how could he get free? In the most direct course, the events of
that evening had cut off all hope; in any other there lay none. It was
true that visitors sometimes came to inspect the house, and mark the
treatment of the patients. To tell them his tale, and ask their aid, was
useless. Such had been before, and he had told them; but nobody believed
him: they only looked on with wonder or fear, and went away pitying the
painful nature of his delusions. Could he escape? He had, years ago,
planned every conceivable mode of escape,--he had tried them, and had
failed. He must remain there--it was his doom: he must still hear, as he
had heard until he cared little for it, the solemn deadness of the
night disturbed with shrieks that no sane mortal could have uttered;
the untimely dancings of witless men, without joy in them; the bursts of
horrid laughter from women’s lips, without mirth; the singings of merry
words, with a direful vivacity that filled the veins with a creeping
terror more fearful than that of curses; and sometimes plaintive notes
from the love-lost, whose eyes were sleepless, which might have made
the heart burst with pity! He must still live amidst all this, and still
shrink (as he did sometimes) into the closest corner of his pallet, and
bless himself in the iron security of his cell, (which by daylight he
abhorred,) from very dread of those imaginary horrors which the
wild people about the building conjured up in the depth of Nature’s
sleeping-time.

As these thoughts thronged thickly on James Woodruff’s mind, he extended
himself on his back along the couch of straw; and put up his hands,
which were commonly loosed when in his cell, in an attitude of prayer
upon his breast. But the contemplated words were momentarily arrested
by the light tread of feet along the passage outside. A ray of moonlight
from the high-up little window streamed almost perpendicularly down, and
fell partly on his bed and partly on the floor, making an oblong figure
of white thereon, distinct and sharp-edged, as though light and darkness
had been severed as with a knife. A strong reflection from this spot was
thrown upon the door, by the aid of which he beheld through the grating
that looked into the dark passage a white hand clutching the little
bars, and higher up the dim shadow of a face, that looked like that of
a spirit. Woodruff rose up, and sat upon the cold edge of his iron
bedstead.

“James!” whispered a voice through the grating, which he instantly
recognised as that of the doctor’s wife, “are you awake?”

“Would that I were not!” he replied; “for the oblivion of sleep is the
only welcome thing to me here.”

“My husband has written a paper for you,--will you sign it?”

“To set me free?” demanded Woodruff, as he started eagerly up at the
very thought, and seemed to show by his signs how gladly he caught at
the remotest possibility of deliverance, and how fearful he felt lest it
should escape him.

“Yes, yes!” exclaimed the lady, hurriedly; “that is the object.” And on
receiving, on the part of Woodruff, a passionate assurance of compliance
with the proposal, she hastened back as though for the purpose of
fetching the paper alluded to.

It is needful here to explain, that after we had parted with the doctor
and his wife at the dinner-table, as related in the preceding chapter,
the conversation relating to James Woodruff, a portion of which has been
chronicled for the reader’s edification, was renewed; and as the doctor
discussed his wine and shrivelled walnuts, and increased proportionably
both in boldness of thought and fertility of invention, he considered
over and over again the proposal that his brother-in-law had made to him
for the conditional surrender of all his property. The idea took hold of
him very strongly, and struck the deeper root in his bosom the longer
he considered it. Charnwood was a snug little estate, to be sure. It had
been in the family some generations, and great would be his regret that
it should pass away by marriage, as it must, in the event of Woodruff’s
retaining possession. It was true he had told Fanny’s father that his
proffered gift of it would, under present circumstances, be considered
as the act of a madman, and therefore invalid and illegal. But could
no mode be adopted to obviate this difficulty? The doctor thought,
and thought again; and at last came to the conclusion that he would
disregard the illegality of the transaction altogether, provided he
could induce James to make a solemn written declaration, binding himself
in a moral sense, if in no other, that, on obtaining his liberty, he
would not take any steps whatever to recover possession of the estate.
A clever move, thought Rowel;--the man is conscientious fool enough
to keep his word; and, as possession is nine parts the law, I shall be
safe.

Full of this scheme, he sounded the opinion of his wife on the subject;
and, although she had at first expressed pity for the condition of her
brother-in-law, yet, when it came to the serious question which involved
the possession of such a pleasant little estate as Charnwood, Mrs. Rowel
began to reflect that, after all, people must look a little to their own
interests in this world, or else they may allow everybody to step over
their heads. As to being so over particular about how you get it, so
that you do but get it, people were always ready to look up to you; and,
if the truth were known, she dare say that some others she could mention
who did possess property had obtained it in not a better manner, if
so good. She could not, therefore, see any _very_ great harm--and
especially as Woodruff had offered it himself--in taking the property
on those conditions; although she should certainly have liked it all the
better, had there been any choice, if the transaction could have been
managed with a greater show of equity.

The doctor felt quite pleased with the business-like turn of mind which
his lady had developed; and, as nothing less than drawing up a paper
to the effect explained would satisfy him, he proceeded at once to its
accomplishment.

When Mrs. Rowel returned to the room in which Woodruff was confined,
with the paper in one hand which her husband had written, and a small
lamp in the other, followed closely by the doctor with ink and pen,
the alleged lunatic again rose from his bed, and eagerly demanded the
instrument which was to seal his redemption. While the little lamp was
held up to the grating in the door, Woodruff took the paper and read
as follows:--

_“Memorandum made this--day of ----------,_

_18--._

_“Whereas I, James Woodruff, widower, formerly of Charnwood, in the
county of --------, being at the time in sound and composed mind, do
hereby promise to make over to Frank Rowel, M.D. of Nabbfield, in the
said county, brother of my late wife, Frances, all and singular the
lands, houses, barns, and all other property whatever, comprised in
and on the estate known as the Charnwood farm, on the conditions now
specified, viz.--that he, the said Frank Rowel, shall hold me free to
come to, and go from, his establishment for the insane at Nabbfield in
what manner and whenever I please, and shall also hold me wholly exempt
from molestation from the date of this memorandum henceforward: now
this is to certify that I, the said James Woodruff, hereby solemnly and
faithfully pledge myself, without equivocation or mental reservation
of any kind, that, on the conditions named on the part of the aforesaid
Frank Rowel being fulfilled, I will never in any manner, by word or by
deed, either of myself or through the instrumentality of others, take
any steps whatever to recover possession of the said property, or of any
portion of it, either in my own name or in that of my daughter, Frances
Woodruff, spinster.”_

The document dropped from his hands. “Then she is living!” exclaimed the
father: “my daughter is alive!”

Doctor Rowel changed countenance, as though suddenly made aware that he
had committed a slight mistake; but he put the best face he could upon
it, by reluctantly assuring his prisoner that she was alive and well.

“Thank Heaven for that!” cried Woodruff: “then take this bond away--I
will not sign it! I would give away my own, were it a thousand times
greater, for one more day of life at liberty; but I cannot rob her of
her mother’s dower. Let me rather rot here, and trust that a better fate
than has befallen me may restore her to that which I can never enjoy.
Away with it!--leave me!--And yet--”

Woodruff covered his eyes with his hand, and stood trembling in doubt
and irresolution.

“And yet--and yet tell me where my daughter is, and I _will_ sign it.
Liberate me _now_--upon this spot, and at this time, and I will sign
it.”

The doctor demurred.

“Then to-morrow!--as soon as possible--before another night?”

Still the doctor would not promise exactly when he would liberate him.
At length certain conditional terms were agreed to, and James Woodruff
signed away all his own property, and that which should have been
Fanny’s inheritance, together.

Dr. Rowel knew that the memorandum he held, morally binding upon
Woodruff to leave him in undisputed possession of Charnwood, was
useless, except between himself and that unfortunate man. He put it
safely away in his escrutoire for that night, and on the morrow looked
it carefully over again, and still felt distrustful and in doubt. As
Woodruff had given the promise under compulsion, would he not consider
it no crime to disregard it the instant he felt himself secure beyond
the walls? At all events, he would keep on the safe side, and detain him
for the present, or until he could obtain more full satisfaction.

With this reflection, he gave orders that Woodruff was that day only to
be removed into his accustomed yard; and mounting his horse, rode off
in the direction of the farm at Whinmoor, as he felt desirous of seeing
Fanny again.



CHAPTER XVIII.

_A colloquy between Mrs. Clink and Miss Sowersoft, in which the latter
proves herself a most able tactician, and gives a striking illustration
of the difference between talking and doing_.

Before Dr. Rowel had ridden two miles on his journey, another visiter
had arrived at Miss Sowersoft’s, in the person of Mrs. Clink. Astonished
at the account she had received through Abel of the illness of her son,
and vexed at the stay which Fanny made with the boy, she resolved to
walk over and inquire into the affair in person.

Taking advantage of the first interview with her, the amiable Miss
Sowersoft had done to the utmost of her power to qualify the evil
impressions which she feared some mischievous tale-tellers might
have raised in her mind with respect to the treatment that Colin
had received. Without having actually witnessed it, she said it was
impossible that any mother could credit the trouble taken with him, in
order to render him fit for his situation, and enable him to go out into
the world without being misled by that great fallacy, so common amongst
the youth of both sexes, that they are born for nothing but enjoyment,
and that everybody they meet with are their friends. To root out this
fatal error at the very commencement had been her principal endeavour;
and though she, of course, expected nothing less than that the boy
himself would look upon her somewhat harshly,--for it was natural to
juvenile minds to be easily offended,--yet she had persevered in her
course conscientiously, and with the full assurance that, whatever the
lad might think or say now, he would _thank_ her in after years;
and also, that either his own mother, or any other person of ripe
experience, would see good reason to thank her also, for adopting a
method of discipline so eminently calculated to impress upon his mind
that truest of all truths, that the world was a hard place, and life a
difficult journey to struggle through.

“The sooner young people are made acquainted with that fact,” continued
Miss Sowersoft, “the better it is for themselves.”

“You are right there, Miss Sowersoft,” replied Mrs. Clink; “for I am
sure if we were but taught at first what the world _really is_, we
should never go into it, as many of us do, only to be imposed upon,
deceived, and ruined, through the false confidence in which we have been
bred of everybody’s good meaning, and uprightness, and integrity. It is
precisely the line of conduct I have myself pursued in bringing Colin up
from the cradle. I have impressed upon him above all things to tell the
truth whenever it was necessary to speak, and to pay no regard whatever
to consequences, be they good or evil.”

“Yes, Mrs. Clink,” replied Miss Sowersoft, slightly reddening, and
peeping at the ends of her finger-nails, “yes,--that is very good to a
certain extent; but then I think it might be carried too far. Children
should be taught to discriminate a little between truth and downright
impudence, as well as to keep their mouths shut about anything they may
happen to overhear, whenever their masters or mistresses are talking in
the confidentiality of privacy.”

Mrs. Clink confessed herself ignorant of what Miss Sowersoft alluded to,
but observed, that if she intended the remark to apply to Colin, she was
confident he would never be guilty of so mean a thing as to listen to
the private conversation of any two persons in the world.

“It is natural you should have a good opinion of him,” replied Miss
Sowersoft; “but should you believe your eyes if you had caught him at
it?--oracular demonstration, as my brother Ted calls it.”

“I should believe my eyes, certainly,” said Mrs. Clink.

“Then we did catch him at it, and Mr. Palethorpe was much excited of
course,--for he is very passionate indeed when he is once got up,--and
he took him in his rage and dipped him in the horse-trough. Not that I
justify his passion, or say that I admire his revenge,--nothing of
the sort: but I must say, that if there is one thing more mean and
contemptible than another, or that deserves to be more severely punished
in children, it is that of listening behind hedges and doors, to know
the very thing that people wish to keep particularly secret.”

Colin’s mother was about to reply, had not the sudden entrance of
Dr. Rowel prevented her, and left Miss Sowersoft’s philippic against
listeners and listening in all its force and weight upon her mind.

Anxious to see the boy, Mrs. Clink followed the doctor up stairs, and
found Fanny sitting by his bed-side, with a cup of lukewarm tea in her
hand, waiting until he should wake. Having examined his patient, the
doctor addressed Fanny to the effect that he wished to have a few
minutes’ conversation with her down stairs. Miss Sowersoft, on being
made aware of the doctor’s wish, ushered him and Fanny into an inner
parlour, assuring them that they would be perfectly retired there, as no
one could approach the door without her own knowledge.

“There is something vastly curious in this,” said Miss Sowersoft to
herself, as she carefully closed the door. “What can the doctor want
with such an impudent minx?”

And so she remained, pursuing her dark cogitations through all the
labyrinths of scandal, until Mrs. Clink had bidden our hero good-b’ye,
and crept down stairs. On turning the corner of the wall, the first
object she beheld was Miss Sowersoft, with her ear close to the keyhole
of the inner parlour-door, apparently so deeply intent on what was going
forward within, as to have almost closed her senses to anything without,
for she did not perceive Mrs. Clink’s approach until she stood within a
yard or two of her.

“Ay, bless me!--are you here?” she exclaimed, as she drew herself
up. “Why, you see, ma’am, there is no rule without an exception; and,
notwithstanding what I was saying when Dr. Rowel came in, yet, Mrs.
Clink, it was impossible for me to be aware how soon it might be needful
for me to break my own rule. You know that servant of yours is a very
likely person, Mrs. Clink, for any gentleman to joke with; and, though
I do not mean to insinuate anything--I should be very sorry to do
so, indeed; but still, doctor though he is--in fact, to tell you the
truth,”--and Miss Sowersoft drew her auditor to the farther side of the
room, and spoke in a whisper,--“it is highly fortunate I had the presence
of mind to listen at the door; for I heard the doctor very emphatically
impress on your servant the necessity of not letting even _you_ yourself
know anything about it, under any circumstances; and at the same time he
promised her something,--presents, for aught we know,--and said he would
do something for her. Now, Mrs. Clink, what could he mean by that?--I
have my suspicions; and if I were in _your_ place, I should _insist,
positively insist_, on knowing all about it, or she should not live
another day in my house.”

Mrs. Clink stood amazed and confounded. She would have pledged her word
that, if needful, Fanny would have resisted any offered insult to the
death; but she knew not what to think after what she had just heard.

“I _will_ insist on knowing it!” she exclaimed. “The girl is young and
simple, and may be easily imposed upon by--”

“Hush, hush!” interposed Miss Sowersoft, “they are coming out!”

As they came out, Miss Sowersoft looked thunder at Fanny, and bade the
doctor good morning with a peculiar stiltiness of expression, which
implied, in her own opinion, a great deal more than anybody else could
possibly have made of it.

“Have her down stairs directly!” continued the lady of the
establishment, (for Fanny had gone up stairs,) as soon as Mr. Rowel
had passed out of hearing. “A wicked hussy!--If she did not answer me
everything straight forwards, _I_ should know what to think of it, and
what to do as well, that I should! But _you_ can do as you like, Mrs.
Clink.”

Colin’s mother called Fanny down stairs again, and took her, followed
by Miss Sower-soft, into the same room in which she had so recently held
her colloquy with her uncle the doctor.


END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Colin Clink, Volume 1 (of 3)" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home