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Title: Red Spider, Volume 1 (of 2)
Author: Baring-Gould, S. (Sabine)
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 "Red Spider, Volume 1 (of 2)" ***

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                              *RED SPIDER*


                                   BY
                          SABINE BARING-GOULD


               THE AUTHOR OF ’JOHN HERRING’ ’MEHALAH’ &c.


                             IN TWO VOLUMES
                                VOL. I.



                                 London
                      CHATTO & WINDUS, PICCADILLY
                                  1887

                [_The right of translation is reserved_]



                               *PREFACE.*


Fifty years ago!  Half a century has passed since the writer was a child
in the parish where he has laid the scene of this tale.

There he had a trusty nurse, and a somewhat romantic story was attached
to her life. Faithful, good creature!  She was carrying the writer in
her arms over a brook by a bridge elevated high above the water, when
the plank broke.  She at once held up her charge over her head, with
both arms, and made no attempt to save herself, thinking only of him, as
she fell on the stones and into the water. _He_ escaped wholly unhurt,
owing to her devotion.

Many years after, the author read a little German story which curiously
recalled to him his nurse and her career.  When a few years ago he
revisited the scenes of his childhood, he thought to recall on paper
many and many a recollection of village life in the south-west of
England in one of its most still and forgotten corners.  So he has taken
this thread of story, not wholly original in its initiation, and has
altered and twisted it to suit his purpose, and has strung on it sundry
pictures of what was beginning to fade half a century ago in Devon. Old
customs, modes of thought, of speech, quaint sayings, weird
superstitions are all disappearing out of the country, utterly and for
ever.

The labourer is now enfranchised, education is universal, railways have
made life circulate freer; and we stand now before a great social
dissolving view, from which old things are passing away, and what is
coming on we can only partly guess, not wholly distinguish.

In revisiting the parish of Bratton Clovelly, the author found little of
the outward scenery changed, but the modes of life were in a state of
transition.  The same hills, the same dear old moors and woods, the same
green coombs, the same flowers, the same old church, and the same
glorious landscape.  The reader will perhaps accept with leniency a
slight tale for the sake of the pictures it presents of what is gone for
ever, or is fast fading away.  Coryndon’s Charity, of course, is
non-existent in Bratton parish.  The names are all taken, Christian and
sire, from the early registers of the parish.  Village characteristics,
incidents, superstitions have been worked in, from actual recollections.
The author has tried to be very close in local colour; and, if it be not
too bold a comparison, he would have this little story considered, like
one of Birket Foster’s water-colours, rather as a transcript from nature
than as a finished, original, highly-arranged and considered picture.



                               *CONTENTS*

                                  *OF*

                          *THE FIRST VOLUME.*


CHAPTER

      I. THE BROTHERS-IN-LAW
     II. THE MONEY-SPINNER
    III. WELLON’S CAIRN
     IV. THE WHITE HARE
      V. ’TIMEO DANAOS ET DONA FERENTES’
     VI. THE PROGRESS OF STRIFE
    VII. CORYNDON’S CHARITY
   VIII. A MALINGERER
     IX. CHARLES LUXMORE
      X. ON THE STEPS
     XI. IN THE LINNEY
    XII. LANGFORD
   XIII. THE REVEL
    XIV. THE LAMB-KILLER
     XV. A BOLT FROM THE BLUE
    XVI. KEEPING WATCH
   XVII. MRS. VEALE
  XVIII. TREASURE TROVE



                             *RED SPIDER.*



                              *CHAPTER I.*

                         *THE BROTHERS-IN-LAW.*


Heigh! for a badger-skin waistcoat like that of Hillary Nanspian of
Chimsworthy!  What would not I give to be the owner of such a waistcoat?
Many a covetous glance was cast at that waistcoat in the parish church
of Bratton Clovelly, in the county of Devon, on Sunday, where it
appeared during public worship in a pew; and when the parson read the
Decalogue, many a heart was relieved to learn that the prohibition
against covetousness did not extend to badger-skin waistcoats.  That
waistcoat made of the skin of a badger Hillary Nanspian had himself
drawn and killed.  In colour it was silver-grey graduating to black.
The fur was so deep that the hand that grasped it sank into it.  The
waistcoat was lined with red, and had flaps of fur to double over the
breast when the wind lay in the east and the frost was cruel.  When the
wind was wet and warm, the flaps were turned back, exposing the gay
crimson lining, and greatly enhancing its beauty.  The waistcoat had
been constructed for Hillary Nanspian by his loving wife before she
died.

Hillary Nanspian of Chimsworthy was a big, brisk, florid man, with light
grey eyes. His face was open, round, hearty, and of the colour of a
ribstone pippin.  He was, to all appearance, a well-to-do man.  But
appearances are not always to be trusted. Chimsworthy, where he lived,
was a farm of two hundred acres; the subsoil clay, some of the land
moor, and more bog; but the moor was a fine place for sheep, and the bog
produced pasture for the young stock when the clay grass land was
drought-dry.  Hillary had an orchard of the best sorts of apples grown
in the West, and he had a nursery of apples, of grafts, and of
seedlings.  When he ate a particularly good apple, he collected the pips
for sowing, put them in a paper cornet, and wrote thereon, ’This here
apple was a-eated of I on ——,’ such and such a day, ’and cruel good he
were too.’  (_Cruel_, in the West, means no more than ’very.’)

The farm of Chimsworthy had come to Nanspian through his wife, who was
dead. His brother-in-law was Taverner Langford of Langford.  Taverner’s
mother had been a Hill, Blandina Hill, heiress of Chimsworthy, and it
went to her daughter Blandina, who carried it when she married to her
Cornish husband, Hillary Nanspian.

Taverner Langford was unmarried, getting on in years, and had no nearer
relative than young Hillary Nanspian, his nephew, the only child of his
deceased sister Blandina.  It was an understood thing in the parish of
Bratton Clovelly that young Hillary would be heir to his uncle, and
succeed to both Langford and Chimsworthy.  Taverner said nothing about
this, and took no particular notice of Hillary junior, but, as Hillary
senior and the parish argued, if Taverner does not leave everything to
the young one, whom can he make his heir?  Hillary was a warm-blooded
man.  He suffered little from cold; he liked to live in his
shirt-sleeves.  When rain fell, he threw a sack over his shoulders.  He
drew on his cloth coat only for church and market. He was an imposing
man, out of his coat or in it, big in girth, broad in beam, and tall of
stature.  But especially imposing was he when he rode to market on his
white cob, in his badger-skin waistcoat turned up with crimson.  The
consciousness that he was, or ought to be, a man of substance never left
him.  His son Hillary would be a wealthy yeoman, and he—he Hillary
senior—was the father of this son, this wealthy yeoman prospective.  On
this thought he puffed himself up.  Considering this, he jingled the
coins in his pocket.  Boasting of this he drank with the farmers till he
was as red in face as the lappets of his waistcoat.

Adjoining the house was a good oak wood covering the slope to the brook
that flowed in the bottom.  Fine sticks of timber had been cut thence,
time out of mind.  The rafters of the old house, the beams of the
cattle-sheds, the posts of the gates, the very rails (’shivers,’ as they
were locally called), the flooring (’plancheon’ locally), all were of
oak, hard as iron; and all came out of Chimsworthy wood. An avenue of
contorted, stunted limes led to the entrance gates of granite, topped
with stone balls; and the gates gave admission to a yard deep in dung.
The house was low, part of cob—that is, clay and straw kneaded and
unbaked—part of stone laid in clay, not in lime.  In the cob walls,
plastered white, were oak windows, in the stone walls two granite
windows.  The house was shaped like the letter T, of which the top
stroke represents the stone portion, containing the parlour and the best
bedroom over it, and the stairs.  The roofs were thatched.  There was
more roof than wall to Chimsworthy, which cowered almost into the
ground.

At the back of the house rose the lofty bank of Broadbury, the highest
ridge between Dartmoor and the Atlantic.  The rain that fell on the Down
above oozed through the shale about Chimsworthy, so that the lane and
yards were perpetually wet, and compelled those who lived there to walk
in wading boots.

In shape, Broadbury is a crescent, with the horns east and west, and the
lap of the half moon lies to the south.  In this lap, the nursery of
countless streams, stands Chimsworthy, with a bank of pines behind it,
and above the black pines golden gorse, and over the golden gorse blue
sky and fleecy white clouds.  The countless springs issue from emerald
patches of bog, where bloom the purple butterwort, the white grass of
Parnassus, the yellow asphodel, and the blood-tipped sundew.  The
rivulets become rills, and swell to brooks which have scooped themselves
coombs in the hill slope, and the coombs as they descend deepen into
valleys, whose sides are rich with oak coppice, and the bottoms are rank
with cotton grass, fleecy and flickering as the white clouds that drift
overhead.

Chimsworthy had originally belonged to the Hills, a fine old yeoman
family, but the last of the Hills had carried it by marriage to the
Langfords of Langford.  How it had gone to Hillary Nanspian by his
marriage with the daughter of Mrs. Langford has already been told.

Langford had been owned for many generations by the Langfords, once a
gentle family, with large estates both in Bratton Clovelly and in Marham
Church, near Bude in Cornwall. Nothing now remained to Taverner but the
ancestral house and the home estate of some four hundred acres.
Chimsworthy had been united with it by his father’s marriage, but lost
again by his sister’s union with the Cornishman Nanspian.

Something like twenty-four months of married life was all that poor
Blandina had; and since he had lost his wife, Hillary had remained a
widower.  Many a farmer’s daughter had set her eyes on him, for he was a
fine man, but in vain.  Hillary Nanspian had now lived at Chimsworthy
twenty-two years.  His son Hillary was aged twenty.

Langford was a different sort of place from Chimsworthy, and Taverner
Langford was a different sort of man from Hillary Nanspian. Langford
stood higher than Chimsworthy.  It was built on the edge of Broadbury,
but slightly under its lea, in a situation commanding an extensive and
superb view of Dartmoor, that rose against the eastern horizon, a wall
of turquoise in sunshine, of indigo in cloudy weather, with picturesque
serrated ridge.  The intermediate country was much indented with deep
valleys, running north and south, clothed in dark woods, and the effect
was that of gazing over a billowy sea at a mountainous coast.

Not a tree, scarce a bush, stood about Langford, which occupied a site
too elevated and exposed for the growth of anything but thorns and
gorse.  The house itself was stiff, slate roofed, and with slate-encased
walls, giving it a harsh metallic appearance.

Taverner Langford was a tall, gaunt man, high-shouldered, with a stoop,
dark-haired, dark-eyed, and sallow-complexioned.  He had high cheekbones
and a large hard mouth.  His hair was grizzled with age, but his eyes
had lost none of their keenness, they bored like bradawls.  His eyebrows
were very thick and dark, looking more like pieces of black fur glued on
to his forehead than natural growths. He never looked any one steadily
in the face, but cast furtive glances, with which, however, he saw
vastly more than did Hillary with his wide grey-eyed stare.

Taverner Langford had never married.  It had never been heard in Bratton
that he had courted a girl.  His housekeeping was managed by a
grey-faced, sour woman, Widow Veale. As Hillary Nanspian was people’s
churchwarden, Taverner Langford was parson’s churchwarden. The Reverend
Mr. Robbins, the rector, had appointed him, at the Easter vestry five
years before the opening of this tale, because he was a Dissenter.  He
did this for two reasons: first, to disarm Langford’s opposition to the
Church; and secondly, to manifest his own tolerance—an easy tolerance
that springs out of void of convictions.  The two wardens were
reappointed annually.  They and two others acted as feoffees of an
estate left in charity for the poor.  They let the land to each other
alternate years at a shilling an acre, and consumed the proceeds in a
dinner at the ’Ring of Bells’ once a year.  The poor were provided with
the scraps that fell from the feoffees’ table.

Taverner Langford was respected in the place and throughout the
neighbourhood, because he represented a family as old as the parish
church, a family which had once owned large possessions, and maintained
some state; also because he was an exceedingly shrewd man, whom no one
could overreach, and who was supposed to have amassed much money.  But
he was not a popular man.  He was taciturn, self-contained, and shunned
society.  He drank water only, never smoked nor swore; with the farmers
he was unsociable, with the labourers ungracious, in all his dealings he
was grasping and unyielding.  Dishonourable he was not; unscrupulous he
was not, except only in exacting the last penny of his bargains.

Hillary Nanspian’s presence was commanding and he was fond of his glass,
smoked and swore; the glass, the pipe, and an oath all links of good
fellowship.  Nevertheless, he also was not a popular man.  In the first
place he was a foreigner—that is, a Cornishman; in the second, he was
arrogant and boastful.

The brothers-in-law got on better with each other than with others.
Each knew and allowed for the other’s infirmities.  Towards Taverner
Hillary bated his pride; he had sufficient discretion not to brag in the
presence of a man to whom he owed money.  Hillary was a bad man of
business, wasteful, liberal, and careless of his money.  He had saved
nothing out of Chimsworthy, and, after a run of bad seasons, had been
forced to borrow of his brother-in-law to meet current expenses.

Taverner and Hillary were not cordial friends, but they were friends.
Taverner felt, though he did not acknowledge, his isolation, and he was
glad to have his brother-in-law to whom he could open his lips.  Knowing
himself to be of a good old gentle family, Taverner kept himself from
terms of familiarity with the farmers, but he was too close with his
money to take his place with the gentry.

There was one point on which Hillary irrationally sensitive; there was
also a point on which Taverner was tender.  Each avoided touching the
delicate and irritable spot in the other.  Once, and only once, had
Nanspian flared up at a word from Langford, and for a moment their
friendship had been threatened with rupture.

Hillary Nanspian was, as has been said, a Cornishman, and the rooted,
ineradicable belief of the Devonians is that their Celtic Trans-Tamarian
neighbours are born with tails. The people of Bratton Clovelly persisted
in asserting that Nanspian had a tail concealed under his garments.
When first he entered the parish, rude boys had shouted after inquiries
about the caudal appendage, he had retaliated so unmercifully, that
their parents had resented it, and the chastisement, instead of driving
the prejudice out, had deepened it into indelible conviction.  ’For
why,’ it was argued, ’should he take on so, unless it be true?’

He was annoyed at church by the interested attention paid to him by the
women and children when he seated himself in the Chimsworthy pew, and
when riding to market, by the look of curiosity with which his seat on
the saddle was watched by the men.

The only occasion on which the friendship of Langford and Nanspian
threatened a cleavage, was when the former, whether with kindly
intention or sarcastically cannot be determined, urged on Hillary the
advisability of his publicly bathing in the river Thrustle, one hot
summer day, so as to afford ocular demonstration to the people of the
parish that they laboured under a delusion in asserting the prolongation
of his spine.  This proposition so irritated Nanspian, that he burst
into a tempest of oaths, and for some weeks would not speak to his
brother-in-law.  Though eventually reconciled, the recollection of the
affront was never wholly effaced.

The sensitive point with Taverner Langford was of a very different
nature.  Not being a married man he was obliged to engage a housekeeper
to manage his dairy, his maids, and his domestic affairs generally.  His
housekeeper, Mrs. Veale, was a vinegary woman, of very unpleasant
appearance.  She managed admirably, was economical, active, and clean.
The mere fact, however, of her being at Langford was enough to give rise
to some scandal.  She was intensely disliked by all the servants on the
farm and by the maids in the house.

’Why don’t Mr. Langford get rid of the woman, so ill-favoured, so
sharp-tongued, so unpleasant, unless he can’t help hisself?’ was
reasoned.  ’You may depend on it there’s something.’

Taverner was touchy on this matter.  He broke with Farmer Yelland for
inquiring of him flippantly, ’How goes the missus?’

Langford detested the woman, who had a livid face, pink eyes, and a
rasping voice; but as scandal attached to him with such a creature in
his house, he argued: How much more consistency would it assume had he a
better favoured housekeeper!

’Moreover,’ he reasoned, ’where can I get one who will look after my
interests so well as Mrs. Veale?  If she be bitter to me, she’s sloes
and wormwood to the servants.’



                             *CHAPTER II.*

                          *THE MONEY-SPINNER.*


A little spark will burn a big hole—a very little spark indeed was the
occasion of a great blaze of temper, and a great gap in the friendship
of the brothers-in-law.  Langford possessed this disadvantage: it lay so
high, and was so exposed, that it lacked cosiness.  It had nowhere about
it a nook where a man might sit and enjoy the sun without being cut by
the wind.  Broadbury was the meeting-place of all the winds.  Thither
the wind roared without let from the Atlantic, and to the back of it
every tree bowed from the north-west; thither it swept from the east
with a from the rocky crests of Dartmoor, sparing the intervening
park-like lowlands.

Chimsworthy had no prospect from its windows; but it stood at the source
of an affluent of the Tamar, and beyond its granite gates, across the
lane that led up to Broadbury, was a stile, and beyond the stile a slope
with a view down the valley to the setting sun and the purple range of
Cornish tors above Liskeard, Caradon, Boarrah, Kilmar, and Trevartha.

On Sunday evenings, and whenever the fancy took him, Taverner Langford
would descend Broadbury by the lane, cross the stile, and seat himself
on a rude granite slab on the farther side of the hedge, that had been
placed there by one of the Hills—it had been the ’quoit’ of a great
prehistoric dolmen or cromlech, but the supporters had been removed to
serve as gateposts, and the covering-stone now formed a seat.  On this
stone Taverner Langford spent many an hour with his chin on the handle
of his thorn stick, looking over the wood and meadows and arable land of
Chimsworthy, and scheming how money might be made out of the farm were
it profitably worked.  He noted with jealous eye the ravages caused by
neglect, the gaps in the hedges, the broken roofs, the crop of thistles,
the choked drains bursting many yards above their mouths, bursting
because their mouths had not been kept open.  The farm had been managed
by Taverner’s father along with Langford, and had been handed over on
Blandina’s marriage, in excellent condition, to Nanspian, and had gone
back ever since he had enjoyed it.  This angered Langford, though he
knew Chimsworthy would never be his.  ’This is the sort of tricks to
which young Larry is reared, which he will play with Langford.  As the
bull gambols, so capers the calf.’

Hillary did not relish the visits of Taverner to the Look-out Stone.  He
thought, and thought rightly, that Langford was criticising unfavourably
his management of the estate. He was conscious that the farm had
deteriorated, but he laid the blame on the weather and the badness of
construction of the drains, on everything but himself.  ’How can you
expect drains to last, put down as they are, one flat stone on edge and
another leaning on it aslant?  Down it goes with the weight of earth
atop, and the passage is choked.  I’ll eat a Jew without mint-sauce if a
drain so constructed will last twenty years.’  Chimsworthy could never
go to Taverner, what right then had he to grumble if it were in bad
order?

When Langford came to the Look-out Stone Hillary soon heard of it, and
went to him in his shirt-sleeves, pipe in mouth, and with a jug of cyder
in his hand.  Then some such a greeting as this ensued:

’Trespassing again, Taverner?’

’Looking at the land over which I’ve walked, and where I’ve weeded many
a day, with my father, before you was thought of in Bratton Clovelly.’

Then Hillary drew the pipe from his lips, and, raking the horizon with
the sealing-waxed end, said, ’Fine land, yonder.’

’Moor—naught but moor,’ answered Langford disparagingly.

’No cawding of sheep on peaty moor,’ said Nanspian triumphantly.

’No fattening of bullocks on heather,’ replied Taverner.  ’It is wet in
Devon, it is wetter in Cornwall.’

’Wetter!  That is not possible.  Here we live on the rose of a
watering-can, pillowed among bogs.’

’There are worse things than water,’ sneered Langford, pointing to the
jug.

’Ah!’ said Hillary in defence.  ’Sour is the land that grows sour apples
and sour folks.’

’Heaven made the apples—they are good enough.  Man makes the cyder—which
is evil. Thus it is with other good gifts, we pervert them to our bad
ends.’

This was the formula gone through, with slight variations, whenever the
brothers-in-law met at the granite seat.  A little ruffle of each other,
but it went no further.

Hillary Nanspian was a talker, not loud but continuous.  He had a rich,
low, murmuring voice, with which he spoke out of one side of his mouth,
whilst he inhaled tobacco through the other.  It was pleasant to listen
to, like the thrum of a bumble-bee or the whirr of a winnowing fan.  The
eyes closed, the head nodded, and sleep ensued.  But every now and then
Hillary uttered an oath, for he was not a man to wear a padlock on his
lips, and then the dozing listener woke with a start.  When that
listener was Taverner, he uttered his protest.  ’The word is uncalled
for, Hillary; change it for one that sounds like it, and is inoffensive
and unmeaning.’

There was much difference in the way in which the two men behaved when
angered. Hillary was hot and blazed up in a sudden outburst.  He was
easily angered, but soon pacified, unless his pride were hurt.
Taverner, on the other hand, though equally to take umbrage, took it in
another fashion.  He turned sallow, said little, and brooded over his
wrong.  If an opportunity offered to resent it, it was not allowed to
pass, however long after the event.  One evening the brothers-in-law
were at the Look-out Stone.  Hillary was standing with his foot on the
block on which Taverner sat.

’I’ll tell you what,’ said Nanspian, ’I wish I’d got a few thousands to
spare.  Swaddledown is for sale, and the farm joins mine, and would be
handy for stock.’

’And I wish I could buy Bannadon.  That will be in the market shortly,
but I cannot unless you repay me what you have borrowed.’

’Can’t do that just now; not comfortably, you understand.’

’Then what is the good of your scheming to buy Swaddledown?  A man
without teeth mustn’t pick nuts.’

’And what is the good of your wanting Bannadon when you have as much as
you can manage at Langford?  A man with his mouth full mustn’t take a
second bite till he’s swallowed the first.’

Then neither spoke for a few moments. Presently, however, Hillary drew a
long whiff, and blew the smoke before him.  Slowly he pulled the pipe
from between his lips, and with the end of the stem pointed down the
valley. ’It would be something to be able to call those fields my own.’

’That would be pulling on boots to hide the stocking full of holes,’
sneered Taverner. Hillary coloured, and his eyes twinkled. ’There is no
picking feathers off a toad, or clothes off a naked man,’ he muttered;
’and if you squeeze a crab-apple you get only sourness. If I were not
your brother-in-law I shouldn’t put up with your words.  But you can’t
help it. Sloes and blackberries grow in the same hedge, and their
natures are as they began.  Older they grow, they grow either sweeter or
sourer.’

’Ah!’ retorted Taverner, ’out of the acre some grow wheat and others
nettles.’

’It is all very well your talking,’ said Hillary, putting his thumbs in
his waistcoat arm-holes, and expanding.  ’You, no doubt, have made
money, one way or other.  I have not; but then, I am not a screw.  I am
a free-handed, open man.  God forbid that I should be a screw!’

’A screw holds together and a wedge drives apart,’ said Taverner.

’I don’t know,’ said Hillary, looking across lovingly at the Swaddledown
fields, ’but I may be able to find the money.  My credit is not so low
that I need look far.  If you will not help me others will.’

’How can you raise it? on a mortgage? You cannot without young Hillary’s
consent, and he is not of age.’

’Luck will come my way some time,’ said Nanspian.  ’Luck is not nailed
to one point of the compass, brother Langford.  Don’t you flatter
yourself that it always goes to you. Luck veers as the wind.’

’That is true, but as the wind here sets three days out of four from the
west, so does luck set most time towards the thrifty man.’

’Sooner or later it will turn to me.’

’I know what you mean.  I’ve heard tell of what you have said to the
farmers when warmed with liquor.  The wind don’t blow over a thistlehead
without carrying away some of its down and dropping it where least
wanted. I’ve heard your boasts, they are idle—idle as thistledown.  Do
you think you’ll ever succeed to Langford?  I’ll live to see your
burying.’

’My burying won’t help you to Chimsworthy,’ retorted Hillary.  ’My Larry
stands in your way.  Heigh!  I said it!  The luck is coming my way
already!’ he exclaimed eagerly. He put down his foot, placed both palms
on the slab of granite, and leaned over it.

’Not a moment before it is needed,’ said Taverner.  ’You’ve had some bad
falls, and they’d have been breakdown tumbles but for my help.  I
suppose you must let Swaddledown go; it’s a pity too, lying handy as the
button at the flap of your pocket.’

’She is coming my way as fast as she can!’

’What, Swaddledown?’

’No!  Luck!  Look! running right into my hands.  The money-spinner!’

’The money-spinner!’  Taverner started to his feet.  ’Where?  Whither is
she running?’

’Stand out of the sunlight, will you!’ exclaimed Hillary.  ’How can I
see and secure her with your shadow cast across the stone?’

’Where is she?’

’I tell you she is making direct for me.  I knew the luck would come if
I waited.  Curse you!  Get on one side, will you?’

’Don’t swear,’ said Langford, standing at the other end of the granite
slab, and resting his hands on it.  ’The money-spinner is a tickle
(touchy) beast, and may take offence at a godless word.  I see her, she
has turned. You’ve scared her with your oaths, and now she is running
towards me.’

’She’s going to fetch some of your luck and bring it to my pocket; she’s
on the turn again.’

’No, she is not.  She is making for me, not you.’

’But she is on my stone.  She has brought the luck to me.’

’She may be on your stone now, but she is leaving it for my hand, as
fast as her red legs can carry her.’

’You’re luring her away from me, are you?’ cried Hillary, blazing as red
as any money-spinner.

’Luring!  She’s running her natural course as sure as a fox runs before
the wind.’

’Stand out of the sun!  It is the ugly shade you cast that chills her.
She goes where she may be warmest.’

’Out of thine own mouth thou speakest thy condemnation,’ scoffed
Langford.  ’Of course she goes to the warmest corner, and which is
warmest, my pocket or thine?—the full or the empty?’

’The spinner is on my stone, and I will have her!’ cried Hillary.

’Your stone!—yes, yours because you got it and Chimsworthy away from
me.’

’The spinner is by your hand!’ roared Nanspian, and with an oath he
threw himself across the stone and swept the surface with his hands.

Langford uttered an exclamation of anger. ’You have crushed—you have
killed her! There is an end of luck to you, you long-tailed Cornish
ourang-outang!’

Hillary Nanspian staggered back.  His face became dark with rage.  He
opened his lips, but was inarticulate for a moment; then he roared, ’You
say that, do you, you ——, that let yourself be led and tongue-lashed by
your housekeeper.’

’Our friendship is at an end,’ said Langford, turning livid, and his
dark bushy brows met across his forehead.  ’Never shall you set foot in
Langford now.’

’Never!  It will come to my Larry, and I’ll drink your burying ale there
yet.’

’Larry shall never have it.’

’You can’t keep him out,’ exclaimed Hillary.

’Do not be so sure of that,’ said Taverner.

’I am sure.  I have seen the parchments.’

’I know them better than you,’ laughed Langford.  Then he went to the
stile to leave the field.

’I’ll have the law of you,’ shouted Hillary; ’you are trespassing on my
land.’

’I trespassing!’ mocked Langford; ’this is a stile leading to
Swaddledown.’

’There is no right of way here.  This is a private stile leading only to
the Look-out Stone. I will have the law of you, I swear.’

Thus it was that the friendship of twenty-two years was broken, and the
brothers-in-law became declared and deadly enemies.  The friendship was
broken irremediably by an insect almost microscopic—a little scarlet
spider no larger than a mustard-seed, invested by popular superstition
with the power of spinning money in the pocket of him who secures it.



                             *CHAPTER III*

                           *WELLON’S CAIRN.*


Whilst Hillary Nanspian and Taverner Langford were falling out over a
minute red spider, Hillary junior, or Larry as he was called by his
intimates, was talking to Honor Luxmore in a nook of the rubble of
Wellon’s Cairn.

Wellon’s Cairn is a great barrow, or tumulus on Broadbury, not far from
Langworthy.  Its original name has been lost. Since a certain Wellon was
hung in chains on a gallows set up on this mound for the murder of three
women it has borne his name.

The barrow was piled up of stones and black peat earth, and was covered
with gorse, so that the old British warrior who lay beneath may indeed
be said to have made his bed in glory.  The gorse brake not only blazed
as fire, but streamed forth perfume like a censer. Only on the summit
was a bare space, where the gallows had stood, and Wellon had dropped
piecemeal, and been trodden by the sheep into the black soil.

On the south-west side, facing the sun, was a hollow.  Treasure-seekers
had dug into the mound.  Tradition said that therein lay a hero in
harness of gold.  The panoply that wrapped him round was indeed of gold,
but it was the gold of the ever-blooming gorse.  Having found nothing
but a few flint flakes and broken sherds, the seekers had abandoned the
cairn, without filling up the cavity.  This had fallen in, and was lined
with moss and short grass, and fringed about with blushing heath and
blazing gorse.

In this bright and fragrant hollow, from the world, and sheltered from
the wind that wafted down on her the honey breath of the furze, and
exposed to the warmth of the declining sun, sat Honor Luxmore; and near
her, not seated, but leaning against the side of the excavation, stood
Hillary junior talking to her.

Hillary was like his father, well built, fair-haired, and flushed with
life.  His eyes were blue, quick and honest, sparkling with fun; and his
bearing was that of the heir of Chimsworthy and Langford.  There was
unmistakable self-reliance in his face, making up, in measure, for lack
of superior intelligence.

Honor Luxmore demands a fuller account than young Hillary.

Some way down the lane from Wellon’s Cairn stood a cottage.  This
cottage was constructed on the bank or hedge above the roadway, so that
the door was reached by a flight of steps, partly cut in the rock,
partly constructed of stone.  A handrail assisted ascent and descent.
The cottage seemed to have taken refuge up the side of the bank to
escape from the water in the lane.  Actually the roadway was cut through
shale to some depth, leaving the cottage on the true surface of the
land.  The road had no doubt in part been artificially cut, but
certainly it had been also scooped in part by the water, which, issuing
from the joints of the shale, converted it into a watercourse.  The
sides of the road were rich with moss and fern, and the moss and fern
were spangled with drops that oozed out of the rock.  Below the steps
was a spring, in a hole scooped in the side of the loose, shaley rock.

The cottage itself was of cob, whitewashed, with a thatched roof, brown
and soft as the fur of a mole.  The windows were small and low, In this
cottage lived Oliver Luxmore, a man poor in everything but children, and
of these he possessed more than he knew how to provide for.  The cottage
was like a hive. Flaxen-haired boys and girls of all ages might be seen
pouring out on their way to school, or swarming home in the evening.
They were all pretty children, with dazzling blue eyes and clear
complexions and fair hair, from the youngest, a little maid of three,
upwards; and what was better than beauty, they were patterns of neatness
and cleanliness.  According to the proverb, cleanliness comes next to
goodliness, but these little Luxmores were both cleanly and goodly.  The
goodliness they drew from their parents, but the cleanliness was due to
Honor, the eldest daughter of Oliver Luxmore, who stood to her brothers
and sisters in the place of mother, for the wife of Luxmore had died
three years ago, just after the birth of her youngest.

The father was a carrier, who drove a van on Fridays to Tavistock, and
on Saturdays to Okehampton, the market-days at these respective places.
On the other week-days he worked for the farmers, doing odd jobs, and so
earning money for the sustenance of his many children.

Oliver Luxmore was a quiet, dreamy, unenergetic man, who was hampered by
a belief that he was the right heir to a good property, which would
certainly be his if only he were able to find the necessary registers,
but what these registers were, whether of marriage or birth, he was
uncertain.  At the extreme limits of the parish, in a pretty situation,
lay a good house of Queen Anne’s reign, with some fine trees, and traces
of gardens, and a fishpond, called Coombe Park, which had belonged to
the Luxmoores or Luxmores.  But this property had been sold, and Oliver
maintained that if he had had but one hundred pounds wherewith to find
the registers, Coombe Park could not have been sold, and he would be a
squire there, with a good fortune.  He had visited a lawyer in
Okehampton, and another at Tavistock, to ask them to take up his on
speculation, but Oliver’s ideas were so hazy as to his pedigree, never
resolving themselves into definite statements of fact, that both one and
the other declined to touch his claim unless they were given some
certain ground on which to work.

Then he went to the Rector of Bratton, and with his help extracted all
the entries of births, marriages, and deaths of the Luxmores—pages of
them, showing that from the beginning of the sixteenth century the name
had abounded there, and belonged to or was assumed by persons of all
ranks and conditions.  Then Oliver took this list to the Okehampton
lawyer.

’Look here,’ said he, ’my eldest daughter is called Honor, and in 1662
John Luxmore, gentleman, and Temperance, his wife, had a daughter
baptised called Honor.  That’s proof, is it not?’

’Why was your daughter christened by this name?’

’Well, you see my wife was Honor, and so we called our first girl after
her.’

This may be taken as a specimen that will suffice of Oliver’s evidences,
and as a justification of the solicitors declining to take up his claim.

’It is one hundred pounds that is wanted to do it,’ said Oliver Luxmore.
’If I had that to spend on the registers, it would come right enough.  I
always heard my father say that if we had our rights we shouldn’t be in
the cottage in Water Lane.’

Oliver spent money and wasted time over his ineffectual attempts to
prove his descent and establish his rights, but he had not the slightest
idea what to search for and how to search.  He did not even know his
grandfather’s Christian-name, but believed it began with a J, for he had
an old linen shirt that was marked in the tail with J. L., and was so
strong and sound that he wore it still. J. might stand for John, or
James, or Joseph, or Jeremiah.  But then he was not _quite_ sure the
shirt had belonged to his grandfather, but he had heard his mother say
she believed it had.

On days when he might have been earning money he would wander away to
Coombe Park, prowl round the estate estimating its value, or go into the
house to drink cyder with the yeoman who now owned and occupied it, to
tell him that his claim might yet be established, and to assure him that
he would deal honourably and liberally with him when he turned him out.
The yeoman and his wife regarded him as something of a nuisance, but
nevertheless treated him with respect.  There was no knowing, they said,
but that he might prove in the end to be the heir, and then where would
they be?  Oliver would have liked to see the title-deeds, but of these
he was not allowed a glimpse, though he could not have read them had he
seen them, or made his claim the clearer if he had been able to read
them.

We have said that Oliver Luxmore worked for the farmers on the days of
the week on which he was not carrying between Bratton and Tavistock and
Okehampton; but Thursdays and Mondays were broken days.  On Thursdays he
went about soliciting orders, and on Mondays he went about distributing
parcels.  Thus he had only two clear days for jobbing.  The work of a
carrier is desultory, and unfits him for manual labour and for
persevering work.  He gets into idle, gossiping ways.  When he picks up
a parcel or a passenger he has to spend a quarter of an hour discussing
what has to be done with the parcel, and has to settle the passenger
comfortably among the parcels, without the passenger impinging on the
parcels, or the parcels incommoding the passenger.

Oliver was an obliging, amiable man.  In the front of his van was a
seat, the top of which could be raised on hinges, and in which he
deposited watches that went to be cleaned, books of the Reading Club
that travelled between subscribers, medicine bottles and boxes of pills,
ribbons, brooches, and other delicate goods.  The lid of this box was
sat on and kept secure by Oliver.  He was devoid of humour.  To every
commission, to every joke, to every reprimand, he had but one answer,
’Certainly, certainly, very true.’

’Oliver,’ said Nanspian one day, ’I can suggest to you a means of
increasing your income.  Put a sitting of eggs under you when you go to
market, and sell the young chickens when you get there.’

’Certainly, certainly, sir, very true,’ was his civil reply, without a
muscle of his face moving.

’Oh, Mr. Luxmore!’ exclaimed Mrs. Robbins, the rectoress, ’this is the
same book you brought me last month from the parsonage at Maristowe.  I
have had it and returned it, and now you bring it me again.  Mind it
goes back on Friday; and you shall not be paid for your trouble, as I
cannot be expected to read the same book over twice.’

’Certainly, certainly, ma’am, very true.’

’Oh, Mr. Luxmore,’ said Mrs. Veale, ’you are to mind and match me the
silk, cut on the cross, and if the shade be out, I won’t take it, you
must return it, and pay for it from your own pocket.’

’Certainly, certainly, ma’am.’

’The Vivid,’ as Mr. Luxmore’s van was called, belied its name.  There
was no vividity (pass the word) about it.  It went slowly up hill,
because the horse had so much to draw. It went slower down hill, because
it had to back against such a prodigious weight, descending by natural
velocity.  There was not a mile—not half a mile—of level road between
Bratton Clovelly and the market-towns.

The carrier’s horse was a rough creature, brown, with a long tail, thick
mane, and coarse hair about the fetlocks, of the colour of tow. It lived
in a precarious manner; the children cut grass in the hedges for it, and
it was sometimes turned out on Broadbury, with hobbles on its feet.  It
ate the refuse of Luxmore’s vegetable garden, the turnip-tops, the
potato parings, the maggot-nibbled outer cabbage leaves, and the decayed
apples from his trees.  Once, when the horse had knocked his nose, and
Luxmore had put a linseed poultice over it, in a bit of sacking tied
round the head with four stout tapes, when his back was turned the horse
curled his tongue out of his mouth, detached the poultice, and ate it,
linseed, sacking, and tapes, to the last grain and thread.  There was
nothing but stones that horse would not eat.  He bit away great pieces
from his manger.  He took a bite out of Luxmore’s trousers, he gnawed
the bark off the cherry-tree by his gate, he gobbled up nettles,
thistles, furze, as though his appetite were as vitiated as an East
Indian’s.

Oliver Luxmore had to put up with a good many bad debts: his business
did not bring him in much money; he was never able to lay by a penny:
how could he with so many mouths to feed at home?  Honor would have been
unable to make both ends meet unless she had been a manager.  The family
would have been better off if Charles, the eldest son, two years the
senior of Honor, had fulfilled his duty to his own.  But Charles, having
reached the full wage-earning age, had enlisted, and was away on foreign
service.  His father and sister did not even know where he was, for he
had not troubled himself to write since his departure.  Charles had
always been a wild and headstrong boy who needed a firm hand over him to
direct him right.  But Oliver Luxmore’s hand was weak, and the mother, a
shrewd, painstaking woman of decided character, had made the boy
obstinate and sulky, by exerting over him the authority which should
have been exercised by his father.

After the death of his wife, Oliver remained as weak as during her life,
very good-natured, and so pliant as to bend to the wills of his
children, even to that of his youngest, Temperance, aged three.  The
family would indisputably have run wild, and his affairs gone to ruin,
had not Honor assumed her mother’s place, and ruled the little house
with energy and decision.  Her rule was firm but loving, and few of the
children ventured to disobey her, not even the thirteen-year-old Joseph,
or her next sister, Kate, aged seventeen; no, not even her father,
Oliver; indeed he was the least difficult to manage of all.  There were
nine children in all.  Charles, Honor, Kate, Joseph, have already been
mentioned, so has little Temperance the baby.  Between Joseph and
Temperance came Pattie, that is Patience, Willy, Martha, and Charity.
The children were all pretty and well-conducted.  Charles was no longer
a child.  He was away.  He therefore is not reckoned among those who
were pretty and well-conducted.

Honor was tall; her bearing very erect; her well-knit, vigorous frame,
the glance of her clear hazel eyes, her firm mouth, all combined to
inspire respect and insure submission.  The respectability of her
father, the honesty of her brothers and sisters were due to Honor, and
to Honor alone.  But for her presence in the house everything would have
gone wrong. Kate was too lively and careless to manage it, the others
too young, her father helpless.  Had she not been there to keep home
orderly, and the children neat, Oliver would have drifted to the tavern
to bury his troubles in the ale-can, and the little ones would have sunk
into squalor and strife, and struggled out of childhood into misery,
beggary, and vice.

The children had inherited from their father blue eyes and very fair
hair; they had lovely complexions, and clear, bright colour; some of
them had certainly derived from him also an inertness of character which
left them and their futures at the mercy of the persons and the chances
that should surround or fall in their way.  This was not the case with
Kate, who had character of her own, though very diverse from that of her
eldest sister.  Kate promised to be the beauty of the family.  Her blue
eyes twinkled with mirth and mischief, like summer seas.  She had a
roguish dimple in her cheeks, and an expression of consciousness of her
good looks on her face.

Honor was different in appearance, as in character, from the rest.  She
hardly seemed to belong to the family.  She had hair the colour of
barley-sugar, and hazel-brown eyes.  She looked every one whom she
addressed straight in the face, and was absolutely void of vanity; she
asked no admiration like Kate.  She was contemptuously indifferent to
her looks, and yet she was never untidy.  All the rest were better
dressed than herself.  She never gave herself new clothes; she had an
old store of her mother’s to draw from for her own clothing; but though
her gown was antiquated and often patched, it was never ragged, never
had tape and thread ends hanging from it.  She had inherited her
grandmother’s scarlet cloak, and was the last person in that
neighbourhood to wear such a garment.  This she only wore on Sundays,
but she wore it on every Sunday, summer as well as winter, when she went
to church.  She also wore red stockings, and as she was taller than her
mother, and her mother’s gowns could not be lengthened, a good deal of
red stocking showed. She wore these stockings simply because they were
her mother’s and had to be worn out, and because Kate objected to them
for her own feet.  Perhaps it was the shortness of the skirts that gave
to Honor a look of length of red limb below the scarlet cloak a little
grotesque, that occasioned the boys of Bratton to nickname her ’the Red
Spider.’

The mischievous Kate teased her by asserting that she got her name from
her hair; but Honor’s hair was not red, it was not even chestnut brown,
it was golden brown, like beech-leaves in autumn—a very rare, but a
beautiful colour.  It was all one to Honor what hair she had, all one to
her what the boys styled her.  No girl could be jealous of her; she had
no eyes for the lads, her whole heart, her every thought was centred in
home.  As the chapter-house of a cathedral is built in a circle and
leans on one central pillar, and as the fall of that pillar would insure
the ruin of the house, so was it with the cottage of the Luxmores—on her
it rested.  This she knew, and the little self-consciousness she
possessed was the consciousness that on her all leaned for support, and
to her owed their uprightness.

’What a lot of socks and stockings you have got on the furze bushes
about you,’ said Hillary.

’Yes—like to have.  There are so many little feet at home that tread
holes.’

’You must be glad that they are two-footed, not four-footed animals,
those brothers and sisters of yours.’

’I am, or I could not darn their stockings, much less knit them.’

Hillary thought a moment; then he said, looking at a pair of very much
darned red stockings hung over a branch of heather, ’You know they call
you the Red Spider, and they say true.  The Red Spider brings luck
wherever she goes.  I am sure you are the money-spinner in your house.’

’I!’ exclaimed the girl, who coloured slightly, and looked up; ’I—I
spin, but never money.’

’Well, you bring luck.’

’I keep out ill-luck,’ she answered with confidence; ’I can do no more,
but that is something, and that takes me all my time.  I have hardly
leisure to sleep.’

’Why have you brought all these stockings out on the Down?  Are you
going to convert Wellon’s Cairn into a second-hand mercer’s shop?’

’Larry, in spite of proverb to the contrary, I am forced to do two
things at a time.  I have Diamond to watch as well as stockings to darn.
The poor beast is not well, and I have brought him from the stable.  The
little ones are at school, except of course Temperance, and Kate is with
her cutting grass in the lane for Diamond.’

’What would you do if you lost Diamond?’ asked young Hillary.

’O Larry, don’t even suggest such an evil. If you whistle you call up
wind, and if you whisper the name of the devil he looks in at the door.
We got into debt buying Diamond, and it took us three years to work our
way out. Now we are clear, and it would be too dreadful to get into debt
again.  You know, Larry, what the mothers do with children who have the
thrush.  They pass them under a bramble that grows with a loop into the
ground.  Like enough the little creatures lose the thrush, but they
carry away scratches.  Debt, to my thinking, is like treatment; you get
rid of one evil by sticking yourself full of thorns.  So take my advice,
and never get into debt.’

’I’m not like to,’ laughed the young man, ’with Chimsworthy behind me
and Langford before me.’

’Never reckon on what you’ve not got,’ said Honor.  ’That’s like buying
the hogshead before the apples have set, or killing a pig without having
the pickle-tub.  Langford is not yours, any more than Coombe Park is
ours.’

’Langford must come to us Nanspians some day, you know, Honor.  Not that
I reckon on it.  God forbid.  May Uncle Taverner live for ever.  But it
gives a chap confidence to know that a large estate will come to him in
the end.’

’Don’t reckon on that,’ said Honor.

’It can’t fail.  It stands so in the deeds.’

’But Mr. Langford might marry.’

Hillary would have burst into a hearty laugh at the idea, had not Honor
laid her hand on his arm to arrest him, and raised the forefinger of the
other to impose silence.

Sitting up on its hind legs, in a begging posture, at the mouth of the
excavation, was a _white hare_.  It looked at the young people for a
moment, doubtingly, inquiringly.  Then Hillary stirred, and with a flash
it was gone.

Hillary exclaimed, ’O Honor! is it not the picture of Mrs. Veale?’



                             *CHAPTER IV.*

                           *THE WHITE HARE.*


’I have seen the white hare before, several times,’ said Honor Luxmore.

’You have?  Do you know what folks say?’

’They say that it is unlucky to see a white hare; but I think nothing of
that.’

’I do not mean that,’ said Hillary, laughing. ’But they say that when a
witch goes on her errands she takes this shape.  Perhaps, Honor,’ he
went on with roguery in his twinkling eyes, ’Mrs. Veale is off over the
Down in quest of her master.  He has gone to the Look-out Stone to have
a talk to my father.’

’Nonsense, Larry.  I put no credit in those tales of witches; besides, I
never heard that Mrs. Veale was one—not properly.’

’She is white with pink eyes, and so is the hare,’ argued Hillary, ’and
spiteful she is, certainly.  I hope, if that were her, she won’t be
bringing mischief to you or to me.  We shall see.  If that were her,
Uncle Taverner will be coming home directly.  Folks say that he is
afraid of her tongue, and that is the only thing in heaven or hell he is
afraid of.’

Honor uttered an exclamation of surprise and alarm.  A black ungainly
figure stood before them, black against the glowing western sky.  She
recovered herself at once and rose respectfully.  Hillary turned and
recognised his uncle.

’Well, Uncle Taverner!’ he exclaimed, ’you have come on us suddenly.  We
were just talking about you.’

’Ah’ answered Langford, leaning on his stick and lowering at him, ’leave
me out of your talk and your calculations altogether. I dare say you
have been reckoning on my shoes, and how well they would fit your young
feet.  No, no! no feet of yours shall ever be thrust into them.’  Then
seeing that Hillary was disconcerted, he laughed a harsh, bitter laugh.
’Your father and I have parted for ever.  We have quarrelled; I will not
speak to him more.  To you I speak now for the last time also.  As
Nanspian has split with Langford, Chimsworthy and Langford will not
splice.  Remember that.  Go to work, young man, go to work, instead of
standing idling here.  Your father is in my debt, and you must help him
to earn the money to pay me off.’  Then he turned to Honor, and said,
’Why are you here, instead of watching your horse?  Diamond is down in
the gravel-pit, on his side, dead or dying.’

Honor sprang up with a cry.

’The white hare,’ said Hillary, ’has brought the ill-luck—to both of us
at once.’

Neither of the young people gave another thought to Taverner Langford.
Honor was in distress about the horse, and Hillary was desirous of
assisting her.  He accompanied her to the spot, a hole dug in the
surface of the moor for rubble wherewith to mend the road. Diamond had
either made his way into it by the cart road, or had fallen over the
edge. He lay on his side panting.

’Poor fellow,’ said Hillary gravely, ’Diamond is done for.’

’Oh, I ought not to have let him from my sight,’ cried Honor, stung with
self-reproach.

’You could do nothing for him,’ said the young man.  ’He is not dying
from your neglect.  Look here, Honor, do you see that hoof-print?  He
walked in, he did not fall over the edge.  Every beast when it feels
death approach tries to hide itself, as though it were ashamed—as though
death were a crime.  It is so, Honor.’

’O Larry!  What can I do?  What can I do for poor Diamond?’

’You can do nothing but pat him and let him go out of the world with a
word of love.’

’I will do that.  I will indeed!’  Then she caressed the old horse, and
stroked its cheek and nose, and spoke to it tenderly. Diamond raised his
head, snuffed, rubbed his head against his young mistress, then laid it
down again on the stones and died.

Honor’s tears flowed, but she was not one to make a demonstration of
distress.  She said: ’I must go home, Larry, and get supper ready for
the children.  I can do nothing here now.’

’I am very sorry for you,’ said Hillary, showing more emotion than she;
’I am indeed, Honor.  I know what a terrible loss this will be to your
father, and he is too proud a man to go round with a brief.  Put your
hand to mine, Honor; we shall always be good friends, and I will do what
I can for you; but it cannot be much now that Uncle Taverner is across
with us, and about to exact his money. I will tell you what.  I will get
my father to lend you our horse Derby for awhile, till we can scheme
what is to be done.  I wish I’d got a quarter of an acre of land of my
own, and I would sell it and give you the money wherewith to buy another
horse.  I would, in truth and sincerity, Honor.’

’I am sure of that,’ answered the girl; ’I know I can always trust to
your good-will and kind offices.  Good-bye!  I must go.’

Then Hillary went slowly homewards.  The sun had gone down in the west,
and the sky was full of after glory.  A few level bars, steps of vivid
fire, were drawn against the sky, and there was, as it were, a pavement
of sapphire strewn with the down from a flamingo.  The moor stood with
every furze-bush on its margin and two small cairns on the edge blotted
black against the blaze.  As Hillary descended from the moor he got into
the Chimsworthy Lane, shadowed by a plantation of Scottish pines his
father had made twenty years ago, and which stood up high enough to
intercept the light.

’Poor Honor!’ mused Hillary.  ’Whatever will she and her father and all
those little uns do without the horse?  A carrier without a horse is a
helpless animal.  I don’t like to ask my father too much for the
Luxmores, and seem hot about them, or he will be thinking I am in love
with Honor, which I am not. Some chaps think a young fellow cannot speak
to a girl, or even look at her, without being in love with her.  I like
Honor well enough, as a friend, but no more.’

The road was very rough, he could not descend fast because of the loose
stones.  In rainy weather the way was a watercourse, and the water broke
up the shale rock that formed the floor and scattered it in angular
fragments over the road.

’What a ridiculous notion, that I should be in love with a carrier’s
daughter!  I a Nanspian of Chimsworthy, and heir——’ he stopped. ’No—that
part is not to be, though how Uncle Taverner will do us out of Langford
is more than I can imagine.  That he should marry and have a family is
clean too ridiculous! Confound that stone!  It nigh turned and broke my
ankle.  If Honor’s father had Coombe Park it would be another matter.
Then, possibly, I might think of her in a different way; but—a cottage
girl!—a carrier’s daughter!  Luxmore is not a bad name.  But then they
have the name and nothing else. I’ll cut myself a stick, or I shall be
down on my nose.  I should not care for Honor to see me to-morrow with a
broken nose.  These pines may be a shelter, but they cast a very black
shadow, and the rabbits breed in the plantation like midges in a
duck-pond.’

He cut himself a stick and went on.  ’If Honor were here, I should be
forced to lend her a hand, and then if father or any one were to meet
us, there’d be laughter and jokes. I’m mighty glad Honor is not here.’

Presently he got beyond the pines.

The hedges were high, the way still dark.

’Good heavens!’ he exclaimed, ’the white hare again!’

As he cried out, a white animal ran up the lane, passed him and
disappeared.

’Confound it,’ said Hillary.  ’I wish I had not seen that.  Why——what
have we here?’

He ran forward.  In the lane, across it, where the stile to the Look-out
Stone allowed a streak of western light to stream across the road, lay
Hillary Nanspian senior, insensible, on his face, with the broken cyder
jug in his hand.

’Father! what ails you?  Speak!’ cried Hillary junior.  He tried to lift
the old man; he could raise but not carry him.  The anger aroused by his
contention with Langford had brought on a fit.



                              *CHAPTER V.*

                   *’TIMEO DANAOS ET DONA FERENTES.’*


Honor Luxmore sat near the window, weaving a hamper out of willow twigs.
Her sister Kate was similarly engaged.  By the fire sat Oliver, smoking
and watching the smouldering peat on the hearth.  The sisters earned
money by making baskets.  Down in the bottoms, in the marshy land, grew
willow-bushes; and they were allowed by the farmers to cut as much as
they needed free of charge.  Towards Christmas, indeed from the 1st of
October, there was a demand for ’maunds,’ in which to send away as
presents.  Honor, Kate, and even some of the younger children could
plait withies into hampers, which their father took into Launceston and
Tavistock on market-days and sold.  Little figures make up long sums,
and so the small proceeds of the basket-weaving formed no inconsiderable
profit in the year, out of which Honor was able to clothe her sister
Kate and one of the other children.

Silence had lasted some time in the room; Oliver leaned forward with his
elbows on his knees, dreamily watching the fire.  At last he said,
’Whatever I am to do for a horse I cannot tell.  I’ve sold the carcase
to Squire Impey to feed the hounds with for a half-sovereign, and the
skin for another ten shillings.  That is all I got for Diamond.  I
suppose I shall have to give up carrying and go on the land.  To think
of that, I that should be in Coombe Park riding about in a gilded coach
with four cream horses and long tails and a powdered coachman on the
box—that I should become a day labourer for lack of a horse!’

’Never mind about Coombe Park, father. It is of no use looking down a
well for a lost shilling.  Young Mr. Larry Nanspian will lend you a
horse for a while.’

’What will that avail?’ asked Oliver disconsolately.  ’It is like
sucking eggs when you’ve got the consumption.  It puts off the dying a
few days, but it don’t cure.’

’The last horse was paid for.  You are not in debt.’

’Ah! but then I had not so many little ones growing up.  I could be
trusted to pay. But now they consume every penny I earn.’

’They cost more as they grow up, but they also earn something.  I’ve a
mind to do this, father.  You know I’ve been asked by several gentlefolk
to go to their houses and reseat their cane-bottomed chairs, but I’ve
never liked to go because of the distance, and because I wouldn’t leave
the house and the children. But now Kate is old enough to take my place
and do such little matters as are needed here during the day, I will go
about and do the chairs.

Oliver Luxmore laughed.  ’You’ll never buy a horse with cane bottoms.
No, that won’t do.  I’ll give up carrying and go work on the roads.  You
don’t know what grand new macadamised roads are being laid out; they are
carrying them round slopes, where before they went straight up.  They
are filling in bottoms, and slicing into hills.  Thousands upon
thousands of pounds are being spent, and there are whole gangs of men
engaged upon them.’

’No, father, you are too old for that work. Besides, those who go to the
road-making are the rough and riotous young fellows who want high wages,
and who spend their money in drink.  No, such society is not for you.’

’I don’t see that,’ said the father.  ’As you say, the wages are very
high; I am not so old that I cannot work.’

’You are unaccustomed to the kind of work.’

’I should get into the way of it, and I am no drunkard to waste my
money.’

’But you are a Luxmore.’

Oliver held up his head.  That last was an unanswerable argument.  He
considered for a while, and then he said, ’I cannot borrow the money of
Mr. Nanspian, he is ill.  It is, of course, useless my asking Mr.
Langford, he is not a lending, but a taking man.’

’If we worked out the first debt, we can work out the second,’ said
Honor.  ’I know that you can get nothing from Chimsworthy, and I do not
suppose you can get anything from Langford, nevertheless you might try.
Mr. Langford knows you to be an industrious and a conscientious man.  He
has but to look in your face, father, to be sure that you would rather
be cheated than cheat any one.  Try Mr. Taverner Langford to-morrow.’

’It is no good,’ sighed Oliver.  ’Only wear out shoe leather for
nothing.  You go if you think anything of the chance.  Folks say, walk
with Hope, or you are walking backwards.’

’I—I go to Mr. Langford!’

’No need for that, when I have come to you,’ answered a voice at the
open window.

Honor started, looked up, and saw Taverner Langford there, looking at
her, and then at Oliver.

’Won’t you step in and take a chair, sir?’ asked Honor, rising and
moving towards the door.

’No, I am well where I am,’ answered Taverner, leaning his elbows on the
bottom of the window and peering in.  He wore a broad-brimmed hat, that
shadowed the upper part of his face, but out of this shadow shone his
eyes with phosphoric light.

’Father!’ exclaimed Honor, ’here is Mr. Langford.’

Oliver had risen and stood with his pipe in one hand leaning against one
jamb of the chimney, looking wonderingly at the visitor. Langford had
ascended the steps from the lane, and thus had appeared suddenly before
the Luxmores.

From the window no one that passed was visible unless he were seated on
the top of a load of hay carted along the lane from the harvest-field.

Oliver Luxmore went to the window, and, like his daughter, asked, ’Will
you step inside, sir?’

’No, thank you,’ answered Langford, ’I can talk very comfortably
standing where I am. I know you to be a sensible man, Luxmore, and to
have your eyes about you, and your ears open.  There is no man goes
about the country so much as you.  They say that in a town the barber
knows all the news, and in the country the carrier.  Now I’ll tell you
what I want, Luxmore, and perhaps you’ll do me the favour to help me to
what I want.  I’m short of hands, and I want a trusty fellow who can act
as cattle-driver for me.  I won’t have a boy. Boys over-drive and hurt
the cattle.  I must have a man.  Do you know of one who will suit?’

Oliver shook his head.  ’I don’t know that I do, and I don’t know that I
don’t.’

’You are talking riddles, Luxmore.  What do you mean?’

’Well, sir,’ answered the carrier with a sigh, ’my meaning is this.
Poor Diamond is dead, and I am thinking of giving up the carrying
trade.’

’Giving up the "Vivid"!  You are not in your senses, man.’

’Ah, sir, how am I to buy a new horse? The price is up and money is
scarce—leastways with me.  Horses ain’t to be bought on promises no more
than they are to be reared on wind.’

’Want a horse, do you?  Of course the "Vivid" won’t go by herself except
down hill, and that is what every one and every thing can do unassisted.
It is the getting up hill that costs a strain.  Ah, Luxmore, I could
show you two men, one going up and the other down, going down as fast as
the laden van on Rexhill, without a horse to back against it.  You’ve
only to look to Chimsworthy to see that.  I need not say in which
direction to turn your eyes to see the contrary.’

He pushed up his hat and looked at the carrier, then at Honor.  He did
not deign to cast a passing glance at Kate.

’Then, sir,’ said Oliver, ’if the worst came to the worst—I mean, sir,
begging your pardon, and no offence intended, if I could not get another
horse, and where it is to come from the Lord Almighty only knows—I’d
have to work for my living some other way, and I might be glad to take
service with you.  I was even thinking on going to the roads that be
making, but Honor won’t hear of that, so I reckon it can’t be.’

’No,’ answered Taverner, with his eyes resting on Honor, ’no, she is
quite right. Your proper place is at home with the family. The men on
the roads are a wild lot.’

’So she said,’ the carrier put in humbly, ’and of course Honor knows.’

’Now look you here, Luxmore,’ said Taverner, ’I’m not a man to squander
and give away, as every one in Bratton knows, but I’m not as hard as
they are pleased to say, and where a worthy man is in need, and no great
risk is seen by myself, and I’m not out of pocket, I don’t mind helping
him.  I do not say but what I’ll let you have my grey for keep. She’s
not an infant.  There’s not much gambol about her, but there is a deal
of work.  You shall have her for awhile; and pay me ten shillings a
week, as hire.  That is a favourable offer, is it not?’

The carrier stood silent with astonishment. Honor’s cheeks flushed with
pleasure and surprise, so did those of Kate.

’Your grey!’ exclaimed Luxmore.  ’I know her well.  She’s worth
five-and-twenty pounds.’

’She may be.  I do not know.  I will not consider that.  I do not want
her just now, and shall be glad to lend her for her keep and a trifle.
You are an honest man.  Your family is like mine—come down in the
world.’

’Ah!’ exclaimed the carrier, raising his head proudly, ’I reckon Coombe
Park is where I should be, and all I want wherewith to get it is a
hundred pounds and a register.’

’That may be,’ said Taverner; ’there were Luxmores in Bratton as long as
there have been Langfords, and that goes back hundreds of years.  I do
not want to see you fall to the ground.  I am ready to lend you a
helping hand.  You may fetch away the grey when you like.  You will have
to sign an acknowledgment, and promise to return her in good and sound
condition.  Always safest to have a contract properly executed and
signed, then there can be no starting up of a misunderstanding
afterwards.’

’I am to have your grey!’  Oliver Luxmore could not believe in his good
fortune, and this good fortune coming to him from such an unexpected
quarter.  ’There now!  Honor said I was to go up to Langford and see
you. She thought you might help, and ’twas no use in the world asking at
Chimsworthy.’

’Honor said that!’ exclaimed Taverner, and he looked at the girl and
nodded approvingly.

Then Luxmore, who had been sitting in his shirt-sleeves, took his coat
and put it on, went to the nail and unhooked his hat.

’I don’t mind if I go and look at the grey,’ he said.  He had sufficient
prudence not to accept till he had seen.

Whilst Oliver Luxmore was assuming his coat, Langford, leaning on his
arms in the window, watched the active fingers of Honor, engaged in
weaving a basket.  Her feet were thrust forward, with the red stockings
encasing them.

’Ah!’ said Taverner, half aloud, half to himself; ’I know a red spider
that brings luck. Well for him who secures her.’

Just then voices were audible, bright and clear, coming from the lane;
and in a few minutes up the steps trooped the younger children of the
carrier, returning from school. Each, even the boy of thirteen, went at
once to Honor, stood before her, and showed face and hands and clothes.

’Please, Honor,’ said one little girl, ’I’ve got a tear in my pinafore.
I couldn’t help it. There was a nail in the desk.’

’Well, Pattie, bring me my workbox.’

How clean, orderly, happy the children were!  Each before going to
school was examined to insure that it was scrupulously neat; and each on
returning was submitted to examination again, to show that it had kept
its clothes tidy whilst at school, and its face and hands clean.

Regardless of the presence and observations of Langford, Honor mended
Pattie’s pinafore. She was accustomed to do at once what she observed
must be done.  She never put off what had to be done to a future time.
Perhaps this was one of the secrets of her getting through so much work.

When each child had thus reported itself to Honor, she dismissed it with
a kiss, and sent it to salute the father.

’You will find, each of you, a piece of bread-and-butter and a mug of
milk in the back kitchen,’ she said.  Then the children filed out of the
room to where their simple meal was laid out for them.

’Busy, systematic, thrifty,’ said Taverner Langford, looking approvingly
at Honor.  ’The three feet that stay Honour.’  Whether he made this
remark in reference to her name the girl could not make out; she looked
up suddenly at him, but his face was inscrutable, as he stood with his
back to the light in the window, with his broad-brimmed hat drawn over
his eyes.

Her father was ready to depart with Langford. As the latter turned to
go, he nodded to the girl in an approving and friendly way, and then
turning to her father, as he prepared to descend the steps, said, ’What
a maid that eldest daughter of yours is!  Everything in your house is
clean, everything in place, even the children.  The sphere is not big
enough for her, she has talents for managing a farm.’

’Ah!’ groaned Luxmore, ’if we had our rights, and Coombe Park came to
us——’  The sisters heard no more.  Their father had reached the foot of
the steps.

When both he and Langford had disappeared, Kate burst out laughing.

’O Honor!’ she said, ’that screw, Mr. Langford! how his voice creaked.
I thought all the time he was speaking of a screw driven into father,
creak, creak, creak!’

’For shame, Kate!  Mr. Taverner Langford has done us a great kindness.
He must not be ridiculed.’

’I do not believe in his kindness,’ answered the lively Kate.  ’The grey
has got the glanders, or is spavined, that is why he wants to lend her.
Unless father is very keen, Mr. Langford will overreach him.’  Then she
threw aside the basket she had been weaving. ’There, Honor, that is
done, and my fingers are sore.  I will do no more.  No—not even to buy
the grey with my earnings.  I am sure that grey is coming to bring us
ill-luck.  I turned my thumb in all the time that Mr. Langford was here,
I thought he had the evil eye, and—Honor—his wicked eye was on you.’



                             *CHAPTER VI.*

                       *THE PROGRESS OF STRIFE.*


So it fell out that two worthy men, land-owners, brothers-in-law, in the
parish of Bratton Clovelly, each a churchwarden, each a pillar of
religion, Jakim and Booz, one of the Temple, the other of the
Tabernacle, were at variance. About what?  About nothing, a little red
spider, so minute that many a man could not see it without his
spectacles.

The money-spinner had provoked the calling of names, the flying forth of
fury, the rush of blood to the head of Hillary Nanspian, and a fit.  It
was leading to a good deal more, it was about to involve others beside
the principals.

But the money-spinner was really only the red speck at the meeting-point
of rivalries, and brooding discontents and growing grievances. Nanspian
had long chafed at the superiority assumed by Langford, had been angry
at his own ill-success, and envious of the prosperity of his
brother-in-law.  And Langford had fretted over the thriftlessness of
Nanspian, and the prospect of his own gains being dissipated by his
nephew.

Hillary was a boastful and violent man. Taverner was suspicious and
morose.  But Nanspian was good-natured at bottom; his anger, if
boisterous, soon blew away.  Langford’s temper was bitter; he was not
malevolent, but he harboured his wrongs, and made a sort of duty of
revenging them.

The love of saving had become so much a part of Taverner’s soul, that it
caused him real agony of mind to think that all he had laid by might be
wasted by young Hillary, who, brought up in his father’s improvident
ways, was sure to turn out a like wastrel.  Moreover, he did not like
young Larry.  He bore him that curious aversion which old men sometimes
manifest for the young.  Taverner had been an ungainly youth, without
ease of manner or social warmth.  He had never made himself friends of
either sex; always solitary, he had been driven in on himself.  Now that
he was in the decline of life he resented the presence in others of
those qualities he had never himself possessed.  The buoyant spirits,
the self-confidence, the good humour, the pleasant looks, the swinging
walk of young Larry were all annoyances to Langford, who would have
taken a liking to the lad had he been shy and uncouth.

Formerly, scarcely a day had passed without the brothers-in-law meeting.
Sometimes they encountered accidentally on Broadbury, or in the lanes,
at other times they met by appointment at the Look-out Stone.  They
discussed together the weather, the crops, the cattle, the markets.
Hillary was a shrewd man, and had seen more of the world than Taverner,
who had, however, read more books than the other.  Langford had respect
for the worldly experience of his brother-in-law, and Nanspian venerated
the book learning in the other.  The Chimsworthy brother could see
various ways in which money might be made, and had even made suggestions
by which he of Langford had reaped a pecuniary profit, but he was too
lazy a man to undertake new ventures himself, too lazy even to properly
cultivate in the old way the land on which he lived.

Hillary was conscious that he was falling in the estimation of his
brother-in-law.  He was chafed by the sense of his indebtedness to him.
He saw no way of escape from the debt he owed save by Taverner’s death,
and he began to have a lurking hope of release in that way. He was not
stimulated to activity.  ’What is the advantage of making a labour of
life,’ he asked—not of his brother-in-law—’when a man has a comfortable
property, and another in reversion?’

The great day of all, on which the kindly relations of the
brothers-in-law were brought forward and paraded before the parish, was
on the feast day of Coryndon’s Charity.  Then Hillary Nanspian arrived
arm-in-arm with Taverner Langford, Hillary in his badger-skin waistcoat
with red lappets, Taverner in dark homespun, with black cravat and high
collar. As they walked down the village every man touched his hat and
every woman curtsied. When they came to a puddle, and puddles are common
in the roads of Bratton Clovelly, then Hillary Nanspian would say, ’Take
care, Taverner, lest you splash your polished boots and dark breeches.’
Thereupon the brothers-in-law unlinked, walked round the puddle, and
hooked together on the further side.  At the dinner, which was attended
by the Rector, who sat at the head and carved, the waywarden and the
overseer, the landlord of the ’Ring of Bells,’ where the dinner was
held, and several of the principal farmers, ex-feoffees, or feoffees in
prospective, speeches were made.  Hillary, with a glass of rum-and-water
and a spoon in it, stood up and spoke of his fellow-churchwarden and
feoffee and brother-in-law in such a rich and warm speech, that, under
the united influence of hot strong rum, and weak maudlin Christianity,
and sound general good-fellowship, and goose and suet pudding, the tears
rose into the eyes of the hearers, and their moral feelings were as
elevated as if they had heard a sermon of Mr. Romaine.

After that, Taverner proposed the health of his co-feoffee and
churchwarden in a nervous, hesitating speech, during which he shuffled
with his feet on the floor, and his hands on the table, and became hot
and moist, and almost cried—not with tender emotion, but with the sense
of humiliation at his own inability to speak with fluency.  But, of
course, all present thought this agitation was due to the great
affection he bore to his brother-in-law.

When Parson Robbins, the Rector, heard of the quarrel, he was like one
thunderstruck. He could not believe it.  ’Whatever shall I do?  I shall
have to take a side.  Mercy on us, what times we live in, when I am
forced to take a side!’

As to the farmers generally, they chuckled. Now at last there was a
chance of one of them getting into Coryndon’s Charity and getting a
lease of the poor’s lands.

Hillary Nanspian recovered from his fit, but the breach between the
brothers-in-law was not healed.  When he again appeared at market he was
greatly changed.  The apoplectic stroke, the blood-letting, the call in
of the money owed to Langford, had combined to alter him.  He was not as
florid, as upright, as imperious as before.  His face was mottled, the
badger-skin waistcoat no longer fitted him as a glove, it fell into
wrinkles, and the hair began to look as though the moth had got into it.
A slight stoop appeared in his gait.  He became querulous and touchy.
Hitherto, when offended, he had discharged a big, mouth-filling oath, as
a mortar throws a shell; now he fumed, and swore, and grumbled. There
was no appeasing him.  He was like the mitrailleuse that was to be, but
was not then.  Hitherto, he had sat on his settle, smoking, and eating
his bread and cheese, and had allowed the fowls to come in and pick up
the crumbs at his feet.  Now he threw sticks at them and drove them out
of the kitchen.

Encounters between the brothers-in-law were unavoidable, but when they
met they pretended not to see each other.  They made circuits to avoid
meeting.  When they passed in the lane, they looked over opposite
hedges.

The quarrel might, perhaps, have been patched up, had it not been for
the tongue of Mrs. Veale.  Taverner Langford disliked this pasty-faced,
bleached woman greatly, but he was afraid of dismissing her, because he
doubted whether it would be possible for him to provide himself with as
good a manager in his house and about the cattle.  Though he disliked
her, he was greatly influenced by her, and she found that her best mode
of ingratiating herself with him was by setting him against others.  She
had a venomous dislike for the Nanspians.  ’If anything were to happen
to the master, those Nanspians would take all, and where should I be?’
she reasoned. She thought her best chance of remaining at Langford and
of insuring that something was left to her by the master in
consideration for her faithful services was to make him suspect and
dislike all who surrounded him.  He listened to her, and though he
discounted all she said, yet the repetition of her hints and
suggestions, and retailed stories, told on him more than he allowed
himself to believe.  Through her he heard of the boasts of his
brother-in-law, and his attention was called to fresh instances of
mismanagement at Chimsworthy.  At one time Mrs. Veale had audaciously
hoped to become mistress of the place.  Langford was a lone shy man, how
could he resist the ambuscades and snares of a designing woman? But Mrs.
Veale in time learned that her ambition in this direction was doomed to
disappointment, and that efforts made to secure the master would effect
her own expulsion. She therefore changed her tactics, dared to lecture
and give him the rough of her tongue. Langford endured this, because it
showed him she had no designs on him, and convinced him that she was
severe and faithful.  And she made herself indispensable to him in
becoming the medium of communication between himself and those with whom
he was offended.  He had sufficient of the gentleman in him to shrink
from reprimanding his servants and haggling with a dealer; he was
miserly, but too much of a gentleman to show it openly. He made Mrs.
Veale cut down expenses, watch against waste, and economise in small
matters.

How is it that women are able to lay hold of and lead men by their noses
as easily as they take up and turn about a teapot by its handle? Is it
that their hands are fashioned for the purpose, and men’s noses are
fitted by Nature for their hands?  Although the nose of Taverner
Langford was Roman, and expressive of character and individuality, Mrs.
Veale held him by it; and he followed with the docility of a colt caught
and led by the forelock.

It was a cause of great disappointment to Hillary that Taverner was in a
position to give him annoyance, whereas he was unable to retaliate.
Langford had called in the money he had advanced to his brother-in-law;
it must be repaid within three months.  Langford had threatened the
father and son with disinheritance. On the other side, he was powerless
to punish Langford.  The consciousness of this was a distress to
Nanspian, and occasioned the irritability of temper we have mentioned.
Unable to endure the humiliation of being hurt without being able to
return the blow, he went into the office of the lawyer Physick, at
Okehampton.

’Mr. Physick,’ said he, ’I want to be thundering disagreeable.’

’By all means, Mr. Nanspian.  Very right and proper.’

’I’m going to be very offensive.’

’To be sure.  You have occasion, no question.’

’I want a summons made out against Mrs. Veale, that is, the housekeeper
of Taverner Langford.’

’The deuce you do!’ exclaimed the lawyer, starting into an erect
position on his seat. ’The housekeeper of your brother-in-law!’

’The same.  I want to hit him through her.’

’Why, Lord bless me!  What has come to pass?  I thought you and Mr.
Langford were on the best of terms.’

’Then, sir, you thought wrong.  We are no longer friends; we do not
speak.’

’What has occasioned this?’

Nanspian looked down.  He was ashamed to mention the red spider; so he
made no reply.

’Well! and what is the summons to be made out for?’

’For giving me a stroke of the apoplexy.’

’I do not understand.’

’You must know,’ said Hillary, lowering his voice, ’that I have a notion
Mrs. Veale is a witch; and when Langford and I fell out she came
meddling with her witchcraft.  She came as a White Hare.’

’As a what?’

’As a White Hare,’ answered Hillary, drawing forth a kerchief and
blowing his nose, and in the act of blowing fixing the lawyer over the
top of it with his eyes, and saying through it, ’My Larry saw her.’

Mr. Physick uttered a sigh of disappointment, and said ironically, ’This
is not a case for me.  You must consult the White Witch in Exeter.’

’Can you do nothing?’

’Certainly not.  If that is all you have come about, you have come on a
fool’s errand.’

But this was not all.  Nanspian wanted to raise the money for paying his
brother-in-law. Mr. Physick was better able to accommodate him in this.
’There is another matter I want to know,’ said Nanspian.  ’Taverner
Langford threatens to disinherit me and my Larry.  Can he do it?  I
reckon not.  You have the settlements.  The threat is idle and vain as
the wind, is it not?’

’Langford is settled property in tail male,’ answered the solicitor.
’Should Mr. Langford die unmarried and without male issue, it will fall
to you, and if you predecease, to your son.’

’There!’ exclaimed Hillary, drawing a long breath, ’I knew as much;
Larry and I are as sure of Langford as if we had our feet on it now.  He
cannot take it from us. We could, if we chose, raise money on it.’

’Not so fast, Mr. Nanspian.  What aged man is your brother-in-law?’

’Oh, between fifty-eight and sixty.’

’He may marry.’

’Taverner marry!’ exclaimed Hillary; he put his hands on his knees and
laughed till he shook.  ’Bless me! whom could Taverner marry but Mrs.
Veale?—and he won’t take her. He is not such a fool as to turn a servant
under him into a mistress over him.  But let him.  I give him Mrs.
Veale, and welcome.  May I be at the wedding.  Why, she will not see
this side of forty, and there is no fear of a family.’

’He may take some one else.’

’She would not let him.  She holds him under her thumb.  Besides, there
are none suitable about our neighbourhood.  At Swaddledown are only
children.  Farmer Yelland’s sister at Breazle is in a consumption, and
at the rectory Miss Robbins is old.  No, Mr. Physick, there is
absolutely no one suitable for him.’

’Then he may take some one unsuitable.’



                             *CHAPTER VII.*

                         *CORYNDON’S CHARITY.*


The opinion gained ground in Bratton Clovelly that it was a pity two
such good friends and worthy brothers-in-law should quarrel and be drawn
on into acts of violence and vengeance, as seemed probable.  As the
Coryndon feoffee dinner drew on, expression was given to their opinion
pretty freely, and the question was debated.  What would happen at the
dinner? Would the enemies refuse to meet each other? In that case, which
would cede to the other? Perhaps, under the circumstance, the dinner
would not take place, and the profits, not being consumed, would be
given to the widows.  That might establish a dangerous precedent.
Widows in future years might quote this; and resist the reintroduction
of the dinner.  Fortunately widows, though often violent and noisy, are
not dangerous animals, and may be browbeaten with impunity.

Nevertheless a general consensus of opinion existed among the overseers,
and way-wardens, acting, ex-, and prospective, that the dinner must not
be allowed to fall through even for one year.  Englishmen, with their
habitual caution, are very much afraid of establishing a precedent.

Hillary Nanspian was spoken to on the subject, and he opined that the
dinner must be held.  ’If Taverner Langford is ashamed to meet me, let
him stay away.  I shall pay him every penny I owed, and can look him in
the face.  We shall be merrier without him.’

Notice of the dinner was sent to Langford; he made no reply, but from
his manner it was concluded that he would not attend.

The day of the Trust dinner arrived. Geese had been killed.  Whiff! they
could be smelt all down the village to leeward of the inn, and widows
came out and sniffed up all they were likely to receive of Coryndon’s
Charity.  Beef was being roasted.  Hah! The eye that peeped into the
kitchen saw it turning and browning before the great wood fire, and when
the landlord’s wife was not talking, the ear heard the frizzle of the
fat and the drop, drop into the pan beneath.

What was that clinking?  Men’s hearts danced at the sound.  A row of
tumblers was placed on the dresser, and spoons set in them. In the dairy
a maid was taking cream, golden as the buttercup, off the pans to be
eaten—believe it, non-Devonians, if you can, gnash your teeth with envy
and tear your hair—to be eaten with plum-pudding.  See! yonder stands a
glass vessel containing nutty-white celery in it, the leaves at the top
not unfolded, not green, but of the colour of pale butter.  Hard by is a
plate with squares of cheese on it, hard by indeed, for, oh—what a
falling off is there!—the Devon cheese is like board.

About the door of the ’Ring of Bells’ was assembled a knot of men in
their Sunday best, with glossy, soaped faces.  They were discussing the
quarrel between the brothers-in-law when the Rector arrived.  He was a
bland man, with a face like a suet-pudding; he shook hands cordially
with every one.

’We’ve been talking, Parson, about the two who have got across.  ’Tis a
pity now, is it not?’

Parson Robbins looked from one to another, to gather the prevailing
opinion, before he committed himself.  Then, seeing one shake his head,
and hearing another say, ’It’s a bad job,’ he ventured to say, ’Well, it
may be so considered.’  He was too cautious a man to say ’I consider it
so;’ he could always edge out of an ’It may be so considered.’  Parson
Robbins was the most inoffensive of men.  He never, in the pulpit,
insisted on a duty lest he should offend a Churchman, nor on a doctrine
lest he should shock a Dissenter.  It was his highest ambition to stand
well with all men, and he endeavoured to gain his point by disagreeing
with nobody and insisting on nothing.

’I hear,’ said Farmer Yelland, ’that the two never meet each other and
never speak. They are waiting a chance of flying at each other’s
throats.’

’Ah!’ observed the Rector, ’so it has been reported in the parish.’  He
was too careful to say ’reported to _me_.’

’Why, pity on us!’ said a little cattle-jobber with a squint; ’when
folks who look straight before them fall across, how am I to keep
straight with my eyes askew?’

Every one laughed at these words.  Harry Piper, the speaker, was a
general favourite, because his jokes were level with their
comprehension, and he did not scruple to make a butt of himself.  The
sexton, a solemn man, with such command over his features that not a
muscle twitched when a fly walked on his nose, even he unbent, and
creases formed about his mouth.

’Now look here,’ said Piper, ’if we don’t take the matter in hand these
two churchwardens will be doing each other a mischief. Let us reconcile
them.  A better day than this for the purpose cannot be found.’

’Mr. Piper’s sentiments are eminently Christian,’ said the Rector,
looking round; then qualifying his statement with, ’that is, as far as I
can judge without going further into the matter.’

’Will Master Nanspian be here?’ asked one.

’I know that he will,’ answered the cattle-jobber, ’but not the other,
unless he be fetched.’

’Well, let him be fetched.’

’That is,’ said the Parson, ’if he will come.’

There was then, leaning against the inn door, a ragged fellow with a
wooden leg, and a stump of an arm into which a hook was screwed—a fellow
with a roguish eye, a bald head, and a black full beard.  Tom Crout
lived on any little odd jobs given him by the farmers to keep him off
the parish.  He had lost his leg and arm through the explosion of a gun
when out poaching.  Now he drove bullocks to pasture, cows to be milked,
sheep to the common, and wired rabbits.  This was the proper man to send
after Taverner Langford.

’You may ride my pony,’ said the cattle-jobber, ’and so be quicker on
your way.’

’And,’ said the guardian of the poor, ’you shall dine on the leavings
and drink the heel-taps for your trouble.’

As he went on his way, Crout turned over in his mind how he was to
induce Taverner Langford to come to the dinner.  Crout was unable to
comprehend how any man needed persuasion to draw him to goose, beef, and
plum-pudding.

On his way he passed Hillary Nanspian, in his badger-skin waistcoat with
red lappets, riding his strawberry mare.  He was on his way to the ’Ring
of Bells.’

’Whither away, Crout?’ shouted Hillary.

’Out to Broadbury, after Farmer Burneby’s sheep that have broken.’

Then he rode on.

When he reached the gate of Langford, he descended.  At once the black
Newfoundland house-dog became furious, and flew at him, and with true
instinct snapped at the calf of flesh, not the leg of wood.  Tom Crout
yelled and swore, and made the best of his way to the door, where
Taverner and Mrs. Veale appeared to call off the dog.

’It is a shame to keep dogs like that, vicious brutes ready to tear a
Christian to tatters.’

’I didn’t suppose you was a Christian, hearing your heathenish oaths,’
said Mrs. Veale; ’and as to the tatters, they were there before the dog
touched you.’

’The parson has sent me,’ said Crout, ’and he would not send me if I
were not a Christian. As for my tatters, if you will give me an old
coat, I’ll leave them behind.  Please, Mr. Langford, the feoffees and
guests are at the "Ring of Bells," and cannot begin without you.  The
beef is getting cold, and the goose is becoming burnt.’

’Let them fall to.  The dinner is sure to be good.’

’How can they, master, without you or Mr. Nanspian?’

’Is he not there?’

’Not a speck of his fur waistcoat visible, not a glimmer of his blue eye
to be seen. Ah, Mr. Langford, such a dinner!  Such goose, with onion
stuffing, and sage, and mint, and marjoram!  I heard the butcher tell
our landlord he’d never cut such a sirloin in all his life as that
roasting for to-day; smells like a beanfield, and brown as a chestnut!
As for the plum-pudding, it is bursting with raisins!’

’That will suffice,’ said Taverner, unmoved by the description.  ’I do
not intend to go.’

’Not intend to go!  Very well, then, I shall have to go to Chimsworthy
and bring Mr. Nanspian.  I’ll tell him you haven’t the heart to meet
folks.  You prefer to hide your head here, as if you had committed
something of which you are ashamed.  Very well.  When he hears that you
durstn’t show, he will go and swagger at the "Ring of Bells" without
you.’

’I do not choose to meet him.  He may be there after all.’

’Not a bit.  When I left all were assembled, and he was not there.  May
I be struck dead if he was there!  The parson said to the rest,
"Whatever shall we do without Master Langford, my own churchwarden, so
to speak—my right hand, and the representative of the oldest and
grandest family in the place. That is a come-down of greatness if he
don’t turn up at the feoffees’ dinner."  May I die on the doorstep if
these were not his very words! Then he went on, "I did reckon on Master
Langford to be here to keep me in countenance.  Now here I lay down my
knife and fork, and not a bite will I eat, nor a cut will I make into
that bubbling, frizzling, savoury goose, unless Taverner Langford be
here.  So go along, Crout, and fetch him."’

’Is that true?’ asked Langford, flattered.

’May my remaining leg and arm wither if it be not!  Then Farmer Burneby
up and said, "He durstn’t come, he’s mortally afraid of meeting Hillary
Nanspian."’

’Did he say that?’ asked Taverner, flushing.

’Strike me blind if he did not!’

’I’ll come.  Go on, I will follow.’

When Crout returned to the ’Ring of Bells,’ he found Nanspian there,
large and red.  The cripple slipped up to Piper and whispered, ’He’ll be
here, leave a place opposite the other, and fall to at the beef.’

’The fly,’ observed the parson to a couple of farmers—’the fly is the
great enemy of the turnip.  It attacks the seed-leaves when they
appear.’

’That is true.’

’Now, what you want with turnips is a good shower after the seed has
been sown, and warmth to precipitate the growth at the critical period.
At least, so I have been informed.’

’It is so, Parson.’

’In wet weather the fly does not appear, or the plant grows with
sufficient rapidity to outstrip the ravages of the fly.’

’To be sure, you are quite right, sir.’

This fact of the turnip-fly was one of the few scraps of agricultural
information Parson Robbins had picked up, and he retailed it at tithe,
club, and feoffee dinners.

Then the landlord appeared at the inn door, and announced, ’All ready,
gentlemen! sorry you have been kept waiting!’

At the moment that Nanspian and the parson entered, Langford arrived and
went after them, without seeing the former, down the passage to the long
room.  The passage was narrow, tortuous, and dark.  ’Wait a bit,
gentlemen,’ said the host, ’one at a time through the door; his
Reverence won’t say grace till all are seated.’

’Here is a place, Master Langford,’ said Piper, ’on the right hand of
the parson, with your back to the window.  Go round his chair to get at
it.’

Taverner took the place indicated.  Then the Rector rapped on the table,
and all rose for grace.

As Langford rose he looked in front of him, and saw the face of
Nanspian, who sat on the Rector’s left.  Hillary had not observed him
before, he was looking at the goose.  When he raised his eyes and met
the stare of Taverner, his face became mottled, whereas that of his
brother-in-law turned white.  Neither spoke, but sank into his place,
and during dinner looked neither to right, nor left, nor in front. Only
once did Taverner slyly peep at Hillary, and in that glimpse he noted
his altered appearance.  Hillary was oldened, fallen away, changed
altogether for the worse. Then he drew forth his blue cotton
pocket-handkerchief and cleared his nose.  Neither relished his dinner.
The goose was burnt and flavourless, the beef raw and tough, the
potatoes under-boiled, the apple-tart lacked cloves, the plum-pudding
was over-spiced, the cheese was tough, and the celery gritty.  So, at
least, they seemed to these two, but to these two alone.  When the
spirits were produced all eyes were turned on Hillary Nanspian, but he
neither rose nor spoke.  Taverner Langford was also mute.  ’Propose the
health of the chairman,’ whispered Piper into Hillary’s ear.

’I am people’s churchwarden,’ answered he sullenly.

’Propose the health of the chairman,’ said his right hand neighbour to
Langford.

’I am a Dissenter,’ he replied.

Then the Rector stood up and gave the health of the King, which was
drunk with all honours.

’Shall we adjourn to the fire?’ asked he; ’each take his glass and
pipe.’

Then up rose the Rector once again, and said, ’Ahem!  Fill your glasses,
gentlemen. Mr. Langford, I insist.  No shirking this toast. You, Mr.
Nanspian, need no persuasion.  Ahem!’

Piper came round and poured spirits into Langford’s glass, then hot
water.

’Ahem!’ said the Rector.  ’I have been in your midst, I may say, as your
spiritual pastor, set—set—ahem!—under you these forty years, and, I
thank heaven, never has there been a single discord—ahem!—between me and
my parishioners.  If I have not always been able to agree with
them—ahem!—I have taken care not to disagree with them! I mean—I mean,
if they have had their opinions, I have not always seen my way to
accepting them, because I have studiously avoided having any opinions at
all. Now—ahem!—I see a slight jar between my nearest and dearest
neighbours,’ he looked at Langford and Nanspian.  ’And I long to see it
ended.’  (’Hear, hear, hear!’)  ’I express the unanimous opinion of the
entire parish.  On this one point, after forty opinionless years, I
venture—ahem!—to have an opinion, a decided opinion, an emphatic
opinion’—(immense applause)—’I call upon you all, my Christian brethren,
to unite with me in healing this unseemly quarrel—I mean this quarrel:
the unseemliness is in the quarrel, not in the quarrellers.’

Langford drank his gin-and-water not knowing what he did, and his hand
shook.  Nanspian emptied his glass.  Both looked at the door: there was
no escape that way, the back of burly Farmer Brendon filled it.  All
eyes were on them.

’Come now,’ said Piper, ’what is the sense of this quarrel?  Are you
women to behave in this unreasonable manner?  You, both of you, look the
worse for the squabble.  What is it all about?’

’Upon my word, I do not know,’ said Nanspian.  ’I never did Langford a
hurt in my life.  Why did he insult me?’

’I insult him!’ repeated Taverner.  ’Heaven knows I bore him no
ill-will, but when he dared to address me as——’

’I swear by——’ burst in Hillary.

’Do not swear!’ said Langford, hastily. ’Let your yea be yea.’  The ice
was broken between them.  One had addressed the other. Now they looked
each other full in the face. Hillary’s eyes moistened.  Taverner’s mouth
twitched.

’Why did you employ offensive language towards me?’ asked Hillary.

’I!’ exclaimed Taverner; ’no, it was you who addressed me in words I
could not endure.’

The critical moment had arrived.  In another moment they would clasp
hands, and be reconciled for life.  No one spoke, all watched the two
men eagerly.

’Well, Taverner,’ said Hillary, ’you know I am a hot man, and my words
fly from my tongue before I have cooled them.’

’I dare say I may have said what I never meant.  Most certainly what I
did say was not to be taken seriously.’

’But,’ put in Parson Robbins, ’what _was_ said?’

’Judge all,’ exclaimed Taverner.  ’I was angry, and I called Hillary
Nanspian a long-tailed Cornish ourang-outang.’

The moment the words were uttered, he was aware that he had made a
mistake.  The insult was repeated in the most public possible manner.
If the words spoken in private had exasperated Hillary, how much more so
now!

Nanspian no sooner heard the offensive words than he roared forth, ’And
I—I said then, and I repeat now, that you are nose-led, tongue-lashed by
your housekeeper, Mrs. Veale.’  Then he dashed his scalding
rum-and-water in the face of his brother-in-law.



                            *CHAPTER VIII.*

                            *A MALINGERER.*


The time taken by the ’Vivid’ over the journey to and from the market
towns was something to be wondered at.  A good man is merciful to his
beast.  Certainly Oliver Luxmore was a good man, and he showed it by his
solicitude for the welfare of the grey.  On Friday he drove to Tavistock
market at a snail’s pace, to spare the horse, because it had to make a
journey on the morrow to Launceston or Okehampton. On Saturday he drove
to market at a slug’s pace, because the grey had done such hard work on
the preceding day.  The road, as has been said, was all up and down
hill, and the hills are as steep as house roofs.  Consequently the
travellers by the ’Vivid’ were expected to walk up the hills to ease the
load, and to walk down the hills lest the weight of the ’Vivid’ should
carry the van over the grey.  The fare one way was a shilling, the
return journey could be made for sixpence.  All goods, except what might
be carried on the lap, were paid for extra.  As the man said who was
conveyed in a sedan-chair from which the bottom had fallen out, but for
the honour of the thing, he might as well have walked.  Passengers by
the ’Vivid’ started at half-past six in the morning, and reached the
market town about half-past eleven.  They took provisions with them, and
ate two meals on the way.  They also talked their very lungs out; but
the recuperative power of their lungs was so great that they were fresh
to talk all the way home.  The van left the town at four and reached
Bratton at or about nine.

A carrier must naturally be endowed with great patience.  Oliver Luxmore
was by nature thus qualified.  He was easy-going, gentle, apathetic.
Nothing excited him except the mention of Coombe Park.  His business
tended to make him more easy-going and patient than he was naturally.
He allowed himself to be imposed upon, he resented nothing, he gave way
before every man who had a rough, and every woman who had a sharp,
tongue.  He was cheerful and kindly.  Every one liked him, and laughed
at him.

One Saturday night, after his return from Okehampton, Oliver was taking
his supper. The younger children were in bed, but Kate was up, she had
been to market that day with her father.  Kate was a very pretty girl,
sharp eyed, sharp witted—with fair hair, a beautiful complexion, and
eyes blue and sparkling—turquoises with the flash of the opal in them.
She was seventeen.  Her father rather spoiled her.  He bought her
ribbons and brooches when the money was needed for necessaries.

’I brought Larry Nanspian back part of the way with me,’ said Oliver.
’His father drove him into town, but the old man stayed to drink, and
Larry preferred to come on with me.’

’That was well of him,’ said Honor, looking up with a smile.

’We talked of the grey,’ continued the carrier.  ’Larry was on the box
with me.  I put Kate inside, among the clucking, clacking old women.
Larry asked me about the grey, and I told him how that we had got her.
He shook his head, and he said, "Take care of yourself, Luxmore, lest in
running out of the rain you get under the drip.  I don’t believe that
Uncle Taverner is the man to do favours for nothing."’

’Did he say that?’ asked Honor.  ’He meant nothing by it—he was joking.’

’Of course he was joking.  We joke a good deal together about one thing
or another.  He is grown a fine fellow.  He came swinging up to me with
his thumbs in his armholes and said, "Mr. Luxmore, Honor won’t be able
to withstand me in this waistcoat.  She’ll fall down and worship."’

’Did he say that?’ asked Honor, and her brow flushed.

’Tush! you must not take his words as seriously meant.  He had got a
fine satin waistcoat to-day, figured with flowers.  He pulled his coat
open to show it me.  I suppose he thought the satin waistcoat would draw
you as a scarlet rag will attract rabbits.’

Honor turned the subject.

’What more did he say about Mr. Langford?’

’Oh, nothing particular.  He told me he was sorry that his father could
not spare us a horse, to keep us out of the clutches of his uncle
Taverner.  Then he laughed and said you had warned him not to run into
debt, and yet had led the way yourself.’

’Run into debt, how?’

Oliver evaded an answer.  ’In going up the hills, Kate and he walked
together.  He got impatient at last, and walked on by himself, and we
never caught him up again.’

Honor did not look up from her work. She was mending some clothes of one
of the children.

’He asked me a great deal about you,’ said Kate.  ’He said it was a
shame that you should stick at home and never go to market, and see
life.’

’How can I, with the house to look after? When you are a little more
reliable, Kate, I may go.  I cannot now.’  Suddenly they heard a loud,
deep voice at the door.

’Halloo! what a climb to the cock-loft.’

They looked startled to the door, and saw a man standing in it, with
military trousers on his legs, and his hands in his pockets, watching
them, with a laugh on his face.

’You have some supper!  That’s well. I’m cussed hungry.  Walked from
Tavistock. Why weren’t you there to-day, father?’

’It is Charles!’ exclaimed Luxmore, springing to his feet, and upsetting
the table as he did so—that the cyder jug fell and was broken, and spilt
its contents, and some plates went to pieces on the floor.

’Charlie, welcome home!  Who would have expected to see you?  Where have
you been?  What have you done?  Have you served your time?  Have you got
your discharge?  Lord, how glad I am to see you!’

Charles Luxmore, who entered the cottage, was a tall man, he looked
ragged and wretched. His shoes were worn out, and his feet,
stockingless, showed through the holes.  His military trousers were
sun-scorched, worn, badly patched, and in tatters about the ankles.  His
coat was split down the back, brown where exposed to the brunt of the
weather.  His whole appearance was such, that one who met him in a
lonely lane would be sensible of relief when he had passed him, and
found himself unmolested.

’Halloo! there,’ said he, drawing near to the fallen table, picking up
the broken jug, and swearing, because the last drops of cyder were out
of it.  ’What are you staring at me for, as if I were a wild beast
escaped from a caravan? Curse me, body and bones, don’t you know me?’

’Charles!’ exclaimed Honor, ’you home, and in this condition?’

’Dash it! is that you, Honor?  How you have shot up.  And this you,
Kate?  Thunder! what a pair of pretty girls you are.  Where are the rest
of the panpipes?  Let me see them, and get my greeting over.  Lug them
out of bed that I may see them.  Curse it, I forget how many of them
there are.’

’Seven, beside our two selves,’ said Honor. ’Nine in all.’

’Let me see them.  Confound it!  It must be got over.’

’The rest are in bed,’ said Honor.  ’They must not be disturbed out of
their sleep.’

’Never mind.  Where is the old woman?’

’I do not know whom you mean, Charles.’

’Mother.  Where is she?’

’Dead, Charles.’

He was silent for a moment.  Then he said, ’Fetch the little devils, I
want to see them.’

’Charles, for shame!’ exclaimed Honor, reddening and frowning, and her
brown eyes flashed an angry light.

’Tut, tut! soldier’s talk.  You won’t find my tongue wear kid gloves.  I
meant no harm.’

’You shall not speak of the children in such terms,’ said Honor, firmly.

’Halloo!  Do you think I will stand being hectored by you?’

’There, there,’ threw in Oliver Luxmore, ’the boy meant nothing by it.
He has got into a careless way of expressing himself.  That is all.’

’That is all,’ laughed Charles, ’and now I have a true soldier’s thirst,
and I am not a dog to lap up the spilt liquor off the floor.  What is
it, beer?  Is there any brandy in the house?’

’You can have a drop of cyder,’ said Honor, with frowning brows.  ’Or,
if that does not please you, water from the spring.  The cyder is
middling, but the water is good.’

’No water for me.  Fetch me the cyder.’

’There is a hogshead in the cellar under the stairs in the back
kitchen,’ said Honor. ’Fill yourself a mug of it.’

’You can fetch it for me.’

’I can do so, but I will not,’ answered Honor.  ’Charles, I will not
stir hand or foot for a man who will speak of his innocent little
brothers and sisters as you have done.’

’Take care of yourself!’ exclaimed Charles, looking at her
threateningly.

She was not overawed by his look.  Her cheeks glowed with inner
agitation.  ’I am not afraid of you,’ she said, and reseated herself at
her work.

’I will fetch the cyder,’ offered the good-natured Kate, springing into
the back kitchen.

’That is a good, dear girl,’ said Charles; ’you and I will be friends,
and stand out against that dragon.’

He took the mug.  ’Pshaw! this is not sufficient.  I am thirsty as
desert sand.  Fetch me a jugful.’

’There is not another jug in the house,’ said Kate.  ’I will fill the
mug again.’

Just then at the kitchen door appeared a white figure.

’Whom have we here?’ exclaimed Charles.

’Joe! what has brought you down?  Go to bed again,’ said Honor.

’Not a bit; come here.  I am the eldest in the house.  I take the
command by virtue of seniority,’ shouted Charles, and springing from the
chair, he caught the little white figure, brought the child in, and
seated him on his knee.  ’I am your brother,’ said Charles. ’Mind this.
From henceforth you obey me, and don’t heed what Honor says.’

Honor looked at her father.  Would he allow this?  Oliver made no
remark.

’What is your name, young jack-a-napes?’ asked Charles, ’and what brings
you here?’

’I am Joseph, that is Joe,’ answered the little boy.  ’I heard your
voice, and something said about soldiers, and I crawled downstairs to
see who you were.’

’Let the child go to bed,’ asked the father. ’He will catch a chill in
his nightshirt.’

’Not he,’ replied Charles.  ’The kid wants to hear what I have to say,
and you are all on pins, I know.’

’Well, that is true,’ said Oliver Luxmore. ’I shall be glad to learn
what brings you home.  You have not served your full time. You have not
bought yourself out.  If you were on leave, you would be in uniform.’

’Oh, I’m out of the service,’ answered Charles.  ’Look here.’  He held
out his right hand.  The forefinger was gone.  ’I cut it off myself,
because I was sick of serving his Majesty, tired of war and its
hardships.  I felt such an inextinguishable longing for home, that I cut
off my trigger finger to obtain my discharge.’

’For shame, Charles, for shame!’ exclaimed Honor.

’Oh? you are again rebuking me!  You have missed your proper place.  You
should be army chaplain.  I’ve been in India, and I’ve fought the
Afghans.  Ah!  I’ve been with General Pollock, and stormed and looted
Cabul.’

’You have been in battle!’ exclaimed little Joe.

’I have, and shot men, and run my bayonet into a dozen naked Afghans.’
He laughed boisterously.  ’It is like sticking a pig.  That sack of
Cabul was high fun.  No quarter given. We blew up the great bazaar,
crack! boom! high into the air, but not till we had cleared away all the
loot we could.  And, will you believe it? we marched away in triumph,
carrying off the cedar doors of Somnath, as Samson with the gates of
Gaza.  Lord Ellenborough ordered it, and we did it.  But they were not
the original gates after all, but copies. Then, damn it, I thought——’

’Silence,’ said Honor indignantly.  ’With the child on your knee will
you curse and swear?’

’An oath will do no harm, will it, Joe?’ asked the soldier, addressing
the little boy, who sat staring in his face with wonder and admiration.
’A good oath clears the heart, as a cough relieves a choking throat, is
it not so, Joe? or as a discharge of guns breaks a waterspout, eh?’  The
little boy looked from his brother to his sister.  It was characteristic
of the condition of affairs in the house that he did not look to his
father.

’I don’t know, brother Charles,’ answered he.  ’Honor would not allow
it, she says it is wicked.’

’Oh, she!’ mocked the soldier.  ’I suppose you are under petticoat
government still, or have been.  Never mind, Joe.  Now that I am come
home you shall take orders from me, and not from her.’

’Joe,’ said Honor sternly, ’go at once to bed.’

’He shall stay and hear the rest of the story.  He shall hear how I lost
my finger.’

The child hesitated.

Then Honor said gravely, ’Joe, you will do that which you know to be
right.’

At once the little boy slipped from his brother’s knee, ran to Honor,
threw his arms round her neck, kissed her on both cheeks, and ran away,
upstairs.

’So, so,’ said Charles, ’open war between us!  Well, sister, you have
begun early.  We shall see who will obtain the victory.’

’I don’t think Honor need fear a soldier who cuts off his finger to
escape fighting,’ said Kate.

’What, you also in arms against me?’ exclaimed Charles, turning on the
younger sister.

’You asked Joe if he were under petticoat government, and sneered at him
for it; but you seem to be valiant only when fighting petticoats,’
retorted Kate.

’I’m in a wasp’s nest here,’ laughed Charles.

’Never mind Kate,’ said Oliver, ’she has a sharp tongue.  Tell us
further about your finger.’

’I lost more than my finger—I lost prize money and a pension.  As I told
you, I was weary of the service, and wanted to get home. I thought I
should do well with all the loot and prize-money, and if I were wounded
also and incapacitated for service, I should have a pension as well; so
I took off my finger with an axe, and tried to make believe I was hurt
in action.  But the surgeon would not allow it. I got into trouble and
was discharged with the loss of my prize-money as a malingerer.’

’You are not ashamed to tell us this?’ exclaimed Honor.

’It was a mistake,’ said Charles.

’We are ashamed to sit and listen to you,’ said Honor, with an indignant
flash of her eyes, and with set brows.  ’Come, Kate, let us to bed and
leave him.’

’Good night, malingerer,’ said Kate.



                             *CHAPTER IX.*

                           *CHARLES LUXMORE.*


The next day was Sunday.  Charles lay in bed, and did not appear to
breakfast.  Oliver Luxmore, Kate, and the younger children were dressed
for church.  Honor remained at home alternately with Kate on Sunday
mornings to take care of Tempie, the youngest, and to cook the dinner.
This was Honor’s morning at home.

Oliver Luxmore stood in doubt, one moment taking his Sunday hat, then
putting it back in its card box, then again changing his mind.

Before they started, Charles swaggered into the kitchen, and asked for
something to eat.

’Where are you all going to, you crabs, as gay as if fresh scalded?’
asked Charles.

’This is Sunday,’ answered his father, ’and I was thinking of taking
them to church; but if you wish it, I will remain at home.’

’Suit yourself,’ said Charles, contemptuously, ’only don’t ask me to go
with you.  I should hardly do you credit in these rags, and the parson
would hardly do me good.  In India there were four or five religions,
and where there is such a choice one learns to shift without any.’

’What had I better do?’ asked Oliver turning to Honor.

’Go to church with the children, father.  I will remain with Charles.’

’I am to have your society, am I?’ asked the soldier.  ’An hour and a
half of curry, piping hot!  Well, I can endure it.  I can give as well
as take.  Let me have a look at you, Kate.  A tidy wench, who will soon
be turning the heads of the boys, spinning them like tee-totums. Let me
see your tongue.’  Kate put out her tongue, then he chucked her under
the chin and made her bite her tongue.  The tears came into her eyes.

’Charles! you have hurt me.  You have hurt me very much.’

’Glad to hear it,’ he said, contemptuously. ’I intended to do it.  The
tongue is too long, and too sharp, and demands clipping and blunting.  I
have chastised you for your impertinence last night.’

’I suppose I had better go,’ said Oliver.

’Certainly, father,’ answered Honor.

Then, still hesitating at every step from the cottage to the lane,
Oliver went forth followed by seven children.

Charles drew a short black pipe from his pocket, stuffed it with
tobacco, which he carried loose about him, and after lighting it at the
fire on the hearth, seated himself in his father’s chair, and began to
smoke.  Presently he drew the pipe out of his mouth, and looking askance
at his sister, said ’Am I to forage for myself this morning?’

Honor came quietly up to him, and standing before him, said, ’I spoke
harshly to you, Charles, last night.  I was angry, when you talked of
the dear little ones offensively.  But I dare say you meant no harm.  It
is a bad sign when the words come faster from the lips than the thoughts
form in the heart.  You shall have your breakfast.  I will lay it for
you on the table.  I am afraid, Charles, that your service in the army
has taught you all the vices and none of the virtues of the soldier.  A
soldier is tidy and trim, and you are dirty and ragged. I am sorry for
you; you are my brother, and I have always loved you.’

’Blazes and fury!’ exclaimed Charles; ’this is a new-fangled fashion of
showing love. I have been from home five years, and this is the way in
which I am welcomed home!  I have come home with a ragged coat, and
therefore I am served with cold comfort.  If I had returned with gold
guineas I should have been overwhelmed with affection.’

’Not so,’ said Honor gravely.  ’If you had returned with a sound
character we would respect the rags; but what makes my heart ache is to
see, not the tattered jacket, but the conscience all to pieces.  How
long is it since you landed?’

’Five or six months ago.’

’Where have you been since your return?’

’Where I could spend my money.  I did bring something with me, and I
lived on it whilst it lasted.  It is not all gone yet.  Look here.’  He
plunged his hand into his trousers pocket and jingled his coins
carelessly in it.

’There!’ said he, ’you will feel more respect for me, and your love wake
up, when you see I have money still, not much, but still, some.  Curse
it, I was a fool not to buy you a ribbon or a kerchief, and then you
would have received me with smiles instead of frowns.’

Honor looked him steadily in the face, out of her clear hazel eyes.
’No, Charles, I want no presents from you.  Why did not you return to us
at once?’

’Because I had no wish to be buried alive in Bratton Clovelly.  Are you
satisfied?  Here I am at last.’

’Yes,’ she repeated, ’here you are at last. What are you going to do now
you are here?’

’I don’t know,’ answered her brother with a shrug.  Then he folded his
arms, threw out his legs, and leaned back in the chair.  ’A fellow like
me, who has seen the world, can always pick up a living.’

Honor sighed.  What had he learned? For what was he fitted?

’Charles,’ she said, ’this is your father’s house, and here you were
born.  You have as true a right to shelter in it as I.  You are heartily
welcome, you may believe that.  But look about you.  We are not in
Coombe Park. Including you we make up twelve in this cottage.  What we
live on is what your father earns by his carrying; but he is in debt,
and we have no money to spare, we cannot afford to maintain idlers.’

’Take my money,’ said Charles, emptying his pocket oh the table.

’No,’ answered Honor.  ’For a week we will feed you for nothing.  That
money must be spent in dressing you respectably.  By next week you will
have found work.’

’Maybe,’ said the soldier.  ’It is not every sort of work that will suit
me.  Any one want a gamekeeper about here?’

’No, Charles, there is only Squire Impey in this parish; besides,
without your forefinger, who would take you as a gamekeeper?’

’The devil take me.  I forgot that.’

’Curses again,’ said Honor.  ’You must refrain your mouth before the
children.’

’I have not gone to church,’ said Charles sullenly, ’because I didn’t
want to be preached to; spare me a sermon at home.’

’Charles,’ said Honor, ’I have hard work to make both ends meet, and to
keep the children in order.  You must not make my work harder—perhaps
impossible.  If you remain here, you will need my help to make you
comfortable and to put your clothes in order. You will throw an
additional burden on me, already heavily weighted.  I do not grudge you
that.  But remember that extra work for an additional member means less
time for earning money at basket-weaving.  We must come to an
understanding.  I do not grudge you the time or the trouble, but I will
only give them to you on condition that you do not interfere with my
management of the children, and that you refrain your tongue from oaths
and unseemly speech.’

Charles stood up, went to her, took her by both ears, and kissed her.
’There, corporal, that is settled.’

Honor resented the impertinence of laying hold of her by both ears, but
she swallowed her annoyance, and accepted the reconciliation.

’I have a good heart,’ said Charles, ’but it has been rolled in the
mud.’

’Give us the goodness, and wash off the soil,’ answered Honor.  Then she
brought him some bread-and-butter and milk.  ’Charles,’ she said, ’I
will see if I cannot find some of father’s clothes that will fit you.  I
cannot endure to see you in this condition.’

’Not suitable to the heir of Coombe Park, is it?’ laughed Charles.  ’Is
the governor as mad on that now as of old?’

’Say nothing to him about Coombe Park, I pray you,’ urged Honor.  ’It
takes the nerve out of his arms and the marrow from his bones.  It may
be that we have gentle blood in us, or it may not.  I have heard tell
that in old times servants in a house took the names of their masters.’

’I have always boasted I was a gentleman, till I came to believe it,’
said the soldier. ’You’d have laughed to hear me talk of Coombe Park,
and the deer there, and the coaches and horses, and father as Justice of
Peace, and Deputy-Lieutenant, and all that sort of thing, and his wrath
at my enlisting as a private.’

’I should not have laughed.  I should have cried.’

’And, Honor, I reckon it is the gentle blood in my veins which has made
a wastrel of me.  I could never keep my money, I threw it away like a
lord.’

Honor sighed.  The myth of descent from the Luxmores of Coombe Park had
marred her father’s moral strength, and depraved her brother’s
character.

’There they come, the little devils!’ shouted Charles, springing up and
knocking the ashes out of his pipe, which he put away in his waistcoat
pocket.

’Charles!’ again remonstrated Honor, but in vain.  Her elder brother was
unaccustomed to control his tongue.  There was a certain amount of good
nature in him, inherited from his father, and this Honor thankfully
recognised; but he was like his father run to seed.  Luxmore would have
become the same but for the strong sustaining character of his daughter.

Charley went to the door, and stood at the head of the steps.  Along the
lane came Oliver Luxmore with his children, Hillary junior and Kate
bringing up the rear.

’Now then, you kids, big and little!’ shouted Charles, ’see what I have
got.  A handful of halfpence.  Scramble for them.  Who gets most buys
most sweeties.’  Then he threw the coppers down among the children.  The
little ones held up their hands, jumped, tumbled over each other,
quarrelled, tore and dirtied their Sunday clothes, whilst Charles stood
above laughing and applauding.  Oliver Luxmore said nothing.

’Come in, come in at once!’ cried Honor, rushing to the door with angry
face.  ’Charles, is this the way you keep your promises?’

’I must give the children something, and amuse myself as well,’ said the
soldier.

Honor looked down the road and saw Kate with young Hillary Nanspian.
They were laughing together.

’There now,’ said Kate, as she reached the foot of the steps, ’Honor,
see the young fellow who boasts he will make you fall down and worship
his waistcoat.’

’It was a joke,’ said Larry, turning red. He poked his hat up from his
right, then from his left ear, he was overcome with shame.

Honor’s colour slightly changed at the words of her sister, but she
rapidly recovered herself.

’So,’ continued the mischievous Kate, ’you have come round all this way
to blaze your new waistcoat in the eyes of Honor, because she could not
come to church to worship it?’

Young Nanspian looked up furtively at Honor, ashamed to say a word in
self-exculpation.

’Talk of girls giving themselves airs over their fine clothes!’ said
Kate, ’men are as proud as peacocks when they put on spring plumage.’

’It serves you right, Mr. Larry,’ said Honor, ’that Kate torments you.
Vanity must be humbled.’

’I spoke in jest,’ explained Hillary.  ’All the parish knows that when I
joke I do not mean what I say.  When a word comes to my lips, out it
flies, good or bad.  All the world knows that.’

’All the world knows that,’ she repeated. ’It is bad to wear no drag on
the tongue, but let it run down hill to a smash.  Instead of boasting of
this you should be ashamed of it.’

’I am not boasting,’ he said, with a little irritation.

’Then I misunderstood you.  When a man has a fault, let him master it,
and not excuse himself with the miserable reason, that his fault is
known to all the world.’

’Come, Honor, do not be cross with me,’ he said, running up the steps,
and holding out his hand.

’I am not cross with you,’ she answered, but she did not give him her
hand.

’How can I know that, if you will not shake hands?’

’Because all the world knows I tell no lies,’ she answered coldly, and
turned away.



                              *CHAPTER X.*

                            *ON THE STEPS.*


For a week Charles Luxmore made a pretence of looking for work.  Work of
various kind was offered him, but none was sufficiently to his taste for
him to accept it.  He had still money in his pocket.  He did not renew
his offer of it to Honor.  She had fitted him in a suit of his father’s
clothes, and he looked respectable.  He was often in the ’Ring of
Bells,’ or at a public-house in a neighbouring parish. He was an amusing
companion to the young men who met in the tavern to drink.  He had
plenty to say for himself, had seen a great deal of life, and had been
to the other side of the world.  Thus he associated with the least
respectable, both old and young, the drunkards and the disorderly.

He was not afflicted with bashfulness, nor nice about truth, and over
his ale he boasted of what he had seen and done in India.  He said no
more about his self-inflicted wound; and was loud in his declamation
against the injustice of his officers, and the ingratitude of his
country which cast him adrift, a maimed man, without compensation and
pension.  When he had drunk he was noisy and quarrelsome; and those who
sat with him about the tavern table were cautious not to fall into
dispute with him.  There was a fire in his eye which led them to shirk a
quarrel.

About a mile from the church in a new house lived a certain Squire
Impey, a gentleman who had bought a property there, but who did not
belong to those parts.  No one knew exactly whence he came.  He was a
jovial man, who kept hounds, hunted and drank.  Charles went to him, and
he was the only man for whom he condescended to do some work, and from
whom to take pay; but the work was occasional, Charles was an amusing
man to talk to, and Impey liked to have a chat with him.  Then he
rambled away to Coombe Park, where he made himself so disagreeable by
his insolence, that he was ordered off the premises.  His father and
brothers and sisters did not see much of him; he returned home
occasionally to sleep, and when the mind took him to go to market, he
went in the van with his father.

Much was said in the place of the conduct of Charles Luxmore—more, a
great deal, than came to the ears of Honor.  Oliver heard everything,
for in the van the parish was discussed on the journey to market, and
those who sat within did not consider whether the driver on the box
heard what they said.  Oliver never repeated these things to his eldest
daughter, but Honor knew quite enough of the proceedings of Charles
without this.  She spoke to Charles himself, rebuked him, remonstrated
with him, entreated him with tears in her eyes to be more steady; but
she only made matters worse; she angered him the more because he knew
that she was right.  He scoffed at her anxiety about himself; he swore
and burst into paroxysms of fury when she reprimanded him.

’Do not you suppose,’ said he, ’that I am going to be brought under your
thumb, like father and the rest.’

Possibly she might have been more successful had she gone to work more
gently.  But with her clear understanding she supposed that every one
else could be governed by reason, and she appealed to his sense, not to
his heart. He must see, she argued, to what end this disorderly life
would lead, if she put it before him nakedly.  She supposed she could
prove to him her sisterly affection in no truer way than by rebuke and
advice.

Although Honor’s heart was full of womanly tenderness, there was
something masculine in her character.  There could not fail to be. Since
her mother’s death she had been the strength of the house, to her all
had held. Circumstances had given her a hardness which was not natural
to her.

Charles vowed after each fresh contest with Honor that he could not go
near the cottage again.  He would go elsewhere, out of range of her
guns; but he did not keep his vow.  It was forgotten on the morrow.
Honor was not a scold.  She had too good judgment to go on rebuking and
grumbling, but she spoke her mind once, and acted with decision.  She
withstood Charles whenever his inconsiderate good nature or his
disorderly conduct threatened to disturb the clocklike working of the
house, to upset the confidence the children had in her, and to mar their
simplicity.  She encountered his violence with fearlessness.  She never
became angry, and returned words for words, but she held to her decision
with toughness.  Her father was afraid of Charles, and counselled his
daughter to yield.  Opposition, he argued, was unavailing, and would
aggravate unpleasantnesses.

Honor suffered more than transpired.  Her brother’s disrepute rankled in
her heart.  She was a proud girl, and though she placed no store on her
father’s dreams of Coombe Park, she had a strong sense of family
dignity, and she was cut to the quick when Charles’s conduct became the
talk of the neighbourhood.  Never a talker, she grew more than ever
reserved. When she went to or returned from church on Sunday, she
shunned acquaintances; she would not linger for a gossip in the
churchyard, or join company with a neighbour in the lane. She took a
child by each hand, and with set face, and brows sternly contracted,
looking neither right nor left, she went her way. Brightness had faded
from her face.  She was too proud to show the humiliation she felt at
heart.  ’Oh my,’ said the urchins, ’bain’t Red Spider mighty stuck up!
Too proud to speak to nobody, now, seeming.’

Honor saw little of young Larry.  Once or twice he made as though he
would walk home with her from church, but she gave him no encouragement;
she held little Charity’s hand, and made Charity hold that of Martha,
and kept Charity and Martha between her and the young man, breaking all
familiar converse.  She had not the heart to talk to him.

’You need not take on about Charles,’ said her father one day.  ’Every
one knows that you are a good girl, and makes allowances for a soldier.’

’Disorderly ways,’ answered Honor, ’are like infectious diseases.  When
one has an attack, it runs through the house.’

’Why do you not encourage folk to be friendly?  You hold yourself aloof
from all.’

Honor sighed.

’I cannot forget Charles, and the shame he is bringing on us.  For me it
matters little, but it matters much to the rest.  The children will lose
sense of fear at bad language, lies and bragging.  Kate is a pretty
girl, and some decent lad may take a fancy to her; but who would make a
maid his wife who had such a brother?’

’Oh! as for that, young Larry Nanspian is after her.  You should see how
they go on together, tormenting and joking each other.’

Honor coloured and turned her face aside. She said nothing for a minute,
then with composed voice and manner she went on.

’See the bad example set to Joe.  He tries his wings to fly away from
me, as is natural; boys resist being controlled by the apron.  He sees
his elder brother, he hears him, he copies him, and he will follow him
down the road to destruction.  We must get Joe away into service unless
we can make Charles go, which would be the better plan of the two.’

’Charles has been away for some years. We must not drive him out of the
house now we have him home again.’

’Father, I wish you would be firm with him.’

’I—I!’ he shook his head, ’I cannot be hard with the boy.  Remember what
he has gone through in India, in the wars.  Look at his poor hand.  Home
is a place to which a child returns when no other house is open to it.’

Honor looked sadly at the carrier.  No help was to be had from him.

’I suppose, father,’ she said, ’that there are rights all round.  If
Charles comes home claiming the shelter of our roof and a place at our
table, he is bound in some way.  He has no right to dishonour the roof
and disturb the table.  I grudge him no pains to make him comfortable,
but I do expect he will not make it impossible for me to keep the home
decent.’

’Of course, of course, Honor,’ said the carrier, rubbing his palms
slowly between his knees, and looking vacantly into the fire. ’That is
reasonable.’

’And right,’ Honor.  ’And, father, you should make a stand.  Now, all
the responsibility falls on me.’

’Oh, yes.  I will make a stand; certainly, certainly,’ said Luxmore.
’Now let us change the subject.’

’No,’ the girl.  ’I cannot, and I will not.  Charles must be made to
conduct himself properly.  I will not allow the little ones to hear his
profane talk, see his devil-may-care ways.  Mother committed them to me,
and I will stand between them and evil. If it comes to a fight, we shall
fight.  All I wish is that the fight not to be between brother and
sister.’  Her voice became hard, her brows contracted, her face became
pale with intensity of feeling.

’There, there!’ groaned Oliver Luxmore, ’don’t make out matters worse
they are. A sheep looks as big as a cow in a fog.  You see ghosts where
I see thorn-trees.  Be gentler with Charles, not so peremptory.  Men
will not be ordered about by women.  Charles is not a bad boy.  There is
meat on a trout as well as bones.  All will come right in the end.’

Honor said no more.  Her eyes filled; she stooped over her needlework to
conceal them; her hand moved quickly, but the stitches were uneven.

’I will do something, I will indeed,’ said Luxmore, rising.  He took his
hat and went out, but returned quickly a few minutes later, agitated,
and went through the room, saying hastily, ’Honor! he is coming, and—I
think—drunk.’

Then he escaped into the back kitchen and out into the paddock in the
rear where he kept his horse.  That was all the help Honor was likely to
get from him—to be forewarned.

Next moment two of the children flew up the steps frightened and heated.

’O, Honor!  Charlie is tight!’

Honor stood up, folded her needlework, put it aside, and went to the
door.

’Children,’ she said, ’go behind into the field to father.’  Then she
went to the head of the steps and looked down the lane.

She saw her brother, coming on with a lurching walk, holding a stick,
followed by a swarm of school-children, recently dismissed, who jeered,
pelted him, and when he turned to threaten, dispersed to gather again
and continue tormenting.  Charles was not thoroughly drunk, but he was
not sober.  Honor’s brow became blood-red for a moment, and her hand
trembled on the rail; but the colour left her forehead again, and her
hand was firm as she descended the steps.

At the sight of Honor Luxmore the children fell back, and ceased from
their molestations.

’Halloa, Honor!’ shouted Charles, staggering to the foot of the steps.
’A parcel of gadflies, all buzz and sting!  I’ll teach ’em to touch a
soldier!  Let me pass, Honor, and get away from the creatures.’

’No, Charles,’ answered his sister, ’you do not pass.’

’Why not?’

’Because I will not let you—drunk.’

’I am not drunk, not at all.  It is you who are in liquor.  Let me
pass.’  He put his hand on the rail, and took a step up.

’You shall not pass!’ she spoke coolly, resolutely.

’Curse you for a pig-headed fool,’ said Charles, ’I’m not going to be
stopped by such as you.’

’Such as I shall stop you,’ answered Honor. ’Shame on you to dishonour
the steps by which our mother went down to her burial!  Verily, I saw
her in my dreams, putting her hands over her face in her grave to hide
the sight of her son.’

’Stand aside.’

’I will not budge!’

’I was a fool to come home,’ muttered Charles, ’to be pickled in vinegar
like walnuts. I wish I’d stayed away.’

’I wish you had, Charles, till you had learned to conduct yourself with
decency.’

’I will not be preached to,’ he growled; then becoming lachrymose, he
said, ’I come home after having been away, a wanderer, for many years.
I come home from bloody wars, covered with wounds, and find all against
me. This is a heartless world.  I did expect to find love at home, and
pity from my sister.’

’I love and pity you,’ said Honor, ’but I can only respect him who is
respectable.’

’Let me pass!

’I will not, Charles.’

Then he laid hold of her, and tried to pull her off the steps; but she
had a firm grip of the rail, and she was strong.

The children in the lane, seeing the scuffle, drew near and watched with
mischievous delight.  Charles was not so tipsy that he did not know what
he was about, not so far gone as to be easily shaken off.  Honor was
obliged to hold with both hands to the rail.  He caught her round the
waist, and slung her from side to side, whilst oaths poured from his
lips.  In the struggle her hair broke loose, and fell about her
shoulders.

She set her teeth and her eyes glittered. Fire flamed in her cheeks.
She was resolved at all costs not to let him go by.  She had threatened
that she would fight him, and now, before she had expected it, the fight
was forced upon her.

Finding himself foiled, unable to dislodge her, and unable to pass her,
Charles let go, went down the steps, and kicked and thrust at the
support of the handrail, till he broke it down.  Then, with a laugh of
defiance, he sprang up the steps brandishing the post. But, when the
rail gave way, Honor seized it, and ascending before him, facing him,
stepping backward, she planted herself against the cottage door, with
the rail athwart it, behind her, held with both hands, blocking the
entrance.

Charles was forced to stay himself with the broken post he held, as he
ascended the steps.

’Honor!’ he shouted, ’get out of the way at once, I am dangerous when
opposed.’

’Not to me,’ she answered; ’I am not afraid of you, drunk or sober.  You
shall not cross this doorstep.’

He stood eyeing her, with the post half raised, threateningly.  She met
his unsteady gaze without flinching.  Was there no one to see her there
but the tipsy Charles and the frightened children?  A pity if there was
not.  She was erect, dignified, with bosom expanded, as her bare arms
were behind her. Her cheeks were brilliant with colour, her fallen hair,
raining about her shoulders, blazed with the reel evening sun on it, her
large hazel eyes were also full of fire.  Her bosom heaved as she
breathed fast and hard.  She wore a pale, faded print dress, and a white
apron. Below, her red ankles and feet were planted firm as iron on the
sacred doorstep of Home, that she protected.

As Charles stood irresolute, opposite her, the children in the lane,
thinking he was about to strike her, began to scream.

In a moment Hillary Nanspian appeared, sprang up the steps, caught
Charles by the shoulder, struck the post out of his hand, and dragging
him down the steps, flung him his length in the road.

’Lie there, you drunken blackguard!’ he said; ’you shall not stand up
till you have begged your sister’s pardon, and asked permission to sleep
off your drink in the stable.’



                             *CHAPTER XI.*

                            *IN THE LINNEY.*


Next morning, when Charles Luxmore awoke, he found himself lying on the
hay in the little ’linney,’ or lean-to shed, of his father.  The door
was open and the sun streamed in, intense and glaring.  In the doorway,
on a bundle of straw, sat his sister Honor, knitting.  The sun was
shining in and through her golden hair, and the strong, fiery light
shone through her hands, and nose, and lips, crimson—or seemed to do so.
Charles watched her for some time out of his half-closed eyes, and
confessed to himself that she was a fine, noble-looking girl, a girl for
a brother to be proud of. Her profile was to the light, the nose
straight, the lips sharp-cut, now expanded, then closed tight, as moved
by her thoughts, and her hair shone like the morning clouds above the
rising sun.

’What! sentinel, keeping guard?’ shouted Charles, stretching his limbs
and sitting up. ’In custody, am I?  Eh?’

’I have brought you your breakfast, Charles,’ answered Honor.  ’There is
a bowl of bread and milk at your elbow.’

He was hungry, so he took the bowl.  His hair was ruffled, and full of
strands of hay; he passed his hand over his face.

’I’ve had many a sleep in a barn before now,’ he said; ’there are worse
bedrooms, but there is one drawback.  You can’t smoke a pipe in one, or
you run the chance of setting fire to bed and house.  I did that once,
and had a near scratch to escape before the flames roasted me.  Best
was, I managed to escape before any one was on the spot, so I was not
taken up; suspicion fell on a labourer who had been dismissed a
fortnight before.’

’And you said nothing?’

’Certainly not.  Do you take me for a fool?’

Honor’s lips contracted, so did her brow.

Charles put the spoon into the bread and milk, then, as he was setting
it to his mouth, burst out laughing, and spilt the sop over his clothes.

’It was enough to make a fellow laugh,’ he explained.  ’To see last
night how scared the kids were—Martha and Charity—and how they cut along
when they saw me coming home.’

’This is not a cause for laughter.  If you had a heart you would weep.’

’I thought I caught sight of father.’

’You did, but he also turned and left you. He could not face you as you
were.  You should be ashamed of yourself, Charles.’

’There, there!’ he exclaimed impatiently, ’I will listen to no rebukes.
I was not drunk, only a bit fresh.’

’Drunk or fresh matters little, you were not in a fit condition to come
home; and what is more, I will not allow you to live in this cottage
longer.’

’You will not?’

’No, I will not.’

’Who is to prevent me?’

’I will.’

’You!—and what if I force you out of the way, and go in and brave you?’

’You may go in, but I leave and take with me all the little ones.  I
have made up my mind what to do; I can work and earn enough to support
the children, but I will not—no, I will not let them see you and hear
you more.’

He looked at her.  Her face was resolute. She was the girl to carry out
her threat.

’I curse the day I came back to see your wry face,’ he muttered, and
rolled over on his side, away from her.

She made no reply.  Her lips quivered. He did not see it, as he was no
longer looking at the door.

’Home is home,’ he said, ’and go where one will there are threads that
draw one back to it.’

Honor was softened.  ’I am glad, Charles, that you love home.  If you
love it, respect it.’

’Don’t fancy that I came home out of love for you.’

Honor sighed.

’I came home to see how father fared about Coombe Park, and how mother
was flourishing.’

’Well, Charles, I am glad you thought of father and mother.  You must
have a right heart, at ground.  Mother is dead, but I know she shames
over your bad conduct, and would rejoice were you to mend.’

’How do you know that?  There is no postal communication with the other
world, that I am aware of.’

’Never mind how I know it, but I do.’

’I was a fool to return.  There is no kindness left in the world.  If
there were I should find a pinch at home, and pity from you.’

’Charles, if I have been harsh with you, it has been through your own
fault.  God, who reads all hearts, knows that I love you. But then, I
love all the rest of my brothers and sisters, and now that mother is not
here to see after them, whom have they got but myself to protect them?
I defend them as a cat defends her kittens from a dog.  Charles, I am
sorry if I have been rough and unkind, and unsisterly to you, but
indeed, indeed I cannot help myself.  Mother laid the duty on me when
she was dying.  She caught my hand—so,’ she grasped his wrist, and
looking earnestly in his face, said, ’and laid it on me to be father and
mother to the little ones.  I bent over her and kissed her, and promised
I would, and she died with her hand still holding my wrist.  I feel her
grip there to this day, whenever danger threatens the children.  When
you first came into the house, on your return, I felt her fingers close
as tight on me as when she died.  She is always with me, keeping me up
to my duty.  I cannot help myself, Charles; I must do what I know I
ought, and I am sure it is wrong for me to allow you to remain with us
longer.  Consider, Charles, what the life is that you are now leading.’

’The life is all right,’ said he moodily.  ’I can pay my way.  I have
more brains than any of these clodhoppers round, and can always earn my
livelihood.’

’Begin about it,’ urged Honor.

’Time enough for that when the last copper is gone wherewith to stop a
pipe and fill a can of ale.’

’O Charles!  Charles!’ exclaimed his sister, ’your own coppers are spent
long ago.  Now you are smoking the clothes off your little brothers’ and
sisters’ backs, and drinking and squandering the little money I have for
feeding them.  For shame!’ the blood rushed into her cheeks with sudden
anger, as the injustice of his conduct presented itself before her
vividly.  ’Your father works that you may idle!  It is a shame!  It is a
sin.’

’Hold your tongue!’

’I will not hold my tongue,’ she answered hotly.  ’You know how good,
and gentle, and forbearing father is, how ready he is to give everything
to his children, how unwilling to say to any one a harsh word, and you
take advantage of his good nature; you, that should be building up the
house, are tearing it down on the heads of all of us, father, Kate,
Patience, Joe, Willy—down to little Temperance, all, all!’

’That is right, Honor, comb his head with a rake and the locks will lie
smooth.’

Both Honor and Charles looked up.  Hillary stood before them in the
doorway.  The girl had turned her face to her brother, and had not
observed his approach.  She was ill-pleased at his arrival.  She wished
no stranger to inter-meddle with her family troubles.

’You here?’ exclaimed Charles, starting to one knee.  ’Mr. Larry
Nanspian, I owe you something, and I shall repay it when the occasion
comes.  Not now, though I have a mind to it, because I have a headache.
But I can order you off the premises.  Get along, or I’ll kick you.’

Larry gave a contemptuous shrug with his shoulders, and looked to Honor.

’Well, Honor, have you a good-morning for me?’

’I have ordered you off the premises,’ shouted Charles.

’Shall I pitch him into the road again?’ asked Larry of the girl.

Then Honor said, ’I did not ask your help yesterday, and I do not seek
your interference now.’

Charles burst into a rude laugh.  ’You have your answer, Mr. Larry,’ he
said; ’about face and away with you, and learn that there is one girl in
the place whose head you have not turned.’

’If I am not wanted, of course I go,’ said Hillary, annoyed.

Then he walked away, whistling, with his hands in his pockets.  ’There
are more cherries on the tree than that on the topmost twig,’ he said to
himself in a tone of dissatisfaction.  ’If Honor can’t be pleasant
others are not so particular.’

Larry Nanspian was a spoiled lad.  The girls of Bratton made much of
him.  He was a fine young man, and he was heir to a good estate.  The
girls not only did not go out of their way to avoid him, but they threw
themselves, unblushingly, ostentatiously in his path; and their efforts
to catch him were supported by their mothers.  The girls hung about the
lanes after church hoping to have a word with him, and sighed and cast
him languishing glances during Divine worship.  Their mothers flattered
him.  This was enough to make the lad conceited.  Only Honor kept away
from him. She scarcely looked at him, and held him at a distance.  The
other girls accepted his most impudent sallies without offence; he did
not venture a jest with Honor.  Her refusal of the homage which he had
come to regard as his due piqued him, and forced him to think of Honor
more often than of any other girl in the place.  He did not know his own
mind about her, whether he liked or whether he disliked her, but he knew
that he was chagrined at her indifference.

Sulky, he sauntered on to Broadbury, towards Wellon’s Cairn.  The moor
was stretched around, unbroken by a hedge, or wall, or tree. Before him
rose the Tumulus.  ’Hah!’ he said to himself, ’she was ready to talk to
me here; we were to have been good friends, but that cursed White Hare
brought us all ill-luck.’

As he spoke to his surprise he saw something white emerge from the
cutting in the side.  He stood still, and in a moment Mrs. Veale leaped
out of the hollow, went over the side, and disappeared down a dyke that
ran in the direction of Langford.

The apparition and disappearance were so sudden, the sight of the woman
so surprising, that Hillary was hardly sure he was in his senses, and
not the prey to a hallucination. He was made very uncomfortable by what
he had seen, and instead of going on towards the mound, he turned and
walked away.

’This is wonderful,’ he said.  ’Whatever could take Mrs. Veale to
Wellon’s Cairn?  If it were she—and I’d not take my oath on it—I’m too
bewildered to guess her purpose.’

He halted and mused.  ’I always said she was a witch, and now I believe
it.  She’s been there after her devilries, to get some bones or dust of
the gibbeted man, or a link of his chain, to work some further
wickedness with. I’ll see Honor again, I will, for all the airs she
gives herself, and warn her not to sit on Wellon’s mount.  It’s not
safe.’



                             *CHAPTER XII.*

                              *LANGFORD.*


Honor put on her hat and threw a kerchief over her shoulders, and took
her little brother Willy by the hand.

’Whither are you going, Honor?’ asked Kate.

’I am going to find a place for Charles, as he will not seek one for
himself.  I have turned him out of this house, and must secure him
shelter elsewhere.’

’Who will have him?’ asked Kate contemptuously.  She was less forbearing
with Charles than Honor.  Honor did not answer immediately.

’Try Chimsworthy,’ suggested Kate; ’Larry would put in a word for us.’

Honor slightly coloured.  She put on her red cloak.

’I cannot, Kate.  Larry and Charles have quarrelled.’

’Larry bears no grudges.  I will answer for him.’

’I do not wish to ask a favour of the Nanspians.’

’Why not?’

Honor made no reply.  She clasped the child’s hand tightly and closed
her lips.  Then, without another word, she left the cottage. Kate
shrugged her shoulders.

Honor went slowly up the lane to Broadbury; she did not speak to her
little brother her head was slightly bowed, she was deep in thought, and
hectic spots of colour tinged her cheeks.

’What!  Honor, in your scarlet!’ exclaimed Larry.  She looked up in
surprise.  He had come up to Broadbury the second time that day, drawn
there irresistibly by desire to see Honor.  He thought it probable, as
the day was fine, that she would go there with her knitting.

’What has brought you to Broadbury in this array, Honor?’ asked Hillary,
standing before her, and intercepting her path.

’I am on my road to Langford,’ answered the girl with composure.

’Take care, Honor, take care where you go.  There is a witch there, Mrs.
Veale; if you get in her bad books you will rue it.  I have seen her
to-day at Wellon’s Cairn gathering the dead man’s dust, out of which to
mix some hell-potion.’

Honor shook her head.

’It is true,’ said Hillary earnestly; ’she jumped and ran—and her ways
were those of that white hare we saw at the mound. Nothing will now
persuade me that she was not that hare.  Do not go on, Honor; leave
Langford alone.  No luck awaits you there.’

’Nonsense, Larry, you cannot have seen Mrs. Veale up here.’

’I tell you that I did.  I saw something white hopping and running, and
I am sure it was she in the hole scooped by the treasure-seekers.’

’What can she have wanted there?’

’What but the dust of old Wellon?  And what good can she do with that?
None—she needs it only for some devilry.  Do not go near her, Honor; I
have come here on purpose to warn you that the woman is dangerous.’

’I must go on,’ said Honor.  ’It is kind of you, Larry, but I have
business which I must do at Langford.  I have never harmed Mrs. Veale,
and she will not want to hurt me, But now, Larry, let me say that I am
sorry if I offended you this morning.  I spoke rather rough, because I
was afraid of a quarrel and a fight between you and Charles.  Do not
take it amiss.  Now do not stay me, I must go forward.’

’I will let you go on one promise—that you will not cross Mrs. Veale.’
He caught her hand.

’How can I give offence to her?  She is nothing to me, nor I to her.
You must really make way, Larry.’

He shook his head.  ’I don’t like it,’ he said; but he could not further
stay her.

Langford lies under the brow of Broadbury, looking over the tossing
sea-like expanse of hill and dale.  It lies at a very considerable
elevation, nearly a thousand feet above the sea, and to protect it from
the weather is covered with slate, as though mail-clad.  Few trees stand
about it affording shelter.  Honor walked through the yard to the door
and thrice knocked. Very tardy was the reply.  Mrs. Veale opened the
door, and stood holding it with one hand, barring the entrance with her
body and the other hand.  She was in a light cotton dress, from which
the colours had been washed.  Her face, her eyes, her hair had the same
bleached appearance.  Her eyelashes were white, overhanging faded eyes,
to which they gave a blinking uncertain look.

’What do you want?’ asked the housekeeper, looking at her with surprise
and with flickering eyes.

’I have come to see Mr. Langford,’ answered Honor; ’is your master at
home?’

’My _master_, oh yes!’ with a sneer, ’my master is at home—my mistress
not yet.  Oh no! not yet.’

’I want to see him.’

’You do?  Come, this is sharp, quick work. You follow one on another as
April on March.’

Honor did not understand her.  She thought the woman was out of her
mind.  She made no reply, but looking firmly at her, said, ’I will go
into the kitchen and sit down till your master is disengaged.  Is he in
the house now?’

’You know he is, and you know who is with him.’

Honor drew her brother after her, and entered.  She was too proud to
give the woman words.

’What do you want?  Where are you going?’ asked the housekeeper,
standing aside to let Honor pass, but casting at her a look so full of
malevolence, that Honor turned down her thumb in her palm instinctively
to counteract the evil eye.  Honor took a kitchen chair and seated
herself.  ’I will wait here,’ she said, ’till Mr. Langford can see me.’

Mrs. Veale stood, still holding the door, looking at her, her white face
quivering, her eyes flickering.  The child, startled, crept close to his
sister, and clung to her.

Mrs. Veale came forward, without removing her eyes from the girl.  ’Take
care!’ she said in a husky voice.  ’Take care! you are not here yet.’

Then Honor laughed.

’Not here, Mrs. Veale?  What do you mean?  I am here.’

Before the housekeeper could speak again men’s voices were audible in
the passage, and, to her astonishment, Honor recognised that of her
father.  She rose at once, and confronted him and Taverner Langford as
they entered the kitchen.

’What—you here?’ exclaimed Oliver Luxmore with undisguised astonishment.
’Why, Honor, what in the world has drawn you to Langford?  I did not
know that you and Mrs. Veale were friends.’

’I have come to speak to Mr. Langford,’ was her reply, spoken quietly;
’but I am glad, father, that you are here, as I should prefer to speak
before you.  May we go into the parlour?’

She looked at Mrs. Veale, as much as to say that she did not care to
speak before witnesses.

’Mrs. Veale,’ said Langford, with a sharp tone, ’I heard steps from the
parlour door two minutes ago.  I object to listeners at key-holes. Do
you understand?’

He did not wait for an answer, but turned and led the way down the
passage he and Luxmore had just emerged from.

Little Willy uttered a cry.  ’Don’t leave me with the old woman, please,
please, Honor!’

’You shall come with me,’ answered the girl, and she drew the child with
her into the parlour.

’Here we are,’ said Taverner, shutting the door.  ’Take a seat, take a
seat!  The little boy can find a stool at the window.’

’Thank you, Mr. Langford, I will not detain you five minutes.  I prefer
to stand.  I am glad my father is here.  Doubtless he has come on the
same matter as myself.’

The two men exchanged glances.

’I have come to ask you to try Charles,’ she continued.  ’Some little
while ago you told father that you wanted a man to act as drover for
you.  I have not heard that you have met with such a servant.  Try my
brother Charles. He is doing no work now, and Satan sets snares in the
way of the idle.  If you will please to give him a chance, you will
confer on us a great favour, and be doing a good work as well, for which
the Lord will reward you.’

’That is what has brought you here?’ asked the yeoman.

’Yes, sir.’

’Have you heard it said throughout the country that I am not a man to
grant favours?’

’I do not heed what folks say.  Besides, I know that this is not so.
You have already acted very kindly to us.  You lent father a very good
horse.’

’Why have you not applied elsewhere? at Chimsworthy, for instance.’

’Because I do not wish to be beholden to the Nanspians, sir,’ answered
Honor.

’You do not approve of your sister keeping company with that Merry
Andrew,’ said Taverner approvingly.

’She does not keep company with him,’ answered the girl gravely.

At any rate she lets him dance after her, draws him on.  Well, well! it
is natural, perhaps.  But don’t advise her to be too eager. Young Larry
is not so great a catch as some suppose, and as he and his father give
out. Look at Chimsworthy—a wilderness of thistles, and rushes springing
where grass grew to my recollection.  There is no saying, some day you
may be seated at Coombe Park, and then the Nanspians will be below you.’

’Coombe Park!’ echoed Honor, looking at her father, then at old
Langford.  ’Surely, sir, you think nothing of that!  Do not encourage
father in that fancy; we never were and never will be at Coombe Park.’

’Honor!’ exclaimed Oliver Luxmore, working his feet uneasily under the
table, ’there you are wrong.  The Luxmores have had it for many
generations.  You have only to look in the registers to see that.’

’Yes, father, some Luxmores have been there, but not our Luxmores as far
as we know. I wish you would not trouble your head about Coombe Park.
We shall never get it.  I doubt if we have a thread of a right to it.
If we have, I never saw it.’

’We shall see, we shall see,’ said the carrier. ’Girls haven’t got
lawyers’ minds, and don’t follow evidence.’

’I have undertaken to go with your father to Lawyer Physick at
Okehampton,’ said Taverner Langford, ’and to help him to have his right
examined.’

’Nothing can come of it but heart-breakings,’ sighed Honor; ’father will
slip certainties to seize shadows.’

’I have nothing to lose,’ said Oliver, ’and much to gain.’

Honor knew it was in vain to attempt to disabuse him of his cherished
delusion.  She so far shared his views as to believe that the family had
gentle blood in their veins, and were descended somehow, in some vague,
undefined manner, from the Luxmores of Coombe Park, through, perhaps,
some younger son of a junior branch, and she liked to suppose that the
beauty and superiority of manner in her brothers and sisters were due to
this, but she did not share in her father’s expectations of recovering
the property.  Her understanding was too clear to harbour this.

’I will go back to what I asked of Mr. Langford,’ she said, after a
pause.  ’Will you take my brother Charles into your service, sir?  He
wants a firm hand over him.  He is not bad at heart, but he is infirm of
purpose, easily led astray.  If he were here with you, he would be far
from the "Ring of Bells," and his work would sever him from idle
companions.’

’So, you don’t want him to be at Chimsworthy?’

’I do not desire to be under obligation there.’

’You have no objection to placing yourself under obligation to me?’

Honor did not like the tone.  She did not understand his returning to
the same point; she turned uneasily to her father, and asked him to put
in a word for poor Charles.

’Mr. Langford is more likely to grant a boon to you than to me,’
answered Oliver evasively.

’Sit down, Honor,’ he said.  ’You have remained standing the whole time
you have been here.’

’I have been making a request,’ she answered.

’The request is granted.  Sit down.’

She was reluctant, yet unwilling to disoblige.

Oliver signed to her to take a place.  She obeyed.  She was
uncomfortable.  There was an indefinable something in the way in which
the old yeoman looked at and addressed her, something equally
indefinable in her father’s manner, that combined to disturb her.

Mrs. Veale came in on some excuse, to ask her master a question, with
her white eyelashes quivering.  She cast a sidelong glance at Honor full
of malice, as she entered.  When she left the room she did not shut the
door, and the girl saw her white face and flickering eyes turned towards
her, watching her out of the darkness of the passage.  She was for a
moment spellbound, but recovered herself when Taverner Longford, with an
impatient exclamation, slammed the door.

’I shall be glad to be rid of the old prying cat,’ he said.

’Is Mrs. Veale going to leave you?’ asked Honor.  Then she caught her
father and Langford exchange glances, and her brow became hot—she hardly
knew wherefore.

’I am thinking of a change,’ said the yeoman.

’I hope you are going to have as good a housekeeper,’ said Honor; ’a
better you cannot have.’

’Oh!’ he laughed, ’a better, certainly, and—what is quite as certain—a
prettier one.  If I had not been sure of that, I would not have——’  He
checked himself and nodded to the carrier, who laughed.

Honor looked from one to the other inquiringly, then asked somewhat
sternly, ’You would not have—what, Mr. Langford?’

’Humph!  I would not have taken Charles.’

’What is the connection?’ asked the girl.

’More things are connected than sleeve-links,’ answered Langford.  ’I
would not have let your father have the horse if you were thriftless at
home.  I would not take Charles into service, unless I thought to find
in him some of the qualities of the sister.’

’Put my qualities, such as they are, on one side,’ said Honor roughly.

’That,’ said Langford, looking across at Luxmore, ’that is not to be
thought of.’

Then the carrier laughed nervously, and with a side glance at his
daughter.

Honor coloured.  She was offended, but unable to say at what.  She put
her hand on her little brother’s head and stroked it nervously.

Then the yeoman began to talk to the carrier about his estate, the
quality of the land, his cows and horses, his woods, his pastures, the
money he was able to put away every year, and contrasted his style of
farming with that of the Nanspians at Chimsworthy.  As he spoke he fixed
his eyes on Honor, to see if his wealth impressed her.  But her face
expressed no concern.  It was clouded; she was thinking, not listening.

All at once the insinuations of Mrs. Veale rushed into her mind.  She
saw her meaning. She connected that with the looks of the two men.
Blood rushed to her face.  She sprang to her feet.  The room swam before
her eyes.

’I must go,’ she said.  ’I am wanted at home.’



                            *CHAPTER XIII.*

                              *THE REVEL.*


If to Sally in our alley and the apprentice who loved her, ’Of all the
days within the week there was no day but one day,’ so to all the maids
and all the lads in country villages, in olden times, there was no day
in all the year that might compare with the day of the village Revel.

The Revel is now a thing of the past, or lingers on, a limp and faded
semblance of the robust festival that fifty years ago was looked forward
to through half the year, and looked back on through the other half, and
formed the topic of conversation for the entire twelve months.

On Revel day horse-races were run, got up by the village taverner, for a
plated mug or a punch ladle; wrestling matches were played for a
champion belt, booths were set up in streets of canvas and board for the
sale of brooches, ribbons, toys, sweetstuff, and saffron-cakes.  There
were merry-go-rounds, peep-shows, menageries, and waxworks.  The
cheap-jack was never wanting, the focus of merriment.

In and about 1849 the commons were enclosed on which the races had been
run, and the tents pitched, and gipsies had encamped. Magistrates,
squires, parsons, and police conspired against Revels, routed them out
of the field, and supplied their places with other
attractions,—cottage-garden shows, harvest thanksgivings, and school
teas.

Possibly there were objectionable features in those old Revels which
made their abolition advisable, but the writer remembers none of these.
He saw them through the eyes of a child, and recalls the childish
delight they afforded.

The day was clear and sunny.  People streamed into Bratton Clovelly from
the country round, many on foot, others in gigs and carts, all in gayest
apparel.  Honor had dressed the children neatly, had assumed her scarlet
cloak, and stood at the cottage door turning the key ready to depart
with the little eager company, when the tramp of a horse’s hoof was
heard, and Larry Nanspian drew up before the house. He was driving his
dappled cob in the shafts of a two-wheeled tax-cart.

’What, Larry!’ exclaimed Kate, ’mounted on high to display the flowery
waistcoat? Lost your legs that you cannot walk a mile?’

’Not a bit, sharp-tongue,’ answered the young man, good-naturedly.  ’I
have come round for Honor and you and the little ones.’

’We have feet, sixteen among us.’

’But the tiny feet will be tired with trotting all day.  You will have
fairings moreover to bring home.’

’Thank you for the kind thought, Larry,’ said Honor, softened by his
consideration and by the pleasant smile that attended his words. ’Kate
and I will walk, but we accept your offer for the children.’

’I cannot take them without you,’ said the young man.  ’I hold the whip
with one hand and the reins with the other.  I have not a third
wherewith to control a load of wriggling worms.’

’Jump in, Honor,’ said Kate; ’sit between me and the driver, to keep the
peace.’

The eldest sister packed the children in behind and before, then,
without more ado, ascended the seat by Larry, and was followed by Kate,
with elastic spring.

’Heigho!’ exclaimed the young man, ’I reckon no showman at the Revel has
half so fine wares as myself to exhibit.’

’What, the waistcoat?’ asked Kate, leaning forward to look in his face.

’No, not the waistcoat,’ answered he; ’cutlery, keen and bright.’

’Your wit must have gone through much sharpening.’

’I do not allude to my wit.  I mean the pretty wares beside me.’

’But, driver, the wares are not and never will be yours.’

As they drew near Bratton they heard a shout from behind, and turning
saw Taverner Langford driving in, with Mrs. Veale beside him, at a
rattling pace.  Larry drew aside to let them pass; as they went by
Taverner looked keenly at Honor, and Mrs. Veale cast her a spiteful
glance, then turned to her master and whispered something.

’Upon my word!’ exclaimed Larry, ’I’ve a mind to play a lark.  Say
nothing, girls, but don’t be surprised if we give Uncle Langford a
hare-hunt.’

He drew rein and went slow through the street of the ’church town.’  The
street and the open space before the church gate were full of people.
It was, moreover, enlivened with booths.  Larry was well content to
appear in state at the fair, driving instead of walking like a common
labourer, and driving with two such pretty girls as Honor and Kate at
his side. He contrasted his company to that of his uncle. ’I wonder my
uncle don’t get rid of that Mrs. Veale.  No wonder he has turned sour
with her face always before him.’  He shouted to those who stood in the
road to clear the way; he cracked his whip, and when some paid no
attention brought the lash across their shoulders. Then they started
aside, whether angry or good-humoured mattered nothing to the
thoughtless lad.

He drew up before the ’Ring of Bells,’ cast the reins to the ostler,
jumped out, and helped the sisters to descend, then lifted the children
down with a cheerful word to each.

The little party strolled through the fair. Honor holding Charity by her
left and Temperance by her right hand; but the crowd was too great for
the youngest to see anything. Honor stooped and took the little girl on
her right arm, but immediately Larry lifted the child from her to his
shoulder.

’See!’ whispered Joe, holding a coin under Kate’s eyes, ’Larry Nanspian
gived me this.’

’And I have something; too from him,’ said Pattie.

’And so have I,’ whispered Willy.

Honor pretended not to hear, but she was touched, and looked with kindly
eyes at the young man.  He had his faults, his foolish vanity; but there
was good in him, or he would not trouble himself about the little ones.
She had not been able to give the children more than a penny each for
fairing.  The village was thronged.  The noise was great.  The
cheap-jack shouted in a voice made hoarse by professional exercise.  The
ringers had got to the bells in the church tower.  At a stall was a man
with a gun, a target, and a tray of nuts, calling ’Only a halfpenny a
shot!’  There was Charles there trying the gun, and his failures to hit
the bull’s-eye elicited shouts of laughter, which became more boisterous
as he lost his temper.  The barrel was purposely bent to prevent a level
shot reaching the mark.  A boy paraded gaudy paper-mills on sticks that
whirled in the wind—only one penny each.  A barrel organ ground forth,
’The flaxen-headed Plowboy,’ and a miserable blinking monkey on it held
out a tin for coppers.  Honor was so fully engrossed in the children,
watching that they did not stray, get knocked over or crushed, that she
had not attention to give to the sights of the fair; but Kate was all
excitement and delight.  Larry kept near the sisters, but could not say
much to them: the noise was deafening and little Temperance exacting.

Presently the party drew up before a table behind which stood a man
selling rat poison. A stick was attached to the table, and to this stick
was affixed a board, above the heads of the people, on which was a
pictorial representation of rats and mice expiring in attitudes of
mortal agony.  The man vended also small hones.  He took a knife, drew
the edge of the blade over his thumb to show that it was blunt, then
swept it once, twice, thrice, this way, that way, on the bit of stone,
and see! he plucked a hair from his beard, and cut, and the blade
severed it.  Fourpence for a small stone, six-pence, a shilling,
according to sizes.  The coins were tossed on the table, and the hones
carried away.

’What is it, ma’am.—a hone?’ asked the dealer.

’No, the poison.’

A white arm was thrust between those who lined the table.  Hillary
turned, and saw Mrs. Veale.

’Keep it locked up, ma’am.  There’s enough in that packet to poison a
regiment.’

Whether a regiment of soldiers or of rats he did not explain.

At the crockery stall Larry halted, and passed Temperance over to Honor.
Now his reason for driving in the spring-cart became apparent.  He had
been commissioned to purchase a supply of pots, and mugs, and dishes,
and plates, for home use.  Honor also made purchases at this stall, and
the young man carried them for her to his cart, as well as his own
supply.  Then she lingered at a drapery stall, and bought some strong
material for frocks for the youngest sisters.  Whilst she was thus
engaged, Larry went to a stall of sweetstuff, presided over by a man in
white apron, with copper scales, and bought some twisted red and white
barbers’ poles of peppermint. Immediately the atmosphere about the
little party was impregnated with the fragrance of peppermint.

A few steps beyond was a menagerie.  A painted canvas before the
enclosure of vans represented Noah’s ark, with the animals ascending a
plank and entering it by a door in the side.  In another compartment was
a picture of a boa-constrictor catching a negro, and opening his jaws to
swallow him.  Over this picture was inscribed, ’Twine, gentle
evergreen,’ and the serpent was painted emerald.  In another
compartment, again, was a polar scene, with icebergs and white bears,
seals and whales.

’Oh, we must see the wild beasts!’ exclaimed Kate.

A consultation ensued.  Larry wished to treat the whole party, but to
this Honor would not agree.  Finally, it was decided that Kate, Joe, and
Pattie should enter, and that Honor should remain without with the
children. Accordingly the three went in with Larry, and presently
returned disappointed and laughing. The menagerie had resolved itself
into a few moulting parrots, a torpid snake in a blanket, two unsavoury
monkeys, and an ass painted with stripes to pass as a zebra.

Adjoining the menagerie was another exhibition, even more pretentious.
Three men appeared before it on a platform, one with a trumpet, another
with cymbals, the third with a drum.  Then forth leaped clown, harlequin
and columbine, and danced, cut jokes, and went head over heels.  The
clown balanced a knife on his nose; then bang! toot, toot! clash! bang,
bang, bang! from the three instruments, working the children into the
wildest speculation.  Honor had spent the money laid aside for
amusement, and could not afford to take her party in, and she would
accept no further favours from Larry.

Just then up came Charles.

’Halloo, mates! you all here!’ he shouted, elbowing his way to them.
’That is prime.  I will treat you; I’ve a yellow boy,’ he spun a
half-sovereign in the air and caught it between both palms.  ’Come
along, kids.  I’m going to treat half a dozen young chaps as well. Shall
I stand for you, Larry?’ he asked contemptuously, ’or have the thistles
and rushes sold so well you can afford to treat yourself?’

Larry frowned.  ’I see my father yonder signing to me,’ he said.  ’I
must go to him.’

Then Hillary worked his way to the rear, offended at the insolence of
Charles, red in face, and vowing he would not do another kindness to the
family.

Old Nanspian was in the long-room of the ’King of Bells,’ at the window.
He had caught sight of his son, whose flowered satin waistcoat was
conspicuous, and was beckoning to him with his clay pipe; he wanted to
know whether he had bought the crockery—_vulgo_ ’cloam’—as desired, and
what he had paid for it.

’Come on, you fellows!’ called Charles to some of his companions.  ’How
many are you? Six, and myself, and the two girls, that makes nine
sixpences, and the little tins at half-price makes five threepences.
Temperance is a baby and don’t count.  That is all, five-and-nine;
shovel out the change, old girl, four-and-three.’

He threw down the gold coin on the table, where a gorgeous woman in red
and blue and spangles, wearing a gilt foil crown and huge earrings, was
taking money and giving greasy admission tickets.  The circus was small.
The seats were one row deep, deal planks laid on trestles.  Only at one
end were reserved places covered with red baize for the nobility,
gentry, and clergy, who, as a bill informed the public, greedily
patronised the show.  On this occasion these benches were conspicuously
empty.  The performers appeared in faded fleshings, very soiled at the
elbows and knees; the paint on the faces was laid on coarsely; the
sawdust in the ring was damp and smelt sour.

The clown cut his jests with the conductor, carried off his cap, and
received a crack of the whip.  He leaped high in the air, turned a
somersault, and ran round the arena on hands and feet, peering between
his legs.

A dappled horse was led out, and the columbine mounted and galloped
round the ring.  Every now and then the hoofs struck the enclosing
boards, and the children shrank against Honor and Kate in terror.  Then
a spray of sawdust was showered over the lads, who roared with laughter,
thinking it a joke.

A second horse was led out to be ridden by the harlequin, but the clown
insisted on mounting it, and was kicked off.  Then the harlequin ran
across the area, whilst the horse was in full career, and leaped upon
its back, held the columbine’s hand, and round and round they went
together.  All was wretchedly poor.  The jokes of the clown were as
threadbare as the silks, and as dull as the spangles on the equestrians.
Poverty and squalor peered through the tawdry show.  But an audience of
country folk is uncritical and easily pleased. The jests were relished,
the costumes admired, and the somersaults applauded.  All at once a
commotion ensued.  The queen in red and blue, who had sold the tickets
of admission, appeared in a state of loud and hot excitement, calling
for the manager and gesticulating vehemently.  The performance was
interrupted. The horses of harlequin and columbine were restrained, and
were walked leisurely round the arena, whilst the lady in gauze (very
crumpled) seated herself on the flat saddle and looked at the
spectators, who curiously scrutinised her features and compared opinions
as to her beauty.  Presently the clown ran to the scene of commotion.
The queen was in very unregal excitement, shaking her head, with her
pendant earrings flapping, very loud and vulgar in voice; some of the
audience crowded about the speakers.

Then Honor was aware that faces and fingers were pointed towards the
bench which she and her party occupied, and in another moment the
manager, the crowned lady-manageress, the clown, now joined by the
harlequin, who had given his horse to a boy, and a throng of inquisitive
spectators, came down—some across the arena, others stumbling over the
deal benches—towards the little party.

’That’s he!’ shouted the lady in crimson and blue, shaking her black
curls, puffing with anger, and indicating with a fat and dirty hand,
’That’s the blackguard who has cheated us.’  She pointed at Charles.

The columbine drew rein and stood her horse before the group, looking
down on it. She had holes in her stockings, and the cherry silk of her
bodice was frayed.  Kate saw that.

’Look here, you rascal!  What do you mean by trying to cheat us poor
artists, with horses and babies to feed, and all our wardrobe to keep in
trim, eh?  What do you mean by it?’

Then the clown in broad cockney, ’What do you mean by it, eh?  Some one
run for the constable, will you?  Though we be travelling showmen we’re
true-born Britons, and the law is made to protect all alike.’

’What is the matter?’ asked Honor, rising, with the frightened
Temperance in her arms clinging to her neck and screaming, and Charity
and Martha holding her skirts, wrapping themselves in her red cloak and
sobbing.

’Ah, you may well ask what is the matter!’ exclaimed the queen.  ’If
that young chap belongs to you in any way, more’s the pity.’

’It is an indictable offence,’ put in the manager.  ’It is cheating
honest folk; that is what it is.’

Charles burst out laughing.

’I’ve a right to pay you in your own coin, eh?’ he said contemptuously,
thrusting his hands into his pockets, and planting a foot on the
barrier.

’What do you mean by our own coin?’ asked the angry manageress, planting
her arms akimbo.

’Giving false for false,’ mocked Charles.

’It is insulting of us he is!’ exclaimed the columbine, from her vantage
post.  ’And he calls himself a gentleman.’

’Pray what right have you to invite the public to such a spectacle as
this?’ asked Charles.  ’You have only a couple of screws for horses, and
an old girl of forty for columbine, a harlequin with the lumbago, and a
clown without wit—and you don’t call this cheating?’

’Turn him out!’ cried the lady in crumpled muslin, ’it’s but
twenty-three I am.’

’What is this all about?’ asked Honor, vainly endeavouring to gather the
cause of the quarrel and compose the frightened children at the same
time.  The bystanders, indignant at the disparagement of the
performance, hissed.  All those on the further side of the arena, losing
their awe of the sawdust, came over it, crowding round the gauzy
columbine and her horse, asking what the row was about, and getting no
answer.

The columbine was obliged to use her whip lightly to keep them off.
Boys were picking spangles off the saddle-cloth, and pulling hairs out
of the mane of the horse.

’How many was it?  Fourteen persons let in?’ asked the manager.

’And I gave him back change, four-and-three,’ added the manageress.

’You shall have your cursed change,’ said Charles.  ’Get along with you
all.  Go on with your wretched performance.  Here are four shillings,
the boys shall scramble for the pence when I find them.’  He held out
some silver.

’No, I won’t take it.  You shall pay for all the tickets,’ said the
woman.  ’You ain’t a-going to defraud us nohows if I can help It. Let’s
see, how many was you?  Four-and-three from ten makes five-and-nine.’

’I can’t do it,’ said Charles, becoming sulky.  ’If you were the fool to
accept a brass token you must pay for the lesson, and be sharper next
time.  I have no more money.’

’Cheat! cheat!  Passing bad money!’ the bystanders groaned, hissed,
hooted.  Charles waxed angry and blazed red.  He cursed those who made
such a noise, he swore he would not pay a halfpenny, he had no money.
They might search his pockets.  They might squeeze him.  They would get
nothing out of him. They might keep the brass token, and welcome, he had
nothing else to give them.  He turned his pockets out to show they were
empty.

The whole assembly, performers in tights, muslin, velvets, ochre and
whitening, the spectators—country lads with their lasses, farmers and
their wives—were crushed in a dense mass about the scene of altercation.
Many of the lads disliked Charles for his swagger and superiority, and
were glad to vent their envy in groans and hisses.  The elder men
thought it incumbent on them to see that justice was done; they called
out that the money must be paid.

Charles, becoming heated, cast his words about, regardless whom he hurt.
The manager stared, the queen screamed, the clown swore, and columbine,
who held a hoop, tried to throw it over the head of the offender, and
pull him down over the barrier.  By a sudden movement the young man
wrenched the whip from the hand of the manager, and raising it over his
head threatened to clear a way with the lash. The people started back.
Then into the space Honor advanced.

’What has he done?  I am his sister. Show me the piece of money.’

’Look at that—and turn yeller,’ exclaimed the manager’s wife.  ’Darn it
now, if I ain’t a-gone and broke one o’ them pearl drops in my ear.
Look at the coin,’ she put the token into the girl’s hand.  ’What do yer
say to that?’  Then she whisked her head of curls about as if to
overtake her ear and see the wreck of pearl-drop—silvered glass which
had been crushed in the press.  ’And this also, young man, comes of yer
wickedness.  What am I to do with one pendant?  Can’t wear it in my nose
like an Injun.  Now then, young woman in scarlet, what do yer call
that?’

Honor turned the coin over in her palm,

’This is a brass tradesman’s token,’ she said, ’it is not money.  We
stand in your debt five-and-ninepence.  I have nothing by me.  You must
trust me; you shall be paid.’

’No, no! we won’t trust none of you,’ said the angry woman.  ’We ain’t
a-going to let you out without the money.  Pay or to prison you walk.
Someone run for the constable, and I’ll give him a ticket gratis for
this evening’s entertainment.’

Then many voices were raised to deprecate her wrath.  ’This is Honor.’
’Trust Honor as you’d trust granite.’  ’Honor in name and Honor in
truth.’  ’Honor never wronged a fly.’  ’Red spider is a lucky insect.’
’Why don’t the red spider spin money now?’

’Leave her alone, she’s good as gold.  She can’t help if the brother is
a rascal.’

But though many voices were raised in her favour, no hands were thrust
into pockets to produce the requisite money.

Honor looked about.  She was hot, and her brow moist; her lips quivered;
a streak of sun was on her scarlet cloak and sent a red reflection over
her face.

’We will not be beholden to you, madam,’ she said, with as much
composure as she could muster.  Then she unloosed her cloak from her
neck and from the encircling arms of Temperance.  ’There,’ she said,
’take this; the cloth is good.  It is worth more money than what we owe
you.  Keep it till I come or send to redeem it.’

She put the scarlet cloak into the woman’s hands, then turned, gathered
the children about her, and looking at those who stood in front, said
with dignity, ’I will trouble you to make way.  We will interrupt the
performance no longer.’

Then, gravely, with set lips and erect head, she went out, drawing her
little party after her, Kate following, flushed and crying, and Charles,
with a swagger and a laugh and jest to those he passed, behind Kate.

When they came outside, however, Charles slunk away.  The six young men
whom Charles had treated remained.  They had worked their way along the
benches to dissociate themselves from the party of the Luxmores, and put
on a look as if they had paid for their own seats. ’We needn’t go, for
sure,’ whispered one to another.  ’We be paid for now out of Miss
Honor’s red cloak.’



                             *CHAPTER XIV.*

                           *THE LAMB-KILLER.*


Honor could not recover herself at once.  Her heart beat fast and her
breathing was quick. Her hands that clasped the children twitched
convulsively.  She looked round at Charles before he slipped away, and
their eyes met. His expression rapidly changed, his colour went, his
eyes fell before those of his sister. He drew his cap over his face, and
elbowed his way through the crowd out of sight.

Honor felt keenly what had occurred; she was the sister of a rogue; the
honourable name of Luxmore was tarnished.  How would her father bear
this?  This, the family honour, was the one thing on which he prided
himself. And what about Charles?  Would not he be forced to leave the
place she had found for him?  Would Taverner Langford keep in his employ
a man who cheated?

But Honor took a more serious view of the occurrence than the general
public.  Popular opinion was not as censorious as her conscience.  Those
whom Charles had attempted to defraud were strangers—vagrants belonging
to no parish, and without the pale, fair game for a sharp man to
overreach.  If the public virtue had protested loudly in the show, it
was not in the interests of fair dealing, but as an opportunity of
annoying a braggart.

Honor, wounded and ashamed, shrank from contact with her acquaintances,
and with Kate worked her way out of the throng, away from the fair, and
home, without seeing more of Larry.

Kate took Charles’s misconduct to heart in a different way from Honor;
she was angry, disappointed because her pleasure was spoiled, and
fretted.  But the children, as they trotted homewards, were not weary of
talking of the wonders they had seen and the enjoyment they had had.

In the evening Hillary drove up with his spring-cart, and called the
girls out to take their fairings from his trap, some crocks, a roll of
drapery, and some other small matters. Hillary was cheerful and full of
fun.  He repeated the jokes of the cheap-jack, and told of the
neighbours that had been taken in.  He mentioned whom he had met, and
what he had seen.  He allowed the dappled horse to stand in the road,
with the reins on the ground, whilst, with one foot planted on the
steps, he lingered chatting with the girls before their door. He was so
bright and amusing that Kate forgot her vexation and laughed.  Even the
grave Honor was unable to forbear a smile.  Of the disturbance in the
circus caused by Charles he said nothing, and Honor felt grateful for
his tact. He remained talking for half an hour.  He carried the girls’
parcels into the cottage for them, and insisted on a kiss from the tiny
ones. It almost seemed as if he were tarrying for something—an
opportunity which did not offer; but this did not occur to the girls.
They felt his kindness in halting to cheer them.  Their father was not
yet returned from the fair.  They were not likely to see Charles again
that day.

’By the way, Honor,’ said Larry, ’you have some lambs, have you not?’

’Yes, five.’

’Can you fasten them and the ewes in at night?’

’No—we have no place.  But why?  They will not take hurt at this time of
the year.’

’Don’t reckon on that,’ said the young man; ’I’ve heard tell there is a
lamb-killer about.  Farmer Hegadon lost three, and one went from
Swaddledown last night.  Have you not heard?  Watches must be set.  None
can tell whose dog has taken to lamb-killing till it is seen in the
act.’

’A bad business for us if we lose our lambs,’ said Honor.  ’We reckon on
selling them and the ewes in the fall, to meet our debt to Mr. Langford
for the horse.’

’Then forewarned is forearmed.  Lock them up.’

’It can’t be done, Larry.  You can’t pocket your watch when you’re
without a pocket.’

’In that case I hope the lamb-killer will look elsewhere.  That is all.
Good-night. But before I go mind this.  If you have trouble about your
lambs, call on me.  I’ll watch for you now you have not Charles at your
command. We’re neighbours and must be neighbourly.’

’Thank you heartily, Larry.  I will do so.’

Then the lad went away, whistling in his cart, but as he went he turned
and waved his hand to the sisters.

The children were tired and put to bed. Kate was weary and soon left.
Honor had to sit up for her father, whose van was in request that day to
convey people and their purchases from the fair to their distant homes.
After Oliver had come in and had his supper, Honor put away the plates,
brushed up the crumbs, set the chairs straight, and went to bed.  Kate
and the children were sound asleep. Honor’s brain was excited, and she
kept awake. She was unobserved now, and could let her tears flow.  She
had borne up bravely all day; the relaxation was necessary for her now.
Before her family and the world Honor was reserved and restrained.  She
was forced to assume a coldness that was not natural to her heart.
There was not one person in the house who could be relied on.  Her
father was devoid of moral backbone.  He remembered the commissions of
his customers, but his memory failed respecting his duties to his
children and the obligations of home.  Kate had too sharp a tongue and a
humour too capricious to exercise authority.  She set the children by
the ears.  As for the little ones, they were too young to be supposed to
think.  So Honor had to consider for her father and the other seven
inmates of the cottage, also of late for Charles—to have a head to think
for nine creatures who did not think for themselves.  There was not one
of the nine who stood firm, who was not shiftless.  There are few
occupations more trying to the temper than the setting up of nine-pins
on a skittle-floor.  Honor did not become querulous, as is the manner of
most women who have more duties to discharge than their strength allows.
She was overtaxed, but she sheltered herself under an assumption of
coldness.  Some thought her proud, others unfeeling.  Kate could not
fathom her.  Oliver took all she did as a matter of course.  He neither
spared her nor applauded her.  Perhaps no one in the parish was so blind
to her excellence as her father.  Kate was his favourite daughter.

Honor dried her tears on the pillow. What would the end be?  Kate was at
her side fast asleep.  Honor leaned on her elbow and looked at her
sleeping sister.  The moon was shining.  A muslin blind was drawn across
the window, but a patch of light was on the whitewashed wall, and was
brilliant enough to irradiate the whole chamber.  Kate’s light silky
hair was ruffled about her head.  She lay with one arm out, and the hand
under her head; her delicate arm was bare.  Honor looked long at her;
her lips quivered, she stooped over Kate and kissed her, and her lips
quivered no more.  ’How pretty she is,’ she said to her own heart; ’no
wonder he went away whistling "Kathleen Mavourneen."’

All at once Honor started, as though electrified.  She heard the sheep
in the paddock making an unwonted noise, and recalled what Larry had
said.  In a moment she was out of bed, and had drawn aside the
window-blind.  The sheep and lambs were running wildly about.  Some
leaped at the hedge, trying to scramble up and over; others huddled
against the gate leading to the lane.  Honor opened the casement and put
forth her head. Then she saw a dark shadow sweep across the field,
before which the clustered sheep scattered.

Honor slipped on a few garments, descended the stair, opened the kitchen
door, and went forth armed with a stick.  The lamb-killer was in the
paddock, chasing down one of the flock that he had managed to separate
from the rest. Honor called, but her voice was unheeded or unheard,
owing to the bleating of the frightened sheep.  She ran through the dewy
grass, but her pace was as nothing to that of the dog. The frightened
lamb fled from side to side, and up and down, till its powers were
exhausted; and then it stood piteously bleating, paralysed with terror,
and the dog was at its throat and had torn it before Honor could reach
the spot.

When she approached the dog leaped the hedge and disappeared through a
gap in the bushes at the top.  The girl went about the field pacifying
the sheep, calling them, and counting them.  They came about her skirts,
pressing one on another, bleating, entreating protection, interfering
with her movements. Two of the lambs were gone.  One she had seen
killed; a second was missing.  She searched and found it; it had been
overrun and had got jammed between two rails.  In its efforts to escape,
it had become injured.  Its life was spent with exhaustion and fear, but
it was not quite dead.  It still panted.  She disengaged the little
creature, and carried it in her arms into the house, followed by the
agitated ewes, whom she could hardly drive back from the garden gate.

Honor did not expect the dog to return that night, but she sat up
watching for a couple of hours, and then returned to her bedroom, though
not to sleep.

Here was a fresh trouble come upon the family.  The loss of two lambs,
in their state of poverty, was a serious loss, and she could not be sure
that this was the end.  The dog might return another night and kill
more, and that was a crushing loss to poor people.

Next morning, when Kate and the children heard the news, their distress
was great.  Many tears were shed over the dead lambs.  Kate was loud in
her indignation against those who let their dogs rove at night.  She was
sure it was done on purpose, out of malice.  It was impossible to
suppose that the owner of a lamb-killer was ignorant of the proclivities
of his dog.  If they could only find out whose dog it was they would
make him pay for the mischief.

’I suppose, father, you will sit up to-night and watch for the brute?’

’I—I!’ answered the carrier.  ’What will that avail?  I never shot
anything in my life but one sparrow, and that I blew to pieces.  I
rested my gun-barrel on the shiver (bar) of a gate, and waited till a
sparrow came to some crumbs I had scattered.  Then I fired, and a splash
of blood and some feathers were all that remained of the sparrow.  No, I
am no shot. The noise close to my ear unnerves me. Besides, I am
short-sighted.  No; if the dog takes the lambs, let him, I cannot
prevent it.’

’But you must sit up, father.’

’What can I do?  If I saw the dog I should not know whose ’t was.  Honor
saw it, she can say whose it was.’

’I do not know.  It struck me as like Mr. Langford’s Rover, but I cannot
be sure; the ash-trees were between the moon and the meadow, and
flickered.’

’Oh! if it be Rover we are right.’

’How so, father?’

’Langford will pay if his dog has done the damage.’

’He must be made to pay,’ said Kate.  ’He won’t do it if he can scrape
out.’

’I cannot be sure it was Rover,’ said Honor. ’I saw a dark beast, but
the ash flickered in the wind, and the flakes of moonlight ran over the
grass like lambs, and the shadows like black dogs.  I was not near
enough to make sure.  Unless we can swear to Rover, we must be content
to lose.’

’Mr. Langford will not dispute about a lamb or two,’ said Oliver,
rubbing his ear.

’Then he will be different in this to what he is in everything else,’
said Kate.

’He won’t be hard on us,’ said her father. Honor was accustomed to see
him take his troubles easily, but he was unwontedly, perplexingly
indifferent now, and the loss was grave and might be graver.

’I will watch with you to-night, Honor,’ said Kate.  ’And what is more,
I will swear to Rover, if I see the end of his tail.  Then we can charge
the lambs at a pound a-piece to old Langford.’

’As for that,’ said the father, with a side-glance at his eldest
daughter, ’Mr. Langford—don’t call him old Langford any more, Kate, it’s
not respectful—Mr. Langford won’t press for the horse.  It lies with you
whether we have him for nothing or have to return him.’

He spoke looking at Honor, but he had addressed Kate just before.  The
latter did not heed his words.  Honor had been crossing the room with a
bowl in her hands.  She stood still and looked at him.  A question as to
his meaning rose to her lips, but she did not allow it to pass over
them.  She saw that a knowing smile lurked at her father’s
mouth-corners, and that he was rubbing his hands nervously.  The subject
was not one to be prosecuted in the presence of her brothers and
sisters.  She considered a moment, then went into the back kitchen with
the bowl.  She would make her father explain himself when they were
together alone.

Dark and shapeless thoughts passed through her mind, like the shadows of
the ash foliage in the moonlight.  She was full of undefined
apprehension of coming trouble.  But Honor had no time to give way to
her fears.  There was no leisure for an explanation.  The dead lambs had
to be skinned and their meat disposed of.

Honor was busily engaged the whole morning. She was forced to
concentrate her mind on her task, but unable to escape the apprehension
which clouded her.  It did not escape her that her father’s manner
changed, as soon as the children were despatched to school and Kate had
gone forth.  He became perceptibly nervous.  He was shy of being in the
room with Honor, and started when she spoke to him. He pretended to look
for means of fastening up the flock for the night, but he went about it
listlessly.  His playful humour had evaporated; he seemed to expect to
be taken to task for his words, and to dread the explanation.  His
troubled face cleared when he saw Hillary Nanspian appear at the top of
the hedge that divided the Chimsworthy property from the carrier’s
paddock.  The young man swung himself up by a bough, and stood on the
hedge parting some hazel-bushes.

’What is this I hear?  The lamb-killer been to you last night?’

’Yes, Larry, and I am trying to find how we may pen the sheep in out of
reach.  I’ve only the linhay, and that is full.’

’Are you going to sit up?’

’No, Larry, I am not a shot, and like a beetle at night.’

’I’ll do it.  Where are Kate and Honor? I promised them I would do it,
and I keep my word.  Little Joe tells me Honor thinks the dog was Rover.
What a game if I shoot Uncle Taverner’s dog!  I hope I may have that
luck. Expect me.  I will bring my gun to-night.’



                             *CHAPTER XV.*

                        *A BOLT FROM THE BLUE.*


Honor’s kitchen work was done.  She came to her father after Larry
Nanspian had departed, and said, ’Now, father, I want to know your
meaning, when you said that it lay with me whether you should keep the
horse or not?’

Then she seated herself near the door, with a gown of little Pattie’s
she was turning.

’It was so to speak rigmarole,’ answered Oliver colouring, and
pretending to plait a lash for his whip.

She shook her head.  ’You did not speak the words without purpose.’

’We lead a hard life,’ said Oliver evasively. ’That you can’t deny and
keep an honest tongue.’

’I do not attempt to deny it,’ she said, threading a needle at the light
that streamed in through the open door.  The carrier looked at her
appealingly.  Behind her, seen through the door, was a bank of bushes
and pink foxgloves, ’flopadocks’ is the local name.  He looked at the
sunlit picture with dreamy eyes.

’I shouldn’t wonder,’ he said, ’if there was a hundred flowers on that
there tallest flopadock.’

’I should not either,’ said Honor without looking off her work.  Then
ensued another pause.

Presently the carrier sighed and said, ’It be main difficult to make
both ends meet. The children are growing up.  Their appetites increase.
Their clothes get more expensive. The carrying business don’t prosper as
it ought. Kate, I reckon, will have to go into service, we can’t keep
her at home; but I don’t like the notion—she a Luxmore of Coombe Park.’

’We are not Luxmores of Coombe Park, but Luxmores out of it,’ said
Honor.

’Coombe Park should be ours by right, and it rests with you whether we
get our rights.’

’How so?  This is the second hint you have given that much depends on
me.  What have I to do with the recovery of Coombe Park?  How does the
debt for the horse rest with me?’

’It is a hard matter to be kept out of our rights,’ said Oliver.  ’A
beautiful property, a fine house and a fishpond—only a hundred pounds
wanted to search the registers to get it.’

’No hundred pounds will come to us,’ said Honor.  ’The clouds drop
thunderbolts, not nuggets.  So as well make up our minds to be where we
are.’

’No, I can’t do that,’ said the carrier, plaiting vigorously.  ’You
haven’t got a bit of green silk, have you, to finish the lash with?’

’Whether from wishing or from working, no hundred pounds will come,’
continued the girl.

’And see what a rain of troubles has come on us,’ said the carrier.
’First comes your poor mother’s death, then the horse, now the lambs,
and on top of all poor Charles.’

’More the reason why we should put aside all thought of a hundred
pounds.’

’Providence never deserts the deserving,’ said Luxmore.  ’I’m sure I’ve
done my duty in that state o’ life in which I am.  It is darkest before
dawn.’

’I see no daylight breaking.’

’Larry Nanspian makes great count of Kate,’ mused Luxmore, and then
abruptly, ’confound it!  I’ve plaited the lash wrong, and must unravel
it again.’

’What will come of Larry’s liking for Kate?  Will that bring us a
hundred pounds and Coombe Park?’ asked Honor bluntly.

’I can’t quite say that.  But I reckon it would be a rare thing to have
her settled at Chimsworthy.’

’No,’ said Honor, ’not unless Larry alters. Chimsworthy grows weeds.
The old man is more given to boasting than to work.  Larry cares more to
be flattered than to mind the plough.’

’I won’t have a Luxmore of mine marry out of her station.  We must hold
up our heads.’

’Of course we must,’ said Honor.  ’What am I doing all day, thinking of
all night, but how we may keep our heads upright?’

’What a mercy it would be not to be always fretting over ha’pence!  If
you and Kate were well married, what a satisfaction it would be to me
and what a comfort all round.’

’Do not reckon on me,’ said Honor; ’I shall not marry, I have the
children to care for.  You do not want to drive me out of the house, do
y’, father?’

’No, certainly not.  But I should like to see you and Kate well married,
Kate to Larry Nanspian and Chimsworthy, and you—well, you equally well
placed.  Then you might combine to help me to my own.  Consider this,
Honor!  If we had Coombe Park, all our troubles would clear like clouds
before a setting sun.  Charles would no longer be a trouble to us.  He
shows his gentle blood by dislike for work.  If he were not forced to
labour he would make a proper gentleman. Why then, Honor, what a
satisfaction to you to have been the saving, the making of your
brother!’

’_Then_ won’t stand on the feet of _If_,’ said Honor.

’It depends on you.’

’How on me?’ she rested her hands on her lap, and looked steadily at her
father.  He unravelled his lash with nervous hands.  Honor saw that they
shook.  Then without turning his eyes from his plaiting, he said
timidly, ’I only thought how well it would be for us if you were at
Langford.’

’How can I be at Langford?  Mrs. Veale is the housekeeper, and I do not
wish for her place.’

’Oh no, not her place—not her place by any means,’ said her father.

’What other place then?’ she was resolved to force him to speak out,
though she guessed his meaning.

He did not answer her immediately.  He looked at the ’flopadocks’
through the front door, then he looked to see if there was a way of
escape open by the back.

’I—I thought—that is to say—I hoped—you might fancy to become Mrs.
Langford.’

Honor rose proudly from her seat, and placed her needlework in the
chair.  She stood in the doorway, with the illumined hedge behind her.
If Oliver had looked at her face he could not have seen it; he would
have seen only the dark head set on a long and upright neck, with a haze
of golden brown about it. But he did not look up; he drew a long breath.
The worst was over.  He had spoken, and Honor knew all.

In the morning the carrier had flattered himself it would be easy to
tell Honor, but when he prepared to come to the point he found it
difficult.  He knew that the proposal would offend his daughter, that it
would not appear to her in the light in which he saw it. He was afraid
of her, as an inferior nature fears one that is greater, purer than
itself. Now he felt like a schoolboy who has been caught cribbing, and
expects the cane.

’You see, Honor,’ said he in an apologetic tone, ’Taverner Langford is a
rich man, and of very good family.  It would be no disgrace to him to
marry you, and you cannot reckon to look higher.  I don’t know but that
his family and ours date back to Adam.  He has kept his acres, and we
have lost ours.  However, with your help, I hope we may recover Coombe
Park and our proper position.  What a fine thing, Honor, to be able to
restore a fallen family, and to be the means of saving a brother!
Taverner Langford is proud, and would like to see his wife’s relations
among the landed gentry.  He would help us with a hundred pounds.
Indeed, he has almost promised the money.  As to the horse, we need not
concern ourselves about that, and the lambs need trouble you no more.
There is a special blessing pronounced on the peace-makers, Honor, and
that would be yours if you married Taverner, and Kate took Hillary, for
then Langford must make up his quarrel with the Nanspians.’

Honor reseated herself, and put her work back on her lap.  Oliver had
not the courage to look at her face, or he would have seen that she was
with difficulty controlling the strong emotion that nigh choked her.  He
sat with averted eyes, and maundered on upon the advantages of the
connection.

’So,’ exclaimed Honor at length, ’Taverner Langford has asked for me to
be his wife!  But, father, he asked before he knew of that affair
yesterday.  That alters the look.  He will back out when he hears of
Charles’s conduct.’

’Not at all.  I saw him yesterday evening, and he laughed at the story.
He took it as a practical joke played on the circus folk—and what harm?
Everyone likes his jokes, and the Revel is the time for playing them.’

’He has not dismissed Charles?’

’Certainly not.’

’I would have done so, had he been my servant.’

Then she leaned her head on her hand and gazed before her, full of
gloomy thought.  Her father watched her, when he saw she was not looking
at him.

’The advantage for Charles would be so great,’ he said.

’Yes,’ she exclaimed, with a tone of impatience.  ’But there are some
sacrifices it is not fair to expect of a sister.’

’Consider that, instead of being a servant in the house, Charles would
regard himself as at home at Langford.  He is not a bad fellow, his
blood is against his doing menial work.  When he mounts to his proper
place you will see he will be a credit to us all.  You don’t take razors
to cut cabbages.  I, also, will no longer be forced to earn my
livelihood by carrying.  If your mind be healthy, Honor, you will see
how unbecoming it is for a Luxmore to be a common carrier.  Lord bless
me! When I am at Coombe Park, you at Langford, and Kate at Chimsworthy,
what a power we shall be in the place.  Why, I may even become a feoffee
of Coryndon’s Charity! Langford is rich.  He has a good estate.  He has
spent nothing on himself for many years. There must be a lot of money
laid by somewhere. He cannot have saved less than three hundred pounds a
year, and I should not stare to hear he had put by five.  Say this has
been going on for twenty years.  That amounts to ten thousand pounds at
the lowest reckoning. Ten thousand pounds!  Think of that, Honor. Then
remember that old Hillary Nanspian is in debt to Taverner Langford, and
pressed to raise the money, as the debt has been called up.  You must
persuade Taverner to let the money lie where it is, and so you will
bring peace to Chimsworthy.’

Honor shook her head.

’It cannot be, father,’ she said, in a low tone.

’I feared you would raise difficulties,’ he said, in an altered,
disappointed voice.  ’Of course he is too old for you.  That is what you
girls think most about.’

She shook her head.

’Perhaps you have fancied someone else,’ he went on; ’well, we can’t
have plum cake every day.  It is true enough that Taverner Langford is
not a yellow gosling; but then he has ten thousand pounds, and they say
that a young man’s slave is an old man’s darling.  He won’t live for
ever, and then you know——’

Honor’s cheeks flushed; she raised her head, passed her hand over her
brow, and looking at her father with dim eyes, said, ’That is not it—no,
that is not it.’  Then with an access of energy, ’I will tell you the
real truth.  I cannot marry whom I do not love, and I cannot love whom I
do not respect. Mr. Langford is a hard man.  He has been hard on his
kinsman, Mr. Nanspian, and though the old man had a stroke, Mr. Langford
never went near him, never sent to ask how he was, and remained his
enemy.  About what?  I’ve heard tell about a little red spider.  Mr.
Langford may be rich, but he loves his money more than his flesh and
blood, and such an one I cannot respect.’

The carrier forced a laugh.  ’Is not this pot falling foul of kettle?’
he asked.  ’Who is hard if you are not?  Have you shown gentleness to
Charles, who is your very brother? Whereas Nanspian is but a
brother-in-law.’

’I have not been hard with Charles.  I must protect the children from
him.  He is my brother, and I love him.  But I love the others also.  I
will do all I can for him, but I will not have the others spoiled for
his amusement.’

’We don’t all see ourselves as others see us,’ said Oliver sulkily.
Honor was stung by his injustice, but she made no reply.  She took up
her sewing again, but she could not see to make stitches.  She laid her
work again on her lap, and mused, looking out of the door at the
fox-gloves, and the honeysuckle and wild rose in the hedge.  The scent
of the honeysuckle was wafted into the room.

’Why should Mr. Langford want me as his wife?’ she asked dreamily;
’surely Mrs. Veale will suit him better.  She is near his age, and
accustomed to his ways.  Besides,’ she paused, then resumed, ’there have
been queer tales about him and her.’

’Pshaw, Honor! a pack of lies.’

’I have no doubt of that,’ she said; ’still—I cannot see why he wants
me.’

’Honor, my child,’ said her father slowly and with his face turned from
her; ’he and Nanspian of Chimsworthy don’t hit it off together, and the
property is so left that if he hasn’t children it will pass to his
sister’s son, young Larry.  The old man can’t bear to think of that, and
on their reckoning on his dead shoes, and he’d draw a trump from his
pack against those Nanspians.’

Honor flamed crimson and her eyes flashed. ’And so—so this is it!  I am
to help to widen the split!  I am to stand between Larry and his rights!
Father, dear father, how can you urge me?  How can you hope this?  No,
never, never will I consent.  Let him look elsewhere.  There are plenty
of maidens in Bratton less nice than me.  No, never, never will I have
him.’

Oliver Luxmore stood up, troubled and ashamed.

’You put everything upside down,’ he said; ’I thought you would be a
peace-maker.’

’You yourself tell me that I am chosen out of spite to make the strife
hotter.  Now you have told me the why, the matter is made worse.  Such
an offer is an outrage.  Never, father, no, never, never,’ she stamped,
so strong, so intense was her disgust.  ’I will hear no more.  I grieve
that you have spoken, father.  I grieve more that you have thought such
a thing possible.  I grieve most of all that you have wished it.’

’Turn the offer over in your mind, Honor,’ he said sauntering to the
door, from which she had withdrawn.  She was leaning against the wall
between the door and the window, with her hands over her face.  ’Milk
runs through the fingers when first you dip ’em, but by turning and
turning you turn out butter.  So, I dare be bound, the whole thing will
look different if you turn it over.’

’I will put it away from me, out of my thought,’ she said hotly.  She
was hurt and angry.

’If you refuse him we shall have to buy a horse.’

’Well, we must buy.  I will work the flesh from my fingers till I earn
it, and get out of obligation.  But I never, never, never will consent
to be Taverner Langford’s wife, not for your sake, father, nor for that
of Charles.’

’Well,’ said the carrier; ’some folks don’t know what is good for ’em.
I reckon there’s a hundred bells on that there flopadock.  I’ll go and
count ’em.’



                             *CHAPTER XVI.*

                            *KEEPING WATCH.*


In the evening Hillary the younger arrived, according to promise, with
his gun.  Oliver Luxmore feebly protested against troubling him.  ’It is
very good of you, Larry, but I don’t think I ought to accept it.’

’It is pleasure, not trouble,’ answered Larry.

’If the dog does not come to-night, I will keep guard on the morrow,’
said the carrier. ’I may not be able to shoot the dog, but I can scare
him away with a bang.’

’I hope to kill him,’ said Hillary.  ’Have you not heard that a guinea
is offered for his carcase?  Several farmers have clubbed and offered
the reward.’

’Have your lambs suffered, Larry?’

’Ours are all right; driven under cover.’

The young man supped with the Luxmores. He was full of mirth.  Kate did
not spare her tongue; she attacked and he retaliated, but all
good-humouredly.  ’They make a pair, do they not?’ whispered Oliver to
his eldest daughter.  ’Better spar before marriage and kiss after, than
kiss first and squabble later.’

’Larry,’ said Honor, ’I will keep the fire up with a mote (tree-stump).
You may be cold during the night, and like to run in and warm yourself.’

’Ay, Honor,’ said her father.  ’Have a cider posset on the hob to
furnish inner comfort.’

’Let no one sit up for me; I shall want nothing,’ answered Hillary,
’unless one of you girls will give me an hour of your company to break
the back of the watch.’

’Your zeal is oozing out at your elbows,’ said Kate.  ’Honor or I, or
even little Joe, could manage to drive away the dog.’

’But not shoot it,’ retorted Hillary.  ’Lock your door and leave me
without.  I shall be content if I earn the guinea.’

’I will remain below,’ said Honor quietly. ’We must not let all the
burden rest on you. And if you are kind enough, Larry, to look after our
lambs, we are bound to look after you.’

’If one of you remains astir, let it be Honor,’ said the young man.
’Kate and I would quarrel, and the uproar would keep the dog away.’

’I do not offer to sit up to-night,’ said the carrier, ’as my turn comes
on the morrow, and I have had heavy work to-day that has tired me.’

Then he rose, held out his hand to Larry, kissed his daughters, and went
upstairs to his room.  Kate followed him speedily.  Larry took up his
gun and went out, and walked round the field.  Then he came to the
kitchen and said, ’All is quiet, not a sign to be seen of the enemy.  I
hope he will not disappoint me. You must have your red cloak again.’

’My red cloak?’ repeated Honor.

’Ay, your red cloak that you parted with to the woman at the circus.  I
heard about it. If I shoot the dog, half the prize money goes to you.’

’Not so, Larry.  It is, or will be, all your own.’

’But you first saw the dog, you share the watch, you keep up the fire,
and brew me a posset.  How was it with David’s soldiers? What was his
decision?  They that tarried with the stuff should share with those that
went to war.  You have Scripture against you, Honor, and will have to
take ten-and-six.’

’Don’t reckon and divide before the dog is shot.’

’If he comes this way he shall sup off lead, never doubt.  Then you
shall have your red cloak again.’

Honor sighed.  ’No, Larry, I shall never see it more.  The fair is over,
the circus gone, whither I know no more than what has become of
yesterday.’

’Charles behaved very badly.  Of course I did not mention it before, but
we are alone together now, and I may say it.’

’He did not act rightly—he meant it as a joke.’

’I can’t forgive him for robbing you of your pretty red cloak.  Here,
Honor, take it.  I have it.’

Then he pulled out a closely folded bundle and extended it to her.  The
girl was surprised and pleased.  This was considerate and kind of Larry.
She had noticed him carrying this bundle, but had given no thought as to
what it was.  Her eyes filled.

’Oh Larry!  God bless you for your kindness.’

’I was tempted to hang it round my neck till I gave it back, I should
have looked quite military in it.’

’It was my mother’s cloak,’ she answered quickly.  ’You might have worn
it and it would have done you good.  My mother will bless you out of
paradise for your consideration. Oh my dear, dear mother! she was so
wise, and thoughtful, and good.’  Honor spread the cloak over the young
man’s head.  ’There,’ she said, ’take that as if she had touched you.
You have lost your mother.’

’Yes, but I do not remember her.’

’Oh! it is a bad thing for you to be without your mother, Larry.’  She
paused, then held out her hand to him, and her honest eyes met his
slowing with gratitude, swimming with feeling.

’All right,’ he said.  ’No thanks.  We are neighbours and good friends.
If I help you to-day you will stand by me to-morrow. That is so, is it
not, dear Honor?’

He threw his gun over his shoulder and went out into the meadow.  He was
glad to escape the pressure of her hand; the look of her eyes had made
his heart beat with unwonted emotion.  She had never given him such a
look before.  She was not as cold as he supposed.  He was aware that he
had acted well in the matter of the cloak.  He had gone to the
manageress of the circus directly he heard what had taken place, and had
made an offer for the garment.  The woman, seeing his eagerness to
secure it, refused to surrender it under a sum more than its value.  He
had bought it with the sacrifice of the rest of his pocket-money.  That
was one reason why he hoped to kill the dog.  He would replenish his
empty purse.  In this matter he had acted as his heart dictated, but he
was quite aware that he had done a fine thing.  Honor paid him his due,
and that raised Honor in his estimation.  ’She has heart,’ he said,
’though she don’t often show it.  A girl must have heart to do as she
did for that worthless brother.’

Whilst Larry stood without waiting for the dog, Honor was within,
sitting by the fire, a prey to distressing thoughts.  She was not
thinking of Larry or of Charles; she was thinking of what had passed
between her and her father.

She occupied a low stool on the hearth, rested her head in her lap,
folded her hands round her knees.  The red glow of the smouldering fire
made her head like copper, and gave to her faded red stockings a
brilliancy they lacked by day.

She had dimly suspected that something was plotted against her on the
occasion of her visit to Langford, when she had found her father with
Langford.  What she had dreaded had come to pass.  Her father had
consented to sell her so as to extricate himself from a petty debt, but,
above all, that he might be given means of prosecuting his imaginary
claims.  Coombe Park was a curse to them. It had blighted Charles, it
had spoiled her father’s energies, it was doomed to make a breach
between her and her father.  She had never herself thought of Coombe
Park; she had treated its acquisition as an impossible dream, only not
to be put aside as absurd because harboured by her father.  She was
conscious now of a slight stirring of reproach in her heart against him,
but she battled it and beat it down.  Strong in her sense of filial
respect, she would not allow herself to entertain a thought that her
father was unjust.  She apologised to herself for his conduct.  She
explained his motives.  He had supposed that the prospect of being
mistress of a large house, over wide acres, would fill her ambition.  He
meant well, but men do not understand the cravings of the hearts of
women. But, explain away his conduct as she would, she was unable to
dissipate the sense of wrong inflicted, to salve the wound caused by his
apparent eagerness to get rid of her out of the house.  The back door
was opened softly.

’Honor! still awake?’

’Yes, Larry.’

’Will you give me a drop of hot cider? I am chilled.  Have you a potato
sack I can cast over my shoulders?  The dew falls heavily.’

’No sign of the dog yet?’

’None at all.  The sheep are browsing at ease.  It is dull work standing
at a gate watching them.  I wish the dog would come.’

’Let us change places, Larry.  You come by the fire and I will watch at
the gate.  The moment that I see him I will give warning.’

’And scare him away!  No, Honor, I want the prize-money.’

’Then I will come out and keep you company.  Here are two potato sacks,
one for your shoulders, the other for mine.  If we talk in a low tone we
shall not warn off the dog.’

’That is well, Honor.  So we shall make the hours spin.  The moon is
shining brightly. There have been clouds, and then the dew did not fall
as cold and chill.  I have been hearkening to the owls, what a
screeching and a hooting they make, and there is one in the apple-tree
snoring like my father.’

’Have you been standing all the while, Larry?’

’Yes, Honor, leaning against the gate.  If there had been anything to
sit on I should have seated myself.  My fingers are numb.  I must thaw
them at your coals.’

He went to the fire and held his hands in the glow.  ’Honor!’ he said,
’you have been crying.  I see the glitter of the tears on your cheeks.’

’Yes, I have been crying—not much.’

’What made you cry?’

’Girl’s troubles,’ she answered.

’Girl’s troubles!  What are they?’

’Little matters to those they do not concern. Here is a low stool on
which the children sit by the heart.  I will take it out and set it
under the hedge.  We can sit on it and talk together awaiting the dog.’

’What is the time, Honor?  Is the clock right?  Eleven!  I will wait
till after midnight and then go.  He will not come to-night if he does
not come before that.  He will have gone hunting elsewhere.  Perhaps he
remembers that you scared him last night.’  Honor carried out a low
bench, and placed it near the gate under the hedge where a thorn tree
overhung.

’We shall do well here,’ said Hillary. ’The dog will not see us, and we
shall know he is in the field by the fright of the sheep.’

He seated himself on the bench and Honor did the same, at a distance
from him—as far away as the bench permitted.  She had thrown the potato
sack over her head, and wore it as a hood; it covered her shoulders as
well, and shaded her face.  The dew was falling heavily, the meadow in
the moon was white with it, as though frosted, and through the white
sprinkled grass went dark tracks, as furrows, where the sheep had
trodden and dispersed the sparkling drops.

’Do you hear the owls?’ asked Larry. ’I’ve heard there are three which
are seen every night fleeting over Wellon’s Cairn, and that they are the
souls of the three women Wellon killed.  I’ve never been there at night,
have you, Honor?’

’No, I do not go about at night.’

’I should not like to be on Broadbury after dark, not near the old
gibbet hill, anyhow.  Listen to the old fellow snoring in the
apple-tree.  I thought owls slept by day and waked by night, but this
fellow is dead asleep, judging by the noise he makes.’

After silence of a few moments, during which they listened to the owls,
’I wonder, Honor,’ said the young man, ’that you liked to sit on the
mound where Wellon was hung. It’s a queer, whisht (uncanny) place.’

’I only sit there by day, and that only now and then when I can get out
a bit.  I have not been there for some time.’

Then ensued another pause.

’I wish you would tell me one thing,’ said the girl, ’yet it is what I
have no right to ask.  Do you owe Mr. Langford a great deal of money?’

’Oh yes,’ answered Hillary carelessly, ’a great deal.  He has called it
in, and we shall have to pay in a month or two.’

’Can you do so out of your savings?’

’We have no savings.  We shall go to Mr. Physick—father and I—and get a
mortgage made on the property.  It is easily done.  I am of age.  Father
couldn’t have done it by himself, but I can join and let him.’  He held
up his head.  He was proud of the consequence gained by consenting to a
mortgage.

’The first thing you have to do with the property is to burden it,’ said
Honor.

Hillary screwed up his mouth.

’You may put it so if you like.’  Instead of looking round at him
admiring his consequence, she reproached him.

’That is something to be ashamed of, I think,’ she said.

’Not at all.  If I did not, Uncle Taverner could come down on us and
have a sale of our cattle and waggons and what not.  But, maybe, that
would suit your ideas better?’

’No,’ said Honor gravely, ’not at all. No doubt you are right; but you
are old enough not to have let it come to this.  Your service on the
farm ought to have been worth fifty pounds a year for the last four
years.  I doubt if it has been worth as many shillings.’

He clicked his tongue in the side of his mouth, and threw out his right
leg impatiently.

’Mr. Langford has saved thousands of pounds.  He puts by several
hundreds every year, and his land is no better than yours.’

’Uncle Taverner is a screw.’  Then, jauntily, ’we Nanspians are
open-handed, we can’t screw.’

’But you can save, Larry.’

’If Uncle Taverner puts away hundreds, I wonder where he puts them
away?’

’That, of course, I cannot say.’

’I wonder if Mrs. Veale knows?’  Then he chuckled, and said, ’Honor,
some of the chaps be talking of giving him a hare-hunt.  We think he
ought to be shamed out of letting that woman tongue-lash him as she
does?’

’Larry!’ exclaimed Honor, turning sharply on him and clutching his arm,
’for God’s sake do not be mixed up in such an affair.  He is your uncle,
and you may be very unjust.’  He shrugged his shoulders.

’I’m not over sweet on Uncle Taverner,’ he said.  ’It is mean of him
calling in that money, and he deserves to be touched up on the raw.’

’Larry, you warned me against Mrs. Veale. Now I warn you to have no hand
in this save to hold it back.  It must not be; and for you to share in
it will be scandalous.’

’How the owls are hooting!  To-whoo! Whoo!  Whoo!  I wonder what sort of
voice the old white owl has.  He goes about noiseless, like a bit of
cotton grass blown by the wind.’

Then Honor went back to what she was speaking of before.  ’It goes to my
heart to see good land neglected.  Your nettle-seeds sow our land, and
thistle-heads blow over our hedge.  Now that your father is not what he
was, you should grasp the plough-handle firmly. Larry, you know the
knack of the plough. Throw your weight on the handles.  If you do not,
what happens?’

’The plough throws you.’

’Yes, flings you up and falls over.  It is so with the farm.  Throw your
whole weight on it, through your arms, or it will throw you.’

’That old snorer is waking,’ said Hillary.

’You love pleasure, and do not care for work,’ pursued Honor.  ’You are
good-natured, and are everyone’s friend and your own enemy. You shut
your eyes to your proper interest and open your purse to the parish.
The bee and the wasp both build combs, both fly over the same flowers
and enjoy the same summer, but one gathers honey and the other
emptiness. Larry, do not be offended with me if I speak the truth.  The
girls flirt with you and flatter you, and the elder folk call you a
Merry Andrew, and say you have no mischief in you, and it is a pity you
have not brains.  That is not true.  You have brains, but you do not use
them.  Larry, you have no sister and no mother to speak openly to you.
Let me speak to you as if I were your sister, and take it well, as it is
meant.’

So she talked to him.  Her voice was soft and low, her tone tremulous.
She was afraid to hurt him, and yet desirous to let him know his duty.

She was stirred to the depth of her heart by the events of the day.

Larry was unaccustomed to rebuke.  He knew that she spoke the truth, but
it wounded his vanity, as well as flattered it, to be taken to task by
her.  It wounded him, because it showed him he was no hero in her eyes;
it flattered him, because he saw that she took a strong interest in his
welfare.  He tried to vindicate himself.  She listened patiently; his
excuses were lame.  She beat them aside with a few direct words.  ’Do
not be offended with me,’ she pleaded, turning her face to him, and then
the moonlight fell over her noble features; the potato sack had slipped
back. ’I think of you, dear Larry, as a brother, as a kind brother who
has done many a good turn to us, and I feel for you as an elder sister.’

’But, Honor, you are younger than I am by eighteen months.’

’I am older in experience, Larry; in that I am very, very old.  You are
not angry with me?’

’No, Honor, but I am not as bad as you make out.’

’Bad!  Oh Larry, I never, never thought, I never said you were bad.  Far
otherwise.  I know that your heart is rich and deep and good. It is like
the soil of your best meadows.  But then, Larry, the best soil will grow
the strongest weeds.  Sometimes when I look through the gates of
Chimsworthy I long to be within, with a hook reaping down and rooting
up.  And now I am peering through the gates of your honest eyes, and the
same longing comes over me.’

He could see by the earnest expression of her face, by the twinkle of
tears on her lashes, that she spoke out of the fulness of her heart. She
was not praising him, she was rebuking him, yet he was not angry.  He
looked intently at her pure, beautiful face.  She could not bear his
gaze, he saw her weakness.  He put his finger to her eyelashes.  ’The
dew is falling heavily, and has dropped some diamonds here,’ he said.

She stood up.

’Hark!’ she said, and turned her head. ’The cuckoo clock in the kitchen
is calling midnight.  We need remain here no longer.’

’I should like to remain till day,’ said Larry.

’What, to be scolded?’

’To be told the truth, dear Honor.’

’Do not forget what I have said.  I spoke because I care for you.  The
sheep will not be disturbed to-night.  Will you have some posset and go
home?’

’Your father will keep guard to-morrow night, but the night after that I
will be here again.  Oh Honor, you will sit up with me, will you not?’
He took her hand.  ’How much better I had been, how the Chimsworthy
coomb would have flowed with honey, had God given me such a sister as
you.’

’Well, begin to weed yourself and Chimsworthy,’ she said with a smile.

’Will you not give me a word of praise as well as of blame?’

’When you deserve it.’

She pressed his hand, then withdrew it, entered the cottage, and
fastened, the door.

Hillary walked away with his gun over his shoulder, musing as he had not
mused before.



                            *CHAPTER XVII.*

                             *MRS. VEALE.*


Charles Luxmore had left the Revel shortly after the departure of his
sisters.  He returned to Langford covered with shame and full of anger.
He was not ashamed of his rascality. He thought himself justified in
playing a trick on tricksters.  But he was ashamed at being conquered by
his sister, and he was unable to disguise to himself that he cut an
ignoble figure beside her.  At the circus there had been a general
recognition of her worth, and as general a disparagement of himself.
Why had she interfered?  He had courted a ’row’ in which he might have
held his own against the equestrians, sure of support from the young
Brattonians.  That would have been sport, better than tumbling in the
sawdust and skipping through hoops.  If he could only have excited a
fight, the occasion would have been forgotten in the results; he would
have come out in flaming colours as a gallant fellow.  Now, because
Honor had interfered and put him in the wrong, he had been dismissed as
a rogue.

He knew well enough the red cloak Honor had given away.  He knew that it
had belonged to her mother, and that Honor prized it highly, and that it
was very necessary to her.

Let him excuse himself as he would, a sense of degradation oppressed him
which he was unable to shake off.

The behaviour of his comrades had changed towards him, and this galled
him.  After leaving the circus he had essayed swagger, but it had not
availed.  His companions withdrew from him as if ashamed to be seen in
his society. The popular feeling was roused in behalf of Honor, who was
universally esteemed, rather than offended at the fraud played on the
equestrians.  It was well known that he, Charles, had not behaved
towards her with consideration, that he had increased the burden she
bore so bravely.  This last act was the climax of his wrong-doing.
Charles’s inordinate vanity had been hurt, and he was angry with
everyone but himself.

He returned to the farmhouse, where he had been taken in, cursing the
stupidity of the villagers, the meddlesomeness of his sisters, the
cowardice of his companions, and his own generosity.

He was without money now, and with no prospect of getting any till his
wage was paid.

He turned out his pockets; there was nothing in them, not even the brass
token. He too proud to borrow of his boon companions; he questioned
whether, if he asked, they would lend him any.  He doubted if the
innkeeper would let him drink upon trust.  How intolerable for him to be
without money!  To have to lounge his evenings away in the settle before
the fire at Langford, or loafing about the lanes!  ’I know well enough,’
he muttered, ’why the louts keep away from me.  ’Tis because they know
I’m cleaned out. It’s not along of that cursed token, not a bit.  If I’d
my pockets full they’d be round me again as thick as flies on a cow’s
nose.’

He had only been a few days in the service of Taverner Langford.  He had
entered the service rather surlily, only because forced to do so, as
Honor refused to allow him to sleep and have meals at home.  ’It’ll keep
me in meat for a bit, and I’ll look about me,’ he said; ’but it is not
the sort o’ place for a gentleman—a Luxmore.’

He had not asked leave to take a holiday on the occasion of the Revel.
He had taken it as a matter of course.  The Revel was a holiday, of
course; so is Sunday.  ’I don’t ask old Langford whether I’m to keep the
Sabbath by doing nothing: I do nothing.  I don’t ask him if I’m to enjoy
myself Revel day: I enjoy myself.  These are understood things.’  He
curled his lip contemptuously.  ’What a shabby wage I get, or am to
get!’ he muttered.  ’No pay, no work; short pay, short work.  That
stands to reason—like buttering parsnips.’

He sauntered into the Langford kitchen and threw himself into the
settle, with his hat on, and his legs outstretched, and his hands in his
pockets.  Disappointment, humiliation, impecuniosity combined to chafe
his temper, and give him a dejected, hang-dog appearance.

Mrs. Veale passed and repassed without speaking.  She observed him
without allowing him to perceive that she observed him. Indeed, he
hardly noticed her, and he was startled by her voice when she said, as
he bent over the fire, ’Charles Luxmore, what do y’ think of the Revel
now?  I’ve a-been there, and to my reckoning it were grand, but, Lord!
you’ve been over the world, and seen so many fine things that our poor
Revel is nought in your eyes, I reckon.’

’Bah! poor stuff, indeed.  You should see Bombay, or the bazaar at
Candahar!  Bratton Clovelly!  Bah!  Punjab, Cawbul, Delhi, Peshawur!
Ghuznee!  Hyderabad!’  The utterance of these names, which he knew would
convey no idea whatever to the mind of Mrs. Veale, afforded him relief.
It morally elevated him.  It showed him that he knew more of the world
than Mrs. Veale.  ’You don’t happen to know Dost Mahommed?’

’Oh, dear, no!’

’Nor ever heard tell of him?’

’No, Mr. Luxmore.’

’He’s an Ameer.’

’Is he now?’

’I’ve fought him.  Leastways his son, Akbar Khan.’

’You wasn’t hard on him, I hope?’

’No, I wasn’t that.  I merely carried off the doors of his mosque.’

’Did that hurt him much?’

’His feelings, Mrs. Veale, awful.’

’Lord bless me!’ exclaimed the woman, looking at him over her shoulder
as she stirred a pot on the fire, with her queer blinking eyes studying
his expression but expressing nothing themselves.

’I do wonder you be home from the Revel so early.  A soldier like you,
and a fine young chap, ought to have stayed and enjoyed yourself. The
best of the fun, I’ve heard tell, is in the evening.’

’How can I stay at the Revel when I haven’t a copper to spend there?’
asked Charles surlily.

’I don’t like to see a grand young fellow like you sitting at home, like
an old man with the rheumatics.  We will be friends, Charles. I will
give you a crown to buy your good-will.’  She took the money from her
pocket and handed it him.

’I thank you,’ he said grandly—she had called him a grand young man—’but
I can’t go to the Revel now.’  Nevertheless he pocketed the crown.
’I’ve seen enough of it, and got sick of it.  Wretched stalls where
nothing is for sale worth buying, wretched shows where nothing is seen
worth seeing.  I came away because the Revel wearied me.’

’You’ll find it dull here,’ said the housekeeper. ’We poor ignorant
creatures think the Revel and all in it mighty fine things, because we
know no better and haven’t seen the world. It seems to me, Mr. Luxmore,
you’re in the wrong place, as the elephant said to the stickleback that
had got into the ark.’

’I should just about think I was,’ said Charles, kicking out with both
his heels. Mrs. Veale was a plain, not to say unpleasant-looking woman,
much older than himself; he would not have given her a thought had she
not called him ’Mr. Luxmore,’ and so recognised that he was a superior
being to the Dicks and Toms on the farm.

’Peshawur!  Jelalabad!  Cawbul! that’s how they come,’ said Charles.
Mrs. Veale stood with hand on the handle of the pan, an iron spoon
uplifted in the other, waiting to drink in further information.
’Through the Khyber Pass,’ he added, drawing his brows together and
screwing up his mouth.

’No doubt about it,’ said Mrs. Veale.  ’It must be so, if you sez it.
And Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.’  She
stirred the pot; then, thinking she had not made herself intelligible,
she explained, ’I mean that Solomon, though the wisest of men, didn’t
know that, I reckon.’

’How could he,’ asked Charles, ’never having been there?’

’I do wonder, now, if you’ll excuse the remark,’ said the housekeeper,
’that you didn’t bring the silver belt here and hang it up over the
mantel-shelf.’

’Silver belt?  What silver belt?’

’Oh! you know.  The champion wrestler’s belt that is to be tried for
this afternoon.  I suppose you didn’t go in for it because you thought
it wouldn’t be fair on the young chaps here to take from them
everything.’

’I did not consider it worth my while trying for it,’ said Charles, with
a kick at the hearth with his toes—not an irritated kick, but a
flattered, self-satisfied, pleased kick.  ’Of course I could have had it
if I had tried.’

’Of course you might, you who’ve been a soldier in the wars, and fought
them blood-thirsty Afghans, Lord!  I reckon they was like Goliaths of
Gath, the weight of whose spear was as a weaver’s beam.’

Charles jerked his head knowingly.

’Afghanistan was a hard nut to crack.’

’Ah!’ acquiesced Mrs. Veale.  ’So said old Goodie as she mumbled
pebbles.’  Then she stood up and looked at him.  ’I know a fine man when
I see him,’ she said, ’able to hold himself like the best gentleman, and
walking with his head in the air as if the country belonged to him.’

’Ah!’ said Charles, taking off his hat and sitting erect, ’if all men
had their rights Coombe Park would be ours.’

’Don’t I know that?’ asked the housekeeper. ’Everyone knows that.
Nobody can look at you without seeing you’re a gentleman born.  And I
say it is a shame and a sin that you should be kicked out of your proper
nest, and it the habitation of strangers, cuckoos who never built it,
but have turned out the rightful owners.  I reckon it made me turn
scarlet as your sister’s cloak to see her come crawling here t’other day
on bended knees to ask the master to take you in.  She’s no lady, not
got a drop of blue blood in her veins, or she’d not ha’ done that.  I’ll
tell you what it is, Mr. Charles.  All the gentle blood has run one way
and all the vulgar blood the other, as in our barton field the sweet
water comes out at the well, and the riddam (ferruginous red water) at
the alders.’  She spoke with such acrimony, and with a look so spiteful,
that Charles asked, ’What has Honor done to offend you?’

’Oh nothing, nothing at all!  I don’t stoop to take offence at her.’
Then, observing that the young man resented this disparagement of his
sister, she added hastily, ’There, enough of her.  She’s good enough to
wash and comb the little uns and patch their clothes.  We will talk
about yourself, as the fox said to the goose, when she axed him if duck
weren’t more tasty.  Why have you come from the Revel? There be some
better reason than an empty pocket.’

’I have been insulted.’

’Of course you have,’ said Mrs. Veale, ’and I know the reason.  The
young men here can’t abide you.  For why?  Because you’re too much of a
gentleman, you’re too high for ’em.  As the churchyard cross said to the
cross on the spire, "Us can’t talk wi’out shouting."  Do you know what
the poacher as was convicted said to the justice o’ peace? "I’m not in a
position, your worship, to punch your head, but I can spit on your
shadow."’

’Without any boasting, I may admit that I and these young clodhopping
louts ain’t of the same sort,’ said Charles proudly.

’That’s just what the urchin (hedgehog) said to the little rabbits when
he curled up in their nest.’

’Ah!’ laughed Charles, ’but the urchin had quills and could turn the
rabbits out, and I have not.’

’You’ve been in the army, and that gives a man bearing, and you’ve been
half over the world, and that gives knowledge; and nature have favoured
you with good looks. The lads are jealous of you.’

’They do not appreciate me, certainly,’ said Charles, swelling with
self-importance.

’This is a wicked world,’ said Mrs. Veale. Then she produced a bottle of
gin and a glass, and put them at Charles’s elbow.  ’Take a drop of
comfort,’ she said persuasively, ’though for such as you it should be
old crusted port and not the Plymouth liquor, as folks say is distilled
from turnips.’

Young Luxmore needed no pressing; he helped himself.

’I reckon,’ pursued Mrs. Veale, ’you were done out of Coombe Park by
those who didn’t scruple to swear it away.  Money and law together will
turn the best rights topsy-turvy.’

’No doubt about that, ma’am,’ said Charles. ’I’ve heard my father say,
many a time, that with a hundred pounds he could win Coombe Park back.’

’Then why do you not lay out the hundred pounds?’

’Because I haven’t got ’em,’ answered Charles.

’Oh! they’re to be got,’ said the housekeeper, ’as the gipsy said to his
wife when she told ’n she were partial to chickens.’

’It seems to me,’ said the young man, ’that it is a hard world for them
that is straight. The crooked ones have the best of it.’

’Not at all,’ answered the housekeeper. ’The crooked ones can’t go
through a straight hole.  It is they who can bend about like the ferret
as gets on best, straight or crooked as suits the occasion.’

Charles stood up, drank off his glass, and paced the room.  The
housekeeper filled his glass again.  The young man observed her actions
and returned to his seat.  As he flung himself into the settle again he
said, ’I don’t know what the devil makes you take such an interest in my
affairs.’

Mrs. Veale looked hard at him, and answered, ’A woman can’t be
indifferent to a goodlooking man.’  Charles tossed off his glass to hide
his confusion.  So this bleached creature had fallen in love with him!—a
woman his senior by some fifteen years.  He was flattered, but felt that
the situation was unpleasant.

’This is a bad world,’ he said, ’and I wish I had the re-making of it.
The good luck goes to the undeserving.’

’That is only true because those who have wits want readiness.  A screw
will go in and hold where a nail would split.  Coombe Park is yours by
right; it has been taken from you by wrong.  I should get it back again
were I you, and not be too nice about the means.’  Charles sighed and
shook his head.

’What a life you would lead as young squire,’ said Mrs. Veale.  ’The
maidens now run after Larry Nanspian, because he is heir to Chimsworthy,
and don’t give much attention to you, because you’ve nothing in present
and nothing in prospect.  But if you were at Coombe Park they’d come
round you thick as damsels in Shushan to be seen of Ahasuerus, and Larry
Nanspian would be nowhere in their thoughts.’  She laughed scornfully.
’And the fellows that turn up their noses at you now, because you eat
Langford’s bread crusts and earn ninepence, how they would cringe to you
and call you sir, and run errands for you, and be thankful for a nod or
a word!  Then the farmers who now call you a good-for-naught would pipe
another note, and be proud to shake hands.  And Parson Robbins would
wait with his white gown on, and not venture to say, "When the wicked
man," till he saw you in the Coombe Park pew. And the landlord’s door at
the "King of Bells" would be ever open to you, and his best seat by the
fire would be yours.  And I—poor I—would be proud to think I’d poured
out a glass of Plymouth spirit to the young squire, and that he’d
listened to my foolish words.’

Charles tossed his head, and threw up and turned over the crown in his
trousers pocket. Then, unsolicited, he poured himself out another glass
and tossed it off.  That would be a grand day when he was squire and all
Bratton was at his feet.

Mrs. Veale stood erect before him with flickering eyes.  ’Do y’ know the
stone steps beside the door?’ she asked.

’Yes!’

’What be they put there for?’

’They are stepping-stones to help to mount into the saddle.’

’What stones be they?’

’I’m sure I can’t say,’

’Right; no more does he know or care who uses them.  Well, I’m naught,
but I can help you into the saddle of Coombe Park.’



                            *CHAPTER XVIII.*

                           *TREASURE TROVE.*


Charles Luxmore was not able to sleep much that night.  It was not that
his conscience troubled him.  He gave hardly a thought to the affair at
the circus.  His imagination was excited; that delusive faculty, which,
according to Paley, is the parent of so much error and evil.  The idea
of Coombe Park recurred incessantly to his mind and kept him awake. But
it was not the acquisition of wealth and position that made the prospect
so alluring; it was the hope of crowing over all those who had despised
him, of exciting the envy of those who now looked down on him.

The ’Ring of Bells’ was on the Coombe estate.  How he could swagger
there as the landlord’s overlord!  The Nanspians, Taverner Langford, had
but a few hundred acres, and the Coombe Park property was nigh on two
thousand.

Squire Impey and he would be the two great men of the place, and as the
squire at Culm Court was a hunting man, he, Charles Luxmore, would be
hand in glove with him.

It would be worth much to ride in scarlet after the hounds, with his top
boots and a black velvet cap, and the hand holding a whip curled on the
thigh so, and to jog past old Langford, and cast him a ’’Do, Taverner,
this morning?  Middling, eh?’ and to crack the whip at Hillary Nanspian
and shout, ’Out o’ the way, you cub, or I’ll ride you down.’  He sat up
in bed and flapped his arms, holding the blanket as reins, and clicked
with his tongue, and imagined himself galloping over the field after the
hounds at full cry.  Right along Broadbury, over the fences of Langford,
across Taverner’s land, tearing, breaking through the hedges of
Chimsworthy, tally-ho! With a kick, Charles sent the bedclothes flying
on to the floor.

’By George!’ he said.  ’We shall have a meet in front of Coombe Park,
and Honor and Kate shall serve out cherry-brandy to the huntsmen.’  Then
he scrambled about the floor collecting his bed-clothes and rearranging
them.  ’I’ll go to Coombe Park to-morrow, and look where the kennels are
to be.  I’ll give an eye also to the pond.  I don’t believe it has been
properly cleaned out and fit for trout since the place left our hands.
I’m afraid Honor will never rise to her situation—always keep a
maid-of-all-work mind.  Confound these bed-clothes, I’ve got them all
askew.’

So possessed was Charles with the idea that it did not forsake him when
morning came. It clung to him all the day.  ’There’s only a hundred
pounds wanted,’ he said, ’for us to establish our claim.’

Then he paused in the work on which he was engaged.  ’How am I to reach
a hundred pounds on ninepence a day, I’d like to know? Ninepence a day
is four-and-six a week, and that makes eleven guineas or thereabouts per
annum.  I must have something to spend on clothing and amusement.  Say I
put away seven guineas in the year, why it would take me thirteen to
fourteen years to earn a hundred pounds—going straight as a nail, not as
a screw, nor as a ferret.’

In the evening Charles wandered away to Coombe Park.  The owner, a
yeoman named Pengelly, who, however, owned only the home farm, not the
entire property, had been accustomed to the visits of Oliver Luxmore,
which had been regarded as a sort of necessary nuisance.  He was by no
means disposed to have his place haunted by the young man also, of whose
conduct he had received a bad report from all sides.  He therefore
treated Charles with scant courtesy, and when young Luxmore tried
bluster and brag, he ordered him off the premises.

Charles returned to Langford foaming with rage.  Mrs. Veale awaited him.

’The master is not home,’ she said; ’where have you been?’

’Been to see my proper home,’ he answered, ’and been threatened with the
constable if I did not clear away.  What do you mean by giving me all
sorts of ideas and expectations, and subjecting me to insult, eh? answer
me that.’

’Don’t you fly out in flaming fury, Mr. Charles.’

’I’m like to when treated as I have been. So would you.  So will you, if
what I hear is like to come about.  There’s talk of a hare-hunt.’

’A what?’

’A hare-hunt.’

’Where?’  Mrs. Veale stood before him growing deadlier white every
moment, and quivering in all her members and in every fibre of her pale
dress, in every hair of her blinking eyelids.

’Why here—at Langford.’

She caught his arm and shook him.  ’You will not suffer it!  You will
stay it!’

’Should they try it on, trust me,’ said Charles mockingly.  ’Specially
if Larry Nanspian be in it.  I’ve a grudge against him must be paid
off.’

Mrs. Veale passed her hand over her brow.  ’To think they should dare!
should dare!’ she muttered.  ’But you’ll not suffer it.  A hare-hunt!
what do they take me for?’

Charles Luxmore uttered a short ironical laugh.  ’Dear blood!’[1] she
muttered, and her sharp fingers nipped and played on his arm as though
she were fingering a flute. ’You’ll revenge me if they do!  Trust me!
when I’m deadly wronged I can hurt, and hurt I will, and when one does
me good I repay it—to a hundred pounds.’



[1] A Devonshire expression, meaning ’Dear fellow.’



She laughed bitterly.  There was something painful in her laugh.  It was
devoid of mirth, and provoked no laughter.  Although she said many odd
things, invented quaint similes, or used those which were traditional,
they hardly ever awoke a smile, her tone was so cheerless, husky and
unpleasant.

’So Farmer Pengelly insulted you!  Ha! it would be a most laughable
conceit to prove that he had no title, and had thrown away his
thousands.’

’On Coombe Park?’

’On what else?  What did he say to you?’

’Never mind what he said.  What he said hurt me.  He called me a
vagabond and empty pocket, and said I might go pack to the devil.’

’And when you have established your right, and shown that he bought
without a proper title, then you’d stand on the doorsteps, stick in
hand, and say, Pengelly! who has the empty pocket?  Who is the vagabond
without a house?  Go pack to the devil.  What be you to stye in a
gentleman’s mansion?  Whom God Almighty made an ass bides an ass.  And
cats as ain’t got manners must keep off Turkey carpets.’

Then, still holding his arm, she said, ’Come here!  I’ve never shown you
over this house; not that Langford is fit to compare with Coombe Park.
Yet this were a gentleman’s house once.  But what were the Langfords as
compared with the Luxmores?  You’ll see a Luxmore monument at the very
altar-steps o’ the chancel in Bratton Church, but that of a Langford is
half-way down the nave, which shows how different they were estimated.’
After a short silence, Charles felt a spasmodic quiver pass over her,
like the thrill of a peacock when spreading its tail.  ’They would have
a hare-hunt, would they, and put me to a public shame?’

’No, no, Mrs. Veale,’ said Charles caressingly, ’I’ll put a stop to
that; and if they venture I’ll break the necks of those that have to do
with it.’

’Come with me,’ said the woman hoarsely, ’I’ll show you all.  Here,’ she
flung open the sitting-room door, ’here is the parlour where your sister
went down on her knees to the master.  If he’d ha’ axed her to lick his
boots she’d ha’ done it—no proper pride in her—and all for ninepence a
day.’

Charles became very red in the face.

’This is the desk at which the master writes and does his accounts.  In
it, I reckon, be his books.  I’ve never seed them, and I doubt if I
could make much out of ’em if I did.  Them things don’t agree wi’ my
faculties, as the cherub said of the armchair.’

’Does old Langford always sit in this room?’

’Oh yes! too proud to sit in the kitchen wi’ such as me—not even in
winter.  Then I must make his fire here every day, and have the worry of
keeping it in.  There is one thing don’t suit him now he is cut wi’ the
Nanspians. Formerly he got all his fuel from their wood. There are no
plantations on Langford, and the old trees are cut down.  When he got
his fuel at Chimsworthy he hadn’t to pay, and now he must get a rick of
firing elsewhere.’  She pointed to an old-fashioned cupboard in the
wall.  ’There he keeps his sugar and his tea and his currants.  He keeps
all under key, lest I or the maidens should steal them. Now you look at
me, and I’ll show you something.’  She opened an empty place under the
cupboard and knocked upwards thrice with her fist, and the glass doors
of the repository of the groceries flew open.  She laughed huskily.
’There! if I strike I shoot up the bolt, and the lock won’t hold the
doors together. When I press them together and shut back, down falls the
bolt.’

’That is ingenious, Mrs. Veale—stay, don’t shut yet.  I have a sweet
tooth, and see some raisins in the bag there.’

’Now leave them alone.  I’ve something better to show you.  Men reckon
themselves clever, but women beat them in cleverness. Go to the
fire-place.  Kneel at it, and put your hand up on the left side, thrust
in your arm full length and turn the hand round.’

’I shall dirty myself.  I shall get a black hand.’

’Of course you will.  That is how I found it out.  Don’t be afraid of a
little soot.  There is a sort of oven at the side.  This room were not
always a parlour, I reckon; there were a large open fire-place in it,
and when the grate was put in it left the space behind not at all, or
only half, filled in—leastways, the road to the oven door was not
blocked.  Have you found it?’

’Yes,’ answered Charles.  ’I have my hand in something.’

’And something in your hand, eh?’

’Yes, a box, a largish box.’

He drew forth a tin ease, very heavy, with a handle at the top.  It was
locked with a letter padlock.

’Into that box the master puts all his savings.  I reckon there be
hundreds of pounds stowed away there, may be thousands.  The master
himself don’t know how much.  He’s too afeared of being seen or heard
counting it. When he has money he takes out the box, opens it, and puts
in the gold, only gold and paper, no silver.  Banks break.  He will have
none of them, but this old cloam oven he thinks is secure.  He may be
mistaken.’

’How did you find this out?’

’By his black hand.  Whenever he had sold bullocks or sheep, and I knew
he had received money, so sure was he to come in here with a white hand
and come out with one that was black, that is how I found it.  I know
more. I know the word that will open the box.’

’How did you find that out?’

’The master was himself afraid of forgetting it, and I chanced to see in
the first leaf of his Bible here in pencil the reference Gen. xxxvi. 23.
One day I chanced to look out the passage, and it was this: "The
children of Shobal were these: Alvan, and Manahath, and Ebal, Shepho,
and Onam."  I thought a man must have a bad conscience to find comfort
in such a passage as that.  And what do y’ think?  I found the same
reference in his pocket-book.  Then I knew it must mean something I
didn’t see the end of.  And one day I were full o’ light, like a
lantern.  I saw it all.  Do y’ see, this new padlock makes only four
letter words, and in that verse there are two words of four letters, and
I found as how the master changed about. One year he took Ebal and next
year Onam. It be the turn o’ Ebal now.’

Charles felt the weight of the case and turned the padlock towards him.

’Lord!’ exclaimed Mrs. Veale, ’what if the master have got his thousand
or two there! It’s nothing to what might be yours if you had Coombe
Park.’

Suddenly both started.  Langford’s voice was heard outside.  Charles
hastily replaced the case where he had found it, and slipped out of the
room with Mrs. Veale, who held him and drew him after her, her nervous
fingers playing on his arm-bone as on a pipe.

’Come here,’ she whispered, ’let me wash your hand.  It is black.  Here,
at the sink.’  She chuckled as she soaped his hand and wrist. ’And here
the master have washed his, and thought I did not consider it.’  Then
she quivered through her whole body and her eyes blinked.  She put up
her shaking finger, and whispered ’Ebal!’



                        END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.



                               PRINTED BY
                SPOTTISWOODE AND CO., NEW-STREET SQUARE
                                 LONDON





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