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Title: Cheap Jack Zita
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.

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  CHAP.                          PAGE

  I. BEFORE THE GALILEE             1

  II. THE FLAILS                   13

  III. TWO CROWNS                  23

  IV. ON THE DROVE                 33

  V. THE FLAILS AGAIN              44

  VI. BETWEEN TWO LIGHTS           57

  VII. PROFITS                     63

  VIII. MARK RUNHAM                76

  IX. PRICKWILLOW                  88

  X. RED WINGS                    100

  XI. TIGER-HAIR                  112

  XII. ON BONE RUNNERS            122

  XIII. PIP BEAMISH               131

  XIV. ON ONE FOOTING             140

  XV. ON ANOTHER FOOTING          150

  XVI. BURNT HATS                 161

  XVII. A CRAWL ABROAD            174

  XVIII. A DROP OF GALL           188

  XIX. NO DEAL                    194

  XX. DAGGING                     201

  XXI. THE FEN RIOTS              213

  XXII. TWENTY POUNDS             221

  XXIII. TEN POUNDS               232

  XXIV. A NEW DANGER              245

  XXV. 'I DON'T CARE THAT'        253

  XXVI. A NIGHT IN ELY            259


  XXVIII. TWO PLEADERS            281

  XXIX. A DEAL                    291

  XXX. IN COURT                   295

  XXXI. PISGAH                    311

  XXXII. A PARTHIAN SHOT          321

  XXXIII. PURGATORY               327



  XXXVI. A RETURN BLOW            355




  XL. THISTLES                    394




What was the world coming to? The world—the centre of it—the Isle of

What aged man in his experience through threescore years and ten had
heard of such conduct before?

What local poet, whose effusions appeared in the 'Cambridge and Ely
Post,' in his wildest flights of imagination, conceived of such a thing?

Decency must have gone to decay and been buried. Modesty must have
unfurled her wings and sped to heaven before such an event could become

Where were the constables? Were bye-laws to become dead letters? Were
order, propriety, the eternal fitness of things, to be trampled under
foot by vagabonds?

In front of the cathedral, before the Galilee,—the magnificent west
porch of the minster of St. Etheldreda,—a Cheap Jack's van was drawn

Within twenty yards of the Bishop's palace, where every word uttered
was audible in every room, a Cheap Jack was offering his wares.

Effrontery was, in heraldic language, rampant and regardant.

A crowd was collected about the van; a crowd composed of all sorts and
conditions of men, jostling each other, trampling on the grass of the
lawn, climbing up the carved work of the cathedral, to hear, to see, to
bid, to buy.

Divine service was hardly over. The organ was still mumbling and
tooting, when through the west door came a drift of choristers, who had
flung off their surplices and had raced down the nave, that they might
bid against and outbid each other for the pocket-knives offered by
Cheap Jack.

Mr. Faggs, the beadle, was striding in the same direction, relaxing the
muscles of his face from the look of severe ecclesiastical solemnity
into which they were drawn during divine worship. It had occurred to
him during the singing of the anthem that there were sundry articles of
domestic utility Cheap Jack was selling that it might be well for him
to secure at a low figure.

Mr. Bowles, the chief bailiff, had come forth from evensong with his
soul lifted up with thankfulness that he was not as other men were: he
attended the cathedral daily, he subscribed to all the charities; and
now he stood looking on, his breath taken away, his feet riveted to the
soil by surprise at the audacity of the Cheap Jack, in daring to draw
up before the minster, and vend his wares during the hour of afternoon

The servant maids in the canons' houses in the Close had their heads
craned out from such narrow Gothic windows as would allow their
brachycephalic skulls to pass, and were listening and lawk-a-mussying
and oh-mying over the bargains.

Nay, the Bishop himself was in an upper room, the window-sash of which
was raised, ensconced behind the curtain, with his ear open and cocked,
and he was laughing at what he heard till his apron rippled, his bald
head waxed pink, and his calves quivered.

Very little of the sides of the van was visible, so encrusted were they
with brooms, brushes, door-mats, tin goods, and coalscuttles. Between
these articles might be detected the glimmer of the brimstone yellow
of the carcase of the shop on wheels. The front of the conveyance was
open; it was festooned with crimson plush curtains, drawn back; and,
deep in its depths could be discerned racks and ranges of shelves,
stored with goods of the most various and inviting description.

The front of the van was so contrived as to fall forward, and in
so falling to disengage a pair of supports that sustained it, and
temporarily converted it into a platform. On this platform stood
the Cheap Jack, a gaunt man with bushy dark hair and sunken cheeks;
he was speaking with a voice rendered hoarse by bellowing. He was
closely shaven. He wore drab breeches and white stockings, a waistcoat
figured with flowers, and was in his shirt sleeves. On his head was
a plush cap, with flaps that could be turned up or down as occasion
served. When turned down, that in front was converted into a peak that
sheltered his eyes, those at the sides protected his ears, and that
behind prevented rain from coursing down the nape of his neck. When,
however, these four lappets were turned up, they transformed the cap
into a crown—a crown such as it behoved the King of Cheap Jacks to
wear. The man was pale and sallow, sweat-drops stood on his brow,
and it was with an effort that he maintained the humour with which
he engaged the attention of his hearers, and that he made his voice
audible to those in the outermost ring of the curious and interested
clustered about the van. Within, in the shadowed depths of the
conveyance, glimpses were obtained of a girl, who moved about rapidly
and came forward occasionally to hand the Cheap Jack such articles as
he demanded, or to receive from him such as had failed to command a

When she appeared, it was seen that she was a slender, well-built girl
of about seventeen summers, with ripe olive skin, a thick head of
short-cut chestnut hair, and a pair of hazel eyes.

Apparently she was unmoved by her father's jokes; they provoked no
smile on her lips, for they were familiar to her; and she was equally
unmoved by the admiration she aroused among the youths, with which also
she was apparently familiar.

'Here now!' shouted the Cheap Jack. 'What the dickens have I got?—a
spy-glass to be sure, and such a spy-glass as never was and never will
be offered again. When I was a-comin' along the road from Cambridge,
and was five miles off, "Tear and ages!" sez I, seein' your famous
cathedral standin' up in the sunshine, "Tear and ages!" sez I; "that's
a wonder of the world." And I up wi' my spy-glass. Now look here. You
observe as 'ow one of the western wings be fallen down. 'Tis told that
when the old men built up that there top storey to the tower, that
it throwed the left wing down. Now I looked through this perspective
glass, and I seed both wings standing just as they used to be, and just
as they ought to be, but ain't. I couldn't take less than seventeen and
six for this here wonderful spy-glass—seventeen and six. What! not
buy a glass as will show you how things ought to be, but ain't?' He
turned to the circle round him from side to side. 'Come now,—say ten
shillings. 'Tis a shame to take the perspective glass out of Ely.' A
pause. 'No one inclined to bid ten shillings? Take it back, Zita. These
here Ely folk be that poor they can't go above tenpence. Ten shillings
soars above their purses. But stay. Zita, give me that there glass
again. There is something more that is wonderful about it. You look
through and you'll see what's to your advantage, and that's what every
one don't see wi' the naked eye. Come—say seven shillings!'

No bid.

'And let me tell the ladies—they've but to look through, and they'll
see the _him_ they've set their 'arts on, comin', comin',—bloomin' as
a rose, and 'olding the wedding ring in 'is 'and.'

In went the heads of the servant maids of the canons' residences.

'I say!' shouted one of the choristers, 'will it show us a coming

'Of course it will,' answered the Cheap Jack, 'because it's to your

'Let us look then.'

Cheap Jack handed the telescope to the lad. He put his eye to it, drew
the glass out, lowered it, and shouted, 'I see nothing.'

'Of course not. You're such a darlin' good boy; you ain't going to have
no spanking.'

'Let me look,' said a shop-girl standing by.

Cheap Jack waited. Every one watched.

'I don't see nothing,' said the girl.

'Of course not. You ain't got a sweetheart, and never will have one.'

A roar of laughter, and the young woman retired in confusion.

'And, I say,' observed the boy, as he returned the glass, 'it's all a
cram about the fallen transept. I looked, and saw it was down.'

'Of course you did,' retorted the Cheap Jack. 'Didn't I say five miles
off? Go five miles along the Wisbeach Road, and you'll see it sure
enough, as I said. There—five shillings for it.'

'I'll give you half a crown.'

'Half a crown!' jeered the vendor. 'There, though, you're a quirister,
and for the sake o' your beautiful voice, and because you're such a
good boy, as don't deserve nor expect a whacking, you shall have it for
half a crown.'

The Bishop's nose and one eye were thrust from behind the curtain.

'Why,' said the Right Reverend to himself, 'that's Tom Bulk, as
mischievous a young rogue as there is in the choir and grammar school.
He is as sure of a caning this week as—as'—

'Thanky, sir,' said Cheap Jack, pocketing the half-crown. 'Zita, what
next? Hand me that blazin' crimson plush weskit.'

From out the dark interior stepped the girl, and the sunshine flashed
over her, lighting her auburn hair, rich as burnished copper. She wore
a green, scarlet, and yellow flowered kerchief, tied across her bosom,
and knotted behind her back. Bound round her waist was a white apron.

She deigned no glance at the throng, but kept her eyes fixed on her
father's face.

'Are you better, dad?' she asked in a low tone.

'Not much, Zit. But I'll go through with it.'

'Here we are now!' shouted the Jack, after he had drawn the sleeve
of his left arm across his brow and lips, that were bathed in
perspiration. And yet the weather was cold; the season was the end of
October, and the occasion of the visit of the van to Ely was Tawdry
(St. Etheldreda's) Fair.

A whisper and nudges passed among the young men crowded about the van.

'Ain't she just a stunner?'

'I say, I wish the Cheap Jack would put up the girl to sale. Wouldn't
there be bidding?'

'She's the finest thing about the caravan.'

Such were comments that flew from one to another.

'Now, then!' bellowed the vendor of cheap wares; 'here you are again!
A red velvet weskit, with splendid gold—real gold—buttons. You shall
judge; I'll put it on.'

The man suited the action to the word. Then he straightened his legs
and arms, and turned himself about from side to side to exhibit the
full beauty of the vestment from every quarter.

'Did you ever see the like of this?' he shouted. 'But them breeches
o' mine have a sort o' deadening effect on the beauty of the weskit.
Thirty shillings is the price. You should see it along with a black
frock-coat and black trousers. Then it's glorious! It's something you
can wear with just what you likes. No one looks at rags when you've
this on, so took up is they with the weskit. What is that you said,
sir? Twenty-five shillings was your offer? It is yours—and all because
I sees it'll go with them great black whiskers of yours like duck and
green peas. It'll have a sort of a mellering effect on their bushiness,
and 'armonise with them as well as the orging goes wi' the chanting of
the quiristers.'

Jack handed the waistcoat, which he had hastily plucked off his back,
to one of the layclerks of the cathedral. The man turned as red as the
waistcoat, and thrust his hands behind his back.

'I never bid for it,' he protested.

'Beg pardon, sir; I thought you nodded your 'ead to me, but it was
the wind a-blowin' of it about. That gentleman with the black flowin'
whiskers don't take the weskit; it is still for sale. I'll let you have
it for fifteen shillings, and it'll make you a conquering hero among
the females. You, sir? Here you are.'

He addressed the chief bailiff, Mr. Bowles, an elderly,
white-whiskered, semi-clerical official, the pink and paragon of

'No!' exclaimed Cheap Jack, as Mr. Bowles, with uplifted palms and
averted head, staggered back. 'No—his day is past. But I can see by
the twinkle of his eye he was the devil among the gals twenty years
ago. It's the young chaps who must compete for the weskit. I'll tell
you something rare,' continued the man, after clearing his throat and
mopping his brow and lips. 'No one will think but what you're a lord or
a harchbishop when you 'ave this 'ere weskit on. As I was a-coming into
Ely in this here concern, sez I to myself, "I'll put on an appearance
out o' respect to this ancient and venerable city." So I drawed on this
weskit; and what should 'appen but we meets his most solemn and sacred
lordship, the Bishop of the diocese.'

'This is coming it rather strong,'said the person alluded to behind
the curtain, and his face and head became hot and damp.

'Well, and when his lordship, the Right Reverend, saw me, he lifted
up his holy eyes and looked at my weskit. And then sez he to himself,
"Lawk-a-biddy, it's the Prince!" and down he went in the dirt afore me,
grovellin' with his nose in the mire. He did, upon my word.'

'Upon my word, this is monstrous! this is insufferable! A joke is a
joke!' gasped the Bishop, very much agitated. 'There's moderation in
all things—a limitation to be observed even in exaggeration. I haven't
been on the Wisbeach Road this fortnight. I never saw the man. I never
went down in the dirt. This is positively appalling!'

He took a turn round the room, went to the bell, then considered that
it would be inadvisable to summon the footman and show that he had been
listening to the nonsense of a Cheap Jack. Accordingly he went back to
the window, hid himself once more behind the curtain, but so trembled
with excitement and distress, that the whole curtain trembled with him.

'Nine and six. Here you are. Nine and six for this splendid garment,
and cheap it is—dirt cheap. You're a lucky man, sir; and won't you
only cut out your rivals with the darling?'

Cheap Jack handed the plush waistcoat to a young farmer from the Fens;
then suddenly he turned himself about, looked into his van, and said in
a husky voice—

'Zit, I can't go yarning no longer. I've got to the end of my powers;
you carry on.'

'Right, father; I'm the boy for you with the general public.'

The man stepped within. As he did so, the girl lowered one of the
curtains so as to conceal him. He sank wearily on a bench at the side.
She stooped with a quivering lip and filling eye and kissed him, then
sprang forward and stood outside on the platform, contemplating the
crowd with a look of assurance, mingled with contempt.



'Now, here's a chance you may never have again—a chance, let me tell
you, you never _will_ have again.' She extended in both hands packages
of tea done up in silvered paper. 'The general public gets cheated
in tea—it does—tremenjous! It is given sloe leaves, all kinds of
rubbish, and pays for it a fancy price. Father, he has gone and bought
a plantation out in China, and has set over it a real mandarin with
nine tails, and father guarantees that this tea is the very best of
our plantation teas, and he sells it at a price which puts it within
the reach of all. Look here!' she turned a parcel about; 'here you
are, with the mandarin's own seal upon it, to let every one know it is
genuine, and that it is the only genuine tea sent over.'

'Where's the plantation, eh, girl?' jeered a boy from the grammar

'Where is it?' answered the girl, turning sharply on her interlocutor.
'It's at Fumchoo. Do you know where Fumchoo is? You don't? and yet you
sets up to be a scholar. It is fifteen miles from Pekin by the high
road, and seven and a half over the fields. Go to school and look at
your map, and tell your master he ought to be ashamed of himself not to
ha' made you know your geography better. Now, then, here's your chance.
Finest orange-flower Pekoe at four shillings. Beat that if you can.'
No offers. 'I am not coming down in my price. Don't think that; not a
farthing. Four shillings a pound; but I'll try to meet you in another
way. I keep the tea in quarter-pound parcels as well. Perhaps that'll
meet your views—and a beautiful pictur' of Fumchoo on the cover, with
the Chinamen a-picking of the tea leaves. What! no bidder?'

There ensued a pause. Every one expected that the girl would lower the
price. They were mistaken. She went back into the van and produced a
roll of calico. Then ensued an outcry of many voices: 'Tea! give us
some of your tea, please.' In ten minutes she had disposed of all she

'There, you see,' said Zita, 'our supply runs short. In Wisbeach the
Mayor and Corporation bought it, and at Cambridge all the colleges
had their supplies from us. That's why we're run out now. Stand back,

This call was one of caution to the eager purchasers and tempted

Tawdry Fair was for horses and bullocks, and a drove of the latter was
being sent along from the market-place towards Stuntney. For a while
the business of the sale was interrupted. One audacious bullock even
bounded into the Galilee, another careered round the van; one ran as
if for sanctuary to the Bishop's palace. Zita seized the occasion to
slip inside the van. Her father was on the low seat, leaning his head
wearily on his hand, and his elbow on his knee.

'How are you now, dad?'

'I be bad, Zit—bad—tremenjous.'

'Had you not best see a doctor?'

He shook his head.

'It'll pass,' said he; 'I reckon doctors won't do much for me. They're
over much like us Cheap Jacks—all talk and trash.'

'This has been coming on some time,' observed the girl gravely. 'I've
seen for a fortnight you have been poorly.'

Then, looking forth between the curtains which she had lowered, she saw
that the bullocks were gone, and that the cluster of people interested
in purchases had re-formed round her little stage.

'I say,' shouted a chorister, 'have you got any pocket-knives?'

'Pocket-knives by the score, and razors too. You'll be wanting a pair
of them in a fortnight.'

Whilst Zita was engaged in furnishing the lads with knives, the
Bishop retired from the upstairs window to his library, where he
seated himself in an easy-chair, took up a pamphlet, and went up like
a balloon inflated with elastic gas into theologic clouds, where
controversy flashed and thundered about his head, and in this, his
favourite sphere, the Right Reverend Father forgot all about the Cheap
Jack, and no longer felt concern at his having been misrepresented as
grovelling before a prince of the blood royal in a red waistcoat.

At the same time, also, a plot concerning Zita was being entered into
by a number of young fen-men who had come to Tawdry Fair to amuse
themselves, and had been arrested by the attractions of the Cheap
Jack's van.

Whatever those attractions might have been whilst the man was salesman,
they were enhanced tenfold when his place was occupied by his daughter.
Some whispering had gone on for five minutes, and then with one consent
they began to elbow their way forward till they had formed an innermost
ring around the platform. But this centripetal movement had not been
executed without difficulty and protest. Women, boys, burly men were
forced to give way before the wedge-like thrusts inwards of the young
men's shoulders, and they remonstrated, the women shrilly, the boys
by shouts, the men with oaths and blows. But every sort of resistance
was overcome, all remonstrances of whatever sort were disregarded, and
Zita suddenly found herself surrounded by a circle of sturdy, tall
fellows, looking up with faces expressive of mischief.

That something more than eagerness to purchase was at the bottom of
this movement struck Zita, and for a moment she lost confidence, and
faltered in her address on the excellence of some moth-eaten cloth she
was endeavouring to sell.

Then one round-faced, apple-complexioned young man worked himself up
by the wheel of the van, and, planting his elbows on the platform,
shouted, 'Come, my lass, at what price do you sell kisses?'

'We ha'n't got them in the general stock,' answered Zita; 'but I'll ask
father if he'll give you one.'

A burst of laughter.

'No, no,' shouted the red-faced youth, getting one knee on the stage.
'I'll pay you sixpence for a kiss—slick off your cherry lips.'

'I don't sell.'

'Then I'll have one as a gift.'

'I never give away nothing.'

'Then I'll steal one.'

The young fellow jumped to his feet on the platform. At the signal the
rest of the youths began to scramble up, and in a minute the place
was invaded, occupied, and the girl surrounded. Cheers and roars of
laughter rose from the spectators.

'Now, then, you Cheap Jack girl,' exclaimed the apple-faced youth.
'Kisses all round, three a-piece, or we'll play Old Harry with the
shop, and help ourselves to its contents.'

The father of Zita, on hearing the uproar, the threats, the tramp
of boots on the stage, staggered to his feet, and, drawing back the
curtains, stood holding them apart, and looking forth with bewildered
eyes. Zita turned and saw him.

'Sit down, father,' said she. 'It's only the general public on a

She put her hand within and drew forth a stout ashen flail, whirled
it about her head, and at once, like grasshoppers, the youths leaped
from the stage, each fearing lest the flapper should fall on and cut
open his own pate. The last to spring was the apple-faced youth; he was
endeavouring to find some free space into which to descend, when the
flapper of the flail came athwart his shoulder-blades with so sharp a
stroke, that, uttering a howl, he plunged among the throng, and would
have knocked down two or three, had they not been wedged together too
closely to be upset.

Then ensued cries from those hurt by his weight as he floundered upon
them; cries of 'Now, then, what do you mean by this? Can't you keep to
yourself? This comes of your nonsense.'

Zita stood erect, leaning on the staff of the flail, looking calmly
round on the confusion, waiting till the uproar ceased, that she
might resume business. As she thus stood, her eye rested on a tall,
well-shaped man, with a tiger's skin cast over his broad shoulders, and
with a black felt slouched hat on his head. His nose was like the beak
of a hawk. His eyes were dark, piercing, and singularly close together,
under brows that met in one straight band across his forehead.

The moment this man's eye caught that of Zita, he raised his great hat,
flourished it in the air, exposing a shaggy head with long dark locks,
and he shouted, 'Well done, girl! I like that. Give me a pair of them
there ashen flails, and here's a crown for your pluck.'

'I haven't a pair,' said the girl.

'Then I'll have that one, with which a little gal of sixteen has licked
our Fen louts. I like that.'

'I'll give you a crown for that flail,' called another man, from the
farther side of the crowd. 'Here you are—a crown.'

This man was fair, with light whiskers—a tall man as well as the
other, and about the same age.

'I'll give you seven shillings and six—a crown and half a crown for
that flail,' roared the dark man. 'I bid first—I want that flail.'

'Two crowns—ten shillings,' called the fair man. 'I can make a better
offer than Drownlands—not as I want the flail, but as Drownlands
wants it, he shan't have it.'

'Twelve and six,' roared the dark man. 'Gold's no object with me. What
I wants I will have.'

The lookers-on nudged each other. A young farmer said to his fellow,
'Them chaps, Runham and Drownlands, be like two tigers; when they meet
they must fight. We shall have fun.'

'You are a fool!' shouted the fair man,—'a fool—that is what I
think you are, to give twelve and six for what isn't worth two
shillings. I'll let you have it at that price, that you may become the
laughing-stock of the Fens.'

The flail was handed out of the van to the man called Drownlands, Zita
received a piece of gold and half a crown in her palm. She retired into
the waggon, and immediately reappeared with a second flail.

'Here is another, after all,' said she; 'I didn't think I had it.'

'I'll take that to make the pair,' said Drownlands; 'but as you've done
me over the first, I think you should give me this one.'

'I done you!' exclaimed Zita; 'you've done yourself.'

'She's right there,' observed a man in the crowd. 'Them tigers—Runham
and Drownlands—would fight about a straw.'

'Are you going to hand me over that flail?' asked the dark purchaser.

Zita remained for a moment undecided. She had in verity made an
unprecedented price with the first, and she was half inclined to
surrender the second gratis, but to give and receive nothing was
against the moral code of Cheap Jacks from the beginning of Cheap
Jacking. Whilst she hesitated, holding the flail in suspense, and with
a finger on her lips, the fair man yelled out—

'Don't let the blackguard have it. I'll have it to spoil the pair for
him, and for no other reason.'

'I will have it, you scoundrel!' howled the dark man. 'I have as much
gold as ever you have. I don't care what I spend. Here, girl! a crown
to begin with.'

'Seven and six,' shouted Runham.

'Ten shillings,' cried Drownlands.

'Fifteen shillings!' exclaimed the fair man. Then, seeing that his
rival was about to bid, he yelled, 'A guinea!' at the same moment that
the other called, 'A pound!'

'It is yours,' said the girl to the man Runham, and she handed him the
flail. She saw that the passions of the two men were roused, and she
deemed it desirable to close the scene, lest a fight should ensue, in
which, possibly, she might lose the money that had been offered.

Runham, flourishing his flail over his head, and throwing out the
flapper in the direction of Drownlands, said, 'There, now! Who can say
but what I'm the best off of the two? Mine cost me a guinea, and his
beggarly flail not above twelve and six. I am the better man of the two
by eight and six.'

He felt in his pockets and drew forth a guinea.

'There, you Cheap Jack girl—here's your money all in gold. I'm the
better man of the two by eight and six. I've beat Drownlands like a

Some one looking on in the crowd said, 'A pair o' flails and a pair
o' fools at the end o' them, as don't know what is the vally o' their
money. Never since the creation of the world was flails sold at that
price, and never will be again.'

'And never would have been, or never could have been, anywhere but
among fen-tigers,' said another.

'I'll tell'y what,' observed the first; 'this ain't the end o' the

'No—I guess not. It's the beginnin' rather of a mighty queer tale.'



A Strangely interesting city is Ely. Unique in its way is the
metropolis of the Fens; wonderful exceeding it must have been in the
olden times when the fen-land was one great inland sea, studded at wide
intervals with islets as satellites about the great central isle of
Ely. It was a scene that impressed the imagination of our forefathers.
Stately is the situation of Durham, that occupies a tongue of land
between ravines. It has its own unique and royal splendour. But hardly
if at all inferior, though very different, is the situation of Ely. The
fens extend on all sides to the horizon, flat as the sea, and below the
sea level. If the dykes were broken through, or the steam pumps and
windmills ceased to work, all would again, in a twelvemonth, revert to
its primitive condition of a vast inland sea, out of which would rise
the marl island of Ely, covered with buildings amidst tufted trees,
reflecting themselves in the still water as in a glass. Above the
roofs, above the tree-tops, soars that glorious cathedral, one of the
very noblest, certainly one of the most beautiful, in England—nay,
let it be spoken boldly—in the whole Christian world. It stands as a
beacon seen from all parts of the Fens, and it is the pride of the Fens.

Ely owes its origin to a woman—St. Etheldreda—flying from a rude,
dissolute, and drunken court. She was the wife first of Tombert, a
Saxon prince in East Anglia, then of Egfrid of Northumbria. Sick of the
coarse revelry, the rude manners of a Saxon court, Etheldreda fled and
hid herself in the isle of Ely, where she would be away from men and
alone with God and wild, beautiful nature.

Whatever we may think of the morality of a wife deserting her post
at the side of her husband, of a queen abandoning her position
in a kingdom, we cannot, perhaps, be surprised at it. A tender,
gentle-spirited woman after a while sickened of the brutality of the
ways of a Saxon court, its drunkenness and savagery, and fled that she
might find in solitude that rest for her weary soul and overstrained
nerves she could not find in the Northumbrian palace. This was in the
year 673. Then this islet was unoccupied. It has been supposed that it
takes its name from the eels that abounded round it; we are, perhaps,
more correct in surmising that it was originally called the Elf-isle,
the islet inhabited by the mythic spiritual beings who danced in the
moonlight and sported over the waters of the meres.

This lovely island, covered with woods, surrounded by a fringe of
water-lilies, gold and silver, floating far out as a lace about it,
became the seat of a great monastery. Monks succeeded the elves.

King Canute, the Dane, was seized with admiration for Ely, loved to
visit it in his barge, or come to it over the ice. It is said that one
Candlemas Day, when, as was his wont, King Canute came towards Ely, he
found the meres overflowed and frozen. A 'ceorl' named Brithmer led the
way for Canute's sledge over the ice, proving the thickness of the ice
by his own weight. For this service his lands were enfranchised.

On another occasion the king passed the isle in his barge, and over the
still and glassy water came the strains of the singing in the minster.
Whereupon the king composed a song, of which only the first stanza has
been preserved, that may be modernised thus:—

  'Merry sang the monks of Ely
  As King Knut came rowing by.
  Oarsmen, row the land more near
  That I may hear their song more clear.'

Ely, although it be a city, is yet but a village. The houses are few,
seven thousand inhabitants is the population, it has two or three
parish churches, and the cathedral, the longest in Christendom. The
houses are of brick or of plaster; and a curious custom exists in Ely
of encrusting the plaster with broken glass, so that a house-front
sparkles in the sun as though frosted. All the roofs are tiled. The
cathedral is constructed of stone quarried in Northamptonshire, and
brought in barges to the isle.

Ely possesses no manufactures, has almost no neighbourhood, stands
solitary and self-contained. On some sides it rises rapidly from the
fen, on others it slopes easily down. A singular effect is produced
when the white mists hang over the fen-land for miles and miles, and
the sun glitters on the island city. Then it is as an enchanted isle
of eternal spring, lost in a wilderness of level snow. Or again, on a
night when the auroral lights flicker over the heavens, here red, there
silvery, and against the glowing skies towers up this isle crowned with
its mighty cathedral, then, verily, it is as though it were a scene in
some fairy tale, some magic creation of Eastern fantasy.

A girl was sauntering through the wide, grass-grown streets of Ely.
During the fair the streets were full of people—nay, full is not the
word—were occupied by people more or less scattered about them. It
would take a vast throng, such as the fens of Cambridgeshire cannot
supply, to _fill_ these wide spaces.

The girl was tall and handsome, rather masculine, with a cheerful
face. She had very fair hair, a bright complexion, and eyes of a
dazzling blue—a blue as of the sea when rippling and sparkling in the
midsummer sun. She was plainly dressed in serge of dark navy blue,
with white kerchief about her neck, a chip hat-bonnet and blue ribbons
in it. Her skirts were somewhat short, they exposed neat ankles in
stockings white as snow, and strong shoes. A fen-girl must wear strong
shoes, she cannot have gloves on her feet.

'Jimminy!' said the girl, as she turned her pocket inside out. 'Not one
penny! Poor Kainie is the only girl at the fair without a sweetheart,
the only child without a fairing. No one to treat me! Nothing to be got
for nothing. Jimminy! I don't care.' Then she began to sing:—

  'Last night the dogs did bark,
    I went to the gate to see.
  When every lass had her spark,
    But nobody comes to me.
      And it's Oh dear! what will become of me?
        Oh dear, what shall I do?
      Nobody coming to marry me,
        Nobody coming to woo.

  My father's a hedger and ditcher,
    My mother does nothing but spin,
  And I am a pretty young girl,
    But the money comes slowly in'—

Then suddenly she confronted the fair-haired farmer Runham, coming out
of a tavern, with the flail over his shoulder. A little disconcerted
at encountering him, she paused in her song, but soon recovered
herself, and began again at the interrupted verse:—

  'My father's a hedger and ditcher,
    My mother'—

'Kainie! Are you beside yourself, singing like a ballad-monger in the
open street?'

The man's face was red, whether with drink, or that the sight of the
girl had brought the colour into his face, Kainie could not say. His
breath smelt of spirits, and she turned her head away.

'It's all nonsense,' she said. 'My mother is dead—is dead—and I
am alone. I don't know, I don't see why I should not sing; I want
a fairing, and have no money. I'll go along singing, "My father's
a hedger and ditcher," and then some charitable folk will throw me
coppers, and I shall get a little money and buy myself a fairing.'

'For heaven's sake, do nothing of the kind. Here—rather than
that—here is a crown. Take that. What would the Commissioners say if
they were told that you went a ballad-singing in the streets of Ely
at Tawdry Fair? They would turn you out of your mill. I am sure they
would. Here, Kainie, conduct yourself respectably, and take a crown.'

He pressed the large silver coin into her hand, and hurried away.

'That's brave!' exclaimed the girl, snapping her fingers. 'Now I can
buy my fairing. Now, all I want is a lover.

  "Nobody coming to marry me,
    Nobody coming to woo!"

Jimminy! I must not do that! I've taken a crown to be mum. Now I'm a
young person of respectability—I've money in my pocket. Now I must
look about me and see what to buy. I'll go to the Cheap Jack. How do
you do, uncle?'

She addressed the dark-haired man Drownlands, who had just turned the
corner, with his flail over his shoulder. He scowled at the girl, and
would have passed her without a word, but to this she would not consent.

'See! see!' said she, holding up the crown she had received. 'I was
just going along sighing and weeping because I had no money, not a
farthing in my pocket, not a lover at my side to buy me anything. Then
came some one and gave me this—look, Uncle Drownlands! Five shillings!'

'So—going in bad ways?'

'What is the harm? I was ballad-singing. Then he came and gave me a

'You ballad-singing!'

'Yes; how else can I get money? I'm a poor girl, owned by nobody, for
whom nobody cares.'

'You will bring disgrace—deeper disgrace on the family—on the name.'

'Not I; I'm honest. If I am given five shillings, may I not receive it?
Master Runham gave me the money to make me shut my mouth. I was singing

  "My father's a hedger and ditcher,
    My mother"'—

'For heaven's sake, silence!' said Drownlands angrily. 'If you will
hold your tongue, I will give you a couple of shillings.'

'A couple of shillings! And I'm your own niece, and have your name.'

'More shame to you—to your mother!' exclaimed the farmer bitterly.

The girl suddenly dropped her head, and her brow became crimson.

'Not a word about my dear mother—not a stone thrown at her,' she said
in a low tone.

'Well, no ballad-singing. Take heed to yourself. You are wild and

'Much you think of me! much you care for me!'

'Begone! You are a disgrace to me—your existence is a disgrace. Take
a crown and spend it properly. You shall have nothing more from me. As
Runham gave you five shillings, it shall not be said that I gave you

He handed her the coin, and with a scowl passed on.

Kainie remained for a moment musing, with lowered eyes. Then she
raised her head, shook it, as though to shake off the sadness, the
humiliation that had come on her with the words of Drownlands, and

  'Nobody coming to marry me,
    Nobody coming to woo.'

'What! Kainie!'

The words were those of a young man, heavy-browed, pale, somewhat
gaunt, with long arms.

'Oh, Pip!—Pip!—Pip!'

'What is the matter, Kainie?'

'Pip, I'm the only girl here without her young man. It is
terrible—terrible; and see, Pip, I've got two crowns to spend, and
I don't know what to spend them on. There is too much money here for
sweetie stuff; and as for smart ribbons and bonnets and such like, it
is only just about once in the year I can get away from the mill and
come into town and show myself. It does seem a waste to spend a couple
of crowns on dress, when no one can see me rigged out in it. What shall
I do, Pip?—you wise, you sensible, you dear Pip.'

The young man, Ephraim Beamish, considered; then he said—

'Kainie, I don't like your being alone in Red Wings. Times are queer.
Times will be worse. There is trouble before us in the Fens. Things
cannot go on as they are—the labouring men ground down under the heels
of the farmers, who are thriving and waxing fat. I don't like you to
be alone in the windmill; you should have some protector. Now, look
here. I've been to that Cheap Jack van, and there's a big dog there the
Cheap Jackies want to sell, but there has been no bid. Take my advice,
offer the two crowns for that great dog, and take him home with you.
Then I shall be easy; and now I am not that. You are too lonely—and a
good-looking girl like you'—

'Pip, I'll have the dog.' She tossed the coins into the air. 'Here,
crownies, you go for a bow-wow.'



There is not in all England—there is hardly in the world—any tract
of country more depressing to the spirits, more void of elements of
loveliness, than the Cambridgeshire Fens as they now are.

In former days, when they were under water—a haunt of wildfowl, a
wilderness of lagoons, a paradise of wild-flowers—when they teemed
with fish and swarmed with insect life of every kind—when the _eys_
or islets, Stuntney, Shipey, Southconey, Welney, were the sole
objects that broke the horizon, rising out of the marshes, rich with
forest-trees—then the Fens were full of charm, because given over to
Nature. But the industry of man has changed the character and aspect of
the Fens. The meres have been pumped dry, the bogland has been drained.
Where the fowler used to boat after wild duck, now turnips are hoed;
where the net was drawn by the fisherman, there wave cornfields.

In former times, for five-and-twenty miles north of Ely, one rippling
lake extended, and men went by boat over it to the sand-dune that
divided it from the sea at King's Lynn. To the west a mighty mere
stretched from Ely to Peterborough. To the east lay a tangle of lake
and channel, of marsh and islet.

Until about a hundred years ago, men lived in houses erected on
platforms sustained upon piles above the level of the water. Walls
and roofs of these habitations were thatched and wattled with reeds.
From the door a ladder conducted to a boat. In these houses there were
hearths, but no chimneys. The smoke escaped as best it might through
the thatch, or under the gables. During the winter the fen-men picked
up a livelihood fishing and fowling. In summer they cultivated such
patches of peat soil as appeared above the surface of the water. There
were no roads; men went from place to place by water, in boats or on

In the reign of James I. Ben Jonson wrote his play 'The Devil is an
Ass.' Into this play he introduced a speculator—a starter of bogus
companies, by name Meercraft, and one of this man's schemes was the
draining of the Fens.

      The thing is for recovery of drown'd land,
      Whereof the Crown's to have a moiety,
      If it be owner; else the Crown and owners
      To share that moiety, and the recoverers
      To enjoy the t'other moiety for their charge,
      *    *    *    *    *    *  which will arise
      To eighteen millions, seven the first year.
      I have computed all, and made my survey
      Unto an acre; I'll begin at the pan,
      Not at the skirts, as some have done, and lost
      All that they wrought, their timberwork, their trench,
      Their banks, all borne away, or else filled up
      By the next winter. Tut, they never went
      The (right) way. I'll have it all.
              A gallant tract of land it is;
      'Twill yield a pound an acre;
      We must let cheap ever at first.'

Jonson introduced this Meercraft as a caution to the people of his day
against being induced to sink money in such ventures, which he regarded
as impossible of realisation. Nevertheless, what Jonson disbelieved in
has been accomplished. The work begun in 1630, was interrupted by the
Civil Wars, resumed afterwards, was carried on at considerable outlay
and with great perseverance, till at the beginning of the present
century the complete recovery of the Fens was an accomplished fact.

Great was the cost of the undertaking, and those who had invested in
it wearied of the calls on their purses; land, or rather water, owners
were discouraged, and were ready to part with rights and possessions
that hardly fetched a shilling an acre, and which instead of being
drained itself seemed to be draining their pockets. Long-headed fen-men
saw their advantage, and bought eagerly where the owners sold eagerly.
The new canals carried off the water, the machines set in operation
discharged the drainage into the main conduits, and soil that for
centuries had been worthless became auriferous. No more magnificent
corn-growing land was to be found in England. None in Europe might
compare with it, save the delta of the Danube and the richest alluvial
tracts in South Russia. The fen-men made their fortunes before they had
learned what to do with the fortunes they made. Money came faster than
they found means to spend it.

To this day many of the wealthiest owners are sons or grandsons of
half-wild fen-slodgers. There are no villages in the Fens apart from
such as are clustered on widely dispersed islets. There are no old
picturesque farmhouses and cottages. Everything is new and ugly. There
are no hedges, no walls, for there is no stone in the country. There
are no trees, save a few willows and an occasional ash, from whose
roots the soil has shrunk. The surface of the land is sinking. As the
fen is drained, the spongy soil contracts, and sinks at the rate of two
inches in the year. Consequently houses built on piles are left after
fifty years some eight feet above the surface, and steps have to be
added to enable the inmates to descend from their doors.

The rivers slide along on a level with the top storeys of the houses,
and the only objects to break the horizon are the windmills that drive
the water up from the dykes into the canals.

There are no roads, as there is no material of which roads can be
made. In place of roads there are 'droves.' A drove is a broad course,
straight as an arrow, by means of which communication is had between
one farm and another, and people pass from one village to another.

These droves have ditches, one on each side, dense in summer with
bulrushes. No attempt is made to consolidate the soil in these droves
other than by harrowing and rolling them in summer. In winter they
are bogs, in summer they are dust—dust black, impalpable. Wheeled
conveyances can hardly get along the droves in winter, or wet weather,
as the wheels sink to the axles.

The canal banks, however, are solid, compacted of stiff clay, and as
they are broad, so as to resist the pressure of the water they contain
between them, their tops make very tolerable paths, and roads for those
on horseback. But no wheeled vehicle is suffered to use the bank tops,
and to prevent these banks from being converted into carriage roads,
barriers are placed across them at intervals, which horses with riders
easily leap.

At one of the Cambridge Assizes a poor man, a witness in court, when
asked his profession, answered,—'My lord, I am a banker.' The judge,
turning very red, said, 'No joking here, sir.' 'But I _am_ a banker and
nothing else,' protested the witness. He was, in fact, one of the gang
of men maintained for the reparation of the canal banks.

The reader must be given some idea of the manner in which this vast
level region is drained. It is cut up into large squares, and each
square is a field that is surrounded by dykes. These dykes are in
communication with one another, and all lead to a _drain_ or _load_,
that is to say, to a channel of water of a secondary size, that lies
at the level of a few feet above the dykes. To convey the water from
the ditches into the drains, windmills are erected, that work machinery
which throws the water out of the ditches up hill into the loads. These
loads or drains run to the canal at intervals of two miles; and when
the drain reaches the canal bank, then a pump of great power forces the
water of the load to a still higher level, into the main artery through
which it flows to the sea. On the canals are lighters, and these,
rather than waggons, serve for the conveyance of farm produce to the
markets. Water is the natural highway in the fen-land.

The short October day had closed in. The fen lay black, streaked with
steely bands—the dykes that reflected the grey sky.

On the right hand was a bank rising some fourteen feet above the
roadway; it was the embankment of the river or canal that goes by the
name of the Lark. Above it, some wan stars were flickering. On the left
hand the fen stretched away into infinity, the horizon was lost in fog.

The Cheap Jack's horse was crawling, reeling along the drove under
the embankment, the van plunging into quagmires, lurching into ruts.
The horse strained every muscle and drew it forward a few yards, then
sighed, hung his head, and remained immovable. Once again he nerved
himself to the effort, and as the van started, its contents tinkled and
rattled. The brute might as well have been drawing it across a ploughed
field. Again he heaved a heavy sigh, and then finally abandoned the

The Cheap Jack had got out of the conveyance. He was unwell, too unwell
to walk, but he could not think of adding his weight to that the poor
horse was compelled to drag over what was not the apology for, but the
mockery of a road.

'I say, Zit,' muttered he hoarsely, 'I wish now as we'd a' stayed
overnight in Ely.'

'I wish we had, father. And we could have afforded it; we've made fine
profits in Ely—tremenjous.'

The man did not respond. He trudged and stumbled on.

The drove was as intolerable to walk on as to drive along.

'Well, I never came along roads like these afore,' said the girl, 'and
I hopes we may soon be out of the Fens, and never get into them again.'

'I don't know as we shall ever get out,' said the man, reeling as one
drunk. 'It seems as if we was sinking—sinking—and the black mud would
close over us.'

'Come along, Jewel!' said Zita to the old horse. 'I'd put the lash of
the whip across you, but I haven't the heart to do it.'

'This is going like snails,' groaned the man.

'It's going worse than snails,' retorted his daughter. 'Snails carry
their houses safely along with them, but I doubt if we shall convey
our van out of this here region o' stick-in-the-mud, without all its
in'ards being knocked to bits. We'll have to yarn tremenjous, father,
to cover the dints in the tin and the cracks in the crocks.'

The man halted.

'I don't think I can get no forrarder,' said he; 'I'm all of a quake
and a chill.'

'Well, father, let us put up here. It's no odds to us where we stay.'

'But it is to the hoss. What's Jewel to eat? There's nought but mud and
rushes. If we do take him out of the shafts, he'll tumble into one of
the ditches.'

'I wonder what is the distance to Littleport?' asked the girl. 'But,
bless me! on these roads it's no calculating distances. There was a
man rode by us on the bank above. He had lanterns to his stirrups. I
wish I'd gone up the side and just asked him how far ahead it was to
Littleport. Now he's got a long way ahead, and it's no use to run after

'We must go on. I doubt but we shall sink in the mire if we stay.'

The man sighed and staggered forward. Then the horse also sighed and
endeavoured to move the van, but failed. It was fast.

'What is to be done now? There's Jewel can't stir the caravan. Did you
notice, father, how that man's horse jumped as he rode by? There is a
sort of a rail across, or we would have tried to get the conveyance
up on the bank. When the horse jumped, up went the lanterns also. I
suppose there is some farm near here where they'll let us put up Jewel
for the night. We needn't trouble then, as we have our own house on
wheels. But Jewel must have his food and a stall.'

At that moment a second rider appeared on the embankment, trotting in
the same direction as had the first. He had a single lantern attached
to one stirrup, whereas the first who had passed, and been noticed by
Zita, had two. The girl ran up the slope of the bank, calling.

The rider drew rein. 'What do you want?' he inquired.

'Oh, will you tell me where we can put our horse for the night and have
a little hay?'

'Who are you?'

Zita knew by the tone of the voice that the man had been drinking, and
that, though not inebriated, he had taken too much liquor—

'We are the Cheap Jack and his daughter. We cannot get along the way,
it is so bad—and the wheels are stuck in the mud. We want to go to
Littleport, and father'—

'You are a set of darned rascals!' interrupted the rider. 'I'll have
nothing more to do with you; and you, I suppose, are the gal as cheated
me—the worst of the lot you are.' He had a flail in his hand, and he
flourished it over his head. 'You get along, you Cheap Jackies, or I'll
bring the flail down about your heads and shoulders and loins, and make
you fish out that there guinea I paid—and more fool I.' Driving his
heels into the flanks of his horse, and slashing its neck with the loop
of his bridle, he galloped along the top of the embankment.

Zita descended.

The van was stationary. The horse, Jewel, stood with drooping head and
a pout on the nether lip, with legs stiff in the deep mire, resolute
not to budge another inch. Zita took the van lantern and went to his
head. Jewel had thrown an expression into his face that proclaimed his
resolution not to make another effort, whether urged on by whip, or
cajoled by caresses. The girl, still carrying the lantern, came to her
father. He was seated against the embankment, with his hands in his
pockets and his head fallen forward.

'Father, how are you?'


'Father, let us walk on and seek a house. Jewel will not stir; he has
turned up his nose and set back his ears, and I know what that means.
I don't think any one will come this way and rob the van. Let us go on
together. You lean on me, and we will find a farm.'

'I can't rise, Zit.'

'Let me help you up.'

'I couldn't take another step, Zit.'

'Make an effort, father.'

'I'm past that, Zit. I'm dying. It's o' no use urging of me. I sticks
here as does Jewel. I can't move. I'm too bad for that. O Lord! that I
should die in this here fen-land!'

'Let me get you some brandy.'

'It ain't of no use at all, Zit. I'm just about done for. 'Tis so with
goods at times; when they gets battered and bulged and broken and all
to pieces, they must be chucked aside. I'm no good no more as a Cheap
Jack. I'm battered and bulged and broken and all to pieces, so I'm
going to be chucked aside.'

Zita considered for a moment. Then she set down the lantern at her
father's side, ran up the embankment, ran along it in the direction
which had been taken by the riders, one after the other, crying as loud
as she possibly could, 'Help! help! Father is dying. Help! help! help!'



Hezekiah, or, as he was usually called for short, Ki, Drownlands
was riding homewards from the Ely Fair along the embankment of the
river Lark. He bore over his shoulder the flail that had cost him
twelve shillings and sixpence, and in his heart glowed a consuming
rage that his adversary and neighbour—perhaps adversary because
neighbour—Jeremiah or Jake Runham had paid a guinea for the companion
flail, and had outbidden him.

It was not that Ki Drownlands particularly required a flail, or a
companion flail to that he had secured, but he was intolerant of
opposition, and it was his ambition to be first in his fen; he would
show his supremacy by outbidding the only man approaching him in wealth
and in influence, and that before a crowd made up in part of people
who knew him and his rival. It was gall to his liver to think that he
had been surpassed in his offer, that an advantage over him had been
snatched, and that Jake Runham had been able to carry off from under
his nose something—it mattered not what—that he, Ki Drownlands, had
coveted, and had let people see that he had coveted.

The rivalry of these two landowners was known throughout the Ely Fens,
and in every tavern the talk was certain to turn on the bidding for
the flails, and folk would say, 'Jake is a better man than Ki by eight
shillings and sixpence.'

Drownlands had been drinking, and this fact served to sharpen and
inflame his resentment, but he was able to ride upright and steadily,
and sit his horse upright and steadily as the beast leaped the barriers
on the bank. He carried, as already mentioned, lanterns below both
feet attached to the stirrups. They illumined the way, they flashed
upon obstructions, they sent a gleam over the water of the canal.
In the dark—and the night was at times pitch-dark, when clouds cut
off the light of the stars—then it was not safe to ride on the
embankment without a light. The horse might fail to see the barriers,
and precipitate itself against them. It might slip down the bank and
fall with its rider, on one side into the river, on the other into the
drove. On the one side the horseman might be drowned, on the other
break his neck. But, supposing the horse had its wits about it and its
eyes open, the rider might have neither, and be unprepared for the
leap, or the slip in the greasy marl.

If, conscious of the risk when on the embankment, the horseman took
the drove; then also he was not safe, for there it was doubly dark,
shadowed on one side by the elevation of the embankment, whilst on the
other side lay the dyke, the water brimming, and disguised by sedge
and rushes. Into this a horse might plunge, and, once in, could not be
extricated without infinite labour by several hands. For the bottom of
the ditches is soft bog, and the sides are spongy peat. Not a particle
of firm substance can be found on which a horse may plant its feet, and
obtain the purchase necessary for lifting itself out of the water and
mire. Consequently, when farmers returned late from market and fair in
the long dark winter nights, they provided themselves with lanterns.

Prickwillow was the name of the farm of Master Ki Drownlands. The
grandfather of Ki had possessed a reed-walled cottage on piles, and a
few acres of soil that showed above the water in March, was submerged
again for a while in July, and then reappeared as the rainy season
ceased. Here he was wont to prick in willow twigs that rapidly grew
into osier beds. On a platform above the rippling water the grandfather
had mended his nets and cleaned his fowling-piece, and the grandmother
had woven baskets. Now all was dry, and a house stood where had been
the lacustrine habitation, and the plough turned up the thousand odds
and ends that successive generations had cast out of the cottage into
the water, never expecting that they would be seen again.

The flood had retreated, dry land had appeared, and the ark had rested
on what had formerly been the least submerged portion of the tract over
which the ancestral slodger, Drownlands, had exercised more or less
questionable rights; rights, however, which, though questionable, had
never been questioned. With a little money collected by industry, and
more borrowed from the Ely bank, the _père_ Drownlands had extended his
domain, and had rendered his claim absolute and his rights unassailable.

And now Ki Drownlands was riding home in a fume of wounded pride,
and with a brain somewhat turned by brandy. He sharply drew rein; he
thought he heard a cry. The cry was repeated as he halted to listen.
From whence it came he could not judge, saving only that it proceeded
from the rear. Over the fen, as upon water, sound travels great
distances; over the fen, as over water, meeting with no obstructions,
the waves of sound pass, and it is not easy to judge distances.
Drownlands turned his horse about and faced in the direction of Ely,
the direction whence the call came, as far as he could judge.

He saw a light approaching. Was it carried, or hung to a stirrup? He
could not tell. Was it the lantern-bearer who summoned him? If so, for
what object? The cry was repeated.

Surely the voice was that of a female. If the appeal were not to him,
to whom could it be addressed?

To the best of his knowledge, there was no one else out so late on the
embankment. He recalled passing no one.

It was true that he had ridden by the van, but he had not seen it.
The van was in the drove below, and he had been twelve or fourteen
feet above the roadway. Moreover, the lanterns at his feet threw a
halo about him, and though they illumined every object that came
within their radius, yet they made all doubly obscure and everything
indistinguishable that was outside that radius.

Furthermore, Drownlands had been occupied with his own thoughts, and
had not been in an observant mood.

Zita had not addressed him as he rode by, and he had passed without any
notion that there were travellers toiling along in the same direction
at a lower level. He had not expected to see a conveyance there, and
had looked for none.

The light that he noticed on the bank was approaching. It was held at
no great distance from the ground. It might equally be carried in the
hand of one on foot, or be swung from the stirrups of a rider. It was,
however, improbable that a horseman would be contented with a single

Drownlands did not ride forward to meet the advancing light. He
remained stationary, with his right hand holding the flail, so that
the end of the staff rested on his thigh, much as a field-marshal is
represented in pictures holding his _bâton_.

In the Fens the horses are unshod, and on a way that is without stones
there will be little sound of a horse when trotting; but as the moving
light neared, Drownlands was aware from the vibration of the embankment
that a horse was approaching.

A minute later, and he saw before him Jake Runham, mounted.

The recognition was mutual.

'Out of my way!' shouted Runham. 'Out of my way, you dog, or I will
ride you down!'

'I will not get out of your way. Why did you call?'

'I call? I call you? That's a likely tale. What should I want with a
twopenny-ha'penny chap such as you?'

'Twopenny-ha'penny? Do you mean me?'

'Yes, I do.'

'You are drunk. Some one called.'

'Not I. But I call now, and loud enough. Stand out of my way; get down
the side of the bank; and go to the devil.'

'I will not make way for you,' said Drownlands. Then between his
teeth, 'It is well we have met.'

'Ay, it is well.'

'Now we can settle old scores. Now'—he looked up, and waved his flail
towards heaven, which was clad with clouds—'now that no eyes look down
from above, and we are quite sure there are no eyes watching us from

Then Runham, with a yell, dug his spurs into the flanks of his steed,
and made him bound forward. His intention was, with the impetus, to
drive his adversary and horse down the bank. As it was, his horse
struck that of Drownlands, which, being a heavy beast, swerved but

'Keep off, you drunken fool!' shouted Ki.

'Am I to keep off you? I? Not I. I will have the bank to myself. Let me
pass, or I will ride over you and tread your brains out.'

'You will have the matter of the past fought out between us?'

'Ay! Ay!'

Jake backed his horse, snorting and plunging under the curb.

Then, when he had retired some twenty yards, he uttered a halloo,
whirled his flail above his head, drove his heels into the sides of his
steed, and came on at a gallop.

Drownlands raised and brandished his flail, and brought it down with a
sweep before him. This alarmed his own horse, which reared and started,
but more so that of his rival, which suddenly leaped on one side, and
nearly unseated Jake Runham. However, Jake gripped the pommel, and with
an oath urged his horse into the path again.

Drownlands had forgotten about the call that had induced him to turn
his horse. His attention was solely occupied with the man before him.

The situation was one in which two resolute men, each determined not to
yield to the other, each inflamed with anger against the other, must
fight their controversy out to the end. The way on the bank top would
not admit of two abreast, consequently not of one passing the other
without mutual concession. On the one side was the drove fourteen feet
below, on the other the canal. He who had to give way must roll down
the embankment into the drove or plunge into the water.

Each man was armed, and each with a like weapon.

It would seem as though the horses understood the feelings that
actuated their riders, and shared them. They snorted defiance, they
tossed their manes, they reared and pawed the air.

Again Runham spurred his steed, and the beasts clashed together, and as
they did so, so also did the flails.

The two men were at close quarters, too close for the flappers of the
flails to take full effect. They heaved their weapons and struck
furiously at each other, bruising flesh, but breaking no bones. The
strokes of the whistling flappers fell on the saddle back, on the sides
of the horses, rather than on the heads and shoulders of the men. The
lanterns jerked and danced, as the horses pawed and plunged, and bit at
each other.

The men swore, and strove by main weight to force each other from the
bank,—Runham to drive his antagonist into the river, Drownlands by
side blows of the flail to force the opposed horse to go down the bank
into the drove.

The struggle lasted for some minutes. To any one standing by it would
have seemed a confusion of dancing lights and reflections—a confusion
also of oaths, blows, and clash of steel bits, and thud of ashen staves.

Then, by mutual consent, but unexpressed, the two men drew back
equally exhausted. They drew back with no thought of yielding, but
with intent to recover wind and strength to renew the contest. Both
antagonists remained planted opposite each other, panting, quivering
with excitement, their beasts steaming in the cold October night air.

'You dared to call me by an ugly name before folk!' shouted Drownlands.

'Dared?—I will do it again.'

'You shall not be given the chance.'

'I carried away the flail over your head because you hadn't more
shillings in your pocket.'

'The flail?' echoed Drownlands. 'This is not a matter now of a flail.
This is not a matter now of a way along the bank. It's a matter of
nineteen years' endurance. For nineteen years I have borne the grossest
of wrongs. I'll bear the burden no longer. The wrong shall not go
another hour unavenged.'

'You've borne it so long the back is accustomed to the burden,' taunted

'For nineteen years I have endured it. But to-night we are face to
face, and alone.' Again he waved his flail to heaven. 'No eye looks
down upon us. I and you are equally matched as far as weapons go. All
is fair between us, but if there be justice on high, it will weight my
arm to beat you down; and here,' said he, touching his breast with the
end of the flail,—'here is no spark of pity, just as there is now no
spark aloft. If I beat you, I beat you till the blood runs, beat you
till the bones are pounded, beat you till the marrow oozes out, beat
you—as we beat hemp.'

Then, unable longer to control his fury, the dark man urged his horse
forward with his spurs, and as he did so, the lanterns clashed against
the flanks of the brute, and burnt them as the spurs had stung them.
With a snort of anger and pain, the beast leaped into the air, flung
himself forward, and hurled his whole weight against the horse of
Runham. The latter had altered his tactics, and had drawn up to
receive the charge instead of delivering it as before. At the same
moment Ki swung his flail and brought it down. But he had overshot his
mark, and with the violence of the blow he was carried across the neck
of Runham's horse. Jake saw his advantage at once, caught him by the
tiger-skin, and, grappling that, endeavoured to drag his opponent out
of the saddle. But Ki reared himself up, and tried to wrench the skin
away. His bodily strength was the greatest. The horses leaped, kicked,
reeled, and the two men on them held fast, the tiger-skin between them.
Then Runham twisted his flail in the skin and continued to turn it. In
vain now did Ki endeavour to wrench it away. The skin was fast about
his throat, and as it was drawn tighter and even tighter, it threatened
strangulation. Jake backed his horse, and as he backed, he drew his
opponent after him. The blood thumped in the ears of Drownlands. The
veins in his temples swelled to bursting.

The plunging of the horses caused the pressure to be relaxed for one
moment, but it was tightened the next, and became intolerable. Ki's
tongue and eyes started, his lips were puffed, foam formed on them. He
could not cry, he could not speak, he snuffled and gasped. With his
heels he thrust his horse forward, to save himself from being drawn
from his saddle to hang to the flail of Runham.

In another moment Drownlands would have been unhorsed and at his
adversary's mercy. But at this supreme instant he clutched his own
flail, and, holding it with both hands over his bent head, drove
the end of it into the ear of Runham's horse. The more he was drawn
forward, the greater the leverage on the end of his flail, and the
more exquisite the agony of the horse. The brute, driven mad with
pain, gathered itself up into a convulsive, spasmodic shake and leap,
and with the jerk, the tiger-skin was plucked out of the hand of Jake

Drownlands reared himself in his stirrups. He was blinded with blood in
his eyes, but he whirled the flail round his head, and beat savagely in
all directions. It whistled as it swung, it screamed as it descended.
Then a thud, a cry, and indistinctly, through the roar of his pulses in
his ears, he heard a crash down the bank, and indistinctly through his
suffused eyes he saw a black mass stagger into the river.

Gasping for breath, quivering in every nerve, tingling in every vein,
as the blood recovered its wonted circulation, Drownlands held his
horse motionless, and, gathering his senses, looked before him.

There was hardly a flake of steely light in the sky. Clouds had spread
over the firmament. What little light there was, lay as a strip on
the horizon, like the glaze of white in a dead man's eye. The inky
water reflected none of it. For a moment, on the surface, the lantern
attached to Runham's stirrup floated and danced, whilst the flame burnt
and charred the horn side, then it was drawn under and extinguished.

Drownlands leaned forward and stretched his flail to the water; then
drew the flapper across the surface where his enemy had sunk, as one
who scratches out a score.

Then suddenly he was grasped by the foot, and a voice rang in his ears:
'Help! help! Oh, prithee, help!'

In his condition of nervous excitation, the touch, the call, so
unexpected, wrung from him a scream. It was as though a rude hand had
fallen on an exposed nerve.

Again a tighter clasp at his foot, again an entreating cry of intenser
entreaty: 'Help! Oh, prithee, prithee, help!'



Zita had run on. Her young heart was full of the agony of distress for
her father. He was the one object in the world to whom her heart clung.
She had lost her mother early, and had been accordingly brought up by
her father, who had been father and mother to her in one. She had no
brothers, no sisters. He had been to her father, mother, brothers, and
sisters in one. The young heart is full of love. It is of a clinging
nature. It may not be disposed to demonstrativeness, but it loves, it
clings; and it is in despair when the object to which it has clung, the
person it has loved, fails.

For some little while, for more than the fortnight of which Zita had
spoken, she had observed that her father was ill, that his powers were

She had fought against the terrible thought that she would lose him,
whenever with a flash of horror it had shot through her brain, had
contracted her heart.

Her father! The daily associate; the one person to whom she could
always speak with frankness, with whom she had had but one interest;
the one person who had watched over her, cared for her, loved her—that
he should be suffering, that he might be removed! The idea was more
than her young heart could bear. Cheap Jacks are human beings, they
have like feelings to us who buy not of Cheap Jacks, but of respectable
tradesmen. Cheap Jacks' daughters, though they have not had the
privileges of the moral and intellectual training that have ours, are
nevertheless—human beings. We admit this tacitly, but do not think out
the truth such an admission contains—that they have in their natures
the same mixed propensities, in their hearts the same passions as
ourselves—as have our own children.

Now this poor child ran, her pulses beating; as she ran, with every
rush of blood through her pulses, a fire shot in electric flashes
before her eyes. She continuously cried, 'Help! help! My father! my

Then her breath failed her. She tried to run, but was forced to stay
her feet and gasp for breath. She could not maintain her pace as well
as call for assistance.

There was a roaring as of the sea over a bar when the tide is coming
in. It was the roar of her thundering blood in her ears.

She had taken the van lantern and had set it down by her father on the
side of the bank. As she was forced to halt, she looked back. A shudder
came over her. She could not see the light. Had it expired, and with
it, had the flickering light of life expired in her father?

Then she stepped partly down the bank, and now she saw the light. From
the top she had not been able to see it owing to the slope, and for
a slight curve in the direction of the canal. The light that burned
by her father's side was still there. And before her she could see
the sparks in the direction she was pursuing. A strange medley of
lights—were there two or three or more? She could not count, owing to
her excitement and the tears and sweat that streamed over her eyes.

She ran on, as the furious throbbing of her heart was allayed, as her
breath returned.

Suddenly—a crash, a flash as of lightning, and Zita knew not where she
was, and for how long she had been in a state of semi-consciousness.

The poor child, running with full speed, had run against one of the
barriers set up across the top of the embankment for the prevention of
its employment by wheeled vehicles.

She had struck her head and chest against the bars, and had been thrown
backwards, partly stunned, completely dazzled by the blow. For some
minutes she lay on the bank confused and in pain. Then she picked
herself up, but was unable to understand what had happened. She again
went forward, and now felt the bars of timber. She put her hands to
them and climbed. She was sobbing with pain and anxiety; through her
tears she could see the lights in front of her magnified with prismatic
rays shooting from them. On reaching the top of the barrier she looked
behind her, and again saw the feeble light from her father's lantern.

Now her senses returned to her, which for a few moments had been
disturbed by the blow and fall.

She was running to obtain help, shelter for her dear father. From the
top rail she cried, 'Help! help! My daddy! My poor daddy! Help! help!'

She listened. She thought she heard voices. Hurt, wearied, breathless,
she hoped that the assistance she had invoked was coming to her aid.

Should she remain perched where she was, and wait till the lights in
front drew nearer to her?

Then the fear came over her that she might not have been heard. The man
to whom she had spoken—he with the one lantern to his stirrup—had
addressed her roughly, had shown no good feeling, no desire to assist.
Was it likely that he had changed his mind, and was now returning?

She was confident that the man whom she had arrested had carried but
a single lantern to his foot. Now as her pulses became more even in
their throb, she was positive that there were more lights than one
before her. She looked behind her. There was one light by her father,
that was stationary. There were several before her; and they were in
the strangest movement, flickering here and there, changing places, now
obscured, now shining out, now low, now high, now on this side, now on

She leaped from her place on the rail and ran on.

Then, coming on an unctuous place in the marl, where a horse's hoofs
had been, where, perhaps, it had slipped, and, running in a bee-line,
regardless where she went, ignorant of a slight deviation from the
direct line in the course of the bank, she went down the side, and
plunged into the ice-cold water.

There was a stake, a post in the water. She clung to that, and, holding
it, struggled to get out. In so doing, she noticed a sort of eye in the
post, a mortice-hole that pierced it, and as at that moment some of the
clouds had parted, she saw the grey sky and a star shine through this
hole. By means of this post, Zita, whose strength was almost spent, was
able to draw herself from out of the water. But so exhausted was she,
that, on reaching the top of the bank, she was constrained to stop and
pant for breath.

Still the thought of her suffering, perhaps dying, father, urged her
on. She saw the dancing lights close before her, she heard voices.
She felt the embankment tremble under her feet. Surely some violent
commotion was taking place before her; but what it could be she had
neither time nor power to conjecture.

Then there went by overhead, invisible in the darkness, a train of
wild geese, going south for the winter, and as they flew they uttered
loud, wild cries, like the barking of hounds in the clouds—a horrible,
startling sound fit to unnerve any who were unaware of the cause.

For a moment she stood still, listening to the aerial ghostly sounds.
She held her breath. Then again she ran.

As Zita ran, it seemed to her that assuredly she saw but two lights.
There must have been but two, and they were stationary. She tried to
call, but her voice failed her; her throat was parched. She could but

Next moment the lights blazed large on her, and then she grasped a
foot. 'Help! help!'



'What do you want? Who are you?' asked Ki Drownlands, when he had
sufficiently recovered his self-possession to see that some one was
clinging to him, and that that person was a woman.

'Help! Come back! Father is ill.'

'I don't care. Let go. You hurt me.'

She hurt him by her touch on his boot! His nerves were thrilling, and
the pressure of her fingers was unendurable in the surexcitation of
every fibre of his system.

'Oh, help! help!' She would not relax her hold.

'I cannot. I've my own concerns to attend.'

Drownlands remained silent for a moment. He was shivering as one in an
ague fit—shivering as though the marrow in his bones were touched with
frost. Presently he asked in a voice of constraint—

'How long have you been here? What have you seen?'

He stooped to his stirrup, unhitched one of the lanterns and held it
aloft, above the person who appealed for his aid.

The dim yellow light fell over a head of thick amber hair and a
pale, beautifully moulded face, with large lustrous eyes, looking up
entreatingly at him.

His hand that held the lantern was unsteady, and the light quivered.
To disguise his agitation, he gave the lantern a pendulous motion,
and the reflection glinted and went out, glinted again in those great
beseeching eyes, and glowed in that copper-gold hair, as though waves
of glory flashed up in the darkness and set again in darkness.

'What have you seen?' he repeated.

'Seen?—I see you. I want help. You will help me?'

'How long have you been here?'

'How long? I am but this instant come. I have run.'

Her bosom was heaving under a gay kerchief, her breath came in little
puffs of steam that passed as golden dust in the halo of the lantern.

Drownlands rested both his hands on the pommel of the saddle, with the
flail athwart beneath them. He put the handle of the lantern in his
mouth, and the upward glare of the light was on his sinister face.
He was considering. He did not recognise the girl. His mind was
too distraught to think whether or not he had seen her before. She

'Help us! I have been running. I am out of breath. I saw you ride by
on the bank. I called to you, and spoke to you there, and you would
do nothing. My dear father is worse. He is dying. You must—you shall

He still looked at her. That beautiful face—the sole object shining
out of the darkness—fascinated him, in spite of his alarm, his

'I am Cheap Jack Zita. I am the daughter of the poor Cheap Jack. He is
taken ill—he cannot get on. He is on the bank—dying. My father!'

Then she burst into tears; and in the lantern light Ki saw the
sparkling drops race down the smooth cheeks, saw them rise in the great
eyes and overflow. He slowly removed the lantern handle from his teeth,
and said—

'I cannot be plagued with you. I have other matters that concern me.'

He had been alarmed at first, fearing lest his encounter with Runham
had been witnessed, lest this girl should be able to testify against
him, were he taken to task for the death of his rival and adversary.

'Oh, come! Oh, do come!' sobbed Zita, as she grasped his boot more

'It was you who called?'

'Yes, it was I.'

'You called me?'

'Yes. There was no one else to call.'

'Oh,' said he, 'you saw no one else? No one with me?'

'No. I ran up the bank as you went by. I spoke to you, but you swore at

'I—I did that?'

There was some mistake. She had taken him for the man now beneath the

'You shall not go!' cried the girl, clinging desperately to the
stirrup. 'You cannot be so heartless as to let my poor father die.'

'What is your father to me? Let go.'

'I will not let go.'

He pricked his horse on; but she held to the bridle and arrested it.

'Take care!' said Drownlands. 'I will not be stayed against my will.'

She clung to the bridle.

'You may ride over me, and kill me too. I will not let go.'

'What do you mean?' asked he, with a gasp. 'What do you mean by "kill
me too"?'

'You shall ride over me, but I shall not let go.'

'But why did you say "kill me too"?' he asked threateningly.

'I will die as well as my father. I do not care to live if he die.
How can you leave him? how can you be so cruel?' She broke forth into
vehemence that shook her whole frame, and shook the horse whose bridle
she grappled.

'What's that?' asked Drownlands, as the horse stumbled.

He held up the lantern.

On the embankment, under the horse's feet, lay the flail that had been
twisted into his tiger-skin.

'I know you—I know you,' said the girl. 'It was you who bought the
flail.' Then again, 'My father is ill. He is sitting on the bank; he
cannot walk. He will die of the cold if you do not help.'

'Let go,' shouted Drownlands, 'or I'll bring the flail down on your

'You may break them. I will cling with my teeth.'

He brandished the flail angrily.

Then Zita bowed herself, picked up the second flail, and, planting
herself across the way, said—

'You are bad and you are cruel. I cannot get you to come to my father
for the asking. I will drive you to him—drive you with the flail; I
will force you to go.'

He tried to pass the girl, but she would not budge; and before the
whirling flapper and her threatening attitude, the horse recoiled and
almost threw himself and his rider down the embankment into the drove.

Drownlands uttered a curse, and again attempted to push past, but was
again driven back by Zita.

'Take care, or I will ride you down,' he threatened; then shivered, as
he recalled how that a few minutes previously Jake Runham had used the
same threat to him.

He considered a moment.

He could not allow this girl to retain the flail she had picked up.
It was evidence against him. Every one in Burnt Fen, every one in
Weldenhall and Soham Fens, would hear of the contest at Ely before the
Cheap Jack van. If that flail were known to have been found on the
embankment, it would be known at once where it was that Runham fell
into the Lark. It might be surmised that a struggle had there taken
place, and marks of the struggle would be looked for.

The girl who stood before Drownlands was the sole person who could
by any possibility appear as witness against him—could prove that
he had been on the spot where Runham had perished; and this girl was
now appealing to him for help. It was advisable that she should be
conciliated—be placed under an obligation to himself.

He made no further attempt to pass her; he made no attempt to fulfil
his threat that he would ride her down.

In a lowered tone he said, 'Where is your father?'

'A little way back,' answered Zita. 'How far back I cannot say. I
ran—I ran.'

'I will go with you. Give me up that flail.'

'No,' she answered; 'I do not trust you. You would ride away when you
had it.'

'I swear to you that I will not do that.'

She shook her head, retained the flail, slung it over her shoulder, and
walked at his side.

Had she seen the contest? Had she seen him beat his adversary
down—down into the river? Drownlands asked himself these questions
repeatedly, and was tempted to question her, but shrank from so doing
lest he should awake suspicions. He need not have feared that. Her
whole mind was occupied with a single thought—her dying father.

Drownlands riding, the Cheap Jack girl walking, retraced the path in
the direction of Ely. Not for a moment would she relax her hold on
the bridle, for she could not trust the good faith of the rider. The
river was stealing by, the current so sluggish that it seemed hardly to
move. It made no ripple on the bank, no lapping among the reeds. It had
no curl of a smile on its face, no undulation on its bosom. It was a
river that had gone to sleep, and was on the verge of the stagnation of
death. Ki found himself wondering how far during the night the man and
horse who had gone in would be swept down. He wondered whether it were
possible that one or other had succeeded in making his way out. He had
heard no sound; it was hardly possible that either could have escaped.

Presently a jerk on the reins roused Drownlands from his meditations,
and he felt his horse descend the bank, guided by the girl. In the
darkness he could see a still darker object, which the faint light from
a lantern on the bank partially illumined, along with a motionless
horse, which seemed of very stubbornness to be transformed to wood.
When, however, the beast heard the steps of its mistress, it turned its
head and looked stonily towards her, with a peculiar curl of the nose
and protrusion of the lower lip that was a declaration of determined
resistance to being made to move forward. Zita paid no attention to the
horse. She called to her father, and received a faint response.

'You will not leave me now? you will help?—you swear?' said she,
turning to the rider.

'No,' answered Ki; 'now that I am here, I am at your service to do for
you what I can.'

He dismounted and attached his horse by the bridle to the back of the
van, then took one of his lanterns, and went to where he heard Zita
speaking to her father.

'I be bad, Zit—bad—tremenjous. I be done for,' said the Cheap Jack.
'It's no good saying "Get along." I can't; there's the fact. I be
stuck—just as the van be. I seems to have no wish but to be let alone
and die slick off.'

'You shall not do that, father. Here is one of the gentlemen as bought
the flails of us. He will help.'

Then Drownlands came to the side of the sick man and inquired, 'What is
it? What can I do for you?'

'I don't know as I want nort,' answered the Cheap Jack; 'nort but to be
let alone to die. Don't go and worrit me, that's all.'

'My farm is not a mile distant,' said Ki. 'Get into the waggon and
drive along.'

'I can't abear the joggle,' answered the Cheap Jack. 'I wants to go
nowhere. But whatever will become of Jewel and Zit?'

He groaned, sighed, and turned over on the bank towards the scanty
grass and short moss that covered the marl, and laid his face in that.
The girl held his hand, and knelt by him. Presently he raised his head
and said, 'Arter all, Zit, we did a fine business, what wi' the tea and
what wi' the flails. Them as didn't cost us eighteenpence sold for one
pun' thirteen and six—tremenjous!'

'Now listen to me,' said Drownlands. 'This horse of yours will never be
able to get the van along. I will ride home and fetch a team, and we'll
have the whole bag of tricks conveyed to Prickwillow in a jiffy. I'll
bring help, and we'll lift you on to a feather tye.'

'You will not play me false?' asked Zita.

'Not I,' answered Ki, as he picked up the second flail; 'trust me. I
shall be back in half an hour.'

He mounted his horse and rode away. The girl watched him as he departed
with some anxiety; then, as he departed into the darkness, Zita seated
herself on the bank, and endeavoured to raise her father, that his head
might repose on her bosom. He looked at her and put his arm about her

'You've been a good gal,' said he. 'You've done your dooty to the
wan and the 'oss and me, and I bless you for it. That there tea as
we made out o' sweepins as we bought at London Docks, and out o'
blackthorn leaves as we picked off the hedges and dried on the top of
the wan—'twas a fine notion, that. Go on as I've taught you, Zit, and
you'll make a Cheap Jack o' the right sort. One pun' thirteen and six
for them flails! That's about one pun' twelve profits. What's us sent
into the world for but to make profits? I've done my dooty in it. I've
made profits. I feel a sort o' in'ard glow, just as if I wos a lantern
wi' a candle in me, when I thinks on it. One pun' twelve—I say, Zit,
what's that per cent.? I can't calkerlate it now; it's gone from me.
One pun' twelve is thirty-two. And thirty-two to one and an 'arf'—He
heaved a long sigh. 'I be bad—I can't calkerlate no more.'

Zita leaned over the sick man's face, and with the corner of her gaily
figured and coloured kerchief wiped his brow. His mind was wandering.
From silence and impatience of being spoken to and having to exert
himself to speak, he had come to talk, and talk much, in rambling

'Father, I've brought you some brandy from the van. Take a drop. It may
revive you.'

She put a flask to his lips. He found a difficulty in swallowing, and
turned his face away. He had raised his head to the flask with an
effort; it sank back on his daughter's bosom.

'Dad, how wet your hair is!'

'Things ain't as they ort to be,' said the Cheap Jack sententiously.
'I've often turned the world over in my head and seed as the wrong
side comes uppermost. Then I'm sure I was ordained to be a mimber o'
parliament, but I never got a chance to rise to it. How I could ha'
talked the electors over into believin' as black was white! How I could
ha' made 'em a'most swallow anything and believe it was apricot jam! I
could ha' told 'em lies enough to carry me to the top o' the poll by
a thumping majority. It's lies does it, all the world over—leastways
with the general public in England. It's lies sells damaged goods. It's
lies as makes 'em turn their pockets out into your lap. It's lies as
carries votes. It's lies as governs the land. The general public likes
'em. It loves 'em. They be as sweet and dear to the general public as
thistles is to asses.'

Then he lay quiet, except only that he turned his head from side to
side, as though looking at something.

'What is it, dad?'

'I thinks as I sees 'em—miles and miles, going right away into nothing
at all.'

'What, father?'

'The hawthorn hedges in full bloom, white as snow—it's our own
tea plantation, Zit, you know—touched up wi' sweepins. When the
flowers fall, then the leaves will come, and there'll be profits.
Assam, Congou, Kaisow, Darjeeling, Souchong—just what you like—and,
in truth, hawthorn leaves and sweepins—all alike. There's
profits—profits comin' in the leaves, Zit.'

A light sleet was falling, and it gleamed in the radiance of the
lantern planted on the bank near the dying man's head.

'So you see, Zit,' he said, pointing into space, 'the thorn leaves be
fallin',—scores o' thousands,—and the green leaves will come and
bring profits.'

'What you see is snow that is coming down, father.'

'No, Zit. It's the thorns sheddin' their white flowers to grow profits.
Fall, fall, fall away, white leaves.'

He remained silent for a while, and then began to pluck at his daughter
with the hand that clasped her waist.

'What is it, father?'

'I ain't easy.'

'Shall I lift your head higher?'

' 'Tain't that. It's in my mind, Zit.'

'What troubles you, dad?'

'That tin kettle wi' the hole in it. I've never stopped it. Put a bit
o' cobbler's wax into the hole and some silverin' stuff over it, and
you'll sell it quick off. Nobody won't find out till they comes to bile
water in it.'

'I'll do that, father. Hush! I hear the horses coming.'

'I don't want to go wi' them. I hears singing.'

'It is the wind whistling.'

'No, Zit. It be the quiristers chanting in Ely. Do you hear their

'No, we cannot hear them. They do not sing at night, and are also too

'But I does hear 'em singing beautiful, and this is the psalm they
sing—"One pun' twelve—and hawthorn tea at four shillin'. There's

He was sinking. He weighed heavy on her bosom.

She stooped to his ear and whispered, 'Are you happy, father?'

'Happy? In course I be. One pun' twelve on them flails,
and four shillin' on thorn leaves and sweepins—there's

And he spoke no more.



No sight in the Fens is so solemn, so touching, as a funeral. There
are no graveyards in the Fens. There is no earth to which the dead can
be committed—only peat, and this in dry weather is converted into
dust, and in rain resolved into a quagmire. A body laid in it would be
exposed by the March winds, soddened by the November rains.

Consequently the dead are conveyed, sometimes as many as nine miles, to
the islets—to Ely, to Stuntney, or to Littleport, wherever there is
a graveyard; and a graveyard can only be where there is an outcrop of
blue clay. For a funeral, the largest cornwain is brought forth, and
to it is harnessed a team of magnificent cart-horses, trimmed out with
black favours.

In the waggon is placed the coffin, and round it on the wain-boards sit
the mourners. The sorrowful journey takes long. The horses step along
slowly, their unshod feet muffled in the dust or mire, and their tread
is therefore noiseless. But their bells jingle, and now and then a sob
breaks forth from one of the mourners.

Two waggons bearing dead men took the road to Ely. In one sat a single
mourner, Zita; and this waggon preceded the other. The second was full,
and was followed by a train of labourers who had been in the service of
the deceased, and of acquaintances who had roistered or dealt with him.

A cold wind piped over the level, and rustled the harsh dun leaves of
the rushes in the dykes. Royston crows in sable and white stalked the
fields, dressed as though they also were mourners, but were uninvited,
and kept at a distance from the train. Lines of black windmills
radiated from every quarter of the heavens, as though they were
mourners coming over the fens from the outermost limits to attend the
obsequies of a true son of the marshland.

To the south-west stood up the isle of Ely, tufted with trees; and
soaring above the trees, now wan against a sombre cloud, then dark
against a shining sky, rose the mighty bulk of the minster, its size
enhanced by contrast with the level uniformity of the country.

Although it cannot be said that no suspicion of foul play was
entertained relative to the death of Jake Runham, yet nothing had
transpired at the coroner's inquest that could in any way give it
grounds on which to rest; nothing that could in the smallest degree
implicate Drownlands.

Runham had drunk freely at the tavern at Ely, and he had ridden away
'fresh,' as a witness euphemistically termed it, implying that he was
fuddled. He had started on his home journey with a single lantern, in
itself likely to occasion an accident, for it vividly illumined one
side of the way and unduly darkened the other. Some one in the tavern
yard had commented on this, and had advised the extinction of the
single light as more calculated to mislead than none at all.

Horse and man had been discovered in the water about a mile above the
drove that led to Crumbland, his farm. Runham had been found with his
legs entangled in the stirrups. Possibly, had he been able to disengage
himself when falling, he might have escaped to land. Certainly the
horse would have found its way out; but the weight of the rider had
prevented the poor beast from reaching the bank. It was observed that
Runham had gone into the canal on his right hand, and that the lantern
had been slung to his left foot.

There were, it was noticed, contusions on the head and body of the
deceased, but these were easily accounted for without recourse to
the supposition of violence. At intervals in the course of the Lark
piles were driven into the banks to protect them against the lighters,
and horse and man might have been carried by the stream, or in their
struggles, against these stakes, and thus the abrasions of the skin and
the bruises might have been produced.

Something was, indeed, said about a recent quarrel between the dead
man and his neighbour, Drownlands; but then, it was asked, when, for
the last nineteen years, had there been an occasion on which they had
met without quarrelling? The quarrel, according to report, had been
inconsiderable, and had concerned nothing more than a flail for which
both men had bidden high. Furthermore, Drownlands, it was ascertained,
had been detained on his way to Prickwillow, before reaching the
spot where the corpse had been found. He had been detained by the
Cheap Jack's daughter on account of the Cheap Jack's sickness. It was
known that Drownlands had summoned his men, and with a team of horses
had removed the van to his rickyard. He had been attentive to the
unfortunate vagabond, and had been at his side till his death.

There was no specifying the exact hour when Runham had fallen into the
water, but, as far as could be judged, it must have been about the time
when Drownlands was occupied with the Cheap Jack.

A floating suspicion that Ki might have had a hand in the death of Jake
did exist, but there was nothing tangible on which a charge could be
based. On the contrary, there was a great deal to show that he was not
present; enough to free him from suspicion.

When the funerals were over,—and both had taken place simultaneously,
the graves being adjacent, one chaplain performing the service over
both,—then the waggons returned. That in which the Cheap Jack's coffin
had been conveyed to its last resting-place was empty. Zita declared
her intention to walk.

Those who had walked behind the waggon of Runham were taken up into it,
the horses started at a trot, and both conveyances were soon far away,
and appeared as specks in the distance.

Zita walked slowly along the road. She was in no hurry. She had to
resolve what she was to do for her maintenance.

Should she pursue the same trade as her father? Would it be safe for
her to do so? At times there was a good deal of money in the van;
and if she, a young girl, were alone, she might be robbed. She had
abundance of ready wit, she had assurance, she had at command the
stock-in-trade of old jokes used by her father, and was perfectly
competent to sell goods and reap profits. But the purchase of the stock
had been managed by her father, and with that part of the business she
was not conversant. Could she manage the van and its stores and the
horse alone? If not alone, then whom might she take into partnership
with herself? Not another girl. A man it must be; but a man—that
would not do for other reasons. The girl coloured as she walked and
pondered on the perplexed question of her future.

She then considered whether it would be advisable for her to dispose
of her van and its contents. But she saw that she could do so only at
a ruinous loss. Her situation would be taken advantage of. The damaged
goods would not sell at all, unhelped out in the exaggerations, lies,
the flourish and scuffle of a public auction. All the articles were
not, indeed, like the tin kettle and the 'own plantation tea.' Some
were really good. A majority were good, but the collection was spiced
with infirm and defective articles.

If she did dispose of the van and her stock, what should she do
with herself? Into service she could not go—the bondage would be
intolerable. Into a school she could not go—she had no education. To
become a dressmaker was not possible—she could not cut out. To enter a
factory of any sort was hardly to be considered. She knew no trade. She
could befool the general public—that was her sole accomplishment.

As she walked along, musing on her difficulties, she was caught up by
a young man, dressed in deep mourning. At first he made as though he
would pass her by, for he was walking at a greater pace than hers, but
after a few steps in advance he halted, turned back, and said in a
kind tone—

'We are both orphans. You lost your father on the same night as that on
which I lost mine. They have been buried on the same day, and the same
service has been read over both. I am Mark Runham; you are the Cheap
Jack girl.'

'Yes, I am Cheap Jack Zita.'

'I could not call you by any other name; your real name I did not know.
Let us walk together, unless you desire to be alone.'

'Oh no.'

'When I was in the waggon, with my dead father in the coffin before me,
I looked forward, and then I saw you—you, poor little thing, sitting
alone, with your head bowed down over your father's coffin. I thought
it infinitely sad. You were all alone, and I had so many with me.'

Zita turned her face to him.

'You are very kind,' she said.

'Not at all. My heart is sore because I have lost my father—but there
is so much to take the sharpness off my pain; I have my mother alive.
And you?'

'My mother has been dead these five years.'

'And I have many relatives, and more friends. But you?'

'I have none. I am alone in the world.'

'And then I have house and lands. And you?'

'I have the van.'

'A wandering house—no real house. What are you going to do with

'That is just what I was considering as I walked along.'

'Will you tell me your plan?'

'I have none. I have not resolved what to do.'

'I am glad that I have caught you up. I sent on the waggon. I had to
stay behind and make arrangements with the undertaker and the clerk. I
am glad I remained; it has given me the opportunity of speaking with
you. Our mutual losses make us fellows in sorrow, and you seem to me so
piteously lonely. Even when I was in the wain my eyes wandered to you,
and with my eyes went my thoughts. I could not fail to consider how
much greater was your desolation than mine.'

Again Zita turned to look at the young fellow who spoke. He had fair
hair, bright blue eyes, a fresh, pleasant face, frank and kindly.

'I think you sold something to my father,' he said; 'I have heard the
chaps talk about it. You sold it middling dear. A flail—and he paid a
guinea for it.'

'Yes, I sold a flail for a guinea, and another for twelve and six. Mr.
Drownlands bought one of them.'

'And my father the other. I was not at the fair when that took place,
but folk have talked about it. I think, had I been there, I would have
prevented my father bidding so high. The flail was not found with him
when he was recovered from the river.'

'No; it was on the bank.'

'It was probably carried down by the Lark,' said he, not noticing her
words, 'and went out in the Wash.'

The flail! Zita was surprised. One flail she knew that Drownlands held
when she met him, the other she had herself picked up, and had used to
prevent him from continuing his course, and to compel him to assist her

She stood still and considered. The matter was, however, of no
consequence, so she stepped on. If she found the flail at Prickwillow,
she would take it to Crumbland. It belonged to Mark Runham by right.

'What is it?' asked the young man, surprised at her look of
concentrated thought.

'It is nothing particular,' she answered; 'something occurred to
me—that is all. But it is of no matter.'

'I should like to know what is going to become of you,' said the young
man. 'Have you no kindred at all?'

'None that I know of.'

'And no home?'

'None, as I said, but the van. When that is sold, I shall have none at

'But you have friends?'

'A friend—yes—Jewel, the old horse. Well, he ain't so old, neither. I
call him old because I love him.'

'I say, when you've made up your mind what to do with yourself, come to
our farm, Crumbland, and tell me.'

'That's blazin' impudence,' said Zita. 'If you want to know, you can
come and ask of me.'

'I cannot do that. Do you not know that my father and Ki Drownlands
were mortal enemies? I cannot set foot on his soil, or he would
prosecute me for trespass. If I went to his door, I would be met with
something more than bad words.'

'Why were they enemies?'

'I do not know. They have been enemies as long as I can remember
anything. Well, you will let me have some tidings concerning you. I
will come out on the embankment near Prickwillow, and you can come
there too. It is so dreadful that you should have no one to care for
you, and no place as a home to go to. If I can help you in any way tell
me. My mother is most kind. As it has chanced that we have both been
made orphans at one time, and as our two fathers were buried, as one
may say, together, and as we are walking home together, it seems to me
that it would be wrong and heartless were I to do nothing for you. To
sit and nestle into my home and comforts at Crumbland and see you
wander forth desolate and alone—the Pharisee couldn't have done half
so bad with the poor man by the wayside, and I won't. I should never
forgive myself. I should never forget the sight of the poor little lass
in black, with the coffin in the great waggon, all alone.'

'You are kind,' said Zita, touched with the honest, genuine feeling his
tones expressed. 'I thank you, but I want no help. I have money, I have
goods, I have a horse, and I have a home on wheels. And I have—what is
best of all—a spirit that will carry me along.'

'Yes; but one little girl is a poor and feeble thing, and the world is
very wide and very wicked, and terribly strong. I'd be sorry that this
bold spirit of yours were crushed by it.'

'Here is the place where I live,' said Zita.

'Yes, that's Prickwillow drove. Here am I, eighteen years old, and I
have never been along it—never been on Drownlands farm, along of this
quarrel. And what it was all about, blessed if I or any one else knows!'

Zita lingered a moment at the branch of the road. Mark put out his
hand, and she took it.

'I'll tell you what,' said she; 'you've been kind and well-meanin' with
me, and I'll give you a milk-strainer or a blacking-brush, whichever
you choose to have.'

Mark Runham was constrained to laugh.

'I'll tell you which it is to be next time we meet; to-morrow on the
embankment—just here. Remember, if you are short of anything beside a
milk-strainer or a blacking-brush—it is yours.'



A sleepless night followed the day of the funeral. Zita needed rest,
but obtained none. She had brain occupied by care as well as heart
reduced by sorrow. She had loved her father, the sole being in the
world to whom she could cling, her sole stay. The wandering life she
had led prevented her contracting friendships. Since her father's death
she had lain at night in the van. This conveyance was so contrived
as to serve many purposes. It was a shop, a kitchen, a parlour, an
eating-house, a carriage, a bank. The goods were neatly packed, and
were packed so close that the inmates could very commodiously live in
the midst of their stores. There was a little cooking stove in it.
There were beds. There was, indeed, no table, but there were boxes that
served as seats and as tables, and the lap is the natural dinner-table
every man and woman is provided with.

When the front of the van was raised so as to shut up the shop for the
night, the crimson plush curtains with their gold fringe and tassels
concealed the board on which so much trade had been carried on during
the day. There was a window at the back that admitted light. The
stove gave out heat, and the inmates of the travelling shop settled
themselves to their accounts, and then to rest.

The accounts were calculated not in a ledger, but on their fingers, and
balanced not on paper but in their heads.

When darkness set in, then a lamp illumined the interior, and the
little dwelling was suffused with a fragrance of fried onions and
liver, or roast mutton chops—something appetising and well earned;
something for which the public had that day paid, and paid through its
nose. The horse had been attended to, and then the father sat on a
bench, pipe in mouth and legs stretched out, and occasionally removed
the pipe that he might inhale the fumes of the supper his daughter was
preparing. Cheap Jack had possessed a fund of good spirits, and his
good humour was never ruffled. He had been the kindest of fathers;
never put out by a mishap, never depressed by a bad day's trade, never
without his droll story, song, or joke. But for a fortnight before his
death he had failed in cheeriness and flagged in conversation. The work
of the day had become a burden instead of a pleasure, and had left him
so weary that he could often not eat his supper or relish his pipe.

He had combated his declining health, and endeavoured to disguise the
advance of disease from the eyes of Zita. But love has keen sight, and
she had noted with heartache his gradual failure of spirits and power.
Till then no thought as to her own future had occupied her mind. Now
that the dear father was gone, Zita had no one on whom to lean. No
other head than her own would busy itself about her prospects, no other
heart than her own concern itself about her to-morrow.

She was kindly treated at Prickwillow. The van was placed under cover,
and the horse provided with a stall.

The housekeeper, a distant relative of Ki Drownlands, was hearty in
her offers of assistance, and the maid-of-all-work, who was afflicted
with St. Vitus' dance, nodded her kindly good wishes. Both Drownlands
and the housekeeper had urged Zita to accept the accommodation of the
house, in which were many rooms and beds, but she had declined the
invitation; she was accustomed to van life, and could make herself
comfortable in her wonted quarters. She needed little, and the van
was supplied with most things that she required. There were in it
even sufficient black odds and ends to serve her for mourning at her
father's funeral. What was there not in the van? It was an epitome of
the world, it was a universal mart, a Novgorod Fair sublimated to an

'What are you about?' asked Drownlands.

He had come into the yard behind the farmhouse, and he saw Zita
engaged in harnessing the horse. The front was down, and on it stood a
milk-strainer, some blacking-brushes, and a flail.

'What are you about? Whither are you going?'

Drownlands was a tall man, with a face like a hawk, and dark bushy
brows that stood out over his eyes and the root of his nose.

'I am going,' answered Zita.

'Going? Who told you to go?'

'I am going to be an inconvenience no longer.'

'Who told you you were an inconvenience?'

'No one, but I know that I am not wanted. I thank you for what you have
done, and will pay you.'

'Pay me? Who said a word about payment?'

'No one, but of course I pay. Mark Runham—I think that was his
name—was kind to me,—that is to say, he spoke civil to me,—and I'm
going to pay him for good words with a milk-strainer. You have done
me good deeds, and I will pay you. Get into the van and pick out what
you like up to five pounds. Do you want door-mats? There's a roll o'
carpet, but I don't recommend it, and there's tinned goods.'

Drownlands stared at the girl. Then his eyes rested on the flail.

'What have you got that for? It was in my house.'

'Yes. You took it in. But it is not yours. It belongs to Mark Runham.
His father bought it of us. He gave a guinea for it. I picked it up
on the bank when I overtook you. You had your flail in your hand. You
would have ridden on and left me and my father in the lurch, but I
stood in the way with that flail. It is not mine. I have the guinea I
received for it in my purse. Now that the old man is dead, for certain
it belongs to his son. That is why I am taking it to him.'

'He shall not have it! He must not have it!' exclaimed Drownlands. 'How
came you to know Mark Runham?'

'The young man walked from his father's funeral. So did I. He walked
the fastest, and he caught me up. He spoke kindly, and so I shall
pay him for it with a milk-strainer, or, if he prefers it, with

'Give him the blacking-brushes, by all means.'

'Or the milk-strainer?'

'Or the milk-strainer; but not the flail.'

'It is his,' said Zita. 'The old man paid down his money for it.'

'Give him back the money, not the flail. Here'—

Drownlands thrust his hand into his pocket, and drew a handful of
money, gold, silver, copper, mixed, from it, and extended it to the

'Here! you said you would pay me for what I have done. Pay me with the
flail. I want nothing more. Then I have the pair; or if you wish to
restore the guinea—take it.'

'The flail was bought. It is no longer mine.'

Drownlands stamped, put out his hand and snatched the flail from the
board on which it stood.

'He shall not have it. I will accept nothing else.'

'Then I must give the young man its value—a guinea's worth of goods.'

'Do so, and take the pay from me.'

'I will let him have your mats, and I'll tell him that you'—

'Tell him nothing. Not a word about the flail. That is all I ask of
you. Say nothing. If you owe me anything for what I have done for your
father and you, then pay me by your silence.' He mused for a moment,
then caught the girl by the arm and drew her after him. 'Come and see
all I have.'

He led her athwart the rickyard to where were ranged his stacks of
wheat—two, each forty paces long, with a lane between them. Down this
lane he conducted her. 'Look,' said he, 'did you ever see such ricks as
these? No, nowhere out of the Fens. Do you know how much bread is in
them? No, nor I. It would take you many years to eat your way through
them; and every year fresh wheat—as much as this—grows. There are
rats and mice in these stacks. They sit therein and eat their fill,
they rear their families there. What odds is that to me? A few more
rats and mice—a few more mouths in the house—I care not. There is
plenty for all.' Then he drew Zita into another yard that was full of
young stock, bullocks and heifers.

'Look here,' said he. 'Do you see all these? How much meat is on them?
How long would it take you to eat them? Whilst you were eating, others
would be coming—that is the way of Nature. Nature outstrips us; it
shovels in with both hands, whilst we take out with one—so is it,
anyhow, in the Fens. What is another cut off a round of beef to such as

Then he strode to the stables, threw open the door, and said, 'There
are stalls for horses; there is hay in the loft to feed them, oats in
the bins to nourish them. What odds to me if there be one more horse in
the stalls? Here!' he called to one of his men. 'Take the Cheap Jack
horse out of the van-shafts again and bring him to this stable.'

Zita endeavoured to free herself from his grasp.

'No,' said Drownlands; 'you have not seen all. You have been about the
world, I daresay; seen plenty of sights; but there is one thing you
have not seen before,—a fen-farm,—and it is a sight to unseal your
eyes. Come along with me.'

He held her wrist with the grip of a vice, and now drew her in the
direction of the kitchen.

'Look!' said he. 'What is that? That is our fuel. That is turf. What
do we pay for keeping ourselves warm in winter? Nothing. I have heard
say that some folks pay a pound and even forty shillings for a ton of
sea-coal. And for wood they will pay a guinea a load. We pay nothing.
The fuel lies under our feet. We take off a spit of earth, and there it
is for the digging, some ten—fifteen—twenty feet of it. It costs us
no more than the labour of taking up. Do I want a bit of brass? I go
to market, and say I have ten acres of turf to sell at sixty pounds an
acre. A dozen hands are held up. I get six hundred pounds at once. That
is what I call making money. Come on. You have not seen all yet.'

He drew her farther. He pulled her up the steps to the door, then
turned, and, pointing to a large field in which were mounds of clay at
short intervals, he said—

'Do you see that? What is done elsewhere when land is hungry, and
demands a dressing? Lime is brought to fertilise the exhausted soil. We
in the Fens never spend a shilling thus. If we desire dressing, we dig
under the turf, and there it lies—rich, fat clay—and spread that over
the surface. That is what it is to have a fen-farm. Come within now.'

He conducted Zita through the door, and threw open the dairy.

'Look,' said he. 'See the milk, the churns, the butter. Everything
comes to us in the Fens. Butter is a shilling a pound, and there are
twenty-eight pounds there now. There will be as much next churning, and
all goes as fast as made. Touch that churn. Every time you work it you
churn money. Come on with me farther.'

He made the girl ascend the stairs, and as he went along the passage at
the head of the staircase, he threw open door after door.

'Look in. There are many rooms; not half of them are occupied, but
all are furnished. Why should I stint furniture? I have money—money!
See!' He drew her into a small apartment, where were desk and table and
chairs. It was his office. He unlocked a safe in the wall.

'See! I have money here—all gold. Come to the window.'

Drownlands threw open the casement. Below was the yard, in which were
the young cattle, trampling on straw and treading it into mire. He
thrust his hand into his pocket, drew forth a handful of coins, and,
without looking what he held,—whether gold, or silver, or copper,—he
threw it broadcast over the bullocks and heifers. Some coins struck the
backs of the beasts, and bounded off them and fell among the straw,
some went down into the mud, and was kneaded in by their feet.

'What is money to me? It grows, it forces itself on me, and I know not
what to do with it. I can throw it away to free myself of the trash
and more comes. It comes faster than I can use it; faster than I can
cast it away. Now, girl—Cheap Jack girl—now you know what a fen-farm
is. Now you see what a fen-tiger can do. You remain at Prickwillow
with me. I will shelter you, feed you, clothe you, care for you. Eat,
drink, sleep, laugh, and play. Work a little. All is given to you

He put the flail to his knee and endeavoured to break it, but failed.
Then he cast it into the corner of the room, where was a collection of
whips, sticks, and tools.

'There,' said he, 'all I ask is—not a word about my having been on the
embankment. Not a word about the flail—least of all to Runham. I have
my reasons, which you do not understand, and which you need not know.'

Zita hesitated. She had not expected such an offer. She doubted whether
she could contentedly settle into farm life.

'You were about to leave,' continued Drownlands, 'or rather to try to
leave. But how could that horse of yours draw the van out of the Fens?
You know how it was when you came this way. The wheels sank, and the
horse was powerless. I sent my team, and only so could we draw the
van along. Never, unassisted, could you reach Littleport or Ely, not,
at all events, in winter. When you got into the drove the wheels would
sink again, and I should send my team and drag the van back here once
more. You have got your feet into the peat earth and clay, and are held
fast. Listen to me. Supposing you did get a little way and then stick,
and I were angry at your departure, and refused to come to your aid and
draw you back to Prickwillow, what then? Let me tell you what would
happen were you left out all night unprotected, sunk to the axle in the
fen. There are slodgers in the fen; there are tigers, as they call them
here—plenty round Littleport. That story of the sale of the flails is
spread and talked about. It is known that you have money. It is known
that your father is dead. Do you think there are not men who, for the
sake of what money you have, would not scruple to steal on you in the
dark, to come up like rats out of the dykes, like foxes from the holes,
and take your money, and nip that brown throat of yours to prevent
peaching? If you think there are not, then you think differently of the
Fens and the fen-men than do I who have lived in the Fens and among the
tigers all my days. Come'—

He put his hand to her throat and pinched it.

'This, and your body found in a drain, black in fen-water, of
a morning. This on one side; on the other, my offer of a home,

Zita withdrew from his grasp with a shudder.

'I accept your offer,' she said; 'I can do no other. There is no choice
in the matter.'

'You are right there,' said he, with a laugh. 'To you there is no



Days passed; Zita had settled into Prickwillow. She was given her own
room, and into that she removed the contents of the van. The walls
were lined with the stock in trade, and the crimson and gold curtains
festooned the window.

A chamber in a farmhouse seemed to Zita bare and comfortless after
the well-covered interior of the shop on wheels. She could not rest
till she had hidden the naked walls, and brought her room into some
resemblance to the interior of the rolling house she had inhabited for
so many years. But she had further reasons for accumulating the stores
in her own apartment. The van was in an outhouse, and was exposed to
damp, with its attendant evils, moth, rust, and mildew, that would make
havoc of her property if exposed to them.

Zita made herself useful in the house. She considered that she could
not accept the offer made her of shelter and sustenance without
acknowledgment of a practical nature, and as she was endowed with
energy and intelligence, she speedily adapted herself to the work of a
farmhouse. She found that there was need for her hand. The housekeeper
was without system, and disposed to abandon to the morrow whatever
did not exact immediate attention. The maid with St. Vitus' dance was
a worker, but required direction. Zita had been compelled to be tidy
through the exigencies of van life. In the travelling shop a vast
number of very various goods had to be packed into a small compass,
and the claims of trade had obliged her to keep every article in
the brightest condition, that it might look its best, and sell—if
possible—for more than its intrinsic value. Accordingly, not only did
Zita see that everything was in its place, but also that everything was
furbished to its brightest. She was nimble with her fingers in plying
the needle, and took in hand the household linen, hemmed the sheets,
attached buttons, darned holes, and put into condition all that was
previously neglected, and through neglect had become ragged, and was
falling to premature decomposition.

The girl noticed that Drownlands watched her at her work, but she
also saw that he averted his eyes the moment she gave token that she
perceived his observation; she was aware, not only that she interested
him, but that he, in a manner and in a measure, feared her.

She had a difficult course to steer with Leehanna Tunkiss, the
housekeeper, who had received the tidings that Zita was to become
an inmate of the house for some length of time, with doubt, if not
disapproval. The woman, moreover, resented the improvements made by the
girl as so many insults offered to herself. To hem what had been left
ragged was to proclaim to Drownlands and to the quaking help-maid, that
Leehanna had neglected her duty; to sew on a button that had been off
the master's coat for a week, was to exhibit a consideration for his
interests superior to her own.

At the outset, before the funeral, the woman had been gracious,
believing that Zita was but a temporary lodger. When she found that
she was likely to become a permanent resident, her manner towards her
completely altered.

One afternoon, when Zita had nothing particular to engage her, she
wandered along the drove, and then rambled from it across the fields.

A frost had set in on the day of her father's funeral, and had ever
since held the earth in fetters. It was one of those severe frosts that
so often arrive in November, and sweep away the last traces of summer,
clear the trees of the lingering leaves, and then sere the grass that
is still green.

It was one of those early frosts which frequently prove as severe as
any that come with the New Year. The clods and the ruts of the drove
were rigid as iron. It would have been difficult to move the van when
the way was a slough, it was impossible now that it was congealed. The
lumps and the depressions were such as no springs could stand, and no
goods endure. Pots would be shivered to atoms, and pans be battered out
of shape. Whatever Zita may have desired, perhaps hoped, she recognised
the impossibility of leaving her present quarters under existing
circumstances. A thaw must relax the soil, harrows and rollers must
be brought over the road, before a wheeled conveyance could pass over
it. Finding it difficult, painful even, to walk in the drove, where
there was not a level surface on which the foot could be planted, Zita
deserted it for a field, and then struck across country towards a mill,
the sails of which, of ochre-red, were revolving rapidly. The fields
are divided, one from another, by lanes of water. The fen-men all
leap, and pass from field to field by bounds—sometimes making use of
leaping-poles. With these latter they can clear not the ditches only,
but the broad drains or loads.

Zita was curious to see a mill. From one point she counted
thirty-six, stretching away in lines to the horizon. She had hitherto
known windmills only for grinding corn. Here the number was too
considerable, and their dimensions too inconsiderable, for such a

Lightly leaping the dykes, she made her way towards the red-winged
mill. As she approached, she saw that the mill was larger than the
rest, that it had a tuft of willows growing beside it, and that, on
an elevated brick platform, whereon it was planted, stood as well a
small house, constructed, like the mill, of boards, and tarred. This
habitation was a single storey high, and consisted, apparently, of one

On the approach of Zita, a black dog, standing on the platform
with head projected, began to bark threateningly. Zita drew near
notwithstanding, as the brute did not run at her, but contented itself
with protecting the platform, access to which it was prepared to

Then Zita exclaimed, 'What, Wolf! Don't you know me? Haven't you been
cheap-jacking with us for a couple of months, since father took you off
the knife-swallowing man? We'd have kept you, old boy, but didn't want
to have to pay tax for you, so sold you, Wolf.'

The dog had not at first recognised Zita in her black frock; now, at
the sound of her voice, it bounded to her and fawned on her.

A girl now came out from the habitation, called, 'What is it, Wolf?'
and stood at the head of the steps that led to her habitation, awaiting

'Who are you?' asked the girl on the platform She was a sturdy,
handsome young woman, with fair hair, that blew about her forehead in
the strong east wind. Over the back of her head was a blue kerchief
tied under her chin, restraining the bulk of her hair, but leaving the
front strands to be tossed and played with by the breeze. She was, in
fact, that Kainie whose acquaintance we have already made.

'I believe that I know who you are,' she said.

She had folded her arms, and was contemplating her visitor from the
vantage-ground of the brick pedestal that sustained mill and cot. 'You
are the Cheap Jack girl, I suppose?'

'Yes. I am Cheap Jack Zita. And who are you?'

'I—I was christened Kerenhappuch, but some folks call me Kainie and
Kenappuch. I answer to all three names. It's no odds to me which is
used. What do you want here?'

'I have come to look at the mill. What is its purpose? You do not grind

'Grind corn? You're a zany. No; we drive the water up out of the dykes
into the drains. Come and see. Why, heart alive! where have you been?
What a fool you must be not to know what a mill is for! Step up. Wolf
won't bite now he has recognised you. If you'd been some one else,
and tried to step up here, and me not given the word to lie still,
he'd have made ribbons of you.' She waved her arms towards the low
wooden habitation. 'I lives there, I does, and so did my mother afore
me. Some one must mind the mill, and a woman comes cheaper than a
man. Besides, it ain't enough work for a man, and when a man hasn't
got enough work, why, he takes to smoking and drinking. We women is
different; we does knitting and washing. We's superior animals in that
way, we is. Here I am a stick-at-home. I go nowhere. I have to mind
the mill. You are a rambler and a roll-about—never in one place. It's
curious our coming to know one another. What is your name, did you say?'

'Zita—Cheap Jack Zita.'

'Zita? That's short enough. No wonder with such a name you're blowed
about light as a feather. It'd take a thundering gale to send
Kerenhappuch flying along over the face of the land. Her name is enough
to weight her. Now, what do you want to see? Where does your ignorance

'It begins in plain blank. I know nothing about mills.'

'My mill is Red Wings. If you look along the line to Mildenhall and
count ten, then you'll see Black Wings. Count eight more, and you have
White Wings.'

The girl threw open a door and entered the fabric of the mill, stepping
over a board set edgewise. She was followed by Zita.

Nothing could be conceived more simple, nothing more practical, than
the mechanism of the mill. The sails set a mighty axletree in motion,
that ran the height of the fabric, and this beam in its revolution
turned a wheel at the bottom, that made a paddle revolve outside the
mill. This paddle was encased in a box of boards, and at first Zita
could not understand the purpose of the mechanism, not seeing the

'Would you like to climb?' asked Kainie. 'Look! I go up like a
squirrel. You had best not attempt it. If your skirts were to catch
in the cogs, there'd be minced Cheap Jack for Wolf's supper. I'm not
afraid. My skirts seem to know not to go near the wheels, but yours
haven't the same intelligence in them. A woman's clothes gets to know
her ways. Mine, I daresay, 'd be terrible puzzled in that van of yours.'

'Don't you talk to me about petticoats,' said Zita. 'Petticoats to a
woman is what whiskers is to a cat. They have feeling in them. A cat
never knocked over nothing with his whiskers, nor does a woman with her
skirts if she ain't a weaker fool than a cat.'

Then up the interior of the mill ran Kainie, with wondrous agility,
playing in the framework, whilst the huge axletree turned, and the oak
fangs threatened to catch or drag her into the machinery.

'Do come down,' said Zita. 'I do not like to see you there.'

But it was in vain that she called; her voice was drowned in the rush
of the sails, the grinding of the cogs, and the creak of the wooden

Presently Kainie descended, as rapidly as she had run up the ribs of
the mill.

'Mother did not let me do it when she was alive,' said the mill girl.
'But I did it all the same. Now, what next? Come and see this.'

She led Zita outside, and took her to the paddle-box, flung open a
door in it, and exposed the wheel that was throwing the water from the
'dyke' up an incline into the 'load' at a considerably higher level.

'It licks up the water just like Wolf, only it don't swallow it.
There's the difference. And Wolf takes a little, and stops when he's
had enough; but this goes on, and its tongue is never dry.'

'Does the mill work night and day?'

'That depends. When there's no wind, then it works neither night nor
day, but goes to sleep. But when there has been a lot of rain, and the
fen is all of a soak—why, then, old Red Wings can't go fast enough or
long enough to please the Commissioners. Look here; the water has gone
down eighteen inches in the dyke since this morning. Red Wings has done
it. He's not a bad sort of a chap. He don't take much looking after.
There's a lot of difference in mills; some are crabbed and fidgety, and
some are sly and lazy. Some work on honest and straight without much
looking after, others are never doing their work unless you stand over
them and give them jaw. It's just the same with Christians.'

'And what is that long pole for?' asked Zita.

'That, Miss Ignorance, is the clog. I can stop the wings from going
round if I handle that, or I can set the sails flying when I lift the
clog. Come here. I'll teach you how to manage it.' She instructed Zita
in the use of the clog. 'There!' said she; 'now you can start the mill
as well as I can, or you can stop it just the same. You've learned
something from me today. I hope you won't forget it.'

'No; I never forget what I am taught.'

'Not that it will be of any use to you,' said Kainie. 'You're never
like to want to set a mill going.'

'Perhaps not; but I know how to do that, and it is something. There is
no telling whether I may want it or not.'

'It's as easy as giving a whack to the hoss who draws the van,' said

'Now,' said Kainie, after a pause, 'this here hoss of mine has reins
too. Do you see those two long poles, one on either side, reaching to
his head? Them's the reins; with them I turn his head about so that he
may face the wind. That's the only way in which my hoss can go. Now
come and see where I live.'

She led the way to her habitation, which was beyond the sweep of the

'It's small, but cosy,' said Kerenhappuch. 'No one can interfere with
me, for Wolf keeps guard. But, bless you, who'd trouble me? I've no
money. And yet one does feel queer after such things as have happened.'

'What things?'

'Ah! and it is a wonder to me how you or any one can abide in the same
house with him.'

'With whom?'

'Why, with Ki Drownlands. Though he be my uncle, I say it.' The girl's
face darkened. 'He never spoke to my mother, his own sister; never
helped her with his gold, and he rich and we poor. The Commissioners
gave us our place, not Uncle Drownlands.'

'Who are the Commissioners?'

'You are a silly not to know. Every man who owns a couple of score
acres in the Fens is a Commissioner. And the Commissioners manage the
draining, and levy the rates. They have their gangers, their bankers,
their millers—I'm one of their millers. No,' said Kainie vehemently.
'No thanks to Ki Drownlands for that.' She grasped Zita by the
shoulders, put her mouth to her ear, and said in a half whisper, 'It
was Uncle Ki who killed Jake Runham.'

Zita drew back and stared at her.

'I am sure of it,' said Kainie; 'and there be others as think so too,
but durstn't say it. But there is nothing hid that shall not come to
light. Some day it will be said openly, and known to all, that Ki
Drownlands did it.'



Zita walked back in the direction of Prickwillow with a weight on her
heart and her mind ill at ease. Incidents half observed rose in her
memory and demanded consideration—as in a pool sunken leaves will
rise after a lapse of time and float on the surface. Facts that had
been indistinctly seen and scarce regarded, now assumed shape and

She recalled the incidents of the night of her father's death, and
marshalled them in order with that nicety and precision that marked
her arrangement of the goods in the van. She remembered how that she
had seen two men ride along the bank, one after another, with an
interval of some minutes intervening between them, as they passed above
where she had been with the van and her father. The first rider had
been furnished with two lanterns to his feet. She had let him pass
without attempting to arrest him. That man she now knew was Hezekiah
Drownlands. Then, after a lapse of some minutes, a second rider had
passed, going in the same direction. He had carried a single lantern
attached to his left stirrup. To him she had run, him she had brought
to a standstill, and she had asked and been refused his assistance.
That man was Jeremiah Runham.

Zita next recalled every particular of her run along the bank after
the second rider. She now distinctly remembered having seen a glitter
of several lights before her, a cluster of lights leaping and falling,
flashing and disappearing. How many these had been she could not
recall. They had changed position, they were not all visible at once.
At the time, in her distress of mind, she had not counted them. But
she was now convinced that the lights which she had seen, and seen in
one constellation, had been more than two. A single star would have
represented Runham. Two stars would have indicated Drownlands. More
than two—that showed that the men had been together. Further, she had
heard shouts and cries. At the time, as she ran, she had supposed that
these were in response to her appeals for assistance; but when she had
reached Drownlands, the only man on the bank she did come upon, then,
as she now recalled, he was startled at her appearance, as if it were
wholly unexpected. He could not, therefore, have called in answer to
her cries. But where was the third light? What had become of Runham?

When she had reached Drownlands no third light was visible, whereas a
minute previously there had certainly been more than two before her.
What had become of the second rider?

It was, of course, conceivable at the time that the third light had
been extinguished, and the second rider was in full career along the
bank in the direction he desired to go. But such an explanation was
no longer admissible when it was known that this rider was dead, and
had been drowned in the river. When Zita considered that this rider,
Runham, had been found in the water, with the light of life as well as
that of his lantern extinguished, and when she remembered that she had
picked up the flail he had been carrying at the spot where she came up
with Drownlands, it appeared certain to her that Drownlands must have
witnessed, if he did not cause, the death of Runham. It was possible
that Runham, returning tipsy from market, may have urged his horse on
one side, so as to pass the man before him, and so have plunged into
the river; and it was possible enough that Drownlands had chosen to
maintain silence on the matter, lest any admissions on his part might
have been construed into an accusation of having caused the death of
his adversary.

Zita was turning these thoughts over in her mind when she reached the
embankment. She started to walk along it. She was confident that she
could fix the spot where she had slipped into the water, and that was
but about a hundred paces from where she had come up with Drownlands.
She remembered to have observed there a post in the water that had in
it a mortice-hole, like an eye, and that the head was so indented and
rugged as at one moment to make her suppose it was a human face.

As has already been stated, there had been sufficient frost to harden
mud into rock. Traces of a scuffle—if a scuffle had taken place—would
be recognisable still to an eye that knew precisely where to look for

Zita went with nimble feet, a busy brain, and fluttering heart towards
the point where the van had been arrested in the mud, and she resolved
thence to follow the course she had taken on that eventful night along
the bank. On this occasion she walked deliberately where she had
previously run, and came after a while to the spot where, according
to her calculation, she had slipped into the canal. There she found
the post standing up out of the water to which she had clung, close to
the bank, with the mortice-hole in it that had looked so like a human
eye. This was the only post of the kind she had come across, and this
was not more than a hundred yards from the spot where she had grasped
Drownlands' foot, had held him, and had heard him scream at her touch.

At this point, some hundred yards beyond the post with the hole in it,
she carefully explored the soil. The top of the embankment was indented
with hoof-marks, but these might have been made by the gangers' horses,
which were constantly driven up and down the embankment. But there was
something that satisfied the girl that at this spot a struggle had
taken place, for on the land side of the embankment tufts of grass and
clods of clay had been torn out and thrown into the drove, and on the
water side hoof-marks and a slide in the greasy marl were sealed up
by the frost as evidences of a horse having there gone down into the
water. These had not been observed by any one else, as no one save
Zita had known the exact place where to look for them, and though
distinguishable enough when searched for, they were not obtrusively

Zita had not merely a well-arranged mind, but she was able to prize
whatever facts came before her at their true value.

Now, as she walked away from the river towards Prickwillow, she
realised that there was strong presumptive evidence that Drownlands
had been engaged in a tussle with his enemy, and that he knew how it
was that Runham had met his death, even if he were not absolutely his

As Zita entered the house, she heard the master's voice raised in tones
of anger. He was addressing Mrs. Tunkiss, the housekeeper.

'It's all idle excuse—you don't want the trouble of it. I know your

'I haven't a needle will go through it,' answered Leehanna.

Then Drownlands came out of the kitchen. He was swinging in his hand
the tiger-skin that usually in cold or wet weather was slung over his
shoulders. His eye lighted on Zita, and his face brightened at once.

'Look here, you Cheap Jack girl,' said he. 'The servants are idle curs,
both of them. I want Leehanna Tunkiss to mend my skin. I have torn it.
A few threads will suffice, and she declares she has no needle that
will go through the leather. It's all idleness and excuse.'

'I will do it,' said Zita. 'We have all sizes and sorts of needles in
stock—for cobblers, tailors, and all.'

She took the tiger-hide out of his hand.

'That's my great-coat—my mantle by day and my rug and coverlet by
night,' said Drownlands. 'I wear no other. We, who have been born and
bred in the Fens, folk are pleased to call fen-tigers. That is why I
got this skin. Ten, fifteen years ago it was for sale in Ely, and I
bought it as a fancy, and have come to think I can't do without it.
Folks have got to know me now by it, and call me the Fen-tiger King.
Can you mend it?'

Turning the skin about, Zita said, 'It has been given a

'Well, so it has, and there is a rip as well. If it is not drawn
together now, it will go worse. I don't want to wear rags, and I won't,
that's more—though Leehanna would have me, to save trouble. It is
easier to find an excuse than to run threads with a needle.'

'I will do it,' said Zita. 'But you must suffer me to take it to my
room, that I may find a suitable needle and stout thread.'

'Yes, take it,' said Drownlands, with his beetling brows drawn together
and his eyes fixed on her from below them. 'Yes, Chestnut-hair! you can
do everything. In your store you keep everything but excuses.'

'We could not sell them,' said Zita.

'And it is with excuses Leehanna serves me,' he replied, and looked
sideways angrily at his housekeeper, who retreated muttering into the

Then Drownlands went out, and Zita retired to her room to accomplish
the task she had undertaken. As she turned the hide about, she was
struck with the evidence it gave of having been wrenched and twisted
with great strain of violence. The wrench was no ordinary one, produced
by the catching of the skin in a nail or door. The hide was in one
place stretched out of shape by the force exerted on it; not only so,
but it had been contorted. Again, on closer investigation, it appeared
that some of the hair had been ripped out by the roots, by this means
exposing the bare hide.

As Zita worked at the repair, her busy brain occupied itself with the
causes of this strain and rent: how they could have been produced, why
the tension had been so excessive.

That Drownlands had not ridden to Ely on the fair-day with his skin
torn she was convinced by his asking to have it mended now; whereas,
had it been in this condition before fair-day, he would have required
it to be repaired before riding into Ely. Drownlands was eccentric in
his dress, but he was also punctilious about its neatness. The injury
done to the tiger-skin must have been done since Tawdry fair-day. All
at once Zita dropped needle and twine, started up, left her room, and
went to that which Drownlands used as his office, the apartment into
which he had conducted her when he showed her his money.

Into the corner of this room he had flung the flail that he had taken
from her when she was about to leave his farm and to return it to Mark
Runham; the flail she had picked up on the bank was that Runham the
elder had bought from her for a guinea.

Zita knew that Drownlands was out, she had seen him go to the stables
across the yard. He had not returned. She had not heard his voice
or step in the house since. Into the office she was justified in
penetrating, for the master had asked her to keep it in order for him.
Leehanna Tunkiss neglected it, on the excuse that she was afraid of
disarranging his papers and books. Zita knew that both flails were in
this room; that which Drownlands had bought was suspended to a nail,
the other was in the corner where he had cast it.

Zita took both flails and examined them. She saw that they had been
subjected to rough usage. The wood was bruised in both. It had not
been so when they left her hands in the afternoon of Tawdry Fair. The
flappers were dinted, and there was a deep bruise in the 'handfast' of
one. Both had been employed to strike, and both had clashed against
each other.

Zita replaced Drownlands' flail on the nail whence she had unhitched
it, and took a further look at that which had belonged to Runham.

She now observed that the leather thongs that attached the flapper to
the handfast were twisted, stretched, and strained, and that in the
twist was a tuft of hair precisely similar to that of the tiger-skin.

She detached some of this hair, took it to her room, and compared it
with that still in place on the hide. There could no longer be any
question but that a struggle had taken place between the two men, that
they had fought with the flails, that in course of the contest the
flail of Runham had become entangled in the hide worn by Drownlands,
and that the flail had been twisted, and so had strained and torn the

In this case Drownlands most certainly knew of the death of his
adversary, and had had some hand in it.

Zita knew enough, and she shuddered at the thought that she was
enjoying the hospitality of a murderer.



'Heigh! Cheap Jack girl!'

Zita was out enjoying the crisp, frosty air, on the frozen soil,
sparkling under the winter sun.

The November frost had continued, and canals and rivers were iced over
as well as dykes and drains. God's plough was in the soil—that is what
country folk say when the frost cuts deep into the earth. Where God's
plough has been, there golden harvests are turned up to gladden all
sorts and conditions of men, and golden harvests turn to metallic gold
in the pockets of the farmers.

Every fen man, woman, and child can skate. As soon as a child has found
its legs, it essays to slide, and when it can slide, it attempts to
skate. Fen skating is inelegant. Speed alone is considered, and legs
and arms fly about in all directions. With scorn does the fen-man
contemplate the figuring of the fine gentleman on the ice.

In winter, skating matches come as thick as do football matches
elsewhere. Parish is pitted against parish, fen against fen, islet
contests with islet; even the frequenters of one tavern are matched
against the frequenters of another.

During a hard frost, locomotion for once becomes easy and speedy in the
Fens. Men and women skate to market, children to school, and smugglers
run their goods from King's Lynn.

Zita had gone to the river side to see a sight that was novel to her.
As she stood watching the skaters, Mark Runham came to the bank side,
his cheeks glowing, his fair hair blowing about his ears, his eyes
sparkling as though frost crystals were in them.

'I say, Cheap Jack, get on your patines and come.' Skates are termed
_patines_ in the Fens.

'If you mean skates, I have none. Besides, I do not know how to use

'Not got patines? Not know how to use them? Then take a ride in my
sleigh. I'll run you along. Stay here a few minutes till I have brought

He was gone, flying down the river like a swallow, and in ten minutes
he had returned, drawing after him a little sledge, and stayed his
course on the frozen surface of the Lark before Zita.

'It's fine fun,' said he, with a voice cheery as his smile. 'I'll
run you where you like to go; to Rossall Pits if you will—to
Littleport—down to the sea—up to Cambridge—to the end of the
world—anywhere you will.'

'Take me for a short distance only.'

'Then seat yourself in the sledge. We shall go as the wind.'

Zita descended the bank to the ice.

'Look!' said he; 'do you see how my sleigh is made? It is set on the
leg-bones of a horse. It runs on them in prime style. They wear as
steel, and slip along better.'

With her face radiant with happiness, Zita placed herself in the little

Then with a merry 'Whoop!' off he started down the river. The wind
rushed in Zita's face, sharp and fresh, and drove the blood to her

They passed many 'patiners,' men and boys. There were few women out.
Later, when the sun set, they would skate along the frozen surface to
the tavern. The tavern is an institution in the Fens more frequented
than elsewhere, and frequented without scruple, not by men only,
but by women as well. There is a reason for this. The fen-water is
undrinkable. There are no springs in the Fens. Those who live near
the rivers derive thence their tea water; river water is potable and
harmless when boiled, that which is drawn from the peat is neither.
Consequently the inhabitants of the Fens are compelled to drink
something other than water, and instinctively seek that something other
at the public-houses. When the woman's work-day is over, she dons her
patines and is off to the 'Fish and Duck,' or the 'Spade and Becket,'
the 'Pike and Eel,' or the 'Sedge Sheaf,' to moisten her dust-dry clay.

As Zita flew along the ice, she laughed for joy of heart. Never had
she travelled so fast. Her wonted pace had been that of the snail, for
she had made progress in a heavily-laden van, drawn by a depressed and
stolid horse. She was whirled past one of the main pumps for throwing
the water of the loads into the river, and before she conceived it
possible, she had passed a second. And these engines, as Mark told her,
were two miles apart. Jewel's fashion of travelling was very different
from that of Mark. Along the smoothest and most level road he had been
accustomed to crawl, and then, after having made his pulses throb and
his sweat break out, to stand still, with head down, to revive himself.
Then nothing would induce him to proceed till he considered himself
refreshed, when he would stumble on for a couple of miles, and again
pause. But Mark flew along as though he would never know exhaustion,
and there was no bringing him to a standstill.

After several vain attempts to arrest him, Zita succeeded. He stood
beside her sleigh with a smile on his pleasant face, and with the steam
blowing from his nostrils.

'You must not go too far,' said Zita. 'We have come a long way from

'What! are you tired? You have not been dancing on sketches?'

'I do not understand your meaning.'

'Sketches?—does that word puzzle you as did patines? They are what
some folk call stilts. I can run on them like a crane. But sketches are
cumbrous, and, when the fen is soft, tire one speedily.'

'Let us return now.'

'No indeed. You have nothing to call you back. That fellow Drownlands,
old scoundrel,—I beg your pardon,—will not be angry with you and
thrash you, I suppose?'

'He is not at home. He has gone abroad for the day.'

'Then come along. We will visit Newport.'

'Please do not take me much farther.'

'Why not? Are you not enjoying the run?'

'I love it.'

'Then away we go. You are not afraid of travelling, with me as your

She looked straight into his bright, honest face, and laughed. 'No—you
are too good for any one to fear you.'

'How do you know that?'

'You carry honesty in your eyes, and "good boy" written across your

'It is time for me to run,' laughed Mark, 'or my head will be turned.'

He buckled himself to his task, pranced from side to side, swinging the
little sleigh to right and left, in his light-hearted frolic, and then
away he went, running the sleigh with Zita in it straight along the

The flatness, the monotony of the Fens, the absence of unshackled
nature, the treelessness of the region, the lack of everything that can
arrest the changing lights and passing shadows, combine to make the
district one to send a chill into the mind of the visitor. Flat as the
sea, it is devoid of its diversity of tint and tumultuous or glassy
beauty. Nevertheless, the fen exercises a charm over the mind and holds
with a spell the heart of the native. He can live nowhere else. He will
not emigrate. He feels bound to spend all his days in the fen. Only
when the vital spark expires does his body leave the turf to repose in
the clay of the islet graveyards. That the farmer and landowner should
love the fen is not marvellous, because of the richness of the soil and
the profits they make out of it; but why the labourer should cling to
the spongy turf is not so explicable. He may be discontented, and be a
grumbler, but he is discontented with his lot, and envies the taverner
or the smuggler on the Fens, grumbles at the hardness of his work or
the lowness of his pay; but he is not discontented because the fen is
so flat, and he has no word against its hideousness, or, at least, its

One reason why the labourer in the Fens does not think of leaving
it may be that he uses tools there different from those employed
elsewhere, and he would have to learn his trade anew, employ unfamiliar
tools, and be subjected to ridicule when handling them awkwardly. It
is strange, but true, that those men are more naturally prone to leave
their homes who inhabit mountainous lands than such as dwell in level

How far was Mark going? How Zita flashed past the windmills, some of
which had their sails in motion! A little rising ground showed, with
some trees clustered on it—that must be Littleport.

'Mark,' said Zita suddenly, 'I want to ask you a question.'

'Say on,' said he, and relaxed the speed at which he was spinning her
along, and finally came to a standstill. How pretty she was, with her
glowing cheeks, her cherry lips, the light of the winter sun in her
soft hazel eyes and in her rich, burnished, chestnut hair! How pretty
that hair was now, in some confusion, puffed out of its order, the
coppery strands on her brow, one down her cheek! The wildness of her
appearance thus untidied by the wind made her more than ever charming.

Mark looked with eyes that could not be satiated with looking.

But it was not merely her beauty that struck him. It was the exuberant
happiness that seemed to be bursting forth at her eyes, running out of
her little head in every shining hair, glowing in those bright-tinted
cheeks, burning in those carnation-red lips.

'Well, my dear little Zita, what is it?'

'Mark, it is something I have thought about and have puzzled over. It
seems strange to speak about it now—now when I am so joyous—and it is
connected with things so sad to me and to you.'

'But what is it, little rogue?'

'Mark, that terrible night when your father and mine died'—. She

'Well, Zita?'

'Then—before his death, I mean—before the death of my own dear daddy,
and I can't say whether it was before or after yours was drowned—I
heard such a strange, such an awful sound.'


'In the sky—above; like the barking of dogs. It was just as though a
hunter was going by with his pack. Shall I tell you what I thought it?
It was just as if the dogs had smelt the fox, and gave tongue. Was it
not dreadful? I could see nothing; I could hear—that was all.'

'I think nothing of that,' said Mark. 'I know our fen-folk say it is
the devils running after a human soul. They have snuffed it from the
bottomless pit, then the Great Hunter of Souls opens the kennel door,
and out they burst, yelping, snapping, panting, and come after it.'

'Oh, Mark!'

'But if the soul be very nimble, it runs before them, runs on the
wind, swift as an arrow, and slips in at heaven's gate, and then the
evil spirits yelp and bay and bark outside. But it is all fudge and
nonsense. I believe that the sound comes from the wild geese.'

'I shall ever think of this. Oh, I hope I shall never hear that
dreadful sound again. My dear father—no—he would certainly escape
those hounds. They would never catch him. For him the Golden Gate would
be opened, and the dogs be shut outside. He was so gentle, so kind, so
true. Oh, I loved him so—so much!' And thereupon the brightness was
gone out of the sunny little face, and it was bathed in tears.

'Put all this aside. Think no more of it.'

'They were in full pursuit when I heard them.'

'The geese? And you are a little goose if you think more of this.'

'Mark, may I never hear that sound again!'

'Or, if you do, Zita, may I be near you to laugh your fears away. No,
not laugh—kiss them away, as I do now.'

'Mark! you _are_ a naughty boy! I did not think it of you.'

The roses had come back, and the glow was returned, and in one cheek
deeper than the other.



'Do go on and leave me alone,' said Zita.

Then again the young man sped forward with the sledge, at full speed on
his skates. There was a glow of something more than health—something
more than the reaction produced by the fresh wind—in his cheeks.

'Here's a joke!' exclaimed Mark, stopping for a moment. 'I see quite a
throng round Beamish's mill.'

Again he went on. And Zita, looking in the direction he had indicated,
saw that a considerable number of persons was collected, some on the
banks, some on the ice, and as many as could be accommodated on the
brick platform of a windmill.

Without halting, Mark said, 'The paddle can't go because of the frost,
but Pip Beamish's tongue can wag, and when it wags it is for mischief.
He is a restless, dissatisfied rascal. We'll go and hear what he has to

Mark stayed the sledge when he reached the outer ring of the
congregation that was gathered together about the mill.

The day was Sunday, so no work was being done. There were idlers
everywhere, specially on the ice. In present days there is little
church-going in the Fens, in former days there was none. Churches are
few and far apart. In mediæval times the monks of Ely had chapels on
every islet that rose a few feet above the meres, and they boated from
one to another, gathering around them for divine service and moral
instruction the aquatic population of the Fens. With the Reformation
these chapels were let fall into ruin, and care for the souls of the
fen-dwellers ceased. The canons of the cathedral were wealthy and idle,
and it never so much as occurred to their sleepy, stagnant consciences
that they had duties to perform towards the inhabitants of the district
whence they drew their revenues.

When the meres were dried, and settlers occupied the drained land, then
the parochial clergy were unable to cope with the altered condition
of affairs. The roads were impassable, the distances enormous, their
incomes had not increased with the alteration in the value of the lands
included in their vast parishes. Consequently, the fen-folk came to
think little of their religious duties. The church towers might serve
as landmarks, but the church pastors were not spiritual guides. The
only form of religion that commended itself to an amphibious population
was Anabaptism, and that mainly because it consisted of a good souse in
fen-water. A few of the sterner spirits settled into the sect, but the
bulk of the natives grew up and lived without any religion at all; or,
if they professed to be Christians, they took care to allow it in no
way to interfere with their profits or their pleasures.

The assemblage about the mill consisted of labouring men and their
wives; some were in their Sunday clothes, but others had not taken the
trouble to 'clean' themselves. Such were the men who lounged about on
holidays with springes and nets in their pockets, and a gun barrel up
the left sleeve.

A stool was planted close to the mill, and on it stood a young man with
high cheek-bones, long dark hair, and glittering eyes under heavy,
bushy brows. He had unusually lengthy arms, and at the extremities of
the arms unusually broad, flat hands. These he flourished about. He
drew in his elbows to his sides, and emphasised an appeal by suddenly
throwing out his arms and extending his fingers. Having his back to the
mill, which was constructed of boards, what he said was audible to some
distance. The boards served as reverberators.

'I say it is a sin,' shouted the orator. 'Here be the farmers turning
earth into corn, and corn into gold guineas, and the men as helps them
to do it ain't paid enough to keep body and soul together. What was
wheat a quarter only a short while ago? It was one hundred and twenty
shillings and sixpence. Now it is ninety-six shillings. And what are
the wages? Seven to ten shillings. What is the difference between seven
shillings and ninety-six? Eighty-nine, is it not? That is what goes
into the farmers' pockets. Who do all the work? And who get all the
gains? Look into every stackyard and see what wheat is there for the
rats and mice to eat,—they are not begrudged it, let them eat,—but
you and your children must starve. Why are not the stacks threshed
out? Because the farmers are waiting till the wheat goes up to one
hundred and twenty-six shillings again. You may perish of hunger—that
is nothing to them. Your children may run naked—that is nothing to
them. You may drink fen-water because you haven't twopence to pay for a
half-pint of beer—that is nothing to them. You mayn't have a blanket
to throw over your beds this freezing weather—they don't care. You may
have the walls of your cots so full of cracks that the wind whistles
through them—they don't care. Your hands have held the plough, your
hands have sown the corn, your wives and children have hoed it three
times, you have reaped it, you have stacked it—and there it stands
for rats and mice to eat, till prices go up to one hundred and
twenty-six shillings. Ninety-six is not good enough for them,—these
bloodsuckers,—and you are content to let things remain so. What I
maintain is, that you have a right to say to the farmers, "Thresh out
now while we are hungry; the price is too high even now for us, and why
should sad days for us be golden days for you?"'

His address was received with applause.

Mark turned to Zita and said in a low tone, 'He is right after a
fashion. I'll set to work and thresh to-morrow. I'll let the labourers
who are on my farm have this corn ten per cent. under market price. I
cannot act fairer than that.'

'And how is it with the millers?' pursued the orator. 'Don't they take
toll of every sack of corn you send to them to be ground? Are not their
pigs and cows kept fat on what the miller's fist brings up out of your
flour? As if it were not enough that you were cheated by the farmer,
you must be cheated also by the miller. Pillaged in every way, pinched
on every side, trodden on by every one—that is your fate.'

His words met with applause.

'We have gone on hoping, and we have been disappointed. What good
comes to us from Parliament? None at all. What help do we get from
the laws? The laws are made for the benefit of the farmer, and not
for the poor man. What good to us are magistrates—justices of the
peace? They are appointed to hold us down, to fine and imprison us.
They are the farmer's friends, not the friends of the poor man. We are
told that Old Boney is the foe of our country. Men are called from the
plough, plucked away from their wives and children, to serve the king
against this Bonaparte. What does patriotism mean? It means loving the
country where we are ill-treated and starved, loving the king who never
concerns himself about us, loving the laws that oppress us, loving the
magistrates who imprison us, loving the farmers who are sucking the
marrow out of our bones. I'm no patriot. As well ask a poor prisoner
to love his jail, shed his blood in its defence. I'll tell you what it
is, friends, Heaven helps them who help themselves. No good will come
to us from waiting. Heaven is silent so long as we bear and do nothing,
but Heaven will send its lightning and hailstones when we take the
matter into our own hands. It was so in the day of battle in Gibeon;
then the Lord cast down great stones from heaven upon the oppressors
of Israel, and made sun and moon to stand still till they were cut to
pieces, smitten hip and thigh. The great stones would have remained in
the clouds, sun and moon have taken their usual courses, had not Joshua
and Israel armed themselves to fight—to right their own wrongs. So
will it be again, so has it ever been, so will it be unto the end. We
must raise our hands to fight our fight, raise our hands against our
oppressors, or there will be no help for us from on high. If you remain
hoping and doing nothing, then, as I said before—to be trampled into
the mud—that is your fate.'

'And to be thrashed and to be kicked out of employ—that is what is
laid up for you, you rascal!' shouted an imperious voice.

Zita and Mark looked round, and saw behind them Drownlands on his horse.

'I will see to you, Pip Beamish, as sure as that I am a Commissioner,'
continued the master of Prickwillow. 'You were not set to tend a mill
that you might stump it and foment ill-feeling. I shall report what
you have said at the next meeting of the Commissioners, and shall have
you cast adrift.' Then, turning to the audience, Drownlands brandished
his whip and cried, 'As for the rest of you, disperse instantly, or I
will ride up and down among you and lash you with my whip, and send you
skipping home.'

The crowd broke up into knots, then further dissolved and dispersed.

'I'll have your names, and see that you are thrown out of employ. Get
home at once, before the whip is at your breech.'

The haughty, commanding tone of the man, and the knowledge that he was
one ready to execute his threats, seemed to make those who hesitated
consider that the better part of valour was discretion, and they
scattered in all directions.

Drownlands, upright in his stirrups, looked about him, marking those
who seemed reluctant to obey his orders. Then his eye rested on Zita.
His face changed immediately.

'You here?'

'Mark ran me up in his sleigh.'

'Mark? Mark? What Mark? How dare you come here without leave from me?'

'I am not your servant. I am not your prisoner. I go where I choose. I
do what I will,' answered Zita, nettled at his tone.

'Hallo!' scoffed Drownlands. 'What! has the mad folly of Ephraim
Beamish infected your little brain?'

'My brain is sound enough. It is you, Master Drownlands, who forget
what your place is, and what is mine. You are not my master. I am not
your servant. I pay my way. I am a lodger at Prickwillow, nothing more.
If I please to go out for a run on the ice with Mark, I am not idle. I
have done my work in your house, and may enjoy myself as I like.'

'Do not bandy words with me.'

'It is of no use arguing with him,' whispered the young yeoman. 'He is
in one of his passions, when he acts and talks unreasonably. Take no
notice of him.'

'What are you whispering about? Making mock of me?' roared Drownlands.

'Come, Cheap Jack,' said Mark, 'jump on to the sleigh again; and you,
Master Drownlands,' he looked at the horseman with a laugh, 'let us
race—you on the bank, I on the canal—and Zita the prize.'



Zita was back at Prickwillow long before the master.

She anticipated a scene with him and prepared for it. He was wont to
domineer in his house and on the farm, and she had just seen how he
domineered and enforced his will on an assemblage of men not under
subjection to him.

She was sensible that he had gradually assumed towards herself an air
of authority, but he had not hitherto addressed her in a dictatorial
tone so distinct as to provoke resistance. She had, however, perceived
that the time was approaching when some understanding must be reached
as to her position and their mutual relations. She was not a domestic
in the house, to be ordered about or to have her liberty curtailed. She
had accepted his hospitality, not entered into his service.

Zita was alive to the fact that every one in the house and on the
farm—Mrs. Tunkiss, the shaking maid-of-all-work, the herd, the
labourers, the stable-boy—all stood in awe of him. The housekeeper
was as a lamb under his reprimand; a word addressed to the girl with
St. Vitus' dance drove her into convulsions; an order given to the men
galvanised them into momentary agility and sent the boy skipping like a
flea. Zita despised them for their subserviency. She was not afraid of
Drownlands. She knew that concerning him which was sufficient to make
him quake before her.

Zita had been accustomed to face men of every description. Her father
had stood between her and coarse insult, but she had been obliged to
confront men rude, boisterous, and disposed to take advantage of her
weakness, and had acquired readiness in dealing with them, and nerve
not to show timidity.

When she had seen the cringe and cower of those whom Drownlands had
threatened, she tossed her chestnut gold head in a manner expressive of

Drownlands had noticed this, and Zita had seen in his darkening brow
that he had observed, was surprised and offended at the contemptuous
action. The moment was not far off when he would test his strength
against hers.

'The sooner the better,' said Zita to herself; and, instead of avoiding
him, she went across the yard to meet him as he rode up the drove. She
took his horse by the bridle and said, 'I will lead him to the stable;
the men are at chapel or the beerhouse, and the boy is with the cows.'

'You won't curry favour by doing this,' said Drownlands.

'Curry favour? I curry nothing. Currycomb your horse yourself!'

'I want a word with you, Cheap Jack.'

'And I with you, Fen-tiger—we must settle terms.'

'Terms? What terms?'

'The price of my lodging.'

'I do not understand you.'

'I have a capital copper warming-pan,' said Zita, 'with George and the
Dragon on the lid. A stunner. I've reckoned up what meat I've ate, and
all I've drunk, and the wear and tear of knives, linen, dishes, and so
forth, and I think the copper warming-pan will cover it all.'

Drownlands had flung himself from his horse.

He stared at Zita; he did not in the least seize her meaning.

'If you don't care for a warming-pan,' she said, 'then there's half
a dozen red plush weskits, with gilded buttons and dogs' heads on
'em—you can't wear all six, but take your choice and I'll make up
with scrubbing-brushes, starch, and blue. I think the tiger-skin and a
red weskit under it, and them bushy eyebrows tied in a knot as they be
now, will make such a figure of you as will drive babies and girls into

'You are mocking me! You dare to do that?'

'I'm not mocking you, though I don't say I'm not inclined to whisk a
red weskit before you, when you stamp and blare like a bull—for fun,
you know. I love fun, but I am not mocking you. I am too much obliged
to you for receiving me to do that.'

'I will turn you out—you and your van—into the winter frost.'

'When? To-morrow? I am ready to go.'

'You shall not go!' exclaimed Drownlands, coming round the head of the
horse to her and seizing her wrist. 'You shall not go; I know why you
want to leave me. I know whither you want to go.'


'To Crumbland.'

'I have not been invited there; but if you turn me out, I shall find a
shakedown somewhere. There is that girl Kenappuch at the mill. She'll
have me for certain, and I'll pay her; not so high as a warming-pan,
but in currants and figs and a roll of calico. The accommodation won't
be so good as yours, nor the feeding so liberal.'

'You have got to know her also?'


'And Mark Runham?'

'Yes; he has got to know me. That's the way to put it.'

'You are resolved to seek friends where I disapprove—among those who
are my enemies?'

'I know nothing and care less about your quarrels. I've got acquainted
with both, and they are the only persons in the Fens for whom I care'—

'Oh, you care only for them.'

'Outside Prickwillow. You cut me short before I had finished my
sentence. That is bad manners. If we kept manners in stock, I'd sell
you a penn'orth.'

'Ah,' said Drownlands, for a moment relaxing his iron grasp, 'you allow
me some of your regard?'

'I always care for every one who is kind to me, and you have been kind
to both me and my poor father.' At the mention of her father Zita's
lips and voice quivered, and tears filled her eyes. 'You were good to
him. I do not forget that, and I'll pay you for it in anything I have
got that you fancy. What do you say to smoked mother-of-pearl buttons?'

'Will you be quiet?' roared Drownlands, with an oath.

'Or,' continued Zita, 'there are several pounds of strong fish-glue. It
went soft and got mouldy in the van, but I got it dry in the kitchen
and wiped the mould off. It is all right now; the strength isn't taken
out of it. A shilling a pound is what it would cost you in Ely, but
as I offer it to you, I'll knock off twopence. You shall have it for
tenpence per pound—so you see I do care for you, twopence in the

Drownlands' face darkened; he pressed the girl's wrist so that she
uttered an exclamation of pain.

'You hurt me,' she said; 'that's something off your account.'

'You are making a jest of me!' gasped the man. 'And you dare to do so?
You are not afraid?'

'What should I be afraid of?'

'I can hurt you—worse than by nipping your wrist.'

'And I can defend myself,' she answered. '_I_ afraid of _you_? No; it
was you who trembled and screamed like a woman when I touched you on
the river bank that night we first met. It is _you_ who have reason to
be afraid of _me_.'

The colour went out of his face.

'No, I am not afraid of you,' continued Zita. 'I remember how, when you
sought to ride on, I stopped your way, and drove you where I wanted you
to go—drove you with the flail.'

He released her arm. She felt that his hand was shaking. He knew that
it shook, and he was afraid lest she should observe it.

He walked in silence to the stable with his head lowered. Zita
followed. She had gained a first advantage. She had forestalled his
attack, and now, instead of her being cowed by him, he was subdued by

When they were both in the stable,—for she had followed him to show
him how little fear she entertained,—then he addressed her in an
altered tone.

'You do not intend to leave me?'

'No; if you desire me to remain, I will remain.'

'I do desire it. I could not endure that you should go.'

'That is right; but why did you threaten me? I will stay. I could
not put up old Jewel in the windmill, and I haven't been invited to
Crumbland by Mark Runham.'

He stamped his foot impatiently and set his teeth.

'Why do you speak of him again?'

'Speech is free here—in the van—in a king's palace—everywhere save
a gaol. I will speak of any one I choose, at any time, before any one,
and in any place I like.'

'Why did you go with him today?'

'Because I am free to go where I choose, and with whom I choose. This
is Sunday, and a holiday.'

'Yes; but if you have any regard for me, do not go with him at all.'
He drew a long breath, removed and put on again his broad-brimmed hat.
'Why do you speak to me of payment for the trifling things I have done
for you? of payment with warming-pans, red waistcoats, and fish-glue?'

'I am glad we are round to that point again,' said Zita, 'for speak of
that I must. No one can be expected to do things for nothing. If you
house me and Jewel, and feed us both'—

'You have worked—you have done more than that beldame Leehanna and the
girl would do in twenty years.'

'I have taken that into account. I know how many hours I have
worked at fivepence three-farthings (needles and thread included).
Nevertheless, the balance is against me. There is the warming-pan, or
the scrubbing-brushes, or the fish-glue'—

He struck his fist against the stable door to drown her words.

Zita put her hand on his arm.

'It is of no good your acting the fool,' she said. 'What is right is
right. I shouldn't feel square in my insides if the account were not
balanced. My dear father was mighty particular on that score. Every
night we balanced our accounts as true as any banker, with a stump of a
pencil as he sucked. If I don't balance I can't sleep. I'll put to my
account some pins I had set to yours, all because of that squinch of
the wrist you gave me. If I were to leave your house to-morrow, Master
Drownlands, you'd find on the shelf in my room a row of articles that I
reckoned up would belong in rights to you as balancing our account.'

He did not answer. He thrust his horse into a stall and put a halter
round its head.

Then Zita went to the corn-chest and brought out a feed. The horse
whinnied as he sniffed the oats. Drownlands was in the stall tightening
the knot at the end of the halter. As Zita turned to depart, after
having tossed the oats into the manger, he came out after her, and,
laying hold of one side of the corn-measure, said—

'Are you going?'

'Yes. I have fed Pepper.'

He shook the measure, and said, in tones of angry discouragement, 'You
will not take a bite of my bread, nor lie on a flock of my wool, nor
cover your golden head with one tile of my roof, but you must weigh
each and prize and pay me its value to the turn of a hair.'

'Not so exactly; of course, I leave a margin.'

'A margin of what?'


'To whom?'

'To myself, of course. We should never get along in the world without
profits. When we come to deal among friends, as you and I, then the
profits are reasonable. But when one has to do with the general
public,—that father always called the General Jackass,—then you lay
it on thick and heavy. Without profits of some sort one can't sleep the
sleep of innocence, as father said. But it is one thing dealing with
General Jackass and another with a friend; and I want you to understand
the footing on which we deal is the latter.'

'So—the footing of buy and sell?'

'Yes. I take my small profits. When a dressmaker makes your frocks, she
charges you for a packet of needles and uses one—the rest are profits.
She charges you for a knot of tape, and uses two yards and a half—the
rest is profit. And she cuts out eight yards of lining, and puts down
twelve—four are profits; and she puts you some frilling round your
neck and cuffs, charging three yards, and she uses one—there's profits
again. I do the same with you. I couldn't sleep if I didn't. It's
feather bed and pillow and bolster to me—profits.'

'Take what you will. All you like.'

'No,' said Zita. 'Fair trade between us. We deal as friends. I respect
and regard you too greatly to treat you as if you were General Jackass.'

Then she left the empty corn-measure in his hand and walked away, with
a swing of the shoulders, a toss of the head, an elasticity in her
tread, that appertained to one who was victor—not to one defeated. And
Drownlands stood looking after her, holding the empty corn-measure, and
he wondered at himself that he had been beaten at every point by this
girl—he who had galloped home boiling with anger, resolved to break
her into meek subjection to his will.



A sough of wind passed over the Fens like a long-drawn sigh. Every one
who heard it listened in silence. It was repeated, and then the general
comment was, 'The skating is over.'

Nor was the comment falsified by the event. The wind had veered round
suddenly, without warning, to the south-west. It blew all night
and sent a warm rain against the windows that faced that quarter.
It covered wood and walls with dew. The ice broke up in the river,
it dissolved in the dykes. The sails of the mills were again in
revolution, they whirled merrily, merrily.

Zita had come upon the embankment to see the broken ice drift down the
sluggish river, swept along by the wind rather than the current. There
she encountered Mark Runham.

'What, you here, Cheap Jackie? No, hang it! I won't call you that. It
seems impudent; but I do not mean that, you may be sure.'

'I know that, and am not offended.'

'Your name—it continually slips my memory.'


'A queer sort of a name that.'

'It is not often you meet a Cheap Jack girl. They do not come thick as
windmills in the flats. So it suits me to bear a queer name.'

'A queer name becomes a queer girl.'

'Thanks. I have something for you—half a pound of bird's eye.'

'What for?'

'In payment for my run on the ice.'

'I do not want payment.'

'It gave you trouble, made you hot, but it was a very great pleasure to

'I won't take it.' The young fellow laughed with his merry eyes as well
as with his fresh lips. 'Can you understand this, that it gave me five
times as much pleasure as it did you to spin you along and see the red
roses bloom in your cheeks and those dark eyes of yours twinkle as
though there were Jack o' Lanterns dancing in them? Zita, it is not
every day that a lad gets the chance of running a pretty girl along the
ice. It is I am in debt to you. We'll square the account, anyhow.' He
caught her head between his hands and gave her a kiss on her red lips.
'There is the account scored out, and a new account begun.'

'That is not fair!' exclaimed Zita, shrinking back.

'What! not settled? Again, then.' He kissed her once more. 'And
so—till all is right, and the balance squared.'

Then he laughed, and, releasing her head, said—

'You know we raced,—that old Drownlands and I,—and you were to be the
prize. I won you.' Then, seeing that she looked disturbed, he went off
to, 'Now, Cheap Jackie, tell me, was not that a droll sort of a life,
going over the world in that comical van?'

'It was a very happy life, and the van was not comical at all. It is

'I have not seen it.'

'Then why did you call it unsuitable names?'

'A jolly life, was it?'

'Indeed it was. I was very happy in it—specially when we had piled up
the profits.'

'You made a pile when you sold my father a flail for a guinea.'

'We did; but if it is any satisfaction to you to know it, it was the
thoughts of that made him pass away so happy.'

'A guinea was nought to my father; he was rich. Now I am rich.' Then,
with a trip of his foot on the bank as though he were dancing, 'Zita,
what a joke it would be for us to go round in the summer with the old
van and the stock-in-trade. What have you done with the goods?'

'They are safe.'

'And we will visit Swaffham, and Littleport, and Ely together, and
sell away like blazes. I'll attend to the horse, and you shall do all
the talking the folk want. What fun it will be!'

'No,' said Zita, colouring; 'that will not be right.'

'Why not?'

'No. It was all very well with my father. But I will not go again.'

'You must—you shall—with me!'

'I will not—indeed I will not.' She turned away.

'Well, anyhow you will show me the van?'

'Yes. When you like.'

'I can't well go into Prickwillow as matters are between us and
Drownlands—not that I bear him ill-will, but he is sour as a crab
towards me. We will manage it somehow at some time. But I can't help
thinking what fun it would be for us two to travel the world all over
together, selling pots and pans. I wish I had been born a Cheap Jack.
Where are you off to now, Zita?'

'I am going to see Kainie at Red Wings.'

'I will go with you. I also want to see her. I am very fond of Kainie,
I am.' Said with a mischievous laugh.

'I daresay you are, but I am going alone.'

'Nonsense! I shall go with you. I must see Kainie. I have an errand to

'Who sent you?'

Mark hesitated, then said, 'Well, no one. But it is business. I must

'Then go. I will remain here.'

Zita observed a lighter moored to the bank in the river. She stepped
towards it. 'I will go into the barge. Will you come with me and punt
me about?'

'I cannot. I must go to Kainie.'

'You wanted to come with me in the van, asked me to go with you. Now I
ask you to come with me in the boat, and you will not.'

'I pay you off,' said Mark good-naturedly. 'You would not travel
with me in the van, so I will not travel with you in the barge. But,
seriously, I cannot. I must go on to Kainie. Come along with me,' urged
Mark. 'Kainie will be pleased to see you.'

'Oh! you can answer for her?'

'In some things; certainly in this.'

'I will not go.'

Zita pouted and turned her back on Mark. The young man did not press
her to change her intention. The decision in her face, the look in her
eyes, convinced him that his labour would be in vain were he to attempt
it. He started in the direction of Red Wings without her, and whistled
as he walked. Zita's brow was moody. She was a girl of impulse and of
no self-restraint, changeful in temper and vehement in passion.

There was no reason why she should resent Mark's going to Red Wings,
and yet she did resent it. If he had to go, and she refused to
accompany him, he must go without her. That was obvious, and yet she
was very wroth. In her mind she contrasted Drownlands with Mark. She
had but to express a wish to the former, and it was complied with.
Had she said to him that she desired him to row her on the canal, he
would have placed himself at her service with eager delight. But this
scatterbrained Mark had no notion of submission to her wishes. He had
desired her society on the bank; when she refused it, he did without
it, and did without it with a light heart—he went away whistling.

Zita stepped into the barge and seated herself on the side. She put her
chin in her hand and looked sullenly into the water full of broken,
half-dissolved pieces of ice.

She was hot, her angry blood was racing through her veins. She was,
in her way, as impetuous as Drownlands. She had been suffered in her
girlhood by her father to follow her own bent, to do just what she
liked. But, indeed, there had been no occasion for him to cross her,
their interests were identical. Good-natured though Zita was, she was
masterful. She had sense, but sense is sometimes obscured by passion.

She sat biting her nails. A fire was in her cheeks, and now and then
the tears forced themselves into her burning eyes.

What could Mark have to call him to Red Wings?

What possible business could he have with Kainie?

Red Wings was not on his land; the mill did not drain his dykes.

Zita marvelled how long Mark would remain with Kerenhappuch. Would
he sit down with her in her cabin? Would their conversation turn
on herself—Zita? Would Mark say that she was sulky? What would
Kerenhappuch reply? Would she not say, 'What else can you expect from
a girl who is a vagabond? We who lead settled lives in mills and
farmhouses know how to behave ourselves. What can you get out of a
chimney but soot? What does a marsh breed but gadflies?'

It is really wonderful what a cloud of torments an ingenious mind can
rouse if it resolves to give run to fancy. Perhaps a woman is more
prone to this than a man. She conceives conversations relative to
herself; she puts into the mouths of the speakers the most offensive
expressions relative to herself. She wreathes their faces with
contemptuous smiles, gives to their voices insulting intonations, and
finally assumes that all the brood of her festering brain is real fact,
and not mirage.

It was so now with Zita.

She was startled from her reverie of self-torment by a shock in the
boat. She looked up, startled, and saw before her a man with long arms
and large hands, dark-haired and dark-eyed. He was handsome, but
his face bore an expression of sour discontent. The thin lips were
indicative of a sharp and querulous temper, and the checks seemed as
though they could not dimple into laughter.

'What are you doing in the lighter?' asked the man, whom Zita
recognised as Ephraim Beamish, the orator.

'I suppose I have as much right to be in the boat as you,' answered the
girl peevishly.

'No doubt. We neither have any right anywhere. We are both poor. I
know who you are—the Cheap Jack girl. I hear you have been taken into
Prickwillow. Wish you happiness. It is not the place I should care
to be in. Drownlands is not the man to clothe the poor, house the
wanderer, feed the hungry, without expecting his reward—and that here.
He does nothing of good to any one but to serve his own ends. He has
just had me turned out.'

'Turned out of what?'

'Turned out of my mill, out of my employ, out of my livelihood. I have
now to run about the fens, in ice and snow. I have no home. I am a
gentleman, however, for I have no work. The rats may shelter in the
barn, the mice may nest in the stack, but I must be without a roof to
cover my head, without work to engage my hands, and without bread to
put into my mouth. And all for why? Because I have been bold to speak
the truth. Truth is like light. Men hate it and turn their eyes from
it. Them as speaks the truth gets persecuted, and I am one of these.'

'You can obtain work elsewhere,' said Zita, displeased at having her
imaginary troubles broken in on by some one with a real grievance.

'No, I cannot,' answered Beamish; 'the owners of property hang together
like bees when they swarm. If you disturb one, the whole hive sets on
you and stings you to death.'

'Well,' said Zita irritably, 'you need not tell me all this. I cannot
assist you.'

'I do not suppose you can. But—has Property got into your blood, that
you speak so sharp to me? Maybe, like a bat, you're hanging on to it
by a claw. Like a gnat, you have your lips to it, and are sucking your
fill. I do not ask your help. I fend for myself. But I like to talk.
Nothing will be done to correct evils if the evils be not talked about.
You must go round Jericho and blow the trumpets seven times, and seven
times again, before the walls will fall, and we can march up and take
the city. Let Property look out. The working people will not stand to
be robbed and maltreated any longer.'

Beamish unloosed the rope that attached the boat to the shore, and,
taking a pole, thrust out and began slowly to force the vessel up
stream, talking as he punted.

'You may tell Drownlands my curse rests on him; and that will rot his
timber and rust his corn.'

'I will bear him no such message,' said Zita. 'But where are you taking

'Up the river. I shall leave you presently; but I will return and punt
you back again.'

'Where are you going?'

'To Red Wings.'

'What do you want there?'

'I have an errand,' answered Beamish.

'There is one gone there before you, with an errand from himself—and
that is Mark Runham.'

'He there!' exclaimed Pip Beamish, leaning on the punting-pole and
looking down into the water. 'Property meets one everywhere. Property
blights everything. I am a poor chap. I am cast out of employ; but I
did think I had my ewe lamb. And now Property comes between me and
her. Property says to me, "Go—what I cannot consume I will destroy,
lest you have it." Do you think, you Cheap Jack girl, that Mark Runham
will marry Kainie? He is a man of property, and property hungers for
property. She is like me. She has nothing. She is a miller grinding
nought save water.'

He thrust the boat towards the shore.

'I'll not go to see her,' said Beamish. 'I could not bear it. I'm off
to the Duck at Isleham. I shall meet there some fellows who love the
working people, and who will combine to teach these men who hold the
Fens in their fists to deal with their labourers justly and mercifully.'

He leaped ashore, mounted the bank, and, standing there, extended his
long arms and expanded his great hands, and cried, 'I see the day
coming! I see the light about to break! The trumpet will sound, and
the dead and crushed working men will rise and stand on their feet.
That will be a day of vengeance!—a day of fire and consuming heat!
Then will the fen-farmers call to the earth to swallow them, and to
the isles to cover them, against the anger of the dead men risen up in
judgment against them.'

'There comes Mark,' said Zita. 'I suppose I must get him to punt me
home. But I shall not speak to him all the way.'



At the time of our tale, the Duck at Isleham—a solitary inn on
slightly rising ground—was notorious as a place of resort for
poachers, a centre to which smuggled goods were brought from the Wash,
and whence they were distributed, and a general rendezvous for the
dissatisfied. Not a bad trade was done at the Duck. Thither came the
poachers as to a mart for the disposal of their game, and the dealers
to take the spoil of the poachers; thither came not only those who
brought, up the dark path from the sea, spirits which had not paid
duty, but also the farmers who desired to lay in supplies. As the
fen-water was not potable unmixed, it was a matter of necessity for
the fen-dwellers to temper it with something that would neutralise its
unpleasant savour as well as kill its unwholesome elements. Moreover,
such being the case, those who desired to lay in a stock of this
counteracting agent went for it, by a law of nature, to the cheapest
shop, and the cheapest shop was that where the traffic was in spirits
that were contraband. Lastly, at the Duck assembled the great company
of grumblers, large everywhere, but especially large in the Fens.

As the Duck afforded space for a good many grumblers in bar and
kitchen and parlour, and as grumblers like to grumble into the ears
of men of their own kidney, the Duck drew to it the discontented of
all classes—farmers dissatisfied with their rent, yeomen dissatisfied
at their rates, artisans out of humour because trade was slack,
gangers, clayers, bankers, gaulters, slodgers, millers, molers,
gozzards—everyone whom the depressing atmosphere of the Fens made
dispirited, and who thought the cause of his depression was due to the
oppression of some one else.

The kitchen of the Duck was full. A great fire of turf was heaped
up, and glowed red, diffusing heat, but giving out no flame, and,
notwithstanding the tobacco smoke, filling the place with its
penetrating, peculiar odour. The men present—on this occasion they
were all men—were drinking; they were mostly men of the class of
agricultural labourer. Among them were two or three with dazed eyes,
men silent, pallid, who looked at the speakers and acquiesced in every
sentiment or opinion expressed, however contradictory they might be.
These were opium-eaters.

In the Fens, almost every cottage grows its crop of white poppy in the
small garden. Of the poppy heads a tea is brewed. The mothers are
accustomed to work in the fields, hoeing between the ranks of wheat.
The rich soil that produces the corn produces also weeds that have to
be kept under. That the babe may not interfere with the mother earning
a small wage, it is given poppy tea, and that sends it to sleep for
the day. But the drops of opium thus administered in infancy affect
the tender brains, bewilder them, and subject the child to nervous
pains. As it grows up to man or womanhood, it has recourse to the drug
to which it was brought up in infancy. A large business in laudanum is
done in the Fens, and much of the distraught mind and tortured nerve is
due to this cause. The poppy tea dispels trouble as surely as whisky,
and opium dulls pain at a cheaper and surer rate than the surgeon who
boggles over its removal.

'I tell you,' said Pip Beamish, 'it is due to the farmers and yeomen.
Look at them, up to the eyes in gold, and gold that is squeezed out of
the fen by your hands. Till they have been taught a lesson, and that
a sharp and stinging one, they will go on in the same way. No Acts of
Parliament will help us. You may send up whom you will, Whig or Tory,
to Westminster, it is the same. No party will do aught for you. No
judges and no jury are of any avail, for law can't come in and right
us. We must do that with our own hands. When a boy won't do the right
thing, you put a stick across his back and make him; you don't ask for
an Act of Parliament, you don't elect a member to teach him his duty.
We must teach our farmers as you teach idle and thievish boys. Teach
them in such a way as they won't forget. Teach them to fear the rod.
Set the stackyards blazing throughout the Fens, and by the light of
those fires they'll begin to see what is the way of justice and equity.'

'I don't see how that's going to lower the price of wheat,' said a
ganger, named Silas Gotobed. 'You sez that the cost of bread is too
high. If you burn the wheatstacks, there will be less corn, and up the
price will go.'

'You're right there. That's reason, Silas,' said a third, Thomas Goat,
a gaulter. 'The mischief don't lie with the farmers. They grow the
corn—some one must do that. The wickedness is in the eaters.'

'Why, we're all eaters.'

'Ay!' said Goat sententiously. 'But we've a right to eat; there be a
lot eats as hasn't a right to do so.'

'You mean rats and mice.'

'No, I don't—leastways not four-legged ones.'

'What do you mean, then?'

'It is them collegers,' said Goat. 'I've been to Cambridge. I've seen
them there, a thousand of them. They come up in swarms from every
part of England, and there they do nought but eat and drink and row
on the river, and play cricket on Parker's Piece. Rowin' and playin'
cricket ain't qualifications for eatin'. What would you say if a
thousand rats, big as bullocks, was to come on to the Fens and attack
our stacks? There'd be a pretty outcry. Every man would take down his
gun. The terriers would be called for. Traps, poison would be laid, and
none quiet till every rat was exterminated. Very well, up from every
part of England come these darned collegers to the Univarsity, and
spend their time there, eatin'—eatin'—eatin'. Mates, I axes, what
are they eatin'? It is the wheat we grow on our fens. I calculate that
one-half of what we grow goes down into their stomicks. If there were
no collegers, then there'd be twice as much corn, and corn would be
at forty-eight instead of ninety-six. It is that Univarsity and them
collegers does it. I have shown you that as clear as these five fingers
of mine. If that ain't reason, show me where it is to be found.'

'I don't hold with you,' said Gotobed, impatient at having his say
snapped out of his mouth. 'I suppose collegers must eat somewhere.'

'Let them stay and eat at home.'

'Well, but what about the price of wheat at their homes? Won't they
diminish the supply there?'

'That don't concern us,' shouted a clayer named Gathercole. 'It is
no odds to us what the supply and what the price is elsewhere. All
that concerns us is the supply and the price here in the Fens. Goat,
you've hit the wrong nail on the head! I know better than you; it's the
bankers does it.'

'What have you to say against the bankers?' asked Goat. 'I'd like to
know where the corn would be if the bankers did not keep the rivers
from overflow.'

'I mean those who have banks in towns,' explained Gathercole. 'I've
been to Mortlock's in Ely. I've seen what the clerks do there. They
have drawers full of gold. They don't trouble to put their fingers to
it, they shovel it in and shovel it out like muck. Whence does Mortlock
get all that gold, I ask. It comes out of the Fens. The farmers are
such dizzy-fools that they put their money there for Mortlock to take
care of, and Mortlock sends the money out of the country to America.
What's the advantage of the farmers growing corn, and of the labourers
helping to grow it, what's the pleasure to reap and sow and plough and
mow and be a farmer's boy, if all the money earned and addled goes into
Mortlock's bank, and Mortlock sends it to America? I wish I was in
Parliament one week, and I'd hang every banker in the country, and burn
every ship as takes the money out of England and carries it to America.'

'I say it is the millers,' said Isaac Harley, a clayer. 'You send a
sack of corn to the soak-mill, and you get back half a sack of flour.
How is that? There should be as much flour come back as corn went, but
there does not. I have proved it scores of times. I've sent a sack
so full of wheat that I could scarce bind the mouth, and when it
came back as flour it was but half full. That is what makes corn so
dear—the millers steal it. If I were king for half a day, I'd drown
every miller in England in his own dam.'

'You are all of you out,' said a small landowner, named Abraham Cutman.
'But it is like your ignorance. You feel that the shoe pinches, but
you don't know where it pinches, and why it pinches. I will tell you.
I have education, and you have not. It is the rates. We are paying
from six to seven shillings an acre for the drainage of the Fens. The
rate has been up to ten shillings and sixpence. Why should we pay
that? We can't afford to pay seven shillings an acre in rates, and
pay our workmen well also. All the profits are consumed in rates. The
Commissioners stick it on, and they can't help it; they must have the
banks kept up and the mills in working order.'

'Of course they must,' threw in the gaulter.

'They must have their mills,' said Beamish. 'But why am I thrown out of
employ, that did no wrong, and never neglected my duty?'

'Silence all round. Listen to me,' said Cutman. 'The wrong lies here.
Take off the rate, and the price of corn will go down, and the price of
labour will go up.'

'That's it. Cutman has it!' exclaimed several.

But Goat dissented. 'There must be a rate,' said he, 'or how should I
be paid for my gaulting? and without gaulting there can be no banking.'

'Of course there must be a rate. I'd have it permanently fixed by Act
of Parliament at fifteen shillings an acre.'

'You would?'

'Yes, I would; so that gaulters and bankers should have double wages.
They work hard and deserve it.'

'Right you are, master,' said Goat; but others murmured.

'Why should gaulters and bankers only have double pay? Why not molers
and gozzards also?' others again asked. 'How about the price of wheat

'I said I'd have the rate fixed at fifteen shillings an acre,' pursued
Cutman, looking about him with an air of superiority. 'Fifteen
shillings an acre—not a penny less. But I'd have the rate shifted
from fen-land as wants draining to all other land in Great Britain as
doesn't want draining. The rate should be laid on all other shoulders
except ours. Stick a rate on to Mortlock's and all bankers. Stick it
on to the colleges and the universities. Stick it on to all high and
dry lands, where there is no call for banking and draining. Stick it on
where you like, only take it off from the Fens. Why should we pay rates
for draining our land when the farmers on high ground pay nothing?
They have their land six or seven shillings an acre cheaper than do
we. If I were in the Ministry, the first thing I would do would be to
impose a compulsory rate of fifteen shillings an acre on all land that
didn't want draining, to pay for the draining of land that did want it.
Then we'd have high times of it here in the Fens—farmers, bankers,
slodgers, all round. If that is not reason, and you don't see it, so
much the worse for your intelligences.'

'I don't call that reason at all,' said Goat. 'Don't tell me the
Commissioners would pay us double wages when the rate was at fifteen.
It is six now, and I get eleven shillings a week. Twelve years ago it
was half a guinea rate, and then my wage was ten shillings. If the rate
were up to fifteen I should be wuss off. Every four shillings the rate
goes up my wage goes down a shilling. With the rate at fifteen, I'd
be worse off—with a wage of five and sixpence, or six shillings at
most. I hold to it that the mischief lies in the Univarsity, with them
collegers a-eatin'—eatin'—eatin'. I'll fight at flap-chap any man as
disputes my argiment.'

'I dispute it,' said Silas Gotobed, starting up.

'Very well. We'll find out which has the best of the argiment and
reason on his side with flap-chaps.'

'My argiment is this,' said Gotobed. 'Rivers ought to run uphill. If
they don't choose to, they should be made to, by Act of Parliament.
Then we'd be dry, and them on high grounds would be wet. Then
they'd have the rates and the bother, and we'd be free. That is my
contention, and it's all gammon about them collegers.'

He placed himself opposite Goat.

'I don't care what you may call yourself,' said he to his opponent,
'Goat or sheep; but you're an ass, and every one knows it.'

Then Ephraim Beamish ran between the men, who stood facing each other
with threatening looks.

'Be reasonable,' he said, thrusting them apart with his long arms. 'Why
do you fly at each other, instead of at the common foe?'

'I don't know what be the common foe,' retorted Goat, 'if it bain't the
collegers. If I was in Parliament'—

'It's the bankers,' said Jonas Gathercole. 'If I was in Parliament'—

'It's the millers!' shouted Harley. 'If I was in Parliament'—

'It's the rates!' exclaimed Cutman; 'and a law should be made, and
shall be when I'm in Parliament'—

'You're every one out!' roared Silas Gotobed; 'it's Providence, as
don't do what it should be made to do, and force the rivers to run

'Sit down! you're drunk,' cried Cutman.

'I'm not going to be ordered about by you,' retorted the ganger; 'we're
all equal here. I haven't been bankrupt and sold my stacks twice over.'

Cutman fell into the rear. He had been guilty of fraudulent conduct at
his bankruptcy.

'I say it is the Univarsity, and I maintains my argiment,' said Goat.
'I'll prove it on your chaps.'

'I sez it is the rivers ought to run uphill. I'll box your donkey ears
if you denies it. That's my argiment.'

Gotobed made a lunge at this opponent and missed him. Flap-chaps is a
pastime affected in the Fens, more so in former times than at present,
but not out of favour now. It consists in this. Two men face each other
and endeavour to slap each other's cheeks, right or left, as best they
can, and as best they can to ward off with the same open palm the
blows aimed at their own chaps. Those who play this game acquire great
dexterity at it, but when much ale or spirits has been drunk, then the
eye has lost its quickness of perception, the hand its steadiness, the
brain its coolness, and the contest rapidly degenerates into a drunken
brawl and a roll on the floor, with fisticuffs and head-bumping.

It promised to so degenerate on the present occasion. Gotobed was the
most intoxicated and least able to parry the blows levelled at him, and
every time Goat's hand made his cheek sting, it roused him to a further
access of fury that blinded him to what he was about; he withdrew
his left hand from behind his back. This provoked an outcry from the
lookers-on of, 'Not fair play! Hand back! hand back!'

Beamish again endeavoured to interpose, but came off with both his ears
tingling; he had received a blow on one cheek from Goat, and on the
other from Gotobed. The strife recommenced after this futile attempt to
separate the men. Slap, slap, on the chaps of Gotobed, followed by a
blow from his fist in the face of his adversary. This occasioned a yell
from all in the room of 'Cheat—not fair! a fine! a fine, Silas! Fair
game or none at all.'

'I'll pay a fine indeed!' roared Gotobed. Then, springing at his
opponent, who staggered stupefied under the blow he had received,
he snatched his hat from his head, and, thrusting it into the fire,
shouted, 'Caps! Caps!' Then he dashed at Cutman, who wore a white

'Your hat!' he demanded.

'You shall not have it. It is as good as new.'

'I will have it,' answered Gotobed. 'Ain't we all equal? Isn't it the
rule? What are you better than me? One cap—all caps. That's the rule.'

He tore the white beaver out of the yeoman's hands, and rammed it with
his ironshod boot into the glowing turf fire.

'Mates! Mates! Show up your caps!'

Then ensued wild confusion. Some snatched the caps and hats from those
who were near them, some endeavoured to protect their own headgear from
confiscation, and fought for them. Some thrust their own caps into the
flames, and in ten minutes there was not one in the company but was
without a cover for his crown.[1]

Beamish had made angry resistance. Three men assailed him, tripped him
up, and sent him sprawling on the alehouse floor. A fourth wrenched his
hat away and thrust it into the flames, shouting, 'You're a fine chap
to say all men are equal, and want to keep your own hat when the rest
are bareheaded.'

The landlord stepped outside, to see that the fiery tinder did not fall
on and ignite the thatch. He returned and said, 'It is snowing.'

'Snowing, is it?' said Gotobed, staggering to the door. 'Then we
shall all wear white night-caps to cool our heads.' Standing in the
doorway, sustaining himself by a hand on each of the jambs, looking in,
he shouted to his comrades, 'I am right. You are all wrong. At next
election I ain't going to vote for no candidate as won't promise to
make the rivers run uphill. Nothing will be as it ought to be—price
of corn won't be low, and wages won't be high, and farmers cease to
oppress, and bankers to send the money out of this country, and millers
to fill their fists with flour, and Commissioners to pocket money that
ought to have gone to the gangers, and collegians to cease to eat—till
Providence has been forced to do what it ort—and make the rivers run

    [Footnote 1: Burnt caps is a curious and inexplicable custom in the
    Fens. It is one that terminates many a brawl. If one man burns the hat
    of another, it is _de rigueur_ that all the rest of the company should
    surrender their headgear to complete the holocaust.]



No country in the world is so subject to variations in the climate as
England, and in no part of England are the variations so felt as in the
Fens. No hills, no belts of trees there break the force of the wind.
The gales rush over the plains unresisted from every quarter. Elsewhere
there are hedgerows, on the sunny side of which appear the celandine
and primrose in early spring, then the red-robin, the bluebell, our
lady's smock, and the gorgeous spires of foxglove later still. There
are no hedgeflowers in the Fens, for there are no hedges. Elsewhere the
landscape is variegated with coppice that is brown in autumn and pine
woods that are dark green all the year. It is not so in the Fens. There
are no trees. When the snow falls, it envelops the entire surface in

The frost had passed away, and the waters had been released. With the
thaw the mills had been set again in motion, and the sails flew fast
to make up for lost time. Now again a single night had altered the
complexion of the fen-land. All was white that had been black. The snow
had filled the ruts, and, consolidating, had formed a comparatively
smooth surface. Rivers and dykes were not frozen, only a little cat ice
had formed among the reeds.

Zita was in the farmyard. She had gone there to put her van to rights.
The van demanded her attention. The fowls had taken to roosting on the
top, and had made it untidy. There was no keeping them away. They could
be, and they were, excluded from the interior of the van, but not from
the shed in which the van stood. Formerly, they had been satisfied with
rafters and manger; now, whether out of perversity or love of variety,
or because the van satisfied their ideal, they deserted their ancient
roosting-places and crowded the van roof.

This was a source of incessant annoyance to Zita, who could not endure
the degradation to which the van was subjected. Every few days she
visited the shed, pail and scrubbing-brush in hand, and thoroughly
cleansed the conveyance.

She had been thus engaged, and had flung the dirty water at a clucking
hen that sauntered up with purpose to resume its perch on the van top,
when a pair of hands was laid on her shoulders, and, looking round, she
saw Mark.

'What has brought you here?' she asked in surprise.

'What but your own sweet self. I have not seen you for some days. As
you were not outside the farmyard, I have come into it to seek you.'

'You ought not to have done so. The master will be angry.'

'He is from home. I saw him ride to Ely.'

'But if he hears that you have been here?'

'You need not tell him.'

'I will not tell him, but others may—mischief-makers. Then I shall

'You can take care of yourself, I warrant.'

'You are right, I can protect myself. I am not a servant, but a lodger.
I pay for everything I receive and consume here—even for this soap and
the use of this pail.'

'And this is the van?'

'Yes, that is my old home. I was born in it. I have lived in it all my
life. Whatever I know I have learned in it. It is a fine thing to crawl
over the world like a snail, with one's house on one's back.'

'The snail-crawling is over with you now. You refused to let me go with

'Yes; it is over for the winter. What I may do when the spring comes, I
cannot say. My blood runs, my feet tingle. When the white butterflies
are about, I daresay I shall spread my wings also. I mean my red and
gold curtains.'

'And I may go with you?' mischievously.

'No; if I go, I go alone.'

'Let me walk round and admire your house on wheels.'

'You do not see it to advantage,' said Zita regretfully. 'It is not
dressed out. The pans and brushes and mats are stowed away, that make
it glitter just like a lifeguardsman. The inside is taken out. The
curtains are unhung. And then those dratted fowls are a nuisance. They
have taken a fancy to the van. If Master Drownlands and I were on
better terms, I'd ax him to have the fowls killed, or the shed boarded
up, that they might not come in.'

'What? you are not on good terms with old Ki?'

'Only middling. I have had to teach him to keep his distance.'

'Oh! he wanted to come to too close quarters—small blame to him,' said
Mark, laughing.

'He and I could not agree about terms—that was it,' said Zita, with an
impatient and annoyed toss of her head.

'Let the van come to my place,' said Runham. 'Then I will stow it away
out of reach of all fowls.'

Zita shook her head. 'I like to look at my van every day.'

'Well, that is no reason against sending it to Crumbland. If you come
to look at it twice a day, so much the better pleased I shall be.'

'I cannot send the van anywhere where I am not living, and this is my
lodging for the winter,' said Zita.

'And how goes the horse?' asked Mark.

'He don't go at all,' replied the girl. 'He eats and thinks and gets
bloated. He hasn't enough to do. I'm afraid he'll be out of health.'

'Let us have him into the shafts and trot him out a bit.'

'What? in the van?'

'Of course, in the van.'

Zita flushed with pleasure. 'I shall love it above all things—but
trot he won't. He never trotted in his life but once, and that was on
the fifth of November. A gipsy had tied a Roman candle to his tail.
He trotted then. After every flare and pop he went on at a run, then
he stopped and looked behind him for an explanation. Then away went
the Roman candle again, and a great globe of fire shot away high over
the roof of the van. At that Jewel trembled and trotted on once more.
Father was away. I was younger then by some years, and it frightened
me. I did not dare to touch the Roman candle. Jewel ran about two
miles, and when the firework was exhausted, he stood still, and, with
thinking about it, and trying to understand and unable, fell asleep in
the middle of the road. Father found us there, and he tried to persuade
Jewel to return the two miles, but he was obstinate—tremenjous—and
wouldn't move. At last father was forced to tie a Roman candle to his
nose, and that drove him backwards the two miles. But I don't think
Jewel ever quite got over the surprise of that fifth of November.'

When Mark had done laughing at Zita's story,—and Zita laughed as
she told it, and laughed when it was over, because Mark's laugh was
irresistible,—then the young fellow said, 'It will be fun for me,
pleasure to you, it will exercise the horse, and freshen and sweeten
the van. We will go a drive, in preparation for the grand tour in the
spring. Where is the harness? I'll rig the grey up.'

'You do not know how to set about it,' said Zita.

'What? not know how to harness a horse?'

'You do not know Jewel. He has to be talked to, and his reason
convinced. He has his fancies, and they must be humoured. He knows my
voice and the touch of my hand, whereas you are a stranger.'

Zita went to find Jewel and put the horse in the shafts. Whilst thus
engaged, she talked to Mark.

'The master had him out one day, and put him in the plough. It offended
Jewel, who was not accustomed to that sort of thing. He set his feet
straight down, stiffened his legs, back went his ears, he curled his
under lip, and looked out at the corners of his eyes. Not a step would
he take; it hurt his self-respect. Now, wait here by Jewel's head
whilst I go indoors after the crimson curtains and gold tassels. I
could not drive without them; it would not be showing proper regard for
the van, and it might hurt Jewel's feelings. It won't take five minutes
to rig up the curtains, and whilst I am after them, you can make
friends with the horse. Go in front of him and speak flattering words;
say how shapely are his legs, and how silken is his hair; but, whatever
you do, not a word about the Roman candles, or he'll never take kindly
to you.'

'All right, Zita. Where is the whip?'

'Whip? bless you! he don't want a whip. Why, the crack of a whip would
so frighten him that he would sit down. He'd suppose it was fifth of
November again. He'd curl his tail under him, and lay his nose between
his legs, and set back his ears, but keep an eye open, watching you and

Eventually, the van was considered by Zita to be sufficiently decorated
to be got under way, and Jewel was induced, by flattery and caresses,
to start along the drove.

The van was lighter than Jewel had ever known it to be, and he might
have been expected to take this into consideration, and accelerate
his pace; but, under the supposition that by so doing he would be
establishing a precedent that might be quoted on a future occasion, he
adopted his wonted pace, as when drawing the van laden with its many
and multifarious contents.

'The thing jolts—rather,' said Mark, laughing. 'What would become of
the goods, were they here?'

'They would be thrown all over the shop,' answered Zita. 'That is
why I am at Prickwillow. I cannot get away. Jewel could not pull the
laden van along the drove; and if other horses were attached to it,
everything would be shaken to pieces.'

Presently Jewel came to a halt.

'Shall I jump out and urge him on?' asked Mark.

'No; he is breathing. He will go on again presently.'

'And whilst he is breathing, we will talk. Conversation is impossible
when we are bumping into ruts and bouncing over clods. If this be
travelling when there is snow half-choking the wheelruts and levelling
the clods, what must it be at other times?'

'You see I am a prisoner at Prickwillow. I cannot get away without the
loss of all my possessions.'

'I see that now.'

Presently Mark said, 'Zita, why were you on the river with Pip Beamish
the other day?'

'I hired him with half a pound of bird's eye to punt me up stream. He
behaved unfair; he went off and left me.'

'And I had to bring you back—and mighty cross you were. Was that
because Beamish had left you?'

'I had cause to be cross when Beamish took the bird's eye and did not
half do the job. Now cling hard; Jewel is moving forward, and we must
hold to our seats to save being tumbled about and broken to bits.'

Mark was on one side of the van, Zita on the other. He put out his hand
to the curtains at one lurch, and roused Zita to remonstrance.

'The curtains are for ornament, and are not to be touched. They are of
velvet plush. I don't want to have your great hand marking them. Lay
hold of a rail. No! not a gold tassel; you would pull that down, and
maybe bring away the whole concern. Oh!'

This exclamation was provoked by the off wheel sinking into a rut, the
depth of which seemed unfathomable. The movement of the van was like
that of the mail steamer that runs from Dover to Calais, in a chopping
sea. At one bound Zita was propelled forward, and, had she not clung to
the ribs of the vehicle, would have been shot head foremost against the
opposite side of the van, with the result of either perforating that
side or of flattening her skull against it.

Then, at the recoil lurch, Mark was projected in the opposite
direction, and was nearly cast into Zita's lap.

'I say, Zita, the exertion is prodigious!' exclaimed the lad. 'I think
I should prefer to walk.'

'But the honour is so great,' gasped Zita. 'It is not every day you can
ride in such a conveyance as this, and have velvet curtains flapping,
and gold tassels bobbing about your head.'

'I'll try to think of it in that light.'

'Besides,' pursued Zita, 'a shake up is as good as medicine to the
insides. It puts them on their good behaviour. They are so tremenjous
afraid of having it again.'

'But surely progress in this affair is not always like this.'

'Of course not. It is only in the Fens there are droves. It was bad at
times where a highway had been new stoned. Then father and I clung to
the perishables.'

'How do you mean?'

'We took them in our arms, or held them. If we were bruised, it did not
matter; we mend up according to nature; but pots and pans don't. We
always lost something, though. There was that tea-kettle that troubled
father's last hours—it got a hole in it going over a bit of new road.'

This conversation took place in fits and starts, between the joltings
of the van. Presently Jewel thought he had sufficiently exerted
himself; he heaved a long sigh, looked back over his shoulder, and
stood still.

'There, now,' said Runham, pulling a large red, white-spotted kerchief
from his pocket and mopping his brow, 'Jewel is breathing, and so may
we. This is agonies.'

'I call it pleasure,' said Zita. 'It must be, because it isn't

'What did the horse mean by looking back at us, as he did just now when
he sighed?'

'Oh, he thinks it is his duty, now father's gone, to keep an eye on us.'

'I suppose, if I were to square accounts, as the other day'—

'He'd have an apoplexy. For goodness' sake don't.'

'I say, why did you go with Pip Beamish when you would not go with me?'

'I did not go with Beamish. He came with me because I hired him. Tell
me what took you to Red Wings? Had you an account to serve there?'

Mark became grave. He fidgeted on his seat. He was an honest,
open-hearted fellow, and disliked prevarication, but there was
hesitation, there was evasion in his reply.

'I have business of all sorts with all kinds of people.'

'That is no answer. I want to know why you went to the mill to see

Mark rested his chin in his hand and considered.

'I don't mind saying so much,' he answered, 'but let it be between us
alone. There is a sort of a tie between her and me—a sort of a tie,
you know.'

'I know nothing.'

'I can't give you particulars. It's all right,—if you knew, you would
say so too,—but I can't tell you more about it; and it's a tie can't
be got rid of.'

Further explanation was interrupted, for a head and pair of shoulders
appeared in front between the curtains.

'Oh! you, Runham—and that Cheap Jack girl! Which is it to be—she or
Kainie? It shall not be both.'

Pip Beamish was there, glowering at Mark from under his bushy eyebrows.

'Take care!' said Beamish, thrusting a long arm into the van. 'Take
care what you are about. If you hurt one hair of the head of Kainie,
I'll shoot you through the heart. I've time on my hands now. I'm turned
out of my mill by the Commissioners, and can choose my occasion. I
shall watch you. One or other—leave my Kainie alone and stick to
_her_.' He indicated Zita with one hand.

'Pip,' said Mark, flushing very red, 'do not talk nonsense!'

'Nonsense?' repeated Beamish; 'that is how you rich men treat these
matters—sport and nonsense; but to us it is heartbreak and despair.
What have I but my one ewe lamb? I have been expelled my mill because
you Commissioners think I'm a dangerous chap. You ain't far wrong
there. I'm dangerous to such as you who are evil-doers. Take care, you
Cheap Jack girl, and make not yourself cheap to such as Runham. He
is free in his wealth to do as he pleases. If he be the ruin of you,
trusting in him, will he lose his Commissioner's place? If he destroy
my happiness by bringing harm on my Kainie, will the laws touch him? I
may not take a straw from his stables, but he may rob me of my Kainie.
He is rich—I am poor.'

'Pip! you are the man I desire to see. I will speak to you of this
matter. Judge nothing before you hear me; and you, Zita, do not you
place any weight on his words—they are bitter and false.'

'Bitter,' repeated Pip, 'but not false. Nothing that you can say will
change my mind. Nothing will alter my purpose. I warn you against an
injury to Kainie. You rich men of the Fens do not seek a poor girl to
raise her head and set her up on high among yourselves, but to humble
her in the dust.'

He laughed a fierce, scornful laugh.

'I cannot say—you Cheap Jack Zita. They report that you have money and
goods. Have you told him how much? If it be worth his while, he will be
honourable towards you. It is all a matter of calculation. If you ain't
worth much, he'll throw you over, as he would throw over Kainie when
tired of her. Best take care! If you dare!'

The man's eyes glared with white heat, and he thrust his long arm
towards Mark with clenched fist.

'Pip,' exclaimed Mark, 'you are the man I have been wanting to see. I
will come out to you.'

He jumped out of the van. 'Your words are folly.' Then, 'You drive home
without me, Zita. I told you I had business with all sorts of persons;
now I have business with Ephraim—business of much consequence. May you
get safe back in that rattletrap, and not be shaken to bits!'

'Rattletrap? Oh, if Jewel heard you!' She spoke as laughing, to
disguise her inward trouble.

No sooner, however, was Mark gone than she broke down and cried.

But her tears did not last long.

'He's venomous. He don't know all. I do trust Mark. Besides—I've the
van and money.'



What did Mark Runham mean by his conduct?

He had left Zita to go after that fellow, Pip Beamish, and they were
together on the embankment in close confabulation. The girl looked
after them from between the red curtains, and could see Beamish
gesticulating with his long arms. He was excited, he was speaking with
vehemence, and at intervals Mark interrupted him.

Something that Mark had said seemed to have struck the orator with
surprise. He dropped his arms and stood like a figure of wood. He let
Mark lay his hand on his shoulder and draw him along, speaking rapidly
into his ear.

What this meant was plain to Zita. The two men were rivals for Kainie
of Red Wings. They had been disputing; Beamish hot and impatient,
and unwilling to listen to the other. What was Kainie? A she-miller,
as Zita put it, and ineligible as a wife to such as Runham. Among
fen-farmers no one marries for mere love; money or land is the
substance for which they crave. If a little love be sprinkled on the
morsel, so much the better, but it is no essential—it is a condiment.
Zita tossed her head. She was not a beggarly miller! She had the van
and its contents, red curtains and gold tassels. She had money as
well—the profits of fair-days at Swaffham, Huntingdon, Wisbeach,
Cambridge, and Ely. She had a good deal of money in her box—none
suspected how much. Of course her wealth would not compare with that of
a fen-farmer, but it was enough to place her immeasurably above Kainie,
and within reach of Mark if he chose to stoop a little—just a little.

Zita turned the head of Jewel homewards. Mark did not follow her to say
farewell. He had given her no thanks for the jolting and jumbling in
the conveyance to which she had treated him, though 'good as medicine
to his insides.'

Zita was angry with the young man. She did not relish the thought that
he came to see her one day and went to Kainie the next—nay, that he
visited both in the same afternoon.

It was true that he had made no overtures to Zita—said nothing
definite relative to his condition of heart; but he had kissed her, and
would have done so again had she not warned him that it would give the
horse an apoplectic fit. He had shown her plainly that he liked her
company, and that he was unhappy if he did not see her daily.

His attentions had been noticed. Mrs. Tunkiss had commented on them,
and the girl with St. Vitus' dance had made a joke about them.

His visit that day to Prickwillow would inevitably have been seen.
The unusual sight of the van out on an airing must have attracted
attention. And if the van had been seen, those who saw it were certain
to speak of it to those who did not. That expedition would come to the
ears of Drownlands.

Knowing what she did, Zita was able to account for the dislike
Drownlands showed to the presence of Mark Runham. The sight of the
young man was a sting to his conscience. He would be afraid lest Zita,
in conversation with him, might let drop something about the events of
the night on which Jake Runham died.

But Zita was woman enough to see that there was another reason why
the master of Prickwillow eyed the young fellow with dislike. He was
jealous of him. Zita perceived that Drownlands liked her, at the same
time that he feared her. She could discern in the expression of his
eye, read in his consideration for her comfort, decipher in the quiver
of his lips when Mark's name was mentioned, that his regard for her was
deep, and that his dislike of Mark was due to jealousy.

Zita was accustomed to admiration; she had received a good deal of it
in her public life, and regarded it with contemptuous indifference; but
the admiration she had met with in market and fair had been outspoken;
this of Drownlands was covert. Hitherto she had accepted it from her
vantage-ground—the platform of her own habitation; now she was at a
disadvantage—the inmate of the house of the man who looked on her with

She turned her thoughts again in the direction of Mark. What were the
ties binding him to Kainie, of which he spoke?

On consideration, she thought she could understand. Mark had fallen in
love with the girl at the mill when in hobbledehoydom, and had stupidly
plunged into an engagement. Boys are fools; and he was but just emerged
from boyhood. His father's death had knocked the nonsense out of his
head, and brought him to the consciousness that he had made a blunder.
He was now a rich farmer; Kainie had nothing of her own but the clothes
she stood up in. Moreover, he had since seen Zita, and had become
sincerely attached to her. So long as he was tied to that miller-girl,
he could not speak of his wishes and purposes to Zita. He was in a
dilemma; he was an honourable fellow, and could not break his word to
Kainie. Mark was laying the case before Pip Beamish, and was inviting
Pip to take Kainie off his hands, and set him free to speak out to

'Well,' thought the girl, as she put up Jewel in his stable, 'we all do
foolish things; some of us do wrong things at times in our life. I have
done both in one—I sold a box of paste-cutters at one and nine that
cost father two shillings. I've had that threepence as hot coppers on
my soul ever since. Well! I hope Pip Beamish will take Kainie. He loves
her, and he's suited to her—both are millers; one has nothing and the
other nought—so they are fitted for a match. I'll help matters on, or
try to do so. I'll see Kainie, and have a deal with her—she is but one
of the general public after all. I daresay she likes Pip quite as much
as Mark, and is doubting in her mind which to have. I know what I can
throw in to turn the scale.'

Accordingly, when the van had been consigned to its shed and the
curtains removed to her room, Zita knitted her fingers behind her back
and surveyed her goods, moving from one group of wares to another.

After some consideration, she descended the stairs and prepared to
leave the house.

Mrs. Tunkiss peered out of the kitchen as she heard her step, and said—

'Going to meet the master—be you?'

A malevolent smile was on her face.

'No, Mrs. Tunkiss. I do not know in which direction he has ridden.'

'You'd like to know, would you? You'd go and meet him, and he'd jump
off his horse and walk alongside of you, and say soft things. Oh my!
The master! Ki Drownlands say soft things!'

The woman burst into a cackling laugh.

'What do you mean?' asked Zita, reddening with anger at the insult
implied in the woman's words.

'Oh, miss, I mean nothing to offend. But I'd like to know what the
master will say to your carawaning about with Mark Runham—what
the master will say to your receiving visits from young men in the

'That is no concern of yours; and for the matter of that, I care
nothing what he thinks.'

'Oh dear no! But folks can't carry on with two at once. Two strings to
a bow may be all very well in some things. I don't mean to say that
you shouldn't sow clover with your corn, and so have both a harvest of
wheat and one of hay; but with us poor women that don't do. If it be a
saying that we should have two strings to one bow, there is another,
that there's many a slip between the cup and the lip.'

Zita pushed past the insolent woman.

Mrs. Tunkiss shouted after her, 'Strange goings on—so folks say.
There's Mark Runham running after two girls, sweethearting both; and
there's one girl—I names no names—running after two men, and I bet
she catches neither.'

Then she slammed the kitchen door.



The insolence of the housekeeper made Zita for a while very angry. It
followed so speedily on the scene in the van with Ephraim Beamish.

Her cheek burned as though it had been struck, and her pulses throbbed.
She would like to have beaten Mrs. Tunkiss with one of the flails; but
with creatures of that sort it is best not to bandy words, certainly
not to give them the advantage by losing temper and acting with

Zita did not long harbour her resentment. She had other matters to
occupy her mind beside Mrs. Tunkiss.

The air was fresh and bracing to the spirits as well as to the body.
Zita walked on with elastic tread, for she had recovered her good
humour. She wore a neat white straw bonnet trimmed with black, and a
white kerchief was drawn over her shoulders and bosom. Her gown was
black. She looked remarkably handsome. She had been accustomed to wear
her gowns short, and her neat ankles were in white stockings. She was
strongly shod; the snow brushed all the gloss off her shoes, but it
was not whiter than her stockings. She walked along with a swing of
the shoulders and a toss of the head that were peculiar to her, and
characteristic of her self-confidence. The winter sun was setting, and
sent its red fire into her face; it made her hair blaze, and brought
out the apricot richness of her complexion.

When she reached the brick platform of Red Wings, Wolf did not bark,
but ran to her, wagging his tail. She had not forgotten him. From her
pocket she produced some bread. Then, in acknowledgment, he uttered
a couple of sharp barks, and thrust his head against her hand for a

Kerenhappuch, hearing the barks, came out and saluted Zita cordially.

'That's fine,' said she. 'Step inside. I was just going to brew some

'I'm here on business,' answered Zita. 'Let me sit down on one side of
the fire and we'll talk about it. Let's deal.'

'Deal? What do you mean?'

Zita drew a stool to the fireside. The turf glowed red. The stool was
low; when she seated herself, her knees were as high as her bosom. She
folded her arms round them and closed her hands, lacing her fingers
together and looking smilingly over her knees at Kainie, with a gleam
in her face of expectant triumph. Kainie knelt at the hearth and put on
the kettle. She turned her head and watched Zita, whose features were
illumined by the fire glow, as they had been shortly before by that of
the setting sun. Kerenhappuch could not refrain from saying, 'What an
uncommon good-looking girl you are!'

'Yes, so most folks say,' responded Zita, with indifference; 'and I
suppose I am that.'

Kainie was somewhat startled at this frank acceptance of homage. She
pursed up her lips and offered no further compliments.

'I suppose Pip Beamish is sweet on you,' said Zita,—'tremenjous?'

'Poor fellow!' sighed the girl of the mill. 'Perhaps he is, but it
is no good. He has not got even a mill to look after now, and I have
barely enough wage to keep me alive. What is more, the Commissioners
are against him, and won't let him get any work in the fen any more.'

'Then let him go out of the fen?'

'Out of the fen?' exclaimed Kainie. 'How you talk! As if a fen-man
could do that! You don't find frogs on top of mountains, nor grow
bulrushes in London streets. That ain't possible.'

'But there are fens elsewhere.'


'I do not know. In America, I suppose. There is all sorts of country
there, to suit all sorts of people. I'd go there if I were he.'

'If there are fens in America, that's another matter. But what is it
you want with me, now, partick'ler?'

Zita settled herself in her seat.

'I've come to have a deal with you,' she said chirpily. 'That is what I
have come about.'

'But—what do you want of me?'

'We will come to that presently,' said the Cheap Jack girl, and with
her usual craft or experience she added, 'I will let you know what my
goods are before I name the price.'

'Price—money? I have no money.'

'It is not money I want.'

'I do not fancy there's anything I require,' said Kerenhappuch. 'And
that is fortunate, for I have not only no money to buy with, but no
place where I could stow away a purchase.'

'Nobody knows what they wants till they see things or hear about
them,' said Zita. 'Bless you! if you were as well acquainted with the
British public as father and me, you'd say that. Take it as a rule,
folks always set their heads on having what they never saw before,
didn't know the use of, and don't know where to put 'em when they have
'em. I'm telling you this, though it is not to my advantage. Now, what
do you say to a ream of black-edged paper and mourning envelopes to
match?—that's twenty quires, you know.'

'I write to nobody. I have no relations but my Uncle Drownlands, and he
never speaks to me—won't notice me. I am not likely to write letters
to him.'

'Then what do you say to a garden syringe? If you have a pail of
soapsuds, it is first-rate for green-fly. Father sold several to
gentlefolks with conservatories.'

'But I don't belong to the gentlefolks, nor have I got a conservatory.'

'No,' said Zita, rearranging herself on her seat. 'But if you wanted to
keep folks off your platform, you could squirt dirty water over them.'

'I have Wolf. He is sufficient.'

'Well,' said Zita, with a slight diminution of buoyancy in her spirits
and of confidence in her tone, 'then I'll offer you what I would not
give every one the chance of having. I offer it to you as a particular
friend. It's an epergne.'

'An epergne? What's that?'

'It is a sort of an ornament for a dinner-table. I will not tell you
any lies about it. Father got it in a job lot, and cheap considering
how splendid it is. It is not the sort of goods we go in for. It lies
rather outside our line of business; and yet there's no saying whether
it might not hit the fancy of General Jackass—I mean the public—that
was father's way of talking of it. You really can't tell what won't go
down with him. Will you have the epergne?'

'I'm not General Jackass, and I won't have it.'

'But consider—if you was to give a dinner-party, and'—

'What? in the mill?'

'No; When you marry a rich man.'

'If I have any man, it will be a poor one.'

'Then,' said Zita in a caressing tone, 'I know what you really must
have, and what there is no resisting. It is the beautifullest little
lot of perfumes. They're all in a glass box, with cotton wool,
and blue ribbons round their necks. There's Jockey Club—there's
Bergamot—there's Frangipani—there's New-mown Hay—there's White
Heliotrope, and there's Lavender too. I am sure there is yet another;
yes, Mignonette. One for every day of the week. Think of that! You can
scent yourself up tremenjous, and a different scent every day of the
week. You cannot refuse that.'

'But,' said Kainie, with a wavering in her tone, a token of relaxation
in resistance to the allurements presented to her imagination, 'what do
you want for this?'

'One thing only.'

'What is that?'

'Give up Mark.'

'Mark Runham?'

'Yes. Mark Runham. Is it a deal between us? Now listen.' Zita held up
one hand, and began again with the catalogue of perfumes. 'There is
Jockey Club for Sunday;' she touched her thumb. 'There is Bergamot
for Monday;' she touched the first finger. 'There is Frangipani for
Tuesday, and New-mown Hay for Wednesday'—

'Give up Mark?' Kainie interrupted the list. 'What do you mean?'

'What I mean is this,' said Zita: 'Mark told me that he was tied to you

'He did? It is true.'

'But I want you to throw him up. Let him go free. Say that there is no
bond between you. Think how you will smell, if you do! White Heliotrope
on Thursday, then Lavender on Friday, and Mignonette on Saturday.'

'Did Mark say how we were tied—bound?'

'No; he only told me there was such a tie.'

'And Mark—did he set you to ask this?'

'No, not exactly. It is my idea. Now do. You shall have all the
perfumes. Consider how on Sunday you will make the Baptist Chapel smell
of Jockey Club!'

'Give up Mark? Break the bond? I can't. I could not, even if I would.'



When Zita returned to Prickwillow, Leehanna Tunkiss, with a malicious
leer, said, 'The master is upstairs, and would like to speak with you;'
then, with a sidelong look at the maid-of-all-work and a giggle, she
curtseyed and added 'Miss.'

Zita ascended leisurely to her room, removed her bonnet and changed her
shoes, put on an apron, and then proceeded to Drownlands' office. She
did not hurry herself. She sauntered along the passage and hummed a
folk-melody—'High Germany.' She stayed to shut a bedroom door that was
ajar and swinging in the draught. She trifled with a canary that hung
in a window.

The office door was open. She knew that Drownlands had heard her come
in, had heard Mrs. Tunkiss inform her that she was wanted, heard her
ascend the stairs. She knew that he was waiting with impatience whilst
she removed bonnet and shoes, that he was chafing at the leisurely
manner in which she approached his den.

After a while she tapped at the half-open door in careless fashion,
threw it open and stood in the doorway, and shrugged her shoulders,
then rubbed her hands as though they were cold.

'Mrs. Tunkiss said you required my presence.'

'You have taken your time in coming.' Drownlands was at his table; he
had been biting his fingers. There was a sheet of blotting paper on the
board; he had scratched it, torn four strips out of it with his nails.
His face was troubled and was working. 'Why did you not come at once?'

'I had to remove my shoes; they were wet. I did not suppose you were in
much of a hurry.'

'Come inside. Why do you stand in the doorway?'

She obeyed.

'Well, is it necessary to leave the door wide open behind you?'

She closed the door.

'Shut it, I say.'

She obeyed, and leaned her back against the valve, crossed her feet,
and put her hands behind her on the handle.

'Where have you been?' asked Drownlands imperiously.

'To Red Wings, to see your niece. You don't know her. It is a pity.
You should look after her; she is your own relation. She is not bad
in her way, but awfully poor—and pig-headed too, which poor people
oughtn't to be, because they can't afford it. I went to have a deal
with her, but it was of no use. She would do no business with me.'

'Oh, you have gone back to your old profession of Cheap Jack, have you?'

'I never left it off. I Cheap Jack in my sleep and make thundering
profits. It is disappointing to wake in the morning and see all the
goods—and damaged ones too—on the shelves where they were the night
before, after I had sold them off in my dreams at twenty-five and
thirty per cent. profits. There's an epergne has been the nightmare to
father and me. I wanted Kainie to take it, but she wouldn't. Suppose
you buy it and present it to her, and so make peace and love between

'Have done. I told you I did not wish you to know her.'

'But I went on business, and my time was wasted.'

'You have also been with that—that fellow.'

'Yes, with Mark. I took him out for a drive.'

'In the road, in the van?'

'Yes; the van wanted sweetening. The fowls have been roosting on it,
and have treated it shamefully.'

'Be silent. What are you playing with behind your back?'

'I am playing with nothing. I am always at work or doing business. I
never play.'

'And what work or business are you engaged on now?'

'I am polishing the handle of the door.'

'You not play? You never play?' exclaimed Drownlands, starting to his
feet. 'You are always at play, and I am your sport. You play me as a
fish, you dagg me like a pike. Look at this.'

He went to the corner of his room, and from the collection there thrown
together produced a singular weapon or tool, locally termed a gleve.

'Do you know the use of this?'


'It is for playing,' said Drownlands bitterly. 'See, there are six
knives tied together by the handles at the head, and all the blades
have been jagged like saws, the teeth set backwards. Can you guess its

'No; it's not a woman's tool.'

'It is for playing—playing with pike. You take this and dagg into the
water; you dagg and dagg, and bring up a pike or an eel wedged between
these blades, cut into by these fangs. He cannot free himself; the more
he twists and turns, the deeper into his flesh bite these teeth, and
the greater is his anguish of heart. That is play—play for him who
does the dagging, not for the poor fish that is speared. And, Zita,
such is your play. With your fingers, with your tongue, with your brown
eyes, you dagg for me, and I am the miserable wretch whom you torture.
It may be fun to you.'

'I do not make sport with you, master,' said Zita, with placidity of
feature and evenness of tone in strong contrast with his working face
and quivering voice.

'You are at that handle again. Polishing it! Leave off, or you will
drive me mad. Can you not for one moment desist from tormenting me? You
seek out occasion, means, to twang my every nerve, and give me pain.'

'Master Drownlands, listen to me,' said Zita. 'You are quite in the
wrong when you say that I dagg for you. Lawk-a-biddy! I dagg for you?
On the contrary, it is you who are dagging for me, and I have to dodge
to this side, then to that, from your gleve, and as I happen to be
sharp of eye and nimble in movement, you do not catch me. That is how
the matter stands, and not at all as you represent it.'

'Who suffers?' asked Drownlands fiercely. 'Is it you, or is it I? You
stand there, composed and complacent, rubbing up my door-handle behind
your back, and all the while I am in torture. You cannot speak to
me but you stick a dart; you cannot look at me but I feel the knife
cutting; your very laugh causes a wound, and your weapons are all
poisoned, and the gashes fester. Here am I' (he flung the gleve back
into the corner with an oath), 'your victim, your sport—in suffering.'

He returned to the table.

'Sit down,' said the girl. 'Do not work yourself into a passion.
There's no occasion for that. Let us come to business.'

'Yes,' said Drownlands; 'that is the only way to deal with you. You
have a sorry, commercial mind. Everything to you must be a matter of
pounds, shillings, and pence.'

'That is the only way with me,' said Zita. 'I was brought up to trade,
and I love to drive a bargain. That, if you like it, is sport; it is
sport and business squeezed into one.'

'I will stand here,' said the man. 'You stand there by the door, if
you will; only, I beseech you, leave off polishing that cursed handle,
and reckoning, as I suppose you are, how many farthings to charge me
for it. As you say that you love business, to business we will go. As
nothing affects you but what is presented to your mind in a monetary
light, to moneys we will proceed. We also will have a deal.'

'By all means,' said Zita, with a sigh of relief. 'Now I am on my own
ground. Do you want to buy, sell, or barter?'

He did not answer immediately. He folded his arms and stood by the
window jamb, looking over his shoulder at her.

The dusk had set in after the set of sun, but a silvery grey light
suffused the room, the reflection of the snow on the ground. In this
light he could see Zita. She had withdrawn her hands from the knob,
and had them raised to her bosom, and was rubbing one palm against the
other leisurely. A fine, clean-built girl. He also was a fine man,
with strongly-cut features, picturesque, with his long black hair, his
swarthy complexion, his sturdy frame, and the tiger-skin slung across
his shoulders.

'Now I am ready,' said Zita.

He did not speak. He felt that much, everything, depended on what he
said, and how he said it. His breath came quick, and his brow was
beaded with perspiration.

'You are slow about it,' said Zita. 'Father took an agency once for
an _Illustrated History of the War_. It was to be in twenty parts, at
half a crown a part, and four beautiful steel engravings in each, of
battles, and generals, and towns. That _Illustrated War_ was such a
long time in progress that some of the subscribers died, and others
moved away, and some went bankrupt, and there was no getting their
money out of some of the others. Father never would have anything
more to do with concerns that did not go off smart like the snap of a
percussion cap. It seems to me that this business of yours is going to
be as long and tiresome as that of the _Illustrated War_.'

'You are dagging at me again,' said Drownlands sullenly.

'I cannot speak a word but it takes you contrariways,' observed the

He left the window and came to the table, leaned his hand on it, and
stood with his back to the light. Still unable to make up his mind to
speak, or how to speak, he began to tear up the blotting-paper into
little pieces and to throw them about, some on the floor, some on the
board. When the last fragment had left his fingers—

'Zita,' he said in loud and vehement tones, 'I suppose I am twice your

'I should fancy more than that—a good deal.'

'Be silent and listen to me.' He raised his voice. 'I am rich. I
have a large tract of land—fen-land. I have turned over every turf,
and under each found gold. But it has not made me happy. I have had
many contradictions, many sorrows, and some shame. My life has been
blistered and full of running sores. I have ever been seeking and never
finding, till I saw you. When you came into my house, then I knew at
once that it was you I had craved for and longed after, and that you,
and you alone, could give me what I can find nowhere else—happiness.'

'Give?' said Zita. 'I thought this was a business matter.'

'Let me buy my happiness, then, at what price you desire. I have told
you what I am worth. When I see you, I feel the fire kindles in my
heart; when I do not see you, it smoulders; and now—now I speak, it
breaks out into raging flames.'

'I must leave this place, or you will go clean crazy.'

'No, you must not—you shall not leave it! I could not live without
you, having once seen you. Zita, I must have you!'

'Me?' said Zita. 'With me go the van and the goods.'

'Curse the van!'

'You must not say that. The van is very fine, if the poultry would but
leave it alone; and with the curtains and tassels is fit for a king.'

'Zita, it is you only that I want.'

'There are a lot of goods goes with me—scrubbing-brushes, mops,
brooms, door-mats, pots and pans. Then there's Jewel—who is not bad
when he does go.'

'You are trifling with me again. Listen to me. Hear me to the end.'

'I want to hear the end and have done with it,' said the girl. 'I was
reckoning up the articles. Here's Cheap Jack Zita for one; there are
all these promiscuous goods, that's two; here's the van, that's three;
and there's Jewel, that's four—a job lot.'

'You are mocking me.'

'No indeed, I am not. We are after business, are we not?'

But Zita was purposely protracting the scene. She was in difficulties,
and was searching to find a way out of them.

'Yes, business. You are mercantile. Listen to what I offer. I am rich,
a man of consequence, and a Commissioner. Here is the house, here is
the land. I have money in the bank—thousands of pounds; all—all I
have is yours; give me but your own self in return.'

Zita was far from being unfeeling. She was stirred by the earnestness,
the devotion of the man, but she was not for a moment doubtful as to
what her answer must be. Commercial though her mind was, she could not
accept him at his price. Her scruple was how to word her refusal so as
least to wound him. In her peculiar fashion—one inveterate to her—she
twisted the matter about so as to give it a comical aspect. She saw no
other loophole for escape from a difficult and painful situation.

'I am sorry,' she said, 'that number one in the job lot is not to be
parted with. That is withdrawn from the sale, or bought in. But if it
is any consolation to you to have the van and a share of the goods'—

'That is no consolation to me.'

'A queer state of mind to be in—an unwholesome one, and looks like
derangement of intellects. The van ought to comfort any man with his
faculties about him.'

'Zita!' exclaimed Drownlands, striking the table with his fist, 'you
persist in fooling with me! I will not endure this. I am in deadly
earnest. I know the reason of this trifling. Mark Runham'—he choked
with passion—'Mark has stepped in, and you have given him that heart
which you deny me—a heart I would give worlds—worlds'—. He turned to
the window. It was starlight now, starlight over snowfields. 'Look out,
Zita, at the stars. It is said that they are worlds. If all these were
mine, and filled with unimaginable masses of treasure, the homes of
unexampled happiness, I would give all for you—all for you—listen to
me—merely that I might call you mine, and then die.'

'I cannot be yours,' said Zita in a firm voice. 'And now that you have
said this, I shall leave the house.'

'You shall not leave this house!' he cried fiercely. 'If you attempt
it,—if I see that you are about to attempt it—and I know whither you
would go,—then I will shoot you first, and myself afterwards.'

'I have to do, then, with a madman?'

'Be it so—with a madman; mad on one matter only, mad for one thing
only—you. I make no empty threat. I swear by these stars I will do
what I threaten. I cannot and I will not live without you. I will kill
you rather than that you should belong to another.'

Zita came forward from the door, came to the table.

'I can never be yours,' she said in a tone as earnest, as grave as his.
'There is that between us which makes it for ever impossible.'

'What is the _that_—Mark Runham?'

'No—not Mark Runham.'

'Who is it, then?'

'There is no _who_. There is a _something_. Must I tell you what it is?
I would gladly spare you.'

'Tell me, and torment me no more.'

She stepped to the corner of the room, took the flail up, and cast it
on the table between them.

'The _something_ is that flail.'

Suddenly through the window smote a red flare; it kindled the room, it
turned Zita's hair into a ruddy aureole, it streamed over the table,
and dyed the flail blood-red.

And Drownlands cast himself on his knees, with a cry of anguish and
remorse, and buried his face in his hands.

Then through the house sounded a hubbub of voices, and cries for the



Several and various causes had combined to produce discontent in the

Those who lived by fishing and fowling were angry because the improved
drainage had destroyed their sporting grounds. Those who had been left
behind in the scramble for land were discontented because others had
seized the advantageous moment for purchasing which they had let slip.

The labourers were discontented because of the lowness of the wage and
the high price of corn. How was it possible for a man on ten or eleven
shillings a week to maintain a family, when wheat was at four to five
shillings a stone?

It is proverbial that such as have risen from poverty prove the
harshest masters. Such was the case in the Fens. The landowners were
related by blood and marriage to the labourers they employed, but,
nevertheless, they ground them under their own heels. A specimen of
their brutality may be instanced. Twice or thrice the wheat had to be
hoed, and the hoers were women. Over them the farmers set a ganger
armed with an ox goad, who thrust on the lagging women with a prod
between the shoulder-blades.

The men were paid partly in money, partly in corn, and were given the
refuse wheat that would not sell, wheat that had been badly harvested,
and had sprouted in the ear, wheat that made heavy and unwholesome

Labour in the Fens was of a specially trying nature. The clayer was
underground all day in pits throwing up the marl that was to serve
as manure to the surface earth, and was half stifled by the noxious
exhalations from the decomposing vegetable matter, and was immersed
half-way up his calves in fetid, phosphorescent ooze.

The cleaning out and deepening of the dykes was trying work, for the
workman was plunged to his waist in stagnant water and slime, tormented
by mosquitos, and poisoned by the stings of the terrible gadfly that
threw him into fever for a fortnight. Everything was poisonous. The
fen-water entering a cut produced gangrene. If the hand or foot were
wounded by a reed, a sore was the result that resisted healing.

The expenses of the fen-labourer were heavy. He could not do the tasks
set him without a pair of well-tanned leather boots reaching to the
hips, that cost him from thirty-six shillings to two pounds the pair.

His comforts were small, and were disregarded by the landowners. His
cottage, though quite modern, was supremely wretched. It had been run
up at the least possible expense, one brick thick, and one room deep,
on piles. But 'the moor' beneath the surface had shrunk through the
drainage, and the walls gaped, letting wind and rain drive through the
rents, and frost enter, impossible to expel by the largest fire.

There was then, as there is now, and always will be, a body of social
failures—fraudulent dealers detected and exposed, but not shamed, men
who, through their sourness of temper, or indolence, or dishonesty,
had failed in whatever they took in hand. These were ready-made
demagogues, all talkers, all dissatisfied with every person and thing
save themselves, accusing every institution of corruption, and every
person of injustice, because of their own incompetence. They were in
their element when real discontent prevailed on account of real wrongs.
They rose into influence as agitators; they worked on the minds of the
ignorant peasantry, dazzling them with expectations impossible to be
realised, and exciting them to a frenzy of anger against all who were
in any way their superiors. These men were rarely sincere in their
convictions. They were for the most part unscrupulous fishers in
troubled waters. Of the few that were sincere, Ephraim Beamish was one.

All the elements of dissatisfaction were combined at the period of our
tale, and the high price of wheat produced an explosion; but it was
Ephraim Beamish who applied the match.

He had been expelled his office as keeper of a mill by the
Commissioners, and his enforced idleness gave him leisure to pass from
one centre of discontent to another, to stir up the embers, fan them
to a white heat, and organise a general outbreak. On a preconcerted
day, the labourers rose, and with them was combined a large body of
men of no particular calling, who had no particular grievance, and no
particular end in view.

No suspicion of danger was entertained by the employers, and when the
dissatisfied broke out in open riot, they were taken by surprise and
were unprepared to offer resistance.

Bodies of men assembled at Mildenhall, Soham, Isleham, Downham, and
Littleport, and the order was given that they were to march upon Ely,
and on their way were to extort from the farmers promise of higher wage
and cheaper corn. In Ely contributions were to be exacted from the
Bishop, the canons, and all the wealthy and well-to-do citizens. The
mills were to be wrecked and the banks plundered.

At the head of the whole movement was Beamish, but he was more
especially to act as commander over the Littleport detachment.

Having got the men together,—the poachers and wild-duck fowlers armed
with their guns, the labourers with cudgels,—he endeavoured to marshal
them into some sort of discipline and subjection to orders. But this he
found more difficult than to bring the men together. He found the men
were not amenable to command, and were indisposed to confine themselves
to exacting contributions. Fortified by their numbers, they attacked
the grocer's shop, the vicarage, and the home of a retired farmer in
Littleport, broke in the doors and pillaged them.

Having tasted the pleasures of plunder, they were prepared to sack and
wreck any house whence they thought liquor or money was to be got.

It was in vain that Ephraim Beamish endeavoured to control the unwieldy
body of men. _Quot homines, tot sententiæ._ And as each man in the
disorderly love-feasts at Corinth had his prophecy, his psalm, and his
interpretation, so in this assemblage of peasants, each had his opinion
as to where lay the blame for the distress or discomfort under which he
laboured, each had his private grudge to avenge, each his special need
which he sought to satisfy, and all were united in equal determination
not to submit to dictation from Beamish or any other man.

The tavern at Littleport could hardly escape, although it had been a
rendezvous of the dissatisfied. The mob rushed towards it to break in
and seize on the contents of the cellar. In vain did Beamish protest
that they were injuring a good cause by their disorderly conduct; all
desired drink, and none paid heed to his remonstrance.

The taverner barely averted having his house looted by rolling a
hogshead of ale out of his doors, and bidding the rioters help

Then Beamish sprang on a bench and entreated the men to attend to what
he had to say.

'We want no words,' said one of the rioters. 'We are dry, we want
drink. We've empty pockets, and want to fill them. Our ears have been
stuffed with words. Keep them for chapel on Sundays.'

'I will speak,' cried Beamish. 'I am your leader. You have sworn to
follow and obey me. You elected me yourselves.'

'Lead us to liquor and sovereigns, and we'll follow sharp enough.'

'You are wasting time. You are damaging a righteous cause. Have we
not to march to Ely? Have we not to visit the farmers on the way, and
impose our terms there?'

'There's plenty of time for that, Pip.'

'There is not plenty of time. The Mildenhall men are on their way under
Cutman, five hundred strong.'

'How do you know that?'

'It was so planned. The Isleham men are marching under Goat, the Soham
men under Gotobed. Who will be first in Ely? Is Littleport, that should
lead the way, to come in at the tail?'

'There is something in that, mates,' shouted one of the rioters. 'Stand
in order, you chaps. To Ely! Bring along the waggon.'

The idea that, if looting were to be done, they of Littleport might
come in merely to glean where others had reaped, and the consciousness
that a far richer harvest was awaiting them in Ely than could be
garnered in Littleport, acted as a stimulus, and the mob desisted
from further violence, and roughly organised itself into marching
order. All were armed after a fashion, with guns, pitchforks, cudgels,
leaping-poles, and cleavers; and as the day was declining, there was a
cry for torches.

'We shan't want them,' called one of the men. 'We'll light bonfires on
our way.'

Then a waggon was drawn out. In it were stationed some fowlers with
duck-guns. The object of the waggon was to serve as a sort of fortress.
Those in it were above the heads of the rest, and, in the event of
resistance or an attack, could fire over their heads. Moreover, the
waggon would be serviceable to carry the spoil taken on the way, or
gathered in Ely.

Then the mob rolled along the great drove or highway to the city, with
shouts, and oaths, and laughter, and trampled the snow as it advanced,
leaving a black slush behind it.

Many of the men were half intoxicated with the ale and spirits they had
already imbibed, and all were wholly drunk with lust of gain and love
of destruction.

Then one in the waggon shouted, 'To Crumbland!' Another shouted, 'No,
no! Young Runham is not bad. He has sold his wheat cheap and thrashed
out all his stacks. And the old woman is a widow.'

'That's nought,' exclaimed a third, 'if there's any liquor to be had

'To Gaultrip's!' was the cry.

'Gaultrip is my cousin!' shouted another.

'That's nought,' called one of the mob. 'I suppose he has money.'

'Ely way!' roared Beamish, scrambling into the waggon. 'Drive ahead.
What's the use of being the commander, if nobody listens to the word of
command, and nobody thinks of obeying it, if he does hear it?'



The shrill voice of Mrs. Tunkiss was heard, as she ran screaming up
the stairs, calling for 'the master.' Then she burst into his room,
followed by the maid-of-all-work, who was in convulsive jerks.

'Oh, master! there is a riot. Some of our men have joined, and there is
a stack on fire at Gaultrip's. The mob is coming here, and threatens to
burn us.'

'Who are coming?' asked Drownlands, looking up. He staggered to his
feet, but was as one dazed. He did not observe the glare in the room.
He did not hear distinctly the words spoken.

'Look, master! look at the blaze. It is at Gaultrip's. You can hear
them coming on. They are swearing horrible, and say they will have our

'What is this all about?'

'I don't know for certain. Tom Easy has run here afore to tell us what
he has gathered. But lawk! poor lad, he's frightened; and me—my poor
head won't hold it. He says the mob be armed with bombs and cannons,
and all sorts of engines of war, and they'll blow us up into the skies.'

Drownlands passed his hand over his eyes, then went to the window and
looked out.

He saw in the distance the red blaze of a burning rick, the flames
dancing and leaping in the air, and carrying with them wisps of ignited
straw, which were borne on the wind as firebrands, to carry destruction
elsewhere. He could see the mob advancing as a ripple of fire running
along the drove before a dark wave. The rioters had, in fact, twisted
up bands of straw, had lighted them, and were waving them as torches as
they advanced, and the flames were reflected in the dykes on each side
of the road. Drownlands was surprised. He threw up the sash, and the
roar of voices was carried into the room.

'What is the meaning of this?' asked he. 'Who are these that are coming
this way?'

'It is the rioters,' answered Mrs. Tunkiss.

'Rioters? What rioters?'

'Lawk! how can I tell? Tom Easy said they want advance of wages, and
cheap flour. And he said, they ask for money to help on the cause.'

'Cause? What cause?'

'Lawk, sir! how can I say? Tom Easy said it was the Union of Fen
Labourers, and they will have blood or money. They will make you swear
to pay them two shillings a-day more wage, and pull the price of flour
down to half a crown.'

'They demand money of me, do they? Let them venture to require it of

'Here they are!' screamed Mrs. Tunkiss, as a blow was levelled at the
door, and the strokes resounded through the house.

'Who was that?' shouted Drownlands from the window, with a curse. He
was not a man to spare oaths when he was angry. 'Who struck my door? I
will have the law of him.'

The mob was pouring into the yard.

'Make a blaze, and let us see the old tiger!' shouted one of the
rioters, and bunches of straw and corn were snatched from a rick, a
blaze was made, and fire tossed about, illumining the face of the house
and the figures of the men in the waggon.

'By heaven, I know you!' shouted Drownlands from the window. 'That is
Aaron Chevell in the waggon, and by him Isaac Harley and Harry Tansley
with guns. I'll not forget you. I have a memory. I have five ash trees
on the drove side, and I shall have a rioter slung to every branch of
every tree, and shall begin with my own workmen.'

'Hold a civil tongue in your head!' shouted Chevell from the waggon.
'Don't threaten what you can't perform. We have guns here, as you see,
and can silence you; and we shan't think twice about doing so, if you
do not come to our terms.'

'Master Drownlands!' called Ephraim Beamish, working his way forward
in the waggon with his long arms, and leaning his elbows on the front
board when he had thrust himself into the middle position, 'you will
gain nothing by abuse and threats. We have a good cause, and are a
thousand strong to support it. You have had everything in the Fens your
own way too long, and have trampled the working men under foot. You
have coined their sweat into silver'—

Some one shouted as a correction, 'Into gold.'

'Yes,' said Beamish; 'you have coined the sweat of your men into heavy
gold, and have left the men to hunger, and toil, and nakedness; to
cramp, and ague, and fever. They have their rights as well as you. They
have borne their wrongs long enough. Now they have risen to demand what
in equity is theirs—some share of the profits, some just proportion
out of your gains, so that they may live in comfort, and not barely

'Shut your mouth!' roared one of the crowd; 'we want no preaching now.
We knows our rights, and we'll maintain them with our fists, and not
with your tongue. Pip thinks he'll convert Tiger Ki, he does! Words
won't do that. Send a shot at him, Tansley. That's the only argument
for him.'

Tansley, the man addressed, thrust Beamish back with the butt-end of
his fowling-piece, and laid his barrel on the front board.

'Listen, Master Drownlands,' shouted Beamish, again making an effort
to shoulder his way to the front of the waggon. 'What we ask of you is
twenty pounds for the cause of the United Fen Labourers. Give us twenty
pounds, and swear to the conditions—a fair wage and cheap corn. Then
we will do you no harm whatever. We will take your money, and move
along our way. We are bound for Ely.'

'I pay you twenty pounds?' yelled Drownlands. 'I have a gun as well as
you have, and will contribute lead to the cause—lead only.'

He ran to the corner of the room and took down his gun from the rack.

'I'll shoot,' threatened Tansley.

'Ay—and so will I,' said Drownlands, 'and let us see who can take the
best aim. I think my eye is pretty well known to be sharp and my hand
steady. By the Lord, I'll not spare you!' He paused and put on a hat.
'I can see finely with all those wisps of fire. Hold up your torches,
boys, higher, that I may send my bullet into Tansley's heart. He will
leap, and then down he goes.'

Fallen pieces of ignited straw had kindled the half-kneaded straw on
the ground, and there ran flames and half-flames to and fro on the
soil. The cart-horses in the waggon started and shifted position to
escape these flashes and flickers.

'Drownlands!' shouted a young voice, and Mark Runham thrust his
way through the crowd. 'I pray you be reasonable. You will provoke

'What, you there? You a ringleader in riots?' exclaimed Drownlands,
lowering his fowling-piece.

'I am not that. Let me come within.'

Then Mark stood on the waggon-shafts and called to the crowd—

'Refrain from violence! Leave me to manage Master Drownlands. I will
engage him to let you have the money you require.'

Then he jumped down from the shafts and ran up the steps.

The door had been bolted and chained by the housekeeper, but Zita,
hearing what Mark said, without waiting for orders, descended to the
ground floor, and unbarred the door, and admitted him. He ran upstairs,
for no time was to be lost. The mob was restless and irritated. It
was impatient to be on its way to Ely, and yet was reluctant to leave
Prickwillow without having drawn money from it, or done some mischief.

Drownlands was too angry to listen to advice. He would not hear of
coming to terms with the rabble. He had been too long accustomed to
domineer over the labourers to fear them now. He in no way realised how
much courage is given by association in numbers.

'What are you here for? How dare you enter uninvited?' he exclaimed, as
Mark came into the office, followed by Zita.

'I admitted him,' said the girl. 'He has come in your interest.'

'He is one of the rioters! He is a leader! A Runham of Crumbland, with
a tail of dirty scoundrels after him, burning, pillaging, and getting

'I beseech you,' said Mark—'I entreat you to listen to reason. The men
are, as you say, drunk—drunk with folly. I am no leader.'

'You are acting for them.'

'I am an intermediary. They have spared me. They came to Crumbland, but
we humoured them, brought out cake and ale, and they went their way
without molestation. Gaultrip resisted, and they set fire to a stack,
and so frightened him that he yielded, and paid fifteen pounds. Now he
is engaged in saving his other stacks. Do not provoke these fellows

'I will not listen to you. You ought to be ashamed to take the part of
these scurvy ragamuffins.'

'I am not taking their part, but yours. Hark!'

There was a cry from the yard of, 'Drownlands! Tiger Ki! We will
break in the house door unless you give us money.'

Then a brick was thrown. It crashed through the double panes of the
window with raised sash, and fell in the room, accompanied by a shower
of glass splinters.

'I will shoot one of them!' exclaimed the yeoman, and he ran with his
gun to the window.

Mark had just time to strike up the barrel, and the contents were
discharged in the air, hurting nobody.

Drownlands turned on him with an oath.

'I will punish you,' he said, stamping with fury, and he rushed upon
Mark with his gun raised over his head, grasping it by the barrel.

Then Zita sprang between them, holding the flail in both her hands, as
a ward against the stock.

'Stand back, Mark!' she cried. 'He dare not touch you across this

It was as she said.

The man stood as one paralysed, the uplifted gun in his hands, his eyes
glaring at young Runham, and the red reflections of the fire flashing
on his face and turning it to blood. But the blow did not fall. His
muscles remained immovable, the gun suspended in the air, till Zita
lowered the flail, and put it behind her back. Then the spell was off
him. He let the gun fall on the ground, and his head sank on his bosom.

The discharge of the fowling-piece had produced a hush in the voices

None knew whether, in the darkness, some one had been hit. But when,
after a pause, it was found that no harm had been done, then there
broke forth loud cries and execrations; the courage of the rabble rose
with a sense of its immunity, and a rain of brickbats beat against
the windows of the house, shivering the panes. The kitchen-maid fell
on the floor in a fit. Mrs. Tunkiss went into a series of shrieks.
Renewed blows were raised against the house door, and they were
accompanied with cries of, 'Smash it in! Tear the tiger's house down!
He has hundreds of pounds put away somewhere. If he will not pay twenty
sovereigns when we ask civil, we will take two hundred.'

Then one shrill voice cried, 'Make a bonfire of the wheat ricks.'

'Ki Drownlands! will you do nothing?' asked Mark; 'will you not give up
a few pounds to save those long ranges of stacks?'

'Let them do their worst,' answered the master of Prickwillow doggedly.
'By the light of the fire I will note every face, and mark them all
down, man by man, and then woe betide them.'

Then a burst of cheers, and cries of, 'That will do famously. We will
have that out. Get horses, harness, and we will drive to Ely.'

Zita ran to the window, and returned hastily with a blank face.

'They have found my van! They have got inside. They are clambering on
the roof. They are treating it worse than poultry! Oh, Mark! Mark!'

Then through the window she pleaded, 'Spare my van. Here are ten gold
sovereigns.' Then to Mark, 'Take my money, go to the men, and get them
to leave my darling, precious van alone.'

'Stay,' said Drownlands. 'I have changed my mind.' He went to the door
and summoned the domestics who had fled when the brickbat crashed into
the room. 'Come here, Leehanna. Sarah, get out of your fits and come at
once. Come here, Tom Easy.'

The frightened servants obeyed.

'Bring a candle,' he said.

The scared housekeeper did as required.

When Drownlands had received the light, he went into the passage, and,
holding it before the face of Mark, said to the domestics, 'Do you know
who this is? Is not this Mark Runham? Can you swear to it?' He paused
for an answer to each question.

'He has come here, pushed his way into my house, against my wishes, to
force me to contribute twenty pounds towards the cause of the rioters.
He threatens me with the burning of my ricks if I do not comply. Is it
not so?'

'I have come,' said Mark, 'because I am desirous to save you, as well
as others in your house, from injury; and also to intervene and protect
these misguided men against committing a crime.'

'They touched nothing at Crumbland.'

'No; we gave them food and drink.'

'Yes, you are hand and glove with them. And now you are acting as their
spokesman and their leader. Take my money—twenty pounds, and take
Zita's ten pounds—thirty pounds in all, the plunder of this house.
Mind you, I give it on compulsion. I do not find meat and liquor for
the rioters; I do this to save my ricks of corn. And I give it to you,
Mark Runham, acting for the rioters.'

Drownlands turned to those present.

'I call upon you all to witness, you, Leehanna Tunkiss, you, Sarah,
you, Tom Easy, and you, Zita, that I pay over my twenty pounds against
my will. Open your hand, Mark Runham. Let them see that you have there
my twenty pounds and Zita's ten pounds. There are the sovereigns all in
gold. They are well spent—well spent—they rid me of you.'

A few moments later a shout rang from the crowd without—'Tiger Ki
has shelled out. For the Union, for the Cause! for the fen-labourers!
Twenty pounds! Twenty pounds for liberty and right! The cheap loaf and
the big wage! Hurrah! hurrah, boys! Forward to Ely! On to the banks. On
to the mills!'

Drownlands looked after the retreating mob from his window, and said,
with a sneer, 'Go on—to the gallows, Mark Runham; I am clear of you
now. Cheap at twenty pounds.'



Notwithstanding the call of 'On to Ely!' the mob was not at once in
motion. Something delayed it.

Zita went to the window and looked out. She saw that which excited and
angered her, and, turning her head to Drownlands, said—

'It is a shame! It is disgraceful! They have taken my ten pounds, and
yet they are carrying off my van. They have put Jewel into the shafts.
They might as well have harnessed the Archbishop! He's stiffening his
legs and setting back his ears. Look how he's cocking his tail. They
will have to drag on van and Jewel together. What a thing the general
public is! I never knew it in this mood before, and yet I thought I
knew it pretty well. I'll clear the public out of my van. There are a
dozen inside, and a score on the roof. They have no right to do this
after accepting my money.'

She left the window.

'Zita, where are you going?' asked Drownlands.

'Going to send the general public skipping,' she answered.

'You cannot do it. It is not safe to leave the house.'

'Trust me. I've swept the poultry off, and I'm not afraid of the
public. I know how to deal with them as I do with fowls.'

Before Drownlands had time to offer further remonstrance, she had
darted out of the office, run to her own room, taken a pair of fencing
foils from the stores, had descended the stairs two steps at a time,
had unbarred the door and was out in the yard, making for the van.

'Stand still—don't move,' she said to Jewel, as she passed his head;
and he turned one of his eyes at her and winked.

'Clear away at once,' she shouted to those around the van. 'You have
taken my money, and must let the conveyance alone.'

'Who are you? We've no money of yours.'

'Yes, you have. I sent out ten pounds to you. Go, ask your commander,
secretary, treasurer, or whatever you call him. He has pocketed my ten
pounds, and you are bound to leave my van alone. I am the Cheap Jack

'Are you the daughter of the Cheap Jack who died here?'

'Yes, I am; and this is my van. Hands off. You have no quarrel against
me. What have I done to make bread dear and keep wages low? I do not
belong to these parts. Stand aside.'

She thrust her way to the back of the van where was the glass door.
This had been opened, and several men had ensconced themselves inside
on the benches.

Zita entered, a foil in each hand. Within it was dark, but she
nevertheless knew that the interior was packed full of men.

'This is my conveyance,' she said imperiously; 'you have no more right
to enter it than you have to occupy the house of the Lord Mayor. I have
got a sword in each hand. I cannot see any one in the dark, but I will
dagg with each hand, as you dagg for eels, and I will go on dagging
till I have got a man wriggling at the end of each.'

Down went the front of the van, and out tumbled a dozen lusty men, one
over another, stumbling, falling, sprawling, in the trampled snow and

Zita went through the van from aft to fore, and satisfied herself that
it was cleared of its human occupants. Then, standing on the platform,
which had been thrown forward by those who burst away from her foils,
she looked up at the roof. A score of men and youths was on it, their
legs pendent.

'Down with you at once,' she said. 'Do you see these rapiers? Do
you think I can't run a man through as easy as stick a needle in a
pin-cushion? It's not the running in—it's the pulling out is the
trouble. There's a button at the end of each blade. I have got only
two—so I can pin but two of you, and that shall be the last two that
leave the roof.'

She made as though about to scramble on to the top of the van, and away
went the men seated there, dropping like ripe pears from a tree.

Zita leisurely reclosed the front of the van, and went out at the back
and shut that door also.

'That's a good job done, Jewel,' said she. 'Now run the van backwards
into the shed, and you shall return to the stable. Roman candles,
Jewel—pop-bang! Roman candles at your nose.'

'Hold there, you Cheap Jack girl!' shouted a broad-shouldered man,
coming up and laying his hand on the bit. 'We have taken this
conveyance for the Union. It is confiscated.'

'Whether taken and confiscated I cannot say,' said Zita. 'But I know I
have paid ten pounds to have it untaken and set at liberty. Return my
ten sovereigns if you take from me my van.'

'We have no ten sovereigns of yours.'

'Yes, you have. And a shame it is that you should rob a poor Cheap Jack
girl. Not that she belongs to the general public, save and deliver
us!—but she is a working girl, and poor.'

'We have had no money of yours, and we requisition the van. We want to
load it in Ely. It will serve our purpose better than a waggon.'

'You shall not have it,' replied Zita. 'Fair trade is fair trade, and
he that will not deal honourably I will run through, and leave the
button sticking between his shoulders, and that will spoil a good

The man sprang back as she threatened him with one of the foils.

'I will tell you what it is,' said Zita; 'you will not believe me till
I have made an example of one of you.'

'Where is your ten pounds?' asked Pip Beamish, who had descended from
the waggon.

'Ay,' said several of those who stood round; 'that is what we should
uncommon like to know.'

'Where are my ten pounds?' repeated Zita. 'That is a fine question for
you to put to me, when I'll be bound you have them in your pocket.'

'Bring them out, Pip!' called one of the men.

'I have not got her money. I have not touched it,' protested the

'I gave it to Mark Runham along with the master's twenty pounds.'

'The twenty pounds has been put into the Union box—I never touched
your ten.'

'Come, come, Pip,' said a cluster of men, 'no shuffling. Mark wouldn't
have held back the money. You have had it, sure enough.'

'I have not had one farthing of it.'

'I paid ten pounds to have my van set at liberty. I did not wish to
have it sat upon, and the sides kicked, and the varnish scratched. I
gave ten pounds to save it from that.'

'What did you get, Beamish?' asked Aaron Chevell.

'I got just twenty pounds and no more—the twenty pounds that
Drownlands contributed, and that I put into the box with the rest.'

'And not my ten?' exclaimed Zita. 'That is a falsehood. My ten was with
his twenty. Thirty pounds in all, in gold.'

'There has been cheating,' shouted two or three.

'That is what comes of jaw and preaching.'

'Mates,' said Aaron Chevell, 'we must not let this pass. Let us have
judge and jury There has been robbery of the common fund. Mates, I vote
that we arrest Pip Beamish, and try him at once.'

'Have him up in the cart,' said Tansley. 'Comrades all! light some
more straw wisps. There has been a case of roguery. There has been our
chief officer taking the money that was contributed to the Union, and
pocketing it for his private use. I charge Ephraim Beamish, and vote
that he be deposed from his command, and be tried for felony.'

'I second it,' shouted Isaac Harley. 'And what I say is—like enough.
He who wants most has taken it. A chap as hasn't a house to call his
home, nor an honest employ in which to earn his living.'

'It is not what I calls respectable,' said one man, 'that we should
march under such a rascal.'

Then ensued a chorus of voices.

'Up into the waggon with him, and try him there.'

In vain did Beamish protest that he had not defrauded the Union, that
he had received no more than twenty pounds. The rest suspected him, and
were jealous of his assumption of authority.

'You Cheap Jack girl,' called Chevell, 'we want your evidence. Ay,
bring the swords along with you, if you're afraid of us, but we do not
hurt women.'

Zita allowed herself to be conducted to the waggon, and assisted into
it with rough courtesy.

A fen-farm waggon is a very massive structure, more massive, perhaps,
than one in other parts of England. It has its peculiarity, which
consists in the front board being unusually high and arched at top.
Often may women be seen going to market in the waggons, crouching
against this high board, which screens them from the wind.

There is much vermilion paint employed on the waggons, and the front
board usually blazes with colour. It was so on this occasion. The
waggon carried off by the rioters had recently been painted, and the
vermilion was of the brightest.

Isaac Harley cried from his place in the waggon, 'Mates, who is to be

'We will have no judge but ourselves,' was the ready response.

'Then,' cried Tansley, 'choose your jury.'

'We will all be jury!' shouted the mob.

Then Aaron Chevell, standing forward, said, 'Comrades, the case is
this. This young gal—she is the Cheap Jack's lass, staying here—says
she gave ten sovereigns in gold to the labourers' cause, to have her
van let alone. And she gave it along with the twenty pounds of Tiger
Ki. Now we want to know what has become of this contribution of hers.
Ephraim Beamish swears he never received it.'

'I had the twenty pounds of Mark Runham,' said Beamish, 'but not ten

'You stand by the front board,' said Chevell to Zita, 'and tell your
story. We will hold Beamish, and every one shall judge.'

'What? the general public?' asked Zita, looking round at the crowd of
upturned faces.

'Yes; it shall give judgment.'

'Then you'll have rare judgment,' said Zita. She went forward to the
place pointed out to her, and stood there, with her back to the scarlet
board, and leaned on her foils. Blazing straw wisps were held up,
brilliantly illumining the whole scene.

'I call to silence,' said Chevell, 'and let us hear what the Cheap Jack
gal has to say.'

'What I have to say is this,' said Zita. 'I saw that you had drawn out
my van, the house in which I was born and reared, the shop whence all
our profits came, and were treating it worse than did the poultry.
So I gave my savings to Mark Runham, ten pounds, all I had on me in
gold, at the same time that the master gave twenty pounds to save his
corn-stacks. Mark Runham took it to the man, Pip Beamish, who is your

'No, he ain't! we have deposed him!' was shouted on all sides.

Then voices were raised for Runham, but Mark was not to be found.

'We want another witness,' said Chevell.

'There is one,' said Zita, pointing with a foil to Drownlands at the
window of his office. 'There are more if you desire them—Leehanna
Tunkiss, the girl Sarah, and Tom Easy. They all saw me give Mark the

Aaron called to Drownlands if it was so. Drownlands answered in assent.

'Summon the other witnesses,' commanded the self-constituted judge.

Whilst the men knocked at the house door and demanded the presence of
Mrs. Tunkiss and the girl Sarah, Beamish raised his voice in protest.

'I say, mates and comrades all, this is strange and unwarranted
proceedings. Am not I your leader?'

A shout of, 'You was—but you're a thief—we'll have none of you. I
vote for Aaron Chevell. Duck him; he's a turncoat. He's a cheat and
robs the poor men.'

'It is false!' shouted Beamish, between rage and disappointment. 'How
can I have acted as you say, when I am the man who urged you on,—I,
who have the cause at heart more than any of you?'

'Oh yes! that's how Judas talked!' shouted some one in the crowd. Then
there came yells of, 'Judas! Judas! Let him hang like Judas!'

The door of the house was not opened to allow the witnesses to issue at
the dictate of the mob.

'We must have more witnesses,' said Chevell. 'We don't lay much store
on Drownlands. He ain't taken the oath.'

Then Zita appealed to the master of Prickwillow to suffer the maids to
come forth. After some hesitation he agreed.

'I'll let 'em out if you'll hang Beamish,' shouted he from the window.

Presently the door of the house was cautiously opened, and Drownlands,
who stood at it, thrust forth the two women. Mrs. Tunkiss was white and
quaking; Sarah nigh upon a fit.

'Now, then,' demanded the judge, 'up into the waggon wi' you. And,
lads, hold up the torches that I may see if they looks honest and
truthful. You—Leehanna Tunkiss—did this Cheap Jack girl give ten
pounds for us into the hands of Beamish?'

'Oh yes! forty!' exclaimed the woman, who did not understand what was
being done, and thought she might be incriminating Zita, or doing her
some harm by the admission.

'She don't quite agree about the figure,—she says forty,—but she
establishes the fact,' said Chevell, addressing the crowd. 'You swear
to it?'

'Oh, I swear!' exclaimed Mrs. Tunkiss. 'Oh, gentlemen, let me down! I
shall faint.'

'Pass her down,' ordered Aaron. 'Now you other—Sarah Gathercole—did
she give him money? She shakes her head—I mean she nods.'

'She has the Vitus' dance,' protested the accused.

'She understands what's she's axed—eh?'

The poor girl nodded in her nervous fit.

'And you swear to it—the Cheap Jack girl gave ten pounds?'

Again she went into fits of jerking and nodding.

'She's mighty sure of it, that she be,' said Aaron. 'What say you,
mates and chums? Is it proved?'

A roar in response, in the affirmative.

'Now then,' said Chevell, 'it is for Pip Beamish to answer in his

'I never had more than twenty pounds. Search me if you will.'

'You may have been too sharp for that,' said Isaac Harley. 'Mates, he
ain't got a defence. I vote for condemnation. This Pip Beamish has been
terribly stuck up, and has given himself the airs of a dook, and has
been ordering us about. I vote that he is a thieving rascal. What say

'Hear! hear! We say the same!' Then ensued shouts of, 'Kick him down!
Duck him! Chuck him into the Lark!'

In a moment Beamish was plucked out of the waggon, flapping his long
arms in protest and entreaty, was jostled, beaten, kicked, and finally
thrown into the dyke—the one honest and sincere man among the leaders
of the rabble.

'Now then, mates,' called Chevell, 'it is right and proper that we
should elect another commander.'

'We want no commanders!' shouted the mob. 'We know what we want! We
will all be commanders! Are we not the general public?'

'Then I vote,' cried Harley, 'that we lose no more time, but move on to

Zita was helped out of the cart. The improvised torches were set in
motion, forming a line of fire as the whole mob of rioters left the
farm, and marched along the dark embankment, whilst the waggon bounced
below on the drove.

As Zita stood by the van, which she had thrust back with the aid of
Jewel into the shed, a hand was laid on hers.


The voice was that of Mark.

'Oh, Mark!'

'Zita, here are your ten pounds. I did not give them to Beamish.'

'Mark! and he has been deposed, and cuffed and beaten, for having
stolen it.'

'He has been thrown into the dyke, and I have helped him out of the
water. Do not be disconcerted. I could not have done him a better turn
than this, to get him out of association with men who are running their
heads into hangmen's nooses.'



'Mark, how was it that you did not give them my ten pounds?'

'Why, my dear Zita, I thought I could get them off without it. I gave
them Drownlands' twenty. He escaped cheap at that price, and twenty
pounds is nothing to him. I made sure I could induce them to leave your
van alone without payment to do so, and when I saw them harness Jewel
to it, then I was quite certain they would have to leave it; you do not
suppose I would have suffered those rascals to take your money except
in an extremity? To rob you was to rob me, Zit—for I never would
have suffered you to lose those ten pounds. If I had been constrained
to give them up, I would have refunded this sum to you out of my own

'You are very good.'

'Not at all. I have more money than I know how to spend.'

'You are good all round. You pulled Pip Beamish out of the water, and I
know you do not love him.'

'You see I help one I love, and one I do not love.'

Zita coloured. 'I did not mean that.'

'Then I do,'said Mark roguishly. 'You are in the right in this, that I
do not love Beamish,—for one thing, because I think him a perverse,
meddlesome, mischievous, discontented donkey, and for another, because
of Kainie.'

'Kainie again?' exclaimed Zita, drawing back.

'Yes, because I do not choose to have him running after her.'

'Why should he not run after her as well as you?'

'Because he can never make her happy.'

'And you can?'

'I can try,' said Mark.

'Well, that is frank!' said Zita, huffed. 'You called me "Dear Zita,"
just now—I suppose it is "Dear Kainie" as well.'

'My dear Zita'—

'Perhaps you will keep your "dears" for her, or any one else who cares
to have them and share them with others. I do not wish to be so termed.
I refuse to be so called.'

She turned to leave. He caught her by the arm.

'Do not be cross. I cannot explain matters now. It is all right. I did
not mean to offend you.'

But Zita would not speak. She hastened to the house with pouting lips,
burning cheeks, and sunken eyes. As she entered, she encountered
Drownlands, in his slouched hat, and wearing a long great-coat in place
of his usual tiger-skin. He held a whip in his hand, and had a pistol
sticking out of his breast pocket.

'Are you going out?' asked the girl.

'Yes. You are in no further danger. The rabble will not return. I shall
follow them.'

'Why so?'

'To bring all I can to the gallows. I shall watch every man I know,
and see what his proceedings are. I shall take account of every act of
lawlessness. They have not had my twenty pounds for nothing. I shall
get some satisfaction in return. In Ely folks will be too much alarmed,
the faces will be too strange for there to be recognition of offenders.
That is my work. I shall witness against them, man by man, beginning
with my own labourers who have revolted against me. I have purchased
the right with my twenty pounds—a life for every pound—ha! ha!'

Then, looking steadily into Zita's eyes, he said in a low, bitter tone,
'I shall begin with Mark Runham.'

'Mark?' echoed the girl. 'He has done no harm.'

'Has he not? He entered my house uninvited. He acted for the rioters.
He was their mouthpiece. He extorted money from me for them.'

He struck his boot with his whip, strode faster, then turned on the
doorstep and said, 'If not the gallows for Mark, then transportation. I
am well rid of him. See what it is for a man to venture himself in my

Zita was startled. What had Mark done to incur the penalties of the
law? Was it conceivable that Drownlands was in earnest? He made idle
menaces. He had threatened to string the rioters to every bough of his
five ash trees. He had not done it, and he could not do it. His present
menace was as empty.

She watched the master ride forth from the stable when he had saddled
his horse himself. No man was left on the premises to attend on him.
The boy, Tom Easy, was too frightened to be of service, and Drownlands
was impatient to be off.

As the farmer rode past the door, he turned his face towards Zita, but
in the darkness she could not see its expression.

He pointed in the direction of Ely with his whip, and at that moment
Zita heard a roar of voices, followed by an explosion of firearms borne
upon the wind. In fact, the rioters had reached the metropolis of the
Fens. They had let the waggon precede the marching body. The front
board had been notched to receive the fowling-pieces, and the insurgent
labourers, on reaching the main street, had announced their entry by a
discharge of firearms and a ringing shout, calculated to strike terror
into the hearts of the citizens.

Zita did not remain long inactive, listening to the sounds of uproar in
the distance.

'Sharp! a pail!' she called to the quaking kitchen-maid. 'There is no
reason why you should be idle, or I either, because a parcel of men are
making fools of themselves.'

'A pail? What can you want a pail for at such a time as this?' asked
Mrs. Tunkiss. 'You ought to be down on your knees praying.'

'You would want a pail, and soap, and water, and a scrubbing-brush,
Leehanna, if you had been drawn out into the yard, and had had a score
of bumpkins sitting on your back and kicking your sides with their
dirty boots. I am not going to let my van remain all night in its
present condition, to have the clay caked over it in the morning, just
because wheat is up and wages down, and folks don't like to have it so.
I will clean the van before I go to bed.'

Mrs. Tunkiss and Sarah were too much overcome to render assistance.
Sarah was shaking and jerking in every limb, and Leehanna had got down
her Bible to read about the fire and brimstone rained on the cities
of the plain, and the escape of Lot, and to conceive herself to be
a female Lot. Zita furnished herself with what she required, and set
vigorously to work, commenting as she went on upon the bruises and
scratches in the varnish and paint, which the sides of the van had
received from the boots of those who invaded it that evening.

She was engaged on the roof of the van, when, all at once, her thoughts
took a different direction, and, kneeling upright, scrubbing-brush in
one hand and a piece of soap in the other, she exclaimed—

'That was impudence, if you please! to tell me he did not approve of
Pip going after Kainie, and that he will do his utmost to make her
happy! Does he think he can have us both? That may be fen ways, it
isn't caravan morals. Hark!—what is that?'

She could hear the alarm bell of Ely Minster pealing.

'There was a song of father's that I mind,' said Zita, still kneeling
upright, 'and if Mark had only been brought up in a van instead of
desultory-like on the Fens, he'd have learned the things he ought to
do, and the things he ought to leave alone, taught him by songs and
other ways.' She sang—

  'Young men, be advised, if love gets in your sconce,
  Don't ever go courting two maidens at once;
  With one you may work along safely and sound,
  'Twixt two stools you're certain to come to the ground.'

A lurid glare was in the sky over Ely, and the bell continued to peal
its note of distress.

The thoughts of Zita reverted to the threat of Drownlands. He had said
he would bring Mark to the gallows, or, at all events, send him into

This had seemed to her at the time an idle threat, as the empty
explosion of anger, that could do no harm, whilst it relieved the
master's chafed feelings. But as she turned the matter over in her
head, it appeared to her no longer as trifling a concern as she had at
first supposed it to be.

Mark had entered the house, and had induced the master to part with
his money to save his ricks from being burnt down, and his house from
being broken into. This fact was capable of two interpretations. Mark's
purpose had been obvious enough to her; but it was quite possible for
his action to be misrepresented as one of sympathy with the rioters,
and his interposition as being due to his having been appointed by them
to act in their behalf.

Zita was now able to comprehend the purport of Drownlands calling up
the servants to look at Mark, and to witness the payment of the money.
And at the same time she realised the force of his words when he said
that he had paid the money to be rid of Mark. She could penetrate to
the inner chambers of Drownlands' heart, and read there his thoughts
and intentions.

If Mark were removed, it was likely that Zita would prove more pliable.
She would feel her loneliness, her isolation, and be driven to accept
him as her protector. Zita was very angry when these ideas rose in her
mind. She thought it incumbent on her to seek Runham and warn him to
be on his guard, especially to avoid having any more connection with
the rioters. Drownlands had gone in the wake of the mob; so, possibly,
had Mark, out of curiosity—out of a wish to intervene, as he had
intervened at Prickwillow.

Zita put down the pail, and, instead of returning to the house, walked
down the road that led from the farm into the main drove by the side of
the Lark embankment.



Zita was now seriously alarmed. She knew that Drownlands was one who
was without scruple in carrying out the ends at which he aimed.

He had not let drop these ominous words at random. He hated Mark with
deadly animosity, and Zita knew very well the reason. He loved her, and
considered that Mark stood in his way. He hoped, she did not question,
that by removing Mark there would remain no other serious obstacle in
the way of his suit. Drownlands would not have recourse to violence.
The remembrance of what he had done to the young man's father precluded
that; but he would not hesitate to adopt any other means that promised
to relieve him of his rival.

Zita had formed no plan as to what she would do. She walked in the
direction of Ely, on the chance of catching Mark up, or of finding some
one who could inform her whether he had returned home to Crumbland, or
had gone on after the army of the discontented. She had not walked a
quarter of a mile before she saw two figures standing on the embankment
against the illumined sky.

Zita was below, in the drove, and in shadow. The roadway that had been
snowy was now trampled black, and a person walking or standing on it
would be invisible to those on the bank, whereas the latter were in
full view to such as were on the drove, and their every movement was
made distinct by the reflection in the sky of the fires kindled by the
rioters in Ely.

Zita hardly, if at all, considered this. She did not at first know who
these persons were who were pencilled against the red light behind
them. She had no reason for remaining concealed, but she walked on a
dark surface, and was therefore invisible, and trod in springy peat, so
that her step was inaudible.

Before she could distinguish by their faces who the two were upon the
embankment, she had discovered their personalities by their voices. One
was Mark Runham and the other was Kainie.

Stung by jealousy, and instinctively, Zita stood still. She heard
Kainie say, 'I wish you would go after him, Mark.'

Then she heard Runham answer, 'I cannot, and I will not. I picked him
out of the dyke, streaming with fen-water—out of the dyke into which
his own comrades had flung him—and in spite of all this he follows
them. Such a fellow as that is past helping. No one but Pip, after
being head, would consent to draggle at the end of the body as its
tail. What is more, Kainie, I do not like your interesting yourself in
him. He is not for you. He has too many maggots in his brain. There
is no place will suit him. Wherever he goes he will be in opposition.
Kainie, do you know the old country-dance tune of "The Clean Contrary
Way"? Well, that is the only strain to which Pip will caper.'

'Poor Pip! He is not a bad fellow at heart.'

'Maybe; but he is terribly perverse. Possibly he would be satisfied
if he were translated to what they call the Antipodes, for there his
head would be pointing where our feet run, and his toes would be aiming
in the direction of our heads. Once for all, I am not going into Ely
after Pip. It is of no use, and my mother is in alarm. I must return to
appease her fears. Now, Kainie, a word to you about yourself.'

'What about me?'

'Why, this: How long do you intend to remain at Red Wings?'

'As long as I must. I suppose my uncle Drownlands will do nothing for

'But I will. You can have any money you want from me.'

'I do not require it. I am happy at the mill. I shall not leave it yet
a while. I certainly expect nothing from Uncle Ki. He never casts me
even a good-day. It is hard for me to suffer because he quarrelled
with my mother. I do not suppose I shall ever be the better for my
relationship to him. Folks say he is going to marry the Cheap Jack

Zita heard Mark's laugh, and then his answer. 'She will never take him.'

'Why not?'

'He is too old for her.'

'That will not trouble her much,' answered Kainie; 'she calculates the
value of everything, and holds a thing to be worth just what money it
will bring in. I believe she has no thoughts, no care for anything but
money. She knows that Uncle Ki has got land and stock, has a good house
and a balance at the bank; she will say "There's profits," and take
him—snap at him eagerly.'

'I do not believe you,' said Mark, and laughed. 'But about yourself,
not Zita. My mother still objects to my bringing you home to Crumbland
and acknowledging you. I do not feel comfortable and happy to be in a
good house, and to have you in that hovel at that mill.'

'I cannot go to you so long as your mother is opposed.'

'Perhaps not; but, after all, Kainie, she cannot hold out against you
for ever. She loves me too sincerely. She has too right a mind. She
will see how it frets me; and then—when all is said and done—I am
master of Crumbland, and not she. If I be driven to assert my will, she
will submit. She is certain to like, to love you, when she comes to
know you. It is but for a little while waiting. I do not wish to have
recourse to strong measures if delay will make all go smooth of itself.
You understand that, Kainie?'

'I will wait. I am content at the mill. But—oh, Mark! I must tell you
a joke. That Cheap Jack girl was at Red Wings the other day, and she
wanted to buy you of me—actually purchase you.'

'At what price was I estimated?'

'At a ream of black-edged notepaper and envelopes to match.'

Mark burst into laughter.

'That is not all,' continued Kainie. 'When I did not prove eager for
the paper, she made another bid.'

'And that—?'

'Was a garden syringe to kill green-fly with soapy water.'

Zita heard both laugh merrily.

'I have not done yet,' continued Kainie. 'She finally produced her most
splendid offer.'

'And that was—?'

'It was one that almost made me surrender you, Mark. A box of all kinds
of scents. And she said'—Kainie could hardly speak for laughing—'I
should smell of Jockey Club in chapel—tremenjous—that's her

Zita's anger was flaming hot, waves of boiling blood swept through her
veins, swept before her eyes and blinded her.

Gasping for breath, she rushed up the bank, and, reaching them, struck
Kainie on the cheek with her open palm before she or Mark knew she was

'It is a shame!' exclaimed Zita, sobbing with emotion. 'It is mean to
tell of me—to make sport of me!'

Then, turning on Mark, she said, 'And I will tell you what is preparing
for you—you who laugh and jeer at the ignorant, silly Cheap Jack girl.
It is the gallows or Botany Bay. And'—she snapped her fingers in his
face—'if you hang or are transported, I don't care that!'



The Isle of Ely, with the city in its midst, and the cathedral in the
midst of the city, is more ecclesiastical than Rome itself. Until
comparatively recent times the Bishop was a petty prince therein,
exercising powers of life and death. He did not indeed sit in the
courts himself, and himself sentence to the block and the gallows,
any more than did the Pope himself consign offenders to the flames.
The secular power was committed to a 'Temporal Steward,' who held his
office for life, and discharged the functions of High Sheriff, and the
Bishop washed his hands of all blood-guiltiness.

The courts of justice were, however, held in the Bishop's name, and the
gaols were institutions under his jurisdiction. The Bishop appointed
the municipal authorities and the justices of peace. From the High
Sheriff to the town-crier, all derived their authority by commission
from the Bishop.

As every acre of land in the isle and far away into the fen belonged to
either Bishop or Dean and Chapter, there were no county magnates near,
and no country gentry at all. Nay, even in the city itself there was
no gentry of independent position. In Rome there are princes who have
their territories. In Ely there were not even squires.

Accordingly, the ecclesiastical dignitaries lived very high up in
roseate clouds and in an ethereal atmosphere, far above the clay land
where grubbed and wriggled the professional men and the shopkeepers.

Perhaps the fact of being so completely under ecclesiastical government
paralysed all initiative in Ely, and rendered the inhabitants helpless
in cases of emergency. The citizens were but overgrown babies. The
lawyer, the surgeon, the M.D., the surveyor, the architect, were
accustomed to be swaddled and given suck by the Right Reverend
Father the Bishop, or the Very Reverend the Dean, or the Venerable
the Archdeacon; and all the officials, the temporal steward, and the
justices, and the chief constable, were wont to go in leading-strings.

And they were such good babies. They always thought as the reverend
fathers thought; they never cried and kicked; and the air of the Fens
must have been salubrious, for they had all ravenous appetites for
the fat of the land, which fell from the ecclesiastical tables. At
the time of our tale, co-operative stores had not been so much as
thought of. The Bishop, the Dean, and the canons got their groceries,
their drugs, their wines, and their stationery from the Ely tradesmen.
In return for their custom, these tradesmen professed the strictest
churchmanship and the staunchest Toryism.

The system of appointment to offices in Ely was distinctively
ecclesiastical. The magistrates were bespectacled and bewigged
officials connected by marriage with some of the members of the
Chapter. The constables were nominated for their general piety, or
because they were burdened with large families. The watchmen were
pensioned cripples or asthmatic incapables, whose utmost achievement
was to crawl about at night and proclaim the hour. Everything in the
city was managed for the residents by a benevolent and beneficent
ecclesiastical authority, which exhibited its benevolence and
beneficence by conferring offices, not on such as showed efficiency,
but on such men as were incompetent to earn a livelihood in any
profession or business that demanded the exercise of brain or of muscle.

When the turbulent crew from Littleport arrived in Ely, and the rumour
circulated that other Fen centres were sending their contingents of
the disaffected to the capital of the Fens, neither magistrates nor
constables were prepared to take prompt action to protect the town and
stop the spread of disturbance. Orders were indeed issued to have the
minster bell rung, to summon all sober, law-abiding citizens to unite
for the common defence, but, although the bell pealed its summons, no
one obeyed it, for no one knew where the rallying-point was, or what
was to be done by those summoned.

The temporal steward was in bed with a mustard poultice on his chest
and a dose of sweet nitre in his stomach. Consequently, when a
messenger from the Deanery came to request that he would do something,
the wife of the temporal steward was able to point out that he was
perspiring freely and the poultice drawing vigorously. To leave his bed
and the house was, therefore, out of the question.

There was no deputy sheriff to fill the place which the sheriff was
incapacitated from filling. The vacancy had not been filled up,
because the Bishop was hesitating, balancing the claims of one who was
stone-blind against one who was stone-deaf. The prelate himself was
absent on a confirmation tour, and he had taken his chaplains with
him, and, what was more to the point, his butler—a man who did most
of the thinking in sublunary matters for his master. The constables
then in Ely were few. The chief constable, Mr. Edwards, was the manager
of Mortlock's bank, and in the interests of the bank he had come to
the resolution to keep in the background so as in no way to excite
the angry passions of the mob. Another constable had swallowed a
fish-bone, and this was being extracted by a fellow constable. A fourth
was at the moment incapacitated for work by one of his constitutional
and chronic fits of the hiccups. It was precisely because he suffered
from this affliction that the benevolent and beneficent ecclesiastical
authority had nominated him to, and invested him with, the office of

As the combined municipal and collegiate forces of watchmen were
unprepared or unable to cope with the approaching masses of men, the
Dean sent off his coachman on a carriage horse to Bury St. Edmund's, to
invoke the aid of the military stationed there. The mob from Littleport
entered the town, as already said, preceded by the waggon, in which
were placed heavy wash guns loaded with slugs. To announce its arrival
a volley was fired, and the slugs rattled on the tiles and broke a few

No sooner had the Littleport body entered Ely, than it learned to its
disappointment that nothing had been heard of the Isleham and Swaffham

In fact, discouragement had dissolved these at the onset. The small
landowner, Cutman, who had undertaken to lead the detachment from
Isleham, had reconsidered the matter, and resolved that heading a riot
could do him no possible good, and might do him very considerable
harm. The men assembled at the Duck at the appointed hour, waited,
and, as he did not appear, became uneasy, supposing that he had been
alarmed; they also reconsidered the matter, and, coming to much the
same conclusion as Cutman, dispersed quietly to their several homes.

The Swaffham men were also defaulters. The tidings of what was
meditated had been communicated to a large farmer there, and when the
rabble approached, he met them dauntlessly, along with his stalwart
sons and some trusty serving-men, all armed with blunderbusses. He
addressed the mob, and, by his bold front and resolute bearing, not
only prevented them from attacking his house, but persuaded them to
break up and abandon their undertaking.

The Littleport body, swelled by stragglers, and also by men who had
lived in the suburbs of Ely, formed a considerable host, and had they
been under efficient discipline, and had they known exactly what
demands to make, and how to enforce their demands, might have produced
serious results.

As it was, they did a certain amount of mischief, and took a certain
amount of loot, but all in an aimless manner; and in looting or
wrecking forgot the ostensible reasons for their assembly and purpose
of marching upon Ely.

No sooner were they in the town than the mob resolved itself,
without order given, into two detachments, whereof one attacked the
flour-mills, and the other broke into the victuallers' shops to seize
on their stores of ham, bacon, and sausages.

There was a large soak-mill in the lower part of the town, managed by a
man named Rickwood. This was the first assailed.

By this time the magistrates, at the advice and exhortation of their
wives, had plucked up sufficient courage to venture to parley with
the rioters. There were but three or four of these in the place; one
was a retired steward who was almost stone-deaf, the other two were
clergymen. These magistrates inquired of the fen-men what were their
demands, and were answered with confused cries for higher wages,
cheaper bread, and for money to be scattered among them.

Terrified by the shouts and the menacing attitude of the mob, they
entered into negotiations with them, and offered to raise a certain sum
of money from the inhabitants to satisfy their illegal demands. But the
rioters could not agree as to the price at which they would desist from
violence, nor could they wait with patience till the magistrates had
collected the sum offered.

Accordingly, the conference was broken up, and the mob proceeded to
smash Rickwood's windows and to beat open his doors.

The miller was not, as it chanced, at home himself, and his wife
entered into parley with the rabble from a window. They demanded fifty
pounds, and threatened, unless it were paid, to proceed to set fire to
the mill, and the miller's habitation adjoining.

Mrs. Rickwood, in terror, promised the sum, but said that she had not
so much coin in the house. She would send her son for the money to the

'No! no! Come yourself!' shouted the men, and proceeded to demolish the

Accordingly, Mrs. Rickwood descended, and in deadly fear issued forth
into the street, after having committed the mill to the care of her son.

The banker was also, as already said, chief constable, and in the
interest of Messrs. Mortlock was remaining at home, and sitting in his
back parlour.

When the mob reached his house, which was one with the bank, loud cries
were raised for him, and Mrs. Rickwood knocked at the front door. After
long waiting, he appeared in the doorway, as white as chalk. Mrs.
Rickwood then entreated him to furnish her with fifty sovereigns in
gold, in order that she might purchase immunity for her mill from the
insurgent peasantry.

'Nothing in the world will induce me to do this!' exclaimed the chief
constable heroically. Whereupon a stone was thrown at him, and struck
his head, so that a little blood flowed.

'That is to say,' said Edwards, 'nothing save compulsion;' and he
hastened within to find the money.

The second body of rioters in the meantime was engaged in sacking the
grocery-shops and provision-stores. One of the magistrates, the Rev.
Mr. Metcalf, endeavoured to calm the mob by an assurance that he would
induce the owners of the shops to purchase their immunity. But he was
successful in two instances only. In some the rabble took the money,
and, notwithstanding, plundered the shops. Then a second mill was
attacked, but, on ten pounds being produced, no further violence was
done to it.

The night was dark. The rioters went round requisitioning faggots and
coals, and soon an immense bonfire was kindled before the cathedral
west front, and a second in face of St. Mary's church. The first
lighted up the splendid pile, bringing out every detail of sculpture,
and twinkling in the glass that filled the Norman windows.

Round this fire the young men and girls danced. Some of the men had
carried provisions to the Galilee, and prepared for a carouse. The
taverns had been attacked very early, and the publicans had been
constrained to allow the rioters free use of their liquor.

As Mark had assured Kerenhappuch, Ephraim Beamish had pushed his way
after the rabble, undeterred by the treatment he had received at its
hands, his enthusiasm unquenched by his plunge in the icy water. As
there was no organisation in the mob, he was suffered to rejoin it with
an occasional protest only, but Chevell, Harley, and Tansley would not
allow him to remount the waggon.

No sooner did Beamish find that a great body of the insurgents were
setting themselves to eat, drink, and revel about the great fire
in front of the cathedral, than he got a chair, and endeavoured to
harangue them, to point out to them that they were throwing away their
occasion, neglecting to enforce their grievances on the employers of
labour, and that they were making enemies among all the well-disposed
by their capricious and lawless proceedings. But directly his face was
discerned by the flicker of the fire, and his voice recognised, beaten
back by the cathedral walls, than shouts were raised of, 'That's the
fellow who stole the Cheap Jack girl's money. We want no preaching

His chair was tripped up, and he was sent sprawling in the dirt.

He rose angry and disconcerted. The movement of which he was the
instigator, and of which he had been appointed director by vote of the
men, had rejected his direction, and was taking its own suicidal course.

The fens immediately surrounding the isle on which Ely stood were
farmed by men whose homesteads were on the gault excrescence that
formed the isle. According to the preconcerted scheme, the Union of Fen
Labourers was to proceed to these farmsteads one by one, to exact of
the farmers a contribution to the cause, and an oath to raise the wage.

It was true enough that two or three farms had been visited which
lay to right and left of the road from Littleport to Ely, but no
sooner had the men reached the Fen capital, than they forgot their
purpose, directed their attention to the provision-shops, waylaid and
blackmailed passengers, broke into the taverns, and thought only of
eating, drinking, and making money. They entirely neglected the scheme
that had been agreed to. Not a single farm in the isle was molested,
not a single farmer coerced.



After a night of revelry, the winter morning broke on men lying tipsy
or asleep about the smouldering embers of their fire, against the walls
of houses, or crowded on the benches and on the stone floor of the
Galilee. Every tavern was packed, and many private houses as well. The
rioters had demanded admission, and had threatened violence if opposed.
Doors had accordingly been opened to them, and they had received
reluctant admission.

On the whole, little serious mischief had been done. A few shops had
been invaded, a few well-to-do persons blackmailed, some windows
broken, all the ale and spirits in the public-houses drunk out, and
all the hams in the licensed victuallers' consumed; but with the sole
exception of the cutting open of the head of the chief constable, no
personal violence had been done to any one.

The demonstration had been absolutely resultless, so far as concerned
the purpose for which it had been organised. The only fruit that would
come of it would be that the bakers, millers, and provision-dealers
would raise their prices, so as to recoup themselves for what they had
lost, and that certain of the rioters would suffer penalties out of all
proportion to the injury done.

Some consciousness that a mistake had been made stole over the dull
brains of the men as they awoke, chilled and headachy, on the morning
after the entry into Ely. Those men who had promoted the movement, but
had not been suffered to direct it, were certainly alive to the fact
that a great blunder had been made, and that their safety was at stake.
And when the rumour spread that the dragoons from Bury were about to
arrive, the pot-valiant fen-men rapidly dispersed.

Droves and roads radiating from Ely were thronged with fugitives,
flying at their utmost speed towards their homes, and none speeding
more rapidly than those men who were guardians of the money collected
from the farmers and shopmen and millers for the cause, and who sought
not only to secure their persons, but also the money they carried with
them, for their own advantage. The sum collected might enable them to
escape from the neighbourhood, and it would form a comfortable little
capital on which to start business where they were unknown.

When, about noon, the military arrived, the streets of Ely were almost
as silent and unoccupied as on any day in the week save market day.

They were met by the magistrates, preceded by Sir Bates Dudley, Bart.,
an old canon of Ely; the chief constable showed with his head bandaged,
and the high sheriff looked approval from his bedroom window, in
nightcap and dressing-gown.

Orders were issued for the pursuit of the rioters to Littleport, their
headquarters. As it was necessary that a magistrate should accompany
them, Sir Bates Dudley was lifted into a saddle. He was a small, very
globular man, with a red face and a wig of sandy hair.

'You won't go very fast with me?' inquired the baronet of the officer
in charge. 'Be—be—cause, though I was a horseman oo—oo—once, I
haven't ridden these forty years.'

Then, turning to his footman, he said, 'Tut—Tut—Thomas, you'll please
to run at my s—s—ide, and hold my leg, lest I tut—tut—tumble off.
If you see me getting at all out of the per—per—per—pendicular, just
run round and give a pull to the other leg.'

Presently Sir Bates Dudley addressed Drownlands, who was standing near
him, holding his own horse.

'You will cuc—come too—so important a witness; and you will indicate
who are the persons to be arrested, and who are na—na—named in the
warrants I signed. You will oblige me if you will ri—ride at my side,
and as Tut—Tut—Thomas is negligent, and his at—at—tention may be
distracted, and he may forget his doo—doo—dooty to me, if you see me
at all out of the per—per—perpendicular, just give a thrust, will
you, with your riding-whip, and set me up—pup—right again. I haven't
ridden for forty years. I hope the saddle won't ga—ga—gall the horse.'

'I'll keep at your side, sir,' said Drownlands.

'That wo—wo—won't be quite enough,' said the baronet. 'If you wouldn't
mind keeping an eye on my left leg, and if you see it go—go—going up
the side of the saddle, just tut—trot round the ba—ba—back and give me
a thrust with the end of your whip, and set me per—per—perpendicular
again. I can't trust Tut—Tut—Thomas entirely.'

'I'll do what I can for you, sir,' said Drownlands.

Then Sir Bates turned to his man Thomas and said—

'Ki—ki—keep an even habit of mind, Tut—Thomas, and don't let your
thoughts ramble to Mary. Don't pup—pup—pull my right leg too hard,
nor let it go too lax.'

Then, addressing Drownlands—

'I am shush—shush—sure the Government and all law-abiding citizens
owe a debt of gratitude to you, Mr. Dud—Dud—Drownlands.' The baronet
gasped at the name, opening his mouth and jerking his face forward,
as though endeavouring to catch a bluebottle and swallow it. 'I
con—con—congratulate you on your activity, observation, and spirit.
You will be the primary means of convicting the ri—ri—rioters.'

The canon rode along, balancing himself uncertainly in his saddle. The
dragoons trotted after.

When, however, the clay land of the Isle of Ely was left, trotting was
out of the question. The horses made their way painfully through the
slough, and military order was not to be maintained.

Sir Bates's horse tossed his head, and endeavoured to keep up a trot.
There is pride in brutes as well as in men, and the baronet's steed
was elate at the idea of preceding the splendid dragoon chargers,
so well groomed, so gorgeously accoutred, and bearing such radiant
beings on their backs. Let the fen cart-horses see that he, Sir Bates
Dudley's cob, took precedence of, was on gracious terms with, these war
chargers. Every now and then, when a horse was visible in a stubble
field, he neighed to him a challenge to observe who went by and in what

'I don't quite like this mo—mo—motion,' gasped the canon, who was
bouncing like a pea on a drum. 'I am afraid the saddle will terribly
ga—ga—gall my horse's back.'

At that moment Drownlands uttered an exclamation, and, turning to the
colonel of the dragoons, cried, as he pointed with his whip at a figure
in a field separated from the drove by a lane of water—

'There is Ephraim Beamish, a ringleader. A warrant against him is
signed. He has the audacity to look on as though this did not concern

The colonel gave orders to two of his soldiers to ride in pursuit.
The men detailed for the purpose at once leaped their horses across
the dyke. The road bank was sufficiently firm to enable the beasts to

Then they started in pursuit.

'Shoot! Shoot!' cried Drownlands. 'You will never take a prisoner like

The dragoons were careering over the field, one of fifteen to twenty
acres, but it was hard work for the horses, so spongy was the soil; and
Pip Beamish ran before them without greatly exerting himself.

The dragoons on the drove, at the command of the colonel, drew up in
line, and watched the chase.

'They will never catch him,' repeated Drownlands; 'they never can. Give
orders that he be shot.'

'I cannot do that,' said the officer in command. 'They will outstrip
and head him shortly.'

'They never will. You do not know the Fens.'

In another moment Beamish was seen to plant a long pole he was
carrying, swing himself aloft easily and gracefully, and fall lightly
on his feet on the farther side of the dyke limiting the field.

One of the dragoon's horses floundered and rolled over in the soft
soil, but the other was close behind Beamish. It rose, and in a moment
vanished along with its rider in the dyke. The hind feet had found
nothing substantial on which to obtain the necessary purchase for a
leap across the water, and the beast and rider had fallen into the
stagnant, slimy liquid that filled the ditch.

In spite of discipline, oaths and curses broke from the dragoons who
were looking on.

'I knew it,' said Drownlands. 'Why did you not shoot? If that horse
hasn't broke his back it is a lucky job. Now Pip Beamish is beyond
reach, beyond gunshot, and it will take a day to get the horse dug out.'

'What do you mean?' asked the colonel angrily.

'Mean? Why, that no horse that falls into a dyke can get himself out,
or be got out save by spade-work. There he must remain; every struggle
makes him sink deeper. There is no bottom to the dykes till you reach
the clay, and for that you must go down twenty feet. He will never do
it again, if that is any consolation to you. But ten to one his back is
broke, and you may as well send a bullet through his head.'

'Here,' shouted the colonel, 'dismount and go help Standish out.' He
beckoned to three men.

'Help him out?' mocked Drownlands. 'They can't do it. They must have
workmen that understand the business. They must have the proper tools.
You don't happen to have brought any "beckets" with you, I suppose?'

The man who had been precipitated into the water, was now seen on the
bank. He had scrambled out by means of the reeds that grew rankly in
the ooze. He was stamping, his splendid accoutrements were tarnished,
and the foul fen-water was streaming from him. Holding the reins, by
coaxing words he endeavoured to encourage his horse to struggle out
of the water. The poor brute made efforts to escape, churning up the
sludgy mud and peat in the dyke, but was incapable of doing anything to
extricate himself. The more he struggled the deeper he sank.

When the situation was thoroughly realised—and the colonel would
not for some time believe the assertion of Drownlands that the horse
could be extricated by no other means than the formation of an incline
by spade labour—then he consented grudgingly to negotiate with some
loafers who had followed the troop, and by promises of liberal payment
to engage them to undertake the rescue of the charger.

When this was settled,—and it took some time to settle,—the body of
soldiers advanced towards Littleport. Tidings had come that the rioters
were making a rally there, and intended to contest the way with the
military. That they were armed was known, as also that the fowlers of
the Fens were crack shots. If they held to their resolution, Littleport
would not be occupied without effusion of blood.

It was indeed true that a rally had been made at Littleport. The men
living there, fearing that they would be arrested for the part they had
taken in the disturbance, spoke of defending themselves—better die
with guns in their hands, they said, than swing on the scaffold. But
now, as before, there was neither discipline nor cohesion among the
men. The colonel knew that they had no leaders, and did not greatly
concern himself at the menace. He was impatient to reach Littleport,
not lest the rioters should gather force, but to get finished with
an unpleasant and inglorious affair. Moreover, at Littleport most of
the arrests would have to be made, and it was as well to reach it as
speedily as possible, before every rioter had hidden under a bed, or in
a rabbit-hole.

In the meantime, a considerable number of persons assembled on the
drove, partly to stare at the unprecedented sight of the glittering
military parade, but partly also as a means of exhibiting their own
peaceful demeanour, and showing that they had no sympathy with the
disturbers of tranquillity. As it happened, some of the men who had
been instigators to violence thought this a happy way of throwing a
veil over their past proceedings. By putting on a look of sheep-like
innocence, and thrusting themselves forward, they hoped to escape. But
they had miscalculated. They might have escaped, but for the presence
of Drownlands, who had followed the mob, watched its proceedings, had
taken note of everything done, and of the doers, and had denounced some
forty men to the magistrates, and was now accompanying the military and
Sir Bates Dudley, to point out those of whom it was advisable to make
an example, and who were already down on his 'information,' and against
whom warrants had been issued.

'I think,' said Sir Bates, 'that if I am not absolutely
nec—cess—cessary, I would rather return to Ely. The saddle somehow
does not fit the horse.'

'We must have a magistrate with us,' said the officer in command of the

The canon looked piteously about him, drew out a silk
pocket-handkerchief, and wiped his brow.

'It is of the horse I am thinking. A gall is so painful, so very
pup—pup—painful to the horse. I will do my dud—dud—duty, however
painful it may be to the horse.'

The soldiery trotted on to Littleport. There the rioters had overthrown
a waggon across the road, and by means of bundles of straw had composed
a rude barricade. The resistance offered by them was feeble and
half-hearted. The sight of the dragoons overawed the men, and several,
after firing from behind the bundles, slunk away.

The soldiers speedily passed the barricade and dashed among the men who
remained. A shot from behind a garden paling broke a dragoon's arm,
another brought down one of the chargers. This encouraged the men for
a moment, and they sprang at the heads of the horses, whilst others
assailed the riders with pitchforks. There ensued a brief hand-to-hand
scuffle. But when one of the rioters was shot through the head, and
the men saw that the soldiers were determined no longer to trifle with
them, they fled in all directions.

Numerous arrests were made, and then the dragoons returned towards Ely,
Sir Bates jogging before them, and their captives well guarded in their



The tidings that the dragoons were on their way to Littleport had
hardly spread sufficiently in the forenoon to draw together great
quantities of spectators, but after they had gone by it was otherwise.
The news flew like wildfire over the Fens, and the inhabitants of the
district came in troops and lined the road, so that they might have the
satisfaction of seeing the military, and taking account of the number
of prisoners they had taken.

The fen-folk are all more or less closely connected by marriage,
forming a people to themselves, separate in interests, customs, and
character from those who live on the high grounds. They have been wont
for generations to seek their mates among themselves, with the result
that a close family connection binds the whole population together. The
number of cases in the Fens in which a woman, on marriage, retains her
maiden name is quite unequalled elsewhere. Whoever might be taken up
by the military was certain to be akin to some of the lookers-on, and
therefore the spectacle anticipated on the return of the dragoons was
calculated to engage their interest and excite their sympathies.

Among the yeomen there is intermarriage with cousins for the sake
of adding acre to acre and barn to barn, but among the labouring
population no such inducement prevails. They choose their wives from
among their blood relatives, because the idea never crosses their
minds to go elsewhere to find mates. They must marry cousins or not
marry at all, and the question resolves itself in one of degrees of

As nearly, if not all, the wealthy landowners are grandsons or
great-grandsons of half-wild fen-slodgers, it follows that they are
knitted by blood ties to the labourers they employ. This does not
necessarily increase good fellowship, nor promote forbearance. The
purse-proud yeoman is the harshest master. He draws the line of
sympathy at the mark of the class to which he belongs, a class of
recent creation. He holds fast to his brother yeoman, and both together
grind down their brother labourer.

This condition of affairs was of course more noticeable formerly than
at present. Each generation separates the well-to-do a step farther
from their poor relations. Our story refers to events and conditions
some decades ago.

On account of the tyranny exercised by the masters, little
consideration was felt for them by the men when they broke out in
revolt, although allied to them by blood; and the stacks that had been
fired were in several instances set in flames by the blood relatives of
the owners of the stacks.

As the dragoons trotted along the road towards Ely, exclamations and
lamentations broke out as the men they had taken were recognised by
those who lined the highway.

'There is Robert Cheesewright! Oh dear! what will the old Robert do
without him?'

'Be still. They have not taken Robert. He is going as a witness against
Pip Beamish. That's why he is there.'

'Well, they have handcuffed James Cammel, anyhow, and he was going
to marry my Beulah. If they hang him, Beulah will have to take Aaron
Layton instead, that's all.'

'There is Joseph Lavender. He is my wife's son by her first husband.
She will take on dreadful, and I shan't have my shirt properly washed,
nor my pasty full baked—that's what it means to me.'

'They have taken Flanders Hopkins and Richard Rutter.'

'Yes; and look you there. That's Isaac Harley, as was in the waggon. I
wish I had Isaac's gun, I'd shoot the chap that has charge of him. How
ever came Isaac to be taken?'

'Ay; and he is cuffed to Joseph Stibbard.'

'Stibbard broke into the parson's house at Littleport, and took his
silver spoons and money.'

'He needed them more than did the parson.'

'Of course he did, and had a right to take them. Joseph Stibbard's
sister married my nephew, Philip Easy. I hope he handed on the spoons
to her before the soldiers took him.'

Such were the comments passed. Some of those looking on endeavoured to
push between the soldiers, and get at their relatives who were being
conveyed to prison, but were repelled by their guards. Comments of
another sort were expressed less loudly, though not less frankly.

'There rides Drownlands. He has been along with the dragoons all the
day. He has been pointing out whom they are to take; and if there is
hanging to be done, i' fecks! it is he who has twisted the rope for
their necks, poor fellows.'

'I knew he was out and about all last night.'

'Yes, and has been all this morning with the magistrates. But they
haven't taken Pip Beamish yet.'

'I am sure they would be put to it for witnesses, if it were not for
Tiger Ki. Which of us would peach? Wouldn't we do the other thing, and
swear 'em off?'

'You are right there. I suppose Ki Drownlands knows what he is doing.
But I reckon that this will be remembered against him, and he will be
paid out for it some day or other.'

'Trust our chaps for that, and the day will not be distant.'

Drownlands observed the sullen looks, the scowls with which he was
greeted, and noticed the whispers that passed as he rode by, but
treated all with indifference or contempt.

'They do not love me. I scoff at them,' said he to Sir Bates Dudley.
'They have done their worst. We are clearing the Fens of the only lads
with any spirit in them to do mischief. Those that remain are arrant

Then he turned his horse's head down the drove to Prickwillow. 'I am
not needed till to-morrow. Here is my home.'

His eye lighted on Zita, who had come forth to see the soldiers pass
with their prisoners. Near her were Mrs. Tunkiss, Sarah, and the farm

Zita uttered an exclamation and ran forward, caught Drownlands' horse
by the bridle, and exclaimed—

'What is the meaning of this? Why is Mark Runham taken? This is your

'Why not? He headed the rioters.'

'He did not head them. It is false. You know it is so. Set him at
liberty at once.'

'I cannot do that. He has been arrested. He will appear before the
magistrates to-morrow.'

'Very well, so will I. I can bear witness as well as you.'

Then Zita darted nimbly between the soldiers, in spite of their
protests, which were not roughly enforced, for the quick eyes of the
dragoons saw that she was pretty. She made her way to Mark, who was

'Mark,' said she, 'I will help you.'

'You?' he answered. 'You said it was all one to you whether I were
hanged or transported. I am innocent, and will be discharged without
your help.'

'Back!' ordered the dragoon on the right, and Zita was forced to

As she did so, she saw Kainie by Drownlands. The girl had seized his
bridle, and was gesticulating with vehemence.

'It is your doing,' said Kerenhappuch. 'You hate him. You try to
destroy him. You are heaping to yourself wrath against the day of

'Let go my bridle,' ordered Drownlands.

'You are my uncle,' insisted the girl, her fair hair blown over her
face. With one hand she brushed it back, but did not release her hold
on the bridle. 'Although you have not treated me as of like flesh and
blood with yourself, yet you cannot undo it; I am your niece, and speak
to you I will, now.'

'Let go, I say. I will hold no communication with you.' He struck his
spurs into the sides of his horse, which reared. But Kainie would not
let go. The plunging of the horse made the curb nip and cut Kainie's
hand, and some blood came over it. She changed hands on the bridle.

'Look!' said she. 'You cannot help it. This is Drownlands blood. It is
Drownlands blood appeals to you now.'

Then Zita laid her hand on the bridle, on the farther side of the beast.

'We are two girls,' she said, 'and we will stay you, man though you be.
Kainie and I are enemies, we do not love each other, but we unite in
beseeching you to do justice to one man.'

'Ay,' said the mill-girl. 'Uncle Ki, you are bent on evil, and we will
hold you back against plunging farther into the slough.'

'Mark never intended to injure you,' said the Cheap Jack girl. 'He
sought to save your property for you. Why should you work for his

'You shall withdraw your charge against him before all the world,' said

'You shall break the shackles off his hands yourself,' said Zita.

Drownlands dug his spurs wrathfully into the flanks of the horse, and
clenched his teeth and hands. But though the beast was wounded and
bounded, his head was held too firmly for him to break away.

'Shall I grip your foot till you scream,' exclaimed Zita, 'as I did on
the night when I stayed you before?'

'Will you kill Mark, as you killed his father?' asked Kainie.

Her words were random words. She spoke in the vehemence of her wrath
against Drownlands, and anxiety for Runham. She knew nothing definite
against her uncle, but she had heard the whispered gossip of the Fens.

'I will have justice on all who have wronged me,' muttered Drownlands.

'Take care!' exclaimed Kainie, raising the disengaged hand, down which
ran a trickle of blood. 'Do not think that because some of the poor
lads have been taken, because ten out of one hundred are handcuffed,
that every heart that is full of bitterness is beating behind prison
walls, and every hand that can be raised against you is fettered. There
are ninety pairs for every ten you put in iron cuffs, and they will be
clenched in rage and resolve of revenge the day that you send the poor
fellows to the gallows.'

'I fear them not,' said Drownlands scornfully.

'You may not fear, but that is because, like Pharaoh, your heart is
hardened and your eyes are blinded, and the Lord is driving you
to your destruction. I am here to stand between you—I, as your
niece—between you and what threatens.'

'What threatens?'

'You are threatened.'

'Who threatens me?'

'Pip Beamish for one.'

'Ha! he will be arrested speedily.'

'No, not speedily. He is not taken yet, and till he is taken you are
not safe.'

'I will see that he be not at large for long. Before this week is out
he will be in prison.'

'That may be a few days too many for you.'

'I fear not your Pip Beamish; your braggarts do nothing.'

'No, braggarts do nothing; but Pip is no braggart.'

'It is my turn now,' said Zita. 'You, Kainie, have tried and have
failed. Leave him to me. I can employ reasons that are stronger than
yours. Let go your hold of the horse's head. You have said your say.
Now I will say mine. But none must hear us.'

Kainie reluctantly released the bit. Then Zita, still with her hand on
the bridle, strode in the direction of Prickwillow, leading the horse,
and some of the people congregated on the drove looked after her and
the master, and laughed.

'He has found his mistress,' said one man, nudging his fellow.

'Ay, and is following her lead like a lamb,' replied the man who had
been nudged.

'Who leads today will drive to-morrow,' said a third.

'Is he going to marry her?' asked the first.

The man addressed shrugged his shoulders and said, 'No money.
Drownlands is not such a fool as that.'

None of this was heard by Zita, who did not relax her hold, nor turn
to look at those who were left in the road. The master suffered her to
conduct him towards the house without making remonstrance.



When Zita was beyond earshot, she looked over her shoulder, and said to
Drownlands, 'I call that mean.'

She walked on, then halted, changed her hand on the bridle, and, gazing
about, said, 'You could free yourself of him in no other fashion, so
you swear his life away. But you have to reckon with me before it comes
to that. I will go into court and swear against you. What I shall swear
to will be the truth; your oath will bind you to lies.'

'I refuse to strive with you in words,' retorted Drownlands. 'A woman
is always victor with such weapons.'

'What? you prefer flails?—those are your weapons,' exclaimed Zita,
clenching her fist and holding her arm extended before her. 'I know
well why you are set against Mark Runham. You think that he is
something in some way to me, and that I am much to him. It is because
of this that you pursue him. It is because of me that you twist the
rope round his throat. But you are wrong altogether. I will not say
that Mark is nothing to me. He was kind to me once; kind when my heart
was tender, because my father was just buried. But I am nothing to
Mark. He mocks at me. He sneers and laughs at the Cheap Jack girl. He
does not love me; and, moreover, he is bound to another.'

'Mark bound to another? Who is that?'

'Nay, it is his affair, and he has not given me leave to tell his
secrets. But you may guess.'

Drownlands' face testified his surprise.

'I cannot guess,' he said, after a long pause.

'Well,' said Zita, 'father's word was true, that in such matters men
are blind. We girls see—and I ought to see, for Mark has not played me
fair. He did let me think he fancied me; but I think so no more. He has
made me angry with him, and I am angry with him still. But there is a
step beyond which I will not go. If I could punish him I would—but not
with the rope or Botany Bay. You know that he came into your house in a
friendly mind, and with kind intent. You know that he was not in league
with that topsy-turvy general public. I shall hate and despise you, as
I thought I could hate and despise no man, if you swear falsely against

'He has stood between us,' said Drownlands.

'He has not done so,' retorted Zita. 'Your own deeds lie between us,
not Mark Runham. The events of that night lie between us as a wall of
ice reaching up to heaven, that can neither be climbed nor undermined.
Listen to me, master. I hate to be mean; but if you drive me to
desperation, if I see no other way to save Mark's life, I will do even
that which is mean.'

'What is that? I do not understand.'

'I have no wish to do it. I shall hate myself if I do it. You were good
to my poor father, and to me. When all was dark and cold about me, you
opened to me your house and fireside. You have harboured me, my horse,
and the van. I would not speak a word to mortal man of what I know.
They might tear the flesh off my bones with fiery pincers, and my mouth
would remain shut. I owe you an infinite debt of gratitude, and I would
repay it. But there is one thing I cannot do—I cannot suffer you to
send Mark to the gallows. Rather than do that, I will speak, and tell
the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, about the two flails.'

Drownlands was silent. His face had changed to a clay colour, and his
lips were tightly drawn on his teeth.

'And if it be any comfort to you to know this,' pursued Zita, as she
opened the hand extended before her: 'if you will drop this charge
against Mark, retract every word you have said in his disfavour, I
will swear to you to have nothing more to do with Mark all your days
upon earth. He shall be to me no other than a stranger. I will stop my
ears against him if he should try to speak to me flattering words. I
will turn my head away if the fancy takes him to look at me with kindly
eyes. There, Ki Drownlands, I have made you an offer now. I threw a
menace at you just now.'

She had stayed the horse. She stood in the midst of the drove, upright,
her foot planted before her, her head raised, one arm lifted to the
horse's head, the other extended before her with hand outspread. She
had nothing on her head save her chestnut hair flying in the cold north
wind. Her side-turned face was colourless and sallow.

'Come, Ki Drownlands. When I make an offer, I mean it. When I make a
threat, I mean that too. Will you take my offer? It is not Cheap Jack
Zita who will go back from her word.'

'Be it so, then.'

'It is a deal?'

'Yes—a bargain.'

'Here is my hand,' said Zita, dropping the bridle. 'A deal is a deal.'



A few days were allowed to pass to obtain fresh captures. On a keen,
frosty morning, those taken by the constable and the military, to the
number of nearly forty persons, were brought before the magistrates
for the preliminary examination. It had been resolved that a Special
Commission should be appointed to try the prisoners on the capital
charges of burglary, arson, robbery, and tumultuous assembling to the
disturbance of the peace, and the commission of acts of violence. The
object of the magistrates on the present occasion was to sift the
cases, and deal at once with those of a light nature, and remand such
as were serious.

The magistrates were in force at the courthouse, and proceedings had
begun before Ki Drownlands arrived in a light gig, with Zita at his

On reaching the court, the girl was surprised to see a constable issue
from the door, and in loud tones call the name of Ephraim Beamish.

'Well,' said she, 'those magistrates must be a set of innocents if they
order Pip to be summoned in the streets of Ely. Do they suppose he
would come here to be caught? Pip will put his distance between himself
and the magistrates, as he did t'other day when the dragoons were on
the drove. He did not stay for them then, and he won't come for the
calling now.'

On entering the court Zita looked about her. She was affected with a
qualm of nervousness, and her colour was heightened. She had never been
in a court of justice before; but when she discovered that the hall
was crowded, she held up her head, breathed freely, and her spirits
recovered their elasticity.

'It's my own general public again,' said she; 'I am not afraid any

'Ephraim Beamish makes no answer to his name,' said the clerk of the

'We will proceed with the case against Ephraim Beamish,' said the
chairman; 'and the Bench hopes that the constables will not be remiss
in their duty, nor relax their efforts to obtain possession of his
body, and lodge him in prison—that is, should his case be proved.'

The evidence produced did satisfy the Bench that Beamish should be
remitted to the hands of the Special Commission.

Then Mark Runham was called, and at once placed in the dock.

Zita looked at him. She could see that he was not altogether confident
that his innocence would be acknowledged. He strove to disguise his
anxiety, but ineffectually. He was bewildered at the charge laid
against him, and troubled at finding himself in a novel and unpleasant

The depositions having been read over, Hezekiah Drownlands, of
Prickwillow, was ordered to stand in the witness-box, for it was he who
had lodged information against Mark.

Zita immediately elbowed her way to the front, and, resting her
elbow on the rail that limited the portion of the court accessible
to the public, looked steadily into the face of the master. She was
resolved to check and correct his statements, so that they should not
tell unfavourably against the prisoner. Drownlands noticed her, but
refrained from meeting her eye. He gave his evidence with hesitation
and confusedly, for he had laid information against Mark Runham, and
was now seeking to minimise the charge and weaken the force of his own

'I was in my office,' said Drownlands, 'on that same evening, and was
talking with—with Zita there,'—he pointed with his thumb towards the
girl, but without looking at her,—'when I heard the voices of the

'Stay a moment,' said the chairman, interposing. 'Who may this Zita be?'

The chairman was a merry, red-faced man, a gentleman who had been
brother to a former Dean, and had obtained from that Dean a lease of
a large tract of ecclesiastical property for ninety-nine years at a
nominal rent, and who resided and had become wealthy in Ely.

'I refer,' said Drownlands, 'to that young woman. She lives in my

The eyes of the Bench and of the audience were directed towards the

'Oh!' said the chairman. 'Rather young for a housekeeper, eh?'

'She is not my housekeeper.'

'In what capacity, then, may we regard her as residing with you?'

Drownlands hesitated.

'Come, come! Don't be reticent, Mr. Drownlands.'

'I really cannot say.'

'Shall we say she is a sort of—ahem—companion?'

A titter ran through the court.

'I am a lodger,' said Zita. 'I pay my way.'

'Silence!' ordered the chief constable.

'You shall speak in your turn,' said the chairman, 'and no doubt you
will be able to give us valuable evidence, but you must not interrupt,
you understand.' Then, turning to the witness, and chuckling and
becoming purple with his suppressed laughter, the chairman said, 'Very
well, Mr. Drownlands, go on. We commend your taste. You were talking
with your pretty companion, or lodger.'

A laugh ran through the court, in which all joined save the clerical
members of the bench, who looked grave and shook their heads.

Zita coloured, and looked about her angrily. Mark's face was pale, and
his eyes were lowered.

'I was talking with her in my office,' continued Drownlands, 'when the
mob entered my stackyard with torches, and threatened to burn my ricks
and break into my house. Mark Runham was with them.'

'Did he threaten you?'

'A great many voices were raised. I could not distinguish one from
another. There was a waggon, and Aaron Chevell, Harry Tansley, and
Isaac Harley were in it, and Tansley held a gun.'

'Never mind about Tansley now. I see in your deposition that Mark
Runham entered your house. Was it so?'

'Yes. He came to my door and knocked. Then Zita let him in.'

'But,' interrupted the chairman, 'what you say now, witness, is not in
agreement with your information. You deposed that he had feloniously
entered your house.'

'He came to ask for money.'

'Yes, that may be; but if he knocked and was admitted, he cannot be
said to have feloniously entered your premises.'

'I don't know about that. I gave no orders that he should be let in.
She took it on herself, and went down and unbarred the door, and
brought him up to the office. When there he asked for money—for twenty

'No, gentlemen,' exclaimed Zita, 'it was not so. He told the master that
he advised him to pay the money lest the men should do mischief. He
asked for nothing.'

'Silence, if you please,' said the chairman; 'your turn will come
presently, and then we will listen to your story. Proceed, Mr.
Drownlands. You say now that Mark Runham, the accused, was let into
your house by the pretty companion—or lodger. He did not break in. The
information is incorrect.'

'I don't understand lawyers' jargon,' said Drownlands sullenly. 'All
I know is that Mark Runham came in and asked for twenty pounds, and
said that if I did not pay it, the men would burn my ricks as they had
those of Gaultrip. I know that blows were struck at my door, and I
heard threats that the men would break in, and a brick was thrown at me
through the window.'

'That took place whilst Mark was in the room,' said Zita.

'Silence there!' shouted the constable.

'If that girl will intervene, and will not be quiet, let her be put
out of the court,' said Sir Bates Dudley, who was on the bench.

'I'll be quiet,' said Zita; 'but when one hears lies, it is hard not to
contradict—it is hard—tremenjous.'

'Go on, Mr. Drownlands,' said the chairman.

'They threatened, if I would not pay the twenty pounds, that they would
burst in at the door, or by the windows, and take two hundred.'

'Who? The accused?'

'No, not the accused; the others. He was in my office, speaking with

'But we do not want to hear what the others said—at least not now. We
are considering the case of Mark Runham. He is a farmer—a landowner, I

'Yes, he is.'

'And you think it likely that such an one would put himself at the
head of a lawless rabble, to wreck farms and extort money from his

'He demanded twenty pounds of me.'

'Well, go on with your story. You refused the money?'

'I did so at first, but in the end I was forced to pay it.'

'Forced? Did the prisoner employ violence?'

'No; the rabble outside threatened to burn all down unless I paid. I
put the money into the prisoner's hand.'

'After that he left your house?'

'He took ten pounds also from Zita.'

'No; I offered them to him to save my van!' exclaimed the girl.

'Another word of interruption, and you are turned out of court,' said
the chairman. 'Constable, stand by her, and if she opens her mouth
again, clap your hand over it, or stuff your pocket-handkerchief down
her throat.'

'I will do so, your worship.'

'That is all you have to say, witness?'

'Yes. I have nothing more, except that Runham gave cake and ale to the

'You saw him do so?'

'No. I heard he had regaled them.'

'That is no evidence.' Then the chairman turned to Mark Runham and
said, 'Has the accused any questions he would like to put to witness?'

'Yes,' said Mark. 'I inquire of him whether I did not protest that I
came merely as a neighbour and a friend.'

'A friend?' exclaimed Drownlands. 'No Runham can be a friend to me, nor
I a friend to him.'

'That is no answer to his question,' said the chairman.

'He said something of the sort,' Drownlands admitted.

'Did I not say,' pursued Mark, 'that Gaultrip had refused at the outset
to pay blackmail, and that in the end, when his rick was blazing, he
gave way, and that I had run on ahead to advise you as a neighbour not
to provoke to outrage an irritated and unreasonable rabble?'

'Yes, you said that; but how was I to know you were not acting for the
rioters? You gave them cake.'

'Come,' said the magistrate occupying the chair, 'we will hear now what
that lively young woman has to say. She clearly is bursting with desire
to tell us all she knows. Put her in the witness-box.'

As Drownlands left the place he had occupied, Zita stepped into his
room at the instigation of the constable. She looked up at the Bench
with a cheery countenance, and then round at the public that crammed
every available space.

'Your name?'


'Yes, that is well enough as far as it goes, but we want your surname

'Father said we were Greenways. But nobody never called him nothing but
"Cheap Jack."'

'And your profession or calling? A companion?'

The court tittered. A clown in the public portion of the hall guffawed.

Zita raised herself erect and said, 'A Cheap Jack.'

'A Cheap Jill, I should say,' observed the red-faced chairman, laughing
at his own feeble joke, whereupon the Bench smiled, the clerk of the
court and the constables laughed, and the public roared.

The magistrate went on, 'If you are a Cheap Jack or Jill, how come you
to be at Mr. Drownlands' house? Is your father with you?'

'My father is dead,' replied Zita. 'That is just why I am at

'Then I presume you are a roving Jill in quest of a Jack?'

'It is the place of the Jacks to run after the Jills,' said Zita; 'not
that I want one, thank you.'

'Hush! Hush! No impertinence to the Bench.'

'Beg pardon, I thought the impertinence came from the Bench to me.'

The sally produced some merriment. When it was subdued, the magistrate
in the chair assumed a grave manner, and inquired in a different tone—

'So you are staying at Mr. Drownlands' house? In what capacity?'

'I am a Cheap Jack,' said Zita. 'I have my van there, and horse, and
all my goods. We got stuck in the mud of the droves, when on our way
to Littleport, the night of Tawdry Fair. Father was took ill and
died. So I am lodging at Prickwillow, and I pay for my lodging in
blacking-brushes and slop-pails.'

'You are not, then, in any menial capacity—not receiving wages?'

'I am a Cheap Jack, laid by the heels through mud and frost,' answered
Zita. 'It is true I have sewn on some buttons for Master Drownlands,
and have hemmed the linen, and he gives me house-room for my van and me
and the horse, till the dry weather comes and we can move away.'

'Well, enough of that. Tell us what you know about the events of the

'First of aw—aw—all,' interposed Sir Bates Dudley, who sat on the
right of the chairman. 'She has been put on her oath. Had we not
bet—tet—tet—er ascertain if she is aware of the nature of an oath?'

'Ah, to be sure! I suppose you were brought up as a Cheap Jack?'

'Always—since I was a baby.'

'And not in the most virtuous and godly manner, I fear?'

'I beg pardon, sir?'

Here the constable interposed. He stooped and said in Zita's ear,
'Address the Bench as "your worships."'

'I beg pardon, your worships. My father brought me up. There was not a
better man anywhere.'

'Then—do you understand the nature of an oath?'

'Father didn't swear but very little—off an' on like—and mostly at
Jewel, who was sometimes very provoking. But nothing like the man with
the merry-go-round—he swore awful.'

'I do not mean that. Do you comprehend that you have solemnly promised
to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and
that you have called Heaven to witness that it is so?'

'Yes,' said Zita, with a sigh; 'but it is hard—tremenjous.'

'What?—hard to speak the truth?'

'Yes, your worship—because of the general public. You never was a
Cheap Jack, was you, your worship?'

'No. Oh dear no, never—never!'

'I thought so. I never saw you at any of the fairs, but there was a man
who swallowed knives like that gentleman at your side.'

'Never mind about that.'

'I was going to say, sir, that as you never was a Cheap Jack, you can't
understand what the feelings of one is, when she sees the general
public afore her eyes. There comes a sort of swelling of the heart,
and a desire of the mind to launch out into wonderful tales, and a
longing to make the General Jackass believe that black is white, and
chalk is cheese, that what is broken is sound, and what is old is new.
But I will do my best. I'll shut my eyes and try to forget the general
public, and fancy I'm with father in the van, for then I always said
straight out what was true.'

The winter sun streamed in at the south window over against Zita and
flooded her as she stood in the witness-box. She had a scarlet and
yellow flowered kerchief round her neck and over her shoulders, the
white chip bonnet with black ribbons hardly contained her luxuriant,
shining hair. The sun blazed in her face, flushing her ripe cheeks,
making very June cherries of her lips, and adding a solar twinkle
to the sparkle of intelligence and wit indwelling in her honest but
roguish eyes. She stood as upright as a wand, her hands resting on the
rail before her, and her head thrown back.

The chairman bent to Sir Bates Dudley and whispered—

'What a good-looking wench it is!'

'Is she, indeed?' said the canon. 'You don't mean to say so.'

It did not comport with ecclesiastical, certainly not with canonical,
decorum and dignity to know whether a girl were good-looking or not.

The chairman turned to the magistrate on his left and made the same
remark. This magistrate was a layman, a retired admiral, who had come
to live in Ely because his daughter was married to an official there.
His name was Abbott. There was no etiquette in Her Majesty's Navy
against observing good looks. He replied, 'Thunderingly so, Christian.'

Christian was the chairman's name.

'I'll speak the truth,' said Zita; 'though it is against nature—just
as it was against nature for that little fat gentleman to ride
yesterday; but he did it, because he ought.'

A roar of laughter at the expense of Sir Bates Dudley.

'Go on,' said the chairman, hardly controlling himself—the lay members
of the Bench loved to have a joke at the expense of the clerical
members. 'Tell your story, and tell it truthfully, or you'll get
yourself into difficulties.'

'I mean to,' said Zita.

Then she gave the narrative of the events of the evening of the riot in
their order, with such lucidity and simplicity, and so frankly, that
the truth of her story was stamped on every sentence. Now and then
some odd remark, some allusion to her van or goods, or to the horse,
provoked a laugh, and she kept Bench and public in good humour.

'I really think,' said Mr. Christian, 'that we may dismiss the case
against young Runham. If my brother magistrates agree with me'—He
looked round and met with nods of approval. 'The charge against Mark
Runham seems to be a mistake. There is actually nothing in it, and the
Bench sincerely regrets that, through a misunderstanding, and possibly
through an excess of zeal on the part of Mr. Drownlands, you, Mark
Runham, should have been placed in the position you have. Constable,
discharge him.'

'Thank you, gents,' said Zita. 'You've done right, and I'm glad of it.
As I came here, I heard that you had given orders for Pip to be called.
I did think you then a set of ninnies—but now'—

'That will do. You can leave the witness-box.'

'No, sir—your worship, not yet. I have not quite said all I want
to say. I am very much obliged that you have listened to reason and
have let Mark go. And, your worships, there are six of you on the
bench. I have got just six toasting-forks in stock—the beautifullest
toasting-forks that ever you saw. They have red japanned handles and
brass mounts, and fold up small, like telescopes, into the handle. And
if your worships will do me the favour of coming to Prickwillow, I'll
furnish every one of you with a toasting-fork.'

'That will do; leave the witness-box.'

'And, your worships, if you will pass over poor Pip Beamish,—he's not
right in his head,—I'll let you have a real epergne to raffle for
between you.'

'Constable, remove that girl. Turn her out of the court,' ordered the
chairman, red with laughter.

'I pity the man she chooses as her husband,' said Christian behind his
hand to Abbott, when his order was being carried out.

'Or Drownlands, whose companion she is,' whispered the admiral.
'No—hang it!' said Mr. Christian. 'No more of that. I am sure that
girl is as straight as a whistle. You cannot look in her honest face
and hear her cheery voice and not swear she is as good and clean as
gold. 'Pon my life, Abbott, I have a mind to go for my toasting-fork.
What say you? You are an old acquaintance, as you heard,—swallowed
knives at the fair,—will you go?'



Zita was standing in the room Drownlands called his office, in
conversation with the master.

'What did you mean by that which you said to the magistrates—that you
were tied here by frost, held by mud, and that when frost went and mud
dried you would be free to go?'

'It is so.'

'You will leave me?'

'I would go as soon as the van could roll along the drove,' replied
Zita, 'but that there are other difficulties than frost and mud, and
how to get out of these I do not as yet see. I work at them in my head,
but cannot find a way of escape.' She considered a while, with her
hands folded and her eyes on the floor. 'You see, there is the stock.
It seems sinful to let it lie idle—if it don't breed money, it will
breed moths and rust. Father always said money was made to jump—just
the same as frogs were so created. Here is all this store of goods
doing nothing. Here is myself—born a Cheap Jack, and a Cheap Jack to
my fingers' ends. I am not in my right place if not going about in my
van to fairs and markets, selling my goods, and making the money jump,
as it was ordained to.' Zita pursed her lips. 'That is on one side.
On the other there are considerations also. In the first place, it is
awkward for a young girl to be cheap-jacking over the country—it's
awkward, and it's not respectable. She cannot manage by herself. As
the gentleman said, a Jill must have a Jack. That was true, though I
did not like to hear him say it. I could not manage the van and Jewel
and the selling alone. I must have some man with me. And if I were to
take a servant, he might set his head to make himself Jack and make me
Jill. And to take a proper Jack,' pursued Zita,—'I mean, to have a
husband,—why, I don't fancy it. I don't like the notion of it at all.
There is my great difficulty.'

'Then stay at Prickwillow.'

'I don't know. If I were here, you would not leave me in peace and
quietness. I do not desire to remain here, but I do not know where else
to go. Now, you see, I am in a cleft stick.'

'Take me, and remain.'

'That, I have told you, can never be. If you ask that again, I will go.
If you say nought about it, I will make shift to stay till something
turns up.'

'Till you find a Jack?'

'I do not want a Jack. I said so. I want to remain free—Jack and Jill
all in one.' Her expression suddenly changed as she asked, 'Have they
taken Pip Beamish yet?'

'No; he has been seen, but he eluded capture. He is in the Fens. He
has some hiding-place, but where it is we have not yet discovered. The
constables are out and watching. He cannot leave the Fens.'

'Cannot? He escaped the dragoons. He has escaped the constables, as you
tell me now.'

'Ah! the dragoons were not accustomed to fen ways. The constables will
take him. They will form a ring and close in. There is a reward for
whoever takes him, and I have added five guineas.'

'And I will give ten to any constable who lets him slip through his
fingers. Publish that.'

'We have had enough of Ephraim Beamish,' said the master. 'We were
speaking about ourselves. You have your difficulties and troubles, but
I also have mine.'

Drownlands seated himself at the table, placed his arms on the board,
and for a moment rested his head on his folded arms. Then he looked up
and said—

'I have my distresses, but they are of other nature to yours, and
different in degree. Do you know Scripture? Did your father ever read
the Bible to you?'

'My father was a God-fearing man,' answered Zita, with warmth and
pride. 'He made me learn passages by heart, and there was one tale
he read over every Sunday, and never tired of it. It was how the
Israelites borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver and gold, and
spoiled the Egyptians, then went off and got the Egyptians drowned, and
so were able to keep their borrowings. Father said there was the making
of Cheap Jacks in them Israelites.'

'Did you ever read of Moses, how he went up the mountain to view the
Promised Land,—the land flowing with milk and honey,—and he looked on
it from afar, but was never allowed to set foot thereon? And he died
there, in the mount. The wind came to him sweet with thyme, and he saw
the green cattle pastures by the waters of comfort, but he might not
drink of its milk or eat its honey. And he died there, looking at the
land that was so near and yet so far, a land he might see, but never
set foot on. He died there, for it broke his heart.'

Drownlands laid his head again on his folded arms. Zita remained in the
same position. She had an inkling of his drift, and was uneasy, and
cast about for some means of relief from a painful scene.

'I suppose,' she said, 'there were fine bargains to be driven in the
Promised Land, and that the Canaanites were as soft-headed as the
Egyptians. To a man of proper feeling it was vexing.'

Drownlands paid no attention to the remark. He continued—

'Do you remember why Moses was not suffered to go in and possess the
Good Land? There was something betwixt him and it. He had done that
which was against the law, therefore the Lord showed him the fields of
Canaan, but said he must never lay his head in the dewy grass, never
smell its upturned earth, never touch its fair flowers.'

'Yes, I remember something about it,' said Zita.

'What killed Moses was the seeing the land, and being told it never
might be his,' continued Drownlands. 'But he could not go back from
Pisgah into the wilderness. He could not turn his back on Canaan. He
must sit among the rocks, and look on the pleasant land, till his heart
broke, and he died.'

The girl fixed her eyes on the quivering face of Drownlands. She saw
that he was in terrible earnest, and she did not see her way out of an
embarrassing situation. He spoke again.

'Zita, do you think it would have been wise for Joshua to have come up
into Pisgah when Moses was there? Would not Moses have sprung up and
cried out, "This man will enter on what is denied me!" and have held
him by the throat?' Drownlands was now on his feet, his hands extended
before him, suiting his action to his words. 'He would have held him by
the throat, have thrown him on a rock, put his knee to his chest, and
bent his back so—and have broken his back.'

As he spoke, he hit and split and crushed down half the table. Then he
drew a long inhalation, reseated himself, wiped his brow, and said—

'There is no Joshua. You swore to me there was none.'

'I think I can comprehend this roundabout talk,' said Zita. 'But if
you mean that I am your Promised Land, you are mistaken. I never was
promised to you.'

'No, that is true; you are the Loved Land, the Desired Land. No, you
never were promised.'

'And it is quite certain that I am not for you.'

'I know it.'

'And I will trouble you to keep your Pisgah at a distance, and stick to
it,' said Zita.

'You have told me that you never can be mine, and you have told me also
why. My sin stands between us, as a sin stood between Moses and Canaan.
And yet—I would do it again if I met him. You do not know how Runham
wronged me; you have never learned what was my provocation. I pay the
penalty of my sin, as did Moses. That very night I killed him—that
very same night, not two minutes after the last bubbles came from his
lips—I first saw you. The punishment followed on the crime faster than
the thunder-clap after the lightning-flash. Well, then, so long as you
remain before my eyes, that I can see your golden hair, and hear your
lark-like voice, I am content. I have all I can expect. I will try to
be content. But I could not endure to have a Joshua near me.'

'There is none—if you mean a Jack.'

'I trust your word. Mark Runham is nothing to you?'

'I am nothing to Mark,' said Zita, with slight evasion. 'He would not
even look at me in court.'

'So long as you remain here, I will bear my burden, though it break
my heart, bit by bit. But that is better than to lose you altogether.
No'—he stood up again, went to the window, leaned his arm and head
against the shattered casement, and let the wind blow in on him through
the broken glass—'no, that I can bear—to have you here. But to lose
you—to see you no more—I cannot even endure to think of that.'

Zita made a movement to escape. He heard her, and, without turning his
head, made a sign to her with his hand to stay.

'Do not leave me. I have still something I must say. I want to strike
a bargain with you.'

'A deal? I am ready.'

Zita resumed her place. Drownlands came slowly back to the table.

'Listen to me,' he said, with a thrill in his deep tones. 'I have made
up my mind to this—that _his_ blood lies between me and you, as a
Dead Sea I may never cross. I must sit on my Pisgah and look at you as
unapproachable. That is all I can hope for; that is all I demand; and
in order to secure this, I am ready to make you an offer. I shall never
marry—never. All the land round Prickwillow is mine, and I have money
in the bank—many thousands of pounds. You know what money is worth.
You can judge what this land brings in every year to heap the pile.
It shall all be yours if you will stay with me till I die. I ask for
nothing else but to have you here in this house, that I may hear you
laugh, that I may see your smiling face. That is all. I will not open
my mouth to ask for anything but that—just to see you and hear you
every day; now and then to touch your hand; happy, if as you pass me
your skirts brush me; glad for a day if you condescend to cast a word
at me. That is all—the full, the sum of all. And for that I will pay
away everything I have. Command me. Do with me what you please, only do
not banish me. My money is at your disposal, and when I die everything
that I have becomes yours. See here.' He went to his desk, unlocked it,
and drew forth a paper. 'I have made my will, but it is not yet signed
and attested. It could not be so till we had come to an arrangement
together. If you will undertake to remain with me on the terms I
propose, then you will be a wealthy woman some day when I am gone. And
whilst I am here cumbering the place,'—his tone was bitter,—'you have
but to ask and I will give you what you require. Agree with me, and
this document shall be signed and attested forthwith. For a very slight
concession on your part you will receive a rich repayment. As you said,
you could not go about the country in your van, and you have no settled
home to which you can go. Surely you will concede this to me.'

He placed the paper on the table before Zita.

She took up the will and read it through.

In few words, and to the point, Drownlands had constituted her sole
heir and legatee to everything he possessed, on the one condition that
she remained in his house through the rest of his life.

She put the paper down on the table again, without, however, releasing
it from her hand, and stood considering.

'There is one thing,' she said, after a long pause, 'one thing I must
stick out for whether I stay here for a short time or for long.'

'What is that?'

'That you board up the shed where my van is kept, so that the fowls may
not roost on it.'

Then in at the door came Mrs. Tunkiss.

'There's Mark Runham come,' she said to the master, after looking
suspiciously first at Zita, then at him. 'And he says he must speak
with you on business.'

'Mark?—Mark again? Bring him here. I am not afraid of him now. Come,
Zita, what say you to my offer?'

For a few moments she remained with her hand to her head, breathing
hard, her eyes dim.

'Come, Zita—what answer?'

She looked at him with glazed eyes. She was in pain and sorrow. She
would in one moment see Mark,—Mark, whom she loved,—and see him with
the knowledge that she never could be his. But the demand made of her
to surrender was not so great as it might have been had Mark loved and
respected her. He liked, or had once liked her. Now he loved another.
He despised her for some reason she could not understand. He held by
Kainie, to whom he was bound by promise, and to whom, after a short
wavering of his affections, he had returned.

'Come, Zita, what say you to my offer?'

In a whisper, with sunk head, her chin in her bosom, and with folded

'I accept.'



'Shall I go?' asked Zita.

'No, stay. There can nothing pass betwixt us but what you may hear. And
now that he is come, he shall witness the signature to the will.'

'I would rather leave.'

Further discussion of this point was prevented by the entrance of Mark.

The young man noticed that Zita was in the room, but he did not look at
her or address her. He directed his eyes steadily at Drownlands, who
remained seated at the table.

'I have come on business,' said Mark.

'Say what it is.'

Mark demurred. 'Let us speak together in private.'

'No; what has to be said may be said before her.'

'If you wish it. I have come concerning Kainie.'

'What about Kainie?'

'She is your niece.'

'To my sorrow.'

'You should not say that. She is a good girl. Not to your sorrow, but
to your shame.'

Drownlands stamped.

'Spare me words. My patience will not stretch far.'

'Kainie is your sister's only child. She is your nearest relative. I
have come to you in her interest. It is no longer possible for her to
remain at Red Wings.'

'Why not?'

'It is not seemly. It is not just. The Fens are in commotion; wild men
are about, lawless deeds are being done. She is but a girl, and is
unprotected, and away from help, if she needed it.'

'She has her dog.'

'That is not sufficient. Dogs have been silenced before now. Consider
to what dangers a girl is exposed in such a solitary spot.'

'Pshaw! the men are cowed.'

'Several are about in hiding, and are not yet captured. You do a great
wrong to Kainie.'

'I do her no wrong. I leave her alone.'

'That in itself is a grievous wrong. Whose duty is it to guard her, but
yours? She bears your name.'

'To my disgrace!' exclaimed Drownlands, glaring up with wrath. 'No more
of that.'

'Well, it is no pleasant topic.'

'Did Kainie send you to me?'

'No; I came because I felt concerned for her, and convinced that she
must not be allowed—no, not for another night—to remain under the
sails of Red Wings. Will you receive her at Prickwillow?'

'Not I.'

'She must be removed from the mill. If you will not take charge of her,
then I must.'

'You are welcome. I will have nothing to do with her.'

'Well, then, so be it. It is your duty to see to her security. You
refuse to do your duty, so I shall take her. That is settled. Now, one
thing further. Will you make Kainie an allowance,—something to support
her,—even if you refuse her shelter?'

'Not a penny. I washed my hands of her mother, and I wash my hands of

'I feared this would be your answer,' said Mark, and drew a long
breath. 'I feared my application to you would be in vain. Nevertheless,
I considered myself bound to make it; I could not act till you had
refused to act; much as did Boaz when troubled concerning Ruth. You
finally refuse to give protection to Kainie in her loneliness, and at
this season of danger?'

'Ay, I do.'

'And refuse to furnish her with even a pittance out of your abundance?'

'Ay, I do.'

'You should blush to deny her what she needs.'

'I blush for her being in the world at all.'

Mark turned to go. Then Drownlands spoke out in strong tones—

'Stay! Now that you are here, I ask you to do me a favour. It is not
much—merely to witness a document, to attest my signature to my will.
I desire you to see me sign that, and it will be the best answer I can
make to your application on behalf of Kainie. Zita, call up Leehanna

Mrs. Tunkiss was behind the door. She had been listening in the
passage, and now appeared in the doorway, after a short scuffle of
feet, to give a semblance of her having come from a distance.

'Do you want me, master?' she asked. 'I was in the midst of baking.'

'Stand there,' ordered Drownlands. Then, rising to his feet, he held up
the will and said, 'I have been making my last testament, and I desire
that you, Mark Runham, and you, Leehanna Tunkiss, should see me sign
it. But that will not suffice. I wish you to know its contents, and
then there can be no question relative to its genuineness; and, above
all, no delusions, no hopes, no schemes can be based on relationship,
fancied or real, that are doomed to disappointment.'

Drownlands looked round him. He saw a flicker in Leehanna's eye. She
was akin to him distantly, yet really.

'Zita and I have come to an understanding together,' said the yeoman,
in articulate words spoken slowly. 'Zita has promised that she will
remain with me, and will look after my house, rule over my servants,
attend to my comforts as long as I live. If you, Leehanna, choose to
remain with this understanding'—

'I shall do no such thing,' said the housekeeper, tossing her head. 'I
thought matters would come to this very quickly. I knew what the minx
was aiming at.'

'That is your affair,' said the master. 'Zita stays here, and her
word is to be law in my house. I have made my will, and leave to
her everything I possess—every brick of my house, every clod of my
soil, every guinea of my hoard.' He paused, and looked from one to
another. Mark and Leehanna remained mute with astonishment. 'Now go,
Mark Runham, as soon as you have attested my signature, and tell
Kainie she has nothing to expect from me at present, nor in times to
come—nothing from Drownlands living, or Drownlands dead. Let this be
known throughout the Fens. Mark Runham, stand here and witness me sign
my name. This is my true act and deed.'

'I will not do this,' said the young man, turning white. 'Get some one
else to see this done—this that stamps her infamy and your baseness.'
He turned sharply about and went through the door. Then he halted for
a moment, hesitated, holding the jamb with one hand, and, looking back
with a face devoid of colour, said, 'To-night I shall fetch Kainie
away, and she shall find her home with me.'

'Mark!' exclaimed Zita, running to him.

'Stand back!' said he roughly. 'Do not come near me; you, who sell
yourself body and soul for what you call profits.'

Then he turned and staggered down the stairs.

'And I give notice that I leave this house at once,' said Mrs. Tunkiss.
'Fine goings on these be. I have ever kept myself respectable. I've
been the only respectable woman here besides Sarah. I'm not going to
stay in this house, which will be avoided by every decent woman, with
a man that will be pointed at by every decent man, with her in it as
missus—as missus'—

The woman laughed bitterly, tauntingly, and threw a foul name in the
face of Zita, and then backed, with a sneer on her lips and hate in her



Suddenly, and for the first time, did the thought flare through Zita's
brain and scorch it—that she had compromised her character.

Now only did she see why Mark had refused to look at her; now only
understand what he meant when he said that she had sold herself body
and soul; now only comprehended what the laughter signified when
the chairman in court had suggested that she was the 'companion' of
Drownlands, a suggestion which had been received with titters. She
remembered how then her brow had become hot, her heart had beat fast;
she was sensible that something had been said that hurt her maiden
pride, something that lowered her in the esteem of those assembled in
the court. But she had not sounded the meaning of the insinuation, and
had not thought what was really the sting in the words which wounded

Zita possessed a considerable amount of pride—a different sort of
pride, maybe, from any that we can conceive in our stations in life.
It was not vanity. She concerned herself little about her personal
appearance, and made no effort by dress to display her beauty. She
knew she was a good-looking girl, and was indifferent to the fact.
She had no education of the sort which we prize; but she had stood on
platforms, her feet level with the shoulders of the general public, and
she had come, instinctively, without being able to account to herself
for it, to regard herself as possessing a character, a dignity of her
own above that which belonged to the members of the general public. She
who stood above it actually must live up to her level, and stand above
it in moral strength and integrity.

Zita had a simple and innocent mind. She had been reared in a van, had
led a rambling life, her sole associate had been a father—a kindly
man, gentle, good after his lights, and very careful of her welfare.
The fact of her having been shifted perpetually from place to place
had prevented her forming associates, making fast friendships, so that
she had really had none to affect her mind save her father, and had
grown to womanhood a singular combination of shrewdness and simplicity.
Thus her heart was fresh and childlike, whilst her brain was keen in
all that concerned commerce. She had been carefully screened by the
Cheap Jack father from everything that could taint the sweetness of her
innocence and sully the crystalline purity of her mind.

There was one thing she had never learned from her father, one thing
of which till this moment she had no conception—the power of public
opinion. She had acquired in her vagrant life an idea that the general
public was a something to be laughed at and laughed with, that was to
be humoured, cajoled, befooled; but it had never been suspected by her
that the public could utter its voice and make the heart quake, breathe
on and blast a reputation, could bite and poison the blood.

Now, suddenly, a veil was lifted, and she saw the general public in a
new light, and felt the terrible power over her life and happiness that
it exercised.

No man is so free as the man without a home. If he has committed an
indiscretion, he pulls up his tent-pegs, moves away, and is forgotten.
But a man who remains on the scene of his indiscretion is haunted by
it ever after. The remembrance clings to him as the shirt of Nessus.
It is never forgotten, never forgiven. As long as the van crawled over
the face of the country, changing the atmosphere that surrounded it, it
eluded the force of public opinion. Its inmates paid no tax to it; were
not registered on its books. But hardly had Zita become settled before
its burden fell upon her.

'Unsay what you have said!' cried Zita, grasping Mrs. Tunkiss by the

'It is true. It is what every one has been saying; and, as you see,
Mark Runham won't have anything to do with you. You thought to catch
him, did you? You've been angling for him and the master, and taken the
one as bids highest. 'Tis like a Cheap Jack that. You're young, but
bold as brass and cankered as iron.'

'Silence, you false-mouthed woman!'

'Can you silence all the tongues in the Fen? There's not a man over his
pipe and ale in the tavern ain't jeering at you. There's not a woman
over her soapsuds and scrubbing-brush ain't crying shame on you. But
what can you expect of a vagabond but vice? I spit at you.'

Zita cast the woman from her, and turned and threw herself on her knees
at the broken table, buried her face in her hands, and burst into tears.

Drownlands waved imperiously to the housekeeper to leave, and the
woman withdrew, muttering and casting malignant glances at the broken,
prostrate girl.

The table was between the master of Prickwillow and Zita. His knuckles
rested on the will. He leaned on them, and looked down on the shining
head that was laid low before him. Zita's hair was cut short, and her
neck showed as well as her rounded cheek.

He did not speak. He breathed heavily through his distended nostrils.
He waited, not knowing what direction her thoughts might take, what
resolve her mind would form.

There were but few alternatives among which she might choose. She could
not resume her life as Cheap Jack without taking an assistant, and from
that course she shrank with maidenly repugnance, rightly estimating
its dangers. If she were to throw herself among the wanderers who
frequented fairs, it would be to court ruin. Was it not probable that
she would maintain her resolution to remain at Prickwillow, with this
difference, that she would accept his first offer, and become his wife,
to save her fair name from reproach? So far as Drownlands could see,
this was the only means whereby she could extricate herself from her
difficulties, and his heart swelled within him at the hope that opened
before him. But he saw clearly that he must allow her to work to this
solution by herself unassisted. A word from him would mar everything.

He accordingly stood with bent brows and pale face, the furrows deeply
graven on his forehead and seaming his cheek, his lips set, looking
steadily at the chestnut-gold head and the delicate bowed neck.

There is no agony more terrible than the agony of the soul, and among
the many anguishes with which that can be affected none equals in
intensity and poignancy that which is caused by the sense of the loss
of the respect of men.

There was an ineffable humiliation in the thought of the light in which
she—Zita—had come to be regarded, if what Mrs. Tunkiss said was true.
The girl who errs through over-trust in a lover, who has believed his
word, his oath, is looked down on, but deserves some pity. But Zita
did not occupy such a position, had not the same claim to be dealt
by lightly. She had—so men thought, so men said—deliberately and
calculatingly sold herself to Drownlands. Her degradation had been a
piece of sordid merchandise, with haggling over terms.

That was true which Leehanna said. She was the subject-matter of
talk in the taverns, of coarse and ribald jokes, of calculation of
the chances she had of retaining the affections of Drownlands, of
remark on her craft, her dexterity in laying hold of and managing this
intractable tyrant of the Fens.

But perhaps the intensest anguish-point lay in the thought that Mark,
who had loved her, or liked her—Mark, whom she had loved, whom she
loved still, regarded her with disgust, held himself aloof from her, as
one unworthy even of his pity, as a cold, calculating wanton.

As all these thoughts passed through the mind of Zita, the pain was so
excessive that she could have shrieked, and felt relief in shrieking;
that she worked with her feet on the planks of the floor, as though to
bore with them a hole down which she might disappear and hide her shame.

The drops ran off her brow like the drops on a window after
rain—long-gathering trickles of moisture, then a great drop,
immediately succeeded by another accumulation, and again another drop.
Save for the working of her feet on the floor and the movement of her
fingers, she was motionless. Drownlands contemplated her steadily. He
saw her, in her anguish of mind, twine and untwine her long fingers,
then pluck at and strip off chips of the table where he had broken it,
put them between her teeth and bite them, but still with lowered brow
and eyes that she could not raise for shame. He could see flushes pass
over her, succeeded by deadly pallor. It was as though flames were
flickering about her head, shooting up and enveloping throat and cheek
and brow, then dying down and leaving a deathly cold behind. A soul in
this present life was prematurely suffering its purgatory.

Then she laid her hands flat on the table before her, then folded
them, as children fold their hands in prayer, and she was still, as
though her pulses had ceased to beat and her lungs to play. Then again
ensued a paroxysm of distress, in which the fingers writhed and became
knotted, and tears broke from her eyes and sobs from her heart.

How long would this last?

What resolutions were forming and unforming under that crown of shining
locks, in that heavily-charged heart?

The door was thrust open, and in came Sarah, the maid with St. Vitus'

'Please,' she said, 'there be three gem'men from Ely downstairs. They
say they be come after their toastin'-forks.'



Zita rose from her knees.

'Tell them to wait, and I will be down directly,' she said. 'I made
them a promise, and I must keep it. I am glad they are here; they can
witness the will, now that Mark Runham and Leehanna Tunkiss are gone.'

Drownlands was surprised. The girl had regained her composure; and from
the look of her face he was assured that she had formed her resolution.

'That is right,' said he; 'things remain as arranged.'

'I cannot go away,' said Zita in a low voice. 'Here I am, and here I
must remain. If I have done wrong to stay here, the wrong is done.
If I have been foolish to accept your hospitality, the folly is past
recall.' She looked over her shoulder to see that Sarah had withdrawn.

'Yes; I promised you I would remain here, and here I will remain, on a

He held up the will.

'Yes, on condition that you leave everything you have as I shall

'I leave it all to you.'

'The will must be written afresh,' said Zita; 'a change must be made
in it. You have bequeathed everything to me, and because of that, evil
thoughts will rise up in folks' minds, and evil words will pass over
their lips. Even Mark thinks ill of me. I did not think Mark could have
done that.' She heaved a sigh, and drew her hand across her eyes.

'Master,' said she, after a pause, 'you had no right to make that will
and leave me all. I am not your niece. I shall never stand nearer to
you than I do now. I have no claim on your house or lands. But Kainie
has. She is your own sister's child. You must alter your will and leave
everything to her.'

'I said I would give her nought.'

'And that made Mark believe me to be bad. I will not have anything
of yours. I will have you make the writing out anew, and bequeath
everything to Kainie—on the same condition, if you will, that I remain
here all your days. I do not say, Give Kainie everything now. I have no
right to say that. I do not say, Give me nothing at any time. I shall
have a right to some payment, or some acknowledgment of my services.
But what I do say is that I will not be your heir hereafter. Kainie
has a claim on you that I have not. If I were to be enriched with
house and lands by you, then the evil that is thought of me would be
confirmed. But folks may say what they will, when, some day, after you
are gone, the property changes hands and falls to Kainie; they cannot
think I have been so wicked as was supposed. And I shall have repaid
you for your kindness to me, in that I have saved you from committing a
great injustice. Mark said I would do anything—sell body and soul—for
profit. He will come to see that he was wrong there.'

Drownlands gazed on the girl with incredulity. She had hit on an
arrangement that had not suggested itself to his mind. He could not
believe that she was serious in her purpose.

'I will remain with you,' continued Zita, 'on the clear understanding
that Kainie is to be your heir, and I would wish this understanding to
be generally made known. Some day, when I am old and ugly, and you are
dead and gone, then, when the new folks come into Prickwillow, I'll
harness the horse and start as a Cheap Jack once more. Then I can take
a man to mind the horse, when I do the business of a Cheap Jack. No one
can say wrong of me then. When Mark Runham comes into this place'—

'Mark Runham will never be here.'

'He must be here, if this falls some day to Kainie.'

'That does not follow.'

'Of course it follows, if he marries Kainie.'

'Mark—marry Kainie? What do you mean?'

'I told you that Mark would have nothing more to say to me, because he
was bound to another. I would not say to whom, for that was his secret.
But now he has let it out himself. He is going to take Kainie home to
Crumbland this evening.'

Drownlands started and threw over a chair.

'You are mistaken. You do not know.' He paced the room in agitation.

'I do know,' answered Zita. 'It is because he was bound to Kainie that
he gave me up. Now he is going to take her to him for better for worse.
Lawk! how dull men are in these matters—where girls see clear.'

'You are greatly mistaken.'

'No, I am not mistaken. How can you fail to understand when he speaks
so plain?'

Drownlands folded his arms and walked hurriedly up and down the room.
Presently he turned to Zita and said, 'You are serious when you say you
will not have me make you my heir?'

'I am truly resolved,' answered the girl. 'Then he can no more say that
I have sold myself body and soul for profits.'

'Let no will be made.'

'That will not do. You must rewrite it, and it must make Kainie your
heir. Only on that condition will I remain in this house with you.'

'And you believe her to be your rival, who has snatched Mark from your

'I know it is so. He could not help himself. He was tied to her.'

'Mark is a Runham. A Runham may betray a woman, but never marry one who
has no fortune.'

'More is the reason why you should give one to Kainie.'

'Were I to make you my heir,—there is no saying,—he might take you
for the sake of this place and my savings; and, by Heaven, I will have
no Runham own acres of mine, if I can prevent it!'

'He would not do that—he could not take me. He is too just and true to
throw over Kainie. He may think ill of me, but I do not think so badly
of him. I tried to buy of her the rights she had in him, but she would
not sell them. Then I saw it was all up between Mark and me.'

'This is strange—this is very strange!' said Drownlands, turning a
perplexed face on the girl as he paced the room. 'I know what is in
a Runham better than you. The Runhams marry for money, not for love.
Come here, Zita. What would you say were you to discover that you were
mistaken about Mark and Kainie?'

'I am not mistaken.'

'Suppose, some day, that you found that he was free?'

She was silent.

'And yet he would never marry you without money. He would not be a
Runham to do that. If, however, he thought you were to be my heir, he
might do so, or wait till I am gone and then take you; but he will
never think of you if you are poor. Be it as you propose. I will
rewrite my will. I will leave to you nothing, bequeath to Kainie all.'

'Then I will remain with you.'

'As long as I live?'

She nodded her head.

'You will swear to this?'

Her eyes were full, her bosom heaving; she held out both hands, and he
clasped them.

'I must go downstairs,' she said, after a struggle to gain composure.
'The justices will want their toasting-forks.'

'Keep them amused for a while. They shall witness my new will.'

Zita proceeded to her room, found the articles that she had promised,
and descended to the sitting-room, where she found three of the
magistrates, all laymen; the clerical members of the Bench thinking
it unecclesiastical to come after toasting-forks. The red-faced
chairman, Mr. Christian, was there; Admiral Abbott; and another, named
Wilkins. They were all merry; they had been drinking, and they felt
sensible relief that they were not cumbered by the presence of the
ecclesiastical magistrates. They were also conscious of great buoyancy
of spirits, due to the fact that they were beyond the shadow of the
towers of Ely, and no longer within the numbing circle of cathedral
decorum. Zita's arrival was hailed uproariously, with laughter and
loud words. The gentlemen jumped from their chairs, and with effusion
insisted on shaking hands.

'We've rode over,' said Mr. Christian, 'but couldn't persuade Sir
Bates to mount a horse again. The very looks of one makes his colour
fade. Nothing would induce him—not the prospect of a toasting-fork. I
say, Abbott, if we could have promised the canon a kiss of those ruby
lips, eh? Would that have drawn him? How now, you comical Jill?—you
who upset the dignity of the Court! And to venture on bribery and
corruption—you pretty little rogue! We might have had you up. What say
you, Abbott? Shall we indict her for the attempt to poison the springs
of justice? It is a case under common law. Fine or imprisonment? Which
shall it be, Wilkins?'

'Now, come,' said the magistrate addressed, 'no law here; we have
had enough of that today. Here are weapons. Arm thee, arm thee, Sir
Christian, knight of the blazing countenance and the purple nose. Queen
of Cheap Jacks, let your gay red-flowered kerchief be the prize.
I defy thee to the death, Christian. Up with you on to the table,
Queen of Cheap Jacks, or upon the mantelshelf—anywhere away from the
clash of blades and the soil of battle. Come on, Christian! And after
thee, Old Salt the Admiral; but, Lord! he will swash about with his
toasting-fork as if 'twere a cutlass. Come on, Christian, and he who
wins rides home wearing her favour.'

Justice Wilkins brandished one of the toasting-forks, and, putting
himself in a posture of attack, shouted again for his opponent.

Mr. Christian at once snatched and flourished his weapon, and the two
half-tipsy men began to make passes at each other.

'Bright eyes looking on! A fair maid's favour as the prize! Ah,
Christian, you're off your guard; you are using your foil wildly.
The man is drunk! Heigh! To the heart! I have run you through! Down
with your blade, sir!' Wilkins shouted as he charged home, and drove
the toasting-fork up into the handle against the breast of his
adversary. 'Abbott! gallop off for Sir Bates! Make him come to shrive
Christian. Rest his soul! he was a jolly dog, but too fond of lasses
and the bottle. Admiral, help me; we will compose his epitaph. No,
no, Christian, that is a breach of rules. You're dead, man; dead
as a stone, with a stroke through your heart. Didn't you feel the
toasting-fork tickle your ribs? Stand aside, or lie dead on the
hearthrug. You are out of the game now. Come on, Admiral Abbott. It
lies between you and me; Christian, you dog, you are dead, and must
not interfere. That stroke will let some of the port wine out of your
gizzard. Keep in the rear—you are a dead man. If you walk, it is your
ghost. It is Abbott's turn with me now.'

'Wilkins, your tongue runs away with you. I'll cut it off and wear it
in my hat. I'm your man.'

Thereupon Admiral Abbott, armed with his toasting-fork, strutted into
the place lately occupied by Christian.

'No,' said he; 'Wilkins, you cheat; you took a scurvy advantage over my
dear deceased brother Christian. You shall not play me the same trick.
You have the window behind you.'

'I did not consider it. Change sides.'

'No, I will not have the advantage over you either. We will fight with
the daylight athwart our blades.'

'Then the Queen of Cheap Jacks must shift quarters, to see that all is

'Let her shift,' said Abbott. 'I am not going to be killed or to kill
you at a disadvantage. Ready!'

The passage of arms between Wilkins and Abbott was as brief as that
between him and Christian. A stroke from the admiral, who used his
tool as a cutlass, bent the soft metal of the toasting-fork of his

'Weapon broken. Surrender!' shouted Abbott. 'Now, Wilkins, stand aside.
I am conqueror, and claim the red rag.'

'That's a way to ask! Like the bear you are, Abbott. Down on one
knee—I won't say gracefully, for you can't do that—and ask in
courteous tone. Red rag indeed!—a crimson favour.'

'He can't kneel,' said Christian. 'He'd never get up if he were once

'Admiral! I could swear the Cheap Jack Queen has been crying. There are
tears on her cheek and a drench of rain in her brown eyes. It is for
you, Christian, you lucky dog; you caused them to fall, because I ran
you through, and Her Royal Highness weeps for her knight bleeding his
life-tide away.'

At this moment Drownlands entered the room, and was saluted by the
three magistrates.

'We have been fighting,' said the admiral, 'and I am the conqueror. If
you are disposed to part with the pretty housekeeper, I will carry her
off _en croupe_ on my horse.'

Drownlands disdained an answer.

'Gentlemen,' said he, 'now that you are here, let me ask a favour of
you. Pray put your hands to this paper and witness my signature to
this my last will and testament.'

'I hope you have put the Queen of Cheap Jacks down for something
handsome. If you have done that, we will sign cheerfully.'

'Not for a penny,' answered Drownlands. 'Everything I have goes to my
niece. Here is ink and here a pen. Gentlemen, this is my true act and

'My hand shakes,' said Christian; 'I have been laughing, and cannot
hold a pen.'

'And mine is jarred,' said Wilkins, 'with the thundering blows of that
swashbuckler, Abbott.'

Jesting, laughing, the three men complied with the request of
Drownlands, hardly regarding what they were about.

'I say, Abbott,' said Wilkins, 'what was that promise that fell from
ruby lips relative to an epergne?'

'We were to raffle for one,' said the admiral.

'Can't do it,' said Christian. 'We have not got the others here. We'll
hoist Bates on to a horse and make him come another day, when this
confounded business of the riots is over.'

'You have got the favour, Abbott,' said Wilkins, 'but not by fair
swordsmanship. Whether you carry it to Ely is another matter.
Christian, shall he hoist it at the end of his toasting-fork and ride?
We'll give him a hundred yards, and then pursue, and he who overtakes,
captures the favour and carries it into the city.'

'Done—we'll race the admiral for it.' Then, turning to Zita, 'We'll
come another day and raffle for the epergne at a guinea a-piece. The
pool goes to you. Now then, brother justices, away we go!'



'Take it, and keep it,' said Drownlands, handing the will to Zita. 'You
can read. It is as you desired, and on the same condition as before.
That is as you promised.'

'Yes,' said the girl; 'with that I am content.' She put the will in her

'Then,' said Drownlands in a tone of sad bitterness, 'for life and till
death we are united.'

'After a fashion, to keep apart.'

'Yes, united to be separate.'

'Like a pair of wheels,' said Zita. 'They keep the concern going, but
have it always between them.'

The day had closed in, and Zita retired to her room to sit at the
window and look out at the dead uniformity of the fen, and the white
line of horizon between it and the darkness above, like a white fringe
to a pall. She desired solitude, that she might review what was past.

The weather was cold. There had been frost, hard and biting, and the
ice clad the water. The snow that had been spread over the land had in
part disappeared, licked up by the dry wind that scaled the waters, and
the land from whiteness had turned to blackness.

The lakes of frozen water would have attracted many skaters during the
day, had not the engrossing excitement relative to the trial of the
rioters engaged the public attention.

The frost had set in with redoubled hardness on the morrow of the
riot, and in four days even the Lark was turned to stone within its

As Zita looked out into the night, she could see the heavy sky,
burdened with black clouds, that were ragged as a torn fringe, or a
moth-eaten pall, about the black hard bank of the river, that stood up
sharply against the sky.

The cold was so biting in the fireless room that Zita drew the velvet
curtains about her, which were suspended over her window, covered her
shoulders, and wrapped them about her bosom. There was no light in the
room save the wan reflection from the horizon. Had there been, she
would have formed a pretty picture, folded in crimson velvet, with her
oval face and dark amber hair peeping out of the folds.

She looked dreamily through the window.

A wave of regret had come over her after the exaltation caused by the
sense of self-sacrifice.

She considered how that she had loved Mark, had valued his regard for
herself, had delighted in his society. He had never said to her that
he loved her, yet there had been a look in his blue eyes, a pressure
of his fingers when he took her hand, a softness of intonation in his
voice when he spoke to her, that had said more than words, that had
assured her heart that she was dear to him. And how happy she had
been when she believed that! A solitary child, with no belongings and
belonging to none, a waif thrown upon the desolate fens, she had found
herself lifted into a new region of brightness. Then Mark had become
cool, and had held aloof from her. She had discovered that he was
engaged to Kainie, and could not become disentangled from this tie.
He had been constrained to resign himself to it. Now his interest,
his sympathies, were enlisted on behalf of that girl, because she was
treated with injustice and was exposed to danger. Now he was about to
take Kainie to his house—now, this very evening.

A feeling of resentment against the girl who stood between herself and
happiness swelled in Zita's heart; Kainie threw down the palace of
delight she had built up in the cloudland of hope and fancy. Kainie
snatched Mark from her; and it was for Kainie that she—Zita—had given
up the inheritance offered her by Drownlands.

In the darkness Zita's brow darkened. Angry feelings surged in her
bosom and sent waves of fire through her pulses. She would defy the
world. What need she care for the chatter of slanderous tongues?
Conscious of her own integrity, she would brave public opinion.

She snatched the will from her bosom, that she might tear it in pieces,
and then she would run to the master and bid him make another in her
own favour, as first proposed. Why should she not be his heir?

If Kainie robbed her of Mark, might not she retaliate and take from her
the inheritance of Drownlands?

If she were struck, might she not strike back? Did Kainie need lands
and houses? As Mark's wife, she would be rich without her uncle's
estate added to Crumbland, whereas she—Zita—had not a particle of
soil on which to set her foot and say it was her own. Had not the
master of Prickwillow a right to do what he would with his own? Kainie
had done nothing for him, and she—Zita—was devoting her life to his

As she looked out of the window, musing on these things, she saw that
the light on the horizon had faded, or that the great curtain of cloud
had set over it and had obscured it. Something, where she believed
that the embankment ran, now attracted, without greatly engaging, her

A minute flash of light travelled a little distance, and was then
extinguished. Presently another wavering speck appeared, and then
again all was dark.

'The Jack o' Lanterns are about,' said Zita.

Her thoughts recurred to her troubles.

A recoil of better feeling set in and washed over her heart.

'No,' said she, 'I could not have borne it. It would have killed me to
have Mark believe that I was sold body and soul. Let him take Kainie,
and with Kainie let him have Prickwillow when it falls;—but let him
not think ill of me.'

She started up. She replaced the will in her bosom.

'I will go to Red Wings,' she said. 'He is there with Kainie. He said
he would take her away this night. I will go and tell him all. I will
show him what I have here;' she touched her bosom where lay the will.
'When he has heard my story and has seen that, he will think better of

She descended the staircase. At the foot she found the master.

'There are Jack o' Lanterns in the fens,' she said.

'Folks say that they have seen them,' he replied. 'I never have. They
were plentiful before so much marsh was reclaimed.'

'I have seen them,' said Zita.

'Pshaw!' laughed he. 'There are no Jack of Lanterns in winter. Whither
are you going?'

'On the embankment; perhaps on the ice. I wish to be alone.'

She drew a shawl over her head and opened the door. Drownlands followed
her to the doorstep.

At that moment he also for a moment saw a twinkle on the embankment.

'That is what you call Jack o' Lanterns,' said he. 'It is some ganger
going home. Shall I attend you?'

'I desire to be alone.'

Then Drownlands went within, and Zita walked on till she reached the
highway that ran below the embankment. It was so dark there that she
mounted the steep slope, so as to have the advantage of what little
light still hung in the sky and was reflected by the frozen surface of
the river.

As she ascended, an uneasy sensation came over her—a feeling that she
was in the presence of human beings whom she neither saw nor heard. She
stood still, listening. Then, stepping forward, she was again conscious
that she was close upon some invisible person. Feeling alarmed, Zita
was about to retrace her steps, when a light was flashed in her eyes
and a hand grasped her shoulder. Thereupon a voice said in a low tone,
'It is that wench of Drownlands'.' Then she was aware that several men
surrounded her. They had been crouching on the ground for concealment,
at the sound of her approaching foot. Now they rose and pressed about
her. She could distinguish that these were all men, and that they had
black kerchiefs over their faces with holes cut in them, through which
their eyes peered. One alone was not so disguised, and he it was who
spoke to her.

'Unhappy girl! You do not return. Go your ways along the bank, and no
harm will be done to you. We have no quarrel with you, but we have with
your master. This night we strike off a score, pay a debt.'

The voice was that of Ephraim Beamish.

'Throw her in. Send her under the ice. She's a bad lot,' said one of
the men.

'Make an end of all that belongs to Tiger Ki,' said another.

'We do not fight with women,' said Beamish. 'She shall go, but not
return to Prickwillow.'

'What are you about? What harm are you doing?' asked Zita.

'We are serving out chastisement to your master for what he has done to
our lads,' answered Pip.

'You will not hurt him?'

'Not in person.'

'What, then, will you do?'

'Go your way. We are letting the water out over his land.'

Ephraim conducted Zita a little way along the tow-path on the bank.

'Attend to me,' said he. 'Go anywhere you will except back to
Prickwillow. We have our men drawn across the way. You cannot pass,
it is in vain for you to attempt it. Keep to the bank, and keep at a
distance from us.'

'Where is Mark Runham?'

'I have not seen him.'

'He is not in this affair with you?'

'Mark? of course he is not. He knows nothing of our purpose.'

Zita advanced along the path. She was uneasy; desirous, if possible, to
warn Drownlands.

Presently she heard a rush of water.

She turned, and was caught almost immediately by one of the men.

'It is of no use your attempting to go home,' he said. 'It is of no use
your thinking of telling Tiger Ki to be on his guard. It is now too
late.' The man took her wrist and said, 'Go your way, but take care not
to step on the ice—not as you value your life.'

'The ice?—why so?'


A shrill whine—then a crash. The icy surface of the Lark had split,
then gone down in fragments under its own weight, as the water that had
sustained it was withdrawn.



Zita hurried along the tow-path. Her mind was in a tumult. The full
force of the words of Ephraim she could not understand. He and his
comrades were letting the waters of the river Lark over Drownlands'
farm, that she knew; but to what an extent they would overflow, and
what amount of injury they might do, that was what she was incapable
of judging. It was a relief to her mind that no personal violence was
contemplated. The water that was let out could be pumped back again.
The Fens were wont to be flooded at times, and the mills could always
throw the flood from off them.

It was natural that her thoughts should revert to certain words that
had been dropped by the men—words that had fallen on her ears like
drops of fire. Why had Pip Beamish spoken to her as an 'unhappy girl'?
Why had she been referred to as 'belonging to Drownlands,' as 'Tiger
Ki's wench'? The tone in which these words had been used had conveyed
more insult than the words themselves. They implied that she was sold,
as Mark had said, body and soul, to the master of Prickwillow. Mark was
not alone in his ill opinion of her.

How had this opinion come to be formed? Surely not from the fact that
she was staying on in the house where she had been sheltered when her
father died? Every one must know that it was impossible for her to
leave it, unless she deserted her van and her wares.

There had been nothing in Drownlands' conduct towards her in public
to breed this opinion. The spring of the scandal must have been in
Leehanna Tunkiss. That woman had viewed the presence of Zita at
Prickwillow with jealousy, and had come to hate her.

In the first gush of womanly sympathy with a forlorn child, left
solitary, bereaved of her only parent, the housekeeper had urged Zita
to accept the hospitality offered her, and had welcomed her when she
transferred herself from the van in the outhouse into a room in the
farm dwelling. But no sooner did the keen eye of Leehanna observe that
Drownlands watched Zita with interest, and that the girl was acquiring
an extraordinary influence over him, than her envy was roused, and she
was filled with alarm lest her own position should be undermined, and
she should have to make way for the girl whom she had so readily taken
under the shelter of Prickwillow roof.

Zita had not failed to notice the growing malevolence exhibited towards
her by this woman. She had endeavoured to keep out of her way, but had
not laid much store on her ill-humour. Now she saw, or suspected, that
Leehanna had been poisoning the minds of the neighbourhood against
her, and she had little doubt that the alienation of Mark was due in a
measure to the slanders of Mrs. Tunkiss.

Presently Zita saw the light that shone from Kainie's window. The girl
had not as yet deserted her habitation. A little muslin blind was drawn
across the casement, and the candlelight shone hazily through that.
During the frost, when the waters were chained down, the windmills were
not worked, so that there was no immediate necessity for a successor to
take the place of the girl-miller. No doubt that Mark would inform the
Commissioners that Kainie's charge of the mill was at an end, and that
it was incumbent on them to immediately look out for a successor. But
Kainie had not as yet departed, though it might be she was preparing
for her 'flitting.'

Had Mark come for her? Was he with her now? Or was she sitting in her
cottage with throbbing heart, waiting for him to arrive?

Was it a fact that Mark Runham grasped at money? It was not true.
Drownlands had charged him falsely in that. He was taking Kainie,
who had nothing. With a twinge, Zita thought how that she herself was
enriching her rival with what might, had she willed it, become her own.
With a sickness at heart, Zita looked forward to the day when Kainie
would join the acres of Prickwillow to those of Crumbland, and bid Zita
go forth a wanderer and destitute—and it was her own doing.

Was she one who sold body and soul for profits? She might have been
Drownlands' wife; she had refused this. She might have been his heir;
she had refused that: and Kainie reaped all the advantages that sprang
out of her refusals.

No! There was something that was dearer to Zita even than profits.

As Zita approached Red Wings, the dog, standing on the brick platform,
began to bark. Zita called to him, and he came to her bounding. On her
former visits she had brought Wolf something in her pocket. Now that he
reached her, he thrust his nose into her hand beseechingly.

She halted at the tuft of thorn-bushes and flags below the platform,
and seated herself there, throwing her arm round the dog. She would not
present herself at the door of the hut, and receive a rough greeting
from Kainie. She would wait and see whether Mark were there before she
made her presence known. The explanation she had to make, the story
to tell, she would in preference make and tell to Mark. She did not
forget that she had struck Kainie, and she knew that her chances of
placing her conduct in a favourable light were greater with a man than
with a woman.

A dark figure of a man issued from the cottage door and stood on the
platform, looking round. After a moment he went back to the door,

'There is no one that I can see, but the night is dark, Kainie.'

The voice was that of Mark.

He did not re-enter the cottage, but, standing where he was, he said—

'Come, Kainie, it is time for us to be off. My mother is expecting you.'

The girl issued from the hovel.

'Mark,' said she, 'has she really consented to receive me?'

'Yes, she has.'

'Yet I know that she has refused to see me, and even to hear about me.'

'That is true, but now she has given way. I could not allow you to
remain here. I took a firm stand with my mother, and she admitted that
I was right, and yielded. Now, have you got all ready for the sledge?'

'I have packed everything.'

'Then jump on to the sleigh, and I will run you along upon the ice,
which is in prime condition.'

Zita's arm convulsively nipped the dog.

How happy she had been on that day when Mark had run her along on the
ice on the same bones that were now to bear her successful rival!

Wolf protested against the pressure of her arm by a growl.

'Where are you, Wolf?' called Mark.

Zita released the dog, and he sprang upon the platform.

'I wonder what the old fellow means,' said the young man. 'He does not
usually give false alarms. I daresay he's puzzled at our proceedings.
Something affecting his interests is in view, Kainie, and he can't
understand it. It is so dark one can't see far; but had any one been
coming, he would have given tongue lustily.'

'Perhaps it may be Pip.'

'Pip will have to be careful for the next day or two. If he be caught,
'twill go hard with him for certain.'

'But you will get him away from the Fens?'

'Yes. I am making arrangements. If he can keep hidden for a few more
days and nights, I shall have managed matters, and be able to clear
him off; to clear him not only from the Fens, but out of England. Now,
however, we must think of you. Take with you only such traps as you
need immediately, and which you can carry in your arms or on your lap.
I'll return for the rest to-morrow.'

'I shall leave the fire burning and the light on the table.'

'Yes, for Pip when he comes. Folk will think nothing of seeing the
light, making sure it is yours. He can hide here till I am ready to
send him away; and Wolf shall remain to give him notice if any one
approaches. I'll tie him up.'

Kainie re-entered the cottage, and Mark proceeded to tie Wolf by a
piece of twine that he had in his pocket.

Whilst he was thus engaged, Kainie came out with her little package,
and stood watching the proceedings of the young man.

The dog was restless, and objected to being fastened.

'Don't be angry with me, Mark,' said Kainie, 'if I ask you a question.'

'No; what may it be?'

'It concerns that wretched creature—that Cheap Jack girl. You were
rather taken with her at first, Mark, till you found out what she was.
You are quite sure you don't fancy her no longer?'

The young fellow had been stooping over the dog. He stood up and said

'Kainie! I regard her now no more than I do the dirt under my soles.'

'Hark! what is that?'

The sound was that of a gasp or sob.

'There is certainly some one here,' said Mark. 'Bring a light.'

'You need not,' said Zita, rising from behind the thorns. 'It is I.'

'You here, Zita?'

'Yes. I heard what you said of me.'

'I am sorry for that.'

'It is cruelly false.'

'I cannot go into that matter. What has brought you here at this time
o' night?'

'What has brought her here?' repeated Kainie. 'There is no need to ask
that, Mark; the wretched creature is running after you.'

'You must go back,' said the young man.

'Yes, go back—to your dear master,' sneered Kainie.

'I must speak. I must justify myself,' said Zita, with vehemence.
'You wrong me in your thoughts; you wrong me in your words. I am not
what you suppose. I am not a bold, bad girl. I do not sell myself for
profits. I am in Drownlands' house because I cannot help myself. I have
nowhere else whither to go. Why should you and Kainie believe evil of
me? Why should'—

'I cannot argue with you,' said Mark. 'This is not the place; this is
not the time. I am sorry for you. I can say no more. I thought better
of you once.'

'Go, you Cheap Jackess,' said Kainie. 'Unless you had a heart lost to
shame, you'd not have come here after Mark at night.'

'You misjudge me in this as in other things,' said Zita, bursting into
tears. 'I came here for your good.'

'That's a fine tale,' sneered Kainie. 'We want no good from you, nor do
we expect figs of thistles or grapes of thorns.'

Mark said nothing, but stepped from the platform.

'I entreat you to listen to me,' said Zita, catching his arm. 'It is
not true that Drownlands has left me everything.'

'I cannot attend to this now,' said he, disengaging himself from her
grasp. But she again seized him.

'Unsay what you said!' she exclaimed. Her anger was rising and
overmastering her grief. 'Unsay those ugly words—that I am the dirt
under your feet.'

'I said—but never mind. I regret that you overheard me use such an

'That is not unsaying it.'

Kainie came up and struck Zita with the full force of her heavy hand
across the face.

'Take that,' she said; 'I have owed it you. Now the debt is repaid.'

Then she stepped on the ice with a 'Mark, I am ready.'

'Go!' cried Zita in towering wrath, stung with pain, maddened with
humiliation. 'Go—go under the ice, both of you! I care not! I care



The words were hardly out of Zita's mouth before they were repented.
The anger, the desire for revenge, which had spurted up in her heart,
was abated as rapidly as it had risen.

Once before she had spoken in violence of anger, and had speedily
contradicted her words by her acts. She had bidden Mark go and be
hanged or transported for aught she cared; yet no sooner did she learn
that he was in actual danger, than she had interfered to deliver him.
She had fought for him with Drownlands, and had thrust herself into the
witness-box to exculpate him.

Stinging now under the moral pain of the sense of wrong done to her,
that wounded her in her honour, stinging also under the physical pain
caused by the blow of Kainie, a girl for whom she had made the greatest
sacrifices, in a blind and inconsiderate explosion of resentment, she
had allowed Mark and Kainie, unwarned of their danger, to commit
themselves to the treacherous ice.

Repentance came too late. The words had been spoken which hinted
danger, but the hint was too vague to be regarded, even to be
understood. Mark had started, running Kainie on his sledge over the
polished surface of the channel, before Zita had recovered herself and
realised what would be the consequences of her neglect.

Then, with a cry, the girl ran along the bank. She called to Mark,
imploring him to return. She called, telling him that the ice was
broken. Then she stayed, out of breath, her pulses bounding, the sweat
streaming off her brow, and the tears racing down her cheeks.

She found that it was not possible for her to catch up the sledge, that
flew like a swallow over the glassy ice, and which was invisible in the
darkness. She found that the wind was blowing in her face, and carrying
her voice behind her, away from those whose attention she desired to

In her despair, she threw herself on her knees and beat her head and

'I am worse than what they thought of me! I am worse than that murderer
Drownlands. He killed one, and I kill two. Oh that I had died in their

Again she sprang to her feet, and again she cried to those who were
speeding far away, and bade them return. She was sensible, as she
called, that she could do nothing to arrest them in their course. The
horror of the situation was insupportable, and in a wave of despair
that swept over her, Zita was ready to fling herself into the canal.

There are moments of life when instantaneously a whole prospect opens
before the inner eye—call that eye what you will. In a second of time
Zita saw the consequences of her neglect mirrored before her with
intense and terrible vividness. It was as though the whole sequence
of events that must follow was unrolled before her eye, and, clear as
in broadest day, she saw the sledge, propelled by Mark, approach the
dangerous spot where the arch of ice stood unsupported, and when the
additional weight was thrown on it, must come crashing down. She heard
the whine of the cracking surface, as the sleigh reached it. She saw
the whole mass of ice, together with sleigh, Mark, and Kainie, go down
with a crash, impelled by the velocity of the pace at which they had
been going—saw them shoot under the water, and the sheets of fractured
ice that encumbered the surface of the shrunken river. She heard the
cry of Mark, the scream of Kainie. She saw them battling with their
hands beneath the surface. It was to her as though she were looking
from above on the glassy sheet that lay broken, but yet encasing the
water. She could see through it, and watch the expiring efforts of
Mark and Kainie, behold them struggling with their hands to break
through or push aside the ice-plate that lay between their mouths and
air. She could see their straining eyes fixed reproachfully on her
through the transparent screen. In her fancy she was now running and
beckoning to the only patch of open water through which escape was
possible. And yet they would not attend; either they misunderstood her
signals, or they mistrusted her motives.

She beheld how their efforts relaxed, their palms patted listlessly
against the ice, their fingers picked with feeble effort at the cracks,
how the light of intelligence died out of their eyes, how their lips
gasped and drew in water.

Then to her fancy they went down, Kainie first, Mark next.

After that there rose about her, as a cloud, a mass of black figures,
pointing at her with their fingers, and from every finger-point flashed
an electric spark.

'Murderess—double murderess! Thou who didst judge Drownlands, judge
thine own self. Thou who didst condemn, condemn thyself.'

Then Wolf came to her. He had gnawed through the cord that had bound

Zita clasped him round the neck.

'Oh, Wolf! Wolf!' she cried. 'Go after them—fly—stay them. Snap at
Mark's clothes. Bite Kainie. Hold them back!'

She indicated the direction that the sledge had taken, and the dog ran
out on the ice.

Zita looked after him. Would he be able to track them on the frozen
sheet? Would the scent lie on the congealed water?

If Wolf did come up with his mistress and Mark, would he be able to
arrest their course? Did he understand the message, the order given
him? Would he, bounding forward in advance of the sledge, discover for
himself the danger that lay ahead, and come back and warn them?

Should this attempt to stay the sleigh fail, were there no other means

Then an idea flashed through the brain of Zita. There remained one
chance of staying their career.

Instantly Zita ran to the hut, burst open the door, and, seizing the
mattress of Kainie's bed, dragged it forth across the platform, and
threw it under the stationary sails of the mill.

Then she went back to the cottage, and, gathering up the red embers of
the fire in a shovel, ran with them forth again, and threw them upon
the straw mattress.

Next she stood, shovel in hand, waiting the result, watching as the
fire burnt its way through the ticking and buried itself in the straw.

For a moment there ensued a red glare—an eating outward of the ticking
by fiery teeth—then a ghost-like flame leaped up, and wavered above
the incandescent mass. It threw itself high into the air, as though
it were independent of the fire below, then returned and dipped its
feet in the red ashes. With the shovel Zita stirred the ignited mass.
Then the mattress broke into flame, and the flame reared itself in many
tongues, swayed with the wind, curled over, broke into a multitude of
orange fire-flashes that capered and pirouetted about the glowing heart
of fire, as though the fabled Salamanders had manifested themselves,
and rejoiced in being able to dance in their proper element. In another
moment the flames had ignited the sail that hung above them, and were
racing each other up the canvas.

Zita sped to the clog. She had learned from Kainie how a windmill was
to be set in motion, and how the revolution of the sails was to be
arrested, on the first visit she had paid to Red Wings. She now raised
the clog, and with a sigh and creak the arms began to turn. As they did
so, the sail which was on fire swept from the bed of flames that had
kindled it, and was replaced by another. Instantly Zita stopped the
revolution, to allow it also to be kindled. In like manner she treated
the remaining sails, and when all blazed, she allowed them to spin
unhampered in the breeze.

A wondrous sight in the black night! The mill sails whirling in the
freezing blast sent forth streamers of flame and a rain of sparks.
Every now and then there dropped from them incandescent tears. They
roared as they went round, forming, as they rotated on the axle, a
mighty wheel of dazzling light. Zita stood looking up at her work,
and for a moment forgot the occasion of the setting fire to the
wheel in the overwhelming effect produced by the brilliancy of the
spectacle. The wind not only made the canvas glare, but kindled as well
the stretchers of lath to which it was fastened, and the mainbeams
likewise. The ties by which the sail-cloth was fastened were of tarred
cord. As the fire consumed a portion, the rest slipped forth, and flew
away in lurid lines of light.

The platform was illumined, as though a blaze of July sun had fallen
on it. The window-panes of the cottage were transmuted into flakes of
gold-leaf. The dykes reflected the flashing sails, and shot the light
along in streaks through the dark fen into the outer darkness beyond.

A number of bats that had been harboured by the old mill, and were
sleeping through the winter, were roused by the light, quickened by the
heat, and came forth in flights, dazed, to flit on leather wings about
the platform, to dart into the wheel of fire, and to fly back scorched,
and to fall crippled at Zita's feet.

Wolf came up cowering. He had been unable to trace the course of his
mistress on the ice, and he crouched moaning at Zita's feet, his eyes
watching the fiery revolutions, but ever and anon starting back with a
snap and a whine as some disabled bat clawed at him, and endeavoured
to scramble up his side.

Would the whole mill fall a prey to the flames?

Ignited, molten tar was flung off as fire dross by the whirling sails,
masses of burning canvas were carried off on the wind. The sails for a
while moved more slowly. The canvas was in part consumed, but the flame
itself seemed to form a sheet over the ribs, and incite the wind to act
with redoubled force; for again, with renewed activity, the great arms
continued their rotation.

Every rush in the dyke was made visible, standing out as a rod of
burnished gold, and the withered tassels of seed glowed scarlet,
against a background of night made doubly sombre by the dazzling
splendour of the burning mill sails.

The boarded and tarred body of the mill was changed in the lurid glare
into a structure of red copper. In the heat given off by the wings, the
tar dissolved and ran down from the movable cap, as though the great
bulk of the mill were sweating in an agony of fear lest the fire should
reach and consume it also.

A barn-owl hovered aloft, and the glare smote on its white breast and
under-wings. It to-whooed in its terror, and its cry could be heard
above the rush of the sails and the roar of the flames.

There were other sounds that combined with the hooting of the owl, the
rush of the sails and of the fire. The mechanism of the mill was in
motion; the huge axle revolved and throbbed like a great pulse running
through the body of the structure, the wheels creaked and groaned, the
paddles laboured to drive the water up the incline, and the water when
it came produced strange sounds beneath the ice, gasps and gulps. It
was as though the dykes were sobbing at the combustion and destruction
of the engine which had so long and so steadily laboured to drain them.

When the fire reached iron and copper nails and bands, and heated the
metals to white heat, they became incandescent, and gave forth streams
of green and blue flame, that glowed with the marigold yellow and
tiger-lily red of the blazing wood and tar, forming of the fiery circle
a rainbow complete in its prismatic tints. The clouds that passed
overhead were flushed and palpitated, reflecting the fire below.

Notwithstanding the anguish of mind that possessed Zita, her anxiety
for the fate of Mark and Kainie, and her self-reproach, she was carried
away, out of all such thoughts, by the transcendent splendour of the
spectacle. She stood looking up at the wheel of light, with hands
clasped to her bosom, hardly breathing, her face illumined as though
she had been looking into the sun.

Then, suddenly, a hand was laid roughly on her shoulder, and
an agitated voice said in her ear, 'Good heavens! what have you
done?—wicked, malignant girl!'

Zita dropped on her knees, with a cry of mingled joy and pain.

'Thank God! they are saved!'

She stooped and hid her face in her skirt about her knees. The
revulsion of feeling was more than she could bear. She gasped for
breath. She came to a full stop in sensation and thought. She could not
rise, speak, nor look up. Then relief from acute tension of the mind
found itself a way in a flood of tears, and broken words of no meaning
and without connection were sobbed forth, and muffled in her gown.

When, finally, she did raise her head, and gather her dazed faculties,
and wipe the water from her eyes, she saw that Mark and Kainie were
forcing the head of the mill round, so as no longer to present the
sails to the wind, but make them face away from it, so as to lessen the
danger to the body of the mill, which might at any moment ignite when
flame and sparks were swept over it.

They then put on the clog and stopped the movement of the charred arms.

This was almost all that could be done. They trusted that the arms
would burn themselves out without the axle catching fire.

'Kainie,' said Mark, 'I'll run a rope up and throw it over the axle,
and you can pass me up buckets of water.'

Then he came to where Zita knelt. Kainie was at his side.

'You infamous creature!' said Kainie. 'Why did you do it?'

'To save you and Mark.'

'To save us? That is a fine story.'

'They had let out the water, and the ice is broken up.'

'Let out what water?' asked Mark.

'The water of the river.'

'Who have done this?'

'Why, Pip and some other men.'

'Zita,' said Mark, 'what do you mean? Is there any truth in this?'

'It is true, indeed,' she answered. 'They have done it to revenge
themselves on Mr. Drownlands, because he gave evidence against some of
their comrades.'

'This is very serious,' said Mark.

'It is quite true. They would not allow me to go back to Prickwillow. I
tried, but they stopped me, and forced me to come on this way. I could
not warn the master. And they told me to keep off the ice. As I came
along, I heard it scream and crack, and go down in a mass together.'

'Why did you not tell me this before?'

'You would not listen to me. You said cruel things of me, and Kainie
struck me in the face.'

'And why did you set the mill on fire?'

'To force you to come back. I did not care about your danger till too
late. I ran after you, you could not hear me. I knew that if you saw
fire at the mill you would return. Nothing but that could bring you

Mark was silent for a moment. Then, with emotion in his voice, he said—

'Zita, I believe we have wronged you grievously.'

'No,' answered the girl, 'it was I who wronged you. I let you go, and
said, Go under the ice and be drowned, I did not care.'

'I did not hear you.'

'I said it—instead of telling you of your danger. I was angry—very
angry, and I was hurt by Kainie—but'—she hesitated, her voice
faltered—'at the bottom of all was this—I was jealous.'

'Jealous? Jealous of whom?'

'Mark, you had been so kind to me. I had been so happy with you. I even
thought you liked me. Then you turned away from me for Kainie.'

'For Kainie?'

There was surprise in his face.

'Yes, you like her best. You are right—she is good, and I am bad—but
it made me jealous.'

'Good heavens! You do not understand. There is now no need for further
concealment. Kainie is my sister!'



It was even as Mark said, but the particulars relative to Kerenhappuch
did not come to the knowledge of Zita till some time later.

Jake Runham, the father of Mark, had made the acquaintance of
Drownlands' sister, and had betrayed her. Instead of marrying her, he
suddenly took a woman who was an heiress, married her for her money,
and left Leah Drownlands to her shame.

The secret of Leah's disgrace was well kept. She was sent away to a
distance, and when she returned after five years with a child, she
would say nothing relative to the parentage of Kainie, nor did her
brother proclaim it. Ki never forgave his sister, and would never hold
communication with her or receive her child. Jake Runham naturally
enough was reserved on the matter, and no one suspected who the father
of Kainie was. The public believed that, to use their own terms, Leah
had 'met with a misfortune' whilst away from the Fens.

On her return to the neighbourhood of Prickwillow, the unfortunate
woman obtained from the Commissioners the use of the cottage and
a small allowance, on consideration of her attending to the mill.
This pittance she eked out with needlework. Mark had entertained no
suspicion of the relationship so long as his father lived, but on
his death there was that provision made in the will which revealed
the long-hidden secret. Jake acknowledged his paternity to Kainie,
and solemnly required his son to provide for and watch over his
half-sister. It seemed probable that he had in the past secretly
contributed something towards the maintenance of Leah Drownlands and
her daughter.

These facts were not as yet generally known, but now that Kainie was
to be removed to Crumbland, it was inevitable that they should be made

The reason why Mark was so resolved to take Kainie away from Red Wings
was that she was harbouring and screening Ephraim Beamish, to whom she
was attached and engaged. Mark saw that this could not be suffered
to continue. He urged the case with his mother, who had strenuously
opposed the reception of the girl into the farm, but who now, as a good
woman, yielded when she considered the gravity of the circumstances.

Ever since the death of Jake Runham, Kerenhappuch had known the truth.
It had been necessary for Mark to tell her of their relationship, and
of the obligation that had been laid upon him. At the same time, to
save his father's memory, he urged her to keep the matter secret. This
it was which made her reticent with Zita.

       *       *       *       *       *

'Come,' said Mark. 'Now is not the time for an explanation—nor can I
speak of such matters to you without pain, for my father did a great
wrong. The question at this moment is—What is to be done? Here is the
mill running a risk of being burnt down; on the other hand, there is
the water which has been let out, pouring over the Fens. The latter is
the most serious concern. If the mill be consumed, it can be rebuilt
speedily; but if the fen be flooded, it will take years before it

He took Zita's hand in his.

'I do believe I have been unjust. So has Kainie. We owe our lives to
you. Kainie, ask her to forgive you the blow you dealt her.'

'No,' said Zita. 'I struck Kainie first, and she gave me the blow back
again—harder than I struck her, but that was her profits.'

It seemed probable that the fire smouldering in the ribs of the sails
would become extinct. There were matters more urgent, calling Mark

'Pip knew better than advise me of his intent,' said Mark. 'We must
have a light.'

He tore one of the stakes from the sails of the mill.

'It will serve as a torch,' said he. 'Run, Kainie, to the bridge,
give the alarm to the bankers there. Tell them to bring tools and all
needful down the embankment.'

'But they must not take Pip.'

'Pip will have sheered off long before they reach the place. Run,
Kainie. Come on, Zita, and show me where the bank has been cut through.'

They walked on together, and their shadows were cast before them by the
still glowing mill, which now and then shot up into flame, and then
became a smouldering mass.

They walked fast, but not very fast; that was hardly possible on the

For a while Mark said nothing, but he put out his hand, and took that
of Zita.

'There has been great misunderstanding,' he said meditatively.

'Yes,'she replied, 'indeed there has. I was jealous because I thought
you liked Kainie best.'

'And I—I do not know what I thought; evil things were said, and I was
a fool, a cursed fool, to believe them. So—you were jealous?'

'Yes, Mark.'

'You could not have been jealous if you had not cared for me.'

She did not answer.

'And I believe the Reason why I gave ear to evil words was because I
loved you—loved you so dearly that I was jealous through every thread
of my being. I was jealous of that fellow Drownlands. I was an ass to
think those things could be possible that were said of you. I ought to
have known you better.'

'Yes, Mark, you ought to have known me better.'

'But it is not now too late. Zita, we will be to each other as we were
before—that is, if you can forgive me.'

'Indeed I can forgive you.'

'And I will let all know that we understand each other. And, Zita,' he
laughed, 'we'll have the old van and Dobbin'—

'He is Jewel, not Dobbin.'

'And Jewel, brought over to Crumbland.'

'That cannot be, Mark, now.'

'Why not?'

'It is too late.'

'How too late?'

'I have promised Drownlands to remain with him at Prickwillow, and take
care of his house as long as he lives.'

'That won't hold. If I make you my wife'—

'That cannot be.'

'Cannot be?—it shall be.'

'No, Mark, I gave you up. I gave up my thoughts of you as a husband
in order to get Ki Drownlands to desist from appearing against you in

'He could have done nothing.'

'Whether he could or could not, matters nought now. I made a promise.'

'You must break it.'

She shook her head.

'A deal is a deal.'

Then, as both remained silent, suddenly strange sounds were heard high
up in the dark sky, a sound as of barking dogs in full career.

Zita shivered and caught hold of Mark.

'Oh!' she said in a whisper, full of fear. 'They scent a soul—they
hunt a soul! Oh, poor soul! God help it! Poor soul—run—run—swift—in
at heaven's door!'

'Nonsense, little frightened creature! It is the brent-geese!'

'Mark, last time I heard them it betokened death. Then it was two
souls—two flying—flying—and the dogs in full career after them.'

'You, Zita,' laughed Mark, 'do you remember when we spoke of this on
the ice, I said when next you heard the brent-geese I hoped I might
stand by you. Zita, please God, when the hell-hounds, if such they
be,—and I don't believe a word of it,—be let loose, scenting my soul
or yours, that I may be by you, or you by me, to cheer each other in
the final and dreadful race.'

Zita shuddered.

'Mark, it may not be. I shall stand by Drownlands. I have promised—a
deal is a deal.'



Drownlands had been for some time in the upstairs room that served as
his office. He had brought out his account-books, lighted his lamp, and
was endeavouring to engage his thoughts on his expenditure in wages,
and to go over the names of his workmen, and strike out such as had
taken part in the recent riot. But it was in vain. After a few futile
attempts, he leaned his head on his palm, and gave himself over to
thoughts of Zita.

It was poor comfort to him to know that she would remain in his house,
but it was a comfort. He felt confidence in her—that, having passed
her word to remain, remain she would, whatever might happen. Whatever
animadversions might be made on her presence in his house, however
deeply her reputation might suffer, she would stay with him. She had
passed her word. It was not unlikely, he thought, that some swain might
become enamoured of her, and ask her to join her lot with his, but she
would refuse him. She would remain an old maid at Prickwillow, because
she had passed her word. Not for a moment did Drownlands' faith in Zita
give way. She had impressed the man indelibly with a conviction of her
sincerity. Zita as a Cheap Jack was one thing, Zita in private life
was another. She had one conscience for her dealings with the general
public, another conscience for her dealings with individuals face to
face. The sun might rise in the west and go down in the Orient sky, but
Zita could not fail to keep her word.

Drownlands was startled from his reverie by the maid Sarah, who rushed
in at the door, exclaiming—

'Master, the water be out!'

'What water?'

'The boy says the fen is flooded.'


'He says the bank be broke.'

'The Lark embankment?'

Drownlands realised instantly the significance of the announcement.

'Quick!' said he; 'light me the lantern. Sharp! No time is to be lost.'

He ran to the corner to snatch up a stick, and, without observing what
he did, laid hold of the flail. He did not perceive his mistake till
he had reached the foot of the staircase. Then he could not delay to
return and exchange it for a staff. He caught the lantern from the
hand of Sarah and went out into the yard. His feet at once splashed
into water.

'What has happened?' he exclaimed, with an oath. 'It cannot be that
they have cut the embankment.'

He splashed on. Over the frozen surface of the soil a ripple of water
was running, followed by another ripple, and with each the film of
water covering the yard was sensibly deepened.

'The bank must have broken. The frost has done it. They would never
have dared to cut it.'

Swaying his lantern, Drownlands strode through the water, out of the
stackyard and into the drove that led from his farm to the highway.
This had been much cut up that day by his waggons carting roots. The
heavy vehicles with broad wheels had crushed through the icy crust, and
the hoofs of the horses had assisted in breaking up the frost case.
Thus in places the water was able to act on the unfrozen peat, and
undermine the surface that was hard frozen. The peat was dry, and when
the water reached it, it swelled as a sponge.

A tide was flowing down the drove. On both sides were the frozen dykes;
the water covered the ice, running along it, and but for the sedge and
rushes that rose out of the ditches, their presence would have been

The brow of Drownlands darkened, and his cheeks glowed. Was this the
meaning of the threats launched against him? He had never conceived it
possible that the men would have recourse to such means as this to pay
off their grudge against him, for to inundate the farm was to destroy
their field of labour.

'I wish I had brought my gun,' said he. 'And then, should I see one
of the scoundrels, I'd shoot him with no more scruple than I would a
dotterel. As it is, let me come upon one,'—he raised and flourished
his flail,—'and I will beat out his brains.'

Drownlands walked with difficulty. Where the surface under the water
was frozen, there it was slippery. Where it was broken through and
broken up by the wain wheels and horse hoofs, there it was slough.

Ruts, still frozen, were in places two or three feet in depth, and they
were filled. Invisible under the water, he was liable to sink into
them. He stumbled along, angry, swearing, advancing with labour, forced
to hold his lantern, first to one side, then to the other, to make sure
that he was not turning from his road, his sole guide being the sedge
lines, one on each side.

The roads in the Fens are not made of stone, for stone is not to be
found in the Fens. The soil hardens with drought and frost. In rainy
weather it is a slough. The draining-machines, being almost constantly
at work, suck all the moisture out of the soil, and as it dries it
shrinks. Now that the water from the canal was overflowing the fen,
it rippled on innocuously over the icy case, but wherever it could
penetrate through that case, at every crack, at every dint, it was
drunk in in heavy draughts by the thirsty soil, that immediately heaved
and swelled as it imbibed the moisture, and in so doing dissolved into

The tide continued to flow. In the yard the water had been hardly as
high as the instep. It now flowed over the boot tops.

The water was intensely cold.

Drownlands had on his boots, such as he wore ordinarily, but not
his wading boots that reached to the thighs. He had not thought it
necessary to wear such protectors in frosty weather. Those he wore did
not extend higher than his calves. Already, in one of his plunges into
a rut filled with water, he had soaked his feet, his boots, so far from
serving as a protection, being an encumbrance. The flail, moreover, was
of small service; the handfast was not of length sufficient for him to
probe the water before him and sound his way. Would that he had drawn
on his wading-boots—would that he had brought a leaping-pole!

Drownlands turned his head over his shoulder and looked back at the
house. He could see the light from the kitchen and that from his
office—the latter partially, as, owing to the broken glass in the
window, he had closed the shutters. He had left his lamp burning, and
he could distinguish its light in a line where the shutters closed

It seemed to the man that the distance he had come was greater than it
really was.

The difficulty of advancing must increase with every few minutes. In a
quarter of an hour it would not be possible to traverse the distance
between Prickwillow and the embankment save by boat.

He must reach the tow-path, and hasten along it to the nearest station,
where a gang of workmen was quartered, with implements and material
ready on an emergency.

There was no time to be lost. Every minute was of importance.
Drownlands knew but too well that if his farm were inundated, it would
be rendered valueless for several years. It would not be utter ruin, as
he had the savings of the past to eat into, but it would prevent his
reaping advantage from his land till it had been completely recovered
of the effects of the flood.

Struggling with the rising tide, he succeeded in getting upon the
highway. But now his difficulties were the greater, for he had entered
into the current that poured from the Lark. The water rushed over his
knees. The cold was almost insupportable. With body bent, step by step,
helping himself onwards with the flail, but unable always to trust it,
owing to the pits in the submerged surface, he advanced slowly.

He held up the lantern and looked round. The tallow candle through the
horn sides but feebly illumined the night. It showed the gurgling water
in which he was wading, but it showed nothing beside. He did not any
longer know his direction. He must stem the current, but was unable
to judge where the edge and where the centre of the current were that
poured against him.

When he lowered his lantern, he was aware of a lurid light in the sky
above the embankment, and saw now and then a brilliant spark thrown up.
That there was a fire somewhere he could not doubt, and concluded that
the rioters who had cut the embankment were continuing their incendiary
work as before. He could not see the wheel of fire; he was too low down
for that, but he saw the illumination caused by it. Suddenly his feet
gave way, and he fell in the water. He had gone into one of the deepest
cart-ruts. As he fell, his lantern was extinguished.

It was now impossible for him to return. He could not, if he wished
it, have retraced his steps. His only possible course was to scramble
up the bank, and to do this he now devoted all his energies. But
unhappily he had reached precisely that point where the bank had been
cut through, and was therefore exposed to the full force of the outrush
of the river. As, by a desperate effort, he recovered his feet, he
could see the lip of water curling over, reddened by the reflection
of the fire beyond. He was drenched in the ice-cold water, but that
was nothing to the anguish in his feet; they were turning dead, numbed
by the water in which they had been immersed so long without proper

But this was not all. No sooner had Drownlands reached the slope of the
embankment than he became aware that the little assistance rendered him
by the frost was at an end. The rush of water had broken up the gault
of which the bank was formed, was eating at every moment farther into
it, and widening the mouth by which it poured from the bed of the river
upon the low reclaimed land. The moistened marl was greasy under his
feet. When he slipped and endeavoured to catch at the bank, his hands
sank into the sodden clay, and the tenacious matter held his fingers
like glue. His feet, moreover, went deep into the clay, and to extract
them was difficult.

It became apparent to Drownlands that he must battle for his life
against the current.

He endeavoured to assist himself in his ascent by the staff of the
flail, but this proved of no help to him, as it sank with the pressure
applied to it in the glutinous mass. He strove to heave himself up,
and could not; his feet, dead with cold, and, through their loss of
sensation, no longer able to feel the bottom, slipped from under him.
He could not extract his staff from the marl. All he was able to do
was to cling to it, and pant and recover breath, and then make another
desperate effort forward.

The water, tearing through the fissure in the bank, broke off masses
of the clay, half frozen, and whirled them down, and along with them
blocks of river ice that had broken up. It was sometimes difficult to
ascend the embankment, the slope of which was steep, in the face of a
strong wind; it was a hundred times more difficult now, when it had to
be done against a rushing torrent, and that of water which curdled the
blood in the veins, knotted the muscles with cramp, and paralysed the

No thought of revenge on those who had cut the bank now occupied the
mind of Drownlands—no thought of having the leak stopped. The one
absorbing consideration was how to escape from the deadly-cold raging

Then a sharp cant of ice whirled down, cut his knuckles and jarred
his fingers, so that he let go the flail with one hand, but seized it
in time with the other to save himself from being swept away. He was
carried off his feet, and in trying to right himself drove one foot so
deeply into the marl, that, when he endeavoured to pluck it forth, the
tenacious matter held his boot and tore it off his foot. The intensity
of the cold was, however, so great, that he was not sensible of the
loss. He looked up. The red auroral light was still illumining the sky
behind the bank. He held to the flail that was planted in the clay. If
that gave way, his hold on life would be gone.

Now he saw above him a dark figure on the bank, and he cried, 'Help!

'Who calls there?'

'It is I—Ki Drownlands.'

The man made no effort to descend. He folded his arms, and said slowly
in harsh tones—

'I cannot help you. I am Ephraim Beamish. You are prepared to testify
against some twenty of my comrades, and to send them to the gallows.
Which is of most worth, your life, you Judas, or theirs?'

'Help! I will say nothing.'

'I cannot trust you,' said Beamish. 'Wretched man, water was created
of God to cleanse away transgression. Go, wash thee and be clean—wash
thee and be free from thy sins.'

Then a torch flared above the bank. Mark was there with Zita.

'Who is there? What is this?' Mark asked, with an agitated voice. The
blazing tarred wood, sending up a golden burst of flame, illumined the
upturned countenance of Drownlands. The struggling man raised his arm
to wipe the water and sweat from his eyes and screen them from the
brilliant light.

'It is the master,' said Zita. 'Save him, Mark! Oh, do save him!'

Instantly, but with caution, Mark descended, digging his heels deep
into the marl at each step, and held the torch aloft, wavering,
guttering, throwing out sparks in the wind. 'Give me your hand,' said
the young man.

The exhausted, desperate Drownlands withdrew his arm from before his

In the burning wood was a copper nail, and this now sent forth a
lambent, grass-green flame, in the light of which Drownlands' face was
like that of a corpse. The man, in his extreme peril and desire for
help, stretched forth his hand.

Then the wind blew the flame so that the face of Mark was illumined.
Suddenly Tiger Ki snatched his hand back again.

'A Runham—no!'

He endeavoured by a frantic effort to ascend the bank by his own
efforts. There ensued a terrible scene—the struggle of a well-nigh
spent man with the adverse elements to deliver himself from his
position. He fought with the water and the clay, tossing a spray about
him, pounding with his feet, one shod, the other bare, churning clay
and water around him.

Failing to mount one step above where the flail was rooted, he
discontinued his profitless effort, and, clinging with both hands to
the stay, cried—

'Zita, I will owe life to you, or to none!'

Without a thought for herself, the girl leaped to his aid.

In a moment his disengaged arm was round her.

'We may die—if we cannot live—together.'

'Let go!' shouted Mark, and laid hold of Zita by the arm. 'Let go!'

'To you—never!'

Without consideration Mark drove the burning torch against his hand
that clasped the girl.

With a shriek Drownlands relaxed his hold.

At that moment, Ephraim, who had descended carefully, had laid hold of
the flail above where Drownlands' hand had clutched it. He stooped,
and, exerting his full force from above, drew it forth from the clay in
which it was fast.

At once Drownlands slid away in the stream. Still clinging to the
flail, he was carried off his feet, out of the range of light cast by
the torch, and under water.

'Go!' said Beamish, waving his hand over the torrent. 'Go! thou accuser
of thy brethren! Go, wash away thy sins in the water that drowns thee!'

He saw the flood before him glittering like gold. He looked round. The
gangers had come—summoned by Kainie.

'Save him! save him!' cried Zita.

'Where is he?—who can say? Carried forth into the outer darkness;
rolled away in the baptismal flood—who can say whither?' answered

'No,' said one of the gangers. 'No help is possible.'

'God have mercy on a sinful soul!' said Ephraim.



The trial of the rioters came on before a Special Commission, that sat
a few weeks after the arrest of the men. The cutting of the embankment
after the arrest had greatly exasperated minds against the unfortunate
men who were to take their trial, although they themselves were
guiltless in this matter. It probably served to sharpen the sentences
pronounced upon them, as their judges shared the general feeling that
an example should be made that would overawe the fen-men, and deter
them from future acts of lawlessness.

Judgment of death was passed on thirty-four men, but only five
were actually executed. The sentence on nine was mitigated into
transportation for life, and that on the rest was commuted to
imprisonment for a term of years.

Ephraim Beamish was not taken. Mark succeeded in effecting his escape
from the Fens. He supplied him with money, and Beamish took ship at
Liverpool for the United States, where he bought a farm, then turned
backwoods Baptist preacher, tired of that, returned to farm life,
and married Kainie, who went out to him. She was a rich woman, and
might have had her pick of the young fen-farmers. She had inherited
everything that had belonged to her uncle. But Kainie would have no one
save Pip, and as Pip could not come to her, she sold Prickwillow to
Mark, and went out to the man of her choice in the New World.

Mark gave his half-sister a fair price for the farm. The land had been
seriously injured by the inundation, and would have been more seriously
affected had not the bankers, summoned by Kainie, been able rapidly and
effectually to stop the breach.

Mark was now a man of substance. When he purchased Prickwillow, he
united that estate to Crumbland, and became one of the largest landed
proprietors in that portion of the Fens; nevertheless, like his
fellow-yeomen, he did not affect to be a squire, but lived in sober
fashion, worked with his men, and worked harder than any one of them.
A popular man he was with the labourer as with the farmer, for he was
just and kindly, and possessed unflagging good spirits. He amassed
money. Let his sons or grandsons style themselves gentlemen, said he;
for his part, he was content to be plain Mark Runham, farmer.

What is to be told concerning Zita?

The ill opinion formed of her had been due mainly to the malicious and
slanderous tongue of Leehanna Tunkiss. Whatever had been said against
Zita was traceable to this source.

When it was discovered that Ki Drownlands had made and executed
his will on the very day on which he died, and that in it he had
constituted his niece sole heiress of all he possessed, and had not
even mentioned the Cheap Jack girl, the trust of the fen-folk in the
word of Mrs. Tunkiss failed. The housekeeper was discredited and her
stories disbelieved.

It was not long before Mark Runham made Zita his wife, and the van,
with all its goods, was moved by a team of his horses to Crumbland.

There was one secret Zita retained locked in her heart, and which she
never revealed to Mark—the events of the night when Ki Drownlands
and Jake Runham met on the embankment and fought with the flails till
Mark's father was cast into the canal—there to perish. There was
no necessity for her to tell it. The guilty man had died as had his
foe—in the same water.

For many years recourse was had to the stores of the van whenever the
household was in need of some article there in stock.

In the Fens, when a man requires to traverse a considerable distance,
he provides himself with a leaping-pole, and makes for his destination
in a bee-line, clearing every watery obstruction in his way.

The author now uses this privilege—takes pole in hand, and, seeing the
end before him, makes for it. What does he first see after having put
down the pole and leaped?

A van. Surely the familiar Cheap Jack conveyance, crawling along the
drove on a summer's day, drawn by an old horse that takes a few steps,
then pauses, breathes hard, looks behind him with a peculiarly resolute
expression in his eye, and ignores absolutely every appeal, entreaty,
objurgation addressed to him, till he has recovered his wind, when he
goes on once more.

From within the van issue cheery children's voices. Then some little
heads appear, some with auburn hair and brown eyes, others very fair,
and with eyes the colour of the sky.

'What the dickens is that there concern?' asks a stranger, standing on
the tow-path by the Lark, who from his vantage-ground watches the slow
and intermittent progress of the van on the drove.

'Lor' bless you!' answers a ganger going by. 'It's only them little
Cheap Jackies taking a drive.'

Again. What is the meaning of the noise that issues from the
coach-house? A shrill voice is haranguing, then is broken in on by a
clamour of other voices.

Let us look within.

The van is there, in a house so boxed in as to be inaccessible to

The front of the van is down. The red velvet curtains, much faded, and
the gold fringe, much tarnished, are suspended in their proper places,
decorating the front. One boy is on the platform, and is exhibiting
his toys to his brothers and sisters, and offering them for sale at
extravagant prices; then, abating his demands, he assures them that he
offers these articles for absolutely the last time, and at the lowest
price which he will consent to receive.

Mark Runham returns from the farm.

'Zita,' says he, 'I want to see my little ones. Where are they?'

'At their favourite amusement on a rainy day.'

'What is that?'

'Playing at being Cheap Jacks. Mark, it is in their blood.'

'Who is doing the selling today?'

'Our eldest—James,' answers Zita; 'and, Mark, when James marries,
we'll have out that there epergne for the wedding breakfast.'

'That's a long way ahead,' answers Mark.

So it seemed to him. But again the novelist uses his privilege, puts
down the pole, and away he goes with one great bound over a period of
several years, and finds himself suddenly alight in the parlour of
Crumbland. He sees before him Mark, now a middle-aged man, broad in
shoulders and in beam, with ruddy cheeks that are pretty full; and
Zita, now a comely matron.

Facing his father and mother, with some shyness in his face, stands
Jim, the hope of the family, twirling his hat, and looking furtively in
his father's face, as he says—

'Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me, and let me

'Go? Go, Jim? Good gracious! what do you mean? Whither do you want to

'That is just it; nowhere in particular, and yet somewhere.'

'But—leave home?'

'Yes, father, I want to be off and about.'

'Why, Jim, this is sheer delirium—tremenjous, as your mother would
say. There is Prickwillow empty, waiting for you, whenever you marry.'

'And the epergne for the breakfast-table,' added Zita.

'I do not want to marry, father! The epergne must wait, mother dear! I
haven't found the right one yet,' answered James, hanging his head.

'But, good gracious! why should you go? Have not I been kind to you?
Have not you been allowed your own way in all that is right?'

'Never was there a better father,' answered the young man, with
emotion, 'and never, never a dearer, better mother! It is not that. I
love home. I love my parents and my brothers and sisters. I dote on the
baby. I love the Fens. I cannot believe that any other portion of God's
world can be worth living in. I am sure none will be more beautiful
in my eyes than the fens of Ely. Nevertheless, give me the portion of
goods that falleth to me, and let me go.'

'But for what do you want to be off?'

'Why, father, mother,' says the young man, 'I want to be a Cheap Jack.
Ever since I was a child I have loved to drive bargains.'

'Let him go,' says Zita. 'There are some things we have never found a
use for here. There's that box of scents; there's the garden syringe.
It is a sad pity so much capital should lie idle.'

'Father,' says the young man, 'I feel as though I must go. I do not say
I shall be a Cheap Jack all my days.'

'Why, I had such grand views for you, Jim; I thought I would send
you to college, and I hoped some day you might even try and get into

'Mark,'—it is Zita who speaks,—'I was a rambling girl once, a sort of
a vagabond, going over the country selling my goods; but I have become
stationary, like the van, stuck in the fen peat. I have not stirred for
many a year, and have never desired to rove out of the Fens any more.
It will be the same with Jim. He has it in his bones. It will do him
an amazing lot of good. He'll get to know the General Public.'

'That is it, father,' says James. 'I seems as if I never could be happy
and easy in my mind till I've done a stroke of business with that there
Public. And I sees my way to it. There's abundance of thistles growing
about the edges of the drains. I wants to cut 'em down.'

'Well, cut 'em. That need not take you away.'

'Father, I wants to make the General Public eat 'em, and pay for
the privilege. I've heard in my sleep a voice in my ear that I do
believe comes from the General Public, saying, "Jim! Jim! give us
thistles!" And the wind always whistles to the same tune. And the
thunder rolling seems to be the voice of the General Public, braying,
"Give us thistles!" And, father, even the very bees when they hum
about the flowers seem to convey to me in a whisper the message,
as from a lover, but it comes from the General Public, "Give us
thistles. We are sick for thistledown. 'Tisn't bread we wants—'tisn't
meat—'tis thistledown." I can't say exactly how I'll dispose of it to
them,—whether rolled up in pills, or stuffed in feather beds,—but I
know the Public will buy thistles in any disguise. And then, father,
think of the profits.'

'Mark,' said Zita, 'let him go. Cheap-jacking is an edication. It
teaches a chap to know the General Public, what to lay on his back,
how to tickle his ears, what you can make him swallow. If you think
of making Jim a mimber of Parliament, there is no school, no college
more suitable than the Cheap Jack's van. Let him go, Mark. He's a good
boy—he'll come to no harm. He'll settle down the better after it, and
he'll enjoy himself—"tremenjous."'






  FORTHCOMING BOOKS,                   2


  POETRY,      7


  HISTORY,                            15

  BIOGRAPHY,                          17


  NAVAL AND MILITARY,                 20

  GENERAL LITERATURE,                 22

  PHILOSOPHY,                         24

  THEOLOGY,                           24

  FICTION,                            29

  BOOKS FOR BOYS AND GIRLS,           39

  THE PEACOCK LIBRARY,                39




  EDUCATIONAL BOOKS,                  42


  OCTOBER 1900


Travel, Adventure and Topography

  THE INDIAN BORDERLAND: Being a Personal Record of Twenty Years. By
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_Revised by Commanding Officers._

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  The History is finely illustrated.


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The Novelist

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   XIV. A MAN OF MARK.                ANTHONY HOPE.

    XV. THE CARISSIMA.                LUCAS MALET.

   XVI. THE LADY'S WALK.              MRS. OLIPHANT. [_October._

  XVII. DERRICK VAUGHAN.              EDNA LYALL. [_November._

Methuen's Sixpenny Library

_A New Series of Copyright Books._

    I. THE MATABELE CAMPAIGN.                 Maj.-General BADEN-POWELL.

   II. THE DOWNFALL OF PREMPEH.                            Do.


   IV. IN THE ROAR OF THE SEA.                S. BARING GOULD.

    V. PEGGY OF THE BARTONS.                  B. M. CROKER.


  VII. ROBERTS OF PRETORIA.                   J. S. FLETCHER.





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The Churchman's Bible

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Messrs. METHUEN are issuing a series of expositions upon most of the
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Leaders of Religion

Edited by H. C. BEECHING, M.A. _With Portraits, Crown 8vo. 3s. 6d._

A series of short biographies of the most prominent leaders of
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The following are ready—


















Other volumes will be announced in due course.



Marie Corelli's Novels

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  THELMA. _Twenty-third Edition._

  ARDATH: THE STORY OF A DEAD SELF. _Twelfth Edition._

  THE SOUL OF LILITH. _Ninth Edition._

  WORMWOOD. _Tenth Edition._


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