Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

on.

[ocr errors]

a

frightener of women. I'm only afraid I The landlord's face was radiant with didn't pass on him a proper punishment the smiles at this tribute paid to his ale. But, last time he was brought before me." be it told, he was used to it, and such flat

From which the reader will infer that this tery was not likely to spoil him. disagreeable gentleman was a magistrate. “ Now, friend Gilbert,” said the Squire, And he was dark, gaunt and hard-featured “I have something to say to you. Do you enough to be as cruel on the bench as the think you can spare me your man for hayinfamous Judge Jeffreys of times, thank cutting to-morrow? I have a capital crop God, in the past.

down in the Long Meadow, and I would not “You're a trifle too hasty in your judg- have it spoil for the world. I am trying to ment, Underwood, to please me,” said the beat up all the men I can. I would like to Squire, his ruddy face becoming grave. get my hay in in a week at the farthest. “There's good bottom in the fellow. It If you can spare your man you will do me a only wants developing. I am thinking of great service." giving him some regular work to help him “ Yes, sir, I think I can,” said the land

I'm not so sure he doesn't deserve it." lord; “I shall not need him to-morrow." “You're a model country gentleman, “ Thank you,” said the Squire, warmly, Hardy,” sneered the magistrate ; "the fel- and as to”low first snares your pheasants, and in re- “ What's that row about?” broke in Unturn you wish to make him an honest tiller derwood. “ Listen." of the soil. Ha! ha! You're amusing. They did so, and a confused, unintelligi

* That's more than I can say for you, my ble murmur met their ears. The next mo friend,” retorted the other a little pettishly; ment they were at the door, and the land“ but don't let us quarrel. Landlord, two of lord was craning his neck over the heads your honest pewters, that my friend may of the others. drown his sarcasm and I my ill humor.” The landlord bustled about, glad to be the

CHAPTER II. means of breaking up any difference that in which JOHN, OF WHOM THE WORLD 18 chance words might have occasioned.

ASHAMED, SHAMES THE WORLD. “ There you are, Squire,” said he, when A little way down the crooked street, he had drawn the ale, and it was foam- past the green, and before a cottage that ing at the pewter brims, “as stout and stood alone in its rude neglect, a crowd was healthy a tap as you can find anywhere in gathered. The Squire, the magistrate and this good county of Devon.”

the landlord were at a loss to understand The gentlemen took their ale, and drank why the people had come together. There it down with a just appreciation, while the might have been in all thirty persons, talklandlord looked at the process as though he ing among themselves, and scanning with derived from it an equally pure enjoyment. stretched necks something in their midst.

“I believe you, my friend,” quoth the They were not very much excited ; they Squire, setting down his mug with a satis- seemed rather to be engaged in earnest and fied bang. “ What d'ye think of it, Under- critical conversation which had reference to wood ? Can you beat the Tamerton ale in that around which they were collected. The Tavistock ? I'll wager you can't. Come attention of the villagers had been generally now!” The Squire waved his red bandanna attracted; for the boys had abandoned their cheerily and oratorically.

sports, and women who before might have “It is good ale, I must admit,” replied been seen ironing through open windows, the gloomy magistrate, as if the concession had left their employments, snatching up & had cost him a pint of blood.“ I've seldom child as they went. From an upper window tasted better?

of the cottage Bannock's face looked down “Said like a man,” roared the Squire, upon the knot of people; and at first it oCslapping him on the back with the touch of curred to the landlord that some drunken an elephant.

freak of the man had drawn together a

9

66

mocking crowd. It was clear, however, that voiced, bony woman, making a low courtesy, he was not the object of attention, for the and wiping the mouth of her child for exhieyes of the men and women were directed to bition. something in their midst that seemed to be "O, here comes the Squire,” chorused all on the ground.

the other women with the air of having just “ What's up?" queried Underwood. made the discovery. “ It can't be a fight,” surmised the Squire, “ Squire, you be wanted here,” said a or the women would take care to be out of stubby laborer, with pipe and red waistcoat. the way.”

“What's the matter ?” asked the Squire, “ Probably a dog-fight,” suggested the breathless with his walk. landlord.

“O, only a woman,” said the stubby man No, I think not,” said the Squire, “ that's with the assurance of one who has taken in of too common occurrence to attract any the whole situation and relapsed from his special attention.”

curiosity. But Gilbert still cleaved to the idea of a “Only a woman! What is the matter pugnacious meeting of some sort; for he with the woman?” demanded the Squire felt very sure that there was nothing under testily as he pushed his way to the front. the sun more magnetic than a well contested “Faint-like and tired, sir,” cried the shrillfight, provided the beholders were out of voiced woman. “She's been on the road, danger. Accordingly he informed the and has gived in." Squire that Josh Barnes had recently pur- With her head supported on the lap of a chased a very fine rooster which he had good-natured dame, lay a young woman, offered to match against any bird in the pale and apparently lifeless. She belonged neighborhood. The Magistrate replied that to the laboring class, and seemed to have such a proceeding on the Queen's highway traveled very far, if one might judge from was impossible.

her dusty clothing. Her black hair fell “I should not wonder,” said he, “if it over her shoulders and touched the ground. were some vagrant or other begging his way It set off the pallor of her girlish face which through the country. In such a case, I bore signs of intense suffering. Her feashall give orders to Billings to lodge him tures were pleasing, and so gentle withal in jail, for the statute against these nuisances that they excited the pity of those around must be strictly enforced. Let us go down her. The villagers had seen her fall on the and satisfy ourselves.”

roadway and had been prompt to lend their It may be mentioned at this point that aid and sympathy. Now and then, indeed, Billings was the blue-coated guardian of the lifeless as she seemed the greater part of place, and therefore invisible at any crisis the time, her hands twitched convulsively, like the present. Nothing that could be her lips trembled, and her bosom heaved. tortured into the suggestion of Billings was “ You mean by 'gived in' that she's near.

exhausted ?" questioned the Squire of the The three men walked quickly down the shrill-voiced woman. street; the landlord in his shirt-sleeves, and “Jes so, Squire.” the Squire without his hat, which he had left “Poor thing.” on the counter while he cooled his brow. There was silence among them while they The Squire led the way-robust, impetuous regarded intently the girl's worn face. old fellow, as he was—his riding whip swing- “ I see no room for pity,” said the stern ing in his hand, and his rather short legs Underwood; "a girl doesn't come wandermoving very fast. Next came Underwood, ing into a village alone, and a good-looking keeping up with an effort, and setting down girl at that, without some purpose. I do the whole thing as a confounded nuisance. not hesitate to say I think she is a vagrant, Last trotted the landlord, blowing and per- probably a young woman of bad reputaspiring

tion." “ Here comes the Squire,” cried a shrill- “ You lie, mister, she ain't."

6

a

66

a

The voice came from above. Everybody educated people. Only poor laborers, simlooked up. The flushed face of Bannock ple folk they. The opinion of a man armed was seen at the open window.

with the majesty of the law, and strength“What is your opinion worth, fellow? ened by the position he held in society, Your own character is none too good. Let would naturally have great weight with me advise you to keep from breaking the them. Underwood was a magistrate. His laws and haunting the tap-room. Perhaps experience should warrant his knowing a then what you have to say will have more bad woman when he saw her. The simple weight."

villagers were frightened at the thought of “ He's been drinking to-day, sir, I see having a tainted being among them. All him myself,” ventured a small boy. indecision was set at rest by words dropped

Underwood rewarded the small boy with from the lips of age. the comment, “ Of course he has. He's not “I don't know but what his Honor is worth paying attention to."

right," piped the palsied oracle of the vil“But the character of Bannock is not in lage, a curious old fossil in drab tights; “I the balance now,” said the Squire. And it remember a case like this some years agone. was this timely interruption that prevented There was a young woman, just like the a further passage-of-arms between Bannock likes of her be, as come in to the parish, and and the magistrate. “We must do some- she was a bad un, she was.

She led away thing for this poor girl. Have you given some o' the lasses.” her'any water ?”

That settled it. A respectable magistrate Yes, sir,” replied the woman who was had affirmed the girl lying on the ground to holding the girl's head upon her lap, “we've be a female of loose reputation, the antique given her some, and I think she'll come to relic of the past had hunted up a precedent shortly."

from his musty old brain, and the chain was Even as the woman spoke the girl trem- complete. bled a little, and while the crowd in the One man continued to sneer; the man at pause that followed were regarding her half the window above. His spirit was working in pity, half in curiosity, her eyes opened. up. Was not the law accustomed to pounce She did not seem to understand at first down on him, and mete out to him the where she was or whence she came. She harshest punishment? Was not there a looked around on all faces, and then shut woman below in a fair way to fall under the her eyes again.

displeasure of that law? Was not the “ Who are you, my poor girl? where do world always against him? Was it strange you come from ?” asked the Squire kindly. that he should be against the world?

“0, don't ask me,” she cried, her eyes In vain did the Squire urge that perhaps open in a minute.

they were judging wrongly. But the mag“I told you so," said Underwood, “she's istrate reminded him that his good nature just what I said she was. She will do no had often been enlisted on the side of those good in the parish. She had better be whom the law had thought fit to punish. brought to, taken to the lock-up, and exam- It must be admitted, too, that the Squire ined in the morning."

himself did not like the looks of things. A A sneer came from above.

Some one woman, fair to look upon, tramping friendwas opposed to the magistrate, opposed to less through the country, without being the changing mood of the crowd; and the able to give an account of herself, is seemmore on the side of the girl as the world, ingly a dangerous character to interest onewhich had always been against him, was self in. The girl was too weak to contranow slowly but surely turning against her. dict them. Her eyes were shut. A doctor

The temper of the crowd was trembling would have told you it was a toss-up whether in the balance; swaying between pity for a she would live or not. But there was no woman's weakness and repugnance for a wo- doctor near. man's doubted reputation. They were not “ Take my word for it,” said Underwood,

66

[ocr errors]

a

“she's doing no good in this section of the don't know no more’n you nor me knows. country. She's a bad sort. Where do you She's a bad girl because he says so, is she? come from, girl ?”

Why, I wouldn't trust to that man's feelShe did not answer.

ings, magistrate though he be, high up in “You see she's stubborn. She won't com- the county though he be, for all the money mit herself. Then I think it my duty as a in the Bank of England. The girl's done magistrate to commit her.”

nothing. She was coming through the vilHere he laughed a hard laugh at his mis- lage and falls faint at my door. Who's got erable joke, and the villagers haw-hawed too. a right to help her and tend her if I ain't ? A moralist who combines wit with censure No one. And I be a going to help her and will surely win the popular heart. The tide tend her. She shall not go to jail. She was completely turned.

shall have my poor old mother's room. The man in the window above had dashed She'll be no longer a vagrant. She won't his pipe against the opposite house, and be breaking any o' Her Majesty's laws-laws given vent to some deep curses. His face agin the poor, laws agin the helpless. If I was not now seen at the window.

choose to take this woman into my house, “I think she ought to be took to the that man can't do nothing. What is lock-up, boys,” piped the oracular fossil. her business? Her business is with me. Why will not people learn that the oracle is Where's she a-coming to? She's a coming a chattering fool ?

to my house. That man can't do nothing; “Where is Billings?” inquired Under- not he. D’ye think I'll care what people'll wood.

gossip and say? I've got no character to “ I think he walked off when he see the lose, and if I had, I wouldn't care. You're crowd gather,” said the bright small boy. decent, church-going folk, are you? No,

A roar followed this sally. The utter you ain't. You're a flock o'sheep that absurdity of Billings's presence at such a rushes where that man tells you to. I be a time met with popular favor.

drunkard, a poacher, and all that, be I? I “Who will carry her to the jail and under- be hard, rough, brutal, be I? But by the take to bring her to? As a magistrate of God up there, I be not such a brute as to illthis county I have the authority to detain treat a poor friendless girl as has done nothher until she can give me, in my official ing but faint at my door.” capacity, an account of herself. Failing to John Bannock stopped, his rough face do that, the law will deal with her for the flung back defiantly, his knotted throat misdemeanor of vagrancy. A half-sovereign standing out, his breast heaving; grand in to any one who will undertake the job.” the assertion of his manhood.

“If I has my say, no one will dare to The crowd, a flock of sheep as he had undertake it,” and Bannock pushed his said, were at once on his side. There were way through the circle, bareheaded and in cries of “ Hear! hear !” and “Jack's his shirt-sleeves. “You call yourselves men right;” also an intimation from the oracle and let your hearts be turned against a poor that they were perhaps wrong, after all. girl by a man who has no more pity in him Bannock did not wait for any one's apthan a hawk. You call yourselves church- proval. He took up the girl tenderly in his goers, decent, honest folk, and act like strong arms. “ Mrs. Bennett,” said he, in whipped curs.

I be a pest to the his awkward way, to the woman who had village, a good-for-nothing, a poacher, a held the girl's head in her lap, “if you'll be drunkard, a liar, a dishonest man ; you say so kind as to come up and help me bring I don't go to church, and shun the parson. her round, and”—here he hesitated, “ if It's all true. You're good ; I'm bad. But you'll stay in the house till the poor thing bad as I be I'd cut my heart out before I'd gets well, to shut the mouths o' the gossips, be doing as you be doing. The girl's a bad you'll do me a good turn that I shall not ’un, you say. And who told you? That soon forget.” man did.

And how does he know? He The two went up the stairway, Bannock

You say

WHICH HAS ONLY THE BEST TO SAY OF

carrying the girl. The crowd, after talking that came in through the casement, when he over the wonders of the day, dispersed. The saw two of his old cronies approaching the magistrate, now as much in bad odor as he house. They stopped beneath the window. was popular before, walked angrily to his Would Jack go up to the tap-room with them horse, and, mounting, rode away at a hard and drink some ale ? No, Jack would not. gallop. The Squire and Gilbert, the land- They went on. The craving was strong lord, entered the cottage.

upon the man, and he knew it. But he When they came out, the landlord knew fought against it with an iron will, with a very well that the Squire had left five sov- stern face. He had vindicated his manhood ereigns behind him on the mantel-piece; and the other day in face of the world. Would the Squire was equally certain he had heard he fail and fall on the way now? No; with the landlord say:

God's help he would not. The landlord was “ Jack, if I in my poor way can do any- passing the house. If Jack cared to have a thing for the girl, count on me. If I have mug of ale, the landlord would bring it down wronged you, and helped to make your life to him with his own hands? The temptawhat it is, I ask your forgiveness.”

tion was strong. Surely as much as that Both of the men were too full of emotion could not hurt him. Did Jack say he would to talk of what they had seen. But they like to have some ale ? told each other that up in that low, dark “ What is that man asking you, Mr. Banroom rough John Bannock was crying. nock?” said a voice from the bed. This

was almost the first time the girl had spoken CHAPTER III.

since her reason returned. All day she had

lain looking at the wall, at the persons who EVERYTHING AND EVERYBODY.

came in, with that helpless, satisfied expresThe next day all the village was asking sion seen on the faces of convalescents. how the girl had passed the night. She was “ He is asking me if I'll drink with him, in a high fever, the village was told. The Miss," replied John Bannock, a troubled Squire rode down on his bay horse, and was look upon his face. admitted by privilege. When he came out “And you would rather not ?" she said. he remarked that John Bannock had kept No, I don't want to,” said he. watch over the sick girl the whole night She understood him. long. That wouldn't do! Accordingly the “Will you come here?” she asked. Squire galloped over to Plymouth, and

He came.

“Will you swear to me by the brought its best physician to give his opinion memory of your mother, about whom I have and prescribe a course of treatment. The heard you speak, that you will never touch report was : • Keep her quiet. With care a drop of liquor again ?" she will be well again in a short time. So mild, so sweet and entreating were Do as I have told you, and the probability the eyes looking into his very soul, as he is she will be able to sit in the sunshine in thought, that though appalled at the magnia week at the most.” The effect of what tude of the request, he solemnly promised as had happened on John Bannock was a she had asked him. He was very thoughtstudy. He would take no rest until the girl ful the rest of that evening, glancing ever was out of danger. He had taken upon and anon at the bed with a grateful look in himself the responsibility, as it were, of her his eyes. safe recovery, and he meant to do his duty. In a day or two they told her of all that For three days and nights he scarcely slept, had passed ; of her falling in the street, of and refused to leave his post. On the fourth John's manly conduct. They did not tell day the girl was declared out of danger. her of his former life, but she had guessed Up to this time John had felt no desire to it when she had watched his troubled face visit his former haunt. On the afternoon on that fourth, ever memorable day of her of the fourth day he was sitting in the window stay in the village. She was never tired of of the girl's room breathing the fresh air following his movements with her eyes, in

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »