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out of a crowd. Perhaps you could tell us, old lady?” added he, addressing a neighbouring personage, to whom the designation perfectly applied.
“I haven't exactly come at it," answered she; “but I understand that it is some priests and Papists, who have been insulting a clergyman, and forcing themselves up to the deathbed of a poor girl in there."
“That's for her money, you know," observed Bill.
“You may take your oath to that, Bill,” rejoined his comrade.
"I shouldn't think that the like of her had much,” said the old lady.
“Never you mind that, Ma'am," exclaimed Bill; “it is not so much that they want; for a little here, and a little there, makes up a decent figure towards the end of the year. I was reading all about it in the 'Lincoln Express' the night before last.”
“ And they won't leave off neither," remarked a new-comer, “until we have given some of them a right good ducking, as they deserve."
The laugh of approbation, which this sentiment called forth, had scarcely subsided, when Bill's voice was again heard crying out :
" Lord bless us ! there they be, upon my word! They arn't agoing to carry off the sick girl, are they? She looks pale enough, to be sure, but I shouldn't say that she was dying neither.”
“That arn’t the dead un, man,” interposed the old lady, who was a stranger to the village ; “ she must be the one they was a talking of just now, who is in league with the priest, and insulted the clergyman.".
“If I had my ways, I should have her ducked with the rest,” resumed the original author of the motion, whose rubicund complexion would scarcely have testified that his tastes were so decidedly aquatic.
In the meanwhile, she to whom these latter observations referred, had been somewhat startled on beholding, as she prepared to issue from Mrs. Hawthorne's cottage, the numerous assemblage which was hanging around it, as well as the decidedly unfriendly and disrespectful expression of all the eyes which were rivetted upon her.
“ What can these good people want ?” whispered she to St. Edmunds, who was close at her side.
“I have no conception,” answered he, “but I don't think that they look quite so civil as they should. What are they here for, Waddinghead ?”
The cautious keeper, who had been a silent, though by no means, an inattentive observer of the proceedings without, and whose secret sympathies were not exclusively enlisted on the same side as his allegiance, shook his head ominously, but made no other reply until again urged, in a more imperative tone, by his interrogator.
“Well, my Lord, to tell you the truth," he then said, “ these here folk don't much like what's been a-going on inside there ; and the sooner the priest takes himself off the better, I wot."
“ Surely they won't injure him, Waddinghead, will they ?''
“I hope, not; but there's no saying exactly, with so many strangers about.”
The young officer fixed his eyes keenly upon the speaker and then said :
“I suppose that I can depend upon you, Waddinghead.”
The keeper, though a little perplexed by the altered and haughty tone of St. Edmund's, replied by a most distinct affirmation.
“ Then look here,” rejoined our hero, “get the priest's horse right up to the door, and keep those fellows back a little. Miss Basinstoke,” added he, in a lower voice, “I am sure that I shall be acting agreeably to your wishes by providing, in the first instance, for the unmolested departure of Father Athanasius.”
Cécile's looks fully confirmed the assent which her words uttered.
“Even were there any prospect of danger," continued he, “I should not have to entreat you, Miss Basinstoke, to fear nothing; but here, we can have nothing to apprehend.”
“I trust not, indeed,” replied she, "for, in truth, I am no heroine, and all these scowling faces affect me strangely. Shall I tell Father Athanasius that you think he had better soon withdraw ?”
“Why, yes, you will do very wisely.”
Thus advised, Cécile retired into the house, and in a few minutes returned with her
confessor. The appearance of the latter called forth, first a low murmuring, then a loud shout of antipathy from the surrounding crowd.
“Bring that horse up, Waddinghead,” said our hero, in the tone of one to whom the word of command was by no means unfamiliar. “ Close up to the door, I say, and while you hold him, I will take care that those fellows stand back.”
These directions having been complied with, the young Viscount extended his hand to the Priest, as he urged him not to delay his departure, which public mark of courtesy called forth a fresh shout of derision from the crowd. Nor were their unfriendly dispositions apparently satisfied with this outburst, for several of the more excited among them actually closed in, with a view of intercepting the Priest's retreat; but the resolute bearing of the stalwart Father, of Waddinghead, and of St. Edmunds himself, induced no small hesitation on their part.
“Now then, my men !” exclaimed the latter, “ if you please, let this gentleman pass. That's right: stand back; a little more still.”
" I have as good a right to be here as you,” doggedly replied a sturdy mechanic.