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I'VE a heard as that there Dixon's a very deal worse," said Job a few days after (he was always the person to hear the news). "They says he were that worrety as they was obliged to carry him from the place where Lettice were, handy the sea, to his own home, and that the wound took cold or summat, and they didn't know how 'twould turn. Twill go hard wi' Norton Lisle if ought bad happens to he, I take it."
Norton had recovered so fast that his trial was to come off at the winter assizes. "Summun must go and see which way it all turns out," said Job, when the time came. "Tell'ee what, I think't had best be me: Amyas hates a throng he does, and Lettie won't so much care see her father come to grief if he's to be hung, or sich like; so I'll just make the best o' my way over to Mapleford; and if cousin Smart 'Il take me in, well and good; and if she won't, why there it is."
That's what comes o' them as will foller their own way, like Absolum, as were caught by the hair o' his head, and King Nebuchadnezzar, as eat grass like an ox," said Mrs. Wynyate, improving the occasion, if not the tempers of her listeners.
"But Norton haven't a been caught by the hair o' his head, nor eat grass, nor nothing," said the impervious Job, insensible to types and emblems; "and till so be as he's a going to be hung, we lives in hopes as he'll get off safe. They say as that young Wallcott's summoned for to bear wit-relief not rashly to be broken. ness agin him, which ain't just pleasant, as one may say, for nobody," he ended, looking at Lettice.
""Tis well," he said at last, "as there's a place where what's wrong here 'll be righted there.” Did he mean that he Poor Lettice spent the day in misery. should be able to make his mother as unShe had a feeling as if her own fate de- comfortable elsewhere as she did him at pended, more or less, on the trial, as well present? "I wonder," he went on, conas her father's; as if old Wallcott's opposi-sideringly, “whether it ain't as bad to have tion would never be overcome "if any- a tongue to nagg folk's lives out all round thing happened" to Norton, as she euphu- all their days, as for a man to bring up a istically called it in her own mind; and yet lot o' silly little dabs o' kegs of stuff, to do as if it were very wicked to be thinking of folk good, into the land? and yet there ye herself when such matters of life and death see there's one on um's fit to lose his neck were on hand. for't, and t'other's a wery pious female, as one might say
“Oh, don't, uncle Job, please; how can ye!" cried Lettice, horrified.
- And an ornament to her see,' as the preacher said on collection day, when she put money in the plate," went on Job, without minding her.
"You know it says in the Book, Judge not,'" interrupted the girl, feverishly "and I'm sure I've got enow in my evil heart to look to, and try not to repine, and 'tis all for our good, and we deserve it all, and a deal more too, for our sins."
"As for yer sins, Lettice, well, ye see I don't know so much neither. And who's strove and drove more than Amyas, I'd like to know? and done his duty both by man and beast in that situation whereunto he were called?' As far as I can see, 'tis them as is done wrong to as is so sorry and penitent and all that, and them as wrongs is as comferble as ever they can stick.
"Nay, I can't leave Norton without some one to send to if anything happens," said Amyas kindly; 66 so we'll e'en both go together."
Mrs. Wynyate was more unhappy than she chose to allow. With some very worthy people it is a sort of religion in such cases to make your neighbours and friends unhappy too. As they sat at supper that evening, there was no rest for anybody in
Job went on tranquilly with his work, i.e. his supper, till at last Mrs. Wynyate, hearing some laughing in the kitchen, charged in to bring the offenders to punishment, carrying with her the only candle.
Lettice dropped down on a little stool before the dim fire, wearied out heart and soul; Job got up, with his mouth full, and leant against the mantelpiece. Neither spoke: the mere fact of silence seemed a
blaze, and we couldn't put it into words. neither; but there'll come a time, please God, when we shall know even as He knows us. Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief,"" he ended, rising with a sigh, as Mrs. Wynyate came back into the room. theNow it's time for us all to go to bed, mother," he ended.
What do you say, Amyas ?" he ended meditatively; for as he spoke, his brother had come back in the darkness, and seeing that all was quiet, pulled up his chair to the fire and sat down in silence; but Amyas made no answer. Presently, in the quiet night, there rose the Christmas hymn, "waits."
"What does it all signify in the world, uncle Amyas?" said Lettice, when the music stopped, bringing up her stool to his side, and leaning her head against him as she had not done since her "troubles." "How is it with life and all things? While the music was talking, as 'twere, it seemed to me as if I could see it all plain, but now 'tis got all dark again."
"I'm sure I can't say," replied Amyas, sighing, with that unwillingness to bring up his faculties to tackle a hard subject which is found in many men of more education than Amyas.
The small white cat came purring up to her. It had grown quite wild and shy during the long months she had been away, and would not come near her on her return. Its strangeness had vexed her, for she valued its little friendship as a reminder of happy days with Everhard. Now, when she took no notice, it jumped into her lap. Presently, as he pushed in the halfburned brands to the fire, and a flame shot up, he saw her disappointed face.
"Look, dear child," said her uncle, with an effort: "yer might talk yerself hoarse, splaining things to that little kit; 'twouldn't understand any bit the more all yer strove: same with you when yer was a baby, what good were it telling of ye the how and the why? See in part through a glass darkly," he half muttered to himself. "I'm thinking it must be the same with us. Every now and then we seems to catch a light, and then it's sunk again, like that
The next day seemed to Lettice interminable. Her uncles left home early. It had been a wild night: the wind was whirling round the house, tearing at the branches of the great elms; sobbing and moaning, as it seemed, round the house, with gusts of cold rain drifting fitfully past from time to time-which was the only way in which the winter showed itself. The draggle tailed fowls and peacocks, the dismal-looking cows and horses, took shelter as they could: everything looked miserable, and drenched, and dreary, and uncomfortable without, while within Mrs. Wynyate's ceaseless complaints of the dirt brought in by each successive entrance, had gone on since the morning. Lettice, in silence, had brushed and tidied and straightened in vain; and she now sat, when evening came, depressed and wretched, in a sort of comfortless despair, trying to realize to herself what was going on at Mapleford, and the share which Everhard would be forced to take in the trial when at last her grandmother came into the room, and she rose, fearing she knew not what; but Mrs. Wynyate sat down quietly by her side and uttered not a word.
"You'd best not sit up any longer, Lettice; 'tis no use, and it's getting late," said she at last, and then, seizing the girl's hand as she passed her chair with unwonted feeling, in an iron grasp, the old woman went on in a broken, rugged voice, with vehement energy: " Pray, child, pray, that it mayn't be barren sorrow to us all, but that it may bear fruit to life eternal!" and, to Lettice's surprise, she saw a great tear in each dim eye, though they did not fall. She stooped down with a sudden impulse and kissed the stern old face for the first time in her life with a feeling of affection.
"Good-night, granny- thank you, dear granny!" she cried, running out of the room to hide her own tears, for Mrs. Wynyate had a horror of emotions.
The next morning she was crossing the upper end of the farmyard, when, to her surprise, she came upon Job.
Well, so ye see I'm come back; I were just coming in to tell ye. The trial came on so late as I couldn't make it out to get home last night," he said, tranquilly; "so
I set off ere 'twere light this marnin' wi' the butcher's cart. Amyas will be here afore long."
But what came of the trial? how were it all?" cried the poor girl breathlessly. Why, ye see, there were a big 'un in a wig went on a pokin' and a pounding at yer father, ever so long up and down; and hadn't he done this'n and hadn't he a done that'n all the days o' his life? - till at last grandfa judge he comes down o' him and says, That there ain't fair, you ha'n't a got nothin' to do with all that, only just did he kill Dixon?"
"That young Wallcott came out of it uncommon well, I will say that for him; he didn't say too much nor too little, but there he held on to a plain story and stuck to it. "Twere dark and he didn't know the man, and his face were blacked, and he saw no pistol fired, and Dixon weren't dead nor nigh to it," he said.
"And Norton ?" said his mother, impatiently. "Did ye see him after all were over? and did he take on about it? and what did he say about going away so far?" "He didn't seem to think scarce anything much anyways. There's a ship going right
"Some on 'um said one thing and some said t'other way. I'm a' muzzed and can't tell rightly how 'twere. There were a little chap, sharp as a needle, what fired the pis-off to Australia, they tells him, and he says, tol, says one; and next one pruv he weren't there a bit, bis face being blacked so as they couldn't know him."
I'm a very handy chap, and shan't be long a making my way out there, I take it.'"
Norton went out to Australia, where, as he expected, he did very well before longearned his ticket-of-leave, and "founded a family." Antecedents were leniently regarded in those parts; besides, there were many worse men in his Majesty's dominions than Norton Lisle, who yet had never been boarded and lodged at the public expense; there are no holes, however, for pegs of his peculiar construction in an old civilization, unless indeed he had 5,000l. a year, when he could have indulged his sporting instincts without any one finding much fault either with him or them.
"What! 's Dixon dead?" cried Lettice. Nay, he's none dead, but was going on for better, last I heerd."
The poor girl wrung her hands, past her patience at the impossibility of getting on. "But how were it settled at the end?" said Mrs. Wynyate, coming up to the res
"Whose face ?" said Lettice.
"Twere as if they set up the things for to bowl 'um down again, as we does skittles, up them, down t'others; to it agin, my masters."
"But the end, what was the end? what's his sentence, Norton's sentence?" said Mrs. Wynyate, exasperated to a degree, and shaking him violently by the coat, as if by that means she could shake the words out of the interminable Job.
"Well, he were transported for life, or twenty-five years was it? I ain't quite clear, I ain't," blurted out Job, angrily. "So there, now, ye has it yer own way, and a great hurry you're in to be sure for such fine news," he went on, in great dudgeon at not being allowed to tell his story as he pleased.
Lettice breathed a little more freely at last.
"There they was bothering and boring Everhard about his helping off one Caleb at I can't think whatever he done it for," wondered Job. Why it was he got off father in the first place," said Lettice, indignantly.
tosses 'um up like a bull does a red handkercher, till there ain't nothin' left o' a plain man's tale, there ain't."
When Amyas returned there was not much additional information to be gained even out of him; he had that disinclination to gather up his recollections, as it were, into concrete description, which is so often the case among men. One thing, however, Lettice did pick up. Addressing no person in particular, he said,
"Well, which on 'um done right and which on 'um done wrong, I'm not sure; I don't know how 'twere rightly. Dixon had a wounded hisself, somebody else said," he went on, consideringly. "But, to be sure, them counsellors they tangles things, and
WHAT CAME OF IT.
EVERHARD had been a good deal badgered and browbeaten at the trial, and when it was over he went moodily up once more to his father's house, where luckily he found Mrs. Wallcott alone.
"At all events, I haven't done any hurt to Lettie's father, I don't believe; but it's been a bad time, mother," said he, sitting down gloomily in the kitchen. "And then my father came up to me in court, and said out loud, There! ye must be main glad to be well out o' that mess o' marrying a felon's girl!' Does he think I'm going to leave hold o' her hand because she wants helping more, I'd like to know?" he went on, marching up and down the kitchen.
"I'll soon let him hear a bit o' when he comes in, I will."
“Now you see here, my dear boy," she began, with great earnestness. "Don't'ee begin wi' a set-to wi' your father: it just breaks my heart and don't do a bit a good, but just makes him ten times worse, knockin' o' yer heads together, hitting just where 'twould be better missed. You just leave all quiet, and let me try and make it straight. There's times and there's times, and a continual drip, they says, 'll wear away the hardest stone."
"But then where shall we be, mother, Lettice and me, before you've got through the rock? why we shall be dead and buried, and much good it will do us then to win with him," said Everhard, half laughing at his own lugubrious images.
"Well, ye see, if Norton had been hung, maybe it mightn't have been so well," replied Mrs. Wallcott, meditatively; "but now as he'll just be settled right away, outside nowhere, as one may say, and beyond reach o' mischief, 'tis next best to being dead, and summat like it: so yer father may come round better now, nor before time, who knows?"
Everhard accordingly held his tongue during the remainder of the evening, till he went back to Seaford; and his father seemed to be only too glad to take it for granted that all was as he desired, to tide over the difficulty by leaving things alone under cover of a truce, and to consider that his son would forget all about it in time.
"Give him the rein enow, and he'll tire of it and think better of it hisself, that's what I say," said he, with a sigh of relief when Everhard had left the house.
"I don't see what you're to do if he's so bent upon it," said Mrs. Wallcott, philosophically, a day or two after, when she had propounded Everhard's case to her husband for the sixth or seventh time. She was standing with the top of a saucepan in her hand, while he went on fulminating vengeance against his son for his crimes.
"Anne's been and burnt the bacon again," said she parenthetically, as she looked into it. "That girl's enough to sour cider, she's so careless, that she is." Then resuming the thread of her discourse if thread it could be called where thread was none," "It ain't as if you'd a got heaps o' boys and girls o' yer own, Mr. Wallcott, for to leave yer goods to. You've got but one on 'um, and I can't see as there ain't any harm in the girl. I seen her out o' winder t'other day along wi' her uncle what were a coming out o' that Susan Smart's which it's wonderful what a temper she have got to be
sure, and so uppish no one can't stand her; and Lettice-if that's her name - I don't see as she won't do as well as another on 'um. Girls is poor flimsy things nowadays, not a bit like when I were young; but there, I don't know who'd be good enow for my boy, that I don't. You may go farther and fare worse, I says, Mr. Wallcott." Mrs. Wallcott was a mistress of that style called the roundabout; and how she ever reached her conclusions was a mystery known only to herself.
"Yes, I that have just made it all good about the Woodhouse, that's all safe in my hands. The papers are to be finished today. And the girl's uncle ruined right off. and her father a smuggler and in danger o' hanging. A pretty man for Everhard to consort wi', as I've saved and slaved for all my life!" shouted Wallcott, angrily.
"We didn't use to be so petticklar," answered his wife. "What for are ye collying* o' me?' says the pot to the kettle."
It was too true to be pleasant.
"I tell ye, I'd rather leave my money to the pigs," cried Wallcott, his face purple with passion and the veins on his forehead swollen with the violence of his rage. Mrs. Wallcott drew back; she well knew it would do no good to cross him in such a mood. He turned out of the house towards the stable, muttering angrily. "Bring out the new bay," he called out roughly. It was an ill-tempered beast, like himself, which he had just bought at a good deal under its value for that very reason: one of those "bargains" which are so very dear at the money.
The horse fidgeted and moved excitedly, first to one side and then the other, so that its master was a long time without being able to mount. Quiet, ye brute!" he went on calling furiously. At last, with much difficulty, he managed to scramble on its back, and even before he was well in the saddle struck it repeatedly and angrily with his stick. The horse resented the blows, started violently, threw up his heels, reared, and Wallcott was unseated, though he slipt off rather than fell.
telled him to kip hisself quiet, or he'd be sure to have one afore long, and here ye see 'tis. I've begged him scores and scores o' times not to ride that there horse; and he always said he were only playsome, and
that 'tweren't vice."
Well, I've a don my dooty, and I'm ready to goo; and there I shall sit on the right hand o' God, and o' my beautiful Saviour, I shall," said he, with some importance; then coming down rapidly from this seraphic state of mind to more pressing interests: "You tell Madam to send me a sup o' broth, or summat, I feel so leer" (empty), he went on in his usual peremptory fashion. "There, if I could but twiddle down to the Woodhouse and tumble the butter, 'twould fresh me up a bit, it would!" "We're in hopes you'll git down after a bit now 'tis so fine, too," said Lettice. "And how can that be, if I can't neither eat nor sleep?" said the old man, crossly; there's my missus got so stiff that it terrifies her for to make the bed, to shake it and hemp it as I wants it, and they tells me it's all up wi' your uncle, as he can't by no means stop on at the Woodhouse because of the mortgage, and then where shall I be ? -And what's come o' that young Wallcott, I'd like to know, as used to be here so "Sure you might just be quiet and see much?" he went on presently. "Tis a what'll come of it," said Job, plaintively, greatish while sin' I heard talk o' he; he when they received a message through Ned, were a nice tidy chap, enow, and he's from Everhard, begging that no changes tookt hisself off for good and all, they says. should be made at present at the Wood- That'll be along o' Madame Wynyate's dohouse. Amyas, however, could not divestings, I'm thinking. Well, ye know they himself of the idea that Everhard, when he young men there's no dependence on' em; had the power, might be wanting in the they comes and they goes when they pleases, will, and went on trying to make his arrange- and as they pleases; and they won't ha' ments. It was a most painful tenure, in- none to gainsay 'um. 'Tis a pity, too, as deed, to him to be thus hung up between he'll never come back no more, for he was earth and heaven, dependent on the good a trimming smart young fellow he was," he pleasure of he scarcely knew whom. ended these consolatory remarks.
It is not pleasant to hear such things concerning the tenderest part of one's future, even from a person who knows nothing whatever about the matter. Lettice sighed as she came out of the little dark cottage.
There was a "tender grace" about the exquisite evening, like the first opening of a rosebud; the world seemed full of sweet scents and sweet sounds, as if the whole earth was bursting into bloom, as she walked slowly home. Everywhere the flowers were opening, the pale green corn springing, a fringe of fern followed the line of the deep lane, the hedgerows were set with daffodils and primroses; the children all had “posies" of them in their hands; the earth was a perfect garden. There was a fresh springing feeling in the air; the birds twittering, the axes of the woodcutters ringing through the wood, and the laughing of the "yaffingale," the great red and green woodpecker which glanced across the glades
There was scarcely anything to be done for the old man. He continued in the same helpless state, growing more and more violent as he was less able to make himself understood till at last, as one stroke succeeded another, he sank gradually into a kind of dotage. Dreams of money or its absence the ruling passion strong in death-hung about him; he was beset with the idea that he was ruined and penniless, and should have to go to the workhouse, and the only way in which he could be kept quiet was to pay so many shillings a week into his own hands, and as long as the feel-" ing of the money remained with him he was
The final steps as to the mortgage had not been taken before old Wallcott was taken ill; but, in spite of this delay, Amyas was preparing as before for the order to
IT was the first real spring day, fresh and bright.
"Lettice, you go and see after Dannel, as sends word he's sick and can't come," said her grandmother, in the afternoon; and the girl set off across the meadows, where everything was beginning to bud as early as was possible in the year; for there had been scarcely any winter, as sometimes happens in that favoured climate.
"Well, Lettie," said the old "dark" man, recognizing her step as she came into the cottage," I'm terrible bad, I be, you may depend on't; my cough he's a deal worse; there's summat tarblish wrong a goin' on in my inside, and if ye don't tackle he, 'twill be a hard matter for me to climb May-hill. They says, ye know,
March will search, April will try,