The Parson O' DumfordŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ
ďThank you kindly, sir,Ē said Maine. ďI know you do,Ē and, backing out, the next moment he was gone.
ďStrange young man that Ė strange people altogether,Ē said the vicar. ďOh, hereís the soup.Ē
For just then Mrs Slee bustled in with a napkin-covered tray, bearing a basin and spoon, the former emitting clouds of steam.
The vicar took the basin, sat down, stirred it, smelt it, tasted it, and replaced the spoon, while Mrs Slee watched his face eagerly.
ďWants another pinch of salt, and another dash of pepper. Fetch them, Mrs Slee, and some bread.Ē
Mrs Slee, looking as ungracious as ever, but with an eagerness which she could not conceal, hurried out to return with the required articles, when more salt was added and a dash of pepper. Then a slice of bread was cut from the home-made loaf, and the vicar tasted Ė tasted again, and then, in the calmest and most unperturbed manner possible, went on partaking of the soup, every mouthful being watched with intense eagerness by the woman waiting for his judgment.
ďCapital soup this, Mrs Slee; capital brew!Ē
Mrs Slee did not smile, as the vicar diligently hunted the last grains of rice in the bottom of the basin with his spoon, but she gave a sigh of satisfaction.
ďThis will go off like a shot. How much have you got of it? Almost equal to our soup at Boanerges.Ē
ďThereís about sixty quarts of it, sir.Ē
ďSixty? Not half enough. Youíll have to start the copper again directly, Mrs Slee. Ah, by the way, Bailey will bring two hundred loaves this evening, and weíll give them away with the soup in the morning.Ē
ďTwo hundred loaves!Ē exclaimed Mrs Slee. ďBless the man, where am I to put them?Ē
ďOh, weíll stack them in the hall if we canít put them anywhere else, Mrs Slee,Ē said the vicar, laughing. ďAnd let that soup cool. Itíll be like jelly in the morning. Iím going to walk over to Bultitudeís, and Iíll call at the butcherís about the beef.Ē
ďBut that broth would bear as much watter to it, and that would make twice as much.Ē
ďNow, Mrs Slee, I wonít have a good thing spoiled,Ē said the vicar. ďI donít believe you mind the trouble of making it.Ē
ďThat Iím sure I donít,Ē said Mrs Slee, sharply; ďonly youíre giving away cartloads of bread and meat, and pailsful of soup to folks as weanít say thank you for it, and laugh at you for your pains.Ē
ďThey wonít laugh at me while theyíre eating that beautiful soup, Mrs Slee, which does you credit. If they like to laugh afterwards,†Ė well, let them.Ē
ďOh, I donít want no praise for the broth,Ē said Mrs Slee, ungraciously. ďYou telled me how to makí it. But I donít like to see you robbing yourself for them as is sure to be ungrateful.Ē
ďWe wonít mind that, Mrs Slee,Ē said the vicar, smiling; ďand now Iím going off to Bultitudeís, and Iíll see if I canít get there this time. By the way, Mrs Slee, I should like a little tureen of that soup for my dinner; itís splendid.
And look here, Mrs Slee, if any one comes while Iím out, who needs a little, you can lend a jug, and give some of the soup before itís cold. Iíll leave that to you.Ē
Volume Two Ė Chapter Five.
The Vicarís Soup
ďHeís a strange good man,Ē said Mrs Slee, grimly, as she watched the vicar down the path; ďand he must hev a vast oí money, giving away as he is raight and left. Well, I wonít hev him cheated if I can help it, for the more he gives the more he may. Whoís yon at the back?Ē
The last remark was jerked out as a soft tap was heard at the kitchen door, and on going to answer it, there stood Sim Slee.
ďDidnít I tell thee as thou neednít come here?Ē said Mrs Slee. ďI thowt you wouldnít darken parsonís door again.Ē
ďWhatís that as smells?Ē said Sim, giving a sniff.
ďSoup for them as you and your strike folk have left to pine to dead,Ē snapped Mrs Slee.
ďIs that some on it in they pancheons?Ē said Sim.
ďYes, it is,Ē said his wife, sulkily.
ďI heered tell on it,Ē said Sim. ďHeíve been a scrattin about at all the butchersí, and buying up weighs of cag mag as they couldnít sell. I saw a basket oí stinking bones come up to the gate, and I heerd at the Bull as heís gotten four beastsí heads promised. Yah! itís a shame as such as him should hev a place like this, and five hundred a year.Ē
ďThou fulsome!Ē exclaimed Mrs Slee, angrily. ďI weanít stand by and hear parson talked about like that.Ē
ďAll raight,Ē said Sim, sneering; ďheís won you ower then. But what hev you gotten to eat?Ē
ďNowt,Ē said Mrs Slee, shortly.
ďHere, just take thee scithers, and coot the dwiny ends off my collar,Ē said Sim, holding up the ragged but scrupulously clean collar of the shirt he wore; and this duty was diligently performed by his wife.
ďSome one telled me as the soup meat was covered wií maddick bees,Ē said Sim, as soon as the task was done.
ďThen some one telled thee a lie,Ē said Mrs Slee, sharply.
ďPower up a few of it in a basin,Ē said Sim, after examining the broad earthen pans in which the thick soup steamed. ďLetís see what sorter stuff the downtrodden serf is to be compelled to eat.Ē
ďIt isnít good enough for such as thou,Ē said Mrs Slee, sharply.
Sim took up the spoon, and with an air of disgust raised some of the soup and let it drop back, exhaling as it did so a most tantalising odour for a hungry man.
ďI just come by Riggallís, the bone-setterís,Ē said Sim; ďand he says as he wonít hev parson meddling wií his trade, if doctor does. Why, he tied up Binney Mawtropís hand as he got in the wheel.Ē
ďYes, and I held a basin and a sponge for him,Ē said Mrs Slee, eyeing her husband. ďHe owt to hev let him bleed to dead, of course.Ē
ďSay, owd lass,Ē said Sim, ďis this stuff fit to yeat?Ē
ďFit to yeat, thou unconditioned fulsome! it ainít fit for thee. Bread and watterís what such shacks as thou ought to hev, and nowt besides.Ē
ďThy tongueís gotten a strange and rough edge to it this morning, moother,Ē said Sim, grinning, and longing to convey the spoon to his mouth, but feeling that it would not be consistent.
ďThere, sit thee down,Ē said Mrs Slee. ďI know what you mean. There, sit down, and donít get theeing and thouing me about. A deal you care for me.Ē
This was in answer to a rough caress, as she bustled about, and got a basinful of the soup for her lord, with a great hunk of bread; and without more ado Sim took his seat.
ďOh, Iím not going to yeat this,Ē he said. ďIím just going to taste what sorter moock he gives the pore out of his bounty.Ē
ďHowd thee tongue and eat,Ē said Mrs Slee, contemptuously.
Sim played with the spoon, and splashed the soup about, ending by tasting it and retasting, and then taking some bread and going heartily to work.
ďSay, moother,Ē he exclaimed, ďit wonít do; thatís the broth youíve been makking for the parson hissen. It ainít to give away.Ē
ďThatís made oí the meat as the parson went and scratted up from the butcherís, and the baskets oí bones and beastsí heads, and all the rubbish he could get together,Ē said Mrs Slee sourly.
ďIíll say itís good soup,Ē said Sim, finishing his basin. ďSay, moother, giveís another soop.Ē
ďHe said I was to give some to anybody who wanted,Ē said Mrs Slee; and then, with a grim smile, she refilled his basin, while Sim drew out his handkerchief, spread it on his knees, and polished off the second basin in a very few minutes.
ďYou canít get me to believe as that soupís going to be gin away,Ē he said as he rose. ďThatíll be wattered till itís thin as thin. Theer, Iím off again. Iíve a deal to see to;Ē and without another word he hurried away.
ďYes, heís gotten his fill,Ē said Mrs Slee, directing a look of contempt after her husband; but as she crossed the kitchen she saw something white under the chair Sim had occupied, and stooping down picked up a note in a very small envelope, whose address she spelled out: ďMiss Banks, By hand.Ē
ďWhatís he gotten to do wií takkin letters to Daisy Banks?Ē she exclaimed, as a hot feeling of jealousy came upon her for the moment. Then, with a half-laugh she said, ďNo, no, it ainít that: heís too old and unheppen, and sheís ower young and pretty. Heís takkin it for some one. Whose writing will it be? Heís coming back.Ē
She stopped short, hearing a step, and darted out of the kitchen just as Sim came softly up, peered in and looked eagerly about the floor and under the table.
ďMebbe Iíve dropped it somewheers else,Ē he muttered, starting off again, while Mrs Slee had another good look at the letter, and ended by depositing it in her bosom.
ďIíll give it to parson,Ē she said at last, and then resumed her work.
Meanwhile, Murray Selwood was retracing his steps on the way to Bultitudeís farm, but before he reached the place he came upon John Maine once more, looking eagerly across the fields.
ďWell, Maine, howís the head?Ē said the vicar, making the young man start, for the grass had deadened his tread. ďWhat can you see Ė game?Ē
ďIím afraid it is, sir,Ē said the young man, bluntly Ė ďthe sportsman and the hare.Ē
ďHím!Ē ejaculated the vicar, as he caught sight of two figures on the hill-side, far distant; but the day was so beautifully clear that he could make out Richard Glaire and a companion. ďMr Glaire and his cousin?Ē he said hastily.
ďNo, sir,Ē said the young man, quietly, ďthatís what it ought to be. Itís Mr Richard Glaire and one of the town girls. I think itís Daisy Banks. Do you know him well, sir?Ē
ďYes, pretty well,Ē said the vicar, eyeing the young manís saddened face intently.
ďWell, sir, itís no business of mine,Ē said the young fellow; ďbut if I was a friend of Mr Richard Glaire, I should tell him to keep at home, and not do that; for the men are getting hot again him, and he may fall into trouble.Ē
ďJohn Maine, if any violence is intended against Mr Glaire,Ē said the vicar, ďI wish you to tell me at once.Ē
ďI donít know of any, sir,Ē said Maine, ďonly Tom Podmoreís dreadfully put out about Daisy Banks, and the strike people are growing more bitter every day. If I do hear of anything, sir, Iíll tell you.Ē
They came directly upon old Bultitude, looking bluff and ruddy in his velveteens and gaiters.
ďAh, parson, fine day! how are you? Whatís the matter?Ē
ďWell, Maine here isnít well,Ē said the vicar.
ďWhatís wrong, lad? Why, thou saidíst nowt when you came in a bit ago.Ē
ďOh, itís nothing, sir, nothing,Ē said John Maine, hastily.
ďLet him go and lie down for an hour,Ē said the vicar, looking at the young manís ghastly face.
ďNot got fever, hev you, my lad?Ē said the old gentleman kindly, as they walked up to the house. ďHere, Jess, pull down the blinds in the far room, and let John Maine come and lie down a bit theer.Ē
At his summons, Jessieís young, pleasant face appeared at the window. It had no more pretensions to beauty than a pair of soft, dark eyes, and a bright, rosy colour, and the eyes looked very wistfully at John Maine, who now made an effort.
ďNo, no, sir,Ē he said. ďI wonít lie down. Iíll get to work again; thereís nothing like forgetting pain.Ē
ďWell, perhaps youíre right, Maine,Ē said the vicar. ďWell, Mr Bultitude, we donít get over our strike.Ē
ďParson, it makes me wild,Ē said the old man. ďI canít bear it, and I shall be glad Ė strange and glad to see it over; for I hate to see a pack of men standing about the town doing oí nowt. Canít you do owt wií the works people?Ē
The vicar shook his head. ďIíve tried both ways Ė hard,Ē he said; ďmaster and men, but no good comes of it.Ē
While this conversation was going on, Jessie had stepped anxiously forward, and laid her hand upon John Maineís arm.
ďIs anything serious the matter, John?Ē she said anxiously. ďAre you very ill?Ē
He started when she touched him as if he had been stung, and withdrew his arm hastily; and then, without so much as a glance at the girlís earnest, appealing eyes, he turned away and followed the vicar down the path, for he had shaken hands and parted from the farmer.
ďIíll see you across the home close, sir,Ē said John Maine.
ďThank you, do,Ē said the vicar; ďbut I think your bull pretty well knows me now. Hallo! here comes Mr Brough, the Squireís keeper, with his black looks and black whiskers. He always looks at me as if he thought I had designs on the squireís game. Hallo! Maine, bad friends? What does that mean?Ē he continued, as the man gave him a surly salute and then passed on, gun over shoulder, bestowing upon the young bailiff a sneering, half-savage look that was full of meaning.
ďTom Brough has never been very good friends with me, sir, since I thrashed him for annoying Miss Jessie there, up at the farm.Ē
ďSeems as if his love has not yet returned,Ē said the vicar, as he strode away, thinking of the various little plots and by-plots going on in his neighbourhood; and then sighing deeply as he felt that there was trouble in store for himself, in spite of his stern discipline and busy efforts to keep his mind too much employed to think of the countenance that haunted his dreams.
It seemed to be the vicarís fate to appear as playing the spy upon Richard Glaire, for, on Iiis return, taking a round-about way back, so as to make a call upon one or two people whom he had relieved of some part of the suffering induced by the strike, he was once more striking for the High Street, when he heard the words sharply uttered:
ďWell, Iíll pay you this time; but let me find that you fail me again and donít you expect Ė Confound Ė !Ē
ďHow do, Mr Glaire,Ē said the vicar, for he had come suddenly upon Richard, laying down the law pretty sharply to Sim Slee, and he was close to them before it was seen on either side.
ďReally,Ē said the vicar to himself as he strode on, ďIíve not the slightest wish to see what that unfortunate young man does; but it seems to me that I am to be bound to bear witness to a great deal. Heigho! these are matters that must be left to time.Ē
He entered his own gate soon after, and having received Mrs Sleeís report, that lady handed him the note she had found.
ďMr Glaireís hand,Ē he said, involuntarily and with his brows knit. ďWhere did you get this?Ē
ďMy master came to see me, and he must haí dropped it,Ē said Mrs Slee.
ďThen take it to him,Ē said the vicar, quietly, as he resumed his calm aspect. ďIt is nothing to do with us.Ē
ďI donít know about that,Ē said Mrs Slee, sharply. ďWhat call has young master Dick Glaire to be writing letters to she?Ē
ďTake the letter to your husband, Mrs Slee,Ē said the vicar, quietly; and then left alone, he threw himself into his chair, and covered his face with his hands, trying hard to resist temptation, for he knew well enough that if he had kept that letter and dishonourably shown it to Eve Pelly, so serious a breach would be created that his future success would be almost certain. But, no; he could not stir a step to make her unhappy. She loved this man, who was quite unworthy of her; and if she ever was awakened from her dream his must not be the hand that roused her.
He started as he heard the door close loudly, and saw Mrs Slee go down the path to seek out her husband, and return the letter.
There was time now to call her back, but he did not move, only sat and watched her bear away that which he knew might have been used as the lever to overthrow Richard Glaire.
Once only did he hesitate, but it was when his thoughts reverted to Daisy Banks and the possibility of ill befalling her, through her intimacy with Richard Glaire.
ďBut I cannot take action on a letter that falls accidentally into my hands,Ē he said. ďIf I speak to the girlís father it must be on the subject of what I have seen; and that I will do.Ē
He gave the matter a little consideration, and then determined to act at the risk of being considered a meddler, and walked straight to Joe Banksís pleasant little home, where he found Mrs Banks and Daisy alone, the girl being in tears.
He was turning; back, so as to avoid being present during any family trouble, when Mrs Banks arrested him.
ďDonít you go away, sir, please, for I should like you to have your word with this girl as well as me. Itís no use to speak to her father and Ė Hoity-toity, miss.Ē
Poor Daisy did not stop to hear the rest; for already growing thin with worry and mental care connected with her love affair, Mrs Banks was leading her rather a sad life in her husbandís absence, ostensibly to benefit Tom Podmore, but really hardening the girlís heart against him, if she had felt any disposition to yield: she now started up to hide her tears, and ran out of the room.
ďWell, thatís fine manners, miss!Ē exclaimed Mrs Banks, apostrophising the absent one. ďIím always telling her and Joe, my husband, sir, that no good can come of her listening to young Master Dick Glaire.Ē
ďThen you donít approve of it, Mrs Banks?Ē said the vicar, quietly.
ďApprove of it, sir? No, nor anybody else, except her foolish father, whoís the best and kindest man in the world: only when he takes an obstinate craze thereís no turning him.Ē
The vicar found the matter already to his hand, and was spared the trouble of introducing the subject; but he would rather have found Joe Banks present.
ďDoes he approve of it?Ē he said, quietly.
ďApprove of it, sir! yes. I tell him, and all his neighbours tell him, that itís a bit of foolish vanity; but they canít turn him a morsel.Ē
ďHallo, moother,Ē said Joe Banks, entering the room, ďcanít you let that rest?Ē
ďNo, Joe, and I never shall,Ē exclaimed Mrs Banks.
ďDonít you takí any notice, sir,Ē said Joe. ďShe hevenít talked you round, hev she?Ē
ďNo, Mr Banks,Ē said the vicar, quietly; ďit was not necessary. I have no right to interfere in these matters, but Ė Ē
ďWell, speak out, sir; speak out,Ē said Joe, rather sternly. ďSay out like a man what you mean.Ē
ďIf I did, Mr Banks, I should say that you were imprudent to let this matter proceed.Ē
ďBecause it is a well-known fact that Mr Glaire is engaged to his cousin.Ē
ďThere, Joe; there, Joe; what did I tell thee?Ē cried Mrs Banks, triumphantly; while Daisy, who could hear nearly all that was said, crouched with burning face in her room, shivering with nervous excitement, though longing to hear more.
ďAll raight, parson, I know,Ē said Joe; ďI see. The missus has sent you.Ē
ďIndeed, no, Banks,Ē said the vicar. ďI speak as a friend, without a word from anybody.Ē
ďThen, what do you mean by it?Ē cried Joe, exploding with passion. ďWhat raight have you to come interferiní in a manís house, and about his wife and daughter? This is my own bit oí freehold, Mr Selwood, and if you canít pay respect to me and to mine, and see that if Master Richard Glaire, my old fellow-workmanís boy, chooses to marry my gal, heís a raight to, why Iíd thank you to stay away.Ē
ďDonít be angry with me, Mr Banks,Ē said the vicar, laying his hand upon the otherís arm; ďI indeed wish you and yours well.Ē
ďThen keep to wishing,Ē said Joe sharply. ďIím not an owd fool yet. Think I donít know? Hereís the Missus, and Missus Glaire, and Tom Podmore, all been at you; and ĎAll raight, leave it to me,í says you. ĎIíll put it all raight.í And now youíve had your try, and you canít put it raight. Iíll marry my gal to anybody I like and she likes, in spite of all the parsons in Lincolnshire.Ē
ďDonít you takí any notice of what he says, sir, please,Ē cried Mrs Banks. ďHeís put out, and when he is, and itís about something that he knows heís wrong over Ė Ē
ďNo, he isnít,Ē roared Joe.
ďHe says anything, sir,Ē continued Mrs Banks.
ďNo, he donít,Ē roared Joe. ďHeís a saying raight, and what he says is, that he wonít be interfered wií by anyone. Heís got trouble enew ower the strike, and he wonít hev trouble ower this; so perhaps Mr Selwood íll stop away from my place till heís asked to come again.Ē
ďJoe, you ought to be ashamed of yoursen,Ē cried Mrs Banks. ďHeíll come and beg your pardon for this, sir, or Iíll know the reason why.Ē
ďNo, he weanít,Ē roared Joe. ďSo now go; and if you hadnít been such a straightforward chap ower the row again Master Richard, Iíd hev said twice as much to you.Ē
ďYes, Iíll go,Ē said the vicar quietly. ďGood day, Mrs Banks. Good day, Banks; youíll find Iím less disposed to meddle than you think, and give me credit for this some day. Come, youíll shake hands.Ē
ďDal me if I will,Ē cried Joe.
ďNonsense, man; shake hands.Ē
ďI weanít,Ē roared Joe, stuffing his hands in his pockets, and turning his back.
ďWell, Mrs Banks, you will,Ē said the vicar; and then, as he went away, he said:
ďMrs Banks, and you, Mr Banks, please recollect this: I shall forget all these words before I get home; so donít either of you think that we are bad friends, because we are not; and you, Mr Banks, you are of too sterling stuff not to feel sorry for what you have said.Ē
ďThere, it weanít do,Ē roared Joe; ďI weanít be talked ower;Ē but the vicar hardly heard his words, for he was striding thoughtfully away.
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