The clerk of the two made his report, and waited on Richard Glaire, who, being swathed and bandaged, and very sore, told him to go to the devil.
Then the constable asked him if he should get warrants out against anybody – this at Richard Glaire’s bedside.
“Yes, if you like,” growled Richard.
“Will you give me their names, sir?” said the man.
“How can I give you their names, when I don’t know them? It was the whole pack.”
“But what am I to do, sir?” said the man, scratching his head.
“Get out!” said Richard. “Wait till I’m better.”
The constable saw the vicar downstairs, and tried him for names, but with no better success; and the representative of law and order in the little out-of-the-way town went back in no wise dissatisfied, for any action against so strong a body of men would have been exceedingly unpleasant, and not at all conducive to his future comfort amongst those whom he looked upon as neighbours.
The search, too, for Daisy Banks ceased after the attack on Richard, for on all sides the police were met with the same mocking question, “Hev you asked Dick Glaire where she is?”
In fact, it was now an acknowledged fact that Richard Glaire was answerable for her whereabouts, and no amount of denial had the slightest effect on the people of Dumford.
Jacky Budd shook his head, looked red-nosed, and said nothing, but implied a great deal. In fact, Jacky was in great request, and was asked to take a good deal to drink in the shape of gills of ale by gossips wishful to know how matters went on at the Big House, where Richard Glaire was at first a prisoner perforce, and later on from choice.
Everybody said that Jacky Budd was as great a “shack” as Sim Slee; but, like that worthy, it was his harvest time, and he was of great importance in the place.
Not that he had much to report, but he dressed up his meagre bits of knowledge, and hinted that the vicar was forbidden the house.
“Young Dicky said he’d shute him if he come on the premises again.”
“Why?” said some one.
“Why,” replied Jacky, with a wince, “because he’s jealous of him; thinks he wants the owd woman.”
This report reached the ears of Miss Purley, who immediately put on her bonnet, and went down the street to Miss Primgeon, taking tea with that lady, whom she kissed affectionately for the first time since the vicar’s arrival; and Miss Primgeon called her “dear,” and kissed her also affectionately, confidences growing to such an extent that Miss Primgeon brought out and showed a pair of braces she had been embroidering for somebody; and, in return, Miss Purley displayed the crown of a smoking-cap in purple velvet, with “a dicky bird” in white beads, sitting on a crimson floss silk twig; and then both ladies called each other “dear” again, and shed tears on the top of the smoking-cap and over the braces, re-embroidering them as it were with pearls, while they talked of the terribly fragile nature of human hopes, the weakness of man, and the artfulness of elderly widows.
The quantity of tea changed by a process of natural chemistry into tears that night was something astounding before the ladies separated.
Sim Slee was in high feather, too, and reached home several nights in a glorified state, spending some little time before retiring to rest in performing strange acts in his stocking feet.
Mrs Slee always waited up for him on her return from the vicarage, and generally gave him what he termed “a tongue thrashing for nowt.”
“Coming home in such a state!” she’d exclaim. “Wher ha’ ye been goozening to now? What would the parson say?”
“I don’t care nowt for parson or anybody, and what do you mean with your state. I’ve ony been as far as the corner.”
At such times Sim would pull off his boots with some difficulty, for he had the peculiarity of being perfectly sober as far as his waist, while his legs would be in such a disgraceful state of intoxication that he did not reach home without their throwing the upper part of his body several times on the ground. The boots being removed, Sim would sit before the fire talking to himself, and working his toes about in his coarse knitted stockings.
“Why can’t you put on your slippers, Sim?” Mrs Sim would say.
“I wean’t,” he’d answer. “I’m not going to be ordered about by a woman. I’m a man.”
“You’re a nasty drunken pig,” exclaimed Mrs Slee.
“What!” he would say indignantly, “drunk! Heven’t had a glass. I never have a bit o’ peace o’ my life. Tant-tant-tant all day long, driving me away from home. Ugh, you know nowt but nastiness. You always weer nasty. Go to bed.”
Then Mrs Slee would tighten up her lips, look as if she would like to box her lord’s ears, and end sometimes by doing it, Sim appealing to “Moother” for mercy till she went upstairs, when Sim would get up from the floor, where he had thrown himself, and rub his ears till they ceased tingling, and end by winking to himself and performing the strange movements alluded to in the previous chapter.
At these times, in spite of the very liberal quantity of ale indulged in at his own and other people’s expense, Sim’s head would be perfectly clear; and knowing, from old experience, that as soon as he had lain down and gone fast asleep, Mrs Slee would get up and empty his pockets, he would proceed to conceal his money. Half-crowns were placed up the chimney, a half-sovereign on the ledge over a door, shillings in corners not likely to be swept, under chimney ornaments, and on the tops of picture frames, his great hoard at this time being under an old scrubby geranium, growing – or rather existing, for it had long ceased to grow – in a pot in the window – a favourite plant of Mrs Slee’s, as she had kept it through the winter for years. So matted together were its roots, that if the stem were taken in the hand the whole of the earth came out quite clean in its basket of fibres, and beneath this, in the bottom of the pot, Sim had placed five golden sovereigns, nicely arranged round the hole, on the night after the riot, the geranium being replaced, and all looking as before.
The next morning Mrs Slee was up a long while the first, as usual, and as was her custom when Sim had been bad over night, she made a tour of the place, finding and gleaning up coins of various value, wondering the while where Sim obtained the money that she transferred to her ample pocket, hidden by drapery and folds at a great depth from the surface.
Just as she was finishing, she caught sight of the pot, and saw that it had been removed over night, for the water that had drained into the earthen saucer had, when the pot was moved, dripped on the floor.
A grim smile overspread her countenance as she lifted pot and saucer together, and looked beneath, to see nothing. Even the pot was lifted from the saucer, and with like result, when, replacing it, the wet pot slipped, and Mrs Slee caught at the stem of the plant, with the result that she held geranium in one hand, pot in the other, and saw the five glittering gold pieces at the bottom.
She clutched them eagerly, and hid them away, replaced the pot, and then stood thinking.
“Where does he get his money?” she said, looking grimly. “I’ll speak to parson.”
Mrs Slee had been gone a couple of hours before Sim descended to partake of the breakfast placed ready for him, all the while battling with his infirmity.
It was one that always troubled him after a night’s excess, for, though Sim’s head was clear enough over night when he hid his money, the over-excited brain refused to act next morning, and a thick veil was drawn between the eve and the morrow. There was always the dim recollection of having hidden his money, but that was all; and in this case as in others, pot, door-ledge, pictures, all had passed away from his memory, and there was a blank in answer to his oft-repeated question – “Where did I put that money?” It was a blessing in disguise for Sim, though he did not know it. But for this, and his wife’s tenacious grasp of all she found, none of which went directly back to Sim, he would have been without a roof to cover his head years before, and many a pound that he accredited himself with having spent in gills of ale and standing treat had really gone into his wife’s pocket.
“Well, this wean’t do,” he said at last; “money’s gone, and I shall get no more out o’ Dicky Glaire.”
“He’ll be pretty sick o’ his lock-out by this time,” said Sim, as he laced his boots. “That was a fine plan wi’ them bands. It’s kep the strike on, and it’s easier than wucking your fingers to the bone. Wonder how long they’ll keep it oop. Well, here goes.”
He went out, and had not gone far before he met the vicar, who stopped to speak to him; but Sim, to use his own words, “coot him dead,” making his way right off through the town, where he stopped for a bit of bombastic “blather,” as his associates called it, on the success of their attack on Richard.
“He had the finest leathering he ever had in his life,” said Sim.
“And what good’s it going to do?” said one of the men, in a grumbling tone.
“What good? Open thee eyes, mun, and see for your sen. Good? It’ll bring him to his senses, and he’ll come round and ask on his knees for us to go to work, and then we’ll mak’ our own terms.”
“And if he wean’t come round,” said another, “what then?”
Sim stooped to the man’s ear, and whispered something.
“Eh, mun, but we wouldn’t do that, would we?”
“Howd thee tongue,” said Sim. “Wait and see. I’ve got a friend coming down to-day as can settle all these things. I’m going to meet him at the station, and he’s going to stay here till things is settled.”
“And who’s going to keep un?” said another man. “I can’t keep mysen.”
“All on you, o’ course,” said Sim. “You keep a good heart, lad, and all will be as raight as raight.”
“But that would be coming it strange and strong, man,” said the first speaker.
“Strong diseases want strong doses, lad,” said Sim, winking. “But don’t you wherrit yoursen. There’s them in the Brotherhood as is looking after your interests, and we shall all come off wi’ flying colours.”
“I dessay we shall,” said the man, in a discontented tone; “but I want to hear them theer furnaces a-roaring agen, and the firemen’s shovels rattling in the coals, and the brass a-chinking in the box o’ pay nights. Dal the strike, I say.”
“But it aint a strike now,” said Sim, didactically. “Don’t you see, it’s a lock-out.”
“It’s all the same,” said another, sulkily. “Theer aint no brass to tak’, and the missus and the bairns is pined to dead wi’ hunger, and starved to dead for want of a bit o’ fire.”
“But you get the society money,” said Sim, indignantly.
“Yah! what’s that to a man in full fettle! Just pays for bread, and you can’t buy a decent weigh o’ meat for fear o’ waring it all at once.”
“Yes,” said another; “it’s like club money when a man’s sick and can’t wuck.”
“Raight enew, then,” said another; “bud a man wants wuck as well as something to yeat. It’s strange, coarse weather for us as far as yeating and drinking goes. Why, my bairns heven’t hed a bit of bootther sin’ the strike begun.”
“A man need be as tiff as a band to stand it all,” said another.
“Ay, tough as a bont whong,” said another.
“Well, I shall be a very poor creature,” said another, “if this here’s going to last. I’m ’bout pined to dead now.”
“I shall flit and get wuck somewheer else.”
“Iver get berry pie for dinner now, Sim Slee?” said another, alluding to a favourite luxury of Sim’s, who was accredited with having stolen a neighbour’s gooseberries to make the famous berry pie.
Here there was a bit of a laugh, a good sign, for the men seemed ripe for mischief.
“His missus gives him tongue for breakfast ivery morning,” said another.
“Sim, come home wi’ uz and hev a bit o’ custard,” said another, and there was a general laugh from the gaunt-looking men.
“Nice bit o’ stuffed chine at my place, Sim,” said another; and one after the other, men, whose fare had been bread and potatoes for many days, gave their great orator invitations to partake of the popular delicacies of the place.
“Tellee what,” said big Harry, coming up, “I mean to have somebody’s thack off if this game arn’t soon over.”
“I hadn’t going to say much,” said Sim, who had been standing with folded arms, looking contemptuously at the crowd around; “but, I say this – if I was to go on as you do I’d hate mysen. Wheer’s your paytriotism? Wheer’s your risings against tyranny? Wheer’s your British wucking man rising like a lion in his might?”
“Yes,” said a shrill female voice from a window, “but your British lion wucking man wants his dinner, don’t he?”
There was a roar of laughter at this. “Yah!” said Sim, contemptuously. “Why do I wuck mysen to death for you all, to be badgered for it?”
“I don’t know,” said the same voice from the window, sounding more shrill than ever, “but I know this, Sim Slee, that my bairns is all pining, while their father’s doing nowt but walk about wi’ his hands in his pockets, and if things don’t soon change, some o’ them as got up this strike ’ll be put oonder the poomp, and if the men don’t do it uz women will.”
Sim folded his arms, looked round contemptuously as there rose another shout of laughter, and stalked off to walk to the station and meet the deputation, as he called the man he had invited to come down.
There was, indeed, a calm, but to the vicar it seemed a very deceitful one, and he spent many an uneasy hour in thinking whether it was likely when the men grew excited they would attack the house; but he always came back to the conclusion that Richard would be safe there, so long as he did nothing more to exasperate his workmen.
During visits to the house, Mrs Glaire, with tears, avowed that she could do nothing, only hope, for Richard was stubbornness itself, and when for a moment he thought of inducing Eve to play the part of intercessor, the poor girl’s wan and piteous look pained him so that he could not ask her, and it was brought thoroughly home to him that she must love Richard very dearly, though now they were cruelly estranged; and as he sat and gazed upon her, and grew more and more intimate, learning the sweet truth of her nature, and thorough self-denial, he felt half maddened to think she should be thrown away upon such a man, and told himself that he would gladly have seen her wedded to any one to escape so terrible a union.
The past and Daisy Banks were quite ignored. She was a trouble that had come upon the mother and cousin’s life, but she was removed apparently from their path, unless some of the letters Richard so regularly wrote were for her.
Murray felt his position in connection with the family acutely. The rumour spread by Budd as to his being forbidden the house was false, but scarcely a day passed when Richard came down, after indulging himself a week in bed to cure ills from which he really did not suffer, but for which stout Mr Purley doctored him stolidly, and made his sister enter them in the day-book when he got home – scarcely a day passed without the vicar having to submit to some insult.
He would have stayed away, but for Mrs Glaire, who looked to him for her support in this time of trouble; and he would have avoided Eve’s society, dear to him as it was, but for the sweet ingenuous looks with which she greeted him, and laid bare her innocent, truthful heart to his gaze. To her he was dear Mr Selwood, whose hands she had kissed when he promised her to leave no stone unturned to bring Richard to the path of duty; and her belief in him was, that with his strong mind and knowledge of the world, he would do this, that Richard would be quite reformed; and make her, to her aunt’s lasting happiness, a good and loving husband.
And she – does she love him? the vicar often asked himself, and he was compelled to answer, “No!”
For there was no deep passion, only the sorrow for Richard’s frailties, the disappointment and bitterness of the young girl, who finds the man to whom she is betrothed is a scoundrel, and fights with self to keep from believing it. No, Eve did not love him with all her heart, for a true love passion had never yet gained an entrance. Richard was to be her husband; that was settled; and some day, when he showed his sorrow and repented, she would forgive him, and become his wife.
And had she the least idea that another loved her?
Not the least. Mr Selwood was her and her aunt’s dear friend, working with them for the same end, and some day in the future, when Richard was forgiven, he would make them man and wife.
This was the state of Eve’s heart at the present period of the story; but a change was coming – a look, a word, or a touch, something had thrilled one of the fibres of Eve’s being, directly after the saving of Richard from his men; and, though innocent of its meaning, the first germ of a thought which she came afterwards to term “disloyal to Richard,” was planted in her heart, and began to grow.
The vicar was at home, busy over his garden. It had been a busy morning, and Mrs Slee had informed him that she was “dead bet.” And she must have been tired, for fully a hundred people had been for relief that morning, the munificent sums the young vicar devoted to the workmen’s families having been of late supplemented by money furnished by Mrs Glaire.
“Richard must never know,” she said; “but I feel bound to do something towards alleviating the distress caused by his obstinacy.”
The result was that soup and bread were supplied, and no one came to the vicarage without getting some assistance.
“Thee’ll give all thee’s got away, and leave nowt for thee sen,” said Mrs Slee to him crossly, when the distribution was over, and the people gone.
“You’re tired,” said the vicar, smiling.
“Nay, I’m not,” said Mrs Slee; “but it makes me mad.”
“What makes you mad?”
“Why, to see you finding money, and trouble, and me helping you, to keep the poor silly women and bairns from pining, when my maister’s doing all he can to keep the men from going to work. It makes me hate my sen.”
“Well, but we can’t help it, Mrs Slee.”
“No,” she retorted; “but half of them don’t deserve it.”
“If we waited to be charitable till only those who deserved it came, Mrs Slee, you need not make so much soup, and shins of beef would not be so scarce.”
“You’re raight theer, sir,” said Mrs Slee, speaking a little less vinegary to the man whom, in spite of her short, snappish ways, she almost worshipped, and would do anything to serve. In fact, Mrs Slee had, since her instalment as housekeeper to the vicar, grown less angular and pasty of face, even approaching to her old comeliness. Not from idleness, though, for the neat maidservant, who was her assistant, had almost a sinecure for place, Mrs Slee insisting on making bread, cooking, “rembling” and “siding,” as she termed it; in short, she monopolised nearly the whole of the work, and the place was a model of neatness and perfection.
“One’s obliged to do the best one can, Mrs Slee, and be content to leave the working and result to wiser hands.”
“Oh yes, sir, that’s raight enew; but it makes me mad for all them big owry fellows to be idle ’bout a quarrel, and their missusses looking all poor creatures, and their bairns as wankle as wankle for want o’ better food, when there ought to be bacon and pig cheer and ony mander o’ thing they want. It’s time some on ’em give ower, instead o’ leaving their wives scratting about to keep body and soul together.”
“I keep hoping matters will mend,” said the vicar.
“Here’s some un else to wherrit you,” said Mrs Slee, hearing the gate bang. “Why, I never saw such a sight in my life. It’s Joe Banks.”
The vicar was surprised, and rose as Joe Banks, looking years older, was shown in by Mrs Slee, who counteracted her longing to know his business by hurriedly going out, making her way into the kitchen, and attacking a pancheon of dough, which had been put to the fire to rise, and was now ready to pour over the side like a dough eruption, and run down and solidify as bread.
This was, however, by the help of flour, soon reduced to normal proportions, banged into tins, and thrust into the oven, Mrs Slee performing each part of her task as if she were very angry with the compound, and desirous of punishing it for being so good. But it was a way she had, induced by the behaviour of her master, Simeon Slee.
Meanwhile, Joe Banks, in spite of the friendly welcome he had received, refused to sit down, but stood leaning on the stick he carried.
“Nay, parson, nay,” he said, “I haven’t come to stop. I just thowt I’d act like a man now, and say I arks your pardon, sir, hearty like, and wi’ all my heart.”
“My pardon, for what, Banks?”
“For acting like a fond, foolish owd father the other day, and giving ye the rough side of my tongue, when you came to gi’ me good advice.”
“Oh, don’t talk about that, man, pray.”
“Yes, I thowt I would, because I ought to ha’ knowd better, and not been such a blind owd owl. But there you know, parson – and I suppose you’re used to it – them as you goes to advise always coots oop rough. So I thowt, as I said, I’d arsk your pardon.”