They parted at the gate, and the vicar went in, just as Sim Slee went by with a man dressed in black – a heavy, white-faced man, with a good deal of black whiskers, who looked as if his clothes did not fit him, and as if he was uncomfortable out of a workman’s suit, and could not find a place for his hands, with which, by the aid of a great cotton handkerchief, he kept wiping his face.
“I shouldn’t wonder if that’s the deputation,” said the vicar. “Well, I hope they’ll settle the dispute.”
Unfortunately, though the vicar’s guess was right, the deputation was not a man to further the prospects of peace.
The vicar’s visits to the Big House became fewer, for he could not but see that Richard Glaire, in spite of all that had passed, was more and more embittered against him. He was very quiet, and ceased to be insulting, but there was a malicious look in his eye, an ill-concealed air of jealousy in his glance, whenever the vicar spoke to Eve, that told of his feelings. In fact, Richard vowed that the lesson was chosen because he went to church that day, and if ever opportunity served he would be revenged.
Opportunity was serving him, for, like Mrs Glaire, he saw but too plainly what the vicar’s feelings were towards Eve – feelings that made him grind his teeth whenever they were together, and which finally brought on a fresh quarrel with his mother.
It was one morning when Mrs Glaire had been appealing to him to reopen the works.
“Not yet,” he said. “I should have done it before now if they hadn’t been such beastly cowards. I’ll give ’em a good lesson this time.”
“But you are losing heavily, Richard,” said Mrs Glaire.
“Yes,” he said, maliciously. “I like to lose heavily when I can get my money’s worth; and I’m punishing them, so I don’t care.”
“But, do you know, that if your conduct does not alter, you’ll lose something for which you will never forgive yourself?”
“What’s that?” he said, eagerly.
He caught his mother sharply by the wrist, and looked her full in the face.
“You’ve been plotting for this, mother?”
“Indeed, no, my son.”
“Do you want me to marry Eve?”
“You know I do.”
“Then why do you encourage that cursed prig of a parson here?”
“Because he has shown himself a good friend to me and mine.”
“Bah!” said Richard. “I won’t have it. He shall come no more. Look here, mother; you don’t believe that I’ve got Daisy Banks away.”
“No, Richard, I never have believed it,” said Mrs Glaire, meeting his eye, and responding without hesitation.
“Well, look here, then, I tell you what. I’m going to quiet down.”
“Dick, my own brave boy,” cried Mrs Glaire, hysterically, as she threw her arms round his neck.
“There, don’t be stupid,” he said, carelessly repulsing her, after she had kissed him passionately.
“Yes, my dear boy, yes.”
“And suppose, to settle all this rumour about Daisy Banks, I marry Eve?”
“My darling boy,” sobbed Mrs Glaire; “it is the wish of my life. You make me so happy.”
“There, don’t, mother; how can I talk to you if you keep pawing me about like that? Look here, you’re making my face all wet.”
“Yes, yes, my dear boy, it’s very foolish, and I’ll control myself.”
“There, look at them,” said Richard, in a low whisper, as he pointed out of the window, to where Eve and the vicar were walking together on the lawn. “Do you see that, mother?”
“Yes,” said Mrs Glaire, uneasily.
“Do you know he’s making up to Eve?”
He looked at her searchingly.
“I cannot help thinking that he admires her, Richard; but I am sure Eve thinks of no one but you.”
“Then curse him, he shall see me marry her,” said Richard, eagerly. “You want it to be, mother, and it shall be – soon. Eve won’t mind, and you’ll settle it all with her, and then I’m not going to have him here any more.”
“Don’t talk like that, my boy,” said Mrs Glaire; “but I do think it would be for your happiness if you were married.”
As she spoke, the question seemed to be asked her – Was it for Eve’s good? and a cold, chilly feeling of misery came over her, as she felt that she was destroying the young life of the girl who had been to her almost more than a daughter.
“That’s settled then, is it, mother?” said Richard, lightly.
“Yes, my boy, indeed yes,” said Mrs Glaire, throwing off her momentary feeling of depression, and telling herself that it was for the best, and that so good a wife should be the saving of her son. Besides, it was for this that she had been working, and now that there was to be the fruition of her hopes, she felt that she must not hang back.
Richard was already out on the lawn, going up to where the vicar and Eve were talking about flowers, and it galled the young man to see the bright happy look pass away as he approached, and not come back.
The vicar spoke pleasantly to Richard, but the replies were monosyllables, and an awkward pause was ended by the coming of Mrs Glaire, who soon after returned into the house with their visitor, while Richard led his cousin down to the bottom of the garden, and, to her surprise, asked her to sit down.
“Look here, Eve,” he said, shortly, “I’ve been talking to the old lady about our being married.”
“Our being married, Richard?” said Eve, turning pale and starting.
“Yes, our being married,” he said, sharply. “What are you starting for, you little goose? Any one would think it was something new.”
“It came upon me like a surprise,” said Eve, catching her breath, and speaking quickly. “I did not expect it.”
“Gammon!” said the young man, coarsely. “Why, you’ve been expecting it for months.”
“Indeed no, Richard,” she said, eagerly.
“Then you ought to have been,” he continued. “You know the old girl wishes it.”
“Yes, Richard,” she faltered, with her forehead becoming rugged, and her lower lip quivering, “I know that.”
“Well, we’ve talked it over, and she thinks like I do, that if we’re married it will settle all this rubbish about Daisy Banks.”
“Oh, Richard! Richard!” she cried, pitifully; and she rose to run away, but he caught her wrist, and forced her back into the seat.
“Don’t be a little stupid,” he said. “Why, that was only a silly flirtation, and I don’t care a sou for the girl.”
“Let me go in, Richard, please,” she sobbed.
“Not till I’ve done,” he said, with a half laugh. “Look here, Eve, dear; you are not such a little silly as to think that I know where Daisy is, or that I took her away?”
“Tell me, on your word of honour, Richard, that you don’t know where she is,” said Eve, simply, “and I shall believe you.”
“’Pon my word of honour, I don’t know where she is; and I didn’t take her away; and I didn’t send her away; and I don’t care a fig where she is, and if I never see her again.”
“There now, are you satisfied?” he cried.
“I believe you, Richard,” she said, ceasing to resist, but sitting back in the garden seat, and looking dreamily away.
“That’s all right, then,” he said. “Well, then, now we can talk about when the wedding is to be.”
“No, no, Richard; not now, not now,” she cried piteously, as she strove once more to get away.
“But we will, though,” said the young man, flushing at her resistance. “It’s all been settled long enough that you were to be my wife, so let’s have none of your ‘not nows,’ miss.”
“Let me go into the house, please, Richard,” said Eve, coldly.
“Yes, my dear, when we’ve settled the wedding-day,” said Richard.
“We cannot settle that now, Richard,” said Eve.
“And why not, pray?”
“Because,” she said, with her heart beating and her voice faltering, “I cannot forget for certainly a year or two, that which has taken place during the past few weeks.”
“What?” he shouted.
“I think you understand me, Richard,” said the girl, quietly, and making no effort now to free the wrist he so tightly held.
“Yes,” he said, flushing with passion, “I do understand. You wish to throw me over because you have been angling for and catching that cursed intriguing parson.”
“Richard!” cried Eve, turning red and stamping her foot upon the ground, “I will not stop and listen to such language.”
“And in a passion, too,” he said, mockingly, “because her favourite is spoken of; but it won’t do, madam. You’re promised to me, and I wish the wedding to take place as soon as it can. Don’t you think I’m going to let that beggarly meddling priest come between us.”
“This is as cowardly as it is unjustifiable, Richard,” exclaimed Eve.
“Is it?” he retorted. “Don’t you think I’m blind. I’ve seen your soft looks at him; and, curse him, if he comes here again I’ll strangle him – an insidious crafty Jesuit. But don’t you think me such a child as to believe I’m to be treated like this.”
“You are hurting my wrist, Richard,” said Eve, coldly, and speaking firmly now, for as her cousin began to bluster she grew calm.
“Hang your wrist,” he said angrily; “my hands are not so tender as the parson’s, I suppose.”
“Richard,” she said, with her voice trembling as she spoke, “Mr Selwood has always been to me as a gentlemanly, very kind friend, and to you the best of friends.”
“Damn his friendship,” said Richard, looking ugly in his wrath. “He’s my enemy, and always has been, and he’s trying to win you away. Ah! I know what it means: I’m to be thrown over, and you take up with him.”
“Richard, this is as coarse as it is cruel and unjust,” cried Eve, now regularly roused; “and I will not submit to it. Mr Selwood is nothing to me but a friend.”
“Indeed!” said Richard, with a sneer; “then pray what may this great change mean?”
“Mean!” she cried, scornfully; and Richard’s eyes lit up, for he thought he had never seen her look so attractive before, “it means that you have cruelly outraged my feelings by your wickedness and deceit.”
“My deceit!” he cried.
“Yes,” she said, with contempt: “have you forgotten what I saw that evening in Ranby Wood? Have you forgotten the past year’s neglect and contemptuous indifference to all my affection? Shame on you, Richard; shame! You ask me to be your wife, and tell me I am promised to you. I am; but you have broken the ties, and if I could forgive you, it must be years hence, when I have learned the truth of your sorrow for what is past.”
Before he could recover from his surprise, she had snatched away her hand to run, frightened and sobbing, to her own room, where she threw herself upon her knees, to weep and bewail her wickedness, for she was beginning to feel that there was some truth in her cousin’s words, and that she had committed a sin, for whose enormity there could be no pardon.
“What is to become of me?” she wailed in her misery, as she went to her dressing-table, and started back in affright at her hot, flushed face. “Oh, is it true that I have behaved as he says, and can Mr Selwood have seen my boldness?”
She sank into a chair to cover her face with her hands, but only to start and utter a faint cry as she felt them drawn away, and saw that Mrs Glaire was looking eagerly down upon her flushed and fevered cheeks.
Many of Richard Glaire’s workmen belonged to one of the regular trades’ unions, from which they received counsel and assistance, and these men held Sim Slee’s movements in the most utter contempt. For his part, the above-named worthy returned the contempt, looking down upon trades’ unions as not being of sufficiently advanced notions for him, and praising up his own brotherhood to all who were weak enough to listen.
The brotherhood, as he called it, was entirely his own invention, as far as Dumford was concerned; but it was really based upon an absurd institution that had place in London, and maintained a weak and sickly growth, being wanting in all the good qualities of the regular unions, and embracing every one of their faults.
But it pleased Sim Slee, who went upon the motto Aut Caesar aut nullus. In his own brotherhood he was chief, chairman, father, or patriarch. In the regular trades’ union he would have been only Sim Slee, an individual largely held in contempt.
It was a great night at the Bull and Cucumber, for the brotherhood was to hold a secret meeting on the subject of the lock-out. Robinson, the landlord, took a great interest in the proceedings, and wanted to see all; but Sim Slee and one or two more leaders of the secret society condescended only to allow the inquiring mind to see to the arrangement of the tables and forms; and then, as the brotherhood assembled in secret conclave, they were ushered in with great ceremony, and every man seemed to be impressed with the solemnity.
In fact, the room was lit up for the occasion, curtains were tacked over the two windows, and flags were arranged on the walls, each flag bearing a device in tinsel. On one were the words: —
“The Horny Hand is the Nation’s Need.”
On another: —
“Labour Conquers All.”
While over the president’s chair, or, as Sim had christened himself, “the Grand Brother,” was a roughly-drawn representation of the familiar skull and cross bones.
On the table were two stage swords, drawn from their sheaths, and laid crosswise; and at the door were a couple of sentries, over the said door being tacked the motto – “Free and Equal.”
It was a great night, and every man of Sim’s partisans looked solemn, but mugs of ale and long clay pipes were not excluded from the two tables, at which sat about a dozen men, as many more standing where they could find room.
There was a ridiculous aspect to the affair, but mingled with it was a grim look of determination, and many a stern face there wore an aspect that Richard Glaire would not have cared to see, even though he might have scoffed at the meeting, and called the men fools and idiots.
Sim Slee was the great gun of the evening, and he wore his plaid vest very much open, to display a clean shirt, at the edge of whose front fold it was observable that Mrs Slee’s “scithers” had been at work, to take off what she termed the “dwiny” ends; but the buttons refused to remain on terms of intimacy with their holes, with the consequence that the front gaped widely.
But Sim Slee was too important and excited to notice this, for he was busy over a book before him, and papers, and constantly in communication with the tall, heavy-looking man in black, Mr Silas Barker, the deputation from London, who was to help the brotherhood through their difficulties, and who had promised to coach and assist Sim in the great speech he was to make that evening.
At last all seemed about settled, and Sim rose to tap the table with a small wooden hammer, when he sat down again suddenly, for three loud knocks were heard at the door.
“Who knocks without?” said the first sentry.
“Brotherly love,” said a voice without.
“What does it bring?” said the second sentry.
“Ruin and death,” was the reply.
“Enter ruin and death,” said the first sentry; the door was opened, two men entered, Sim Slee looked solemn, and everybody seemed very much impressed.
The door being closed, and silence procured, Sim Slee rose, and there was a great deal of tapping on the table, to which Sim bowed, frowned, and thrust one hand into his vest. At least he meant so to do, but it went inside the gaping shirt.
“Brother paytriots and sitterzens,” he commenced, “I think as we are all assembled here.”
Just then a knocking was heard without.
“Ah, theer’s some un else,” said Sim, and he sat down, while the sentries repeated their formula; the voices outside replied in due order, with the requisite pass-words, and three more entered to swell the little crowd. Sim then rose again, more important than ever.
“Now, then, brother sitterzens,” he began, “as I believe all the paytriots are here, we will now proceed to business.”
“Howd hard a minnit,” said Big Harry, who occupied a central position, “I want another gill o’ ale.”
Sim hammered the table with his little mallet, and exclaimed angrily,
“Yow can’t hev it now: don’t you see the brotherhood is setting?”
“’Arf on ’em’s a stanning,” said Big Harry, with a grin; “and if you’re goin’ to hev all this dry wuck, I must wet it.”
“Hee-ar! hee-ar!” shouted two or three voices.
“But don’t yow see as the brotherhood is a setting?” cried Sim. “The door is closed now, and we’re in secret conclave.”
“I don’t keer nowt about no secret concave,” growled Big Harry. “A mun hev another gill o’ ale.”
“Let’s hev some more drink, then,” cried several voices.
“Yow can’t, I tell you,” cried Sim. “We’re a setting wi’ closed doors.”
“Open ’em, then,” said Harry, “or I will. Here, summun, a gill o’ ale.”
“And I wants some ’bacco,” said another voice.
Sim hammered away at the board for a bit, when Harry exclaimed, leaning his great arms on the table, and grinning,
“Say, lads, I niver see owd Simmy handle a harmmer like that up at th’ wucks.”
“Silence!” roared Sim, in the midst of a hearty laugh from the men. “Fellow paytriots and sitterzens, as Grand Brother of this order, I say – eh, what?”
Sim leaned down to the deputation, who had pulled his sleeve.
“Better let them have in the drink,” whispered Mr Barker, “it makes ’em more trackable.”
“All raight,” said Sim, in an ill-used tone. “Here, send out for what’s wanted, you two at the door, for no one isn’t to enter.”
There was a bustle at the door after this, and various orders were shouted downstairs, and eagerly responded to by the landlord, who wanted to bring all in, but was stayed by the sentries.
“Here, I say,” said Sim to Mr Barker, “I shall lose all that speech ’fore I begin, if I have to wait much longer.”
“I’ll prompt you,” said Barker.
“Eh?” said Sim.
“I’ll prompt you – help you.”
“Oh, all right; thankey. Kiver up them motters till the door’s shoot close,” he continued aloud; but as the door was on the point of being closed, Sim’s order was not obeyed; and the ale and tobacco being handed to those who demanded them, Sim once more rose to begin, but only for a fresh clamour to arise from another party, whose “moogs” were empty, and while these were being filled, the swords were covered with a coat, and the mottoes turned to the wall.
At length all were satisfied, and Sim Slee rose for the speech of the evening.
“Brother workmen, mates, paytriots, and fellow sitterzens o’ Doomford – ”
“He – ar, he – ar!”
“We are met here to-night, honoured by the presence o’ Brother Silas Barker.”
“He – ar, he – ar,” and a “hooray.”
“And Brother Silas Barker is delicate, from the payrent lodge o’ Brothers in London.”
“Drink along o’ me, mate,” growled Big Harry, holding out his mug to the deputation, “that’ll keep you from being delicate.”
“You, Harry,” cried Sim, “don’t interrupt. You ain’t one of our most trustworthy brothers. You’ve fote on the wrong side afore now.”
“I’ll faight yow for a gill o’ ale any day, Simmy Slee,” said Harry, winking solemnly across the table at a mate.
“Don’t you int’rupt the meeting wi’ ignorant remarks,” said Sim, taking no notice of the challenge. “I said delicate fro’ the – fro’ the – ”
“Payrent society,” said Mr Barker, prompting.
“All raight, I know,” said Sim, pettishly; “fro’ payrent society. Came down to Doomford to tell us suff’ring wuckmen as the eyes o’ the Bri’sh wucking man i’ London and all the world is upon us.”
There was vociferous cheering at this, during which Big Harry confidentially informed his mate across the table, that he’d “Tak’ Sim Slee wi’ one hand tied behind him, and t’other chap, too, one down and t’other come on.”
“We’re met together here, mates – met together,” continued Sim, whose flow of oratory had not yet begun, but who was gradually warming – “met together, mates, to bring things to a big crisis, and let the thunder of the power of the sons of labour – ”
“Here, let’s hev in some more ale,” shouted some one at the other end.
“Why can’t yow be quiet? interrupting that how,” cried Sim, remonstrating. “Yow can’t hev no more ale till the debate’s ended. Do you want to hev the mummy – mummy – ”
“Course we don’t,” said Big Harry, aloud. “But who’s him?”
“I say,” cried Sim, angrily, “do you want to have the mummy – mummy” – then angrily to Barker, “Why don’t you tell a fellow?”
“Myrmidons – myrmidons of” – whispered Barker.
“All raight, all raight,” said Sim, impatiently, “I know – mummy – mummidons of a brutal holygarchy down upon us?”
“And hale us off,” whispered Barker, for Sim had evidently forgotten his speech.
“Yes, yes, I know,” whispered Sim. Then aloud, “And hale us off – ”
“Hear, hear!” roared Harry, hammering his empty mug on the table; “raight, lad, raight. Here, sum un, tell the mummy to bring the ale.”
“Sit down, Harry,” shouted Sim. “I say hale us off to fresh chains and slavery. I say, mates,” cried Sim, now growing excited, and waving his hands about, “as the holygartchy of a brutal mummidom.”
“No, no,” whispered Barker, behind his hand, “Myrmidons of a brutal oligarchy.”
“Yes, yes, I know,” cried Sim; “but they don’t. It’s all the same to them. Yes, mates, a brutal mummidom, and a holygartchy, and as I was a saying, our fellow sittyzens in London have been a wackin o’ ’em oop. They’ve gone arm in arm, in their horny-handed strength, like brave sons of tyle, with gentlemen playing their bands o’ music.”