“And colours flying – ”
“Hear, hear!” and a great deal of mug rattling on the table.
“And made Pall Mall – Pall Mall – Pall Mall – ”
“Go on,” whispered Barker, “that’s it – echo to their warlike tread.”
“Echo to the warlike tread o’ their heavy boots,” cried Sim, banging his hand down upon the table.
“Till the bloated holygarchs a sitting in theer bloated palluses abloating theer sens.”
“Brayvo, lad,” shouted Big Harry; “that’s faine.”
“Set down and shouthered wi’ fear,” continued Sim; “as they – as they – do be a bit sharper,” he whispered to Barker.
“Saw the nation rising in its might,” whispered the prompter.
“Saw the nation rising up wi’ all its might and main,” cried Sim. Then to Barker, “Shall I put it into ’em now?”
“Yes, yes; they’re ripe enough,” was the answer.
“And now, mates,” continued Sim, “it’s time as we rose up in our might, and showed him as is starving our wives and bairns what we can do when we’re trampled down, and that like the wums as is tread on, we can turn and sting the heel o’ the oppressors.”
“Good, good! Go on,” said the deputation, rubbing its hands.
“Are we to see a maulkin like Dickey Glaire, because he is an employer, always getting fat on the sweat of a pore man’s brow?”
“Go on! go on! Capital!” whispered Barker. “Fine himage.”
“What’s a himage?” said Sim, stopped in his flow.
“All right, go on, man,” whispered Barker; “I only said fine himage.”
“As my friend and brother the deppitation says,” continued Sim, “Dicky Glaire’s a fine image to sit on all us like an old man o’ the mountains.”
“No, no, I didn’t,” whispered Barker.
“You did,” whispered Sim. “I heerd you.”
“Go on,” whispered back Barker; “the time has come – go on; beautiful.”
“And the time has come to go on beautiful,” said Sim, waving his arms.
“No, no,” whispered Barker.
“I wish yow’d howd thee tongue altogether,” whispered Sim. “You do nowt but put me out.”
“Go on, brayvo!” cried the men.
“Now, don’t you interrupt me no more,” whispered Sim, in an aggrieved tone; “that aint a bit like as you writ it down, and I shall say it my own way-er. And, mates,” he continued aloud, “the time has come when we’ve got to tak’ our heads from under the despot’s heels, when we’ve got to show ’em ’ow they depends upon the sons of tyle; and teach ’em as all men’s ekal, made o’ the same flesh and blood, eddication or no eddication; and if Dickey Glaire won’t gi’e uz a fair day’s wuck for a fair day’s pay.”
“No, no, other way on,” whispered the deputation.
“You let me alone; I’m getting on better wi’out you,” whispered Sim. Then aloud, “They’ll hev’ to change places wi’ us, and see how they like it then. Now, who’s that?” cried Sim, as a loud knocking was heard. “A man can’t get a word in edgeways.”
“Who knocks wi’out?” cried the first sentry.
“Open the door,” said a loud voice.
“Who knocks wi’out?” said the sentry again.
“Open the door, fool!” said the rough voice again.
“Give the pass-word,” said the sentry.
“Open the door before I kick it down,” cried the voice.
“Look out, lads,” cried Sim, excitedly, as he left the chair.
There was a rush, and the flags were hurriedly pulled down and folded up, while the swords were placed under the table.
“Open this door,” cried the same loud voice, and a heavy fist was applied to the panel.
“You can’t come in, I tell you,” cried one of the sentries angrily. “This room’s private.”
“You’d better tell them to open the door,” said the deputation. “They can’t touch you; we’re within the law. It’s a society meeting. Take your seat.”
“Open the door, then,” said Sim, reluctantly resuming his place, when, as the door was thrown back, in came Joe Banks, closely followed by Tom Podmore.
“Hooray, lads!” cried Sim, enthusiastically. “I always said as he would. It’s Joe Banks come to join us at last, along wi’ Tom Podmore.”
“Eve, my child,” said Mrs Glaire, “what is it? Tell me what this means.”
“Oh, aunt, aunt,” the poor girl sobbed. “Richard – Richard.”
“Yes, yes,” said Mrs Glaire, drawing her to her breast, and laying her cool soft hands upon the burning brow; “tell me, darling. You have no secrets from me.”
“I will – directly – aunt,” sobbed Eve; and then, in a burst of passionate grief, “He has been begging me to be his wife.”
“And is that so very dreadful, my child?” said Mrs Glaire.
“And when I told him it could not be perhaps for years – not till I could freely forgive him – he accused me, so dreadfully.”
“Indeed, child! what did he say?”
“Oh, I could not, cannot tell you,” sobbed Eve.
“Yes, yes, my poor little frightened bird,” said Mrs Glaire, caressing her, “you can tell me all.”
“I will, aunt,” said the girl, starting up, looking flushed and eager, as she hastily dried her eyes, and speaking now indignantly; “he accused me, aunt, of encouraging Mr Selwood.”
“And have you, Eve?”
“Oh, aunt dear, never, never.” This with a wondering, almost angry, look.
“And has Mr Selwood ever made any advances to you, my dear?” said Mrs Glaire, watching curiously the bright blushing face before her.
“Never, aunt dear, never. He has always been so kind and gentlemanly. Never by word or by look, aunt.”
“No, child, he would not,” said Mrs Glaire, slowly; “he is a gentleman whom we can trust and love.”
“Yes, child, as a very dear friend. But about Richard, Eve. He was very hot and passionate?”
“Yes, aunt. Most cruel to me.”
“And you told him you could not forgive him for his cruel neglect and trifling with – with that poor girl?”
“Yes, aunt,” said Eve, struggling hard to keep up her firmness; “but not quite all you say. I did not tell him I would not forgive him.”
“What then, my child?”
“That I could not forgive him yet, not till I saw that he was truly sorry for the past.”
“You told him this, Eve?”
“Yes, aunt dear. Was it wrong?”
“Wrong, my child,” said Mrs Glaire, embracing her, as the tears started to her eyes.
“No; it was most maidenly and true. But, Eve, my child, some day you may be a mother – some day you may have a son, over whose welfare your heart will yearn, and for whom you would be ready to do anything – even to committing a crime to save him from a downward course.”
“Aunt!” cried the girl, looking up at her wonderingly, for she was speaking now in eager excited tones.
“Yes, child; ready to screen him, forgive him, bear the penalty of his sins, anything to save him from pain, suffering, or the retribution he has been calling down upon his head.”
“Oh, aunt,” cried the girl, in awe-stricken tones, “is it like this to be a mother?”
“No, no, my child: all sons are not like this. But it is a mother’s agony to feel that if her boy turns from the straightforward course, she may herself be perhaps to blame; that by indulgent weakness, by giving up the reins of government too soon, she may have caused him to go astray; and – Eve – Eve – my darling, this is my fate, and it is you alone who can save my boy.”
“Yes, child. He is my boy, my very own, and I have been weak, and let the weeds grow up in him, to the choking of the good qualities he possesses. I have been too proud of him, too glad to see my son taking his position as a gentleman, and a man of the world. It was my proud desire to see him the leading man here at the works – the great man of the town; and my pride has brought its punishment – has ruined my boy, so that he needs all I can do to save him.”
“Aunt – dear aunt – pray – pray don’t kneel to me,” cried Eve, excitedly, as she saw her aunt’s next act.
“Yes, yes, child, I must – I must; for it is to you I look alone for help, as God’s minister, to save my boy. I – I have sinned for him more deeply than I can tell – more than a life of repentance can wash out, bringing, as I have, misery upon others, and fresh ill-treatment of my boy; but you – you – Eve, can save him. We must forgive – you must forgive; for it is I who am to blame.”
“No, no, aunt.”
“Yes, my child,” cried Mrs Glaire, clinging to her passionately. “Nothing but the earnest love of a pure, true woman, can save him – the woman who will be his faithful wife, and bless him with her love. Eve, my child, on my knees I ask you to forgive him, now – at once, even as you nightly pray our Father to forgive us our trespasses. Say you will forgive him, that you will blot out all the past, and be his wife; for it will be the turning-point of his life.”
“Aunt, dear aunt,” sobbed the poor girl, bewildered by the strange outburst of passion from one generally so calm and placid in her ways. “What can I say? Oh, this is terrible!”
“Terrible, Eve? No, no, child, not terrible to save him we love, for you do love him, Eve?”
“I – I – hope so, aunt.”
“Yes, yes, you do. You must, for he is true and good at heart. You will forgive him – for my sake, Eve. Eve, I am on my knees to you. If you have one spark of gratitude for the past, listen to my prayer.”
“Aunt, dearest aunt, my more than mother,” sobbed Eve, completely carried away by the agony of one who had been everything to her for years and years of her life; “I will do all you wish. I am your child. Tell me what to do, and I will do it; for I love you, dearest aunt, as if you were my own mother.”
“I knew it, I knew it, my darling, my own darling,” cried Mrs Glaire, throwing her hands upwards. “Saved, saved! Oh, God! oh, God! Thou hast heard my prayer.”
Eve shrank from her for an instant, frightened at her wild appeal, but only for the moment; the next she had thrown herself on her knees beside her, and the two women were sobbing and caressing each other tenderly, till the calm came after their storm of weeping, and Eve prevailed upon the trembling mother to lie down upon her bed, where exhausted nature at last prevailed, and she sank to sleep. But only to mutter strangely of “Daisy Banks – poor Daisy Banks,” and utter at times the most piteous sighs; while, as Eve watched her, the memory of that which she had promised came upon her with all its force, and a feeling of depression and of utter misery stole over her, so great that she could hardly bear to sit alone.
She had promised to be Richard’s wife – promised again, and that it should be soon; promised to save him, when that strange and wondrous joy, that glorious light of love that was springing up in her breast, frightening her by its intensity, was ever expanding, but must now be crushed out – for ever.
What was she to do? To save Richard – to be his wife. Not so hard a task a few months since, but now! Oh, it was dreadful. And yet that was a traitorous feeling that she must crush; and at last, sobbing bitterly, Eve Pelly knelt by her sleeping aunt, and prayed earnestly, as woman ever prayed before, that Murray Selwood might never care for her, and that she might be a good and tender wife to the man who sat at the bottom of the garden smoking a cigar, and uttering a few oaths from time to time against the woman on her knees. What time he also defiled the flowers around the rustic seat, and cut them with his stick, till he started to his feet in an agony of dread, for a shadow fell across him as some one approached noiselessly over the velvet lawn, and looking up, there stood the foreman, gazing full in his face, as he exclaimed —
“Richard Glaire, I’ve come to have a few words wi’ you.”
Joe Banks stood staring round the room defiantly, while the sentries kept the door ajar.
“Shoot the door, fools,” he said sharply; and then, as it was closed, he turned on Barker, who, rising, said smoothly,
“May I ask what our friend, Mr Joseph Banks, wants here at a private meeting?”
“Let me tackle him, mate,” said Sim. “Here’s a cheer here, Maister Banks; come an’ sit along-side me. Yow’ve come to join uz then, at last?”
“Yes,” said Banks, shortly, as he beckoned Tom Podmore to his side.
“I always said he would, lads,” cried Sim. “I always said it. He’s seen the error of his ways, and come to join the brotherhood, and clasp the honest horny hand o’ labour. He’s a paytriot at heart, is Maister Banks, and I knew as he’d come at last.”
“But,” said Barker, “our friend is not yet one of the brotherhood.”
“What?” said Banks sharply.
“Our friend has not taken the oaths,” said Barker.
“Oaths – Brotherhood” – cried Banks. “Don’t I tell you I join you? What more do you want?”
“You leave Joe Banks to me, lads, and I’ll explain,” said Sim, confidentially. “You see, Joe Banks, we binds and ties oursens together wi’ oaths like in a holy bond, and sweers brotherly love. Don’t you see?”
“Yes, you must be sworn in, Mr Banks; it’s the rule.”
“Swear me in, then,” said Banks, contemptuously.
Several of the men then advanced, and Banks and Podmore were seized, while Slee began to place a folded handkerchief across the former’s eyes.
“What do you mean by this mummery?” exclaimed the foreman; and he tried to drag away the handkerchief, but was stopped.
“This is part of the formula for the administration of the oath,” said Barker. “Kneel down. Now bring forward the swords.”
Two of the men came forward with the swords, which had been extracted from their hiding-place, and as Joe Banks was half forced into a kneeling position, they were held crossed over his head.
“Silence!” exclaimed Barker. “Now, you swear.”
“Curse your childish folly!” cried Banks, starting up, tearing the bandage from his eyes, and sending the cross swordsmen flying. “Ye’re worse than a set o’ bairns in their play-a.”
“Haw – haw – haw!” laughed Big Harry. “I niver see such a siaght in my liafe.”
“I swear to be faithful brother to you,” exclaimed Banks, “and to fight with you against all our enemies.”
“That’ll do; that’ll do,” exclaimed several voices. “We know Joe Banks always does what he says; he’ll do.”
“But that wean’t do,” said Sim. “It aint the oath, you know, Joe Banks, and you must tak’ it.”
“I’ll take no other,” cried Banks, shortly. “Wheer’s Tom Podmore?”
Tom was brought forward, bandaged, while Slee and Barker whispered together; and the majority of the men seemed to look upon the scene as one to be held in great veneration.
“Sweer in Tom Podmore,” cried Slee; and the men with the swords were once more about to perform their theatrical act with the most solemn of faces.
“Stop!” cried Banks, snatching off the bandage. “That’s enew o’ this stuff. I’ll answer for Tom Podmore. Let’s hev deeds, not words.”
“I’ll go on to explain,” said Sim, snatching at the chance for a speech. “I was speaking when you came in, Joe Banks.”
“I think you come into the world speaking,” cried Joe Banks, roughly. “Get down off that cheer, and say your say like a man.”
“This sort of interruption is not parliamentary,” cried Sim. “It isn’t, is it?”
The gentleman from town shook his head.
“Theer,” cried Sim, “the deppitation says as it isn’t.”
“Look here, men,” cried Joe Banks, speaking excitedly, “I come here to-night to join you. You wanted me wi’ you before, but I wouldn’t come, because I was in the cause o’ raight. I wouldn’t gi’e up my position as a straightforward man for to faight for a few beggarly shillings a week.”
There were some murmurs of discontent here, but the foreman did not seem to hear them, and went on.
“The side of raight is the side of raight no longer, and I’m wi’ you, for I’ll work no more for one who has done me as great a wrong as he can do.”
“He hev, Joe Banks, he hev, and we’ll let him know it,” cried several.
“No, no,” cried Banks; “no more attacks on him; we’ve had enew o’ that. Strike him through his pocket; let him feel it where we’ve felt it; but mind this, the lad as raises hand again the house where them two women are, raises it again me.”
Amidst the loud cheering that followed, Sim Slee, who would not be repressed, climbed upon the table in front of his chair, shouting —
“He’s roused at last, lads. He’s a-takking the iron foot of the despot from his brow, and come to straike for freedom.”
There was a loud cheer at this, and Sim’s vanity was gratified.
“Now,” cried Banks, “what are you going to do? You’ve got some plans?”
“Theer,” cried Sim; “what did I tell you? Didn’t I say as he’d come to uz? Yes, Joe Banks, our new brother, we’re going to set the eyes of all England starting out of its head, to see us strike for our raights. We’re a-going to – Hey?”
“Stop!” whispered Barker. “See to the doors there. We’ve a man present as isn’t sworn. He must take the oath.”
“Didn’t I say,” cried Joe Banks, fiercely, “that I’d be answerable for him?”
“But I’m not going to join their plans, Joe Banks,” said Tom, in a low voice.
“Raight,” said Banks, shortly. “Go on, Sim Slee.”
“Then look here, mates. Here’s what we’re a-going to do. Bring that theer keg.”
Two men dragged a keg from a cupboard, and placed it on the table.
“Them as is smoking is to go to the other end of the room,” said Sim, and there was a sudden movement amongst the men, the deputation not being the last. “Now then,” said Sim, “who’s got a knife?”
Joe Banks took a big clasp-knife from his pocket, and threw it upon the table, Sim picking it up, and beginning to open it as he went on talking.
“Here’s my plan. We’re a-going to open the eyes o’ lots of places as thowt they was very big in their way; and – Hello, where didst thou get this knife fro’, Joe Banks? – it’s mine.”
“Then it was thou as coot the bands,” cried Joe, seizing him by the throat. “Thou cunning fox, thou’st trapped after all. It’s thou as browt all this trouble on uz wi’ thy coward’s trick. It was thou as clomb into wucks through the window, and coot all the bands, and left thee knife behind to bear witness again thee. Look at him, lads; he canno’ say it wean’t.”
“And he don’t want to,” cried Sim, shaking himself free. “I did it all by my sen as a punishment to a bad maister as knows nowt but nastiness; and now we’re a-going to come down o’ him wi’ tenfold violence. Bands is nowt to what we’re a-going to do.”
There was a cheer at this, and the men who were beginning to be wroth against Sim and his companion, and who would have severely punished him a short time back, lost all thought of the dastardly escapade in the savage attack they meant to make.
“Look here, Joe Banks,” continued Sim, whose words came freely enough now without the aid of the deputation, “we’re a-going to do something as shall let ’em see what your honest British workman can do, when he’s been trampled down, and rises up in his horny-handed majesty to show as he’s a man, and to teach all the masters of England to treat their men as if they were Christians – like brothers as helps ’em to bloat and fatten on the corn and wine, and oil olive and unney as the horny-handed hand pro – ”
“Curse your long-winded speeches!” cried the foreman, savagely, “are you going to talk for ever?”
“Don’t be excited, my friend,” said Barker, smoothly.
“We’re a-going to startle the whole world,” cried Sim, not heeding the interruption, as he stood now with one foot upon the keg; “startle the whole world with the report, and the savour shall go up to make the British workman free. Mates, lads, and fellow-workers, we’re going to – ”
“That’s powther, I suppose?” said Banks, pointing to the keg.
“Yes,” cried Sim, “and – ”
“You mean to blow up the wucks?” said Banks, with a sombre look in his countenance.
“Dal it all, Joe Banks,” cried Sim, stamping with rage, “what d’yer want to go spoiling the climax like that how! You didn’t make the plans.”
“You are going to blow up the place as that cursed smooth-tongued liar will not agree for you to work?”
“Yes,” said Sim, sulkily, “that’s it.”
“Lads,” said Banks, “a week ago and I couldn’t ha’ done this. If he had shown but the least bit as he was sorry for what had passed, I’d ha’ forgiven him. But I went to him to-day. I found him sitting in his garden smoking, and careless of the sufferings of his men. I went to him wi’out anger, but humbly, and begged of him to open the wucks again for the sake o’ the wives and bairns ’most pining wi’ hunger, and then – then – ”
Joe Banks put his hand to his throat, for he was choking, but struggling bravely he went on.
“Then I begged on him to give me some tiding o’ my poor bairn. I begged it o’ him humbly, just to tell me she weer alive, and well; and to let me know wheer we might send a line to her; for, lads, I’ve been broken and down like, and ready to do owt to get sight o’ her again for her mother’s sake, for she’s ’bout worn out wi’ sorrow. I asked him this.”
Banks stopped with his face working amidst the most profound silence, while Tom Podmore took his hand, which was heartily pressed, and Big Harry, after rubbing his eyes with his knuckles like a great schoolboy, crossed over, to double up his fists and say —
“Joe Banks, say the word, mun, and I’ll go oop t’house, an’ crack him like a nut.”
“You as has bairns wean’t think me an owd fool for this,” said Banks, huskily. “Yow can feel for me.”
“Ay, owd lad, we do that,” rose in chorus; and then the foreman went on, with his voice gathering strength as he proceeded.