“And I did not tell him to hold his tongue before Eve,” she exclaimed, sharply. “Tut-tut – tut-tut! This must be stopped; this must be stopped.”
The sighing, lamenting phase gave place by degrees to an angry one. The pins clicked sharply, and the pleasant grey head was perked, while the lips were tightened together even as were the stitches in the knitting, which had to be all undone.
Just then the garden door opened, and a broad-shouldered grizzled man of seven or eight and forty entered the garden followed by Jacky. Foreman though he was, Joe Banks had been hard at work, and his hands and lace bore the grime of the foundry. He had, however, thrown on a jacket, and wiped the perspiration from his forehead, leaving a half clean line over his pale blue eyes, while a pleasant smile puckered such of his face as was not hidden by his closely cut grizzled beard.
“Sarvant, ma’am,” he said, making a rough bow to the lady of the house.
“Good morning, Banks,” said Mrs Glaire. “Jacky, go and nail up that wistaria, and mind you don’t tumble off the ladder.”
Jacky looked injured, but walked off evidently making a bee line for the tool-shed – one which he did not keep.
“Little on, mum,” said the foreman, with a wise nod in Jacky’s direction. “Wants a month’s illness to be a warnin’.”
“It’s a pity. Banks, but he will drink.”
“Like lots more on ’em, ma’am. Why if I was to get shut of all the lads in the works there who like their drop of drink, I shouldn’t have half enew.”
“How are things going on, Banks?” said Mrs Glaire.
The foreman looked at her curiously, for it was a new thing for his mistress to make any inquiry about the foundry. A few months back and he had to make his daily reports, but since Richard Glaire had come of age, Mrs Glaire had scrupulously avoided interfering in any way, handing over the business management to “my son.”
“I said how are things going on in the foundry, Banks,” said the lady again, for the foreman had coughed and shuffled from one foot on to the other.
“Do you wish me to tell you, ma’am?” he said at last.
“Tell me? of course,” said Mrs Glaire, impatiently. “How are matters?”
“Bad? What do you mean?”
“Well, mum, not bad as to work; ’cause there’s plenty of that, and nothing in the way of contracts as is like to suffer by waiting.”
“Then, what do you mean?”
“Well, you see, ma’am, Mr Richard don’t get on wi’ the men. He wants to have it all his own way, and they want to have it all theirn. Well, of course that wean’t work; so what’s wanted is for the governor to give way just a little, and then they’d give way altogether.”
“But I’m sure my son Richard’s management is excellent,” said Mrs Glaire, whose lip quivered a little as she drew herself up with dignity, and began a fresh row of her knitting.
Banks coughed slightly, and remained silent.
“Don’t you think so, Banks?”
“Well, you see, ma’am, he’s a bit arbitrary.”
“Arbitrary? What do you mean, Banks?”
“Well, you see, ma’am, he turned Sim Slee off at a moment’s notice.”
“And quite right, too,” said Mrs Glaire hotly.
“He is that, ma’am, and as lazy as a slug, but it made matters worse, and just now there’s a deal of strikes about, and the men at other places listening to delegates from societies, and joining unions, and all that sort of stuff.”
“And have you joined one of those clubs, Joe Banks?” said Mrs Glaire, sharply.
“Me join ’em, ma’am? Not I,” said Banks, who seemed immensely tickled at the idea. “Not I. I’m foreman, and get my wage reg’lar, and I don’t want none of their flummery. You should hear Ann go on about ’em.”
“I beg your pardon, Banks,” said Mrs Glaire. “I might have known that you were too sensible a man to go to these meetings.”
“Well, as to being sensible, I don’t know about that, Missus Glaire. Them two women folk at home do about what they like wi’ me.”
“I don’t believe it, Joe,” said Mrs Glaire. “Daisy would not have grown up such a good, sensible girl if she had not had a firm, kind, sensible father.”
“God bless her!” said Joe, and a little moisture appeared in one eye. Then speaking rather huskily – “Thank you, ma’am – thank you, Missus Glaire. I try to do my duty by her, and so does Ann.”
“Is Ann quite well?”
“Quite well, thank you kindly, ma’am,” said the foreman. “Don’t you be afeared for me, Missus Glaire. I worked with Richard Glaire, senior, thirty years ago, two working lads, and we was always best of friends both when we was poor, and when I saw him gradually grow rich, for he had a long head, had your husband, while I’d only got a square one. But I stuck to him, and he stuck to me, and when he died, leaving me his foreman, you know, Mrs Glaire, how he sent for me, and ‘Joe,’ he says, ‘good bye, God bless you! You’ve always been my right hand man. Stick to my son.’”
“He did, Joe, he did,” said Mrs Glaire, with a deep sigh, and a couple of tears fell on her knitting.
“And I’ll stick to him through thick and thin,” said the foreman, stoutly. “For I never envied Dick, his father – there, ’tain’t ’spectful to you, ma’am, to say Dick, though it comes natural – I never envied Master Glaire his success with his contracts, and getting on to be a big man. I was happy enough; but you know, ma’am, young Master Dick is arbitrary; he is indeed, and he can’t feel for a working man like his father did.”
“He is more strict you see, Banks, that is all,” said Mrs Glaire, stiffly; and the foreman screwed up his face a little.
“You advise him not to be quite so strict, ma’am. I wouldn’t advise you wrong, as you know.”
“I know that, Joe Banks,” said Mrs Glaire, smiling pleasantly; “and I’ll say a word to him. But I wanted to say something to you.”
“Well, I’ve been a wondering why you sent for me, ma’am,” said the foreman, bluntly.
“You see,” said Mrs Glaire, hesitating, “there are little bits of petty tattle about.”
“What, here, ma’am,” said the foreman, with a hearty laugh. “Of course there is, and always was, and will be.”
“But they are about Daisy,” said Mrs Glaire, dashing at last into the matter.
“I should just like to get hold of the man as said a word against my lass,” said Banks, stretching out a tremendous fist. “I’d crack him, I would, like a nut. But what have they been saying?”
“Well,” said Mrs Glaire, who found her task more difficult than she had apprehended, “the fact is, they say she has been seen talking to my son.”
“Is that all?” said the foreman, laughing in a quiet, hearty way.
“Yes, that is all, and for Daisy’s sake I want it stopped. Have you heard or known anything?”
“Well, to put it quite plain, the missus wants her to have Tom Podmore down at the works there, but the girl hangs back, and I found out the reason. I did see Master Dick talking to her one night, and it set me a thinking.”
“And you didn’t stop it?” exclaimed Mrs Glaire, sharply.
“Stop it? Why should I stop it?” said the foreman. “She’s getting on for twenty, and is sure to begin thinking about sweethearts. Ann did when she was nineteen, and if I recollect right, little fair-haired Lisbeth Ward was only eighteen when she used to blush on meeting Dick Glaire. I see her do it,” said the bluff fellow, chuckling.
“But that was long ago,” exclaimed Mrs Glaire, excitedly. “Positions are changed since then. My son – ”
“Well, ma’am, he’s a workman’s son, and my bairn’s a workman’s daughter. I’ve give her a good schooling, and she’s as pretty a lass as there is in these parts, and if your son Richard’s took a fancy to her, and asks me to let him marry her, and the lass likes him, why I shall say yes, like a man.”
Mrs Glaire looked at him aghast. This was a turn in affairs she had never anticipated, and one which called forth all her knowledge of human nature to combat.
“But,” she exclaimed, “he is engaged to his cousin here, Miss Pelly.”
“Don’t seem like it,” chuckled the foreman. “Why, he’s always after Daisy now.”
“Oh, this is dreadful!” gasped Mrs Glaire, dropping her knitting. “I tell you he is engaged – promised to be married to his second cousin, Miss Pelly.”
“Stuff!” said Banks, laughing. “He’ll never marry she, though she’s a good, sweet girl.”
“Don’t I tell you he will,” gasped Mrs Glaire. “Man, man, are you blind? This is dreadful to me, but I must speak. Has it never struck you that my son may have wrong motives with respect to your child?”
“What?” roared the foreman; and the veins in his forehead swelled out, as his fists clenched. “Bah!” he exclaimed, resuming his calmness. “Nonsense, ma’am, nonsense. What! Master Dicky Glaire, my true old friend’s son, mean wrong by my lass Daisy? Mrs Glaire, ma’am, Mrs Glaire, for shame, for shame!”
“The man’s infatuated!” exclaimed Mrs Glaire, and she stared wonderingly at the bluff, honest fellow before her.
“Why, ma’am,” said the foreman, smiling, “I wouldn’t believe it of him if you swore it. He’s arbitrary, and he’s too fond of his horses, and dogs, and sporting: but my Daisy! Oh, for shame, ma’am, for shame! He loves the very ground on which she walks.”
“And – and” – stammered Mrs Glaire, “does – does Daisy care for him? Fool that I was to let her come here and be so intimate with Eve,” she muttered.
“Well, ma’am,” said the foreman, thoughtfully, “I’m not so sure about that.”
He was about to say more when Mrs Glaire stopped him.
“Another time, Banks, another time,” she said, hastily. “Here is my son.”
As she spoke Richard Glaire came into the garden with his hands in his pockets, and Eve Pelly clinging to one arm, looking bright and happy.
The foreman started slightly, but gave himself a jerk and smiled, and then, in obedience to a gesture from his mistress, he left the garden and returned to the foundry.
The brick, as the vicar called it, was only another piece of slag; but he did not turn his head, only smiled, and began thinking that Dumford quite equalled the report he had heard of it. Then looking round the plain old church, peering inside through the windows, and satisfying himself that its architectural beauties were not of a very striking nature, he turned aside and entered the vicarage garden, giving a sigh of satisfaction on finding that his home was a comfortable red-brick, gable-ended house, whose exterior, with its garden overrun with weeds, promised well in its traces of former cultivation.
A ring at a bell by the side post of the door brought forth a wan, washed-out looking woman, who looked at the visitor from top to toe, ending by saying sharply, in a vinegary tone of voice:
“What d’yer want?”
“To come in,” said the vicar, smiling. “Are you in charge of the house?”
“If yow want to go over t’church yow must go to Jacky Budd’s down street for the keys. I wean’t leave place no more for nobody.”
“But I don’t want to go over the church – at least not now. I want to come in, and see about having a room or two made comfortable.”
“Are yow t’new parson, then?”
“Yes, I’m the new parson.”
“Ho! Then yow’d best come in.”
The door was held open, and looking at him very suspiciously, the lady in charge, to wit Mrs Simeon Slee, allowed the vicar to enter, and then followed him as he went from room to room, making up his mind what he should do as he ran his eye over the proportions of the house, finding in the course of his peregrinations that Mrs Slee had installed herself in the dining-room, which apparently served for kitchen as well, and had turned the pretty little drawing-room, opening into a shady verandah and perfect wilderness of a garden, into a very sparsely furnished bed-room.
“That will do,” said the vicar. “I suppose I can get some furniture in the town?”
“Oh, yes, yow can get plenty furniture if you’ve got t’money. Only they wean’t let yow have annything wi’out. They don’t like strangers.”
“I dare say I can manage what I want, Mrs – Mrs – What is your name?”
“I say, what is your name?”
“Martha,” said the woman, as if resenting an impertinence.
“Your other name. I see you are a married woman.”
He pointed to the thin worn ring on her finger.
“Oh, yes, I’m married,” said the woman, bitterly; “worse luck.”
“You have no children, I suppose?”
“I am sorry for that.”
“Sorry? I’m not. What should I have children for? To pine; while their shack of a father is idling about town and talking wind?”
“They would have been a comfort to you, may be,” said the vicar, quietly. “I hope your husband does not drink?”
“Drink?” said the woman, with a harsh laugh. “Yes, I almost wish he did more; it would stop his talking.”
“Is he a workman – at the foundry?”
“Sometimes, but Mr Dicky Glaire’s turned him off again, and now he’s doing nowt.”
“Never mind, don’t be downhearted. Times mend when they come to the worst.”
“No, they don’t,” said the woman, sharply. “If they did they’d have mended for me.”
“Well, well,” said the vicar; “we will talk about that another time;” and he took the two pieces of slag from his pocket, and placed them on the mantelpiece of the little study, where they were now standing.
“Some one threw them at yow?” said the woman.
“Yes,” said the vicar, smiling.
“Just like ’em. They don’t like strangers here.”
“So it seems,” said the vicar. “But you did not tell me your name, Mrs – ”
“Slee, they call me, Slee,” was the sulky reply.
“Well, Mrs Slee,” said the vicar, “I have had a good long walk, and I’m very hungry. If I give you the money will you get me something to eat, while I go down the town and order in some furniture for this little room and the bed-room above?”
“Why, the Lord ha’ mussy! you’re never coming into the place this how!”
“Indeed, Mrs Slee, but I am. There’s half a sovereign; go and do the best you can.”
“But the place ought to be clent before you come in.”
“Oh, we’ll get that done by degrees. You will see about something for me to eat. I shall be back in an hour. But tell me first, if I want to get into the church, who has the keys?”
“Mr Budd” – Mrs Slee pronounced it Bood – “has ’em; he’s churchwarden, and lives over yonder.”
“What, at that little old-fashioned house?”
“Nay, nay, mun, that’s th’owd vicarage. Next house.”
“Oh,” said the vicar, looking curiously at the little, old-fashioned, sunken, thatch-roofed place. “And who lives there?”
“Owd Isaac Budd.”
“Another Mr Budd; and who is he?”
“Th’other one’s brother.”
“Where shall I find the clerk – what is his name?” said the vicar.
“Oh, Jacky Budd,” said Mrs Slee. “He lives down south end.”
“I’m afraid I shall get confused with so many Budds,” said the vicar, smiling. “Is that the Mr Budd who leads the singing?”
“Oh no, that’s Mr Ned Budd, who lives down town. He’s nowt to do wi’ Jacky.”
“Well, I’ll leave that now,” said the vicar. “But I want some one to fetch a portmanteau from Churley. How am I to get it here?”
“Mrs Budd will fetch it.”
“And who is she?”
“The Laddonthorpe carrier.”
“Good; and where shall I find her?”
“Over at Ted Budd’s yard – the Black Horse.”
“Budd again,” said the vicar. “Is everybody here named Budd?”
“Well, no,” said the woman, “not ivery body; but there’s a straange sight of ’em all ower the town, and they’re most all on ’em cousins or sum’at. But there, I must get to wuck.”
The woman seemed galvanised into a fresh life by the duties she saw before her; and almost before the strange visitor had done speaking she was putting on a print hood, and preparing to start.
“It will make a very comfortable place when I have got it in order,” said the vicar to himself, as he passed down the front walk. “Now to find some chairs and tables.”
This was no very difficult task, especially as the furniture dealer received a couple of crisp bank-notes on account. In fact, one hand-truck full of necessaries was despatched before the vicar left the shop and made up his mind to see a little more of the place before returning to his future home.
Perhaps he would have been acting more wisely if he had sent in a load of furniture and announcements of his coming, with orders for the place to be put in readiness; but the Reverend Murray Selwood was eccentric, and knowing that he had an uncouth set of people to deal with, he had made up his mind to associate himself with them in every way, so as to be thoroughly identified with the people, and become one of them as soon as possible.
His way led him round by the great works of the town – Glaire’s Bell Foundry – and as he came nearer, a loud buzz of voices increased to a roar, that to him, a stranger, seemed too great for the ordinary transaction of business; and so it proved.
On all sides, as he went on, he saw heads protruded from doors and windows, and an appearance of excitement, though he seemed in his own person to transfer a good deal of the public attention to himself.
A minute or two later, and he found himself nearing a crowd of a couple of hundred workmen, who were being harangued by a tall thin man, in workman’s costume, save that he wore a very garish plaid waistcoat, whose principal colour was scarlet.
This man, who was swinging his arms about, and gesticulating energetically, was shouting in a hoarse voice. His words were disconnected, and hard to catch, but “Downtrodden,” – “bloated oligarchs,” – “British pluck” – “wucking-man” – “slavery” – and “mesters,” reached the vicar’s ears as he drew nearer.
Suddenly there was a movement in the crowd, and the speaker seemed to be hustled from the top of the stone post which he had chosen for his rostrum, and then, amid yells and hootings, it seemed that the crowd had surrounded a couple of men who had been hemmed in while making their way towards the great gates, and they now stood at bay, with their backs to the high brick wall, while the mob formed a semicircle a few feet from them.
It was rather hard work, and wanted no little elbowing, but, without a moment’s hesitation, the vicar began to force his way through the crowd; and as he got nearer to the hemmed in men, he could hear some of the words passing to and fro.
“Why, one of them is my friend, Mr Richard Glaire,” said the vicar to himself, as he caught sight of the pale trembling figure, standing side by side with a heavy grizzled elderly workman, who stood there with his hat off, evidently bent on defending the younger man.
“Yow come out o’ that, Joe Banks, an’ leave him to us,” roared a great bull-headed hammerman, who was evidently one of the ringleaders.
“Keep off, you great coward,” was the answer.
“Gie him a blob, Harry; gie him a blob,” shouted a voice.
“My good men – my good men,” faltered Richard Glaire, trying to make himself heard; but there was a roar of rage and hatred, and the men pressed forward, fortunately carrying with them the vicar, and too intent upon their proposed victims to take any notice of the strange figure elbowing itself to the front.
“Where are the police, Banks – the police?”
“Yah! He wants the police,” shouted a shrill voice, which came from the man in the red waistcoat. “He’s trampled down the rights of man, and now he wants the brutal mummydons of the law.”
“Yah!” roared the crowd, and they pressed on.
“Banks, what shall we do?” whispered Glaire; “they’ll murder us.”
“They won’t murder me,” said the foreman, stolidly.
“But they will me. What shall we do?”
“Faight,” said the foreman, sturdily.
“I can’t fight. I’ll promise them anything,” groaned the young man. “Here, my lads,” he cried, “I’ll promise you – ”
“Yah! You wean’t keep your promises,” roared those nearest. “Down with them. Get hold of him, Harry.”
The big workman made a dash at Richard Glaire, and got him by the collar, dragging him from the wall just as the foreman, who tried to get before him, was good-humouredly baffled by half-a-dozen men, who took his blows for an instant, and then held him helpless against the bricks.
It would have gone hard with the young owner of the works, for an English mob, when excited and urged to action, is brutal enough for the moment, before their manly feelings resume their sway, and shame creeps in to stare them in the face. He would probably have been hustled, his clothes torn from his back, and a rain of blows have fallen upon him till he sank exhausted, when he would have been kicked and trampled upon till he lay insensible, with half his ribs broken, and there he would have been left.
“Police! Where are the police?” shouted the young man.
“Shut themselves up to be safe,” roared a lusty voice; and the young man grew dizzy with fear, as he gazed wildly round at the sea of menacing faces screaming and struggling to get at him.
As he cowered back a blow struck him on the forehead, and another on the lip, causing the blood to trickle down, while the great hammerman held him forward, struggling helplessly in his grasp.
At that moment when, sick with fear and pain, Richard Glaire’s legs were failing him, and he was about to sink helpless among his men, something white seemed to whiz by his ear, to be followed instantly by a heavy thud. There was a jerk at his collar, and he would have fallen, but a strong arm was thrown before him; and then it seemed to him that the big workman Harry had staggered back amongst his friends, as a loud voice exclaimed: