Daisy uttered a shriek, and the vicar’s brow knit as he turned to Richard.
“It’s a lie,” cried the latter, sharply. “I was here, and know some scoundrels put the powder here, and the train; but Banks destroyed it, and saved my life.”
The vicar had him by the hand in a moment, and pressed it hard.
“It’s a lie, parson,” he said in a whisper; “but I must tell it. He did save my life.”
“How came he by that cut, then, sir?” said the policeman.
“You see,” said Richard, coldly, “he fell and struck himself against that piece of clinker. He did not know I was there, and that his child had come to warn him, and he was overcome.”
“I will be answerable for his appearance to reply to any charge,” said the vicar.
“There’s no charge against him,” said Richard, hastily. “I saw him destroy the train.”
Daisy crept to his side, and Tom Podmore groaned as he saw her kiss Richard’s hand.
“Very good, sir,” said the constable; “that will do. We’ll watch here, sir, though there’s no fear now; and the others are locked up.”
A piece of carpet was then fetched, and Banks was carefully lifted upon it, four men taking the corners, and bearing him hammock-fashion down the crowded street, the work people who had been in the street having been augmented by the rest; and a strange silence brooded over the place as they talked in whispers, the story growing every instant until it was the common report that Banks and Richard Glaire had met in the foundry, that Banks had been killed, and Richard Glaire was now dying at home.
The gossiping people could not fit Daisy Banks into the story. She was walking beside her stricken father, and they saw her bent head, and heard her bitter sobs; but it was only natural that she should make her appearance at such a time, and it seemed nothing to them that she should be close to Tom Podmore, who was one of the bearers, though he, poor fellow, winced, as Daisy half-clung to his arm for protection, when the crowd pressed upon them more than once.
On reaching the cottage, the vicar hurried in first, to prepare Mrs Banks, expecting a burst of lamentation; but as soon as he had uttered his first words, Mrs Banks was cold and firm as a stone.
“Is he dead, sir?” she whispered; “tell me true.”
“No, no; and not much injured. I think it is a fit.”
“I wean’t give way, sir,” she panted; and running upstairs, she began to drag down a mattress and pillow, ready for the suffering man.
“Poor Joe, poor Joe!” she murmured, and then gave a start as she heard the word “Mother!”
“Ay, lass, I’d forgot thee in this new trouble.”
“But you will not send me away, mother?” whispered Daisy – “wait till you know all.”
“I send thee away, lass? Nay, nay, I shouldna do that now,” said Mrs Banks, sadly.
The next moment she was putting the pillow and arranging it beneath her husband’s head, as he was borne in, the men softly retiring, and giving place to the doctor, who hurried in, hot and panting.
“Ah, Selwood, what’s all this?” he said.
He was down on his knees directly, examining his patient, removing the bandage, and looking at the cut, the patient’s eyes, and carefully loosening all tight clothing.
“Poor fellow! – ah – yes – nasty cut – do him good. Hum! What fools people are; they told me he was killed.”
“Will he live, Mr Purley?” whispered Daisy, hoarsely.
“Ah, Daisy, you come back?” said the doctor. “Live? yes, of course he will. Touch of apoplexy; but we’ll bring him round.”
“Oh, mother, mother!” moaned Daisy; “I thought I’d killed him;” and she threw herself, sobbing, into her mother’s arms.
“Come, come, that won’t do,” exclaimed the doctor. “You two must help me. Selwood, you’ll do me a good turn by going, and taking all the people with you. We want fresh air.”
The vicar nodded, and a few words from him, coupled with the information that Banks was not seriously hurt and would soon recover, sufficed to send the little crowd away.
They followed him, though at a distance, Tom Podmore and Harry acting as his rearguard, as he made as if to go straight to the House.
He had to pass the Bull, though; and, seeing a group of people there, he made his way through them to where Robinson, the landlord, was standing discussing the events of the evening.
“Robinson,” said the vicar, aloud, and his words were listened to eagerly, “I’m afraid this atrocious outrage was hatched here in your house.”
“’Strue as I stand here, sir,” cried the landlord eagerly, “I knowed nowt of it.”
“But you knew that secret meetings were held here?”
“I knowd they’d their meetings, and a lot o’ flags and nonsense, sir; but I niver thowt it was owt but foolery, or they shouldn’t hev had it here.”
“I ask you as a man, Robinson, did you know they meant to blow up the works?”
“No, Mr Selwood,” cried Robinson, indignantly; “and if I had knowed I’d have come and telled you directly.”
“I believe you,” said the vicar.
“I knowed they talked big, sir,” continued Robinson; “but when men do that ower a pipe and a gill o’ ale, it’s on’y so much blowing off steam like, and does ’em good. Bud look here, sir, there’s about a dozen of ’em up in big room now. Come on up, and we’ll drift ’em.”
He led the way to the club-room, to find it locked on the inside, and on knocking he was asked the pass-word.
“Dal thee silly foolery,” cried the landlord, in a passion, “there it is;” and, stepping back, a few paces, he ran furiously at the door and dashed it off its hinges; entering, followed by the vicar, Harry, and Tom, who kept close to protect him from harm.
There were about fourteen men present, and they rose with more of dread than menace in their aspect, half expecting to see the police. “Look here, lads,” began the landlord – “Allow me, Mr Robinson,” said the vicar, stepping forward and looking straight before him. “My men, I look at no man here; I recognise no man as I say this. Smarting under injury as you thought – ”
“Real injury, parson,” cried Stockton. “Faults on both sides, my man,” continued the vicar. “Some among you destroyed Mr Glaire’s property. I say, smarting under your injuries, and led away by some foolish, mouthing demagogues, you conspired to take the law into your own hands, and, not content with making two cruel assaults on your employer – ”
“Which he well deserved, parson.”
“I cannot enter into that,” said the vicar. “If one man does wrong, it is no excuse for the wrong of others. Our salutary laws will protect even a murderer, and then punish him according to his deserts. But listen – In a few words, you have been led away to conspire for the accomplishment of a most dastardly outrage. I have just come from the works, and I tell you, as a man, that if the scheme had succeeded, they would have been destroyed.”
“Serve him right,” growled a voice. “All the houses round would have been injured, and the loss of life would have been frightful.”
“Nay, nay, parson,” said Stockton. “I am giving you my honest conviction, my men,” continued the vicar. “A hundred pounds of powder in a confined space is sufficient to commit awful ravages; and you forget what would have followed if that tremendous chimney had fallen. But I have not told you all. If the powder had been fired, three people in the works would have been killed. Those people were Mr Richard Glaire – ”
“Weer he theer, sir?” exclaimed Stockton.
“He was,” said the vicar; “he has been in hiding there from your violence for days. I knew some plot was hatching, and, to save both him and you, I advised his staying in the works, so that you might think he had left the town.”
“Which we did,” muttered two or three.
“I shudder when I think of the consequences of my advice. But listen – there would have been two more horribly mutilated and shattered corpses at this moment – the remains of your foreman and his poor child, Daisy Banks.”
“Oh, coom, parson!” said Stockton.
“I tell you, man, as I rushed in, they were all three there. How they came there together I do not know. I do not want to know. All I know is that it has pleased God to spare us from a sin for which we should never have forgiven ourselves.”
“I don’t see as yow had much to do wi’ it, parson,” said a voice, sneeringly.
“My men, my men,” cried the vicar, in a deeply moved voice, “do you think I live here among you without feeling that your joys and sorrows are mine? and your sins are mine as well, for I ought to have taught you better. For God’s sake let us have no more of these wretched meetings; break up your society, and act as man to man. Suffer and be strong. Have forbearance, and try to end these dreadful strikes, which fall not on you, but on your wives and children.”
“But what call hev you got to interfere?” cried a surly voice.
“Howd hard theer,” cried Stockton; “parson’s i’ the raight. He’s spent three hundred pound, if he’s spent a penny, over them as was ’most pined to dead.”
“That’s raight,” cried several voices.
“Never mind that, my men; it was my duty, even as it is to be the friend and brother of all who are here. But listen – ”
“I didn’t come to hear parson preach,” cried a voice,
“One word – listen to me for your own sakes,” cried the vicar, in impassioned tones. “Suppose you had succeeded without the horrible loss of life that must have occurred through your ignorance of the force of powder – suppose the works had been, with all the costly machinery, turned into a heap of ruins?”
“It would hev sarved Richard Glaire well raight,” said some one.
“Grant that it would, but what then, my lads? For Heaven’s sake look a little further than the satisfaction of a paltry, unmanly desire for revenge.”
“It would hev ruined Dicky Glaire,” cried Stockton.
“Yes, my men; but it would have ruined you as well. Those works could not have been restored for years: perhaps never; the trade would have gone elsewhere, and, as I take it, over two hundred men and their wives and children must have gone elsewhere for bread.”
“That’s raight enew, parson,” cried Stockton; “but all the same if some cursed, cowardly spy hadn’t betrayed us the wucks would hev been down.”
“That betrayal of your evil plans came about more strangely than you can imagine,” said the vicar. “I have suspected something, and been constantly on the watch.”
“Strange and kind of you, too, parson,” said Stockton, with a laugh.
“You will think so some day, my man.”
“Bud I know who it weer,” said Stockton. “Theer he stands; it were Tom Podmore. He weer not sweered in.”
“Then he did not betray you,” said the vicar, as a menacing growl arose; but Tom stood perfectly firm.
“No, it weern’t Tom Podmore,” cried Big Harry, stalking forward, one big shoulder at a time. “If you want to know who did it, here he is – I did; and I’m glad on it. Dal me! I’m glad as th’owd wucks aint down, and I’ll faight any two o’ you as don’t like it; so now then.”
There was another growl, but no one took up the challenge.
“See here, lads,” cried Harry. “I went awaya so as to hev now’t to do wi’ it, and I didn’t tell anybody; only telled parson to give Dicky Glaire the word to look out.”
“And you was sweered in, Harry,” cried Stockton.
“So I weer,” said the big fellow; “and, as I said afore, I’ll faight any man as don’t like it. Well, I goes on to Sheffle to get wuck, and there I happened o’ Daisy Banks; and when the poor little lass got howd o’ me, and begged me to tell all about her owd man, why dal me, I weer obliged to tell her how he was a-going to – dal it, parson, don’t slap a man o’ the mooth that how.”
“You’ve said enough, Harry,” cried the vicar. “We want to know no more. I answer for you that you did quite right, and some day these men will thank you, as I do now, for saving us all from this horror. Now, my men, you know that Slee and Barker, that stranger, are in the station.”
“Oh, ay, we know that,” said Stockton; “and I vote, lads, we hev ’em out.”
“No, no; let them get the punishment they deserve,” cried the vicar.
“Well, lookye here, parson,” cried Stockton; “the game’s up, I s’pose, and you’ve got the police outside. I was in it, and I’m not going to turn tail. Here I am.”
“My man, I will not know your name, nor the name of any man here. I will not recognise anybody; I came as your friend, not as a spy. I came to ask you to break up your wretched bond of union, and to go forth home as honest men. Where a union is made for the fair protection of a workman’s rights, I can respect it; but a brotherhood that blasphemes its own name by engaging in what may prove wholesale murder, is a monster that you yourselves must crush. I have no more to say. Go home.”
“Parson’s raight, lads!” said Stockton, throwing off his defiant air. “Let’s go. Parson, it was a damned cowardly trick, but Dicky Glaire had made us strange and mad.”
“It weer owd Simmy Slee as made it wuss, wi’ cootting o’ them bands,” said Big Harry. “We should ha’ been at wuck again if it hadn’t been for that.”
“Quick, lads!” cried a man, running in. “Sim Slee and Barker’s broke out o’ th’ owd shop, and the police are coming down here.”
“Theer, parson,” said Stockton, with a bitter smile; “th’ game’s oop.”
For answer, the vicar pointed to the windows, and in less than a minute the room was empty, though there would have been plenty of time to escape by the door, for the one policeman coming on the mission to see if Slee had made for the meeting-place of his party did not hurry his footsteps, partly from reasons of dignity, and partly because he was alone.
The announcement was quite correct. Sim Slee and his companions had broken away through the ceiling, dislodged the tiles, and escaped; and when the vicar reached home, he found Mrs Slee waiting up for him, trembling and pale, while her eyes were red with weeping. She clung to him hysterically, and asked if the news was true, and that her husband was in prison.
“They came and told me the police had got him,” she sobbed. “Ah, he’s a bad one sometimes, but he’s my maister, sir, he’s my maister.”
“He was taken, Mrs Slee,” said the vicar, “I’m sorry to say. I was present. You know I went out to-night, for I was in dread of some outrage; and after being about a time, I found that something was wrong, for the men were all waiting as in expectation.”
“He always would mix himself up with these troubles i’stead o’ wucking,” sobbed the poor woman.
“Fortunately I met two of the men I could trust, and found that an attempt was to be made to blow up the works.”
“Ah, but Sim wouldn’t do that, sir,” sobbed Mrs Slee. “He dursen’t.”
“I’m sorry to say, Mrs Slee, that one of the policemen had watched him, and seen him help to carry a barrel of powder to the works.”
“Just like him – just like him,” sobbed Mrs Slee; “but some one else was to fire it.”
“How did you know that?” said the vicar, sharply.
“I only know as he dursen’t hev done it hissen,” sobbed the poor woman. “Poor lad, poor lad, there was nowt again him but the drink.”
“The men I met were in search of Daisy Banks,” continued the vicar; “and we joined hands with the police, who took your husband and that man from London, and afterwards we reached the works, and they are safe.”
“I’m strange and glad they’ve took that London man,” sobbed Mrs Slee; “but poor Sim! Poor, poor Sim! But I must go and say a word o’ comfort to him. Smith, at station’s a good, kind man.”
“Who’ll ever say that woman is not faithful?” said the vicar to himself, as Mrs Slee hurried away to get her print hood, and, late as it was, to make her way to the station; but as she came back sobbing bitterly, he laid his hand upon her arm.
“You need not go, Mrs Slee; your husband and his confederate have escaped.”
“Escaped? got awaya?” cried Mrs Slee.
“Gone out o’ the town?”
“Then,” cried Mrs Slee, wiping her eyes with a hasty snatch or two of her apron, “I’m glad on it. A bad villain, to go and try to do such a thing by the place as he made his bread by. I hope to goodness he’ll niver come back,” she cried, in her old sharp vinegary tone. “I hope I may niver set eyes upon him again. Bud I don’t want him to go to prison. Bud you’re not going out again to-night, sir?” she said, imploringly.
“I must go up to the House and see that all is well there, Mrs Slee,” he replied; “and call as I go and see how poor Banks is.”
“Bud is it true, sir, that Daisy has come back?”
“Yes,” said the vicar, sadly. “Poor girl, she has returned.”
“Bud you wean’t go now, sir; it’s close upon two o’clock.”
“Lie down on the sofa, Mrs Slee. I shall be able to wake you when I come back.”
“Theer niver was such a man,” muttered Mrs Slee, as she let him out; “and as for that Sim, well, I’m ommost sorry he did get away.”
As the vicar approached the foreman’s cottage he saw some one cross the lighted window, and on getting nearer he recognised the figure.
“Is that you, Podmore?” he said in a low voice.
“Yes, sir, yes,” was the reply. “I only thought I’d like to know how poor Joe Banks is getting on.”
“I’m going in, and if you’ll wait I’ll tell you.”
“Thank ye, sir, kindly,” said the young man. “I will wait.”
“Poor fellow!” thought the vicar, with a sigh; “even now, when she comes back stained and hopeless to the old home, his love clings to her still. It’s a strange thing this love! Shall she then, and in spite of all, find that I cannot root up a foolish hopeless passion that makes me weak – weak even as that poor fellow there?”
A low knock brought Daisy to the door, and on entering, it was to find Mrs Banks on her knees by her husband, who seemed in a heavy sleep. The doctor had been again, and had only left half-an-hour before.
“He says there’s nowt to fear, sir,” whispered Mrs Banks; “but, oh, sir, will he live?”
“We are in His hands, Mrs Banks,” was the reply. “I hope and pray he may.”
Daisy was looking on with dilated eyes, and pale, drawn face, and as, after some little time, during which he had sought with homely, friendly words to comfort the trembling wife, he rose to go, Daisy approached to let him out, when fancying that he shrank from her, the poor girl’s face became convulsed, and she tried hard but could not stifle a low wail.
She opened the door as he kindly said “Good night;” but as the faint light shone out across the garden and on to the low hedge, Daisy caught him by the arm.
“Don’t go, sir,” she whispered, in a frightened voice; “it mayn’t be safe. Look: there’s a man watching you.”
“You are unnerved,” he said, kindly; and then without thinking – “It is only Podmore; he was waiting as I came in.”
“Tom!” the poor gill ejaculated, catching his arm, “is it Tom? Oh, sir, for the love of God, tell him I’m not the wicked girl he thinks.”
“My poor girl!”
“I was very wicked and weak, sir, in behaving as I did; but tell him – I must speak now – tell him it was Mrs Glaire sent me away.”
“Mrs Glaire sent you away?” exclaimed the vicar.
“Yes, yes, yes,” sobbed Daisy; “so that – her son – ”
“To get you away from Richard Glaire?”
“Yes, sir; yes. I wish – I wish I’d never seen him.”
“How came you at the foundry to-night?” he said sharply.
“I went to tell him of the danger, sir. I went to the House first, and they told me he was there. I hate him, I hate him,” she cried, passionately, heedless of the apparent incongruity of her words, “and everybody thinks me wicked and bad.”
“Is this true, Daisy Banks?” exclaimed the vicar.
“She couldn’t tell a lie, sir,” cried a hoarse voice. “Daisy, my poor bairn, I don’t think it no more.”
“Tom!” sobbed Daisy, with an hysterical cry; and the next moment she was sobbing on his breast, while the vicar softly withdrew, to turn, however, when he was fifty yards away, and see that the cottage door opened, and that two figures entered together before it was closed.
“Thank God!” he said softly – “thank God!”
Lights were burning at the House as he reached the door, and, under the circumstances, he knocked and was admitted by the white-faced, trembling servant, who had been sitting with one of the policemen in the hall, the other guarding the works.
“Don’t be alarmed, my girl, there is no bad news,” he said; and with a sigh of relief the girl showed him in to where Richard, Eve, and Mrs Glaire were seated, all watchful, pale, and ready to take alarm at the least sound.
“I’m glad you have come, Mr Selwood,” exclaimed Mrs Glaire; while Richard gave him a sulky nod, Eve trying to rise, but sinking back trembling.
“I should have been here sooner,” he said, “but I have had much to do.”
“Is there any fresh danger?”
“None whatever,” said the vicar. “I think the storm is over – I hope for good.”
Mrs Glaire gave a sigh of relief, and then wondered, as she saw the vicar cross the room; but the next minute a faint flush came into her pale cheeks, and she tottered to where Eve was sitting, and buried her face on her shoulder.
“Mr Glaire,” said the vicar, firmly, as he nerved himself for what he had to say, determined, as he was, to leave nothing undone in what he looked upon as his duty – “Mr Glaire, I have done you a grievous wrong; I humbly ask your pardon.”
“What do you mean?” said Richard, starting, and wondering, with his customary distrust in human nature, whether it was some trap.