The Parson O' Dumford
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He took the tool and dug for a few minutes lustily, stooping down after each newly-turned spadeful to pick up and remove the long, white trailing roots that matted it together, horrifying Jacky, who took off his hat and wiped his dewy forehead, for it made him perspire freely to see such reckless use of muscular power.
ďThanky, sir; yes, I see,Ē said Jacky, taking the spade again with a sigh, and fervently wishing that he had not undertaken the job. ďHallo! hereís the Missus.Ē
He paused, and rested his foot on the spade, as just then Mrs Glaire, driving a little four-wheel chaise, drawn by an extremely chubby pony, like a heavy cart-horse cut down, drew up by the vicarage gate.
The little lady was greatly agitated, though she strove hard to keep an equable look upon her countenance, returning the vicarís salute quietly, as he walked down to the gate; whilst such an opportunity of a respite from the spade not being one to be neglected, Jacky Budd stuck that implement firmly amongst the weeds, and followed closely.
ďShall I hold Prinkle, mum?Ē he said, going to the ponyís head.
ďYes Ė no, Jacky, Iím not going to stay,Ē said Mrs Glaire. ďAre you at work here, then?Ē
ďMind he does work, then, Mr Selwood,Ē she continued; ďand donít let him have any beer, for heís a terribly lazy fellow.Ē
Jacky looked appealingly at his mistress, then smiled, and looked at the vicar, as much as to say, ďYou hear her Ė she will have her joke.Ē
ďIs anything the matter?Ē said the vicar, earnestly.
ďWell, yes; not much, Mr Selwood: but I am getting old and nervous, and I thought I would ask you to come up. You seemed to have so much influence with the men.Ē
ďCertainly Iíll come up, if I can be of any use.Ē
ďPray get in then,Ē said Mrs Glaire, and the springs of the little vehicle went down as the vicar stepped in, while, during the minute or two that ensued, as Mrs Glaire drove up to the foundry, she told him that the works had not been opened till mid-day, when it had been agreed upon by her son Ė at her wish Ė that he would receive some of the workmen at the counting-house, and try to make some arrangement about terms.
ďI went to the works, too,Ē she said, ďnot to interfere, but to try and be ready to heal any breach that might arise. Of course I called in as if by accident, as I was going for a drive.Ē
ďAnd has anything occurred?Ē said the vicar.
ďNo; but I was afraid, for Richard is very impetuous, and I thought as Ė as you saw what you did yesterday Ė Ē
ďMy dear Mrs Glaire, pray always look upon me as an old friend, who has your welfare and that of the people thoroughly at heart. Oh, here we are.Ē
His remarks were cut short by the pony turning sharply in at the great gates, as if quite accustomed to the place, and as the men, who were pretty thick in the yard, made way, some of them roughly saluting the occupants of the chaise, the pony stopped of its own accord in front of the counting-house.
The vicar sprang out and helped Mrs Glaire to alight, following her into the building, where Richard was sitting, looking very sulky, at the head of a table, and about a dozen of the men were present, Simeon Slee being in the front rank.
ďItís going agen my advice, Mester Richard Glaire,Ē he was saying.ďIf the men did as I advise, theyíd stand out, but Iím not the man to stand in the way of a peaceable settlement, and as youíve come to your senses, why I agree.Ē
ďI didnít agree for you to come to the works, Slee,Ē said Richard, sharply.
ďYes, yes, yes,Ē chorused half-a-dozen voices; ďall or none, Maister. All or none.Ē
ďI can stand out,Ē said Sim, loftily. ďI can afford to be made a martyr and a scapegoat, and bear the burthen. I donít want to come back to work.Ē
ďAnd I donít want and donít mean to have you,Ē said Richard, hotly. ďI sent to you all this morning, forgiving the brutal treatment I met with yesterday Ė Ē
ďYour own fault,Ē said a voice. ďHowd thee tongue, theer,Ē said one of the men, who seemed to take a leading part. ďBygones is bygones. You sent for us, Maister Richard, and weíve come. You says, says you, for the sake oí peace and quiet youíd put wage where it were, and youíve done it, but it must be all or none. Fair playís fair play, ainít it, parson?Ē
ďYes, yes, Richard, give way,Ē whispered Mrs Glaire; and with an impatient stamp of his foot Richard Glaire gave his lip a gnaw, and exclaimed ó
ďThere, very well; Slee can come back; but mind this, if he begins any of his games and speech-making in the works again, he goes at once.Ē
ďOh, I can stay away,Ē said Slee, in an injured tone; but his fellow-workmen held to his side, and, to Mrs Glaireís great relief, an amicable settlement was arrived at, and the men were about to go, when Banks, the old foreman, burst into the place in a towering passion.
ďHowd hard theer,Ē he roared, looking fiercely round. ďYouíre a pretty set oí cowardly shacks, you are. Do you call that a fighting fair?Ē
ďWhat is it, Banks?Ē exclaimed Richard, starting.
ďDonít make no terms wií íem at all, for they weanít keep to íem, the blackguards.Ē
ďBut what is it?Ē cried Richard, impatiently.
ďWhat is it? What is it, Missus Glaire? Why, I was watching here mysen till nine oíclock, and left all safe.Ē
ďWell?Ē cried Richard, turning pale.
ďLook here, Joe Banks,Ē cried the man who had been speaking before; ďtakí it a bit easy, theer. None oí us ainít done nowt, haíe we, lads?Ē
ďNo,Ē was chorused, Sim Sleeís voice being the loudest.
ďDone nowt!Ē roared Banks, like an angry lion. ďDíyer call it nowt to steal into a manís place, and coot and carry off every band in tí whole works?Ē
ďHave they Ė have they done that, Banks?Ē cried Richard.
ďHave they?Ē roared the foreman; ďask the sneaking cowards.Ē
ďNo, no, we hainít,Ē cried the leader, bringing his hand down on the table with a thump. ďItís a loi, ainít it, lads Ė a loi?Ē
ďYes,Ē was chorused; ďwe ainít done nowt oí tí sort.Ē
ďThen who did it?Ē cried Banks; and there was a silence.
ďLook here,Ē cried Richard, who had been brought very unwillingly to this concession by Mrs Glaire, and gladly hailed an excuse for evading it. ďLook here, Banks, are all those wheel-bands destroyed?Ē
ďIvery one of íem,Ē said Banks.
ďThen Iíll make no agreement,Ē cried Richard, in a rage. ďYou may strike, and Iíll strike. Itís my turn now Ė be quiet, mother, Iím master here,Ē he cried, as Mrs Glaire tried to check him. ďI wonít have my property destroyed, and then find work for a pack of lazy, treacherous scoundrels. Thereís a hundred poundsí worth of my property taken away. Make it up, and put it back, and then perhaps Iíll talk to you.Ē
ďBut I tell you, Mester, itís none oí us,Ē cried the leader.
ďNone of you!Ē sneered Richard. ďWhy, the bands are gone, and Iím to give way, and pay better, and feed you and yours, and be trampled upon. Be off, all of you; go and strike, and starve, till you come humbly on your knees and beg for work.Ē
ďHad you not better try and find out the offender, Mr Glaire?Ē interposed the vicar, who saw the menís lowering looks. ďDonít punish the innocent with the guilty.Ē
ďWell spoke, parson,Ē cried a voice.
ďYou mind your own business, sir,Ē shouted Richard. ďI know how to deal with my own workmen. You struck for wages, and you assaulted me. Iíll strike now, you cowards, for Iíll lock you out. The furnaces are cold; let them stop cold, for Iíll lose thousands before Iíll give in. Iíll make an example of you all.Ē
ďYouíll repent this, Mester Richard Glaire,Ē shouted Slee.
ďIíll repent when I see you in gaol, you mouthing demagogue!Ē cried Richard. ďNow, get off my premises, all of you, for Iíll hold no more intercourse with any of the lot.Ē
ďBut I tell you, Mester,Ē said the leader, a short, honest-looking fellow, ďitís Ė Ē
ďBe off, I tell you!Ē shouted Richard. ďWhere are my bands?Ē
The man wiped his forehead, and looked at his companions, who one and all looked from one to another, and then, as if feeling that there was a guilty man amongst them Ė one who had, as it were, cut the ground from beneath their feet Ė they slowly backed out, increasing their pace though, towards the last, as if each one was afraid of being left.
ďGo after them, Banks, and see them off the premises,Ē said Richard, with a triumphant look in his eye. ďLetís see whoíll be master now.Ē
The foreman went after the deputation, and there was a low murmuring in the yard, but the men all went off quietly, and the great gates were heard to clang to.
ďOh, Richard, my boy,Ē said Mrs Glaire, ďIím afraid youíve made matters worse.Ē
ďIíll see about that,Ē said Richard, rubbing his hands, and giving a look askant at the vicar, who stood perfectly silent. ďTheyíll be down on their knees before the weekís out, as soon as the cupboard begins to be nipped. Are they all gone, Banks?Ē
ďYes, theyíre all gone,Ē said the foreman, returning. ďI wouldnít haí thowt it on íem.Ē
ďStop!Ē cried Richard, as a sudden idea seemed to strike him. ďWhat time did you go away, Joe?Ē
ďAnd all was right then?Ē
ďThat Iíll sweer,Ē said the foreman; ďI went all over the works. It must haí been done by some cowardly sneak as had hid in the place.Ē
ďI know who it was,Ē said Richard, with his eyes sparkling with malicious glee.
ďKnow who it was?Ē said Banks. ďTell me, Maister Richard, and Iíll íbout break his neck.Ē
ďIt was that scoundrel Tom Podmore.Ē
ďWho? Tom Podmore! Yah!Ē said the foreman, in a tone of disgust; and then with a chuckle. ďI dessay heíd like to giíe you one, Maister Dick; but go and steal the bands! It ainít in him.Ē
ďBut I tell you I saw him!Ē cried Richard.
ďSaw him? When?Ē
ďHanging about the works here last night between nine and ten.Ē
ďYou did!Ē cried the foreman, eagerly.
ďThat I did, myself,Ē said Richard, while the vicar scanned his eager face so curiously that the young man winced.
Joe Banks stood thinking with knitted brow for a few moments, and then, just as Mrs Glaire was going to interpose, he held up his hand.
ďWait a moment, Missus,Ē he said. ďLook here, Maister Richard, you said you saw Tom Podmore hanging about the works last night?Ē
ďThereís nobbut one place wheer a chap could haí been likely to haí gotten in,Ē said Banks, thoughtfully. ďWheer might you haí sin him?Ē
ďIn the lane by the side.Ē
ďThatís the place,Ē said the foreman, in a disappointed tone. ďThat theer window. Was he by hissen?Ē
ďYes, he was quite alone,Ē said Richard, flinching under this cross-examination.
ďAnd what was you a-doing theer, Maister Richard, at that time?Ē said the foreman, curiously.
ďI Ė I Ė Ē faltered Richard, thoroughly taken aback by the sudden question; ďI was walking down to go into the counting-house, with a sort of idea that I should like to see if the works were all right.Ē
ďHo!Ē said the foreman, shortly; and just then the eyes of the young men met, and it seemed to Richard that there was written in those of the vicar the one word, ďLiar!Ē
ďDid you speak, sir?Ē said Richard, blanching, and then speaking hotly.
ďNo, Mr Glaire, I did not speak, but I will, for I should like to say that from what I have seen of that young man Podmore, I do not think he is one who would be guilty of such a dastardly action.Ē
ďHow can you know?Ē said Richard, flushing up. ďYou only came to the town yesterday.Ē
ďTrue,Ē said the vicar; ďbut this young man was my guide here, and I had some talk with him.Ē
ďI hope you did him good,Ē said Richard, with an angry sneer.
ďI hope I did, Mr Glaire,Ē said the vicar, meaningly, ďand I think I did, for he told me something of his life, and I gave him some advice.Ē
ďOf course,Ē from Richard.
ďRichard, my son, pray remember,Ē exclaimed Mrs Glaire.
ďOh yes, I remember, mother,Ē cried Richard, stung with rage by the doubting way in which his charge had been received; ďbut it is just as well that Mr Selwood here should learn at once that heís not coming to Dumford to be master, and do what he likes with people.Ē
ďIt is far from my wish, Mr Glaire,Ē said the vicar, with a bright spot burning on each cheek, for he was young and impulsive too, but the spots died out, and he spoke very calmly. ďMy desire here is to be the counsellor and friend of both master and man Ė the trusty counsellor and faithful friend. My acquaintance with this young workman Podmore was short, but I gave him a few friendly words on his future action, and the result was that he came and fought for his master like a man when he was in the midst of an angry mob.Ē
ďSo he did, parson, so he did,Ē said Banks, bluntly.
ďAnd came in a malicious, cowardly way at night to destroy my property,Ē cried Richard.
ďNay, nay, lad, nay,Ē said Banks, sturdily. ďParsonís raight. Tom Podmore ainít the lad to do such a cowardly trick, and donít you let it be known as you said it was him.Ē
ďLet it be known!Ē said Richard, grinding his teeth. ďWhy, Iíll set the police after him, and have him transported as an example.Ē
ďNay, nay, lad,Ē said Banks, ďwait a bit, and Iíll find out who did this. It wasnít Tom Podmore Ė Iíll answer for that.Ē
ďLet him prove it, then Ė and he shall,Ē cried Richard, who hardly believed it himself; but it was so favourable an opportunity for having an enemy on the hip, that he was determined, come what might, not to let it pass.
Five minutes later the parties separated, the works were shut up, and Richard Glaire did not reject the companionship of the vicar and the foreman to his own door, for there were plenty of lowering faces in the street Ė womenís as well as menís; but the party were allowed to pass in sullen silence, for the strikers felt that ďthe maisterĒ had something now of which to complain, and the better class of workmen were completely taken aback by the wanton destruction of the machinery bands.
Volume One Ė Chapter Thirteen.