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IV.

Down the stairs they passed, into the court-yard. As they paused at the last step Constable Crake clutched the waist of young Grant and said—

“I know all 'bout yer, m' lady! I've bin waitin' for this chance for a long time!”

“O God!—but, Mr. Crake, my father—is he worse, is he dyin'?”

“—— your father! Think I care anythin' 'bout the ol' lag?”

Young Grant tried to wrest the clasped arm free.




  ― 216 ―

“No yer don't! Yer've to lis'en to wot I've got ter say.”

“Is—he—worse?”

“I dunno, an' don't care! 'E can die as quick as lightning for all I care. It's on'y yer as I care for, m' beauty!” He flung his free arm round the neck of the other and kissed young Grant's cheeks.

“Leave go! leave go! or I'll cry out!”

“No yer won't, m' beauty! If there's any public row 'bout this the 'Thorities 'll 'ave ter take it up, an' then, m' beauty, yer'll all be in for it—th' brother yer tried ter save by comin' out in his place, an' yer father fer lyin' 'bout yer, an' yerself fer a-deceivin' of Guv' munt!”

“O God!”

“'E can't 'elp yer! There ain't no God out 'ere—we all left God be'ind us in th' Channel.”

“What—d' ye—want?” Young Grant was gasping.

“Ah, oh, so an' pretty's a-comin' to reason, is she? That's right! I'll be a friend to 'er then. An' that's all I want, ter be a friend to yer. Yer understand, don't yer, m' beauty?”

The lamp by the gateway was flashing a quavering beam into the court-yard. By it Mr. Crake saw her


  ― 217 ―
lips quiver, but he could not hear words. They were an assent though—at least, he reasoned so.

“That's right, m' pretty. Now, yer just got ter come to me three times a week, while yer ol' man's in horspital. An' 'e ain't a-goin' ter come out in an 'urry either. I heard the report ter-night—he may live five years, but 'll never do work agen—'e's goin' looney ——”

“Oh! ——” The cry of smitten love rang through the stillness. But there was no echo, the distantly receding footsteps of the patrol marched down by the watch-house, and answered the challenge of the sentry there by “All's well!”

Crake stopped her mouth with his hand. “Shout agen, yer —— 'ussy, and I'll blow th' gaff ter-morrer on yer all—an' th' Gov'nor can't but 'elp then but get that b'utiful brother of yourn 'rested arter all. An' yer dad won't be too looney to flog—nobody's too looney to flog. An' as for yer, wot yer refuse me, wot I ax perlite like, yer'll 'ave ter give ter everybody that axes—beaks an' sodgers an' constables. They ain't goin' ter let a purty piece o' goods like yer slip through their 'ands. An' 'tis better for yer ter 'av one friend 'n not fifty. An' I don't say as I'll marry yer, but I don't mind a-tryin' ter get yer 'signed ter me. An' then yer'll be in clover, m' missy!” He


  ― 218 ―
stopped to take breath, and to emit an anticipatory chuckle at the sensation which would be caused at the transformation of “Grant, son,” into “Tom Crake's 'signed 'ooman!” But some laughter is premature.

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