― 161 ―

Chapter VII Poison

THE world will hardly make much progress until the wicked man is segregated; he tires out so many good men.

When Abelia, half-fainting, had been carried in to the nameless woman—and an explanation vouchsafed—Heans hurried out again, stepping his way swiftly towards the waterway. Quite clearly, as he approached, he heard the sound of suppressed weeping. Pushing aside the dank obstructing bush, he crept in beneath. The opening was some fifteen inches high by a foot broad, and ornamented by a rough frame of concrete, in which the trowel had dug like a dagger. It had been opened to drain the upper side of the wall into the house-gutter, which here hugged the lower, but the roots of the great heliotrope had cracked gutter, hole, and wall. Not content with shaking the foundations, the tree had thrust two black arms through the fissure, pushing beyond its scented flowers.

Sir William, putting his eyeglass to the crack, saw no red-coat, but made out something like a heap of old clothes spread on a bush. He lowered himself upon his side in the pallid grasses and stared through the waterway.

A few bushes were scattered about a hollow of lean grass, in which lay a couple of bundles in net bags (quaintly ornamented with soiled pink bows), some roots, and some fragments of raw flesh, which, from the gray hair attached to it, he took to be that of a native animal. How these came to be thrown broadcast was his conjecture, but among them was a small old black-woman, pinched and grim of face, and sunk as it were in the earth rather than sitting upon it. Her body was covered with a pink skirt and tasselled shawl, and in her lap, though her eyes were not upon it, was something that looked like a dead reptile, but which he presently saw was nothing more than a withered cluster from the tree above him whose plucked blue blossoms rot as quickly as the hint they give with all their sweets. Heans considered it more than likely that he had been observed by the native, whose senses would be more alert than his own; but she had given no sign. She seemed sunk in a kind of stupor of weeping, and plucked slowly at a bit of growing grass with slim black fingers.

He was dragged out of his thought by the groaning of the

  ― 162 ―
hinges of the street gate, and the noise of footsteps on the central path. He could not at first see who it was for the bushes, but once he caught a gleam of colour, and suddenly, across the fountain, where the black bugler blew his trumpet, through a clear pass of leaves, he saw a soldier pass slowly up, a bundle in his hand, and his cold, bold eyes on the house.

Sir William let the man go past and presently started towards the house along his own path—never, however, coming abreast of the other. When the soldier reached the door, he did not immediately knock, but stood swaying and looking about him, tapping his loose trousers with a gnarled stick he carried. He was smart to note Sir William as the latter turned into the transverse path, and forsaking the door, came swaying in an easy way to meet him. He was a tall, full-complexioned, dark-looking man, high of cheek-bone, thick of chin, but over his limber— almost skittish—friendliness, stared an obstinate eye, coldly and covertly angry. He saluted as he approached, yet with an open smiling countenance, as it were, just civil, if not unlikely to be caught in a rudeness. A hasty stare would have painted him that sort of ragamuffin personage who has led the village pack of toughs in his youth, and would spend his age, the revered of a certain class of toper, in its inn. No worse.

Sir William could hardly believe but he was identical with the man over the wall, yet noted if it were he, he had, for a reason somewhat troubling, discarded the moccasins again for muddy shoes. He thought to himself, perhaps there were soldiers about. He carried no musket. Still with that belittling pleasantness of his—by which Sir William supposed he was known to him—he asked, in a rich, glib, fluting rattle, “if Mr. Charley Oughtryn had the place here: as he had orders to scrub the floor, and take in furniture for the swarry? A nice thing it is, sir,” he continued, not waiting for an answer, nor giving a chance for one, “laying us battery-men on to this tack of decorating, a-running us here and a-running us there—to this 'all and that manshin, like biddies with their scrubbing brushes. Sooner go after the crowsnote again on the hills—I would, sir—like running children and rusting your regimental fire-arm—on convict rations. I would, sir—on convict rations! Spafield: that's my name S-p-a-f-i-e-l-d: pronounce the A like a R. Now, sir, pleased to tell me, sir, if they expect a man named with a name like Spafield?”

Sir William, looking, with his fallen, aged face, rather baleful about the eyes himself, answered nothing, examining the other where he stood saluting and half-stifling his malign pleasantries. The latter titillation no more hid, nor yet revealed, his adamant assurance, than did his rich rattle and untidy moustaches his

  ― 163 ―
long ham-like cheek and thick, heavy chin. The commanding man of a low pack showed just so much under his wicked geniality as the tell-tale smear on an urchin's mouth.

“Oughtryn, as you may know, is away,” said Heans upon a sudden. “You will produce your permission. I know you soldiers.”

The other grinned up with a slight glint, his voice beginning to drag truculently.

“Fare and bed till the Sunday morning: Joseph Spafield. That's the gentleman's name; and that's the order.”

“Where is it?” asked Heans, for the man had produced nothing.

His trousers-lappet hung undone, and, after an interval, in which he watched the other with his angry facetious eye, he thrust in his hand, pulling it forth again, however, empty.

“I'll give it into the biddie's fingers, if you'll excuse,” he answered. “You've two 'andsome women in the house, I'm told. I'm not responsible to any one but the people.… You'll understand my lord” (dropping his voice to a whisper). “I 'appen to know your connection here to be a funny one, and I'm here on dooty. It's not for a guard to be too free. You'll comprehend my footing's delicate.” The man folded his arms under that malign look.

Still staring at him, Sir William put his glass in, and after a moment's pause, said: “You may come with me”; whereon the man whipped his bundle up unpleasing sharp, and followed, almost treading on his heels. As they passed the sentry-box, he piped up a sportive sing-sing for his private ear, being a repetition of some curious Indian or Native ditty, in a rich, harsh tenor:

Morruda, yerrabà, tundy kin arrà
Morruda, yerrabà, min yin guiny wite mà là

but dropped it for a great laugh, as an article escaped his bundle, and he turned to snatch it up. Though he did so, and thrust it away, in one movement, Heans had seen on the path a sort of slip-knot of waxed string on a locket of black wood. It seemed to him a sort of tourniquet. “Them's the boys to silence the bettong,”note said the man, with a loud dark laugh, as he sprang upright. “Aha, my lord, for a June night in good old England! How a poaching turn do cling!”

Heans turned away from him and tapped with his cane upon the door, which lay open. The nameless woman appeared on the instant, but not before the soldier had remarked the

  ― 164 ―
ornamental hand over the door, and gabbled out, how “we was in old somebody's grip, mister, by the look of it!”

(It seems the carved fingers in their form offered rather a grip than a welcome.)

The woman heard him as she came underneath, but Sir William broke her statuesque alarm somewhat by a faint smile and the remark, “It appears differently to different people, sir… This red-coat,” he added, indicating the man to the woman, “has just come from the street, giving the name of Spafield, and stating that he carries an order, quartering him here for the period of her ladyship's party. There is no question of his entering the door, of course, unless he can show you authority.”

The woman gave a slow cold nod, though she was pale, and said that she took orders from no one but Oughtryn, and he would be home about three. She then stared down the man in her remote way, reaching her hand vaguely towards the door. “We must take you in,” she added, as if with a sudden wavering, “if the gentleman knows what he's saying, and you're here for the chamber.”

A worldly tolerance was in the man's eye, standing there with folded arms. He had put his bundle down upon the round stone. “I see,” he said. “Now I tell you what, my amiable girl. Here's my Queen's uniform, and here's me presenting myself, fair and square. My noble here thinks he can put a man down. I know how much down that gentleman's got to his coat. He's got a doctor, he has.” (Here he laughed.) “Well, here's my word and title as a soldier. You take me to the room, and I'll start a-work scrubbin' it. Let me have no more setting in judgment on an officer as is ordered on nonpleasant duty.”

“Ah,” said the woman, “well, I don't know but what you mightn't come in. I'll show you the chamber, and you can speak to the master when he comes in.”

Heans, standing on one side of the door, hit the brick arch sharply with his cane.

“That satisfies you, then,” he said. “The soldier is to enter.”

“We understood some help would be sent this evening,” the woman explained. “The officer can come in. Come in, officer.”

The man was about to speak, stepping forward after the woman, when Heans tapped his shoulder-cushion with his stick. The fellow turned his face like a snake. “One moment.” persisted Heans, motioning the woman back; “the presence of this man in the house may be alarming to Miss Abelia, as she is not herself. The entry of a stranger, and one likely to be noisy and inconsiderate, will hardly restore her. She has been thoroughly frightened.”

The man gloomed at Sir William, then threw up his head and laughed, in a merry, gleeful way. “The 'andsome miss afraid of

  ― 165 ―
a uniform, well, this is news! You're not half a Jo, my lord. I can see that by the way you talk to 'em. The amiable young charmer'll never 'ear a shoe-step from me, bar she beckons first—that I'll promise. Abeelya. Abeelya. That's poetry, that is. There I'm defenceless already! Now tell me, sir, what was them women's name's made for, opposing or seducting? The girl's sacred as a funeral, lady, from this hour. While I'm about this 'ere manshin I'm that young lady's natural protector.”

Unexpectedly the woman asked the soldier to wait, while she consulted with young miss, and turning, stalked back into the side door. Sir William faced away, resting his right hand upon the arch, and looking down the garden. The soldier, after examining his companion narrowly over his folded arms, turned also, and glanced about. A clouded sun threw dapples of light upon the dark green pleasance, touching the forest of the hills with a tender gleaming. The garden, ensanguined with wild valerian, gilded with the cracked and wavering lines of its concrete borderings, lay out obscure enough, with a beam here and a beam there upon its weedy paths, and upon the small high figure with the bugle, a-blowing his silent peal from his periwinkle couch. They were thus standing, when the street gate—as who should say a far note of the very bugle itself—again groaned, and an old woman in a black beaver bonnet entered scrapingly, and came busily up the path. She held up her cashmere skirt with one hand, carrying a small bundle in the other, but at sight of the two men, seemed to waver by the fountain, as if uncertain, in a sudden shyness, whether to return or proceed.

“On my oath,” said the soldier, with a deep laugh, as he directed his gaze about the garden, “old Nick's been a-chipping round this here park with his chisel, mister, by the appearance of it. And a d—d funny hand he's made of it. Ah,” he cried, turning and accosting the hand above the doorway in a sharp voice, “ah, welcome me, would yer; and break my 'and too, by the look of you.” And so saying he raised his arm, and struck the outstretched fingers with his stick. Much to his surprise, and apparently a little to his confusion, a portion of the carving fell “tap” upon the top of his shako, and dropped thence upon the wooden step at his feet. Stooping, he picked up a small black object, and after examining it, threw it with an oath away to the right, across beds and bushes.

Heans noted that he had broken one of the fingers, but he made no comment upon the man's actions. With the soldier he turned to meet the woman as, issuing from the side room, she came again into the hall. She was placing a handkerchief in her apron pocket, and her heavy chignon of hair seemed to have become loosened, otherwise she was her remote, tolerant, statuesque self.

“My young miss,” she said, “is glad enough for you to come

  ― 166 ―
in, soldier. She hopes you'll not find the chamber rough. The ladies and gentlemen said they would polish it theirselves.” At this she quavered up a grin and edged aside, while the soldier instantly snatched up his bundle with a rattle of broad fun, and made to go in. He seemed now in a hurry and threw a glance behind. Over his shoulder the woman saw the newcomer approaching up the path. Turning back, she called a “What is it, ma'am?” and with her the man turned half-malignly: Sir William also, with his back a little bent and polite. The old woman came on, shaking the curls from her face, and mopping it with a large chequered handkerchief. She stopped down, staring into the hall, as if to locate the feminine voice which had hailed her, and then turning, bobbed a curtsey at Heans.

It was Mrs. Quaid.

“I'm sure, sir, you'd hardly know me in my poke,” she said, in a shrill, wavering voice; “I'm Mrs. Quaid, what 'ad you as a lodger.”

“Why, Mrs. Quaid,” he said, his face turning pale, “is this indeed you?” He put his eyeglass up and smiled and nodded. “What—you don't mean to say you have earned my gratitude by bringing me the ancients?”

“Yes, sir, very truly I've fetched you them myself—volubles as I thought I couldn't part with—which I bought seven years agone from a soldier, the very living smoke of our young guard here, though he was a holder man. Oho, young friend, are you there?” (to the woman). “He came to the door, and, says he, ‘You'll take them off me, biddy; I'm in trouble, and old Asbold's got my watch and my Bible. I'll take their worth to you, no more.’ So I give 'im a dollar for the appearance sake. Come now, young friend,” she said, turning to the soldier, who, swinging his bundle on the threshold, eyed her cold enough, “you'll not surprise me by telling me your name's Spadefields. A bold and a long-cheeked man he was, like you, and a careless way with him. But I reckon he was a bolder and a holder man, even in those days. Ah, I see by your temper—you'd be above coming to my house with books!”

“How old do you take me for, biddy?” cried the soldier, rattling it out through a rather stupid grin; “seven years ago I was no battery man.”

“Oh well! it wasn't then, young friend.”

“Devil's in it,” chuckled the other, with an amused yet rueful admitting, “yes, I 'ad you over the coals about them books—old Biddy Quaid! I knew you as you came in at the old gate. Fancy now your fetching them books for the gentleman, to-day! Why, they come from this very manshin! Break your 'art, you'd 'eave them away if you knew what was on 'em! I'd burn 'em if I had 'em.”

“These books are for the gentleman, soldier. So you've a something in your life, friend, you don't want reminding of!”

  ― 167 ―

“There's something quare,” says he, “in your bringing them up to this door before my very face—old Sall.”

“To this door, young friend? Was the wrong done ye perhaps in this very manshin?” (staring at him.)

“Well, to any door.”

“Look there now! and they come from here, did they? I see you staring round as I came up. A funny old place, I say” (nodding about) “for bad books to come from!”

The soldier was silent.

“Very peculiar I should have met you,” she added, and pointedly turned to Sir William, leaving the man swinging a quivering bundle and staring out under his eyebrows.

Heans, who had turned his shoulders that he might better observe him, swung slowly away to her accosting. He somewhat absently, yet bowing and smiling, received the books from her hands. Indeed, he seemed preoccupied by the coincidence, or struck by the man's change of face, as also did the nameless woman; she addressing the soldier from the shadow of the portal with the remark: “Well now, they told me I'd be frightened out of here by the old Governor, but I never have been.”

The man laughed. “If it aint remarkable you should mention the Captain,” said he. “Why, I've seen them very books in Governor Collins' 'ands, I 'ave. But—'e's dead, I 'appen to be certain of that bit of news.”

Sir William's eyes had again sharpened on the fellow even while the old woman was accosting him, and indeed, she too took no pains to conceal a sort of distaste for the man, putting out her mitted hand and drawing Heans, by the coat-sleeve, down the path in the direction of the gate.

“Is 'e after them for something?” she asked.

“No, indeed,” said Sir William; “there is to be some dancing for the Governor's lady, and he is to scrub the floors.”

The old woman began immediately to pour forth her news.

“The gentleman come in last night,” she was saying, “by the name of Captain Shaxton. I noticed, over the chain, he was an officer, or for Mr. Boxley's troublesome ears, I wouldn't have allowed it. Oho dear! I saw at once he was not in a calm state of mind, and I was for calling down Mr. Pelican, what now 'as the loft (Ah, them was regal places for the poor baronet—I often says—now in Oughtryn's dangerous 'ands!), when he asked if I still 'ad the ancient books Sir William 'Eans had favoured, and showed me a ring, saying you was desirous of purchasing them. As he'd broached the subject, I let him in, and went to 'unt them up. It could 'ardly be a wager, I considered; yet I did not think the gentleman was drunk, though I saw his hand a-trembling-like in his sword. When I fetched the books, he took one or two from the table, and turned the pages. He agreed they was the ones, and read out about ‘Fabulus Miximus,’

  ― 168 ―
saying it was ‘a fine sentiment.’ But it licked him what you wanted with them; and he did not seem contented-like. He then offered to give me the price of them in place of the ring, and again asked me if I knew it for yours, sir—holding it up— which I said I thought very probable I did. He paid my demands out, and said you were not applicably situated. He then asked me, light-like, if I still had in my possession a perfume pad which Sir William 'Eans said had belonged to him; and he said (with a strange look, which frightened me back off him), he said, if he could see it, so that he might know there existed such a thing, it would, for some reason, help your credit and honour. Well, sir, I couldn't see how it could redound to that, and you know, sir, I'm not one who can afford to mix my reputation with sacheys which 'as leather skeletons in their cupboards! Indeed I had small-stitched it, very careful, since you was taken; but what could I say? Was he following out evidence, I asked myself, or satisfying his uneasy mind? I soon saw you must have somehow let it out. Anyhow, while I was downstairs, I deemed I'd not give it into his trembling 'and, not for the Governor's acres!”

She gave a sort of sob and wiped her eyes with her handkerchief.

“He was a clever gentleman, and when I told him so and he'd examined it by the candle, he asked if I'd mind his feeling of it. When I asserted I wouldn't have it touched, he bent down and smelt it, and then asked me—staring up at me—if I'd cut a few of the stitches, just to make certain it was lavender. Says I— drawing it away—‘I'm loath to destroy it for a matter I'm not easy on; it's all I have in memorial of the poor baronet; besides being embroidered very rare by a honourable woman of the realm of England.’ He was not taken in, however, but said Sir William had sworn against Captain Daunt to a leather pocket in the lavender, and if I would satisfy him it was there, a lady might be protected from insult, and Sir William 'Eans' honour backed. It was different sir, when I 'eard about the lady. His anger seemed to choke the gentleman, and it was as if he wouldn't speak no more. ‘Oho dear,’ says I, ‘this sounds like quarrelling and black blood!’ ‘No,’ says he, ‘you're frightened of getting Heans into more trouble.’ ‘Well,’ says I, I'm thinkin' of all,' I said, ‘but, by your leave, it's me and my boy would be back again, if Daunt was to think I kept things from him; and you've done me a wrong repeating it.’ 'Ardly 'ad I spoken, when he snatched the pad out of my 'and, and slipping out his sword, there in the 'all, forced the point into it on the floor: as swift a thing as ever I see. I couldn't 'ave been more surprised, sir, if he'd stabbed me with it! ‘There,’ he said, in a loud, wild voice, ‘you can't be blamed now, madam! You can tell them it was Captain Shaxton discovered it, but when he thrust it back” (the old woman began sniffing in her bonnet) “torn in my chilled

  ― 169 ―
'and, I declare, sir, I was thinking it was somebody's bleeding 'art!”

Heans, striding beside her stiffly, with the books tucked high under his left arm, here turned aside, stopped, and put his foot upon the fountain-edge. He looked deadly chilled and fallen of face. Mrs. Quaid extinguished her outbreak, and asked his pardon “for a weak 'eadedness unnatural in a woman of 'er troubles. I couldn't be so mad with Captain Shaxton,” she said, as if begging forgiveness for failure, “seeing he was so broken with it. But when, hasty-like, he would have taken the books from the table, I pulled them away from him, saying I'd bring 'em to you myself, for that I knew where you was placed. And so I'd find what was true about it—and if it was for Sir William 'Eans he'd took the secret. And he asked me when I should go. And I said, in the morning; for if it wasn't right, I must get somehow into Mr. Daunt's good books. And the gentleman, he laughed his hoarse little laugh, and he spoke very strange. ‘Daunt won't molest you,’ he said, ‘but if he should come, or send a constable, show him the thing by all means, and tell him’—the gentleman laughed—‘by a funny accident, I cut it with my sword.’ ”

“Enough, Mrs. Quaid.” (Sir William turned and sat down upon the fountain-edge, dropping the books to his plaid leg. Before him the comfortable house—its stones and peeling sashes staring in the midday grey—stretched soldierly under the royalling of a single gun. It was empty, the red-coat and the woman having disappeared; though a hoarse shock of laughter—a laugh like the angry roar of a beast—told they were in the chamber. A glint of annoyance leapt into Heans' face, but was suppressed. He began to question her: she facing him, her withholding, tragic face ungranting among its quivering curls.)

“I wish to ask you,” he said, “the old fellow seemed to speak serious?”

“Well, sir,” she said, as a whim of compromise, “I'll tell you what I thought—I thought, sir, you'd really 'ave to be careful mixing yourself up between a crazy gentleman like him, and a official gentleman such as you're aware 'as your name and hage in his black-books—a man as 'as made a powerful place. Oho, dear, that's what I thought! And, now I begs to remind you, Superintendent Daunt is changed if he's let himself be maddened into a quarrel—that's without a woman's broke him down. He's a successful gentleman, and knows how much respect to show to womenkind. Sir, take an old woman's advice, and wait his reasons before you go siding with the weaker side!”

“Come now—you, as a lady of experience, consider there is bad blood between the two?”

“Well, sir, it's time I was returning home, and indeed I'm glad you're still situated safe.” (A couple of tears dropped from the beaver bonnet on the gnarled fingers.) “But I'll recommend you

  ― 170 ―
private, as a lady that knew you in your palmy days, and 'as 'erself 'eard the staple of 'er cell clash, unless you're siding with the cleverer, give them their 'eads and 'ands, and don't speak for neither.” (She dabbed her handkerchief into her bonnet.) “Men with bleeding hearts is dangerous, but Mr. Daunt—well, an older man he may be, but if he's committed a mistake, it's from the sternness of his judgment. God bless me, never a fear had that official! Side wise, Sir William. Where other men goes wrong Mr. Daunt don't. A man as I've 'ad a great kindness from, yet one I can't help respecting. Oho dear, I don't like to think of the old gentleman's glum white face—laughing as he did! And the lady!”

“I must indeed side wisely,” Heans said, “for more than one reason. Yet—wait—I have a strange notion——” (He rose slowly from the parapet.) “Now wait where you are, Mrs. Quaid. I will return in an instant.”

With the books under his arm, Heans turned down the path towards the gate, walking at a good pace. The old woman remained by the fountain. Heans was muttering as he walked. He seemed to argue with himself, and spoke with a sort of menace. At the gate, he paused for an instant, nodded, and turned back. “Daunt is cynical,” he argued. “It is a farfetched story. He may not believe me. Why should he! It is against his acumen, in which he is a firm believer. However, he may desire to know whether Shaxton called on Mrs. Quaid even if he keep away himself. His position is difficult—nay, very difficult. Hobarton will be talking of last night. The curious incident of ‘the stable-baronet’ will be about among the messrooms. He may send to Mrs. Quaid to make sure Shaxton got nothing. Would he, if he called there, and found the pad—is he the kind of man to leave it there?

“He is in a difficulty. Mrs. Shaxton's fainting-fit will have called attention to her. Suppose it comes out who the lady is— suppose in his anger, or his cunning, Shaxton should let it out— whom the lady is, whom Daunt has so terribly condemned, it will be remembered instantly how kind she had been to him. People will wonder how it happened that he came to treat people, with whom he had been intimate, in this way; how a man could be so bound up in his profession, so stern in probity, and yet deal a blow like this at an intimate acquaintance. And let us suppose—cynical men as we are—it should get about that Heans had spoken the truth—and there did exist a pocket—before Daunt knew whether he should contradict it, or steady it out. He might want to know if Shaxton had the thing in his hands.”

Sir William's air was tragically final as he reached the fountain. “Dear Mrs. Quaid,” said he, “only one thing more—risk this for the ‘poor baronet.’ Bring the pad to me, and should a policeman wait on you, tell him that its owner has it again. Come, you will do this?”

  ― 171 ―

“Lord help us, sir, what would you be doing with it!”

“Mrs. Quaid, I have reason to think Mr. Daunt will call for it— if he has not done so. That is my judgment of him. He may order you to surrender it for examination. We may lose it—sole evidence of the good fame of a lady. My Heaven, that cannot happen! Send somebody here with it to-night. Why, don't you see—he could come to me.”

“You don't want the gentleman to come to you, sir,” said the old woman, shrilly. “I'm speaking for you, sir, remembering your difficulty. You can't speak up against him. You've had too heavy a dose from him.”

“His unappeasable hunger and his scepticism will bring him to this house,” Heans said.

She faintly shook her ancient curls:

“Now he'll send somebody else!”

“Not to me. I believe he won't do that. He will fear what I might say.”

“Ah, frightened of what you know, sir!” She shook a wild finger at him. “Mr. Daunt's too clever for you!”

“If you kept the pad, he might deprive you of it!”

“No, sir” (trembling.)

“I will tell you. I have a heartfelt wish to help this lady.”

“He might send you a police-officer.”

“Mrs. Quaid, I don't think he would risk any one else in evidence. As yet there are only that silly giddy fellow (excusing his wife) and a convict's shadowy testimony.”

“Nay—nay, sir, I won't hear it from any one! I'm affrighted, sir, of the gentleman's stern way!”

“Let me request you to tell him, how, in your kindness, you brought prisoner Heans the books, and he demanded that the pad should be returned to him.”

“Ah, I'll see—I'll see! You didn't mention money, did you?”

“I have my old pelisse in very good wear,” Heans said. “If the pad comes to me to-day, I will send that to you. The fur is of considerable value.”

She looked down nodding in not very gracious acquiescence.

“As I'm a sad woman, I never put the pad in the hands of the snatching gentleman!”

“That is true.”

“If he presses me, as God's with me” (trembling violently,) “I'll give him the gentleman's ill message.”

“You, madam, know better than I how to go about it.”

“Well, sir, I won't answer for the secret, but you can 'ave the pad, sir. I won't be troubled any longer with the risk of it—no, sir. Oho dear, I'm not a trusting woman! Charity begins at 'ome, and I've known days past what you're experiencing, and masters worse than this low Oughtryn. What you're up to I'm not certain. You're not a person as'll suffer a woman to advise. Because of better days, and because I had the looking-after of you

  ― 172 ―
in brighter years, I adjures you, be watchful of them as overlooks you. Ah, a funny place! And funny doings, as I've 'eard, and as this very founting will tell you, with its dead man a'blowing his ghostly tunes for others' ears. Oho dear, I'm glad mine are deaf to them, and I pray yours won't be opened to 'em, sir, by violent doings, in this house. They're going to dance, are they?” She turned housewards, with a grave air, “Her ladyship and all—ah, a funny place for the music! Look,” (pointing up) “there's my young friend at the window, this moment, a-peeping at his old friend in the garden. A nice old young man—not a-scrubbin' yet. So I'll go home, sir. Women 'as their work.”

At her indication, Sir William saw in a window on the extreme right, the slats of whose shades were just perceptibly raised, the outline of a figure standing motionless between it and the one behind. He changed his glance to the heavy bonnet of the old woman—who, with an open unsatisfied, grey-old stare bobbed a curtsey, and turned shruggingly away. He looked after her as she hurried downward, a dark curl flapping about her bonnet.

“And troth, Mrs. Quaid,” called he.

When at length he turned and moved housewards, his ear was attracted to a spot in the eastern wall, whence from beneath the heliotrope came yet a faint runnel of crying.