IT WAS market day at Aldersbury, the old county town of Aldshire, and the busiest hour of the day. The clock of St. Juliana’s was on the point of striking three, and the streets below it were thronged. The gentry, indeed, were beginning to take themselves homeward; a carriage and four, with pastillions in yellow jackets, awaited its letters before the Post Office, and near at hand a red-wheeled tandem-cart, the horses tossing their small, keen heads, hung on the movements of its master, who was gossiping on the steps of Ovington’s Bank, on Bride Hill. But only the vans bound to more distant valleys had yet started on their lagging journey; the farmers’ gigs, the hucksters’ carts, the pack-asses, still lingered, filling the streets with a chattering, moving multitude. White-coated yeomen and their wives jostled their betters —but with humble apologies—in the low-browed shops or hardily pushed smocked-frocks from the narrow pavements or clung together in obstinate groups in the roadway. Loud was the babel about the yards of the inns, loudest where the tap-rooms poured forth those who, having dined well, had also drunk deep, after the fashion of our great-gran dsires.
Through all this medley and hubbub a youngman threaded his way. He wore a blue coat with gilt buttons, a waistcoat to match, and drab trousers, and as he hurried along, his hat tilted back, he greeted gentle and simple with the same laughing nod. He had the carriage of one who had a fixed position in the world and knew his worth ; and so attractive was his smile, so gallant his confidence ,that liking ran before him, and half of the faces that he encountered mirrored his good humour. As he passed along the High Street, and skirted the Market Place, where the quaint effigy of an ancient Prince, great in his day, looked down on the turmoil from the front of the Market House, he glanced up at the clock, noted the imminence of the hour, and quickened his pace.
AMAN touched him on the sleeve. “Mr.
Bourdillon, sir,” he said, trying to stop him, “by your leave, I want to—”
“Not now. Not now,
Broadway,” theyoung man answered quickly. “I’m meeting the mail.” And before the other had fairly taken in his words he was a dozen paces away, now slipping deftly between two lurching farmers, now coasting about the more obstinate groups.
A moment later St.
Juliana’s clock, hard put to it to raise its wheezy voice above the din, struck the hour. The young man slackened his pace.
He was in time, but only barely in time, for as he paused, the distant notes of the guard’s bugle sprang like fairy music above the turbid current of sound and gave notice that the coach was at hand. Hurriedly gigs and carts drew aside, the crowd sought the pavements, the more sober drew the heedless out of danger, half-a-dozen voices cried “Look out! Have a care!” and With a last shrill Tantivy! Tantivy! Tantivy! the four sweating bays, the leaders cantering, the wheelers trotting, the bars all taut, emerged from the crest of the steep Cop; and the Holyhead Mail, within a minute of its time, drew up before the door of the Lion, the Royal Arms shining bravely from its red panels.
Shop-keepers ran to their doors, the crowd closed up about it, the yokels gaped—for who in those days felt no interest in its advent! By that coach had come, eleven years before, the news of the abdication of the Corsican and the close of the Great War. Laurelled and flagged, it had thrilled the town a year afterwards with the tidings of Waterloo. Later it had signalled the death of the old blind king, and later still, the acquittal—as all the world regarded it—of Queen Caroline. Ah, how the crowd had cheered then! And how lustily old Squire Griffin of Garth, the great-uncle of this young man, now come to meet the mail, had longed to lay his cane about their disloyal shoulders!
The coachman, who had driven the eleven-mile stage from Haygate in fifty-eight minutes, unbuckled and flung down the reins. The guard thrust his bugle into its case, tossed a bundle of journals to the waiting boys, and stepped nimbly to the ground. The passengers followed more slowly, stamping their chilled feet, and stretching their cramped limbs. Some, who were strangers, looked about them with a travelled air, or hastened to the blazingfires that shone from the Lion windows, while two or three who were at their journey’s end bustled about, rescuing shawls and portmanteaux, or dived into inner pockets for the coachman’s fee.
The last to appear, a man, rather below the middle height, in a handsome, caped travelling-coat, was in no hurry. He stepped out at his ease and found the young man who has been described at his side. “That you, Arthur?” he said, his face lighting up. “All well?”
“All well, sir. Let me take that?”
“Isn’t Rodd here? Ah!” to a second young man, plainer, darker, and more soberly garbed, who had silently appeared at his forerunner’s elbow. “Take this, Rodd, will you?” handing him a small leather case. “Don’t let it go, until it is on my table. All well?”
“All well, sir, thank you.”
“Then go on at once, will you? I will follow with Mr. Bourdillon. Give me your arm, Arthur.” He looked about him as he spoke. One or two hats were lifted, he acknowledged the courtesy with a smile. “Betty well?”
“You’ll find her at the window looking out. All gone swimmingly I hope, sir?”
“Swimmingly?” The traveller paused on the word, perhaps questioning its propriety; and he did not continue until they had disengaged themselves from the group round the coach. He and the young man came, though there was nothing to show this, from different grades of society, and the one was thirty years older than the other and some inches shorter. Yet there was a likeness. The lower part of the face in each was strong , and a certain brightness in the eyes, that was alertness in the younger man and keenness in the elder, told of a sanguine temperament; and they were both good-looking. “Swimmingly?” the traveller repeated when they had freed themselves from their immediate neighbours. “Well, if you choose to put it that way, yes. But, it’s wonderful, wonderful,” in a lower tone, as he paused to acknowledge an acquaintance, “the state of things up there, my boy.”
“Rising as if things would never fall. And upon my word I don’t know why, with the marvelous progress everything is making— but I’ll tell you all that later. It’s a full market. Is Acherley at the bank?” “Yes, and Sir Charles. They came a little before time.”
“Clement is with them,I suppose?” “Well, no, sir,”
“Don’t say lie’s away to-day?” in a tone of vexation.
"I’m afraid he is,” Arthur admitted reluctantly. “But they are all right. I offered Sir Charles the paper, but they preferred to wait outside.”
the other, nodding right and left. “Too bad of the boy! Too bad! No,” to the person who had lain in wait for Bourdillon and now put himself in their way, “I can’t stop now, Mr. Broadway.”
“But, Mr. Ov~ ington! Just a “Not now!” Ovington answered curtly. “Call to-morrow." And when they had left the man behind, “What does he want?”
“What they all want,” Arthur answered smiling. “A good thing.”
“But he isn’t a customer.”
“No, but he will be to-morrow,” the youngman rejoined. “They are all agog. They’ve all got it that you can make a man’s fortune by a word, and of course they want their fortunes made.”
“Ah?” the other ejaculated drily. “But seriously, look about you, Arthur. Did you ever see a greater change in men’s faces—from what they were this time two years? Even the farmers!”
''Well, they are doing well.”
“Better, at any rate. Better, even they. Yes, Mr. Wolley,” to a stout man, much wrapped up, who put himself in the way, “follow us, please. Sir Charles is waiting. Better,” Ovington continued to his companion, as the man fell behind, “and prices rising, and demand —demand spreading in everything.”
“Including Stocks. I’ve some news for Sir Charles, that, if he has any doubts about joining us, will fix him. Well, here we are, and I’m glad to be home. We’ll go in by the house door, Arthur, or Betty will be disappointed.”
The bank stood on Bride Hill, looking down the High Street. The position was excellent and the house good. Still, it was no more than a house for in 1825 banks were not the institutions that they have since become. They had still for rivals the old stocking and the cracked teapot, and among banks, Ovington’s at Aldersbury was neither of long standing nor of more than local repute.
Mr. Ovington led the way into the house, and had barely removed his hat when a girl flew down the wide oak staircase and flung herself upon him. “Oh, father!” she cried. “Here at last! Aren’t you cold? Aren’t you starving?”
“Pretty well for that,” he replied, stroking her hair in a way that proved that, whatever he was to others, he had a soft spot for his daughter. “Pretty well for that, Betty.”
“Well, there’s a good fire! Come and warm yourself!” “That’s what I can’t do, my dear,” he said, taking off his great coat. “Business first.”
‘But I thought you had done all that in London?” pouting.
“Not all, but some. I shall be an hour, perhaps more.”
She shot a mutinous glance at Arthur. “Why can’t he do it? And Mr. Rodd?”
“You think we are old enough, Betty?”
“Apprentices should be seen, not heard!” she snapped. Arthur’s position, at the bank had been hardly understood at first, and in some fit of mischief, Betty, determined not to bow down to his pretensions, had christened him the “Apprentice.”
“I thought that that proverb applied to children,” he retorted.
The girl was a beauty, dark and vivid, but small, and young enough to feel the gibe. Before she could retaliate, however, her father intervened. “Where’s Clement?” he asked. “I know that he is not here.”
“Tell-tale!” she flung at Arthur. “If you must know,
father,” mildly, “I think that he’s-” *
“Mooning somewhere, I suppose, instead of being in the bank, as he should be. And market day of all days! There, come, Bourdillon, J mustn’t keep Sir Charles and Acherley waiting.” He led the way to the rear of the hall, where a door on the left hand led into the bank parlour. Betty made a face after them.
In the parlour which lay behind the public office were two men. One, seated in an arm-chair by the fire, was reading the Morning Post. The other was standing at the window, his "very shoulders expressing his impatience. But it was to the former, a tall, middle-aged man, stiff and pompous, with thin sandy hairbut kindly eyes, that Ovington made the first advance. “I am sorry to have kept you waiting, Sir Charles,” he said. “Very sorry. But I assure you that I have not wasted a minute. Mr. Acherley,” to the other, “pardon me, will you? Just a word with Sir Charles before we begin.”
And leaving Bourdillon to make himself agreeable to the impatient Acherley, Ovington drew Sir Charles Woosenham aside. “I have gone a little beyond my instructions,” he said in a low tone, “andsold your Monte Reales.”
The Baronet’s face fell. “Sold!” he ejaculated. “Parted
with them? But I never—my dear sir, I never-”
“Authorised a sale?” the banker agreed suavely. “No, perfectly right, Sir Charles. But I was on the spot and I felt myself responsible. There was a favourable turn and” —forestalling the other as he would have interrupted— “my rule is little and sure—little and sure, andsellon a fair rise. I don’t think you will be dissatisfied with the transaction.”
But Sir Charles’s displeasure showed itself in his face. He was a man of family and influence, honourable and straight-forward, but his abilities were hardly on a par with his position, and though he had at times an inkling of
the fact it only made him the more jealous of interference. “But I never contemplated,” he said, the blood rising to his face, “never for a moment, that you would part with the stocks without reference to me, Mr. Ovington.”
“Precisely, precisely—without your authority, Sir Charles— except at a really good profit. I think that four or five hundred was mentioned? Just so. Well, if you will look at this draft, which of course includes the price of the stocks—they cost, if I remember, fourteen hundred or thereabouts—you will, I hope—I really hope—approve of what I did.”
Sir Charles adjusted his glasses, and frowned at the paper. He was prepared to be displeased and to show it. "Two
A STORY by Ben Ames Williams is always something that lovers of worth-while fiction can look forward to with pleasure. He ranks easily among the first half-dozen writers of the continent as a graphic delineator of the emotions. “Judgment,” which appears on page 18 of this issue, is the first of five extraordinarily tense pieces of short fiction from Mr. Williams’ pen which will appear in the next few issues of MacLean’s. Each story is absolutely separate. The story in this issue is illustrated by F. R. Gruger, who is recognized as one of the finest illustrators on the continent.
thousand six hundred, ’ ’ he muttered, “two thousand six hundred and twenty-seven!” his jaw dropping in his surprise. “Two thousand six—really! Ah, well, I certainly think”—with a quick change to cordiality that would have amused an onlooker—“that you acted for the best. Lam obliged to you, much obliged, Mr. Ovington. A handsome profit.”
“I felt sure that you would approve,’ ’ the banker assented gravely. “Shall Bourdillon put the draft—Arthur, be good enough to place this draft to Sir Charles Woosenham’s account. And tell Mr. Wolley and Mr. Grounds—I think they are waiting—to come in. I ask your pardon, Mr. Acherley,” approaching him in turn.
“No plum for me,I suppose?” growled that gentleman, whom the gist of the interview with Sir Charles had not escaped. He was a tall, hatchet-faced, dissipated-looking man, of an old family, Acherley of Acherley. He had been a dandy with Brummell, had shaken his elbow at Watier’s when Crockford managed it, had dined at the Pavilion; now he vegetated in the country on a mortgaged estate, and on Sundays attended cock-fights behind the village publichouse.
“Well, not to-day,” Ovington answered pleasantly. “But when we have shaken the tree a little—”
“One may fall, you think?”
“I hope so. You will be unlucky if one does not.”
The two men who had been summoned came in, each after his fashion. Wolley entered first, endeavouring to mask under a swaggering manner his consciousness that he stood in the presence of his betters. A clothier from the Valleys and one of Ovington’s earliest customers, he had raised himself, as the banker had, and from the same stratum; but by enlarging instead of selling his mill. During the war he had made much money and had come to attribute his success a little more to his abilities and a little less to circumstances than was the fact. Of late there were whispers that in the financial storm of ’16, which had followed the close of the war, he had come near the rocks; but if so he had put a bold face on the crisis, and by an assertive manner and by steadily putting himself forward he had impressed most men with a belief in his wealth. “Afternoon, Sir Charles,1”he grunted, with as much ease as he could compass. “Afternoon,” to Acherley. He took a seat at the table and slapped down his hat. He was here on business and he meant to show that he knew what business was.
Grounds, who followed, was a man of a different type. He was a maltster and had been a dairyman; a leading tradesman in the town, cautious, penurious, timid, putting pound to pound without saying much about it, and owning that respect for his superiors which became one in his position. Until lately he had hoarded his savings, or put them into the five per cents.; he had distrusted even the oldest and most respectable bank. But progress was in the air, new enterprises, new discoveries were the talk of the town, the interest on the five per cents, had been reduced to four, and in a rare moment of rashness, he had taken a hint dropped by Ovington, had ventured, and won. He still trembled at his temerity, he still vowed in wakeful moments that he would return to the old safe road, but in the meantime easy gains tempted him and he was now fairly em-
barked on modern courses. He was a by-word in Aldersbury for caution and shrewdness, and his adhesion to any scheme would, as Ovington well knew, commend it to the town.
He hung,back,’but, “Come, Mr. Grounds, take a seat,” said the banker. “You know Sir Charles and Mr. Acherley? Sir Charles, will you sit on my right, and Mr. Acherley here, if you please? Bourdillon,'will you take a note? We are met, as you know, gentlemen, to consider the formation of a Joint Stock Company, to be called”—he consulted a paper—“the Valleys Steam Railroad Company, for the purpose of connecting the woollen business of the Valleys with the town, and of providing the public with a superior mode of transport. The Bill for the Manchester and Liverpool Railroad is on the point of passing, and that great enterprise is as good as carried through. The Bill for,the London and Birmingham Railroad is before the House;aBill for a line from Birmingham to Aldersbury is preparing. Those projects are, gentlemen , in stronger hands than ours, and itmight seem to some to be too early to anticipate their success and to provide the continuation we propose. But nothing is more certain than that the spoils are to those who are first in the field. The Stockton and Darlington Railway is proving what can be done by steam in the transport of the heaviest goods. A single engine there draws a load of fifty tons at the rate of six miles an hour, and has been known to convey a load of passengers at fifteen miles. Higher speeds than these are thought to be possible--”
“I’ll never believe it!” Wolley growled, anxious to assert himself.
“But not desirable,” Ovington continued blandly. “At any rate, if we wait too long——”
“There’s no talk of waiting!” Acherley exclaimed impatiently. Neither he nor Sir Charles was in the habit of meeting on an equal footing the men with whom they were sitting to-day; he found the position galling, and what was to be dpne he was anxious should be done quickly. He had heard the banker’s exordium before.
“No, we are here to act,” Ovington assented, with one eye on Grounds, for whose benefit he had been talking. “But on sober and well-considered lines. We are all agreed, I think, that such a railroad will be a benefit to the trade and district?”
Now, to this proposition not one of those present would have assented a year before. “Steam railroads?” they would have cried, “fantastic and impossible!" But the years 1823 and 1824 had been years not only of great prosperity but of abnormal progress. The seven lean years, the years of depression and repression which had followed Waterloo, had come to an end. The losses of war had been made good, and simultaneously a more liberal spirit had been infused into the Government. Men had breathed freely, had looked about them, had begun to hope and to venture, to talk of a new world. Demand had overtaken and outrun supply, large profits had been made, money had become cheap, and, fostered by credit, the growth of enterprise throughout the country had been marvelous. It was as if, after the frosts of winter, the south wind had blown and sleeping life had everywhere awakened. Men doubled their operations and still had money to spare. They put the money in the funds—the funds rose until they paid no more than three per cent. Dissatisfied, men sought other channels for their savings, nor sought in vain. Joint Stock Companies arose on every side. Projects, good and bad, sprang up like mushrooms in a night. Old lodes and new harbours, old canals and new fisheries, were taken in hand, and for all these there seemed to be capital. Shares rose to a premium before the companies were floated, and soon the bounds of our shores were found to be tooinarrow for British enterprise. At that moment, however, the separation of the South American countries from Spain fell out, and these were at once seen to offer new outlets. The romantic were dazzled with legends of mines of gold and pockets of diamonds, while the gravest saw gain in pampas waving with wheat and prairies grazed by countless herds. It was felt, even by the most cautious, that a new era had set in. Trade, soaring on a continual rise in prices, was to know no bounds. If the golden age of commerce had not begun, something very like it had come to bless the British merchants.
Under such circumstances, the Valleys Railroad seemed a practical thing even to Grounds, and Ovington’s question was answered by a general assent.
“Very good, gentlemen,” he resumed. “Thenlmay take that as agreed.” He proceeded to enter upon the details of the scheme. The length of the line would be fourteen miles. The capital was to be £45,000 divided into 4,500 shares of £10 each, £1 a share to be paid atonce, the sum so raised to be used forthepreliminary expenses; £1. 10s per share to be paid three months later, and the rest to be called up as required. The directors’ qualification would be fifty shares. The number of directors would be seven—the five gentlemen now present and two to be named, as to whom he would have a word to say by-and-by. Mr. Bourdillon, of whose abilities he desired to speak in high praise—here several at the table looked kindly at the young man — would be secretary.
“But will the forty-five thousand be enough, sir?” Grounds ventured timidly. He alone was not directly interested in the venture. Wolley was the tenant of a large mill. Sir Charles was the owner of two mills and the hamlets about them, Acherley of a third. Ovington had various interests.
“To complete the line, Mr. Grounds? We believe so. To provide the engine and coaches another fifteen thousand will be needed, but this may be raised by a mortgage.”
Sir Charles shied at the word. “I don’t like a mortgage, Mr. Ovington,” he said.
“No, d-n a mortgage!” Acherley chimed in. He had
had much experience of them.
“The point is this,” the banker explained. “The road once completed, we shall be able to raise the fifteen thousand at five per cent. If we issue shares they must partake, equally with ourselves, in the profits, which may be fifteen, twenty, perhaps twenty-five per cent.”
A twinkle of greed passed from eye to eye. Fifteen, twenty, twenty-five per cent.! Ho, ho!
“The next question,” Ovington continued, "is the right of way. We cannot use the highway, the gradients and angles render that impossible. We must acquire a right of way; but, fortunately, the estates we run over are few, no more than thirteen in all, and for a full third of the distance they are represented at this table.” He bowed gracefully to the two landowners. “Sir Charles will, of course, be President of the Road and Chairman of the Directors. We are fortunate in having at our head a country gentleman who has”—hebowedagain—“the enlightenment to see that the landed interest is best served by making commerce contributory to its well-being.”
“But what about the game?” Sir Charles asked anxiously, “You don’t think-” •
“The greatest care will be taken on that point. We shall see that no covert is closely approached.”
“And the—you won’t bring the line within sight of-”
“Of the Park? God forbid! The amenities of every estate must be carefully guarded. And, of course, a fair price
for the right of way will be agreed. Seven of the smaller landowners I have sounded, and we shall have no trouble with them
The largest estate outstanding---”
“Is my landlord’s, I’ll bet!” Wolley exclaimed.
“Yes—is Garth. Mr. Griffin’s”. Wolley laughed rudely. “Garth? you’ll have your work cut out there!” “Oh, I don’t know!” “I do. And you’ll find I’m right,” “Well, I hope--”
“You may hope what you like!”
Charles shuddered at the man’s brusqueness.
“The Squire’s a hard nut. to crack, and so you’ll find, banker. If you can get him to do a thing he don’t wish to do, you’ll be the first that ever has. He hates the name of trade as he hate's the devil!”
The baronet sat up. “Trade?” he exclaimed. “Oh? but I am not aware, sir, that this is— Surely a railroad is on another footing?” Alarm was written on his face.
“Quite!” Ovington struck in hurriedly.
“Entirely different! Another thing altogether, Sir Charles. There can be only one opinion on that.”
“Of course, if I thought I was entering on anything like—”
“A railroad is on an entirely different footing,” the banker repeated, with an angry glance at Wolley, who, unrepentant, continued to stare before him, a sneer on his face. “On an entirely different footing. Even Mr. Griffin, prejudiced as I venture with all respect to think he is—even he would agree to that. But I have considered the difficulty, gentlemen, and I have no doubt we can surmount it. I propose to see him on Monday morning, accompanied by Mr. Bourdillon, his nephew—greatnephew, I should say—and between us I have no doubt that we shall be able to persuade him.”
Acherley looked over his shoulder at the secretary, who sat at a small table at Ovington’s elbow. “Like the job. Arthur?” he asked.
“I think Sir Charles’s example will go a long way with him,” Bourdillon answered. He was a tactful young man.
The banker put the interruption aside. “I shall see Mr Griffin on Monday, and with your consent, gentlemen, I propose to offer him the sixth seat at the Board.” "Quite right, quite right,” Sir Charles murmured, much relieved.
“He’ll not take it!” Wolley persisted.
“My dear sir!”
“You will see I am
“Well, there are more ways than one. At any rate I will see him, and report to the next meeting, when, with the chairman’s approbation, we shall draw up the prospectus. In that connection”—he consulted his paper—“I have already received overtures from customers of the bank for four hundred shares.” There was a murmur of applause and Grounds’s face betrayed relief. “Then Sir Charles has put himself down for three hundred.” He bowed deferentially to Woosenham. “Mr. Acherley for one hundred and fifty, Mr. Wolley has taken up one hundred and twenty-five, and Mr. Grounds—I have not heard from Mr. Grounds, and there is no hurry. No hurry at all!” But Grounds, feeling that all eyes were on him, and feeling also uncomfortable in his company, took the fence up to which he had heen brought. He murmured that he would take one hundred and twenty-
“Excellent!” said Ovington. "And I, on behalf of the bank, propose to take four hundred.”
Again there was a murmur of applause.
"So that before we go to the public we have already onethird of the shares taken up. That being so, I feel no doubt that we shall start at a premium befóte we cut the first sod.”
There followed a movement of feet, an outburst of hilarity.' ' For this was what they had all wished to hear; this wasthepoint. Chairs were pushed back and Sir Charles, who was as fearful for his prestige as w a s Grounds for money, recovered his cheerfulness. Even Acherley became goodhumoured. “Well, here’s to the Valleys Railroad!” he cried.
“Damme, we ought to have something to drink it in!”
; The banker ignored this, and Sir Charles spoke. “But as tio the seventh seat:at the Board?
We ’have not arranged it. I think?”
He liked to show that nothing escaped him, and that if he;was above business he could still, when.he condescended to it, be a business; man.
' “N o Ovington agreed. “But I suggest that, with your permission, we hold that over. There may-be a big subscriber taking three or four hundred shares?”
“Quite so, quite so.”
“Somebody may come forward, and the larger the applications the higher the premium, gentlemen.”
; Again eyes glistened, and there was a new movement. Wodsenham took his leave, bowing to Wolley and Grounds, and shaking hands with the others. Acherley went with Him and Ovington accompanied them, bareheaded, to Sir Charles’s carriage which was waiting before the bank. As he returned Wolley waylaid him and drew him into a corner. A conference took place, the banker turning the money in his fob as he listened, his face grave. Presently the clothier entered on a second explanation. In the end Ovipgton nodded. He called Rodd from the counter and gave him an order. He left his customer in the bank.
When he re-entered the parlour Grounds had disappeared, ánd Arthur, who was bending over his papers, looked up. “Wolley wanted his notes renewed, I suppose?” he said. Thepbank had few secrets for this shrewd young man, who had-learnt as much of business in eighteen months as Rodd the cashier had learned in ten years, or as Clement Ovington would learn in twenty.
The banker nodded. “And three hundred more on his standing loan.”
Arthur whistled. “I wonder you go on carrying him.”
“If I cut him loose now--”
“There would be a loss, of course.”
“Yes, but that is not all, lad. Where would the Railroad scheme be? Gone. And that’s not all, either. Ilis fall would deal a blow to credit. The money that we are drawing put of the old stockings and cracked tea-pots would go back to them. Half the clothiers in the Valley would shiver, and neither I nor you would be able to say where the'trouble would stop, or who would be in the Garetle
next week. No, we must carry him for the present, and pay for his railway shares too. But we shall hold them, and the profits will eventually come to us. And if the railway is made, or begun, it will raise the value of mills and increase our security; so that whether he goes on or we have to take the mills over—which Heaven forbid!—the ground will be firmer. It went well?”
“Splendidly! The way you managed them!” The lad laughed.
“What is it?”
“Grounds asked me if I did not think that you were like the pictures of old Boney. I said I did. The Napoleon of Finance, I told him. Only, I added, you knew a deal better where to stop.”
Ovington shook his head at the flatterer, but was pleased with the flattery. More than once people had stopped him in the street and told him that he was like Napoleon. It was not only that he was stout and of middle height, with his head sunk between his shoulders; but he had the classic profile, the waxen complexion, the dominating brow and keen bright eyes, nay, something of the air of power of the great Exile who had died three years before. And he had something, too, of his ambition. Sprung from nothing, a self-made man, a native of the district, he seemed in his neighbours’ eyes to have already reached a wonderful eminence. But in his own eyes he was still low on the hill of fortune. He was still a country banker and new at that. But if the wave of prosperity which was sweeping over the country and which had already wrought so many changes, if this could be taken at the flood, nothing, he believed, was beyond him. He dreamed of a union with Dean’s, the old conservative steady-going bank of the town; of branches here and branches there; finally of an amalgamation with a London bank, of Threadneedle
Street, and a directorship—but Arthur was speaking.
“You managed Grounds finely,” he said. “I’ll wager he’s sweating over what he’s done! But do you think —” he looked very keenly at the banker as he put the question, for he was eager to know what was in his mind —“do you think the thing will succeed, sir?”
“I think that the shares will go to a premium. And I see no reason why the railroad should not succeed in time. If I did not think so, I should not be fostering it. It may take time and, of course, more money than we think. But if credit remains good, and nothing o c cu r s to dash the public—no, I don’t see w h y it should not succeed. And if it does it will give such an impetus to the trade of the Valleys, three-quarters of which passes through our hands, as will repay us many times over.”
“I am glad you think so. I was not
“Because I led Grounds a little? Oh, that was fair enough. It does not follow from that, that honesty is not the banker’s policy, lad. Make no mistake about that. But I am going into the house now. Just bring me the note-, issue book, will you? I must See how we stand. I shall be in the dining-room.” “Very good, sir.” But when Arthur went into the house a few minutes later he met Betty, who was crossing the hall. “Your father" wanted this book,” he said. “Will you take it to him?”
But Betty put her hands behind her back. “Why? Where are you going?”
^ You have forgotten that it is Saturday. I am going
"Horrid Saturday! I thought that to-night, with father just back-”
“I wouldn’t go? If I don’t my mother will think that the skies have fallen. Besides, I am riding Clement’s mare, and if I don’t go, how is he to come back?”
“As you go at other times. On his feet.”
“Ah, well, very soon I shall have a horse of my own. You’ll see, Betty; We are all going to make our fortunes
“Fortunes?”—with disdain. “Whose?”
“Your father’s for one.”
“Silly! He’s made his.”
“Then yours—and mine, Betty. Yours and mine—and
“I don’t think he’ll thank you.”
“Then Rodd’s. But, no, wre’ll not make Rodd’s. We’ll not make Rodd’s, Betty.”
“And why not Mr. Rodd’s?”
“Never mind. We’ll not make it,” mischievously. “I wonder why you’ve got such a colour, Betty?” And as she snatched the book from him and threatened him with it, “Good-bye. till Monday. I’m late now, and it will be dark before I am out of the town.”
With a gay nod he vanished through the door that led into the bank. She looked after him, the book in her hand. Her lip curled. “Rodd, indeed!” she murmured. “Rodd? As if I should ever—oh, isn’t he provoking!”
* CHAPTER II
'"jpH E VILLAGE of Garthmyle, where Arthur had his home, A lies in the lap of the border hills more than seven miles from Aldersbury, and night had veiled the landscape when he rode over the bridge and up the village street. The squat church-tower, firm and enduring as the hopes it embodied, rose four-square above the thatched dwellings, and some half-mile away the rider could discern or imagine the blur of trees that masked Garth, on its sister eminence. But the bounds of the valley, in the mouth of which the village stands, were obscured by darkness; the steep limestone wall which fdnced it on one side and the more distant wooded hills that sloped gently to it on the other were alike hidden. It was only when Arthur had passed through the hamlet, where all doors were closed against the chill of a January night, and he had ridden a few paces down the hillock on which the village stands, that the lights of the Cottage broke upon his view. Many a time had they, friendly beacons of home and rest, greeted him at that point.
Not that Arthur saw them as beacons, for at no time was he much given to sentiment. His outlook on life was too direct and vivid for that, and to-day in particular his mind was teeming with more practical thoughts, with hopes and plans and calculations. But the lights meant that a dull ride over a rough road and through a darkening country was at an end, and so far they gave him pleasure. He opened the gate and rode around to the stable, gave up the horse to Pugh,.the man-of-all-work, and made his way into the house.
He entered upon a scene as cheerful as any lights shining on weary traveller could promise. In a fair-sized room a clear grate held a coal fire, the flames of which danced on the red-papered walls. A kettle bubbled on the hob, a tea tray gleamed on the table, and between the two a lady and gentleman sat, eating crumpets; the lady with much elegance and a napkin spread over herlavender silk dress, the gentleman in a green cut-a-way coat with basket buttons—a coat that ill-concealed the splashed gaiters for which he had more than once asked pardon.
But fair as things looked on the surface all was not perfect even in this pleasant interior. The lady held herself stiffly, condescension in her eyes—eyes which rested rather more often than was courteous on the spatter-dashes. Secretly she thought her company not good enough for her, while the gentleman was frankly bored. Neither was finding the other as congenial as a first glance suggested, and it would have been hard to say which found Arthur’s entrance the more welcome interruption.
“Hallo, mother!” he said, stooping carelessly to kiss her. “Hallo, Clement.”
“My dear Arthur,” the lady cried, the lappets of her cap shaking as she embraced him. “How late you are! That horrid bank! I am sure that some day you will be robbed and murdered on your way home!”
“I! No, mother. I don’t bring the money, more’s the pity! I am late, am I? The worse for Clement, who has to ride home. But I have been doing your work, my lad, so you mustn’t grumble. What did you get?”
“A brace and a wood-pigeon. Has my father come?” “Yes, he has come, and I am afraid has a wigging in store for you. But—a brace and a wood-pigeon? Lord, man,” with a little contempt in his tone, “what do you do with your gun all day? Why, Acherley told me that in that rough between the two fallows above the brook—” “Oh Arthur,” Mrs. Bourdillon interposed, “never mind that!”She had condescended sufficiently, she thought, and wished to hear no more of Clement Ovington’s doings. “I’ve something more important to tell you, much more important. I’ve had a dreadful shock to-day.”
She was a faded lady, rather foolish than wise, and very elegant; one who made the most of such troubles as she had, and the opening her son now heard was one which he had heard often before.
“What’s the matter now, mother?” he asked, stooping to warm his hands.
“Your uncle has been here.”
“Well, that’s no new thing.”
“But he has behaved dreadfully, perfectly dreadfully
“I don’t know that that is new, either.”
“He began again about your refusal to take Orders, and your going into that dreadful bank instead.”
Arthur shrugged his shoulders. “That’s one for you, Clement.”
“Oh, that wasn’t the one half,” the lady continued, unbending. “He said, there was the living, three hundred and fifty a year, and old Mr. Trubshaw seventy-eight. And he’d have to sell it and put in a stranger and have quarrels about tithes. He stood there with his great stick in his hand and his eyes glaring at me like an angry cat’s, and he scolded me till I didn’t know whether I stood on my head or my heels. He wanted to know where you got your low tastes from.”
“There you are again, Clement!”
“And your wish to go into trade, and I answered him quite sharp that you didn't get them from me; as for Mr. Bourdillon’s grandfather, who had the plantations in Jamaica, it wasn’t the same at all, as everybody knows
and agrees that nothing is genteeler than the West Indies with black men to do the work!”
“You confounded him there, mother, I’m sure. But as we have heard something like this before, and Clement is
not much interested, if that is all------”
“Oh, but it is not all! Very far from it!” Mrs. Bourdillon’s head shook till the lappets swung again. “The worst is to come, I can tell you. He said that we had had the Cottage rent-free for four years— and I’m sure I don’t know who has a better right to it—but that that was while he still hoped that you were going to live like a gentleman, like the Griffins before you—and I am sure the Bourdillons were gentry, or I should have been the last to marry your father! But as you seemed set on going your own way and into the bank for good—and I must say I told him it wasn’t any wish of mine and I’d said all I could against it, as you know, and Mr. Clement knows the same—why, it was but right that we should pay rent like other people! And it would be thirty pounds a year from Lady Day!” “The d—d old hunks!” Arthur cried. He had listened unmoved to his mother’s tirade, but this touched him. “Well, he is a curmudgeon! Thirty pounds a year? Well, I’m d—d! And all because I won’t starve as a parson!’ ’ But his mother rose in arms at that. “Starve as a parson!” she cried. “Why, I think you are as bad, one as the other. I’m sure your father never starved!”
“No, I know, mother. He was passing rich on four hundred pounds a year. But that is not going to do for me.” “Well, I don’t know what you want!”
“My dear mother, I’ve told you before what I want.” Arthur was fast regaining the good temper that he seldom lost. “If I were a bishop’s son and could look to be a bishop, or if I were an archdeacon’s son, with the prospect of a fat prebend and a rectory or two to match, I’d take Orders. But with no prospect except the Garthmyle living, and with tithes falling-”
“But haven’t I told you over and over again that you have only to make-up to—but there, I haven’t told you that Jos was with him, and I will say this for her, that she looked as ashamed for him as I am sure I was! I declare I was sorry for the girl and she not daring to put in a word—such an old bear as he is to her!”
“Poor Jos!” Arthur said. “She has not a very bright life of it. But this does not interest Clement, and we’re keeping him.”
The young man had made more than one attempt to take leave, but every time he had moved Mrs. Bourdillon had either ignored him, or by a stately gesture had claimed his silence. He rose now.
“I dare say you know my cousin?” Arthur said.
“I’ve seen her,” Clement answered, and his mind went back to the only occasion on which he had remarked Miss Griffin.' It had been at the last Race Ball at Aldersbury that he had noticed her—a gentle, sweet-faced girl, plainly and even dowdily dressed, and so closely guarded by her proud old dragon of a father that, warned by the fate of others and aware that his name was not likely to find favour with the Squire, he had shrunk from seeking an introduction. But he had noticed that she sat out more than she danced; sat, indeed in a kind of isolation, fenced in by the old man, and regarded by girls more smartly dressed with glances of half-scornful pity.
He had had time to watch her, for he also, though for different reasons, had been a little without the pale.
He imagined how differently she would look were she suitably dressed. “Yes,” he continued, recalling it,
“she was at the last Race Ball, I think.”
“And a mighty poor time she had of it,”
Arthur answered, half carelessly, half contemptuously. “Poor Jos! She hasn’t at any time much of a life with my beauty of an uncle. Twopence to get and a penny to spend!”
Mrs. Bourdillon protested. “I do wish you would not talk of your cousin like that,” she said. “You know that she’s your uncle’s heiress, and if you only-”
Arthur cut her short. “There!
There! You don’t remember, mother, that Clement has seven miles to
ride before his supper. Let him go now! He’ll be late enough.”
That was the end, and the two young men went out together. When Arthur returned after seeing his guest start, the tea had been removed and his mother was seated at her tambour work. He took his stand before the fire. “Confounded old screw!” he fumed. “Thirty pounds a year? And he’s three thousand, if he’s a penny! And more likely
“Well, it may be yours some day,” with a sniff. “I’m sure Jos is ready enough.”
“She’ll have to do as he tells her.”
“But Garth must be hers.”
“And still she’ll have to do as he tells her. Don’t you know yet, mother, that Jos has no more will than a mouse? But never mind, we can afford his thirty pounds. Ovington is giving me a hundred and fifty, and I’m to have another hundred as secretary to this new Company—that’s news for you. With your two hundred and fifty we shall be able to pay his rent and shall be better off than before. I shall buy a nag—Packham has one to sell—and move to better rooms in town.”
“But you’ll still be in that dreadful bank,” Mrs. Bourdillon sighed. “Really, Arthur, with so much money it seems a pity you should lower yourself to it.”
He had some admirable qualities besides the gaiety, the alertness, the good looks that charmed all comers; aye, and besides the rather uncommon head for figures and for business which came, perhaps, of his Huguenot ancestry, and had commended him to the banker. Of these qualities patience with his mother was one. So, instead of snubbing her, “Why, dreadful?” he asked good-humouredly. “Because all our county fogies look down on it? Because having nothing but land, and drawing all their importance from land, they’re jealous of the money that is shouldering them out and threatening their pride of place? Listen to me, mother. There is a change coming! Whether they see it or not, and I think they do see it, there is a change coming, and, stiff as they hold themselves, they will have to give way to it.
Three thousand a year? Four thousand? Why, if Ovington lives another ten years what do you think that he’ll be worth?
Not three thousand a year, but ten, fifteen, twenty.”
Continued on page 36
Continued from page 15
“Arthur!” _ . .
“It is true, mother. Aye, twenty, it is possible! And do you think that when he can buy up half a dozen of these thickheaded Squires who can just add two to two and make four—that he’ll not count? Do you think that they’ll be able to put him on one side? No! And they know it. They see that the big manufacturers and the big ironmasters and the big bankers who are putting together hundreds of thousands are going to push in among them and can’t be kept out! And therefore trade, as they call it, stinks in their nostrils!”
“Oh, Arthur, how horrid!” Mrs. Bourdillon protested, “you are growing as coarse as your uncle. And I’m sure we don’t want a lot of vulgar, purse-proud—” “Purse-proud? And what is the Squire? Land-proud! But,” growing more calm, “never mind that. You will take a different view when I tell you something that I heard to-day. Ovington let drop a word about a — partnership.”
"La, Arthur! But——”
“A partnership! Nothing definite, nothing to bind, and not yet, but in the future. It was but a hint. But think of it, mother! It is what I have been aiming at all along, but I didn’t expect to hear of it yet. Not one or two hundred a year, but say, five hundred to begin with, and three, four, five thousand by and by. Five thousand!” His eyes sparkled-and he threw back the hair from his forehead with a characteristic gesture. “Five thousand a year!” “You take my breath away!” his mother protested, her faded, delicate face unusually flushed. “Five thousand a year! Gracious me, why it is more than your uncle has!” She raised her mittened hands in protest. “Oh, it is impossible!” The vision overcame her.
But “It is perfectly possible,” he repeated. “Clement is of no use. ' He is for ever wanting to be out of doors—a farmer spoiled. Rodd’s a mere mechanic. Ovington cannot do it all, and he sees it. He must have someone he can trust. And then it is not only that I suit him. I am what he is not—a gentleman.”
MEANWHILE Clement Ovington jogged through the darkness, his thoughts divided between the discussion at which he had made an unwilling third, and the objects about him which were never without interest for this young man. He had an ear, and a very sharp one, for the piping of the pee-wits in the low land by the river, and the owl’s cadenced cry in the trees about Garth. He marked the stars shining in a depth of heaven opened amid the flying wrack of clouds; he picked out Jupiter sailing with supreme dominion, and the Dog-star travelling across the southern tract. His eye caught the gleam of water on a meadow, ánd he reflected that old Gregory would never do any good with that ground until he made some stone drains in it.
He was an out-of-door man, and that, in his position, was the pity of it. Aldersbury School—and Aldersbury was a very famous school in those days—and Cambridge had done little to alter the tendency: possibly the latter, seated in the midst of wide open spaces, under a wide sky, the fens its neighbours, had done something to strengthen his bent, Bourdillon thought of him with contempt, as a clod-hopper, a rustic, hinting that he was a throw-back to an ancestor, not too remote, who had followed the plough and whistled for want of thought. But he did Clement an injustice. It was possible that in his love of the soil he was a throw-back; he would have made, and indeed he was, a good ploughman. He had learnt the trick with avidity, giving good money, solid silver shillings, that Hodge might rest while he worked. But, a ploughman, he would not have turned a clod without noticing its quality, nor sown a seed without considering its fitness, nor observed a rare plant without wondering why it grew in that position. nor looked up without drawing from the sky some sign of the weather or the hour. Much less would he have gazed down a woodland glade, flecked with sunlight, without perceiving its beauty.
But he hated the desk and he hated figures. His thoughts as he stood behind the bank counter, or drummed his restless heels against the legs of his high stool, were far away in fallow and stubble, or
where the trout, that he could tickle as to the nature born, lay under the caving bank. And to his father and to those who judged him by the bank standard, and felt for him a half scornful liking, he seemed to be an inefficient, a trifler. They said in Aldersbury that it was lucky for him that he had a father.
Perhaps of all about him it was from that father that he could expect the least sympathy. Ovington was not only a banker, he was a banker to whom his business was everything. He had created it. It had made him. It was not in his eyes a mere adjunct, as in the eyes of one born in the purple and to the leisure which invites to the higher uses of wealth. Able he was, and accordingto his lights, honourable; but a narrow education had confined his views, and he saw in his money only the means to rise in the world and eventually to become one of the landed class which at that time monopolised all power and all influence, political as well as social. Such a man could only see in Clement a failure, a reversion to the yeoman type, and own with sorrow the irony of fortune that so often delights to hand on the sceptre of an Oliver to a “Tumble-down-Dick.”
Only from Betty, young and romantic, yet possessed of a woman’s intuitive power of understanding others, could he look for any sympathy. And even Betty doubted while she loved—doubted—for she had also that other attribute of woman, a basis of sound common-sense. She admired her father. She saw more clearly than Clement what he had done for them and to what he was raising them. And she could not but grieve that Clement was not more like him, that Clement could not fall in with his wishes and devote himself to the attainment of the end for which the elder man had worked. She could enter into the father’s disappointment as well as into the son’s distaste.
Meanwhile Clement, dreaming now of a girl’s face, now of a new drill which he had seen that morning, now of the passing sights and sounds which would have escaped nine men out of ten but had a meaning for him, drew near to the town. He topped the last eminence, rode under the ancient oak, whence, tradition had it, a famous Welshman had watched the wreck of his fortunes on a pitched field; finally, he saw, rising from the river before him, the amphitheatre of dim lights that was the town. Descending he crossed the bridge.
He sighed as he did so. For to him to pass from the silent lands and to enter the brawling streets where apprentices were putting up the shutters and beggars were raking among heaps of market garbage was to fall half way from the clouds. To right and left the inns were roaring drunken choruses, drabs stood in the mouths of the alleys—dubbed in Aldersbury ‘shuts’— tradesmen were hastening to wet their profits at the Crown or the Gullet. When at last he heard the house door clang behind him, and breathed the confined air of the bank, redolent for him of ledgers and day-books, the fall was complete. He reached the earth.
If he had not done so, his sister’s face when he entered the dining-room would have brought him to his level.
“My eye and Betty Martin!” she said. “But you’ve done it now, my lad!”
“Father will tell you that. He’s in his room and as black as thunder. He came home by the mail at three—Sir Charles waiting, Mr. Acherley waiting, the bank full, no Clement! You are in for it. You are to go to him the moment you come in.”
He looked longingly at the table where supper awaited him. “What did he say?” he asked.
“He said all I have said and d—m besides. It’s no good looking at the table, my lad. You must see him first and then I’ll give you your supper.”
“All right!” he replied, and he turned to the door with something of a swagger.
But Betty, whose moods were as changeable as the winds, and whose thoughts were much graver than her words, was at the door before him. She took him by the lapel of his coat and looked up in his face. “You won’t forget that you’re in fault, Clem, will you?” she said in a small voice. “Remember that if he had not worked there would be no walking about with a gun or a rod for you. And no looking at new drills.
whatever they are, for I know that is what you had in your mind this morning. He’s a good dad, Clem—better than most. You won’t forget that, will you?”
“But after all a man must-”
“Suppose you forget that ‘after all,’” she said sagely. “The truth is you have played truant, haven’t you? And you must take your medicine. Go and take it like a good boy. There are but three of us, Clem.”
She knew how to appeal to him, and how to move him; she knew that, at bottom, he was fond of his father. He nodded and went, knocked at his father’s door and, tamed by his sister’s words, took his scolding—and it was a sharp scolding— with patience. Things were going well with the banker, he had had his usual four glasses of port, and he might not have spoken so sharply if the contrast between the idle and the industrious apprentice had not been thrust upon him that day with a force which had startled him. That little hint of a partnership had not been dropped without a pang. He was jealous for his son, and he spoke out.
“If you think,” he said, tapping the ledger before him, to give point to his words, “that because you’ve been to Cambridge this job is below you, you’re mistaken, Clement. And if you think that you can do it in your spare time you’re still more mistaken. It’s no easy task, I can tell you, to make a bank and keep a bank, and manage your neighbours’ money as well as your own, and if you think it is, you’re wrong. To make a hundred thousand pounds Is a deal harder than to make Latin verses—or to go tramping the country on a market day with your gun! That’s not business! That’s not business, and once for all, young man, if you are not going to help me, I warn you that I must find someone who will! And I shall not have far to look!”
“I’m afraid, sir, that I have not got a turn for it,” Clement pleaded.
“But what have you a turn for? You shoot, but I’m hanged if you bring home much game. And you fish, but I suppose you give the fish away. And you’re out of town, idling and doing God knows what, three days in the week! No turn for it? No will to do it, you mean. Do you ever think,” the banker continued, joining the fingers of his two hands, as he sat back in his chair, and looking over them at the culprit, “where you would be and what you would be doing if I had not toiled for you? If I had not made the business at which you do not condescend to work? I had to make my own way from the bottom. My grandfather was little better than a labourer, and but for what I’ve done you might be a clerk at a pound a week, and a bad clerk, too! Or behind a shop-counter, if you liked it better. And if things were to go wrong with me—for I’d have you remember that nothing in this world is quite safe—that is where you may still be! Still, my lad!”
For the first time Clement looked his father fairly in the face—and pleased him. “Well, sir,” he said, “if things go wrong I hope you won’t find me wanting. Nor ungrateful for what you have done for us. I know how much it is. But I’m not Bourdillon, and I’ve not got his headforfigures.”
“You’ve not got his application. That’s the mischief! Y our heart’s not in it.”
“Well, I don’t know that it is,” Clement
admitted. “I suppose you couldn’t-”
he hesitated, a new hope kindled within him. He looked at his father doubtfully.
_ “Release me from the bank, sir? And give me a —a very small capital to-” '
“To go and idle upon?” the banker exclaimed, and thumped the ledger in his indignation at an idea so preposterous. “No by G—d, I couldn’t! Pay you to go idling about the country, more like a dying duck in a thunder-storm, as I am told you do, than a man! Find you capital and see you loiter your life away with your hands in your pockets? No, I couldn’t, my boy, and I would not if I could! Capital, indeed? Give you capital? For what?”
“I could take a farm,” sullenly, “and I shouldn’t idle. I can work hard enough when I like my work. And I know something about farming, and I believe I could make it pay.”
The other gasped. To the banker, with his golden visions of Lombard Street and financial sway, to talk of a farm and of making it pay! It seemed—it seemed worse than lunacy. His son must be out of his mind. He stared at him, honestly wondering. “A farm!” he ejaculated at last. “And make it pay? Go back to the
clodhopping life your grandfather lived before you and from which I lifted you? Peddle with pennies and sell ducks and chickens in the market? Why—why, I don’t know what to say to you?”
“I like an outdoor life,” Clement pleaded, his face scarlet.
“Like a—like a-” Ovington could
find no word to express his feelings and with an effort he swallowed them down. “Look here, Clement,” he said more mildly; “what’s come to you? What is it that is amiss with you? Whatever it is you must straighten it out, boy; there must be an end of this folly, for folly it is. Understand me, the day that you go out of the bank you go to stand on your own legs, without help from me. If you are prepared to do that—”
“I don’t say that I could—at first.”
“Then while I keep you I shall certainly do it on my own terms. So, if you please, I will hear no more of this. Go back to your desk, go back to your desk, sir, and do your duty. I sent you to Cambridge at Butler’s suggestion, but I begin to fear that it was the biggest mistake of my life. I declare I never heard such nonsense except from a man in love. I suppose you are not in love, eh?”
“No!” Clement cried angrily, and he went out.
For he could not own to his father that he was in love; in love with the.brownearth, the woods, and the wide straggling hedgerows, with the whispering wind and the music of the river on the shallows, with the silence and immensity of night. Had he done so he would have spoken a language which his father did not and could not understand. And if he had gone a step further and told him that he felt drawn to those who plodded up and down the wide stubbles, who cut and bound the thick hedge-rows, who wrought hand in hand with Nature day in and day out, whose lives were spent in an unending struggle with the soil until at last they sank and mingled with it—if he had .told him that he felt this kinship with those humble folk who had gone before him, he would only have mystified him, only have angered him the more.
Yet so it was. And he could not change himself.
He went slowly to his supper and to Betty, owning defeat; acknowledging his father’s strength of purpose, acknowledging his father’s right, yet vexed at his own impotence. Life pulsed strongly within him. He longed to do something. He longed to battle, the wind in his teeth and the rain in his face, with some toil, some labour that would try his strength and task his muscles, and send him home at sunset weary and satisfied. Instead he saw before him an endless succession of days spent with his head in a ledger and his heels on the bar of his stool, while the sun shone in at the windows of the bank and the flies buzzed sleepily about him; days arid and tedious, shared with no companion more interesting than Rodd, who, excellent fellow, was not amusing, or more congenial than Bourdillon, who patronized him when he was not using him. And in future he would have to be more punctual, more regular, more assiduous! It was a dreary prospect.
He ate his supper in morose silence until Betty, who had been quick to read the upshot of the interview in his face, came behind him and ruffled his hair. “Good boy!” she whispered, leaning over him. “His days shall be long in the land!”
“I wish to heaven,” he answered, ‘‘they were in the land! I am sure they will be long enough in the bank!”
But after that he recovered his temper.
IN REMOTE hamlets a few churches still recall the fashion of Garthmyle. It was a wide church of two aisles having clear windows, through which a flood of cold light fell on the whitewashed walls, and on the maze of square pews, some coloured cream, some a pale blue, through which narrow alleys, ending in culs-de-sac, wound at random. The Griffin memorials, though some were of Tudor date, were small and mean, and the one warm scrap of colour in the church was furnished by the faded red curtain which ran on iron rods round the Squire’s pew and protected his head from draughts. That curtain was watched with alarm by many, for at a certain point in the service it was the Squire’s wont to draw it aside, and to stand for a time with his back to the east while his hard eyes roved over the congregation. Wôè to the absentees! His scrutiny completed, with a grunt which carried terror to the hearts of their families, he would draw the curtain, turn about again, and compose himself to sleep.
In its severity and bleakness, the church fairly matched the man, who, old and gaunt and grey, was its central figurer who, like it, embodied, meagrely and plainly as he dressed, the greatness of old associations, and like it, if in a hard and forbidding way, owned and exacted an unchanging standard of duty.
For he was the Squire. Whatever might be done elsewhere, nothing was done in that parish without him. The parson, aged and apathetic, knew better than to cross his will—had he not to get in his tithes? The farmers were his tenants, the overseers rested in the hollow of his hand. Hardly a man was hired, and no man was relieved, no old wife sent back to her distant settlement, no lad apprenticed, but as he pleased. He was the Squire.
On Sundays the tenants waited in the churchyard until he arrived, and it was this which deceived Arthur when, Mrs. Bourdillon feeling unequal to the service, he reached the church next morning. He found the porch empty, and concluding that his uncle had entered, he made his way to the Cottage pew, which stood abreast of the great man’s. But in the act of sitting down he saw, glancing round the red curtain, that Josina was alone. It struck him then that it would be pleasant to sit beside her and entertain himself with her conscious face, and he crossed over and let himself into the Squire’s pew. He had the satisfaction of seeing the blood mount swiftly to her cheeks; but the next moment he found the old man—who had that morning sent word that he would be late—at his elbow, in the act of entering behind him.
It was too late to retreat, and with a face as hot as Josina’s he stumbled over the straw-covered footstool and sat down on her other hand. He knew that the Squire would resent his presence after what had happened, and when he stood up his ears were tingling. But he soon recovered himself. He saw the comic side of the situation, and long before the sermon was over, he found himself sufficiently at ease to enjoy some of the agréments which he had foreseen.
Carved roughly with a penknife on the front of the pew was a heart surmounting two clasped hands. Below each hand were initialshis own and Josina’s; and he never let the girl forget the August afternoon, three years before, when he had induced her to do her share. She had refused many times; then, like Eve in the garden, she had succumbed on a drowsy afternoon when they had had the pew to themselves, and the drone of the preacher’s voice had barely risen above the hum of the bees. She had been little more than a child at the time, and ever since that day the apple had been to her both sweet and bitter. For she was not a child now, and, a woman, she rebelled against Arthur’s power to bring the blood to her cheeks and to play—with looks rather than words, for of these he was chary—upon feelings which she could not mask.
Of late resentment had been more and more gaining the upper hand with her. But to-day she forgave. She feared that which might pass between him and his uncle at the close of the service, and she had not the heart to be angry. However, when the dreaded moment came she was pleasantly disappointed. When they reached the porch, “Take my seat, take my meat,” the Squire said grimly. “Are you coming up?”
“If I may, sir?”
“I want a word with you.”
This was not promising, but it might have been worse, and little more was said as the three passed, the congregation standing uncovered, down' the Churchyard Walk and along the road to Garth. ,
The Squire, always taciturn, strode on in silence, his eyes on his fields. The other two said little, feeling trouble in the air. Fortunately at the early dinner there was a fourth to mend matters in the shape of Miss Peacock, the Squire’s housekeeper. She was a distant relation who had spent most of her life at Garth; who considered the Squire the first of men, his will as law, and who from Josina’s earliest days had set her an example of servile obedience. To ask what Mr. Griffin did not offer, to doubt where he had laid down the law, was to Miss Peacock flat treason; and where a stronger mind might have moulded the girl to a firmer shape, the old maid’s in-
fluence had wrought in the other direction.
A tall, meagre spinster, a weak replica of the Squire, she came of generations of women who had been ruled by their men and trained to take the second place. The Squire’s two wives, his first, whose only child had fallen, a boy-ensign, at Alexandria, his second, Josina’s mother, had held the same tradition, and Josina promised to abide by it.
When the Peacock rose Jos hesitated. The Squire saw it. “Do you go, girl,” he said. “Be off!”
For once she wavered—she feared what might happen between the two. But “Do you hear?” the Squire growled. “Go when you are told.”
She went then, but Arthur could not restrain his indignation. “Poor Jos!” he muttered under his breath.
Unluckily the Squire heard the words, and “Poor Jos!" he repeated, scowling at the offender. “What the devil do you mean, sir? Poor Jos, indeed? Confound your impudence! What do you mean?” Arthur quailed, but he was not lacking in wit. “Only that women like a secret, sir,” he said. “And a woman, shut out, fancies that there is a secret.”
“Umph! A devilish lot you know about women!” the old man snarled. “But never mind that. I saw your mother yesterday.” “So she told me, sir.”
“Ay! And I dare say you didn’t like what she told you! But I want you to understan 1 young man, once for all, that you’ve got o choose between Aldersbury and Garth. Do you hear? I’ve done my duty. I kept the living for you, as I promised your fa er, and whether you take it or not, I expect you to do yours, and to live as the Griffins have lived before you. Who the devil is this man Ovington? Why do you want to mix yourself up with him? Eh? A man whose father touched his hat to me and would no more have thought of sitting at my table than my butler would! There, pass the bottle.” “Would you have no man rise, sir?” Arthur ventured.
“Rise?” The Squire glared at him from under his great bushy eyebrows. “It’s not to his rise, it’s to your fall I object, sir. A d—d silly scheme this is and one I won’t have. D’you hear, I won’t have it.”
Arthur kept his temper oppressed by the other’s violence. “Still, you must own, sir, that times have changed,” he said.
“Changed? Damnably changed when a Griffin wants to go into trade in Aldersbury.”
“But banking is hardly a trade.”
“Not a trade? Of course it’s a trade— if usury is a trade! If pawn-broking is a trade! If loan-jobbing is a trade! Of course it’s a trade.”
The gibe stung Arthur and he plucked up spirit. “At any rate, it is a lucrative one,” he rejoined. “And I’ve never heard sir, that you were indifferent to money.” “Oh! Because I’m going to charge your mother rent, eh? Well, isn’t the Cottage mine? Or because fifty years ago I came into a cumbered estate and have pinched and saved and starved to clear it? Saved?
I have saved. But I’ve saved out of the land like a gentleman, and like my fathers before me, and not by usury. Not by money jobbing. And if you expect to benefit—but here, fill your glass, and let’s hear your tongue. What do you say to it?”
“As to the living,” Arthur said mildly, “I don’t think you consider, sir, that what was a decent livelihood no longer keeps a gentleman as a gentleman. Times are changed, incomes are changed, men are richer. I see men everywhere making fortunes by what you call trade, sir; making fortunes and buying estates and founding houses.”
“And shouldering out the old gentry! Ay, damme, and I see it too,” the Squire retorted, taking the word out of his mouth. “I see plenty of it. And you think to be one of them, do you? To join them and be another Peel, or one of Pitt’s money-hag peers, eh? That’s in your mind, is it? A Mr. Coutts? And to buy out my lord and drive your coach and four into Aldersbury, and splash dirt over better men than yourself?”
“I should be not the less a Griffin.” “A Griffin with dirty hands!” with contempt. “That’s what you’d be. And vote Radical and prate of Reform and scorn the land that bred you. And talk of the Rights of Men and money-bags, eh? That’s your notion, is it, by G—d?”
“Of course, sir, if you look at it in that way-”
“That’s the way I do look at it!” The Squire brought down his hand ÓJ1 the table with a force that shook the glasses and spilled some of his wine. “And it’s the way you’ve got to look at it, or there won’t be much between you and me—or you and mine. Or mine, do you hear! I’ll have no tradesman at Garth and none of that way of thinking. So you’d best give heed before it’s too late. You’d best look at it all
“Very well, sir.”
“Any more wine?”
“No, thank you,” Arthur’s head was high. He did not lack spirit.
“Then hear my last word. I won’t have it! That’s plain. That’s plain, and now you know. And, hark ye, as you go out send Peacock to me.”
But before Arthur had made his way out, the Squire’s voice was heard, roaring for Josina. When Miss Peacock presented herself, “Not you! Who the devil wants you?” he stormed. “Send the girl! D’you hear? Send the girl!”
And when Josina, scared and trembling, came in her turn, “Shut the door!” he commanded. “And listen! I’ve had a talk with that puppy there, who thinks that he knows more than his betters. D—n his impertinence, coming into my pew when he thought I was elsewhere! But I know very well why he came, young woman, sneaking in to sit beside you and make sheeps’ eyes when my back was turned. Now, do you listen to me. You keep him at arm’s length. Do you hear, miss? You’ll have nothing to say to him unless I give you leave. He’s got to do with me now, and it depends on me whether there’s any more of it. I know what he wants, but by G—d, I’m your father, and if he does not mend his manners, he goes to the right .about. So let me hear of no more billing and cooing and meeting in pews, d—n you, unless I give the word! D’you understand, girl?”
“But I think you’re mistaken, sir,” poor Jos ventured. “I don’t think that he means--”
“I know what he means. And so do you. But never you mind! Till I say the word there’s an end of it. The puppy with his Peels and his peers! Men, my father wouldn’t have—but there, you understand now, and you’ll obey, or I’ll know the reason why!”
“Then he’s not to come to Garth, sir?” But the Squire checked at that. Family feeling and the pride of hospitality were strong in him, and to forbid his only nephew the family house went beyond his mind at present.
“To Garth?” angrily. “Who said any-
thing about Garth? No, Miss, but when he comes, you'll stand him off. You know very well how to do it, though you look as if butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth! You’ll see that he keeps his distance. And let me have no tears, or confound the fellow, he’s spoiled my nap. There, go! Go! I might as well have a swarm of wasps about me as such folks! Pack 0’ fools and idiots! Go into a bank, indeed?”
Jos did go, and shutting herself up in her room would not open to Miss Peacock, who came fluttering to the door to learn what was amiss. And she cried a little, but it was as much in humiliation as grief. Her father was holding her on offer, to be given or withheld, as he pleased, while all the time she doubted, and more than doubted, if he to whom she was on offer, he from whom she was withheld, wanted her. There was the rub.
For Arthur, for more than a year past, and ever since he had begun to attend to the bank, had been strangely silent. He had looked and smiled and teased her, had sometimes pressed her hand or touched her hair, but in sport rather than in earnest, meaning little. And she had begun to see this, and with the womanly pride, of which, gentle and timid as she was, she had her share, she had schooled herself to accept the now situation. Now, her father had taken Arthur’s suit for granted and humbled her. So Jos cried a little. But they were not very bitter tears.
A RTHUR was somewhat intimidated by his uncle’s threats, and he took care to be at the bank early enough on the Monday to anticipate the banker’s departure for Garth. He was certain that to approach the Squire at this mcment in the matter of the railroad was to invite disaster, and he gave Ovington such an account of the quarrel as he thought would deter him from going over at present.
But the banker had a belief in himself which success and experience in the management of men had increased. He was convinced that self-interest was the spring which moved nine men out of ten, and though he admitted that the family quarrel was untimely, he did not agree that as between the Squire and a good bargain it would have weight.
“But I assure you, sir, he’s like a bear with a sore head,” Arthur urged.
“A bear will come to the honey if its head be sore,” the banker answered, smiling.
To be Continued