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The poor man looked naturally astonished; but smiling, said, “I've called for my note, sir.”' 6. Your note? What note was that?”
Oh, the note you were so good as to offer to copy for me.
friends?" The poor man felt a cold, queer sort of sensation about his heart, and a sudden trembling went through his limbs, and he answered, with a great air of anxiety
“It was the promissory note for my money, which you were so good as to offer to have copied out, you know, the other day—the note I have had my interest on these five years.
“A promissory note? To copy ? My memory must fail me strangely. My good man, I can recall no such circumstance. Or, if I had it, it must be here !” beginning to rummage amongst and turn over the wilderness of papers.
“ There is an offer of money by Thomas IIarrop ; is that it? or this, an offer to mortgage a tenement and some copyhold land—is your name Kettlebender ?”
• My name? Why, you know my name well enough! You know me
-Simon Ragley, well enough—its my old note, my old crumpled note for a hundred pounds! Oh, laus, oh, laus ! if it should be lost now!”
The poor man had come forward from where he had been standing by the door, and now eagerly leaned over the desk and its chaos of papers. IIe was a tall, thin, bony man, with a worn and clay-smeared jacket and breeches, of a sort of coarse drab plush, smeared as if he were a brickmaker, with yellow and red. llis knees seemed stiff as if with rheumatism, and his ancles clad in thick cloth short gaiters, and his big feet with such lumps and protuberances, as also marked the desperate battles he had had with this rheumatism. IIe limped and stood leaning hard on his thick stick, with a keen face full of ruddy, fine striny veins, and deep tawny wrinkles, and with an expression of devouring anxiety that would have delighted the eye
of a Rubens. Pray God!” said lie again, “it ben't lost! but if it be, sir, you know the sum, and all the interest is paid up-so you can give me another.
You can do so, sir—can't you ? Ay, do it now, sir," said the old man.
“Oh, very true. I could give you anything if I did but know that it was right. But as to this note—why you see, I can't call it to mind ; my affairs are not like yours, my man; they are so vast they quite overwhelm my mind. I depend wholly on my papers-
I must do so ; but as to this paper of which you speak, I see nothing of it." “Is that valler in it? said the
poor man, attempting to stretch forth his hand and take one up ; but Mr. Sampson Hooks pushed him rudely back with his hand on his chest, crying,
Stop fellow! what are you about? Do you think I allow any churl to come and thrust his paw into my private papers ? Stand back ! stand back, I say ! I will look at my leisure for this note you speak of, and if it be there, rest assured you shall have it. Your name is Webster, you say-
“Rayley-Simon Ragley is my name; but give me another note; never mind th’ oud 'un : burn it when you find it ; give me another now.
I can't go away wi’out it.” “ A strange fellow are you!" said Sampson looks ; “ do you think that I give notes for a hundred pounds to any scamp that pleases to ask me? Show me any document proving that I owe you as much, and I will pay you it; but document I see none, and no such note can I call to recollection. A very likely thing indeed it would be to give you a note on such grounds. Go; come again in a few days. I will search-I will search ; and if it's herewhy, you 'll have it."
But you know me, Mister Ilooks! You 've seen me often enough—you wunna deny that!”
Yes, I have seen you, Webster, or Ragman, or whatever you call yourself ; but where or when I am not so sure of. Have you worked for me? Where was it?
“God Almighty !” exclaimed the old man, now transported with rage ; “ but a pretty villain you are! I know you now, if you dunna know me! Gee me th' oud note ; or, by the Lord, I 'll break your
villain's skull!” And with that the bony fellow raised his huge knotty stick, and held it in act to strike, while his eyes blazed with actual rage ; his teeth ground in his head, and his bony, sinewy figure looked like that of a giant skeleton, so high and gaunt and rigid did it seem.
Sampson Hooks, who stood near an open French window, at one leap stood in the garden and attempted to close the window on his antagonist, but the fierce peasant banged it open with his left arm, making the glass fly ringing around with a noise that caused the gardener, who was at work among his flower-beds at some little distance, to raise his head and stand staring at this strange scene. Sampson Hooks, who had evidently.
avoided calling in this time the help of the servants, as in the case of the widow, and had obeyed, at the man's menace, the merely instinctive feeling of self-preservation, without staying to reflect how he was to get rid of this ugly customer, now seeing that the gardener was aware of the scene, called hastily, “ John ! John! Help! help! Here! here!'
John came up, and looks cried hurriedly, “ Seize him, put him out! Another of these desperate impostors who are always now making false claims-most probably a gang—most probably a gang! Seize him and put him out !”
Ay, seize me !” said the man, in a tone of defiance. “ Thrust me out if you dare, John Bushy! You know better than to come within the reach of my stick! You are too honest a fellow, Bushy, to hurt a poor man that is robbed ; ay, robbed, chcated by this villain !” and, stamping his stick on the gravel walk, he went on to relate all that had passed, while Sampsoni Hooks had slipped away round the house.
John, the gardener, who saw the coast clear, came quietly up, and said softly to the man:
“Mr. Ragley, God knows that I won't lay a finger on you. I know you to be as honest as the day's long; but listen to me. You will do no good striving here. Let me advise you to go away for the present and see what turns up. Remember, there's a God in heaven! I can't help you just now ; if you stand five minutes longer you may lose me my place too; but I will, with all the pleasure in the world, give you any advice I can. I'll come on Sunday—that's the day after to-morrow—to your house, and we 'll talk it over. But go now, only go!"
“John," said the old man, trembling with rage and agony of mind, “I am out of myself—I am mad. I don't know what to do; but I won't be any harm to you, neither. I'll c’en go ; but as sure as God's in heaven, or the devil's in this hypocrite's soul, I'll have justice or his heart's blood !”
The old fellow stalked off, limping and wiping his eyes on the back of his great bony hand, and coughing with rage.
Once or twice he stopped, looked back as if he were resolved to return, but he only gazed wildly at the house, shook his stick threateningly, and again hobbled off. Johin closed the yard gate after him and then returned, with strange feelings, to his work.
It may be supposed that this, added to the widow's affair, made no small rumour. It spread through the whole country round.
Other rumours grew quickly out of it, that, with all his gathering and cheating, Sampson Ilooks' affairs were in a wretched plight. There were rumours of writs and executions, and heaven knows what; and every strange man that was seen to advance to the Ilall was supposed to be a lawyer's messenger, or bum-bailiff, or some such respectable character. But spite of all this the Hall itself was very quiet, and Jr. Sampson Ilooks and his roadster, Black Jack, were seen as composedly as ever, jogging to and fro.
But one thing was certain : the man Simon Ragley had gone to a lawyer, and the lawyer had written to Sampson IIooks, threatening all the terrors of the law, leaving the clergyman to threaten all the terrors of the gospel, if he did not forthwith pay to the said Simon Ragley his money. On which Mr. Sampson Hooks most properly and most reasonably professed his readiness, nay his excessive pleasure in such readiness, to pay Mr. Simon Ragley one hundred, or one thousand, or ten thousand pounds, if he could by any species of legal evidence show that he was so indebted to him. And therefore that lawyer felt, as well he might, no little perplexed, for his client had just no such proof to produce. But the lawyer nevertheless put on a very knowing air, and wrote to Mr. Sampson Ilooks notice of further proceedings, accompanied by mysterious hints that more evidences of the fact would be forthcoming, than he the said Sampson IIooks might possibly dreom of. Sampson IIooks, however, strong in his own conceptions of the case, only repeated his former liberal offers and lay still.
Things were long in this interesting position ; rumour was dealing very freely with Mr. Sampson Ilooks' character round the country, and Mr. IIooks, like a very saint, was bearing all with the most admirable patience ; while old Joc Ling, to whose knowledge these things were occasionally coming by slips of paper as he pauscd at different public houses to refresh himself and his pony on his peregrinations, said, “ Was there ever such a pack of fools, as to expect people to pay money to any scamp as asked it, and with no more to show for it than he had to show for the crown of England? Are you that good-natured fool? or you? —or you ?” asked he tauntingly and triumphantly of the different persons in company. “By Leddy! now-a-days one finds it quite enough to pay what is clearly shown to be due !"
But Providence had not been asleep, nor had he been away
from the world during these transactions, and a very simple turn of his finger placed poor Simon Ragley and his lawyer in a triumphant position. The gardener of Sampson Hooks, after the affair of Simon Ragley, was constantly falling, over his work, into deep reveries, from which he seldom awoke without some solemn shakes of the head. He was frequently so very much impressed by the recollection of the scene, that he would suddenly rise up and stare at the window out of which his master had so suddenly bolted and old Simon had so violently plunged after him. Nay, as he came past that window he could not for the life of him help stopping and looking into the room itself, when he was sure nobody was there. As he saw his master take his walks about the garden, his eyes got a habit of involuntarily following him ; and one day as he saw him there, walking to and fro, he observed that he pulled various papers out of his pocket and became very much interested in their examination. As he did this the gardener observed that one paper fell from the lot, and that Mr. Sampson Hooks went on, evidently without noticing the fact. The gardener bent to his work, but with a constant look under his hat to ascertain whether his master ever noticed this fallen paper, but he did not, and soon after left the garden. I need not say that the door was hardly closed behind Mr. Sampson Hooks, when John Bushy was very briskly yet sedately walking along the path where the paper had fallen, and first stooping here, and then stooping there, as if to gather some weeds, he finally picked up the paper, stuck it into his jacket pocket, and went at once home to his dinner, though it was half an hour too soon.
The moment he was out of Hooks's gates, he flew with rapid strides into the adjoining churchyard ; and, as if he had got some particular fancy to run round the church, got on the opposite side of it, and in a corner formed by a huge buttress, pulled out the paper and opened it. Any stranger who could have caught a glimpse of the worthy gardener at that moment, need not to have inquired whether he had learned to read, for the moment he opened the longish, narrowish bit of old paper, he first turned red, then turned white, then looked round him, then stared right away into a great holly-bush, in a garden just beyond the churchyard-wall
, and finally, putting the paper in his pocket, set off home as fast as his legs could carry him.
What honest John Bushy had got—if honest we can call him who had got something which should have seemed to be his mas