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ter's—he never told, not even to his wife; but that same afternoon, stating that lie had to go to the next village about flowerpots, he went off as nimbly as he had gone into the churchyard. Is he never told anybody what he had got, it is not for us, who indeed never spoke to John Bushy in all our lives, to say what it was ; but we may state a simple historical fact, and that is, that from this very time okl Simon Ragley's lawyer began to assume a much more confident tone in his communications with Mr. Sampson IIooks, begging him, at the same time, not to allow himself to fall into the expense which awaited him, if he would not pay Simon Ragley his hundred pounds. Mr. Sampson I looks, however, only repeated that the said Simon must first show cause, and there was an end of the matter. This seemed reasonable enough ; but lawyers are often very unreasonable, and this man seemed now to have a particular pleasure in urying the matter on. Sampson remained relentless ; the lawyer issued his writ; Sampson put in appearance to it, and the matter came on for trial. The day had arrived; the parties were arrived too in the town, when the lawyer made a last offer to settle the affair in private. IIe was tender of Mr. Hooks' character, he said, which lír. Ilooks contended meant only that he was very tender of his own, and too shrewd to bring a case for trial where there was no evidence against the defendant. Hooks again gave his old answer-show proof, and there needed nothing more.
To his overwhelming surprise the lawyer assented; declared that he would show proof, to save Mr. Hooks from universal shame, and perhaps utter ruin ; and appointed an hour to meet at the office of Mr. Looks' attorney.
“ It is a pity,” said Ragley's lawyer—" it is a great pity, Mr. Hooks, that this matter should have been permitted to come on so far as this.”
“A great pity, indeed,” replied IIr. Sampson IIooks ; "I have always said so. But why bring it so far? I certainly did not."
“A very great pity," responded the lawyer; " but will Mr. Hooks allow me to propose one thing, in order to show who has brought it thus far? Will Mr. Hooks swear-nay, I will not go to such a length -will he merely lay his hand on this Bible, and say from his heart and his conscience, before God, and before these present~'
There stood Simon Ragley, gazing on Sampson IIooks with an expression that seemed to say" I shall eat you up in another minute, and with a relish !"--and there stood also Mr. IIooks' lawyer, in a
serious attention! “Will Mr. Hooks do that, and declare that he knows nothing of the note or the debt in question ?”
“ Sir," said Sampson Hooks, "this is the most extraordinary conduct I ever knew in my life! Surely it is not come so far as oaths and solemn protestations ; they, surely, will be time enough when the matter is before the court. But was it for this that we came here?
Was it not to see proof? And what I have to say here or elsewhere is, show your evidence ! Show it at once, Mr. Attorney, or I take my leave. .
“ Then there it is !” said Ragley's lawyer, with a most solemn and significant look, laying before Sampson Hooks an old strip of paper, at sight of which he gave a sudden start, as if he saw the clothes of a man just dead of the plague. “ Do you know that hand, Mr. Hooks ?”
yo know that hand !” exclained old Simon Ragley, clapping his great bony hand on the lawyer's desk, close to the paper, with an astounding knock, so that it would have been difficult for some people to know which he had meant, the handwriting of the old paper, or his own ample member. But Mr. IIooks knew which in an instant. His face was in a moment full of blood: the whole mass in his body seemed to have rushed there. It seemed to fill his throat, to swell his tongue ; his eyes started half-way from their sockets, and the whole man seemed at the point of dropping in a fit of apoplexy. IIe staggered, seized the brass railing that surrounded the lawyer's desk with a wrench that made them crack, and clinging, trembling there, said in husky and choking tones—“A mistake! a sad, a dreadful mistake! Oh! pay the man! pay the man directly !"
Old Simon Ragley, who gazed on this scene with a strange air of vengeful triumph, now stood close, face to face to the trembling wretch, thrust his flaming features into his very countenance and shouted
“ So yo known it then ! Yo can remember now, can yo?”
But looks did not hear him ; he fell with a ponderous weight to the floor. Ragley's attorney laid his hand on Ragley's arm.
Enough,” said he ; " leave him to his conscience. Leave him to God.
How long Sampson IIooks lay in his fit ; how he was recovered and conveyed away, I know noť ; but I need not say that round the country, and especially in the village, there were strange jubilation and strange talking on this affair. The very church-bells were
rung-yes, the bells of the steeple which fairly overlooked the IIall of Sampson IIooks were rung the whole remainder of the day in obstreperous revelry over his fall. Everybody said that he would never hold up his head again,—that he must fly his country. But how false is the judgment which only hears one side! Sampson looks did hold up his head again, though it was with the sorrowful meekness of an innocent and a cruelly treated
Ilad he ever refused to pay the money on the production of the necessary note ? IIad he not always expressed his readiness to pay it? IIad he not begged again and again, if they had anything more than a vagne charge, that they should bring it out, and were it for ten thousand pounds he would instantly and gladly discharge it? Yet for this petty hundred pounds, which had entirely escaped his memory in the multiplicity of his affairs, he had been wantonly dragged forward ; the necessary evidence wilfully withheld ; his peace and feelings trifled with ; his character dreadfully exposed to malignant slander, when five minutes of an open and generous treatment was all that was necessary.
Of course Simon Ragley was paid—nay, the widow herself was paid, for she immediately put her note into the same able lawyer's
and though it had no name to it, yet there was enough of Sampson Ilooks' hand upon it—and it was paid.
The villagers and the common ignorant people were little moved by Sampson lIooks' pathetic appeals ; they cursed him for a tyrant and a hypocrite, but the wealthy and the better informed despised their modes of thinking. Their daily intercourse with the Hookses was unabated ; their carriages rolled as gaily as ever in and out of the great iron gates ; the Hall was as gaily lit up for entertainments to which they crowded, when music and delicious viands made the house and gardens a paradise, if they did not make them a heaven.
And a heaven they did not make them. A blight and a blackness as of seventy years had fallen on both Mr. and Mrs. Hooks. That was a very superstitious time, and probably both Mr. and Mrs. Hooks had been brought up in the country. country firesides of those days what stories circulated ! When but little occurred from day to day to form topics for conversation, how far back did country people then go with the histories of their ancestors and neighbours for matter of discourse ! and a mass of superstitions had gathered about these relations, like moss
and ivy around old trees. You heard gravely-related stories of ghosts and warnings, as of actual and undeniable facts. There were those who could tell you how they had met this and that man, suddenly, in solitary places, that had been dead these twenty years. How, as they passed over fields a raven had gone before, and perched on every stile till they came up to it, when it fitted on to the next. How they had seen a coffin borne on before them in the moonlight, and followed, wondering for whom it could be, having heard of no death, till, as it should have passed the brook behind the village, coffin and bearers had dissolved as it were away, and immediately there struck up a passing bell from the village steeple.
Mr. and Mrs. Sampson Hooks had, most likely I say, grown up among such superstitious people and talk, for now it was a fact that they became very timid, and ready to start at any shadow. They were never to be seen out late at night ; they were very strict in their attendance at church ; and yet there were strange rumours one evening abroad about them. It was said that old Joe Ling, spite of his old hat and old coat and old splashed gaiters, had grown rich. It was believed that he had amazingly robbed his master. Nay, it was a fact that he was once dismissed from his office of bailiff, and he went to the publichouse of his own village and declared it himself, and began to hint strange things—and offered to bet any one that he would be in his office again in less than a month. And sure enough it was
His mouth grew again as close as that of a fish, but he built a new house, bought land, and did not care to deny that he had feathered his nest most warmly. It was said that Hooks would gladly have seen him poisoned, and yet he seemed to depend upon him, and defer to him as much or more than ever.
But what a change would any one have now seen in Hooks who had seen him only two years before ! His great, tall, broad frame was shrunk, and he stooped in the shoulders ; his face was sallow, his hair was grey and thin, and his once plump and ponderous cheeks flabby and cadaverous. Old Black Jack still went stately, but he went slowly, to accommodate his master.
Hooks had been one market-day at Derby on business, which had detained hiin far later than it was his wont to be out. The roads were so dreadful then that no carriage could travel that road at that time of the year, which was November. He was NO. XXI.-TOL. IV.
accordingly alone and on Black Jack. It was a wild stormy night, and he had to ride for the greater part of the way along deeply muddy lanes, overhung by thick trees, with high branches and lofty wild hedgerows on each side. Occasionally the way came out of these lanes upon high and open commons. Hooks would have given a great deal to have avoided returning that night, but weighty affairs, he said, compelled him to hurry home.
Ile pushed on Jack, therefore, faster than he was generally wont to do ; and, in truth, as fast as the roads would permit. The moon now and then broke out from the flying clouds as he hurried over Breadsall Moor, and then again lost itself. As he descended into the valley towards Gilt Brook, the gloom in the hollow before him had something fearful in it; but when he had just ridden through the brook, and began to ascend the dusky and winding lane before him, he thought he saw an animal-a dog or fox it seemed to berun across the road, dragging a chain with it. It lost itself in the bushes, and for some time he heard and saw no more of it. But when he was plunging along in the deepest shadow and the deepest mud, it again caught his car, though he could not discern it.
His horse snorted, started, and broke out into a strong perspiration. This alarmed Sampson looks, for superstitious people place a great reliance on the instinct for the supernatural in horses. IIe went on peering around him in the gloom to catch a sight of the strange apparition ; but apparition it seemed determined not to be. Whether he went faster or slower the creature accompanied him, for he could still hear the dragging of the chain, now on one side of the road, now on the other. When he came out on a highlying heath, he made himself sure that here he must get a glimpse of the animal that had taken this strange fancy to accompany him. But he was mistaken. The moon was just at this point most deeply overcast, and Jack trotted on along the high dry road at a great rate; but, somehow or other, the dragging chain travelled on as fast as he did. When he was about again to plunge into the next lane, there came a fierce wind up the heath, that seemed ready to crash down bush and tree; and, as he was driven before this resistless and roaring hurricane into the black jaws of the lane, he saw, or thought he saw, the strange animal rush in before him.
The wind was now accompanied by rain ; thunder, also, came in a sudden and terrific crash ; and as Black Jack actually groaned