Imágenes de páginas

he himself (that is, Ling) came from, till Bill Newton wished him at Jamaica. But Joe Ling was in no hurry to be off, either to Jamaica or anywhere else. He sate, ate, drank, joked with the wife, poked the children in the ribs, and made himself-very much at home. Bill Newton's choler began to rise, for the Newtons were a very choleric family, and he thought several times of knocking the impudent fellow off his seat; but he remembered Sampson Hooks, and the debt, and restrained himself. But he ate his dinner sullenly; and with the disappearance of the last mouthful strolled out of the house, and betook himself to the :King of Prussia. Here, with his cup before him, but boiling with wrath, he despatched a little lad several times to see whether Ling's pony still hung at his door. He returned every time with the same tale—it still was there. Roused to a pitch of fury, he started up, hastened down the village with murderous thoughts in his mind, when, to his very agreeable surprise, he saw his door, but no pony there. He wheeled round, and once more regaining: the public house, spent the evening there in endeavouring to drown his chagrin in the company of the jolly frequenters of the old house. What was his surprise, however, at ten o'clock at might, to find, as he entered his cottage, Joe Ling comfortably: ensconcodin the old arm-chair, and the pony well-suppered up in the stable ! “Thou'st kept me long, my lad; thou'st kept me long. I did not know that thou meant to pay all up this time; but well and good, well and good; I can stay till morning—it will never do to venture home on such roads in the dark. I've got my night-cap, luckily, and ony bit of a bed will do for me.” Bill paused for a moment, considering whether he should not pound him to a jelly with his own ash sapling; but another thought occurred to him: he whispered to his son Jem, and betook himself, without wasting another word on Ling, to bed. This son Jem made signs to Ling to follow him, took him into his room, and made signs to him that he must make shift with half his bed. Joe Ling nodded his approbation, adding, as if to himself, “Half a loaf is better than no bread.” He was soon between the sheets, when, to his astonishment, Jem Newton, a great brawny fellow, heaped a great pile of malt bags on the bed, and crept under them himself. What's that ?” said Joe Ling, half crushed and half smothered. “What does the lad mean? Why, man, this mountain would crush a horse's ribs in, and swelter him to death ;” upon which he began to fling them off. But in this process he was interrupted by Jem, with a knock on the chest, followed by another on the nose, and a loud outcry of “What does, the fellow mean? If you will lie wi' me, you mun lie as I do. I've gotten th’ague, I tell you, and mun ha'my bags on me!” i Ling, who found that he had got a terrible fellow to deal with, ducked down quietly, but with many a groan and many a sigh did he bear his mountainous burden till the daylight began to peep, when, springing up, he saw that the young rogue had laid all the bags on his (Ling's side), and had been sleeping most comfortably himself with the usual-quantity of sheets and blankets on him.

Ling soon descended below, and appeared again at breakfast time:

with a note from Sampson Hooks, who begged in most courteous terms that Bill Newton would just sign the trifling account which his bailiffhad brought. “He was a good soul, was Ling, but aperfect formalist in business. He would oblige him by signing, and letting him go about his affairs. All would be right; there was no occasion in the world for hurry.”

: Bill signed his name to be rid of the fellow himself. This was.

the first appearance of Joe Ling, but it was a sample of what they would find him. On all occasions he was just as deaf, and just as invariably imperturbable. He always lauded the good-nature of Hooks, and Hooks praised him for a thoroughly good fellow, but such a man for business! So things went on some years, when at once a regular storm broke out. The Newtons, and many others, found that they actually, drunk or sober, had signed mortgages, and that for sums of such amount as they, vowed they had never, had. How this was

we cannot pretend to tell, but certain it is, that when old Joe Ling: met any of these people at the market town or elsewhere, he was

always most civil, treated them like a king, and on one occasion posted off to Derby in the night, in a great, hurry, while he had oue of them drunk as a piper at an inn in a neighbouring village, returned before the sun was up, paid him over a sum of money, and

saw him sign a deed. ... Soon after the man was called upon to eva

cuate his cottage and fields, according to terms of sale, when he declared, he had never made a sale; but found a regular deed drawn out of the pocket of Joe Ling, with his signature there to a certainty, in his own undeniable hand. In short, never was there such a hubbub 1. The Newtons, and

five or six others, found their mortgages foreclosed, and their little property gone, as in a dream. This man had sold, and did not know when; and the whole place was up and vowing to tear down Sampson Hooks' house about his ears, and murder him and his rascally swindler, Joe Ling. What did Sampson Hooks? Did he shrink? Did he defy, or even justify 2 No: he rode through the village daily, calm and smiling, and inquiring into the health and happiness of those he met; and when he met with black and threatening looks, asked, with the greatest and most simple mildness, what was amiss? Had he done anything to offend them “Have you done anything?” said indignantly some of the sturdy, villagers; “has not yourscoundrel man, Ling, robbed and cheated us all? Has not he got almost every man's property into his clutches? Have we any of us now a home of our own When was it before that any of us had our houses and fields in debt? And how the devil has the fellow managed to heap up charges against us?” To this Sampson Hooks replied with a look of surprise, which, if it were feigned, was well feigned; it looked very genuine and very, natural. * “Oh! dear,” said he, “it grievesme extremely that you should think that any body belonging to me should use you unfairly. I am sure my only wish has been to see you comfortable. Have not Ilent you money for that purpose? Have not I always advised you to good and prudent management : Oh! dear, this is very unpleasant l But let me be assured that Mr. Ling has done anything unhandsome, and it shall be instantly righted—instantly. High as is my opinion of him, nothing in such a case should screen him. But my good people, I cannot think, I really cannot think it, indeed. I have seen so much of Joseph Ling, and never could I detect him in any dirty action; on the contrary, he has always appeared a most innocent, faithful creature; quite careless of himself—quite; but his faithful spirit makes him, perhaps, too eager to serve his master. But let all be examined—let all be examined into—and if any wrong be done, let it be righted; nay, if you can pay off all your debts, or can find any one else to take up your property, willingly will Irelinquish it ! Oh! what good would it do me to win the whole parish, and yet make enemies of all my good neighbours? Why should I? Have I not enough 7 Have I any one to save for ? Have I child or chick? Let the thing be searched into—let it be searched into—for this state of matters grieves me,

grieves me deeply. Appoint your man, I will send mine, and all shall be set fair and straight between us—quickly quickly!” Sampson Hooks rode away apparently deeply wounded, and Mrs. Sampson Hooks soon entered some of the cottages of the people to see the sick, and said, “How sorely her dear Mr. Hooks was afflicted that his neighbours thought so badly of him. Never had she seen him in such a taking! No rest day nor night— nothing but restless watchfulness; getting up, lying down, groans and tears. It was but last night,” said she, and the tears rushed to her eyes; “I woke at twelve o'clock, and found him standing by the window, looking out into the moonlight! “Dear Mr. Hooks,’ I exclaimed, “what are you doing? You will be the death of yourself if you do so! Never mind, dear Mr. Hooks, never mind! You have had the best intentions, and if you are hardly thought of, it will only be the lot of all good and tender-hearted people! In this world ye shall have tribulation. But take heart, dear, take heart; all will soon be made right—all will be cleared up.’” “‘Dear Mrs. Hooks,’ said my dear Mr. Hooks, with a deep sigh, “this is a sweet place—a paradise of a place I may call it; and what pleasure I have had in planning and laying it out ! and what a pleasure it was to me to think that here should we live amid a loving people, on whom we might be able to shed blessings! But it cuts me to the heart—it does indeed : and now, sweet as is this spot, I can take no pleasure in it: that is all over now, for the charm is gone since I have through my good intentions incurred the resentment of my neighbours.'” Mrs. Hooks was too much affected to proceed, and took her leave weeping, and walked up the village with a heavy and slow step that touched the tender bosom of every cottage-dame who saw it. “Oh, the villain Oh, that sarpent Ling ! What a consarn has he made on it! To bring us all, and his Mester and Missis into all this trouble. Surely they must, after all, be good folks; and it is that old deaf villain that has been making a hand of them and us. But there 'll come a storm one of these days, and he must pack, I warrant ye. Out with him—out, I say, with all such sarpents l’’ The lawyers met; old Joe Ling was there, as well as Sampson Hooks, and all the village concerned, in the parlour of the King of Prussia. “Let the poor people have every justice, every possible favour,” said Mr. Sampson Hooks to his attorney. “Refleet that you are seeking satisfaction for them rather than for me. I want no satisfaction but to see them satisfied.” The examination went on ; their own lawyer was keen and subtle, and every one now said in his heart, “Now old deaf 'un, now old Ling, thou 'It catch it.” But old Ling seemed by no means cast down, nor at all in any eagerness to justify himself; indeed, he seemed not to be capable of understanding that any complaint lay against him. He drew document after document and book after book out of his bag, and gave every question its appropriate answer; but his deafness seemed as complete a coat of defence as the shell of the tortoise. When the opposite lawyer told him that heavy suspicions were entertained of his proceedings, he only replied, “Oh yes, Mr. Hooks was always too goodnatured.” As he could not be got at through his ears, he made a direet pass at his eyes in the shape of a piece of paper, on which he wrote the same conciliatory assertion. Ling read it, and then laughed, as at a most capital joke. “Oh Lord! oh Lord! What nonsense! Who says I’ve cheated 'em 2 Who says it? Stuff! Ar’n’t all the accounts here? Is not every figure here 2 Is n't all right cast up f Try, see! try it—try it ony one on you! Who says I’ve cheated 'em : They say! They say, is the first word of a lie! There, cast 'em up, I say ; examine 'em ony way like, and if yo catch old Joe Ling in a trick, why I'll never eat bread again.” - They cast up ; they examined; they questioned and crossquestioned, but they could make nothing appear, but that the villagers had been very foolish, and made very bad bargains; and that Joe Ling had made very good ones for his master; but all was regular, most regular. The only thing that stood somewhat in the way of fair play, was buying the land from the drunken man. But Joe Ling stoutly denied that he was then any more drunk than at any other time. ** * “Can ony on yo tell me,” said he, “when he is right sober, and when he is not? Can ony on yo find him morning, noon or night, without his pot o'beer? But, what if he has made a bad bargain, now is the time to unbargain it ! "Hasn't Mr. Hooks said, “Pay me the money back and I yield the purchase?’” Nothing could be fairer. The man was asked if he could get the money somewhere and pay it back. He desired time, and the

« AnteriorContinuar »