Imágenes de páginas

“Steal it !” and St. Giles looked full in the speaker's face, and saw it one indignant smile. Surely, he had met that man before. “Come, fellow, you know me?” said the stranger. “Once would have done me a good turn. I see—now you recollect me. Yes; we are old acquaintance, are we not ?” “No, sir; I know nothing,” said St. Giles, but he shook with the lie he uttered. Too well he knew the man, who, with looks of triumphant vengeance, scowled and smiled upon him. It was Robert Willis; the murderer loosed from his bonds by the magic tongue of Mr. Montecute Crawley. “I beg, sir, you'll not stop me. For the love of goodness, don't, sir"—and St. Giles trembled, as though palsied. “For the love of goodness! Ha! has For the fear of the gallows, you mean. Now, listen to me; felon—returned transport. That lady must not go back to her home. Nay—’tis all settled. She goes not back to old Snipeton—the old blood-sucker! —that's flat.” “What do you mean?” cried St. Giles stunned, bewildered. “My meaning's plain—plain as a halter. When we last met, you'd have put the rope around my neck. Raise one cry—stir a foot faster than 'tis my will and—and as sure as green leaves hang from the boughs above you—so surely—but I see you understand—yes, you are no fool, master St. Giles, though Hog-lane was your birth-place and school, and Mister Thomas Blast—you see, I know your history—your only teacher.” “Do what you will ! Hang, gibbet me, you sha'n't lay finger on that blessed lady"—and St. Giles, throwing himself from his useless horse, ran like a deer after his mistress, Willis, with threats and curses, following. St. Giles, finding his pursuer gained upon him, suddenly stopt, and as Willis came up, leapt at him, with the purpose of dragging him from the saddle, and mounting his horse. In a moment, Willis, beneath his assailant, was rolling in the dust; but as St. Giles was about to leap upon the horse, he was levelled to the earth by a blow from Tom Blast who—he was a wonderful man for his age!—sprang with the agility of youth from a hedge. “What I’’ cried his early teacher to the prostrate St. Giles, “you'd do it agin, would you? Well, there never was sich a fellow for stealing horse-flesh! You was born with it, I suppose," -said the ruffian, with affected commiseration, balancing the cudgel that had struck down the vanquished—“you was born with it, and—poor fellar—it's no use a blaming you.” In a moment, Willis had remounted his horse, and shaking his clenched fist over St. Giles, galloped off. “How now !”—gasped St. Giles, his sense returning—“how now,” he cried, opening his eyes, and staring stupidly in the face of Blast—“what's the matter? What's all this 3 '' “Why, the matter is jist this,” said Blast. “Your missus is much too good for your master. That's the 'pinion of somebody as shall be nameless. And so you may go home, and tell 'em not to wait dinner for her. It’s wickedness to spile meat.” “Tell me—where is she-where have they carried her—tell me, or—” and St. Giles, seizing Blast, was speechless with passion. “I'll jist tell you this much. Your lady's in very good company. And I'll tell you this, particularly for yourself; if you go on tearing my Sunday coat in that manner, I know where the constable lives, and won't I call him " " With this dignified rebuke Mr. Blast released himself from the hands of his captor, who— with a look of stupid misery—suffered him to walk away.



“WELL, Sam,” said Shuttle, as he rubbed his face with the towel till it glowed like a November pippin, “yours seems to be a nice easy sort of life of it, leisurely walking in the land of Goshen, eh?”

“Pretty well,” replied Sam, looking down on his superlatively glossy livery, “but we'se got used to the sort of thing, and we'se don't always be thinking of eating and drinking as in low life. It's the gentility's makes the difference.”

“It's slavery, Sam, slavery,” said the old weaver, combing down his few scanty locks, for he was about to proceed to an artizan-meeting on the Ten Hours' Bill, and was making himself tidy; “for such as you and I, Sam, can only get into Goshens of that sort on our hands and knees, and . . . .”

“Las Shuttle,” interrupted his wife, whose portly girth looked like a note of admiration beside her little old shrimped-up hardworked comma of a husband, “sich'pinions as them do very well for yer Unions and Dilly-gations, but Sam's quite right to stick to gin:tility and chickems and Madeira when he can get 'em. Sich motions 'a high life are el-lewating to us Christians, Shuttle, and, as I may say, are next to the truths of the kat-a-kis, instid o' your 'pinions, as, Trounce the beadle says, would pull down Church and State. No! Sam wouldn't be my dear sister's son, as lived in the noble the Mar-kis of Frizzle's kitchen twenty-two years and ten months, if he didn't likes chickems and felt el-lewated by harristock-ri-si.” “Fudge, Mrs. Shuttle,” said the old man, as he put on his hat, “you talk about what you don't understand. But come, Sam, you want to hear a little common sense, don't you?" “Oh, no,” replied Sam, as taking leave of Mrs. Shuttle he followed the old man to the door and brushed the dust of a pauper chair off his Goshen badge of knee-worship, “’tisn't 'pinions, but my Lord Honeysip so often talks of Commons' Committees whilst I stands behind his chair, that I likes an igea of the bismis, as it doesn't do to be ignorant 'afore sich a man as Popp, our butler, who is really equal to my lord hisself in hin-formation.” Having thus delivered himself, Sam closed the door and picked his way along the sloppy street; the old grey-headed man, a pace or two before, already lost in thought on the wants and needs of such human creatures as have to pay an earnest for their bread. It was a mean dark street, and such faint light as came through dusty panes or creaking shutters, bespoke of meagre rushlights bought with needy pence, or run on score at the nearest huckster's shop. However, there was one pretty strong light a-head, and when the old man came up to it, he saw it was the orthodox—of course unwatered—oil-fed lantern of Trounce, the parish beadle, who was stoutly hammering with his stick of office at a poor mean door. “Richard Lackbread is our chairman to-night,” said Shuttle, stopping short, “and he's at the room by this time.” “Does womens gives wotes, or children speechify treason?” asked Trounce, fiercely, “because it's about the children a coming to our school in sich ragged frocks, and that don't do, Mr. Shuttle—rispect, rispect, is a dooty to our superiors.” Reserving his forces till he could catch Trounce's pomposity in a still higher state of inflation—for a man, when he's lost his breath, finds it hard to keep his legs—merely added, that Richard's wife and children would, in all likelihood, be found at the Committee room, or near it ; and then went on, falling however soon into the rear, as Mr. Trounce never walked behind any one but the parson, and of course he had pleasant words for a respectable young man like Sam, whom he knew, by the Land of Goshen signs, to be my Lord Honeysip's lacquey, and, of course, not likely to sully the virgin ear of perfect beadledom with words of irreverent tendency. A turning in the street brought, as I may say, these threerepresentatives of the Constitution, to-wit, the Church, the Aristocracy, and the People, into one better lighted, not only with the usual lamps, but by the flaring gas in the unglazed fishmongers' and upholsterers' windows. On the pavement, before one of these latter, the little party were for a moment stayed in their progress—till Mr. Trounce called lustily out, “the Church, good people, a member of the Church's executive,"—by a young mechanic, and a modest pretty girl, whose labour at a factory had its signs by the little dinner basket on her arm, and her heart's gladness and woman's pride, by the downward gaze whenever looked at by the other, and by a little hand all lost in one much larger. Yes, our old friend the cobbler, would have had an anti-Malthusian carol with his lark if he could have seen it. That they were going pretty quickly to follow Tom Kittletink's example was clear, for they were inspecting a mahogany table, and six new chairs, with veritable horse-hair and brass nails. “Yes, love,” said the young fellow, covering still closer the little tiny hand, “I’ll work wery hard for the sake of the chairs being mahogany, for when one tries once to make a good beginning, we keep on, and so if we wait a month longer we'll ** “You’ll have to wait a good many, young Fillover,"—said old Shuttle, with a particular shake of his head, that veritably outdid Trounce when an apple-eating boy was within sight—“our blessed Parliament-men are going to cut hours pretty short, and tie up a a poor man's labour as landlord legislators did corn." “But what's the harm if a man works two or four hours less, and yet has the same wages, as they say 'll be the case ?” “Ha! has” laughed the old man, “one would have thought, Bob, courting would have taught you some o' the secrets o' human nature. Do you think the world's so for’ard yet in humanity, that, if ye give a man a penny, he'll give a shilling in return, and this for principle's sake f"

“I don't stop here to hear wickedniss agin our blissid Con-stitoo-shon,” interrupted Mr. Trounce, who, by some mischance very hurtful to his dignity, had fallen in the rear, “let a Con-sti-tooshon-all off'ser pass on, on the executive—fellers and girls, let me remark, should be at home and at their prayers by this time,” and with a mighty look, as qualification to this advice, Mr. Trounce and Sam passed the former, like that swelling frog of thine, ohl human-knowing Phoedrus, and, in doing so, he did not see Shuttle's wink, nor, on word of advice, that young Fillover followed. Up a broad, common staircase, with just light enough from a guttering candle to show the pallid faces and compressed lips of earnest men as they passed to and fro, lay the large bare-walled room they sought, now densely filled with the unwearying emmets of capital and labour. Business had already commenced, and Richard Lackbread, as chairman, was seated at the top of a large deal table, explaining, as Mr. Trounce cleared a way with his stick before him, that they had met to petition Parliament against any further interference with labour-hours. Richard spoke earnestly, for when a man has a glorious heart, broad-patented with the signs of Nature's noblest heraldry, it requires no casuistry to teach it principle, and this principle soon evolves itself into clear distinct conception, which, being truth, can never be false. “My friends,” concluded Richard, “if you put this Bill into a scale, a little false-meant philanthropy will be the feather on one side, and enmity against the Ministry and manufactures the stone on the other. Now we want to fight clear of both these things—Time being our only heritage, it is not for us to let the sign and seal of monopoly be set further upon it. Not that I am disputing, friends, the mighty principle of rest of which we see the foreshadow, and which will gradually evolve itself through the great urgencies of Knowledge, Science, and Progress, without any interference of gentlemanly legislators. I therefore propose a petition.” “Lord a'mussy,” exclaimed the beadle, loud enough for every one to hear, “what wickedness o' disputing the wisdom o' our blessed pastors and masters in the 'ouse! But in course the day o' judgment is near, but—but—” “Of course you and your cock'd hat'll escape, Mr.Trounce, for it would take a mighty earthquake to swallow them,” chimed in the little old quizzical Shuttle, unbuttoning his threadbare coat

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »