"The same, Mr. Wilkinson; I knew you as soon as I heard your voice."
"You disarranged our work pretty well for us, Mr. Dow—Nash. What were you after there, if it is a fair question?"
"I was after the confidence of some innocent youngsters, who could give me pointers on grindstones and their relation to the family income. As I know you both, and our friends of the hotel are not listening, I may say that I am so interested in this problem as to have made up my mind to go into grindstones myself."
These remarks led to an animated triangular conversation over the Grinstun man, in which the two pedestrians gave the detective all the information they possessed regarding that personage. They urged that an immediate effort should be made to hinder his acquiring the hand and property of Miss Du Plessis, and, thereafter, that united action should be taken to break up his injurious commerce. Mr. Nash prepared to accompany them on their walk to church in Flanders, and asked the lawyer if he had any objection to ride his horse part of the way, with a bundle behind him, if he, the detective, would carry his knapsack. Coristine consented, on condition that his new friend would also lend him his riding gaiters. Madame produced the wherewithal to spend a social half-hour before retiring, and, in answer to the detective, said: "Ze sack ees in ze commode in ze chombre of M'syae." Mr. Nash laughed, and over his glass and clay pipe, confided to his fellow-conspirators that he had a few little properties in that bag, and was much afraid that some of them would compel him to desecrate the Sabbath. "You are used to my religious performances, Mr Coristine; I hope your friend, and my old principal, Mr. Wilkinson, will not be as hard on me as you were."
Then the dominie was informed of the events of the evening, and the parties separated for the night.
Sunday morning dawned clear and cloudless, giving promise of a glorious day. Everybody in the inn was up before six o'clock; for at seven it was the intention of the three guests to take the road for a place of worship in Flanders. Ben Toner was waiting on the verandah for the appearance of Coristine; and, when that gentleman came out to taste the morning air, greeted him with clumsy effusion, endeavouring, at the same time, to press a two-dollar bill upon his acceptance. The lawyer declined the money, saying that he had no license to practise, and would, consequently, be liable to a heavy fine should he receive remuneration for his services. He enquired after Ben's health, and was pleased to learn that, while his heroic remedies had left the patient "as rayd as a biled lobister," externally, he was otherwise all right, except for a little stiffness. Mr. Nash came down-stairs, dressed in a well-fitting suit of tweed, and sporting a moustache and full beard that had grown up as rapidly as Jonah's gourd. Going up to the man whom he had confessed the night before, he asked him: "Do you know me again, Toner?" to which Ben replied: "You bet your life I do; you're the curous coon as come smellin' round my place with a sayrch warnt two weeks ago Friday." Satisfied that his identity in Ben's eye was safe, the detective led him away on to the bridge, and engaged in earnest conversation with him, which made Mr. Toner start, and wriggle, and back down, and impart information confirmatory of that extorted the night before, and give large promises for the future. The two returned to the verandah, and, before the lawyer went in to breakfast, his patient bade him an affectionate farewell, adding, "s'haylp me, Mr. Corstine, ef I don't be true to my word to you and the old woman about that blamed liquor. What I had I turned out o' doors this mornin', fust thing, and I shaant take in no more. That there bailiff's done me a good turn, and I won't ferget him, nor you nuther, Doctor, ef so be it's in my power to haylp you any." Coristine took his leave of the simple-hearted fellow, and went to join the company at the breakfast table. Mr. Nash was there, but, for convenience of eating and not to astonish the host and hostess, he had placed his beard and moustache in his pocket. It was handy, however, and could be replaced at a moment's warning.
Batiste brought round the detective's horse, and the lawyer, in borrowed riding gaiters, bestrode him, hooking on to the back of the saddle a bundle somewhat larger than a cavalry man's rolled-up cloak. The bundle contained Mr. Nash's selected properties. That gentleman allowed Madame to fasten the straps of Coristine's knapsack on his shoulders, while Pierre did the same for Wilkinson. The dominie had paid the bill the night before, as he objected to commercial transactions on Sunday, so there was nothing to do but to say good bye, bestow a trifle on Batiste and take to the road. The detective, after they had done half a mile's pleasant walking, took command of the expedition, and ordered The Cavalry, as Coristine called himself, to trot forward and make a reconnoisance. His instructions were to get to the Carruthers' house in advance of the pedestrians, to find out exactly who were there, and to return with speed and report at headquarters, which would be somewhere on the road. Saluting his friend and his superior officer, the lawyer trotted off, his steed as well pleased as himself to travel more speedily through the balmy atmosphere of the morning. The dominie and his quondam assistant were thus left to pursue their journey in company.
"Do you enjoy Wordsworth, Mr. Nash?" asked Wilkinson.
"Oh yes," replied the detective, "the poet, you mean, We are seven, and the primrose by the river's brim. Queer old file in the stamp business he must have been. Wish I could make $2,500 a year like him, doing next to nothing."
"There is a passage that seems to my mind appropriate. It is:—
Us humbler ceremonies now await; But in the bosom with devout respect, The banner of our joy we will erect, And strength of love our souls shall elevate; For, to a few collected in His name. The heavenly Father will incline His ear. Hallowing Himself the service which they frame. Awake! the majesty of God revere! Go—and with foreheads meekly bow'd, Present your prayer: go—and rejoice aloud— The Holy One will hear!"
"You should have been a parson, Mr. Wilkinson; you do that well. I'd like to take lessons from you; it would help me tremendously in my profession. But I find it mighty hard to do the solemn. That time in your school was almost too much for me, and your friend twigged my make-up last night."
"I find it hard," said the schoolmaster, "not to be solemn in such scenery as this on such a morning. All nature seems to worship, giving forth in scent and song its tribute of adoration to the Creator, to whose habitation made with hands we are on our way as worshippers."
"'Fraid I shan't do much worshipping, church or no church. You see, Mr. Wilkinson, my business is a very absorbing one. I'll be looking for notes, and spotting my men, and working up my clues all the time the parson's bumming away."
"Ah, you have read Tennyson's 'Northern Farmer'?"
"Never heard tell of it; but I've got my eyes on some northern farmers, and they'll have my attention soon."
"Your expression, 'bumming away,' occurs in it, so I thought you had found it there. It is rather a severe way in which to characterize the modern preacher, who, take him on the whole, deserves credit for what I regard as a difficult task, the presentation of some fresh subject of religious thought every Sunday all the year round."
"My mind works too fast for most of them. I can see where the conclusion is before they have half got started. There's no fun in that, you know."
"Do you not sometimes meet with clergymen that interest you?"
"Now and then. The learned bloke who cuts his text into three, and expounds them in detail, I can't stand; nor the wooden logical machine that makes a proposition and proceeds to prove it; nor the unctuous fellow that rambles about, and says, 'dear friends,' and makes you wish he had studied his sermon. But, now and then, I fall in with a man who won't let me do any private thinking till he's done. You hear his text and his introduction, and wonder, how the dickens he is going to reconcile the two. He carries you on and on and on, till he does it in a grand whirl at the end, that lifts you up and away with it, like the culminating arguments of the counsel for the prosecution, or the peeler's joyful run in of a long-sought gaol-bird. I like that sort of a parson; the rest are jackdaws."
"Perhaps they suit the average mind?"
"If they did, we ought to have graded churches as well as graded schools. But they don't, except, in this way, that people have got accustomed to the bumming. The preachers I like would keep up the interest of a child. There was one I heard on the text, 'I form the light and create darkness.' His introduction was, 'God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.' He jerked us up into the light and banged us down into the darkness, almost laughing one minute and crying the next. Then he went to hunt up his man, and found him in the devil and the devil's own, all fallen creations of God. Any schoolboy could follow that sermon and take its lessons home with him. There was a logical bloke, at least he thought himself logical, who took for his text Joseph's coat of many colours, a sort of plaid kilt I should think; and said, 'I shall now proceed to prove that this was a sacerdotal or priestly garment. First, it occupies a prominent position in the narrative; second, it excited the enmity of Joseph's brethren; and third, they dipped it in blood when they sold their younger brother.' I could have proved it as logically to be Stuart tartan, and, at the same time, the original of the song 'Not for Joe,' because he lost it before he became steward to Pharaoh. Bah! that's what makes people sick of going to church. I've pretty nigh quit it."
The pedestrians trudged on for a time silently, the detective, doubtless, revolving schemes in his brain, the dominie inwardly sighing over his companion's captious criticism, to which he could not well reply, and over the absence of his legal friend, whose warm Irish heart would have responded sympathetically to the inspiration of the Sabbath morning walk. At last, Mr. Nash resumed the conversation, saying:—
"I'm afraid, Mr. Wilkinson, that you think me a pretty hard-hearted, worldly man, and, perhaps, that my calling makes me so."
"I have no right to judge you, Mr. Nash," answered the schoolmaster; "but I should think that the work of hunting down law-breakers would have the effect of deadening one's sensibilities."
"It shouldn't, any more than the work of a clergyman, a doctor, a teacher, or a lawyer. We all, if we are honest, want to benefit society by correcting evils. I see a lot of the dark side of human nature, but a little of the bright too, for, thank Heaven, there is no man so bad as not to have some little good in him. There's that Toner, once a fine young fellow; I hate to see him going to the dogs, wasting his property, breaking his old mother's heart. I'd rather save that man any day than gaol him."
"Give me your hand, sir," said the dominie, heartily, transferring his staff to his left, and offering the right; "I honour you for the saying, and wish there were more officers of the law like you."
"Oh, as for that matter," replied the detective, "I and my colleagues have tried to save many a young fellow, but then—"
"What is the obstacle?"
"The obstacle is that there are men who simply won't be saved."
"Oh, I suppose that is true theologically as well as legally."
"Of course; if the law don't want to have a lot of criminals to hunt out and shut up and punish, it stands to reason that the Source of all law doesn't. But, for the good of society and the world, these criminals have to be separated from them, and their bad work stopped. To say that the law hates them, and takes vengeance on them like a Corsican, is utterly to misunderstand the nature of law. Yet, that is what nine-tenths of the parsons teach."
"That is very unfortunate."
"Unfortunate? it's diabolical. If I were to go into a good man's house, and present his children with a hideous caricature of their father, so as to terrify some and drive others clean away from him, wouldn't I deserve to be kicked out? I should think so! Now, I say every good thing in man must be found a million times better in man's Maker. If the foundation principle of human law is benevolence to society, the foundation principle of divine law must be something higher and better, not revenge. But you know these things better than I do."
"Not at all; I could not express myself better. What you have found out is stated by Dr. Whewell, the famous Master of Trinity, in the Platonic form, that every good thing in man and in the world has its archetype in the Divine Mind. Every bad thing, such as revenge and anger, has no such archetype, but is a falling away, a deflection, from the good."
"How do you explain the imputation of bad things to God, such as hate, revenge, terrorism, disease, death, beasts of prey, and all the rest?"
"In two ways; first, as a heathen survival in Christianity, borrowed partly from pagan national religions, partly from the misunderstood phraseology of the Old Testament; and, second, as the necessary result of a well-meant attempt to escape from Persian and Manichaean dualism."
"But there is a dualism in law, in morals, in nature, and in human nature, everywhere in this world; there's no getting over it."
"Of course there is, but the difference between the dualism of fact and that of the Persian system is, that the evil is not equal, but inferior and subordinate, to the good."
"It gets the upper hand pretty often, as far as this world is concerned."
"And why? Just for the same reason that bad governments and corrupt parties often get the upper hand, namely, by the vote of the majority, through which the minority has to suffer. Talk about vicarious suffering! Every good man suffers vicariously."
"These are deep things, Mr. Wilkinson, too deep for the average parson, who doesn't trouble himself much with facts unless he find them confirmed by his antiquated articles."
"Yet my attention has been drawn to them by thoughtful clergymen of different denominations."
"Well, I don't think I'll trouble the clergymen to-day, thoughtful or not thoughtful. I've had my sermon in the open air, a sort of walking camp meeting. What did they call these fellows who studied on the move?"
"That's it; we're a peripatetic church."
"But, without praise or prayer or scripture lessons, which are more important than the sermon."
"Oh, you can do the praise and prayer part in a quiet way, as a piece of poetry says that I learnt when I was a boy. It ends something like this:—
So we lift our trusting eyes To the hills our fathers trod, To the quiet of the skies, And the Sabbath of our God.
That's pretty, now! Hallo! here's the doctor!"
Coristine came up at the gallop, and reported that all the people he expected to find at the Carruthers' were there, Grinstun man, Mrs. Carmichael, and Marjorie, included, all except Miss Du Plessis, who was staying at a house three miles this side of the farm, helping to nurse a sick neighbour.
"Has Rawdon seen her?" asked the detective. The lawyer did not know, but suggested that they could find out by calling at the house of Mrs. Talfourd, the sick woman, on the way.
"How far are we from it?" enquired Mr. Nash.
"About a mile or a mile and a-half," replied Coristine.
"Then, Mr. Wilkinson, let us stir our stumps a bit. Can you sing or whistle? There's nothing like a good tune to help a quick march."
"Yes; sing up, Wilks," cried The Cavalry; and the dominie started "Onward, Christian Soldiers," in which the others joined, the detective in a soft falsetto, indistinguishable from a half-cultivated woman's voice. He was combining business with pleasure, dissimulation with outward praise.
"Pretty good that for a blooming young lady of five foot ten," remarked Mr. Nash, at the end of the hymn.
"Blooming young ladies with a tonsure," replied Coristine, gazing on the detective's momentarily uncovered head, "are open to suspicion."
"Wait till you see my hair." chuckled the ex-priest.
The mile and a-half was soon covered, and the trio stood before a roomy farm-house. A boy, not unlike Tommy, but better dressed, was swinging on the gate, and him the detective asked if he could see Miss Du Plessis on important business. The boy ran into the house to enquire, and came back to the gate, accompanied by the lady in question. She changed colour as her eye took in The Cavalry, immovable as a life guardsman on sentry. The detective handed her his professional card, and explained that he and his two friends had been entrusted with the duty of protecting her property and herself. "You need have no doubts, Miss Du Plessis, for the Squire, as a J.P., knows me perfectly," he continued.
"I have no fear, Mr. Nash," answered the lady, in a pleasant voice, with just a suspicion of a foreign accent; "your name is known to me, and you are in good company."
Wilkinson, standing by his friend's stirrup, heard this last statement, and blushed, while The Cavalry thought he had heard a voice like that before.
"Has Mr. Rawdon seen you, or have you seen him?" asked the detective.
"Neither; but the two Marjories have been here, and have told me about him. They do not seem to admire Mr. Rawdon."
"The darlins!" ejaculated the lawyer; whereupon Wilkinson pinched his leg, and made him cry "Owch!"
The rest of the conversation between the plotters at the gate was inaudible. At its conclusion, the lady's face was beaming with amusement.
"Give me that bundle for Miss Du Plessis," said Nash to Coristine, who lifted his hat to her, and handed the parcel over.
"Now, for instructions," continued the commander-in-chief. "The Cavalry will go to Bridesdale, that's Squire Carruthers' place, and keep Mr. Rawdon from going to church, or bring him back if he has started, which isn't likely. This branch of the Service will also make sure that all children are out of the way somewhere, and inform older people, who may be about, that Miss Du Plessis is coming to the house during church time, and is very much altered by night-watching and sick-nursing, so that they need not express astonishment before Mr. Rawdon. Fasten these knapsacks about you somehow, Horse-Doctor; put the beast up where he'll get a drink and a feed; and go to church like a good Christian. The Infantry will halt for the present, and afterwards act as Miss Du Plessis' escort. Infantry, attention! Cavalry, form threes, trot!"
Coristine took the knapsacks, made another bow, and trotted away, while the dominie walked up to the gate, and was introduced to the fair conspirator.
After showing the detective and his bundle into an unoccupied apartment, Miss Du Plessis returned to the sitting-room where she left the dominie. In the few minutes at their disposal, he informed his new acquaintance of his chance-meeting with her uncle, of whose arrival in Canada she was in complete ignorance. The imparting and receiving this news established such a bond between the two as the schoolmaster had hitherto thought impossible should exist between himself and one of the weaker sex. Yet, in her brief absence, he had taken pains to dust himself, and shake up his hair and whiskers. His companion was preparing to tell how she had heard of him from Miss Carmichael, when another young lady, almost her counterpart in general appearance, entered the room.
"Now," said the newcomer, in a deep but feminine voice, "now the false Miss Du Plessis will go on with her nursing, while the real one takes Mr. Wilkinson's arm and keeps her appointment at the Squire's."
Miss Du Plessis clapped her hands together and laughed heartily. Wilkinson, thinking, all the time, what a pretty, musical laugh it was, could not help joining in the amusement, for Nash was complete from his wig down to his boots. The colonel's niece threw a light, woolly shawl over the detective's shoulders, and accompanied the pair to the gate, where, before dismissing them, she warned her double not to compromise her to Mr. Rawdon.
"I hope soon to have the pleasure of meeting you, Mr. Wilkinson, under more favourable circumstances," she called after that gentleman, as they moved off, and then ran into the house to hide her laughter.
The dominie felt his face getting red, with a pretty young lady hoping to meet him again, on the one hand, and a not by any means ill-looking personation of one hanging on to his arm, on the other. After a minute, the detective withdrew his hand from his companion's arm, but continued to practise his assumed voice upon him, in every imaginable enquiry as to what he knew of Miss Du Plessis, of her friend Miss Carmichael, and of the working geologist's intentions. He was thus pretty well primed, and all promised well, till, within a quarter of a mile of the house, a vision appeared that filled him and the disguised Nash, to whom he communicated his fears, with grave apprehensions as to the success of the plot. It was no less a person than the veteran, Mr. Michael Terry, out for a Sunday walk with the Grinston man. Their dread increased as the old man came running forward, crying: "An' it's comin' back yez are, my darlin' Mish Ceshile. It's a throifle pale yer lookin', an' no wonder." Saying this, Michael shook hands with Nash, and whispered: "Niver fare, sorr, Mishter Coristine towld me all about it."
The made-up lady introduced her father's old servant to Wilkinson, whose apprehensions were dispelled in a similar way, so that all were prepared to give Mr. Rawdon the reception intended.
"Ullo, hold Favosites Wilkinsonia," cried the working geologist, swaggering up with a cigar in his mouth, "'ow's yer bloomin' 'ealth? That hold bloke of a Hirish haint in a 'urry to do the hamiable between 'is hold guvner's gal an' yours truly. My name, Miss, is Rawdon, Haltamont Rawdon, workin' geologist and minerologist, and, between you and me and the bedpost, a pretty warm man."
"Yes; Mr. Rawdon," replied the pseudo Miss Du Plessis, "you look—well, not pretty—but warm."
"O, dash it hall, that haint wot I meant, Miss Do Please-us; I mean hi'm a man that's got the dibs, the rhino, the blunt, you know, wot makes the mare go. I don't go geologizin' round for nothin'."
"You pick up stones, I suppose?"
"Yes; grinstuns, limestun grit, that's the stuff to make you jolly."
"I have heard of drawing blood out of a stone, Mr. Rawdon, but never of extracting merriment or exhilaration from a grindstone."
"Then you don't know my grinstuns, Miss; they're full o' fun."
"Are they indeed? How amusing! In what way does the fun display itself?"
"A bundle of my grinstuns, distributed at a loggin' bee, a raisin' bee, or a campaign caucus, ware there's a lot of haxes to grind, can make more fun than the Scott Act'll spile in a month. But silence is silence 'twixt partners, which I opes you and me is to be."
The fictitious Miss Du Plessis, with much simpering and affectation, quite unworthy of the original, drew the working geologist out, and inspired him with hopes of securing her hand and property. Mr. Rawdon spoke very freely of the wealth he had in the hand and in the bush, of his readiness to make allowance for Madame Du Plessis, if that "haffable hold gent," her brother in law, was not prepared to provide for her. When they reached the house, they found that no one was at home but Tryphena, who was confined to the kitchen by culinary duties. They, therefore, occupied the parlour, the Grinstun man seeing no impropriety in being there alone with a young lady whom he had met for the first time. Indeed, he was much gratified to find that the lady was not at all stiff and offish, as he had feared, but as "haffable as her huncle and more." The lady laughed, and blushed at loud compliments, as loud as the check of Mr. Rawdon's clothes, and asked flattering questions, which he answered with a jolliky and recklessness that almost astonished himself. Was there no romance, no spice of daring in his occupation? she had asked, and he, remembering that he was talking to a soldier's daughter, who would, doubtless, appreciate courage, replied enigmatically that the grinstun business was about the riskiest business on earth, and required 'eroism of no hordinary kind.
While this conversation was going on, the dominie and the veteran were walking churchward, for, as the former had signified his intention of going to a place of worship, the old man insisted on accompanying him.
"Oi was born a Catholic, sorr, and a Catholic Oi'll doie, though my darter is a Pratestant, and what's more, a Prosbytarian. She rades her Boible an' Oi rade moine, an' there's sorra a bit av differance betwane thim. If the church is good enough for her, it's good enough for the loikes av me."
"That is what I call being a Catholic in the truest sense of the term. We will not deprive people of the kingdom of Heaven because they refuse to go our way."
"Till me now, sorr, what's that that's pertindin' to be my dear young misthress, Miss Ceshile?"
"An old soldier knows how to keep a secret, I am sure. It is the famous detective, Mr. Nash."
"Sure I hope, by my sowl, that he'll make the crathur gnash his tayth. It was all I could do to kape my hands aff him, as we were walkin' along to mate yez. Him to make up to the cornel's darter, the misherable, insignifikint, bad shpokin, thavin' scrap av impidence!"
The church bell had ceased ringing, the horses and waggons were in the driving shed without any attendant, and, as the pair approached, they could hear the sound of hearty singing coming through the open windows. They entered together, the old man crossing himself as he did so, and sat down in a pew near the door. The schoolmaster saw that the church was that of Mr. Errol, who occupied the pulpit. He looked round, but could not see his friend Coristine; nor was little Marjorie anywhere visible. They must have strolled on farther to Mr. Perrowne's consecrated edifice for the sake of the walk. Then, with reverent mind, the dominie joined in the simple worship of the Kirk.
The Services—Nash Routs Rawdon—The Dinner Talk—The Pedestrians with the Ladies—Singing out of One Hymn-book—Grinstuns Again—The Female Vagrant and the Idiot Boy—Little Marjorie—Nash's Thoughts—The Captain and the Plot—Arrival of Rufus and Ben—To Arms!
Mr. Errol's sermon was on the text, "Lord, I knew thee, that thou art an hard man." He elaborated the unfaithful servant's harsh opinion of God, and, before he sat down, completely exonerated the Father in Heaven from the blasphemous judgment of those who call themselves His children. There is a thief in the world who comes to steal and kill and destroy; he is not God, but the enemy of God's children. The dominie's heart warmed to the man who, though of a different communion, fulfilled St. Paul's ideal of a clergyman, in that he arrogated no dominion over the people's faith, but was a helper of their joy. The sermon lifted the schoolmaster up, and brought God very near; and the hearty hymns and reverent prayers helped him greatly. When the service was over, he waited, and soon Carruthers presented his comely, matronly wife, while Mrs. Carmichael recalled herself to his remembrance; and, finally, the minister, having divested himself of gown and bands in the vestry, came down the aisle with cheery step and voice to bid him welcome to Flanders. Wilkinson was happy—happier than he had been for many a long year. He seemed to have so many friends, and they were all so cordial, so glad to see him—not a hard man or woman among them; and, therefore, God could not be hard. He walked with the minister, who was going to dine at Bridesdale and then ride five miles to preach at another station. He thanked him for his sermon, and talked over it with him, and, of course, quoted "The Excursion":—
If the heart Could be inspected to its inmost folds, By sight undazzled with the glare of praise, Who shall be named—in the resplendent line Of sages, martyrs, confessors—the man Whom the best might of conscience, truth and hope, For one day's little compass, has preserved From painful and discreditable shocks Of contradiction from some vague desire Culpably cherished, or corrupt relapse To some unsanctioned fear.
"That's just all the trouble, Mr. Wilkinson," said the delighted minister. "People think to honour and glorify God by being afraid of Him, forgetting that perfect love casts out the fear that hath torment, and he that feareth is not made perfect in love."
With such conversation they beguiled the way till they stood at the gate of Bridesdale, and entered the hospitable mansion, there to be received by the odious Grinstun man.
"What in aa' the warld, Marjorie, did Susan mean, sending us yon godless, low-lived chairact o' a Rawdon?" asked the Squire of his sister, Mrs. Carmichael.
"I cannot understand it, John," she answered; "for her own Marjorie fairly detests the little man. Perhaps it is some business affair with the Captain."
"Aweel, aweel, we maun keep the peace, sin' I'm a judge o't; but I do not like thee, Dr. Fell."
Then they all entered the house together. Wilkinson found the spurious Miss Du Plessis gone.
The dominie saw that the working geologist was boring Mrs. Carmichael, after her return to the drawing-room from laying aside her walking attire, and valorously interposed to save her. He enquired for her niece, Marjorie, and learned that that young lady had annexed Coristine as her lawful prey, and, introducing him to her grown-up cousin, had arranged the triangular journey to Mr. Perrowne's church. The service there was longer than in the kirk, so that half an hour would probably elapse before the two Anglican perverts appeared with their captive, the lawyer. Before the absentees made their appearance, a man—dressed in Mr. Nash's clothes, but with the beard and moustache recognized by Ben Toner as those of the bailiff—was ushered in and greeted by the Squire as Mr. Chisholm. The rest of the company seemed to know the transformed detective, including the Grinstun man, whom he rallied on his attentions to a young lady.
"You're a nice man, Rawdon, when every decent person has gone to church, gallivanting with young ladies. I saw you at the Talfourds."
"Don't care a 'ang if you did," replied Rawdon, "if Miss Do Pleas us takes a shine to a warm man, and gives you 'and-to-mouth beggars the go-by, that honly shows 'er common sense."
"What has Miss Du Plessis got to do with it?"
"She's got this to do with it, that she's promised to be my missus before the week's hout."
"Wy, this mornin'; 'ere in this blessed room."
"Oh, come, Rawdon, you are joking. Miss Du Plessis hasn't been out of Mrs. Talfourd's to-day."
"Don't you try none of your larks hon me, Mr. Chisholm. You can't take a rise hout of this kid, hinnercent has he looks."
"But, I tell you she has not. Who do you think that girl was you brought home Talfourd's place?"
"Wy, Miss Do Please us, of course; 'oo else could it be?"
Mr. Chisholm laughed loud and long, and at last ejaculated: "Miss Du Plessis! Oh, but you're a green hand, Rawdon, to take Martha Baggs for her; the daughter of old Baggs, in the revenue service. Hope you didn't give your friends away, Rawdon?"
"You think you're pretty clever, Mr. Chisholm, comin' hover me with your Marther Baggses. Hold Hirish knows Miss Do Please-us, I should say, and wouldn't go takin' no Marther Baggs for 'er."
"Mr. Rawdon," interposed the Squire, "I'll thank you to speak more respectfully of my father-in-law; as good a man, I judge, as yourself."
"No hoffence, Squire; but I wish you'd hask the hold gent to come 'ere and shut up this 'ere bailiff's mouth with 'is Marther Baggs."
Mr. Terry, who preferred the society of the kitchen to that of the parlour, was produced, and, on being asked if the lady with Mr. Rawdon was Miss Du Plessis, answered that his "sight was gettin' bad, an' the sinse av hairin' too, an' if it wor Miss Jewplesshy, she had changed her vice intoirely, an' got to be cruel rough an' common in her ways. Av coorse, it moight have been the young misthress; but Talfer's was nigh to han', an' it was aisy axin'."
A horrible suspicion came over the Grinstun man, and paled his rubicund visage. He darted up to his room, and speedily re-appeared with knapsack on back and staff in hand, ready for the road. Mr. Carruthers pressed him to stay at least for dinner, but he was resolved to solve the mystery by a visit to the Talfourds, and said that, if Mr. Chisholm was right, he would not be back for a while. His retreating figure was watched with positive pleasure by most of the company, and with still greater satisfaction by the small party returning from the Anglican service.
"What garred ye fricht Rawdon awa, Mr. Chisholm?" asked the Squire.
"I wanted to eat my dinner comfortably," replied the detective, putting beard and moustache in his pocket, when all the company, except the dominie who knew, cried out, "it's Mr. Nash."
"To think of you deceiving me," exclaimed Mr. Carruthers, "and me a justice of the peace. I've a thocht to bring you up for conspiracy."
"There can be no conspiracy without at least two persons," answered the detective.
"But, man, you are two persons, that I've known off and on as Chisholm and Nash."
"When he was one of my masters," put in the dominie, "his name was Dowling."
"And this morning," remarked the man of aliases, with a smile, "I was Miss Du Plessis or Martha Baggs, so Rawdon will have hard work to find the lady of his affections."
At this juncture Coristine and his fair companions entered, and, while the young Marjorie renewed her acquaintance, Wilkinson was gravely introduced to one of his own teachers, to the no little amusement of the lady herself, of the lawyer, and of the company generally who were in the secret. Miss Carmichael explained that Mr. Perrowne had declined to come to dinner, but would look in later in the day when Cecile came home; whereat many smiled, and the dominie frowned heavily. Mrs. Carruthers now announced dinner, when the Squire took in his sister, Wilkinson, her daughter, Coristine, Marjorie, and Mr. Errol, the hostess. All the pairs agreed in congratulating themselves on the absence of the Grinstun man, and looked with approbation on Mr. Nash, who, all alone but cheerful, brought up the rear. There was no room at the table for the five youthful Carruthers, who rejoiced in the fact and held high carnival in the kitchen with Tryphena and Tryphosa and their maternal grandfather. Mr. Errol had said grace, and dinner was in progress, when the hall door was heard to open, and, immediately, on went the detective's facial disguise. But the lightness of the step that followed it reassured him, so that his smooth features once more appeared. Shortly afterwards Miss Du Plessis entered, apologizing for her lateness, and taking the vacant chair between the host and the dominie.
"I was really frightened," she said to the former, "by a dreadful little man, with an Indian hat and a knapsack, who stopped and asked me if I was Miss Do Please-us. When I told him that my name was Du Plessis, he became much agitated, and cried 'Then I'm done, sold again and the money paid,' after which he used such very bad language that I actually ran away from him. I looked round, however, and saw him hurrying away towards the Talfourds'." Wilkinson looked very fierce and warlike, and attacked his food as if it were the obnoxious Rawdon.
"Cecile," said Miss Carmichael across the indignant dominie, "I told a fib about you this morning, but quite innocently. I said you would not be home to dinner."
"Neither I would, were it not that Mrs. Talfourd's sister came in after church, and offered to stay with her the rest of the day. Whom did you tell?"
"Your devoted friend, Mr. Perrowne."
Miss Du Plessis blushed a little, and the schoolmaster cut the clergyman up several times and stuck his fork into him savagely. Then he commenced a conversation with the Squire, into which the lady between them was almost necessarily drawn. Mr. Nash edified Mrs. Carmichael; her daughter conversed with the minister, to the latter's delight; while Coristine divided his attentions between the hostess and Marjorie.
"What was Mr. Perrowne preaching on, Marjorie?" asked Mrs. Carruthers.
"Pillows on the ground," replied that young person.
Her cousin laughed, and came to the rescue, saying: "It was the Church, the pillar and ground of the truth; Marjorie seems to associate all English Church services with bedtime."
"There wasn't much bedtime about the service this morning," interposed the lawyer; "the parson rattled along in grand style, and gave Miss Carmichael, and all other broken reeds of dissenters, some piping hot Durham mustard. Did it sting, Miss Carmichael?"
"Is that the effect mustard has on broken reeds, Mr. Coristine?"
"It is rather a mixing of metaphors, but you must make allowance for an Irishman."
Mrs. Carruthers at once conversed with her countryman, or rather her father's countryman, on Ireland, its woes and prospects, during which Marjorie informed Mr. Errol that she had not known what made her cousin's cheeks so red when looking on Eugene's prayer-book. Now she knew; it was Durham mustard that stings. There must have been some in the book. The victim of these remarks looked severely at the culprit, but all in vain; she was not to be suppressed with a frown. She remarked that Saul had a hymn-book that made you sneeze, and she asked him why, and he said it was the snuff.
"What did Eugene put mustard in his prayer-book for?"
"Mr. Coristine didna say he put mustard in his bookie, Marjorie," said the minister; "he said that Mr. Perrowne put mustard in his sermon, because it was so fiery."
"I don't like mustard sermons; I like stories."
"Aye, we all like them, when they're good stories and well told, but it's no easy work getting good stories. That was the way our Saviour taught the people, and you couldna get a higher example."
"Why have we hardly any of that kind of teaching now?" asked Miss Carmichael.
"Because the preachers are afraid for one thing, and lazy, for another. They're afraid of the most ignorant folk in their congregation, who will be sure to charge them with childishness and a contempt for the intellect of their people. Then, it takes very wide and varied reading to discover suitable stories that will point a Scripture moral."
"You seem to be on gude solid releegious groond doon there, meenister," interrupted the master of the house; "but Miss Du Plessis and Mrs. Carmichael here are just corruptin' the minds o' Maister Wilkinson and Maister Nash wi' the maist un-Sawbath like havers I ever hard at an elder's table. We had better rise, gudewife!"
Shortly after the company returned to the parlour, Mr. Errol signified that he must take his departure for the Lake Settlement, where his second congregation was. At this Mr. Nash pricked up his ears, and said he would saddle his horse and ride over with him. "Na, na!" cried the Squire, "he'll no ride the day; I'll just get the waggon oot, and drive ye baith there and back." Orders were given through Tryphosa, a comely, red-cheeked damsel, who appeared in a few minutes to say that Timotheus was at the gate. All went out to see the trio off, and there, sure enough, was Timotheus of Peskiwanchow holding the restive horses. It transpired that Carruthers, having lost his house servant through the latter's misconduct, had commissioned his sister to find him a substitute, and Marjorie's interest in Timotheus had resulted in his being chosen to fill the vacant situation. He grinned his pleased recognition of the two pedestrians, who bravely withstood all the temptations to get into the waggon and visit the Lake Settlement. When the waggon departed, Mrs. Carruthers went to her children, taking Marjorie with her, and Mrs. Carmichael went upstairs for a read of a religious paper and a nap. The young ladies and the tourists were the sole occupants of the sitting-room. The lawyer went over to Miss Du Plessis, and left his friend perforce to talk to Miss Carmichael.
"I hear, Miss Du Plessis, that you own a farm and valuable mineral land," said Coristine.
"Did Messrs. Tylor, Woodruff and White give you that information?" she asked in return.
"No, indeed; do you know my firm?"
"Very well, seeing I have been two years in Mr. Tylor's office."
"Two years in Tylor's office, and me not know it?"
"You do not seem to take much interest in feminine stenographers and typewriters."
"No, I don't, that's a fact; but if I had known that it was you who were one, it would have been a different thing."
"Now, Mr. Coristine, please make no compliments of doubtful sincerity."
"I never was more sincere in my life. But you haven't answered me about the land."
"Well, I will answer you; I have no farm or valuable minerals, but my father left me two hundred acres of water and wild land near what's called the Lake Settlement, which he bought when Honoria married Mr. Carruthers and took up her residence here."
"Do you know if the taxes are paid on your land?"
"No, I was not aware that wild land and water could be taxed."
"Taxed is it? You don't know these municipalities. If you had a little island in your name, no bigger than this room, they'd tax you for it, and make you pay school rate, and do statute labour beside, though there wasn't a school or a road within ten miles of it. For downright jewing and most unjustifiable extortion on non-residents, commend me to a township council. You'll be sold out by the sheriff of the county, sure as eggs, and the Grinstun man'll buy your property for the arrears of taxes."
"Whatever shall I do, Mr. Coristine?" asked the alarmed young lady; "I do not wish to lose my father's gift through negligence."
"You should have taken advice from the junior member of Tylor, Woodruff and White," replied the lawyer, with a peculiar smile; "but the Grinstun man has bagged your estate."
"Oh, do not say that, Mr Coristine. Tell me, what shall I do? And who is the man you mean?"
"The man I mean is the one that met you when you came here to dinner. He is going to quarry in your farm for grindstones, and make his fortune. But, as he wants yourself into the bargain, I imagine he can't get the land without you, so that somebody must have paid the taxes."
"Then it is the little wretch Marjorie told me of, the cruel creature who kicked a poor dog?"
"The very same; he is the Grinstun man. I've got a poem on him I'll read you some day."
"That will be delightful; I am very fond of good poetry."
"Wilks says it isn't good poetry; but any man that grovels over Wordsworth, with a tear in the old man's eye, is a poor judge."
"I admire Wordsworth, Mr. Coristine, and am afraid that you are not in earnest about poetry. To me it is like life, a very serious thing. But, tell me, do you think the land is safe?"
"Oh yes; I wrote to one of the salaried juniors, giving him instructions to look after it, just as soon as I heard what Grinstuns had his eye on."
"Mr. Coristine! How shall I ever thank you for your kindness, you, of all men, who profess to treat us workers for our living as positive nonentities?"
"By forgetting the past, Miss Du Plessis, and allowing me the honour of your acquaintance in future. By the-bye, as you admire Wordsworth, and good poetry, and airnest, serious men, I'll just go and send Wilks to you. I have a word for Miss Carmichael. Is she constructed on the same poetic principles as yourself?"
"Go away then, farceur! No; Marjorie is inclined to frivolity."
With a wave of her fan, she dismissed the lawyer, who began to think lady stenographers and typewriters a class worthy of platonic attention. "Short hand!" he muttered to himself; "hers is rather a long one and pretty, and she is a favourable type of her kind, but I'm afraid a pun would make her faint, when Wilks would certainly call me out and shoot me dead with his revolver."
"Wilks, my boy," said Coristine aloud, when he reached the stiff chair in which the dominie sat erect, facing Miss Carmichael on a lounge at safe distance; "Miss Du Plessis would like to hear you discuss Wordsworth and other Sunday poets. She doesn't seem to care about hearing my composition on the Grinstun man."
The dominie eagerly but properly arose, answering: "Miss Du Plessis does too much honour to my humble poetic judgment, and, in regard to your doggrel, shows her rare good sense." He then walked across the room to the object of his laudation, and, taking Coristine's vacated chair, remarked that few poets preach a sermon so simply and beautifully as the author of "The Excursion." Would Miss Du Plessis allow him to bring down his pocket volume of the Rydal bard? Miss Du Plessis would be charmed; so the schoolmaster withdrew, and soon reappeared with the book all unconsciously open at "She was a phantom of delight." With guilty eyes, he closed it, and, turning over the pages, stopped at the fifth book of "The Excursion," announcing its subject, "The Pastor." It was now the lady's turn to be uncomfortable, with the suggestion of Mr. Perrowne. The lawyer, whose back had been turned to the poetic pair, looked unutterable things at Miss Carmichael, who, not knowing to what extreme of the ludicrous her companion might lead her, suggested a visit to the garden, if Mr. Coristine did not think it too warm. "It's the very thing for me," answered the lawyer, as they arose together and proceeded to the French windows opening upon the verandah; "it's like 'Come into the garden, Maud.'" They were outside by this time, and Miss Carmichael, lifting a warning finger, said: "Mr. Coristine, I am a school teacher, and am going to take you in hand as a naughty boy; you know that is not for Sunday, don't you now?"
"If it was only another name that begins with the same letter," replied the incorrigible Irishman, "I'd say the line would be good for any day of the week in fine weather; but I'm more than willing to go to school again."
"Sometimes," said the schoolteacher quietly, "sometimes the word 'garden' makes me sad. Papa had a great deal of trouble. He lost all his children but me, and almost all his property, and he had quarrelled with his relations in Scotland, or they had quarrelled with him; so that he was, in spite of his public life, a lonely, afflicted man. When he was dying, he repeated part of a hymn, and the refrain was 'The Garden of Gethsemane.'"
"Ah, Miss Carmichael, dear, forgive me, the stupid, blundering idiot that I am, to go and vex your tender heart with my silly nonsense. I'm ashamed, and could cry to think of it."
"I will forgive you, Mr. Coristine," she replied, recovering from her serious fit, and looking at the victim in a way that blended amusement with imperiousness: "I will forgive you this once, if you promise future good behaviour."
An impulse came over the lawyer to shake Miss Carmichael's hand, but she made him no shadow of an excuse for so doing. It was plain that the mutual confidences of the girls, which embraced, using the word in a mere logical sense, their year long distant acquaintance with the transformed pedestrians had given maturity to the closer and more pleasant acquaintance of the day. Little Marjorie's appropriation of the lawyer as her Eugene added another ripening element to its growth; so that the two garden explorers felt none of the stiffness and uncertainty of a first introduction. What Miss Carmichael's thoughts were she only could tell, but she knew that the impetuous and affectionate Coristine required the merest trifle of encouragement to change the steady decorous tide of advancing knowledge and respect into an abruptly awkward cataract, threatening the rupture of pleasant relations or the loss of self-respect. She would have preferred talking with Wilkinson, as a check upon the fervour of his friend, but, although she laughed at the dominie's culpable ignorance of her city existence, in her secret soul it piqued her not a little. No; she would rather take refuge with the clergy, Mr. Errol or Mr. Perrowne.
Many roses were still in bloom, but, spite of many hints, Coristine's button hole remained empty. He admired the pinks, the carnations, the large-eyed pansies, "like Shakespeare's winking Mary-buds," he said, but all in vain, save a civil answer. The Day-lilies and the sweet-scented pure white and Japan lilies, the early Phloxes, the Honeysuckles against the arbours, and many other floral beauties he stopped to inspect, and wondered if Mrs. Carruthers would mind his gathering a few, although the house was full of flowers. His companion did not satisfy his wonder, only answering that she thought flowers looked so much better growing. Then he pulled himself together, and answered naturally, joking on the tall Scarlet Lychnis, now almost a garden flower of the past, which boys call scarlet likeness and scarlet lightning, and ran on into accounts of botanical rambles, descriptions of curious plants, with here a little bit of reverent natural theology, and there an appropriate scrap from some flower loving poet, or a query as to where the worshippers of Wordsworth had got, if they had left "The Excursion" for the smaller pieces on the Daisy, and the Celandine, the Broom, the Thorn and the Yew. In thus talking he gained his end without knowing it, for, instead of a mere routine lawyer and impulsive Irishman, Miss Carmichael found in her companion an intelligent, thoughtful, and cultured acquaintance, whose society she thoroughly enjoyed. Occasionally an unconscious and half-timid lifting of her long eye-lashes towards his animated, handsome face thrilled the botanist with a new, if fleeting, sensation of delight. As they passed through a gate into a hillside meadow, at the foot of which ran a silvery brook, they were made aware of voices in song. The voices were two, one a sweet but somewhat drawly female soprano, the other, a raucous, loud, overmastering shout, that almost drowned the utterance of its companion. The masculine one furnished the words to the promenaders, and these were:—
Shayll we gaythurr at thee rivverr Whayerr bright angel feet have traw-odd?
"Do you know who these are?" asked Miss Carmichael.
"If I thought he knew as much tune," replied Coristine, "I should say he was The Crew."
"Oh, tell me, please, who is The Crew?" Thereupon the lawyer launched out into a description of his travels, so comical a one that his fair companion laughed until the tears stood in her eyes, and she accused him of making her break the Sabbath. "No," she said at last; "that is not Sylvanus, but it is his brother Timotheus with Tryphosa. They are sitting in a ferny hollow under these birches down the hill, with a hymn-book between them, and as grave as if they were in church. Do you not think, Mr. Coristine, that that is a very nice and proper way for young people to improve their acquaintance?"
"Very much so, Miss Carmichael. May I go in and get a hymn book? I can run like a deer, and won't take a minute over it. One will be enough, won't it?"
The lady laughed a little pleasant laugh, and replied: "I think not, sir. We are not servants, at least in the same sense, and the piano and organ are at our disposal when we wish to exercise our musical powers."
"Snubbed again," muttered Coristine to himself; then aloud: "I wish I were Timotheus."
"If you prefer Tryphosa's company to mine, sir, you are at liberty to go; but I think your champion of Peskiwanchow would object to such rivalry."
"Oh, I didn't mean with Tryphosa."
"You do not know what you mean, nor anybody else. Let us return to the house."
As they sauntered back, the lawyer suddenly cried out: "What a forgetful blockhead I am. I have had ever so many business questions to put to you, and have forgotten all about them."
"Had you not better leave business till to-morrow, Mr. Coristine?" asked the lady, gravely, almost severely.
"Your father's name was James Douglas Carmichael, was it not?" asked Coristine, ignoring this quietus.
"Yes," she answered.
"He came to Canada in 1848, and was, for a time, in military service at Kingston, before he completed his medical studies. Am I right?"
"How do you happen to know these things? My father was singularly reticent about his past life; but you are right."
The lawyer opened his pocket-book and took out a newspaper cutting, which he handed to his companion. "I found that at Barrie," he said, "and trust I have not taken too great a liberty in constituting myself your solicitor, and opening correspondence with Mr. MacSmaill, W.S., regarding your interests."
"It was very kind of you," she answered; "do you think it will bring us any money, Mr. Coristine?"
"Yes; it must bring some, as it is directed to heirs. How much, depends upon the wealth of your father's family."
"They were very wealthy. Papa told mamma to write home to them, but she would not. She is too independent for that."
"Will you sanction my action, and allow me to work this case up? Your mother cannot be an heir, you know, save in a roundabout way; so that you, being of age, are sole authority in the matter."
"How do you know I am of age?"
"I don't; but thought that, perhaps, you might be, seeing you are so mature and circumspect in your ways."
"Thank you for the doubtful compliment. I am of age, however."
"Then will you authorize me to proceed?"
"With all my heart."
"Do you know it makes me very sorry to become your solicitor?"
"Because henceforth ours are mere business relations, and I, a struggling junior partner, must be circumspect too, and stand in proper awe and distant respect for a prospective heiress."
"Do not allow your reverence to carry you too far to an opposite extreme. You have been very good during most of our walk, and I have enjoyed it very much."
As she tripped in at the French window, Coristine could not reply. It is probable that he ejaculated inwardly, "the darlin'!" but, outwardly, he took out his pipe and sought consolation in the bowl of the Turk's head. While patrolling the long path down towards the meadow, he heard a low whistle, and, proceeding to the point in the fence whence it came, found Mr. Rawdon, as pale as he well could be, and much agitated. "Look 'ere, Mr. Currystone," he said, "I've bin down to Talfourds and a good bit further, and I find a fellow called Nash 'as bin about, plottin' to 'urt my business along of that brute of a Chisholm. They can't 'urt it much, but I can 'urt them, and, wot's more, I will. 'Ow I found out wot they're about is my haffair. I hain't got no time to lose, so you tell the genniwin Simon Pure Miss Do Please-us as I'll hoffer 'er a thousan' dollars cash for that there farm of 'ers till to-morrow mornin'. 'Er hacceptance must be hat the Post-hoffice hup the road hany time before ten o'clock, and the deed can be drawn hup between you and me and the Squire just has soon therehafter as she pleases. Ha, ha! pretty good, eh? Miss Do Please-us, she pleases! Bye, bye! Mr. Currystone, don't you forget, for it's business."
The Grinstun man stole along the meadow fence and travelled over the fields, back way, towards the Lake Settlement. Emptying his pipe, the lawyer found Miss Du Plessis and at once announced Mr. Rawdon's proposal, which he urged her not to accept. She said the land was certainly not worth any more, if it were worth that amount, and that a thousand dollars would be of much immediate use to her mother. But Coristine reminded her that Colonel Morton was, in all probability, with her mother now, and begged her at least to wait until their joint opinion could be procured. To this she agreed, and further conversation was checked by the arrival of Marjorie, the five young Carruthers and Mr. Michael Terry.
The whole party sallied out of the windows on to the verandah, the lawn, and thence out of the front gate, where they found the dominie in a state of radiant abstraction, strutting up and down the road, and quoting pages of his favourite poet. He had just completed the lines:—
And yet a spirit still, and bright With something of an angel light.
The lawyer went up to him before he came near and hissed at his friend, "What about our compact?" to which the dominie, with a fierce cheerfulness, replied, "It is broken, sir; shivered to atoms; buried in oblivion. When a so-called honourable man takes a young lady walking in garden and meadow alone, and breathes soft trifles in her ear, the letter, the spirit, the whole periphery of the compact is gone. Your conduct, sir, leaves me free to act as I please towards the world's chief soul and radiancy. I shall do as I please, sir; I shall read Louisa and Ruth and Laodamia and the Female Vagrant, none daring to make me afraid. A single tress of ebon hair, a single beam of a dove-like eye, shall be enough to fortify my heart against all your legal lore, your scorn, your innuendos, your coward threats."
"Wilks, you're intoxicated."
"Such intoxication as mine is that of the soul—a thing to glory in."
"Well, go and glory, and read what you please; only add the Idiot Boy to the Female Vagrant and you'll be a lovely pair. I'm going to do as I please, too, so we're both happy at last."
Thus saying, the lawyer returned to Marjorie, while the dominie stood stock still in the road, like a man thunderstruck, repeating: "The Idiot Boy, the Female Vagrant, a pair?—and he was once my friend! A pair, a pair—the Female Vagrant, the Idiot Boy!—and that slimy, crawling, sickening caterpillar of a garden slug was once known to me! Truly, a strange awaking!"
It was now six o'clock, the time under ordinary circumstances for tea; but the circumstances were extraordinary, as the Squire, Mr. Nash and the minister had to be waited for. The party was in the road waiting for them. "Look, Eugene!" cried Marjorie; "there's Muggins. Here Muggy, Muggy, good doggie!" Muggins came on at full speed, and, striding at a very respectable pace, his master followed.
"Ow, Mr. Coristine, sow glad to see you again, I'm shore. I was delighted to see you bringing two straye sheep into the true fowld this morning. I howpe Miss Marjorie will turn out a good churchwoman; woun't you now, Marjorie?"
"I'm not a woman, and I won't be one. A woman wears dirty clothes and a check apron and a sun-bonnet. We've had a charwoman like that in our house, and a washerwoman; and in Collingwood there's a fish-woman and an apple-woman. I've seen them with my very own eyes. I don't think it a bit nice of you, Mr. Brown, to call me a charwoman."
"I said churchwoman, my dear, not charwoman."
"It's the same thing; they scrub out churches. I've seen them do it. And they're as old and ugly—worse than Tryphena!"
"Hush, hush, Marjorie!" interposed Miss Du Plessis; "you must not speak like that of good Tryphena. Besides, Mr. Perrowne means by a churchwoman one who is like me, and goes to the Church of England."
"If it's to be like you, and you will marry Eugene and go to the Church of England, I will be a churchwoman and go with you."
Mr. Perrowne glowered at the lawyer, whom, a moment before, he had greeted in so friendly a way. Coristine laughed, as he could afford to, and said: "I'm sorry, Marjorie, that it cannot be as you wish. I am not serious enough for Miss Du Plessis, nor a sufficient judge of good poetry. Your friend wouldn't have me at any price; would you now, Miss Du Plessis?"
"Certainly not with that mode of asking. How unpleasantly personal children make things."
Muggins and the young Carruthers were having lots of fun. He sat up and begged for bread, he ran after sticks and stones thrown by feeble hands, he shook paws with the children, had his ears stroked and his tail pulled with the greatest good-nature. Right under the eyes of the still dumbfoundered dominie, his owner accompanied Miss Du Plessis into the house, while Coristine prevailed on Marjorie to sing a hymn with a pretty plaintive tune, commencing:—
Once in royal David's city Stood a lowly cattle shed, Where a mother laid her infant In a manger for his bed; Mary was that mother mild, Jesus Christ her little child.
The old soldier left his grandchildren with Muggins and came to hear the hymn. "The Howly Vargin bliss the little pet," he ejaculated, and then crooned a few notes at the end of each verse.
"Fwat is it the Howly Scripchers says, sorr, about little childher an' the good place?" he asked Coristine.
The lawyer took off his hat, and reverently replied: "Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven."
The veteran crossed himself, and said: "There niver was a thruer word shpoke or in wroitin', an' fwat does the childher, the innicents, know about Pratishtants an' Cathlics, till me that now?"
As Coristine could not, the pair refilled their pipes and smoked in company, an ideal Evangelical Alliance.
Soon the waggonette came rattling along the road, and Marjorie ran to meet her Uncle John and the minister, with both of whom she was a great favourite. Mr. Nash also had a word to say to her: "You remember scolding me for not going to church when I was Mr. Chisholm? Well, I've been there this afternoon, and Mr. Errol told us we are all getting ready here for what we are to do in Heaven. Now, you're a wise little girl, and I want you to tell me what I will be able to do when I get there. It can't be to hunt up bad people, because there are no bad people in Heaven. What do you think about it?"
"I know," answered Marjorie, gravely; "play chess with dead uncles and ministers, and teach tricks to the little children that never growed up."
"Out of the mouths of babes!" ejaculated Mr. Errol, who overheard the conversation; then continued: "Could anything be truer? The training in observation and rapid mental combinations, which has made you successful in your profession, is the foundation of your prowess on the chess board. Your skill in every sort of make-up enables you to manipulate handkerchiefs and oranges for children's amusement. The same training and skill our Father can turn to good account in the upper sanctuary."
"Thank you, Mr. Errol, thank you, Marjorie, my dear. Perhaps the good God will be kinder than we think, and find some use for a poor, lonely, careless detective." Mr. Nash was unusually thoughtful, yet still had an eye to business. He made diligent enquiries about Rawdon, and, at last, getting on the scent through Miss Du Plessis, found out all that Coristine and Timotheus had to tell of him. The latter had watched the working geologist slinking off in the Lake Settlement direction across the fields and by bush tracks. Mr. Terry and the children, having partaken of tea, remained out in the front with Muggins, and sang some more hymns, Marjorie leading their choir. The rest of the household, reinforced by Mr. Perrowne, who, much to Wilkinson's disgust, monopolized Miss Du Plessis, sat round the ample tea-table. In a shamefaced way, as if engaged in an illegal ecclesiastical transaction, the English clergyman mumbled: "For what we are about to receive," and the evening meal proceeded. The Squire had ceded his end of the table to his sister, and had taken his post at her left, where he talked to the dominie, his next neighbour, and across the table to Mr. Errol. Perrowne flanked the hostess on the right, and Nash on the left. Miss Du Plessis sat between Perrowne and Wilkinson, a stately and elegant bone of contention; while the lawyer had the detective on one side and Miss Carmichael on the other. As that young lady had something to do with the arrangement of the table by Tryphosa, in the matter of napkin rings, it was, if Coristine only knew it, a mark of her confidence in him that she permitted his presence on her right. Nevertheless he profited little by it, as she gave all her conversation to the minister, save when the attention of that elderly admirer was taken up by her uncle. As Perrowne was compelled to be civil to Mrs. Carruthers, while Mr. Nash entertained the lawyer, an opportunity was afforded the schoolmaster of improving his acquaintance with Miss Du Plessis, of which he took joyful advantage, feeling that in so doing with all brilliancy he was planting thorns in the breasts of two innocent beings, whom he inwardly characterized as a clerical puppy and an ungrateful, perfidious, slanderous worm. Neither the puppy nor the worm were happy, as he joyfully perceived.
The meal was over, and they were preparing to have early evening prayers for the sake of the children, when a vehicle drove up, and a burly form, clad in navy blue broadcloth with a plentiful trimming of gilt buttons, descending from it, came along the path towards the house, accompanied by Marjorie.
"It's papa!" she cried to Carruthers and his wife, who had gone to the door to see who their visitor was, and call the children in. It was the Captain, and in the buggy, holding the reins, sat The Crew. "Don't sit grinning there, you blockhead!" shouted the ancient mariner to Sylvanus; "hev ye been so long aboard ship ye can't tell a stable when you see it? Drive on, you slabsided swab!" The Captain's combination of lumbering with nautical pursuits gave a peculiar and not always congruous flavour to his pet phrases; but Sylvanus did not mind; he drove round the lane and met Timotheus.
"We have just finished tea, Captain," said Mrs. Carruthers with her pretty touch of a cultivated Irish accent; "but Marjorie will tell Tryphosa to set yours on the table at once."
"All right, Honoria!" growled Mr. Thomas; "I'm in port here for the night, and I'm a goin' to make fast; so be I hev to belay on to the lee side of a stack of shingle bolts. Now, Marjorie, my pet, give daddy another kiss, and run away for a bit. John, I want you right away."
With the latter words, the Captain took the Squire off to the far end of the verandah, and sat down with his legs dangling over among the flowers, causing his brother-in-law to do the same. "John," said he, taking off his naval cap, and mopping his forehead, "you're all goin' to be murdered to-night in your bunks, else I wouldn't ha' quit dock o' Sunday."
"Whatever do you mean, Thomas?"
"I mean what I say, and well to you and yourn. Sylvanus was down at Peskiwanchow, gettin' some things his brother left there, when he shipped for you. There's a bad crew in that whiskey mill, and, fool as he is, he was sharp enough to hear them unbeknown. Says one of 'em, 'Better get out the fire-engines from town,' and he laughed. Says another, 'Guess the boys'll hev a nice bonefire waitin' for us, time we get to Flanders.' Then the low-down slab-pilers got their mutinous heads together, and says, 'The J.P. and the bailiff's got to be roasted anyway, wisht we could heave Nash in atop.' I've left the cursing and swearin' out, because it's useless ballast, and don't count in the deal any more'n sawdust. Now, John, what do you think of that?"
"It looks serious, Thomas, if your man is to be depended on."
"My man depended on? Sylvanus Pilgrim to be depended on? There's no more dependable able-bodied seaman and master mill-hand afloat nor ashore. He's true as the needle to the pole and the gang-saw to the plank. Don't you go saying wrong of Sylvanus."
"I must take Nash into confidence with us, and call up your informant," said the Squire, leading the Captain into the house and setting him carefully down at the tea table, where Mrs. Carruthers waited upon him. Then he looked up Sylvanus in the kitchen, and told him to report as soon as he had taken his supper. "We have no time to lose, Pilgrim," he added, "so let Tryphena alone till our talk is over. She'll keep."
"I ain't agoin' ter persume ter tech Trypheeny, Square, an' I'll be along in a half tack," replied The Crew.
Next, Nash was found smoking a cigar, and talking very earnestly with Mr. Errol about presentiments, and sudden remembrances of childhood's days. He dropped the conversation at once when business was mentioned, and, in a few minutes, the Squire's official room contained five men, with very serious faces, seeking to come to a full understanding of what seemed a diabolical plot on the part of some spiteful malefactors. Four of these have already been indicated; the fifth was the lawyer, who proved a useful addition for pumping Sylvanus dry and taking careful notes.
While the consultation was in progress, a gentle tap came to the door, and, following it, a voice that thrilled the lawyer, saying, "May I come in, uncle; I have some news for you?" Carruthers opened the door, when Miss Carmichael told him that young Hill, the girls' brother, had arrived with another man, and wanted to see him immediately on special business that would not wait, and that they seemed to have been out shooting. The Squire went out and returned with Rufus and Ben Toner. The former related how Ben had gone to afternoon meetin' to tell what he knew of the conspiracy to clean out all the scabs in Flanders, and have trade run smooth. Coristine examined his old patient, who readily responded, and Nash, who was now Chisholm in beard and moustache, helped the interrogation. Toner's information, like that of Sylvanus, came from accidentally overhearing the talk of four men in a waggon, driving Flanders way during church time, while he was fishing in the river.
"I heerd 'em say as they'd be a big blayuz afore mornin', and as Squier Cruthers, and the bailiff, and Nash, and a raivenue gaal, had got to go to kingdom come. One on 'em says he seen Mr. Nash and got a hit off his stick. He's a goin' to lay for him straight and for them two walkin' spies likeways."
"What made you look up Rufus?" asked the lawyer.
"I thort the raivenue gaal might a been one of his sisters that's here. Besides, he's got a gun, and so have I, and I'm a goin' to be true to my word, Doctor, to you and the bailiff too, ef I have to shoot aivery mother's son of them vilyins."
The Captain and Sylvanus, with Rufus and Ben, all testified to the moving of several teams, with rough-looking characters on board, along the roads that led towards Flanders, and the Lake Settlement in particular. The Squire and Mr. Nash had noticed the same.
"Ben," said the latter, taking off his disguise, "I think I can trust you. I am the detective Nash."
Toner started, but quickly recovered himself, and, rising, gave his hand to the man of aliases, saying, "You kin, Mr. Nash, s'haylp me. Old man Newcome swears he's a goin' to hev your life, but he won't ef I'm any good."
The detective shook hands warmly, and, taking Ben aside, found that he had no personal knowledge of Rawdon, the Newcome of whom he spoke being apparently the go between. The intimacy between them, which was near ruining the young man, had come about through Toner's attention to Newcome's daughter, Sarah Eliza. "But," continued the unhappy lover, "the old man's been and had Serlizer off for more'n a year, and puts me off and off and better off, till I just up and wouldn't stand it no more. I ain't a goin' to sell his stuff, nor drink his stuff, nor hev nawthun more to do along of his gang, but I'd like to know where Serlizer's put to, and I'm here and my gun, with a lot of powder and shot and slugs, for the stummik of any gallihoot as lays a finger on you, Mr. Nash, or the doctor or the gals."
Returning to the group, the detective urged immediate defensive action, leaving the offensive till the morrow. The Squire at once looked up his armoury, consisting of a rifle, a fowling piece (double-barrelled) and a pair of heavy horse-pistols, with abundant ammunition. The Captain reported that Sylvanus had a shotgun (single-barrelled), and that he had brought the blunderbuss with which he fired salutes off the Susan Thomas. Coristine answered for the revolvers carried by himself and the dominie. The clergy were called in and the situation explained, when both volunteered for service. Mr. Perrowne had a very good gun at his lodgings; and his landlady, whose father had been in the army, possessed a relic of him in the shape of an ancient carbine, which he was sure she would lend to Mr. Errol, with bayonet complete. He went for them, under escort of Rufus and Ben. When Mr. Terry was told, he begged for his son in law's "swate-lukin' roifle," and was as cheerful as if a wedding was in progress. Finally, Timotheus got the fowling piece and the Squire looked to the priming of his pistols. Mr. Nash, of course, had both revolver and dirk knife concealed somewhere about his person. Then Mr. Errol conducted family prayers, the children were sent to bed, the ladies briefly informed of the situation, and the garrison bidden a more than usually affectionate good-night.
The Squire Posts Sentries—Sylvanus Arrests Tryphosa—Change of Watchword—Nash Leads an Advance—The Cheek of Grinstuns—The Hound—Guard-room Conversation—Incipient Fires Extinguished—The Idiot Boy—Grinstun's Awful Cheek—The Lawyer and the Parson Theologize—Coristine's Hands—Doctor and Miss Halbert.
The full strength of the garrison was twelve able-bodied men, of whom five carried fowling pieces, one a blunderbuss, another a carbine, another a rifle, and four were armed with pistols. The Squire was in supreme command, and Mr. Nash was adjutant. They decided that the garrison as a whole should go on guard for the night, that is, from ten o'clock till six in the morning, a period of eight hours, making, as the Captain put it, four watches of two hours each. Thus the remaining ten were divided into two guards of five, and, as the morning guard, from four to six, would probably not be required, it was determined to put those who had most need of rest on the companion one from twelve to two. These were Captain Thomas, the veteran Terry, the two parsons, with Wilkinson, who was thrown in simply as a pistol man, the only other of the kind being the lawyer. With ammunition in their pockets, or slung round their shoulders, the first guard sallied forth under the Squire's guidance. Coristine was left to watch the front of the house behind the shrubbery bordering the fence, and keep up communication with Nash, who patrolled the road on horseback. Ben Toner's station was the path running parallel with the palings on the left of the garden, beyond which was an open field, not altogether destitute of stumps. Silvanus was posted on the edge of the meadow, at the back of the garden and out-houses; and Timotheus, on the right of the stables and connected buildings. Just where the beats of the brothers met, there was a little clump of timber, the only point affording cover to an advancing enemy, and to that post of honour and danger Rufus was appointed. Having placed his men, the Squire returned to the guard-room, his office, and ordered Tryphosa to bring refreshments for the guard, to which he added a box of cigars. The guard discussed the cold ham, the cheese and biscuits, and, in addition, Mr. Errol indulged in some diluted sherry, Perrowne and Wilkinson in a glass of beer, and the Captain and the veteran in a drop of whiskey and water. The Squire took a cigar with those who smoked, but maintained his wakefulness on cold tea. Every half hour he was out inspecting the sentries. Coristine had suggested that the friendly answer to a challenge should be Bridesdale, but, lest the enemy should hear this and take advantage of it, all suspicious persons should be required also to give the countersign, Grinstuns. The dominie sneered at him for the latter; but, when he saw his friend sally forth with loaded pistol to the post of danger, his enmity died, and, rising, he silently shook hands with him at the door. Returning to the guard-room, he breathed a silent prayer for his friend's safety, and then fortified his inner man with the fare provided. Conversation accompanied the impromptu supper, and the subsequent cigar or pipe, at first led by the divines, but afterwards taken clean out of their mouths by the Captain and the veteran, who furnished exciting accounts of their experience in critical situations.
The Squire had gone out for the second time to inspect the sentries. It was eleven o'clock. Coristine, who was first visited, reported a sound of voices at the back of the house, and Toner confirmed the report. The commander-in-chief hastened to the gate leading into the hill meadow, and perceived a figure struggling in the strong grasp of Sylvanus. The sentinel's left arm was round the prisoner, and the gun was in his right hand. As they came towards the gate, the Squire heard piteous entreaties in a feminine voice to be let go, and the answer: "'Tain't no kind o' use, Tryphosy, even ef ye was arter Timotheus an' not me; that ain't it, at all. It's this: yer didn't say Bridesdale when I charlinged yer, nor yer couldn't bar-sign Grinstuns. All suspicious carriters has got to be took up, and, ef that ain't bein' a suspicious carriter, this mate on the starn watch don't know what is. I'm rale sorry for yer, and I'm sorry for Timotheus, but juty is juty and orders is strict. Come on, now, and let us hope the Square'll be marciful."
"What is the meaning of this nonsense, Pilgrim?" asked the commander, angrily.
"It's a suspicious carriter as can't give no account of itself, Square. She might ha' been shot as like as not, ef I hadn't gone and took her pris'ner."
"Let the girl alone, and don't make a laughing stock of yourself. You've already said the passwords loud enough for any lurker to hear, so that we'll hae to change them aa because o' your stupeedity. Be serious and keep your eyes and gun for strange folk, men or women."
Tryphosa fled into the house, whither Tryphena—who, falling into the same error, had crossed the beat of Timotheus—had already betaken herself, being driven off the field by the more sensible and merciful younger Pilgrim. When the Squire had completed his rounds, he returned to the guard-room, and, telling the story of Sylvanus' folly, which roused the Captain's ire, showed the necessity for new watchwords and better instruction of sentries.
"It maun be something the lads and all the rest o' us ken weel, Squire. What think ye o' Cricket and Golf?" asked Mr. Errol.
"I am afraid that Ben Toner might not know these words," put in the dominie.
"What?" cried Mr. Perrowne, "do you really mean to say that this—ah—Towner needs to be towld what cricket is?"
"I fear so," Wilkinson answered; with the effect that no heathen could have fallen lower in the parson's estimation than did Ben.
"I say good, ship-shape words are Starbud and Port," growled the Captain.
"In Sout Ameriky it was Constituthion and Libertad," suggested Mr. Terry.
"Pork and Beans 'll no' do; nor Burdock and Blood Bitters; nor Powder and Shot," said the Squire, ruminating; "for the one ca's up the tither ower nayteral like. What say ye, Maister Wilkinson?"
Wilkinson was taken aback by the suddenness of the question, and blurted out what had been only too much in his thoughts; "Idiot and Boy."
"Capital!" "Well said!" "The very thing!" "Jest suits Sylvanus!" the various voices responded; and the Squire went out to the sentries to make the desired change. The lawyer chuckled when he received the new words, and all the other sentinels repeated to themselves the poetic terms "Eejut and Boy."
It was just on the stroke of midnight, time to relieve the guards, when the distant sound of pistol shots in rapid succession fell simultaneously on the ears of Coristine, Ben and Sylvanus. The lawyer, stepping hastily to the house, called out the armed inmates, and in another minute or so Nash came galloping up. "Stay where you are, Squire, with your sentries; and, you other men, look to your loading and come on with me. I've been fired at by a waggon load of them." The five unposted men hastened out into the road and away after the detective to the left. After going a short distance, the adjutant called a halt, and told the veteran to advance in military order. "Now, min," said Mr. Terry quietly, "extind about tin paces from aich another to the lift, an' Oi'll be the lifthand man. Thin kape wan eye on me an' the other before yeez, and advance whin Oi advance undher cover av the stumps and finces and things. Riddy now—extind!" The movement was well executed, and, as the veteran was eager for the fray, he led them more rapidly than it could be thought the old man had the power to run, until they reached the spot where the waggon had halted. It was gone, without a sign; so the gallant skirmishers re-formed in the road and marched back to quarters. When they arrived at the gate, Coristine could not resist the temptation of a challenge, unnecessary as it was. The dominie was leading, and him he hailed: "Who goes there?" With momentary hesitation, Wilkinson answered in the same undertone:—
"The word, friends?"
"The countersign, Idiot?"
"Pass, Idiot Boy, and all's well!"
The schoolmaster could have boxed that sentry's ears, have slapped his face, have caned him within an inch of his life; for there was a light in an upper window, and he knew that bright eyes were looking down through the slats of the closed green shutters, and that sharp ears had caught the sound of the obnoxious words. He could detect the accents of a voice, which he knew so well, pleading the cause of silence with another that trembled with suppressed laughter as it made ineffectual promises to be quiet. The two clergymen also heard the friendly altercation at the window, so still was everything else, and chuckled as they filed past the legal sentry, now on the broad grin. The Captain and Mr. Terry were above taking notice of such trifles, for they were eagerly persuading each other to take just the least drop before going out into the heavy night dews. No sooner had the five entered the guard-room than the Squire re-formed them and marched them off to relieve the old sentries. The lawyer's place was taken by the dominie, Toner's by the Captain, that of Sylvanus by Perrowne, that of Timotheus by Errol, and Rufus' post of honour by the veteran, who would accept no other. There was a sixth guard in the person of Muggins, who kept his master company and behaved with the greatest propriety and silence. Sylvanus and Timotheus, Rufus and Ben had a separate guard-house of their own in the kitchen, where Mrs. Carmichael, who could not sleep because of her apprehensions of evil to some unknown defender, furnished them with bread and cheese and innocuous hot elderberry wine and cold cider. After partaking plentifully of the refreshments, Sylvanus and Ben lit their pipes, and the latter communicated to the company the story of his woes in the case of Serlizer. Sylvanus related his adventure in capturing Tryphosa, which caused Timotheus to move into a corner with Rufus and declare solemnly and in a low tone, that "Ef Sylvanus warn't my brother and older'n me, and the next thing t' engaged to Trypheeny, I'd be shaved an' shampooed ef I wouldn't bust his old cocoanut open." Rufus, however, replied that girls had no business to be about in war times, unless it was to nurse the sick and wounded, which was only done in hospitals, thus justifying Sylvanus' action as a pure matter of military duty, and reconciling Timotheus to the slight put upon his lady love.
The Squire and Coristine were alone in the guard-room, save when Mrs. Carmichael put her head in to ask after the welfare of the party, especially of the older members.
"Grandfather knows campaigning and can take care of himself," the Squire answered; "and the Captain's used to out-door life; but there's the minister now, puir man! Weel, weel, Marjorie, when I gang the roonds, I'll see if he needs onything."
Then the pair chatted away, chiefly about the Grinstun man, whom Carruthers came to regard in the light of a spy. Though surrounded on every side by suspicious circumstances, there was nothing definite against him, the nearest evidence to a conviction being the geological or mineralogical expressions which the unguarded dilapidated farmer on the way to the Beaver River had coupled with his name, and his own admissions to the spurious Miss Du Plessis.
"Maister Coristine," said the Squire, "gin I thocht yon deevil, seein' it's Monday mornin' the noo, was at the foondation o' this ploy, I'd think naething o' spendin' five thoosand to pit an end til's tricks."
"All right, Squire; I think I'll go into criminal law, and work it up for you."
"What's yon? I maun gang out, for I hear Mr. Wilkinson calling me."
The lawyer accompanied him to the door. Nash was at the gate to report that he had seen small parties and single individuals, some distance off the road on both sides of the house, whose actions were more than suspicious. Had they carried firearms larger than pistols he would have been sure to detect the gleam of steel. He was sorry now he had drawn the fire of the waggon on himself, and thus given the miscreants to understand that their plot was known. Still, they were at it, and meant mischief. As he could do no further good patrolling the road, he would put up his horse, and help the Squire to guard the house and outbuildings. Hardly was his horse in the stable, and himself in the guard-room, than Mr. Errol's voice, and then the dominie's, were heard challenging loudly. The Squire flew to the minister, and Nash to Wilkinson. A stout but elastic figure, so far as the step went, was coming along the road from the right, whistling "The Girl I left behind Me." As it came near, the whistling stopped, and Rawdon, with knapsack on back and staff in hand, appeared before the astonished eyes of the sentinels. He started at the sight of the minister's carbine. "Wy, Mr. Herl," he said, "wot the dooce are you a doin' of at this time o' night? Are you lookin' for night 'awks or howls hafter the chickins, or did you think I was a wistlin' bear. And you too, Squire! I thought the Hinjins was all killed bout. Blowed if there haint hold Favosites Wilkinsonia, and a man as looks like Chisholm! Are you campin' out, 'avin' summer midnight manoovers for the fun o' the thing?"
Nash went back to the house. "If it's a fair question, Mr. Rawdon," said the Squire, "where are you going at this time of night?"
"Fair enough, Squire; I'm bound for Collinwood to ketch the mornin' train. Bye, bye! no time to lose." Off trudged the Grinstun man, once more whistling, but this time his tune was "It's no use a knockin' at the door."
The Squire, the detective, and the lawyer held a council of war.
"Pity we hadn't arrested that chap," remarked Mr. Nash.
"Couldn't do it," said Coristine; "there is no warrant for his arrest, no definite charge against him. A justice of the peace can't issue one on mere suspicion, nor can he institute martial law, which would of course cover the case."
"If what Maister Nash has seen be as he thinks," added the Squire, "it's as weel we laid nae han' on him, for it would just hae preceepitated metters, and hae brocht the haill o' thae Lake Settlement deevils doon upon us. D'ye think Rawdon's gaun to Collingwood, Nash?"
"Not a bit of it. I believe he came past here, openly and dressed as he was, for three reasons. First, he wants to prove an alibi for himself, whatever happens. Second, he wanted to see how we are guarded, and by that loud whistling has informed his confederates not far off that it is useless to try the house from the front. Thirdly, he has circled round to take command of the villains that fired on me out of the waggon we couldn't find."
"What's to be done then?" asked the Squire and the lawyer in a breath.
"We must watch the means of access from the left to the right. You see, there are bushes, young willows and alders, all along the bank of the creek, behind which they can steal towards that ferny hollow under the birches, and, from thence, either make for the bit of bush Mr. Terry is guarding, or creep behind the scattered boulders towards the fence. Your shrubberies about the house and live hedges and little meadow copses are very pretty and picturesque, Squire, but a bare house on the top of a treeless hill would be infinitely better to stand a siege."
"Aye, aye, Nash; but I'm no gaun tae cut doon my bonnie trees an' busses for a wheen murderin' vagabones."
"Well, I'll get a gun from one of the men in the kitchen, and explore the hillside below the Captain."
Having secured Ben Toner's gun, the best of the lot, the detective walked down the garden to the gate, where he found Perrowne vainly endeavouring to comfort Muggins. The poor dog did not even whine, but shivered as he stood, otherwise paralyzed with abject terror.
"Crouch down by the fence," whispered the detective in the parson's ear, and at once crouched down beside him.
"Do you see that moving object coming up the hill from the birches? By Jove! there's another crawling behind it. What is it?"
"It's an animal of some sawrt," answered Perrowne.
"That accounts for your dog's fear. It isn't a bear, is it? There may be some about after early berries."
"Now, it's not a bear, though I've been towld dawgs are very much afraid of bears."
Just then the animal keeled over, and immediately there followed the report of a rifle. The crawler behind the beast slid back into the hollow and disappeared. Then, from the left of the house came a volley that woke the echoes all round; it was the explosion of the Captain's blunderbuss. The detective ran along the fence to Mr. Terry's beat, and found the veteran reloading his rifle from the muzzle. "Keep your post, Mr. Terry," he cried, "while I run and see what it is you have bagged. I imagine your son-in-law will look after the Captain." Mr. Nash ran down the hill, closely followed by the lawyer, who had come out to see the fun. All the bedroom windows were lit up, and eager eyes strained to learn the cause of the firing, while the remaining sentinels prepared for action. The animal shot was a large bloodhound, in life a dangerous brute with horrid, cruel-looking fangs, but now in the agonies of death. The detective drew his long dagger-like knife, and drove it into the creature's heart. Then, while Coristine lifted it by the two hind legs, he took a grasp of its collar, and they carried the trophy of the veteran's rifle on to the lawn in front of the house. There they learned that the Captain, being half asleep with no chance of an enemy in sight, dreamt his ship had been saluted coming into port on a holiday, and, as in duty bound, returned the salute. The blunderbuss had not exploded; it always made that grand, booming, rattling, diffusive sort of a report. The dead hound's collar was examined, and was discovered to bear the initials A.R. "Who is A.R.?" asked the Squire; and Mr. Nash replied: "He is no doubt my affianced bridegroom, Haltamont Rawdon."
It was two o'clock in the morning; so the guard was relieved, and the former sentries returned to their posts; but the Squire noticed, with a frown, that, just as the relief arrived at Mr. Errol's beat, a female form clothed in black darted round the stables towards the kitchen door. Also, he saw that the minister had a most unmilitary muffler, in the shape of a lady's cloud, round his neck, which he certainly had not when he went on duty. His high respect for the reverend gentleman hindered any outward expression of his combined amusement and annoyance. Muggins came back with Mr. Perrowne, but obstinately refused to go near the dead hound.