Inquest and Consequences—Orther Lom—Coolness—Evening Service—Mr. Pawkins and the Constable—Two Songs—Marjorie, Mr. Biggles and the Crawfish—Coristine Falls Foul of Mr. Lamb—Mr. Lamb Falls Foul of the Whole Company—The Captain's Couplet—Miss Carmichael Feels it Her Duty to Comfort Mr. Lamb.
It is unnecessary to relate the details of the inquest. By various marks, as well as by the testimony of the woman Flower and of Mr. Bangs and his party, the remains were identified as those of Rawdon and his wounded henchman Flower. Some of the jurymen wished to bring in a verdict of "Died from the visitation of God," but this the Squire, who was foreman, would not allow. He called it flat blasphemy; so it was altered to: "Died by the explosion of illicit spirits, through a fire kindled by the wife of the principal victim, Altamont Rawdon." Nobody demanded the arrest of Matilda; hence the Squire and the doctor did not feel called upon to issue a warrant for that purpose. The widowed and childless Mrs. Flower, for the so-called Harding was her son, claimed his body, and what remained of her husband's; and asked Mr. Perrowne to read the burial service over them in the little graveyard behind his humble church. Mr. Bangs, his work over, got the use of a waggon and the services of Ben Toner, to take his dead comrade's coffin to Collingwood. Nobody claimed the remains of Rawdon, till old Mr. Newberry came forward, and said he would take the shell in his waggon, with the woman and the boy, and give it Christian burial in the plot back of the Wesleyan church. "We can't tell," he said, "what passed between him and his Maker when he was struggling for life. Gie un the bainifit o' the doot." So, Ben and Serlizer rolled away with Bangs, and Nash's coffin; and Matilda and her son accompanied Rawdon's remains, in Mr. Newberry's waggon. At the same time, with the sad, grey-haired woman as chief mourner, and Mrs. Carmichael beside her, a funeral procession passed from Bridesdale to the post office, and thence to the English churchyard, where old Styles and Sylvanus dug the double grave, around which, in deep solemnity, stood the Captain and Mr. Terry, the minister and the lawyer, while Mr. Perrowne read the service, and two victims of Rawdon's crime and treachery were committed, earth to earth, dust to dust, and ashes to ashes. Immediately the grave was covered in, the doubly-bereaved woman slipped away, and was never again heard of. There appeared no evidence, far or near, that she had done away with herself; it was, therefore, concluded that she had a child or children elsewhere, and had gone to hide the rest of her wasted life with them. The two clergymen went their ways to their lodgings, and the Bridesdale party walked silently and sorrowfully home.
Mr. Bigglethorpe wanted to go back with the Richards, so that he might have another morning's fishing; but Mrs. Carruthers thought he had better take Mr. Bangs' room, and nurse his eyes and other burned parts before going home. Marjorie and her young cousins dragged him off, after his green shade was put on, to the creek, and made him rig up rods and lines for them in the shape of light-trimmed willow boughs, to which pieces of thread were attached with bent pins at the other ends. Fishing with these, baited with breadcrumbs, they secured quite a number of chub and dace, and made the valley musical with their laughter at each success or mishap, by the time the Bridesdale people returned from the impromptu funeral. The Squire was busy in his office, looking over Nash's legacy, preparatory to sending it to Bangs, who had begged him to forward the documents without delay. The only thing of note he found was, that Rawdon did not bank his money; he had no bank account anywhere. Where did he stow away the fortune he must have made? There was a note of the casual conversation of an assumed miser with Rawdon, in which Rawdon was represented as saying: "Dry sandy soil, well drained with two slopes, under a rain-shed, will keep millions in a cigar box." That the Squire noted; then he sealed up the rest of the papers, and addressed them to Hickey Bangs, Esq., D.I.R., ready for the post in the morning. The colonel, Mrs. and Miss Du Plessis were all in Wilkinson's room. The colonel was commenting upon the four poor souls that had gone before God's judgment seat, three of them, probably, with murder on their hands; and thanked God that his boy had died in the war, brave and pure and good, with no stain on his young life. "When my boy was killed, my deah Fahquhah, I felt like the Electoh Palatine of the Rhine, when young Duke Christopheh, his son, fell at Mookerheyde, accohding to Motley: he said ''Twas bettah thus than to have passed his time in idleness, which is the devil's pillow.' Suh, I honouh the Electoh Palatine foh that. What melancholy ghaves these pooah creatuhes fill." Then Mrs. Du Plessis wept, mildly, and Miss Du Plessis, and they all had to wipe a few tears out of Wilkinson's eyes. Had Coristine been there, he would have been scandalized. The lawyer's lady-love was engaged in very prosaic work in the sewing-room, with her aunt, running a sewing-machine to make much-needed clothes for the unhappy woman, whom the coroner's jury, by a euphemism, called Rawdon's wife. The two had seen her off in charge of good old Mr. Newberry, and had promised to send her the work, which she herself had begun; and, now, they were toiling with all their might to redeem the promise, as early as possible, in spite of the tears that would come also into their foolish eyes, blurring their vision and damping their material. Coristine, who longed for a sight of fresh young life after the vision of death, did not know what kept that young life within, and, like an unreasonable man, was inclined to be angry. He was overwrought, poor fellow, sleepless and tired, and emotionally excited, and, therefore, ready for any folly under the sun.
Mrs. Carmichael had entered the house, with the Captain and Mr. Terry. The lawyer remained alone in the garden, waiting for something to turn up. Something did turn up in the shape of the stage on its way to the post office, which dropped its only passenger at the Bridesdale gate. The passenger was a young fellow of about twenty-five, rather over than under middle height, of good figure, and becomingly dressed. His features were good enough, but lacked individuality, as did his combined moustache and side whiskers, that formed a sort of imperfect W across his face. He held his nose well up in the air, spoke what, in his ignorance, he fondly imagined to be aristocratic English, and carried, with an apologetic and depressed air, a small Gladstone bag. The newcomer dusted his trouser legs with a cane utterly useless for walking purposes; then, adjusting his eye-glass, he elevated it towards the solitary occupant of the garden, as he entered the gate. "Haw, you sir," he called out to him; "is this, haw, Mr. Corrothers' plaice?" Coristine was nettled at the style of address, but commanded himself to reply as briefly as possible that it was. "Miss Morjorie Cormichael stoying here?" continued the stage passenger. "Miss Carmichael is here," responded the lawyer. "Haw, I thort so. Just you run in now, will you, ond tell Miss Morjorie thot on old friend wonts to speak to her." The lawyer was getting furious, in spite of himself. Taking his pipe out of his pocket, and proceeding to fill it with all apparent deliberation and calmness, he replied: "So far as I have the honour of Miss Carmichael's acquaintance, she is not in the habit of receiving visitors out of doors. There are both bell and knocker on the door before you, which servants will probably answer; but, if that door doesn't suit you, you will probably find others at the back." With this ungracious speech, he turned on his heel, lit his pipe, and puffed vigorously along the path towards the meadow gate. Then, he strolled down the hill and met the returning fishers, the two youngest in Mr. Bigglethorpe's arms, and with their arms about his neck. Coristine indulged in a kissing bee with the rest of them, so as to assure himself that he was the true old friend, the genuine Codlin, while the other man was Short. "Marjorie," he said, as that fishing young lady clung to him, "there's a duffer of a dude, with an eye-glass, up at the house, who says he's an old friend of your cousin Marjorie; do you know any old friend of hers?" Marjorie stopped to think, and, after a little pause, said: "It can't be Huggins." "Who is Huggins, Marjorie?" asked the lawyer. "He's the caretaker of Marjorie's school."
"Oh no, this dude is too young and gorgeous for a caretaker."
"Then, I think I know; its Orther Lom."
"Who is Orther Lom?"
"I don't know; only Auntie Marjorie said, she wouldn't be astonished if Orther Lom was to come and find cousin Marjorie out, even away up here. It must be Orther Lom."
This was all the information the lawyer could obtain; so he and Marjorie joined Mr. Bigglethorpe and the other anglers, and talked about making domestic sardines and smelts of the chub and dace they had caught.
The summons to tea greeted the wanderers before they had had time to cleanse their hands of fishy odours; consequently Mr. Bigglethorpe and the lawyer were a minute or two late. They found the man of the eye-glass seated on one side of Miss Carmichael, and, as she beckoned the fisherman to the other, she introduced her protege to him as Mr. Arthur Lamb, a very old friend. Miss Halbert made way for Coristine beside her, and he congratulated her on the doctor's reappearance at the table.
"Mr. Coristine," said Miss Carmichael, and the lawyer, with a somewhat worn society face, looked across.
"Mr. Lamb, who is an old friend of ours, tells me he met you in the garden, but you did not introduce yourself. Let me introduce you, Mr. Lamb, Mr. Coristine."
Coristine gave the merest nod of recognition, and went on talking to Miss Halbert. He thought Perrowne was right; there was some satisfaction conversing with a girl like that, a girl with no nonsense about her. The minister's gloves had got fishy, handling Marjorie's catch, so he had taken them off when preparing himself for tea, and had left them in his room. Miss Carmichael looked at the burnt hands, and felt disposed to scold him, but did not dare. Perhaps, he had taken the gloves off intentionally. She wished that ring of his were not on her finger. Between Mr. Lamb and Miss Halbert, she felt very uncomfortable, and knew that Eugene, no, Mr. Coristine, was behaving abominably. The colonel and his belongings had been so much about the wounded dominie all afternoon, that Mrs. Carruthers insisted on her right, as a hostess, to minister to him, while her sister-in law presided in her stead. Coristine at once rose to help the hostess, and regained his spirits, while rallying his old friend over the many attentions he was receiving at the hands of the fair sex. He could hardly believe his eyes and ears when he beheld the meek and helpless creature who had once been the redoubtable Wilkinson. How had the mighty fallen! "We'll put you in a glass case, Wilks, like the old gray horse that was jined to the Methodis, and kicked so high they put him in the museum."
"Corry," interrupted the still correct dominie, "I have no sympathy with that rude song; but if you will quote it, please adhere to the original. It was 'my old aunt Sal that was joined to the Methodists,' not the old gray horse."
"Thanks, Wilks, thanks, I'll try and remember. Any more toast or jam, old boy?"
"No, I have a superabundance of good things."
"Well, see you again, sometime when I have a chance. You're pretty well guarded you know. Au revoir."
Coristine followed Mrs. Carruthers down stairs; while the dominie sighed, and said: "It seems as if nothing will give that boy stability of character and staidness of demeanour."
"Who is going to service to-night?" asked the Squire. Mrs. Carruthers could not, because of the children; the doctor was unfit to walk; and the colonel and Mrs. Du Plessis had so much to say to each other over their dear boy that they desired to be excused. Mr. Bigglethorpe said he was a church-going man, but hardly cared to air his green shade in public; whereupon Mr. Terry volunteered to remain and smoke a pipe with him. Mrs. Carmichael and her daughter signified their intention of accompanying the Squire, and Mr. Lamb at once asked permission to join them. Miss Halbert stated that she would like to go to week service, if anybody else was going. Of course, the lawyer offered his escort, and Miss Du Plessis and the Captain begged to be included. Thus, four of the party set out for Mr. Perrowne's mid-week service, and four to Mr. Errol's prayer meeting. Mr. Lamb did not get much out of Miss Carmichael on the way, and Miss Halbert thought her escort unusually absent-minded. Coming home, Mr. Perrowne deprived Coristine of his fair charge, and Mr. Errol relieved the Squire of his sister. Accordingly, the freed cavaliers drew together and conversed upon the events of the day. Good Mr. Carruthers was startled, when the lawyer expressed his intention of leaving in the morning, as he could be of no further use, and felt he had already trespassed too long upon his generous hospitality.
"Noo, Coristine," he said, falling into his doric, "what ails ye, man, at the lassie?"
"My dear Squire, I have none but the kindest and most grateful thoughts towards all the ladies."
"Weel, weel, it's no for me to be spierin', but ye maun na gang awa frae's on accoont o' yon daft haveral o' a Lamb."
"Who is this Mr. Lamb?"
"I ken naething aboot him, foreby that he's a moothin' cratur frae the Croon Lans Depairtment, wi' no owre muckle brains."
Dropping the subject, the Squire proceeded to tell what he had found in Nash's papers, and proposed an expedition, ostensibly for fishing, in which the two of them, providing themselves with tools, should prospect for the hidden treasure of the former master of the Select Encampment. As it was unlikely that any claimant for Rawdon's property would appear, all that they found would belong to Matilda and her boy, unless it were judged right to indemnify Miss Du Plessis for any injury done to her land. There was no reason for the lawyer's departure. He had another week of leave, which he did not know how to put in. True, he could not remain until Wilkinson was perfectly well, but it would seem heartless to desert him so soon after he had received his wound. He had thought of writing the Squire about Miss Carmichael's position as her deceased father's next of kin, but it would save trouble to talk it over. All things considered, Mr. Carruthers did not find it a difficult task to make his pleasant new acquaintance reconsider his decision and commit himself to an indefinite prolongation of Bridesdale hospitality. Yet, as he entered the gate, he almost repented his weakness, on hearing the eye-glassed Lamb say: "What ohfully jawlly times we hod, Morjorie, when you and I were sweethorts." He wished that he could recall some frightfully injurious and profane expression in a foreign tongue, with which to anathematize the wretched, familiar, conceited Crown Lands Department cad. While the Squire joined the doctor and the Captain in the office, he went over to a corner in which the pipes of the veteran and Mr. Bigglethorpe were still glowing, and, lighting his own, listened to their military and piscatorial yarns.
Rufus had remained at Bridesdale, at the urgent entreaty of his sisters and the Pilgrims; but the sight of the people going to prayer meeting smote his conscience. He knew his father and mother would be at meetin' in their own church, and that there would be a good deal of work to do. Besides he hadn't brought home the team from Mr. Hislop's since the bee. Nothing would stop him, therefore; he shouldered his gun, and, bidding all good bye, started for home. Nobody was left in the kitchen but the two maids and the two Pilgrims. Yes, there was one more, namely Mr. Pawkins, who was afeard his duds warn't dry. The nettrelized citizen of Kennidy was telling stories, that kept the company in peals and roars of laughter, about an applicant for a place in a paper mill, who was set to chewing a blue blanket into pulp, who was given a bottle of vinegar to sharpen his teeth with, and who was ignominiously expelled from the premises because he didn't "chaw it dry"; about a bunting billy goat; and a powerful team of oxen, that got beyond the control of their barn-moving driver, and planted the barn on the top of an almost inaccessible hill. Mr. Pawkins complimented the young women, and drew wonderful depths of knowledge out of Sylvanus and Timotheus. But, when a vehicle rolled into the stable yard that brought the constable and Maguffin to join the party, the quondam American citizen waxed jubilant, and beheld endless possibilities of amusement. "Good evenin', consterble," said Mr. Pawkins, blandly.
"Good evening, sir, at your service," replied the pensioner.
"Pawkins is my naum, consterble, kyind er Scotch, I reckin. They say pawky means sorter cute an' cunnin', like in Scotch. Never was thar myself, to speak on, but hev seed 'em."
"The Scotch make good soldiers," said Mr Rigby.
"Yaas; I reckin the oatmeal sorter stiffens 'em up."
"There are military authorities who assert that the Scotch are the only troops that can reform under fire; but that is a mistake. In that respect, sir, the Guards are equal to any other Household Troops."
"Fer haousehold trooeps and reformin' under fire, you had orter ha seen aour fellers at Bull Run. When the shooten' begun, all the Bowery plug uglies, bred to cussin' and drinkin' and wuss, dropped ther guns and fell on ther knees a reformin'; then, when they faound they couldn't reform so suddent, they up on ther two feet and started fer the haoushold. Eurrup ain't got nuthin' ter ekal aour haousehold trooeps."
"You mistake me, Mr. Pawkins; the Household Troops in infantry are the Guards and Highlanders, whose special duty it is to guard the royal household."
"Is it big?"
"Is what big, sir?"
"Why, the household! How many storeys is ther to it besides the attic and basement? Hev it got a mansard?"
"The Household, sir, dwells in royal palaces of great dimensions. It is the royal family and their attendants over whom the Guards watch."
"That's the Black Guards, ain't it?"
"No, sir; you are thinking of the Black Watch, a name of the Forty-second Highlanders."
"D'ye hear that, you Sambo? You orter go and git draafted inter that corpse, and go araound breakin' the wimmin's hyearts in a cullud flannel petticut."
"There are no negroes, sir, in the Black Watch," interposed the corporal.
"See heah, yoh Yankee Canajiun," answered Mr. Maguffin with feeling, "fo' de law ob this yeah kintry I'se jess es good a man as yoh is. So yoh jess keep yoh Samboo in yoh mouf atter this. Specks yoh'se got a mighty low down name yohsef if t'was ony knowed by respeckable pussons."
"My name, Mr. Julius Sneezer Disgustus Quackenboss, my name is Pawkins, great grandson of Hercules Leonidas Pawkins, as was briggidier ginral and aijicamp to George Washington, when he drummed the haousehold trooeps, and the hull o' the derned British army, out'n Noo Yohk to the toon o' 'Yankee Doodle.'"
The constable turned pale, shivered all over, and swayed about in his chair, almost frightening the mendacious Yankee by the sight of the mischief his words had wrought. Tryphena, however, quickly filled the shocked corporal a hot cup of tea, and mutely pressed him to drink it. He took off the tea at a gulp, set down the cup with a steady hand, and, looking Mr. Pawkins in the face, said: "I regret, sir, to have to say the word; but, sir, you are a liar."
"That's true as death, consterble," remarked Timotheus, who did not share the hostile feelings of Sylvanus towards Corporal Rigby; "true as death, and the boys, they ducked him in the crick for't, but they's no washin' the lies out'n his jaws."
Mr. Pawkins looked as fierce as it was possible for a man with a merry twinkle in his eyes to look, and roared, "Consterble, did you mean that, or did you only say it fer fun like?"
Mr Rigby, glaring defiance, answered, "I meant it."
"Oh waall," responded the Yankee Canadian, mildly, "that's all right; because I want you to know that I don't allaow folks to joke with me that way. If you meant it, that's a different thing."
"What your general character may be, I do not know. As for your remarks on the British army, they are lies."
"I guess, consterble, you ain't up in the histry of the United States of Ameriky, or you'd know as your Ginral Clinton was drummed aout o' Noo Yohk to the toon o' 'Yankee Doodle.'"
"I know, sir, that a mob of Hanoverians and Hessians, whom the Americans could not drive out, evacuated New York, in consequence of a treaty of peace. If your general, as you call him, Washington, had the bad taste to play his ugly tune after them, it was just what might be expected from such a quarter."
"My history," said Tryphosa, "says that the American army was driven out of Canada by a few regulars and some French-Canadians at the same time."
"Brayvo, Phosy!" cried Timotheus.
"I assert now, as I have asserted before," continued Corporal Rigby, "that the British army never has been defeated, and never can be defeated. I belong to the British army, and know whereof I speak."
"Were you in the American war, Mr. Pawkins?" asked Tryphena.
"Yaas, I was thar, like the consterble, in the haouse hold trooeps. When they come araound a draaftin', I skit aout to Kennidy. I've only got one thing agin the war, and that is makin' every common nigger so sassy he thinks he's the ekal of a white man. Soon's I think of that, the war makes me sick."
"It is the boast of our Empire," remarked the pensioner, grandly, "that wherever its flag floats, the slave is free."
"It's a derned pity," said Mr. Pawkins; "that there boy, Julius Sneezer Disgustus Quackenboss, ud be wuth heaps more'n he is, if his boss jest had the right to lick him straight along."
"Who," shrieked Maguffin; "who'se yar Squackenbawsin' an' gibbin' nigger lip ter? My name's Mortimah Magrudah Maguffin, an' what's yourn? Pawkins! Oh massy! Pawkins, nex' thing ter punkins. I cud get er punkin, an' cut a hole er two in it an' make a bettah face nor yourn, Mistah Pawkins, candaberus, lantun jaw, down east, Yankee white tresh. What you doin' roun' this house, anyway?"
"Arrah, hush now, childher!" said Mr. Terry, entering from the hall. "The aivenin's the time to make up aall dishputes, an' quoiet aal yer angry faylins afore yeez say yer worruds an' go to shlape, wid the howly angels gyardin' yeez. Good aivenin', Corporal."
"Good evening, Sergeant-Major."
"Mr. Terry," asked Tryphosa, timidly, "will you play a game at Cities, Rivers and Mountains? We were waiting for even numbers to begin." The veteran, who knew the game, agreed. Gallantly, the gentlemen asked the two ladies to choose sides, whereupon Tryphena selected Mr. Pawkins, Maguffin and Sylvanus; Mr. Terry, the constable, and Timotheus fell to Tryphosa. Peace once more reigned, save when the great-grandson of the brigadier general was detected in looking over his opponent's cards and otherwise acting illegally.
Bigglethorpe and the lawyer entered the house, not far from bed time. The company was in the drawing-room, and a lady was at the piano singing, and playing her own accompaniment, while Mr. Lamb was standing beside her, pretending to turn over the music, of which he had as little knowledge as the animal whose name he bore. The song was that beautiful one of Burns,
O wert thou in the cauld blast On yonder lea, on yonder lea,
and, though a gentleman's song, it was rendered with exquisite taste and feeling. The singer looked up appealingly at Mr. Lamb twice, solely to invoke his aid in turning the music leaf. But, to Coristine's jealous soul, it was a glance of tenderness and mutual understanding. Four long days he had known her, and she had never sung for him; and now, just as soon as the Crown Land idiot comes along, she must favour him with her very best. He would not be rude, and talk while the singing was going on, but he would let Lamb do all the thanking; he wasn't going shares with that affected dude. The music ceased, and he turned to see whom he could talk to. Mrs. Carmichael and Miss Halbert were busy with their clerical adorers. The colonel and Mrs. Du Plessis had evidently bid their dear boy good night, for they were engaged in earnest conversation, in which he called her Teresa, and she called him Paul as often as colonel. Miss Du Plessis was turning over the leaves of an album. He went up to her, and asked if she would not favour the company with some music. "Instrumental or vocal, Mr. Coristine?" she asked. "Oh, vocal, if you please, Miss Du Plessis; do you sing, 'Shall I wasting in despair,' or anything of that kind?" Miss Du Plessis did not, but would like to hear Mr. Coristine sing it. He objected that he had no music, and was a poor accompanyist. Before the unhappy man knew where he was, Miss Du Plessis was by Miss Carmichael's side, begging her dear friend Marjorie to accompany Mr. Coristine. She agreed, for she knew the song, and the music was in the stand. Like a condemned criminal, Coristine was conducted to the piano; but the first few bars put vigour into him, and he sang the piece through with credit. He was compelled, of course, to return thanks for the excellent accompaniment, but this he did in a stiff formal way, as if the musician was an entire stranger. Then they had prayers, for the gentlemen had come in out of the office, and, afterwards, the clergymen went home. As the inmates of Bridesdale separated for the night, Miss Carmichael handed the lawyer his ring, saying that since his hands were fit to dispense with gloves, they must also be strong enough to bear its weight. He accepted the ring with a sigh, and silently retired to his chamber. Before turning in for the night, he looked in upon Wilkinson, whom he found awake. After enquiries as to his arm and general health, he said: "Wilks, my boy, congratulate me on being an ass; I've lost the finest woman in all the world by my own stupidity." His friend smiled at him, and answered: "Do not be down-hearted, Corry; I will speak to Ceci—Miss Du Plessis I mean, and she will arrange matters for you." The lawyer fervently exclaimed: "God bless you, Wilks!" and withdrew, not a little comforted. We cannot intrude into the apartment of the young ladies, but there was large comfort in their conversation for a person whose Christian name was Eugene. If he only had known it!
By the constable, Ben Toner, and other messengers, Mr. Bigglethorpe had acquainted his somewhat tyrannical spouse that he was staying for a while at the Flanders lakes to enjoy the fishing. Mr. Rigby had brought from the store his best rods and lines and his fly-book. He was, therefore, up early on Thursday morning, lamenting that he was not at Richards, whence he could have visited the first lake and secured a mess of fish before breakfast. He was sorting out his tackle in the office, when Marjorie, an early riser, came in to see if Uncle John was there. When she found out the occupant, she said: "Come along, Mr. Biggles, and let us go fishing, it's so long before breakfast." Fishing children could do anything with Bigglethorpe; he would even help them to catch cat-fish and suckers. But he had an eye to business. "Marjorie," he asked, "do you think you could find me a pickle bottle, an empty one, you know?" She thought she could, and at once engaged 'Phosa and 'Phena in the search for one. A Crosse and Blackwell wide-mouthed bottle, bearing the label "mixed pickles," which really means gherkins, was borne triumphantly into the office. Mr. Bigglethorpe handled it affectionately, and said: "Put on your hat, Marjorie, and we'll go crawfish hunting." Without rod or line, the fisherman, holding the pickle bottle in his left hand, and taking Marjorie by the right, walked down to the creek. On its bank he sat down, and took off his shoes and socks, an example quickly and joyfully followed by his young companion. Then he splashed a little water on his head, and she did the same; after which they waded in the shallow brook, and turned up flat stones in its bed. Sometimes the crawfish lay quite still, when Mr. Bigglethorpe, getting his right hand, with extended thumb and forefinger, slily behind it, grasped the unsuspecting crustacean at the back of his great nippers, and landed him in the bottle filled with sparkling water. Sometimes a "craw," as Marjorie called them, darted away backward in a great hurry, and had to be looked for under another stone, and these were generally young active fellows, which, the fisherman said, made the best bait for bass. It was wild, exciting work, with a spice of danger in it from the chance of a nip from those terrible claws. Marjorie enjoyed it to the full. She laughed and shrieked, and clapped her hands over every new addition to the pickle bottle, and Mr. Biggles was every bit as enthusiastic as she was. Soon they were aware of a third figure on the scene. It was the sleepless lawyer. "Come in, Eugene," cried Marjorie; "take off your shoes and stockings, and help us to catch these lovely craws." He had to obey, and was soon as excited as the others over this novel kind of sport.
Coristine looked up after securing his twelfth victim, and saw four figures sauntering down the hill. Three were young ladies in print morning gowns; the fourth was the ineffable dude, Lamb. At once he went back, and put himself into socks and boots, turning down his trouser legs, as if innocent of the childish amusement. "Haw," brayed Mr. Lamb, "is thot you, Cawrstine? Been poddling in the wotter, to remind yoursolf of the doys when you used to run round in your bare feet?" Outwardly calm, the lawyer advanced to meet the invaders. Bowing somewhat too ceremoniously to the three ladies, who looked delightfully fresh and cool in their morning toilets, he answered his interlocutor. "I am sure, Mr. Lamb, that it would afford Mr. Bigglethorpe and Marjorie additional satisfaction, to know that their wading after crawfish brought up memories of your barefooted youth. Unfortunately, I have no such blissful period to recall." Mr. Lamb blushed, and stammered some incoherencies, and Miss Carmichael, running past the lawyer towards Marjorie, whispered as she flitted before him, "you rude, unkind man!" This did not tend to make him more amiable. He snubbed the Crown Land gentleman at every turn, and, more than usually brilliant in talk, effectually kept his adversary out of conversation with the remaining ladies. "Look, Cecile!" said Miss Halbert; "Marjorie is actually joining the waders. "Mr. Lamb stroked his whisker-moustache and remarked: "Haw, you know, thot's nothing new for Morjorie; when we were childron together, we awften went poddling about in creeks for crowfish and minnows." Then he had the impertinence to stroll down to the brook, and rally the new addition to the crawfishing party. To Coristine the whole thing was gall and wormwood. The only satisfaction he had was, that Mr. Lamb could not summon courage enough to divest himself of shoes and stockings and take part in the sport personally. But what an insufferable ass he, Coristine, had been not to keep on wading, in view of such glorious company! What was the use of complaining: had he been there she would never have gone in, trust her for that! Wilkinson and he were right in their old compact: the female sex is a delusion and a snare. Thank heaven! there's the prayer gong, but will that staring, flat-footed, hawhawing, Civil Service idiot be looking on while she reattires herself! He had half a mind to descend and brain him on the spot, if he had any brains, so as to render impossible the woeful calamity. But the fates were merciful, sending Mr. Lamb up with Marjorie and Mr. Bigglethorpe. Now was the angry man's chance, and a rare one, but, like an angry man, he did not seize it. The other two ladies remarked to each other that it was not very polite of three gentlemen to allow a lady, the last of the party, to come up the hill alone. What did he care?
At breakfast, Miss Carmichael sat between Messrs. Bigglethorpe and Lamb, and the lawyer between Miss Halbert and the veteran. "Who are going fishing to the lakes," asked the Squire, to which question the doctor replied, regretting his inability; and the colonel declined the invitation on account of his dear boy. Mr. Lamb intimated that he had business with Miss Du Plessis on Crown Land matters, as the department wished to get back into its possession the land owned by her. This was a bombshell in the camp. Miss Du Plessis declined to have any conference on the subject, referring the civil servant to her uncle, to Squire Carruthers, and to her solicitor, Mr. Coristine. The lawyer was disposed to be liberal in politics, although his friend Wilkinson was a strong Conservative; but the contemptible meanness of a Government department attempting to retire property deeded and paid for in order to gain a few hundred dollars or a new constituent, aroused his vehement indignation, and his determination to fight Lamb and his masters to the bitter end of the Privy Council.
"Mr. Lamb," said the colonel, "is yoar business with my niece complicated, or is it capable of being stated bhiefly?"
"I can put it in a very few words, Colonel," replied the civil service official; "the deportment hos received on awffer for Miss Du Plessis' lond which it would be fawlly to refuse."
"But," interposed the Squire, "the department has naething to dae wi' Miss Cecile's land: it's her ain, every fit o't."
"You don't know the deportment, Squire. It con take bock lond of its own deed, especially wild lond, by the awffer of a reasonable equivolent or indemnity. It proposes to return the purchase money, with five per cent. interest to date, and the amount of municipal toxes attested by receipts. Thot is regorded os a fair odjustment, ond on Miss Du Plessis surrendering her deed to me, the deportment will settle the claim within twelve months, if press of business ollows."
"Such abominable, thieving iniquity, on the pairt o' a Government ca'ain' itself leeberal, I never hard o' in aa my life," said the indignant Squire.
"Do you mean to say, Arthur," asked Mrs. Carmichael, "that your department can take away Cecile's property in that cavalier fashion, and without any regard to the rise in values?"
"I'm ofraid so, Mrs. Cormichael."
"What have you to say to that, Mr. Coristine, from a legal standpoint?" enquired Mrs. Carruthers.
"A deed of land made by the Government, or by a private individual, conveys, when, as in this case, all provisions have been complied with, an inalienable title."
"There is such a thing as expropriation," suggested Mr. Lamb, rather annoyed to find a lawyer there.
"Expropriation is a municipal affair in cities and towns, or it may be national and provincial in the case of chartered railways or national parks, in all which cases remuneration is by arbitration, not by the will of any expropriating body."
"The deportment may regord this as a provincial offair. Ot any rate, it hos octed in this way before with success."
"I know that the department has induced people to surrender their rights for the sake of its popularity, but by wheedling, not by law or justice, and, generally, there has been some condition of payment, or something else, not complied with."
"Thot's simple enough. A few lines in the bookkeeping awffice con involidate the deed."
"One or two words, Mr. Lamb, and I have done; the quicker you answer, the sooner Miss Du Plessis' decision is reached. Do you represent the commissioner, the minister?"
"Well, not exoctly."
"Were you sent by his deputy, the head of the department?"
"Not the head exoctly."
"Is the name of the man, for whom your friend wants to expropriate Miss Du Plessis' land, called Rawdon, Altamont Rawdon?"
"How did you know thot? Ore you one of the deportment outriggers?"
"No; I have nothing to do with any kind of dirty work. You go back, and tell your man, first, that Rawdon is dead, and that in life he was a notorious criminal; second, that Miss Du Plessis' land has been devastated by the fire in which he perished; and, third, that if he, or you, or any other contemptible swindler, moves a finger in this direction, either above board or below, I'll have you up for foul conspiracy, and make the department only too happy to send you about your business to save its reputation before the country."
As Ben Toner and his friends in the kitchen would have said, Mr. Lamb was paralyzed. While the lawyer had spoken with animation, there was something quite judicial in his manner. Miss Carmichael looked up at him from under her long lashes with an admiration it would have done him good to see, and a hum of approving remarks went all round the table. Then, in an evil moment, the young lady felt it her duty to comfort the heart of poor Orther Lom, whom everybody else regarded with something akin to contempt. She talked to him of old times, until the man's inflated English was forgotten, as well as his by no means reputable errand. The young man was quite incapable of any deep-laid scheme of wrong-doing, as he was of any high or generous impulse. He was a mere machine, educated up to a certain point, able to write a good hand, and express himself grammatically, but thinking more of his dress and his spurious English than of any learning or accomplishment, and the unreasoning tool of his official superiors. He had been checkmated by Coristine, and felt terribly disappointed at the failure of his mission; but the thought that he had been engaged in a most dishonest attempt did not trouble him in the least. Yet, had he been offered a large bribe to commit robbery in the usual ways, he would have rejected the proposition with scorn. Miss Carmichael, knowing his character, was sorry for him, little thinking that his returning vivacity under her genial influence smote Coristine's heart, as the evidence of double disloyalty on the lady's part, to her friend, Miss Du Plessis, and to him. Tiring of her single-handed work, she turned to Mr. Bigglethorpe, saying: "You know Mr. Lamb, do you not!" The fisherman answered: "You were kind enough to introduce us last night, Miss Carmichael, but you will, I hope, pardon me for saying that I do not approve of Mr. Lamb." Then he turned away, and conversed with the Captain. When the company rose, the only person who approached the civil servant was the colonel, who said: "I pehsume, suh, aftah what my kind friend, Mr. Cohistine, has spoken so well, you will not annoy my niece with any moah remahks about her propehty. It would please that lady and me, as her guahdian, if you will fohget Miss Du Plessis' existence, suh, so fah as you are concehned." This was chilling, but chill did not hurt Mr. Lamb. The little Carruthers, headed by Marjorie, were in front of the verandah when Miss Carmichael and he went out. Marjorie had evidently been schooling them, for, at her word of command, they began to sing, to the tune of "Little Bo Peep," the original words:—
Poor Orther Lom, He looks so glom.
Miss Carmichael seized her namesake and shook her. "You naughty, wicked little girl, how dare you? Who taught you these shameful words?" she asked, boiling with indignation. Marjorie cried a little for vexation, but would not reveal the name of the author. Some said it was the doctor, and others, that it was his daughter Fanny; but Miss Carmichael was sure that the lawyer, Marjorie's great friend, Eugene, was the guilty party, that he ought to be ashamed of himself, and that the sooner he left Bridesdale the better. Coristine was completely innocent of the awful crime, which lay in the skirts of Marjorie's father, the Captain, as might have been suspected from the beauty of the couplet. The consequence of the poetic surprise was the exclusive attachment of Miss Carmichael to the Crown Lands man, in a long walk in the garden, a confidential talk, and the present of a perfectly beautiful button-hole pinned in by her own hands.
The Picnic—Treasure Trove—A Substantial Ghost Captured—Coristine's Farewell—Ride to Collingwood—Bangs Secures Rawdon—Off to Toronto—Coristine Meets the Captain—Grief at Bridesdale—Marjorie and Mr. Biggles—Miss Du Plessis Frightens Mr. Lamb—The Minister's Smoke—Fishing Picnic.
After his Parthian shot, the Captain ordered Sylvanus to get out the gig, as he was going home. Leaving Marjorie in the hands of her aunt Carmichael, he saluted his daughter, his niece, and his two sisters in law, and took their messages for Susan. There was grief in the kitchen at the departure of Sylvanus, who expected to be on the rolling deep before the end of the week. Mr. Pawkins and Constable Rigby had already taken leave, travelling homeward in an amicable way. Then, Doctor Halbert insisted on his vehicle being brought round, as there must be work waiting for him at home; so a box with a cushion was placed for his sprained leg, and he and Miss Fanny were just on the eve of starting, when Mr. Perrowne came running up in great haste, and begged to be allowed to drive the doctor over. With a little squeezing he got in, and, amid much waving of handkerchiefs, the doctor's buggy drove away. Mr. Lamb exhibited no desire to leave, and Miss Carmichael was compelled to devote herself to him, a somewhat monotonous task, in spite of his garrulous egotism. Timotheus, by the Squire's orders, harnessed the horses to the waggonette, and deposited therein a pickaxe and a spade. Mr. Bigglethorpe brought out his fishing tackle, joyous over the prospect of a day's fishing, and Mr. Terry lugged along a huge basket, prepared by his daughter in the kitchen, with all manner of eatables and drinkables for the picnic. The lawyer made the fourth of the party, exclusive of Timotheus, who gave instructions to Maguffin how to behave in his absence. The colonel was with Wilkinson, but the ladies and Mr. Lamb came to see the expedition under way. It was arranged that Timotheus should drive the Squire and the lawyer to the masked road and leave them there, after which he was to take the others to Richards place, put up the horses, and help them to propel the scow through the lakes and channels. Accordingly, the treasure seekers got out the pick and shovel, and trudged along to the scene of the late fire. As they neared the Encampment, their road became a difficult and painful one, over fallen trees blackened with fire, and through beds of sodden ashes. At the Encampment, the ground, save where the buildings had stood, was comparatively bare. The lofty and enormously strong brick chimney was still standing in spite of the many explosions, and, here and there, a horse appeared, looking wistfully at the ruins of its former home. There, the intending diggers stood, gazing mutely for a while on the scene of desolation.
"'Sandy soil, draining both ways, and undercover,' is what we want, Coristine," said the Squire. The two walked back and forward along the ridge, rejecting rock and depression and timbered land. They searched the foundations of houses and sheds, found the trap under Rawdon's own house that led to the now utterly caved-in tunnel, and tried likely spots where once the stables stood, only to find accumulations of rubbish. A steel square such as carpenters use, was found among the chips in the stone-yard, and of this Coristine made a primitive surveyor's implement by which he sought to take the level of the ground. "Bring your eye down here, Mr. Carruthers," he said. "I see," answered the Squire; "but, man, yon's just a conglomeration o' muckle stanes." The lawyer replied, "That's true, Squire, but it's the height of land, and that top stone lies almost too squarely to be natural. Let us try them at least. It will do no harm, and the day is young yet." They went forward to a spot beyond the stone yard, on the opposite side from the burnt stables, which they saw had once been railed off, for the blackened stumps of the posts were still in the ground. It was a picturesque mass of confusion, apparently an outcrop of the limestone, not uncommon in that region. But the lawyer probed the ground all about it. It was light dry soil, with no trace of a rocky bottom. Without a lever, their work was hard, but they succeeded in throwing off the large flat protecting slab, and in scattering its rocky supports. "Man, Coristine, I believe you're richt." ejaculated the perspiring Carruthers. Then he took the pick and loosened the ground, while the lawyer removed the earth with his spade. "There's no' a root nor a muckle stane in the haill o't, Coristine; this groond's been wrocht afore, my lad." So they kept on, till at last the pick rebounded with a metallic clang. "Let me clear it, Squire," asked the lawyer, and, at once, his spade sent the sand flying, and revealed a box of japanned tin, the counterpart of that discovered by Muggins, which had only contained samples of grindstones. A little more picking, and a little more spading, and the box came easily out. It was heavy, wonderfully heavy, and it was padlocked. The sharp edge of the spade loosened the lid sufficiently to admit the point of the pick, and, while Coristine hung on to the box, the Squire wrenched it open. The tin box was full of notes and gold.
"There's thoosands an' thoosands here, Coristine, eneuch to keep yon puir body o' a Matilda in comfort aa' her days. Man, it's a graun' discovery, an' you're the chiel that's fund it," cried the Squire, with exultation. The lawyer peered in too, when, suddenly, he heard a shot, a bullet whizzed past his ear, and, the next moment, with a sickening thud, Carruthers fell to the ground. Coristine rose to his feet like lightning, and faced an apparition; the Grinstun man, with pistol in one hand and life preserver in the other, was before him. Without a moment's hesitation he regained his grasp of his spade, and stretched the ghost at his feet, mercifully with the flat of it, and then relieved his victim of pistol and loaded skull-cracker. He heard voices hailing, and recognized them as those of the veteran and the fisherman. He replied with a loud cry of "Hurry, hurry, help!" which roused the prostrate spectre. It arose and made a dash for the tin box, but Coristine threw himself upon the substantial ghost, and a struggle for life began. They clasped, they wrestled, they fell over the poor unconscious Squire, and upset the tin box. They clasped each other by the throat, the hair; they kicked with their feet, and pounded with their knees. It was Grinstun's last ditch, and he was game to hold it; but the lawyer was game too. Sometimes he was up and had his hand on his opponent's throat, and again, he could not tell how, he was turned over, and the heavy squat form of Rawdon fell like an awful nightmare on his chest. But he would not give in. He saw his antagonist reach for a weapon, pistol, skull-cracker, he knew not what it was, but that reach released one hand from his throat. With a tremendous effort, he turned, and lay side to side with his enemy, when Timotheus dashed in, and, bodily picking up the Grinstun man in his arms, hammered his head on the big flat stone, till the breathless lawyer begged him to stop. Up came Mr. Bigglethorpe and Mr. Terry in great consternation, and gazed with wonder upon the lately active ghost. "Make him fast," cried Coristine with difficulty, "while I look after the poor Squire." So, Timotheus and the fisher took off Rawdon's coat and braces, and bound him hand and foot with his own belongings. But the veteran had already looked to his son-in-law, and, from the picnic stores, had poured some spirits into his lips. "Rouse up, John, avic," he cried piteously, "rouse up, my darlint, or Honoria 'ull be breakin' her poor heart. It's good min is scarce thim toimes, an' the good God'll niver be takin' away the bist son iver an ould man had." The Squire came to, although the dark blood oozed out of an ugly wound in the back of his head, and the amount of liquor his affectionate father-in law had poured into him made him light-headed. "Glory be to God!" said the old man, and all the others gratefully answered "Amen."
The lawyer explained the circumstances, the excavation, the money, the assault, to his deliverers; but the resurrection of the Grinstun man was a mystery which he could not explain. Without being told, Timotheus, whose arrival had been so opportune, ran all the way to Richards, and brought from thence the waggon, along with Harry Richards, who volunteered to accompany him, and Mr. Errol, who was visiting in the neighbourhood. Young Richards brought an axe with him, and cleared some of the obstructions of the once masked road, so that the vehicle was able to get up within reasonable distance of the encampment. It was desirable to get the Squire home, lest his injuries should be greater than they supposed, and the prisoner ought to be in Mr. Bangs' hands at once. Accordingly, Mr. Errol and Harry Richards offered to stay with Mr. Bigglethorpe and carry out the original picnic, it being understood that Timotheus would either call or send for them about four o'clock.
"Gin I'm gaun to be oot on the splore, I maun hae a bit smokie. Wha's gotten a bit pipe he's no usin'?" asked the usually sedate minister. Coristine handed over to him his smoking materials, penknife included; and Mr. Errol, taking off his coat, sat down on a stone to fill the pipe, saying, "Nae mair pastoral veesitation for me the day. Gin any body spiers whaur I am, just tell them I'm renewin' my youth." Timotheus and Harry carried the prisoner to the waggon, while the veteran and the lawyer followed, leading the Squire, and carrying the box of treasure. The fishermen came to see them off, and, then, they descended to the lake shore and began the sport of the day. Timotheus drove, and the Squire sat up between him and his affectionate father-in-law. The lawyer was in the rear seat with the prisoner, who, for greater security, was lashed to the back of it. Rawdon's revolver was in his captor's hand, and his skull-cracker in a handy place. Several times, shamming insensibility, the prince of tricksters endeavoured to throw his solitary warder off his guard, but the party reached Bridesdale without his succeeding in loosening a single thong. There was great consternation when Timotheus drove up to the gate. The children had been at their old game of the handkerchief, and Miss Carmichael was actually chasing Orther Lom, to their great glee, and to Coristine's intense disgust. Of course, they stopped when they saw the waggon and the Squire's pale face. The colonel, who had been smoking his morning cigar on the verandah, came forward rapidly, and, with Mr. Terry, helped the master of Bridesdale to alight. Then, his wife and sister took the wounded man in charge, and led him into the house, for he was thoroughly dazed and incapable of attending to any business. "If you will allow me, colonel," said the lawyer, "I will take charge of legal matters in this case," to which Colonel Morton answered, "Most cehtainly, my deah suh, no one moah competent."
Maguffin had come round to see if his services would be required, and was appointed to mount guard over the prisoner in company with Timotheus. To Mr. Terry the lawyer gave the heavy cash box, with orders to put it in a safe place in the Squire's office. Then, Coristine went up-stairs, washed and brushed away the traces of conflict, and knocked at Wilkinson's door. A lady's voice told him to enter, and, on his complying with the invitation, he beheld Miss Du Plessis sitting by the bedside of his friend, with a book, which was not Wordsworth, in her hand. "Please to pardon my intrusion, Miss Du Plessis; the Squire is hurt, and we have captured Grinstuns, who was not burnt up after all. I must see the prisoner safely caged, and have other business to attend to, so that I have come to say good-bye. I am sure that you will take every care of my dear friend here." After this little speech, hard to utter, the lawyer shook his friend by the well hand, saying: "Good-bye, Wilks, old boy, and keep up your heart; any messages for town?" Before he had time to receive any such commissions, he shook hands warmly with the lady, and vanished. Replacing Maguffin over Rawdon, he told him to saddle a horse, and bring it round. His orders to Mr. Terry and Timotheus were to secure their prisoner between them in some lighter vehicle, and bring him with all speed to Collingwood, whither he would precede them on horseback. He found the Squire in an easy chair in the sitting room with three lady attendants. Shaking hands with the half-unconscious man, he assured him that he would attend to the business of the day, and then, with a few words of grateful recognition to Mrs. Carruthers, bade all the ladies good-bye. "Hasten back," they all said, and the kind hostess added: "We will think long till we see you again." Walking back into the kitchen, he bestowed a trifle in his most gracious manner, on Tryphena and Tryphosa, and then went forth to look for Marjorie. As he kissed her an affectionate farewell in the garden, the little girl intuitively guessed his absence to be no common one, and begged her Eugene to stay, with tears in her eyes. But he was obdurate with her and all the little Carruthers, on whom he showered quarters to buy candy at the post office. Maguffin was there with the horse, and, near the gate, was Miss Carmichael with that ineffable ass Lamb. Looking at the latter as if he would dearly love to kick him, he raised his hat to his companion, and extended his hand with the simple words "Good-bye." Miss Carmichael did not offer hers in return; she said: "It is hardly worth while being so formal over an absence of a few hours." Coristine turned as if a serpent had bitten him, slipped some money into Maguffin's hand, as that worthy held open the gate for him, and vaulted on his horse, nor did he turn to look round so long as the eyes of Bridesdale were on his retreating figure.
The lawyer rode hard, for he was excited. He went by Talfourd's house like a flash, and away through the woods he had traversed on Nash's beast that last pleasant Sunday morning. At the Beaver River he watered his horse, and exchanged a word with Pierre and Batiste bidding the former look out that no attempt at rescuing the prisoner should be made in that quarter. Away he went, with madame's eyes watching him from afar, up the ascent, and along the road to where the Hills dwelt at the foot of the Blue Mountains. He doffed his hat to the old lady as he passed, then breasted the mountain side. For a moment, he stood on the summit to take in the view once more, then clattered down the other side, and away full pelt for the town. Soon he entered Collingwood, and sought the police headquarters without delay. Where was Mr. Bangs? He was told, to his great delight, that the detective was in town, and would report at four o'clock. It was now half-past three. Putting up his horse at the hotel, the lawyer partook of a hasty meal at a restaurant, and returned in time to meet Bangs on the very threshold. "Whet ere you doing here, Lawyer Coristine?" he asked.
"You will never guess, Mr. Bangs."
"Any more trebble et Bridesdele?"
"No, but I'll tell you; we've caught Rawdon."
"Why, the men's dead, berned to a cinder, you know."
"No, he is not; that was some other man."
"Ere you shore, Mr. Coristine?"
"Perfectly. Mr. Terry and Timotheus are bringing him here now."
"Whet, only the two of them, and kemming pest the Beaver too?"
"Yes; there were no more to send. I warned Pierre Lajeunesse to be on the lookout."
"Is your beast fit to trevel eny more?"
"I think so; it seems a strong animal."
"Then get on hersebeck quick! Here, kensteble, hend me two betons, and a kerbine!"
When the lawyer returned with his hard-ridden steed, he found Mr. Bangs mounted, with a baton by his side and a carbine slung behind him. Off they went along the shore and up the hill. Descending, they saw the buggy approaching slowly in the neighbourhood of the Hills' log shanty, attended by four persons who seemed to be armed. Hastening down the slope, they came up to it, and found the prisoner safe but awfully profane. The foot guards were Ben Toner, Barney Sullivan, and Rufus Hill, under the command of Monsieur Lajeunesse. They were relieved of their self-imposed duty with many thanks, and Coristine shook hands with the honest fellows, as he and the detective replaced them in escort duty. Then Timotheus whipped up his horse, and they drove and rode into town, an imposing spectacle for the eyes of the youth of Collingwood.
Bangs could hardly believe his eyes, and could not conceal his delight, on beholding the murderer of his now buried friend. No pains were spared for the safe-keeping of the notorious criminal. In the presence of a magistrate, Coristine and Mr. Terry made affidavit as to his crimes and capture. The latter and Timotheus also related his attempts to bribe them into giving him his liberty, offering large sums and promising to leave the country. "Now, Mishter Corstine," says the veteran, "it's hoigh toime we was gettin' home. The good payple 'ull be gettin' onaisy about yeez, 'an spashly Miss Carrmoichael that was gravin' sore to think she niver said good-boye to yeez. Come, now, come away, an' lave the baste in the shtable, for it's toired roidin' ye must be."
"I am not going back, Mr. Terry. I said good-bye to them all at Bridesdale, and must hurry away to business. Perhaps Timotheus will ride the horse, while you drive."
"Thet pore enimel isn't fit fer eny more werk to-night, Mr. Coristine. I'll tell you, Mr. Terry, whet I'll do. I shell be beck here to-morrow evening, end will ride the horse to Bridesdele. I've got a weggon and team of the Squire's here, which yeng Hill will drive beck for me. Then he ken ride pore Nesh's horse, and I ken get my own. Strenge they didn't give you one of thowse beasts instead of the colonel's, Mr. Coristine."
"Is this the colonel's horse?"
"I should sey it is. You down't think eny ether enimel could hev brought you elong so fest, do you?"
"God bless the kind old man!" ejaculated the lawyer.
"Mishter Corstine, dear, it'll be breakin' aall the poor childer's hearts an' some that's growed up too if you 'll be afther lavin' us this way," continued Mr. Terry; and Timotheus, whom his Peskiwanchow friend rewarded, added his appeal: "I wisht you wouldn't go fer to go home jess' yet. Mister." But all entreaties were unavailing. He and Mr. Bangs saw the buggy off, and then retired to the hotel to get some supper. On the way thither, he invested in a briar root pipe and some tobacco to replace those he had given to Mr. Errol. They would be home from fishing long ago, and perhaps good Bigglethorpe would take Miss Carmichael away from that miserable Orther Lom. After supper, the two sat over their pipes and a decoction of some kind in the reading-room, talking over the sad and wonderful events of the past few days. Mr. Bangs took very kindly to the lawyer, and promised to look him up whenever he came to town. He advised him to keep silent about the discovery of Rawdon's money, as the crown might claim it, and thus deprive poor Matilda Nagle of her only chance of independence. He said also that he would instruct the Squire in the same direction on the morrow.
That night, two gaol guards armed to the teeth arrived in police quarters to take charge of Davis, but the bigger criminal was placed in their care. Early in the morning there was a stir in the railway station, when the handcuffed prisoners were marched down under strong escort, and securely boxed up with their guards and Mr. Bangs. Many rough characters were there, among whom the lawyer recognized Matt of the tavern, and Bangs and he could have sworn to the identity of others, whom the former had met in the cavalry charge on the masked road and whom Coristine had seen and heard in the Richards' scow the night of the catastrophe. They scowled, but attempted no rescue. Thanks to the lawyer's generalship, things had been pushed through too quickly for them to combine. For some time, Coristine travelled alone. There were other people in the car, but he did not know them, nor did he care to make any new acquaintances. All his friends were at Bridesdale, and he was a homeless exile going back to Mrs. Marsh's boarding-house. At Dromore, however, he caught sight of the wide-mouthed barrel of a blunderbuss, and knew the Captain could not be far off. Soon that naval gentleman got on board, helping Mrs. Thomas up to the platform, followed by Sylvanus with the saluting weapon. They were to be his companions as far as Barrie, and much the lawyer enjoyed their society. Marjorie was the great subject of conversation, although, of course, the Captain had to be enlightened in many points of recent history. He still thought Wilkinson a sly dog, but wondered greatly at Coristine's going away. Mrs. Thomas explained the relationship of Orther Lom. He had been a poor neglected boy, when Marjorie Carmichael was a little girl, whom her father, the member, had interested himself in, giving him an education, and supporting him in part while at the Normal School in Toronto. Just before he died, he exerted his influence to obtain a Government berth for him, and that was the whole story. The lawyer saw it all now, and learned too late what a foolish fellow he had been. Of course, there were old times, and they had much to talk of, and she could not help being civil to him, and being angry when he had reminded her father's protege of his early poverty. Coristine sighed, and felt that, if Lamb had been present, he would have apologized to him. To cheer him up, the Captain invited him to join Mrs. Thomas and himself on a cruise in the Susan. He would have enjoyed it immensely he said, but, having made so many assertions of pressing business in the city, he had to be consistent and miserable. At Barrie, he bade his last friends adieu, parted affectionately with The Crew, and then gazed longingly at the spars of the Susan Thomas in Kempenfeldt Bay. If only the Captain had brought the two Marjories for a cruise, he would have shipped with him for a month, and have let business go to the dogs. There were no more objects of interest till he arrived in Toronto, took a streetcar, and deposited himself, much to that lady's astonishment, in his bachelor's quarters at Mrs. Marsh's boarding-house. After a special lunch, he sat down to smoke and read a little Browning.
It was very late when Mr. Terry and Timotheus arrived at Bridesdale. All the ladies had retired, with the exception of Mrs. Carruthers, who had staid up to await her father's arrival. The gentlemen of the party were the Squire, quite clear in head and not much the worse of his crack on the skull, Mr. Bigglethorpe, and Mr. Errol, who had been induced to continue his splore in the office. He was still renewing his youth, when the veteran entered all alone, and said he didn't mind if he did help Mr. Bigglethorpe with that decanter, for it was tiresome work driving.
"Where is Mr. Coristine, grandfather?" asked the Squire.
"It's in Collinwud he is an his way to Teranty."
"What! do you mean to say he has left us, gone for good?"
"That's fwhat it is. Oi prished 'em, an' porshwaded 'em, an' towld 'em it was desprut anggery an' graved yeez wud aall be. Says he Oi've bud 'em aall good-boye an' Oi'm goin' home to bishness. It was lucky for you, Squoire, that it wasn't lasht noight he wint."
"It is that, grandfather. I'd have been a dead man. He maun hae focht yon deevil like a wild cat tae get oot o' the way o's pistols and things."
"'Twas Timawtheus as kim up furrust an' tuk the thafe av a Rawdon out av his arrums, for he grupped 'em good an' toight."
"Well done, Timotheus!" said Mr. Errol. "He's a fine lad, Mr. Bigglethorpe, though a bit clumsy in his ways."
"We can't all be handsome, sir," answered that gentleman. "If he's got the good principle in him, that's the mine thing, so I always say."
Mrs. Carruthers put her head into the smoke, coughed a little, and said: "Come, father, supper is waiting for you in the breakfast room." The veteran followed his daughter, and, over his evening meal, gave her a detailed account of the proceedings of the afternoon. "And to go away without a bite to eat, and ride all that distance, and leave his knapsack and his flowers and I don't know what else behind him, what is the meaning of it, father?"
"Honoria, my dear, I aalways thought women's eyes was cliverer nor min's. There's a little gyurl they call Marjorie, an' she's not so little as aall that, if she isn't quoite the hoighth av Miss Ceshile. That bhoy was jist dishtracted wid the crool paice, that goes aff philanderin wid the Shivel Sharvice shape av a Lamb. He didn't say it moind in wurruds, but I see it was the killin' av 'em, an' he jist coulden' shtand it no langer. Smaal blame to him say Oi!"
So grandfather got his supper, and went back to the office to finish his pipe and his tumbler, while Timotheus was entertaining Tryphosa in the kitchen. Mrs. Carruthers retired, but, first, she visited the young ladies' apartment, and said, in a tone which she meant to be reproachful as well as regretful: "Mr. Coristine has left us never to return." The kindest-hearted woman in the world, having thrown this drop of bitterness into her niece's cup, left her to drink it to the dregs. Meanwhile Orther Lom was dreaming that he could not do better than marry the Marjorie of his youth and begin housekeeping, in spite of tailors' bills.
The sun rose bright on Friday morning, and, peeping in upon Mr. Bigglethorpe in his room and upon Marjorie in the nursery bedroom, awoke these two early birds. They met on the stairs and came down together. The fisherman said he thought he would get his things bundled up, meaning his gun and rods, and walk home to breakfast, but Marjorie said he just wouldn't, for Eugene was gone, and, if he were to go, she would have nobody. Well broken in to respect for feminine authority, save when the fishing fit was on, Mr. Bigglethorpe had to succumb, and travel down to the creek after crawfish, chub and dace. He told his youthful companion fishing stories which amused her; and confided to her that he was going to train up his little boy to be a great fisherman. "Have you got a little boy, Mr. Biggles?" she asked, and then added: "How funny!" as if her friend ought to have been content with other people's children, and fish.
"What is his name, Mr. Biggles?" she enquired.
"He hasn't been christened yet, but I think I'll call him Isaac Walton, or Charles Cotton, or Piscator. Don't you think these are nice nimes?"
"No, I don't. Woollen and Cotton and what Mr. Perrowne belongs to are not pretty. Eugene is pretty."
Mr. Bigglethorpe laughed, and said: "I didn't say Woollen but Walton, and I said Piscator, which is the Latin for fisher, not Episcopalian, which Mr. Perrowne is."
"Why do you want to call him a fisher? It is like a Sunday School story Marjorie read me, a Yankee book, about a little baby boy that was left on a doorstep, and the doorstep man's name was Fish, and he had him baptized Preserved because he was preserved, and he grew up to be a good man and was called Preserved Fish. Wasn't that awful?"
"Oh very streinge! If my boy had been a little girl, I would have nimed her Marjorie."
"See, Mr. Biggles, here she comes again, and Cecile, and, O horrors! Orther Lom."
It was too true. The young ladies had come out to enjoy the morning air, and, after a turn in the garden, had rushed to the hill meadow to escape the Departmental gentleman, whose elegant morocco slippers they had heard on the stairs. Spite of the morning dew he had pursued them, well pleased with himself, and doubtful whom to conquer with his charms.
"O Mr. Biggles," continued Marjorie, "that horrid man got me a naughty, cruel shaking, and he's sent my dear Eugene away never to come back any more. I know, because I went into aunty's room when I got up; and she told me."
"It's too bad, Marjorie. Who mide that little song on Mr. Lamb?"
"You'll never tell?"
"'Pon your honour?"
"'Pon my honour."
"It was papa, you old goosey."
"Not Mr. Coristine?"
"No, of course not."
"My I sy that it wasn't Mr. Coristine?"
"O yes, don't let them think any bad things about Eugene, poor boy."
"Good morning, Miss Carmichael," said Mr. Bigglethorpe, or rather he bawled it; "will you come here a minute, please?"
Miss Carmichael gladly skipped down, leaving her companion a prey to the gentleman of the morocco slippers.
"I want to clear our friend, Mr. Coristine, of a suspicion which you may not have shired," said the fisherman. "He didn't mike that little piece of poetry on Mr. Lamb that Marjorie and the other children sang yesterday morning."
"Thank you, Mr. Bigglethorpe; I am very glad to hear it."
"Nasty pig!" said Marjorie to herself; "she drove Eugene away all the same."
Meanwhile, Mr. Lamb was conversing with Miss Du Plessis.
"You don't seem to mind the doo, Miss Cecile."
"Oh, but I do," she answered.
"Your shoes are parfectly wat, sowking I should think."
"No, they are not wet through; they are thicker than you imagine."
"By the bye, where is his high mightiness, the lawyer, this mawrning?"
"Mr. Coristine has returned to the city."
"Haw, cawlled oway to some pettifogging jawb I suppowse?"
"Such as your Crown Lands case."
"Naw, you down't say, Miss Cecile, thot he's awff ofter thot jawb?"
"I cannot tell what Mr. Coristine may have to do in addition to that. He did not confide his business to me."
"I wonder whot time the stage goes awff at!"
"It will pass the gate," said Miss Du Plessis, consulting her watch, "in ten minutes."
"Haw, ofally onnoying you know, but I'll hov to pock up and leave before breakfost. Please remember me to Morjorie, will you Cecile, if I shont hov time to see her before I gow."
Mr. Lamb took his morocco slippers back to the house, and soon reappeared at the gate, Gladstone bag and cane in hand, looking at the approaching stage. It was filled up with a roughish crowd, all except one seat in the back, into which he jumped. The driver flicked his horses, and Bridesdale was relieved of the presence of Orther Lom.
"Marjorie," said Miss Du Plessis, "I have bad news for you."
"What is it, Cecile?"
"Your young man has called me by my Christian name, without even putting Miss before it."
"Have you killed him and dug his grave with those eyes of yours?"
"No, I simply told him that Mr. Coristine had returned to Toronto, perhaps on Crown Land business."
"It terrified him so, that he packed his valise forthwith and is gone."
"By the stage. Did you not hear the horn just now?
"No, I was too busy with that delightful Mr. Bigglethorpe. But do you mean to tell me that Arthur has left without a farewell word to anybody?"
"He said, 'Please remember me to Marjorie, will you, Cecile?' What do you think of that?"
"What odious impertinence! I am glad the silly creature has gone, and, were it not for the safety of your land, I wish he had never come."
"It was not he who saved my land, Marjorie."
"Oh, don't I know? Don't talk to me any more! You are hateful, Cecile!"
"If you can forget fifty acts of disinterested kindness, Marjorie, it does not follow that I am to do the same." By which it will appear that Miss Du Plessis had her orders to rub it in pretty hot to her friend, and was rubbing it in accordingly, even though it did smart. Miss Carmichael broke away from her, and ran to the house, leaving her once dear Cecile to follow with Marjorie and Mr. Bigglethorpe.
At breakfast the Squire appeared quite picturesque, with a silk handkerchief tied over his head to conceal and hold on what Marjorie called a plaster of vinegar and brown paper, having reference to the mishaps of Jack and Jill.
"Marjorie," said Mr. Carruthers, "ye ken what Jill got for lauchin' at Jock's heed and the plaister."
"Yes, Uncle John, but mother isn't here to do it."
"Papa said I was to be your mother now, Marjorie," said Mrs. Carmichael.
"You've got a Marjorie of your own, Auntie, that needs to be punished worse than me."
The colonel looked round the table anxiously, and then addressed the hostess: "I fail to pehceive my deah friend, Mr. Cohistine, Mrs. Cahhuthehs; I sincehely trust he is not unwell afteh his gallant fight?"
"I am sorry to say, Colonel, that Mr. Coristine has left us, and has gone back to Toronto."
"O deah, that is a great loss; he was the life of our happy pahty, always so cheehful, so considehate, ready to sacrifice himself and lend a hand to anything. I expected him back on my hohse."
"Timotheus tells me that Mr. Bangs is going to bring your horse over this evening."
"I'm gey and gled to hear 't, gudewife. I'd like weel tae hae anither crack wi' Bangs. But it's an awfu' shame aboot Coristine; had it no' been for his magneeficent pluck, fleein' on yon scoundrel like a lion, I'd hae been brocht hame as deed as a red herrin'. Isna that true, granther?"
"It's thrue, ivery worrud av it. Savin' the company, there's not a jantleman I iver tuk to the way I tuk to that foine man, and as simple-harrted and condiscindin' as iv he wor a choild."
"Where is that lazy boy Arthur, I wonder?" asked Mrs. Carmichael; whereupon Miss Du Plessis told her story, and all joined in a hearty laugh at Mr. Lamb's fright and sudden retreat.
Mr. Errol, feeling none the worse of the previous day's splore, and still renewing his youth over the fish he and Mr. Bigglethorpe had caught, suddenly remembered and confessed: "Dear me, Mrs. Carmichael, I forgot that I had Mr. Coristine's merschaum, and his tobacco and penknife. Puir lad, what'll he dae withoot his pipe?"
"You naughty man, Mr. Errol, is it possible that you smoke?"
"Whiles, mem, whiles."
"How many pipes a day, now, Mr. Errol?"
"Oh, it depends. When I'm in smoking company, I can take a good many, eh Mr. Bigglethorpe?"
"Yesterday was a very special occaision, Mr. Errol. You called it renewing your youth, you know, and nimed the picnic a splore."
"I felt like a laddie again at the fishing, Mrs. Carmichael, just as light-hearted and happy as if I were a callant on the hills."
"And what do you generally feel like? Not an old man, I hope?"
"I'll never be a young one again, Mrs. Carmichael."
"Perfect nonsense, Mr. Errol! Don't let me hear you talk like that again."
"Hearin's obeyin'," meekly replied the minister, showing that he was making some progress in his mature wooing.
After breakfast, the company sat out on the verandah. The colonel had to smoke his morning cigar, and courteously offered his cigar case to all the gentlemen, who declined with thanks. "If it were not that I might trouble the ladies," said the minister, "I might take a draw out of poor Coristine's meerschaum." Mrs. Carmichael at once said: "Please do so, Mr. Errol; the doctor smoked, so that I am quite used to it. I like to see a good man enjoying his pipe."
"You are quite sure, Mrs. Carmichael, that it will not be offensive? I would cut off my right hand rather than be a smoking nuisance to any lady."
"Quite sure, Mr. Errol; go on and fill your pipe, unless you want me to fill it for you. I know how to do it."
So, Mr. Errol continued the splore, and smoked the Turk's head. Mr. Terry lit his dudheen, and Mr. Bigglethorpe, his briar. The Squire's head was too sore for smoking, but he said he liked the smell o' the reek. While thus engaged, a buggy drove up, and Miss Halbert and Mr. Perrowne alighted from it, while Maguffin, always watchful, took the horse round to the stable yard. The doctor had heard of Rawdon's capture, and had sent these two innocents to see that all was right at Bridesdale. Miss Halbert sat down by Miss Du Plessis, and the parson accepting one of the colonel's cigars, joined the smokers. He also regretted the absence of Coristine, a splendid fellow, he said, a perfect trump, the girl will be lucky who gets a man like that, expressions that were not calculated to make Miss Carmichael happy. Mr. Perrowne had proposed and had been accepted. He was in wild spirits, when Mr. Bigglethorpe startled the company by saying, "I've got an idear!"
"Howld on to it, Bigglethorpe, howld on; you may never get another," cried the parson.
"What is it?" asked Mrs. Carruthers, who was shooing the children away to Tryphosa.
"It's a united picnic to the likes. Who's got to sty at home?"
"I have for one," answered the Squire; "yon deevil o' a Rawdon has gien me a scunner at picnics."
"I cannot go," said his wife, "for I have him and the children to keep me."
"Paul, you must go, and Cecile also," interposed Mrs. Du Plessis; "I will attend to the wants of our patient."
"Then," spoke up the fisherman, "we shall have Mrs. Carmichael and Mr. Errol, Miss Halbert and Mr. Perrowne, the colonel and Miss Carruthers, Mr. Terry and Miss Du Plessis, and, please Mrs. Carmichael, Marjorie and me. Can ten get into one waggon?"
"O aye," replied the Squire, "the waggon'll haud nine, and Marjorie can sit on Mr. Bigglethorpe's knees. Hi, Timotheus, get oot the biggest waggon wi' three seats, quick, man!"
Once more, the mighty ham was carved into sandwiches, and others were made of sardines and marmalade. Chickens were hastily roasted, and pies and cakes, meant for dinner and tea, stowed away in baskets, with bottles of ale and cider and milk, and materials for tea-making, and a huge chunk of ice out of the ice-house, and a black bottle that Mr. Terry eyed affectionately. "This is for you old men, grandpapa," said Mrs. Carmichael to the veteran; "now, remember, none for these boys, Errol and Perrowne." Mr. Terry replied: "To be sure, ma'am," but thought in his heart, would it be him that would deprive the boys of a bit of innocent recreation at such a time. Such a looking out there was of hats and wraps, of guns and fishing tackle. The colonel was to drive in person. Mr. Terry was to be chief of the commissariat under Mrs. Carmichael. Mr. Bigglethorpe was to direct fishing operations, and bring, with the assistance of Mr. Terry, the scow and Rawdon's boat to the Encampment lake. Marjorie was wild with delight, and insisted on going with the grandfather and dear Mr Biggles. It was ten o'clock when all the preparations were concluded, and Timotheus brought round the capacious waggon. All the household assembled to see the picnic party off, and the young Carruthers lifted up their voices and wept. The whole ten got in, but there was no free rollicking Irish voice to sing:—
Wait for the waggon. And we'll all take a ride.
At the Encampment—Botany—Fishing—Matilda—The New Lake—Tillycot—Luncheon—After Recreation—New Visitors to Tillycot—Edifying Talk—Songs on the Way Home—Mr. Bigglethorpe's Departure—Uncle and Niece—Mr. Bangs and Rufus—Ladies Catch a Burglar—The Constable Secures Him—Muggins' Death—Burglars Repulsed—Rebecca Toner—The Clergy Hilarious—A Young Lady Finds a Poem.
Mr. Bigglethorpe, Mr. Terry and Marjorie, with part of the picnic material, got off the waggon at the Richards' place, and proceeded to the lake. They found the punt there, but saw no sign of the skiff. Marjorie inherited her father's love of the water, and greatly enjoyed even the slow progress made by the paddles of her boatmen in the unwieldy craft. Meanwhile, the waggon arrived as near the encampment as it was possible to get; the company descended to the blackened ground; and Mr. Perrowne found a path for the ladies up to the ruins. The horses, sedate, well-behaved animals, were unhitched, and allowed to pick about where they pleased, after which the three gentlemen carried the wraps and picnic baskets and pails to where the ladies stood, inspecting the ravages of the fire. Muggins had come with Mr. Perrowne, and sniffed about, rediscovering the treasure hole which had so nearly proved fatal to the Squire. It was agreed to go down to the water's edge, and encamp upon some green spot, near good fishing, over which the bush fire had not run. Such a place was found to the right of the caved-in tunnel, a broad patch of fine-leaved native grass, shaded by oaks and maples of second growth. There the provisions were deposited, and, the rugs being spread over the grass, the ladies sat down to await the arrival of the boat party. A good three-quarters of an hour passed before they heard the splash of the paddles, and Muggins ran barking to meet the intruders upon the sabbath stillness of the scene. While waiting, Mrs. Carmichael and Mr. Errol took a stroll in the dark woods adjoining, and brought back some floral specimens in the shape of Prince's Pines, Pyrolas, and Indian Pipes, which were deposited in the lap of the finder's daughter, with a suggestiveness that young lady felt disposed to resent. However, Marjorie's voice was heard just then, and thoughts and conversation were turned into other channels. "Where is the skiff?" asked the fisherman, but nobody could enlighten him; they simply answered that it was not there. The colonel remarked that its absence looked suspicious, and bade them be on their guard. He, accordingly, inspected the arms of the expedition, and finding them to consist of two fowling pieces, those of Messrs. Perrowne and Bigglethorpe, and two pistols borne by Mr. Terry and himself, was comforted. As the fisherman had inaugurated the picnic, it was obviously his duty to act as master of ceremonies. He proposed making two fishing parties, one off the scow, and another off a pier, which he and the gentlemen were about to build out from the shore below the picnic ground.
A large pine had been felled many years before, probably by lumbermen, and two lengths of it, each about eight feet, had been rejected as unsound. These the gentlemen, colonel included, got behind, and rolled down into the water. Mr. Perrowne and the fisherman doffed their shoes and socks, rolled up their trouser legs, and waded in to get the logs in position as sleepers. Three spars of driftwood, bleached white, were found along the bank, and were laid over the logs at right angles, and kept in their places, as were the logs, by stakes hammered into the lake bottom. Mr. Errol and Mr. Terry produced some planks, saved from the fire that devoured the stables, and laid them over the erection, making a substantial pier, that would have been the better of a few spikes to steady the boards. Mr. Bigglethorpe provided rods and lines, and baited the hooks for the ladies, with grasshoppers, frogs, crawfish and minnows. The last were provided by Marjorie. At the fisherman's suggestion, she had got from Tryphena a useless wire dish-cover that had lost its handle, a parcel of oatmeal, and a two-quart tin pail. Mr. Bigglethorpe had fastened a handle cut out of the bush to the dish cover, thus converting it into a scoop-net. Barefooted, Marjorie stood in the shallow water, scattering a little oatmeal, when up came a shoal of minnows eager for the food thus provided. At one fell swoop, the young fisherwoman netted a dozen of the shiny little creatures, and transferred them all alive to the tin pail. Mr. Errol had a great mind to join her in this exciting sport, but was not sure what Mrs. Carmichael would think of it. The possibility that he might have become Mr. Coristine's father-in-law also tended to sober the renewer of his youth. As Marjorie had practically deserted her friend for the minnows, Mr. Bigglethorpe invited her cousin to accompany him, with Miss Halbert and Mr. Perrowne, in the scow, which paddled off to try how the fishing was at the narrows. The colonel did not care to fish; it was too dirty work for him. Neither did the remaining ladies show any appetite for it; but Mr. Errol and the veteran manned the lately constructed pier, and beguiled some bass that came seeking shelter from the sun beneath it. While the gentlemen were thus engaged, the colonel lying on his back near Marjorie's fishing ground, indulging in a second cigar, the two ladies strolled away, followed by Muggins, to look for more flowers. After they had gone about a hundred yards to the right, the dog ran on before them, barking furiously. Mrs. Carmichael clutched her companion's arm and stood still. "It may be a wild beast, Cecile, or some of those terrible men. Let us go back at once." But Miss Du Plessis calmly answered, "It may be only a bird or a squirrel; dogs often make a great fuss over very little." So they stood and waited.
Muggins' barking ceased. The reason was apparent in the sound of a gentle voice they both knew, saying, "Poor Muggins, good doggie, has he come back again to his old friends?" It was the voice of Matilda Nagle, and she seemed to be alone. Taking heart, the two ladies went in its direction, and, guided by Muggins, who came back to lead them, they descended to a little bay with a sandy beach, where, in the skiff, sat the woman they sought. She was neatly dressed, and wore a large straw hat. When they greeted her, she showed no astonishment, but invited them to enter the skiff and see the pretty place she had back there. Miss Du Plessis hardly cared to accept the invitation, but the curiosity of the older lady was aroused and she pressed her companion to comply. Bringing the bow of the skiff into the shore, Matilda told them to enter the boat and walk back to the stern. When they had taken their seats, the stern was depressed, and the bow floated clear of the sand. Then, with every motion of an accomplished oarswoman, she rowed the skiff along the shore, altogether out of sight of the other picnickers in scow and on pier. After a few strokes, she told her companions to lower their heads, and, ducking her own, shot the boat through what had seemed a solid bank of foliage, but which was a naturally concealed channel, out into one of the loveliest little lakes eye ever rested upon. No fire had touched its shores, which were wooded down to the sandy margin, the bright green foliage of the hardwood in the foreground contrasting with the more sombre hues of the pines and hemlocks beyond. In little bays there were patches of white and yellow water lilies, alternating their orbed blossoms with the showy blue spikes of the Pickerel weed, and, beyond them, on the bank itself, grew many a crimson banner of the Cardinal flower. Another little bay was passed with its last rocky point, and then a clearing stood revealed, void of stump or stone or mark of fire, covered with grass and clover, save where, in the midst of a little neglected garden, stood the model of a Swiss chalet. "Do not be afraid!" said the woman, catching sight of Mrs. Carmichael's apprehensive look; "there is nobody in it or anywhere near. We are all alone; even Monty would not leave his work to come with me." Thus reassured, the party landed, gathered a few late roses and early sweet peas, and then proceeded to inspect the chalet. The whole building and everything in it was in admirable taste, even to the library smoking-room, which was only disfigured by ugly spittoons and half-burned cigars. Many books were there, chiefly on chemistry, geology and mineralogy, and there was a large cabinet full of geological specimens, betokening much research and abundant labour in their preparation and classification.
The whole thing was so unexpected, so surprising, that the picnic ladies had to rub their eyes to be sure that it was not a dream; but their astonishment was increased when the woman turned to the younger one and said, "I know you are Miss Du Plessis, for I heard you called so at Bridesdale." Miss Du Plessis answered that she was right. Then Matilda said, "This is all your land, and of course, the land carries the buildings with it. I have forgotten a great many things, but I remember that, you see. So Tillycot is yours too; besides I do not want to stay here any more. Good-bye, I am going home to Monty." At first, the two ladies were afraid she was going to take the skiff away and leave them in the house, but she did not. In spite of their entreaties, she walked quickly up the grassy slope at the back, and disappeared in the forest beyond. "Is it not wonderful?" asked Miss Du Plessis. "Come, Cecile, hasten back, or those poor people will be starving," answered the more practical Mrs. Carmichael.
On their return to the skiff, the presiding matron, while Miss Du Plessis rowed, unfolded a long piece of yellow leno she had picked up in one of the rooms. The channel was quite visible from, what may now be called, the Tillycot end, but when the passengers ducked their heads and emerged, they saw there would be difficulty in finding it from the other side. Accordingly, Mrs. Carmichael bade her companion keep the boat steady, while she stood up, and fastened the strip of gauze to two saplings, one on either side of the opening, making a landmark visible immediately the point was passed that intercepted the picnic party from their view. Rowing round this point, the two travellers appeared, to the astonishment of the fishers on punt and pier. The colonel was stretched out on the grass asleep, and Marjorie, having deserted her minnows, was tickling him about the ears with a long blade, greatly enjoying his occasional slaps at the parts affected, and his muttered anathemas on the flies.
"Oi'm thinkin', Mishtress Carrmoikle, it's gettin' toime fer the aitin' an' drhinkin', wid your lave, mum; but fwhere did yez foind the skifft?" Brief explanations followed to the veteran and Mr. Errol, who were at once put under orders, the one to light a fire and produce the tea-kettle, the other to fill two pails with clean water, and put a piece of ice in one of them. Soon the colonel and Marjorie came to help, the cloth was laid, the sandwiches, chickens, pies and cakes, placed upon it, and everything got in readiness for the home-coming of the punt. "O Aunty," said Marjorie, "this would be so lovely, if only poor Eugene were here too."
"So it would, dear," answered the sympathetic aunt and mother, "but we must try to make the best of it without him."
The kettle boiled under Mr. Terry's superintendence, the tea was infused in the little Japanese tea-pot, and the colonel, taking from his waistcoat pocket a silver whistle that had done duty for a cavalry trumpet in former days, blew a signal for the information of the punters. In a minute they arrived, bearing two grand strings of fish, only the strings that went through the gills of the bass were hazel twigs. Then there was washing of hands without soap, Mr. Bigglethorpe showing his companions how to improvise a substitute for Pears' by pulling up the pretty little water-lobelia and using the unctuous clay about its spreading roots for the purpose. All sat about the table-cloth, Mr. Perrowne said, "For what we are about to receive," and the al fresco repast began. Mrs. Carmichael dispensed the tea, and was displeased with Mr. Errol for declining a cup just then, because he was busy with a corkscrew and an ale bottle. Mr. Perrowne joined him with another; but the fisherman said ale made him bilious and his name was not William. So Mr. Terry produced his special charge, and treated the colonel first, then Mr. Bigglethorpe, and finally his honoured self. The boys, as the matron had termed the two clergymen, seemed to be happy with their beer, somewhat to his sorrow. "It takes moighty little, cornel, to shatishfy some payple, but there's aall the more av it for the risht av us."
Miss Halbert said that Basil had eaten ten sandwiches, two plates of chicken, and an extra drumstick in his hand, a whole pie, and she couldn't count the cake. There were also some empty beer bottles at his feet. He said he was perfectly ashamed of Fanny's appetite, and would have to petition the Bishop for an allowance from the mission fund, if she was going through life at the same rate.
"If we only had ouah deah boy with us, Cecile, what a pleasuhe it would be," remarked the colonel in a personal way, that caused even the stately Miss Du Plessis to blush.
"Eugene would be better than the whole lot," added Marjorie, with an injured air, and added: "If some people I know hadn't been pigs, he would have been here, too." Mrs. Carmichael called her niece to order, and told the gentlemen they might go away to their pipes and cigars, while she and the young ladies put away the things. The black bottle trio adjourned to a shady nook by the shore, and carried three tumblers and a pail of iced water with them. The bottle revealed its neck from Mr. Terry's side pocket. The colonel handed his cigar case again to Mr. Perrowne, who selected a weed, but could not be prevailed upon to fetch a tumbler. Mr. Errol also declined the latter, having the fear of Mrs. Carmichael before his eyes, but, withdrawing a short distance in his brother clergyman's company, he filled the Turk's head, and said he felt twenty years younger. All sorts of banter and pleasant talk went on between the smoking gentlemen and the working ladies. Mr. Errol distinguished himself above his brethren by bringing up water from the lake and by carrying pailfuls of dishes down to it, for which he received great commendation. Mr. Perrowne had his ears boxed twice by Miss Halbert, it was said, for cheek. Mr. Terry was called upon to deliver up his sacred charge, but demurred. When the ladies made a raid upon his party to recover it, he fled, but Marjorie caught him by the coat-tails, and the spoil was wrested from him, although not before he had poured himself out a final three fingers in his tumbler. Filling it up with ice-water, he drank to the success of the picnic, and especially to absent friends. Mr. Bigglethorpe had been so long fishing in the sun that he thought a rest would do him good. Accordingly, he lay down on his back with his hat drawn over his eyes, and composed himself to sleep. Finally, the clergymen went over to where Mrs. Carmichael was sitting with Miss Halbert and Marjorie, while Miss Du Plessis, having had a chat with Miss Carmichael, invited her uncle and the veteran to go for a row in the skiff. At first, these gentlemen were disposed to decline, but, when they learned that there was something to be seen, they changed their minds, and accompanied her and Miss Carmichael to the shore.
The colonel was entranced with the little lake, the clearing, and the chalet, as were Miss Carmichael and Mr. Terry. It was decided that a guard, in the form of a caretaker, should be put over the place as soon as possible, and it was suggested that Timotheus and Tryphena would make an ideal pair of guardians. While much of the land round about might be cleared to advantage, it was agreed that the wood around Tillycot lake should be left intact, save the breadth of a road to the main highway. Then they fell to discussing Rawdon, a man plainly of extensive reading, of scientific attainments, of taste in architecture and house-furnishing, and yet an utterly unprincipled and unscrupulous villain. "One would think," said Miss Carmichael, "that the natural beauties of a place like this would be a check upon evil passions and the baser part of one's nature." But the colonel answered, "In the wahah, Miss Cahmichael, I have seen soldiehs, even owah own soldiehs, wilfully and maliciously destyoying the most chahming spots of scenehy, without the least pohfit to themselves or matehial injuhy to the enemy. The love of destyuction is natuhal to ouah fallen human natuhe." Mr. Terry corroborated this statement, and added, "Faix, it sames to me there's jist two sarts an koinds av payple in the wurruld, thim as builds up an' thim as batthers down. For moy paart, I'd lafer build a log shanty an' clane a bit land nor pull a palish to paces." Miss Du Plessis assented, but drew attention to the fact that Rawdon had cleared, built up, and beautified the place, and improved his mind on the one hand, while he was warring against society and law, robbing and even murdering, on the other. "Mr. Errol said once," rejoined Miss Carmichael, "that there are two opposite natures, an old man and a new, in all human beings, as well as in those who are converted, and that no contradiction of the kind is too absurd for human nature." "Mistah Ehhol is quite right, my deah Miss Mahjohie, as all expehience attests. Bret Hahte has shewn it from a Califohnian standpoint. I have seen it in times of wanah and of peace, bad men, the bent of whose lives was destyuction, risking evehything to save some little memohial of a dead motheh or of a sweetheaht, and good men, the regular couhse of whose cahheah was to do good, guilty of an occasional outbuhst of vandalism."