صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small]


CHAPTER IX.- The Two Misers.

Plymouth, that these pilchards have come to be

caught, Miss Woollcombe.” a few moments we neither of us spoke, Yes," she answered me ; “ but I wasn't thinking waiting perhaps for the other to begin. Then, to of them, just then, Ensign Holbeck.” say something, and relieve our embarrassment, I I felt abashed, all the more because she spoke spoke about the fish. “What a good thing it is for so quietly, and not as if she wanted to make fun the poor people, aye, and the rich ones too, of of me. “I was thinking,” she went on, “ of this

ܙ ܕ

long, weary time that we are shut up here, however at my last visit, for my tardiness in coming to them. much we long to get abroad into God's fair country, After some other chat, by no means of so deep a outside of these walls. I do not feel as if I could get nature as that with Lucy Woollcombe, the old gentlewell unless I am able to get out; and if I feel man saidso, what must it be for those who are really ill ? Do · I suppose, Mr. Holbeck, you would not willingly you think this siege will ever come to an end, Ensign refuse a request of mine ?” Holbeck ?”

“ You know whom I must obey, Mr. Woollcombe. " Indeed I do; the malignants will get tired of our Anything not inconsistent with such obedience I will grand”—- I spoke hastily, and now stopped myself most gladly do for you." abruptly, for a deep Aush crimsoned the cheeks and “ It is not in the least a political matter," said the brow, and even the fair neck, of the pretty malignant old gentleman; “ merely a question of finance; beside whom I sat.

money, I mean. The current coin of the realm “ I beg your pardon, Miss Woollcombe ; I forgot—" is scarce with me at present, though it is difficult I began.

to know how one spends so much when there is so “ And I forgot, too, I think,” she said, almost little to be bought. Manchets are not to be purplayfully ; “ if we are to talk, I suppose we must avoid chased for either love or money; but, to be sure, the such subjects." She paused, hesitated, and then plainest bread is now beyond the price of manchets ; commenced again, with a determined look in her lovely the coarsest food costs more than the finest did before face, which I should hardly have thought natural to these troubles came. I would employ you, young it : “I think, Ensign Holbeck, I have spoken like a gentleman, if you would do me such a friendly act as coward; can we not each be brave enough to main- to consent to be employed, in negotiating for me withi tain what we believe to be true, in the presence Messrs. Greedy, at the sign of the Golden Spur, of anyone ? ”

beside Frankfort Gate.” My fair opponent,” I said, wondering much how “ Negotiating, sir? I have but little skill, I fear, the words came so readily to my lips, “I would in making a bargain ; and Messrs. Greedy are rather have your enmity even, than the friendship of cunning bankers, are they not ?" any other. Only don't be indifferent to me.”

Mr. Woollcombe laughed. “Greedy by name and She laughed a sweet, merry little laugh, that Greedy by nature, I fear," he answered. “ But that showed me she was not displeased. A very doubt- we will arrange for. I will name a price for my ful compliment, Ensign,” she said. But then she goods, and they shall either give or take it ; we need grew more serious again. · War is dreadful, is it have no trouble of bargaining in the matter.

If not ? she asked. “I cannot tell you how miserable either my health or my circumstances enabled me to go I felt when I found you searching for Mr. Collins out, I would not trespass at all upon your good the other day in his own house, and poor Mrs. nature." Collins and her daughters, so frightened, and in such “ I shall be too glad to be of use to you, sir, if you trouble."

assure me, on your word, as a gentleman, that “ You looked your reproach, Miss Woollcombe.” this is not a service a soldier of the Parliament need Did I? I am sure I felt it."

hesitate to render.” Would you have me disobey orders, and—be- Mr. Woollcombe drew himself up to his full height, shot?” I asked.

which yet was not great ; his spare figure seemed to She shuddered. “I would have you on the side quiver with dignified annoyance, and I felt ashamed of God and of the King."

of my hesitation and apparent doubt of him. “ I cannot be on the side of both," I answered her. “ I am sorry, young sir, you have formed so mean The God I want to serve is never on the side of an opinion of me. Let us not say another word on injustice."

this matter. I am not master of myself if honesty is ** My poor King!” she said plaintively; "how questioned." much I wish he had a Protestant wife, and ministers “Dear father, Mr. Holbeck has not questioned your who really represented to the people the loving heart honesty," said Lucy, interposing; "he could not. he bears his subjects. Such dreadful mistakes are But, remember, he is comparatively untried. made everywhere about him, and he has to suffer.” all our world knows you for an honourable man."

“A king should be a man, Miss Woollcombe.” She spoke the words proudly, as if she gloried in her

She looked questioningly at me for a moment ; relationship to a man of such character. I felt that then she understood my meaning, and rejoined, I these occurrences were at least bringing me closely don't expect either you or I can measure his difi- acquainted with the mind and heart of Lucy Woollculties and perplexities. It must be so bad to be combe. She turned to me and said frankly, “You tyrannised over by your ministers, and mistrusted by will do this service for my father ? ” your subjects. I would give my life, if that would Could 'I refuse her anything ? Every moment save my country and my King from further blood only increased my admiration for this beautiful girl. shed.”

Admiration? That is a small word for my feelings I could not doubt it. Lucy Woollcombe, tender, towards her, whose presence caused my pulses to sweet, delicate, was of the stuff martyrs are made of. throb, my heart to beat, my personal identity to If only she were on our side !-a second Sergeant vanish, lost in hers, whose every word, whose Gurney in this, that she fears God and knows no every glance, whose slightest tone, were of more other fear.

moment to me than aught else besides. Had We were interrupted by the entrance of her father. it not been for the expostulation of my commanding Mr. Woollcombe expressed his pleasure at seeing me officer, and the dreadful realities to which it awoke with the utmost cordiality, rebuking me playfully, as | me, I must have gone on in blind joy and ecstacy,



[ocr errors]

How I Fared at the Siege of Plymouth.


living only to love her, careless of all besides. As it would take more time than I have a right to take is, my thoughts often wander in strange reverie con- without reporting myself; besides, there is a drill to cerning her and myself. I can sometimes hear my which I must go after I have been to Messrs. parents, especially my mother and my dear sisters, Greedy.” I found it hard to refuse the tempting asking each other why Ben could not have found offer, tempting above all because it would again place some one to love in his own country—a girl of a me near Lucy Woollcombe, but I was obliged to do northern type, large, powerful, commanding, instead so. of this sweet little flower of warmer southern climes. And I shall know nothing of the success of your Above all, why not with a girl whose sympathies mission till to-morrow ?—that is, indeed, a great were on the right side ? I can even imagine how anxiety,” said Mr. Woollcombe. they think of Judith Preston, with whom I used I flushed hotly; if he suspected me of finding it to play when we were children, and wonder how it possible to wrong him, I would not do this thing at was I did not grow to be fond of her in my early all. I drew the precious parcel from my pocket and manhood as well. Our farms are adjoining, and laid it on the table, as I saidneither Mr. Preston nor my father would be adverse We had better not speak of this again, sir ; my to the match ; of that my father has even informed time, my life, belong to the cause I serve; only I me. But I hope Judith cares not for me, and will would willingly have also served a friend whom I wholly forget me now that I am away from her. honour.” But is it fate or Providence that has called me into “ Mr. Holbeck,” said Lucy Woollcombe, coming Devonshire, and shown me here the only woman, near and laying her little hand upon my arm, “you malignant or Parliamentarian, whom I could or would are as proud as a Cavalier," and she smiled. ever wed?

Her touch thrilled me pleasantly, and I looked down I answered her question as she wished, glad to at her with an answering smile. obey her will.

“I have yet to learn, Miss Woollcombe, that Indeed I shall be proud to do your father service, honesty is peculiar to a Cavalier.” Miss Woollcombe.” If the accent deepened on the She answered me by lifting the little parcel from word your, would she not forgive me ?

the table and giving it into my hand, while Mr. Mr. Woollcombe, directly I said this, went aside to Woollcombe said — an old ebony chest or cabinet, and unlocked it. When “ Forgive the impatience of an old man, Mr. Holits outer lid was down he touched a secret spring, and beck. May God speed you with the crafty misers ! drew out a small drawer from the side of the cabinet. You will come to us to-morrow at latest ?" From this drawer he abstracted something wrapped "Indeed I will.” Directly I made this promise I in soft woollen substance, and then fastening the reflected how often I had been quite differently occucabinet in all its parts securely, came over to us with pied on the morrow of any given day to what I had the little woolly roll in his hand. He sat down and expected ; I thought it best, therefore, to make some tenderly uncovered a jewel, of whose value I could reservation. • If I cannot come to you for any reason form no opinion whatever, being perfectly unaccus-to-morrow, I will at least send you word what I have tomed to such things. The shining rich dark red done." stone lay on the palm of his hand, beautiful in its " That will do,” he assented, and we all three colour at any rate, and finely cut, if I, who am no parted cordially. judge, may presume to say.

Messrs. Greedy, at the sign of the Golden Spur, This is the treasure on which I desire Messrs. beside Frankfort Gate : I knew the house perfectly, Greedy to advance me somewhat, young sir."

though I had never before been inside. Having entered " How much do you expect for it, Mr. Wooll- now, and explained in some sort my business to an combe ?”

elderly man of grave, even melancholy aspect, I was ** Not a sale, not a sale! Pray quite understand conducted, after a parley between him and his me. I shall redeem it when once the siege "-here masters, to a cellar-like room below the entrance, he paused, looked a little plaintively at me, and added, where sat in darkness, only half illumined by a single when once these troubles are overpast.'

rushlight, two old men, one on each side of a plain “How much do you consider they should advance bare deal table. The chairs they occupied were hard to you in consideration of your leaving it in their upright wooden chairs of substantial make, besides hands ?”

which two desks of plain unvarnished deal, some “ Just so, well put,” answered Lucy's father, and shelves and pigeon-holes of the same material, and a I thought Lucy smiled as if she felt pleased for her few huge iron boxes or safes, heavily clasped with the father to praise me; no one will wonder that this same metal and padlocked, were gradually seen by made me the more eager to carry the business skil. me, peering through the gloom, as my eyes became fully through. “ It should be fifty pounds at the used to the unnatural darkness of the place. very least," said the old man, after consideration. It was cold weather for this country, though not so

“ I will do my best,” I said, when I had received cold as Yorkshire at this season, for as yet we have the stone again, carefully wrapped in the wool, and not had any snow and no severe frosts, but in the placed for security in a leather bag of small dimen- cellar of these gentlemen I found my teeth almost sions, which I could easily put in my pocket, and so chattering and my body shivering. A visit to them avoid all suspicion.

would have nearly killed the delicate frame of Mr. “ After you have done your business you will come Woollcombe. here and sup with us?” said Mr. Woollcombe, as I “This is the young gentleman, sir," said the grave rose to go.

melancholy clerk, standing stately and still at one of - Pardon me, that would be to excite remark, and the deal desks. Neither of the brothers stopped their


I rose.

his wing.

pens, nor troubled themselves to look up; so far as straits which afflict the kingdom, and do most parthey appeared to have heard it the remark might have ticularly afflict us ?” been unmade. But the clerk stood still, not again “ See, brother," said Roger ; “ I beseech thee with. speaking, and in a few minutes one of the massive out further delay to amputate the superfluous part of heads was half, but not wholly, raised, from the desk our luminary." and the ledger, and the words—

It would have taken me longer to understand what * Very well, Coffin," in deep guttural tones escaped he meant by this roundabout speech, had he not the lips of the Sphynx-like head.

pointed to the candle as he spoke, and had not the In another few minutes, all which time the clerk other old man deftly nipped off the end of the rushwaited motionless and silent by the desk, precisely light with fingers that were, I shrewdly suspect, well the same thing happened on the other side. The hardened to the operation. other Sphynx-like head half lifted itself, and the lips Then they went on writing as before. But every spoke

reason business, duty, impatience, now moved me to Very well, Coffin.”

greater haste concerning my errand. Were they machines ? The clerk bowed, but “Sirs," I said, "if you cannot attend to my conneither of his masters apparently saw the courtesy, cerns, I will bid you good-day.” certainly neither of them acknowledged it. Then he Again the chuckling laugh, this time of both the left the room. I almost wished I had followed him, old men resounded through the subterranean when I had sat for what seemed quite a long while, chamber; and Roger condescended to speak to me. and yet none took the slightest cognisance of my * Youth is impatient, I well know, young sir; presence. The quills were driven along the paper, what may your business be ?” making as they went that soft squeak, which I have I stated it briefly, not mentioning any names, save sometimes thought is like a mild protest on the part that of Mr. Woollcombe, which I had arranged to of the goose for this employment of the feathers of give throughout, he being acquainted previously with

Messrs. Greedy, and I suppose known to them as a • I grew so tired, at last, of the monotonous silence man of substance. and absence of human voice or sign, that I drew from Why does he send you here, if, indeed, he sends my pocket the small leather bag, hoping thus to you ?" inquired Roger Greedy, suspiciously, while tempt one of the two old men to look my way. I had the other old man eyed me, even more narrowly than a certainty in my mind that they could see what was Roger, if that were possible. passing, and that anything of monetary value would “He is ill, unable to leave his house, and requested probably have a greater attraction for them than a me, as a friend, to do him this little service.” member of their own species.

A friend !" the words were expressive of extreme irony. I was not at a loss to account for this. My dress, though I was not in my full uniform, revealed

the occupation of a Parliamentarian officer; and if CHAPTER X.-A Strange Interricu. the bankers had any reason to know the politics of

Mr. Woollcombe, their surprise at my employment “ Moonlight walks, when all the fowls Are warmly housed, save bats and owls,

by him could not be pronounced unnatural. A midnight bell, a parting groan

" Where is the jewel ?" asked, not Roger but the These are the sounds we feed upon."

other Mr. Greedy, whom, from his being termed BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.

brother,” I concluded was the elder. ROTHER, we are guilty of an I opened the bag, and laid it in the hand of the

extravagance," said one of the old man. He, in his turn, laid it on the bare deal old men

at last,” when my desk, and moved the candle around it, so that the patience was well - nigh

feeble light might shine on every part. Leaving it hausted.

there, he, without the least preface, deliberately blew “ Not so, Roger, I hope,” re- out the candle. turned the other ; we have " What a pity! I exclaimed, involuntarily, almost surely ceased such youthful folly believing its extinguishment must have been acci

as that, in whatever shape it may dental. be presented to us.”

“A pity !" I heard echoed around me, Their voices sounded deep and hollow and it seemed as if the room had grown full of and uncanny to me, as if I were in the voices and sounds, so weird-like and even horrible, gloom of buried years, and these old men it became to me in the utter darkness. I could not were but moving spectres of the past. see my hand, though I lifted it before my eyes, I

"I am right,” returned the first could not tell where the two old misers were placed speaker, Roger Greedy ; we use dots to our i's and in regard to me. Suppose they made away with Mr. crosses to our t's, and both may be dispensed with, to Woollcombe's jewel! A cold perspiration spread itself the saving of ink."

over my frame at the thought. If they would take 1: A low chuckling sepulchral laugh was the response such pains to retain possession of a drop of ink, what which his words met. I thought at first the brother would they not do for a stone that might, for aught I ridiculed the idea of such absurd parsimony, till the knew, be worth hundreds of pounds. words followed, Good, Roger, good, my brother. I Again, was it all a conspiracy? Had Mr. Woollhave made the last dot to an i, the last cross to a t. combe been traitorous to me, and sent me here to my Canst thou not devise some other wise means of ruin? I would not, I could not think so. Lucy had husbanding our poor little resources, through the asked me to do this errand. Lucy at least could do





a pity!"


How I Fared at the Siege of Plymouth.


me no unkind act. The thought of her sweetness, I made no answer. I was annoyed at the absence her purity, her loveliness, helped me here in this of means to rid my fingers of the ink, and still more dark den, which avarice made hideous even if other that he addressed me by name. crime were separate from it. But I remembered a · People think we can get fifty pounds as easily as text that had been expounded to us by a godly when there was no war; they are mistaken." minister at Briar Grange, when I was a child, which “ Let them be,” I responded, curtly and savagely. vivid exposition had made me afraid to go to bed “ Just so," echoed Roger, chuckling again, "let for many nights after : “Men loved darkness rather them be :' a very good joke, Mr. Holbeck, but not very than light, because their deeds were evil.” The practical. Let them be,' will hardly do to take as preacher reminded us so cleverly of the sorts of men an answer to Mr. Woollcombe, will it?" who prowled in the dark, and the character of their I was yet more troubled to remember that it would deeds, that I imagined thieves and assassins were not, and I was also growing anxious about the inquiries lurking in every corner of the dear old farm; and that might possibly be made concerning my share time alone and my grandmother's tenderness could in this transaction, which, instead of occupying only soften the impression.

half an hour, as I had hoped and expected, was taking " When you have learned to take care of that which quite a long time, and a very dreary, dismal time too. is worth caring for, young sir, you will not wonder So I was silent now, because if I spoke at all, I must that we find it very necessary to study economy; we show the anger I felt, which I had no wish to do. never require a candle to talk by ; speech can be All three of us might have formed the same resoluprosecuted as satisfactorily in the dark as in the tion to be silent, so still was the cellar. light;" thus spoke a voice out of the gloom, but it " Are you meditating an escape from this edifice did little to reassure me. Then the other voice by the orifice that admits the luminous particles, asked, “How much does Mr. Woollcombe ask for on young sir ?" asked a voice then, but to which of the his stone ?"

two old men it belonged, I could not have told. It “ Fifty pounds.” I said it boldly; I had no wish took my dull brain quite a long time to reflect that to parley long with these miserable specimens of he meant by these high-flown words, simply—the humanity. If they would give it, well, if not, I would window. leave them. But I was not prepared for the laugh “I don't see any to escape by," I said, when his that penetrated every corner of that cellar, every meaning dawned upon me,

" and I am not accuscomer of my own frame, and made me shiver as if tomed to fly from any place till my business is acI vere exposed to bitter cold. Now it chuckled, now complished. But if you had any proper idea of the it burst forth loud and long, now it died away, only value of time to a military man, you would not to be renewed in its unearthly tones. But my spirits waste mine as you are doing.” rose after a few moments. I had an idea they meant " Value of time! value of time. We have no to quell me, and make me come to their terms by that knowledge of the value of time! Don't we sell time hideous ironical laughter. I would do nothing of inch by inch for gold, and don't we sell gold, carolus the kind. I had stood unflinchingly to be shot at: on carolus, for time ?" should I condescend to be conquered by two wretched “Then pray reflect how needful it is to give me an old men in a plain straightforward matter of busi- answer to take to Mr. Woollcombe, and let me go.” ness ? I strode at once to the position I imagined You may go; my brother will see Mr. Woollthe desk to occupy, and put out my hand, to grasp combe himself on this business." again the precious stone. Instead, I overturned an " Then return the stone to me," I said, very much ink bottle, as I knew by the thick moisture that disappointed at these words. enveloped my hand, and spread itself so readily over “ The stone can remain with us; it is safer here every object.

than at Mr. Woollcombe's.' Ugh! this nasty ink-bottle is upset! Be good A light seemed to flash across my mind at these enough to bring a light, and I will take Mr. Wooll- words, which served to explain in some sort what had combe's stone, and go." I said this, but I hardly happened, and the parlous treatment to which the recognised my own voice, it sounded so strangely. two old misers had subjected me. They believed

Stay, young sir ; damages must be paid before that I-a Parliamentarian officer-had not come that happens, and we must consider many things fairly by this jewel belonging to a Cavalier. They before we can assess them. The value of the bottle had kept me in a sort of durance while they sent a -the value of the ink

messenger to inquire the truth of my story. " Be quick about it then, or I may have counter “ I shall certainly not leave the stone,” I said, damages for loss of time,” I said, astonished at my firmly, “ unless I have a receipt for it, from you, to own boldness.

take to Mr. Woollcombe.” “Things of moment cannot be accomplished in a Then there was a whispered confabulation between hurry,” said one old man ; but I heard with satis- the brothers, at some distance from me, after which faction that the other was quitting the apartment, as they drew nearer again, and one saidI hoped to seek a light. This was indeed the case ; “ That is reasonable, young sir,” while the other Roger Greedy brought a candle, and carefully ex- quitted the apartment. On his return with flint and amined the amount of mischief that had been done. steel he struck a light, and in his efforts to do this, The ink had not flowed over anything save my while the sparks gleamed out into the darkness, like fingers, and in a little stream over the deal desk, from the fire-flies of which we read in the wondrous tales which it dropped lazily to the floor. Directly he was of travellers to the New World, the picture they assured of this the miser again blew out this second momentariiy half-revealed, was quaint and curious. candle, and said, “ Stand where you are, Mr. Holbeck. The old massive much-lined faces of the two and we will arrange this matter."

[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »