Infomotions, Inc.A Tale of the Luddite Riots / Henty, G. A. (George Alfred), 1832-1902



Author: Henty, G. A. (George Alfred), 1832-1902
Title: A Tale of the Luddite Riots
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): ned; mulready; porson; luke; maister ned; bill; bill swinton; mill; captain sankey; mary powlett
Contributor(s): Hare, Augustus J. C., 1834-1903 [Editor]
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Title: Through the Fray
       A Tale of the Luddite Riots

Author: G. A. Henty

Release Date: August, 2005 [EBook #8732]
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[This file was first posted on August 5, 2003]

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*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THROUGH THE FRAY ***




Produced by Martin Robb




THROUGH THE FRAY

A TALE OF THE LUDDITE RIOTS

BY G. A. HENTY



PREFACE


My Dear Lads:

The beginning of the present century, glorious as it was for British
arms abroad, was a dark time to those who lived by their daily
labor at home. The heavy taxation entailed by the war, the injury
to trade, and the enormous prices of food, all pressed heavily
upon the working classes. The invention of improved machinery, vast
as has been the increase of trade which it has brought about, at
first pressed heavily upon the hand workers, who assigned all their
distress to the new inventions. Hence a movement arose, which did
much damage and for a time threatened to be extremely formidable.
It had its ramifications through all the manufacturing districts
of England, the object being the destruction of the machinery, and
a return to the old methods of work. The troubles which occurred
in various parts of the country were known as the Luddite Riots,
and the secret body which organized them was called King or General
Lud. In the present story I have endeavored to give you an idea
of the state of things which prevailed in Yorkshire, where, among
the croppers and others employed in the woolen manufactures, was
one of the most formidable branches of the secret association. The
incidents of the murder of Mr. Horsfall and the attack upon Mr.
Cartwright's mill are strictly accurate in all their details.

In this story I have left the historical battlefields, across so
many of which I have taken you, and have endeavored to show that
there are peaceful battles to be fought and victories to be won every
jot as arduous and as difficult as those contested under arms. In
"Facing Death" my hero won such a battle. He had to fight against
external circumstances, and step by step, by perseverance, pluck,
and determination, made his way in life. In the present tale
my hero's enemy was within, and although his victory was at last
achieved the victor was well nigh worsted in the fray. We have all
such battles to fight, dear lads; may we all come unscathed and
victorious through the fray!

Yours sincerely,

G. A. Henty



CHAPTER I: A FISHING EXPEDITION


It has just struck one, and the boys are streaming out from the
schoolroom of Mr. Hathorn's academy in the little town of Marsden
in Yorkshire. Their appearance would create some astonishment in
the minds of lads of the present generation, for it was the year
1807, and their attire differed somewhat materially from that now
worn. They were for the most part dressed in breeches tight at
the knee, and buttoning up outside the close fitting jacket nearly
under the arms, so that they seemed almost devoid of waist. At the
present moment they were bareheaded; but when they went beyond the
precincts of the school they wore stiff caps, flat and very large
at the top, and with far projecting peaks.

They were not altogether a happy looking set of boys, and many of
their cheeks were stained with tears and begrimed with dirt from
the knuckles which had been used to wipe them away; for there was
in the year 1807 but one known method of instilling instruction
into the youthful mind, namely, the cane, and one of the chief
qualifications of a schoolmaster was to be able to hit hard and
sharp.

Mr. Hathorn, judged by this standard, stood very high in his
profession; his cane seemed to whiz through the air, so rapidly
and strongly did it descend, and he had the knack of finding out
tender places, and of hitting them unerringly.

Any one passing in front of the schoolhouse during the hours when
the boys were at their lessons would be almost sure to hear the
sharp cracks of the cane, followed sometimes by dead silence, when
the recipient of the blows was of a sturdy and Spartan disposition,
but more frequently by shrieks and cries.

That Hathorn's boys hated their master was almost a matter of
course. At the same time they were far from regarding him as an
exceptional monster of cruelty, for they knew from their friends
that flogging prevailed almost everywhere, and accepted it as a
necessary portion of the woes of boyhood. Indeed, in some respects,
when not smarting under the infliction, they were inclined to believe
that their lot was, in comparison with that of others, a fortunate
one; for whereas in many schools the diet was so poor and bad that
the boys were half starved, at Hathorn's if their food was simple
and coarse it was at least wholesome and abundant.

Mr. Hathorn, in fact, intended, and as he quite believed with success,
to do his duty by his boys. They were sent to him to be taught, and
he taught them through the medium then recognized as most fitting
for the purpose--the cane; while, as far as an abundance of
porridge for breakfast, and of heavy pudding at dinner, with twice
a week an allowance of meat, the boys were unstinted. He would
indeed point with pride to his pupils when their parents assembled
at the annual presentation of prizes.

"Look at them!" he would say proudly. "None of your half starved
skeletons here--well filled out and in good condition every boy
of them--no stint of porridge here. It keeps them in good health
and improves their learning; for, mark you, a plump boy feels the
cane twice as much as a skinny one; it stings, my dear sir, it
stings, and leaves its mark; whereas there is no getting at a boy
whose clothes hang like bags about him."

This was no doubt true, and the boys themselves were conscious of
it, and many had been the stern resolutions made while smarting in
agony that henceforward food should be eschewed, or taken only in
sufficient quantities to keep life together. But boys' appetites
are stronger than boys' resolutions, and in the end there was never
any marked falling off in the consumption of viands at Hathorn's.

Like other things punishment fails when administered in excess. There
was no disgrace whatever in what was common to all, for although
some of the boys of superior ability and perseverance would escape
with a smaller amount of punishment than their fellows, none could
hope to escape altogether. Thus it was only the pain that they had
to bear, and even this became to some extent deadened by repetition,
and was forgotten as soon as inflicted, save when a sudden movement
caused a sharp pain in back or leg. Once in the playground their
spirits revived, and except a few whose recent punishment incapacitated
them for a time from active exercise, the whole were soon intent
upon their games.

One only of the party wore his cap, and he after a few minutes left
the others, and went toward a door which led from the playground
into the road.

"Don't be long, Sankey; come back as soon as you can, you know we
agreed to go fishing this afternoon."

"All right, Tompkins; I will come back directly I have done my
dinner. I expect I shall have finished quite as soon as you will."

Edward Sankey, who was regarded with envy by his schoolfellows,
was the only home boarder at Hathorn's; for, as a general thing,
the master set his face against the introduction of home boarders.
They were, he considered, an element of disturbance; they carry
tales to and from the school; they cause discontent among the
other boys, and their parents are in the habit of protesting and
interfering. Not, indeed, that parents in those days considered it
in any way a hardship for their boys to suffer corporal punishment;
they had been flogged at school, and they believed that they had
learned their lessons all the better for it. Naturally the same thing
would happen to their sons. Still mothers are apt to be weak and
soft hearted, and therefore Mr. Hathorn objected to home boarders.

He had made an exception in Sankey's case; his father was of a
different type to those of the majority of his boys; he had lost
his leg at the battle of Assaye, and had been obliged to leave the
army, and having but small means beyond his pension, had settled
near the quiet little Yorkshire town as a place where he could
live more cheaply than in more bustling localities. He had, when he
first came, no acquaintances whatever in the place, and therefore
would not be given to discuss with the parents of other boys the
doings in the school. Not that Mr. Hathorn was afraid of discussion,
for he regarded his school as almost perfect of its kind. Still
it was his fixed opinion that discussion was, as a general rule,
unadvisable. Therefore, when Captain Sankey, a few weeks after taking
up his residence in the locality, made a proposal to him that his
son should attend his school as a home boarder, Mr. Hathorn acceded
to the proposition, stating frankly his objections, as a rule, to
boys of that class.

"I shall not interfere," Captain Sankey said. "Of course boys must
be thrashed, and provided that the punishment is not excessive,
and that it is justly administered, I have nothing to say against
it. Boys must be punished, and if you don't flog you have to confine
them, and in my opinion that is far worse for a boy's temper,
spirit, and health."

So Ned Sankey went to Hathorn's, and was soon a great favorite there.
Just at first he was regarded as a disobliging fellow because he
adhered strictly to a stipulation which Mr. Hathorn had made, that
he should not bring things in from the town for his school fellows.
Only once a week, on the Saturday half holiday, were the boys allowed
outside the bounds of the wall round the playground, and although
on Wednesday an old woman was allowed to come into those precincts
to sell fruit, cakes, and sweets, many articles were wanted in
the course of the week, and the boys took it much amiss for a time
that Ned refused to act as their messenger; but he was firm in his
refusals. His father had told him not to do so, and his father's
word was law to him; but when the boys saw that in all other respects
he was a thoroughly good fellow, they soon forgave him what they
considered his undue punctiliousness, and he became a prime favorite
in the school.

It is due to Mr. Hathorn to say that no fear of interference
induced him to mitigate his rule to thrash when he considered that
punishment was necessary, and that Ned received his full share of
the general discipline. He was never known to utter a cry under
punishment, for he was, as his school fellows said admiringly, as
hard as nails; and he was, moreover, of a dogged disposition which
would have enabled him, when he had once determined upon a thing,
to carry it through even if it killed him. Mr. Hathorn regarded
this quality as obstinacy, the boys as iron resolution; and while
the former did his best to conquer what he regarded as a fault, the
boys encouraged by their admiration what they viewed as a virtue.

At home Ned never spoke of his punishments; and if his father
observed a sudden movement which told of a hidden pain, and would
say cheerfully, "What! have you been getting it again, Ned?" the
boy would smile grimly and nod, but no complaint ever passed his
lips.

There was no disgrace in being flogged--it was the natural lot
of schoolboys; why should he make a fuss about it? So he held his
tongue. But Mr. Hathorn was not altogether wrong. Ned Sankey was
obstinate, but though obstinate he was by no means sulky. When he
made up his mind to do a thing he did it, whether it was to be at
the top of his class in order to please his father, or to set his
teeth like iron and let no sound issue from them as Mr. Hathorn's
cane descended on his back.

Ned Sankey was about fourteen years of age. He had a brother and
a sister, but between them and himself was a gap of four years, as
some sisters who had been born after him had died in infancy. Ned
adored his father, who was a most kind and genial man, and would
have suffered anything in silence rather than have caused him any
troubles or annoyance by complaining to him.

For his mother his feelings were altogether different. She was a
kindly and well intentioned woman, but weak and silly. On leaving
school she had gone out to join her father in India. Captain
Sankey had sailed in the same ship and, taken by her pretty face
and helpless, dependent manner, he had fallen in love with her,
knowing nothing of her real disposition, and they had been married
upon their arrival at the termination of the voyage. So loyal
was his nature that it is probable Captain Sankey never admitted
even to himself that his marriage had been a mistake; but none of
his comrades ever doubted it. His wife turned out one of the most
helpless of women. Under the plea of ill health she had at a very
early period of their marriage given up all attempt to manage the
affairs of the household, and her nerves were wholly unequal to
the strain of looking after her children. It was noticeable that
though her health was unequal to the discharge of her duties, she
was always well enough to take part in any pleasure or gayety which
might be going on; and as none of the many doctors who attended her
were able to discover any specific ailment, the general opinion
was that Mrs. Sankey's ill health was the creation of her own
imagination. This, however, was not wholly the case. She was not
strong; and although, had she made an effort, she would have been
able to look after her children like other women, she had neither
the disposition nor the training to make that effort.

Her son regarded her with the sort of pity, not unmingled with
contempt, with which young people full of life and energy are apt
to regard those who are weak and ailing without having any specific
disease or malady which would account for their condition.

"All the bothers fall upon father," he would say to himself; "and
if mother did but make up her mind she could take her share in them
well enough. There was he walking about for two hours this evening
with little Lucy in his arms, because she had fallen down and hurt
herself; and there was mother lying on the sofa reading that book
of poetry, as if nothing that happened in the house was any affair
of hers. She is very nice and very kind, but I do wish she wouldn't
leave everything for father to do. It might have been all very well
before he lost his leg, but I do think she ought to make an effort
now."

However, Mrs. Sankey made no effort, nor did her husband ever hint
that it would be better for herself as well as her family if she
did so. He accepted the situation as inevitable, and patiently,
and indeed willingly, bore her burden as well as his own.

Fortunately she had in the children's nurse an active and trustworthy
woman. Abijah Wolf was a Yorkshire woman. She had in her youth
been engaged to a lad in her native village. In a moment of drunken
folly, a short time before the day fixed for their wedding, he
had been persuaded to enlist. Abijah had waited patiently for him
twelve years. Then he had returned a sergeant, and she had married
him and followed him with his regiment, which was that in which
Captain Sankey--at that time a young ensign--served. When the
latter's first child was born at Madras there was a difficulty in
obtaining a white nurse, and Mrs. Sankey declared that she would
not trust the child to a native. Inquiries were therefore made in
the regiment, and Sergeant Wolf's wife, who had a great love for
children although childless herself, volunteered to fill the post
for a time. A few months afterward Sergeant Wolf was killed in a
fight with a marauding hill tribe. His widow, instead of returning
home and living on the little pension to which she was entitled at
his death, remained in the service of the Sankeys, who soon came
to regard her as invaluable.

She was somewhat rough in her ways and sharp with her tongue; but
even Mrs. Sankey, who was often ruffled by her brusque independence,
was conscious of her value, and knew that she should never obtain
another servant who would take the trouble of the children so entirely
off her hands. She retained, indeed, her privilege of grumbling,
and sometimes complained to her husband that Abijah's ways were
really unbearable. Still she never pressed the point, and Abijah
appeared established as a permanent fixture in the Sankeys' household.
She it was who, when, after leaving the service, Captain Sankey
was looking round for a cheap and quiet residence, had recommended
Marsden.

"There is a grand air from the hills," she said, "which will be
just the thing for the children. There's good fishing in the stream
for yourself, captain, and you can't get a quieter and cheaper place
in all England. I ought to know, for I was born upon the moorland
but six miles away from it, and should have been there now if I
hadn't followed my man to the wars."

"Where are you going, Master Ned?" she asked as the boy, having
finished his dinner, ran to the high cupboard at the end of the
passage near the kitchen to get his fishing rod.

"I am going out fishing, Abijah."

"Not by yourself, I hope?"

"No; another fellow is going with me. We are going up into the
hills."

"Don't ye go too far, Master Ned. They say the croppers are drilling
on the moors, and it were bad for ye if you fell in with them."

"They wouldn't hurt me if I did."

"I don't suppose they would," the nurse said, "but there is never
no saying. Poor fellows! they're druv well nigh out of their senses
with the bad times. What with the machines, and the low price of
labor, and the high price of bread, they are having a terrible time
of it. And no wonder that we hear of frame breaking in Nottingham,
and Lancashire, and other places. How men can be wicked enough to
make machines, to take the bread out of poor men's mouths, beats
me altogether."

"Father says the machinery will do good in the long run, Abijah
--that it will largely increase trade, and so give employment to
a great many more people than at present. But it certainly is hard
on those who have learned to work in one way to see their living
taken away from them."

"Hard!" the nurse said. "I should say it were hard. I know the
croppers, for there were a score of them in my village, and a rough,
wild lot they were. They worked hard and they drank hard, and the
girl as chose a cropper for a husband was reckoned to have made a
bad match of it; but they are determined fellows, and you will see
they won't have the bread taken out of their mouths without making
a fight for it."

"That may be," Ned said, "for every one gives them the name of a
rough lot; but I must talk to you about it another time, Abijah,
I have got to be off;" and having now found his fishing rod, his
box of bait, his paper of books, and a basket to bring home the fish
he intended to get, Ned ran off at full speed toward the school.

As Abijah Wolf had said, the croppers of the West Riding were a
rough set. Their occupation consisted in shearing or cropping the
wool on the face of cloths. They used a large pair of shears, which
were so set that one blade went under the cloth while the other
worked on its upper face, mowing the fibers and ends of the wool to
a smooth, even surface. The work was hard and required considerable
skill, and the men earned about twenty-four shillings a week, a
sum which, with bread and all other necessities of life at famine
prices, barely sufficed for the support of their families. The
introduction of power looms threatened to abolish their calling.
It was true that although these machines wove the cloth more evenly
and smoothly than the hand looms, croppers were still required to
give the necessary smoothness of face; still the tendency had been
to lower wages.

The weavers were affected even more than the croppers, for strength
and skill were not so needed to tend the power looms as to work the
hand looms. Women and boys could do the work previously performed
by men, and the tendency of wages was everywhere to fall.

For years a deep spirit of discontent had been seething among the
operatives in the cotton and woolen manufactures, and there had been
riots more or less serious in Derbyshire, Nottingham, Lancashire
and Yorkshire, which in those days were the headquarters of these
trades. Factories had been burned, employers threatened and attacked,
and the obnoxious machines smashed. It was the vain struggle of
the ignorant and badly paid people to keep down production and to
keep up wages, to maintain manual labor against the power of the
steam engine.

Hitherto factories had been rare, men working the frames in their
own homes, and utilizing the labor of their wives and families,
and the necessity of going miles away to work in the mills, where
the looms were driven by steam, added much to the discontent.

Having found his fishing appliances Ned hurried off to the school,
where his chum Tompkins was already waiting him, and the two set
out at once on their expedition.

They had four miles to walk to reach the spot where they intended
to fish. It was a quiet little stream with deep pools and many
shadows, and had its source in the heart of the moorlands. Neither
of them had ever tried it before, but they had heard it spoken
of as one of the best streams for fish in that part. On reaching
its banks the rods were put together, the hooks were baited with
worms, and a deep pool being chosen they set to work. After fishing
for some time without success they tried a pool higher up, and so
mounted higher and higher up the stream, but ever with the same
want of success.

"How could they have said that this was a good place for fish?"
Tompkins said angrily at last. "Why, by this time it would have
been hard luck if we had not caught a dozen between us where we
usually fish close to the town, and after our long walk we have
not had even a bite."

"I fancy, Tompkins," Ned said, "that we are a couple of fools.
I know it is trout that they catch in this stream, and of course,
now I think of it, trout are caught in clear water with a fly, not
with a worm. Father said the other day he would take me out some
Saturday and give me a lesson in fly fishing. How he will laugh
when I tell him we have wasted all our afternoon in trying to catch
trout with worms!"

"I don't see anything to laugh at," Tompkins grumbled. "Here we
waste a whole half holiday, and nothing to show for it, and have
got six or seven miles at least to tramp back to school."

"Well, we have had a nice walk," Ned said, "even if we are caught
in the rain. However, we may as well put up our rods and start. I
vote we try to make a straight cut home; it must be ever so much
shorter to go in a straight line than to follow all the windings
of this stream."

They had long since left the low lands, where trees and bushes
bordered the stream, and were in a lonely valley where the hills
came down close to the little stream, which sparkled among the
boulders at their feet. The slopes were covered with a crop of short
wiry grass through which the gray stone projected here and there.
Tiny rills of water made their way down the hillside to swell the
stream, and the tinge of brown which showed up wherever these found
a level sufficient to form a pool told that they had their source
in the bogs on the moorland above. Tompkins looked round him rather
disconcertedly.

"I don't know," he said. "It's a beastly long way to walk round;
but suppose we got lost in trying to make our way across the hills."

"Well, just as you like," Ned said, "I am game to walk back the
way we came or to try and make a straight cut, only mind don't you
turn round and blame me afterward. You take your choice; whichever
you vote for I am ready to do."

"My shoes are beginning to rub my heels," Tompkins said, "so I
will take the shortest way and risk it. I don't see we can go far
out of our way."

"I don't see that we can," Ned replied. "Marsden lies to the east,
so we have only to keep our backs to the sun; it won't be down for
another two hours yet, and before that we ought to be in."

By this time they had taken their rods to pieces, wound up their
lines, and were ready to start. A few minutes' sharp climbing took
them to the top of the slope. They were now upon the moor, which
stretched away with slight undulations as far as they could see.

"Now," Ned said, "we will make for that clump of rocks. They seem
to be just in the line we ought to take, and by fixing our eyes
upon them we shall go straight."

This, however, was not as easy to do as Ned had fancied; the ground
was in many places so soft and boggy that they were forced to make
considerable detours. Nevertheless the rocks served as a beacon,
and enabled them to keep the right direction; but although they made
their way at the best of their speed it was an hour after starting
before they approached the rock.

When they were within fifty yards of it a figure suddenly rose. It
was that of a boy some fifteen years of age.

"Goa back," he shouted; "dang yer, what be'est a cooming here vor?"

The two boys stopped astonished.

"We are going to Marsden," Ned replied; "but what's that to you?"

"Doan't ee moind wot it be to oi," the boy said; "oi tell ee ee
can't goa no further; yoi've got ter go back."

"We shan't go back," Ned said; "we have got as much right to go
this way as you have. This is not your land; and if it is, we ain't
hurting it."

By this time they were at the foot of the pile of rocks, and the
lad was standing some ten feet above them.

"Oi tell ee," he repeated doggedly, "yoi've got vor to go back."

The boy was so much bigger and stronger than either Ned or his
companion that the former, although indignant at this interference,
did not deem it prudent to attempt to climb the crag, so he said
to Tompkins: "Of course we ain't going back, but we had better take
a turn so as to get out of the way of this fellow."

So saying they turned to the right and prepared to scout round the
rock and continue their way; but this did not suit their obstructor.

"If ee doan't go back at oncet oi'll knock the heads off thee
shoulders."

"We can't go back," Tompkins said desperately, "we are both as
tired as we can be, and my heel is so sore that I can hardly walk.
We shouldn't get to Marsden tonight if we were to turn back."

"That's nowt to oi," the boy said. "Oi bain't a-going to let ee
pass here."

"What are we to do, Ned?" Tompkins groaned.

"Do!" Ned replied indignantly. "Why, go on, of course. Marsden
cannot be more than three miles off, and I ain't going to walk
twelve miles round to please this obstinate brute."

"But he is ever so much bigger than we are," Tompkins said doubtfully.

"Well, there are two of us," Ned said, "and two to one is fair
enough when he is as big as the two of us together."

"We are going on," he said to the boy, "and if you interfere with
us it will be the worse for you."

The boy descended leisurely from his position on the rocks.

"Oi don't want to hurt ee, but oi've got to do as oi were bid, and
if ee doan't go back oi've got to make ee. There be summat a-going
on thar," and he jerked his head behind him, "as it wouldn't be
good vor ee to see, and ye bain't a-going vor to see it."

But Ned and Tompkins were desperate now, and dropping their rods
made a rush together against him.



CHAPTER II: THE FIGHT ON THE MOOR


The lad threw himself into a position of defense as the two boys
rushed at him.

"Oi doan't want vor to hurt ee," he said again, "but if ee will
have it, why, it won't be moi vault;" and swinging his arm round,
he brought it down with such force upon the nose of Tompkins that
the latter was knocked down like a ninepin, and, once down, evinced
no intention of continuing the conflict.

In Ned, however, the lad found an opponent of a different stamp.
The latter saw at once that his opponent's far greater weight and
strength rendered it hopeless for him to trust to close fighting,
and he worked round and round him, every now and then rushing at
him and delivering a telling blow, and getting off again before
his heavy and comparatively unwieldy companion could reply.

Once or twice, indeed, the lad managed to strike him as he came in,
each time knocking him fairly off his feet; but in the fair spirit
which at that time animated English men and boys of all classes he
allowed Ned each time to regain his feet without interference.

"Thou bee'st a plucky one," he said, as Ned after his third fall
again faced him, "but thou bain't strong enough for oi."

Ned made no reply, but nerved himself for a fresh effort. The blows
he had received had been heavy, and the blood was streaming from
his face; but he had no idea of giving in, although Tompkins, in
spite of his calls and reproaches, refused to raise himself beyond
a sitting position.

"It's no good, Ned," he replied, "the brute is too big for us, and
I'd rather try to walk home all the way round than get another like
the last. My nose feels as big as my head."

Ned hardly heard what his companion said. He would have been killed
rather than yield now, and gathering all his strength he sprang at
his opponent like a tiger. Avoiding the blow which the boy aimed
at him, he leaped upon him, and flung his arms round his neck. The
sudden shock overthrew him, and with a crash both boys came to the
ground together.

Ned at once loosened his hold, and springing to his feet again,
awaited the rising of his opponent. The latter made a movement to
get up, and then fell back with a cry.

"Thou hast beaten me," he said. "Oi think moi leg be broke."

Ned saw now that as the lad had fallen his leg had been twisted
under him, and that he was unable to extricate it. In a moment he
was kneeling before the prostrate lad.

"Oh! I am sorry," he exclaimed; "but you know I didn't mean to do
it. Here, Tompkins, don't sit there like a fool, but come and help
me move him and get his leg straight."

Although the boys did this as gently as they could, a groan showed
how great was the agony.

"Where is it?" Ned asked.

"Aboove the knee somewhere," the lad said, and Ned put his hand
gently to the spot, and to his horror could feel something like
the end of a bone.

"Oh! dear, what is to be done? Here, Tompkins, either you or I must
go on to the town for help."

"It's getting dark already," Tompkins said; "the sun has set some
time. How on earth is one to find the way?"

"Well, if you like I will go," Ned said, "and you stop here with
him,"

The lad, who had been lying with closed eyes and a face of ghastly
pallor, now looked up.

"There be soom men not a quarter of a mile away; they be a-drilling,
they be, and oi was sot here to stop any one from cooming upon
em; but if so bee as thou wilt go and tell em oi has got hurt, oi
don't suppose as they will meddle with ye."

Ned saw now why the lad had opposed his going any further. Some of
the croppers were drilling on the moor, and the boy had been placed
as sentry. It wasn't a pleasant business to go up to men so engaged,
especially with the news that he had seriously injured the boy they
had placed on watch. But Ned did not hesitate a moment.

"You stop here, Tompkins, with him," he said quietly, "I will go
and fetch help. It is a risk, of course, but we can't let him lie
here."

So saying, Ned mounted the rock to get a view over the moor. No
sooner had he gained the position than he saw some thirty or forty
men walking in groups across the moor at a distance of about half
a mile. They had evidently finished their drill, and were making
their way to their homes. This at least was satisfactory. He would
no longer risk their anger by disturbing them at their illegal
practices, and had now only to fear the wrath which would be excited
when they heard what had happened to the boy.

He started at a brisk run after them, and speedily came up to the
last of the party. They were for the most part men between twenty
and thirty, rough and strongly built, and armed with billhooks and
heavy bludgeons, two or three of them carrying guns.

One of them looked round on hearing footsteps approaching, and gave
a sudden exclamation. The rest turned, and on seeing Ned, halted
with a look of savage and menacing anger on their faces.

"Who be'est, boy? dang ee, what brings ye here?"

Ned gulped down the emotion of fear excited by their threatening
appearance, and replied as calmly as he could: "I am sorry to say
that I have had a struggle with a boy over by that rock yonder.
We fell together, and he has broken his leg. He told me if I came
over in this direction I should find some one to help him."

"Broaken Bill's leg, did'st say, ye young varmint?" one of the men
exclaimed. "Oi've a good moinde to wring yer neck."

"I am very sorry," Ned said; "but I did not mean it. I and another
boy were walking back to Marsden from fishing, and he wouldn't let
us pass; it was too far to go back again, so of course we had to
try, and then there was a fight, but it was quite an accident his
breaking his leg."

"Did'st see nowt afore ye had the voight?" one of the other men
inquired.

"No," Ned replied; "we saw no one from the time we left the stream
till we met the boy who would not let us pass, and I only caught
sight of you walking this way from the top of the rock."

"If 'twere a vair voight, John, the boy bain't to be blamed, though
oi be main grieved about thy brother Bill; but we'd best go back
for him, voor on us. And moind, youngster, thee'd best keep a quiet
tongue in thy head as to whaat thou'st seen here."

"I haven't seen anything," Ned said; "but of course if you wish it
I will say nothing about it."

"It were best for ee, for if thou go'st aboot saying thou'st seen
men with guns and clubs up here on the moor, it ull be the worsest
day's work ee've ever done."

"I will say nothing about it," Ned replied, "but please come on at
once, for I am afraid the boy is in terrible pain."

Four of the men accompanied Ned back to the rock.

"Hullo, Bill! what's happened ee?" his brother asked.

"Oi've had a fight and hurted myself, and broke my leg; but it wa'nt
that chap's fault; it were a vair voight, and a right good 'un he
be. Doan't do nowt to him."

"Well, that's roight enough then," the man said, "and you two young
'uns can go whoam. Marsden lies over that way; thou wilt see it
below ye when ye gets to yon rock over there; and moind what I told
ee."

"I will," Ned said earnestly; "but do let me come up to see how he
is getting on, I shall be so anxious to know."

The man hesitated, but the lad said, "Let um coom, John, he bee a
roight good un."

"Well, if thou would'st like it, Bill, he shall coom."

"If thou coom oop to Varley and ask vor Bill Swinton, anyone will
show ee the place."

"Goodby," Ned said to the boy, "I am so sorry you have got hurt.
I will come and see you as soon as I can."

Then he and Tompkins set off toward the rock the man had pointed
out, which by this time, in the fast growing darkness, could scarce
be made out. They would indeed probably have missed it, for the
distance was fully a mile and a half; but before they had gone many
yards one of the four men passed by them on a run on his way down
to Marsden to summon the parish doctor, for a moment's examination
had sufficed to show them that the boy's injury was far too serious
to treat by themselves.

Tired as the boys were, they set off in his footsteps, and managed
to keep him in sight until they reached the spot whence Marsden
could be seen, and they could no longer mistake the way.

"Now, look here, Tompkins," Ned said as they made their way down
the hill; "don't you say a word about this affair. You haven't got
much to boast about in it, sitting there on the grass and doing
nothing to help me. I shan't say anything more about that if you
hold your tongue; but if you blab I will let all the fellows know
how you behaved."

"But they will all notice my nose directly I get in," Tompkins
said. "What am I to say?"

"Yes, there's no fear about their not noticing your nose," Ned
replied. "I don't want you to tell a lie. You can say the exact
truth. We were coming home across the moors; a boy interfered with
us, and would not let us pass; we both pitched into him, and at
last he got the worst of it, and we came home."

"But what's the harm of saying that you and he fell, and he broke
his leg?"

"A great deal of harm," Ned replied. "If it was known that a boy's leg
got broke in a fight with us it would be sure to come to Hathorn's
ears; then there would be an inquiry and a row. Like enough he
would go up to see the boy and inquire all about it. Then the men
would suppose that we had broken our words, and the next time you
and I go out on a fishing expedition there's no saying what mightn't
happen to us. They are a rough lot those moor men, and don't stick
at trifles."

"I will say nothing about it," Tompkins replied hastily; "you may
rely on that. What a lucky fellow you are to be going home! Nothing
will be said to you for being an hour late. I shall get a licking
to a certainty. How I do hate that Hathorn, to be sure!"

They now came to the point where the road separated and each hurried
on at his best speed.

"You are late tonight, Ned," the boy's father said when he entered.
"I don't like your being out after dark. I don't mind how far you
go so that you are in by sunset; but, halloo!" he broke off, as he
caught sight of the boy's face as he approached the table at which
the rest of the party were sitting at tea; "what have you been
doing to your face?"

Captain Sankey might well be surprised. One of the boy's eyes was
completely closed by a swelling which covered the whole side of
his face. His lip was badly cut, and the effect of that and the
swelling was to give his mouth the appearance of being twisted
completely on one side.

"Oh! there's nothing the matter," Ned replied cheerfully; "but I
had a fight with a boy on the moor."

"It is dreadful!--quite dreadful!" Mrs. Sankey said; "your going
on like this. It makes me feel quite faint and ill to look at you.
I wonder you don't get killed with your violent ways."

Ned made no reply but took his seat at the table, and fell to work
upon the hunches of thick brown bread and butter.

"I will tell you about it afterward, father," he said; "it really
wasn't my fault."

"I am sure I don't wish to hear the story of your quarrels and
fighting, Edward," Mrs. Sankey said; "the sight of you is quite
enough to upset my nerves and make me wretched. Of course if your
father chooses to support you in such goings on I can say nothing.
Neither he nor you seem to remember how trying such things as these
are to any one with a broken constitution like mine."

Captain Sankey, knowing from experience how useless it was to attempt
to argue with his wife when she was in this mood, continued to eat
his meal placidly. Ned seized his mug of milk and water, and took
an impatient drink of it.

"Is there anything I had better do for my face?" he asked his father
presently.

"I don't think anything you can do, Ned, will make you presentable
for the next few days. I believe that a raw beefsteak is the best
thing to put on your eye, but is not such a thing in the house, and
if there was, I don't think that I should be justified in wasting
it for such a purpose. I should say the next best thing would be to
keep a cloth soaked in cold water on your face; that will probably
take down the swelling to some extent."

After tea Ned repaired to the kitchen, where Abijah, with much
scolding and some commiseration, applied a wet cloth to his face,
and fastened a handkerchief over it to keep it in its place. Then
the boy went into the little room which his father called his
study, where he used to read the papers, to follow the doings of
the British armies in the field, and above all to smoke his pipe
in quiet. He laughed as Ned entered.

"You look like a wounded hero, indeed, Ned. Now sit down, my boy,
and tell me about this business; not, you know, that I have any
objection to your fighting when it's necessary. My experience is
that it is the nature of boys to fight, and it is no use trying
to alter boys' nature. As I have always told you, don't get into
a fight if you can help it; but, if you once begin, fight it out
like a man."

"Well, I couldn't help it this time, father, and I will tell you
all about it. I promised not to tell; but what was meant by that
was that I should not tell any one who would do anything about it;
and as I know you won't, why, of course I can tell you."

"I don't know what you mean in the least, Ned; a promise, whatever
it is about, is a promise."

"I know, father, but all that was meant in my case was that I would
say nothing which would cause injury to those to whom I promised;
and it will do them no injury whatever by telling you in confidence.
Besides, it is probable you may learn about it in some other way;
because, unfortunately, I broke the other fellow's leg very badly,
and there is no saying what may come of it, so I think you ought
to know all the circumstances."

"Very well, Ned," his father said quietly; "this seems to be a
serious business. Go on, my boy."

Ned related the whole circumstances, his father saying no word
until he had finished.

"You have been in no way to blame in the matter, nor could you have
acted otherwise. The breaking of the boy's leg is unfortunate, but
it was a pure accident, and even the boy's friends did not blame
you in the matter. As to the illegal drilling, that is no new thing;
it has been known to be going on for many months, and, indeed, in
some places for years. The authorities take but little notice of
it. An outbreak of these poor fellows would, indeed, constitute a
considerable local danger. Mills might be burned down, and possibly
some obnoxious masters killed, but a few troops of dragoons, or
half a regiment of light infantry, would scatter them like chaff.

"The Irish rebellion thirteen years ago was a vastly more formidable
affair. There it may be said that the whole country was in arms,
and the element of religious fanaticism came into play; but in
spite of that the resistance which they opposed to the troops was
absolutely contemptible; however, it is just as well that you did
not see them drill, because now, if by any chance this lad should
die, and inquiry were made about it, there would be no occasion
for you to allude to the subject at all. You would be able to say
truthfully that finding that he was hurt, you went off, and happened
to come upon four men on the moor and brought them to his assistance."

"I promised to go up to see the boy, father. I suppose that there
is no harm?"

"None at all, Ned, it is only natural that you should entertain
the wish; in fact you have injured him seriously, and we must do
all in our power to alleviate his pain. I will go in the morning
and see Dr. Green. I shall, of course, tell him that the boy was
hurt in a tussle with you, and that you are very sorry about it.
The fact that he is some two years older, as you say, and ever so
much stronger and bigger, is in itself a proof that you were not
likely to have wantonly provoked a fight with him. I shall ask the
doctor if there is anything in the way of food and comforts I can
send up for him."

Accordingly, the next morning, the first thing after breakfast,
Captain Sankey went out and called upon the doctor. Ned awaited
his return anxiously.

"The doctor says it's a bad fracture, Ned, a very bad fracture,
and the boy must have had his leg curiously twisted under him for
the bone to have snapped in such a way. He questions whether it
will be possible to save the leg; indeed, he would have taken it
off last night, but the boy said he would rather die, and the men
were all against it. By the help of half a dozen men he got the
bones into their places again, and has bandaged the leg up with
splints; but he is very doubtful what will come of it."

Ned was crying now.

"I would give anything if it hadn't happened, father, and he really
seemed a nice fellow. He said over and over again he didn't want
to hurt us, and I am sure he didn't, only he thought he oughtn't
to let us pass, and as we would go on he had to stop us."

"Well, it can't be helped, Ned," his father said kindly. "It is
very natural that you should be grieved about it; but you see it
really was an accident; there was nothing willful or intentional
about it, and you must not take it to heart more than you can help."

But Ned did take it to heart, and for the next fortnight was very
miserable. The doctor's reports during that time were not hopeful.
Fever had set in, and for some days the boy was delirious, and
there was no saying how it would turn out. At the end of that time
the bulletins became somewhat more hopeful. The lad was quiet now
from the complete exhaustion of his strength. He might rally or he
might not; his leg was going on favorably. No bad symptom had set
in, and it was now purely a question of strength and constitution
whether he would pull through it.

Mrs. Sankey had been kept in entire ignorance of the whole matter.
She had once or twice expressed a languid surprise at Ned's altered
manner and extreme quietness; but her interest was not sufficient
for her to inquire whether there were any reasons for this change.
Abijah had been taken into Captain Sankey's counsels, and as soon
as the fever had abated, and the doctor pronounced that the most
nourishing food was now requisite, she set to work to prepare
the strongest broths and jellies she could make, and these, with
bottles of port wine, were taken by her every evening to the doctor,
who carried them up in his gig on his visits to his patient in the
morning. On the third Saturday the doctor told Ned that he considered
that the boy had fairly turned the corner and was on the road
to recovery, and that he might now go up and see him. His friends
had expressed their warm gratitude for the supplies which had been
sent up, and clearly cherished no animosity against Ned. The boy
had been informed of the extreme anxiety of his young antagonist
as to his condition, and had nodded feebly when asked if he would
see Ned should he call upon him. It was therefore without any
feeling of trepidation as to his reception that Ned on the Saturday
afternoon entered Varley.

Varley was a scattered village lying at the very edge of the moor.
The houses were built just where the valley began to dip down from
the uplands, the depression being deep enough to shelter them from
the winds which swept across the moor. Some of those which stood
lowest were surrounded by a few stumpy fruit trees in the gardens,
but the majority stood bleak and bare. From most of the houses the
sound of the shuttle told that hand weaving was carried on within,
and when the weather was warm women sat at the doors with their
spinning wheels. The younger men for the most part worked as croppers
in the factories in Marsden.

In good times Varley had been a flourishing village, that is to say
its inhabitants had earned good wages; but no one passing through
the bare and dreary village would have imagined that it had ever
seen good days, for the greater proportion of the earnings had gone
in drink, and the Varley men had a bad name even in a country and
at a time when heavy drinking was the rule rather than the exception.
But whatever good times it may have had they were gone now. Wages
had fallen greatly and the prices of food risen enormously, and
the wolf was at the door of every cottage. No wonder the men became
desperate, and believing that all their sufferings arose from the
introduction of the new machinery, had bound themselves to destroy
it whatever happened.

A woman of whom he inquired for John Swinton's cottage told him
that it was the last on the left. Although he told himself that he
had nothing to be afraid of, it needed all Ned's determination to
nerve himself to tap at the door of the low thatched cottage. A
young woman opened it.

"If you please," Ned said, "I have come to see Bill; the doctor
said he would see me. It was I who hurt him, but indeed I didn't
mean to do it."

"A noice bizness yoi've made of it atween ee," the woman said, but
in a not unkind voice. "Who'd ha' thought as Bill would ha' got
hurted by such a little un as thou be'st; but coom in, he will be
main glad to see ee, and thy feyther ha' been very good in sending
up all sorts o' things for him. He's been very nigh agooing whoam,
but I believe them things kept un from it."

The cottage contained but two rooms. In a corner of the living
room, into which Ned followed the woman, Bill Swinton lay upon a
bed which Captain Sankey had sent up. Ned would not have known him
again, and could scarce believe that the thin, feeble figure was
the sturdy, strong built boy with whom he had struggled on the
moor. His eyes filled with tears as he went up to the bedside.

"I am so sorry!" he said; "I have grieved so all the time you have
been ill."

"It's all roight, young un," the boy said in a low voice, "thar's
no call vor to fret. It warn't thy fault; thou couldn't not tell
why oi would not let ee pass, and ye were roight enough to foight
rather than to toorn back. I doan't blame ee nohow, and thou stoodst
up well agin me. Oi doan't bear no malice vor a fair foight, not
loikely. Thy feyther has been roight good to oi, and the things he
sends oi up has done oi a power o' good. Oi hoap as how they will
let oi eat afore long; oi feels as if oi could hearty, but the
doctor he woin't let oi."

"I hope in a few days he will let you," Ned said, "and then I am
sure father will send you up some nice things. I have brought you
up some of my books for you to look at the pictures."

The boy looked pleased.

"Oi shall like that," Bill said; "but oi shan't know what they be
about."

"But I will come up every Saturday if you will let me, and tell
you the stories all about them."

"Willee now? That will be main koinde o' ye."

"I don't think you are strong enough to listen today," Ned said,
seeing how feebly the boy spoke; "but I hope by next Saturday you
will be much stronger. And now I will say goodby, for the doctor
said that I must not talk too long."

So saying Ned left the cottage and made his way back to Marsden in
better spirits than he had been for the last three weeks.

From that time Ned went up regularly for some weeks every Saturday
to see Bill Swinton, to the great disgust of his schoolfellows, who
could not imagine why he refused to join in their walks or games
on those days; but he was well repaid by the pleasure which his
visits afforded. The days passed very drearily to the sick boy,
accustomed as he was to a life spent entirely in the open air, and
he looked forward with eager longing to Ned's visits.

On the occasion of the second visit he was strong enough to sit
up in bed, and Ned was pleased to hear that his voice was heartier
and stronger. He listened with delight as Ned read through the
books he had brought him from end to end, often stopping him to ask
questions as to the many matters beyond his understanding, and the
conversations on these points were often so long that the continuance
of the reading had to be postponed until the next visit. To Bill
everything he heard was wonderful. Hitherto his world had ended at
Marsden, and the accounts of voyages and travels in strange lands
were full of surprise and interest to him. Especially he loved to
talk to Ned of India, where the boy had lived up to the time when
his father had received his wound, and Ned's account of the appearance
and manners of the people there were even more interesting to him
than books.

At the end of two months after Ned's first visit Bill was able
to walk about with a stick, and Ned now discontinued his regular
visits; but whenever he had a Saturday on which there was no
particular engagement he would go for a chat with Bill, for a strong
friendship had now sprung up between the lads.

On Ned's side the feeling consisted partly of regret for the pain
and injury he had inflicted upon his companion, partly in real liking
for the honesty and fearlessness which marked the boy's character.
On Bill's side the feeling was one of intense gratitude for the
kindness and attention which Ned had paid him, for his giving up
his play hours to his amusement, and the pains which he had taken
to lighten the dreary time of his confinement. Added to this there
was a deep admiration for the superior knowledge of his friend.

"There was nothing," he often said to himself, "as oi wouldn't do
for that young un."



CHAPTER III: A CROPPER VILLAGE


Bad as were times in Varley, the two public houses, one of which
stood at either end of the village, were for the most part well
filled of an evening; but this, as the landlords knew to their
cost, was the result rather of habit than of thirst. The orders
given were few and far between, and the mugs stood empty on the
table for a long time before being refilled. In point of numbers the
patrons of the "Brown Cow" and the "Spotted Dog" were not unequal;
but the "Dog" did a larger trade than its rival, for it was the
resort of the younger men, while the "Cow" was the meeting place of
the elders. A man who had neither wife nor child to support could
manage even in these hard times to pay for his quart or two of
liquor of an evening; but a pint mug was the utmost that those who
had other mouths than their own to fill could afford.

Fortunately tobacco, although dear enough if purchased in the towns,
cost comparatively little upon the moors, for scarce a week passed
but some lugger ran in at night to some little bay among the cliffs
on the eastern shore, and for the most part landed her bales and
kegs in spite of the vigilance of the coast guard. So there were
plenty of places scattered all over the moorland where tobacco
could be bought cheap, and where when the right signal was given
a noggin of spirits could be had from the keg which was lying
concealed in the wood stack or rubbish heap. What drunkenness there
was on the moors profited his majesty's excise but little.

The evenings at the "Cow" were not lively. The men smoked their
long pipes and sipped their beer slowly, and sometimes for half an
hour no one spoke; but it was as good as conversation, for every
one knew what the rest were thinking of--the bad times, but no one
had anything new to say about them. They were not brilliant, these
sturdy Yorkshiremen. They suffered patiently and uncomplainingly,
because they did not see that any effort of theirs could alter the
state of things. They accepted the fact that the high prices were
due to the war, but why the war was always going on was more than
any of them knew. It gave them a vague satisfaction when they heard
that a British victory had been won; and when money had been more
plentiful, the occasion had been a good excuse for an extra bout
of drinking, for most of them were croppers, and had in their time
been as rough and as wild as the younger men were now; but they
had learned a certain amount of wisdom, and shook their heads over
the talk and doings of the younger men who met at the "Dog."

Here there was neither quiet nor resignation, but fiery talk and
stern determination; it was a settled thing here that the machines
were responsible for the bad times. The fact that such times
prevailed over the whole country in no way affected their opinion.
It was not for them to deny that there was a war, that food was
dear, and taxation heavy. These things might be; but the effect of
the machinery came straight home to them, and they were convinced
that if they did but hold together and wreck the machines prosperity
would return to Varley.

The organization for resistance was extensive. There were branches
in every village in West Yorkshire, Lancashire, Nottingham, and
Derby--all acting with a common purpose. The members were bound
by terrible oaths upon joining the society to be true to its objects,
to abstain on pain of death from any word which might betray its
secrets, and to carry into execution its orders, even if these
should involve the slaying of a near relation proved to have turned
traitor to the society.

Hitherto no very marked success had attended its doings. There
had been isolated riots in many places; mills had been burned, and
machinery broken. But the members looked forward to better things.
So far their only successes had been obtained by threats rather
than deeds, for many manufacturers had been deterred from adopting
the new machinery by the receipt of threatening letters signed "King
Lud," saying that their factories would be burned and themselves
shot should they venture upon altering their machinery.

The organ of communication between the members of the society at
Varley and those in other villages was the blacksmith, or as he
preferred to be called, the minister, John Stukeley, who on weekdays
worked at the forge next door to the "Spotted Dog," and on Sundays
held services in "Little Bethel"--a tiny meeting house standing
back from the road.

Had John Stukeley been busier during the week he would have had
less time to devote to the cause of "King Lud;" but for many hours
a day his fire was banked up, for except to make repairs in any of
the frames which had got out of order, or to put on a shoe which a
horse had cast on his way up the hill from Marsden, there was but
little employment for him.

The man was not a Yorkshireman by birth, but came from Liverpool,
and his small, spare figure contrasted strongly with those of the
tall, square built Yorkshiremen, among whom he lived.

He was a good workman, but his nervous irritability, his self
assertion, and impatience of orders had lost him so many places that
he had finally determined to become his own master, and, coming
into a few pounds at the death of his father, had wandered away
from the great towns, until finding in Varley a village without
a smith, he had established himself there, and having adopted the
grievances of the men as his own, had speedily become a leading
figure among them.

A short time after his arrival the old man who had officiated at
Little Bethel had died, and Stukeley, who had from the first taken
a prominent part in the service, and who possessed the faculty of
fluent speech to a degree rare among the Yorkshiremen, was installed
as his successor, and soon filled Little Bethel as it had never
been filled before. In his predecessor's time, small as the meeting
house was, it had been comparatively empty; two or three men, half
a dozen women, and their children being the only attendants, but
it was now filled to crowding.

Stukeley's religion was political; his prayers and discourses related
to the position of affairs in Varley rather than to Christianity.
They were a downtrodden people whom he implored to burst the bonds
of their Egyptian taskmasters. The strength he prayed for was the
strength to struggle and to fight. The enemy he denounced was the
capitalist rather than the devil.

Up to that time "King Lud" had but few followers in Varley; but
the fiery discourses in Little Bethel roused among the younger
men a passionate desire to right their alleged wrongs, and to take
vengeance upon those denounced as their oppressors, so the society
recruited its numbers fast. Stukeley was appointed the local secretary,
partly because he was the leading spirit, partly because he alone
among its members was able to write, and under his vigorous impulsion
Varley became one of the leading centers of the organization in
West Yorkshire.

It was on a Saturday evening soon after Bill Swinton had become
convalescent. The parlor of the "Brown Cow" was filled with its
usual gathering; a peat fire glowed upon the hearth, and two tallow
candles burned somewhat faintly in the dense smoke. Mugs of beer
stood on the tables, but they were seldom applied to the lips
of the smokers, for they had to do service without being refilled
through the long evening. The silence was broken only by the short
puffs at the pipes. All were thinking over the usual topic, when
old Gideon Jones unexpectedly led their ideas into another channel.

"Oive heern," he said slowly, taking his pipe from his mouth, "as
how Nance Wilson's little gal is wuss."

"Ay, indeed!"

"So oi've heern;"

"Be she now?" and various other exclamations arose from the smokers.

Gideon was pleased with the effect he had produced, and a few
minutes later continued the subject.

"It be the empty coopbud more nor illness, I expect."

There was another chorus of assent, and a still heartier one when
he wound up the subject: "These be hard toimes surely."

Thinking that he had now done sufficient to vindicate his standing
as one of the original thinkers of the village, Gideon relapsed
into silence and smoked away gravely, with his eyes fixed on the
fire, in the post of honor on one side of which was his regular
seat. The subject, however, was too valuable to be allowed to drop
altogether, and Luke Marner brought it into prominence again by
remarking:

"They tell oi as how Nance has asked Bet Collins to watch by the
rood soide to catch doctor as he droives whoam. He went out this
arternoon to Retlow."

"Oi doubt he woant do she much good; it be food, and not doctor's
stuff as the child needs," another remarked.

"That be so, surely," went up in a general chorus, and then a
newcomer who had just entered the room said:

"Oi ha' joost coom vrom Nance's and Bill Swinton ha' sent in a
basin o' soup as he got vrom the feyther o' that boy as broke his
leg. Nance war a feeding the child wi' it, and maybe it will do
her good. He ha' been moighty koind to Bill, that chap hav."

"He ha' been that," Gideon said, after the chorus of approval had
died away.

"Oi seed t' young un today a-sitting in front o' th' cottage,
a-talking and laughing wi' Bill."

"They be good uns, feyther and son, though they tells oi as neither
on them bain't Yaarkshire."

The general feeling among the company was evidently one of surprise
that any good thing should be found outside Yorkshire. But further
talk on the subject was interrupted by a slight exclamation at the
door.

"O what a smoke, feyther! I can't see you, but I suppose you're
somewhere here. You're wanted at home."

Although the speaker was visible to but few in the room there
was no doubt as to her identity, or as to the person addressed as
feyther. Mary Powlett was indeed the niece and not the daughter of
Luke Marner, but as he had brought her up from childhood she looked
upon him as her father. It was her accent and the tone of her voice
which rendered it unnecessary for any of those present to see her
face.

Luke was a bachelor when the child had arrived fifteen years before
in the carrier's cart from Marsden, having made the journey in a
similar conveyance to that town from Sheffield, where her father
and mother had died within a week of each other, the last request
of her mother being that little Polly should be sent off to the
care of Luke Marner at Varley.

Luke had not then settled down into the position of one of the
elders of the village, and he had been somewhat embarrassed by the
arrival of the three year old girl. He decided promptly, however,
upon quitting the lodgings which he had as a single man occupied
and taking a cottage by himself. His neighbors urged upon him that
so small a child could not remain alone all day while he was away
at Marsden at work--a proposition to which he assented; but to
the surprise of every one, instead of placing her during the day
under the care of one of the women of the place, he took her down
with him to Marsden and placed her under the care of a respectable
woman there who had children of her own.

Starting at five every morning from his cottage with Polly perched
on his shoulder he tramped down to the town, leaving her there
before going to work, and calling for her in the evening. A year
later he married, and the village supposed that Polly would now
be left behind. But they were mistaken. When he became engaged he
had said:

"Now, Loiza, there's one point as oi wish settled. As oi have told
ye, oi ha' partly chosen ye becos oi knowed as how ye would maake
a good mother to my little Polly; but oi doan't mean to give up
taking her down with me o' days to the town. Oi likes to ha' her
wi' me on the roade--it makes it shorter like. As thou knowest
thyself, oi ha' bin a chaanged man sin she coom. There warn't
a cropper in the village drank harder nor oi, but oi maad oop moi
moind when she came to gi' it up, and oi have gi'd it up."

"I know, Luke," the girl said, "I wouldna have had ye, hadn't ye
doon so, as I told ye two years agone. I know the child ha' done
it, and I loves her for it, and will be a good mother to her."

"Oi knows you will, Loiza, and oi bain't feared as ye'll be jealous
if so be as ye've children o' your own. Oi shan't love 'em a bit
the less coss oi loves little Polly. She be just the image o' what
moi sister Jane was when she war a little thing and oi used to
take care o' her. Mother she didn't belong to this village, and the
rough ways of the men and the drink frightened her. She war quiet
and tidy and neat in her ways, and Jane took arter her, and glad
she was when the time came to marry and get away from Varley. Oi be
roight sure if she knows owt what's going on down here, she would
be glad to know as her child ain't bein' brought oop in Varley ways.
I ha' arranged wi' the woman where she gets her meals for her to
go to school wi' her own children. Dost thee object to that, lass?
--if so, say so noo afore it's too late, but doon't thraw it in
moi face arterwards. Ef thou'st children they shalt go to school
too. Oi don't want to do more for Polly nor oi'd do for moi own."

"I ha' no objection, Luke. I remembers your sister, how pretty and
quiet she wor; and thou shalt do what you likest wi' Polly, wi'out
no grumble from me."

Eliza Marner kept the promise she had made before marriage
faithfully. If she ever felt in her heart any jealousy as she saw
Polly growing up a pretty bright little maiden, as different to
the usual child product of Varley as could well be, she was wise
enough never to express her thoughts, and behaved with motherly
kindness to her in the evening hours spent at home. She would
perhaps have felt the task a harder one had her own elder children
been girls; but three boys came first, and a girl was not born until
she had been married eleven years. Polly, who was now fourteen,
had just come home from her schooling at Marsden for good, and
was about to go out into service there. But after the birth of
her little girl Mrs. Marner, who had never for a Varley girl been
strong, faded rapidly away; and Polly's stay at home, intended at
first to last but a few weeks, until its mother was about again,
extended into months.

The failing woman reaped now the benefit of Polly's training.
Her gentle, quiet way, her soft voice, her neatness and tidiness,
made her an excellent nurse, and she devoted herself to cheer and
brighten the sickroom of the woman who had made so kind an adopted
mother to her. Her influence kept even the rough boys quiet; and
all Varley, which had at first been unanimous in its condemnation
of the manner in which Luke Marner was bringing up that "gal" of
his, just as if the place was not good enough for her, were now
forced to confess that the experiment had turned out well.

"Polly, my dear," the sick woman said to her one afternoon when
the girl had been reading to her for some time, and was now busy
mending some of the boys' clothes, while baby, nearly a year old,
was gravely amusing herself with a battered doll upon the floor, "I
used to think, though I never said so, as your feyther war making
a mistake in bringing you up different to other gals here; but
I see as he was right. There ain't one of them as would have been
content to give up all their time and thoughts to a sick woman
as thou hast done. There ain't a house in the village as tidy and
comfortable as this, and the boys mind you as they never minded me.
When I am gone Luke will miss me, but thar won't be no difference
in his comfort, and I know thou'lt look arter baby and be a mother
to her. I don't suppose as thou wilt stay here long; thou art over
fifteen now, and the lads will not be long afore they begin to
come a-coorting of thee. But doan't ee marry in Varley, Polly. My
Luke's been a good husband to me. But thou know'st what the most of
them be--they may do for Varley bred gals, but not for the like
of thee. And when thou goest take baby wi' thee and bring her up
like thysel till she be old enough to coom back and look arter Luke
and the house."

Polly was crying quietly while the dying woman was speaking. The
doctor, on leaving that morning, had told her that he could do no
more and that Mrs. Marner was sinking rapidly. Kneeling now beside
the bed she promised to do all that her adopted mother asked her,
adding, "and I shall never, never leave feyther as long as he
lives."

The woman smiled faintly.

"Many a girl ha' said that afore now, Polly, and ha' changed her
moind when the roight man asked her. Don't ee make any promises
that away, lass. 'Tis natural that, when a lassie's time comes,
she should wed; and if Luke feels loanly here, why he's got it in
his power to get another to keep house for him. He be but a little
over forty now; and as he ha' lived steady and kept hisself away
from drink, he be a yoonger man now nor many a one ten year yoonger.
Don't ye think to go to sacrifice your loife to hissen. And now,
child, read me that chapter over agin, and then I think I could
sleep a bit."

Before morning Eliza Marner had passed away, and Polly became the
head of her uncle's house. Two years had passed, and so far Mary
Powlett showed no signs of leaving the house, which, even the many
women in the village, who envied her for her prettiness and neatness
and disliked her for what they called her airs, acknowledged that
she managed well. But it was not from lack of suitors. There were
at least half a dozen stalwart young croppers who would gladly have
paid court to her had there been the smallest sign on her part of
willingness to accept their attentions; but Polly, though bright
and cheerful and pleasant to all, afforded to none of them an
opportunity for anything approaching intimacy.

On Sundays, the times alone when their occupations enabled the
youth of Varley to devote themselves to attentions to the maidens
they favored, Mary Powlett was not to be found at home after
breakfast, for, having set everything in readiness for dinner,
she always started for Marsden, taking little Susan with her, and
there spent the day with the woman who had even more than Eliza
Marner been her mother. She had, a month after his wife's death,
fought a battle with Luke and conquered. The latter had, in pursuance
of the plans he had originally drawn up for her, proposed that she
should go into service at Marsden.

"Oi shall miss thee sorely, Polly," he said; "and oi doan't disguise
it from thee, vor the last year, lass, thou hast been the light o'
this house, and oi couldna have spared ye. But oi ha' always fixed
that thou shouldst go into service at Marsden--Varley is not fit
vor the likes o' ye. We be a rough lot here, and a drunken; and
though oi shall miss thee sorely for awhile, oi must larn to do
wi'out thee."

Polly heard him in silence, and then positively refused to go.

"You have been all to me, feyther, since I was a child, and I am
not going to leave you now. I don't say that Varley is altogether
nice, but I shall be very happy here with you and the boys and dear
little Susan, and I am not going to leave, and so--there!"

Luke knew well how great would be the void which her absence would
make, but he still struggled to carry out his plans.

"But, Polly, oi should na loike to see thee marry here, and thy
mother would never ha' loiked it, and thou wilt no chance of seeing
other men here."

"Why, I am only sixteen, feyther, and we need not talk of my
marriage for years and years yet, and I promise you I shan't think
of marrying in Varley when the time comes; but there is one thing
I should like, and that is to spend Sundays, say once a fortnight,
down with Mrs. Mason; they were so quiet and still there, and I did
like so much going to the church; and I hate that Little Bethel,
especially since that horrible man came there; he is a disgrace,
feyther, and you will see that mischief will come out of his talk."

"Oi don't like him myself, Polly, and maybe me and the boys will
sometoimes come down to the church thou art so fond of. However, if
thou wilt agree to go down every Sunday to Mrs. Mason, thou shalt
stay here for a bit till oi see what can best be done."

And so it was settled, and Polly went off every Sunday morning,
and Luke went down of an evening to fetch her back.

"Well, what is't, lass?" he asked as he joined her outside the
"Brown Cow."

"George has scalded his leg badly, feyther. I was just putting Susan
to bed, and he took the kettle off the fire to pour some water in
the teapot, when Dick pushed him, or something, and the boiling
water went over his leg."

"Oi'll give that Dick a hiding," Luke said wrathfully as he hastened
along by her side. "Why didn't ye send him here to tell me instead
of cooming thyself?"

"It was only an accident, feyther, and Dick was so frightened when
he saw what had happened and heard George cry out that he ran out
at once. I have put some flour on George's leg; but I think the
doctor ought to see him, that's why I came for you."

"It's no use moi goaing voor him now, lass, he be expected along
here every minute. Jack Wilson, he be on the lookout by the roadside
vor to stop him to ask him to see Nance, who be taken main bad. I
will see him and ask him to send doctor to oor house when he comes,
and tell Jarge I will be oop in a minute."

Upon the doctor's arrival he pronounced the scald to be a serious
one, and Dick, who had been found sobbing outside the cottage, and
had been cuffed by his father, was sent down with the doctor into
the town to bring up some lint to envelop the leg. The doctor had
already paid his visit to Nance Wilson, and had rated her father
soundly for not procuring better food for her.

"It's all nonsense your saying the times are bad," he said in
reply to the man's excuses. "I know the times are bad; but you know
as well as I do that half your wages go to the public house; your
family are starving while you are squandering money in drink. That
child is sinking from pure want of food, and I doubt if she would
not be gone now if it hadn't have been for that soup your wife
tells me Bill Swinton sent in to her. I tell you, if she dies you
will be as much her murderer as if you had chopped her down with
a hatchet."

The plain speaking of the doctor was the terror of his parish
patients, who nevertheless respected him for the honest truths he
told them. He himself used to say that his plain speaking saved him
a world of trouble, for that his patients took good care never to
send for him except when he was really wanted.

The next day Mary Powlett was unable to go off as usual to Marsden
as George was in great pain from his scald. She went down to church,
however, in the evening with her father, Bill Swinton taking her
place by the bedside of the boy.

"Thou hast been a-sitting by moi bedside hours every day, Polly,"
he said, "and it's moi turn now to take thy place here. Jack ha'
brought over all moi books, for oi couldn't make shift to carry
them and use moi crutches, and oi'll explain all the pictures to
Jarge jest as Maister Ned explained 'em to oi."

The sight of the pictures reconciled George to Polly's departure,
and seeing the lad was amused and comfortable, she started with
Luke, Dick taking his place near the bed, where he could also enjoy
a look at the pictures.

"Did you notice that pretty girl with the sweet voice in the aisle
in a line with us, father," Ned asked that evening, "with a great,
strong, quiet looking man by the side of her?"

"Yes, lad, the sweetness of her singing attracted my attention,
and I thought what a bright, pretty face it was!"

"That's Mary Powlett and her uncle. You have heard me speak of her
as the girl who was so kind in nursing Bill."

"Indeed, Ned! I should scarcely have expected to find so quiet and
tidy looking a girl at Varley, still less to meet her with a male
relation in church."

"She lives at Varley, but she can hardly be called a Varley girl,"
Ned said. "Bill was telling me about her. Her uncle had her brought
up down here. She used to go back to sleep at night, but otherwise
all her time was spent here. It seems her mother never liked the
place, and married away from it, and when she and her husband died
and the child came back to live with her uncle he seemed to think
he would be best carrying out his dead sister's wishes by having her
brought up in a different way to the girls at Varley. He has lost
his wife now, and she keeps house for him, and Bill says all the
young men in Varley are mad about her, but she won't have anything
to say to them."

"She is right enough there," Captain Sankey said smilingly. "They
are mostly croppers, and rightly or wrongly--rightly, I am
afraid--they have the reputation of being the most drunken and
quarrelsome lot in Yorkshire. Do you know the story that is current
among the country people here about them?"

"No, father, what is it?"

"Well, they say that no cropper is in the place of punishment.
It was crowded with them at one time, but they were so noisy and
troublesome that his infernal majesty was driven to his wits' end
by their disputes. He offered to let them all go. They refused.
So one day he struck upon a plan to get rid of them. Going outside
the gates he shouted at the top of his voice, 'Beer, beer, who wants
beer?' every cropper in the place rushed out, and he then slipped
in again and shut the gates, and has taken good care ever since
never to admit a cropper into his territory."

Ned laughed at the story.

"It shows at any rate, father, what people think of them here; but
I don't think they are as bad as that, though Bill did say that
there are awful fights and rows going on there of an evening, and
even down here if there is a row there is sure to be a cropper in
it. Still you see there are some good ones; look at Luke Marner,
that's the man we saw in church, see how kind he has been to his
niece."

"There are good men of all sorts, and though the croppers may be
rough and given to drink, we must not blame them too severely; they
are wholly uneducated men, they work hard, and their sole pleasure
is in the beer shop. At bottom they are no doubt the same as the
rest of their countrymen, and the Yorkshire men, though a hard
headed, are a soft hearted race; the doctor tells me that except
that their constitutions are ruined by habitual drinking he has
no better patients; they bear pain unflinchingly, and are patient
and even tempered. I know he loves them with all their faults, and
I consider him to be a good judge of character."



CHAPTER IV: THE WORMS TURN


"I say, it's a shame, a beastly shame!" Ned Sankey exclaimed
passionately as the boys came out from school one day.

Generally they poured out in a confused mass, eager for the fresh
air and anxious to forget in play the remembrance of the painful
hours in school; but today they came out slowly and quietly, each
with a book in his hand, for they had tasks set them which would
occupy every moment till the bell sounded again.

"Every one says they know nothing about the cat. I don't know whether
it's true or not, for I am sorry to say some of the fellows will
tell lies to escape the cane, but whether it is so or not he's no
right to punish us all for what can only be the fault of one or
two."

That morning the cat, which was the pet of Mr. Hathorn and his wife,
had been found dead near the door of the schoolhouse. It had been
most brutally knocked about. One of its eyes had been destroyed,
its soft fur was matted with blood, and it had evidently been beaten
to death. That the cat was no favorite with the boys was certain.
The door between the schoolroom and the house was unfastened at
night, and the cat in her pursuit of mice not unfrequently knocked
over inkstands, and the ink, penetrating into the desks, stained
books and papers, and more than one boy had been caned severely
for damage due to the night prowlings of the cat.

Threats of vengeance against her had often been uttered, and when
the cat was found dead it was the general opinion in the school
that one or other of their comrades had carried out his threats,
but no suspicion fell upon any one in particular. The boys who
were most likely to have done such a thing declared their innocence
stoutly.

Mr. Hathorn had no doubt on the subject. The cane had been going
all the morning, and he had told them that extra tasks would be
given which would occupy all their playtime until the offender was
given up to judgment.

In point of fact the boys were altogether innocent of the deed.
Pussy was a noted marauder, and having been caught the evening before
in a larder, from which she had more than once stolen titbits, she
had been attacked by an enraged cook with a broomstick, and blows
had been showered upon her until the woman, believing that life
was extinct, had thrown her outside into the road; but the cat was
not quite dead, and had, after a time, revived sufficiently to drag
her way home, only, however, to die.

"I call it a shame!" Ned repeated. "Mind, I say it's a brutal thing
to ill treat a cat like that. If she did knock down inkstands and
get fellows into rows it was not her fault. It's natural cats should
run after mice, and the wainscoting of the schoolroom swarmed with
them. One can hear them chasing each other about and squeaking all
day. If I knew any of the fellows had killed the cat I should go
straight to Hathorn and tell him.

"You might call it sneaking if you like, but I would do it, for I
hate such brutal cruelty. I don't see how it could have been any
of the fellows, for they would have had to get out of the bedroom
and into it again; besides, I don't see how they could have caught
the cat if they did get out; but whether it was one of the fellows
or not makes no difference. I say it's injustice to punish every
one for the fault of one or two fellows.

"I suppose he thinks that in time we shall give up the names of
the fellows who did it. As far as I am concerned, it will be just
the other way. If I had known who had done it this morning, when
he accused us, I should have got up and said so, because I think
fellows who treat dumb animals like that are brutes that ought to
be punished, but I certainly would not sneak because Hathorn punished
me unjustly. I vote we all refuse to do the work he has set us."

This bold proposition was received with blank astonishment.

"But he would thrash us all fearfully," Tompkins said.

"He daren't if we only stuck together. Why, he wouldn't have a
chance with us if we showed fight. If we were to say to him, 'We
won't do these extra tasks; and if you touch one of us the whole
lot will pitch into you,' what could he do then?"

"I will tell you what he could do, Sankey," Tom Room, a quiet,
sensible boy, replied. "If we were in a desert island it would be
all well enough, he could not tyrannize over us then: but here it
is different. He would just put on his hat and go into the town,
and in ten minutes he would he back again with the six constables,
and if that wasn't enough he could get plenty of other men, and where
would our fighting be then? We should all get the most tremendous
licking we have ever had, and get laughed at besides through the
town for a pack of young fools."

Ned broke into a good tempered laugh.

"Of course you are right, Room. I only thought about Hathorn
himself. Still, it is horribly unfair. I will do it today. But if
he goes on with it, as he threatens, I won't do it, let him do what
he likes."

For some days this state of things continued. There was no longer
any sound of shouting and laughter in the playground. The boys walked
about moody and sullen, working at their lessons. They were fast
becoming desperate. No clue had been obtained as to the destroyer
of the cat, and the schoolmaster declared that if it took him months
to break their spirits he would do it.

Ned Sankey had said nothing at home as to his troubles. His father
noticed that he ran off again as soon as his dinner was over, and
that he no longer said anything as to the sports in which he was
engaged in playtime; also, that his lessons occupied him from tea
time until he went up to bed.

"Anything is better than this," Ned said one day to some of the
boys of his own age. "In my opinion it's better to have a regular
row. What Room said was quite true; we shall get the worst of it;
but the story will then come out, and it will be seen what a beastly
tyranny we have been undergoing. I tell you, I for one will not
stand it any longer, so here goes," and he threw his book up into
a tree, in whose branches it securely lodged.

His comrades followed his example, and the news that Sankey and some
of the other fellows were determined to put up with it no longer
soon spread, and in five minutes not a book was to be seen in the
playground. The spirit of resistance became strong and general,
and when the bell rang the boys walked into the schoolroom silent
and determined, but looking far less moody and downcast than usual.
Mr. Hathorn took his seat at his desk.

"The first class will come up and say their tasks."

Not a boy moved in his seat.

"The first class will come up and say their tasks," the master
repeated, bringing his cane down with angry emphasis on the desk.

Still no one moved.

"What does this mean?" he shouted, rising from his seat.

"It means, sir," Ned Sankey said, rising also, "that we are
determined, all of us, that we will learn no more extra tasks.
None of us, so far as we know, ever touched your cat, and we are
not going to submit to be punished any longer for a fault which
none of us have committed."

"No, no," rose in a general chorus through the schoolroom, "we will
do no more tasks."

Mr. Hathorn stood petrified with astonishment and white with anger.

"So you are at the bottom of this, Sankey. I will make an example
of you."

So saying, he took a stride forward toward Ned. In an instant a
shower of books flew at him from all parts of the room. Infuriated
by the attack, he rushed forward with his cane raised. Ned caught
up a heavy inkstand.

"If you touch me," he shouted, "I will fling this at your head."

Mr. Hathorn hesitated. The shower of books had not affected him,
but the heavy missile in Ned's hand was a serious weapon. In another
moment he sprang forward and brought his cane down with all his
force upon Ned's back.

Ned at once hurled the heavy inkstand at him. The schoolmaster sprang
on one side, but it struck him on the shoulder, and he staggered
back.

"You have broken my shoulder, you young scoundrel!" he exclaimed.

"I shouldn't care if I had broken your head," Ned retorted, white
with passion; "it would have served you right if I had killed you,
you tyrant."

"One of you go and fetch a constable," Mr. Hathorn said to the
boys.

"Let him send his servant. He will find me at home. Mr. Hathorn, I
am not going to run away, you need not think it. Give me in charge
if you dare; I don't care what they do to me, but the whole country
shall know what a tyrant you are."

So saying, he collected his books, put his cap on his head, and
walked from the schoolroom, the boys cheering him loudly as he
went. On reaching home he went at once to his father's study.

"I am sorry to say, sir, that there has been a row in the school,
and Hathorn has threatened to send a constable here after me for
throwing an inkstand at him."

"Throwing an inkstand!" Captain Sankey exclaimed. "Is it possible?"

"It is quite possible and quite true; he has been treating us
shamefully for the last ten days; he has been always a cruel brute
all along, though I never wanted to make a fuss about it, but it
has been getting worse and worse. Ten days ago some one killed his
cat, and I am almost sure it was none of the boys, but he chose
to believe it was, and because he couldn't find out who, he has
punished the whole school, and all our play hours have been taken
up with lessons ever since, and he said he would keep on so till
he found out who did it, if it was months.

"So at last we could not stand it any longer, and we all agreed that
we wouldn't do the extra tasks, and that we would stick together
when we told him so. He rushed at me with his cane, and gave me one
with all his might, and I threw an inkstand at him, and it caught
him on the shoulder, and he says it has broken it, and that he would
send for a constable. So I told him to do so if he dared, and here
I am."

"This is a very serious business, Ned," his father said gravely.
"In the first place, there is something like a rebellion in the
school, of which, I suppose, you were one of the leaders or he would
not have singled you out. In the second place, you threw a missile
at him, which has broken his shoulder, and might have killed him
had it struck him on the head. I have warned you, my boy, over and
over again against giving way to that passionate temper of yours,
and have told you that it would lead you into serious trouble."

"I can't help it, sir," Ned said doggedly. "I've put up with
a tremendous lot there, and have said nothing about it, because
I did not wish to give you trouble; but when it came to downright
tyranny like this I would rather be killed than put up with it. I
warned him fairly that if he struck me I would throw the inkstand
at him, and he brought it on himself."

Captain Sankey seeing that in his son's present state of mind talking
would be useless to him, ordered him to remain in his study till
his return, and putting on his hat went toward the school. Ned's
temper had always been a source of anxiety to him. The boy was, no
doubt, of a passionate nature, but had he had the advantage of a
proper supervision and care when he was a child the tendency might
have been overcome. Unfortunately this had not been the case. His
mother had left the children entirely to the care of ayahs, he
himself had been far too occupied with his regimental duties to be
able to superintend their training, while Abijah's hands had been
too full with the management of the house, which entirely devolved
upon her, and with the constant attention demanded by Mrs. Sankey,
to give them any close superintendence. Thus like most children
born in India and left entirely in the charge of colored nurses,
Ned had acquired the habit of giving way to bursts of ungovernable
passion; for the black nurses have no authority over their young
charges, unless seconded and supported by the firmness of their
mothers. In this case no such support had been forthcoming.

Mrs. Sankey hated being troubled, and the ayahs always found that
any complaints to her recoiled upon themselves, for she always
took the part of her children, and insisted that the fault lay on
the side of the nurses and not on them. The natural result was,
that the ayahs ceased to trouble her, and found it easier to allow
the children to do as they chose, and to give way quietly to Ned's
outbursts of passion.

Captain Sankey knew nothing of all this. Ned was very fond of him,
and was always bright and good tempered when with his father, and
it was not until he left India and was thrown more with him that
Captain Sankey discovered how grievously Ned's disposition, which
was in other respects a fine one, was marred by the habit which had
been encouraged by indulgence and want of control. Then he set to
work earnestly to remedy the mischief, but the growth of years is
hard to eradicate, and although under the influence of the affection
for his father and his own good sense Ned had so far conquered himself
that his fits of passion were few and far between, the evil still
existed, and might yet, as his father felt, lead to consequences
which would mar his whole life.

Thinking the matter sadly over, Captain Sankey was proceeding toward
the school when he met one of the constables. The man touched his
hat and stopped.

"This be a moighty oonpleasant business, captain," he said; "your
boy, he ha' been and battered schoolmaister; and t' doctor says he
ha' broke his collarbone. Oi ha' got to take him afore t' magistrate."

"Very well, Harper," Captain Sankey said quietly; "of course you
must do your duty. It is a sad business, and I was on my way to
the school to see if the matter could not be arranged; however, as
it has been put in your hands it is now too late, and things must
take their course; the magistrates are not sitting today. I will
guarantee that my son shall be present at the sitting on Thursday,
I suppose that will be sufficient?"

"Yes, oi supposes if you promises to produce him, that will do,"
the constable said. "Oi doan't suppose as nought will come o't;
these schoolmaister chaps does thrash t' boys cruel, and oi ain't
surprised as t' little chaps roises ag'in it soometoimes. T'others
all seem moighty glad o' it: oi heard 'em shouting and, cheering
in t' yard as if they was all mad."

Captain Sankey shook his head. "I'm afraid the magistrates won't
see it in that light, Harper; discipline is discipline. However,
we must hope for the best."

The story that there had been a rebellion among the boys at Hathorn's,
that the schoolmaster had his shoulder broken, and that Captain
Sankey's son was to go before the magistrates, spread rapidly
through Marsden, and the courthouse was crowded at the sitting of
the magistrates on Thursday.

There were two magistrates on the bench. Mr. Thompson the local
banker, and Squire Simmonds of Lathorpe Hall, three miles from the
town. Several minor cases were first disposed of, and then Ned's name
was called. Captain Sankey had been accommodated with a seat near
the magistrates, with both of whom he had some personal acquaintance.
Ned was sitting by the side of the lawyer whom his father had
retained to defend him; he now moved quietly into the dock, while
Mr. Hathorn, with his arm in a sling, took his place in the witness
box.

Ned had recovered now from his fit of passion, and looked amused
rather than concerned as the schoolmaster gave his evidence as to
the fray in the schoolroom.

"I have a few questions to ask you, Mr. Hathorn," Mr. Wakefield,
Ned's lawyer, said. "Had you any reason for expecting any outbreak
of this kind among your boys?"

"None whatever," Mr. Hathorn said.

"You use the cane pretty freely, I believe, sir."

"I use it when it is necessary," Mr. Hathorn replied.

"Ah, and how often do you consider it necessary?"

"That must depend upon circumstances."

"You have about thirty boys, I think?"

"About thirty."

"And you consider it necessary that at least fifteen out of that
thirty should be caned every day. You must have got a very bad lot
of boys, Mr. Hathorn?"

"Not so many as that," the schoolmaster said, flushing.

"I shall be prepared to prove to your worships," the lawyer said,
"that for the last six months the average of boys severely caned
by this man has exceeded sixteen a day, putting aside such minor
matters as one, two, or three vicious cuts with the cane given at
random. It fortunately happened, as I find from my young friend
in the dock, that one of the boys has, from motives of curiosity,
kept an account for the last six months of the number of boys
thrashed every day. I have sent round for him, and he is at present
in court."

Mr. Hathorn turned pale, and he began to think that it would have
been wiser for him to have followed Ned's advice, and not to have
brought the matter into court.

"Your worships," the lawyer said, "you have been boys, as I have,
and you can form your own ideas as to the wretchedness that must
prevail among a body of lads of whom more than half are caned daily.
This, your worships, is a state of tyranny which might well drive
any boys to desperation. But I have not done with Mr. Hathorn yet.

"During the ten days previous to this affair things wore even more
unpleasant than usual in your establishment, were they not, sir?
I understand that the whole of the boys were deprived of all play
whatever, and that every minute was occupied by extra tasks, and
moreover the prospect was held out to them that this sort of thing
would continue for months."

There had already been several demonstrations of feeling in court,
but at this statement by the lawyer there was a general hiss. The
schoolmaster hesitated before replying.

"Now, Mr. Hathorn," the lawyer said briskly, "we want neither hesitation
nor equivocation. We may as well have it from you, because if you
don't like telling the truth I can put the thirty miserable lads
under your charge into the box one after the other."

"They have had extra tasks to do during their play time," Mr. Hathorn
said, "because they refused to reveal which among them brutally
murdered my cat."

"And how do you know they murdered your cat?"

"I am sure they did," the schoolmaster said shortly.

"Oh! you are sure they did! And why are you so sure? Had they any
grudge against your cat?"

"They pretended they had a grudge."

"What for, Mr. Hathorn?"

"They used to accuse her of upsetting the ink bottles when they
did it themselves."

"You did not believe their statements, I suppose?"

"Not at all."

"You caned them just the same as if they had done it themselves.
At least I am told so."

"Of course I caned them, especially as I knew that they were telling
a lie."

"But if it was a lie, Mr. Hathorn, if this cat did not upset their
ink, why on earth should these boys have a grudge against her and
murder her?"

The schoolmaster was silent.

"Now I want an answer, sir. You are punishing thirty boys in
addition to the sixteen daily canings divided among them; you have
cut off all their play time, and kept them at work from the time
they rise to the time they go to bed. As you see, according to your
own statement, they could have had no grudge against the cat, how
are you sure they murdered her?"

"I am quite sure." Mr. Hathorn said doggedly. "Boys have always a
spite against cats."

"Now, your honors, you hear this," Mr. Wakefield said. "Now I am
about to place in the witness box a very respectable woman, one Jane
Tytler, who is cook to our esteemed fellow townsman, Mr. Samuel
Hawkins, whose residence is, as you know, not far from this school.
She will tell you that, having for some time been plagued by a
thieving cat which was in the habit of getting into her larder and
carrying off portions of food, she, finding it one day there in
the act of stealing a half chicken, fell upon it with a broomstick
and killed it, or as she thought killed it, and I imagine most
cooks would have acted the same under the circumstances.

"She thought no more about it until she heard the reports in
the town about this business at the school, and then she told her
master. The dates have been compared, and it is found that she
battered this cat on the evening before the Hathorn cat was found
dead in the yard. Furthermore, the cat she battered was a white cat
with a black spot on one side, and this is the exact description
of the Hathorn cat; therefore, your honors, you will see that the
assumption, or pretense, or excuse, call it what you will, by which
this man justifies his tyrannical treatment of these unfortunate
boys has no base or foundation whatever. You can go now, Mr. Hathorn;
I have nothing further to say to you."

A loud hiss rose again from the crowded court as the schoolmaster
stepped down from the witness box, and Jane Tytler took his place.
After giving her evidence she was succeeded by Dick Tompkins in
much trepidation. Dick was a most unwilling witness, but he produced
the notebook in which he had daily jotted down the number of boys
caned, and swore to the general accuracy of the figures.

Mr. Wakefield then asked the magistrates if they would like to hear
any further witnesses as to the state of things in the schoolroom.
They said that what they had heard was quite sufficient. He then
addressed them on the merits of the case, pointing out that although
in this case one of the parties was a master and the other a pupil
this in no way removed it in the eye of the law from the category
of other assaults.

"In this case," he said, "your worships, the affair has arisen out
of a long course of tyranny and provocation on the part of one of
the parties, and you will observe that this is the party who first
commits the assault, while my client was acting solely in self
defense.

"It is he who ought to stand in the witness box; and the complainant
in the dock, for he is at once the aggressor and the assailant. The
law admits any man who is assaulted to defend himself, and there
is, so far as I am aware, no enactment whatever to be found in
the statute book placing boys in a different category to grownup
persons. When your worships have discharged my client, as I have
no doubt you will do at once, I shall advise him to apply for a
summons for assault against this man Hathorn."

The magistrates consulted together for some time, then the squire,
who was the senior, said:

"We are of opinion that Master Sankey, by aiding this rebellion
against his master, has done wrongly, and that he erred grievously
in discharging a heavy missile at his master; at the same time we
think that the provocation that he received by the tyranny which
has been proved to have been exercised by Mr. Hathorn toward the
boys under his charge, and especially by their unjust punishment
for an offense which the complainant conceived without sufficient
warrant, or indeed without any warrant at all, that they had
committed, to a great extent justifies and excuses the conduct of
Master Sankey. Therefore, with a reprimand as to his behavior, and
a caution as to the consequences which might have arisen from his
allowing his temper to go beyond bounds, we discharge him.

"As to you, sir," he said to the schoolmaster, "we wish to express
our opinion that your conduct has been cruel and tyrannical in the
extreme, and we pity the unfortunate boys who are under the care of
a man who treats them with such cruel harshness as you are proved
to have done."

The magistrates now rose, and the court broke up. Many of those
present crowded round Ned and shook his hand, congratulating him
on the issue; but at a sign from his father the boy drew himself
away from them, and joining Captain Sankey, walked home with him.

"The matter has ended better than I expected, Ned," he said gravely;
"but pray, my boy, do not let yourself think that there is any
reason for triumph. You have been gravely reprimanded, and had the
missile you used struck the schoolmaster on the head, you would
now be in prison awaiting your trial for a far graver offense, and
that before judges who would not make the allowances for you that
the magistrates here have done.

"Beware of your temper, Ned, for unless you overcome it, be assured
that sooner or later it may lead to terrible consequences."

Ned, who had in fact been inclined to feel triumphant over his
success, was sobered by his father's grave words and manner; and
resolved that he would try hard to conquer his fault; but evil
habits are hard to overcome, and the full force of his father's
words was still to come home to him.

He did not, of course, return to Mr. Hathorn's, and indeed the
disclosures of the master's severity made at the examination before
the magistrates obtained such publicity that several of his pupils
were removed at once, and notices were given that so many more
would not return after the next holidays that no one was surprised
to hear that the schoolmaster had arranged with a successor in the
school, and that he himself was about to go to America.

The result was that after the holidays his successor took his
place, and many of the fathers who had intended to remove their
sons decided to give the newcomer a trial. The school opened with
nearly the usual number of pupils. Ned was one of those who went
back. Captain Sankey had called on the new master, and had told him
frankly the circumstances of the fracas between Ned and Mr. Hathorn.

"I will try your son at any rate, Mr. Sankey," the master said. "I
have a strong opinion that boys can be managed without such use of
the cane as is generally adopted; that, in my opinion, should be
the last resort. Boys are like other people, and will do more for
kindness than for blows. By what you tell me, the circumstances of
your son's bringing up in India among native servants have encouraged
the growth of a passionate temper, but I trust that we may be able
to overcome that; at any rate I will give him a trial."

And so it was settled that Ned should return to Porson's, for so
the establishment was henceforth to be known.



CHAPTER V: THE NEW MASTER


It was with much excitement and interest that the boys gathered in
their places for the first time under the new master. The boarders
had not seen him upon their arrival on the previous evening, but
had been received by an old housekeeper, who told them Mr. Porson
would not return until the coach came in from York that night.

All eyes were turned to the door as the master entered. The first
impression was that he was a younger man than they had expected.
Mr. Hathorn had been some forty-five years old; the newcomer was
not over thirty. He was a tall, loosely made man, with somewhat
stooping shoulders; he had heavy eyebrows, gray eyes, and a firm
mouth. He did not look round as he walked straight to his desk;
then he turned, and his eyes traveled quietly and steadily round
the room as if scanning each of the faces directed toward him.

"Now, boys," he said in a quiet voice, "a few words before we begin.
I am here to teach, and you are here to learn. As your master I
expect prompt obedience. I shall look to see each of you do your
best to acquire the knowledge which your parents have sent you here
to obtain. Above all, I shall expect that every boy here will be
straightforward, honorable, and truthful. I shall not expect to
find that all are capable of making equal progress; there are clever
boys and stupid boys, just as there are clever men and stupid men,
and it would be unjust to expect that one can keep up to the other;
but I do look to each doing his best according to his ability.
On my part I shall do my best to advance you in your studies, to
correct your faults, and to make useful men of you.

"One word as to punishments. I do not believe that knowledge is to
be thrashed into boys, or that fear is the best teacher. I shall
expect you to learn, partly because you feel that as your parents
have paid for you to learn it is your duty to learn, partly because
you wish to please me. I hope that the cane will seldom be used
in this school. It will be used if any boy tells me a lie, if any
boy does anything which is mean and dishonorable, if any boy is
obstinately idle, and when it is used it will be used to a purpose,
but I trust that the occasion for it will be rare.

"I shall treat you as friends whom it is my duty to instruct. You
will treat me, I hope, as a friend whose duty it is to instruct
you, and who has a warm interest in your welfare; if we really bear
these relations to each other there should be seldom any occasion
for punishment. And now as a beginning today, boys, let each come
up to my desk, one at a time, with his books. I shall examine you
separately, and see what each knows and is capable of doing. I
see by the report here that there are six boys in the first class.
As these will occupy me all the morning the rest can go into the
playground. The second class will be taken this afternoon."

The boys had listened with astonished silence to this address, and
so completely taken aback were they that all save those ordered to
remain rose from their seats and went out in a quiet and orderly
way, very different from the wild rush which generally terminated
school time.

Ned being in the second class was one of those who went out. Instead
of scattering into groups, the boys gathered in a body outside.

"What do you think of that, Sankey?" Tompkins said. "It seems
almost too good to be true. Only fancy, no more thrashing except
for lying and things of that sort, and treating us like friends!
and he talked as if he meant it too."

"That he did," Ned said gravely; "and I tell you, fellows, we shall
have to work now, and no mistake. A fellow who will not work for
such a man as that deserves to be skinned."

"I expect," said James Mather, who was one of the biggest boys in
the school though still in the third class, "that it's all gammon,
just to give himself a good name, and to do away with the bad repute
the school has got into for Hathorn's flogging. You will see how
long it will last! I ain't going to swallow all that soft soap."

Ned, who had been much touched at the master's address, at once
fired up:

"Oh! we all know how clever you are, Mather--quite a shining
genius, one of the sort who can see through a stone wall. If you
say it's gammon, of course it must be so."

There was a laugh among the boys.

"I will punch your head if you don't shut up, Sankey," Mather said
angrily; "there's no ink bottle for you to shy here."

Ned turned very white, but he checked himself with an effort.

"I don't want to fight today--it's the first day of the half
year, and after such a speech as we've heard I don't want to have
a row on this first morning. But you had better look out; another
time you won't find me so patient. Punch my head, indeed! Why, you
daren't try it."

But Mather would have tried it, for he had for the last year been
regarded as the cock of the school. However, several of the boys
interfered.

"Sankey is right, Mather; it would be a beastly shame to be fighting
this morning. After what Porson said there oughtn't to be any rows
today. We shall soon see whether he means it."

Mather suffered himself to be dissuaded from carrying his threat
into execution, the rather that in his heart of hearts he was not
assured that the course would have been a wise one. Ned had never
fought in the school, but Tompkins' account of his fight on the
moor with Bill Swinton, and the courage he had shown in taking upon
himself the office of spokesman in the rebellion against Hathorn,
had given him a very high reputation among the boys; and in spite
of Mather's greater age and weight there were many who thought
that Ned Sankey would make a tough fight of it with the cock of
the school.

So the gathering broke up and the boys set to at their games, which
were played with a heartiness and zest all the greater that none
of them were in pain from recent punishment, and that they could
look forward to the afternoon without fear and trembling.

When at twelve o'clock the boys of the first class came out from
school the others crowded round to hear the result of the morning's
lessons. They looked bright and pleased.

"I think he is going to turn out a brick," Ripon, the head of the
first class, said. "Of course one can't tell yet. He was very quiet
with us and had a regular examination of each of us. I don't think
he was at all satisfied, though we all did our best, but there was
no shouting or scolding. We are to go in again this afternoon with
the rest. He says there's something which he forgot to mention to
us this morning."

"More speeches!" Mather grumbled. "I hate all this jaw."

"Yes," Ripon said sharply; "a cane is the thing which suits your
understanding best. Well, perhaps he will indulge you; obstinate
idleness is one of the things he mentioned in the address."

When afternoon school began Mr. Porson again rose.

"There is one thing I forgot to mention this morning. I understand that
you have hitherto passed your play time entirely in the playground,
except on Saturday afternoons, when you have been allowed to go where
you like between dinner and tea time. With the latter regulation
I do not intend to interfere, or at any rate I shall not do so so
long as I see that no bad effects come of it; but I shall do so only
with this proviso: I do not think it good for you to be going about
the town. I shall therefore put Marsden out of bounds. You will
be free to ramble where you like in the country, but any boy who
enters the town will be severely punished. I am not yet sufficiently
acquainted with the neighborhood to draw the exact line beyond which
you are not to go, but I shall do so as soon as I have ascertained
the boundaries of the town.

"I understand that you look forward to Saturday for making such
purchases as you require. Therefore each Saturday four boys, selected
by yourselves, one from each class, will be allowed to go into the
town to make purchases for the rest, but they are not to be absent
more than an hour.

"In the second place, I do not think that the playground affords a
sufficient space for exercise, and being graveled, it is unsuitable
for many games. Therefore I have hired a field, which I dare say
you all know; it is called 'The Four Acre Field,' about a hundred
yards down the road on the left hand side. This you will use as
your playground during the six summer months. I have brought with
me from York a box which I shall place under the charge of Ripon and
the two next senior to him. It contains bats, wickets, and a ball
for cricket; a set of quoits; trap bat and ball for the younger
boys; leaping bars and some other things. These will give you a
start. As they become used up or broken they must be replaced by
yourselves; and I hope you will obtain plenty of enjoyment from them.
I shall come and play a game of cricket with you myself sometimes.

"You will bear in mind that it is my wish that you should be happy.
I expect you to work hard, but I wish you to play hard too. Unless
the body works the brain will suffer, and a happy and contented boy
will learn as easily again as a discontented, and miserable one. I
will give you the box after tea, so that you can all examine them
together. The second and third classes will now stay in; the fourth
class can go out in the playground with the first. I shall have
time to examine them while the others are doing their work tomorrow."

There was a suppressed cheer among the boys and Ripon, as the
senior, said:

"I am sure, sir, we are all very much obliged to you for your
kindness, and we will do our best to deserve it."

There was a chorus of assent, and then the elder and younger boys
went out into the playground while the work of examination of the
second and third classes began.

On the following day lessons began in earnest, and the boys found
their first impressions of the new master more than justified. A
new era had commenced. The sound of the cane was no longer heard,
and yet the lessons were far better done than had been the case
before. Then the whole work had fallen on the boys; the principal
part of the day's lessens had been the repeating of tasks learned
by heart, and the master simply heard them and punished the boys
who were not perfect.

There was comparatively little of this mechanical work now; it
was the sense and not the wording which had to be mastered. Thus
geography was studied from an atlas and not by the mere parrot-like
learning of the names of towns and rivers. In grammar the boys had
to show that they understood a rule by citing examples other than
those given in their books. History was rather a lecture from the
master than a repetition of dry facts and dates by the boys. Latin
and mathematics were made clear in a similar way.

"It was almost too good to last," the boys said after the first
day's experience of this new method of teaching; but it did last.
A considerable portion of the work out of school was devoted to the
keeping up the facts they had learned, for Mr. Porson was constantly
going back and seeing that their memories retained the facts they
had acquired, and what they called examinations were a part of the
daily routine.

In some points upon which Mr. Hathorn had laid the greatest stress
Mr. Porson was indifferent--dates, which had been the bane of
many a boy's life and an unceasing source of punishment, he regarded
but little, insisting only that the general period should be known,
and his questions generally took the form of, "In the beginning
or at the end of such and such a century, what was the state of
things in England or in Rome?" A few dates of special events, the
landmarks of history, were required to be learned accurately, all
others were passed over as unimportant.

It was not that the boys worked fewer hours than before, but that
they worked more intelligently, and therefore more pleasantly to
themselves. The boys--and there were some--who imagined that
under this new method of teaching they could be idle, very soon
found out their mistake, and discovered that in his way Mr. Porson
was just as strict as his predecessor. He never lost his temper; but
his cold displeasure was harder to bear than Mr. Hathorn's wrath;
nor were punishments wanting. Although the cane was idle, those
who would not work were kept in the schoolroom during play hours;
and in cases where this was found to be ineffectual Mr. Porson
coldly said:

"Your parents pay me to teach you, and if you do not choose to be
taught I have only to write home to them and request them to take
you away. If you are one of those boys who will only learn from
fear of the cane you had better go to some school where the cane
is used."

This threat, which would have been ineffective in Mr. Hathorn's time
never failed to have an effect now; for even Mather, the idlest
and worst boy there, was able to appreciate the difference between
the present regime and the last. In a marvelously short time Mr.
Porson seemed to have gauged the abilities of each of the boys, and
while he expected much from those who were able' to master easily
their tasks, he was content with less from the duller intellects,
providing they had done their best.

After a week's experience of Mr. Porson, Ned gave so glowing an
account to his father of the new master and his methods that Captain
Sankey went down to the school and arranged that Charlie, now ten
years old, should accompany his brother. There were several boys no
older than he; but Charlie differed widely from his elder brother,
being a timid and delicate child, and ill fitted to take care of
himself. Captain Sankey felt, however, after what Ned had told him
of Mr. Porson, that he could trust to him during the school hours,
and Ned would be an active protector in the playground.

It was not until a fortnight after the school began that the Four
Acre Field was ready. By that time a flock of sheep had been turned
into it, and had eaten the grass smooth, and a heavy horse roller
had been at work for a day making a level pitch in the center.

It was a Saturday afternoon when the boys took possession of it for
the first time. As they were about to start in the highest glee,
Mr. Porson joined them. Some of their faces fell a little; but he
said cheerfully:

"Now, boys, I am going with you; but not, you know, to look after
you or keep you in order. I want you all to enjoy yourselves just in
your own way, and I mean to enjoy myself too. I have been a pretty
good cricketer in my time, and played in the York Eleven against
Leeds, so I may be able to coach you up a little, and I hope after
a bit we may be able to challenge some of the village elevens round
here. I am afraid Marsden will be too good for us for some time;
still, we shall see."

On reaching the field Mr. Porson saw the ground measured and the
wickets erected, and then said:

"Now I propose we begin with a match. There are enough of us to
make more than two elevens; but there are the other games. Would
any of the bigger boys like to play quoits better than cricket?"

Mather, who felt much aggrieved at the master's presence, said he
should prefer quoits; and Williamson, who always followed his lead,
agreed to play with him.

"Now," Mr. Porson said, "do you, Ripon, choose an eleven. I will
take the ten next best. The little ones who are over can play at
trap bat, or bowls, as they like."

There was a general approval of the plan. Ripon chose an eleven of
the likeliest boys, selecting the biggest and most active; for as
there had been no room for cricket in the yard their aptitude for
the game was a matter of guesswork, though most of them had played
during the holidays. Mr. Porson chose the next ten and after tossing
for innings, which Ripon won, they set to work. Mr. Porson played
for a time as long stop, putting on two of the strongest of his
team as bowlers, and changing them from time to time to test their
capacity. None of them turned out brilliant, and the runs came
fast, and the wickets were taken were few and far between, until
at last Mr. Porson himself took the ball.

"I am not going to bowl fast," he said, "just straight easy lobs;"
but the boys found that the straight lobs were not so easy after
all, and the wickets of the boys who had made a long score soon fell.
Most of those who followed managed to make a few runs as well off
Mr. Porson's bowling as from that at the other end; for the master
did not wish to discourage them, and for a few overs after each
batsman came to the wicket aimed well off it so as to give them a
chance of scoring.

The last wicket fell for the respectable score of fifty-four.
The junior eleven then went in, the master not going in until the
last. Only twenty runs had been made when he took the bat. In the
five balls of the over which were bowled to him he made three fours;
but before it came to his turn again his partner at the other end
was out, and his side were twenty-two behind on the first innings.
The other side scored thirty-three for the first four wickets before
he again took the ball, and the remaining six went down for twelve
runs. His own party implored him to go in first, but he refused.

"No, no, boys," he said; "you must win the match, if you can,
without much aid from me."

The juniors made a better defense this time and scored forty before
the ninth wicket fell. Then Mr. Porson went in and ran the score
up to sixty before his partner was out, the seniors winning the
match by nine runs. Both sides were highly pleased with the result
of the match. The seniors had won after a close game. The juniors
were well pleased to have run their elders so hard.

They all gathered round their master and thanked him warmly.

"I am glad you are pleased, my boys," he said; "I will come down
two or three times a week and bowl to you for an hour, and give
you a few hints, and you will find that you get on fast. There is
plenty of promise among you, and I prophesy that we shall turn out
a fair eleven by the end of the season."

The younger boys had also enjoyed themselves greatly, and had been
joined by many of the elders while waiting for their turn to go
in. Altogether the opening day of the Four Acre Field had been a
great success.

The old cake woman who had previously supplied the boys still came
once a week, her usual time being Wednesday evening, when, after
tea, the boys played for half an hour in the yard before going in
to their usual lessons. Ned was not usually present, but he one
evening went back to fetch a book which he needed. As he came in
at the gate of the yard Mather was speaking to the woman.

"No, I won't let you have any more, Master Mather. You have broken
your promises to me over and over again. That money you owed me
last half ain't been paid yet. If it had only been the money for
the cakes and sweets I shouldn't ha' minded so much, but it's that
ten shillings you borrowed and promised me solemn you would pay at
the end of the week and ain't never paid yet. I have got to make
up my rent, and I tell ye if I don't get the money by Saturday
I shall speak to t' maister about it and see what he says to such
goings on."

"Don't talk so loud," Mather said hurriedly, "and I will get you
the money as seen as I can."

"I don't care who hears me," the woman replied in a still louder
voice, "and as soon as you can won't do for I. I have got to have
it on Saturday, so that's flat. I will come up to the field, and
you'll best have it ready for me."

Ned did not hear the last few words, but he had heard enough to
know that Mather owed ten shillings which he had borrowed, besides
a bill for cakes. Mather had not noticed him come into the yard,
for his back was toward the gate, and the noise which the boys made
running about and shouting prevented him hearing the gate open and
close.

"It's a beastly shame," Ned muttered to himself as he went off to
school, "to borrow money from an old woman like that. Mather must
have known he couldn't pay it, for he has only a small allowance,
and he is always short of money, and of course he could not expect
a tip before the holidays. He might have paid her when he came
back, but as he didn't I don't see how he is to do so now, and if
the old woman tells Porson there will be a row. It's just the sort
of thing would rile him most."

On the next Saturday he watched with some curiosity the entry of the
old woman into the field. Several of the boys went up and bought
sweets. When she was standing alone Mather strolled up to her.
After a word or two he handed her something. She took it, and said
a few words. Mather shook his head positively, and in a minute or
two walked away, leaving her apparently satisfied.

"I suppose he has given her something on account," Ned said to himself.
"I wonder where he got it. When Ripon asked him last Monday for a
subscription to buy another set of bats and wickets, so that two
lots could practise at once, he said he had only sixpence left,
and Mather would not like to seem mean now, for he knows he doesn't
stand well with any one except two or three of his own set, because
he is always running out against everything that Porson does."

A week later Mr. Porson said, at the end of school:

"By the way, boys, have any of you seen that illustrated classical
dictionary of mine? I had it in school about ten days ago when I
was showing you the prints of the dress and armor of the Romans,
and I have not seen it since. I fancy I must have left it on my
table, but I cannot be sure. I looked everywhere in my library for
it last night and cannot find it. Perhaps if I left it on the desk
one of you has taken it to look at the pictures."

There was a general silence.

"I think it must be so," Mr. Porson went on more gravely. "If the
boy who has it will give it up I shall not be angry, as, if I left
it on the desk, there would be no harm in taking it to look at the
pictures."

Still there was silence.

"I value the book," Mr. Porson went on, "not only because it is an
expensive work, but because it is a prize which I won at Durham."

He paused a moment, and then said in a stern voice: "Let every boy
open his desk."

The desks were opened, and Mr. Porson walked round and glanced at
each.

"This is a serious matter now," he said. "Ripon, will you come to
the study with me and help me to search again. It is possible it may
still be there and I may have overlooked it. The rest will remain
in their places till I return."

There was a buzz of conversation while the master was absent. On
his return he said:

"The book is certainly not there. The bookshelves are all so full
that it could only have been put in its own place or laid upon
the table. Ripon and I have searched the room thoroughly and it is
certainly not there. Now, boys, this is a serious business. In the
first place, I will give a last chance to whoever may have taken
it to rise in his place and confess it."

He paused, and still all were silent.

"Now mind," he said, "I do not say that any of you have taken it
--I have no grounds for such an accusation. It may have been taken
by a servant. A tramp may have come in at the back gate when you
were all away and have carried it off. These things are possible.
And even were I sure that it had been done by one of you I should
not dream of punishing all; therefore for the present we will say
no more about it. But in order to assure myself and you I must ask
you for the keys of your boxes. The servants' boxes will also be
searched, as well as every nook and corner of the house; and then,
when we have ascertained for a certainty that the book is not within
these four walls, I shall go on with a lighter heart."

The boys all eagerly opened their trunks and play boxes, searched
under the beds, in the cupboards, and in every nook and corner of
their part of the house, and an equally minute search was afterward
made in the other apartments; but no trace of the book was discovered.
For days the matter was a subject of conversation among the boys,
and endless were the conjectures as to what could have become of
the dictionary. Their respect and affection for their master were
greatly heightened by the fact that his behavior toward them was
in no way altered by the circumstances. His temper was as patient
and equable as before in the schoolroom; he was as cheerful and
friendly in the cricket field, They could see, however, that he
was worried and depressed, though he strove to appear the same as
usual. Often did they discuss among themselves how different the
state of things would have been had the loss happened to Mr. Hathorn,
and what a life they would have led under those circumstances.

At the end of a week the happy thought struck Ripon that a subscription
should be made to buy a new dictionary. The amount was a serious
one, as they found that the book could not be purchased under
two guineas; but every boy subscribed to his last farthing. Some
promised their pocket money for weeks in advance; others wrote
home to their parents to ask for money, and in ten days the boys
had the satisfaction of seeing Ripon at the commencement of school
walk up to Mr. Porson's desk and present him with the handsome
volume in the name of all the boys. Ripon had taken some pains in
getting up an appropriate speech, and it was voted a great success.

"Mr. Porson," he said, "in the name of all the boys in the school
I beg to ask your acceptance of this volume. It cannot have the
value to you of that which you have lost, as that was a prize;
but we hope, that as a proof of the respect and affection which we
all have for you, and as a token of our appreciation of your very
great kindness toward us, you will accept it in place of the other."

Mr. Porson's face lit up with pleasure.

"My boys," he said, "I am very highly gratified at this proof that
I have succeeded in my endeavors to make you feel that I am your
friend as well as your master, and I shall value your gift far more
highly than my college prize. That was simply the result of my own
labor; this is a proof of kindness and affection on your parts. I
shall value it very greatly all my life. And now, as I don't think
you will be able to pay much attention to your work this morning,
and as I have been for some days awaiting an opportunity to go
over to York, where I have some pressing business, I shall start
at once, and can just catch the stage, and shall get back in time
for school tomorrow morning, so you will have the day to yourselves."

With a shout of pleasure the boys started off for a long day in the
cricket field, while Mr. Porson hurried away to catch the stagecoach
for York.



CHAPTER VI: THE THIEF DETECTED


Mr. Porson was in his place next morning, having returned only half
an hour before school began; he looked fagged, and he was scarcely
so attentive as usual to the lessons, his thoughts seeming to be
elsewhere.

"He seems regularly done up with his journey," Ripon said as the
boys came out of school.

"I think he is upset about something," Ned remarked. "Sometimes
he hardly seemed paying attention to what was going on, and he did
not speak as cheerfully as usual. I noticed a sort of change in
his voice directly he began. I hope nothing wrong has occurred, we
were getting on so jollily."

When afternoon school began Mr. Porson placed on the desk before
him a packet done up in brown paper.

"Boys," he said, "I have got my book again."

An exclamation of surprise and pleasure burst from the boys. The
mystery had weighed heavily on the school, and a look of eager curiosity
came over every face to hear how the book had been recovered.

"It was found in a bookseller's shop in York," Mr. Porson went on.
"I myself had inquired at Leighton's here, but with little hope of
finding it, for no one who stole it would have disposed of it so
near home. I then wrote to several friends in the large towns, and
one of them, a clergyman at York, wrote to me two days ago to say
that just such a book as I had described was on sale in the window
of one of the booksellers there. It was a second hand copy, but
in excellent preservation. The flyleaf was missing. On going over
yesterday I found that it was my book, and was able to prove it by
several marginal notes in my handwriting.

"The bookseller said at once that it was sent him by a general
dealer at Marsden who was in the habit of picking up books at sales
in the neighborhood and sending them to him; he had given eighteen
shillings for it. This morning I have called upon the man, whose
name is White, accompanied by a constable. He admitted at once that
he had sent the book to York, and said that he bought it from some
one about a month ago. His customer came late, and as White is
short sighted, and there was only a tallow candle burning in the
shop, he said that he should not know him again, and could say
nothing about his age; however, I shall call him in; he is now
outside with the constable. I am sure that for your own sakes you
will not object to his taking a look at you."

Mr. Porson went to the door, and the constable and White entered.
The chief constable, when Mr. Porson had called upon him to ask
for one of his men to accompany him to the dealer's, had told him
that White bore a very bad reputation. He was suspected of being
the medium through whom stolen goods in that part of Yorkshire were
sent up to London for disposal. A highwayman who had been caught
and executed at York, had in his confession stated that this man
had acted as his go between for the disposal of the watches and
other articles he took from travelers, and White's premises had
then been thoroughly searched by the constables; but as nothing
suspicious was found, and there was only the unsupported confession
of the highwayman against him, he had got off scot free.

"I don't think you will get anything out of him, Mr. Porson," the
constable said. "The fact that he has been trusted by these fellows
shows that he is not a man to peach upon those with whom he deals;
and in the next place he would know well enough that if any one were
convicted of stealing this book he would be liable to a prosecution
as receiver; and though we could scarcely get a conviction against
him, as we could not prove that he knew that it was stolen, it
would do him no good."

The boys all stood up in a line. "I will look at 'em, sir," White
said; "but, as I have told you, I should not know the man as I
bought that book from, from Adam. Anyhow none of these little ones
couldn't be he. If it weren't a man, he were as big as a man. You
don't suppose an honest tradesman would buy an expensive book like
that from a kid."

So saying he placed a pair of horn spectacles on his nose and walked
round the line.

"I don't see any one here whose face I ever see before as far as
I knows; but bless you, the man as I bought it of might have had
hair all over his face, and I be none the wiser looking at him
across that counter of mine in the dark."

"Thank you," Mr. Porson said; "then it is of no use troubling you
further. I have got my book back; but I confess that this affords
me but small gratification in comparison to that which I should
feel if I could unravel this mystery."

The discovery of the book reopened the interest in the matter, and
nothing else was talked of that evening in the playground.

"Ripon," Ned said, putting his arm in that of the head boy, "I want
to tell you a thing that has been in my mind for the last three
weeks; mind, I don't say that there's anything in it, and I hate
to think harm of any one. There is another thing; he and I ain't
good friends. If it hadn't been for that I should have spoken to
you before; but I was afraid that it would look like a piece of
dirty spite on my part; but I do think now that as head boy you
ought to know, and I want your advice whether I ought to say anything
about it or not."

"What a long winded chap you are, Sankey! What is it all about?"

"Well, you know, Ripon, when we got up that subscription for the
cricket things, Mather didn't give anything. He said he had no
money."

"No; and he hadn't any," Ripon said, "for I had only the day before
lent him twopence to buy some string, and he paid me when he got
his allowance on Saturday."

"Well, a day or two after that I came back after tea for a book that
I had left behind me, and as I came in at the gate there Mather was
standing at the corner talking to Mother Brown. He had his back to
the door, and they didn't see me. She was talking loud and angry
and I couldn't help hearing what she said."

"Well, what did she say?" Ripon said rather impatiently.

"She said, 'You have disappointed me over and over again, and if
you don't pay me that ten shillings you borrowed of me last half,
and the bill for the cakes, by Saturday, I will see the master and
tell him all about it.' I didn't hear any more; but on the Saturday
I saw him go up to her in the field and pay her something. Of course
I don't know what it was; not all, I think, by the manner in which
she took it; still, I suppose it was enough to content her. About
ten days afterward we heard the book was missing. It didn't strike
me at the time; but afterward, when I thought of it, I remembered
that the last time Porson brought it out was on the Thursday, which
was the day after Mather had been speaking to Mother Brown. Now,
of course, Ripon, I don't actually suspect Mather of taking the
book; still it is curious its being missing just at the time he
wanted money so badly. He may have got the money from home, or he
may have borrowed it from some other fellow."

"No," Ripon said positively, "I am sure Mather has had no letter,
because I always distribute the letters, and Mather's people never
write to him; and I am sure there was no fellow in the school had
more than a shilling or two at the outside at that time. Why didn't
you tell me before, Sankey?"

"I didn't like to, because every one knows Mather and I are not good
friends; then I thought perhaps Mather might be able to explain it
all right, and I should have cut a nice figure if he could; then
at the time when I thought of it, and had got the dates right, the
first excitement had died out and I thought we might hear no more
of it and it would be forgotten; but now that the book has been
found and the whole thing has come up fresh again I thought it
better to tell you all about it and ask you what you would advise
me to do."

Ripon did not answer for some time; then he said:

"I am sure I don't know, Ned; I will think it over till tomorrow.
You have not said anything about it to any one else?"

"Not to a soul. I hesitated whether I should tell you or father,
but he wouldn't understand how boys think of these things so well
as you do; so I thought as you were head of the school it was best
you should know."

"I wish you hadn't told me," Ripon grumbled. "I am sure I don't
know what's best to do;" and he turned away and began to pace the
yard moodily up and down.

"The only thing I have decided," he said to Ned the next day, "is
to ask Mother Brown myself how much Mather paid her. We may as well
settle that question first."

As this was Wednesday and the cake woman was coming that evening
there was not long to wait. Ripon chose a time when most of the
boys had made their purchases and the old woman was alone.

"Don't you give too much tick to any of the fellows, Mother Brown,"
he began. "You know it isn't always easy to get money that's owing."

"I should think not, Master Ripon; I wish they would always pay
money down as you do. There's Master Mather, he been owing me money
ever since last half. He borrowed ten shillings of me and promised
solemn he would pay at the end of the week, and he has only paid
five shillings yet, a month ago, and that was only 'cause I told
him I would tell the master about him; there's that five shillings,
and seven shillings and eightpence for cakes and things; but I have
been giving him a piece of my mind this afternoon; and if I don't
get that other five shillings by Saturday, sure enough I will speak
to t' maister about it. No one can say as Mother Brown is hard on
boys, and I am always ready to wait reasonable; but I can't abear
lies, and when I lent that ten shillings I expected it was going
to be paid punctual."

"Then he knows you are going to speak to Mr. Porson on Saturday if
he doesn't pay up another five shillings?"

"He knows it," the old woman said, nodding. "When I says a thing
I mean it. So he had best pay up."

When Ripon met Ned next day he said: "I talked to her last night.
Mather paid her five shillings, and she has told him if he doesn't
pay her the other five by Saturday she will speak to Porson; so I
think the best plan is to wait till then and see what comes of it.
She will tell the whole story and Porson will learn it without our
interference, and can think what he likes about it."

Relieved in mind at finding that there was a prospect of his
avoiding the decision whether or not to inform the master of his
suspicions, Ned went to his desk. When afternoon school began Mr.
Porson said gravely:

"Boys, when you came back from the field did you all go straight
to the washing room to wash your hands before dinner?"

There was a chorus of surprised assent.

"I am sorry to tell you that another theft has been committed. A
gold pencil case has disappeared from my study table. I was using
it after school. I left it on the table when I went for a stroll
before dinner. I remember most distinctly laying it down among the
pens. I went into my study ten minutes ago; and wanting to make a
note as to this afternoon's work looked for the pencil and it was
gone. The window was open as usual, and it is possible that tramps
passing along the road may have come into the garden and have got
in at the window. As in the case of the book I suspect no one, but
two such occurrences as these are very uncomfortable for us all.
I shall not propose any search this time, for had any of you taken
it, which I cannot for a moment believe, he would not have been
careless enough to put it in his pocket, or conceal it in his desk
or boxes, but would have stowed it away somewhere where there would
be no chance whatever of its being found. Now let us dismiss the
subject and go on with our lessons."

While the master was speaking Ripon and Sankey had glanced for
a moment at each other; the same thought was in both their minds.
After school was over they joined each other in the yard.

"Was Mather in the washing room with the others?" Sankey asked
eagerly.

"He was, but he came up last," Ripon replied. "You know he generally
saunters along in a lazy way and is the last to get in. So he was
today, but I don't know that he was later than usual."

"I think, Ripon, we ought to speak to Porson."

"I think so too," Ripon rejoined gravely; "it is too serious to keep
to ourselves. Any ordinary thing I would not peach about on any
account, but a disgraceful theft like this, which throws a doubt
over us all, is another thing; the honor of the whole school is at
stake. I have been thinking it over. I don't want Mather to suspect
anything, so I will go out at the back gate with you, as if I was
going to walk part of the way home with you, and then we will go
round to the front door and speak to Porson."

The master was sitting on a low seat in the window of his study.
Hearing footsteps coming up from the front gate he looked round.

"Do you want to speak to me, boys?" he asked in some surprise
through the open window. "What makes you come round the front way?"

"We want to see you privately, sir," Ripon said.

"Very well, boys, I will open the door for you.

"Now, what is it?" he asked as the boys followed him into the study.

"Well, sir, it may be nothing, I am sure I hope so," Ripon said,
"but Sankey and I thought you ought to know and then it will be off
our minds, and you can do as you like about it. Now, Sankey, tell
what you knew first, then I will tell what Mother Brown said to me
on Wednesday."

Ned told the story in the same words in which he had related it
to Ripon; and Ripon then detailed his conversation with the cake
woman, and her threats of reporting Mather on Saturday were the debt
not paid. Ned had already given his reason for keeping silence in
the matter hitherto, and Ripon now explained that they had determined
to wait till Saturday to see what came of it, but that after that
new theft they deemed it their duty to speak at once. Mr. Porson
sat with his face half shaded with his hand and without speaking
a single word until the boys had concluded.

"It is a sad business," he said in a low tone, "a very sad business.
It is still possible that you may have come to false conclusions;
but the circumstances you have related are terribly strong. I am
grieved, indeed, over the business, and would rather have lost a
hundred books and pencil cases than it should have happened. You
have done quite right, boys; I am greatly obliged to you both, and
you have acted very well. I know how painful it must be to you both
to have been obliged to bring so grave a matter to my ears. Thank
you; I will consider what is the best course to adopt. If it can
be avoided, I shall so arrange that your names do not appear in
the matter."

For some little time after the boys had left him Mr. Porson remained
in deep thought; then he rose, put on his hat, and went out, first
inquiring of the servant if she knew where the woman who sold cakes
to the boys lived.

"Yes, sir; she lives in a little house in Mill Street; it's not a
regular shop, but there are a few cakes in one of the windows; I
have bought things there for the kitchen, knowing that she dealt
with the young gentlemen."

Mr. Porson made his way to Mill Street and easily found the house
he was in search of. On being questioned the old woman at first
showed some reluctance in answering his questions, but Mr. Porson
said sharply:

"Now, dame, I want no nonsense; I am acquainted with the whole
affair, but wish to have it from your own lips. Unless you tell me
the whole truth not a cake will you sell my boys in future."

Thus pressed Mrs. Brown at once related the story of Mather having
borrowed some money of her; of her threats to report him unless he
paid, and of his having given her five shillings on the following
Saturday, saying that he would give her the rest in a few days, but
could pay no more then; and how, after repeated disappointments,
she had now given him till Saturday to settle the debt.

"If he didn't pay, sir, I meant to have come to ye and telled ye
all about it, for I hate lies, and Master Mather has lied to me
over and over again about it; but seeing that Saturday hasn't come
I don't like telling ye the story, as he may have meant to keep
his word to me this time."

"Here are the five shillings which he borrowed of you; as to the
other money, you will never get it, and I hope it will be a lesson
to you; and mind, if I find that you ever allow the boys to run an
account with you further than the following Saturday after it is
incurred, you will never come into my field or playground again."

Mr. Porson then went to the chief constable's, and after a short
conversation with him a constable was told off to accompany him.
He and the master took their station at a short distance from the
shop of the man White and waited quietly. A little after nine a
figure was seen coming down the street from the other end. He passed
quickly into the shop.

"That is the boy," Mr. Porson said.

"Wouldn't it be better, sir," the constable asked, "to wait till the
deed is completed, then we can lay our hands on White as a receiver?"

"No," Mr. Porson replied, "for in that case the boy would have
to appear with him in the dock, and that I wish of all things to
avoid."

So saying he walked quickly on and entered the shop.

Mather was leaning across the counter while the man was examining
the pencil case by the light of the candle.

"Five shillings," the man said, "and no more. I was nearly getting
into trouble over that last job of yours."

"But it's worth a great deal more than that," Mather said. "You
might give me ten."

"Well, take it back then," the man said, pushing it across the
counter.

"Thank you, I will take it myself," Mr. Porson said quietly, as he
advanced and stretched out his hand.

Mather turned round with a sudden cry, and then stood the picture
of silent terror.

"As for you," the master said indignantly to the dealer, "you
scoundrel, if you had your deserts I would hand you over to the
constable, who is outside the door, as a receiver of stolen goods,
and for inciting this boy to theft. I heard you offer him a sum
of money for it which shows that you knew it was stolen; but your
time will come, sir, and you will hang over the gate of York prison
as many a poor wretch far less guilty than yourself has done;"
for in those days death was the punishment of receivers of stolen
goods, as well as of these convicted of highway robbery and burglary.

"Have mercy, sir, oh, spare me!" Mather exclaimed, falling on his
knees. "Don't give me in charge."

"I am not going to do so," the master said. "Get up and come with
me."

Not a word was spoken on the way back to the school.

Mr. Porson then took Mather into his study, where they remained
for half an hour. What passed between them was never known. In the
morning the boys who slept in the room with Mather were surprised
to find that his bed was empty and the window open. He had gone
to bed at half past eight as usual, and saying he was sleepy had
threatened to punch the head of any boy who spoke, so that all had
gone off to sleep in a very short time. A stout ivy grew against
the wall, and some fallen leaves on the ground showed them that he
had climbed down with the assistance of its stem. But why he should
have gone, and what on earth possessed him to run away, none could
imagine. The news ran rapidly through the other bedrooms, and brimful
of excitement all went down when the bell rang for prayers before
breakfast. The list of names was called out by the master as usual,
and the excitement grew breathless as the roll of the third class
was called; but to the astonishment of all, Mather's name was
omitted. When the list was concluded Mr. Porson said:

"Mather has left; I grieve to say that I have discovered that it
was he who stole the book and pencil case. He has confessed the
whole to me, and he is, I trust, sincerely penitent. He slept last
night on the sofa in my study, and has gone off this morning by the
coach. I have written to his parents stating the whole circumstances
under which he was driven to commit the theft, and that although
I could not permit him to remain here, I trusted and believed that
his repentance was sincere, and that it would be a lesson to him
through life, and I urged them to give him a further trial, and
not to drive him to desperation by severity.

"There is a lesson which you may all learn from this. Mather
committed these crimes because he had borrowed money which he could
not repay. Most foolishly and mistakenly the woman who supplies
you with cakes had lent him money and when he could not repay it
according to his promise to her, threatened to report the case to
me, and it was to prevent the matter coming to my ears that he took
these things. Let this be a warning to you, boys, through life.
Never borrow money, never spend more than your means afford. An
extravagance may seem to you but a small fault, but you see crime
and disgrace may follow upon it. Think this well over, and be
lenient in your hearts to your late schoolfellow. He was tempted,
you see, and none of us can tell what he may do when temptation
comes, unless we have God's help to enable us to withstand it, and
to do what is right. Now let us fall to at our breakfast."

It was a strangely silent meal. Scarce a word was spoken, even in
a whisper. It came as a shock to everybody there, that after all the
dictionary should have been taken by one of their number, and that
the master's kindness on that occasion should have been requited
by another robbery seemed a disgrace to the whole school. That
Mather, too, always loud, noisy, and overbearing, should have been
the thief was surprising indeed. Had it been some quiet little
boy, the sort of boy others are given to regard as a sneak, there
would have been less surprise, but that Mather should do such
a thing was astounding. These were probably the first reflections
which occurred to every boy as he sat down to breakfast.

The next impression was how good Mr. Porson had been about it. He
might have given Mother in charge, and had him punished by law.
He might have given him a terrific flogging and a public expulsion
before all the school. Instead of that he had sent him quietly
away, and seemed sorry for rather than angry with him. By the time
the meal was finished there was probably not a boy but had taken
an inward resolution that there was nothing he would not do for his
master, and although such resolutions are generally but transient,
Mr. Porson found that the good effect of his treatment of Mather
was considerable and permanent. Lessons were more carefully learned,
obedience was not perhaps more prompt, but it was more willing,
and the boys lost no opportunity of showing how anxious they were
to please in every respect.

Ned and his brother were not present when Mr. Porson explained the
cause of Mather's absence to the others, but they were surrounded
by their schoolfellows, all eager to tell the news upon their
arrival in the playground a few minutes before the school began.

Before breaking up in June, Porson's played their first cricket match
with a strong village team, and beat them handsomely, although, as
the boys said, it was to their master's bowling that their success
was due. Still the eleven all batted fairly, and made so long a
score that they won in one innings; and Mr. Porson promised them
that before the season ended they should have a whole holiday, and
play the Marsden eleven.

Ned enjoyed his holiday rambles, taking several long walks across
the moors accompanied by Bill Swinton, who had now perfectly
recovered. The discontent among the croppers, and indeed among the
workers in the mills generally through the country was as great as
ever; but the season was a good one; bread had fallen somewhat in
price, and the pinch was a little less severe than it had been. The
majority of the masters had been intimidated by the action of their
hands from introducing the new machinery, and so far the relations
between master and men, in that part of Yorkshire at any rate,
remained unchanged. But although Ned enjoyed his rambles he was
glad when the holidays were over. He had no friends of his own age
in Marsden; his brother was too young to accompany him in his long
walks, and Bill obtained a berth in one of the mills shortly after
the holidays began, and was no longer available. Therefore Ned
looked forward to meeting his schoolfellows again, to the fun of
the cricket field and playground, and even to lessons, for these
were no longer terrible.

The school reopened with largely increased numbers. The reports
which the boys had taken home of the changed conditions of things
and of their master's kindness excited among all their friends an
intense longing to go to a school where the state of things was so
different to that which prevailed elsewhere; and the parents were
equally satisfied with the results of the new master's teaching.
Such as took the trouble to ask their boys questions found that
they had acquired a real grasp of the subjects, and that they were
able to answer clearly and intelligently. The consequence was, the
house was filled with its full complement of fifty boarders, and
indeed Mr. Porson was obliged to refuse several applications for
want of room. As he had not the same objection as his predecessor
to receive home boarders, the numbers were swelled by eighteen boys
whose parents resided in Marsden.

To meet the increased demands upon his teaching powers Mr. Porson
engaged two ushers, both of them young men who had just left Durham.
They were both pleasant and gentlemanly young fellows; and as Mr.
Porson insisted that his own mode of teaching should be adopted,
the change did not alter the pleasant state of things which had
prevailed during the past half year. Both the ushers were fond of
cricket, and one turned out to be at least equal to Mr. Porson as
a bowler. Therefore the boys looked forward to their match with
Marsden with some confidence.

Captain Sankey saw with great pleasure the steady improvement which
was taking place in Ned's temper. It was not to be expected that
the boy would at once overcome a fault of such long standing, but
the outbursts were far less frequent, and it was evident that he
was putting a steady check upon himself; so that his father looked
forward to the time when he would entirely overcome the evil
consequences engendered by his unchecked and undisciplined childhood.



CHAPTER VII: A TERRIBLE SHOCK


Ned had been looking forward with great anticipations to Michaelmas
day, upon which the great match was to take place; for he was one
of the eleven, being the youngest of the boys included in it. An
event, however, happened which deprived him of his share in the
match, and caused the day to pass almost unnoticed. On the 20th of
September the servant came in to Mr. Porson during morning school
to say that he was wanted. A minute or two later she again re-entered
and said that Ned and his brother were to go to the master's study.
Much surprised at this summons they followed her. Mr. Porson was
looking exceedingly grave.

"My dear boys," he said, "I have bad news for you. Very bad news.
You must bear it bravely, looking for support and consolation to
Him who alone can give it. Dr. Green's boy has just been here. He
was sent down by his master to say that there has been a serious
accident in the town."

The commencement of the master's speech and the graveness of his
tone sent a serious thrill through the hearts of the boys. Mr.
Porson would never have spoken thus had not the news been serious
indeed.

When he paused Ned gave a little gasp and exclaimed, "My father!"

"Yes, Ned, I am grieved to say that it is your brave father who has
suffered from the accident. It seems that as he was walking down
the High Street one of Ramsay's heavy wagons came along. A little
girl ran across the street ahead, but stumbled and fell close to
the horses. Your father, forgetful of the fact of his wooden leg,
rushed over to lift her; but the suddenness of the movement, he
being a heavy man, snapped the wooden leg in sunder, and he fell
headlong in the street. He was within reach of the child, and
he caught her by the clothes and jerked her aside; but before he
could, in his crippled condition, regain his feet, the wheel was
upon him, and he has suffered very serious injuries."

"He is not dead, sir?" Ned gasped, while his brother began to cry
piteously.

"No, Ned, he is not dead," Mr. Porson said; "but I fear, my dear
boy, that it would be cruel kindness did I not tell you to prepare
yourself for the worst. I fear from what I hear that he is fatally
injured, and that there is but little hope. Get your hats, my boys,
and I will walk home with you at once."

There were but few words exchanged during that dismal walk, and
these were addressed by Mr. Porson to Ned.

"Try to calm yourself, my boy," he said, putting his hand on his
shoulder, which was shaking with the boy's efforts to keep down
his convulsive sobs; "try and nerve yourselves for the sake of your
father himself, of your mother, and the little ones. The greatest
kindness you can show to your father new is by being calm and
composed."

"I will try, sir," Ned said as steadily as he could; "but you don't
know how I loved him!"

"I can guess it, my boy; for I, too, lost my father when I was just
your age. God's ways are not our ways, Ned; and be sure, although
you may not see it now, that he acts for the best."

A little crowd stood gathered near the door. They were talking
in low tones of the gallant way in which the crippled officer had
sacrificed himself to save the child. They made way silently for
the boys to pass. Ned opened the door and entered.

Abijah was in the hall. She was tearless, but her face was white
and set.

"My poor boy," she said to Ned, "he is in the parlor; he has just
been asking for you. I am glad you have come. Your mother is in
hysterics in her bedroom, and is going on like a mad woman. You
must be calm, dear, for your father's sake."

Ned gave a little nod, and, taking his brother's hand, opened the
door of the parlor.

Captain Sankey was lying on the hearth rug, his head propped up with
pillows from the sofa; his face was an ashen pallor, and his eyes
were closed. The doctor was kneeling beside him, pouring some liquid
from a glass between his lips. A strong friendship had sprung up
between the two men, and tears were running fast down the doctor's
cheeks. He motioned to the boys to approach. They fell on their
knees by their father's side.

"Sankey," the doctor said in a steady voice, "here are your boys,
Ned and Charlie."

The eyes of the dying man opened slowly, and he looked at his sons,
and Ned felt a slight pressure of the hand which he had taken in
his own.

"God bless you, my boys!" he said, in a faint whisper. "Ned, be
kind to your mother; care for her always. She will need all your
kindness."

"I will, father," the boy said steadily. "I will take care of
mother, I promise you."

A faint smile passed over the pale face; then the eyes closed
again, and there was silence for five minutes, broken only by the
sobbing of the younger boy. The doctor, who had his fingers on the
pulse of Captain Sankey, leaned closely over him; then he laid his
arm gently down, and putting his hand on Ned's shoulder said softly:

"Come, my boy, your father is out of pain now."

Ned gave one loud and bitter cry, and threw himself down by the
side of the corpse, and gave way to his pent up emotion.

The doctor led the younger boy from the room, and gave him into
the care of Abijah. Then he returned and stood for awhile watching
Ned's terrible outburst of grief; then he poured some wine into a
glass.

"My boy," he said tenderly, "you must not give way like this or
you will make yourself ill. Drink this, Ned, and then go up and
lie down on your bed until you feel better. Remember you must be
strong for the sake of the others. You know you will have to bear
your mother's burdens as well as your own."

He helped Ned to his feet and held the glass to his lips, for the
boy's hand was shaking so that he could not have held it. After
drinking it Ned stumbled upstairs and threw himself on the bed,
and there cried silently for a long time; but the first passion of
grief had passed, and he now struggled with his tears, and in an
hour rose, bathed his flushed and swollen face, and went downstairs.

"Abijah," he said, in a voice which he struggled in vain to steady,
"what is there for me to do? How is my mother?"

"She has just cried herself off to sleep, Master Ned, and a mercy
it is for her, poor lady, for she has been going on dreadful ever
since he was brought in here; but if you go in to Master Charlie and
Miss Lucy and try and comfort them it would be a blessing. I have
not been able to leave your mother till now, and the poor little
things are broken hearted. I feel dazed myself, sir. Think of the
captain, who went out so strong and well this morning, speaking so
kind and bright just as usual, lying there!" and here Abijah broke
down and for the first time since Captain Sankey was carried into
the house tears came to her relief, and throwing her arms round
Ned's neck she wept passionately.

Ned's own tears flowed too fast for him to speak for some time.
At last he said quietly, "Don't cry so, Abijah. It is the death of
all others that was fitted for him, he, so brave and unselfish, to
die giving his life to save a child. You told me to be brave; it
is you who must be brave, for you know that you must be our chief
dependence now."

"I know, Master Ned; I know, sir," the woman said, choking down her
sobs, and wiping her eyes with her apron, "and I will do my best,
never fear. I feel better now I have had a good cry. Somehow I
wasn't able to cry before. Now, sir, do you go to the children and
I will look after things."

A fortnight passed. Captain Sankey had been laid in his grave,
after such a funeral as had never been seen in Marsden, the mills
being closed for the day, and all the shutters up throughout
the little town, the greater part of the population attending the
funeral as a mark of respect to the man who, after fighting the
battles of his country, had now given his life for that of a child.
The great cricket match did not come off, it being agreed on all
hands that it had better be postponed. Mr. Porson had called twice
to see Ned, and had done much by his comforting words to enable
him to bear up. He came again the day after the funeral.

"Ned," he said, "I think that you and Charlie had better come to
school again on Monday. The sooner you fall into your regular groove
the better. It would only do you both harm to mope about the house
here; and although the laughter and noise of your schoolfellows
will jar upon you for awhile, it is better to overcome the feeling
at once; and I am sure that you will best carry out what would have
been his wishes by setting to your work again instead of wasting
your time in listless grieving."

"I think so too, sir," Ned said, "but it will be awfully hard at
first, and so terrible to come home and have no one to question
one on the day's work, and to take an interest in what we have been
doing."

"Very hard, Ned; I thoroughly agree with you, but it has to be borne,
and remember there is One who will take interest in your work. If
I were you I should take your brother out for walks this week. Get
up into the hills with him, and try and get the color back into his
cheeks again. He is not so strong as you are, and the confinement
is telling upon him--the fresh air will do you good, too."

Ned promised to take his master's advice, and the next morning
started after breakfast with Charlie. His mother had not yet risen,
and indeed had not been downstairs since the day of the accident,
protesting that she was altogether unequal to any exertion whatever.
Ned had sat with her for many hours each day, but he had indeed
found it hard work. Sometimes she wept, her tears being mingled with
self reproaches that she had not been able to do more to brighten
her husband's life. Sometimes she would break off and reproach
the boy bitterly for what she called his want of feeling. At other
times her thoughts seemed directed solely toward the fashion of
her mourning garments, and after the funeral she drove Ned almost
to madness by wanting to knew all the details of who was there and
what was done, and was most indignant with him because he was able
to tell her nothing, the whole scene having been as a mist to him,
absorbed as he was in the thought of his father alone.

But Ned had never showed the least sign of impatience or hastiness,
meeting tears, reproaches, and inquiries with the same stoical
calmness and gentleness. Still it was with a sigh of relief that
he took a long breath of fresh air as he left the house and started
for a ramble on the moor with his brother. He would have avoided
Varley, for he shrank even from the sympathy which Bill Swinton
would give; but Bill would be away, so as it was the shortest way
he took that road. As he passed Luke Marner's cottage the door
opened and Mary came down to the gate. One of the little ones had
seen Ned coming along the road and had run off to tell her. Little
Jane Marner trotted along by Polly's side.

"Good morning, Polly!" Ned said, and walked on. He dreaded speech
with any one. Polly saw his intention and hesitated; then she said:

"Good morning, Master Ned! One moment, please, sir."

Ned paused irresolutely.

"Please don't say anything," he began.

"No, sir, I am not a-going to--at least--" and then she hesitated,
and lifted up the child, who was about four years old, a soft eyed,
brown haired little maiden.

"It's little Jenny," she said; "you know sir, you know;" and she
looked meaningly at the child as the tears stood in her eyes.

Ned understood at once.

"What!" he said; "was it her? I did not know; I had not heard."

"Yes, sir; she and all of us owe her life to him. Feyther wanted
to come down to you, but I said better not yet awhile, you would
understand."

"How did it happen?" Ned said, feeling that here at least his wound
would be touched with no rough hand.

"She went down to the town with Jarge, who was going to fetch some
things I wanted. He left her looking in at a shop window while he
went inside. They were some time serving him as there were other
people in the shop. Jenny got tired, as she says, of waiting, and
seeing some pictures in a window on the other side of the street
started to run across, and her foot slipped, and--and--"

"I know," Ned said. "I am glad you have told me, Polly. I am glad
it was some one one knows something about. Don't say anything more
now, I cannot bear it."

"I understand, sir," the girl said gently. "God bless you!"

Ned nodded. He could not trust himself to speak, and turning he
passed on with Charlie through the village, while Mary Powlett,
with the child still in her arms, stood looking sorrowfully after
him as long as he was in sight.

"So thou'st seen the boy?" Luke said, when on his return from work
Polly told him what had happened. "Thou told's him, oi hope, how
we all felt about it, and how grateful we was?"

"I didn't say much, feyther, he could not bear it; just a word or
two; if I had said more he would have broken out crying, and so
should I."

"Thou hast cried enoo, lass, the last ten days. Thou hast done
nowt but cry," Luke said kindly, "and oi felt sore inclined to join
thee. Oi ha' had hard work to keep back the tears, old though oi
be, and oi a cropper."

"You are just as soft hearted as I am, feyther, every bit, so don't
pretend you are not;" and indeed upon the previous day Luke Marner
had broken down even more completely than Mary. He had followed
the funeral at a short distance, keeping with Mary aloof from the
crowd; but when all was over, and the churchyard was left in quiet
again, Luke had gone and stood by the still open grave of the man
who had given his life for his child's, and had stood there with
the tears streaming down his cheeks, and his strong frame so shaken
by emotion that Polly had been forced to dry her own eyes and stifle
her sobs, and to lead him quietly away.

"Strange, bain't it, lass; feyther and son seem mixed up with
Varley. First the lad has a foight wi' Bill Swinton, and braakes
the boy's leg; then t' feyther sends oop all sorts o' things to
Bill, and his son comes up here and gets as friendly with Bill as
if he were his brother, and gets to know you, and many another in
the village. Then our Jane goes down into t' town and would ha'
lost her life if captain he hadn't been passing by and saaved her.
Then he gets killed. Just gived his life for hearn. Looks like a
fate aboot it; may be it eel be our toorn next, and if ever that
lad waants a man to stand beside him Luke Marner will be there. And
there's Bill too--oi believe that boy would lay down his life for
him. He's very fond of our Janey--fonder nor her own brothers. He
ain't got no sister of his own, and he's took to t' child wonderful
since he got ill. He thowt a soight o' Ned Sankey afore; I doan't
know what he wouldn't do for him now."

"I don't suppose, feyther, as any of us will be able to do anything
for him; but we may do, who knows?"

"Ay, who knows, lass? toimes is main bad, and oi doot there will
be trouble, but oi doan't see as that can affect him no ways, being
as he is a lad, and having nowt to do with the mills--but oi do
hoape as the time may come, lass, as we can show un as we knows we
owes a loife to him."

On the Monday following Ned and Charlie returned to school, and
found it less painful than Ned had expected. Mr. Porson had taken
Ripon aside and had told that the kindest way to treat the boys
would be to avoid all allusion to their loss or anything like a
show of open sympathy, but to let them settle quietly into their
places.

"Sankey will know you all feel for him, Ripon, he will need no
telling of that."

Ripon passed the word round the school, and accordingly when the
boys came into the playground, two or three minutes before the bell
rang, Ned, to his great relief, found that with the exception of
a warm silent wring of the hand from a few of those with whom he
was most intimate, and a kindly nod from others, no allusion was
made to his fortnight's absence or its cause.

For the next month he worked hard and made up the time he had lost,
running straight home when he came out from school, and returning
just in time to go in with the others; but gradually he fell into
his former ways, and by the time the school broke up at Christmas
was able to mix with the boys and take part in their games. At
home he did his best to make things bright, but it was uphill work.
Mrs. Sankey was fretful and complaining. Their income was reduced
by the loss of Captain Sankey's half pay, and they had now only the
interest of the fortune of four thousand pounds which Mrs. Sankey
had brought to her husband on her marriage. This sum had been settled
upon her, and was entirely under her own control. The income was
but a small one, but it was sufficient for the family to live upon
with care and prudence.

Captain Sankey had made many friends since the time when he first
settled at Marsden, and all vied with each other in their kindness
to his widow. Presents of game were constantly left for her; baskets
of chickens, eggs, and fresh vegetables were sent down by Squire
Simmonds and other county magnates, and their carriages often stopped
at the door to make inquiries. Many people who had not hitherto
called now did so, and all Marsden seemed anxious to testify its
sympathy with the widow of the brave officer.

Ned was touched with these evidences of respect for his father's
memory. Mrs. Sankey was pleased for herself, and she would of an
evening inform Ned with much gratification of the visits she had
received.

Ned was glad that anything should occur which could rouse his mother,
and divert her from her own grievances; but the tone in which she
spoke often jarred painfully upon him, and he wondered how his
mother could find it in her heart to receive these people and to
talk over his father's death.

But Mrs. Sankey liked it. She was conscious she looked well in
her deep mourning, and that even the somber cap was not unbecoming
with her golden hair peeping out beneath it. Tears were always at
her command, and she had ever a few ready to drop upon her dainty
embroidered handkerchief when the occasion commanded it; and her
visitors, when they agreed among themselves, what a soft gentle
woman that poor Mrs. Sankey was, but sadly delicate you know--had
no idea of the querulous complaining and fretfulness whose display
was reserved for her own family only.

To this Ned was so accustomed that it passed ever his head almost
unheeded; not so her constant allusions to his father. Wholly
unconscious of the agony which it inflicted upon the boy, Mrs.
Sankey was incessantly quoting his opinions or utterances.

"Ned, I do wish you would not fidget with your feet. You know your
dear father often told you of it;" or, "As your dear father used
to say, Ned;" until the boy in despair would throw down his book
and rush out of the room to calm himself by a run in the frosty
night air; while Mrs. Sankey would murmur to herself, "That boy's
temper gets worse and worse, and with my poor nerves how am I to
control him?"

Mr. Porson was very kind to him in those days. During that summer
holiday he had very frequently spent the evening at Captain Sankey's,
and had formed a pretty correct idea of the character of Ned's
mother. Thus when he saw that Ned, when he entered the school after
breakfast or dinner, had an anxious hunted look, and was clearly
in a state of high tension, he guessed he was having a bad time of
it at home.

Charlie had fast got over the shock of his father's death; children
quickly recover from a blow, and, though delicate, Charlie was of
a bright and gentle disposition, ready to be pleased at all times,
and not easily upset.

One morning when Ned came in from school looking pale and white,
gave random answers to questions, and even, to the astonishment
of the class, answered Mr. Porson himself snappishly, the master,
when school was over and the boys were leaving their places, said:

"Sankey, I want to have a few words with you in the study."

Ned followed his master with an air of indifference. He supposed
that he was going to be lectured for the way he had spoken, but as
he said to himself, "What did it matter! what did anything matter!"

Mr. Porson did not sit down on entering the room, but when Ned had
closed the door after him took a step forward and laid his hand on
his shoulder.

"My boy," he said, "what is it that is wrong with you? I fear that
you have trouble at home."

Ned stood silent, but the tears welled up into his eyes.

"It can't be helped, sir," he said in a choking voice, and then with
an attempt at gayety: "it will be all the same fifty years hence,
I suppose."

"That is a poor consolation, Ned," Mr. Porson rejoined. "Fifty
years is a long time to look forward to. Can't we do anything before
that?"

Ned was silent.

"I do not want you to tell me, Ned, anything that happens at home
--God forbid that I should pry into matters so sacred as relations
between a boy and a parent!--but I can see, my boy, that something
is wrong. You are not yourself. At first when you came back I
thought all was well with you; you were, as was natural, sad and
depressed, but I should not wish it otherwise. But of late a change
has come ever you; you are nervous and excited; you have gone down
in your class, not, I can see, because you have neglected your
work, but because you cannot bring your mind to bear upon it. Now
all this must have a cause. Perhaps a little advice on my part
might help you. We shall break up in a week, Ned, and I shall be
going away for a time. I should like to think before I went that
things were going on better with you."

"I don't want to say anything against my mother," Ned said in a
low voice. "She means kindly, sir; but, oh! it is so hard to bear.
She is always talking about father, not as you would talk, sir,
but just as if he were alive and might come in at any moment, and
it seems sometimes as if it would drive me out of my mind."

"No doubt it is trying, my boy," Mr. Porson said; "but you see natures
differ, and we must all bear with each other and make allowances.
Your mother's nature, as far as I have seen of her, is not a deep
one. She was very fond of your father, and she is fond of you; but
you know, just as still waters run deep, shallow waters are full
of ripples, and eddies, and currents. She has no idea that what
seems natural and right to her should jar upon you. You upon your
part can scarcely make sufficient allowance for her different
treatment of a subject which is to you sacred. I know how you miss
your father, but your mother must miss him still more. No man ever
more lovingly and patiently tended a woman than he did her so far
as lay in his power. She had not a wish ungratified. You have in
your work an employment which occupies your thoughts and prevents
them from turning constantly to one subject; she has nothing whatever
to take her thoughts from the past. It is better for her to speak
of him often than to brood over him in silence. Your tribute to
your father's memory is deep and silent sorrow, hers is frequent
allusions. Doubtless her way jars upon you; but, Ned, you are
younger than she, and it is easier for you to change. Why not try
and accept her method as being a part of her, and try, instead of
wincing every time that she touches the sore, to accustom yourself
to it. It may be hard at first, but it will be far easier in the
end."

Ned stood silent for a minute or two; then he said:

"I will try, sir. My father's last words to me were to be kind to
mother, and I have tried hard, and I will go on trying."

"That is right, my boy; and ask God to help you. We all have our
trials in this life, and this at present is yours; pray God to give
you strength to bear it."



CHAPTER VIII: NED IS SORELY TRIED


Among the many who called upon Mrs. Sankey after the death of her
husband was Mr. Mulready, the owner of a mill near Marsden. He was
one of the leading men in the place, although his mill was by no
means a large one. He took rank in the eyes of the little town with
men in a much larger way of business by means of a pushing manner
and a fluent tongue. He had come to be considered an authority upon
most subjects. He paid much attention to his dress, and drove the
fastest horse and the best got up gig in that part of the country;
but it was Mr. Mulready's manner which above all had raised him to
his present position in the esteem of the good people of Marsden. He
had the knack of adapting himself to the vein of those he addressed.

With the farmers who came into market he was bluff and cordial; with
the people in general he was genial and good tempered. At meetings
at which the county gentry were present he was quiet, businesslike,
and a trifle deferential, showing that he recognized the difference
between his position and theirs.

With ladies he was gay when they were gay, sympathetic when sympathy
was expected. With them he was even more popular than with the
men, for the latter, although they admired and somewhat envied his
varied acquirements, were apt in the intimacy of private conversation
to speak of him as a humbug.

There was one exception, however, to his general popularity. There
was no mill owner in the neighborhood more heartily detested by his
workpeople; but as these did not mingle with the genteel classes of
Marsden their opinion of Mr. Mulready went for nothing. The mill
owner was a man of forty-three or forty-four, although when dressed
in his tightly fitting brown coat with its short waist, its brass
buttons, and high collar, and with a low hat with narrow brim worn
well forward and coming down almost to the bridge of his nose, he
looked seven or eight years younger.

His hair was light, his trimly cut muttonchop whiskers were sandy,
he had a bright, fresh complexion, a large mouth, and good teeth,
which he always showed when he smiled, and in public he was always
smiling; his eyes were light in color, very close together, and had
a somewhat peculiar appearance. Indeed there were men who hinted
that he had a slight cast, but these were, no doubt, envious of
his popularity.

Mrs. Sankey had been flattered by his visit and manner; indeed it
could hardly have been otherwise, for he had expressed a sympathy
and deference which were very soothing to her.

"It is indeed kind of you to receive me," he had said. "I know,
of course, that it is not usual for a man who has the misfortune
to be unmarried to make a call upon a lady, but I could not help
myself. William Mulready is not a man to allow his feelings to
be sacrificed to the cold etiquette of the world. I had not the
pleasure of the acquaintance of that most brave and distinguished
officer your late husband. I had hoped that some day circumstances
might throw me in contact with him, but it was not for me, a humble
manufacturer, to force my acquaintance upon one socially my superior;
but, my dear madam, when I heard of that terrible accident, of
that noble self devotion, I said to myself, 'William Mulready, when
a proper and decent time elapses you must call upon the relict of
your late noble and distinguished townsman, and assure her of your
sympathy and admiration, even if she spurns you from the door.'"

"You could not think I should do that, Mr. Mulready," Mrs. Sankey
said. "It is most gratifying to me to receive this mark of sympathy
in my present sad position;" and she sighed deeply.

"You are good indeed to say so," Mr. Mulready said in a tone
of deep gratitude; "but I might have been sure that my motives at
least would not be misunderstood by a high bred and delicate lady
like yourself. I will not now trespass on your time, but hope that
I may be permitted to call again. Should there be anything in which
so humble an individual could be in the slightest degree useful to
you pray command my services. I know the responsibility which you
must feel at being left in charge of those two noble boys and your
charming little daughter must be well nigh overwhelming, and if you
would not think it presumption I would say that any poor advice or
opinion which I, who call myself in some degree a man of the world,
can give, will be always at your service."

"You are very good," Mrs. Sankey murmured. "It is indeed a
responsibility. My younger boy and girl are all that I could wish,
but the elder is already almost beyond me;" and by the shake of
her head she testified that her troubles on that score approached
martyrdom.

"Never fear, my dear madam," Mr. Mulready said heartily. "Boys will
be boys, and I doubt not that he will grow up everything that you
could desire. I may have heard that he was a little passionate.
There was a trifling affair between him and his schoolmaster, was
there not? But these things mend themselves, and doubtless all will
come well in time; and now I have the honor of wishing you good
morning."

"Charming manners!" Mrs. Sankey said to herself when her visitor had
left. "A little old fashioned, perhaps, but so kind and deferential.
He seemed to understand my feelings exactly."

That evening when they were at tea Mrs. Sankey mentioned the
agreeable visitor who had called in the afternoon.

"What! William Mulready!" Ned exclaimed; "Foxey, as his hands call
him. I have heard Bill speak of him often. His men hate him. They
say he is a regular tyrant. What impudence his coming here!"

"Ned, I am surprised at you," his mother said angrily. "I am sure
Mr. Mulready is nothing of the sort. He is a most kind and considerate
gentleman, and I will not allow you to repeat these things you hear
from the low companions whom your father permitted you to associate
with."

"Bill is not a low companion, mother," Ned exclaimed passionately.
"A better fellow never stood, and Foxey is not kind and considerate.
He is a brutal tyrant, and I am sure my father, if you will quote
his opinion, would not have had such a man inside his doors."

"Leave the room, Ned, this moment," his mother exclaimed, more angry
than he had ever seen her before. "I am ashamed of you speaking to
me in that way. You would not have dared to do it had your father
been alive."

Ned dashed down his scarcely begun bread and butter and flung himself
out of the room, and then out of the house, and it was some hours
before he returned. Then he went straight up to his mother's room.

"I beg your pardon, mother," he said quietly. "I am very sorry I
spoke as I did. I ought not to have done so."

"Very well," Mrs. Sankey said coldly; "then don't do it again,
Ned."

Without another word Ned went off to his books. He was grieved and
sore at heart. He had during his walk fought a hard battle with
himself, and had conquered. As his temper cooled down he had felt
that he had broken his promise, that he had not been kind to his
mother; felt, too, that her accusation was a true one--he would
not have dared to speak so to her had his father been alive.

"But it was so different then," he had said to himself as the tears
chased each other down his cheeks. "Father understood me, and cared
for me, and made allowances. It was worth while fighting against
one's temper just to have him put his hand on my shoulder and say,
'Well done, my boy.' Now it is so different. I will go on trying for
his sake; but I know it's no good. Do what I will, I can't please
her. It's my fault, I dare say, but I do try my best. I do, indeed,
father," he said, speaking out loud; "if you can hear me, I do,
indeed, try to be kind to mother, but she won't let me. I do try
to make allowances, that is, when I am not in a passion, and then
I go and spoil it all, like a beast, just as I did tonight.

"Anyhow," he said to himself as he turned his face homeward again,
"I will go and tell her I am sorry, and beg her pardon. I don't
suppose she will be nice, but I can't help that. It's my duty
anyhow, and I will try and not say anything against Foxey next time
she speaks of him."

The latter part of his resolution Ned found it very hard to
maintain, for Mr. Mulready became a not unfrequent visitor. He had
always some excuse for calling, either to bring in a basket of fresh
trout, some game, or hothouse fruit, for, as he said, he knew her
appetite was delicate and needed tempting, or some book newly issued
from the London press which he was sure she would appreciate.

After a short time Mrs. Sankey ceased to speak of these visits,
perhaps because she saw how Ned objected to the introduction of Mr.
Mulready's name, perhaps for some other reason, and a year passed
without Ned's being seriously ruffled on the subject.

Ned was now nearly sixteen. He had worked hard, and was the head
boy at Porson's. It had always been regarded as a fixed thing that
he should go into the army. As the son of an officer who had lost
his leg in the service it was thought that he would be able to
obtain a commission without difficulty, and Squire Simmonds, who
had been a kind friend since his father's death, had promised to
ask the lord lieutenant of the county to interest himself in the
matter, and had no doubt that the circumstances of Captain Sankey's
death would be considered as an addition to the claim of his services
in the army.

Captain Sankey had intended that Ned should have gone to a superior
school to finish his education, but the diminished income of the
family had put this out of the question, and the subject had never
been mooted after his death. Ned, however, felt that he was making
such good progress under Mr. Porson that he was well content to
remain where he was.

His struggle with his temper had gone on steadily, and he hoped he
had won a final victory over it. Mr. Porson had been unwearied in
his kindnesses, and often took Ned for an hour in the evening in
order to push him forward, and although he avoided talking about
his home life the boy felt that he could, in case of need, pour
out his heart to him; but, indeed, things had gone better at home.
Mrs. Sankey was just as indisposed as ever to take any share whatever
in the trouble of housekeeping, but as Abijah was perfectly capable
of keeping the house in order without her instructions things went
on smoothly and straightly in this respect.

In other matters home life was more pleasant than it had been. Mrs.
Sankey was less given to querulous complaining, more inclined to
see things in a cheerful light, and Ned especially noticed with
satisfaction that the references to his father which had so tried
him had become much less frequent of late.

One day in September, when his father had been dead just a year,
one of the town boys, a lad of about Ned's age, said to him as they
were walking home from school together:

"Well, Ned, I suppose I ought to congratulate you, although I don't
know whether you will see it in that light."

"What do you mean?" Ned said. "I don't know that anything has
happened on which I should be particularly congratulated, except
on having made the top score against the town last week."

"Oh! I don't mean that," the boy said.. "I mean about Mulready."

"What do you mean?" Ned said, stopping short and turning very white.

"Why," the lad said laughing, "all the town says he is going to
marry your mother."

Ned stood as if stupefied. Then he sprang upon his companion and
seized him by the throat.

"It's a lie," he shouted, shaking him furiously. "It's a lie I say,
Smithers, and you know it. I will kill you if you don't say it's
a lie."

With a great effort Smithers extricated himself from Ned's grasp.

"Don't choke a fellow," he said. "It may be a lie if you say it is,
but it is not my lie anyhow. People have been talking about it for
some time. They say he's been down there nearly every day. Didn't
you know it?"

"Know it?" Ned gasped. "I have not heard of his being in the house
for months, but I will soon find out the truth."

And without another word he dashed off at full speed up the street.
Panting and breathless he rushed into the house, and tore into the
room where his mother was sitting trifling with a piece of fancy
work.

"I do wish, Edward, you would not come into the room like a
whirlwind. You know how any sudden noise jars upon my nerves. Why,
what is the matter?" she broke off suddenly, his pale, set face
catching her eye, little accustomed as she was to pay any attention
to Ned's varying moods.

"Mother," he panted out, "people are saying an awful thing about
you, a wicked, abominable thing. I know, of course, it is not true,
but I want just to hear you say so, so that I can go out and tell
people they lie. How dare they say such things!"

"Why, what do you mean, Edward?" Mrs. Sankey said, almost frightened
at the boy's vehemence.

"Why, they say that you are going to marry that horrible man Mulready.
It is monstrous, isn't it? I think they ought to be prosecuted and
punished for such a wicked thing, and father only a year in his
grave."

Mrs. Sankey was frightened at Ned's passion. Ever since the matter
had first taken shape in her mind she had felt a certain uneasiness
as to what Ned would say of it, and had, since it was decided,
been putting off from day to day the telling of the news to him.
She had, in his absence, told herself over and over again that it
was no business of his, and that a boy had no right to as much as
question the actions of his mother; but somehow when he was present
she had always shrank from telling him. She now took refuge in her
usual defense--tears.

"It is shameful," she said, sobbing, as she held her handkerchief
to her eyes, "that a boy should speak in this way to his mother;
it is downright wicked."

"But I am not speaking to you, mother; I am speaking of other people
--the people who have invented this horrible lie--for it is a
lie, mother, isn't it? It is not possible it can be true?"

"It is true," Mrs. Sankey said, gaining courage from her anger; "it
is quite true. And you are a wicked and abominable boy to talk in
that way to me. Why shouldn't I marry again? Other people marry
again, and why shouldn't I? I am sure your poor father would never
have wished me to waste my life by remaining single, with nothing
to do but to look after you children. And it is shameful of you to
speak in that way of Mr. Mulready."

Ned stopped to hear no more. At her first words he had given a low,
gasping cry, as one who has received a terrible wound. The blood
flew to his head, the room swam round, and he seemed to feel the
veins in his temples swell almost to bursting. The subsequent words
of his mother fell unheeded on his ears, and turning round he went
slowly to the door, groping his way as one half asleep or stupefied
by a blow.

Mechanically he opened the door and went out into the street; his
cap was still on his head, but he neither thought of it one way or
the other.

Almost without knowing it he turned from the town and walked toward
the hills. Had any one met him by the way they would assuredly have
thought that the boy had been drinking, so strangely and unevenly
did he walk. His face was flushed almost purple, his eyes were
bloodshot; he swayed to and fro as he walked, sometimes pausing
altogether, sometimes hurrying along for a few steps. Passing a
field where the gate stood open he turned into it, kept on his way
for some twenty yards further, and then fell at full length on the
grass. There he lay unconscious for some hours, and it was not until
the evening dews were falling heavily that he sat up and looked
round.

For some time he neither knew where he was nor what had brought him
there. At last the remembrance of what had passed flashed across
him, and with a cry of "Father! father!" he threw himself at full
length again with his head on his arm; but this time tears came
to his relief, and for a long time he cried with a bitterness of
grief even greater than that which he had suffered at his father's
death.

The stars were shining brightly when he rose to his feet, his
clothes were soaked with dew, and he trembled with cold and weakness.

"What am I to do?" he said to himself; "what am I to do?"

He made his way back to the gate and leaned against it for some
time; then, having at last made up his mind, he turned his back on
the town and walked toward Varley, moving more slowly and wearily
than if he was at the end of a long and fatiguing day's walk. Slowly
he climbed the hill and made his way through the village till he
reached the Swintons' cottage. He tapped at the door with his hand,
and lifting the latch he opened the door a few inches.

"Bill, are you in?"

There was an exclamation of surprise.

"Why, surely, it's Maister Ned!" and Bill came to the door.

"Come out, Bill, I want to speak to you."

Much surprised at the low and subdued tone in which Ned spoke,
Bill snatched down his cap from the peg by the door and joined him
outside.

"What be't, Maister Ned? what be t' matter with thee? Has owt gone
wrong?"

Ned walked on without speaking. In his yearning for sympathy, in
his intense desire to impart the miserable news to some one who
would feel for him, he had come to his friend Bill. He had thought
first of going to Mr. Porson. But though his master would sympathize
with him he would not be able to feel as he did; he would no doubt
be shocked at hearing that his mother was so soon going to marry
again, but he would not be able to understand the special dislike
to Mr. Mulready, still less likely to encourage his passionate
resentment. Bill would, he knew, do both, for it was from him he
had learned how hated the mill owner was among his people.

But at present he could not speak. He gave a short wave of his hand
to show that he heard, but could not answer yet, and with his head
bent down made his way out through the end of the village on to
the moor--Bill following him, wondering and sympathetic, unable
to conjecture what had happened.

Presently, when they had left the houses far behind them, Ned
stopped.

"What be't, Maister Ned?" Bill again asked, laying his strong hand
upon Ned's shoulder; "tell oi what it be. Hast got in another row
with t' maister? If there be owt as oi can do, thou knowest well
as Bill Swinton be with thee heart and soul."

"I know, Bill--I know," Ned said in a broken voice, "but you can
do nothing; I can do nothing; no one can. But it's dreadful to think
of. It's worse than if I had killed twenty masters. Only think--
only think, Bill, my mother's going to marry Mulready!"

"Thou doesn't say so, lad! What! thy mother marry Foxey! Oi never
heer'd o' such a thing. Well, that be bad news, surely! Well, well,
only to think, now! Poor lad! Well, that beats all!"

The calamity appeared so great to Bill that for some time no idea
occurred to him which could, under the circumstances, be considered
as consolatory. But Ned felt the sympathy conveyed in the strong
grasp of his shoulder, and in the muttered "Well, well, now!" to
which Bill gave vent at intervals.

"What bee'st going to do vor to stop it?" he asked at last.

"What can I do, Bill? She won't listen to me--she never does.
Anything I say always makes her go the other way. She wouldn't
believe anything I said against him. It would only make her stick
to him all the more.

"Dost think," Bill suggested after another long pause, "that if we
got up a sort of depitation--Luke Marner and four or five other
steady chaps as knows him; yes, and Polly Powlett, she could do
the talking--to go to her and tell her what a thundering dad un
he is--dost think it would do any good?"

Even in his bitter grief Ned could hardly help smiling at the
thought of such a deputation waiting upon his mother.

"No, it wouldn't do, Bill."

Bill was silent again for some time.

"Dost want un killed, Maister Ned?" he said in a low voice at last;
"'cause if ye do oi would do it for ye. Oi would lay down my life
for ye willing, as thou knowst; and hanging ain't much, arter all.
They say 'tis soon over. Anyhow oi would chance it, and perhaps
they wouldn't find me out."

Ned grasped his friend's hand.

"I could kill him myself!" he exclaimed passionately. "I have been
thinking of it; but what would be the good? I know what my mother
is--when once she has made up her mind there's no turning her;
and if this fellow were out of the way, likely enough she would
take up with another in no time."

"But it couldn't been as bad as if wur Foxey," Bill urged, "he be
the very worsest lot about Marsden."

"I would do it," Ned said passionately; "I would do it over and over
again, but for the disgrace it would bring on Charlie and Lucy."

"But there would be no disgrace if oi was to do it, Maister Ned."

"Yes, there would, Bill--a worse disgrace than if I did it myself.
It would be a nice thing to let you get hanged for my affairs; but
let him look out--let him try to ill treat Charlie and Lucy, and
he will see if I don't get even with him. I am not so much afraid
of that--it's the shame of the thing. Only to think that all
Marsden should know my mother is going to be married again within
a year of my father's death, and that after being his wife she
was going to take such a man as this! It's awful, downright awful,
Bill!"

"Then what art thou going to do, Maister Ned--run away and 'list
for a soldier, or go to sea?"

"I wish I could," Ned exclaimed. "I would turn my back on Marsden and
never come back again, were it not for the little ones. Besides,"
he added after a pause, "father's last words were, 'Be kind to
mother;' and she will want it more than he ever dreamed of."

"She will that," Bill agreed; "leastways unless oi be mistaken.
And what be'st going to do now, lad? Be'st agoing whoam?"

"No, I won't go home tonight," Ned replied. "I must think it over
quietly, and it would be worse to bear there than anywhere else.
No, I shall just walk about."

"Thou canst not walk abowt all night, Maister Ned," Bill said
positively; "it bain't to be thowt of. If thou don't mind thou
canst have moi bed and oi can sleep on t' floor."

"No, I couldn't do that," Ned said, "though I do feel awfully
tired and done up; but your brothers would be asking me questions
and wondering why I didn't go home. I could not stand that."

"No, Maister Ned, oi can see that wouldn't do; but if we walk
about for an hour or two, or--no, I know of a better plan. We can
get in at t' window of the school; it bain't never fastened, and
bain't been for years, seeing as thar bain't been neither school
nor schoolers since auld Mother Brown died. Oi will make a shift
to light a fire there. There be shutters, so no one will see the
light. Then oi will bring ee up some blankets from our house, and
if there bain't enough Polly will lend me some when oi tell her
who they are for. She bain't a one to blab. What dost thou say?"

Ned, who felt utterly worn out, assented gladly to the proposal, and
an entrance was easily effected into the desolate cottage formerly
used as a day school. Bill went off at once and soon returned with
a load of firewood; the shutters were then carefully closed, and
a fire quickly blazed brightly on the hearth. Bill then went away
again, and in a quarter of an hour returned with Mary Powlett. He
carried a bundle of rugs and blankets, while she had a kettle in
one hand and a large basket in the other.

"Good evening! Master Sankey," she said as she entered. "Bill has
told me all about it, and I am sorry indeed for you and for your
mother. It is worse for her, poor lady, than for you. You will soon
be old enough to go out into the world if you don't like things
at home; but she will have to bear what trouble comes to her. And
now I thought you would like a cup of tea, so I have brought the
kettle and things up. I haven't had tea yet, and they don't have
tea at Bill's; but I like it, though feyther grumbles sometimes,
and says it's too expensive for the likes of us in sich times as
these; but he knows I would rather go without meat than without
tea, so he lets me have it. Bill comes in for a cup sometimes, for
he likes it better than beer, and it's a deal better for him to be
sitting taking a cup of tea with me than getting into the way of
going down to the 'Spotted Dog,' and drinking beer there. So we
will all have a cup together. No one will disturb us. Feyther is
down at the 'Brown Cow,' and when I told the children I had to go
out on special business they all promised to be good, and Jarge
said he would see them all safely into bed. I told him I should be
back in an hour."

While Polly was speaking she was bustling about the room, putting
things straight; with a wisp of heather she swept up the dust which
had accumulated on the floor, in a semicircle in front of the fire,
and laid down the rugs and blankets to form seats. Three cups and
saucers, a little jag of milk, a teapot, and basin of sugar were
placed in the center, and a pile of slices of bread and butter
beside them, while from a paper bag she produced a cake which she
had bought at the village shop on her way up.

Ned watched her preparations listlessly.

"You are very good, Polly," he said, "and I shall be very glad of
the cup of tea, but I cannot eat anything."

"Never mind," she said cheerfully. "Bill and I can do the eating,
and perhaps after you have had a cup of tea you will be able to,
for Bill tells me you have had nothing to eat since breakfast."

Ned felt cheered by the warm blaze of the fire and by the cheerful
sound of the kettle, and after taking a cup of tea found that
his appetite was coming, and was soon able to eat his share. Mary
Powlett kept up a cheerful talk while the meal was going on, and
no allusion was made to the circumstances which had brought Ned
there. After it was done she sat and chatted for an hour. Then she
said:

"I must be off now, and I think, Bill, you'd best be going soon
too, and let Maister Ned have a good night of it. I will make him
up his bed on the rugs; and I will warrant, after all the trouble
he has gone through, he will sleep like a top."



CHAPTER IX: A PAINFUL TIME


When Ned was left alone he rolled himself up in the blankets, placed
a pillow which Polly had brought him under his head, and lay and
looked at the fire; but it was not until the flames had died down,
and the last red glow had faded into blackness that he fell off to
sleep.

His thoughts were bitter in the extreme. He pictured to himself
the change which would take place in his home life with Mulready
the manufacturer, the tyrant of the workmen, ruling over it. For
himself he doubted not that he would be able to hold his own.

"He had better not try on his games with me," he muttered savagely.
"Though I am only sixteen he won't find it easy to bully me; but
of course Charlie and Lucy can't defend themselves. However, I will
take care of them. Just let him be unkind to them, and see what
comes of it! As to mother, she must take what she gets, at least
she deserves to. Only to think of it! only to think of it! Oh, how
bitterly she will come to repent! How could she do it!

"And with father only dead a year! But I must stand by her, too.
I promised father to be kind to her, though he could never have
guessed how she would need it. He meant that I would only put up,
without losing my temper, with her way of always pretending to be
ill, and never doing anything but lie on the sofa and read poetry.
Still, of course, it meant I was to be kind anyhow, whatever
happened, and I will try to be so, though it is hard when she has
brought such trouble upon us all.

"As for Mulready I should like to burn his mill down, or to break
his neck. I hate him: it's bad enough to be a tyrant; but to be
a tyrant and a hypocrite, too, is horrible. Well, at any rate he
shan't lord it over me;" and so at last Ned dropped off to sleep.

He was still soundly asleep when Bill Swinton came in to wake
him. It was half past six, a dull October morning, with a dreary
drizzling rain. Bill brought with him a mug of hot tea and some
thick slices of bread and butter. Ned got up and shook himself.

"What o'clock is it, Bill?"

"Half past six--the chaps went off to t' mill an hour gone; oi've
kept some tea hot for ee."

"Thank you, Bill, my head aches, and so do all my bones, and I feel
as if I hadn't been asleep all night, although, indeed, I must have
slept quite as long as usual. Can't I have a wash?"

"Yes," Bill said, "thou canst come to our place; but thou had best
take thy breakfast whilst it be hot. It will waken thee up like."

Ned drank the tea and ate a slice of bread and butter, and felt
refreshed thereat. Then he ran with Bill to his cottage and had a
wash, and then started for the town. It was eight o'clock when he
reached home. Abijah was at the door, looking down the road as he
came up.

"Oh! Master Ned, how can you go on so? Not a bit of sleep have I
had this blessed night, and the mistress in strong hystrikes all
the evening. Where have you been?"

Ned gave a grunt at the news of his mother's hysterics--a grunt
which clearly expressed "served her right," but he only answered
the last part of the question.

"I have been up at Varley, and slept at the schoolhouse. Bill Swinn
and Polly Powlett made me up a bed and got me tea and breakfast.
I am right enough."

"But you shouldn't have gone away, Master Ned, in that style,
leaving us to wait and worry ourselves out of our senses."

"Do you know what she told me, Abijah? Wasn't it enough to make
any fellow mad?"

"Ay, ay," the nurse said. "I know. I have seen it coming months
ago; but it wasn't no good for me to speak. Ay, lad, it's a sore
trouble for you, surely a sore trouble for you, and for us all; but
it ain't no manner of use for you to set yourself agin it. Least
said sooner mended, Master Ned; in a case like this it ain't no
good your setting yourself up agin the missis. She ain't strong in
some things, but she's strong enough in her will, and you ought to
know by this time that what she sets her mind on she gets. It were
so allus in the captain's time, and if he couldn't change her, poor
patient lamb--for if ever there were a saint on arth he was that
--you may be sure that you can't. So try and take it quietly,
dearie. It be main hard for ye, and it ain't for me to say as it
isn't; but for the sake of peace and quiet, and for the sake of the
little ones, Master Ned, it's better for you to take it quiet. If
I thought as it would do any good for you to make a fuss I wouldn't
be agin it: but it ain't, you know, and it will be worse for you
all if you sets him agin you to begin with. Now go up and see your
mother, dearie, afore you goes off to school. I have just taken
her up her tea."

"I have got nothing to say to her," Ned growled.

"Yes, you have, Master Ned; you have got to tell her you hopes she
will be happy. You can do that, you know, with a clear heart, for
you do hope so. Fortunately she didn't see him yesterday; for when
he called I told him she was too ill to see him, and a nice taking
she was in when I told her he had been and gone; but I didn't mind
that, you know, and it was better she shouldn't see him when she
was so sore about the words you had said to her. It ain't no use
making trouble aforehand, or setting him agin you. He knows, I
reckon, as he won't be welcomed here by you. The way he has always
come when you would be out showed that clear enough. But it ain't
no use making matters worse. It's a pretty kettle of fish as it
stands. Now, go up, dearie, like a good boy, and make things roight."

Ned lingered irresolute for a little time in the hall, and then
his father's words, "Be kind to her," came strongly in his mind,
and he slowly went upstairs and knocked at his mother's door.

"Oh! here you are again!" she said in querulous tones as he entered,
"after being nearly the death of me with your wicked goings on! I
don't know what you will come to, speaking to me as you did yesterday,
and then running away and stopping out all night."

"It was wrong, mother," Ned said quietly, "and I have come to tell
you I am sorry; but you see the news was very sudden, and I wasn't
prepared for it. I did not know that he had been coming here, and
the news took me quite by surprise. I suppose fellows never do like
their mothers marrying again. It stands to reason they wouldn't;
but, now I have thought it over, I am sorry I spoke as I did, and
I do hope, mother, you will be happy with him."

Mrs. Sankey felt mollified. She had indeed all along dreaded Ned's
hearing the news, and had felt certain it would produce a desperate
outbreak on his part. Now that it was over she was relieved. The
storm had been no worse than she expected, and now that Ned had so
speedily come round, and was submissive, she felt a load off her
mind,

"Very well, Ned," she said more graciously than usual, "I am glad
that you have seen the wickedness of your conduct. I am sure that
I am acting for the best, and that it will be a great advantage to
you and your brother and sister having a man like Mr. Mulready to
help you push your way in life. I am sure I am thinking of your
interest as much as my own; and I have spoken to him over and over
again about you, and he has promised dozens of times to do his best
to be like a father to you all."

Ned winced perceptibly.

"All right, mother! I do hope you will be happy; but, please, don't
let us talk about it again till--till it comes off; and, please,
don't let him come here in the evening. I will try and get accustomed
to it in time; but you see it's rather hard at first, and you know
I didn't expect it."

So saying Ned left the room, and collecting his books made his way
off to school, leaving his mother highly satisfied with the interview.

His absence from afternoon school had, of course, been noticed,
and Smithers had told his friends how Ned had flown at him on his
speaking to him about the talk of his mother and Mulready. Of course
before afternoon school broke up every boy knew that Ned Sankey
had cut up rough about the report; and although the great majority
of the boys did not know Mr. Mulready by name there was a general
feeling of sympathy with Ned, The circumstances of his father's
death had, of course, exalted him greatly in the eyes of his
schoolfellows, and it was the unanimous opinion, that after having
had a hero for his father, a fellow would naturally object to having
a stepfather put over him.

Ned's absence was naturally associated with the news, and caused
much comment and even excitement. His attack upon Mr. Hathorn had
become a sort of historical incident in the school, and the younger
boys looked up with a sort of respectful awe upon the boy who had
defied a headmaster. There were all sorts of speculations rife
among them as to what Ned had done, there being a general opinion
that he had probably killed Mr. Mulready, and the debate turning
principally upon the manner in which this act of righteous vengeance
had been performed.

There was, then, a feeling almost of disappointment when Ned walked
into the playground looking much as usual, except that his face
was pale and his eyes looked heavy and dull. No one asked him any
questions; for although Ned was a general favorite, it was generally
understood that he was not the sort of fellow to be asked questions
that might put him out. When they went in school, and the first class
was called up, Ned, who was always at its head, took his place at
the bottom of the class, saying quietly to the master:

"I have not prepared my lesson today, sir, and I have not done the
exercises."

Mr. Porson made no remark; he saw at once by Ned's face that
something was wrong with him. When several questions went round,
which Ned could easily have answered without preparation, the master
said:

"You had better go to your desk, Sankey; I see you are not well.
I will speak to you after school is over."

Ned sat down and opened a book, but he did not turn a page until
school was over; then he followed his master to the study.

"Well, my boy," he asked kindly, "what is it?"

"My mother is going to marry Mr. Mulready," Ned said shortly. The
words seemed to come with difficulty from his lips.

"Ah! it is true, then. I heard the report some weeks ago, but hoped
that it was not true. I am sorry for you, Ned. I know it must be
a sore trial for you; it is always so when any one steps into the
place of one we have loved and lost."

"I shouldn't care so much if it wasn't him," Ned said in a dull
voice.

"But there's nothing against the man, is there?" Mr. Porson asked.
"I own I do not like him myself; but I believe he stands well in
the town."

"Only with those who don't know him," Ned replied; "his workpeople
say he is the worst master and the biggest tyrant in the district."

"We must hope it's not so bad as that, Ned; still, I am sorry--
very sorry, at what you tell me; but, my boy, you must not take
it to heart. You see you will be going out into the world before
long. Your brother will be following you in a few years. It is
surely better that your mother should marry again and have some
one to take care of her."

"Nice care of her he is likely to take!" Ned laughed bitterly. "You
might as well put a fox to take care of a goose."

"You are severe on both parties," Mr. Porson said with a slight
smile; "but I can hardly blame you, my boy, for feeling somewhat
bitter at first; but I hope that, for your own sake and your mother's,
you will try and conquer this feeling and will make the best of
the circumstances. It is worse than useless to kick against the
pricks. Any show of hostility on your part will only cause unhappiness,
perhaps between your mother' and him--almost certainly between
you and her. In this world, my boy, we have all our trials. Some
are very heavy ones. This is yours. Happily, so far as you are
concerned, you need only look forward to its lasting eighteen months
or so. In that time you may hope to get your commission; and as
the marriage can hardly take place for some little time to come,
you will have but a year or so to bear it."

"I don't know, sir," Ned said gloomily; "everything seems upset
now. I don't seem to know what I had best do."

"I am sure at present, Ned," Mr. Porson said kindly--for he saw
that the boy was just now in no mood for argument--"the best is
to try and think as little of it as possible. Make every allowance
for your mother; as you know, my boy, I would not speak disrespectfully
to you of her on any account; but she is not strong minded. She has
always been accustomed to lean upon some one, and the need of some
one to lean on is imperative with her. Had you been a few years
older, and had you been staying at home, it is probable that you
might have taken your place as her support and strength. As it is,
it was almost inevitable that something of this sort would happen.

"But you know, Ned, where to look for strength and support. You
have fought one hard battle, my boy, and have well nigh conquered;
now you have another before you. Seek for strength, my boy, where
you will assuredly find it, and remember that this discipline is
doubtless sent you for your good, and that it will be a preparation
for you for the struggle in after life. I don't want you to be
a thoughtless, careless young officer, but a man earnest in doing
his duty, and you cannot but see that these two trials must have
a great effect in forming your character. Remember, Ned, that if
the effect be not for good, it will certainly be for evil."

"I will try, sir," Ned said; "but I know it is easy to make good
resolutions, and how it will be when he is in the house as master
I can't trust myself even to think."

"Well, let us hope the best, Ned," Mr. Porson said kindly; "things
may turn out better than you fear."

Then seeing that further talking would be useless now, he shook
Ned's hand and let him go.

The next three or four months passed slowly and heavily. Ned went
about his work again quietly and doggedly; but his high spirits
seemed gone. His mother's engagement with Mr. Mulready had been
openly announced, directly after he had first heard of it. Charlie
had, to Ned's secret indignation, taken it quietly. He knew little
of Mr. Mulready, who had, whenever he saw him, spoken kindly to him,
and who now made him frequent presents of books and other things
dear to schoolboys. Little Lucy's liking he had, however, failed
to gain, although in his frequent visits he had spared no pains to
do so, seldom coming without bringing with him cakes or papers of
sweets. Lucy accepted the presents, but did not love the donor,
and confided to Abijah that his teeth were exactly like those of
the wolf who ate Little Red Riding Hood.

Ned found much more comfort in her society during those dull days
than in Charlie's. He had the good sense, however, never to encourage
her in her expressions of dislike to Mr. Mulready, and even did
his best to combat her impression, knowing how essential it was
for her to get on well with him. Ned himself did not often see
Mr. Mulready during that time. The first time that they met, Ned
had, on his return from school, gone straight up into the drawing
room, not knowing that Mr. Mulready was there. On opening the door
and seeing him he paused suddenly for a moment and then advanced.
For a moment neither of them spoke, then Mr. Mulready said in his
frankest manner:

"Ned, you have heard I am going to marry your mother. I don't
suppose you quite like it; it wouldn't be natural if you did; I know
I shouldn't if I were in your place. Still you know your disliking
it won't alter it, and I hope we shall get on well together. Give
me your hand, my lad, you won't find me a bad sort of fellow."

"I hope not," Ned said quietly, taking Mr. Mulready's hand and
continuing to hold it while he went on: "I don't pretend I like
it, and I know it makes no difference whether I do or not; the
principal point is, that my mother should be happy, and if you
make her happy I have no doubt we shall, as you say, get on well
together; if you don't, we shan't."

There was no mistaking the threat conveyed in Ned's steady tones,
and Mr. Mulready, as Ned dropped his hand, felt that he should have
more trouble with the boy than he had expected. He gave a forced
laugh.

"One would think, Ned, that you thought it likely I was going to
be unkind to your mother."

"No," Ned said quietly, "I don't want to think about it one way or
the other, only I promised my father I would be kind to my mother;
that means that I would look after her, and I mean to.

"Well, mother," he said in his usual tone, turning to Mrs. Sankey,
"and how are you this morning?"

"I was feeling better, Ned," she said sharply; "but your unpleasant
way of talking, and your nonsense about taking care of me, have
made me feel quite ill again. Somehow you always seem to shake my
nerves. You never seem to me like other boys. One would think I
was a child instead of being your mother. I thought after what you
said to me that you were going to behave nicely."

"I am trying to behave nicely," Ned said. "I am sure I meant quite
nicely, just as Mr. Mulready does; I think he understands me."

"I don't understand that boy," Mrs. Sankey said plaintively when
Ned had left the room, "and I never have understood him. He was
dreadfully spoiled when he was in India, as I have often told you;
for in my weak state of health I was not equal to looking after him,
and his poor father was sadly overindulgent. But he has certainly
been much better as to his temper lately, and I do hope, William,
that he is not going to cause trouble."

"Oh, no!" Mr. Mulready said lightly, "he will not cause trouble;
I have no doubt we shall get on well together. Boys will be boys,
you know; I have been one myself, and of course they look upon
stepfathers as natural enemies; but in this case, you see, we shall
not have to put up with each other long, as he will be getting his
commission in a year or so. Don't trouble yourself about it, love;
in your state of health you ought really not to worry yourself, and
worry, you know, spoils the eyes and the complexion, and I cannot
allow that, for you will soon be my property now."

The wedding was fixed for March. It was to be perfectly quiet, as
Mrs. Sankey would, up to the day, be still in mourning. A month
before the time Ned noticed that his mother was more uncertain in
her temper than usual, and Abijah confided to him in secret that
she thought things were not going on smoothly between the engaged
couple.

Nor were they. Mr. Mulready had discovered, to his surprise, that,
indolent and silly as Mrs. Sankey was in many respects, she was
not altogether a fool, and was keen enough where her own interests
were concerned. He had suggested something about settlements, hoping
that she would at once say that these were wholly unnecessary; but
to his surprise she replied in a manner which showed that she had
already thought the matter over, and had very fixed ideas on the
subject.

"Of course," she said, "that will be necessary. I know nothing about
business, but it was done before, and my poor husband insisted that
my little fortune should be settled so as to be entirely at my own
disposal."

But this by no means suited Mr. Mulready's views. Hitherto want of
capital had prevented his introducing the new machinery into his
mills, and the competition with the firms which had already adopted
it was injuring him seriously, and he had reckoned confidently upon
the use of Mrs. Sankey's four thousand pounds. Although he kept his
temper admirably under the circumstances, he gave her distinctly
to understand, in the pleasantest way, that an arrangement which
was most admirably suitable in every respect in the case of a lady
marrying an officer in the army, to whom her capital could be of
no possible advantage, was altogether unsuitable in the case of a
manufacturer.

"You see, my love," he argued, "that it is for your benefit as well
as mine that the business should grow and flourish by the addition
of the new machinery which this little fortune of yours could
purchase. The profits could be doubled and trebled, and we could
look forward ere long to holding our heads as high as the richest
manufacturers at Leeds and Bradford--while the mere interest in
this money invested in consols as at present would be absolutely
useless to us."

Mrs. Sankey acknowledged the force of his argument, but was firm
in her determination to retain her hold of her money, and so they
parted, not in anger, for Mr. Mulready altogether disclaimed the
possibility of his being vexed, but with the sense that something
like a barrier had sprung up between them.

This went on for a few days, and although the subject was not mooted,
Mrs. Sankey felt that unless some concession on her part was made
it was likely that the match would fall through. This she had not
the slightest idea of permitting, and rather than it should happen
she would have married without any settlement at all, for she
really loved, in her weak way, the man who had been so attentive
and deferential to her.

So one day the subject was renewed, and at last an understanding
was arrived at. Mrs. Sankey's money was to be put into the business
in her own name. Should she not survive her husband, he was to have
the option of paying the money to her children or of allowing them
the sum of eighty pounds a year each from the business. Should he
not survive her the mill was to be settled upon any children she
might have after her marriage; should there be no children it was
to be hers absolutely.

All this was only arrived at after several long discussions, in all
of which Mrs. Sankey protested that she knew nothing of business,
that it was most painful to her to be thus discussing money
matters, and that it would be far better to leave it in the hands
of a solicitor to arrange in a friendly manner with him. She
nevertheless stuck to her views, and drove a bargain as keenly and
shrewdly as any solicitor could have done for her, to the surprise
and exasperation of Mr. Mulready. Had he known that she really
loved him, and would, if she had been driven to it, have sacrificed
everything rather than lose him, he could have obtained very
different terms; but having no heart to speak of, himself, he was
ignorant of the power he possessed over her.

Bankruptcy stared him in the face unless he could obtain this increase
of capital, and he dared not, by pressing the point, risk its loss.
The terms, he told himself, were not altogether unsatisfactory; it
was not likely that she would survive him. They were of about the
same age; he had never known what it was to be ill, and she, although
not such an invalid as she fancied herself, was still not strong.
If she did not survive him he would have the whole business, subject
only to the paltry annuity of two hundred and forty pounds a year
to the three children. If, the most unlikely thing in the world,
she did survive him--well, it mattered not a jot in that case
who the mill went to.

So the terms were settled, the necessary deeds were drawn up by a
solicitor, and signed by both parties. Mrs. Sankey recovered her
spirits, and the preparations for the wedding went on.

Ned had intended to absent himself from the ceremony, but Mr.
Porson, guessing that such might be his intention, had talked the
matter gravely over with him. He had pointed out to Ned that his
absence would in the first place be an act of great disrespect to
his mother; that in the second place it would cause general comment,
and would add to the unfavorable impression which his mother's
early remarriage had undoubtedly created; and that, lastly, it would
justify Mr. Mulready in regarding him as hostile to the marriage,
and, should trouble subsequently arise, he would be able to point
to it in self justification, and as a proof that Ned had from the
first determined to treat him as an enemy.

So Ned was present at his mother's marriage. Quiet as the wedding
was, for only two or three acquaintances were asked to be present,
the greater part of Marsden were assembled in the church.

The marriage had created considerable comment. The death of Captain
Sankey in saving a child's life had rendered his widow an object of
general sympathy, and people felt that not only was this marriage
within eighteen months of Captain Sankey's death almost indecent,
but that it was somehow a personal wrong to them, and that they
had been defrauded in their sympathy.

Therefore the numerous spectators of the marriage were critical
rather than approving. They could find nothing to find fault with,
however, in the bride's appearance. She was dressed in a dove
colored silk, and with her fair hair and pale complexion looked
quite young, and, as every one admitted, pretty. Mr. Mulready, as
usual, was smiling, and seemed to convey by the looks which he cast
round that he regarded the assemblage as a personal compliment to
himself.

Lucy and Charlie betrayed no emotion either way; they were not
pleased, but the excitement of the affair amused and interested
them, and they might be said to be passive spectators. Ned, however,
although he had brought himself to be present, could not bring
himself to look as if the ceremony had his approval or sanction.
He just glared, as Abijah, who was present, afterward confided
to some of her friends, as if he could have killed the man as he
stood. His look of undisguised hostility was indeed noticed by all
who were in church, and counted heavily against him in the days
which were to come.



CHAPTER X: TROUBLES AT HOME


It was not one of the least griefs of the young Sankeys connected
with their mother's wedding that Abijah was to leave them. It was
she herself who had given notice to Mrs. Sankey, saying that she
would no longer be required. The first time that she had spoken of
her intentions, Mrs. Sankey vehemently combated the idea, saying
that neither she nor Lucy could spare her; but she did not afterward
return to the subject, and seemed to consider it a settled thing
that Abijah intended to leave. Mrs. Sankey had, in fact, spoken
to Mr. Mulready on the subject, but instead of taking the view she
had expected, he had said cheerfully:

"I am glad that she has given notice. I know that she is a valuable
woman and much attached to you. At the same time these old servants
always turn out a mistake under changed circumstances. She would
never have been comfortable or contented. She has, my dear if I may
say so, been mistress too long, and as I intend you to be mistress
of my house, it is much better that she should go."

As Mrs. Sankey had certain doubts herself as to whether Abijah
would be a success in the new home, the subject was dropped, and it
became an understood thing that Abijah would leave after the wedding.

The newly married couple were absent for three weeks. Until two
days before their return Abijah remained in the old house with the
young Sankeys; then they moved into their new home, and she went
off to her native village ten miles distant away on the moors. The
next day there was a sale at the old house. A few, a very few, of
the things had been moved. Everything else was sold, to the deep
indignation of Ned, who was at once grieved and angry that all the
articles of furniture which he associated with his father should
be parted with. Abijah shared the boy's feelings in this respect,
and at the sale all the furniture and fittings of Captain Sankey's
study were bought by a friendly grocer on her behalf, and the morning
after the sale a badly written letter, for Abijah's education had
been neglected, was placed in Ned's hand.

"MY DEAR MASTER NED: Knowing as it cut you to the heart that
everything should go away into the hands of strangers, I have made
so bold as to ask Mr. Willcox for to buy all the furniter and books
in maister's study. He is a-going to stow them away in a dry loft,
and when so bee as you gets a home of your own there they is for
you; they are sure not to fetch much, and when you gets a rich
man you can pay me for them; not as that matters at all one way or
the other. I have been a-saving up pretty nigh all my wages from
the day as you was born, and is quite comfortable off. Write me
a letter soon, dearie, to tell me as how things is going on. Your
affectionate nurse, ABIJAH WOLF."

Although Ned was a lad of sixteen, he had a great cry over this
letter, but it did him good, and it was with a softer heart that
he prepared to receive his mother and her husband that evening. The
meeting passed off better than he had anticipated. Mrs. Mulready
was really affected at seeing her children again, and embraced
them, Ned thought, with more fondness than she had done when they
went away. Mr. Mulready spoke genially and kindly, and Ned began
to hope that things would not be so bad after all.

The next morning, to his surprise, his mother appeared at breakfast,
a thing which he could not remember that she had ever done before,
and yet the hour was an early one, as her husband wanted to be off
to the mill. During the meal Mr. Mulready spoke sharply two or three
times, and it seemed to Ned that his mother was nervously anxious
to please him.

"Things are not going on so well after all," he said to himself as
he walked with his brother to school. "Mother has changed already;
I can see that she isn't a bit like herself. There she was fussing
over whether he had enough sugar with his tea, and whether the
kidneys were done enough for him; then her coming down to breakfast
was wonderful. I expect she has found already that somebody else's
will besides her own has got to be consulted; it's pretty soon for
her to have begun to learn the lesson."

It was very soon manifest that Mr. Mulready was master in his own
house. He still looked pleasant and smiled, for his smile was a
habitual one; but there was a sharpness in the ring of his voice,
an impatience if everything was not exactly as he wished. He roughly
silenced Charlie and Lucy if they spoke when he was reading his
paper at breakfast, and he spoke snappishly to his wife when she
asked him a question on such occasions. Ned felt his face burn,
as with his eyes on his plate he continued his meal. To him Mr.
Mulready seldom spoke unless it was absolutely necessary.

Ned often caught himself wondering over the change which had taken
place in his mother. All the ways and habits of an invalid had
disappeared. She not only gave directions for the management of the
house, but looked after everything herself, and was forever going
upstairs and down, seeing that everything was properly done. However
sharply Mr. Mulready spoke she never replied in the same tone. A
little flush of color would come into her cheek, but she would pass
it off lightly, and at all times she appeared nervously anxious to
please him. Ned wondered much over the change.

"He is a tyrant," he said, "and she has learned it already; but I
do think she loves him. Fancy my mother coming to be the slave of
a man like this! I suppose," he laughed bitterly, "it's the story
of 'a woman, a dog, and a walnut tree, the more you thrash them
the better they will be.' My father spent his whole life in making
hers easy, and in sparing her from every care and trouble, and I
don't believe she cared half as much for him as she does for this
man who is her master."

For some months Mr. Mulready was very busy at his mill. A steam
engine was being erected, new machinery brought in, and he was away
the greater part of his time superintending it.

One day at breakfast, a short time before all was in readiness for
a start with the new plant, Mr. Mulready opened a letter directed
in a sprawling and ill written hand which lay at the top of the
pile by his plate. Ned happened to notice his face, and saw the
color fade out from it as he glanced at the contents. The mouth
remained as usual, set in a smile, but the rest of the face expressed
agitation and fear. The hand which held the letter shook. Mrs.
Mulready, whose eyes seldom left her husband's face when he was in
the room, also noticed the change.

"Is anything the matter, William?"

"Oh! nothing," he said with an unnatural laugh, "only a little
attempt to frighten me."

"An attempt which has succeeded," Ned said to himself, "whatever
it is."

Mr. Mulready passed the letter over to his wife. It was a rough
piece of paper; at the top was scrawled the outline of a coffin
underneath which was written:

"MR. MULREADY: Sir, this is to give you warning that if you uses
the new machinery you are a dead man. You have been a marked man
for a long time for your tyrannical ways, but as long as you didn't
get the new machinery we let you live; but we has come to the end
of it now; the day as you turns on steam we burns your mill to the
ground and shoots you, so now you knows it."

At the bottom of this was signed the words "Captain Lud."

"Oh! William," Mrs. Mulready cried, "you will never do it! You will
never risk your life at the hands of these terrible people!"

All the thin veneer of politeness was cracked by this blow, and
Mr. Mulready said sullenly:

"Nice thing indeed; after I have married to get this money, and
then not to be able to use it!"

His wife gave a little cry.

"It's a shame to say so," Charlie burst out sturdily.

Mr. Mulready's passion found a vent. He leaped up and seized the
boy by the collar and boxed his ears with all his force.

In an instant the fury which had been smoldering in Ned's breast for
months found a vent. He leaped to his feet and struck Mr. Mulready
a blow between the eyes which sent him staggering back against the
wall; then he caught up the poker. The manufacturer with a snarl
like that of an angry wild beast was about to rush at him, but
Ned's attitude as he stood, poker in hand, checked him.

"Stand back," Ned said threateningly, "or I will strike you. You
coward and bully; for months I have put up with your tyrannizing
over Charlie and Lucy, but touch either of them again if you dare.
You think that you are stronger than I am--so you are ever so
much; but you lay a finger on them or on me, and I warn you, if I
wait a month for an opportunity I will pay you for it, if you kill
me afterward."

Mrs. Mulready's screams had by this time brought the servants into
the room, and they stood astonished at the spectacle.

Lucy crying bitterly had run to Ned and thrown her arms round him,
begging him to be quiet. Charlie, hardly recovered from the heavy
blows he had received, was crying too. Mr. Mulready as pale as
death was glaring at Ned, while his wife had thrown herself between
them. Mr. Mulready was the first to recover himself.

"This is a nice spectacle," he said to the servants. "You see that
boy has attacked me with the poker and might have murdered me.
However, you can go now, and mind, no chattering about what you
have seen.

"And now," he continued to Ned as the door closed behind the
servants, "out of this house you go this day."

"You don't suppose I want to stay in your house," Ned said
passionately. "You don't suppose that it's any pleasure to me to
stop here, seeing you play the tyrant over my mother."

"Oh, Ned, Ned," Mrs. Mulready broke in, "how can you talk so!"

"It is true, mother, he is a tyrant to you as well as to every one
else; but I don't mean to go, I mean to stop here to protect you
and the children. He daren't turn me out; if he did, I would go
and work in one of the mills, and what would the people of Marsden
say then? What would they think of this popular, pleasant gentleman
then, who has told his wife before her children that he married
her for her money? They shall all know it, never fear, if I leave
this house. I would have gone to Mr. Simmonds and asked him to
apply for a commission for me before now, for other fellows get
it as young as I am; but I have made up my mind that it's my duty
not to do so.

"I know he has been looking forward to my being out of the way,
and his being able to do just what he likes with the others, but I
ain't going to gratify him. It's plain to me that my duty at present
is to take care of you all, and though God knows how I set my mind
upon going into the army and being a soldier like my father, I will
give it up if it means leaving Charlie here under him."

"And do you suppose, sir," Mr. Mulready asked with intense bitterness,
"that I am going to keep you here doing nothing all your life,
while you are pleased to watch me?"

"No, I don't," Ned replied. "I shall get a clerkship or something
in one of the mills, and I shall have Charlie to live with me until
he is old enough to leave school, and then I will go away with him
to America or somewhere. As to mother, I can do nothing for her.
I think my being here makes it worse for her, for I believe you
tyrannize over her all the more because you think it hurts me. I
know you hated me from the first just as I hated you. As for Lucy,
mother must do the best she can for her. Even you daren't hit a
girl."

"Oh, Ned, how can you go on so?" Mrs. Mulready wailed. "You are a
wicked boy to talk so."

"All right, mother," Ned replied recklessly; "if I am, I suppose
I am. I know in your eyes he can do no wrong. And I believe if he
beat you, you would think that you deserved it."

So he flung himself down in his chair and continued his breakfast.

Mr. Mulready drank off his tea without sitting down, and then left
the room without another word; in fact, as yet he did not know what
to say.

Almost speechless with passion as he was, he restrained himself from
carrying out his threat and turning Ned at once from the house.
Above all things he prized his position and popularity, and he
felt that, as Ned had said, he would indeed incur a heavy odium by
turning his wife's son from his doors. Captain Sankey's death had
thrown almost a halo over his children. Mr. Mulready knew that he
was already intensely unpopular among the operative class, but he
despised this so long as he stood well with the rest of the townsmen;
but he dared not risk Ned's going to work as an ordinary hand in
one of the factories; public opinion is always against stepfathers,
and assuredly this would be no exception. Hating him as he did, he
dared not get rid of this insolent boy, who had struck and defied
him. He cursed himself now with his rashness in letting his temper
get the best of him and telling his wife openly that he had married
her for her money; for this in Ned's hands would be a serious weapon
against him.

That his wife's feelings were hurt he cared not a jot, but it would
be an awkward thing to have it repeated in the town. Then there
was this threatening letter; what was he to do about that? Other
men had had similar warnings. Some had defied Captain Lud, and
fortified their mills and held them. Many had had their property
burned to the ground; some had been murdered. It wouldn't be a
pleasant thing to drive about in the country knowing that at any
moment he might be shot dead. His mill was some little distance out
of the town; the road was dark and lonely. He dared not risk it.

Mr. Mulready was, like all tyrants, a coward at heart, and his face
grew white again as he thought of the letter in his pocket. In the
meantime Mrs. Mulready was alternately sobbing and upbraiding Ned
as he quietly finished his breakfast. The boy did not answer, but
continued his meal in dogged silence, and when it was over collected
his books and without a word went off to school.

Weeks went on, and no outward change took place. Ned continued to
live at home. Mr. Mulready never addressed him, and beyond helping
him to food entirely ignored his presence. At mealtimes when he
opened his lips it was either to snap at Charlie or Lucy, or to
snarl at his wife, whose patience astonished Ned, and who never
answered except by a smile or murmured excuse. The lad was almost
as far separated from her now as from his stepfather. She treated
him as if he only were to blame for the quarrel which had arisen.
They had never understood each other, and while she was never
weary of making excuses for her husband, she could make none for
her son. In the knowledge that the former had much to vex him she
made excuses for him even in his worst moods. His new machinery
was standing idle, his business was getting worse and worse, he
was greatly pressed and worried, and it was monstrous, she told
herself, that at such a time he should be troubled with Ned's
defiant behavior.

A short time before the school Christmas holidays Ned knocked at
the door of Mr. Porson's study. Since the conversation which they
had had when first Ned heard of his mother's engagement Mr. Porson
had seen in the lad's altered manner, his gloomy looks, and a hardness
of expression which became more and more marked every week, that
things were going on badly. Ned no longer evinced the same interest
in his work, and frequently neglected it altogether; the master,
however, had kept silence, preferring to wait until Ned should
himself broach the subject.

"Well, Sankey, what is it?" he asked kindly as the boy entered.

"I don't think it's any use my going on any longer, Mr. Porson."

"Well, Sankey, you have not been doing yourself much good this half,
certainly. I have not said much to you about it, for it is entirely
your own business: you know more than nineteen out of twenty of the
young fellows who get commissions, so that if you choose to give
up work it is your own affair."

"I have made up my mind not to go into the army," Ned said quietly.

Mr. Porson was silent a minute.

"I hope, my dear lad," he said, "you will do nothing hastily about
this. Here is a profession open to you which is your own choice and
that of your father, and it should need some very strong and good
reason for you to abandon it. Come let us talk the matter over
together, my boy, not as a master and his pupil, but as two friends.

"You know, my boy, how thoroughly I have your interest at heart.
If you had other friends whom you could consult I would rather have
given you no advice, for there is no more serious matter than to
say anything which might influence the career of a young fellow just
starting in life. Terrible harm often results from well intentioned
advice or opinions carelessly expressed to young men by their elders;
it is a matter which few men are sufficiently careful about; but
as I know that you have no friends to consult, Ned, and as I regard
you with more than interest, I may say with affection, I think it
would be well for you to tell me all that there is in your mind
before you take a step which may wreck your whole life.

"I have been waiting for some months in hopes that you would open
your mind to me, for I have seen that you were unhappy; but it was
not for me to force your confidence."

"I don't know that there's much to tell," Ned said wearily. "Everything has
happened just as it was certain it would do. Mulready is a brute;
he ill treats my mother, he ill treats Charlie and Lucy, and he
would ill treat me if he dared."

"All this is bad, Ned," Mr. Porson said gravely; "but of course
much depends upon the amount of his ill treatment. I assume that
he does not actively ill treat your mother."

"No," Ned said with an angry look in his face; "and he'd better
not."

"Yes, Ned, he had better not, no doubt," Mr. Porson said soothingly;
"but what I want to know, what it is essential I should know if
I am to give you any advice worth having, is what you mean by ill
treatment--is he rough and violent in his way with her? does he
threaten her with violence? is he coarse and brutal?"

"No," Ned said somewhat reluctantly; "he is not that, sir; he is
always snapping and snarling and finding fault."

"That is bad, Ned, but it does not amount to ill treatment. When
a man is put out in business and things go wrong with him it is
unhappily too often his custom to vent his ill temper upon innocent
persons; and I fancy from what I hear--you know in a little
place like this every one's business is more or less known--Mr.
Mulready has a good deal to put him out. He has erected new machinery
and dare not put it to work, owing as I hear--for he has lain
the documents before the magistrates--for his having received
threatening letters warning him against doing so. This is very
trying to the man. Then, Ned, you will excuse my saying that perhaps
he is somewhat tried at home. It is no pleasant thing for a man to
have a young fellow like yourself in the house taking up an attitude
of constant hostility. I do not say that his conduct may or may not
justify it; but you will not deny that from the first you were
prepared to receive him as an enemy rather than as a friend. I
heard a story some weeks ago in the town, which emanated no doubt
from the servants, that you had actually struck him."

"He hit Charlie, sir," Ned exclaimed.

"That may be," Mr. Porson went on gravely; "and I have no doubt,
Ned, that you considered then, and that you consider now, that you
were acting rightly in interfering on behalf of your brother. But
I should question much whether in such a matter you are the best
judge. You unfortunately began with a very strong prejudice against
this man; you took up the strongest attitude of hostility to him;
you were prepared to find fault with everything he said and did;
you put yourself in the position of the champion of your mother,
brother, and sister against him. Under such circumstances it was
hardly possible that things could go on well. Now I suppose, Ned,
that the idea which you have in your mind in deciding to give up
the profession you have chosen, is that you may remain as their
champion and protector here."

"Yes, sir," Ned said. "Father told me to be kind to mother, whatever
happened."

"Quite so, my boy; but the question is, Are you being kind?"

Ned looked surprised.

"That you intend to be so, Ned, I am sure. The question is, Are
you going the right way to work? Is this championship that you have
taken upon yourself increasing her happiness, or is it not?"

Ned was silent.

"I do not think that it is, Ned. Your mother must be really fond
of this man or she would not have married him. Do you think that it
conduces to the comfort of her home to see the constant antagonism
which prevails between you and him? Is it not the fact that this
ill temper under which she suffers is the result of the irritation
caused to him by your attitude? Do you not add to her burden rather
than relieve it?"

Ned was still silent. He had so thoroughly persuaded himself that
he was protecting his mother, his brother, and sister from Mr.
Mulready that he had never considered the matter in this light.

"Does your mother take his part or yours in these quarrels, Ned?"

"She takes his part, sir," said Ned indignantly.

"Very well, Ned; that shows in itself that she does not wish for
your championship, that in her eyes the trouble in the house is
in fact caused by you. You must remember that when a woman loves
a man she makes excuses for his faults of temper; his irritable
moods, sharp expressions, and what you call snapping and snarling
do not seem half so bad to her as they do to a third person,
especially when that third person is her partisan. Instead of your
adding to her happiness by renouncing your idea of going into the
army, and of deciding to remain here in some position or other to
take care of her, as, I suppose, is your intention, the result will
be just the contrary. As to your sister, I think the same thing
would happen.

"Your mother is certainly greatly attached to her and owing to
her changed habits--for I understand that she is now a far more
active, and I may say, Ned, a more sensible woman than before her
marriage--I see no reason why Lucy should not be happy with her,
especially if the element of discord--I mean yourself--were
out of the way. As to Charlie, at the worst I don't think that he
would suffer from your absence. His stepfather's temper will be
less irritable; and as Charlie is away at school all day, and has
to prepare his lessons in the evening, there is really but slight
opportunity for his stepfather treating him with any active
unkindness, even should he be disposed to do so.

"Did I think, my boy, that your presence here would be likely to
benefit your family I should be the last person to advise you to
avoid making a sacrifice of your private wishes to what you consider
your duty; but upon the contrary I am convinced that the line which
you have, with the best intention, taken up has been altogether a
mistake, that your stay at home does vastly more harm than good,
and that things would go on very much better in your absence."

This was a bitter mortification for Ned, who had hitherto nursed
the idea that he was performing rather a heroic part, and was
sacrificing himself for the sake of his mother.

"You don't know the fellow as I do," he said sullenly at last.

"I do not, Ned; but I know human nature, and I know that any man
would show himself at his worst under such circumstances as those
in which you hare placed him. It is painful to have to say, but I
am sure that you have done harm rather than good, and that things
will get on much better in your absence."

"I believe he is quite capable of killing her," Ned said passionately,
"if he wanted her out of the way."

"That is a hard thing to say, Ned; but even were it so, we have no
reason for supposing that he does want her out of the way. Come,
Sankey, I am sure you have plenty of good sense. Hitherto you have
been acting rather blindly in this matter. You have viewed it from
one side only, and with the very best intentions in the world have
done harm rather than good.

"I am convinced that when you come to think it over you will see
that, in following out your own and your father's intentions and
wishes as to your future career, you will really best fulfil his
last injunctions and will show the truest kindness to your mother.
Don't give me your answer now, but take time to think it over. Try
and see the case from every point of view, and I think you will
come to the conclusion that what I have been saying, although it
may seem rather hard to you at first, is true, and that you had
best go into the army, as you had intended. I am sure in any case
you will know that what I have said, even if it seems unkind, has
been for your good."

"Thank you, Mr. Porson," Ned replied; "I am quite sure of that.
Perhaps you are right, and I have been making a fool of myself all
along. But anyhow I will think it over."



CHAPTER XI: THE NEW MACHINERY


It is rather hard for a lad who thinks that he has been behaving
somewhat as a hero to come to the conclusion that he has been
making a fool of himself; but this was the result of Ned Sankey's
cogitation over what Mr. Porson had said to him. Perhaps he arrived
more easily at that conclusion because he was not altogether
unwilling to do so. It was very mortifying to allow that he had
been altogether wrong; but, on the other hand, there was a feeling
of deep pleasure at the thought that he could, in Mr. Porson's
deliberate opinion, go into the army and carry out all his original
hopes and plans. His heart had been set upon this as long as he
could remember, and it had been a bitter disappointment to him when
he had arrived at the conclusion that it was his duty to abandon
the idea. He did not now come to the conclusion hastily that Mr.
Porson's view of the case was the correct one; but after a fortnight's
consideration he went down on New Year's Day to the school, and
told his master that he had made up his mind.

"I see, sir," he said, "now that I have thought it all over, that
you are quite right, and that I have been behaving like an ass,
so I shall set to work again and try and make up the lost time. I
have only six months longer, for Easter is the time when Mr. Simmonds
said that I should be old enough, and he will write to the lord
lieutenant, and I suppose that in three months after that I should
get my commission."

"That is right, Ned. I am exceedingly glad you have been able to
take my view of the matter. I was afraid you were bent upon spoiling
your life, and I am heartily glad that you have been able to see
the matter in a different light."

A day or two afterward Ned took an opportunity of telling his mother
that he intended at Easter to remind Mr. Simmonds of his promise to
apply for a commission for him; and had he before had any lingering
doubt that the decision was a wise one it would have been dissipated
by the evident satisfaction and relief with which the news was
received; nevertheless, he could not help a feeling of mortification
at seeing in his mother's face the gladness which the prospect of
his leaving occasioned her.

It was some time since Ned had seen his friend Bill Swinton, for
Bill was now regularly at work in Mr. Mulready's factory and was
only to be found at home in the evening, and Ned had been in no
humor for going out. He now, however, felt inclined for a friendly
talk again, and the next Sunday afternoon he started for Varley.

"Well, Maister Ned," Bill said as he hurried to the door in answer
to his knock, "it be a long time surely sin oi saw thee last--
well nigh six months, I should say."

"It is a long time, Bill, but I haven't been up to anything, even
to coming up here. Put on your cap and we will go for a walk across
the moors together."

In a few seconds Bill joined him, and they soon left the village
behind.

"Oi thought as how thou didn't feel oop to talking loike, Moister
Ned. Oi heared tell as how thou did'st not get on well wi' Foxey;
he be a roight down bad un, he be; it were the talk of the place
as how you gived him a clout atween t' eyes, and oi laughed rarely
to myself when oi seed him come through t' mill wi' black and blue
all round 'em. There warn't a hand there but would have given a
week's pay to have seen it done."

"I am afraid I was wrong, Bill," Ned said, feeling ashamed rather
then triumphant at the thought. "I oughtn't to have done it, but
my beastly temper got the best of it."

"Doan't say that Maister Ned; he deserves ten toimes worse nor
ye gived him, and he will get it some time if he doan't mind. Oi
tell ee there be lots of talk of him, and Captain Lud's gang be a
getting stronger and stronger. Oi tell ye, t' maisters be agoing
to have a bad time on it afore long, and Foxey be sure to be one
of the first served out."

"Well, don't you have anything to do with it, Bill. You know
I have told you over and over again that no good can come of such
bad doings, and that the men will only make matters much worse for
themselves. My father used to say that no good ever came of mob
violence. They may do some harm for a time, but it is sure to recoil
on their own heads."

"Oi doan't ha' nowt to do wi' it," Bill replied, "cause oi told yer
oi wouldn't; but oi've some trouble to keep oot o't. Ye see oi am
nointeen now, and most o' t' chaps of moi age they be in 't; they
meet at the 'Dog' nigh every noight, and they drills regular out
on t' moor here, and it doan't seem natural for oi not to be in
it, especial as moi brothers be in it. They makes it rough for me
in t' village, and says as how I ain't got no spirit, and even t'
girls laughs at me."

"Not Polly Powlett, I am sure, Bill."

"No, not Polly," Bill replied. "She be a different sort. A' together
it be a bit hard, and it be well for me as oi 'm main strong and
tough, for oi ha' to fight pretty nigh every Saturday. However,
oi ha thrashed pretty nigh every young chap in Varley, and they be
beginning now to leave oi alone."

"That's right, Bill; I am sure I have no right to preach to you
when I am always doing wrong myself; still I am quite sure you will
be glad in the long run that you had nothing to do with King Lud.
I know the times are very hard, but burning mills and murdering
masters are not the way to make them better; you take my word for
that. And now how are things going on in Varley?"

"No great change here," Bill replied. "Polly Powlett bain't made
up her moind yet atween t' chaps as is arter her. They say as she
sent John Stukeley, the smith, to the roight about last Sunday;
he ha' been arter her vor the last year. Some thowt she would have
him, some didn't. He ha' larning, you see, can read and wroite
foine, and ha' got a smooth tongue, and knows how to talk to gals, so
some thought she would take him; oi knew well enough she wouldn't
do nowt of the koind, for oi ha' heard her say he were a mischievous
chap, and a cuss to Varley. Thou know'st, Maister Ned, they do
say, but in course oi knows nowt about it, as he be the head of
the Luddites in this part of Yorkshire.

"Luke Marner he be dead against King Lud, he be, and so be many of
the older men here; it's most the young uns as takes to them ways;
and nateral, Polly she thinks as Luke does, or perhaps," and Bill
laughed, "it's Polly as thowt that way first, and Luke as thinks
as she does. However it be, she be dead set agin them, and she's
said to me jest the same thing as thou'st been a-saying; anyhow, it
be sartain as Polly ha' said no to John Stukeley, not as she said
nowt about it, and no one would ha' known aboot it ef he hadn't
gone cussing and swearing down at the 'Dog.'

"I thinks. Maister Ned, as we shall ha' trouble afore long. The
men ha been drilling four or five years now, and oi know as they
ha' been saying, What be the good of it when nowt is done and the
wages gets lower and lower? They have preachments now out on t'
moor on Sunday, and the men comes from miles round, and they tells
me as Stukeley and others, but him chiefly, goes on awful agin t'
maisters, and says, There's Scripture vor it as they owt to smite
'em, and as how tyrants owt vor to be hewed in pieces."

"The hewing would not be all on one side, Bill, you will see, if
they begin it. You know how easily the soldiers have put down riots
in other places."

"That be true," Bill said; "but they doan't seem vor to see it. Oi
don't say nowt one way or t' other, and oi have had more nor half
a mind to quit and go away till it's over. What wi' my brothers
and all t' other young chaps here being in it, it makes it moighty
hard vor oi to stand off; only as oi doan't know what else vor to
do, oi would go. Oi ha' been a-thinking that when thou get'st to
be an officer oi'll list in the same regiment and go to the wars
wi' thee. Oi am sick of this loife here."

"Well, Bill, there will be no difficulty about that if you really
make up your mind to it when the time comes. Of course I should
like to have you very much. I have heard my father say that each
officer has a soldier as his special servant; and if you would
like that, you see, when we were alone together we should be able
to talk about Varley and everything here just as we do now. Then
I suppose I could help you on and get you made first corporal and
then a sergeant."

"Very well, Maister Ned, then we will look on that as being as good
as settled, and as soon as thou gets to be an officer oi will go
as one of your soldiers."

For an hour they walked across the moor, talking about a soldier's
life, Ned telling of the various parts of the world in which England
was at that time engaged in war, and wondering in which of them
they would first see service. Then they came back to the village
and there parted, and Ned, feeling in better spirits than he had
been from the day when he first heard of his mother's engagement
to Mr. Mulready, walked briskly down to Marsden.

For a time matters went on quietly. Few words were exchanged between
Ned and Mr. Mulready; and although the latter could not but have
noticed that Ned was brighter and more cheerful in his talk, he
was brooding over his own trouble, and paid but little heed to it.

The time was fast approaching when he could no longer go on as at
present. The competition with the mills using the new machinery was
gradually crushing him, and it was necessary for him to come to a
determination either to pluck up heart and to use his new machines,
or to close his mill.

At last he determined to take the former course and to defy King
Lud. Other manufacturers used steam, and why should not he? It was
annoying to him in the extreme that his friends and acquaintances,
knowing that he had fitted the mill with the new plant, were always
asking him why he did not use it.

A sort of uneasy consciousness that he was regarded by his townsmen
as a coward was constantly haunting him. He knew in his heart that
his danger was greater than that of others, because he could not
rely on his men. Other masters had armed their hands, and had turned
their factories into strong places, some of them even getting down
cannon for their defense: for, as a rule, the hands employed with
the new machinery had no objection to it, for they were able to
earn larger wages with less bodily toil than before.

The hostility was among the hands thrown out of employment, or
who found that they could now no longer make a living by the looms
which they worked in their own homes. Hitherto Mr. Mulready had
cared nothing for the goodwill of his hands. He had simply regarded
them as machines from whom the greatest amount of work was to be
obtained at the lowest possible price. They might grumble and curse
him beneath their breaths; they might call him a tyrant behind his
back, for this he cared nothing: but he felt now that it would have
been better had their relations been different: for then he could
have trusted them to do their best in defense of the mill.

Having once determined upon defying King Lud, Mr. Mulready went
before the magistrates, and laying before them the threatening
letters he had received, for the first had been followed by many
others, he asked them to send for a company of infantry, as he was
going to set his mill to work. The magistrates after some deliberation
agreed to do so, and wrote to the commanding officer of the troops
at Huddersfield asking him to station a detachment at Marsden for
a time.

The request was complied with. A company of infantry marched in
and were billeted upon the town. A room was fitted up at the mill,
and ten of them were quartered here, and upon the day after their
arrival the new machinery started.

Now that the step was taken, Mr. Mulready's spirits rose. He
believed that the presence of the soldiers was ample protection
for the mill, and he hoped that ere they left the town the first
excitement would have cooled down, and the Luddites have turned
their attention to other quarters.

Ned met Bill on the following Sunday.

"I suppose, Bill," he said, "there is a rare stir about Foxey using
his new machinery?"

"Ay, that there be, and no wonder," Bill said angrily, "there be
twenty hands turned adrift. Oi bee one of them myself."

"You, Bill! I had no idea you bad been discharged."

"Ay; oi have got the sack, and so ha' my brother and young Jarge
Marner, and most o' t' young chaps in the mill. Oi suppose as how
Foxey thinks as the old hands will stick to t' place, and is more
afeerd as the young uns might belong to King Lud, and do him a bad
turn with the machinery. Oi tell ye, Maister Ned, that the sooner
as you goes as an officer the better, vor oi caan't bide here now and
hold off from the others, Oi have had a dog's loife for some time,
and it ull be worse now. It would look as if oi hadn't no spirit
in the world, to stand being put upon and not join the others. T'
other chaps scarce speak to me, and the gals turn their backs as
oi pass them. Oi be willing vor to be guided by you as far as oi
can; but it bain't in nature to stand this. Oi'd as lief go and
hang myself. Oi would go and list tomorrow, only oi don't know what
regiment you are going to."

"Well, Bill, it is hard," Ned said, "and I am not surprised that
you feel that you cannot stand it; but it won't be for long now.
Easter will be here in a fortnight, and then I shall see Mr. Simmonds
and get him to apply at once. I met him in the street only last
week, and he was talking about it then. He thinks that it will not
be long after he sends in an application before I get my commission.
He says he has got interest in London at the Horse Guards, and will
get the application of the lord lieutenant backed up there; so I
hope that in a couple of months at latest it will all be settled."

"Oi hope so, oi am sure, vor oi be main sick of this. However, oi
can hold on for another couple of months; they know anyhow as it
ain't from cowardice as I doan't join them. I fowt Jack Standfort
yesterday and licked un; though, as you see, oi 'ave got a rare
pair of black eyes today. If oi takes one every Saturday it's only
eight more to lick, and oi reckon oi can do that."

"I wish I could help you, Bill," Ned said: "if father had been
alive I am sure he would have let you have a little money to take
you away from here and keep you somewhere until it is time for you
to enlist; but you see I can do nothing now."

"Doan't you go vor to trouble yourself aboot me, Maister Ned.
Oi shall hold on roight enow. The thought as it is for two months
longer will keep me up. Oi can spend moi evenings in at Luke's.
He goes off to the 'Coo,' but Polly doan't moind moi sitting there
and smoking moi pipe, though it bain't every one as she would let
do that."

Ned laughed. "It's a pity, Bill, you are not two or three years
older, then perhaps Polly mightn't give you the same answer she
gave to the smith."

"Lor' bless ee," Bill said seriously, "Polly wouldn't think nowt
of oi, not if oi was ten years older. Oi bee about the same age
as she; but she treats me as if I was no older nor her Jarge. No,
when Polly marries it won't be in Varley. She be a good many cuts
above us, she be. Oi looks upon her jest as an elder sister, and
oi doan't moind how much she blows me up--and she does it pretty
hot sometimes, oi can tell ee; but oi should just loike to hear
any one say a word agin her; but there be no one in Varley would
do that. Every one has a good word for Polly; for when there's
sickness in the house, or owt be wrong, Polly's always ready to
help. Oi do believe that there never was such a gal. If it hadn't
been for her oi would ha' cut it long ago. Oi wouldn't go agin
what ye said, Maister Ned; but oi am danged if oi could ha' stood
it ef it hadn't been for Polly."

"I suppose," Ned said, "that now they have got the soldiers down
in Marsden it will be all right about the mill."

"Oi caan't say," Bill replied; "nateral they doan't say nowt to me;
but oi be sure that some'ats oop. They be a-drilling every night,
and there will be trouble avore long. Oi doan't believe as they
will venture to attack the mill as long as the sojers be in Marsden;
but oi wouldn't give the price of a pint of ale for Foxey's loife
ef they could lay their hands on him. He'd best not come up this
way arter dark."

"He's not likely to do that," Ned said. "I am sure he is a coward
or he would have put the mill to work weeks ago."

Secure in the protection of the troops, and proud of the new machinery
which was at work in his mill, Mr. Mulready was now himself again.
His smile had returned. He carried himself jauntily, and talked
lightly and contemptuously of the threats of King Lud. Ned disliked
him more in this mood than in the state of depression and irritation
which had preceded it. The tones of hatred and contempt in which
he spoke of the starving workmen jarred upon him greatly, and
it needed all his determination and self command to keep him from
expressing his feelings. Mr. Mulready was quick in perceiving,
from the expression of Ned's face, the annoyance which his remarks
caused him, and reverted to the subject all the more frequently.
With this exception the home life was more pleasant than it had
been before.

Mr. Mulready, in his satisfaction at the prospect of a new prosperity,
was far more tolerant with his wife, and her spirits naturally rose
with his. She had fully shared his fears as to the threats by the
Luddites, and now agreed cordially with his diatribes against the
workpeople, adopting all his opinions as her own.

Ned's acquaintance with Bill Swinton had long been a grievance to
her, and her constant complainings as to his love for low company
had been one of the afflictions to which Ned had long been accustomed.
Now, having her husband by her side, it was a subject to which she
frequently reverted.

"Why can't you leave me alone, mother?" Ned burst out one day when
Mr. Mulready had left the room. "Can't you leave me in quiet as
to my friends, when in two or three months I shall be going away?
Bill Swinton is going to enlist in the same regiment in which I
am, so as to follow me all over the world.

"Would any of the fine friends you would like me to make do that?
I like all the fellows at school well enough, but there is not one
of them would do a fiftieth part as much for me as Bill would. Even
you, mother, with all your prejudices; must allow that it will be
a good thing for me to have some one with me who will really care for
me, who will nurse me if I am sick or wounded, who would lay down
his life for mine if necessary. I tell you there isn't a finer fellow
than Bill living. Of course he's rough, and he's had no education,
I know that; but it's not his fault. But a truer or warmer hearted
fellow never lived. He is a grand fellow. I wish I was only half
as true and as honest and manly as he is. I am proud to have Bill
as a friend. It won't be long before I have gone, mother. I have
been fighting hard with myself so that there shall be peace and
quietness in the house for the little time I have got to be here,
and you make it harder for me."

"It's ridiculous your talking so," Mrs. Mulready said peevishly,
"and about a common young fellow like this. I don't pretend
to understand you, Ned. I never have and never shall do. But I am
sure the house will be much more comfortable when you have gone.
Whatever trouble there is with my husband is entirely your making.
I only wonder that he puts up with your ways as he does. If his
temper was not as good as yours is bad he would not be able to do
so."

"All right, mother," Ned said. "He is an angel, he is, we all
know, and I am the other thing. Well, if you are contented, that's
the great thing, isn't it? I only hope you will always be so; but
there," he said, calming himself with a great effort as his father's
last words again came into his mind, "don't let's quarrel, mother.
I am sorry for what I have said. It's quite right that you should
stick up for your husband, and I do hope that when I go you will,
as you say, be more comfortable and happy. Perhaps you will. I am
sure I hope so. Well, I know I am not nice with him. I can't help
it. It's my beastly temper, I suppose. That's an old story. Come,
mother, I have only a short time to be at home now. Let us both try
and make it as pleasant as we can, so that when I am thousands of
miles away, perhaps in India, we may have it to look back upon. You
try and leave my friends alone and I will try and be as pleasant
as I can with your husband."

Mrs. Mulready was crying now.

"You know, Ned, I would love you if you would let me, only you are
so set against my husband. I am sure he always means kindly. Look
how he takes to little Lucy, who is getting quite fond of him."

"Yes, I am very glad to think that he is, mother," Ned said
earnestly. "You see Lucy is much younger, and naturally remembers
comparatively little about her father, and has been able to take
to Mr. Mulready without our prejudices. I am very glad to see that
he really does like her--in fact I do think he is getting quite
fond of her. I shall go away feeling quite easy about her. I wish
I could say as much about Charlie. He is not strong, like other
boys, and feels unkindness very sharply. I can see him shrink and
shiver when your husband speaks to him, and am afraid he will have
a very bad time of it when I am gone."

"I am sure, Ned, he will get on very well," Mrs. Mulready said. "I
have no doubt that when he gets rid of the example you set him--
I don't want to begin to quarrel again--but of the example you
set him of dislike and disrespect to Mr. Mulready, that he will soon
be quite different. He will naturally turn to me again instead of
looking to you for all his opinions, and things will go on smoothly
and well."

"I am sure I hope so, mother. Perhaps I have done wrong in helping
to set Charlie against Mulready. Perhaps when I have gone, too,
things will be easier for him. If I could only think so I should
go away with a lighter heart. Well, anyhow, mother, I am glad we
have had this talk. It is not often we get a quiet talk together
now."

"I am sure it is not my fault," Mrs. Mulready said in a slightly
injured tone.

"Perhaps not, mother," Ned said kindly. "With the best intentions,
I know I am always doing things wrong. It's my way, I suppose.
Anyhow, mother, I really have meant well, and I hope you will think
of me kindly after I have gone."

"You may be sure I shall do that, Ned," his mother said, weeping
again. "I have no doubt the fault has been partly mine too, but
you see women don't understand boys, and can't make allowances for
them."

And so Ned kissed his mother for the first time since the day when
she had returned home from her wedding tour, and mother and son
parted on better terms than they had done for very many months,
and Ned went with a lightened heart to prepare his lessons for the
next day.



CHAPTER XII: MURDERED!


In spite of Ned's resolutions that he would do nothing to mar the
tranquillity of the last few weeks of his being at home, he had
difficulty in restraining his temper the following day at tea.
Never had he seen his stepfather in so bad a humor. Had he known
that things had gone wrong at the mill that day, that the new machine
had broken one of its working parts and had brought everything to
a standstill till it could be repaired, he would have been able to
make allowances for Mr. Mulready's ill humor.

Not knowing this he grew pale with the efforts which he made to
restrain himself as his stepfather snarled at his wife, snapped at
Lucy and Charlie, and grumbled and growled at everything throughout
the meal. Everything that was said was wrong, and at last, having
silenced his wife and her children, the meal was completed in gloomy
silence.

The two boys went into the little room off the hall which they used
of an evening to prepare their lessons for next day. Charlie, who
came in last, did not abut the door behind him.

"That is a nice man, our stepfather," Ned said in a cold fury.
"His ways get more and more pleasant every day; such an amiable,
popular man, so smiling and pleasant!"

"Oh! it's no use saying anything," Charlie said in an imploring
voice, "it only makes things worse."

"Worse!" Ned exclaimed indignantly; "how could they be worse? Well
may they call him Foxey, for foxey he is, a double faced snarling
brute."

As the last word issued from Ned's lips he reeled under a tremendous
box on the ear from behind. Mr. Mulready was passing through the
hall--for his gig was waiting at the door to take him back to
the mill, where some fitters would be at work till late, repairing
the damages to the machine--when he had caught Ned's words, which
were spoken at the top of his voice.

The smoldering anger of months burst at once into a flame heightened
by the ill humor which the day's events had caused, and he burst
into the room and almost felled Ned to the ground with his swinging
blow. Recovering himself, Ned flew at him, but the boy was no match
for the man, and Mr. Mulready's passion was as fierce as his own;
seizing his throat with his left hand and forcing him back into a
corner of the room, his stepfather struck him again and again with
all his force with his right.

Charlie had run at once from the room to fetch his mother, and it
was scarcely a minute after the commencement of the outbreak that
she rushed into the room, and with a scream threw her arms round
her husband.

"The young scoundrel!" Mr. Mulready exclaimed, panting, as he
released his hold of Ned; "he has been wanting a lesson for a long
time, and I have given him one at last. He called me Foxey, the
young villain, and said I was a double faced snarling brute; let
him say so again and I will knock his head off."

But Ned just at present was not in a condition to repeat his words;
breathless and half stunned he leaned in the corner, his breath
came in gasps, his face was as pale as death, his cheek was cut,
there were red marks on the forehead which would speedily become
black, and the blood was flowing from a cut on his lip, his eyes
had a dazed and half stupid look.

"Oh! William!" Mrs. Mulready said as she looked at her son, "how
could you hurt him so!"

"Hurt him, the young reptile!" Mr. Mulready said savagely. "I meant
to hurt him. I will hurt him more next time."

Mrs. Mulready paid no attention to his words, but went up to Ned.

"Ned, my boy," she said tenderly, "what is it? Don't look like
that, Ned; speak to me."

His mother's voice seemed to rouse Ned into consciousness. He drew
a long breath, then slowly passed his hand across his eyes, and
lips, and mouth. He looked at his mother and seemed about to speak,
but no sound came from his lips. Then his eye fell on his stepfather,
who, rather alarmed at the boy's appearance, was standing near the
door. The expression of Ned's face changed, his mouth became set
and rigid, his eyes dilated, and Mr. Mulready, believing that he
was about to spring upon him, drew back hastily half a step and
threw up his hands to defend himself. Mrs. Mulready threw herself
in Ned's way; the boy made no effort to put her aside, but kept
his eyes fixed over her shoulder at his stepfather.

"Take care!" he said hoarsely, "it will be my turn next time, and
when it comes I will kill you, you brute."

"Oh, go away, William!" Mrs. Mulready cried; "oh! do go away, or
there will be more mischief. Oh! Ned, do sit down, and don't look
so dreadful; he is going now."

Mr. Mulready turned and went with a laugh which he intended to he
scornful, but in which there was a strong tinge of uneasiness. He
had always in his heart been afraid of this boy with his wild and
reckless temper, and felt that in his present mood Ned was capable
of anything. Still as Mr. Mulready took his seat in his gig his
predominant feeling was satisfaction.

"I am glad I have given him a lesson," he muttered to himself,
"and have paid him off for months of insolence. He won't try it on
again, and as for his threats, pooh! he'll be gone in a few weeks,
and there will be an end of it."

After he had gone Mrs. Mulready tried to soothe Ned, but the boy
would not listen to her, and in fact did not seem to hear her.

"Don't you mind, mother," he said in a strange, quiet voice, "I
will pay him off;" and muttering these words over and over again
he went out into the hall, took down his cap in a quiet, mechanical
sort of way, put it on, opened the door, and went out.

"Oh! Charlie," Mrs. Mulready said to her second son, who, sobbing
bitterly, had thrown himself down in a chair by the table, and
was sitting with his head on his hands, "there will be something
terrible come of this! Ned's temper is so dreadful, and my husband
was wrong, too. He should never have beaten him so, though Ned did
say such things to him. What shall I do? these quarrels will be
the death of me. I suppose Ned will be wandering about all night
again. Do put on your cap, Charlie, and go out and see if you can
find him, and persuade him to come home and go to bed; perhaps he
will listen to you."

Charlie was absent an hour, and returned saying that he could not
find his brother.

"Perhaps he's gone up to Varley as he did last time," Mrs. Mulready
said. "I am sure I hope he has, else he will be wandering about all
night, and he had such a strange lock in his face that there's no
saying where he might go to, or what he might do."

Charlie was almost heartbroken, and sat up till long past his usual
time, waiting for his brother's return. At last his eyes would no
longer keep open, and he stumbled upstairs to bed, where he fell
asleep almost as his head touched the pillow, in spite of his
resolution to be awake until Ned returned.

Downstairs Mrs. Mulready kept watch. She did not expect Ned to
return, but she was listening for the wheels of her husband's gig.
It was uncertain at what time he would return; for when he rose from
the tea table she had asked him what time he expected to be back,
and he had replied that he could not say; he should stop until the
repairs were finished, and she was to go to bed and not bother.

So at eleven o'clock she went upstairs, for once before when he
had been out late and she had sat up he had been much annoyed; but
after she got in bed she lay for hours listening for the sound of
the wheels. At last she fell asleep and dreamed that Ned and her
husband were standing at the end of a precipice grappling fiercely
together in a life and death struggle. She was awaked at last by
a knocking at the door; she glanced at her watch, which hung above
her head; it was but half past six.

"What is it, Mary?"

"Please, mum, there's a constable below, and he wants to speak to
you immediate."

Mrs. Mulready sprang from the bed and began to dress herself
hurriedly. All sorts of mischief that might have come to Ned passed
rapidly through her mind; her husband had not returned, but no doubt
he had stopped at the mill all night watching the men at work. His
absence scarcely occasioned her a moment's thought. In a very few
minutes she was downstairs in the kitchen, where the constable
was standing waiting for her. She knew him by sight, for Marsden
possessed but four constables, and they were all well known
characters.

"What is it?" she asked; "has anything happened to my son?"

"No, mum," the constable said in a tone of surprise, "I didn't know
as he wasn't in bed and asleep, but I have some bad news for you,
mum; it's a bad job altogether."

"What is it?" she asked again; "is it my husband?"

"Well, mum, I am sorry to say as it be. A chap came in early this
morning and told me as summat had happened, so I goes out, and half
a mile from the town I finds it just as he says."

"But what is it?" Mrs. Mulready gasped.

"Well, mum, I am sorry to have to tell you, but there was the gig
all smashed to atoms, and there was the little black mare lying
all in a heap with her neck broke, and there was--" and he stopped.

"My husband!" Mrs. Mulready gasped.

"Yes, marm, I be main sorry to say it were. There, yards in front
of them, were Mr. Mulready just stiff and cold. He'd been flung
right out over the hoss' head. I expect he had fallen on his head
and must have been killed roight out; and the worst of it be, marm,
as it warn't an accident, for there, tight across the road, about
eighteen inches above the ground, was a rope stretched tight
atween a gate on either side. It was plain enough to see what had
happened. The mare had come tearing along as usual at twelve mile
an hour in the dark, and she had caught the rope, and in course
there had been a regular smash."

The pretty color had all gone from Mrs. Mulready's face as he began
his story, but a ghastly pallor spread over her face, and a look
of deadly horror came into her eyes as he continued.

"Oh, Ned, Ned," she wailed, "how could you!" and then she fell
senseless to the ground.

The constable raised her and placed her in a chair.

"Are you sure the master's dead?" the servant asked, wiping her
eyes.

"Sure enough," the constable said. "I have sent the doctor off
already, but it's no good, he's been dead hours and hours. But,"
he continued, his professional instincts coming to the surface,
"what did she mean by saying, 'Oh, Ned, how could you!' She asked
me, too, first about him; ain't he at home?"

"No, he ain't," the servant said, "and ain't been at home all
night; there were a row between him and maister last even; they had
a fight. Maister Charlie he ran into the parlor as I was a clearing
away the' tea things, hallowing out as maister was a-killing Ned.
Missis she ran in and I heard a scream, then maister he drove off,
and a minute or two later Maister Ned he went out, and he ain't
come back again. When I went in with the candles I could see missis
had been a crying. That's all I know about it."

"And enough too," the constable said grimly. "This here be a pretty
business. Well, you had best get your missis round and see about
getting the place ready for the corpse. They have gone up with a
stretcher to bring him back. They will be here afore long. I must go
to Justice Thompson's and tell him all about it. This be a pretty
kittle of fish, surely. I be main sorry, but I have got my duty to
do."

An hour later Williams the constable with a companion started out
in search of Ned Sankey, having a warrant in his pocket for his
arrest on the charge of willful murder.

The excitement in Marsden when it became known that Mr. Mulready
had been killed was intense, and it was immensely heightened when
it was rumored that a warrant had been issued for the arrest of his
stepson on the charge of murder. Quite a little crowd hung all day
round the house with closed blinds, within which their so lately
active and bustling townsman was lying.

All sorts of conjectures were rife, and there were many who said
that they had all along expected harm would come of the marriage
which had followed so soon after the death of Captain Sankey. The
majority were loud in expression of their sympathy with the dead
mill owner, recalling his cheery talk and general good temper.
Others were disposed to think that Ned had been driven to the act;
but among very few was there any doubt as to his guilt. It was
recalled against him that he had before been in the dock for his
assault upon Mr. Hathorn, and that it had been proved that he had
threatened to kill his master. His sullen and moody demeanor at the
marriage of his mother told terribly against him, and the rumors
of the previous quarrel when Ned had assaulted his stepfather, and
which, related with many exaggerations, had at the time furnished
a subject of gossip in the town, also told heavily to his disadvantage.

Williams having learned from the servant that Ned was in the habit
of going up to Varley had first made his inquiries there; but neither
Bill nor Luke Marner, who were, the constable speedily learned, his
principal friends there, had seen him. Varley was greatly excited
over the news of the murder. Many of the men worked at Mulready's
mill, and had brought back the news at an early hour, as all work
was of course suspended.

There was no grief expressed in Varley at Mr. Mulready's death,
indeed the news was received with jubilant exultation.

"A good job too," was the general verdict; and the constable felt
that were Ned in the village he would be screened by the whole
population. He was convinced, however, that both Bill Swinton and
Luke Marner were ignorant of his whereabouts, so genuine had been
their astonishment at his questions, and so deep their indignation
when they learned his errand.

"Thou duss'n't believe it, Luke?" Bill Swinton said as he entered
the latter's cottage.

"No, lad, oi duss'n't," Luke said; "no more does Polly here, but
it looks main awkward," he said slowly stroking his chin, "if as
how what the constable said is right, and there was a fight atween
them that evening."

"Maister Ned were a hot 'un," Bill said; "he allus said as how he
had a dreadful temper, though oi never seed nowt of it in him, and
he hated Foxey like poison; that oi allows; but unless he tells
me hisself as he killed him nowt will make me believe it. He might
ha' picked up summat handy when Foxey hit him and smashed him, but
oi don't believe it of Maister Ned as he would ha done it arterward."

"He war a downright bad 'un war Foxey," Luke said, "vor sure. No
worse in the district, and there's many a one as would rejoice as
he's gone to his account, and oi believe as whoever's done it has
saved Captain Lud from a job; but there, it's no use a talking of
that now. Now, look here, Bill, what thou hast got to do be this.
Thou hast got to find the boy; oi expect he be hiding somewheres
up on t' moors. Thou knowst better nor oi wheere he be likely vor
to be. Voind him out, lad, and tell him as they be arter him. Here
be ten punds as oi ha had laying by me for years ready in case of
illness; do thou give it to him and tell him he be heartily welcome
to it, and can pay me back agin when it suits him. Tell him as
he'd best make straight for Liverpool and git aboard a ship there
for 'Merikee--never moind whether he did the job or whether he
didn't. Things looks agin him now, and he best be on his way."

"Oi'll do't," Bill said, "and oi'll bid thee goodby, Luke, and
thee too, Polly, for ye won't see me back agin. Of course I shall
go wi' him. He haven't got man's strength yet, and oi can work for
us both. I bain't a-going to let him go by hisself, not loikely."

"Thou art roight, lad," Luke said heartily. "Dang it all, lad,
thou speak'st loike a man. Oi be sorry thou art going, Bill, for
oi loike thee; but thou be right to go wi' this poor lad. Goodby,
lad, and luck be wi' ye;" and Luke wrung Bill's hand heartily.

"I shan't say goodby, Bill," Mary Powlett said quietly. "I don't
think Ned Sankey can have done this thing, and if he hasn't you
will find that he will not run away, but will stay here and face
it out."

"Then he will be a fool," Luke Marner said. "I tell ee the evidence
be main strong agin him, and whether he be innocent or not he will
find it hard to clear hisself. Oi don't think much the worst of
him myself if he done it, and most in Varley will be o' my way o'
thinking. Foxey war a tyrant if ever there war one, and the man
what was so hard a maister to his hands would be loike to be hard
to his wife's children."

"Don't speak like that, feyther," Polly said; "murder is murder,
you know."

"Ay, lass, and human natur be human natur, and it be no use your
going agin it. If he ha been and ill treated the boy, and I don't
doubt as he has, thou may'st argue all noight, but thou won't get
me to say as oi blames him much if he has done it. Oi don't suppose
as he meant to kill him--not vor a moment. I should think hard
of him if oi thowt as how he did. He meant, oi reckon, vor to throw
his horse down and cut his knees, knowing, as every one did, as
Mulready were moighty proud of his horse, and he may have reckoned
as Foxey would git a good shake, and some bruises as well, as a
scare, but oi doan't believe, not vor a moment, as he meant vor to
kill him. That's how oi reads it, lass."

"Well, it may be so," Mary assented. "It is possible he may have
done it, meaning really only to give him a fright and a shake; but
I hope he didn't. Still if that was how it happened I will shake
hands, Bill, and wish you goodby and good luck, for it would be
best for him to get away, for I am afraid that the excuse that he
only meant to frighten and not to kill him will not save him. I
am sorry you are going, Bill, very sorry; but if you were my own
brother I would not say a word to stop you. Didn't his feyther give
up his life to save little Janey? and I would give mine to save
his. But I do think it will be good for you, Bill; times are bad,
and it has been very hard for you lately in Varley. I know all
about it, and you will do better across the seas. You will write,
won't you, sometimes?"

"Never fear," Bill said huskily, "oi will wroite, Polly; goodby,
and God bless you all; but it mayn't be goodby, for oi mayn't foind
him;" and, wringing the hands of Luke and Polly, Bill returned to
his cottage, hastily packed up a few things in a kit, slung it over
his shoulder on a stick, and started out in search of Ned.

Late that evening there came a knock at the door of Luke's cottage.
On opening it he found Bill standing there.

"Back again, Bill!--then thou hasn't found him?"

"No," Bill replied in a dejected voice. "Oi ha' hoonted high and
low vor him; oi ha' been to every place on the moor wheer we ha'
been together, and wheer oi thowt as he might be a-waiting knowing
as oi should set out to look for him as soon as oi heard the news.
Oi don't think he be nowhere on the moor. Oi have been a-tramping
ever sin' oi started this mourning. Twice oi ha' been down Maarsten
to see if so be as they've took him, but nowt ain't been seen of
him. Oi had just coom from there now. Thou'st heerd, oi suppose,
as the crowner's jury ha found as Foxey wer murdered by him; but
it bain't true, you know, Luke--be it?"

Bill made the assertions stoutly, but there was a tremulous eagerness
in the question which followed it; He was fagged and exhausted. His
faith in Ned was strong, but he had found the opinion in the town
so unanimous against him that he longed for an assurance that some
one beside himself believed in Ned's innocence.

"Oi doan't know, Bill," Luke Marner said, stroking his chin as he
always did when he was thinking; "oi doan't know, Bill--oi hoape
he didn't do it, wi' all my heart. But oi doan't know aboot it. He
war sorely tried--that be sartain. But if he did it, he did it;
it makes no difference to me. It doan't matter to me one snap ov
the finger whether the lad killed Foxey or whether he didn't--
that bain't my business or yours. What consarns me is, as the son
of the man as saved my child's loife at t' cost of his own be hunted
by the constables and be in risk of his loife. That's t' question
as comes home to me--oi've had nowt else ringing in my ears all
day. Oi ha' been oot to a searching high and low. Oi ain't a found
him, but oi ha made oop moi moind whaat I be agoing to do."

They had moved a little away from the cottage now, but Luke lowered
his voice:

"Oi be agoing down to t' town in the morning to give moiself oop
vor the murder of Foxey."

Bill gave an exclamation of astonishment:

"But thou didn'st do it, Luke?"

"I moight ha' done it for owt thou know'st, Bill. He wer the worst
of maisters, and, as thou know'st, Bill, oi hated him joost as
all the countryside did. He's been warned by King Lud and ha' been
obliged to get the sojers at his factory. Well, thou knowest it was
nateral as he would drive down last noight to see how t' chaps at
t' engine was a-getting on, and it coomed across my moind as it
wer a good opportunity vor to finish un; so ther thou hast it."

Bill gazed in astonishment through the darkness at his companion.

"But it bain't true, Luke? Thou wast talking to me arter thou coom'd
out of the Coo at noine o'clock, an thou saidst as thou was off to
bed."

"Nowt of the koind," Luke replied. "Oi told ye, thou know'st, as I
wer a-going down to t' toon and oi had got a job in hand. Oi spoke
mysterous loike, and you noticed as how oi had got a long rope
coiled up in moi hand."

Bill gave a gasp of astonishment.

"That's what thou hast got to say," Luke said doggedly; "only
astead o' its being at noine o'clock it war at ten. Oi were just
a-slipping owt of the cottage, t' others were all asleep and knew
nowt aboot moi having goone out."

Bill was silent now.

"Oi wish oi had a-thowt of it," he said at last; "oi would ha' doon
it moiself."

"Oi wouldn't ha' let thee, Bill," Luke said quietly. "He be a
friend of thine, and oi know thou lovest him loike a brother, and
a soight mor'n most brothers; but it be moi roight. The captain
gave his loife vor moi child's, and oi bee a going vor to give mine
for his. That will make us quits. Besides, thou art young; oi be
a-getting on. Jarge, he will be a-arning money soon; and Polly, she
can get a place in sarvice, and 'ul help t' young uns. They will
manage. Oi ha' been thinking it over in all loites, and ha' settled
it all in moi moind."

Bill was silent for a time and then said:

"Ther be one thing agin' it, Luke, and it be this: As we can't hear
nowt of Maister Ned, oi be a thinking as he ha' made straight vor
Liverpool or Bristol or London, wi' a view to going straight across
the seas or of 'listing, or doing somewhat to keep out of t' way.
He be sure to look in t' papers, to see how things be a-going on
here; and as sure as he sees as how you've gived yourself up and
owed up as you ha' done it, he will coom straight back again and
say as how it were him."

"Maister Ned might ha' killed Foxey in a passion, but not loike
this. He didn't mean to kill him, but only vor to give him a shaake
and frighten him. But oi be sartin sure as he wouldn't let another
be hoonged in his place. So ye see thou'd do more harm nor good."

"Oi didn't think of that," Luke said, rubbing his chin. "That be
so, surely. He'd be bound to coom back agin. Well, lad, oi will
think it over agin avore moorning, and do thou do t' same. Thou
know'st moi wishes now. We ha' got atween us to get Maister Ned
off--that be the thing as be settled. It doan't matter how it's
done, but it's got to be done soomhow; and oi rely on thee to maake
moi story good, whatever it be.

"There can't be nowt wrong about it--a loife vor a loife be fair,
any way. There be more nor eno' in Yorkshire in these toimes, and
one more or less be of no account to any one."

"Oi be thy man, Luke," Bill said earnestly. "Whatever as thou sayest
oi will sweer to; but I would reyther change places."

"That caan't be, Bill, so it bain't no use thinking aboot it. Oi
know thou wilt do thy best vor Polly and t' young uns. It 'ull be
rough on her, but it bain't to be helped; and as she will be going
away from Varley and settling elsewhere, it wouldn't be brought up
again her as she had an uncle as were a Luddite and got hoong for
killing a bad maister. Goodnoight, lad! oi will see thee i' t'
morning."



CHAPTER XIII: COMMITTED FOR TRIAL


After a talk with Luke Marner early in the morning Bill Swinton
went down into Marsden to hear if there was any news of Ned. He
was soon back again.

"Maister Ned's took," he said as he met Luke, who was standing in
front of his cottage awaiting his return before starting out to
renew his search for Ned.

"Oi hear, at noine o'clock last noight he walked in to Justice
Thompson's and said as he had coom to give hisself up. He said as
how he had been over at Painton, where the old woman as was his
nurse lives; and directly as the news coom in t' arternoon as Foxey
had been killed and he was wanted for the murder, he coom straight
over."

"That's roight," Luke said heartily; "that settles it. He must ha'
been innocent or he would ha' bolted straight away, and not coom
back and gi'd hisself oop to justice. It were only his hiding away
as maade oi think as he moight ha' done it. Noo in course he will
be able to clear hisself; for if he was over at Painton, why, he
couldn't be here--that be plain to any one."

"Oi be aveared, by what t' constable told me, as he won't be able
vor to prove it. It seems as how he didn't get to Painton till t'
morning. He says as how he were awalking aboot on t' moor all night.
So you see he will have hard work vor to clear hisself."

"Then I shall ha' to give meself up," Luke said quietly. "Ye see as
it can't do him harm now, 'cause he ha' coom back; and ef oi says
as I killed the man they will open the doors, and he will only have
to walk out."

"Oi ha' been a-thinking of that as I coom back," Bill said, "and
oi doan't think as oi see my way clear through it now. Firstly,
if Maister Ned did it, of course he will hold his tongue and leave
'em to prove it, which maybe they can't do; so he has a chance of
getting off. But if you cooms forward and owns up, he will be saaf,
if he did it, to say so at once; and so you will have done him harm
rather nor good. Vor of course he will be able to prove his story
better nor you will yourn, and you will have put the noose round his
neck instead of getting it put round yourn. In the second place,
it be loike enough as they lawyer chaps moight find out as your
story weren't true when they coom to twisting me inside owt in the
box. They might foind as oi war a-swearing false. There be never no
saying. They moight prove as that bit of rope warn't yourn. Polly
moight swear as she hadn't been asleep till arter the time you said
you went out, and that you never moved as long as she war awake.
Lots of unexpected things moight turn up to show it war a lie and
then you know they'd drop onto Maister Ned wourse nor ever."

"I doan't believe they would ask you any questions, Bill. When
a man cooms and says, 'Oi did a murder,' they doan't want to ask
many questions aboot it. They takes it vor granted as he wouldn't
be such a fool as vor to say he did it when he didn't. But th' other
point be more sarous. It be loike enough as t' lad did it, and if
he did he will out wi' it when oi cooms forward. If oi could get
to see him first oi moight argue him into holding his tongue by
pointing owt that moi loife bain't of so much valley as hissen,
also that I owe a debt to his feyther."

"Well, oi ha' been thinking it over," Bill said, "and moi opinion
is thou had best hold thy tongue till the trial. Thou can'st be in
the court. Ef the jury foind him innocent, of course thou will't
hold thy tongue; ef they foind him guilty, then thou'lt get up in
the court, and thou'lt say to the joodge, civil loike:

"Moi lord, the gentlemen of the jury have made a mistake; oi am the
chap as killed Foxey and oi ha' got a young man here as a witness
as moi words is true."

"Perhaps that will be the best way, Bill," Luke said thoughtfully.
"Oi ha' bin thinking how we moight get over Polly's evidence agin
me; every noight oi will get up regular and coom and ha' a talk
wi' you; oi will coom out wi'out my shoes as quiet as a cat, and
then if Polly sweers as oi didn't leave t' house that noight thou
can'st sweer as she knows nothing at all aboot it, as oi ha' been
out every noight to see thee."

So the matter was allowed to stand for the time; and Bill and Luke,
when they had had their breakfast, went down again to Marsden to
hear what was going on. Marsden was greatly excited. The sensation
caused by the news of the murder scarcely exceeded that which was
aroused when it was heard that Ned Sankey had come in and given
himself up. Some thought that at the examination which was to take
place at noon he would at once confess his guilt, while others
believed that he would plead not guilty, and would throw the burden
of proving that he killed his stepfather upon the prosecution.

All through the previous day Mrs. Mulready had been the central
object of interest to the town gossips pending the capture of her
son. Dr. Green had been in and out of the house all day. It was
known that she had passed from one fit of hysterics into another,
and that the doctor was seriously alarmed about her state. Rumors
were about that the servants, having been interviewed at the
back gate, said, that in the intervals of her screaming and wild
laughter she over and over again accused Ned as the murderer of her
husband. Dr. Green, when questioned, peremptorily refused to give
any information whatever as to his patient's opinions or words.

"The woman is well nigh a fool at the best of times," he said
irritably, "and at present she knows no more what she is saying
than a baby. Her mind is thrown completely off any little balance
that it had and she is to all intents and purposes a lunatic."

Only with his friend Mr. Porson, who called upon him after the
first visit had been paid to Mrs. Mulready immediately after her
husband's body had been brought in, did Dr. Green discuss in any
way what had happened.

"I agree with you, Porson, in doubting whether the poor boy had
a hand in this terrible business. We both know, of course, that
owing to the bad training and total absence of control when he was
a child in India his temper was, when he first came here, very hot
and ungovernable. His father often deplored the fact to me, blaming
himself as being to a great extent responsible for it, through not
having had time to watch and curb him when he was a child; but he
was, as you say, an excellently disposed boy, and your testimony to
the efforts which he has made to overcome his faults is valuable.
But I cannot conceal from you, who are a true friend of the boy's,
what I should certainly tell to no one else, namely, that I fear
that his mother's evidence will be terribly against him.

"She has always been prejudiced against him. She is a silly, selfish
woman. So far as I could judge she cared little for her first
husband, who was a thousand times too good for her; but strangely
enough she appears to have had something like a real affection for
this man Mulready, who, between ourselves, I believe, in spite of
his general popularity in the town, to have been a bad fellow. One
doesn't like to speak ill of the dead under ordinary circumstances,
but his character is an important element in the question before
us. Of course among my poorer patients I hear things of which
people in general are ignorant, and it is certain that there was
no employer in this part of the country so thoroughly and heartily
detested by his men."

"I agree with you cordially," Mr. Porson said. "Unfortunately I
know from Ned's own lips that the lad hated his stepfather; but I
can't bring myself to believe that he has done this."

"I hope not," the doctor said gravely, "I am sure I hope not; but
I have been talking with his brother, who is almost heartbroken,
poor boy, and he tells me that there was a terrible scene last
night. It seems that Mulready was extremely cross and disagreeable
at tea time; nothing, however, took place at the table; but after
the meal was over, and the two boys were alone together in that
little study of theirs, Ned made some disparaging remarks about
Mulready. The door, it seems, was open. The man overheard them,
and brutally assaulted the boy, and indeed Charlie thought that he
was killing him. He rushed in and fetched his mother, who interfered,
but not before Ned had been sadly knocked about. Mulready then drove
off to his factory, and Ned, who seems to have been half stunned,
went out almost without saying a word, and, as you know, hasn't
been heard of since.

"It certainly looks very dark against him. You and I, knowing the
boy, and liking him, may have our doubts, but the facts are terribly
against him, and unless he is absolutely in the position to prove
an alibi, I fear that it will go hard with him."

"I cannot believe it," Mr. Porson said, "although I admit that the
facts are terribly against him. Pray, if you get an opportunity
urge upon his mother that her talk will do Ned horrible damage and
may cost him his life. I shall at once go and instruct Wakefield to
appear for him, if he is taken, and to obtain the best professional
assistance for his defense. I feel completely unhinged by the news,
the boy has been such a favorite of mine ever since I came here; he
has fought hard against his faults, and had the makings of a very
fine character in him. God grant that he may be able to clear
himself of this terrible accusation!"

Ned's first examination was held on the morning after he had given
himself up, before Mr. Simmonds and Mr. Thompson. The sitting was
a private one. The man who first found Mr. Mulready's body testified
to the fact that a rope had been laid across the road. Constable
Williams proved that when he arrived upon the spot nothing had
been touched. Man and horse lay where they had fallen, the gig was
broken in pieces, a strong rope was stretched across the road. He
said that on taking the news to Mrs. Mulready he had learned from
the servants that the prisoner had not slept at home that night, and
that there had been a serious quarrel between him and the deceased
the previous evening.

After hearing this evidence Ned was asked if he was in a position
to account for the time which had elapsed between his leaving home
and his arrival at his nurse's cottage.

He replied that he could only say that he had been wandering on
the moor.

The case was remanded for a week, as the evidence of Mrs. Mulready
and the others in the house would be necessary, and it was felt
that a mother could not be called upon to testify against her son
with her husband lying dead in the house.

"I am sorry indeed to see you in this position," Mr. Simmonds said
to Ned. "My friendship for your late father, and I may say for
yourself, makes the position doubly painful to me, but I can only
do my duty. I should advise you to say nothing at this period of the
proceedings; but if there is anything which you think of importance
to say, and which will give another complexion to the case, I am
ready to hear it."

"I have nothing to say, sir," Ned said quietly, "except that I
am wholly innocent of the affair. As you may see by my face I was
brutally beaten by my stepfather on the evening before his death.
I went out of the house scarce knowing what I was doing. I had no
fixed intention of going anywhere or of doing anything, I simply
wanted to get away from home. I went on to the moors and wandered
about, I suppose for some hours. Then I threw myself down under
the shelter of a pile of stones and lay there awake till it was
morning. Then I determined to go to the house of my old nurse and
to stop there until I was fit to be seen. In the afternoon I heard
what had taken place here, and that I was accused of the murder,
and I at once came over here and gave myself up."

"As you are not in a position to prove what you state," Mr. Simmonds
said, "we have nothing to do but to remand the case until this day
week. I may say that I have received a letter from Dr. Green saying
that he and Mr. Porson are ready to become your bail to any amount;
but we could not think of accepting bail in a charge of murder."

Ned bowed and followed the constable without a word to the cells.
His appearance had not been calculated to create a favorable
impression. His clothes were stained and muddy; his lips were
swollen, his eyes were discolored and so puffed that he could
scarcely see between the lids, his forehead was bruised and cut in
several places. He had passed two sleepless nights; his voice had
lost its clearness of ring and was low and husky. Mr. Simmonds
shook his head to his fellow magistrate.

"I am afraid it's a bad case, Thompson, but the lad has been
terribly ill used, there is no doubt about that. It's a thousand
pities he takes up the line of denying it altogether. If he were to
say, what is no doubt the truth, that having been brutally beaten
he put the rope across the road intending to punish and even injure
his stepfather, but without any intention of killing him, I think
under the circumstances of extreme provocation, and what interest
we could bring to bear on the matter, he would get off the capital
punishment, for the jury would be sure to recommend him to mercy.
I shall privately let Green and Porson, who are evidently acting
as his friends in the matter, know that I think it would be far
better for him to tell the truth and throw himself on the mercy of
the crown."

"They may not find him guilty," Mr. Thompson said. "The jury will
see that he received very strong provocation; and after all, the
evidence is, so far as we know at present, wholly circumstantial,
and unless the prosecution can bring home to him the possession
of the rope, it is likely enough they will give him the benefit of
the doubt."

"His life is ruined anyhow," Mr. Simmonds said. "Poor lad! poor
lad! Another fortnight and I was going to apply for a commission
for him. I wish to heavens I had done so at Christmas, and then
all this misery would have been spared."

As soon as Ned had been led back to the cell Mr. Porson obtained
permission to visit him. He found him in a strange humor.

"Well, my poor boy," he began, "this is a terrible business."

"Who do you mean it is a terrible business for, Mr. Porson, me or
him?"

Ned spoke in a hard unnatural voice, without the slightest tone of
trouble or emotion. Mr. Porson perceived at once that his nerves
were brought up to such a state of tension by the events of the
preceding forty-eight hours that he was scarce responsible for what
he was saying.

"I think I meant for you, Ned. I cannot pretend to have any feeling
for the man who is dead, especially when I look at your face."

"Yes, it is not a nice position for me," Ned said coldly, "just
at the age of seventeen to be suspected of the murder of one's
stepfather, and such a nice stepfather too, such a popular man in
the town! And not only suspected, but with a good chance of being
hung for it."

"Ned, my dear boy," Mr. Porson said kindly, "don't talk in that
way. You know that we, your friends, are sure that you did not do
it."

"Are you quite sure, sir?" Ned said. "I am not quite sure myself.
I know I should have done it if I had had the chance. I thought
over all sorts of ways in which I might kill him, and I wouldn't
quite swear that I did not think of this plan and carry it out,
though it doesn't quite seem to me that I did. I have no very
definite idea what happened that night, and certainly could give
but a vague account of myself from the time I left the house till
next morning, when I found myself lying stiff and half frozen on
the moor. Anyhow, whether I killed him or not it's all the same. I
should have done so if I could. And if some one else has saved me
the trouble I suppose I ought to feel obliged to him."

Mr. Porson saw that in Ned's present state it was useless to
talk to him. Two nights without sleep, together with the intense
excitement he had gone through, had worked his brain to such a
state of tension that he was not responsible for what he was saying.
Further conversation would do him harm rather than good. What he
required was rest and, if possible, sleep. Mr. Porson therefore
only said quietly:

"We will not talk about it now, Ned; your brain is over excited with
all you have gone through. What you want now is rest and sleep."

"I don't feel sleepy, Mr. Porson. I don't feel as if I should ever
get to sleep again. I don't look like it, do I?"

"No, Ned, I don't think you do at present; but I wish you did,
my boy. Well, remember that we, your old friends, all believe you
innocent of this thing, and that we will spare no pains to prove
it to the world. I see," he said, looking at the table, "that you
have not touched your breakfast. I am not surprised that you could
not eat it. I will see that you have a cup of really good tea sent
you in."

"No," Ned said with a laugh which it pained Mr. Porson to hear, "I
have not eaten since I had tea at home. It was only the day before
yesterday, but it seems a year."

On leaving the cell Mr. Porson went to Dr. Green, who lived only
three or four doors away, told him of the state in which he had found
Ned, and begged him to give him a strong and, as far as possible,
tasteless sedative, and to put it in a cup of tea.

"Yes, that will be the best thing," the doctor replied. "I had
better not go and see him, for talking will do him harm rather than
good. We shall be having him on our hands with brain fever if this
goes on. I will go round with the tea myself to the head constable
and tell him that no one must on any account be permitted to see
Ned, and that rest and quiet are absolutely necessary for him. I
will put a strong dose of opium into the tea."

Ten minutes later Dr. Green called upon the chief constable and
told him that he feared from what he had heard from Mr. Porson that
Ned was in a very critical state, and that unless he got rest and
sleep he would probably have an attack of brain fever, even if his
mind did not give way altogether.

"I was intending to have him removed at once," the officer said,
"to a comfortable room at my own house. He was only placed where
he is temporarily. I exchanged a few words with him after the
examination and was struck myself with the strangeness of his tone.
Won't you see him?"

"I think that any talk is bad for him," the doctor said. "I have
put a strong dose of opium in this tea, and I hope it will send
him off to sleep. When he recovers I will see him."

"I think, doctor," the constable said significantly, "it would be
a good thing if you were to see him at once. You see, if things go
against him, and between ourselves the case is a very ugly one, if
you could get in the box and say that you saw him here, and that,
in your opinion, his mind was shaken, and that as likely as not
he had not been responsible for his actions from the time he left
his mother's house, it might save his life."

"That is a capital idea," Dr. Green said, "and Porson's evidence
would back mine. Yes, I will go in and see him even if my visit
does do him harm."

"I will move him into his new quarters first," the officer said;
"then if he drinks the tea he may, if he feels sleepy, throw himself
on the bed and go off. He will be quiet and undisturbed there."

Two or three minutes later the doctor was shown into a comfortable
room. A fire was burning brightly, and the tea was placed on a
little tray with a new roll and a pat of butter.

Ned's mood had somewhat changed. He received the doctor with a
boisterous laugh.

"How are you, doctor? Here I am, you see, monarch of all I survey.
This is the first time you have visited me in a room which I could
consider entirely my own. Not a bad place either."

"I hope you will not be here long, Ned," Dr. Green said, humoring
him. "We shall all do our best to get you out as soon as we can."

"I don't think your trying will be of much use, doctor; but what's
the odds as long as you are happy!"

"That's right, my boy, nothing like looking at matters cheerfully.
You know, lad, how warmly all your old friends are with you. Would
you like me to bring Charlie next time I come?"

"No, no, doctor," Ned said almost with a cry. "No. I have thought
it over, and Charlie must not see me. It will do him harm and I
shall break down. I shall have to see him at the trial--of course
he must be there--that will be bad enough."

"Very well," the doctor said quietly, "just as you like, Ned. I
shall be seeing you every day, and will give him news of you. I am
going to see him now."

"Tell him I am well and comfortable and jolly," Ned said recklessly.

"I will tell him you are comfortable, Ned, and I should like to
tell him that you had eaten your breakfast."

"Oh, yes! Tell him that. Say I ate it voraciously." And he swallowed
down the cup of tea and took a bite at the roll.

"I will tell him," Dr. Green said. "I will come in again this
evening, and will perhaps bring in with me a little medicine. You
will be all the better for a soothing draught."

"I want no draughts," Ned said. "Why should I? I am as right as
ninepence."

"Very well. We will see," the doctor said. "Now I must be going my
rounds."

As soon as he had gone Ned began pacing up and down the room,
as he had done the whole of the past night without intermission.
Gradually, however, the powerful narcotic began to take effect.
His walk became slower, his head began to droop, and at last he
stumbled toward the bed in the corner of the room, threw himself
heavily down, and was almost instantly sound asleep. Five minutes
later the door opened quietly and Dr. Green entered.

He had been listening outside the door, had noticed the change in
the character of Ned's walk, and having heard the fall upon the
bed, and had no fear of his rousing himself at his entrance. The
boy was lying across the bed, and the doctor, who was a powerful
man, lifted him gently and laid him with his head upon the pillow.
He felt his pulse, and lifted his eyelid.

"It was a strong dose," he said to himself, "far stronger than
I should have dared give him at any other time, but nothing less
would have acted, with his brain in such an excited state. I must
keep in the town today and look in from time to time and see how
he is going on. It may be that I shall have to take steps to rouse
him."

At the next visit Dr. Green looked somewhat anxious as he listened
to the boy's breathing and saw how strongly he was under the
influence of the narcotic.

"Under any other circumstances," he said to the chief constable,
who had entered the room with him, "I should take strong measures
to arouse him at once, but as it is I will risk it. I know it is a
risk both for him and me, for a nice scrape I should get in if he
slipped through my fingers; but unless he gets sleep I believe his
brain will go, and anything is better than that."

"Yes, poor lad," the officer said. "When I look at his face I confess
my sympathies are all with him rather than with the man he killed."

"I don't think he killed him," the doctor said quietly. "I am almost
sure he didn't."

"You don't say so!" the chief constable said, surprised. "I had
not the least doubt about it."

"No. Nobody seems to have the least doubt about it," the doctor
said bitterly. "I am almost sure that he had nothing to do with
it; but if he did it it was when he was in a state of such passion
that he was practically irresponsible for his actions. At any rate,
I am prepared to swear that his mind is unhinged at present. I will
go back now and fetch two or three books and will then sit by him.
He needs watching."

For several hours the doctor sat reading by Ned's bedside. From
time to time he leaned over the lad, listened to his breathing,
felt his pulse, and occasionally lifted his eyelid. After one of
these examinations, late in the afternoon, he rose with a sigh of
relief, pulled down the blinds, gently drew the curtains, and then,
taking his books, went down and noiselessly closed the door after
him.

"Thank God! he will do now," he said to the chief constable; "but
it has been a very near squeak, and I thought several times I should
have to take immediate steps to wake him. However, the effects are
passing off, and he will soon be in a natural sleep. Pray let the
house be kept as quiet as possible, and let no one go near him.
The chances are he will sleep quietly till morning."

The doctor called again the last thing that evening, but was told
that no stir had been heard in Ned's room, and the same report met
him when he came again next morning.

"That is capital," he said. "Let him sleep on. He has a long arrears
to make up. I shall not be going out today; please send in directly
he wakes."

"Very well," the officer replied. "I will put a man outside his
door, and the moment a move is heard I will let you know."



CHAPTER XIV: COMMITTED FOR TRIAL


It was not until after midday that the message arrived, and Dr.
Green at once went in. Ned was sitting on the side of the bed, a
constable having come off with the message as soon as he heard him
make the first move.

"Well, Ned, how are you now?" Dr. Green asked cheerfully as he
went to the window and drew back the curtains. "Had a good sleep,
my boy, and feel all the better for it, I hope."

"Yes, I think I have been asleep," Ned said in a far more natural
voice than that of the previous day. "How did the curtains get
drawn?"

"I drew them, Ned. I looked in in the afternoon, and found you fast
asleep, so I darkened the room."

"Why, what time is it now?" Ned asked.

"Half past twelve, Ned."

"Half past twelve! Why, how can that be?"

"Why, my boy, you have had twenty-two hours' sleep."

Ned gave an exclamation of astonishment.

"You had two nights' arrears to make up for, and nature is not to
be outraged in that way with impunity. I am very thankful that you
had a good night, for I was really anxious about you yesterday."

"I feel rather heavy and stupid now," Ned said, "but I am all the
better for my sleep.

"Let me think," he began, looking round the room, for up till now
remembrance of the past had not come back again, "what am I doing
here? Oh! I remember now."

"You are here, my boy, on a charge of which I have no doubt we shall
prove you innocent. Of course Porson and I and all your friends
know you are innocent, but we have got to prove it to the world,
and we shall want all your wits to help us. But we needn't talk
about that now. The first thing for you to do is to put your head
in a basin of water. By the time you have had a good wash your
breakfast will be here. I told my old cook to prepare it when I came
out, and as you are a favorite of hers I have no doubt it will be
a good one. After you have discussed that we can talk matters over.
I sent my boy down to the school just now to ask Porson to come
up here in half an hour. Then we three can lay our heads together
and see what are the best steps to take."

"Let me see," Ned said thoughtfully. "Was I dreaming, or have I
seen Mr. Porson since I came here?"

"You are not dreaming, Ned; but the fact is, you were not quite
yourself yesterday. The excitement you had gone through had been
too much for you."

"It all seems a dream to me," Ned said in a hopeless tone, "a
confused, muddled sort of dream."

"Don't think about it now, Ned," the doctor said cheerfully,
"but get off your things at once, and set to and sluice your head
well with water. I will be back in a quarter of an hour with the
breakfast."

At the end of that time the doctor returned, his boy carrying a tray.
The constable on duty took it from him, and would have carried it
into Ned's room, but the doctor said:

"Give it me, Walker. I will take it in myself. I don't want him to
see any of you just at present. His head's in a queer state, and
the less he is impressed with the fact that he is in charge the
better."

Dr. Green found Ned looking all the better for his wash. The swelling
of his face had now somewhat abated, but the bruises were showing
out in darker colors than before; still he looked fresher and
better.

"Here is your breakfast, Ned, and if you don't enjoy it Jane will
be terribly disappointed."

"I shall enjoy it, doctor. I feel very weak; but I do think I am
hungry."

"You ought to be, Ned, seeing that you have eaten nothing for two
days."

The doctor removed the cloth which covered the tray. The meal consisted
of three kidneys and two eggs, and a great pile of buttered toast.
The steam curled out of the spout of a dainty china teapot, and
there was a small jug brimful of cream.

The tears came into Ned's eyes.

"Oh! how good you are, doctor!"

"Nonsense, good!" the doctor said; "come, eat away, that will be
the best thanks to Jane and me."

Ned needed no pressing. He ate languidly at first; but his appetite
came as he went on, and he drank cup after cup of the fragrant
tea, thick with cream. With the exception of one egg, he cleared
the tray.

"There, doctor!" he said, as he pushed back his chair; "if you are
as satisfied as I am you must be contented indeed."

"I am, Ned; that meal has done us both a world of good. Ah! here
is Porson, just arrived at the right moment."

"How are you, Ned?" the master asked heartily.

"I am quite well, sir, thank you. Sleep and the doctor, and the
doctor's cook, have done wonders for me. I hear you came yesterday,
sir, but I don't seem to remember much about it."

"Yes, I was here, Ned," Mr. Porson said, "but you were pretty well
stupid from want of sleep. However, I am glad to see you quite
yourself again this morning."

"And now," the doctor said, "we three must put our heads together
and see what is to be done. You understand, Ned, how matters stand,
don't you?"

"Yes, sir," Ned said after a pause; "I seem to know that some one
said that Mr. Mulready was dead, and some one thought that I had
killed him, and then I started to come over to give myself up. Oh!
yes, I remember that, and then there was an examination before the
magistrates. I remember it all; but it seems just as if it had been
a dream."

"Yes, that is what happened, Ned, and naturally it seems a dream
to you, because you were so completely overcome by excitement and
want of food and sleep that you were scarcely conscious of what
was passing. Now we want you to think over quietly, as well as you
can, what you did when you left home."

Ned sat for a long time without speaking.

"It seems all confused," he said at last. "I don't even remember
going out of the house. I can remember his striking me in the face
again and again, and then I heard my mother scream, and everything
seems to have become misty. But I know I was walking about; I
know that I was worrying to get at him, and that if I had met him
I should have attacked him, and if I had had anything in my hand
I should have killed him."

"But you don't remember doing anything, Ned? You cannot recall that
you went anywhere and got a rope and fastened it across the road
with the idea of upsetting his gig on the way back from the mill?"

"No, sir," Ned said decidedly; "I can't recollect anything of that
at all. I am quite sure if I had done that I should remember it;
for I seem to remember, now I think of it, a good deal of what I
did. Yes, I went up through Varley; the lights weren't out, and I
wondered what Bill would say if I were to knock at his door and he
opened it and saw what a state my face was in. Then I went out on
the moor, and it seems to me that I walked about for hours, and
the longer I walked the more angry I was. At last--it could not
have been long before morning, I think--I lay down for a time,
and then when it was light I made up my mind to go over and see
Abijah. I knew she would be with me. That's all I remember about
it. Does my mother think I did it?"

Dr. Green hesitated a moment.

"Your mother is not in a state to think one way or the other, Ned;
she is in such a state of grief that she hardly knows what she is
saying or doing."

In fact Mrs. Mulready entertained no doubt whatever upon the
subject, and had continued to speak of Ned's wickedness until Dr.
Green that morning had lost all patience with her, and told her she
ought to be ashamed of herself to be the first to accuse her son,
and that if he was hung she would only have herself to blame for
it.

Ned guessed by the doctor's answer that his mother was against him.

"It is curious," he said, "she did not take on so after my father's
death, and he was always kind and good to her, while this man was
just the reverse."

"There's never any understanding women," Dr. Green said testily,
"and your mother is a singularly inconsequent and weak specimen of
her sex. Well, Ned, and so that is all you can tell us about the
way you passed that unfortunate evening. What a pity it is, to
be sure, that you did not rouse up your friend Bill. His evidence
would probably have cleared you at once. As it is, of course we
believe your story, my boy. The question is, will the jury believe
it?"

"I don't seem to care much whether they do or not," Ned said sadly,
"unless we find the man who did it. Every one will think me guilty
even if I am acquitted. Fancy going on living all one's life and
knowing that everyone one meets is thinking to himself, 'That is
the man who killed his stepfather'--it would be better to be hung
at once."

"You must look at it in a more hopeful way than that, Ned," Mr.
Porson said kindly; "many will from the first believe, with us,
that you are innocent. You will live it down, my boy, and sooner
or later we may hope and believe that God will suffer the truth to
be known. At the worst, you know you need not go on living here.
The world is wide, and you can go where your story is unknown.

"Do not look on the darkest side of things. And now, for the
present, I have brought you down a packet of books. If I were you
I would try to read--anything is better than going on thinking.
You will want all your wits about you, and the less you worry your
mind the better. Mr. Wakefield will represent you at the examination
next week; but I do not see that there will be much for him to
do, as I fear there is little doubt that you will be committed for
trial, when of course we shall get the best legal assistance for
you. I will tell him exactly what you have said to me, and he can
then come and see you or not as he likes. I shall come in every
day. I have already obtained permission from the magistrates to do
so. I shall go now and see Charlie and tell him all about it. It
will cheer him very much, poor boy. You may be sure he didn't think
you guilty; still, your assurance that you know nothing whatever
about it will be a comfort to him."

"Yes," Ned said, "Charlie knows that I would not tell a lie to save
my life, though he knows that I might possibly kill any one when
I am in one of my horrible tempers; and I did think I was getting
over them, Mr. Porson!" he broke out with a half sob. "I have really
tried hard."

"I know you have, Ned. I am sure you have done your best, my boy,
and you have been sorely tried; but, now, I must be off. Keep up
your spirits, hope for the best, and pray God to strengthen you to
bear whatever may be in store for you, and to clear you from this
charge."

That evening when Mr. Porson was in his study the servant came in
and said that a young man wished to speak to him.

"Who is it, Mary?"

"He says his name is Bill Swinton, sir."

"Oh! I know," the master said; "show him in."

Bill was ushered in.

"Sit down, Bill," Mr. Porson said; "I have heard of you as a friend
of Sankey's. I suppose you have come to speak to me about this
terrible business?"

"Ay," Bill said, "that oi be, sir, seeing as how Ned always spake
of you as a true friend, and loiked you hearty. They say too as
you ha' engaged Lawyer Wakefield to defend him."

"That is so, Bill. I am convinced of the boy's innocence. He has
always been a favorite of mine. He has no relations to stand by
him now, poor boy, so we who are his friends must do our best for
him."

"Surely," Bill said heartily; "and dost really think as he didn't
do it?"

"I may say I am quite sure he did not, Bill. Didn't you think so
too?"

"No, sir," Bill said; "it never entered my moind as he didn't do
it. Oi heard as how t' chap beat Maister Ned cruel, and it seemed
to me natural loike as he should sarve him out. Oi didn't suppose
as how he meant vor to kill him, but as everyone said as how he
did the job it seemed to me loike enough; but of course it didn't
make no differ to oi whether so be as he killed un or not. Maister
Ned's moi friend, and oi stands by him; still oi be main glad to
hear as you think he didn't do it; but will the joodge believe it?"

"Ah! that I cannot say," Mr. Porson replied. "I know the lad and
believe his word; but at present appearances are sadly against him.
That unfortunate affair that he had with my predecessor induced a
general idea that he was very violent tempered. Then it has been
notorious that he and his stepfather did not get on well together,
and this terrible quarrel on the evening of Mr. Mulready's death
seems only too plainly to account for the affair; still, without
further evidence, I question if a jury will find him guilty. It is
certain he had no rope when he went out, and unless the prosecution
can prove that he got possession of a rope they cannot bring the
guilt home to him."

"No, surely," Bill assented, and sat for some time without further
speech; then he went on, "now, sir, what oi be come to thee about
be this. Thou bee'st his friend and know'st best what 'ould be a
good thing for him. Now we ha' been a-talking aboot a plan, Luke
Marner and oi, as is Maister Ned's friends, and we can get plenty
of chaps to join us. We supposes as arter the next toime as they
has him up in coort they will send him off to York Castle to be
tried at the 'sizes."

"Yes; I have no doubt he will be committed after his next appearance,
Bill; but what is the plan that you and your friend Luke were
thinking of?"

"Well, we was a-thinking vor twenty or so on us to coom down at
noight and break open t' cells. There be only t' chief constable
and one other, and they wouldn't be no good agin us, and we could
get Maister Ned owt and away long afore t' sojers would have toime
to wake up and coom round; then we could hide un up on moor till
there was toime to get un away across the seas. Luke he be pretty
well bent on it, but oi says as before we did nothing oi would coom
and ax thee, seeing as how thou bee'st a friend of his."

"No, Bill," Mr. Porson said gravely. "It would not do at all, and
I am glad you came to ask me. If I thought it certain that the jury
would find a verdict of guilty, and that Ned, innocent as I believe
him of the crime, would be hung, I should say that your plan might
be worth thinking of; for in that case Ned might possibly be got
away till we his friends here could get at the bottom of the matter.
Still it would be an acknowledgment for the time of his guilt, and
I am sure that Ned himself would not run away without standing his
trial even if the doors of his cell were opened. I shall see him
tomorrow morning, and will tell him of your scheme on his behalf.
I am sure he will be grateful, but I am pretty certain that he will
not avail himself of it. If you will come down tomorrow evening I
will let you know exactly what he says."

As Mr. Porson expected, Ned, although much moved at the offer of
his humble friends to free him by force, altogether declined to
accept it.

"It is just like Bill," he said, "ready to get into any scrape
himself to help me: but I must stand my trial. I know that even if
they cannot prove me guilty I cannot prove I am innocent; still,
to run away would be an acknowledgment of guilt, and I am not going
to do that."

On the day appointed Ned was again brought up before the magistrates.
The examination was this time in public, and the justice room was
crowded. Ned, whose face was now recovering from the marks of ill
usage, was pale and quiet. He listened in silence to the evidence
proving the finding of Mr. Mulready's body. The next witness put
into the box was one of the engineers at the factory; he proved
that the rope which had been used in upsetting the gig had been cut
from one which he had a short time before been using for moving a
portion of the machinery. He had used the rope about an hour before
Mr. Mulready came back in the evening, and it was then whole. After
it had been done with it was thrown outside the mill to be out of
the way, as it would not be required again.

After he had given his evidence Mr. Wakefield asked:

"Did you hear any one outside the mill when Mr. Mulready was there?"

"No, sir; I heard nothing."

"Any one might have entered the yard, I suppose, and found the
rope?"

"Yes; the gates were open, as we were at work."

"Would the rope be visible to any one who entered the yard?"

"It would not be seen plainly, because it was a dark night; but
any one prowling about outside the mill might have stumbled against
it."

"You have no reason whatever for supposing that it was Mr. Edward
Sankey who cut this rope more than anyone else?"

"No, sir."

Charlie was the next witness. The boy was as white as a sheet,
and his eyes were swollen with crying. He glanced piteously at his
brother, and exclaimed with a sob, "Oh! Ned."

"Don't mind, Charlie," Ned said quietly. "Tell the whole story
exactly as it happened. You can't do me any harm, old boy."

So encouraged Charlie told the whole story of the quarrel arising
in the first place from his stepfather's ill temper at the tea
table.

"Your brother meant nothing specially unpleasant in calling your
stepfather Foxey?" Mr. Wakefield asked.

"No, sir; he had always called him so even before he knew that he
was going to marry mother. It was a name, I believe, the men called
him, and Ned got it from them."

"I believe that your stepfather had received threatening letters,
had he not?"

"Yes, sir, several; he was afraid to put his new machines to work
because of them."

"Thank you, that will do," Mr. Wakefield said. "I have those letters
in my possession," he went on to the magistrates. "They are proof
that the deceased had enemies who had threatened to take his life.
Shall I produce them now?"

"It is hardly worth while, Mr. Wakefield, though they can be brought
forward at the trial. I may say, indeed, that we have seen some
of them already, for it was on account of these letters that we
applied for the military to be stationed here."

It was not thought necessary to call Mrs. Mulready; but the servant
gave her evidence as to what she had heard of the quarrel, and as
to the absence of Ned from home that night.

"Unless you are in a position to produce evidence, Mr. Wakefield,
proving clearly that at the time the murder was committed the
prisoner was at a distance from the spot, we are prepared to commit
him for trial."

Mr. Wakefield intimated that he should reserve his evidence for
the trial itself, and Ned was then formally committed.

The examination in no way altered the tone of public opinion. The
general opinion was that Ned had followed his stepfather to the
mill, intending to attack him, that he had stumbled onto the coil
of rope, and the idea occurred to him of tying it across the road
and upsetting the gig on its return. Charlie's evidence as to the
savage assault upon his brother had created a stronger feeling of
sympathy than had before prevailed, and had the line of defense been
that, smarting under his injuries, Ned had suddenly determined to
injure his stepfather by upsetting the gig, but without any idea
of killing him, the general opinion would have been that under such
provocation as Ned had received a lengthened term of imprisonment
would have been an ample punishment. More than one, indeed, were
heard to say, "Well, if I were on the jury, my verdict would be,
Served him right."

Still, although there was greater sympathy than before with Ned,
there were few, indeed, who doubted his guilt.

After Ned was removed from court he was taken back by the chief
constable to his house, and ten minutes later he was summoned into
the parlor, where he found Charlie and Lucy waiting him. Lucy,
who was now ten years old, sprang forward to meet him; he lifted
her, and for awhile she lay with her head on his shoulder and her
arms round his neck, sobbing bitterly, while Charlie clung to his
brother's disengaged hand.

"Don't cry, Lucy, don't cry little woman; it will all come right in
the end;" but Lucy's tears were not to be stanched. Ned sat down,
and after a time soothed her into stillness, but she still lay
nestled up in his arms.

"It was dreadful, Ned," Charlie said, "having to go into court as
a witness against you. I had thought of running away, but did not
know where to go to, and then Mr. Porson had a talk with me and
told me that it was of the greatest importance that I should tell
everything exactly word for word, just as it happened. He said
every one knew there had been a quarrel, and that if I did not
tell everything it would seem as if I was keeping something back
in order to screen you, and that would do you a great deal of
harm, and that, as really you were not to blame in the quarrel, my
evidence would be in your favor rather than against you. He says
he knew that you would wish me to tell exactly what took place."

"Certainly, Charlie; there is nothing I could want hid. I was
wrong to speak of him as Foxey, and to let fly as I did about him;
but there was nothing intended to offend him in that, because, of
course, I had no idea that he could hear me. The only thing I have
to blame myself very much for is for getting into a wild passion.
I don't think any one would say I did wrong in going out of the
house after being knocked about so; but if I had not got into a
passion, and had gone straight to Bill's, or to Abijah, or to Mr.
Porson, which would have been best of all, to have stopped the
night, all this would not have come upon me; but I let myself get
into a blind passion and stopped in it for hours, and I am being
punished for it."

"It was natural that you should get in a passion," Charlie said
stoutly. "I think any one would have got in a passion."

"I don't think you would, Charlie," Ned said, smiling.

"No," Charlie replied; "but then you see that is not my way.
I should have cried all night; but then I am not a great, strong
fellow like you, and it would not be so hard to be knocked about."

"It's no use making excuses, Charlie. I know I ought not to have
given way to my temper like that. Now, Lucy dear, as you are feeling
better, you must sit up and talk to me. How is mother?"

"Mother is in bed," Lucy said. "She's always in bed now; the house
is dreadful, Ned, without you, and they say you are not to come
back yet," and the tears came very near to overflowing again.

"Ah! well, I hope I shall be back before long, Lucy."

"I hope so," Lucy said; "but you know you will soon be going away
again to be a soldier."

"I shall not go away again now, Lucy," Ned said quietly. "When I
come back it will be for good."

"Oh! that will be nice," Lucy said joyously, "just as it used to
be, with no one to be cross and scold about everything."

"Hush! little woman, don't talk about that. He had his faults, dear,
as we all have, but he had a great deal to worry him, and perhaps
we did not make allowances enough for him, and I do think he was
really fond of you, Lucy, and when people are dead we should never
speak ill of them."

"I don't want to," Lucy said, "and I didn't want him to be fond of
me when he wasn't fond of you and Charlie or mother. It seems to
me he wasn't fond of mother, and yet she does nothing but cry; I
can't make that out, can you?"

Ned did not answer; his mother's infatuation for Mr. Mulready had
always been a puzzle to him, and he could at present think of no
reply which would be satisfactory to Lucy.

A constable now came in and said that there were other visitors
waiting to see Ned. He then withdrew, leaving the lad to say goodby
to his brother and sister alone. Ned kept up a brave countenance,
and strove to make the parting as easy as possible for the others,
but both were crying bitterly as they went out.

Ned's next visitors were Dr. Green and Mr. Porson.

"We have only a minute or two, my boy," Mr. Porson said, "for the
gig is at the door. The chief constable is going to drive you to
York himself. You will go halfway and sleep on the road tonight.
It is very good of him, as in that way no one will suspect that
you are any but a pair of ordinary travelers. Keep up your spirits,
my boy. We have sent to London for a detective from Bow Street to
try and ferret out something of this mysterious business; and even
if we do not succeed, I have every faith that it will come right
in the end. And now goodby, my boy, I shall see you in a fortnight,
for of course I shall come over to York to the trial to give evidence
as to character."

"And so shall I, Ned, my patients must get on without me for a day
or two," the doctor said. "Mr. Wakefield is waiting to see you. He
has something to tell you which may help to cheer you. He says it
is of no legal value, but it seems to me important."



CHAPTER XV: NOT GUILTY


As soon as Mr. Porson and the doctor had left him Mr. Wakefield
appeared.

"Well, Sankey, I hope you are not downcast at the magistrates'
decision. It was a certainty that they would have to commit you,
as we could not prove a satisfactory alibi. Never mind, I don't
think any jury will find against you on the evidence they have got,
especially in the face of those threatening letters and the fact
that several men in Mulready's position have been murdered by the
Luddites."

"It won't be much consolation to me, sir, to be acquitted if it
can't be proved to the satisfaction of every one that I am innocent."

"Tut, tut! my boy; the first thing to do is to get you out of the
hands of the law. After that we shall have time to look about us
and see if we can lay our hands on the right man. A curious thing
has happened today while I was in court. A little boy left a letter
for me at my office here; it is an ill-written scrawl, as you see,
but certainly important."

Ned took the paper, on which was written in a scrawling hand:

"Sir, Maister Sankey be innocent of the murder of Foxey. I doan't
want to put my neck in a noose, but if so be as they finds him
guilty in coort and be a-going to hang him, I shall come forward
and say as how I did it. I bean't agoing to let him be hung for
this job. A loife for a loife, saes oi; so tell him to keep up his
heart."

There was no signature to the paper.

Ned looked up with delight in his face.

"But won't the letter clear me, Mr. Wakefield? It shows that it
was not me, but some one else who did it."

"No, Sankey, pray do not cherish any false hopes on that ground.
The letter is valueless in a legal way. To you and to your friends
it may be a satisfaction; but it can have no effect on the court.
There is nothing to prove that it is genuine. It may have been written
by any friend of yours with a view of obtaining your acquittal. Of
course we shall put it in at the trial, but it cannot be accepted
as legal evidence in any way. Still a thing of that sort may have
an effect upon some of the jury."

Ned looked again at the letter, and a shade came over his face now
that he looked at it carefully. He recognized in a moment Bill's
handwriting. He had himself instructed him by setting him copies
at the time he was laid up with the broken leg, and Bill had stuck
to it so far that he was able to read and write in a rough way.

Ned's first impulse was to tell Mr. Wakefield who had written the
note, but he thought that it might get Bill into a scrape. It was
evidently written by his friend, solely to create an impression in
his favor, and he wondered that such an idea should have entered
Bill's head, which was by no means an imaginative one. As to the
young fellow having killed Mr. Mulready it did not even occur to
Ned for a moment.

As, seated by the side of the chief constable, he drove along that
afternoon, Ned turned it over anxiously in his mind whether it would
be honest to allow this letter to be produced in court, knowing
that it was only the device of a friend, Finally he decided to let
matters take their course.

"I am innocent," he said to himself, "and what I have got to live
for is to clear myself from this charge. Mr. Wakefield said this
letter would not be of value one way or the other, and if I were
to say Bill wrote it he might insist upon Bill's being arrested,
and he might find it just as hard to prove his innocence as I do."

The assizes were to come on in three weeks. Ned was treated with more
consideration than was generally the case with prisoners in those
days, when the jails were terribly mismanaged; but Mr. Simmonds had
written to the governor of the prison asking that every indulgence
that could be granted should be shown to Ned, and Mr. Porson had
also, before the lad left Marsden, insisted on his accepting a sum
of money which would enable him to purchase such food and comforts
as were permitted to be bought by prisoners, able to pay for them,
awaiting their trial.

Thus Ned obtained the boon of a separate cell, he was allowed to
have books and writing materials, and to have his meals in from
outside the prison.

The days, however, passed but slowly, and Ned was heartily glad
when the time for the assizes was at hand and his suspense was to
come to an end. His case came on for trial on the second day of
the sessions. On the previous evening he received a visit from Mr.
Wakefield, who told him that Mr. Porson, Dr. Green and Charlie had
come over in the coach with him.

"You will be glad to hear that your mother will not be called,"
the lawyer said. "The prosecution, I suppose, thought that it would
have a bad effect to call upon a mother to give evidence against
her son; besides, she could prove no more than your brother will
be able to do. If they had called her, Green would have given her a
certificate that she was confined to her bed and could not possibly
attend. However I am glad they did not call her, for the absence of
a witness called against the prisoner, but supposed to be favorable
to him, always counts against him."

"And you have no clue as who did it, Mr. Wakefield?"

"Not a shadow," the lawyer replied. "We have had a man down from
town ever since you have been away, but we have done no good.
He went up to Varley and tried to get into the confidence of the
croppers, but somehow they suspected him to be a spy sent down
to inquire into the Luddite business, and he had a pretty narrow
escape of his life. He was terribly knocked about before he could
get out of the public house, and they chased him all the way down
into Marsden. Luckily he was a pretty good runner, and had the
advantage of having lighter shoes on than they had, or they would
have killed him to a certainty. No, my lad, we can prove nothing;
we simply take the ground that you didn't do it; that he was
a threatened man and unpopular with his hands; and there is not a
shadow of proof against you except the fact that he had ill treated
you just before."

"And that I was known to bear him ill will," Ned said sadly.

"Yes, of course that's unfortunate," the lawyer said uneasily. "Of
course they will make a point of that, but that proves nothing.
Most boys of your age do object to a stepfather. Of course we shall
put it to the jury that there is nothing uncommon about that. Oh!
no, I do not think they have a strong case; and Mr. Grant, who is
our leader, and who is considered the best man on the circuit, is
convinced we shall get a verdict."

"But what do people think at Marsden, Mr. Wakefield? Do people
generally think I am guilty?"

"Pooh! pooh!" Mr. Wakefield said hastily. "What does it matter
what people think? Most people are fools. The question we have to
concern ourselves with is what do the jury think, or at any rate
with what they think is proved, and Mr. Grant says he does not
believe any jury could find you guilty upon the evidence. He will
work them up. I know he is a wonderful fellow for working up."

Mr. Grant's experience of juries turned out to be well founded.
Ned, as he stood pale, but firm and composed in the dock, felt that
his case was well nigh desperate when he heard the speech for the
prosecution: his long and notorious ill will against the deceased,
"one of the most genial and popular gentlemen in that part of
the great county of Yorkshire," was dwelt upon. Evidence would be
brought to show that even on the occasion of his mother's marriage the
happiness of the ceremonial was marred by the scowls and menacing
appearance of this most unfortunate and ill conditioned lad; how some
time after the marriage this young fellow had violently assaulted
his stepfather, and had used words in the hearing of the servants
which could only be interpreted as a threat upon his life. This
indeed, was not the first time that this boy had been placed in
the dock as a prisoner. Upon a former occasion he had been charged
with assaulting and threatening the life of his schoolmaster, and
although upon that occasion he had escaped the consequences of his
conduct by what must now be considered as the ill timed leniency
of the magistrates, yet the facts were undoubted and undenied.

Then the counsel proceeded to narrate the circumstances of the
evening up to the point when Mr. Mulready left the house.

"Beyond that point, gentlemen of the jury," the counsel said,
"nothing certain is known. The rest must be mere conjecture; and
yet it is not hard to imagine the facts. The prisoner was aware
that the deceased had gone to the mill, which is situated a mile
and a half from the town. You will be told the words which the
prisoner used: 'It will be my turn next time, and when it comes I
will kill you, you brute.'

"With these words on his lips, with this thought in his heart, he
started for the mill. What plan he intended to adopt, what form
of vengeance he intended to take, it matters not, but assuredly it
was with thoughts of vengeance in his heart that he followed that
dark and lonely road to the mill. Once there he would have hung
about waiting for his victim to issue forth. It may be that he had
picked up a heavy stone, may be that he had an open knife in his
hand; but while he was waiting, probably his foot struck against a
coil of rope, which, as you will hear, had been carelessly thrown
out a few minutes before.

"Then doubtless the idea of a surer method of vengeance than that
of which he had before thought came into his mind. A piece of the
rope was hastily cut off, and with this the prisoner stole quietly
off until he reached the spot where two gates facing each other on
opposite sides of the lane afforded a suitable hold for the rope.
Whether after fastening it across the road he remained at the spot
to watch the catastrophe which he had brought about, or whether he
hurried away into the darkness secure of his vengeance we cannot
tell, nor does it matter. You will understand, gentlemen, that we
are not in a position to prove these details of the tragedy. I am
telling you the theory of the prosecution as to how it happened.
Murders are not generally done in open day with plenty of trustworthy
witnesses looking on. It is seldom that the act of slaying is
witnessed by human eye. The evidence must therefore to some extent
be circumstantial. The prosecution can only lay before juries the
antecedent circumstances, show ill will and animus, and lead the
jury step by step up to the point when the murderer and the victim
meet in some spot at some time when none but the all seeing eye
of God is upon them. This case is, as you see, no exception to the
general rule.

"I have shown you that between the prisoner and the deceased there
was what may be termed a long standing feud, which came to a climax
two or three hours before this murder. Up to that fatal evening I
think I shall show you that the prisoner was wholly in fault, and
that the deceased acted with great good temper and self command
under a long series of provocations; but upon this evening his
temper appears to have failed, and I will admit frankly that he
seems to have committed a very outrageous and brutal assault upon
the prisoner. Still, gentlemen, such an assault is no justification
of the crime which took place. Unhappily it supplies the cause,
but it does not supply an excuse for the crime.

"Your duty in the case will be simple. You will have to say whether
or not the murder of William Mulready is accounted for upon the
theory which I have laid down to you and on no other. Should you
entertain no doubt upon the subject it will be your duty to bring
in a verdict of guilty; if you do not feel absolutely certain you
will of course give the prisoner the benefit of the doubt."

The evidence called added nothing to what was known at the first
examination. The two servants testified to the fact of the unpleasant
relations which had from the first existed between the deceased and
the prisoner, and detailed what they knew of the quarrel. Charlie's
evidence was the most damaging, as he had to state the threat which
Ned had uttered before he went out.

The counsel for the defense asked but few questions in cross
examination. He elicited from the servants, however, the fact that
Mr. Mulready at home was a very different person from Mr. Mulready
as known by people in general. They acknowledged that he was by no
means a pleasant master, that he was irritable and fault finding,
and that his temper was trying in the extreme, He only asked one
or two questions of Charlie.

"You did not find your stepfather a very pleasant man to deal with,
did you?"

"Not at all pleasant," Charlie replied heartily.

"Always snapping and snarling and finding fault, wasn't he?"

"Yes, sir, always."

"Now about this threat of which we have heard so much on the part
of your brother, did it impress you much? Were you frightened at
it? Did you think that your brother intended to kill your stepfather?"

"No, sir, I am sure he didn't; he just said it in a passion. He had
been knocked about until he could hardly stand, and he just said
the first thing that came into his head, like fellows do."

"You don't think that he went out with any deliberate idea of
killing your stepfather?"

"No, sir; I am sure he only went out to walk about till he got over
his passion, just as he had done before."

"It was his way, was it, when anything put him out very much, to
go and walk about till he got cool again?"

"Yes, sir."

For the defense Mr. Simmonds was called, and produced the threatening
letters which Mr. Mulready had laid before him. He stated that that
gentleman was much alarmed, and had asked that a military force
should be called into the town, and that he himself and his colleague
had considered the danger so serious that they had applied for and
obtained military protection.

Luke Marner and several of the hands at the mill testified to the
extreme unpopularity of their employer among his men, and said that
they should never have been surprised any morning at hearing that
he had been killed.

Dr. Green and Mr. Porson testified very strongly in favor of Ned's
character. This was all the evidence produced. Mr. Grant then
addressed the jury, urging that beyond the fact of this unfortunate
quarrel, in which the deceased appeared to have been entirely to
blame and to have behaved with extreme brutality, there was nothing
whatever to associate the prisoner with the crime. The young gentleman
before them, as they had heard from the testimony of gentlemen of
the highest respectability, bore an excellent character. That he
had faults in temper he admitted, such faults being the result of
the lad having been brought up among Indian servants; but Dr. Green
and Mr. Porson had both told them that he had made the greatest
efforts to master his temper, and that they believed that no ordinary
provocation could arouse him. But after all what did what they had
heard amount to? simply this, the lad's mother had been married
a second time to a man who bore the outward reputation of being
a pleasant, jovial man, a leading character among his townsmen, a
popular fellow in the circle in which he moved.

It had been proved, however, by the evidence of those who knew him
best, of his workpeople, his servants, of this poor lad whom the
prosecution had placed in the box as a witness against his brother,
that this man's life was a long lie; that, smiling and pleasant as
he appeared, he was a tyrant, a petty despot in his family, a hard
master to his hands, a cruel master in his house, What wonder that
between this lad and such a stepfather as this there was no love
lost. There were scores, ay and thousands of boys in England who
similarly hated their stepfathers, and was it to be said that, if
any of the men came to a sudden and violent death, these boys were
to be suspected of their murder. But in the present case, although
he was not in a position to lay his finger upon the man who
perpetrated this crime, they need not go far to look for him. Had
they not heard that he was hated by his workpeople? Evidence had
been laid before them to show that he was a marked man, that he had
received threatening letters from secret associations which had,
as was notorious, kept the south of Yorkshire, and indeed all that
part of the country which was the seat of manufacture, in a state
of alarm. So imminent was the danger considered that the magistrates
had requested the aid of an armed force, and at the tame this murder
was committed there were soldiers actually stationed in the mill,
besides a strong force in the town for the protection of this man
from his enemies.

The counsel for the prosecution had given them his theory as to
the actions of the prisoner, but he believed that that theory was
altogether wide of the truth. It was known that an accident had
taken place to the machinery, for the mill was standing idle for
the day. It would be probable that the deceased would go over late
in the evening to see how the work was progressing, as every effort
was being made to get the machinery to run on the following morning.

"What so probable, then, that the enemies of the deceased--and
you know that he had enemies, who had sworn to take his life--
should choose this opportunity for attacking him as he drove to or
from the town. That an enemy was prowling round the mill, as has
been suggested to you, I admit readily enough. That he stumbled
upon the rope, that the idea occurred to him of upsetting the gig
on its return, that he cut off a portion of the rope and fixed it
between the two gateposts across the road, and that this rope caused
the death of William Mulready. All this I allow; but I submit to
you that the man who did this was a member of the secret association
which is a terror to the land, and was the terror of William
Mulready, and there is no proof whatever, not even the shadow not
even the shadow of a proof, to connect this lad with the crime.

"I am not speaking without a warrant when I assert my conviction
that it was an emissary of the association known as the Luddites
who had a hand in this matter, for I am in possession of a document,
which unfortunately I am not in a position to place before you,
as it is not legal evidence, which professes to be written by the
man who perpetrated this deed, and who appears, although obedient
to the behests of this secret association of which he is a member,
to be yet a man not devoid of heart, who says that if this innocent
young man is found guilty of this crime he will himself come forward
and confess that he did it.

"Therefore, gentlemen of the jury, there is every reason to believe
that the slayer of William Mulready is indeed within these walls,
but assuredly he is not the most unfortunate and ill treated young
man who stands in the dock awaiting your verdict to set him free."

The summing up was brief. The judge commenced by telling the jury
that they must dismiss altogether from their minds the document of
which the counsel for the defense had spoken, and to which, as it
had not been put into court, and indeed could not be put into court,
it was highly irregular and improper for him to have alluded. They
must, he said, dismiss it altogether from their minds. Their duty
was simple, they were to consider the evidence before them. They
had heard of the quarrel which had taken place between the deceased
and the prisoner. They had heard the threat used by the prisoner
that he would kill the deceased if he had an opportunity, and they
had to decide whether he had, in accordance with the theory of
the prosecution, carried that threat into effect; or whether on
the other hand, as the defense suggested, the deceased had fallen
a victim to the agent of the association which had threatened his
life. He was bound to tell them that if they entertained any doubt
as to the guilt of the prisoner at the bar they were bound to give
him the benefit of the doubt.

The jury consulted together for a short time and then expressed
their desire to retire to consider their verdict. They were absent
about half an hour and on their return the foreman said in reply to
the question of the judge that they found the prisoner "Not Guilty."

A perfect silence reigned in the court when the jury entered the
box, and something like a sigh of relief followed their verdict.
It was expected, and indeed there was some surprise when the jury
retired, for the general opinion was that whether guilty or innocent
the prosecution had failed to bring home unmistakably the crime
to the prisoner. That he might have committed it was certain, that
he had committed it was probable, but it was assuredly not proved
that he and none other had been the perpetrator of the crime.

Of all the persons in the court the accused had appeared the least
anxious as to the result. He received almost with indifference the
assurances which Mr. Wakefield, who was sitting at the solicitor's
table below him, rose to give him, that the jury could not find a
verdict against him, and the expression of his face was unchanged
when the foreman announced the verdict.

He was at once released from the dock. His solicitor, Dr. Green,
and Mr. Porson warmly shook his hand, and Charlie threw his arms
round his neck and cried in his joy and excitement.

"It is all right, I suppose," Ned said as, surrounded by his friends,
he left the court, "but I would just as lief the verdict had gone
the other way."

"Oh! Ned, how can you say so?" Charlie exclaimed.

"Well, no, Charlie," Ned corrected himself. "I am glad for your
sake and Lucy's that I am acquitted; it would have been awful for
you if I had been hung--it is only for myself that I don't care.
The verdict only means that they have not been able to prove me
guilty, and I have got to go on living all my life knowing that I
am suspected of being a murderer. It is not a nice sort of thing,
you know," and he laughed drearily.

"Come, come, Ned," Mr. Porson said cheerily, "you mustn't take too
gloomy a view of it. It is natural enough that you should do so
now, for you have gone through a great deal, and you are overwrought
and worn out; but this will pass off, and you will find things are
not as bad as you think. It is true that there may be some, not
many, I hope, who will be of opinion that the verdict was like the
Scotch verdict 'Not Proven,' rather than 'Not Guilty;' but I am
sure the great majority will believe you innocent. You have got the
doctor here on your side, and he is a host in himself. Mr. Simmonds
told me when the jury were out of the court that he was convinced
you were innocent, and his opinion will go a long way in Marsden,
and you must hope and trust that the time will come when your innocence
will be not only believed in, but proved to the satisfaction of
all by the discovery of the actual murderer."

"Ah!" Ned said, "if we ever find that out it will be all right; but
unless we can do so I shall have this dreadful thing hanging over
me all my life."

They had scarcely reached the hotel where Mr. Porson, the doctor,
and Charlie were stopping, when Mr. Simmonds arrived.

"I have come to congratulate you, my boy," he said, shaking hands
with Ned. "I can see that at present the verdict does not give so
much satisfaction to you as to your friends, but that is natural
enough. You have been unjustly accused and have had a very hard
time of it, and you are naturally not disposed to look at matters
in a cheerful light; but this gives us time, my boy, and time is
everything. It is hard for you that your innocence has not been
fully demonstrated, but you have your life before you, and we must
hope that some day you will be triumphantly vindicated."

"That is what I shall live for in future," Ned said. "Of course
now, Mr. Simmonds, there is an end of all idea of my going into
the army. A man suspected of a murder, even if they have failed
to bring it home to him, cannot ask for a commission in the army.
I know there's an end to all that."

"No," Mr. Simmonds agreed hesitatingly, "I fear that for the present
that plan had better remain in abeyance; we can take it up again
later on when this matter is put straight."

"That may be never," Ned said decidedly, "so we need say no more
about it."

"And now, my boy," Mr. Porson said, "try and eat some lunch. I
have just ordered a post chaise to be round at the door in half an
hour. The sooner we start the better. The fresh air and the change
will do you good, and we shall have plenty of time to talk on the
road."



CHAPTER XVI: LUKE MARNER'S SACRIFICE


Not until they had left York behind them did Ned ask after his
mother. He knew that if there had been anything pleasant to tell
about her he would have heard it at once, and the silence of his
friends warned him that the subject was not an agreeable one.

"How is my mother?" he asked at last abruptly.

"Well, Ned," Dr. Green replied, "I have been expecting your question,
and I am sorry to say that I have nothing agreeable to tell you."

"That I was sure of," Ned said with a hard laugh. "As I have received
no message from her from the day I was arrested I guessed pretty
well that whatever doubt other people might feel, my mother was
positive that I had murdered her husband."

"The fact is, Ned," Dr. Green said cautiously, "your mother is
not at present quite accountable for her opinions. The shock which
she has undergone has, I think, unhinged her mind. Worthless as I
believe him to have been, this man had entirely gained her affections.
She has not risen from her bed since he died.

"Sometimes she is absolutely silent for hours, at others she
talks incessantly; and painful as it is to tell you so, her first
impression that you were responsible for his death is the one which
still remains fixed on her mind. She is wholly incapable of reason
or of argument. At times she appears sane and sensible enough and
talks of other matters coherently; but the moment she touches on
this topic she becomes excited and vehement. It has been a great
comfort to me, and I am sure it will be to you, that your old
servant Abijah has returned and taken up the position of housekeeper.

"As soon as your mother's first excitement passed away I asked her
if she would like this, and she eagerly assented. The woman was in
the town, having come over on the morning after you gave yourself
up, and to my great relief she at once consented to take up her
former position. This is a great thing for your sister, who is, of
course, entirely in her charge, as your mother is not in a condition
to attend to anything. I was afraid at first that she would not
remain, so indignant was she at your mother's believing your guilt;
but when I assured her that the poor lady was not responsible for
what she said, and that her mind was in fact unhinged altogether
by the calamity, she overcame her feelings; but it is comic to see
her struggling between her indignation at your mother's irresponsible
talk and her consciousness that it is necessary to abstain from
exciting her by contradiction."

Dr. Green had spoken as lightly as he could, but he knew how painful
it must be to Ned to hear of his mother's conviction of his guilt,
and how much it would add to the trials of his position.

Ned himself had listened in silence. He sighed heavily when the
doctor had finished.

"Abijah will be a great comfort," he said quietly, "a wonderful
comfort; but as to my poor mother, it will of course be a trial.
Still, no wonder that, when she heard me say those words when I
went out, she thinks that I did it. However, I suppose that it is
part of my punishment."

"Have you thought anything of your future plans, Ned?" Mr. Porson
asked after they had driven in silence for some distance.

"Yes, I have been thinking a good deal," Ned replied, "all the time
I was shut up and had nothing else to do. I did not believe that
they would find me guilty, and of course I had to settle what I
should do afterward. If it was only myself I think I should go away
and take another name; but in that case there would be no chance
of my ever clearing myself, and for father's sake and for the sake
of Charlie and Lucy I must not throw away a chance of that. It would
be awfully against them all their lives if people could say of them
that their brother was the fellow who murdered their stepfather.
Perhaps they will always say so now; still it is evidently my duty
to stay, if it were only on the chance of clearing up the mystery.

"In the next place I feel that I ought to stay for the sake of
money matters. I don't think, in the present state of things, with
the Luddites burning mills and threatening masters, any one would
give anything like its real value for the mill now. I know that
it did not pay with the old machinery, and it is not every one who
would care to run the risk of working with the new. By the terms
of the settlement that was made before my mother married again the
mill is now hers, and she and Charlie and Lucy have nothing else
to depend upon. As she is not capable of transacting business it
falls upon me to take her place, and I intend to try, for a time
at any rate, to run the mill myself. Of course I know nothing about
it, but as the hands all know their work the foreman will be able to
carry on the actual business of the mill till I master the details.

"As to the office business, the clerk will know all about it. There
was a man who used to travel about to buy wool, I know my mother's
husband had every confidence in him, and he could go on just as
before. As to the sales, the books will tell the names of the firms
who dealt with us, and I suppose the business with them will go on
as before. At any rate I can but try for a time. Of course I have
quite made up my mind that I shall have no personal interest whatever
in the business. They may think that I murdered Mulready, but they
shall not say that I have profited by his death. I should suppose
that my mother can pay me some very small salary, just sufficient
to buy my clothes. So I shall go on till Charlie gets to an age
when he can manage the business as its master; then if no clue has
been obtained as to the murder I shall be able to give it up and
go abroad, leaving him with, I hope, a good business for himself
and Lucy."

"I think that is as good a plan as any," Mr. Porson said; "but,
however, there is no occasion to come to any sudden determination
at present. I myself should advise a change of scene and thought
before you decide anything finally. I have a brother living in London
and he would, I am sure, very gladly take you in for a fortnight
and show you the sights of London."

"Thank you, sir, you are very kind," Ned said quietly; "but I have
got to face it out at Marsden, and I would rather begin at once."

Mr. Porson saw by the set, steady look upon Ned's face that he
had thoroughly made up his mind as to the part he had to play, and
that any further argument would be of no avail. It was not until
the postchaise was approaching Marsden that any further allusion was
made to Ned's mother. Then the doctor, after consulting Mr. Porson
by various upliftings of the eyebrows, returned to the subject.

"Ned, my boy, we were speaking some little time ago of your mother.
I think it is best that I should tell you frankly that I do not
consider her any longer responsible for her actions. I tell you
this in order that you may not be wounded by your reception.

"Since that fatal day she has not left her bed. She declares that
she has lost all power in her limbs. Of course that is nonsense,
but the result is the same. She keeps her bed, and, as far as I can
see, is likely to keep it. This is perhaps the less to be regretted,
as you will thereby avoid being thrown into contact with her; for
I tell you plainly such contact, in her present state of mind, could
only be unpleasant to you. Were you to meet, it would probably at
the least bring on a frightful attack of hysterics, which in her
present state might be a serious matter. Therefore, my boy, you
must make up your mind not to see her for awhile. I have talked the
matter over with your old nurse, who will remain with your mother
as housekeeper, with a girl under her. You will, of course, take
your place as master of the house, with your brother and sister
with you, until your mother is in a position to manage--if ever
she should be. But I trust at any rate that she will ere long so
far recover as to be able to receive you as the good son you have
ever been to her."

"Thank you," Ned said quietly. "I understand, doctor."

Ned did understand that his mother was convinced of his guilt
and refused to see him; it was what he expected, and yet it was a
heavy trial. Very cold and hard he looked as the postchaise drove
through the streets of Marsden. People glanced at it curiously,
and as they saw Ned sitting by the side of the men who were known
as his champions they hurried away to spread the news that young
Sankey had been acquitted.

The hard look died out of Ned's face as the door opened, and Lucy
sprang out and threw her arms round his neck and cried with delight
at seeing him; and Abijah, crying too, greeted him inside with a
motherly welcome. A feeling of relief came across his mind as he
entered the sitting room. Dr. Green, who was one of the trustees
in the marriage settlement, had, in the inability of Mrs. Mulready
to give any orders, taken upon himself to dispose of much of the
furniture, and to replace it with some of an entirely different
fashion and appearance. The parlor was snug and cosy; a bright fire
blazed on the hearth; a comfortable armchair stood beside it; the
room looked warm and homely. Ned's two friends had followed him
in, and tears stood in both their eyes.

"Welcome back, dear boy!" Mr. Porson said, grasping his hand. "God
grant that better times are in store for you, and that you may
outlive this trial which has at present darkened your life. Now we
will leave you to your brother and sister. I am sure you will be
glad to be alone with them."

And so Ned took to the life he had marked out for himself. In two
months he seemed to have aged years. The careless look of boyhood
had altogether disappeared from his face. Except from his two friends
he rejected all sympathy. When he walked through the streets of
Marsden it was with a cold, stony face, as if he were wholly unaware
of the existence of passersby. The thought that as he went along
men drew aside to let him pass and whispered after he had gone,
"That is the fellow who murdered his stepfather, but escaped because
they could not bring it home to him," was ever in his mind. His
friends in vain argued with him against his thus shutting himself
off from the world. They assured him that there were very many
who, like themselves, were perfectly convinced of his innocence,
and who would rally round him and support him if he would give them
the least encouragement, but Ned shook his head.

"I dare say what you say is true," he would reply; "but I could
not do it--I must go on alone. It is as much as I can bear now."

And his friends saw that it was useless to urge him further.

On the day after his return to Marsden Luke Marner and Bill Swinton
came back on the coach from York, and after it was dark Ned walked
up to Varley and knocked at Bill's door.

On hearing who it was Bill threw on his cap and came out to him.
For a minute the lads stood with their hands clasped firmly in each
other's without a word being spoken.

"Thank God, Maister Ned," Bill said at last, "we ha' got thee
again!"

"Thank God too!" Ned said; "though I think I would rather that it
had gone the other way."

They walked along for some time without speaking again, and then
Ned said suddenly:

"Now, Bill, who is the real murderer?"

Bill stopped his walk in astonishment.

"The real murderer!" he repeated; "how ever should oi know, Maister
Ned?"

"I know that you know, Bill. It was you who wrote that letter to
Mr. Wakefield saying that the man who did it would be at the trial,
and that if I were found guilty he would give himself up. It's no
use your denying it, for I knew your handwriting at once."

Bill was silent for some time, It had never occurred to him that
this letter would be brought home to him.

"Come, Bill, you must tell me," Ned said. "Do not be afraid.
I promise you that I will not use it against him. Mind, if I can
bring it home to him in any other way I shall do so; but I promise
you that no word shall ever pass my lips about the letter. I want
to know who is the man of whose crime the world believes me guilty.
The secret shall, as far as he is concerned, be just as much a
secret as it was before."

"But oi dunno who is the man, Maister Ned. If oi did oi would ha'
gone into the court and said so, even though oi had been sure they
would ha' killed me for peaching when oi came back. Oi dunno no
more than a child."

"Then you only wrote that letter to throw them on to a false scent,
Bill? Who put you up to that, for I am sure it would never have
occurred to you?"

"No," Bill said slowly, "oi should never ha' thought of it myself;
Luke told oi what to wroit, and I wroited it."

"Oh, it was Luke! was it?" Ned said sharply. "Then the man who did
it must have told him."

"Oi didn't mean to let out as it waar Luke," Bill said in confusion;
"and oi promised him solemn to say nowt about it."

"Well," Ned said, turning sharp round and starting on his way back
to the village, "I must see Luke himself."

Bill in great perplexity followed Ned, muttering: "Oh, Lor'! what
ull Luke say to oi? What a fellow oi be to talk, to be sure!"

Nothing further was said until they reached Luke's cottage. Ned
knocked and entered at once, followed sheepishly by Bill.

"Maister Ned, oi be main glad to see thee," Luke said as he rose
from his place by the fire; while Polly with a little cry, "Welcome!"
dropped her work.

"Thanks, Luke--thanks for coming over to York to give evidence.
How are you, Polly? There! don't cry--I ain't worth crying over.
At any rate, it is a satisfaction to be with three people who
don't regard me as a murderer. Now, Polly, I want you to go into
the other room, for I have a question which I must ask Luke, and
I don't want even you to hear the answer."

Polly gathered her work together and went out. Then Ned went over
to Luke, who was looking at him with surprise, and laid his hand
on his shoulder.

"Luke," he said, "I want you to tell me exactly how it was that
you came to tell Bill to write that letter to Mr. Wakefield?"

Luke started and then looked savagely over at Bill, who stood
twirling his cap in his hand.

"Oi couldn't help it, Luke," he said humbly. "Oi didn't mean vor
to say it, but he got it out of me somehow. He knowed my fist on
the paper, and, says he, sudden loike, 'Who war the man as murdered
Foxey?' What was oi vor to say? He says at once as he knowed the
idea of writing that letter would never ha' coom into my head; and
so the long and short of it be, as your name slipped owt somehow,
and there you be."

"Now, Luke," Ned said soothingly, "I want to know whether there was
a man who was ready to take my place in the dock had I been found
guilty, and if so, who he was. I shall keep the name as a secret.
I give you my word of honor. After he had promised to come forward
and save my life that is the least I can do, though, as I told
Bill, if I could bring it home to him in any other way I should feel
myself justified in doing so. It may be that he would be willing to
go across the seas, and when he is safe there to write home saying
that he did it."

"Yes, oi was afraid that soom sich thawt might be in your moind,
Maister Ned, but it can't be done that way. But oi doan't know,"
he said thoughtfully, "perhaps it moight, arter all. Perhaps the
chap as was a-coomin' forward moight take it into his head to go
to Ameriky. Oi shouldn't wonder if he did, In fact, now oi thinks
on't, oi am pretty sure as he will. Yes. Oi can say for sartin as
that's what he intends. A loife vor a loife you know, Maister Nod,
that be only fair, bean't it?"

"And you think he will really go?" Ned asked eagerly.

"Ay, he will go," Luke said firmly, "it's as good as done; but,"
he added slowly, "I dunno as he's got money vor to pay his passage
wi'. There's some kids as have to go wi' him. He would want no more
nor just the fare. But oi doan't see how he can go till he has laid
that by, and in these hard toimes it ull take him some time to do
that."

"I will provide the money," Ned said eagerly. "Abijah would lend
me some of her savings, and I can pay her back some day."

"Very well, Maister Ned. Oi expect as how he will take it as
a loan. Moind, he will pay it hack if he lives, honest. Oi doan't
think as how he bain't honest, that chap, though he did kill Foxey.
Very well," Luke went on slowly, "then the matter be as good as
settled. Oi will send Bill down tomorrow, and he will see if thou
canst let un have the money. A loife vor a loife, that's what oi
says, Maister Ned. That be roight, bain't it?"

"That's right enough, Luke," Ned replied, "though I don't quite
see what that has to do with it, except that the man who has taken
this life should give his life to make amends."

"Yes, that be it, in course," Luke replied. "Yes; just as you says,
he ought vor to give his loife to make amends."

That night Ned arranged with Abijah, who was delighted to hand
over her savings for the furtherance of any plan that would tend to
clear Ned from the suspicion which hung over him. Bill came down
next morning, and was told that a hundred pounds would be forthcoming
in two days.

Upon the following evening the servant came in and told Ned that
a young woman wished to speak to him. He went down into the study,
and, to his surprise, Mary Powlett was shown in. Her eyes were
swollen with crying.

"Master Ned," she said, "I have come to say goodby."

"Good-by, Polly! Why, where are you going?"

"We are all going away, sir, tomorrow across the seas, to Ameriky
I believe. It's all come so sudden it seems like a dream, Feyther
never spoke of such a thing afore, and now all at once we have got
to start. I have run all the way down from Varley to say goodby.
Feyther told me that I wasn't on no account to come down to you.
Not on no account, he said. But how could I go away and know that
you had thought us so strange and ungrateful as to go away without
saying goodby after your dear feyther giving his life for little
Jenny. I couldn't do it, sir. So when he started off to spend the
evening for the last time at the 'Cow' I put on my bonnet and ran
down here. I don't care if he beats me--not that he ever did beat
sir, but he might now--for he was terrible stern in telling me
as I wasn't to come and see you."

Ned heard her without an interruption. The truth flashed across
his mind. It was Luke Marner himself who was going to America, and
was going to write home to clear him. Yet surely Luke could never
have done it--Luke, so different from the majority of the croppers
--Luke, who had steadily refused to have anything to say to General
Lud and his schemes against the masters. Mary's last words gave
him a clue to the mystery--"Your dear feyther gave his life for
little Jenny." He coupled it with Luke's enigmatical words, "A
loife for a loife."

For a minute or two he sat absolutely silent. Mary was hurt at
the seeming indifference with which he received the news. She drew
herself up a little, and said, in an altered voice,

"I will say goodby, sir. I hope you won't think I was taking a
liberty in thinking you would be sorry if we were all to go without
your knowing it."

Ned roused himself at her words.

"It is not that, Polly. It is far from being that. But I want to
ask you a question. You remember the night of Mr. Mulready's murder?
Do you remember whether your father was at home all that evening?"

Polly opened her eyes in surprise at a question which seemed to
her so irrelevant to the matter in hand;

"Yes, sir," she replied, still coldly. "I remember that night. We
are not likely any of us to forget it. Feyther had not gone to the
'Cow.' He sat smoking at home. Bill had dropped in, and they sat
talking of the doings of the Luddites till it was later than usual.
Feyther was sorry afterward, because he said if he had been down
at the 'Cow' he might have noticed by the talk if any one had an
idea that anything was going to take place."

"Then he didn't go out at all that night, Polly?"

"No, sir, not at all that night; and now, sir, I will say goodby."

"No, Polly, you won't, for I shall go back with you, and I don't
think that you will go to America."

"I don't understand," the girl faltered.

"No, Polly, I don't suppose you do; and I have not understood till
now. You will see when you get back."

"If you please," Mary said hesitatingly, "I would rather that you
would not be there when feyther comes back. Of course I shall tell
him that I have been down to see you, and I know he will be very
angry."

"I think I shall be able to put that straight. I can't let your
father go. God knows I have few enough true friends, and I cannot
spare him and you; and as for Bill Swinton, he would break his
heart if you went."

"Bill's only a boy; he will get over it," Polly said in a careless
tone, but with a bright flush upon her cheek.

"He is nearly as old as you are, Polly, and he is one of the best
fellows in the world. I know he's not your equal in education, but
a steadier, better fellow, never was."

Mary made no reply, and in another minute the two set out together
for Varley. In spite of Ned's confident assurance that he would
appease Luke's anger, Mary was frightened when, as they entered
the cottage, she saw Luke standing moodily in front of the fire.

"Oi expected this," he said in a tone of deep bitterness. "Oi were
a fool vor to think as you war different to other gals, and that
you would give up your own wishes to your feyther's."

"Oh, feyther!" Polly cried, "don't speak so to me. Beat me if you
like, I deserve to be beaten, but don't speak to me like that. I
am ready to go anywhere you like, and to be a good daughter to you;
forgive me for this once disobeying you."

"Luke, old friend," Ned said earnestly, putting his hand on the
cropper's shoulder, "don't be angry with Polly, she has done me a
great service. I have learned the truth, and know what you meant
now by a life for a life. You were going to sacrifice yourself for
me. You were going to take upon yourself a crime which you never
committed to clear me. You went to York to declare yourself the
murderer of Mulready, in case I had been found guilty. You were
going to emigrate to America to send home a written confession."

"Who says as how oi didn't kill Foxey?" Luke said doggedly. "If oi
choose to give myself oop now who is to gainsay me?"

"Mary and Bill can both gainsay you," Ned said. "They can prove that
you did not stir out of the house that night. Come, Luke, it's of
no use. I feel with all my heart grateful to you for the sacrifice
you were willing to make for me. I thank you as deeply and as heartily
as if you had made it. It was a grand act of self sacrifice, and
you must not be vexed with Polly that she has prevented you carrying
it out. It would have made me very unhappy had she not done so.
When I found that you were gone I should certainly have got out
from Bill the truth of the matter, and when your confession came
home I should have been in a position to prove that you had only made
it to screen me. Besides, I cannot spare you. I have few friends,
and I should be badly off indeed if the one who has proved himself
the truest and best were to leave me. I am going to carry on the
mill, and I must have your help. I have relied upon you to stand
by me, and you must be the foreman of your department. Come, Luke,
you must say you forgive Polly for opening my eyes just a little
sooner than they would otherwise have been to the sacrifice you
wanted to make for me."

Luke, who was sorely shaken by Mary's pitiful sobs, could resist
no longer, but opened his arms, and the girl ran into them.

"There, there," he said, "don't ee go on a crying, girl; thou hasn't
done no wrong, vor indeed it must have seemed to thee flying in
the face of natur to go away wi' out saying goodby to Maister Ned.
Well, sir, oi be main sorry as it has turned out so. Oi should ha'
loiked to ha' cleared thee; but if thou won't have it oi caan't
help it. Oi think thou beest wrong, but thou know'st best."

"Never mind, Luke, I shall be cleared in time, I trust," Ned said.
"I am going down to the mill tomorrow for the first time, and shall
see you there. You have done me good, Luke. It is well, indeed, for
a man to know that he has such a friend as you have proved yourself
to be."



CHAPTER XVII: A LONELY LIFE


The machinery had not started since the death of Mr. Mulready, the
foreman having received several letters threatening his life if
he ventured to use the new machinery; and the works had therefore
been carried on on their old basis until something was settled as
to their future management.

The first few days after his return Ned spent his time in going
carefully through the books with the clerk, and in making himself
thoroughly acquainted with the financial part of the business. He
was assisted by Mr. Porson, who came every evening to the house,
and went through the accounts with him. The foreman and the men in
charge of the different rooms were asked to give their opinion as
to whether it was possible to reduce expenses in any way, but they
were unanimous in saying that this could not be done. The pay was
at present lower than in any other mill in the district, and every
item of expenditure had been kept down by Mr. Mulready to the lowest
point.

"It is clear," Ned said at last, "that if the mill is to be kept on
we must use the new machinery. I was afraid it would be so, or he
would never have taken to it and risked his life unless it had been
absolutely necessary. I don't like it, for I have strong sympathies
with the men, and although I am sure that in the long run the
hands will benefit by the increased trade, it certainly cause great
suffering at present, so if it had been possible I would gladly
have let the new machinery stand idle until the feeling against it
had passed away; but as I see that the mill has been running at a
loss ever since prices fell, it is quite clear that we must use it
at once."

The next morning Ned called the foreman into his office at the
mill, and told him that he had determined to set the new machinery
at work at once.

"I am sorry to be obliged to do so," he said, "as it will considerably
reduce the number of hands at work; but it cannot be helped, it
is either that or stopping altogether, which would be worse still
for the men. Be as careful as you can in turning off the hands,
and as far as possible retain all the married men with families.
The only exception to that rule is young Swinton, who is to be kept
on whoever goes."

That evening Luke Marner called at the house to see Ned.

"Be it true, Maister Ned, as the voreman says, the new machines is
to be put to work?"

"It is true, Luke, I am sorry to say. I would have avoided it if
possible; but I have gone into the matter with Mr. Porson, and I
find I must either do that or shut up the mill altogether, which
would be a good deal worse for you all. Handwork cannot compete
with machinery, and the new machines will face a dozen yards of
cloth while a cropper is doing one, and will do it much better and
more evenly."

"That be so, surely, and it bain't no use my saying as it ain't,
and it's true enough what you says, that it's better half the
hands should be busy than none; but those as gets the sack won't
see it, and oi fears there will be mischief. Oi don't hold with
the Luddites, but oi tell ye the men be getting desperate, and oi
be main sure as there will be trouble afore long. Your loife won't
be safe, Maister Ned."

"I don't hold much to my life," Ned laughed bitterly, "so the
Luddites won't be able to frighten me there."

"I suppose thou wilt have some of the hands to sleep at the mill,
as they do at some of the other places. If thou wilt get arms those
as is at work will do their best to defend it. Cartwright has got
a dozen or more sleeping in his mill."

"I will see about it," Ned said, "but I don't think I shall do
that. I don't want any men to get killed in defending our property."

"Then they will burn it, thou wilt see if they doan't," Luke said
earnestly.

"I hope not, Luke. I shall do my best to prevent it anyhow."

"Oi will give ee warning if a whisper of it gets to moi ears, you
may be sure, but the young uns doan't say much to us old hands,
who be mostly agin them, and ov course they will say less now if
oi be one of those kept on."

"We must chance it, Luke; but be sure, whatever I do I shan't let
the mill be destroyed if I can help it."

And so on the Monday following the waterwheel was set going and
the new machinery began to work. The number of hands at the mill
was reduced by nearly one half, while the amount of cloth turned
out each week was quadrupled.

The machinery had all the latest improvements, and was excellently
arranged. Mr. Mulready had thoroughly understood his business,
and Ned soon saw that the profits under the new system of working
would be fully as great as his stepfather had calculated.

A very short time elapsed before threatening letters began to come
in. Ned paid no heed to them, but quietly went on his way. The
danger was, however, undoubted. The attitude of the Luddites had
become more openly threatening. Throughout the whole of the West
Riding open drilling was carried on.

The mills at Marsden, Woodbottom, and Ottewells were all threatened.
In answer to the appeals of the mill owners the number of troops
in the district was largely increased. Infantry were stationed
in Marsden, and the 10th King's Bays, the 15th Hussars, and the
Scots Greys were alternately billeted in the place. The roads to
Ottewells, Woodbottom, and Lugards Mill were patrolled regularly,
and the whole country was excited and alarmed by constant rumors
of attacks upon the mills.

Ned went on his way quietly, asking for no special protection for
his mill or person, seemingly indifferent to the excitement which
prevailed. Except to the workmen in the mill, to the doctor, and
Mr. Porson he seldom exchanged a word with any one during the day.

Mr. Simmonds and several of his father's old friends had on his
return made advances toward him, but he had resolutely declined to
meet them. Mr. Porson and the doctor had remonstrated with him.

"It is no use," he replied. "They congratulated me on my acquittal,
but I can tell by their tones that there is not one of them who
thoroughly believes in his heart that I am innocent."

The only exception which Ned made was Mr. Cartwright, a mill owner
at Liversedge. He had been slightly acquainted with Captain Sankey;
and one day soon after Ned's return as he was walking along the
street oblivious, as usual, of every one passing, Mr. Cartwright
came up and placing himself in front of him, said heartily:

"I congratulate you with all my heart, Sankey, on your escape from
this rascally business. I knew that your innocence would be proved:
I would have staked my life that your father's son never had any
hand in such a black affair as this. I am heartily glad!"

There was no withstanding the frank cordiality of the Yorkshireman's
manner. Ned's reserve melted at once before it.

"Thank you very much," he said, returning the grasp of his hand;
"but I am afraid that though I was acquitted my innocence wasn't
proved, and never will be. You may think me innocent, but you will
find but half a dozen people in Marsden to agree with you."

"Pooh! pooh!" Mr. Cartwright said. "You must not look at things
in that light. Most men are fools, you know; never fear. We shall
prove you innocent some day. I have no doubt these rascally Luddites
are at the bottom of it. And now, look here, young fellow, I hear
that you are going to run the mill. Of course you can't know much
about it yet. Now I am an old hand and shall be happy to give you
any advice in my power, both for your own sake and for that of
your good father. Now I mean what I say, and I shall be hurt if you
refuse. I am in here two or three times a week, and my road takes
me within five hundred yards of your mill, so it will be no trouble
to me to come round for half an hour as I pass, and give you a few
hints until you get well into harness. There are dodges in our trade,
you know, as well as in all others, and you must be put up to them
if you are to keep up in the race. There is plenty of room for us
all, and now that the hands are all banding themselves against us,
we mill owners must stand together too."

Ned at once accepted the friendly offer, and two or three times
a week Mr. Cartwright came round to the mill, went round the place
with Ned, and gave him his advice as to the commercial transactions. Ned
found this of inestimable benefit. Mr. Cartwright was acquainted
with all the buyers in that part of Yorkshire, and was able
several times to prevent Ned from entering into transactions with
men willing to take advantage of his inexperience.

Sometimes he went over with Mr. Cartwright to his mill at Liversedge
and obtained many a useful hint there as to the management of his
business. Only in the matter of having some of his hands to sleep
at the mill Ned declined to act on the advice of his new friend.

"No," he said; "I am determined that I will have no lives risked in
the defense of our property. It has cost us dearly enough already."

But though Ned refused to have any of his hands to sleep at the
mill, he had a bed fitted up in his office, and every night at ten
o'clock, after Charlie had gone to bed, he walked out to the mill
and slept there: Heavy shutters were erected to all the lower
windows, and bells were attached to these and to the doors, which
would ring at the slightest motion.

A cart one evening arrived from Huddersfield after the hands had
left the mill, and under Ned's direction a number of small barrels
were carried up to his office.

Although three months had now elapsed since his return home he
had never once seen his mother, and the knowledge that she still
regarded him as the murderer of her husband greatly added to the
bitterness of his life. Of an evening after Lucy had gone to bed
he assisted Charlie with his lessons, and also worked for an hour
with Bill Swinton, who came regularly every evening to be taught.

Bill had a strong motive for self improvement. Ned had promised him
that some day he should be foreman to the factory, but that before
he could take such a position it would, of course, be necessary
that he should be able to read and write well. But an even higher
incentive was Bill's sense of his great inferiority in point of
education to Polly Powlett. He entertained a deep affection for her,
but he knew how she despised the rough and ignorant young fellows
at Varley, and he felt that even if she loved him she would not
consent to marry him unless he were in point of education in some
way her equal; therefore he applied himself with all his heart to
improving his education.

It was no easy task, for Bill was naturally somewhat slow and heavy;
but he had perseverance, which makes up for many deficiencies, and
his heart being in his work he made really rapid progress.

Sometimes Ned would start earlier than usual, and walk up with Bill
Swinton, talking to him as they went over the subjects on which he
had been working, the condition of the villagers, or the results
of Bill's Sunday rambles over the moors.

On arriving at Varley Ned generally went in for half an hour's talk
with Luke Marner and Mary Powlett before going off for the night
to sleep at the mill. With these three friends, who all were
passionately convinced of his innocence, he was more at his ease
than anywhere else, for at home the thought of the absent figure
upstairs was a never ceasing pain.

"The wind is very high tonight," Ned said one evening as the cottage
shook with a gust which swept down from the moor.

"Ay, that it be," Luke agreed; "but it is nowt to a storm oi saw
when oi war a young chap on t' coast!"

"I did not know you had ever been away from Varley," Ned said,
"tell me about it, Luke."

"Well, it coomed round i' this way. One of t' chaps from here had
a darter who had married and gone to live nigh t' coast, and he
went vor a week to see her.

"Theere'd been a storm when he was there, and he told us aboot the
water being all broke up into furrowes, vor all the world like a
plowed field, only each ridge wur twice as high as one of our houses,
and they came a moving along as fast as a horse could gallop, and
when they hit the rocks vlew up into t' air as hoigh as the steeple
o' Marsden church. It seemed to us as this must be a lie, and there
war a lot of talk oor it, and at last vour on us made up our moinds
as we would go over and see vor ourselves.

"It war a longer tramp nor we had looked vor, and though we sometoimes
got a lift i' a cart we was all pretty footsore when we got to the
end of our journey. The village as we was bound for stood oop on
t' top of a flattish hill, one side of which seemed to ha' been
cut away by a knife, and when you got to the edge there you were
a-standing at the end o' the world. Oi know when we got thar and
stood and looked out from the top o' that wall o' rock thar warn't
a word among us.

"We was a noisy lot, and oi didn't think as nothing would ha'
silenced a cropper; but thar we stood a-looking over at the end
of the world, oi should say for five minutes, wi'out a word being
spoke. Oi can see it now. There warn't a breath of wind nor a
cloud i' the sky. It seemed to oi as if the sky went away as far
as we could see, and then seemed to be doubled down in a line and
to coom roight back agin to our feet. It joost took away our breath,
and seemed somehow to bring a lump into the throat. Oi talked it
over wi' the others afterward and we'd all felt just the same.

"It beat us altogether, and you never see a lot of croppers so quiet
and orderly as we war as we went up to t' village. Most o' t' men
war away, as we arterward learned, fishing, and t' women didn't
know what to make o' us, but gathered at their doors and watched
us as if we had been a party o' robbers coom down to burn the place
and carry 'em away. However, when we found Sally White--that war
the name of the woman as had married from Varley--she went round
the village and told 'em as we was a party of her friends who had
joost walked across Yorkshire to ha' a lock at the sea. Another
young chap, Jack Purcell war his name, as was Sally's brother, and
oi, being his mate, we stopt at Sally's house. The other two got
a lodging close handy.

"Vor the vurst day or two vokes war shy of us, but arter that
they began to see as we meant no harm. Of course they looked on us
as foreigners, just as we croppers do here on anyone as cooms to
Varley. Then Sally's husband coom back from sea and spoke up vor
us, and that made things better, and as we war free wi' our money
the fishermen took to us more koindly.

"We soon found as the water warn't always smooth and blue like the
sky as we had seen it at first. The wind coom on to blow the vurst
night as we war thar, and the next morning the water war all tossing
aboot joost as Sally's feyther had said, though not so high as
he had talked on. Still the wind warn't a blowing much, as Sally
pointed owt to us; in a regular storm it would be a different sort
o' thing altogether. We said as we should loike to see one, as we
had coom all that way o' purpose. The vorth noight arter we got
there Sally's husband said: 'You be a going vor to have your wish;
the wind be a getting up, and we are loike to have a big storm on
the coast tomorrow.' And so it war. Oi can't tell you what it war
loike, oi've tried over and over again to tell Polly, but no words
as oi can speak can give any idee of it.

"It war not loike anything as you can imagine. Standing down on
the shore the water seemed all broke up into hills, and as if each
hill was a-trying to get at you, and a-breaking itself up on the
shore wi' a roar of rage when it found as it couldn't reach you.
The noise war so great as you couldn't hear a man standing beside
you speak to you. Not when he hallooed. One's words war blowed away.
It felt somehow as if one war having a wrastle wi' a million wild
beasts. They tells me as the ships at sea sometoimes floates and
gets through a storm loike that; but oi doan't believe it, and
shouldn't if they took their Bible oath to it, it bain't in reason.

"One of them waves would ha' broaked this cottage up loike a
eggshell. Oi do believes as it would ha' smashed Marsden church,
and it doan't stand to reason as a ship, which is built, they tells
me, of wood and plank, would stand agin waves as would knock doon
a church. Arter the storm oi should ha' coom back next morning, vor
I felt fairly frightened. There didn't seem no saying as to what
t' water moight do next toime. We should ha' gone there and then,
only Sally's husband told us as a vessel war expected in two or
three days wi' a cargo of tubs and she was to run them in a creek
a few miles away.

"He said as loike as not there moight be a foight wi' the officers,
and that being so we naterally made up our moinds vor to stop and
lend un a hand. One night arter it got dark we started, and arter
a tramp of two or three hours cam' to the place. It were a dark
noight, and how the ship as was bringing the liquor was to foind
oot the place was more nor oi could make oot. Jack he tried to
explain how they did it, but oi couldn't make head nor tails on it
except that when they got close they war to show a loight twice,
and we war to show a loight twice if it war all roight for landing.

"Oi asked what had becoom of the revenue men, and was told as a
false letter had been writ saying a landing was to be made fifteen
mile away. We went vorward to a place whar there war a break in the
rocks, and a sort of valley ran down to the sea. There war a lot
of men standing aboot, and just as we coom up thar war a movement
and we hears as the loights had been shown and the vessel war
running in close. Down we goes wi' the others, and soon a boat
cooms ashore. As soon as she gets close the men runs out to her;
the sailors hands out barrels and each man shoulders one and trudges
off. We does the same and takes the kegs up to t' top, whar carts
and horses was waiting for 'em. Oi went oop and down three toimes
and began to think as there war moor hard work nor fun aboot it.
Oi war a-going to knock off when some one says as one more trip
would finish the cargo, so down oi goes again: Just when oi gets
to t' bottom there war a great shouting oop at top.

"'They're just too late,' a man says; 'the kegs be all safe away
except this lot,' for the horses and carts had gone off the instant
as they got their loads. 'Now we must run for it, for the revenue
men will be as savage as may be when they voinds as they be too
late.' 'Where be us to run?' says oi. 'Keep close to me, oi knows
the place,' says he.

"So we runs down and voinds as they had tumbled the bar'ls into
t' boat again, and t' men war just pushing her off when there war
a shout close to us. 'Shove, shove!' shouted the men, and oi runs
into t' water loike t' rest and shooved. Then a lot o' men run up
shouting, 'Stop! in the king's name!' and began vor to fire pistols.

"Nateral oi wasn't a-going to be fired at for nowt, so oi clutches
moi stick and goes at 'em wi' the rest, keeping close to t' chap
as told me as he knew the coontry. There was a sharp foight vor a
minute. Oi lays aboot me hearty and gets a crack on my ear wi' a
cootlas, as they calls theer swords, as made me pretty wild.

"We got the best o't. 'Coom on,' says the man to me, 'there's a lot
moor on 'em a-cooming.' So oi makes off as hard as oi could arter
him. He keeps straight along at t' edge o' t' water. It war soft
rowing at first, vor t' place war as flat as a table, but arter
running vor a vew minutes he says, 'Look owt!' Oi didn't know what
to look owt vor, and down oi goes plump into t' water. Vor all at
once we had coomed upon a lot o' rocks covered wi' a sort of slimy
stuff, and so slippery as you could scarce keep a footing on 'em.
Oi picks myself up and vollers him. By this toime, maister, oi
war beginning vor to think as there warn't so mooch vun as oi had
expected in this koind o' business. Oi had been working two hours
loike a nigger a-carrying tubs. Oi had had moi ear pretty nigh cut
off, and it smarted wi' the salt water awful. Oi war wet from head
to foot and had knocked the skin off moi hands and knees when oi
went down. However there warn't no toime vor to grumble. Oi vollers
him till we gets to t' foot o' t' rocks, and we keeps along 'em
vor aboot half a mile.

"The water here coombed close oop to t' rocks, and presently we
war a-walking through it. 'Be'st a going vor to drown us all?' says
oi. 'We are jest there,' says he. 'Ten minutes later we couldn't
ha' got along.' T' water war a-getting deeper and deeper, and t'
loomps of water cooms along and well nigh took me off my feet. Oi
was aboot to turn back, vor it war better, thinks oi, to be took
by t' king's men than to be droonded, when he says, 'Here we be.'
He climbs oop t' rocks and oi follows him. Arter climbing a short
way he cooms to a hole i' rocks, joost big enough vor to squeeze
through, but once inside it opened out into a big cave. A chap had
struck a loight, and there war ten or twelve more on us thar. 'We
had better wait another five minutes,' says one, 'to see if any
more cooms along. Arter that the tide ull be too high.'

"We waits, but no one else cooms; me and moi mate war t' last.
Then we goes to t' back of the cave, whar t' rock sloped down lower
and lower till we had to crawl along one arter t'other pretty nigh
on our stomachs, like raats going into a hole. Oi wonders whar on
aarth we war agoing, till at last oi found sudden as oi could stand
oopright. Then two or three more torches war lighted, and we begins
to climb oop some steps cut i' the face of t' rock. A rope had been
fastened alongside to hold on by, which war a good job for me, vor
oi should never ha' dared go oop wi'out it, vor if oi had missed
my foot there warn't no saying how far oi would ha' fallen to t'
bottom. At last the man avore me says, 'Here we be!' and grateful
oi was, vor what wi' the crawling and the climbing, and the funk as
oi was in o' falling, the swaat was a-running down me loike water.
The torches war put out, and in another minute we pushes through
some bushes and then we war on t' top of the cliff a hundred yards
or so back from t' edge, and doon in a sort of hollow all covered
thickly over wi' bushes. We stood and listened vor a moment, but
no sound war to be heard. Then one on em says, 'We ha' done 'em
agin. Now the sooner as we gets off to our homes the better.' Looky
for me, Jack war one of the lot as had coom up through the cave.
'Coom along, Luke,' says he, 'oi be glad thou hast got out of it
all roight. We must put our best foot foremost to get in afore day
breaks.' So we sets off, and joost afore morning we gets back to
village. As to t'other two from Varley, they never coom back agin.
Oi heerd as how all as war caught war pressed for sea, and oi expect
they war oot in a ship when a storm coom on, when in coorse they
would be drownded. Oi started next day vor hoam, and from that day
to this oi ha' never been five mile away, and what's more, oi ha'
never grudged the price as they asked for brandy. It ud be cheap
if it cost voive toimes as much, seeing the trouble and danger as
there be in getting it ashore, to say nothing o' carrying it across
the sea."

"That was an adventure, Luke," Ned said, "and you were well out
of it. I had no idea you had ever been engaged in defrauding the
king's revenue. But now I must be off. I shall make straight across
for the mill without going into Varley."

One night Ned had as usual gone to the mill, and having carried
down the twelve barrels from the office and placed them in a pile
in the center of the principal room of the mill he retired to bed.
He had been asleep for some hours when he was awoke by the faint
tingle of a bell. The office was over the principal entrance to the
mill, and leaping from his bed he threw up the window and looked
out. The night was dark, but he could see a crowd of at least two
hundred men gathered in the yard.

As the window was heard to open a sudden roar broke from the men,
who had hitherto conducted their operations in silence.

"There he be, there's the young fox; burn the mill over his head.
Now to work, lads, burst in the door."

And at once a man armed with a mighty sledgehammer began to batter
at the door.

Ned tried to make himself heard, but his voice was lost in the
roar without. Throwing on some clothes he ran rapidly downstairs
and lighted several lamps in the machine room. Then he went to the
door, which was already tottering under the heavy blows, shot back
some of the bolts, and then took his place by the side of the pile
of barrels with a pistol in his hand.

In another moment the door yielded and fell with a crash, and the
crowd with exultant cheers poured in.

They paused surprised and irresolute at seeing Ned standing quiet
and seemingly indifferent by the pile of barrels in the center of
the room.

"Hold!" he said in a quiet, clear voice, which sounded distinctly
over the tumult. "Do not come any nearer, or it will be the worse
for you. Do you know what I have got here, lads? This is powder. If
you doubt it, one of you can come forward and look at this barrel
with the head out by my side. Now I have only got to fire my pistol
into it to blow the mill, and you with it, into the air, and I
mean to do it. Of course I shall go too; but some of you with black
masks over your faces, who, I suppose, live near here, may know
something about me, and may know that my life is not so pleasant
a one that I value it in the slightest. As far as I am concerned
you might burn the mill and me with it without my lifting a finger;
but this mill is the property of my mother, brother, and sister.
Their living depends upon it, and I am going to defend it. Let one
of you stir a single step forward and I fire this pistol into this
barrel beside me."

And Ned held the pistol over the open barrel.

A dead silence of astonishment and terror had fallen upon the crowd.
The light was sufficient for them to see Ned's pale but determined
face, and as his words came out cold and steady there was not one
who doubted that he was in earnest, and that he was prepared to
blow himself and them into the air if necessary.

A cry of terror burst from them as he lowered the pistol to the
barrel of powder. Then in wild dismay every man threw down his
arms and fled, jostling each other fiercely to make their escape
through the doorway from the fate which threatened them. In a few
seconds the place was cleared and the assailants in full flight
across the country. Ned laughed contemptuously. Then with some
difficulty he lifted the broken door into its place, put some props
behind it, fetched a couple of blankets from his bed, and lay down
near the powder, and there slept quietly till morning.

Luke and Bill Swinton were down at the factory an hour before the
usual time. The assailants had for the most part come over from
Huddersfield, but many of the men from Varley had been among them.
The terror which Ned's attitude had inspired had been so great that
the secret was less well kept than usual, and as soon as people were
astir the events of the night were known to most in the village.
The moment the news reached the ears of Luke and Bill they hurried
down to the mill without going in as usual for their mug of beer
and bit of bread and cheese at the "Brown Cow." The sight of the
shattered door at once told them that the rumors they had heard
were well founded. They knocked loudly upon it.

"Hullo!" Ned shouted, rousing himself from his slumbers; "who is
there? What are you kicking up all this row about?"

"It's oi, Maister Ned, oi and Bill, and glad oi am to hear your
voice. It's true, then, they haven't hurt thee?"

"Not a bit of it," Ned said as he moved the supports of the door.
"I think they got the worst of it."

"If so be as what oi ha' heard be true you may well say that, Maister
Ned. Oi hear as you ha' gived 'em such a fright as they won't get
over in a hurry. They say as you was a-sitting on the top of a heap
of gunpowder up to the roof with a pistol in each hand."

"Not quite so terrible as that, Luke; but the effect would have
been the same. Those twelve barrels of powder you see there would
have blown the mill and all in it into atoms."

"Lord, Maister Ned," Bill said, "where didst thou get that powder,
and why didn't ye say nowt about it? Oi ha' seen it up in the
office, now oi thinks on it. Oi wondered what them barrels piled
up in a corner and covered over wi' sacking could be; but it warn't
no business o' mine to ax."

"No, Bill, I did not want any of them to know about it, because
these things get about, and half the effect is lost unless they
come as a surprise; but I meant to do it if I had been driven to
it, and if I had, King Lud would have had a lesson which he would
not have forgotten in a hurry. Now, Luke, you and Bill had better
help me carry them back to their usual place. I don't think they
are likely to be wanted again."

"That they won't be," Luke said confidently; "the Luddites ull
never come near this mill agin, not if thou hast twenty toimes as
many machines. They ha' got a froight they won't get over. They
told me as how some of the chaps at Varley was so freighted that
they will be a long toime afore they gets round. Oi'll go and ask
tonight how that Methurdy chap, the blacksmith, be a feeling. Oi
reckon he's at the bottom on it. Dang un for a mischievous rogue!
Varley would ha' been quiet enough without him. Oi be wrong if oi
shan't see him dangling from a gibbet one of these days, and a good
riddance too."

The powder was stowed away before the hands began to arrive, all
full of wonder and curiosity. They learned little at the mill,
however. Ned went about the place as usual with an unchanged face,
and the hands were soon at their work; but many during the day
wondered how it was possible that their quiet and silent young
employer should have been the hero of the desperate act of which
every one had heard reports more or less exaggerated.

A lad had been sent over to Marsden the first thing for some
carpenters, and by nightfall a rough but strong door had been hung
in place of that which had been shattered. By the next day rumor
had carried the tale all over Marsden, and Ned on his return home
was greeted by Charlie with:

"Why, Ned, there is all sorts of talk in the place of an attack
upon the mill the night before last. Why didn't you tell me about
it?"

"Yes, Maister Ned," Abijah put in, "and they say as you blew up
about a thousand of them."

"Yes, Abijah," Ned said with a laugh, "and the pieces haven't come
down yet."

"No! but really, Ned, what is it all about?"

"There is not much to tell you, Charlie. The Luddites came and broke
open the door. I had got several barrels of powder there, and when
they came in I told them if they came any further I should blow
the place up. That put them in a funk, and they all bolted, and I
went to sleep again. That's the whole affair."

"Oh!" Charlie said in a disappointed voice, for this seemed rather
tame after the thrilling reports he had heard.

"Then you didn't blow up any of 'em, Maister Ned," Abijah said
doubtfully.

"Not a man jack, Abijah. You see I could not very well have blown
them up without going up myself too, so I thought it better to put
it off for another time."

"They are very wicked, bad men," Lucy said gravely.

"Not so very wicked and bad, Lucy. You see they are almost starving,
and they consider that the new machines have taken the bread out
of their mouths, which is true enough. Now you know when people are
starving, and have not bread for their wives and children, they are
apt to get desperate. If I were to see you starving, and thought
that somebody or something was keeping the bread out of your mouth,
I dare say I should do something desperate."

"But it would be wrong all the same," Lucy said doubtfully.

"Yes, my dear, but it would be natural; and when human nature
pulls one way, and what is right pulls the other, the human nature
generally gets the best of it."

Lucy did not exactly understand, but she shook her head gravely in
general dissent to Ned's view.

"Why did you not tell us when you came home to breakfast yesterday?"
Charlie asked.

"Because I thought you were sure to hear sooner or later. I saw all
the hands in the mill had got to know about it somehow or other,
and I was sure it would soon get over the place; and I would rather
that I could say, if any one asked me, that I had not talked about
it to any one, and was in no way responsible for the absurd stories
which had got about. I have been talked about enough in Marsden,
goodness knows, and it is disgusting that just as I should think
they must be getting tired of the subject here is something fresh
for them to begin upon again."

As they were at tea the servant brought in a note which had just
been left at the door. It was from Mr. Thompson, saying that in
consequence of the rumors which were current in the town he should
be glad to learn from Ned whether there was any foundation for them,
and would therefore be obliged if he would call at eight o'clock
that evening. His colleague, Mr. Simmonds, would be present.

Ned gave an exclamation of disgust as he threw down the note.

"Is there any answer, sir?" the servant asked. "The boy said he
was to wait."

"Tell him to say to Mr. Thompson that I will be there at eight
o'clock; but that--no, that will do.

"It wouldn't be civil," he said to Charlie as the door closed
behind the servant, "to say that I wish to goodness he would let
my affairs alone and look to his own."

When Ned reached the magistrates at the appointed hour he found that
the inquiry was of a formal character. Besides the two justices,
Major Browne, who commanded the troops at Marsden, was present;
and the justices' clerk was there to take notes.

Mr. Simmonds greeted Ned kindly, Mr. Thompson stiffly. He was one
of those who had from the first been absolutely convinced that
the lad had killed his stepfather. The officer, who was of course
acquainted with the story, examined Ned with a close scrutiny.

"Will you take a seat, Ned?" Mr. Simmonds, who was the senior
magistrate, said. "We have asked you here to explain to us the meaning
of certain rumors which are current in the town of an attack upon
your mill."

"I will answer any questions that you may ask," Ned said quietly,
seating himself, while the magistrates' clerk dipped his pen in
the ink and prepared to take notes of his statement.

"Is it the case that the Luddites made an attack upon your mill
the night before last?"

"It is true, sir."

"Will you please state the exact circumstances."

"There is not much to tell," Ned said quietly. "I have for some
time been expecting an attack, having received many threatening
letters. I have, therefore, made a habit of sleeping in the mill,
and a month ago I got in twelve barrels of powder from Huddersfield.
Before going to bed of a night I always pile these in the middle
of the room where the looms are, which is the first as you enter.
I have bells attached to the shutters and doors to give me notice
of any attempt to enter. The night before last I was awoke by
hearing one of them ring, and looking out of the window made out
a crowd of two or three hundred men outside. They began to batter
the door, so, taking a brace of pistols which I keep in readiness
by my bed, I went down and took my place by the powder. When they
broke down the door and entered I just told them that if they came
any further I should fire my pistol into one of the barrels, the
head of which I had knocked out, and, as I suppose they saw that I
meant to do it, they went off. That is all I have to tell, so far
as I know."

The clerk's pen ran swiftly over the paper as Ned quietly made his
statement. Then there was a silence for a minute or two.

"And did you really mean to carry out your threat, Mr. Sankey?"

"Certainly," Ned said.

"But you would, of course, have been killed yourself."

"Naturally," Ned said dryly; "but that would have been of no great
consequence to me or any one else. As the country was lately about
to take my life at its own expense it would not greatly disapprove
of my doing so at my own, especially as the lesson to the Luddites
would have been so wholesale a one that the services of the troops
in this part of the country might have been dispensed with for some
time."

"Did you recognize any of the men concerned?"

"I am glad to say I did not," Ned replied. "Some of them were
masked. The others were, so far as I could see among such a crowd
of faces in a not very bright light, all strangers to me."

"And you would not recognize any of them again were you to see
them?"

"I should not," Ned replied. "None of them stood out prominently
among the others."

"You speak, Mr. Sankey," Mr. Thompson said, "as if your sympathies
were rather on the side of these men, who would have burned your
mill, and probably have murdered you, than against them."

"I do not sympathize with the measures the men are taking to obtain
redress for what they regard as a grievance; but I do sympathize
very deeply with the amount of suffering which they are undergoing
from the introduction of machinery and the high prices of provisions;
and I am not surprised that, desperate as they are, and ignorant
as they are, they should be led astray by bad advice. Is there any
other question that you wish to ask me?"

"Nothing at present, I think," Mr. Simmonds said after consulting
his colleague by a look. "We shall, of course, forward a report of
the affair to the proper authorities, and I may say that although
you appear to take it in a very quiet and matter of fact way, you
have evidently behaved with very great courage and coolness, and
in a manner most creditable to yourself. I think, however, that you
ought immediately to have made a report to us of the circumstances,
in order that we might at once have determined what steps should
be taken for the pursuit and apprehension of the rioters."

Ned made no reply, but rising, bowed slightly to the three gentlemen
and walked quietly from the room.

"A singular young fellow!" Major Browne remarked as the door closed
behind him. "I don't quite know what to make of him, but I don't
think he could have committed that murder. It was a cowardly business,
and although I believe he might have a hand in any desperate affair,
as indeed this story he has just told us shows, I would lay my life
he would not do a cowardly one."

"I agree with you," Mr. Simmonds said, "though I own that I have
never been quite able to rid myself of a vague suspicion that he
was guilty."

"And I believe he is so still," Mr. Thompson said. "To me there is
something almost devilish about that lad's manner."

"His manner was pleasant enough," Mr. Simmonds said warmly, "before
that affair of Mulready. He was as nice a lad as you would wish
to see till his mother was fool enough to get engaged to that man,
who, by the way, I never liked. No wonder his manner is queer now;
so would yours be, or mine, if we were tried for murder and, though
acquitted, knew there was still a general impression of our guilt."

"Yes, by Jove," the officer said, "I should be inclined to shoot
myself. You are wrong, Mr. Thompson, take my word for it. That
young fellow never committed a cowardly murder. I think you told
me, Mr. Simmonds, that he had intended to go into the army had it
not been for this affair? Well, his majesty has lost a good officer,
for that is just the sort of fellow who would lead a forlorn hope
though he knew the breach was mined in a dozen places. It is a
pity, a terrible pity!"



CHAPTER XVIII: NED IS ATTACKED


As Ned had foreseen and resented, the affair at the mill again made
him the chief topic of talk in the neighborhood, and the question
of his guilt or innocence of the murder of his stepfather was again
debated with as much earnestness as it had been when the murder was
first committed. There was this difference, however, that whereas
before he had found but few defenders, for the impression that he
was guilty was almost universal, there were now many who took the
other view.

The one side argued that a lad who was ready to blow himself and
two or three hundred men into the air was so desperate a character
that he would not have been likely to hesitate a moment in taking
the life of a man whom he hated, and who had certainly ill treated
him. The other side insisted that one with so much cool courage
would not have committed a murder in so cowardly a way as by tying
a rope across the road which his enemy had to traverse. One party
characterized his conduct at the mill as that of the captain of
a pirate ship, the other likened it to any of the great deeds of
devotion told in history--the death of Leonidas and his three
hundred, or the devotion of Mutius Scaevola.

Had Ned chosen now he might have gathered round himself a strong
party of warm adherents, for there were many who, had they had the
least encouragement, would have been glad to shake him by the hand
and to show their partisanship openly and warmly; but Ned did not
choose. The doctor and Mr. Porson strongly urged upon him that he
should show some sort of willingness to meet the advances which
many were anxious to make.

"These people are all willing to admit that they have been wrong,
Ned, and really anxious to atone as far as they can for their mistake
in assuming that you were guilty. Now is your time, my boy; what
they believe today others will believe tomorrow; it is the first
step toward living it down. I always said it would come, but I
hardly ventured to hope that it would come so soon."

"I can't do it, Mr. Porson; I would if I could, if only for the
sake of the others; but I can't talk, and smile, and look pleasant.
When a man knows that his mother lying at home thinks that he is
a murderer how is he to go about like other people?"

"But I have told you over and over again, Ned, that your mother
is hardly responsible for her actions. She has never been a very
reasonable being, and is less so than ever at present. Make an
effort, my boy, and mix with others. Show yourself at the cricket
match next week. You know the boys are all your firm champions,
and I warrant that half the people there will flock round you and
make much of you if you will but give them the chance."

But Ned could not, and did not, but went on his way as before,
living as if Marsden had no existence for him, intent upon his work
at the mill, and unbending only when at home with his brother and
sister.

His new friend, Cartwright, was, of course, one of the first to
congratulate him on the escape the mill had had of destruction.

"I was wondering what you would do if they came," he said, "and
was inclined to think you were a fool for not following my example
and having some of your hands to sleep at the mill. Your plan was
best, I am ready to allow; that is to say, it was best for any one
who was ready to carry out his threat if driven to it. I shouldn't
be, I tell you fairly. If the mill is attacked I shall fight and
shall take my chance of being shot, but I could not blow myself up
in cold blood."

"I don't suppose I could have done so either in the old times," Ned
said with a faint smile. "My blood used to be hot enough, a good
deal too hot, but I don't think anything could get it up to boiling
point now, so you see if this thing had to be done at all it must
have been in cold blood."

"By the way, Sankey, I wish you would come over one day next week
and dine with me; there will be no one else there except my daughter."

Ned hastily muttered an excuse.

"Oh, that is all nonsense," Mr. Cartwright said good humoredly;
"you are not afraid of me, and you needn't be afraid of my daughter.
She is only a child of fifteen, and of course takes you at my
estimate, and is disposed to regard you as a remarkable mixture
of the martyr and the hero, and to admire you accordingly. Pooh,
pooh, lad! you can't be living like a hermit all your life; and
at any rate if you make up your mind to have but a few friends you
must be all the closer and more intimate with them. I know you dine
with Porson and Green, and I am not going to let you keep me at
arm's length; you must come, or else I shall be seriously offended."

So Ned had no resource left him, and had to consent to dine at
Liversedge. Once there he often repeated the visit. With the kind
and hearty manufacturer he was perfectly at home, and although at
first he was uncomfortable with his daughter he gradually became
at his ease with her, especially after she had driven over with
her father to make friends with Lucy, and, again, a short time
afterward, to carry her away for a week's visit at Liversedge. For
this Ned was really grateful. Lucy's life had been a very dull one.
She had no friends of her own age in Marsden, for naturally at the
time of Mr. Mulready's death all intimacy with the few acquaintances
they had in the place had been broken off, for few cared that their
children should associate with a family among whom such a terrible
tragedy had taken place.

Charlie was better off, for he had his friends at school, and the
boys at Porson's believed in Ned's innocence as a point of honor.
In the first place, it would have been something like a reflection
upon the whole school to admit the possibility of its first boy
being a murderer; in the second, Ned had been generally popular
among them, he was their best cricketer, the life and soul of all
their games, never bullying himself and putting down all bullying
among others with a strong hand. Their championship showed itself
in the shape of friendship for Charlie; and at the midsummer following
Mr. Mulready's death he had received invitations from many of them
to stay with them during the holidays, and had indeed spent that
time on a series of short visits among them.

He himself would, had he had his choice, have remained at home
with Ned, for he knew how lonely his brother's life was, and that
his only pleasure consisted in the quiet evenings; but Ned would
not hear of it.

"You must go, Charlie, both for your sake and my own. The change
will do you good; and if you were to stop at home and refuse to
go out people would say that you were ashamed to be seen, and that
you were crushed down with the weight of my guilt. You have got
to keep up the honor of the family now, Charlie; I have proved a
failure."

It was September now, and six months had elapsed since the death of
Mr. Mulready. The getting in of the harvest had made no difference
in the price of food, the general distress was as great as ever,
and the people shook their heads and said that there would be bad
doings when the winter with its long nights was at hand.

The mill was flourishing under its new management. The goods turned
out by the new machinery were of excellent quality and finish,
and Ned had more orders on hand than he could execute. The profits
were large, the hands well paid and contented. Ned had begged Dr.
Green and the other trustees of his mother's property to allow him
to devote a considerable part of the profits to assist, during the
hard time of winter, the numerous hands in Varley and other villages
round Marsden who were out of employment; but the trustees said
they were unable to permit this. Mrs. Mulready absolutely refused to
hear anything about the mill or to discuss any questions connected
with money, therefore they had no resource but to allow the profits,
after deducting all expenses of living, to accumulate until, at
any rate, Lucy, the youngest of the children, came of age.

Ned, however, was not to be easily thwarted, and he quietly reverted
to the old method of giving out a large quantity of work to the
men to be performed by the hand looms in their own cottages, while
still keeping his new machinery fully employed. There was, indeed,
a clear loss upon every yard of cloth so made, as it had, of course,
to be sold at the lower prices which machinery had brought about;
still the profits from the mill itself were large enough to bear
the drain, and means of support would be given to a large number
of families throughout the winter. Ned told Dr. Green what he had
done.

"You see, doctor," he said, "this is altogether beyond your province.
You and Mr. Lovejoy appointed me, as the senior representative of
the family, to manage the mill. Of course I can manage it in my
own way, and as long as the profits are sufficient to keep us in
the position we have hitherto occupied I don't see that you have
any reason to grumble."

"You are as obstinate as a mule, Ned," the doctor said, smiling;
"but I am glad enough to let you have your way so long as it is not
clearly my duty to thwart you; and indeed I don't know how those
poor people at Varley and at some of the other villages would get
through the winter without some such help."

"I am very glad I hit upon the plan. I got Luke Marner to draw up
a list of all the men who had families depending upon them; but indeed
I find that I have been able to set pretty nearly all the looms in
the neighborhood at work, and of course that will give employment
to the spinners and croppers. I have made a close calculation, and
find that with the profit the mill is making I shall just be able
to clear our household expenses this winter, after selling at a
loss all the cloth that can be made in the looms round."

"At any rate, Ned," the doctor said, "your plan will be a relief to
me in one way. Hitherto I have never gone to bed at night without
an expectation of being awakened with the news that you have been
shot on your way out to the mill at night. The fellows you frightened
away last month must have a strong grudge against you in addition
to their enmity against you as an employer. You will be safe enough
in future, and can leave the mill to take care of itself at night
if you like. You will have the blessings of all the poor fellows
in the neighborhood, and may henceforth go where you will by night
or day without the slightest risk of danger."

"You are right, no doubt," Ned said, "though that did not enter my
mind. When I took the step my only fear was that by helping them
for a time I might be injuring them in the future. Hand weaving,
spinning, and cropping are doomed. Nothing can save them, and
the sooner the men learn this and take to other means of gaining
a livelihood the better. Still the prices that I can give are
of course very low, just enough to keep them from starvation, and
we must hope that ere long new mills will be erected in which the
present hand workers will gradually find employment."

Hardly less warm than the satisfaction that the announcement that
Sankey was about to give out work to all the hand looms excited in
the villages round Marsden, was that which Abijah felt at the news.

Hitherto she had kept to herself the disapprobation which she felt
at Ned's using the new machinery. She had seen in her own village
the sufferings that had been caused by the change, and her sympathies
were wholly with the Luddites, except of course when they attempted
anything against the life and property of her boy. Strong in the
prejudices of the class among whom she had been born and reared,
she looked upon the new machinery as an invention of the evil one
to ruin the working classes, and had been deeply grieved at Ned's
adoption of its use. Nothing but the trouble in which he was could
have compelled her to keep her opinion on the subject to herself.

"I am main glad, Maister Ned. I b'lieve now as we may find out about
that other affair. I never had no hope before, it warn't likely as
things would come about as you wanted, when you was a-flying in the
face of providence by driving poor folks to starvation with them
noisy engines of yours; it warn't likely, and I felt as it was
wrong to hope for it. I said my prayers every night, but it wasn't
reasonable to expect a answer as long as that mill was a-grinding
men to powder."

"I don't think it was as bad as all that, Abijah. In another ten
years there will be twice as many hands employed as ever there
were, and there is no saying how large the trade may not grow."

Abijah shook her head as if to imply her belief that an enlargement
of trade by means of these new machines would be clearly flying in
the face of providence, however, she was too pleased at the news that
hand work was to be resumed in the district to care about arguing
the question. Even the invalid upstairs took a feeble interest in
the matter when Abijah told her that Master Ned had arranged to
give work to scores of starving people through the winter.

As a rule Abijah never mentioned his name to her mistress, for it
was always the signal for a flood of tears, and caused an excitement
and agitation which did not calm down for hours; but lately she
had noticed that her mistress began to take a greater interest in
the details she gave her of what was passing outside. She spoke more
cheerfully when Lucy brought in her work and sat by her bedside,
and she had even exerted herself sufficiently to get up two or three
times and lie upon the sofa in her room. It was Charlie who, full
of the news, had rushed in to tell her about Ned's defense at the
mill. She had made no comment whatever, but her face had flushed
and her lips trembled, and she had been very silent and quiet all
that day. Altogether Abijah thought that she was mending, and Dr.
Green was of the same opinion.

Although the setting to work of the hand looms and spindles relieved
the dire pressure of want immediately about Marsden, in other parts
things were worse than ever that winter, and the military were
kept busy by the many threatening letters which were received by
the mill owners from King Lud.

One day Mr. Cartwright entered Ned's office at the mill.

"Have you heard the news, Sankey?"

"No, I have heard no news in particular."

"Horsfall has been shot."

"You don't say so!" Ned exclaimed.

"Yes, he has been threatened again and again. He was over at
Huddersfield yesterday afternoon; he started from the 'George' on
his way back at half past five. It seems that his friend Eastwood,
of Slaithwaite, knowing how often his life had been threatened,
offered to ride back with him, and though Horsfall laughed at the
offer and rode off alone, Eastwood had his horse saddled and rode
after him, but unfortunately did not overtake him.

"About six o'clock Horsfall pulled up his horse at the Warren House
Inn at Crossland Moor. There he gave a glass of liquor to two of
his old work people who happened to be outside, drank a glass of
rum and water as he sat in the saddle, and then rode off. A farmer
named Parr was riding about a hundred and fifty yards behind him.
As Horsfall came abreast of a plantation Parr noticed four men
stooping behind a wall, and then saw two puffs of smoke shoot out.
Horsfall's horse started round at the flash, and he fell forward
on his saddle.

"Parr galloped up, and jumping off caught him as he was falling.
Horsfall could just say who he was and ask to be taken to his
brother's house, which was near at hand. There were lots of people
in the road, for it was market day in Huddersfield, you know, and
the folks were on their way home, so he was soon put in a cart and
taken back to the Warren House. It was found that both balls had
struck him, one in the right side and one in the left thigh. I hear
he is still alive this morning, but cannot live out the day."

"That is a bad business, indeed," Ned said.

"It is, indeed. Horsfall was a fine, generous, high spirited fellow,
but he was specially obnoxious to the Luddites, whose doings he
was always denouncing in the most violent way. Whose turn will it
be next, I wonder? The success of this attempt is sure to encourage
them, and we may expect to hear of some more bad doings. Of course
there will be a reward offered for the apprehension of the murderers.
A laborer saw them as they were hurrying away from the plantation,
and says he should know them again if he saw them; but these fellows
hang together so that I doubt if we shall ever find them out."

After Mr. Cartwright had gone Ned told Luke what had happened.

"I hope, Luke, that none of the Varley people have had a hand in
this business?"

"Oi hoape not," Luke said slowly, "but ther bain't no saying; oi
hears little enough of what be going on. Oi was never much in the
way of hearing, but now as I am head of the room, and all the hands
here are known to be well contented, oi hears less nor ever. Still
matters get talked over at the 'Cow.' Oi hears it said as many of
the lads in the village has been wishing to leave King Lud since
the work was put out, but they have had messages as how any man
turning traitor would be put out of the way. It's been somewhat
like that from the first, and more nor half of them as has joined
has done so because they was afeared to stand out. They ain't
tried to put the screw on us old hands, but most of the young uns
has been forced into joining.

"Bill has had a hard toime of it to stand out. He has partly managed
because of his saying as how he has been sich good friends with you
that he could not join to take part against the maisters; part, as
oi hears, because his two brothers, who been in the thick of it
from the first, has stuck up agin Bill being forced into it. Oi
wish as we could get that blacksmith out of t' village; he be at
the bottom of it all, and there's nowt would please me more than
to hear as the constables had laid their hands on him. Oi hear as
how he is more violent than ever at that meeting house. Of course
he never mentions names or says anything direct, but he holds forth
agin traitors as falls away after putting their hands to the plow,
and as forsakes the cause of their starving brethren because their
own stomachs is full."

"I wish we could stop him," Ned said thoughtfully. "I might get a
constable sent up to be present at the meetings, but the constables
here are too well known, and if you were to get one from another
place the sight of a stranger there would be so unusual that it
would put him on his guard at once. Besides, as you say, it would
be very difficult to prove that his expressions applied to the
Luddites, although every one may understand what he means. One
must have clear evidence in such a case. However, I hope we shall
catch him tripping one of these days. These are the fellows who
ought to be punished, not the poor ignorant men who are led away
by them."

The feeling of gratitude and respect with which Ned was regarded
by the workpeople of his district, owing to his action regarding
the hand frames, did something toward lightening the load caused
by the suspicion which still rested upon him. Although he still
avoided all intercourse with those of his own station, he no longer
felt the pressure so acutely. The hard, set expression of his face
softened somewhat, and though he was still strangely quiet and
reserved in his manner toward those with whom his business necessarily
brought him in contact, he no longer felt absolutely cut off from
the rest of his kind.

Ned had continued his practice of occasionally walking up with Bill
Swinton to Varley on his way to the mill. There was now little fear
of an attempt upon his life by the hands in his neighborhood; but
since the failure on the mill he had incurred the special enmity
of the men who had come from a distance on that occasion, and he
knew that any night he might be waylaid and shot by them. It was
therefore safer to go round by Varley than by the direct road. One
evening when he had been chatting rather later than usual at Luke
Marner's, Luke said:

"Oi think there's something i' t' wind. Oi heerd at t' Cow this
evening that there are some straangers i' the village. They're at
t' Dog. Oi thinks there's soom sort ov a council there. Oi heers
as they be from Huddersfield, which be the headquarters o' General
Lud in this part. However, maister, oi doan't think as there's
any fear of another attack on thy mill; they war too badly scaared
t'other noight vor to try that again."

When Ned got up to go Bill Swinton as usual put on his cap to
accompany him, as he always walked across the moor with him until
they came to the path leading down to the back of the mill, this
being the road taken by the hands from Varley coming and going from
work. When they had started a minute or two George, who had been
sitting by the fire listening to the talk, got up and stretched
himself preparatory to going to bed, and said in his usual slow
way:

"Oi wonders what they be a-doing tonoight. Twice while ye ha' been
a-talking oi ha' seen a chap a-looking in at t' window."

"Thou hast!" Luke exclaimed, starting up. "Dang thee, thou young
fool! Why didn't say so afore? Oi will hoide thee when oi comes
back rarely! Polly, do thou run into Gardiner's, and Hoskings', and
Burt's; tell 'em to cotch up a stick and to roon for their loives
across t' moor toward t' mill. And do thou, Jarge, roon into Sykes'
and Wilmot's and tell 'em the same; and be quick if thou would save
thy skin. Tell 'em t' maister be loike to be attacked."

Catching up a heavy stick Luke hurried off, running into two cottages
near and bringing on two more of the mill hands with him. He was
nearly across the moor when they heard the sound of a shot. Luke,
who was running at the top of his speed, gave a hoarse cry as of
one who had received a mortal wound. Two shots followed in quick
succession. A minute later Luke was dashing down the hollow through
which the path ran down from the moor. Now he made out a group of
moving figures and heard the sounds of conflict. His breath was
coming in short gasps, his teeth were set; fast as he was running,
he groaned that his limbs would carry him no faster. It was scarce
two minutes from the time when the first shot was fired, but it
seemed ages to him before he dashed into the group of men, knocking
down two by the impetus of his rush. He was but just in time.
A figure lay prostrate on the turf; another standing over him had
just been beaten to his knee. But he sprang up again at Luke's
onward rush. His assailants for a moment drew back.

"Thou'rt joist in toime, Luke," Bill panted out. "Oi war well nigh
done."

"Be t' maister shot?"

"No, nowt but a clip wi' a stick."

As the words passed between them the assailants again rushed forward
with curses and execrations upon those who stood between them and
their victim.

"Moind, Luke, they ha' got knoives!" Bill exclaimed. "Oi ha' got
more nor one slash already."

Luke and Bill fought vigorously, but they were overmatched. Anger
and fear for Ned's safety nerved Luke's arm, the weight of the
last twenty years seemed to drop off him, and he felt himself again
the sturdy young cropper who could hold his own against any in the
village. But he had not yet got back his breath, and was panting
heavily. The assailants, six in number, were active and vigorous
young men; and Bill, who was streaming with blood from several
wounds, could only fight on the defensive. Luke then gave a short
cry of relief as the two men who had started with him, but whom
he had left behind from the speed which his intense eagerness had
given him, ran up but a short minute after he had himself arrived
and ranged themselves by him. The assailants hesitated now.

"Ye'd best be off," Luke said; "there ull be a score more here in
a minute."

With oaths of disappointment and rage the assailants fell back and
were about to make off when one of them exclaimed: "Ye must carry
Tom off wi' thee. It ull never do to let un lay here."

The men gathered round a dark figure lying a few yards away. Four
of them lifted it by the hands and feet, and then they hurried
away across the moor. As they did so Bill Swinton with a sigh fell
across Ned's body. In two or three minutes four more men, accompanied
by George and Polly, whose anxiety would not let her stay behind,
hurried up. Luke and his companions had raised Ned and Bill into
a sitting posture.

"Are they killed, feyther?" Polly cried as she ran up breathless
to them.

"Noa, lass; oi think as t' maister be only stunned, and Bill ha'
fainted from loss o' blood. But oi doan't know how bad he be hurted
yet. We had best carry 'em back to t' house; we can't see to do
nowt here."

"Best let them stay here, feyther, till we can stop the bleeding.
Moving would set the wounds off worse."

"Perhaps you are right, Polly. Jarge, do thou run back to t' house
as hard as thou canst go. Loight t' lanterns and bring 'em along,
wi' a can o' cold water."

Although the boy ran to the village and back at the top of his
speed the time seemed long indeed to those who were waiting. When
he returned they set to work at once to examine the injuries. Ned
appeared to have received but one blow. The blood was slowly welling
from a wound at the back of his head.

"That war maade by a leaded stick, oi guess," Luke said; "it's cut
through his hat, and must pretty nigh ha' cracked his skool. One
of you bathe un wi' the water while we looks arter Bill."

Polly gave an exclamation of horror as the light fell upon Bill
Swinton. He was covered with blood. A clean cut extended from the
top of the ear to the point of the chin, another from the left
shoulder to the breast, while a third gash behind had cut through
to the bone of the shoulder blade.

"Never moind t' water, lass," Luke said as Polly with trembling
hands was about to wash the blood from the cut on the face, "the
bluid won't do un no harm--thou must stop t' bleeding."

Polly tore three or four long strips from the bottom of her dress.
While she was doing so one of the men by Luke's directions took
the lantern and gathered some short dry moss from the side of the
slope, and laid it in a ridge on the gaping wound. Then Luke with
Polly's assistance tightly bandaged Bill's head, winding the strips
from the back of the head round to the chin, and again across the
temples and jaw. Luke took out his knife and cut off the coat and
shirt from the arms and shoulder, and in the same way bandaged up
the other two wounds.

After George had started to fetch the lantern, Luke had at Polly's
suggestion sent two men back to the village, and these had now
returned with doors they had taken off the hinges. When Bill's
wounds were bandaged he and Ned were placed on the doors, Ned giving
a faint groan as he was moved.

"That's roight," Luke said encouragingly; "he be a-cooming round."

Two coats were wrapped up and placed under their heads, and they
were then lifted and carried off, Polly hurrying on ahead to make
up the fire and get hot water.

"Say nowt to no one," Luke said as he started. "Till t' master
cooms round there ain't no saying what he'd loike done. Maybe he
won't have nowt said aboot it."

The water was already hot when the party reached the cottage; the
blood was carefully washed off Ned's head, and a great swelling
with an ugly gash running across was shown. Cold water was dashed
in his face, and with a gasp he opened his eyes.

"It be all roight, Maister Ned," Luke said soothingly; "it be all
over now, and you be among vriends. Ye've had an ugly one on the
back o' thy head, but I dowt thou wilt do rarely now."

Ned looked round vaguely, then a look of intelligence came into
his face.

"Where is Bill?" he asked.

"He be hurted sorely, but oi think it be only loss o' blood, and
he will coom round again; best lie still a few minutes, maister,
thou wilt feel better then; Polly, she be tending Bill."

In a few minutes Ned was able to sit up; a drink of cold brandy
and water further restored him. He went to the bed on which Bill
had been placed.

"He's not dead?" he asked with a gasp, as he saw the white face
enveloped in bandages.

"No, surelie," Luke replied cheerfully; "he be a long way from dead
yet, oi hoape, though he be badly cut about."

"Have you sent for the doctor?" Ned asked.

"No!"

"Then send for Dr. Green at once, and tell him from me to come up
here instantly."

Ned sat down in a chair for a few minutes, for he was still dazed
and stupid; but his brain was gradually clearing. Presently he looked
up at the men who were still standing silently near the door.

"I have no doubt," he said, "that I have to thank you all for saving
my life, but at present I do not know how it has all come about. I
will see you tomorrow. But unless it has already got known, please
say nothing about this. I don't want it talked about--at any rate
until we see how Bill gets on.

"Now, Luke," he continued, when the men had gone, "tell me all
about it. My brain is in a whirl, and I can hardly think."

Luke related the incidents of the fight and the flight of the
assailants, and said that they had carried off a dead man with
them. Ned sat for some time in silence.

"Yes," he said at last, "I shot one. I was walking along with Bill
when suddenly a gun was fired from a bush close by; then a number
of men jumped up and rushed upon us. I had my pistol, and had just
time to fire two shots. I saw one man go straight down, and then
they were upon us. They shouted to Bill to get out of the way, but
he went at them like a lion. I don't think any of the others had
guns; at any rate they only attacked us with sticks and knives. I
fought with my back to Bill as well as I could, and we were keeping
them off, till suddenly I don't remember any more."

"One on them hit ye from behind wi' a loaded stick," Luke said,
"and thou must ha' gone doon like a felled ox; then oi expects as
Bill stood across thee and kept them off as well as he could, but
they war too much for t' lad; beside that cut on the head he ha'
one on shoulder and one behind. Oi war only joost in toime, another
quarter of a minute and they'd ha' got their knives into thee."

"Poor old Bill," Ned said sadly, going up to the bedside and laying
his hand on the unconscious figure. "I fear you have given your
life to save one of little value to myself or any one else."

"Don't say that, Master Ned," Polly said softly; "you cannot say
what your life may be as yet, and if so be that Bill is to die, and
God grant it isn't so, he himself would not think his life thrown
away if it were given to save yours."

But few words were spoken in the cottage until Dr. Green arrived.
Ned's head was aching so that he was forced to lie down. Polly
from time to time moistened Bill's lips with a few drops of brandy.
George had been ordered off to bed, and Luke sat gazing at the
fire, wishing that there was something he could do.

At last the doctor arrived; the messenger had told him the nature of
the case, and he had come provided with lint, plaster, and bandages.

"Well, Ned," he asked as he came in, "have you been in the wars
again?"

"I am all right, doctor. I had a knock on the head which a day or
two will put right; but I fear Bill is very seriously hurt."

The doctor at once set to to examine the bandages.

"You have done them up very well," he said approvingly; "but the
blood is still oozing from them. I must dress them afresh; get me
plenty of hot water, Polly, I have brought a sponge with me. Can
you look on without fainting?"

"I don't think I shall faint, sir," Polly said quietly; "if I do,
feyther will take my place."

In a quarter of an hour the wounds were washed, drawn together,
and bandaged. There was but little fresh bleeding, for the lad's
stock of life blood had nearly all flowed away.

"A very near case," the doctor said critically; "as close a shave
as ever I saw. Had the wound on the face been a quarter of an inch
nearer the eyebrow it would have severed the temporal artery. As
it is it has merely laid open the jaw. Neither of the other wounds
are serious, though they might very well have been fatal."

"Then you think he will get round, doctor?" Ned asked in a low
tone.

"Get round! Of course he will," Dr. Green replied cheerily. "Now
that we have got him bound up we will soon bring him round. It is
only a question of loss of blood."

"Hullo! this will never do," he broke off as Ned suddenly reeled
and would have fallen to the ground had not Luke caught him.

"Pour this cordial down Swinton's throat, Polly, a little at
a time, and lift his head as you do it, and when you see him open
his eyes, put a pillow under his head; but don't do so till he
begins to come round. Now let me look at Ned's head.

"It must have been a tremendous blow, Luke," he said seriously. "I,
only hope it hasn't fractured the skull. However, all this swelling
and suffusion of blood is a good sign. Give me that hot water. I
shall put a lancet in here and get it to bleed freely. That will
be a relief to him."

While he was doing this an exclamation of pleasure from Polly
showed that Bill was showing signs of returning to life. His eyes
presently opened. Polly bent over him.

"Lie quiet, Bill, dear; you have been hurt, but the doctor says you
will soon be well again. Yes; Master Ned is all right too. Don't
worry yourself about him."

An hour later both were sleeping quietly.

"They will sleep till morning," Dr. Green said, "perhaps well on
into the day; it is no use my waiting any longer. I will be up the
first thing."

So he drove away, while Polly took her work and sat down to watch
the sleepers during the night, and Luke, taking his stick and hat,
set off to guard the mill till daylight.

Ned woke first just as daylight was breaking; he felt stupid and
heavy, with a splitting pain in his head. He tried to rise, but
found that he could not do so. He accordingly told George to go
down in an hour's time to Marsden, and to leave a message at the
house saying that he was detained and should not be back to breakfast,
and that probably he might not return that night. The doctor kept
his head enveloped in wet bandages all day, and he was on the
following morning able to go down to Marsden, although still terribly
pale and shaken. His appearance excited the liveliest wonder and
commiseration on the part of Charlie, Lucy, and Abijah; but he told
them that he had had an accident, and had got a nasty knock on the
back of his head. He kept his room for a day or two; but at the end
of that time he was able to go to the mill as usual. Bill Swinton
was longer away, but broths and jellies soon built up his strength
again, and in three weeks he was able to resume work, although it
was long before the ugly scar on his face was healed. The secret
was well kept, and although in time the truth of the affair became
known in Varley it never reached Marsden, and Ned escaped the talk
and comment which it would have excited had it been known, and,
what was worse, the official inquiry which would have followed.

The Huddersfield men naturally kept their own council. They had
hastily buried their dead comrade on the moor, and although several
of them were so severely knocked about that they were unable to
go to work for some time, no rumor of the affair got about outside
the circle of the conspirators. It need hardly be said that this
incident drew Ned and Bill even more closely together than before,
and that the former henceforth regarded Bill Swinton in the light
of a brother.

At the end of the Christmas holidays Mr. Porson brought home a
mistress to the schoolhouse. She was a bright, pleasant woman, and
having heard from her husband all the particulars of Ned's case
she did her best to make him feel that she fully shared in her
husband's welcome whenever he came to the house, and although Ned
was some little time in accustoming himself to the presence of one
whom he had at first regarded as an intruder in the little circle
of his friends, this feeling wore away under the influence of her
cordiality and kindness.

"Is it not shocking," she said to her husband one day, "to think
that for nearly a year that poor lad should never have seen his own
mother, though she is in the house with him, still worse to know
that she thinks him a murderer? Do you think it would be of any
good if I were to go and see her, and tell her how wicked and wrong
her conduct is?"

"No, my dear," Mr. Porson said, smiling, "I don't think that course
would be at all likely to have a good effect. Green tells me that
he is sure that this conviction which she has of Ned's guilt is a
deep and terrible grief to her. He thinks that, weak and silly as
she is, she has really a strong affection for Ned, as well as for
her other children, and it is because this is so that she feels
so terribly what she believes to be his guilt. She suffers in her
way just as much, or more, than he does in his. He has his business,
which occupies his mind and prevents him from brooding over his
position; besides, the knowledge that a few of us are perfectly
convinced of his innocence enables him to hold up. She has no
distraction, nothing to turn her thoughts from this fatal subject.

"Green says she has several times asked him whether a person could
be tried twice for the same offense, after he has been acquitted
the first time, and he believes that the fear is ever present
in her mind that some fresh evidence may be forthcoming which may
unmistakably bring the guilt home to him. I have talked it over
with Ned several times, and he now takes the same view of it as
I do. The idea of his guilt has become a sort of monomania with
her, and nothing save the most clear and convincing proof of his
innocence would have any effect upon her mind. If that is ever
forthcoming she may recover, and the two may be brought together
again. At the same time I think that you might very well call
upon her, introducing yourself by saying that as I was a friend of
Captain Sankey's and of her sons you were desirous of making her
acquaintance, especially as you heard that she was such an invalid.
She has no friends whatever. She was never a very popular woman, and
the line every one knows she has taken in reference to the murder
of her second husband has set those who would otherwise have been
inclined to be kind against her. Other people may be convinced of
Ned's guilt, but you see it seems to every one to be shocking that
a mother should take part against her son."

Accordingly Mrs. Porson called. On the first occasion when she did
so Mrs. Mulready sent down to say that she was sorry she could not
see her, but that the state of her health did not permit her to
receive visitors. Mrs. Porson, however, was not to be discouraged.
First she made friends with Lucy, and when she knew that the girl
was sure to have spoken pleasantly of her to her mother she opened
a correspondence with Mrs. Mulready. At first she only wrote to
ask that Lucy might be allowed to come and spend the day with her.
Her next letter was on the subject of Lucy's music. The girl had
long gone to a day school kept by a lady in Marsden, but her music
had been neglected, and Mrs. Porson wrote to say that she found
that Lucy had a taste for music, and that having been herself well
taught she should be happy to give her lessons twice a week, and
that if Mrs. Mulready felt well enough to see her she would like
to have a little chat with her on the subject.

This broke the ice. Lucy's backwardness in music had long been a
grievance with her mother, who, as she lay in bed and listened to
the girl practicing below had fretted over the thought that she
could obtain no good teacher for her in Marsden. Mrs. Porson's offer
was therefore too tempting to be refused, and as it was necessary
to appear to reciprocate the kindness of that lady, she determined
to make an effort to receive her.

The meeting went off well. Having once made the effort Mrs. Mulready
found, to her surprise, that it was pleasant to her after being cut
off for so many months from all intercourse with the world, except
such as she gained from the doctor, her two children, and the old
servant, to be chatting with her visitor, who exerted herself to
the utmost to make herself agreeable. The talk was at first confined
to the ostensible subject of Mrs. Porson's visit; but after that
was satisfactorily arranged the conversation turned to Marsden and
the neighborhood. Many people had called upon Mrs. Porson, and as
all of them were more or less known to Mrs. Mulready, her visitor
asked her many questions concerning them, and the invalid was
soon gossiping cheerfully over the family histories and personal
peculiarities of her neighbors.

"You have done me a world of good," she said when Mrs. Porson rose
to leave. "I never see any one but the doctor, and he is the worst
person in the world for a gossip. He ought to know everything, but
somehow he seems to know nothing. You will come again, won't you?
It will be a real kindness, and you have taken so much interest in
my daughter that it quite seems to me as if you were an old friend."

And so the visit was repeated: but not too often, for Mrs. Porson
knew that it was better that her patient should wait and long for
her coming, and now that the ice was once broken, Mrs. Mulready
soon came to look forward with eagerness to these changes in her
monotonous existence.

For some time Ned's name was never mentioned between them. Then
one day Mrs. Porson, in a careless manner, as if she had no idea
whatever of the state of the relations between mother and son,
mentioned that Ned had been at their house the previous evening,
saying: "My husband has a wonderful liking and respect for your
son; they are the greatest friends, though of course there is a
good deal of difference in age between them. I don't know any one
of whom John thinks so highly."

Mrs. Mulready turned very pale, and then in a constrained voice
said: "Mr. Porson has always been very kind to my sons."

Then she sighed deeply and changed the subject of conversation.

"Your wife is doing my patient a great deal more good than I have
ever been able to do," Dr. Green said one day to the schoolmaster.
"She has become quite a different woman in the last five or six
weeks. She is always up and on the sofa now when I call, and I notice
that she begins to take pains with her dress again; and that, you
know, is always a first rate sign with a woman. I think she would
be able to go downstairs again soon, were it not for her feeling
about Ned. She would not meet him, I am sure. You don't see any
signs of a change in that quarter, I suppose?"

"No," Mrs. Porson replied. "The last time I mentioned his name
she said: 'My son is a most unfortunate young man, and the subject
pains me too much to discuss. Therefore, if you please, Mrs. Porson,
I would rather leave it alone.' So I am afraid there is no chance
of my making any progress there."



CHAPTER XIX: THE ATTACK ON CARTWRIGHT'S MILL


Ned still slept at the mill. He was sure that there was no chance
of a renewal of the attack by the workpeople near, but an assault
might be again organized by parties from a distance. The murder
of Mr. Horsfall had caused greater vigilance than ever among the
military. At some of the mills the use of the new machinery had
been discontinued and cropping by hand resumed. This was the case
at the mills at Ottewells and Bankbottom, both of which belonged
to Messrs. Abraham & John Horsfall, the father and uncle of the
murdered man, and at other mills in the neighborhood. Mr. Cartwright
and some of the other owners still continued the use of the new
machinery. One night Ned had just gone to bed when he was startled
by the ringing of the bell. He leaped from his bed. He hesitated
to go to the window, as it was likely enough that men might be
lying in wait to shoot him when he appeared. Seizing his pistols,
therefore, he hurried down below. A continued knocking was going
on at the front entrance. It was not, however, the noisy din which
would be made by a party trying to force their way in, but rather
the persistent call of one trying to attract attention.

"Who is there?" he shouted through the door; "and what do you want?"

"Open the door, please. It is I, Polly Powlett," a voice replied.
"I want to speak to you particularly, sir.

"I have come down, sir," she said as Ned threw open the door and
she entered, still panting from her long run, "to tell you that
Cartwright's mill is going to be attacked. I think some of the
Varley men are concerned in it. Anyhow, the news has got about in
the village. Feyther and Bill are both watched, and could not get
away to give you the news; but feyther told me, and I slipped out
at the back door and made my way round by the moor, for they have
got a guard on the road to prevent any one passing. There is no
time to spare, for they were to join a party from Longroyd Bridge,
at ten o'clock at the steeple in Sir George Armitage's fields, which
ain't more than three miles from the mill. It's half past ten now,
but maybe they will be late. I couldn't get away before, and indeed
feyther only learned the particulars just as I started. He told
me to come straight to you, as you would know what to do. I said,
'Should I go and fetch the troops?' but he said No--it would be
sure to be found out who had brought them, and our lives wouldn't
be worth having. But I don't mind risking it, sir, if you think
that's the best plan."

"No, Polly; on no account. You have risked quite enough in coming
to tell me. I will go straight to Cartwright's. Do you get back
as quickly as you can, and get in the same way you came. Be very
careful that no one sees you."

So saying he dashed upstairs, pulled on his shoes, and then started
at full speed for Liversedge. As he ran he calculated the probabilities
of his being there in time. Had the men started exactly at the
hour named they would be by this time attacking the mill; but it
was not likely that they would be punctual--some of the hands
would be sure to be late. There would be discussion and delay
before starting. They might well be half an hour after the time
named before they left the steeple, as the obelisk in Sir George
Armitage's field was called by the country people. He might be
in time yet, but it would be a close thing; and had his own life
depended upon the result Ned could not have run more swiftly.

He had hopes that as he went he might have come across a cavalry
patrol and sent them to Marsden and Ottewells to bring up aid; but
the road was quiet and deserted. Once or twice he paused for an
instant, thinking he heard the sound of distant musketry. He held
his breath, but no sound could he hear save the heavy thumping of
his own heart.

His hopes rose as he neared Liversedge. He was close now, but as he
ran into the yard he heard a confused murmur and the dull tramping
of many feet. He had won the race, but by a few seconds only. The
great stone built building lay hushed in quiet; he could see its
outline against the sky, and could even make out the great alarm
bell which had recently been erected above the roof. He ran up to
the doorway and knocked heavily. The deep barking of a dog within
instantly resounded through the building. Half a minute later Mr.
Cartwright's voice within demanded who was there.

"It is I, Ned Sankey--open at once. The Luddites are upon you!"

The bolts were hastily undrawn, and Ned rushed in and assisted to
fasten the door behind him.

"They will be here in a minute," he panted out. "They are just
behind."

The noise had already roused the ten men who slept in the building;
five of these were Mr. Cartwright's workmen, the other five were
soldiers. Hastily they threw on their clothes and seized their arms;
but they were scarcely ready when a roar of musketry was heard,
mingled with a clatter of falling glass, nearly every pane in the
lower windows being smashed by the discharge of slugs, buckshot
and bullets.

This was followed by the thundering noise of a score of sledge
hammers at the principal entrance and the side doors. Mr. Cartwright
and one of his workmen ran to the bell rope, and in a moment its
iron tongue was clanging out its summons for assistance to the
country round. A roar of fury broke from the Luddites; many of them
fired at the bell in hopes of cutting the rope, and the men plied
their hammers more furiously than before. But the doors were
tremendously strong and were backed with plates of iron.

The defenders were not idle; all had their allotted places at the
windows, and from these a steady return was kept up in answer to
the scattering fire without. Ned had caught up the gun which Mr.
Cartwright had laid down when he ran to the bell rope, and with it
he kept up a steady fire at the dark figures below.

There was a shout of "Bring up Enoch!" This was a name given to
the exceedingly heavy hammers at that time used in the Yorkshire
smithies. They were manufactured by the firm of Enoch & James
Taylor, of Marsden, and were popularly known among the men by the
name of their maker. A powerful smith now advanced with one of
these heavy weapons and began to pound at the door, which, heavy
as it was, shook under his blows.

Ned, regardless of the fire of the Luddites, leaned far out of the
window so as to be able to aim down at the group round the door,
and fired. The gun was loaded with a heavy charge of buckshot. He
heard a hoarse shout of pain and rage, and the hammer dropped to
the ground. Another man caught up the hammer and the thundering
din recommenced.

Mr. Cartwright had now joined Ned, leaving his workmen to continue
to pull the bell rope.

"You had better come down, Sankey. The door must give way ere long;
we must make a stand there. If they once break in, it will soon be
all up with us."

Calling together three or four of the soldiers the manufacturer
hurried down to the door. They were none too soon. The panels had
already been splintered to pieces and the iron plates driven from
their bolts by the tremendous blows of the hammer, but the stout
bar still stood. Through the yawning holes in the upper part of
the door the hammermen could be seen at work without.

Five guns flashed out, and yells and heavy falls told that the
discharge had taken serious effect. The hammering ceased, for the
men could not face the fire. Leaving Ned and one of the soldiers
there, Mr. Cartwright hurried round to the other doors, but the
assault had been less determined there and they still resisted;
then he went upstairs and renewed the firing from the upper windows.
The fight had now continued for twenty minutes, and the fire of
the Luddites was slackening; their supply of powder and ball was
running short. The determined resistance, when they had hoped to
have effected an easy entrance by surprise, had discouraged them;
several had fallen and more were wounded, and at any time the
soldiers might be upon them.

Those who had been forced by fear to join the association--and
these formed no small part of the whole--had long since begun to
slink away quietly in the darkness, and the others now began to
follow them. The groans and cries of the wounded men added to their
discomfiture, and many eagerly seized the excuse of carrying these
away to withdraw from the fight.

Gradually the firing ceased, and a shout of triumph rose from the
little party in the mill at the failure of the attack. The defenders
gathered in the lower floor.

"I think they are all gone now," Ned said. "Shall we go out,
Mr. Cartwright, and see what we can do for the wounded? There are
several of them lying round the door and near the windows. I can
hear them groaning."

"No, Ned," Mr. Cartwright said firmly, "they must wait a little
longer. The others may still be hiding close ready to make a rush
if we come out; besides, it would likely enough be said of us that
we went out and killed the wounded; we must wait awhile."

Presently a voice was heard shouting without: "Are you all right,
Cartwright?"

"Yes," the manufacturer replied. "Who are you?"

The questioner proved to be a friend who lived the other side of
Liversedge, and who had been aroused by the ringing of the alarm
bell. He had not ventured to approach until the firing had ceased,
and had then come on to see the issue.

Hearing that the rioters had all departed, Mr. Cartwright ordered
the door to be opened. The wounded Luddites were lifted and carried
into the mill, and Mr. Cartwright sent at once for the nearest
surgeon, who was speedily upon the spot. Long before he arrived
the hussars had ridden up, and had been dispatched over the country
in search of the rioters, of whom, save the dead and wounded, no
signs were visible.

As day dawned the destruction which had been wrought was clearly
visible. The doors were in splinters, the lower window frames were
all smashed in, scarce a pane of glass remained in its place throughout
the whole building, the stonework was dotted and splashed with
bullet marks, the angles of the windows were chipped and broken,
there were dark patches of blood in many places in the courtyard,
and the yard itself and the roads leading from the mill were strewn
with guns, picks, levers, hammers, and pikes, which had been thrown
away by the discomfited rioters in their retreat.

"They have had a lesson for once," Mr. Cartwright said as he looked
round, "they won't attack my mill again in a hurry. I need not say,
Sankey, how deeply I am obliged to you for your timely warning.
How did you get to know of it?"

Ned related the story of his being awakened by Mary Powlett. He
added, "I don't think, after all, my warning was of much use to
you. You could have kept them out anyhow."

"I don't think so," Mr. Cartwright said. "I imagine that your
arrival upset all their plans; they were so close behind you that
they must have heard the knocking and the door open and close. The
appearance of lights in the mill and the barking of the dog, would,
at any rate, have told them that we were on the alert, and seeing
that they ran on and opened fire I have no doubt that their plan was
to have stolen quietly up to the windows and commenced an attack
upon these in several places, and had they done this they would
probably have forced an entrance before we could have got together
to resist them. No, my lad, you and that girl have saved the mill
between you."

"You will not mention, Mr. Cartwright, to any one how I learned
the news. The girl's life would not be safe were it known that she
brought me word of the intention of the Luddites."

"You may rely on me for that; and now, if you please, we will go
off home at once and get some breakfast. Amy may have heard of the
attack and will be in a rare fright until she gets news of me."

Mr. Cartwright's house was about a mile from the mill. When they
arrived there it was still closed and quiet, and it was evident that
no alarm had been excited. Mr. Cartwright's knocking soon roused
the servants, and a few minutes later Amy hurried down.

"What is it, papa? What brings you back so early? it is only seven
o'clock now. How do you do, Mr. Sankey? Why, papa, how dirty and
black you both look! What have you been doing? And, oh, papa! you
have got blood on your hands!"

"It is not my own, my dear, and you need not be frightened. The
attack on the mill has come at last and we have given the Luddites
a handsome thrashing. The danger is all over now, for I do not think
the mill is ever likely to be attacked again. But I will tell you
all about it presently; run and get breakfast ready as soon as you
can, for we are as hungry as hunters, I can tell you. We will go
and have a wash, and will be ready in ten minutes."

"We can't be ready in ten minutes, papa, for the fires are not
lighted yet, but we will be as quick as we can; and do please make
haste and come and tell me all about this dreadful business."

In half an hour the party were seated at breakfast. Amy had already
been told the incidents of the fight, and trembled as she heard
how nearly the rioters had burst their way into the mill, and was
deeply grateful to Ned for the timely warning which had frustrated
the plans of the rioters.

In vain did the soldiers scour the country. The Luddites on their
retreat had scattered to their villages, the main body returning to
Huddersfield and appearing at their work as usual in the morning.
Large rewards were offered for information which would lead to the
apprehension of any concerned in the attack, but these, as well as
the notices offering two thousand pounds for the apprehension of
the murderers of Mr. Horsfall, met with no responses. Scores of
men must have known who were concerned in these affairs, but either
fidelity to the cause or fear of the consequences of treachery kept
them silent.

Mr. Cartwright was anxious to offer a handsome reward to Mary
Powlett for the service she had rendered him, but Ned told him that
he was sure she would not accept anything. Mr. Cartwright, however,
insisting on the point, Ned saw Mary and sounded her upon the
subject. She was indignant at the idea.

"No, Master Ned," she said, "I would not take money, not ever so.
I came down to tell you because I thought it wicked and wrong of
the men to destroy the mill, and because they would no doubt have
murdered Mr. Cartwright and the people there; but I would not
take money for doing it. Even if nobody ever got to know of it, it
would always seem to me as if I had sold the hands, and they have
suffered enough, God knows."

"I don't think Mr. Cartwright thought of offering you money. I told
him that I was sure that you wouldn't take it, but he hoped that
he might be able to do something for you in some other way."

"No, thank you, sir," Mary said with quiet dignity; "there isn't
any way that I could take anything for doing what I did."

"Well, Mary, we won't say anything more about it. I only spoke, you
know, because Mr. Cartwright insisted, and, of course, as he did
not know you he could not tell how different you were from other
girls. There is no suspicion, I hope, that you were away from the
village?"

"No, sir, I don't think so. Two of the men sat here talking with
feyther till past eleven o'clock, but they thought that I was
in bed, as I had said goodnight and had gone into my room an hour
before, and I did not see any one about in the village as I came
back over the moor behind."

"None of the hands belonging to the village are missing, I hope,
Mary. I was glad to find that none of them were among the killed
and wounded round the mill."

"No, sir, except that John Stukeley has not been about since. The
smithy was not opened the next morning and the chapel was closed
yesterday. They say as he has been taken suddenly ill, but feyther
thinks that perhaps he was wounded. Of course men don't speak much
before feyther, and I don't talk much to the other women of the
village, so we don't know what's going on; anyhow the doctor has
not been here to see him, and if he had been only ill I should think
they would have had Dr. Green up. Old Sarah James is nursing him.
I saw her this morning going to the shop and asked her how he was;
she only said it was no business of mine. But she doesn't like me
because sometimes I nurse people when they are ill, and she thinks
it takes money from her; and so it does, but what can I do if people
like me to sit by them better than her? and no wonder, for she is
very deaf and horribly dirty."

"I don't think they are to be blamed, Polly," Ned said, smiling.
"If I were ill I should certainly like you to nurse me a great deal
better than that bad tempered old woman."



The attack on Cartwright's mill made a great sensation through
that part of the country. It was the most determined effort which
the Luddites had yet made, and although it showed their determination to
carry matters to an extremity, it also showed that a few determined
men could successfully resist their attacks. Nothing else was talked
about at Marsden, and as Mr. Cartwright everywhere said that the
success of the resistance was due entirely to the upsetting of the
plans of the rioters by the warning Ned had given him, the latter
gained great credit in the eyes of all the peaceful inhabitants.
But as it would make Ned still more obnoxious to the Luddites,
Major Browne insisted on placing six soldiers permanently at the
mill and on four accompanying him as an escort whenever he went
backward or forward.

Ned was very averse to these measures, but the magistrates agreed
with Major Browne as to the danger of assassination to which Ned
was exposed from the anger of the croppers at his having twice
thwarted their attempts, and he the more readily agreed as the
presence of this guard soothed the fears which Charlie and Lucy felt
for his safety whenever he was absent from the town. What perhaps
most influenced him was a conversation which he had with Mrs.
Porson.

"Your mother was speaking of you to me today, Ned," she said; "it
is the first time she has done so since I made her acquaintance.
She began by saying, 'Please, Mrs. Porson, tell me all about this
attack on George Cartwright's mill; Abijah and Lucy have been
talking about it, but Abijah always gets confused in her stories,
and of course Lucy knows only what she is told. I should like to
know all about it.' Of course I told her the whole story, and how
much Mr. Cartwright says he is indebted to you for the warning
you brought him, and how every one is speaking in praise of your
conduct, and what a good effect it has had.

"I told her that of course the Luddites would be very much incensed
against you and that it was adding to the risks that you already
ran. She lay on the sofa quietly with her eyes shut all the time
I was speaking. I could see her color come and go, and some tears
fell down her cheeks; then she said in a tone which she tried to
make hard and careless, but which really trembled, 'The military
ought to put a guard over my son. Why does he go risking his life
for other people? What business is it of his whether Cartwright's
mill is burned or not?' I said that Mr. Cartwright had been very
kind to you, and that I knew that you were much attached to him.
I also said that the military were anxious that you should have an
escort to and from the mill, but that you objected. I said that I
was afraid that your life had not much value in your own eyes, for
that it was by no means a happy one. 'It has value in other people's
eyes,' she said irritably, 'in Lucy's and in his brother's. What
would they do if he was to throw it away? Who would look after the
mill and business then? He has no right to run such risks, Mrs.
Porson, no right at all. Of course he is unhappy. People who let
their tempers master them and do things are sure to be unhappy,
and make other people unhappy, too; but that is no reason that he
should cause more unhappiness by risking his own life needlessly,
so, Mrs. Porson, please talk to your husband and tell him to make
my son have an escort. I know he always listens to Mr. Porson.'"

"Naturally my mother is anxious, for the sake of Charlie and Lucy,
that I should live to carry on the mill until Charlie is old enough
to run it himself," Ned said bitterly.

"I do not think that it is only that, Ned," Mrs. Porson said kindly.
"That was only the excuse that your mother made. I could see that
she was deeply moved. I believe, Ned, that at heart she still
loves you dearly. She has this unhappy fixed idea in her mind that
you killed her husband, and believing this she cannot bear to see
you; but I am sure she is most unhappy, most deeply to be pitied.
I cannot imagine anything more dreadful than the state of mind of
a woman who believes that a son of hers has murdered her husband.
I think that if you quite realized what her feelings must be you
would feel a little less bitter than you do.

"I know, Ned, how much you have to try you, but I am sure that I
would not exchange your position for that of your mother. Her pain
must be far greater than yours. You know that you are innocent,
and hope that some day you may be able to prove it. She thinks she
knows that you are guilty, and is in constant dread that something
may occur that may prove your guilt to the world."

"Perhaps you are right, Mrs. Porson," Ned said wearily; "at any rate
I will put up with the nuisance of this escort. I suppose it will
not be for very long, for I expect that we shall not hear very much
more of the Luddites. The failures upon Cartwright's mill and mine
must have disheartened them, and the big rewards that are offered
to any one who will come forward and betray the rest must make
them horribly uncomfortable, for no one can be sure that some one
may not be tempted to turn traitor."

"What is the matter with Bill?" Ned asked Luke Marner that afternoon.
"I see he is away."

"Yes, sir, he be a-sitting with John Stukeley, who they say is main
bad. It seems as how he has taken a fancy to t' lad, though why he
should oi dunno, for Bill had nowt to do wi' his lot. Perhaps he
thinks now as Bill were right and he were wrong; perhaps it only
is as if Bill ha' got a name in the village of being a soft hearted
chap, allus ready to sit up at noight wi' any one as is ill. Anyhow
he sent last noight to ask him to go and sit wi' him, and Bill sent
me word this morning as how he couldn't leave the man."

"Do you know what is the matter with him?"

"I dunno for certain, Maister Ned, but I has my suspicions."

"So have I, Luke. I believe he got a gunshot wound in that affair
at the mill."

Luke nodded significantly.

"Dr. Green ought to see him," Ned said. "A gunshot wound is not a
thing to be trifled with."

"The doctor ha' been up twice a day on the last three e days," Luke
replied. "Oi suppose they got frighted and were obliged to call
him in."

"They had better have done so at first," Ned said; "they might
have been quite sure that he would say nothing about it to the
magistrates whatever was the matter with Stukeley. I thought that
fellow would get into mischief before he had done."

"It war a bad day for the village when he coomed," Luke said; "what
wi' his preachings and his talk, he ha' turned the place upside
down. I doan't say as Varley had ever a good name, or was a place
where a quiet chap would have chosen to live, For fighting and drink
there weren't a worse place in all Yorkshire, but there weren't
no downright mischief till he came. Oi wur afraid vor a bit when
he came a-hanging aboot Polly, as the gal might ha' took to him,
for he can talk smooth and has had edication, and Polly thinks a
wonderful lot of that. Oi were main glad when she sent him aboot
his business."

"Well, there is one thing, Luke; if anything happens to him it
will put an end to this Luddite business at Varley. Such a lesson
as that in their midst would do more to convince them of the danger
of their goings on than any amount of argument and advice."

"It will that," Luke said. "Oi hear as they are all moighty down
in the mouth over that affair at Cartwright's. If they could not
win there, when they were thirty to one, what chance can they have
o' stopping the mills? Oi consider as how that has been the best
noight's work as ha' been done in Yorkshire for years and years.
There ain't a-been anything else talked of in Varley since. I ha'
heard a score of guesses as to how you found owt what was a-going
on in toime to get to the mill--thank God there ain't one
as suspects as our Polly brought you the news. My own boys doan't
know, and ain't a-going to; not as they would say a word as would
harm Polly for worlds, but as they gets a bit bigger and takes to
drink, there's no saying what mightn't slip out when they are in
liquor. So you and oi and Bill be the only ones as ull ever know
the ins and outs o' that there business."



CHAPTER XX: CLEARED AT LAST.


The night was a wild one. The weather had changed suddenly, and
the rain beat fiercely in the faces of the hands as they made their
way back from the mill up to Varley. As the night came on the storm
increased. The wind as it swept across the moor swirled down into
the hollow in which Varley stood, as if it would scoop the houses
out of their foundations, and the drops of rain were driven against
roof and wall with the force of hailstones.

Bill Swinton was sitting up again with John Stukeley, and as he
bent over the sick man's bed and tenderly lifted his head while
he held a cup with some cooling drink to his lips, the contrast
between his broad, powerful figure, and his face, marked with the
characteristics alike of good temper, kindness, and a resolute will,
and the thin, emaciated invalid was very striking. Stukeley's face
was without a vestige of color; his eyes were hollow and surrounded
by dark circles; his cheeks were of an ashen gray pallor, which
deepened almost to a lead color round his lips.

"Thou ought'st not to talk so much, John," Bill was saying. "Thou
know'st the doctor said thou must not excite thyself."

"It makes no difference, Bill, no difference at all, talk or not
talk. What does it matter? I am dying, and he knows it, and I know
it--so do you. That bit of lead in my body has done its work.
Strange, isn't it, that you should be here nursing me when I have
thought of shooting you a score of times? A year ago it seemed
absurd that Polly Powlett should like a boy like you better than
a man like me, and yet I was sure it was because of you she would
have nothing to say to me; but she was right, you will make the best
husband of the two. I suppose it's because of that I sent for you.
I was very fond of Polly, Bill, and when I felt that I was going,
and there wasn't any use my being jealous any longer, I seemed to
turn to you. I knew you would come, for you have been always ready
to do a kindness to a chap who was down. You are different to the
other lads here. I do believe you are fond of reading. Whenever
you think I am asleep you take up your book."

"Oi am trying to improve myself," Bill said quietly. "Maister Sankey
put me in the roight way. He gives me an hour, and sometimes two,
every evening. He has been wonderful kind to me, he has; there
ain't nothing oi wouldn't do for him."

The sick man moved uneasily.

"No more wouldn't Luke and Polly," Bill went on. "His father gived
his loife, you know, for little Jenny. No, there ain't nowt we
wouldn't do for him," he continued, glad to turn the subject from
that of Stukeley's affection for Polly. "He be one of the best of
maisters. Oi would give my life's blood if so be as oi could clear
him of that business of Mulready's."

For a minute or two not a word was said. The wind roared round the
building, and in the intervals of the gusts the high clock in the
corner of the room ticked steadily and solemnly as if distinctly
intimating that its movements were not to be hurried by the commotion
without.

Stukeley had closed his eyes, and Bill began to hope that he was
going to doze off, when he asked suddenly; "Bill, do you know who
sent that letter that was read at the trial--I mean the one from
the chap as said he done it, and was ready to give himself up if
the boy was found guilty?"

Bill did not answer.

"You can tell me, if you know," Stukeley said impatiently. "You
don't suppose as I am going to tell now! Maybe I shan't see any
one to tell this side of the grave, for I doubt as I shall see the
morning. Who wrote it?"

"I wrote it," Bill said; "but it warn't me as was coming forward,
it war Luke's idee fust. He made up his moind as to own up as it
was he as did it and to be hung for it to save Maister Ned, acause
the captain lost his loife for little Jenny."

"But he didn't do it," Stukeley said sharply.

"No, he didn't do it," Bill replied.

There was a silence again for a long time; then Stukeley opened
his eyes suddenly.

"Bill, I should like to see Polly again. Dost think as she will
come and say goodby?"

"Oi am sure as she will," Bill said steadily. "Shall oi go and
fetch her?"

"It's a wild night to ask a gal to come out on such an errand,"
Stukeley said doubtfully.

"Polly won't mind that," Bill replied confidently. "She will just
wrap her shawl round her head and come over. Oi will run across
and fetch her. Oi will not be gone three minutes."

In little more than that time Bill returned with Mary Powlett.

"I am awfully sorry to hear you are so bad, John," the girl said
frankly.

"I am dying, Polly; I know that, or I wouldn't have sent for ye.
It was a good day for you when you said no to what I asked you."

"Never mind that now, John; that's all past and gone."

"Ay, that's all past and gone. I only wanted to say as I wish you
well, Polly, and I hope you will be happy, and I am pretty nigh
sure of it. Bill here tells me that you set your heart on having
young Sankey cleared of that business as was against him. Is that
so?"

"That is so, John; he has been very kind to us all, to feyther
and all of us. He is a good master to his men, and has kept many
a mouth full this winter as would have been short of food without
him; but why do you ask me?"

"Just a fancy of mine, gal, such a fancy as comes into the head
of a man at the last. When you get back send Luke here. It is late
and maybe he has gone to bed, but tell him I must speak to him. And
now, goodby, Polly. God bless you! I don't know as I hasn't been
wrong about all this business, but it didn't seem so to me afore.
Just try and think that, will you, when you hear about it. I thought
as I was a-acting for the good of the men."

"I will always remember that," Polly said gently.

Then she took the thin hand of the man in hers, glanced at Bill
as if she would ask his approval, and reading acquiescence in his
eyes she stooped over the bed and kissed Stukeley's forehead. Then
without a word she left the cottage and hurried away through the
darkness.

A few minutes later Luke Marner came in, and to Bill's surprise
Stukeley asked him to leave the room. In five minutes Luke came
out again.

"Go in to him, Bill," he said hoarsely. "Oi think he be a-sinking.
For God's sake keep him up. Give him that wine and broath stuff
as thou canst. Keep him going till oi coom back again; thou doan't
know what depends on it."

Hurrying back to his cottage Luke threw on a thick coat, and to the
astonishment of Polly announced that he was going down into Marsden.

"What! on such a night as this, feyther?"

"Ay, lass, and would if it were ten toimes wurse. Get ye into thy
room, and go down on thy knees, and pray God to keep John Stukeley
alive and clear headed till oi coomes back again."

It was many years since Luke Marner's legs had carried him so fast
as they now did into Marsden. The driving rain and hail which beat
against him seemed unheeded as he ran down the hill at the top of
his speed. He stopped at the doctor's and went in. Two or three minutes
after the arrival of this late visitor Dr. Green's housekeeper was
astonished at hearing the bell ring violently. On answering the
bell she was ordered to arouse John, who had already gone to bed,
and to tell him to put the horse into the gig instantly.

"Not on such a night as this, doctor! sureley you are not a-going
out on such a night as this!"

"Hold your tongue, woman, and do as you are told instantly," the
doctor said with far greater spirit than usual, for his housekeeper
was, as a general thing, mistress of the establishment.

With an air of greatly offended dignity she retired to carry out
his orders. Three minutes later the doctor ran out of his room as
he heard the man servant descending the stairs.

"John," he said, "I am going on at once to Mr. Thompson's; bring
the gig round there. I shan't want you to go further with me.
Hurry up, man, and don't lose a moment--it is a matter of life
and death."

A quarter of an hour later Dr. Green, with Mr. Thompson by his
side, drove off through the tempest toward Varley.

The next morning, as Ned was at breakfast, the doctor was announced.

"What a pestilently early hour you breakfast at, Ned! I was not in
bed till three o'clock, and I scarcely seemed to have been asleep
an hour when I was obliged to get up to be in time to catch you
before you were off."

"That is hard on you indeed, doctor," Ned said, smiling; "but why
this haste? Have you got some patient for whom you want my help?
You need not have got up so early for that, you know. You could
have ordered anything you wanted for him in my name. You might
have been sure I should have honored the bill. But what made you
so late last night? You were surely never out in such a gale!"

"I was, Ned, and strange as it seems I never went in answer to a
call which gave me so much satisfaction. My dear lad, I hardly know
how to tell you. I have a piece of news for you; the greatest, the
best news that man could have to tell you."

Ned drew a long breath and the color left his cheeks.

"You don't mean, doctor, you can't mean"--and he paused.

"That you are cleared, my boy. Yes; that is my news. Thank God,
Ned, your innocence is proved."

Ned could not speak. For a minute he sat silent and motionless.
Then he bent forward and covered his face with his hands, and his
lips moved as he murmured a deep thanksgiving to God for this mercy,
while Lucy and Charlie, with cries of surprise and delight, leaped
from the table, and when Ned rose to his feet, threw their arms
round his neck with enthusiastic delight; while the doctor wrung
his hand, and then, taking out his pocket handkerchief, wiped his
eyes, violently declaring, as he did so, that he was an old fool.

"Tell me all about it, doctor. How has it happened? What has brought
it about?"

"Luke Marner came down to me at ten o'clock last night to tell
me that John Stukeley was dying, which I knew very well, for when
I saw him in the afternoon I saw he was sinking fast; but he told
me, too, that the man was anxious to sign a declaration before a
magistrate to the effect that it was he who killed your stepfather.
I had my gig got out and hurried away to Thompson's. The old fellow
was rather crusty at being called out on such a night, but to do
him justice, I must say he went readily enough when he found what
he was required for, though it must have given him a twinge of
conscience, for you know he has never been one of your partisans.
However, off we drove, and got there in time.

"Stukeley made a full confession. It all happened just as we
thought. It had been determined by the Luddites to kill Mulready,
and Stukeley determined to carry out the business himself, convinced,
as he says, that the man was a tyrant and an oppressor, and that
his death was not only richly deserved, but that such a blow was
necessary to encourage the Luddites. He did not care, however, to
run the risk of taking any of the others into his confidence, and
therefore carried it out alone, and to this day, although some of
the others may have their suspicions, no one knows for certain that
he was the perpetrator of the act.

"He had armed himself with a pistol and went down to the mill,
intending to shoot Mulready as he came out at night, but, stumbling
upon the rope, thought that it was a safer and more certain means.
After fastening it across the road he sat down and waited, intending
to shoot your stepfather if the accident didn't turn out fatal.
After the crash, finding that Mulready's neck was broken and that
he was dead, he made off home. He wished it specially to be placed
on his deposition that he made his confession not from any regret
at having killed Mulready, but simply to oblige Mary Powlett, whose
heart was bent upon your innocence being proved. He signed the
deposition in the presence of Thompson, myself, and Bill Swinton."

"And you think it is true, doctor, you really think it is true? It
is not like Luke's attempt to save me?"

"I am certain it is true, Ned. The man was dying, and there was
no mistake about his earnestness. There is not a shadow of doubt.
I sent Swinton back in the gig with Thompson and stayed with the
man till half past two. He was unconscious then. He may linger a
few hours, but will not live out the day, and there is little chance
of his again recovering consciousness. Thompson will today send a
copy of the deposition to the home secretary, with a request that
it may be made public through the newspapers. It will appear in
all the Yorkshire papers next Saturday, and all the world will know
that you are innocent."

"What will my mother say?" Ned exclaimed, turning pale again.

"I don't know what she will say, my lad, but I know what she
ought to say. I am going round to Thompson's now for a copy of the
deposition, and will bring it for her to see. Thompson will read
it aloud at the meeting of the court today, so by this afternoon
every one will know that you are cleared."

Abijah's joy when she heard that Ned's innocence was proved was
no less than that of his brother and sister. She would have rushed
upstairs at once to tell the news to her mistress, but Ned persuaded
her not to do so until the doctor's return.

"Then he will have to be quick," Abijah said, "for if the mistress'
bell rings, and I have to go up before he comes, I shall never be
able to keep it to myself. She will see it in my face that something
has happened. If the bell rings, Miss Lucy, you must go up, and if
she asks for me, say that I am particular busy, and will be up in
a few minutes."

The bell, however, did not ring before the doctor's return. After
a short consultation between him and Ned, Abijah was called in.

"Mr. Sankey agrees with me, Abijah, that you had better break the
news. Your mistress is more accustomed to you than to any one else,
and you understand her ways. Here is the deposition. I shall wait
below here till you come down. There is no saying how she will take
it. Be sure you break the news gently."

Abijah went upstairs with a hesitating step, strongly in contrast
with her usual quick bustling walk. She had before felt rather
aggrieved that the doctor should be the first to break the news;
but she now felt the difficulty of the task, and would gladly have
been spared the responsibility.

"I have been expecting you for the last quarter of an hour, Abijah,"
Mrs. Mulready said querulously. "You know how I hate to have the
room untidy after I have dressed.

"Why, what's the matter?". she broke off sharply as she noticed
Abijah's face. "Why, you have been crying!"

"Yes, ma'am, I have been crying," Abijah said unsteadily, "but I
don't know as ever I shall cry again, for I have heard such good
news as will last me the rest of my whole life."

"What news, Abijah?" Mrs. Mulready asked quickly. "What are you
making a mystery about, and what is that paper in your hand?"

"Well, ma'am, God has been very good to us all. I knew as he would
be sooner or later, though sometimes I began to doubt whether it
would be in my time, and it did break my heart to see Maister Ned
going about so pale and unnatural like for a lad like him, and to
know as there was people as thought that he was a murderer. And
now, thank God, it is all over."

"All over! what do you mean, Abijah?" Mrs. Mulready exclaimed,
rising suddenly from her invalid chair.

"What do you mean by saying that it is all over?" and she seized
the old nurse's arm with an eager grasp.

"Don't excite yourself so, mistress. You have been sore tried, but
it is over now, and today all the world will know as Maister Ned is
proved to be innocent. This here paper is a copy of the confession
of the man as did it, and who is, they say, dead by this time. It
was taken all right and proper afore a magistrate."

"Innocent!" Mrs. Mulready gasped in a voice scarcely above a whisper.
"Did you tell me, Abijah, that my boy, my boy Ned, is innocent?"

"I never doubted as he was innocent, ma'am; but now, thank God,
all the world will know it. There, ma'am, sit yourself down. Don't
look like that. I know as how you must feel, but for mercy sake
don't look like that."

Mrs. Mulready did not seem to hear her, did not seem to notice, as
she passively permitted herself to be seated in the chair, while
Abijah poured out a glass of wine. Her face was pale and rigid,
her eyes wide open, her expression one of horror rather than relief.

"Innocent! Proved innocent!" she murmured. "What must he think of
me--me, his mother!"

For some time she sat looking straight before her, taking no notice
of the efforts of Abijah to call her attention, and unheeding the
glass of wine which she in vain pressed her to drink.

"I must go away," she said at last, rising suddenly. "I must go
away at once. Has he gone yet?"

"Go away, ma'am! Why, what should you go away for, and where are
you going?"

"It does not matter; it makes no difference," Mrs. Mulready said
feverishly, "so that I get away. Put some of my things together,
Abijah. What are you staring there for? Don't you hear what I say?
I must go away directly he has started for the mill."

And with trembling fingers she began to open her drawers and pull
out her clothes.

"But you can't go away like that, mistress. You can't, indeed,"
Abijah said, aghast.

"I must go, Abijah. There is nothing else for me to do. Do you
think I could see him after treating him as I have done? I should
fall dead at his feet for shame."

"But where are you going, ma'am?" Abijah said, thinking it better
not to attempt to argue with her in her present state.

"I don't know, I don't know. Yes, I do. Do you know whether that
cottage you were telling me about where you lived while you were
away from here, is to let? That will do nicely, for there I should
be away from every one. Get me a box from the lumber room, and
tell Harriet to go out and get me a post chaise from the Red Lion
as soon as my son has gone to the mill."

"Very well," Abijah said. "I will do as you want me, 'm, if you
will sit down quiet and not excite yourself. You know you have not
been out of your room for a year, and if you go a-tiring yourself
like this you will never be able to stand the journey. You sit
down in the chair and I will do the packing for you. You can tell
me what things you will take with you. I will get the box down."

So saying, Abijah left the room, and, running hastily downstairs,
told Ned and the doctor the manner in which Mrs. Mulready had
received the news. Ned, would have run up at once to his mother,
but Dr. Green would not hear of it.

"It would not do, Ned. In your mother's present state the shock
of seeing you might have the worst effect. Run up, Abijah, and get
the box down to her. I will go out and come back and knock at the
door in two or three minutes, and will go up and see her, and,
if necessary. I will give her a strong soothing draught. You had
better tell her that from what you hear you believe Mr. Sankey is
not going to the mill today. That will make her delay her preparations
for moving until tomorrow, and will give us time to see what is
best to be done."

"I have brought the box, mistress," Abijah said as she entered
Mrs. Mulready's room; "but I don't think as you will want to pack
today, for I hear as Mr. Ned ain't a-going to the mill. You see
all the town will be coming to see him to shake hands with him and
tell him how glad they is that he is cleared."

"And only I can't!" Mrs. Mulready wailed. "To think of it, only I,
his mother, can't see him! And I must stop in the house for another
day! Oh! it is too hard! But I deserve it, and everything else."

"There is Dr. Green's knock," Abijah said.

"I can't see him, Abijah. I can't see him."

"I think you had better see him, ma'am. You always do see him, you
know, and it will look so strange if you don't. There, I will pop
these things into the drawers again and hide the box."

Abijah bustled about actively, and before Mrs. Mulready had time to
take any decided step Dr. Green knocked at the door and came in.

"How are you today, Mrs. Mulready?" he asked cheerfully. "This is
a joyful day indeed for us all. The whole place is wild with the
news, and I expect we shall be having a deputation presently to
congratulate Ned."

"I am not feeling very well," Mrs. Mulready said faintly. "The
shock has been too much for me."

"Very natural, very natural, indeed," Dr. Green said cheerily. "We
could hardly hope it would be otherwise; but after this good news
I expect we shall soon make a woman of you again. Your son will
be the most popular man in the place. People will not know how to
make enough of him. Porson and I, who have been cheering him all
along, will have to snub him now or his head will be turned. Now
let me feel your pulse. Dear! dear! this will not do at all; it's
going like a mill engine. This will never do. If you do not calm
yourself we shall be having you in bed again for a long bout. I will
send you a bottle of soothing medicine. You must take it every two
hours, and keep yourself perfectly quiet. There, I will not talk
to you now about this good news, for I see that you are not fit to
stand it. You must lie down on the sofa at once, and not get off
again today. I will look in this evening and see how you are."

Frightened at the threat that if she were not quiet she might be
confined to her bed for weeks; Mrs. Mulready obeyed orders, took
her medicine when it arrived, and lay quiet on the sofa. For a long
time the sedative failed to have any effect. Every five minutes
throughout the day there were knocks at the door. Every one who
knew Ned, and many who did not, called to congratulate him. Some,
like Mr. Thompson, made a half apology for having so long doubted
him. A few, like Mr. Simmonds, were able heartily to assure him
that they had never in their hearts believed it.

Ned was too full of gratitude and happiness to cherish the slightest
animosity, and he received warmly and thankfully the congratulations
which were showered upon him.

"He looks another man," was the universal comment of his visitors;
and, indeed, it was so. The cloud which had so long overshadowed
him had passed away, and the look of cold reserve had vanished with
it, and he was prepared again to receive the world as a friend.

He was most moved when, early in the day, Mr. Porson and the whole
of the boys arrived. As soon as he had left Mrs. Mulready, Dr.
Green had hurried down to the schoolhouse with the news, and Mr.
Porson, as soon as he heard it, had announced it from his desk,
adding that after such news as that he could not expect them to
continue their lessons, and that the rest of the day must therefore
be regarded as a holiday. He yielded a ready assent when the boys
entreated that they might go in a body to congratulate Ned.

Ned was speechless for some time as his old friend wrung his hand,
and his former schoolfellows clustered round him with a very Babel
of congratulations and good wishes. Only the knowledge that his
mother was ill above prevented them from breaking into uproarious
cheering.

In the afternoon, hearing that his mother was still awake, Ned,
accompanied by Mr. Porson, went out for a stroll, telling Harriet
that she was to remain at the open door while he was away, so as
to prevent any one from knocking. It was something of a trial to
Ned to walk through the street which he had passed along so many
times in the last year oblivious of all within it. Every man and
woman he met insisted on shaking hands with him. Tradesmen left
their shops and ran out to greet him, and there was no mistaking the
general enthusiasm which was felt on the occasion, and the desire
of every one to atone as far as possible for the unmerited suffering
which had been inflicted on him.

When he returned at six o'clock he found Harriet still on the watch,
and she said in low tones that Abijah had just come downstairs with
the news that her mistress had fallen asleep.

"I should not think any one more will come, Harriet, but I will
get you to stop here for a little longer. Then we must fasten up
the knocker and take off the bell. The doctor says that it is all
important that my mother should get a long and undisturbed sleep."

Dr. Green came in again in the evening, and had a long chat with
Ned. It was nearly midnight before Mrs. Mulready awoke. On opening
her eyes she saw Ned sitting at a short distance from the sofa. She
gave a sudden start, and then a look of terror came into her face.

Ned rose to his feet and held out his arms with the one word
"Mother!"

Mrs. Mulready slid from the sofa and threw herself on her knees
with her hands clasped.

"Oh! my boy, my boy!" she cried, "can you forgive me?"

Then, as he raised her in his arms, she fainted.

It was a happy party, indeed, that assembled round the breakfast
table next morning. Mrs. Mulready was at the head of the table making
tea, looking pale and weak, but with a look of quiet happiness and
contentment on her face such as her children had never seen there
before, but which was henceforth to be its habitual expression.

Ned did not carry out his original intention of entering the army.
Mr. Simmonds warmly offered to make the application for a commission
for him, but Ned declined. He had made up his mind, he said, to
stick to the mill; there was plenty of work to be done there, and
he foresaw that with a continued improvement of machinery there
was a great future for the manufacturing interests of England.

The Luddite movement gradually died out. The high rewards offered
for the discovery of the murderers of Mr. Horsfall and of the
assailants of Cartwright's mill had their effect. Three croppers,
Mellor, Thorpe and Smith, were denounced and brought to trial. All
three had been concerned in the murder, together with Walker, who
turned king's evidence for the reward--Mellor and Thorpe having
fired the fatal shots. The same men had been the leaders in the
attack on Cartwright's mill.

They were tried at the assizes at York on the 2d of January, 1813,
with sixty-four of their comrades, before Baron Thomas and Judge
Le Blanc, and were found guilty, although they were defended by
Henry (afterward Lord) Brougham.  Mellor, Thorpe, and Smith were
executed three days afterward. Fourteen of the others were hung,
as were five Luddites who were tried before another tribunal.

After this wholesale act of severity the Luddite disturbances soon
came to an end. The non-success which had attended their efforts,
and the execution of all their leaders, thoroughly cowed the rioters,
and their ranks were speedily thinned by the number of hands who
found employment in the rapidly increasing mills in the district.
Anyhow from that time the Luddite conspiracy ceased to be formidable.

The Sankeys' mill at Marsden flourished greatly under Ned's management.
Every year saw additions to the buildings and machinery until it
became one of the largest concerns in Yorkshire. He was not assisted,
as he had at one time hoped he should be, by his brother in the
management; but he was well contented when Charlie, on leaving
school, declared his wish to go to Cambridge, and then to enter the
church, a life for which he was far better suited by temperament
than for the active life of a man of business.

The trial through which Ned Sankey had passed had a lasting
effect upon his character. Whatever afterward occurred to vex him
in business he was never known to utter a hasty word, or to form
a hasty judgment. He was ever busy in devising schemes for the
benefit of his workpeople, and to be in Sankey's mill was considered
as the greatest piece of good fortune which could befall a hand.

Four years after the confession of John Stukeley Ned married the
daughter of his friend George Cartwright, and settled down in a
handsome house which he had built for himself a short distance out
of Marsden. Lucy was soon afterward settled in a house of her own,
having married a young landowner with ample estates. Mrs. Mulready,
in spite of the urgent persuasions of her son and his young
wife, refused to take up her residence with them, but established
herself in a pretty little house close at hand, spending, however,
a considerable portion of each day with him at his home.

The trials through which she had gone had done even more for her
than for Ned. All her querulous listlessness had disappeared. She
was bright, cheerful, and even tempered. Ned used to tell her that
she grew younger looking every day. Her pride and happiness in her
son were unbounded, and these culminated when, ten years after his
accession to the management of the mill, Ned acceded to the request
of a large number of manufacturers in the district, to stand for
Parliament as the representative of the mill owning interest, and
was triumphantly returned at the head of the poll.

Of the other characters of this story little need be said. Dr. Green
and Mr. and Mrs. Porson remained Ned's closest friends to the end
of their lives.

Mary Powlett did not compel Bill Swinton to wait until the situation
of foreman of the mill became vacant, but married him two years
after the death of John Stukeley. Bill became in time not only
foreman but the confidential manager of the mill, and he and his
wife were all their lives on the footing of dear friends with Mr.
and Mrs. Sankey.

Luke Marner remained foreman of his room until too old for further
work, when he retired on a comfortable pension, and was succeeded
in his post by his son George.  Ned and Amy Sankey had a large
family, who used to listen with awe and admiration to the tale of
the terrible trial which had once befallen their father, and of
the way in which he had indeed been "tried in the fire."

THE END





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