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'O! it'll wet where it goes,' said he, 'and that's enough.' So Mary drew him a pint mug of the poor liquor, and presented it to him.
'Will thee like a slice o' cold meat or so?' inquired Mary.
'Why, I don't think as how 'twill hurt me if so be I do,' answered Andrews, 'for I'd nothin' but knobs o' chairs, and pumphandles for dinner, and I've got an appetite which comes and goes like a saw!'
The meat was forthwith produced, and the couple had what Andrews termed a 'confab.'
'It was my birthday yesterday,' said he.
Dear me!' exclaimed Mary, as if it were really an extraordinary thing for a man to have a birthday; 'and, pray how old may you be?'
'Fifty-two,' replied Andrews.
'Fifty-two!' echoed Mary emphatically.
'Ay, a good age for a hog, ain't it?' and then they broke forth into a simultaneous laugh.
'How old do 'ee think I be, Andrews?' said Mary.
Why, thirty next grass, maybe,' guessed the gallant Andrews.
A leetle more nor than that anyhow,' said Mary, bridling up, and by no means displeased at the insidious compliment, and then graciously added, 'Come, you don't eat; take another slice o' meat, and another mug.'
It is needless to say the invitation was complied with.
'What the dickens is the matter with our master?' said Andrews. 'He seemed quite in a winegar fever this mornin'.'
'I tell you what it is,' said Mary, 'he ain't bin right sin' them College chaps came among us.'
A couple o' yellow-beaked boys!' muttered Andrews. 'Sure-ly they can't put his nose out o' joint; thof I did hear say them Watsons up yonder brought out the brown loaf to him t'other day. Sartin 'tis he were as hurried and flurried this mornin' for all the world like a dry leaf in a whirlwind.'
'Them are upstart folk, them Watsons,' remarked Mary.
'Yes; I've hard Jem say (and he knows a thing or two) that their larder's the smallest possible; and that a dish o' fricasseed wind and stewed tinder would last the two old frumps for a week on end !'
Here ensued another hearty laugh. Andrews, however, notwithstanding the cachinnatory interruption, managed to ply his knife and fork so cleverly during the colloquy, that he contrived to scrape the blade-bone to an alarming bareness.
But no clue to the cause of the 'Squire's' unaccountable change was elicited by the two domestics. The fact is, the news had not yet spread abroad. When it had gone the customary round of the tea-table tattlers, it gradually extended to the kitchen, and from thence in a right line to the whole village.
It was confidently reported, that late one evening the well-known grey mare of Josiah Greene was seen standing at the door of a small house in the neighbouring market-town, where dwelt in genteel retirement a 'young lady,' who had certainly no claim to a 'character' from her last place!
All the spinsters were 'horrified,' while the married ladies dreaded
the force of example, and all concurred in the opinion that the 'Doctor' was a very shocking old man.
The radical little lawyer, with the fear of an action for slander or calumny before his eyes, pretended to take up the cudgels in favour of his rival, and ingeniously contradicted the report wherever he
'Notwithstanding the well-known difference of their political views, he would not-nay, he could not for a moment entertain so injurious and illiberal an opinion of Greene as to think he could possibly do so and so." And then, having completely aroused the curiosity of those who had heard nothing of the malicious report, he proceeded to relate the shameful rumour which had got abroad.
Poor Greene, however, was the only individual in the village who was in ignorance of the rising storm which threatened the wreck of his moral character, and was daily more and more puzzled to imagine the cause of the frigidity and indifference of his friends.
At length the whole mystery burst upon the astonished philosopher like a thunder-clap.
Busily occupied one evening in the arrangement of his fractured pebbles, his tranquillity was suddenly disturbed by the announcement of the lawyer.
This is really an unexpected honour,' said Greene, ironically. The lawyer bowed, looked grave, and took a seat.
'I have ill tidings,'-commenced the man of law.
"Eh, what?' cried Greene. Why, what Radical is likely to lose his election ?'
'None; but there is a staunch Tory likely to be "put out," retorted the lawyer.
'Why, I am sorry to say it, but my client, Farmer Hodges, has instructed me to serve you with notice of action for a trespass.'
'Me?' exclaimed Greene, starting up from his seat.
'You. He accuses you of riding across one of his enclosures late on the evening of the 10th instant, and of doing considerable damage to his crop or crops, and of breaking certain fences of wood.'
A fine story, truly!' cried Greene, recovering his composure. 'Let me see-the 10th--that was Thursday-yes, Thursday. I was never out of the house the whole of the day.'
"That remains to be proved. Hodges has three or four creditable witnesses who have made oath to the identity of the horse or mare.' Umph!' cried the mystified Greene; this is strange--very strange-unaccountable!' And rising, he rang the bell.
Mary answered the summons.
'Where is Andrews?' demanded he.
'Watering the cabbage plants,' replied the ancient domestic. Send him in immediately.'
Old Andrews appeared with his blue apron tucked up on one side, and the perspiration standing upon his brown and ruddy brow.
'Pray, Andrews, do you ever recollect,' said Greene, that I have ridden Mimmy of an evening?'
'No, sir, never.'
'Can you swear to this?' demanded the lawyer.
Take my bible-oath on it afore any justice in the county,' re
plied Andrews, positively clenching his huge fist, and beating the air emphatically to clench his asseveration.
The Squire' then proceeded to repeat the accusation the lawyer had made.
'It's all a flam, by jingo!' cried Andrews, looking excited and confused.
'Are you prepared upon your oath-(remember an oath is an awful thing, Andrews!)-are you ready upon your oath, I repeat, to say that, to the best of your knowledge and belief, the grey mare was not out of the stable on the evening of Thursday last?' 'Thursday evening!' repeated Andrews, scratching his ear,
"The infallible resource
To which embarrassed people have recourse,"
and looking rather confused, 'Thursday evening?'
'Remember, Andrews,' said Greene, anxiously, 'that I am threatened with a law-suit for damages, and that I rely confidently upon your evidence to exculpate me. Yes, your old master may be ruin. ed; for I am resolved to spend the last farthing I have in the world in defending my cause.'
Andrews looked seriously at his worthy master, then at the lawyer, and his knees evidently trembled. At last recovering his possession of mind, he exclaimed,
'Yes!-she were out, as I am a sinner, and hope to be saved!' 'There!' said the lawyer; 'that is enough.'
'What! do you too mean to bear false witness against me?' said Josiah.
'No, no, no!' said Andrews, convulsively, and dropping on his knees. 'Pardon me, dear master! I b'lieve for a sartainty the old gentleman ha' got the upper hand o' me. There's never no mischief but he has a finger in the pie. Them two devil-may-care chaps at the house yonder has led me into this scrape.'
Greene sternly commanded him to rise, and, after much circumlo. cution, they elicited from the unfortunate gardener the fact that the two College youths had secretly fee'd him to lend the mare on two or three occasions, no doubt for the very purpose of mystifying the character of the eccentric geologist, and involving him in a dilemma; in which charitable purpose, as we have seen, they had succeeded to their hearts' content.
The lawyer was satisfied, but by no means internally pleased with the justification of his old rival, and retreated completely baffled and confused.
Old Andrews was terribly alarmed, but readily obtained the forgiveness of his worthy master, who was too much delighted at having removed the imputation cast upon his character to harbour any vindictive feelings against his unwise domestic, who had been made the dupe of the two rival lions.'
The whole detail of the affair was soon spread abroad, and the good folks of the village, who really esteemed the 'Doctor,' now generously took up the cudgels in his favour, resolving to make him. every reparation for the unmerited slight and neglect he had suffered. They openly deprecated the 'lark' of the young gentlemen, and refused to have any intercourse with them.
The consequence was, they compounded with Farmer Hodges for
the damage done to his 'crop or crops,' and soon afterwards quitted the scene of their 'rural sports,' laughing heartily at the mystification into which they had thrown the Macadamizing old squaretoes,' through the instrumentality of old Andrews and the Grey Mare.
-'Oh, gentle fairy, do not bestow
BY CHARLES HOOTON.
BOOK THE THIRD.
'WHITHER are we bound?' demanded Woodruff.
'To Kiddal Hall. My father, Mr. Lupton, charged me, in case we succeeded, to convey you there. I have provided a vehicle at a village over the forest: the moment we reach it, fear will be at an end.' The night was dark, but clear and fresh. A healthy breeze swept across, and sighed through the trees.
'How I thank Heaven for this!' exclaimed Woodruff, and you, friendly strangers, whom I can never compensate, for the delight I feel in this liberty is beyond estimation.'
He stretched his hands to heaven, and sunk upon his knees, while our friends stood silently by until he had poured out his heart in thankfulness. Fearful of lingering, Colin used his influence to urge him onward, or he would have remained in this ecstasy of adoration. Accustomed to darkness, the night suited him; individual flowers and leaves, which to his companions were fused into masses, he could see with separate distinctness; he plucked them with the eager delight of a child.
This excitement and the unaccustomed exertion overcame him, after they had traversed two or three miles, and, notwithstanding his endeavours, Woodruff became incapable of proceeding. Under these circumstances, Calvert and Veriquear volunteered to carry him, a task which they performed, while Colin lingered behind to ascertain whether old Jerry had contrived to give any alarm.
This precaution proved not needless. As he crouched down, to bring the ground into a line horizontal with the sky, so as to enable him to detect whatever objects might present themselves, he fancied he beheld moving figures. Hereupon Colin requested his friends to hurry forwards, while he remained to reconnoitre. His suspicion proved just. The figures rapidly advanced, until he could distinctly discern five men, one of whom he instantly recognised as Jerry. He was exclaiming passionately, calling down imprecations on his own head, for having disabled him from following with the expedition which otherwise he could have used. His doubts satisfied, Colin had nothing to do but hurry his companions onward. This, however, their burden in part prevented; and Mr. Woodruff became excited to an extreme, and begged of them rather to let him be killed in resisting, than ever again see those horrible walls. Every effort was made to pacify him; but his long-lost liberty was now so dear, that the thought of being a second time deprived of it made him tremble like an infant.
As the pursuing party gained upon them, Colin recommended that they should turn aside amongst the brushwood, until the others should have passed; they soon found harbour beneath an elm, that bent down from a bank at the foot of which lay a pool collected from the rains. While silently standing there, the parties approached,