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of the shadow of death at any rate, | be going in and out among them, doing read the service over the graves, and his duty.” wou the hearts of some of the poor “I thought I heard you say, sir, that stricken ones by shedding tears at the the rector was half a fool and seventybedside. The rectory was not a pistol- three years old. Would his going shot off the nearest of the lovels. mend matters much ? The shame's
One day there was no one moving at not there. Why don't you go yourthe little rectory. Then it was found self ? You said you only lived four that the poor curate had fallen sick - miles off.” “the fayver had got him.” Next week
turned upon the the poor wife succumbed ; he himself stranger. He was evidently a very was in fierce delirium ; there was only ugly man to tackle, and there was a a girl of fifteen lo wait upon the pair, strange mocking and defiant smile and nobody knew whether either the upon his face which seemed to mean one or the other had a friend in the anything except what was pleasant and world.
conciliatory. By this time the Rampton fever had “I, sir ? You have no right to ask become a subject of much talk for me that question ; and certainly not in many miles round. Her Majesty's mail that insulting tone, sir.
I have my used to change horses at the White own parish and a wife and four little Hart. The passengers did not like it, children. I have no business to run and when one of the hostlers was the risk none at all." struck down and died in two days the “Oh, it's the risk, is it ? — the risk, horses were taken two miles further eh ?"
down the road, and the coach was not The words were uttered in a delib... allowed to stop at Rampton. But the erate and inexpressibly contemptuous
news of the plague spread all along the manner, wholly unjustifiable under the road and reached London, and one day circumstances. a neighboring clergyman, having occa- A murmur of displeasure, almost of sion to go up to London on some busi- indignation, went round the room. ness, put up at Wood's Hotel, then, white-haired and venerable clergyman and I believe now, a great place of re- rose from his seat and passed straight sort for members of the clerical profes- up to the last speaker. sion and their families, and he talked “ You are a young man, sir; I asmuch and excitedly of the terrible state sume, too, you are a clergyman. Have of affairs, and, of course, he was very you yourself a cure of souls? I think vehement in denouncing it as a burn- you cannot know what it is to have ing shame, though how and why it wife and children. But you are beharwas a shame he didn't explain.
ing in a very unbecoming way in hurl. “Why is it a shame ?” said a voice ing taunts like these against a stranger, from the other end of the room. The and he, too, a priest of Christ's Church. speaker was a dark-haired, close-shaven For shame, sir! For shame !" gentleman in clerical dress. Scarcely The smile had utterly vanished from above the middle height, with a big the young man's face ; he held down head, deep chest, broad shoulders, his head like a penitent child ; his eyes enormously long arms almost amount- were bent upon the ground; he uttered ing to a deformity, and a large, mas- not a single word. sive, bony hand, which he rested on The old clergyman went up to him the back of a chair after he had some- and laid his hand upon his shoulder. what slowly walked up to the other “ There, there, my young friend, I did clergyman's table and stood confront- not want to wound you, but you know ing him, waiting for an answer.
you deserved the rebuke, and I know " Why, it's a shame of the rector, to you'll forgive me. But — but — yes ! be sure,” said the other, a little discon- I think you'll do more than that, you'll certed. “ He ought to be there, and show yourself the man you think an
other ought to be, and you will yourself “Now, Sally — is that your name ?" go down to Rampton."
No, sir; please sir, my name's With a quivering lip and a pale face Helen.' the other made his answer :
" Where did you get that bad name “ I bumbly beg your pardon, sir, for fron ? Helen
very wicked the outrage I was guilty of. For you, woman, and a heathen, and that's sir, I humbly thank you for the lesson more ; and she did a deal of mischief you have given me. My name is Luke too. As long as I'm here I'll call you Tremain. I have at this moment no Sally. Do you hear ?" cure of souls. I will go down to Ramp
sir. But, please, sir, you ton by the night mail. I will go down can't stay here. Master and missus are and — for the love of God.”
both in bed with the fayver, and masNext morning, at seven o'clock, as ter's off his head ; and they all say as usual, the mail went through Rampton I'm going to have the fayver, too, and at a spanking pace, but Luke was sound father won't have me home. And asleep, and they did not wake him. A please, sir, there's nothing to eat.” couple of miles or so further on the “ Sally,” said Luke soleinnly, till the road the coachman suddenly pulled up, girl's hair almost stood on end,“ if you as if he had never thought of the mat- get the fever you shall be buried in the ter till now.
ditch with a stake run through you. “ Why, Bill, isn't there a gentleman I’li stand no nonsense. Do you hear ? booked for Rampton inside ?"
Is the kettle boiling ?” “ Bless my heart, o' course there is ! Yes, it was always kept boiling. The I never gave it a thought! Would you doctor said she was always to keep it like to be set down here, sir ? There boiling, she didn't know why. That ain't much more nor a mile to walk." was the hardest work she had to do,
Luke, who by this time was wide keeping up the fire and lifting the awake, and quite master of the situa- kettle. What had she had for supper ? tion, silently got down and had his Tea. What else ? Nothing ; 'cause heavy portmanteau deposited on the the last loaf bad been made into a ground.
poultice. “ Coachman, sir ?” “Guard, sir?” “Ah! I thought so — half starved ! cried the two functionaries simulta- Why, you're a walking atomy, Sally. neously.
Get the tea — we'll have it together.” “ To be sure !” answered Luke. "I In five minutes' time Luke had wonder I had forgotten. Bad country opened that bulky portmanteau, and for the memory, guard ! But I shall had produced a pound of tea, a bottle have to trouble you to call at Rampton of brandy, a bag of biscuits from Le Rectory for your half crown when you Man's shop in the City, a shape of come back."
The two worthies took it jelly which he had bought at a confecout in some feeble bluster, and the tioner's in Fleet Street, and carried off coach rattled on. An hour later the in its mould, and finally a huge tin candwellers in the cottages were surprised ister of oatmeal. From this last he by the apparition of a gentleman carry- proceeded to make two big slop basins ing a big portmanteau on his broad full of porridge, Sally looking on with shoulders and walking along straight as wide eyes. Then he made her fall to. a dart. He passed through the rectory She had never seen porridge before, gate and startled the weary little ser- but she took to it voraciously. Then vant girl by walking straight into the came the tea. By good luck one of the hall – for the front door was open farmers had left a jug of new milk at and dropping the portmanteau on the the gate every morning for the last ten floor with a sigh of relief, he took off days, and Luke, who could not drink his hat, mopped his face, and stared at tea without milk, consumed cup after the girl, who looked upon him as an cup, and after the girl had been fairly ogre.
brought to an anchor he finished off the
rest of the biscuits, which were enough | Luke insisted they should always come to have satisfied six harvestmen. to church and give thanks for their re
“Now then, Sally, we'll go up-stairs. covery. Ouly John Barleycorn grumNever do anything on an empty stom- bled, for the tap-room was well-nigh ach, Sally. Fill up the kettle, I'll go deserted, and the people were somehow alone."
showing some little gleams of serious“Oh, sir ! please, sir ! you mustn't ness and self-respect. go up-stairs ; you'll get the fayver, and Finally, one morning he abruptly you're a kind gentleman. You'll get burst out upon poor Mrs. Blackie, who the fayver."
had been whimpering forth her grati“Sally, you attend to me. Kind or tude and protesting that they owed life not kind, I'll tell you a secret. I've and health to their benefactor, and so got a devil in me ; and if you don't on and so on. mind what I say, and do as I tell you, • My good woman, I can't stand this that devil will come out and rend you. sort of thing. This very day either If you ever say that word fayver in this you go away from this place for three house again you shall be tossed into months or I do. It's for you to say. the ditch and have a stake driven If you'll consult my convenience, you'll through you, and lie there till Judg- go away, both of you, and take Sally ment Day !” He made his way to the with you and stay away till Christmas, dreadful bedroom. Two emaciated hu- and I'll stay here in charge of the man beings were lying there ; one of parish. There five-and-twenty them tossing about in delirium, the pounds to help you. The mail will other just stupid with helplessness and pass at twelve, and you've got two despair. His first act was to open hours. If I find you here when I get every door and window on that first back you'll never see my face after this floor. Then he dropped down upon his day at sunset.” kuees beside the poor woman as she He Aung himself out of the house in lay, and asked for help that he might wrath, leaving tive bauk-notes upon help others.
the breakfast-table behind him. On And so Luke began his work at his return early in the afternoon the Rampton. Before a week was over he house was empty. The next thing was had more supplies than he knew what to get a poor woman “ to do for him." to do with. He hired a “trap” and She was a neat and decent person, had went driving about the country de- been a cook in a gentleman's family, manding rather than begging for help. had married late and had lost her lusThe port-wine, the brandy even the band by the fever, was the mother of champagne came in by the dozen. two children, and the mistress of a cat. Three of the cottages had been vacated, the inmates having fled no one The harvest had been gathered and cared whither. Luke treated them as the odd laborers were turned off. There if they were his own — asked no one's were several of the men out of work. leave - had them thoroughly cleaned Luke looked about him and resolved 10 out, scraped, whitewashed, and the remodel the garden. He set four or doors taken off from the upper Aoor. five men at work, and soon there was Then he had three sets of fever-stricken a transformation scene indeed. He patients removed into these houses, made new walks, even cut down a tree and treated the next three cottages in or two, levelled a new lawn and cleared the same way. In a fortnight the fever out the pond. The strange feature in was stamped out. There were no it all was that nobody interfered with fresh cases, and the curate and his him. Little by little, now that the wife were moving about again and sit- fever scare had passed away, the clergy tipg out in the sunshine. The mas- and some few of the gentry round terful energy of the man carried all dropped in and called upon him. Once before it. As the patients recovered, a pompous territorial magnate came to pay his respects. Luke was in the had seemed to them a special 'Vangelist garden ordering his men, and was slow sent down from heaven to save their to invite the great J.P. to walk in. bodies and souls, had passed away. Accustomed to treat people de haut en The church, to be sure, had become a bas, the visitor was irritated by Luke's wholly different place on Sundays ; fearless and almost aggressive indepen- there were a couple of hundred of the dence. For no man ever patronized farmers and poor people who were now him a second time ; once was quite regular attendants, and there was no enough to try that experiment. What doubt that a very great change had passed between the two will never be come upon the parish. But “what's known, but the squire went off like bred in the bone will come out in the Naaman in a rage.
“Confound the flesh," and there was a viilainous set fellow ! He as much as told me to among the younger men, whose fathers mind my own business, and he smiled and grandfathers had been poachers at me as if he'd been a prizefighter and sometimes sheep-stealers in the old stepping into the ring. Who is he ? | days. where does he come from ?" It was The White Hart had begun to fill suggested that he was a Cornishman, again. It was nothing like what it had of a good Cornish family, with a com- been, but there were always six or fortable little independence; that he eight of the “blacks," who got back to had been a scholar of St. John's Col- their old quarters by the fireside in the lege, Oxbridge ; might have won a long evenings, and there was noise and fellowship, but that he had some cranky quarrelling as of yore, and occasionally notions about the way a man ought to something worse. read; preferred Plutarch to Plato, and Luke was vexed, but he knew it must wasted two whole terms in a vain at- come to this sooner or later. He went tempt to translate Cassiodorus and boldly to John Barleycorn and remonreconstruct the text of that barbarian strated with him for keeping the house writer. In course of time he had taken open all night, and suggested, with a orders ; but he could not respect his hint, that just possibly it might be to rector, and one day he smiled at him. his advantage to close at eleven. The The rupture was inevitable ; he retired man was sulky and insolent.
“ Close to a small patrimony which was heavily at eleven ? What for? Supposing I mortgaged, lived like a hermit on less did close at eleven. I tell 'ee what than a pound a week, and at the end some on 'em 'd come and knock at the of three years had paid off fifteen hun- rectory door, the’ would, and ast what dred pounds of incumbrances which you'l done wi' all that there port wine had been borrowed for some reason or as Squire Barclay sent in for 'em when other at six per cent. Then he had they was down wi' the fayver. I tell taken another curacy, this time with 'ee they know as well as you who that a really holy and devoted clergyman, there wine belongs to.” whose influence had changed the whole Luke was stung as if an adder had current of his life. One morning his struck him. But le bit his lip, said friend was discovered dead in his bed, not a word, passed out of the house, and Luke found himself “ with a loose came back for one brief moment, stared end” and quite bewildered by his loss. hard at the landlord, then with that He had come up to town resolved on accursed smile upon his face he said taking a London curacy, when he found slowly : “ John Barleycorn, you're a himself that evening at Wood's Hotel, cunning man ; but you cunning fellows and four months had passed since then are often a trifle too sharp. So it was and the winter was drawing near. you put that into their heads, was it ?"
The spasms of conscientiousness The fellow was cowed and shambled which had twitched and wrung the back into his parlor and sat down tremhearts of the Rampton folk while death bling. When he recovered his speech was knocking at their doors, and Luke again he mumbled gruftly to the little
knot of boosers : "Blessed if I don't one knows where that du come from. think that blooming parson's got the He's a artful ’un ! ” evil eye. He'd ought to be swum for a December was half done. The moon witch."
was at its full; it was a glorious night. Alas ! John Barleycorn had got the Luke started out for a midnight walk. ear of the bad set again, but they did Tempted by the deep quiet, and the not let him into all their secrets. Luke splendor of the moon paling all the went on in the old way, taking his stars, and the crisp firm road that the lonely walks mostly in the late after- frost had made hard as adamant under noons, and sometimes in the moonlight his feet, Luke walked on and on, till nights. In the daytime he was always he found himself some seven miles busying himself about some parish from home. He looked at his watch, matter — the dame's school — for there and found it much later than he was no other — the night school for the bad thought. He had scarcely turned lads, whom he taught himself; visiting homeward when, in a turn of the road, among the old people, who dearly loved he came full upon a little band of five him, and as often as not pulling out a men, one of whom he immediately recshort, blackened clay pipe -- there were ognized as a parishioner, with no very no "briars” in those days — and after good character to boast of, even among handing a big, hairy pouch to some old the “blacks." gossip, whose eyes twinkled at the “Why, George, what are you up to sight of it, filling up himself and smok- at this time of night ?" ing voluminously. There was a poor The moment the words had escaped little club-footed boy who lived with him he felt he had made a mistake. his old grandparents, and who could The fellows all joined in a rough laugh, neither read nor write. The hovel in and one of them answered brutally: which those three lived was a long way " We're a-going to a prayer-meeting, off the rectory, and the boy could not we are, and we'll take you with us get as far as the night school. So if you loike. You've been a-setting Luke took it into his head to teach the snares, I'll bet, Mister. Passous little cripple with the grandfather look- hadn't ought to du sich things. Yow ing on. The boy, as time went on, go your gate, and we'll go ourn." grew up into a rather thoughtful man, Luke seldom hesitated, but he did who had many stories to tell of his first hesitate now; and, as they marched on and only teacher, as thus :
and passed him, he could not see what “ Grandfather said as the 'Wangelist the right course was, and he continued was the first parson as he ever heard his homeward walk, very uncomforttell on who was a teetotaler, and the able, and angry with himself at his first as ever smoked a short pipe, and awkwardness and stupidity, the first as ever slopped hisself, in a Next morning Rampton was all astir. grit thing as they called a shower, reg. A party of poachers had been set upon 'lar every morning, and the first as in Squire Gorman's spinney, and three preached all out of his own head, and of them had been cleverly captured by the first as knowed the Bible and a large band of keepers. The other Prayer Book by heart, every word.” two had made off, and no one knew
John Barleycorn sneered at it all. who these two were, or where they had
“What call's he got to wash hisself come from. The three were all Rampin that there thing like a Punch and ton men. Who were the other two? Judy show? And then that there pipe A day or two afterwards Luke came
– why ain't it wore up afore now ? upon George Cannell and another. As They say he smokes all day and all they passed him he looked at them night, and yet there's no one never see both with that terrible smile, but they him smoking in what you may call the took no more notice of him than if he open air. I don't hold wi’ they secret had been a clod of mud by the wayside. ways. That may be real 'bacca, but no Who was that other? He was the