|Chapter I.||1. "Treasure Trove"|
|Chapter II||2. Mazeppa|
|Chapter III.||3. Kitty's Mother|
|Chapter IV||4. Mrs. Ferrier|
|Chapter V.||5. Paul's Patients|
|Chapter VI||6. "The Battle of Prague"|
|Chapter VII.||7. The Rescue|
|Chapter VIII||8. With the Lions|
|Chapter IX.||9. At Rest|
Tobias stood on one of the rungs of the wooden ladder, which rested on the rock beneath the water and enabled him to descend from the place where the stone steps abruptly came to an end at a point a little below the level of the adit. The iron pump was swinging in front of him, from a chain attached to the winding barrel of the engine overhead. He held a lamp in one hand and guided the pump in its descent with the other. It seemed to meet with some resistance under water, and fell over sideways, whereupon Tobias plunged a long pole into the dark water and probed about for the obstruction, whilst a workman standing above him on the ladder held the lamp.
Suddenly they beheld the leg of a man appear over the surface, with a short boot on it, upon which the workman dropped the lamp, in terror, into the water and fled up the ladder, leaving Tobias in total darkness, when he also retreated, and sharply reprimanded the man. Then he descended again with a coil of rope and a fresh lamp, and examined the limb, which appeared to be the leg of a drowned man. Tobias disengaged the pump from the chain and made a noose of the rope he carried, with which he secured the leg to the hook at the end of the chain. Then he shouted to his men overhead to cause the engine to "haul up." The suspended body of Jem Ritson slowly emerged from the water. Tobias had no idea whose body it was, and looked on in awe and wonder as it was drawn up, head downwards. As it passed him he let the light from his lamp fall on the face, but did not recognise the drowned man. He saw that one of his arms hung straight down, and hanging on the arm, from the wrist, he noticed one of the gins he had fixed in the mouth of the adit. Tobias shuddered on seeing again the thing he fancied he had got rid of. It swung against him as it slowly rose, and he violently pushed it and the body away. As he did so the man's leg seemed to part from the body, which fell back with a sullen plunge into the dark water beneath. Tobias, at same moment, in sudden fright, allowed the second lamp to fall into the water, and then crept up the steps in darkness to the crypt, where the engine was at work. He there [sic] saw, dangling from the rope he had lately carried down the shaft, the limb he had secured with it to the chain below. The workmen drew it from over the shaft and cautiously examined it.
"Blest if it isn't a dummy leg," said one of the men. "There's straps and buckles 'anging on't. P'r'aps they wasn't able to bear the weight o' the man as owned it, who's bin drownded below."
"I'll give five pounds among ye, lads," said Tobias, "if you'll get the unfortunate man as is below out of the shaft. I've 'ad a fright as I'll never forget, and I'm all in a tremble."
The men begged for an instalment of the money to enable them to fortify themselves sufficiently at the "Cock and Bottle" before they made the attempt to recover the body. Tobias reluctantly complied with their request, warning them not to indulge in too much "fortification." Then he sat down on his anvil to study the artificial leg, which lay on the floor. Suddenly it dawned on him. that it might be the "second-hand" article he had been told Jem Ritson had purchased with part of his money. He went into the house at once and procured candles, and during the men's absence descended the shaft again with a rope and a hooked stick, with which he succeeded in capturing the body and dragging it partly out of the water. As yet he did not recognise the ghastly white face, but it occurred to him to thrust his hand into the breast pocket of the man's coat, and from thence he drew out his own sodden pocket-book.
Tobias now tried to disengage the heavy gin from Jem Ritson's wrist, but it resisted all his efforts, and so, fearing the men would return in his absence, he clambered up to the crypt again, and retired to his room to investigate the pocket-book, in which he found a pulpy mass representing the greater part of his notes. Tobias spread them out, as well as he could, on the table to dry, then locked the door and returned to the crypt, where he had to wait still longer for his workmen, who seemed to require a good deal of "fortifying" before they ventured back to the shaft.
The men had described the recovery of the artificial leg to the landlord, who straightway guessed the name of the late owner and sent for the two local policemen, who returned with the hands to the crypt. None of the workmen seemed in a fit condition to venture down the narrow steps, so Tobias was again obliged to descend alone, taking with him on this occasion a hammer and a chisel, with which he succeeded in disengaging the gin, and let it fall into the water. Then he secured the body to the chain and came up to manage the engine himself, whilst the men looked on sulkily, evidently considering that in some way they had been defrauded of the balance of the five pounds which Tobias had promised them, consequently they refused to touch the dead body when it appeared, and left it to be dealt with by the policemen, who bore it to the old tomb at the end of the crypt, and laid it thereon to wait the arrival of the coroner, whom they proceeded to summon.
Tobias retired to see what he could do in the way of drying and pressing out his bank-notes, and told the men to go "play" until after the inquest, about which he was uneasy, lest he should be held in any way accountable for Jem Ritson's death. which event he looked on as a righteous punishment that had befallen the ruffian who had robbed and ill-used him. How it happened that Jem came to be there he could only guess, and he imagined that a desire to get possession of the gins again had induced the poacher to return.
Tobias feared that the wound on the dead man's wrist would attract attention, and that if so he would never hear the last of the accursed gins, although he secretly rejoiced to think that one of them had done him good service in capturing his enemy. Finally he read the triumphant song of Deborah on the death of Sisera, which consoled him, and then he retired to rest, having arranged that one of the policemen should remain on the premises to keep up the courage of the two female domestics, who were in a state of terror at the idea of the presence of a drowned burglar on the premises, and decided forthwith to give warning.
The inquest created a great stir in the neighbourhood and caused Tobias no little annoyance, much of which he would have escaped if he had freely told all he knew at the outset. Suspicion seemed to rest on the missing "Billearl," in whose company Jem was last seen, but as no evidence against him was forthcoming the coroner directed the jury to return an open verdict.
Tobias carried the fragments of the notes to the bank manager at Dudley, who recommended that they should be sent to the Bank of England in London, and there dissected and examined by an expert. Ultimately, after much delay, he recovered all his money save forty pounds, which it was supposed Jem had expended.
After an interval spent in discussing the merits of the case, and all the probabilities, at the "Cock and Bottle," the Dudley workmen returned to Madeley Court and fixed the pump, which soon laid the bottom of the shaft dry.
Tobias then recovered both the steel gins, and brake them in pieces on his anvil. In so doing a fragment flew from beneath the hammer and gave him an ugly wound on the forehead, which laid him up for a week, during which period Mr Perkins came over from Dudley with Zeeb and heard the curious tale and the surmises as to why Jem Ritson had returned to meet his fate. Tobias was satisfied there had been a special interference of Providence on his behalf, and was inclined to be jubilant, but his theory as to the poacher's having revisited the place in order to repossess himself of the gins did not find favour with the shrewd Zeeb at all.
" I think Ritson was after something else, father," he said. "The thing is mysterious. Dr Ferrier said that there has always been a legend that there was some kind of treasure buried in the shaft. Perhaps Jem Ritson heard such a rumour, and was led to go in search of it."
That evening Bill Earl returned to the neighbourhood, and appeared unconcernedly in public. He had read the report of the proceedings at the inquest, and saw that he was in no way implicated.
Beyond the fact that he had left the public house with Jem Ritson, and had absented himself for some days, nothing was stated to connect him with the death of the poacher or the attempt at plunder. His presence in the village, however, excited the suspicion of his former crony Ned Styles, who had first discovered the hiding-place of the old oak cask at the bottom of the shaft. Ned knew of no way to get at it except by descending the steps from the crypt, and imagined Jem Ritson had gone down that way and fallen from the steps into the water. He rightly suspected that Earl had intended to share the plunder with Jem, and that he was now meditating a second raid on his own account. Ned therefore considered Earl was a traitor, and would have no further dealings with him. He decided that his safest plan would be to call on Tobias Miles and try to drive a bargain with him by offering to communicate the secret for a consideration.
When Ned arrived at Madeley Court, Tobias was sitting, with a bandage round his head, in the dining-room. Perkins and Zeeb sat near, and the former had just been advising him to give up his quest for coal, as he was now of opinion that, if any existed, it would only be found at a great depth, and would involve a vast outlay to get at it.
Tobias was feverish from his wound and sick at heart. The recent excitement about Ritson had disturbed him greatly. His domestic arrangements were also aggravating just then, as two new servants had to be sought for, and, to crown all, came Perkins' chilling opinion.
" It's bin an unlucky investment from first to last, Mr Perkins," he said dolefully, "and I'm fearin' this is an unlucky 'ouse. Still, I don't like altogether giving up the 'ope of finding coal, and you admit there is still a possibility."
"Yes, a bare possibility," said the surveyor. "This is a very disturbed locality, geologically speaking, and as yet entirely unexplored for borings or pits. You can start a boring, but the rock I've seen just now is hard, and it will be costly to get a hole down to a point at which we can form a decided opinion. It may occupy you two years or more. To force such a thing too fast might involve disaster."
Just then Tobias' housekeeper came to say that a man named Styles wanted particularly to see him on important business.
"Go and see the man, Zeeb," he said peevishly, "and tell him I'm all. He was one of the men I had here getting the rubbish out of the shaft, and was an idle fellow. I suppose it's something fresh about that ruffian Ritson?"
Zeeb returned in a few minutes and said: "The man is very mysterious. He says, father, 'You'll be sorry, later on, if you don't see him at once.'"
Tobias imagined that Ned Styles had come to try and extort money from him on some pretext, as Jem Ritson had done.
"Tell him I'll give him in charge to the police if he comes here," he said angrily.
Zeeb presently came back laughing.
"I think the man is alittle drunk, father," he said; "he says he wants to tell you of buried treasure which you can lay your hands on if you are only civil and will do what he thinks is right and proper."
Tobias now rubbed his chin in serious cogitation. He had almost made up his mind, just then, to abandon the quest which had brought him to Madeley Court, where he had encountered so much vexation and annoyance. He knew it was likely he would make a loss in reselling the land and house and the large steam engine he had ordered, but still he hoped he would have enough money left to live on comfortably without worry. He was at a critical turning point in his life, when a feather-weight would affect his decision. He fancied Ned Styles might have something to tell him on the coal subject which had escaped the observation of Perkins.
"Let him come in, Zeeb," he said wearily, at length, " but tell him to be short with what he has to say, as my head is aching."
Ned Styles presently shanbled into the room, and deposited his fur cap on a chair.
"I tho'rt I'd see yer by yerself, Muster Miles," he said, speaking thickly, as, although it was early in the day, he had deemed it proper to "fortify" himself for this interview.
"This is my son, and Mr Perkins is here on my business," said Tobias. "If you've got anything to say that concerns me, they may as well hear it."
"Yes, Muster Miles, I've got summat to say as 'ull be worth money for yer to 'ear, and I expex to be properly paid for tellin' wot I knows on, as is on'y fair. That 'ere Jem Ritson and Billearl tho'rt to nobble it for theirselves, and that's w'y Jem was drownded. Now, let's agree on a fair sum, as between man and man -- say yer 'ull give the value of a third on't to me and I'll putt yer in the way o' seein' it before yer dinner."
"You are not in a fit state to go down the shaft just now, Ned," said Tobias, "and it strikes me you 'ad better go 'ome, and come back when you're sober if you've got anything to tell me."
"I'm sober enough to go anyw'eres, Muster Miles," said Ned with contempt, "and ef yer sez done -- done it is in two twos."
Tobias looked suspiciously at the man for a few seconds and again grasped his chin.
"You see, Ned, I'm not well enough to go down the steps to-day," he said. "I've been down oftener than I liked lately, and the sight of the water makes me sick when I remember wot I last saw in't."
"Yer needn't go down yerself at all," said Ned Styles. "I'll go down wi' the young lad 'ere and show 'im wot I knows on, but yer 'ull 'ave to gimme a scrap o' writin' fust, as between man and man."
" I've 'ad bother enough with one man drowning himself," said Tobias, "and I don't want to be worried with any more inquests. Do as I tell you. Go home and sleep off your liquor, then come back to-morrow and tell me wot you want."
"I'm no more drunk than you are," said Ned in anger. "I've on'y 'ad three 'arf pints. You're jest 'umbuggin' o' me, as yer did wi' the men as 'ooked up Jem Ritson for yer. Will yer gimme twenty pounds ef I putt yer up ter trap?"
"What trap?" asked Tobias.
"The trap w'ere the treasures is stowed. Yer 'ull nivvur find it ef yer don't, but others may when next yer back's turned."
"I told you to go," said Tobias, rising to his feet. "If you don't go at once I must ask this gentleman 'ere to help me to put you out."
"You had better go for to-day, my man," said Perkins. "You see that Mr Miles has had a hurt and is unwell."
With this the speculative Ned Styles slowly departed, feeling that he had played his cards badly and reaped no profit from the information he had been led to communicate. When he had gone, Tobias said: "There's something valuable 'idden down there which these chaps 'ave discovered. That's wot Jem Eitson was after. He knew of the outside entrance to the adit, but didn't know that the shaft had been cleared out, and so fell into the water, which was just deep enough to drown him."
Tobias deemed it best to say nothing of the share the gin had had in the matter. He rightly surmised that Jem might have escaped with his life but for that accessory. Perkins here suggested that he should descend the shaft with Zeeb and explore the rocky sides, wherein alone, he thought, anything could be concealed. Zeeb gladly seconded the proposition, and went away to get the lamps ready.
"I've made up my mind, Mr Perkins," said Tobias in his son's absence, "that if anything worth having is found down there I'll accept it as a good omen and go on with the boring. It may be a lucky shaft after all, like 'Naylor's find' at Kingswinford, as it's said was revealed to 'im in a dream when he'd a'most spent his last shilling."
" I never heard of that miraculous dream," said Perkins. "You ought to have dreamt about this treasure if there's any. That man seemed pretty sure of it."
In half-an-hour after Zeeb came running back to his father and said: "We've found it, father. There is a hollow place cut out in the solid rock, just below and behind the steps, which was cunningly concealed with blocks of stone. One of them was probably knocked out by the workmen and loosely put in again. I am to take down a pick to Mr Perkins to open the place up."
" I'll go with you," said Tobias in great excitement, forgetting his illness. "Perhaps, after all, the Lord means to recompense me for what I've 'ad to suffer at the 'ands of these sons of Belial."
Zeeb carried down a miner's pick to Mr Perkins, whilst Tobias brought a small crowbar and another lamp, and watched the surveyor with eager interest as he prised out the blocks of sandstone which formed a thin wall shutting off a little cave in the rock from the cylindrical inner surface of the shaft. The space revealed was not more than a yard high and a yard deep, and was apparently filled with a mouldering oaken tub like a stout beer cask. The hoops had partly fallen off or burst, and the staves were open at the joints, but the cavity in the rock was dry.
"We must be cautious in dealing with this," said Perkins. " The cask is like tinder, and if we touch it the contents may fall out into the water."
"I'll go for a couple of sacks," said Zeeb, as he fled back again up the steps. When he returned, Perkins was carefully extracting some tarnished metal articles which had apparently been wrapped in some material which was now decayed and fell off in shreds. Zeeb carried up as much as he safely could in one of the sacks, and spread the contents on the table in his father's room, speedily returning for another and another load. At the end of an hour the whole of the contents of the singular cache was removed -- the last find being a small copper vessel like a cooking pot filled with old silver coins, which Tobias Miles took charge of. Perkins carefully searched amidst the dust and rubbish in the little cave to see that nothing remained behind, and then clambered up the steps after Tobias, very dusty and tired from his exertions.
They then proceeded to examine the treasure trove, which consisted of a number of curiously wrought silver articles such as are used in celebrating the Mass -- several weighty candlesticks, in pieces, two crozier heads, some finely chased tankards and dishes, salt cellars, spoons, and strangely fashioned things of the uses of which they could form no idea. The silver was black with age, and Perkins surmised that it would be of more value on account of its design and antiquity than for its weight.
Zeeb wrote out an inventory from his master's dictation, and as it was deemed unsafe to keep so much valuable property in a lonely unprotected place like Madeley Court, Tobias had the whole packed in a strong box and forwarded, in Zeeb's charge, to the bank at Dudley. He presented Mr Perkins with one of the chased cups, and cheerfully told him to make arrangements at once for commencing the boring.
"I shall sell all this lucky find at once," he said, "and spend the money in searching for the coal. I daresay some man who deals in such things may give five 'under'd pounds for the lot, coins and all."
" They mayn't be worth so much," said Perkins. "I recommend you to have them examined by an expert before you offer them for sale."
When Ned Styles returned to Madeley Court next morning, Tobias sarcastically reminded him that if he had, as he stated, made a discovery of treasure in the shaft, his first duty was to have informed his employer, in which case he might have been rewarded, but now he, Tobias Miles, was disinclined to have anything further to say to him, beyond recommending him to ponder well on the fate that had overtaken Jem Ritson and repent him of his equally dishonest intentions.
"Jest stow all that, you ode 'umbug," said Ned. "You've bin down, I s'pose, and ferrited it out, and now yer means to cheat me o' the reward you promised me."
"I promised you nothing," said Tobias, "and if I catches you round 'ere again I'll give you into custody for conspiring with others to rob me."
" Then I'll be revenged on yer some day," said Ned as he strode away muttering curses.
In a week the agent of the "rock-boring " company arrived on the scene and made arrangements with Tobias to commence operations in the bottom of the shaft. Miles was to supply the power from his engine, and agreed to assist in many ways. In a fortnight after the work commenced, and Tobias was in high glee as he saw the strange boring tools lowered into the shaft. He repeated to himself many comforting texts from songs of rejoicing in the Old Testament, and worked with great energy from dawn to dewy eve. So long as he had some active, arduous work on hands he was always contented and happy.
Tobias' happiness lasted barely a month. At the end of that period he was startled one morning at the receipt of a letter from Mr Ferrier's solicitors informing him that it had come to the knowledge of their client that he, Tobias Miles, had recently recovered certain valuables and money from beneath the crypt of the chapel at Madeley Court and appropriated same to his own use, such "treasure trove" being the property of Robert Ferrier, as " Lord of the Manor," and otherwise especially secured to him by clauses in ancient title deeds. The lawyers demanded restitution of the articles forthwith, and in the event of a refusal they intimated that legal proceedings would ensue.
They frequently heard from Paul at Algiers, and were much interested in his account of the treatment of Dr Hafiz, which in about six weeks was entirely successful in relaxing the stiffened ankle joint.
It was in consequence of a letter from Mrs Weston that news of the discovery of the treasure reached Mr Ferrier. She had heard of it from Zeeb, and thought it would interest Paul, and so mentioned it when writing to congratulate him on recovering the free use of his limb. Paul inadvertently told his father, who for some weeks past seemed to have forgotten the existence of Tobias Miles.
"He has no right to keep any 'treasure trove' of the kind," said the old gentleman in an angry tone." In an ordinary case it would belong to the Crown, but in the original grant of Madeley Court to Simon Challoner all 'finds' of the kind are especially included with the right to the underground minerals. There is no doubt that at the date of the grant there was good reason to think the abbot had secreted property of some value in the house, and if this nailer fellow has accidentally discovered it he must be made to give it up, because if I do not assert my claim to it now it may affect the question of the ownership of the coal if there is any below ground. It is always a dangerous thing to allow an illegal precedent to be set up. Besides, these ancient ecclesiastical curiosities should properly be placed in some local museum."
" I hope you won't raise any legal question with Miles over such a small matter," said Paul. "I learn that he has had a lot of worry lately. A man was drowned in the old shaft, and an inquest was held, at which he was greatly badgered by the coroner, who seemed to think he was in some way or other responsible for the accident."
"From whom did you hear all this?" inquired Mr Ferrier.
"I have heard of it from Mrs Weston, the lady who took so much care of me when I met with the accident. She naturally has been anxious to know how I get on, and now and then gives me a few particulars about events in the old house where I was an inmate for some weeks."
To this Mr Ferrier vouchsafed no immediate reply. He paced rapidly round the gallery of the inn, with his hands behind his back, for half-an-hour and then dashed off a few lines to his law agents in London, who promptly communicated with Tobias Miles to the effect we have seen.
Shortly after this Mr Ferrier and Paul took leave of Dr Hafiz and his wife, with both of whom they had become very friendly. Mr Ferrier liberally remunerated them for their skilful treatment of his son, with whom he set out for England. He made no further open objection to Paul's announced intention to pursue the medical profession, but straightway took up his abode at Madeley Hall, and set himself to the task of restoring order amongst the inmates and filling up the vacancies. The "wrangler" cook had retired, and the "rotation" system of cooking had been introduced, but as yet with uncertain results. Paul entered himself as a student at the Central Hospital in Birmingham, under the wing of the eminent surgeon who had formerly attended him at Madeley Court, and set diligently to work to prepare himself for the requisite examinations of the medical faculty in London. He sometimes saw Oreb Miles at Birmingham, and was sorry to hear that his father had been advised to contest Mr Ferrier's claim to the treasure, inasmuch as the question of his free right to work the minerals, if any were discovered, seemed in some way to be involved. The question was so complicated, Oreb said, that two experienced lawyers to whom it had been submitted had given contrary opinions, but still his father had adopted the one which recommended him to contest Mr Ferrier's claim. It appeared that the articles in dispute were found not to be value for half what his father had imagined they were worth, but the mineral rights could not be valued at all, because Mr Ferrier might fix an excessive royalty if his contentions were just in law. His real intention, it was feared, was to prohibit Tobias Miles from establishing a colliery in the neighbourhood, and, if possible, compel him to quit the place.
Although Oreb was very civil to Paul, and anxious to remain on friendly terms with him, he evidently looked on Paul's father as an unjust oppressor.
On hearing of this unpleasant state of things Paul journeyed to the manor house and attempted to mediate with his father, whom he found more than usually irritable. When Paul referred to the litigation he was abruptly told to mind his own affairs. Mr Ferrier said he had recently had exceptional trouble with the inmates of the Hall, and that in consequence there had been several changes, and he blamed Paul for his desertion of him at a time when he especially required assistance.
Paul offered to come over from Birmingham once a fortnight, but explained that he could not remain longer than a day, on account of the hospital work he had undertaken. To this his father answered curtly that, then, he might as well remain away altogether.
Just then Paul was obliged to speak to his father about money matters, on which subject up to the present time there had never been the slightest difficulty between them. Mr Ferrier had hitherto placed ample funds at his son's disposal, but ever since Paul had seriously applied himself to the pursuit of a profession, and taken up his residence at Birmingham, Mr Ferrier had not given him anything, and seemed to ignore the fact that his son had no private income of his own. Paul had now to pay fees and incur other expenses, and ventured to remind his father that he needed some money.
" It has pleased you, Paul, to adopt a course which you know is contrary to my wish," Mr Ferrier said with some bitterness. "I imagined that you had calculated on the cost of so doing before you decided on thwarting me, and I feel in no way bound to supply you with funds to carry out your intentions. If you will return here and assist me, then you can have what money you may require, as before. In fact, I shall at once ensure your future independence."
" I think, father, it will be better that I should try to earn my own living in the future," said Paul. "I believe I will shortly be in a position to to do so. Meanwhile I am dependent on you, and although it is painful to me to ask you for money, I am obliged to do so just now."
" It is very painful to me to refuse," said Mr Ferrier, "but I wish to be plain with you, Paul. Your taking to a profession when there is no necessity whatever is with an object in view which you know well I do not approve of. You want to marry the niece of this nailer fellow who is giving me so much trouble. I do not now object to your marrying in your own station in life, if it pleases you to do so, and I only hope you will be more fortunate than I have been. I shall in such case settle fifteen hundred a year on you, and make my will in your favour. I suppose I may assume that you have not been foolish enough to ask this girl to marry you? If you have done so, then I have nothing further to say. Marry her when you think fit, but expect nothing from me."
" I have not asked her," said Paul. "I think, father, you ought to see Miss Weston and her mother before you speak in this way. Your friend Mr Clement, whose opinion you respect, has seen them both."
"I have spoken with Clement already, Paul."
"Then surely you have received a favourable report from him?"
" Clement had but slight opportunity for forming an opinion. It is the connection with this man Miles I especially object to."
" Miss Weston cannot help that," said Paul. "She had no voice in that matter, or her mother either, but it is not likely that Mr Miles would trouble us much in the future. I am sorry I have had to undergo the humiliation of this conversation on a subject about which I must naturally be sensitive. Your sudden decision to throw me entirely on my own resources is, I think, rather harsh, but I must face it, and seek some employment until I can work my way to an income. I suppose I may take with me from here the instruments I purchased out of the liberal allowance you have hitherto made me? I admit that I want to sell them to pay medical fees and other necessary expenses."
"What are the microscopes worth?" Mr Ferrier asked.
"They cost over three hundred pounds, father, but I shall probably only get two-thirds of that price for them. I am sorry to part with them, as they were carefully selected."
" I will purchase them from you at cost price," said Mr Ferrier. " I do not wish to deprive the associates here of their use. You will receive a cheque for three hundred guineas by next post. Just now I am busy perusing counsel's opinion, which I have had to take on these plaguy questions with your friend Miles. I fancy I can make it rather hot for him."
"I think it will be time enough to interfere with him when you learn that he has found the coal, father. He is only boring a deep hole at present, and the poor man finds the occupation a pleasant one. If you leave him in peace, he may never trouble you, and you will escape a lot of worry -- forgive me for presuming again to advise you. If he did find coal, it would enormously increase the value of your property; but I don't think he ever will, and ultimately he will be sure to sell the place and go elsewhere."
"And take his niece with him, I hope," said Mr Ferrier cynically. "Perhaps to find a husband elsewhere -- then I shall be quite satisfied."
To this Paul made no reply. There was an angry light in Mr Ferrier's eyes which warned him to remain silent. He knew that the nominal purchase of the microscopes was only a pretext which his father had adopted to furnish the funds asked for without openly appearing to retract from his ungracious resolution. Still, it was galling to a man at Paul's age to be so dealt with, and he decided to be very economical in future, so that he might not have to appeal to his father again; therefore, when he returned to Birmingham, he removed at once into cheaper lodgings, and gave up many small luxuries he had hitherto indulged in. He also diligently applied himself to his work in the hospital, so that in a few months he was appointed to a post of responsibility reserved for experienced assistants. Paul frequently saw Oreb during these months, and heard with sorrow of the progress of the litigation with his father, which it appeared was costly and vexatious. The attention of the solicitors to the Treasury had been called to the dispute, and they had set up a claim on behalf of the Crown, as they thought the wording of the clause in the original title deeds, under which Mr Ferrier claimed, was obscure.
" I wish my father had never found the old rubbish" said Oreb, "or ever seen Madeley Court. He has been in hot water ever since he went there."
Paul could not help thinking that Tobias Miles had begun his career at Madeley Court by proceedings which usually led to the sort of trouble indicated by Oreb's metaphor. He could not forget hie own sufferings, and loss of time and money, and was aware that his father had a lively recollection of them also, especially of the serious outlay in doctors' fees which had been incurred.
"I am afraid, Oreb, that any attempt of mine to interfere in the matter just now would be useless," said Paul; " but I hope it will make no difference between you and me. It is not for the value of the old silver my father is fighting -- there are questions behind that which time alone can solve."
"You have been very good, Dr Ferrier," said Oreb, "we all feel that, and we are thankful to you, but it does seem odd to me that when a man buys land he is not the owner of the coal under the land, if there is any. Nothing is said about it, one way or the other, in the deed conveying the land to my father."
" There are many odd things about land titles and mineral rights, Oreb, which come down to us from feudal times, and which few people who are not lawyers understand. It appears that even those gentlemen are not all of the same opinion. Doctors and lawyers often disagree. It was a fortunate thing for me on one occasion that the doctors did so. Have you heard lately from your aunt or your cousin?"
" Yes, I heard from them the other day. They are going into Moravia, to a place called Brunn, which is a manufacturing town like Manchester. The cloth dyers there are extensively using a process patented in Austria by Ruth's father, and, now that she can speak German well, she is going to look them up with my aunt, and so they will combine a little business with the pleasure of an extended trip. Ruth is clever in matters of business."
Oreb invited Paul to visit the engine factory where he was engaged, and there showed him in an unfinished state the large steam engine which his father had hastily ordered at a time when he was sanguine about the coal question.
"Father seems to have been rash and unfortunate about everything connected with Madeley Court," he said, "and all because he did not obtain proper advice at the outset. He would not engage a solicitor of his own, or ask Mr Perkins' opinion about the coal, lest the secret he imagined he possessed should leak out, and that then someone else would step in and purchase the place, which I heartily wish they had done. Now, he is spending a great deal of money in this boring, and he has had to pay a large sum on account of this engine, which may never be wanted. Still, he was in good spirits and busily occupied, working like a blacksmith, until this litigation began with your father. Zeeb has been over to see him lately, and says 'he is growing dispirited and melancholy.' He has got a curious idea that the ghost of that man Ritson haunts the place, and that he caused his death. He did not seem to trouble himself about it at the time, but now he says it prevents him from sleeping. You know he has had but little education, and believes that the spirits of men who have met a violent death return to haunt the place where they died. That ignorant man Ramsbottom has been over to see him, and I think has made him worse with his exhortations. It was he that supplied the gins, one of which injured you. It appears the other got hold of the old poacher when he tried to get into the shaft -- at least that's the story circulated by Jem Ritson's companions, one of whom had some quarrel with my father about the discovery of the treasure and is always sending him threatening letters. I think, Dr Farrier, that wound on the forehead my father gave himself was a more serious thing than we imagined. He is constantly passing his hand over it, as if he still suffered pain."
" It is probably only the association of ideas," said Paul. "If your father would see me when next I go over to Madeley I would try to find out what is the matter. He ought not to be left in that old house alone, because for a man of his peculiar ideas, and at his time of life, it may result in serious mental disturbance. A busy place like this factory is the proper place for him. I am told that he was at one time a foreman in a place like this."
" I am afraid he would not see you, on account of your father's proceedings," said Oreb sorrowfully, "I think he would willingly give up the things that were found, but he will not recognise your father's right to the coal if he finds it; that is the real question which is disturbing his mind. The railway people ought to have told him that in selling him the land they were not selling him the right to the minerals beneath, if there were any,"
"But, you see, Oreb, no one imagined there was any coal beneath -- excepting your father, and he fancied he was getting the advantage of his superior knowledge."
Just then Paul was leaving the gateway of the factory, and about to take leave of the unhappy Oreb. He happened to look across the street, and saw some billstickers engaged in fixing a huge poster on a hoarding. They had got the heading pasted up, which announced the arrival of Dixon's Circus and Menagerie. In a few minutes the whole of the poster was displayed, showing a coloured picture representing a young woman in a large cage with a number of lions, who were taking flying leaps through a hoop she held aloft.
"That's Betsy," said Oreb. "The circus will be open this evening, and she is to appear in a cage with the lions; but there are only two at present, the others are imaginary."
"Let us go and see the performance," said Paul; "it will cheer you up a bit, Oreb. I also want to see Jocko again. I suppose he is there still?"
"Yes, Jocko is there, and is cleverer than ever."
Paul invited Oreb to dine with him, and afterward they adjourned to the place of amusement where they found that the menagerie had been lately enlarged. The procession on the present occasion represented the Invasion of Tamerlane, in which the whole troupe of male and female performers took part. The lady Tartars, being assumed to be of a warlike nature, rode to battle, in shining tin armour, with the masculine warriors. Oreb discovered Betsy among the horsewomen, skilfully managing a fiery steed. There was no jumping or standing on saddles, but a good deal of complicated movement of groups of horses, and she had learned to take her part in this sort of performance. Miss Rorke commanded the female section of riders, and made the splendid black horse she rode kneel before Tamerlane, who was conspicuous by reason of an enormous moustache and a huge curved scimitar.
"That Betsy is a wonderful girl," said Oreb. "I think she has courage enough to attempt anything, Look at the way she manages that restive horse and makes him waltz round. She is a good girl too. She is supporting the whole of her family at Dudley."
"She is a splendid instance of what may be done with a really honest, kindly nature by a little guidance and help," said Paul. "It your cousin had not taken her in hand, Oreh, I am afraid Betsy's courage would have led her in the wrong direction. She might have become a violent virago, such as you see every day here in the streets, and perhaps at last made acquaintance with the inside of a prison."
"Ruth does not like her taking to lion-taming." said Oreh. "I believe she has written to Mrs Dixon about it. Perhaps that is the reason Betsy is trying her hand at horsemanship, but to to do any good she should have begun when young."
When Tamerlane had withdrawn his gorgeous cavalcade there was a slight pause, and then Miss Rorke's black charger dashed into the ring, over the barrier, with that lively young lady tied on his back in the character of Mazeppa. The animal careered round the ring several times and then leaped over bars held by the clowns at points in the circle, with Kitty lying extended on his back. At the last jump, just opposite to where Paul and Oreb were sitting, one of the bands by which Kitty was held on suddenly shifted and she fell between the horse and the wooden barrier of the ring. There was a loud outcry amongst the spectators, who feared the horse would trample on the poor girl as he came round again.
Paul sprang over the low harrier, caught her up in his arms, and in a moment, was surrounded by the clowns and attendants, all eager to render assiatance. The ringmaster had stopped the horse by a dextrous cut with his whip across its chest, and then hurried up to ascertain what injurs Kitty had received. She had fainted, and Paul begged him to bring some water, with which Betsy soon appeared on the scene in great alarm, and recognising Paul, said to tye bystanders "It's Dr Ferrier. Let 'im come inside and see if Miss Rorke is much hurt."
They bore poor Kitty to her dressing-room, and laid her down on a couch. Betsy held her in her arms whilst Paul bathed her temples with water. She soon recovered consciousness, and began to weep hysterically.
Mrs Dixon now appeared, and having ascertained from Paul that none of Kitty's bones were broken, and that she had only received a severe shock and some conclusions, desired that she should he taken at once to Sam Dixon's house, which was near to the circus, and there seen to by Mrs Dixon's own medical attendant.
Betsy asked permission to go with her friend, promising to return in time for the performance with the lions in the menagerie.
"Come and see Jocko by-and-by, Dr Ferrier," she said. "I'm sure he will know yon again. I'll put Miss Rorke into bed and then come back in a hurry. Miss Rorke," she whispered in Kitty's ear, "this is Dr Ferrier as I've often told you about. 'Twas he picked you up in the ring and has brought yon round."
"I suppose you are a medical man?" said Kitty to Paul.
" Well, I am only a beginner, Miss Rorke. I am an assistant at the Central Hospital here, and I am glad we had not to take you there. You will probably be all right in a few days if you remain quietly in bed."
"I jest wanted to know" said Kitty, sobbing, "because I'd not like anyone but a doctor to see me all draggled and wet like this. I am afraid I look a fright with my hair down and my face smeared with tears and paint."
"You should be thankful its no worse, Miss Rorke. I thought at first you were killed."
I'd rather be dead than disfigured or crippled so as I couldn't ride again," said Kitty. "I've 'ad many a bad fall, but never before in such a tight place, between the boss and the ring. It wasn't the hoss's fault, though -- some strap or a buckle gave way in the surcingle. Betsy tells me it was you that picked me up, and I'm thankful to you."
"Yes, I was afraid the horse would come round again and trample on you."
"Circus bosses never do that. They know better. I guess you found me a light weight?"
"Very light indeed."
"That's what saved me-- I'm just as light as a bag of feathers. I wish you'd call at Mother Dixon's to-morrow and prescribe something for me to put a little flesh on my bones."
"Miss Rorke," said Betsy, intervening, "Mr Dixon is waitin' outside the door, and there's a lot of our people as is wantin' to see you, and time is slippin away. I'm fearin' I'll be called directly."
"All right, my guardian angel. You and the young doctor here had better carry me out and hand me over to Sammil like a damaged bale of goods. Where's Mother Dixon gone to?" " She went 'ome in a hurry, Miss Rorke, to get your room ready, and to fetch her own doctor to see you. She thought that p'r'aps you may be more hurt than you think in your inside."
"I daresay I am, but you must come to see me too." she said to Paul; "and don't let Mrs Dixon's old doctor give me a lot of physic. I know his ways of old."
They carried little Kitty out and placed her in an invalid chair, by the side of which Sam Dixon stood waiting with his watch in his hand.
"Is she much hurt?" he anxiously inquired of Paul in a whisper.
"I think not, Mr Dixon, but a good deal shaken, and likely to be laid up for a while. She is a wonderfully plucky girl."
A number of the members of the circus troupe pressed round to take Kitty's hand in turn. She was evidently a great favourite, and several of the women were crying. Sam Dixon filled out a glass of wine and held it to her lips. "I'm glad to hear there are no broken bones, Kitty," he said. "You'll be all right, old girl, after a week's nursing. We will have no more of that Mazeppa business; you know I never liked it. Our vet will take you over to my house with Miss Jecks, who is a good nurse. Betsy is wanted just now in the menagery."
"I'll be 'ome before eleven, and I'll sit up wi' you to-night, Miss Rorke," Betsy said as Kittv was borne away; then she hastened off to assume a curious dress, representing a kind of red and green scale armour, which Samuel had designed as the proper costume for a female lion-tamer.
Paul made his way round to the menagerie through the stables, and had frequently to stop and answer inquiries about Miss Rorke from the grooms, who adored the daring little equestrienne who had done so much to raise the fame of the circus and was known to be so kind-hearted to others when hurt. He was astonished to find so much real sympathy amongst a class of men who are generally looked on as rather destitute of feeling.
" There ain't a female rider as comes a-nigh her out o' Lunnon," said one of the grooms, who held a long web band in his hands. "It was the tongues o' them two buckles as guv out and let her down," he said, holding up the broken articles. "That cuss Tubbs was told to take 'em to a harnessmaker's yesterday and forgot it. He's 'ad the sack twice, but Miss Borke begged the guvnor to take 'im on again. She 'adn't a chance of 'olding by the hoss's mane, you see. 'cos o' lyin' on her back."
Paul found Oreb in the menagerie, waiting for him at Jocko's cage and talking to Tom Jones about the late accident. Jocko was dressed for some performance in the ring which had been 'cut out' in consequence of Betsy's absence in attendance on Miss Rorke, and was restlessly peering through the bars of his cage in search of his mistress.
"He knows when his time is come to go in wi' Betsy, as well as any on 'em." said Jones. "She taks 'im 'ome to Mrs Dixon's 'ouse ivery Saturday night to spend Sunday in the garding climin' trees. He don't want to be told the day o' the week, 'ee don't, but 'ee don't like to see Betsy in the lions' cage opposite. You'll see how fidgety he'll be jest now."
Paul turned to look at the large lions' cage at the opposite side, and saw that a number of people were taking seats, which were arranged in a semicircle in front of the cage, so he hastened across with Oreb to secure good places.
Sam Dixon soon appeared and made a short introductory speech, describing the two lions as exceptional creatures of great gentleness, brought up from infancy on a diet specially devised to eradicate all ferocity. He pointed to a large dark lion in the end compartment of the same cage as an illustration of the savage character of such animals when fed on meat, and begged the audience not to be alarmed when they beheld "Miss Bettina " in the cage with the two well-behaved lions he had described, who were then quietly lying down, licking their paws.
As Sam Dixon concluded a small door was opened in the side of the cage and Betsy marched in, clad in her singular dress, with a whip in her hand, and straightway commenced to put the two fine animals through the tricks she had taught them. They seemed glad to see her, and readily leaped through a hoop and over her head, and then lay down so that she might sit on their backs and open their mouths to show their teeth to the spectators.
The dark lion in the adjacent compartment could see all that went on in the cage, and at one moment thrust his great paws through the bars and snarled. Betsy approached and struck him sharply on the mouth with her whip, on which he withdrew his paws, but snarled all the more. He kept out of reach of the whip during the remainder of the performanre, but was evidently hostile, as he never took his glowing eyes off Betsy, who left the cage sooner than usual on this occasion. She came in front and spoke a few words to Paul and Oreb before she hurried away to Kitty's bedside.
"I'm sorry you didn't see Jocko in his new part as I've taught 'im," she said. "He comes inter ring dressed as a little sojer, and fires off a small gun and beats a drum and does lots o' funny tricks."
"I hope you will keep out of reach of that dark lion's claws, Betsy," said Paul. "He ought to he in a separate cage."
" He's a bad 'un, 'ee is," said Betsy, "and I don't know w'y ever Muster Dixon bought 'im; but we've no other place to put 'im in. I hope you'll come again soon, Dr Ferrier. I've a lot to tell you 'bout Jocko as you'll like to hear."
"Miss Rorke has 'ad a restless night," she said. "Miss Jecks, who shares her lodgings, was with her part of the time, and Betsy the remainder, and our doctor has just called, and I am sure will be glad to see you if you can wait."
Paul said he would wait to hear the doctor's report.
"We have 'ad but few mishaps at the circus," she continued. "Sammil is so careful, and never keeps a hoss as bites or kicks, but Miss Rorke is always goin' in for something out of the regiar line, and persuades Sammil to give in to her."
Paul said he had heard of Miss Rorke's ambition to excel others in her vocation.
"You see, Dr Ferrier," Mrs Dixon continued, "Kitty is an excitable girl, always full of life and spirits when she is well and able to ride, and down-'arted whenever the least thing 'appens to lay her up for a few days. She set her mind on doing 'Mazeppa' because of the fuss they are making over an American woman who is performing at Astley's in London, as I hear lots of foolish young 'swells' wants to marry, and I'm told has been married twice already. Sammil didn't like it, as being so risky on a bare-backed 'oss, but Kitty wheedled 'im into letting her try. I am afraid she won't be able to ride again for some time. 'She's got no stamina,' the doctor says. and won't drink stout, which 'ud be good for her. Kitty only drinks tea, and eats no more than a midget, so her living oughtn't to cost her much, and yet I know that she doesn't put by anything out of her good salary. Someone elsewhere is spending it, and she's just a silly little goose to let 'em. She won't say who it is when I ask her. She used to be rather extravagant in dress when first she came, but that's all over. Kitty will wear a dress now until it's threadbare, and turn it herself."
"Can there be a good-for-nothing husband in the background?" Paul inquired.
"No, Miss Rorke was never married, although she has 'ad chances enough amongst our people. We lost two good 'riding-masters' -- that is two of the well-dressed men that keep in the centre of the ring with long whips -- because Kitty wouldn't 'ave either of 'em, although I think she encouraged one of 'em a little. I never could make her out, but she is a good girl, though fond of being admired for her riding and her pretty figure, as is only natural with female hartists -- but she's growing thinner and thinner. It's my opinion she is fretting about something."
Just then Mrs Dixon's medical man, who was a portly elderly gentleman, entered the room rubbing his large soft hands together.
"We are doing nicely, Mrs Dixon," he said, "considering what has happened, but our little friend is very unhappy at the idea of remaining in bed for a couple of weeks. Please let me have a sheet of paper. I want to make an alteration in her medicine."
"Dr Benson," said Mrs Dixon, "this is Dr Ferrier, the gentleman who picked up Miss Rorke and carried her out of the ring."
"Glad to see you, sir," said Dr Benson. " You are in the medical profession I presume?"
Paul modestly explained his present position, and asked a few questions as to the condition of the patient, upon which Mrs Dixon discreetly withdrew.
"I can say nothing positively for a few days," said Dr Benson. "She has had some bruises, and very likely a slight concussion of the spine, but the young woman is more depressed than I should expect to find in such a case in her profession. I have treated her before for some simple contusions, and she always made light of them. These circus ladies think little of such things as a rule. Thay are wiry and muscular, and learn to fall without receiving much damage, like indiarubber balls." With this the elderly doctor retired, promising to look in again in the evening, and evidently taking but slight interest in the case.
Presently Betsy appeared and said: " Miss Rorke 'ud like to see you, Dr Ferrier. She is in low spirits because that old doctor has been tellin' her she won't be able to ride for a long time,"
Paul did not like interfering in a case where a medical man was already in attendance, but followed Betsy upstairs, where he found Mrs Dixon seated by Kitty's bedside. The poor girl's eyes were red with weeping, and she looked anxious and depressed.
"I'm telling Kitty to have more patience," said Mrs Dixon. "If she goes on worritin' herself she won't get any sleep, which, in my opinion, is better for her than all the medicine in the world. Sammil won't give her place to anyone else, and she can stay here and welcome as long as we remain in town, which will be for over a month yet. She has got Betsy to nurse her and help to cook her food properly. What more can she want?"
"Dr Ferrier," said Kitty, "would you ask one of the best of the doctors at the hospital to come and see me? I want to be made well soon."
"Yes, Miss Rorke, I'll ask one of them who is a friend of mine to meet the gentleman who is attending you at present."
"He only frightens me," said Kitty. "I want soon to be well and able to earn my salary. I can't expect Mr Dixon to pay me when I'm not riding to bring in money."
"You know, Kitty, that Sammil always pays half salaries when anyone is hurt," said Mrs Dixon.
"Yes; your husband is always very kind, but I want to be made well soon, so as to be able to ride. He can't keep my place long vacant."
Paul was looking intently in Kitty's face whilst she spoke to Mrs Dixon, and fancied he saw an expression in it like that of a hunted animal. He concluded that there was some special cause for her anxiety to resume her position at the circus. As he went downstairs he met Betsy ascending with some food for her friend.
"I want to speak to you, Betsy." he said. "Come down again for a moment." Betsy straightway followed him into the hall.
I want you to find out for me what is troubling Miss Korke," he said. "She has something serious on her mind, and it will hinder her recovery."
"Yes, there's summat as troubles her," said Betsy gravely, "but it isn't anything as is her own fault. She is worritin' herself 'bout others. It's her mother, as I'm fearin' is a bad 'un. Miss Rorke was talkin' to herself in the night and tellin' her mother to keep away, but p'r'aps she'd not like me to speak on't?"
"You should ask her to tell Mrs Dixon, who is a kind, sensible woman," said Paul.
"No, she'd not tell Mrs Dixon if it was a thing she thought 'ud disgrace her," said Betsy. "But she might tell you, Dr Ferrier -- most folks 'ud trust you, I think -- and p'r'aps you could 'elp her to a way out of her trouble, if there is a way. Some troubles never ends till those as causes 'em is dead. I'll speak to Miss Rorke when Mrs Dixon leaves her and tell her what you say."
" Have you ever seen Miss Rorke's mother, Betsy?" Paul inquired.
"Yes, I see'd her when we was at Leamington, where I think she lives now. She came to the circus and wanted to see Miss Borke, to get money from her. I got her into a cab, as if to go and find her daughter at her lodgings, and drove 'er to a p'leece-stashun. I'm fearin' the circus folks thought she was my own mother, as is in 'Eving. I never told Miss Rorke, but I think she knows on't, and that's why she's bin so good to me."
"The mother was drunk, I suppose?" Paul said.
"Yes, very drunk and mad. She tried to bite me when she saw where she was took, but she's never come again to the circus."
"It's a miserable thing, Betsy. Tell Miss Rorke I would gladly help her if I knew how, and comfort her all you can."
Paul slowly walked away thinking of the sad story he had just heard. Each week brought some similar tale to his ears in connection with the outdoor work of the hospital, which he had frequently to undertake. He often had to witness a class of misery for which there seemed to be no earthly remedy. To cure the craving for drink, when once it had got firm hold of a woman, was, he knew well, almost a hopeless task. He had seen many homes of industrious mechanics made desolate and wrecked when the wife fell under the influence of drink. He thought of Betsy's keen observation, -- "Some troubles never ends till those as causes 'em is dead." That was his own opinion. Death alone could bring relief in such cases, for which the law provides no remedy: the compulsory restraint of dipsomaniacs was then, and is to this day, but a dream of the philanthropist. Paul remembered the look on poor Kitty's face, and guessed that she was thinking with dread of the disgrace which would ensue from the advent of her degraded mother if she could not keep her at bay by remitting her a large part of her salary each week; but he did not know as yet the full extent of Kitty's anxiety. He heard later on from Betsy, who had been commissioned by Kitty to inform him of what she could not bring herself to speak of, that the little circus rider had a younger sister whom she had placed at a boarding-school when her mother's habit became continued, and that the wretched woman constantly threatened to take the child away and make her work for her and live with her.
Paul was glad to learn that evening from the hospital surgeon who had visited Kitty, that her injuries were not in themselves very serious, but he said she was suffering greatly from nervous prostration, and had probably been in a state of extreme nervous tension for some time, and required complete rest and, if it could be managed, a trip to the seaside. Upon which Paul had again visited the menagerie, where he heard the further particulars of Kitty's trouble from Betsy.
"You must ask her to let me talk it all over with Mr and Mrs Dixon, Betsy," he said. "Something must be done at once to give her peace of mind -- no other medicine will do her good."
" She might 'low you to talk to Muster Dixon," said Betsy, "but she'd not like Mrs Dixon to know."
"Mrs Dixon seems to know a good deal about it already, Betsy. Try and persuade Miss Rorke to tell her all when you go home."
"Miss Rorke 'ud be afraid Mrs Dixon 'ud talk on't 'ithout thinkin' to some o' the other artises," said Betsy thoughtfully; "but if you could call on Sunday mornin', Dr Ferrier, and tell her what oughter be done, she might agree. Jocko 'ull be in the garding, and you'd like to see 'im climin' trees 'ithout a chain on 'im and comin' down direckly when I calls 'im. Miss Rorke 'ull see 'im out o' winder if it's fine, and it will do her good. Just come and talk to 'im a bit. When I feels like to cry 'cause o' Miss Rorke's trouble and other things I go and play wi' Jocko, and tell 'im all about it. When you're writin' to Mrs Weston you can tell her 'bout 'im. I s'pose you often write?"
"Sometimes, Betsy. I hope soon to see them back again."
"I 'ope they won't live no more with Muster Miles, who I hear is goin' queer in his 'ead along o' the death o' Jem Ritson, as was no great loss."
" No; I think they will live at Warwick, where their friends live."
Then you can often go to see 'em from 'ere, and p'r'aps they'd come to see me and Jocko. Don't yer think, Dr Ferrier, he's gettin' 'andsomer and cleverer? And see, he knows you, and wants to shake 'ands. I'll let 'im out and you can feel 'ow soft his fur is, 'cos I comb and brush 'im every day."
Paul tried to show renewed interest in Betsy's pet, who was so well cared for and intelligent, but his mind was preoccupied at the moment with serious thoughts.
"Jocko has no anxiety to worry him, Betsy," he said; "he is better off than a great many human beings."
"You're thinkin' of Miss Rorke's trouble," Betsy said.
"Of hers, and of some other cases like hers, that I know of."
"If her mother could be put in a 'sylum, or on a desert island where there 'ud be no public 'ouses, that might cure her," said Betsy. "It's 'cause there's such lots o' public 'ouses selling gin and spirits to women that there's so much trouble; or p'r'aps, if Miss Rorke's little sister was took from school and hid away somewhere else, so as the mother couldn't find her, then she couldn't frighten Miss Rorke by threatenin' to 'ave 'er 'ome -- that's the 'old she has on her. If Mrs Dixon 'ud tak the sister for a time, until the mother 'ud give up lookin' for 'er, that 'ud help a bit. It 'ud be worth 'er while, as Miss Rorke is such a favourite and draws folks to the circus. Mrs Dixon has no children of 'er own, and might get fond of the child, as Miss Rorke says is 'andsome."
Paul called next Sunday at Sam Dixon's and found the genial circus proprietor in the garden with Mrs Dixon, seated under one of the large elm trees, which was not far from the windows of the house. Paul inquired how Miss Rorke was getting on, and was glad to hear that she was better, and was now able to sit up for a little and look into the garden from her bedroom window. She was just then watching the antics of Jocko, who had climbed high up in the tree over their heads.
"Jocko will come down direckly when Betsy calls 'im to his dinner," Mrs Dixon said; "she is now in the 'ouse getting it ready."
Betsy presently appeared with a bowl and spoon, and a little basket of fruit, and said she was glad Dr Ferrier had come in time to see Jocko fed, because she particularly wanted him to see how good and clever he was. She placed the food on a table and sat down close by; then she called to Jocko, who was heard chattering merrily overhead, and soon appeared in sight on one of the lower limbs of the tree. Betsy made some private signal to him. and he immediately clambered down the trunk of the tree and sprang into her lap.
"Go and shake 'ands wi' Dr Ferrier first," she said, pointing to Paul. Jocko sprang to where Paul sat and presented his small hand, which Paul took. "Now, shake 'ands wi' Mr and Mrs Dixon, and thank 'em for a good dinner," Betsy continued. Jocko instantly obeyed, and gallantly stooped to kiss Mrs Dixon's hand, then bounded back to Betsy, who tied a napkin round his neck and handed him the spoon, with which he quietly fed himself from the bowl, carefully wiping his muzzle with the napkin when he had finished, and then looking wistfully at the little basket of fruit on the table, but not venturing to take any until Betsy selected some.
" One, -- two, -- three, -- four," she said, laying down four strawberries in a row on the table. "Now, Jocko, you can tak number three."
Jocko instantly clutched the strawberry representing number three and was patted on the head.
"Four," Betsy said. The ape straightway pounced on the fourth in order.
"Two," said Betsy, and number "two" was promptly seized and disappeared.
"Give Mr Ferrier number one," she said, again indicating Paul, whereupon Jocko took up the last strawberry, with a sad expression on his face, and slowly handed it to Paul, who returned it to him, when he straightway swallowed it and chattered his thanks.
"Now I'll tak 'im to see Miss Rorke, who'd like p'r'aps to give 'im the rest," said Betsy, extending her arm, up which Jocko rapidly climbed to her shoulder, whereupon she marched off with him and the fruit basket to the house.
"Isn't it wonderful?" said Sam Dixon, "and he's learned it all from Betsy, without a touch of a whip."
"Betsy 'ud give anyone something to remember who'd dare to use a whip to Jocko," said Mrs Dixon. "I believe she lies awake o' nights thinkin' on new tricks to teach 'im. She's that fond of him that she'd break her 'eart if he died."
"She seems to have some subtle influence over him and other animals," said Paul; "but I fear she will never be able to tame that dark-maned lion at the menagerie. You should get rid of him, Mr Dixon. He is dangerous."
"He is not to be tamed," said Sam Dixon. "He is the sinful example of ferocity, like the confirmed drunkard the temperance lecturer used to exhibit."
"Then I should put him in another cage," said Paul. "His bad example may corrupt the minds of the two well-behaved lions, and he may suddenly catch hold of Betsy as she passes the bars of the partition."
"Do 'ave another cage made for 'im, Sammil, or sell 'im to the Zoological Garding people," said Mrs Dixon earnestly. "If Betsy came to any hurt I'd never forgive myself for it, although 'twas her own wish to be a female lion-tamer. There's no danger with the two young lions she performs with, as we reared ourselves, and are always good-tempered and playful."
"Yes, I'll 'ave another cage made for 'im," said Sam. "I was took in about that lion by the man that sold 'im to me. He said he was only two year old, and now our vet thinks he's more'n six; but he's a grand beast, and 'tracts attenshun. Still, I'd be very sorry if he got the chance to put a claw through the bars on Betsy, as most folks is fond of. Here she comes again with Jocko."
Betsy carried the ape to a spot under the tree where a rope swing was dangling from a stout branch overhead.
"Now, Jocko, jump," she said; "you're to show Dr Ferrier 'ow yer can perform like Mr Pledge at the circus as you've bin watchin' so often wi' me."
Jocko sprang aloft and caught the trapeze, upon which he went through various clever antics, pausing occasionally to see if his performance was properly appreciated, and chattering to return his thanks when applauded. When tired, he again climbed aloft and sat on a large branch of the tree, to crack and eat some nuts which Betsy had thrown to him as a reward for good conduct.
Just then Paul saw a shabbily dressed woman approaching from a side path which led past the house from the external entrance gate. She wore a large faded velvet bonnet surmounted by an alarming bunch of artificial flowers, and had an old plaid shawl hanging from her shoulders, over a dark cotton dress, the skirt of which was frayed and mud stained.
Paul heard the window of the room from which Miss Rorke had been watching Jocko suddenly closed, and then the stranger addressed Mrs Dixon in a husky voice, with a trace of an Irish accent in it.
"I want to see me daughter, who I'm told is living here," she said. "I'm her mother, and I've heard that Kitty has met with a accident. It was in the newspapers. I've bin to her lodgings, and they sent me here."
"You can't see Miss Rorke just now." said Mrs Dixon decidedly. "The doctor has left orders that she is to be kept quiet in her room."
"I'll not disturb her more'n I can help, and you've no right, ma'am, to pervent me from seeing me own cheild. I've come a long way to see her, and I've no money to pay the railway fare home again to Leaminton, where I live."
"I'll pay your fare back," said Mrs Dixon, taking out some silver. "Here is five shillings for you; but Kitty must be left in peace. You can't see her while she is here. If you will go away quietly, I'll tell her you've called."
"I'll not go unless I see her. Five shillings is no good to me. I 'aven't had me dinner yet, and the fare is three-and-six."
"Betsy, you can get her something to eat in the kitchen," said Mrs Dixon, who was anxious to get rid of the wild-looking woman; "but don't let her go upstairs to disturb Miss Rorke on any account."
Upon which Betsy approached the woman, who had clutched the five shillings and put it in her pocket, but was still nervously twisting her claw-like hands.
" Come wi' me direckly, Mrs Rorke," said Betsy. "You've seen me before, I think, as you'll remember no doubt."
The woman scowled for an instant at Betsy, then suddenly sprang at her like a wild cat, with her talons well out in front to scratch Betsy's face, who quickly recoiled before the haggard fury, who had recognised her as the girl who had handed her over to the police on a previous occasion.
" Come, none of this, my good woman," said Sam Dixon, rising from his scat. Just then, and before ho could interfere, there was heard an angry scream from Jocko overhead. Paul glanced up and saw him swing himself from the trapeze straight on to the large bonnet the woman wore, in which he fastened his little fingers, tearing at the bunch of red flowers and scattering them right and left, while he chattered loudly in anger.
The woman turned and fled screaming from beneath the tree, carrying Jocko with her, perched on her head and shoulders, and still busy demolishing the bonnet.
Sam Dixon collapsed into his chair, purple with laughter, whilst Betsy, fearful for Jocko's safety, pursued Mrs Rorke to the gate and rescued her precious pet, then pushed the excited and terrified woman outside the gate and bolted it.
"He'll bite yer nose off' if yer comes inside o' gate again," said Betsy. "It's well yer didn't get yer 'ands on me or he'd 'ave killed yer. Miss Rorke sent yer five pounds last week as I knows on, 'cause I posted the letter for 'er. Wot 'ave you done wi' the money?"
"I had to pay me doctor and a bill for medecine," whined Mrs Rorke, who could see over the top rail of the gate, and was sadly contemplating the ruins of her bonnet.
"Yes, in course, most of yer med'cine comes from the public 'ouse, I'm thinkin', and yer doctor lives behind the bar. If ever yer comes inside this gate again I'll let Jocko loose at yer. He knows all about yer tricks."
"I'll poison the cursed divil, you see if I don't," shrieked Mrs Rorke, shaking her clenched fist at Jocko, who was clinging to Betsy with his arm round her neck, and panting with the excitement of his late encounter.
Just then Paul came to the gate on his way home. "
Listen to her, Dr Ferrier," said Betsy, half choked with indignation. "She is the wickedest woman in the world, and says she'll poison Jocko, as 'ud be a murder for which she oughter be hung. She should be thrown to our big lion at the circus, as 'ud scrunch her bones."
"Go back to Mrs Dixon, Betsy," said Paul, "and do not bandy words with this wretched woman, who, I think, has been drinking. You had better put Jocko to bed and let him sleep off his anger. Such excitement is bad for him. You can feel that his heart is beating too fast."
Paul held his hand on Jocko's heart, feeling the rapid pulsations, and endeavoured to soothe the excited animal, who looked round now and then at Mrs Rorke and showed his teeth. "He is very fond of you, Betsy," he continued, patting Jocko's head, "but he is a nervous creature, like your friend Miss Rorke, and must not be vexed, or he might have a fit and die in it, poor old fellow."
Mrs Rorke was gazing fixedly at Paul, and said as Betsy slowly retired with Jocko, into whose ear she was whispering words of consolation: "You seem to care more for the feelin's of a horrid brute like that than for a mother as wants to see her cheild. I heerd that pampered hussy calling you 'Dr Ferrier,' and I suppose you can tell me how me darlin' Kitty is doing?"
"She is doing well," said Paul; "but she must be left in peace, so you had better go home and wait until she is strong enough to see you."
"Are you any relashun to Mr Robert Ferrier, a lawyer who used to live in London?" asked the woman, drawing closer to the gate and scrutinising Paul's face. "You are like him anyway, and a hard man he was."
"I am his son," said Paul; "but I don't know you."
"I knew your mother well. I was nursemaid in your father's house when you were a baby. I was your mother's own maid after that, when she lived by herself."
Paul thought the woman was inventing a fable to induce him to give her a gratuity.
"Please to allow me to open this gate," he said with some feeling of annoyance.
Mrs Rorke had planted her arms on the top rail of the gate the better to look in his face, and seemed inclined to remain in that attitude.
"You don't believe me," she said, "I can see you don't, but I can satisfy you I'm speaking the truth. Your mother was a good friend to me before she took to religion so much and went abroad to join a sisterhood that receives married women if they have money."
Mrs Rorke said much more, but Paul strode out of hearing, and then at length she also departed, in the opposite direction, nodding her head and clenching her skinny hands.
Paul was engaged all that afternoon in his work at the hospital, and when returning to his lodgings in the evening, thinking of Mrs Rorke's singular utterances, but satisfied that the woman had invented the statement she had made, he suddenly came on Oreb and Zeeb walking towards the railway station from which the trains for Dudley departed. Paul turned and accompanied the two Midianites, who looked very grave, to the station, hoping to hear something of Ruth and Mrs Weston. It appeared that Zeeb had been lately at Madeley Court, and had come over to consult with his brother as to the state of things he found there.
"My father is very strange in manner, Dr Ferrier," Zeeb said. "These wretched law proceedings are worrying him. He got up a little coal out of that thin seam in sight to use with the engine, and he has been served with notice of an injunction by Mr Ferrier, who was immediately informed by one of the workmen. It was just enough to raise the question, but of no value in itself. He can't stop my father from going on with the boring, but I wish he could. It is costing a great deal of money, and I am now quite certain is a useless outlay, judging from the rock recently gone through, which grows harder and tougher every day, and is not in the least like any strata in the coal measures."
"Then they both seem to me to be fighting for a shadow," said Paul, "for rights which would be of no use to either of them if they possessed them, I wonder the courts entertain the matter at all. It's like two silly children quarrelling for a piece of the moon."
"But my father has been advised that, as the land was purchased by the railway company under an Act of Parliament, and resold by them to him, Mr Ferrier has no such rights as he now claims, of which he never gave the company notice. Still, I am afraid that as he has the longest purse he may ruin my father with costs in the end."
"I wish I could prevent that," said Paul. "Would your father see me if I went over? I might be able to arrange at least for a cessation of hostilities until they both know if there is anything worth fighting for, which I understand there is not."
"I am afraid he would not see you or listen to you, Dr Ferrier," said Zeeb. "He actually forbade us to talk to you if we met you, but you see we have rebelled."
"I am glad you had the courage to do that," said Paul. "We may yet have a chance to put an end to this strife if we pull together when it comes. I am a sort of outlaw from Madeley Hall at present, on account of the strained relations that exist, but I am thinking of going over to beard the lion in his den. Perhaps he has got tired of his own company, and will be glad to see me again. I'll venture to call on your father also. He can't eat me."
"But he may say something very harsh to you, Dr Ferrier," said Oreb. "Leave it to another time. None of us can do any good until something happens to give us the chance you speak of."
Just then there appeared to be a great commotion round one of the third-class carriages, and presently two porters appeared supporting under the armpits a woman whom Paul recognised as Mrs Rorke, who had invested most of the five shillings she had received from Mrs Dixon in a further supply of ardent spirits. She now fought vigorously against her forcible removal and made loud outcries.
Paul approached the porters and inquired as to the cause of the disturbance.
"This 'ere woman has a return ticket for Leamington," a porter said, "and she should a-bin at the other station, but she's bin drinkin' 'ere at the refreshment bar, where they oughtn't have served 'er, and she's quarrelsome. She's hit our inspector in the heye, and he's gone for a stretcher so as to send 'er comfortable-like to a p'leece-stashun."
Here Mrs Rorke furiously declaimed against the porter, and used exceedingly strong language, expressing an intense desire for the possession of his liver. When the stretcher was brought into view, she flung herself on the platform and shrieked louder than the neighbouring locomotive, but was finally strapped down and borne off to her destination.
Paul followed to the police-station and saw the officer in charge, whom he persuaded to place the wretched woman in a cell by herself, promising to call next morning and pay the fine which would be imposed and to see that she was safely deported out of town.
"I am afraid, sir, you'll have her often on your hands if you pay her fines," said the inspector. " I think she's one of the reg'lars, though she don't belong to this town. What's her name?"
"She has a respectable daughter in this town just now," said Paul. "One whom probably you know by reputation; but her name cannot be mentioned. Please to call this woman Eliza Smith on your charge sheet."
The inspector wrote down "No. 65, Eliza Smith, drunk and disorderly," and then turned to deal with case "No. 66, of the same class, who also seemed anxious to possess someone's liver."
Those who have travelled in the Austrian dominions in the summer and autumn will no doubt have observed a great number of invalids in the trains converging on the baths of Karlsbad, and amongst them are frequently to be recognised, by their peculiar dress, members of the various orders of nuns, always travelling in pairs, and holding but little intercourse with their fellow-passengers.
Ruth and her mother were placed in a compartment in which two of these ladies sat alone, both of whom appeared to be middle-aged women -- one of them was evidently suffering from illness, and looked pale and anxious. She seemed to breathe with great difficulty, and now and then her features were contracted as if by spasmodic pain.
Mrs Weston had received some letters from England at her hotel just before starting, and amongst them one from Zeeb, in which he described in dark colours the condition of his father at Madeley Court, which he attributed chiefly to mental worry caused by the oppressive proceedings of Mr Ferrier.
English people frequently forget that the foreigners in whose company they are travelling may perchance understand English. Mrs Weston, being under this impression, discussed Zeeb's letter with Ruth, and regretted that Paul should have been involved in any difficulty with his father by reason of the dispute with Tobias Miles, which fact Zeeb had mentioned as an additional proof of Mr. Ferrier's hardness.
Ruth happened to galance at the face of the invalid nun seated opposite to her, and saw that she was deeply interested in the subject of their conversation.
Her companion was trying to make out a time table in the fading light of evening, and paid no attention: in fact she only understood French and Flemish, and soon settled herself comfortably to sleep. The elder of the two nuns suddenly addressed Mrs Weston in English.
"I heard you speak of a Mr Robert Ferrier and of his son," she said, "do you know them well?"
Mrs Weston said she knew Dr Paul Ferrier, the son, very well, and the father only by reputation.
"I have not seen Paul since he was a little child; would you kindly tell me what he is like?" said the invalid.
Mrs Weston described Paul's personal appearance as well as she could, and mentioned his present occupation.
"Then he does not live with his father at present?"
"No, I believe not; but he lives not very far off. The father is said to have a peculiar hobby for establishing an order of secular monks in his house, and Dr Ferrier did not find the life a congenial one. He is a young man of great promise, and very social and amiable."
"And I suppose Paul has been educated as a freethinker, like his father?"
"He has enlightened views on subjects which are now freely discussed everywhere without reference to what is called Revelation," said Mrs Weston. "He is studying social problems in one of the great manufacturing centres of England, with a view, I think, to improving the condition of the industrious poor, and he is at the same time studying the practice of medicine. He wishes to lead a life of usefulness, and to earn his living in a profession for which he has special talents."
"You seem to be very much in his confidence," said the stranger.
"Yes; he often writes to me because he knows I take great interest in his welfare. He seems to have no female friends or relatives. May I ask your name, in order that I may tell him who has been making inquiries regarding him."
"He would not know me," said the strange lady sadly. "I am called Sister Frances, and I live at the convent of the order of the Dames de St Andre at Tournay. I am very ill, and am going to Karlsbad for the baths: but I fear I cannot go much farther."
Mrs Weston noticed that an ashen paleness bad overspread the face of the nun and that she gasped for air. Ruth hastened to produce some eau-de-Cologne and sprinkling some on a handkercliief, held it to her lips, whilst the companion nun slept peacefully close by.
Presently the train entered the station at Prague. "Please to awaken her," said the invalid, pointing to the sleeper. "We have to change here, I think."
Ruth aroused the companion, who bustled about vigorously collecting some parcels, talking volubly the while in bad French to the invalid, and urging her to alight speedily. Mrs Weston had already done so, and was trying to ascertain from a Bohemian porter in which direction to seek her luggage. Ruth saw that the invalid nun rose to her feet with difficulty, and seemed scarcely able to walk. She assisted her to alight from the train, which she did slowly and cautiously.
"I cannot go further," she said in a faint voice. "Would you kindly help me to a waiting-room?"
The companion came promptly to Ruth's aid, and between them they helped the invalid out of the hurly-burly. Then there ensued a discussion between the two nuns as to the possibility of proceeding, Sister Agatha urging with earnestness that Sister Frances should make an effort to do so, as arrangements had been made for lodgings at Karlsbad. Ruth was obliged to leave them, still engaged in the discussion, in order to rejoin her mother, who had secured the luggage and a carriage. Just as they were driving off, Sister Agatha appeared in tears, and appealed to them for aid, saying that her companion had fainted. Mrs Weston promptly returned with Ruth, and succeeded after some trouble in reviving the sufferer, who begged that she might be taken to an hotel for the night and not urged to travel further. She whispered a few words in Mrs Weston's ear which made the latter start with surprise, and then promptly to arrange for taking the suffering woman away with her to the inn where they had ordered rooms, leaving the brusque Belgian nun to follow in another vehicle with the baggage.
It seemed very doubtful whether the invalid would live through the night. She had frequent fainting fits, and seemed to suffer from heart spasms. Next morning Ruth heard from her mother that the lady in the dress of a nun had hurriedly stated to her at the railway station that she was Paul Ferrier's mother, of whom Paul had once spoken to her as having lived abroad, and apart from her husband, ever since he could remember, and of whom he knew almost nothing. Ruth had never previousiy heard of Mrs Ferrier, and imagined that single women only were admitted into the religious orders of the Roman Catholic Church. The poor woman looked so feeble and exhausted when seen next day that Mrs Weaton feared to ask her any questions which might cause her excitement The companion nun was a matter-of-fact sort of woman, and not very communicative; but they gathered from her that they had both been on a visit to a religious establishment in Styria, famous throughout Catholic Europe as a place where women suffering from mental trouble found peace and consolation, and where they also generally underwent severe bodily penance. Upon the hardy frame of Sister Agatha the penance seemed to have produced no particular effect, beyond that of increasing her appetite. She was of a phlegmatic disposition, and rather stupid, like the average Belgian peasant, but long vigils and fasting had told severely on the weak frame and highly-strung temperament of the emaciated Englishwoman, who for some obscure reason had adopted what is termed the "religious life."
It was found that there was no physician speaking French or English at Prague, and therefore, as Sister Frances, or Mrs Ferrier as we shall call her in future, did not speak German well, Ruth was obliged to interpret between her and the Bohemian doctor called in by the hotel proprietor, who was anxious that if possible the sick woman should be removed to one of the hospitals attended by the Sisters of Charity, lest she should die in the hotel and so cause extra trouble.
The doctor strongly recommended that the patient's friends should be communicated with at once, but refused to sanction her removal from the inn in her feeble condition, upon which Mrs Weston had a talk with Mrs Ferrier, and obtained her consent, to the dispatch of a telegram to her son in England, asking him to come and see her, if possible, before her decease. At the moment it appeared to Mrs Weston that that event was imminent: indeed she feared that Paul would scarcely be able to reach Prague before it occurred. She would have preferred to have written, but the urgency of the case seemed to require the shorter proceeding, although it was difficult to frame a message in terms which would explain the position in a few words, and also difficult at that period to get a message in English correctly transmitted by the Czech clerks in the telegraph office of the Bohemian capital, Mrs Weston wrote her message thus: --
This message on its arrival at Birmingham read thus: --
"To Dr FERRIER
"Accidentally met here a lady who says she is Mrs Ferrier, and I fear is dying. She desires to see you speedily."
The altered message, which is not by any means so altered in its wording as some we have received from the Kaiser's dominions, was delivered at the Great Western Hotel, Birmingham, and consigned to the receptacle for telegrams. It so happened that Paul's father arrived at the Great Western Station from Madeley on his way to London on the evening of the day when this telegram was delivered. He was going to London with reference to the proceedings against Tobias Miles, as he deemed the matter of sufficient importance to require his own attendance. He expected some message from his agents at the station hotel, where he frequently stayed on his passage through, and looked for it in the usual place. Having read the telegram, he was observed to be much moved, and then hurried away to catch his train.
"To Mr FERRIER
Western Hotel, Birmingham.
From HOTEL KAISER
"Accidentally met here by lady who says she is Mrs Ferrier, and fear is dying. She desires to see you speedily."
In London Mr Ferrier obtained the information that there was such an inn as the "Kaiser" at Prague, and telegraphed to the proprietor that he would leave at once for that city, signing the message "Ferrier."
That evening he crossed the Channel, and hurried, via Dresden, to Prague as fast as the train service permitted him to do. At Dresden he rested one night, and obtained the services of a courier acquainted with Prague and the Bohemian language, and in five days after he had left London he arrived at the hotel from which the telegram that had brought him thither had been dispatched a week previously. He had no idea that the message had been sent by Mrs Weston, or it is probable he would not have made the long journey, nor, if he could have prevented it, would he have allowed Paul to go. It was the idea that the woman who at one time had made his life so wretched, and had chosen to place herself beyond his ken during so many years, so that he was unaware of her place of abode, had met with some dreadful accident and desired to see him on her deathbed, that caused him suddenly to decide on granting her last request.
During the week previous to Mr Ferrier's arrival, Mrs Weston and Ruth had become much better acquainted with his wife, and had no longer any doubt as to her identity. Sister Agatha at first seldom allowed Mrs Ferrier to be alone with the two English ladies, who she feared might be proselytising heretics and would in some way imperil the future state of the poor woman, over whom she kept up a kind of espionage, although nominally under her orders; but by degrees she began to see that it was only with the alleviation of the bodily sufferings of the sick woman the Englishwomen concerned themselves, and she observed that in this they were skilful. Mrs Ferrier had taken a strong liking to Ruth, who talked to her about England and brought her flowers. Sister Agatha did not understand a word of what was said, but she was satisfied that Ruth was not abusing the "blessed saints," which, she had been taught, was a practice English heretics indulged in. She was surprised that two strangers should devote so much time to the comfort of a sick sister of another faith, even if the sister were an Englishwoman, but she saw that it did console her unhappy companion very much in the intervals of acute pain, and therefore she made no alarming reports to headquarters. In few days she even went out for purposes of exercise or devotion, leaving Mrs Weston or Ruth to take charge of the patient in her absence. They considered it a privilege to be allowed to do so, as in some way atoning to Paul's mother for the injury formerly inflicted on her son by Tobias Miles.
When Mr Ferrier reached the inn at Prague, he was told that he would find the sick woman in charge of a young English lady upstairs, and that just then the young girl's mother had gone out. The hotel proprietor, seeing that the English gentleman travelled with a courier, was very obsequious, and placed some of his best rooms at his disposal, but did not throw any light on the nature of the accident, about which Mr Ferrier desired to be informed. He recommended the latter to send up his card to announce his arrival, which he did soon after.
When Ruth was handed the card, and saw that it was Mr Ferrier and not his son who had arrived, she naturally imagined that when Paul had received the telegram he had thought it right at once to inform his father, and that the latter had thought fit to come himself. She deemed it best to go and see him at once, and inform him that Mrs Ferrier had only consented to seeing her son, and that his presence, if the invalid were suddenly made aware of it, might cause her serious agitation; therefore she hastened to inform him of her mother's absence at the moment, and of the difficulty of the situation, of which, by this time Ruth and her mother had formed a tolerably correct opinion, based on the wandering remarks of the sick woman when under the influence of morphia, which had to be administered to allay her suffering.
Mr Ferrier was standing at the window of a large room overlooking the river Moldau, and gazing out abstractedly on one of the most picturesque prospects in Europe, when Ruth entered and addressed him by name. He turned abruptly, and she saw that he held a telegram in his hand.
"I received this message some days since," he said, "and I deemed it best to come here at one. May I ask what accident has happened to cause my being summoned? The landlord could not say. and I presume you are one of the two English ladies to whom he refers me."
Mr Ferrier stood before Ruth, with his head bent forward and the tips of his fingers pressed together, and spoke in quiet tones, with grave politeness, so that Ruth thought he did not appear to be at all like the "cruel oppressor" Zeeb had been writing about. He handed her the telegram as he concluded, which she read through before answering him.
" I am afraid, sir." she said, "there has been a mistake made by the telegraph people. There has been no accident beyond that of our meeting this sick lady in the train. I have here a copy of the message as it was sent." Ruth took from her pocket-book a duplicate of the message and handed it to Mr Ferrier, who held the two documents side by side and carefully compared them.
"My mother will be here soon," Ruth continued. "She thought that someone might come to-day, and deemed it best for one of us to remain in this hotel, lest you should arrive in the absence of both. The companion who is with Mrs Ferrier might not be able to explain to you, or, perhaps, would not be willing to see you. She is a Belgian nun."
Mr Furrier was much perplexed. He had as yet no idea that the pretty English girl who spoke so correctly, and had such a quiet, self-possessed manner, was the niece of Tobias Miles, of whose personal appearance he had formed quite another mental portrait. He had an idea, that he had seen this dark-eyed young lady somewhere before, which arose from Ruth's resemblance to Madame Hatiz.
"This message was apparently intended for my son," he said. "I thought it had been sent to me to a place called Madeley, and forwarded from thence to Birmingham, on the chance of catching me by the station-master who saw me leave for London. May I ask how you obtained my son's address?"
"We knew Dr Ferrier's address," said Ruth. We lived for a while at Madeley Court when he was taken there on account of the injury he received. My name is Ruth Weston. I though you knew already."
Mr Ferrier had just read the name "Weston" on the copy of the telegram, but it had not called to his mind any association with Madeley Court.
"Surely you cannot be the niece of Mr Miles?" he said with surprise.
"I am afraid I am, sir," said Ruth, smiling at Mr Ferrier's startled expression.
"Will you kindly take a seat, young lady," he said, grasping his arms and pinching himself to make certain that he was not dreaming. "I am thankful there has been no accident," he continued, "but I feel that I ought not to have come here. I am not wanted. I can do no good. The telegraph clerks must have been possessed. But it is not your fault nor your mother's, only I wish you could tell me what I ought to do now. I am utterly bewildered by this chapter of accidents," Here he clasped his forehead with his hands and bowed his head on the table in evident distress of mind.
Just then Mrs Weston entered the room and sat down near Ruth, who indicated to her that it was wise to keep silence until Mr Ferrier recovered his composure. Presently he looked up with a white troubled face and saluted her. "You can perhaps tell me, madam, what I should do?" he said.
"I think, sir, you would do well to obtain the advice of an English physician who resides at Karlsbad, and ask him to bring an English or French-speaking nurse, if he can obtain a reliable person. The Belgian nun who is here is not very sympathetic, and is rather stupid."
"I daresay she knows the name of every saint in the calendar, and but little else," said Mr Ferrier cynically. "I'll send a courier who is here with me with a note to the doctor you recommend. I suppose this unhappy woman has just worn out her strength by self-inflicted mortifications and penances?"
"Yes, I am afraid that is the case," said Mrs Weston, "It appears she was lately at a convent in Styria where such practices are carried to great lengths. Shu suffers from a kind of rheumatism that affects her heart and causes syncope, so that I fear she may die suddenly at any moment."
Mr Ferrier here got up and paced up and down the room, with his hands behind his back, muttering to himself, and apparently oblivious of the presence of Mrs Weston and Ruth, who occasionally caught a few connected words, such as: "Cursed Jesuitical priests, creeping into houses and leading astray silly women. This is what it all ends in -- a wrecked and perverted life and a miserable death. Oh! the utter want of common sense, the folly, the pity of it!"
Then he came and stood opposite to Ruth and looked at her long and earnestly. "Young lady," he said in grave tones, "that poor woman who lies here, so ill, was once young and healthy and handsome as you are. She was full of life and spirits, and had everything about her to make her happy. Then unfortunately she inherited some money, the income from which was placed entirely at her disposal, and in consequence she became an object of interest to a crafty priest, who persuaded her that the ordinary duties of home life were to be made entirely subservient to an eternal round of religious dissipation. How it all began I never knew, but you see where it has ended. For many years I have only known of her existence by the fact that her trustees were regularly called on to pay the interest of the money to the agents of some foreign society with which she was connected. In all other respects she has been to me and my son as one who had died long ago. I do not know why I should trouble you with all this, but I do not wish you or your mother to imagine that I am without feeling. I did all in my power to prevent this, but it was too late. Now, if you please, Mrs Weston, I will arrange for the visit of this doctor. I am afraid you have both had a vast amount of trouble, and I feel under a deep obligation to you. I suppose you will soon be leaving this singular old place?"
"We have not been able to see much of it yet," said Mrs Weston. "We proposed to spend a fortnight here, as my daughter wishes to see the glassworks in the vicinity. She takes an interest in art manufactures, and we have letters of introduction to the owners of several of them."
"Perhaps you would kindly allow me to accompany you, and to make my courier useful when he returns. It is no use staying indoors when one can do nothing, I am glad, Miss Weston, you interest yourself in practical things like glassmaking. Do they make anything else, here?"
"They make nice boots and shoes by machinery in a factory full of little Jew boys. Their chief markets are in America and in our colonies," said Faith.
"I should like to see that very much," said Mr Ferrier. "I always like to see useful things made, excepting nailmaking, because the nailers are so wretched and dirty -- there are a lot of them in a town near me at home." Mr Ferrier paused suddenly, fearing that he had trodden on dangerous ground in alluding to the nail trade.
"There is a nail factory here where everything is done by machinery, and the work-people are all well dressed and clean," said Ruth. "I would like to show it to you. The Austrians are very ingenious in inventing labour-saving machines."
"Yes, I'd like to see that factory also," said Mr Ferrier. "I imagined there was very little to be seen here beyond a lot of modern churches. Judging from the number of spires, there would appear to be one church to every hundred of the inhabitants, and probably there are a dozen lazy monks attached to each church."
"It's not quite so bad as that," said Mrs Weston; "but there appears to be a great number of churches, and one seldom sees anyone in them excepting old women, unless on great festivals when there are plenty of wax candles burning."
"Lighted candles, when effectively disposed, have a powerful effect on the imagination of weak-minded persons," said Mr Ferrier. "I begin to understand why the Ritualists in England make such efforts to introduce them again on their altars. They were very useful in the conversion of the South American Indians. I doubt if the Roman Catholic Church could maintain its hold on the people without a large expenditure in wax."
"There is certainly a large expenditure in that article in this country," said Mrs Weston. "It is, I believe, a source of great revenue to the ecclesiastics who own or license the candle manufactories attached to each church."
"Let us go and see the bootmaking factory," said Mr Ferrier. "Civilised people ought to wear boots and shoes -- they are almost a necessity to comfortable existence -- but to pay priests for wax candles to be burnt in churches is a waste of money, which the poor ignorant people need to buy food and clothing. It is all part of a great system of plunder. I am glad, Mrs Weston, you have no sentimental sympathy with such absurdities." Mr Ferrier seemed anxious at the moment to escape from the inn into the outer air, in order to find some object of interest to distract his mind from a subject which always deeply disturbed and distressed him, and which had its central association in the wasted life of the poor woman who lay dying upstairs unconscious of his presence.
"I am here," Mr Ferrier wrote from the Hotel Kaiser at Prague, "chiefly by reason of the omission of the final syllable in the first word of the enclosed message, which was intended for you. So far as regards the object of my coming, which was to see your mother before her decease, my journey is as yet fruitless, and will probably remain so. It has been deemed best by a lady, in whose judgment I think you place confidence, that I should not see her. She is now in the charge of two females belonging to a foreign religious community, which it appears she joined many years ago, one of whose inferior members was travelling with her when she was taken ill, and the other, who is, I believe, an intelligent woman, has arrived here recently. At first, I am told, your mother expressed a wish to see you, but she appears to have forgotten this, or has been dissuaded. I doubt if you would be permitted to see her if you came. I am told by an English medical man whom I sent for that she cannot live very long, and that now she does not suffer much, and often remains in a semi-conscious state for hours. I sometimes feel that I ought never to have come here, and although I do not wish to influence you in regard to this painful situation, I think you will do no good by coming, and I advise you to remain content with the knowledge that the unhappy woman, who chose to abandon you and me so long ago, under some strange hallucination, has wanted for nothing in her last illness. Fortunately she met Mrs Weston and her daughter at a critical moment, and was brought here and well cared for. It has been to me a piece of good fortune to meet your two friends in this out-of-the-way place. I wish I had known them earlier. The reopening of a sad chapter in my life, which I thought was closed for ever, has disturbed me greatly, and I have found much solace in converse with rational educated people like Mrs Weston and her daughter, who have been very kind to me. I regret that I have had any difference with Mr Miles, as he is connected with them, and I have given instructions to my agents in London to put a stop to all proceedings. I wish you would go over to the Hall and see how they are doing. I left in such a hurry that I had no time to make arrangements. I enclose a cheque to meet any requirements there. The Institution grows more difficult to manage every day, and I often wish I had never undertaken it. This is a very interesting city, and I obtain some distraction from gloomy thoughts in visiting objects of interest with your two intelligent friends. Miss Weston is singularly like Madame Hafiz, and it made me feel as if I had known her a long while. -- Faithfully yours, my dear Paul,Paul read this letter with mingled emotions. A mystery over which he had often pondered, and into which he feared to inquire, was now partly solved. He was glad his father had gone to do whatever lay in his power, but he was perplexed as to what he ought to do himself, and decided he would telegraph to Mrs Weston and abide by her opinion. It seemed a piece of good fortune that his father should have met with Ruth at a moment when his heart was touched and open to receive sympathy. He gathered from the concluding sentence of his letter that Ruth and he were now on friendly terms, and had no doubt whatever that his father would soon come to love the intelligent girl, who was so sincere in everything she did, and had such pleasant, unaffected manners and so much common sense. He went out to send his message to Mrs Weston, asking her if he ought to proceed to Prague, and saying he was ready and willing to do so. As he returned, he decided as he passed Dixon's Circus that he would call there and inquire from Betsy how her friend Miss Rorke was doing, and inform her of the present location of Mrs Weston and Ruth. He desired also to see Mr Jocko, and ascertain if he had made further progress in the art of counting. The menagerie was open to the public just then, and Paul saw Jocko, seated on the table outside his cage, giving audience to a number of children who regularly came to visit him, and with many of whom he had a personal acquaintance, whilst Betsy sat by sewing a sheet of wadding into the lining of one of his coats, in anticipation of cold weather, still keeping a watchful eye on the young people, to guard against their feeding him surreptitiously, which they were warned against doing by conspicuous notices.
Betsy had a serious tale to tell as to the recent action of Mrs Rorke. "That wicked woman 'as bin and taken away Miss Rorke's little sister from her school," she said, "and Mrs Dixon thinks I'd better go over with Miss Jecks next Sunday morning and try to get the child away from her. Then she could go with Miss Rorke to a quiet place called Rhyl, where the sea is, so as she may get strong again. The mother couldn't find 'em there, and Mr Dixon is to tak her in 'and and try to make a bargain with her to send her money every week as long as she keeps away in an island he will send her to, where there's lots more like her drinking theirselves to death. The trouble will be to get the child away from her and then to get her away."
"You must be careful not to get into any trouble yourself in this business, Betsy," said Paul. "I would like to speak to Mr Dixon about the proposal."
" Mr Dixon has asked a p'leece inspector about it," said Betsy. "He says that's the only way to do, and that the law won't 'elp us; but he won't trouble us if Mrs Rorke comes 'ere to mak a rumpus, 'cause he knows Mr Dixon, who gives the p'leece-officers and their fam'lys free tickets whenever they wants 'em. I'm thinkin' she'll be afraid to come 'ere again along o' Jocko, as she said she'd poison. I've told the inspector on't, and he'll keep an eye on her. I tak Jocko 'ome wi' me to Mrs Dixon's in a cab every night now lest harm should come to 'im, so he is scarcely ever long out o' my sight. Jocko is the great 'trackshun at the circus when Miss Rorke is away; but I'm fearin' he has the toothache sometimes, he gets so sorrowful lookin'. He has a bad jaw tooth, and I took 'im to a dentist as pulled out one for Miss Jecks, but the man's afeerd that Jocko 'ud bite 'im if he meedled wi' his teeth. Will you look at it, Dr Ferrier, and see if it can be stopped wi' summat? or p'raps you could tak it out ? Jocko wouldn't bite you, 'cause he knows you well, and you won't hurt him more'n you can help."
Paul looked at Jocko's teeth, and saw that one had broken and was decayed. "I have drawn teeth now and then, Betsy," he said, "but I daresay I hurt the unfortunate owners twice as much as a practised dentist would. Jocko might forget that I was a friend and put some of his sharp teeth through my hand before he knew what he was doing."
"Do you think, Dr Ferrier," she said, "if he was to see a tooth pulled out o' someone else's mouth he'd know 'twas for his good you wanted to do't?"
"Well, perhaps he might, Betsy. Have you got any bad teeth yourself?"
"No, mine are all sound, and Jocko 'ud not let you touch me; but Butty Tubbs has a lot o' bad 'uns. He's always 'avin' his 'ead tied up, and 'twill be well for 'im to have some on 'em out."
Betsy straightway called the unfortunate Tubby from the other side of the menagerie and desired him to open his mouth for Dr Ferrier's inspection, who saw therein several bad teeth. Tubbs was then told by Betsy that it would be good for him to have one of them drawn there and then.
"I'll give yer a shillin' for't, Butty," she said, "if yer doesn't holler or mak 'orrid faces to frighten Jocko."
Tubbs promised to look as happy as he could under the circumstances, and seemed rather pleased at the idea of having a troublesome tooth drawn free of cost and then sold for a shilling. Paul took out his pocket case of instruments and selected a small forceps with which he thought he could manage the extraction, whilst Betsy placed Jocko in a good position at a corner of the table from whence he could see the operation, in which he seemed to take much interest. The tooth Paul selected was easily drawn, and shown by Betsy to Jocko, who inspected it with curiosity. Betsy then spoke to him, telling him that a similar operation was needful in his own case, and often touched his bad tooth with her finger. She made him open his furry jaws very widely, but for a time the animal either misunderstood her instructions or his courage failed him when he felt the cold touch of the forceps, as he always gently pushed Paul away with his small hands and made as if he desired to return to his cage. Then Betsy appeared to grow sorrowful, and held a handkerchief to her eyes as if weeping, making at same time much pantomimic gesture indicating suffering from toothache, and holding up the tooth Jocko had seen extracted. At length the animal seemed to take courage, and looked wistfully at Paul for a few moments as if to beg of him to be very merciful, then firmly closed his eyes and allowed him to perform the extraction, which was not difficult. Betsy took Jocko in her arms and comforted him for a while, then made him kiss Paul's hand, and rewarded him for his fortitude with a lump of sugar.
"He won't want Tubbs to show 'im 'ow to have teeth drawed next time," said Betsy triumphantly. "I think I'll teach 'im to come into the ring wi' a pair of little pincers like yours, Dr Ferrier, and mak Butty Tubbs sit in a chair as if he was 'aving another tooth out. Jocko 'ull not soon forget 'ow it's done. and he'd like to pull out every tooth in Butty's 'ead for reasons he's told me in private."
"I came here, Betsy, to tell you about your friend Miss Ruth," Paul said, "and I've almost forgotten it on account of Jocko. She has met my father abroad by chance, and he appears to like her; she is at a place called Prague, in Bohemia, with her mother."
"I heerd your father couldn't a-bear women folk," said Betsy. "P'r'aps
he'll learn better now if he sees much of Miss Ruth; but he may 'ave 'ad
to deal wi' women as made 'im hard. If a poor man 'ad to do wi' one like
Mrs Rorke I think he'd be driven mad;but look at Miss Rorke, she is as
good as a princess— so it's just a lottery. Our vet says it's the same
wi' young bosses; there's no two on 'em as is alike in ways. ' If he lived
a thousand years, like a Methu-saler,' he says, 'he'd never meet another
Jocko, as grows wiser every day and knows more and more wot's said to 'im.'
Do you think, Dr Ferrier, he will ever learn to speak, even little words?"
"I am afraid not, Betsy; but you seem to understand him somehow, and evidently he understands you."
"Yes, if I can see into his eyes, if he made no noises at all, I can mostly tell wot he's thinkin' on when he looks at me so human like. He's saying just now it's near time we was getting dressed for going in the ring. He's to walk on the tight rope wi' a little pole, like our Mr Pledge, as I think is getting jealous of 'im. I'll tell Mrs Dixon how good you've bin' 'bout Jocko's tooth; she put some laudnum in't, but it made 'im sick."
Betsy hurriedly departed to the dressing-room she shared with Miss Jecks to array herself in a kind of Swiss costume in which she always appeared of late when performing with Jocko, and which was singularly becoming to her. Paul remained longer than he intended, in order to see the clever creature she had trained so well walking on a rope strained across the ring, with all the gravity of a trained acrobat, holding a long slender cane as a balancing pole in his hands and using it correctly. Betsy kept pace with him beneath the rope, watching his trembling steps, and ready to catch him if he fell, whilst she encouraged him with a curious chirruping noise. Her upturned face beamed with delight as she heard the loud applause of the audience, who were mostly mechanics, and took immense interest in all the strange animal's performances. When Jocko reached the end of his journey on the tight rope he flung away his pole and sprang into Betsy's arms, resting his head on her shoulder like a weary child. Betsy bowed her acknowledgments in the most approved circus manner, and retired backwards, carrying him out in her arms. Tom Jones flung a cloak round them both at the doorway and said: "Mr Pledge couldn't do it better, Betsy, Mr Dixon has took 'im away to 'ave a brandy-and-soda, so as he wouldn't see it and get out o' temper."
"Jocko isn't well," said Betsy with anxiety; "his little heart is going 'thump-thump.' Get 'im some water, Tummas, and then call a cab. I'll tak 'im 'ome at once 'ithout waiting to change my dress. Tell Mr Dixon why I've gone so early. He is wantin' too much performin' from Jocko while Miss Rorke is away -- and the dear old chap has just 'ad a tooth out, and was frightened at the shoutin.' Oh! Dr Ferrier," she exclaimed, addressing Paul, who came round just then from the other entrance to the ring, where he had stood to witness Jocko's performance, "there's summat the matter wi' poor Jocko; he's tremblin' all over and won't open his eyes. Do you think that wicked woman could 'ave gived 'im poison or got someone to give it 'im?"
Paul took a glass of water from the hands of Tom Jones and induced the quivering animal to drink a little, and then held one of his small wrists for a while, feeling his rapid pulse. "It's only excitement, Betsy," he said. "Jocko wants rest; he is being overworked and kept up too late under flaring gaslights. He must have a holiday, like Miss Rorke, or you will lose him. Tell Mr Dixon I said so."
"If you'd be so kind as to tell him yourself he'd mind you more'n he does me," said Betsy. "I've told him already that Jocko doesn't sleep as he oughter, and that he has these fits. Couldn't you give 'im summat, like the doctor sends Miss Rorke, to mak 'im strong? If he was to die I wouldn't ever care to come 'ere no more."
"I'll see Mr Dixon, Betsy, and tell him Jocko is ill. Now wrap him up in your cloak and take him home, and I'll send you something to give him; but he must have rest or it will do him no good. Let him stay in the big tree all day to-morrow and amuse himself quietly, and don't teach him any more tricks at present. You must treat him like a sick child that's had too many lessons to learn."
"And p'r'aps you'd spare time to call and see 'im tomorrow," pleaded Betsy, with tears in her eyes. "I'll be at 'ome till twelve, then I'll leave 'im wi' Miss Rorke or Mrs Dixon in the garding, as I must come 'ere to perform wi' my lions at one o'clock."
Paul promised to call round if he could, and having seen Sam Dixon and told him of the absolute necessity of rest for Jocko, he went back to the hospital and prepared some tonic medicine for the animal, so that it could be delivered early in the morning. To him the intelligent creature and his guardian angel Betsy were like personal friends in whose welfare he took a deep interest, apart from the scientific interest which he felt in the study of this curious link in the chain of evidence he and others were combining to illustrate the theory of evolution. To watch the development of Betsy's singular character was also deeply interesting to Paul. He saw, with admiration, her strong and enduring affection for those who had been kind to her, and her willingness to serve them; her faithful discharge of her duties at the circus, her intense devotion to her dumb friend, her earnestness of purpose in everything; her high courage and her deep sympathy with suffering, either in the case of human beings or animals, her unselfishness and patient industry. Betsy appeared to be one of those rare instances of steady development in an upward direction, like a healthy plant turning ever to the light. Without the advantage of early training or education, and with all the disadvantages of her youthful associations and poverty, she seemed to have risen by the innate force of some strong fibre in her own nature.
Paul always associated Betsy's success in life with the influence Ruth had exercised over her. The secret of this influence, he knew, lay in the intelligent earnestness and devotion with which Ruth had undertaken the difficult task of training the rough girl and her essentially sympathetic nature. The secret of Betsy's success with Jocko was of the same kind. She was intensely earnest in her desire for his welfare, and never thought of him as an inferior animal but as a loving creature, who could think and reason. She saw his willingness to learn anything she desired to teach him, when once he began to recognise that his doing so gave her pleasure; she shrewdly studied the nature of the difficulties that must present themselves to Jocko's retarded faculties, and exercised her ingenuity in devising means to overcome them, just as Ruth used to do in her own case. Betsy had acquired much useful knowledge because she almost adored her teacher, and in the same way Jocko learned things which were more than mere mechanical tricks because of his intense affection for Betsy.
Paul received a reply to his telegram from Prague next morning, requesting him to wait the arrival of a letter from Mrs Weston, and so, after paying an early visit to Sam Dixon's house and satisfying Betsy that Jocko only required rest and care, he proceeded to Madeley to visit the " gentlemen-companions," and found the chief members of the bachelor society engaged in a warm discussion on some petty detail of housekeeping about which they had disagreed.
Paul suggested that they should elect one of their number as president in his father's absence, and abide by his decisions, but he saw that there was chronic discontent in the community, foreboding its speedy dissolution. They complained of their isolation from intercourse with the leading lights of science and literature, who resided in large cities such as London and Edinburgh, and of the waste of time involved in the petty occupations of the household. By this time each one had become fully informed as to the particular crotchets of his fellows, and deemed them frivolous in comparison with his own. They seldom spoke to each other, and were generally moody and discontented. They played no outdoor games, and were consumed with ennui. They desired to inspect the clauses of the bequest under which Mr Ferrier acted, and told Paul that of late the old gentleman had been more than usually irritable and arbitrary in his decisions, and had frequently spoken of terminating his connection with the Institution. Paul supplied them with a copy of the document they required, and advised them to prepare suggestions for the consideration of his father in case they and he arrived at the conclusion that the statutes of the Institution required modification, and that its location should be transferred elsewhere. He knew well that now he had given them something to think about which would seriously occupy them until his father returned, and render them more contented for the time being.
Having done his best to get things straight at Madeley Hall, Paul bethought him of Madeley Court and Tobias Miles, and decided he would call on the unhappy man and inform him he had no longer anything to fear from his father's opposition, and might go on boring to the centre of the earth if it pleased him.
As Paul approached the house he was surprised to see a stream of water running across the road and falling in a cascade into the little valley of the Dingle. On crossing this shallow current, by means of some rude stepping-stones which had been recently placed in its course, he saw that the moat was full of water, which overflowed across the road. The water evidently came from the external doorway which led from the moat into the crypt, out of which it flowed noisily like a small mill-stream. In all other respects silence reigned everywhere. The steam engine was not at work, and no smoke came from the iron funnel, which still projected through the roof of the chapel. Paul crossed the earthen mound which led to the gateway of the courtyard. He rang the bell and presently one of the maid-servants came, and in reply to his inquiry said he would probably find Tobias Miles somewhere about the place, but she could not exactly say where. He was usually in the vault where the steam engine was, she said, but it had not been at work since the water burst up in the hole the men were boring, and since then they had all gone away.
Paul ventured down into the crypt, by the stone steps in the turret, and heard the noise of the water rushing from the mouth of the well. He approached the spot and saw that the circular enclosing wall had been partly removed and a trench cut in the pavement of the crypt, from the well to the outer doorway, through which the water ran off, which otherwise would have spread over the stone floor, now littered with iron bars and cylindrical cores of rock brought up by the boring tool. It puzzled Paul to understand how the water rose to such a height and did not escape through the old adit below. He was not then aware that Tobias Miles had closed up the mouth of the adit with brickwork to prevent any further ingress of man or beast. He had also carefully shut out the bad water which formerly trickled into the shaft below, but apparently had recently tapped some powerful spring of clear cold water from beneath the sandstone rocks. It rose like a geyser in the well, and flowed with steady volume as if under pressure. Suddenly a haggard man came out of the darkness, from a remote part of the old crypt, and confronted Paul. His grizzled beard had evidently been unshorn for some time past, his dark hair was unkempt and shaggy, his cheeks hollow, and his eyes sunken and bloodshot. Paul scarcely recognised Tobias Miles, who stood regarding him with a fixed suspicious stare.
"Well," Tobias said at length in a husky voice, "are you come to see the end on't, Dr Ferrier? It's bin runnin' like that for three weeks, and don't show no sign of lessening. We were always badly off for water here, and were often obliged to have it fetched from a spring at the foot of the Dingle. Now there's water enough to turn a mill, and the house is standing in a small lake as you see."
" It is very singular indeed, Mr Miles," said Paul. "How is it that it does not flow away through the old adit below?"
"Because I stopped it up solid and can't find anyone as 'ull run the risk of going in and drilling some holes in the brickwork to blast out the stopping along o' that cursed rogue Jem Ritson as met his death just there. It's bin an unlucky shaft ever since, and the ghost of the man haunts the place. I've often seen it myself, and now I'm going to chuck the job up, so your father needn't trouble himself with bringing any more lawsuits against me to prevent my winning my own coal. I never got over a couple of tons, and it's cost me a pretty penny."
"I came here to tell you that there are to be no more law proceedings," said Paul. "My father now regrets that there have been differences between you."
"So I've been told by my lawyers; but he will have to repay me all the cost he's put me to, and more besides. Why did he meddle wi' me when I was doing him no harm -- only trying to ruin myself by throwing good money after bad? I suppose if this old shaft was sunk to where the water is coming from, all the steam engines and pumps in the Black Country wouldn't keep it clear of water? That's wot Perkins says. He says it must be an underground lake, and might be turned to use if it was anywhere else. But that's just my luck."
Here Tobias Miles suddenly seized Paul by the arm and pointed into the darkness of the crypt.
"Do you see him there listening to us?" he said in a hushed voice. "If I could only get 'im near me I'd fling 'im into the well. He was in't before, and I'm sorry I ever had him fetched out."
Paul had a strong suspicion that Miles had been drinking. He could smell some strong spirit, and the poor man's haggard appearance bore witness to recent potations.
"There are no such things as ghosts, Mr Miles," he said. "You are ill, and have had a lot of worry, I daresay. Come out into the open air and walk with me to the station. I want to tell you about your son Oreb. I often see him, and he is doing well at the factory."
"Saul saw the ghost of Samuel, and Job saw a spirit which made his hair stand up," said Tobias; "but I know you are an unbeliever, and I oughter drown you in this well. If your father was here in your place I'd kill him. It's he that's driven me mad. There it is again, watching round the corner. Will you go one way and I'll go the other, so as we may catch him? He can't go very fast with his wooden leg."
"You forget, Mr Miles. You can't catch a ghost," said Paul, humouring Tobias' disordered fancy. "A spirit has neither flesh nor bones, you know. If you will come into the house with me I'll tell you of a way to get rid of him. I want to see the room I slept in when I was here. I think, now that there is plenty of water, this may be made a nice place. I will tell you how to blow out that stopping out of the adit without risk, so that the water will run away in a stream down the Dingle. I'll come over with your sons some day and fire a charge of powder in it with an electric battery from a safe distance."
Tobias was beguiled by Paul in this way into forgetting the ghost of Jem Ritson for a while, and finally left the crypt and entered the house.
Paul made some slight excuse to step aside for a moment in obedience to signals from the housekeeper, who seemed anxious to speak with him.
"Oh, sir," she said, when out of Tobias' hearing, "oh, sir, he oughter be took away and taken care of somewheres. He's out of his senses, and we are afraid to be in the 'ouse with him."
"How long has he been like this?" Paul inquired.
"Well, he's bin melancholy for a long time, but since the water came in and the men went off he's got much worse. He stays in that gloomy vault most of the day talking to hisself. They do say, sir, it's 'aunted by the ghost of a man Mr Miles had something 'to do wi' the death on."
"They talk nonsense," said Paul. "Send one of your girls to Dr Taylor's and say I wish to see him here at once if he can come." Paul wrote a few words us pencil on one of his cards and gave it to the woman and then returned to Tobias, and remained talking with him as to his views on the millenium for half-an-hour, until Dr Taylor arrived, declaring loudly, in order to prevent Tobias from suspecting the cause of his visit, that on hearing that Paul was in the neighbourhood he could not resist the desire to see him and congratulate him on his recovery from the accident caused by the gin.
This allusion to the gin set Tobias off again on the subject regarding which his present delusion existed, and again he became excited and talked of Jem Ritson's ghost.
Paul suggested to him that it would be a good thing to make a trip to Birmingham with him that evening, in order to arrange with Oreb to come over with the necessary appliances to blow out the wall which blocked the adit, and to his surprise Tobias consented, and directed his portmanteau to be got ready. The doctor drove away to his house, but reappeared at the station before Paul and Tobias departed and privately handed Paul a letter for a colleague of his residing near Birmingham.
"Do not on any account travel in a compartment alone with him," he said
to Paul. "You are running great risk if he should at all suspect where
he is going to. He is a strong man and might strangle you."
"It would involve greater risk to the poor man himself or to his domestics to leave him longer at Madeley Court," said Paul. "Please wire for me to his sons to meet us at Dudley and Birmingham. Here are their addresses. He will be glad to see them, and it will satisfy your friend that I am acting with their knowledge and consent. Time and proper care will, I hope, put Mr Miles all right again."
" Where is the 'angel' and her mother just now?" inquired Dr Taylor.
"Just now they are taking care of my father abroad," said Paul, "and so I am doubly bound to take some trouble about this poor man. It would distress them if anything happened to him in their absence."
"Well, take care of yourself," said Dr Taylor impressively. "It's about as risky a thing as a man can undertake, to travel single-handed with a powerful madman."
"This is from your father," he said when he came to the signature. "It is odd that he should have met my niece and her mother. I 'aven't heard from them for a long time. What are they doing out there?"
"Probably your sons can tell us," said Paul, glad of the opportune diversion in Tobias' thoughts. "We may see Zeeb at Dudley," he added; "he knows that I was to return by this train."
"I shall stop at Dudley to-night," said Tobias decidedly. "I want to talk to Zeeb on business."
"Let him come along with us," Paul suggested. "You can talk to him in the train."
When the train stopped at Dudley, Paul recognised Zeeb on the platform. Miles opened the door of the carriage and stepped out.
"Good-night, Dr Ferrier," he said curtly. "Tell your father, when you write to him, that I'll be even with him yet. I thought twice, on the way here, I'd kill you and throw your body out of the window to punish him, but I see by his letter the Lord is chastising him already, and so I can wait until I get hold of him near Madeley."
"But you must get rid of Ritson's ghost first," Paul said. "If you will come on with me I will tell you how to manage it. When we let the water run off below in the shaft, Ritson will probably go down the steps to try to find the leg he lost, and then we can shut him in. Perhaps Zeeb could contrive an iron sliding cover, such as they put over coal pits -- that would keep him down. Here he is, and we can ask him."
Zeeb came up, with a white troubled face, and looked anxiously at Paul, who was watching Tobias Miles as he stood by the carriage door moodily pondering on the last suggestion. Just then the guard approached and inquired if Tobias was going on.
"I'd like to talk to you about that plan of yours to catch the old ruffian," Tobias said to Paul in a low tone as he resumed his seat. "Here, Zeeb, get in; we shall want you to help us a bit." Then the demented man rubbed his hands together and laughed wildly, and for the rest of the journey remained in high glee at the idea that at length he saw his way to capturing Ritson's ghost.
Oreb met them on the platform at Birmingham, and drove with his father to his lodgings, where Tobias remained for the night, most of which he spent talking excitedly to his sons. He appeared to be under only one serious delusion, but that was strong and persistent, as to the reappearance of Jem Ritson.
Paul called early next morning with a physician, who issued the second certificate required by law, and before noon he was glad to be definitely relieved of his troublesome charge. He was much exhausted from the mental strain he had undergone during the journey in making constant efforts to pacify Tobias Miles and induce him to remain in the train. The sorrowful Midianites were very thankful to him, and rejoiced to hear that their father's case was not considered to be hopeless. They came in the evening to consult with Paul as to the steps to be taken regarding Miles' estate during his enforced seclusion, and although both were under age they exhibited great business capacity.
Next day Paul received a letter from Mrs Weston, from Prague, which satisfied him that it would be useless for him to go there in the hope of seeing his mother, whose decease was hourly expected. Mrs Weston explained that she and Ruth were now only permitted to see her occasionally, but were seldom recognised. The nun who had arrived to take charge of the dying woman belonged to a branch of the religious community established in Bavaria, and had declined to allow Mr Ferrier to see his wife, alleging that the rules of the order forbade any such interview. All that he was permitted to do was to discharge the landlord's accounts, which were presented with the regularity of clockwork. Mrs Weston added that, as Mr Ferrier was very doleful when left alone, they generally spent most of the day with him.
Next day came a telegram to say that all was over, and that Mrs Ferrier's remains were to be conveyed to Bavaria to be interred within the precincts of a convent.
Paul was unaware that now he was rendered independent by the reversion of a sum of money, the interest of which, amounting to eight hundred a year, had hitherto been paid to his mother's order by her trustees in England. In a few days he received a letter from his father informing him of this fact, and saying that he would travel home in company with Mrs Weston and Ruth, who had recently heard of the steps taken with regard to Tobias Miles.
Just then Paul was obliged to go to London to pass an examination at the College of Surgeons. He had decided on completing his qualification to practise in England, and hoped to meet his father and fellow-travellers on their arrival in town. He was curious to learn the effect which the association with Mrs Weston and Ruth, even for a short time, would have had on his father's peculiar mind, and hopeful that his cynical prejudices against women would be removed or greatly modified.
Mrs Ferrier's death had happened rather suddenly at last, and only then Mr Ferrier was permitted to see her face before the coffin was closed, as he had to make a declaration for the authorities at Prague as to the identity of Sister Frances with his wife. He told Mrs Weston that in death she appeared singularly like what she was during the first years of her married life, and the latter saw that she had evidently been a handsome woman, The nun who had taken charge of her during her last illness informed Mrs Weston that the deceased lady had never been quite contented in the community she had joined, and was of a restless disposition; also that she had recently undergone severe penances and privations, and in this way injured her health. She explained that the proper vocation of the community was teaching, but said Sister Frances had exhibited no aptitude for that employment, as she lacked patience in dealing with children. The lady then made, some inquiries as to Mrs Ferrier's son in England, showing that she was thoroughly posted up in everything relating to the deceased woman.
When Mrs Weston mentioned this latter fact to Mr Ferrier he smiled cynically and said: "Paul stands in the way of this Society obtaining possession of the principal sum from which they have had the interest for a number of years. It is always the same with these religious communities: those members who possess intelligence, like this lady you have been speaking to, are keen after the loaves and fishes. The devotees, who seldom or never have brains, but generally have money, receive the penances and privations as their share. All these monastic orders, which have existed for five hundred years, under various denominations, have ultimately been suppressed because of the abuse of the power they obtain over unbalanced minds, and yet the world seems to ignore the experience of the past. Each generation brings forth the same average crop of misguided dupes."
"But I think," said Mrs Weston. "there is more of usefulness and less of superstition in the character of modern religious communities. This society to which Mrs Ferrier belonged professes to devote itself to teaching."
"How could she teach who never had been properly taught herself?" he said. "I am afraid she was not endowed with sufficient capacity to learn anything of real use in life. She was beautiful when young, and attractive in manner, but was always rushing into extremes -- one day into frivolity and extravagance, the next worshipping at the feet of some popular ecclesiastic, and finding contentment nowhere. Now, at length, she is at rest. Of all the women I have known she was the least fitted for domestic life. She ought never to have married, and she was the last person in the world I ought to have married. There was the great mistake we both made, for which there was no remedy. She seems to have sought a way of escape by joining this community, but it appears she was not happy amongst them, and no doubt they would not have tolerated so restless a spirit were it not that the income she brought them counterbalanced the discomfort she caused them. Probably they fancied that at her death the Society might be endowed with a round sum as only a single life stood in their way. It is singular that she never took much interest in Paul, although he was an intelligent child. She left him altogether to the care of servants. Paul has been a good son, and I fear I have often been harsh with him, because my mind has been embittered by reason of my early unhappiness. I shall now try to make amends to him. He seems to possess every good quality of mind in which my wife was deficient. He is patient and wise, and has a thoroughly balanced intellect, as no doubt you have seen. Later on I wish to speak to you, Mrs Weston, of something upon which he has set his heart, which closely concerns us both, and which I foolishly opposed in my prejudiced ignorance."
Mrs Weston knew that he referred to Paul's attachment to Ruth, which hitherto she had rather discountenanced, from a feeling that it would lead to a serious quarrel with his father, upon whom he was, until now, entirely dependent. She was not previously aware that Mr Ferrier had any knowledge of his son's feeling regarding Ruth, but she had noticed that the old gentleman was keenly observing her daughter on all occasions, and always contrived to keep her near him in walks and drives about Prague. She had imagined that Mr Ferrier was merely seeking distraction from unpleasant memories in associating with a bright, well-informed girl, into whose society he had been thrown by accident. On several occasions Mrs Weston had been unable to accompany them on their excursions, and so the old gentleman had had opportunities of conversing with Ruth alone, and was astonished at her practical common sense and the extent of her knowledge. Ruth had carefully studied the history of the country, and was posted up in all the facts regarding the great religious wars which have so often devastated Prague.
Mr Ferrier was not slow to point out the lasting effects of the battle of the "White Mountain," fought in the neighbourhood, now visible in the ignorance and neglect of all sanitary conditions amongst the lower orders of the people.
"It is the same in all countries where Roman Catholicism has triumphed," he said. "Dirt and disease follow in its train. The death rate in this old city is higher than in any other city in Europe, and there appear to be more churches, monasteries and convents, and consequently a greater number of monks and nuns here than in any other town of the same size I know of. The odour of sanctity always coexists with odours of another kind."
"But there is some progress even here," Ruth said. "The young people looked clean and healthy in those factories we visited."
" Yes, Miss Weston; those are excellent institutions, but one of them owes its existence to a benevolent and enlightened Jew, the other to the Moravians. I believe the chief industries in the Austrian dominions are in the hands of Jews or German Protestants, who are partly, or altogether, emancipated from the grosser forms of superstition and liberally educated. These are the men the priests would expel if they could have their way."
"I would like to see a few factories erected near Dudley for employing young people, with technical schools attached, like those you have seen here," Ruth said earnestly. "It has been a dream of mine for ever so long. I have noticed that most people are contented and happy who have plenty of work to do, especially if it is interesting work. Then the old people, who can no longer work, would be easily assisted by their children, and would not be driven to seek refuge in the poorhouses. I think there should be more places where the aged and industrious poor would be provided for without being treated as idle paupers."
"The success of all such institutions depends on intelligent management," said Mr Ferrier. "I have tried my hand at managing an institution intended to benefit a special class of people, and I am afraid the result is failure. I shall soon transfer the whole concern to abler and younger hands and to another locality. I begin to see it has all the faults inherent in monastic systems. It is hopeless to attempt to contravene natural laws. In doing so we only breed discontent. My secular monks at Madeley Hall are very discontented, although they have greater freedom than any order of monks I ever heard of."
" Probably they have not any congenial work to occupy them?" Ruth suggested. "I, scarcely think cooking; or making beds and scrubbing floors are fit occupations for scholars. They should try to impart their learning to others in some practical way, for instance, as professors in a secular college."
"The number of such colleges is very limited as yet, Miss Weston. The parsons have got control of the election of professors in most colleges, and so any poor scholars are excluded."
"Then they might go about, like peripatetic philosophers, and deliver lectures," Ruth again suggested.
"Yes, they might do that, provided they avoided certain subjects and drew no new conclusions, otherwise the parsons would be down on them as advanced thinkers, and would make their lecturing in public very difficult. In many cases they would be refused the use of rooms in which to lecture. It would be well for some of them who are lame if they had been brought up to the shoemaking business -- it requires but little locomotion."
"They should all learn trades of some kind," Ruth said, "then they might establish a technical college and bring their scientific knowledge to bear on the manufactures they adopt. I can see that there is a great want of technical education amongst our workmen in England. The parsons wouldn't interfere with that."
"Or, rather, they couldn't," said Mr Ferrier. "Scientific knowledge is outside their sphere altogether. Men who, in this age, persist in believing in the orthodox legend of creation and the descent of man from two human beings, miraculously created in a garden, with all that hangs to the allegory, are incapable of reasoning. Their minds have crystallised into some form which is impervious to truths that are obvious to most educated human beings. I suppose it is because of the constant iteration of the same dogmatic formulae, like the 'Allah il Allah' of the Turks."
"But do you not think," urged Ruth, "that the belief of the Turk or the Buddhist, or of any person conscientiously holding one of the numerous forms of faith, is in itself an influence for good, even if it is only a belief in an ideal. Without ideals of some kind it appears to me to be difficult to infuse sufficient vitality into human nature. Formerly, not far from this spot and not so very long ago, the Bohemian Pagans sacrificed human beings to some hideous idol, which it is said the Catholic missionaries clothed in gorgeous robes to represent their Madonna. There are several such idols of stone and wood which have been similarly treated elsewhere, and we must admit that the transposition has been beneficial to the people, who, if their idol were rudely destroyed, would have created something still more hideous and sacrificed the missionaries. The old idols remain concealed in the background, but the ideals of the new faiths are higher and better. They slowly improve with the gradual improvement of the human race."
"You appear to be very much of my son's way of thinking," said Mr Ferrier. "He fancies that beliefs are necessary to a contented state of existence with most people, although to others like himself they are meaningless and impossible, which would indicate that thinking minds, like watches, may be totally different in construction."
"That was my father's idea," said Ruth; "he left a letter, when he died, to that effect. He thought that all systems of religion are but guesses after truth, which commend themselves to some minds and, as in the case of Mohammedanism, to some races. He was reticent as to his opinions on religious subjects during his lifetime, and very tolerant as to the opinions of others."
"Then he was a wise man," said Mr Ferrier. "Had he any belief himself?"
"Yes, he believed that all religions would ultimately merge into the Religion of Humanity, in which alone, he thought, could be found any certainty. His idea was that when a great number of earnest men, with the requisite knowledge, turned their attention solely to the improvement of the condition of the people, so as to make their lives easier and sweeter, then some real progress would be made, otherwise he feared the struggle for existence would lead to the wreck of society, and that the masses of people who are miserable will turn like hungry wolves and rend the few who are fortunate and selfish. They will not be restrained by the fear of punishment in a future state, which most of them have ceased to believe in."
"That was the idea of Comte," said Mr Ferrier, "but the motive to induce men to adopt so unselfish and useful a vocation, without the hope of reward in another world, seems to me to be wanting. Have you ever seen or heard of any disciples of this religion who devote their lives to doing good solely because of love for their fellow-men?"
"You both saw and heard one lately," said Ruth. "That benevolent Jewish gentleman who has established that factory we visited has done so entirely with the view to benefiting the children of his nation, who formerly ran about the Ghetto here in idleness and dirt. He, and those who have aided him with capital, derive no profit from the undertaking, and he freely gives all his time to its management. There are, I am told, many good men of his race who have been here to see what he is doing, and who have established similar industrial schools elsewhere. There is a large one in operation in Styria, not far from the great monastic establishment of Maria Zell."
"That is where the ignorant peasants assemble in multitudes to see a wooden doll borne in a procession, and where my wife was first taken ill, is it not?" Mr Ferrier inquired.
"Yes that is the place. So you have there, within a little distance from each other, two institutions representing the difference between modern enlightenment and mediæval superstition, and you can see from these extreme cases that there is some progress. It is singular that here the Jews are leading the way. They are the best educated people in this country and largely occupy the learned professions. Their children are far above the average in intelligence, so it is easier to teach them than to teach the children of the peasants."
Just then the carriage in which Mr Ferrier and Ruth were seated was stopped by the courier, near the bank of the river, in a low-lying quarter of the city called the Judenstadt. The man wished them to visit the old Jewish cemetery in that neighbourhood, in which burials have taken place for many centuries, probably since the period of the siege of Jerusalem up to a recent date. The place had a weird, and ghastly appearance because of the crowded moss-covered tombs and headstones settling down in chaos amidst a tangled growth of distorted elder trees. In one place a deep section had been made in the earth, showing that more than fifty burials had taken place over every square yard of surface.
"It is no wonder the plague so often visited. Prague," Mr Fourier said. "The dead Jews revenged themselves on the living Christians who walled them in with their dead in this wretched quarter. In the heart of the West End of London there is a huge cemetery where super-imposed burials still take place every day. I and others who advocate cremation have been denounced from pulpits as persons trying to revive heathen custom."
"But there is progress even in that direction," said Kuth. "When my father died, his body had to be sent abroad to be cremated."
"Yes there is little progress even in the teeth of the parsons. It is marvellous how long they habe been able to hinder a great sanitary reform -- they are like the Chinese in that and other respects."
"But they do some good in many places," Ruth ventured to remark.
" And much harm," he replied bitterly. "I doubt if the harm does not exceed the good. One of them caused my unhappy wife to lose the best years of her life in pursuit of shadows. You have seen where it ended."
"I should try to forget it," said Ruth. "Perhaps we do not understand the peculiar mental disease which in all ages has driven people, otherwise sane, to seek refuge in self-imposed restraints and penances. Just now it has been found needful to place Mr Miles under restraint. I think he has always had what people term a 'religious craze,' and the troubles arising out of his purchase of Madeley Court, upon which he has been brooding alone, have brought on a crisis. It is on that account we are anxious to return home sooner than we intended."
"I am afraid I have added something to his mental trouble," said Mr Ferrier. "I am sorry to hear what you say. I would wish to make some amends if I knew how. I am surprised to think how patient you and your mother have been with me and my querulous complaints."
"Let us go and see the rafts floating down this great river by way of change from this melancholy graveyard," said Ruth. "You will see how patient and skilful the men who manage them are. Often in passing through the gaps in the weirs, where there is a sudden fall, the waves pass right over them, but they only smile when they see the sun again, and shake themselves dry like Newfoundland dogs. Now, Mr Ferrier, you must try to shake off this trouble and to forget all about those wicked ecclesiastics. Perhaps they are not so black as you paint them in your imagination. They are probably not much better or much worse than other men whose intellects have been cramped by narrow teaching. I believe it would be difficult to convince one of them that there is any black about him at all."
"No, you must ask an ecclesiastic of another denomination to say what the colour of his theological opponent is," said Mr Ferrier. "Let us drive up to the heights at the opposite side of the river and look down on the patient raftsmen. Perhaps it is not too late for me to learn to be a little patient like my son Paul. I wonder where he got it from? Neither I nor his mother ever had much."
Ruth thought that perhaps that was partly the cause of the trouble between Mr Ferrier and his wife, but she kept her opinion to herself, and told her mother that he had been very amiable during the drive and much interested in the curious spectacle of the rafts shooting the falls of the Moldau during a flood.
That night and next day the river continued to rise rapidly, and finally invaded the low-lying Jewish cemetery they had visited, washing away much of the soil.
"There appears to be no rest for the children of Israel even in the grave," said Mr Ferrier. "They have gone to poison the fish in the river. The Dresden water works company will pump up the essential essence of decayed rabbis into their reservoirs and distribute it amongst the inhabitants. Let us avoid Dresden as we would the plague and go back by Nuremberg. I want to see the museum of instruments of torture, such as were used by the familiars of the Holy Inquisition. They ought to be sent round the world as an exhibition, to make men thankful they did not live in the Dark Ages under the rule of fanatical priests."
"It is better for us to forget all that if we can," Ruth said. "I can take you to see more interesting things at Nuremberg. There is a fine art museum there, in which you can fancy you are living in the time of the ancient guilds of workmen, who took pride in their work and thought of their craft as of a religion. It would be well if that form of worship could be revived."
"Just tell me about those guilds, Ruth," said Mr Ferrier, drawing a seat near her, and unconscious that he was addressing her by her Christian name. " What a wonderful storehouse of knowledge this little head of yours is," he said kindly when Ruth had described to him the workmen's guilds of the Middle Ages, " I think I shall send that courier home, and try to forget about the parsons and priests. I shall take you for my guide, counsellor and friend, if you will allow me, from henceforth."
The secluded cottage had been taken and furnished for her by her daughter Kitty in the hope that distance from public houses and country air would operate beneficially in mitigating if not curing the craving for ardent spirits which possessed the wretched woman, who had promised amendment on being provided with a home and secured a liberal weekly allowance.
Mrs Rorke's second daughter, who was much younger than Kitty, lived with her mother for a while, and attended a school in Leamington, into which she was ultimately received as a boarder at the urgent entreaty of Kitty, who discovered that the child was being made use of as a messenger by her mother to procure drink.
Since then Mrs Eorke had secretly disposed of nearly all the furniture in the cottage, and had finally withdrawn the child from school and sold the greater part of her clothes, and now kept her confined and half starved in a room on the upper floor, with a view to extorting better terms from poor Kitty, who had hitherto paid her more than half her salary on condition that she remained sober and avoided all interference with the child's education.
Betsy and Miss Jecks had visited the neighbourhood on a previous Sunday with a view to liberating the little prisoner, but had not been successful; they had seen her at a window on the upper floor of the cottage, and made signals to her to come down, but as she was locked in the room she could not do so. She had thrown them a note describing her wrongs and expressing her desire to escape.
Miss Jecks had called on Mrs Eorke on this occasion to hand her some money, but had not been allowed to see the child, and could make no impression on the wretched woman, who, like all female drunkards had developed into a very cunning and impracticable person.
Mrs Rorke was now expecting a second visit from Miss Jecks, and on hearing her footsteps she rose and cautiously unlocked and opened the front external door.
"Are you alone?" she asked as she peered around.
"Yes, I'm alone -- why do you ask?"
"Because I saw that divil's limb, Betsy Clinker, with you last Sunday."
"Well, you can see she is not with me now," said Miss Jecks, who had just parted company with Betsy. "Are you going to let me in, Mrs Rorke?"
"Have you brought me any money?" the suspicious woman asked, still holding the door ajar.
"Yes, I've brought some money from Kitty, as usual, but I must see Lizzie before I give it to you."
"Lizzie is out," said Mrs Rorke with prompt decision. "You may come in and see for yourself. She's gone to chapel."
Miss Jecks entered the cottage and asked: "What chapel has she gone to?"
"A Catholic chapel a long way off that you'd not easily find."
"There is only one in Leamington, and I know where that is," said Miss Jecks. "I was told to see her before I went back, and I'll go there now."
"Yes, you can do that if you like when you hand over what you've got to give me," said Mrs Rorke, planting her back against the door. "I haven't a penny or a loaf in the house, and Lizzie had to go out without her breakfast."
"Why, I gave you three pounds last Sunday!" said Miss Jecks.
"Well, I had to buy Lizzie boots and other things, and she lost a half-sovereign that I sent her with to the baker's," said the mendacious female, furtively looking round.
"I can walk up and down outside until I meet her coming back," said Miss Jecks, who did not believe a word of this tale and desired to test the truth of the statement as to Lizzie's absence.
"I want my money off you first;" said Mrs Rorke angrily. "I am desperate with hunger, and you won't leave this until I get it, then you may run after Lizzie till you're tired."
Miss Jecks was now satisfied, from Mrs Rorke's manner, that the girl was concealed somewhere in the cottage, and probably within hearing. She was not a strong woman, and did not like to give battle single-handed to Mrs Rorke in order to escape, so she sought to temporise.
"I don't mind going to a hotel and buying you some food," she said, "but I promised Kitty I'd not part with the money until I had seen Lizzie and spoken to her. There is a little inn not far off where I've stayed, and they won't refuse to let me have what you want, although it's a Sundny. Couldn't you come with me, Mrs Rorke, and have your breakfast?"
"No, I can't leave the house, although I am weak from fasting, but I'll let you go if you'll promise to bring me some brandy -- nothing else does me any good when I'm like this."
"Have you a small basket you could lend me?" inquired Miss Jecks. "I wouldn't like to be seen carrying a bottle through the streets."
"Stay here where you are for a minute," said Mrs Rorke eagerly. "I'll try and find you something." With this she quickly ascended the stairs to a room overhead. Miss Jecks listened intently, and thought she heard a half stifled sob from beneath the stairs, at the foot of which she was standing. She could see that there was an enclosed cupboard formed under the stairs, with a door in the narrow passage to the kitchen, and at the end of this passage there was another door leading into a small garden at the back of the cottage. She saw that the key was in the lock of this external door, which was closed. Again Miss Jecks distinctly heard a child sobbing in the dark closet beneath the stairs, but at this moment Mrs Rorke reappeared, carrying an old hand-basket without a cover.
"I hope you'll not be long," she said as she handed the basket to Miss Jecks and then unlocked the outer door, from which her visitor departed rapidly in the direction of the town.
When Miss Jecks had gone a little way, and could see, on looking back, that the door was closed again, she retraced her steps and proceeded up the lane past the cottage until she arrived at a field gate, inside which she saw Tom Jones engaged in tying together a light ladder, which he had constructed to take to pieces, so as to attract but little attention in its portable shape.
"Where is Betsy?" inquired Miss Jecks. "She's gone round to the back of the cottage to see if Miss Rorke's sister is at the winder, 'cause there's no sign of her in front," he replied.
"She is in a closet under the stairs on the ground floor," said Miss Jecks.
"You won't want your ladder, Thomas. Go for Betsy, and if you find an old black bottle lying about, fetch it here."
Jones returned in a few minutes with Betsy and an empty wine bottle, with a cork in it, which he had found at the rear of the cottage. He was directed to place some turf sods in the basket by Miss Jecks, who deftly concealed them with a white pocket handkerchief, fixing the bottle in the centre, with the neck protruding; then she explained her plans to Betsy.
"It won't be safe for you to go into the cottage again alone, Miss Jecks," said Betsy. "When Mrs Rorke finds an empty bottle in the basket she'll be savage, and you mayn't have a chance to open the back door and let us in to help you -- she might kill you --and besides Lizzie will want a cloak and hat or she will 'tract too much notice in the streets, and p'leecemen may interfere. This is how I think it's got to be done, like one of the clown's tricks. I'll tak off' my cloak and hat and get inside o' yourn, behind yer, wi' my two arms tight round yer slim waist. Mrs Rorke will have her eyes on the basket, which you must hold in front so as to let her see the bottle sticking out. She will let us in 'ithout noticing that you have a hump at yer back, under your cloak, and four legs, like our dromedary. Then you can hand her the basket and let her go on before you to the kitchen. When her back is turned, inside, you must run to the back door and let in Tummas, who will be there wi' my cloak and hat for Lizzie to put on. We can pin it up a bit so as it won't draggle, and then the three on you are to mak for the station and catch the first train. I'll keep guard over Mrs Rorke until you are safe away, and I'll come by another train later on."
"She'll try to murder yer, Betsy," said Tom Jones in alarm ; "she'll be wusser than a lioness robbed of her whelps."
"I'm not much afeerd o' lions or lionesses," said Betsy. "Mrs Rorke 'ull have less chance wi' me than with Miss Jecks; but p'r'aps when you've seen 'em safe inter train, Tummas, you'd come back for me. I wish Jocko was here wi' me. He'd give her a fright as 'ud sober her for a while, as he did before."
"I'll frighten her out of her wits," said Jones. "I've got some blackin' and raddle in my pocket and summat else as 'ull mak her think I'm ode 'Arry as is come for her. People as drinks is always expecting him. But you may have a bad time on't, Betsy, alone wi' her before I get back. She'll holler out 'Murder!' and 'Thieves!' and 'Fire!' so as someone passing by may come and 'elp her and give yer in charge to a p'leeceman -- it's kind o' burglary and 'ousebreaking, yer know."
" Let's get inter cottage and find Lizzie, and then we can see wot's to be done wi' Mrs Rorke," said Betsy. "Nothing bad 'ull happen to any on us for saving Miss Rorke's sister from wickedness, as 'ud be worse than being dead if she remains here."
With this she took off her cloak and hat and consigned them to the care of Tom Jones, and then retired laughing under Miss Jeck's cloak.
"Look up and down the lane, Thomas, and see that there's no one about," said Miss Jecks.
Jones reported that the coast was clear, and then hurried off to the rear of the cottage.
"Keep step like the sogers do, Miss Jecks," said Betsy, pushing her head under her friend's arm to get some air and then clasping her waist.
In this quadruped fashion the two girls soon appeared at the cottage door, where Betsy withdrew her head beneath the cloak and concealed herself as much as possible behind Miss Jecks, who held the basket on her arm and knocked. Presently the door was opened by Mrs Rorke, who, as Betsy had prophesied, instantly fastened her eyes on the bottle.
"Come into the kitchen, where there is a little fire," she said. "Lizzie hasn't come home yet."
Miss Jecks stepped boldly into the passage, and pressed close to the wall in order to allow Mrs Rorke to lock the door without discovering Betsy. When the cautious lady had done so, and pocketed the key, she led the way down the passage to the kitchen at the back, whilst Betsy slipped from under the cloak and crept behind Miss Jecks, who handed Mrs Rorke the basket as she entered the kitchen and then ran to the back door, where she discovered that tht running woman had removed the key during her recent absence.
Miss Jecks turned and looked at Betsy in dismay, pointing at the same time to the door of the closet beneath the stairs in which Lizzie was concealed Mrs Rorke had not yet observed that Miss Jecks had not followed her into the kitchen. She had eagerly carried the basket to the table, on which was a solitary teacup and an old knife with a sharp point. She extracted the cork with her teeth, and on discovering that the bottle was empty, turned angrily to upbraid Miss Jecks; but instead of the slim woman in a cloak and hat that she had admitted, she beheld Betsy, divested of both, standing in the doorway with her arms akimbo and looking at her defiantly.
Mrs Rorke dropped the bottle on the tiled floor with a crash and sank into the chair, with her mouth open in amazement; but speedily recovering herself, and recognising Betsy, she seized the knife from the table and rushed at her in fury. As she did so Betsy quickly stepped back into the passage and pulled the kitchen door to, holding on by the brass knob of the lock at one side whilst Mrs Rorke tugged at the other, at the same time uttering loud imprecations.
In the midst of the outcry Betsy heard a loud wail from the poor child in the dark closet behind her. "Fetch her out quickly, Miss Jecks," she cried, "and tak her upstairs, where you can drop her out o' winder to Tummas and then jump arter her -- it's no more of a leap than yer often does at the circus."
Miss Jecks speedily opened the door of the closet, from which emerged a young girl in tears, with coal-stained face and hands. Miss Jecks hurried her upstairs to the bedroom over the kitchen, the casement of which she opened, and saw Tom Jones beneath.
"You must catch her, Thomas," she said. "Look out!" and then she dexterously dropped the bewildered Lizzie Rorke into his arms. "Now for me," she said. "Turn your face to the wall and stand like a rock until I land on your back."
Jones obediently turned to the wall and bowed his head. Miss Jecks seated herself on the window sill, carefully tucked up her skirts and slid forward, planting her feet evenly and firmly on his shoulders as she descended, then bounded off lightly to the ground.
"Is Betsy coming?" he asked.
"No, Betsy's got Mother Rorke to look after for a while. You can hear the old lady saying her prayers backwards inside. Here, let's wrap this poor child in the cloak and get her away. You can come back for Betsy. She's got Mrs Rorke shut up in the kitchen." With this they hurried off and made for the railway station in the town.
Later on Betsy was suddenly placed in great peril inside the cottage. The brass knob which she firmly held, so as to resist Mrs Rorke's efforts to pull the door open, suddenly came off the spindle and allowed the door to fly back, disclosing the furious woman with the knife in her hand. She instantly struck at Betsy, wounding her in the arm. The courageous girl could easily have overpowered Mrs Rorke in a fair fight, and would not have hesitated to give battle, but to tackle the fury in a narrow passage, with a knife in her hand, appeared to Betsy to be hazardous, therefore she turned and fled up the stairs by which Miss Jecks had escaped, pausing for a moment on the landing at top on finding she was not pursued.
Mrs Rorke saw that Lizzie had escaped, but imagined that she had only taken refuge on the upper floor with Miss Jecks. She could see that the outer doors were still closed, and she had the keys in her pocket, therefore she decided to take her stand at the foot of the stairs and there watch the further movements of the enemy. Betsy sat down on the top step of the stairs to examine the wound on her arm, from which blood was trickling down her sleeve.
"Send Lizzie down here direckly with my money or I'll come up and kill you," said Mrs Rorke. Then Betsy knew that she was unaware of Lizzie's escape, and decided to keep her in ignorance for a while to afford the fugitives time to reach the station.
"Put away that knife first, you bad woman," she replied. "You've cut my arm wi' it, and you'll be sent to prison for't."
"You've no business here," said Mrs Rorke. "How ever did you get in?"
"P'r'aps down the chimley. Now you'd better open the door and let me out."
"I'll kill you first and bury you in the garden," said Mrs Rorke, flourishing her knife. "Where's Miss Jecks and Lizzie?" she asked presently.
"Miss Jecks is gone for two big p'leecemen, as 'ull put handcuffs on yer," said Betsy defiantly.
"I know she's hiding upstairs," said Mrs Korke. "I heard her walking and talking to Lizzie over the kitchen just now. Tell 'em both to come down or it will be worse for 'em."
"It will be safer to wait until you are a bit cool," said Betsy. "I'm fearin' you've been at that bottle Miss Jecks brought in. Now, ef I was you, I'd drink a gallon o' cold water on top on't. I wondered that Miss Jecks 'ud think of encouraging yer in drinking, and on a Sunday, too, when yer ought to be at chapel wi' Lizzie. I'll talk to her 'bout it presently."
Just then Betsy heard a well-known whistle at the back of the cottage. "I'll go to her now," she said. "You must stay where you are for a while, Mrs Rorke, and try to be civil to Miss Jecks when you see her, and don't beat Lizzie, or I'll bring Jocko to bite yer. He may come flying in at a winder if yer won't be quiet, or drop out o' the 'Evings, where he lives when he's at 'ome, as he did at Mr Dixon's. D'ye remember?"
With this Betsy hurried into the adjacent room, from which Miss Jecks had escaped, and beheld the anxious face of Tom Jones gazing in at the window. He stood on the top rung of the ladder he had brought with him, which was too short to reach the window sill, to which he held on with his hands.
"Jump in, Tummas," Betsy said. "Are they safe off?"
" Yes, they are all right, Betsy. I've brought back yer cloak and hat." With this he struggled to lift his body through the small window, and in doing so unfortunately kicked away the ladder.
"Wot's to be done now," he said ruefully. "Miss Jecks oughter 'ave 'low'd me to tie on the other length. It's too fur for yer to jump, Betsy, wi' no one below to catch yer. Where's Mother Rorke?"
"She is waiting at the foot of the stairs, Tummas, wi' a knife in her 'and and the keys of the outer doors in her pocket. She won't let us out quietly, and I don't want you to hurt her, as being Miss Rorke's mother. You said yer could frighten her wi' one of your circus tricks."
"I've got three sovereigns from Miss Jecks to give her," said Jones. "P'r'aps that 'ud make her quiet ef yer was to give 'em to her?"
" No, she's savage at losing Lizzie; but give 'em to me for her, and I'll keep her in talk whiles yer maks up very 'orrid looking, like a devil as she'll be afeerd on."
Betsy arrived at the head of the stairs just in time to intercept Mrs Rorke, who was slowly creeping up in order to listen to the conversation, of which she had heard a faint murmur.
"Miss Jecks sends you these," said Betsy, holding out the sovereigns at arm's-length. "Please go down again, Mrs Rorke. She will feel obliged if you will open the door and let us go quietly,"
"Yes, if she'll leave Lizzie behind. Then you may go to the divvel."
"You shouldn't menshun him on a Sunday," said Betsy seriously. "He might come along, and then you'd 'ave to run and find a black cat for his supper, or p'r'aps he'd carry one on us off. Have you got a black cat about, Mrs Rorke, wi' never a white hair on 'im?"
Betsy was gaining time for Tom Jones to "make up" properly with the aid of a fragment of looking-glass he had found in the room.
" No, I haven't a cat, black or white. Let me pass, to talk to Miss Jecks myself. What is she hiding for? -- Divil take you both."
Betsy held some further parley, and refused to budge until she heard Jones open the door behind her on the landing, when he uttered a loud yell.
"I knew you'd fetch him," said Betsy, flinging up her arms as Tom Jones appeared with his face smeared with blacking and raddle, and vomiting red sparks from his mouth, which he had stuffed with lighted tow, a trick he had learned from a mountebank who enacted a "fire king."
Mrs Rorke fell on her face and threw her apron over her head in fright, loudly invoking protection from all the saints in the calendar. Betsy howled as if the demon had got hold of her, and flung herself on Mrs Rorke in order to ascertain whereabouts on her person the keys were to be found, and shook her violently until she got hold of them, then she hurried downstairs and escaped with Tom Jones by the back door, where she secured her cloak and hat.
Jones now saw that Betsy had been wounded. "I'll go back and lug her by the hair of her 'ed to a p'leece-stashun for using a knife on yer, Betsy" he said in wrath.
"Go back and wash yer face in the kitchen, Tummas," said Betsy, "or p'r'aps you'll find yerself in a p'leece-stashun yerself -- it was an accident. Tell Mrs Rorke, if you see her, that Muster Dixon will send her money every week, and her rent will be paid, so long as she leaves her daughters in peace; but if ever she tries to annoy Miss Rorke in any way I'll come along wi' Jocko, and ode 'Arry too, and next time it will be summat serious. Black cats, nor 'oly water, nor fire ingins won't save her. Say I sent yer to tell her, but don't let her know you was acting ode 'Arry yerself. I'm thinkin' he'll be jealous 'cause yer does him so lifelike."
When Betsy returned home that evening she said nothing about the wound
she had received, because she did not wish her friend Miss Rorke to know
of her mother's wickedness, particularly as she was to leave next morning
with her sister for Rhyl. Kitty was very thankful to Betsy for her late
exertions, and promised to write to her often.
"Perhaps Mr Dixon 'ud give you a week's holiday to come and see me, Betsy."
"I'd not like to leave Jocko wi' strangers for so long," said Betsy; " p'r'aps he'd not perform properly, and they'd beat him and he'd break his 'eart. I'm told he's been very miserable because I was away all day, and wouldn't eat his dinner."
Just then Jocko was seated in a high "child's chair" near Betsy, in a little room on the ground-floor which had been appropriated to them, and from which he could easily get out when he pleased to the adjacent garden. He seemed to know that Betsy was speaking of him, as he got down from his chair and came to her knee and laid his head in her lap.
"Betsy," said Miss Rorke with seriousness, "it's unnatural for an animal to be so fond of you as Jocko is. You ought to leave him more with the other animals at the menagerie. It's absurd paying two cab fares for him every day."
"Someone threatened to poison him," said Betsy, "and they could only do it at night. Jocko is watched all day so as no one can give him anything. That's why I bring him home wi' me and feed him myself."
Betsy did not tell Kitty that it was her mother that had threatened to poison her pet, and that she also distrusted Tubbs because of his jealousy and hate of Tom Jones. But Miss Rorke suspected it and said: "I am sorry to hear it, Betsy; but if you didn't care for him so much they wouldn't want to harm him. It's the same with me and Lizzie, and I'm afraid now to let her out of my sight."
Next day Betsy's arm was stiff and sore, but she made as light of the matter as possible, and although in much pain, went through her performances at the circus with Jocko and the lions as usual; but at night Mrs Dixon, seeing that she was suffering, insisted on seeing her arm, which was much inflamed and swollen.
Mrs Dixon questioned Miss Jecks and Tom Jones, and was satisfied that Mrs Rorke was the culprit, but Betsy would not tell how it had happened, and said that she would go to the central hospital and show her arm to Dr Ferrier and inform him all about it. The poor girl was afraid that if Mrs Dixon's medical man were to be informed, then, in some way, Miss Rorke would learn the fact that her mother had used the knife, and it would add to her mental worry and hinder her recovery.
Miss Jecks went with Betsy to the hospital, where they learned that Paul was absent in London. The house surgeon examined Betsy's arm, and evidently considered it was a serious case, as he told Miss Jecks that Betsy should remain in bed for some days under treatment, and on no account make any use of the arm. Betsy returned home weeping, and reluctantly resigned Jocko to the care of Tom Jones, who undertook to bring him back from the circus every night and to watch over him.
That evening, as Jones was leaving the menagerie with the trained animal in his arms, he heard him growl, and looking round saw Butty Tubbs in converse with a woman, who held the hood of her cloak over her head.
"Nivvur mind 'em, old man," said Jones kindly to Jocko. "I'm to tak you 'ome to your warm bed, and you'll see poor Betsy, as won't go to sleep till she's 'eard how good you've bin."
When Jones was out of sight, Butty Tubbs resumed an interrupted conversation with the woman, who stood near the door of the menagerie.
"I told you she isn't here tonight," he said. "That's the cove as went with her and Miss Jecks to Leamin'ton, and that's the big monkey she performs wi' as he's carrying 'ome to her. They thinks more on 'im here, since Betsy's trained 'im, than of the best 'oss in the stables, and no one's 'low'd nigh 'im now. I don't know where Miss Rorke has gone, and I'm going 'ome myself."
"A little hot rum with a squeeze o' lemon in't would do you good before you goes home," said his companion. "You have to work late hours, young man, and you must be tired."
"Yes, I'd not object to a glass o' rum, but if you want to see Betsy performin' wi' the lions you oughter come at two in the daytime or eight at night. I 'tends to their cage, and I often gets blow'd up along o' her and her beastes."
A fierce and absorbing hate seemed to have taken possession of the wretched woman, and for the moment displaced the fierce and absorbing thirst which at other times consumed her. Seven devils more wicked than the first had apparently entered into her -- devils of malice and cunning to whom she gave a joyous welcome.
Betsy, in the loyalty of her friendship for Kitty, had thrice crossed Mrs Rorke's path and utterly discomfited her. Mrs Rorke learned from the gossiping and malicious Tubbs, whose acquaintance she diligently cultivated, that Kitty had left the town with her sister for some place unknown, and she had received a letter from Sam Dixon, who was furious with her for wounding Betsy, and so depriving him of another of the attractions of his circus, informing her that unless she consented forthwith to remove to and permanently reside in the Isle of Man no further-remittances would be made to her.
Mrs Rorke heard from Tubbs that it was Betsy who had suggested this course to her employer when he proposed to hand her over to the police authorities, and it increased the venom of her malice against the poor girl, who had only made the suggestion with the view to sparing Kitty from further annoyance.
Betsy had informed Tom Jones of this proposal when he called for Jocko, and he had carelessly spoken of it in the hearing of Tubbs, who repeated the story to Mrs Rorke.
"I think you'd better go there, Mrs Rorke," said Tubbs. "You see we've 'ad no lion-taming for a week, and the dibs don't come in as usual. Female lion-tamers like Betsy isn't easy to be had, as they mostly gets killed. Sam Dixon has sworn you shan't 'ave a blessed copper as long as yer lives within a hundred miles of us. You'd better call and see 'im and say you'll 'ook it. You can't live on nothin', and you see you're in a tight place. Betsy's cornered you. Wotever made you do her a mischief?"
"I wish I'd killed her," said Mrs Rorke, "and him as was with her and a'most frightened the life out o' me."
"I wish you 'ad whilst you was about it," said Tubbs. "Leastways killed Jones, as is always bullying and getting me into rows and stoppages. He'd 'ave killed yer if Betsy had 'low'd 'im to do so."
"Why do you put up with them?" asked Mrs Rorke, drawing closer to Tubbs, who then stood at the corner of a street near the menagerie, and ought to have been at that moment inside at his work.
"'Cause I can't help it; but if Betsy isn't more civil to me I'll give her a fright as 'ull be worser than what she and Jones guv you, and p'r'aps he'll get the credit on't."
"Come and have another glass o' rum," said Mrs Rorke, pricking up her ears at this threat. "You've time enough, and I want to talk to you in privit."
" No, there's no time. I'm late as it is. I won't mind 'avin' a drop wi' yer when I'm going 'ome at night. Go inside, Mrs Rorke, and see the beastes, and wait for me, only don't let Jones see yer face. He'll tell Betsy, and she'll think you've come to do summat to that diva's limb Jocko, and ye'll get into trubbel. I wish his neck was broke."
"Amen, and hers also," said Mrs Rorke with fervour as she drew the hood of her cloak over her head and then watchfully followed her companion, who being late did not enter the menagerie by the regular entrance but turned aside and crept along outside the vans until he came to a narrow space between two of the largest, near the centre, which was filled with a small door, the lock of which opened with a key like a railway key. Tubbs first looked round stealthily and then quickly disappeared within.
Mrs Rorke crept up to the door and listened. She heard the restless
tramp of a large animal's paws, and then a loud noise, half bark half roar,
and knew that she was behind the cage of the lions.
Later on she was seated inside the menagerie, on a deal form opposite the same van, and saw the three lions pacing up and down in the larger compartment of the cage, one of them roaring now and then as if discontented with things in general and desirous of loudly protesting. She noticed that there was an iron-barred partition across the cage, with a wicket in the centre, which she could perceive was slowly moving on rollers by some unseen agency until it closed. When it was tight shut a corresponding wicket in the end of the van was opened, and Tubbs appeared with a broom in his hands and commenced to sweep the empty compartment. This done he brought in a can of water and filled an iron trough in a comer, then he retired by the wicket through which he had entered.
Mrs Rorke could hear a grinding noise, like that made by turning a winch, and she saw the sliding wicket in the partition slowly roll back again. As it moved, the largest of the three lions began to press impatiently through the opening, and rushed into the smaller compartment as soon as the aperture was wide enough to admit his body. He drank a little of the water and then returned to his companions, who were lying down, and resumed his restless tramping and roaring. Just then Tubbs emerged from a space between the vans, which was concealed by a narrow door similar to that he had entered from outside the menagerie. There was a similar space at the other end of the cage, from which access could be had to the larger compartment, in which Betsy always put the two tame lions through their performance.
Tubbs came over to where Mrs Rorke sat with her face concealed, and said: "That's a savage beast that big 'un. He'd like to get hold o' Betsy cos' she often fetches 'im a wipe of her whip when he puts his paws through the bars and growls at her. She has tamed t'other two so as they does what she bids 'em like performin' dogs; they're a different breed, and 'aven't got so much sperrit for fightin'." "How did you open and close that iron gate I saw moving by itself?" she asked.
"There's a winch handle in the passage between the vans where you saw me come out on," he explained, "and gearing under the floor of the van, so as it's easy to open and shut the wicket. Betsy goes in at t'other end, when the big lion is safe inside the cage, and the wicket is closed. People don't easily see from the front that he can't get at her, and he adds to the 'trackshun of the performance wi' his roarin' and rampaging. He guv her a fright once when the wicket was left a bit open, 'cause the chain slipped off the barrel as winds it up, and he got his forepaws and part of his 'ead through; but Lor'! didn't she welt him over the sconce, and made his hair fly, so as he 'ad to back out and roll hisself in the sawdust wi' pain. Ever since then Jones has had orders to come along and see as all's right before she goes in. She said as 'ow she'd welt me until my 'ide came off if it 'appened again, but she didn't let Jones report me as he wanted to do -- I'll say that for her -- and though I'd like to give her a big fright as 'ud turn her eyes in her 'ead, I'd not like her to be hurt. Here's Jones coming along, so hide your face and turn away. He's been in the circus wi' Jocko, but he can't mak 'im do his tricks like Betsy does, as never 'lows 'im to be whipped when he's stupid or stubborn."
Tom Jones here approached with Jocko seated on his shoulder. He looked sharply at the lions' cage and said to Tubbs: "Betsy's coming back to-morrow to perform wi' her lions, though her arm is stiff yet, 'cause there's a big 'scursion o' Stourbridge chaps to be here. You've to see that the cage is all right, Tubbs, and the 'ot irons ready, or you'll hear on't. Where was you just now?"
"I was here," said Tubbs sulkily.
"No yer wasn't, and Mr Dixon was lookin' for yer to tak a message to Mrs Rorke, as is around again, if you can find her. Miss Jecks thinks she saw her near the door. Hullo! Jocko, old man, who are you growling at? I shouldn't wonder if he see'd her also. He came in the cab wi' Miss Jecks to-day."
During this conversation Mrs Rorke had gradually edged herself away to the other end of the form. Jocko could plainly see her, but as he sat aloft he impeded Jones from doing so. She had drawn her hood over her face and sat huddled up on the form, listening attentively.
"Mrs Dixon has given orders at both doors that she's not to be admitted," Jones continued, "and if she gets in unbeknownst, she's to be turned out and her money returned. If she's seen near Jocko's cage you'll get the sack, Tubbs, and p'r'aps have your jacket dusted."
"I don't know her by sight," said Tubbs, "and I'd like to see anywan lay a whip on me along o' Jocko, or Betsy either, as long as there's law to be had."
"You know her well enough, Tubbs," said Jones angrily. "Miss Jecks saw yer talkin' to her in the street, and it warn't for no good, nor it warn't the first time, and law or no law I'll thrash you myself if I hear on't again."
With this the excited Jones, carrying the equally excited Jocko, who had by some subtle instinct detected his enemy seated close by, crossed over to Jocko's cage and placed him within.
"If you see her about, old man," he said to the angry ape, "just holler out for me, as you knows 'ov to do, and between us we'll do for her this time, she-devil that she is."
Jocko darted to the top of his cage and looked intently across at the lions' cage, but Mrs Rorke had disappeared. Jones saw that the animal's eyes were like flaming coals, and looked in the same direction.
"She isn't over there, Jocko," he said; "don't be foolish."
Jocko violently shook the bars of his cage, and chattered loudly as if in contradiction of this statement; and it so happened that he was right, because the instant Jones had turned his back to cross the menagerie Tubbs had opened the small door between the vans from which he had lately emerged and pushed Mrs Rorke inside. Jocko, in looking back from Jones' shoulder, had seen this manoeuvre, but alas! the poor animal could not make Jones understand. If Betsy had been there she would have known at a glance what Jocko meant to convey, and unearthed the enemy, who was just then groping about in the narrow half-lit passage to discover the winch handle which controlled the movement of the wicket between the lion's cages.
Tom Jones soon after left the menagerie, in which at the moment there were but few people, and then Tubbs immediately followed Mrs Rorke into the passage, which was not wide enough for two persons to squeeze past each other.
"Here, Mrs Rorke," he said impatiently, handing her his key, "open that door behind yer and 'ook it, and never come 'ere no more. You've nearly got me the sack this time."
Mrs Rorke seized the key and after some fumbling about succeeded in opening the outer door, and then hurried away, taking the key with her. Tubbs closed the door, which had a spring lock, and bethought him that he would reclaim his key later on and then inform Mrs Rorke that he could see her no more.
Paul Ferrier returned to his duties at the hospital that evening, as his leave of absence had expired and he had passed his examination in London. He had recently heard from his father from Nuremberg, postponing for a little the date of his return, and saying how much he had enjoyed his visit to the picturesque old city under the intelligent guidance of Ruth.
Being informed of Betsy's mishap by one of the hospital surgeons, Paul called at Sam Dixon's early next morning to see her, and then heard that, although she was feverish and ill and could not use her wounded arm, she had volunteered to give performances at the circus with Jocko and the lions, because one of the numerous workmen's excursions which patronised Sam Dixon's establishment was expected. Paul remonstrated with Betsy, but found she was determined on fulfilling her engagement, which had been already announced in the bills. It was to be a midday performance, and she promised not to attempt to repeat it in the evening, and to keep her arm in a sling." [sic]
"I shall have to make a complaint to Miss Ruth about this, Betsy," said Paul seriously.
"When will she be back, Dr Ferrier?"
"She may come any day now, Betsy, with her mother and my father."
"I want her so much to see how good Jocko has been since I was hurt," said Betsy, gently patting the animal, who stood by and held one of her hands, whilst he looked up in her face with an anxious expression. " He will scarcely leave me now for the circus wi' Tummas," she said. "Miss Jecks has to wheedle him away, and he looks so sorrowfully at my arm when it is being bandaged, and shakes his head like our old doctor does. If anyone speaks of Mrs Rorke he growls and shows his teeth. He understands more and more every day what's said to him."
"That is because you talk so much to him, Betsy. No doubt you've told him very often about Mrs Rorke, and showed him her handiwork."
"Yes, I've told him on't, so as if ever she comes near him at the circus he won't tak anything from her -- my precious pet." Here Betsy stooped and kissed Jocko on the cheek as if he were a child. "If I 'ad been wi' him when he was an infant," she said, "I think I could 'ave taught him to say little words as children does."
Paul shook his head and smiled, and Jocko gravely imitated the gesture.
"If he could speak, even a few words, Betsy," he said, "all the philosophers in the world would come here to see and hear him."
"Three 'under'd work-people 'ull come to see 'im to-day," said Betsy; "p'r'aps some on 'em can understand him as well as the 'flosifers, as Miss Jecks says talks a lot o' nonsense amongst theirselves."
"I am afraid they sometimes do," said Paul, laughing. "Now, Betsy, you must not talk too much yourself. I wish you could have remained here quietly until your arm is well and let someone else amuse the excursionists."
Paul took leave of the attached pair with some misgivings and went back to his work, pondering on the reasoning power which Jocko was developing under the influence of constant association with the earnest girl who took such pains to understand him, and who was herself a curious instance of late mental development and adaptation to her surroundings.
A few hours later Betsy sat enthroned in the howdah on the back of the elephant, with Jocko as mahout, looking back now and then at his mistress for approval or to exchange loving glances. There was a large audience of enthusiastic work-people, who shouted their applause in a rude dialect which sounded like music to Betsy.
The procession was a great success, and no mahout could have behaved with greater steadiness than Jocko, who was the chief object of interest to the workmen's children.
Just then Jocko's reputation for intelligent cleverness and amiability was very great. He was well-known in every household in the Black Country, and was a special favourite with the female members of the circus company, any one of whom he would readily recognise in a crowd and testify his pleasure at seeing them.
Sam Dixon came forward to assist Betsy in alighting, and thanked her warmly for making the effort to attend the circus that day. He offered the support of his stout arm to assist her in passing through the crowd in the menagerie, whilst Tom Jones proceeded in front with Jocko on his shoulder.
Betsy looked pale and fatigued, and said she would put her lions through their performance at once, without changing her dress for the light protecting armour she usually wore when in the cage.
Sam Dixon opened the door of the right-hand passage between the vans at the end of the larger cage, and as Betsy could only use one arm, Tom Jones entered before her in order to unlatch and open the inner wicket for her, which led direct to the cage. The upper half of this wicket was barred, so that he could see into the cage whilst standing in the passage with Jocko seated on his shoulder.
Sam Dixon handed Betsy her whip, which she had to hold in her left hand, and then he assisted her to mount a few steps inside the door to the level of the floor of the van. In a rack close by, just inside the door, were two loaded rifles, and in brackets beneath the van it was customary to keep in readiness two long bars of iron, the ends of which had been previously heated red hot in a furnace in an outside shed, to which access was had by the wicket through which Mrs Rorke had made her escape on the previous evening.
It was the duty of Tubbs to place these heated irons in their usual position before Betsy entered the cage, but as Mrs Rorke had taken his key he could not get out to obtain them from the man who had charge of the furnace, and was unable to ask Jones for the loan of his key because he had gone into the other passage and Sam Dixon stood by the door.
Jones watched for the opportunity of the two tame lions being together near the far end of the cage and then quickly rolled the wicket open for Betsy to pass through, and as rapidly closed it behind her.
"Don't stop long, Betsy; you look tired," he said. I'll wait here wi' Jocko to let yer out, so as you can tak 'im 'ome directly."
Betsy struck the side of the cage with her whip, which signal brought the two tame lions bounding towards her, and caused the large lion in the smaller compartment to roar and rear on his hind legs against the bars of the partition.
The tamed beasts had not performed for more than a week, and were rather difficult for Betsy to manage at first, but at length one lay down quietly so that she could sit on his back, whilst the other placed his head on her lap and allowed her to open his jaws and exhibit his teeth.
Just then some of the spectators in the front rows began to exclaim: "Look out, Miss Bettina! Look at the big 'un; he's forcing hisself inter cage!"
Betsy quickly turned her head and saw that the wicket in the partition was partly open, and that the black-maned lion had already got his two forepaws and part of his head through, and was making violent efforts to force himself between the partly opened wicket and its frame. She rose at once, hurried towards him, and dealt him a smart cut across the forehead with her whip, calling out " Go back, Nero! Back, sir! Back wi'yer!" But although she struck him as rapidly and heavily as she could, using her left arm, the savage beast seemed careless of the blows he received and struggled all the more to get at her through the opening, which seemed slowly to grow wider.
The people in front were now shouting in horror and alarm, and the two lions in the compartment with Betsy became excited, and joined in with loud roars as they bounded to and fro.
Sam Dixon had quickly possessed himself of one of the rifles, and rushed inside the guard rail in front of the bars of the cage, but he dared not fire lest he should hit Betsy, who stood between him and the wicket, facing the struggling lion and raining blows on his head and paws, whilst she called loudly, but in vain, for the "hot irons." She knew well that one touch of the cautery on his mouth would send the furious lion cowering in a corner of his cage.
Tubbs had fled out of the menagerie by the front door to get the irons and bring them round as soon as he recognised Betsy's danger.
At last Betsy's whip broke in pieces, and then only she turned to fly. She would have escaped in safety to the wicket by which she had entered at the other end of the cage had not one of the performing lions accidentally crossed her path in leaping about. She fell over his body, on her disabled arm, but in an instant was on her feet again as Tom Jones shot the wicket back so as to let her slip through. At that moment the savage beast burst through the half opened wicket in the partition at the other end of the cage, and made but one leap through the entire length of the compartment. He struck Betsy on the shoulder with one of his huge paws, dashing her forward on her face into the opening where Jones stood almost paralysed with fear, and utterly forgetful of the watchful animal perched on his shoulder, who had gathered himself up for a spring, his lips drawn back from his teeth and his eyes glowing like red coals.
The lion stooped to seize the prostrate girl by her neck, growling fiercely. At the same instant there was heard a piercing scream from Jocko, and like a flash of light the ape was seen to fly at the lion's face and seize the huge beast by the nose with his teeth, thrusting his fingers into the lion's eyes so as completely to blind him.
For a few seconds people saw the dark lion rushing round the cage, violently shaking his head from side to side in the effort to get rid of his strange assailant, whose sharp teeth were buried in his flesh, then the great beast rolled over on his back in order to bring his paws to bear. Fortunately he rolled near the front of the cage, close to the spot where Sam Dixon stood with the rifle waiting for his opportunity to fire. Sam quickly placed the muzzle of the rifle in the lion's ear and sent a bullet through his brain before he could fix a claw in the body of poor Jocko, which was dyed red with the blood of the lion he had so courageously attacked in defence of the life of his beloved mistress.
For some moments there was a scene of wild confusion in the menagerie -- men were shouting and rushing about calling for weapons, women shrieked in terror, and many of them fainted. Sam Dixon alone remained cool and collected. He had quickly possessed himself of the second rifle in case the other lions should attack Betsy in their excitement, but it was soon seen that the two frightened animals had fled into the smaller compartment of the cage, the wicket in the partition being now completely open.
Then at last Jones ventured to raise Betsy and to draw her into the passage, from which she was speedily borne away, white and motionless, in Sam Dixon's arms, through a weeping crowd of people. No one seemed to pay any attention to poor Jocko, who remained in the larger compartment of the cage, lying with his head on the body of the dead lion as if in sleep.
The circus vet was the first to notice him, and straightway hurried to close the wicket in the iron-barred partition. As he entered the narrow dark passage in which the handle of the opening gearing was fixed he was surprised to see a woman peering through the bars of the wicket into the cage.
"Hullo!" he exclaimed, "what brings you here?"
"I ran in here, sir, in fright, out of the crowd," she said.
"Well, then, get out again. This place is strictly private, and the door should have been locked."
"Is Betsy killed?" the woman eagerly asked.
"No, I hope not; but I'm afraid she is badly hurt. Stand back and let me wind up the wicket outside, which seems to have been left open by that accursed Tubbs, or opened by the devil himself."
He rapidly wound back the iron wicket between the cages as he spoke, and glanced through the bars to be certain that the tame lions were secured within the smaller compartment, then hurried away to rescue Jocko, who he carried out of the cage in his arms.
"Stand back, men, and let him have air," he said to the men who pressed round.
"Have any of you got any brandy about you?"
A man quickly produced a flask of some kind of spirit. The vet tasted the contents, then poured some into Jocko's mouth and felt over his heart. As he did so his face gradually fell, and he sadly shook his head.
"He's gone, men," he said sorrowfully, "he's gone, and we shall never see one like him again. He was worth more than his weight in gold, and had a brave human heart. It must have broken because he thought Betsy was killed. There's not a scratch on him, but he's bleeding from the mouth. Poor Jocko!"
The vet tenderly carried the little body away to his room, and washed and laid it out decently on a table in order that the sorrowing members of the company might see it before it was borne away for the last time to Sam Dixon's house.
That afternoon Paul Ferrier was on duty in the casual accident room of his hospital with two assistants. He had just received a telegram from his father announcing his arrival in London, and saying he would be in Birmingham that night, and would be accompanied by Mrs Weston and her daughter as far as Warwick. Paul was examining a railway time table, with a view to travelling to meet the party at Warwick, when he was startled by the sudden appearance of Miss Jecks, in her circus costume, weeping violently.
"Oh! Dr Ferrier," she exclaimed, "our Betsy has been attacked by one of the lions, and is badly hurt. Mr Dixon and Jones are bringing her here. She has never spoken since she was struck by the cruel beast, and I'm afraid she's dead."
Paul hurried with the assistants to receive the wounded girl, in whom he had always taken great interest. He had been thinking of her with some anxiety all the morning because of the danger she incurred in entering the lions' cage in her feeble condition, with one of her arms quite useless. Now he looked anxiously in the pale comely face, which rested on Sam Dixon's shoulder, and seized her wrist.
"She is still alive," he said after a pause. "Where is she hurt?"
Sam Dixon pointed to Betsy's right shoulder-blade, which was covered with white handkerchiefs, through which blood was oozing.
Paul glanced for a moment at the deep marks of the lion's claws and then raised one of her eyelids.
"The blow has paralysed her," he said; "that is generally the case when a lion strikes near a great nerve." And then having administered a teaspoonful of brandy, he directed that Betsy should be taken to one of the private rooms of the hospital appropriated to the better class of patients.
"I wish you to spare no expense, Dr Ferrier," said Sam Dixon in a husky voice, "If she can be moved again soon, I'd like her to be taken home to my house and that you'd attend her there with the best surgeon you know of in Birmingham. I'm afraid to go home to my wife, as she was against Betsy going out after what you said this morning. It's all happened because of delay with the man who contracted to make the new van, and because that scoundrel Tubbs left the wicket in the partition half open. If I had time I'd have shot him as well as the beast. It was Jocko saved Betsy's life. God bless him. He hung on to the big lion like a bull dog and gave me the chance to put a ball in his ear."
"Is Jocko safe?" Paul asked.
"I had no time to see, Dr Ferrier, but I hope so. I'll wait until you can come out and tell me what you think of Betsy, and then I'll go back for him. I know you'll do your best for both of 'em as old friends. Please allow Miss Jecks to stay; she's fond of Betsy."
"Yes, she may stay," said Paul. "Now, I think the nurses have placed the poor girl in bed and I must go in. I'll do my best for her and for Jocko if you find he's hurt. Bring him here if he is. You had better go back at once and see."
Sam Dixon found a great crowd waiting outside the hospital for tidings of Betsy. She was probably the most popular character in Birmingham with the working people at that time, being one of their own class, who spoke their dialect, and was sympathetic with their wives and children. "Betsy" and "Jocko" were household words wherever Dixon's menagerie travelled. The people spoke of her with pride as "an honest lass wi' kindly eyes, as was a nailer's daughter and is now a Lion Queen."
They crowded round Sam Dixon's vehicle and impeded its movement in order to hear tidings of the young "lion queen," who had met the fate which in general befalls such adventurous persons sooner or later. The tidings of the disaster had spread through the city, and excited horror and compassion everywhere.
The porch of the hospital was already occupied by newspaper correspondents anxiously waiting, like the people, for intelligence from within. Two of the leading surgeons in the city had hurried to assist Paul, and were recognised with applause; then Mrs Dixon drove up, and was allowed to enter. She was weeping, and somewhat hysterical. She had gone home when the performance in the circus was over, and the first intelligence of the disaster she had received was when the vet arrived with poor Jocko's dead body.
Miss Jecks came out of the room where Betsy lay, with a telegram in her hand.
"She is still unconscious," she said, "but she has murmured Miss Weston's name once or twice, and Dr Ferrier has telegraphed for her."
Mrs Dixon looked at the telegram. It was directed to "Mrs Weston, in the train at Warwick," telling her that Betsy had been seriously hurt by one of the lions and desired to see Ruth.
"You must not let Betsy know that poor Jocko is dead," said Mrs Dixon sobbing. "I wouldn't 'ave given 'im for all the lions and tigers as ever was born; and if she hears of it she'll break her 'eart and die as he did. Tell Dr Ferrier to keep it from her -- my poor girl, as was getting to be like a daughter to me. It was that accursed woman Mrs Rorke as opened the wicket. Tubbs has told all about it, and Jones has well-nigh thrashed the life out of 'im; but she has escaped. The vet saw her between the vans. She must be a she-devil as is let loose for a time."
"Betsy used to say that Jocko was an angel in disguise," said Miss Jecks, desirous that the reference to the opposite class of supernatural beings should be speedily rendered innocuous.
"He gave his life for her," said Mrs Dixon solemnly, "and the very best of angels couldn't do no more. I believe he's in Heving this very minute, or on his way there. Go to the telegraph office, Miss Jecks, and send that message for Dr Ferrier to the young lady as Betsy used to call 'a angel upon earth.' Perhaps she'll know best how to comfort her for the loss of him that's gone as she was so fond of. But if she dies she'll surely see him soon again, with wings and golden feathers, instead of his nice fur, that Betsy used to brush until it shone like satting."
Three days after this the members of Sam Dixon's company were assembled in the garden behind his house, at his special request, to attend the funeral of poor Jocko.
A little grave had been dug beneath the large elm tree, in whose branches he used to disport himself, round which the female members of the company were grouped. Presently a procession emerged from the house, following a small oaken coffin, behind which walked Sam Dixon and his wife, then came Paul Ferrier and the vet, and next the riding-masters, acrobats, etc. They all looked grave and reverent, as if the funeral were that of one of the male "artists."
The coffin was lowered into its place by Tom Jones and the vet, who had borne it between them from the house, and was straightway covered with flowers by the women, many of whom sobbed and wept.
Paul Ferrier stood at the foot of the grave and removed his hat. He was in deep mourning for his mother, but most of those present imagined he had assumed it because of the great interest he had taken in Jocko.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "Mr Dixon has asked me to say a few words to you before the grave of our little friend is filled in. I see that his sad death has caused many of you deep sorrow, as it does especially to me, who have known him so long and studied him with so much interest. To me he was one of the great human family, loving and gentle with his friends, especially with that dear friend who devoted so much care and affection to him, whose life, there is no doubt, he saved in the hour of her extremity, and for whom he gave his own. I invite those who will deny that Jocko was one of our kindred to compare his life and his noble sacrifice with the life and degradation of the wretched woman who, in cruelly seeking to compass the death of Betsy Clinker, has caused this calamity."
"You will wish, no doubt, to hear something from me of your friend and associate who lies wounded and in my charge at the central hospital. I am thankful to say that I think her state, although still serious, is not now dangerous. She has had a great nervous shock, at a time when she was suffering from a previous injury, and was unconscious until yesterday. She is watched over by a young lady who takes great interest in her. Betsy knows nothing as yet of the death of her little friend who lies here, and for some time it is desirable that she should be kept in ignorance of his fate. To her he was always affectionate, and she loved him dearly. He has repaid her loving care with the sacrifice of his life."
"Mr Dixon desires me to say," Paul added after a pause, during which the grave was filled in amidst the sobs and tears of the women, "that he has decided that there shall be no more performances with wild beasts whilst he has control over the menagerie. I am glad to hear it, and I hope to live to see such things prohibited altogether, and if so poor Jocko will not have died in vain"
"I hope, Betsy, you will not think of going into such danger again," Ruth said. "I am glad to be able to tell you that there will be no necessity in future. When it was made known in the newspapers that you became a 'lion queen' in order to support your blind father and your sisters, a public subscription was raised, so that they are now amply provided for, and you will also have a sum invested for you that will produce thirty pounds a year. I would like you to come and live with me at Warwick. Dr Ferrier thinks it will be good for you. He wishes to attend to you until you are quite recovered, and he thinks you require rest and quiet."
"Yes, I'll be glad to live with you again, Miss Ruth, and I am thankful to you and to Dr Ferrier and to all your friends. I'll do whatever you think I can do best in your house -- and where will he live"
"We are to be married soon, Betsy, and he intends to practise as a doctor at Warwick. He has taken a nice house near my mother's, and your old friend, our former cook, is coming back to her."
"I always knew it would 'appen so, Miss Ruth, and I used to tell Jocko on't, 'cause Dr Ferrier first saw you at the circus when he was makin' a picture of him. P'r'aps you wouldn't mind asking him to give it to me to keep if he has it still? He didn't quite finish it when he saw you, and now he'll have you always to look at and can spare me Jocko's likeness. I'm thinkin' if he hadn't seen you he'd 'ave gone on makin' pictures o' monkeys and wouldn't care to be married at all, like them queer ode chaps at his father's place as was always quarrelling about who was to do the cooking and who was to mak the beds and don't any on 'em know which end to begin at."
"They are going away from the Hall, Betsy, to a college in which they will teach and will try to manage for themselves on another plan. Mr Ferrier will live with us when he is in England; he is very kind to me, and glad to help me. It was he who began the subscription for your family, and gave the largest amount. He has repurchased Madeley Court, and will have it properly repaired and adapted as a home for old men, like your father, who are past work. He and a number of friends of his are going to establish factories such as we saw abroad where young people can be trained to make useful things easily and cheaply. One of them will be a nail factory, with machines to make the nails which even girls will be able to use without becoming grimy."
"It will be a good thing for Dudley folks that Mr Ferrier met you, Miss Ruth, and that you know so well what is wanted," said Betsy.
"It was a good thing that I met you, Betsy, because I chiefly learned about the working people from you. When you are stronger you will be able to go amongst them for us and find out who ought to be helped first. You will know and understand them best."
"Yes, I'll be glad to do that, Miss Ruth," said Betsy eagerly, "and I'll not let Mr Ferrier be imposed on. Them as most wants help is often the last to ask for't."
Ruth then explained the light duties which would be expected from Betsy in her house, as Dr Ferrier feared that it would be a long time before she quite recovered from the nervous shock she had sustained. She also told her that her sister Nellie was coming to her mother's house to be trained, as she had been, by the same excellent woman, who seemed to have impressed her faithful earnestness of character on Betsy. This latter arrangement seemed to please her greatly, and to relieve her mind of all anxiety regarding the sister, who it appeared was previously ambitious to follow Betsy's example and obtain employment in one of Mr Dixon's establishments, but was now deterred by the late accident.
"It is very kind of cook to tak another rough girl such as I was in hands," she said gravely. "She's a serious minded woman as was once engaged to a young man who was killed by a railway, and she thinks he'll be waitin' for her in Heving. Don't you think, Miss Ruth, my poor Jocko, as was so good, will have a little place kept for him up there where I may hope to see him again? Dr Ferrier says 'he may have as good a chance as many others.'"
"Yes, Betsy, I think so."
" Then, Miss Ruth, I'll wait for that chance."
It is six years since Betsy made that resolution, and she has kept and seems likely to keep her vow. She has thrice refused offers of marriage from Tom Jones, who has steadily risen to be a full-grown riding-master and wears the glossiest of silk hats in the ring. Each year when the date of Jocko's death comes round Betsy suffers from acute pain in the shoulder, where she was struck by the lion, the mark of whose huge claws is still visible in her flesh. Then she sets out on a pilgrimage to the grave of her little friend in Sam Dixon's garden and strews it with flowers. A small white headstone has been erected, on which is incised the word
Betsy carefully scrapes out the letters with a hairpin, as she says, "to mak 'em look fresh so as no one would forget him." Mrs Dixon has suggested the addition of a text to the inscription on the headstone, but Betsy has insuperable objections to 'texes,' and says they remind her of the nail sacks she used to carry, and that her shoulder aches when she thinks of them. She remains a few days with Mrs Dixon, who loves to gossip with her of her old companions at the circus, and tells her that Kitty Rorke has married one of the "artises," who has established a riding-school in Kensington, where Kitty teaches the young/ladies' and has resumed the practice of wearing brilliantly coloured feathers in her hat.
"Tom Jones is going to marry Miss Jecks as you wouldn't have him, Betsy," Mrs Dixon says. "They've been always friendly since the day she jumped on his back out of the window of that cottage where Kitty's 'orrid mother lived' and died so suddenly after you was hurt. Kitty had a big tombstone put on her, saying 'she's gone to Heving,' and I'm fearing it's a mistake, leastways Kitty spends no end of money on masses to try to get her out of another place."
"If ever she gets to Heving," Betsy says solemnly, "and if Jocko sees her, I'm certing she'll 'ave to 'ook it. I forgive her, but I know he never will, nor Tubbs who helped her."
"Tubbs was never seen or heard of more after Jones gave him that awful thrashing," said Mrs Dixon, "and I'm glad on't, 'cause Sammil is that soft he'd be likely to give him another chance if he said as he was 'ungry. Sammil gets softer and softer and easier to be imposed on as he grows older. Tell me, Betsy, is Dr Ferrier as fond o' monkeys as he used to be?"
"He's got three little monkeys of his own at 'ome just now, Mrs Dixon, as he's very fond on, and so is his father, who often stays wi' us and has grown to be quite a pleasant old gentleman, but that's because of Mrs Ferrier, as was Miss Ruth, who knows how to manage him."
"Her uncle, Mr Miles, is come back to the house next door with his two boys, who have grown to be clever young men," said Mrs Dixon. "They have put him up a forge at the end of the garden, and there he works all day and seems quite happy, and he's sober as a judge."
"Then he won't see no more ghostes," said Betsy. "The sons often come to see us, and Mrs Ferrier goes to see him with her mother. He's never bin to Warwick, 'cause he says Dr Ferrier and his father are ''eathens as never goes to church nor chapel.' I only wish there was many more on 'em like Dr Ferrier, as is so good and kind."
"I wonder he hasn't been able to cure your shoulder, Betsy, after all those years, and he so skilful."
"It aches less and less I think every year, and only once a year," Betsy said in her patient way. "He's tried 'lectricity and many things, and he often sends me out to drive wi' the children in the country. He thinks that p'r'aps at the end of seven years I'll forget to think on't, and then the pain will go. But how can I forget that cruel lion's eyes as killed poor Jocko? I see them often in the night and hear him scream."
At this the poor girl sobbed and wept, and Mrs Dixon, with tears in her eyes, took her in her arms and tried to comfort her.
"There wasn't a scratch on 'im, Betsy," she said. "Sammil shot the wicked beast before ever he could fix a claw in Jocko. Jocko died from the excitement, because his little heart was weak, Dr Ferrier said. He couldn't 'ave lived much longer in any case. He only screamed because he saw the lion was about to seize on you before ever he sprang inside the cage off Jones' shoulder."
"If I was only quite sure on't, Mrs Dixon, if I was quite sure that Nero didn't tear him limb from limb, then I'd be more content," Betsy sobbed out.
"I could satisfy you directly, my dear, that it is so, but perhaps you'd be angry with me for something as I caused to be done before ever he was buried -- even Sammil doesn't know of it. He had Nero stuffed and set up on a stand in the menagerie, which you have never been inside since you was hurt, with glass eyes in his big head of a fiery colour like they used to be when you went into the cage. Well, I got the man who came from London, as was what they calls a taxidermer, to come here at night and do something for me as I thought you'd like to see some day. Only I've been afraid to show it you for fear you'd be vexed, and I've not let Sammil know lest he'd want to exhibit it with Nero, whose body was burnt to ashes as it deserved to be."
"Isn't Jocko's body buried in the garding?" Betsy asked with open eyes.
"Yes, Betsy, I saw him buried there myself, and so did Dr Ferrier, who made a beautiful speech over him at the funeral, with his hat off respeckfully, as if Jocko was a human being. It was mentioned in all the papers, though some on 'em as is called 'clerical journals' whose writers never saw Jocko and knew no better, tried to ridicule it, which only made people subscribe all the more to the fund which Dr Ferrier's father headed with fifty guineas, I think, because they called his son 'a heathen flosifer.'"
"But about Jocko?" Betsy pleaded, seeing that Mrs Dixon was wandering from the point.
"Do you think, Betsy, you could bear to see him again just as he used to sit on the table and hold out his little hand to the children, and with the nice coat on him as we made together? Then you'll see as his soft fur was never torn."
"Yes, I think I'd like to see for myself," said Betsy after a pause, in which it began to dawn on her that Mrs Dixon had taken measures to preserve the fur in question.
"Then come with me, Betsy," said Mrs Dixon solemnly, "and take my bottle of smelling salts in your hand in case you might be overcome." With this the good lady slowly proceeded upstairs followed by Betsy, in awe and wonder, until they reached the door of a small room used as a linen closet, which Mrs Dixon unlocked and entered. Then she opened a wardrobe and showed Betsy a cedar wood box about a yard high standing on end inside.
"Take a chair and a good sniff at the salts, Betsy," she said. "I'd not like you to go off in a faint up here out of call of the servants, as might be curious and not sleep easy until they saw what I'm going to show you. Are you sure you're quite ready?"
"Yes, I'm ready," said Betsy in a low tone, sitting down in front of the case and folding her hands together as Mrs Dixon opened the hinged door, inch by inch, and disclosed the result of the taxidermist's skill.
Betsy slowly sank on her knees and timidly put out her hand to take that presented to her, which in life was nearly as cold as it felt now.
"Open the breast of his little coat and you'll see that I've told you the truth," said Mrs Dixon.
"Yes, I am quite satisfied now," said Betsy. "I didn't doubt your word, Mrs Dixon, but I thought that p'r'aps everyone wished to spare me from knowing the worst. Now I am comforted. I'd like to stay here and look at him for a little while."
"Would you like to take him home with you, Betsy? If so, you may have him, only you mustn't ever tell Sammil. If you was married you'd know that there's some little things as it's always best to keep to one's self."
"Oh, Mrs Dixon, I'd be so thankful to have 'im," said Betsy eagerly. "He's so lifelike, and his eyes are just the right amber colour."
"Dr Ferrier chose 'em out of a lot of eyes the man had," said Mrs Dixon. "He promised me he'd never tell anyone, and I see that he's kept his word, as he never told you, Betsy."
"He gave me a picture of him as hangs in my bedroom," said Betsy. "But this is Jocko himself, just as he used to be. Dr Ferrier will be glad to see him again, and the children, as I've often told about him. Now p'r'aps the ache will leave my shoulder and my heart."
Betsy took the case containing what we must call the "effigy" of Jocko home with her to Warwick that evening, and asked permission from Dr Ferrier to place it in a large room in the house used as a museum, in which he had collected many curious things removed from the Hall, and which she usually kept in order. She would have liked to place the case in her bedroom with Jocko's portrait, but feared her doing so would cause the other domestics to make ridiculous remarks.
Paul readily gave the desired permission, and told Betsy that she might take her work and sit there whenever she liked. He was curious to see the effect of the renewed association on the singular girl, who from being so courageous and independent in her ways had become rather timid and reserved, always performing her duties with care and punctuality, but with a quiet sadness in her eyes which told of a hidden sorrow and wakeful nights. Dr Ferrier had feared that this would end in settled melancholy, but now he was glad to see that her eyes became brighter, and at times she was heard singing in a low voice some plaintive ballad as she sat in the museum in the evenings at her needlework, with the door of the cedar wood box open in order that Jocko might hear. She had brushed and rearranged his fur, which retained its softness and lustre, and placed sprigs of lavender, which was a plant he had been partial to, all round his little body, so that he appeared half hidden in a silvery thicket, from which he looked out in quaint resemblance to the living original when formerly playing "hide and seek" with Betsy in the foliage of the elm tree.
Paul Ferrier had regularly kept up a correspondence with Dr Hafiz, the Arab doctor who had treated him so successfully at Algiers, and had often mentioned Betsy's case to him, as he learned that Dr Hafiz had had several patients who had been struck or mangled by lions in his country. Paul had not been hitherto much encouraged to hope that Betsy would ever be perfectly cured, as very few of the Arab doctor's patients had survived the seventh year after the date of their injuries, especially when they had been attacked by old lions. They generally suffered acute pain, as Betsy did, about the date of the anniversary of the attack, and usually succumbed to melancholia or persistent insomnia, and Betsy suffered from both.
When the date of Jocko's death came round she had hitherto been allowed to shut herself up in her room with his portrait, and for about a month after she was always in pain and slept but little.
It so happened that Dr Hafiz and his wife came to England to pay Paul and Ruth a long promised visit, and arrived at Warwick about a fortnight before the seventh anniversary of Betsy's accident. The Eastern lady now looked much older than Ruth, and the resemblance with which Paul and his father had formerly been struck was not so remarkable, but her dark eyes were still as lustrous as ever, and her manner had all its winning charm. She took great interest in Ruth's children and in Betsy, who had charge of them when they went on excursions in the beautiful wooded country round Warwick, which in itself was a sight of never ending pleasure to the foreigners, accustomed to the bare and tawny landscape of Algiers. They had often seen Betsy at work in the evenings in the museum, seated in her usual place, looking sadly now and then at the little figure in the cedar wood case.
"It is a morbid grief, like that of some of our young African women who have lost someone to whom they were much attached," said Dr Hafiz. "She should be made to forget on the next day when she is likely to renew her sorrow, otherwise this little mommie will become to her like a fetish, and she will never recover."
Paul did not like the word applied to all that remained visible on earth of his and Betsy's former friend, but he was anxious to try something new to give the poor girl relief during the critical time so near at hand, as all the remedies he had hitherto tried at those periods had proved ineffectual.
"How can she be made to forget the terrible scene she went through?" he asked.
"As you were made to forget in the gallery of the inn at Algiers," said Dr Hafiz. "We can but try what I suggest; it will do no harm. Ask Madame Ferrier to explain to the girl that she is to submit to the treatment. Unless she is persuaded to have confidence in us, and to surrender her will, it will be impossible to cure her after so long an interval. There are yet ten days, I think, before the next of these nervous crises is due. Much can be done in that time. On the last day she must remain unconscious for several hours. You will be present to see that the experiment is not pushed too far. Perhaps, also, if possible, that medical friend of yours, Dr Clement, who did not permit that your leg should be cut off. He will not be prejudiced regarding me and my methods, as he knows of your cure."
Ruth persuaded Betsy to submit to the curious treatment of Dr Hafiz and his wife, whilst she sat by holding one of her hands, as she used to do at the hospital, in order to give her confidence, whilst Madame Hafiz played the monotonous tune on her tiny guitar and her husband sent Betsy to sleep with the steady gaze of his piercing black eyes, making the hypnotic trance longer each day until the last, when, in the presence of Paul and Mr Clement, Betsy was allowed to remain unconscious for four hours during the period of the day in which she had last been at the circus. Her shoulder-blade had been carefully manipulated by Dr Hafiz and his wife on all previous occasions, but on this last she was allowed to remain perfectly still in silence. Paul and Mr Clement now and then took the precaution of feeling her pulse in order to be certain that she was in no danger, and at length Dr Hafiz released her from oblivion and requested that she should be sent out for a drive with the children.
When they returned, Dr Ferrier and his guests were at dinner in the room beneath the museum. A message was sent to Betsy to take the children there for a while during the meal, and then to bring them downstairs again. For some time they could be heard scurrying to and fro with Betsy, and shouting in high glee overhead. Then she appeared at the dining-room door bearing the little girl, who was the youngest, triumphantly on her shoulder, as she used to bear her nail sack, and with a boy on either side holding her dress. Betsy had not been able to carry anything in that fashion since she was struck by the lion, but now she seemed to rejoice in her lively burden, who clutched her hair, and to be as "happy as a queen" on this the seventh anniversary of the saddest day in her life. Her cheeks were flushed with the excitement of her recent game at romps with the children, and her eyes were bright and merry.
" She is cured, I think," said Dr Hafiz, who had been intently watching Betsy.
"She probably has now no recollection of that terrible quarter of an hour in the lions' cage, and in consequence she will be a little confused for a time."
"Where have you been, Betsy?" inquired Dr Ferrier, alluding to the drive she had recently taken with the children.
"Please, sir, we've bin wi' Mr Jocko."
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