Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

From Temple Bar. had brought me his regiment to his THE CAPTURE OF A WOLF.

native town. I was broiling me a rasher for mine Lost was I in such-like musings ('tis dinner in the little room back o' the a way of mine), when Luke did stretch shop, when long Luke Sparfit did thrust a long arm athwart me for to turn my him in his head at the doorway, “to rasher, which was like to burn, and:pass the time o' day," quoth he, but I “Davie," quoth he, "fain would I would have it he had smelled the cook- know what was in our colonel's mind ing.

this forenoon. Heaven send the old Now Luke be kin o' mine, and the man be not going daft! For was there strongest man and smartest soldier (so ever heard the like? The men turned his mates did oft tell me at their shav- out in skirmishing order without e'er a ing) in the regiment of dragoons then note of bugle and the word passed to quartered in our town, but daily looking ride, as quiet as mice, to the three elms to be summoned, boot and saddle, to the at Porflake Corner, nigh to Thackton North.

Moor! Why, an 'twere an ambuscade, For me, my trade be partly one of could be no more pother! For me, 'twas blood-letting, like to Luke's; but herein, my turn as corporal on guard at the methinks, have I the better of him, in barracks, else would Ithat I shed me blood to cure, not kill, “Hark ye, Corporal Sparfit” (I drew and am moreover paid by the pint. me up very big and mouthed me my And, an I may say it without unseemly words of set purpose, for Luke being a boasting, there be no better known sign man of simple mind was easy played on, i' the town than my barber's pole, and I did love the pastime; not but that which, by the same token, be new I had in sooth somewhat to say), these painted and looketh bravely.

be matters too deep for thy plummet. In the days whereof I tell I was at Best leave them to the colonel and much pains scraping together me-" (“'List to the noble chinwherewithal to wed Marjory Fox, scraper!” quoth Luke, mocking)—“fo2, whose father, Master Ezekiel Fox, the I would have thee know, the colonel lorimer of East Street, was a man of be a man well-meaning enough, albeit substance and a right worthy, albeit not perchance, in this particular, farwith a rough side to his tongue (as I sighted." ("Now a plague on thide have reason good to know, having impudence!" quoth Luke, and did hurl found me thrice under its lash), and a crust at me.) “Meanwhile," and here I somewhat close o' the fist.

did lean forward to look him in the face, I did hand Luke the gammon to cut and did drop into mine own familiar him too a rasher and cook it for himself, speech, "knowest thou aught of one and did fall to bethinking me of the Saul Pratt?” days when we were playmates to- Luke's 'face, which had been all gether; the merry pranks we did play, agrin, did of a sudden grow dark and the miching from Dame Coskett's stern. School, the raid on Master Timothy "Faugh!" quoth he, “twas a vile Dobb's orchard (wherein, I being stuck stoat and no man. He was once of my by the pouch of mine Jerkin, which was regiment, but did desert of a stormy full of apples, in the fork of a branch, November night after foully doing a did so taste of Master Dobb's dog-whip young ensign to death ('twas a mere that I could sit me down but sidewise lad), in his sleep and robbing him. Ay, for many a day); the bathing us in and not content therewith, for some Copple's Pool, which had been my wry freak of vengeance – the ensign, drowning, but for Luke; how sore I 'twas said, had chid him for a sloven on bewailed me when my cousin did offer parade—he had cut him off both the him for a soldier, since which sad day lad's ears and lain them on each side -now six years agone-I had seen of the dead face on the pillow. Which nought of him till Tuesday sen’night wanton mishandling of the corpse did

[ocr errors]

me

[ocr errors]

a. razor

set us against him well-nigh as much as St. Dunstan's did thunder out the the killing.”

stroke. “And ye caught him not?”'

“ 'Tis the signal," quoth I, “and I be “Nay, but we do hope yet to light on free to speak.” For Luke, he did lean him. Myself I have never clapt eyes back in his chair agape. on the snake; for I was Bristol way And thus ran the tale I had to tell: with a draft of the regiment when he “This morning at eight of the clock I did join, and he was gone ere I found betook me, as is my wont, to Thackton me back. But I mind me well o' the Court to shave me my kind patron, Sir marks of him."

Paul Thrask. I had but lathered me his And he did tick them off on his chin when Bates, his man, did bring fingers.

word that Master Grufton, the thief"Square built; five foot nine; eyes of taker, did crave him audience on a light grey; red hair; birthmark just matter of urgency. below Adam's apple.' Now mark, “ 'Bid him in here,' quoth Sir Paul; Davie, scarce a month had gone by, and when Bates did seem to stick at when grim tidings came of a lone farm- it, 'in here I tell thee, thou blockhead; house ten mile from Plymouth town, 'tis plain enough English.' wherein were found stiff and stark the “And anon did enter a tall, dark man, farmer and his dame with their throats with an hook nose and eyes to look one slit, the handiwork of that same Saul through. Ne'er saw I the like of him. Pratt, seeing that by the side of each Keen as

was he, yet quiet dead body did lie its ears cut from the withal.” head. One Squire Trunkit, a justice of “And hast seen the famed Grufton?" the peace, was foremost to raise the hue cried Luke. “Thou be’est a lucky dog, and cry thereat, and did vow he would Davie." lay his hand on the villain ere Christ- 66'Twas mine own thought at the time. mas. And so did he, albeit not in the But to my tale. way he meant. For one night his horse “ "That will serve, Bates,' quoth Sir did wend him home with empty saddle, Paul, for Bates did linger on thorns to and quest leing made, the squire was hear Grufton's errand; 'take thee off found 'neath a hedge stone-dead, with ere I throw the soap at thee.' his head well-nigh hacked off his body "And the door was bare shut when Sir and cropped of the ears, which did lie Paul did turn him his face, with the on the frosty grass by his side, and in lather drying thereon, tọ Grufton. his clenched hand a tuft of red hair.

“ 'Now! And even as a mole's path is known by 666'Tis the Red Wolf, your worship, the mole-hills, so is this Pratt's by the hath been ravening again, and not two despite he doth to the dead who die by mile from this room.' his felon hand; for I have told but a few “Sir Paul did lean forward without a of the dastard deeds of this wolf, but all word, but all his face a query. do bear his mark upon them not to be 'This time 'tis a lonesome house on mistook. Why he doth so mishandle Thackton Moor. An old miser woman those he slaughtereth the devil, his lived theremaster, alone knoweth. Would God it “Sir Paul did make a quick motion of were to work to his undoing! but 'tis a bis hand. cunning beast, and hath not been took “ 'Ay, old Betty Flake; I knew her yet for all the hue and cry."

well! And Luke, shaking him his head, did 'At grey of dawn sue was lying on turn him to the munching of his bread her floor dead, with her windpipe and bacon.

cutBut I knew I could cap me his story And the track of the Wolf ?' when one o' the clock should have “ 'Was there, your worship.' come.

“ 'There be something more, Grufton, And, on the instant, the great bell of thou wouldst fain say. Out with it!

[ocr errors]

“The thief-taker did dart a quick but the man was a stranger. So I did glance at me.

leave pipe and tobacco for Luke, and " "Tut! quoth Sir Paul, ''tis a trusty did haste to attend him. youth, and hath not that prating fool But scarce had I set me my foot in Bates' tongue.'

tne shop when my customer did clutch “ 'I be come, your worship, for a war- me by the throat, having the moment rant, for there be reason good to think before drawn the curtain so that Luke he be e'en now in hiding on the moor.' did think 'twas I had drawn it. “Sir Paul did turn him to me.

He did hold so tight a grip of my 'Wipe me off this stuff, Davie. throttle that I did feel an I were drownGrufton, ring me mine handbell. Off ing, and did give me up for lost. with thee, Davie, lad, hark ye, not a But he did hiss into mine ear:li'ord of this to living soul till the "Make but a sound and thou’rt a dead soldiers be three hours gone.'

man. Haste thee and clean shave me “Nor did I. As I did cross the bridge, hair and beard, or-" after shaving me Parson Yates on mine And I did feel the rim of a pistol way home, whom should I see kicking muzzle pressed into the skin of my forehim his heels thereon, like to a boy who head. knoweth not what to do with an holi- So I did get me soap, water and sbavday, but Master Grufton, and I did give ing tackle, and, now that I was less him 'good-day.'

dazed after the sudden onset, did see “ 'Hark!' said he, and did put up his that he was a red-headed man, and did hand.

guess who he was. More by token, as “ 'Twas the tramp of horses as the I did lather him his ragged beard, I did dragoons did Ale out of their barracks, espy me the birthmark 'neath Adam's and anon they did pass us at a trot with apple, and was assured 'twas he. most of the townsfolk after them hot- All this time the man did keep up a foot.

buzz of talk, as between two persons, " "'Twas a fine sight! quoth Master for a blind to any one who might chance Grafton, taking him a pinch of snuff. to be in the inner room, and did even

- 'Ay, and I hope they'll catch the crack him an hearty "laugh ever and Wolf,' for I had seen Sir Paul ride with anon as though at a good jest of mine the colonel, cheek by jowl, and did who was never further from aught of a make me a shrewd guess what he was jesting humor. And there was Luke at after.

his pipe all unwitting, within a few feet “Master Grufton did look me over o' me in mine hour of sore need! Yet from top to toe.

could I give him no sign. For Saul “ 'Catch me a weasel napping!' quoth Pratt's deadly eye was ever on me, his he, and did turn on his heel, as not de- pistol cocked in his hand with his finger siring further converse, whereupon I on the trigger. And, even when the did hie me home.

shaving took me behind him he did “And now, thou scoffer, wist I, or wist watch me in a mirror opposite as a cat I not, somewhat of thy colonel's mind?” doth a mouse. Moreover I did note

“I abase me in the dust, right noble some blood on his sleeve which did sir,” quoth Luke, “yet was there show

seem too fresh shed to be that of the of reason in Master Grufton's

aged woman he had slain before the But here did come a quick rapping, as break of that day. of an impatient customer in the shop. I know not an I be more of a coward

Now on the north side of mine little than most men. Yet was I in a very room was a small window, whereby I sweat of fear, and did feel the drops could peep into the shop. On the shop pour down my face, and when they did side thereof a curtain could be drawn gather on mine eyebrows I had to wink athwart it by slipping of the rings along me mine eyes, nor durst I raise mine a brass rod. This was I wont to draw hand to wipe them off, seeing that the when at work. I had stolen me a peep, ruffian did threat me with his pistol at the least gesture not plainly necessary that I was fain to lie me down. And to the doing what he would have me do. the quiet (for our street was remote

And now the shaving was well-nigh from the town bridewell, whither all the over, and I did feel that so 'twas with hubbub did betake itself) was as medimy life too. For I was assured in my cine to me. own mind that he but waited that be But ere long came a tapping in the done to stab me to the heart and so shop. 'Twas the mayor of Brineport, escape.

a good patron of mine. His cheeks were smooth as a maiden's "I wish thee joy, Davie,” quoth he; under mine hand, and the main part of “ 'twill be a matter of five hundred his head bald as an egg; but there did pound 'twixt long Luke and thee. Prestill remain a tuft over his left ear. serve us! but 'tis a tiger-cat of a man!

What an if I cut him his throat as he And to think that while the soldiers had many? 'Twas but a swift stroke of were for ringing him round on Tbackthe razor! But my gorge did rise at ton Moor, he was murthering a man on the thought thereof. Yet did Marjory's Brineport Bridge!" face seem to gaze on me out of the I did bethink me of the stain on his mirror, and her lips to frame, “Now, sleeve and did shudder. Davie, play thou the man.”

“Was it a townsman, Master Mayor?" And in a moment, with a loud cry on “Nay, 'twas none other than the Luke, I had mine arms round his neck famous thief-taker, Grufton, whose and had pulled him backward off the body, stabbed to the heart, hath been shaving stool. He fell on me with such found i' the river. 'Twas Sir Paul force (he being an heavy man and I a Thrask (who, by the way, Davie, was slight) as knocked the wind out of me, villainous ill shaven) that did know it but he had some ado to loosen my grip. and certify it to be Grufton's. For the Then he did turn him to kneel on my thief-taker was strange to these parts." chest, and I did blench at the cold edge I did name to the mayor my meeting of his knife on my weasand, nor knew with Master Grufton and what did pass I more till I did hear afar off, as in a thereat. dream, Luke's všice rating me soundly He did muse on this a space. Then, for a spiritless slip of a man and calling quoth he, “I see it all clear. Eh! but for rope to tie him.

he must have had a keen nose for an And opening mine eyes, lo Luke evil-doer, this same Grufton. This was seated astraddle on the man, and pin- the way of it, Davie. Grufton knew the ning his arms to the floor.

man was not of a sort to have salt put For my cousin, at my cry, had dashed on his tail by the soldiers, and eke that him into the shop in the nick of time he would make for the safest place to to pluck the villain back, who did strug- hide and disguise him in. And where gle right lustily; but Luke was far the was that? Why, the town itself, Davie stronger, and soon had him down and man, seeing it was well-nigh drained of helpless.

people! And as Grufton foresaw, so I pulled me, all a totter, to my legs, did the man. And he is in act of crossand did get me a cord, wherewith hav. ing the bridge when the thief-taker doth ing bound our man secure, we did hand pounce on him from some vantage him over to the watch.

where he lieth in wait. Natheless “Bid them guard him well,” quoth I Gurfton did come by the worse." to Luke, "for 'ti's the Red Wolf!" I was about to speak, but the mayor 'Twas the first word I spake.

did stop me with a gesture of his band. Whereat Luke did toss him his cap “Thou wouldst ask on what evidence into the air and did race after the have I woven me mine tale. Why this! watch, and I did hear the hum of the Grufton's body was minus the ears. street grow into a mighty roar as the And they were found but now in the news did spread.

prisoner's pouch." For me, so dizzy was I and unstrung Within a month I did wed Marjory.

THE

Luke was my best man; and both Sir shape their ends, is not necessarily hosPaul and the mayor did look in on us to tile to the Church. It may be—it probdrink a cup of Master Fox's old ale (for ably is-indifferent, if not to religion the which he be famous), to our health itself, at any rate to the outward maand happiness.

chinery for promoting it; and the inMORRIS PRICE WILLIAMS. creasing poverty of the clergy is grad

ually diminishing those hopes of spoil to which Liberationists have so often made their strongest appeal. A cam

paign against capital, the wild schemes From The London Times.

of Socialism, and its wilder dreams of OUTLOOK FOR THE ESTABLISHED equality of fortune and worldly position CHURCH.

which can never be realized so long as The attack upon the Established nature makes men unequal in ability Church of England, to which the late and in character, seem more attractive Radical Bill for disestablishing the nowadays to the working classes of this Church in Wales was avowedly a pre

as of other countries, and it is at least liminary step, is suspended for a time. possible that the cry of disestablishBut the forces which directed it are not ment, if raised by Radical statesmen in asleep. They are biding their time, search of a policy, may fall flat. Even waiting for the opportunity which, it is the tithepayer—the least open, as a rule, hoped, must come in the ordinary revolu- of any human beings to reason and the tion of human affairs or with the shift- logic of facts-is beginning to have a ing balance of political parties. That dim idea that disestablishment and disopportunity may come when the present endowment of the Church, whoever ministry has run its course, and the ma- pockets the money, will not put it into jority, now so irresistible, has been his, and that he may "go further and sapped, as majorities have been sapped fare worse" than at present. Agricul. before, by lapse of time and disap- tural laborers, too, are better educated pointed expectations and the ever-recur- than they were, better able to think foi ring desire for change. Or it may come themselves, and, therefore, less likely suddenly, on some wave of popular to believe the eloquent agitator who opinion, carrying before it the natural tells them that, if the parson is dis. reluctance of any ministry to embark established, they will get the money. upon so difficult and complicated a ques- And if farmers and laborers lose their tion as the resettlement of an institu- personal and selfish interest in distion bound up for centuries with the establishment, one powerful lever for history and the social life of England. effecting it will be gone. There is also Or—and this is the hope of most sober- ground for hope in the Church itself, in minded persons who wish their country the greater earnestness and self-sacwell-it may be postponed for many rifice of its ministers, in the disappearyears, giving time for the Church, by ance of much of the torpor, sloth, and ever-increasing zeal for her spiritual worldliness which have been in years work, by continued readiness to adapt now past its deserved reproach. The herself to the changing conditions of more the Church does its duty the less human thought and society, and by her ground have its enemies to blaspheme; desire to reform, if only she is allowed the less reason can they allege for to do so, the abuses and anomalies that crippling its power to do good. disfigure her system, so to strengthen But there are grave dangers aheadher hold upon the people of England as political, social, and religious. The to weather every storm and stress of Church has still to fear the attacks of circumstance. There are some hopeful Radicals and Nonconformists from signs in the outlook. The democracy, without; it has still more to fear dissento whose wishes Unionist or Separatist, sion within, and a catastrophe which Liberal or Conservative, alike must the combined forces of Radicalism and

« VorigeDoorgaan »