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the beginning of the next. There are events which mark the passage from childhood to boyhood, and from boyhood to manhood, as towns do the stages upon the road. The day before I had been a boy, but that encounter with old Sternfield had at once pushed me forward a long way on the road to manhood. I felt greater confidence in my own powers; I felt that for the future I did not want to be protected against tyranny; I would protect myself; I was almost inclined to resent as an insult the imputation of being afraid.
That night I slept in the old room, and did not feel the shadow which used to brood there. The next morning we set off on the same journey we had taken four years before.
I shall never forget the interview with old Sternfield; the calm politeness of Lewis, the rage of Sternfield, with his head bound up, and my passion, which smothered all I had prepared myself to say. After Lewis had paid him his bill, and expressed his intention to take me away, as the most pleasant course at least, so he should think-for all parties, the old man, who had probably reckoned on having me left to his mercy, spluttered out a threat to have me taken into custody for the assault I had committed upon him. Lewis advised him to do so by all means, as probably that would be the best way at once to punish me, and prove the falsehood of the accusation of killing young Warner, which I had made against him. That last suggestion was a home-thrust for old Sternfeld. Lewis guessed that he would not like to have the circumstances of the boy's death investigated, and he was right. The fat old face turned almost as white as the bandages in which his forehead was wrapped, and his hand clenched on a tumbler near him, which I expected to see dashed at the head of my companion ; but the eye of Lewis was upon him, and the grasp of the old schoolmaster relaxed as Lewis rose and sarcastically wished him better of his wound. In another minute or two we were in the chaise, and had turned our backs on Forest Hall.
I have mentioned that the hand of old Sternfield grasped a tumbler at one moment of the interview, and that leads me to notice here something which, many years after, induced me to remember that particular action. It is an instance of how strongly the mind is impressed without our being conscious of it at the time, and how a far-off association, after a long lapse of years, calls back the forgotten circumstance. In ten minutes after I left the school-house the circumstance was forgotten, but some two or three years ago, as I was passing through
Paris, I saw a painting by a French artist-Horace Vernet, I think; it represented the slaughter of the Mamelukes, presided over by that man of blood Mehemet Ali, the Pasha of Egypt. On the canvas, the doomed cavaliers were depicted as entrapped in a sort of courtyard, overlooked by Mehemet Ali, and surrounded by his troops, who, from their safe elevation, were firing down upon the horsemen below. Some were wounded; some in the agonies of death ; and one noble-looking old fellow was appealing to the pasha for justice, if not for mercy. The face of Mehemet Ali, gazing at this butchery, was drawn as calm and quiet as that of a sleeping infant. True, there was will written about the firmly-cut mouth, and purpose in every muscle, but all was in motionless repose. That struck me as unnatural, till, glancing downwards, my eyes rested upon the hand. In that hand the painter had told the whole tale; that had embodied the sentiment of the man. It was grasping a rail with such fury, that the sinews started up, and showed the force they were acting with. That hand was eloquent of malice and revenge. It redeemed, or rather it made, the picture. The likeness to something I had seen before flashed on me in a moment; it was the hand with which old Sternfield held the tumbler that day.
Another impression I have of that visit is, that it opened to me a new view of Lewis's character. I knew his calmness, which he could mingle with a quiet insolence when he pleased. I had seen that when he went to Sweeny; but to that there seemed added, on this occasion, a sly love of tormenting. He evidently took me with him, not to gratify me, but to enrage the schoolmaster; and I could seo that he enjoyed the rage my master dare not act out, in much the same way as a tiger might the struggles of its victim. Perhaps, on the former occasion, if I had been old enough, I might have observed the same thing; but, now that I did notice it, I did not trust Lewis as before. We seldom do trust those whom we see inflicting needless pain, even upon our enemies; there is a consciousness which tells us our own turn may come. That expresses something of what I felt with respect to Lewis as we went home.
Another thing I must mention here. The masterless boys, without the fear of the rod before their eyes for that day, were playing upon the common; and I learned from one of them, who ran up to the side of our chaise, that Mr. Craven had left shortly after me. As soon as the master recovered from the first effects of my blow, Craven, with a sudden flash of spirit, said I was right, and soon after, without further leave-taking, quitted the house.
I stayed at the old house in the fields about a week after this. I was not to remain there I knew, but I left earlier than I expected, and in a different way. I think Lewis would have kept me, but Mrs. Lewis was opposed to it, and he gave way. Determined as he was, there was a quiet fascination about that woman which controlled him without his being aware of it; otherwise he would have broken the chain in a moment. I rather wished to stay myself, but I yielded too.
I only remember one visitor during that week. He was the ill-favoured Marks, whom I disliked more every time I saw him. I could not imagine what he came for : I was always excluded when he was there. Somehow, in my mind I came to connect him with the locked-up woodhouse, which was still one of my mysteries.
Two or three times during that week I went to the nearest town. Mrs. Lewis sent me there on trifling errands, which no doubt were invented to get me out of the way when I was not wanted at home. The last time I made one of those trips I was told to call on a shoemaker, whose cottage was on the outskirts of the town. Not finding the man in the room which served him for a workshop, I passed through to another door, from which childish laughter proceeded. In the next room, the boy who carried letters for the post-office, and whom I had seen once or twice at Lewis's, unmindful of the letters he had to deliver, was scated on a bench, wearing the shoemaker's leather apron, and playing with a dog, while the shoemaker's children stood round enjoying the antics of the little mongrel. A few months before, I should have joined the group, and taken my share in the fun; but the sense of coming manhood was growing on me rapidly now, and after ascertaining that the shoemaker was not at home, I was turning to go away, when the letter-carrier, remembering me, and thinking to save himself a long walk, asked me to take a letter he had for some one at home. I assented, and the lad produced a letter from his bag, directed to John Brunt, and was about to hand it to me, when accidentally he dropped it on the ground. The cur he had been playing with seized it in an instant, and, holding it in his teeth, began to course and frisk in circles about the room. In vain were all the coaxings and whistlings and efforts of the lad and the children to get hold of Spot, or to make him drop the letter. As
the pursuit grew hotter, and the pattings of the unlucky letter-carrier grew into curses and threatenings, the dog darted through the open door, through the workshop, and out into the road. In full chase the whole party followed, to see Spot, his tail in the air, stopping, now to tear the letter, and then again careering triumphantly round the corner of the cottage with the fragments. When we caught sight of him again, he was standing still, with an air of innocent playfulness, ready for another game, but the letter was gone. We hunted for it along the track the dog had taken, and picked up one or two mutilated fragments the wind was sporting with ; but the letter was lost. So I lifted my horse's bridle off the cottage-fence, and leaving the post-boy trembling for his place, rode home to tell Brunt of the letter he ought to have had.
If I had seen Brunt on my arrival, I should have told him of the mishap, and most likely not have mentioned it to any one else; but Brunt, by some chance, was absent, and I related the occurrence to Lewis and his wife. They did not laugh at it, as I expected they would ; I saw in a moment, as their eyes met, that my story woke up some suspicions. Those were not the days of penny-postage; serving-men and women seldom had letters then, and the Lewises were, as I soon found, so peculiarly situated, that they connected Brunt's letter with something in their own minds, and looked upon it as a grave matter. After a pause of a minute or two spent in thought, Lewis said to his wife, “I must see to this. What you told me of Brunt's manner, what Marks said about seeing him about Bow-street, the other day, and now this letter. Hum! I must get rid of Brunt."
“ Send him aboard the schooner,” Mrs. Lewis suggested, in the quietest tone possible, as though she had been speaking of something quite common-place.
“Yes,” Lewis replied ; " Brace will be here to-morrow, and that can be easily managed. He must go, and to-day he must be watched. Curse him! if I was certain, I would make short work of it and him too.”
" It is not long till to-morrow," Mrs. Lewis remarked, as though, if it had been, she would have advocated the short-work course with Brunt, “and Marks will be here to-night again ; we can tell him about it. In the meantime, Hubert had better not say anything to him about the letter."
I could not make out of what consequence Brunt having a letter was to my friends, but I saw that it was important, and I said nothing
to Brunt when he came back. My attention was excited, and I noticed everything that took place. Lewis did not leave the premises that day: he moved about, keeping his eye constantly on Brunt. Mrs. Lewis seemed rather anxious. Brunt himself was fidgetty, as though he expected something. It was not difficult for me to guess that he expected that letter, and I smiled as I thought how Spot had disappointed him.
It is curious how mystery and suspense throw an air of constraint on all within their influence. Though I was not sufficiently in the secret to know how Lewis might be affected, I felt the prevailing tone of the household-even old Hector seemed to me as though he felt it instinctively, and prowled about with a suspicious fierceness in his demeanour. How differently the same feelings act on different characters! Lewis, with all his impassibility, had a sharper accent when he spoke, and his eye was more than usually watchful. Mrs. Lewis, with all her quiet self-control, talked more than usual, and bustled about with a less sedate step than was her wont. Brunt tried to cover his brutal stolidity with an appearance of jollity and easy
nonchalance. Men accustomed to note the minute changes which mark varying states of mind would have seen that all those people were playing a part. Probably each of them did see that the others were, but were unconscious that they were open to the same rcmark. For myself, I felt that the shadow—that shadow of which the boy of ten used to be sensiblehad deepened about the house. Some instinct which has more affinity to the senses of animals than the reason of men,-an instinct I have often felt, but am utterly unable to describe,-told me a change was impending. Of the nature of that change, ignorant as I was of the facts of the case, I could not form an idea. A few hours made it plain to me. Marks came; and Lewis, telling me to keep a watch on Brunt, and let him know if the man attempted to leave the premises, went to consult with his wife and Marks.
Brunt had instincts like a brute. He knew that I was sent as a spy over him. I felt certain of that after the first five minutes we were left together, but he was too cunning to awake my suspicions by trying to get rid of me. He went to the gate and looked over it along the road across the marsh, on which darkness was fast setting; then he attempted, discordantly enough, to hum a tune, and at last he whistled old Hector, and began to chain him to his kennel. I daresay it was
that whistle brought Lewis out.
He came upon us with a quick step while Brunt was fastening the collar of the dog, which, unwilling to be confined, was growling surlily. A look at Lewis's face told me that his conversation with Marks had strengthened his suspicions of Brunt. “Let the dog loose and come into the house,” he said in a quick, sharp voice. Brunt had not heard Lewis come, and looked up with a countenance from which all his ill-assumed merriment was banished. The power Lewis had over most men was especially great when exercised over low animal natures like Brunt's. The latter obeyed the order without speaking, and went in, followed by Lewis. Hector, released, bounded off to the gate, and I went to the sitting-room full of curiosity to know what was to håppen.
I never saw two men much more terrorstricken than Brunt and Marks, though I did not see what Marks had to be frightened at. For Brunt's terror there was cause enough. Crouched down on a chair at one corner of the room, he cowered before Lewis, who stood over him with a pistol pointed at his head ; and the trembling wretch held up his hard, coarse hands with the instinct of fear, to shield his face from the weapon. I heard Lewis accuse Brunt of selling them, and threaten to blow his brains out as though he were a dog if he did not tell the truth. I believe the trembling coward would have told all he knew, but his tongue refused to obey his efforts. He gasped and stammered with a choking noise, but no articulate sound came from his mouth. I have no doubt Lewis would have shot the traitor, as he called Brunt, but for Mrs. Lewis. She interfered, not out of pity though, but with a suggestion that they should search him. The hint was acted npon. Pocket after pocket was turned out without producing anything but what might have been expected to be there, and the search appeared useless, till Lewis, with a jerk, tore open Brunt's waistcoat, and revealed a secret pocket inside. For a moment Brunt seemed disposed to resist. He tried to drag his waistcoat back to its usual position, and his eye wandered round the room as though seeking a mode of escape, till it rested on the pistol on the table, almost within his reach. He leant forward his body to get nearer it, but Mrs. Lewis removed it without saying a word. Her husband, however, had observed the movement, and a heavy blow fell on Brunt's head, depriving him, for the moment, of consciousness. He fell back in the chair, and his hands gave up their hold upon the waistcoat. Lewis dragged a roll of paper from the hidden pocket.