« PreviousContinue »
requires, however, besides a suitable acid, bridge, and turns sharp round to the the presence of some other albuminoid | right towards the village of Milford. substance analogous to pepsin. Such They pass through the village, and substances, however, are frequent in drive on till they come to the row of cotplants. Besides the well-known diastase, tages tenanted by Sailor and Skim. which converts the starch of malt into Here one of them dismounts, and enters sugar, there are other instances in the the cottage - it is Skim; and he comes synaptase which determines the forma- out carrying a lantern in one hand, a mattion of hydrocyanic acid from emulsine, tock and pick in the other. He leads and the myrosin which similarly induces the horse past the cottages, and opens a the formation of oil of mustard. We field-gate. There is a rough sort of cartneed not wonder, then, if the Auid se- shed here, and beneath this the horse is creted by a plant should prove to possess tied up. Then the two men make their the ingredients necessary for the diges- way rapidly on foot towards the manortion of insoluble animal matters.
house. They both wear goloshes, and These remarks will, I hope, lead you move silently along, like ghosts. Whilst to see, that though the processes of they were yet a little distance from the plant nutrition are in general extremely house, Skim, who was slightly in advance, different from those of animal nutrition, turned round suddenly, and clutched in and involve very simple compounds, yet terror the arm of his companion. that the protoplasm of plants is not ab- "I see a light," he whispered hoarsely solutely prohibited from availing itself of —"a light shining through the brickfood, such as that by which the proto- work. She's about to-night, she is, plasm of animals is nourished ; under What shall we do?" which point of view these phenomena of Collop's teeth chattered in his head, carnivorous plants will find their place, bur he affected to be unconcerned. as one more link in the continuity of “What ! you afraid, Skim? Why, you nature.
used to be as bold as a lion."
“Ah, but I've had a couple of years of it since then,” cried Skim. “I tell you I hear her keys jingling lots of times; and when I hear' the door of her box
creak, I am out of my mind with terror." From Chambers' Journal.
" It's only your fancy, Skim. She's THE MANOR-HOUSE AT MILFORD.
safe enough in, and don't walk about at
nights." CHAPTER XII.
Tell you she do,” cried Skim, “and Are you drawn forth among a world this is one of her nights. O master ! let's
To slay the innocent? of men. It is a cold winter's night ; the stars “Go on, you fool. Why, if fifty old are sparkling frostily overhead ; the thin women, alive or dead, were in the way, I'd pale crescent of the moon has just disap- go on now.” Suspense and disappointpeared behind that dark clump of firs; ment, which had made Skim a coward, here and there a light shines in a cottage had made Collop bold. They made their window, but for the most part the village way into the barn, and pulled up the is abandoned to darkness and repose. A boards in the corner, and crawled on silence that may be felt broods over the hands and knees into the subterranean scene, only disturbed, as you stand here passage that led into Milford Manor. on the bridge, by the feeble brattle of Collop went first, and was alarmed at the the stream. A thin white vapour rises clink of iron behind him. “What's that, from its course, through which you may Skim ?” he whispered. see the reflected gleam of a star in that " It's only me, sir, locking up the old still reach. Faintly round about are the grating with a chain and padlock. We'll shadows of hills, hardly to be distin- have no followers to-night, master." guished from the sky.. There is a light The passage came out under the celin the belfry tower; the ringers are up lar stairs in an arched recess, that held a there, about to wake the bells into music. set of wooden shelves. These swung
Now the sound of wheels breaks into back, and admitted the treasure-seekers the stillness that was almost oppressive, into the haunted house. They made and a dog-cart, without lamps, driven by their way directly into the kitchen, and a tall thin man, another stouter, burlier Skim silently examined the place with his man sitting beside him, rattles over the 'lantern,
“ What's that?” cried Collop, seizing but he had more self-control, and he had him by the arm. “Why, the clock's go- more at stake. He snatched up the lan
tern, and advanced into the cellar. Yes, Ah,"
," said Skim, “I set him agoing. there stood Aunt Betsy at the end, in her I didn't like the look of her standing al- habit as she lived — the black poke bonways at one o'clock.” So saying, he net; the brown French merino dress; threw off his smock and waistcoat, and the silk jacket, with fringe on; the black set vigorously to work. He removed the kid gloves, with swollen knuckles and bricks from the middle of the kitchen, and finger-joints. began to dig out a hole. Collop helped, “My good old friend,” faltered Collop by removing the dirt as fast as it was - and then he saw his mistake. The thrown out. The earth had evidently head was lolling forward from out the been previously disturbed, and this gave poke bonnet; the chin had fallen ; it was them encouragement to persevere, and only a mummy after all —a poor, dried presently Skim's mattock struck with a husk of humanity. harsh, ringing sound against some metal- There was something else in the cellar lic substance.
which Collop had not before noticed. “We've got him !" cried Skim, jump- Stretched out in front of his aunt's last ing out of the hole in great glee." It's resting-place was Tom Rapley, who had an iron chest, old man, and full
of money.” been in a dead faint, but who now, as Col. Sure enough, as they cleared away the lop watched him, shewed symptoms of loose earth, the lid of a stout iron chests reviving animation. was revealed to them. There was a han- “ Skim !” cried Collop, who was now dle at the top as if to lift it by.
master of himself, "come down, I tell Skim seized the handle, and tried to you. The old woman's still and safe draw up the box, but it resisted all his ef- enough. I've shut her up now." He forts. Then he put a rope through it, suited the action to the word, and closed and Collop and he hauled away with their the door upon the body. It closed with united strength, but they could not make a catch; and a piece of string that was it stir an inch.
wound round the knob, had probably "What's to be done now?” cried been the means of releasing the catch Skim, looking ruefully at Collop. when Tom snatched the letter away. “ Can't you get the lid open ?”
“ Skim, come down; here's Tom Rap“I doubt it. We must get the box up ley down here." first. We ain't got nothing strong
Skim came down the stairs, halfenough to burst that open. Stop a bit; ashamed of his terror, half-overpowered there's a hop-pitcher in the house some- by it. But when he saw Tom Rapley, where, if I can think where it's put." his countenance assumed an expression
A hop-pitcher is a heavy bar of iron, of malignant ferocity. with a broad-pointed end, used by hop- “ I shall do for this man," he said. growers for pitching or drilling holes in “ I'll not have him coming in my way any the ground about the hop-plants, for the longer.” poles on which the vines are trained to " Don't harm him," cried Collop. “Rebe inserted. It forms a very likely in- member thou shalt do no murder." strument for such a purpose as Skim's. Tom here began to move. He raised
“I remember now," cried Skim. “I himself on one elbow, rubbed his eyes put it down in the cellar. Come with me with his disengaged hand. “What! Mr. down there, won't you! I'm afraid to go Collop,” he cried. “Skim !” alone.”
“You see,” whispered Skim, "he The two men cautiously descended the knows us. He'll tell upon us. Pop him steps into the cellar, holding each other in the well afore he gets his strength by the arms, and flashing the lamp in back.” front of them.
The well was at the foot of the cellar “Don't it smell,” cried Skim, “like a stairs, you will remember, its mouth covdoctor's shop? Poh! it makes me feel ered by a stone slab - the well, of inquite queer and giddy." Here Skim definite depth, and of icy coldness. gave vent to something between a shriek Skim ran and hastily pulled off the stone and a shout, dropped the lantern upon covering. A few pebbles dislodged fell the steps, and fled up the cellar stairs. in, and presently splashed in the water “ It's the old lady !' It's old Mother far below with a faint hollow sound. Rennel! She's coming out !”
Tom was now rising to his feet, beCollop was as much frightened as Skim ;'wildered. Skim rushed upon him, and hurled him down. Rapley read his fate “Who? Rapley ?" in a moment from Skim's face. He was “ The pedler, sir.” to be murdered - to be Aung alive into “ Pooh! Nonsense about the pedler.” the well. “You take his legs, master; “But he have very important evidence I'll take his head," cried Skim to Collop. to give about the robbery.”
Tom lay there quiet, like one dead ; “ Robbery - stuff !” but the moment that Skim laid hold of “Wait a bit,” cried Frewen, with his shoulders to drag him along, he be lawyer-like caution ; “let us hear what gan to shriek piteously. "Help, help!” he's got to say. Where is he?" he cried. “ Lizzie ! help, help!”
" Here — at the Royal Oak, sir.” "Hold that noise," cried Skim furi- They went inside, and entered the ously, 'striking him over the head with sanded parlour. Pedler sat there by the the loaded stick he carried beneath his fire, his basket on the floor in front of jacket. Tom gave a groan, then all was him, looking pale and nervous. still. “I've done it now," said Skim in "Well, what have you got to say for a low, husky whisper. "All we can do yourself?” said Mr. Brown the superinafter this is to hide it. Take hold of the tendent, eyeing the man severely. “ Do legs - do you hear ?"
you know anything about this gold robCollop obeyed mechanically. It had bery?" all happened in a moment; and now he “Only what I told this gentleman was blind with agitation, sick at heart, here," said the pedler, indicating Bridger. and only half-conscious of what he was "I slept in the barn last night, sir, close doing. Then he saw a black chasm open by the old house, and I see two chaps out under bis feet, and that Skim was crawl into a hole in the ground.” motioning to him to let go.
.Were they rat-catching ?” said Brown “ I won't, I won't !” cried Collop. “I with a sneer. won't let him go. Skim, you are a mur
“ I don't know what they was catching,” derer ! ”
said pedler, “but I wouldn't have liked At that moment they both started 'em to have catched me.” back in horror, for a voice was sounding “Humph! Well, what happened after shrilly through the house. “ Where's your friends had gone to earth ? " Tom? Where's my Tom ? O Tom, “Well, sir, I lay hid among a lot of old Tom, speak to me!"
hop-vines; and when an hour or more had " Here's his wife," cried Skim. “Down gone, they came back, and then I see with him ; down into the water; and her their faces by the light of the lamp." after him, if she will have it."
“Do you know who they were ?” "Skim, I won't; I wash my hands of it.” “I know one of 'em - a chap they
“ Tom, Tom ! speak to me, Tom, for calls Skim; the other was a tall, lanky the love of Heaven!” repeated the fran- chap I didn't know. Well, sir, they'd tic voice above. Still no answer. got a little bag with 'em, and they sat
“ You won't let go - you won't !” cried down and opened the bag, and began to Skim. “Let go, I tell you, let go.". count out money ; I could hear it chink
There was a moment's struggle, then a ing; and they quarrelled a bit at first. heavy, thunderous roar, and a dull, heavy The long chap wanted to have the most, splash, reverberating hollowly from the and Skim wouldn't stand it; “Fair dealsides of the well; then the quick wash ing,” he says, “share and share alike.” of circling ripples beating against the Thinks I for a minute, I'll cry shares brick-work, after that silence.
too; but then I see the twinkle in the * Tom!” cried the voice, yet more chap's eye, and perhaps, says I to mypiteously and despairingly. Still no an- self, I'll get knocked on the head for my swer.
“And what happened next?" CHAPTER XIII.
They puts the boards down they'd
taken up, and goes off.” This is fairy gold, and 'twill prove so.
“ And you heard nothing more?" When the carriage containing Frewen Only I heard Skim call his friend by and the police superintendent drew up his name ; but I can't recollect the at the Royal Oak, they were met by Con- name; it was a funny one - Cutlet, or stable Bridger, who was in a state of Chop, or something like that." high importance and delight.
“ Was it Collop ?" suggested Frewen. I've got him, sir,” he cried, as he as- “ That was the very name,” cried the sisted his chief to alight.
After a short consultation between lanterns in his hand, began to crawl up Frewen and the superintendent, it was the narrow stone tube. He had scarcely agreed that pedler should lead the way disappeared, however, when he began to to the barn and point out the place where back rapidly out. the men disappeared. As they went “What is it ? ” cried every one eagerly. tramping past the old house, they noticed "I can get no farther,” said Sailor ;
Sailor standing at the gate, on the look- “there is a grating across." · out. He gave them a civil "good-night,” “I told you so,” said Brown, triumand Bridger loitered behind for a moment phantly: "a drain ; that's all.” to tell Sailor the news : how he had been “ But the grating would open fast the means of arriving at the real truth of enough, only it's fastened with a new the matter, and how probably Tom Rap-chain and padlock." ley would come off clear, owing to his “ Break it open, then.” (Bridger's) activity and foresight.
“ That's easier said than done ; I “We're going to the barn now,” said couldn't hardly get at it if I'd the tools. the policeman,“ to find out where the Has anybody got a hammer?” thieves got it.”
No one had a hammer ; but a man “O me!” cried Sailor, the recollection was hastily despatched to the village to of his own experience in the barn flash- get one. ing upon him; " I must go with you ; I Sailor remained there, crouching by can give a bit of evidence there – only the hole, with his head inside, eagerly I'll just run up and tell Mrs. Rapley the listening. good news.”
“ Hush !” he cried; "there's people Sailor ran up the garden-path, and there now; I hear them moving about. presently returned, bringing with him They're quarrelling too. I hear someTom's wife.
body struggling. Hark!” * She must come, she says,” he cried A narrow circle of light, in which white apologetically to Bridger ; "she must see intent faces are distinctly visible, everyfair play to her Tom."
thing else dusky and uncertain. One of When they reached the barn, they the faces nearest to the opening is a wofound that the police had already removed man's, who is listening greedily. Noises the boards at the further end of the sound clearly but hollowly through the flooring, and were standing, several of passage a gruff husky voice, a high them, up to their middles in a shallow shrill one, and another. Yes, the woman excavation beneath.
recognizes that voice instantly -- it is “It's nothing but a drain," said Brown. Tom's, it is her husband's, and he is call
“ Drain or not, it may lead into the old ing for help! " Help, murder, help!” house."
in quick agonized tones. They are kill"I don't believe the story a bit ; fancying him in that deserted house, and help anybody crawling into this dirty hole !." is far away! Everyone hears the voices
* People will crawl into dirtier holes now, and they gather in a closer circle than that for a bit of money,” cried about the sunken passage. A strange Sailor's voice from among the group of instinctive excitement takes possession lookers-on. I beg your pardon, sir, but I even of the stolid constables. A dozen can give a bit of testimony about this. I incoherent suggestions are gasped out: see two chaps crawl in here one night, Knock the grating in. Blow it up with and I believe as it do go to the old gunpowder. Tie a rope to it, and drag house."
it out. But nothing is done. * Very well; there is nothing for it, “ Help, help, help!” The sounds rang then, but for some one to crawl up and out with fearful but subdued clamour, look. — Now, then, men, which of you is striking a chill into all hearts, and filling inclined for a bit of sewer-work ?" them with a strange agitation. To one
No volunteers appeared among the ear in that little group the cry came with police.
appalling significance : Lizzie knew the " I'll go !” cried Sailor, throwing off voice, and foreboded at once the worst. his pea-jacket. "I'ın suppler than you “Some of you men," cried Frewen, chaps with your helmets, and buckles, "get a crowbar, and break through the and belts, and long-tailed coats." brick-work of the windows."
Every one drew back from the excava- There were no tools, however, nearer tion ; and Sailor, tightening his girdle, than the village, and nothing could be and kicking off his shoes, descended, and done with naked hands against stone and taking one of the policemen's bull's-eye 'iron.
• "It's all over now,” said Sailor, looking there on the steps, moaning and crying, up; there had been a hollow groan, and with her husband's head in her lap. then a heavy fall. “Somebody look out Lizzie pointed to the well, but could after Mrs. Rapley."
not speak. She had disappeared. She had run "Well
, it looks as if somebody had swiftly back to their own house, had torn tumbled in," said the superintendent, open the nailed-up door, and was now examining the margin of the well. rushing wildly through the deserted rooms " There's been a scuffle too — and here's of the old house, calling loudly for Tom. !a couple of hats. Where is there a But there was no answer.
At that moment she heard a sound so. * There's one belonging to the windpitiable and full of agony, that her heart lass of the other well,” cried Sailor. ceased for a moment to beat and her That was brought; but before anyblood to circulate. It was a smothered body could descend, it was necessary to sound, almost like a roar of some wild test the air down below. Lamp after animal caught in the toils; and yet there lamp that was lowered went out, and was a human voice about it too, unintel- then they got together a lot of brushwood ligible, and yet unmistakable. It was a from Tom's fagot-stock, and made a fire cry of wild 'anguish and intolerable de- at the mouth of the well. By this time spair ; and not of one voice alone, but the Tom had recovered a little, and was able blending of two voices, one hoarse and to speak. He knew the names of his asfrantic, the other shrill and importunate, sailants, he whispered - they were Skim uniting in a strange horrible discord. and Collop ; but he didn't know what had
The sound was from the cellar, and she become of them. Then he was carried ran down the stairs in frenzy. At the off to his own bed, and the surgeon of foot of the stairs she stumbled over some the village was sent for, who bandaged up soft yielding substance, and almost fell his head, and assured his weeping wife forward, but she recovered herself with that there was no danger to life. an effort. The cellar was not quite dark, The police bivouacked that night in for a lamp lay upon the floor, which was the old manor ; they lit a big fire in the smouldering and smoking still ; she kitchen ; Mrs. Booth sent them beer, and seized it, and opening the door of the bread and cheese, and on the whole they lamp, a breath blew the fame into light. were merry enough. Before morning, Then she saw what she had escaped : the they had recovered the bodies from the yawning mouth of the well was open at well. They were locked firmly in each her feet, and at the foot of the stairs was other's gripe, their features distorted with the body over which she had stumbled rage, terror, and despair. her own Tom, bleeding from a deep cut Frewen came over in the morning, and in his forehead. Where were they? the iron box was raised from its bed with Who had done it?
much difficulty, as it had been firmly seThe pit which the two wretches had cured to a large stone slab beneath. dug for another they had themselves When it was opened, it was found to be fallen into. Skim had slipped at the nearly full of gold, all Aunt Betsy's margin of the well; he had seized Collop, hoardings, no doubt. 'Counted, the amount to save himself, and had involved him in (proved to be ten thousand pounds exthe same horrible fate. That terrible actly, neither more nor less. It seemed cry of anguish and despair was their last that this had been her final place of defarewell to life.
posit ; and it was afterwards ascertained When once they found a crowbar, the that she had ordered the iron chest and police had little difficulty in breaking into stone slab to be prepared in London, the deserted house. They attacked the by a firm she had long dealt with, and new brick-work in the kitchen window, that they were fixed there by the confiand it came away in great flakes, so that dential servants of that firm. "It must not a practical breach was soon made. With be supposed that Aunt Betsy had dug no little curiosity and expectation, they down to her iron chest every time she crowded into the place. The first thing made a deposit there. There had been that struck their eyes was the hole in the an iron tube let into a slit in the top of floor and the half-excavated iron box. the chest, the mouth of which reached to Then they followed the tracks of sandy the surface of the ground, and was covfeet to the cellar. Here the sight they ered by one of the bricks of the flooring, saw was at once perplexing and disap- The old lady had only to remove one of pointing. Only Lizzie Rapley sitting the bricks and drop her money down coin