had brought in the document, and spread it out on the small deal table, and was now standing by it persuasive and eager. Moody had followed with an inkhorn, carefully left behind by Finney; and Spriggs bore aloft, as though it were a sword, a well-worn ink-black pen, which from time to time he endeavoured to thrust into Skulpit’s unwilling hand.

With the learned man were his two abettors in indecision, William Gazy and Jonathan Crumple. If ever the petition were to be forwarded, now was the time, so said Mr. Finney; and great was the anxiety on the part of those whose one hundred pounds a year, as they believed, mainly depended on the document in question.

“To be kept out of all that money,” as the avaricious Moody had muttered to his friend Handy, “by an old fool saying that he can write his own name like his betters.”

“Well, Job,” said Handy, trying to impart to his own sour, ill-omened visage a smile of approbation, in which he greatly failed; “so you’re ready now, Mr. Finney says; here’s the place, d’ye see,”—and he put his huge brown finger down on the dirty paper,—“name or mark, it’s all one. Come along, old boy; if so be we’re to have the spending of this money, why the sooner the better—that’s my maxim.”

“To be sure,” said Moody; “we a’n’t none of us so young: we can’t stay waiting for old Catgut no longer.”

It was thus these miscreants named our excellent friend; the nickname he could easily have forgiven, but the allusion to the divine source of all his melodious joy would have irritated even him. Let us hope he never knew the insult.

“Only think, old Billy Gazy,” said Spriggs, who rejoiced in greater youth than his brethren, but having fallen into a fire when drunk, had had one eye burnt out, one cheek burnt through, and one arm nearly burnt off, and who, therefore, in regard to personal appearance, was not the most prepossessing of men; “a hundred a year, and all to spend: only think, old Billy Gazy;” and he gave a hideous grin that showed off his misfortunes to their full extent.

Old Billy Gazy was not alive to much enthusiasm—even these golden prospects did not arouse him to do more than rub his poor old bleared eyes with the cuff of his bedesman’s gown, and gently mutter: “he didn’t know, not he; he didn’t know.”

“But you’d know, Jonathan,” continued Spriggs, turning to the other friend of Skulpit’s, who was sitting on a stool by the table, gazing vacantly at the petition. Jonathan Crumple was a meek, mild man, who had known better days; his means had been wasted by bad children, who had made his life wretched till he had been received into the hospital, of which he had not long been a member. Since that day he had known neither sorrow nor trouble, and this attempt to fill him with new hopes was, indeed, a cruelty.

“A hundred a year’s a nice thing, for sartain, neighbour Spriggs,” said he: “I once had nigh to that myself, but it didn’t do me no good.” And he gave a low sigh, as he thought of the children of his own loins who had robbed him.

“And shall have again, Joe,” said Handy; “and will have some one to keep it right and tight for you this time.”

Crumple sighed again—he had learned the impotency of worldly wealth, and would have been satisfied, if left untempted, to have remained happy with one and sixpence a day.

“Come, Skulpit,” repeated Handy, getting impatient, “you’re not going to go along with old Bunce in helping that parson to rob us all. Take the pen, man, and right yourself. Well,” he added, seeing that Skulpit still doubted, “to see a man as is afraid to stand by hisself, is, to my thinking, the meanest thing as is.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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