‘I’ll tell you, sir,’ said Joe: ‘t’ maister’s not so fond of talking; I’ve no objections. He courted Sarah, Mr. Moore’s sarvant lass, and so it seems she would have nothing to say to him; she either didn’t like his wooden leg, or she’d some notion about his being a hypocrite. Happen (for women is queer hands—we may say that amang werseln when there’s none of ’em nigh) she’d have encouraged him, in spite of his leg and deceit—just to pass time like; I’ve known some on ’em do as mich, and some o’ t’ bonniest and mimmest-looking, too—ay! I’ve seen clean, trim young things, that looked as denty and pure as daisies, and wi’ time a body fun’ ’em out to be nowt but stinging, venomed nettles.’

‘Joe’s a sensible fellow,’ interjected Helstone.

‘Howsiver, Sarah had another string to her bow: Fred Murgatroyd, one of our lads, is for her, and as women judge men by their faces—and Fred has a middling face, while Moses is none so handsome, as we all knaw—the lass took on wi’ Fred. A two-three months sin’, Murgatroyd and Moses chanced to meet one Sunday night; they’d both come lurking about these premises wi’ the notion of counselling Sarah to tak’ a bit of a walk wi’ them; they fell out, had a tussle, and Fred was worsted; for he’s young and small, and Barraclough, for all he has only one leg, is almost as strong as Sugden there; indeed, anybody that hears him roaring at a revival or a love-feast may be sure he’s no weakling.’

‘Joe, you’re insupportable,’ here broke in Mr. Moore. ‘You spin out your explanation as Moses spins out his sermons. The long and short of it is, Murgatroyd was jealous of Barraclough; and last night, as he and a friend took shelter in a barn from a shower, they heard and saw Moses conferring with some associates within. From their discourse, it was plain he had been the leader, not only at Stilbro’ Moor, but in the attack on Sykes’s property: moreover, they planned a deputation to wait on me this morning, which the tailor is to head, and which, in the most religious and peaceful spirit, is to entreat me to put the accursed thing out of my tent. I rode over to Whinbury this morning, got a constable and a warrant, and I am now waiting to give my friend the reception he deserves. Here, meantime, comes Sykes. Mr. Helstone, you must spirit him up: he feels timid at the thoughts of prosecuting.’

A gig was heard to roll into the yard. Mr. Sykes entered—a tall, stout man of about fifty, comely of feature, but feeble of physiognomy. He looked anxious.

‘Have they been? Are they gone? Have you got him? Is it over?’ he asked.

‘Not yet,’ returned Moore with phlegm. ‘We are waiting for them.’

‘They’ll not come—it’s near noon. Better give it up. It will excite bad feeling—make a stir—cause, perhaps, fatal consequences.’

You need not appear,’ said Moore. ‘I shall meet them in the yard when they come; you can stay here.’

‘But my name must be seen in the law proceedings. A wife and family, Mr. Moore—a wife and family make a man cautious.’

Moore looked disgusted.

‘Give way if you please,’ said he; ‘leave me to myself. I have no objection to act alone: only be assured you will not find safety in submission. Your partner, Pearson, gave way, and conceded, and forebore. Well, that did not prevent them from attempting to shoot him in his own house.’

‘My dear sir, take a little wine and water,’ recommended Mr. Helstone.

The wine and water was Hollands and water, as Mr. Sykes discovered when he had compounded and swallowed a brimming tumbler thereof. It transfigured him in two minutes—brought the colour back to his face, and made him at least word-valiant. He now announced that he hoped he was above being trampled on by the common people; he was determined to endure the insolence of the working-classes

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