Messrs. Helstone and Sykes began to be extremely jocose and congratulatory with Mr. Moore when he returned to them after dismissing the deputation. He was so quiet, however, under their compliments upon his firmness, etc., and wore a countenance so like a still, dark day, equally beamless and breezeless, that the Rector, after glancing shrewdly into his eyes, buttoned up his felicitations with his coat, and said to Sykes, whose senses were not acute enough to enable him to discover unassisted where his presence and conversation were a nuisance:

‘Come, sir; your road and mine lie partly together. Had we not better bear each other company? We’ll bid Moore good-morning, and leave him to the happy fancies he seems disposed to indulge.’

‘And where is Sugden?’ demanded Moore, looking up.

‘Ah, ha!’ cried Helstone. ‘I’ve not been quite idle while you were busy. I’ve been helping you a little—I flatter myself, not injudiciously. I thought it better not to lose time, so while you were parleying with that down-looking gentleman—Farren, I think his name is—I opened this back window, shouted to Murgatroyd, who was in the stable, to bring Mr. Sykes’s gig round; then I smuggled Sugden and brother Moses—wooden leg and all—through the aperture, and saw them mount the gig (always with our good friend Sykes’s permission, of course). Sugden took the reins—he drives like Jehu—and in another quarter of an hour Barraclough will be safe in Stilbro’ Gaol.’

‘Very good; thank you,’ said Moore, ‘and good-morning, gentlemen,’ he added; and so politely conducted them to the door, and saw them clear of his premises.

He was a taciturn, serious man the rest of the day; he did not even bandy a repartee with Joe Scott, who, for his part, said to his master only just what was absolutely necessary to the progress of business, but looked at him a good deal out of the corners of his eyes, frequently came to poke the counting- house fire for him, and once, as he was locking up for the day (the mill was then working short time, owing to the slackness of trade), observed that it was a grand evening, and he ‘could wish Mr. Moore to take a bit of a walk up th’ Hollow; it would do him good.’

At this recommendation Mr. Moore burst into a short laugh, and after demanding of Joe what all this solicitude meant, and whether he took him for a woman or a child, seized the keys from his hand, and shoved him by the shoulders out of his presence. He called him back, however, ere he had reached the yard-gate.

‘Joe, do you know those Farrens? They are not well off, I suppose?’

‘They cannot be well off, sir, when they’ve not had work as a three month. Ye’d see yoursel’ ’at William’s sorely changed—fair pared. They’ve selled most o’ t’ stuff out o’ th’ house.’

‘He was not a bad workman?’

‘Ye never had a better, sir, sin’ ye began trade.’

‘And decent people—the whole family?’

‘Niver dacenter—th’ wife’s a raight cant body, and as clean—ye mught eat your porridge off th’ house floor. They’re sorely comed down. I wish William could get a job as gardener, or summat i’ that way; he understands gardening weel. He once lived wi’ a Scotchman that tached him the mysteries o’ that craft, as they say.’

‘Now, then, you can go, Joe; you need not stand there staring at me.’

‘Ye’ve no orders to give, sir?’

‘None, but for you to take yourself off.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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