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"The Wold Love and the Noo" by Mrs. Francis Blundell

 

"Have ye heard the noos?" said Betty Tuffin, thrusting in her head at old Mrs. Haskell's open door.

"Lard, no, my dear," returned her crony, hastily dropping the crooked iron bar with which she had been drawing together the logs upon her hearthstone. "There, I never do seem to hear anything nowadays, my wold man bein' so ter'ble punished wi' the lumbaguey and not able to do a hand's turn for hisself. Why, I do assure 'ee I do scarce ever set foot out o' door wi'out it's to pick up a bit o' scroff, or a few logs--an' poor ones they be when I've a-got 'em. I can hardly see my own hand for the smoke. Step in, do, Betty love, an' tell I all what's to be told."

Betty had stepped in long before Mrs. Haskell had concluded her harangue, and had, by this time, taken possession of a comfortable corner of the screened settle, deposited her basket by her side, folded her arms, and assumed that air of virtuous indignation which denoted that she was about to relate the shortcomings of some third party.

"Dear, to be sure! Souls alive! Lard ha' mercy me, ye could ha' knocked I down wi' a feather when Keeper told I--"

"A-h-h-h, them bwoys o' Chaffey's has been poachin' again I d' 'low," interrupted Mrs. Haskell eagerly. "Never did see sich chaps as they be. A body 'ud think they'd know better nor to act so unrespectable-like. Why, as my wold man do say sometimes, 'ye mid as well put your hand in Squire's pocket as go a-layin' snares for his hares an' rabbits--'tis thievin' whichever way ye do look at it,' he do say."

"Well, I don't agree wi' he," responded Betty with some heat. She had sons of her own who were occasionally given to strolling abroad on moonlight nights, and usually returned with bulging pockets. "I don't agree at all. The Lard made they little wild things for the poor so well as for the rich--same as the water what runs through Squire's park an' down along by the back o' my place. Who's to tell who they belongs to. A hare 'ull lep up on one side o' the hedge, an' then it'll be Squire's, an' it'll run across t'other side, an' then it's Maister's, an' then it'll come an' squat down in my cabbage garden--then I d' 'low 'tis mine if I can catch it."

Mrs. Haskell, who was too anxious to gossip to dally by the way in a disquisition on the Game Laws, assented to her friend's argument with somewhat disappointing promptness, and returned to the original subject of discussion.

"I be real curious to hear that there bit o' noos."

"You'll be surprised I d' 'low," said Mrs. Tuffin. "Ye mind Abel Guppy what went off to the war out there abroad wi' the Yeomanry? Well, they d' say he be killed."

"Dear, now, ye don't tell I so," said the other in a dispassionate, and if truth be told, somewhat disappointed tone. A death, though always exciting, was not after all so very uncommon, and when a man "'listed for a soldier," most of the older village folk looked upon his destruction as a foregone conclusion. "Killed, poor young chap! His aunt Susan 'ull be terrible opset."

"I d' 'low she will be opset," said Betty meaningly, "and it bain't only along of him bein' killed, poor feller, but you'd never think, Mrs. Haskell, how things have a-turned out. Ye mind that maid up to Bartlett's what he was a-courtin'?"

"'E-es, to be sure I do. A great big bouncin' wench as ever I did see, wi' her red head an' all."

"Well, it seems afore poor Abel went out he wrote a paper an' give it to this 'ere maid, a-leavin' her everything as the poor chap had in the world."

"Mercy on me! But she be a-walkin' out wi' somebody else they tell me; she've a-took up wi' the noo love afore she did leave off wi' the wold."

"She have," agreed the visitor emphatically. "That be the very thing Susan 'ull find so cruel 'ard. She did say to I to-week afore she knowed her nevvy were killed, 'If any harm comes to en,' says she, 'it do fair break my heart to think as that good-for-nothing Jenny Pitcher 'ull have her pick of everything in this place. It bain't the same as if she'd truly m'urned for en, but she've a-taken up wi' a new young man,' says she, 'what walks out wi' her reg'lar.'--'My dear,' says I, 'if anything should happen to your nevvy, which the Lard forbid, she'll never have the face to come to ax for his bits o' things, seein' as she haven't been faithful to en.' 'She will though,' says Susan, an' 'tis the talk o' the place that she will.'"

Mrs. Haskell clapped her hands together. "Well, well! But what a sammy the chap was. He did ought to ha' made sure afore makin' sich a will. It be a will, I suppose, my dear?"

"It be a will sure enough," said Mrs. Tuffin gloomily. "There, Susan did tell I as that there artful hussy made sure he got it signed an' all reg'lar. There's a few pounds too in the savings bank--I don't know if she'd be able to get 'em out or not."

"Well, I never heerd such a tale. That maid must be a reg'lar Jezebel, Betty, that's what she must be. That hard-hearted, unfeelin'--Lard ha' mercy me! Well, well, well!"

Betty took up her basket again, and was proceeding leisurely towards the door, shaking her head and uttering condemnatory groans the while, when she suddenly gripped her friend by the arm with an eager exclamation.

"There she be!--there's the very maid a-walkin' by so bold as brass with her young man along of her!"

"I shouldn't wonder," said Mrs. Haskell in sepulchral tones, "I shouldn't wonder but what she be a-goin' up to Susan's to pick out poor Abel's things."

"Dear, do you raly think so?" gasped Betty, almost dropping her basket in her horror. "Why the noos of him bein' killed only come this marnin'."

"I d' 'low she be a-goin' there," repeated Mrs. Haskell emphatically. "If I was you, Betty, I'd follow 'em, careless-like, an' jist find out. It do really seem like a dooty for to find out. I'd go along of you only my wold man 'ull be a-hollerin' out for his tea."

A muffled voice was indeed heard at that very moment proceeding from the bedroom, accompanied by an imperative knocking on the wall.

"There he be," said Mrs. Haskell, not without a certain pride. "He do know the time so reg'lar as church clock. He'll go on a-shoutin' and a-hammerin' at wall wi' his wold boot till I do come. I do tell en he wears out a deal more shoe-leather that way nor if he were on his feet."

She turned to go upstairs, and Betty crossing the threshold stood a moment irresolute. Her basket, full of purchases recently made at the shop a mile away, was heavy enough, and her feet were weary; but Jenny's tantalising red head gleamed like a beacon twenty yards away from her, and curiosity silenced the pleadings of fatigue. Hitching up her basket she proceeded in the wake of the young couple, who were walking slowly enough, the girl's bright head a little bent, the man slouching along by her side in apparent silence. All at once the observer saw Jenny's hand go to her pocket, and draw thence a handkerchief which she pressed to her eyes.

"She be a-cryin'" commented Betty, not without a certain satisfaction. "They've a-had a bit of a miff, I d' 'low; well, if the young man have a-got the feelin's of a man he'd be like to object to this 'ere notion of hers--Nay, now, he do seem to be a-comfortin' of her. There! Well!"

They had left the village behind, and Betty's solitary figure was probably unnoticed by the lovers. In any case it proved no hindrance to the very affectionate demonstrations which now took place. Presently Jenny straightened her hat, restored her handkerchief to her pocket, and walked on, "arm-in-crook" with her admirer.

"They be a-goin' to Susan's, sure enough. Well, to be sure! Of all the hard-hearted brazen-faced--!" words failed her, and she quickened her pace as the couple disappeared round the angle of the lane. A few minutes' brisk walking brought the pair, with Betty at their heels, to a solitary cottage standing a little back from the lane in the shelter of a high furze-grown bank. As the young man tapped at the door Jenny turned and descried Betty's figure by the garden-gate.

"Is it you, Mrs. Tuffin?" she inquired. "I can scarce see who 'tis wi' the sun shinin' in my eyes. Be you a-goin' in?"

"It's me," responded Betty tartly, in reply to the first question, while she dismissed the second with an equally curt "I be."

The door opened and the figure of a stout elderly woman stood outlined against the glow of firelight within. She peered out, shading her eyes from the level rays of the sinking sun, and starting back at sight of Jenny.

"'Tis you, be it? Well, I didn't think you'd have the face to come, so soon."

"I did just look in to say a word o' consolation, Miss Vacher," said the girl, drawing herself up. "I be very grieved myself about this melancholy noos. I've a-been cryin' terrible, I have, an' says I, 'Me an' poor Abel's dear aunt 'ull mingle our tears.'"

"Mingle fiddlesticks!" said Susan. "What be that there young spark o' yours a-doin' here? Be he come to drop a tear too?"

"He be come along to take care of I," said the girl demurely. "'Tis Mr. Sam Keynes. He didn't think it right for I to walk so far by myself. Did ye, Sam?"

"Well, now ye can walk back wi' her," said Susan, addressing that gentleman before he had time to answer. "I don't want no tears a-mingled here. Who be that by the gate?"

"'Tis me, Betty Tuffin," returned the owner of that name. "I didn't come wi' these 'ere young folks--don't think it, my dear. I come to see if this 'ere noos be true an' to tell you how sorry I be."

"I'd 'low the noos bain't true, but come in all the same, Betty. I be al'ays glad to see you. You'd best be marchin', Jenny Pitcher, you and your new sweetheart, else it'll be dark afore you get home."

Jenny looked at her admirer, who nodded encouragingly and nudged her with his elbow.

"I think as we've a-come so far," she remarked, "I must ax leave to step in for a bit, Miss Vacher. 'Tis a little matter o' business, and business is a thing what ought to be attended to immediate."

Miss Vacher threw open the door with such violence that the handle banged against the wall, and stepped back with sarcastic politeness.

"Oh, come in, do. Come, and poke and pry, and see what ye can pick for yourself."

Sarcasm had turned to fury by the time the end of the sentence was reached, and, as Jenny, overcome by conflicting emotions, was about to sink into the nearest chair, she darted forward and snatched it away.

"That's mine anyhow," she cried emphatically. "You shan't touch that."

Jenny almost fell against the table, and gasped for a moment or two, partly from breathlessness, partly, as presently appeared, from grief.

"Oh, poor Abel!" she groaned, as soon as she could speak. "The poor dear fellow. Oh, oh dear!"

"I wouldn't take on so if I was you," said Betty sarcastically, while even Mr. Keynes surveyed his intended with a lowering brow, and gruffly advised her to give over.

"'Tis a pity to upset yourself so much," said Miss Vacher, with a shrill laugh. "I don't believe he be dead. Somebody 'ud ha' wrote if he was. The papers--you can't credit what they say in them papers."

"Oh, he's dead, sure enough," cried Jenny, suddenly recovering herself. "I know he's dead--I know'd he'd die afore he went out. There, I had a kind o' porsentiment he'd be killed, and so had he, poor fellow. That's why he settled everything so thoughtful and kind. Oh dear, oh dear! It fair breaks my heart to think on't. Poor Abel! he was too good for this world--that's what he was. We'll never, never see his likes again."

"Dear, to be sure, think o' that now!" cackled Betty. "I hope ye like that, Mr. Keynes."

Mr. Keynes evidently did not like it at all, if one might judge from his expression, but Jenny now turned towards him in artless appeal.

"You do know very well, Sam, don't you, as poor Abel was my first love? I've often told 'ee so, haven't I? You must remember, Sam, I did say often and often, as 'whatever happens you can only be my second. Don't ever think,' says I, 'as you can ever be to me what he was.'"

At this point Sam's feelings were too many for him; he made a stride towards his charmer, and imperatively announced that he'd be dalled if he'd stand any more o' that. "Cut it shart, Jenny, cut it shart, or I'm off!"

"There, I did ought to think more o' your feelin's," said Jenny, drying her eyes with surprising promptitude. "I beg your pardon--I were that undone, ye see, wi' lookin' round at all my poor Abel's things, what's to be mine now. They do all seem to speak so plain to I--the very clock--"

"The clock!" exclaimed Susan, with an indignant start, "why that there clock have hung over chimney-piece for nigh upon farty year! That clock didn't belong to Abel!"

"That clock," said Jenny with mild firmness, "did belong to my poor Abel's father, and 'twas his by rights; he've a-left it to me wi' the rest of his things, and I shall value it for his sake. When I do hear it tickin' it will seem to say to I, Think o'--me; think o'--me ."

"Jenny, drop it," cried Mr. Keynes with a muffled roar of protest; "I tell 'ee 'tis more nor flesh and blood can bear. If you be a-goin' to think constant o' he you'd better ha' done wi' I."

"Sam, dear Sam," said Jenny in melting tones, "you be all as I've a-got left now; don't you desert me."

"Well, don't you go a-carryin' on that way," said Sam, still unmollified and eyeing her threateningly.

"You don't lay a finger on the clock," said Susan Vacher with spirit. "Who told you that clock was Abel's? It's a-been there ever since my mother's time, and I've a-wound it up myself every Saturday night."

"That clock belonged to Abel," repeated Jenny emphatically, "and he've a-left it to me in his will."

She drew a piece of paper from her pocket, opened it slowly, and proceeded to read its contents aloud, with great dignity.

"'In case o' my death, I, Abel Guppy, bein' firm in mind and body--'"

"What does he mean by that?" interrupted Betty. "Lawyer Wiggins did make my father's will an' 'tweren't wrote that way. What's 'firm in mind and body'?"

"This 'ere was copied from a pattern will what was bought for sixpence up to Mr. Marsh's in town," said Jenny loftily. "It do begin, 'I, M.N., bein' o' sound mind though infirm in body'--Abel, d'ye see, weren't infirm in body; he were as well as ever he were in his life, poor chap, when he did set out."

"Well, let's hear," said Susan with a martyrised air.

"'I, Abel Guppy,'" resumed Jenny, "'bein' firm in mind and body, do hereby state as I wish for to leave my sweetheart, Jenny Pitcher, if I do die in this 'ere war, all what I've a-got in this world. The money in the Savings Bank--'" Betty groaned and threw up her eyes to heaven; Susan involuntarily clenched her fist; Sam's brow cleared.

"'The money in the Savings Bank,'" repeated Jenny unctuously, "'and any bits o' furniture what belongs to I, more partic'lar the clock over the chimney-piece, the two chaney dogs, and the warmin'-pan--'"

"Well, I never!" interrupted Susan; "them two chaney dogs my mother bought herself off a pedlar that come to the door. I mind it so well as if it were yesterday."

"Very like she did," returned Jenny sharply. "And when she died hadn't Abel's father, what was her eldest son, the best right to 'em? And when he went to his long home they was Abel's, and now they'm mine--and the warmin'-pan too," she added defiantly.

"Well, of all the oudacious--" Susan was beginning, when Jenny cut her short, continuing to read in a high clear voice--

"'And half-a-dozen silver spoons, also the hearth-rug what was made out o' my old clothes--'"

"I'm--I'm blowed if you shall get the hearthrug," cried Susan explosively. "That's mine whatever the rest mid be. Them clothes was only fit to put on a scarecrow, an' I cut 'em up, and picked out the best bits, and split up a wold sack and sewed on every mortial rag myself; and I made a border out of a wold red skirt o' mine."

"And a handsome thing it is too, my dear," said Betty admiringly.

"They was Abel's clothes, though," said Jenny; "ye can't get out o' that, Miss Vacher."

"No, but there's one thing you can't get out of, Miss Jenny, so clever as ye think yerself," cried the outraged possessor of the hearthrug. "You be a-comed here on false pertences. Even if my nevvy be dead you han't a-got no right to these 'ere things now. He wrote it plain, 'I leave 'em all to my sweetheart if I'm killed.' Well, you wasn't his sweetheart when he was killed--you was a-walkin' out wi' this 'ere chap."

"Abel Guppy did mean I to have they things," said Jenny. "I was his sweetheart at the time he wrote it, and if I left off bein' his sweetheart 'twas because I felt he was too good to live. I knowed he wouldn't come back--as I tell you I had a porsentiment. I were forced to take up wi' Sam because I knowed Abel 'ud never make any livin' maid his bride."

"That's the third time!" cried Sam, ramming on his hat, and making for the door. "I've had about enough o' this. I'll look out for another maid as hasn't got a sweetheart i' th' New House--you be altogether a cut above the likes of I."

Susan obligingly opened the door for him, and in a moment he was gone, leaving Jenny staring blankly after him.

The banging of the garden-gate seemed to restore her to her senses. With a scream she threw the paper on the floor, and rushed out of the house, calling wildly on her lover. Soon the sound of the hurrying steps was lost in the distance, and the two women simultaneously turned to each other, eyes and mouth equally round with amazement.

At last Betty, slowly extending her forefinger, pointed to the will.

"I know," said Susan, finding voice all at once. "I've a good mind to pop it i' the fire."

Betty shook her head admonishingly.

"I wouldn't do that," she said, with a note of reproof in her voice. "'T'ud be real dangerous. Folks could be sent to prison for meddling wi' wills, an' sich."

Susan, who had grasped the document in question, dropped it as if it burnt her.

"My very spoons!" she said with a groan. "I tell 'ee, Betty, I'd a deal sooner bury 'em nor let her have 'em."

"I d' 'low you would," said Mrs. Tuffin commiseratingly; "but I don't advise 'ee to do it, my dear--'twouldn't be safe, an' you'd be bound to give 'em up one time or another. I d' 'low that maid be a-actin' as she be to spite ye more nor anythin' else; the more unwillin' you be, the more she'm pleased."

"Very like," agreed Susan. "She knowed I never were for Abel takin' up wi' her, an' al'ays said so much as I could again the match."

"Well, if you'll take my advice, Susan, you'll jist disapp'int her by givin' in straight off. If I was you I'd jist make up a bundle o' they things what Abel left her; pack 'em all up an' pin the will on top, an' give 'em to carrier to take to her, an' jist write outside, 'Good riddance o' bad rubbish,' or 'What ye've touched ye may take,' or some sich thing to show ye didn't care one way or t'other. I d' 'low that 'ud shame her."

"Maybe it would," said Miss Vacher dubiously, though with a latent gleam of malice in her eye.

"Take my advise an' do it then," urged Mrs. Tuffin earnestly. "Make the best of a bad job an' turn the tables on she. All the village 'ull be mad wi' her--the tale 'ull be in every one's mouth."

Miss Vacher compressed her lips and meditatively rubbed her hands.

"Well, I will; but I'll tell 'ee summat--I'll cut off every inch o' that red border."

She picked up the rug as she spoke and held it out. "That'll spile the looks of it anyhow," she remarked triumphantly.

The threat was carried into effect, and on the morrow poor Abel Guppy's little household gods were duly transferred to the home of his former sweetheart. Jenny professed great indifference to Susan's scornful message, and continued to hold her head high in spite of the storm of indignation provoked by her conduct. She claimed and carried off the departed yeoman's Savings Bank book, and was much aggrieved on finding that the authorities would not at once permit her to avail herself of the little vested fund; inquiries must be made, they said, and in any case some time must elapse before she could be permitted to draw the money out.

This was the only real cloud on Jenny's horizon, however, and she speedily forgot it in the midst of her wedding preparations. She and her Sam had made up their little difference, and as he was well-to-do in the world, and quite able to support a wife, there seemed to be no reason for delay.

The banns were duly called, therefore, and on one sunshiny summer's day Jenny and Sam, followed by a little band of near relatives, walked gleefully to their new home from the church where they had been made one. Betty Tuffin, who, as a lone woman, could not in justice to herself refuse any paying job, however little she might approve of her employer, had been left to take care of the house and to assist in preparing the refreshments, As the little party approached the cottage door they were surprised to see her standing on the threshold, now portentously wagging her black-capped head, now burying her face in her apron, evidently a prey to strong emotion, though of what particular kind it was difficult to say.

The bride hastened her steps, and Betty, who had for the twentieth time taken refuge in her apron, cautiously uncovered what seemed to be a very watery eye, and remarked in muffled and quavering tones from behind its enveloping folds--

"I'm afeared you'll be a bit took a-back when ye go indoor, my dear; best go cautious. I d' 'low ye'll be surprised!'

"What d'ye mean?" cried Jenny in alarm. "What's the matter?"

"Anything wrong?" inquired Sam from the rear.

But Betty was apparently entirely overcome, and could only intimate by repeated jerking of her thumb over her shoulder her desire that they should go in and see for themselves.

A long table was spread in the centre of the living-room, and, at the moment that the bridal party entered, a tall figure, dressed in kharki, was walking hastily round it, picking up a spoon from each cup.

"Abel!" shrieked Jenny, staggering back against her husband.

"What, bain't ye dead?" gasped the latter with a dropping jaw.

Abel added another spoon to his collection, and then looked up:--"This 'ere only makes five," he said; "there did ought to be six. Where's t'other?"

"Dear heart alive!" groaned Jenny's mother. "Jist look at en. We thought en dead an' buried, an' here he be a-carryin' off the spoons!"

"I bain't dead, ye see," returned the yeoman fiercely. "There's more Abel Guppys nor one i' the world, an' the man what got shot was a chap fro' Weymouth. If I was dead an' buried, all the same d'ye think I'd leave my spoons to be set out at another man's weddin'? Where's the other chaney dog?"

He had already pocketed one, and now cast a vengeful glance round.

"On the dresser, Abel," gasped Jenny faintly; "oh, my poor heart, how it do beat! To think o' your comin' back like that! Oh, Abel, I made sure you was killed."

"And you're very sorry, bain't ye?" returned her former lover with wrathful irony, "I'll thank ye for my bank-book, if ye please. Ye haven't drawed the money out--that's one good thing. They telled I all about it at the post-office yesterday. That's my dish, too." Extending a long arm he deftly whisked away the large old-fashioned platter which had supported the wedding-cake, dusting off the crumbs with an air of great disgust.

"I think ye mid have found summat else to put your cake on," he said, with a withering look; "I think ye mid ha' showed a bit more feelin' than that."

"I'm sure," protested Jenny plaintively, "'twas only out o' respect for you, Abel, that I set out the things. 'Twas out o' fond memory for you. You know you did say yourself when you was a-writin' out your will, 'I'll leave you all my things, Jenny, so as you'll think o' me,'--an' I did think o' you," she added, beginning to sob, "I'm sure I--I--I even wanted to put a bit o' black crape on your clock, but mother wouldn't let me."

"Well," interrupted Mrs. Pitcher apologetically, "I didn't think, ye know, it 'ud look very well to have crape about on my darter's weddin'-day. It wouldn't seem lucky. Or else I'm sure I wouldn't ha' had no objections at all--far from it, Abel."

"But I'd ha' had objections," cried Sam, who had stood by swelling with wrath. "I do think my feelin's ought to be considered so much as yon chap's, be he alive or dead. It's me what's married your darter, bain't it?"

"It be, Samuel; 'e-es I d' 'low it be," returned Mrs. Pitcher, with a deprecating glance at the yeoman who was now rolling up the rug. "We all on us thought as Abel was dead, ye see."

"Meanin', I suppose, as if ye knowed he was alive I shouldn't ha' had her," retorted Sam explosively. "Well, I d' 'low, it bain't too late yet to come to a understandin'. Jenny be married to I, sure enough, but I bain't a-goin' to ha' no wives what be a-hankerin' arter other folks. She may take herself off out of this wi'out my tryin' for to hinder her. If she can't make up her mind to give over upsettin' hersel' along o' he you may take her home-along, Mrs. Pitcher."

A dead silence ensued within the house, but Betty's strident tones could be heard without, uplifted in shrill discourse to curious neighbours.

"'E-es, d'ye see, he did write home so soon as he did get to Darchester, a-tellin' of his aunt as he was a-comin' private-like so as to surprise his sweetheart. And Susan, she did write back immediate an' say, 'My poor bwoy, there be a sad surprise in store for you.' And then when he comed they did make it up between them to keep quiet till--"

"There's the clock, too," observed Abel, ending the pause at last.

"You can take the clock," cried Jenny, simultaneously recovering speech and self-possession. "Take the clock, Abel Guppy, and take yourself off. There ben a mistake, but it be all cleared up at last."

She stepped with dignity across the room, and slipped her arm through Sam's, who made several strenuous but ineffectual efforts to shake her off.

"You get hold o' he," cried Sam; "you cut along an' catch hold o' he. It be he you do want."

"No, Samuel," said the incomparable Jenny with lofty resolution, "it bain't he as I do want. I mid ha' been took up wi' some sich foolish notion afore, bein' but a silly maid, but now I be a married 'ooman, an' I do know how to vally a husband's love."

The new-made bridegroom ceased struggling and gaped at her. Jenny, gazing at her former lover more in sorrow than in anger, pointed solemnly to the clock:--

"Take down that clock, Abel Guppy," she repeated. "I do know you now for what you be. I consider you've behaved most heartless an' unfeelin' in comin' here to try an' make mischief between man an' wife. I thank the Lard," she added piously, "as I need never ha' no more to do with you. Walk out o' my house, if ye please--"

"Your house," interpolated Sam, a note of astonished query perceptible in his tone despite its sulkiness.

"'E-es," said Jenny firmly. "He shall never show his face inside the door where I be missis. Take down the clock, Abel Guppy," she repeated for the third time. "You'd best help him, Sam. He don't seem able to reach to it."

Encumbered as he was with newly-regained possessions, the yeoman had made but abortive attempts to detach the timepiece; and Sam, with a dawning grin on his countenance, now mounted on a chair, officiously held by one of the guests, and speedily handed it down.

After all it was the ill-used Abel Guppy who looked most foolish as he made his way to the door, loaded with his various goods, the relatives of bride and bridegroom casting scornful glances at him as he passed. Before he had proceeded twenty yards Sam ran after him with the bank-book, which the other pocketed without a word, while the bridegroom returned to the house, rubbing his hands and chuckling.

Jenny was already seated at the head of the table and received him with a gracious smile:--

"If you'll fetch another plate, Sam, my dear," she remarked, "I can begin for to cut the cake."