Page images

prisoner. You are charged with robbing your , She could not have heard as yet what had hapmaster of £31 17s, 6d.”

pened. But he dared not think of Nellie; the Paul was amazed. For a few minutes he was very idea that she too might think him guilty unable to speak.

was enough to drive bim mad. “I do not understand you,” he said at last. The weeks passed slowly by Paul's mother “ What robbery do you mean?"

caine to see him two or three times ; she did not “The money you received yesterday," said for a moment doubt his innocence, and gave Joe Marlings.

him hope that it would be proved. “Why, it is in the drawer in Mr. Elton's pri. At last the day of the trial came. The court vate room. You saw me put it there, Joe, and was crowded; and, after one or two unimportant you too, William Fenning.”

cases had been heard, Paul was led into the “You put it in the drawer certainly,” said dock, and the trial began. If anyone connected William Fenning; “but you came here in the with the law should read this tale, let them middle of the night and took it out again." remember that if the trial is not described in

" Why, I came here,” said Paul, “only to" the usual way, it is not through ignorance, but

“You had better not commit yoursell,” said to try and save the story from becoming tedious. one of the policemen. “ Whatever you say now It was stated that Paul had received the sum will be used as evidence against you."

of-£31 178. 6d. on account of his master, Mr. “I am sorry for you, Paul," said Mr. Elton Elton; that in the presence of his fellow-work(who had arrived home early that morning), en- men he had placed the money in a drawer in the tering the workshop " very sorry. You were private room; that he had locked the drawer, the last I should have suspected-but you must kept the key in his possession, and had been the come before the magistrate; and, if you can last to quit the workshop; that he had been seen prove your innocence, no one will be more and owned to entering the shop at near eleven pleased than myself.”

o'clock that same night; and that a sum of So Paul was taken to the police-court-Mr. / money, equal to that which Mr. Elton had lost, Elton leading the way, his workmen following, was found in his possession. and all the idlers of Maybury bringing up the The first witness was William Fenning. rear.

He remembered the night perfectly well. He The case occupied some time; but, as the was present when Paul received the money, and magistrate decided that it should be tried at the saw him place it in the drawer. After work, he quarter-sessions, I shall relate the particulars pre (witness) went to lecture, as was his custom on sently. I need only say at present that some one | Tuesday and Friday evenings; and when that hinting that Paul should be searched, money was over, he supped with brother Jerningham, equal to the sum of which Mr. Elton had been reaching home shortly after nine. He lived at robbed was found in his pocket. In vain Paultried the baker's exactly opposite Mr. Elton's; and, to explain that it was his own savings; even the as his room was on the ground floor, even with magistrate, who, on account of Paul's previous the shop, could see what took place on the other good character, had all along thought him in- side of the way perfectly well. The night in nocent, changed his mind, and said he feared question being a warm night he was unable to the evidence against the prisoner was very sus- sleep; so, lighting his candle, he sat up by the picious indeed.

window, reading Dr. Blazely's work on “ The Then the crowd dispersed, and Paul was Conversion of Heathens ” (a book which he taken in a cab to the county gaol, where he should be delighted to put into the hands of his would have to remain until the day of his trial. worship, if he would accept a copy). He had Ever since he had been charged with robbery, | been reading upwards of an hour, when, looking Paul had seemed as if in some waking dream, up, he saw a man on the opposite side of the and the sudden accusation had such an effect street, whom, though it was a dark night, he upon him that he was scarcely able to say a recognised as Paul Dale. He saw him unlock word in his own defence; but when he passed the door, enter the workshop, and, after a few the Manor House, and saw the preparations for minutes, come out again with a large bag in his the flower-show, the whole truth burst upon hand. He thought it strange; but, knowing him, and he felt himself ruined for ever. Pre- | Paul was in his master's confidence, and not sently he became more hopeful. He would be thinking for a moment that there was anything more collected at the Assizes, and able to prove wrong, he thought no more about it, and went his innocence; so that by the time be reached to bed. The next morning he heard of the the prison, he had made up his mind to bear robbery, and had no doubt but that Paul was the few weeks' confinement like a man.

the thief. Yet in the afternoon, in spite of his resolve, Mrs. Grice, Mr. Elton's housekeeper, hopes Paul became again despondent. He wondered his worship will speak a little louder, as she is whether his mother had heard the news. And rather hard of hearing. She heard nothing then the flower-show. They were all there about the money until after the robbery, and now, perhaps enjoying themselves as much as I was certain that no one had entered through the if he had been amongst them with his name as ( house, having locked the doors and fastened much loved and respected as it was but yester- | the shutters herself, and found them in the same day. Yesterday! That seemed a long while condition when she came down in the morning. ago now. And Nellie was waiting for him. She knew nothing else.

Adam Moor, who had evidently been taking a short time after, the foreman gave their verdict something to give him courage for any cros8--"Guilty." examination, remembered the evening as if it A scream was heard from the far-off end of was yesterday. After work he went to the the court, and Paul saw his mother being carried Blue Dragon, it being a club-night, and passed out insensible. the evening with some jolly good fellows. The Judge said that it was impossible to deal They talked politics and parish matters, but he leniently with the prisoner, for it was no comnever said a word about the money to anybody; mon offence. It was not like a poor man and if he had, no one could have got into the taking money to keep his family from starving; workshop, as Paul had the only key, and the but here was a case of broken trust-of a man door was too strong to be broken open, even if who had received every kindness from his it had been, which it wasn't. He was surprised master, had good wages, and yet could rob that to hear that Paul had taken the money; for he master of a sum of money which had been left had known him ever since he was a boy, and in his care. His sentence was seven years' there wasn't a more industrious lad in all May- penal servitude. bury.

Paul was led away from the court with the Joe Marlings, who seemed to look upon a maddening thought in his mind that his good witness-box as a good place for a quiet snooze, name was gone for ever. However, there is no said the evening in question was “awful hot." need to dwell on his grief, nor on that of his As soon as he reached home from work, he mother and the few old friends who still bewent to sleep under the trees in his back- lieved him innocent. Within a short time of garden, and did not wake till it was time to go his trial he was on board ship, in company with to bed. Begging his worship's pardon, but, as men who had committed every conceivable the court was “awful hot” too, he would crime, bound for one of the convict islands. sooner be in bed than where he was. He wouldn't pick up a penny if he saw it lying in the street, [A voice in the crowd : "No, Joe, you'd be too lazy to stoop”]-much less rob

CHAP. III. his master, the kindest, betterestHere he was told he might retire.

"AFTER LONG YEARS." Peter, the boy, on account of his tender years, was excused from appearing.

Seven years have passed.

Paul Dale has been the companion of crimi. In defence, Paul Dale said he was innocent, 1 , True, he entered the workshop alone at the hour

nals, has listened to their vile oaths and disgust

ing language, and has heard and seen so much mentioned, but it was only to fetch his tools. which he particularly wanted at home. While

that is wicked that he has sometimes wondered

whether there was any good left in the world, looking for the basket, he fancied he heard a

or if he was not dreaming some hideous dream. noise in the room below, but, finding no one

But his own nature is the same. During the there, he put it down to the wind or his imagination. He had now no doubt that it

first few months of his transportation, Paul used

to wonder whether it would be a sin to put an was the robber he heard, though how he came and went so quickly, and by what means he

end to his life, thinking it would be almost im. opened the drawer, he could not make out.

possible to live seven years in such company and He did not think it was any of the workmen,

not fall into some of their sinful ways; but when though they all knew the money was there.

he thought of his poor old mother and Nellie Ray. That found upon him was his own savings,

mond, whosememory haunted him like some guarwhich he was about to take to the bank ; and

dian angel, he would become calmer, and prayfor no one was more surprised than himself when

belp to live sinless through the bitter long years he heard of the robbery.

which were before him. "O! what weary years

| they were! The same monotonous work every The Judge, in summing up the case, said

day; and when that was over, no companion that facts were very much against the prisoner. but his own miserable thoughts. At first he The story Paul had just told was very well of hoped to find some one amongst the prisoners itself; but any thief could invent a tale like that who was not hopelessly bad, or who had already when found out. He was known to have repented, whom he might make his friend and received the money; had the only keys of the companion ; but his search was useless, and private drawer and workshop in his possession; he was shunned, laughed at, insulted, and, if it was seen to enter the place secretly, at a late had not been for his strong arm, would bare hour in the night (the story of the footsteps been worse treated, merely because he was better below, the jury might believe if they could, but (morally, for there were some there who had if William Fenning watched Paul enter and been a fine gentlemen” once upon a time) that come out again, he would surely have noticed the others. if anyone else had entered the workshop in the And at last his time was up, and he returned meantime); and money equal to the amount of to England. that stolen was the next morning found in the But Paul looked careworn now-at least ten prisoner's possession.

years older than he really was; not that any of The jury retired ; and, when they came back' his old friends would have recognised him, foto

his sunburnt face, stooping shoulders, and long, gage his cottage and orchard to pay off his beard made him look quite a different man. Of debts. course, as soon as he arrived in England, he Such was the state of affairs when Paul came hurried off to his native place. There we will back to Maybury. He arrived there one autumprecede him, and see what changes have taken nal evening, and his first question was about his place in Maybury since the day when Paul left ( mother. You can imagine his grief, when he the town a convicted felon.

heard of her death, and the poverty in which Poor Mrs. Dale was dead! She had strug her last days had been spent. And then he gled with poverty for a long time, and her neigh heard that William Fenning was expected to be bours gave her all the assistance in their power; made what he himself once stood a chance of but from Mr. Elton she would not receive any-being, namely, Mr. Elton's partner. His mother thing, saying that money from one who had ap- | being dead, Paul thought it unnecessary to make peared against her innocent son would only himself known; so after taking a last look at the bring a curse upon her. At last, she was ob- cottage in “Cherry-tree Dells,” he would quit liged to go to the workhouse; and there, one cold Maybury and seek work in some distant town, winter morning, she died, talking of Paul in her where neither himself nor his previous history last moments. Adam Moor has taken the would be known. pledge, and is now one of the best workmen in The clover fields looked just as they did when Maybury. Joe Marlings is as sleepy as ever. he walked through them full of happy thoughts Mr. Elton, who was sorry for Paul, and yet felt seven years ago; but his old home had disapinwardly that he had done right in appearing peared, and in its place a row of model cottages against him, has prospered in business, though had been erected. How familiar the walk his life has been somewhat, cheerless. He is seemed! What dreamy memories came across him now thinking about retiring from an active part as he passed by the dear old scenes of other days ! in the business, and the partner who will take And there was “ Cherry-tree Dells,” looking his place is, so say the gossips, no other than the same as ever, and for a few moments it William Fenning, the Methodist.

seemed to Paul as if the long years of his transNow, during the seven years William Fen- | portation had been a fearful dream, from which ning's worldly prospects had changed more than he was just awakening. As Paul reached Mr. those of any one in Maybury. Somehow, when Raymond's cottage, one of the upper windows Paul went away, William became foreman in the was opened, and some one looked out at the shop, and was soon as much in his master's con- stars. It was Nellie, looking almost as young fidence as Paul had been. Not that Mr. Elton and childish as when Paul had asked her to come could ever like the Methodist as he once did to the flower-show. But she soon disappeared ; Paul Dale; but William was certainly a clever and as there was a light in the lower room, Paul workman, and soon knew as much, if not more, ventured to look in through the half-open of the business than Mr. Elton himself did, window. Two men were sitting in the room, Now William Fenning had been well paid, and, old Mr. Raymond and William Fenning. It as he lived rent-free over the shop (Mr. Elton may have been a wrong thing to do, but Paul thought it safe, after the robbery, to have a man listened, and this is what he heard : always living in the house, in case he should "I think you are treating me very unkindly, be again absent) had managed to save a good William," said the old man, in a weak voice : deal of money; so that Mr. Elton, inwardly dis- " hav'nt I gone through trouble enough, withliking the man in his heart, though he could see out your wishing to turn poor Nellie and myno reason for it, had almost made up his mind self from our home to wander God only knows to receive him as a partner. So far William where ?" had been prosperous; but there was something “You mistake me, Mr. Raymond,” said Wilthat made his days blank and cheerless, and liam ; “I was merely stating facts. You mortkept him awake all night : he hopelessly lovedgaged your cottage and ground some time back ; Nellie Raymond. He had loved her long before the money will be due in six weeks' time, and Paul weat away, though he knew well there was you are unable to pay it. Now, I, knowing no chance for him; but when the young car- what a hard man you had to deal with, bought penter left, William thought he would try and the mortgage of him; so if you cannot pay me court Nellie, and went over to “ Cherry-tree when it becomes due, this place is legally mine. Dello” often of an evening. But it was of no But I do not wish to be hard upon you. I have use. Nellie would scarcely speak to him; and loved your daughter Nellie ever sincesheand I were her father, a strict churchman of the old school, children. I love her now more than ever; and disliked him merely because he was a ) if you will only use your influence to make her Methodist and a teetotaller. In vain William consent to become my wife, I will tear the deed would tell Nellie of the riches he was accumu- into a thousand pieces, aud lend you enough lating, and of the grand house she should live money with which to begin the world again." in if she became his wife; and all through the “But, poor Nellie ! she does not love you, seven years he would haunt the house where and would never be happy as your wife. HowNellie lived, though he must have known that ever, I will ask her; but if she refuses, I will not he was unwelcome. To make things worse, | force her to consent. I would sooner be turned there had been a bad fruit season, and people from home, and go to the workhouse." baid old Mr. Raymond had been obliged to morto “Very well, Mr. Raymond ; your fate is in

[ocr errors]

your own hands. If Nellie refuses, you know any longer. “I have been one for a great many what will be the consequences. Good night.” years, and will be one no longer. Nellie Ray

And William Fenning rose to depart. Paul mond may marry the greatest lout in the village, had heard enough. He dared not stay until or die an old maid, for what I care.” William came out, being afraid to trust himself He looked, though, as if he would have cared. alone with him ; so he ran from the cottage, “Has Nellie rejected you, then ?" asked Mr. and did not stop until he was far away in the Elton. clover fields, when he thanked Heaven that he “Yes, this very afternoon. But enough of had been saved from lifting his hand against a that now. It's my belief she still loves Paul fellow-creature, no matter how black the heart | Dale; and if ever the thief comes back, I hope of that fellow-creature might have been.

they'll have a jolly wedding, that's all !" Early next morning Paul left Maybury. He William said this savagely, as if he knew could do no good by staying, for he was too that such an event could never happen; but he poor to help Mr. Raymond, though he would never told Mr. Elton that, now Nellie refused to like to have done so. Even had he been be his wife, he intended, in a few weeks, to turn rich, he could never have asked Nellie to become her father from his cottage. He thought Mr. the wife of one who had been found guilty of Elton was better without such knowledge of bis breaking the eighth commandment; so after character, until the deed of partnership was lingering by his mother's stoneless grave he left signed, or the old man might relent at the the place, and soon obtained work as a labourer eleventh hour. in a sea-side town some miles off, where they Before ten o'clock William said he was tired, were making a dockyard.

and would go to bed; and somehow, they all felt a certain relief when he had gone.

“And so to-morrow that man will be your

partner ?” said the old man behind the cloud. CHAP. IV.

“Yes," answered Mr. Elton. “I am getting

old now, and want some one more active than CONCLUSION.

myself, to look after the business. I don't know

how it is, but my memory fails me terribly of late. It was Mr. Elton's birthday. A few old fel- / Why, what do you think? Two or three mornlows like himself had dined with him, and they ings I have found the drawer in my private room were now sitting round the fire, drinking their wide open, just as it was when Paul Dale robbed wine and cracking their walnuts. Maybe they | me.” were thinking what a nice thing it was to be “ But did you lock it the previous night ?" sitting round a bright fire when the autumn “I thought I had done so, but I must have wind was raging without, and the rain was beat- forgotten it; and you will laugh at what I am ing against the windows. Their conversation going to tell you now. Why, the other night I was of that friendly kind which is only heard | fancied I saw a ghost." amongst men who have known one another i “A ghost !" cried all the old fellows, in many years; and many pleasant reminiscences chorus. “Let's hear about it.” of old times were talked over, and many of the “Well, I had been sitting up one night, long battles which they had all fought in their youth, / after William and Mrs. Grice had gone to bed, in the great struggle for existence, were fought when, as soon as I quited this room, I fancied I over again. William Fenning was the only saw a figure in white, in the passage. As soon young man there; but somehow he seemed any- as it saw me it rushed upstairs. I told William thing but comfortable. In fact, he had looked next morning, and he said that sitting-up late anything but comfortable for some time past, and had heated my imagination." when certain things were said, would start, as if “Why, bless me," said an old fellow, jumping he feared what was coming next; and then, ( up, “if I don't hear a footstep coming down having interrupted the conversation, would stairs now. Perhaps it's your ghost, Mr. Elton; apologize awkwardly, saying he did not know suppose we all go and see.” what ailed him that evening.

Mr. Elton took one of the candles from the “ You don't seem yourself to-night, William,” | table, and went quietly towards the door; and said an old fellow, sitting next the fire. “Why, the old fellows followed, though feeling somewhen I was your age, if I had had only a few what frightened. There was no one in the hours to wait before I became my master's passage, but a sound of something gliding along partner, I should have looked a little more lively was heard in the workshop below. Mr. Elton than you do now." .

and the old fellows went downstairs; and there, William did not answer.

J in a long night-dress, was what Mr. Elton had “Young men have things to trouble them taken for a ghost, but what they now knew to which we old chaps have long learned to laugh be a man, walking in his sleep. Mr. Elton held at,” said another old fellow, from behind a large the candle towards him, and they recognised cloud of smoke. “I dare say that somebody William Fenning, who held a key in his hand, has been cross, and that is why William look's and was about to enter Mr. Elton's private 80 miserable.”

room. Breathlessly the old fellows watched his “ Young men very often make great fools of proceedings. William walked up to the desk themselves," said William, unable to keep silent and, with the key he had in his hand, unlocked


I the drawer in which Paul Dale had placed the , outside the police-stations, saying that if Paul

£31 178. 6d. He seemed surprised to find the Dale would return to his native place, he would drawer empty, and, after a few seconds, suddenly find the real robber had been found, and that turned round, rushed out of the room, and tried he was proved to be perfectly innocent of the to open the door of the workshop which led into crime. the street. But the door was securely fastened,

Paul Dale worked steadily at the dockyard. and the unsuccessful 'attempt at opening it

| He had been there some weeks, and was becomi caused William to wake; when, looking round,

ing contented with his new life. Happiness, au he found himself surrounded by Mr. Elton and

such as he had once dreamed of, he did not expa the old fellows, who now began to understand

pect in this world ; but for all that, he tried to what it all meant. William Fenning fell down

do his duty, and be cheerful, hoping in time to senseless on the floor. They carried him upstairs to bed, and before long he was raving.

forget the bitter years he had passed through,

ing: and live such a life that he might again win the From what he said, Mr. Elton found out that it.

respect and confidence of his fellow-creatures. I was he who had stolen the money; and the

Somehow it soon became known in the dockHnext morning William confessed the whole

yard that Paul had been transported for robtruth to his master. It seemed that, years ago,

bery, and some of the men kept away from him when looking for a key to fit a box he had at É home, he found one which he thought belonged

as much as they could ; but most of them were to Mr. Elton's private drawer. To be certain,

rough careless fellows, who either believed Paul

when he said he was innocent, or else did not he tried the key, which fitted ; and he would

care whether he was guilty or not. But one i have left it there if he had not seen Paul un

cold frosty winter's morning Paul found himlock the drawer with the true key soon after

self treated as a hero, as soon as he came to wards. He had not dreamt of robbing at the

work. There was a police-station near the yard, time; but when sitting reading on the night

and the men, as well as the principals, had seen Paul entered the workshop, evil thoughts came

the bill proclaiming Paul's innocence. The into William's head. He hated Paul because

| latter had not noticed it himself, but when he Nellie liked him; and thinking to get Paul into

heard the news he was almost mad with joy. trouble, and enrich himself at the same time,

Of course he at once obtained leave, and hurried he thought of his key, got through the open

away to Maybury; and there he found Mr. [ window, entered the workshop, unlocked the

Elton ready to do everything in his power to 5 drawer in the private room, when, hearing Paul

make up for the punishment which Paul had descend the stairs, he left the drawer open, took the money, and had just time to hurry through

unjustly received. At first Paul was too proud

to take anything from one who had appeared the window into his own room without anyone

against him; but when he thought that Mr. knowing he had been away. But he had not

Elton had only done what any other conscienbeen happy. The money, like everything un

tious man would have done under such sus. lawfully come by, proved a curse instead of a blessing. True, it had been the beginning of

picious circumstances, and remembering his

would-be kindness to his poor old mother, he the savings which made him rich enough to

shook his old master by the hand, and thanked have a share in his master's business. True, him

him for what he had done. Paul had been transported for the robbery, leaving him a chance of winning Nellie Raymond;

I have little more to say. William Fenning, but Nellie remained true to the poor carpenter,

after a long illness, became a hopeless maniac, and William was haunted night and day by the

and ended his days in the county asylum. Paul crime he had committed, giving him a miserable

was made Mr. Elton's partner. ELTON AND feeling that he would some day be found out,

aut Dale is now painted over the shop; but Paul is which nearly drove him mad; and to add to his

the active partner, the old man being able to pass fears, he had lately become subject to walking

his declining years in peace, with the satisfaction in his sleep, having several times before gone

of knowing that his business goes on as well as down and unlocked the drawer, unconscious of

if he was there himself. William Fenning had what he was doing, and somehow he always

some relations who were very troublesome about woke when he found the street door would not

Mr. Raymond's mortgage ; but when Mr. Elton open; but he had always managed to regain his

heard of it, he immediately paid the money, and chamber undiscovered. Fearing some one might

Paul was the bearer of the pleasant news to the see him in his fearful wanderings, he had made

cottage in “Cherry-tree Dells.” Need I say up his mind to live in some other house, as

| what happened then? Of course you can guess. soon as he had a sufficient excuse; but Provi.

He saw Nellie-simple, childish Nellie - who dence, which helps us to find out the guilty, had

had loved him all along, and had resolved to willed that the true robber should be discovered,

remain single for his sake; and maybe they and William Fenning's crime was brought to

| loved one another all the more after the long light a: last.

years of separation, which both had thought The news spread all over Maybury the next

would last for ever. morning ; but as William Fenning was ill in And one spring morning Paul and Nellie were bed, no proceedings could as yet be taken inarried; and when he heard the old familiar against him. Still Mr. Elton communicated church-bells ringing for his wedding, which but with the police; and before long bills were seen a few months back he thought could never take

« PreviousContinue »