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The Ghost Of Miser Brimpson






BY EDEN PHILLPOTTS

I

Penniless and proud he was; and that pair don't draw a man to pleasant
places when they be in double harness. There's only one thing can stop
'em if they take the bit between their teeth, and that's a woman. So
there, you might say, lies the text of the tale of Jonathan Drake, of
Dunnabridge Farm, a tenement in the Forest of Dartymoor. 'Twas Naboth's
vineyard to Duchy, and the greedy thing would have given a very fair
price for it, without a doubt; but the Drake folk held their land, and
wouldn't part with it, and boasted a freehold of fifty acres in the very
midst of the Forest. They did well, too, and moved with the times, and
kept their heads high for more generations than I can call home; and
then they comed to what all families, whether gentle or simple, always
come to soon or late. And that's a black sheep for bell-wether. Bad uns
there'll be in every generation of a race; but the trouble begins when a
bad un chances to be up top; and if the head of the family is a
drunkard, or a spendthrift, or built on too free and flowing a pattern
for this work-a-day shop, then the next generation may look out for
squalls, as the sailor-men say.

'Twas Jonathan's grandfather that did the harm at Dunnabridge. He had
sport in his blood, on his mother's side, and 'twas horses ran him into
trouble. He backed 'em, and was ruined; and then his son bred 'em, and
didn't do very much better. So, when the pair of 'em dropped out of the
hunt, and died with their backs to the wall, one after t'other, it
looked as if the game was up for them to follow. By good chance,
however, Tom Drake had but one child--a boy--the Jonathan as I be
telling about; and when his father and grandfather passed away, within a
year of each other, Dunnabridge was left to Tom's widow and her son, him
then being twenty-two. She was for selling Dunnabridge and getting away
from Dartymoor, because the place had used her bad, and she hated the
sight of it; but Jonathan, a proud chap even then, got the lawyers to
look into the matter, and they told him that 'twasn't vital for
Dunnabridge to be sold, though it might ease his pocket, and smooth his
future to do so, 'specially as Duchy wanted the place rather bad, and
had offered the value of it. And Jonathan's mother was on the side of
Duchy, too, and went on her knees to the man to sell; but he wouldn't.
He had a bee in his bonnet sometimes, and he said that all the Drakes
would rise out of their graves to Widecombe churchyard, and haunt his
rising up and going down if he were to do such a thing, just to suit
his own convenience, and be rid of the place. So he made a plan with the
creditors. It figured out that his father and grandfather had owed near
a thousand pound between them; and Jonathan actually set himself to pay
it off to the last penny. 'Twas the labor of years; but by the time he
was thirty-three he done it--at what cost of scrimping and screwing,
only his mother might have told. She never did tell, however, for she
died two year before the last item was paid. Some went as far as to
declare that 'twas her son's miserly ways hurried her into her grave;
and, for all I know, they may have done so, for 'tis certain, in her
husband's life, she had a better time. Tom was the large-hearted, juicy,
easy sort, as liked meat on the table, and plenty to wash it down; and
he loved Mercy Jane Drake very well; and, when he died, the only thought
that troubled him was leaving her; and the last thing he advised his son
was to sell Dunnabridge, and take his mother off the Moor down to the
"in country" where she'd come from.

But Jonathan was made of different stuff, and 'twas rumored by old
people that had known the family for several generations that he favored
an ancient forefather by name of Brimpson Drake. This bygone man was a
miser and the richest of the race. He'd lived in the days when we were
at war with France and America, and when Princetown sprang up, and a
gert war-prison was built there to cage all the chaps we got on our
hands through winning such a lot o' sea battles. And Miser Brimpson was
said to have made thousands by helping rich fellows to escape from the
prison. Truth and falsehood mixed made up his story as 'twas handed
down. But one thing appeared to be fairly true about it; which was, that
when the miser died, and Dunnabridge went to his cousin, the horseracer,
not a penny of his fortune ever came into the sight of living men. So
some said 'twas all nonsense, and he never had no money at all, but only
pretended to it; and others again, declared that he knew too well who'd
follow in his shoes at Dunnabridge, and hid his money accordingly, so
that no Drake should have it. For he hated his heirs as only a miser can
hate 'em.

So things stood when Mercy Jane died and Jonathan was left alone. He
paid all his relations' debts, and he had his trouble and the honor of
being honorable for his pains. Everybody respected him something
wonderful; but, all the same, a few of his mother's friends always did
say that 'twas a pity he put his dead father's good name afore his
living mother's life. However, we'm not built in the pattern of our
fellow-creatures, and 'tis only fools that waste time blaming a man for
being himself.

Jonathan went his stern way; and then, in the lonely days after his
parent was taken, when he lived at Dunnabridge, with nought but two
hinds and a brace of sheep-dogs, 'twas suddenly borne in upon his narrow
sight that there might be other women still in the world, though his
mother had gone out of it. And he also discovered, doubtless, that a
home without a woman therein be merely the cruel mockery of what a home
should be.

A good few folk watched Jonathan to see what he'd do about it, and no
doubt a maiden here and there was interested too; because, though a
terrible poor man, he wasn't bad to look at, though rather hard about
the edge of the jaw, and rather short and stern in his manners to human
creatures and beasts alike.

And then beginned his funny courting--if you can call it courting, where
a poor man allows hisself the luxury of pride at the wrong time, and
makes a show of hisself in consequence. At least that's my view; but you
must know that a good few, quite as wise as me, took t'other side, and
held that Jonathan covered his name with glory when he changed his mind
about Hyssop Burges. That was her bitter name, but a pleasanter girl
never walked on shoe-leather. She was Farmer Stonewer's niece to White
Works, and he took her in for a charity, and always said that 'twas the
best day's work as ever he had done. A straight, hardworking, cheerful
sort of a girl, with nothing to name about her very special save a fine
shape and a proud way of holding her head in the air and looking her
fellow creatures in the eyes. Proud she was for certain, and terrible
partickler as to her friends; but there happened to be that about
Jonathan that made flint to her steel. He knowed she was penniless, or
he'd not have looked at her twice; and when, after a short, fierce sort
of courting, she took him, everybody felt pleased about it but Farmer
Stonewer, who couldn't abide the thought of losing Hyssop, though his
wife had warned him any time this four year that 'twas bound to happen.

Farmer and the girl were sitting waiting for Jonathan one night; and she
was a bit nervous, and he was trying for to calm her.

"Jonathan must be told," she says. "It can't go on no longer."

"Then tell him," says her uncle. "Good powers!" he says; "to see you,
one would think the news was the worst as could ever fall between a pair
o' poor lovers, instead of the best."

"I know him a lot better than you," she tells Farmer; "and I know how
plaguey difficult he can be where money's the matter. He very near
throwed me over when, in a weak moment, I axed him to let me buy my own
tokening-ring. Red as a turkey's wattles did he flame, and said I'd
insulted him; and now, when he hears the secret, I can't for the life of
me guess how he'll take it."

"'Twas a pity you didn't tell him when he offered for you," declared
Hyssop's aunt. "Proud he is as a silly peacock, and terrible frightened
of seeming to look after money, or even casting his eye where it bides;
but he came to you without any notion of the windfall, and he loved you
for yourself, like an honest man; and you loved him the same way; and
right well you know that if your old cousin had left you five thousand
pound instead of five hundred, Jonathan Drake was the right chap for
you. He can't blame himself, for not a soul on Dartymoor but us three
has ever heard tell about the money."

"But he'll blame me for having money at all," answered the girl. "He
said a dozen times afore he offered for me, that he'd never look at a
woman if she'd got more cash than what he had himself. That's why I
couldn't bring myself to confess to it--and lose him. And, after we was
tokened, it got to be harder still."

"Why not bide till you'm married, then?" asked Mrs. Stonewer. "Since it
have gone so long, let it go longer, and surprise him with the news on
the wedding-night--eh, James?"

"No," answered Farmer. "'Enough is as good as a feast.' 'Tis squandering
blessings to do that at such a time. Keep the news till some rainy day,
when he's wondering how to get round a tight corner. That's the moment
to tell him; and that's the moment he's least likely to make a face at
the news."

But Hyssop wouldn't put it off no more; she said as she'd not have any
further peace till the murder was out. And that very night, sure enough
when Jonathan comed over from Dunnabridge for his bit of love-making,
and the young couple had got the farm parlor to themselves, she plumped
it out, finding him in a very kindly mood. They never cuddled much, for
he wasn't built that way; but he'd not disdain to sit beside her and
put his arm around her now and again, when she picked up his hand and
drew it round. Then, off and on, she'd rub her cheek against his
mutton-chop whiskers, till he had to kiss her in common politeness.

Well, Hyssop got it out--Lord alone knows how, as she said afterwards.
She got it out, and told him that an old, aged cousin had died, and left
her a nice little skuat[1] of money; and how she'd never touched a penny
but let it goody in the bank; and how she prayed and hoped 'twould help
'em to Dunnabridge; and how, of course, he must have the handling of it,
being a man, and so cruel clever in such things. She went on and on,
pretty well frightened to stop and hear him. But, after she'd said it
over about a dozen times, her breath failed her, and she shut her mouth,
and tried to smile, and looked up terrible anxious and pleading at
Jonathan.

His hard gray eyes bored into her like a brace of gimlets, and in return
for all her talk he axed but one question.

"How long have you had this here money?" he said.

She told the truth, faltering and shaking under his glare.

"Four years and upwards, Jonathan."

"That's years and years afore I axed you to marry me?"

"Yes, Jonathan."

"And you remember what I said about never marrying anybody as had more
than what I have?"

"Yes, Jonathan."

"And you full know how many a time I told you that, after I paid off all
my father's debts, I had nought left, and 'twould be years afore I could
build up anything to call money?"

"Yes, Jonathan."

"Very well, then!" he cried out, and his brow crooked down and his fists
clenched. "Very well, you've deceived me deliberate, and if you'd do
that in one thing, you would in another. I'm going out of this house
this instant moment, and you can tell your relations why 'tis. I'm
terrible sorry, Hyssop Burges, for no man will ever love you better than
what I did; and so you'd have lived to find out when all this here
courting tomfoolery was over, and you'd come to be my wife. But now I'll
have none of you, for you've played with me. And so--so I'll bid you
good-bye!"

He went straight out without more speech; and she tottered, weeping, to
her uncle and aunt. They couldn't believe their senses; and Jimmy
Stonewer declared thereon that any man who could make himself such a
masterpiece of a fool as Jonathan had done that night, was better out of
the marriage state than in it. He told Hyssop as she'd had a marvelous
escape from a prize zany; and his wife said the same. But the girl
couldn't see it like that. She knowed Jonathan weren't a prize zany,
and his raging pride didn't anger her, for she admired it something
wonderful, and it only made her feel her loss all the crueller to see
what a terrible rare, haughty sort of a chap he was. There were a lot of
other men would have had her, and twice as many again, if they'd known
about the money; but they all seemed as tame as robins beside her hawk
of a Jonathan. She had plenty of devil in her, too, when it came to the
fighting pitch; and now, while he merely said that the match was broken
off through a difference of opinion, and gave no reason for it, she set
to work with all her might to get him back again, and used her
love-sharpened wits so well as she knew how, to best him into matrimony.


II

In truth she made poor speed. Jonathan was always civil afterwards; but
you might as soon have tried to thaw an iceberg with a box of matches as
to get him round again by gentleness and affection. He was the sort that
can't be won with kindness. He felt he'd treated the world better than
the world had treated him, and the thought shriveled his heart a bit.
Always shy and suspicious, you might say; and yet, underneath it, the
most honorable and upright and high-minded man you could wish to meet.
Hyssop loved him like her life, and she got a bit poorly in health after
their sad quarrel. Then chance willed it that, going down from
Princetown to Plymouth by train--to see a chemist, and get something to
make her eat--who should be in the selfsame carriage but Mr. Drake and
his hind, Thomas Parsons.

There was others there, too; and it fell out that an old fellow as
knowed Jonathan's grandfather before him, brought up the yarn about
Miser Brimpson, and asked young Drake if he took any stock in it.

Of course the man pooh-poohed such foolery, and told the old chap not to
talk nonsense like that in the ear of the nineteenth century; but when
Jonathan and Parsons had got out of the train--which they did do at
Yelverton station--Hyssop, as knowed the old man, axed him to tell more
about the miser; and he explained, so well as he knew how, that Brimpson
Drake had made untold thousands out of the French and American
prisoners, and that, without doubt, 'twas all hidden even to this day at
Dunnabridge.

"Of course Jonathan's too clever to believe such a tale--like his father
before him; but his grandfather believed it, and the old blid spent half
his time poking about the farm. Only, unfortunately, he didn't have no
luck. But 'tis there for sure; and if Jonathan had enough faith he'd
come by it--not by digging and wasting time and labor, but by doing what
is right and proper when you'm dealing with such matters."

"And what might that be?" axed Miss Burges.

Just then, however, the train for Plymouth ran up, and the old man told
her that he'd explain some other time.

"This generation laughs at such things," he said; "but they laugh best
who laugh last, and, for all we can say to the contrary, 'tis nought but
his conceit and pride be standing between that stiff-necked youth and
the wealth of a bank."

Hyssop, she thought a lot upon this; but she hadn't no need to go to the
old chap again, as she meant to do, for when she got home, her
uncle--Farmer Stonewer--knowed all about the matter, and told her how
'twas a very rooted opinion among the last generation that a miser's
spirit never could leave its hidden hoard till the stuff was brought to
light, and in human hands once more.

"Millions of good money has been found in that manner, if all we hear is
true," declared Farmer Jimmy; "and if one miser has been known to walk,
which nobody can deny, then why shouldn't another? Them as believe in
such dark things--and I don't say I do, and I don't say I don't--them as
know of such mysteries happening in their own recollection, or in the
memory of their friends, would doubtless say that Miser Brimpson still
creeps around his gold now and again; and if that money be within the
four corners of Dunnabridge Farm, and if Jonathan happed to be on the
lookout on the rightful night and at the rightful moment, 'tis almost
any odds but he might see his forbear sitting over his money-bags like a
hen on a clutch of eggs, and so recover the hoard."

"But faith's needed for such a deed," Mrs. Stonewer told her niece; "and
that pig-headed creature haven't no faith. Too proud, he is, to believe
in anything he don't understand. 'Twas even so with Lucifer afore him.
If you told him--Jonathan--this news, he'd rather let the money go than
set off ghost-hunting in cold blood. Yet there it is: and a
humbler-minded fashion of chap, with the Lord on his side, and a
trustful heart in his bosom, might very like recover all them tubs of
cash the miser come by."

"And then he'd have thousands to my poor tens," said Hyssop. "Not that
he'd ever come back to me now, I reckon."

But, all the same, she knowed by the look in Jonathan's eye when they
met, that he loved her still, and that his silly, proud heart was
hungering after her yet, though he'd rather have been drawn under a
harrow than show a spark of what was burning there.

And so, upon this nonsense about a buried treasure she set to work again
to use her brains, and see if there might be any road out of the trouble
by way of Miser Brimpson's ghost.

What she did, none but them as helped her ever knew, until the story
comed round to me; but 'twas the cleverest thing that ever I heard of a
maiden doing, and it worked a wonder. In fact, I can't see but a single
objection to the plot, though that was a serious thing for the girl. It
lay in the fact that there had to be a secret between Hyssop and her
husband; and she kept it close as the grave until the grave itself
closed over him. Yet 'twas an innocent secret, too; and, when all's
said, 'tisn't a wedded pair in five hundred as haven't each their one
little cupboard fast locked, with the key throwed away.

Six months passed by, and Jonathan worked as only he knowed how to work,
and tried to forget his sad disappointment by dint of toil. Early and
late he labored, and got permission to reclaim a bit of moor for a
"newtake," and so added a very fair three acres to his farm. He noticed
about this time that his hind, Parsons, did oft drag up the subject of
Miser Brimpson Drake; and first Jonathan laughed, and then he was
angered, and bade Thomas hold his peace. But, though a very obedient and
humble sort of man, Parsons would hark back to the subject, and tell how
his father had known a man who was own brother to a miser; and how, when
the miser died, his own brother had seen him clear as truth in the
chimley-corner of his room three nights after they'd buried him; and how
they made search, and found, not three feet from where the ghost had
stood, a place in the wall with seventeen golden sovereigns hid in it,
and a white witch's cure for glanders. Thomas Parsons swore on the Book
to this; and he said, as a certain fact, that New Year's Night was the
time most misers walked; and he advised Jonathan not to be dead to his
own interests.

"At least, as a thinking man, that believes in religion and the powers
of the air, in Bible word, you might give it a chance," said Thomas; and
then Jonathan told him to shut his mouth, and not shame Dunnabridge by
talking such childish nonsense.

The next autumn Jonathan went up beyond Exeter to buy some of they
black-faced, horned Scotch sheep, and he wanted for Parsons to go with
him; but his man falled ill the night afore, and so young Hacker went
instead.

Drake reckoned then that Thomas Parsons would have to leave, for
Dunnabridge weren't a place for sick folk; and he'd made up his mind
after he came back to turn the old chap off; but Thomas was better when
the master got home, so the question of sacking him was let be, and
Jonathan contented himself by telling Tom that, if he falled ill again,
'twould be the last time. And Parsons said that was as it should be; but
he hoped that at his age--merely sixty-five or thereabout--he wouldn't
be troubled with his breathing parts again for half a score o' years at
least. He added that he'd done his work as usual while the master was
away; but he didn't mention that Hyssop Burges had made so bold as to
call at Dunnabridge with a pony and cart, and that she'd spent a tidy
long time there, and gone all over the house and farmyard, among other
places, afore she drove off again.

And the next chapter of the story was told by Jonathan himself to his
two men on the first day of the following year.

There was but little light of morning just then, and the three of 'em
were putting down some bread and bacon and a quart of tea by candlelight
in the Dunnabridge kitchen, when Thomas saw that his master weren't
eating nothing to name. Instead, he went out to the barrel and drawed
himself a pint of ale, and got along by the peat fire with it, and stuck
his boots so nigh the scads as he dared without burning 'em.

"What's amiss?" said Thomas. "Don't say you'm sick, master. And if you
be, I lay no liquor smaller than brandy will fetch you round."

"I ban't sick," answered Jonathan shortly.

He seemed in doubt whether to go on. Then he resolved to do so.

"There was a man in the yard last night," he said; "and, if I thought as
either of you chaps knowed anything about it, I'd turn you off this
instant, afore you'd got the bacon out of your throats."

"A man? Never!" cried Parsons.

"How was it the dog didn't bark?" asked Hacker.

"How the devil do I know why he didn't bark?" answered Jonathan, dark as
night, and staring in the fire. One side of his face was red with the
flames, and t'other side blue as steel along of the daylight just
beginning to filter in at the window.

"All I can say is this," he added. "I turned in at half-after ten, just
after that brace of old fools to Brownberry went off to see the New Year
in. I slept till midnight; then something woke me with a start. What
'twas, I can't tell, but some loud sound near at hand, no doubt. I was
going off again when I heard more row--a steady sound repeated over and
over. And first I thought 'twas owls; and then I heard 'twas not. You
might have said 'twas somebody thumping on a barrel; but, at any rate, I
woke up, and sat up, and found the noise was in the yard.

"I looked out of my chamber window then, and the moon was bright as day,
and the stars sparkling likewise; and there, down by 'the Judge's Table'
where the thorn-tree grows, I see a man standing by the old barrel as
plain as I see you chaps now."

"The Judge's Table" be a wonnerful curiosity at Dunnabridge, and if you
go there you'll do well to ax to see it. 'Tis a gert slab of moorstone
said to have come from Crokern Torr, where the tinners held theer
parliament in the ancient times. Now it bides over a water-trough with a
white-thorn tree rising up above.

Jonathan took his breath when he'd got that far, and fetched his pipe
out of his pocket and lighted it. Then he drank off half the beer, and
spat in the fire, and went on.

"A man so tall as me, if not taller. He'd got one of them old white
beaver hats on his head, and he wore a flowing white beard, so long as
my plough-horse's tail, and he walked up and down, up and down over the
stones, like a sailor walks up and down on the deck of a ship. I shouted
to the chap, but he didn't take no more notice than the moon. Up and
down he went; and then I told him, if he wasn't off inside two minutes,
I'd get my fowling-piece and let fly. Still he paid no heed; and I don't
mind saying to you men that, for half a second, I felt creepy-crawly and
goose-flesh down the back. But 'twas only the cold, I reckon, for my
window was wide open, and I'd been leaning out of it for a good while
into ten degrees of frost.

"After that, I got angry, and went down house and hitched the gun off
the hooks over the mantelpiece, and ran out, just as I was, in nought
but my boots and my nightshirt. The hour was so still as the grave at
first, and the moon shone on the river far below and lit up the eaves
and windows; and then, through the silence, I heard Widecombe bells
ringing in the New Year. But the old night-bird in his top hat was gone.
Not a hair of his beard did he leave behind. I looked about, and then up
came the dog, barking like fury, not knowing who I was, dressed that
way, till he heard my voice. And that's the tale; and who be that
curious old rascal I'd much like to know."


They didn't answer at first, and the daylight gained on 'em. Then old
Parsons spoke up, and wagged his head and swore that 'twas no man his
master had seen, but a creature from the other world.

"I'll lay my life," he said, "'twas the spectrum of Miser Brimpson as
you saw walking; and I'll take oath by the New Year that 'twas his way
to show where his stuff be buried. For God's sake," he says, "if you
don't want to get into trouble with unknown creatures, go out and pull
up the cobblestones, and see if there's anything underneath 'em."

But Jonathan made as though the whole thing was nonsense, and wouldn't
let neither Thomas nor Hacker move a pebble. Only, the next day, he went
off to a very old chap called Samuel Windeatt, whose father had been a
boy at the time of the War Prison, and was said to have seen and known
Miser Brimpson in the flesh. And the old man declared that, in his
childish days, he'd heard of the miser, and that he certainly wore a
beaver hat and had a white beard a yard long. So Jonathan came home
again more thoughtful than afore, and finally--though he declared that
he was ashamed to do it--he let Tom overpersuade him; and two days after
the three men set to work where Drake had seen the spectrum.

They dug and they dug, this way and that; and Jonathan found nought, and
Parsons found nought; but Hacker came upon a box, and they dragged it
out of the earth, and underneath of it was another box like the first.
They was a pair of old rotten wood chests, by the look of them, made of
boards nailed together with rusty nails. No locks or keys they had; but
that was no matter, for they fell abroad at a touch, and inside of them
was a lot of plate--candlesticks, snuffers, tea-kettles, table silver,
and the like.

"Thunder!" cried out Jonathan. "'Tis all pewter trash, not worth a
five-pound note! Us'll dig again."

And dig they did for a week, till the farmyard in that place was turned
over like a trenched kitchen-garden. But not another teaspoon did they
find.

Meantime, however, somebody as understood such things explained to young
Drake that the stuff unearthed was not pewter, nor yet Britannia metal
neither, but old Sheffield plate, and worth plenty of good money at
that.

Jonathan felt too mazed with the event to do anything about it for a
month; then he went to Plymouth, and took a few pieces of the find in
his bag. And the man what he showed 'em to was so terrible interested
that nothing would do but he must come up to Dunnabridge and see the
lot. He offered two hundred and fifty pound for the things on the nail;
so Jonathan saw very clear that they must be worth a good bit more. They
haggled for a week, and finally the owner went up to Exeter and got
another chap to name a price. In the long run, the dealers halved the
things, and Jonathan comed out with a clear three hundred and fifty-four
pound.


III

He wasn't very pleased to talk about his luck, and inquisitive people
got but little out of him on the subject; but, of course, Parsons and
Hacker spoke free and often on the subject, for 'twas the greatest
adventure as had ever come to them in their lives; and, from telling the
tale over and over old Parsons got to talk about it as if he'd seen the
ghost himself.

Then, after he'd chewed over the matter for a space of three or four
months, and spring was come again, Jonathan Drake went off one night to
White Works, just the same as he used to do when he was courting Hyssop
Burges; and there was the little party as usual, with Mrs. Stonewer
knitting, and Farmer reading yesterday's newspaper, and Hyssop sewing in
her place by her aunt.

"Well!" says Farmer Jimmy, "wonders never cease! And to see you again
here be almost so big a wonder as that they tell about of the old
miser's tea-things. I'm sure we all give you joy, Jonathan; and I
needn't tell you as we was cruel pleased to hear about it."

The young man thanked them very civilly, and said how 'twas a coorious
come-along-of-it, and he didn't hardly know what to think of the matter
even to that day.

"I should reckon 'twas a bit of nonsense what I'd dreamed," he said;
"but money's money, as who should know better than me? And, by the same
token, I want a few words with Hyssop if she'm willing to give me ten
minutes of her time."

"You'm welcome, Mr. Drake," she said.

He started at the surname; but she got up, and they went off just in
the usual way to the parlor; and when they was there, she sat down in
her old corner of the horsehair sofa and looked at him. But he didn't
sit down--not at first. He walked about fierce and talked fierce.

"I'll ax one question afore I go on, and, if the answer's what I fear,
I'll trouble you no more," he said. "In a word, be you tokened again? I
suppose you be, for you're not the sort to go begging. Say it quick if
'tis so, and I'll be off and trouble you no further."

"No, Mr. Drake. I'm free as the day you--you throwed me over," she
answered, in a very quiet little voice.

He snorted at that, but was too mighty thankful to quarrel with the
words. She could see he began to grow terrible excited now; and he
walked up and down, taking shorter and shorter strides this way and
that, like a hungry caged tiger as knows his bit of horse-flesh be on
the way.

At last he bursts out again.

"There was a lot of lies told about that old plate us found at
Dunnabridge. But the truth of the matter is, that I sold it for three
hundred and fifty-four pounds."

"So Tom Parsons told uncle. A wonderful thing; and we sat up all night
talking about it, Mr. Drake."

"For God's sake call me 'Jonathan'!" he cried out; "and tell me--tell me
what the figure of your legacy was. You must tell me--you can't withhold
it. 'Tis life or death--to me."

She'd never seen him so excited, but very well knowed what was in his
mind.

"If you must know, you must," she answered. "I thought I told you
when--when----"

"No, you didn't. I wouldn't bide to hear. Whatever 'twas, you'd got more
than me, and that was all I cared about; but now, if by good fortune
'tis less than mine, you understand----"

"Of course 'tis less. A hundred and eighty pound and the interest--a
little over two hundred in all--is what I've gotten."

"Thank God!" he said.

Then he axed her if she could marry him still, or if she knew too much
about his ways and his ideas to care about doing so.

And she took him again.

* * * * *

You see, Hyssop Burges was my mother, and when father died I had the
rights of the story from her. By that time the old people at White Works
and Tom Parsons was all gone home, and the secret remained safe enough
with Hyssop herself.

The great difficulty was to put half her money and more, slap into
Jonathan's hands without his knowing how it got there; and, even when
the game with the ghost was hit upon, 'twas hard to know how to do it
clever. Hyssop wanted to hide golden sovereigns at Dunnabridge; but her
uncle, with wonnerful wit, pointed out that they'd all be dated; and to
get three hundred sovereigns and more a hundred years old could never
have been managed. Then old Thomas, who was in the secret, of course,
and played the part of Miser Brimpson, and got five pounds for doing it
so clever, and another five after from his master, when the stuff was
found--he thought upon trinkums and jewels; and finally Mrs. Stonewer,
as had a friend in the business, said that Sheffield plate would do the
trick. And she was right. The plate was bought for three hundred and
eighty pound, and kept close at White Works till 'twas known that
Jonathan meant to go away and bide away some days. Then my mother drove
across with it; and Thomas made the cases wi' old rotten boards, and
they drove a slant hole under the cobbles, and got all vitty again long
afore young Drake came back home.

"Me and Jonathan was wedded in the fall of that year," said my mother to
me when she told the tale. "And, come the next New Year's Night, he was
at our chamber window as the clock struck twelve, and bided there
looking out into the yard for an hour, keen as the hawk that he was. He
thought I must be asleep; but well I knowed he was seeking for an old
man in a beaver hat wi' a long white beard, and well I knowed he'd never
see him again. Of course your father took good care not to tell me the
next morning that he'd been on the lookout for the ghost."

And my mother, in her own last days, oft dwelt on that trick; and
sometimes she'd say, as the time for meeting father got nearer and
nearer, "I wonder if 'twill make any difference in heaven, where no
secrets be hid?" And, knowing father so well as I had, I felt very sure
as it might make a mighty lot of difference. So, in my crafty way, I
hedged, and told mother that, for my part, I felt sartain there were
some secrets that wouldn't even be allowed to come out at Judgment Day,
for fear of turning heaven into t'other place; and that this was one of
'em. She always used to fret at that, however.

"I want for it to come out," she'd say. "And, if Jonathan don't know, I
shall certainly tell him. I've kept it in long enough, and I can't trust
myself to do it no more. He've got to know, and, with all eternity to
get over it and forgive me in, I have a right to be hopeful that he
will."

Hyssop Drake died in that fixed resolve; and I'm sure I trust that, when
'tis my turn to join my parents again, I shall find no shadow between
'em. But there's a lot of doubt about it--knowing father.





Next: The Haunted Photograph

Previous: The Last Ghost In Harmony



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