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ON SATURDAY NIGHT
The bishop returned on Saturday morning instead of on Friday night as arranged, and was much more cheerful than when he left, a state of mind which irritated Cargrim in no small degree, and also perplexed him not a little. If Dr Pendle's connection with Jentham was dangerous he should still be ill at ease and anxious, instead of which he was almost his old genial self when he joined his wife and Lucy at their afternoon tea. Sir Harry was not present, but Mr Cargrim supplied his place, an exchange which was not at all to Lucy's mind. The Pendles treated the chaplain always with a certain reserve, and the only person who really thought him the good young man he appeared to be, was the bishop's wife. But kindly Mrs Pendle was the most innocent of mortals, and all geese were swans to her. She had not the necessary faculty of seeing through a brick wall with which nature had gifted Mrs Pansey in so extraordinary a degree.
As a rule, Mr Cargrim did not come to afternoon tea, but on this occasion he presented himself; ostensibly to welcome back his patron, in reality to watch him. Also he was determined, at the very first opportunity, to introduce the name of Jentham and observe what effect it had on the bishop. With these little plans in his mind the chaplain crept about the tea-table like a tame cat, and handed round cake and bread with his most winning smile. His pale face was even more inexpressive than usual, and none could have guessed, from outward appearance, his malicious intents--least of all the trio he was with. They were too upright themselves to suspect evil in others.
'I am so glad to see you are better, bishop,' said Mrs Pendle, languidly trifling with a cup of tea. 'Your journey has done you good.'
'Change of air, change of air, my dear. A wonderful restorative.'
'Your business was all right, I hope?'
'Oh, yes! Indeed, I hardly went up on business, and what I did do was a mere trifle,' replied the bishop, smoothing his apron. 'Has Gabriel been here to-day?' he added, obviously desirous of turning the conversation.
'Twice!' said Lucy, who presided over the tea-table; 'and the second time he told mamma that he had received a letter from George.'
'Ay, ay! a letter from George. Is he quite well, Lucy?'
'We shall see that for ourselves this evening, papa. George is coming to Beorminster, and will be here about ten o'clock to-night.'
'How vexing!' exclaimed Dr Pendle. 'I intended going over to Southberry this evening, but I can't miss seeing George.'
'Ride over to-morrow morning, bishop,' suggested his wife.
'Sunday morning, my dear!'
'Well, papa!' said Lucy, smiling, 'you are not a strict Sabbatarian, you know.'
'I am not so good as I ought to be, my dear,' said Dr Pendle, playfully pinching her pretty ear. 'Well! well! I must see George. I'll go to-morrow morning at eight o'clock. You'll send a telegram to Mr Vasser to that effect, if you please, Mr Cargrim. Say that I regret not being able to come to-night.'
'Certainly, my lord. In any case, I am going in to Beorminster this evening.'
'You are usually more stay-at-home, Mr Cargrim. Thank you, Lucy, I will take another cup of tea.'
'I do not care for going out at night as a rule, my lord, observed the chaplain, in his most sanctimonious tone, 'but duty calls me into Beorminster. I am desirous of comforting poor sick Mrs Mosk at The Derby Winner.'
'Oh, that is Gabriel's pet invalid,' cried Lucy, peering into the teapot; 'he says Mrs Mosk is a very good woman.'
'Let us hope so,' observed the bishop, stirring his new cup of tea. 'I do not wish to be uncharitable, my dear, but if Mrs Pansey is to be believed, that public-house is not conducted so carefully as it should be.'
'But is Mrs Pansey to be believed, bishop?' asked his wife, smiling.
'I don't think she would tell a deliberate falsehood, my love.'
'All the same, she might exaggerate little into much,' said Lucy, with a pretty grimace. 'What is your opinion of this hotel, Mr Cargrim?'
The chaplain saw his opportunity and seized it at once. 'My dear Miss Pendle, he said, showing all his teeth, 'as The Derby Winner is the property of Sir Harry Brace I wish I could speak well of it, but candour compels me to confess that it is a badly-conducted house.'
'Tut! tut!' said the bishop, 'what is this? You don't say so.'
'Harry shall shut it up at once,' cried Lucy, the pretty Puritan.
'It is a resort of bad characters, I fear,' sighed Cargrim, 'and Mrs Mosk, being an invalid, is not able to keep them away.'
'What about the landlord, Mr Cargrim?'
'Aha!' replied the chaplain, turning towards Mrs Pendle, who had asked this question, 'he is a man of lax morals. His boon companion is a tramp called Jentham!'
'Jentham!' repeated Dr Pendle, in so complacent a tone that Cargrim, with some vexation, saw that he did not associate the name with his visitor; 'and who is Jentham?'
'I hardly know,' said the chaplain, making another attempt; 'he is a tramp, as I have reason to believe, and consorts with gipsies. I saw him myself the other day--a tall, lean man with a scar.'
The bishop rose, and walking over to the tea-table placed his cup carefully thereon. 'With a scar,' he repeated in low tones. 'A man with a scar--Jentham--indeed! What do you know of this person, Mr Cargrim?'
'Absolutely nothing,' rejoined the chaplain, with a satisfied glance at the uneasy face of his questioner. 'He is a gipsy; he stays at The Derby Winner and pays regularly for his lodgings; and his name is Jentham. I know no more.'
'I don't suppose there is more to know,' cried Lucy, lightly.
'If there is, the police may find out, Miss Pendle.'
The bishop frowned. 'As the man, so far as we know, has done nothing against the laws,' said he, quickly, 'I see no reason why the police should be mentioned in connection with him. Evidently, from what Mr Cargrim says, he is a rolling stone, and probably will not remain much longer in Beorminster. Let us hope that he will take himself and his bad influence away from our city. In the meantime, it is hardly worth our while to discuss a person of so little importance.'
In this skilful way the bishop put an end to the conversation, and Cargrim, fearful of rousing his suspicions, did not dare to resume it. In a little while, after a few kind words to his wife, Dr Pendle left the drawing-room for his study. As he passed out, Cargrim noticed that the haggard look had come back to his face, and once or twice he glanced anxiously at his wife. In his turn Cargrim examined Mrs Pendle, but saw nothing in her manner likely to indicate that she shared the uneasiness of her husband, or knew the cause of his secret anxiety. She looked calm and content, and there was a gentle smile in her weary eyes. Evidently the bishop's mind was set at rest by her placid looks, for it was with a sigh of relief that he left the room. Cargrim noted the look and heard the sigh, but was wholly in the dark regarding their meaning.
'Though I daresay they have to do with Jentham and this secret,' he thought, when bowing himself out of the drawing-room. 'Whatever the matter may be, Dr Pendle is evidently most anxious to keep his wife from knowing of it. All the better.' He rubbed his hands together with a satisfied smirk. 'Such anxiety shows that the secret is worth learning. Sooner or later I shall find it out, and then I can insist upon being the rector of Heathcroft. I have no time to lose, so I shall go to The Derby Winner to-night and see if I can induce this mysterious Jentham to speak out. He looks a drunken dog, so a glass of wine may unloosen his tongue.'
From this speech it can be seen that Mr Cargrim was true to his Jesuitic instincts, and thought no action dishonourable so long as it aided him to gain his ends. He was a methodical scoundrel, too, and arranged the details of his scheme with the utmost circumspection. For instance, prior to seeing the man with the scar, he thought it advisable to find out if the bishop had drawn a large sum of money while in London for the purpose of bribing the creature to silence. Therefore, before leaving the palace, he made several attempts to examine the cheque-book. But Dr Pendle remained constantly at his desk in the library, and although the plotter actually saw the cheque-book at the elbow of his proposed victim, he was unable, without any good reason, to pick it up and satisfy his curiosity. He was therefore obliged to defer any attempt to obtain it until the next day, as the bishop would probably leave it behind him when he rode over to Southberry. This failure vexed the chaplain, as he wished to be forearmed in his interview with Jentham, but, as there was no help for it, he was obliged to put the cart before the horse--in other words, to learn what he could from the man first and settle the bribery question by a peep into the cheque-book afterwards. The ingenious Mr Cargrim was by no means pleased with this slip-slop method of conducting business. There was method in his villainy.
That evening, after despatching the telegram to Southberry, the chaplain repaired to The Derby Winner and found it largely patronised by a noisy and thirsty crowd. The weather was tropical, the workmen of Beorminster had received their wages, so they were converting the coin of the realm into beer and whisky as speedily as possibly. The night was calm and comparatively cool with the spreading darkness, and the majority of the inhabitants were seated outside their doors gossiping and taking the air. Children were playing in the street, their shrill voices at times interrupting the continuous chatter of the women; and The Derby Winner, flaring with gas, was stuffed as full as it could hold with artizans, workmen, Irish harvesters and stablemen, all more or less exhilarated with alcohol. It was by no means a scene into which the fastidious Cargrim would have ventured of his own free will, but his desire to pump Jentham was greater than his sense of disgust, and he walked briskly into the hotel, to where Mr Mosk and Bell were dispensing drinks as fast as they were able. The crowd, having an inherent respect for the clergy, as became the inhabitants of a cathedral city, opened out to let him pass, and there was much less swearing and drinking when his black coat and clerical collar came into view. Mosk saw that the appearance of the chaplain was detrimental to business, and resenting his presence gave him but a surly greeting. As to Bell, she tossed her head, shot a withering glance of defiance at the bland new-comer, and withdrew to the far end of the bar.
'My friend,' said Cargrim, in his softest tones, 'I have come to see your wife and inquire how she is.'
'She's well enough,' growled Mosk, pushing a foaming tankard towards an expectant navvy, 'and what's more, sir, she's asleep, sir, so you can't see her.'
'I should be sorry to disturb her, Mr Mosk, so I will postpone my visit till a more fitted occasion. You seem to be busy to-night.'
'So busy that I've got no time for talking, sir.'
'Far be it from me to distract your attention, my worthy friend,' was the chaplain's bland reply, 'but with your permission I will remain in this corner and enjoy the humours of the scene.'
Mosk inwardly cursed the visitor for making this modest request, as he detested parsons on account of their aptitude to make teetotalers of his customers. He was a brute in his way, and a Radical to boot, so if he had dared he would have driven forth Cargrim with a few choice oaths. But as his visitor was the chaplain of the ecclesiastical sovereign of Beorminster, and was acquainted with Sir Harry Brace, the owner of the hotel, and further, as Mosk could not pay his rent and was already in bad odour with his landlord, he judged it wise to be diplomatic, lest a word from Cargrim to the bishop and Sir Harry should make matters worse. He therefore grudgingly gave the required permission.
'Though this ain't a sight fit for the likes of you, sir,' he grumbled, waving his hand. 'This lot smells and they swears, and they gets rowdy in their cups, so I won't answer as they won't offend you.'
'My duty has carried me into much more unsavoury localities, my friend. The worse the place the more is my presence, as a clergyman, necessary.'
'You ain't going to preach, sir?' cried Mosk, in alarm.
'No! that would indeed be casting pearls before swine, replied Cargrim, in his cool tones. 'But I will observe and reflect.'
The landlord looked uneasy. 'I know as the place is rough,' he said apologetically, 'but 'tain't my fault. You won't go talking to Sir Harry, I hope, sir, and take the bread out of my mouth?'
'Make your mind easy, Mosk. It is not my place to carry tales to your landlord; and I am aware that the lower orders cannot conduct themselves with decorum, especially on Saturday night. I repine that such a scene should be possible in a Christian land, but I don't blame you for its existence.'
'That's all right, sir,' said Mosk, with a sigh of relief. 'I'm rough but honest, whatever lies may be told to the contrary. If I can't pay my rent, that ain't my fault, I hope, as it ain't to be expected as I can do miracles.'
'The age of miracles is past, my worthy friend,' replied Cargrim, in conciliatory tones. 'We must not expect the impossible nowadays. By the way'--with a sudden change--'have you a man called Jentham here?'
'Yes, I have,' growled Mosk, looking suspiciously at his questioner. 'What do you know of him, sir?'
'Nothing; but I take an interest in him as he seems to be one who has known better days.'
'He don't know them now, at all events, Mr Cargrim. He owes me money for this last week, he does. He paid all right at fust, but he don't pay now.'
'Indeed,' said the chaplain, pricking up his ears, 'he owes you money?'
'That he does; more nor two quid, sir. But he says he'll pay me soon.'
'Ah! he says he'll pay you soon,' repeated Cargrim; 'he expects to receive money, then?'
'I s'pose so, tho' Lord knows!--I beg pardon, sir--tho' goodness knows where it's coming from. He don't work or get wages as I can see.'
'I think I know,' thought Cargrim; then added aloud, 'Is the man here?'
'In the coffee-room yonder, sir. Half drunk he is, and lying like a good one. The yarns he reels off is wonderful.'
'No doubt; a man like that must be interesting to listen to. With your permission, Mr Mosk, I'll go into the coffee-room.'
'Straight ahead, sir. Will you take something to drink, if I may make so bold, Mr Cargrim?'
'No, my friend, no; thank you all the same,' and with a nod Cargrim pushed his way into the coffee-room to see the man with the scar.
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