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"Oh, Mr. Little," said Eliza Watney; "TRY and forgive him."
"My girl," said Henry, solemnly, "I thought I never could forgive the man who did that cruel deed to me, and I had never injured any one. But it is hard to know one's own mind, let alone another man's. Now I look at him lying pale and battered there, it seems all wiped out. I forgive you, my poor fellow, and I hope G.o.d will forgive you too."
"Nay. He is not so soft as thou. This is how He forgives me. But I knew no better. Old gal, learn the young 'un to read, that's coming just as I'm going; it is sore against a chap if he can't read. Right and wrong d--n 'em, they are locked up in books, I think: locked away from a chap like me. I know a little better now. But, eh, dear, dear, it is come too late." And now the poor wretch began to cry at a gleam of knowledge of right and wrong having come to him only just when he could no longer profit by it.
Henry left him at last, with the tears in his eyes. He promised them all to come every day.
He called on Dr. Amboyne, and said, "You are always right, doctor.
Simmons was the man, he has owned it, and I forgave him."
He then went and told Mr. Holdfast. That gentleman was much pleased at the discovery, and said, "Ah, but who employed him? That is what you must discover."
"I will try," said Henry. "The poor fellow had half a mind to make a clean breast; but I didn't like to worry him over it."
Returning home he fell in with Grotait and Parkin. They were talking earnestly at the door of a public-house, and the question they were discussing was whether or not Little's affair should be revived.
They were both a good deal staggered by the fate of Simmons, Parkin especially, who was rather superst.i.tious. He had changed sides, and was now inclined to connive, or, at all events to temporize; to abandon the matter till a more convenient time. Grotait, on the other hand, whose vanity the young man had irritated, was bent on dismounting his forge.
But even he had cooled a little, and was now disinclined to violence.
He suggested that it must be easy to drive a smith out of a church, by going to the parochial authorities; and they could also send Little an anonymous letter, to tell him the Trades had their eyes on him; by this double stroke, they would probably bring him to some reasonable terms.
It certainly was a most unfortunate thing that Little pa.s.sed that way just then; unfortunate that Youth is so impetuous.
He crossed the street to speak to these two potentates, whom it was his interest to let alone--if he could only have known it.
"Well, gentlemen, have you seen Simmons?"
"No," said Mr. Parkin.
"What, not been to see the poor fellow who owes his death to you?"
"He is not dead yet."
"No, thank Heaven! He has got a good work to do first; some hypocrites, a.s.sa.s.sins, and cowards to expose."
Parkin turned pale; Grotait's eye glistened like a snake's: he made Parkin a rapid signal to say nothing, but only listen.
"He has begun by telling me who it was that put gunpowder into my forge, and how it was done. I have forgiven him. He was only the tool of much worse villains; base, cowardly, sneaking villains. Those I shall not forgive. Oh, I shall know all about it before long. Good-morning."
This information and threat, and the vindictive bitterness and resolution with which the young man had delivered it, struck terror into the gentle Parkin, and shook even Grotait. The latter, however, soon recovered himself, and it became a battle for life or death between him and Little.
He invited Parkin to his own place, and there the pair sat closeted.
Dan Tucker and Sam Cole were sent for.
Tucker came first. He was instantly dispatched to Simmons, with money from the Saw Grinders' box. He was to ascertain how much Simmons had let out, and to adjure him to be true to the Trade, and split on no man but himself. When he had been gone about twenty minutes, Sam Cole came in, and was instructed to get two other men in place of Simmons, and be in readiness to do Little.
By-and-by Tucker returned with news. Simmons had at present split only on himself; but the women were evidently in love with Little; said he was their only friend; and he, Tucker, foresaw that, with their co-operation, Simmons would be turned inside out by Little before he died.
Grotait struck his hand on the table. "The Unions are in danger," said he. "There is but one way, Little must be made so that he can't leave Cairnhope while Simmons is alive."
So important did the crisis appear to him, that he insisted on Parkin going with him at once to Cairnhope, to reconnoiter the ground.
Parkin had a gig and a fast horse: so, in ten minutes more, they were on the road.
They reached Cairnhope, put up at the village inn, and soon extracted some particulars about the church. They went up to it, and examined it, and Grotait gave Parkin a leg up, to peer through the window.
In this position they were nailed by old George.
"What be you at?"
"What is that to you?" said Grotait.
"It is plenty. You mustn't come trespa.s.sing here. Squire won't have it."
"Trespa.s.sing in a churchyard! Why it belongs to all the world."
"Nay, this one belongs to the Lord o' the manor."
"Well, we won't hurt your church. Who keeps the key?"
Old George from this moment followed them about everywhere, grumbling at their heels, like a mastiff.
Grotait, however, treated him with cool contempt, and proceeded to make a sketch of the door, and a little map showing how the church could be approached from Hillsborough on foot without pa.s.sing through Cairnhope village. This done, he went back with Parkin to the inn, and thence to Hillsborough.
It was old Christmas Eve. Henry was working at his forge, little dreaming of danger. Yet it was close at hand, and from two distinct quarters.
Four men, with c.r.a.pe masks, and provided with all manner of tools, and armed with bludgeons, were creeping about the churchyard, examining and listening. Their orders were to make Little so that he should not leave Cairnhope for a month. And that, in plain English, meant to beat him within an inch of his life, if not kill him.
At the same time, a body of nine men were stealing up the road, with designs scarcely less hostile to Little.
These a.s.sailants were as yet at a considerable distance, but more formidable in appearance than the others being most of them armed with swords, and led by a man with a double-barreled gun.
Grotait's men, having well surveyed the ground, now crept softly up to the porch, and examined the lock.
The key was inside, and they saw no means of forcing the lock without making a noise, and putting their victim on his guard.
After a long whispered consultation, they resolved to unscrew the hinges.
These hinges were of great length, and were nailed upon the door, but screwed into the door-post with four screws each.
Two men, with excellent tools, and masters of the business, went softly to work. One stood, and worked on the upper screws; the other kneeled, and unfastened the lower screws.
They made no more noise than a rat gnawing; yet, such was their caution, and determination to surprise their victim, that they timed all their work by Little's. Whenever the blows of his hammer intermitted, they left off; and began again when he did.
When all the screws were out but two, one above, one below, they beckoned the other two men, and these two drove large gimlets into the door, and so held it that it might not fall forward when the last screw should come out.