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CHAPTER THE FIRST.
MARKET BASthe nest of night,
ING, in HolmAmong soft leaves
shire, there are that give the starlight way
five or six good To touch its wings
houses that were but not its eyes
built, some of with light;
them eighty, some So that it knew as one in visions may,
of them a hundred And knew not as
years ago—in a men waking, of
word, before the delight.
town was what it This was the mea
is. They stood sure of my soul's
there when the delight;
linendrapers, groIt had no power of joy to fly by day,
cers, and silverNor part in the large lordship of the light; But in a secret moon-beholden way
smiths lived over Had all its will of dreams and pleasant night, their shops in the main streets, and not in
And all the love and life that sleepers may pretentious villas of unenduring stucco scatBut such life's triumph as men waking may tered along the Hunslope-road, as they do It might not have to feed its faint delight
now. For in those honest days, strange to Between the stars by night and sun by day, Shut up with green leaves and a little light;
say, a shopkeeper kept his shop, and wasn't Because its way was as a lost star's way,
a bit ashamed of it. And these old houses A world's not wholly known of day or night. are tenanted now by persons of the same All loves and dreams and sounds and gleams of night class as those who occupied them when
Made it all music that such minstrels may, their bricks were new and red. The one by And all they had they gave it of delight;
the church is Lawyer Battiscombe's. It was But in the full face of the fire of day What place shall be for any starry light,
his grandfather's before him. That house a What part of heaven in all the wide sun's way? hundred yards nearer the middle of the town Yet the soul woke not, sleeping by the way,
is Mr. Francis Melliship’s; and a mile in OxWatched as a nursling of the large-eyed night, ford-street and twenty perches in Market And sought no strength nor knowledge of the day, Basing mean about the same thing—for in
Nor closer touch conclusive of delight,
these small towns, a house five steps from Nor more of song than they, nor more of light.
your door is in an out-of-the-way place it reFor who sleeps once and sees the secret light
quires an effort to reach. Read the legend in Whereby sleep shows the soul a fairer way dingy, gilt relief letters over the door-they Between the rise and rest of day and night,
were much stared at when first put up, being Shall care no more to fare as all men may,
a novelty from London—MELLISHIP, MORBut he his place of pain or of delight, There shall he dwell, beholding night as day.
TIBOY, & Co. Melliship's Bank, for there is
no Mortiboy in it now. Mortiboy's Bank is Song, have thy day and take thy fill of light Before the night be fallen across thy way;
at the other end of the street, by the postSing while he may, man hath no long delight. office. In many ways, the two banks are
NO. 2 10.
wide as the Poles apart. At the other end used to his appearance, your mind would of the town, in Derngate, is another of wander into useless speculations as to the these old houses. Here lires Mr. Richard ways and means by which he can get into Matthew Mortiboy, by the courtesy of Mar- his suits; and once in, can ever get out ket Basing—when addressing him in writing again. -styled esquire, but commonly spoken of as But those who know old Ready-money Ready-money Mortiboy.
well have discovered that he is one of those The reason why, I will tell you presently. human eels who can wriggle out of anything
The blinds of two of these houses, from they can wriggle into. garret to kitchen, are drawn down, and the Lydia Heathcote, his niece, sits with the shutters farthest from the door pushed to. Bible open at the Book of Leviticus, look
But at the house in Derngate, the shutters ing at her uncle. next the door on either side are closed, and She is his next-of-kin now Susan, his two mutes, with vulgar faces and crape sister, is dead, and old Mortiboy is a milcovered broomsticks, stand on the steps. lionaire.
Susan Mortiboy is dead, and is about to Honest John Heathcote, her husband, sits be buried in St. Giles's Church; and the next her. The farmer is the only personage mutes stand at her brother's door-one on in the company who does not take his eyes the right hand, and one on the left, arrayed off the decanter of wine when he is caught in funereal trappings, bearing the insignia looking at it. He does not think it exactly, of their order.
but he feels that it is the only pleasant obSentinels of honour, to tell us that the ject in the room, and stares straight at it Commander-in-Chief, Death, has himself en accordingly. tered the house, and receives the homage of The family lawyer, Benjamin Battiscombe, Respectability, his humble servant in this fills the easy chair. wise.
The family doctor, Mr. Kerby, is exOutside, it is cold January frost: inside, in pected every minute. the parlour, are the mourners. They have a Mr. Hopgood, mayor of Market Basing, good fire, and are as comfortable as decency and linendraper, is present in person, out on such occasions will allow. Ready-money of respect for the family, in his official caMortiboy's parlour is a gaunt, cold room, pacity of undertaker. His face wears an with long, narrow windows, wire blinds, aspect of melancholy solemnity only one horsehair chairs, a horsehair sofa, red mo- shade less deep than that he puts on for a reen curtains, and a round table with a red county magnate, deceased—undertaken by cover reaching to the floor. A decanter of Hopgood, Son, & Pywell. sherry and eight glasses are on it.
George Ghrimes, as Mr. Mortiboy's confiThe company assembled have not had dential and managing clerk, and the friend any of the sherry, but sit looking at it. If and agent of Susan Mortiboy, deceased, is one catches another's eye, the one instantly present. pretends to be intensely occupied with the And in this goodly company there is one ceiling, the pictures, the fire, the street view, real mourner, Mrs. Heathcote's daughter anything but the sherry. Till, as by a spell, Lucy, whose gentle hand smoothed the last the one's eyes dwell again on the decanter, pillow of Susan Mortiboy, her aunt. are caught in the act, and revert with guilty speed to the street view, pictures, fire, ceil- “Put out to be drunk, I suppose," grunted ing, anything but the sherry.
John Heathcote, with his brown hand on Mr. Richard Matthew Mortiboy, the chief the decanter, to his wife in an undertone. mourner, stands with his back to the fire- Then aloud, “Shall I give you a glass of place. He sighs occasionally with creditable sherry, Lydia ?" emphasis. He intends his ejaculations to Mrs. Heathcote objected, but took it. be taken for expressions of grief: they really The ice thus broken, a glass was filled for tell of weariness, and a heartfelt wish that it everybody but the chief mourner. was all over.
Up to this time there was no conversation, He is sixty-three years old, tall, bald- but its place was to some extent supplied by headed, and of spare frame. His black the tolling of St. Giles's bass bell. clothes—he was married in the coat-fit B-ong !--B-ong !-B-ong !-at intervals of him so tightly that, until you are very well | half a minute.
Mr. Mortiboy broke the silence.
“Nobody would ever quarrel with you, “What are we waiting for?” he asked John,” said his wife, half reproachfully. with the impatience of weariness.
“And I quarrel with nobody.” “We are waiting for Mr. Francis Melliship “If they let you alone,” said Mr. Mortiand Mr. Kerby," said the Mayor.
boy; "but I was slighted, John. Good"Oh-h-h,” sighed the chief mourner, with dear me, here is the hearse!” He pulled a look of resignation.
out his watch. “Ah! I thought as much“Francis Melliship all over-eh, Uncle we are due at the church now." Richard?" said Mrs. Heathcote, feeling her “Shall we send round for Francis Melliway. “He always is behind at everything. ship, uncle?" I've often heard my poor mother say that, "No, Lydia," said her uncle, with severe when you married his sister Emily, he kept irony. “We all of us dance attendance on you all waiting a quarter of an hour before Mr. Francis Melliship: everybody in Marhe came to church to give her away. Ha! ket Basing always has done, since I've ha! ha!"-quickly suppressed: it was a fu-known it." neral.
“Don't be hard on a man behind his But her uncle looked angry at this men- back," began the farmer. tion of his marriage to Miss Melliship, and Mrs. Heathcote shot a glance at him from Lydia Heathcote saw her mistake before he her dark eyes that meant—"How dare you growled out in reply
oppose Uncle Mortiboy?"--but her husband “Mr. Melliship's cavalier proceedings in did not choose to see it. He went on, reprivate life have not come under my notice gardless of consequences. for years."
"I've always respected Mr. Melliship. “How long is it since he has been in your I hope I always shall. And I wish he came to house?” asked John Heathcote, bluntly. Hunslope oftener than he does." " A dozen years, I suppose," said Lydia . His wife pinched him viciously
. Hers “I'll tell you," said Mr. Mortiboy. "He
" He was a difficult part to play. She was very hasn't been here since my poor wife was friendly, in her way, with the family at the buried—sixteen years ago last April.”
other bank; but she was Ready-money MorOMNES: “Ah!"
tiboy's nearest of kin. Lucy Heathcote: "Poor dear aunt-I re- "My brother-in-law," said Mr. Mortiboy, member her very well, though I was but a in tones of satire, “is dressing hiniself with little child. She always brought something more than his usual care"—then, in one gruff over to Hunslope for Grace and me when- blast—"and Francis Melliship is the greatest ever she came to see us. I recollect her Peacock in Market Basing ! 1-hate-Pealittle boxes of sweets, and I have got two of cockery in man or woman!" her dolls now. Poor Aunt Emily !"
Mrs. Heathcote smoothed her crape deMrs. Heathcote: “Ah, poor thing!" murely. She loved it: I don't mean the
Mr. Mortiboy: “She was like all the Mel-crape—Dress. liships since the days of Methuselah—always “ Farmer-like-eh, John?—for you and giving something to somebody that was none me. We are not going to begin Peacocking, the better for being made a fool of, Loo, my I think." girl."
The Mayor's chief assistant now entered In this particular way, Lucy's granduncle with a mournful bow, and proceeded to Mortiboy had never made a fool of his niece. decorate the chief mourner with a long
“We are all older since then,” said John crape scarf. The chief mourner resented Heathcote, who was a slow thinker.
this. “Mr. Melliship affronted me in a way
I Holding up the scarf, he said, looking at shall never forget-though I hope I have the manforgiven him," said Mr. Mortiboy. He was “What is the meaning of this gewgaw?" one of that numerous class of homuncules "A scarf, sir-quite usual—at all respectthat think ill, yet speak well.
able funerals." “Why not be friends, then? I like to "Always worn, sir," said the Mayor. see a family all friendly, for my part."
“I never wore one before," said Mr. Mor“That is a worthy sentiment, sir," said the tiboy, testily. "I should have stopped the lawyer. It was the first opportunity he had affair at hatbands and gloves, I think. had of creeping into the conversation. Plain, but respectable. I hate show. Poor
Susan, too, never cared for ostentation. Mr. an old man. We spent three hundred-at Ghrimes”
least, Susan did-trying to find Dick.” “I left the matter to Mr. Hopgood, sir. “He was a great trouble to you, sir," said He knows better than I do what to do." the lawyer, who had got Dick Mortiboy out
"Always our practice, sir,” said the Mayor. of some nasty scrapes.
"Well, well. Come, put it on then. As “The pocket-money that-boy-had”they're made, we must have them, I sup- here he nearly cried in earnest—“that his pose. Poor Susan !"
aunt Susan gave him. If it was not speakThe old man looked mournfully askant ing ill of the dead," said Mr. Mortiboy, “I at the great crape rosette at his hip, and should say-Susan—spoilt him. She always at the ends of the scarf dangling about his sided with him against his father. Ah! I've knees.
said hundreds of times, 'My boy, Lightly He shook his head, and, taking from his come, lightly go.' He thought nothing of pocket a sad-coloured silk handkerchief full the money he spent. I did not want him of holes, he wiped his eyes, but not of tears. to be a spoilt Peacock. She gave him a gold There was only one loss Mr. Mortiboy would watch and chain the day he was ten years have shed tears over-the loss of money. old. I never had one till my father died. I At sight of his grief, all the company were
wanted him to be like Me. But-it-wasn't affected likewise in different degrees. Lucy to be. People said, 'What you've been all Heathcote was by his side in an instant. your life getting 'll soon be spent after She kissed the old man. At this he wiped you're—gone, M-o-rtiboyhis eyes again.
Mrs. Heathcote groaned at this picture, “I have lost all-all-that-were near to and looked hard at her uncle. me—now," he said.
"—After you are--gone-M-o-o-rtiboy.' “Not all, Uncle Richard," put in Mrs. I used to hope he'd grow up, and alter his Heathcote, meekly, and hiding her face in ways, and be fond of business, and—all that. turn in her handkerchief.
But no! Dick's dead-my boy's deadBut the old man never noticed her inter-and-and-I never recollect being separuption. He went on
rated from Susan before." “There was Emily-gone-taken from “Poor thing! she was such an invalid,” me just — as — we knew each other, said Mrs. Heathcote, soothingly. well
The old man stared at her, but went on “Oh!-oh!-oh!-oh!" sobbed Lydia without noticing his niece's interruption. Heathcote. She had despised poor Mrs. “Ah-h, 1-couldn't have said it then, Mortiboy all her life, said every sharp thing dare say I couldn't, but I could say it now she could think of about her behind her if I only had-my-boy-Dick-again, 'Let back, and would not have called her back him spend it if he likes.' I could say—when again to Market Basing for worlds.
people said to me, 'Mr. Mortiboy, your “And Dick-my son-my son! I loved money will all be spent'- I could say, that boy-if-ever-I loved anything—" "From-all-my-heart."
His father had turned him out of the It was quite a physiological curiosity, this house one night-years ago, neck and crop. heart of his, that he spoke of so feelingly.
-Goes and runs away from meand-It was such a very little one. I'm left alone--now-Susan's—"
"-I could say from all my heart, 'Well, He looked up towards the bed-room if those that have the spending of it have as above.
much pleasure in spending it as I have “Not alone, uncle, dear," said Lucy, in a had in getting it'»---(here Mrs. Heathcote sweet voice. This young thing loved the smoothed her dress, and solemnly shook old hunks himself, and not his money. her head, as if there could be no pleasure
The others hung on his words, for he to her in spending old Ready-money's was the greatest man in the town.
hoards; at the same time, she listened with Market Basing, town and people, be- all her ears) —"I'm a satisfied man.”” longed to him-almost.
“You can't take yours out of the world "Wife dead and gone from me.” He with you, any more than anybody else can, wiped the unsubstantial tears from his eyes I suppose,” said Mr. Heathcote. again. “Son dead-and—buried — who "John!!” whispered his wife, in a key of knows ere? -Susan-gone! I'm I the strongest remonstrance.