en-es  THE BISHOP’S SECRET by Fergus Hume, CHAPTER 7 Hard
AN INTERESTING CONVERSATION.

When Mr Cargrim took an idea into his head it was not easy to get it out again, and to this resolute obstinacy he owed no small part of his success. He was like the famous drop of water and would wear away any human stone, however hard it might be. Again and again, when baffled, he returned with gentle persistence to the object he had in view, and however strong of will his adversary happened to be, that will was bound, in the long run, to yield to the incessant attacks of the chaplain. At the present moment he desired to have an interview with Mrs Mosk, and he was determined to obtain one in spite of Bell’s refusal. However, he had no time to waste on the persuasive method, as he wished to see the invalid before the bishop returned. To achieve this end he enlisted the services of Mrs Pansey.

That good lady sometimes indulged in a species of persecution she termed district-visiting, which usually consisted in her thrusting herself at untoward times into poor people’s houses and asking them questions about their private affairs. When she had learned all she wished to know, and had given her advice in the tone of a command not to be disobeyed, she would retire, leaving the evidence of her trail behind her in the shape of a nauseous little tract with an abusive title. It was no use any poor creature refusing to see Mrs Pansey, for she forced herself into the most private chambers, and never would retire unless she thought fit to do so of her own will. It was for this reason that Cargrim suggested the good lady should call upon Mrs Mosk, for he knew well that neither the father, nor the daughter, nor the whole assembled domestics of the hotel, would be able to stop her from making her way to the bedside of the invalid; and in the devastated rear of Mrs Pansey the chaplain intended to follow.

His principal object in seeing Mrs Mosk was to discover what she knew about the man called Jentham. He was lodging at The Derby Winner, as Cargrim ascertained by later inquiry, and it was probable that the inmates of the hotel knew something as to the reasons of his stay in Beorminster. Mr Mosk, being as obstinate as a mule, was not likely to tell Cargrim anything he desired to learn. Bell, detesting the chaplain, as she took no pains to conceal, would probably refuse to hold a conversation with him; but Mrs Mosk, being weak-minded and ill, might be led by dexterous questioning to tell all she knew. And what she did know might, in Cargrim’s opinion, throw more light on Jentham’s connection with the bishop. Therefore, the next morning, Cargrim called on the archdeacon’s widow to inveigle her into persecuting Mrs Mosk with a call. Mrs Pansey, with all her acuteness, could not see that she was being made use of—luckily for Cargrim.

“I hear the poor woman is very ill,” sighed the chaplain, after he had introduced the subject, “and I fear that her daughter does not give her all the attention an invalid should have.

“The Jezebel!” growled Mrs Pansey. “What can you expect from that flaunting hussy?” “She is a human being, Mrs Pansey, and I expect at least human feelings.” “Can you get blood out of a stone, Mr Cargrim? No, you can’t. Is that red-cheeked Dutch doll a pelican to pluck her breast for the benefit of her mother? No, indeed! I daresay she passes her sinful hours drinking with young men. I’d whip her at a cart’s tail if I had my way.” “Gabriel Pendle is trying to bring the girl to a sense of her errors.” “Rubbish! She’s trying to bring him to the altar, more like. I’ll go with you, Mr Cargrim, and see the minx. I have long thought that it is my duty to reprove her and warn her mother of such goings-on. As for that weak-minded young Pendle,” cried Mrs Pansey, shaking her head furiously, “I pity his infatuation; but what can you expect from such a mother as his mother? Can a fool produce sense? No!” “I am afraid you will find the young woman difficult to deal with.” “That makes me all the more determined to see her, Mr Cargrim. I’ll tell her the truth for once in her life. Marry young Pendle indeed!” snorted the good lady. “I’ll let her see.” “Speak to her mother first,” urged Cargrim, who wished his visit to be less warlike, as more conducive to success.

“I’ll speak to both of them. I daresay one is as bad as the other. I must have that public-house removed; it’s an eye-sore to Beorminster—a curse to the place. It ought to be pulled down and the site ploughed up and sown with salt. Come with me, Mr Cargrim, and you shall see how I deal with iniquity. I hope I know what is due to myself.” “Where is Miss Norsham?” asked the chaplain, when they fell into more general conversation on their way to The Derby Winner.

“Husband-hunting. Dean Alder is showing her the tombs in the cathedral. Tombs, indeed! It’s the altar she’s interested in.” “My dear lady, the dean is too old to marry!” “He is not too old to be made a fool of, Mr Cargrim. As for Daisy Norsham, she’d marry Methuselah to take away the shame of being single. Not that the match with Alder will be out of the way, for she’s no chicken herself.” “I rather thought Mr Dean had an eye to Miss Whichello.” “Stuff!” rejoined Mrs Pansey, with a sniff. “She’s far too much taken up with dieting people to think of marrying them. She actually weighs out the food on the table when meals are on. No wonder that poor girl Mab is thin.” “But she isn’t too thin for her height, Mrs Pansey. She seems to me to be well covered.” “You didn’t notice her at the palace, then,” snapped the widow, avoiding a direct reply. “She wore a low-necked dress which made me blush. I don’t know what girls are coming to. They’d go about like so many Eves if they could.” “Oh, Mrs Pansey!” remonstrated the chaplain, in a shocked tone.

“Well, it’s in the Bible, isn’t it, man? You aren’t going to say Holy Writ is indecent, are you?” “Well, really, Mrs Pansey, clergyman as I am, I must say that there are parts of the Bible unfit for the use of schools.” “To the pure all things are pure, Mr Cargrim; you have an impure mind, I fear. Remember the Thirty-Nine Articles and speak becomingly of holy things. However, let that pass,” added Mrs Pansey, in livelier tones. “Here we are, and there’s that hussy hanging out from an upper window like the Jezebel she is.” This remark was directed against Bell, who, apparently in her mother’s room, was at the window amusing herself by watching the passers-by. When she saw Mrs Pansey and the chaplain stalking along in black garments, and looking like two birds of prey, she hastily withdrew, and by the time they arrived at the hotel was at the doorway to receive them, with fixed bayonets.

“Young woman,” said Mrs Pansey, severely, “I have come to see your mother,” and she cast a disapproving look on Bell’s ‘gay pink dress.

“She is not well enough to see either you or Mr Cargrim,” said Bell, coolly.

“All the more reason that Mr Cargrim, as a clergyman, should look after her soul, my good girl.” “Thank you, Mr Pendle is doing that.” “Indeed! Mr Pendle, then, combines business with pleasure.” Bell quite understood the insinuation conveyed in this last speech, and, firing up, would have come to high words with the visitors but that her father made his appearance, and, as she did not wish to draw forth remarks from Mrs Pansey about Gabriel in his hearing, she discreetly held her tongue. However, as Mrs Pansey swept by in triumph, followed by Cargrim, she looked daggers at them both, and bounced into the bar, where she drew beer for thirsty customers in a flaming temper. She dearly desired a duel of words with the formidable visitor.

Mosk was a lean, tall man with a pimpled face and a military moustache. He knew Mrs Pansey, and, like most other people, detested her with all his heart; but she was, as he thought, a great friend of Sir Harry Brace, who was his landlord, so for diplomatic reasons he greeted her with all deference, hat in hand.

“I have come with Mr Cargrim to see your wife, Mr Mosk,” said the visitor.

“Thank you, ma’am, I’m sure it’s very kind of you,” replied Mosk, who had a husky voice suggestive of beer. “She’ll be honoured to see you, I’m sure. This way, ma’am.” “Is she very ill?” demanded the chaplain, as they followed Mosk to the back of the hotel and up a narrow staircase.

“She ain’t well, sir, but I can’t say as she’s dying. We do all we can to make her easy.” “Ho!” from Mrs Pansey. “I hope your daughter acts towards her mother like as a daughter should.” “I’d like to see the person as says she don’t,” cried Mr Mosk, with sudden anger. “I’d knock his head off. Bell’s a good girl; none better.” “Let us hope your trust in her is justified,” sighed the mischief-maker, and passed into the sickroom, leaving Mosk with an uneasy feeling that something was wrong. If the man had a tender spot in his heart it was for his handsome daughter; and it was with a vague fear that, after presenting his wife to her visitors, he went downstairs to the bar. Mrs Pansey had a genius for making mischief by a timely word.

“Bell,” said he, gruffly, “what’s that old cat hinting at?” “What about?” asked Bell, tossing her head till all her ornaments jingled, and wiping the counter furiously.

“About you! She don’t think I should trust you.” “What right has she to talk about me, I’d like to know!” cried Bell, getting as red as a peony. “I’ve never done anything that anyone can say a word against me.” “Who said you had?” snapped her father; “but that old cat hints.” “Let her keep her hints to herself, then. Because I’m young and good-looking she wants to take my character away. Nasty old puss that she is!” “That’s just it, my gal. You’re too young and good-looking to escape folks’ talking; and I hear that young Mr Pendle comes round when I’m away.” “Who says he doesn’t, father? It’s to see mother; he’s a parson, ain’t he?” “Yes! and he’s gentry too. I won’t have him paying attention to you.” “You’d better wait till he does,” flashed out Bell. “I can take care of myself, I hope.” “If I catch him talking other than religion to you I’ll choke him in his own collar,” cried Mr Mosk, with a scowl; “so now you know.” “I know as you’re talking nonsense, father. Time enough for you to interfere when there’s cause. Now you clear out and let me get on with my work.” Reassured by the girl’s manner, Mosk began to think that Mrs Pansey’s hints were all moonshine, and after cooling himself with a glass of beer, went away to look into his betting-book with some horsey pals. In the meantime, Mrs Pansey was persecuting his wife, a meek, nervous little woman, who was propped up with pillows in a large bed, and seemed to be quite overwhelmed by the honour of Mrs Pansey’s call.

“So you are weak in the back, are you?” said the visitor, in loud tones. “If you are, what right have you to marry and bring feeble children into the world?” “Bell isn’t feeble,” said Mrs Mosk, weakly. “She’s a fine set-up gal.” “Set-up and stuck-up,” retorted Mrs Pansey. “I tell you what, my good woman, you ought to be downstairs looking after her.” “Lord! mum, there ain’t nothing wrong, I do devoutly hope.” “Nothing as yet; but you shouldn’t have young gentlemen about the place.” “I can’t help it, mum,” said Mrs Mosk, beginning to cry. “I’m sure we must earn our living somehow. This is an ‘otel, isn’t it? and Mosk’s a pop’lar character, ain’t he? I’m sure it’s hard enough to make ends meet as it is; we owe rent for half a year and can’t pay—and won’t pay,” wailed Mrs Mosk, “unless my ‘usband comes ‘ome on Skinflint.” “Comes home on Skinflint, woman, what do you mean?” “Skinflint’s a ‘orse, mum, as Mosk ‘ave put his shirt on.” Mrs Pansey wagged her plumes and groaned. “I’m sadly afraid your husband is a son of perdition, Mrs Mosk. Put his shirt on Skinflint, indeed!” “He’s a good man to me, anyhow,” cried Mrs Mosk, plucking up spirit.

“Drink and betting,” continued Mrs Pansey, pretending not to hear this feeble defiance. “What can we expect from a man who drinks and bets?” “And associates with bad characters,” put in Cargrim, seizing his chance.

“That he don’t, sir,” said Mrs Mosk, with energy. “May I beg of you to put a name to one of ’em?” “Jentham,” said the chaplain, softly. “Who is Jentham, Mrs Mosk?” “I know no more nor a babe unborn, sir. He’s bin ‘ere two weeks, and I did see him twice afore my back got so bad as to force me to bed. But I don’t see why you calls him bad, sir. He pays his way.” “Oh,” groaned Mrs Pansey, “is it the chief end of man to pay his way?” “It is with us, mum,” retorted Mrs Mosk, meekly; “there ain’t no denying of it. And Mr Jentham do pay proper though he is a gipsy.” “He’s a gipsy, is he?” said Cargrim, alertly.

“So he says, sir; and I knows as he goes sometimes to that camp of gipsies on Southberry Heath.” “Where does he get his money from?” “Better not inquire into that, Mr Cargrim,” said Mrs Pansey, with a sniff.

“Oh, Mr Jentham’s honest, I’m sure, mum. He’s bin at the gold diggin’s and ‘ave made a trifle of money. Indeed, I don’t know where he ain’t been, sir. The four pints of the compass is all plain sailing to ‘im; and his ‘airbreadth escapes is too h’awful. I shivers and shudders when I ‘ears ’em.” “What is he doing here?” “He’s on business; but I don’t know what kind. Oh, he knows ‘ow to ‘old ‘is tongue, does Jentham.” “He is a gipsy, he consorts with gipsies, he has money, and no one knows where he comes from,” summed up Cargrim. “I think, Mrs Pansey, we may regard this man as a dangerous character.” “I shouldn’t be surprised to hear he was an Anarchist,” said Mrs Pansey, who knew nothing about the man. “Well, Mrs Mosk, I hope we’ve cheered you up. I’ll go now. Read this tract,” bestowing a grimy little pamphlet, “and don’t see too much of Mr Pendle.” “But he comforts me,” said poor Mrs Mosk; “he reads beautiful.” Mrs Pansey grunted. Bold as she was she did not like to speak quite plainly to the woman, as too free speech might inculpate Gabriel and bring the bishop to the rescue. Besides, Mrs Pansey had no evidence to bring forward to prove that Gabriel was in love with Bell Mosk. Therefore she said nothing, but, like the mariner’s parrot, thought the more. Shaking out her dark skirts she rose to go, with another grunt full of unspoken suspicions.

“Good-day, Mrs Mosk,” said she, pausing at the door. “When you are low-spirited send for me to cheer you up.” Mrs Mosk attempted a curtsey in bed, which was a failure owing to her sitting position; but Mrs Pansey did not see the attempt, as she was already half-way down the stairs, followed by Cargrim. The chaplain had learned a trifle more about the mysterious Jentham and was quite satisfied with his visit; but he was more puzzled than ever. A tramp, a gipsy, an adventurer—what had such a creature in common with Bishop Pendle? To Mr Cargrim’s eye the affair of the visit began to assume the proportions of a criminal case. But all the information he had gathered proved nothing, so it only remained to wait for the bishop’s return and see what discoveries he could make in that direction. If Jentham’s name was in the cheque-book the chaplain would be satisfied that there was an understanding between the pair; and then his next move would be to learn what the understanding was. When he discovered that, he had no doubt but that he would have Dr Pendle under his thumb, which would be a good thing for Mr Cargrim and an unpleasant position for the bishop.

Mrs Pansey stalked down to the bar, and seeing Bell therein, silently placed a little tract on the counter. No sooner had she left the house than Bell snatched up the tract, and rushing to the door flung it after the good lady.

“You need it more than I do,” she cried, and bounced into the house again.

It was with a quiver of rage that Mrs Pansey turned to the chaplain. She was almost past speech, but with some difficulty and much choking managed to convey her feelings in two words.

“The creature!” gasped Mrs Pansey, and shook her skirts as if to rid herself of some taint contracted at The Derby Winner.
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AN INTERESTING CONVERSATION.
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To achieve this end he enlisted the services of Mrs Pansey.
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“The Jezebel!” growled Mrs Pansey.
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No, you can’t.
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No, indeed!
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I daresay she passes her sinful hours drinking with young men.
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She’s trying to bring him to the altar, more like.
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I’ll go with you, Mr Cargrim, and see the minx.
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Can a fool produce sense?
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I’ll tell her the truth for once in her life.
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Marry young Pendle indeed!” snorted the good lady.
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“I’ll speak to both of them.
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I daresay one is as bad as the other.
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It ought to be pulled down and the site ploughed up and sown with salt.
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Come with me, Mr Cargrim, and you shall see how I deal with iniquity.
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“Husband-hunting.
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Dean Alder is showing her the tombs in the cathedral.
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Tombs, indeed!
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She actually weighs out the food on the table when meals are on.
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“She wore a low-necked dress which made me blush.
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I don’t know what girls are coming to.
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“Well, it’s in the Bible, isn’t it, man?
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Remember the Thirty-Nine Articles and speak becomingly of holy things.
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However, let that pass,” added Mrs Pansey, in livelier tones.
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She dearly desired a duel of words with the formidable visitor.
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Mosk was a lean, tall man with a pimpled face and a military moustache.
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“She’ll be honoured to see you, I’m sure.
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“She ain’t well, sir, but I can’t say as she’s dying.
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We do all we can to make her easy.” “Ho!” from Mrs Pansey.
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“I’d knock his head off.
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Mrs Pansey had a genius for making mischief by a timely word.
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“About you!
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Nasty old puss that she is!” “That’s just it, my gal.
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It’s to see mother; he’s a parson, ain’t he?” “Yes!
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and he’s gentry too.
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Time enough for you to interfere when there’s cause.
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“I’m sure we must earn our living somehow.
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This is an ‘otel, isn’t it?
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and Mosk’s a pop’lar character, ain’t he?
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“I’m sadly afraid your husband is a son of perdition, Mrs Mosk.
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“That he don’t, sir,” said Mrs Mosk, with energy.
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But I don’t see why you calls him bad, sir.
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“Oh, Mr Jentham’s honest, I’m sure, mum.
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He’s bin at the gold diggin’s and ‘ave made a trifle of money.
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Indeed, I don’t know where he ain’t been, sir.
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“Well, Mrs Mosk, I hope we’ve cheered you up.
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I’ll go now.
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“Good-day, Mrs Mosk,” said she, pausing at the door.
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It was with a quiver of rage that Mrs Pansey turned to the chaplain.
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AN INTERESTING CONVERSATION.

When Mr Cargrim took an idea into his head it was not easy to get it out again, and to this resolute obstinacy he owed no small part of his success. He was like the famous drop of water and would wear away any human stone, however hard it might be. Again and again, when baffled, he returned with gentle persistence to the object he had in view, and however strong of will his adversary happened to be, that will was bound, in the long run, to yield to the incessant attacks of the chaplain. At the present moment he desired to have an interview with Mrs Mosk, and he was determined to obtain one in spite of Bell’s refusal. However, he had no time to waste on the persuasive method, as he wished to see the invalid before the bishop returned. To achieve this end he enlisted the services of Mrs Pansey.

That good lady sometimes indulged in a species of persecution she termed district-visiting, which usually consisted in her thrusting herself at untoward times into poor people’s houses and asking them questions about their private affairs. When she had learned all she wished to know, and had given her advice in the tone of a command not to be disobeyed, she would retire, leaving the evidence of her trail behind her in the shape of a nauseous little tract with an abusive title. It was no use any poor creature refusing to see Mrs Pansey, for she forced herself into the most private chambers, and never would retire unless she thought fit to do so of her own will. It was for this reason that Cargrim suggested the good lady should call upon Mrs Mosk, for he knew well that neither the father, nor the daughter, nor the whole assembled domestics of the hotel, would be able to stop her from making her way to the bedside of the invalid; and in the devastated rear of Mrs Pansey the chaplain intended to follow.

His principal object in seeing Mrs Mosk was to discover what she knew about the man called Jentham. He was lodging at The Derby Winner, as Cargrim ascertained by later inquiry, and it was probable that the inmates of the hotel knew something as to the reasons of his stay in Beorminster. Mr Mosk, being as obstinate as a mule, was not likely to tell Cargrim anything he desired to learn. Bell, detesting the chaplain, as she took no pains to conceal, would probably refuse to hold a conversation with him; but Mrs Mosk, being weak-minded and ill, might be led by dexterous questioning to tell all she knew. And what she did know might, in Cargrim’s opinion, throw more light on Jentham’s connection with the bishop. Therefore, the next morning, Cargrim called on the archdeacon’s widow to inveigle her into persecuting Mrs Mosk with a call. Mrs Pansey, with all her acuteness, could not see that she was being made use of—luckily for Cargrim.

“I hear the poor woman is very ill,” sighed the chaplain, after he had introduced the subject, “and I fear that her daughter does not give her all the attention an invalid should have.

“The Jezebel!” growled Mrs Pansey. “What can you expect from that flaunting hussy?”

“She is a human being, Mrs Pansey, and I expect at least human feelings.”

“Can you get blood out of a stone, Mr Cargrim? No, you can’t. Is that red-cheeked Dutch doll a pelican to pluck her breast for the benefit of her mother? No, indeed! I daresay she passes her sinful hours drinking with young men. I’d whip her at a cart’s tail if I had my way.”

“Gabriel Pendle is trying to bring the girl to a sense of her errors.”

“Rubbish! She’s trying to bring him to the altar, more like. I’ll go with you, Mr Cargrim, and see the minx. I have long thought that it is my duty to reprove her and warn her mother of such goings-on. As for that weak-minded young Pendle,” cried Mrs Pansey, shaking her head furiously, “I pity his infatuation; but what can you expect from such a mother as his mother? Can a fool produce sense? No!”

“I am afraid you will find the young woman difficult to deal with.”

“That makes me all the more determined to see her, Mr Cargrim. I’ll tell her the truth for once in her life. Marry young Pendle indeed!” snorted the good lady. “I’ll let her see.”

“Speak to her mother first,” urged Cargrim, who wished his visit to be less warlike, as more conducive to success.

“I’ll speak to both of them. I daresay one is as bad as the other. I must have that public-house removed; it’s an eye-sore to Beorminster—a curse to the place. It ought to be pulled down and the site ploughed up and sown with salt. Come with me, Mr Cargrim, and you shall see how I deal with iniquity. I hope I know what is due to myself.”

“Where is Miss Norsham?” asked the chaplain, when they fell into more general conversation on their way to The Derby Winner.

“Husband-hunting. Dean Alder is showing her the tombs in the cathedral. Tombs, indeed! It’s the altar she’s interested in.”

“My dear lady, the dean is too old to marry!”

“He is not too old to be made a fool of, Mr Cargrim. As for Daisy Norsham, she’d marry Methuselah to take away the shame of being single. Not that the match with Alder will be out of the way, for she’s no chicken herself.”

“I rather thought Mr Dean had an eye to Miss Whichello.”

“Stuff!” rejoined Mrs Pansey, with a sniff. “She’s far too much taken up with dieting people to think of marrying them. She actually weighs out the food on the table when meals are on. No wonder that poor girl Mab is thin.”

“But she isn’t too thin for her height, Mrs Pansey. She seems to me to be well covered.”

“You didn’t notice her at the palace, then,” snapped the widow, avoiding a direct reply. “She wore a low-necked dress which made me blush. I don’t know what girls are coming to. They’d go about like so many Eves if they could.”

“Oh, Mrs Pansey!” remonstrated the chaplain, in a shocked tone.

“Well, it’s in the Bible, isn’t it, man? You aren’t going to say Holy Writ is indecent, are you?”

“Well, really, Mrs Pansey, clergyman as I am, I must say that there are parts of the Bible unfit for the use of schools.”

“To the pure all things are pure, Mr Cargrim; you have an impure mind, I fear. Remember the Thirty-Nine Articles and speak becomingly of holy things. However, let that pass,” added Mrs Pansey, in livelier tones. “Here we are, and there’s that hussy hanging out from an upper window like the Jezebel she is.”

This remark was directed against Bell, who, apparently in her mother’s room, was at the window amusing herself by watching the passers-by. When she saw Mrs Pansey and the chaplain stalking along in black garments, and looking like two birds of prey, she hastily withdrew, and by the time they arrived at the hotel was at the doorway to receive them, with fixed bayonets.

“Young woman,” said Mrs Pansey, severely, “I have come to see your mother,” and she cast a disapproving look on Bell’s ‘gay pink dress.

“She is not well enough to see either you or Mr Cargrim,” said Bell, coolly.

“All the more reason that Mr Cargrim, as a clergyman, should look after her soul, my good girl.”

“Thank you, Mr Pendle is doing that.”

“Indeed! Mr Pendle, then, combines business with pleasure.”

Bell quite understood the insinuation conveyed in this last speech, and, firing up, would have come to high words with the visitors but that her father made his appearance, and, as she did not wish to draw forth remarks from Mrs Pansey about Gabriel in his hearing, she discreetly held her tongue. However, as Mrs Pansey swept by in triumph, followed by Cargrim, she looked daggers at them both, and bounced into the bar, where she drew beer for thirsty customers in a flaming temper. She dearly desired a duel of words with the formidable visitor.

Mosk was a lean, tall man with a pimpled face and a military moustache. He knew Mrs Pansey, and, like most other people, detested her with all his heart; but she was, as he thought, a great friend of Sir Harry Brace, who was his landlord, so for diplomatic reasons he greeted her with all deference, hat in hand.

“I have come with Mr Cargrim to see your wife, Mr Mosk,” said the visitor.

“Thank you, ma’am, I’m sure it’s very kind of you,” replied Mosk, who had a husky voice suggestive of beer. “She’ll be honoured to see you, I’m sure. This way, ma’am.”

“Is she very ill?” demanded the chaplain, as they followed Mosk to the back of the hotel and up a narrow staircase.

“She ain’t well, sir, but I can’t say as she’s dying. We do all we can to make her easy.”

“Ho!” from Mrs Pansey. “I hope your daughter acts towards her mother like as a daughter should.”

“I’d like to see the person as says she don’t,” cried Mr Mosk, with sudden anger. “I’d knock his head off. Bell’s a good girl; none better.”

“Let us hope your trust in her is justified,” sighed the mischief-maker, and passed into the sickroom, leaving Mosk with an uneasy feeling that something was wrong. If the man had a tender spot in his heart it was for his handsome daughter; and it was with a vague fear that, after presenting his wife to her visitors, he went downstairs to the bar. Mrs Pansey had a genius for making mischief by a timely word.

“Bell,” said he, gruffly, “what’s that old cat hinting at?”

“What about?” asked Bell, tossing her head till all her ornaments jingled, and wiping the counter furiously.

“About you! She don’t think I should trust you.”

“What right has she to talk about me, I’d like to know!” cried Bell, getting as red as a peony. “I’ve never done anything that anyone can say a word against me.”

“Who said you had?” snapped her father; “but that old cat hints.”

“Let her keep her hints to herself, then. Because I’m young and good-looking she wants to take my character away. Nasty old puss that she is!”

“That’s just it, my gal. You’re too young and good-looking to escape folks’ talking; and I hear that young Mr Pendle comes round when I’m away.”

“Who says he doesn’t, father? It’s to see mother; he’s a parson, ain’t he?”

“Yes! and he’s gentry too. I won’t have him paying attention to you.”

“You’d better wait till he does,” flashed out Bell. “I can take care of myself, I hope.”

“If I catch him talking other than religion to you I’ll choke him in his own collar,” cried Mr Mosk, with a scowl; “so now you know.”

“I know as you’re talking nonsense, father. Time enough for you to interfere when there’s cause. Now you clear out and let me get on with my work.”

Reassured by the girl’s manner, Mosk began to think that Mrs Pansey’s hints were all moonshine, and after cooling himself with a glass of beer, went away to look into his betting-book with some horsey pals. In the meantime, Mrs Pansey was persecuting his wife, a meek, nervous little woman, who was propped up with pillows in a large bed, and seemed to be quite overwhelmed by the honour of Mrs Pansey’s call.

“So you are weak in the back, are you?” said the visitor, in loud tones. “If you are, what right have you to marry and bring feeble children into the world?”

“Bell isn’t feeble,” said Mrs Mosk, weakly. “She’s a fine set-up gal.”

“Set-up and stuck-up,” retorted Mrs Pansey. “I tell you what, my good woman, you ought to be downstairs looking after her.”

“Lord! mum, there ain’t nothing wrong, I do devoutly hope.”

“Nothing as yet; but you shouldn’t have young gentlemen about the place.”

“I can’t help it, mum,” said Mrs Mosk, beginning to cry. “I’m sure we must earn our living somehow. This is an ‘otel, isn’t it? and Mosk’s a pop’lar character, ain’t he? I’m sure it’s hard enough to make ends meet as it is; we owe rent for half a year and can’t pay—and won’t pay,” wailed Mrs Mosk, “unless my ‘usband comes ‘ome on Skinflint.”

“Comes home on Skinflint, woman, what do you mean?”

“Skinflint’s a ‘orse, mum, as Mosk ‘ave put his shirt on.”

Mrs Pansey wagged her plumes and groaned. “I’m sadly afraid your husband is a son of perdition, Mrs Mosk. Put his shirt on Skinflint, indeed!”

“He’s a good man to me, anyhow,” cried Mrs Mosk, plucking up spirit.

“Drink and betting,” continued Mrs Pansey, pretending not to hear this feeble defiance. “What can we expect from a man who drinks and bets?”

“And associates with bad characters,” put in Cargrim, seizing his chance.

“That he don’t, sir,” said Mrs Mosk, with energy. “May I beg of you to put a name to one of ’em?”

“Jentham,” said the chaplain, softly. “Who is Jentham, Mrs Mosk?”

“I know no more nor a babe unborn, sir. He’s bin ‘ere two weeks, and I did see him twice afore my back got so bad as to force me to bed. But I don’t see why you calls him bad, sir. He pays his way.”

“Oh,” groaned Mrs Pansey, “is it the chief end of man to pay his way?”

“It is with us, mum,” retorted Mrs Mosk, meekly; “there ain’t no denying of it. And Mr Jentham do pay proper though he is a gipsy.”

“He’s a gipsy, is he?” said Cargrim, alertly.

“So he says, sir; and I knows as he goes sometimes to that camp of gipsies on Southberry Heath.”

“Where does he get his money from?”

“Better not inquire into that, Mr Cargrim,” said Mrs Pansey, with a sniff.

“Oh, Mr Jentham’s honest, I’m sure, mum. He’s bin at the gold diggin’s and ‘ave made a trifle of money. Indeed, I don’t know where he ain’t been, sir. The four pints of the compass is all plain sailing to ‘im; and his ‘airbreadth escapes is too h’awful. I shivers and shudders when I ‘ears ’em.”

“What is he doing here?”

“He’s on business; but I don’t know what kind. Oh, he knows ‘ow to ‘old ‘is tongue, does Jentham.”

“He is a gipsy, he consorts with gipsies, he has money, and no one knows where he comes from,” summed up Cargrim. “I think, Mrs Pansey, we may regard this man as a dangerous character.”

“I shouldn’t be surprised to hear he was an Anarchist,” said Mrs Pansey, who knew nothing about the man. “Well, Mrs Mosk, I hope we’ve cheered you up. I’ll go now. Read this tract,” bestowing a grimy little pamphlet, “and don’t see too much of Mr Pendle.”

“But he comforts me,” said poor Mrs Mosk; “he reads beautiful.”

Mrs Pansey grunted. Bold as she was she did not like to speak quite plainly to the woman, as too free speech might inculpate Gabriel and bring the bishop to the rescue. Besides, Mrs Pansey had no evidence to bring forward to prove that Gabriel was in love with Bell Mosk. Therefore she said nothing, but, like the mariner’s parrot, thought the more. Shaking out her dark skirts she rose to go, with another grunt full of unspoken suspicions.

“Good-day, Mrs Mosk,” said she, pausing at the door. “When you are low-spirited send for me to cheer you up.”

Mrs Mosk attempted a curtsey in bed, which was a failure owing to her sitting position; but Mrs Pansey did not see the attempt, as she was already half-way down the stairs, followed by Cargrim. The chaplain had learned a trifle more about the mysterious Jentham and was quite satisfied with his visit; but he was more puzzled than ever. A tramp, a gipsy, an adventurer—what had such a creature in common with Bishop Pendle? To Mr Cargrim’s eye the affair of the visit began to assume the proportions of a criminal case. But all the information he had gathered proved nothing, so it only remained to wait for the bishop’s return and see what discoveries he could make in that direction. If Jentham’s name was in the cheque-book the chaplain would be satisfied that there was an understanding between the pair; and then his next move would be to learn what the understanding was. When he discovered that, he had no doubt but that he would have Dr Pendle under his thumb, which would be a good thing for Mr Cargrim and an unpleasant position for the bishop.

Mrs Pansey stalked down to the bar, and seeing Bell therein, silently placed a little tract on the counter. No sooner had she left the house than Bell snatched up the tract, and rushing to the door flung it after the good lady.

“You need it more than I do,” she cried, and bounced into the house again.

It was with a quiver of rage that Mrs Pansey turned to the chaplain. She was almost past speech, but with some difficulty and much choking managed to convey her feelings in two words.

“The creature!” gasped Mrs Pansey, and shook her skirts as if to rid herself of some taint contracted at The Derby Winner.