en-es  THE BISHOP'S SECRET by FERGUS HUME - Chapter 34
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CHAPTER XXXIV - THE WAGES OF SIN.
While the wickedness and fate of Mosk were being discussed and settled in Inspector Tinkler's office, Bishop Pendle was meditating on a very important subject, important both to his domestic circle and to the wider claims of his exalted position. This was none other than a consideration of Gabriel's engagement to the hotelkeeper's daughter, and an argument with himself as to whether or no he should consent to so obvious a mésalliance. The bishop was essentially a fair dealer, and not the man to do things by halves, therefore it occurred to him that, as he had consented to George's marriage with Mab, he was bound in all honour to deliberate on the position of his youngest son with regard to Miss Mosk. To use a homely but forcible proverb, it was scarcely just to make beef of one and mutton of the other, the more especially as Gabriel had behaved extremely well in relation to his knowledge of his parents' painful position and his own nameless condition. Some sons so placed would have regarded themselves as absolved from all filial ties, but Gabriel, with true honour and true affection, never dreamed of acting in so heartless a manner; on the contrary, he clung the closer to his unhappy father, and gave him, as formerly, both obedience and filial love. Such honourable conduct, such tender kindness, deserved to be rewarded, and, as the bishop determined, rewarded it should be in the only way left to him.
Having arrived at this liberal conclusion, Dr Pendle decided to make himself personally known to Bell and see with his own eyes the reported beauty which had captivated Gabriel. Also, he wished to judge for himself as to the girl's clever mind and modesty and common sense, all of which natural gifts Gabriel had represented her as possessing in no ordinary degree. Therefore, on the very afternoon when trouble was brewing against Mosk in the Beorminster Police Office, the bishop of the See took his way to The Derby Winner. The sight of Dr Pendle in the narrow streets of the old town fluttered the slatternly dwellers therein not a little, and the majority of the women whisked indoors in mortal terror, lest they should be reproved ex cathedrâ for their untidy looks and unswept doorsteps. It was like the descent of an Olympian god, and awestruck mortals fled swift-footed from the glory of his presence. To use a vigorous American phrase, they made themselves scarce.
The good bishop was amused and rather amazed by this universal scattering, for it was his wish to be loved rather than feared. He was in a decidedly benign frame of mind, as on that very morning he had received a letter from his wife stating that she was coming home within a few days, much benefited by the Nauheim baths. This latter piece of intelligence particularly pleased the bishop, as he judged thereby that his wife would be better able to endure the news of her first husband's untimely re-appearance. Dr Pendle was anxious that she should know all at once, so that he could marry her again as speedily as possible, and thereby put an end to an uncomfortable and dangerous state of things. Thus reflecting and thus deciding, the bishop descended the stony street in his usual stately manner, and even patted the heads of one or two stray urchins, who smiled in his face with all the confidence of childhood. Afterwards, the mothers of those especial children were offensively proud at this episcopal blessing, and had 'words' with less fortunate mothers in consequence. Out of such slight events can dissensions arise.
As Dr Pendle neared The Derby Winner he was unlucky enough to encounter Mrs Pansey, who was that afternoon harassing the neighbourhood with one of her parochial visitations. She carried a black bag stuffed with bundles of badly-printed, badly-written tracts, and was distributing this dry fodder as food for Christian souls, along with a quantity of advice and reproof. The men swore, the women wept, the children scrambled out of the way when Mrs Pansey swooped down like a black vulture; and when the bishop chanced upon her he looked round as though he wished to follow the grateful example of the vanishing population. But Mrs Pansey gave him no chance. She blocked the way, spread out her hands to signify pleasure, and, without greeting the bishop, bellowed out in pretty loud tones, 'At last! at last! and not before you are needed, Dr Pendle.
'Am I needed?' asked the mystified bishop, mildly.
'The Derby Winner!' was all that Mrs Pansey vouchsafed in the way of an explanation, and cast a glance over her shoulder at the public-house.
'The Derby Winner,' repeated Dr Pendle, reddening, as he wondered if this busybody guessed his errand. 'I am now on my way there.
'I am glad to hear it, bishop!' said Mrs Pansey, with a toss of her plumed bonnet. 'How often have I asked you to personally examine into the drinking and gambling and loose pleasures which make it a Jericho of sin?
'Yes, yes, I remember you said something about it when you were at the palace.
'Said something about it, my lord; I said everything about it, but now that you will see it for yourself, I trust you will ask Sir Harry Brace to shut it up.
'Dear, dear!' said the bishop, nervously, 'that is an extreme measure.
'An extreme necessity, rather,' retorted Mrs Pansey, wagging an admonitory finger; 'do not compound with shameless sin, bishop. The house is a regular upas tree. It makes the men drunkards'—Mrs Pansey raised her voice so that the whole neighbourhood might hear—'the women sluts'—there was an angry murmur from the houses at this term—'and the children—the children—' Mrs Pansey seized a passing brat. 'Look at this—this image of the Creator,' and she offered the now weeping child as an illustration.
Before Dr Pendle could say a word, the door of a near house was flung violently open, and a blowzy, red-faced young woman pounced out, all on fire for a fight. She tore the small sinner from the grasp of Mrs Pansey, and began to scold vigorously. 'Ho indeed, mum! ho indeed! and would you be pleased to repeat what you're a-talkin' of behind ladies' backs.
'Mrs Trumbly! the bishop, woman!
'No more a woman than yourself, mum; and beggin' his lordship's parding, I 'opes as he'll tell widders as ain't bin mothers not to poke their stuck-up noses into what they knows nothing of.
By this time a crowd was collecting, and evinced lively signs of pleasure at the prospect of seeing the Bishop of Beorminster as umpire in a street row. But the bishop had heard quite enough of the affray, and without mincing matters fled as quickly as his dignity would permit towards the friendly shelter of The Derby Winner, leaving Mesdames Pansey and Trumbly in the thick of a wordy war. The first-named lady held her own for some considerable time, until routed by her antagonist's superior knowledge of Billingsgate. Then it appeared very plainly that for once she had met with her match, and she hastily abandoned the field, pursued by a storm of highly-coloured abuse from the irate Mrs Trumbly. It was many a long day before Mrs Pansey ventured into that neighbourhood again; and she ever afterwards referred to it in terms which a rigid Calvinist usually applies to Papal Rome. As for Mrs Trumbly herself, the archdeacon's widow said the whole Commination Service over her with heartfelt and prayerful earnestness.
Bell flushed and whitened, and stammered and trembled, when she beheld the imposing figure of the bishop standing in the dark, narrow passage. To her he was a far-removed deity throned upon inaccessible heights, awesome and powerful, to be propitiated with humbleness and prayer; and the mere sight of him in her immediate neighbourhood brought her heart into her mouth. For once she lost her nonchalant demeanour, her free and easy speech, and stood nervously silent before him with hanging head and reddened cheeks. Fortunately for her she was dressed that day in a quiet and well-fitting frock of blue serge, and wore less than her usual number of jingling brassy ornaments. The bishop, who had an eye for a comely figure and a pretty face, approved of her looks; but he was clever enough to see that, however painted and shaped, she was made of very common clay, and would never be able to take her place amongst the porcelain maidens to whom Gabriel was accustomed. Still she seemed modest and shy as a maid should be, and Dr Pendle looked on her kindly and encouragingly.
'You are Miss Mosk, are you not?' he asked, raising his hat.
'Yes, my—my lord,' faltered Bell, not daring to raise her eyes above the bishop's gaiters. 'I am Bell Mosk.
'In that case I should like some conversation with you. Can you take me to a more private place?
'The little parlour, my lord; this way, please,' and Bell, reassured by her visitor's kindly manner, conducted him into her father's private snuggery at the back of the bar. Here she placed a chair for the bishop, and waited anxiously to hear if he came to scold or praise. Dr Pendle came to the point at once.
'I presume you know who I am, Miss Mosk?' he said quietly.
'Oh, yes, sir; the Bishop of Beorminster.
'Quite so; but I am here less as the bishop than as Gabriel's father.
'Yes,' whispered Bell, and stole a frightened look at the speaker's face.
'There is no need to be alarmed,' said Dr Pendle, encouragingly. 'I do not come here to scold you.
'I hope not, my lord!' said Miss Mosk, recovering herself a trifle, 'as I have done nothing to be scolded for. If I am in love with Gabriel, and he with me, 'tis only human nature, and as such can't be run down.
'That entirely depends upon the point of view which is taken,' observed the bishop, mildly. 'For instance, I have a right to be annoyed that my son should engage himself to you without consulting me.
Bell produced a foolish little lace handkerchief. 'Of course, I know I ain't a lady, sir,' said she, tearfully. 'But I do love Gabriel, and I'm sure I'll do my best to make him happy.
'I do not doubt that, Miss Mosk; but are you sure that you are wise in marrying out of your sphere?
'King Cophetua loved a beggar maid, my lord; and the Lord of Burleigh married a village girl,' said Bell, who knew her Tennyson, 'and I'm sure I'm as good as both lots.
'Certainly,' assented the bishop, dryly; 'but if I remember rightly, the Lord of Burleigh's bride sank under her burden of honours.
Bell tossed her head in spite of the bishop's presence. 'Oh, she had no backbone, not a bit. I've got heaps more sense than she had. But you mustn't think I want to run after gentlemen, sir. I have had plenty of offers; and I can get more if I want to. Gabriel has only to say the word and the engagement is off.
'Indeed, I think that would be the wiser course,' replied the bishop, who wondered more and more what Gabriel could see in this commonplace beauty attractive to his refined nature, 'but I know that my son loves you dearly, and I wish to see him happy.
'I hope you don't think I want to make him miserable, sir,' cried Bell, her colour and temper rising.
'No! no! Miss Mosk. But a matter like this requires reflection and consideration.
'We have reflected, my lord. Gabriel and me's going to marry.
'Indeed! will you not ask my consent?
'I ask it now, sir! I'm sure,' said Bell, again becoming tearful, 'this ain't my idea of love-making, to be badgered into saying I'm not good enough for him. If he's a man let him marry me, if he's a worm he needn't. I've no call to go begging. No, indeed!
The bishop began to feel somewhat embarrassed, for Miss Mosk applied every word to herself in so personal a way, that whatever he said constituted a ground of offence, and he scarcely knew upon what lines to conduct so delicate a conversation. Also the girl was crying, and her tears made Dr Pendle fear that he was exercising his superiority in a brutal manner. Fortunately the conversation was brought abruptly to an end, for while the bishop was casting about how to resume it, the door opened softly and Mr Mosk presented himself.
'Father!' cried Bell, in anything but pleased tones.
'My gal!' replied Mosk, with husky tenderness—'and in tears. What 'ave you bin sayin' to her, sir?' he added, with a ferocious glance at Pendle.
'Hush, father! 'tis his lordship, the bishop.
'I know'd the bishop's looks afore you was born, my gal,' said Mosk, playfully, 'and it's proud I am to see 'im under m' umble roof. Lor'! 'ere's a 'appy family meeting.
'I think,' said the bishop, with a glance at Mosk to assure himself that the man was sober—'I think, Miss Mosk, that it is advisable your father and myself should have a few words in private.
'I don't want father to interfere—' began Bell, when her parent gripped her arm, and cutting her short with a scowl conducted her to the door.
'Don't you git m' back up,' he whispered savagely, 'or you'll be cussedly sorry for yerself an' everyone else. Go to yer mother.
'But, father, I—.
'Go to yer mother, I tell y',' growled the man, whereupon Bell, seeing that her father was in a soberly brutal state, which was much more dangerous than his usual drunken condition, hastily left the room, and closed the door after her. 'An' now, m' lord,' continued Mosk, returning to the bishop, 'jus' look at me.
Dr Pendle did so, but it was not a pretty object he contemplated, for the man was untidy, unwashed and frowsy in looks. He was red-eyed and white-faced, but perfectly sober, although there was every appearance about him of having only lately recovered from a prolonged debauch. Consequently his temper was morose and uncertain, and the bishop, having a respect for the dignity of his position and cloth, felt uneasy at the prospect of a quarrel with this degraded creature. But Dr Pendle's spirit was not one to fail him in such an emergency, and he surveyed Mr Caliban in a cool and leisurely manner.
'I'm a father, I am!' continued Mosk, defiantly, 'an' as good a father as you. My gal's goin' to marry your son. Now, m' lord, what have you to say to that?
'Moderate your tone, my man,' said the bishop, imperiously; 'a conversation conducted in this manner can hardly be productive of good results either to yourself or to your daughter.
'I don' mean any 'arm!' replied Mosk, rather cowed, 'but I mean to 'ave m' rights, I do.
'Your rights? What do you mean?
'M' rights as a father,' explained the man, sulkily. 'Your son's bin runnin' arter m' gal, and lowerin' of her good name.
'Hold your tongue, sir. Mr Pendle's intentions with regard to Miss Mosk are most honourable.
'They'd better be,' threatened the other, 'or I'll know how to make 'em so. Ah, that I shall.
'You talk idly, man,' said the bishop, coldly.
'I talk wot'll do, m' lord. Who's yer son, anyhow? My gal's as good as he, an' a sight better. She's born on the right side of the blanket, she is. There now!
A qualm as of deadly sickness seized Dr Pendle, and he started from his chair with a pale face and a startled eye.
'What do you—you—you mean, man?' he asked again.
Mosk laughed scornfully, and lugging a packet of papers out of his pocket flung it on the table. 'That's what I mean,' said he; 'certif'cate! letters! story! Yer wife ain't yer wife; Gabriel's only Gabriel an' not Pendle at all!
'Certificate! letters!' gasped the bishop, snatching them up. 'You got these from Jentham.
'That I did; he left them with me afore he went out to meet you.
'You—you murderer!
'Murderer! Halloa!' cried Mosk, recoiling, pale and startled.
'Murderer!' repeated Dr Pendle. 'Jentham showed these to me on the common; you must have taken them from his dead body. You are the man who shot him.
'It's a lie,' whispered Mosk, with pale lips, shrinking back, 'an' if I did, you daren't tell. I know your secret.
'Secret or not, you shall suffer for your crime,' cried the bishop, with a stride towards the door.
'Stand back! It's a lie! I'm desperate. I didn't kill—Hark!
There was a noise outside which terrified the guilty conscience of the murderer. He did not know that the officers of justice were at the door, nor did the bishop, but the unexpected sound turned their blood to water, and made their hearts, the innocent and the guilty, knock at their ribs. A sharp knock came at the door.
'Help!' cried the bishop. 'The murderer!' and he sprang forward to throw himself on the shaking, shambling wretch. Mosk eluded him, but uttered a squeaking cry like the shriek of a hunted hare in the jaws of the greyhound. The next instant the room seemed to swarm with men, and the bishop as in a dream heard the merciless formula of the law pronounced by Tinkler,—.
'In the name of the Queen I arrest you, William Mosk, on a charge of murder.
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CHAPTER XXXIV - THE WAGES OF SIN.
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To use a vigorous American phrase, they made themselves scarce.
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Out of such slight events can dissensions arise.
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But Mrs Pansey gave him no chance.
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at last!
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and not before you are needed, Dr Pendle.
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'Am I needed?'
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asked the mystified bishop, mildly.
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'The Derby Winner!'
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'I am now on my way there.
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'I am glad to hear it, bishop!'
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said Mrs Pansey, with a toss of her plumed bonnet.
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'Dear, dear!'
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said the bishop, nervously, 'that is an extreme measure.
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The house is a regular upas tree.
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'Ho indeed, mum!
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ho indeed!
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'Mrs Trumbly!
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the bishop, woman!
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'You are Miss Mosk, are you not?'
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he asked, raising his hat.
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'I am Bell Mosk.
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'In that case I should like some conversation with you.
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Can you take me to a more private place?
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Dr Pendle came to the point at once.
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'I presume you know who I am, Miss Mosk?'
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he said quietly.
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'Oh, yes, sir; the Bishop of Beorminster.
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'Quite so; but I am here less as the bishop than as Gabriel's father.
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'There is no need to be alarmed,' said Dr Pendle, encouragingly.
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'I do not come here to scold you.
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'I hope not, my lord!'
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Bell produced a foolish little lace handkerchief.
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'Of course, I know I ain't a lady, sir,' said she, tearfully.
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'But I do love Gabriel, and I'm sure I'll do my best to make him happy.
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Bell tossed her head in spite of the bishop's presence.
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'Oh, she had no backbone, not a bit.
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I've got heaps more sense than she had.
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But you mustn't think I want to run after gentlemen, sir.
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I have had plenty of offers; and I can get more if I want to.
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Gabriel has only to say the word and the engagement is off.
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'No!
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no!
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Miss Mosk.
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But a matter like this requires reflection and consideration.
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'We have reflected, my lord.
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Gabriel and me's going to marry.
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'Indeed!
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will you not ask my consent?
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'I ask it now, sir!
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If he's a man let him marry me, if he's a worm he needn't.
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I've no call to go begging.
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No, indeed!
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'Father!'
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cried Bell, in anything but pleased tones.
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'My gal!'
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replied Mosk, with husky tenderness—'and in tears.
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What 'ave you bin sayin' to her, sir?'
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he added, with a ferocious glance at Pendle.
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'Hush, father!
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'tis his lordship, the bishop.
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Lor'!
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'ere's a 'appy family meeting.
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Go to yer mother.
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'But, father, I—.
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'I'm a father, I am!'
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continued Mosk, defiantly, 'an' as good a father as you.
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My gal's goin' to marry your son.
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Now, m' lord, what have you to say to that?
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'I don' mean any 'arm!'
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replied Mosk, rather cowed, 'but I mean to 'ave m' rights, I do.
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'Your rights?
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What do you mean?
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'M' rights as a father,' explained the man, sulkily.
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'Your son's bin runnin' arter m' gal, and lowerin' of her good name.
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'Hold your tongue, sir.
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Mr Pendle's intentions with regard to Miss Mosk are most honourable.
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Ah, that I shall.
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'You talk idly, man,' said the bishop, coldly.
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'I talk wot'll do, m' lord.
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Who's yer son, anyhow?
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My gal's as good as he, an' a sight better.
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She's born on the right side of the blanket, she is.
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There now!
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'What do you—you—you mean, man?'
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he asked again.
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'That's what I mean,' said he; 'certif'cate!
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letters!
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story!
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Yer wife ain't yer wife; Gabriel's only Gabriel an' not Pendle at all!
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'Certificate!
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letters!'
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gasped the bishop, snatching them up.
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'You got these from Jentham.
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'That I did; he left them with me afore he went out to meet you.
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'You—you murderer!
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'Murderer!
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Halloa!'
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cried Mosk, recoiling, pale and startled.
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'Murderer!'
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repeated Dr Pendle.
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You are the man who shot him.
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I know your secret.
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'Stand back!
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It's a lie!
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I'm desperate.
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I didn't kill—Hark!
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A sharp knock came at the door.
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'Help!'
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cried the bishop.
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'The murderer!'
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and he sprang forward to throw himself on the shaking, shambling wretch.
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CHAPTER XXXIV - THE WAGES OF SIN.
While the wickedness and fate of Mosk were being discussed and settled in Inspector Tinkler's office, Bishop Pendle was meditating on a very important subject, important both to his domestic circle and to the wider claims of his exalted position. This was none other than a consideration of Gabriel's engagement to the hotelkeeper's daughter, and an argument with himself as to whether or no he should consent to so obvious a mésalliance. The bishop was essentially a fair dealer, and not the man to do things by halves, therefore it occurred to him that, as he had consented to George's marriage with Mab, he was bound in all honour to deliberate on the position of his youngest son with regard to Miss Mosk. To use a homely but forcible proverb, it was scarcely just to make beef of one and mutton of the other, the more especially as Gabriel had behaved extremely well in relation to his knowledge of his parents' painful position and his own nameless condition. Some sons so placed would have regarded themselves as absolved from all filial ties, but Gabriel, with true honour and true affection, never dreamed of acting in so heartless a manner; on the contrary, he clung the closer to his unhappy father, and gave him, as formerly, both obedience and filial love. Such honourable conduct, such tender kindness, deserved to be rewarded, and, as the bishop determined, rewarded it should be in the only way left to him.
Having arrived at this liberal conclusion, Dr Pendle decided to make himself personally known to Bell and see with his own eyes the reported beauty which had captivated Gabriel. Also, he wished to judge for himself as to the girl's clever mind and modesty and common sense, all of which natural gifts Gabriel had represented her as possessing in no ordinary degree. Therefore, on the very afternoon when trouble was brewing against Mosk in the Beorminster Police Office, the bishop of the See took his way to The Derby Winner. The sight of Dr Pendle in the narrow streets of the old town fluttered the slatternly dwellers therein not a little, and the majority of the women whisked indoors in mortal terror, lest they should be reproved ex cathedrâ for their untidy looks and unswept doorsteps. It was like the descent of an Olympian god, and awestruck mortals fled swift-footed from the glory of his presence. To use a vigorous American phrase, they made themselves scarce.
The good bishop was amused and rather amazed by this universal scattering, for it was his wish to be loved rather than feared. He was in a decidedly benign frame of mind, as on that very morning he had received a letter from his wife stating that she was coming home within a few days, much benefited by the Nauheim baths. This latter piece of intelligence particularly pleased the bishop, as he judged thereby that his wife would be better able to endure the news of her first husband's untimely re-appearance. Dr Pendle was anxious that she should know all at once, so that he could marry her again as speedily as possible, and thereby put an end to an uncomfortable and dangerous state of things. Thus reflecting and thus deciding, the bishop descended the stony street in his usual stately manner, and even patted the heads of one or two stray urchins, who smiled in his face with all the confidence of childhood. Afterwards, the mothers of those especial children were offensively proud at this episcopal blessing, and had 'words' with less fortunate mothers in consequence. Out of such slight events can dissensions arise.
As Dr Pendle neared The Derby Winner he was unlucky enough to encounter Mrs Pansey, who was that afternoon harassing the neighbourhood with one of her parochial visitations. She carried a black bag stuffed with bundles of badly-printed, badly-written tracts, and was distributing this dry fodder as food for Christian souls, along with a quantity of advice and reproof. The men swore, the women wept, the children scrambled out of the way when Mrs Pansey swooped down like a black vulture; and when the bishop chanced upon her he looked round as though he wished to follow the grateful example of the vanishing population. But Mrs Pansey gave him no chance. She blocked the way, spread out her hands to signify pleasure, and, without greeting the bishop, bellowed out in pretty loud tones, 'At last! at last! and not before you are needed, Dr Pendle.
'Am I needed?' asked the mystified bishop, mildly.
'The Derby Winner!' was all that Mrs Pansey vouchsafed in the way of an explanation, and cast a glance over her shoulder at the public-house.
'The Derby Winner,' repeated Dr Pendle, reddening, as he wondered if this busybody guessed his errand. 'I am now on my way there.
'I am glad to hear it, bishop!' said Mrs Pansey, with a toss of her plumed bonnet. 'How often have I asked you to personally examine into the drinking and gambling and loose pleasures which make it a Jericho of sin?
'Yes, yes, I remember you said something about it when you were at the palace.
'Said something about it, my lord; I said everything about it, but now that you will see it for yourself, I trust you will ask Sir Harry Brace to shut it up.
'Dear, dear!' said the bishop, nervously, 'that is an extreme measure.
'An extreme necessity, rather,' retorted Mrs Pansey, wagging an admonitory finger; 'do not compound with shameless sin, bishop. The house is a regular upas tree. It makes the men drunkards'—Mrs Pansey raised her voice so that the whole neighbourhood might hear—'the women sluts'—there was an angry murmur from the houses at this term—'and the children—the children—' Mrs Pansey seized a passing brat. 'Look at this—this image of the Creator,' and she offered the now weeping child as an illustration.
Before Dr Pendle could say a word, the door of a near house was flung violently open, and a blowzy, red-faced young woman pounced out, all on fire for a fight. She tore the small sinner from the grasp of Mrs Pansey, and began to scold vigorously. 'Ho indeed, mum! ho indeed! and would you be pleased to repeat what you're a-talkin' of behind ladies' backs.
'Mrs Trumbly! the bishop, woman!
'No more a woman than yourself, mum; and beggin' his lordship's parding, I 'opes as he'll tell widders as ain't bin mothers not to poke their stuck-up noses into what they knows nothing of.
By this time a crowd was collecting, and evinced lively signs of pleasure at the prospect of seeing the Bishop of Beorminster as umpire in a street row. But the bishop had heard quite enough of the affray, and without mincing matters fled as quickly as his dignity would permit towards the friendly shelter of The Derby Winner, leaving Mesdames Pansey and Trumbly in the thick of a wordy war. The first-named lady held her own for some considerable time, until routed by her antagonist's superior knowledge of Billingsgate. Then it appeared very plainly that for once she had met with her match, and she hastily abandoned the field, pursued by a storm of highly-coloured abuse from the irate Mrs Trumbly. It was many a long day before Mrs Pansey ventured into that neighbourhood again; and she ever afterwards referred to it in terms which a rigid Calvinist usually applies to Papal Rome. As for Mrs Trumbly herself, the archdeacon's widow said the whole Commination Service over her with heartfelt and prayerful earnestness.
Bell flushed and whitened, and stammered and trembled, when she beheld the imposing figure of the bishop standing in the dark, narrow passage. To her he was a far-removed deity throned upon inaccessible heights, awesome and powerful, to be propitiated with humbleness and prayer; and the mere sight of him in her immediate neighbourhood brought her heart into her mouth. For once she lost her nonchalant demeanour, her free and easy speech, and stood nervously silent before him with hanging head and reddened cheeks. Fortunately for her she was dressed that day in a quiet and well-fitting frock of blue serge, and wore less than her usual number of jingling brassy ornaments. The bishop, who had an eye for a comely figure and a pretty face, approved of her looks; but he was clever enough to see that, however painted and shaped, she was made of very common clay, and would never be able to take her place amongst the porcelain maidens to whom Gabriel was accustomed. Still she seemed modest and shy as a maid should be, and Dr Pendle looked on her kindly and encouragingly.
'You are Miss Mosk, are you not?' he asked, raising his hat.
'Yes, my—my lord,' faltered Bell, not daring to raise her eyes above the bishop's gaiters. 'I am Bell Mosk.
'In that case I should like some conversation with you. Can you take me to a more private place?
'The little parlour, my lord; this way, please,' and Bell, reassured by her visitor's kindly manner, conducted him into her father's private snuggery at the back of the bar. Here she placed a chair for the bishop, and waited anxiously to hear if he came to scold or praise. Dr Pendle came to the point at once.
'I presume you know who I am, Miss Mosk?' he said quietly.
'Oh, yes, sir; the Bishop of Beorminster.
'Quite so; but I am here less as the bishop than as Gabriel's father.
'Yes,' whispered Bell, and stole a frightened look at the speaker's face.
'There is no need to be alarmed,' said Dr Pendle, encouragingly. 'I do not come here to scold you.
'I hope not, my lord!' said Miss Mosk, recovering herself a trifle, 'as I have done nothing to be scolded for. If I am in love with Gabriel, and he with me, 'tis only human nature, and as such can't be run down.
'That entirely depends upon the point of view which is taken,' observed the bishop, mildly. 'For instance, I have a right to be annoyed that my son should engage himself to you without consulting me.
Bell produced a foolish little lace handkerchief. 'Of course, I know I ain't a lady, sir,' said she, tearfully. 'But I do love Gabriel, and I'm sure I'll do my best to make him happy.
'I do not doubt that, Miss Mosk; but are you sure that you are wise in marrying out of your sphere?
'King Cophetua loved a beggar maid, my lord; and the Lord of Burleigh married a village girl,' said Bell, who knew her Tennyson, 'and I'm sure I'm as good as both lots.
'Certainly,' assented the bishop, dryly; 'but if I remember rightly, the Lord of Burleigh's bride sank under her burden of honours.
Bell tossed her head in spite of the bishop's presence. 'Oh, she had no backbone, not a bit. I've got heaps more sense than she had. But you mustn't think I want to run after gentlemen, sir. I have had plenty of offers; and I can get more if I want to. Gabriel has only to say the word and the engagement is off.
'Indeed, I think that would be the wiser course,' replied the bishop, who wondered more and more what Gabriel could see in this commonplace beauty attractive to his refined nature, 'but I know that my son loves you dearly, and I wish to see him happy.
'I hope you don't think I want to make him miserable, sir,' cried Bell, her colour and temper rising.
'No! no! Miss Mosk. But a matter like this requires reflection and consideration.
'We have reflected, my lord. Gabriel and me's going to marry.
'Indeed! will you not ask my consent?
'I ask it now, sir! I'm sure,' said Bell, again becoming tearful, 'this ain't my idea of love-making, to be badgered into saying I'm not good enough for him. If he's a man let him marry me, if he's a worm he needn't. I've no call to go begging. No, indeed!
The bishop began to feel somewhat embarrassed, for Miss Mosk applied every word to herself in so personal a way, that whatever he said constituted a ground of offence, and he scarcely knew upon what lines to conduct so delicate a conversation. Also the girl was crying, and her tears made Dr Pendle fear that he was exercising his superiority in a brutal manner. Fortunately the conversation was brought abruptly to an end, for while the bishop was casting about how to resume it, the door opened softly and Mr Mosk presented himself.
'Father!' cried Bell, in anything but pleased tones.
'My gal!' replied Mosk, with husky tenderness—'and in tears. What 'ave you bin sayin' to her, sir?' he added, with a ferocious glance at Pendle.
'Hush, father! 'tis his lordship, the bishop.
'I know'd the bishop's looks afore you was born, my gal,' said Mosk, playfully, 'and it's proud I am to see 'im under m' umble roof. Lor'! 'ere's a 'appy family meeting.
'I think,' said the bishop, with a glance at Mosk to assure himself that the man was sober—'I think, Miss Mosk, that it is advisable your father and myself should have a few words in private.
'I don't want father to interfere—' began Bell, when her parent gripped her arm, and cutting her short with a scowl conducted her to the door.
'Don't you git m' back up,' he whispered savagely, 'or you'll be cussedly sorry for yerself an' everyone else. Go to yer mother.
'But, father, I—.
'Go to yer mother, I tell y',' growled the man, whereupon Bell, seeing that her father was in a soberly brutal state, which was much more dangerous than his usual drunken condition, hastily left the room, and closed the door after her. 'An' now, m' lord,' continued Mosk, returning to the bishop, 'jus' look at me.
Dr Pendle did so, but it was not a pretty object he contemplated, for the man was untidy, unwashed and frowsy in looks. He was red-eyed and white-faced, but perfectly sober, although there was every appearance about him of having only lately recovered from a prolonged debauch. Consequently his temper was morose and uncertain, and the bishop, having a respect for the dignity of his position and cloth, felt uneasy at the prospect of a quarrel with this degraded creature. But Dr Pendle's spirit was not one to fail him in such an emergency, and he surveyed Mr Caliban in a cool and leisurely manner.
'I'm a father, I am!' continued Mosk, defiantly, 'an' as good a father as you. My gal's goin' to marry your son. Now, m' lord, what have you to say to that?
'Moderate your tone, my man,' said the bishop, imperiously; 'a conversation conducted in this manner can hardly be productive of good results either to yourself or to your daughter.
'I don' mean any 'arm!' replied Mosk, rather cowed, 'but I mean to 'ave m' rights, I do.
'Your rights? What do you mean?
'M' rights as a father,' explained the man, sulkily. 'Your son's bin runnin' arter m' gal, and lowerin' of her good name.
'Hold your tongue, sir. Mr Pendle's intentions with regard to Miss Mosk are most honourable.
'They'd better be,' threatened the other, 'or I'll know how to make 'em so. Ah, that I shall.
'You talk idly, man,' said the bishop, coldly.
'I talk wot'll do, m' lord. Who's yer son, anyhow? My gal's as good as he, an' a sight better. She's born on the right side of the blanket, she is. There now!
A qualm as of deadly sickness seized Dr Pendle, and he started from his chair with a pale face and a startled eye.
'What do you—you—you mean, man?' he asked again.
Mosk laughed scornfully, and lugging a packet of papers out of his pocket flung it on the table. 'That's what I mean,' said he; 'certif'cate! letters! story! Yer wife ain't yer wife; Gabriel's only Gabriel an' not Pendle at all!
'Certificate! letters!' gasped the bishop, snatching them up. 'You got these from Jentham.
'That I did; he left them with me afore he went out to meet you.
'You—you murderer!
'Murderer! Halloa!' cried Mosk, recoiling, pale and startled.
'Murderer!' repeated Dr Pendle. 'Jentham showed these to me on the common; you must have taken them from his dead body. You are the man who shot him.
'It's a lie,' whispered Mosk, with pale lips, shrinking back, 'an' if I did, you daren't tell. I know your secret.
'Secret or not, you shall suffer for your crime,' cried the bishop, with a stride towards the door.
'Stand back! It's a lie! I'm desperate. I didn't kill—Hark!
There was a noise outside which terrified the guilty conscience of the murderer. He did not know that the officers of justice were at the door, nor did the bishop, but the unexpected sound turned their blood to water, and made their hearts, the innocent and the guilty, knock at their ribs. A sharp knock came at the door.
'Help!' cried the bishop. 'The murderer!' and he sprang forward to throw himself on the shaking, shambling wretch. Mosk eluded him, but uttered a squeaking cry like the shriek of a hunted hare in the jaws of the greyhound. The next instant the room seemed to swarm with men, and the bishop as in a dream heard the merciless formula of the law pronounced by Tinkler,—.
'In the name of the Queen I arrest you, William Mosk, on a charge of murder.