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absent look and manner, her eyes still fixed upon the questioner, as if she were looking through him to some one beyond. “It was a curious tale. One of the tenants was in difficulties, as often happened; and it was said that the young squire borrowed money to pay his own father, and get the bailiffs out of the poor man's house; and old Mr. Strafford had to pay it back again, after all. And he was so vexed, and got to such words, that it was said he called his son a thief, and I don't know what else, before all the servants, and threatened to have him sent to gaol for robbing him. The young squire could not stand that, and flung away out of the house, vowing that he would never enter it again. He called me a thief,' I heard him say to himself over and over again-'a thief-a thief,' he said, just so, only in a low voice. The poor young gentleman came here, to this lodge, and told me all about it, for I had known him since he was a baby, and had him in my arms many a time. 'A thief,' he said—me, his own flesh and
-' blood!' He could not get over it, and said he would go away and get a berth on board some ship or other, and work his passage out to Australia or somewheres. And he stayed here all that night, meaning to go away next morning. But that very night the old squire's ricks were burnt down, and nobody could tell who did it; but it was laid to the young squire's door, and the police came after him, and they said he would be tried for it and transported, and not even Mr. Strafford himself could beg him off, if they once got hold of him. And he went away out of this house in the dark, my husband going a bit of the way with him, and his last words was he should never come back to Langdale, never no more; and he never did. But, Hares, did you ever ?—did you ever ?”
“Of course it was not he that burnt the stacks ?” said Tom, in a firm tone, as if he knew all about it.
“Of course not,” the woman repeated; "but a good many
people thought it was at the time. But, oh! look at him, Hares-look at him! Did you ever ?”
Tom felt rather abashed at the woman's persistent appeal to her husband to look at him, and turned away from her own wondering gaze.
Mr. Ayers stared at his wife stolidly, as if she were gone out of her mind; and being quite at a loss to understand her, answered slowly that he did not know, he was sure.
Might I ask your name, young gentleman ?” the woman said.
Tom gave it to her.
And you never heard the name of Strafford before ? "No," said Tom; "and I should not mind if I were never to hear it again. Good-bye."
They shook hands with the keeper and his wife; the latter held Tom's hand in her own for some moments, gazing into his eyes the while, thoughtfully.
“ It is wonderful !” she murmured to herself, when he was gone—“wonderful !”
“What's wonderful ?” her husband asked, returning to the room, after he had seen the two boys depart.
“Wonderful what eyes some folk have!”
“ Yes," he said, “that boy, the oldest, has very singular eyes, to be sure—so bright, so lively, so rapid-like; I warrant he's as sharp as needles. And they flashed up so when you said something about his father.”
“Oh! you noticed that, did you? It was not his eyes that I was talking about, though. It was yours. I thought you hadn't observed anything. Now then, Hares, did he remind you of anybody?” “Anybody in particular, do you mean?"
“Yes, of course."
“Well, no; I can't say as he did," said the keeper, shaking his head; “I did not see no likeness to nobody-notsumdever."
Mrs. Ayers turned away with a disappointed look, repeating to herself the same words as before, “Didn't see no likeness ! What eyes some folk have, to be sure !"
A kind of old Hobgoblin hall,
the probability of having a squirrel or an adder, besides sundry other curiosities of natural history, to take back with them to Abbotscliff, when, just as they emerged from a copse where the footpath entered a turnip-field, they caught sight of a hare sitting upon her haunches, with her head raised and her ears erect, at no great distance from them. She had evidently been startled, not by their approach, but by some other intruder; for after listening for a moment she darted off at full speed, coming towards the spot where they were standing. She passed within a few yards of them, and Martin, who had a stick in his hand, yielding to the impulse of the moment, threw it at her with all his force. To his great surprise the missile took effect, striking the hare across her legs. The poor thing fell headlong, throwing a somersault, and lay upon the
ground apparently lifeless. Martin, with a feeling of great exultation, ran to the spot and caught hold of her. It was a leveret, and was bleeding at the mouth.
“I wish you had not hit her,” said Tom Howard. « What did you do it for ?”
“Everybody kills hares when they can,” Martin answered. "I never thought I should hit her though. I shall take it home and stuff it. What a weight it is !” “The hare is not yours," said Tom. Don't
know that it is poaching to kill a hare on another person's ground ? The kecper would be very angry if he knew it. You had better take it to him.”
"Why? To make him angry? I'll take it home to my father, and he can do as he thinks proper about it. I don't believe it is dead. I'll try and make it well and tame it. Cowper the poet had a tame hare which followed him about like a dog. Come along, make haste.”
Cradling the poor creature in his arms as tenderly as if it had been an infant, Martin ran on as quickly as he could, and Tom followed him reluctantly and slowly. The latter had gone but a few paces when he heard a heavy footstep behind him, and before he could turn his head, the collar of his coat was grasped by a large firm hand, and a husky voice exclaimed, “So then, I've got one of you at all events.
I'll keep you safe till I catch the other. You shall answer for this, both of
The speaker was an old man, a very old man apparently, but active and vigorous for his age. He wore an old suit of dark broadcloth, with an old high-crowned or chimney-pot hat upon his head. His boots were old, with many patches, and his gaiters ragged and torn at the botton-holes. Round his neck he had a white neckcloth free from starch, with many folds and creases, and through his half-unbuttoned waistcoat the ample cambric frill of an old-fashioned shirt, worn into many little holes, was visible. Everything that he wore looked old, and his form and features were in perfect keeping with his apparel. The skin upon his hands was white and loose; his figure was tall and thin, with an habitual stoop of the shoulders, which was made more conspicuous by the forward inclination of his head; his hair was white and scanty, and his forehead and cheeks wrinkled and bloodless in appearance. Yet he walked
. with a firm step, leading his prisoner along at a smart pace, regardless of his efforts to escape, and holding him fast in his clutch.
“Let me go!” cried Tom, indignantly, panting and striving with all his force to unclasp the bony fingers, which pressed their knuckles painfully against his throat.
“Not I," was the answer. “You shall come with me before a magistrate, and that other young fellow, too, whoever he is. He is gone off with my hare; he was too quick for me, but I'll find out who he is. I'll send after him and have him back."
“You need not hold me in that way," said Tom. "I am not going to run away. I'm not afraid of you, you old scarecrow. Swallow was not running away from you; you need not think so. He would have stopped if he had seen you.” Tom was in a great rage by this time, and had forgotten the respect due to grey hairs, evidently.
Mr. Strafford, for he it was, gave his prisoner a shake at the word "scarecrow," and continued to haul him along without looking at him.
“Let me go, I say," cried Tom, after another useless struggle. "Take your hands off. I'm not a thief.” •
"An't you?" said the squire.
“No," said Tom, “I'm not. Let me go, I say; I won't be pulled along in this way. If you were not such an old man I'd -I'd kick you."