Read CHAPTER VII - STEADFAST SAMUEL of The Torch and Other Tales, free online book, by Eden Phillpotts, on ReadCentral.com.

Samuel Borlase was one of them rare childer who see his calling fixed in his little mind from cradlehood. We all know that small boys have big ideas and that they fasten on the business of grown-up people and decide, each according to his fancy, how he be going to help the world’s work come he grows up. This child hopes to be a chimney-sweep, and this longs to be a railway-porter; scores trust to follow the sea and dozens wish for to be a soldier, or a ’bus-conductor, a gardener, or a road-cleaner, as the ambition takes ’em. My own grandson much desired to clean the roads, because, as he pointed out, the men ordained for that job do little but play about and smoke and spit and watch the traffic and pass the time of day with one another. He also learned that they got three pounds a week of public money for their fun, and half-holidays of a Saturday, so to his youthful mind it seemed a likely calling.

But most often the ambitions of the human boys be like to change if their parents get much luck in the world, so when you see a steadfast creature, like Samuel Borlase, answer the call in his heart almost so soon as he can walk and talk, you feel the rare event worth setting down.

When he was four year old (at any rate, so his mother will take her oath upon) Sam said he’d be a policeman, and at twenty-four year old a policeman he became. What’s more, chance ordained that he should follow his high calling in the village where he was born, and though the general opinion is that a lad, who goes into the civil forces, be like to perform better away from his surroundings, where he was just a common object of the countryside with none of the dignities of the law attaching to him, yet in this case it fell out otherwise and Borlase left home to become a policeman and in due course returned, the finished article.

Naturally with such a history behind him and the ambition of a lifetime to fall back upon, the authorities found no difficulty with Samuel, because he had a policeman’s mind and a policeman’s bearing and outlook upon life from his youth up. He thought like a policeman about the mysteries of existence; he regarded his neighbours with a policeman’s inquiring eyes, because a policeman has a particular glance, as you’ll find if you have much to do with ’em; and he moved like a policeman with the might and majesty of law and order ever before his eyes.

He confessed in later time that he pushed his great theories of perfection rather hard in his earlier years; and he came back to his native village of Thorpe-Michael full of high intentions to lift the place higher than where it already stood. He had an unyielding habit of tidiness and hated to see children playing in a road; and he hated worse to see a motor-car come faster round a corner than it did ought; or any sign of unsteady steps in a man or woman, who’d stopped too long at the ‘Queen Anne’ public-house, or anything like that. He weren’t what you might call an amusing man and he hadn’t yet reached the stage to make allowances and keep his weather eye shut when the occasion demanded it; but these high branches of understanding was likely to develop in time, and Inspector Chowne, who ruled over him when these things fell out, always held of Samuel Borlase that the material was there and the man hadn’t took up his calling without promising gifts to justify it.

“I’d sooner see him fussy than careless,” said Chowne, “because life cures a chap of being fussy, if he’s got a brain and a sensible outlook; but the careless and slack sort go from bad to worse, and I ain’t here to keep my constables in order: they be here to strengthen my hands and keep the rest of the people in order.”

He didn’t judge as Samuel would ever rise to the top of the tree, any more than what he’d done himself; for Chowne was one who had long lost illusions as to a leading place. He’d made a woeful mess of the only murder case that ever happened to him, and he well knew that anything like great gifts were denied him. But he saw in Samuel such another as himself and judged that Borlase was born to do his duty in the place to which he had been called, and would run his course and take his pension without any of the fierce light of fame.

Of course, Samuel had his likes and dislikes, and he knew which of the community might be counted to uphold him and which might prove a thorn in his side. In fact he was acquaint with most everybody, and as happens in every village, where there’s game preserves and such-like, the doubtful characters were there; and Thorpe-Michael chancing to lie up a creek near the port of Dartmouth, there was river-rats also said to do a little in a mild way at smuggling from the Channel Islands a business long sunk from its old fame. Yet the grandsons of vanished ‘free-trade’ grandfathers were thought to carry on a bit when chance offered.

It was a subject about which there were two opinions, and Billy Forde and others vowed most certain that the law was far too strong to allow of any free-trading nowadays; but, just because Billy and his friends were so sure, the policeman mind of Sam Borlase suspected ’em. He judged it suited Billy’s convenience to declare that no such things happened, the more so because Mr. Forde’s own father was well known to have broke a preventive officer’s arm in his youth and done time for the same.

But a man by the name of Chawner Green it was that caused Samuel the greatest mistrust. He had nought to do with the creek, but lived in his own cottage, a mile out of Thorpe-Michael; and the keepers at the big place by name of Trusham, hard by, declared that Mr. Green was a fearsome poacher and hated the sight of the little man, though never had they catched him red-handed, nor been able to fetch up legal proofs against him.

There was a bit of a complication with Chawner Green, because Inspector Chowne happened to be related to him by marriage. In fact, Chawner had married the Inspector’s sister five-and-twenty years before, and though Mrs. Green was long since dead, the Inspector never quarrelled with his brother-in-law and regarded him as a man who had got a worse name in the parish than he deserved. So there it was: the keepers at Trusham always felt that Chowne stood against ’em in their valiant endeavours to catch out Chawner; while the officer took his stand on the letter of the law and said that he held the balance of justice as became him, but weren’t going to believe no tales nor set the law in motion against Mr. Green until the proofs stood before him.

It chanced that the under-keeper at Trusham was but three year older than Samuel Borlase himself and a lifelong friend, so Samuel got influenced and came to view Chawner Green very unfavourable. He found himself in rather a delicate position then, but his simple rule was to do what he thought his duty. To look at, Samuel was a big, hard man, rather on the lean side, with a blue chin and a blue eye, which don’t often go together. His brow was a bit low and his brain didn’t move far out of his appointed task; but a country policeman has a lot of time on his hands, and upon his long country beats, while his eyes surveyed the scene, Sam’s intellects would turn over affairs and, no doubt, arrive at conclusions about ’em. And his conclusion about Chawner Green was that he must be a devious bird, else he wouldn’t be so idle. For Samuel held that a chap of five-and-fifty, and hard as a nut, which Chawner Green was known to be, did ought to do honest work an occupation never connected in the public mind with Mr. Green.

There’d been a wedding a bit back along and Chawner’s daughter had married a respectable shopkeeper at a neighbouring town; and Samuel Borlase reflected rather gloomily that the small shopkeeper was a fish and poultry merchant also a seller of game. To his policeman’s mind there was a lot more in that than met the eye; and no doubt the born policeman do see a lot more in everything than what us everyday people may remark. Then, on a lonely beat, one autumn day to the north side of Trusham, there came, like a bolt from the blue, the great event of Sammy’s life, not only from a professional standpoint, but also an affair that led to far higher things in the shape of a female.

There was a bit of rough, open land there that gave from the covert edge, with scattered brake-fern and a stream in the midst and a lot of blackthorn scrub round about. A noted place for a woodcock, also a snipe, and a spot from which trespassers were warned very careful. So Samuel took a look over to see that all was quiet, and there, in the midst, he marked a big girl struggling with a sloe-bush! But, quick though he was, she’d seen him first, and before he could call out and order her back to the road and take her name, she cried out to him:

“Will ’e lend me a hand, Mister Policeman, if you please? I be catched in thicky sloan tree.”

So Borlase went to her aid and he found a basket half full of amazing sloes and a maiden the like of which he never had found afore. A tall piece with flaxen hair and a face so lovely as a picture. Her eyes were bluer than Samuel’s and twice so large, and she had a nose a bit tip-tilted and a wonderful mouth, red as a rose and drawn down to the corners in a very fascinating manner. She was sturdy and well rounded, and looked to be a tidy strong girl, and her voice struck the policeman as about the most beautiful sound as he’d heard out of human lips. He saw in half a shake as she weren’t in no trouble really, but had just challenged to take the wind out of his sails; and when she’d got free of the thorns, she thanked him with such a lot of gratitude for rescuing of her that ’twas all he could do to keep his face. A lovely thing sure enough; and such is the power of beauty that Samuel felt a caution might be sufficient. He was out to fright her, however, and he was terrible interested also, because he’d never seen the maid before and felt a good bit thunderstruck by such a wonder. She disarmed his curiosity without much trouble, and the truth decided him to do no more; because he found she had a way to her that made him powerless as a goose-chick.

“Didn’t you see the board?” he asked; and she assured him that she had not.

“I’m a stranger in these parts as yet,” she said, “and I was by here yesterday and marked these wonderful sloan, so I came to-day with a basket, because my father’s very fond of sloe gin, you understand, and I’m going to make him some, if you’ll be so kind as to let me keep the berries. I much hope you’ll do so, please young man, and I give you my word solemn and faithful never to come here no more.”

Their blue eyes met and ’twas Samuel’s that looked down first.

“Who might your father be?” he asked.

“Mr. Chawner Green,” she answered. “’Tis this way with us, you see. My sister, that kept house for him, have just married, and so now I be come to take care of father.”

“He can take care of himself by all accounts,” answered Samuel, but in quite an amiable tone of voice, because the girl’s magic was already working upon him.

“Can he?” she said. “I never heard of no man that can take care of himself. Can you? Anyway, my father can’t. He’s as helpless as most other men be without a woman to mind ’em. And I love to be here. I was in service, but this is a lot better than service, and Thorpe-Michael’s a dear little place, don’t you think?”

Samuel didn’t say what he thought of Thorpe-Michael. He’d got a powerful feeling in him that he wanted to know her name, and he asked her to tell him.

“You ain’t going to put it down in your policeman’s book, are you?” she said. “Because I sinned in ignorance and it would be very ill-convenient if I got in trouble with the police afore I’d been here a fortnight.”

“You’ll never get in trouble with the police,” explained Samuel. “In the first place, Inspector Chowne is related to your father.”

“He’s my uncle,” she answered, “and a dear man.”

“And he’s a tower of strength,” continued Samuel, “and, as for getting in trouble with me, that I can promise you you never will do if you behave.”

She looked up at him under her eyelids and felt a flutter at her heart-strings, for if ever there was a case of love at first sight it happened when Chawner Green’s younger daughter was catched in the sloan bushes by Sam Borlase. If he liked her voice, she liked his, and if he admired her nice shoulders, she was equally pleased with his great broad ones. Just the old craft of nature once more, as happens at every time in the year and turns all seasons into spring.

“I’m called Cicely,” she said “‘Sis’ for shortness. And what be you called?”

“My name’s Samuel Borlase,” he answered, and she nodded.

“I’ll remember,” she said.

In five minutes they were walking side by side to her home, which lay along the policeman’s beat; and he carried her basket and talked about local affairs.

He was a bit shaken, however, to know she belonged to Chawner, and wished with all his heart that she had not.

Mr. Green was in his garden when they came along and he struck a tragical attitude and poked fun at ’em, for no man loved a joke better than what he did.

“Already!” he cried. “Have she fallen into evil already, Borlase? Be the sins of the fathers visited on the childer so soon?”

But the girl hastened to explain.

“He’s been merciful, dad,” she explained. “Mr. Borlase catched me stealing sloe berries for your sloe gin; but I didn’t know I was stealing, you see, for I thought they were free, so he’s forgived me and I ban’t to hear no more of it this time.”

“Then he can come in and have a drop of the last brew,” declared Chawner; “but just look round afore he enters and see as no fur nor feathers be about in the house-place to fret him.”

Samuel, however, with all his virtues, weren’t much a man for a joke, and at another time this speech would have earned a rebuke from him in the name of law and order. But afore Cicely, and in sound of her voice, he felt amazed to find law and order sink into the background for a minute, though for a minute only, of course.

He explained he was on duty and mustn’t have no refreshment just then; but such is the power of passion that he loitered a full sixty seconds after he’d set down Cicely’s basket.

“You come in and taste my sloe gin another day, then,” said Green, who knew Samuel was in the other camp with the gamekeepers and liked the thought of pulling his leg; but the surprise was Chawner’s then, for instead of a short answer, Samuel thanked him as mild as milk, vowed that to his way of thinking sloe gin couldn’t be beat and said he’d certainly accept the invitation and come for a drop. Nor did he leave it doubtful when he would come. He acted very crafty indeed and invited Chawner to name the time and hour; on hearing which the girl showed so much interest as he did himself and fixed the time and hour for him.

“Fetch in to tea o’ Sunday, Mr. Borlase,” she said. “I make father put on his black ‘Sundays’ of an afternoon, and I’ll see he’s to home.”

Then Sam went his way, and when he was gone Cicely praised him for a very understanding chap.

“The sloan in them thickets be a joy,” she said, “and if you’ll buy the gin, I’ll get the fruit. And I dare say he’ll catch me there again come presently. He’s a handsome fellow, whatever else he may be.”

So it began that way, and then the majesty of love got hold upon ’em and enlarged both their minds as it be wont to do. For there’s nothing further from the truth than the saying that love makes a man, or a woman, a fool.

Anyway, Samuel come to tea, and he ate a big one and drank two glasses of the sloe gin after; and when he went away, he knew he loved Cicely Green better than anything in the world, and she knew she loved him. But while the man went home and confessed his secret to his mother, a good bit to her astonishment, the girl hid her heart from her father and only showed it in her eyes when she was all alone. The signs amazed her, for she had never loved before, and when she found as she couldn’t trespass for no more sloes after all, it broke in upon her that she must already be terrible addicted to Samuel. Because to obey any such order from an ordinary policeman would have been difficult to her nature.

Of course, Chawner very soon found it out and was a good bit amused and a thought vexed also, since he counted on a year at least of Cicely’s company, though well knowing such a lovely young woman weren’t going to devote herself to his middle-aged convenience for ever. He inquired concerning Samuel Borlase, and Inspector Chowne gave it as his opinion that the material was there, but explained that Sam stood all untried as yet and his value still doubtful.

And meantime Cicely took tea along with Samuel’s mother and his old aunt, who lived with them, and told her father they were dear old people and a very nice and interesting pair indeed; because if you’re in love, the belongings of the charmer always seem quite all right at first and worthy of all praise.

In fact, Sam and Cicely lived for each other, as the saying is, afore six weeks were spent, and on Christmas Day, being off duty at the time, the policeman took an afternoon walk with Cicely Green and asked her to marry him.

“You know me,” he said, “and very like a common constable lies far beneath your views, as well he may; but there it is: I love you, to the soles of my feet, and if, by a miracle of wonder, you was to think I could win you, I’d slave to do so for evermore, my dinky dear.”

“’Tis no odds you’re a policeman,” she said. “You’ve got to be something. And you very well know I love you, and life’s properly empty when you ain’t with me. There’s nought else in the world that matters to me but only you.”

With that the man swallowed her in his great arms and took his first kiss off her. In fact, the world went very well for ’em, till they stood afore Chawner, who demanded time. Indeed, he appeared to be a good bit vexed about it.

“Dash my wig!” he said, “who be you, you hulking bobby, to come upsetting my family arrangements and knocking my well-laid plans on the head in this fashion? Sis came here to look after me, didn’t she, not to look after you. And ’tis all moonshine in my opinion, and I doubt if you know your own minds, for that’s a thing this generation of youth never is known to do. And, be it as it will, time must pass oceans of time afore I can figure all this out and say whether ’tis to be, or whether it ain’t.”

They expected something like that, and Cicely had a plan.

“If Sam was to come and live along with you, father,” she said, “then I shouldn’t leave you at all and we would go on nice and comfortable together.”

“For you, yes,” said Chawner, winking his eye. “But what about me? I don’t intend to neighbour so close as all that with a policeman, I do assure you, my fine dear. And so us’ll watch and wait, and see if Samuel Borlase have got that fine quality of patience so needful to his calling also what sort of hold he can show me on the savings bank, and so on.”

Then he turned to the young man.

“I know nought against you, Samuel,” he said, “but I know nothing for you neither. So it will be a very clever action if we just go on as we’re going and see what life looks like a good year hence.”

More than that Chawner wouldn’t say; but he recognised they should walk out together and unfold their feelings, and he promised that in a year’s time he’d decide whether Samuel was up to the mark for his girl.

He was a good bit of a puzzle to Borlase, but the younger, in justice, couldn’t quarrel with the verdict, and he only hoped that Cicely wouldn’t change her mind in such a parlous long time; for a year to the eye of love be a century.

Well, as elders in such a pass will do, Chawner took careful stock of Sam, and the more he gleaned of the young man’s opinions the better he liked him. Old Green was tolerable shrewd, and along with a passion for natural history and its wonders, he didn’t leave human nature out of account. He was going on with his own life very clever, unknown to all but one person, and among his varied interests was a boy-like love of practical joking. But among his occupations the story of Samuel Borlase came first for a bit, and he both talked and listened to the young fellow and was a good bit amused on the quiet to find Samuel didn’t hold by no means such a high opinion of him as he began to feel for the policeman.

Of course, Cicely was always there to help his judgment; but though the natural instinct of the parent is to misdoubt a child’s opinions generally with tolerable good reason it happened in this case that love lit the girl’s mind to good purpose. She’d laugh with her father sometimes, that Sam hadn’t no dazzling sense of fun himself, and it entertained her a lot to see Sam plodding in his mind after her nimble-witted father and trying in vain to see a joke. But what delighted her most was Sam’s own dark forebodings about Mr. Green’s manner of life, and his high-minded hopes that some day, come he was Chawner’s son-in-law, he would save the elder man’s soul alive. That always delighted Cicely above everything, and she’d pull a long face and sigh and share Samuel’s fine ambitions, and hope how, between them in the future, they’d make her father a better member of society than the Trusham gamekeepers thought he was.

Not that Borlase could honestly say the marks of infamy came out in Mr. Green’s view of life. He showed a wonderful knowledge of wild birds and beasts and plants even, and abounded in rich tales of poaching adventures, though he never told ’em as being in his own personal experience. He declared no quarrel with the law himself, but steadfastly upheld it on principle. At the same time a joke was a joke, and if a joke turned on breaking the game laws, or hoodwinking them appointed to uphold right and justice, Chawner would tell the joke and derive a good deal of satisfaction from Sam’s attitude thereto.

So time passed and near a year was spent, but Chawner dallied to say the word and let ’em wed; and the crash came on a night in October, when the policeman suddenly found himself called to night duty by Inspector Chowne. ’Twas a beat along the Trusham covers, and a constable had gone ill, and the gamekeepers were yowling about the poachers as usual, instead of catching ’em. So Samuel went his way and looked sharp out for any untoward sign of his fellow-man, or any unlawful sound from the dark woods, where Trusham pheasants harboured of a night. He was full of his own thoughts too, for he wanted cruel to be married, and so did Cicely, and the puzzle was to get Mr. Green to consent without a rumpus.

Nought but a pair of owls hollering to each other did Samuel hear for a good bit. The moon was so bright as day, for the hunter’s moon it happed to be at full, and all was silence and peace, with silver light on the falling leaves and great darkness in spruce and evergreen undergrowth. ’Twas at a gate that Sam suddenly heard a suspicious sound and stood stock-still. Footsteps he thought he heard ’tother side of a low broken hedge, where birches grew and the gate opened into a rutted cart-track through the woods. The sound was made by no wild creature, pattering four-foot, but the quick tramp of a man, and when Sam stood still the sound ceased, and when he went forward he reckoned it began again. There was certainly an evil-doer on the covert side of the hedge, and Borlase practised guile and pretended as he’d heard nothing and tramped slowly forward on his way. But he kept his eyes over his shoulder and, after he’d gone fifty yards, stepped into the water-table, as ran on the south side of the beat, and crept back under the darkness of the hedge so wily as a hunting weasel. Back he came as cautious as need be, and for a big and heavy chap he was very clever, and the only noise he made was his breathing. He got abreast of the gate, still hid in night-black shadows, and then he heard the muffled footfall again and a moment later a man sneaked out of the gate with a gun in one hand and a pheasant in the other. Sam licked his hands and drew his truncheon, and then the moon shone on the face before him and the light of battle died out of his eyes. For there was Chawner Green, with a fur cap made of a weasel skin drawed down over his head and the moonshine leaving no doubt as to his identity.

Chawner stood a moment and peeped down the road to see if the policeman was gone on his way. Then out strode Samuel and the elder man used a crooked word and stared upon him and dropped his pheasant in the road. He turned as to fly but ’twas too late, for Sam’s leg-of-mutton hand was on his neckerchief and Mr. Green found hisself brought to book at last.

And then Samuel saw a side of Chawner’s character as cast him down a lot, for the man put up a mighty fight not with fists, because he was a bit undersized and the policeman could have put him in his pocket if need was; but with his tongue. He pleaded most forcibly for freedom, and when he found his captor was dead to any sporting appeal, he grew personal and young Borlase soon found that he was up against it.

At first Chawner roared with laughter.

“By the holy smoke,” he said, “I’m in luck, Sam! I thought ’twas Billy King had catched me, and then I’d have been in a tight place, for Billy’s no friend of mine; but you be a different pair of shoes, thank the Lord! Take your hand off, there’s a bright lad, and let me pick up my bird.”

“I’m cruel sorry for this cruel sorry,” began Samuel in great dismay. “I’d rather have any misfortune fall to my lot than have took you, Mr. Green.”

“Then your simplest course will be to forget you have done so,” answered the older man. “You go your way and I’ll go mine. Your job’s on the road, so you stop on it, Sammy, and if they busy chaps pop along, you can say you’ve heard nought moving but the owlets.”

“Duty’s duty,” replied Sam. “You must come along with me, I guess. Give me your air-gun, please, and pick up thicky bird.”

Green thought a moment, then he handed over the gun and picked up the pheasant and began on Borlase most forcible. He pleaded their future relationship, the disgrace, the slur on his character and the shame to his girl; and Samuel listened very patient and granted ’twas a melancholy and most misfortunate affair; but he didn’t see no way out for either of ’em.

“Duty’s duty,” he kept saying in his big voice, like a bell tolling.

And then Chawner changed his note and grew a bit vicious.

“So be it, Borlase,” he said. “If you’re that sort of fool, I’ll go along with you this instant moment to the police-station; but mark this: so sure as a key’s turned on me this night, by yonder hunter’s moon I swear as you shan’t marry Cicely. That’s so sure as I stand here, your captive. If there’s a conviction against me, you’ll whistle for that woman, and God’s my judge I’m telling truth.”

Well, Samuel weren’t so put about at that as the other apparently expected to find him. He well knew the size of Cicely’s love for him, and he’d heard her praise his straightness a thousand times. ’Twas true enough she set great store on her father; but love’s love, and Sam was quite smart enough to know that love for a parent goes down the wind afore love for a lover. He looked forward, therefore, and weren’t shook of his purpose by no threats.

“That’s as may be,” he said, “and you’ve no right, nor yet reason, to speak for her. She loves me as never a woman loved a man, and if she saw me put my love afore my duty, I’ll tell you what she’d say she’d say she’d been mistook in me.”

“And don’t she love me, you pudding-faced fool!” cried Chawner. “Don’t she set her father higher than a man she hasn’t known a year? Be fair to yourself, Borlase, or else you’ll lose the hope of your life. My honour’s her honour and my reputation is her reputation. She thinks the world of me and she’s a terrible proud woman; and you can take it from me so sure as death that shell hold my side against you and cast you off if you do this fatal thing.”

Samuel chewed over that a minute; but he decided as he didn’t believe a word of it.

“We haven’t kept company in vain for ten months and four days, Chawner Green,” he said. “I mean me and your girl. She’s the soul of upright dealing, and if you was a better man, you’d know it so well as I do.”

“She may be,” said the other, “but she’ll honour her father’s name afore she’ll see him in your hands. She’ll think the same as I do about this night’s work, and dare you to lay a finger on me if ever you want to look in her face again.”

They argued over that a bit and Chawner cussed and swore, because he said the keepers would be on to ’em in half a minute and all lost.

And then he got another idea and challenged Samuel for the last time.

“List to this,” he said. “Cicely will be sitting up, though it have gone midnight. She knows I’m out on my occasions lawful or otherwise and she’ll be there with a bit of hot supper against my return. We pass the door. And if you’re still mad enough to hold out against me, you can hear her tell about it with your own ears and see if you are more to her than what I am. She’ll hate your shadow when she hears tell of this.”

And Samuel, though his mind was in a pretty state by now, agreed to it. Chawner’s confidence shook him a bit, for he wasn’t a vain man; and yet he saw pretty clear that Cicely would be called to decide betwixt father and lover in any case, and felt the sooner the ordeal was over the better for all concerned. They went their way and never a word more would Borlase answer, though Green kept at him like a running brook to change his mind and act like a sensible man and not let a piece of folly spoil his own life. But he bided dumb until they reached the home of the Greens; and there stood Cicely at the gate with the moon throwing its light upon her and making her lint-white locks like snow.

“Powers in Heaven!” cried Cicely. “What be this, father?”

And her parent made haste to tell her, while Sam stood mute. But when she heard all, the maiden made it exceeding clear how she felt on the subject and turned upon Borlase very short and sharp.

“Let’s have enough of this nonsense, Sam,” she said, “You know me and I know you. You be more to me than ever I thought a living man could be, and I love the ground under your feet, and I be your life also, unless you’re a liar. So that’s that. But a father’s a father, and because my father is more to me, after you, than all the world together, I’ll ask you please to drop this tragedy-acting and go about your business and let him come in the house. Give me that gun and get to your work, and kiss me afore you go.”

She stretched out her hand for the gun, but he wouldn’t part with it. He stared upon her and the sweat stood in beads all over his big face.

“This be a night of doom seemingly, and I little thought you’d ever beg for anything I could give as would be denied, Sis,” he said; “but you be called to see this with my eyes. I’ve had the cruel misfortune to catch Mr. Green doing evil, and well he knowed he was; and duty’s duty, so he must come along with me. And if you know me, as well as you do know me, you know there’s nought else possible for me now.”

She lifted her voice for her father, however, and strove to show him what a pitiful small thing it was.

“What stuff are you made of, my dear man?” cried Cicely. “Be a wretched bird that nobody owns, and may have flown to Trusham from the other side of the country, going to make you outrage my father and disgrace his family? I could be cross if I didn’t reckon you was in a waking dream.”

She ran on, but he stopped her, for he knew his number was up by now and didn’t see no use in piling up no more agony for any of ’em.

“Listen!” he shouted out, so as the woods over against ’em echoed with the roar of his big voice. “Listen to me, the pair of you, and be done. I can’t hear no more, because there’s higher things on earth than love of woman. I’m paid I’m paid the nation’s money, you understand, to do my duty. I’m paid my wages by the State, and I’ve made an oath afore God Almighty to do what I’ve undertaken to do to the best of my human power. And I’ve catched a man doing evil, and I’ve got to take him to justice if all the angels in heaven prayed me to let him free.”

“If the angels in heaven be more to ’e than her you’ve called an angel on earth, Samuel,” answered back Cicely, “then be it so. I understand now the worth of all you’ve said and swore also; but your oath to the police stands higher than your oaths to me seemingly, so there’s no call to waste no more of your time, nor yet mine. Only know this: if my father sleeps in clink to-night, I’ll never wed you, nor look at you again, so help me, God! And now what about it?”

“Think twice,” he said, walking very close to her and looking in her beautiful eyes. “Think twice, my dear heart.”

But she shook her head and he only see tears there full of moonshine.

“No need to think twice,” she answered. “You know me, Samuel.”

He heaved a hugeous sigh then and looked at the waiting man. Chawner was swinging his pheasant by the legs and regarding ’em standing up together. But he said nought.

Then Samuel turned and beckoned Mr. Green with a policeman’s nod that can’t be denied. And Chawner followed after him like a dog, while Cicely went in the house and slammed home the door behind her.

Not a word did either man utter on their tramp to the station; but there they got at last, and the lights was burning and Inspector Chowne, whose night duty it happed to be, was sitting nodding at his desk. And when Sam stood before him and in a very disordered tone of voice brought the sad news of how the Inspector’s brother-in-law had been took red-handed coming out of Trusham, a strange and startling thing followed. For, to the boy’s amazement, Inspector Chowne leapt from his seat with delight, and first he shook Chawner’s hand so hearty as need be and then he shook Sam’s fist likewise; and Chawner, the fox that he was, showed a lot of emotion and his voice failed him and he shook Samuel by the hand also! In fact, ’twas all so contrary to law and order, and reason also, that Samuel stared upon the elder men and prayed the scene was a nightmare and that he’d wake up in his bed any minute.

And then the Inspector spoke.

“Fear nothing, Borlase,” he said. “You’re saved alive, and you can take a drink out of my whisky bottle in the cupboard if you’ve got a mind to it. ’Tis this way, my bold hero. My brother-in-law, Mr. Green here, have a sense of fun as be hidden from the common likes of you and me. He’s a great naturalist, and he haunts the woods for beetles and toadstools and the like; and I may tell you on his account that he’s a person of independent means, and would no more kill a pheasant, nor yet a guinea-pig, that belonged to another man, than he’d fly over the moon. But when he heard the Trusham keepers thought he was a poacher, such was his love of a lark that he let ’em go on thinking so, and he’s built up a doubtful character much to my sorrow, though there ain’t no foundation in fact for it. But he laughs to see the scowling faces, though after to-night he’ll mend his ways in that respect I shouldn’t wonder.”

Samuel stared and looked at the gun in his hand and the pheasant in Chawner’s. It comed over him now that Inspector was going back on him and meant to take Green’s side.

“What about these?” he said.

“I’ll come to them,” continued Chowne. “Now you fell in love with my niece and, as becomes a father, Mr. Green have got to size you up. And he took a tolerable stern way so to do; but there again his sense of fun mastered him. He told Sis you was still untried and a doubtful problem, though nought against you, and she said, being terrible trustful of you, that nought would come between you and your duty. And so this here man thought out a plan; and if the devil could have hit on a craftier, or yet a harsher, I’d be surprised. But mark this, Samuel: he laid it afore Cicely afore he done it. And such was her amazing woman’s faith, she agreed to it, because her love for you rose above all doubt. ’Twas a plant, my boy; and if you’d let Mr. Green go his way, you’d have lost your future wife; but because you’ve done your duty, you’ve got her; and may she always have the rare belief in you she has to-night.”

Still Sam found it hard to believe he was waking. But he done a sensible thing and went to Inspector’s private tap and poured himself four fingers.

“Here’s luck,” he said; and Chawner Green always told afterwards that it was the first and last joke his son-in-law ever made.

’Twas he who spoke next.

“Now look at this pheasant,” ordered Chawner; and the young man handled the bird and found it stiff and cold.

“How long should you judge it had been dead?” inquired Mr. Green. “Anyway, I’ll tell you. Sis bought that creature at her sister’s husband’s fish and poultry shop two days agone. You’ll certainly make a policeman to talk about, Sam; but I’m fearing you’ll never rise to be a detective.”

They went out together five minutes later, Sam to his beat and Green to his home. And the elder was in a very human frame of mind, but Samuel hadn’t quite took it all in yet.

Then they came to the elder’s house, and there was the girl at the gate waiting for ’em as before.

“When she went in and banged the door, you thought she’d gone to weep,” said Chawner; “but for two pins, Samuel, I’d have told you she was dancing a fandango on the kitchen floor. ’Tis a very fine thing for a woman to know her faith is so truly founded, and she’s got the faith in you would move mountains; and so have I; and you can wed when you’ve a mind to it.”

So Chawner left ’em in each other’s arms for five minutes, and then Samuel went on his way.

A very happy marriage, and a week after they joined up, Chawner married a new-made widow, which he had long ordained to do in secret; but she wouldn’t take him till a year and a day was passed.

And Samuel would often tell about his wife’s faith in after-time and doubt if the young men he saw growing up around him would have rose to such fine heights as what he done.

But then Cicely would laugh at him and tell him that his own son was just so steadfast as ever he was, and plenty other women’s sons also.