Read CHAPTER FIFTEEN - “SHE’S MINE!” of The New Mistress A Tale , free online book, by George Manville Fenn, on

“Mr Lambent treats me with respect,” reasoned Hazel one afternoon when the soreness had somewhat worn off, leaving a feeling that perhaps after all it would be possible to stay on at Plumton All Saints.

She had been very low-spirited for some time, but as she recalled the quiet, gentlemanly manner of the vicar, she felt relieved, and wished she had said a few words of thanks, making up her mind to atone for the omission at the first opportunity, and then setting so busily to work that her troubles were temporarily forgotten.

While she was very busy, a lad arrived with a note from Miss Burge, asking her to come up to the house to tea and talk over a proposal Mr William Forth Burge had made about the schools, and ending with a promise to drive her back in the pony-chaise.  Hazel hesitated for a few moments, but she did not like to slight Miss Burge’s invitation, so she wrote back saying that she would come.

Then the girls had to be dismissed, and the pence counted up and placed in a canvas-bag along with the money received for the month’s coal and blanket club, neither of the amounts being heavy as a sum total, but, being all in copper, of a goodly weight avoirdupois.

Just as the bag was tied up and the amounts noted down, there was a light tap at the door, and Mr Chute stepped in, glancing quickly up at the slit made by the half-closed partition shutters to see if it was observable from this side.

“I just came in to say, Miss Thorne ­well, that is odd now, really.”

Hazel looked her wonder, and he went on: 

“It’s really quite funny.  I said to myself, `the pence will mount up so that they will be quite a nuisance to Miss Thorne, and I’ll go and offer to get them off her hands.’”

“Thank you, Mr Chute, I won’t trouble you,” replied Hazel.

“Trouble?  Oh, it’s no trouble,” he said, laughing in a peculiar way.  “I get rid of mine at the shops, and I can just as easily put yours with them, and of course it’s much easier to keep shillings than pence; and then when you’ve got enough you can change your silver for gold.”

“By-the-way,” said Hazel, “when do we have to give up the school pence and club money?”

“Only once a year,” said Mr Chute, who was in high glee at this approach to intimacy.  “You’ll have to keep it till Christmas.”

“Keep it ­till Christmas!  What! all that money!”

“To be sure!  Oh, it isn’t much.  May I ­send your ­coppers with mine?”

Hazel paused for a moment, and then accepted the offer, the schoolmaster noting in his pocket-book the exact amount, and waiting while Hazel went into the cottage to fetch the other sums she had received, the whole of which Mr Chute bore off in triumph, smiling ecstatically, and exclaiming to himself as soon as he was alone: 

“She’s mine! ­she’s mine! ­she’s mine!”

After which he performed a kind of triumphal dance around the bags of copper, rubbing his hands with satisfaction at this step towards making himself useful to Hazel Thorne, until Mrs Chute came into the room, and asked him what he meant by making such a fool of himself.

Mrs Chute was a hard-looking little woman, with fair hair and a brownish skin, and one who had probably never looked pleasant in her life.  She was very proud of her son, “My Samoowel,” as she always persisted in calling him, in despite of large efforts upon the part of that son to correct her pronunciation; and she showed her affection by never hardly speaking to him without finding fault, snapping him up, and making herself generally unpleasant; though, if anybody had dared to insinuate that Samuel Chute was not the most handsome, the most clever, and the best son in the world, it would have been exceedingly unpleasant for that body, for Mrs Chute, relict of Mr Samuel Chute, senior, of “The Docks,” possessed a tongue.

What Mr Samuel Chute, senior, had been in “The Docks,” no one ever knew, and it had not been to any one’s interest to find out.  Suffice it that, after a long course of education somewhere at a national school in East London, Mr Samuel Chute, junior, had risen to be a pupil-teacher, and thence to a scholarship, resulting in a regular training; then after a minor appointment or two, he had obtained the mastership at Plumton School, where he had proved himself to be a good son by taking his mother home to keep house for him, and she had made him miserable ever since.

“Why, what are you thinking about, Samoowel, dancing round the money like a mad miser?”

“Oh, nonsense, mother!  I was only ­only ­”

“Only, only making a great noodle of yourself.  Money’s right enough, but I’d be ashamed of myself if I cared so much for it that I was bound to dance about that how.”

Mr Chute did not answer, so she went on: 

“I don’t think much of these Thornes, Samoowel.”

“Not think much of them, mother?”

“There, bless the boy, didn’t I speak plain?  Don’t keep repeating every word I say.  I don’t think much of them.  That Mrs Thorne’s the stuck-uppest body I ever met.”

“Oh no, she’s an invalid.”

“I daresay she is!  But I’d have every complaint under the sun, from tic to teething, without being so proud and stuck-up as she is.  I went in this afternoon quite neighbourly like, but, oh dear me! and lor’ bless you! she almost as good as ast me what I wanted.”

“But ­but I hope you didn’t say anything unpleasant mother?”

“Now, am I a woman as ever did say anything unpleasant, Samoowel?  The most unpleasant thing I said was that I hoped she was as proud of her daughter as I was of my son.”

“And did you say that mother?”

“Of course I did, and then she began to talk about her girl, and grew a little more civil; but I don’t like her, Samoowel.  She smells of pride, ’orrid; and as for her girl ­there ­”

Mr Samuel Chute did not stop to hear the latter part of the lady’s speech, for just then he caught sight of the top of a bonnet passing the window, and he ran into the next room, so as to be able to see its wearer going along the road towards the market-place.

“What is the matter, Samoowel?  Is it an acciden’?” cried Mrs Chute, running after him.

“No, no, nothing, mother,” he replied, turning away from the window to meet the lady.  “Nothing at all!”

“Why, Samoowel,” she cried, looking at him with an aspect full of disgust, “don’t tell me that ­you were staring after that girl!”

“I wasn’t going to tell you I was looking after her, mother,” said the young man sulkily.

“No, but I can see for myself,” cried Mrs Chute angrily.  “The idea of a boy of mine having no more pride than to be running after a stuck-up, dressy body like that, who looks at his poor mother as if she wasn’t fit to be used to wipe her shoes on, and I dessey they ain’t paid for.”

“Mother,” cried the young man, “if you speak to me like that you’ll drive me mad!”

“And now he abuses his poor mother, who has been a slave to him all her life!” cried the lady.  “Oh, Samoowel, Samoowel, when I’m dead and cold and in my grave, these words of yours’ll stand out like fires of reproach, and make you repent and ­There, if he hasn’t gone after her,” she cried furiously; for, finding that her son did not speak, she lowered the apron that she had thrown over her face, slowly and softly, till she found that she was alone, when she jumped up from the chair into which she had thrown herself, ran to the window, and was just in time to see Mr Samuel Chute walking quickly towards the town.

“He don’t have her if I can prevent it!” cried Mrs Chute viciously, and the expression of her face was not pleasant just then.

But Samuel Chute neither heard her words nor saw her looks, as a matter of course, for he was walking steadily after Hazel, wondering whither she was bound.

It was the last thing in the world that he would do ­watch her, but all the same he wanted to know where she went, and if it was for a walk, why he might turn up by accident just as she was coming back; and then, of course, he could walk with her, and somehow, now that he had so far been taken into her confidence in being trusted to change the school and club money for her, it would be easy to win another step in advance.

“I lay twopence she walks out with me arm-in-arm before another month’s out,” he said triumphantly; “and mother must get over it best way she can.”

All this while Hazel was some two hundred yards ahead, for the schoolmaster did not attempt to overtake her, but merely noted where she went, and followed.

“She’s turned off by the low road,” said Samuel Chute to himself.  “She’s going by old Burge’s.  Well, that is the prettiest walk, and ­of course, I could go across by the footpath, and come out in the road this side of Burge’s, and meet her, and that would be better than seeming to have followed her.”

Acting upon this idea, Samuel Chute struck out of the main street and went swiftly along a narrow lane, and then by the footpath over the meadows to the road, a walk of a good mile and a half before he was out into the winding road that led by Mr Burge’s.

“She’ll come upon me here, plump,” he said with a laugh.  “I wonder what she’ll say, and whether she’ll look at me again in that pretty, shy way, same as she did when I took the school pence!  Hah, things are going on right for you, my boy; and what could be better?”

There was no answer to his question, so Samuel Chute went on making arrangements, like the Eastern man with his basket of crockery ware.

“I’ll tell you what we’ll do; we’ll put both the old ladies together in one house, while we live in the other.  Nothing could be easier.  I say, isn’t it time she was here?”

He glanced at his watch, and it certainly seemed to be time for Hazel to have reached as far.  She was not long, however, in appearing now round the bend of the road, looking brighter and more attractive than Samuel Chute had seen her yet, for there was a warm flush in her cheek, and her eyes were sparkling and full of vivacity.  But in spite of this the schoolmaster drew his breath through his teeth with a spiteful hiss, and as he leaned a little forward and stared at Hazel Thorne, his countenance assumed the same ugly look, full of dislike and spite, that had been seen in his mother’s face only a short time before.