Read CHAPTER ELEVEN - A NIGHT GOSSIP. of Will of the Mill , free online book, by George Manville Fenn, on

As has been pointed out, the artist was a quiet man, and the tranquil life of the little village was exactly to his taste.  Mrs Drinkwater looked well after his few wants, and until the disturbance at the mill, when Drinkwater had been turned off, there had been nothing to trouble him.  Since that occurrence, however, he had frequently come across his landlady with traces of tears in her eyes, and that evening when after parting with the two lads he reached the pretty cottage, she came out to meet him at the gate.

“Oh, Mr Manners, sir,” she said, “I’m afraid I’m afraid ­”

“Afraid what of, Mrs Drinkwater?”

“I’m afraid that something’s happened to my man.  He has not been home to-day.”

The artist led the poor woman into the kitchen.

“Sit down, Mrs Drinkwater,” he said, kindly.  “Now just listen to me.  I, too, am deeply concerned about Drinkwater.  Can’t you reason with him ­make him see how wrong all this behaviour is, and convince him that he has only one sensible thing to do, namely, go and ask pardon of Mr Willows?”

“Oh, I do wish I could, sir; but Jem won’t listen to me.  He might listen to you, sir.”

“Ah, but you see this is not my business, Mrs Drinkwater.”

“No, sir, but he respects you, and he might perhaps pay attention to what you said.”

“Maybe,” said the artist, thoughtfully.  “Well, I will see what I can do.”

“Thank you, sir ­thank you!”

“When did you see him last?”

“It’s two days ago now, sir.”

“Well, Mrs Drinkwater, we must hope for the best.  I have always found your husband willing and obliging up to quite recently.  It seems to me that if matters are put to him in a quiet common-sense way he will listen.  Hang it all, he will have to listen!  We can’t have you crying your eyes out because he chooses to behave like a brute to you.”

“Oh, my Jem really means well, sir,” said the woman; “I know he does.  He has always been a good husband to me.”

Late that evening the artist thought over affairs.  It was a pleasant soft summer night, and when he was alone he quietly opened the cottage door, and lighting his pipe, sat down on the little rustic seat which was just outside.  There was hardly a sound ­nothing but the night wind sweeping through the valley, the far-off plash of water, the purring noise of a big moth as it flew past and then hovered a second, attracted by the gleam of the artist’s pipe.

There was a step, loud and heavy, and Manners started to his feet as a burly figure suddenly appeared just in front of him.

“Hallo, Drinkwater!” he cried.  “You, my man?”

“Me it is, Mr Manners.”

“Oh, that’s all right.  I was wanting to see you.”

“Wanting to see me?  What for?” said the man, gruffly.

“Oh, for several reasons.  I don’t like my landlord to go off for days together, nobody knows where.”

“Not wanted now,” said the man, sourly ­“Nobody wants me now.”

“That’s not a fact, Drinkwater,” said the artist, firmly.  “Not a bit true.  To begin with, I want you.”

“Pictures to see too?”

“No, not pictures.  I just want to talk to you; that’s all.  Have you got your pipe?  Oh, I see you have.  Here’s my pouch.  Come, fill and light up, and sit down here.  It’s a lovely night, isn’t it?”

“Humph!” grunted the man, as he obeyed and began to smoke.

“Now,” said the artist, cheerily, after a few minutes’ silence, “what’s wrong with you?  At least, I need not ask that.  You have quarrelled with your old friend and employer, for no reason, and it’s no end of a pity, I can assure you.  You will not mind my speaking out plainly like this, as man to man, for I have known you a long time now; and besides, I’m under a debt to you for helping me that night.”

“Humph!” said the man again.

“Now,” said the artist, “has all this sulking done you any good?”

“Good!” growled the man.  “Good!  No.  There has been no good in my life.  I have slaved it all away for a thankless taskmaster.”

“Bah!” said the artist, with a laugh.  “Mr Willows a taskmaster!  Why, it’s too absurd!  He’s one of the very best men that ever lived; and in your heart of hearts you know it, Drinkwater.  You know it quite well.”

“I want revenge,” said the man.

“Ha, ha, ha!” laughed the artist.  “Revenge!  Why, Drinkwater, it’s really funny.  Revenge!  What are you going to do?  Blow up the mill?”

“Eh?” said the man, shifting uneasily in his seat and turning to stare at his companion.  “Blow up the mill?  What, me?”

“There, there,” said Manners, “I didn’t mean it.  It was only a joke.  Think it over, Drinkwater.  Think it over,” he continued, as the man rose; and the artist held out his hand, but whether it was the darkness which prevented his seeing the gesture, or for some other reason, the hand was not taken, and a moment later the man had entered the cottage, while the artist got up to follow him, for it was very late and he was tired.

“What has he got in his head?” he mused.  “I don’t like his manner at all.”