Read CHAPTER VII of Adventures of Bindle , free online book, by Herbert George Jenkins, on


Mr. Hearty had never reconciled himself to the understanding that existed between his daughter Millie and Charlie Dixon. He resented Bindle’s share in the romance, still more he resented the spirit of independence that it had developed in Millie. He had, however, been forced to bow to the storm. Everyone was against him, and Millie herself had left home, refusing to return until he had apologised to her for the most unseemly suggestion he had made as to her relations with Charlie Dixon.

Sergeant Charles Dixon, of the 110th Service Battalion, London Regiment, had gone to the front, and Millie, sad-eyed, but grave, looked forward to the time when he would return, a V.C.

“Well, Millikins!” Bindle would cry, “’ow’s ’is Nibs?” and Millie would blush and tell of the latest news she had received from her lover.

“Uncle Joe,” she would say, “I couldn’t stand it but for you,” and there would be that in her voice which would cause Bindle to turn his head aside and admonish himself as “an olé fool.”

“It’s all right, Millikins,” Bindle would say, “Charlie’s goin’ to win the war, an’ we’re all goin’ to be proud of ’im,” and Millie would smile at her uncle with moist eyes, and give that affectionate squeeze to his arm that Bindle would not have parted with for the rubies of Ind.

“You know, Uncle Joe,” she said bravely on one occasion, “we women have to give up those we love.”

Bindle had not seen the plaintive humour of her remark; but had suddenly become noisily engrossed in the use of his handkerchief.

Mr. Hearty was almost cordial to Charlie Dixon on the eve of his going to France. Once this young man could be removed from Millie’s path, the way would be clear for a match such as he had in mind. He did not know exactly what sort of man he desired for his daughter; but he was very definite as to the position in the world that his future son-in-law must occupy. He would have preferred someone who had made his mark. Men of more mature years, he had noticed, were frequently favourably disposed towards young girls as wives, and Mr. Hearty was determined that he would be proud of his son-in-law, that is to say, his son-in-law was to be a man of whom anyone might feel proud.

It would not behove a Christian such as Mr. Hearty to wish a fellow-being dead; but he could not disguise from himself the fact that our casualties on the Western Front were heavy, particularly during the period of offensives. Since the occasion when Millie had asserted her independence, and had declined to order her affections in accordance with Mr. Hearty’s wishes, there had been something of an armed neutrality existing between father and daughter. In this she had been supported, not only by Bindle and Mrs. Hearty, but, by a strange freak of fate, to a certain extent, by Mrs. Bindle herself.

Mr. Hearty had never quite understood how it was that his sister-in-law had turned against him. She had said nothing whatever as to where her sympathies lay; but Mr. Hearty instinctively felt that she had ranged herself on the side of the enemy.

But the fates were playing for Mr. Hearty.

When the Rev. Mr. Sopley, of the Alton Road Chapel, had decided to retire on account of failing health, Lady Knob-Kerrick determined to bring up from Barton Bridge, her country residence, the Rev. Andrew MacFie. She had forgiven him his participation in the Temperance Fête fiasco, accepting his explanation that he had been drugged by the disciples of the devil, a view that would have been entirely endorsed by Mrs. Bindle, had she known that Bindle was responsible for the mixing of alcohol with the lemonade.

The Barton Bridge Temperance Fête fiasco had proved the greatest sensation that the county had ever known. The mixing of crude alcohol and distilled mead with the lemonade, whereby the participants in the rustic fête had been intoxicated, thus causing it to develop into a wild orgy of violence, resulting in assaults upon Lady Knob-Kerrick and the police, had been a nine days’ wonder. A number of arrests had been made; but when the true facts came to the knowledge of the police, the prisoners had been quietly released, and officially nothing more was heard of the affair.

It was a long time before Lady Knob-Kerrick could be persuaded to see in the Rev. Andrew MacFie, the minister of her chapel, an innocent victim of a deep-laid plot. It was he who had seized the hose that washed her out of her carriage, it was he who had led the assault on the police, it was he who had said things that had been the common talk of all the public-house bars for miles round.

After Mr. MacFie’s eloquent sermon upon the Gadarene swine, Lady Knob-Kerrick had eventually come round, and a peace had been patched up between them. From that day it required more courage to whisper the words “Temperance Fête” in Barton Bridge, than to charge across “No Man’s Land” in France.

And so it was that the Rev. Andrew MacFie transferred his activities from Barton Bridge to Fulham. He was grateful to Providence for this sign of beneficent approval of his labours, and relieved to know that Barton Bridge would in the future be but a memory. There he had made history, for in the bars of The Two-Faced Earl and The Blue Fox the unbeliever drinks with gusto and a wink of superior knowledge a beverage known as a “lemon-and-a-mac,” a compound of lemonade and gin, which owes its origin to the part played in the historic temperance fête by the Rev. Andrew MacFie.

One evening, shortly after the departure of Charlie Dixon, Mrs. Bindle was busily engaged in laying the table for supper. Mrs. Bindle’s kitchen was a model of what a kitchen should be. Everything was clean, orderly, neat. The utensils over the mantelpiece shone like miniature moons, the oil-cloth was spotless, the dresser scrubbed to a whiteness almost incredible in London, the saucepans almost as clean outside as in, the rug before the stove neatly pinned down at the corners. It was obviously the kitchen of a woman to whom cleanliness and order were fétiches. As Bindle had once remarked, “There’s only one spot in my missis’ kitchen, and that’s when I’m there.”

As she proceeded with her work she hummed her favourite hymn; it rose and fell, sometimes dying away altogether. She banged the various articles on the table as if to emphasise her thoughts. Her task completed, she went to the sink. As she was washing her hands there was a knock at the kitchen door. Taking no notice she proceeded to dry her hands. The knock was repeated.

“Oh, don’t stand there playing the fool, Bindle!” she snapped. “I haven’t time to ”

The door opened slowly and admitted the tall, lanky form of the Rev. Andrew MacFie.

“It’s me, Mrs. Beendle,” he said, as he entered the room. “The outer door was open, so I joost cam in.”

“Oh! I’m sorry, sir,” said Mrs. Bindle, “I thought it was Bindle.”

Her whole manner underwent a change; her uncompromising attitude of disapproval giving place to one of almost servile anxiety to make a good impression. She hurriedly removed and folded her apron, slipping it into the dresser-drawer.

“Won’t you come into the parlour, sir?” she said. “It’s very kind of you to call.”

Na, na, Mrs. Beendle,” replied Mr. MacFie. “I joost cam in to to ” He hesitated.

“But won’t you sit down, sir?” Mrs. Bindle indicated a chair by the side of the table.

Mr. MacFie drew the chair towards him, sitting bolt upright, holding his soft felt hat upon his knees.

Mrs. Bindle drew another chair from under the opposite side of the table and seated herself primly upon it. With folded hands she waited for the minister to speak.

Mr. MacFie was obviously ill at ease.

“Ye’ll be comin’ to the sairvice, the nicht, Mrs. Beendle?” he began.

“Oh, yes, sir,” responded Mrs. Bindle, moving her head back on her shoulders, depressing her chin and drawing in her lips with a simper. “I wouldn’t miss your address.”

“Aye!” said Mr. MacFie, gazing into vacancy as if in search of inspiration. Finding none, he repeated “Aye!”

Mr. MacFie’s expression was one of persistent gloom. No smile was ever permitted to wanton across his sandy features. After a few moments’ silence he made another effort.

“I’m sair consairned, Mrs. Beendle ” He stopped, wordless.

“Yes, sir,” responded Mrs. Bindle encouragingly.

“I’m sair consairned no to see the wee lassie more at the kirk.”

“Who, sir, Millie?” queried Mrs. Bindle in surprise.

“Aye!” responded Mr. MacFie. “The call of mammon is like the blairst of a great trumpet, and to the unbelieving it is as sweet music. It is the call of Satan, Mrs. Beendle, the call of Satan,” he repeated, as if pleased with the phrase. “I’d na like the wee lassie to to ”

“I’ll speak to Mr. Hearty, sir,” said Mrs. Bindle, compressing her lips. “It’s very good of you, sir, I’m sure, to ”

Na, na,” interrupted Mr. MacFie hastily, “na, na, Mrs. Beendle, ma duty. It is the blessed duty of the shepherd to be consairned for the welfare ”

He stopped suddenly. The outer door had banged, and there was the sound of steps coming along the passage. Bindle’s voice was heard singing cheerily, “I’d rather Kiss the Mistress than the Maid.” He opened the door and stopped singing suddenly. For a moment he stood looking at the pair with keen enjoyment. Both Mrs. Bindle and Mr. MacFie appeared self-conscious, as they gazed obliquely at the interrupter.

“’Ullo, caught you,” said Bindle jocosely.

“Bindle!” There was horror and anger in Mrs. Bindle’s voice. Mr. MacFie merely looked uncomfortable. He rose hastily.

“I must be gaeing, Mrs. Beendle,” he said; then turning to Bindle remarked, “I joost cam to enquire if Mrs. Beendle was coming to chapel the nicht.”

“Don’t you fret about that, sir,” said Bindle genially. “She wouldn’t miss a chance to pray.”

“And and may we expect you, Mr. Beendle?” enquired Mr. MacFie by way of making conversation and preventing an embarrassing silence.

“I ain’t much on religion, sir,” replied Bindle hastily. “Mrs. B.’s the one for that. Lemonade and religion are things, sir, wot I can be trusted with. I don’t touch neither.” Then, as Mr. MacFie moved towards the door, he added, “Must you go, sir? You won’t stay an’ ’ave a bit o’ supper?”

Na, na!” replied Mr. MacFie hastily, “I hae the Lord’s work to do, Mr. Beendle, the Lord’s work to do,” he repeated as he shook hands with Mrs. Bindle and then with Bindle. “The Lord’s work to do,” he repeated for a third time as, followed by Mrs. Bindle, he left the room.

“Funny thing that the Lord’s work should make ’im look like that,” remarked Bindle meditatively, as he drew a tin of salmon from his pocket.

When Mrs. Bindle returned to the kitchen it was obvious that she was seriously displeased. The bangs that punctuated the process of “dishing-up” were good fortissimo bangs.

Bindle continued to read his paper imperturbably. In his nostrils was the scent of a favourite stew. He lifted his head like a hound, appreciatively sniffing the air, a look of contentment overspreading his features.

Having poured out the contents of the saucepan, Mrs. Bindle went to the sink and filled the vessel with water. Carrying it across the kitchen, she banged it down on the stove. Opening the front, and picking up the poker, she gave the fire several unnecessary jabs.

“Wot did Sandy want?” enquired Bindle as he got to work upon his supper.

“Don’t talk to me,” snapped Mrs. Bindle. “You’d try a saint, you would, insulting the minister in that way.”

“Insultin’! Me!” cried Bindle in surprise. “Why, I only cheer-o’d ’im.”

“You’ll never learn ’ow to behave,” stormed Mrs. Bindle, losing her temper and her aitches. “Look at you now, all dressed up and leaving me alone.”

Bindle was wearing his best clothes, for some reason known only to himself.

“Anyone would think you was goin’ to a weddin’,” continued Mrs. Bindle.

“Not again,” said Bindle cheerfully. “Wot was olé Scotch-an’-Soda after?” he enquired.

“When you ask me a proper question, I’ll give you a proper answer,” announced Mrs. Bindle.

“Oh, Lord!” said Bindle with mock resignation. “Well, wot did the Reverend MacAndrew want?”

“He came to enquire why Millie was so often absent from chapel. I shall have to speak to Mr. Hearty,” said Mrs. Bindle.

Bindle’s reply was a prolonged whistle. “’E’s after Millikins, is ’e?” he muttered.

That is how both Bindle and Mrs. Bindle first learned that the Rev. Andrew MacFie was interested in their pretty niece, Millie Hearty.

Mrs. Bindle mentioned the fact of Mr. MacFie’s call to Mr. Hearty, and from that moment he had seen in the minister a potential son-in-law.

The angular piety of Mr. MacFie rendered him an awkward, not to say a clumsy, lover.

“I likes to see olé Mac a-’angin’ round Millikins,” remarked Bindle to Mrs. Bindle one evening over supper. “It’s like an ’ippopotamus a-givin’ the glad-eye to a canary.”

“Heathen!” was Mrs. Bindle’s sole comment.

Millie Hearty herself had been much troubled by Mr. MacFie’s ponderous attentions. At first she had regarded them merely as the friendly interest of a pastor in a member of his flock; but soon they became too obvious for misinterpretation.

“Millikins!” said Bindle one evening, as he and Millie were walking home from the pictures, “you ain’t a-goin’ to forget Charlie, are you?”

“Uncle Joe!” There was reproach in Millie’s voice as she withdrew her arm from Bindle’s.

“All right, Millikins,” said Bindle, capturing her hand and placing it through his arm, “don’t get ‘uffy. Olé Mac’s been makin’ such a dead set at you, that I wanted to know ’ow things stood.”

Bindle’s remarks had opened the flood-gates of Millie’s confidence. She told him that she had not liked to speak of it before because nothing had been said, although there had been some very obvious hints from Mr. Hearty.

“I hate him, Uncle Joe. He’s always always ” She paused, blushing.

“A-givin’ of you the glad-eye,” suggested Bindle. “I seen ’im.”

“Oh, he’s horrible, Uncle Joe. I’m sure he’s a wicked man.”

“’Course ’e is,” replied Bindle with conviction, “or ’e wouldn’t be a parson.”

Bindle had spoken to Mr. Hearty about the matter. “Look ’ere, ’Earty, you ain’t goin’ back on them two love-birds, are you?” he enquired.

Mr. Hearty had regarded his brother-in-law with what he conceived to be reproving dignity.

“I do not understand, Joseph,” he remarked in hollow, woolly tones.

“Well, there’s olé Mac, always a-givin’ the glad-eye to Millikins,” explained Bindle.

“If you wish to speak of our minister, Joseph, you must do so respectfully, and I cannot listen to such vulgar suggestions.”

“Oh, come orf of it, ‘Earty! you’re only a greengrocer, an’ greengrocers don’t talk like that ’ere, whatever they may do in ‘eaven. If you’re a-goin’ to ’ave any ’anky-panky with Millikins over that sandy-’aired son of a tub-thumper, then you’re up against the biggest thing in your life, an’ don’t you forget it.”

Bindle was angry.

“Of late, Joseph,” Mr. Hearty replied, “you have shown too much desire to interfere in my private affairs, and I cannot permit it.”

“Oh! you can’t, can’t you?” said Bindle. “Don’t you forget, olé sport, that if it ’adn’t a-been for me ‘oldin’ my tongue, you wouldn’t ’ave ‘ad no bloomin’ affairs for me to mix up in.”

Mr. Hearty paled and fumbled with the right lapel of his coat.

“Any’ow,” said Bindle, “Millikins is goin’ to marry Charlie Dixon, an’ if you’re goin’ to try any of your dirty tricks over Olé Skin-and-Oatmeal, then you’re goin’ to be up against J.B. There are times,” muttered Bindle, as he walked away from the Heartys’ house, “when ’Earty gets my goat”; and he started whistling shrilly to cheer himself up.

Bindle was still troubled in his mind about Mr. Hearty’s scheme for Millie’s future and, one Sunday evening, he determined to forgo the Night Club, in order to call upon the Heartys with the object of conveying to Mr. MacFie in the course of conversation that Millie was irrevocably pledged to Charlie Dixon.

Mr. MacFie had formed the habit of supping with the Heartys after evening service, and frequently Mrs. Bindle was of the party.

Bindle’s Sunday evening engagements at the Night Club had been a cause of great relief to Mrs. Bindle. For some time previously Mr. Hearty’s invitations to the Bindles to take supper on Sunday evenings had been growing less and less frequent. It did not require a very great effort of the imagination to discover the cause. Bindle’s racy speech and unconventional views upon religion were to Mr. Hearty anathema, and whilst they amused Mrs. Hearty, who, having trouble with her breath, did not seem to consider that religion was meant for her, they caused Mr. Hearty intense anguish. He felt safe, however, in asking Mr. MacFie to supper on Sundays because Mrs. Bindle had confided to him that Bindle was always engaged upon the Sabbath night. She did not mention the nature of the engagement.

When Bindle entered the drawing-room, Mr. Hearty, Mr. MacFie, Mr. Gupperduck and Mrs. Bindle were gathered round the harmonium. Mrs. Hearty sat in her customary place upon the sofa waiting for someone to address her that she might confide in them upon the all-absorbing subject of her breath.

Mr. Gupperduck was seated on a chair, endeavouring to discipline his accordion into not sounding E sharp continuously through each hymn. The others were awaiting with keen interest the outcome of the struggle.

“Got a pain, ain’t it?” enquired Bindle, having greeted everybody, as he stood puffing volumes of smoke from one of “Sprague’s Fulham Whiffs,” a “smoke” he still affected when Lord Windover was not present to correct his taste in tobacco.

“Well, wot’s the joke?” he went on, looking from the lugubrious countenance of Mr. MacFie to the melancholy foreboding depicted on that of Mr. Hearty.

Turning to Mrs. Hearty, Bindle pointed his cigar at her accusingly. “You been tellin’ naughty stories, Martha,” he said, “I can see it. Look at them coves over there”; he turned his cigar towards Mr. Gupperduck and Mr. MacFie. “Oh, Martha, Martha!” and he wagged his head solemnly at Mrs. Hearty, who was already in a state of helpless laughter, “ain’t you jest the limit, and ’im a parson, too.”

Millie Hearty entered the room at this moment and ran up to her uncle, greeting him affectionately.

“Oh, Uncle Joe, I’m so glad you’ve come,” she cried. “You never come to see us now.”

“Well, well, Millikins, it can’t be ’elped. It’s the war, you know. That cove Llewellyn John is always wantin’ me round to give ’im advice. Then I ‘ave to run over an’ give Haig an ’int or two. Ain’t the Kayser jest mad when ’e ’ears I been over, because it means another push. Why, would you believe it, sir,” he turned to Mr. MacFie, “the reason they didn’t make olé ’Indenburg a prince last birthday was because ’e ’adn’t been able to land me.

“‘Get me Joe Bindle, dead or alive,’ said the Kayser to ’Indy, ‘an’ I’ll make you a prince,’ an’ ain’t old ’Indenburg ratty.” Bindle nodded his head knowingly.

Millie laughed. “You mustn’t tell such wicked fibs on Sunday, Uncle Joe,” she cried. “It’s very naughty of you.”

Bindle pulled her down upon his knee and kissed her. “You ain’t goin’ agin your olé uncle, are you, Millikins?” he cried; then suddenly turning to Mr. Hearty he enquired, “Ain’t we goin’ to ’ave any ’ymns, ’Earty? ‘Ere, I say, can’t you stop Wheezy Willie doin’ that, olé sport?” this to Mr. Gupperduck who was still struggling to silence the mutinous E sharp; “sets my teeth on edge, it does. I’m in rare voice to-night, bought some acid drops, I did, as I come along, an’ ’ad two raw eggs in the private bar of The Yellow Ostrich.”

Bindle ran up a dubious scale to prove his words.

“Oh! do be quiet, Uncle Joe,” laughed Millie. “You’ll frighten Mr. MacFie away.”

Bindle turned and regarded the solemn visage of Mr. MacFie; his long immobile upper lip; his sandy hair, parted in the middle and brushed smoothly down upon his head.

“No, Millikins,” he said with conviction, “there ain’t nothink wot’ll frighten a Scotchman out of England. They know wot’s wot, they do. Ain’t that so, sir?” he enquired of Mr. MacFie.

Mr. MacFie regarded Bindle as if he were talking in a foreign tongue.

Mr. Gupperduck laid his accordion on a chair, giving up the unequal struggle. The others, taking this as a signal that music was over for the evening, seated themselves in various parts of the room.

“I’m glad you’re ’ere, sir,” said Bindle to Mr. MacFie. “I wanted your advice on somethink in the Bible. Now then, Millikins, you got to sit down beside me. Can’t sit on your uncle’s knee when we’re talkin’ about the Bible. Wot’ll Charlie say?” Then turning to Mr. MacFie with what he imagined to be great subtlety and tact, Bindle enquired, “You ain’t met Charlie Dixon, ’ave you, sir?”

Mr. MacFie shook a mournful head in negation.

“‘E’s goin’ to marry Millikins, ain’t ’e, Millikins?”

Millie cast her eyes down and, with heightened colour, bowed her head in affirmation of Bindle’s statement.

“Pretty pair they’ll make too,” said Bindle with conviction. “I ’ope you’ll be marryin’ ’em, sir.”

Mr. MacFie looked uncomfortable.

“But that ain’t wot I wanted to talk to you about,” continued Bindle. “I ’appened to pick up the Bible to-day,” Mrs. Bindle looked sharply at him, “and it sort of opened at a place where there was a yarn about war, so I read it.

“It was about a cove called Urrier an’ a king named David.”

“Uriah the Hittite,” murmured Mr. Hearty.

“Urrier ’ad got a smart bird, that’s a gal, sir,” Bindle explained to Mr. MacFie, “and David ‘ad sort o’ taken a likin’ to ’er, so wot does David do but send Urrier to the front, so as ‘e might get killed, an’ then David pinches ’is gal.

“Now wot I want to know, sir,” said Bindle, addressing Mr. MacFie, “is wot Gawd did? ’Cos as far as I can see ‘E was sort o’ fond o’ David. Now if I’d been Gawd, an’ David ’ad done a thing like that, I’d ’a raised a pretty big blister on ’is nose.”

No one spoke. Mr. Hearty glanced covertly at Mr. MacFie, who looked as if he would have given much to be elsewhere. Mrs. Bindle’s lips had entirely disappeared. Mrs. Hearty gasped and heaved, whilst Minnie blushed.

“Bindle!” cried Mrs. Bindle at last; “Bindle, you forget yourself.”

“Not me, Mrs. B., I come ‘ere to get wot you an’ ’Earty calls ‘light.’ Now, sir,” turning to Mr. MacFie, “wot do you think Gawd did, an’ wot do you think o’ that blighter David?”

“Meester Beendle,” said Mr. MacFie at last, “we must leave to Proveedence the things that belong to Proveedence.”

“I thought you’d agree, sir; you’re a sport, you are. Of course David ought to ’ave left to Urrier wot belonged to Urrier, and not pinch ’is gal. You wouldn’t do a thing like that, sir, would you?” he enquired. “I wonder wot the gal thought, eh, Millikins?” he enquired, turning to his niece.

“If I had been her,” said Millie, “I should have killed David.”

“Millie!” gasped Mr. Hearty. “How how dare you say such a thing.”

“I should, father,” replied Millie quietly.

Mr. MacFie coughed, Mr. Hearty looked about him as if for something at which to clutch, then with sudden inspiration he said, “Millie, we will have a hymn.”

“’Ere, let me get out,” cried Bindle in mock alarm. “I can’t stand Wheezy Willie again, too much of one note. Good night, Martha. My, ain’t you gettin’ fat,” he remarked as he stood looking down at Mrs. Hearty, whereat she went off into wheezes and heavings of laughter. “S’long, ’Earty, I ’ope the allotments won’t ruin you,” and Bindle took his departure.

Millie went down to the door to see him out. “Uncle Joe,” she whispered, as she bade him good night, “I understood.”

“Oh, you did, did you?” said Bindle. “Ain’t we getting a wise little puss, Millikins,” and Bindle walked home whistling “The Long, Long Trail.”