[Illustration: “Old Sam said ’ow surprised he was at them for letting Bill do it.”]
“Are you going—to undo—us?” ses Ginger, at last.
“No, Ginger,” ses old Sam; “in justice to myself I couldn’t do it. Arter wot you’ve said—and arter wot I’ve said—my life wouldn’t be safe. Besides which, you’d want to go shares in my money.”
He took up ’is chest and marched downstairs with it, and about ’arf an hour arterward the landlady’s ’usband came up and set ’em free. As soon as they’d got the use of their legs back they started out to look for Sam, but they didn’t find ’im for nearly a year, and as for Bill, they never set eyes on ’im again.
Lawyer Quince, so called by his neighbours in Little Haven from his readiness at all times to place at their disposal the legal lore he had acquired from a few old books while following his useful occupation of making boots, sat in a kind of wooden hutch at the side of his cottage plying his trade. The London coach had gone by in a cloud of dust some three hours before, and since then the wide village street had slumbered almost undisturbed in the sunshine.
[Illustration: “Lawyer Quince.”]
Hearing footsteps and the sound of voices raised in dispute caused him to look up from his work. Mr. Rose, of Holly Farm, Hogg, the miller, and one or two neighbours of lesser degree appeared to be in earnest debate over some point of unusual difficulty.
Lawyer Quince took a pinch of snuff and bent to his work again. Mr. Rose was one of the very few who openly questioned his legal knowledge, and his gibes concerning it were only too frequent. Moreover, he had a taste for practical joking, which to a grave man was sometimes offensive.
“Well, here he be,” said Mr. Hogg to the farmer, as the group halted in front of the hutch. “Now ask Lawyer Quince and see whether I ain’t told you true. I’m willing to abide by what he says.”
Mr. Quince put down his hammer and, brushing a little snuff from his coat, leaned back in his chair and eyed them with grave confidence.
“It’s like this,” said the farmer. “Young Pascoe has been hanging round after my girl Celia, though I told her she wasn’t to have nothing to do with him. Half an hour ago I was going to put my pony in its stable when I see a young man sitting there waiting.”
“Well?” said Mr. Quince, after a pause.
“He’s there yet,” said the farmer. “I locked him in, and Hogg here says that I’ve got the right to keep him locked up there as long as I like. I say it’s agin the law, but Hogg he says no. I say his folks would come and try to break open my stable, but Hogg says if they do I can have the law of ’em for damaging my property.”
“So you can,” interposed Mr. Hogg, firmly. “You see whether Lawyer Quince don’t say I’m right.”