“Down ’pon your knees, woman!” he shouted thunderously. Then, as she showed no disposition to obey, he added, grimly, “Eh? but somebody shall intercede for thee afore thou’rt a minute older.”
And pulling off his hat there and then, he knelt down on the doorstep, with the soles of his hob-nailed boots showing to the street.
“Get up, an’ don’t make yoursel’ a may-game,” said Naomi hurriedly, as one or two children stopped their play, and drew around to stare.
“Father in heaven,” began William Geake, in a voice that fetched the women-folk, all up and down the Chy-pons, to their doors, “Thou, whose property is ever to have mercy, forgive this blaspheming woman! Suffer one who is Thy servant, though a grievous sinner, to intercede for her afore she commits the sin that cannot be forgiven; to pluck her as a brand from the burning—”
By this, the women and a loafing man or two had clustered round, and Colliver’s coal-cart had rattled up and come to a standstill. The Chy-pons is the narrowest street in Troy, and Colliver’s driver could hardly pass now, except over William Geake’s legs.
“Draw in your feet, brother Geake,” he called out, “or else pray short.”
One or two women giggled at this. But Geake did not seem to hear. For five good minutes he prayed vociferously, as was his custom in meeting-house; then rose, replaced his hat, dusted his knees, held out his hand for Naomi’s shilling, and wrote her the customary voucher in his most business-like manner, and without another word. But there was a triumphant look in his eyes that dared Naomi to repeat her offence, and she very nearly wept as she felt that the words would not come. This and the shame of publicity drove her back into her room as Geake passed down the stairs to collect the other rents. A few women still hung about the doorway as he emerged, some twenty minutes later. But he marched down Chy-pons with head erect and eyes fixed straight ahead.
On the following Saturday, when Geake called, Naomi was standing at her wash-tub. She had seen him pass the window, and, hurriedly wiping her hands, and pulling out her shilling, placed it ostentatiously in the very centre of the deal table by the door; then had just time to plunge her hands in the soap-suds again before he knocked. Try as she would, she could not keep back a blush at the remembrance of last week’s scene, and half looked for him to make some allusion to it.
His extremely business-like air reassured her. She nodded towards the shilling without removing her hands from the tub. He took it, including in a polite good-morning both Naomi and her mother, who was huddled in an arm-chair before the fire and recovering from an attack of the fever, wrote out his voucher solemnly, set it in the exact spot where the shilling had stood, took up his hat, hesitated for less than a second, replaced his hat on the table, and, pulling a chair towards him, dropped on his knees, and began to pray aloud.