“It’s all over,” interrupted Mrs. Gum; “over for ever in this world. Gum, you are very hard-hearted.”
“And,” he continued, with composure, “we may hope now to live down in time the blow he brought upon us, and hold up our heads again in the face of Calne. We couldn’t have done that while he lived.”
“No. Just dry up your useless tears, Nancy; and try to think that all’s for the best.”
But, metaphorically speaking, Mrs. Gum could not dry her tears. Nearly two years had elapsed since the fatal event; and though she no longer openly lamented, filling Calne with her cries and her faint but heartfelt prayers for vengeance on the head of the cruel monster, George Gordon, as she used to do at first, she had sunk into a despairing state of mind that was by no means desirable: a startled, timid, superstitious woman, frightened at every shadow.
Jabez Gum came out of his house in the bright summer morning, missing Mr. Elster by one minute only. He went round to a small shed at the back of the house and brought forth sundry garden-tools. The whole garden was kept in order by himself, and no one had finer fruit and vegetables than Clerk Gum. Hartledon might have been proud of them, and Dr. Ashton sometimes accepted a dish with pleasure.
In his present attire: dark trousers, and a short close jacket buttoned up round him and generally worn when gardening, the worthy man might decidedly have been taken for an animated lamp-post by any stranger who happened to come that way. He was applying himself this morning, first to the nailing of sundry choice fruit-trees against the wall that ran down one side of his garden—a wall that had been built by the clerk himself in happier days; and next, to plucking some green walnuts for his wife to pickle. As he stood on tip-toe, his long thin body and long thin arms stretched up to the walnut-tree, he might have made the fortune of any travelling caravan that could have hired him. The few people who passed him greeted him with a “Good morning,” but he rarely turned his head in answering them. Clerk Gum had grown somewhat taciturn of late years.
The time went on. The clock struck a quarter-past seven, and Jabez Gum, as he heard it, left the walnut-tree, walked to the gate, and leaned over it; his face turned in the direction of the village. It was not the wooden gate generally attached to smaller houses in rustic localities, but a very pretty iron one; everything about the clerk’s house being of a superior order. Apparently, he was looking out for some one in displeasure; and, indeed, he had not stood there a minute, when a girl came flying down the road, and pushed the gate and the clerk back together.
Mr. Gum directed her attention to the church clock. “Do you see the time, Rebecca Jones?”