‘Come in, if you want to know,’ cried her daughter. ’See what you’ve let me in for! Didn’t I tell you as it might be all a mistake? Oh yes, you may look!’
Mrs. Peckover was startled; her small, cunning eyes went rapidly from Clem to Joseph, and she fixed the latter with a gaze of angry suspicion.
‘Got a bit of news for you, mother,’ resumed Joseph, nodding. ’You and Clem were precious artful, weren’t you now? It’s my turn now. Thought I’d got money—ha, ha!’
‘And so you have,’ replied Mrs. Peckover. ’We know all about it, so you needn’t try your little game.’
’Know all about it, do you? Well, see here. My brother Mike died out in Australia, and his son died at the same time—they was drowned. Mike left no will, and his wife was dead before him. What’s the law, eh? Pity you didn’t make sure of that. Why, all his money went to the old man, every cent of it. I’ve no claim on a penny. That’s the law, my pretty dears!’
‘He’s a —— liar!’ roared Clem, who at the best of times would have brought small understanding to a legal question. ’What did my brother say in his letter?’
’He was told wrong, that’s all, or else he got the idea out of his own head.’
‘Then why did they advertise for you?’ inquired Mrs. Peckover, keeping perfect command of her temper.
’The old man thought he’d like to find his son again, that’s all. Ha, ha! Why can’t you take it good-humoured, Clem? You had your joke yesterday, and you can’t say I cut up rough about it. I’m a good-natured fellow, I am. There’s many a man would have broke every bone in your body, my angel, you just remember that!’
It rather seemed as if the merry proceeding would in this case be reversed; Joseph had risen, and was prepared to defend himself from an onslaught. But Mrs. Peckover came between the newly-wedded pair, and by degrees induced Clem to take a calmer view of the situation, or at all events to postpone her vengeance. It was absurd, she argued, to act as if the matter were hopeless. Michael Snowdon would certainly leave Joseph money in his will, if only the right steps were taken to secure his favour. Instead of quarrelling, they must put their heads together and scheme. She had her ideas; let them listen to her.
’Clem, you go and get a pot of old six for supper, and don’t be such a —— fool,’ was her final remark.
Visiting his friends as usual on Sunday evening, Sidney Kirkwood felt, before he had been many minutes in the room, that something unwonted was troubling the quiet he always found here. Michael Snowdon was unlike himself, nervously inattentive, moving frequently, indisposed to converse on any subject. Neither had Jane her accustomed brightness, and the frequent glances she east at her grandfather seemed to show that the latter’s condition was causing her anxiety. She withdrew very early, and, as at once appeared, in order that Sidney might hear in private what had that day happened. The story of Clem Peckover’s marriage naturally occasioned no little astonishment in Sidney.