‘Shall I light the candle?’ the woman asked in a whisper.
Neither replied, for there was a heavy foot on the stairs. It came nearer. A hand tried the door, then knocked loudly.
‘Mrs. Candy,’ cried a stranger.
The three crouched together, terror-stricken, holding their breath. Pennyloaf pressed her husband in an agonised embrace.
’Mrs. Candy, you’re wanted on business. Open the door. If you don’t open, we shall force it.’
‘No—no!’ Pennyloaf whispered in her mother’s ear. ’They shan’t come in! Don’t stir.’
‘Are you going to open the door?’
It was a different speaker—brief, stern. Ten seconds, and there came a tremendous crash; the crazy door, the whole wall, quivered and cracked and groaned. The crash was repeated, and effectually; with a sound of ripping wood the door flew open and a light streamed into the room.
Useless, Pennyloaf, useless. That fierce kick, making ruin of your rotten barrier, is dealt with the whole force of Law, of Society; you might as well think of resisting death when your hour shall come.
‘There he is,’ observed one of the men, calmly. ‘Hollo! what’s up?’
‘You can’t take him away!’ Pennyloaf cried, falling down again by Bob and clinging to him. ‘He’s ill, You can’t take him like this!’
’Ill, is he? Then the sooner our doctor sees him the better. Up you get, my man!’
But there are some things that even Law and Society cannot command. Bob lay insensible. Shamming? Well, no; it seemed not. Send for a stretcher, quickly.
No great delay. Pennyloaf sat in mute anguish, Bob’s head on her lap. On the staircase was a crowd of people, talking, shouting, whistling; presently they were cleared away by a new arrival of officials. Room for Law and Society!
The stretcher arrived; the senseless body was carried down and laid upon it—a policeman at each end, and, close clinging, Pennyloaf.
Above the noise of the crowd rose a shrill, wild voice, chanting:
’All ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord; praise Him and magnify Him for ever!’
JOSEPH TRANSACTS MUCH BUSINESS
Amid the anguish of heart and nerve which she had to endure whilst her grandfather lay dead in the house, Jane found and clung to one thought of consolation. He had not closed his eyes in the bitterness of disappointment. The end might have come on that miserable day when her weakness threatened the defeat of all his hopes, and how could she then have borne it? True or not, it would have seemed to her that she had killed him; she could not have looked on his face, and all the rest of her life would have been remorsefully shadowed. Now the dead features were unreproachful; nay, when she overcame her childish tremors and gazed calmly, it was easy to imagine that he smiled. Death itself had come without pain. An old man, weary after his long journeys, after his many griefs and the noble striving of his thought, surely he rested well.