‘And what about that arsenic,’ says I,—’that arsenic I found in your corner cupboard?’
’Oh, it was you took it, was it? You little silly, my neck’s too handsome for me to do anything to put a rope round it. Do you suppose I’ve kept my complexion to my age with nothing but cold water, you little cat?’
‘And the other will,’ says Harry, ‘that my father meant to sign?’
‘I’ll get you that,’ says Mrs. Blake. ’It’s no use bearing malice now all’s said and done.’
And she goes upstairs to get it, and, if you’ll believe me, we were fools enough to let her go; and we waited like lambs for her to come back, which being a woman with her wits about her, and no fool, she naturally never did; and by the time we had woke up to our seven senses, she was far enough away, and we never saw her again. We didn’t try too much. But we had the law of that Sigglesfield, and it was fourteen years’ penal.
And the will was never found—I expect Mrs. Blake had burnt it,—so the farm came to John, and what else there was to Harry, according to the terms of the will the old man had made when his wife was alive, afore John had joined the force. And Harry and John was that pleased to be together again that they couldn’t make up their minds to part; so they farm the place together to this day.
And if Harry has prospered, and John too, it’s no more than they deserve, and a blessing on brotherly love, as mother says. And if my dear children are the finest anywhere on the South Downs, that’s by the blessing of God too, I suppose, and it doesn’t become me to say so.
ACTING FOR THE BEST
I have no patience with people who talk that kind of nonsense about marrying for love and the like. For my part I don’t know what they mean, and I don’t believe they know it themselves. It’s only a sort of fashion of talking. I never could see what there was to like in one young man more than another, only, of course, you might favour some more than others if they was better to do.
My cousin Mattie was different. She must set up to be in love, and walk home from church with Jack Halibut Sunday after Sunday, the long way round, if you please, through the meadows; and he used to buy her scent and ribbons at the fair, and send her a big valentine of lacepaper, and satin ribbons and things, though Lord knows where he got the money from—honest, I hope—for he hadn’t a penny to bless himself with.
When my uncle found out all this nonsense, being a man of proper spirit, he put his foot down, and says he—
’Mattie, my girl, I would be the last to say anything against any young man you fancied, especially a decent chap like young Halibut, if his prospects was anything like as good as could be expected, but you can’t pretend poor Jack’s are, him being but a blacksmith’s man, and not in regular work even. Now, let’s have no waterworks,’ he went on, for Mattie had got the corner of her apron up and her mouth screwed down at the corners. ’I’ve known what poverty is, my girl, and you shan’t never have a taste of it with my consent.’