But by loitering about on that stormy night years ago, when he should have been attending to the mill, he had picked up enough to show him that the strange gentleman had no mind to have his proceedings as to the little Jan generally known. This and some sort of traditional idea that “sharp,” though penniless men had at times wrung a great deal of money from rich people, by threatening to betray their secrets, was the sole foundation of George’s hopes in connection with the letter. It was his very ignorance which hindered him from seeing the innumerable chances against his getting to know any thing important enough, even if he could use his information, to procure a bribe.
He had long given up the idea as hopeless, though he had kept the letter, but it revived when the Cheap Jack solved the puzzle which Abel could not explain, and George finally promised to let his friend read the whole letter for him. He also allowed that it concerned Jan, or that he supposed it to do so. He related Jan’s history, and confessed that he had picked up the letter, which was being blown about near the mill, on the night of Jan’s arrival.
In this statement there was some truth, and some falsehood; for in the opinion of the miller’s man, if your own interest obliged you to confide in a friend, it was at least wise to hedge the confidence by not telling all the truth, or by qualifying it with lies.
This mental process was, however, at least equally familiar to the Cheap Jack, and he did not hesitate, in his own mind, to feel sure that the letter had not been found, but stolen. In which he was farther from the truth than if he had simply believed George.
But then he was not in the neighborhood five years back, and, as it happened, he had never heard of the lost pocket-book.
George as A moneyed man.—Sal.—The “White horse.”— The wedding.— The windmiller’s wife forgets, and remembers too late.
Excitement, the stifling atmosphere of the public-house, and the spirits he had drunk at his friend’s expense, had somewhat confused the brains of the miller’s man by the time that the Cheap Jack rose to go. George was, as a rule, sober beyond the wont of the rustics of the district, chiefly from parsimony. When he could drink at another man’s expense, he was not always prudent.
“So you’ve settled to go, my dear?” said the dwarf, as they stood together by the cart. “Business being slack, and parties unpleasantly suspicious, eh?”
“Never you mind,” said George, who felt very foolish, and hoped himself successful in looking very wise; “I be going to set up for myself; I’m tired of slaving for another man.”
“Quite right, too,” said the dwarf; “but all businesses takes money, of which, my dear, I doesn’t doubt you’ve plenty. You always took care of Number One, when you did business with Cheap John.”