“Could you?” said the large-mouthed woman, contemptuously. “I wouldn’t live long in the country, I wouldn’t, if it was to make me such a owl as you’ve turned into. It ain’t much farther than your nose you sees!”
“Never mind me, Sal, my dear,” said the hunchback, anxiously. “I trusts you, my dear. And it seems to me as if you thought he’d got ’em about him. Do you, my dear, and why? And why did you tell him the truth, straight on end, when a made-up tale would have done as well, and kept him in the dark?”
“Why did I tell him the truth?” repeated the woman. “’Cos I ain’t such a countrified fool as to think lies is allus the cleverest tip, ’cos the truth went farthest this time. Why do I think he’s got ’em about him? First, ’cos he swore so steady he hadn’t. For a ready lie, and for acting a lie, and over-acting it at times, give me townspeople; but for a thundering big un, against all reason, and for sticking to it stupid when they’re downright convicted, and with a face as innercent as a baby’s, give me a country lump. And next, because I can tell with folks a deal sharper than him, even to which side of ’em the pocket is they’ve got what they wants to hide in, by the way they moves their head and their hands.”
“Which side is it of him, Sal?” said the hunchback, with ugly eagerness.
“The left,” said Sal; “but it won’t be there long.”
The miller’s man at the mop.—A lively companion.—Sal loses her purse.—The recruiting sergeant.—The pocket-book twice stolen.— George in the King’s arms.—George in the King’s service.—The letter changes hands, but keeps its secret.
For some years the ex-servant of the windmill had been rather favored by fortune than otherwise. He found the pocket-book, and, though he could not read the letter, he got the five-pound note. Since then, his gains, honest and dishonest, had been much beyond his needs, and his savings were not small. Suspicion was just beginning to connect his name and that of the Cheap Jack with certain thefts committed in the neighborhood, when he made up his mind to go.
His wealth was not generally known. Many a time had he been tempted to buy pigs (a common speculation in the district, and the first stone of more than one rustic fortune), but the dread of exciting suspicion balanced the almost certain profit, and he could never make up his mind. For Master Lake paid only five pounds a year for his man’s valuable services, which, even in a district where at that time habits were simple, and boots not made of brown paper, did not leave much margin for the purchase of pigs. The pig speculation, though profitable, was not safe. George had made money, however, and he had escaped detection. On the whole, he had been fortunate. But that mop saw a turn in the tide of his affairs, and ended strangely with him.