AUTHOR OF "ALL MEN ARE LIARS"
NEW YORK DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY 1897
COPYRIGHT, 1896, BY JOSEPH HOCKING
BURR PRINTING HOUSE, NEW YORK.
CHAPTER I PAGE TELLS HOW THE PENNINGTONS LOST PENNINGTON 1
TELLS HOW I, JASPER PENNINGTON, TRIED TO GET MY OWN 15
HOW I WAS ROBBED OF ELMWATER BARTON; HOW I FLOGGED THE TRESIDDERS, AND WAS PILLORIED BECAUSE OF IT 28
I ESCAPE FROM THE WHIPPING-POST, AND FIND MY WAY TO GRANFER FRADDAM'S CAVE 44
I SEE NAOMI PENRYN ON ROCK CALLED THE SPANISH CAVALIER, AND RESCUE HER—WE ESCAPE FROM THE TRESIDDERS 59
I DISCOVER ANOTHER CAVE, AND HEAR A CONVERSATION BETWEEN RICHARD TRESIDDER AND HIS SON 74
I HEAR RICHARD TRESIDDER TELL NAOMI PENRYN'S HISTORY, AND AM IN DANGER OF BEING KILLED BY SMUGGLERS 87
I GO TO KYNANCE COVE WITH CAP'N JACK TRUSCOTT'S GANG, AND MEET HIS DAUGHTER TAMSIN 100
WHAT HAPPENED AT CAP'N JACK'S HOUSE—TAMSIN'S CONFESSION, AND THE SMUGGLERS' PLANS 114
WHAT BECAME OF THE WRECKERS' LIGHT—HOW I ESCAPED AND ENTERED PENNINGTON 127
I SEE NAOMI PENRYN, AND AM GREATLY ENCOURAGED, BUT SOON AFTER AM TAKEN PRISONER 141
HOW MY LOVE SAVED ME—WHEN FREE I GO TO SEA, AND MONTHS LATER COME BACK TO BETSEY'S COTTAGE AND HEAR BAD NEWS 155
BETSEY FRADDAM AND CAP'N JACK MEET—I GO TO FALMOUTH AND MEET NAOMI—AFTERWARD I SEE MR. JOHN WESLEY 170
I AM TAKEN PRISONER, AND AFTERWARD EXPERIENCE MANY STRANGE THINGS—I AT LENGTH FIND MYSELF IN A DUNGEON 185
MY EXPERIENCE IN MY PRISON—I AM TOLD TERRIBLE NEWS ABOUT NAOMI 200
I HEAR A STRANGE NOISE IN MY PRISON—THE SECRET PASSAGE WHICH I FOUND—A WILD STRUGGLE, AND A HAIRBREADTH ESCAPE 214
TELLS OF THE MANNER OF MY ESCAPE, OF THE STRANGE MAN I MET, AND OF ELI'S STORY OF A BURIED TREASURE 228
HOW I LEFT BEDRUTHEN STEPS AND, AFTER MEETING TAMSIN TRUSCOTT, SOUGHT FOR NAOMI 241
TELLS HOW I CLIMBED THE WALL OF THE MANOR HOUSE GARDEN, AND WHAT I SAW 254
HOW I FELLED A HORSE WITH MY FIST, AND CARRIED NAOMI SOUTHWARD 269
HOW I TOOK NAOMI TO MULLION PORTH AND THEN STARTED WITH ELI TO FIND THE TREASURE 282
HOW I FOUND THE SECRET OF THE TREASURE, AND WENT TO THE SCILLY ISLES 295
HOW WE FOUND THE IRON BOX ON ANNETTE ISLAND, AND THE TERRIBLE ENDING TO OUR ADVENTURE 309
TELLS OF THE STRANGE REVELATION MADE BY THE MADMAN OF BEDRUTHEN STEPS, AND OF TAMSIN TRUSCOTT'S TREACHERY 323
HOW WE WENT TO PENNINGTON, AND HOW THE TRESIDDERS WON THE VICTORY 337
TELLS OF MY FORTUNES IN WINNING BACK MY BIRTHRIGHT, AND FINISHES THE TALE 351
TELLS HOW THE PENNINGTONS LOST PENNINGTON
I am writing this story at the wish of many friends, who tell me it is my duty so to do. Certain stories have been afloat, which are anything but true, and it has been urged upon me again and again to set down in plain terms the true history of events which have set people's tongues wagging. I must confess that, in spite of the pleasure I have in recalling the memories of past years, it is with great diffidence that I at last commence my work. Not because I have any difficulty in remembering what took place. My memory, thank God, is as good as ever, and the principal scenes in my history are as clear to me as if they happened yesterday. It is not that. The truth is I was never clever at putting things on paper, and somehow, while the facts are clear enough in my mind, I feel a great difficulty in relating those facts in a way that is clear and understandable. You see I have lived an open-air life, and have spent more hours with the bridle-reins in my hands than the pen, and although I had a fair amount of schooling I was never considered a quick learner.
Still, as John Major said to me only yesterday, it seems a duty to clear up certain matters which are altogether misunderstood, and what is more, to clear my name from scandal. Moreover, as he truly insisted, there are others besides myself upon whom clouds rest, and one especially about whom the truth ought to be told.
"People are saying," asserted John Major, "that the land you call yours is not yours by right, and that in order to get your will you were in league with the devil. It is also said that you broke the laws of God and man in your dealings with your relations, and that Parson Inch refuses to give you the right hand of fellowship until you can prove in a fair and straightforward way that you are not the man some take you to be."
Now I am quite aware that many things have happened to me which happen to but few men. I know, too, that I have had experiences which, to say the least of them, are strange, neither am I sure that I can explain certain matters to Parson Inch's satisfaction. At the same time I am not afraid of the light, and so I am determined to set down truthfully, to the best of my ability, the true account of those events in my life which are misunderstood, so that no stigma shall rest upon those who are as dear to me as my own heart's blood.
Let it be understood, however, that I make no pretence at fine writing, neither must it be expected that I, who never boasted great learning, can explain that which has puzzled Parson Grigg, who was in the parish before Mr. Inch came—aye, even puzzled the Bishop himself who came to visit the rectory some years since. All I undertake to do is to put down in plain, homely words the story of my life, in so far as it affects my good name and the good name of those who are associated with me. It may be that I shall have to touch upon matters peculiar to the part of the country in which I was born and reared, and to which I am proud to belong. As far as I can I will make them clear; but even concerning these I will make no great promises.
To begin at the beginning then, for I must do this to make everything clear, and I desire above everything to make matters plain. My father, Jasper Pennington, died when I was nineteen, leaving me as I thought Elmwater Barton, a farm of about three hundred acres. I am called Jasper too; indeed, for generations back there has always been a Jasper Pennington. Elmwater Barton is by no means a bad farm. Nearly all the land is under cultivation, and the house is roomy and substantial. You must not imagine, however, that the Barton is the principal place in the parish of St. Eve. Far from it. The parish contains twelve thousand acres, and is, on the whole, the richest parish in Cornwall, and so three hundred acres do not count much. Up to the time of my father living at Elmwater Barton the place had always been held by a family of yeomen by the name of Quethiock, respectable people, of course, but not regarded as gentry. No, the principal house in St. Eve is Pennington, which, when my father died, was owned by Richard Tresidder. My father was born at Pennington, and my grandfather and great-grandfather were born there; indeed, the estate, which is a very valuable one, has been owned by the Penningtons for many generations.
The question, therefore, naturally arises, How did a Tresidder get into the possession of the estate which has always belonged to the Penningtons? It is well to explain this because evil tongues have told lies concerning it.
My father's mother died soon after his birth, when my grandfather was a comparatively young man; and when my father was about five years old, his father called him into the library one day, and told him that it was his intention to give him a mother.
"A mother?" said my father, "you told me my mother was dead."
"Yes, she is," said my grandfather, "and is in heaven if ever it is possible for a woman to get there; that is why I want to give you another, Jasper, one who will take care of you better than I can."
"Will she be kind to me?" asked my father.
"That she will," was the reply; "but more than that, she will bring you a brother, who is about your own age, and he will be a playfellow for you."
My father was greatly pleased at this, and so he welcomed his new mother very eagerly, thinking all the time, of course, of his new playfellow.
The lady my grandfather married was a widow. Her husband, Richard Tresidder, had been a lawyer in Falmouth, but he had died of cholera about four years after my grandmother died. Her little boy, too, was called Richard, or Dick, as they named him for short, and in a little while the two boys became friends.
Now the widow of lawyer Tresidder brought my grandfather no property at all, not a pennypiece, but she brought a great deal of discord instead. She was always jealous for her son, and she hated my father. The very sight of him used to vex her, especially as after several years she did not bear my grandfather a son. There were three daughters born, but no son, which greatly disappointed my grandfather, and made his wife exceedingly bitter toward my father.
As years went by it seemed to be the great purpose of her life to cause quarrels between the father and son, and at the same time to show up the excellencies of her own son, Richard Tresidder. I suppose the wisest and best men are clay in the hands of women; at any rate, such has been my experience in life, especially if that woman is clever, and has a will of her own, which latter quality few women are short of. Anyhow, after many years, she succeeded in setting my grandfather against his only son Jasper. How she managed it I don't know, for my grandfather always had the name for being a just man, but then, as I said, what can a man do when a woman gets hold of him? Just before my father was twenty-one this widow of Tresidder got her husband to make a new will. She persuaded him to let her husband's brother be present when Mr. Trefry, the old family lawyer, was writing the document, and a good many hard words passed even then.
You see, Mr. Trefry couldn't bear to see my father defrauded, and yet he had no right to interfere. The upshot was that the will gave my father the sum of L500, while all the Pennington estates were to be held in trust for Richard Tresidder. This of course seems very strange, but it goes to show how a woman can twist a man around her finger when she sets out to do it. There was a clause in the will, however, which my grandfather, in spite of James Tresidder, who was also a lawyer, would have inserted. I think the old man's love for justice, and perhaps his love for his son, caused him to have a mind of his own in this case, for in the face of lawyer Tresidder's objections and his wife's entreaties he stood firm. The clause was to this effect—that if Jasper Pennington or his heirs were ever in a position so to do, they could demand to buy the Pennington estates, as they existed at the date of the will, at half the value of the said estates. And that in the case of such an emergency, five representatives of five county families be asked to make the valuation. My grandfather further stipulated that none of the Pennington lands should be sold at any time for any purpose whatever.
Now, the widow of Tresidder greatly objected to this, and even after it was duly signed did her utmost to get my grandfather to have this clause expunged. But the Pennington blood asserted itself, and although he had given way to his wife in such a degree that he had almost disinherited his son, he still held to this clause.
Not that it could be worth anything to my father. How could he, with only L500, expect to gain many thousands?
As I said, the will was made some few months before my father was twenty-one, and it was stipulated that he was to receive the L500 on his twenty-first birthday.
And now comes a stranger part of the business. About a week before my father came of age, my grandfather grew angry at what he had done. The thought of his only son being disinherited in favour of a stranger just because a woman had twisted him around her finger made him nearly mad. He saw now what his wife had been aiming at for years; he saw, too, that the quarrels he had had with my father were of his wife's making; and anxious to do justly, he wrote a letter to Mr. Trefry telling him that he desired his presence at Pennington, as he wanted to make a new will, which should be duly signed and sealed before his son Jasper's twenty-first birthday. This letter was given to a servant to take to Truro. Now this servant, like almost every one else she had in the house, had become a tool of the solicitor's widow, and there is every reason to believe she saw the letter. Be that as it may, before Lawyer Trefry reached Pennington, my grandfather, who the day previous had been a hale, strong man, was dead, and the doctor who was called said that he died of heart disease.
My father, however, believed that his father had been poisoned, or in some other way killed, because the woman he had married feared that he would make a new will in favour of his son Jasper.
And now I have told why Pennington, which had been in the possession of the Penningtons for many generations, passed out of our hands, and became the property of the Tresidders.
After my grandfather's funeral L500 were paid to my father, and he was ordered with many bitter words to leave the home of his fathers. The clause in the will to which I have referred, however, comforted him greatly. He was young and strong, and he determined to save up enough money to get back the Pennington estates according to the provisions laid down. At that time Elmwater Barton was to let. Old Mr. Quethiock, who had just died, had left one son who had a shop in Falmouth. This son did not like farming, and he willingly agreed to let the Barton to my father, who spent nearly the whole of his capital in stocking it. Meanwhile, Richard Tresidder lived in state at Pennington, and sneered at my father, who toiled hard at the Barton, and thus, if my father hated Richard Tresidder, was it to be wondered?
Now, joining the Pennington lands are those belonging to the Lantallick estates, which belong to the Archer family, a family as old as the Penningtons and as greatly respected. Squire Archer had five sons and one daughter, and my father, who was always friendly with the people at Lantallick, visited the house often, and all the more because he loved Mary Archer. Concerning Mary Archer I will pass no opinion. I will only state facts. I have been told that she was a beautiful young woman, and that my father loved her dearly. Indeed, it was generally understood that he should marry Mary when he came of age. It has been said, too, that Mary was simply crazy in her love for my father; but about that I have my doubts.
Not long after my father settled down at Elmwater Barton, he asked Mary to be his wife, and it was then that Squire Archer told him to leave the house, and informed him, moreover, that his daughter would be shortly married to Richard Tresidder.
"But," said my father, "Mary has promised to be my wife, promised again and again."
"And do you think," asked the Squire, "that I would allow my only daughter to marry a tenant farmer, a wild young scamp that his father disinherited? Leave the house, I tell you!"
I have heard that Mary pleaded with her father, but I will not vouch for the truth of that. Certain it is that some time after she became married to Richard Tresidder.
Thus it was that Richard Tresidder robbed Jasper Pennington not only of his home and lands, but his love.
Now, my father prospered at Elmwater Barton. He was a clever man, and fortune favoured him. He began to lay by money, and he farmed the land so well that folks said he would in a few years, by the blessing of God, have enough to buy back the Pennington estates, according to the terms of his father's will. This was told Richard Tresidder and his mother one day, and they both laughed. About this time my father's cattle began to die. No one could explain why, but die they did, until many rumours were afloat, and people whispered that the cattle were bewitched. Anyhow, it was asserted that Richard Tresidder had been seen talking with Betsey Fraddam, the witch, while many delicacies had been taken to Betsey's cottage from Pennington.
Now, as I said, there will be many things in this narrative which I, an unlearned man, cannot explain. Still, I must tell of matters as they occurred, this, among others, especially as my relations with Eli Fraddam, Betsey's son, have been condemned by Parson Inch. It is said that the Fraddam family has witchcraft in its veins. Anyhow, it is well known that Betsey was regarded as a witch, while Eli, her son—but of the poor gnome I will tell later on.
My father tried everything to cure his cattle, but could not, and what was more perplexing was the fact that other people's cattle in fields adjoining suffered not at all. In a few months he was driven to extremities; he saw his chances of buying back his old home slipping through his fingers, and what maddened him most was that whenever he passed Richard Tresidder, the man who lived on his estates, laughed him in the face.
One day my father was in a field adjoining the Pennington lands when he saw Richard Tresidder.
"Well, farmer," said Tresidder, with a sneer, "and how are you getting on?"
Whereupon my father accused him of having dealings with Betsey Fraddam, and told him he was a black-hearted knave, and other things concerning himself, which maddened Richard Tresidder so that he jumped over the hedge that divided them and struck my father with his heavy riding-whip.
Now the Penningtons have always been a large-limbed, powerful race, and, while they have been slow to anger, they have—thank God—always had a strong sense of what is just, and have always been regarded as brave men. Richard Tresidder was a slim, wiry man, and, while strong and agile, was no match for a man who, when he hadn't an ounce too much flesh, weighed over eleven score pounds. What my father would have done by him I know not, but while he was in the act of thrashing him two of Tresidder's men came up, and thus the business ended, at least for the time. A little while later my father was summoned for attempted murder.
The affair was the talk of Cornwall for some time—at least, that part of Cornwall—and most people thought my father would be hanged. The magistrates, who knew the Penningtons and liked them, however, did not allow this; but he had to pay Tresidder a sum of money which, unless he were helped, meant his utter ruin.
Again had Richard Tresidder and his mother, who, I believe, was behind all this, got the upper hand of my father, and again by unfair means. Was it a wonder, then, that Jasper Pennington should regard them as enemies? Was it any wonder that I, when I came to know about these things, should feel bitterly?
After the sentence was passed my father, wondering what to do, went to see Betsey Fraddam, the witch.
"Betsey," said my father, "tell the truth about my cattle. You can't harm me, because I'm the oldest son, indeed the only son, but I can harm you. Did Tresidder hire you to ill-wish the cattle?"
"Jasper," said Betsey, "ded 'ee bait un—ded 'ee bait un, now, right bad? Zay you ded, now."
"Yes, I did," said my father. "I'm glad the two men came up, or I should have murder on my conscience, and that's not right, even when the man is your enemy."
"But you ded bait un! Aw! aw! Jasper; ther's they that can kill, an' ther's they that can cure. Some can do both."
"You can, Betsey."
"P'raps I can, Jasper. Ave 'ee seed my boy Eli, Jasper?"
"No," replied my father.
"Then come in and zee un—come in, Jasper," and she led the way into the cottage.
My father, who told me this years after, said he should never forget the curious feeling that came over him as he saw Betsey Fraddam's son. He looked even as a child like an old man, and he had a wild look in his eyes that made him shudder.
"He 'ed'n wot you may call a purty cheeld, es a, then?" asked Betsey.
My father did not reply.
"Well, we ca'ant expect for Betsey Fraddam to 'ave purty cheldern, can us, then?"
My father was still silent, for Betsey had a strange way with her that made people afraid. Even I can remember that.
"You may have a son some day, Jasper."
"No," said my father.
"But you may," said Betsey, "you may; I do'ant main nothin' wrong, Jasper. Margaret Quethiock es well off, and her father do oan the Barton. Think about it, Jasper. And then ef you do ever have a son, you'll tell 'im to be kind to Eli, wa'ant 'ee now, Jasper?"
"Yes," said my father, wondering all the time why he should give the promise. And that was all the conversation they had together at that time, for my father told me, and he was always a truthful man. But his cattle got better from that time, and as Mr. Quethiock, of Falmouth, lent him L300 he was able to tide over his difficulty.
A little while later my father married Margaret Quethiock, and the fortune that her father gave her was L200, besides the L300 he had borrowed, and Elmwater Barton rent free during her lifetime. If she died before my father, the question of rent was to be considered. They had been married about two years when I was born; but my mother died at my birth, so I never knew a mother's care and love.
My grandfather Quethiock said nothing about rent after my mother's death, but my father did not become a rich man. Somehow things were constantly going wrong with him, and he was in endless trouble about money matters. It was his stepmother, he told me, who was constantly persecuting him, because she feared his getting rich, while her son, who enjoyed my father's wealth, had all sorts of people ready to do his will. Only for him to hint at a thing, and his satellites would do it. Thus, one day a herd of cattle would get into a cornfield and destroy it; and on another, without any apparent reason, a corn-mow would catch fire. We could never trace it to them, but we always knew by the jeering laugh on Tresidder's face when he passed us who was the cause of our trouble.
All this shortened my father's life. When I was nineteen, at the time when he should have been in his prime, he was a worn-out old man; and so, when sickness overtook him, he had no strength to fight against it. It was during this sickness that he told me some of the things I have written, and also informed me of other matters which will be related later.
I was with him shortly before he died, and then he said to me very earnestly, "I leave you Elmwater Barton, Jasper, for I don't think your grandfather Quethiock will ever charge you rent, and he told me it should be yours completely at his death; but your real property is Pennington, my boy. Now I want you to make me a promise."
"I will promise anything in my power, father," I said.
"Then," he replied, quietly, "I want you to promise me that you will never rest until you get back your own. Never rest until you are back at Pennington as master and owner. You have been robbed, my son. I have tried to get your rights and have failed, but you must not fail."
"No, father, I will not fail," I replied. "I will never rest until I have got back Pennington."
"And never trust a Tresidder, Jasper; they are all as deep as the bottomless pit, and as cruel as the fiend who rules there."
"I hear, father," was my reply, "and you shall be obeyed."
This was in the month of July, in the year 1737, when I was nineteen years of age.
What I have to tell is how I tried to get back my home, of the battles I had to fight, of the love which came into my heart, of many mysteries which I cannot explain, and of the strange experiences through which I passed in seeking to obey my father's will.
Whether I shall be believed or no I cannot tell, but I will tell only the truth, strange as it may all seem. Moreover, let God be the judge whether my quarrel with the Tresidders was not a just one, and whether I did not fight fairly, as every honest man should.
TELLS HOW I, JASPER PENNINGTON, TRIED TO GET MY OWN
I do not think I have as yet mentioned it, but Richard Tresidder—I mean the man who entered into my father's possessions—had three sons and one daughter, and each of these was brought up with the thought that I was their natural enemy. Of course, they were informed that my grandfather's will provided the means whereby I, if I were sufficiently fortunate, could buy back the estate at half its valued worth. And they were in constant suspense about it. If I were to marry a rich wife it could be done; if I were to have some stroke of fortune their home might be taken from them, they having only a given sum of money. And thus it was to their interest to keep me poor, as well as to damage my reputation in the neighbourhood.
The eldest son was a year or more older than I, and was, of course, respected as the heir to the Pennington lands, for it is strange how people's sympathies veer around on the side of the people who are in power. My father has told me many times how, when he was thought to be the prospective heir of Pennington, people could not make enough of him, while Richard Tresidder had but scant courtesy paid him. When it became known that my father was disinherited, no matter how unjustly, these same folks discovered that Richard Tresidder was a very mine of wit and goodness, while my father was made a butt for fools' jokes.
And so I discovered that my being a Pennington counted but for little, while it seemed to be forgotten that but for the wiles of a clever, selfish woman, I should be the Squire of the parish.
When I was old enough I was sent to Tregony grammar school, my father being determined to give me a schooling befitting the position he hoped, in spite of his misfortunes, I should some day occupy. Now Nick Tresidder had been attending this same school for some months when I went. For this I was very glad, because I thought it would give me an opportunity for testing him. I had not been in the school a week, however, when my father came to fetch me away. The reason was that Richard Tresidder had demanded it, as he would not allow his son to be educated at the school where the son of a tenant-farmer was admitted. He told the schoolmaster that he had two other sons whom he intended to send, but that he should immediately withdraw his patronage if I were not sent away.
All this angered me as well as my father, but there was no help for it, and I was sent to Probus instead, where the education was as good, but where I had no chance of meeting the Tresidders.
I have said that Elmwater Barton was a good farm, but I must confess to looking longingly at Pennington. This was in the nature of things very reasonable on my part, for I always looked upon it as my home. But besides this, I doubt if the whole country can present a stretch of land so fair, or a house so pleasantly situated. There may be bigger and more imposing houses, but there are none more comfortable. Besides, Pennington faces a beautiful glen that is about half a mile wide. I know of no grass as green as that which grows there, or of trees so fine and stately. Besides, the river which winds its way downward, and which sometimes runs side by side with the drive leading from the house to the main road, is the most beauteous stream of water I ever saw. Then sloping away from this glen are wooded hills, the sight of which in the early summer time is enough to make a man sing for joy; and in addition to all this, while standing at the main entrance of the house you can see the blue sea, say a mile and a half away. I, who have seen something of the world, say there is nothing finer in the way of green and pleasant land, while all the world knows that nowhere are cliffs so fine and the sea so blue as that which is to be seen in this part of my native county. Besides, all that land from the house where my father was born right to the sea belongs to the Pennington estates, while at the back of the house it stretches just as far, and just as fair.
One day—it was before my father died—I had climbed Trescowal Tor, just to feast my eyes upon so much loveliness, when I saw Richard Tresidder walking with his mother toward the Pennington woods. Now a great desire came into my heart, not to see Tresidder, but to speak to his mother, whom I knew to be the evil genius of my family. And so I made my way to the woods, and stood in the pathway as they came up.
They both knew me, not only through my likeness to my father, but because of my size, for it is well known that the Pennington family on the male side are at least six inches taller than the ordinary run of men.
"Do you know you are trespassing?" asked Tresidder.
"My name is Jasper Pennington," I said, proudly.
"Then get off my lands at once," he said, sternly, and with a black look.
"Not until I have had a good look on the man and woman who have robbed my father and me," I said—and I knew I had aroused the devil in them as I spoke. For the woman who had robbed us fairly glared at me, while Tresidder grasped his stick as though he would strike me. The woman was nearing seventy, but she was strong and hale, and her eyes flashed like those of a young girl. I saw, too, that she must have been handsome when she was young. I marked the cruel, resolute expression of her mouth, and I did not wonder at the difficulty my grandfather had in resisting her.
"I will have you put in the stocks, and then taken to the lockup, if you are not gone at once," said Tresidder, savagely.
"I will give your three sons the chance of doing this," I said, with a laugh. "Three Tresidders against one Pennington isn't bad in fair fight. Of course, where cunning and cheatery comes in I should be nowhere. Or perhaps," I continued, "you would like to try yourself. I am only eighteen, and you are in the prime of your life; still, I should be pleased to give you the chance."
But he laid no hands on me; instead, he put a whistle to his mouth and blew.
"Yes," I said, "get some one else to do the work you are afraid to try yourself; that's a Tresidder all over. Well, I'll go now; I've had a good look at you both, and I shall know you again."
With that I turned and walked away, for, if the truth must be told, I did not care about fighting with Tresidder's minions, and my father had told me many times to be careful.
The path was very crooked, and the foliage was very thick, so that I had not gone more than a few steps before I was out of their sight. Acting on the impulse of the moment, I stopped and listened.
"A regular Pennington," I heard the old woman say. "You must be careful, Richard, for he has more brains than his father. He has all the good looks of the family, too. We must be silent about all our plans, for if he knows he will spoil them. Remember the will."
"I do remember; that is why I am anxious about our boys. Still, there can be no fear, and it will not be so very long before we shall get her. That settled, and Nick will be all right."
I heard no more after that, but I wondered often what he meant. I told my father, too, but he could give me no hint toward the solution of Tresidder's words.
After my father's death I ceased to think so much of Pennington; for I had Elmwater Barton to look after. I was determined to make the farm pay, and now that all the responsibility rested on me, I made up my mind that the Tresidders should not play fast and loose with me, as they had done with my father. In order to do this I looked carefully around me for a man in whom I could trust; for, be it remembered, this was a very difficult matter. My father had engaged two hinds, and each of these had been bribed by the Tresidders to injure his property. You see, his enemies had almost supreme power in the parish, and they used it to his injury. Still, I knew that the Tresidders must have enemies as well as other people, and it was for me to find out who they were. This I had no great difficulty in doing. A man named William Dawe had farmed a place named Treviscoe, on the Pennington estate, and the poor fellow had several seasons of bad luck. One year his turnip crop failed; the next the foot and mouth disease got hold of his cattle; and the next, during the lambing season, he lost a great number of sheep. Indeed, so bad was his luck that he was unable to pay his rent. Perhaps Tresidder would have been lenient with him but for two things: one was that he had refused to take sides with him against my father, and another was that when Nick Tresidder insulted William Dawe's daughter the farmer gave him a thrashing. The end of all this was that William Dawe was sold up, and even then he was not free from all his difficulties.
One of the first important things I did after my father's death, therefore, after a serious conversation with the farmer, was to lure him to come to Elmwater Barton, with his wife and son and daughter, in order to manage the farm. I do not think in all my life I have ever seen a man so grateful.
"Will you come, William?" I asked, when I told him what wages I could afford to give.
"Come, Maaster Jasper, come! I reck'n I will! Why—" And then he caught at my hand, and behaved in a way that made me think for the time that I was serving him only, and not myself at all.
In a few days William was settled down at the Barton, and right well did he arrange for the harvest, and right hard did both he and his son work for me. Indeed, both William and his son George seemed ready to work their arms off for me, and were both anxious to serve me night and day. George Dawe was a strapping fellow of twenty-five, nearly as tall and strong as myself, though not quite. This was proved one day when we wrestled down in the calves' meadow. I had hard work to master him, for George had taken the wrestling prize at St. Eve's Feast for three years in succession. I was proud to have thrown him, especially as I had not yet got my full strength, not being twenty years of age. George had had a varied experience. He had been to sea in a trading vessel, and, if the truth must be confessed, had done a fair amount of smuggling. Be that as it may, George Dawe loved me like a brother, and nothing was too much for him to do for me. Thus I regarded myself as very fortunate. Eliza Dawe, too, was a careful, sensible woman, while Selina, her daughter, was a strapping, healthy wench who could do as much work as two ordinary women.
Now, I say this was a great help to me, for they all watched my interests closely.
"Lev any ov the Trezidders try any ov their dirty capers now," said George to me, "and we'll laive 'em knaw."
Those who know nothing about farming can have no idea what a great amount of harm a seemingly little mistake can do. Suppose, for instance, there are two ten-acred fields side by side. Suppose the month is early July, when the corn has nearly reached its full height, and the heads have all bursted ready to ripen. Well, suppose, again, that one of these ten-acred fields has barley, or oats, or wheat, while the other is a browsing field in which twenty or thirty head of cattle are feeding. Then let some evil-disposed person open the gate between these two fields, and the thirty head of cattle get into the cornfield—what happens? Why, L20 worth of damage can be done in a single night. And things like this were often happening in my father's days, and thus he was kept poor.
But things changed after I got George Dawe on the Barton. His eyes seemed to be everywhere, and always in my interests.
Let me give one example (and then I will soon get on to my story proper) how George Dawe saved me a large amount of money, and at the same time helped me to teach the Tresidders a lesson.
It was the June after I had got William Dawe's family to live with me. We had had several dry weeks, so that the fields had become parched and bare, and we were anxious lest the sheep should not have enough grass. One field had been planted with vatches, which, as every farmer knows, grow quickly and are cut for the horses.
"William," I said to Dawe one day, "I am afraid we shall have to sacrifice a hay field. The browsing fields are all brown; the sheep can't get enough to eat. We must be careful not to turn them there when the dew is on the grass, though, or they'll get vlayed."
"I wudden trouble, Maaster Jasper; ship c'n nibble a lot on a dewy mornin', and we sh'll git rain zoon, I reck'n."
"Well, as you think best; but I fancy we'd better turn the biggest lot into the 'Sheeps' Close' to-night." The "Sheeps' Close" was the name of one of the best meadows, which at this time was very bare owing to the long spell of dry, hot weather.
Well, I had to ride to Truro that afternoon, so I did not get home till late at night. I found George Dawe waiting up for me.
"Anything the matter, George?" I asked.
"Iss, ther es, Maaster Jasper."
"What?" I asked.
"The Trezidders be up to the ould gaame. When I wos comin' 'ome from St. Eve two or dree 'ours agone, I 'eared young Nick plannin' ev it weth Buddle."
"Explain, George," I said.
George told his story, with the result that we made our way to the "Sheeps' Close" and hid behind the hedge. Just before dawn—that is, about three o'clock in the morning—we saw two men coming toward the gateway. We saw them unfasten the gate and open it wide, then we heard one say to the other, "Now let's fetch up the sheep, and the fool will be worth a bit less money in a few hours."
Then they went away, and in a little while we heard them "whishing" up the sheep. George closed the gate, and we both waited until they came up. There were a hundred and seventy-five sheep in the flock, and they brought them up for the purpose of turning them into the vatches. Here they would be knee-deep in rank vegetation, and the poor things, glad to get to such juicy meat, would eat ravenously. The result of this would be that they would get filled with wind and would swell horribly, and if not immediately relieved would die a painful death. If the design succeeded in this case I should be hundreds of pounds poorer before the men would be at their work.
It may be imagined, therefore, that my blood was pretty hot, and that my feelings toward the Tresidders were not those of a lover, and I will leave it to any fair-minded man whether my anger was not reasonable.
As I said, George and I waited by the gate until they came up. The sheep came close to the gate, as if waiting to be let in, and the two men stood behind, not knowing, evidently, why the poor creatures did not go to their death.
"What's the matter, Jacob?" asked young Nick Tresidder.
"Dunnaw, aw'm zure," answered Jacob, who was the eldest son of Tresidder's "head man" and the worst rake in the parish. "Lev us go up an' zee."
So they came up, as we expected they would.
"Why, the gaate es cloased and apsed!" cried Jacob. "The devil must 'a 'bin 'ere."
"Nonsense," said Nick, "you couldn't have opened it; you must have been dreaming. There, open it."
"You tackle Nick Tresidder, an' I'll 'ave a go with Buddle," said George to me, in a whisper; "he's allays a-braggin' as 'ow 'ee c'n bait me. Now then, jump out!"
At this we both leaped forward. I took Nick Tresidder by the scruff of the neck, while George gripped Buddle like a blacksmith's vice.
The sheep jumped away frightened, while these two blackguards cried out as if the judgment day had come.
"Es et the devil?" asked Buddle.
"No," I roared out, "it isn't the devil; we're not related to you in any way, and your master won't help you."
By this time they found out who we were, and began to wriggle finely.
"Look you, Nick Tresidder," I said; "the law will do nothing for us, so we are going to take the law in our own hands."
"What do you want?" asked Tresidder.
"Nothing unfair," I said. "We are man to man. You are on my land, and you were doing a trick worthy only of the devil, your master. We will wrestle fair, as becomes Cornishmen, and you must show no mercy, for as God is above me I'll show none."
Now I will do these men justice. They were not afraid of us, and when they knew that we were people of this world and not ghosts from the other, they showed no desire to run away. Nick Tresidder was a year older than I, while Buddle always sneered when folks said that George Dawe was a better man than he. Besides, they both saw that we did not mean playing at wrestling.
But Nick Tresidder, Tresidder-like, was not fair; he jumped upon me before I was ready, a thing always regarded as cowardly at a wrestling match. I saw in a minute, too, that he knew the tricks of the art, and were I not a wrestler, too, and a strong man to boot, my arm must have been broken before I could put forth my strength. This angered me more than I like to be angered, for now, when we were to meet man to man, I felt not so bitter about the sheep. So I put forth all my strength and made him let go his vantage hold, then I put my arm around his chest, and right glad was I when I found him a strong man; so I played with him for the pleasure of wrestling, just as any true Cornishman will. But I was wrong in doing this. My father had told me never to trust a Tresidder, and I did trust him to wrestle fairly, even although he had tried to kill my sheep. While I wrestled, merely for the pleasure of wrestling, I felt a stab at my side, and I knew that a knife had entered my flesh just under my arm.
"You are a coward, Nick Tresidder," I said, "a coward in every way;" then, not knowing whether I was dangerously wounded or no, I played with him no longer, for a man cannot bear everything. I caught him in both my arms and lifted him from the ground; then I wrestled in earnest. I heard one of his ribs snap, but he did not cry out, then another, and he became but a child to me; so I let him go, and he staggered away like a drunken man.
"Now go home and tell your father what you have done," I said, "and tell him who you found in Elmwater Barton 'Sheeps' Close.'"
Then I turned to George, who was still struggling with Buddle, and who, just as I came to him, threw him heavily.
"George," I said, "I have been stabbed. Just tie this cloth tightly around my chest."
"The coward!" said George, panting; "but where es a, Maaster Jasper?"
"He won't wrestle any more for a month or two," I replied; "but I would not have hurt him so if he had not stabbed me."
So there, in the early morning light, while the birds began to sing, and the sheep tried to find food on the dewy ground, George Dawe tied a cloth tightly across my naked chest, and I could not help wincing at the pain. Just as he was finishing, Jacob Buddle got slowly up from the ground. He had been badly stunned, but no bones were broken.
"Look after your master," I said; then I saw the knife with which Nick had stabbed me lying on the ground. "There," I said, "you know that knife, I expect; your master used it while we wrestled."
But Buddle was dazed, and did not reply. So when I had put on my coat I went to Nick Tresidder, who was very faint and unable to walk, so ill had he become. Then my heart softened, and together we took him up to Pennington, and Buddle, who was by this time better, said he could manage him.
The next day I heard that Nick Tresidder had fallen from his horse and broken his ribs, and Dr. Hawke, who had been called in, said that he must remain in bed many days. But of this I am sure, although neither George Dawe nor I said a word, Richard Tresidder knew the truth.
Now I have told this, not because I delight in such things, but because I want it to be known how I was treated, and what I had to contend with, for this was but a sample of the many ways in which the Tresidders had tried to harm me. I have often wondered why they felt so evilly toward me, seeing that they were rich at my cost, and I have come to the conclusion that it is a law of human nature for a man to hate those whom he has treated unjustly. But I am an unlearned man, and the heart of man—and woman—is past finding out.
And now I must tell how, in spite of myself, I was drawn more and more into contact with the Tresidders, with other matters which strangely affected my life later on.
HOW I WAS ROBBED OF ELMWATER BARTON; HOW I FLOGGED THE TRESIDDERS, AND WAS PILLORIED BECAUSE OF IT
A month after the event I have just related I was walking down toward the sea, for my wound, which was but slight, had healed up, when, passing by Betsey Fraddam's cottage, I saw the old woman sitting by the door mending a garment.
"'Ere, Maaster Jasper, I want 'ee," said Betsey.
So I went toward her, not caring to offend her. Now I am not a superstitious man, neither did I ever believe in some of the stories told about Betsey. At the same time, I knew better than to offend her. Even Parson Grigg was civil to her, and admitted that she had powers which could not be trifled with. It is also a fact that she had cured some of my cattle which had been stung by adders, by charming them, while, on the other hand, my father believed that she had, at Richard Tresidder's bidding, ill-wished his cows. She had on several occasions cured terrible diseases which the doctor from Falmouth said were incurable, and I have heard it said that when Mr. John Wesley visited Cornwall, and was told about her, the great man looked very grave, and expressed a belief in her power. This being so, it is no wonder I did not like to offend her; neither had I any reason for doing so. She had been kind to me, and once, when I had scarlet fever, gave me some stuff that cured me even when Dr. Martin said I should be dead in a few hours. Besides, according to my father's promise, I had been friendly with Eli, her son. Now, Eli was several years older than I, but he never grew to be more than about four feet high, and was the most ill-formed creature I have ever seen. He had bow legs, a hump back, and was what was called "double-chested." His thick black hair grew down close to his eyes, which eyes, in addition to being very wild and strange-looking, were wrongly set, so that no one could tell which way he was looking. He was rather sickly-looking, too, and was thought to be very weak. But this I know to be wrong. Eli, ill-formed as he was, was much stronger than most men, nature having endowed his sinews with wondrous hardness and powers of endurance. Eli did no work, but lived by poaching and begging food at the farmhouses. As Betsey's son he was never refused, especially as some believed he had inherited his mother's powers.
Well I entered the cottage and sat on a wooden stool while Eli sat in a corner of the open fireplace and looked at me steadfastly with one eye, and with the other saw what was going on out in the road.
"Well," said Betsey, "and so you found out what Nick Tresidder wanted to do, then? An' I 'ear as 'ow you've nearly killed 'im."
"How do you know?" I asked.
"How do I knaw? How do I knaw everything? But you'll be paid out, Maaster Jasper! Tell y' Dick Tresidder 'll pay 'ee out. I c'n zee et comin'."
"See what coming?" I asked.
"Look 'ee, Maaster Jasper; 'ave 'ee bin to zee yer Granfer Quethiock lately?"
"Then you be a vool, Jasper—tell y' you be a vool. Wy, 'ee's nearly dead; he may be dead by now. What 'bout the Barton, Jasper? 'Ave 'a willed et to 'ee?"
At this my heart became heavy. Up to now no rent had been charged, and I hoped that my grandfather would make it over to me. My uncles, I knew, did not like me.
"Old Mester Quethiock es dead, es dead, es dead," said Eli, in his funny, grunting kind of voice.
"How do 'ee knaw, Eli?" asked his mother.
"I knaw, I knaw," grunted Eli, and then he laughed in his funny way, but he would tell nothing more.
"What ought I to do?" I asked, for I felt a great fear come into my heart, although my father had told me that my Grandfather Quethiock meant to give me the Barton.
"Go and zee, go and zee," said Betsey.
So I went back home and saddled my mare and rode to Falmouth. When I got into Falmouth town I saw an ironmonger whom I knew, and he looked as though he would speak, so I stopped my horse.
"Well, and so yer poor gran'father is gone," he said.
"Is he?" I replied; "I did not know till now."
"Iss, he's gone, and a good man he wos, too. His two sons, yer uncles, 'ave been waitin' a long time to git into his shoes. Ah, there'll be a change now! Th' ould man was the soul of generosity; but the sons, Peter and Paul, nobody'll be able to rob one to pay the other of they two. But I 'ear as 'ow you'm safe, Maaster Jasper. The Barton es yours, I'm told."
This cheered me, so I rode on toward my grandfather's house. Just before I got there I saw my two uncles coming down the street, and with them was Richard Tresidder. I checked my horse and watched them, and saw that they entered a lawyer's office, and the lawyer who owned it was the son of the man who was present when Lawyer Trefry drew up my grandfather's will.
I got to know nothing by going to my grandfather's house, save to find out the day of the funeral, which was fixed for three days later, and which I attended. After the funeral was over the will was read, and the lawyer who read it was Nicholas Tresidder, a bachelor after whom young Nick was called.
Now, I do not pretend to be a learned man, but I do love honesty, and I do say that the will was drawn up to defraud me. Neither do I believe that my grandfather ever intended the words written down, to read as the lawyer said they read, for he had told my father that Elmwater Barton was to be left to me. According to Lawyer Tresidder, however, the whole of my grandfather's property was left to his two sons, Peter and Paul Quethiock, and it was left to their generosity as to whether I, his grandson, Jasper Pennington, should remain at the Barton free of all rent, and whether the land should be eventually mine. Thus, according to the lawyer's explanation, it was left to my uncles' generosity and judgment as to whether my grandfather's desire should be carried out. I desired that this part of the will should be read again, but so many words were used that I had difficulty in making head or tail of it. All the time I noticed that my uncles looked very uneasy.
Now, I know that my grandfather was very fond of me, and in spite of the fact that I had been robbed of my rightful heritage, he was proud that he had a Pennington for a grandson. Thus I am sure that it was his will that I should have the Barton for my own. But during the last few years he had been very feeble and infirm, and thus in the hands of a clever lawyer he could easily be deceived as to what was legal.
I will not attempt to give a lengthy account of what followed. Indeed, I have not a very distinct remembrance. I was not long in seeing what was in the minds of my two uncles, and I quickly realised that they had been in league with the Tresidders; and so, feeling that it was their intention to defraud me, I became dazed and bewildered. I have a confused recollection of asking some questions, and of the replies given, and after hearing them I left the house, with the consciousness that I was not the owner of Elmwater Barton, but a tenant liable to be dismissed by my uncles, both of whom were, I was sure, tools of Richard Tresidder.
Still, I determined not to give up without a struggle, so I rode to Truro that same day and saw Lawyer Trefry, the son of the old lawyer who drew up my grandfather's will. He listened to my story very attentively, and when I had finished declared that Nicholas Tresidder was a clever fellow.
"I think it is possible you may have a case though, Jasper," he said; "I think you may have a case. I will see to it at once. I will examine the will, and if there is a chance you may depend that I will seize on it. But remember this: Nicholas Tresidder is a clever fellow, and when he sets his mind on a thing it's a difficult thing to find him napping."
That night I went back to the Barton with a sad heart, speaking not a word to any one. I longed to ease my pain by denouncing the people who sought to work my ruin, but in spite of William Dawe's anxious solicitations I held my peace. It is true Lawyer Trefry gave me some little hope, but I did not sleep that night, and for the next few days I wandered around the farm like one demented. Presently I saw Lawyer Trefry again, and I knew directly I caught the look on his face that my case was hopeless.
"Nicholas Tresidder is a smart fellow," he said, with a grunt, "a very smart fellow. There is no doubt but that your grandfather meant you to have the Barton—not the slightest doubt; but then, you see, it is not legally yours. Let us hope that your uncles will abide by your grandfather's evident desire and make it yours."
But I had no hope of that, and I shook my head sadly. "As well expect water from a stone," I said. "For a long time I have wondered why Richard Tresidder should be so friendly with Peter and Paul Quethiock; now I know. He has been for years trying to ruin me, and now he has accomplished it."
"How old are you?" asked Lawyer Trefry, suddenly, as though a new thought had struck him.
"Twenty next month," I replied.
"Bah! why did not old Quethiock live a month longer?" grunted the lawyer.
"Why, what would have been the use?" I asked.
"Use? Why, if you could prove that you had held the land for twenty years, you could lawfully claim it as yours."
And thus everything was against me, and although we talked over a dozen things together, no ray of light came to cheer the darkness.
The next thing that happened was the event of a letter which I got from Nicholas Tresidder, the Falmouth lawyer. This letter was to the effect that as I was neither a lawful tenant of Elmwater Barton, nor the owner thereof, I must immediately vacate the place, as Paul Quethiock intended to take possession thereof immediately. I had expected this, and had been for days trying to value the stock on the place. As I have before stated, I was barely twenty years of age, and although my father had appointed as my guardians two neighbouring farmers, they took but little interest in my affairs—indeed, I do not think they understood what their duties were. Anyhow, they took no steps to help me, neither did they interfere with me in any way.
On the receipt of this letter, which was brought from Falmouth by messenger, I saddled my mare, and immediately rode to see Lawyer Trefry.
He read the letter very carefully, and then asked me if I had received nothing else.
"Nothing," I replied; "what is there else to receive? They have taken away the farm, they have ordered me to leave it; now I am come to you to arrange with James Trethewy and John Bassett about selling the stock. I suppose the crops will have to be valued, too, and a lot of other matters before I can realise on my property."
He looked very grave, but said nothing for some time.
"I will do what I can at once," he grunted, at length; "but believe me, Jasper, my boy, Nicholas Tresidder is a clever dog—a very clever dog. He's been set to work on this bone, and he'll leave nothing on it—mark my words, he'll leave nothing on it."
"He has left nothing," I replied; "I doubt if the stock will fetch very little more than the L500 my father spent when he took Elmwater Barton from my Grandfather Quethiock."
Lawyer Trefry shook his head and grunted again; but he made no remark, and so I left, thinking that I knew the worst. I imagined that when the stock was sold I should be worth several hundred pounds, and with this as a nucleus, I should have something to give me a fair start.
And so the day of the sale of the stock on the Barton was fixed, but before that day came another letter was brought by a messenger of Lawyer Nicholas Tresidder from Falmouth. This letter stated that as no rent had been paid since the death of Margaret Pennington, the heirs of the late Peter Quethiock claimed six years' rent, as they were entitled to do by the law of the land.
I knew now what Lawyer Trefry meant when he said that Lawyer Tresidder would pick the bone clean. He had seen this coming, while I, young and ignorant of the law, had never dreamed of it. Old Betsey Fraddam had said that Richard Tresidder would pay me out, and he had done so now. Six years' rent would swallow up the value of the stock, and would take every penny I possessed. Thus at twenty I, who, but for the fraud and deceit of the Tresidders, would be the owner of Pennington, would be absolutely homeless and penniless. Then for the first time a great feeling of hate came into my heart, and then, too, I swore that I would be revenged for the injury that was done to me.
Again I went to Lawyer Trefry, and again he grunted.
"I expected this," he said; "I knew it would come. Nick Tresidder is a clever dog; I was sure he would pick the bone clean."
"And there is no hope for me?" I asked, anxiously.
"You will have your youth, your health and strength, and your liberty," he replied. "I do not see how they can rob you of that; no, even Nick Tresidder can't rob you of that!"
"But the rest?"
"It will have to go, it must all go; there is no hope for it—none at all," and the lawyer grunted again.
I will not describe what took place during the next few weeks—there is no need; enough to say that all I had was taken, that I was stripped of all I possessed, and was left a homeless beggar.
As Lawyer Trefry told me, they had done their worst now, at least for that time. Richard Tresidder had been undoubtedly working in the dark for years to accomplish this, and in his kinsman the lawyer he had found a willing helper. It was plain to see, too, that it would be to Peter and Paul Quethiock's advantage to try and take the Barton from me. It was a valuable piece of land, and would enrich them considerably. There was no difficulty, either, in seeing Richard Tresidder's motives. He had wronged me, and, as I said, it seems a law of life that a man shall feel bitterly toward one he has wronged; and besides all that, his safety lay in keeping me poor, and to this end he brought all his energies to bear.
When it was all over I think I became mad. While there was a straw to which I could hold I managed to restrain myself, but when the last was broken I think I gave myself over to the devil. I behaved in a way that frightened people, until even those who were inclined to be friendly avoided me. By and bye only one house was open to me, and that was old Betsey Fraddam's. It was true I visited the taverns and beershops in the neighbourhood, and formed companionships with men who years before I despised; but Betsey Fraddam's house was the only one open to me which I could regard as anything like a home. Even Betsey grew angry with me, and would, I think, have bidden me leave her doors but for her son Eli, who seemed to love me in a dumb, dog-like sort of way.
"Why doan't 'ee roust yerzelf up, Jasper?" she would say. "Spoase you be put upon, spoase Squire Trezidder 'ave chaited 'ee—that ed'n to zay you shall maake a maazed noodle of yerzelf. Roust yerzelf up, an' begin to pay un back."
"How can I do it, Betsey?"
"'Ow? Better do a bit a smugglin' than do nothin'."
"Yes; and isn't that what Tresidder wants? If he can get me in the clutches of the law that way it will just please him. Mad I am, I know, but not mad enough for that."
"Then go to Plymouth, or go to Falmouth, my deear cheeld. Git on board a shep there, an' go off to some furrin country and make a fortin."
"There are no fortunes to be made that I know of, Betsey; besides, I don't want to get away from St. Eve. I want to stay here and keep my eye upon Tresidder."
"And what good will that do? You ca'ant 'urt 'ee by stayin' 'ere. 'E's too clever for you; he c'n allays bait 'ee while you stay 'ere, especially when you do behave like a maazed noodle."
"Very well, Betsey. I will leave your house," I said after she had been talking to me in this fashion one day; "I can manage to live somewhere."
"Jasper mus'n't go 'way," said Eli; "Jasper stay with me. Ef Jasper go 'way, I go 'way. I help Jasper. I knaw! I knaw!" and then the poor gnome caught my hands and laughed in a strange way which was half a cry.
And so, because Betsey loved Eli with a strange love, and because Eli clung to me with a dog-like devotion, I made Betsey's cottage my home. Plan after plan did I make whereby I might be able to make Richard Tresidder and all his family suffer for their behaviour to me, but I saw no means. What could I do? I had no friends, for when I left Elmwater Barton William Dawe and his family left the parish. For a long time I could not make up my mind to ask for work as a common labourer in a parish where I had been regarded as the owner of a barton. It seemed beneath me, and my foolish pride, while it did not forbid me to idle away my days and live in anything but a manly way, forbade me to do honest manual work. But it would have made no difference even if I had been less foolish, for when I on one occasion became wiser, and sought work among the farmers, I was refused on every hand. The fact was, every one was afraid to offend Richard Tresidder, and as every tenant farmer in the parish was in his power, perhaps their conduct was reasonable.
And thus it came about that my manhood slipped away from me, and I became a loafing outcast. I would have left the parish but for a seemingly unreasonable desire to be near Richard Tresidder, who day by day I hated more and more. I know I was mad, and forgot what was due to my name in my madness.
When a year had gone, and I was nearly twenty-one years of age, there were few more degraded sights in the parish than I. My clothes had become worn out, and my whole appearance was more that of a savage than of anything else. People said, too, that the look of a devil shone from my eyes, and I saw that people avoided me. And as I brooded over this, and remembered that I owed it all to the Tresidders, I vowed again and again that I would be revenged, and that all the Tresidder brood should suffer a worse hell than that through which I passed.
Nothing cheered me but the strange love of Eli Fraddam, who would follow me just as a dog follows its master. When I could get a few pence I would go to the alehouse and try and forget my sorrow, but I nursed my anger all the time, and never once did I give up my dreams of harming the Tresidders. I write all this because I want to tell my story faithfully, and because I will give no man the chance to say that I tried to hide the truth about my feelings toward my enemies.
The day before my twenty-first birthday I was loafing around the lanes when I saw Richard Tresidder and his son Nick drive past me. They took the Falmouth road, and, divining their destination, I followed them in a blind, unreasoning sort of way. As I trudged along plans for injuring them formed themselves in my mind, one of which I presently determined I would carry into effect. It was the plan of a savage, and perhaps a natural one. My idea was to wait outside the town of Falmouth, to waylay them, and then to thrash them both within an inch of their lives. I remember that I argued with myself that this would be fair to them. They would be two to one, and I would use nothing but my fists.
When I got into Falmouth I spent the few pence I possessed in food, and then I made inquiries about the time they would return. I discovered that they intended to leave the George Inn about five o'clock in the evening, so I spent the time loafing around the town, and repeating to myself what I would do with them both that night.
About three o'clock in the afternoon, however, my plans became altered. As I stood at a street corner, I saw Richard Tresidder, with his son Nick, besides several other gentlemen, coming down the street. Scarcely realising what I did, for the very sight of him made me mad, I went toward them, and as Richard Tresidder came up I spat in his face.
"Who's a thief? Who's a cheat? Who got Pennington by cheatery and lying?" I shouted.
"Get out of the way, you blackguard," cried Nick Tressider, the lawyer.
"I'll not get out of the way," I cried; "I'll tell what's the truth. He killed my grandfather; he hocussed him into making a false will, and he and you have robbed me. Ah, you lying cowards, you know that what I say is true!"
Then Richard Tresidder lifted his heavy stick and struck me, and before the bystanders knew what had happened there was a street brawl; for I struck Richard Tresidder a heavy blow on the chin which sent him reeling backward, and when his son Nick sprang upon me I threw him from me with great force, so that he fell to the ground, and I saw the blood gush from his nose. After that I remember nothing distinctly. I have a dim recollection of fighting madly, and that I was presently overpowered and taken to the lock-up.
I remained in the lock-up till the next morning, when I was taken before the magistrates. I don't know what was said, and at the time I did not care. I was angry with myself for not biding my time and flogging the Tresidders in the way I had planned, and yet I was pleased because I had disgraced Tresidder—at least, I thought I had—before the whole town. I have an idea that questions were asked about me, and that one of the magistrates who knew my grandfather said it was a pity that a Pennington should come to such a pass. Richard Tresidder and his friends tried to get an extreme sentence passed upon me, but the end of it all was that I was sentenced to be pilloried for six hours, and then to be publicly flogged.
Soon after I was taken to the market-place, where the pillory was set up, and I, in face of the jeering crowd, was tied to a pole. Then on the top of this pole, about six feet from the platform on which I stood, a stout piece of board was placed, which had three hollow places cut out. My neck was pressed into one socket and my wrists in the two others. Then another stout piece of board, with hollow places cut out to correspond with the other, was placed on the top of it. This pressed my neck very hardly, and strained it so that I could hardly breathe; it also fastened my hands, and hurt my wrists badly. I know of nothing nearer crucifixion than to be pilloried, for the thing was made something like a cross, and my head and arms were crushed into the piece of board which corresponds with the arms of a cross in such a way that to live was agony.
And there I stood while the jeering crowd stood around me, some howling, some throwing rotten eggs at me, and others pelting me with cabbage stumps and turnips. After I had stood there about three hours some one came and made the thing easier, or I should not have lived through the six hours, and after that time, the mob having got tired of pelting me, I was left a little time in peace.
When the six hours were nearly up, I saw Nick Tresidder come to the market-place with two maidens. One I saw was his sister, the other was a stranger to me. I knew they had come to add to my shame, and the sight of them made me mad again. I tried to speak, but the socket was too small, and I could not get enough breath to utter a word. Still, anger, I am sure, glared from my eyes as I looked at Nick and his sister; but when I looked at the other maiden, a feeling which I cannot describe came over me. She was young—not, I should think, quite eighteen—and her face was more beautiful than anything I have ever seen. Her eyes were large and brown, while her hair was also brown, and hung in curls down her back. Her face, thank God! was not like that of the Tresidders; it was kind and gentle, and she looked at me in a pitying way.
"What has he done?" she asked, in a voice which, to me, was as sweet as the sound of a brook purling its way through a dell in a wood.
"Done!" said Nick Tresidder. "He is a blackguard; he nearly killed both me and my father."
She looked at me steadfastly, and as she did so my heart throbbed with a new feeling, and tears came into my eyes in spite of myself.
"Surely no," she replied; "he has a kind, handsome face, and he looks as though he might be a gentleman."
"Gentleman!" cried Nick. "He will be flogged presently, then you will see what a cur he is."
"Flogged! Surely no."
"But he will be, and I wish that I were allowed to use the whip. Why, he belongs to the scum of the earth."
By this time I felt my degradation as I had never felt it before, for I felt that I would give worlds, did I possess them, to tell her the whole truth. I wondered who she was, and I writhed at the thought of Nick poisoning her mind against me.
Seeing them there others came up, and I heard one ask who this beauteous maiden was.
"Don't you know?" was the reply. "She is Mistress Naomi Penryn."
"What is his name?" asked this maiden, presently.
"Can't you see?" replied Nick. "Ah! the eggs have almost blotted out the name. It is Jasper Pennington, street brawler and vagabond."
And this was the way I first met Naomi Penryn.
I ESCAPE FROM THE WHIPPING-POST, AND FIND MY WAY TO GRANFER FRADDAM'S CAVE
No words can describe the shame I felt at the time. Before Naomi Penryn came there and looked upon me I was mad with rage and desire for vengeance. I longed to get to a place where I could meet the whole Tresidder brood face to face. But now a new feeling came to me. Had I not after all been a brute, and had I not acted like a maniac? For the look on her face made me love goodness and beauty. I could do nothing, however; my hands were numb, and my tongue was dry and parched. All I was capable of at this moment was to listen and to look into the fair maid's face, and feel a great longing that she might not despise me as Nick Tresidder evidently intended that she should.
The crowd did not pelt me while she stood there; I think it was because there was something in her presence that hindered them. Every one could see at a glance that she was different from the host of laughing things that cared nothing for my disgrace.
I waited eagerly for her to speak again; her words seemed to ease my pain, and to make me feel that I, too, was a man in spite of all I had suffered.
"Jasper Pennington," she said, presently; "why, Pennington is the name of your house, Nick!"
"Yes," replied Nick, savagely.
"He's young, too," she continued, looking at me curiously, and yet with a pitying look in her eyes.
Then I remembered I was twenty-one that day, and that my father had been dead barely two years. Thus, on my twenty-first birthday, I was pilloried as a vagabond and a street brawler, while this beauteous girl looked at me.
"Where does he live?" she asked again, as though she were interested in me.
"Up to a year ago he lived in St. Eve's parish," replied Nick. "He managed to stay by fraud on Elmwater Barton; he was a brute then, and tried to kill me. He would have succeeded, too, but for Jacob Buddle. I hope the man who flogs him will lay it on hard."
She gave me one more look, and in it I saw wonder and pity and fear. Then she said, "Let us go away, Nick. I do not care to stay longer."
"No, we will not go yet!" cried Nick; "let us see him get his lashes. He will be taken down in a few minutes. There, the constables are coming."
I saw the tears start to her eyes, while her lips trembled, and at that moment I did not feel the sting of the lies Nick had told.
The whipping-post was close to the place where the pillory had been set up, and I saw that the constable held the rope with which I was to be tied. Then two men came and unfastened the piece of wood which had confined my head and hands. At first I felt no strength either to hold up my head or to move my hands, but while they were untying my legs the blood began to flow more freely, and I knew that my strength was coming back. The ropes being removed I was allowed to stand a minute, so that my numbed body might become sensitive to the lash of the whip, but I thought not of it. I kept my eyes steadily on Naomi Penryn, and fed upon the look of pity on her face. I knew that she must think of me as a savage brute, and yet she felt kindly toward me. She did not ask to go away again; she seemed to be held by a strange fascination, and watched while the rope was fastened to the ring in the whipping-post. Then I saw Richard Tresidder come up. He had a scar on his cheek, and from his eyes flashed a look of anger, as though he gloated over the thought of my shame and suffering. No sooner did she see him than she came to him and asked that I might be spared the whipping, but Tresidder would not listen to her.
"He deserves to be hanged, my dear," he said; "if such low fellows as he are allowed to bully gentlemen in the streets, what is to become of us?"
Now this was hard to bear, for as all the world knows the Pennington family is one of the best in the county, but I saw that he wanted to embitter her mind against me.
Then I saw Lawyer Trefry come up, and two justices with him, and while my old friend did not speak to me, I knew that he thought of me kindly.
"The lad hath been much provoked," he said. "I have known him as a good lad for years, and but for unfair treatment, matters would be reversed."
At this two of the justices nodded their heads, while Richard Tresidder called out for the constables to do their work, for he saw that people began to sympathise with me.
Again I turned to Naomi Penryn, and as I saw the look on her face I determined that I would not bear the lash. Not that I feared the pain of body, but I could bear the degradation no longer. Then they lifted me from the platform on which I had been standing, and the people could see that my neck was cruelly discoloured, while my hands were blue.
"He hath suffered much," I heard it whispered, "and Squire Tresidder hates him. He's a Pennington, and his father was robbed. Isn't he a fine, strapping fellow; no wonder they are afraid of him."
This and other things I heard, until I knew that Lawyer Trefry had been making the mob friendly; for I have noticed again and again that ignorant people are easily changed from one state of feeling to another.
Now when I came to the whipping-post I began to look around for a means of escape, and to think how I should deal with the two constables that held me.
"Fasten him tight!" cried Richard Tresidder; then, just as the constables released my hands in order to put the rope on me, I gave a desperate struggle, and feeling great strength at that moment, I threw the constables from me, and made a great leap through the crowd. Not a man laid hands on me in spite of Richard Tresidder's commands, for which I knew I had to thank Lawyer Trefry, who with others had changed the feelings of the people. So I quickly got away from the town, and ran as hard as I was able to the River Fal. I knew that I should be followed, for I had not undergone my full penalty, and the law was on Richard Tresidder's side, so I determined that I would get among the woods that slope up westward from the river, and hide as best I might.
I knew I should be safe for the night, for the woods there were very thick, and night would soon be upon me. My only fear was that my strength would not hold out, for having eaten nothing for many hours I was hungry and faint.
After more than an hour's running I reached the woods, and, as far as I knew, little trouble had been taken to follow me, so having hidden myself among some very thick branches I laid down and rested. Could I have obtained some food I think I should have been fairly contented, for I felt neither so angry nor friendless as I had felt in the morning. Presently I heard a rustling among the bushes, and I fancied that my pursuers must be near me, so I lay very quiet and listened, but could hear no sound of human voices. So I became curious to know what made the noise, and to my delight I saw a cow that had evidently strayed away from its field, having probably got into the wood to be under the shade of the trees, and away from wasp-flies. At first she was frightened at me, but I had been used to cattle all my life, so I soon quieted her, and she let me approach her. I saw that it was time for her to be milked, so, making the palm of my hand into a cup, I got enough milk to refresh me considerably and to give me strength to carry out any plans I could make.
Scheme after scheme passed through my mind, but every one of them was driven away by the memory of Naomi Penryn's face and the kind words she had spoken. I knew that in going back to St. Eve I was going back to danger, and yet I determined I would go. I wanted to be close to the Pennington lands. I wanted to watch Richard Tresidder. Besides, I remembered that Naomi Penryn was probably a guest at Pennington. Then I began to ask myself why she should be with the Tresidders, and what relationship she bore to them. For I did not know her at all. The name of Penryn was well known in the county, but I did not know to what branch of the family she belonged. What connection had she with Nick Tresidder? Why should he bring her to see me that day? And what were the Tresidders' plans concerning her?
It came to me suddenly. She was intended for Nick Tresidder. I remembered the conversation I had heard between Richard Tresidder and his mother, and I thought I understood its meaning. Then my heart gave a wild leap, while hot blood rushed madly into my head, for I knew then that a new life had entered mine. I felt that I loved Naomi Penryn with a great love, and that this love would never leave me while my heart continued to beat. For I had not been given to walking out with maidens; my life had been filled with other things, and so the love I felt was new to me—it filled my whole life, and every breath I drew increased it.
For a long time I lay and dreamed of my love; I did not think of the way in which she must have regarded me, neither did I for a long while remember my degradation. I lived in happy forgetfulness of everything, save the love-joy that filled my life. The birds fluttered hither and thither on the twigs which grew so thickly around, and finally settled to rest, while the insects ceased to hum as the night descended, but I scarcely heeded them. I lay among the ferns, my head pillowed on a moss-covered stone, and thought of Naomi Penryn. I did not care who she was; I did not think. Why should I? For I believe that when God sends love into our hearts, it does not matter as to name and lineage. I had seen the flash of her eyes, and remembered the tear drops that glistened. I had seen the beauteous face, so full of tenderness and truth; I had heard her voice, sweeter than the sighing of the night wind as it played among the wild flowers, and I cared for nothing else. Hour after hour passed away, the woods became darker and darker, but I could still see Naomi's face. Then the eastern sky became streaked with golden light, and the birds sang to welcome the advent of day, but their songs were not so sweet as the memory of Naomi's voice. For my love was the gift of God, and I thought then only of what was beautiful and true.
But with the dawn of day other memories came to me. I thought of my shame; I remembered that she had been told to regard me as a vagabond and a street brawler. I knew that Nick Tresidder would seek to poison her mind against me, and that even now I was being searched for that I might be degraded by the lash of a whip; and then a great pain and bitterness filled my heart, for I felt that my love was hopeless. While I had rejoiced in loving I thought not of this, but after a time my love became a desire, an overmastering desire to woo Naomi Penryn, to make her love me as I loved her.
And this was hopeless. Had she not seen me pilloried as a shameful vagrant? Had she not seen me persecuted, tormented—the byeword, the laughing-stock for the offals of Falmouth town? Had I not been pelted by refuse? Was I not made hideous by disfigurement? How could I win her love? Then I hated the Tresidder tribe more than ever. They had robbed me of my home, my heritage, my all, and now through them I must be loathed by the one, the light of whose eyes burned into my heart like fire. But more than all this she would be with Nick Tresidder day by day. He would walk with her, ride with her, talk with her. They would roam among the woods and pluck the wild flowers that should be mine, while I—I was hiding from the men who held a whip to lash me.
These thoughts kept me from lying still any longer, so I got up and walked along under the great trees until I came down to the river. Perhaps the world can show more beauteous sights than the river which runs between Truro and Falmouth, but I have my doubts. Nature here is at the height of her loveliness and spreads her riches with no niggard hand. For the clear water coils its way through a rich countryside, where green woods and rich meadows slope down to the river's bank. Here the flowers come early in the springtime, and scent the air through the summer; and here, too, winter is tardy in making its appearance, as if loth to shrivel the shining leaf, or to cause the gaily-painted flower to wither and die.
Even I, as I stood by the river's bank at early sunrise, torn as my mind and heart were with conflicting passions, was soothed by the blessedness of the scene, for my heart lost something of its bitterness and love became triumphant. But the feeling was not for long. As I stood by the still water I saw the reflection of myself, and the sight made me more hopeless than ever. I saw in the water a tall, wild-looking youth, with bare head, save for a mass of unkempt hair; a face all scratched and bruised, and made to look savage and repulsive by vindictiveness; the clothes were dirty, bedraggled and torn, while the riding boots were torn and muddy.
And Naomi Penryn had seen me thus—ay worse. I went to the river and washed, and then looked at myself again. My face was still scratched and bruised, but I had the Pennington features. After all, there was nothing mean and cunning about them. The eyes were wild, and perhaps fierce, but they were honest and frank still. The clothes were much worn and torn, but the body they covered was strong and shapely. There was nothing weak or shambling in those six feet three inches.
Then I remembered what I had been a year before, and what I had become through injustice. Could I not make myself worthy? But how? I faced, or tried to face, facts truthfully. I was without home or friends, if I except the friendship of Eli Fraddam the gnome, who was at once despised and feared on every hand. I had no money, I had no clothes. Moreover, I had no means of getting any. I had no trade; I had no thorough knowledge of anything save farming, and no farmer dared to hire me. It was true I had some little experience of fishing, and could manage a boat fairly well, but not well enough to gain a livelihood by such work.
And yet a love had come into my life for one who was tenderly nurtured, one doubtless accustomed to abundant riches; I, who was an outcast, a beggar. And I owed my poverty, my disgrace, to the Tresidders. Let God who knows all hearts judge whether there was not an excuse for my hatred. And yet, although the Tresidders had made my very love a seeming madness, that same love made me see beauty, and led me to hope with a great hope.
I turned my face toward Pennington, wondering all the while if I should see Naomi again. For I called her Naomi in my own heart, and to me it was the sweetest name on earth. I repeated it over to myself again and again, and the birds, who sang to me overhead, sang to me songs about her. And as I trudged along, I tried to think again how I should buy back Pennington, not for revenge, but because of my love. But no ray of light shone to reveal to me the way. I could see nothing for it but that I, poor and friendless, must forever remain poor and friendless still. And yet all the while birds sang love songs and told me of Naomi Penryn.
When I at length saw Elmwater Barton, I began to think of the steps I must take for my immediate future. I had determined that I would live within sight of Pennington, but how? Even Betsey Fraddam would be afraid to give me shelter when she had heard the truth, for Betsey knew Richard Tresidder's power. For let me tell here that while Betsey was much sought after, she was hated by many. Betsey admitted to being a witch, but claimed only to be a white witch. Now as all Cornish folks know, there is a difference between a white witch and a black witch. A white witch is one who is endowed by nature to cure by means of charms, and passes and strange signs. She can also read the future, and find out secrets about those who do evil. Thus a white witch is looked up to, and her calling is regarded as lawful, even by the parsons, save of a very few who are narrow in their notions. A black witch, on the other hand, is said to have dealings with the evil one, and her power is only gained by a signed compact with the king of darkness.
Now if Betsey were suspected of the evil eye, and of being a black witch, her life might be in danger, and if Richard Tresidder as the chief man in the parish were to turn against her, 'twould go hard with her. Thus I knew that while Betsey did not love Tresidder she would do nothing to offend him. Only her love for Eli caused her to give me a home during the past months, and I knew that now she would not dare to have me in her house.
Thus I made many plans as to what I should do, and presently I had made up my mind. My plan was to go into a cave which I knew of, and spend my days there, and by night I would go to Betsey's house and get food. I should thus have shelter and food, and I should be near Pennington. I should also have means of finding out whether Naomi Penryn stayed at Pennington, as well as other matters which lay near to my heart. What I should do when winter came on I knew not, neither could I tell how I could make myself worthy of my love. I felt sure that Richard Tresidder's great desire was to drive me from Cornwall, and thus be freed from the sight of one who must always remind him of his fraud. As for my getting back the home of my fathers, it was out of all question.
So I made my way to the cave. It was called Granfer Fraddam's Cave, because he died there. Granfer Fraddam had been a smuggler, and it was believed that he used it to store the things he had been able to obtain through unlawful means. He was Betsey Fraddam's father, and was reported to be a very bad man. Rumours had been afloat that at one time he had sailed under a black flag, and had ordered men to walk a plank blindfolded. But this was while he was a young man, and no one dared to reproach him with it even when he grew old. When Granfer was alive the cave was a secret one, and none of the revenue officers knew of its existence. Only a few of Granfer's chosen friends knew how to find it. It was said, too, that he died there while hiding from the Preventive officers, and that ever since he had haunted the place, and that his voice might be heard at night calling for food and water, and praying for vengeance on the King's servants. Rumour also reported that he died a terrible death, because no clergyman or man of God could get near to help him from the clutches of the Evil One. As far as I was aware, its whereabouts was a secret when I was young, although it was generally supposed to be in what was known as Granfer's Cove, although some said it fell in at Granfer's death. Anyhow, no one visited it—indeed, such was my belief at the time, neither was it a pleasant place to reach. When the tide was up it was difficult to reach by water because of the great rocks which abounded; besides, you might be within six feet of it and not see it, because its mouth was so curiously covered.
Eli Fraddam, who seemed to know everything, took me to it by the upper way; by that I mean the way of the cliff. He also showed me how I might know it from the beach, and by what rocks I could distinguish it. I did not enter the cave at the time, at least very far; but I remember that it was large, and that my voice echoed strangely when I spoke. I remember, too, that a strange fear was upon me, especially as in the dim light I saw Eli's strange form and face, and caught the gleams of his wild cross eyes.
It was to this spot that I determined to go now, and for the time, at least, rest free from Richard Tresidder's persecutions. I think I should have gone away altogether at this time, and perchance have tried to obtain a post as a common sailor, but I remembered Naomi Penryn; and the yearning that was in my heart to see her again and, if possible, to speak to her, was so strong, that I was willing to brave anything to be near her.
Granfer Fraddam's Cave was very lonely. There was not a house within a long distance of it, and, with the exception of two cottages, Pennington was the nearest dwelling. I was, therefore, able to get there unmolested. No one had seen me on my journey, because I had kept to the woods and fields. I took with me some swede turnips to eat, and when I had eaten, not thinking of the strange stories told about Granfer's Cave, I lay down on the shingle and fell asleep and dreamt that I was the owner of Pennington, and that I went to an old house on the cliffs to woo Naomi Penryn.