PUBLISHED BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT. THE CROWNING OF ESTHER, By MORICE GERAED, Author of "Jlisturton," "Cast Out," "The Victoria Cress," Black Gull Rock," Jot- o* th' Beach," "Murray Murgatroyd, Journalist," &c., &c. I-C OPYRIG ITT]. L
SYNOPSIS OF PREVIOUS CHAPTERS. CHAPTERS I. TO III.—Caroline Wrottisley and Stephen Fleetwood, distant relatives of Squire Wrottis- ley, live with him. The old man clings to his great niece, but discards Stephen, who is not a Wrottisley, and makes a will in her favour, leaving a bare X200 a year to Stephen on the understanding that he keeps out of prison. The two men quarrel and Stephen allies himself to a professional mesmerist who lectures throughout the country. When the old man dies a new will is found and attested by two nurses, in which he revokes all former wills and leaves everything to Stephen. As the will is discovered by Caroline, Stephen and she come face to face. CHAPTER IV. Stephen surveyed me from head to foot for a few moments in silence. His eyes, however, scarcely met mine, which expressed-well, a little of what I felt. Then he said, with an affected drawl which was put on for my benefit: You may clear out of here and out of this house, Cousin,' with a stress of delicate irony on the title of relationship, as soon as you like. There is not room for both of us and as I have got to stay apparently,' glancing at the will which I still held in my hand, it is only ship-shape that you should go.' Will you let me pass ?' was all I said, for he stood right before me in the way. I handed the will, as I spoke, to Nurse AVreford, who stood by my side, white and trembling, saying nothing, but glancing every now and then, involuntarily, at Stephen. It seemed as if he had some strange influence over this woman yet, to my knowledge, they could never have met before. Oh, I'll let you pass double quick. Don't think of staying on my account and suiting the action to the word he opened the door for me, with mock politeness. Before I could get out, lie had jammed the door of the dead man's chamber upon my heel savagely. t u m- i'oum. Every corner of it seemed rull of the echo of that Beware I had heard in the night only now there was a name attached to it. Beware of Stephen Fleetwood I confess that tne first thing I did when the door was ocked was to sit down on the chair under the window and cry. I am not weaker than other women, neither am I stronger that I am aware of. I was eighteen, and without a friend in the wide world. Outside, the world was bathed in the unsympathetic June sunshine. The dress wvrflv f a"1 t,16i V('P' ,uxlu'y of their summer Jf0 ">c-v clouds skimmed lightly across the azure of the dome overhead I was alone. Scarcely any life could have been more isolated than mine durmg these years under the Squire's roof. He had seen no company, for the old man neither had nor wished for any visitors. The rector of the parish was 111 his dotage, and the curates came and went too rapid- tJZrZ DameClt0 !)0 beeded- 1 searched the hoiizon f01 some one of whom I could turn for advice at this crisis of my life, if not for actual help, and not mntal in an hour I had packed, removed every trace of the 'indfaiinmltl StcPhp_n Fleetwood should see me antrmmp], the more, and was on my way to the -^West7\T of the late Squired carnages. I felt instinctively that the new master atched my departure with stealthy satisfaction but hUll I saw not. Manchester or London? That was the question. The former I knew slightly, having been there twice in company with the Squire, on some of his rare visits to Sth°USl tbWOrld" ••<lon wa*a vast 'terra incognito' which that unknown US lavLi^promisS pr°mise' to wait. !an?r P01'ter Il0W lon" we had | Ten minutes!' ^Will you kindly direct me to the refreshment room ?' this way, Miss, I'll show you.' He did more for he secured me what I wanted amid he surging crowd, who elbowed and crushed for food in the circumscribed area. I offered him twopence for his trouble. Thank'ee no, Miss much obliged it was a plea- sure.' The words, which were simple enough, thrilled through me. After all, the world was not altogether the cold, hard place I had pictured it, during the twenty odd miles ride from Cannock Junction (the station from which I had started) to Sheffield. In the refreshment-room I had noticed a tall, fair young man, who would have been very good-looking except that his eyes were set a little too close together. He was drinking brandy and soda and eating a sand- wich. The consumption of solids and fluids did not occupy the whole of his time, and the intervals were spent in furtively surveying me from head to foot. I presume the scrutiny was satisfactory, for this gentlemen fol- lowed me to my carriage, and transferred himself and his belongings into it. I did not attribute the compliment to any attraction I might possess at the outset: but the attitude my new companion took up left no reasonable doubt in my mind, a er a very few miles had separated us from the great hardware capital. I beg your pardon, may I have the pleasure of lend- tim e°U a PftP8r P' han<lin? one across to me at the same I hardly knew whether to accept or decline the proffered kindness. My inexperience was profound. My instinct was against the lender, but the difficulty consisted m knowing how to say No." I consequently 2 returning the loan as soon as I deceutly could. My bow opened the way to further advances. ( ^ou are looking tired not far to travel, I trust P Yes, i am going to London.' Half a day's journey yet A first visit? r i j 111 terr°gator was making use of his eyes in a way 1 did not appreciate. An old gentleman, evidently interested in what was going- on, was observing us and pretending to read at the same time. I felt my cheeks growing hot. But I was too little versed in the ways of the world to know how to choke off or snub the apparently polite interrogations of my vis-a-vis. I answered after a pause Yes, I have never been to London before.' If I can be of any assistance— Thank you I do not require any.' The colloquy, although carried on in a low tone, could of course be heard iu all parts of the carriage. Opposite the old gentleman sat a lady of vinegar aspect, who from the asperity of the glances she cast in his direction whenever he looked towards me, I judged to be his wife. She had doubtless viewed the foregoing scene with sufficient displeasure, and now joined in the conversa- tion. I hope you know all about the place you are going to, young lady. London is an evil place beset with temptations. Here she fumbled in a black bag, and eventually pro- duced a bundle of tracts, two of which she generously handed to me. One was called 1 A Brand Plucked from the Burning,' and the other, 'Saved so as by Fire.' Both of them seemed unkindly appropriate to the sultry warmth of the June air. The journey at length drew to a close. Everything my opposite neighbour could do to attract my attention, and ingratiate himself into my regard, was done. I was thankful at last even for the presence of the vinegar lady and her bundle of tracts. There came a difference in the surroundings of the line, as we swept hurriedly along. Green fields and hedge-rows had given place to red brick houses, new and old small stations offered signs, made illegible by the rapidity of our advance, to our sight every three or four minutes. The chimney stacks crept closer to- gether. The engine whistled more frequently and shrilly. The long looked for had come. Even I, with my untutored eyes, knew we were in the environs of London. The question which I had debated from the commence- ment of the journey now faced me impatient of solu- tion. What was I to do when the train drew up at King's Cross? Where was I to go to? The Squire always put up at an hotel I knew, on his infrequent pilgrimages. But a certain modicum of com- mon sense, which stood me in stead of experience, sufficed to inform me that hotels are expensive luxuries, reserved for those who have overflowing purses. I had stayed at the Royal at Manchester with my uncle, and the mental picture of that palatial building filled me with dread. I felt that my opposite neighbour read my perlexity. This only increased the discomfort of my mental con- dition. The train drew up at a ticket platform. The fair- haired gentleman's pasteboard was of a different colour than mine mine was third class his was either first or second, one of the two, I could not tell which. The discovery filled me with a new sense of alarm, and at the same time my blood rose. The stranger had given up a better and more luxurious seat, for which he had paid, in order to travel in my compartment—to travel, in fact, with me. At the terminus I got out, collected my luggage, and proceeded to carry the plan I had formed in my mind into execution, I waited until the first bustle of the arrival had spent itself, and was then about to seek out a friendly official, and ask for advice as to procuring a lodging. I turned and met my companion of the railway carriage face to face. I had lost sight of him before, and hoped he was gone. 'You are in doubt where to go, Miss Wrottislev,' with a marked emphasis on the name. You had better Place yourself under my guidance. I shall be happy to be of assistance to you.' 'How do you know who I am—my name?' I stammered nad torgotten it was on the luggage which lay around me. J fr-lJ kn?T not °nly y°wr name, but where you come have the pleasure of the intimate acquaintance of that biggest scoundrel unhung, Mr Stephen Fleet- wood.' I had by this time collected my energies, and got my army in line of battle. I do not know vou. sir, neither do I wish to know you. The friends of Fleetwood ara no friends of mine. I have not asked for your assistance. Kindly stand out of my way.' You have no idea how pretty you look when you get into a passion There passed by us at this moment a stalwart porter. An urgent snmmong brought him to my assistance. Will you make this gentleman leave me alone, piease P He is quite a stranger to me.' Now, then, sir, let the lady be or I'll have you up before the stationmaster. He is only on the Up platform.' Nonsense. This young lady knows me well enough. It is only her fun.' Well, she says she don't, and she looks serious enough so that's enough for me. Please to move on sir.' The fair-haired one looked inclined to show fight; but my selection of a porter was satisfactory, and the stranger paid a compliment to his physique which ho had not offered to my womanliness, and retired tem- porarily at any rate. I N, ow, miss, what can I do for you ? Shall I call a cab ?' it a porter ever talks in his sleep, he probably mutters this question. It is his formula in every difficulty. J I ,I have nowhere to go to: I want a lodging with respectable people, until I can look round a little.' ( Nowhere to go,' he repeated, and his face fell, aione in Lonaon, miss, without a friend you couldn't have come to a worse place. You ought to be ugly, or old, or both, to be about this place by yourself. And excuse me,' removing his hat and scratching his honest head, you ain't either of those and I can't tell you to your face you are.' The difficulty of securing the necessary qualifications for a free passage about town seemed insurmountable. It would require a good many years to make me old.' and as to ugly,' my looking-glass flattered me that nothing but vitrol would accomplish that. Do you not know of any lodging that you could recommend ?' Yes, I do know of one, miss, up near the Angel. But. lor' what is going to become of you There's sharks in dozens and hundreds in these waters worse than sharks for they only munch the body, and these snap up body and soul together.' Then he turned and looked me over again. I think, miss, after all you had better marry me you might do better and you might do worse. I earn my twenty-five shillings a week, take one week with another, and I'm steady as Old Time, and there is no other young woman in the case to be bowled over and to scratch your eyes out afterwards.' The proposal, although somewhat sudden, was evidently serious. T T, ,am ,T Cftnn°t quite do that,' I said; but i held out my hand to him in token that I was not oftenaen. Well, if you won't you won't; but if vou change your mind, I am always to be found here. Come along and 111 get you into a cab, what'11 run you for nothing —because lie's a pal of mine.' Oh, I don't need that,' I said, but my friend was resolute and I had to give way. Wo shook hands once more. The friendly cabby received his directions and in a few seconds I was driving through the streets towards my destination. Directly my cab drove up to the door, the landlady came out to see what the arrival promised. She had a comely, kindly, round, red face adorned with a cap through which bright ribbons made their chequered way to be gathered up into a bow at the back. <> I explained in a few seconds why I had come, and who had sent me. Mrs. Hedger gave me a motherly welcome but was evidently of precisely the same opinion as the friendly porter. As I entered the door of No. 7, Haggerstone Place, a hansom drove rapidly by; but not so rapidly that I was prevented from recognising in one of two occupants— the other being a woman whom I did not particularly notice, but of whom I was to see more later on—the fair-haired gentleman who had been so rudely attentive on the journey and on the platform. ii ""a of course, be only a curious coincidence that he, of all people, should have been driven by my new home, as I was entering it; but with a cold tremor about my heart I recognised that in all probability it was something more. CHAPTER V Kitj"0rro !rd rS6d frt?m th° tim° '°f arrival at King s Cross It was becoming absolutly necessary that I should find some means of subistence Other- wise either-chanty or starvation stared me in the face. 1 had tried for situations of various kinds some advertised m newspapers, some found for me by my landlady and others by the porter George Forbes: who still acted as a sort of guardian angel over my destiny, hut nothing had resulted. I was utterly inexperienced That was the cardinal fault and quite s/fficent I could neither wait at the table nor serve behind the counter. I did not know enough of the small arts to teach or of accounts to keep a ledger. I was never so painfully conscious before of the negative strength of my own disqualifications. But I had not been persecuted. That was to the good, at any rate. If the occupant of the hansom had marked No. Haggerstone Place, he had made no use f™, Ti Tn :rl'!U,s he was llfrai<l of a thrash- in^ from stalwart George Forbes or perhans he h-id come to the conclusion that the pursuit was hopeless. Incident of fl ..month I had practically forgotten the r!U!7iy,Cnrrm?0- The present anxieties ot Me had completely driven it out of my head Alrs Hedger was the widow of a minor actor at one of the transpontine theatres, and her interest in the stage, and all that belonged to it, was still as active and intelligent as ever. She was a critic of the first water. Her one selfish pleasure, when the duties of her honse- 'c_1- __11_- f ft' ii rin °'! lts lr|dulgence, consisted of a seat in the gallery as soon after « first night' of any new piece as possible. On these occasions no one knew better not even Mr Scarifer of the Daily Tribune what was what and if she condemned a piece it was certain to fail-at any rate, on the Surrey side, than did the relict of the late Adolphus Hedger. The Hedger talent ran in the blood. Mr. Hedger had a niece, a Miss Polly Hedger, who was a minor star in the corps de ballet of the Pamphyllion Theatre. I hnd had the pleasure of seeing this young lady twice during the month, from the same exalted sphere to which Mrs Hedger resorted, on occasions when that lady insisted on my accompanying her, she standing treat. I had to confess to a little (iiffieultiiu distinguishing this beautiful and accomplished scion of a theatrical family amongst a hundred others all dressed if that is the word, so very much alike. When Mrs. Hedger got a little excited her English was apt to forsake that pellucid stream of pure idiom which she employed in her quieter and more collected moments. But I must say that she never quarrelled with the eighth letter of the alphabet—that "pons asmorum of the unlettered multitude she explained this on one occasion to me by remarking in her simple open way: ''You know Hedger was always very par- ticular about his h's. He had been taught that on the stage. Besides, as he used to remark, his own name began with one, and if he didn't take care of his own property, who would ? Which is very true, my dear as perhaps you have found out already.' Mrs. Hedger took after the departed Adolphus in her affectionate reverence for the sanctity of their initial letter. Perhaps, now that he (literally) walked the stage of life no more, the widow of this amiable man felt that a double responsibility in the matter devolved upon her. I always admired the way in which Mrs. Hedger stuck to her one article of lingual faith, even when exe- cuting passages of considerable difficulty in a moment of excitement. But to return. I at length made out that Polly was one of four young ladies of the chorus who were attired more or less as pheasants their gauze gowns being covered with pheasants' feathers, and their heads being adorned with the same. Polly was the second from the further end. The performance did not seem to me to make any particular demand on the intellectual capacity, neither did the physical part appear beyond the ambition of a girl who, like myself, had her full complement of flesh and blood gifts and was, besides, not unendowed with a sense of, and capacity for, agile motion. It was not unnatural that I should think of the ballet, as a profession, having tried most others, and failed to make even an entry, tind having the distinguished ex- ample of Miss Polly Hedger before my eyes. I often wondered, during the first weeks of my sojourn at No. 7, Haggerstone Place, how it was that this young lady did not visit the aunt who evidently had such a high appreciation of her talents and success. Once or twice I hinted my surprise to my landlady. But she always put me off in a half-embarrassed way with, Oh, Polly, she's that busy, she has no time to come out here, except occasionally,' or something to that effect. I felt instinctively that there was more in the back- ground about Polly that Mrs Hedger did not care to tell me, although she always spoke of her with marked (and I thought unnecessary) emphasis as a very good girl, one of the very best.' I ventured one day to say, But surely, on Sundays, Mrs Hedger, your niece might have time to pay you a visit.' Oh, on Sundays,' my landlady replied with a smile of gratified pride and satisfaction, Polly always goes to Church she is a very good girl, one of the very best' (this was the refrain, the envoi. with which I was already sufficiently familiar), and in the afternoon she goes out with the gentleman she is engaged to down the river, or to Hampton Court, or what not. He is a clerk in a solicitor's office, where they don't keep enough staff for the work, and it is the only day he has,' she added, half apologetically. When I did at last see Polly Hedger, the mystery, which apparently hung over that young lady's incessant j absorption in her duties, was explained by the principal person herself who had none of the reserve on the subject which possessed her aunt. It was a trilie more than a month after my coming to Town when the life of the streets, the cry of the hawkers of flowers, of fish, of fruits, of crockery and basket work, the dolorous note of the sweep had all grown more familiar; when the sense of stifling com- pression in a narrow prison of bricks and mortar had ceased to be so oppressively irksome when I no longer looked out from my bed in the morning on first awaken- ing expecting to see through the partially curtained and unshuttered casement, the grand free lines of our Derbyshire moorlands. My purse was growing very empty, and the absolute need of finding some means of filling it was a bugbear of necessity, which faced me every moment of my wak- ing day, aud even haunted me in my dreams. Existence once so dear to me had lost all its charm. I lay down to sleep heavy-eyed, night by night, with the big tears weighing down the long lashes, and iu my despondency would have been ready to welcome even Death itself, as a relief from the long hopeless vista of life which lay before me. CHAPTER VI. Polly had come. It was on a Saturday morning about half-past ten. I had been sitting in listless despondency by the open window of my small sitting- room, listening to and yet not hearing the twittering of dozens of sparrows perched on the lead gutter-pipe which ran beneath the roof of No. 7. My room was very small. It was crowded with hideous ornaments, all of which had probably been purchased in the street, from the gaudy paper screen which hid the fireplace to the picture of Napoleon the Third giving up his sword to the German Emperor which hung, a comparatively recent acquisition, over a harmonium which stood in a recess opposite the window. Polly, I knew instinctively it was she, came in at the door and with her somehow seemed to come a ray of sunlight quite different from the hot July glare, which for the last couple of hours had been stifling me in its close embrace. She went along the narrow passage into the kitchen. I heard the sound of a vigorous kiss, such as two very healthy women would give one another if they had not met for some time. Then the kitchen door closed, and only a faint mur- mur of voices came to me for the next half-hour. At the end of that time the kitchen door opened again, and in a minute there was a familiar knock on the centre panel of my sitting-room door. Come in, please Mrs. Hedger loomed large in the doorway, adorned in her Sunday cap, donned for the special occasion of so important and long delayed introduction. All the hope of distinction, not to say immortality, which the Hedger family possessed in the world they had made their own, centred in Polly, now that the accomplished Adolphus had gone to join the majority. Mrs. Hedger unconsciously expressed this in her radiant, red face. Polly was much more simply and quietly attired than I had at all expected, in a shade of brown, with a hat of the same colour. Her tight-fitting dress did not con- ceal the fact that she was a woman of fine, almost statuesque outlines. The girl was obviously not more than two and twenty, and might even be a year or two less than that. I will describe her in contrast to my- self-for we were a complete contrast—in a moment. This is Polly, my dear,' was Mrs. Hedger's simple, yet ample introduction. Polly took me into her arms and kissed me two or three times. Then she drew back and looked at me with a curiosity which was half humorous and wholly friendly and open. 'How beautiful you are!' she said after a pause. 'Come and let us look at ourselves in the glass.' Suiting the action to the word, Polly took me by the hand, and led me into her aunt's bedroom, which was just at the rear of my sitting-room, on the ground floor. Once in the room. my conductor threw off her thin black cloth jacket and the brown hat, smoothed her hair, and then together we stood before the long glass, which was let into the cheap stained wood of the wardrobe. Mrs Hedger stood in the open doorway, and surveyed our movements with amusement, untempered by as- tonishment she was evidently quite used to Polly and her way?. You ought to have your photographs taken, or your likenesses painted just as you are-as Night and Morn- ing,' the good lady remarked sententiously. There was a vein of poetry in the stout form of Mrs Hedger, which only required opportunity to develop. Keeping a lodging-house in Islington, is not conducive to the production of works of the imagination. Polly, I suppose, was Night I was Morning. In figure and form we were very much alike, standing about the same height. But in face and hair we were wide as the Poles and, as was perhaps natural, each admired the other as the type of beauty she considered the best. If the lower part of Polly Hedger's face had been equal to the upper, she would have been very beautiful but there was a want of refinement and grace about the rather thick lips and the chin retired just a little, suggesting that in this beautiful girl the heart predominated over both will and intellect. He" deep brown eyes. with a dancing sunlight in them. were surmounted by long black lashes, and over these again were delicately arched and pencilled brows. Her enrs were small, her hair raven black, yet her com- plexion was of a pure semi-transparent olive, which rarely marks the face of pure British descent. Yet Polly was English, not to say Cockney, to her straight supple back bone. As for me. reflected there in the glass by her side, with a slight flush on my cheek, in consequence of the eager, admiring inspection to which Polly was subjecting me in a way no one could resent, there could be no shadow of dispute as to my Saxon ancestry. The Squire had been quite right, in more than mere name, when he said that Stephen Fleetwood was not a Wrottisley, and that I was. The Wrottisleys had been Thanes of Wrottisley Chase in Domesday; and there never was one of them which cast out the Norman and his kind more absolutely and disdainfully than did I, Caroline Wrottisley. Yellow hair, with a sheen of gold in it when the sun- light rested there, as a ray did now, deep blue eyes, a dimpled chin, with a skin, nearer to one of Perugini's pictures than that of any other woman I have ever seen as some one else remarked to me not long after this. Polly drew a deep breath. Oh, you are L-eiiitiful she said again, as if the remark were forced from her, and she was unconscious that she had made it before. I smiled. I do not think I am half so beautiful as you.' Ob, dont't you P' and she clasped her hands. 'Why, there are hundreds in London like me, except perhaps for my skin, which the painters tell me is uncommon. But I have never seen anyone quite like you.' "Polly is right.' remarked Mrs Hedger from the doorway, which her ample form still filled. I always witiiLea ner to see you. i jfnew what she would say- and that is it.' J Polly was evidently regarded as an oracle by her aunt in matters of taste. £ If you have quite finished looking at me,' I said we will go back to my room,' and suiting the'action to the word I moved away. Polly still stood before the mirror but looked my way, taking me in. 'Yes, and your walk just suits your face. I should like our maitre de ballet.' as he calls himself, to see it lou would make your fortune on the stage. I expect you could act, too, as well as dance and walk I could never act I can never get up a part sufficiently to trust yourself to remember it when all the people are there. And as to walking, many girls can dance who cannot walk. You can teach any healthy woman with the spring in her to dance but Mr Lefevre, our ballet master, says you must be born to walk you cannot acquire it. I do wish he could see you,' she added, clasping her hands together. I thought of the Squire, and what he would say to all this, and of his remark that Stephen Fleetwood at any rate could not put our name on the bills. At the same time what Polly said was intensely interesting to me. Five unbroken sovereigns and a few shilJings lay in my purse. This little store was all that separated me from homelessness and star- vation. ^t this moment the kitchen clock struck twelve. v> hy that is twelve o'clock, f do believe, aunt, I must be off. I shall be late as it is.' And hurrying her things on. and distributing her kisses impartially. Polly departed. As she ran down the steps, she called up to me. 'I shall speak to Mr Lefevre, Miss YY rottisley.' [To BE CONTINUED.! +
A CAMBRIAN RAILWAYS ARBITRATION. An arbitration was held on Monday week at Oswestry between the Cambrian Railways Com- pany and Mr John Jones of Mossfields, Whitchurch, as to the value of land adjoining the Oswestry Station which the Company are acquiring under their Act of 1896. The umpire appointed by the Board of Trade was Mr Ludlow of Birmingham. Mr J Parry-Jones appeared for the Company, and Mr Craven (Messrs Longueville and Co.) for Mr Jones. The land wan valued on behalf of Mr Jones by Messrs YVhally of Chester and Owen of Tarporley at S,1,850 17" 6d, and by Messrs Thomas Whitfield and C E Williams of Oswestry on behalf of the Company at zP,507 18s and X-550 respectively. The umpire has awarded £ 796.
THE GREAT REMEDY, Ylt A -I ,M, J&. PIIXS. FOR GOUT, RHEUMATISM, SCIATICA, LUMBAGO, NEURALGIA. Claim a superiority over all other GOUT and RHEUMATIC Medicines. They give relief from pain in a few hours, and a speedy care without the slightest, inconvenience. All Chemists and Stores, at Is. W. and 2s. 9d. per box.
POOR RATES IX THE PARISH OF TOWYN. STRONG COMMENTS BY A DISTRICT I COUNCILLOR. The following paper was read by Mr R Price Mo**gan before a meeting of the Tovvyn Debating and Literary Society. It deals with a question which is now engaging the earnest attention of the public ic the parish, vtz, the rating by the Machyn- lleth Board of Guardians. He said It may be asked what has the Macbvnlletb Board of Guardians to do with Towyn ? In reply I beg to sav it has nearly everything, as the whole of our rates or verv nearly the whole have to be paid over to the Board, and they have the distributing power, and if there is anything that. will tickle a human frame, I think I am safe in saying that the distributing of ruone. is the thing that will do it. The Machynlleth Union is made up of 12 parishes, the majority of which are in Montgomeryshire, but Towyn parish is by far the largest in the Union, and before pro- ceeding further I will read out a few figures, and in comparing Towyn with another town in the Union, that is Machynlleth, you will understand that I have no grudge against that town, but it is the only urban portion that I can fairly compare with Towyn, as all the other parishes are rural districts, and as such it wouid be unfair to compare one with another. Rateable Cost: per Head Paupors. Percentage. Yaluo. of Population. Received in Excess. Paid in Contribution. Excess. lowyn Mach. Towyn Mach. Towyn Mach. Towyn Mach. Penegoes. Mach. j Towyn. Mach. Excess. Excess. lowyn Mach. Towyn Mach. Towyn Mach. Towyn Mach. Penegoes. Mach. j Towyn. Mach. icon ,«• £ I £ £ s. d. s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.j £ s. d. £ s. d.l £ s. d 1889 166 110 4 88; 4 97 16,113 6,189 i586 9 7 769 1 8 1896 115 102 3'181 4 53 16,582 6,418 3 7 4 1^ 107 8 0 91 16 11173 18 1 ljl717 13 5'668 3 11^ 1897 | 58 0 0103 6 8' ) 1898 108 97 2-881 5*31 18,200 7,103 3 2 4 3| 79 8 0 59 1 2^44 6 2|'l385 1 9 645 16 10* 1899 113 104 291 j 4'48 19,144 7,096 3 OJ 3 11,J 78 12 6 31 19 5*291 16 0|l676 18 6^65 13 5,-} | 323 8 6286 4 21 I You will note that the percentage in paupers and the cost per head of maintaining, is based on the population as it stood in 1891 which if it was taken as the population stands now at Towyn and Aber- dovey, would bring it down to two per cent against 2 91 in the abstract of accounts of the Guardians whereas owing to the rateable value and the popu- lation at Machynlleth being almost stagnant; or indeed is less in 1891 than it was in 1881, the per- centage in the case of Machynlleth parish would be more than shown in the abstract of accounts. My contention is, that owing to the great addition to the rateable value cf Towyn and the increase in population, it is inaccurate to base the cost of the Towyn paupers at so much per head of the popula- tion (as it stood in 1891) nor the percentage in the number of paupers, while it does not make so much difference in Machynlleth as the rateable value of the parish has not materially changed, and the population has not increased. I find that by com- puting the present population of Towyn that the cost per head of population as it now stands does not exceed 2s 9d against 3s Od as shown in the abstract for 1899, and as against 3s lljd the cost per head for Machynlleth, or in the case of Llan- brynmair and Isygarreg 58 lOJd and 5s lCid respectively. You will note from the figures I have quoted, that while the cost of maintaining our paupers is diminishing, the cost of maintaining paupers in other districts is increasing. Take for instance Llanbrynmair, in 1896 the cost per head of population amounted to 4s Ilid in 1899 they are put down at 5s lOJd. Isygarreg in 1896 was 4s 2Jd, in 1899 it was 5s 10id. Again I will call your attention to the poor rate return Lady Day, 1899. The amount of poor rate raised in Machyn- lleth was S928 with 104 paupers, and the amount raised in Towyn £ 2,207 with 113 paupers. Mach- ynlleth contributes out of the sum raised £ 665 13s 5Jd, to 104 paupers in that parish in 1899. Towyu contributes £ 1,676 18s 6d to 113 paupers in this district. You will notice that Towyn has only nine paupers more than Machynlleth, yet it pays a lump sum nearly three times as much as Machynlleth, and this sum goes towards maintaining the paupers of other parishes. The following figures will go a long way to prove what I have just said. Llanbrynmair received in excess of what it con- tributed the sum of £ 31 lis Id in 1896, while in 1899 the sum it has received in excess of its contri- bution has increased to zCl58 13s 9d. Towyn, on the other hand, in 1896 paid S173 18s lid I in excess of what it received, and in 1899 this has increased annually to the large sum of £ 291 16s. Further, Llanbrynmair and Machynlleth are not exceptions, I will call your attention to another parish which is benefiting from Towyn, and that is Penegoes (a rural part which contains a large number of very well-to-do farmers). Penegoes received in excess of its con- tribution in 1895 the sum of £ 107 8s, in 1898 C79 8s, and in 1899 278 12s 6d. I will not say that I Towyn is the only parish that pays more than it receives. There are others but nothing to compare with the Towyu parish. The injustice comes in that three comparatively rich parishes like Llan- bryumair, Machynlleth, and Penegoes, which to- gether during the last four vears have received the large sum of £ 926 5s lid more than they oontri-, buted, while Towyn parish has paid during the same time C900 Is 5d more than it received. It may be argued that it is only right that the weak parishes should benefit from the stronger parishes, and that it would be unjust to deprive them of the benefit that this parish bestowes on them. I don't think it would be an injustice in this case, as the Union is quite large enough to be divided into two separate Unions, and we in this portion of the parish would be doing the part of the good Samaritan with another portion. I allude to Pennal, which has during the last four years received the sum of Cl26 lgi lOd more than it has contributed, and as Pennal is adjoining the Towyn Parish I would suggest that with Towyn it should form a contributory Union. I admit that the question of forming this parish into a contributory ] Union presents some difficulties, and which were, at the time that this question was under considera- tion before, some years ago, rather formidable, but since ihen the rateable value of the Towyn and Aberdovey sub-districts have increased be- tween C2,000 and X3,000, if not more, and what seemed then unpracticable has now become prac- ticable. The matter now forms itself into a question— In what way can Towyn be better represented and have the full benefit of the rates paid by the Tov y n parish ? Without being too selfish I would sugt ■ st that we should not take any of the parishes wh;cli like Towyn pay more than they receive from e Union, but we would take Pennal, which is o- the parishes of the Union, and which to a t extent is included in the circuit of the officer.- >t the Union, and which officers would still be retained by the proposed new Union. If this were done then the question of the accommodation of indoor paupers would present some difficulty, and it may be asked with some justification, what are we going to do with them if we are separated from Machynlleth ? This may be overcome bv the Towyn parish paying for their maintenance "at the Machynlleth Workhouse. It is well known that this parish has a very large interest and claim in the Machynlleth Workhouse, as it has contributed more towards it than any other parish in the Union, To give an instance of this. Tne rateable value of this parish is not much less than four of the largest parishes put together, which will include Machyn- lleth, Llanbrynmair, Penegoes, and Cemmes. There- fore our interest and claim to the Machynlleth
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THE DEATH ROLL. RUSKIN, BLACKMORE, STEEPENS, TECK. To-day the casualty list is not to be found in any telegram from the front but in our own home records. The Duke of Teck, Mr Buskin, Mr Black- more, and Mr Steevens are all dead. It is a curious association of names, but, in their very varied ways, all have this in common, that they were well known to great masses of their fellow countrymen. The Duke of Teck had lived long enough amongst us for us to reckon him as one of our-,elves. and his daughter was universally acciaimed as a distinc- tively English Princess when she became the wife of our future King. At the present moment there are sons of the Duke's at the front in South Africa, fo'iow;iig the exam pie of active service set them bv their father. Mr Blackmore was a writer of novels for other people's amusement and a market- gardener for his own. For the past few years, perhaps, he has not written anything that has taken the public fancv much, but be has had an enduring source of popularity as the author of "Lorna Dcone." The book was intended to be a story, not a text book, and we shall remember with gratitude the creator of John Ridd and many another delightful creature of fiction. Mr Blackmore dies at a ripe oli age; Mr Steevens falls a victim to typhoid in a besieged town, at the early age of thirtv. Yet, even so, he was known to the man in the street as hardly any writer of the time. Mr Kipling is a popular poet but we doubt if he had as many readers as Mr Steevens, whose articles in the Mail were followed with extraordinary interest bv the readers of that paper. Nor was that wonderful, for the articles were extremely vivid, and Mr Steevens bad a wonderful knack of seizing the point of interest and of making it clear in a few living sentences. By his death journalism certainly loses one of the most brilliant and talented of its more recent recruits. We have left Mr Ruskin to the last for obvious reasons. It is not merely that he is head and shoulders above the others, but that with him goes another of the few remaining of our really great men. It is true that the latter years of his life have been lived in retirement, but whilst he lived he could hardly be classed as a writer of the past, even though for a good many years his pen has been put aside. The man in the street may know everything there is to be known about South Africa, but his idea of Mr Ruskin very often is that he was an anerry old gentleman who objected to railways and smoke from factories, and said so. That he did so is undoubted, but this was only the fringe of his philosophy. His great task consisted in insisting on certain artistic truths at a time when taste in this country was deplorably at fault. In that task he succeeded, and it is not to the pciut that his artistic criticisms and theories cannot now be all accepted without reservation. He bad to achieve a certain end, and as is always the case with advocates he had to use exaggeration, where judicial impartiality would have failed. In all sorts of ways he not only left the world a better place than he found it, but a better place because be had Jived in it,. His books are an enduring monument of his genius, a source of inspiration and refresh- ment in an age when there are none too many to protest against the material and the sordid in life. There is much in his writing that cannot now be accepted as sound, whether it be his political econ- omy or his an but his English is a precious heri- tage, and his teaching is alv.-avs on a high plane. No one could be a worse man if he were a convinced Ruskinian, even though he might possibly be wrong- headed on a good many points. The Queen has been fortunate in the great names which will apear in the literary record of her reign, in "none more fortunate than in the name of John Ruskiii. —«-
REVIEWS. Welder,'? Lcdiet' Journal (3d).—The fashions lor this montn are many, though colours are restric- tedly quiet. Taiior-built gowns incline to the Etonian cut, while the pleated skirt continues much in favour. Mourning toilettes necessarily receive their due meed of attention, regrettedly, and some becoming styles are depicted for matrons. Mil- liner) aud its etceteras are net forgotten, and of fancy dresses there is a pleasing variety. A col- oured plate of the latest novelties for early spring is presented with the number, while a hJst of in- teresting topics too numerous to mention are dis- cussed in rs varied pages. Weld«n\ Practical Knitter (2d.), coutaius cle&r and concise directions for knitting quilts, borders, aud insertion for same. Wcldon's Knittet and Crochet Comforts (Id.), has been received with marked favour, and the increas- ing interest taken by women all over the country in making Balaclava caps. Tam o' Shanters, socks, belts, and flannel articles for our troops has called for further recipes and instructions. -+-
LOCAL PATENT. The following abridged description i specially drawn for the County Times by Messrs Hughes and Young, Patent Agents, 55 end 56, Chancery Lane, London, W.C.. Tho will give advice aad assistance fre-e to our readers on all patent mafers. 29,538. Floor coverings. Patentee, Mr W I. All- er-ft. Srokr^ay Court, Shropshire. A floor covering is formed of single or built-np vancers or pieces of wood clued or cemented to both sides of canvas felt or other fabric. The material has a sufficient amount of flexibility to allow it to be rolled up but it may be to a floor. For separate mats for bathrooms, etc., the edges may be bound with leather or other material.
THE MOST NUTRITIOUS. p rum- S S h p QR ATEFU L- COMFORTINGU AIM. mr-M O O C O A BREAKF AST- SUPPER.
Workhouse amounts to about a third of its value, that is, when Pennal is added to Towyn as our rateable value with Pennal would amount to £ 22,343 whereas the rateable value of the remaining parishes put together only amounts to £ 36,152. Again it may be put forward that to form two different bodies would entail unnecessary expense, as it would require two staffs of officers. I maintain that this is entirely a different, case to that of separating the sub-districts of the Urban Council. With the Towyn and Aber- dovey case two clerks, two surveyors, two sanitary inspectors, two rate collectors, and two sets of books would be necessary, and a great many other matters which would make it very undesirable. But with the question under consideration there is only one officer required which we do not already possess and whose sphere of work is entirely in our district or parish. The only extra officer which we would require would be the clerk. The present Clerk to the Guardians receives a salary of L72 per annum. This parish and Pennal contributes cHse on JE30 towards this E72, and I believe that if this change was brought about, that we would not be called upon to pay much more than the 930 which we already do pay, when we take into consideration that the work would be reduced to more than ha.lf I what it is at present, and much less complicated. We j have our own relieving officer and medical officer [ whose duties would not be altered to a great extent. If anything the former would be reduced, and it may be that the latter would be increased, so that it could not make any material increase or decrease in their salaries. The four parishes 1 have already quoted, viz., Llanbrynmair, Machynlleth, Penegoes. and Cemmes have each a medical officer, who f\! e paid as follows:—Machynlleth district £ 30, Mach- ynlleth outlying districts £ 20, Penegoes £21, Llall- brynmair C31, Cemmes £43, a total of £ 145. These live districts have a rateable value of onlv X20,798, against Towyn parish with a rateable value of £ 19,144. Towyn is therefore only £ 1,654 short of being equal in rateable value to five dis- tricts in which their medical officers' salaries amount to X145, against £ 36 which is paid to our medical officer. By the way, it sounds rather un- fair that our medical officer, although he practises in the most lucrative parish in the Union, should be paid at a much lower rate than other medical officers. But it is not with that question tnar, I am dealing to-night, but rather with the glaring inconsistency of the various departments of the Machynlleth Board of Guardians. To return to the question of the relieving officer he would still receive a similar amount of salary as he now receives, and his work would be practically the same, but with this improvement that we should be able to deal with our own poor fairer than they are at present dealt with. The figures I have quoted prove that the poor of other parishes benefit more from our parish than our own poor do, or the paupers of our parish are not so ready to run after relief as the others are. And if this is the case who but this parish should reap the benefit of this. The more deserving cases would be better known to each member of the new Union and they would take more interest in them. There is no denying the fact that the Guardians at present are mostly farmers, and as such have more sympathy with the rural districts- no better proof of this need be put forth than their own report (or perhaps to be more correct the Assessment Committee) have during- recent veare added enormously to the rateable value of a large number of houses in the two places. It would be wrong to say that they were not justified in doing this in some cases, but I think I can safelv say that there was no system adopted except that at of trying to spy out what were the rents, and the poor householder who was already paving an un- reasonable high rent, had to pay an unreasonable amount of rates, and vice-versa if it was a low rent. hile this increase has been going on in the urban districts, I find that if anything the assess- ruent of the rural districts is decreasing. This is one of the natural results of rural districts being represented by gentlemen who cannot be expected to have the same sympathy for towns as they would have for the country. I am not against a fair valuation, but can we reasonably expect a body of farmers living chieflj in the remote parts of Mont- gomeryshire, and some of them it is but fair to j surmise have not visited Towyn many times heir life-time, much less making an inspeotion, which would justify them in arriving at a fair valuation of a certain house or houses. Can we, J ask, fairly blame them if they have by instinct adopted the idea that their best policy is to out down the rates in their own country districts and put them on small struggling towns, which in their opinion have no difficulty in meeting any financial emergercv, but rather let us blame ourselves for being parties to the existence of such a state of affairs. There is another view of the question which makes it still more unresonable. The overseers are supposed to supply the Assessment Committee with a list of all new property put up in their district, and this they do, and, in passing I may say that our overseers at Towyn are all practical men, and they, it is my belief, study the welfare of the town. These gentlemen have every facility for getting at the true value of t.he property put up in the town, as they live close by, and apart from the structural value of any new property they have a very good idea of the value ol the positions these properties occupy, and therefore I maintain that the valua- tions arrived at by the overseers should be some- where very near t,he mark. To give an instance of how the Towyn overseers are treated by the Assess- ment Committee of the Machynlleth Board of Guardians, I may say that, their work is deemed useless by people the bulk of whom know practically I nothing about the properties they have to deal with and who by all appearance have no method at all except that of piling enormously and unreason- ably on to what the overseers have eabmitted to them. To support my statement I will quote you a few cases submitted to one of the last meetings of the Assessment Com nittee, and also the increase made in those cases ny the Assessment Committee No 1 house assessed hy overseers at C25, raised by Assessment Ccmmitee to £ 32; No 2 assessed at zEI8 raised to £ 25; No 3 assessed at £27, Hised to £ 35. Some residential houses with fine grounds and in good positions will perhaps be assessed very moderately other houses haif their value will be assessed unreasonably. I am told that property in Towyn and Aberdovey is assessed on a scale much I higher than at MichynHeth. This I cannot say without having access to the valuations of proper- ties at Machynlleth. I have done all I could to get a few examples of how houses are assessed at Machynlleth and other parishes, but for obvious reasons this has not been my luck. I will ask you, is it fair that valuations arrived at after a long and careful calculation by our over- should be ignored by the Assessment Com- mittee ? The overseers do everything they can for the welfare of the town, and they would be quite as careful not to under-estimate. as that would be against the benefit of the town as they would be in over-estimating, as this would tend to dishearten any person to improve the town. It is no wonder that Towyn parish figures so conspicuously in the column where parishes are shewn to be paying more than they receive when this sort of thing has been going on for vears. It is only fair that I should point ont that the Assessment Committee was made up of twelve gentlemen. We have oulyfwnr out of these twelve gentlemen that we can fairly expect to be repre- sen ted by, and three out of these four are farmers, and withont casting the least reflection on these gentlemen, for there is nothing further from mv mind, can we reasonably expect that they are the proper persons to sit on a committee to assess pro-, perty situated chiefly in an urban district, and are we as Urban ratepayers who are in the large majority doing our duty in returning these gentlemen from -he rural district ? I think not. My contention is that the first and most important step to be taken for the improvement of Towyn is to re-organise that department which has the control of the finances of the parish, and by doing this I think I have made it sufficientlv clear that such lartre sums as X291 168 Od in 1899, C244 6s 2d in 1898, X190 in 1897, &c, as representing what we have paid over to other parishes outside our own countv and for which we have bad no return, would very soon if they were applied to the improvement of the town, bring Towyn and Aberdovey to the front rank of the North Wales seaside towns. Other towns are taxed considerably more tnan we are, and even then they have to go in for enormous loans to enable them to carry out improvements which are essential for health resorts. There would be no question as to J the future of Tow\n, if with a total J8 of. 'ess than 7i in trie £ as we now stund we (.son;d with the re-(>rg»nidation of our financ.-s go on im- proving the town to the extent of our share of the £ 300 paid over to other parishes, and with what is already done every year from the g"n* ra; o:s- tn'ct rate, so that if we had the full benefit of the rater- we pay, we could hare the whole of r.i e n provided with new footpaths in a very shori, time equal to those found in the most fashionable lesor.s. ;in(i with what we would also receive from the County Council, and this all bear ii, LUind with- out contracting any responsibilities in the wav of loans which would always be draw-in* annual pay- ments from us in interest and repayment. I certain that tnose persons who are always asking what is being done with the large sums raised annually in our district, and they have everv ríL:ht to inquirt. should turn attention to this and join hands in making one great effort to put ourselves in a working order to utilise every farthing of the rate,- to a purpose which we can account for as being benefiting and comforting the poor and also improving and raising the valu- of our town. Guardians used to be elected bv ra'-e- payers and owners of property only, but under the Parish Council Act, 1894, they are to be elected by parochial electors, therefore if the suggestion of forming this parish into a contributory Union finds no support, I would point out that the next oppor- tunity of electing guardians for this parish should not be neglected and that this parish should make its utmost by electing- urban members who are capable of defending our rights, and will not be afraid to make themselves heard. Therefore the privilege of improving matters belongs to every eiector and we can hardly expect the Local Government Board or the County Coun- cil to bring about this radical change unless they see that there is a disposition and a strong disposi- tion in the district for a change. If 1 should be allowed to make a suggestion that would set matters moving, I would suggest that if the members of our society who have taken any interest in the figures I have quoted to-night think that such movement should i,e iiiade, it would perhaps be advisable to form a committee of some of our ieading townsmen to go into this matter thoroughly and bring it before the annual vestry in March, or if deemed sufficiently interesting to call a public meeting to I discuss the question.- In conclusion Mr Morgan referred to the progress of Towyn and said that it was the person who speculated here that did the town good. We have some gentlemen, and one in particular, I allude to our great and much respect ed benefactor, Mr John Corbett, who has not left a stone unturned to bring Towyn to the front., but have we as ratepayers and electors appreciated his great efforts as we should have done ? It is true we car.not all present the town with a promen- ade, or be the chief means of bringing the Towyn County School to the front rank of Countv Schools in Wales, but were we inspired with the same con- fidence in the future of Towyn and with such admiration of its natural .and unequalled beauties we would do what we could, but we don't and con- sequently we are not doing our duty in supporting those that have risked both time, money, and thoughts on the development of Towyn.