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HALL RIGHTS RESERVED.] THE BILLIARD MARKER. A STORY OF CHESHIRE VILLAGE LIFE. By W V. BURGESS. Author cf "Hand in Hand with Damo Nature, "Organism a.nd Mentality," "One Hundred Sonnets, "Stray Leaves," Birds and Flowers," "Chesiiire Village Storiee," ctc. CHAPTER, XVII. (continued). At all early hour next forenoon, Mira was not only in possession of the news concerning little Paul, but had fully realised the problems which beset the situation. That day proved a busier one than any elte had had since her •na.rriage—first she called upon her husband in town, anil, willy-nilly, constrained hnn to ac- company her to Yictoi la Park, where in con- clave. the three coadjutois ultimately evolved a plan to cover the immediate present. Mira was to depart post-haste to Liverpool, get the bc"5>t-f& illed opinion regarding t.he child s actual condition, and ascertain the particular* which Leo, the day previous, had commissioned her niiperinundent friend to obtain. Mr. Graham's duty wr.s to visit. Loo at Pendlebury and ap- prise. her of their decisions, while George was told off to hold himself in readiness to be ■phoned for if occasion required. Evening at St. Glaff'e Vicarage found the three anxic/us ones, Mrs. Grlha.m, Loo, and George, waiting- the return of Mini, their em- bassy. Her undertaking had been fraught with more hopeful issue, than they had been dl.e,po-bed to expect. In the first place, the specialist engaged by Mira, though pronounc- ing 1 bo invalid to be in a shocking state, did not despair of his recovery, providing every instruction he gave were earned into effcct. Then. as to the steps by which the poor little fellow had ocme to be where he W3d found, it apr*v;red, that. after hiii convalescence arid re- moval from the hospital whereto he had been taken ju-Jt be fore the baby-starving den wa& raided, the child was placed in the poor-houw. Fifth and neglect, however, had worked f-ich ravages that more days were passed in hospital than out of it, and on one of those days it was that hie lucky Star had guided the good genius to hk side. Evcrv care and necessity that money and F,ve-,v an l iiec- devotion could command were now lavished upon little Paul, with the happy result that in a few weeks he was strong enough to be trans- It; r red to the hom-c of the Graham's—under the i oof tree once more of his mother's beloved, lad never failed, not even wavered. Socm. although it took years to eradicate the mischief worked by hi; fell sojourn in Liverpool, soon, I say, the boy eamc to wear something of his MtrJier bcnnin-sf, and when at length afte-r m<my a precautionary manoeuvre and no small mOMurc of innocent deceit, mother and 1500 were restored to each other, and recognition grew between themwel1, wor-ds are unneces- sary to describe- the scene, the dullest imagi- nation may, in a manner, limn the picture, the most humdrum heart, mu,st, in a measure, quicken, if human emotion ca.n quicken it at all, in trying to realise the world of meaning ¡n ouch a ca.se. "For this my son was dead, and is alive again he was lost, and is found." Truly the heart of mortal motherhood M nearest kin to the mind of eternal Fatherhood. There wa? another matter to be broached a.lld disposed of during Sophia's short stuy at the Graham's and that. was the knowledge poesesscd by George of the death of Luko Hepworth. It was delicate picce of n9 to break at thie junc- ture, to be informed that she was a widow while Jot ahc was rejoicing as a mother—this inter- twining of the black threads of life with the white, how human and yet how m.sei ut ablc. Htill, such knowledge was her due, apart from the fact that it. would bring a senle of security in the future that the past for a single moment bad not vouchsafed to her. Only those whoso days have been darkly touohed with sorrow and misfortune can. with understanding, pity the erring sons of men. Kve.il so, George Giabam, whoa lie reflected upon the shallows from which he himself had been rcseoxl, felt a great sad ness for the man for whom no saving arm had, apparently, been stretched to diag him fiom the whirlpool of vioo into which little by little he iiad been drawa. No, Graham's persisting iceolleotion was not of tho ruthless d*prodbtor who had orually munb rexl his wife's father, shattered the life of his wife's mother. converted the years of his wife's married life into a hidc-otio rhan- tasy, and given his own child into tho hands of a diabolical agent to b? slain inch by inch, rnoroiJoe8?ly. No, I say again, Graham's persist- ing thought was not of such an one, but erf a pitiful figure, lying, for ever broken, on a water-coursed slab in that dreadful mortuary aoioss tthe Atlantic. He was filled with deep fioriow, rer/i'mbei iug th? utter wastfe of being, (the fearful misuse of (:xj;;t('102 by oiu;—can wo M?y it?—framed in God s Im?.ge, possessing God- Fav it?-.fr,-Lni,(-A in Goda pcss?-fol?n, .God- Of J.uko Hepwoith « end Sophia mast no?d» he tdd. but the terrible details of that end, and the blackest ciimes that preceded it, she nosd iiever know. They must be blotted out of the account as completely as the narrator trusted his own misdeeds would bo blotted from the gTeat book of remembrance hereafter. And, as for the (kind man's should the wife ask the wk reabouts of that. George- no more knew whore Luke was buried tlian the Israelites knew where MCBS Jay entombed. Thanks to the fact and circumspection em- ployed by George, t.he widowed woman received th» news of her luwhand's decease with no groat: play of emotion. She had long om-lived her ill- btaxi-c tl infatuation for the man, and could not profess a sorrow sbo did not fool. Nor, on the hand, could she indulge in unseemly ex- ultation that, at last, the avenger, death.' had overtaken her tormentor. Thoie was no show of L-LISC, regret, no vengeful rejoicings, hence- forth his name was remitted to silcmce, his memory consigned, as far as t,hat could be, to forgotfulrr SF. Yes, oven if Sophia's nature lead been other than it was, trustful and forgiving, she cosily have- afforded to have been magnanimous to- wards the memory of her injnrer, -S, k-ing that Paul, the pivot of her life's iiappituus, little Paul, had Ixxn io«tored to her. The evening preceding the day of their de- parture fiom the Vicarage, the two friends, Loo asid Sophia. with sot purpose, walked together through the plum* of tho parish of 5t. Olaff. What dire memories thronged into their minds M they ob- ject—those sinister courts and alleys with I-Lil their feaiful assoeiatic»rw must be reviewed this night with et-rious intent. Probably for the last time, in their hi.'>10lY t.h.c scenes would now be regiwderl. Both women knew that a new life was in front of thorn—th?y must reaJkse before leaving it behind for ever what the old life had boon—they must, fathom the pit from which they had brx-n mercifully drawn. so that none of the coming shine might, bs dulled by ingrati- tude, none of the coming success apoilt by pride wliat onoo had been. Tho physical conditions of the neighbourhood were as liopelf^s-looking as well might bo. A miserable drizzle had sot in, the pavc-nients were unusually ifiud-dy. tJie lamplight rmectlon-i in the road puddles were accentuated by the dim gleams from oaoh sordid window. There were the same furtire dealings in and out of street and passage, trie sama poverty as ever, the same—nay. not quite the same evil, for Goorg-e and Mira Lad wrought soma little change- in that. Tiie lookers-on stood for a mozxxnt to gazo across a.t the lodging in which John Stanton had died, and his imag was niched anew in thpir hearts-a Fiairit unforgetable. Thcn they paused at the entrance of Prirnrcoc Court with orootiocis which may not even be guessed, within tiha court tliey had not the courage to go. The same squalor \VM there, the same be-shawled, ahoelffis denizens loitering about. As the visi- tors glanood towards No. 13. a flood of bitter rocollootions almcwt overwhelmed them. "Ourse you," oried a wretched creature, dart- ing out of tho darkness of tiio court. "I sent for you an hour since, and now my child's dead!" "Poor woman," said Loo, who perceived sh e had been mistaken for the paid local nurse, "joaor woman, +>)« nuisa is them too kii- "Too la-te. ycf. too late," repeated the woman, already half-drunk, as ebe dived into the nearest drink-shop. "Oh! let us go," hoarsely implored Sophia and turning, they made homewards towards tli- Vicarege. Their way led them past George's special enterprise. Uve Men's Ulub. from tht., room of which came sounds of lusty singing: "I was a suffering captive, but Thou hast made me free. And the two women, passing or, lisind-iu hand, sang s.ilently within their own hearts: "A buixS&Ji lay upon me that Tholl hest bonw away. I My night of mournful darkness, lo! Thou hast IIIlh d to dny." I GHAPTER XVIII. I I IN WHICH THE LAST THREADS ARE I KNOTTED. I- °'1 Dopniafi return to Mereruim with Jier three- year-old son fully confirmed the popular theory that she W3. a widow, t;he Tumour being an incontrovertible fact, the boy was evidence on the one side, and proof on the other side were the mourning garments which the woman had worn since tir"t eoming among them. Thus t,he matter which had already been settled was now mgnc,(! wal") and delivered. But when the hiftory of little Paul gradually leaked out, a new factor entered into the affair: he was on all hands regarded as a hero, and his mother, sharing something of the hero's glory, became a more important personage «ti 1!. Kidnapping and body-snatching ao. or were, of all country terrors the two thing* most .dreaded. Tales, blood-curdling and fcarsomely fascinating, are still current in Mereham. of child-wtealing—alive maybe from the quiet lane.s or dead maybe from the quieter graves. And here, in little Paul, wan a living, actual, example of one who had been kidnapped in the streetof Manchester, and one who, aft-er untold suffering and under the most romantic circumstances, had been restored to his parent. The interet with which Latarus mUbt have been regarded as be eteppcil from the open tomb could hardly have exceeded the awe and curioerty awakened by the Mght of little I)aul- tli-e child who had been in the clutches of a kid-rmpp-or, The intention of Sophia was to settle (Jown on the tiny market-garden estate, which, owing to the energy and good management of her cousins, Hob and Mary Batcei, was amply capable of maintaining bot.h herwolf and her child, besides providing a somewliat generous remuncation for her aesftiant4?. There was room in the cot- tage for the four persons who needed it.,5 accom- modation. and by a judicious apportionment of the work, matters promised to run smoothly and (successfully, When thifl decitfion of Sophia's I)-ccainc known. certain of the villagers conceived ihe notion that t.he event should be wgnalised by some eort of hou-ye-warming or home-coming cele- bration. The idea originated with the women, bur it was 1 he men who, within the hospitable regions of tl»e Red Bull, gave final cast to the- sc-li-eme. I have N:I,;d tinal ca&t," but nothing but ijot l i; i.,g about a village alehouse has finality, least of all, peasant thirwt and peasant argument. Some- one suggested that the affair should take the form of a reunion," whereon. TUmOla.9 Broad- side, of the Manor Farm, agreeing with the suggestion, proposed it should be held at. the churoli, &e> they wur twcd theer to those tilings. It was pointed out to the old farmer that he had mistaken communion for reunion, but ho "tuck to hie point-, remarking that it was no good retrain in' at gnate, union was th' main thing to be oonsidcrt." Devi Such thought the oliapr-1 would be a more likely place to hold the meeting if they wanted a union service," for," 6aid lie, wo con gcet up a love feast, an' by add in ale and veal lwties to ,L' curran' breast an' miik Here, Levi," interrupted Toothy, the land- lord, we'd best not mix religion an' hou**?- warrnin," and, having an eye to business, he rocommended the adjoining club room as a place at once convenient and appropriate. Betaide«," continued the innkeeper, there's a place for everythin', church for communions and cliapel for love feafti)-- An' th' club room for dub feet," interrupted lJEOvi in his turn, manifesting a little queruloua- n««. Now. then." intervened the ():d roadmemder, what's th' use o' getting nattert loike that Levi Y It's a waste o' toime—what aw want to know M thui Vri.'o'e* turn is it to order /.J¡' drink:' Aw oonna abide sit tin" doin' no-A,t." Belter, the constable, happening to come in at this moment, enquired what all the wranpiing was about. He fcaid they had better cy-,ri,-uli, the law before arranging any "union" mc<!ting. or t.hey might find themeelvea appreliended on the charge of breaking the peace. Pcisiik* lie added, those what's foindin' th' money for th' do ovvt to shoo* where it should be spent." Money repeated several of tho assembly at once. This was a factor in ilie cafe that had been overlooked, or rather, a point in the evo- lution of their plans not yet arrived at. Money? — and interest, in several quarters, began to &u bs c!e. Money is th' root o' all evil," senb ntiouklv sighevl Tummas Broatloide, "aw projioee that th» meotin' ajourns till Till th' root's grown a bit," conciuded the roadme-nder. The company' s potts were then emptied in silcnce, for this new aspect of the care gave the promoters anxious palu-oc, and tiio convention broke up. Though nothing was, as yet, definitely formu- lated, it was quickly bruited through the village that a Mcherne WaJ, afoot for giving welcome to the returned daughter of 'Lijah and Nanny Rankin which report coming to the can of the party concerned, caut-ed her no little oon- fuflon and razeed within her a great deal of personal objection. It cliaticA,4,1, however, about thie time. that George and Mira, coming to spend a (Jay in t.h() forest, visited Sophia, and there- upon learned of the proposed function. George Graham took the matter up with great warmth, ami, with his native pnomptnefe, hurried acro*s> to the Roo BlI, and, interviewing the landlord, finiftlied up by craving the privilege of pro- viding the necessary fundt3 for the celebration. S<j the affair rapidly a.-e*umcd ghaix'. A village treat was instituted, the village school- room requisitioned. the village dignitaries invited, and tJH villagers themselves welcomed to the festivities in honour of Sophia's re-settle- ment among them. The gentry of the place were pre?nt in full force, as wew Sophia's city fr:cndB. Mr. and Mrs. Grai,aiii, G ?e Mira ami IHim's fat her. Loo, ami. lastly, the good curate, Mr. FInchhy. Heatt? were toasted in wine, ale, and sundry other innocent beverages. Speeches were made, ehort. sharp and to the point, as all speeches should be. The landlord of the Red Bull, amid great applause, sang "The Mi&tlet.oe Bough" and "Ben Bolt," on the conclusion, of which the road mender observed Eh, but. Tcethy. aw never heerd thee sing better "in that toime tlia whistled "Yankee Doodle" at oid Rate Green's funcraL" Sam Pigs-tock e?.saycd a solo on hi", trombone, but being as he put it "a bit fhi.<3tered" it was a long time- before the semblance of a tune be- came evident, then he settled down into Bar- bara Allen," and it took cousiderab'e persuasion to get him to stop. Braeegird'^ had piprmssnl to bring his big dium, but on Boiler remarking that there 'va.s nawt in it" he had withdrawn his offer in pique. Levi Such was called upon to voice i,h.n peasant element. This h:) did briefly and pithily enough: "Aw'm no hond at tongue.-sauoe- Ijo said, "but aw'm g'ad to see us an here, th.' moats bin good, and tN drink's bin uncommon plentiful, so aw propose a vote o' thanks to th' Almoightv for His mareies, in- cludin' th' return o' Sophia Rankin as was. Amen." Tummus Broadside who was asked to spe?k for tho farming community, had his high-occa- sion collar on, botwoen w hoso capacious sideo his countonanco boamid, rubicund and happy. "My woif* says," begtui Tummw- "Thy wotfe says nowt o' th' sort," ssiapped Mrs. Broad si do from the audience, "gect for- rads wl'' tliy own talk, aw ve gotten jiowt t' cay." "Wee!, aw wish to t'h' Lord tha' wur allays i' that mind," lxxturned Tummus, "but as that stait dusna suit thee aw'll tiy another." And, gotting undt-r way, he fell foul of a suggestion previously made by the Squire as to the advis- ability of instituting a county board of agri- culture. "Boaade?" he asked, what use arc boards i' agriculture? They're well enoo to stand on, or maybe to sit on. but it sounds to sense yo coruia rear eabhagoe or rig taters on boards. No, that idea's loike th' boards aw took out o' tb' granary last back end, aw 'dry rot: v, (To be concluded.





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