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In the Shadow of the Bush

Chapter XIX

page 112

Chapter XIX.

The fears entertained by Mr. Elwood that Old Dan had recognised him were only too well grounded. Dan, after steadily eyeing the occupants of the buggy, and noticing the startled look, the averting of the head, and evident discomposure of the old man, gave a start of surprise himself, and turning to Westall, asked, with a degree of excitement unusual to him, "Who the divil's that?"

Westall answered that he believed it was a Mr. Elwood, with his daughter, who had lately settled in the neighbourhood. "At least," he said, "I was told that was the name. I have seen the girl once or twice in the township, or passing here, but I have not seen the old man himself out before. He keeps pretty close at home. I believe—I remember seeing him, though, as Davie and I passed his place, the first day we came here—it's about three miles out.

Dan had leaped to his feet, "Be the Holy Vargin, I know him," he exclaimed. "I have wondhered to mesilf many's the toime where the ould bloke had got to—I was told his wife had money. Elwood is it now, ye call him—a foine respictable ould gintleman he'll be, to be sure, now—carries his head high, I'll be bound—among the bist in the land. Och! me saintly ould hypocrite, to think it's mesilf should drap across ye here—huigh," and Dan, in the fulness of his heart at seeing again an old acquaintance, twirled round his head the stick he page 113usually carried, and danced half a dozen steps of a hornpipe.

"Elwood is it he calls himsilf now?" he again said.

"Why, what was he called when you knew him, if he is the man you take him to be?" asked Westall, evidently much interested.

"Number thirty-sivin," replied Dan, and touched his ankle significantly with his stick. "Be me sowl, it's the broad arrow he carries about wid him, respictable ould gintleman though he looks. Drivin' in his buggy, to be sure, now—och, it's quality we are, rale, downright quality, wid the divil a spick on our reputation at all at all." And Dan laughed a mocking laugh, and was nearly giving a few more steps of the hornpipe.

"Don't you remember what his real name was?" Westall asked, with increasing interest.

"Sure, an' it was mostly by the number, or by the Christian name, or by some nickname, we—lastewise they, I mane—were called—more be token, it was whin he was a ticket-av-lave man that I knowed him—Cantin' Charley he wint by ginerally. But his other name, now?—I ought to remimber it, too, for I heerd it more than wanst—it's runnin' through me head like a rat round a cage, but the divil a out it'll come. Begorra, I forgit."

Westall sat for a while deep in thought.

"Twenty years or more since I saw him—could this be he?" he said to himself. "This man looks too old, but then old age is not governed and determined by the number of years; these trip lightly to the end with some, showing but little imprint of their passage, while over others, heavy-footed, they drag their weary way, leaving deep dents behind. There is certainly some resemblance, or so at least I thought there was on the day I saw him in the garden with his daughter—he was smiling at some remark she made then. To-day I saw but little of his face. How strange it would be if this indeed were he—how could I meet him?—the other here also. But this page 114old ruffian, Dan, who has evidently been an old 'leg' himself, may have been mistaken in his man."

"I have it," exclaimed Old Dan, "av ye care to heat it. Faces I can remimber wid any man—I niver forgit a face, but names do bother me a bit. But, faith, I've got hould av this wan—he's out at last—Hartland was his name."

"My God, I thought so!" cried Westall.

"Did ye know him, thin?" Dan asked.

"Well, I remember the case," Westall answered, with some hesitation. "It was in my part of the country, you know; I knew the man, by sight—defrauding of creditors and forgery and that sort of thing, I believe, if I remember rightly. A bad case—ten years he got, I think."

"The very same, I'll be bound," said Dan; "an' now he's afther comin' the foine gintleman over us—drivin' in his carriage he is, wid sarvints to wait on him, the divil a doubt. Och, it's as good as a play, an" more divartin'."

"And who may the foine gintleman be ye're afther meetin'?" asked O'Byrne, who with Jacob, the landlord, just then came out of the hotel and heard Old Dan's last remarks.

"Dan has seen an auld acquentance o' his," said Davie, who had been an interested listener to the conversation and had watched all that had taken place, "an' is muckle pleased at the thocht o' meetin' wi' him again; but I'm dootfu' if his freen' is ower weel pleased to see him. Gentleman or gaol-bird, I dinna weel ken which, but it's likely enoo it's baith he'll be, I'm thinkin, for it's no' the first time that gentlefolk, or them that ca' themsels sae, hae made the acquentance o' the inside o' a gaol, or hae wore the leg-irons for the matter o' that, as Dan's freen' seems to hae done."

"Be the powers, thin, Dan had betther be afther lavin' his ould frinds av that complexion to take their own coorse—scrub their own acre, an' cut down their own tree," Dennis remarked, somewhat warmly.

"Ay, but this is ane o' yer swell folk, man, wha drives his page 115buggy an' a' that. There's nane o' yer loup-the-dykes aboot him—nane ither than Mr. Elwood here. I ken his place weel, an' had a meal there ance. The dochter's a bonny lassie an' kindly, I'll say that aboot her ony way; an' I'm gye pleased to think that I may be better acquent wi' her before lang. Nae doot," he continued, with a chuckle, "we'll a' be aften invited up to tea there noo, when Dan has ance made his boo an' foregaithered wi' his auld time freen's. I'm no' saft on ony ither lass, an' Dennis '11 hae his Molly to gang coortin' wi', sae I can juist tak' the dochter oot for a walk, cannily by oorsels, while Dan here has his crack wi' the auld man."

Dan had relapsed into his usual taciturnity, but did not quite relish Davie's attempt at jocularity. The excitement of seeing again in this unexpected way the ex-convict with whom he had worked in former years, and against whom, for some reason which he himself could not define nor understand, he had borne the deepest animosity, had carried him out of his usual self, and led him into a display of feeling which was foreign to his nature.

"Vell I never," Brasch chimed in, "who would have beliefed it. To tink dis yentlemans vas an oldt 'leg.' Von has to be very careful in dis contry who von makes his friendts."

"Ye'll need hae nae fear o' him if he's a freen' o' Dan's," said Davie; "if Auld Dan gies bail for ony ane, ye can tak yer aith that he's a' richt. I'll hae nae doobt but Dan, when he made the puir chield's acquentence on the ither side, will hae been a veesitin' justice—a gaol chaplain, mebbe, or faither confessor, or somethin' equally respectable; I aye kenned he was somebody aboon the common."

There was a vengeful gleam in Old Dan's eyes, and he muttered something to himself about "rippin' somebody's b——liver"; but he said nothing openly in reply to Davie's badinage.

In the afternoon, when O'Byrne had caught the horse, and page 116he and Davie were preparing to start homewards, the latter said to Dan:

"Ye'll no' be comin' wi' us juist yet, I'm thinkin'. Ye'll be for drinkin' tea, nae doobt, wi' yer freen' o' auld lang syne. Weel, gie my respecks to the bonny lassie, an' tell her I canna weel get oot to see her the nicht, but I'll no fail to gang wi' ye next time. Ye can aye pit in a guid word for me, ye ken—a guid word frae you, bein' an auld freen' o' the faimily's, will gang a lang way. She's a braw lass, an 'll hae a bonnie bit tocher, I'm thinkin'."

"What the divil are ye jabberin' about?" said O'Byrne. "Av coorse Dan's goin' home with us. Sure, an' wasn't it to fetch us home that he came down here? If ye have met with wan av yer ould acquaintances," said he, addressing Dan, with some warmth, "faith, an' ye had betther lave him to himself. I'm tellin' ye, now, if it's not home ye're goin', be the powers, thin an' nayther am I!"

"Av coorse I'm goin' home," said Dan, who had, however, been thinking seriously of stopping where he was for the night, "av coorse I'm goin' home. It's only this—— ——of a Scotchman that's afther tryin' to poke fun at me, he is. Be me sowl, he'd betther be kapin' a civil tongue in his head!"

Dan went home with the others; but he had made up his mind to slip back here on the morrow, go out to Elwood's place, and force his hateful presence on the man whom he had recognised as a former associate in the convict gang. The temptation to do so was too strong for him. He looked forward with fiendish pleasure to the opportunity he would have of triumphing in exultant mockery over one whom he still regarded with enmity—enmity which was deepened and embittered now by the sight of the other's apparent prosperity and respectable position. He gloated over the discomfiture and humiliation of the other when his erstwhile companion of the hulks and penal settlement would stand before him and heap insult and shame upon his head.

page 117

He resolved to force an interview with him on the following day; and he carried out his resolution. But in the meantime he trudged home to the wharé along with Davie and O'Byrne.