Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

14 erthygl ar y dudalen hon



OUR SHORT STORY. I UNREWARDED HONESTY. I By VINCENT EMS. Just by way of an introduction. You—whoever, whatever, and, wherever you ?c—?lr. Eli Maggit, the Jehu of the i?eu d Lion 'bus, Tarsea. There, that's done. Shake! Jump not to the conclusion, on the strength of the Jehu," that Eli followed in the stepe- of the Biblical gentleman of that name, and diove furiously He wouldn't if he could1, and he couldn't if he would, for if the ancient steed who drew the 'hus hadn't fallen to pieces under the strain, certain it is that the more ancient bus would. And Eli knew it. But—ju.-t to justify the Jehu touch-it mu-st be recorded that whenever Eli was asked, "Are you the driver of this 'busr his invariable" reply was, "I'm the Jehu of thi", 'ore affair, .sir. Any luggage?" Eli, very short, extraordinarily stout, very red-faced, clean-shaven in patches with blue that twinkled, clad summer and winter alike in a livery coat that had seen better days and a more definite colour, and wearing a stove-pipe hat made by a firm that had been out of business for over twentv years, was a. bit of a character—an institution, a necessity to Tarsea, almost, in these days of war. The younger Jehus— Eli wne of an age so uncertain that he had I no knowledge of it himself—had gone, and tio. if you came to Tarsea for a holidav, Eli would "drive vou to your rooms; and if you lighted -oil your Heart's Desire and indulged in matrimony, Eli would drive you to be married; and if you—well, if you died-the merest supposition, of course: touch wood and it will be quite all right—Eli would drive you to the cemetery. And in all theee things Eli would be rigidly honest. He wouldn't—as was the imquitous practice of young Bill Gimp, of the rival Mitre 'bus, now withdrawn—touch his hat and, with a babe-like expression, annex the tWo-shilling piece you might "tender him. as though that were the fare. You'd get a shilling change—from Ell. Eli, you see, thought of the future. He didn't want; when he'd pegged out and was hoping to get into heaven, to be stopped by an angel and asked, "What about all them tanners and bobs you did folks out of?" It would be awkward, and might involve a dis- appointment-a change of venue. So there vou have it. Eli was honest, and he prided himself on it. Honest an' law- abidin' On a certain Tuesday evening, his day's work done. Eli entered the bar-parlour of the Rod Lion, expecting to find Job Benton there, and was not disappointed. "'(}y, long 'ave you known me, Job?" asked Eli, when his legitimate thirst had been legitimately alleviated. an d -untidiiv whi,?- Job, a boatman, stout and untidily whisi- kered, also somewhat dour of expression, wa-s startled by the unexpected question. lie would have preferred the more usual, 'Ave another. Job?" But he puckered his forehead and thought. "Twenty years?" he hazarded. "Twenty-three," corrected Eli. "An' would you call me a 'onest an' law-abidin' man?" v "I wouldn't mind," said Job indefinitely, taking up his empty tankard and putting it down again. "Nor wouldn't nobody, a week ago," said Eli. "But—well, it's no good beatin' about the bush, so I may as well out with it. Fact is, Job, I've been tempted is, '•Widder woman?" queried Job, interested at last. "Widdors an' wimmen be a tged: lm past bcin' tempted by them, or they're past bein' tempted by me—one or t'other, or both. Any rate, it wasn't a woman, nor yet a widder—it was a man, a gent, as dia it. An' now I've been an' made myself liable for fourteen years' 'ard." "You wouldn't live all that time," said Job encouragingly. "I ain't so sure," said Eli gloomily. "But I'd 'ate dvin' in prison, seein* that I've set mv mind on bfin" found dead on the 'bus seat, faithful to death, as it says on old Gimp's gravestone, although it did come out .afterwards that 'c must 'ave 'ad a couple o wives for years. 'Ow was I tempted? It was like this. Tke gent came off the one- twenty, an' asked me if I knew where 'e could get decent, quiet rooms, with good cookin' an' so on an' so forth. I told 'im that 'c could go all over Tardea an' then 'e wouldn't better MJ-S. Green-" "She was the widder woman I 'ad in my mind," put in Job with a grin. "An' continued Eli, ignoring the thrust, ('e .-aid e'd take my word for it. We chatted a, bit till 'is luggage was brought out, 'an sort o' took to each other. 'E asKed me to be extrv careful with a tin box 'e 'd got, not to dent it, an' I told 'im what I've told scores of others—that I'm more careful with other folks' things than I am with my own, 'avin' been brought up with a con- science, an' kept it, although I did do a bit of porterm' on the railway before I took on with this 'bus. I suppose 'e must 'ave re- membered what I said, for 'e came down to the station last Saturday an' asked me if I would do im a great favour. 'E'd picked me out, e ?aid, because 'e felt I was to be 3he oat, 'E'd got to return sudden on ac- count of a telegram 'e'd 'ad, 'e wanted to leave a parcel, with me, to be given to 'is lister when she came down. The parcel was private,, extry special private, an' 'e'd get into no end o' law trouble if it ever came out that 'e'd parted with it for as much as a minute, but 'e hadn't got no choice; So 'e was goin' to take the risk an' leave it with me, to be took care of just as if it was my own. An', there bein' a law case on about it, a party of swindlers tryin' to do 'is pore sister out of it, 'e'd ask me to swear solemn I wouldn't let not a single soul know I waa the one 'e'd trusted with it. An' then 'e described 'is sister-short an' stoutish, an' wearin' long widder's weeds. She'd carry a red book an' a purple parasol, 'e said, and gave me this bit o' paper describin' 'er like, so as I couldn't miwtake 'er. Ail' she'd 'ave orders to give me five pounds when I 'anded over the parcel. An', says 'c, you needn't give it up till she gives you the five pounds. Well, Job, five pounds is five pounds in the.s.e days, so I said I'd take the parcel. Then we "went inside the 'bus, where nobody could eee us' an 'e took it out of 'is bag, an' .1 'id it under my seat." T rousers?" queried Job. N o—under my seat on the 'bus. Then 'e -went off, thankill' me over an' over again, an' wavniif me not to say a word to nobody. That was on the Saturday, an' on Monday there came a gent nosin' round, wantin' to know all sorts of things. Did I fetch Mr. Smith—that was the gent's name—from Mrs. Green's? Was 'is bag 'eavy? 'Ow many bags ad 'e got? And so on. I said I never fetched 'im, an' didn't know nothin' about '.s bags or what was in them, which, if it wasn't what you might call the truth, was actin" up to my solemn oath, any rate. I kept an eye open for the gent's sister, Job, but she didn't come, an' then, blow me. if that pup o' mine didn't ferret out the parcel an' tear all the paper off! There was gold watches, rings, bracelets, an' eaven knows what! I packed 'em up again a- best I could, an' then when I was down at the station I 'card that the gent what asked me all them questions was a 'tec, an' that 'e ■was after the other gent for pinehin' gold Watches, rings, hetceterv! An' I'd swore I didn't know anythin' about the gent's bags, nor what was in them I tell you. Job, the sweat fair ran off me like a river. An' now 'cre'fc me, Eli Maggit, what's prided 'imse!l on bein' onest an' law. abidin', with 'b oue what you might call full of stolen property 1 That's worth seven years' 'arÔ j without countin' the seven I'd get for tellin lies to that 'tec an' 'inderin' 'im in th execution of 'is dooty. An' then there 's the gent's widdered sister-an' the five pounds,' concluded Eli lugubriously. "What would you do if you wa,, me, Job? I'm in a fail muddle to know what to do." "If I was you, Eli," said Job, "I'd stand Job Benton a pint o' bitter, so as to wet 'is brain an' make it work. Much obliged. luck: There's only one thing foi you to do, Eli, although, of course, yoa could ch'.ick the stuff in the sea, or go t:: fcbe police an' give yourself up. The ilrst would be sinful waste, an' the second—well, I that ain't better talked about. Tour line in to watch for the widder with the red 'anky. chief "Red book an' a purple parasol," cor- rected Eli. "Wait for 'er," continued Job, "give 'er the parcel, an' get the fiye-no, that wouldn't do! I'd give 'er the things, but I wouldn't touch no money—not a 'a'penny. It might get you into trouble. 'Aiidin' over a innocen parcel wouldn't oe nothin' Takin' five pounds would. It 'ud prove you was in the swim, so to speak." "Much obliged, Job," said Eli. relieved. "It's a bit 'ard, of course, to be tempted with five pounds an' then not to handle the money, but what you've said is right enough. I knew your 'cadpice 'ad more in it than mine." You came to the right man when you came to me," vicl Job modestly. "Watch for this 'ere red widder, 'and 'er the parcel —makin' sure nobody ain't watchin', take no temptation money, an' then swear, if it corner to a pinch, that you know nothin about anythin'. That's your line." By the second train the next nlorning the gent's widowed sister arrived short, stout, carrying a red book and a purple parasol. She came into the station yard, looked round, sa,w Eli, and after a cautious glance round, went straight to him. "You've a parcel for me, I think?" she said. "Ye6'm," said Eli, "I 'ave, an' signifi- cantly, "I wish I 'adn't. If you'll get in the 'bus I'll drive round a quiet road an' 'and it over. There's been a bit o' fuss about that parcel," he explained, looking at her straightly. Eli drove to a quiet road. stopped the 'bus, jumped down, looked about him. saw that the coast was clear, and then retrieved the parcel from his steed's nosebag and passed it to the widow. "Thank you," she said. "I was to give you five pound-" "I ain't takin' it, mum," Mud Eli firmly, "an' if yoti wouldn't mind gettin' out of the 'bus now the business is settled I'd be obliged." The lady alighted, and Eli drove off—with a lighter 'bus and a lighter heart. "It'6 the first time I've been tempted," he muttered, "an' darn me, it'll be the last!" Two months later Job bought a new boat. Shortly afterwards it leaked out that he it was who had bought Bill Grummit's half- dozen bathing-machines. Then there was a donkey and a brand-new rubber-tired bath chair. "Come into a fortunequizzed Eli. I "Not exactly," said Job. "Fact i". I was tempted, Ba^ie ae you was, an' 'ad the luck to get a bit more out of it than you did. But," anticipating a quite natural question from Eli, "it ain't somethin' I could tell you about, so don't ask me." And therein Job spokp truJy. He had been tempted, and it was wmething that he couldn't tell Eli about. He'd been tempted to get his sister, who to I ii- the pirt of. th(, lived at Southlands, to lay the part of the widow. She was short, and i?he was stout, and if she'd given up wearing widow's weeds it didn't take her long to get a fresh supplv" nor to buy an eighteenpenny red book and a four-and-eleven-three purple parasol. Now and then Job goes—somewhere. Now nnd then his sister goes—somewhere else. They take with them a ring, a chain, a bracelet. And they return without them. Which is what the real red widow will have to do if, and when, ehe comes to Tarsea. But she hasn't been yet, and—as accidents will happen—it can be said at once that -ehe will not be able to come for two years and some odd months.




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