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Aye, it's a' recht." "You are very good, Mr. Kannyman.” “ "Nae, nae; I had some business the way, lassie.”
” 66 You are sure Mr. Fane read the note?” “Aye, lassie." “Tell me, how did he look-was he drinking ?
“Weel, mebbe the gentleman had just a wee drappee in the eye.”
“ Tell me the truth; that is really what I sent you for ?” “Weel then, lassie, he was just drinking as usual.”
“She sighed, and drew her veil closer over her face. Is there any other news?" she asked. .
The old fellow took off his hat, and raked back his hair, in order to get a clearer view of the dark anxious eyes
that were watching him thorough the veil.
"Naething good. The master has found out where ye are, I reckon ; for he told me last night not to waste more time lookin' for ye. He is as knowing as the deil, lassie, and as
' black. Hae naething to do with him, my birdie."
He spoke with so much kindliness, that Pearl removed her veil the better to see him, and perhaps because she knew it pleased the old man to look at her beautiful young face.
He gazed long and earnestly into the dark lustrous eyes, fuller and darker than his own.
“What is it, Mr. Kannyman,” she asked. “Naething, lassie; I was only thinking."
There was something very mysterious and secret about this man. If you watched those dreamy eyes of his, that seemed so vacantly staring into immensity, you would sometimes catch sight of a strange gleam of keen intelligence that lit up his face like a flash of lightning, as sudden, swift, and vivid. There was kindliness too, hidden beneath the deep lines of care and age. And his manners, though so abstracted, and occasionally grotesque, had sometimes a quiet grace and refinement about them that was singularly at variance with his mean dress and rude dialect.
Pearl thanked him and wished him good day with a conflicting look of gratitude and distrust.
He watched her disappear, with his usual dreamy stare, then walked away with the same swift pace as before.
I wonder if it ever occurred to those who knew him what a singular thing it was that so dreamy a man should habitually walk so fast. If I were that old man's enemy I would be very careful how I acted in the presence of those same vacant eyes-they might see more than one thinks for.
He stopped at a dreary house, in a dreary street near Brunswick Square, on the door of which was a brass plate with the name of Mr. A. Moss, Jun. and in the dirty window a wire blind, with the word “Office" on it. The whole house looked empty and unfurnished, except for this office, where a tall desk rising above the blind, and a formidable row of fat ledgers and diaries, ranged full in sight, gave the casual passer indications of very extensive and lucrative business indeed.
Mr. Kannyman entered with a latch key, and immediately mounted a tall office stool and plunged into folios of figures.
He was so dutifully engaged when a timid ring of the tinkling little bell startled him from his perch.
“Eh. What d'ye want, ma'am ?” he asked, sharply, of a neatly dressed young woman, who stood trembling on the doorstep.
She was a timid little thing, with a fair characterless face, that looked as if it might have been very pretty but for its misery.
“Is Mr. Moss here?” she stammered.
“Nae, I told ye before he seldom comes here now—and varra uncertin."
“Will you take him a letter ?" she asked, or rather begged.
“Nae, lassie; that is no good.” I saw him burn the last unopened."
As he spoke the woman was looking eagerly up into his face. Perhaps she saw something there more commiserating than his words.
“Oh, sir, do help me, and God will bless you."
“I am afeard I canna help ye, lassie,” he said, softly, as he led her in and closed the door. He brought her a chair, and when she was more composed, he said, “Tell me all about it, lassie?"
She again looked into the old man's wrinkled face, and obeying that strange intuitive faculty of the miserable, which, like the Ancient Mariner's,enables them at a glance to recognize the man who must hear their tale, the woman poured into his ear the whole history of her wretchedness.
She had been nursery governess in a family, which Mr. Moss visited - Mr. Aldair's, of Kensington. In an evil hour she met him alone, and listened to his flattering words. They met again and again. She learned to love him—too well.
Her betrayer persuaded her to leave her situation, and he supported her till a child was born. Fearing that the story should come to the ears of his friends, he persuaded her to put the child away to nurse, promising that she should see it whenever she wished.
“Here, in this room," she concluded, “I parted with her, my darling Edith, and he has never let me see her since. And now he will not speak to me; he says I have forfeited his love. God knows how, unless by growing prematurely old in misery. Oh it is cruel! cruel !"
“Dinna cry, lassie," said Mr. Ka nnyman, wiping his own eyes, under pretence of clearing them of his wild hair-this old Scotchman had pity in him too—“Dinna cry, lassie, I tell ye. I will try to find your bairn."
" “She was yet thanking him with all the extravagant effusion of a mother's heart, when Mr. Moss himself entered the office. He started at sight of her, and turned to retire, but she sprang on him with the energy of despair, crying aloud for her child. But he shook her off fiercely-brutally, and raised his foot, as if he would have spurned her as she lay on the threshold.
“What the H-business have you here, you whining hypocrite ? ” he shouted.
“My child, my child," she groaned.
“What have I to do with your child or you? Hold your row, and don't make a fool of yourself. Who is to know you have disgraced yourself if you hold your cursed tongue ? Be off; if I catch you here again I'll split on you to your old mother I will, you shameless strumpet."
He closed the door, locked it, and turned fiercely on his clerk, who stood listlessly looking on; his great dreamy eyes almost hidden by the straggling hair.
“Oh, you cunning old devil, this is how you do your work,
' is it? Listening to the lies of a parcel of—” He shook his fist threateningly, but he did not strike him. For Mr. Kannyman was a strong, sinewy old man, and his great fists had suddenly contracted, and his weird black eyes were flashing in an altogether novel and incomprehensible manner.
“What? you scoundrel.”
“Naething, master, naething. I was only thinking," replied the old man, turning dreamily to his ledger, muttering again to himself the last word, " thinking.”
MR. KANNYMAN IS INQUISITIVE. EARLY next morning, while the sun was yet trying to look over the house tops, to see what men were doing in the dusty street, Mr. Kannyman glided into his office, and locked the door behind him. He was two hours before his usual time, but that was nothing to a man of the multifarious duties of Mr. Moss's clerk. He did not open the shutters, because the daylight was yet so dim that for minute and careful work a candle was preferable, and this Mr. Kannyman had provided. There was an acute and watchful look in the old fellow's eyes this morning, and his hair had somehow contrived to set with an unwonted current towards his shoulders, revealing a capacious and thoughtful forehead. Carefully shading the light with his hands, he proceeded to the great iron safe, the sanctum sanctorum of Mr. Moss's office. Had that gentleman possessed the gifts of clairvoyance, he would have been not a little surprised to see his dreamy old factotum take from his pocket a great, bright, many-warded key, the exact counterpart of the one which, so far as he knew, had never been out of his possession for a minute. No, it was not exact; it grated in the
a lock, and the heavy bolts rolled half-way back, but no further. But a few touches of a small file remedied the defect, and the iron door swung open. Mr. Kannyman set down the light, in order to examine more carefully the various contents of the compartments. There were books, parchments, and legal papers tied up with pink tape, a cash box, two or three books of questionable character, and more questionable illustrations, all of which the surreptitious clerk passed negligently over. On the cold iron floor lay several dusty bottles, glasses, plates, knives and forks, and other unusual contents of an official iron safe.
“And so," said Mr. Kannyman, “these are the important items he consults when he stays here after business hours. Eh! What's this?” He had drawn from the furthest recess a small bright saw, such as are used for cutting keyholes and fretwork. Then came a hammer, a chisel, and a paper of blunt headless nails. He examined all these carefully, and replaced them with a perceptible shudder. His eyes were very wideawake now. Their expression was more horrified than dreamy. So unusually awake was he, that the candle was extinguished'. by his rapid movements. When he relighted it, his face was perfectly white, as if the momentary darkness had frightened VEV him. Moving more cautiously now, he stooped and minutely examined the floor of the office. The wood was very old, and had been patched and repaired in many places, every one of these patches Mr. Kannyman minutely scrutinized, scraping the crevices and nails with his penknife. Whatever he sought, he seemed disappointed, and at length gave up the quest, put out the candle, and opened the shutters.
The sun had climbed over the opposite houses, and the cheerful light came streaming in, almost blinding the old man with its brightness. It glittered on the brass ornaments of the iron safe, it dazzled on the red and white backs of the ledgers, it danced on the fluttering blind, it streamed on the wall, it slept on the floor. When Mr. Kannyman stooped to pick up a sheet of paper that had fallen down from the tall desk to his feet, its snowy whiteness so dazzled his sight, that he missed his aim, and so tore his finger on a protruding nail that the thick drops of blood fell upon the paper.
"Eh!” he ejaculatedand, falling on his knees, he resumed his scrutiny of the woodwork. Immediately beneath his stool was a patch a little newer and whiter than the rest. He had not thought of examining this before, for he distinctly remembered that piece being let into the floor some twelvemonths ago, when the boards worn by his own and his predecessors' feet had broken through.
But the nail. Yes ; here it was just sticking up a sixteenth of an inch above the wood. He examined the others—they were all level with the surface and very bright. But Mr. Kannyman turned pale again as he felt them. A carpenter does not leave his nails level, but punches them down beneath