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THE DESPOT. By ELLEN ADA SMITH, Author of " The Price of Con.
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THE DRIVING FORCE. By GEORGE ACORN, Author of "One of the
Multitude," etc.

LORD QU ARE'S VISITOR. By FLORENCE WARDEN, Author of
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The Driving Force



BY THE SAME AUTHOR



ONE OF
THE MULTITUDE

THE SPECTATOR (Novel of the Week) : "An
account of his boyhood and extreme youth by a skilled
workman who has risen from the unskilled class. The
book bears every mark of absolute sincerity. Brought
up in poor surroundings, handicapped by hunger and
cold, familiar from his childhood with every sordid and
coarse scene, this man seems to have developed a love of
work, a respect for women, and a fear of God such as we
should be glad to find in any more fortunate class of the
community. Nothing so hopeful as Mr. Acorn's fascin-
ating pages has been written for a long time."

DAILY TELEGRAPH: "This autobiography
of a working man is an articulate voice from the heart
of slum life, remarkable as a human document and
precious as a light in the social darkness."

PUNCH : " Describes the progress of a slum-child
by incredibly hard and squalid ways, to the comparative
haven of a self-respecting and self-supporting manhood.
No one who cares to understand the realities should fail
to read this book."



The Driving Force

By

George Acorn

AUTHOR OF " ONE OF THE MULTITUDE "

Tout comprendre, c'est tout pardonner




London

John Long, Limited

Norris Street, Haymarket

\All right i reserved}



First Published in 1915



CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I. MATINS . . . . . . 9

II. " MR. FORTUNE'S LOT " . . .16

III. MR. BRING GOES A-WOOING . . 24

IV. STRAWS IN THE WIND ... 36
V. MR. FORTUNE EXPLAINS ... 43

VI. THE GREAT THEORY . 50

VII. FROM DREAMS TO DUMPTON COURT . 57

VIII. THE " POOR MAN'S LAWYER " . .65

IX. THE VICAR ASSAILS THE THEORY . 75

X. " THE PLAY'S THE THING " .80

XI. WALKER JAGGINS, ESQUIRE . . 88

XII. " THE ROSES AND RAPTURES OF VICE " 97

XIII. THE GRAND CONCERT . . . 102

XIV. MARGARET GOES AWAY . . .111
XV. THE BLACK SHEEP . . . .118

XVI. " THE SCHEME OF THINGS " . . 128

XVII. A WEDDING BREAKFAST . . . 137

XVIII. GUESTS OF FORTUNE . . . 147

XIX. THE NIGHT ALARM . . . .151

XX. RICHARD GOES TO PONDERBRIDGE . 165

XXI. THE STUPENDOUS COMBINATION OF

DRAMATIC ART .... 172
7



8 THE DRIVING FORCE

CHAPTER FACE

XXII. THE CURTAIN FALLS ON "LA MAR-

GHERITA " . . . .184

XXIII. CONCERNS MEN AND ANGELS . . 196

XXIV. FORTUNE'S MAN is SENT FISHING . 207
XXV. A WOMAN'S RIGHTS . . .214

XXVI. CONCERNS A VISITATION OF FORTUM. 'i-~>

XXVII. A LITTLE SECRET . . . .287

XXVIII. MARGARET " COMES Our " . . 247

XXIX. ESTHER'S BARRIER . . . .252

XXX. A QUESTION OF MOTIVE . . . 25G

XXXI. MARGARET'S LITTLE PLOT . . 2GG

XXXII. " ONE TOUCH OF NATURE " . . 275

XXXIII. MR. FORTUNE GOES TO "THE YEO-

MAN'S HEAD " . . . .281

XXXIV. MRS. ANGEL INTRUDES . . .
XXXV. BEFORE THE WEDDING . . . 2U(i

XXXVI. THE UNINVITED GUEST . . .303

XXXVII. EVENSONG 311



The Driving Force



CHAPTER I

MATINS

IT was a delicious morning in May, some twenty years
ago, at the hour of seven, when the mounting sun
sends vibrant shafts of light through back streets and
alleys through orchards and winding lanes.

From Dumpton Court and Puritan Row, from
Abraham Street and Scroggins Lane, children tightly
holding bundles in brown paper and mothers in
negligt, made their way to St. Olave's Schoolrooms.

Mr. Richards was standing at the door talking with
the vicar the Rev. Lionel Pontifex and greeted
each arrival with a cheery word and a smile of
recognition.

" Is Mr. Fortune bearing the expenses of all the
children ? " asked the vicar.

" I think not," Mr. Richards replied. " So far as 1
know he has a special interest in four of the children
who are going away to-day, and I suppose the others
are invited by other country gentlemen."

" I thought you would know," added the vicar,
" especially as he invited you to nominate one child."

" Oh, Margaret Angel, yes, that is so. You see,
her father was killed at work only recently, and I



10 THE DRIVING FORCE

thought it would do her good to get away into the
country for a fortnight."

" Quite right. So you mentioned her name to Mr.
Fortune ? "

" Yes. Who is to go with them ? "

" Oh, Mr. and Mrs. Trent will do that, they are in
the schoolroom now ; he is speaking to the audience
do you hear him ? Trent is rather given to making
speeches, it's a fairly harmless complaint, but he's a
very capable man at anything like this."

They moved away from the door and paced the
vicarage grounds, looking now and then through the
windows of the schoolroom, where Mr. Trent con-
tinued to impose his oratory upon the assemblage
now complete. He was just tying his mind into knots
with a rambling line of parenthesis, when a tap on
the open door called everybody's attention to a short,
horsy -looking man with a fat red face in which were
set two small twinkling eyes ; in one hand he held a
long whip and a pair of gloves, with the other he
flourished a piece of paper.

Instantly there was a rush for the door. The mothers
and their children hustled the horsy-looking man in
their haste to get out greatly to that gentleman's
indignation, and began to swarm round two pleasure
brakes in the street outside. He flicked his coat with
the tips of his yellow driving gloves and proceeded
to address Mr. and Mrs. Trent. " Mornin', sir," he
bowed. " Mornin', mam."

" Er morning," replied Mr. Trent, thrusting one
hand under his coat-tails, and with the other holding
up for closer inspection the slip of paper. li H'm
is er everything ready ? "



MATINS 11

" Yessir, me and Ginger Stodd other driver is
Ginger is what I might term ready, aye ready, as
the song says ; and when Bill Bring that's me says
it's ready, well, it's ready, and don't forget it." He
drew his hand across his lips a symbolical action
signifying the recent refreshment of the inner Bill
Bring, and the readiness of the whole man to devote
himself to the task before him cost what it may.
He then retired.

" Interesting man, dear," remarked Mr. Trent.
" Rather a character ? "

" I think he's horrid, dear," said Mrs. Trent. " He
hardly seems respectable. And look how strangely
dressed horrid man ! "

They followed the object of their critical remarks
as he rakishly sauntered towards the brakes. Mr.
Bring mounted the box, and carefully adjusted the
rug over an extremely dilapidated pair of boots and
tattered pair of trousers, thus leaving exposed a
light dust-coat of Newmarket cut in rather a good
state of second-handedness, and a large horseshoe
pin in a " Friday " tie. 1 He raised his bright top-
hat to the assembled mothers, gracefully bowed to
Pilkins, the school caretaker, waved his hand to the
vicar and Mr. Richards, then seated himself, and
finally drove away.

A burst of song from the youngsters met with his
warm approval. " We're all a-going to Rye House,"
they shouted at the top of their voices in accordance
with strict precedent. Mr. firing's inner man glowed
with pride as he remembered that he was first and

1 Note for the uninitiated. A " Friday " tie is a large adornment
that is capable of covering a dirty shirt towards the end of the week.



12 THE DRIVING FORCE

foremost in that grand procession to the railway
station, his elbows became the symbol of his pride,
and positively jerked themselves into the notice of
onlookers by being stuck out at his side like the
wings of a pugnacious cockerel.

The sounds of " Rye House " having died away,
a small voice tried for some time to convert a song
wishing " Jolly good luck to the engine driver,"
from a solo to a chorus, but without success, until
Mr. Bring turned round in his seat and led the van
(or should we say the brake ?) to victory. Again the
voices died down, the crunching of " broken " biscuits
occupied the roysterers* attention, the brakes rattled
and bumped their ways through the City to Waterloo.

Mr. Bring began to yearn for human discourse.

" Don't 'ear you a-singing," he said to a young
girl who was sitting next to him.

She turned at once to reply with a bright, clear-
eyed responsiveness in striking contrast to the
mourning garments she wore.

" No," she said, " I wasn't singing."

" Didn't notice your mourning," apologetically
ivplicd Mr. Bring, "or I wouldn't 'a said anythink.
Couldn't expect you to sing under the circumstances."

' No," she naively replied. " I was eating oranges."

" Lorst your mother ? " Mr. Bring imparted a
slight tremor to his voice, hoping thus to imply a
t iider regard for her loss.

l< No, only my father."

tk Ah 1 " Mr. Bring sighed. " That's how all you
gals speak of the men. * It's only father 1 ' Now if
it 'ad bin your mother, you'd 'a-spoke different,
wouldn't you ? "



MATINS 18

The girl flashed up in a moment.

" I loved my father," she said. " You know what
I meant when I said that, so you needn't pretend
you don't, and make a song about it."

Mr. firing's admiration was kindled at once by
this outburst. " Beg your pardon," he said. " I
ain't bin so much in serciety lately, and I've forgot
my drorin'-room mannahs, but I say ! what a
nice colour your 'air is, just like a kind of a gold

colour, and your complexion ! Why, when I

was in serciety the wife of the Lord-knows-who paid
a thousand pounds to get a complexioa like that."

The girl's eyes opened wide in surprise.

" I believe you're telling a story," she said. " You
can't buy complexions even for a thousand pounds ;
you can buy face-powder, but that's not real ! "

" Hello ! " cried Mr. Bring. " What do you know
about face-powder, eh ? "

" Oh ! I go to buy it sometimes round at Tofflin's
for my mother."

" Oh ! " commented Mr. Bring. " Your mother's
a gay young spark then "

" Only since Father died. Mother said her face
was so white and thin to what it used to be, she must
give it a touch of colour. And she's not a young
spark, she's ever so old. Guess how old she is."

" About fifty ? " hazarded Mr. Bring.

*' No ! thirty-six next birthday."

The conversation ceased for a few moments ; the
brakes were caught in a whirlpool of traffic the
horses needed firing's close attention, but once
safely through, he turned to her again.

" What's your name ? " he asked.



14 THE DRIVING FORCE

44 My name ? " answered the girl. " Why, Margaret
Angd.

44 Well, that's an uncommon name," he said, 4 ' but
sootable, you're an uncommon gal, you see, it's
an uncommon name."

44 Father used to say he was descended from
Italians whose name was Angelo ; but they left out
the 4 o ' at the end after they settled down in England.
Sometimes when Father and Mother had a few words,
she used to call him a half-bred Dago. Do you know
what a Dago is ? "

44 Oh yes!" responded Bill. "Dago is English
for I-taliano see ? "

' I thought it was something like that, but Mother's
been sorry for it since Father was killed ; but she can't
beg his pardon now he's dead, can she ? "

" N-no. When you're dead, you're done for," was
all Bring could contribute towards a discussion he
felt was getting rather beyond his mental powers.
44 How did your father die ? " he added inquisitively.

44 He was caught up by a big machine where he
used to work. Mother's trying to get compensation
for it, and Mr. Richards the Poor Man's Lawyer
he's getting it up for her. Do you know Mr. Richards ? ' '

44 What ! Him round in Abraham Street ? "
4 Yes." She answered hastily, for they had arrived
at the station. The children were swarming down
from the brakes, and Margaret prepared to follow
their example.

Wliile the brake-driver was putting the nose-bags

on the horses the unholy thought occurred to him

that Widow Angel's acquaintance might be well

illy if she got any compensation



MATINS 15

for the accident to her late husband well worth his
while to try, at all events.

" Billy Bring," he said to himself, " opportunity
comes seldom, an' it's come to you. S'pose she gets
a couple o' hundred pounds, and s'pose you marry 'er ?
S'pose you take a little public-'ouse together some-
wheres ? Ain't that worth trying for ? Ain't it
worth a bit o' trouble ? " Thus he mused, then
rapidly gave orders to Ginger Stodd to give an eye
to the horses, and followed the children into the
station. " Well, good-bye, my dear," he said unctu-
ously, " good-bye, and Gord bless yer, don't forget
to bring us back some apples."

A moment later the train began to move out of
the station. Mr. Bring's eyes followed the vision of
golden-haired Margaret, who, leaning through the
window frame, waved her hand to him till each
became invisible to the other.




CHAPTER II

" MR. FORTUNE'S LOT "

THE train sped on, rushing disdainfully through town
after town, county after county, until glorious Devon
was entered.

The children were bidden to alight at Fonder-
bridge and to stand quite still while Mr. and Mrs.
Trent counted them, presumably to make sure that
none had fallen out of the train on the journey, or
been mislaid in some other unpleasant manner.

Country people with vehicles of all kinds were
waiting outside the station, and these drove away
shortly afterwards, taking with them small supplies
of juvenile cockneys for the amusement and enlighten-
ment of the natives.

At last only four children were left to be claimed,
among them Margaret Angel and, to her great
delight, Dick Bonnerdale.

" Be you Mr. Fortune's lot ? " asked a grey-haired
old man, who now slowly sauntered toward them.

Mr. Trent stepped over some luggage bundles and
eyed the old man up and down before he exclaimed,
" Ah ! Er ! Well, my good man, what is your
business ? "

The old man with his sun-faded clothes and slow,
patient speech formed a striking contrast to dapper
lit tli- Mr. Trent with his jerky articulation and general
air of importance.

16



"MR. FORTUNE'S LOT' 17

" My master, the Reverend Loverton, has sent me
with the trap to fetch Mr. Fortune's lot o' children.
Be these they, if you please ? "

" Oh ! er let me see Mr. Fortune's lot ? Oh
yes, just so. Are they to stay at the Vicarage ? "

" No, they hain't going to bide at Reverend's ;
they be comen long o' me and wife to my cottage just
opp'site."

" Oh ! yes, yes, yes, well, there they are, my man.
See that they have a good time, and er send 'em
back fatter."

Again the jog-trot of a vehicle beneath Margaret,
but instead of having Bill Bring to talk to her she
now sat beside her boy-sweetheart, Richard Bonner-
dale both silently admiring the beautiful scenery,
and each other.

When Margaret had been conversing with the
brake-driver, this boy had been gazing at her as if
there were no other person or object in the world
worth half so much attention. He was as devoted
to Margaret as ever a dog to master the light of
faithful devotion was in his eyes, a light never to be
quenched, despite all this history has to record.

He was thirteen years old then, and tall for his age
a broadly built, rather heavy, boy with too
thoughtful an expression on his face for one so young,
and with a mass of dark hair. Honest through and
through he was, both by nature and inclination, and
possessed of the temper that makes a good lover and
a good hater. He read many books and dreamed of
personal achievement in the days to come as a knight
in shining armour, rewarded in the end from the
hand of Margaret grown into a lady with a white



18 THE DRIVING FORCE

gown and a golden girdle, as fair as the angels whose
name she bore.

He broke the silence with a suddenness that startled
her. " Maggie," he asked, " why did you look so
sad when I met you this morning and why didn't
your mother come to see you off ? "

The girl did not reply for a moment, but sat with
downcast eyes plainly troubled by his question.

" Of course, Maggie," added the boy, " if you'd
rather not say, I'd rather not hear."

" I will tell you, Dick," she answered. " My
mother didn't so much as get out of bed to bid me
good-bye I have never been much of a trouble to
her and I think she might give me a little love
sometimes. That was why I was looking miserable,
I expect."

" Poor old Maggie," comforted Dick. " I am
another unfortunate, only instead of having a doting
mother, I've an antidoting aunt to worry the life out
of me. Still, Maggie, we'll win through, whatever
they may do to stop us from getting on. Don't
worry about your mother ; just make up your mind
to have a jolly good time now."

When they arrived at the cottage, Dick helped
Margaret down first and then the other girl, to whom
careless ancestors had bequeathed the name of
Jemima Higgs thus labelling her as a slum product
true to pattern, of Puritan Row. She was sallow and
snub-nosed in appearance, sharp and generous by
nature.

The other boy, William Eston, had been brought
up by Dick's aunt, and the boys were generally
regarded and spoken of as brothers, because they



"MR. FORTUNE'S LOT' 19

lived together. He was a shapely boy with handsome
features, marred, perhaps, a little by a certain sullen
look about the eyes. Two years younger than Dick,
he was accustomed to rely on him for help in getting
out of scrapes. He was the kind of boy whose life is
a serial story of trouble.

" Now make y'self at home, boys and girls," said
Mrs. Parrott, when they entered the old gardener's
cottage. " Now, Dan'l, just pop over and let the
Reverend know the childer have arrived. He might
be anxious else." . . . All in the same breath she
continued asking for their names, what they thought
of Ponderbridge, did they like oat-cakes, and how
much longer did they think the kettle would take to
boil for tea ?

Jemima and William were quite unable to reply
to this. Dick merely nodded sympathetically. But
Margaret at once remarked, " My mother always
says a watched kettle never boils ; she always hides
it when it's on the fire hangs a towel on the
string."

" Does she now ! " Mrs. Parrott appeared to be
impressed. " I've heard tell as they do strange
things up in London, but -well, Dan'l, did you tell
the Reverend ? "

" Aye, and he says he'll come and see them in the
morning, and they're to come to see him in the week
when Mr. Fortune's there."

Mrs. Parrott grouped them all round the table and
handed round plates of eatables and cups of tea as
fast as they were required, until there came a lull.
Then she smoothed her lap and asked, " Is Missie
Esther comen over with Reverend in a' mornen ? "



20 THE DRIVING FORCE

Old Dan's eyes softened perceptibly. " She be
comen too, bless her heart."

" Has the clergyman got a little girl ? " asked
Margaret, while Jemima stopped in the act of biting
at an oat-cake to listen. Richard and William went
on eating they had no particular interest in other
little girls.

" She baint Reverend's little girl," replied old
Dan. " She be some relation or other. Reverend
never had but a boy."

" And a pretty boy he were," added Mrs. Parrott,
" for all his wild ways."

"Well, Mother," said Dan'l, "we needn't talk
about that ever again. I sticks up for Reverend,
and you sticks up for Master Richard, and that's
how 't'll be till we ends our days, I s'pose. You're
not eating well, Mother."

Mrs. Parrott sighed. " Always will say he had a
heart o' gold, for all his wild ways."

** Now, Mother, we doant want ta go into that."

" I mind the day he went, rainin' it were, he come
in this very room, his face as white as this table-
cloth. ' Martha,' he says he always called me
Martha since he was able to speak I nursed him in
my arms. Ah 1 he were a sweet baby ' Martha,' he
says "

" Now, Mother, don't 'ee go on like this. Mast'
Richard's gone away, and Reverend's my master
so ..."

14 He come into this room and said . . ."

' Mother, the childern doant want to hear the
troubles of loife, it'll be dark. soon enough for 'em
I'll just show 'em the garden while ye clear up the



"MR. FORTUNE'S LOT" 21

tea-things, and then we'll all sit round the table
until we gets aff to bed. Oi've nothen more to do ;
young Tommie's put the horses in stable, so we
shan't be long away."

The children and Dan passed into the garden
a half acre of land crammed with vegetables, fruit,
and flowers. In the middle of a strawberry bed a
cardboard tiger, artfully propped up by pieces of
wood, kept guard, possibly frightening the most
timid of the birds by its expression of snarling
malignity.

" That looks all right," remarked William to Dick,
to which Dan made reply.

"Had a lot o' trouble to get that, young Tommie
got it for me, his uncle keeps a shooting-gallery up
Beechmere, -tigers and lions and kangaroos and
crocodiles all run along the back, and you take a
shot, and if y'hits, ye get another go."

" I'm going to be a cowboy when I grow up,"
said William relevantly.

" Thing like that," Dan continued, " is worth
somethin' like five shillings, but where's the girls ? "

The trio looked round, but neither Margaret nor
Jemima were to be seen. They had returned to
Mrs. Parrott, and were by this time helping her to
" wash up." " Often says to Parrott," she was
remarking, " how I do wish I had a daughter -a son
is not so much use to most of us women, but a daugh-



" My mother says she wishes I was a boy," volun-
teered Margaret.

" Yes, I'd sooner be a boy," added Jemima.

" Would you, though ? What makes your mother



22 THE DRIVING FORCE

say that ? " Good Mrs. Parrott was surprised to
hear of any one wishing for a change in Margaret.

" Well, iMother says if I was a boy I should bring
home more money when I go out to work."

44 That's true."

41 1 don't know so much," broke in Jemima. " My
father don't work and my mother do, so the man
don't bring 'ome the money in our 'ouse, do 'ee ? "

" No, dear, but come and look here, there goes
Reverend."

" Oldish man, ain't he ? " Margaret commented.
" I thought he was coming with the little girl, I
thought he would have brought Missie Esther."
*. Just as she spoke a sweet, fresh voice at the door
bade them " Good evening." A slim, dainty girl in
a simple muslin frock, with a mass of brown hair,
and a wistful face with dark eyes, stood upon the
threshold.

44 Missie Esther ! " Into the old woman's voice
had crept a note of timid love that echoed the effect
of Esther's voice upon her heart-strings. " Missie
Esther, I'm so glad you came to see the young misses
and me is Reverend comin' in t'night ? "

44 Not to-night, Mrs. Parrott," Esther had a
singularly sweet voice. Margaret afterwards said
that to hear Miss Esther speak was like hearing her
own mother sing, " Mr. Loverton will come and see


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