Copyright
B. L. (Benjamin Leopold) Farjeon.

Miser Farebrother: A Novel (vol 2 of 3) online

. (page 1 of 11)
Online LibraryB. L. (Benjamin Leopold) FarjeonMiser Farebrother: A Novel (vol 2 of 3) → online text (page 1 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Produced by Robert Cicconetti, Mary Meehan and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This
file was produced from images generously made available
by The Internet Archive)










MISER FAREBROTHER.

A Novel.

BY B. L. FARJEON,

AUTHOR OF "GREAT PORTER SQUARE," "GRIF," "IN A SILVER SEA," "THE
HOUSE OF WHITE SHADOWS," ETC.

_IN THREE VOLUMES._

VOL. II.

London:
WARD & DOWNEY,
12, YORK-STREET, COVENT GARDEN.
1888.

[_Dramatic rights protected and reserved._]

PRINTED BY

KELLY AND CO., GATE STREET, LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS, W.C.;

AND MIDDLE MILL, KINGSTON-ON-THAMES.




CONTENTS.


CHAP. PAGE

I. - JEREMIAH PAMFLETT ASSERTS HIMSELF 1

II. - ARCADES AMBO 17

III. - MISER FAREBROTHER WELCOMES PHOEBE'S FRIENDS 26

IV. - A SACRED PROMISE - WON BY GUILE 39

V. - TOM BARLEY COMMENCES A NEW LIFE 49

VI. - THE FIRST NIGHT OF "A HEART OF GOLD" 63

VII. - DIPLOMATIC FANNY 78

VIII. - THE POOR AUTHOR'S HOME 97

IX. - WHAT THE NEWSPAPERS SAID OF "A HEART OF GOLD" 108

X. - HIDDEN TREASURE 124

XI. - MISER FAREBROTHER GIVES JEREMIAH A WARNING 131

XII. - A LITTLE PARTY IN CAPTAIN ABLEWHITE'S ROOMS 145

XIII. - JEREMIAH DISCOVERS A "SYSTEM" BY WHICH HE MUST
MAKE A LARGE FORTUNE 160

XIV. - A DAUGHTER'S DUTIES 174

XV. - PHOEBE IS STILL FURTHER ENTRAPPED 190

XVI. - THE ENGAGEMENT RING 208

XVII. - DARK CLOUDS ARE GATHERING 222

XVIII. - O RARE TOM BARLEY! 236

XIX. - A VISIT TO DONCASTER AND ITS RESULTS 251




MISER FAREBROTHER.




CHAPTER I.

JEREMIAH PAMFLETT ASSERTS HIMSELF.


The innocent fun and gaiety at the tea-table were long afterward
remembered. There was an animated discussion as to who should take the
head of the table. Phoebe wanted Aunt Leth to do so, but Fanny
interfered, and said no one should sit there but Phoebe.

"It is Phoebe's day," persisted the light-hearted girl, "and something
unlucky will happen if she doesn't pour out the tea. Mr. Cornwall, come
and court me at the bottom of the table."

"Didn't you say it was Miss Farebrother's day?" said Fred, as he took
his seat next to the young hostess. He was not wanting in resource, and
rather enjoyed Fanny's badinage.

The table was much more plentifully supplied than Phoebe expected, and
she cast many grateful glances at Mrs. Pamflett, who had certainly taken
pains to do honour to the occasion. Mrs. Pamflett received these tokens
of gratitude gravely and quietly; no one would have supposed that her
mind was occupied by any other consideration than the comfort of her
young mistress's guests. But nothing escaped her secretly watchful eyes;
every word, every look, every little attention from Fred Cornwall to
Phoebe was carefully noted and treasured up.

A merrier meal was never enjoyed; the buzz of conversation was
delightful to hear. Phoebe was the quietest, Fanny the noisiest.
Suddenly she became quite still, and gazed pensively at Fred Cornwall.

"A penny for your thoughts," said he.

"They are yours at the price," she replied, holding out her hand for the
penny. "I am feeling very sorry for you."

"Why?"

"Because I am convinced you would be much happier if you were at this
moment shelling peas with a certain young lady in Switzerland."

This caused a general laugh, and Fred enlarged upon the delights of his
trip, Fanny interrupting him a dozen times with some quizzical remark.

"You certainly want some one to keep you in order, Fanny," laughingly
observed her mother.

"I do," replied Fanny, dolefully. "Where _is_ that some one? Why _does_
he not appear?"

Toward the end of the meal Mrs. Pamflett swiftly left the room. Looking
out of the window she saw her son Jeremiah, and she hastened down to
him.

"Well, mother?" said he.

"What has made you so late?" she asked, anxiously.

"Now, don't nag!" he exclaimed. "I couldn't get here before; had a
hundred things to look after. The new clothes I ordered never came home,
and I had to go and bullyrag the tailor. How do I look, mother?"

"Beautiful, Jeremiah, beautiful!" she said, enthusiastically.

On his feet were patent-leather shoes; on his head the shiniest of
belltoppers; on his hands lavender-coloured kid gloves; round his neck a
light blue scarf, with a great carbuncle pin stuck in it; and he wore a
tourist's suit of russet-brown of a very large check pattern.

"Rather licks 'em, doesn't it?" he asked, in a tone of self-admiration
and approval, turning slowly round to exhibit his points.

"That it does, Jeremiah."

"Look at this," he said, taking off his hat.

"Why, you've had your hair curled, Jeremiah!"

"Slightly! Nobby, ain't it?"

"Beautiful! My own dear boy!"

"Keep your fingers to yourself, can't you? There, you've gone and put it
all out!" He drew from his pocket a small mirror, and anxiously
readjusted the curls his mother had touched. "Now just you be careful.
Eyes on, hands off!"

"They must have cost a lot of money, Jeremiah."

"They did; a heap; but in for a penny, in for a pound. There's one
comfort; it's all spent on myself. Catch me spending it on anybody else.
They cost, altogether - Well, never mind; we're going in for a big thing,
ain't we? I ain't particular to a pound or two when the stake's worth
it."

"You have the heart of a lion!" said Mrs. Pamflett.

"What will she think of me, mother? Look at me well; reckon me up."

"She can't help thinking as I do, Jeremiah."

"She's a ninny if she don't. She won't get another chance like it, I'll
bet."

"What is that you're carrying, my boy?"

"A bouquet. Here, I'll just lift the paper, so that you can see it.
Roses, stephanotis, and maidenhair. Now, who'll say I ain't a plucky
one? Just wipe this dust off my boots."

In her full-hearted admiration Mrs. Pamflett had lost sight of her
conversation with Miser Farebrother, and of the presence of Fred
Cornwall in the room above; but now, as she carefully wiped Jeremiah's
boots, it all came back to her. Bidding him to give her his best
attention, she told him everything; he listened to her attentively, and
put a good many questions to her when she had done, the most important
of which related to his master.

"He didn't shy at it, then?" he asked.

"No," she replied; "he seemed to take to it kindly."

"You're sure he understood you?"

"He couldn't be off understanding me; I put it to him pretty plain. All
you've got to do is to play your cards well."

"I'll do that. When I've got a winning hand I know what to do with it."

"Are you pleased with me, Jeremiah?"

"Yes; it was a bold stroke; only don't do it again. Let me play my own
game. I don't mind telling you something if you'll keep it dark." He
paused a moment before continuing. "Do you see my thumb?" He held out
his right hand, palm upward, with the thumb arched over it. "I've got
the London business like this; I've got Miser Farebrother like this.
He's under my thumb, mother, and he doesn't know it. If I left him he'd
lose thousands, and if the worst comes to the worst I can put it to him
like that in a way he can't mistake."

"Don't be rash, Jeremiah," implored Mrs. Pamflett; "be humble with him."

"Oh, yes; I'll be humble with him as long as it suits me. Do you think
I've been working all these years for nothing? Do you think I've had the
office all to myself for nothing? Does _he_ think I didn't take his
measure years and years ago, and that I didn't make up my mind what to
do?"

"Jeremiah! Jeremiah!" cried Mrs. Pamflett, "be careful. He's cunning,
he's clever; he can see with his eyes shut."

"I can beat him at his own game. Cunning as he is, I'm cunninger; clever
as he is, I'm cleverer; I could see without any eyes at all. Wasn't it
as clear to me as daylight, if I'd been content to be his slave, taking
his miserable few shillings a week, and trying to live on it, that I
should be no better off at seventy years than I was at seventeen? Oh,
no; not at all! I was a fool, I was, and didn't know how many beans made
five! I was born yesterday, I was! There now; I've said enough. You'll
live to see something that'll make you open your eyes. Oh! hanged if I
wasn't forgetting. What did the governor do with that beggar, Tom
Barley?"

"Discharged him. He's gone for good."

"He's gone for bad, you mean. He'll come to a nice end, and I'll help
him to it if I can. So the old hunks discharged Tom Barley, did he?
Well, I settled his hash for him, at all events."

"It shows what influence you have over the master," observed Mrs.
Pamflett.

"I'll have more before I've done with him. Hallo! Just hear how they're
laughing upstairs. I say, mother, couldn't you call Phoebe down here?
I don't care about giving her the flowers with all that lot looking on
and sniggering. Just you go and whisper to her that a gentleman wants
very particularly to see her. Wait a minute; is my scarf right?"

"Yes, Jeremiah," said Mrs. Pamflett, and was about to leave him, when he
cried again, nervously:

"Wait a minute, can't you? What a hurry you're in. What would you say to
her, mother, when you give 'em to her?"

"Wish her many happy returns of the day, Jeremiah; and you might ask if
she will give you a cup of tea. That will give you an excuse for
following her; she can't very well leave the people upstairs long to
themselves."

"All right; I'll do it." And Jeremiah struck an attitude, and waited for
Phoebe, who had received a message, not that "a gentleman" wanted
particularly to see her, but that a friend was below who was anxious to
wish her many happy returns. When Phoebe heard this, she thought for a
moment that it might be faithful Tom Barley, whom Mrs. Pamflett, in her
good-nature, had allowed to enter, and she was startled when she saw
Jeremiah Pamflett.

"It's me, miss," said that worthy. "You're not sorry, I hope?"

"No," she said, awkwardly; "not at all."

"Seeing it was your birthday," said Jeremiah, "I thought I'd give you an
agreeable surprise. Just look at this." He took the blue paper off the
bouquet, and held it up for her admiration.

"It is very pretty," said Phoebe.

"I should rather say it was. It cost enough, anyhow: eight and six I
gave for it."

He paused for a reply, and Phoebe said, "Yes?" not knowing what else
to say.

"Half a guinea they asked, but I beat 'em down. They _do_ try to take
you in, the shopkeepers; but I get up a little too early for them. When
they try their games on me, they try 'em on the wrong party. Don't you
think so?" He made a motion with his elbow, with the intention of
digging it playfully into her side; but she shrank back, and frustrated
his amiable design. "I went to Covent Garden myself to pick it out." He
paused again, and as she did not speak, he thought, "Hang it! why
doesn't she say something?" comforting himself, however, with the
reflection that his resplendent appearance had "regularly knocked her
over," as he would have openly expressed it in his choice vernacular.
Feeling that he was not getting along as well as he wished, he wound up
with, "For you, miss; wishing you many happy returns of the day."

"You are very kind," said Phoebe, having no option but to accept the
bouquet, "to spend so much money upon me."

"Oh," said Jeremiah, boastfully, "I can do a thing swell when I've a
mind to. I never laid out so much on flowers before, but I wouldn't mind
doing it again - for you, miss."

"Pray don't think of it," said Phoebe, not knowing whether to laugh or
to cry.

"Well, I won't say whether I will or not. It all depends." He spread
himself out airily in order that she might have a good view of him. He
took off his hat, touched his curled hair gingerly, put his left arm
akimbo, and stood at ease, with his right leg out-stretched. He was
rather proud of his manners, and thought he was making an impression.
The question whether Phoebe should laugh or cry was determined by his
attitude, and Jeremiah was somewhat confounded as a light hysterical
laugh escaped her.

"What at, miss?" he asked, the smirk on his face changing to a frown.

"At that boy," said Phoebe, looking at the back of him; "he is so
funny."

Jeremiah, turning, really saw a ragged little boy approaching them. It
was a fortunate escape for Phoebe, who went toward the little fellow
and asked him what he wanted.

"I wants to see the young lady of the 'ouse," said the boy. "Are you
'er?"

"Yes."

"I'm to give yer this, and run away."

A faithful messenger. He gave a small brown paper parcel to Phoebe,
and scuttled away as fast as his little legs would carry him. Phoebe,
wondering, opened the parcel, and there lay a few wild daisies,
accompanied by a piece of white paper, upon which was written, "With Tom
Barley's humble duty. For ever and ever." It was shocking writing, and
Phoebe had some difficulty in deciphering it; but it brought the tears
to her eyes. She put the paper in her pocket, and pinned the daisies at
her bosom.

"I beg your pardon for leaving you," said Phoebe to Jeremiah. "And now
I must go to my friends."

"You might offer me a cup of tea, miss," he said.

"Yes, I will, though I am afraid it is almost cold."

"Nothing can be cold where you are, miss," said Jeremiah, gallantly.
"I'll come up with you. Why do you wear those rubbishing flowers? You
can pick 'em up in the fields."

"They are from an old friend," said Phoebe, loyally. "I value them
quite as much as if they had cost - " She stopped, frightened at her
rashness; she was about to add, "eight and six." Jeremiah completed the
sentence for her, supplying the precise words in her mind.

"As if they cost eight and six, miss," he said, quietly. There was a
venom in his voice which made her shudder. "I'll think of that."

She felt it necessary to mollify him, and though she hated herself for
her duplicity, she was very gracious to him as they ascended the stairs,
so that when they entered the room his equanimity was restored. It may
have been the grandeur of his appearance, or perhaps it was something in
Phoebe's face, that caused an awkward pause in the merriment upon
their entrance. Fortunately for the situation, Mrs. Pamflett was in the
room, and as Phoebe made no attempt to introduce Jeremiah to the
company, Mrs. Pamflett said, in a distinct, measured voice, "My son, Mr.
Pamflett, Mr. Farebrother's manager."

Mr. Lethbridge rose and offered the young man his hand.

"Glad to know you," said Jeremiah. "You're Mr. Lethbridge. How do you
do, all of you?"

Mrs. Lethbridge inclined her head, perceiving that something was wrong.
Fanny with difficulty repressed a giggle, Bob looked supercilious, while
Fred Cornwall scarcely glanced at the new arrival.

"Will you give Mr. Pamflett a cup of tea, aunt?" said Phoebe.

"No," said Jeremiah, "not from your aunt, if you please; from you. Then
I sha'n't want any sugar in it. Anything the matter with you, miss?" He
addressed this question to Fanny, from whom an uncertain sound of
laughter was proceeding.

"Something in my throat," replied Miss Fanny.

"Shall I slap you on the back, miss?"

"No, no!" cried Fanny, suddenly quite sobered.

Jeremiah drank his tea quite slowly, looking alternately from one to the
other. There was a dead silence in the room.

"Shall my niece pour you out another cup?" asked Mrs. Lethbridge,
politely.

"If it will oblige her," said Jeremiah, with cold malignity, "she may."

Without a word Phoebe poured out the tea and handed it to him. He
drank it even more slowly than he had done the first cup. When it was
finished, Mrs. Lethbridge said, "There is no more in the pot."

"That is a pity," said Jeremiah, "because we are enjoying ourselves so."

"I propose," said Mrs. Lethbridge, "that we go into the open air. It is
a most lovely evening."

They all rose, glad of the escape. Jeremiah pushed himself between Fred
Cornwall and Phoebe, and walked by her side down the stairs. When they
were in the open he said to her, "You have forgotten your bouquet. I
will go and bring it to you. Shall I?"

"If you please," she answered, faintly. She could make no other reply.

His mother met him in the passage. "Miser Farebrother wishes to see you,
Jeremiah. You can join Miss Phoebe afterward."

"All right," said Jeremiah; "I will. Look here, mother. Is that Cornwall
fellow sticking up to Phoebe?"

"That is for you to find out, Jeremiah. If you are my son you are not to
be easily beaten."

"Easily beaten!" he echoed, with malignant emphasis. "When my back's up,
I generally let people know it. Did you notice how they behaved to me at
the tea-table?"

"You paid them out for it, Jeremiah," said Mrs. Pamflett, exultingly. "I
am proud of you."

"You shall have more reason by-and-by. Paid them out for it! Why, they
didn't have a word to say for themselves! I just looked at them, and
shut them up! As for Phoebe, let her look out; that's all I say - let
her look out! Did you ever see a cat play with a mouse?"

"Often, Jeremiah."

"Well, let her look out for herself. That's all I've got to say."




CHAPTER II.

ARCADES AMBO.


Jeremiah entered Miser Farebrother's room, holding in his hand the
bouquet of flowers he had brought for Phoebe. He had debated within
himself whether he should allow the miser to see them or no, and he had
decided in the affirmative. "Mother commenced it," he thought, "and I'll
go on with it. Strike while the iron's hot, Jeremiah."

"You sent for me," said he, laying the bouquet on the table in full view
of Miser Farebrother.

"Are those the flowers the gentleman lawyer gave my daughter?" asked
Miser Farebrother.

"No," replied Jeremiah; "I didn't know he brought her any. I bought
these in Covent Garden to present to Miss Phoebe."

"You are growing extravagant," said the miser; "and you are becoming
quite a gay young character: first escorting my daughter home from the
village, and now presenting her with expensive flowers. It rains flowers
in Parksides to-day. I was never guilty of such extravagance - never."

"This is the first time _I_ have ever done such a thing," said Jeremiah,
apologetically; "but seeing it was Miss Phoebe's birthday, I thought
the money wouldn't be exactly thrown away. Look here - that lawyer chap;
he's up to no good."

"You don't like lawyers?"

"No more than you do; though, mind you, if I was married and had a son,
I'd bring him up as one. Then he'd know exactly how far to go, and I
should get my legal business done for nothing."

"Oh! oh!" said Miser Farebrother, with a quiet chuckle. "If you were
married and had a son! That's looking ahead, Jeremiah."

"It's a good plan; it keeps one prepared. You've no objection to my
giving Miss Phoebe these flowers, I suppose?"

"Not the slightest, so long as you bought them with your own money. Only
don't do too much of that sort of thing. When you spend money, spend it
to advantage - in something that will last, or will make more money.
Spending money in flowers is folly; in two days flowers and money are
gone. You can look at them in gardens and shop windows, then you get all
your pleasure for nothing. That's the wise plan. Costs nothing for
looking, Jeremiah."

"You are quite right. I'll bear in mind what you say, and profit by it."

"That pleases me. What I like is obedience - blind obedience - and I will
have it from those in my control. So - you're thinking of marriage, eh? A
wife is an expensive toy."

"Not when you've got the right one! Likely as not it keeps a man out of
mischief."

"So long as you've got the right one! Your mother said something to me;
has she told you of it?"

Jeremiah considered a moment, and for once in his life was candid.

"Yes," he said, "she told me of it."

"Sit down, Jeremiah."

The astute young man obeyed in silence, and inwardly congratulated
himself. "Things are going on swimmingly," he thought; "the fish is as
good as in my net already." While Miser Farebrother, gazing on Jeremiah,
thought, "I'll bind him tight; I'll bind him tight!" Presently he spoke.

"You have been a long time in my service, and are acquainted with my
business."

"I know all the ins and outs of it," said Jeremiah. "I've got it at my
fingers' ends."

Miser Farebrother sighed. Humbly as Jeremiah's words were spoken, the
miser felt that his managing clerk had him in his power. Well, the best
plan was to put chains around him, and what chains so tight and binding
as matrimony?

"If I came to grief, Jeremiah, you could set up in business for
yourself?"

"Yes," said Jeremiah, boldly; "and make a fortune. But you come to
grief! No, sir; not while I am with you."

"It is my misfortune," continued the miser, "and your good luck, that I
am ill and weak, and unable to give the proper personal attention to my
affairs."

"Why say 'misfortune,' sir? It may be your good luck as well as mine."

"But it is as I say," cried Miser Farebrother, testily.

"Very well, sir. Then what a shrewd man would do is to make the best of
it." Jeremiah's cue was not to cross or vex his master; to assert
himself up to a certain point, but to lead the miser to believe that in
him, Jeremiah, a wily master had a suitable tool, who, for a prospective
advantage, would devote himself hand and foot, body and soul, to his
employer's interest.

"That is all that is left to me," groaned Miser Farebrother - "to make
the best of it. Jeremiah Pamflett," he said, abruptly, "were I in your
place and you in mine, how would you act?"

"Under precisely similar circumstances?"

"Yes, under precisely similar circumstances."

"I should seek an interview," said Jeremiah, keeping down his
excitement, "with the young man who was managing my business in London
for me, in whom I had every confidence, and say to him, 'You seem to
have a liking for my daughter.'"

"Ah!" said Miser Farebrother, "Go on."

"'My object is,' I should say to this young man, 'that she shall marry a
man who will serve me faithfully, to keep her out of the hands of
scheming relatives, and to keep her especially out of the hands of
scheming lawyers. You are the man I would select as her husband. Marry
her, and continue to serve me faithfully, and then all our interests
will be common interests, and I shall be safe from conspiracies, which
have but one end in view: to rob me of my hard-earned money.' After that
I should wait to hear what he had to say."

"Not yet, Jeremiah, not yet," said Miser Farebrother; "there is still
something more to be said on my side. Supposing that the words you have
put into my mouth have been spoken by me to you, I should not wind up
there. I should continue thus: 'If I give you my consent to pay court to
my daughter, who, when I am gone, will, if she behaves herself, inherit
what little property I have, you must bind yourself to me for a term of
years. No, not for a term of years, but for as long as I am alive. There
shall be an agreement drawn up, a binding agreement, which, if you
break, will render you liable for a heavy penalty, which I shall exact.
Your salary shall be so much a week, and no more; and you are not to ask
me for more. You are to be, until my last hour, my servant, amenable to
me, acting under my instructions, and you are not to put yourself in
opposition to my wishes,' That, as far as I can at present see, is what
I should say to you, Jeremiah; and now I await your answer."

"My answer is," said Jeremiah, "that I agree to everything. It is my
interest to do so. You see, sir, I don't mince matters, and don't want
to take any credit to myself that I am not entitled to."

"Continue in that vein," said Miser Farebrother, "and all will be well.
But don't think I am going to die yet awhile."

"I hope," cried Jeremiah, fervently, "that you will live for fifty
years."

"I may believe that or not," said Miser Farebrother, dryly, "as I
please. Make no mistakes with me, Jeremiah; I know what human nature is.


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Online LibraryB. L. (Benjamin Leopold) FarjeonMiser Farebrother: A Novel (vol 2 of 3) → online text (page 1 of 11)