W. W. (William Wymark) Jacobs.

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"When you've known her as long as I
have nineteen years," said Mr. Letts, as
the other protested, "things'll be a bit
different. I might not be here, for one

By exercise of great self-control Mr.


Widden checked the obvious retort and
walked doggedly in the rear of Miss
Foster. Then, hardly able to believe his
ears, he heard her say something to Mr.

" Eh ? " said that gentleman, in amazed

"You fall behind," said Miss Foster.

"That that's not the way to talk to the
head of the family," said Mr. Letts feebly.

" It's the way I talk to him," rejoined
the girl.

It was a position for which Mr. Letts
was totally unprepared, and the satisfied
smile of Mr. Widden as he took the vacant
place by no means improved matters. In
a state of considerable dismay Mr. Letts
dropped farther and farther behind until,
looking up, he saw Miss Foster, attended
by her restive escort, quietly waiting for
him. An odd look in her eyes as they
met his gave him food for thought for the
rest of the evening.


At the end of what Mr. Letts was
pleased to term a month's trial, Mr. Wid-
den was still unable to satisfy him as to
his fitness for the position of brother-
in-law. In a spirit of gloom he made
suggestions of a mutinous nature to Mr.
Green, but that gentleman, who had re-
turned one day pale and furious, but tamed,
from an interview that related to his treat-
ment of his wife, held out no hopes of

" I wash my hands of him," he said
bitterly. " You stick to it; that's all you
can do."

" They lost me last night," said the un-
fortunate. " I stayed behind just to take a
stone out of my shoe, and the earth seemed
to swallow them up. He's so strong. That's
the worst of it."

" Strong ? " said Mr. Green.

Mr. Widden nodded. " Tuesday even-
ing he showed her how he upset a man


once and stood him on his head/ 1 he said
irritably. " I was what he showed her

" Stick to it!" counselled Mr. Green
again. "A brother and sister are bound
to get tired of each other before long ; it's

Mr. Widden sighed and obeyed. But
brother and sister showed no signs of tiring
of each other's company, while they dis-
played unmistakable signs of weariness with
his. And three weeks later Mr. Letts, in a
few well-chosen words, kindly but firmly
dismissed him.

" I should never give my consent," he
said gravely, " so it's only wasting your
time. You run off and play."

Mr. Widden ran off to Mr. Green, but
before he could get a word out discovered
that something unusual had happened. Mrs.
Green, a picture of distress, sat at one end of
the room with a handkerchief to her eyes ;


Mr. Green, in a condition compounded of
joy and rage, was striding violently up and
down the room.

" He's a fraud ! " he shouted. " A fraud !
I've had my suspicions for some time, and
this evening I got it out of her/'

Mr. Widden stared in amazement.

11 1 got it out of her/' repeated Mr. Green,
pointing at the trembling woman. " He's no
more her son than what you are/'

" What ?" said the amazed listener.

"She's been deceiving me," said Mr.
Green, with a scowl, " but I don't think
she'll do it again in a hurry. You stay here,"
he shouted, as his wife rose to leave the
room. " I want you to be here when he
comes in."

Mrs. Green stayed, and the other two,
heedless of her presence, discussed the situa-
tion until the front door was heard to open,
and Mr. Letts and Betty came into the room.
With a little cry the girl ran to her mother.

11 What's the matter ? " she cried.


" She's lost another son," said Mr. Green,
with a ferocious sneer "a flash, bullying,
ugly chap of the name o' Letts."

" Halloa ! " said Mr. Letts, starting.

" A chap she picked up out of the street,
and tried to pass off on me as her son," con-
tinued Mr. Green, raising his voice. " She
ain't heard the end of it yet, I can tell you."

Mr. Letts fidgeted. " You leave her
alone," he said mildly. " It's true I'm not
her son, but it don't matter, because I've
been to see a lawyer about her, and he
told me that this house and half the furni-
ture belongs by law to Betty. It's got no-
thing to do with you."

" In-deed ! " said Mr. Green. " Now you
take yourself off before I put the police
on to you. Take your face off these

Mr. Letts, scratching his head, looked
vaguely round the room.

" Go on," vociferated Mr. Green. " Or
will you have the police to put you out?"


Mr. Letts cleared his throat and moved
towards the door. " You stick up for your
rights, my girl/' he said, turning to Betty.
"If he don't treat your mother well, give
him back his kitchen chair and his three
stair-rods and pack him off."

" Henry," said Mr. Green, with dangerous
calm, "go and fetch a policeman."

" I'm going," said Mr. Letts hastily.
"Good-bye, Betty; good-bye, mother. I
shan't be long. I'm only going as far as
the post-office. And that reminds me.
I've been talking so much that I quite
forgot to tell you that Betty and me were
married yesterday morning."

He nodded pleasantly at the stupefied
Mr. Green, and, turning to Mr. Widden,
gave him a friendly dig in the ribs with
his finger.

"What's mine is Betty's," he said, in a
clear voice, " and what's Betty's is MINE !
D'ye understand, stepfather ? "

He stepped over to Mrs. Green, and,


putting a strong arm round her, raised
her to her feet. " And what's mine is
mother's," he concluded, and, helping her
across the room, placed her in the best


r I "HE old man stood by the window,
gazing at the frozen fields beyond.
The sign of the Cauliflower was stiff with
snow, and the breath of a pair of waiting
horses in a wagon beneath ascended in
clouds of steam.

"Amusements?" he said slowly, as he
came back with a shiver, and, resuming his
seat by the tap-room fire, looked at the way-
farer who had been idly questioning him.
"Clay bury men don't have much time for
amusements. The last one I can call to
mind was Bill Chambers being nailed up
in a pigsty he was cleaning out, but there
was such a fuss made over that by Bill
that it sort o' disheartened people."

He got up again restlessly, and, walking


round the table, gazed long and hard into
three or four mugs.

" Sometimes a little gets left in them," he
explained, meeting the stranger's inquiring
glance. The latter started, and, knocking
on the table with the handle of his knife,
explained that he had been informed by a
man outside that his companion was the
bitterest teetotaller in Claybury.

" That's one o' Bob Pretty's larks," said
the old man, flushing. " I see you talking
to 'im, and I thought as 'ow he warn't up
to no good. Biggest rascal in Claybury,
he is. I've said so afore, and I'll say so

He bowed to the donor and buried his
old face in the mug.

" A poacher ! " he said, taking breath.
"A thief!" he continued, after another
draught. " I wonder whether Smith spilt
any of this a-carrying of it in?"

He put down the empty mug and made
a careful examination of the floor, until a


musical rapping on the table brought the
landlord into the room again.

" My best respects," he said gratefully,
as he placed the mug on the settle by his
side and slowly filled a long clay pipe.
Next time you see Bob Pretty ask 'im wot
happened to the prize hamper. He's done a
good many things has Bob, but it'll be a long
time afore Claybury men'll look over that.

It was Henery Walker's idea. Henery
'ad been away to see an uncle of 'is wife's
wot had money and nobody to leave it to
leastways, so Henery thought when he
wasted his money going over to see 'im
and he came back full of the idea, which
he 'ad picked up from the old man.

"We each pay twopence a week till
Christmas," he ses, "and we buy a hamper
with a goose or a turkey in it, and bottles
o' rum and whisky and gin, as far as the
money '11 go, and then we all draw lots for
it, and the one that wins has it."

It took a lot of explaining to some of


'em, but Smith, the landlord, helped Henery,
and in less than four days twenty-three men
had paid their tuppences to Henery, who
'ad been made the seckitary, and told him
to hand them over to Smith in case he
lost his memory.

Bob Pretty joined one arternoon on the
quiet, and more than one of 'em talked of
'aving their money back, but, arter Smith
'ad explained as 'ow he would see fair play,
they thought better of it.

" He'll 'ave the same chance as all of
you," he ses. " No more and no less."

" I'd feel more easy in my mind, though,
if 'e wasn't in it," ses Bill Chambers, staring
at Bob. " I never knew 'im to lose any-
thing yet."

"You don't know everything, Bill," ses
Bob, shaking his 'ead. " You don't know
me ; else you wouldn't talk like that. I've
never been caught doing wrong yet, and
I 'ope I never shall."

"It's all right, Bill," ses George Kettle.


"Mr. Smith '11 see fair, and I'd sooner win
Bob Pretty's money than anybody's."

" I 'ope you will, mate," ses Bob; " that's
what I joined for."

"Bob's money is as good as anybody
else's," ses George Kettle, looking round
at the others. " It don't signify to me
where he got it from."

"Ah, I don't like to hear you talk like
that, George," ses Bob Pretty. "I've
thought more than once that you 'ad them

He drank up his beer and went off 'ome,
shaking his 'ead, and, arter three or four
of 'em 'ad explained to George Kettle wot
he meant, George went off 'ome, too.

The week afore Christmas, Smith, the
landlord, said as 'ow he 'ad got enough
money, and three days arter we all came
up 'ere to see the prize drawn. It was
one o' the biggest hampers Smith could
get ; and there was a fine large turkey in

it, a large goose, three pounds o' pork


sausages, a bottle o' whisky, a bottle o'
rum, a bottle o' brandy, a bottle o 1 gin,
and two bottles o' wine. The hamper
was all decorated with holly, and a little
flag was stuck in the top.

On'y men as belonged was allowed to
feel the turkey and the goose, and arter
a time Smith said as 'ow pVaps they'd
better leave off, and 'e put all the things
back in the hamper and fastened up the

" How are we going to draw the lottery?' 1
ses John Biggs, the blacksmith.

"There'll be twenty-three bits o 1 paper,"
ses Smith, "and they'll be numbered from
one to twenty-three. Then they'll be twisted
up all the same shape and put in this 'ere
paper bag, which I shall 'old as each man
draws. The chap that draws the paper with
the figger ' i ' on it wins."

He tore up twenty-three bits o' paper all
about the same size, and then with a black-
lead pencil 'e put the numbers on, while


everybody leaned over 'im to see fair play.
Then he twisted every bit o' paper up and
held them in his 'and.

" Is that satisfactory ? " he ses.

" Couldn't be fairer," ses Bill Chambers.

" Mind," ses Smith, putting them into a
tall paper bag that had 'ad sugar in it and
shaking them up, " Number i wins the
prize. Who's going to draw fust?"

All of 'em hung back and looked at each
other ; they all seemed to think they'd 'ave
a better chance when there wasn't so many
numbers left in the bag.

" Come on," ses Smith, the landlord.
" Somebody must be fust."

" Go on, George Kettle," ses Bob Pretty.
" You're sure to win. I 'ad a dream you

"Go on yourself," ses George.

"I never 'ave no luck," ses Bob; "but if
Henery Walker will draw fust, I'll draw
second. Somebody must begin."

" O' course they must," ses Henery, "and


if you're so anxious why don't you 'ave fust
try ? "

Bob Pretty tried to laugh it off, but they
wouldn't 'ave it, and at last he takes out a
pocket-'andkerchief and offers it to Smith,
the landlord.

"All right, I'll go fust if you'll blindfold
me," he ses.

" There ain't no need for that, Bob," ses
Mr. Smith. "You can't see in the bag, and
even if you could it wouldn't help you."

" Never mind ; you blindfold me," ses
Bob ; " it'll set a good example to the

Smith did it at last, and when Bob Pretty
put his 'and In the bag and pulled out a
paper you might ha' heard a pin drop.

" Open it and see what number it is,
Mr. Smith," ses Bob Pretty. "Twenty-
three, I expect ; I never 'ave no luck."

Smith rolled out the paper, and then 'e
turned pale and 'is eyes seemed to stick
right out of his 'ead.


11 He's won it ! " he ses, in a choky voice.
"It's Number i. Bob Pretty 'as won the prize."

You never 'card such a noise in this 'ere
public-'ouse afore or since ; everybody shout-
ing their 'ardest, and Bill Chambers stamp-
ing up and down the room as if he'd gone
right out of his mind.

11 Silence ! " ses Mr. Smith at last.
" Silence ! How dare you make that noise
in my 'ouse, giving it a bad name! Bob
Pretty 'as won it fair and square. Nothing
could ha' been fairer. You ought to be
ashamed o' yourselves."

Bob Pretty wouldn't believe it at fust.
He said that Smith was making game of
'im, and, when Smith held the paper under
'is nose, he kept the handkerchief on his
eyes and wouldn't look at it.

" I've seen you afore to-day," he says,
nodding his 'ead. " I like a joke as well
as anybody, but it ain't fair to try and make
fun of a pore, 'ard-working man like that."

I never see a man so astonished in my life


as Bob Pretty was, when 'e found out it was
really true. He seemed fair 'mazed-like, and
stood there scratching his 'ead, as if he didn't
know where 'e was. He come round at last,
arter a pint o' beer that Smith 'ad stood 'im,
and then he made a little speech, thanking
Smith for the fair way he 'ad acted, and took
up the hamper.

"'Strewth, it is heavy/' he ses, getting it
up on his back. " Well, so long, mates."

"Ain't you ain't you going to stand us
a drink out o' one o' them bottles?" ses
Peter Gubbins, as Bob got to the door.

Bob Pretty went out as if he didn't 'ear ;
then he stopped, sudden-like, and turned
round and put his 'ead in at the door agin,
and stood looking at 'em.

" No, mates," he ses, at last, "and I
wonder at you for asking, arter what you've
all said about me. I'm a pore man, but
I've got my feelings. I drawed fust becos
nobody else would, and all the thanks I
get for it is to be called a thief."


He went off down the road, and by and
by Bill Chambers, wot 'ad been sitting
staring straight in front of 'im, got up and
went to the door, and stood looking arter
'im like a man in a dream. None of 'em
seemed to be able to believe that the lottery
could be all over so soon, and Bob Pretty
going off with it, and when they did make
up their minds to it, it was one o' the
most miserable sights you ever see. The
idea that they 'ad been paying a pint a
week for Bob Pretty for months nearly
sent some of 'em out of their minds.

" It can't be 'elped," ses Mr. Smith.
" He 'ad the pluck to draw fust, and he
won ; anybody else might ha' done it. He
gave you the offer, George Kettle, and you,
too, Henery Walker."

Henery Walker was too low-spirited to
answer 'im ; and arter Smith 'ad said
"Hush!" to George Kettle three times, he
up and put 'im outside for the sake of the


When 'e came back it was all quiet and
everybody was staring their 'ardest at little
Dicky Weed, the tailor, who was sitting
with his head in his 'ands, thinking, and
every now and then taking them away and
looking up at the ceiling, or else leaning
forward with a start and looking as if 'e
saw something crawling on the wall.

"Wot's the matter with you?" ses Mr.

Dicky Weed didn't answer 'im. He shut
his eyes tight and then 'e jumps up all of a
sudden. "I've got it! "he says. "Where's
that bag?"

" Wot bag ? " ses Mr. Smith, staring at

" The bag with the papers in," ses Dicky.

" Where Bob Pretty ought to be," ses
Bill Chambers. "On the fire."

"Wot?" screams Dicky Weed. "Now
you've been and spoilt everything ! "

"Speak English," ses Bill.

''I will!" ses Dicky, trembling all over


with temper. "Who asked you to put it
on the fire ? Who asked you to put your-
self forward ? I see it all now, and it's too

" Wot's too late?" ses Sam Jones.

" When Bob Pretty put 'is hand In that
bag," ses Dicky Weed, holding up 'is finger
and looking at them, " he'd got a bit o j
paper already in it a bit o' paper with
the figger ' i ' on it. That's 'ow he done it.
While we was all watching Mr. Smith, he
was getting his own bit o' paper ready."

He 'ad to say it three times afore they
understood 'im, and then they went down on
their knees and burnt their fingers picking
up bits o' paper that 'ad fallen in the fire-
place. They found six pieces in all, but
not one with the number they was looking
for on it, and then they all got up and said
wot ought to be done to Bob Pretty.

"You can't do anything," ses Smith, the
landlord. "You can't prove it. After all,
it's only Dicky's idea."


Arf-a-dozen of 'em all began speaking at
once, but Bill Chambers gave 'em the wink,
and pretended to agree with 'im.

" We're going to have that hamper back,"
he ses, as soon as Mr. Smith 'ad gone back
to the bar, " but it won't do to let 'im know.
He don't like to think that Bob Pretty was
one too many for 'im."

" Let's all go to Bob Pretty's and take
it," ses Peter Gubbins, wot 'ad been in the

Dicky Weed shook his 'ead. " He'd 'ave
the lor on us for robbery," he ses ; " there's
nothing he'd like better."

They talked it over till closing-time, but
nobody seemed to know wot to do, and they
stood outside in the bitter cold for over arf-
an-hour still trying to make up their minds
'ow to get that hamper back. Fust one went
off 'ome and then another, and at last, when
there was on'y three or four of 'em left,
Henery Walker, wot prided himself on 'is
artfulness, 'ad an idea.


" One of us must get Bob Pretty up 'ere
to-morrow night and stand 'im a pint, or
pVaps two pints," he ses. " While he's here
two other chaps must 'ave a row close by his
'ouse and pretend to fight. Mrs. Pretty and
the young 'uns are sure to run out to look at
it, and while they are out another chap can
go in quiet-like and get the hamper."

It seemed a wunnerful good idea, and
Bill Chambers said so ; and 'e flattered
Henery Walker up until Henery didn't
know where to look, as the saying is.

" And wot's to be done with the hamper
when we've got it?" ses Sam Jones.

" Have it drawed for agin," ses Henery.
" It'll 'ave to be done on the quiet, o'

Sam Jones stood thinking for a bit.
" Burn the hamper and draw lots for every-
thing separate," he ses, very slow. " If Bob
Pretty ses it's 'is turkey and goose and spirits,
tell 'im to prove it. We shan't know nothing
about it."


Henery Walker said it was a good plan ;
and arter talking it over they walked 'ome
all very pleased with theirselves. They
talked it over next day with the other chaps ;
and Henery Walker said arterwards that
pVaps it was talked over a bit too much.

It took 'em some time to make up their
minds about it, but at last it was settled that
Peter Gubbins was to stand Bob Pretty the
beer ; Ted Brown, who was well known for
his 'ot temper, and Joe Smith was to 'ave the
quarrel ; and Henery Walker was to slip in
and steal the hamper, and 'ide the things up
at his place.

Bob Pretty fell into the trap at once. He
was standing at 'is gate in the dark, next
day, smoking a pipe, when Peter Gubbins
passed, and Peter, arter stopping and asking
'im for a light, spoke about 'is luck in getting
the hamper, and told 'im he didn't bear no
malice for it.

" You 'ad the pluck to draw fust," he ses,
" and you won."


Bob Pretty said he was a Briton, and arter
a little more talk Peter asked 'im to go and
'ave a pint with 'im to show that there was
no ill-feeling. They came into this 'ere
Cauliflower public-'ouse like brothers, and
in less than ten minutes everybody was
making as much fuss o' Bob Pretty as if 'e'd
been the best man in Claybury.

"Arter all, a man can't 'elp winning a
prize,' 1 ses Bill Chambers, looking round.

" I couldn't," ses Bob.

He sat down and 'elped hisself out o'
Sam Jones's baccy-box; and one or two
got up on the quiet and went outside to
listen to wot was going on down the road.
Everybody was wondering wot was happen-
ing, and when Bob Pretty got up and said
'e must be going, Bill Chambers caught
'old of him by the coat and asked 'im to
have arf a pint with 'im.

Bob had the arf-pint, and arter that
another one with Sam Jones, and then 'e said
'e really must be going, as his wife was


expecting 'im. He pushed Bill Chambers's
'at over his eyes a thing Bill can't abear
and arter filling 'is pipe agin from Sam
Jones's box he got up and went.

" Mind you," ses Bill Chambers, looking
round, " if 'e comes back and ses somebody
'as taken his hamper, nobody knows nothing
about it. 11

44 1 'ope Henery Walker 'as got it all
right," ses Dicky Weed. "When shall
we know ? "

" He'll come up ere and tell us," ses
Bill Chambers. " It's time 'e was here,

Five minutes arterwards the door opened
and Henery Walker came staggering in.
He was as white as a sheet, his 'at was
knocked on one side of his 'ead, and there
was two or three nasty-looking scratches
on 'is cheek. He came straight to Bill
Chambers's mug wot 'ad just been filled
and emptied it, and then 'e sat down on
a seat gasping for breath.


"Wot's the matter, Henery?" ses Bill,
staring at 'im with 'is mouth open.

Henery Walker groaned and shook his

"Didn't you get the hamper?" ses Bill,
turning pale.

Henery Walker shook his 'ead agin.

"Shut up!" he ses, as Bill Chambers
started finding fault. " I done the best I
could. Nothing could ha' 'appened better
to start with. Directly Ted Brown and
Joe Smith started, Mrs. Pretty and her
sister, and all the kids excepting the baby,
run out, and they'd 'ardly gone afore I was
inside the back door and looking for that
hamper, and I'd hardly started afore I heard
them coming back agin. I was at the foot
o' the stairs at the time, and, not knowing
wot to do, I went up 'em into Bob's bed-


"Well?" ses Bill Chambers, as Henery
Walker stopped and looked round.

11 A'most direckly arterwards I 'eard Mrs.


Pretty and her sister coming upstairs," ses
Henery Walker, with a shudder. " I was
under the bed at the time, and afore I could
say a word Mrs. Pretty gave a loud screech
and scratched my face something cruel. I
thought she'd gone mad."

" You've made a nice mess of it ! " ses Bill

"Mess!" ses Henery, firing up. "Wot
would you ha' done ? "

" I should ha' managed diff rent," ses Bill
Chambers. " Did she know who you
was ? "

" Know who I was?" ses Henery. "O'
course she did. It's my belief that Bob
knew all about it and told 'er wot to do."

" Well, you've done it now, Henery," ses
Bill Chambers. " Still, that's your affair."

" Ho, is it ? " ses Henery Walker. " You
'ad as much to do with it as I 'ad, excepting
that you was sitting up 'ere in comfort while
I was doing all the work. It's a wonder to
me I got off as well as I did."


c e C e c



Bill Chambers sat staring at 'im and
scratching his 'ead, and just then they all
'card the voice of Bob Pretty, very distinct,
outside, asking for Henery Walker. Then
the door opened, and Bob Pretty, carrying
his 'ead very 'igh, walked into the room.

14 Where's Henery Walker?" he ses, in
a loud voice.

Henery Walker put down, the empty
mug wot he'd been pretending to drink
out of and tried to smile at 'im.

"Halloa, Bob! "he ses.

"What was you doing in my 'ouse?"
ses Bob Pretty, very severe.

" I I just looked in to see whether
you was in, Bob/' ses Henery.

"That's why you was found under my
bed, I s'pose ? " ses Bob Pretty. " I want
a straight answer, Henery Walker, and I
mean to 'ave it, else I'm going off to
Cudford for Policeman White."

" I went there to get that hamper," ses

Henery Walker, plucking up spirit. " You


won it unfair last night, and we determined
for to get it back. So now you know."

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