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The Money Moon(Chapter15)

2006-08-28 23:16

  Chapter XV. In which Adam explains

  "Adam!"

  "Yes, Miss Anthea."

  "How much money did Mr. Bellew give you to——buy the furniture?"

  Miss Anthea was sitting in her great elbow chair, leaning forward with her chin in her hand, looking at him in the way which always seemed to Adam as though she could see into the verimost recesses of his mind. Therefore Adam twisted his hat in his hands, and stared at the ceiling, and the floor, and the table before Miss Anthea, and the wall behind Miss Anthea——anywhere but at Miss Anthea.

  "You ax me——how much it were, Miss Anthea?"

  "Yes, Adam."

  "Well,——it were a goodish sum."

  "Was it——fifty pounds?"

  "Fifty pound!" repeated Adam, in a tone of lofty disdain, "no, Miss Anthea, it were not fifty pound."

  "Do you mean it was——more?"

  "Ah!" nodded Adam, "I mean as it were a sight more. If you was to take the fifty pound you mention, add twenty more, and then another twenty to that, and then come ten more to that,——why then——you'd be a bit nigher the figure——"

  "A hundred pounds!" exclaimed Anthea, aghast.

  "Ah! a hundred pound!" nodded Adam, rolling the words upon his tongue with great gusto,——"one——hundred——pound, were the sum, Miss Anthea."

  "Oh, Adam!"

  "Lord love you, Miss Anthea!——that weren't nothing,——that were only a flea-bite, as you might say,——he give more——ah! nigh double as much as that for the side-board."

  "Nonsense, Adam!"

  "It be gospel true, Miss Anthea. That there sideboard were the plum o' the sale, so to speak, an' old Grimes had set 'is 'eart on it, d'ye see. Well, it were bid up to eighty-six pound, an' then Old Grimes 'e goes twenty more, making it a hundred an' six. Then——jest as I thought it were all over, an' jest as that there Old Grimes were beginning to swell hisself up wi' triumph, an' get that red in the face as 'e were a sight to behold,——Mr. Belloo, who'd been lightin' 'is pipe all this time, up and sez,——'Fifty up!' 'e sez in his quiet way, making it a hundred an' fifty-six pound, Miss Anthea,——which were too much for Grimes,——Lord! I thought as that there man were going to burst, Miss Anthea!" and Adam gave vent to his great laugh at the mere recollection. But Anthea was grave enough, and the troubled look in her eyes quickly sobered him.

  "A hundred and fifty-six pounds!" she repeated in an awed voice, "but it——it is awful!"

  "Steepish!" admitted Adam, "pretty steepish for a old sideboard, I'll allow, Miss Anthea,——but you see it were a personal matter betwixt Grimes an' Mr. Belloo. I began to think as they never would ha' left off biddin', an' by George!——I don't believe as Mr. Belloo ever would have left off biddin'. Ye see, there's summat about Mr. Belloo,——whether it be his voice, or his eye, or his chin,——I don't know,——but there be summat about him as says, very distinct that if so be 'e should 'appen to set 'is mind on a thing,——why 'e's a-going to get it, an' 'e ain't a-going to give in till 'e do get it. Ye see, Miss Anthea, 'e's so very quiet in 'is ways, an' speaks so soft, an' gentle,——p'raps that's it. Say, for instance, 'e were to ax you for summat, an' you said 'No'——well, 'e wouldn't make no fuss about it,——not 'im,——he'd jest——take it, that's what he'd do. As for that there sideboard he'd a sat there a bidding and a bidding all night I do believe."

  "But, Adam, why did he do it! Why did he buy——all that furniture?"

  "Well,——to keep it from being took away, p'raps!"

  "Oh, Adam!——what am I to do?"

  "Do, Miss Anthea?"

  "The mortgage must be paid off——dreadfully soon——you know that, and——I can't——Oh, I can't give the money back——"

  "Why——give it back!——No, a course not, Miss Anthea!"

  "But I——can't——keep it!"

  "Can't keep it, Miss Anthea mam,——an' why not?"

  "Because I'm very sure he doesn't want all those things,——the idea is quite——absurd! And yet,——even if the hops do well, the money they bring will hardly be enough by itself, and so——I was selling my furniture to make it up, and——now——Oh! what am I to do?" and she leaned her head wearily upon her hand.

  Now, seeing her distress, Adam all sturdy loyalty that he was, must needs sigh in sympathy, and fell, once more, to twisting his hat until he had fairly wrung it out of all semblance to its kind, twisting and screwing it between his strong hands as though he would fain wring out of it some solution to the problem that so perplexed his mistress. Then, all at once, the frown vanished from his brow, his grip loosened upon his unfortunate hat, and his eye brightened with a sudden gleam.

  "Miss Anthea," said he, drawing a step nearer, and lowering his voice mysteriously, "supposing as I was to tell you that 'e did want that furnitur',——ah! an' wanted it bad?"

  "Now how can he, Adam? It isn't as though he lived in England," said Anthea, shaking her head, "his home is thousands of miles away,——he is an American, and besides——"

  "Ah!——but then——even a American——may get married. Miss Anthea, mam!" said Adam.

  "Married!" she repeated, glancing up very quickly, "Adam——what do you mean?"

  "Why you must know," began Adam, wringing at his hat again, "ever since the day I found him asleep in your hay, Miss Anthea, mam, Mr. Belloo has been very kind, and——friendly like. Mr. Belloo an' me 'ave smoked a good many sociable pipes together, an' when men smoke together, Miss Anthea, they likewise talk together."

  "Yes?——Well?" said Anthea, rather breathlessly, and taking up a pencil that happened to be lying near to hand.

  "And Mr. Belloo," continued Adam, heavily, "Mr. Belloo has done me——the——the honour," here Adam paused to give an extra twist to his hat,——"the——honour, Miss Anthea——"

  "Yes, Adam."

  "Of confiding to me 'is 'opes——" said Adam slowly, finding it much harder to frame his well-meaning falsehood than he had supposed, "his——H-O-P-E-S——'opes, Miss Anthea, of settling down very soon, an' of marryin' a fine young lady as 'e 'as 'ad 'is eye on a goodish time,——'aving knowed her from childhood's hour, Miss Anthea, and as lives up to Lonnon——"

  "Yes——Adam!"

  "Consequently——'e bought all your furnitur' to set up 'ousekeepin', don't ye see."

  "Yes,——I see, Adam!" Her voice was low, soft and gentle as ever, but the pencil was tracing meaningless scrawls in her shaking fingers.

  "So you don't 'ave to be no-wise back-ard about keepin' the money, Miss Anthea."

  "Oh no,——no, of course not, I——I understand, it was——just a——business transaction."

  "Ah!——that's it,——a business transaction!" nodded Adam, "So you'll put the money a one side to help pay off the mortgage, eh, Miss Anthea?"

  "Yes."

  "If the 'ops comes up to what they promise to come up to,——you'll be able to get rid of Old Grimes——for good an' all, Miss Anthea."

  "Yes, Adam."

  "An' you be quite easy in your mind, now, Miss Anthea——about keepin' the money?"

  "Quite!——Thank you, Adam——for——telling me. You can go now."

  "Why then——Good-night! Miss Anthea, mam,——the mortgage is as good as paid,——there ain't no such 'ops nowhere near so good as our'n be. An'——you're quite free o' care, an' 'appy 'earted, Miss Anthea?"

  "Quite——Oh quite, Adam!"

  But when Adam's heavy tread had died away,——when she was all alone, she behaved rather strangely for one so free of care, and happy-hearted. Something bright and glistening splashed upon the paper before her, the pencil slipped from her fingers, and, with a sudden, choking cry, she swayed forward, and hid her face in her hands.

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