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The Rosery Folk   By: (1831-1909)

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Volume 1, Chapter I.

SIR JAMES SCARLETT'S GARDEN.

"Pray speak gently, dear."

"Speak gently! how can a man speak gently? The things are of no value, but it worries me, I've taken such pains with them, through the cold weather, to bring them on."

"You have, Sir James, you have, sir; and I never let the fire go out once."

"No: but you've let the grapes go out, confound you! and if I find that you have been dishonest "

"Oh! but I'm sure, dear, that he would not be."

"Thank you kindly, my lady," said John Monnick, the old gardener, taking off his hat and wiping his streaming brow with his arm, as he stood bent and dejected, leaning upon his spade, with every line in his countenance puckered and drawn with trouble, and a helpless look of appeal in his eyes. "No, my lady, I wouldn't let these here old hands take to picking and stealing, and many's the trouble I've been in with Fanny and Martha and the others because I was so particular even to a gooseberry."

"There, dear, I told you so!"

"But the grapes are gone," cried Sir James Scarlett angrily. "Who could have taken them?"

"That's what puzzles me, Master James, it do indeed. I did get into temptation once, and took something, but it's been a lesson to me; and I said then, never no more, with the Lord's help, and never no more, sir, it's true, never up to now."

"Then you confess you did steal some fruit once?"

"Yes, Master James, I confess it, sir, and a deal I've thought about it since; and I've come to think from much reading, sir, that though this here garden wasn't planted eastward in Eden it's a very beautiful place; all the neighbours say, sir, that there ain't a more beautiful little place for miles round, and Lady Martlett's folk's about wild at our growing such better fruit and flowers."

"Oh, yes! I know all about that, but what has that to do with your confession?"

"Everything, if you please, Master James, for how could there be a beautiful garden even now without temptation coming into it, same as it did when that there apple, as brought all the sin into the world, was picked and eat?"

"There, that will do, Monnick; now speak out."

"I will, sir and my lady, and ask your pardon humbly and get it off my mind. It were five year ago, sir, and just after you'd took the place, and I'd come up from old master's, sir."

"Five years ago, John?" said Lady Scarlett smiling.

"Yes, my lady, five year, and it'll be six at Michaelmas, and it wasn't over an apple but over one o' them Willyum pears, as growd on that cup shaped tree down side the south walk."

"And you cleared that, did you?" said Sir James grimly.

"Nay, sir, I didn't; it were only one of 'em as had hung till it were dead ripe, and then fell as soon as the sun came on it hot, and there it lay under the tree, with its rosy green and yellow side, and a big crack acrost it like a hopen mouth asking me to taste how good it was."

"And did you, John?" said Lady Scarlett, passing her arm through her husband's, and pressing it quietly.

"Did I, my lady? I was mowing that there great walk and I went by it three or four times, but the grass there was dry and wiry and would not cut, and I had to go over it again and again, and the more I tried to resist the temptation the more it wouldn't flee before me, but kept on a drawing and a drawing of me till at last I dropped my scythe and rubber and ran right away, I did, Sir James and my lady, I did indeed."

"And left the pear?" said Sir James.

The old man shook his grey head sadly.

"I was obliged to go and fetch my scythe and rubber, master. I might ha' left 'em till night, but that was the temptation on it a drawing of me till I went back, meaning to shut my eyes and snatch up the scythe and come away. But lor', my lady, you know how weak we sinful mortals be. I tried hard but my eyes would open, and so as I see that pear, I made a snatch at it, meaning to run with it right into the house at once... Continue reading book >>




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