2017年08月17日

He is an old scoundrel of nearly sixty


"How dare you come here?" said Durban, advancing threateningly on the small man, who cringed and whined. "You were told not to come here at least a dozen times."

"Lor'!" whimpered the little man, now subdued and servile; "wot a fuss you do meke, Mr. Durban, sir. I come fur Mr. Paslow, I does."

"Send him away, Durban," cried Beatrice with great disgust.

Durban lifted one finger, and at once the tramp went slinking away like a dog with its tail between its legs. And like a dog he halted at the hedge which divided the drive from the garden, and showed his teeth in an evil snarl. Beatrice could see the flash of white, and could guess that he was snapping like a mad cur.

"Who on earth is that?" she asked Durban, when the man finally disappeared behind the hedge.

Durban looked pale, and wiped his face with a shaking hand. "He's a creature who did some dirty work for the late master."

"For Mr. Paslow?" demanded Mrs. Lilly, who always spoke of Vivian's father in that way.

"For Mr. Alpenny," explained Durban, becoming more himself. " years of age."

"He doesn't look it," said Beatrice.

"Strange as it may seem to you, missy, Waterloo has his vanity. He wears a wig, and his teeth are false. But he is old and wicked, and has been no end of times in prison. Mr. Alpenny employed him to do some business in the slums, and he was several times down at The Camp. I think he's a thief."

"I never saw him before, Durban."

"And you'll never see him again, missy," said the old servant emphatically. "Mr. Alpenny, as I told you, had to do with a lot of rogues and vagabonds, as many a money-lender has. But that sort of thing is all done with. Waterloo will never trouble you again."

"I am glad of that," said the girl, who was quite pale. "His presence seemed to taint the air. What a horrible man!"

"Why does he want to see Mr. Vivian?" asked Mrs. Lilly sharply.

Durban wheeled quickly. "He wants to see Mr. Paslow, does he? H'm! I wonder why that is?"

"I am quite sure you can explain," said Beatrice, who was piqued at being always kept in the dark.

Durban cast a look of pain on her, but replied quietly enough, "Perhaps I do, missy. Mr. Paslow, as I told you, had something to do with my late master's business."

"I never knew that," said Beatrice, remembering what Alpenny had hinted about Vivian's crimes.

"Ridiculous!" cried Mrs. Lilly, bristling. "Master Vivian is a gentleman, and would not meddle with your Alpennys and Waterloos.--Begging your pardon, my young lady, since Mr. Alpenny was your father."

"My stepfather," corrected Beatrice again.--"Well, Durban, if you won't tell me, I'll ask Mr. Paslow myself."

"Do, missy; I am quite sure he can explain. And don't trouble your pretty head any more about Waterloo, as there is trouble enough in the house now."

"What do you mean by that?" asked the girl, her heart giving a bound.
  


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