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   Chapter 19 No.19

A Girl of the People By L. T. Meade Characters: 4724

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:06

All her softness had deserted her. She looked like what she was-a wild, untamed creature brought to bay.

"You ha' got to hear my terms, father," she said. "I'll be a good daughter to you, but I want Will out of prison. You don't suppose as I don't know what you and Isaac Dent ha' done to my Will. You was mad as I should be happy with Will, and Isaac Dent was mad 'cause I shouldn't mate with he; and Isaac Dent stole the five-pound notes and the purse, and other money besides, and he knew as the number of the notes was took, and he was frightened, and so he give the notes to Will, and pretended as he wanted to buy his berth in the 'Good Queen Anne.' But Dent didn't sail in that ship, father, and Dent's in Liverpool now-I know he is, for you axed me to meet him here some time back, and Mother Bunch seed you and a sailor lad in the Star and Garter this week, and she heerd you plotting and planning, and she knew-she guessed as there wor mischief brewing. There's a case agin' you and Dent, father, and you'd better come to my terms, or it 'ull fare worse with you. No harm'll come to you; but Dent-he must be found, and Will must be set free. There-you've got to do that; do you hear me?"

Granger crouched near the door. He neither liked Bet's manner nor her words. She knew a great deal more than he had the least idea of. Mother Bunch having overheard him and Dent as they laid their plans together in the Star and Garter was an awkward circumstance. The whole thing looked ugly. He wished he were out of it. More particularly as he had never received any of Dent's promised gold.

It behoved him, howe'er, to be careful,-on no account must he betray himself or his fears to this astute daughter.

"You needn't speak so loud, Bet-I ain't deaf. It's a queer world,-it's a nice state, so to speak, of society when a gel takes to bullying of her own father. You're quite mistook ef you suppose Dent is in Liverpool. A life on the ocean wave, with its storms and its fogs and its dangers, is poor Dent's life at present. But I don't say," continued Granger, lowering his voice, and trying to speak in a seductive manner, "I don't say as I couldn't get word with him. I won't say how, and I won't say when; and I won't say, either, but what he's as innocent as a babe; but word with him I might be able to get ef,-now, what's the matter, Bet?"

"Nothing, father-nothing much-only set you down by the fire and make yourself cosy. There-you're all trembling; you're not as strong as you ought for to be-you wants your comforts. You'd like a cup of tea now, wouldn't you? And no one can make tea like Bet-now, can they?"

"That's true enough, my gel-you can be a comfort ef you have a mind. No mistake on that point. Well, as I said, I might get word of Dent,-only hark you, Bet, you'll stay at home-there'll be no larks back to Paradise Row, and no bringing Mother Bunch to the front? You'll stay here, and be a comfort to your father?"

"Yes, father, I said I would,-oh, I can make you real cosy, there's no doubt on that point."

"And you'll bring the lads back, and not play no fool about them no more? They're my lads, and you has treated me shameful in the matter. But you'll bring 'em back, to be under the shelter of their honest father's roof? You understand-I'll do nought about finding Dent unless you comes back here-you and them boys." Bet's face was convulsed for a moment.

"They shall come back," she said, then-"that's the 'greement: me and them living here as of old, and Will let out of his prison."

"And there'll be no talk of your marrying yourself to the thief? I'll do nought ef you give me that feller as a son-in-law. I'd rather a sight leave him in prison-why, Bet, how white you air-I wouldn't be doing my dooty as a father ef I seed you a flinging of your 'andsome self away on a thief feller."

Granger was right when he said Bet's face had grown white. Her long fast, all the anguish and agitation she had undergone, and now this terrible last clause in the agreement she was making with her father, proved too much for her. She did not faint, as she had done in the morning; but she was absolutely incapable of replying. Her lips opened, it is true, but no articulate sound came from them.

"I'm a bit weak," she managed to gasp at last; "I han't eaten nought to-day."

Granger fetched her a little water, and then volunteered to go out to bring in bread and tea. He was still considerably puzzled and annoyed at Bet's knowledge of his doings; but he was glad to have the girl and the boys once more in his power, and had great faith in Dent's diplomacy.

Dent would soon settle things, and Bet should be his wife as quickly as the license could be purchased.

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