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   Chapter 20 No.20

A Girl of the People By L. T. Meade Characters: 5477

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:06

The police were searching everywhere for a sailor called Dent. They set detectives to work, and had little doubt that long before the week had expired for which Will had been remanded they would find their man, and establish the truth, or otherwise, of Will's story.

When it commenced it seemed quite an easy search; but the days flew quickly, and neither about the docks, nor loafing round the quays, could anyone least bearing Isaac Dent's description be found. His name was not on any ship's log, and the police came to the conclusion that Liverpool really did not contain him. They advertised-they even offered rewards for the slightest information; but no clue could they obtain. On the seventh day of Will's captivity they gave the matter up as a bad job, and said that the sailor Dent was not in the city.

They were mistaken. Dent had never left his native shores. He was not particular as to his quarters-he was clever at disguising himself; and as there are in Liverpool courts and slums into which no policeman cares to venture, it was not very difficult for Dent to elude these worthies.

Granger, however, had found him out, and Granger and he had many colloquies, but not in a place where Mother Bunch could overhear.

"I ain't afeard," said Dent. "They can do nought to me, nor to you neither, mate. I'd like to go to the police court-and I will, too. But it won't be to clear Will-by no means, but quite the contrairy. Only I don't choose the police to be dragging of me forward. I'll go when I has made terms with Bet, and not afore."

Then the men whispered together again, and laid their plans, which were quite as deep, and quite as wicked, as the most unprincipled could desire.

Bet lived once more in Sparrow Street, earning thereby Mother Bunch's contempt, and a queer, puzzled look from Hester Wright, who would not forsake her, but who certainly failed to understand either her or her motive. She brought the boys home; and now her father's room in Sparrow Street was kept fairly neat, and the lads resumed the life which had been broken off at their mother's death. They shrank from their father, who, absorbed in other things, did not trouble them much just then; and they looked with great wonder and perplexity at Bet. She was not the Bet of old; she took scarcely any notice of them; she never smiled when they came near her; she said nothing at all now about their being good boys, and never by any chance did she allude to their mother's name before them.

She spent her whole time watching and listening,-starting and changing color at the merest sound, looking eagerly at her father whenever he came into the house, avoiding Hester Wright, eating next to nothing, wearing away her sleepin

g hours in long, exhausting fits of weeping. Will's week in prison was nearly over, and Bet in the time had changed-changed so much that it almost seemed as if years had gone over her head. Her cheeks were thin, all the color had left her face, and her eyes looked now too bright and large for beauty.

On the day previous to Will's again appearing before the magistrates the poor girl's restlessness became almost unbearable. Granger still gave her to understand that Dent was not in Liverpool. He would find him-yes, he said, he was certain to find him; but Bet did not know that he had done so, and her terrors were proportionately great. She could not sit still for a moment-but paced up and down, up and down the small room where her mother had died, like a caged animal.

The captain and the general were off on expeditions of their own; hours passed, but no one came near the unhappy girl.

At last, when her impatience had almost burst bounds, Granger arrived.

"I ha' done it, Bet," he said. "It rests with you now-Dent is found."

"Thank God!" she exclaimed, involuntarily. She fell on her knees before her father and clasped his hands. "Feel how my heart beats," she said-"I were nearly going mad. Father, there'll never be a better daughter to you than me in all Christendom, from this time out. You ha' found Isaac Dent, and he'll be in the witness-box to save Will to-morrow. Thank God Almighty! There's hope yet in the world."

"I ha' found Dent," continued Granger, rubbing his rough sleeves across his mouth in a furtive manner. "I told him about Will, and he's willing to go to the police-court to-morrow-that is, ef you're agreeable."

"I agreeable, father?" Bet laughed excitedly. "You know my mind on that; and so does Dent. Why, I could almost find it in my heart to call him a good feller, ef he saves my lad."

"Ay, Bet-that's just it." Granger shuffled again, and would not meet his daughter's eye. "He wants you to call him a good feller; he wants you to be werry particular kind to him, seeing as he won't stir hand nor foot to save Will Scarlett until you takes yer oath as you'd wed with him. Ay, that's it, Bet-you ha' got to face it; by no other means can you set that lad of yourn free. You ha' got to face it, and Dent must have his answer to-night."

Bet did not speak at all for about a minute.

"I feared as this might come," she said at last In a queer voice. "I did hope as God Almighty might have spared me. But it weren't to be. It's miles worse nor giving up my life."

She had been kneeling by her father; now she started to her feet, and wrapped the plaid shawl about her head and shoulders.

"I'm going to Hester," she said. "I'll give you your answer when I comes back."

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