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Fred in the Garden.
TOM BUTLER'S TROUBLE.
BY THIE AUTHOR OF
"TOM BURTON; OR, THE BETTER WAY."
WITH COLOURED ILLUSTRATIONS.
E. P. DUTTON AND COMPANY, 713, BROADWAY.
I. THE BUTLERS' COTTAGE I
II. A PIECE OF NIGHT-WORK II
III. ANOTHER PRIZE . 20
IV. PLEASANT PROSPECTS. 26
V. FIRE AND ROBBERY . . 38
VI. TROUBLES . 47
VII. MORE TROUBLES . 65
VIII. TRUTH AND FALSEHOOD 84
IX. A BREAK IN THE CLOUD 96
X. ALL RIGHT AT LAST 115
TOM BUTLER'S TROUBLE.
THE BUTLERS' COTTAGE.
STOWFO7D is a pleasant little village, seated on
a gentle slope, at the foot of which wanders a
clear brook, overhung in places by high, steep
banks of earth, and in others winding through
meadows and pasture-lands, which form the level
bed of a valley of no great width, but of several
miles in extent. The hills on either side are, in
good part, covered with wood, and a close-grown
copse on the north side of the stream stretches
almost down to the village. The population of
Stowford consists almost entirely of farm-labourers,
the major portion of whom find employment,
within an easy distance of their homes, upon
the lands of Squire Barker, the chief landholder in
the district, or with the tenant-farmers who rent
under him. The village extends for near a mile
along the valley, the cottages being mostly separate
from each other, or, when that is not the case,
built in pairs, so that all of them have the advan-
Tom Butler's Trouble.
tage of a fair patch of ground, which the occupiers
can cultivate as they choose. The church stands
at the west end of the village, upon a knoll of
ground so densely planted with elms colonized by
rooks, and with antiquated yew-trees, that it is
almost shut out from view of the inhabitants-the
battlements of the time-worn tower being all that is
visible from the long straggling street.
Dame Butler's cottage is the last but one at the
east end of Stowford, and is remarkable for its neat
and cleanly appearance, for the thriving condition
of the garden, and in summer-time for the roses,
the honeysuckle, and other old-fashioned flowers
clustering about the walls. But it is not summer-
time when our story begins-but about the middle
of October. The sun has set, though a warm
red hue reflected from his glimmering cradle still
lights up the autumnal woods, and the rooks, though
they have all come home, are still cawing and
chattering ere they settle down to rest.
Dame Butler is busy in -her kitchen, preparing
the evening meal for her son Tom, who works for
Farmer Sorrel, at Bush Farm, just over the corner
of the hill, and whom she is every moment expect-
ing home. At a table near the window sits her
only daughter Martha, working industriously at her
needle by the light of a candle, which, not to waste
time, she set up directly the daylight failed her.
The Butlers' Cottage. 3
On a stool at her side sits young Fred Butler, a
boy of about twelve years of age, engaged in trim-
ming with his clasp-knife a bundle of hazel wands
which he has brought in from the neighboring
"It is odd that Tom is so late to-night," said the
dame-"did he say anything to you, Martha, about
being later than usual ?"
"No, mother, not a word."
"I think I know what it is," said Fred; "Farmer
Sorrel was saying yesterday that he would have
that frisky colt broken in, and that Tom was to do
it. Perhaps they've been at that this afternoon."
"Nonsense, boy; they don't break in horses after
dark. Why it is getting on for seven o'clock.
Suppose you run up the road, Fred, and see if he
Fred started up, and sallied out with a whoop
and a shrill whistle, and then his voice rang loudly
up the road in a clear halloo, that must have been
heard for half a mile. In a few minutes he re-
turned, assuring his mother that Tom was not
within hail, she might take his word for it.
Dame Butler said nothing, but turning out the
savoury meal she had prepared into a basin, placed
it, well covered up, upon the "hob," and joined her
daughter at the work-table.
From the air of comfort that pervaded the cot-
Tom Butler's Trouble.
tage, the good glowing fire, the abundance of useful
furniture, and the tidy dress of the inmates, a
stranger would have formed the conclusion that the
Butlers, considering their condition in life, were a
prosperous family. This conclusion would have
been the right one : they were prosperous because
they were industrious and frugal, and had the habit
of wasting nothing, least of all Time, which they
knew how to turn to good account. The mother,
who had been for ten years a widow, was a woman
of rare intelligence for her class, of incorruptible
integrity, and especially notable for her constant
activity and love of work. She had brought up
her children in a manner that really did her credit:
they were frank, outspoken, always ready to lend
a helping hand at anything, and, for the most part,
kind and dutiful to her-and, what perhaps was
more to their praise, were never known to stoop to
falsehood or deceit. Tom, her eldest, was fourteen
when his father died, and had already begun to work
at Bush Farm. His weekly five shillings was for
some time the only fixed income which the widow
possessed after her husband's decease; and for
some few years she had a hard struggle to maintain
with the poverty which constantly threatened to
overwhelm her. But she kept a good courage; she
would not listen to those who advised her to seek
help from the parish, but sought employment for
The Butlers' Cottage. 5
herself of any kind, and worked cheerfully day and
night with a truly independent spirit. As the little
ones grew older, and could be left to themselves or
to the care of a neighbour, she was able to increase
her earnings by working, or nursing, as either
occasion offered, at the houses of the neighboring
gentry. Then as Tom Butler grew bigger his wages
increased; and when Martha, under her instruction,
became handy with her needle, the good woman
began to find that the worst of her struggles was
over, and that ere she was yet much past the period
of middle-life her children were repaying her for
the labour and self-denial she had exercised in their
behalf. For all this Mrs. Butler thanked God de-
voutly in her heart, though it was seldom that she
gave utterance to her grateful feelings on this sub-
ject, or on any subject connected with her religious
experience. She was not what is called a "de-
monstrative" woman. She read her Bible, and she
loved the services of her church, and she looked
forward to a better life, in calm confidence in the
mercy of God through Christ; but she kept these
things in her heart, and was not given to talk about
them in all companies.
Of Tom Butler, now twenty-four, of Martha, who
is about sixteen, and of Fred, just past twelve, we
need not say much, since the incidents of the fol-
lowing narrative will give us a better insight into
Tom Butler's Trouble.
their characters than any mere description that we
could set down. We may remark, however, that
all three of them-the elder son and the daughter
especially-partook greatly of the mother's active
and energetic nature, and like her were given less
to talk than to action; though, wanting the deeply-
rooted religious principle of the mother, this con-
stitutional reserve in Tom often assumed the form
of undue self-confidence; and in Martha was apt to
manifest itself occasionally, to the great grief of her
mother, in something very like stubborn self-will,
not to say obstinacy. But the reader must not be
prejudiced against Martha. She was, on the whole,
a good girl, instinctively truthful, honest, industrious,
obliging in manner, and though good-looking enough
to attract many an admiring eye, was less open to
the charge of vanity than most girls of her age and
station in life. She was extremely neat in person
and tidy in her habits, which qualities she owed to
the careful training of her mother; and she had had
too little idle time, since she was capable of exert-
ing herself to any purpose, to have acquired any
of those dawdling and dilatory habits which are so
often the bane of the cottage-bred maiden.
"Mother," said Fred, pausing in his employ-
ment, I guess I know why Tom's not home yet."
Well, and what do you guess ?"
"Why. wasn't Mary West here this afternoon ?"
The Butlers' Cottage. 7
"Yes; what then ? She went away as the clock
"Ah but she would meet Tom perhaps in the
copse, or before she got over the brow, and then
he'd be for seeing her home, you know."
Like enough, boy; in that case he'll be in soon."
The mother had scarcely spoken when a firm,
regular footstep was heard outside; the next minute
the door opened, and Tom Butler entered the room.
Tom was a well-grown young fellow, above the
middle height, erect in figure, with a good but not
ruddy face, and hair and eyes black as the sloe. As
he came in his mother rose from her work, and
hastened to set his supper before him, saying, as she
did so, You are late to-night, Tom."
"Yes, I am late," said Tom.
His mother waited for him to say more; but the
young man addressed himself to his meal, wearing
a peculiar look in his face the while-a look which
seemed to say that he was enjoying some secret
triumph, and at the same time was on his guard
against betraying it. He went on with his supper
without explaining the cause of his late return, but
exchanging a word now and then with Fred on the
subject of the hazel wands, which the lad was trim-
ming for fishing-rods.
"Have you seen Mary to-night ?" Martha asked;
"she was here this afternoon."
Tom Butler's Trozuble.
"I know," replied Tom ; I knew she was com-
ing to see you, and I waited for her in the copse
as she returned, and saw her back to the Rectory."
"And it was that that made you so late ?"
"Was it?" said Tom, and he burst into a roar of
laughter so hearty and prolonged, that Fred joined
in it from sympathy without knowing why, while
mother and daughter looked at them both in aston-
"What makes you so merry ?" said Mrs. Butler
at length; "we ought to know, at least, what you
are laughing about."
"You are right, mother; it isn't fair, I know;
but it is nothing of consequence, and really I can-
not tell you just now. There, I've done ; and you,
Fred, stop your grinning-we've had enough of it.
By the way, mother, Mary has her holiday next
Sunday, and after church she will come home to
dinner with us. I made her promise me that much
before we parted to-night."
Well, we shall be glad to see her, as you know."
Neither mother nor daughter sought by question-
ing, or any other means, to induce Tom to declare
the cause of his merriment. They sat working and
talking on household matters till the clock struck
eight, when the work was put away. Then the
Bible was taken down from the shelf, and handed
to Martha, whose turn it was to read the chapter;
The Butlers' Cottage. 9
and when that was finished, the four knelt down,
and Tom read a short prayer, and the collect for
the day. On rising from their knees, Martha and
Fred said good-night" and went off to bed, and
the mother drew her chair to the fire, and taking
up a piece of knitting, went on with that while Tom
indulged in the luxury of a pipe. More than once
he laughed again as he blew forth the clouds of
smoke ; but seeing that it annoyed his mother, he
put a restraint on his inclinations, and compelled a
It was usual with the Butlers for all to be in bed
by nine o'clock; but to-night Tom sat smoking till
after the hour had struck. Seeing his mother nod
over her knitting-for her habits were regular as
the clock, and she was accustomed to sleep, as she
did everything else, at stated times-he kindly
urged her to retire to rest, saying that he would
see the fire out, and all safe, before he did the
As soon as his mother was gone, Tom gently
opened the cottage-door, and stepping into the front
garden, returned in a moment or two with a pretty
large bundle, which he laid upon the table. He
closed the casement shutters and bolted the door,
and then, untying the handkerchief, spread the
contents-before him. They were strange-looking
things, so strange that not one person in fifty would
Tomn Butler's Trouble.
have known what to make of them, or could have
guessed to what use they could be applied: a dozen
or so of short, stout sticks, pointed at one end, and
furnished at the other with coils of stout wire, ar-
ranged so as to form a running noose. They were,
in fact, snares for wiring hares. How Tom Butler
came by them we shall see by and by : they were
the cause of his untimely merriment, and even now
he laughed as he turned them over; but then came
the question what to do with them-where to hide
them from the sight, so that they should not be
discovered ? After a moment's thought he seemed
to have settled that question; for, taking his candle
in one hand, and grasping the snares in the other,
he mounted the -stairs; there, setting down the light,
he pushed open a small trap-door, and thrust the
whole of them into the shallow loft between the
ceiling and the tiled roof of the cottage. This done,
he betook himself to bed, and was soon sound
A Piece of Night- Work.
A PIECE OF NIGHT-WORK.
LEAVING the cottage of the Butlers, with its inmates
peacefully asleep, we shall pay a short visit to
another cottage-home in Stowford, bearing a very
different aspect. It stands nearly a mile from the
Butlers, and is situated more than a furlong from
any other dwelling. Will Sprague is the occupier,
a man better known in the village and the surround-
ing neighbourhood than he is either liked or re-
spected. Will is about forty years of age, in the
prime of life and vigour, a man of rare strength
and'powers of endurance, skilled in most kinds of
labour, and still retaining the activity of his youth.
He is known, however, for his dislike of regular
labour, which he manifests by never remaining for
any length of time under one employer. He will
toil like a horse at haymaking or harvest-time, when
high wages are to be won, and will engage for con-
tract or piece-work when the same object is to be
attained; but for the best part of the year he
contrives to be his own master, travelling a good
deal about the country, and living no one knows
Tom; Bzulcr's Trouble.
how-partly, it is suspected, by his wits, and partly
by the earnings of his son Harry, a bold and rather
wild youth of nineteen. Harry, at this time, is out
of employ, and as he has been so for some weeks,
it must have gone hard with the Spragues if they
had nothing else to look to but the fruits of honest
industry. Neither father nor son, however, seemed
any the worse for the want of work; and as for
Gammer Sprague, as she was called, Will's mother,
who kept house for them, she was never so inde-
pendent and saucy as when, judging from appear-
ances, she should have been suffering from the
pinch of poverty. But the reader will not wonder
at this when he knows the Spragues better.
It is past midnight, and all Stowford is buried in
profound darkness and silence. The air is a pitchy
gloom, for there is not a star in the sky, and the
moon will not be up for more than an hour. Not
a twinkle of light is to be discerned in any direc-
tion, and no sound is to be heard save the still
musical bubble of the brook, as it ripples over its
pebbly bed, or tumbles down the tiny rapids occur-
ing here and there in its course. Sprague's lonely
dwelling is as dark as the rest, viewed from the out-
side; but a traveller who should approach it just
now would be aware of a savoury smell, and he
would hear the sound of voices in earnest, if not
noisy talk; and if he listened he would find that
A Piece of Night- Work.. T 3
the talk is of unlawful deeds on the eve of being
done, and of past exploits of the same kind. For
to-night Will Sprague intends to do a stroke of
work which he conceives will pay him much better
than any employment on field or farm-yard; and,
at this moment, he is entertaining a couple of com-
rades, who are to assist in it, and who have arrived
at Stowford, after a long tramp in the dark, for this
express purpose. They are an ill-looking pair,
entire strangers to the inhabitants of the village,
though they have often visited it on such night
expeditions. Between them sits young Harry
Sprague, to whom Will is giving instructions and
cautions as to the work in hand. The party, with
Gammer Sprague at their head, are regaling them-
selves with a relishing stew, smelling of game and
garden-herbs, which the old woman deals out to
them from time' to time from a huge brown-ware
dish smoking before her. A gallon can of ale,
fragrantly spiced, stands on the settle, and yields
up its contents pretty freely to the thirsty guests.
The blazing fire and a flaring lamp flood the room
with light, not a gleam of which can penetrate
through the blankets which are hung up to screen
the door and window.
In the midst of the revel Will Sprague suddenly
starts up and motions for silence, and as all listen,
a gentle knocking is heard at the door. Will opens it
Tom Butler's Trouble.
cautiously and admits another stranger, who comes
in wearily, and flings a heavy bag upon the floor.
In good time, Ben," says Will, "and glad to
see the nets. Sit down and fall-to. What sort of
a night is it-the moon up yet ?"
The night is well enough-'tis clearing off, and
,the moon will show presently. Where is the lay to
"Just over the old plantation, when we have
done with the copse. Now, lads, while Ben gets his
supper, look alive. We start in twenty minutes."
The others rose from the table, and the old
woman going into the back room, brought out
three guns, giving one to Harry, while the two
strangers took the others, and began to load them.
Will Sprague untied the mouth of the bag, and took
from it several nets, which he shook loose to see
that they were in order; and laying part over his
own shoulders, left the others to the share of the
new-comer, when he should be ready to take them.
Then the old woman began clearing the supper
things from the table, after which she damped down
the fire with some sods of turf, and finally, when
the men were ready to start, blew out the lamp.
The room was now almost in complete darkness;
but as Sprague pulled down the blanket from
the window, the pale light of the waning moon,
then rising over the brow of the hill, shone in
A Piece of Night- Work. 15
and gleamed upon the faces of the marauding
After listening a few moments at the door, to
ascertain that all was quiet, Will, first charging the
old woman not to show a light, gave the word, and
the party sallied forth. Their route did not lead
through the village, but passing the Butler's cottage,
some half furlong to the left, they leaped the low
fence of the copse, through which they picked
their way with as little*noise as possible, the eldel
Sprague going a little in advance, and prepared to
give the alarm if necessary. His son followed at a
few yards' distance, carrying a dark-lantern, the use
of which might be necessary in case the moon
should be overclouded.
They walked forward through the dense hazel
bushes, whose fallen leaves crackled under their
feet, for a considerable distance, and at length came
upon a comparatively open space of ground, where
the bushes were few and far apart, and where the
grass and herbage stood in places almost waist-
high, except where it had been beaten down and
laid almost flat by the autumnal rains. It was plain
that here they had intended to commence opera-
tions-for here the two leaders stopped, and while
the others were coming up, began stooping and
feeling on the ground, first at one place and then
Torm Batlr's Trozibl.
Before the others had arrived on the ground it
became clear that something was wrong. First
the elder Sprague growled an angry oath ; then
Harry came running to his father, and half-breath-
less with fright whispered something in his ear.
Will only replied with another oath, and taking the
dark-lantern from the lad, unveiled a glimmer of
light, and running hastily from one spot to another,
applied his lantern to the examination of the ground.
Then, as if he had formed a sudden resolution, he
extinguished the light, and putting his hand to his
mouth, sent forth a prolonged cooing sound, not
much unlike the note of the wood-pigeon, and the
next moment retreated among the bushes. This
cooing note was the signal of alarm, and it was no
sooner heard than the band separated, and each
man made off alone as fast as he could to a place
of meeting before agreed upon, but which of course
was not Sprague's dwelling. Each one of them
judged by the alarm that their design had been
discovered, and that the keepers were on the watch
and awaiting them ; and they were confirmed in this
idea when, on meeting Will Sprague at the place of
rendezvous on the other side of the brook, he in-
formed them that every one of the snares which
he and his son had laid in the hare-runs at dusk
that evenkig, had been discovered and taken away.
Young Harry Sprague did not appear at the
A Piece of Night- Work. 17
meeting-place, and Will supposed that he hail gone
home to warn his grandmother, and to get off to
bed, as the safest quarters in case the police should
be set on their track. It was not so, however. The
fact was that Harry, whose poaching experience
was but small, had been so alarmed by the disap-
pearance of the snares which he had so recently
set, and by the signal his father had raised, that in
his panic he had dropped the gun which had been
confided to his care, and which belonged to his
father, and had not been able to recover it in the
darkness. He had stayed groping about for it as
long as he dared, but at length, frightened by some
real or fancied movement in the underwood, had
run away from the spot, and hastened home. His
father had reached home before him, the gang hav-
ing thought it wisest to disperse, none of them
doubting but that the keepers had removed the
snares, and were at that moment carefully watching
the preserves which it had been intended to
When Harry came home without the gun, there
was a violent scene between him and his father.
Will saw, however, that quarrelling would do
no good; so ordering the lad to be down before
the dawn, when they would go and search the
copse together, he sent him to snatch a few hours'
Tom Butler's Trouble.
The reader has guessed that the snares, the loss of
which had defeated the purpose -of the gang of
poachers for that night at least, were the same which
Tom Butler had brought home; and that the merri-
ment in which he had indulged, somewhat to his mo-
ther's annoyance, had arisen from his enjoyment of
the alarm and perplexity which their absence would
occasion to the rogues who had set them. But the
reader does not know how they came into Tom's
possession. It happened in this way: Tom had
been keeping company with Mary West for the
last twelve months, and was looking forward to his
union with her in the ensuing spring. They were
a prudent young couple, too wise to rush unpre-
pared into so important an engagement as matri-
mony. Both of them had saved money, and both
were doing their best towards preparing a comfort-
able home. In carrying out their little plans they
had been accustomed to meet each other by ap-
pointment in the bridle-path which ran through the
copse. Tom was waiting for Mary at the usual
place, when he saw two men lounging up the path
in the distance, and not wishing to be detained by
them, whoever they might be (for in the dusk he
could not tell who they were), he stepped aside into
the wood, intending to remain concealed until they
had passed. But he watched in his hiding-place in
vain for their passing; they did not come up the
A Piece of Night- Work. 19
bridle-path. By and by he heard voices in the
wood behind him, and turning round saw Will
Sprague and his son Harry proceeding rapidly, and
evidently for some set purpose, towards the centre
of the copse. Suspecting they were after no good,
Tom followed them stealthily to the open space
of ground already described, and saw them hastily
set a number of snares in the' hare-runs, and then
make off with all speed in different directions.
As soon as they were out of sight, Tom pulled
up the snares, wrapped them in his handkerchief,
and retraced his way to the bridle-path, which he
reached just in time to meet Mary West on her
return from the village to the Rectory. He showed
her the snares, and explained how he came by
them; but when she asked what he intended to da
with them, he had no ready answer to give. They
had, however, more agreeable matters to talk about,
and it is no wonder that they soon changed the
subject of conversation. They parted at the Rec-
tory gate, Tom,- on leaving her, giving Mary a
warning to speak no word on the subject of the'
snares to any one; at least until he had made up
his mind how he should act in the business. How
Tom disposed of his spoils on his return home we
have already seen.
Tom Butler's trouble.
WHEN Tom Butler rose from his bed on the fol-
lowing morning, and turned over in his mind the
events of the night before, he could not help enter-
taining some doubts as to whether he had done
exactly the right thing in bringing the snares home
with him. To pull them out of the ground, and
thus to prevent their being of any use to the
poachers, was, he felt quite assured, right enough;
but he did not feel at all so sure that he was right
in retaining possession of them. Yet what ought
he to have done ? He put that question to himself,
and puzzled himself all the while he was dressing,
and for some time afterwards, without being able
to hit upon the right answer. He was ignorant of
the real character of Will Sprague, and had no no-
tion that the man was a confirmed poacher, in
league with a gang who lived by supplying certain
London agents with game, and ever ready to take
part in any scheme of plunder that promised to pay
well. All that Tom knew regarding him-for the
Another Prise. 21
Spragues had hardly lived a couple of years in Stow-
ford-was that both father and son were at the pre-
sent time out of work, and therefore, he concluded,
suffering want ; and the fact that they should seek
to supply their need by wiring a hare or two did
not appear to him a very great crime. It was wrong,
certainly, and he was glad that he had for once
prevented it; and he would prevent it again if he
could. But then he was not going to turn in.
former, and bring the Spragues into trouble, and
himself into disgrace. Tom argued with himself
that he really was not bound to say anything about
it, for two reasons; one was, that no offence had
been committed-the hares had not been caught
though the snares had been set ; and the other was,
that the land upon which they had been set did not
belong to his master, Mr. Sorrel, but to Squire
Barker, at the Cloves; and as Tom was no servant
of his, it was not clear to him that he was obliged
to say anything about it.
Turning over these things in his mind, Tom came
down to his early breakfast, which Martha had risen
to prepare before it was light. He said little, his
thoughts being so much occupied; and when Fred
asked if he should go with him to the farm and see
if Mr. Sorrel could find him a job, Tom bade him
remain at home and employ himself in the garden,
Tom Butler's Trouble.
reminding him of certain things wanting to be
It was grey dawn when Tom left his cottage, and
there was a dense white fog lying so thickly over the
landscape, that it was not easy to see anything dis-
tinctly at the distance of twenty yards. Tom was
making for the gate which led into the bridle-path,
which he usually traversed on his way to work, when
the thought came into his head that he would go to
the place from which he had taken the snares. He
hardly knew why he need go there; but as it would
not take him much out of the way he resolved to
pass it-who knows ? perhaps he might make some
further discovery. So, instead of going to the gate,
he leaped the fence, and made his way towards the
opening in the copse. He had no idea of meeting
any person in his route; but he had hardly reached
the opening when he was aware of two figures, who,
early as it was, had got there before him, and both
of whom were busily searching over the ground in
all directions, evidently looking for something they
had lost. Tom recognized the two as Will Sprague
and his son, and he imagined at first that they might
be in search of the snares he had made prize of;
but on watching their movements for a moment or
two he saw that it was not so, but that they were
seeking for something of more importance.
Not wishing to come upon the Spragues un-
awares, and yet not choosing to turn out of his
way, Tom began whistling loudly. As he expected,
both of them moved off quickly to the left, where
they were soon out of sight in the thicket. Tom,
still whistling aloud, turned to the right, in which
direction lay the path, and plodded forward, as if
totally unconscious of their presence. He had
scarcely left the open, however, and gone a dozen
paces in-the wood, when he stumbled upon a gun,
which lay upon the ground, half-concealed by the
long grass and soddened bents. 0, ho said
he to himself, "this is what my gentlemen are
looking for so carefully." Then the idea came
into his head that he would prevent their finding
it for the present, at least ; and he felt inclined to
laugh again at the chagrin of the owners when
they found that their search was in vain. It would
not do, however, to carry off the gun there and
then, for he did not know but that Will or Harry
Sprague might be watching him at the moment.
For the same reason, he would not stoop down to
pick it up, lest the action should be observed;
but as the gun had fallen near the mouth of a
rabbit-burrow, he thrust it hastily into the burrow
with his foot, and closing up the orifice with some
of the long grass, went whistling on his way.
Tom Butler's Trouble.
How long Will Sprague and his son continued
their search for the lost weapon we cannot say :
one thing is certain-they did not find it, for
when Tom Butler returned home from his work in
the evening, it was still safe where he had left it.
Again that night Tom remained up after the
rest of the family had gone to bed. When he had
seen the light extinguished in his mother's room,
he stole out quietly, made his way to the copse,
and brought in the gun, which he laid by the side
of the snares in the loft under the roof. The
capture of the poacher's gun, which he had little
doubt belonged to Will Sprague, did not afford
Tom nearly so much amusement as he had derived
from pulling up the snares. He felt, as he lay
thinking it over in bed, that it was somehow a
more serious matter. What right had he with
another man's property in his possession? And
yet, how was he to get rid of it? Should he not
have left it on the ground untouched, without
intermeddling ? or, having concealed it in the
burrow, would he not have done well to leave it
there ? Why should he have interfered ? and
having gone so far, what ought he to do next ? If
he mentioned the matter to Mr. Sorrel, he would
have to tell the whole truth, and the consequence
would be that his master would never employ the
Another Prize. 25
Spragues again; and if it should come to the ears
of the Squire, the consequence might be still
worse. Tom's slumbers did not come so readily
that night as they generally did; however, before he
dropped off to sleep, he made up his mind that he
would not act hurriedly in the business, and that
he would have the advice of some person well
qualified to give it before he acted at all.
Tom Butler's Trouble.
ON the morning after the event narrated in the
last chapter, about eight o'clock, Fred Butler was
busy in his mother's garden, earthing up some rows
of celery, for the growth of which the Butlers were
famous, when Martha called him into the cottage,
where he was wanted by a messenger from the
Bush Farm. The messenger, who did not choose
to deliver his message to Martha or her mother,
was one of Farmer Sorrel's cow-boys, and he had
come to summon Fred^o the farm, where he was
to act as game-boy for Mr. Frank Sorrel and a
party of his friends from London, who had started
on a shooting expedition an hour ago, and whom
the boys were to meet at nine o'clock in Horsley
Bottom, which lay about two miles off.
This was a kind of employment td
often engaged in before, and for which, li aost
boys, he had a decided liking. He thought the
sport excellent fun; he was fond of the dogs,
every one of whom knew him well, and was
obedient to his voice; and he was proud of having
Pf&s.;:.'/ Prospects. 27
charge of the game-though the weight of a load
of fifty or sixty pounds, as he picked his way
among the turnips, sometimes tried rather severely
the strength of his young limbs. However, the
gentlemen were always kind and considerate; they
took care that he had his fill of the cold meats, and
a good mug of cider at luncheon-time; and at
night, when the sport was done, the farmer
always sent him to the kitchen, where he partook
of a hearty meal before he went home, which he
was sure not to do without some token of the
liberality of the sportsmen.
So Fred set off in high glee, with Bob Duck, for
Horsley Bottom, where, such was their haste, they
arrived half-an-hour before the sporting party, who
came straggling in, one or two at a time, bringing
the game they had alreaf shot, and making it
over to Fred and his companion.
The sport that day proved capital, the weather
being favourable, and the game of all kinds
abundant. Fred and the cow-boy began to look
like two huge bundles of feathers, as they moved
a I t1eli, loads; and they had to be
icT^i iis dh.- j:'rernoon wore ,on by despatching
qne of the shepherds to the farm with a portion of
the spoils. Fred found favour with the gentlemen
from London, three of whom gave him a shilling
a-piece. One of them was obliged to return to
Tom Butler's Trouble.
London that night; and after dinner Fred was
deputed by Mr. Frank to drive him over to the
railway station at Balston, four miles distant from
Stowford, to meet the up-train. The London
gentleman was very pleased with his day's pleasure,
and talked pleasantly with Fred as they drove
along in the dark. They were in good time for
the train, and as they waited on the platform for
its arrival, the sportsman took one of the hares he
had shot, and which had been rather torn by the
dogs, and turning to Fred, said, "Wouldn't this
make a Sunday's dinner for you and your mother,
"That it would, sir, a famous one," said Fred.
"Then you take it home with you, with my
compliments, if you like."
Thank you kindly, sir," and the boy ran with
the hare, and threw it into the trap.
The next moment the train drew up, the game
was safely deposited with the guard; the good-
natured gentleman took his seat and rolled off
towards town. As the road back to the farm
passed his mother's cottage, Fred pulled up there,
and handed the hare to Martha, who came out as
she heard his approach. That's for mother," he
said, with Mr. Peterson's.compliments, ha, ha !-
I'll soon be back and tell you all about it." Then
he drove on to the farm, put up the horse in the
stable, and returned home along the bridle-path.
He was wearied out with his day's work, but was
in high spirits, producing his money and consign-
ing it to his mother's care, and boasting in anti-
cipation of the famous dinner they would have off
that fat puss the good-natured gentleman had given
them. The light-hearted boy little imagined what
an unlucky gift the hare was destined to prove.
Sunday, of all days in the week the welcomes
to the Butlers, dawned clear and bright, and mild
almost as a second summer. A solemn silence
seemed to settle down upon the village : you saw
the little columns of blue smoke rising up here and
there from fifty cottages, curling and spreading
among the half-leafless trees, whose red and
yellow foliage glimmered and shone like crops of
mellow fruit in the morning sun. But all the
accustomed sounds were mute-" No loud hallo !
no tramp of steer"-no ringing of woodman's axe or
smith's hammer-no clatter of ploughman's team-
none of the customary voices of the work-a-day
world. But you might hear the small birds twitter
in the hedges, or perhaps the loud note of the
missel-thrush piping clear from some tall tree in
the copse; and if the wind came from that quarter,
you would hear the babbling of the brook, and its
louder talk, as it leaped along over the stony rapids.
The rooks too in the churchyard rookery lent their
Tom Butler's Trouble.
hoarse voices at intervals, now cawing, cawing, as
if in earnest debate, and now relapsing into total
silence. By and by, as the hour of morning service
drew near, the little bell in the stumpy church
tower would begin to wag, and its rather shrill
voice would peal along the village, at first slowly
and distinctly, and then faster and faster as the
warning half-hour expired.
The sound of the bell brought the villagers forth
from their cottages, and among the first to obey the
summons were the Butlers, who, though living
almost the farthest from the church, made a point
of never being behind time. It was Martha's turn
to-day to remain at home and prepare the dinner,
and Dame Butler and her two sons proceeded
leisurely along the road to join in the solemn
worship of God. Many a kindly greeting they
exchanged with their neighbours as they went
along, and when they reached the churchyard there
were more greetings from friends living at a
distance, whom they seldom saw, save when they
met to participate together in the services of the
The service over, Tom, whose eyes had often
wandered in the direction of Mary West, as she sat
with the Rector's children in their curtained pew,
waited for her at the church-door, and tucking her
arm within his own, led her round by the field-way
Pleasant Prospects. 31
to the other end of the village, where stood his own
home; leaving his mother to the care of Fred and
the gossip of a dozen or so of friendly neighbours,
who usually took this opportunity for the inter-
change of any t';.. th. news that might be
stirring in Stowford.
It was a very happy party that gathered round
the Butlers' dinner-table that day. If the good
dame prided herself too much upon anything she
x possessed in the world, it was upon her son Tom,
hosee manly form and gentle, kindly face were the
delight of her motherly heart. He had been the
subject of innumerable prayers during all the years
of his life, and a thousand times had the fond mother
returned thanks to God, who had answered her
S layers so bountifully, and made the darling son of
her youth the comfort of her age. His approaching
union with Mary West, a God-fearing girl, who re-
sembled herself in temper and disposition, seemed
to complete her satisfaction, and leave nothing
1. more to be desired for her favourite son. As the
young man sat at the head of the humble table,
C and bent reverently as he asked a blessing on their
meal, the mother's heart Lc. l: 1 with thankful-
ness and peace.
Martha, following her mother's directions, had
managed to cook the hare famously, and had
crammed it, moreover, with what Fred called a
Tom Butler's Trouble.
stunning lot o' stuffing." Fred, by the way, took
care that Mary should know to whom they were in-
debted for the feast, and announced more than once
the name of the jolly gentleman from London who
made him a present of it-" of course, because
he saw what an obliging, handy young fellow I
After dinner Tom and Mary set out together for
a walk, going instinctively along the Balston road.
After proceeding about a mile and a half, they halted
at the Lodge, which stood at the entrance to the
Cleves, a large park in which arose Squire Barker's
mansion, which sometimes passed by the same
name, but was oftener mentioned as "The Hall."
The Lodge was a neat, picturesque little cottage,
newly built, but in the old Elizabethan style, to
match the Hall itself, the tall, crocketed turrets of
which, with part of the western facade, could be
seen from the road. There was no tenant in the
Lodge just now. It had been built about five
years before, in place of an older tenement which
had gone to decay, and had been for a time inha-
bited by old Foster, the head stableman at the Hall,
and his wife. The wife had died, and Foster,
his health declining after her death, had removed
to the cottage of a married daughter, of whose
careful attendance he stood in need. We said
that Tom and Mary had come in this direction
instinctively : we may add that it was by no means
the first time that they had visited the Lodge since it
had been empty; in fact, they had come hither
together, and they had come separately, many
times-and the reason was, that they were hoping,
we might perhaps say expecting, to take up their
residence within it on the day of their marriage.
The case stood thus: poor old Foster, who for
fifty years had had charge of the Squire's stables at
the Hall, had been long since obliged to quit
his post, his infirmities no longer allowing of his
retaining it. The Squire, a somewhat hasty man,
having tried one or two candidates for the situation,
and dismissed them almost as soon as they were
installed, had applied to Farmer Sorrel to recom-
mend him a qualified person. The farmer had re-
commended young Butler, as being at once the
most knowing and careful hand with horses, and
moreover the steadiest young fellow in Stowford.
The Squire, however, had taken it into his head
that he would not give the post to a single man ;
and if Tom Butler meant to apply for it," he said,
"he must come with a wife in his hand, or I shan't
listen to him." Tom had applied, however, acting
upon Mr. Sorrel's advice, and though he had not
got the post, he had been favourably received-had
been given to understand that it would not be im-
mediately filled, and that Mr. Barker would see him
Tom Butler's Trouble.
again before coming to a decision with any one.
From this Mr. Sorrel had concluded (and had led
the Butlers to the same conclusion), that the situ-
ation would be held in reserve until Tom by his
marriage, which all Stowford would be looking for
next Easter, had qualified himself to fill it.
It was quite natural, therefore, that the young
couple should regard the Lodge as their future
home, and we need not marvel that they paid it a
visit occasionally, or that, in carrying out their little
plans, and in making their purchases in preparation
for their union, the Lodge, with its neat rooms and
conveniences, and its breadth of garden-ground,
should always be kept in view. The garden-gate
stood open as they drew near, and they went in
and strolled along the paths, now overgrown rankly
with weeds, among which a few late roses blooming
on tall standards reared their heads, while a goodly
show of chrysanthemums, the culture of which for
years had been old Foster's pride, ran along under
the fence on the south side. Tom had occasionally
looked to the care of these favourite flowers, re-
solving to continue their cultivation, if ever he be-
came a tenant of the Lodge; and he was pointing
out to Mary an unaccountable gap in the rank,
when she suddenly exclaimed, "Why, look here,
Tom! what is become of all the parsley that grew in
this patch ? I declare somebody has stolen it all."
Stolen it I" said Tom; "it was a four-footed thief,
Pleasant Prospects. 35
then. Don't you see the hares have got in and
eaten it clean off. They came in through that hole
in the fence, behind the flowers. I'll get that
stopped next week. But come, it is time we were
returning-the sun will be down, and mother's
kettle boiling, before we are back."
As they left the garden to retrace their steps to-
wards the village, Mary said, Talking of hares,
Tom, what have you done about the snares that
you found in the copse the other night ?"
"Nothing," said Tom; "and the fact is, I don't
see exactly what I can do with them. But that is
not all; next morning I found a gun in the copse,
not far from where I took up the snares. I've no
doubt the gun belongs to Will Sprague, for I saw
him and Harry searching about for something a
long while. I've got it, however, safe enough; but
what I ought to do about it is another thing."
Then he told what the reader already knows-the
manner in which the gun had come into his pos-
session, and how he had stowed it away, along with
the snares, in his mother's cottage.
"I don't think I should have taken the gun,"
said Mary, "if I had been in your place."
"Why, Will Sprague didn't keep it for any good
purpose, you may depend," was Tom's reply.
"Perhaps not; but have you a right to take pos*
session of it on that account?"
Tom Butler's Trouble.
I don't know. I thought I was doing right, at
any rate, when I pushed it out of sight; though I
confess I was not quite so certain when at night I
carried it home."
"And what do you intend to do about it ?"
I haven't made up my mind. I thought I would
take advice from somebody, only I didn't know who
"Does your mother know about it?"
"No, indeed, and you mustn't tell her: it
would only trouble her, and she could do no
"Then, if I were you, I think I would speak to
Will Sprague himself about it-of course, not about
the snares; but you might let him know that you
have found a gun."
"I thought of that; but you see, if I do so, and
he claims it, he'll want to bind me down to keep
his secret; and that wouldn't do for me. I shouldn't
choose to run the risk of having to tell lies for him,
or any one else."
"Of course not; but you should do something.
I don't like your keeping what does not belong to
"I don't like it myself, either. But don't let it
trouble you, Mary. I will find out what is best to
be done before long. Meanwhile, you need say
nothing about it."
Pleasant Prospects. 37
Here they were joined by Fred, who had come
out to meet them; and no more was said.
After the evening service, which the younger
Butlers, according to their usual custom, attended,
Mary resumed the subject as Tom was escorting
her back to the Rectory. He promised her that
he would consider what was best to be done, and
do it as soon as possible; at the same time he
pointed out to her, what appeared to him to be
quite plain, that no harm could possibly happen by
allowing both the gun and the snares to remain
where he had hidden them, until he should find out
what he ought to do with them.
Tomn Butler's Troubk.
FIRE AND ROBBERY.'
SEVERAL days passed on, however, and Tom
Butler did nothing towards fulfilling his promise
to Mary, partly because he really did not know
what to do, and partly because, deeming it of no
great importance, he allowed the matter to slip out
of his mind. Towards the close of the week, re-
calling his promise to Mary, he resolved to walk
over to Somerton to see his uncle Pearce, and,
laying the matter before him, ask his advice, and
act upon it. John Pearce, his mother's brother,
though a poor man, was both a shrewd and upright
one, and was, Tom felt, more likely than any one
he knew to give him good counsel. When he
came home to dinner on the Friday, he told his
mother of his intention of visiting his uncle that
evening, and, saying he should not come home to
supper, advised her not to wait up for him, as it
would be late before he could be back at Stowford,
but to put the key outside the casement, as she
had often done before, that he might let himself in
when he returned. Dame Butler, well pleased that
Fire and Robbery. 39
her son should show respect to her only brother,
made no inquiry as to the object of his visit; but
charging him with a few messages and a small
packet of thick woollen hose for her brother's use,
agreed to do as Tom suggested.
At the conclusion of his day's work, which had
been more than usually toilsome, Tom started
from Bush Farm along the Somerton road, and
trudged the six miles in a darkness almost pro-
found, and which did not tend to make the journey
easier. Arriving at the cottage where his uncle
lodged-for John Pearce was a widower without
children, and kept no house of his own-the young
man heard from the good woman, his landlady,
that his uncle was absent, that he had set off an
hour before to go and see a sick friend at Balston,
and that it was uncertain when he might return;
indeed, she said, it was doubtful whether he would
return that night, or take a bed at his friend's
house at Balston. Tom thought he would wait
for the chance of his uncle's return, which he was
more inclined to do owing to the fatigue he felt
after his long walk. nie waited, therefore, for
more than a couple of hours, and gladly partook
of the refreshment the good woman offered him.
But when ten o'clock struck, and there were no
signs of his uncle, he knew that it would be useless
to remain longer; and, bidding his hostess good
Tom Butler's Trouble.
night, he retraced his steps towards his home. It
was near midnight when he reached the door of
his mother's cottage, and it must have been past
midnight before he had got snug into bed, where
he immediately fell into a deep sleep, the result of
his long day's toil and journeying.
Mrs. Butler was awoke by Tom's footsteps on
the stairs as he came up to bed; but she did not
speak, fearful of disturbing Martha, who slept with
her. She lay awake for some time after, and was
about falling into a doze, when she caught the
sound of distant alarm and clamour, and plainly
distinguished the cry of "Fire !" Rising and
running to the window, she could see flames flicker-
ing over the wooded ridge of the opposite hill,
while the sky above and around for a considerable
distance shone threatfully with a lurid gleam.
From the situation of the fire, she knew that it
could not be a dwelling that was burning, but
judged it to be a rick of some kind, and hoped in
her heart that the fire might prove to be the result
of accident, not the work of some wretched in-
cendiary. She lighted a candle, and without
waking Martha, who slept soundly, she stepped
into Tom's room, thinking it might be his duty to
assist in extinguishing the fire; but noticing his
heavy breathing as he lay locked in slumber, and
knowing how much fatigue he had so lately under-
Fire and Robbery. *41
a gone, she forbore to wake him, and returned to her
Mrs. Butler was right in her conjecture concern-
ing the fire. It was burning in the Eleven Acre
Field," where had stood since harvest a fine wheat-
rick, the property of Farmer Southam, of West
Brow, and which was now fast going to destruction.
It was near one o'clock when the flames were first
observed from the village, where, however, the alarm
soon spread, and the greater part of the inhabitants
turned out to render assistance-if, indeed, their
assistance might be of any use-and to gaze upon
the exciting spectacle. It proved that little indeed
could be done to stop the progress of the flames.
There was a fine pond, with water enough, in the
field ; but, without an engine, without even vessels
to contain the water and convey it to the fire, the
pond might as well have been a hundred miles
off. When at length a few tubs and pails had been
obtained, the fire had gained the mastery too com-
pletely for the efforts of the inexperienced rustics
to be of much use. Foremost among those con-
tending with the fire was Will Sprague. He it was
who mounted to the top, and, receiving the pails of
water as they were handed up, applied them care-
fully to the thatch, to stop, if possible, the spread of
the fire. Here he maintained his post until his
skin was actually blistered with the heat, and a part
Tom Butler's Trouble.
of his clothes singed on his back; and when this
plan failed, it was he who first seized a fork, and
removing a portion of the thatch yet unburnt, be-
gan plucking, from the very maw of the fire, such
portions of the stack as he could wrench away. All
the efforts of the crowd, however, proved unfortu-
nately of small avail: but little was saved; and
even that little, soddened by the waste water, and
trodden under foot by the heedless mob, was all
but valueless. The good rick shrunk away gra-
dually in the grasp of the fire, and when at length
nothing but a blackened heap of ashes was left, the
villagers crept back to their beds, from which they
had been ro'used to so little purpose.
Of course, there was great excitement next day on
the subject of the fire. The villagers met in groups
in the long street to talk about it; and it was dis-
cussed, together with a considerable quantity of
beer, in the sanded kitchen of the old inn, the
" Marquis of Granby." The talkers were divided
in opinion on the matter-one party maintaining
that it was the work of some enemy to Farmer
Southam, and the other attributing the fire to
flying sparks from a railway-engine-the railway to
London passing within a hundred paces of where
the rick stood. Both sides seemed to have at least
a show of reason in their favour. Those who were
for incendiarism showed that Mr. Southam had
Fire and Robbery. 43
latterly had frequent quarrels with his men, and had
discharged several of them for alleged misconduct;
and they reported certain threats which some of the
discharged men had made in their hearing. On
the other hand, those who ascribed the fire to acci-
dent, referred to other fires which had been known
to arise from the sparks of locomotives, and parti-
cularly to one which had taken place not long be-
fore not far from Balston, where several ricks were
set on fire together. Wherever the fire was talked
about, the conduct of Will Sprague was talked
about too; and the daring and activity he had dis-
played were in every mouth, and were particularly
admired by those who had stood by with their
hands in their pockets, gaping open-mouthed at his
prowess. Will, for a few short hours, was quite a
lion in Stowford; the landlord of the "Marquis of
Granby," seeing him pass, called him in and treated
him; and the bold fellow, as the landlord had
doubtless calculated, drew others in after him, who
drank his health once and again, in honour of his
courage, and for the good of the house.
But lo before that eventful Saturday came to an
end, another misfortune came to light, and there
was another subject of conversation and specula-
tion which almost drove the fire at the Eleven Acres
out of the people's heads. It was discovered that,
while the fire had been raging, and the whole vil-
44 Tom Butler's Trouble.
lage had been drawn to it, Squire Barker's preserves,
three miles off, had been entered by a gang of
poachers, who, the keepers being away-probably
watching or assisting at the fire-had made a fear-
ful sweep of the game. They had used their nets
with such success, that in place of several hundred
of pheasants, hardly a dozen were now to be seen.
So, at least, it was rumoured about, though, as
usual in such cases, the loss was no doubt very
Squire Barker, of course, was exceedingly angry;
but, contrary to his usual custom, which was to vent
his anger unsparingly upon those who offended him,
on this occasion he said but little ; but those who
knew him best augured from his silence that he had
made up his mind to discover the criminals, at what-
ever cost, and bring them to justice. Nor were they
mistaken. Without loss of time he called a meet-
ing of his brother magistrates, and held a long
council on the matter that very day. What tran-
spired no one knew, beyond the fact that the meet-
ing was adjourned till the following Monday. But
that something at least had been decided already
was soon made plain; for a party of policemen
walked into Stowford on Sunday morning while the
bells were ringing for church, and spreading them-
selves in various directions, without exchanging
speech with the villagers, occupied themselves,
Fire and Robbery. 45
there is no doubt, in searching diligently for some
clue which might lead to the discovery of the
poachers, or any person in league with them. They
did not enter any man's dwelling, and in the after-
noon they had disappeared, but were seen at Bal-
ston, pursuing the search there. The result of their
investigations did not appear until the magistrates
met again on the Monday. Then it came out that
a party of men, strangers to the railway officials,
had driven up to the railway station at Balston, in
a cart rather heavily laden. They had taken five
tickets for London by the train which left at half-
past four in the morning, and had paid for a quan-
tity of luggage besides, the bulk of which was
contained in large hampers and rough packages,
enveloped in what appeared to be coarse canvas,
or sacking. The cart had not driven into the sta-
tion yard, the driver excusing himself from coming
further, on the ground that his horse did not like
the strong, flaming gas-light, and would probably
kick and show temper if compelled to go in. The
luggage was therefore hauled on to the platform by
the owners of it, not without a show of altercation
with the driver. One of the railway porters had
assisted in unloading the cart and transporting the
heavy packages; but on being questioned, he de-
clared that he had no knowledge of the men who
brought them. He was asked if he could recog-
Tom Butler's Trouble.
nize any of them again, and particularly if he knew
who drove the cart. His reply was, that the men
were all strangers to him, and he saw too little of
them in the dim light to be able to know them
again. As for the driver, he had gone off again
the moment the cart was unloaded; but he had
caught a glimpse of his face, and had heard him
speak to the horse, and should very likely know
him again if he met him.
This was the whole amount of the information
the police had been able to obtain, and it was far
from satisfactory. The Squire, determined not to
let the matter drop, and supported by his col-
leagues, who were nearly all equally interested
with himself in the preservation of game, resolved
to call in other aid. By that evening's post he
wrote to London for detectives, and on the
following morning he received a telegraphic mes-
sage, announcing that two of them would be
despatched so as to arrive at Stowford, as would
be most politic, shortly after dark.
THERE was a cloud gathering over the Butler
family, of which all the inmates were as yet happily
unconscious, though every one of them was
destined to suffer under its black shadow. The
Butlers were the last persons whom those who
knew them would suppose likely to be implicated
in the wholesale plunder of Squire Barker's pre-
serves, and yet at this moment the seeming
evidence of their participation in the guilt was
accumulating round them without their knowledge.
It is an old saying, that misfortunes seldom come
singly; and in this instance the serious trouble
which was to cast the whole of the little household
into the depths of despondency, was preceded by
a vexation of no trifling kind, and which might
be productive of domestic unhappiness hard to be
Martha Butler, Tom's only sister, of whose
character the reader has already some idea, was at
this time, though not seventeen, a good-looking,
well-grown, and rather stately lass. Her charms
Tom; Piuller'rs frozble.
had touched the fancy, if not the heart, of Harry
Sprague, who had resolved to win her. In prose
cution of his resolve, he had latterly placed himself
in her way, whenever he could manage it, and had
shown her such civilities as opportunity enabled
him to render. When she went to the evening
service, he even followed her to church, and
watching his time when she would be left alone,
by Tom Butler and Mary West pairing off, he had
joined her on her return, and had been allowed
once or twice to escort her nearly to her own door.
Martha, probably flattered by his attentions, and
being aware of nothing against the young man's
character, saw no reason why she should reject
them, and the intimacy, as time went on, naturally
grew stronger between them. Still, up to this time, if
Martha had been questioned on the subject of Harry
Sprague, and she had been disposed to be frank
with the questioner, she might have replied that
their intimacy was merely that of acquaintances-
that the young man was a friend-nothing more.
And this would have been perfectly true, for Harry
had not declared himself, and in all likelihood,
considering his present position, had no intention
of doing so for some time at least. Hitherto,
Martha had kept this matter to herself, not even
mentioning it to her mother. Had Harry made
her any proposal, she would have felt herself bound
to communicate it to her friends: it might have
been better had she made a confidante of her
mother in the first instance; as it was, the affair
was doomed to come to Mrs. Butler's knowledge
in a less agreeable way.
Tom, returning from his work one evening, later
than usual, having walked a short distance on the
Balston-road with a friend, happened to come
round by the rear of the cottage, instead of by the
front. In a small patch of waste ground at the
end of his garden, he saw in the dusk the figure of
his sister Martha, and, as he drew nearer, saw that
she was in conversation with a man. Wondering
who the stranger might be, and half thinking it
might be his Uncle Pearce, Tom leaped the low
wall, and in a moment had joined them, before
either of them was aware of his coming. To his
great astonishment and vexation he found that the
stranger was young Harry Sprague, with whom
Martha had been so much engrossed as not to be
aware of her brother's approach. Harry, though
plainly taken unawares, tried to put a good face on
the matter, and, giving Tom the good evening,
held out his hand.
Tom took no notice of this friendly advance,
but led Martha, who spoke not a word, into the
cottage, and having closed the door upon her,
peremptorily ordered Harry to go the way he had
Tom Butler's Trouble.
come. The young fellow did not think proper to
disobey, but moved slowly off, Tom following him,
step by step.
"Understand, my lad," he said, sternly, as he
dogged him out, you are to come here no more:
if I catch you with my sister again, make up your
mind that it will be the worse for you."
Harry muttered something in reply, but what he
said Tom did not care to hear; and when he had
got rid of the intruder, he followed Martha into
the house. She was not in the kitchen, where her
mother was laying Tom's supper.
"Mother," said Tom, "how long has Martha
been keeping company with Harry Sprague ? "
With Harry Sprague !" said the dame; what
do you mean ? she keeps company with nobody."
"Then why was she talking with him not a
minute ago at the bottom of the garden ? "
Talking with him, indeed; I'm sorry to hear it.
I should be loth, indeed, to have anything to do
with that family: I am afraid they are a godless
"You are right, mother, and you might say
more than that: they are not honest people, as I
could prove, though I don't want to be obliged to
I fear they have no religion," said the dame;
"I never see any of them at church."
"As for that," said Tom, "I have seen Harry at
church in the evening once or twice lately; but
I'm thinking now he went there only to meet with
It vexes me sadly to hear this ; I trust the girl
has not engaged herself with him. At any rate
she will tell us the truth, I am sure, about it."
Tom sat down to his supper, and he had not
finished it when Martha came down-stairs, looking
quite unmoved, and sat down to her needle-work.
Her mother, without the least show of temper,
began to question her as to her acquaintance with
Martha, though her face flushed as she did so,
replied to every question with perfect frankness
and truth; and from her answers it appeared that
she had spoken to Harry the first time when she
and Fred were out gleaning together after last har-
vest. She had no agreement with the young man ;
she had walked with him a few times from church,
and she didn't see what harm there was in that;
there was nothing against the young man's charac-
ter that she knew: if he was out of work it was
through no fault of his--"
"Stop 1" said Tom, "you are not sure of that. I
know more about his character than you do- "
And what do you know, then ? asked Martha,
Tom Butler's Trouble.
I know"-but here Tom stopped short; he
doubted his sister's prudence in a matter in which
she might be more interested than he was aware,
and did not think it safe to make known what
he had so lately discovered with regard to the
"What do you know ?" Martha asked again, and
her mother at the same time turned towards Tom a
"I know," said Tom, hesitatingly, "that his
acquaintance will do you no good; and it is my
wish, and I am sure it is your mother's, that you
break it off at once for good and all. Is it not so,
Indeed it is. You must make us a promise,
Martha, to speak to him no more-or at least but
once, to let him know that your acquaintance is at
Yes, promise that," said Tom, and there will
be an end of the matter."
Martha, however, held her peace, and with that
firm, self-reliant look on her face, which was often
seen there when she had made up her mind to any-
thing, went on with her work.
Theie was silence for some time, while Tom
finished his supper, and Mrs. Butler, having put
away the things, resumed her needlework at
Are you going to give us your promise, Martha?"
said Tom, at length.
"Are you going to tell us what you know
against Harry Sprague's character ?" retorted
"No," said Tom, "I am not, at least not now;
I had rather it should be known, if it ever is known,
without my telling it."
S" Then I'm not going to promise what you wish
me to," said Martha.
Tom was about to reply, when Fred came in, and
the subject was dropped.
After reading and prayer, when Tom and his
mother were alone, they talked the matter over
The dame did not expect her daughter would
give the promise required of her without a reason
-and however sorry she might be at the prospect
of such a connection, she did not blame the appa-
rent obstinacy of her child, as some mothers
would have done. In truth, the good woman saw
so much of her former self in the present conduct
of her daughter that she could not conscientiously
have done so. I am glad, at any rate," she said,
" that this acquaintance is no longer a secret from
us, and that Martha knows that we dislike it. It
isn't easy to turn her from her will, but she's a
good girl in the main, and will do nothing to dis-
Tom Butler's Trouble.
grace us. What you have said will put her on her
guard; and we must ourselves do our best to keep
her from harm."
Tom could not feel so easy on this matter as his
mother did, knowing what he knew of young Harry
and his doings; and though he said nothing in re-
ply to her remark, he resolved in his own mind to
adopt some decisive course, and that very speedily,
to sever a connection, the very thought of which
was hateful to him. He revolved the subject in
his thoughts ere he went to sleep, and came to the
determination, the next time he met with Harry, to
exact that promise from him which his sister
had declined to give-if by no other means, then
by threats, which the knowledge he had lately
gained would, he considered, render sufficiently
alarming. Circumstances, however, of which he
had not the slightest anticipation, prevented the
carrying out of this resolve.
On the following day, towards the approach of
noon, while Tom was at Bush Farm, Fred away to
see after a job at Farmer Southam's, and Martha
had gone to the Rectory with some finished work,
Dame Butler saw old Dawkins, the village consta-
ble, fumbling at her garden-wicket. He was ac-
companied by two men, both of them strangers to
her; and the next minute they crossed the little
plot of garden. She rose and let them in.
"Good morning, dame," said old Dawkins,
"don't let us disturb you : surprised to see us, I
dare say, and wondering what we are come about,
eh ? But I'll tell 'ee, I'll tell 'ee. You heered of
the poaching villains that robbed the Squire's pre-
serves last Friday night. Well, you see, the Squire's
determined to get to the bottom o' that business,
cost what it may. So, you see, he've sent for detec-
tives from Lunnun, and issued search-warrants-all
on the quiet, you know-to search every house in
Stowford for a trace of the rascals."
I'm sure," said Mrs. Butler, I hope they'll be
discovered; it's a disgrace to the place that such
things should be done."
"Well," said Dawkins, "if the Stowford people
have done it, they'll likely be found out, I can tell
'ee, and then I wouldn't like to stand in their shoes.
These gentlemen leaves no stone unturned, you
may be sure. You've no objection, Mrs. Butler, to
let 'em go over your premises?"
Not the least," said the dame, you can go
with them if you like, Mr. Dawkins."
"Ah, well, as you please; perhaps I may
as well; but they knows well enough, as I've told
'em, they'll find nothing here: however, they
searches every house alike, and only fair too, you
Quite," said the dame.
Tom Butler's Trouble.
"Then, gentlemen," said the constable, "you can
begin your search if you think fit."
At first it seemed as if the men hardly thought it
worth their while to make any close search in the
Butlers' cottage. They glanced round the kitchen,
and, declining to go upstairs when the good woman
pointed the way, strolled through the back room
into the garden, where one of them expressed his
admiration of its neat and thrifty condition, consi-
dering the time of the year.
Not like a poacher's garden, this," said the man
to his comrade; "these people know how to make
the most of a bit of ground."
You're right," said the other, "we are only
wasting time here; let us move on."
As they were returning to the cottage, they passed
a small shed, where the gardening tools, wheel-
barrow, and other useful things were kept, and
where a few shelves were littered over with vegeta-
ble seeds spread out to dry. One of the men
walked mechanically into the shed; and there, as
ill-luck would have it, his eye fell upon a hare-skin
hung up at the back of the door, where Mrs. Butler
had left it until the dealer should come round.
Hollo, Parkins !" he bawled out, "what's this?"
His comrade and the old constable ran in. The
skin was taken down and examined : the man who
had spied it out declared it to be the skin of a
wired hare, and he pointed to the torn parts, ascrib-
ing them to the struggles made by the snared
animal to get free. The constable was not of the
same opinion-" The hare was shot," he said as
any sportsman would tell them; but, shot or wired,
it was all one ; Dame Butler would tell them the
truth about it, whatever it was."
Without further parley they carried the skin into
the house-room, where Mrs. Butler was preparing
the dinner. "We must know how you came by
this," said the detective, rather sternly.
The hare from which it came was given to my
youngest son by a gentleman who was down here
sporting some time ago."
"What gentleman, and where from ?"
I think the name was Peterson, and he was
Did you see the gentleman give it to your son ?"
"No; it was given to him at the railway station
while they were waiting for the train. My boy
drove the gentleman over to the station from Bush
H'm, indeed !" said the man ; "I thought it
would turn out so. My good woman, I am sorry
for you, but depend upon it you are deceived.
Gentlemen from London, when they go out sport-
ing, always carry home the game they shoot before
they give any away. What say you, Parkins ? "
Tomn Butler's Trouble.
I should rather think so," said Parkins, with a
"It is you who are deceived," said the dame,
indignantly; "my sons are not accustomed to tell
lies to their mother or to any one else; they have
been too carefully brought up for that, I am thankful
If that is the case, I shall be glad," said the
first speaker, and you will have nothing to fear
for them ; but we must do our duty, and now
make a strict search of the whole premises."
Dame Butler smiled at this implied threat, and
so calm and assured was her look that it almost
sufficed to deter the men from their intention ; but
as she again threw open the door, they went upstairs,
she following them, determined now to assist in
the search, and to prove to them how fruitless was
their labour, how unfounded their suspicion.
They went into all three of the rooms, turned
over the beds, looked into the cupboards, sounded
the walls, rummaged drawers and boxes, and, indeed,
made a much closer inspection of everything, under
the instigation of the indignant mother, than they
might have thought it necessary to do had she not
been with them. When everything had been ex-
posed to view, and every hole and corner ransacked,
as they were going down-stairs the dame's eye fell
on the little trap-door in the ceiling of the landing-
place-" Stop, gentlemen !" she cried out, "you
have not looked everywhere yet; it is a pity you
should leave a stone unturned, you know; better
see if there is anything in the loft." With that she
brought a chair from her bed-room-" If you get
on the chair, and push back the bolt, the door will
The men were already descending the stairs, but
one of them came back at these words, stepped on
the chair, and, drawing back the bolt, thrust his
hand and arm into the loft. Here is something,
however," he cried, and the next moment drew out
three or four of the snares. Looking at them for
an instant, he threw them on the floor, crying out
as he did so, There, Parkins, and you, Constable,
what do you call them ? "
"Wires for hares, as I'm alive !" said the old
Constable. "Why, Mrs. Butler, how came they
"I know no more .about them," said the poor
woman, now completely amazed, than the child
"I can believe you, my good woman," said the
detective ; "but, you see, it is as I said ; you are
deceived, and your sons are not quite such good
boys as you thought they were. Parkins, light
your bull's-eye, and hand it up; we'll see what else
there is here."
Tom Butler's Trouble.
The lantern was soon ready, and its strong glare,
thrown into the gloom of the loft, lighted it up with
the brightness of day. "Whew! here's a nice plant !"
said the man; "don't be alarmed, Missis; I don't
want to frighten you." With that he threw down the
remainder of the snares, and then, to the astonish-
ment of all present, pulled forth the gun. Loaded,
too !" said he, as he pointed to the cap in the
lock-" all ready for use at any moment. I'll take
the liberty, however, to draw the charge in your
presence, gentlemen, just to prevent accidents."
He did so, wrapping the powder and shot in
paper, and putting it in his pocket.
It is impossible to describe the astonishment of
Mrs. Butler at what was taking place. The sight
of the snares, though she had never seen such
things before, and did not know what they were,
had sufficiently alarmed her ; but when the detec-
tive drew forth the gun, she felt bewildered, and
almost doubtful whether or no her senses were
leaving ber. -She staggered back into her room,
and sank upon the bed ; but after a few minutes'
reflection her courage returned, with the conviction
which she felt to be just, that however appearances
were against her son, he was innocent, and would
be able to clear himself. She was too much agitated
to accompany the searchers any further, and leaving
them to take what course they chose, went down
into the house-room, where she sat with beating
heart, anxiously wishing that Martha would come
The discoveries made in the loft, so far from
satisfying the searchers, served only to spur them
to further exertions. On descending the stairs they
turned again to the little tool-house, where they
examined everything, casting out the contents of
boxes and drawers, sweeping the shelves clear, and
strewing the floor with the confused and mingled
articles. Then they made the circuit of the garden
once more, coming at the end of it to the little
patch of waste already mentioned, which in former
days had been used for the enclosure and rearing
of fowls. Here, in one corner, was a hollow sur-
rounded by a low wall of rough stones, forming
the receptacle for garden-waste. Some loose straw
lay scattered over the decaying vegetation. This
Mr. Parkins began pushing aside with a stick, as
though expecting to uncover something of value.
Whatever may have been his expectations, they
were probably more than realized when he drew
forth a brace of fine pheasants, still perfectly fresh
and good, lying under the straw, and only partially
covered with green fern-leaves.
"I think we may close the search now," said
one of the detectives, and look after the offender.
Where is this young man to be found, Constable?"
Tom Butler's Trouble.
"Well," said old Dawkins, reluctantly, "he
works for Farmer Sorrel, not a mile from here. I
hope, for his mother's sake, you don't mean to
you take him into custody-that's a serious thing,
"Why, what do you call these?" said the man,
pointing to the things they had found-"are not
snares and loaded guns, hidden away in a loft,
serious things? Isn't dead game found on a cottager's
premises a serious thing ?"
"But I'm thinking," returned Dawkins, "that,
after all, you will find the young man innocent."
Think what you like," said the other, "but let
me tell you, that if that's the way you think in the
face of evidence like this, the sooner you resign the
office of constable the better."
Poor old Dawkins said no more, but receiving
the birds which were given to him to take charge
of, returned with the officers to the house.
Meanwhile, Martha Butler had come home, and
had heard from her mother the history of what had
taken place. She was equally astonished at the facts,
but being certain in her own mind that her brother
would be able to explain them all, she felt no real
alarm. She reasoned against her mother's despon-
dency, and had in some degree succeeded in ban-
ishing it, when the searchers returned, bringing
with them the brace of pheasants, which, of course,
they regarded as additional evidence of the son's
"Am really sorry, ma'am," said the officer, to
have found so conclusive a proof against your son
as is afforded by these birds : the gun and the
snares might have possibly been accounted for, and
at most they would have been but presumptive
evidence; if nothing more had turned up, we should
only have made a report, and left our superiors to
act as they thought proper : as it is, it is our duty
to take the offender into custody."
Poor widow Butler shrank from these words as
from a blow; too agitated to speak, she turned an
eager look towards the old constable, as if to ask
what they meant.
"It is true, dame," said Dawkins, sorrowfully;
"the birds were found hid away in the midden at
the end of your garden."
"What is that you say?" cried Martha, in a
voice half-choked with feeling, while her cheek
blanched and her lips quivered-" Say it-say it
"It was I," said Parkins, stepping forward, "who
found the birds ; they were half buried under straw
and fern-leaves, in that rubbish-place at the end of
the garden, which your friend here calls the
Martha listened breathlessly, her dark eyes were
Tom Butl/r's Trouble.
fixed on the speaker, her lips apart, while a chill
shudder ran through her limbs-and when he had
finished, she sank into a chair, and, with a long-
drawn sigh, covered her face with her hands."
"Why, Martha, child," said her mother, "what
is come to you ? Just now, you wouldn't believe
for a moment but that all is right, and were re-
proaching me for being cast down, and now you
are more upset than I was."
Oh, mother, mother, I can't bear it-I can't
bear it," and the poor girl threw herself into her
mother's arms with a passionate burst of tears.
The searchers did not stay to witness the
conclusion of this painful scene, but, quitting
the cottage, made the best of their way to Bush
Alore Troub ies.
IN a paddock adjoining the orchard at the rear of
the farm-house, a very merry and rather noisy
party were assembled that afternoon. There was
Farmer Sorrel, and young Mr. Frank Sorrel, with
some half-dozen guests who were staying at the
house; and there was Squire Barker, who, having
come over to the farm on business with Mr. Sorrel,
had gone with the rest into the paddock, to witness
a rather amusing scene which was there going for-
ward. This was the breaking-in of that frisky colt
of which mention was made by Fred in the first
chapter of our story. The animal did not submit
to the discipline of bit and bridle so readily or so
quietly as it would have been for his interest to do,
but tried every means to throw his rider and get
free. In these endeavours he played the oddest
tricks-now rearing upright, now rolling on the
grass, now flinging out his heels, and anon bolting
off almost at a railway pace; and by his sudden and
changeful antics raising peals of laughter among the
lookers-on. Tom Butler was on his back, and com-
Tom Butler's Trouble.
pelling him, spite of his opposition, to obedience.
The Squire was watching Tom's method with the
colt with considerable interest, and now and then
urging the animal with his voice, or with a touch
of his whip. Mr. Sorrel stood by the Squire, ready,
if opportunity should offer, to put in a word in
Tom's behalf in reference to his future engagement
at the Hall.
The fun was at the highest when three men were
seen getting over the gate into the enclosure from
the road. They made straight towards the group
of spectators, and as they approached the Squire,
he saw that two of them were the detectives he had
sent for from London, and the other the village
constable, in whose hand his quick eye immediately
fixed upon the brace of pheasants.
Eh what is this, Rupert ?" he said, address-
ing the foremost officer-" Discovered the rascals?"
Not far from it, I expect, your honour. This
much we have discovered, at all events. Here is a
brace of birds, here is a dozen wires for snaring
hares, and here is a gun, which was loaded when I
took it-and all concealed on the premises of one
And you come here to bring me the news. How
did you know I was here ? "
Pardon me, sir; we did not know you were
here; we came here after the offender."
Of course, of course-and have you got him ?"
"We do not know him by sight; but if you will
introduce us, Mr. Sorrel (turning to the farmer),
to a young man in your employ, named Thomas
Butler, we shall take care to know him afterwards,
you may depend."
"Butler! Tom Butler! said the farmer, "the
son of widow Butler you must be joking; why, he
is just the steadiest and honestest fellow in all
I shall not contradict you, sir," said the offi-
cer; but these snares, this gun, and the birds,
which are still fresh, you see, we took from Mrs.
Butler's cottage and garden not an hour since. The
poor woman, I am sure, knows nothing about them,
and we left her in great trouble. There was, fur-
ther, a hare-skin, which she accounted for by saying
the hare was given to her boy by a Mr. Peterson-
not a likely story that, I should say."
"I should think not," said the Squire, whose
wrath was kindling at the sight of the pheasants,
which he had not a doubt were his own. "So this
is your model of honesty and steadiness, Sorrel-
sets snares, keeps a gun, and helps himself to game
when he thinks proper."
"With deference," said the farmer, "perhaps it
may be as well to hear what he has to say in his
defence before we conclude him guilty."
Tom BEutler's Trouble.
Yes, yes; of course we'll hear what he has to
say. Officer, that is the young fellow, backing the
colt-Sorrel, if you've no objection, we'll have the
hearing at once, before the rogue has time to make
up a story. Will you show us to a room ?"
Certainly, Squire; have the goodness to follow
Tom had dismounted, and was leading the colt
to the stable, when Dawkins and one of the officers
came up, and told him he was wanted immediately
in the house. Resigning the colt to a stable-boy,
he went with them at once, wondering in his own
mind whether this summons had anything to do
with the vacant post he was looking forward to fill.
A little crowd had gathered round the front door,
through which Tom passed gaily, not noticing their
curious looks, and little imagining that he was in
custody. To his amazement he found, on entering
the parlour, in which more than a dozen people
were seated, that all eyes were turned upon him,
while the Squire, who sat at a table with writing
materials before him, bade him authoritatively to
come forward and answer such questions as should
be put to him.
Tom bowed, and expressed his perfect willing-
ness to do so, but at the same time showed by his
looks that he was far from understanding for what
purpose he was there.
"You don't seem to be aware, young fellow,"
said the Squire, "that you are in custody on the
serious charge of unlawfully possessing game, and,
more than that, of poaching, sirrah,-poaching."
No, sir," said Tom, respectfully, I didn't know
that. There must be some mistake; I am not a
poacher, and have never had possession of game."
What do you call a brace of pheasants, sirrah ?
They are game, I suppose, and they were found on
your premises. Produce the birds, constable."
Dawkins laid them on the table. Tom smiled
when he saw them, feeling confident that his ac-
cusers, whoever they might be, were under some
mistake. I never saw these birds before," he
said, to the best of my knowledge."
Of course not Officer, let us hear what you
have to say about them."
Mr. Parkins stepped forward, and, in a self-satis-
fied tone, related the manner in which he had routed
them out of the refuse-hole at the end of Tom's
garden. He appealed to the constable and his
comrade to corroborate the truth of what he said,
which of course they did.
You can all three swear to these facts ?" said
"Yes, your honour." -
Now then, young fellow, what have you to say
to that ?"
70 Tom butler's Trouble.
I can only say," Tom answered, that if it is
true-and I suppose it is-somebody must have
placed the birds there for the sake of doing me an
injury. I know nothing whatever about them. I
never tasted a pheasant in my life."
Oh, no !" said the Squire, sneeringly, "nor you
never wired a hare, nor shot so much as a partridge
in your life, I'll warrant !"
No," said Tom, I never did."
I thought so. Constable, produce the fellow's
gun, and the stock of snares found in his house."
On hearing these words Tom's cheerful courage
and self-confidence almost forsook him. For some
days past he had hardly thought of the snares and
gun left in the loft; and when he now saw them,
laid on the table by the side of the birds, he
became at once aware of his own folly, and of the
force with which the fact of their being found
in his possession would tell against his character.
But, conscious of his innocence, he stood prepared
to answer any questions that should be put to him.
"Perhaps," said the Squire, "as you deny all
knowledge of the birds, you will pretend to know
nothing of these things either."
No," said Tom, I shall not; I placed them
myself in the loft where they were found; but they
are not my property, and I have never made use
Not your property! pray whose property are
they, then ?"
Tom stood silent for a moment-. If he said they
were Will Sprague's, he should disgrace himself by
becoming an informer, which he was resolved not
to be; instead of answering the question, he
avoided it, and, after thinking a few moments,
said, "I found the snares and the gun in the
copse; the snares were set in the runs when I
pulled them up, and I found the gun next morning
on my way to work."
And pray when was that?"
Tom named the exact date.
And you have said nothing about it from that
time to this! I submit, gentlemen," the Squire
.continued, lo-.o ii round upon those present,
'*," that this is too lame a story to be allowed to
pass. And now I think of it, there is another
thing I should like to know : Constable, you
were present, I believe, at the fire at Eleven Acres
the other night?"
"I was," said old Dawkins.
"Now, answer me one question Was this
young fellow, Butler, also present ? "
I didn't see him," said the old man.
"Which means that you don't want to say he
was not there, because you are a friend of the
family-is not that it ?"
Tomn Butlcr's Trouble.
I will answer the question myself," said Tom;
"I was not there."
"I thought not--you were otherwise employed,
doubtless; you will recollect, gentlemen, that it
was during the fire that the preserves were plun-
dered. Here is evidence proving that the prisoner
keeps a gun and wires for hares; he is absent when
all the other able-bodied men in the village are
present endeavouring to put out the fire, and he
has game in his possession-game which is, in all
likelihood, a part of the plunder of that night,
and concerning which he can give no reasonable
account. I submit that here is a clear case for
committal. The magistrates will meet to-morrow
at Balston. You, officers, will take the prisoner
to the lock-up for to-night, and bring him before
the court to-morrow morning, when the evidence
will be taken on oath, and I have no doubt the
offender will be fully committed for trial."
This decision of Squire Barker's was not so well
received as he seemed to expect it would be.
There were several persons present who, in spite
of all appearances against him, felt that Tom
Butler might yet be innocent; among them were
Farmer Sorrel, and his son, Mr. Frank-the former
of whom had known the Butlers from their in-
fancy. The farmer stood forward, and in a
respectful manner proposed that the young man
should not be sent to the lock-up, but allowed to
go home, the farmer himself offering to be respon-
sible for his appearance at Balston on the morrow.
But this proposal only aroused the anger of the
Squire, who would not listen to it for a moment.
He declared that the notion was absurd, and that
he should not be justified in giving way to it. As if
fearful that his orders might be disobeyed, he
directed the officers at once to take charge of the
prisoner, and march him off and it was not until
he had seen them on their way to the lock-up,
which stood in the middle of the village, close to
the old inn, that he called for his horse, and rode
off towards the hall.
Ill news ever travels fast. Before the hour when,
in the ordinary course of things, Tom Butler would
have reached his home, his mother and sister were
aware that they need not expect to see him that
night. A crowd of the villagers had followed him
to the lock-up, and a party of gossips had made it
their business to carry the news to widow Butler,
and to impart it, together with such questionable
condolences and show of sympathy as are gene-
rally exhibited by ignorant and heedless persons in
the hour of misfortune. The widow heard them in
silence. She had not been unprepared for the
blow, but it staggered and almost stunned her,
nevertheless; and she sat in a kind of stupor amid
Tom Butler's Trouble.
the so-called friends, whose chattering tongues only
aggravated her suffering. By and by old Dawkins
came in, and seeing how it was, he cleared the
house-room of the gossips, under the pretence of
its being necessary that he should have a private
talk with the prisoner's mother; and then the
honest old fellow set about trying to assuage her
grief. He assured her of his belief in Tom's inno-
cence, and stated his conviction that Farmer Sorrel,
and others who had been present at the exami-
nation, were of the same opinion. "And now,"
said he, I am off to the Rectory, to let Mary
know what has happened. It is better that she
should hear the truth of the business from me, than
be tormented by the lying reports which will be
sure to get abroad before long."
The good dame thanked him for this kind office,
and begged him to tell Mary to come and see her
as soon as she could be spared. Then she was glad
to see him depart, and to be left alone. Her grief
was great, but her indignation was greater; and with
both there was a feeling of gratitude, deep down in
her heart, that this sorrow was not an unbearable
sorrow, but one which she felt must pass away
sooner or later-so certain was she of her son's in-
tegrity and uprightness. She knew where to carry
her troubles and whence to derive consolation; and,
with a fervent prayer to God for resignation to His
will, she took her Bible from the shelf, and, light-
ing her candle, sat down to derive fresh comfort
from the source which, in all the troubles of her
life, she had never known to fail.
But where was Martha, who should have shared
her mother's burden in this time of trial? Poor
Martha if her mother's woe was a heavy one, hers
was still heavier, and, considering her youth and
inexperience, much harder to be borne. Ever
since the departure of the officers, she had been
restless, agitated, and at times almost incapable of
self-control; quite unable to sit to work, she wan-
dered about the house and garden, affecting to be
quiet and calm in the presence of others, but when
alone, giving way to the expression of feelings she
could not master. She had learned the fact of her
brother's committal to prison before it was made
known to her mother, and on hearing it had rushed
through the garden, and plunged into the copse, as
if with the purpose of escaping from some cruel
blow she could not endure to meet. What was the
reason that Martha's affliction under this trouble
was so severe ?
To answer this question, we must go back to the
evening before, when Tom, on returning home by
the back way, had found his sister in conversation
with Harry Sprague. Harry was accustomed to
meet with Martha by appointment in the plot of
76 Tom Butlecr's Trouble.
waste-ground at the end of the garden-a practice,
by the way, to which Martha had but half con-
sented, and to which she had conformed rather from
her daily habit of taking a turn in the garden at
dusk, "between the lights," than from any pleasure
in secret meetings. Now, it happened that on the
night before, when she and Harry had been sur-
prised by Tom, she had made no appointment with
her lover, and had no expectation of seeing him
when she took her usual walk. But on approaching
the end of the garden, she was aware of a dim
figure stooping over the very spot where the phea-
sants were afterwards found. On her calling out
"Who is there?" Harry himself came forward.
She thought at the time that he seemed a little
confused, and in a jocular way she taxed him with
it; but the thought vanished almost instantly from
her mind, and did not recur again. She had been
angry with her brother when he had demanded that
she should give up Harry, and still more angry
when he had insinuated that there were things
against his character, and yet would not reveal
what those things were; and she had cherished her
anger all night, and part of next day, with a sort of
feeling that in so doing she was defending one
wrongly accused. But when the detective brought
in the pheasants from the garden that morning, and
described where he had found them; when she saw
them wrapped in fern-leaves-the vision of Harry,
bending over the spot the night before, and then
coming towards her with a srig of fern in his hand,
flashed upon her at once with a force she could
not resist. She made the man repeat his statement,
and then, unable to bear the hateful suspicion of
her 'lover's baseness, she gave way to that burst of
feeling which startled her mother, and may have
astonished the reader quite as much.
In an unfrequented path in the copse, Martha
walked hurriedly up and down, tormented with sus-
picions and anxieties, and burning with indignation
against those, whoever they might be, who had
brought this trouble upon their peaceful home.
Here, for the first time since the surprise of the
morning, she was able to collect her thoughts, and
to judge with some degree of calmness on the
events )f the day. That her brother, whom she
really loved and admired, striving to follow his
example in many things, was forcibly led away to
the disgraceful confinement of a prison, though it
wounded her self-respect and aroused her sympa-
thies for him, did not occasion her any profound
sorrow. She was as certain that in the. end his
innocence would appear, as that the sun would
rise to-morrow. But the fearful suspicion which
had haunted her all day-the suspicion that it was
Harry Sprague who had hidden the pheasants
Tom Butler's Trouble.
where the officer found them-this it was that
caused her misery and perplexity, and led her, instead
of endeavouring to cheer and comfort her mother,
rather to seek any opportunity of avoiding her pre-
sence. Now, in her solitude, she recalled the
events of last night. What," she asked herself,
" was Harry doing in the garden when I first saw
him ?-why was he confused when I spoke ? If he
really was concealing the birds, what was his rea-
son for doing so?" Then she thought he could
have had no other design than that of bringing Tom
into disgrace. But why should he be Tom's ene-
my ? It was true that Tom had rather shunned than
sought his society, and was, she thought, prejudiced
against him: but would Harry stoop to so base
a revenge for so slight a cause? No, no-she
wouldn't think it. But was there any other cause ?
Were there really serious things against Harry's
character ? Did he know that her brother was aware
of them ? and had he taken this method to destroy
the force of Tom's testimony in case he should
have to give it ? This was the most terrible thought
of all! Poor Martha! it is no wonder that she
wrung her hands, and murmured to herself, What
can I do? What ought I to do?" The more she
thought over all the circumstances, the stronger
grew her conviction, in spite of her efforts to drive
it away, that it must have been Harry who placed
the pheasants where they were found. Too sorrow-
fully certain of this, she said at length, half aloud,
" I will charge him with it to his face ; he shall dis-
prove it, or confess it, when we meet again."
When Martha returned to the cottage, she found
Mary West just arrived, she having obtained leave
of absence as soon as old Dawkins had communi-
cated his unwelcome news. Shocked as Mary was
herself at what she heard, she was yet by no means
cast down, as she would have been had she had no
previous knowledge of the way in which Tom had
acted in the affair of the snares and the gui. Tom
had cautioned her to use a discreet reserve in regard
to that business, but he had not bound her down
to complete silence; and Mary wisely considered
herself entitled to use her own discretion now, see-
ing how things had unfortunately turned out. So,
suppressing for the time her anxieties, she bade the
widow be of good cheer, and not be in despair-
" Mother," she said, with a smile, "you know sor-
row shall endure for a night, but joy cometh in the
"I do know it, thank God," said the dame; I
have known that all my life, for it is told me here;
but Mary, dear, you seem to have some particular
reason why it should be so now."
"Indeed I have, and you and Martha shall hear
what it is."
Tom Butler's Trouble.
Then Mary told what she knew of the finding of
the snares, to which she might be said, in a man-
ner, to have been a witness; and also what Tom
had told her of his finding the gun next morning,
and putting it along with the snares in the loft.
"And, mother," she went on, "you know that last
week dear Tom went to Somerton to see his uncle."
Yes," said the dame, that was the same night
as the fire in the Eleven Acres."
But you didn't know the reason why he wanted
to see his uncle just then. It was partly on my
account that he went. I didn't like his having those
mischievous things in his possession; and Tom
went to Somerton with the intention of consulting
Mr. Pearce on the matter, and getting his advice as
to what he had better do with them."
It is a pity he did not find his uncle at home."
"It was; but even that may turn out for the
best; do not be cast down. I will tell you what I
have been thinking of as I came along: I am under
no obligation to conceal what I know; and now, as
silence would do no good, and might only aggravate
our trouble, I have half determined to lay the
matter before my mistress, and ask her advice.
She, of course, would tell the Rector, and then
we should, at least, know what it is right and
proper should be done. What do you say to it ?"
Tell her, by all means," said the dame; "they
know my Tom too well, I trust, to think he would
turn to poaching; and just now we cannot have too
Mary now got up to go, and, with kind farewells,
left the cottage. She had scarcely departed, when
Fred came in, after a hard day's work at Farmer
Southarn's. Miother," said he, some of our fellows
have been trying to frighten me with a eock-and-
a-bull story of our Tom's being taken up for poach-
ing. Of course I didn't believe it; but do you know
what it all means?"
Fred had now to hear the history of the troubles
which his mother and sister had gone through since
the morninIg, and was told in detail all that had
taken place. The boy flew into a passion on hear-
ing that his brother was in confinement, and could
hardly be prevented from rushing off to the lock-up
to see him.
"That will be of no use," said his mother; "Daw-
kins will see that he wants for nothing to-night,
and I shall be with him the first thing in the
Why," said Fred, scornfully, as for the gun, I
know who that belongs to well enough; and I've
no doubt the same fellow owns the snares, if the
truth was known; and I shouldn't wonder if it was
he that planted the birds in our garden, to stave off
suspicion from himself."
82 Tom Butler's Trouble.
"Who is it that owns the gun, then ?" said Mar-
tha, who had been listening with parted lips to this
loud-voiced speech of Fred's.
Who is it ?" said he, why it's big Will Sprague,
you may be sure, and nobody else. There's nobody
in Stowford that keeps a gun but he-leastways, ex-
cept the innkeeper and the gentlefolks; and I
shouldn't have known that Sprague kept one, only
last Thursday night, as I was in the Somerton road,
I met Harry Sprague, and he had something in a
sack under his arm; and when I asked him what it
was, he laughed, and said he'd shoot me if I didn't
mind: then he pulled out, first the stock, and then
the barrel of a gun, and put 'em together, and he
took some caps out of his pocket, and begins a-
snapping 'em at me, thinking to frighten me. When
we got near Stowford, he took the gun to pieces
again, and put it in the bag; and he said it was his
father's gun, and I wasn't to tell-but I didn't pro-
mise, and I shall tell if I like."
These words of Fred, if they were but in some
measure a confirmation of Martha's worst fears,
served, at least, to strengthen her in the resolution
she had formed of forcing Harry to the confession
of the truth the next time she saw him.
That night dame Butler did not ask either of her
children to read the customary chapter in the Bible;
she opened the sacred volume herself, and read the
More Troubles. 83
hundred and twenty-first Psalm; and, kneeling
down, she did not open the prayer-book, but poured
out a few simple petitions from the fulness of her
There was not much of that peaceful sleep they
had been so long accustomed to enjoy in the cottage
of the Butlers that night.
Tom Butler's Trouble.
TRUTH AND FALSEHOOD.
WHEN the examination of Tom came off before
the magistrates on the following morning, the evi-
dence against him 'appeared even stronger than it
had done the day before. The London officers,
accustomed to press every trifling circumstance
against accused persons, and to give weight to acts
which others deem entirely unimportant, had got
together other items which added force to the grave
testimony afforded by the discoveries made in his
own home. They brought people to prove that
Tom was often seen wandering about the copse;
that he had been observed to step out of the way
and hide himself from passengers traversing the
bridle-path; and that it was generally about the
dusk of evening that he had been thus observed.
Then the hare-skin was produced and examined,
with the intention of proving that the animal had
been wired ; but, as shot-holes were found in it, this
attempt broke down, and instead of injuring, might
have benefited the prisoner, had not the Squire
remarked rather sharply that, as a loaded gun was
Truth and Falsehood. 85
found as well as snares, the man could kill his
game as he chose, and the manner of his doing it
was of no importance whatever.
The result was, what nearly every one expected,
that Tom Butler was committed to prison on a
charge of poaching, and would have to lie there
until his trial came on. This was a sad affliction
for his family, and, notwithstanding their confidence
in his innocence and uprightness, they found it
hard to bear. But harder still, and infinitely more
annoying to their peace of mind, was the fact which
they were not long of learning, that nearly every-
body in Stowford seemed to have arrived at the
conclusion that Tom was really guilty of the of-
fences charged against him. They could not under-
stand this : they failed to realize the force which
the evidence adduced must have upon the minds
of persons less interested than they were, or not
interested at all, in the welfare of the accused;
and they did not take into account sufficiently that
hateful side of human nature which leads people to
concur in the misfortunes and disgraces of their
neighbours with complacency and satisfaction.
The widow, who idolized her son, suffered more
from this than either Martha or Fred. She had to
suffer in silence, for she felt she could not stoop to
vindicate one who needed no apology, but only
simple justice ; while Martha found a sort of com-
Tom Butler's Trouble.
fort in the secret resolution she had formed, of
getting at the truth through Harry; and Fred gave
vent to his indignation, in loud assertions of Tom's
innocence, and in something very like abuse of those
who dared to question it in his hearing.
On the very day of the committal, when the
prisoner had been driven off to the county gaol,
Martha, as the afternoon drew on, took her work
to his now deserted room, which overlooked the
garden. She had a secret presentiment that Harry
would come and endeavour to see her, and she had
sternly resolved, if he did come, to do her utmost
to wring the truth from him, whatever it should cost.
She sat in the cold, for November had come in
with a frosty air, and plied her needle until the
light failed her, and then, peering through the little
muslin blind, looked wistfully, and listened eagerly
in anxious expectation. The sere leaves from the
neighboring wood came driving along the garden
path, and now and then pattered against the case-
ment; and a saucy redbreast, whom she had petted
and fed for many a winter, flew down, with a song,
and perched upon her window-sill. But these
gentle sounds annoyed her; she wished the wind
would not scatter the leaves, and, tapping the glass
with her thimble, she drove away the robin. The
sun had gone down in the south-west, and over the
narrow bar of light, which marked his resting-place,
Truth aznd Falsehood.
the dim wintry clouds were settling, when the
shrill, chaffering note of a blackbird in sudden
flight came clear and full upon her ear. In an
instant she rose, and, throwing a shawl over her
head and shoulders, descended to the garden,
tripped along the middle path, to the patch of waste
at the end, where stood Harry awaiting her. He
held out his hand as she approached him, but
Martha, clutching the ends of the shawl in her
hands, had her arms folded, and did not accept
his proffered grasp.
"I thought you would come to-night, Harry,"
she said: "of course you know the trouble that is
come upon us ?"
"Yes," he answered, "I couldn't help knowing
of it-it's in everybody's mouth."
But you don't believe that Tom is guilty,
Harry ? "
Guilty !-that's a hard word for making free
with a hare or a pheasant, that belongs as much to
one man as another : for my part, I don't see much
guilt in it; there's many does it, and thought none
the worse of."
"But you know that Tom wouldn't do it; that
he doesn't think in that way about it ? "
"Well, I did think so, I must confess; but what
is one to think when game is found on the premises,
and he keeps a gun and wires ? "
Tom Butler's Trouble.
The gun and the wires Tom found in the copse,
and as for the birds, he never brought them here;
he never saw them until they were produced against
him. Harry Sprague, mark what I say you know
more about the birds found here than my brother
does ; for as sure as I am standing here, I solemnly
believe it was you who put them where the officers
found them. Tell me the truth about it, Harry-
don't be mean enough to lie about it, and make
me hate you "
Martha said this rapidly, and with extreme earn-
estness, while her whole frame shook with agitation.
The young man, startled at her manner, flushed
and looked confused, and was, for a moment,
thrown off his guard; but recovering himself, he
said, with assumed indignation :-
Me Martha Butler what should I know
about it? Why should I hide game on other
people's grounds ?"
That's what I want to know," Martha replied,
"and what I must know. You came here that
night without my expecting you; it was a chance
my seeing you at all, and when I saw you first, you
were doing something in the place where the birds
were found. When I called out, you came towards
me with a fern-leaf in your hand-the birds were
wrapped in fern. Harry Sprague, it was you that
put them there !"
Tnut/i and Falsehood.
"You've settled it all in your own mind," said
Harry, doggedly, at least so it seems, and if so,
it's no use my saying anything to the contrary; but
that don't prove that I did it."
You haven't the face to deny it, Harry Sprague.
I am glad of that, at least."
But I do deny it-I deny all about it, Martha
Butler; I never brought birds to your place; I've
never seen the birds that was found here."
Martha, revolted at these words, which her heart
told her were false, turned and retreated rapidly
towards the cottage. The young man did not
attempt to detain her, but stood for a few moments
spitefully breaking to pieces a switch which he
usually carried; and then, as she vanished from
sight, leaped the low fence, and disappeared in the
direction of his home.
Martha's instinct was right. Harry, driven to
his last resource, had lied, as boldly and as roundly
as he could, but the lie had not deceived her,
though it had tortured her cruelly. The pain she
now suffered was a sad revelation to her of the
real state of her feelings with regard to the young
man whose preference she had imagined she held
so lightly. But she was a brave girl, strong in her
hatred of falsehood and deceit, and too firm in
principle to be the slave of impulse. That was
the last interview she ever had with Harry Sprague.
Tomn Butler's Trouble.
And yet Harry, liar though he had proved in this
instance, was not quite so graceless a fellow as the
reader may, perhaps, suppose him to be. It is true
he had hidden the pheasants in Tom's garden, but
he had done it with no motive of doing any injury
to Tom Butler, with whom, indeed, on Martha's
account, he would much rather have been friendly.
He had done it simply in obedience to his father.
The fact was, that Will had latterly been playing
a rather desperate game. Incensed by the failure
of the last nocturnal expedition, when he had lost
his gun, and driven, by stress of poverty, to get
money by some means or other, he had devised a
bolder plan for plundering the Squire's preserves,
and thus realizing a round sum. Fearful that he
might already lie under suspicion, he had decided
not to join in the poaching expedition himself, but
undertook to make the ground clear for his com-
rades, by drawing the attention of the watchers to
another quarter. With this view he had not hesi-
tated to fire the wheat rick in the Eleven Acres,
and it was agreed among the band that the rising
of the flames was to be the signal for the starting
of the gang for the preserves. The plot succeeded,
as the reader knows, and all suspicion of Will
Sprague's being concerned in it was necessarily
set aside by his presence at the fire, and the won-
derful daring and alacrity he had displayed in