The invitation was accepted forthwith, and when Captain Hulbert dropped in at teatime it was discovered that he, too, had been asked, and that he meant to accept, if his friends at the Angler’s Nest were to be there.
A thunderbolt fell upon the little village on the following Sunday. When the old men and women, creeping to church a little in advance of younger legs, came to the church-path, they found the gate locked against them, locked and barricaded with bars which looked as if they were meant to last till the final cataclysm. The poor old creatures looked up wonderingly at a newly-painted board, on which the more intelligent among them spelt out the following legend—
“This wood is the private property of J. Vansittart Crowther, Esq. Trespassers will be prosecuted.”
Martin Disney and his wife and sister came up when a little crowd of men, women, and children, numbering about thirty, had assembled round the gate, all in their Sunday best.
“What’s the meaning of this?” asked Disney.
“Ah, colonel, that’s what we all want to know,” replied old Manley, the village carpenter, a bent and venerable figure, long past work. “I’m over eighty, but I never remember that gate being locked as long as I have lived at Trelasco, and that’s all my life, colonel. There’s always been a right of way through that wood.”
“And there always shall be,” answered Martin Disney. “We won’t take any violent 长沙夜网论坛注册 measures to-day, my friends—[Pg 164]first because it is Sunday, and next because one should always try fair means before one tries foul. I shall write to Mr. Crowther to-morrow, asking him civilly to open that gate. If he refuses, I’ll have it opened for him, and I’ll take the consequences of the act. Now, my good friends, you’d better go to church by the road. You’ll get there after the service has begun. Wait till the congregation are standing up, and then go into church all together, so that everybody may understand why and by whose fault it is that you are late.”
The appearance of this large contingent after the first lesson created considerable surprise, and much turning of heads and rustling of bonnet-strings in the echoing old stone church. Mr. Crowther stood in his pew of state on one side of the chancel, and felt that 长沙桑拿哪里好推荐 the war had begun. Everybody was against him in the matter, he knew; but he
wanted to demonstrate the rich man’s right to do what he liked with the things which he had bought. The wood was his, and he did not mean to let the whole parish tramp across it.
He received a stiffly polite letter from Colonel Disney, requesting him to re-open the church-path without loss of time, and informing him of the great inconvenience caused to the older and weaker members of the congregation by the illegal closing of the path during church hours.
Mr. Crowther sent his reply by the colonel’s messenger. He asserted his right to shut up the wood which formed a part of his estate, and positively refused to re-open the gate at either end of the footpath in question.
Captain Hulbert dropped in at his usual hour, eager to know the progress of 长沙桑拿论坛 the fight. Fight there must be, he was assured, having seen something of Mr.
Crowther’s bulldog temper. Then, in the drawing-room of the Angler’s Nest, there was hatched a terrible plot—a Catiline conspiracy in a tea-cup—Allegra listening and applauding while the two men plotted.
That night, when the village was hushed in sleep, a boatful of sailors landed at the little hard near the railway[Pg 165] station at Fowey, and half a dozen stalwart blue-jackets might have been seen tramping along the old railway track to Trelasco, one carrying a crowbar, another a carpenter’s basket. And under the autumn stars that night in the woods of Glenaveril, while Vansittart Crowther slept the sleep of the just man who payeth his twenty shillings in the pound, there rose the sound of a sea-song and the cheery chorus of the sailors, with a 长沙桑拿论坛sn rhythmic accompaniment of hammering; and lo, when the October morning visited those yellowing woods, and when Mr. Crowther’s gamekeeper went on his morning round, the gate at either end of the church path was wrenched off its hinges, and was lying on the ground. Staple and bolt, padlock and iron hinges, were lying among the dewy dock-leaves and the yellowing fern; and there was free passage between the village of Trelasco and the House of God.
Vansittart Crowther went to Plymouth by the first train that could convey him, and there consulted the lawyer most in renown among the citizens; and that gentleman, after due thought and consideration, informed him that the closing of such an old-established right of way as that of the church-path was more than any landowner durst attempt. Whatever omission there might be in the title-deeds, 长沙桑拿会所价格行情 he had bought the estate subject to that old right of way, which had been enjoyed by the parish from time immemorial. He could no more shut it off than he could wall out the sky.
“But I can punish the person who pulled the locks off my gates, I conclude?” said Mr. Crowther, swelling with indignation.
“That, of course, is a distinct outrage, for which you may obtain redress, if you can find out who did it.”
“There can be no difficulty about that. The act must have been instigated by the writer of that impertinent letter.”
He pointed to Martin Disney’s letter, lying open on the solicitor’s table.
“Very probably. But you will have to be sure of proving his share in the act if you mean to take proceedings against him.”
Vansittart Crowther was furious. How was he to bring the responsibility of this outrage home to anybody, 长沙桑拿休闲论坛 when the deed had been done in the dead of night, and no mortal eye had seen the depredators at their felonious work? His locks and bolts and hinges, the best of their kind that Sheffield could supply, had been mocked at and made as naught; and all his dumb dogs of serving men and women had been lying in their too comfortable beds, and had heard never a sound of hammer clinking or crowbar striking on iron. There had not been so much as a kitchen-maid afflicted with the tooth-ache, and lying wakeful, to hear the far-off noise of that villainous deed.
Mr. Crowther sent for the police authorities of Fowey, and set his wrongs before them.
“I will give fifty pounds reward to the man who will get me credible evidence as to the person who planned that outrage,” he said. And next day there were bills pasted against divers doors at Fowey 长沙桑拿洗浴中心排名 and Trelasco, against the Mechanics’ Institute, and against that curious old oaken door of a medi?val building opposite the club, which may once have been a donjon, and in sundry other conspicuous places, beginning with “Whereas,” and ending with Vansittart Crowther’s signature.
Nothing came of this splendid offer, though there were plenty of people in the district to whom fifty pounds would have seemed a fortune. Whether no one had seen the crew of the Vendetta landing or re-embarking in the night-time, or whether some wakeful eyes had seen, whose owners would not betray the doers of a deed done in a good cause, still remains unknown. Captain Hulbert was enchanted at the success of the conspiracy, and went to church next Sunday by the now notorious footpath, along which an unusual procession of villagers came streaming in the crisp, clear air, proud to assert a right that had been so boldly maintained by their unnamed but not unknown champion. Every one felt very sure that the flinging open of the gates had been somehow brought about by Martin Disney—Martin, whose[Pg 167] grandfather they could some of them remember, when he came home after the long war with the French, and took up his abode in an old house among the hills, and married a fair young wife. That had happened sixty-five years ago; but there were those in the village who could remember handsome Major Disney, with only one arm, and a face bronzed by the sun that shines on the banks of the Douro.
Captain Hulbert went by the church-path that morning, although it took him ever so far out of his way. He wanted to walk to church with the Disney family, in order to talk over their victory; and the Disneys seemed to-day to resolve themselves into one; and that one was Allegra Leland; for she and the captain walked ahead and discoursed gaily, perhaps in too exultant and worldly a vein for pious church people; but at worst their exultation was in a good cause; for the horn of the lowly was exalted, and the pride of the rich man was brought low.