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Thou trust'st a villain, he will take thy hand
And use it for his own; yet when the brand
Hows the dishonor'd member—not his loss—
Thou art the victim!

The Flight.

When Pickett returned to his hovel on leaving
John Hurdis, his wife abruptly addressed him thus:

“Look you, Ben, John Hurdis comes after no
good to night. I see it in that smile he has. I know
there's mischief in his eye. He laughs but he does
not look on you while he laughs—it isn't an honest
laugh as if the heart was in it, and as if he wasn't
afraid to have every thing known in his heart. He's
a bad man, Ben, whatever other people may think;
and though he has helped you once or twice, I don't
think him any more certain your friend for all
that. He only wants to make use of you, and if
you let him go too far, Ben, mark my words, he'll
leave you one day in a worse hobble than ever he
helped you out of.”

“Pshaw, Betsy, how you talk—you've a spite


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against John Hurdis, and that's against reason too.
You forget how he saved me from his brother.”

“No, I do not forget it, Ben. He did no more
than any man should have done, who saw a dozen
about to trample upon one. He saved you, it is
true, but he has made you pay him for it. He
has made you work for him long enough for it, high
and low, playing a dirty sort of a game, carrying
letters to throw in people's paths, there's no
knowing for what; and telling you what to say
in people's ears, when you havn't always been certain
that you've been speaking truth when you did so.
I don't forget that he served you, Ben, but I also
know that you are serving him day and night in return.
Besides, Ben, what he did for you was what
one gentleman might readily do for another—I'm
not sure that what he makes you do for him isn't
rascal work.”

“Hush!” said Pickett, in a whisper, “you talk
too loud. Is Jane asleep?”

The watchful idiot, with the cunning of imbecility
which still has its object, closed her eyes, and put
on the appearance of one lost to all consciousness.

“Yes, she's asleep; but what if she does hear us?
She's our own child, though not a wise one, and it
will be hard if we can't trust ourselves to speak before
her,” said the mother.

“But there's something, Betsy, that we shouldn't
speak at all before any body.”


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“I hope the business of John Hurdis aint of that
character, Ben Pickett,” she retorted quickly.

“And what if it is?” he replied.

“Why then, Ben, you should have nothing to do
with it, if you'll mind what I'm telling you. John
Hurdis will get you into trouble. He's a bad man.”

“What, for helping me out of trouble?”

“No, but for hating his own brother as he does,
his own flesh and blood as I may say, the child that
has suckled at the same nipple with himself; and
what's worse, for fearing the man he hates. Now,
I say that the hate is bad enough and must lead to
harm; but when he's a coward that hates, then nothing's
too bad for him to do, provided he can keep
from danger when he does it. That's the man to
light the match, and run away from the explosion.
He'll make you the match, and he'll take your fingers
to light it, and then take to his own heels and
leave you all the danger.”

“Pshaw, Betsy, you talk like a woman and a
child,” said Pickett with an air of composure and
indifference which he was far from feeling.

“And so I do, Ben; and if you'll listen to a woman's
talk, it will be wise. It would have saved
you many times before, and it may do much to save
you now. Why should you do any business that
you're afraid to lay out to me. There must be
something wrong in it, I'm sure; and it can't be no


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small wrong neither, Ben; that you're afraid to tell
me. What should the rich 'Squire Hurdis want of
Ben Pickett the squatter? Why should he come
palavering you, and me, and that poor child with
fine words; and what can we, poor and mean and
hated as we are by every body, what can we do for
so great a man as him. I tell you, Ben Pickett, he
wants you to do dirty work, that he's ashamed and
afraid to do himself. That's it, Ben; and there's
no denying it. Now, why should you do his dirty
work? He's better able to do it himself, he's rich
enough to do almost what he pleases; and you, Ben,
you're too poor to do even what is proper. These
rich men ask what right a poor man has to be good
and honest; they expect him to be a rascal.”

“Well,” said the other sulkily, “we ought to be
so then, if it's only to oblige them.”

“No, Ben Pickett, we ought hardly to oblige
them in any thing; but, whether we would oblige
them or not, my notion is, we ought to keep different
tracks from them altogether. If we are too mean
and poor, to be seen by them without turning up
their noses, let us take care not to see them at any
time, or if we do see them, let us make use of our
eyes to take different tracks from them. There's
always two paths in the world, the one's a big path
for big people; let them have it to themselves, and
let us keep off it; the other's a little path for the


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little, let them stick to it and no jostling. It's the
misfortune of poor people that they're always poking
into the wrong path, trying to swell up to the
size of the big, and making themselves mean by doing
so. No wonder the rich despise such people.
I despise them myself, though God knows I'm one
of the poorest.”

“I'm not one to poke in big paths,” said Pickett.

“No! But why do big folks come out of their
road into yours, Ben Pickett? I'll tell you. Because
they think they can buy you to go into any
path, whether big or little, high or low, clean or
dirty. John Hurdis says in his heart, I'm rich;
Pickett's poor;—my riches can buy his poverty to
clean the road for me where it's dirty. Isn't that it,
Ben Pickett?”

The keen gray eyes of the woman were fixed on
him with a glance of penetration, as she spoke these
words, that seemed to search his very soul. The
eyes of Pickett shrank from beneath their stare.

“Betsy, you're half a witch,” he exclaimed with
an effort at jocularity which was not successful.

“I knew it was something like that, Ben Pickett.
John Hurdis would never seek you, except when
he had dirty work on hand. Now, what's the work,
Ben Pickett?”

“That's his secret, Betsy; and you know I can't
tell you what concerns only another and not us.”


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“It concerns you; it is your secret too; Ben
Pickett—it is my secret—it is the secret of that
poor child.”

The speaker little knew that the idiot was keenly
listening. She continued:

“If it's to do his work, and if it's work done in
his name, work that you won't be ashamed of, and
he won't be ashamed of when it's done, Ben Pickett,
then it's all right enough. You may keep his secret
and welcome; I would not turn on my heel to know
it. But if it's dirty work that you'll both be ashamed
of, such as carrying stories to Mary Easterby, who
is a good girl, and deserves the best; then it's but
too much of that sort of work you've done already.”

“It's nothing like that,” said Pickett quickly.
“But don't bother me any more about it, Betsy; for
if you were to guess a hundred times, and guess
right, I shouldn't tell you. So have done and go to

“Ben Pickett, I warn you, take care what you
do. This man, John Hurdis, is too strong for you.
He's winning you fast, he'll wrong you soon. You're
working for him too cheaply; he'll laugh at you
when you come for pay; and may be, put to your
own account the work you do on his. Beware,
look what you're about, keep your eyes open; for I
see clear as day light, that you're in a bad way.
The work must be worse than dirty you're going


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upon now, when you are so afraid to speak of it to

“I tell you, Betsy, shut up. It's his business
not mine, and I'm not free to talk of it even to you.
Enough that I don't work for nothing. The worst
that you shall know of it will be the money it will

“The devil's money blisters the fingers. And
what's money to me, Ben Pickett, or what is money
to you? What can money do for us? Can it make
men love us and seek us? Can it bring us pride and
character? Can it make me forget the scorn that
I've been fed on from the time I was a simpler child,
than that poor idiot in the corner? Can it bring sense
into her mind, and make us proud of her? Can it
make you forget or others forget, Ben Pickett, that
you have been hauled to the whipping post, and
saved from it only to be the slave of a base coward,
such as John Hurdis has ever been, and ever will

“No more of that, Betsy, if you please. You are
quite too fond of bringing up that whipping post.”

“And if I do, it has its uses. I wish you would
think of it half as frequently, Ben Pickett; you
would less frequently stand in danger of it. But I
speak of it, because it is one of the black spots in my
memory—like the lack of that child—like the scorn
of those around us—like every thing that belongs to


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us, as we are living now. Why will you not go as
I wish you, away from this neighbourhood? Let us
go to the Red River where we know no body; where
no body knows us. Let us go among the savages,
if you please, Ben Pickett, where I may see none of
the faces that remind me of our shame.”

“Why, so we will. Just as you say, Betsy. I
will but do some business that I'm bound for, that
will give us money to go upon and then—”

“No, don't wait for that. Let the money stay;
we have enough to carry us to the Red River, and
we shall want but little of it there. When you talk
to me of money you vex me. We have no use for
it. We want hominy only, and homespun. These
are enough to keep from cold and hunger. To use
more money, Ben Pickett, we must be good and
conscious of good. We must not stand in fear and
shame, to meet other than our own eyes. I have
that fear and shame, Ben Pickett; and this dirty
business of John Hurdis—it must be dirty since it
must be a secret—makes me feel new fear of what is
to come; and I feel shame even to sickness as I think
upon it. Hear me, Ben; hear me while it is in time
for me to speak. There may not be time to-morrow,
and if you do not listen to me now, you might
listen another day in vain. Drop this business of
John Hurdis—”

“I've promised him.”


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“Break your promise.”

“No! d—d if I do that!”

“And why not? There's no shame in breaking
a bad promise. There's shame and cowardice in
keeping it.”

“I'm no coward, Betsy.”

“You are! You're afraid to speak the truth to me,
to your wife and child. I dare you to wake up that
poor idiot and say to her, weak and foolish as she is,
the business you're going on for John Hurdis. You'd
fear that, in her very ignorance, she would tell you
that your intention was crime!”


“Ay, crime—lies perhaps in a poor girl's ear—theft
perhaps—the robbery of some traveller on the highway;
perhaps—perhaps—Oh, Ben Pickett, my husband,
I pray to God, it be not murder!”

“Damnation, woman! will you talk all night?”
cried the pale and quivering felon in a voice of thunder.
“To bed, I say, and shut up. Let us have no
more of this.”

The idiot girl started in terror from her mattress.

“Lie down, child; what do you rise for?”

The stern manner of her father frightened her
into obedience, and she resumed her couch, wrapping
the coverlet over her head, and thus, hiding her
face and hushing her sobs at the same moment. The


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wife concluded the dialogue by a repetition of her
exhortation in brief.

“Once more, Ben, I warn you. You are in danger.
You will tell me nothing; but you have told
me all. I know you well enough to know that you
have sold yourself to do wrong—that John Hurdis
has bought you to do that which he has not the
courage to do himself—”

“Yet you say I am a coward.”

“I say so still. I wish you were brave enough
to want no more money than you can honestly get;
and when a richer man than yourself comes to buy
you to do that which he is too base to do himself,
to take him by the shoulder and tumble him from
the door. Unfortunately you have courage enough
to do wrong—there's a greater courage than that, Ben
Pickett, that strengthens even a starving man to do

Pickett felt that he had not this courage, and his
wife had before this discovered that the power was
not in her to endow him with it. Both parties were
compelled, when they discovered the idiot girl to
be awake and watchful, to forego their discussion of
the subject for the night; and when the woman did
resume it, which she did with a tenacity of purpose,
worthy of a more ostentatious virtue; she was only
successful in arousing that sort of anger in her companion,


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which is but too much the resort of the wilful
when the argument goes against them. It was
more easy for Pickett, with the sort of courage which
he possessed, to do wrong than right, and having
once resolved to sin, the exhortations of virtue were
only so many suggestions to obstinacy. With a
warmth and propriety infinitely beyond her situation
did the wife plead; but her earnestness, though
great, was not equal to the doggedness of his resolve.
She was compelled to give up the cause in despair.