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´╗┐Title: The Adventures of Harry Revel
Author: Quiller-Couch, Arthur Thomas, Sir, 1863-1944
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Adventures of Harry Revel" ***

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THE ADVENTURES OF HARRY REVEL.

by

ARTHUR THOMAS QUILLER-COUCH.

1903

This e-text prepared from a reprint of a version published in 1903



PREFACE


When I started to set down these early adventures of Harry Revel,
I meant to dedicate them to my friend Mr. W. F. Collier of Woodtown,
Horrabridge: but he died while the story was writing, and now cannot
twit me with the pranks I have played among his stories of bygone
Plymouth, nor send me his forgiveness--as he would have done.
Peace be to him for a lover of Dartmoor and true gentleman of Devon!

So now I have only to beg, by way of preface, that no one will bother
himself by inquiring too curiously into the geography, topography,
etc. of this tale, or of any that I have written or may write.
If these tales have any sense of locality, they certainly will not
square with the ordnance maps; and even the magnetic pole works loose
and goes astray at times--a phenomenon often observed by sailors off
the sea-coast of Bohemia.

It may be permissible to add that the story which follows by no means
exhausts the adventures, civil and military, of Harry Revel.  But the
recital of his further campaigning in company with Mr. Benjamin Jope,
and of the verses in which Miss Plinlimmon commemorated it, will
depend upon public favour.

                                     A.T. QUILLER-COUCH.

THE HAVEN, FOWEY,
March 28th, 1903.



CONTENTS.


Chapter

I.         I FIND MYSELF A FOUNDLING.

II.        I START IN LIFE AS AN EMINENT PERSON.

III.       I AM BOUND APPRENTICE.

IV.        MISS PLINLIMMON.

V.         THE SHADOW OF ARCHIBOLD.

VI.        I STUMBLE INTO HORRORS.

VII.       I ESCAPE FROM THE JEW'S HOUSE.

VIII.      POOR TOM BOWLING.

IX.        SALTASH FERRY.

X.         I GO ON A HONEYMOON.

XI.        FLIGHT.

XII.       I FALL AMONG SMUGGLERS.

XIII.      THE MAN IN THE VERANDAH.

XIV.       THE MOCK-ORANGE BUSH.

XV.        MINDEN COTTAGE.

XVI.       MR. JACK ROGERS AS A MAN OF AFFAIRS.

XVII.      LYDIA BELCHER INTERVENES.

XVIII.     THE OWL'S CRY.

XIX.       CHECKMATE.

XX.        ISABEL'S REVENGE.

XXI.       I GO CAMPAIGNING WITH LORD WELLINGTON.

XXII.      ON THE GREATER TESSON.

XXIII.     IN CIUDAD RODRIGO.

XXIV.      I EXCHANGE THE LAUREL FOR THE OLIVE.



CHAPTER I.


I FIND MYSELF A FOUNDLING.

My earliest recollections are of a square courtyard surrounded by
high walls and paved with blue and white pebbles in geometrical
patterns--circles, parallelograms, and lozenges.  Two of these walls
were blank, and had been coped with broken bottles; a third,
similarly coped, had heavy folding doors of timber, leaden-grey in
colour and studded with black bolt-heads.  Beside them stood a
leaden-grey sentry-box, and in this sat a red-faced man with a wooden
leg and a pigtail, whose business was to attend to the wicket and
keep an eye on us small boys as we played.  He owned two books which
he read constantly: one was Foxe's _Martyrs_, and the other (which
had no title on the binding) I opened one day and found to be
_The Devil on Two Sticks_.

The arch over these gates bore two gilt legends.  That facing the
roadway ran: "_Train up a Child in the Way he should Go,_" which
prepared the visitor to read on the inner side: "_When he is Old he
will not Depart from it._"  But we twenty-five small foundlings, who
seldom evaded the wicket, and so passed our days with the second half
of the quotation, found in it a particular and dreadful meaning.

The fourth and last wall was the front of the hospital, a
two-storeyed building of grey limestone, with a clock and a small
cupola of copper, weather-greened, and a steeply pitched roof of
slate pierced with dormer windows, behind one of which (because of a
tendency to walk in my sleep) I slept in the charge of Miss
Plinlimmon, the matron.  Below the eaves ran a line of eight tall
windows, the three on the extreme right belonging to the chapel; and
below these again a low-browed colonnade, in the shelter of which we
played on rainy days, but never in fine weather--though its smooth
limestone slabs made an excellent pitch for marbles, whereas on
the pebbles in the yard expertness could only be attained by
heart-breaking practice.  Yet we preferred them.  If it did nothing
else, the Genevan Hospital, by Plymouth Dock, taught us to suit
ourselves to the world as we found it.

I do not remember that we were unhappy or nursed any sense of injury,
except over the porridge for breakfast.  The Rev. Mr. Scougall, our
pastor, had founded the hospital some twenty years before with the
money subscribed by certain Calvinistic ladies among whom he
ministered, and under the patronage of a Port Admiral of like belief,
then occupying Admiralty House.  His purpose (to which we had not the
smallest objection) was to rescue us small jetsam and save us from
many dreadful Christian heresies, more especially those of Rome.
But he came from the north of Britain and argued (I suppose) that
what porridge had done for him in childhood it might well do for us--
a conclusion against which our poor little southern stomachs
rebelled.  It oppressed me worse than any, for since the discovery of
my sleep-walking habit my supper (of plain bread and water) had been
docked, so that I came ravenous to breakfast and yet could not eat.

Nevertheless, I do not think we were unhappy.  Perhaps we were too
young, and at any rate we had nothing with which to contrast our lot.
Across the roadway outside lay blue water, and of this and of roving
ships and boats and free passers-by glimpses came to us through the
wicket when Mr. George, the porter (we always addressed him as "Mr."
and supposed him to resemble the King in features), admitted a
visitor, or the laundress, or the butcher's boy.  And sometimes we
broke off a game to watch the topmasts of a vessel gliding by
silently, above the wall's coping.  But if at any time the world
called to us, we took second thoughts, remembering our clothes.

We wore, I dare say, the most infernal costume ever devised by man--a
tightish snuff-coloured jacket with diminutive tails, an orange
waistcoat, snuff-coloured breeches, grey-blue worsted stockings, and
square-toed shoes with iron toe-plates.  Add a flat-topped cap with
an immense leathern brim; add Genevan neck-bands; add, last of all, a
leathern badge with "G.F.H." (Genevan Foundling Hospital) depending
from the left breast-button; and you may imagine with what diffidence
we took our rare walks abroad.  The dock-boys, of course, greeted us
with cries of "Yellow Hammer!"  The butcher-boy had once even dared
to fling that taunt at us within our own yard; and we left him in no
doubt about the hammering, gallant fellow though he was and wore a
spur on his left heel.  But no bodily deformity could have corroded
us as did those thrice-accursed garments with terror of the world
without and of its laughter.

Of a world yet more distant we were taught the gloomiest views.
Twice a week regularly, and incidentally whenever he found occasion,
Mr. Scougall painted the flames of hell for us in the liveliest
colours.  We never doubted his word that our chances of escaping them
were small indeed; but somehow, as life did not allure, so eternity
did not greatly frighten us.  Meanwhile we played at our marbles.
We knew, in spite of the legend over the gateway, that at the age of
ten or so our elder companions disappeared.  They went, as a fact,
into various trades and callings, like ordinary parish apprentices.
Perhaps we guessed this; if so, it must have been vaguely, and I
incline to believe that we confused their disappearance with death in
our childish musings on the common lot.  They never came back to see
us; and I remember that we were curiously shy of speaking about them,
once gone.

From Miss Plinlimmon's window above the eaves I could look over the
front wall on to an edge of roadway, a straight dock like a canal--
crowded with shipping--and a fort which fired a gun in the early
morning and again at sunset.  And every morning, too, the drums would
sound from the hill at our back; and be answered by a soldier, who
came steadily down the roadway beside the dock, halted in front of
our gates, and blew a call on his bugle.  Other bugle-calls sounded
all around us throughout the day and far into our sleep-time: but
this was the only performer I ever saw.  He wore a red coat, a high
japanned hat, and clean white pantaloons with black gaiters: and I
took it for granted that he was always the same soldier.  Yet I had
plenty of opportunities for observing him, for Miss Plinlimmon made
it a rule that I should stand at the window and continue to gaze out
of it while she dressed.

One day she paused in the act of plaiting her hair.  "Harry," said
she, "I shall always think of you and that tune together.  It is
called the Revelly, which is a French word."

"But the soldier is English?" said I.

"Oh, I truly trust so--a heart of oak, I should hope!  England cannot
have too many of them in these days, when a weak woman can scarce lay
herself down in her bed at night with the certainty of getting up in
the same position in the morning."

(They were days when, as I afterwards learnt, Napoleon's troops and
flat-bottomed boats were gathered at Boulogne and waiting their
opportunity to invade us.  But of this scarcely an echo penetrated to
our courtyard, although the streets outside were filled daily with
the tramping of troops and rolling of store-wagons.  We knew that our
country--whatever that might mean--was at war with France, and we
played in our yard a game called "French and English."  That was all:
and Miss Plinlimmon, good soul, if at times she awoke in the night
and shuddered and listened for the yells of Frenchmen in the town,
heroically kept her fears to herself.  This was as near as she ever
came to imparting them.)

"I have often thought of you, Harry," she went on, "as embracing a
military career.  Mr. Scougall very kindly allows me to choose
surnames for you boys when you--when you leave us.  He says (but I
fear in flattery) that I have more invention than he."  And here,
though bound on my word of honour not to look, I felt sure she was
smiling to herself in the glass.  "What would you say if I christened
you Revelly?"

"Oh, please, no!" I entreated.  "Let mine be an English name.
Why--why couldn't I be called Plinlimmon?  I would rather have that
than any name in the world."

"You are a darling!" exclaimed she, much to my surprise; and, the
next moment, I felt a little pecking kiss on the back of my neck.
She usually kissed me at night, after my prayers were said: but
somehow this was different, and it fetched tears to my eyes--greatly
to my surprise, for we were not given to tears at the Genevan
Hospital.  "Plinlimmon is a mountain in Wales, and that, I dare say,
is what makes me so romantic.  Now, you are not romantic in the
least: and, besides, it wouldn't do.  No, indeed.  But you shall be
called by an English name, if you wish, though to my mind there's a
_je ne sais quoi_ about the French.  I once knew a Frenchman, a
writing and dancing master, called Duvelleroy, which always seemed
the beautifullest name."

"Was he beautiful himself?" I asked.

"He used to play a kit--which is a kind of small fiddle--holding it
across his waist.  It made him look as if he were cutting himself in
half; which did not contribute to that result.  But suppose, now, we
call you Revel--Harry Revel?  That's English enough, and will remind
me just the same--if Mr. Scougall will not think it too
Anacherontic."

I saw no reason to fear this: but then I had no idea what she
meant by it, or by calling herself romantic.  She was certainly
soft-hearted.  She possessed many books, as well as an album in her
own handwriting, and encouraged me to read aloud to her on summer
mornings when the sun was up and ahead of us.  And once, in the story
of _Maximilian, or Quite the Gentleman: Founded on Fact and Designed
to excite the Love of Virtue in the Rising Generation_, at a point
where the hero's small brother Felix is carried away by an eagle, she
dissolved in tears.  "In my native Wales," she explained afterwards,
"the wild sheep leap from rock to rock so much as a matter of course
that you would, in time, be surprised if they didn't.  And that
naturally gives me a sympathy with all that is sublime on the one
hand or affecting on the other."

Yet later--but I cannot separate these things accurately in time--I
awoke in my cot one night and heard Miss Plinlimmon sobbing.
The sound was dreadful to me and I longed to creep across the room to
her dark bedside and comfort her; though I could tell she was trying
to suppress it for fear of disturbing me.  In the end her sobs ceased
and, still wondering, I dropped off to sleep, nor next day did I dare
to question her.

But it could not have been long after this that we boys got wind of
Mr. Scougall's approaching marriage with a wealthy lady of the town.
I must speak of this ceremony, because, as the fates ordained, it
gave me my first start in life.



CHAPTER II.


I START IN LIFE AS AN EMINENT PERSON.

Mr. Scougall was a lean, strident man who, if he lectured us
often, whipped us on the whole with judgment and when we deserved it.
So we bore him no grudge.  But neither did we love him nor take any
lively interest in him as a bridegroom, and I was startled to find
these feelings shared by Mr. George in the porter's box when I
discussed the news with him.  "I'm to have a new suit of clothes,"
said Mr. George, "but whoever gets Scougall, he's no catch."
This sounded blasphemous, while it gave me a sort of fearful joy.
I reported it, under seal of secrecy, to Miss Plinlimmon.
"Naval men, my dear Harry," was her comment, "are notoriously blunt
and outspoken, even when retired upon a pension; perhaps, indeed, if
anything, more so.  It is in consequence of this habit that they have
sometimes performed their grandest feats, as, for instance, when
Horatio Nelson put his spy-glass up to his blind eye.  I advise you
to do the same and treat Mr. George as a chartered heart of oak,
without remembering his indiscretions to repeat them."  She went on
to tell me that sailor-men were beloved in Plymouth and allowed to do
pretty well as they pleased; and how, quite recently, a Quaker lady
had been stopped in Bedford Street by a Jack Tar who said he had
sworn to kiss her.  "Thee must be quick about it, then," said the
Quaker lady.  And he was.

I suppose this anecdote encouraged me to be more familiar with Mr.
George.  At any rate, I confided to him next day that I thought of
being a soldier.

"Do you know what we used to say in the Navy?" he answered.  "We used
to say, 'A friend before a messmate, a messmate before a shipmate, a
shipmate before a dog, and a dog before a soldier.'"

"You think," said I, somewhat discouraged, "that the Navy would be a
better opening for me?"

"Ay," he answered again, eyeing me gloomily; "that is, if so be ye
can't contrive to get to jail."  He cast a glance down upon his
jury-leg and patted the straps of it with his open palm.  "The leg,
now, that used to be here--I left it in a French prison called Jivvy,
and often I thinks to myself, 'That there leg is having better luck
than the rest of me.'  And here's another curious thing.  What d'ye
think they call it in France when you remember a person in your
will?"

I hadn't a notion, and said so.

"Why, 'legs,'" said he.  "And they've got one of mine.  If a man was
superstitious, you might almost call it a coincidence, hey?"

This was the longest conversation I ever had with Mr. George.  I have
since found that sentiments very like his about the Navy have been
uttered by Dr. Samuel Johnson.  But Mr. George spoke them out of his
own experience.


Mr. Scougall's bride was the widow of a Plymouth publican who had
sold his business and retired upon a small farm across the Hamoaze,
near the Cornish village of Anthony.  On the wedding morning (which
fell early in July) she had, by agreement with her groom, prepared a
delightful surprise for us.  We trooped after prayers into the
dining-hall to find, in place of the hateful porridge, a feast laid
out--ham and eggs, cold veal pies, gooseberry preserves, and--best of
all--plate upon plate of strawberries with bowl upon bowl of cool
clotted cream.  Not a child of us had ever tasted strawberries or
cream in his life, so you may guess if we ate with prudence.
At half-past ten Miss Plinlimmon (who had not found the heart to
restrain our appetites) marshalled and led us forth, gorged and
torpid, to the church where at eleven o'clock the ceremony was to
take place.  Her eyes were red-rimmed as she cast them up towards the
window behind which Mr. Scougall, no doubt, was at that moment
arraying himself: but she commanded a firm step, and even a firm
voice to remark outside the wicket, as she looked up at the
chimney-pots, that Nature had put on her fairest garb.

The day, to be sure, was monstrously hot and stuffy.  Not a breath of
wind ruffled the waters of the dock, around the head of which we
trudged to a recently erected church on the opposite shore.
I remember observing, on our way, the dazzling brilliance of its
weathercock.

We found its interior spacious but warm, and the air heavy with the
scent--it comes back to me as I write--of a peculiar sweet oil used
in the lamps.  Perhaps Mr. Scougall had calculated that a ceremony so
interesting to him would attract a throng of sightseers; at any rate,
we were packed into a gallery at the extreme western end of the
church, and in due time watched the proceedings from that respectful
distance and across a gulf of empty pews.

--That is to say, some of us watched.  I have no doubt that Miss
Plinlimmon did, for instance; nay, that her attention was riveted.
Otherwise I cannot explain what followed.

On the previous night I had gone to bed almost supperless, as usual.
I had come, as usual, ravenous to breakfast, and for once I had
sated, and more than sated, desire.  For years after, though hungry
often enough in the course of them, I never thought with longing upon
cold veal or strawberries, nor have I ever recovered an unmitigated
appetite for either.

It is certain, then, that even before the ceremony began--and the
bride arrived several minutes late--I slumbered on the back bench of
the gallery.  The evidence of six boys seated near me agrees that, at
the moment when Mr. Scougall produced the ring, I arose quietly, but
without warning, and made my exit by the belfry door.  They supposed
that I was taken ill; they themselves were feeling more or less
uncomfortable.

The belfry stairway, by which we had reached the door of our gallery,
wound upward beyond it to the top of the tower, and gave issue by a
low doorway upon the dwarf battlements, from which sprang a spire
some eighty feet high.  This spire was, in fact, a narrowing octagon,
its sides hung with slate, its eight ridges faced with Bath stone,
and edged from top to bottom with ornamental crockets.

The service over, bride and bridegroom withdrew with their friends to
the vestry for the signing of the register; and there, while they
dallied and interchanged good wishes, were interrupted by the beadle,
a white-faced pew-opener, and two draymen from the street, with news
(as one of the draymen put it, shouting down the rest) that "one of
Scougall's yellow orphans was up clinging to the weathercock by his
blessed eyebrows; and was this a time for joking, or for feeling
ashamed of themselves and sending for a constable?"

The drayman shouted and gesticulated so fiercely with a great hand
flung aloft that Mr. Scougall, almost before comprehending,
precipitated himself from the church.  Outside stood his hired
carriage with its pair of greys, but the driver was pointing with his
whip and craning his neck like the rest of the small crowd.

It may have been their outcries, but I believe it was the ringing of
the dockyard bell for the dinner-hour, which awoke me.  In my dreams
my arms had been about some kindly neck (and of my dreams in those
days, though but a glimpse ever survived the waking, in those
glimpses dwelt the shade, if not the presence, of my unknown mother).
They were, in fact, clasped around the leg of the weathercock.
Unsympathetic support!  But I have known worse friends.  A mercy it
was, at any rate, that I kept my embrace during the moments when
sense returned to me, with vision of the wonders spread around and
below.  Truly I enjoyed a wonderful view--across the roofs of
Plymouth, quivering under the noon sun, and away to the violet hills
of Dartmoor; and, again, across the water and shipping of the Hamoaze
to the green slopes of Mount Edgcumbe and the massed trees slumbering
in the heat.  Slumber, indeed, and a great quiet seemed to rest over
me, over the houses, the ships, the whole wide land.  By the blessing
of Heaven, not so much as the faintest breeze played about the spire,
or cooled the copper rod burning my hand (and, again, it may have
been this that woke me).  I sat astride the topmost crocket, and
glancing down between my boot heels, spied the carriage with its pair
of greys flattened upon the roadway just beyond the verge of the
battlements, and Mr. Scougall himself dancing and waving his arms
like a small but very lively beetle.

Doubtless, I had ascended by the narrow stairway of the crockets: but
to descend by them with a lot of useless senses about me would be a
very different matter.  No giddiness attacked me as yet; indeed I
knew rather than felt my position to be serious.  For a moment I
thought of leaving my perch and letting myself slip down the face of
the slates, to be pulled up short by the parapet; but the length of
the slide daunted me, and the parapet appeared dangerously shallow.
I should shoot over it to a certainty and go whirling into air.
On the other hand, to drop from my present saddle into the one below
was no easy feat.  For this I must back myself over the edge of it,
and cling with body and legs in air while I judged my fall into the
next.  To do this thirty times or so in succession without mistake
was past hoping for: there were at least thirty crockets to be
manoeuvred, and a single miscalculation would send me spinning
backwards to my fate.  Above all, I had not the strength for it.

So I sat considering for a while; not terrified, but with a brain
exceedingly blank and hopeless.  It never occurred to me that, if I
sat still and held on, steeplejacks would be summoned and ladders
brought to me; and I am glad that it did not, for this would have
taken hours, and I know now that I could not have held out for half
an hour inactive.  But another thought came.  I saw the slates at the
foot of the weathercock, that they were thinly edged and of light
scantling.  I knew that they must be nailed upon a wooden framework
not unlike a ladder.  And at the Genevan Hospital, as I have
recorded, we wore stout plates on our shoes.

I am told that it was a bad few moments for the lookers-on when they
saw me lower myself sideways from my crocket and begin to hammer on
the slates with my toes: for at first they did not comprehend, and
then they reasoned that the slates were new, and if I failed to kick
through them, to pull myself back to the crocket again would be a
desperate job.

But they did not know our shoe-leather.  Mr. Scougall, whatever his
faults, usually contrived to get value for his money, and at the
tenth kick or so my toes went clean through the slate and rested on
the laths within.  Next came the most delicate moment of all, for
with a less certain grip on the crocket I had to kick a second hole
lower down, and transfer my hand-hold from the stone to the wooden
lath laid bare by my first kicks.

This, too, with a long poise and then a flying clutch, I
accomplished; and with the rest of my descent I will not weary the
reader.  It was interminably slow, and it was laborious; but, to
speak comparatively, it was safe.  My boots lasted me to within
twenty feet of the parapet, and then, just as I had kicked my toes
bare, a steeplejack appeared at the little doorway with a ladder.
Planting it in a jiffy, he scrambled up, took me under his arm, bore
me down and laid me against the parapet, where at first I began to
cry and then emptied my small body with throe after throe of
sickness.

I recovered to find Mr. Scougall and another clergyman (the vicar)
standing by the little door and gazing up at my line of holes on the
face of the spire.  Mr. Scougall was offering to pay.

"But no," said the vicar, "we will set the damage down against the
lad's preservation; that is, if I don't recover from the contractor,
who has undoubtedly swindled us over these slates."



CHAPTER III.


I AM BOUND APPRENTICE.

Although holidays were a thing unknown at the Genevan Hospital,
yet discipline grew sensibly lighter during Mr. Scougall's honeymoon,
being left to Miss Plinlimmon on the understanding that in emergency
she might call in the strong and secular arm of Mr. George.
But we all loved Miss Plinlimmon, and never drove her beyond
appealing to what she called our better instincts.

Her dearest aspiration (believe it if you can) was to make gentlemen
of us--of us, doomed to start in life as parish apprentices!
And to this her curriculum recurred whether it had been divagating
into history, geography, astronomy, English composition, or religious
knowledge.  "The author of the book before me, a B.A.--otherwise a
Bachelor of Arts, but not on that account necessarily unmarried--
observes that to believe the sun goes round the earth is a vulgar
error.  For my part I should hardly go so far: but it warns us how
severely those may be judged who obtrusively urge in society opinions
which the wise in their closets have condemned."  "The refulgent
orb--another way, my dears, of saying the sun--is in the vicinity of
Persia an object of religious adoration.  The Christian nations,
better instructed, content themselves with esteeming it warmly, and
as they follow its course in the heavens, draw from it the useful
lesson to look always on the bright side of things."  Humble
beneficent soul!  I never met another who had learned that lesson
so thoroughly.  Once she pointed out to me at the end of her
dictation-book a publisher's colophon of a sundial with the word
_Finis_ above it, and, underneath, the words "Every Hour Shortens
Life."  "Now, I prefer to think that every hour lengthens it," said
she, with one of her few smiles; for her cheerfulness was always
serious.

Best of all were the hours when she read to us extracts from
her album.  "At least," she explained, "I _call_ it an album.
I ever longed to possess one, adorned with remarks--moral or
sprightly, as the case might be--by the Choicest Spirits of our Age,
and signed in their own illustrious handwriting.  But in my sphere of
life these were hard--nay, impossible--to come by; so in my dilemma I
had recourse to subterfuge, and having studied the career of this or
that eminent man, I chose a subject and composed what (as it seemed
to me) he would _most likely_ have written upon it, signing his name
below--but in print, that the signatures may not pass hereafter for
real ones, should the book fall into the hands of strangers.
You must not think, therefore, that the lines on Statesmanship which
I am about to read you, beginning 'But why Statesmans _ship_?
Because, my lords and gentlemen, the State is indeed a ship, and
demands a skilful helmsman'--you must not think that they were
actually penned by the Right Honourable William Pitt.  But I feel
sure the sentiments are such as he would have approved, and perhaps
might have uttered had the occasion arisen."

This puzzled us, and I am not sure that we took any trouble to
discriminate Miss Plinlimmon's share in these compositions from that
of their signatories.  Indeed, the first time I set eyes on Lord
Wellington (as he rode by us to inspect the breaches in Ciudad
Rodrigo) my memory saluted him as the Honourable Arthur Wellesley,
author of the passage, "Though educated at Eton, I have often caught
myself envying the quaintly expressed motto of the more ancient
seminary amid the Hampshire chalk-hills, i.e. _Manners makyth man_";
and to this day I associate General Paoli with an apostrophe
"O Corsica!  O my country, bleeding and inanimate!" etc., and with
Miss Plinlimmon's foot-note: "N.B.--The author of these affecting
lines, himself a blameless patriot, actually stood godfather to
the babe who has since become the infamous Napoleon Bonaparte.
Oh, irony!  What had been the feelings of the good Paoli, could he
have foreseen this eventuality, as he promised and vowed beside the
font! (if they have such things in Corsica: a point on which I am
uncertain)."

I dwell on these halcyon days with Miss Plinlimmon because, as they
were the last I spent at the Genevan Hospital, so they soften all my
recollections of it with their own gentle prismatic haze.  In fact,
a bare fortnight had gone by since my adventure on the spire when I
was summoned to Mr. Scougall's parlour and there found Miss
Plinlimmon in conversation with a tall and very stout man: and if her
eyelids were pink, I paid more attention to the stout man's, which
were rimmed with black--a more unusual sight.  His neck, too, was
black up to a well-defined line; the rest of it, and his cheeks, red
with the red of prize beef.

"This is the boy--hem--Revel, of whom we were speaking." Miss
Plinlimmon smiled at me and blushed faintly as she uttered the name.
"Harry, shake hands with Mr. Trapp.  He has come expressly to make
your acquaintance."

Somehow I gathered that this politeness took Mr. Trapp aback; but he
held out his hand.  It was astonishingly black.

"Pray be seated, Mr. Trapp."

"The furniture, ma'am!"

"Ah, to be sure!"  Mr. Scougall's freshly upholstered chairs had all
been wrapped in holland coverings pending his return.  "Mr. Trapp,
Harry, is a--a chimney-sweep."

"Oh!" said I, somewhat ruefully.

"And if I can answer for your character (as I believe I can)," she
went on with a wan, almost wistful smile, "he is ready to make you
his apprentice."

"But I had rather be a soldier, Miss Plinlimmon!"

She still kept her smile, but I could read in it that my pleading was
useless; that the decision really lay beyond her.

"Boys will be boys, Mr. Trapp."  She turned to him with her air of
gentility.  "You will forgive Harry for preferring a red coat to--to
your calling."  (I thought this treacherous of Miss Plinlimmon.
As if she did not prefer it herself!)  "No doubt he will learn in
time that all duty is alike noble, whether it bids a man mount the
deadly breach or climb a--or do the sort of climbing required in your
profession."

"I climbed up that spire in my sleep," said I, sullenly.

"That's just it," Mr. Trapp agreed.  "That's what put me on the track
of ye.  'Here's a tacker,' I said, 'can climb up to the top of
Emmanuel's in his sleep, and I've been wasting money and temper on
them that won't go up an ord'nary chimbley when they're wideawake,
'ithout I lights a furze-bush underneath to hurry them.'"

"I trust," put in Miss Plinlimmon, aghast, "you are jesting, Mr.
Trapp?"

"Jesting, ma'am?"

"You do not really employ that barbarous method of acceleration?"

"Meaning furze-bushes?  Why, no, ma'am; not often.  Look ye here,
young sir," he continued, dismissing (as of no account) this subject,
so interesting to me; "you was wide awake, anyway, when you came
down, and that you can't deny."

"Harry," persisted Miss Plinlimmon, "has not been used to harsh
treatment.  You will like his manners: he is a very gentlemanly boy."

Mr. Trapp stared at her, then at me, then slowly around the room.
"Gentlemanly?" he echoed at length, in a wondering way, under his
breath.

"I have used my best endeavours.  Yes, though I say it to his face,
you will really--if careful to appeal to his better instincts--find
him one of Nature's gentlemen."

Mr. Trapp broke into a grin of relief; almost you could say that he
heaved a sigh.

"Oh, that's all?" said he.  "Why, Lord love ye, ma'am, I've been
called that myself before now!"

So to Mr. Trapp I was bound, early next week, before the magistrates
sitting in petty sessional division, to serve him and to receive
from him proper sustenance and clothing until the age of twenty-one.
And I (as nearly as could be guessed, for I had no birthday) had
barely turned ten.  Mr. Scougall arrived in time to pilot me through
these formalities and hand me over to Mr. Trapp: but at a parting
interview, throughout which we both wept copiously, Miss Plinlimmon
gave me for souvenir a small Testament with this inscription on the
fly-leaf:

                         H. REVEL,
          _from his affectionate friend, A.  Plinlimmon_.

    _O happy, happy days, when childhood's cares
        Were soon forgotten!
     But now, when dear ones all around are still the same,
        Where shall we be in ten years' time?_

"They were my own composition," she explained.  Mr. George bade me a
gloomier farewell.  "You might come to some good," he said
contemplatively; "and then again you mightn't.  I ain't what they
call a _pessimist_, but I thinks poorly of most things.  It's safer."

Mr. Trapp was exceedingly jocose as he conveyed me home to his house
beside the Barbican, Plymouth; stopping on the way before every
building of exceptional height and asking me quizzically how I would
propose to set about climbing it.  At the time, in the soreness of my
heart, I resented this heavy pleasantry, and to be sure, after the
tenth repetition or so, the diversity of the buildings to which he
applied it but poorly concealed its sameness.  But, in fact, he was
doing his best to be kind, and succeeded in a sort; for it roused a
childish scorn in me and so fetched back my heart, which at starting
had been somewhere in my boots.

I took it for granted that a sweep must inhabit a dingy hovel, and
certainly the crowded filth of the Barbican promised nothing better
as we threaded our way among fishermen, fish-jowters, blowzy women,
and children playing hop-scotch with the heads of decaying fish.
At the seaward end of it, and close beside the bow-fronted Custom
House, we turned aside into an alley which led uphill between high
blank walls to the base of the Citadel: and here, stuck as if it were
a marten's nest under the shadow of the ramparts, a freshly
whitewashed cottage overhung the slope, with a sweep's brush dangling
over its doorway and the sign "S. Trapp, Chimney Sweep in Season."

While I wondered what might be the season for chimney-sweeps, a small
bead-eyed woman emerged from the doorway and shook a duster
vigorously: in the which act catching sight of us, she paused.

"I've a-got en, my dear," said Mr. Trapp much as a man might announce
the capture of a fish: and though he did not actually lift me for
inspection his hand seemed to waver over my collar.

But it was Mrs. Trapp, who, after a fleeting glance at me, caught her
husband by the collar.

"And you actilly went in that state, you nasty keerless hulks!
O, you heart-breaker!"

Mr. Trapp in custody managed to send me a sidelong, humorous grin.

"My dear, I thought 'twould be a surprise for you--business taking me
that way, and the magistrates being used to worse."

"You heart-breaker!" repeated Mrs. Trapp.  "And me slaving morn and
night to catch up with your messy ways!  What did I tell you the
first time you came back from the Hospital looking like a malkin, and
with a clean shift of clothes laid out for you and the water on the
boil, that I couldn't have taken more trouble, no, not for a funeral?
Didn't I tell you 'twas positively lowering?"

"I ha'n't a doubt you did, my dear."

"That's what you are.  You're a lowering man.  And there by your own
account you met a lady, with your neck streaked like a ham-rasher,
and me not by--thank goodness!--to see what her feelings were; and
now 'tis magistrates.  But nothing warns you.  I suppose you thought
that as 'twas only fondlings without any father or mother it didn't
matter how you dressed!"

Mrs. Trapp, though she might seem to talk at random, had a wifely
knack of dropping a shaft home.  Her husband protested.

"Come, come, Maria--you know I'm not that sort of man!"

"How do I know what sort of man you are, under all that dirt?
For my part, if I'd been a magistrate, you shouldn't have walked off
with the boy till you'd washed yourself, not if you'd gone down on
your hands and knees for it; and him with his face shining all over
like a little Moses on the Mount, which does the lady credit if she's
the one you saw; though how they can dress children up like
pickle-herrings it beats me.  Your bed's at the top of the house,
child, and there you'll find a suit o' clothes that I've washed and
aired after the last boy.  I only hope you won't catch any of his
nasty tricks in 'em.  Straight up the stairs and the little door to
the left at the top."

"Unless"--Mr. Trapp picked up courage for one more pleasantry--"you'd
like to make a start at once and go up by way of the chimbley."

He was rash.  As a pugilist might eye a recovering opponent supposed
to be stunned, so Mrs. Trapp eyed Mr. Trapp.

"I thought I told you plain enough," she said, "that you're a
lowering man.  What's worse, you're an unconverted one.  Oh, you
nasty, fat, plain-featured fellow!  Go indoors and wash yourself,
this instant!"

I spent close upon four years with this couple: and good parents they
were to me, as well as devoted to each other.  Mrs. Trapp may have
been "cracked," as she certainly suffered from a determination of
words to the mouth: but, as a child will, I took her and the rest of
the world as I found them.  She began to mother me at once; and on
the very next morning took my clothes in hand, snipped the ridiculous
tails off the jacket, and sent it, with the breeches, to the dyer's.
The yellow waistcoat she cut into pin-cushions, two for upstairs and
two for the parlour.

Having no children to save for, Mr. Trapp could afford to feed and
clothe an apprentice and take life easily to boot.  Mrs. Trapp would
never allow him to climb a ladder; had even chained him to _terra
firma_ by a vow--since, as she explained to me once, "he's an
unconverted man.  There's no harm in 'en; but I couldn't bear to have
him cut off in his sins.  Besides, with such a figure, he'd scatter."

I recollect it as a foretaste of his kindness that on the first early
morning, as he led me forth to my first experiment, we paused between
the blank walls of the alley that I might practise the sweep's call
in comparative privacy.  The sound of my own voice, reverberated
there, covered me with shame, though it could scarcely have been
louder than the cheeping of the birds on the Citadel ramparts above.
"Hark to that fellow, now!" said my master, as the notes of a bugle
sang out clear and brave in the dawn.  "He's no bigger than you, I
warrant, and has no more call to be proud of his business."  In time
I grew bold enough and used to begin my "Sweep, Swee--eep!" at the
mouth of the alley to warn Mrs. Trapp of our return.

My first chimney daunted me, though it was a wide one, belonging to a
cottage, well fitted with climbing brackets, and so straight that
from the flat hearth-stone you could see a patch of blue sky with the
gulls sailing across it.  Mr. Trapp instructed me well and I
listened, setting my small jaws to choke down the terror: but, once
started, with his voice guiding me from below and growing hollower as
I ascended, I found that all came easily enough.  "Bravo!" he shouted
up from the far side of the street, whither he had run out to see me
wave my brush from the summit.  In a day or two he began to boast of
me, and I had to do my young best to live up to a reputation; for the
fame of my feat on Emmanuel Church spire had spread all over the
Barbican.  Being reckoned a bold fellow, I had to justify myself in
fighting with the urchins of my age there; in which, and in
wrestling, I contrived to hold my own.  My shame was that I had never
learnt to swim.  All my rivals could swim, and even in the winter
weather seemed to pass half their time in the filthy water of Sutton
Pool, or in running races, stark naked, along the quay's edge.

Our trade, steady and leisurable until the last week of March, then
went up with a rush and continued at high pressure through April and
May, so that, dog-tired in every limb, I had much ado to drag myself
to bed up the garret stairs after Mrs. Trapp had rubbed my ankles
with goose-fat where the climbing-irons galled them.  While this was
doing, Mr. Trapp would smoke his pipe and watch and assure me that
mine were the "growing-pains" natural to sweeps, and Mrs. Trapp
(without meaning it in the least) lamented the fate which had tied
her for life to one.  "It being well known that my birthday is the
15th of the month and its rightful motto in Proverbs thirty-one,
'She riseth also while it is yet night and giveth meat to her
household and a portion to her maidens'; and me never able to hire a
gel at eight pounds a year even!"

"If you did," retorted Mr. Trapp, "I don't see you turning out at
midnight to feed her."

Early in June this high-tide of business slackened, and by the close
of the second week we were moderately idle.  On Midsummer morning I
descended to find, to my vast astonishment, Mr. Trapp seated at table
before a bowl of bread and milk and wearing a thick blue guernsey
tucked inside his trousers, the waist of which reached so high as to
reduce his braces to mere shoulder-straps.  I could not imagine why
he, a man given to perspiration, should add to his garments at this
season.

Breakfast over, he beckoned me to the door and jerked his thumb
towards the lintel.  The usual, sign had been replaced by a shorter
one: "S. Trapp.  Gone Driving."

"If folks," said he, "ha'n't the foresight to get swept afore
Midsummer, I don't humour 'em."

"Are--are you really going for a drive, sir?" I stammered.

"To be sure I am.  I drive every day in the summer.  What do you
suppose?"

"It won't be a chaise and pair, sir?" I hazarded, though even this
would not have surprised me.

"Not to-day.  Lord knows what we may come to, but to-day 'tis
mackerel and whiting; later on, pilchards."

He took me down to the quay; and there, sure enough, we stepped on
board a boat lying ready, with two men in her, who fended off and
began to hoist sails at once.  Mr. Trapp took the helm.  It turned
out that he owned a share in the vessel and worked her from Midsummer
to Michaelmas with a crew of two men and a boy.  The men were called
Isaac and Morgan (I cannot remember their other names), the one
extremely old and surly, the other cheerful, curly-haired and active,
and both sparing of words.  I was to be the boy.

We baited our hooks and whiffed for mackerel as we tacked out of the
Sound.  And by and by we came to what Isaac called the "grounds"
(though I could see nothing to distinguish it from the rest of the
sea) and cast anchor and weighted our lines differently and caught a
few whiting while we ate our dinner.  The wind had fallen to a flat
calm.  After dinner Mr. Trapp looked up and said to Isaac:

"Got a life-belt on board?"

"What in thunder do 'ee want it for?" asked Isaac.

"That's my business," said Mr. Trapp.

So Isaac hunted up a belt made of pieces of cork and then was ordered
to lash one of the sweeps so that it stuck well outboard.  "Now, my
lad," said Mr. Trapp, turning to me, "you've been a very good lad
'pon the whole, and I see you fighting with the tackers down 'pon the
quay and holding your own.  But they can swim, and you can't, and
it's wearing your spirit.  So here's a chance to larn.  I can't larn'
ee myself, for the fashion's come up since I was a youngster.
Can you swim, Morgan?"

Morgan could not; and old Isaac said he couldn't see the use of it--
if you capsized, it only lengthened out the trouble.

"Well, then, you must larn yourself," said Mr. Trapp to me.
"I've heard that pigs and men are the only animals it don't come to
by nature.  And that's a scandal however you look at it."

So strip I did, and was girt with the belt under my armpits, tied to
a rope, and slipped over the side in fear and trembling.  I swallowed
a pint or two of salt water and wept (but they could not see this,
though they watched me curiously), I dare say, half a pint of it back
in tears of fright.  I knew by observation how legs and arms should
be worked, but made disheartening efforts to put it into practice.
At length, utterly ashamed, I was hauled out and congratulated: at
which I stared.

"As for the swimmin'," said Isaac, "I can't call to mind that I've
seen worse: but for pluck, considering the number of sharks at about
this season, I couldn't ask better of his age."

I had not thought of sharks--supposed them, indeed, to inhabit the
tropics only.  We caught one towards sunset, after it had fouled all
our lines, and smashed its head with the unshipped tiller as it came
to the surface.  It measured five feet and a little over, and we
lashed it alongside the gunwale and carried it home in triumph next
morning (having shot the nets at sundown and slept and hauled them up
empty at sunrise--the pilchards being scarce as yet, though a few had
been caught off the Eddystone).  I don't suppose the shark would have
interfered with my bath, but I gave myself airs on the strength of
him.



CHAPTER IV.


MISS PLINLIMMON.

Late in August, and a week or two before Mr. Trapp changed his
signboard and resumed his proper business, I was idling by the edge
of the Barbican one evening when a boy, whose eye I had blacked
recently, charged up behind me and pushed me over.  I pretended to be
drowning, and sank theatrically as he and half a dozen others,
conveniently naked, plunged to the rescue.  They dived for my body
with great zeal, while I, having slipped under the keel of a
trading-ketch and climbed on board by her accommodation-ladder
dangling on the far side, watched them from behind a stack of
flower-pots on her deck.  When they desisted, and I had seen the
culprit first treated as a leper by the crowd, then haled before two
constables and examined at length, finally led homeward by the ear
and cuffed at every few steps by his mother (a widow), I slipped back
into the water, dived back under the ketch, and, emerging, asked the
cause of the disturbance.  This made a new reputation for me, at the
expense of some emotion to Mrs. Trapp, to whom the news of my decease
had been borne on the swiftest wings of rumour.

But I have tarried too long over those days of my apprenticeship, and
am yet only at the beginning.  Were there no story to be told, I
might fill a chapter by fishing up recollections of Plymouth in those
days; of the women, for instance, carried down in procession to the
Barbican and ducked for scolding.  A husband had but to go before the
Mayor (Mr. Trapp sometimes threatened it) and swear that his wife was
a common scold, and the Mayor gave him an order to hoist her on a
horse and take her to the ducking-chair to be dipped thrice in Sutton
Pool.  At last a poor creature died of it, and that put an end to the
bad business.  Then there were the press-gangs.  Time and again I
have run naked from bathing to watch the press as, after hunting from
tavern to tavern, it dragged a man off screaming to the steps, the
sailors often man-handling him and the officer joking with the crowd
and behaving as cool and gentlemanly as you please.  Mr. Trapp and I
were by the door one evening, measuring out the soot, when a man came
panting up the alley and rushed past us into the back kitchen without
so much as "by your leave."  Half a minute later up came the press,
and the young officer at the head of them was for pushing past and
into the house; but Mr. Trapp blocked the doorway, with Mrs. Trapp
full of fight in the rear.

"Stand by!" says the officer to his men.  "And you, sir, what the
devil do you mean by setting yourself in the way of his Majesty's
Service?"

"An Englishman's house," said Mr. Trapp, "is his castle."

"D'ye hear that?" screamed Mrs. Trapp.

"An Englishman's house," repeated Mr. Trapp slowly, "is his castle.
The storms may assail it, and the winds whistle round it, but the
King himself cannot do so."

The officer knew the law and called off his gang.  When the coast was
clear we went to search for the man, and found he had vanished,
taking half a flitch of bacon with him off the kitchen-rack.

All those days, too, throb in my head to the tramp of soldiers in the
streets, and ring with bugles blown almost incessantly from the
ramparts high above my garret.  On Sundays Mr. Trapp and I used to
take our walk together around the ramparts, between church and
dinner-time, after listening to the Royal Marine Band as it played up
George Street and Bedford Street on the way from service in St.
Andrew's Church.  If we met a soldier we had to stand aside; indeed,
even common privates in those days (so proudly the Army bore itself,
though its triumphs were to come) would take the wall of a woman--a
greater insult then than now, or at least a more unusual one.
A young officer of the '--'th Regiment once put this indignity upon
Mrs. Trapp, in Southside Street.  The day was a wet one, and the
gutter ran with liquid mud.  Mrs. Trapp recovered her balance,
slipped off her pattens, and stamped them on the back of his scarlet
coat--two oval O's for him to walk about with.

Those were days, too, which kept our Plymouth stones rattling.
Besides the coaches--the "Quicksilver," which carried the mails and a
coachman and guard in scarlet liveries, the humdrum "Defiance" and
the dashing "Subscription" or "Scrippy" post-chaises came and went
continually, whisking naval officers between us and London with
dispatches: and sometimes the whole populace turned out to cheer as
trains of artillery wagons, escorted by armed seamen, marines, and
soldiers, horse and foot, rumbled up from Dock towards the Citadel
with treasure from some captured frigate.  I could tell, too, of the
great November Fair in the Market Place, and the rejoicings on the
King's Jubilee, when I paid a halfpenny to go inside the huge hollow
bonfire built on the Hoe: but all this would keep me from my story--
for which I must hark back to Miss Plinlimmon.

For many months I heard nothing of this dear lady, and it seemed that
I had parted from her for ever, when one evening as I returned from
carrying a bag of soot out to Mutley Plain (where a market-gardener
wanted some for his beds), Mrs. Trapp put into my hands a letter
addressed in the familiar Italian hand to "H. Revel, residing with
Mr. S. Trapp, House Renovator, near the Barbican."  It ran:

    "My dearest Harry,--I wonder if, amid your new avocations, you
     will take the pleasure in the handwriting of an _old friend_?
     I remember you many times daily, and often when I wake in the
     night; and commend you to God morning and evening, kneeling on
     the place where your cot used to stand, for I have no one now to
     care for in my room.  There is little change in our life here;
     though Mr. Scougall, as I foreboded, takes less heart in his
     ministrations, and I should not wonder if he retired before
     long.  But this is between ourselves.  Punctual as ever in his
     duties, he rarely spends the night here, but departs at six p.m.
     for his wife's farm, where Mrs. S. very naturally prefers to
     reside.  Indeed, I wish she would absent herself altogether; for
     when she comes, it is to criticise the housekeeping, in which I
     regret to say she does not maintain that generous spirit of
     which she gave promise in the veal pies, etc., of that _ever
     memorable_ morning.  I never condescended to be a bride: yet I
     feel sure, that had I done so, it would have given me an extra
     compassion for the fatherless."

    "But enough of myself.  My object in writing is to tell you that
     my birthday falls on Wednesday next (May 1st, dedicated by the
     Ancient Romans to the Goddess of Flowers, as I was yearly
     reminded in my happy youth.  But how often Fate withholds from
     us her seeming promises!).  It might be a bond between us, my
     dear boy, if you will take that day for your birthday too.
     Pray humour me in this; for indeed your going has left a void
     which I cannot fill, and perhaps do not wish to, except with
     thoughts of you.  I trust there used to be no _partiality_; but
     for some reason you were dearer to me than the others; and I
     feel as if God, in His mysterious way, sent you into my life
     _with meaning_.  Do you think that Mr. Trapp, if you asked him
     politely (and I trust you have not forgotten your politeness),
     would permit you to meet me at 5 p.m.  on Wednesday, in Mr.
     Tucker's Bun Shop, in Bedford Street, to celebrate your birthday
     with an affectionate friend?  Such ever is,"

                                       "Amelia Plinlimmon."

"Oh, very well," said Mr. Trapp when I showed him the letter and put
my request; "only don't let her swell you out of shape.  Chimbleys is
narrower than they used to be.  May-day is Sweeps' Holiday, too,
though we don't keep it up in Plymouth: I dare say the lady thought
'pon that.  In my bachelor days I used to be Jack in the Green
reggilar."

"It's just as well I never saw ye, then," said his wife tartly.
"And to imagine that a lady like Miss Plinlimmon would concern
herself with your deboshes!  But you'd lower the King on his throne."

Indeed, Mr. Trapp went on to give some colour to this.  "I wonder
what she means, talking about Roman goddesses?" he mused.  "I seen
one, once, in a penny show; and it was marked outside 'Men only
Admitted.'"

Mrs. Trapp swept me from the room.

On May-day, then, I entered Mr. Tucker's Bun Shop with a beating
heart, a scrubbed face and a sprig of southernwood in my button-hole,
and Miss Plinlimmon fell on my neck and kissed me.  All the formality
of the Genevan Hospital dropped away from her as a garment, and left
only the tender formality of her own nature, so human that it amazed
me.  I had never really known her until now.  She had prepared a
feast, including Mr. Tucker's famous cheese-cakes, "as patronised by
Queen Charlotte," and cakes called "maids of honour."  "To my mind,"
said Miss Plinlimmon, taking one, "there is always an air of
refinement about this shop."  She praised my growth, and the
cleanliness of my skin, and the care with which Mrs. Trapp kept my
clothes; and laughed when I reported some of Mrs. Trapp's sayings--
but tremulously: indeed, more than once her eyes brimmed as she gazed
across the table.  "You cannot think how happy I am!" she almost
whispered, and broke off to draw my attention to a young officer who
had entered the shop, with two ladies in fresh summer gowns of
sprigged muslin, and who stood by the counter buying sweetmeats.
"If you can do so without staring, Harry, always make a point of
observing such people as that.  You will be surprised at the little
hints you pick up."  I told her, growing bold, that I knew no finer
lady than she, and never wanted to--which I still think a happy and
highly creditable speech for a boy of eleven.  She flushed with
pleasure.  "I have birth, I hope," she said, and with that her colour
deepened, perhaps with a suspicion that this might hurt my feelings.
"But since our reverses," she went on hurriedly, "we Plinlimmons have
stood still; and one should move with the times.  I am not with those
who think good manners need be old-fashioned ones."  She recurred to
Mrs. Trapp.  "I feel sure she must be an excellent woman.
Your clothes are well kept, and I read more in needlework than you
think.  Also folks cannot neglect their cleanliness and then furbish
themselves up in a day.  I see by your complexion that she attends to
you.  I hope you are careful not to laugh at her when she makes those
ludicrous speeches?"

But I shifted the talk from Mrs. Trapp.

"What did you mean, just now, by 'we,' Miss Plinlimmon?" I asked.

"Did I say 'we'?"

"You talked about your reverses--'our reverses,' you said.  I wish
you would tell me about it: I never heard, before, of anyone
belonging to you."

"'We' means 'my brother and I,'" she said, and said no more until she
had paid the bill and we walked up to the Hoe together.  There she
chose a seat overlooking the Sound and close above the amphitheatre
(in those days used as a bull-ring) where Corineus the Trojan had
wrestled, ages before, with the giant Gogmagog and defeated him.

"My brother Arthur--Captain Arthur Plinlimmon of the King's Own--is
the soul of honour.  I do not believe a nobler gentleman lives in the
whole wide world: but then we are descended from the great Glendower,
King of Wales (I will show you the pedigree, some day), and have
Tudor blood, too, in our veins.  When dear papa died and we
discovered he had been speculating unfortunately in East India
Stock--'buying for a fall' was, I am told, his besetting weakness,
though I could never understand the process--Arthur offered me a home
and maintenance for life.  Of course I refused: for the blow reduced
him, too, to bitter poverty, and he was married.  And, besides, I
could never bear his wife, who was a woman of fashion and
extravagant.  She is dead now, poor thing, so we will not talk of
her: but she could never be made to understand that their
circumstances were altered, and died leaving some debts and one
child, a boy called Archibald, who is now close on twenty years old.
So there is my story, Harry; and a very ordinary one, is it not?"

"Where does Captain Plinlimmon live?" I asked.

"He is quartered in Lancaster just now, with his regiment: and Archie
lives with him.  He had hoped to buy the poor boy a commission before
this, but could not do so honourably until all the debts were paid.
'The sins of the fathers--'"  She broke off and glanced at me
nervously.

But I was not of an age to suspect why, or to understand my own lot
at all.  "I suppose you love this Archibald better than anybody,"
said I with a twinge of jealousy.

"Oh, no," she exclaimed quickly, and at once corrected herself.
"Not so much as I ought.  I love him, of course, for his father's
sake: but in features he takes after his mother very strikingly, and
that--on the few occasions I have seen him--chilled me.  It is wrong,
I know; and no doubt with more opportunity I should have grown very
fond of him.  Sometimes I tax myself, Harry, with being frail in my
affections: they require renewing with a sight of--of their object.
That is why we are keeping our birthdays together to-day."

She smiled at me, almost archly, putting out a hand to rest it on
mine, which lay on my knee; then suddenly the smile wavered, and her
eyes began to brim; I saw in them, as in troubled water, broken
images of a hundred things I had known in dreams; and her arm was
about my neck and I nestled against her.

"Dear Harry!  Dear boy!"

I cannot tell how long we sat there: certainly until the ships
hung out their riding-lights and the May stars shone down on us.
At whiles we talked, and at whiles were silent: and both the talk and
the silences (if you will not laugh) held some such meanings as they
hold for lovers.  More than ever she was not the Miss Plinlimmon I
remembered, but a strange woman, coming forth and revealing herself
with the stars.  She actually confessed that she loathed porridge!--
"though for example's sake, you know, I force myself to eat it.
I think it unfair to compel children to a discipline you cannot
endure with them."

She parted with me under the moonlit Citadel, at the head of a
by-lane leading to the Trapps' cottage.  "I shall not write often, or
see you," she said.  "It is seldom that I get a holiday or even an
hour to myself, and we will not unsettle ourselves"--mark, if the
child could not, the noble condescension--"in our duties that are
perhaps the more blessed for being stern.  But a year hence for
certain, if spared, we will meet.  Until then be a gentleman always
and--I may ask it now--for my sake."

So we parted, and for a whole year I saw nothing of her, nor heard
except at Christmas, when she sent me a closely written letter of six
sheets, of which I will transcribe only the poetical conclusion:

    "Christmas comes but once a year:
        And why? we well may ask.
     Repine not.  We are probably unequal
        To a severer task."



CHAPTER V.


THE SHADOW OF ARCHIBALD.

It is not only children who, having once tasted bliss, suppose fondly
that one has only to prepare a time and place for it again and it can
be repeated.  But he must be a queer child who starts with expecting
any less.  Certainly no doubts assailed me when the anniversary came
round and I made my way to Mr. Tucker's Bun Shop; nor did Miss
Plinlimmon's greeting lack anything of tenderness.  She began at once
to talk away merrily: but children are demons to detect something
amiss, and there was a note in her gaiety which somehow did not sound
in key.  After a while she broke off in the middle of a sentence and
sat stirring her tea, as with a mind withdrawn; recovered herself,
and catching at her last words, continued--but on a different
subject; then, reading some puzzlement in my eyes, exclaimed
abruptly, "My dear Harry, you have grown beyond knowledge!"

"Were you thinking of that?" I asked, for I had heard it twice
already.

She answered one question with another.  "Of what were _you_
thinking?"

I hesitated, for in truth I had been thinking how much older she had
grown.  A year is a long time to a child, but it did not account to
me for a curious wanness in her colour.  Her hair was greyer, too,
and there were dark rings under her eyes.  "You seem different
somehow, Miss Plinlimmon."

"Do I?  The Hospital has been wearing me out, of late.  I have
thought sometimes of resigning and trying my fortune elsewhere: but
the thought of the children restrains me.  I make many mistakes with
them--perhaps more as the years go on: they love me, however, for
they know that I mean well, and it would haunt me if they fell into
bad hands.  Now I am not sure that Mr. Scougall would choose the best
successor.  Before he married I could have trusted his judgment."
She fell a-musing again.  "Archibald is here in Plymouth," she added
inconsequently.  "My nephew, you know."

I nodded, and asked, "Is he quartered here?"

"Why, how did you know he was in the Army?"

"You told me Major Arthur was saving up to buy him a commission."

"How well you remember!" she sighed.  "Alas! no: the debts were too
heavy.  Archibald is in the Army, but he has enlisted as a private,
in the 105th, the North Wilts Regiment.  His father advised it: he
says that, in these days, commissions are to be won by young men
content to begin in the ranks; and the lad has (I believe) a good
friend in Colonel Festonhaugh, who commands the North Wilts.  He and
Arthur are old comrades in arms.  But garrison life does not suit the
poor boy, or so he complains.  He is a little sore with his father
for subjecting him to it, and cannot take his stern view about paying
the debts.  That is natural enough, perhaps."  She heaved another
sigh.  "His regiment--or rather the second battalion, to which he
belongs--was ordered down to Plymouth last January, and since then
has been occupied with drill and petty irritating duties at which he
grumbles sorely--though I believe there is a prospect of their being
ordered out to Portugal before long."

"You see him often?" I asked.

She seemed to pause a moment.  "Yes; oh, yes to be sure, I see him
frequently.  That is only natural, is it not?"

We left the shop and strolled towards the Hoe.  I felt that something
was interfering to spoil our day; and felt unreasonably sure of it on
finding our old seat occupied by three soldiers--two of them
supporting a drunken comrade.  We made disconsolately for an empty
bench, some fifty yards away.

"They belong to Archibald's regiment," said Miss Plinlimmon as we
settled ourselves to talk.  I had noted that she scanned them
narrowly.  "Why, here _is_ Archibald!" she exclaimed: and I looked up
and saw a young red-coat sauntering towards us.

Her tone, I was jealously glad to observe, had not been entirely
joyous.  And Master Archibald, as he drew near, did not seem in the
best of tempers.  He was beyond all doubt a handsome youth, and
straight-limbed; but apparently a sullen one.  He kept his eyes on
the ground and only lifted them for a moment when close in front of
us.

"Good afternoon, aunt."

"Good afternoon, Archibald.  This is Harry--my friend of whom you
have heard me speak."

He glanced at me with a curt nod.  I could see that he considered me
a nuisance.  An awkward silence fell between the three of us, broken
at length by a start and a smothered exclamation from Miss
Plinlimmon.

Archibald glanced over his shoulder carelessly.  "Oh, yes," said he,
"they are baiting a bull down yonder."

The ridge hid the bull-ring from us.  Dogs had been barking there
when we seated ourselves, but the noise held no meaning for us.
It was the bull's roar which had startled Miss Plinlimmon.

"Pray let us go!"  She gathered her shawl about her in a twitter.
"This is quite horrible!"

"There's nothing to be afraid of," he assured her.  "The brute's tied
fast enough.  Don't go, aunt: I want a word with you."

He glowered at me again, and this time with meaning.  I saw that he
wished me gone, and I moved to go.

"This is Harry's birthday.  I am keeping it with him: his birthday as
well as mine, Archibald."

"Gad, I forgot!  I'm sorry, aunt--Many happy returns of the day!"

"Thank you," said she drily.  "And now if you particularly wish to
speak to me, I will walk with you, but only a short way.  Harry shall
find another seat."

As they walked away side by side, I turned my head to look for a
bench farther removed from the bull-ring; and so became aware of
another soldier, in uniform similar to Mr. Archibald's, stretched
prone on the turf a few paces behind me.

When I stood up and turned to have a look at him, his head had
dropped on his arms and he appeared to be sleeping.  But I could have
sworn that when I first caught sight of him he had been gazing after
the pair.

Well, there was nothing in this (you will say) to disturb me; yet for
some reason it made me alert, if not uneasy.  I chose another seat,
but at no great distance, and kept him in view.  He raised his head
once, stared around like one confused and not wholly awake, and
dropped into slumber again.  Miss Plinlimmon and Archibald turned and
came pacing back; turned again and repeated this quarter-deck walk
three or four times.  He was talking, and now and then using a slight
gesture.  I could not see that she responded.  At any rate, she did
not turn to him.  But the man on the grass occupied most of my
attention, and I missed the parting.  An odd fancy took me to watch
if he stirred again while I counted a hundred.  He did not, and I
shifted my gaze to find Miss Plinlimmon coming towards me unescorted.
Archibald had disappeared.

Her eyes were red, and her voice trembled a little.  "And now," said
she, "that's enough of my affairs, please God!"  She began to put
questions about the Trapps.  And while I answered them I happened
to look along the flat stretch of turf to the right, in time to see,
at perhaps a hundred yards' distance, a soldier cross it from behind
and go hurrying down the slope towards the bull-ring.  I recognised
him at a glance.  He was the black-avised man who had pretended to be
sleeping.

Almost at once, as I remember it--but I dare say some minutes had
passed--a furious hubbub arose below us, mixed with the yelling of
dogs and a few sharp screams.  And, before we knew what it meant, at
the point where the black-avised man had disappeared, he came
scrambling back, found his legs and headed desperately towards us,
with a bull behind him in full chase.

I managed to drag Miss Plinlimmon off the bench, thrust her like a
bundle beneath it, and scrambled after her into shelter but a second
or two before the pair came thundering by; for the bull's hooves
shook the ground; and so small a space--ten or twelve yards at the
most--divided him from the man, that they passed in one rush, and
with them half a dozen bulldogs hanging at the brute's heels as if
trailed along by an invisible cord.  Next after these pelted Master
Archibald, shouting and tugging at his side-arm; and after him again,
but well in the rear, a whole rabble of bull-baiters, butchers,
soldiers, boys and mongrels, all yelping together with excitement and
terror, the men flourishing swords and pitchforks.

To speak of the man first.--I have since seen soldiers crazed and
running in battle, but never such a face as passed me in that brief
vision.  His lips were wide, his eyes strained and almost starting
from his head, the pupils turned a little backward as if fascinated
by the terror at his heels, imploring help, seeking a chance to
double--all three together--and yet absolutely fixed and rigid.

The bull made no account of us, though below the seat I caught the
light of his red eye as he plunged past, head to ground and so close
that his hot breath smote in our faces and the broken end of rope
about the base of his horns whipped the grass by my fingers.
Perhaps the red coat attracted his rage.  But he seemed to nurse a
special grudge against the man.

This appeared when, a stone's-throw beyond our seat, the man sprang
sideways to the left of his course--in the nick of time, too, for as
he sprang he seemed to clear the horns by a bare foot.  The bull's
heavier rush carried him forward for several yards before he swerved
himself on to the new line of pursuit; and this let up Master
Archibald, who by this time had his side-arm loose.

"Ham-string 'en!" yelled a blue-shirted butcher, pausing beside us
and panting.  "Quick, you fool--ham-string 'en!"

For some reason the young man seemed to hesitate.  Likely enough he
did not hear; perhaps had lost presence of mind.  At any rate, for a
second or so, his arm hung on the stroke, and as the bull swerved
again he jabbed his bayonet feebly at the haunch.

The butcher swore furiously.  "Murdered by folly if ever man was!
Ye bitter fool," he shouted, "it's pricked him on, ye've done!"

The black-faced man, having gained maybe a dozen yards by his
manoeuvre, was now heading for the Citadel gate; beside which--so far
away that we saw them as toys--stood a sentry-box and the figure of a
sentry beside it.  Could he reach this gate?  His altered course had
taken him a little downhill, to the left of the ridge, and to regain
it by the Citadel he must fetch a slight loop.  Luckily the bull
could not reason: he followed his enemy.  But there was just a chance
that by running along the ridge the chase might be headed off.
The crowd saw this and set off anew, with Master Archibald still a
little in front and increasing his lead.  I scrambled from under the
seat and followed.

But almost at once it became plain that we were out-distanced.
Alone of us Master Archibald had a chance; and if the man were to be
saved, it lay either with him or with the sentry at the gate.

I can yet remember the look on the sentry's face as we drew closer
and his features grew distinct.  He stood in the middle of the short
roadway which led to the drawbridge, and clearly it had within a few
moments dawned upon him that _he_ was the point upon which these
fatal forces were converging.  A low wall fenced him on either hand,
and as he braced himself, grasping his Brown Bess--a fine picture of
Duty triumphing over Irresolution--into this narrow passage poured
the chase, rolled as it were in a flying heap; the hunted man just
perceptibly first, the bull and Archibald Plinlimmon cannoning
against each other at the entrance.  Master Archibald was hurled
aside by the impact of the brute's hindquarters and shot, at first on
all fours, then prone, alongside the base of the wall; but he had
managed to get his thrust home, and this time with effect.  The bull
tossed his head with a mighty roar, ducked it again and charged on
his prey, who flung up both arms and fell spent by the sentry-box.
The sentry sprang to the other side of the roadway and let fly his
charge at random as box, man, and bull crashed to earth together, and
a dreadful bellow mingled with the sharper notes of splintered wood.

It was the end.  The bullet had cut clean through the bull's spine at
the neck, and the crowd dragged him lifeless, a board of the
sentry-box still impaled on his horns, off the legs of the
black-avised man--who, at first supposed to be dead also, awoke out
of his swoon to moan feebly for water.

While this was fetching, the butcher knelt and lifted him against his
knee.  He struck me as ill-favoured enough--not to say ghastly--with
the dust and blood on his face (for a splinter had laid open his
cheek), and its complexion an unhealthy white against his matted
hair.  I took note that he wore sergeant's stripes.

"What's the poor thing called?" someone inquired of the sentry.

The sentry, being an Irishman, mistook the idiom.  "He's called a
Bull," said he, stroking the barrel of his rifle.  "H'what the divvle
else?"

"But 'tis the man we mean."

"Oh, _he's_ called Letcher; sergeant; North Wilts."

Letcher gulped down a mouthful of water and managed to sit up,
pushing the butcher's arm aside.

"Where's Plinlimmon?" he asked hoarsely.  "Hurt?"

"Here I am, old fellow," answered Archibald, reeling rather than
stepping forward.  "A crack on the skull, that's all.  Hope you're
none the worse?" His own face was bleeding from a nasty graze on the
right temple.

"H'm?" said Letcher.  "Mean it?   You'd better mean it by--!" he
snarled suddenly, his face twisted with pain or malice.  "You weren't
too smart, the first go.  Why the deuce didn't you hamstring the
brute?   You heard them shouting?"

"That's asackly what I told 'en," put in the butcher.

"Oh, stow your fat talk, you silly Devonshire-man!" The butcher's
tongue was too big for his mouth, and Letcher mimicked him
ferociously and with an accuracy quite wonderful, his exhaustion
considered.  He leaned back and panted.  "The brute touched me--under
the thigh, here.  I doubt I'm bleeding." He closed his eyes and
fainted away.

They found, on lifting him, that he spoke truth.  The bull had gored
him in the leg: a nasty wound beginning at the back of the knee,
running upward and missing the main artery by a bare inch.  A squad
of soldiers had run out, hearing the shot, and these bore him into
the Citadel, Master Archibald limping behind.

The crowd began to disperse, and I made my way back to Miss
Plinlimmon.

"A providential escape!" said she on hearing my report.  "I am glad
that Archibald acquitted himself well." She went on to tell me of a
youthful adventure of her own with a mountain bull, in her native
Wales.

Some days later she sent me a poem on the occurrence:

    "Lo, as he strides his native scene,
     The bull--how dignified his mien!
        When tethered, otherwise!
     Yet _one_ his tether broke and ran
     After a military man
        Before these very eyes!"

"I feel that I have been more successful with the metre than usual,"
she added, "having been guided by a little poem, a favourite of mine,
which, as it also inculcates kindness to the brute creation, you will
do well, Harry, to commit to memory.  It runs:

    "'Poor little birds! If people knew
     What sorrows little birds go through,
        I think that even boys
     Would never deem it sport, or fun,
     To stand and fire a frightful gun
        For nothing but the noise.'"

The shadow of Mr. Archibald seemed doomed to rest upon our
anniversaries.  This second one, though more than exciting enough,
had not answered my expectations: and, on the third, when I presented
myself at the Bun Shop it was to learn with dismay that Miss
Plinlimmon had not arrived; with dismay and something more--for I had
walked into the country towards Plympton early that morning and
raided an orchard under the trees of which grew a fine crop of
columbines, seeded from a neighbouring garden.  Also I jingled
together in my pocket no less a sum than two bright shillings, which
Mr. Trapp had magnificently handed over to me out of a wager of five
he had made with an East Country skipper that I could dive and take
the water, hands first, off the jib-boom of any vessel selected from
the shipping then at anchor in Cattewater.  I knew that Miss
Plinlimmon wanted a box to hold her skeins, and I also knew the price
of one in a window in George Street, and had the shopman's promise
not to part with it before five o'clock that evening.  I wished Miss
Plinlimmon to admire it first, and then I meant to enter the shop in
a lordly fashion and, emerging, to put the treasure in her hands.

So I paced the pavement in front of Mr. Tucker's, the prey of a
thousand misgivings.  But at length, and fully half an hour late, she
hove in sight.

"I have been detained, dear," she explained as we kissed, "--by
Archibald," she added.

Always that accursed Archibald!  "Did he wish you many happy
returns?" I asked, thrusting my bunch of columbines upon her with a
blush.

"You dear, dear boy!" she chirruped.  But she ignored my question.
When we were seated, too, she made the poorest attempt to eat, but
kept exclaiming on the beauty of my flowers.

The meal over, she drew out her purse to pay.  "We shan't be seeing
Mr. Archibald to-day?" I asked wistfully, preparing to go.

"You may be certain--"  With that she paused, with a blank look which
changed to one of shame and utter confusion.  The purse was empty.

"Oh, Harry--what shall I do?   There were five shillings in it
when--.  I counted them out and laid the purse on the table beside my
gloves.  I was just picking them up when--when Archibald--"
Her voice failed again and she turned to the shop-woman.  "Something
most unfortunate has happened.  Will you, please, send for Mr.
Tucker?  He will know me.  I have been here on several previous
occasions--"

I had not the slightest notion of the price of eatables; but I, too,
turned on the shopwoman with a bold face, albeit with a fluttering
heart.

"How much?" I demanded.

"One-and-ninepence, sir."

I know not which made me the happier--relief, or the glory of being
addressed as "sir."  I paid, pocketed my threepence change, and in
the elation of it offered Miss Plinlimmon my arm.  We walked down
George Street, past the work-box in the window.  I managed to pass
without wincing, though desperately afraid that the shopman might pop
out--it seemed but natural he should be lying in wait--and hold me to
my bargain.

Our session upon the Hoe, though uninterrupted, did not recapture the
dear abandonment of our first blissful birthday.  Miss Plinlimmon
could neither forget the mishap to her purse, nor speak quite freely
about it.  A week later she celebrated her redemption in the
following stanza:

    "A friend in need is a friend indeed,
        We have oft-times heard:
        And King Richard the Third
     Was reduced to crying, 'My kingdom for a horse!'
        O, may we never want a friend!
     'Or a bottle to give him,' I omit, as coarse."

She enclosed one-and-ninepence in the missive: and so obtained her
work-box after all--it being, by a miracle, still unsold.



CHAPTER VI.


I STUMBLE INTO HORRORS.

It was exactly seven weeks later--that is to say, on the evening
of June 18th, 1811--that as I stood in the doorway whistling
_Come, cheer up, my lads_, to Mrs. Trapp's tame blackbird, the old
Jew slop-dealer came shuffling up the alley and demanded word with my
master.

His name was Rodriguez--"I. Rodriguez, Marine Stores"--and his shop
stood at the corner of the Barbican as you turn into Southside
Street.  He had an extraordinarily fine face, narrow, emaciated, with
a noble hook to his nose (which was neither pendulous nor fleshy) and
a black pointed beard divided by a line of grey.  We boys feared him,
one and all: but in a furred cloak and skull-cap he would have made a
brave picture.  The dirt of his person, however, was a scandal.
I told him that Mr. Trapp had walked over and taken the ferry to
Cremyll, where his boat was fitting out for the summer.  "But Mrs.
Trapp is washing-up at the back.  Shall I call her?"

"God forbid!" said he.  "I am not come to listen, but to speak."

I asked him then if I could take a message.

"As wine in a leaky vessel, so is a message committed to a child.
Two of my chimneys need to be swept."

"I can remember that, sir," said I.

He eyed me in a way that made me feel uncomfortable.  "Yes; you will
remember," he said, as if somehow he had satisfied himself.  Yet his
eyes continued to search me.  "You have not swept my chimneys
before?"

"I have been working for Mr. Trapp almost three years," said I
demurely.

"Yes, I have seen your face.  But I do not often have my chimneys
swept: it is dreadful waste of money.  The soot, now--your master and
I cannot agree about it.  I say that the soot is mine, that I made
it, in my own chimney, with my own fuel; therefore it should be my
property, but your master claims it.  Five years ago I left my
chimneys un-swept while I argued this; but one of them took fire, and
so I lost my soot, and the Corporation fined me five shillings.
It was terrible."  He fell back a pace and studied me again.
"If my brother Aaron could see your face, boy, he would want to paint
it and you might make money."

"Where does he live, sir?" I asked.

"Eh?  Good boy--good boy!  He lives in Lisbon, in the Ghetto off the
Street of the Four Evangelists."  He laughed, high up in his nose, at
my discomfiture.  "If you ever meet him, mention my name: but first
of all tell your master I shall expect him at five o'clock to-morrow
morning."  He wished me good night and shuffled away down the alley,
still laughing at his joke.


At five o'clock next morning, or a little before, Mr. Trapp and I
started for the house.  The Barbican had not yet awaked to business.
Its frowzy blinds were down, and out on the Pool nothing moved but a
fishing-boat sweeping in upon the first of the flood.

At the entrance of Southside Street, however, we almost overtook a
soldier walking towards the town.  He walked slowly and with a very
slight limp, but seemed to quicken his pace a little, and kept ahead
of us.  The barracks being full just then, many soldiers had their
billets about the town, and that one should be abroad at such an hour
was nothing suspicious: yet my eyes were still following him when Mr.
Trapp halted and knocked at the Jew's door.  At the sound, I saw the
man start and hesitate for an instant in his stride: and in that
instant, though he held on his pace and was lost to sight around the
street-corner, I recognised him and understood the limp.  He was the
man of the bull-chase--Sergeant Letcher (as the sentry had named him)
of the North Wilts.

Nobody answered Mr. Trapp's knock, though he repeated it four or five
times.  He stepped back into the roadway and scanned the unshuttered
upper windows.  They were uncurtained, too, every one, and grimed
with dust: and through this dust we could see rows of cast-off suits
dangling within like limp suicides.

"Very odd," commented Mr. Trapp.  "You're sure he said five o'clock?"

"Sure," said I.

"Besides--five o'clock or six--why can't the old skin-flint answer?"

He knocked again vigorously.  A blind-cord creaked, a window went up
over a ship-chandler's shop next door, and a man thrust out his head.

"What's wrong?" he demanded.

"Sorry to disturb ye, Clemow; but old Rodriguez, here, bespoke us to
sweep his chimneys at five, and we can't get admittance."

"Why, I heard him unbolt for ye an hour ago!" said the ship-chandler.
"He woke me up with his noise, letting down the chain."

The door had a latch-handle and Mr. Trapp grasped it.  "Drat me, but
you're right!" he exclaimed, as he pressed his thumb and the door at
once yielded.  "Huh!" He stared into the empty passage, out of which
a room opened on either hand, each hung with cast-off suits which
seemed to sway slightly in the scanty light filtered through the
shutter-holes.  "I don't stomach moving among these.  Even in broad
daylight I'm never too sure there ain't a man hidden in one of 'em.
He might be dead, too--by the smell."

He stepped to the foot of the uncarpeted stairs.  "Mister Rodriguez!"
he called.  His voice echoed up past the cobwebbed landing and seemed
to go wandering aloft among unclean mysteries to the very roof.
Nobody answered.

"Mister Rodriguez!" he called again, and waited.  "Let's try the
kitchen," he suggested.  "We started with that, last time: and, if my
memory holds good, 'tis the only chimney he uses.  He beds in a small
room right over us, next the roof, and keeps a fire going there
through the winter: but the flue of it leads into the same shaft--a
pretty wide shaft as I rec'llect."

We groped our way by the foot of the staircase and along a line of
cupboards to the kitchen.  The window of this looked out upon a
backyard piled with refuse timber, packing-cases, and plaster
statuary broken and black with soot.  Within, the hearth had been
swept as if in preparation for us.  On the dirty table stood a
milk-jug with a news-sheet folded and laid across its top, a
half-loaf of bread, and a plate of meat--but of what kind we did not
pause to examine.  It looked nauseous enough.  A brindled cat made a
dash past us and upstairs.  Its unexpected charge greatly unsettled
Mr. Trapp.

"It daunts me--I declare it do!" he confided hoarsely.  "But he's
been here, anyway; and he expects us."  He waved a hand towards the
hearth.  "Shall I call again?  Or what d'ye say to getting it over?"

"I'm ready," said I.  To tell the truth, the inside of the chimney
seemed more inviting to me than the rest of the house.  I was
accustomed to chimneys.

"Up we go, then!" Mr. Trapp began to spread his bags.  He always used
the first person plural on these occasions--meaning, no doubt, that I
took with me his moral support.  "The shaft's easy enough, I mind--
two storeys above this, and all the flues leadin' to your right.
I'll be out in the street by the time you hail."

I hadn't a doubt he would.  "One week to Midsummer!" I cried, to
hearten me--for we were both counting the days now between us and the
fishing.  He grinned, and up I went.

The chimney was foul, to be sure, but once past the first ten or a
dozen feet I mounted quickly.  Towards the top the shaft narrowed so
that for a while I had my doubts if it could be squeezed through: but
I found, on reaching it, that the brickwork shelved inwards very
slightly, though furred or crusted with an extra thick coating of
soot below the vent.  Through this I broke in triumph, sweating from
my haste; and brushing the filth from my eyes, leaned both arms on
the chimney-pot while I scanned the roofs around for a glimpse
between them, down to the street and Mr. Trapp.  I did so at ease,
for a flue entered the main shaft immediately below the stack, which
was a decidedly dumpy one--in fact, less than five feet tall; so that
I supported myself not by the arms alone but by resting my toes on
the ridge where flue and shaft met.

Now, as the reader will remember, it was the height of summer, and
the day had brightened considerably since we entered the house.
The sudden sunshine set me blinking, and while I cleared my eyes it
seemed to me that a man--a dark figure--something, at any rate, and
something a great deal too large to be mistaken for a cat--stole from
under the gable above which my chimney rose, and, swiftly crossing a
patch of flat leaded roof to the right, disappeared around a
chimney-stack on the far side of it.

I ceased rubbing my eyes and stared at the stack.  It was a tall one,
rising from a good fifteen feet below almost to a level with mine,
and I could not possibly look over it.  _Something_, I felt sure,
lurked behind it, and my ears seemed to hold the sound of a soft
footstep.  I forgot Mr. Trapp.  By pulling myself a little higher I
could get a better view, not of the stack, but of the stretch of roof
beyond it: nobody could break cover in that direction and escape me.
I took a firm grip on the corroded bricks and heaved on them.

Next moment they had given way under my hands, falling inwards: and I
was falling with them.

I kicked out, striving to find again with my toes the ridge where the
flue joined the shaft--missed it--and went shooting down to the right
through a smother of soot.

The total fall--or slide, rather--was not a severe one, after all;
twenty feet perhaps, though uncomfortable enough for sixty.  I pulled
myself up quite suddenly, my feet resting on a ledge which, as I
shook the soot off and recovered my wits, turned out to be the upper
sill of a grate.  Then, growing suddenly cautious when the need for
caution was over, I descended the next foot or two back foremost, as
one goes down a ladder, and jumped out into the room clear of the
hearthstone.

And with that, as I turned, a scream rose to my throat and died
there.  I had almost jumped upon the stretched-out body of a man.



CHAPTER VII.


I ESCAPE FROM THE JEW'S HOUSE.

It was Mr. Rodriguez.  He lay face downward and slantwise across the
front of the hearth, with arms spread, fingers hooked, and his neck
protruding from the collar of his dingy dressing-gown like a plucked
fowl's.  He had cast a slipper in falling, and the flesh of one heel
showed through its rent stocking.  For a moment I supposed him in a
fit; the next, I was recoiling towards the wall, away from a dark
moist line which ran from under his left armpit and along the uneven
boards to the far corner by the window, and there, under a disordered
truckle-bed, spread itself in a pool.

With my eyes glued upon this horrid sight I slowly straightened
myself up--having crouched back until I felt the wall behind me--and
so grew aware of a door beside the chimney-breast, and that it stood
ajar upon the empty landing.  The dead man's heels pointed towards
it, his head towards the window at the foot of the bed.

And still my shaken wits could not clutch at the meaning of what I
saw.  I only felt that there was something horrible, menacing,
hideously malignant in the figure at my feet: only craved for
strength of will to dash by it, reach the door and fling myself down
the stairs--anywhere--away from it.  Had it stirred, I believe it had
then and there destroyed my reason.

But it did not stir.  And all the while I knew that the thing lay
with its breast in a bath of blood; that it had been stabbed in the
back and the blood welling down under the clothes had gathered in a
pool, ready to gush and spread on all sides as soon as the body
should be lifted or its attitude interfered with.  I cannot tell how
I found time to reason this out; but I did.

I knew, too, that I could not scream aloud if I tried: but I had no
desire to try.  _It_ might wake and lift up its head!  I felt
backwards with my hand along the wall, groping unconsciously for
something to aid my spring towards the door; but desisted.  For the
moment I could not lift a foot.

With that--either this was all a dream or I heard footsteps on the
flat roof outside; very slow, soft footsteps, too, as of somebody
walking on tiptoe.  But if on tiptoe, why was he coming _towards_ me?
Yet so it was; my ear told me distinctly.

As his feet crunched the leads close outside the window I caught a
gleam of scarlet; then the frame grew dark between me and the
daylight, and through the pane a man peered cautiously into the room.

It was Archibald Plinlimmon.

He peered in, turning his face sideways for a better view and shading
it, after a moment, with his hand.  So shaded, and with the daylight
behind it, his face after that first instant became an inscrutable
blur.

But while he peered speech broke from me--words and a wild laugh.

"Look at it!  Look at it!" I cried, and pointed.

He drew back instantly, and was gone.

"Don't leave me! Mr. Plinlimmon--please don't leave me!" I made a
leap for the window--halted helplessly--and fell back again from the
body.  I was alone again.  But power to move had come back, and I
must use it while it lasted.  If I could gain the stairs now . . .

Stealthily, and more stealthily as the fear returned and grew, I
reached the door, pushed it open, and looked out on the landing.  But
for a worm-eaten trunk and a line of old suits dangling from pegs
around the wall, it was bare.  The little light filtered through a
cracked and discoloured window high up in the slope of the roof.
The stairhead lay a short two yards from me, to be reached by one
bold leap.

This, however, was not what I first saw; nay, how or when I saw it is
a wonder still.  For, across the landing, a door faced me; and, as I
pushed mine open, this door had moved--was moving yet, as if to shut.

It did not quite shut.  It came to a standstill when almost a foot
ajar.  Beyond it I could see yet other suits of clothes hanging: and
among these lurked someone, watching me, perhaps, through the chink
by the hinges.  I was sure of it--was almost sure I had seen a hand
on the edge of the door; a hand with a ring on one of its fingers,
and just the edge, and no more, of a black cuff.

For perhaps five seconds I endured it, my hair lifting: then, with
one sharp scream I dashed back into the room and across the corpse;
struggled for a moment with the window-sash; and flinging it up,
dropped out upon the leads.

Out there, in the restorative sunshine, my first thought was to crawl
away as fast and as far as possible; to reach some hiding-place where
I might lie down and pant, unpursued by the horrors of that house.
The roofs on my right were flat; I staggered along them, halting at
every few steps to lean a hand for support against one or other of
the chimney-stacks, now growing warm in the sunshine.

From the far side of one, as I leaned clinging, a man sprang up,
almost at my feet.  It was Archie Plinlimmon again.  He had been
flattening himself against its shadow; and at first--so white and
fierce was his face--I made sure he meant to hurl me over and on to
the street below.

"What do you want?  What have you seen?"  Though he spoke fiercely,
his teeth chattered.  "Oh--it's you!" he exclaimed, recognising me
through my soot.

"Mr. Plinlimmon--" I began.

"I didn't do it.  I didn't--"  He broke off.  "For Heaven's sake, how
are we to get down out of this?"

"There's no way on the street side," I answered, "unless--"

He took me up short.  "The street?  We can't go that way--it's as
much as my neck's worth.  Yours, too."

"Mr. Trapp's waiting for me," I answered stupidly.

"Who knows who isn't waiting?" he snapped.  "We'll have to cut out of
this."  He pointed downward on the side away from the street.
"I say, what happened?  Who did it, eh?"

"I slipped in the chimney," I answered again.  "He wanted his
chimneys swept this morning.  We knocked--Mr. Trapp and I--and no one
answered: then we tried the door, and it opened.  There was no one
about, and no one in the street but Sergeant Letcher."

He began to shake.  "Sergeant Letcher?  What do you know about
Sergeant Letcher?"

"Nothing, except that he was in the street--the man the bull chased,
you know."

He was shaking yet.  "I ought to kill you," said he.  "But I didn't
do it.  Look here, show me a way down and I'll let you off.
You're used to this work, ain't you?"

"How did you come up?" I asked, innocently enough.

"By the Lord, if you ask questions, I'll strangle you!  You were in
the room with--with _it_!  I saw you: I'll swear I saw you.  Get me
down out of this, and hide--get on board some ship, and clear.
See?  If you breathe a word that you've seen me, I'll cut your heart
out.  You understand me?"

I hadn't a doubt then that he was guilty.  His fear was too craven.
"There's a warehouse at the end here," said I, and led the way to it.
But when we reached it, its roof rose in a sharp slope from the low
parapet guarding the leads where we stood.

"But I don't see," he objected; "and, anyway, I can't manage that."

I pointed to a louver skylight half-way up the roof.  "We can prise
that open, or break it.  It's easy enough to reach," I assured him.

He was extraordinarily clumsy on the slates, but obeyed my
instructions like a child.  I wrenched at the wooden louvers.

"Got a knife?" I asked.

He produced one--an ugly-looking weapon, but clean.  By good luck, we
did not need it; for as he passed it to me, the louver at which I was
tugging broke and came away in my hand.  We easily loosened another
and, squeezing through, dropped into the loft upon a sliding pile of
grain.

The loft was dark enough; but a glimmer of light shone through the
chinks of a door at the far end.  Unbolting it, we looked down, from
the height of thirty feet or so, into a deserted lane.  Or rather _I_
looked down: for while I fumbled with the bolts Master Archie had
banged his head into something hard, and dropped, rubbing the hurt
and cursing.

It proved to be the timber cross-piece of a derrick used for hoisting
sacks of grain into the loft, working on an axle, and now swung
inboard for the night.  A double rope ran through the pulley at its
end and had been hitched back over the iron winch which worked it.
We pushed the derrick out over the lane and I manned the winch
handle, while Master Archie caught hold of the hook and pulley at the
end of the double line.  Checking the handle with all my strength I
lowered him as noiselessly as I could.  As his feet touched the
cobbles below he let go and, without a thought of my safety, made off
down the lane.

I tugged the derrick inboard and recaptured the rope; cogged the
winch, swung out, dropped hand over hand into the lane, and raced up
it with all the terrors of the law at my heels.



CHAPTER VIII.


POOR TOM BOWLING.

Master Archibald's advice to me--to escape down to the water-side and
conceal myself on shipboard--though acute enough in its way, took no
account of certain difficulties none the less real because a soldier
would naturally overlook them.  To hide in a ship's hold you must
first get on board of her unobserved, which in broad daylight is next
to impossible.  Moreover, to reach Cattewater I must either fetch a
circuit through purlieus where every householder knew me and every
urchin was a nodding acquaintance, or make a straight dash close by
the spot where by this time Mr. Trapp would be getting anxious--if
indeed Southside Street and the Barbican were not already resounding
with the hue and cry.  No: if friendly vessel were to receive and
hide me, she lay far off, across the heart of the town, amid the
shipping of the Dock.  Yonder, too, Miss Plinlimmon resided.

If you think it absurd that my thoughts turned to her, whose weak
arms could certainly shield no one from the clutches of the law, I
beg you to remember my age, and that I had never known another
protector.  She, at least, would hear me and never doubt my
innocence.  She must hear, too, of Archie's danger.

That to reach her, even if I eluded pursuit to the Hospital gate, I
must run the gauntlet of Mr. George--who would assuredly ask
questions--and possibly of Mr. Scougall, scarcely occurred to me.
To reach her--to sob out my story in her arms and hear her voice
soothing me--this only I desired for the moment; and it seemed that
if I could only hear her voice speaking, I might wake and feel these
horrors dissolve like an evil dream.  Meanwhile I ran.

But at the end of a lane leading into Treville Street, and as I leapt
aside to avoid colliding with the hind-wheels of a hackney-coach
drawn in there and at a standstill close by the kerb, to my
unspeakable fright I felt myself gripped by the jacket-collar.

"Hi!  Bring-to and 'vast kicking, young coal-dust!  Where're ye
bound, hey?  Answer me, and take your black mop out of a gentleman's
weskit."

"To--to Dock, sir," I stammered.  "Let me go, please: I'm in a
hurry."

My captor held me out at arm's length and eyed me.  He was a sailor,
and rigged out in his best shore-going clothes--tarpaulin hat, blue
coat and waistcoat, and a broad leathern belt to hold up his duck
trousers, on which my sooty head had left its mark.  He grinned at me
good-naturedly.  I saw that he had been drinking.

"In a hurry?  And what's your hurry about? Business?"

"Ye--es, sir."

"'Stonishing what spirit boys'll put into work nowadays!  I've seen
boys run for a leg o' mutton, and likewise I've seen 'em run when
they've broken ship; but on the path o' duty, my sonny, you've the
legs of any boy in my ex-perience.  Well, for once, you'll put
pleasure first.  I'm bound for Dock or thereabouts myself, and under
convoy."  He waved his hand up the street, where twelve or fifteen
hackney-coaches stood in line ahead.

"If you please, sir--"

He threw open the coach door.  "Jump in.  The frigate sets the rate
o' sailing.  That's Bill."

I hesitated, rebellious.

"That's Bill.  Messmate o' mine on the _Bedford_, and afore that on
the _Vesuvius_ bomb.  There, sonny--don't stand gaping at me like a
stuck pig: I never expected ye to _know_ him!  And now the time's
past, and ye'll go far afore finding a better.  Bill Adams his name
was; but Bill to me, always, and in all weathers."  Here for a moment
he became maudlin.  "Paid off but three days agone, same as myself,
and now--cut down like a flower!  He's the corpse, ahead, in the
first conveyance."

"Is this a funeral, sir?"

"Darn your eyes, don't it look like one?  And after the expense I've
been to!"  He paused, eyed me solemnly, opened his mouth, and pointed
down it with his forefinger.  "Drink done it."  His voice was
impressive.  "Steer you wide of the drink, my lad; or else drop down
on it gradual.  If drink must be your moorings, don't pick 'em up too
rash.  'A boiled leg o' mutton first,' says I, persuasive; '_and_
turnips,' and got him to Symonds's boarding-house for the very
purpose, Symonds being noted.  And Symonds--I'll do him that
justice--says the same.  Symonds says--"

But at this point a young woman--and pretty, too, though daubed with
paint--thrust her hat and head out of a window, three carriages away,
and demanded to know what in the name of Moses we were waiting for.

"Signals, my dear.  The flagship's forra'd; and keep your eye lifting
that way, _if_ you please.  I'm main glad you fell in with us," he
went on affably, turning to me; "because you round it up nicely.
Barring the sharks in black weepers, you're the only mourning-card in
the bunch, and I'll see you get a good position at the grave."

"Thank you, sir."

"Don't mention it.  We're doin' our best.  When poor Bill dropped
down in Symonds's"--he jerked his thumb towards the boarding-house
door--"Symonds himself was for turning everyone out.  Very nice
feeling he showed, I will say.  'Damn it, here's a go!' he says;
'and the man looked healthy enough for another ten year, with proper
care!'--and went off at once to stop the fiddlers and put up the
shutters.  But, of course, it meant a loss to him, the place being
full at the time; and I felt a sort of responsibility for having
introduced Bill.  So I went after him and says I, 'This is a most
unforeseen occurrence.'  'Not a bit,' says he; 'accidents will
happen.'  I told him that the corpse had never been a wet blanket;
it wasn't his nature; and I felt sure he wouldn't like the thought.
'If that's the case, says Symonds, 'I've a little room at the back
where he'd go very comfortable--quite shut off, as you might say.
We must send for the doctor, of course, and the crowner can sit on
him to-morrow--that is, if you feel sure deceased wouldn' think it
any disrespect.'  'Disrespect?' says I.  'You don't know Bill.
Why, it's what he'd arsk for!'  So there we carried him, and I sent
for the undertaker same time as the doctor, and ordered it of oak;
and next morning, down I tramped to Dock and chose out a grave,
brick-lined, having heard him say often, 'Plymouth folk for wasting,
but Dock folk for lasting.'  I won't say but what, between whiles,
we've been pretty lively at Symonds's; and I won't say--Hallo!
Here's more luck!  Your servant, sir!"

He stepped forward--leaving me shielded and half hidden by the coach
door--and accosted a stranger walking briskly up the pavement towards
us with a small valise in his hand; a gentlemanly person of about
thirty-five or forty, in clerical suit and bands.

"Eh?  Good-morning!" nodded the clergyman affably.

"Might I arsk where you're bound?"  Then, after a pause, "My name's
Jope, sir; Benjamin Jope, of the _Bedford_, seventy-four, bo'sun's
mate--now paid off."

The clergyman, at first taken aback by the sudden question, recovered
his smile.  "And mine, sir, is Whitmore--the Reverend John Whitmore--
bound just now in the direction of Dock.  Can I serve you
thereabouts?"

Mr. Jope waved his hand towards the coach door.  "Jump inside! Oh,
you needn't be ashamed to ride behind Bill!"

"But who is Bill?"  The Rev.  Mr. Whitmore advanced to the coach door
like a man in two minds.  "Ah, I see--a funeral!" he exclaimed as a
mute advanced--assailed from each coach window, as he passed, with
indecorous obloquy--to announce that the _cortege_ was ready to
start.  For the last two minutes heads had been popping out at these
windows--heads with dyed ringlets and heads with artificially
coloured noses--and their owners demanding to know if Ben Jope meant
to keep them there all day, if the corpse was expected to lead off
the ball, and so on; and I, cowering by the coach step, had shrunk
from their gaze as I flinched now under Mr. Whitmore's.

"Hallo!" said he, and gave me (as I thought) a searching look.
"What's this?  A chimney-sweep?"

"If your Reverence will not object?"

I turned my eyes away, but felt that this clergyman was studying me.
"Not at all," said he quietly after a moment's pause.  "Is he bound
for Dock, too?"

"He said so."

"Eh?  Then we'll see that he gets there.  After you, youngster!"
To my terror the words seemed charged with meaning, but I dared not
look him in the face.  I clambered in and dropped into a seat with my
back to the driver.  He placed himself opposite, nursing the valise
on his knees.  Ben Jope came last and slammed-to the door after him.

"Way-ho!" he shouted.  "Easy canvas!" and with that plumped down
beside me, and took off his tarpaulin hat, extracted a handkerchief,
and carefully wiped his brow and the back of his neck.

"Well!" he sighed.  "Bill's launched, anyhow."

"Shipmate?" asked the clergyman.

"Messmate," answered Mr. Jope; and, opening his mouth, pointed down
it with his forefinger.  "Not that a better fellow ever lived."

"I can quite believe it," said Mr. Whitmore sympathetically.  He had
a pleasant voice, but somehow I did not want to catch his eye.
Instead I kept my gaze fastened upon the knees of his well-fitting
pantaloons.  No divine could have been more correctly attired, and
yet there was a latent horsiness about his cut.  I set him down for a
sporting parson from the country, and wondered why he wore clothes so
much superior to those of the Plymouth parsons known to me by sight.

"Just listen to that now!" exclaimed Mr. Jope.  A cornet in one of
the coaches ahead had struck up _Tom Bowling_, and before we reached
the head of the street from coach after coach the funeral party broke
into song:

    "Here, a sheer hulk, lies poor Tom Bowling,
        The darling of his crew-ew;
     No more he'll hear the te--empest how--wow--ling,
        For death has broach'd him to.
     His form was of the--e ma--hanliest beau--eau--ty--"

"I wouldn't say that, quite," observed Mr. Jope pensively.  "To begin
with, he'd had the small-pox."

"_De gustibus nil nisi bonum_,"  Mr. Whitmore observed soothingly.

"What's that?"

"Latin."

"Wonderful!  Would ye mind saying it again?"

The words were obligingly repeated.

"Wonderful!  And what might be the meaning of it, making so bold?"

"It means 'Speak well of the dead.'"

"Well, we're doing of it, anyhow.  Hark to 'em ahead there!"

The _cortege_, in fact, was attracting general attention.  Folks on
the pavement halted to watch and grin as we went by: one or two,
catching sight of familiar faces within the coaches, waved their
handkerchiefs or shouted back salutations: and as we crawled out of
Old Town Street and past St. Andrew's Church a small crowd raised
three cheers for us.  And still above it the cornet blared and the
mourners' voices rose uproarious:

    "His friends were many and true-hearted,
        His Poll was kind and fair;
     And then he'd sing so blithe and jolly,
        Ah, many's the time and oft!
     But mirth is turned to melanchol--ol--y--
        For Tom is gone aloft."

"Bill couldn't sing a note," Mr. Jope murmured: "but as you say,
sir--Would you oblige us again?"  Again the Latin was repeated, and
he swung round upon me.  "Think of that, now!  Be you a scholar,
hey?--read, write and cipher?  How would you spell 'sojer' for
instance?"

The question knocked the wind out of me, and I felt my face whitening
under the clergyman's eyes.

"Soldier--S.O.L.D.I.E.R," I managed to answer, but scarce above a
whisper.

"Very good: now make a rhyme to it."

"I--please, sir, I don't know any rhymes."

"Well, that's honest, anyway.  Now I'll tell you why I asked."
He turned and addressed Mr. Whitmore.  "I'm Cornish born, sir; from
Saltash, up across the river.  Afore I went to sea there was a maid
livin' next door to us that wanted to marry me.  Well, when she found
I wasn't to be had, she picked up with a fellow from the Victualling
Yard and married he, and came down to Dock to live.  Man's name was
Babbage, and they hadn't been married six months afore he tumbled
into a brine-vat and was drowned.  'That's one narrow escape to me,'
I said.  Next news I had was a letter telling me she'd a boy born,
and please would I stand godfather?  I didn't like to say no, out of
respect to her family.  So I wrote home from Gibraltar that I was
agreeable, only it must be done by proxy and she mustn't make it no
precedent.  That must be ten years back; and what with one thing and
another I never set eyes 'pon mother or child till yesterday when--
having to run down to Dock to order Bill's grave--I thought 'twould
be neighbourly to drop 'em a visit.  I found the boy growed to be a
terrible plain child, about the size of this youngster.  I didn't
like the boy at all.  So I says to his mother, 'I s'pose he's
clever?'--for dang it! thinks I, he must be clever to make up for
being so plain-featured as all that.  'Benjy'--she'd a-called him
Benjamin after me--'Benjy's the cleverest child for his age that ever
you see,' she says.  'Why,' says she, 'he'll pitch-to and make up a
rhyme 'pon anything!'  'Can he so?' I says, pulling a great
crown-piece out of my pocket (not that I liked the cut of his jib,
but the woman had been hinting about my being his godfather):
'Now, my lad, let's see if you're so gifted as your mother makes out.
There's a sojer now passin' the window.  Make a rhyme 'pon he, and
you shall have the money.' What d'ye think that ghastly boy did?
'Aw, that's easy,' he says--"

     'Sojer, sojer,
      Diddy, diddy, dodger!'

"'Now hand me over the money,' he says.  I could have slapped his
ear."

Almost as he ended his simple story, the procession came to a halt:
the strains of _Tom Bowling_ changed into noisy--and, on the part of
the ladies, very unladylike--expostulations.  Mr. Jope started
forward and leaned out of the window.

"I think," said the Rev.  Mr. Whitmore, "we have arrived at the
toll-gate."

"D'ye mean to say the sharks want to take toll on Bill?"

"Likely enough."

"On Bill?  And him a-going to his long home?  Here--hold hard!"
Mr. Jope leapt out into the roadway and disappeared.

Upon us two, left alone in the coach, there fell a dreadful silence.
Mr. Whitmore leaned forward and touched my knee; and I met his eye.

The face I looked into was thin and refined; clean-shaven and a
trifle pale as if with the habit of study.  A slight baldness by the
temples gave the brow unusual height.  His eyes I did not like at
all: instead of soothing the terror in mine they seemed to be
drinking it in and tasting it and calculating.

"I passed by the Barbican just now," said he; "and heard some
inquiries about a small chimney-sweep."

He paused, as if waiting.  But I had no speech in me.

"It was a very strange story they were telling--a very dreadful and
strange story: still when I came upon you I saw, of course, it was
incredible.  Boys of your size"--he hesitated and left the sentence
unfinished.  "Still, you may have seen something--hey?"

Again I could not answer.

"At any rate," he went on, "I gave you the benefit of the doubt and
resolved to warn you.  It was a mistake to run away: but the
mischief's done.  How were you proposing to make off?"

"You--you won't give me up, sir?"

"No, for I think you must be innocent--of what they told me, at
least.  I feel so certain of it that, as you see, my conscience
allows me to warn you.  In the first place, avoid the Torpoint Ferry.
It will without doubt be watched.  I should make for the docks, hide
until night, and try to stow myself on shipboard.  Secondly"--he put
out a hand and softly unfastened the coach door--"I am going to leave
you.  Our friend Mr. Jope is engaged, I see, in an altercation with
the toll-keeper.  He seems a good-natured fellow.  The driver
(it may help you to know) is drunk.  Of course, if by ill-luck they
trace me out, to question me, I shall be obliged to tell what I know.
It amounts to very little: still--I have no wish to tell it.
One word more: get a wash as soon as you can, and by some means
acquire a clean suit of clothes.  I may be then unable to swear to
you: may be able to say that your face is as unfamiliar to me as it
was--or as mine was to you--when Mr. Jope introduced us.  Eh?"
His look was piercing.

"Thank you, sir."

He picked up his valise, nodded, and after a swift glance up the
street and around at the driver, to make sure that his head was
turned, stepped briskly out upon the pavement and disappeared around
the back of the coach.



CHAPTER IX.


SALTASH FERRY.

Apparently the hackney coachman was accustomed to difficulties with
the toll-gate; for he rested on the box in profoundest slumber,
recumbent, with his chin sunk on his chest; and only woke up--with a
start which shook the vehicle--when a black hearse with plumes waving
went rattling by us and back towards Plymouth.

A minute later Mr. Jope reappeared at the coach door, perspiring
copiously, but triumphant.

"Oh, it's been heavinly!" he announced.  "Why, hallo!  Where's his
Reverence?"

"He couldn't wait, sir.  He--he preferred to walk."

"Eh?  I didn't see 'en pass the toll-bar.  That's a pity, too; for
I wanted to take his opinion.  Oh, my son, it's been heavinly!
First of all I tried argyment and called the toll-man a son of a
bitch; and then he fetched up a constable, and, as luck would have
it, Nan--she's in the second coach--knew all about _him_; leastways,
she talked as if she did.  Well, the toll-man stuck to his card of
charges and said he hadn't made the law, but it was threepence for
everything on four wheels.  'Four wheels?' I said.  'Don't talk so
weak!  We brought nothing into the world and we can't take it out;
but you'd take the breeches off a Highlander,' I says.  'He's on four
wheels,' says the fellow, stubborn as ever.  'So was Elijah,' says I;
'but if you're so mighty particular, we'll try ye another way.'
I paid off the crew of the hearse, gave the word to cast loose, and
down we dumped poor Bill slap in the middle of the roadway.
'Now,' says I, 'we'll leave talking of wheels.  What's your charge
for 'en on the flat?' 'Eight bearers at a ha'penny makes fourpence,'
he says.  'No, no, my son,' I says, 'there ain't a-going to be no
bearers.  _He's_ happy enough if he stops here all night.  You may
charge 'en as a covered conveyance, as I see you've a right to; but
the card says nothing about rate of drivin', except that it mustn't
be reckless; and, you may lay to it, Bill won't be that.'  At first
the constable talked big about obstructing the traffic: but Nan was
telling the crowd such terrible things about his past that for very
shame he grew quiet, and the pair agreed that, by lashin' Bill a-top
of the first coach, we might pass him through _gratis_ as personal
luggage--Why, what's the boy cryin' for?  It's all over now; and a
principle's a principle."

But still, as the squadron got under way again and moved on amid the
cheers of the populace, I sat speechless, dry-eyed, shaken with
dreadful sobs.

"Easy, my lad--don't start the timbers.  In trouble--hey?"

I nodded.

"I thought as much, when I shipped ye.  Sit up, and tell me; but
first listen to this.  All trouble's big to a boy, but one o' your
age don't often do what's past mendin', if he takes it honest.
That's comfort, hey?  Very well: now haul up and inspect damages, and
we'll see what's to be done."

"It's about a Jew, sir," I stammered at length.

He nodded.  "Now we're making headway."

"He--he was murdered.  I saw him--"

"Look here," said Mr. Jope, very grave but seemingly not astonished:
"hadn't you best get under the seat?"

"I--I didn't do it, sir.  Really, I didn't."

"I'm not suggestin' it," said Mr. Jope.  "Still, all circumstances
considered, I'd get under the seat."

"If you wish it, sir."

"I wouldn't go so far as to say _that_: but 'tis my advice."  And
under the seat I crawled obediently.  "Now, then," said he, with an
absurd air of one addressing vacancy; "if you didn' do it, who did?"

"I don't know, sir."

"Then where's your difficulty?"

"But I saw a man staring in at the window--it was upstairs in a room
close to the roof; and afterwards I found him on the roof, and he was
all of a tremble, and in two minds, so he said, about pitching me
over.  I showed him the way down.  If you please, sir," I broke off,
"you're not to tell anyone about this, whatever happens!"

"Eh?  Why not?"

"Because--"  I hesitated.

"Friend of yours?"

"Not a friend, sir.  He's a young man, in the Army; and his aunt--she
used to be very kind to me.  I ran away at first because I was
afraid: but they can't do anything to me, can they?  I didn't find
the--the--the--Mr. Rodriguez, I mean--until he was dead.  But if they
catch me I shall have to give evidence, and Mr. Archie--though I
don't believe he did it--"

"Belay there!" commanded Mr. Jope!  "I'm beginning to see things
clearer, though I won't say 'tis altogether easy to follow ye yet.
Far as I can make out, you're not a bad boy.  You ran away because
you were scared.  Well, I don't blame ye for that.  I never seen a
dead Jew myself, though I often wanted to.  You won't go back if you
can help it, 'cos why?  'Cos you don't want to tell on a man: 'cos
his aunt's a friend o' yourn: and 'cos you don't believe he's guilty.
What's your name?"

"Harry, sir: Harry Revel."

"Well, then, my name's Ben Jope, and as such you'll call me.
I'm sorry, in a way, that it rhymes with 'rope,' which it never
struck me before in all these years, and wouldn't now but for
thinkin' 'pon that ghastly godson o' mine and how much better I
stomach ye.  I promise nothing, mind: but if you'll keep quiet under
that seat, I'll think it over."

Certainly, having made my confession, I felt easier in mind as I lay
huddled under the seat, though it seemed to me that Mr. Jope took
matters lightly.  For the squadron ahead had resumed the singing of
_Tom Bowling_ and he sat humming a bar or two here and there with
evident pleasure, and paused only to bow out of window and
acknowledge the cheers of the passers-by.

At the end of five minutes, however, he spoke aloud again.

"The first thing," he announced, "is to stay where you are.
Let me think, now--Who seen you?  There's the parson: he's gone.
And there's the jarvey: he's drunk as a lord.  Anyone else?"

"There was one of the young ladies that looked out of window."

"True: then 'tis too risky.  When the company gets out, you'll have
to get out.  Let the jarvey see you do it: the rest don't matter.
You can pretend to walk with us a little way, then slip back and
under the seat again--takin' care that this time the jarvey _don't_
see you.  That's easy enough, eh?"

I assured him I could manage it.

"Then leave the rest to me, and bide still.  I got to think of Bill,
now; and more by token here's the graveyard gate!"

He thrust the door open and motioned me to tumble out ahead of him.
As the rest of the funeral guests alighted, he worked me very
skilfully before him into the driver's view, having taken care to set
the coach door wide on the off side.

"It's understood that you wait, all o' ye?" said Mr. Jope to the
driver.

The man lifted a lazy eye.  "Take your time," he said: "don't mind
me.  I hope "--he stiffened himself suddenly--"I knows a gentleman
when I sees one."

Mr. Jope turned away and from that moment ignored my existence.
The coffin was unlashed and lowered from the leading coach; the
clergyman at the gate began to recite the sacred office, and the
funeral train, reduced to decorum by his voice, followed him as he
turned, and trooped along the path towards the mortuary chapel.
I moved with the crowd to its porch, drew aside to make way for a
lady in rouge and sprigged muslin, and slipped behind the chapel
wall.  The far end of it hid me from the view of the coaches, and
from it a pretty direct path led to a gap in the hedge, and a stile.
Reaching and crossing this, I found myself in a by-lane leading back
into the high road.  There were no houses with windows to overlook
me.  I sauntered around at leisure, took the line of coaches in the
rear, and crawled back to my hiding-place--it astonished me with what
ease.  Every driver sat on his box, and every driver slumbered.

The mystery of this was resolved when--it seemed an hour later; but
actually, I dare say, Bill's obsequies took but the normal twenty
minutes or so--Mr. Jope shepherded his flock back through the gates
and, red-eyed, addressed them while he distributed largess along the
line of jarveys.

"I thank ye, friends," said he in a muffled voice which at first I
attributed to emotion.  "The fare home is paid to the foot of George
Street--I arranged that with the jobmaster, and this here little gift
is private, between me and the drivers, to drink Bill's health.  And
now I'll shake hands."  Here followed sounds of coughing and choking,
and he resumed in feeble gasping sentences, "Thank ye, my dear; I've
brought up the two guineas, but you've a-made me swallow my quid o'
baccy.  Hows'ever, you meant it for the best.  And that's what I had
a mind to say to ye all."  His voice grew firmer--"You're a pleasant
lot, and we've spent the time very lively and sociable, and you done
this here last service to Bill in a way that brings tears to my eyes.
Still, if you won't mind my saying it, a little of ye lasts a long
time, and I'm going home to live clean.  So here's wishing all well,
and good-bye!"

Not one of the party seemed to resent this dismissal.  The women
laughed hilariously and called him a darling.  There was a smacking
exchange of kisses; and the coaches, having been packed at length,
started for home to the strains of the cornet and a chorus of cheers.
Mr. Jope sprang in beside me, and leaning out of the farther window,
waved his neckerchief for a while, then pensively readjusted it, and
called to the driver--

"St. Budeaux!"

The driver, after a moment, turned heavily in his seat, and answered,
"Nonsense!"

"I tell ye, I want to drive to St. Budeaux, by Saltash Ferry."

"And _I_ tell _you_, 'Get out!'  St. Budeaux?  The idea!"

"Why, what's wrong with St. Budeaux?"

"Oh, I'm not goin' to _argue_ with you," said the driver.  "I'm goin'
home."

And he began to turn his horse's head.  Mr. Jope sprang out upon the
roadway.  The driver, with sudden and unexpected agility, dropped
off--on the other side.

"Look here, it's grindin' the faces of the poor!" he pleaded,
breathing hard.

"It _will_ be," assented Mr. Jope grimly.

"I been up all night: at a ball."

"If it comes to that, so've I: at Symonds's."

"Mine was at Admiralty House," said the driver.  "I wasn' dancin'."

"What about the horse?"

"The horse? the ho--Oh, I take your meanin'!  The horse is all right:
he's a fresh one.  Poor I may be," he announced inconsecutively,
"but I wouldn' live the life of one of them there women of fashion,
not for a million of money."  He ruminated for a moment.  "Did I
say a million?"

"You did."

"Well I don't wishaggerate.  I don't, if you understand me,
wish--to--exaggerate: so we'll put it at half a million."

"All right: jump up!"

To my astonishment, no less than to Mr. Jope's (who had scarcely time
to skip back into the coach), the man scrambled up to his seat
without more ado, flicked his whip, and began to urge the horse
forward.  At the end of five minutes or so, however, he pulled up
just as abruptly.

"Eh?" Mr. Jope put forth his head.  "Ah, I see--public-house!"

He alighted, and entered; returned with a pot of porter in one hand
and a glass of brandy in the other; dexterously tipped half the
brandy into the porter, and handed up the mixture.  The driver took
it down at one steady draught.

The pot and glass were returned and we jogged on again.  We were now
well beyond the outskirts of Stoke and between dusty hedges over
which the honeysuckle trailed.  Butterflies poised themselves and
flickered beside us, and the sun, as it climbed, drew up from the
land the fragrance of freshly mown hay and mingled it with the stuffy
odour of the coach.  By and by we halted again, by another roadside
inn, and again Mr. Jope fetched forth and administered insidious
drink.

"If this is going to last," said the charioteer dreamily, "may I have
strength to see the end o't!"

I did not catch this prayer, but Mr. Jope reported it to me as he
resumed his seat, with an ill-timed laugh.  The fellow, who had been
gathering up his reins, lurched round suddenly and gazed in through
the glass front.

"You was sayin'?" he demanded.

"Nothing," answered Mr. Jope hastily.  "I was talking to myself,
that's all."

"The point is, Am I, or am I not, an objic of derision?"

"If you don't drive on this moment, I'll step around and punch your
head."

"Tha's all right.  Tha's right as ninepence.  It's not much I arsk--
only to have things clear."  He drove on.

We halted at yet another public-house--I remember its name, the Half
a Face--and must have journeyed a mile or so beyond it when the end
came.  We had locked wheels in the clumsiest fashion with a
hay-wagon; and the wagoner, who had quartered to give us room and to
spare, was pardonably wroth.  Mr. Jope descended, pacified him, and
stepped around to the back of the coach, the hinder axle of which, a
moment later, I felt gently lifted beneath me and slewed clear of the
obstruction.

"My word, mister, but you've a tidy strength!" exclaimed the wagoner.

"No more than you, my son--if so much: 'tain't the strength, but the
application.  That's 'Nelson's touch.' Ever heard of it?"

"I've heard of _him_, I should hope.  Look y' here, mister, did you
ever know him?   Honour bright, now!"

"Friends, my son: dear, dear friends!  And the gentleman 'pon the
box, there, drunk some of the very rum he was brought home in.
He's never recovered it."

"And to think of my meeting you!"

"Ay, 'tis a small world," agreed Mr. Jope cheerfully: "like a cook's
galley, small and cosy and no time to chat in it.   Now then, my
slumb'ring ogre!"

The driver, who from the moment of the mishap had remained comatose,
shook his reins feebly and we jogged forward.  But this was his last
effort.  At the next sharp bend in the road he lurched suddenly,
swayed for a moment, and toppled to earth with a thud.  The horse
came to a halt.

Mr. Jope was out in a moment.  He glanced up and down the road.

"Tumble out, youngster!  There's no one in sight."

"Is--is he hurt?"

"Blest if _I_ know." He stooped over the prostrate body.  "Hurt?" he
asked, and after a moment reported, "No, I reckon not: talkin' in his
sleep, more like--for the only word I can make out is 'Jezebel.'
That don't help us much, do it?"  He scanned the road again.
"There's only one thing to do.  I can't drive ye: I never steered yet
with the tiller lines in front--it al'ays seemed to me un-Christian.
We must take to the fields.  I used to know these parts, and by the
bearings we can't be half a mile above the ferry.  Here, through that
gate to the left!"

We left the man lying and his horse cropping the hedgerow a few paces
ahead; and struck off to the left, down across a field of young corn
interspersed with poppies.  The broad estuary shone at our feet, with
its beaches uncovered--for the tide was low--and across its crowded
shipping I marked and recognised (for Mr. Trapp had often described
them to me) a line of dismal prison-hulks, now disused, moored head
to stern off a mudbank on the farther shore.

"Plain sailing, my lad," panted Mr. Jope, as the cornfield threw up
its heat in our faces.  "See, yonder's Saltash!"   He pointed up the
river to a small town which seemed to run toppling down a steep hill
and spread itself like a landslip at the base.  "I got a sister
living there, if we can only fetch across; a very powerful woman;
widowed, and sells fish."

We took an oblique line down the hillside, and descended, some two or
three hundred yards below the ferry, upon a foreshore firm for the
most part and strewn with flat stones, but melting into mud by the
water's edge.  A small trading ketch lay there, careened as the tide
had left her; but at no great angle, thanks to her flat-bottomed
build.  A line of tattered flags, with no wind to stir them, led down
from the truck of either mast, and as we drew near I called Mr.
Jope's attention to an immense bunch of foxgloves and pink valerian
on her bowsprit end.

"Looks like a wedding, don't it?" said he; and turning up his clean
white trousers he strolled down to the water's edge for a closer
look.  "Scandalous," he added, examining her timbers.

"What's scandalous?"

He pointed with his finger.  "Rotten as touch"; and he pensively drew
out an enormous clasp-knife.  "A man ought to be fined for treating
human life so careless.  See here!"

He drove the knife at a selected spot, and the blade sank in to the
hilt.

From the interior, prompt on the stroke, arose a faint scream.



CHAPTER X.


I GO ON A HONEYMOON.

"Sure-ly I know that voice?" said Mr. Jope.

He drew out the knife reflectively.  It relieved me to see that no
blood dyed the blade.

"Oh, Mr. Jope, I was afraid you'd stabbed him!"

"'Tisn't a him, 'tis a her.  I touched somebody up, and that's the
truth."

"Ahoy there!" said a voice immediately overhead; and we looked up.
A round-faced man was gazing down on us from the tilted bulwarks.
"You might ha' given us notice," he grumbled.

"I knew 'twas soft, but not so soft as all that," Mr. Jope explained.

"Got such a thing as a scrap o' chalk about ye?"

"No."

The round-faced man felt in his pocket and tossed down a piece.
"Mark a bit of a line round the place, will ye?  I'll give it a lick
of paint afore the tide rises.  It's only right the owner should have
it pointed out to him."

"Belong to these parts?" asked Mr. Jope affably, having drawn the
required circle.  "I don't seem to remember your face."

"No?"  The man seemed to think this out at leisure.  "I was married
this morning," he said at length with an air of explanation.

"Wish ye joy.  Saltash maid?"

"Widow.  Name of Sarah Treleaven."

"Why that's my sister!" exclaimed Mr. Jope.

"Is it?"  The round-faced man took the news without apparent surprise
or emotion.  "Well, I'm married to her, any way."

"Monstrous fine woman,"  Mr. Jope observed cheerfully.

"Ay; she's all that.  It seems like a dream.  You'd best step on
board: the ladder's on t'other side."

As we passed under the vessel's stern I looked up and read her name--
_Glad Tidings, Port of Fowey_.

"I've a-broken it to her," our host announced, meeting us at the top
of the ladder.  "She says you're to come down."

Down the companion we followed him accordingly and so into a small
cabin occupied--or, let me rather say, filled--by the stoutest woman
it has ever been my lot to meet.  She reclined--in such a position
as to display a pair of colossal feet, shoeless, clothed in thick
worsted stockings--upon a locker on the starboard side: and no one,
regarding her, could wonder that this also was the side towards
which the vessel listed.  Her broad recumbent back was supported by a
pile of seamen's bags, almost as plethoric as herself and containing
(if one might judge from a number of miscellaneous articles
protruding from their distended mouths) her bridal outfit.
Unprepared as she was for a second visitor in the form of a small
chimney-sweep, she betrayed no astonishment; but after receiving her
brother's kiss on either cheek bent a composed gaze on me, and so
eyed me for perhaps half a minute.  Her features were not uncomely.

"O.P.," she addressed her husband.  "Ask him, Who's his friend?"

"Who's your friend?" asked the husband, turning to Mr. Jope.

"Chimney-sweep,"  said Mr. Jope; "leastways, so apprenticed, as I
understand."

The pair gazed at me anew.

"I asked," said the woman at length, "because this is a poor place
for chimbleys."

"He's in trouble," Mr. Jope explained; "in trouble--along o' killing
a Jew."

"Oh no, Mr. Jope!" I cried.  "I didn't--"

"Couldn't," interrupted his sister shortly, and fell into a brown
study.  "Constables after him?" she asked.

Mr. Jope nodded.

Her next utterance struck me as irrelevant, to say the least of it.
"Ben, 'tis high time you followed O.P.'s example."

"Meaning?" queried Ben.

"O, Onesimus.  P, Pengelly.  Example, marriage.  There's the
widow Babbage, down to Dock: she always had a hankering for you.
You're neglecting your privileges."

"Ever seen that boy of hers?" asked Ben in an aggrieved voice.
"No, of course you haven't, or you  wouldn't suggest it.  And why
marry me up to a widow?"

"O.P.," said the lady, "tell him you prefer it."

"I prefer it," said Mr. Pengelly.

"Oh," explained Ben, "present company always excepted, o' course.
I wish you joy."

 "Thank ye," the lady answered graciously.  "You shall drink the same
by and by in a dish o' tea; which I reckon will suit ye best this
morning," she added eyeing him.  "O.P., put on the kettle."

Ben Jope winced and attempted to turn the subject.  "What's your
cargo, this trip?" he asked cheerfully.

"I didn't write," she went on, ignoring the question.  "O.P. took me
so sudden."

"Oh, Sarah!" Mr. Pengelly expostulated.

"You did; you know you did, you rogue!"

Mr. Pengelly took her amorous glance and turned to us.  "It seems
like a dream," he said, and went out with the kettle.

The lady resumed her business-like air.  "We sail for Looe next tide.
It's queer now, your turning up like this."

"Providential.  I came o' purpose, though, to look ye up."

"I might ha' been a limpet."

"Eh?"

"By the way you prised at me with that knife o' yours.  And you call
it Providence."

Ben grinned.  "Providence or no, you'll get this lad out o' the way,
Sarah?"

"H'm?"  She considered me.  "I can't take him home to Looe."

"Why not?"

"Folks would talk," she said modestly.

"'Od rabbit it!" exclaimed Ben.  "He's ten year old; and you were
saying just now that the man took ye sudden!"

"Well, I'll see what can be done: but on conditions."

"Conditions?"

"Ay, we'll talk that over while he's cleanin' himself."  She lifted
her voice and called, "O.P., is that water warm?"

"Middlin'," came O.P.'s voice from a small cuddy outside.

"Then see to the child and wash him.  Put him inside your
foul-weather suit for the time, and then take his clothes out on the
beach and burn 'em.  That seam'll be the better for a lick of pitch
afore the tide rises, and you can use the same fire for the caldron."

So she dismissed me; and in the cuddy, having washed myself clean of
soot, I was helped by Mr. Pengelly into a pair of trousers which
reached to my neck, and a seaman's guernsey, which descended to my
knees.  My stockings I soaped, scrubbed, wrung out and laid across
the companion rail to dry: but, as it turned out, I was never to use
them or my shoes again.  My sweep's jumper, waistcoat, and breeches
Mr. Pengelly carried off, to burn them.

All this while Ben Jope and his sister had been talking earnestly: I
had heard at intervals the murmur of their voices through the
partition; but no distinct words save once, when Mrs. Pengelly called
out to her husband to keep an eye along the beach and report the
appearance of constables.  Now so ludicrous was the figure I cut in
my borrowed clothes that on returning to the cabin I expected to be
welcomed with laughter.  To my surprise, Ben Jope arose at once with
a serious face and shook me by the hand.

"Good-bye, my lad," he said.  "She makes it a condition."

"You're not leaving me, Mr. Jope!"

"Worse'n that.  I'm a-goin to marry the widow Babbage."

"Oh, ma'am!" I appealed.

"It'll do him good," said Mrs. Pengelly.

"I honestly think, Sarah," poor Ben protested, "that just now you're
setting too much store by wedlock altogether."

"It's my conditions with you; and you may take it or leave it, Ben."
His sister was adamant, and he turned ruefully to go.

"And you're doing this for me, Mr. Jope!" I caught his hand.

"Don't 'ee mention it.  Blast the child!"  He crammed his tarpaulin
hat on his head.  "I don't mean you, my lad, but t'other one.
If he makes up a rhyme 'pon me, I'll--I'll--"

Speech failed him.  He wrung my hand, staggered up the companion, and
was gone.

"It'll be the making of him," said Mrs. Pengelly with composure.
"I don't like the woman myself, but a better manager you wouldn't
meet."

She remembered presently that Ben had departed without his promised
dish of tea, and this seemed to suggest to her that the time had
arrived for preparing a meal.  With singular dexterity and almost
without shifting her posture she slipped one of the seamen's bags
from somewhere beneath her shoulders, drew it upon her lap, and
produced a miscellaneous feast--a cheek of pork, a loaf, a saffron
cake; a covered jar which, being opened, diffused the fragrance of
marinated pilchards; a bagful of periwinkles, a bunch of enormous
radishes, a dish of cream wrapped about in cabbage-leaves, a basket
of raspberries similarly wrapped; finally, two bottles of stout.

"To my mind," she explained as she set these forth on the table
beside her, each accurately in its place, and with such economy
of exertion that only one hand and wrist seemed to be moving,
"for my part, I think a widow-woman should be married quiet.  I don't
know what _your_ opinion may be?"

I thought it wise to say that her opinion was also mine.

"It took place at eight o'clock this morning."  She disengaged a pin
from the front of her bodice, extracted a periwinkle from its shell,
ate it, sighed, and said, "It seems years already.  I gathered these
myself, so you may trust 'em."  She disengaged another pin and handed
it to me.  "We meant to be alone, but there's plenty for three.
Now you're here, you'll have to give a toast--or a sentiment," she
added.  She made this demand in form when O.P. appeared, smelling
strongly of pitch, and taking his seat on the locker opposite, helped
himself to marinated pilchards.

"But I don't know any sentiments, ma'am."

"Nonsense.  Didn't they learn you any poetry at school?"

Most happily I bethought me of Miss Plinlimmon's verses in my
Testament--now alas! left in the Trapps' cottage and lost to me; and
recited them as bravely as I could.

"Ah!" sighed Mrs. Pengelly, "there's many a true word spoken in jest.
'Where shall we be in ten years' time?'  Where indeed?"

"Here," her husband cheerfully suggested, with his mouth full.

"Hush, O.P.!  You never buried a first."

She demanded more, and I gave her Wolfe's last words before Quebec
(signed by him in Miss Plinlimmon's Album).

    "'They run!'--but who?  'The Frenchmen!' Such
        Was the report conveyed to the dying hero.
     'Thank Heaven!' he cried, 'I thought as much.'
        In Canada the glass is frequently below zero."

On hearing the author's name and my description of Miss Plinlimmon,
she fell into deep thought.

"I suppose, now, she'd look higher than Ben?"

I told her that, so far as I knew, Miss Plinlimmon had no desire to
marry.

"She'd look higher, with her gifts, you may take my word for it."
But a furrow lingered for some time on Mrs. Pengelly's brow, and
(I think) a doubt in her mind that she had been too precipitate.


The meal over, she composed herself to slumber; and Mr. Pengelly and
I spent the afternoon together on deck, where he smoked many pipes
while I scanned the shore for signs of pursuit.  But no: the tide
rose and still the foreshore remained deserted.  Above us the ferry
plied lazily, and at whiles I could hear the voices of the
passengers.  Nothing, even to my strained ears, spoke of excitement;
and yet, in the great town beyond the hill, murder had been done and
men were searching for me.  So the day dragged by.

Towards evening, as the vessel beneath us fleeted and the deck
resumed its level, Mr. Pengelly began to uncover the mainsail.
I asked him if he expected any crew aboard?  For surely, thought I,
he could not work this ketch of forty tons or so single-handed.

He shook his head.  "There was a boy, but I paid him off.  Sarah
takes the helm from this night forth.  You wouldn't believe it, but
she can swig upon a rope too: and as for pulling an oar--"
He went on to tell me that she had been rowing a pair of paddles when
his eye first lit on her: and I gathered that the courtship had been
conducted on these waters under the gaze of Saltash, the male in one
boat pursuing, the female eluding him in another, for long
indomitable, but at length gracefully surrendering.

My handiness with the ropes, when I volunteered to help in hoisting
sail, surprised and even perplexed him.  "But I thought you was a
chimney-sweeper?" he insisted.  I told him then of my voyages with
Mr. Trapp, yet without completely reassuring him.  Hitherto he had
taken me on my own warrant, and Ben's, without a trace of suspicion:
but henceforth I caught him eyeing me furtively from time to time,
and overheard him muttering as he went about his preparations.

As he had promised, when the time came for hauling up our small
anchor, Mrs. Pengelly emerged from the companion hatch like a _geni_
from a bottle.  She bore two large hunches of saffron cake and handed
one to each of us before moving aft to uncover the wheel.



CHAPTER XI.


FLIGHT.

The sails drew as we got the anchor on board; and by the time O.P.
and I had done sluicing the hawser clean of the mud it brought up, we
were working down the Hamoaze with a light and baffling wind, but
carrying a strong tide under us.  Evening fell with a warm yellow
haze: the banks slipping past us grew dim and dimmer: here and there
a light shone among the long-shore houses.  I felt more confident,
and no longer concealed myself as we tacked under the sterns of the
great ships at anchor or put about when close alongside.

As we cleared Devil's Point and had our first glimpse of the grey
line where night was fast closing down on open sea, I noted a certain
relaxation in Mr. Pengelly, as if he too had been feeling the strain.
He began to chat with me.  The wind, he said, was backing and we
might look for this spell of weather to break up before long.
Once past the Rame we should be right as ninepence and might run down
the coast on a soldier's wind: it would stiffen a bit out yonder
unless he was mistaken.  He pulled out his pipe and lit it.
Aft loomed the bulk of Mrs. Pengelly at the wheel.  Save for a call
now and again to warn us that the helm was down, to put about, she
steered in silence.  And she steered admirably.

We had opened the lights of Cawsand and were heading in towards it on
the port tack when, as O.P.  smoked and chatted and I watched the
spark of the Eddystone growing and dying, her voice reached us, low
but distinct.

"There's a boat coming.  Get below, boy!"

Sure enough as I scrambled for the hatchway in a flutter, someone
hailed us out of the darkness.

"Ahoy, there!"

"Ahoy!" O.P. called back, after a moment, into the darkness.

"What's your name?"

"The _Glad Tidings_, of Looe, and thither bound.  Who be you?"

"Water-guard.  Is that you speaking, Mr. Pengelly?"

"Ay, sure.  Anything the matter?"

"Seen such a thing as the body of a young chimney-sweep on your way
down?  Age, ten or thereabouts.  There's one missing."

"You don't say so!  Drowned?"

His wife having put about, Mr. Pengelly obligingly hauled a sheet or
two to windward, and brought the _Glad Tidings_ almost to a
standstill, allowing the boat to come close alongside.

"Drowned?" he asked again.

"Worse than that," said the officer's voice (and it sounded
dreadfully close); "there's been murder committed, and the child was
in the house at the time.  The belief is, he's been made away with."

"Save us all!  Murder?  Whereto?"

"On the Barbican--an old Jew there, called Rodriguez.  Who's that
you've got at the helm?"

"Missus."

"Never knew ye was married."

"Nor did I, till this mornin'."

"Eh? Wish ye luck, I'm sure; and you, ma'am, likewise!"

"Thank ye, Mr. Tucker," answered the lady.  "The same to you and many
of 'em--which by that I don't mean wives."

"Good Lord, is that _you_, Sally?  Well, I'm jiggered!  And I owe you
ninepence for that last pair of flatfish you sold me!"

"Tenpence,"  said Mrs. Pengelly.  "But I can trust a gentleman.
Where d'ye say this here murder was committed?"

"Barbican."

"I don't wonder at anything happening there.  They're a stinking lot.
Why don't ye s'arch the shipping there and in Cattewater?"

"We've been s'arching all day.  And now the constables are off
towards Stoke--it seems a child answering all particulars was seen in
that direction this morning."

"That don't look like being made away with."

"In a case like this,"  answered Mr. Tucker sagely, "as often as not
there's wheels within wheels.  Well, I won't detain ye.  Good-night,
friends!"

"Good-night!"

I heard the creak of thole-pins as the rowers gave way, and the wash
of oars as the boat shot off into the dark.  Mr. Pengelly sent me a
low whistle and I crept forth.

"Hear what they said?" he asked.

"They--they didn't give much trouble."

"Depends what you call trouble."  He seemed slightly hurt in his
feelings, and added, with asperity and obvious truth, "Carry it off
how you will, a honeymoon's a honeymoon, and a man doesn't expect to
be interrupted with questions about a sweep's apprentice."

"Stand by!" cautioned the voice aft, low and firm as before.
"By the sound of it they've stopped rowing."

"If they come on us again, we're done for.  That Tucker's a fool, but
I noticed one or two of the men muttering together."

"Sounds as if they were putting about.  Can the boy swim?" asked Mrs.
Pengelly anxiously.

"I'll bet he can't."

"But I can," said I.  "If you'll put the helm down, ma'am, and hold
in, I think she'll almost fetch Penlee Point.  I don't want to get
you into trouble."

We all listened.  And sure enough the sound of oars was approaching
again out of the darkness.

"Mr. Pengelly can lower me overside," I urged, "as soon as we're near
shore.  It's safest in every way."

"So best," she answered shortly, and again put the _Glad Tidings_
about.  I began to pluck off my clothes.

The boat was evidently watching us: for, dark as the evening had
grown, almost as soon as our helm went down the sound of oars ceased
astern--to begin again a few seconds later, but more gently, as if
someone had given the order for silence.  O.P. peered under the slack
of the mainsail.

"There she is!" he muttered.  "Tucker will be trying to force her
alongside under our lee."  He picked up and uncoiled a spare rope.
"You'd best take hold o' this and let me slip ye over the starboard
side, forra'd there, as she goes about.  Bain't afeard, hey?"

"I'm not afraid of anything but being caught, sir."

"Sarah will take her in close: there's plenty water."

"O.P.," said the voice aft.

"My angel."

"Tell 'en he's a good boy, and I wouldn' mind having one like him."

"You're a good boy," said O.P., and covered the remainder of the
message with a discreet cough.  "Seems to me Tucker's holdin' off a
bit," he added, peering again under the sail.  "Wonder what his game
is?"

But I was already stripped, and already the high land loomed over us.
Down went the helm again, and "Now's your time," muttered O.P.  as we
scrambled forward to cast off sheets.  Amid the flapping of her head
sails as she hung for a moment or two in stays, I slipped overside
and took the water easily while the black mass of her stern swung
slowly round and covered me from view of the boat.  Then, as the tall
side began to gather way and slip by me, I cast a glance towards land
and dived.

I came to the surface warily and trod water whilst I spied for the
boat, which--as I reckoned--must be more than a gunshot distant.
The sound of oars guided me, and I dived again in a terror.  For she
had not turned about to follow the ketch, but was heading almost
directly towards me, as if to cut me off from the shore.

My small body was almost bursting when I rose for air and another
look.  The boat had not altered her course, and I gasped with a new
hope.  What if, after all, she were not pursuing me?  I let my legs
sink and trod water.  No: I had not been spied.  She was pointing
straight for the shore.  But what should take a long-boat, manned (as
I made out) by a dark crowd of rowers and passengers, at this hour to
this deserted spot?  Why was she not putting-in for Cawsand, around
the point?  And did she carry the water-guard?  Was this Tucker's
boat after all, or another?

Still treading water, I heard her nose take the ground, and presently
the feet of men shuffling, as they disembarked, over loose stones:
then a low curse following on a slip and a splash.  "Who's that
talking?" a voice inquired, quick and angry.  "Sergeant!  Take that
man's name."  But apparently the sergeant could not discover him.
The footfalls grew more regular and seemed to be mounting the cliff,
along the base of which, perhaps a hundred yards from shore, the tide
was now sweeping me.  I gave myself to it and noiselessly, little by
little working towards land, was borne out of hearing.

Another ten minutes and my feet touched bottom.  I pulled myself out
upon a weed-covered rock, and along it to a slate-strewn foreshore
overhung by a low cliff of shale, grey and glimmering in the
darkness.  But even in the darkness a ridge of harder rock showed me
a likely way.  I remembered that the cliff hereabouts was of no great
height and scalable in a score of places.  Very cautiously, and
sometimes sitting and straddling the ridge while my fingers sought a
new grip, I mounted to the edge of a heathery down; and there, after
pricking myself sorely among the furze-bushes that guarded it, found
a passage through and cast myself at full length on the short turf.

For a while I lay and panted, flat on my back, staring up at the
stars: for the wind had chopped about and was now drawing gently off
shore, clearing the sky.  But, though gentle, it had an edge of chill
which by and by brought me to my feet again.  Far out on the dark
waters of the Sound glimmered the starboard light of the _Glad
Tidings_, and it seemed to me that she was heading in for shore.
Had the Pengellys too discovered that the boat was not the
water-guard's?  And was O.P. working the ketch back to give me a
chance of rejoining her?  Else why was she not slackening sheets and
running?  Vain hope!  I suppose that the new slant of wind took some
time in reaching her; for, just as I was preparing to creep back
between the furze-whins and scramble down to the foreshore again, the
green light was quenched.  She had altered her helm and was clearing
the Sound.

I dared not hail her.  Indeed, had I risked it, the odds were against
my voice carrying so far, to be recognised.  And while I stood and
searched the darkness into which she had disappeared, my ear caught
again the muffled tramp of the soldiers, this time advancing towards
me.  I waited no longer, but started running for dear life up the
shoulder of the down.

The swim and the chill breeze had numbed my legs and arms.  After a
few hundred yards, however, I felt life coming back to them, and I
ran like a hare.  I was stark naked, and here and there my feet
struck a heather root pushed above the turf, or wounded themselves on
low-lying sprouts of furze; but as my eyes grew used to the dark
sward I learned to avoid these.  So close the night hung around me
that even on the sky-line I had no fear of being spied.  I crossed
the ridge and tore down the farther slope; stumbled through a muddy
brook and mounted another hillside.  My heart was drumming now, but
terror held me to it--over this second ridge and downhill again.

I supposed myself but half-way down this slope, or only a little
more, when in springing aside to avoid a low bush I missed footing
altogether; went hurling down into night, dropped plumb upon another
furze-bush--a withered one--and heard and felt it snap under me;
struck the cliff-side, bruising my hip, and slid down on loose stones
for another few yards.  As I checked myself, sprawling, and came to a
standstill, some of these stones rolled on and splashed into water
far below.

For a minute or so, at full length on this treacherous bed, I could
pluck up no heart to move.  Then, inch by inch at first, I drew
myself up to the broken bush and found beside it a flat ledge, smooth
and grassy, which led inland and downwards.  I think it must have
been a sheep-track.  I kept to it on hands and knees, and it brought
me down to the head of a small cove where a faint line of briming
showed the sea's edge rippling on a beach of flat grey stones.

My hip was hurting me, and I could run no farther.  I groped along
the base of the eastern cliff and crawled into a shallow cave close
by a pile of seaweed which showed the high mark of the tide now
receding.  With daylight I might discover a better hiding-place.
Meanwhile I snuggled down and drew a coverlet of seaweed over me for
warmth.



CHAPTER XII.


I FALL AMONG SMUGGLERS.

I awoke to a most curious sensation.  The night was still black and
only the ridge of the cliff opposite showed, by the light of the many
stars, its dull outline above; yet I felt that the whole beach had
suddenly become crowded with people--that they were moving stealthily
about me, whispering, picking their way among the loose stones,
hunting me and yet hushing their voices as though themselves afraid.

At first, you may be sure--wakened as I was from sleep--I had no
doubt but that this unseen band of folk was after me.  All that
followed my awakening passed so quickly that I cannot separate dreams
now from guesses nor apprehensions from realities.  I do remember,
however, that, whereas the soldiers from whom I had run had been on
foot, my first fears were of a pursuit by cavalrymen, and therefore
it seems likely that some sound of horses' trampling must have set
them in train: but, though I strained my ears, they detected nothing
of the sort--only a subdued murmur, as of human voices, down by the
water's edge, and now and again the cautious crunch of a footstep
upon shingle.  Even this I had not heard but for the extreme quiet on
the sea under the off-shore wind.

Gradually, by the light of the stars, I separated from the
surrounding shadows that of a whole mass of people inert and darkly
crowded there: and then--almost as I guessed their business--the
cliff above me shot up a flame; and their forms and their dismayed
upturned faces stood out distinct in the glare of it.

"Loose the horses and clear!" yelled someone; and another voice deep
and wrathful began to curse, but was drowned by a stampede of hoofs
upon the shingle.  Straight forth from the sea--or so it looked to
me--some twenty or thirty naked horses, without rider, bit, or
bridle, broke from the crowd and came plunging up the beach at a
gallop.  They were met by a roar from the cove-head, and with that a
line of glittering helmets and cuirasses sprang out of the night and
charged past me.

"Dragoons!  Dragoons!"

As the yell reached me from the waterside and the men there scattered
and ran, I saw the shock of the double charge--the flame overhead
lighting up every detail of it.  The riderless horses, though they
opened and swerved, neither turned tail nor checked their pace, but
heading suddenly towards the left wing of the troop went through it
as water through a gate, the dragoons either vainly hacking at them
with their sabres, or leaning from their saddles and as vainly
attempting to grip the brutes.  Grip there was none to be had.
These were smugglers' horses, clipped to the skin, with houghed
manes, and tails and bodies sleek with soft soap.  Nor did the
dragoons waste more trouble upon them, but charged forward and down
upon the crowd at the water's edge.

And as they charged I saw--but could not believe--that on a sudden
the crowd had vanished.  A moment before they had been jostling,
shouting, cursing.  They were gone now like ghosts.  The light still
flared overhead.  It showed no boat beyond the cove--only the
troopers reaching right across it in an irregular line, as each man
had been able to check his horse--the most of them on the verge of
the shingle, but many floundering girth-deep, and one or two even
swimming.  The Riding Officer, who had followed them, was bawling and
pointing with his whip towards the cliff--at what I could not tell.

I had no time to wonder: for an unholy din broke out, on the same
instant, at the head of the beach.  A couple of the smugglers' horses
had been hurled over by the dragoons' impact, and lay, hurt beyond
recovery, lashing out across the shingle with their heels.  A third
had gone down under a sabre-cut, but had staggered up and was lobbing
after his comrades at a painful canter.  They had traversed the heavy
shingle, reached the harder stones at the cove's head and were
sailing away at stretched gallop when a volley rang out from the
shadow of the cliff there, and the scream of more than one mingled
with fresh shouting.  At that moment, and just before the flame above
me sank and died almost as swiftly as it had first shot up, a
soldier--not a dragoon, but a man in red coat and white breeches--ran
forward and sprang at the girth of the wounded horse, which had
stumbled again.  He did the wise thing--for a single girth was these
horses' only harness: but whether he caught it or not I could not
tell.  Ten or a dozen soldiers followed, to help him.  And, the next
instant, total darkness came down on the scene like a shutter.

It did not last long.  The red-coats, it turned out, had brought
lanterns, and now, at a shouted order from their commanding officer
answering the call of the dragoon officer below, began to light them.
They meant, I doubted not, to make a strict search of the cliffs;
and, if they did--my cave being but a shallow one--there was no hope
for me.  But just then a dismounted trooper came running up the
beach, his scabbard scraping the shingle as he went by: and his first
words explained the mystery of the crowd's disappearance.

"Where's your officer commanding?" he panted.  "The devils have got
away into the next cove through a kind of hole in the cliff--a kind
of archway so far as we make out.  They've blocked it with stones and
posted three-four men there, threatening sudden death.  By their own
account they're armed.  Major Dilke's holding them to parley, and
wants the loan of a lantern while you, sir, march your men round and
take the gang in the rear.  They reckon they've none but us to deal
with."

The infantry officer grunted that he understood, sent the trooper
back with a lantern, and quietly formed up and marched off his
company.  From my hiding-place I caught scraps of the parley at the
lower end of the beach--or rather of Major Dilke's share in it; for
the smugglers answered him through a tunnel, and I could only hear
their voices mumbling in response to the threats which he flung forth
on the wide night.  He was in no sweet temper, having been cheated of
a rich haul: for the flare had, of course, warned away the expected
boat, and I supposed that some of the red-coats had been dispatched
at once to search the headland for the man who lit it.  Revenge was
now the Major's game, and, by his tune, he meant to have it.

But while I lay listening, a stone trickled from the cliff overhead
and plumped softly upon the seaweed at the mouth of my cave.  It was
followed by a rush of small gravel (had the Major not, at the moment,
been declaiming at his loudest, his men must surely have heard it):
and this again by the plumb fall of a heavy body which still lay for
a full five seconds after alighting, and then emitted a groan so
eloquent that it raised the roots of my hair.

I held my breath.  More seconds passed, and the body groaned again,
still more dolefully.

We were within three yards of one another; and, friend or foe,
if he continued to lie and groan like this for long, flesh and blood
could not stand it.

"Are you hurt?" I summoned up voice to ask.

"The devil!"  I had feared that he would scream.  But he sat up--
I saw his shoulders fill the mouth of the cave between me and the
starlight.  By his attitude he was peering at me through the
darkness.  "Who are you?"

"If you please, sir, I'm a boy."

"Glad to hear it.  I took you at first for one of those cursed
soldiers.  Hiding, eh?"

"Yes, sir."

"So am I: but this is a mighty poor place for it.  They may be here
any moment with their lanterns: we had better cut across while
everything's dark.  Gad!" he said, throwing his head back as if to
stare upwards, "I must have dropped twenty feet.  Wonder if I've
broken anything?"  He stood up, and appeared to be feeling his limbs
carefully.  "Sound as a bell!" he announced.  "Come along, youngster:
we'll get out of this first and talk afterwards."

He put out a hand, seeking for mine; but, missing it, touched my ribs
with his open palm and drew it away sharply.

"Good Lord, the boy's naked!"

"I've been swimming," said I.

"All right.  Get out of this first and talk afterwards, that's the
order.  There's a rug in my tilbury, if we can only reach it.  Now
then, follow me close--and gently over the shingle!"

Like shadows we stole forth and across the cove.  No one spied us,
and, thanks perhaps to Major Dilke's sustained oratory, no one heard.

"There's a track hereabouts," my new friend whispered as we gained
the farther cliff.  "This looks like it--no--yes, here it is!
Close after me, sonny, and up we go.  Surely, 'tis Robinson Crusoe
and man Friday with a touch of something else thrown in--can't think
what, for the moment, unless 'tis the scaling of Plataea.  Ever read
Thucydides?"

"No, sir."

"He's a nigger.  He floored me at Brasenose: but I bear the old cock
no malice.  Now you wouldn't think I was a University man, eh?"

"No, sir." I had not the least notion of his meaning.

"I am, though; and, what's more, I'm a Justice of the Peace and
Deputy-Lieutenant for the county of Cornwall.  Ever heard of Jack
Rogers of Brynn?"

Once more I had to answer "No, sir."

"Then, excuse me, but where in thunder do you come from?"  He halted
and confronted me in the path.  This was a facer, for the words
"Justice of the Peace" had already set me quaking.

"If you please, sir, I'd rather not tell."

"No, I dare say not," he replied magisterially.  "It's my fate to get
into these false positions.  Now there was Josh Truscott of
Blowinghouse--Justice of the Peace and owned two thousand acres--what
you might call a neat little property.  _He_ never allowed it to
interfere, and yet somehow he carried it off.  Do I make myself
plain?"

"Not very, sir."

"Well, for instance, one day he was expecting company.  There was a
fountain in the middle of the lawn at Blowinghouse, and a statue of
Hercules that his old father had brought home from Italy and planted
in the middle of it.  Josh couldn't bear that statue--said the
muscles were all wrong.  So, if you please, he takes it down, dresses
himself in nothing at all--same as you might be, bare as my palm--and
a Justice of the Peace, mind you--and stands himself in the middle of
the fountain, with all the guests arriving.  Not an easy thing to
pass off, and it caused a scandal: but folks didn't seem to mind.
'It was Truscott's way,' they said: 'after all, he comes of a clever
family, and we hope his son will be better.'  A man wants character
to carry off a thing like that."

I agreed that character must have been Mr. Truscott's secret.

"Now _I_ couldn't do that for the life of me," Mr. Rogers sighed, and
chuckled over another reminiscence.  "Josh had a shindy once with a
groom.  The fellow asked for a rise in wages.  'You couldn't have
said anything more hurtful to my feelings,' Josh told him, and
knocked him down.  There was a hole in one of his orchards where
they'd been rooting up an old apple-tree.  He put the fellow in that,
tilled him up to his neck in earth, and kept him there till he
apologised.  Not at all an easy thing for a Justice of the Peace to
pass off: but, bless you, folks said that he came of a clever county
family, and hoped his son would be better.  The fellow didn't even
bring an action."  Mr. Rogers broke off suddenly, and seemed to
meditate a new train of thought.  "Hang it!"  he exclaimed.  "I
believe 'tis a hundred pounds.  I must look it up when I get back."

"What is a hundred pounds, sir?" I asked.

"Penalty for showing a coast-light without authority.  Lydia laid me
ten pounds I hadn't the pluck, though; and that'll bring it down to
ninety at the worst.  She'd a small fortune in this trip, too, which
she stood to lose: but, as it turns out, I've saved that for her.
Oh, she's a treasure!"

"Did you light the flare?"  I began to see that I had fallen in with
an original, and that he might be humoured.

"Eh?--to be sure I did! 'Slocked away the man in charge by mimicking
Pascoe's voice--he's the freighter, and talks like a man with no roof
to his mouth.  I'm a pretty good mimic, though I say it.  Nothing
easier, after that.  You see, Lydia had laid me ten pounds that as a
Justice of the Peace I hadn't wit nor pluck to spoil her next run;
honestly, that is.  She knows I wouldn't blow on her for worlds.
Oh, we understand one another!  Now you and I'll go off and call on
her, and hear what she says about it.  For in a way I've won, and in
a way I've not.  I stopped the run, but also I've saved the cargo for
her: for the devil a notion had I that the soldiers had wind of it;
and, but for the flare, the boats would have run in and lost every
tub.  Here we are, my lad!"

We had climbed the cliff and were crossing a field of stubble grass,
very painful to my feet.  I saw the shadow of a low hedge in front,
but these words of Mr. Rogers conveyed nothing to me.  "Soh, soh, my
girl!" he called softly, advancing towards the shadow: and at first I
supposed him to be addressing the mysterious Lydia.  But following I
saw him smoothing the neck of a small mare tethered beside the hedge,
and the next moment had almost blundered against a light two-wheeled
carriage resting on its shafts a few yards away.

Mr. Rogers whispered to me to lift the shafts.  "And be quiet about
it: there's a road t'other side of the hedge.  Soh, my girl--sweetly,
sweetly!"  He backed the mare between the shafts, harnessed her, and
led her along to a gate opening on the road.

"Jump up, my lad," he commanded, as he steered the tilbury through;
and up I jumped.  "There's a rug somewhere by your feet, and
Lydia'll do the rest for you.  Cl'k, my darling!"

Away we bowled.



CHAPTER XIII.


THE MAN IN THE VERANDAH.

The mare settled down to a beautiful stride and we spun along
smoothly over a road which, for a coast road, must have been well
laid, or Mr. Rogers's tilbury was hung on exceptionally good springs.
We were travelling inland, for the wind blew in our faces, and I
huddled myself up from it in the rug--on which a dew had fallen,
making it damp and sticky.  For two miles or so we must have held on
at this pace without exchanging a word, meeting neither vehicle nor
pedestrian in all that distance, nor passing any; and so came to a
sign-post and swerved by it into a broader road, which ran level for
maybe half a mile and then began to climb.  Here Mr. Rogers eased
down the mare and handed me the reins, bidding me hold them while he
lit a cigar.

"We're safe enough now," said he, pulling out a pocket tinder-box:
"and while I'm about it we'd better light the lamps."  He slipped
them from their sockets and lit the pair cleverly from the same
brimstone match.  "The _Highflier_'s due about this time," he
explained; "and Russell's Wagon 's another nasty thing to hit in the
dark.  We're on the main road, you know."  Before refixing the lamp
beside him, he held it up for a good stare at me, and grinned.
"Well, you're a nice guest for a spinster at this hour, I must say!
But there's no shyness about Lydia."

"Is she--is this Miss Lydia unmarried?" I made bold to ask.

"Lydia Belcher 's a woman in a thousand.  There's no better fellow
living, and I've known worse ladies.  Yes, she's unmarried."

He took the reins from me and the mare quickened her pace.  After
sucking at his cigar for a while he chuckled aloud.  "She's to be
seen to be believed: past forty and wears top-boots.  But she was a
beauty in her day.  Her mother's looks were famous--she was daughter
to one of the Earl's cottagers, on the edge of the moors"--here Mr.
Rogers jerked his thumb significantly, but in what direction the
night hid from me: "married old Sam Belcher, one of his lordship's
keepers, a fellow not fit to black her boots; and had this one child,
Lydia.  This was just about the time of the Earl's own marriage.
Folks talked, of course: and sure enough, when the Earl came to die,
'twas found he'd left Lydia a thousand a year in the funds.
That's the story: and Lydia--well she's Lydia.  Couldn't marry where
she would, I suppose, and wouldn't where she could; though they do
say Whitmore 's trimming sail for her."

"Whitmore?" I echoed.

"Ay, the curate: monstrous clever fellow, and a sportsman too:
Trinity College Dublin man.  Don't happen to know him, do you?"

"Is he a thin-faced gentleman, very neatly dressed?  Oh, but it can't
be the gentleman I mean, sir!  The one I mean has a slow way of
speaking, and the hair seems gone on each side of his forehead--"

"That's Whitmore, to a T.  So you know him?  Well, you'll meet him at
Lydia's, I shouldn't wonder.  He's there most nights."

"If you please, sir, will you set me down?  I can shift for myself
somehow--indeed I can!  I promised--that is, I mean, Mr. Whitmore
won't like it if--if--"

While I stammered on, Mr. Rogers pulled up the mare, quartering at
the same time to make room for the mail-coach as it thundered up the
road from westward and swept by at the gallop, with lamps flashing
and bits and swingles shaken in chorus.

"Look here, what's the matter?" he demanded.  "Why don't you want to
meet Whitmore?"  Then as I would not answer but continued to entreat
him, "There's something deuced fishy about you.  Here I find you,
stark naked, hiding from the soldiers: yet you can't be one of the
'trade,' for you don't know the country or the folks living
hereabouts--only Whitmore: and Whitmore you won't meet, and your name
you won't tell, nor where you come from--only that you've been
swimming.  'Swimming,' good Lord!  You didn't swim from France, I
take it." He flicked his whip and fell into a muse.  "And I'm a
Justice of the Peace, and the Lord knows what I'm compounding with."
He mused again.  "Tell you what I'll do," he exclaimed; "I'll take
you up to Lydia's as I promised.  If Whitmore's there, you shan't
meet him if you don't want to: and if the house is full, I'll drop
you in the shrubbery with the rug, and get them to break up early.
Only I must have your solemn davey that you'll stay there and not
quit until I give you leave.  Eh?"

I gave that promise.

"Very well.  I'll tip the wink to Lydia, and when we've cleared the
company, we'll have you in and get the rights of this.  Oh, you may
trust Lydia!"

As he said this we were passing a house the long whitewashed front of
which abutted glimmering on the road.  A light shone behind the blind
of one lower window and showed through a chink under the door.
"The Major 's sitting up late," observed Mr. Rogers, and again
flicked up the mare.

Two minutes later he pulled the left rein and we swung through an
open gateway and were rolling over soft gravel.  Tall bushes of
laurel on either hand glinted back the lights of the tilbury, and
presently around a sweep of the drive I saw a window shining.
Mr. Rogers pulled up once more.

"Jump out and take the path to the left.  It'll bring you out almost
facing the front door.  Wait among the laurels there."

I climbed down and drew my rug about me as he drove on and I heard
the tilbury's wheels come to a halt on the gravel before the house.
Then, following the path which wound about a small shrubbery, I came
to the edge of the gravel sweep before the porch just as a groom took
the mare and cart from him and led them around to the left, towards
the stables.  I saw this distinctly, for on the right of the porch,
where there ran a pretty deep verandah, each window on the ground
floor was lit and flung its light across the gravel to the laurel
behind which I crouched.  There were in all five windows; of which
three seemed to belong to an empty room, and two to another filled
with people.  The windows of this one stood wide open, and the racket
within was prodigious.  Also the company seemed to consist entirely
of men.  But what surprised me most was to see that the tables at
which these guests drank and supped--as the clatter of knives and
plates told me, and the shouting of toasts--were drawn up in a
semicircle about a tall bed-canopy reaching almost to the ceiling in
the far right-hand corner.  The bed itself was hidden from me by the
broad backs of two sportsmen seated in line with it and nursing a
bottle apiece under their chairs.

Now while I wondered, Mr. Jack Rogers passed briskly through the room
with the closed windows towards this chamber of revelry, preceded by
an elderly woman with a smoking dish in her hands.  I could not see
the doorway between the two rooms; but the company announced his
appearance with a shout, and several guests pushing back their chairs
and rising to welcome him, in the same instant were disclosed to me,
first, the pale face of the Rev.  Mr. Whitmore under a sporting print
by the wall opposite, and next, reclining in the bed, the most
extraordinary figure of a woman.

So much of her as appeared above the bedclothes was arrayed in an
orange-coloured dressing-gown and a night-cap the frills of which
towered over a face remarkable in many ways, but chiefly for its
broad masculine forehead and the firm outline of its jaw and chin.
Indeed, I could hardly believe that the face belonged to a woman.
A slight darkening of the upper lip even suggested a moustache, but
on a second look I set this down to the shadow of the bed-canopy.

A round table stood at her elbow, with a bottle and plate upon it:
and in one hand she lifted a rummer to Mr. Rogers's health, crooking
back the spoon in it with her forefinger as she drank, that it might
not incommode her aquiline nose.

"Good health, Jack, and sit you down!" she hailed him, her voice
ringing above the others like a bell.  "Tripe and onions it is, and
Plymouth gin--the usual fare: and while you're helping yourself, tell
me--do I owe you ten pounds or no?"

"That depends," Mr. Rogers answered, searching about for a clean
plate and seating himself amid the hush of the company.  "All the
horses back?"

"Five of 'em.  They came in together, nigh on an hour ago, and not a
tub between 'em.  The roan's missing."

"Maybe the red-coats have him," said Mr. Rogers, holding out his
tumbler.  "Here, pass the kettle, somebody!"

"Red-coats?" she cried sharply.  "You don't tell me--" But the
sentence was drowned by a new and (to me) very horrible noise--the
furious barking of dogs from the stables or kennels in the rear of
the house.  Here was a new danger: and I liked it so little--the
prospect of being bayed naked through those pitch-dark shrubberies by
a pack of hounds--that I broke from my covert of laurel, hurriedly
skirted the broad patch of light on the carriage sweep, and plumped
down close to the windows, behind a bush of mock-orange at the end of
the verandah, whence a couple of leaps would land me within it among
Miss Belcher's guests.  And I felt that even Mr. Whitmore was less
formidable than Miss Belcher's dogs.

Their barking died down after a minute or so, and the company, two or
three of whom had started to their feet, seemed to be reassured and
began to call upon Jack Rogers for his explanation.  It now turned
out that, quite unintentionally, I had so posted myself as to hear
every word spoken; and, I regret to say, was deep in Mr. Rogers's
story--from which he considerately omitted all mention of me--when my
eye caught a movement among the shadows at the far end of the
verandah.

A man was stealing along it and towards me, close by the house wall.

He reached the first of the lighted windows, and peeped warily round
its angle.  This room, as I have said, was empty: but while he
assured himself of this, the light rested on his face, and through
the branches of the mock-orange bush I saw his features distinctly.
It was Sergeant Letcher.

He wore his red uniform and white pantaloons, but had slipped off his
boots and--as I saw when he rapidly passed the next two panels of
light--was carrying them in his hand.  Reaching the first of the open
windows, he stood for a while in the shade beside it, listening; and
then, to my astonishment, turned and stole back by the way he had
come.  I watched him till he disappeared in the darkness beyond the
house-porch.

Meanwhile Miss Belcher had been calling to clear away the supper and
set the tables for cards.

"Nonsense, Lydia!" Mr. Rogers objected.  "It's a good
one-in-the-morning, and the company tired.  Where's the sense, too,
of keeping the place ablaze on a night like this, with Gauger
Rosewarne scouring the country, and the dragoons behind him, and all
in the worst possible tempers?"

"My little Magistrate,"  Miss Belcher retorted, "there's naught to
hinder your trotting home to bed if you're timorous.  Jim's on his
way to the moor by this time with the rest of the horses: 'twas at
his starting the dogs gave tongue just now, and I'll have to teach
them better manners.  As for the roan, if he's hurt or Rosewarne
happens on him, there's evidence that I sold him to a gipsy three
weeks back, at St. Germans fair.  Here, Bathsheba, take the keys of
my bureau upstairs; you'll find some odd notes in the left-hand
drawer by the fire-place.  Bring Mr. Rogers down his ten pounds and
let him go.  We'll not compromise a Justice of the Peace if we can
help it."

"Don't play the fool, Lydia," growled Mr. Rogers, and added
ingenuously, "The fact is, I wanted a word with you alone."

"Oh, you scandalous man! And me tucked between the sheets!" she
protested, while the company haw-haw'd.  "You'll have to put up with
some more innocent amusement, my dear.  There's a badger somewhere
round at the back, in a barrel: we'll have him in with the dogs--
unless you prefer a quiet round with the cards."

"Oh, damn the badger at this hour!" swore Mr. Rogers.  "Cards are
quiet at any rate.  Here, Raby--Penrose--Tregaskis--which of you'll
cut in?  Whitmore--you'll take a hand, won't you?"

"The Parson's tired to-night, and with better excuse than you.
He's ridden down from Plymouth."

"Hallo, Whitmore--what were you doing in Plymouth?"

Mr. Whitmore ignored the question.  "I'm ready for a hand, Miss
Belcher," he announced quietly: "only let it be something quiet--a
rubber for choice."

"Half-guinea points?" asked somebody.

"Yes, if you will."

I heard them settle to cards, and their voices sink to a murmur.
Now and again a few coins clinked, and one of the guests yawned.

"You're as melancholy as gib-cats," announced Miss Belcher.
"The next that yawns, I'll send him out to fetch in that badger.
Tell us a story, somebody."

"I heard the beginning of a queer one," said Mr. Whitmore in his
deliberate voice.  "The folks were discussing it at Torpoint Ferry as
I crossed.  There's, been a murder at Plymouth, either last night or
this morning."

"A murder?  Who's the victim?"

"An old Jew, living on the Barbican or thereabouts.  My deal, is it
not?"

"What's his name?"

"His name?"  Mr. Whitmore seemed to be considering.  "Wait a moment,
or I shall misdeal."  After a pause, he said, "A Spanish-sounding
one--Rodriguez, I think.  They were all full of it at the Ferry."

"What!  Old Ike Rodriguez?  Why, he was down in these parts buying up
guineas the other day!" exclaimed Mr. Rogers.

"Was he?"

"Why, hang it all, Whitmore," said a guest, "you know he was!
More by token I pointed him out to you myself on Looe hill."

"Was that the man?"

"Of course it was.  Don't you remember admiring his face?  It put you
in mind of Caiaphas--those were your very words, and at the moment I
didn't clearly recollect who Caiaphas was.  It can't be three weeks
since."

"Three weeks less two days," said Miss Belcher; "for he called here
and bought fifteen off me: gave me twenty-four shillings and sixpence
apiece for all but one, which he swore was light.  Who's murdered
him?"

"There was talk of a boy," said Mr. Whitmore, still very
deliberately.  "At least, a boy was missing who had been seen in the
house just previously, and they were watching the ferries for him.
Why, surely, Rogers, that's a revoke!"

"A revoke?" stammered Mr. Rogers.  "So it is--I beg your pardon,
Tregaskis!  Damn the cards!  I'm too sleepy to tell one suit from
another."

"That makes our game then, and the rubber.  Rub and rub--shall we
play the conqueror?  No?  As you please then.  How do we stand?"

"We owe three guineas on points," growled a voice which, to judge by
its sulkiness, belonged to Mr. Tregaskis.

"I'm a clumsy fool," Mr. Rogers again accused himself.  "Here,
Whitmore, give me change out of a note."

"With pleasure.  It's as good as a gift, though, with the cards you
held," said Mr. Whitmore, and I heard the coins jingle in changing
hands, when from the shrubbery, where the gravel sweep narrowed,
there sounded the low hoot of an owl.  Being town-bred and unused to
owls, I took it for a human cry in the darkness and shrank closer
against my mock-orange bush.

"Hallo, Whitmore, you've dropped a guinea.  Here it is, by the
table-leg.  Take twenty-four shillings for it, now that old Rodriguez
is gone?"

Mr. Whitmore thanked the speaker as the coin was restored to him.
"The room's hot, as Mr. Rogers says, and I think I'll step out for a
mouthful of fresh air.  Phe--ew!" he drew a long breath as he
appeared at the window.

He strolled carelessly out beneath the verandah and stood for a
moment by one of its pillars.  And at that moment the owl's cry
sounded again, but more softly, from the shrubbery on my left.
I knew, then, that it came from no true bird.  With a swift glance
back into the room Mr. Whitmore stepped out upon the gravel and
followed the sound, almost brushing the mock-orange bush as he
passed.



CHAPTER XIV.


THE MOCK-ORANGE BUSH.

To my dismay, he halted but five paces from me.

"Is that you, Leicester?" he whispered.

"Sergeant Letcher, if you please," answered a quiet voice close by;
"unless you wish to be called Pickthall."

"Not so loud--the windows are open.  How on earth did you come here?
You're not with the van to-night?"

"I came on a horse, and a lame one: one of your tub-carriers.
The captain saw me mount him, down at the cove, and sent me off to
scour the country for evidence.  I guessed pretty well in what
direction he'd take me.  But you're a careless lot, I will say.
Look at this bit of rope."

"For God's sake don't talk so loud!  Rope?  What rope?"

"Oh, you needn't be afraid! It's not _your_ sort! Here--if you can't
see, take hold and feel it.  Left-handed, you'll notice--French
sling-stuff.  And that Belcher woman has no more sense of caution
than to tie up her roses with it!  Now see here, my son"--and his
voice became a snarl--"it may do for her to play tricks.  All the
country knows her, the magistrates included.  But for the likes of
you this dancing on the edge of the law is risky, and I can't afford
it.  Understand?  Why the devil you haunt the house as you do is more
than I can fathom, unless maybe you're making up to marry the old
fool."  He paused and added contemplatively, "'Twould be something in
your line to be sure.  Women were always your game."

"You didn't whistle me out to tell me this," said Mr. Whitmore
stiffly.

"No, I did not.  I want ten pounds."

Mr. Whitmore groaned.  "Look here, Leicst--"

"Be careful!"

"But this makes twice in ten days.  It's pushing a man too hard
altogether!"

"Not a bit of it," Letcher assured him cheerfully.  "You're too
devilish fond of your own neck, my lad; and I know it too devilish
well to be come over by that talk."  He chuckled to himself.
"How's the beauty down at the cottage?"

"I don't know," Mr. Whitmore answered sulkily.  "Is Plinlimmon
there?"

"No, he's not; and you ought to know he's not.  Where have you been,
all day?"

The curate was silent.

"He'll be down again on Saturday, though.  Leave of absence is going
cheap, just now.  I've an idea that our marching orders must be about
due.  Maybe I'll be able to run down myself, though my father hadn't
the luck to be a friend of the Colonel's.  If I don't, you're to keep
your eye lifting, and report."

"Is there really a chance of the order coming?" asked Mr. Whitmore,
with a shake in his low voice.

"Dissemble your joy, my friend!  When it comes, I shall call on
you for fifty.  Meanwhile I tell you to keep your eye lifting.
The battalion's raw, yet.  About the order, it's only my guesswork,
and before we sail you may yet do the christening."

"It's damnable!"

"Hush, you fool!  Gad, if somebody hasn't heard you!  Who's _that_?"

They held their breath; and I held mine, pressing my body into the
mock-orange bush until the twigs cracked.  Mr. Jack Rogers stepped
out upon the verandah, and stood by one of the pillars, not a dozen
yards from me, contemplating the sky where the dawn was now beginning
to break over the dark shrubberies.  I heard the two men tip-toeing
away through the laurels.

He, too, seemed to catch the sound, for he turned his head sharply.
But at that moment Miss Belcher's voice called him back into the
room.

A minute later he reappeared with a loaf of bread in either hand, and
walked moodily past my bush without turning his head or observing me.

I faced about cautiously and looked after him.  From the end of the
verandah the ground, sheltered on the right by a belt of evergreen
trees, fell away steeply to a valley where, under the paling sky, a
sheet of water glimmered.  Towards this, down the grassy slope, Mr.
Rogers went with long strides.  I broke cover, and ran after him.

I ran as fast as my hurt hip and the trailing folds of the rug
allowed.  The grass underfoot was grey with dew, and overhead the
birds were singing.  An old horse that had been sleeping in his
pasture heaved himself up and gazed at me as I went by, and either
his snort of contempt or the sound of my footsteps must have struck
on Mr. Rogers's ear.  He turned and allowed me to catch up with him.

"It's you, eh?"  He eyed me between pity and distrust.  "Here, catch
hold, if you're feeling peckish."

He thrust a loaf into my hands and I fell on it ravenously, plucking
off a crust and gnawing it while I trotted beside him.

"Got to feed her blessed swans now!" he muttered.  "The deuce is in
her for perversity to-night."

He kept growling to himself, knitting his brow and pausing once or
twice for a moody stare.  He was not drunk, and his high complexion
showed no trace of his all-night sitting; and yet something had
changed him utterly from the cheerful gentleman of a few hours back.

The water in the valley bottom proved to be an artificial lake, very
cunningly contrived to resemble a wild one.  At the head of it, where
we trod on asphodels and sweet-smelling mints and brushed the young
stalks of the loose-strife, stood a rustic bridge partly screened by
alders.  Here Mr. Rogers halted, and a couple of fine swans came
steering towards him out of the shadows.

He broke his loaf into two pieces.  "That's for you," he exclaimed,
hurling the first chunk viciously at the male bird.  The pair turned
in alarm at the splash and paddled away, hissing.  "And that's for
you!"  The second chunk caught the female full astern, and Mr. Rogers
leaned on the rail and laughed grimly.  He thrust his hand into his
breeches pocket and drew forth a guinea.  The young daylight touched
its edge as it lay in his palm.

"I'm a Justice of the Peace; or I'd toss that after the bread."

"What's the matter with it, sir?"

He turned it over gingerly with his forefinger.  "See?" he said.
"I put that mark on it myself, for sport, three weeks ago, and this
very night I won it back."

"Was it one you sold to Mr. Rodriguez?"

"Hey?"  I thought he would have taken me by the collar.  "So you
_are_ the boy!  What do you know of Rodriguez, boy?"

"I--I was listening in the verandah, sir.  And oh, but I've something
to tell you!  I'm the boy, sir, that Mr. Whitmore spoke about--the
boy that's being searched for--"

"Look here," Mr. Rogers interrupted, "I'm a Justice of the Peace, you
know."

"I can't help it, sir--begging your pardon.  But I was in the house,
and I saw things: and if they catch me, I must tell."

"Tell the truth and shame the devil," said Mr. Rogers.

"But the more truth I told, sir, the worse it would look for someone
who's innocent."

"Whitmore?"

"You changed a note with Mr. Whitmore, didn't you, sir?"

This confused him.  "You've been using your ears to some purpose," he
growled.

"I don't know how Mr. Whitmore comes to be mixed up in it.
But here's another thing, sir--You remember that he walked out after
the game--for fresh air, he said?"

"Well?"

"And he didn't come back?"

"Well?"

"He stepped out because he was whistled out.  There was a man waiting
for him."

"What man?"

"His name's Letcher--at least--"

"I don't know the name."

"He was one of the soldiers on the beach this evening."

"The devil!"

"But he hadn't come about _that_ business."

"About what, then?"

"Well now, sir, I must ask you a question.  They were talking about
'the beauty down at the cottage.'  Who would that be?"

"That," said he slowly, "would be Isabel Brooks, for a certainty."

"And the cottage?"

"Remember the one we passed on the road?--the one with a light
downstairs?  That's it.  She lives there with her father--an old
soldier and three-parts blind.  There's no mischief brewing against
_her_, I hope?"

"I don't know sir," I went on breathlessly.  "But if you please, go
on answering me.  Do you know a young man called Plinlimmon--
Archibald Plinlimmon?"

"Plinlimmon?  Ay, to be sure I do.  Met him there once--another
soldier, youngish and good-looking--in the ranks, but seemed a
gentleman--didn't catch his Christian name.  The Major introduced him
as the son of an old friend--comrade-in-arms, he said, if I remember.
He was there with a black-faced fellow, whose name I didn't catch
either."

"That was Letcher!"

"What?  The man Whitmore was talking with?  What were they saying?"

"They said something about a christening.  And Letcher asked for
money."

"A christening?  What in thunder has a christening to do with it?"

"That's what I don't know, sir."

Mr. Rogers looked at me and rubbed his chin.  "I meant to take you to
Lydia," he said; "but now that Whitmore's mixed up in this, I'll be
shot if I do.  That fellow has bewitched her somehow, and where he's
concerned--"  He glanced up the slope and clutched me suddenly by the
shoulder: for Whitmore himself was there, walking alone, and coming
straight towards us.  "Talk of the devil--here, hide, boy--duck down,
I tell you, there behind the bushes!  No!  Through the hedge, then--"

I burst across the hedge and dropped through a mat of brambles,
dragging my rug after me.  The fall landed me on all-fours upon the
sunken high road, along which I ran as one demented--stark naked,
too--a small Jack of Bedlam under the broadening eye of day; ran past
Miss Belcher's entrance gate with its sentinel masses of tall
laurels, and had reached the bend of the road opening the low cottage
into view, when a sudden jingling of bells and tramp of horses drove
me aside through a gate on the left, to cower behind a hedge there
while they passed.

Two wagons came rumbling by, each drawn by six horses and covered by
a huge white tilt bearing in great letters the words "Russell and
Co., Falmouth to London."  On the front of each a lantern shone pale
against the daylight.  At the head of each team rode a wagoner,
mounted on a separate horse and carrying a long whip.  Beside the
wagons tramped four soldiers with fixed bayonets, and two followed
behind: they wore the uniform of the North Wilts Regiment.

I knew them well enough by repute--these famous wagons conveying
untold treasure between London and the Falmouth Packets.
They passed, and I crept out into the road again, to stare after
them.

With that, turning my head, I was aware of a girl in the roadway
outside the cottage door.  But if she had come out to gaze after the
wagons, she was gazing now at me.  It was too late to hide, and
moreover I had come almost to the end of my powers.  With a cry for
pity I ran towards her.



CHAPTER XV.


MINDEN COTTAGE.

Stark naked though I was, she did not flinch as I came; only her eyes
seemed to widen upon me in wonder.  And for all my desperate hurry I
had time to see, first, that they were graver than other girls' eyes,
and next that they were exceedingly beautiful.

In those days I had small learning (I have little enough, even now),
or I might have fancied her some goddess awaiting me between the
night and the dawn.  She stood, tall and erect, in a loose white
wrapper, the collar of which had fallen open and revealed the
bodice-folds of her nightgown--a cloud at the base of her firm
throat.  Her feet were thrust into loose slippers: and her hair hung
low on her neck in dark masses as she had knotted them for the night.

"Where do you come from, boy?" she asked; but an instant later she
put that question aside as an idle one.  "Someone has been
ill-treating you!  Come indoors!"

She held out a hand and, as I clung to it, led me to the door; but
turned with her other hand on the latch.  "Is anyone following?"

I shook my head.  She was attempting now, but gently, to draw back
the hand to which I clung; and, in resisting, my fingers met and
pulled against a ring--a single ring of plain gold.

Seeing that I had observed it, she made no further effort, but let
her hand lie, her eyes at the same moment meeting mine and searching
them gravely and curiously.

"Come upstairs," she said; "but tread softly.  My father is a light
sleeper."

She took me to a room in the corner of which stood a white bed with
the sheets neatly turned down, prepared and ready for a guest.
The room was filled with the scent of flowers--fragrant scent of
roses and clean aromatic scent of carnations.  There were fainter
scents, too, of jasmine and lavender; the first wafted in from a
great bush beyond the open lattice, the second (as I afterwards
discovered) exhaled by the white linen of the bed.  But flowers were
everywhere, in bowls and jars and glasses; and as though other
receptacles for them had failed, one long spray of small roses
climbed the dressing-table from a brown pitcher at its foot.

She motioned me to a chair beside the bed, and, almost before I knew
what was intended, she had fetched a basin of water and was kneeling
to wash my feet.

"No--please!" I protested.

"But I love children," she whispered; "and you are but a child."

So I sat in a kind of dream while she washed away the dust and blood,
changing the water twice, and afterwards dried each foot in a towel,
pressing firmly but never once hurting me.

When this was done, she rose and stood musing, contemplating me
seriously and yet with a touch of mirth in her eyes.

"You are such a little one!" she said.  "Father's would never fit."
And having poured out fresh water and bidden me wash my body, she
stole out.

She returned with a white garment in her hand and real mirth now in
her eyes.  My toilet done, she slipped the garment over me.  It fell
to my feet in long folds, yet so lightly that I scarcely felt I was
clothed: and she clapped her hands in dumb-show.  It was one of her
own night-gowns.

I glanced uneasily towards the bed.  Its daintiness frightened me,
used as I was to the housekeeping--coarse if clean--of Mrs. Trapp.

"Your prayers first," she whispered.  "Don't you know any?"  She eyed
me anxiously again.  "But you are a good boy?  Surely you are a good
boy?   Don't boys say their prayers?  They ought to."

Since passing out of Miss Plinlimmon's tutelage, I had sadly
neglected the habit: but I knelt down obediently and in silence.

She stepped close behind me.  "But you're not speaking," she
murmured.  "Father always says his aloud, and so do I.  You mustn't
pretend, if you don't really know any.  I can teach you."

She knelt down beside me, and began to say the Lord's Prayer softly.
I repeated it after her, sentence by sentence: and this was really
shamming, for of course I knew it perfectly.  At the time I felt only
that she--this beautiful creature beside me--was in a strange state
of exaltation which I could not in the least understand.  I know now
something of the springs I had touched and loosened within her--I, a
naked waif coming to her out of the night and catching her hand for
protection.  It was not I she taught, nor over me that she yearned.
She was reaching through me to a child unknown, using me to press
against a strange love tearing at the roots of her body, and to break
the pain of it--the roots of her body, I say; for he who can separate
a woman's soul from her body is a wiser man than I.

She rose from her knees; threw back the sheets and tucked them about
me as I snuggled down.

"What is your name?"

"Harry Revel.  Are you Miss Isabel Brooks?"

"I am Isabel."

"Why were you crying, out in the road?"

"Was I crying?"

"Well, not crying exactly: but you looked as if you wanted to."

She smiled.  "We both have our secrets it seems; and you shall tell
me yours to-morrow.  Will yours let you sleep?"

"I think so, Miss Isabel.  I am so tired--and so clean--and this bed
is so soft--"  I stretched out my arms luxuriously, and almost before
I knew it she was bending to kiss me, and they were about her neck.
Her hair fell over me in a shower and in the shade of it she laughed
happily, kissing me by the ear and whispering, "I have my happy
secret, too!"

She straightened herself up, tossed back the dark locks with curved
sweep of arm and wrist, and moved to the door.

"Good night, Harry Revel!"


A bird was cheeping in the jasmine bush when I dropped asleep, and
when I awoke he was cheeping there still.  Of my dreams I only
remember that they ended in a vague sense of discomfort, somehow
arising from a vision of Mr. Rogers in the act of throwing bread at
the swans, and of the hen bird's flurry as she paddled away.  But the
sound which I took for the splashing of water came in fact from the
rings of the window curtain, which Miss Isabel was drawing to shut
out the high morning sun.

She heard me stir and faced about, with her hand yet on the curtain.
"Awake?" she cried, and laughed.  "You shall have a basin of
bread-and-milk presently: and after that you may get up and put on
these."  She held out a suit of clothes which lay across her arm.
"I have borrowed them from Miss Belcher, who distributes all sorts of
garments at Christmas among the youngsters hereabouts, and has
rummaged this out of her stock.  And after that my father will be
glad to make your acquaintance.  We shall find him in the garden.
Now I must go and see to preparing dinner: for it is past noon,
though you may not know it."

Behold me, half an hour later, clad in a blue jacket very tight at
the elbows and corduroy breeches very tight at the knees and warm for
the time of year, as I descended with Isabel into the walled garden
at the back of the cottage.  Its whole area cannot have been an acre,
and even so the half of it was taken up by a plot of turf, smooth as
a bowling green: but beyond this stretched a miniature orchard, and
along the walls ran two deep borders crowded with midsummer flowers--
tall white lilies and Canterbury bells; stocks, sweet williams,
mignonette, candytuft and larkspurs; bushes of lemon verbena, myrtle,
and the white everlasting pea.  Near the house all was kept in
nicest order, with trim ranks of standard roses marching level with
the turfed verges, and tall carnations staked and bending towards
them across the alley: but around the orchard all grew riotous.
The orchard ended in a maze of currant bushes, through which the path
seemed to wander after the sound of running water till it emerged
upon another clearing of turf, with a tall filbert tree, and a
summer-house beneath it, and a row of beehives set beside a stream.
The stream, I afterwards learned, came down from Miss Belcher's park,
and was the real boundary of the garden: but Miss Belcher had allowed
the Major to build a wall for privacy, on the far side of it, yet not
so high as to shut off the sun from his bee-skeps; and had granted
him a private entrance through it to the park--a narrow wooden door
approached by a miniature bridge across the stream.

"Papa!" called Isabel.

I heard a movement in the summer-house, and her father appeared in
the doorway.  He was old, but held himself so erect that his head
almost touched the lintel of the summer-house door, the posts of
which he gripped and so stood framed--a giant of close upon six and a
half feet in stature.  He wore a brown holland suit, with grey
stockings and square-toed shoes; and at first I mistook him for a
Quaker.  His snow-white hair was gathered back from his temples,
giving salience to a face of ineffable simplicity and goodness--the
face of a man at peace with God and all the world, yet touched with
the scars of bygone passions.

"Papa, this is Harry Revel."

He bowed with ceremony, a little wide of me.  I saw then that his
eyes were sightless.

"I am happy to make your acquaintance, young sir.  My daughter
informs me that you are in trouble."

"He has promised to tell me all about it," Isabel put in.  "We need
not bother him with questions just now."

"Assuredly not," he agreed.  "Well, if you will, my lad, tell it to
Isabel.  What is your age?  Barely fourteen?  Troubles at that age
are not often incurable.  Only whatever you do--and you will pardon
an old man for suggesting it--tell the whole truth.  When a man,
though he be much older than you and his case more serious than yours
can possibly be--when a man once brings himself to make a clean
breast of it, the odds are on his salvation.  Take my word for that,
and a wiser man's--By the way, do you understand Latin?"

"No, sir."

"I am sorry to hear it.  But perhaps you play the drum?"

"I--I have never tried, sir."

"Dear, dear, this is unfortunate: but at least you can serve me by
leading me round the garden and telling me where the several flowers
grow, and how they come on.  That will be something."

"I will try, sir: but indeed I can hardly tell one flower from
another."

At this his face fell again.  "Do you, by chance, know a bee when you
see one?"

"A bee?  Oh yes, sir."

"Come, we have touched bottom at length!  Do you understand bees?
Can you handle them?"

Here Isabel, seeing my chapfallen face, interposed.

"And if he does not, papa, you will have the pleasure of teaching
him."

"Very true, my dear.  You must excuse me"--here Major Brooks turned
as if seeing me with his sightless eyes.  "But understand that I like
you far better for owning up.  There are men--there is a clergyman in
our neighbourhood for one--capable of pretending a knowledge of Latin
which they don't possess."

"Doesn't Mr. Whitmore know Latin?" I asked.

"Hey?  Who told you I was speaking of Whitmore?"

I glanced at Isabel, for her eyes drew me.  They were fixed on me
almost in terror.

"I have heard him talk it, sir."

"Excuse me: you may have heard him pretending."

"But, papa--" Isabel put forth a hand as if in protest, and I noted
that it trembled and that the ring was missing which she had worn
overnight.  "You never told me that he--that Mr. Whitmore--"

"Was an impostor?  My dear, had you any occasion to seek my opinion
of him, or had I any occasion to give it?  None, I think: and but
for Master Revel's incomprehensible guess you had not discovered it
now.  I have been betrayed into gossip."

He turned abruptly and, feeling with his hand over the surface of the
summer-house table, picked up a small volume lying there.  It struck
me that his temper for the moment was not under perfect control.

Isabel cast at me a look which I could not interpret, and went slowly
back to the house.

"The meaning of my catechism just now," said her father, addressing
me after listening for awhile to her retreating footsteps, "may be
the plainer when I tell you that I am translating the works of the
Roman poet Virgil, line for line, into English verse, and have just
reached the beginning of the Fourth Georgic.  He is, I may tell you,
a poet, and the most marvellous that ever lived; so marvellous, that
the middle ages mistook him for a magician.  That any age is likely
to mistake me--his translator--for a conjuror I think improbable.
Nevertheless I do my best.  And while translating I hold this book in
my hand, not that I can see to read a line of it, but because the
mere touch of it, my companion on many campaigns, seems to unloose my
memory.  Except in handling this small volume, I have none of the
delicate gift of touch with which blind men are usually credited.
But this is page 106, is it not?"  He held out the open book towards
me, and added, with sudden apprehension, "You can read, I trust?"

I assured him that I could.

"And write?  Good again!  Come in--you will find pen, ink, and paper
on the side-drum in the corner.  Bring them over to the table and
seat yourself.  Ready?  Now begin, and let me know when you cannot
spell a word."

I seated myself, silently wondering what might be the use of the
side-drum in the corner.

"Let me see--let me see--"   He thumbed the book for a while,
murmuring words which I could not catch; then thrust it behind his
back with a finger between its pages, straightened himself up, and
declaimed:

    "Next of aerial honey, gift divine,
     I sing.  Maecenas, be once more benign!"

He paused and instructed me how to spell "aerial" and "Maecenas."
The orthography of these having been settled, I asked his advice upon
"benign," which, as written down by me (I forget how) did not seem
convincing.

"You are indisputably an honest boy," said he; "but I have yet to
acquire that degree of patience which, by all accounts, consorts with
my affliction.  Continue, pray:

    "Prepare the pomp of trifles to behold:
     Proud peers--a nation's polity unrolled--
     Customs, pursuits--its clans, and how they fight,
     Slight things I labour; not for glory slight,
     If Heaven attend and Phoebus hearken me.
        First, then, for site.  Seek and instal your Bee--"

--"With a capital B, if you please.  The poet says 'bees': but the
singular, especially if written with a capital, adds in my opinion
that mock-heroic touch which, as the translator must frequently miss
it for all his pains, he had better insert where he can.  By the way,
how have you spelt 'Phoebus'?"

"F.e.b.u.s," I answered.

"I feared so," he sighed.  "And 'site'?"

"S.i.g.h.t." I felt pretty sure about this.  He smote his forehead.

"That is how Miss Plinlimmon taught me," I urged almost defiantly.

"I beg your pardon--'Plinlimmon,' did you say?  An unusual name.
Do you indeed know a Miss Plinlimmon?"

"It is the name of my dearest friend, sir."

"Most singular!  You cannot tell me, I dare say, if she happens to be
related to my old friend Arthur Plinlimmon?"

"She is his sister."

"This is most interesting.  I remember her, then, as a girl.
You must know that Arthur Plinlimmon and I were comrades in the old
Fourth Regiment, and dear friends--are dear friends yet, I trust,
although time and circumstances have separated us.  His sister used
to keep house for him before his marriage.  A most estimable person!
And pray where did you make her acquaintance?"

"In the hospital, sir."

"The hospital? Not an eleemosynary institution for the diseased, I
hope?"

I did not know what this meant.  "It's a place for foundlings, sir,"
I answered.

"But--excuse me--Miss Plinlimmon--Agatha?  Arabella?  I forget for
the moment her Christian name--"

"Amelia, sir."

"To be sure; Amelia.  Well, she could not be a foundling, nor--as I
remember her--did she in the least resemble one."

"Oh no, sir: she is the matron there."

"I see.  And where is this hospital?"

"At Plymouth Dock."

"Hey?"

"At Plymouth Dock.  A Mr. Scougall keeps it--a sort of clergyman."

"This is most strange.  My friend Arthur's son, young Archibald
Plinlimmon, is quartered with his regiment there, and often pays us a
visit, poor lad."

"Indeed, sir?"

"His circumstances are not prosperous.  Family troubles--money
losses, you understand: and then his father made an imprudent
marriage.  Not that anything can be said against the Leicesters--
there are few better families.  But the lady, I imagine, did not take
kindly to poverty: never learnt to cut her coat according to the
cloth.  Her uncle might have helped her--Sir Charles, that is--the
head of the family--a childless man with plenty of money.  For some
reason, however, he had opposed her match with Arthur.  A sad story!
And now, when their lad is grown and the time come for him to be a
soldier, he must start in the ranks.  But why in the world, if she
lives at Plymouth Dock, has Archibald never mentioned his aunt to
us?"

This was more than I could tell him.  And you may be sure that the
name Leicester made me want to ask questions, not to answer them.
But just now Isabel came across the lawn, bearing a tray with a
plateful of biscuits, a decanter of claret, and a glass.

"My dear," asked her father, "has our friend Archibald ever spoken to
you of an aunt of his--a Miss Plinlimmon--residing at Plymouth Dock?"

"No, papa."  She turned on me, again with that fear and appeal in her
eyes, as if in some way I was persecuting her; and the decanter shook
and tinkled on the rim of the glass as she poured out the claret.

The old man lifted the wine and held it between his sightless eyes
and the sunshine.

"A sad story," he mused: "but, after all, the lad is young and the
world young for him!  Rejoice in your youth, Mr. Revel, and honour
your Creator in the days of it.  For me, I enjoyed it by God's grace,
and it has not forsaken me: no, not when darkness overtook and shut
me out of the profession I loved.  I cannot see the colour of this
wine, nor the face of this my daughter, nor my garden, yonder, full
of flowers."

    "Seasons return, but not to me returns
     Day, or the sweet approach of even or morn,
     Or sight of vernal bloom, or Summer's rose,
     Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine--"

"Yet memory returns and consoles my blindness.  The colour of the
wine is there, the flowers are about me, and Isabel--I am told--
resembles her mother.  Yes, and away on the edge of Spain, the army I
served is planting fresh laurels--my old regiment too, the King's
Own, though James Brooks is by this time scarcely a name to it.
Here I sit, hale in wind and limb, and old age creeps on me kindly,
telling me that no man is necessary.  And yet, if God should come and
lay a command on me--some task that a blind man might undertake--I am
at God's service.  I sit with my loins girt and my soul, I hope,
shriven. That is my sermon to you, young sir: a clean breast and no
baggage. I bid you welcome to Minden Cottage!"  He drank to me.

"Is it named from the battle of Minden, sir?" I asked.

"It is, my lad."

"Were you there?"

He laughed.  "My father won his captaincy there, in a regiment that
mistook orders, charged three lines of cavalry, and broke them one
after another.  It also broke a sound maxim of war by charging
between flanking batteries.  The British Army has made half its
reputation by mistaking orders--you will understand why, if ever you
have the honour to belong to it.  Isabel, get me my drum!"

She fetched it from its corner, with the drumsticks; hitched the
sling over her beautiful neck; tightened the straps carefully; and
began to play a soft tattoo.

The old man leaned back in his chair; felt in his pocket; and having
found a silk bandanna handkerchief, unfolded it deliberately, cast it
over his head and composed himself to slumber.

The tattoo ran on, peaceful as a brook.  Isabel's arms hung lax and
motionless: only her hands stirred, from the wrists, and so slightly,
or else so rapidly without effort, that they too scarcely seemed to
move.  Her eyes were averted.

My ear could not separate the short taps.  They ran on and on
in a murmur as of bees or of leaves rustling together in a wood;
grew imperceptibly gentler; and almost imperceptibly ceased.
Isabel glanced at her father, and set the drum back in its corner.
We stole out of the summer-house together, and across to the orchard.

But under the shade of the apple-boughs she turned and faced me.

"Boy, what do you know?"



CHAPTER XVI.


MR. JACK ROGERS AS A MAN OF AFFAIRS.

"I know," said I, meeting her gaze sturdily, "that you are in
danger."

"How should I be in danger?"

"That I cannot tell you, Miss Isabel, unless you first tell me
something."

She waited, her eyes searching mine.

"Last night," I went on, "in the road--you were expecting someone."

Her chin went up proudly; but a tide of red rose with it, flushing
her throat and so creeping up and colouring her face.

"Was it Archibald Plinlimmon?"

She put up a hand as if to push me aside: but on a sudden turned and
hastened from me, with bowed head, towards the cottage.

"Miss Isabel!" I cried, following her close.  "I meant no harm--how
could I mean you harm?  Miss Isabel!"

I would not let her go, but followed her to the door, entreating;
even pushed after her into the small kitchen, where at last she faced
on me.

"Why cannot you let me alone, boy?  Into what have you come
here to pry?  You are odious--yes, odious!"  She stamped her foot.
"And I thought last night, that you were in trouble.  Was I not
kind to you for that, and that only?"  She broke off pitifully.
"Oh, Harry, I am dreadfully unhappy!"

She sank into a chair beside the table, across which she flung an arm
and so leaned her brow and let the sobs shake her.

"And I am here to help you, Miss Isabel: only so much is puzzling me!
Last night you said you had a secret, and that it was a happy one.
To-day you are crying, and it is miserable to see."

"And why should I not be happy?"  She lifted a hand to the bosom of
her bodice, and slipped over her third finger the ring she had worn
over-night.

"Why should I not be expecting him?" she murmured.

For the moment I was slow in understanding.  But I suppose that at
length she saw that in my eyes which satisfied her: for she drew down
my head to her lap, and sat laughing and weeping softly.

A kettle hanging from a crook in the chimney-place boiled over,
hissing down upon the hot wood-ashes.  She sprang up and lifted it
down to the hearth.

"Oh, and I forgot!"  Her hand went back to her bodice again.
"Mr. Jack Rogers was here this morning inquiring for you.  He drove
up in his tilbury, and said he was on his way to Plymouth.  But he
left this note."

I took it and deciphered these words, scrawled in an abominable hand:

    "Meet me to-night, nine o'clock, at the place where we parted.
                                           J. R."

"Was Mr. Rogers going to Plymouth?" I asked.

"Yes, and in a hurry, by the pace he was driving."

As you may guess, this news discomposed me.  Could Mr. Rogers be
preparing a trap?  No: certainly not for me. Whitmore, if anyone, was
his quarry.  But I mistrusted that, if he once started this game, it
would lead him on to another scent. That Archibald Plinlimmon was
innocent of the Jew's murder I felt sure.  Still--what had he been
seeking on the roofs by the Jew's house?  It would be an ugly
question, if Mr. Rogers blundered on it; and in the way of honest
blundering I felt Mr. Rogers to be infinitely capable.  Would that,
trusting in his good nature, I had made a clean breast to him!

A clean breast?  Isabel too, poor girl, was aching to make confession
to her father.  For weeks her secret had been a sword within her,
wearing the flesh, and it eased her somewhat (as I saw) even to have
made confession to me.  But she would not speak to her father without
first consulting Archibald.  It was he, I gathered, who had enjoined
silence.  Major Brooks  (and small blame to him)  would assuredly
have imposed a probation: old men with lovely daughters do not
surrender them at call to penniless youths, even when the penniless
youth happens to be the son of an old friend.  I wished Master
Archibald to perdition for a selfish fool.

I talked long with Isabel: first in the kitchen, and again on our way
back to the summer-house, where her father sat awake and expecting
me, book in hand.

There she left me, and he began to dictate at once as I settled
myself to write.

    "First, then, for site.  Seek, and instal your Bee
     Where nor may winds invade (for winds forbid
     His homeward load); nor sheep, nor heady kid
     Trample the flowers; nor blundering heifer pass,
     Brush off the dew and bruise the tender grass;
     Nor lizard foe in painted armour prowl
     Round the rich hives.  Ban him, ban every fowl--
     Bee-bird with Procne of the bloodied breast:
     These rifle all--our Hero with the rest,
     Snapped on the wing and haled, a tit-bit, to the nest.
     --But seek a green moss'd pool, with well-spring nigh;
     And through the turf a streamlet fleeting by."

So much, with interminably slow pauses, we accomplished before the
light waned in the summer-house and Isabel called us in to supper,
which we ate together in a low-ceiled parlour overlooking the garden.
At a quarter to nine, on pretence that I had still to make up arrears
of sleep, she signed to me to wish her father good-night and escorted
me out into the passage.  A slip of the bolt, and I was free of the
night.

I found the spot where I had dropped into the road, and cautiously
mounted the hedge, putting the brambles aside and peering through
them into the fast falling twilight.  A low whistle sounded, and Mr.
Rogers stepped into view on the footbridge.  But he left a companion
behind him in the shadow of the alders, and who this might be I could
neither see nor guess.

"Is that you, Master Revel?"

There was no help for it now; so over the hedge I climbed and met
him.

"How did you find out--"

--"Your name?  Miss Brooks told me, this morning.  But, for that
matter, it's placarded all over Plymouth and at every public and
forge and signpost along the road.  You're a notorious character, my
son."

I began to quake.

"Parson," he went on, turning and addressing the figure in the
shadow, "here's the boy.  Better make haste, if you have any
questions to ask him before we get to business."

There stepped forward, not Mr. Whitmore (as I was fearfully
expecting), but a figure unknown to me; an old shovel-hatted man
leaning on a stick and buttoned to the chin in a black Inverness
cape.  I felt his eyes peering at me through the dusk.

"He seems very young to be a trustworthy witness," croaked this old
gentleman in a voice which seemed to be affected by the night air.

"He's right enough," Mr. Rogers answered cheerfully.

"He shall tell his tale, then, in Mr. Whitmore's presence.  I will
not yet believe that a minister of Christ's religion, whose papers--
as I have proved to you--are in order, whose testimonials are
unexceptionable, who has the Bishop's licence--"

"The Bishop's fiddlestick! The Bishop didn't license him to carry
marked guineas in his pocket, and I don't wait for a licence to carry
a warrant in mine."

"You will at least afford him an opportunity of explaining before you
execute it.  To be plain with you, Mr. Rogers, this business is like
to be scandalous, however you look at it."

"The constables shall remain outside, and the warrant I'll keep in my
pocket until your reverence's doubts are at rest."  Mr. Rogers gave
another low whistle and two men, hitherto concealed at a little
distance in the trees' shadow, stepped silently forward and joined
us.  "Ready, lads?  Quick march, then!"

We took the path up the valley bottom, and across a grassy shoulder
of the park to a small gate in the ring-fence.  Beyond this gate a
lane, or cart-road, dipped steeply downhill to the right; and
following it, we came on a high stone wall overtopped by trees.

"Here's your post, Hodgson," whispered Mr. Rogers, after waiting for
the constables to come up.  "Jim will take the back of the house: and
understand that no one is to enter or leave.  If anyone attempts it,
signal to me: one whistle from you, Hodgson, and two from Jim.
Off you go, my lad!  The signal's the same if I want you--one whistle
or two, as the case may be."

The constable he called Jim crept away in the darkness, while Mr.
Rogers found and cautiously opened a wicket-gate leading to a
courtlage, across which a solitary window shone on the ground-floor
of a house lifting its gables and heavy chimneys against a sky only
less black than itself.

"Gad!" said Mr. Rogers softly, "I wonder what Whitmore's doing?
The fun would be, now, to find one of these windows unfastened, and
slip in upon him without announcing ourselves.  'Twouldn't be the
thing, though, for a Justice of the Peace, let alone Mr. Doidge here.
No: we'll have to do it in order and knock.  The maid knows me.
Only you two must keep back in the shadow here while she opens the
door."

He stepped forward and knocked boldly.

To the astonishment of us all the door opened almost at once, and
without any noise of unlocking or drawing of bolts.

"For Heaven's sake, my dear--unless you want to wake the village--"
began a voice testily.  It was Mr. Whitmore's, and almost on the
instant, by the light of a candle which he held, he recognised the
man on the doorstep.

"Mr. Rogers?  To what do I owe--"

"Good evening, Whitmore!  May I come in?  Won't detain you long--
especially since you seem to be expecting company."

"It's the maid," answered Mr. Whitmore coldly, though he seemed
confused.  "She has stepped down to the village for an hour, to her
mother's cottage, and I am alone."

"So you call her 'my dear'?  That's a bit pastoral, eh?"

"Look here, Rogers: if you're drunk, I beg you to call at some other
time.  To tell the truth, I'm busy."

"Writing your sermon?  I thought Saturday was the night for that.
'Pon my honour now I wouldn't intrude, only the business is urgent."
He waited while Mr. Whitmore somewhat grudgingly set the door wide to
admit him.  "By the way I've brought a couple of friends with me."

"Confound it all, Rogers--"

"Oh, you know them." Mr. Rogers, with his foot planted over the
threshold, airily waved us forward out of the darkness.  "Mr. Doidge,
your Rector," he announced; "also Mr. Revel--a recent acquaintance of
yours, as I understand."

"Good evening, Whitmore," said the Rector stepping forward.  "I owe
you an apology (I sincerely hope) for the circumstances of this
visit, as I certainly discommend Mr. Rogers's method of introducing
us."

Now, as we two stepped forward, Mr. Whitmore had instantly shot out
his right hand to the door--against which Mr. Rogers, however, had
planted his foot--with a gesture as if to slam it in our faces.
But the sombre apparition of the Rector seemed to freeze him where he
stood--or all of him but his left hand which, grasping the
candlestick, slowly and as if involuntarily lifted it above the level
of his eyes.  Then, before the Rector had concluded, he lowered it,
turned, and walked hastily before us down the passage.

Still without speaking he passed through a door on his right, and we
followed him into a sparely furnished room lined with empty
book-shelves.  A few books lay scattered on the centre table where
also, within the shaded light of a reading lamp, stood a tray with a
decanter and a couple of glasses.  Beside this lamp he set down the
candle and faced us.  In those few paces down the passage I had
observed that he wore riding-boots and spurs, and that they were
spotlessly bright and clean.  But from this moment I had eyes only
for his face, which was ashen white and the more horrible because he
was essaying a painful smile.

"My dear Rector," he began, "this is indeed a--a surprise.  You said
nothing of any such intention when I had the honour to call on you in
Plymouth, two days ago."

"Good reason for why," interrupted Mr. Rogers.  "Look here,
Whitmore--with the Rector's leave we'll get this over.  Do you know
this coin?"

He held forward a guinea under the lamp.

I could see the unhappy man pick up his courage to fix his gaze on
the coin and hold it fixed.

"I don't understand you, Rogers," he answered.  "I have, of course,
no knowledge of that coin or what it means.  To me it looks like an
ordinary guinea."

"I had it from you last night, Whitmore: and it is not an ordinary
guinea, but a marked one.  What's more, I marked it myself--see, with
this small cross behind the king's head.  What's more I sold it, so
marked, to Rodriguez, the Jew."

--"Who, I suppose, promptly put it into circulation in Plymouth,
where by chance it was handed to me amid the change when I paid my
hotel-bill--if indeed you are absolutely sure you were given this
coin by me."

"Come, Rogers, that's an explanation I myself suggested," put in the
Rector.

"The folks at the Royal Hotel," answered Mr. Rogers curtly, "tell me
that you paid your bill in silver."

It seemed to me that Mr. Rogers was pressing Whitmore harshly, almost
with a note of private vindictiveness in his voice.  But while I
wondered at this my eyes fell on the curate's hand as it played
nervously with the base of the brass candlestick.  There was a ring
on the little finger: and in an instant I knew--though I could not
have sworn to it in court--yet knew more certainly than many things
to which I could have testified on oath--that this was the hand I had
seen closing the door in the Jew's House.

Through a buzzing of the brain I heard him addressing the Rector and
protesting against the absurdity, the monstrosity, of the charge--yet
still with that recurring agonised glance at me.  But my eyes now
were on Mr. Rogers; and the buzzing ceased and my brain cleared when
he swung round, inviting me to speak.  I cannot tell what question he
put to me, but what I said was:

"If you please, sirs, the runners are after me; and it isn't fair to
make me tell yet what happened in the Jew's house, or what I saw
there: for what I told might be twisted and turned against me."

"Nonsense!" interrupted Mr. Rogers.  But the Rector nodded his head.
"The boy's right.  He's under suspicion himself, and should have a
lawyer to advise him before he speaks.  That's only fair play."

"But," I went on "there's another thing, if you'll be pleased to ask
Mr. Whitmore about it.  Why is he paying money to a soldier--a man
who calls himself Letcher, but his real name is Leicester?  And what
have they been plotting against Miss Isabel down at the Cottage?"



CHAPTER XVII.


LYDIA BELCHER INTERVENES.

The effect of my words astounded me.  As a regiment holding itself
bravely against an attack in front will suddenly melt at an
unexpected shout on its flank and collapse without striking another
blow, so Mr. Whitmore collapsed.  His jaw fell; his eyes wildly
searched the dim corners of the room; his hands gripped the edge of
the table; he dropped slowly into the chair behind him, dragging the
tablecloth askew as he sank.

With that I felt Mr. Rogers's grip on my shoulder--no gentle one, I
can assure you.  He, too, had been gazing at the curate, but now
stared down, searching my face.

"You've hit him, by George!  Quick, boy!--have you learnt more than
you told me last night?  Or is it only guessing?"

"Ask him," said I, "why he married Miss Isabel."

"Married!  Isabel Brooks married!"--Mr. Rogers's eyes, wide and
round, turned slowly from me and fastened themselves on the curate.

"Not to _him_, but to Archibald Plinlimmon.  Mr. Whitmore married
them privately.  Ask him why!"

"Why?"  Mr. Rogers released me and springing on the curate, seized
him by the collar.  "Why, you unhanged cur?  Why?  Or better, say
it's not true--say _some_thing, else by the Lord I'll kill you here
and now!"

Mr. Whitmore slid from his chair and grovelling on the floor clasped
Mr. Doidge's knees.  "Take him off!" he gasped.  "Have mercy--take
him off!  You shall hear everything, sir: indeed you shall.  Only
have mercy, and take him off!"

"Pah!"  Mr. Rogers hurled him into a corner.

"Enough, Mr. Rogers!" commanded the Rector.  The two stood eyeing the
culprit who, crouching where he fell, gazed up at them dumbly,
pitifully, as a dog between two thrashings.

"Now, sir," the Rector continued.  "You married this couple, it
seems.  At whose request?"

"At their own," came the answer in a whisper.

"Ay," said Mr. Rogers, "at their own request.  You--not being a
priest at all, or in orders, but a swindler with a forged licence--
married that lady at her own request."

"Is that true?" the Rector demanded.

The poor wretch made as if to crawl towards him, to clasp his knees
again.  "Mercy!" he whined, between two sobs.

"One moment," Mr. Rogers insisted, as the Rector held up a hand.
"Did young Plinlimmon know of the fraud?"

"No."

"Does he know now?"

"No."

"Thank the Lord for that small mercy!  For, by the Lord, I'd have
shot him without grace to say his prayers."

"Mr. Rogers!" Again the Rector lifted a reproving hand.

"You don't understand, sir.  For this marriage--which isn't a
marriage--Isabel Brooks gave the door to an honest man.  He may be a
bit of a fool, sir: but since she wasn't for him, he prayed she might
find a better fellow.  That's sound Christianity, hey?  I can tell
you it came tough enough.  And now--"  He swung round upon Whitmore.
"Did this man Letcher know?" he demanded.

"He did, Mr. Rogers.  Oh, if you only knew what agonies of mind--"

"Stow your agonies of mind.  We'll begin with those you've caused.
What was Letcher's game?"

"His right name is Leicester, sir.  He is Mr. Plinlimmon's cousin
--or second cousin, rather--though Mr. Plinlimmon don't know it."
Mr. Whitmore, with his gloss rubbed off, was fast returning to his
native style even in speech.  You could as little mistake him now for
a gentleman as for a priest.

"And how does that bear on your pretty plot?"

"I will tell you, gentlemen: for when George Leicester forced me to
it--and it was only under threats so terrible that you would hardly
believe--"

"In other words, he knew enough to hang you."

"It was terrorism, gentlemen: I was his slave, body and soul.
But when he came and proposed this, and never told me what he was to
get by it--for the plan was all his, and I stood to win nothing,
absolutely nothing--I determined to find out for myself, thinking
(you see) that by getting at his secret I might put myself on level
terms."

"You mean, that you might discover enough to hang _him_.  I hope you
succeeded."

"To this extent, Mr. Rogers--George Leicester and Archibald
Plinlimmon's mother were first cousins.  There were three Leicesters
to begin with, as you might say--Sir Charles, who was head of the
family and is living yet, though close on eighty, and two younger
brothers, Archibald and Randall, both dead.  Sir Charles was a
bachelor, and for years his brothers lived with him in a sort of
dependence.  Towards middle-age they both married--I was told, by his
orders--and near about at the same time.  At any rate each married
and each had a child--Archibald a daughter and Randall a son.
Archibald's daughter--he died two years after her birth--was brought
up by her uncle, Sir Charles, who made a pet of her; but she spoilt
her prospects by marrying a poor soldier, Captain Plinlimmon.
She ran away with him.  And the old man would never speak to her
again, nor see her, but cut her out of his will."

"I see.  And she--this daughter of Archibald Leicester--was
Archibald's Plinlimmon's mother.  Is she living?"

"Mrs. Plinlimmon died some years ago," I put in.

"Hey?  What do _you_ know about all this?" asked Mr. Rogers.

"A little, sir," I answered.

"But what little you know--does it bear this man's story out?"

"Yes, sir."

"It's as well to have some check on it, for I'd trust him just so far
as I could fling him by the eyebrows."

"There was no profit for me in this business, Mr. Rogers," protested
Whitmore.  "I'm telling you the truth, sir!" And indeed the poor
rogue, having for the moment another's sins to confess, rattled on
with his story almost glibly.  "As I was saying, sir, the old man cut
her out of his will: and not only this, but had a Bible fetched and
took his oath upon it that no child of hers should ever touch a penny
of his money.  Be so good as to bear that in mind, sir, for it's
important."

"I see," Mr. Rogers nodded.  "So that cuts out Master Archibald.
And the money, I suppose, went to her brother's child--the boy you
spoke of?"

"Softly sir, for now we come to it.  That boy--Randall Leicester's
son--was George Leicester--the man who calls himself Letcher.
Randall Leicester lived long enough to have his heart broken by him.
He started in the Navy, with plenty of pocket-money, and better
prospects; for Sir Charles turned all his affection over to him and
meant to make him his heir.  But--if you knew George Leicester,
gentlemen, as I do!  That man has a devil in him; and the devil
showed himself early.  First there was an ugly story about a woman--a
planter's wife in one of the West India islands, where he was serving
under Abercromby--Santa Lucia, I think, or it may have been St.
Vincent.  They say that after getting her to run with him, he left
her stranded and bolted back to the ship with his pockets full of her
jewels.  On top of that came a bad business at Naples--an affair of
cards--which cost him his uniform.  After that he disappeared, and
for years his uncle has believed him to be dead."

"Then who gets the money?"

"There's the villainy, sir"--he spoke as if indeed he had taken no
hand in it.  "Sir Charles, you see, had vowed never to leave it to
young Plinlimmon: but it seems he's persuaded himself that the oath
doesn't apply to young Plinlimmon's children, should he marry and
have children.  To whom else should it go?  'Lawful heirs of his
body': and if the inheritance is made void by bastardy, you see, he
turns up as the legitimate heir and collars the best of the
property."

"My God!" shouted Mr. Rogers, and would have leapt on him again had
not the Rector, with wonderful agility for his years, flung himself
between.  "You dare to stand there and tell me that, to aid this
devilry, you pushed a woman into shame--and that woman Isabel
Brooks?"

"Mr. Rogers," the Rector implored, "control yourself!  I know better
than you--every man knows who has been a parish priest--what vileness
a man can be guilty of to save his skin.  Reserve your wrath for
Leicester, but let this poor creature be--he has an awful expiation
before him--and consider with me if the worst of this evil cannot be
remedied."  He turned to the curate.  "You have the registers--the
parish papers?  Where are they?  Here?"

Whitmore nodded towards a door in the corner.

"Is the licence for this marriage among them? Give me the key."

The curate seemed to search in his pocket for a moment; then jerked a
hand towards the door, as if meaning that no key was necessary.
The Rector strode across to search.

"By God, it shall be remedied!"  Mr. Rogers shouted.  "Rector!"

The old man turned.

"Well?" he asked.

"You can marry them yet?"

"To be sure I can.  And if the licence is in order, little time need
be lost.  Let me search for it."

"Man, there's no time to lose!  The North Wilts Regiment sails
to-morrow night for Portugal.  I heard the news as I left Plymouth."

"If that's so," I put in, "Plinlimmon will be down at the cottage
to-night, or to-morrow morning to say good-bye."

"Are you sure of that?"

"Sure," said I.  "Miss Isabel told me that he had his Colonel's
promise."

Mr. Rogers slapped his thigh.  "Egad, boy, it seems to me you're the
good angel in this business!  We'll send down to the Cottage at
once."

He pulled a dog-whistle from his pocket and blew two shrill calls
upon it.  But above the second sounded the Rector's voice in a sharp
exclamation, and we spun round in time to see him fling back the door
in the corner.  It opened on a lighted room.

I was running towards this door to see what his exclamation might
mean when at the other appeared the constable whom Mr. Rogers called
"Jim"--a youngish man, and tall, with a round head set like a button
on top of a massive pair of shoulders.

"You whistled for me, sir?"

"I did.  You will not be wanted to keep watch any longer.  Step down
to Minden Cottage and give this note to Miss Brooks."  He pulled out
a pencil, searched his pockets, found a scrap of paper, and, leaning
over the table, scribbled a few lines.  "If Miss Brooks has gone to
bed, you must knock her up."

"Very good, sir."  Constable Jim touched his hat and retired.

"And now what's the matter in there?  Come along, you Whitmore.
Has he found the licence?"

But this was not what the Rector's cry had announced.  The room into
which we passed had apparently served Mr. Whitmore for a bed-chamber
and private study combined, for a bed stood in the corner, and a
bookcase and bureau on either side of the chimneypiece.  In the
middle of the floor lay an open valise, and all around it a litter of
books and clothes, tossed here and there as their owner had dragged
them out to make a selection in his packing.

Mr. Rogers uttered a long whistle.  "So you were bolting?"  He stared
around, rubbing his chin, and fastened his eyes again on Whitmore.
"Now why to-night?"

"My conscience, Mr. Rogers--"

"Oh, the devil take your conscience!  Your conscience seems to have
timed matters pretty accurately.  Say that your nose smelt a rat.
But why to-night?"

I cannot say wherefore; but, as he stared around, a nausea seemed to
take the unfortunate man.  Perhaps, the excitement of confession
over, the cold shadow of the end rose and thrust itself before him.
He was, I feel sure, a coward in grain.  He swayed and caught at the
ledge of the chimneypiece, almost knocking over one of the two
candles which burned there.

With that there smote on our ears the sounds of two voices in
altercation outside--one a woman's high contralto.  Footsteps came
bustling through the outer room and there stood on the threshold--
Miss Belcher.

She was attired in a low-crowned beaver hat and a riding habit the
skirt of which, hitched high in her left hand, disclosed a pair of
tall boots cut like hessians.  On this hand blazed an enormous
diamond.  The other, resting on her hip, held a hunting-crop and a
pair of gauntleted gloves.

"I bid ye be quiet, Sam Hodgson," she was saying to the expostulating
constable.  "Man, if you dare to get in my way, I'll take the whip to
ye.  To heel, I say!  'Mr. Rogers's orders?'  Damn your impidence,
what do I care for Mr. Rogers?  Why hallo, Jack!--"

As her gaze travelled round the room, Mr. Rogers stepped up and
addressed the constable across her.

"It's all right, Hodgson: you may go back to your post.  Begad,
Lydia," he added as the constable withdrew, "this is a queer hour for
a call."

But Miss Belcher's gaze moved slowly from the Rector--whose bow she
answered with a curt nod--to me, and from me to the figure of
Whitmore by the fireplace.

"What's wrong?" she demanded.  "Lord, if he's not fainting!"--and as
she ran, the curate swayed and almost fell into her arms.
"Brandy, Jack!  I saw a bottle in the next room, didn't I?  No, thank
ye, Rector.  I can manage him."

As Mr. Rogers hurried back for the brandy, she lifted the man and
carried him, rejecting our help, to an armchair beside the window.
There for a moment, standing with her back to us, she peered into his
face and (as I think now) whispered a word to him.

"Open the window, boy--he wants air," she called to me, over her
shoulder.

While I fumbled to draw the curtains she reached an arm past me and
flung them back: and so with a turn of the wrist unlatched the
casement and thrust the pane wide.  In doing so she leaned the weight
of her body on mine, pressing me back among the curtain-folds.

I heard a cry from the Rector.  An oath from Mr. Rogers answered it.
But between the cry and the answer Mr. Whitmore had rushed past me
and vaulted into the night.

"Confound you, Lydia!"  Mr. Rogers set down the tray with a crash,
and leapt over it towards the window, finding his whistle and blowing
a shrill call as he ran.  "We'll have him yet!  Tell Hodgson to take
the lane.  Oh, confound your interference!"

Across the yard a clatter of hoofs sounded, cutting short his speech.

"The gate!" he shouted, clambering across the sill.

But he was too late.  As he dropped upon the cobbles and pelted off
to close it, I saw and heard horse and rider go hurtling through the
open gate--an indistinguishable mass.  A shout--a jet or two of
sparks--a bang on the thin timbers as on a drum--and the hoofs were
thudding away farther and farther into darkness.



CHAPTER XVIII.


THE OWL'S CRY.

Silence--and then Mr. Rogers's voice uplifted and shouting for
Hodgson!

But Hodgson, it seemed, had found out a way of his own.  For a fresh
sound of hoofs smote on our ears--this time in the lane--a tune
pounded out to the accompaniment of loose stones volleyed and
dropping between the beats.

"Drat the man's impidence," said Miss Belcher coolly; "he's taken my
mare!"

"What's that you say?" demanded Mr. Rogers's angry voice from the
yard.

"You won't find another horse, Jack, unless you brought him.
Whitmore keeps but one."

"Confound it all, Lydia!"   He came sullenly back towards the window.

"You've said that before.  The man's gone, unless Hodgson can
overtake him--which I doubt.  He rides sixteen stone if an ounce, and
the mare's used to something under eleven.  So give over, my boy, and
come in and tell me what it's all about."

"Look here," he growled, clambering back into the room, "there's
devilry somewhere at the bottom of this.  The fellow's nag was ready
saddled--I got near enough to see that: and the yard-gate posted
open: and--the devil take it, Lydia, I believe you opened that window
on purpose!  Did you?"

"That's telling, my dear.  But, if you like, we'll suppose that I
did."

"Then," said Mr. Rogers bitterly, "it may interest you to know that
you've given him bail from the gallows.  He's no priest at all: by
his own confession he's a forger: and I'll lay odds he's a murderer
too, if that's enough.  But perhaps you knew this without my telling
you?"

Miss Belcher took a step or two towards the fireplace and back.
Her face, hidden for a moment, was composed when she turned it again
upon us.

"Don't be an ass, Jack.  I knew nothing of the sort."

"You knew enough, it seems," Mr. Rogers persisted sulkily, "to guess
he was in a hurry.  And you'll excuse me, Lydia, but this is a
serious business.  Whether you knew it or not, you've abetted a
criminal in escaping from the law, and I've my duty to do.
What brought you here to-night?"

"Are you asking that as a Justice of the Peace?"

"I am," he answered, flushing angrily.

"Then I shall not answer you.  Who is this boy?"

"His name is Harry Revel?"

"What?  The youngster the hue-and-cry's after?"

"Quite so: and in a pretty bad mess, since you've opened the cage to
the real bird."

"Jack Rogers, you don't mean to tell me that he--that Mr. Whitmore--"

"Killed the Jew Rodriguez?  Well, Lydia, I've no doubt of it in my
own mind: but when you entered we were investigating another crime of
his, and a dirtier one."

She swept us all in a gaze, and I suppose that our faces answered
her.

"Very well," she said; "I will answer your questions.  You may put
them to me as a magistrate later on, but just now you shall listen to
them as a friend and a gentleman."  With her hunting-crop she pointed
towards the door.  "In the next room and alone, if you please.
Thank you.  You will excuse us, Rector?"

She bowed to the old man.  Mr. Rogers stood aside to let her pass,
then followed.  The door closed behind them.

Mr. Doidge fumbled in his pockets, found his spectacles, adjusted
them with a shaking hand, and sat down before the bureau to search
for the licence.  The pigeon-holes contained but a few bundles of
papers, all tied very neatly with red tape and docketed.  (Neatness,
at any rate, was one of Mr. Whitmore's virtues.  Although the carpet
lay littered with books, boots, and articles of clothing which by
their number proclaimed the dandy, the few selected for the valise
had been deftly packed and with extreme economy of space.) In the
first drawer below the writing flap the Rector found the register and
parish account-books in an orderly pile.  He seized on the register
at once, opened it, and ran his eyes down the later pages, muttering
while he read.

"There is no entry here of Miss Brooks's marriage," he announced.
"One, two, three, five marriages in all entered in his handwriting:
but no such name as Brooks or Plinlimmon.  Stay: what is the meaning
of this?--a blank line between two entries--one of March 20th, the
other of the 25th--both baptisms.  Looks as if he'd left room for a
post-entry.  Let's have a look at the papers."

He tossed the bundles over and found one labelled "Marriages"; spread
the papers out and rubbed his head in perplexity.  Isabel's licence
was not among them.

Next he began to open the books and shake them, pausing now and again
as a page of figures caught his eye.

"Accounts seem in order, down to the petty cash."  He stooped, picked
up and opened a small parcel of coin wrapped in paper, which his
elbow had brushed off the ledge.  "Fifteen and ninepence--right, to a
penny.  But where in the world's that licence?"

There were drawers in the lower half of the bookcase, and he directed
me to search in these while he hunted again through the bureau.
And while we were thus occupied the door opened and Miss Belcher
re-entered the room with Mr. Rogers at her heels.  Had it been
possible to associate tears with Miss Belcher, I could have sworn she
had been weeping.  Her first words, and the ringing masculine tone of
them, effaced that half-formed impression.

"What the dickens are you two about?"

"We are searching for a licence," the Rector answered.  "I am right,
Mr. Rogers--am I not?--in my recollection that Whitmore indicated it
to be here, in this room, and easily found?"

"To be sure he did," said Mr. Rogers.

"I cannot find it among his papers--which, for the rest, are in
apple-pie order."

Thereupon we all fell to searching.  In half an hour we had ransacked
the room, and all to no purpose; and so, as if by signal, broke off
and eyed one another in dismay.

And as we did so Miss Belcher laughed aloud and pointed at the valise
lying in the middle of the floor--the only thing we had left
unexplored.

Mr. Rogers flung himself upon it, tossed its contents right and left,
dived his hand under a flap, and held up a paper with a shout.

The Rector clutched it and hurried to the bureau to examine it by the
light of the candles he had taken from the chimney-piece and placed
there to assist his search.

"It's the licence!" he announced.

The two others pressed forward to assure themselves.  He put the
paper into their hands and, stepping to the rifled valise, bent over
it, rubbing his chin meditatively.

"Now why," he asked, "would he be taking this particular paper with
him?"

"Because," Miss Belcher answered, with a glance at Mr. Rogers,
"he was a villain, but not a complete one.  He was a weak fool--oh,
yes, and I hate him for it.  But I won't believe but that he loathed
this business."

"I don't see how you get that out of his packing the paper, to carry
it off with him: though it's queer, I allow," said Mr. Rogers.

"It's plain enough to me.  He meant, if he reached safety, to send
the thing back to you, Rector, and explain: he meant to set this
thing right.  I'll go bail he abominated what he'd done, and
abominated the man who compelled him."

"He called it damnable," said I.

The words were scarcely out of my mouth when my ears and senses
stiffened at a sound from the night without, borne to us through the
open window--the hoot of an owl.

The others heard it too.

"There he is!" I whispered.

"Who?" asked Miss Belcher.  But I nodded at Mr. Rogers.

"Letcher: that's his call."

Mr. Rogers glanced at the window, and grinned.

"Now here's a chance," he said softly.

"Eh?"

"He hasn't seen us.  Stand close, everyone--oh, Moses, here's a
game!"  He seemed to be considering.

"Let's have it, Jack," Miss Belcher urged.  "Don't be keeping all the
fun to yourself."

"Whist a moment!  I was thinking what to do with you three.
The door's in line with the window, and he'll spot anyone that
crosses the room."

I pointed to the window-skirting.  "Not if one crossed close under
the window, sir--hands and knees."

"Good boy!  Can you manage it, Lydia?  Keep close by the wall, tuck
in your tuppeny and slip across."

She nodded.  "And where after that?"

"Under the bed or behind the far curtain--which you will: and no
tricks, this time!  The near curtain will do for the Rector.  Is that
your hat, sir--there beside you, on the bureau?"

"No: I left mine in the next room.  This must belong to Whitmore."

"Better still!  Pass it over--thank you.  And now, if you please,
we'll exchange coats."  Mr. Rogers began to strip.

The Rector hesitated, but after a moment his eye twinkled and he
comprehended.  The coats were exchanged, and he, too, began to steal
towards the window.

"This will do for me, sir," said I, pointing to a cupboard under the
bookcase.

"Plenty of room beneath the bed," he decided, as Miss Belcher
disappeared behind her curtain.  And so it happened that better than
either she or the Rector I saw what followed.

We were hiding some while before the owl's cry sounded again and (as
it seemed to me) from the same distance as before.  Mr. Rogers, in
the Rector's coat and the curate's hat, stepped hurriedly to the
valise and began to re-pack it, kneeling with his back to the window,
and full in the line of sight.  I am fain to say that he played his
part admirably.  The suspense, which kept my heart knocking against
my ribs, either did not trouble him or threw into his movements just
the amount of agitation to make them plausible.  By and by he
scrambled up, collected a heap of garments, and flung them back into
a wardrobe beside the bed; stepped to the bureau--still keeping his
face averted from the window--picked up and pocketed the licence
which the Rector had left there; returned to the valise, and,
stooping again, rammed its contents tighter.  I saw that he had
disengaged the leather straps which ran round it, pulling them clear
of their loops.

It was then that I heard a light sound on the cobbles outside, and
knew it for a footstep.

"W'st!" said a voice.  "W'st--Whitmore!"



CHAPTER XIX.


CHECKMATE.

Mr. Rogers's attitude stiffened with mock terror.  So natural was it
that I cowered back under the bed.  He closed the valise with a snap
as a heel grated on the window-ledge and George Leicester dropped
into the room.

"Wh--ew!  So _that's_ why you couldn't hear an old friend's signal!
Bolting, were you?  No, no, my pretty duck--pay first, if you
please!"

"Take it then!"

Mr. Rogers swung round on him and smote him full on the jaw--a neat
blow and beautifully timed.  The man went down like an ox, his head
striking the floor with a second thud close beside my hiding-place.

Miss Belcher ran from her curtain, clapping her hands.  But Mr.
Rogers had not finished with his man.

"Shut the window!" he commanded, flinging himself forward and
gripping Leicester's hands as they clutched at the carpet.
"Here, youngster--pass the straps yonder and hold on to his legs!"

The blow had so rattled Leicester--had come so very near to smiting
him senseless--that he scarcely struggled whilst we bound him,
trussing him like a fowl with the aid of Miss Belcher's riding-crop
which she obligingly handed.  He was not a pretty object, with his
mouth full of blood and two of his teeth knocked awry, and we made
him a ludicrous one.  Towards the end of the operation he began to
spit and curse.

"Gently, my lad!"  Mr. Rogers turned him over.

"You came here to settle up and we don't mean to disappoint you.
Let's see what you're worth." He plunged a hand into Leicester's
breeches pocket and drew forth a coin or two.

"Let me alone, you '--' thief!" roared Leicester, his voice coming
back to him in full strength.

"Indeed, Mr. Rogers," the Rector protested, "this is going too far, I
doubt."

"It's funny work for a Justice of the Peace, I'll own," he answered,
with a grin at Miss Belcher.  "Lydia, my dear, be so good as to bring
one of those candles: I want to have a look at these coins. . . .
Ah, I thought so!"

"Put that money back where you found it!" snarled Leicester.
"By God! I don't know what you're after, but I'll have the law of you
for this evening's work!"

"All in good time, my friend: you shall have as much law as you like,
and a trifle over.  See, Rector?"  Mr. Rogers pointed to a scratch on
the face of one of the coins.

Leicester began to smell danger.  "What's wrong with the money?" he
demanded.  Then as no one answered, "There's nothing wrong with it,
is there?" he asked.

"Depends where you got it, and how," he was answered.

"Look here--you're not treating me fair," urged the rogue, changing
his tune.  "If it's over the money you're knocking me about like
this, you're maltreating an innocent man; for I had it from Parson
Whitmore--every penny."

"Ah, if you can prove that"--Mr. Rogers's face was perfectly grave--
"you're a lucky man!  The Reverend Mr. Whitmore has disappeared."

The scoundrel's face was a study.  Miss Belcher turned to the window,
and even the Rector was forced to pull his lip.

"Disappeared," Mr. Rogers repeated, "and most mysteriously.
The unfortunate part of the business is that before leaving he made
no mention of any money actually paid to you.  On the contrary, we
gathered that for some reason or other he owed you a considerable sum
which he found a difficulty in paying.  Let me see"--he looked around
on us as if for confirmation--"the sum was fifty pounds, if I mistake
not?  We found it difficult to guess how he, a priest in Holy Orders,
came to owe you this substantial amount.  But perhaps you met him on
his way, and these guineas in my hand were tendered as part-payment?"

George Leicester blinked.  Accustomed to play with the fears of
others, he understood well enough the banter in Mr. Rogers's tone,
and that he was being sauced in his own sauce.  He read the menace in
it too.  But what could he answer?

"I had the money from Whitmore," he repeated doggedly.

"When?"

"That I'll leave you to find out." He laughed a short laugh, between
rage and derision.  "Gad! you've a fair stock of impudence among you!
First you assault me, half kill me, and tie me up here without a
penn'orth of reason given: and now you're inviting me to walk into
another trap-for all I can learn, merely because it amuses you.  It
won't do, my fine Justice-fellow; and that you'll discover."

"The question is important, nevertheless.  I may tell you that at one
time or another these coins were in the possession of the Jew
Rodriguez, who was found murdered in Southside Street, Plymouth,
yesterday morning.  You perceive, therefore, that something depends
on when and how you came by them.  Still, since you prefer--and
perhaps wisely--to keep your knowledge to yourself, I'll start by
making out the warrant and we'll have in the constables."
Mr. Rogers stepped towards the bureau.

"Wh--"  Leicester attempted a low whistle, but his mouth hurt him and
he desisted.  An ugly grin of comprehension spread over his face--of
comprehension and, at the same time, of relief.  "That explains," he
muttered.  "But where did he find the pluck?"

"Eh?" Mr. Rogers, in the act of seating himself by the bureau, had
caught the tone but not the words.  As he slewed round with the query
I heard another sound in the adjoining room.

"Oh, go ahead with your warrant, my Jessamy Justice!  It tickles you
and don't hurt me.  Shall I help you spell it?"

"I was thinking to ask you that favour," Mr. Rogers replied demurely.
"Your name, now?"

"Letcher--L.e.t.c.h.e.r--Sergeant, North Wilts Regiment."

"Thank you--'Letcher,' you say?  Now I was on the point of writing it
'Leicester.'"

In the dead silence that followed he laid down his pen, and with his
hands behind him came slowly across the room and stared into
Leicester's face.

"The game is up, my friend."

Leicester met the stare, but his jaw and throat worked as though he
were choking.  I thought he was trying to answer.  If so, the words
refused to come.

Someone knocked at the door.

Mr. Rogers stepped to it quickly.  "That you, Jim?"

"Yessir."

"Is Miss Brooks with you?"  He held the door a very little ajar--not
wide enough to give sight of us behind him.

"Yessir.  A gentleman, too, sir: leastways he talks like one, though
dressed like a private soldier.  He won't give his name."  Jim's tone
was an aggrieved one.

"Thank you: that's quite right.  You may go home to bed, if you wish:
but be ready for a call.  I may want you later on."

"Be this all you want of me?" Jim was evidently disappointed.

"I fear so."

"P'rhaps you don't know it, sir, but Hodgson's gone.  There was
nobody at the gate when we came by."

"Hodgson has a little job on hand.  It will certainly occupy him all
night, but I am afraid you cannot help him.  Now don't stay asking
questions, my man, but be off to bed.  I'll send word if I want you."

Jim grumbled and withdrew.  "Best to get him out of the way,"
Mr. Rogers explained to the Rector.  "You and I can take this fellow
back to Plymouth at daybreak."  He listened for a moment and
announced,  "He's gone.  Keep an eye on our friend, please, while I
prepare Isabel for it.  My word!"--and he heaved a prodigious sigh--
"I'd give something to be through with the next ten minutes!"

He opened the door and, passing through, closed it as quickly behind
him.  He was absent for half an hour perhaps.  We could hear the
mutter of his voice in the next room and now and again another
masculine voice interrupting--never Isabel's.  The Rector had found a
seat for Miss Belcher beside the bureau.  He himself took his stand
beside the chimney and fingered a volume of the registers, making
pretence to read but keeping his eye alert for any movement of
Leicester.  No one spoke; until the prisoner, intercepting a glance
from Miss Belcher, broke into a sudden brutal laugh.

"Poor old lady!" he jeered, and his eyes travelled wickedly across
the disordered floor.  "Whitmore left a lot behind him, eh?"

She rose and turning her back on him, walked to the window.
There she leaned out, seeming to study the night: but I saw that her
shoulders heaved.

The Rector looked across with a puzzled frown.  Leicester laughed
again: and with that, Miss Belcher came back to him, slipped out the
riding-crop which trussed him, and held it under his nose.  Her face
was white, but calm.  She lifted the stick slowly to bring it across
his face, paused, and flung it on the floor.

"You tempt me to be as dirty as yourself," she said.  "But one woman
has shown you mercy to-night, despising you.  Think of that, George
Leicester."

The door opened again and Mr. Rogers nodded to us.

"Hallo!" he exclaimed, perceiving the riding-crop on the floor.

"He can't run," said Miss Belcher nonchalantly.  "But he can stand
now, I fancy--and walk, if you loosen his legs a bit.  He'll be
wanted for a witness, won't he?"

"You're all wanted." Mr. Rogers helped Leicester to stand and
slackened the bond about his ankles.  "We'll tighten it again in the
next room, my friend.  Stay a moment, Rector!"  He pointed to the
wardrobe.   The Rector went to it and unhitching a clean surplice
laid it across his arm.  So we filed into the room where Isabel and
Archibald Plinlimmon awaited us.

They stood in the shadow of the window-curtains, talking together in
low tones: and by their attitudes she was vehemently pleading for a
favour which he as vehemently rejected.  But when she caught him by
both hands he yielded, and they faced us together--she with her
beautiful face irradiated.

Miss Belcher stepped to her at once and kissed her; and across that
good lady's shoulder she cast one look at the prisoner, now being
shuffled into the room by Mr. Rogers.  It was neither vindictive nor
recriminatory, but cheerful and calm with an utter scorn.  I looked
nervously at Archibald Plinlimmon.  His face was dusky red and sullen
with rage; but I noted with a leap of my heart that he, too, looked
Leicester squarely in the face: and from that moment (if a boy may
say so) I felt there was hope for him.

The Rector unfolded and donned the surplice.  Isabel disengaged
herself from Miss Belcher's arms and, drawing off her ring, handed it
to her lover.  Their eyes met, and hers were smiling bravely: but
they brimmed on a sudden as the tears sprang into his.  And now I
felt that there was strong hope for him.

Thus I came to be present at their wedding.  Indeed, the prisoner
claimed so much of Mr. Rogers's attention during the ceremony that
you might almost say I acted as groomsman.



CHAPTER XX.


ISABEL'S REVENGE.

When all was over, and the book signed, Isabel walked across to Mr.
Rogers and held out her hand.

"You have been a good friend to me to-night.  God will surely bless
you for what you have done."  She paused, with heightened colour.

Mr. Rogers awkwardly stammered that he hoped she wouldn't mention it.
But if the speech was inadequate, his action made up for it.  He took
her hand and kissed it respectfully.

It seemed that she had more to say.  "I have still another favour to
ask," she went on--I have heard since that a woman always keeps some
tenderness for an honest man who has once wooed her, however
decidedly she may have said "no."  Isabel's smile was at once tender
and anxious; but it drew no response from Mr. Rogers, who had let
drop her fingers and stood now with eyes uncomfortably averted.

"I want a wedding gift," said she.

"Eh?"  He turned a flushed face and perceived that she was pointing
at Leicester.

"I want this man from you.  Will you give him to me?"

"For what?"

"You shall see."  She knelt at the prisoner's feet and began to
unbuckle the strap about his ankles; shrinking a little at first at
the touch of him, but resolutely conquering her disgust.

Mr. Rogers put down a hand to prevent her.

"You never mean to set him free?"

"That is what I ask," she answered, with an upturned look of appeal.

"My dear Miss Brooks," he said, inadvertently using her maiden name,
"I am sorry--no, that's a lie--I am jolly glad to say that it can't
be done."

"Why?  Against whom else has he sinned, to injure them?"

"Against a good many, even if we put it on that ground only.
Besides, he'll have to answer another charge altogether."

"What charge?"

"Of having murdered the Jew Rodriguez.  Did I not tell you that we
found marked money in his pocket?"

"But he never took that money from Mr. Rodriguez?"

Mr. Rogers shrugged his shoulders.  "That's for him to prove."

"But we know he did not," Isabel insisted, and turned to me.
"He never took that money from Mr. Rodriguez?"

"No," said I; "it was given him last night by Mr. Whitmore in Miss
Belcher's shrubbery."

"He is not guilty of this murder?"

"No," said I again, "I think not: indeed, I am sure he is not."
I glanced at Archibald Plinlimmon who had been standing with eyes
downcast and gloomy, studying the dim pattern of the carpet at his
feet.  He looked up now: his face had grown resolute.

"No," he echoed in a strained voice; "he had nothing to do with the
murder."

"Why, what on earth do _you_ know?" cried Mr. Rogers, and Isabel,
too, bent back on her knees and gazed on him amazedly.

"I was there."

"_Where_, in Heaven's name?"

"On the roof outside the garret.  I looked in and saw the body
lying."

"You were on the roof--you looked in and saw the body--"  Mr. Rogers
repeated the words stupidly, automatically, searching for speech of
his own.  "Man alive, how came you on the roof?  What were you doing
there?"

"We were billeted three doors away," said Archibald, and paused.
"I can tell you no more just now."

"'We'?"

"That man and I."  He pointed at Leicester.

"And you looked in.  What else did you see?"  Mr. Rogers's voice was
sharp.

"That I cannot tell you."

"The murderer?"

"No: not the murderer," he answered slowly.

"Then what?  Whom?"

"I have said that I cannot tell you."

"But he can, sir!" I cried recklessly.  "He saw _me_!  I had just
found the body and was standing beside it when he looked in."
I stopped, panting.  It seemed as if all the breath in me had escaped
for the moment with my confession.

Mr. Rogers turned from me to Archibald.  "I think I see.  You
supposed the boy to be guilty, and helped him to get away."

"No," answered Archibald, "I did not think him guilty.  I did not
know what to think.  And it was he who helped me to get away."

"Why should he help you to get away?"

"I will tell that--but not to you.  I will tell it to my wife."

Isabel had risen from her knees.  She went to him and would have
taken his hand.  "Not yet," he said hoarsely, and turned from her.

Mr. Rogers eyed the Rector in despair.  But the Rector merely shook
his head.

"But confound it all!  Where's the murderer, in all this?"

"Sakes alive!  Isn't that as clear as daylight?" interjected Miss
Belcher.  "Didn't I let him out of the window more than an hour ago?
And isn't Hodgson foundering my mare at this moment in chase of him?
See here, Jack," she went on judicially, "you've played one or two
neat strokes to-night: but one or two neat strokes don't make a
professional.  You'll have to give up this justicing.  You've no head
for it."

"Indeed?" retorted Mr. Rogers.  "Then since it seems you see deeper
into this business than most of us, perhaps you'll favour us with
your advice."

"With all the pleasure in life, my son," said the lady.  "I can see
holes in a ladder: but I don't look deep into a brick wall, for the
reason that I don't try.  There's some secret between Mr. Plinlimmon
and this boy.  What it is I don't know, and you don't know: and I've
yet to discover that 'tis any business of ours.  All I care to hear
about it is that Mr. Plinlimmon means to tell his wife, for which I
commend him.  Now you don't propose to make out a warrant against
_him_, I take it?  As for the boy, he's done us more services
to-night than we can count on our fingers.  He's saved more than one,
and more than two, of us here, let alone five couples married by
Whitmore in the four months he was curate.  Reckon them in, please,
and their children to come.  Ah, my dear," she laid a hand on
Isabel's shoulder.  "I know what I'm speaking of!  He has ended a
scandal for the Rector, and in time for the mischief to be repaired.
He has even saved that dirty scoundrel there, if it helps a man on
Judgment Day that his villainies have miscarried.  Well then, what
about the boy?  There's a hue-and-cry after him; but you can't give
him up.  Let alone the manner of your meeting him--that business of
the bonfire--and a pretty tale 'twould make against a Justice of the
Peace--"

"I never gave that a thought, Lydia," Mr. Rogers protested.

"I know you didn't, my lad: that's why I mentioned it.  Well, letting
that alone, how are you to give the child up?  You can't.  You know
you can't.  We've to hide him now, though it cost your commission.
Eh? to be sure we must.  Give him up?  Pretty gratitude indeed, and
what next, I wonder!"

"I never thought of giving him up."

"I know you didn't, again: but I'm combing out your brains for you,
if you'll only stand quiet and not interrupt.  Keep your mind fixed
on Whitmore.  Whitmore's your man.  If Hodgson catches him--"

"If Hodgson catches him, he'll be charged with the murder.  I've the
warrant in my pocket.  Then how are we to hide the boy, or keep any
silence on what has happened here to-night?"

"Ye dunderhead!" Miss Belcher stamped her foot.  "What in the name of
fortune have we to do with the murder?  If Hodgson catches him, he'll
be charged with forging the Bishop of Exeter's licence: that's to say
with a crime he's already confessed to you.  If you want to hang him,
that'll do it.  You don't want to hang him twice over, do you?  And I
don't reckon he'll be so anxious to be hanged twice that he'll
confess to a murder for the fun of the thing.  If you say nothing,
he'll say nothing.  Upon my word you seem to have that Jew on the
brain!  Who made out the warrant?"

"I, of course."

"Then keep it in your pocket: and when you get home, burn it.
It beats me to think why you can't let that murder alone.  Rodriguez
was no friend of yours, was he?  You can't bring him to life again,
can you?  And what's your evidence?  A couple of marked coins?
Barring us few here, who knows of them?  Nobody.  Barring us few
here, who knows a whisper beside, to connect Whitmore with the
murder?  Nobody again.  Very well, then: you came here to-night to
expose Whitmore as a false priest and a forger.  You took the villain
on the hop, and he confessed: so the boy's evidence is not needed.
Having confessed, he made his escape.  You can say, if you will, that
I helped him.  That's all you need remember, and what more d'ye want?
It's odds against Hodgson catching him.  It's all Lombard Street to a
china orange against his bothering you, if caught, with any plea but
Guilty."  She ceased, panting with her flow of words.

"Well, but about this Leicester?" Mr. Rogers objected.

"What about him?  Let him go.  Isabel was right in begging him off--
though you did it, my dear, for other reasons than mine: but when the
heart's right, God bless you, it usually speaks common sense.
Let him go.  D'ye want to hang him?  He's ugly enough, but I don't
see how you're to do it, unless first of all you catch Whitmore and
then force him to turn cat-in-the-pan, at the risk of his talking too
much and with the certainty of dragging Isabel into the exposure.
Even so, I doubt you'll get evidence.  This man is a deal too shrewd
to have done any of the forging himself.  If Whitmore had known
enough to hang him, Whitmore wouldn't have gone in awe of him.
And what Whitmore don't know, Whitmore can't tell."

All this while the prisoner had kept absolute silence; had stood
motionless, except that his eyes turned from one speaker to another,
and now and then seemed to seek Archibald Plinlimmon's--who, however,
refused to return the look.  But now he twisted his battered mouth
into something like an appreciative grin.

"Bravo, Madam!" said he.  "You've the wits of the company, if you'll
take my compliments."

"I misdoubt they're interested ones," she answered drily, and so
addressed herself again to Mr. Rogers.  "Let the man go: you've drawn
his sting.  If ever he opens his mouth on to-night's work, we've a
plum or two to pop into it.  If Mr. Plinlimmon chooses to take him at
the door and horsewhip him, I say nothing against it.  Indeed he's
welcome to the loan of my hunting-crop."

"But no," put in Isabel quickly, and knelt again; "my husband will
not hurt where I have pardoned!"  Rapidly she unloosed the strap
about Leicester's ankles and stood up.  "Now hold out your hands,"
she said.

He held them out.  She looked him in the face, and a sudden tide of
shame forced her to cover her own.  In the silence her husband
stepped to her side.  His eyes were steady upon Leicester now.

"How could you?  How could you?" she murmured.

Then, dragging--as it were--her hands down to the task, she unbuckled
the strap around his wrist and pointed to the door.

Said Miss Belcher, "So two women have shown you mercy to-night,
George Leicester!"

He went, without any swagger.  His face was white.  Miss Belcher and
the Rector drew back as though he carried a disease, and let him
pass.  At the door he turned and his eyes, with a kind of miserable
raillery in them, challenged Archibald Plinlimmon.

"Yes, you are right."  The young man took a step towards him.
"Between us two there is a word to be said."  He turned on us
abruptly.  "I have been afraid of that man--yes, afraid.  To say this
out, and before Isabel, costs me more courage than to thrash him.
Through fear of him I have been a villain.  Worse wrong than I did to
my wife--worse in its consequences--I could not do: you know it, all
of you; and I must go now and tell it to her father.  I did it
unknowingly, by this man's contrivance; but not in any fear of him.
What I did in fear, and knowingly, was worse in another way--worse in
intention.  I tell you that but for an accident I might--I might
have--"  He stammered and came to a halt.  "No, I cannot tell it
yet," he muttered half defiantly, with a shy look at the Rector.
"But this I can tell"--and his voice rose--"that no fear of _him_
stays me.  You?  I have your secret now.  You have none of mine I
dare not meet.  You may go: you have my wife's pardon, it seems.
I do not understand it, but you have mine--with this caution.
You are my superior officer.  If to-morrow, outside of the ranks, you
dare to say a word to me, I promise to strike you on the mouth
before the regiment, and afterwards to tell the whole truth of us
both, and take what punishment may befall."

So he too pointed towards the door.  Leicester bowed and went from us
into the night.

"That's all very well," groaned Mr. Rogers, "but I'll have to resign
my commission of the peace."

"If it's retiring from active service you mean," said Miss Belcher
cheerfully, "that's what I began by advising.  But stick to the
title, Jack: you adorn it--indeed you do.  And for my part," she
wound up, "I think you've done mighty well to-night, considering."

"I've let one villain escape, you mean, and t'other go scot free."

"And the nuisance of it is," said she with a broadening smile,
"I shan't be able to congratulate you in public."

"Well"--Mr. Rogers regained his cheerfulness as he eyed his
knuckles--"we've let a deal of villainy loose on the world: but I got
in once with the left, and that must be my consolation.  What are we
to do with this boy?"

"Hide him."

"Easier said than done."

"Not a bit." Miss Belcher turned to me.  "Have you any friends, boy,
who will be worrying if we keep you a few days?"

"None, ma'am," said I, and thereby in my haste did much injustice to
the excellent Mr. and Mrs. Trapp.

"Eh?  You have the world before you?  Then maybe you're luckier
than you think, my lad.  What would you like to be?  A sailor, now?
I can get you shipped across to Guernsey to-morrow, if you say the
word."

"That would do very well, ma'am: but if you ask me to choose--"

"I do."

"Then I'll choose to be a soldier," said I stoutly.

"H'm!  You'll have to grow to it."

"I could start as a drummer, ma'am."  The drum in Major Brooks's
summer-house had put that into my head.

"My father can manage it, I am sure!" cried Isabel.  "And meanwhile
let him come back to the Cottage.  No one will think of searching for
him there: and to-night, when I have spoken to my father--"

"You will speak to your father to-night?"

Isabel glanced at her bridegroom, who nodded.  "To-night," said he
firmly.  "We sail to-morrow."

Miss Belcher wagged her head at him.  "I had my doubts of you, young
man.  You've been a fool: but I've a notion you'll do, yet."

"Good-night, then!"  Isabel went to her and held up her cheek to be
kissed.

"Eh?  Not a bit of it!  I'm coming with you.  Don't stare at me now--
I've a word to say, and I think maybe 'twill help."

We left the Rector and Mr. Rogers to their task of overhauling the
house while they sat up on the chance of Hodgson's returning with
Whitmore or with news of him: and trooped up the lane and down across
the park to Minden Cottage.

"Take the child to bed," said Miss Belcher, as we reached the door:
and so to my room Isabel conducted me, the others waiting below.

She lit my candles and kissed me.  "You won't forget your prayers
to-night, Harry?  And say a prayer for me: I shall need it, though I
have more call to thank God for sending you."

A minute later I heard her tap on her father's door.  He was awake
and dressed, apparently--for it seemed at any rate but a moment later
that her voice was guiding his blind footsteps by whispers down the
stairs.  Had I guessed more of the ordeal before her, my eyes had
closed less easily than they did.  As it was, I tumbled into bed and
slept almost as soon as my head touched the pillow.

I had forgotten to blow out the candles, and they were but half
burnt, yet extinguished, when I awoke from a dream that Isabel was
kneeling beside me in their dim light to find her standing at the
bed's foot in a fresh print gown and the room filled again with
sunshine.  Her eyes were red.  Poor soul! she had but an hour before
said good-bye to Archibald; and Spain and its battlefields lay before
him, and between their latest kiss and their next--if another there
might be.  Yet she smiled bravely, telling me that all was well, and
that her father would be ready for me in the summer-house.

Major Brooks, when I found him there, made no allusion to the events
of the night.  His face was mild and grave as at our first meeting.
At the sound of my footsteps he picked up his Virgil and motioned me
to be seated.

"Let me see," he began: "_liquidi fontes_, was it not?"--and
forthwith began to dictate at his accustomed pace.

    "But seek a green-moss'd pool, with well-spring nigh,
     And through the grass a streamlet fleeting by.
     The porch with palm or oleaster shade--
     That when the regents from the hive parade
     Its gilded youth, in Spring--their Spring!--to prank,
     To woo their holiday heat a neighbouring bank
     May lean with branches hospitably cool.
     And midway, be your water stream or pool,
     Cross willow-twigs, and massy boulders fling--
     A line of stations for the halting wing
     To dry in summer sunshine, has it shipped
     A cupful aft, or deep in Neptune dipped.
        Plant cassias green around, thyme redolent,
        Full-flowering succory with heavy scent,
     And violet-beds to drink the channel'd stream.
     And let your hives (sewn concave, seam to seam,
     Of cork; or of the supple osier twined)
     Have narrow entrances; for frosts will bind
     Honey as hard as dog-days run it thin:
     --In bees' abhorrence each extreme's akin.
     Not purposeless they vie with wax to paste
     Their narrow cells, and choke the crannies fast
     With pollen, or that gum specific which
     Out-binds or birdlime or Idxan pitch--"

--And so on, and so on, until midday arrived, and Isabel with the
claret and biscuits.  She lingered while he ate: and when he had done
he shut his Virgil, saying (in a tone which, though studiously kind,
told me that she was not wholly forgiven):

"Take the drum, Isabel, and give the lad his first lesson.  It will
not disturb me."

She choked down a sob, passed the drum to me, and put the drumsticks
into my hands.  And so by signs rather than by words, she began to
teach me; scarcely letting me tap the vellum, but instructing me
rather how to hold the sticks and move my wrists.  So quiet were we
that the old man by and by dropped asleep: and then, as she taught,
her tears flowed.

This was the first of many lessons; for I spent a full fortnight at
Minden Cottage, free of its ample walled garden, but never showing my
face in the high road or at the windows looking upon it.  I learned
from Isabel that Whitmore had not been found, and that Archibald and
his regiment had sailed for Lisbon.  Sometimes Miss Belcher or
Mr. Rogers paid us a visit, and once the two together: and always
they held long talks with the Major in his summer-house.  But they
never invited me to be present at these interviews.

So the days slipped away and I almost forgot my fears, nor speculated
how or when the end would come.  My elders were planning this
for me, and meanwhile life, if a trifle dull, was pleasant enough.
What vexed me was the old man's obdurate politeness towards Isabel,
and her evident distress.  It angered me the more that, when she was
not by he gave never a sign that he brooded on what had befallen, but
went on placidly polishing his petty and (to me) quite uninteresting
verses.

But there came an evening when we finished the Fourth Georgic
together.

    "Of tillage, timber, herds, and hives, thus far
     My trivial lay--while Caesar thunders war
     To deep Euphrates, conquers, pacifies,
     Twice wins the world and now attempts the skies.
        Pardon thy Virgil that Parthenope
     Sufficed a poor tame scholar, who on thee
     Whilom his boyish pastoral pipe essayed,
     --Thee, Tityrus, beneath the beechen shade."

He closed the book.

"Lord Wellington is not a Caesar," he said and paused, musing: then,
in a low voice, "Parthenope--Parthenope--and to-morrow 'Arms and the
man.'  Boy," said he sharply, "we do not translate the Aeneid."

"No, sir?"

"Mr. Rogers calls for you to-night.  A draft of the 52nd Regiment
sails from Plymouth to-morrow.  You will find, when you join it in
Spain, that--that my son-in-law"--he hesitated and spoke the word
with a certain prim deliberateness--"has been gazetted to an
ensigncy in that gallant regiment.  I may tell you that he owes this
to no intervention of mine, but solely to the generosity of Miss
Belcher.  Before departing--I will do him so much justice--he spoke
to me very frankly of his past, and for my daughter's sake and his
father's I trust that, as under Providence you were an instrument in
averting its consequences, so you may sound him yet to some action
which, whether he lives or falls, may redeem it.  Mr. Rogers will sup
with us to-night.  If I mistake not, I hear his wheels on the road."
He drew himself up to his full height and bowed.  "You have done a
service, boy, to the honour of two families.  I thank you for it, and
shall not omit to remember you daily when I thank God.  Shall we go
in?"


I had, as I said just now, almost forgotten my fears of the Law: but
that the Law had not relaxed its interest in me was evident from my
friends' precautions.  Night had fallen before Mr. Rogers rose from
table and gave the word for departure, and after exchanging some
formal farewells with Major Brooks, and some very tender ones with
Isabel, I was packed in the tilbury and driven off into darkness in
which the world seemed uncomfortably large and vague and my prospects
disconcertingly ill lit.

"D'ye know what _that_ is?" asked Mr. Rogers at the end of five
minutes, pulling up his mare and jerking his whip towards a splash of
white beside the road.

"No, sir."

He pulled a rein, and brought the light of the offside lamp to bear
on a milestone with a bill pasted upon it.

"A full, particular, and none too flattering description of you, my
lad, with an offer of twenty pounds.  And I'm a Justice of the Peace!
Cl'k, lass!"

On went the mare; and I, who had been feeling like a needle in a
bundle of hay, now shrank down within my wraps as though the night
had a thousand eyes.

We reached the village of Anthony: and here, instead of holding on
for Torpoint and the ferry, Mr. Rogers struck aside into a lane on
our right, so steep and narrow that he alighted and led the mare
down, holding one of the lamps to guide her as she picked her steps.

The lane ended beside a sheet of water, pitch-black under the shadow
of a wooded shore, and glimmering beyond it with the reflections of a
few stars.  Mr. Rogers gave a whistle; and a soft whistle answered
him.  I heard a boat's nose grate on the shingle and take ground.

"All right, Sergeant?"

"Right, sir.  Got the boy?"

"Climb down, Harry," whispered Mr. Rogers.  "Shake hands and good
luck to you!"

I was given a hand over the bows by a man whose face I could not see.
The boat was full of men, and one dark figure handed me to another
till I reached the stern-sheets.

"Give way, lads!" called a voice beside me, as the bow-man pushed us
off.  We were travelling fast when at a bend of the creek a line of
lights shot into view--innumerable small sparks clustered low on the
water ahead and shining steadily across it.  I knew them at once.
They were the lights of Plymouth Dock.

"Where are you taking me?" I cried.

"That's no question for a soldier," said a voice which I recognised
as the sergeant's.  And one or two of the crew laughed.



CHAPTER XXI.


I GO CAMPAIGNING WITH LORD WELLINGTON.

The vessel to which they rowed me was the _Bute_ transport, bound for
Portugal with one hundred and fifty officers and men of the 52nd
Regiment, one hundred and twenty of the third battalion 95th Rifles,
and a young cornet and three farriers of the 7th Light Dragoons in
charge of fifty remounts for that regiment.

We weighed anchor at daybreak (the date, I may mention, was July
28th), and cleared the Sound.  At ten o'clock or thereabouts the wind
fell, and for two days and nights we drifted aimlessly about the
Channel at the will of the tides, while the sergeant--a veteran named
Henderson, who had started twenty-five years before by blowing a
bugle in the 52nd, and therefore served me as index and example of
what by patience I might attain to--filled the most of my time
between sleep and meals with lessons upon that instrument.  From a
hencoop abaft the mainmast (the _Bute_ was a brig, by the way) I blew
back inarticulate farewells to the shores receding from us
imperceptibly, if at all; and so illustrated a profound remark of the
war's great historian, that the English are a bellicose rather than a
martial race, and by consequence sometimes find themselves committed
to military enterprises without having counted the cost or made
complete preparation.

On the third day the wind freshened and blew dead foul, decimating
the horses with sea-sickness, prostrating three-fourths of the men,
and shaking the two regiments down into a sociability which outlasted
their sufferings.  To be sure my comrades of the 52nd (as, with a
fearful joy, I named them to myself in secret), being veterans for
the most part, recovered or recovering from wounds taken in the land
to which they were returning with common memories of Sir John Moore,
of Benevente, Calcabellos and Corunna, treated the riflemen with that
affable condescension which was all that could be claimed by third
battalion youngsters with their soldiering before them.  But the 52nd
knew the 95th of old.  And, veterans and youths, were they not bound
to be enrolled together in that noble Light Division, the glory of
which was already lifting above the horizon, soon to blaze across
heaven?

Sergeant Henderson did not suffer from seasickness.  For no reward--
unless it be the fierce delight of tackling a difficulty for its own
sake--he had sworn to make a bugler of me, given moderately bad
weather: and when the evening of September 2nd brought us off the
coast of Portugal, he allowed me to shake hands over his success.
Early next morning we began to disembark at a place called Figueira,
by the mouth of the Mondego river.  I stepped ashore with a swelling
heart.

But I carried also a portentously swollen under-lip, with a crack in
it which showed signs of festering.  Now there was a base hospital at
Figueira, to the surgeon in charge of which fell the duty of
inspecting the men as they landed and detaining those who were sick
or physically unfit.  I need not say that his eye was arrested at
once by my unfortunate lip.  He examined it.

"Blood-poisoning," he announced.  "Nasty, if not attended to.
Detained for a week."

He saw my eyes fill with tears at this blow, the more cruel because
quite unexpected; and added not unkindly:

"Eh?  What?  In a hurry?  Never mind, my lad--you'll go up with the
next draft I dare say.  Jericho won't fall between this and then."

I was young, and never doubted that even so slight a promise must be
remembered.

Still, that my merit might leave him no excuse for forgetting, I
determined that it should not escape attention: and finding myself
confined to hospital with a trifling hurt which in no way interfered
with my activity, and being at once pounced upon by an over-worked
and red-eyed orderly and pressed into service as emergency-man,
nurse, and general bottle-washer for three over-crowded tents, I
flung into my new duties a zeal which ended by undoing me.  Drummers
might be wanted at the front, but meanwhile the hospital-camp was
undoubtedly short-handed.  And my hopes faded as, with the approach
of Christmas, wagon after wagon laden with sick soldiers crawled back
to us from the low-lying country over which Lord Wellington had
spread his forces between the Agueda and the upper Mondego--men
shuddering with ague or bent double with rheumatism, and all bringing
down the same tales of short food, sodden quarters, and arrears of
pay.  For three days, they told me, the army had gone without bread,
and the commissariat crawled over unthreatened roads at the pace of
five to nine miles a day.  They cursed the war, the Government at
home, above all the Portuguese and everything in Portugal; and yet
their hardships seemed heaven to me in comparison with the hospital
in which, though its duties were frequently disgusting, I had
plenty to eat and nothing to complain of but over-work.

It was not until Christmas that I won my release, and by a singular
accident.

It happened that after nightfall on the 23rd of December an ambulance
train arrived of six wagons, all full of sick demanding instant
attention; and, close upon these, four other wagons laden with
cavalrymen, wounded more or less severely in a foraging excursion
beyond the Agueda, which had brought them into conflict with a casual
party of Marmont's dragoons.  The weather was bitterly cold; the men,
apart from this, were unfit for so long a journey and should have
been attended to promptly at their own headquarters.  To make matters
worse, one of the wagons had been overturned six miles back on the
frozen road, and the assistant-surgeon who, owing to the seriousness
of the business, had been sent down in attendance, lost his balance
completely.  Three of the poor fellows had succumbed as they lay, of
cold, wounds and exhaustion, and a dozen others were in desperate
case.

Our surgeons went to work at once, and until midnight I attended
on them, preparing the lint, washing the blood-stained instruments,
changing the water in the pails, and performing other necessary
but more gruesome tasks which I need not particularise.  At midnight
the young cavalry surgeon, who had been freely dosed with brandy,
professed himself ready to take over the minor casualties.  The two
hospital surgeons, by this time worn out, accepted the offer and
withdrew.  No one thought of me.

I understand that about an hour later as I sat waiting for orders on
the edge of an unoccupied bed (from which a dead man had been carried
out a little before midnight) I must have dropped across it in a
sleep of utter exhaustion.  It appears too that the young doctor,
finding me there a short while after, carried me out and laid me on
the ground with my head against the hut.  He never admitted this: for
I had been attending upon him, off and on, since his arrival, and
that he failed to recognise me might have been awkwardly accounted
for.  But I cannot believe (as certainly I do not remember) that of
my own motion I crawled outside the hut and stretched myself on the
frozen ground, or that, exhausted as I was, I could have walked ten
yards in my sleep.

At all events, the chill of the bitter dawn awoke me there; and with
a yawn I stretched out both arms.  My right hand encountered--what?--
the body of a man stretched beside me!  Still dazed and numb, I
rolled over to my elbow, raised myself a little and peered into his
face.

It was pinched and cold.  Its eyes stared straight up at the dawn.
From it my gaze travelled slowly over the faces of three other men
laid out accurately alongside of him, feet to feet, head to head.

I sank back, not yet comprehending, gazed up at the grey sky for a
while, then slowly raised myself on my left elbow.

On that side lay a score of sleepers, all flat on their backs, and
all equally still.  Then I understood and leapt up with a scream.
It was a line of corpses, and I had been laid out beside them for
burial at dawn.

A sleepy orderly--a friend of mine--poked his head out of the doorway
of the next hut.  I pointed to the spot where I had been lying.

"They must ha' done it in the dark," he said, slowly regarding the
bodies.

I suppose that my story, spreading about the camp, at length
penetrated to headquarters: for on Christmas Day, a transport
arriving and landing some light guns and a detachment of artillery, I
was sent forward with them towards Villa del Ciervo on the left bank
of the Agueda, where, by all accounts, the 52nd were posted.

Our battery was but six light six-pounders; yet even with these we
moved over the frozen and slippery roads at a snail's pace, the men
tearing their boots to ribbons as they hung on to the drag-ropes--for
the artillery captain was a martinet and refused to lock the wheels,
declaring that it would damage the carriages.  Of damage to his men
he never seemed to think: and I, being fool enough to volunteer--
though my weight on the rope could have counted for next to nothing--
found myself on the second day without heels to my shoes, and on the
third without shoes at all.  Nor is it likely that I had ever reached
the Agueda in time for the fighting had we not been met at Coimbra by
an order to leave our guns in the magazine there and hurry forward to
Ciudad Rodrigo, where my comrades were required to work the
24-pounders which composed the bulk of Lord Wellington's siege-train.

Having been supplied with new boots from the stores in Coimbra,
we pushed on eastward through torrents of rain which converted
every valley bottom into a quag, so that our march was scarcely
less toilsome than before, and the men grumbled worse than
they had when dragging the guns over the frozen hill-roads.
They had been forced to leave their wagons behind at Coimbra, and
marched like infantry soldiers, each man carrying a haversack
with four days' provisions, as well as an extra pair of boots.
But what seemed to vex and deject them most was a rumour that
Quartermaster-General Murray had been sent down from the front on
leave of absence for England.  They argued positively that, with
Murray absent, the Commander-in-Chief could not be intending any
action of importance: they doubted that he had twenty siege-guns at
his call even if he stripped Almeida and left that fortress
defenceless.  Moreover, who would open a siege in such a country,
in the depth of such a winter as this?

Nevertheless we had no sooner passed the bridge of the Coa than
we discovered our mistake; the roads below Almeida being choked
with a continuous train of mule transports, tumbrils, light carts,
and wagons heaped with fascines, gabions, long balks of timber,
sheaves of spades and siege implements--all crawling southwards.
Our artillerymen were now halted to await and take charge of three
brass guns said to be on their way down from Pinhel under an escort
of Portuguese militia; and, taking leave of them, I was handed over
to a company of the 23rd Regiment--hurrying in from one of the
outlying hamlets near Celorico--with whom I reached on the 7th of
January the squalid village of Boden, in and around which the 52nd
lay in face of the doomed fortress across the river.

"Here then is war at last," thought I that night, as I curled
myself to sleep in a loft where Sergeant Henderson considerately
found a corner for me under some pathetically empty fowl-roosts.
Sergeant Henderson in his captain's absence had claimed me from a
distracted adjutant who wanted to know where the devil I had come
from, and why, and if I would kindly make myself scarce and leave him
in peace--a display of temper pardonable in a man who had just come
in wet to his middle from fording the river amid cannoning blocks of
ice.

Here was war at last, and I was not long in making acquaintance with
it.  I awoke to find, by the light of the lantern swung from the
roost overhead, the dozen men in the loft awake and pulling on their
boots.  They had lain in their sodden clothes all night: but of their
boots, I found, they were as careful as dandies, and to grease them
would hoard up a lump of fat even while their stomachs craved for it.
Sergeant Henderson motioned me to pull on mine.  From my precious
bugle I had never parted, even to unsling it, since leaving Figueira.
And so I stood ready.

We bundled on our great-coats, climbed down the ladder, and filed out
into the street.  It was dark yet, though I could not guess the hour;
and bitter cold, with an east wind which seemed to set the very stars
shivering.  The men stamped their feet on the frozen road as we
hurried to the alarm-post, and there I walked into a crowd of dark
figures which closed around me at once.  For a moment I supposed the
whole army to be massed there in the darkness, and wondered foolishly
if we were to assault Ciudad Rodrigo at once.  A terrible murmur
filled the night--the more terrible because, while the few words
spoken near me were idle and jocular, it ran down the jostling crowd
into endless darkness, gathering menace as it went.

But the sergeant, gripping my shoulder, ordered me gruffly to keep
close beside him, and promised to find me my place.  The jostling
grew regular, almost methodical, and by and by an officer came
down the road carrying a lantern, and spoke with Henderson for a
moment.  At a word from him the men began to number off.  Far up the
road, other lanterns were moving and voices calling.  Then after a
long pause, on the reason of which the company speculated in
whispers, the troops ahead began to move and the order came down to
us--"Order arms--Fix bayonets--Shoulder arms!"--a pause--"By the
right, quick march!"

An hour later, still in darkness, we halted beside the Agueda while
company after company marched down into the water.  A body of cavalry
had been drawn across the upper edge of the ford, four deep--the
horses' bodies forming a barrier against the swirling blocks of ice;
and under this shelter we crossed, the water rising to my small ribs
and touching my heart with a shiver that I recall as I write.
But the sergeant's hand was on my collar and steadied me over.

"How much farther?" I made bold to whisper to him as we groped our
way up the bank.

"Three miles, maybe: that's as the crow flies.  But you mustn't
talk."

And not another word did I say.  We plodded on--not straight for the
fortress, the distant lights of which seemed to be waiting for us,
but athwart and, for a mile and more, almost away from it.  By and by
the road began to climb; and, a little later, we had left it and were
crossing the shoulder of a grassy hill behind which the lights of
Ciudad Rodrigo disappeared from view.

Here the dawn overtook us; and here at length, along the northern
slope of the hill and close under its summit, we were halted.

Sergeant Henderson gave a satisfied grunt.  "Good for _The_
Division--the One and Only!" he remarked.  "Now, for my part, I'm
ready for breakfast."



CHAPTER XXII.


ON THE GREATER TESSON.

I turned for a look behind us and below.  At the foot of the slope,
where daylight had just begun to touch the dark shadows, stood a line
of mules--animals scarcely taller than the loads they carried, which
a crowd of Portuguese had already begun to unpack; and already, on
the plateau to the left of us half a dozen markers, with a
quartermaster, were mapping out a camp for the 52nd.  They went to
work so deliberately, and took such careful measurements with their
long tapes, that even a tyro could no longer mistake this for an
ordinary halt.

I looked at Sergeant Henderson.  Word had just been given to the
ranks to dismiss, and he returned my look with a humorous wink.

"That'll do, eh?"  He nodded towards the markers.

"What does it mean?" I asked.

"It means that we've done with cold baths, my son, and may leave 'em
to the other divisions.  What else it means you'll discover before
you sleep, maybe."  He glanced up at the ridge, towards which at a
dozen different points our sentries were creeping--some of them
escorted by knots of officers--and ducking low as they neared the
sky-line.

"May I go down and watch?" I asked again, pointing at the plateau;
for I was young enough to find all operations of war amusing.

"Ay--if you won't get in the way and trip over the pegs.  I'll be
down there myself by 'n by with a fatigue party."

I left him and strolled down the hill.  The morning air was cold and
the turf, on this north side of the hill, frozen hard underfoot.
But I felt neither hunger nor weariness.  Here was war, and I was in
it!

As I drew near the plateau a young officer came walking across it
and, halting beside the quartermaster, held him in talk for a minute.
He wore the collar of his great-coat turned up high about his ears:
but I recognised him at once.  It was Archibald Plinlimmon.

Leaving the quartermaster, he strolled towards the edge of the
plateau, hard by where I stood; halted again, and gazed down through
his field-glasses upon the muleteers unloading beneath us; but by and
by closed his glasses with a snap, faced round, and was aware of me.

"Hallo!" said he, as I saluted: but his voice was listless and I
thought him looking wretchedly ill.  "You're in Number 4 Company, are
you not?  I heard that you'd joined."

It struck me that at least he might have smiled and seemed glad to
welcome me.  He did indeed seem inclined to say something more, but
hesitated, and fumbled as he slipped back the glasses into their
cases.

"Are they looking after you?" he asked.

I told him of the sergeant.  "But are you well, sir?" I made bold to
ask.

He put the question aside.  "Henderson's a good man," he said:
"I wish we had him in our company.  Ah," he broke off, "they won't be
long pitching tents now!"

He swung slowly on his heel and left me, at a pace almost as listless
as his voice.  I felt hurt, rebuffed.  To be sure he was an officer
now, and I a small bugler: still, without compromising himself, he
might (I felt) have spoken more kindly.

The fatigue party descended, the tents were brought up and
distributed, and at a silent signal sprang up and expanded like lines
of mushrooms.  The camp was formed; and the 52nd, in high good
humour, opened their haversacks and fell to their breakfast.

The meal over, the men lit their pipes and stretched themselves
within the tents to make up arrears of sleep.  It does not take a boy
long to learn how to snatch a nap even on half-thawed turf packed
with moisture, and to manage it without claiming much room.  We were
eleven in our tent, not counting the sergeant--who had gone off on
some errand which he did not explain, but which interested the men
sufficiently to keep them awake for a while discussing it in low
voices.

I was at once too shy to ask questions and too sleepy to listen
attentively.  Here was war, I told myself, and I was in it.
To be sure, I had not yet seen a shot fired, nor--save for the
infrequent boom of a gun beyond the hill--had I heard one: and yet
all my ideas of war were undergoing a change.  My uppermost sense--
odd as it may seem--was one of infinite protection.  It seemed
impossible that, with all these cheerful men about me, joking and
swearing, I could come to much harm.  It surprised me, after my
months of yearning and weeks of tramping to reach this army, to
discover how little my presence was regarded even in my own
regiment.  The men took me for granted, asking no questions.
I might have strolled in upon them out of nowhere, with my hands in
my pockets.  And the officers, it appeared, were equally incurious.
Captain Lockhart, commanding the company, had scarcely flung me a
look.  The Colonel I had not seen: the Adjutant had dismissed me to
the devil: and Archibald Plinlimmon had treated me as I have told.
All this indifference contained much comfort.  I began to understand
the restfulness of a great army--a characteristic left clean out of
account in a boy's imaginings, who thinks of war as a series of
combats and brilliant personal efforts at once far more glorious and
more terrifying than the reality.

So I dreamed, secure, until awakened by my comrades' voices, lifted
all together and all excitedly questioning Sergeant Henderson, whose
head and shoulders intruded through the flap-way.

"Light Company and Number 3," he was announcing.

"Blasted favouritism!" swore the man next to me.  "Ain't there no
other battalion company in the regiment, that Number 3's been picked
for special twice now in four days?"

"The Major's sweet on 'em, that's why," snarled another.

"I ain't saying nothing against the Bobs.  But what's the matter with
_us_, I'd like to know?  Why Number 3 again?  Ugh, it makes me sick!"

"Our fun'll come later, lads," said the sergeant cheerfully.
"When you reach _my_ years you'll have learnt to wait.  Now, if you'd
asked _me_, I'd have chosen the grenadiers: they're every bit as good
as a light company for this work."

"Ay--grenadiers and Number 4.  Why not?   It's cruel hard."

I asked in my ignorance what was happening.  My neighbour turned to
me with a grin.  "Happening?  Why, you've a-lost your chance of death
or victory, that's all.  Here you are, company bugler for twenty-four
hours by the grace of Heaven and the sergeant's contrivance, and
because everyone's forgot you and because, as it happens, for
twenty-four hours there's no bugling wanted.  To-morrow you'll be
found out and sent back to the band, where there's five
supernumeraries waiting for your shoes.  And the bandmaster'll cuff
your head every day for months before you get such another chance.
Whereas, if No. 4 Company had been chosen for to-night, by to-morrow
you'd have blown the charge, and half the drummers in the regiment
would be blacking your eyes out of envy.  See?"

I did not, very clearly.  "Is there to be an attack to-night?"
I asked.  "And shan't we even see it?"

"Oh yes, we'll _see_ it fast enough.  I reckon they won't go so far
as to grudge us free seats for the show."

Sure enough, at eight o'clock, we formed up by companies and were
marched over the dark crest of the hill and a short way down it in
face of the lights of Ciudad Rodrigo.  Right below us, on our left,
shone a detached light.  We ourselves showed none.  The word for
silence in the ranks had been given at starting, and the captains
spoke in the lowest of voices as they drew their companies together
in battalion.  The light company having been withdrawn, we found
ourselves on the extreme left flank, parted by a few yards only from
another dark mass of men--the 43rd, as a tallish young bugler
whispered close beside me.

"But how the hell do _you_ come here?" he went on, mistaking me in
the darkness, I suppose, for one of the youngsters in the band.

"Shut your head, bugler," commanded a corporal close on my right.

The men grounded arms and waited, their breath rising like a fog on
the frozen air.  Their two tall ranks made a wall before us, shutting
out all view of the lights in the valley.  The short or supernumerary
line of non-commissioned officers on our right stood motionless as a
row of statues.

Suddenly a rocket shot up from below, arched its trail of light, and
exploded: and on the instant the whole valley answered and exploded
below us.  Between the detonations a cheer rang up the hillside and
was drowned in the noise of musketry, as under a crackle of laughter.
Forgetting discipline, I crawled forward three paces and tried to
peer between the legs of the rank in front, but was hauled back by
the ear and soundly cursed.  The musketry crackled on without
intermission.  Away in Ciudad Rodrigo the walls seemed to open and
vomit fireworks, shell after shell curving up and dropping into the
valley.

"Glory be!" cried someone.  "The old man's done it! The Johnnies
wouldn't be shelling their own works."

"Ah, be quiet with ye!" answered an Irish voice; "and the fun not ten
minutes old!"

"He's done it, I say!  Whist now, see yonder--there's Elder going
down with his Greasers!  Heh?  What did I tell you?"

"Silence in the ranks!" commanded an officer, but his own voice shook
with excitement, and we read that he believed the news to be true.

"Arrah now, sir," a man in the front rank wheedled softly, "it's
against flesh and blood you're ordering us."

"Wait a moment, then.  They've done it, I believe--but no cheering,
mind!"

What had been done was this.  From the summit of the hill where we
stood we looked into Ciudad Rodrigo over a lesser hill, and between
these two (called the Great and the Lesser Tesson) the French had
fortified and palisaded a convent and built a lunette before it,
protecting that side of the town where the ground was least rocky and
could be worked by the sappers.  Upon the lunette before this Convent
of San Francisco, Colborne (our Colonel of the 52nd) had now flung
himself, with two companies from each of the Light Division
regiments, and carried it with a rush: and this feat, made possible
by our night march across the Agueda and the negligence of the
French sentries, in its turn gave the signal for the siege to open.
The place was scarcely carried before Elder had his Portuguese at
work spading a trench to the right of it and under what cover its
walls afforded from the artillery of the town, which ceased not all
night to pound away at the lost redoubt.

The cacadores--seven hundred in all--toiled with a will under shot
and shell; and when day broke a trench three feet deep and four wide
had been opened and pushed for no less than six hundred yards towards
the town!  Next night the Portuguese were replaced by the First
Division, which had been marched over the Agueda.  While the Light
Division cooked its food and enjoyed itself on Mount Tesson, the
others had to cross and recross the river between their work and
their quarters; and I fear that we took their misfortunes
philosophically, feeling that our luck was deserved.  To be sure I
had been taken from my company and relegated to the band: but during
the twelve days the siege lasted there was always a call for boys to
watch the explosions from the town and warn the workmen when a shell
was coming: and, on the whole, since Ciudad Rodrigo contained plenty
of ammunition and did not spare it, I enjoyed myself amazingly.

On the night of the 9th, while the First Division dug at the
trenches, our men helped with the building of three counter-batteries
a little ahead of the convent; and, because the French guns began to
make our hill uncomfortable, we shifted camp and laid a shallow
trench from it, along which we could steal to work under fair cover.
On the 10th the Fourth Division took over the siege trenches, and on
the 11th the Third Division relieved: on the 12th came our turn.

The day breaking with a thick fog, Lord Wellington determined to
profit by it and hurry on the digging, which the bitter frost was
now miserably impeding.  To him, or to someone, it occurred that
by scooping pits in front of the trenches our riflemen (the 95th)
might give ease to the diggers by picking off the enemy's gunners.
And with this object we were hurried down in force to take up the
work as the Third Division dropped it.

Now I knew the North Wilts to belong to this Division, and it had
occurred to me on the way down that as likely as not I might run
across Leicester.  And keeping a sharp look-out as his regiment filed
forth from the trench, I spied him before he caught sight of me.
He recognised me at once; but instead of passing with a scowl (as I
had expected) he treated me to a grin as nearly humorous as his
sallow face allowed, and came to a halt.

"D'ye know who's in there?" he asked, jerking his thumb back towards
Ciudad Rodrigo.

"No, sir," I answered, scarcely grasping the question, but quaking as
this man always made me quake.

"Thought you mightn't.  Well then, our friend is in there."

"Our friend?" I echoed.  "Who?"

"Whitmore." His grin became ferocious now.  "We have him, now--have
him sure enough, this time--eh?"

But how on earth could Mr. Whitmore have come in Ciudad Rodrigo?
Leicester read the question in my eyes, and answered it, pushing his
face close to mine in the fog.

"He's a deserter.  If the river don't come down in flood, we'll have
him sure enough.  And it won't, you mark my words!  Two or three days
of flood would let up Marmont upon us and spoil everything.  But this
weather's going to hold, and--it's a bad death for deserters," he
wound up, with a snarling laugh.

"Mr. Whitmore a deserter?  But how?"

"Ah, you've come to the right man to ask.  I bear you no grudge, boy;
and as for Plinlimmon--how's _he_ doing, by the way?"

"I've scarcely seen him since I joined.  He passed you just now,
didn't he?"

"Ay, I saw him.  For a man in luck's way he carries a queer sort of
face.  What's wrong with him?"

"Nothing wrong that I know of.  The men reckon him a good officer,
too."

"Well, I'll be even with Master Archibald yet.  You hear?  But about
Whitmore now--I caught up with him in Lisbon.  You see, he'd got this
money off the Jew and he counted on another pocketful from that
Belcher woman.  He always was a devil to get around women, 'specially
the old ones.  I don't know if you guessed it, that night, but he'd
persuaded the old fool to run off and marry him.  Yes, and meantime
he'd taken his passage in one of the Falmouth packets, meaning to
give her the slip--and give me the slip too--as soon as he'd laid
hands on her purse.  Well, you headed him off that little plan; and
to save his skin, as you know, he rounded on me.  Now what puzzles me
is, how you let him slip?"

I did not answer this.

"The Belcher woman had a hand in it, I'll lay odds.  Never mind--
don't you answer if you'd rather not.  But when I caught up with him,
he didn't escape _me_: that's to say, he won't: and it'll be a sight
worse for him than if he hadn't tried."

He paused again, and laughed to himself silently--a laugh unhealthy
to watch.

"I came on him in Lisbon streets," he went on; "came on him from
behind and put a hand on his shoulder.  He's an almighty coward--
that's his secret--and the way he jumped did me good.  'Recruit for
the North Wilts,' said I.  He turned and his knees caved under him.
'Wha--what do you mean by that?' says he"--and here Leicester
burlesqued the poor cold stammering knave to the life--"'Oh, for the
Lord's sake, Leicester, have mercy on me!'  'You'll see the kind of
mercy you're going to get,' says I; 'but meantime you've a choice
between hanging and coming along to join the North Wilts.'  'But why
should I join the North Wilts?' he asked.  'Well, to begin with,' I
said, 'you're a dreadful coward, and there you'll have some chance to
feel what it's really like.  And what's more,' I said, 'I'll take
care you're in my company, and I'm going to live beside you and give
you hell.  I'm going to eat beside you, sleep beside you, march
beside you: and when things grow hot, and your lilywhite soul begins
to shiver, I'll be close to you still--but _behind_ you, my daisy!'
So I promised him, and, being a coward, he chose it.  I tell you I
kept my word too: it's lucky for you, boy, that I'm a connoisseur in
my grudges.  But Whitmore--he'd betrayed me, you see.  Often and
often I had him alone and crying! and I promised myself to be behind
him on just such a job as we're in for--a night assault: oh, he'd
have enjoyed that!  But he couldn't stand it.  At Celorico he gave me
the slip and deserted: and now he's in Ciudad Rodrigo, yonder, and
the trap's closing, and--what's he feeling like, think you?  Eh?
I know him: it'll get worse and worse for him till the end, and--it's
a bad death for deserters."

He paused, panting with hate and coughing the fog out of his lungs.
I shrank away against the wall of the trench.

"When he's done with, I won't say but what I'll turn my attention to
you--or to Plinlimmon.  You know what Plinlimmon was after--that
morning--on the roof?   He was there to steal."

He eyed me.

"Yes," said I with sudden courage, "he was there to steal.  And you
were waiting below, to share profits."

He fell back a pace, still eyeing me.

"I'll have to find another way with you than with Whitmore--that's
evident," he said with a short laugh, and was gone.



CHAPTER XXIII.


IN CIUDAD RODRIGO.

Two days later our breaching batteries opened on the town.

It is not for me to describe this wonderful siege, the operations of
which, though witnessing them in part, I did not understand in the
least.  I have read more than one book about it since, and could draw
you a map blindfold and tell you where the counter-batteries stood,
and where the lunette which Colborne carried, and how far behind it
lay the Convent of San Francisco; where the parallels ran, where the
French brought down a howitzer, and where by a sortie they came near
to cutting up a division.  I could trace you the _fausse braye_ and
the main walls, and put my finger on the angle where our guns pierced
the greater breach, and carry it across to the tower where, by the
lesser breach, our own storming-party of the Light Division climbed
into the town.  During the next five days I saw a many things
shattered to lay the foundations of a fame which still is proved the
sounder the closer men examine it--I mean Lord Wellington's: and in
the end I, Harry Revel, contributed my mite to it in a splintered
ankle.  I understand now many things which were then a mere confused
hurly-burly: and even now--having arrived at an age when men take
stock of themselves and, casting up their accounts with life, cross
out their vanities--I am proud to remember that along with the great
Craufurd, Mackinnon, Vandeleur, Colborne our Colonel, and Napier, I
took my unconsidered hurt.  To this day you cannot speak the name of
Ciudad Rodrigo to me but I hear my own bugle chiming with the rest
below the breaches and swelling the notes of the advance, and my
heart swells with it.  But I tell you strictly what I saw, and I tell
it for this reason only--that the story to which you have been
listening points through those breaches, and within them has its end.

To me, watching them day by day from the hillside, they appeared but
trifling gaps in the fortifications.  On the 19th I never dreamed
that they were capable of assault; indeed, in the lesser breach to
the left my inexpert eyes could detect no gap at all.  What chiefly
impressed me at this time was our enemy's superiority in ammunition.
Their guns fired at least thrice to our once.

Still holding myself strictly to what I saw, I can tell you even less
of the assault itself.  I can tell, indeed, how, on the evening of
the 19th, when we were looking forward to another turn at the
trenches with the Third Division, General Craufurd unexpectedly
paraded us; and how, at a nod from him, Major Napier addressed us.
"Men of the Light Division," he said, "we assault to-night.  I have
the honour to lead the storming party, and I want a hundred
volunteers from each regiment.  Those who will go with me, step
forward."

Instantly the battalions surged forward--the press of the volunteers
carrying us with them as if we would have marched on Ciudad Rodrigo
with one united front.

The Major flung up a hand and turned to General Craufurd.  Their eyes
met, and they both broke out laughing.

This much I saw and heard.  And when, at six o'clock, they marched us
down under the lee of San Francisco, I saw Lord Wellington ride up,
dismount, give over his horse to an orderly and walk past our column
into the darkness.  He was going to give the last directions to Major
Napier and the storming party: but they were drawn up behind an angle
of the convent wall; and we, the supporting columns, massed in the
darkness two hundred yards in the rear, neither saw the conference
nor caught more than the high clear tones of Craufurd addressing his
men for the last time.

Then, after many minutes of silence, suddenly the sky over the
convent wall opened with a glare and shut again, and we heard the
French guns tearing the night.  The attack of the Third Division on
our right had begun, and the noise of it was taken up by the 95th
riflemen, spread wide in three companies to scour the _fausse braye_
between the two breaches, and keep the defenders busy along it.
As the sound of the assault spread down to us, interrupted again and
again by the explosion of shells, we were marched forward for two or
three hundred yards and halted, put into motion and halted again.
We could see the city now, opening and shutting upon us in fiery
flashes; and, in the intervals, jet after jet of fire streamed from
the rifles on our right.

Then someone shouted to us to advance at the double, and I ran
blowing upon my bugle, for now the calls were sounding all about me.
I had no thought of death in all this roar--the crowd seemed to close
around and shut that out--until we came to the edge of the
counterscarp facing the _fausse braye_: and by that time the worst of
the danger had passed.  The _fausse braye_ itself was dark, and the
darker for a blaze of light behind it.  Our stormers had carried it
and swept the defenders back into the true breach beside the tower.
Some stray bullets splashed among us as we toppled down the ditch and
mounted the scarp--shots fired from Heaven knows where, but probably
from some French retreating along the top of the _fausse braye_.

While we were mounting the scarp Napier and his men must have carried
the inner breach.  At the top we thronged to squeeze through the
narrow entrance, for all the world like a crowd elbowing its way into
a theatre: and as I pressed into the skirts of the throng it seemed
to suck me in and choke me.  My small ribs caved inwards as we were
driven through by the weight of men behind.  The pressure eased, and
an explosion threw a dozen of us to earth between the _fausse braye_
and the slope of rubble by which the stormers had climbed.

I picked myself up--gripped my bugle--and ran for the slope, still
blowing.  A man of the 43rd gave me a hand and helped me up, for now
we were stumbling among corpses.  What had become of the stormers?
Some we were trampling under foot: the rest had swept on and into the
town.

"Fifty-second to the left," said my friend as we gained the top of
the rampart, catching up a cry which now sounded everywhere in the
darkness.  "Forty-third to the right--fifty-second to the left!"
I turned sharply to the left and ran from him.

A rush of men overtook me.  "This way!" they shouted, swerving aside
from the line of the ramparts and sliding down the steep inner slope
towards the town.  They were mad for loot, but in my ignorance I
supposed them to be obeying orders, and I turned aside and clambered
down after them.

We crossed a roadway and plunged into a dark and deserted street at
the foot of which shone a solitary lamp.  Then I learned what my
comrades were after.  The first door they came to they broke down
with their musket-butts.  An old man was crouching behind it; and,
dragging him out, they tossed him from one to another, jabbing at him
with their bayonets.  I ran on, shutting my ears to his screams.

I was alone now; and, as it seemed, in a forsaken town.  Here and
there a light shone beneath a house-door or through the chinks of a
shutter.  I _felt_ that behind the windows I passed Ciudad Rodrigo
was awake and waiting for its punishment.  Behind me, along the
ramparts, the uproar still continued.  But the town, here and for the
moment, I had to myself: and it was waiting, trembling to know what
my revenge would be.

I came next to a small open square; and was crossing it, when in the
corner on my right a door opened softly, showing a lit passage
within, and a moment later was as softly shut.  Scarcely heeding, I
ran on; my feet sounding sharply on the frozen cobbles.  And with
that a jet of light leapt from under the door-sill across the narrow
pavement, almost between my legs: and I pitched headlong, with a
shattered foot.

Doubtless I fainted with the pain: for it could not have been--as it
seemed--only a minute later that I opened my eyes to find the square
crowded and bright with the glare of two burning houses.  A herd of
bellowing oxen came charging past the gutter where I lay, pricked on
by a score of redcoats yelling in sheer drunkenness as they
flourished their bayonets.  Two or three of them wore monks' robes
flung over their uniforms, and danced idiotically, holding their
skirts wide.  I supposed it had been raining, for a flood ran through
the gutter and over my broken ankle.  In the light of the
conflagration it showed pitch black, and by and by I knew it for wine
flowing down from a whole cellarful of casks which a score of madmen
were broaching as they dragged them forth from a house on the upper
side of the square.  A child--he could not have been more than four
years old--ran screaming by me.  From a balcony right overhead a
soldier shot at him, missed, and laughed uproariously.  Then he
reloaded and began firing among the bullocks, now jammed and goring
one another at the entrance of a narrow alley.  And his shots seemed
to be a signal for a general salvo of random musketry.  I saw a woman
cross the roadway with a rifleman close behind her; he swung up
his rifle, holding it by the muzzle, and clubbed her between the
shoulders with the butt.

All night these scenes went by me--these and scenes of which I cannot
write; unrolled in the blaze of the houses which burnt on, as little
regarded as I who lay in my gutter and watched them to the savage
unending music of yells, musketry, and the roar of flames.

In the height of it my ear caught the regular footfall of troops, and
a squad of infantry came swinging round the corner.  I supposed it to
be a patrol sent to clear the streets and restore order.  A small man
in civilian dress--a Portuguese, by his look--walked gingerly beside
the sergeant in charge, chatting and gesticulating.  And, almost in
the same instant, I perceived that the men wore the uniform of the
North Wilts and that the sergeant he held in converse was George
Leicester.

By the light of the flames he recognised me, shook off his guide and
stepped forward.

"Hurt?" he asked.  "Here, step out, a couple of you, and take hold of
this youngster.  He's a friend of mine, and I've something to show
him: something that will amuse him, or I'm mistaken."

They hoisted me, not meaning to be rough, but hurting me cruelly
nevertheless: and two of them made a "chair" with crossed hands; but
they left my wounded foot dangling, and I swooned again with pain.

When I came to, we were in a street--dark but for their lanterns--
between a row of houses and a blank wall, and against this wall they
were laying me.  The houses opposite were superior to any I had yet
seen in Ciudad Rodrigo and had iron balconies before their
first-floor windows, broad and deep and overhanging the house-doors.

On one of these doors Leicester was hammering with his side-arm, the
Portuguese standing by on the step below.  No one answering, he
called to two of his men, who advanced and, setting the muzzles of
their muskets close against the keyhole, blew the door in.  Leicester
snatched a lantern and sprang inside, the two men after him.
The Portuguese waited.  The rest of the soldiers waited too,
grounding arms--some in the roadway, others by the wall at the foot
of which they had laid me.

A minute passed--two minutes--and then with a crash a man sprang
through one of the first-floor windows, flung a leg over the balcony
rail, and hung a moment in air between the ledge and the street.
The window through which he had broken was flung up and Leicester
came running after, grabbing at him vainly as he swung clear.

There were two figures now on the balcony.  A woman had run after
Leicester.  She leaned for a moment with both hands on the balcony
rail, and turned as if to run back.  Leicester caught her around the
waist and held her so while she screamed--shrilly, again and again.

The man dangled for a moment, dropped with a horrible thud, and
answered with one scream only--but it was worse even than hers to
hear.  Then the soldiers ran forward and flung themselves upon him.

"Hold the lantern higher, you fools!" shouted Leicester, straining
the woman to him, as she struggled and fought to get away.
"Over there, by the wall--I want to see his face!  Steady now, my
beauty!"

The woman sank in his arms as if fainting, and her screams ceased.
There was a stool on the balcony and he seated himself upon it,
easing her down and seating her on his knee.  This brought his evil
face level with the balcony rail; and the lanterns, held high, flared
up at it.

"Out of the way, youngster!" one of the soldiers commanded grimly.
"That wall's wanted."

He dragged me aside as they pulled Whitmore across the roadway.
I think his leg had been broken by the fall.  It trailed as they
carried him, and when they set him against the wall it doubled under
him and he fell in a heap.

"Turn up his face, anyway," commanded Leicester from the balcony.
"I want to see it!  And when you've done, you can leave me with this
beauty.  Hey, my lass?  The show's waiting.  Sit up and have a look
at him!"

I saw Whitmore's face as they turned it up, and the sight of it made
me cover my eyes.  I heard the men step out into the roadway, and set
back their triggers.  Crouching against the wall, I heard the volley.

As the echoes of it beat from side to side of the narrow street I
looked again--not towards the wall--but upwards at the balcony, under
which the men waved their lanterns as they dispersed, leaving the
corpse where it lay.  To my surprise Leicester had released the
woman.  She was stealing back through the open window and I caught
but a glimpse of her black head-veil in the wavering lights.
But Leicester still leaned forward with his chin on the balcony rail,
and grinned upon the street and the wall opposite.

I dragged myself from the spot.  How long it took me I do not know;
for I crawled on my belly, and there were pauses in my progress of
which I remember nothing.  But I remember that at some point in it
there dawned upon me the certainty that this was the very street down
which I had struck on my way from the ramparts.  If not the same
street, it must have been one close beside and running parallel with
it: for at daybreak, with no other guidance than this certainty, I
found myself back at the breach, nursing my foot and staring stupidly
downward at the bodies on the slope.

Across the foot of it a young officer was picking his way slowly in
the dawn.  A sergeant followed him with a notebook and pencil, and
two men with lanterns.  They were numbering the corpses, halting now
and again to turn one over and hold a light to his face, then to his
badge.  Half-way down, between them and me, a stink-pot yet
smouldered, and the morning air carried a horrible smell of singed
flesh.

As the dawn widened, one of the men opened his lantern and blew
out the candle within it.  The young officer--it was Archibald
Plinlimmon--paused in his search and scanned the sky and the ramparts
above.  I sent down a feeble hail.

He heard.  His eyes searched along the heaped ruins of gabions,
fascines, and dead bodies; and, recognising me, he came slowly up the
slope.

"Hallo!" said he.  "Not badly hurt, I hope?  I thought we'd cleared
all the wounded.  Where on earth have you come from?"

"From the town, sir."

"We'll take you back to it, then.  They've rigged up a couple of
hospitals, and it's nearer than camp.  Besides, I doubt if there's an
ambulance left to take you."  He knelt and examined my foot.
"Hi, there!" he called down.  "You--O'Leary--come and help me with
this boy!  Hurt badly, does it?  Never mind--we'll get you to
hospital in ten minutes.  But what on earth brought you crawling back
here?"

"Mr. Archibald!" I gasped, "I saw _him_!"

"Him?"

"Whitmore!"

He stared at me.  "You're off your head a bit, boy.  You'll be all
right when we get you to hospital."

"But I saw him, sir! They shot him--against the wall.  He was a
deserter, and they hunted him out."

"Well, and what is that to me, if they did?"  He turned his face
away.  "Isabel, my wife, is dead," he said slowly.

"Dead?"

"She is dead--and the child."

He bowed his face, while I gazed at him incredulous, sick at heart.

"If what you say is true," he said, lifting his eyes till, weary and
desperate, they met mine, "she has been avenged to-night."

"You shall see," I promised; and as the two soldiers picked me up and
laid me along a plank, I made signs that they were to carry me as I
directed.  He nodded, and fell into pace beside my litter.

The body of Whitmore lay along the foot of the wall where it had
fallen.  But when we drew near, it was not at the body that I stared,
putting out a hand and gripping Archibald Plinlimmon's arm.

On the balcony opposite, George Leicester still leaned forward and
grinned down into the street.

He did not move or glance aside even when Archibald commanded the men
to set me down; nor when he passed in at the open door and we waited;
nor again when he stepped out on the balcony and called him by name.
The corpse stared down still.  For it was a corpse, with a woman's
bodkin-dagger driven tight home between the shoulder-blades.

And so, by an unknown sister's hand, Isabel's wrongs had earthly
vengeance.



CHAPTER XXIV.


I EXCHANGE THE LAUREL FOR THE OLIVE.

Thus, in hospital in Ciudad Rodrigo, ended my first campaign; and
here in a few words may end my story.  The surgeons, having their
hands full, and detecting no opportunities of credit in a small
bugler with a splintered ankle, sent me down to Belem, splinters and
splints and all, to recover: and at Belem hospital, just as the
surgeons were beginning to congratulate themselves that, although
never likely to be fit again for active service, I might in time make
a fairly active hospital orderly, the splinters began to work through
the flesh; and for two months I lay on my back in bed and suffered
more pain than has been packed into the rest of my life.

The curious part of it was that, having extracted the final splinter,
they promptly invalided me home.  From the day I limped on board the
_Cumberland_ transport in the Tagus, leaning on two crutches, I began
to mend: and within twelve months--as may hereafter be recounted--I
was back again, hale and hearty, marching with no perceptible limp,
on the soil of Spain.

But I must not, after all, conclude in this summary fashion.
And why?  Because scarcely had I set foot in the _Cumberland_ when a
voice from somewhere amidships exclaimed:

"My blessed Parliament!"

I looked up and found myself face to face with--Ben Jope!

"And you've grown!" he added, as we shook hands.

"But Ben, I thought you were married and settled?"

He turned his eyes away uneasily.

"Whoever said so told you a thundering lie."

"Nobody told me," said I; "but when you left me, I understood--"

"My lad," he interrupted hoarsely, "I couldn't do it.  I went
straight back, same as you saw me start--now don't say a word till
you've heard the end o't!--I went straight back, and up to door
without once looking back.  There was a nice brass knocker to the
door (I never denied the woman had some good qualities); so I fixed
my eyes hard on it and said to myself, if there's peace to be found
in this world--which was a Bible text that came into my head--the
heart that is humble, which is the case with me, may look for it
here.  And with that I shut my eyes and let fly at it, though every
knock brought my heart into my mouth.  Now guess: who d'ye think
answered the door?  Why, that ghastly boy of hers!  There he stood,
all freckles and pimples; and says he, grinning:"

     'Mr. Benjamin Jope
      Moderately well, I hope.'

"I couldn't stand it.  I turned tail and ran for my life."

"But was that quite honourable?" I asked.

"Ain't I tellin' you to wait till I've done?  You don't suppose as it
ended there, do you?  No; I passed my word to that sister of mine,
and my word I must keep.  So I went back to Symonds's--who was that
pleased to see me again you'd have thought I'd been half round the
world--and I ordered up three-pennorth of rum, and pens and ink to
the same amount: and this is what I wrote, and I hope you'll get it
by heart before you're in a hurry again to accuse Ben Jope of
dishonourable conduct--'_Respected Madam_,' I wrote, '_this is to
enquire if you'll marry me.  Better late than never, and please don't
trouble to reply.  I'll call for an answer when I wants it.  Yours to
command, B. Jope. N.B.: We might board the boy out_.'  Symonds found
a messenger, and I told him on no account to wait for an answer.
Now, I hope you call that acting straight?"

"Well, but what was the answer?" I asked.

He hung his head.  "To tell you the truth, I ha'n't called for it
yet.  You notice I didn't specify no time; and being inclined for a
v'yage just then, I tramped it down to Falmouth and shipped aboard
the _Marlborough_, Post Office Packet, for Lisbon."

"And you've been dodging at sea ever since," said I severely.

"If you'd only seen that boy!" protested Mr. Jope.

"I'll call with you and see him as soon as ever we reach Plymouth," I
said; "but you passed your word, and your word you must keep."

"You're sure 'twill be safe for you at Plymouth?" he asked, and (as I
thought) a trifle mischievously.  "How about that Jew?"

"Oh, that's all cleared up!"

He sighed.  "Some folks has luck.  To be sure, he may be dead," he
added, with an attempt at cheerfulness.

"The Jew?"

"No, the boy."

I could hold out no hope of this, and he consoled himself with
anticipating the time we would spend together at Symonds's.  "For if
you're invalided home, they'll discharge you on leave as soon as we
reach port."

"Unless they keep me in hospital," said I.

"Then you'll have to make a cure of it on the voyage."

"I feel like that, already.  But the mischief is I've no home to go
to."

"There's Symonds's."

"I might give that as an address, to be sure."

"Damme!" cried Ben, as a bright thought struck him, "why couldn't I
adopt you?"

"The lady might find that an inducement," said I modestly.

"I wasn't exactly seeing it in that light," he confessed.  "But, with
a boy apiece, she and I might start fair.  You could punch his head,
brother like."

The _Cumberland_ weighed anchor on the 2nd of May, and dropped it
again under Staddon Heights on the 29th of that month.  To my
delight, the garrison surgeon at Plymouth pronounced me fit to
travel: my foot only needed rest, he said; and he asked me where my
home lay.

I had anticipated this, and answered that a letter addressed to me
under care Miss Amelia Plinlimmon, at the Genevan Foundling Hospital,
would certainly find me.  And so I was granted two months' leave of
absence to recover from my wound.


"But you don't mean to tell me," said Mr. Jope as we strolled down
Union Street together, "that you haven't a home or relations in this
world?"

"Neither one nor the other," said I; "but I have picked up a few
friends."

As he drew westward I noticed that he sensibly retarded his pace: but
he had forsworn visiting Symonds's until, as he put it, we knew the
worst; and I marched him relentlessly up to the door of doom with its
immaculate brass knocker.  And when, facing it, he shut his eyes, I
put out a hand and knocked for him.

But it was I who shrank back when the door opened: for the person who
opened it was--Mr. George!--in pigtail and wooden leg unchanged, but
in demeanour (so far as agitation allowed me to remark it) more
saturnine than ever.

"Do the Widow Babbage live here?" stammered Mr. Jope.

"She do not," answered Mr. George slowly, and added, "worse luck!"

"Is--is she dead?"

"No, she ain't," answered Mr. George, and pulled himself up.

"Then what's the matter with her?"

"There ain't nothing the matter with _her_, as I know by," answered
Mr. George once more, in a non-committal tone.  "But I'm her
'usband."

"You--Mr. George?" I gasped.

Thereupon he recognised me, and his eyes grew round, yet expressed no
immoderate surprise.

"A nice dance _you've_ led everybody!" he said slowly: "but I was
never hopeful about you, I'm thankful to say."

"Where is Miss Plinlimmon living?"  I asked.  "Has she left the
Hospital too?"

"She didn't leave it," he answered.  "It left her.  The Hospital's
scat."

"Eh?"

"Bust--sold up--come to an end.  Scougall's retired on the
donations.  He feathered _his_ nest.  And Miss Plinlimmon's gone down
into Cornwall to live with a Major Brooks--a kind of relation of
hers, so far as I can make out.  They tell me she've come into
money."

I had a question on my lips, but Mr. Jope interrupted.

"I haven't the pleasure of your acquaintance, sir," he began
politely, addressing Mr. George, "and by the look of 'ee, you must
date from before my time. But speakin' as one man to another, how do
you get along with that boy?"

The door was slammed in our faces.

Mr. Jope and I regarded one another.  "Ben," said I, "it's urgent, or
I wouldn't leave you.  I must start at once for Minden Cottage."

His face fell.  "And I was planning a little kick-up at Symonds's,"
he said ruefully; "a fiddle or two--to celebrate the occasion;
nothing out o' the way.  The first time you dropped on us, if you
remember, we was not quite ourselves, owing to poor dear Bill: and
I'd ha' liked you to form a cheerfuller idea of the place.  But if
'tis duty, my lad, England expec's and I'm not gainsaying.  Duty, is
it?"

"Duty it is," said I.  "You walked up to yours nobly, and I must walk
on to mine."

So we shook hands, and I turned my face westward for the ferry.


I had over-calculated my strength, and limped sorely the last mile or
two before reaching Minden Cottage.  Miss Plinlimmon opened the door
to me, and I forgot my pain for an instant and ran into her arms.
But behind her lay an empty house.

"The Major is in the garden," she said.  "You will find him greatly
changed, I expect.  Even since my coming I have noticed the
alteration."

I walked through to the summer-house.  The Major was fingering his
Virgil, but laid it down and shook hands gravely.  I had much to tell
him, and he seemed to listen; but I do not think that he heard.

Miss Plinlimmon--dear soul, unknowingly--had prepared for me the very
room to which Isabel had led me on the night of my first arrival, and
in which she had knelt beside me.  Miss Plinlimmon had scarcely known
Isabel, and I found her cheerfulness almost distressing when she came
to wish me good night.

"And I have composed a stanza upon you," she whispered, "if you care
for such things any longer.  But you must understand that it has
been, so to speak, improvised, and--what with the supper and one
thing and another--I have had no time to polish it."

I said sleepily that, unpolished though it were, I wished to hear it
thus; and here it is:

    "Wounded hero, you were shattered
        In the ankle--do not start!
     Much, much more it would have mattered
        In the immediate neighbourhood of the heart.
     The bullet sped comparatively wide;
     And you survive, to be Old England's pride."





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