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A Rogue's Life by Wilkie Collins

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simple question of whether I should act like a man who was in
love, or like a man who was not, my natural instincts settled the
difficulty in no time. I boldly imitated the example of my
fellow-passengers, and went in to dinner, determined to go on
afterward to Crickgelly, though all Bow Street should be
following at my heels.

CHAPTER XIII.

SECURE as I tried to feel in my change of costume, my cropped
hair, and my whiskerless cheeks, I kept well away from the
coach-window, when the dinner at the inn was over and the
passengers were called to take their places again. Thus
far--thanks to the strength of my grasp on his neck, which had
left him too weak to be an outside passenger--Screw had certainly
not seen me; and, if I played my cards properly, there was no
reason why he should see me before we got to our destination.

Throughout the rest of the journey I observed the strictest
caution, and fortune seconded my efforts. It was dark when we got
to Shrewsbury. On leaving the coach I was enabled, under cover of
the night, to keep a sharp watch on the proceedings of Screw and
his Bow Street ally. They did not put up at the hotel, but walked
away to a public house. There, my clerical character obliged me
to leave them at the door.

I returned to the hotel, to make inquiries about conveyances.

The answers informed me that Crickgelly was a little
fishing-village, and that there was no coach direct to it, but
that two coaches running to two small Welsh towns situated at
nearly equal distances from my destination, on either side of it,
would pass through Shrewsbury the next morning. The waiter added,
that I could book a place--conditionally--by either of these
vehicles; and that, as they were always well-filled, I had better
be quick in making my choice between them. Matters had now
arrived at such a pass, that nothing was left for me but to trust
to chance. If I waited till the morning to see whether Screw and
the Bow Street runner traveled in my direction, and to find out,
in case they did, which coach they took, I should be running the
risk of losing a place for myself, and so delaying my journey for
another day. This was not to be thought of. I told the waiter to
book me a place in which coach he pleased. The two were called
respectively The Humming Bee, and The Red Cross Knight. The
waiter chose the latter.

Sleep was not much in my way that night. I rose almost as early
as Boots himself--breakfasted--then sat at the coffee-room window
looking out anxiously for the two coaches.

Nobody seemed to agree which would pass first. Each of the inn
servants of whom I inquired made it a matter of partisanship, and
backed his favorite coach with the most consummate assurance. At
last, I heard the guard's horn and the clatter of the horses'
hoofs. Up drove a coach--I looked out cautiously--it was the
Humming Bee. Three outside places were vacant; one behind the
coachman; two on the dickey. The first was taken immediately by a
farmer, the second---to my unspeakable disgust and terror--was
secured by the inevitable Bow Street runner; who, as soon as h e
was up, helped the weakly Screw into the third place, by his
side. They were going to Crickgelly; not a doubt of it, now.

I grew mad with impatience for the arrival of the Red Cross
Knight. Half-an-hour passed--forty minutes--and then I heard
another horn and another clatter--and the Red Cross Knight
rattled up to the hotel door at full speed. What if there should
be no vacant place for me! I ran to the door with a sinking
heart. Outside, the coach was declared to be full.

"There is one inside place," said the waiter, "if you don't mind
paying the--"

Before he could say the rest, I was occupying that one inside
place. I remember nothing of the journey from the time we left
the hotel door, except that it was fearfully long. At some hour
of the day with which I was not acquainted (for my watch had
stopped for want of winding up), I was set down in a clean little
street of a prim little town (the name of which I never thought
of asking), and was told that the coach never went any further.

No post-chaise was to be had. With incredible difficulty I got
first a gig, then a man to drive it; and, last, a pony to draw
it. We hobbled away crazily from the inn door. I thought of Screw
and the Bow Street runner approaching Crickgelly, from their
point of the compass, perhaps at the full speed of a good
post-chaise--I thought of that, and would have given all the
money in my pocket for two hours' use of a fast road-hack.

Judging by the time we occupied in making the journey, and a
little also by my own impatience, I should say that Crickgelly
must have been at least twenty miles distant from the town where
I took the gig. The sun was setting, when we first heard, through
the evening stillness, the sound of the surf on the seashore. The
twilight was falling as we entered the little fishing village,
and let our unfortunate pony stop, for the last time, at a small
inn door.

The first question I asked of the landlord was, whether two
gentlemen (friends of mine, of course, whom I expected to meet)
had driven into Crickgelly, a little while before me. The reply
was in the negative; and the sense of relief it produced seemed
to rest me at once, body and mind, after my long and anxious
journey. Either I had beaten the spies on the road, or they were
not bound to Crickgelly. Any way, I had first possession of the
field of action. I paid the man who had driven me, and asked my
way to Zion Place. My directions were simple--I had only to go
through the village, and I should find Zion Place at the other
end of it.

The village had a very strong smell, and a curious habit of
building boats in the street between intervals of detached
cottages; a helpless, muddy, fishy little place. I walked through
it rapidly; turned inland a few hundred yards; ascended some
rising ground; and discerned, in the dim twilight, four small
lonesome villas standing in pairs, with a shed and a saw-pit on
one side, and a few shells of unfinished houses on the other.
Some madly speculative builder was evidently trying to turn
Crickgelly into a watering-place.

I made out Number Two, and discovered the bell-handle with
difficulty, it was growing so dark. A servant-maid--corporeally
enormous; but, as I soon found, in a totally undeveloped state,
mentally--opened the door.

"Does Miss Giles live here?" I asked.

"Don't see no visitors," answered the large maiden. "'T'other one
tried it and had to go away. You go, too."

"'T'othor one?" I repeated. "Another visitor? And when did he
call?"

"Better than an hour ago."

"Was there nobody with him?"

"No. Don't see no visitors. He went. You go, too "

Just as she repeated that exasperating formula of words, a door
opened at the end of the passage. My voice had evidently reached
the ears of somebody in the back parlor. Who the person was I
could not see, but I heard the rustle of a woman's dress. My
situation was growing desperate, my suspicions were aroused--I
determined to risk everything--and I called softly in the
direction of the open door, "Alicia!"

A voice answered, "Good heavens! Frank?" It was _her_ voice. She
had recognized mine. I pushed past the big servant; in two steps
I was at the end of the passage; in one more I was in the back
parlor.

She was there, standing alone by the side of a table. Seeing my
changed costume and altered face, she turned deadly pale, and
stretched her hand behind her mechanically, as if to take hold of
a chair. I caught her in my arms; but I was afraid to kiss
her--she trembled so when I only touched her.

"Frank!" she said, drawing her head back. "What is it? How did
you find out? For mercy's sake what does it mean?"

"It means, love, that I've come to take care of you for the rest
of your life and mine, if you will only let me. Don't
tremble--there's nothing to be afraid of! Only compose yourself,
and I'll tell you why I am here in this strange disguise. Come,
come, Alicia!--don't look like that at me. You called me Frank
just now, for the first time. Would you have done that, if you
had disliked me or forgotten me?"

I saw her color beginning to come back--the old bright glow
returning to the dear dusky cheeks. If I had not seen them so
near me, I might have exercised some self-control--as it was, I
lost my presence of mind entirely, and kissed her.

She drew herself away half-frightened, half-confused--certainly
not offended, and, apparently, not very likely to faint--which
was more than I could have said of her when I first entered the
room. Before she had time to reflect on the peril and awkwardness
of our position, I pressed the first necessary questions on her
rapidly, one after the other.

"Where is Mrs. Baggs?" I asked first.

Mrs. Baggs was the housekeeper.

Alicia pointed to the closed folding-doors. "In the front parlor;
asleep on the sofa."

"Have you any suspicion who the stranger was who called more than
an hour ago?"

"None. The servant told him we saw no visitors, and he went away,
without leaving his name."

"Have you heard from your father?"

She began to turn pale again, but controlled herself bravely, and
answered in a whisper:

"Mrs. Baggs had a short note from him this morning. It was not
dated; and it only said circumstances had happened which obliged
him to leave home suddenly, and that we were to wait here till be
wrote again, most likely in a few days."

"Now, Alicia," I said, as lightly as I could, "I have the highest
possible opinion of your courage, good-sense, and self-control;
and I shall expect you to keep up your reputation in my eyes,
while you are listening to what I have to tell you."

Saying these words, I took her by the hand and made her sit close
by me; then, breaking it to her as gently and gradually as
possible, I told her all that had happened at the red-brick house
since the evening when she left the dinner-table, and we
exchanged our parting look at the dining-room door.

It was almost as great a trial to me to speak as it was to her to
hear. She suffered so violently, felt such evident misery of
shame and terror, while I was relating the strange events which
had occurred in her absence, that I once or twice stopped in
alarm, and almost repented my boldness in telling her the truth.
However, fair-dealing with her, cruel as it might seem at the
time, was the best and safest course for the future. How could I
expect her to put all her trust in me if I began by deceiving
her--if I fell into prevarications and excuses at the very outset
of our renewal of intercourse? I went on desperately to the end,
taking a hopeful view of the most hopeless circumstances, and
making my narrative as mercifully short as possible.

When I had done, the poor girl, in the extremity of her
forlornness and distress, forgot all the little maidenly
conventionalities and young-lady-like restraints of everyday
life--and, in a burst of natural grief and honest confiding
helplessness, hid her face on my bosom, and cried there as if she
were a child again, and I was the mother to whom she had been
used to look for comfort.

I made no attempt to stop her tears--they were the safest and
best vent for the violent agitation under which she was
suffering. I said nothing; words, at such a ti me as that, would
only have aggravated her distress. All the questions I had to
ask; all the proposals I had to make, must, I felt, be put
off--no matter at what risk--until some later and clamer hour.
There we sat together, with one long unsnuffed candle lighting us
smokily; with the discordantly-grotesque sound of the
housekeeper's snoring in the front room, mingling with the sobs
of the weeping girl on my bosom. No other noise, great or small,
inside the house or out of it, was audible. The summer night
looked black and cloudy through the little back window.

I was not much easier in my mind, now that the trial of breaking
my bad news to Alicia was over. That stranger who had called at
the house an hour before me, weighed on my spirits. It could not
have been Doctor Dulcifer. He would have gained admission. Could
it be the Bow Street runner, or Screw? I had lost sight of them,
it is true; but had they lost sight of me?

Alicia's grief gradually exhausted itself. She feebly raised her
head, and, turning it away from me, hid her face. I saw that she
was not fit for talking yet, and begged her to go upstairs to the
drawing-room and lie down a little. She looked apprehensively
toward the folding-doors that shut us off from the front parlor.

"Leave Mrs. Baggs to me," I said. "I want to have a few words
with her; and, as soon as you are gone, I'll make noise enough
here to wake her."

Alicia looked at me inquiringly and amazedly. I did not speak
again. Time was now of terrible importance to us--I gently led
her to the door.

CHAPTER XIV.

As soon as I was alone, I took from my pocket one of the
handbills which my excitable fellow-traveler had presented to me,
so as to have it ready for Mrs. Baggs the moment we stood face to
face. Armed with this ominous letter of introduction, I kicked a
chair down against the folding-doors, by way of giving a
preliminary knock to arouse the housekeeper's attention. The plan
was immediately successful. Mrs. Baggs opened the doors of
communication violently. A slight smell of spirits entered the
room, and was followed close by the housekeeper herself, with an
indignant face and a disordered head-dress.

"What do you mean, sir? How dare you--" she began; then stopped
aghast, looking at me in speechless astonishment.

"I have been obliged to make a slight alteration in my personal
appearance, ma'am," I said. "But I am still Frank Softly."

"Don't talk to me about personal appearances, sir," cried Mrs.
Baggs recovering. "What do you mean by being here? Leave the
house immediately. I shall write to the doctor, Mr. Softly, this
very night."

"He has no address you can direct to," I rejoined. "If you don't
believe me, read that." I gave her the handbill without another
word of preface.

Mrs. Baggs looked at it--lost in an instant some of the fine
color plentifully diffused over her face by sleep and
spirits--sat down in the nearest chair with a thump that seemed
to threaten the very foundations of Number Two, Zion Place--and
stared me hard in the face; the most speechless and helpless
elderly female I ever beheld.

"Take plenty of time to compose yourself ma'am," I said. "If you
don't see the doctor again soon, under the gallows, you will
probably not have the pleasure of meeting with him for some
considerable time."

Mrs. Baggs smote both her hands distractedly on her knees, and
whispered a devout ejaculation to herself softly.

"Allow me to deal with you, ma'am, as a woman of the world," I
went on. "If you will give me half-an-hour's hearing, I will
explain to you how I come to know what I do; how I got here; and
what I have to propose to Miss Alicia and to you."

"If you have the feelings of a man, sir," said Mrs. Baggs,
shaking her head and raising her eyes to heaven, "you will
remember that I have nerves, and will not presume upon them."

As the old lady uttered the last words, I thought I saw her eyes
turn from heaven, and take the earthly direction of the sofa in
the front parlor. It struck me also that her lips looked rather
dry. Upon these two hints I spoke.

"Might I suggest some little stimulant?" I asked, with respectful
earnestness. "I have heard my grandmother (Lady Malkinshaw) say
that, 'a drop in time saves nine.' "

"You will find it under the sofa pillow," said Mrs. Baggs, with
sudden briskness. " 'A drop in time saves nine'--my sentiments,
if I may put myself on a par with her ladyship. The
liqueur-glass, Mr. Softly, is in the backgammon-board. I hope her
ladyship was well the last time you heard from her? Suffers from
her nerves, does she? Like me, again. In the backgammon-board.
Oh, this news, this awful news!"

I found the bottle of brandy in the place indicated, but no
liqueur-glass in the backgammon-board. There was, however, a
wine-glass, accidentally left on a chair by the sofa. Mrs. Baggs
did not seem to notice the difference when I brought it into the
back room and filled it with brandy.

"Take a toothful yourself," said Mrs. Baggs, lightly tossing off
the dram in a moment. " 'A drop in time'--I can't help repeating
it, it's so nicely expressed. Still, with submission to her
ladyship's better judgment, Mr. Softly, the question seems now to
arise, whether, if one drop in time saves nine, two drops in time
may not save eighteen." Here Mrs. Baggs forgot her nerves and
winked. I returned the wink and filled the glass a second time.
"Oh, this news, this awful news!" said Mrs. Baggs, remembering
her nerves again.

Just then I thought I heard footsteps in front of the house, but,
listening more attentively, found that it had begun to rain, and
that I had been deceived by the pattering of the first heavy
drops against the windows. However, the bare suspicion that the
same stranger who had called already might be watching the house
now, was enough to startle me very seriously, and to suggest the
absolute necessity of occupying no more precious time in paying
attention to the vagaries of Mrs. Baggs' nerves. It was also of
some importance that I should speak to her while she was sober
enough to understand what I meant in a general way.

Feeling convinced that she was in imminent danger of becoming
downright drunk if I gave her another glass, I kept my hand on
the bottle, and forthwith told my story over again in a very
abridged and unceremonious form, and without allowing her one
moment of leisure for comment on my narrative, whether it might
be of the weeping, winking, drinking, groaning, or ejaculating
kind. As I had anticipated, when I came to a conclusion, and
consequently allowed her an opportunity of saying a few words,
she affected to be extremely shocked and surprised at hearing of
the nature of her master's pursuits, and reproached me in terms
of the most vehement and virtuous indignation for incurring the
guilt of abetting them, even though I had done so from the very
excusable motive of saving my own life. Having a lively sense of
the humorous, I was necessarily rather amused by this; but I
began to get a little surprised as well, when we diverged to the
subject of the doctor's escape, on finding that Mrs. Baggs viewed
the fact of his running away to some hiding-place of his own in
the light of a personal insult to his faithful and attached
housekeeper.

"It shows a want of confidence in me," said the old lady, "which
I may forgive, but can never forget. The sacrifices I have made
for that ungrateful man are not to be told in words. The very
morning he sent us away here, what did I do? Packed up the moment
he said Go. I had my preserves to pot, and the kitchen chimney to
be swept, and the lock of my box hampered into the bargain. Other
women in my place would have grumbled--I got up directly, as
lively as any girl of eighteen you like to mention. Says he, 'I
want Alicia taken out of young Softly's way, and you must do
it.'---Says I, 'This very morning, sir?'--Says he, 'This very
morning.'--Says I, 'Where to?'--Says he, 'As far off as ever you
can go; coast of Wales--Crickgelly. I won't trust her nearer;
young Softly's too cunning, and she's too fond of him.'--'Any
more orders, sir?' says I.--'Yes; take some fancy name--Simkins,
Johnson, Giles, Jones, James,' says he, 'what you like bu t
Dulcifer; for that scamp Softly will move heaven and earth to
trace her.'--'What else?' says I.--'Nothing, but look sharp,'
says he; 'and mind one thing, that she sees no visitors, and
posts no letters.' Before those last words had been out of his
wicked lips an hour, we were off. A nice job I had to get her
away--a nice job to stop her from writing letters to you--a nice
job to keep her here. But I did it; I followed my orders like a
slave in a plantation with a whip at his bare back. I've had
rheumatics, weak legs, bad nights, and miss in the sulks--all
from obeying the doctor's orders. And what is my reward? He turns
coiner, and runs away without a word to me beforehand, and writes
me a trumpery note, without a date to it, without a farthing of
money in it, telling me nothing! Look at my confidence in him,
and then look at the way he's treated me in return. What woman's
nerves can stand that? Don't keep fidgeting with the bottle! Pass
it this way, Mr. Softly, or you'll break it, and drive me
distracted."

"He has no excuse, ma'am," I said. "But will you allow me to
change the subject, as I am pressed for time? You appear to be so
well acquainted with the favorable opinion which Miss Alicia and
I entertain of each other, that I hope it will be no fresh shock
to your nerves, if I inform you, in plain words, that I have come
to Crickgelly to marry her."

"Marry her! marry--If you don't leave off fidgeting with the
bottle, Mr. Softly, and change the subject directly, I shall ring
the bell."

"Hear me out, ma'am, and then ring if you like. If you persist,
however, in considering yourself still the confidential servant
of a felon who is now flying for his life, and if you decline
allowing the young lady to act as she wishes, I will not be so
rude as to hint that--as she is of age--she may walk out of this
house with me, whenever she likes, without your having the power
to prevent her; but, I will politely ask instead, what you would
propose to do with her, in the straitened position as to money in
which she and you are likely to be placed? You can't find her
father to give her to; and, if you could, who would be the best
protector for her? The doctor, who is the principal criminal in
the eye of the law, or I, who am only the unwilling accomplice?
He is known to the Bow Street runners--I am not. There is a
reward for the taking of him, and none for the taking of me. He
has no respectable relatives and friends, I have plenty. Every
way my chances are the best; and consequently I am, every way,
the fittest person to trust her to. Don't you see that?"

Mrs. Baggs did not immediately answer. She snatched the bottle
out of my hands--drank off another dram, shook her head at me,
and ejaculated lamentably: "My nerves, my nerves! what a heart of
stone he must have to presume on my poor nerves!"

"Give me one minute more," I went on. "I propose to take you and
Alicia to-morrow morning to Scotland. Pray don't groan! I only
suggest the journey with a matrimonial object. In Scotland, Mrs.
Baggs, if a man and woman accept each other as husband and wife,
before one witness, it is a lawful marriage; and that kind of
wedding is, as you see plainly enough, the only safe refuge for a
bridegroom in my situation. If you consent to come with us to
Scotland, and serve as witness to the marriage, I shall be
delighted to acknowledge my sense of your kindness in the
eloquent language of the Bank of England, as expressed to the
world in general on the surface of a five-pound note."

I cautiously snatched away the brandy bottle as I spoke, and was
in the drawing-room with it in an instant. As I suppose, Mrs.
Baggs tried to follow me, for I heard the door rattle, as if she
had got out of her chair, and suddenly slipped back into it
again. I felt certain of her deciding to help us, if she was only
sober enough to reflect on what I had said to her. The journey to
Scotland was a tedious, and perhaps a dangerous, undertaking. But
I had no other alternative to choose.

In those uncivilized days, the Marriage Act had not been passed,
and there was no convenient hymeneal registrar in England to
change a vagabond runaway couple into a respectable man and wife
at a moment's notice. The trouble and expense of taking Mrs.
Baggs with us, I encountered, of course, solely out of regard for
Alicia's natural prejudices. She had led precisely that kind of
life which makes any woman but a bad one morbidly sensitive on
the subject of small proprieties. If she had been a girl with a
recognized position in society, I should have proposed to her to
run away with me alone. As it was, the very defenselessness of
her situation gave her, in my opinion, the right to expect from
me even the absurdest sacrifices to the narrowest
conventionalities. Mrs. Baggs was not quite so sober in her
habits, perhaps, as matrons in general are expected to be; but,
for my particular purpose, this was only a slight blemish; it
takes so little, after all, to represent the abstract principle
of propriety in the short-sighted eye of the world.

As I reached the drawing-room door, I looked at my watch.

Nine o'clock! and nothing done yet to facilitate our escaping
from Crickgelly to the regions of civilized life the next
morning. I was pleased to hear, when I knocked at the door, that
Alicia's voice sounded firmer as she told me to come in. She was
more confused than astonished or frightened when I sat down by
her on the sofa, and repeated the principal topics of my
conversion with Mrs. Baggs.

"Now, my own love," I said, in conclusion--suiting my gestures,
it is unnecessary to say, to the tenderness of my
language--"there is not the least doubt that Mrs. Baggs will end
by agreeing to my proposals. Nothing remains, therefore, but for
you to give me the answer now, which I have been waiting for ever
since that last day when we met by the riverside. I did not know
then what the motive was for your silence and distress. I know
now, and I love you better after that knowledge than I did before
it."

Her head dropped into its former position on my bosom, and she
murmured a few words, but too faintly for me to hear them.

"You knew more about your father, then, than I did?" I whispered.

"Less than you have told me since," she interposed quickly,
without raising her face.

"Enough to convince you that he was breaking the laws," I
suggested; "and, to make you, as his daughter, shrink from saying
'yes' to me when we sat together on the river bank?"

She did not answer. One of her arms, which was hanging over my
shoulder, stole round my neck, and clasped it gently.

"Since that time," I went on, "your father has compromised me. I
am in some danger, not much, from the law. I have no prospects
that are not of the most doubtful kind; and I have no excuse for
asking you to share them, except that I have fallen into my
present misfortune through trying to discover the obstacle that
kept us apart. If there is any protection in the world that you
can turn to, less doubtful than mine, I suppose I ought to say no
more, and leave the house. But if there should be none, surely I
am not so very selfish in asking you to take your chance with me?
I honestly believe that I shall have little difficulty, with
ordinary caution, in escaping from pursuit, and finding a safe
home somewhere to begin life in again with new interests. Will
you share it with me, Alicia? I can try no fresh persuasions---I
have no right, perhaps, in my present situation to have addressed
so many to you already."

Her other arm stole round my neck; she laid her cheek against
mine, and whispered--

"Be kind to me, Frank--I have nobody in the world who loves me
but you!"

I felt her tears on my face; my own eyes moistened as I tried to
answer her. We sat for some minutes in perfect silence--without
moving, without a thought beyond the moment. The rising of the
wind, and the splashing of the rain outside were the first sounds
that stirred me into action again.

I summoned my resolution, rose from the sofa, and in a few hasty
words told Alicia what I proposed for the next day, and mentioned
the hour at which I would come in the morning. As I had
anticipated, she seemed re lieved and reassured at the prospect
even of such slight sanction and encouragement, on the part of
another woman, as would be implied by the companionship of Mrs.
Baggs on the journey to Scotland.

The next and last difficulty I had to encounter was necessarily
connected with her father. He had never been very affectionate;
and he was now, for aught she or I knew to the contrary, parted
from her forever. Still, the instinctive recognition of his
position made her shrink, at the last moment, when she spoke of
him, and thought of the serious nature of her engagement with me.
After some vain arguing and remonstrating, I contrived to quiet
her scruples, by promising that an address should be left at
Crickgelly, to which any second letter that might arrive from the
doctor could be forwarded. When I saw that this prospect of being
able to communicate with him, if he wrote or wished to see her,
had sufficiently composed her mind, I left the drawing-room. It
was vitally important that I should get back to the inn and make
the necessary arrangements for our departure the next morning,
before the primitive people of the place had retired to bed.

As I passed the back parlor door on my way out, I heard the voice
of Mrs. Baggs raised indignantly. The words "bottle!" "audacity!"
and "nerves!" reached my ear disjointedly. I called out "Good-by!
till to-morrow;" heard a responsive groan of disgust; then opened
the front door, and plunged out into the dark and rainy night.

It might have been the dropping of water from the cottage roofs
while I passed through the village, or the groundless alarm of my
own suspicious fancy, but I thought I was being followed as I
walked back to the inn. Two or three times I turned round
abruptly. If twenty men had been at my heels, it was too dark to
see them. I went on to the inn.

The people there were not gone to bed; and I sent for the
landlord to consult with him about a conveyance. Perhaps it was
my suspicious fancy again; but I thought his manner was altered.
He seemed half distrustful, half afraid of me, when I asked him
if there had been any signs, during my absence, of those two
gentlemen, for whom I had already inquired on arriving at his
door that evening. He gave an answer in the negative, looking
away from me while he spoke.

Thinking it advisable, on the whole, not to let him see that I
noticed a change in him, I proceeded at once to the question of
the conveyance, and was told that I could hire the landlord's
light cart, in which he was accustomed to drive to the market
town. I appointed an hour for starting the next day, and retired
at once to my bedroom. There my thoughts were enough. I was
anxious about Screw and the Bow Street runner. I was uncertain
about the stranger who had called at Number Two, Zion Place. I
was in doubt even about the landlord of the inn. Never did I know
what real suffering from suspense was, until that night, Whatever
my apprehensions might have been, they were none of them realized
the next morning.

Nobody followed me on my way to Zion Place, and no stranger had
called there before me a second time, when I made inquiries on
entering the house. I found Alicia blushing, and Mrs. Baggs
impenetrably wrapped up in dignified sulkiness. After informing
me with a lofty look that she intended to go to Scotland with us,
and to take my five-pound note--partly under protest, and partly
out of excessive affection for Alicia--she retired to pack up.
The time consumed in performing this process, and the further
delay occasioned by paying small outstanding debts to
tradespeople, and settling with the owner of the house, detained
us till nearly noon before we were ready to get into the
landlord's cart.

I looked behind me anxiously at starting, and often afterward on
the road; but never saw anything to excite my suspicions. In
settling matters with the landlord over night, I had arranged
that we should be driven to the nearest town at which a
post-chaise could be obtained. My resources were just as likely
to hold out against the expenses of posting, where public
conveyances could not be obtained, as against the expense of
waiting privately at hotels, until the right coaches might start.
According to my calculations, my money would last till we got to
Scotland. After that, I had my watch, rings, shirtpin, and Mr.
Batterbury, to help in replenishing my purse. Anxious, therefore,
as I was about other things, money matters, for once in a way,
did not cause me the smallest uneasiness.

CHAPTER XV.

WE posted five-and-thirty miles, then stopped for a couple of
hours to rest, and wait for a night coach running northward.

On getting into this vehicle we were fortunate enough to find the
fourth inside place not occupied. Mrs. Baggs showed her sense of
the freedom from restraint thus obtained by tying a huge red
comforter round her head like a turban, and immediately falling
fast asleep. This gave Alicia and me full liberty to talk as we
pleased. Our conversation was for the most part of that
particular kind which is not of the smallest importance to any
third person in the whole world. One portion of it, however, was
an exception to this general rule. It had a very positive
influence on my fortunes, and it is, therefore, I hope, of
sufficient importance to bear being communicated to the reader.

We had changed horses for the fourth time, had seated ourselves
comfortably in our places, and had heard Mrs. Baggs resume the
kindred occupations of sleeping and snoring, when Alicia
whispered to me:

"I must have no secrets, now, from you-- must I, Frank?"

"You must have anything you like, do anything you like, and say
anything you like. You must never ask leave--but only grant it!"

"Shall you always tell me that, Frank?"

I did not answer in words, but the conversation suffered a
momentary interruption. Of what nature, susceptible people will
easily imagine. As for the hard-hearted I don't write for them.

"My secret need not alarm you," Alicia went on, in tones that
began to sound rather sadly; "it is only about a tiny pasteboard
box that I can carry in the bosom of my dress. But it has got
three diamonds in it, Frank, and one beautiful ruby. Did you ever
give me credit for having so much that was valuable about
me?--shall I give it you to keep for me?"

I remembered directly Old File's story of Mrs. Dulcifer's
elopement, and of the jewels she had taken with her. It was easy
to guess, after what I had heard, that the poor woman had
secretly preserved some of her little property for the benefit of
her child.

"I have no present need of money, darling," I answered; "keep the
box in its present enviable position." I stopped there, saying
nothing of the thought that was really uppermost in my mind. If
any unforeseen accident placed me within the grip of the law, I
should not now have the double trial to endure of leaving my wife
for a prison, and leaving her helpless.

Morning dawned and found us still awake. The sun rose, Mrs. Baggs
left off snoring, and we arrived at the last stage before the
coach stopped.

I got out to see about some tea for my traveling companions, and
looked up at the outside passengers. One of them seated in the
dickey looked down at me. He was a countryman in a smock-frock,
with a green patch over one of his eyes. Something in the
expression of his uncovered eye made me pause--reflect--turn away
uneasily--and then look again at him furtively. A sudden shudder
ran through me from top to toe; my heart sank; and my head began
to feel giddy. The countryman in the dickey was no other than the
Bow Street runner in disguise.

I kept away from the coach till the fresh horses were on the
point of starting, for I was afraid to let Alicia see my face,
after making that fatal discovery. She noticed how pale I was
when I got in. I made the best excuse I could; and gently
insisted on her trying to sleep a little after being awake all
night. She lay back in her corner; and Mrs. Baggs, comforted with
a morning dram in her tea, fell asleep again. I had thus an
hour's leisure before me to think what I should do next.

Screw was not in company with the runner this time. He must have
managed to ident ify me somewhere, and the officer doubtless knew
my personal appearance well enough now to follow and make sure of
me without help. That I was the man whom he was tracking could
not be doubted: his disguise and his position on the top of the
coach proved it only too plainly.

But why had he not seized me at once? Probably because he had
some ulterior purpose to serve, which would have been thwarted by
my immediate apprehension. What that purpose was I did my best to
fathom, and, as I thought, succeeded in the attempt. What I was
to do when the coach stopped was a more difficult point to
settle. To give the runner the slip, with two women to take care
of, was simply impossible. To treat him, as I had treated Screw
at the red-brick house, was equally out of the question, for he
was certain to give me no chance of catching him alone. To keep
him in ignorance of the real object of my journey, and thereby to
delay his discovering himself and attempting to make me a
prisoner, seemed the only plan on the safety of which I could
place the smallest reliance. If I had ever had any idea of
following the example of other runaway lovers, and going to
Gretna Green, I should now have abandoned it. All roads in that
direction would betray what the purpose of my journey was if I
took them. Some large town in Scotland would be the safest
destination that I could publicly advertise myself as bound for.
Why not boldly say that I was going with the two ladies to
Edinburgh?

Such was the plan of action which I now adopted.

To give any idea of the distracted condition of my mind at the
time when I was forming it, is simply impossible. As for doubting
whether I ought to marry at all under these dangerous
circumstances, I must frankly own that I was too selfishly and
violently in love to look the question fairly in the face at
first. When I subsequently forced myself to consider it, the most
distinct project I could frame for overcoming all difficulty was,
to marry myself (the phrase is strictly descriptive of the Scotch
ceremony) at the first inn we came to, over the Border; to hire a
chaise, or take places in a public conveyance to Edinburgh, as a
blind; to let Alicia and Mrs. Baggs occupy those places; to
remain behind myself; and to trust to my audacity and cunning,
when left alone, to give the runner the slip. Writing of it now,
in cool blood, this seems as wild and hopeless a plan as ever was
imagined. But, in the confused and distracted state of all my
faculties at that period, it seemed quite easy to execute, and
not in the least doubtful as to any one of its probable results.

On reaching the town at which the coach stopped, we found
ourselves obliged to hire another chaise for a short distance, in
order to get to the starting-point of a second coach. Again we
took inside places, and again, at the first stages when I got
down to look at the outside passengers, there was the countryman
with the green shade over his eye. Whatever conveyance we
traveled by on our northward road, we never escaped him. He never
attempted to speak to me, never seemed to notice me, and never
lost sight of me. On and on we went, over roads that seemed
interminable, and still the dreadful sword of justice hung
always, by its single hair, over my head. My haggard face, my
feverish hands, my confused manner, my inexpressible impatience,
all belied the excuses with which I desperately continued to ward
off Alicia's growing fears, and Mrs. Baggs's indignant
suspicions. "Oh! Frank, something has happened! For God's sake,
tell me what!"--"Mr. Softly, I can see through a deal board as
far as most people. You are following the doctor's wicked
example, and showing a want of confidence in me." These were the
remonstrances of Alicia and the housekeeper.

At last we got out of England, and I was still a free man. The
chaise (we were posting again) brought us into a dirty town, and
drew up at the door of a shabby inn. A shock-headed girl received
us.

"Are we in Scotland?" I asked.

"Mon! whar' else should ye be?" The accent relieved me of all
doubt.

"A private room--something to eat, ready in an hour's
time--chaise afterward to the nearest place from which a coach
runs to Edinburgh." Giving these orders rapidly, I followed the
girl with my traveling companions into a stuffy little room. As
soon as our attendant had left us, I locked the door, put the key
in my pocket, and took Alicia by the hand.

"Now, Mrs. Baggs," said I, "bear witness--"

"You're not going to marry her now!" interposed Mrs. Baggs,
indignantly. "Bear witness, indeed! I won't bear witness till
I've taken off my bonnet, and put my hair tidy!"

"The ceremony won't take a minute," I answered; "and I'll give
you your five-pound note and open the door the moment it's over.
Bear witness," I went on, drowning Mrs. Baggs's expostulations
with the all-important marriage-words, "that I take this woman,
Alicia Dulcifer for my lawful wedded wife."

"In sickness and in health, in poverty and wealth," broke in Mrs.
Baggs, determining to represent the clergyman as well as to be
the witness.

"Alicia, dear," I said, interrupting in my turn, "repeat my
words. Say 'I take this man, Francis Softly, for my lawful wedded
husband.' "

She repeated the sentence, with her face very pale, with her dear
hand cold and trembling in mine.

"For better for worse," continued the indomitable Mrs. Baggs.
"Little enough of the Better, I'm afraid, and Lord knows how much
of the Worse."

I stopped her again with the promised five-pound note, and opened
the room door. "Now, ma'am," I said, "go to your room; take off
your bonnet, and put your hair as tidy as you please."

Mrs. Baggs raised her eyes and hands to heaven, exclaimed
"Disgraceful!" and flounced out of the room in a passion. Such
was my Scotch marriage--as lawful a ceremony, remember, as the
finest family wedding at the largest parish church in all
England.

An hour passed; and I had not yet summoned the cruel courage to
communicate my real situation to Alicia. The entry of the
shock-headed servant-girl to lay the cloth, followed by Mrs.
Baggs, who was never out of the way where eating and drinking
appeared in prospect, helped me to rouse myself. I resolved to go
out for a few minutes to reconnoiter, and make myself acquainted
with any facilities for flight or hiding which the situation of
the house might present. No doubt the Bow Street runner was
lurking somewhere; but he must, as a matter of course, have
heard, or informed himself, of the orders I had given relating to
our conveyance on to Edinburgh; and, in that case, I was still no
more in danger of his avowing himself and capturing me, than I
had been at any previous period of our journey.

"I am going out for a moment, love, to see about the chaise," I
said to Alicia. She suddenly looked up at me with an anxious
searching expression. Was my face betraying anything of my real
purpose? I hurried to the door before she could ask me a single
question.

The front of the inn stood nearly in the middle of the principal
street of the town. No chance of giving any one the slip in that
direction; and no sign, either, of the Bow Street runner. I
sauntered round, with the most unconcerned manner I could assume,
to the back of the house, by the inn yard. A door in one part of
it stood half-open. Inside was a bit of kitchen-garden, bounded
by a paling; beyond that some backs of detached houses; beyond
them, again, a plot of weedy ground, a few wretched cottages, and
the open, heathery moor. Good enough for running away, but
terribly bad for hiding.

I returned disconsolately to the inn. Walking along the passage
toward the staircase, I suddenly heard footsteps behind
me--turned round, and saw the Bow Street runner (clothed again in
his ordinary costume, and accompanied by two strange men)
standing between me and the door.

"Sorry to stop you from going to Edinburgh, Mr. Softly," he said.
"But you're wanted back at Barkingham. I've just found out what
you have been traveling all the way to Scotland for; and I take
you prisoner, as one of the coining gang. Take it easy, sir. I've
got help, you see; and you can't throttle three men, whatever you
may have d one at Barkingham with one."

He handcuffed me as he spoke. Resistance was hopeless. I could
only make an appeal to his mercy, on Alicia's account.

"Give me ten minutes," I said, "to break what has happened to my
wife. We were only married an hour ago. If she knows this
suddenly, it may be the death of her."

"You've led me a nice dance on a wrong scent," answered the
runner, sulkily. "But I never was a hard man where women are
concerned. Go upstairs, and leave the door open, so that I can
see in through it if I like. Hold your hat over your wrists, if
you don't want her to see the handcuffs."

I ascended the first flight of stairs, and my heart gave a sudden
bound as if it would burst. I stopped, speechless and helpless,
at the sight of Alicia, standing alone on the landing. My first
look at her face told me she had heard all that had passed in the
passage. She passionately struck the hat with which I had been
trying to hide the handcuffs out of my fingers, and clasped me in
her arms with such sudden and desperate energy that she
absolutely hurt me.

"I was afraid of something, Frank," she whispered. "I followed
you a little way. I stopped here; I have heard everything. Don't
let us be parted! I am stronger than you think me. I won't be
frightened. I won't cry. I won't trouble anybody, if that man
will only take me with you!"

It is best for my sake, if not for the reader's, to hurry over
the scene that followed.

It ended with as little additional wretchedness as could be
expected. The runner was resolute about keeping me handcuffed,
and taking me back, without a moment's unnecessary waste of time
to Barkingham; but he relented on other points.

Where he was obliged to order a private conveyance, there was no
objection to Alicia and Mrs. Baggs following it. Where we got
into a coach, there was no harm in their hiring two inside
places. I gave my watch, rings, and last guinea to Alicia,
enjoining her, on no account, to let her box of jewels see the
light until we could get proper advice on the best means of
turning them to account. She listened to these and other
directions with a calmness that astonished me.

"You shan't say, my dear, that your wife has helped to make you
uneasy by so much as a word or a look," she whispered to me as we
left the inn.

And she kept the hard promise implied in that one short sentence
throughout the journey. Once only did I see her lose her
self-possession. At starting on our way south, Mrs. Baggs--taking
the same incomprehensible personal offense at my misfortune which
she had previously taken at the doctor's--upbraided me with my
want of confidence in her, and declared that it was the main
cause of all my present trouble. Alicia turned on her as she was
uttering the words, with a look and a warning that silenced her
in an instant:

"If you say another syllable that isn't kind to him, you shall
find your way back by yourself!"

The words may not seem of much importance to others; but I
thought, as I overheard them, that they justified every sacrifice
I had made for my wife's sake.

CHAPTER XVI.

ON our way back I received from the runner some explanation of
his apparently unaccountable proceedings in reference to myself.

To begin at the beginning, it turned out that the first act of
the officers, on their release from the workroom in the red-brick
house, was to institute a careful search for papers in the
doctor's study and bedroom. Among the other documents that he had
not had time to destroy, was a letter to him from Alicia, which
they took from one of the pockets of his dressing-gown. Finding,
from the report of the men who had followed the gig, that he had
distanced all pursuit, and having therefore no direct clew to his
whereabout, they had been obliged to hunt after him in various
directions, on pure speculation. Alicia's letter to her father
gave the address of the house at Crickgelly; and to this the
runner repaired, on the chance of intercepting or discovering any
communications which the doctor might make to his daughter, Screw
being taken with the officer to identify the young lady. After
leaving the last coach, they posted to within a mile of
Crickgelly, and then walked into the village, in order to excite
no special attention, should the doctor be lurking in the
neighborhood. The runner had tried ineffectually to gain
admission as a visitor at Zion Place. After having the door shut
on him, he and Screw had watched the house and village, and had
seen me approach Number Two. Their suspicions were directly
excited.

Thus far, Screw had not recognized, nor even observed me; but he
immediately identified me by my voice, while I was parleying with
the stupid servant at the door. The runner, hearing who I was,
reasonably enough concluded that I must be the recognized medium
of communication between the doctor and his daughter, especially
when he found that I was admitted, instantly after calling, past
the servant, to some one inside the house.

Leaving Screw on the watch, he went to the inn, discovered
himself privately to the landlord, and made sure (in more ways
than one, as I conjectured) of knowing when, and in what
direction, I should leave Crickgelly. On finding that I was to
leave it the next morning, with Alicia and Mrs. Baggs, he
immediately suspected that I was charged with the duty of taking
the daughter to, or near, the place chosen for the father's
retreat; and had therefore abstained from interfering prematurely
with my movements. Knowing whither we were bound in the cart, he
had ridden after us, well out of sight, with his countryman's
disguise ready for use in the saddle-bags-- Screw, in case of any
mistakes or mystifications, being left behind on the watch at
Crickgelly.

The possibility that I might be running away with Alicia had
suggested itself to him; but he dismissed it as improbable, first
when he saw that Mrs. Baggs accompanied us, and again, when, on
nearing Scotland, he found that we did not take the road to
Gretna Green. He acknowledged, in conclusion, that he should have
followed us to Edinburgh, or even to the Continent itself, on the
chance of our leading him to the doctor's retreat, but for the
servant girl at the inn, who had listened outside the door while
our brief marriage ceremony was proceeding, and from whom, with
great trouble and delay, he had extracted all the information he
required. A further loss of half an hour's time had occurred
while he was getting the necessary help to assist him, in the
event of my resisting, or trying to give him the slip, in making
me a prisoner. These small facts accounted for the hour's respite
we had enjoyed at the inn, and terminated the runner's narrative
of his own proceedings.

On arriving at our destination I was, of course, immediately
taken to the jail.

Alicia, by my advice, engaged a modest lodging in a suburb of
Barkingham. In the days of the red-brick house, she had seldom
been seen in the town, and she was not at all known by sight in
the suburb. We arranged that she was to visit me as often as the
authorities would let her. She had no companion, and wanted none.
Mrs. Baggs, who had never forgiven the rebuke administered to her
at the starting-point of our journey, left us at the close of it.
Her leave-taking was dignified and pathetic. She kindly informed
Alicia that she wished her well, though she could not
conscientiously look upon her as a lawful married woman; and she
begged me (in case I got off), the next time I met with a
respectable person who was kind to me, to profit by remembering
my past errors, and to treat my next benefactress with more
confidence than I had treated her.

My first business in the prison was to write to Mr. Batterbury.

I had a magnificent ease to present to him, this time. Although I
believed myself, and had succeeded in persuading Alicia, that I
was sure of being recommended to mercy, it was not the less the
fact that I was charged with an offense still punishable by
death, in the then barbarous state of the law. I delicately
stated just enough of my case to make one thing clear to the mind
of Mr. Batterbury. My affectionate sister's interest in the
contingent reversion was now ( unless Lady Malkinshaw perversely
and suddenly expired) actually threatened by the Gallows!

While calmly awaiting the answer, I was by no means without
subjects to occupy my attention when Alicia was not at the
prison. There was my fellow-workman--Mill--(the first member of
our society betrayed by Screw) to compare notes with; and there
was a certain prisoner who had been transported, and who had some
very important and interesting particulars to communicate,
relative to life and its chances in our felon-settlements at the
Antipodes. I talked a great deal with this man; for I felt that
his experience might be of the greatest possible benefit to me.

Mr. Batterbury's answer was speedy, short, and punctual. I had
shattered his nervous system forever, he wrote, but had only
stimulated his devotion to my family, and his Christian readiness
to look pityingly on my transgressions. He had engaged the leader
of the circuit to defend me; and he would have come to see me,
but for Mrs. Batterbury; who had implored him not to expose
himself to agitation. Of Lady Malkinshaw the letter said nothing;
but I afterward discovered that she was then at Cheltenham,
drinking the waters and playing whist in the rudest health and
spirits.

It is a bold thing to say, but nothing will ever persuade me that
Society has not a sneaking kindness for a Rogue.

For example, my father never had half the attention shown to him
in his own house, which was shown to me in my prison. I have seen
High Sheriffs in the great world, whom my father went to see,
give him two fingers--the High Sheriff of Barkinghamshire came to
see me, and shook hands cordially. Nobody ever wanted my father's
autograph--dozens of people asked for mine. Nobody ever put my
father's portrait in the frontispiece of a magazine, or described
his personal appearance and manners with anxious elaboration, in
the large type of a great newspaper--I enjoyed both those honors.
Three official individuals politely begged me to be sure and make
complaints if my position was not perfectly comfortable. No
official individual ever troubled his head whether my father was
comfortable or not. When the day of my trial came, the court was
thronged by my lovely countrywomen, who stood up panting in the
crowd and crushing their beautiful dresses, rather than miss the
pleasure of seeing the dear Rogue in the dock. When my father
once stood on the lecturer's rostrum, and delivered his excellent
discourse, called "Medical Hints to Maids and Mothers on Tight
Lacing and Teething," the benches were left empty by the
ungrateful women of England, who were not in the slightest degree
anxious to feast their eyes on the sight of a learned adviser and
respectable man. If these facts led to one inevitable conclusion,
it is not my fault. We Rogues are the spoiled children of
Society. We may not be openly acknowledged as Pets, but we all
know, by pleasant experience, that we are treated like them.

The trial was deeply affecting. My defense --or rather my
barrister's--was the simple truth. It was impossible to overthrow
the facts against us; so we honestly owned that I got into the
scrape through love for Alicia. My counsel turned this to the
best possible sentimental account. He cried; the ladies cried;
the jury cried; the judge cried; and Mr. Batterbury, who had
desperately come to see the trial, and know the worst, sobbed
with such prominent vehemence, that I believe him, to this day,
to have greatly influenced the verdict. I was strongly
recommended to mercy and got off with fourteen years'
transportation. The unfortunate Mill, who was tried after me,
with a mere dry-eyed barrister to defend him, was hanged.

POSTSCRIPT.

WITH the record of my sentence of transportation, my life as a
Rogue ends, and my existence as a respectable man begins. I am
sorry to say anything which may disturb popular delusions on the
subject of poetical justice, but this is strictly the truth.

My first anxiety was about my wife's future.

Mr. Batterbury gave me no chance of asking his advice after the
trial. The moment sentence had been pronounced, he allowed
himself to be helped out of court in a melancholy state of
prostration, and the next morning he left for London. I suspect
he was afraid to face me, and nervously impatient, besides, to
tell Annabella that he had saved the legacy again by another
alarming sacrifice. My father and mother, to whom I had written
on the subject of Alicia, were no more to be depended on than Mr.
Batterbury. My father, in answering my letter, told me that he
conscientiously believed he had done enough in forgiving me for
throwing away an excellent education, and disgracing a
respectable name. He added that he had not allowed my letter for
my mother to reach her, out of pitying regard for her broken
health and spirits; and he ended by telling me (what was perhaps
very true) that the wife of such a son as I had been, had no
claim upon her father-in-law's protection and help. There was an
end, then, of any hope of finding resources for Alicia among the
members of my own family.

The next thing was to discover a means of providing for her
without assistance. I had formed a project for this, after
meditating over my conversations with the returned transport in
Barkingham jail, and I had taken a reliable opinion on the
chances of successfully executing my design from the solicitor
who had prepared my defense.

Alicia herself was so earnestly in favor of assisting in my
experiment, that she declared she would prefer death to its
abandonment. Accordingly, the necessary preliminaries were
arranged; and, when we parted, it was some mitigation of our
grief to know that there was a time appointed for meeting again.
Alicia was to lodge with a distant relative of her mother's in a
suburb of London; was to concert measures with this relative on
the best method of turning her jewels into money; and was to
follow her convict husband to the Antipodes, under a feigned
name, in six months' time.

If my family had not abandoned me, I need not have thus left her
to help herself. As it was, I had no choice. One consolation
supported me at parting--she was in no danger of persecution from
her father. A second letter from him had arrived at Crickgelly,
and had been forwarded to the address I had left for it. It was
dated Hamburg, and briefly told her to remain at Crickgelly, and
expect fresh instructions, explanations, and a supply of money,
as soon as he had settled the important business matters which
had taken him abroad. His daughter answered the letter, telling
him of her marriage, and giving him an address at a post-office
to write to, if he chose to reply to her communication. There the
matter rested.

What was I to do on my side? Nothing but establish a reputation
for mild behavior. I began to manufacture a character for myself
for the first days of our voyage out in the convict-ship; and I
landed at the penal settlement with the reputation of being the
meekest and most biddable of felonious mankind.

After a short probationary experience of such low convict
employments as lime-burning and road-mending, I was advanced to
occupations more in harmony with my education. Whatever I did, I
never neglected the first great obligation of making myself
agreeable and amusing to everybody. My social reputation as a
good fellow began to stand as high at one end of the world as
ever it stood at the other. The months passed more quickly than I
had dared to hope. The expiration of my first year of
transportation was approaching, and already pleasant hints of my
being soon assigned to private service began to reach my ears.
This was the first of the many ends I was now working for; and
the next pleasant realization of my hopes that I had to expect,
was the arrival of Alicia.

She came, a month later than I had anticipated; safe and
blooming, with five hundred pounds as the produce of her jewels,
and with the old Crickgelly alias (changed from Miss to Mrs.
Giles), to prevent any suspicions of the connection between us.

Her story (concocted by me before I left England) was, that she
was a widow lady, who had come to settle in Australia, and make
the most of
her little property in the New World. One of the first things
Mrs. Giles wanted was necessarily a trustworthy servant, and she
had to make her choice of one among the convicts of good
character, to be assigned to private service. Being one of that
honorable body myself at the time, it is needless to say that I
was the fortunate man on whom Mrs. Giles's choice fell. The first
situation I got in Australia was as servant to my own wife.

Alicia made a very indulgent mistress.

If she had been mischievously inclined, she might, by application
to a magistrate, have had me flogged or set to work in chains on
the roads, whenever I became idle or insubordinate, which
happened occasionally. But instead of complaining, the kind
creature kissed and made much of her footman by stealth, after
his day's work. She allowed him no female followers, and only
employed one woman-servant occasionally, who was both old and
ugly. The name of the footman was Dear in private, and Francis in
company; and when the widowed mistress, upstairs, refused
eligible offers of marriage (which was pretty often), the favored
domestic in the kitchen was always informed of it, and asked,
with the sweetest humility, if he approved of the proceeding.

Not to dwell on this anomalous period of my existence, let me say
briefly that my new position with my wife was of the greatest
advantage in enabling me to direct in secret the profitable uses
to which her little fortune was put.

We began in this way with an excellent speculation in
cattle--buying them for shillings and selling them for pounds.
With the profits thus obtained, we next tried our hands at
houses--first buying in a small way, then boldly building, and
letting again and selling to great advantage. While these
speculations were in progress, my behavior in my wife's service
was so exemplary, and she gave me so excellent a character when
the usual official inquiries were instituted, that I soon got the
next privilege accorded to persons in my situation--a
ticket-of-leave. By the time this had been again exchanged for a
conditional pardon (which allowed me to go about where I pleased
in Australia, and to trade in my own name like any unconvicted
merchant) our house-property had increased enormously, our land
had been sold for public buildings, and we had shares in the
famous Emancipist's Bank, which produced quite a little income of
themselves.

There was now no need to keep the mask on any longer.

I went through the superfluous ceremony of a second marriage with
Alicia; took stores in the city; built a villa in the country;
and here I am at this present moment of writing, a convict
aristocrat--a prosperous, wealthy, highly respectable mercantile
man, with two years of my sentence of transportation still to
expire. I have a barouche and two bay horses, a coachman and page
in neat liveries, three charming children, and a French
governess, a boudoir and lady's-maid for my wife. She is as
handsome as ever, but getting a little fat. So am I, as a worthy
friend remarked when I recently appeared holding the plate, at
our last charity sermon.

What would my surviving relatives and associates in England say,
if they could see me now? I have heard of them at different times
and through various channels. Lady Malkinshaw, after living to
the verge of a hundred, and surviving all sorts of accidents,
died quietly one afternoon, in her chair, with an empty dish
before her, and without giving the slightest notice to anybody.
Mr. Batterbury, having sacrificed so much to his wife's
reversion, profited nothing by its falling in at last. His
quarrels with my amiable sister--which took their rise from his
interested charities toward me--ended in producing a separation.
And, far from saving anything by Annabella's inheritance of her
pin-money, he had a positive loss to put up with, in the shape of
some hundreds extracted yearly from his income, as alimony to his
uncongenial wife. He is said to make use of shocking language
whenever my name is mentioned, and to wish that he had been
carried off by the yellow fever before he ever set eyes on the
Softly family.

My father has retired from practice. He and my mother have gone
to live in the country, near the mansion of the only marquis with
whom my father was actually and personally acquainted in his
professional days. The marquis asks him to dinner once a year,
and leaves a card for my mother before he returns to town for the
season. A portrait of Lady Malkinshaw hangs in the dining-room.
In this way, my parents are ending their days contentedly. I can
honestly say that I am glad to hear it.

Doctor Dulcifer, when I last heard of him, was editing a
newspaper in America. Old File, who shared his flight, still
shares his fortunes, being publisher of his newspaper. Young File
resumed coining operations in London; and, having braved his fate
a second time, threaded his way, in due course, up to the steps
of the scaffold. Screw carries on the profitable trade of
informer, in London. The dismal disappearance of Mill I have
already recorded.

So much on the subject of my relatives and associates. On the
subject of myself, I might still write on at considerable length.
But while the libelous title of "A ROGUE'S LIFE" stares me in the
face at the top of the page, how can I, as a rich and reputable
man, be expected to communicate any further autobiographical
particulars, in this place, to a discerning public of readers?
No, no, my friends! I am no longer interesting--I am only
respectable like yourselves. It is time to say "Good-by."

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