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Jack Harkaway and his son's Escape From the Brigand's of Greece by Bracebridge Hemyng

Part 6 out of 9

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And his voice was heard in the general shout.

"Now, gentlemen," said he, when silence was once more restored, "allow
me to correct one very slight error in the statement of this good and
valorous lady."

"What is that?" demanded Toro.

"Her narrative is quite correct, with this little exception--it was not
Mrs. Harkaway who was killed."

Diana turned pale, and uttering a wail of disappointment, sat down.

Hunston, after venting a few fearful imprecations, said--

"Then I hope and trust it may have been the wife of that confounded
Harvey."

"It was not, and to tell you the truth, I am rather glad of it, for, do
you know I have almost fallen in love with her?"

"Cheek!" muttered Hunston. "Well, who was it, then?"

"You must know I was waiting on them at the dinner table, when Mrs.
Harkaway expressed a wish that her fan, which she had forgotten, might
be brought.

"I was going to call some of the female servants, but Harkaway himself
went and before he had been gone a minute, we heard him scream out--

"Help! Murder!"

Away rushed Harvey and that long American fellow, Jefferson, while
Mrs. Harkaway fainted.

But in a few minutes the three came back with the news that Mrs.
Harkaway's maid--Marietta by name--had been killed.

"No fault of yours, madam, for the girl had been dressing herself in
some of Mrs. Harkaway's clothes, and no doubt she looked as much a lady
as her mistress."

"What then?" demanded Diana.

"The police took the matter in hand, and are now searching everywhere
for the murderer."

"Let them search," said Diana, with a scornful laugh.

There was silence for a time; then Diana asked--

"Did you hear anything of Tomaso?"

"Yes. He is condemned to die."

"When?" demanded Toro.

"The date is kept secret, so that you may have less chance of rescuing
him."

Toro growled an oath and departed.

CHAPTER XXVII.

THE RECRUIT WORKS BRAVELY--HARKAWAY's VENGEANCE--"HE NEVER
FORGETS A DEBT."

The brigands soon found that they had made an invaluable acquisition in
their new recruit.

The day following his admission into their honorable fraternity, he
brought in an addition to his already handsome booty.

This was in the shape of a lady's reticule, containing a rich prize in
money, and more jewels.

"I came across my late mistress," said Geoffery Martin in explanation;
"she had ventured out of the town with her new maid, and so I fleeced
them royally. I did not leave them a stiver; moreover I secured this."

So saying, he spread out before them a newly-printed placard, which,
translated, ran as nearly as possible in this wise--

"FIVE THOUSAND FRANCS REWARD

"Will be paid to the police or to any private person, who will secure,
or give such information as may lead to the capture of, one Geoffrey
Martin, lately a valet in the service of Mr. John Harkaway."

Then followed a description of his person, walk, and mode of speech.

"The said Geoffrey Martin having absconded with a large sum of money,
besides property of great value, it is the duty of every man to aid in
bringing him to justice."

He chose a good moment for bringing this paper in. There was a large
muster of the brigands in camp.

"Five thousand francs reward," he said to his newly-made comrades
generally; "you have only to turn me over to the Harkaways, and you can
make a small fortune."

"You'll only find good men and true here," said Hunston.

Geoffrey Martin turned upon the latter.

"All?"

There was a hidden significance in his tone which thrilled Hunston.

"I am glad that they are all safe, friend; by the way, what is your
name? I haven't heard it yet."

"My name is Hunston, and I'm not ashamed of it."

"No, of course you wouldn't be; so you are Hunston?" he added
reflectively.

"Did you know my name?"

"Yes."

"Indeed. Heard your master speak of me, I suppose?"

"Yes; Harkaway and his friend Harvey."

"Harvey," cried Hunston contemptuously; "a paltry, frivolous fool."

"Yes; wasn't he? You should hear him speak of you."

"There was never any love lost between us," said Hunston moodily; "we
hated each other most cordially from boyhood."

"Known him so long?" said Martin.

"We were at school together, and at college together," said Hunston.

"College--phew! then you must have been a swell."

"Well," he said haughtily, "and what of that?"

"Oh, nothing; I was only thinking."

"What were you thinking?"

"Why, if I had half your chance of getting on in life, you would never
have found me here."

"What do you mean? Are you ashamed of your comrades?"

"No, no, not me," said Martin; "but I should be if I was you. You're a
swell, and it's an awful drop for you. I'm only a poor devil--a nobody,
and it's a rise in life for me to join your honorable company; give us
your hand."

And then, before he could say yea or nay, the new recruit seized
Hunston by the hand and wrung it with real or affected warmth.

Hunston strode moodily away, hanging his head.

This singular individual, Geoffrey Martin, appeared greatly interested
in the fate of the unfortunate boys, young Jack and Harry Girdwood, and
he got Boulgaris to take him to the spot where the crosses had been
erected over the graves by the pious hand of Theodora, the girl who had
unwittingly lured them to the fatal trap.

"So here you have buried them?" said Geoffrey Martin.

"Yes, poor boys," said Boulgaris.

"Poor boys," echoed Martin in surprise, "poor boys."

"Yes, I see no reason for butchering two children, for they were little
more."

The new brigand eyed the speaker rather curiously.

"Have you any pity to spare for Harkaway's boy?"

"And why not?" said Boulgaris. "True, Harkaway's our enemy, and I hate
him; I'd like to get the upper hand of him; but we don't want to fight
boys. Besides, Harkaway is a good sort of enemy; a bold, daring fellow,
not a sneak."

"No, that he isn't," said Geoffrey Martin, with warmth.

"I am sure he'd never murder a boy because the boy's father had wronged
him."

"True."

"Besides, there is something in this Hunston I don't like. We are bad
enough in all conscience, but this brutal butchery will, perhaps be the
ruin of our band."

"Why?"

"Well, we were not loved before; but this brutal deed will make us
execrated by the whole country. The government scarcely dare to molest
us; they are satisfied at keeping up a show of doing something. But
Harkaway is rich and powerful, I am told; English money and English
influence will force the government to pursue us, and all for what?
Why, for murdering two helpless children, who had done us no wrong; who
fell into a trap while saving the life of one of us."

Geoffrey Martin opened his eyes in astonishment.

"Is that true?"

"Yes. Didn't you know the story?"

"No."

"It was the daughter of one of our old comrades, that the boys saved
while sailing. Poor girl! If prayers and tears could move men's hearts,
hers should have saved the boys."

Geoffrey Martin coughed and blew his nose loudly.

"Ahem!" he said, staring at Boulgaris. "You are a soft-hearted fellow
for a brigand."

"Not exactly that either," replied Boulgaris, grinning. "I feel
incensed at this deed for its brutality, and for exposing all the band
to risks and dangers for the sole purpose of gratifying their revenge."

"Theirs; you mean Hunston's?"

"No; for Toro was interested also in it."

"Toro, Toro," muttered Martin; "why, the name sounds, familiar to me.
Of course. They knew this Toro in Italy, I remember. He was one of a
band that Harkaway and his friend Harvey exterminated."

"It is true, then, about that band?" said Boulgaris, his eyes flashing
eagerly.

"Of course."

"You see, then, from that, what cause we have to dread arousing the
enmity of such a man as this Harkaway."

"He is an awkward customer, and that's the fact of it; and I have
heard, my brave Boulgaris, that if Harkaway once says he will have
revenge, he never fails. Now, let's return."

Back they went together, and as they neared the brigands' camp, they
perceived signs of some great commotion,

"What is the matter now?" asked Boulgaris.

"Come with us," replied the first man, "and I will show you."

They silently followed.

Down one of the slopes and then through a narrow pass, and within five
minutes' run of the brigands' stronghold, they came upon a number of
their men gathered around a long figure stretched upon the ground and
covered with a cloak.

The brigand who had brought them there silently drew back the cloak,
and showed that the figure was the corpse of one of their comrades who
had been on guard there.

"Look, another of our men killed. His death, like the first, has been
sudden."

A sure, swift hand had pinned him through the body with a long dagger.

It had pierced his heart, and the point of the blade actually protruded
near his shoulder-blade.

"Look there," cried one of the brigands,

"Where?"

"At the handle."

Fastened to the haft of the dagger was a slip of paper, upon which were
these words--

"_Remember Harkaway never forgets an injury._"

CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE VILLA AGAIN--A MESSAGE FROM THE ENEMY'S CAMP--HOW A SNARE
WAS LAID.

Harvey carried his project into execution, and went off, leaving Mrs.
Harvey and Mrs. Harkaway under the impression that he was going about
the vessel, and making preparations generally for their departure.

They were one and all anxious to be gone from the place, which was for
evermore associated in their minds with the mishaps of the last few
days.

When Harvey had been absent forty-eight hours, they grew anxious.

But on the morning of the third day, Nabley the detective came with a
message from Dick.

He had met him by appointment and brought news.

There was something in Nabley's face which made Harkaway anxious to see
him alone.

"Now tell me, Nabley," he said, eagerly, "tell me all. How is Harvey?
What does he say of the boys? What is he doing? Has he any plan of
action decided?"

"Gently, Mr. Harkaway, gently," said the detective; "you overpower me."

"Oh, Nabley, I say--"

"There, there! don't be impatient. I'll give it all out as fast as ever
I can."

"I don't want all," interrupted Jack Harkaway, passionately. "How are
my boys? Answer that. Are they safe? No, no! I read it in your face."

And then he dropped heavily into a chair, looking the picture of misery
and despair.

Nabley had scarcely a word to say for himself.

The sight of the brave Harkaway so utterly collapsed was more than he
could endure.

Jack rallied a little and turned again to Nabley.

"Well, quick, tell me the news."

And then, as Nabley still stammered, he went on--

"I know; save your breath. I knew it; poor boys! poor Harry and my poor
brave boy Jack."

"Dirk Harvey bids you keep your courage up," said Nabley; "not to be
downcast. It is quite time enough to be down upon our luck when we find
out that the worst is true. The boys may yet live."

"No, no," cried Jack; "I fear my poor boys are no more."

"Let us hope they still live, but meanwhile, Mr. Harvey has treated the
brigands as though the worst was true."

"How?"

Nabley made a significant gesture with his right arm as though stabbing
violently at some unseen enemy.

"What, the brave Dick seeking and taking revenge?" exclaimed Jack.

"Yes. Two of the Greek brigands have fallen by his hand. The rest will
follow, be sure of that; and, moreover, they never suspect whose hand
has dealt the blow."

"Not suspect!"

"No, his game has been and will continue to be picking them off in
single file. He meets one of them alone, and Harvey makes sure of him
by his own strong right arm."

"Oh, brave Harvey," said Jack.

"Yes," said Nabley, "it is revenge. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a
tooth; and I for one should like to see the whole gang food for kites
and wolves."

"You have suffered in losing your old comrade," said Harkaway; "judge,
then, if you so keenly feel the loss of a friend, what must I feel for
my boy--my own flesh and blood."

"Yes," said Nabley; "I have suffered, but I will yet have a bitter
revenge on my poor pal's murderers. He was to me a brave and true
friend. Poor Pike! he was foully assassinated."

"Yes, Nabley; he was cowardly shot by the villain Toro. But do the
brigands know who is now taking revenge on them?"

"Yes; it is told them in black and white. A paper fixed to each carrion
carcase tells that this is another proof of Harkaway's vengeance."

Jack's face flushed crimson at these words.

"Well done, Dick; well done, brave old boy," he muttered; "well done!".

"And he tells me that they are in a rare state about it in the camp. It
has thrown all the lot of them into the greatest consternation. Hunston
has grown very unpopular. It needs very little upon Harvey's part to
make sure of him."

"That's brave."

"Now he's growing ambitious. One at a time no longer satisfies him, so
he has a scheme for bagging half-a-dozen of the brigands at once."

"How?"

"You know the spot that the boys christened the fig-tree grove."

"I do."

"He pretends to have intercepted a letter (when he "stole" the money
and jewels I took him by way of keeping up appearances), which informs
him that one of your party--a Mr. Hardy, or Harpy, he pretended--would
be passing through the fig-tree grove this evening, with money, on a
journey of some importance. As this Hardy or Harpy is a dangerous
person, the brigands, on Harvey's advice, are to send six of their best
men on the business."

Harkaway's eyes twinkled again at this.

"Now," said Nabley, "we must bait the trap well. I'll be the bait."

"You?"

"Yes."

"But why should you have so dangerous a post?"

"I prefer it," said Nabley, quietly; "besides, although alone, I shall
have some staunch and valuable friends with me."

"You speak in paradoxes, Mr. Nabley."

The detective's reply to this was to draw his two hands from his coat-
pockets, and in each hand there was a six-shooter.

"Here are twelve lives," said the detective, "and I've six more in
here," tapping his breast.

"You're a regular arsenal," said Harkaway, smiling. "But supposing,
when you raise your hands, they close upon you and ransack your
pockets."

"I have no need to withdraw my hands to use them. I fire through the
pockets."

They must have been made with something of this intention, for they
were cut in the side seams of the coat which were exceedingly roomy.

"Well, well," said Harkaway, jumping up, "when do we get to work?"

"Now."

"Now?"

"There are no preparations to make, Let Mr. Jefferson be sent for. Both
of you get your arms ready, and follow me."

"Good. What arms?"

"Short axe, in case of close work, and rifle each. You'll be more than
a match for six Greeks. Besides," he added, with a significant smile,
"I shall not be idle."

"Well, well; away with you," cried Jack; "I am all eagerness to be at
work. I shall be quite another man when I have had a brush with these
beasts."

"Right, sir," cried the detective; "they will find a powerful foe in
you."

"Yes, Nabley," cried Jack, "my arm is nerved for this fight, and it
shall go hard with me, but I will have my revenge on those Greek devils
for the murder of my poor boys."

The door opened and Jefferson entered.

"The very man!" exclaimed Harkaway.

"What, Nabley!" said Jefferson. "What news of Harvey?"

"Mr. Harkaway will tell you all," answered the detective; "my time's
up. Follow me as quickly as you can."

"Off with you," said Harkaway, growing quite excited at the prospect of
a brush with the enemy.

"The fig-tree grove," said Nabley.

"Understood."

And off went the detective.

"Jefferson," said Jack, "I am now about seeking my foes, and fear not
but I will render a good account of my actions, for against the
brigands I feel the strength of a giant."

CHAPTER XXIX.

WHEREIN MR. MOLE PHILOSOPHISES AND HAS AN ADVENTURE--THE SCENT
OF BATTLE--MOLE THE TERROR OF THE BRIGANDS--ISAAC THE ANNIHILATOR--
MOLE'S PRISONER.

It must not be supposed that Isaac Mole was idle all this time.

He heard of the bold doings of his friends Harkaway, Harvey and
Jefferson, not to speak of the valuable aid of Nabley the detective,
and, figuratively speaking, his very soul panted for glory.

"I feel I could conquer by my single hand half-a-dozen brigands," said
Mole to himself; "but still I should prefer to come across a sleeping
brigand. But ah, me!" there he sighed deeply, "brigands are as rarely
caught asleep as weasels."

Poor old Mole's desire to distinguish himself in this matter was very
great.

The plain truth was that poor Isaac was at times badly henpecked.

On these occasions he would assume his most dignified deportment and
point to his wooden legs.

"There are proofs, Mrs. Mole," he would say, "that Isaac Mole never
shunned the foe in his life."

"Yah, yah!" his spouse would gracefully smile in reply, "dat no fault
ob yours, Ikey Mole; de ignorant critters took off your legs because
you so often lost your legs before."

"Lost them before?"

"Yes."

"Before they were amputated, do you mean?"

"Yes."

"Why, Mrs. Mole," and he would draw himself up to his full height, "you
have been surely indulging in strong waters."

"No, sar; no, Ikey Mole, not dis gal, sar. You lose your legs continual
and your head too, sar, with strong waters--sperrits, sar, sperrits."

Poor Mole, he was no match for her, and could only turn for consolation
to where he had ever thought to drown dull care.

The bottle.

Mrs. Mole one day surprised him at a sly tipple in the grounds of the
villa, and he knew it to his sorrow.

Suddenly popping round the corner, Chloe emptied the contents of a pail
over his luckless head.

"Thar, you teetottler! you banderhoper, you good templar! Take a leetle
tiddy drop of water with your rum; makes lubly grog well mixed, yah,
yah!"

And then the amiable partner of his joys and sorrows bore off her empty
pail, leaving her husband to dry and shiver.

"Philosophy, my dear Mole," said the worthy Isaac to himself,
"philosophy is your physic; think of Socrates and be at ease--ugh! It's
precious damp--too much water. I must have an extra drop to keep the
cold out."

And up went that inexhaustible bottle again.

"Ha! Massa Ikey!" said a terrible voice close at hand, "you want some
more water to mix with it, do you?"

Mole clutched his bottle, jumped up, and rushed wildly to the house,
with his loving spouse after him with another pail of water.

* * * * *

From that time Mole scarcely dared have a suck at his bottle within
half a mile of the house.

One afternoon, having dined early, Mole went for a walk in the suburbs
of the town, and selecting a favourable spot, he reclined gracefully
and dropped off into a gentle slumber.

How long he slept he never knew until this hour.

All he knew was that he dreamt that he was the hero of some gallant
adventures, wherein the Greek brigands fell before his sword like corn
before the reaper's sickle; yea, as the phantom miscreants succumbed to
the onslaught of Don Quixote.

Now, while he slept, a man crawled out of the thicket upon all fours
and looked eagerly about him.

The singular part of this incident was that, although the sleeping Mole
was within six feet of the spot, he did not perceive him.

Mole was partly hidden by the thickly-grown bushes.

The man dragged himself painfully on; he was badly hurt.

One of his legs was broken, and he carried no less than three pistol
bullets in his body; in short, it was little less than marvellous that
he was able to crawl at all.

The history of this miserable wretch is soon told.

He had been shot down by the unerring aim of Nabley the detective, and
feeling himself badly hurt, he had sought safety in flight while there
was yet time.

Dragging his wounded body into the thickly-grown copse, he had lain
hidden from sight, baffling the keenest search; and here he had
presently lost consciousness.

Loss of blood and anguish had rendered the hapless wretch powerless to
help himself, and knowing well what little mercy he had to expect from
the Englishmen did they come upon him, had lain there in fear and
trembling at every sound until hunger was added to his other torments.

He was nearly blinded with a blow he had received on the face, and now
his only hope was to be able to crawl along until he came up with some
of his comrades, who would help him to regain their stronghold in the
mountains.

"Oh!" he groaned, "a blight upon the hand that struck me down. Oh!"

And the violence of his pains made him give a deep groan.

Mole moved.

Then opened his eyes; and waking, his glance fell upon a ghastly
looking object, pale and bloody, dragging itself along.

Coming towards him.

Mole gasped.

This was real, he knew at once; there was no doubt about that.

It was one of the Greek brigands, who had seen him asleep, no doubt,
and was about to do for him.

Poor Mole.

Cold beads of perspiration stood upon his brow.

A channel of sweat trickled down the small of his back.

His very wig stood up on his scalp with terror.

What should he do?

Alas! it would soon be all over with him.

The ghastly object crawled on.

A minute more and the wretched man would be up with him.

Now, poor old Mole had on occasions been what is called pot-valiant.

He sought his black bottle for Dutch courage; but before he could raise
it to his bloodless lips, the wounded man perceived him, and he gave a
cry of terror.

"Keep off!" cried Mole, his teeth rattling like a box of dominoes.

The wounded man, half blind as he was and frightened out of what little
sense remained to him, took the black bottle for another revolver such
as Nabley had carried; and having a wholesome dread of that terrible
weapon, he cowered down, hiding his face on the ground.

"Don't be violent," exclaimed the wretched Mole.

"Mercy, mercy!" implored the brigand.

"Have pity on me," said Mole, in abject terror.

"Do as you please with me," whined the brigand, "only for mercy's sake
don't fire again at such a poor wretch as I am."

"Think of my helpless condition," said Mole.

"I am done to death," said the brigand.

"I have two wooden legs," gasped Mole.

"Do what you will with me," cried the brigand, in despair, "only give
me water--a drop for mercy's sake."

And he prostrated himself in abject submission before the half dead
Mole.

Now the latter could not well misunderstand this attitude; but yet he
could scarcely believe the evidence of his senses.

"What's his game?" thought Mole; "he is trying the artful dodge on; and
he's going to jump up and give me one for myself--not for Isaac. By
jingo! What a topper I could give him as he lays there, what a--"

He stopped short.

"My eye! what a hole he has got in his head already."

And then by degrees, in spite of his fears, he was forced to see that
this piteous object was not dangerous.

As Mole rose up to look at the brigand, the latter made still more
signs of submission, and now he could no longer misunderstand.

It is difficult to say which feeling filled Mole most completely,
surprise or satisfaction.

"Oh, oh," cried Mole; "I feel that my heart tells me I have great
courage. Yes, I will capture this desperate brigand with my own brave
hands."

Here was a slice of luck.

"I'll just drive him home," said the crafty Isaac to himself, "and then
see if Chloe will dare to cheek me as she has done of late. I rather
flatter myself I shall take it out of Harkaway and Jefferson
themselves."

First, though, he meant to have one more suck at the black bottle.

But now again, to his intense surprise, at the sight of the bottle, the
wounded man cowered and shrank back in terror.

"Mercy, mercy, great captain," he implored; "as you are strong, be
merciful."

"What does he mean?" muttered the astonished Mole.

"Don't fire again," cried the wounded man feebly; "I never hurt one of
your friends. I am not responsible for the two boys' death. It was done
without my will, for I don't war with boys or women; ah, how I suffer."

"Don't fire! Why, what--ah, I see it; he takes the bottle for a pistol.

"March on then," he said in a terrible voice; "on with you, or I'll
fire."

"Don't, don't! mercy!"

"March on then, or I'll blow you to atoms," and he presented the black
bottle again.

The Greek held up his hands in supplication and moved on.

"Go on!" thundered Mole.

"I'll be your slave, your abject slave," groaned the brigand; "but oh,
great warrior, captain, spare my life."

"I'll eat you alive," hissed the cannibal Mole in his ear, "if you
don't walk faster."

"I will, I will."

"Faster still, or you die."

"Pity, pity."

"Bah!" said the fierce Isaac, contemptuously, "why should I have pity
on you after killing a score of your fellows with my own hand? Answer
me that."

The other was silent.

In this way, the valiant Mole drove the miserable wretch to the villa.

When, after a long and wearisome journey, they got within a stone's
throw of the grounds of the house, Mr. Mole was suddenly startled to
hear a loud, shrill cry of alarm, and who should appear before them but
Mrs. Mole herself?

"Whateber hab you there, Ikey?" she demanded.

"A prisoner, my dear," responded Mole.

"A what?" she exclaimed; "whose prisoner?"

"Mine."

"Yourn?"

"Pardon me, my dear--yours, not yourn. Yes, my prisoner," he added
modestly; "I have captured him."

"Where?"

"In the wood."

"What you doing there, Ikey?"

"I was on the hunt. I came across them--five, and a little warm work
went forward. The other four," he added significantly, "I have left on
their backs, with a pretty decent sign of my handiwork upon all of
them."

Chloe gasped.

"You're a drefful man," said Chloe; "and I'll run for Massa Harkaway."

And she dashed down the garden, crying out for Harkaway and Jefferson,
and goodness knows who besides.

They were ever upon the _qui vive_ for danger, so down they came
with a rush.

"Why, Mr. Mole," exclaimed Jefferson, "you have indeed got a prize."

"However did you manage it?" asked Harkaway, not a whit less startled.

Mole coughed.

"I felt that something was required of me," he answered, with touching
dignity and modesty combined, "and so I went on the hunt myself, and I
fell foul of a few of the Greek vampires."

"A few," echoed Jefferson, elevating his eyebrows; "a few, you said."

"Yes," replied Mr. Mole, "only five."

"Not more?" said Jefferson, laughing; "then you must have felt rather
bad in the inside."

"Never, sir," said Mole, getting more and more dignified; "but I left
the enemy rather unhappy, in the inside and the outside."

"Indeed!"

"This is the only survivor out of five; question him closely."

Mole had carefully ascertained that the wounded Greek didn't speak a
solitary word of English.

"Ask him, I say, what I did for his comrades; how I larded them--how I
peppered them, and made them cry peccavi. Damme, Jefferson, old boy,
you should have seen me in action; gad, sir, I'm like an old war-horse
at the first sniff of powder. Down they went, first one, then the
other. Hang me! if I didn't play at skittles with' em, and I was in
that humour, Harkaway, when you can't miss. I'd just cheek the corner
pin and make a royal every go. What do you think of that, Harkaway?"

Old Jack smiled.

"I'm not proficient enough in skittles to appreciate the feat," he
answered.

"And so you tackled all this lot single-handed?"

"Yes."

"How many?"

"Ten."

"I thought you said five."

"Ten, sir, ten in all; five came up at first, but in as many moments
they were all on their backs; and then up came another five of them,
each heavily armed. I never forget; hang it! I couldn't forget such a
job as that very easily. Five of the second lot fell at my first fire;
I toppled over three more, and the other one--"

What Mr. Mole might in his ardour have been tempted to draw for upon
his glowing fancy, it is impossible to say, for just as he reached this
point in his fanciful narration, up came Nabley.

"Hullo!" he said, as he caught sight of the wounded brigand; "here's
the missing man."

"This," cried the rest of the people present as if with one voice.

"Yes, this is the man I shot down at my first fire; he must have
crawled away to hide; why, where is Mr. Mole running to?"

The imaginative old gentleman suddenly vanished from the scene.

He did not relish the presence of such a witness as this.

"This is Mr. Mole's prisoner," said Jefferson, laughing; "you see he
has brought in one, after all."

"I bring you something better even then prisoners," said the detective.

"What is that?"

"Good news."

"Speak; what is it?"

"The brigands have given up Hunston."

Harkaway started at the words.

"That is news, indeed," he said; "and now justice demands that the
villain shall speedily hang."

CHAPTER XXX

THE FIG-TREE GROVE--A DOUBLE AMBUSCADE--THE LEECH-FISHER--HOW
THE TRAP WAS BAITED, AND HOW IT TOOK--SOMETHING LIKE THE OLD FORM--
TRIUMPHANT MARCH OF HARKAWAY AND CO.

Within an hour--nay, less--of the foregoing conversation you might have
seen an aged man wending his weary way along the high road from Athens
towards the mountains.

Thickly-grown fig trees leant over the road, and their well-garnished
branches formed a roof of foliage through which no ray of sunlight
could penetrate.

He seemed an aged man.

His steps tottered.

It was strange that he did not seek the aid of a stout staff, or
walking stick at least.

But no, he preferred to keep his hands in his coat pockets.

Now the coat he wore was a full-skirted frock, much resembling in shape
the garment which was worn by our grandfathers, or their fathers, when
George the Third was king, with huge pockets in the skirts and lappets.

And into these big pockets the old wanderer's arms were buried up to
the elbows.

Perhaps it was because he felt somewhat chilly.

There was a gentle breeze blowing through the trees.

As he went along, he shot sly glances from time to time about him,
almost as if he were expecting someone; but he had got nearly over a
third of the distance down the fig-tree grove before there were the
faintest signs of life about him, and there, apparently overcome by the
fatigue of his walk, he dropped down upon a moss-grown bank to rest.

He looked up at the leafy canopy overhead, and sniffed down the sweet
odours that floated along on the gentlest of zephyrs.

"Not such bad quarters," he muttered to himself (it was in English that
he spoke); "not at all bad. There is only one thing required to make
this the happiest day of my life; only one thing, and that is, success
in my present undertaking--"

He paused.

"Hark!"

What was it?

He heard a faint rustling in the foliage hard by.

This part of the country was reported to be infested with thieves, the
regular hunting grounds of the brigands.

A faint smile lurked round the corners of the old man's mouth, and
there was a twinkle in his eye.

"At last," he muttered to himself, "at last!"

Just then there was a noise as of branches being pushed aside and dry
twigs being crushed; and forth stepped a stalwart peasant, all in rags
and tatters, and placed himself, hat in hand, before the old man.

"Hullo!" exclaimed the latter, "why, where did you come from?"

And yet his surprise looked more assumed than real.

"Charity!" replied the beggar.

"Charity!" echoed the old man, fumbling in his pockets, "by all means;
take this, my honest fellow."

So saying, he dropped a piece of money into his open palm.

"Gold! Yes, a golden piece, by all the saints in the calendar."

The beggar's eyes glistened greedily at the piece.

"Heaven bless you!" he exclaimed; "may you live for ever."

"Don't wish me that," responded the old man; "that is no blessing."

"Not with your riches?" said the mendicant

"No."

"You are not easily satisfied then."

And then came forth from the beggar a strange sound.

Was it a signal?

It almost appeared to be the result of a preconcerted arrangement, for
while the sound of his laughter echoed down the leafy grove, there was
a crashing of branches and general breaking of the dried twigs and
undergrowth, and out swarmed a group of men numbering perhaps ten or a
dozen.

A villanous-looking mob they were too.

They surrounded the old man and were about to attack him, when the
first man who had already profited by the old man's charity warned them
off.

"There is no need for violence here," said he, hurriedly, and speaking
in their native language; "he will give us up all he has got without so
much as dirtying a knife over him."

The old man laughed.

A dry, cynical laugh it was too, and almost calculated to make one
believe that he had understood what they said.

"Who are these people?" he asked of the first beggar.

"Poor men worthy of your pious charity, like myself," was the reply.

"Then they shall have it," replied the old man; "more than they
expect."

He looked around him rather anxiously, as if expecting some more people
to arrive.

Now that glance was observed by more than one of the men, and it was no
very difficult matter to excite suspicion in their minds.

"He expects someone," said the foremost man of the party; "he is a
spy."

"See how he's looking about him," observed another. "What shall we do?"

"Kill him at once."

"Yes, kill him."

"On to him."

And the speaker himself was the first to act upon his own counsel.

He stepped forward to catch the old man by the coat, but the latter,
retreating a couple of paces, appeared startled.

"Keep your distance, my masters," he said; "keep your distance, because
I am a very dangerous fellow."

They laughed at this.

"Dangerous, you are?" cried one of them, "oh, oh! what is your name?"

"Why, they call me the leech-fisher."

"The leech-fisher!"

"Yes."

"What for?"

"Because I am my own trap and bait and all,"

They looked puzzled.

"He's mad."

"Daft as he can be."

"Poor old fool. But let us get his money if he has any, without killing
him."

"Money!" echoed the self-styled leech-fisher. "Here's plenty."

And with these words he threw a pile of gold pieces upon the ground,
making all the lawless ruffians' eyes glisten greedily.

"You don't seem yet to understand the parable of the leech-fisher,"
said the singular old man. "You are dense blockheads."

"Ha, ha, ha! hear him," cried the first beggar. "He is quite a treat."

"What I meant was that I am a trap for you. I have set myself to catch
you; I am the bait; the leech fishers are their own bait, I am my own.
So now come on, my merry men, my unbelieving pagans."

One of the men here laid a rough hand upon his shoulder, when there was
a loud explosion.

A flash and smoke issued from the old man's square coat pocket, and the
brigand staggered back.

The rest of the party looked utterly amazed.

What was it?

"An ambuscade," ejaculated one of them.

"No, no; it came from the old man's coat skirt. See, it is smoking."

There was a small round hole in the cloth, and it was singed and smelt
of gunpowder.

"Death to the spy!" cried the Greeks.

Two of the brigands fell upon him, one on each side, when lo! there was
a double explosion, and with loud cries of pain, each fell back dead.

The rest of the brigands now began to recover from the state of
stupefaction into which this sudden and unexpected attack had thrown
them, and accustomed to rapid action upon emergencies such as the
present, they prepared to fall simultaneously upon this ancient Tartar.

"Oh, oh! What, you think to capture me, do you?" he cried.

In an instant all his feebleness had dropped, and lo! he appeared a
very nimble man.

Springing back about six feet, he drew both hands from those capacious
pockets to which we recently drew the reader's attention, and then the
mystery was revealed.

Each had held a six-barrelled revolver.

"How like you my music, you ruffians?" cried the strange man. "Oh, what
would I give if my poor friend Pike was with me now!"

Bang!

Another shot, and another _hors de combat._

The foremost of the brigands rolled over, stone dead.

This was warm work.

But as if it had not grown hot enough, there suddenly appeared upon the
scene two men armed with rifles and revolvers.

These two men were crack shots, unluckily for the brigands, and they
speedily gave proof of their skill.

Two of the mountaineers bit the dust before they could dream of helping
themselves.

Not three minutes had elapsed since the firing of the first shot, and
already six men were down.

"Surrender!" said one of the new-comers, in a loud, authoritative
voice.

But instead of responding, one of the Greeks drew a pistol and levelled
it at the towering figure of Harkaway, for of course he was one of the
marksmen, but before he could pull the trigger, bang went another
chamber of the old man's revolver, and the pistol fell to the ground.

The hand which had held it was helpless, the arm shattered at the
elbow.

There was in truth something dreadful in this carnage.

But neither Harkaway nor Jefferson thought any thing of this.

Indeed, horrible as it may sound, they killed a brigand with as little
compunction as they would have slaughtered a wolf.

"Surrender!" cried Harkaway, for the second time. "Yield now, or by
Heaven, you shall all die on the field."

The Greeks looked around for assistance.

They were five.

The enemy only three.

As a rule, these ruffians were not deficient in bulldog courage and
ferocity, but this desperate fighting had surprised and frightened
them.

"Yield, ruffians, to better men than yourselves."

They paused.

"To pause is death," cried Jack Harkaway, in a loud voice.

As the last word was spoken, up went the two rifles.

"Nabley," cried the American.

"All right," answered the disguised old man.

"Look after that outside brigand on your left."

"I will, and his neighbour, too?"

"If you can."

"I am thinking of my murdered friend, Pike, and I feel I can take
twenty such vagabonds!" echoed the detective, fiercely.

"I'll take that big fellow, Jeff," said Harkaway. "You pot the other."

"Good."

"Now, then, you villains, when I count three, look out," said the
detective, with a mild expletive.

Not mild enough for repetition here, by the way.

"One, two--"

The brigands, having held a hurried consultation, here threw down their
arms.

Just in the very nick of time.

Two seconds more and they would have had no chance.

"Now," cried Harkaway, still with the gun ready for use, "forward!
march!"

The brigands looked mischievous for a moment.

So did the rifles.

So did the revolver.

These two weapons were great persuaders.

With slow, unwilling steps the five men marched onward into captivity.

"I'll see to the wounded," said the detective.

Four of the brigands had been killed outright.

Others were writhing on the ground and using bad language.

"Two and four make six," muttered Mr. Nabley; "six and four are ten.
Why, I could have sworn that there were eleven. Yes, certainly there
was another. Where the deuce could he have got to?"

The most diligent search, that is, the most diligent search possible
under the circumstances, failed to find the faintest trace of the
missing man.

"That's the one I gave that smack in the face," said Nabley to himself.
"Well, I know I gave it to him pretty warm besides that. He hasn't got
far. He has crawled somewhere to die, I suppose. Well, well, I can't
deny him that little luxury."

And then, by dint of threatening the wounded with instant death, he
persuaded them to crawl after the rest.

* * * * *
And when our three adventurers marched into the town with their
prisoners between them, there was a loud outcry.

Cheers, bravos, huzzahs, at every step of the way.

"That's the Englishman Harkaway," said one of the bystanders, as they
marched onward towards the prison, "and that is the American
Jefferson."

"Dreadful men those to make enemies of. I have heard that Harkaway has
destroyed hundreds of brigands and pirates."

"Yes, I have heard so," answered the other. "It was an evil moment for
those villains of brigands when they shot the poor young Harkaways.
They will lose many a life for those two."

"Ah, that they will."

"Who is that driving the two wounded men before him?"

"That is an English secret police officer. He is even more dangerous
than the others. He has killed four men with his own hands in this
skirmish. I believe an old friend of his has been murdered by the
brigands, and he has sworn to have revenge."

"It is taking the law into their own hands with a vengeance."

"All honour to them for their bravery."

"Three cheers for Harkaway!"

CHAPTER XXXI.

THE SECRET WORK GOES ON--WHO IS THE TRAITOR?--THE FALL OF A
FAVOURITE--THE RECRUIT'S MUSINGS--A STRANGE REVELATION.

It was true.

Hunston had been given up by the brigands.

They knew but little of Harkaway, but that little told them that he was
not the man to make a false assertion.

They felt sure that Hunston had received more money for the ransom of
the boys than he had acknowledged, and so they voted his doom.

Under ordinary circumstances he would have been shot.

As it was, they had learnt so terribly to respect Harkaway that they
gave up his enemy in preference to taking the law in their own hands.

Not a day passed but one or more of the brigands suffered at the hands
of the enemy whose revenge they had so unwisely provoked.

Let them go armed, with a support of armed men within easy call and on
the watch, it could not avail them.

They were picked off, slowly, surely, quietly, mysteriously.

And this was the chief reason that they sought to negotiate with the
Harkaway party by giving up their enemy Hunston.

But still the work went on.

There was only one man in the whole band who had the courage to lay the
facts before them.

"We must move away from this part of the country," he said. "Once let
us see how matters turn out with our comrades who have fallen into the
hands of these English people, and then we must be gone."

But while they waited more fell.

Several got taken prisoners, and the band presented a very thin
appearance.

The day of trial approached for the brigands, of whom Hunston was one.

And the verdict was universally foreseen.

They were condemned to death for the murder of the two boys, Harry
Girdwood and young Jack.

In five days they were to be executed.

In the court there was one person who heard the sentence with the
greatest possible terror.

This was Theodora.

Why should it so affect her?

It was surely not that she could have any sympathy with such rogues and
murdering villains.

Justice was swift in the execution of its decrees here, and the
condemned brigands were doomed to death within five days.

"Five days!" Theodora repeated to herself again and again, as she left
the court. "Five days! So short. Well, then I must my do duty come what
may. To-morrow may yet be in time--or the next day."

Still she was sorely perplexed.

"If I avow all, I shall incur the undying enmity of the band," she
reasoned; "and if I keep silent, I shall be the murderess of those men
--men with whom I have grown up and been taught to look upon as
brothers."

She had some strange secret upon her mind which troubled her sorely.

In her dire perplexity she went to the camp, and did her best to excite
the men to an effort on behalf of their imperilled comrades.

Pedro listened to all she had to say.

Then he gave his opinion.

"We are clearly bound to make an effort to save our friends," he said;
"we can not let our comrades perish without attempting to save them."

"No, no!" answered the brigands, with one voice.

But perhaps the most demonstrative of all was the last recruit who had
joined the brigands--the Englishman, known amongst his new comrades as
Geoffrey, the discharged servant of Harkaway.

"When shall the attempt be made?" said Pedro; "that is the next
question."

"At once," said Toro.

He looked around for some supporters; but he looked in vain.

Toro was no longer in good odour.

His connection with Hunston had rendered him exceedingly unpopular.

He was too daring a spirit for them to break out into open murmurs, but
quietly he was deposed; and then Pedro was admitted as leader.

When the question of giving up Hunston to the enemy was first mooted,
Toro had violently opposed it; but his was the one solitary voice that
was lifted for his old comrade.

"The only chance of success," suggested Pedro, "is to wait and attack
the procession on the way to execution. The prison itself is too well
defended for us to hope for success."

"That's true," said Geoffrey; "and failure would ruin them."

"Surely."

It was arranged consequently that the attempt should be made upon the
day appointed for the execution.

The utmost secrecy should be kept as to their plans.

"Let not a word be breathed of our resolves anywhere," said Pedro,
"unless we are all together in council assembled, for I fear that we
have had a traitor in our camp."

"A traitor!"

"Aye."

"One or more?"

"One, at least, would not surprise me after all that has occurred."

"Nor me either," said Geoffrey.

Saying which, he glanced significantly over his shoulder in the
direction of Toro.

The latter, on the rejection of his plan, had stalked moodily away, and
was walking up and down buried in bitter reflections.

"Hah!"

"If I could believe that possible," exclaimed one of the brigands, "it
would be a speedy end of his rule here."

Saying which he drew his long dagger significantly.

"Well, well," said Geoffrey, who acted cautiously, and was satisfied at
having unsettled their minds with regard to the Italian bravo, "let us
seek the traitor, and when found--." He left the rest unsaid; but they
knew well what was meant.

The only person quitting the camp was Lerna.

So that no traitor could well carry the news to the enemy this time.

"Let no precaution be neglected," said Pedro; "we must choose trusty
sentinels. I'll take the watch at the gap myself."

"Good."

"Geoffrey."

"Present, captain."

Toro gave a start at that reply, which clearly gave the death-knell to
his own command.

"Do you mount guard at the cross roads below."

"Leading to the fountain avenue, do you mean, captain?"

"Yes."

"Good."

And shouldering his musket, he gave a stiff salute and marched off.

"Perhaps you would not have far to look for traitors," said Toro, as
Geoffrey disappeared, "did not your prejudices blind you."

"Do you allude to Geoffrey?" asked Pedro, coldly.

"Judge for yourself."

"Speak out boldly."

"I have been bold enough for you," said Toro, passionately,

"Speak in the presence of him you would accuse."

"I fear no man here" cried Toro.

"Nor does any man fear you."

"Then by thunder, he shall!" and out came his sword.

At this unmistakable demonstration several of the brigands made signs
of cutting in, and the Italian saw that it was a desperate game he was
venturing on.

He saw it just in time, for the brigands were ready, one and all, to
fall upon him with dagger and sword.

Gradually he fell back and left them, but the seed was sown.

The few words which Geoffrey had spoken had done their duty well.

"So, so" muttered Geoffrey, as he went; "Hunston is done for, and Toro
shall soon follow. Thirty-two men have been 'dropped' for our dear
boys--thirty-two. Gad! but it is a goodly number. They will learn to
respect the name of Jack Harkaway in this miserable land--and to rue
the day that they molested anyone of us. Thirty-two--aye, and the rest
shall follow, as sure as my name is--Who goes there! Speak! By Heaven,
stop! Nabley--just in time, but silence."

CHAPTER XXXII.

THEODORA'S ERRAND--FATAL NEWS--THE MYSTERY DEEPENS--HER
RESOLVE--TO THE VILLA--INTERVIEW WITH HARKAWAY--THE VOICE FROM THE
GRAVE--A HEART OF GOLD.

Theodora now made her way with all speed to the waterside prison, to
which allusion has been previously made.

The head gaoler of this prison had a daughter of the same age as
Theodora.

His wife had nursed them both as babes, and Theodora looked upon them
as her parents, and on the girl as her sister.

To them she was wont to appeal at any time of trouble, and now she came
to tell them her cares.

She asked for her foster sister, and called her aside.

"What is it now, Theodora dear?" asked the gaoler's daughter,
anxiously. "You look quite pale and haggard."

Theodora shook her head sadly.

"I have got involved in a matter in which I am responsible."

"But the evil is over?"

"No."

"As far as you are concerned, is it, dear?"

"No; I say no. Are not our men to be executed for the murder of the two
boys?"

"And richly they deserve it," exclaimed Mariana.

"No, no. They can not deserve it for what they are innocent of."

"It is no fault of theirs," retorted the gaoler's daughter; "They are
guilty in intention, at least."

"Well, well, Mariana. I am not so base that I could see them suffer
death, knowing what I know--what we know, in fact."

"But you would not betray me?" exclaimed the gaoler's daughter,
anxiously.

"No, darling. The necessity for danger to you--to us, I may say--is
entirely done away with."

"What do you mean?"

"The gallant men will rescue their comrades on Thursday on the way to
the execution."

"What!" said Mariana; "Thursday!"

"Yes."

"Then you don't know," she exclaimed, with a wild scared look.

"Know what?"

"That it has been changed. They are to be executed in the morning."

Theodora gave a cry of terror and staggered back.

"No, no, Mariana," she said, wildly; "it is impossible."

"It is true"

"When was this made known?"

"Just now."

"Why was it altered?"

"Because they have discovered that an attack was meditated by the
brigands upon the way to execution on Thursday."

"Impossible!" cried Theodora, starting up. "Why, it was only just
agreed upon. I have left them not two hours ago, and it was then that
they came to this resolution."

"It is already known here. A messenger from the great Mr. Harkaway
sought the governor with the news, and as Mr. Harkaway is all-powerful
here, the execution takes place to-morrow morning at daybreak. It is
said that he has his own spies in the camp of the brigands."

Theodora clapped her hands to her head, and paced wildly up and down.

"There is no way out of it, dear Mariana," she cried. "No way, no way,
but one."

"What is that?"

"I will see this Mr. Harkaway, and tell him all."

"But you will ruin us all."

"No. He will be overjoyed with the news I bring, and will do as I wish
--all I ask to repay me for the words of comfort which I have for him."

"I doubt it."

"I know him well," retorted Theodora. "I know his boys too well to
believe the father so bad and merciless as you suppose him. All his
enmity would be forgotten could he but believe the glad tidings which I
have for him."

"Then the knowledge of this will risk all our lives."

"No; I am convinced that all will be well."

"Theodora!"

"Delay me not. My duty points clearly to that."

And before she could offer to interfere further with her resolve,
Theodora was gone.

She fled like a deer.

Nor did she pause for breath until she was at the villa.

* * * * *

"Mr. Harkaway will not see anyone," said the servant.

She eyed the panting girl with suspicion, as Theodora leant for support
by the door, while her left hand clasped her beating heart.

The tragic events of the past few weeks, and the murder of Marietta in
Mrs. Harkaway's bedchamber, had led them to distrust every body and
every thing.

"I must see him," gasped Theodora.

"Impossible," returned the girl curtly; "call to-morrow in the
afternoon."

"Afternoon," returned Theodora. "After six in the morning will be too
late. It is life and death, I tell you. Go and tell him."

"Obstinate girl, I tell you Mr. Harkaway has serious business on at
daybreak, and has gone to rest, giving the strictest orders that he is
not to be disturbed."

"Call him," returned Theodora, with forced calmness, "and he will have
no need to go on this business at daybreak."

"Hah!"

"Do you hear?"

The girl retreated backwards, never moving her eyes from Theodora.

"This is some hired assassin." she thought. "They can't tackle my
master, and knowing how wary he is, they have hired a girl to do the
deed."

She was about to thrust to the door, when Theodora, in sheer despair,
burst in, and cried at the top of her voice to Harkaway--

"Mr. Harkaway! Mr. Harkaway; come, come and hear news of your poor
boys, I say."

At this wild outcry in the middle of his house, Jack stepped out of his
room.

"Keep back, sir; keep back," screamed the servant "She's an assassin."

At these words Harkaway slipped back into his room, and reappeared
armed with a pair of pistols.

"Now, what is it you require, my girl?" he demanded of Theodora.

"A few words with you."

"Don't trust her," shrieked the servant; "I saw a knife in her girdle.
Don't trust her."

Theodora smiled faintly.

"I am alone, unarmed," she said; "the great Mr. Harkaway, the hero of
the day here, is surely not afraid of me."

"I am afraid of no one," returned Jack; "but I warn you, my girl, that
if any treachery be meditated, each of these pistols carries a man's
life."

"It can not affect me," returned Theodora, calmly. "I come to bring you
news which will gladden your heart, and have no fear of your enmity."

Her words and her manner thrilled Harkaway strangely. He lowered the
pistols.

He had her shown into a room, and followed her in.

"Sit down there, my girl, and tell me all," he said, trying to appear
composed, while he was in reality singularly moved.

"I come, Mr. Harkaway," said Theodora, who had now regained all her
calmness, "to bring you the most welcome news that ever gladdened your
ear--that ever sent balm and comfort to your bruised heart."

Jack turned pale; he thought he had heard her speak of his boys before
leaving his room.

"Speak on," he said, his voice faltering.

"Tell me, sir, what could I say that would restore happiness to you--to
your wife--to your friends and home? What could I say to lift the veil
of mourning from your house and hearts?--to restore the former gaiety
to this tomb-like place."

Jack Harkaway listened as one in a dream.

"Girl," he said, in a voice that was almost inaudible, "you know not
what you say."

"I am perfectly cognisant of all," she replied.

"Then your errand here is to torture me?"

"You wrong me."

Harkaway looked her sternly in the face.

And Theodora bore his glance without flinching.

"Your manner tells me," he said, "that you know better than any one
what alone could restore happiness here."

"You are right."

And she gravely inclined her head as she answered.

"And you know it is impossible," he said.

"It is not."

"Not impossible!" ejaculated Harkaway. "Know you what you say?"

"Perfectly."

"Girl, girl," cried Harkaway, passionately, "the grave can not give
back its dead."

"It does--it has."

Harkaway gasped for breath.

She was about to speak on, when the ghastly pallor of his countenance
and its wild, haggard expression frightened her.

"Girl, go on, tell me," he cried excitedly; "do not play with me."

"Calm yourself, Mr. Harkaway, pray--"

"Go on, go on."

"You alarm me."

"Speak, in mercy's sake," implored Harkaway; "this suspense is ten
thousand times worse than all the good or bad news which you could
bring me--are you fooling me?" he added springing up and seizing his
pistols.

"No."

"Speak on then."

"Your son Jack--"

"Yes, yes; my boy--my own darling brave lad--what of him?"

The girl suddenly turned pale. "Hark," she said, "I think I hear
footsteps outside; quick! to the window; I think we are watched," and
the girl sank in terror at Jack's feet.

Harkaway, with one bound, sprang to the window, pistol in hand, ready
for use.

But it was a false alarm; and, having satisfied himself that there were
no eavesdroppers, Harkaway returned to his seat, and the girl resumed--

"Are you able to bear good news?"

"Yes," he said, with a sickly smile; "the novelty would perhaps affect
me--speak then--you said my boy--"

"Lives," answered the girl.

"Impossible," he faltered; "why, Harvey saw their grave."

"And I too saw them in their grave."

"In their grave!" echoed Harkaway; "and yet you say they live."

"Yes."

"Where are they?"

"Close at hand; but I wish to ask you in return--"

"All you will--anything, everything--only bring me back my boys."

"I only ask to save the lives of the men unjustly accused of the
murder, and who have been doomed to die to-morrow."

"Granted--why, it was granted unasked," said Harkaway.

"Enough," said the girl; "I see that I may count upon you. Will you
come with me to your son and his friend?"

"Yes."

He sprang up with the greatest alacrity, but a sudden fancy crossed
him, and he seized the girl by the shoulder.

"You are not playing me false?" said Jack.

"Look in my face and be assured."

He gazed long and earnestly at her, and she bore his fixed look
unflinchingly.

"Yes, yes," he said, more to himself than to her; "you are truthful--I
am sure of that--but I'll not neglect any precaution; for my head is so
sorely perplexed by all you have told me that I scarcely know if I am
asleep or waking."

He pressed his brow with his open hands, and then looking carefully to
the priming of his revolvers, he started out with the girl; and as they
issued from the grounds of the villa, he spoke his last words of
mistrust before giving her his whole confidence.

"You see, Theodora," he said, for she had told him her name, "I don't
hang back. I freely confide in you."

"You do well."

"I believe so--see that my confidence is not misplaced, and you shall
have no cause to repent it."

"Your words would imply a promise of reward for me; but I seek none."

"I am willing to believe it, but still my fixed resolve--"

"Your fixed resolve could not make me take it," said the girl, proudly.
"I have told you my object in my present mission; I have no other."

Harkaway was greatly surprised at this, but as he stole a sidelong
glance at her, surprise was not the only expression in his face.

Admiration was strongly mixed with it.

"Tell me where we are going?" he asked presently, as they got clear of
the town.

"To the prison by the water."

"What for?"

"They are there."

"But in prison--how came they there? In prison! Why, then, without
knowing it, I have been probably twenty times within earshot of both."

"Yes."

"How came they there?--no half measures now. Surely this is the time
for revealing all?"

"And now, Mr. Harkaway, I will tell you all as we walk on. The seeming
mystery shall remain so no longer."

So saying, Theodora began the brief but startling narrative which
follows--and which may fairly be entitled--

THE DEAD ALIVE.

"Your dear son Jack and his friend Harry Girdwood saved my life when I
was in danger of drowning at sea. They brought me safely ashore, only
to fall into the hands of my remorseless companions, the mountaineers.
Ah, I see you would call them by something less gentle in sound. Well,
it was a planned thing. I was the decoy, but alas! I thought but little
then how soon I was to repent of my share in that evil work."

"Go on."

"I will, to the end, even though you should learn to loathe me. Well, a
price was put on their heads."

"Which I paid."

"You paid one-fifth."

"No, no; I paid all, as demanded."

"Hunston returned to the camp with only one hundred pounds, and they
voted the death of the two boys. Poor boys! both brave boys. The
bravest veteran on the battlefield never faced death with the heroic
calmness of those two young heroes, sir."

"Bless you for those words, my girl," exclaimed the gratified Harkaway.
"I am proud of my dear boy."

"I demanded their release--I implored--I begged--I prayed in the most
abject terms. But they had felt the weight of your hand too often. They
and theirs had suffered so much that I was powerless. I could only
obtain one small concession."

"Say on, say on!" exclaimed Harkaway. "What was that? I burn with
eagerness to know more of my dear boys."

"I was to do the last sad honours to the noble dead. Three were to be
executed; one of themselves, a traitor called Lirico. By dissimulating
to Hunston--the viper! how I tremble with horror at the very name--I
obtained one concession--Lirico was the first to suffer, the boys were
to follow."

"Oh, Hunston! villain!" groaned Harkaway, "villain!"

"The execution took place at daybreak. I waited on the firing party.
When the wretched Lirico was dealt upon, I passed round and gave the
men to drink from a spirit keg which I had specially provided. Then,
while they feasted upon the drugged spirit, I passed round and reloaded
the muskets for what they thought the final butchery."

"Well, well, do not torture me, girl. Quick, tell me the end."

"Can you not guess?"

"No, no. Quick, tell me all."

"In loading the muskets I forgot the bullets."

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed old Jack, half-hysterically. "I see it all now,
brave girl."

"The rest was no easy task. As the men fired, they fell back in the
grave and simulated death, as I had instructed them overnight; and now
you can understand how I saw them in the grave and yet can prove that
they live."

"I do. Girl, you are brave and good; I know not how to thank you for
the lives of my poor boys."

"The night before their great trial, I exacted a solemn promise from
them that they would follow me to a hiding place without the least
offer of resistance."

"I begin to see. But how did you contrive--"

"To get them secreted in the great prison?"

"Yes."

"You shall hear. My foster-sister is the daughter of the head gaoler.
Her lover is completely at her mercy, and he holds a superior post in
the prison. It was the only condition upon which I could spare the
brave boys' lives, and so they were forced to yield."

"And all this time we might have been spared the bitterest agony."

She hung her head.

"I know it, but I dared not speak sooner, for I feared to betray my

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