Part 4 out of 7
'Where she is?'
'Yes, where she is. That is it; where she is. You were to meet her here,
you know. You are late and she has gone. But you will know whither.'
Mr. Dunborough stared; then in a tempest of wrath and chagrin, 'D----n
you!' he cried furiously. 'As you know so much, you can find out
'I could,' said Sir George slowly. 'But I prefer that you should help
me. And you will.'
'Will help me, sir,' Sir George answered quickly, 'to find the lady we
'I'll be hanged if I will,' Dunborough cried, raging and furious.
'You'll be hanged if you won't,' Sir George said in a changed tone; and
he laughed contemptuously. 'Hanged by the neck until you are dead, Mr.
Dunborough--if money can bring it about. You fool,' he continued, with a
sudden flash of the ferocity that had from the first underlain his
sarcasm, 'we have got enough from your own lips to hang you, and if more
be wanted, your people will peach on you. You have put your neck into
the halter, and there is only one way, if one, in which you can take it
out. Think, man; think before you speak again,' he continued savagely,
'for my patience is nearly at an end, and I would sooner see you hang
than not. And look you, leave your reins alone, for if you try to turn,
by G--d, I'll shoot you like the dog you are!'
Whether he thought the advice good or bad, Mr. Dunborough took it; and
there was a long silence. In the distance the hoof-beats of the
servant's horse, approaching from the direction of Chippenham, broke the
stillness of the moonlit country; but round the three men who sat
motionless in their saddles, glaring at one another and awaiting the
word for action, was a kind of barrier, a breathlessness born of
expectation. At length Dunborough spoke.
'What do you want?' he said in a low tone, his voice confessing his
defeat. 'If she is not here, I do not know where she is.'
'That is for you,' Sir George answered with a grim coolness that
astonished Mr. Fishwick. 'It is not I who will hang if aught happen
Again there was silence. Then in a voice choked with rage Mr. Dunborough
cried, 'But if I do not know?'
'The worse for you,' said Sir George. He was sorely tempted to put the
muzzle of a pistol to the other's head and risk all. But he fancied that
he knew his man, and that in this way only could he be effectually
cowed; and he restrained himself.
'She should be here--that is all I know. She should have been here,' Mr.
Dunborough continued sulkily, 'at eight.'
'The fools would not take her through Chippenham without me. Now you
'It is ten, now.'
'Well, curse you,' the younger man answered, flaring up again, 'could I
help it if my horse fell? Do you think I should be sitting here to be
rough-ridden by you if it were not for this?' He raised his right arm,
or rather his shoulder, with a stiff movement; they saw that the arm was
bound to his side. 'But for that she would be in Bristol by now,' he
continued disdainfully, 'and you might whistle for her. But, Lord, here
is a pother about a college-wench!'
'College-wench, sir?' the lawyer cried scarcely controlling his
indignation. 'She is Sir George Soane's cousin. I'd have you know that!'
'And my promised wife,' Sir George said, with grim-ness.
Dunborough cried out in his astonishment. 'It is a lie!' he said.
'As you please,' Sir George answered.
At that, a chill such as he had never known gripped Mr. Dunborough's
heart. He had thought himself in an unpleasant fix before; and that to
escape scot free he must eat humble pie with a bad grace. But on this a
secret terror, such as sometimes takes possession of a bold man who
finds himself helpless and in peril seized on him. Given arms and the
chance to use them, he would have led the forlornest of hopes, charged a
battery, or fired a magazine. But the species of danger in which he now
found himself--with a gallows and a silk rope in prospect, his fate to
be determined by the very scoundrels he had hired--shook even his
obstinacy. He looked about him; Sir George's servant had come up and was
waiting a little apart.
Mr. Dunborough found his lips dry, his throat husky. 'What do you want?'
he muttered, his voice changed. 'I have told you all I know. Likely
enough they have taken her back to get themselves out of the scrape.'
'They have not,' said the lawyer. 'We have come that way, and must have
'They may be in Chippenham?'
'They are not. We have inquired.'
'Then they must have taken this road. Curse you, don't you see that I
cannot get out of my saddle to look?' he continued ferociously.
'They have gone this way. Have you any devil's shop--any house of call
down the road?' Sir George asked, signing to the servant to draw nearer.
'Then we must track them. If they dared not face Chippenham, they will
not venture through Devizes. It is possible that they are making for
Bristol by cross-roads. There is a bridge over the Avon near Laycock
Abbey, somewhere on our right, and a road that way through
'That will be it,' cried Mr. Dunborough, slapping his thigh. 'That is
their game, depend upon it.'
Sir George did not answer him, but nodded to the servant. 'Go on with
the light,' he said. 'Try every turning for wheels, but lose no time.
This gentleman will accompany us, but I will wait on him.'
The man obeyed quickly, the lawyer going with him. The other two
brought up the rear, and in that order they started, riding in silence.
For a mile or more the servant held the road at a steady trot; then
signing to those behind him to halt, he pulled up at the mouth of a
by-road leading westwards from the highway. He moved the light once or
twice across the ground, and cried that the wheels had gone that way;
then got briskly to his saddle and swung along the lane at a trot, the
others following in single file, Sir George last.
So far they had maintained a fair pace. But the party had not proceeded
a quarter of a mile along the lane before the trot became a walk. Clouds
had come over the face of the moon; the night had grown dark. The riders
were no longer on the open downs, but in a narrow by-road, running
across wastes and through thick coppices, the ground sloping sharply to
the Avon. In one place the track was so closely shadowed by trees as to
be as dark as a pit. In another it ran, unfenced, across a heath studded
with water-pools, whence the startled moor-fowl squattered up unseen.
Everywhere they stumbled: once a horse fell. Over such ground,
founderous and scored knee-deep with ruts, it was plain that no wheeled
carriage could move at speed; and the pursuers had this to cheer them.
But the darkness of the night, the dreary glimpses of wood and water,
which met the eye when the moon for a moment emerged, the solitude of
this forest tract, the muffled tread of the horses' feet, the very
moaning of the wind among the trees, suggested ideas and misgivings
which Sir George strove in vain to suppress. Why had the scoundrels gone
this way? Were they really bound for Bristol? Or for some den of
villainy, some thieves' house in the old forest?
At times these fears stung him out of all patience, and he cried to the
man with the light to go faster, faster! Again, the whole seemed
unreal, and the shadowy woods and gleaming water-pools, the stumbling
horses, the fear, the danger, grew to be the creatures of a disordered
fancy. It was an immense joy to him when, at the end of an hour, the
lawyer cried, 'The road! the road!' and one by one the riders emerged
with grunts of relief on a sound causeway. To make sure that the pursued
had nowhere evaded them, the tracks of the chaise-wheels were sought and
found, and forward the four went again. Presently they plunged through a
brook, and this passed, were on Laycock bridge before they knew it, and
across the Avon, and mounting the slope on the other side by
There were houses abutting on the road here, black overhanging masses
against a grey sky, and the riders looked, wavered, and drew rein.
Before any spoke, however, an unseen shutter creaked open, and a voice
from the darkness cried, 'Hallo!'
Sir George found speech to answer. 'Yes,' he said, 'what is it?' The
lawyer was out of breath, and clinging to the mane in sheer weariness.
'Be you after a chaise driving to the devil?'
'Yes, yes,' Sir George answered eagerly. 'Has it passed, my man?'
'Ay, sure, Corsham way, for Bath most like, I knew 'twould be followed.
Is't a murder, gentlemen?'
'Yes,' Sir George cried hurriedly, 'and worse! How far ahead are they?'
'About half an hour, no more, and whipping and spurring as if the old
one was after them. My old woman's sick, and the apothecary from--'
'Is it straight on?'
'Ay, to be sure, straight on--and the apothecary from Corsham, as I was
saying, he said, said he, as soon as he saw her--'
But his listeners were away again; the old man's words were lost in the
scramble and clatter of the horses' shoes as they sprang forward. In a
moment the stillness and the dark shapes of the houses were exchanged
for the open country, the rush of wind in the riders' faces, and the
pounding of hoofs on the hard road. For a brief while the sky cleared
and the moon shone out, and they rode as easily as in the day. At the
pace at which they were moving Sir George calculated that they must come
up with the fugitives in an hour or less; but the reckoning was no
sooner made than the horses, jaded by the heavy ground through which
they had struggled, began to flag and droop their heads; the pace grew
less and less; and though Sir George whipped and spurred, Corsham Corner
was reached, and Pickwick Village on the Bath road, and still they saw
no chaise ahead.
It was past midnight, and it seemed to some that they had been riding an
eternity; yet even these roused at sight of the great western highway.
The night coaches had long gone eastwards, and the road, so busy by day,
stretched before them dim, shadowy, and empty, as solitary in the
darkness as the remotest lane. But the knowledge that Bath lay at the
end of it--and no more than nine miles away--and that there they could
procure aid, fresh horses and willing helpers, put new life even into
the most weary. Even Mr. Fishwick, now groaning with fatigue and now
crying 'Oh dear! oh dear!' as he bumped, in a way that at another time
must have drawn laughter from a stone, took heart of grace; while Sir
George settled down to a dogged jog that had something ferocious in its
determination. If he could not trot, he would amble; if he could not
amble, he would walk; if his horse could not walk, he would go on his
feet. He still kept eye and ear bent forward, but in effect he had given
up hope of overtaking the quarry before it reached Bath; and he was
taken by surprise when the servant, who rode first and had eased his
horse to a walk at the foot of Haslebury Hill, drew rein and cried to
the others to listen.
For a moment the heavy breathing of the four horses covered all other
sounds. Then in the darkness and the distance, on the summit of the rise
before them, a wheel creaked as it grated over a stone. A few seconds
and the sound was repeated; then all was silent. The chaise had passed
over the crest and was descending the other side.
Oblivious of everything except that Julia was within his reach,
forgetful even of Dunborough by whose side he had ridden all night--in
silence but with many a look askance--Sir George drove his horse
forward, scrambled and trotted desperately up the hill, and, gaining the
summit a score of yards in front of his companions, crossed the brow and
drew rein to listen. He had not been mistaken. He could hear the wheels
creaking, and the wheelers stumbling and slipping in the darkness below
him; and with a cry he launched his horse down the descent.
Whether the people with the chaise heard the cry or not, they appeared
to take the alarm at that moment. He heard a whip crack, the carriage
bound forward, the horses break into a reckless canter. But if they
recked little he recked less; already he was plunging down the hill
after them, his beast almost pitching on its head with every stride. The
huntsman knows, however, that many stumbles go to a fall. The bottom was
gained in safety by both, and across the flat they went, the chaise
bounding and rattling behind the scared horses. Now Sir George had a
glimpse of the black mass through the gloom, now it seemed to be gaining
on him, now it was gone, and now again he drew up to it and the dim
outline bulked bigger and plainer, and bigger and plainer, until he was
close upon it, and the cracking whips and the shouts of the postboys
rose above the din of hoofs and wheels. The carriage was swaying
perilously, but Sir George saw that the ground was rising, and that up
the hill he must win; and, taking his horse by the head, he lifted it on
by sheer strength until his stirrup was abreast of the hind wheels. A
moment, and he made out the bobbing figure of the leading postboy, and,
drawing his pistol, cried to him to stop.
The answer was a blinding flash of light and a shot. Sir George's horse
swerved to the right, and plunging headlong into the ditch, flung its
rider six paces over its head.
The servant and Mr. Dunborough were no more than forty yards behind him
when he fell; in five seconds the man had sprung from his saddle, let
his horse go, and was at his master's side. There were trees there, and
the darkness in the shadow, where Sir George lay across the roots of one
of them, was intense. The man could not see his face, nor how he lay,
nor if he was injured; and calling and getting no answer, he took fright
and cried to Mr. Dunborough to get help.
But Mr. Dunborough had ridden straight on without pausing or drawing
rein, and the man, finding himself deserted, wrung his hands in terror.
He had only Mr. Fishwick to look to for help, and he was some way
behind. Trembling, the servant knelt and groped for his master's face;
to his joy, before he had found it, Sir George gasped, moved, and sat
up; and, muttering an incoherent word or two, in a minute had recovered
himself sufficiently to rise with help. He had fallen clear of the horse
on the edge of the ditch, and the shock had taken his breath; otherwise
he was rather shaken than hurt.
As soon as his wits and wind came back to him, 'Why--why have you not
followed?' he gasped.
''Twill be all right, sir. All right, sir,' the servant answered,
thinking only of him.
'But after them, man, after them. Where is Fishwick?'
'Coming, sir, he is coming,' the man answered, to soothe him; and
remained where he was. Sir George was so shaken that he could not yet
stand alone, and the servant did not know what to think. 'Are you sure
you are not hurt, sir?' he continued anxiously.
'No, no! And Mr. Dunborough? Is he behind?'
'He rode on after them, sir.'
'Rode on after them?'
'Yes, sir, he did not stop.'
'He has gone on--after them?' Sir George cried.
'But--' and with that it flashed on him, and on the servant, and on Mr.
Fishwick, who had just jogged up and dismounted, what had happened. The
carriage and Julia--Julia still in the hands of her captors--were gone.
And with them was gone Mr. Dunborough! Gone far out of hearing; for as
the three stood together in the blackness of the trees, unable to see
one another's faces, the night was silent round them. The rattle of
wheels, the hoof-beats of horses had died away in the distance.
THE EMPTY POST-CHAISE
It was one of those positions which try a man to the uttermost; and it
was to Sir George's credit that, duped and defeated, astonishingly
tricked in the moment of success, and physically shaken by his fall, he
neither broke into execrations nor shod unmanly tears. He groaned, it is
true, and his arm pressed more heavily on the servant's shoulder, as he
listened and listened in vain for sign or so and of the runaways. But he
still commanded himself, and in face of how great a misfortune! A more
futile, a more wretched end to an expedition it was impossible to
conceive. The villains had out-paced, out-fought, and out-manoeuvred
him; and even now were rolling merrily on to Bath, while he, who a few
minutes before had held the game in his hands, lay belated here without
horses and without hope, in a wretched plight, his every moment
embittered by the thought of his mistress's fate.
In such crises--to give the devil his due--the lessons of the
gaming-table, dearly bought as they are, stand a man in stead. Sir
George's fancy pictured Julia a prisoner, trembling and dishevelled,
perhaps gagged and bound by the coarse hands of the brutes who had her
in their power; and the picture was one to drive a helpless man mad. Had
he dwelt on it long and done nothing it must have crazed him. But in his
life he had lost and won great sums at a coup, and learned to do the
one and the other with the same smile--it was the point of pride, the
form of his time and class. While Mr. Fishwick, therefore, wrung his
hands and lamented, and the servant swore, Sir George's heart bled
indeed, but it was silently and inwardly; and meanwhile he thought,
calculated the odds, and the distance to Bath and the distance to
Bristol, noted the time; and finally, and with sudden energy, called on
the men to be moving. 'We must get to Bath,' he said. 'We will be
upsides with the villains yet. But we must get to Bath. What horses
Mr. Fishwick, who up to this point had played his part like a man,
wailed that his horse was dead lame and could not stir a step. The
lawyer was sore, stiff, and beyond belief weary; and this last mishap,
this terrible buffet from the hand of Fortune, left him cowed and
'Horses or no horses, we must get to Bath,' Sir George answered
On this the servant made an attempt to drag Sir George's mount from the
ditch, but the poor beast would not budge, and in the darkness it was
impossible to discover whether it was wounded or not. Mr. Fishwick's was
dead lame; the man's had wandered away. It proved that there was nothing
for it but to walk. Dejectedly, the three took the road and trudged
wearily through the darkness. They would reach Bathford village, the man
believed, in a mile and a half.
That settled, not a word was said, for who could give any comfort? Now
and then, as they plodded up the hill beyond Kingsdown, the servant
uttered a low curse and Sir George groaned, while Mr. Fishwick sighed in
sheer exhaustion. It was a strange and dreary position for men whose
ordinary lives ran through the lighted places of the world. The wind
swept sadly over the dark fields. The mud clung to the squelching,
dragging boots; now Mr. Fishwick was within an ace of the ditch on one
side, now on the other, and now he brought up heavily against one of his
companions. At length the servant gave him an arm, and thus linked
together they reached the crest of the hill, and after taking a moment
to breathe, began the descent.
They were within two or three hundred paces of Bathford and the bridge
over the Avon when the servant cried out that some one was awake in the
village, for he saw a light. A little nearer and all saw the light,
which grew larger as they approached but was sometimes obscured.
Finally, when they were within a hundred yards of it, they discovered
that it proceeded not from a window but from a lanthorn set down in the
village street, and surrounded by five or six persons whose movements to
and fro caused the temporary eclipses they noticed. What the men were
doing was not at once clear; but in the background rose the dark mass of
a post-chaise, and seeing that--and one other thing--Sir George uttered
a low exclamation and felt for his hilt.
The other thing was Mr. Dunborough, who, seated at his ease on the step
of the post-chaise, appeared to be telling a story, while he nursed his
injured arm. His audience, who seemed to have been lately roused from
their beds--for they were half-dressed--were so deeply engrossed in what
he was narrating that the approach of our party was unnoticed; and Sir
George was in the middle of the circle, his hand on the speaker's
shoulder, and his point at his breast, before a man could move in
'You villain!' Soane cried, all the misery, all the labour, all the
fears of the night turning his blood to fire, 'you shall pay me now! Let
a man stir, and I will spit you like the dog you are! Where is she?
Where is she? For, by Heaven, if you do not give her up, I will kill you
with my own hand!'
Mr. Dunborough, his eyes on the other's face, laughed.
That laugh startled Sir George more than the fiercest movement, the
wildest oath. His point wavered and dropped. 'My God!' he cried, staring
at Dunborough. 'What is it? What do you mean?'
'That is better,' Mr. Dunborough said, nodding complacently but not
moving a finger. 'Keep to that and we shall deal.'
'What is it, man? What does it mean?' Sir George repeated. He was all of
a tremble and could scarcely stand.
'Better and better,' said Mr. Dunborough, nodding his approval. 'Keep to
that, and your mouth shut, and you shall know all that I know. It is
precious little at best. I spurred and they spurred, I spurred and they
spurred--there you have it. When I got up and shouted to them to stop, I
suppose they took me for you and thought I should stick to them and take
them in Bath. So they put on the pace a bit, and drew ahead as they came
to the houses here, and then began to pull in, recognising me as I
thought. But when I came up, fit and ready to curse their heads off for
giving me so much trouble, the fools had cut the leaders' traces and
were off with them, and left me the old rattle-trap there.'
Sir George's face lightened; he took two steps forward and laid his hand
on the chaise door.
'Just so,' said Mr. Dunborough nodding coolly. 'That was my idea. I did
the same. But, Lord, what their game is I don't know! It was empty.'
'Empty!' Sir George cried.
'As empty as it is now,' Mr. Dunborough answered, shrugging his
shoulders. 'As empty as a bad nut! If you are not satisfied, look for
yourself,' he continued, rising that Sir George might come at the door.
Soane with a sharp movement plucked the door of the chaise open, and
called hoarsely for a light. A big dingy man in a wrap-rascal coat,
which left his brawny neck exposed and betrayed that under the coat he
wore only his shirt, held up a lanthorn. Its light was scarcely needed.
Sir George's hand, not less than, his eyes, told him that the carriage,
a big roomy post-chaise, well-cushioned and padded, was empty.
Aghast and incredulous, Soane turned on Mr. Dunborough. 'You know
better,' he said furiously. 'She was here, and you sent her on
Mr. Dunborough pointed to the man in the wrap-rascal. 'That man was up
as soon as I was,' he said. 'Ask him if you don't believe me. He opened
the chaise door.'
Sir George turned to the man, who, removing the shining leather cap that
marked him for a smith, slowly scratched his head. The other men pressed
up behind him to hear, the group growing larger every moment as one and
another, awakened by the light and hubbub, came out of his house and
joined it. Even women were beginning to appear on the outskirts of the
crowd, their heads muffled in hoods and mobs.
'The carriage was empty, sure enough, your honour,' the smith said;
'there is no manner of doubt about that. I heard the wheels coming, and
looked out and saw it stop and the men go off. There was no woman
'How many were they?' Soane asked sharply. The man seemed honest.
'Well, there were two went off with the horses,' the smith answered,
'and two again slipped off on foot by the lane 'tween the houses there.
I saw no more, your honour, and there were no more.'
'Are you sure,' Sir George asked eagerly, 'that no one of the four was a
The smith grinned. 'How am I to know?' he answered with a chuckle.
'That's none of my business. All I can say is, they were all dressed
man fashion. And they all went willing, for they went one by one, as
you may say.'
'Two on foot?'
'By the lane there. I never said no otherwise. Seemingly they were the
two on the carriage.'
'And you saw no lady?' Sir George persisted, still incredulous.
'There was no lady,' the man answered simply. 'I came out, and the
gentleman there was swearing and trying the door. I forced it with my
chisel, and you may see the mark on the break of the lock now.'
'Then we have been tricked,' Sir George cried furiously. 'We have
followed the wrong carriage.'
'Not you, sir,' the smith answered. 'Twas fitted up for the job, or I
should not have had to force the door. If 'twere not got ready for a job
of this kind, why a half-inch shutter inside the canvas blinds, and the
bolt outside, 'swell as a lock? Mark that door! D'you ever see the like
of that on an honest carriage? Why, 'tis naught but a prison!'
He held up the light inside the carriage, and Sir George, the crowd
pressing forward to look over his shoulder, saw that it was as the man
said. Sir George saw something more--and pounced on it greedily. At the
foot of the doorway, between the floor of the carriage and the straw mat
that covered it, the corner of a black silk kerchief showed. How it came
to be in that position, whether it had been kicked thither by accident
or thrust under the mat on purpose, it was impossible to say. But there
it was, and as Sir George held it up to the lanthorn--jealously
interposing himself between it and the curious eyes of the crowd--he
felt something hard inside the folds and saw that the corners were
knotted. He uttered an exclamation.
'More room, good people, more room!' he cried.
'Your honour ha' got something?' said the smith; and then to the crowd,
'Here, you--keep back, will you?' he continued, 'and give the gentleman
room to breathe. Or will you ha' the constable fetched?'
'I be here!' cried a weakly voice from the skirts of the crowd.
'Ay, so be Easter,' the smith retorted gruffly, as a puny atomy of a man
with a stick and lanthorn was pushed with difficulty to the front. 'But
so being you are here, supposing you put Joe Hincks a foot or two back,
and let the gentleman have elbow-room.'
There was a laugh at this, for Joe Hincks was a giant a little taller
than the smith. None the less, the hint had the desired effect. The
crowd fell back a little. Meanwhile, Sir George, the general attention
diverted from him, had untied the knot. When the smith turned to him
again, it was to find him staring with a blank face at a plain black
snuff-box, which was all he had found in the kerchief.
'Sakes!' cried the smith, 'whose is that?'
'I don't know,' Sir George answered grimly, and shot a glance of
suspicion at Mr. Dunborough, who was leaning against the fore-wheel.
But that gentleman shrugged his shoulders. 'You need not look at me,' he
said. 'It is not my box; I have mine here.'
'Whose is it?'
Mr. Dunborough raised his eyebrows and did not answer.
'Do you know?' Sir George persisted fiercely.
'No, I don't. I know no more about it than you do.'
'Maybe the lady took snuff?' the smith said cautiously.
Many ladies did, but not this one; and Sir George sniffed his contempt.
He turned the box over and over in his hand. It was a plain, black box,
of smooth enamel, about two inches long.
'I believe I have seen one like it,' said Mr. Dunborough, yawning. 'But
I'm hanged if I can tell where.'
'Has your honour looked inside?' the smith asked. 'Maybe there is a note
Sir George cut him short with an exclamation, and held the box up to the
light. 'There is something scratched on it,' he said.
There was. When he held the box close to the lanthorn, words rudely
scratched on the enamel, as if with the point of a pin, became visible;
visible, but not immediately legible, so scratchy were the letters and
imperfectly formed the strokes. It was not until the fourth or fifth
time of reading that Sir George made out the following scrawl:
'Take to Fishwick, Castle, Marlboro'. Help! Julia.'
Sir George swore. The box, with its pitiful, scarce articulate cry,
brought the girl's helpless position, her distress, her terror, more
clearly to his mind than all that had gone before. Nor to his mind only,
but to his heart; he scarcely asked himself why the appeal was made to
another, or whence came this box--which was plainly a man's, and still
had snuff in it--or even whither she had been so completely spirited
away that there remained of her no more than this, and the black
kerchief, and about the carriage a fragrance of her--perceptible only by
a lover's senses. A whirl of pity and rage--pity for her, rage against
her captors--swept such questions from his mind. He was shaken by gusty
impulses, now to strike Mr. Dunborough across his smirking face, now to
give some frenzied order, now to do some foolish act that must expose
him to disgrace. He had much ado not to break into hysterical weeping,
or into a torrent of frantic oaths. The exertions of the night,
following on a day spent in the saddle, the tortures of fear and
suspense, this last disappointment, the shock of his fall--had all told
on him; and it was well that at this crisis Mr. Fishwick was at
For the lawyer saw his face and read it aright, and interposing
suggested an adjournment to the inn; adding that while they talked the
matter over and refreshed themselves, a messenger could go to Bath and
bring back new horses; in that way they might still be in Bristol by
eight in the morning.
'Bristol!' Sir George muttered, passing his hand across his brow.
'Bristol! But--she is not with them. We don't know where she is.'
Mr. Fishwick was himself sick with fatigue, but he knew what to do and
did it. He passed his arm through Sir George's, and signed to the smith
to lead the way to the inn. The man did so, the crowd made way for them,
Mr. Dunborough and the servant followed; in less than a minute the three
gentlemen stood together in the sanded tap-room at the tavern. The
landlord hurried in and hung a lamp on a hook in the whitewashed wall;
its glare fell strongly on their features, and for the first time that
night showed the three to one another.
Even in that poor place, the light had seldom fallen on persons in a
more pitiable plight. Of the three, Sir George alone stood erect, his
glittering eyes and twitching nostrils belying the deadly pallor of his
face. He was splashed with mud from head to foot, his coat was plastered
where he had fallen, his cravat was torn and open at the throat. He
still held his naked sword in his hand; apparently he had forgotten that
he held it. Mr. Dunborough was in scarce better condition. White and
shaken, his hand bound to his side, he had dropped at once into a chair,
and sat, his free hand plunged into his breeches pocket, his head sunk
on his breast. Mr. Fishwick, a pale image of himself, his knees
trembling with exhaustion, leaned against the wall. The adventures of
the night had let none of the travellers escape.
The landlord and his wife could be heard in the kitchen drawing ale and
clattering plates, while the voices of the constable and his gossips,
drawling their wonder and surmises, filled the passage. Sir George was
the first to speak.
'Bristol!' he said dully. 'Why Bristol?'
'Because the villains who have escaped us here,' the lawyer answered,
'we shall find there. And they will know what has become of her.'
'But shall we find them?'
'Mr. Dunborough will find them.'
'Ha!' said Sir George, with a sombre glance. 'So he will.'
Mr. Dunborough spoke with sudden fury. 'I wish to Heaven,' he said,
'that I had never heard the girl's name. How do I know where she is!'
'You will have to know,' Sir George muttered between his teeth.
'Fine talk!' Mr. Dunborough retorted, with a faint attempt at a sneer,
'when you know as well as I do that I have no more idea where the girl
is or what has become of her than that snuff-box. And d--n me!' he
continued sharply, his eyes on the box, which Sir George still held in
his hand, 'whose is the snuff-box, and how did she get it? That is what
I want to know? And why did she leave it in the carriage? If we had
found it dropped in the road now, and that kerchief round it, I could
understand that! But in the carriage. Pho! I believe I am not the only
one in this!'
IN THE CARRIAGE
The man whose work had taken him that evening to the summit of the
Druid's Mound, and whose tale roused the Castle Inn ten minutes later,
had seen aright. But he had not seen all. Had he waited another minute,
he would have marked a fresh actor appear at Manton Corner, would have
witnessed the _denouement_ of the scene, and had that to tell when he
descended, which must have allayed in a degree, not only the general
alarm, but Sir George's private apprehensions.
It is when the mind is braced to meet a known emergency that it falls
the easiest prey to the unexpected. Julia was no coward. But as she
loitered along the lane beyond Preshute churchyard in the gentle hour
before sunset, her whole being was set on the coming of the lover for
whom she waited. As she thought over the avowal she would make to him,
and conned the words she would speak to him, the girl's cheeks, though
she believed herself alone, burned with happy blushes; her breath came
more quickly, her body swayed involuntarily in the direction whence he,
who had chosen and honoured her, would come! The soft glow which
overspread the heights, as the sun went down and left the vale to peace
and rest, was not more real or more pure than the happiness that
thrilled her. Her heart overflowed in a tender ecstasy, as she thanked
God, and her lover. In the peace that lay around her, she who had
flouted Sir George, not once or twice, who had mocked and tormented
him, in fancy kissed his feet.
In such a mood as this she had neither eyes nor ears for aught but the
coming of her lover. When she reached the corner, jealous that none but
he should see the happy shining of her eyes--nor he until he stood
beside her--she turned to walk back; in a luxury of anticipation. Her
lot was wonderful to her. She sang in her heart that she was blessed
And then, without the least warning, the grating of a stone even, or the
sound of a footstep, a violent grip encircled her waist from behind;
something thick, rough, suffocating, fell on her head and eyes,
enveloped and blinded her. The shock of the surprise was so great that
for a moment breath and even the instinct of resistance failed her; and
she had been forced several steps, in what direction she had no idea,
before sense and horror awoke together, and wresting herself, by the
supreme effort of an active girl, from the grasp that confined her, she
freed her mouth sufficiently to scream.
Twice and shrilly; then, before she could entirely rid her head of the
folds that blinded her, a remorseless grip closed on her neck, and
another round her waist; and choking and terrified, vainly struggling
and fighting, she felt herself pushed along. Coarse voices, imprecating
vengeance on her if she screamed, again, sounded in her ears: and then
for a moment her course was stayed. She fancied that she heard a shout,
the rush and scramble of feet in the road, new curses and imprecations.
The grasp on her waist relaxed, and seizing her opportunity she strove
with the strength of despair to wrest herself from the hands that still
held the covering over her head. Instead, she felt herself lifted up,
something struck her sharply on the knee; the next moment she fell
violently and all huddled up on--it might have been the ground, for all
she knew; it really was the seat of a carriage.
The shock was no slight one, but she struggled to her feet, and heard,
as she tore the covering from her head, a report as of a pistol shot.
The next moment she lost her footing, and fell back. She alighted on the
place from which she had raised herself, and was not hurt. But the jolt,
which had jerked her from her feet, and the subsequent motion, disclosed
the truth. Before she had entirely released her head from the folds of
the cloak, she knew that she was in a carriage, whirled along behind
swift horses; and that the peril was real, and not of the moment,
This was horror enough. But it was not all. One wild look round, and her
eyes began to penetrate the gloom of the closely shut carriage--and she
shrank into her corner. She checked the rising sob that preluded a storm
of rage and tears, stayed the frenzied impulse to shriek, to beat on the
doors, to do anything that might scare the villains; she sat frozen,
staring, motionless. For on the seat beside her, almost touching her,
was a man.
In the dim light it was not easy to make out more than his figure. He
sat huddled up in his corner, his wig awry, one hand to his face; gazing
at her, she fancied, between his fingers, enjoying the play of her rage,
her agitation, her disorder. He did not move or speak when she
discovered him, but in the circumstances that he was a man was enough.
The violence with which she had been treated, the audacity of such an
outrage in daylight and on the highway, the closed and darkened
carriage, the speed at which they travelled, all were grounds for alarm
as serious as a woman could feel; and Julia, though she was a brave
woman, felt a sudden horror come over her. None the less was her mind
made up; if the man moved nearer to her, if he stretched out so much as
his hand towards her, she would tear his face with her fingers. She sat
with them on her lap and felt them as steel to do her bidding.
The carriage rumbled on, and still he did not move. From her corner she
watched him, her eyes glittering with excitement, her breath coming
quick and short. Would he never move? In truth not three minutes had
elapsed since she discovered him beside her; but it seemed to her that
she had sat there an age watching him; ay, three ages. The light was dim
and untrustworthy, stealing in through a crack here and a crevice there.
The carriage swayed and shook with the speed at which it travelled. More
than once she thought that the man's hand, which rested on the seat
beside him, a fat white hand, hateful, dubious, was moving, moving
slowly and stealthily along the cushion towards her; and she waited
shuddering, a scream on her lips. The same terror which, a while before,
had frozen the cry in her throat, now tried her in another way. She
longed to speak, to shriek, to stand up, to break in one way or any way
the hideous silence, the spell that bound her. Every moment the strain
on her nerves grew tenser, the fear lest she should swoon, more
immediate, more appalling; and still the man sat in his corner,
motionless, peeping at her through his fingers, leering and biding
It was horrible, and it seemed endless. If she had had a weapon it would
have been better. But she had only her bare hands and her despair; and
she might swoon. At last the carriage swerved sharply to one side, and
jolted over a stone; and the man lurched nearer to her, and--and moaned!
Julia drew a deep breath and leaned forward, scarcely able to believe
her ears. But the man moaned again; and then, as if the shaking had
roused him from a state of stupor, sat up slowly in his corner; she saw,
peering more closely at him, that he had been strangely huddled before.
At last he lowered his hand from his face and disclosed his features. It
was--her astonishment was immense--it was Mr. Thomasson!
In her surprise Julia uttered a cry. The tutor opened his eyes and
looked languidly at her; muttered something incoherent about his head,
and shut his eyes again, letting his chin fall on his breast.
But the girl was in a mood only one degree removed from frenzy. She
leaned forward and shook his arm. 'Mr. Thomasson!' she cried. 'Mr.
Apparently the name and the touch were more effectual. He opened his
eyes and sat up with a start of recognition, feigned or real. On his
temple just under the edge of his wig, which was awry, was a slight cut.
He felt it gingerly with his fingers, glanced at them, and finding them
stained with blood, shuddered. 'I am afraid--I am hurt,' he muttered.
His languor and her excitement went ill together. She doubted he was
pretending, and had a hundred ill-defined, half-formed suspicions of
him. Was it possible that he--he had dared to contrive this? Or was he
employed by others--by another? 'Who hurt you?' she cried sharply. At
least she was not afraid of him.
He pointed in the direction of the horses. 'They did,' he said stupidly.
'I saw it from the lane and ran to help you. The man I seized struck
me--here. Then, I suppose they feared I should raise the country on
them. And they forced me in--I don't well remember how.'
'And that is all you know?' she cried imperiously.
His look convinced her. 'Then help me now!' she replied, rising
impetuously to her feet, and steadying herself by setting one hand
against the back of the carriage. 'Shout! Scream! Threaten them! Don't
you see that every yard we are carried puts us farther in their power?
Shout!--do you hear?'
'They will murder us!' he protested faintly. His cheeks were pale; his
face wore a scared look, and he trembled visibly.
'Let them!' she answered passionately, beating on the nearest door.
'Better that than be in their hands. Help! Help! Help here!'
Her shrieks rose above the rumble of the wheels and the steady trampling
of the horses; she added to the noise by kicking and beating on the door
with the fury of a mad woman. Mr. Thomasson had had enough of violence
for that day; and shrank from anything that might bring on him the fresh
wrath of his captors. But a moment's reflection showed him that if he
allowed himself to be carried on he would, sooner or later, find himself
face to face with Mr. Dunborough; and, in any case, that it was now his
interest to stand by his companion; and presently he too fell to
shouting and drumming on the panels. There was a quaver, indeed, in his
'Help! Help!' that a little betrayed the man; but in the determined
clamour which she raised and continued to maintain, it passed
'If we meet any one--they must hear us!' she gasped, presently, pausing
a moment to take breath. 'Which way are we going?'
'Towards Calne, I think,' he answered, continuing to drum on the door in
the intervals of speech. 'In the street we must be heard.'
'Help! Help!' she screamed, still more recklessly. She was growing
hoarse, and the prospect terrified her. 'Do you hear? Stop, villains!
Help! Help! Help!'
'Murder!' Mr. Thomasson shouted, seconding her with voice and fist.
But in the last word, despite his valiant determination to throw in his
lot with her, was a sudden, most audible, quaver. The carriage was
beginning to draw up; and that which he had imperiously demanded a
moment before, he now as urgently dreaded. Not so Julia; her natural
courage had returned, and the moment the vehicle came to a standstill
and the door was opened, she flung herself towards it. The next instant
she was pushed forcibly back by the muzzle of a huge horse-pistol which
a man outside clapped to her breast; while the glare of the bull's-eye
lanthorn which he thrust in her face blinded her.
The man uttered the most horrid imprecations. 'You noisy slut,' he
growled, shoving his face, hideous in its crape mask, into the coach,
and speaking in a voice husky with liquor, 'will you stop your whining?
Or must I blow you to pieces with my Toby? For you, you white-livered
sneak,' he continued, addressing the tutor, 'give me any more of your
piping and I'll cut out your tongue! Who is hurting you, I'd like to
know! As for you, my fine lady, have a care of your skin, for if I pull
you out into the road it will be the worse for you! D'ye hear me? he
continued, with a volley of savage oaths. 'A little more of your music,
and I'll have you out and strip the clothes off your back! You don't
hang me for nothing. D--n you, we are three miles from anywhere, and I
have a mind to gag you, whether or no! And I will too, if you so much as
open your squeaker again!'
'Let me go,' she cried faintly. 'Let me go.'
'Oh, you will be let go fast enough--the other side of the water,' he
answered, with a villainous laugh. 'I'm bail to that. In the meantime
keep a still tongue, or it will be the worse for you! Once out of
Bristol, and you may pipe as you like!'
The girl fell back in her corner with a low wail of despair. The man
seeing the effect he had wrought, laughed his triumph, and in sheer
brutality passed his light once or twice across her face. Then he closed
the door with a crash and mounted; the carriage bounded forward again,
and in a trice was travelling onward as rapidly as before.
Night had set in, and darkness, a darkness that could almost be felt,
reigned in the interior of the chaise. Neither of the travellers could
now see the other, though they sat within arm's length. The tutor, as
soon as they were well started, and his nerves, shaken by the man's
threats, permitted him to think of anything save his own safety, began
to wonder that his companion, who had been so forward before, did not
now speak; to look for her to speak, and to find the darkness and this
silence, which left him to feed on his fears, strangely uncomfortable.
He could almost believe that she was no longer there. At length, unable
to bear it longer, he spoke.
'I suppose you know,' he said--he was growing vexed with the girl who
had brought him into this peril--'who is at the bottom of this?'
She did not answer, or rather she answered only by a sudden burst of
weeping; not the light, facile weeping of a woman crossed or
over-fretted, or frightened; but the convulsive heart-rending sobbing of
utter grief and abandonment.
The tutor heard, and was at first astonished, then alarmed. 'My dear,
good girl, don't cry like that,' he said awkwardly. 'Don't! I--I don't
understand it. You--you frighten me. You--you really should not. I only
asked you if you knew whose work this was.'
'I know! I know only too well!' she cried passionately. 'God help me!
God help all women!'
Mr. Thomasson wondered whether she referred to the future and her own
fate. In that case, her complete surrender to despair seemed strange,
seemed even inexplicable, in one who a few minutes before had shown a
spirit above a woman's. Or did she know something that he did not know?
Something that caused this sudden collapse. The thought increased his
uneasiness; the coward dreads everything, and his nerves were shaken.
'Pish! pish!' he said pettishly. 'You should not give way like that! You
should not, you must not give way!'
'And why not?' she cried, arresting her sobs. There was a ring of
expectation in her voice, a hoping against hope. He fancied that she had
lowered her hands and was peering at him.
'Because we--we may yet contrive something' he answered lamely. 'We--we
may be rescued. Indeed--I am sure we shall be rescued,' he continued,
fighting his fears as well as hers.
'And what if we are?' she cried with a passion that took him aback.
'What if we are? What better am I if we are rescued? Oh, I would have
done anything for him! I would have died for him!' she continued wildly.
'And he has done this for me. I would have given him all, all freely,
for no return if he would have it so; and this is his requital! This is
the way he has gone to get it. Oh, vile! vile!'
Mr. Thomasson started. Metaphorically, he was no longer in the dark. She
fancied that Sir George, Sir George whom she loved, was the contriver of
this villainy. She thought that Sir George--Sir George, her cousin--was
the abductor; that she was being carried off, not for her own sake, but
as an obstacle to be removed from his path. The conception took the
tutor's breath away; he was even staggered for the moment, it agreed as
well with one part of the facts. And when an instant later his own
certain information came to his aid and showed him its unreality, and he
would have blurted out the truth--he hesitated. The words were on the
tip of his tongue, the sentence was arranged, but he hesitated.
Why? Simply because he was Mr. Thomasson, and it was not in his nature
to do the thing that lay before him until he had considered whether it
might not profit him to do something else. In this case the bare
statement that Mr. Dunborough, and not Sir George, was the author of the
outrage, would go for little with her. If he proceeded to his reasons he
might convince her; but he would also fix himself with a fore-knowledge
of the danger--a fore-knowledge which he had not imparted to her, and
which must sensibly detract from the merit of the service he had already
and undoubtedly performed.
This was a risk; and there was a farther consideration. Why give Mr.
Dunborough new ground for complaint by discovering him? True, at Bristol
she would learn the truth. But if she did not reach Bristol? If they
were overtaken midway? In that case the tutor saw possibilities, if he
kept his mouth shut--possibilities of profit at Mr. Dunborough's hands.
In intervals between fits of alarm--when the carriage seemed to be about
to halt--he turned these things over. He could hear the girl weeping in
her corner, quietly, but in a heart-broken manner; and continually,
while he thought and she wept, and an impenetrable curtain of darkness
hid the one from the other, the chaise held on its course up-hill and
down-hill, now bumping and rattling behind flying horses, and now
rumbling and straining up Yatesbury Downs.
At last he broke the silence. 'What makes you think,' he said, 'that it
is Sir George has done this?'
She did not answer or stop weeping for a while. Then, 'He was to meet me
at sunset, at the Corner,' she said. 'Who else knew that I should be
there? Tell me that.'
'But if he is at the bottom of this, where is he?' he hazarded. 'If he
would play the villain with you--'
'He would play the thief,' she cried passionately, 'as he has played the
hypocrite. Oh, it is vile! vile!'
'But--I don't understand,' Mr. Thomasson stammered; he was willing to
hear all he could.
'His fortune, his lands, all he has in the world are mine!' she cried.
'Mine! And he goes this way to recover them! But I could forgive him
that, ah, I could forgive him that, but I cannot forgive him--'
'What?' he said.
'His love!' she cried fiercely. 'That I will never forgive him! Never!'
He knew that she spoke, as she had wept, more freely for the darkness.
He fancied that she was writhing on her seat, that she was tearing her
handkerchief with her hands. 'But--it may not be he,' he said after a
silence broken only by the rumble of wheels and the steady trampling of
'It is!' she cried. 'It is!'
'It may not--'
'I say it is!' she repeated in a kind of fury of rage, shame, and
impatience. 'Do you think that I who loved him, I whom he fooled to the
top of my pride, judge him too harshly? I tell you if an angel from
heaven had witnessed against him I would have laughed the tale to scorn.
But I have seen--I have seen with my own eyes. The man who came to the
door and threatened us had lost a joint of the forefinger. Yesterday I
saw that man with _him_; I saw the hand that held the pistol to-day give
_him_ a note yesterday. I saw _him_ read the note, and I saw him point
me out to the man who bore it--that he might know to-day whom he was to
seize! Oh shame! Shame on him!' And she burst into fresh weeping.
At that moment the chaise, which had been proceeding for some time at a
more sober pace, swerved sharply to one side; it appeared to sweep round
a corner, jolted over a rough patch of ground, and came to a stand.
Let not those who would judge her harshly forget that Julia, to an
impulsive and passionate nature, added a special and notable
disadvantage. She had been educated in a sphere alien from that in which
she now moved. A girl, brought up as Sir George's cousin and among her
equals, would have known him to be incapable of treachery as black as
this. Such a girl, certified of his love, not only by his words and
looks but by her own self-respect and pride, would have shut her eyes to
the most pregnant facts and the most cogent inferences; and scorned all
her senses, one by one, rather than believe him guilty. She would have
felt, rightly or wrongly, that the thing was impossible; and would have
believed everything in the world, yes, everything, possible or
impossible--yet never that he had lied when he told her that he
But Julia had been bred in a lower condition, not far removed from that
of the Pamela to whose good fortune she had humbly likened her own;
among people who regarded a Macaroni or a man of fashion as a wolf ever
seeking to devour. To distrust a gentleman and repel his advances had
been one of the first lessons instilled into her opening mind; nor had
she more than emerged from childhood before she knew that a laced coat
forewent destruction, and held the wearer of it a cozener, who in
ninety-nine cases out of a hundred kept no faith with a woman beneath
him, but lived only to break hearts and bring grey hairs to the grave.
Out of this fixed belief she had been jolted by the upheaval that placed
her on a level with Sir George. Persuaded that the convention no longer
applied to herself, she had given the rein to her fancy and her girlish
romance, no less than to her generosity; she had indulged in delicious
visions, and seen them grow real; nor probably in all St. James's was
there a happier woman than Julia when she found herself possessed of
this lover of the prohibited class; who to the charms and attractions,
the nice-ness and refinement, which she had been bred to consider beyond
her reach, added a devotion, the more delightful--since he believed her
to be only what she seemed--as it lay in her power to reward it amply.
Some women would have swooned with joy over such a conquest effected in
such circumstances. What wonder that Julia was deaf to the warnings and
surmises of Mr. Fishwick, whom delay and the magnitude of the stakes
rendered suspicious, as well as to the misgivings of old Mrs. Masterson,
slow to grasp a new order of things? It would have been strange had she
listened to either, when youth, and wealth, and love all beckoned
But now, now in the horror and darkness of the post-chaise, the lawyer's
warnings and the old woman's misgivings returned on her with crushing
weight; and more and heavier than these, her old belief in the
heartlessness, the perfidy of the man of rank. At the statement that a
man of the class with whom she had commonly mixed could so smile, while
he played the villain, as to deceive not only her eyes but her
heart--she would have laughed. But on the mind that lay behind the
smooth and elegant mask of a _gentleman's_ face she had no lights; or
only the old lights which showed it desperately wicked. Applying these
to the circumstances, what a lurid glare they shed on his behaviour!
How quickly, how suspiciously quickly, had he succumbed to her charms!
How abruptly had his insouciance changed to devotion, his impertinence
to respect! How obtuse, how strangely dull had he been in the matter of
her claims and her identity! Finally, with what a smiling visage had he
lured her to her doom, showed her to his tools, settled to a nicety the
least detail of the crime!
More weighty than any one fact, the thing he had said to her on the
staircase at Oxford came back to her mind. 'If you were a lady,' he had
lisped in smiling insolence, 'I would kiss you and make you my wife.' In
face of those words, she had been rash enough to think that she could
bend him, ignorant that she was more than she seemed, to her purpose.
She had quoted those very words to him when she had had it in her mind
to surrender--the sweetest surrender in the world. And all the time he
had been fooling her to the top of her bent. All the time he had known
who she was and been plotting against her devilishly--appointing hour
and place and--and it was all over.
It was all over. The sunny visions of love and joy were done! It was all
over. When the sharp, fierce pain of the knife had done its worst, the
consciousness of that remained a dead weight on her brain. When the
paroxysm of weeping had worn itself out, yet brought no relief to her
passionate nature, a kind of apathy succeeded. She cared nothing where
she was or what became of her; the worst had happened, the worst been
suffered. To be betrayed, cruelly, heartlessly, without scruple or care
by those we love--is there a sharper pain than this? She had suffered
that, she was suffering it still. What did the rest matter?
Mr. Thomasson might have undeceived her, but the sudden stoppage of the
chaise had left no place in the tutor's mind for aught but terror. At
any moment, now the chaise was at a stand, the door might open and he be
hauled out to meet the fury of his pupil's eye, and feel the smart of
his brutal whip. It needed no more to sharpen Mr. Thomasson's long
ears--his eyes were useless; but for a time crouching in his corner and
scarce daring to breathe, he heard only the confused muttering of
several men talking at a distance. Presently the speakers came nearer,
he caught the click of flint on steel, and a bright gleam of light
entered the chaise through a crack in one of the shutters. The men had
lighted a lamp.
It was only a slender shaft that entered, but it fell athwart the girl's
face and showed him her closed eyes. She lay back in her corner, her
cheeks colourless, an expression of dull, hopeless suffering stamped on
her features. She did not move or open her eyes, and the tutor dared not
speak lest his words should be heard outside. But he looked, having
nothing to check him, and looked; and in spite of his fears and his
preoccupation, the longer he looked the deeper was the impression which
her beauty made on his senses.
He could hear no more of the men's talk than muttered grumblings
plentifully bestrewn with curses; and wonder what was forward and why
they remained inactive grew more and more upon him. At length he rose
and applied his eyes to the crack that admitted the light; but he could
distinguish nothing outside, the lamp, which was close to the window,
blinding him. At times he caught the clink of a bottle, and fancied that
the men were supping; but he knew nothing for certain, and by-and-by the
light was put out. A brief--and agonising--period of silence followed,
during which he thought that he caught the distant tramp of horses; but
he had heard the same sound before, it might be the beating of his
heart, and before he could decide, oaths and exclamations broke the
silence, and there was a sudden bustle. In less than a minute the chaise
lurched forward, a whip cracked, and they took the road again.
The tutor breathed more freely, and, rid of the fear of being overheard,
regained a little of his unctuousness. 'My dear good lady,' he said,
moving a trifle nearer to Julia, and even making a timid plunge for her
hand, 'you must not give way. I protest you must not give way. Depend on
me! Depend on me, and all will be well. I--oh dear, what a bump!
I'--this as he retreated precipitately to his corner--'I fear we are
They were, but only for an instant, that the lamps might be lighted.
Then the chaise rolled on again, but from the way in which it jolted and
bounded, shaking its passengers this way and that, it was evident that
it no longer kept the main road. The moment this became clear to Mr.
Thomasson his courage vanished as suddenly as it had appeared.
'Where are they taking us?' he cried, rising and sitting down again; and
peering first this way and then the other. 'My G--d, we are undone! We
shall be murdered--I know we shall! Oh dear! what a jolt! They are
taking us to some cut-throat place! There again! Didn't you feel it?
Don't you understand, woman? Oh, Lord,' he continued, piteously wringing
his hands, 'why did I mix myself up with this trouble?'
She did not answer, and enraged by her silence and insensibility, the
cowardly tutor could have found it in his heart to strike her.
Fortunately the ray of light which now penetrated the carriage suggested
an idea which he hastened to carry out. He had no paper, and, given
paper, he had no ink; but falling back on what he had, he lugged out his
snuff-box and pen-knife, and holding the box in the ray of light, and
himself as still as the road permitted, he set to work, laboriously and
with set teeth, to scrawl on the bottom of the box the message of which
we know. To address it to Mr. Fishwick and sign it Julia were natural
precautions, since he knew that the girl, and not he, would be the
object of pursuit. When he had finished his task, which was no light
one--the road growing worse and the carriage shaking more and more--he
went to thrust the box under the door, which fitted ill at the bottom.
But stooping to remove the straw, he reflected that probably the road
they were in was a country lane, where the box would be difficult to
find; and in a voice trembling with fear and impatience, he called to
the girl to give him her black kerchief.
She did not ask him why or for what, but complied without opening her
eyes. No words could have described her state more eloquently.
He wrapped the thing loosely in the kerchief--which he calculated would
catch the passing eye more easily than the box--and knotted the ends
together. But when he went to push the package under the door, it proved
too bulky; and, with an exclamation of rage, he untied it, and made it
up anew and more tightly. At last he thought that he had got it right,
and he stooped to feel for the crack; but the carriage, which had been
travelling more and more heavily and slowly, came to a sudden
standstill, and in a panic he sat up, dropping the box and thrusting the
straw over it with his foot.
He had scarcely done this when the door was opened, and the masked man,
who had threatened them before, thrust in his head. 'Come out!' he said
curtly, addressing the tutor, who was the nearer. 'And be sharp
But Mr. Thomasson's eyes, peering through the doorway, sought in vain
the least sign of house or village. Beyond the yellow glare cast by the
lamp on the wet road, he saw nothing but darkness, night, and the gloomy
shapes of trees; and he hung back. 'No,' he said, his voice quavering
with fear. 'I--my good man, if you will promise--'
The man swore a frightful oath. 'None of your tongue!' he cried, 'but
out with you unless you want your throat cut. You cursed, whining,
psalm-singing sniveller, you don't know when you are well off'! Out
Mr. Thomasson waited for no more, but stumbled out, shaking with fright.
'And you!' the ruffian continued, addressing the girl, 'unless you want
to be thrown out the same way you were thrown in! The sooner I see your
back, my sulky Madam, the better I shall be pleased. No more meddling
with petticoats for me! This comes of working with fine gentlemen,
Julia was but half roused. 'Am. I--to get out?' she said dully.
'Ay you are! By G--d, you are a cool one!' the man continued, watching
her in a kind of admiration, as she rose and stepped by him like one in
a dream. 'And a pretty one for all your temper! The master is not here,
but the man is; and if--'
'Stow it, you fool!' cried a voice from the darkness, 'and get aboard!'
'Who said anything else?' the ruffian retorted, but with a look that,
had Julia been more sensible of it, must have chilled her blood. 'Who
said anything else? So there you are, both of you, and none the worse,
I'll take my davy! Lash away, Tim! Make the beggars fly!'
As he uttered the last words he sprang on the wheel, and before the
tutor could believe his good fortune, or feel assured that there was not
some cruel deceit playing on him, the carriage splashed up the mud, and
rattled away. In a trice the lights grew small and were gone, and the
two were left standing side by side in the darkness. On one hand a mass
of trees rose high above them, blotting out the grey sky; on the other
the faint outline of a low wall appeared to divide the lane in which
they stood--the mud rising rapidly about their shoes--from a flat aguish
expanse over which the night hung low.
It was a strange position, but neither of the two felt this to the fall;
Mr. Thomasson in his thankfulness that at any cost he had eluded Mr.
Dunborough's vengeance, Julia because at the moment she cared not what
became of her. Naturally, however, Mr. Thomasson, whose satisfaction
knew no drawback save that of their present condition, and who had to
congratulate himself on a risk safely run, and a good friend gained, was
the first to speak.
'My dear young lady,' he said, in an insinuating tone very different
from that in which he had called for her kerchief, 'I vow I am more
thankful than I can say, that I was able to come to your assistance! I
shudder to think what those ruffians might not have done had you been
alone, and--and unprotected! Now I trust all danger is over. We have
only to find a house in which we can pass the night, and to-morrow we
may laugh at our troubles!'
She turned her head towards him, 'Laugh?' she said, and a sob took her
in the throat.
He felt himself set back; then remembered the delusion under which she
lay, and went to dispel it--pompously. But his evil angel was at his
shoulder; again at the last moment he hesitated. Something in the
despondency of the girl's figure, in the hopelessness of her tone, in
the intensity of the grief that choked her utterance, wrought with the
remembrance of her beauty and her disorder in the coach, to set his
crafty mind working in a new direction. He saw that she was for the time
utterly hopeless; utterly heedless what became of herself. That would
not last; but his cunning told him that with returning sensibility would
come pique, resentment, the desire to be avenged. In such a case one man
was sometimes as good as another. It was impossible to say what she
might not do or be induced to do, if full advantage were taken of a
moment so exceptional. Fifty thousand pounds! And her fresh young
beauty! What an opening it was! The way lay far from clear, the means
were to find; but faint heart never won fair lady, and Mr. Thomasson had
known strange things come to pass.
He was quick to choose his part. 'Come, child,' he said, assuming a kind
of paternal authority. 'At least we must find a roof. We cannot spend
the night here.'
'No,' she said dully, 'I suppose not.'
'So--shall we go this way?'
'As you please,' she answered.
They started, but had not moved far along the miry road before she spoke
again. 'Do you know,' she asked drearily, 'why they set us down?'
He was puzzled himself as to that, but, 'They may have thought that the
pursuit was gaining on them,' he answered, 'and become alarmed.' Which
was in part the truth; though Mr. Dunborough's failure to appear at the
rendezvous had been the main factor in determining the men.
'Pursuit?' she said. 'Who would pursue us?'
'Mr. Fishwick,' he suggested.
'Ah!' she answered bitterly; 'he might. If I had listened to him! If I
had--but it is over now.'
'I wish we could see a light,' Mr. Thomasson said, anxiously looking
into the darkness, 'or a house of any kind. I wonder where we are.' She
did not speak.
'I do not know--even what time it is,' he continued pettishly; and he
shivered. 'Take care!' She had stumbled and nearly fallen. 'Will you be
pleased to take my arm, and we shall be able to proceed more quickly. I
am afraid that your feet are wet.'
Absorbed in her thoughts she did not answer.
'However the ground is rising,' he said. 'By-and-by it will be drier
They were an odd couple to be trudging a strange road, in an unknown
country, at the dark hour of the night. The stars must have twinkled to
see them. Mr. Thomasson began to own the influence of solitude, and
longed to pat the hand she had passed through his arm--it was the sort
of caress that came natural to him; but for the time discretion withheld
him. He had another temptation: to refer to the past, to the old past at
the College, to the part he had taken at the inn, to make some sort of
apology; but again discretion intervened, and he went on in silence.
As he had said, the ground was rising; but the outlook was cheerless
enough, until the moon on a sudden emerged from a bank of cloud and
disclosed the landscape. Mr. Thomasson uttered a cry of relief. Fifty
paces before them the low wall on the right of the lane was broken by a
pillared gateway, whence the dark thread of an avenue trending across
the moonlit flat seemed to point the way to a house.
The tutor pushed the gate open. 'Diana favours you, child,' he said,
with a smirk which was lost on Julia. 'It was well she emerged when she
did, for now in a few minutes we shall be safe under a roof. 'Tis a
gentleman's house too, unless I mistake.'
A more timid or a more suspicious woman might have refused to leave the
road, or to tempt the chances of the dark avenue, in his company. But
Julia, whose thoughts were bitterly employed, complied without thought
or hesitation, perhaps unconsciously. The gate swung to behind them, and
they plodded a hundred yards between the trees arm in arm; then one and
then a second light twinkled out in front. These as they approached were
found to proceed from two windows in the ground floor of a large house.
The travellers had not advanced many paces towards them before the peaks
of three gables rose above them, vandyking the sky and docking the last
sparse branches of the elms.
Mr. Thomasson's exclamation of relief, as he surveyed the building, was
cut short by the harsh rattle of a chain, followed by the roar of a
watch-dog, as it bounded from the kennel; in a second a horrid raving
and baying, as of a score of hounds, awoke the night. The startled tutor
came near to dropping his companion's hand, but fortunately the
threshold, dimly pillared and doubtfully Palladian, was near, and
resisting the impulse to put himself back to back with the girl--for the
protection of his calves rather than her skirts--the reverend gentleman
hurried to occupy it. Once in that coign of refuge, he hammered on the
door with the energy of a frightened man.
When his anxiety permitted him to pause, a voice made itself heard
within, cursing the dogs and roaring for Jarvey. A line of a hunting
song, bawled at the top of a musical voice and ending in a shrill 'View
Halloa!' followed; then 'To them, beauties; to them!' and the crash of
an overturned chair. Again the house echoed with 'Jarvey, Jarvey!' on
top of which the door opened and an elderly man-servant, with his wig
set on askew, his waistcoat unbuttoned, and his mouth twisted into a
tipsy smile, confronted the wanderers.
The man held a candle in a hand that wavered and strewed tallow
broadcast; the light from this for a moment dazzled the visitors. Then
the draught of air extinguished it, and looking over the servant's
shoulder--he was short and squat--Mr. Thomasson's anxious eyes had a
glimpse of a spacious old-fashioned hall, panelled and furnished in oak,
with here a blazon, and there antlers or a stuffed head. At the farther
end of the hall a wide easy staircase rose, to branch at the first
landing into two flights, that returning formed a gallery round the
apartment. Between the door and the foot of the staircase, in the warm
glow of an unseen fire, stood a small heavily-carved oak table, with
Jacobean legs, like stuffed trunk-hose. This was strewn with cards,
liquors, glasses, and a china punch-bowl; but especially with cards,
which lay everywhere, not only on the table, but in heaps and batches
beneath and around it, where the careless hands of the players had
Yet, for all these cards, the players were only two. One, a man
something under forty, in a peach coat and black satin breeches, sat on
the edge of the table, his eyes on the door and his chair lying at his
feet. It was his voice that had shouted for Jarvey and that now saluted
the arrivals with a boisterous 'Two to one in guineas, it's a catchpoll!
D'ye take me, my lord?'--the while he drummed merrily with his heels on
a leg of the table. His companion, an exhausted young man, thin and
pale, remained in his chair, which he had tilted on its hinder feet; and
contented himself with staring at the doorway.
The latter was our old friend, Lord Almeric Doyley; but neither he nor
Mr. Thomasson knew one another, until the tutor had advanced some paces
into the room. Then, as the gentleman in the peach coat cried, 'Curse
me, if it isn't a parson! The bet's off! Off!' Lord Almeric dropped his
hand of cards on the table, and opening his mouth gasped in a paroxysm
'Oh, Lord,' he exclaimed, at last. 'Hold me, some one! If it isn't
Tommy! Oh, I say,' he continued, rising and speaking in a tone of
querulous remonstrance, 'you have not come to tell me the old man's
gone! And I'd pitted him against Bedford to live to--to--but it's like
him! It is like him, and monstrous unfeeling. I vow and protest it is!
Eh! oh, it is not that! Hal--loa!'
He paused there, his astonishment greater even than that which he had
felt on recognising the tutor. His eye had lighted on Julia, whose
figure was now visible on the threshold.
His companion did not notice this. He was busy identifying the tutor.
'Gad! it is old Thomasson!' he cried, for he too had been at Pembroke.
'_And_ a petticoat! _And_ a petticoat!' he repeated. 'Well, I am spun!'
The tutor raised his hands in astonishment. 'Lord!' he said, with a fair
show of enthusiasm, 'do I really see my old friend and pupil, Mr.
Pomeroy of Bastwick?'
'Who put the cat in your valise? When you got to London--kittens? You
'I thought so!' Mr. Thomasson answered effusively. 'I was sure of it! I
never forget a face when my--my heart has once gone out to it! And you,
my dear, my very dear Lord Almeric, there is no danger I shall ever--'
'But, crib me, Tommy,' Lord Almeric shrieked, cutting him short without
ceremony, so great was his astonishment, 'it's the Little Masterson!'
'You old fox!' Mr. Pomeroy chimed in, shaking his finger at the tutor
with leering solemnity; he, belonging to an older generation at the
College, did not know her. Then, 'The Little Masterson, is it?' he
continued, advancing to the girl, and saluting her with mock ceremony.
'Among friends, I suppose? Well, my dear, for the future be pleased to
count me among them. Welcome to my poor house! And here's to bettering
your taste--for, fie, my love, old men are naughty. Have naught to do
with them!' And he laughed wickedly. He was a tall, heavy man, with a
hard, bullying, sneering face; a Dunborough grown older.
'Hush! my good sir. Hush!' Mr. Thomasson cried anxiously, after making
more than one futile effort to stop him. Between his respect for his
companion, and the deference in which he held a lord, the tutor was in
agony. 'My good sir, my dear Lord Almeric, you are in error,' he
continued strenuously. 'You mistake, I assure you, you mistake--'
'Do we, by Gad!' Mr. Pomeroy cried, winking at Julia.' Well, you and I,
my dear, don't, do we? We understand one another very well.'
The girl only answered by a fierce look of contempt. But Mr. Thomasson
was in despair. 'You do not, indeed!' he cried, almost wringing his
hands. 'This lady has lately come into a--a fortune, and to-night was
carried off by some villains from the Castle Inn at Marlborough in a--in
a post-chaise. I was fortunately on the spot to give her such protection
as I could, but the villains overpowered me, and to prevent my giving
the alarm, as I take it, bundled me into the chaise with her.'
'Oh, come,' said Mr. Pomeroy, grinning. 'You don't expect us to swallow
'It is true, as I live,' the tutor protested. 'Every word of it.'
'Then how come you here?'
'Not far from your gate, for no reason that I can understand, they
turned us out, and made off.'
'Honest Abraham?' Lord Almeric asked; he had listened open-mouthed.
'Every word of it,' the tutor answered.
'Then, my dear, if you have a fortune, sit down,' cried Mr. Pomeroy; and
seizing a chair he handed it with exaggerated gallantry to Julia, who
still remained near the door, frowning darkly at the trio; neither
ashamed nor abashed, but proudly and coldly contemptuous. 'Make yourself
at home, my pretty,' he continued familiarly, 'for if you have a fortune
it is the only one in this house, and a monstrous uncommon thing. Is it
not, my lord?'
'Lord! I vow it is!' the other drawled; and then, taking advantage of
the moment when Julia's attention was engaged elsewhere--she dumbly
refused to sit, 'Where is Dunborough?' my lord muttered.
'Heaven knows,' Mr. Thomasson whispered, with a wink that postponed
inquiry. 'What is more to the purpose,' he continued aloud, 'if I may
venture to make the suggestion to your lordship and Mr. Pomeroy, Miss
Masterson has been much distressed and fatigued this evening. If there
is a respectable elderly woman in the house, therefore, to whose care
you could entrust her for the night, it were well.'
'There is old Mother Olney,' Mr. Pomeroy answered, assenting with a
readier grace than the tutor expected, 'who locked herself up an hour
ago for fear of us young bloods. She should be old and ugly enough! Here
you, Jarvey, go and kick in her outworks, and bid her come down.'
'Better still, if I may suggest it,' said the tutor, who was above all
things anxious to be rid of the girl before too much was said--'Might
not your servant take Miss above stairs to this good woman--who will
doubtless see to her comfort? Miss Masterson has gone through some
surprising adventures this evening, and I think it were better if you
allowed her to withdraw at once, Mr. Pomeroy.'
'Jarvey, take the lady,' Mr. Pomeroy cried. 'A sweet pretty toad she is.
Here's to your eyes and fortune, child!' he continued with an impudent
grin; and filling his glass he pledged her as she passed.
After that he stood watching while Mr. Thomasson opened the door and
bowed her out; and this done and the door closed after her, 'Lord, what
ceremony!' he said, with an ugly sneer. 'Is't real, man, or are you
bubbling her? And what is this Cock-lane story of a chaise and the rest?
Out with it, unless you want to be tossed in a blanket.'
'True, upon my honour!' Mr. Thomasson asseverated.
'Oh, but Tommy, the fortune?' Lord Almeric protested seriously. 'I vow
you are sharping us.'
'True too, my lord, as I hope to be saved!'
'True? Oh, but it is too monstrous absurd,' my lord wailed. 'The Little
Masterson? As pretty a little tit as was to be found in all Oxford. The
Little Masterson a fortune?'
'She has eyes and a shape,' Mr. Pomeroy admitted generously. 'For the
rest, what is the figure, Mr. Thomasson?' he continued. 'There are
fortunes and fortunes.'
Mr. Thomasson looked at the gallery above, and thence, and slyly, to
his companions and back again to the gallery; and swallowed something
that rose in his throat. At length he seemed to make up his mind to
speak the truth, though when he did so it was in a voice little above a
whisper. 'Fifty thousand,' he said, and looked guiltily round him.
Lord Almeric rose from his chair as if on springs. 'Oh, I protest!' he
said. 'You are roasting us. Fifty thousand! It's a bite?'
But Mr. Thomasson nodded. 'Fifty thousand,' he repeated softly. 'Fifty
'Pounds?' gasped my lord. 'The Little Masterson?'
The tutor nodded again; and without asking leave, with a dogged air
unlike his ordinary bearing when he was in the company of those above
him, he drew a decanter towards him, and filling a glass with a shaking
hand raised it to his lips and emptied it. The three were on their feet
round the table, on which several candles, luridly lighting up their
faces, still burned; while others had flickered down, and smoked in the
guttering sockets, among the empty bottles and the litter of cards. In
one corner of the table the lees of wine had run upon the oak, and
dripped to the floor, and formed a pool, in which a broken glass lay in
fragments beside the overturned chair. An observant eye might have found
on the panels below the gallery the vacant nails and dusty lines whence
Lelys and Knellers, Cuyps and Hondekoeters had looked down on two
generations of Pomeroys. But in the main the disorder of the scene
centred in the small table and the three men standing round it; a
lighted group, islanded in the shadows of the hall.
Mr. Pomeroy waited with impatience until Mr. Thomasson lowered his
glass. Then, 'Let us have the story,' he said. 'A guinea to a China
orange the fool is tricking us.'
The tutor shook his head, and turned to Lord Almeric. 'You know Sir
George Soane,' he said. 'Well, my lord, she is his cousin.'
'Oh, tally, tally!' my lord cried. 'You--you are romancing, Tommy!'
'And under the will of Sir George's grandfather she takes fifty thousand
pounds, if she make good her claim within a certain time from to-day.'
'Oh, I say, you are romancing!' my lord repeated, more feebly. 'You
know, you really should not! It is too uncommon absurd, Tommy.'
'It's true!' said Mr. Thomasson.
'What? That this porter's wench at Pembroke has fifty thousand pounds?'
cried Mr. Pomeroy. 'She is the porter's wench, isn't she?' he continued.
Something had sobered him. His eyes shone, and the veins stood out on
his forehead. But his manner was concise and harsh, and to the point.
Mr. Thomasson. glanced at him stealthily, as one gamester scrutinises
another over the cards. 'She is Masterson, the porter's,
foster-child,' he said.
'But is it certain that she has the money?' the other cried rudely. 'Is
it true, man? How do you know? Is it public property?'
'No,' Mr. Thomasson answered, 'it is not public property. But it is
certain and it is true!' Then, after a moment's hesitation, 'I saw some
papers--by accident,' he said, his eyes on the gallery.
'Oh, d--n your accident!' Mr. Pomeroy cried brutally. 'You are very fine
to-night. You were not used to be a Methodist! Hang it, man, we know
you,' he continued violently, 'and this is not all! This does not bring
you and the girl tramping the country, knocking at doors at midnight
with Cock-lane stories of chaises and abductions. Come to it, man, or--'
'Oh, I say,' Lord Almeric protested weakly. 'Tommy is an honest man in
his way, and you are too stiff with him.'
'D--n him! my lord; let him come to the point then,' Mr. Pomeroy
retorted savagely. 'Is she in the way to get the money?'
'She is,' said the tutor sullenly.
'Then what brings her here--with you, of all people?'
'I will tell you if you will give me time, Mr. Pomeroy,' the tutor said
plaintively. And he proceeded to describe in some detail all that had
happened, from the _fons et origo mali_--Mr. Dunborough's passion for
the girl--to the stay at the Castle Inn, the abduction at Manton Corner,
the strange night journey in the chaise, and the stranger release.
When he had done, 'Sir George was the girl's fancy-man, then?' Pomeroy
said, in the harsh overbearing tone he had suddenly adopted.
The tutor nodded.
'And she thinks he has tricked her?'
'But for that and the humour she is in,' Mr. Thomasson answered, with a
subtle glance at the other's face, 'you and I might talk here till
Doomsday, and be none the better, Mr. Pomeroy.'
His frankness provoked Mr. Pomeroy to greater frankness. 'Consume your
impertinence!' he cried. 'Speak for yourself.'
'She is not that kind of woman,' said Mr. Thomasson firmly.
'Kind of woman?' cried Mr. Pomeroy furiously. 'I am this kind of man.
Oh, d--n you! If you want plain speaking you shall have it! She has
fifty thousand, and she is in my house; well, I am this kind of man!
I'll not let that money go out of the house without having a fling at
it! It is the devil's luck has sent her here, and it will be my folly
will send her away--if she goes. Which she does not if I am the kind of
man I think I am. So there for you! There's plain speaking.'
'You don't know her,' Mr. Thomasson answered doggedly. 'Mr. Dunborough
is a gentleman of mettle, and he could not bend her.'
'She was not in his house!' the other retorted, with a grim laugh. Then,
in a lower, if not more amicable tone, 'Look here, man,' he continued,
'd'ye mean to say that you had not something of this kind in your mind
when you knocked at this door?'
'I!' Mr. Thomasson cried, virtuously indignant.
'Ay, you! Do you mean to say you did not see that here was a chance in a
hundred? In a thousand? Ay, in a million? Fifty thousand pounds is not
found in the road any day?'
Mr. Thomasson grinned in a sickly fashion. 'I know that,' he said.
'Well, what is your idea? What do you want?'
The tutor did not answer on the instant, but after stealing one or two
furtive glances at Lord Almeric, looked down at the table, a nervous
smile distorting his mouth. At length, 'I want--her,' he said; and
passed his tongue furtively over his lips.
'Oh Lord!' said Mr. Pomeroy, in a voice of disgust.
But the ice broken, Mr. Thomasson had more to say. 'Why not?' he said
plaintively. 'I brought her here--with all submission. I know her,
and--and am a friend of hers. If she is fair game for any one, she is
fair game for me. I have run a risk for her,' he continued pathetically,
and touched his brow, where the slight cut he had received in the
struggle with Dunborough's men showed below the border of his wig,
'and--and for that matter, Mr. Pomeroy is not the only man who has
bailiffs to avoid.'
'Stuff me, Tommy, if I am not of your opinion!' cried Lord Almeric. And
he struck the table with unusual energy.
Pomeroy turned on him in surprise as great as his disgust. 'What?' he
cried. 'You would give the girl and her money--fifty thousand--to this
'I? Not I! I would have her myself!' his lordship answered stoutly.
'Come, Pomeroy, you have won three hundred of me, and if I am not to
take a hand at this, I shall think it low! Monstrous low I shall think
it!' he repeated in the tone of an injured person. 'You know. Pom, I
want money as well as another--want it devilish bad--'
'You have not been a Sabbatarian, as I was for two months last year,'
Mr. Pomeroy retorted, somewhat cooled by this wholesale rising among his
allies, 'and walked out Sundays only for fear of the catchpolls.'
'But I am not now, either. Is that it? Why, d'ye think, because I
pouched six hundred of Flitney's, and three of yours, and set the mare
going again, it will last for ever?'
'No, but fair's fair, and if I am not in this, it is low. It is low,
Pom,' Lord Almeric continued, sticking to his point with abnormal
spirit. 'And here is Tommy will tell you the same. You have had three
hundred of me--'
'At cards, dear lad; at cards,' Mr. Pomeroy answered easily. 'But this
is not cards. Besides,' he continued, shrugging his shoulders and
pouncing on the argument, 'we cannot all marry the girl!'
'I don't know,' my lord answered, passing his fingers tenderly through
his wig. 'I--I don't commit myself to that.'
'Well, at any rate, we cannot all have the money!' Pomeroy replied,
with sufficient impatience.
'But we can all try! Can't we, Tommy?'
Mr. Thomasson's face, when the question was put to him in that form, was
a curious study. Mr. Pomeroy had spoken aright when he called it a
chance in a hundred, in a thousand, in a million. It was a chance, at
any rate, that was not likely to come in Mr. Thomasson's way again.
True, he appreciated more correctly than the others the obstacles in the
way of success--the girl's strong will and wayward temper; but he knew
also the humour which had now taken hold of her, and how likely it was
that it might lead her to strange lengths if the right man spoke at the
The very fact that Mr. Pomeroy had seen the chance and gauged the
possibilities, gave them a more solid aspect and a greater reality in
the tutor's mind. Each moment that passed left him less willing to
resign pretensions which were no longer the shadowy creatures of the
brain, but had acquired the aspect of solid claims--claims made his by
skill and exertion.
But if he defied Mr. Pomeroy, how would he stand? The girl's position in
this solitary house, apart from her friends, was half the battle; in a
sneaking way, though he shrank from facing the fact, he knew that she
was at their mercy; as much at their mercy as if they had planned the
abduction from the first. Without Mr. Pomeroy, therefore, the master of
the house and the strongest spirit of the three--
He got no farther, for at this point Lord Almeric repeated his question;
and the tutor, meeting Pomeroy's bullying eye, found it necessary to say
something. 'Certainly,' he stammered at a venture, 'we can all try, my
lord. Why not?'
'Ay, why not?' said Lord Almeric. 'Why not try?'
'Try? But how are you going to try?' Mr. Pomeroy responded with a
jeering laugh. 'I tell you, we cannot all marry the girl.'
Lord Almeric burst in a sudden fit of chuckling. 'I vow and protest I
have it!' he cried. 'We'll play for her! Don't you see, Pom? We'll cut
for her! Ha! Ha! That is surprising clever of me; don't you think? We'll
play for her!'
CUTTING FOR THE QUEEN
It was a suggestion so purely in the spirit of a day when men betted on
every contingency, public or private, decorous or the reverse, from the
fecundity of a sister to the longevity of a sire, that it sounded less
indecent in the cars of Lord Almeric's companions than it does in ours.
Mr. Thomasson indeed, who was only so far a gamester as every man who
had pretensions to be a gentleman was one at that time, and who had
seldom, since the days of Lady Harrington's faro bank, staked more than
he could afford, hesitated and looked dubious. But Mr. Pomeroy, a
reckless and hardened gambler, gave a boisterous assent, and in the face
of that the tutor's objections went for nothing. In a trice, all the
cards and half the glasses were swept pell mell to the floor, a new pack
was torn open, the candles were snuffed, and Mr. Pomeroy, smacking him
on the back, was bidding him draw up.
'Sit down, man! Sit down!' cried that gentleman, who had regained his
jovial humour as quickly as he had lost it, and whom the prospect of the
stake appeared to intoxicate. 'May I burn if I ever played for a girl
before! Hang it! man, look cheerful, We'll toast her first--and a
daintier bit never swam in a bowl--and play for her afterwards! Come, no
heel-taps, my lord. Drink her! Drink her! Here's to the Mistress of
'Lady Almeric Doyley!' my lord cried, rising, and bowing with his hand
to his heart, while he ogled the door through which she had disappeared.
'I drink you! Here's to your pretty face, my dear!'
'Mrs. Thomasson!' cried the tutor, 'I drink to you. But--'
'But what shall it be, you mean?' Pomeroy cried briskly. 'Loo, Quinze,
Faro, Lansquenet? Or cribbage, all-fours, put, Mr. Parson, if you like!
It's all one to me. Name your game and I am your man!'
'Then let us shuffle and cut, and the highest takes,' said the tutor.
'Sho! man, where is the sport in that?' Pomeroy cried, receiving the
suggestion with disgust.
'It is what Lord Almeric proposed,' Mr. Thomasson answered. The two
glasses of wine he had taken had given him courage. 'I am no player, and
at games of skill I am no match for you.'
A shadow crossed Mr. Pomeroy's face; but he recovered himself
immediately. 'As you please,' he said, shrugging his shoulders with a
show of carelessness. 'I'll match any man at anything. Let's to it!'
But the tutor kept his hands on the cards, which lay in a heap face
downwards on the table. 'There is a thing to be settled,' he said,
hesitating somewhat, 'before we draw. If she will not take the
'Yes, what then?'
Mr. Pomeroy grinned. 'Why, then number two will try his luck with her,
and if he fail, number three! There, my bully boy, that is settled. It
seems simple enough, don't it?'
'But how long is each to have?' the tutor asked in a low voice. The
three were bending over the cards, their faces near one another. Lord
Almeric's eyes turned from one to the other of the speakers.
'How long?' Mr. Pomeroy answered, raising his eyebrows. 'Ah. Well,
let's say--what do you think? Two days?'
'And if the first fail, two days for the second?'
'There will be no second if I am first,' Pomeroy answered grimly.
'But otherwise,' the tutor persisted; 'two days for the second?'
Bully Pomeroy nodded.
'But then, the question is, can we keep her here?'
Mr. Pomeroy laughed harshly. 'Ay,' he said, 'or six if needs be and I
lose. You may leave that to me. We'll shift her to the nursery
'The nursery?' my lord said, and stared.
'The windows are barred. Now do you understand?'
The tutor turned a shade paler, and his eyes sank slyly to the table.
'There'll--there'll be no violence, of course,' he said, his voice a
'Violence? Oh, no, there will be no violence,' Mr. Pomeroy answered with
an unpleasant sneer. And they all laughed; Mr. Thomasson tremulously,
Lord Almeric as if he scarcely entered into the other's meaning and
laughed that he might not seem outside it. Then, 'There is another thing
that must not be,' Pomeroy continued, tapping softly on the table with
his forefinger, as much to command attention as to emphasise his words,
'and that is peaching! Peaching! We'll have no Jeremy Twitcher here, if
'No, no!' Mr. Thomasson stammered. 'Of course not.'
'No, damme!' said my lord grandly. 'No peaching!'
'No,' Mr. Pomeroy said, glancing keenly from one to the other, 'and by
token I have a thought that will cure it. D'ye see here, my lord! What
do you say to the losers taking five thousand each out of Madam's money?
That should bind all together if anything will--though I say it that
will have to pay it,' he continued boastfully.
My lord was full of admiration. 'Uncommon handsome!' he said. 'Pom, that
does you credit. You have a head! I always said you had a head!'
'You are agreeable to that, my lord?'
'Burn me, if I am not.'
'Then shake hands upon it. And what say you, Parson?'
Mr. Thomasson proffered an assent fully as enthusiastic as Lord
Almeric's, but for a different reason. The tutor's nerves, never strong,
were none the better for the rough treatment he had undergone, his long
drive, and his longer fast. He had taken enough wine to obscure remoter
terrors, but not the image of Mr. Dunborough--_impiger, iracundus,
inexorabilis, acer_--Dunborough doubly and trebly offended! That image
recurred when the glass was not at his lips; and behind it, sometimes
the angry spectre of Sir George, sometimes the face of the girl, blazing
with rage, slaying him with the lightning of her contempt.
He thought that it would not suit him ill, therefore, though it was a
sacrifice, if Mr. Pomeroy took the fortune, the wife, and the risk--and
five thousand only fell to him. True, the risk, apart from that of Mr.
Dunborough's vengeance, might be small; no one of the three had had act
or part in the abduction of the girl. True, too, in the atmosphere of
this unfamiliar house--into which he had been transported as suddenly as
Bedreddin Hassan to the palace in the fairy tale--with the fumes of wine
and the glamour of beauty in his head, he was in a mood to minimise even
that risk. But under the jovial good-fellowship which Mr. Pomeroy
affected, and strove to instil into the party, he discerned at odd
moments a something sinister that turned his craven heart to water and
loosened the joints of his knees.
The lights and cards and jests, the toasts and laughter were a mask that
sometimes slipped and let him see the death's head that grinned behind
it. They were three men, alone with the girl in a country house, of
which the reputation, Mr. Thomasson had a shrewd idea, was no better
than its master's. No one outside knew that she was there; as far as her
friends were concerned, she had vanished from the earth. She was a
woman, and she was in their power. What was to prevent them bending her
to their purpose?
It is probable that had she been of their rank from the beginning, bred
and trained, as well as born, a Soane, it would not have occurred even
to a broken and desperate man to frame so audacious a plan. But
scruples grew weak, and virtue--the virtue of Vauxhall and the
masquerades--languished where it was a question of a woman who a month
before had been fair game for undergraduate gallantry, and who now
carried fifty thousand pounds in her hand.
Mr. Pomeroy's next words showed that this aspect of the case was in his
mind. 'Damme, she ought to be glad to marry any one of us!' he said, as
he packed the cards and handed them to the others that each might
shuffle them. 'If she is not, the worse for her! We'll put her on bread
and water until she sees reason!'
'D'you think Dunborough knew, Tommy?' said Lord Almeric, grinning at the
thought of his friend's disappointment. 'That she had the money?'
Dunborough's name turned the tutor grave. He shook his head.
'He'll be monstrous mad! Monstrous!' Lord Almeric said with a chuckle;
the wine he had drunk was beginning to affect him. 'He has paid the
postboys and we ride. Well, are you ready? Ready all? Hallo! Who is to
'Let's draw for first,' said Mr. Pomeroy. 'All together!'
'For it's hey, derry down, and it's over the lea.
And it's out with the fox in the dawning!'
sang my lord in an uncertain voice. And then, 'Lord! I've a d----d
deuce! Tommy has it! Tommy's Pam has it! No, by Gad! Pomeroy, you have
won it! Your Queen takes!'
'And I shall take the Queen!' quoth Mr. Pomeroy. Then ceremoniously, 'My
first draw, I think?'
'Yes,' said Mr. Thomasson nervously.
'Yes,' said Lord Almeric, gloating with flushed face on the blind backs
of the cards as they lay in a long row before him. 'Draw away!'
'Then here's for a wife and five thousand a year!' cried Pomeroy. 'One,
two, three--oh, hang and sink the cards!' he continued with a violent
execration, as he flung down the card he had drawn. 'Seven's the main! I
have no luck! Now, Mr. Parson, get on! Can you do better?'
Mr. Thomasson, a damp flush on his brow, chose his card gingerly, and
turned it with trembling fingers. Mr. Pomeroy greeted it with a savage
oath, Lord Almeric with a yell of tipsy laughter. It was an eight.
'It is bad to be crabbed, but to be crabbed by a smug like you!' Mr.
Pomeroy cried churlishly. Then, 'Go on, man!' he said to his lordship.
'Don't keep us all night.'
Lord Almeric, thus adjured, turned a card with a flourish. It was a
'Fal-lal-lal, lal-lal-la!' he sang, rising with a sweep of the arm that
brought down two candlesticks. Then, seizing a glass and filling it from
the punch-bowl, 'Here's your health once more, my lady. And drink her,
you envious beggars! Drink her! You shall throw the stocking for us.
Lord, we'll have a right royal wedding! And then--'
'Don't you forget the five thousand,' said Pomeroy sulkily. He kept his
seat, his hands thrust deep into his breeches pockets; he looked the
picture of disappointment.
'Not I, dear lad! Not I! Lord, it is as safe as if your banker had it.
Just as safe!'
'Umph! She has not taken you yet!' Pomeroy muttered, watching him; and
his face relaxed. 'No, hang me! she has not!' he continued in a tone but
half audible. 'And it is even betting she will not. She might take you
drunk, but d--n me if she will take you sober!' And, cheered by the
reflection, he pulled the bowl to him, and, filling a glass, 'Here's to
her, my lord,' he said, raising it to his lips. 'But remember you have
only two days.'
'Two days!' my lord cried, reeling slightly; the last glass had been too
much for him. 'We'll be married in two days. See if we are not.'
'The Act notwithstanding?' Mr. Pomeroy said, with a sneer.
'Oh, sink the Act!' his lordship retorted. 'But where's--where's the
door? I shall go,' he continued, gazing vacantly about him, 'go to her
at once, and tell her--tell her I shall marry her! You--you fellows are
hiding the door! You are--you are all jealous! Oh, yes! Such a shape and
such eyes! You are jealous, hang you!'