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Chapter XIX Wild Work

Well, God's above all; and there be souls must be saved,
And there be souls must not be saved.

Othello.

BEYOND the break in Abelia's music, and an occasional bleating above-stairs, the night passed without disturbance. Once only, in the small hours, he thought he heard a loud and prolonged fit of drunken weeping.

He awoke much refreshed. It was a pleasant day, with a veiled sun, and the hot air upon the damp hills. Sir William dressed about seven and stood for a while in the doorway into the yard. Though it was warm, he wore an old black cloak as though not yet recovered from his vile attack. There was a strong odour of Spring grass. The kitchen door was open, and there was movement within; but the stable was still closed. He had fixed his intention, of walking over to the cave while it was still empty, of entering, and bringing back Abelia's saddle, his own, and their appointments (these being his especial charge), and placing them as if for security among the furniture in his bedroom. It was then his purpose to watch for a moment when yard and stables were empty, and pass quickly along across the windows to the gate: his saddle held about his waist under the cloak. Though this would mean a longer distance to be traversed under the eye of any one at the back windows, he preferred the risk to that of deliberately removing the saddle before strangers in the stable, or an interruption from Spafield, who might see him go in. Should he, by some accident, return from Gastine's, who would have time in the house to miss the saddle?

And so the hazardous trial had come. In a few minutes he stepped slowly across in cap and cloak. The vapours shrouded the hills and the soft sun beamed more warmly. There was a smell of cooking among the Spring odours, and he heard the woman's footsteps on her flags. Oughtryn he had left at the front shutters, and he trusted he might not have to explain his


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behaviour. The door was locked. He opened it and felt his way through the empty stable. The curtain was again withdrawn from Abelia's saddle, and his hand, seeking the pommel, came in contact with the man's moccasins, which were hanging from it. The skin was sodden and wet. He threw the loathsome footgear to the earth, and lifted the heavy saddle to his shoulder. On the pommels he hung the two bridles by their bits and reins. His own light saddle he essayed to take upon his right arm, but finding it over much for one journey, he carried it through cave and stable, and out a few yards before the door, where, dropping it on the stones, he made his return without it. He did not see that he was observed, though he again heard the woman in her kitchen. He took a breath or two in his bedroom, and then went out. He thought he would have brought the other saddle in without encounter, but as he returned with it somewhat conspicuous upon his shoulder, and was within twenty feet of the passage, there was a smell of tobacco, and Spafield himself came round the corner of the house, a morning pipe in his mouth. A civil smile was on his face, and he dropped his eyes and swiftly touched his shako. In the glimpse he caught of the miscreant, he thought him much changed—changed as it were in nature; his face had a plodding weakened look—a bad old man's air. Sir William passed him with head averted. In the room, with the saddle down, and himself resting upon the bed, he had an instant's disheartened qualm that the ruffian had been watching him—even had a prompting why he had removed the saddle. But he relieved himself much by the thought that had he been suspicious about its destination he would of course not have shown himself. He would have remained hidden.

Yet the half-civil look upon the wicked face; the lurking smile; the pointed glance upon the saddle; knocked ever and anon on the door of his mind during the morning hours. Supposing Spafield was on watch upon him, and entertained any suspicion of the saddle's being used, what reason could he have for showing himself? Little enough. Yet there were two. He might be conveying a benignant warning; or he might, with some secret motive, wish to frighten him back into his bounds.

Heans' mood was excited. He naturally remembered the man's strange attempts to cross him, and how they had been thwarted. He could not forget his attempts to make a sinister impression on him. If attachment to Abelia was the sole cause of his enmity, of course, he would be glad to let him go—to get rid of him on any count.

Well, he did not, as we shall see, allow himself to be thrust from his enterprise by a prompting which, in spite of an insistent knocking at his mind, was too much the idle impression of suspense.

From the sitting-room window he watched the same beaver-bonneted maids come up about the fountain—how full of


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lively importance! and ten minutes after, a loitering boy, with a basket and a handful of stones. Close behind the urchin toddled an old fellow with a hoary chin and a carpenter's bag, his eyes impressed with the occasion, his lips muttering all the way up. He seemed to be saying: “Governor Franklin, his Honour, Governor Franklin!” The baleful watcher remembered to smile as two young ladies appeared, one of whom kimboed her arms and swung a lightsome turn about the basin.

Soon after the woman brought in the piles of rancid bacon and calcined eggs, and he announced that he would perhaps be absent from his lunch, requesting that it might not be left for him after two o'clock. The woman bowed and went out.

About half-past nine he heard the rumbling of a vehicle and two gentlemen came up from the gate, one young and tall, the other stout, with an auburn wig. A little behind them, Mr. Daunt hurried in, rather sharp and fussy. He wore a long blue coat, and was followed by a couple of prisoners in grey carrying hoes and rakes, to whom he gave brief orders. The men touched their black straws and immediately began hoeing. Daunt came quickly up through the warm veiled garden. He seemed too absorbed in his last touches—for a ruined man; too much of a piece with the human gaiety of that morning—for a settler of strange dooms. Despite his bustling way, Sir William flashed away from the curtain with glaring eyes, and stood trembling over the fire.

And Matilda Shaxton would speak in these old rooms tonight!

At half-past ten, in his bedroom, Sir William dressed himself with his usual care and put on his hat. This done, he tightly bound up his bridle with cord, and buttoned it into the breast pocket of his clawhammer. In a small high pocket of his waistcoat he put his “poniard,” thrusting the blade down through the lining. He then brushed and donned the somewhat rusty cloak—a long garment with a cape reaching nearly to his ankles; and, when he had for some time listened, and observed the state of the yard through his window, he hauled up the light saddle under his arms, and attached it by the girths and a stirrup about his waist. Then, buttoning the three top buttons of his outer garment, he took his cane, and with his left hand supporting the saddle back, he walked quickly through the passage to the door. Ever since he had been in his bedroom, the stable had been empty of life and, as far as he could discern, of sound. The yard he now also believed empty, and when he came out he found it so. Without pausing an instant, he walked along nearish to the kitchen windows; then across the half-open door (with its clattering china) and, when level with the sewing-room, struck outwards for the gate. He became aware, with some discomposure, that the hall-door was open; but a side-glance,


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as he passed, showed it empty, unless were included two gentlemen leaning and jesting by the entrance. He was conscious of a pleasing bustle, and of several people, behind the curtains in the bright Chamber. As he tapped his way across, his eye was suddenly tugged upwards and he was much disturbed by a gleam of scarlet in the open window next but one to that over the hall. He was more relieved to see that it was the soldier's coat and bayonet only, that were lying on the sill. Now, in a few leisurely steps, he had levered up the heavy latch and swung in the gate. Next instant he had passed out, and the gate had lipped its latch. Every step he took he expected to hear the heavy fluting gabble or that loathsome song follow him along the yard; but there was no alarm. The house was resonant with the pleasant movement and gossip of preparation, till he had levered up the latch, pressed through, and “shut it away for ever.”

It was his plan, in case he should meet Daunt, or some one else, down about the front, to go up the lane to Davey, rather than down to Macquarie Street; and he started quietly past the caves and up the hill. There was no one in the lane. Had he decided to descend into Macquarie Street, he might have passed down across the Rivulet, and by forest track, joined his road outside the town; but, burdened as he was, he turned from an arduous climb, while, if he had come on a constable off the road with the saddle, the moment would be decisive. He chose, therefore, the risks of street and Boundary, trusting to his known proclivity and employment. Thus, striding leisurely, and twice or thrice turning his glass down the empty lane, he swung his way to the corner.

His method of carrying the concealed saddle proving much less trying than he expected—indeed quite comfortable—he even debated, as he threaded the street, whether he would remove it at that place to his arm, though that had been his plan. A few yards from the corner, he unfastened it, slipping it out upon his left arm as he came about, this being the last place where the change might be made without remark, and fearing some accident to a thing so hidden between here and Boundary.

He found himself quite alone in this part of Davey Street, though in the dim distance, at the bottom, there were a cart and a few pedestrians. The dwellings, here and there, had no life. The sight and smell of the mountain sea refreshed him. In one spot, no bigger than a crown, the sun was moving on the water like leaves in the moon. In his anxiety, he found himself questioning if there was enough wind for “poor faithful Stifft,” but cast away the doubt. It was wise to be at one's calmest. He struck up a whistling, but soon stifled it, considering it safer to save his breath. The road descended slowly. He began to feel overhot in the cape, but knew he would need it before night. About half the distance down, he began to notice people


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both behind and before him. A baker's boy approached him, and then an old woman, both of whom stared more than was comforting at his saddle. A glance behind showed him several people: most of them of the other sex. There was a stout man in a faded fustian jacket, carrying something on his head; in the road, a cart drawn by a donkey; while, as he looked, from out a lane, came a gentleman riding a rather fresh horse. On he went, very much lighter in mind, down the steepening slope. It was his intention, at the bottom of Davey Street, to follow the road past the cemetery and jetties till it swung northward.

Before he had reached the bottom, however, in a fit of annoyance, he elected to slightly change his way. A glance now and then behind showed him that, while the donkey-cart had turned off, its place was taken by two vehicles—a fly and a gig—while the gentleman upon the horse was still there, and kept rather annoyingly caracoling his company, making him feel the irksomeness of his observation. Another glance three minutes later, after that the hearing of his ears, told him that the gentleman was not far behind, and the fact that he did not trot on his way, but kept his nag angrily on the rein, and at the passade, plagued Sir William sufficiently to incline him to turn out of the rider's and his own road down a lane to the left. This he did, presently arriving with a sense of annoyance, yet of great relief, into the more frequented Macquarie Street.

On his progress here, Heans, being somewhat afraid of curiosity, quickened his pace and stepped sharply along towards the sea. He passed a fair sprinkling of pedestrians, but no one observed him with marked interest. But for the fact that the saddle was now a troublesome burden, and for the effort he must make to appear unconscious of it, he was buoyed up by a feeling of coming triumph, while below him, on his left, not three lanes off, was the turning of his goal. Keeping his glance away from every face, he crossed quietly over to the left-hand pavement. Though the covered sun was warm, the pavement was still damp.

He noted that several gentlemen had discarded broadcloth and tall head-gear for kerseymere and Manillas. At this moment, as he was about to pass over the top of the last lane—his being next—he turned to take a farewell glance up Macquarie Street, staring at the swimming mountain and striving to pick out the Hospital pediments. He at once saw, behind, the same top-hatted gentleman on the restive horse caracole out of the lane next below the one he had just taken. With a renewed sense of annoyance, he flashed about and hurried on. On the other side of the crossing, it occurred to him that he would more certainly keep to himself and company by turning down this lane, coming into his road below by Governor Collins' Street. This he immediately did, slackening his pace a little, and taking his way more leisurely along.




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A little way down, there was a tailor's window, somewhat attractively set out in the winter's coats and surtouts. Among the latter there was a long, grey garment, which attracted Sir William's attention. He stopped, went back, and gave it some examination through his eyeglass. At the same moment, happening to glance back, he could see along past the buildings on the left that accursed figure in the top-hat and frock. He was pulled up at the crossing and was in conversation with an old game and fish seller at the kerb. Heans, whose temper was somewhat heated by his walk and this coincidence, gave the rider two minutes to proceed, and waited by the window till he should pass from vision. Two—three minutes went by, yet the fellow would not cease his interminable gossiping. The older man had left his stand and was soothing the restive horse, and clutching at his knees. Sir William turned and began to move past the shop, when he was struck by a wish to outstay the rider; so returning, he went up into the tailor's room. He expressed a desire to examine the surtout. The tailor, an old man of some manner, yet with a straying eye to Heans' cloak, fetched the surtout from the window and displayed it before him. Heans, relinquishing his saddle, and leaning back upon his cane, examined it and several others with discrimination and even with detail. He assumed, with business acumen, that the approaching summer had reduced them somewhat in price, but was assured (with much sadness of humour) that such wear had no time or fashion, and the moth only would remake the pendant—to which Heans smiled, and at last selecting a plain garment, and requesting the tailor to expect the price in the following week, returned slowly into the street.

When presently he glanced back, the rider with the tall hat and black coat had vanished along Macquarie Street, and he went on, well rid, he felt, of an idle follower. He made slow and quiet progress to the corner, and then with his saddle awkwardly upon his right arm, and his cane in his glove, came sharply about: the Ferry road once more in vision. He passed several people, and the face of one which he saw advancing right on him gave him a heavy pang. It was that of the small police-sergeant who a year ago had ushered him into the waiting-room of Franklin's audience-chamber: the man like a half-drawn knife. He was in smart cords and clawhammer and eyed him and his saddle with just a ghost of steely interest. He passed, however, without stopping him, and Sir William, on his part, threw him from his vision with a remarkable calm. Near the end of the street, he passed also, very down on his luck, a fellow with whom he had played at Fraser's: a man who was remarkable for staring at each of the company in turn, and for long intervals, and saying never a word. He was aware that this gentleman stopped and stared after him disturbingly.

At the end, he crossed over the street, and was in the Ferry


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road. Looking south, he saw several vehicles and horsemen, and directly below him, before an inn, a tilted cart with bullocks and a trio of sailor-jacketed stockmen. About the cart, as he looked, came the troublesome fellow on the restive horse. Heans stood there for a moment and stared steadily at this rider. He was a handsome man, with quite a Byronical air, a fine thin face, and prettily groomed whiskers. He came nobly and abstractedly along the road. He seemed younger than Sir William had supposed: not more than thirty to thirty-five years. Sir William did not think that he was particularly observed by him; nevertheless, he turned away with an unquiet heart-beat. A few yards on along the footpath was Six's curio shop, and before he quite knew what he had done, he was standing before it, and looking at the prints and pieces of brass and copper. He there endeavoured to win back his calm of mind. Immediately, over the white glass behind, he saw Henry Six himself, his head a little bowed, and the newspaper in his hand. For a flash Heans hesitated, but decided to wait again till the rider had passed by.

He waited five—six minutes. A horse with a vehicle passed down, but no hoofs passed up. He waited another three, four, five. Six continued to read his paper. No horseman went by. He now stole a glance southward. He immediately felt a sense of relief, for he could not see his sheep-like follower among the stockmen or by the wagon, and believed he had gone at last by his right-hand turning. He was mistaken, however, for on turning to look behind him, he recognised not the rider, but not far down his fine roan, held by a tout before a warehouse. Here were Six's brass and copper baubles, here was poor Six sunk in his paper, and yonder was the horse, now singularly familiar even to its green forehead band. Sir William examined each for a brief while; shifted his saddle to his left arm; and continued slowly up the north hill.

The road steepened and wound about. Heans took his way yet more slowly up, making some effort to regain his coolness. Not far over the first rise was the Boundary, and by the roadside the white Watch House of the constables. Though still fifty yards away, he saw that the low door was open, and that in it, a man was standing in a black blouse and belt. He had often passed the place with Abelia, and once or so with Oughtryn, though never on foot. Now if, by a troublesome chance, he was stopped, he was prepared with a story of a pleasure ride, and the distant quartering of his beast. The circumstances were unusual. If he were walking far afield for a pass-man, his horse had been removed, and it was no business of his. “By Heaven, if they pleased, they could suspect him of a second gallop to Spring Bay!” He remembered on that occasion it had been plaguey cold, and he had ridden through the Posts as cool and hopeful as for a day's hunting with the Ravensworth.


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Now he was hot with his tense tramp, his head ached, and his composure had been disturbed. Faugh, he would be in Launceston to-night! Who would suspect that of him with his leaden saddle and his déclassé old cloak!

Before he quitted the rise, he glanced swiftly behind. There were half a dozen people on the slope, respectable New Town folk bound his way. No vehicle. No roan horse. Down below Six's shop, however, he saw, or thought so, among several horsemen, the roan horse with the gentleman once more upon its back, at a standstill, and facing away from him. The man was fiddling with his fashionable white gloves, and seemed to be staring here and there. Heans turned away with a kind of laugh, and in a few strides he put the street out of sight. Though he was hot and very painfully excited, it was a fine relief to him that no eye now upon him knew the extent of his walk and its peculiar direction. With the Watch House before him, he felt considerably lighter in mind. He threw open his cloak and shifted his saddle to his other arm. On the right hand was the house, on the left the bridle-path on which he walked. A constable in black was in the door, and as Heans advanced, he was aware that another fellow came up and stood behind him. They stood rather high above a flight of four wooden steps, and he noticed that to see him it was necessary to bend under the white frame of the door. Heans passed sourly by, flicking the flies from his cravat with the tassel of his cane. “By G—d, their stare was heavy to be borne!” He thought they would have spoken to him. But they seemed to be lingering over something among themselves, for he heard the inner man distinctly mutter the words: “Every dirty card of a dirty pack.” If they had called on him, he was prepared first to answer them with a “Good-day.” On a sudden, he heard the bang of their steps as they left the door, and afterwards a loud echoing talking—almost an altercation—which continued while he was in hearing.

When past the Boundary, and along, and well up the hill above, how natural it seemed that he had passed unaccosted, and how much firmer were his spirits! Almost his difficulties were over! He anticipated no trouble with Gastine, an easy-going young English settler. As he climbed up, he debated a message from Oughtryn to his hand at Bagdad. The worst—the Hobarton streets—the Boundary—were behind. Better—better—better every mounting step. He knew, however, that he was still in sight of the Watch House, and kept to a leisurely and stately pace. He would soon blot that out, moreover. Fifty yards in front, the road wound behind the right-hand bank, and he would there be finally out of observation. Just here he met a civil young man who wished him a “Good-day,” to whom he replied in his pleasant ceremonious way. When almost within the privacy of the


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bank, he cast a last look below, wishing to satisfy his mind if the constables were still in the house or had come into the road. There was no constable in the road, though there were three pedestrians coming his way, and behind them, ambling along, the top-hatted fellow on the roan horse.

Sir William Heans seems to have been over-shocked at the reappearance of this haunting man, but kept on, making a vain attempt to explain away a reasonless anxiety. He considered the gentlemanlike figure as a visitor to the colony on his way to friends at New Town. What more ordinary! Or riding for the scenery towards Bridgewater. What an annoyance that he had clung to this peculiar direction! So he would begin and end. While he mounted nearer the top, sedate of pace, Heans heard a horse's trotting rise up and die out in the hidden banks, and about a minute after a single sudden hoof-beat behind him. He did not look at the rider, though he knew it was the same. He hoped he was as sick of him, and cloak, and saddle, as he of his roan beast and black rig-out. He did not once look back, though he heard the horse now ambling, now quietly walking. The beast was moving rather faster than himself, and he hoped it would soon pass him. For a long while he mounted the veiled hill before that springy foot. It was, however, yet in his rear when he walked quietly into the high village. Here he stopped a few moments, and looked for a while at the new landscape. His heart fell and rose as he heard the sheep like fellow pull in his mount behind. There were some pleasant dwellings and two tracks to the right and left, and he hoped he might now be rid of those trying footsteps. Presently he ventured on. He went unaccompanied—sixty—seventy yards. He was still alone at one hundred. He was yet almost believing in the quiet before and behind, when, thinking the gentleman must be nearly out of sight, or gone down Kangaroo Valley, he turned and took a look behind. Sure enough there he was, a small, accomplished figure, quiet for once upon his horse, and looking over the vale.

It was now seven miles to Derwent Ferry, and six more to Jordan River and Brighton. Young Gastine's house was of slabs, and stood on the road about two miles beyond the village. All would have been well now, had his optimism not been shaken by the behaviour of his companion passenger. He could no longer persuade himself he was rid of the broad-clothed figure. He went on, quietly preparing himself for, and instinctively straining his hearing after, the “clip-clap” of those springy hoofs. His main hope now was that the gentleman would go clattering by, and leave him at last fairly to himself. Indeed, he felt it better, he informs us, not to again hope a change of road in his follower, and have his hopes flung down. If he might not take his way unwatched, he could stick to it under the man's scrutiny. He seemed a fine, handsome man, despite his rig.


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How should he know he was causing a grave inconvenience and his figure become a devilish obsession! The very way he was killing his time at the cross-roads showed he meant no harm, and was engaged in a tour of personal enjoyment.

Sir William had gone a quarter of a mile, and had passed Leeworthy's, when he again heard a horse's trot behind. This time it was a pair of gentlemen in a gig. He went the next mile without sound or sight of horse or man, and his spirits, despite his firm intention, soared unruly. He slackened his pace and walked along at his leisure. It was pleasant to think how far he had won, and with no definite misadventure. Now a small child came from a hut, and walked a part of the way with him, from whom he obtained bearings as to the position of the house of Mr. James Gastine. It was the next house but one in sight on the left side, and about a mile on. Sir William rewarded the child with an old pen-knife. He was pacing along beside a bank, when there was a heavy rumbling of heels and hoofs, and the Launceston coach flung past him, with two priests and a red-coat on the roof. There was a woman in the body, and the sight of her dark bonnet cast Heans' thoughts to Madam Ruth. The coach was still in sight when again he heard rapid hoofs behind. The rider this time was a prisoner, the top flapping of his glazed straw, and a sack of chaff held before him on his saddle. Sir William stopped the man as he was cantering by, and enquired if he had passed on the road a gentleman in black clothes upon a fine roan horse? Before the prisoner could reply, there was a click of hoofs immediately behind, and the very figure under discussion came jigging quietly on the roadside about the bank.

It fell on poor Sir William like a thunderstroke.

At a loss what to do, he dismissed the convict with a “God save me, here is the gentleman!” and turned and sat down as if to await him on a few stones by the road. The convict, with a glance behind, went slowly off. Heans put his saddle down, lay back, and crossed his legs. He observed the rider sharply as he came along. The other was a man of elegant manner, and came slowly up without changing his pace. He eyed Heans, but rather on his dignity, than rudely. He had a heavy yellow cane in his glove. Just before Heans' cairn, he pulled his roan to a restless stand.

In a loud, accomplished voice, he asked him: “Are you not a prisoner?”

Sir William Heans, after an interval, said that he was.

“'Pon my honour,” said the man, “my business is a troublesome one! I am a constable. Is not your name Sir William Heans?”

Sir William, with some hesitation, said that was so.

“Have you a pass?”

Heans said, “No, he had no pass.” “I need,” he added,


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“no pass at this time of day. I was about to go and take my horse.”

“I see you have no saddle-cloth with you?”

“It is a long distance to Mr. Gastine's house,” answered Heans; and a little breathless, but with quiet sang froid, he explained how his master's horses were at pasture, and the house filled with disagreeable preparation.

The man kept for a moment a somewhat haughty silence. Sir William gathered hope from the perfect courtesy of his face. His clothes, his air, his unsunned cravat, might have ridden straight out of Piccadilly or the Row itself.

“I am a young constable,” he explained, curbing that restless roan, and addressing him with a steady gravity; “and I am not certain what to do. I cannot follow you any longer. I think I will take upon me to order you to return to Mr. Oughtryn's.”

“Upon my soul,” said Heans, “this is d—ly vexatious of you!”

“I told you my business was a troublesome one,” said the rider, gravely and amiably eying him. “It will be better not to deceive you. Inspector D'Ewes saw you go past his window with your saddle at a little past ten o'clock. I am ordered to follow you, watch where you go, and if unsatisfied with the necessity (seeing the emergency at your master's house, and the attention of your master likely to be distracted) to bid you return and lie quiet for the day. That is the decision I have arrived at.”

Sir William Heans, who was observing the man through a sharp glass, nodded, flushed with anger, and sat upright. He jerked his saddle again upon his arm. The rider turned his horse sharply about, but when facing and rearing south, he turned and spoke again in his accomplished voice: “Do not delay about the town, sir. Mr. D'Ewes, himself, may go up to the house this afternoon, and I shall ask him, if he does, to make certain if you have returned home.” With that he let the beast go, and galloped off stiff and steady as a rocking-horse figure in a lithograph.

Before he obeyed the constable's order, Sir William sank back upon the cairn and thought the matter out. His hopes, if they had been slowly broken, steadied at last upon a fine if more desperate philosophy. Though gravely shocked and daunted, he saw the better enterprise was fairly barred, and he must now return through the town, and try his hand at the worse. Sir William Heans was not sentimentally inclined towards Madam Ruth, nor excited with O'Crone's attachment to her. Had he been freer, he might have been with those who christened it “infatuation,” rather than with Mr. Carnt. Having made what sacrifice he could to help the woman, he now would return and take his seat in the fly. He was not so discouraged or disturbed by the ordeal that he had just undergone, or by the thought of


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what he had just escaped, that this appeared to him impossible, or faced with any difficulty which he could believe to be extinguishing to gentlemanly courage. He weighed the matter as he sat in the quiet road, until he had it healthy and clear—thinking, as a Prince of many difficulties once wrote: “If it could not be, then in God's name be it so.”

He stayed for some time musing by the roadside, but rose at last. He could not but see he was returning to many hated dangers. Straightening his hat, and removing and dusting his cloak, he threw the latter and his saddle on his arm, and turned back. He left the saddle at the first cottage he passed, to be kept till called for. Then with slow and quiet steps he passed down into the town.

And now we come to what happened at the house on his return. Things went into singular hands from the very first.

He arrived at the back gate at between half-past two and three o'clock. He found both gates thrown open, and inside, shouldering the Chamber wall, was a carriage and horses, and gossiping with the flyman, a pair of old fellows holding saddle-horses. There was a deep note, a sort of braying uproar, in the Chamber, hall, and indeed the house top and bottom. In the hall he distinctly saw Abelia: the young girl very pale and listening to two women below the stair. The yard itself was otherwise empty; the stable door open at the top and silent. In a flash of grateful thought, he fancied Spafield at work in the middle of that indoor scurry, and not likely a witness of his coming in. He caught himself in wonderment whether any of those employing the soldier observed the weight upon his mind. … When he reached the small door and pulled at the handle, his fingers encountered something foreign and chilly which was bound cord-wise about it, but which a hasty withdrawing of his hand disturbed, so that it fell on the step. He instantly thought of the lost thongs from the stable, and that Spafield, in petty devilry and triumph, had slung them on the handle; but, in stooping down, he saw it was a small, dead, grey snake with a black cap upon its head, its body bruised with recent killing. He had hardly stooped, when along with the flurry in the house, and the gossip and clip-clap at the carriage, there ran up to his great disappointment—swift and definite as a bullet—that vile harsh singing:

Murruda yerrabá. …

and this, though he waited a minute by the door, he could fix in no direction, though he put it within the quiet door of the cave. Here was his welcoming. Sir William waited in vain for Sly to show himself.




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In Sir Charles Scarning's portfolio of letters there is a passage, rising almost to eloquence, describing Heans' struggle in the privacy of his room for the right to chance his honest luck against the shrouding of forebodement and hasty conjecture aroused by his unlucky walk, and the buffet of lively enmity received at the end of it.

Indoors he found a maid on her knees at his passage, and though he looked neither to the right nor the left, he was aware there was a considerable number of excited people in the kitchen hall. He at once entered his sitting-room, where he found the evening cloth already spread, with upon it some salt meat and bread. His first action, still with his cloak on his arm, was to advance to the window. At first he could not descry Daunt's two gardeners, and believed they had gone, but suddenly he saw their glazed hats over the bushes which hid the gate. He was displeased to find them still in the garden for the obvious reason. Had he been successful on his walk, but been refused a horse, it was his intention to return to Macquarie Street, but instead of entering Oughtryn's, to await the carriage in the Orphanage grounds. He had thought of the hollow by the old gully-hole. Now, though forced back to the house, he entertained a wild hope that he might reach the same place by surmounting the wall. With the prisoners still in the garden the heliotrope was dangerous.

And in any case, he considered this rather as an ecstatic and fortuitous plan, depending upon preoccupied windows and the chance of the garden being empty. He intended, therefore, when he had eaten and rested an hour, to take a walk down to the gate and see how things were towards the Hospital. However favourable or unfavourable the result, he would not so early risk being found absent from the house. But later—about 5.30—when there would be a lull in the preparations, and the young people were returning home to dress, he would take another look, and if practicable, get out by the tree or the gate.

When he had settled all to a matter of minutes, he put aside his cloak, and removing the bridle, which had somewhat chafed his arm, he opened the cabinet, mounted a chair, and hid it as high as he could reach beneath some papers and magazines. The cloak he put on top. Now if a search was made, they would seek for him in his cloak and possibly on horseback. He then took his seat once more at the table, and ate a determined meal of bread and meat, seasoned with some gin and water. Nobody disturbed him. His room was singularly quiet, while above his head, and just across his passage, and on the garden path, were little scrapes and monotones of dallying or headlong movement. When he had done, he rose and went down the passage to his bedroom. Some people were laying a carpet along the kitchen hall, and a few gentlemen stood under the stairs by the door of the sewing-room, which was open. There was a figure standing


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beside the left wall near the dark end, but he did not see for certain whether it was man or woman. He went quickly into his room. There he refreshed himself at his basin, and taking his plaid riding-jacket, his old spencer, and his peaked cap, from which he first cut away the blue-silk tassel, he brushed them carefully and laid them on a chair. To the contents of his black velvet waistcoat, one of whose pockets held his “poniard,” the blade being thrust through the bottom lining, he added a pair of scissors, a mourning band—and that thoughtful addition to his possessions provided by Mrs. Quaid as part of the equipment of his pelisse: the pocket mirror. It was his intention to remove his moustaches.

A look from his window showed him four persons in conversation before the stable door: two being of the flyman type, the third the old carpenter he had seen arrive in the morning, and the fourth Spafield. The latter was seated gloomily on a keg, his arms folded, the cushion of his left shoulder couched against the black door. The others stood deferentially about his bold, dull face, which was the colour of a candle under his hat. Heans watched for some minutes this little conclave. The carpenter and one of the hackneymen did most of the gossiping, Spafield contenting himself for once with monosyllable or dogged laugh. Heans was still at his window, when the flymen stumbled away to a call, the carpenter waiting a little, and then following towards the gate. In a little the soldier rose himself, stood for an instant in a peculiar position with one hand and arm outstretched against the door, and went slow and at a sort of groping pace into the cave. Heans was much relieved to find the grisly fellow on this side of the house, and watched the shakoed head pass in, fancying a faint stagger in the heavy limbs.

Till four o'clock Sir William rested upon his bed; for he was, of course, unable to sleep. When he rose, Spafield was again seated at the door of the stable, his bold, sunken eyes upon the gate. Heans quickly took his chimney-pot from the toilette, and went down the passage to the sitting-room. He again passed somebody standing by the wall close to his end of the kitchen hall, and though he did not look to verify himself, something slender in the figure and groping in the posture reminded of Abelia. When in his room, he closed the door, and leant in a quiet attitude over the table. Then donning his hat, he raised the sash of the nearer window, and climbed out under the tobacco-tree. The day was still close, and the human odour from its limbs and leather leaves was acidly pervasive. He turned from the sentry-box, and with cane behind him, and a high, eyeglassed eye, stepped slowly along to the Hospital wall. At the corner of the path, he halted and looked back towards a top window whence issued sharp men's voices. He then permitted his gaze to roam downward about the garden. With instant relief, he thought the two prisoners gone. He could neither see them nor hear their


  ― 331 ―
hoes above the jerks and clamours of the house. In a little he proceeded downward. Already the garden held in its delicate shadows the waning of this beautiful day. Each bush stood alone. The basin was a thing almost of beauty, singularly apart, and clear even to the gaiter on the soldier's leg.

Sir William, in a few leisurely paces, reached the cross path by the heliotrope. Among the heavy branches of the bush he perceived there was promising foothold. The corner of the place below him was thinly treed, but by edging a few feet westward, he saw through a break of bushes the gate shut against the decapitated pillars. Beyond it there was a man seated in a two-wheeled cart. He glanced about below the basin, but neither saw nor heard any one upon the lower paths. He suddenly heard, however, some one in conversation with the driver of the vehicle. It was a deep nasal voice. It might be a groom. On the other count, Inspector D'Ewes himself might hang about yet.

Before moving, he paused upon his cane and looked back again with curiosity along the comfortable house, majestic under the thyraus of its single gum. There was movement in the Chamber, and Abelia's quiet window held a trio of posturing figures, rehearsing, perhaps, their tragedy. He was yet looking back, when an elderly fellow in a wig hurried to the door, wrestling with his great-coat, and Heans elected to wait till he was gone. He suddenly returned and called into the hall, and Captain Karne emerged and they descended with abstracted steps. The gentlemen passed without seeing Heans, who advanced towards the fountain as they descended about it and approached the gate. He was about midway between the wall and the main path when they went out. A half-step brought him where he had a glimpse of the gate and a portion of the fence. He saw the actors turn down the road, behind the railings. There was no one else in the road to either side, unless he was motionless behind a pillar. Near the gate, however, was the two-wheeled cart held by a man in pork-pie hat and blouse. On the path by the wheel stood a small man in decent black. This person turned as the gentlemen went by and touched a tall, seedy hat. He had a grey chin beard and a grim, careless face. Sir William saw him turn and saw that it was a markedly saturnine countenance. He knew the gentlemen, and the gentlemen seemed to know him, for one of them threw back a question, and was answered by the words, “Five o'clock, Captain Karne.” What was to take place at five o'clock? Heans did not like the man's looks, and that peculiar mingling in his appearance of efficiency and seediness decided him, after the tragedy of the morning, not to show himself at the gate.

He did not stop, but paced quietly along till he reached the fountain. Here he paused again, contemplating the long house, the periwinkle in the basin, the carven stones among the foliage, without perceiving one of them. He was thus standing, when he


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was startled by a loud ‘good-night’ below him, and turning, caught the man in the tall hat leaving the cart and departing along the railings. Heans hesitated a few moments only. Though secretly overjoyed to see him go, he would risk no more now, for fear of indoor overlooking, and holding to his resolution, he returned and regained his room by the main-path.

When he had stepped over the sill, he stood for a while with his eyes riveted on the garden; but at last, forcing himself away, he brought a “Solitaire” board from the cabinet, and sitting at the table, endeavoured to while away the minutes with those unruly balls. When he returned the clock had pointed to seventeen minutes past the hour. Short as was the time he had been gone, his cloth had been reset and the fire lit and plenty of wood in the grate. There was even a vase of out-at-elbows greenery. An uneasy addition to his agitation was not the only feeling aroused by these attentions. Yet there was a peculiar air of unfamiliarity—of reproach—in the curious objects of the room and table, as if he had been gone for a period of days instead of moments. They were no longer there on his behalf—nor for his convenience. It was as a species of intruder he sat through the heavy seconds.

At the half-hour, that game of elimination became intolerable to him, and he arose and paced the room. Up and down—up and down! How remote the sightless eyes of the Roman! How jealously the marble figures held their doves! Whose books were those? Whose pampered bird was that? Not this distempered creature's with the tugging heart! Not the wild old fellow's at his sickening promenade! And how determinedly the gaiety of preparation hummed—the play outside went on!

At a quarter to five, he had wrought himself to such a pitch of suspense, that he became persuaded he would have been wiser to have changed his plan, and risked the gate when he had it before him. He decided to wait no longer. The man's remark hung in his thoughts. The likelihood that the hour of five was some important juncture in the ordering of the entertainment agitated his spirits, and persuaded him some new fixture might be then accomplished—some key turned—which would render more troublesome, if it did not endanger, his departure from the house. In this state of mind, he quietly opened his door and once more made for his bedroom. Outside, he collided with a flushed young lady running from the hall, and drew back with a smiling bow. There were several people close to his end of the larger passage, he was uncertain who, his eyes being confused by the lighting of some little wall-lamps.

In his room, he changed his clawhammer for the shooting-jacket, and over that buttoned the black spencer. Taking his peaked cap and a pair of mourning gloves, he went over and looked into the yard. With a pang of relief, he saw by his jacket Spafield was seated against the cave door, though he could


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not see his person for a couple of men in frieze aprons, who stood over him. One of these turning off towards the chamber, he observed that the fellow was splicing at a long rope, an end of it caught in his teeth and a portion about his foot. A ladder and some wooden pulleys lay on the flags. He saw his skilful, tallowy hands tremble with his exertions, and as he turned away, profoundly regretted he could not have bridled their wicked expertness to safer purpose. He at once returned to the sitting-room, scarcely changed in appearance from the clawhammered figure who left it ten minutes earlier. Without pausing, he again opened the window and stepped out. The day was fast passing, and already the grey veils to the northward were coloured with the tinsel they put in the chimney-pieces in the play. It was not till he had come from behind the sentry-box, and made a few quiet paces east, that he became aware there was a soldier with a shouldered musket among the foliage to the west of the basin. Heans walked on, however, distressed as he was, and endeavoured to come to some decision what course of action to adopt. When he came to turn along the wall, he had somewhat recovered his faculties. He did not consider it likely that the man would interfere with him, and if he did he would be under the necessity of explaining why. If the man accosted him, he would see what he wanted, and the man would have every opportunity of stopping him, as he came near, or before he reached the gate. He saw that when he reached the heliotrope he could avoid the meeting by threading his way through the intervening bushes to the gate, but he thought it better to turn west and do nothing covert. He, therefore, proceeded quietly to the heliotrope, and when he had passed into the western path, he stopped a moment and looked back, as if he would take a sharp prospect of the house. He heard the man's boots scraping clumsily along the path. When, next instant, he faced the basin and the soldier behind it, he saw that he had stopped at the other end of his beat, and that his observation was directed to the Chamber. In the quiet of that moment, he caught a soft, regular thumping below the path. He could see below him the rusty bars of the gate and a portion of the fence running east, and that all seemed open and clear. He began to move on, and saw clearly through another opening that the road was empty. Suddenly, between two bushes of lilac, he saw, pacing on the grass within the gate, a horse-constable in black blouse and heavy strapped képi. The man was not looking at him, but stared down, his cutlass hooked on his belt, his hands behind him. Dazed as he was, Sir William Heans kept on, his hands also behind him, his eyes on the path. When he reached the fountain, he stopped for a moment, raised his face, and watched the soldier at his paces. Then, without turning to look at the gate, he paced slowly back up the main path.

Not far from the door, he was passed by two young ladies and


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a tall young gentleman in uniform. In the shock of his disappointment he stood to one side, the young fellow addressing him with the words: “The old place is in full fig, sir.” For answer, he cackled out a sharp laugh, and moved on until he approached the front of the house. He formed the intention of pushing his way into the door and making a personal request to Oughtryn for the sun-set pass. But this intention was immediately thrust aside for the better opportunity born from an unexpected meeting.

There were two persons standing to the left of the door, beside the great stone ball, over which was a pretty festooning of flags. One was the gentleman with the horse face whose name was Sturt; the other a young soldier in strapped shako and short military cloak. There were also one or two persons inside the hall. Sir William walked quietly up, and, when yet ten paces off, looking in after Oughtryn, he saw Spafield standing near the rear way, balancing a ladder beside a gilt candlestick. He was staring into the Chamber. Some heavy piles of rope lay at his feet on the pink carpet. In his surprise at seeing the man there, Sir William stepped in front of the door. The ruffian at once turned a pair of singular cold eyes upon the prisoner; a look in which there was—for all the powerful arms which propped the ladder—a sort of meek and struggling horror. At sight of Heans, he gabbled a bold something, and turned and kissed his yellow hand at some one down the kitchen passage. Heans might now have returned to his window, when suddenly an aproned assistant entered the hall by the back, carrying a heavy iron street-lamp. The man shouted to Spafield as he came, and Spafield, straightening up, came after the other, carrying the ladder out before the door. Outside he turned and lowered it jerkily against the arch. Then, very slowly—mounting rung by rung—he began to attach a pulley by a piece of rope to the wrist of the stone hand which projected over the entrance.

One of the gentlemen nodded to Heans, remarking, “‘Pon his word, it was a graceful sentiment: the lamp upon the outstretched hand!”

Sir William drew a step nearer and seemed to join in the interest of the event. It had flashed across him that by passing in now, and down by the kitchen hall, he might go out immediately by the little door, and cross the yard unseen, to the gate. A slow and calculated stroll up Davey Street, and down by Watchhouse Lane would bring him in sight of the carriage as it drew up. He remained, therefore, only a few seconds longer, his quiet glass upturned to Spafield at his singular task. In those seconds, he thought the miscreant approached the carving with a sort of caution—that when within reach of the grey fingers, he sensibly swayed and hesitated, as if he could not bring himself to meddle with them: then darted at and bound the tags of rope about the stone with a decision and panting laugh


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that had a note of grim relief. At the same instant he actually glanced back at Heans himself. Heans turned from him, and stepped into the house. He recognised no one in the beflowered hall, and passed, with head down, under the stairs, and along the kitchen passage, which was now lit with little bracket lamps, and carpeted in pink and yellow. There the place was quiet and empty, except at the far end, where stood a party of four women—two in shawls and bonnets. One of these he perceived, by her height, was the woman. She stood a little below the kitchen door, and though he did not closely examine who it was, he saw that Abelia was standing by the wall behind her in a curious, drooping attitude, her head being on her arm. Though distressed by the girl's appearance, and troubled by the thought that it was she he had seen during the afternoon in that part of the passage, he did not permit himself to stop, or even the last brief word that was on his lips. As they had seen him pass, he opened his bedroom door, and walked within for a few moments of violent suspense. By his watch it was now past the hour. He returned slowly from his bedroom, and let himself out into the yard. One old fellow in an old Manilla was walking two saddle-horses beside the Chamber. Through the open gates was to be seen a horse standing in a pair of shafts, the vehicle being invisible. Sir William walked over to the stable, and when he had looked once within the door, he turned and continued his walk to the gate. The vehicle was a light yellow gig, and there was a groom in claret at the reins. He thought the man stared at him with peculiar intentness. As he came into the gateway he slackened his pace to a stroll. When between the two gates he stopped and glanced up and down. As he was approaching he had seen about the right post the gleam of a pair of loose white breeches. A few steps revealed above them the clawhammer and leather hat of a constable. The man had a grey chin-beard, and it came as a double blow to Sir William Heans that it was the same fellow he had seen in the afternoon.

He did not wait long at the gate. After a sharp examination of the horse and carriage, and a cursory look up and down—during which he gave the constable ample time to accost him if he wished—he returned over the yard. As he passed the hall, he saw Spafield's tall figure at the rope in front, and the great lamp glimmer slowly up across the door. He had but reached the kitchen entrance, when there was a startling great crash of glass, which set the two horses clattering and snorting, and the birds leaping on the eaves. He looked about him, and saw the old constable glance in at the gate, while he heard high to the front the soldier's rapid and insolent voice. Had the hand fallen and the lamp with it? Had Heaven struck the pretty fellow beneath it? Heans gave little thought to the accident—whatever it had been! Hemmed in as he found himself, and rudely wounded as


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were his hopes, he gathered all his strength and spurred his spirits for another effort. The hands of his watch were at twenty minutes past five. It would not do to lose a moment. He might still obtain the pass from Oughtryn, and, with that in his pocket, face one or other of the gates. No harm could come of the attempt. He bitterly upbraided himself that he had not fore-armed himself against such misfortunes, and taken the precaution to demand a pass in the morning. He had for comfort, that he need be at no great pains to bridle his hurry, for he had had dealings over the pass not always even or free from vexation. Thrusting open the small door, he stamped in, hoping to find Abelia still in the kitchen-hall. He was relieved to see her bright head close to the wall beside a single shawled figure, her posture hardly changed. Stopping at the corner nearest his room, he called her by name, and she started with the other—lifting her head from her arm. Instantly she came feeling over the carpeted slates. A little way from Heans she stopped, very pale, and groping at him from her smiling peace.

Heans put his glove on the wall, holding his cap behind him.

“Why, miss,” he asked, with sharp amazement, “what is that that has just fallen?”

“Something has been broken,'note she answered. “I fear it is a lamp that was to lighten the entrance.”

“Upon my word,” he cried, with a kind look, “a clumsy lout, he'll have to eat stick!” He then thrust in his glass and asked where Oughtryn was; and when she said she thought he was upstairs, he begged her “please to run sharply and get him to write a pass for Fraser's Club, for he must be gone out before six o'clock.”

Abelia began to draw away, but lingered, looking up at his face, her left hand wandering at her ear and forehead.

“I told you I was in haste, miss,” said Heans, unable to keep something sharp and annoyed from his voice. “Will he be pleased to put ‘Fraser's Club’!”

“Yes, Sir William,” she said, looking aside and feeling away, the lamp upon her ashen face. “I—I will tell him. … Yes, to-night. I will be quick. I will persuade my father.”

Again she stopped, feeling at her black apron; of her face just left the shy movement of those restless eyes.

“Always so calm, Abelia,” he said, tapping the wall with lavender fingers. “Be troubled for once, miss. I beseech you to make haste.”

And at once she gave a sort of gasp, crying, “Yes, I will get it—I will try to get it,” and groped in a blind hurry up the pink and yellow carpet.

At the door, she stopped an instant, sent a white look back, and went out. He heard feet feel up the stair over a rattle of glass and flurry of speakers in the hall.




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He waited for five minutes in company with the solitary woman, and then went into the sitting-room.

His window was still open, and the shadowy place smelt strongly of the tree without. Again he stood for a few minutes an alien among his silent companions. The path was rattling with footsteps, and at the gate a hidden voice was in conversation. In the north-east sky was one of those old wounds which remind us of the echo of far guns.

A sort of lull had fallen on the house. Like some matured and experienced beauty, it had thrown itself aside in its beautiful dress to await the coming thing, and think on life. It spoke occasionally, in soft explosions, and from a sort of ominous repose.

It was twenty-five minutes to the hour before he heard a faint sound in the passage and a moment after a trembling knock. Sir William had been standing at the further window, and calling “Come in,” he remained standing by the sill. Abelia came groping slowly in, and drew back searching till she saw where he was. She shook her head—or rather her calm head seemed to shake of itself—as she stood by the door. She was like a gentle ship which is tossed about while the people pray.

“It is no good, Sir William,” she said, her weak eyes fluttering at last on his face; “he may not—he cannot.”

Heans pushed himself slowly up, stared at her fixedly; then came half-round the table. This kind of encounter had occurred before between Abelia and himself. To-night he looked out-wearied and estranged, rather than flushed and annoyed.

“Gracious G—d, miss,” he said, somewhat harshly, “he will not give me a pass! What can have possessed him now!”

“I cannot answer for it,” she said, twisting her apron and dropping her restless face. “He spoke very certain. He said he must put you off. But he had a creditable reason.”

“Abelia—Abelia,” said Sir William, turning his head towards the mantel with a sharp sigh, “I cannot suffer this. It is imperative that I should meet some one at 6.30. This is insufferable, my dear. Go back, and tell him I must get instantly away. I cannot allow anyone or any thing to cross this engagement.” He took out his watch and stood staring at it as though its face were something grim which had amazed him, saying, “Sharply, my dear!”

Abelia, with her untroubled face yet dropped, said her father had seemed cross and frightened, and indeed she had tried to compose him. “He said it was no use to dally with it.” Yes, she would go up to the Echo-room and speak with her father again; but she knew—she knew it would “only be a farding off of time.”

“What, your father was angry, was he!” said Heans, swiftly. “Well, miss, here is a case in which I can permit no prejudice. By Heaven, creditable reason! Is he aware that this is insulting


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to me? I can accept no reason—creditable or may be—from denying me egress from my rooms this moment.”

Sir William, as he stared at the trembling figure, was reminded, with a swift pang, of the soldier's remark to her outside his bedroom: “Calm as shivering ice.”

“He said,” she told him, with a quivering effort at precision, “he said, there was mischief about, and no one—not mad cattle—would drag his name from him.”

“He did—he did!” he cried, and turned away and walked with a sort of sigh back to the window. … “You may tell him,” he said presently from that place, in a harsh tone, “I am deeply offended with him. Say to your father, miss, I will find it difficult ever to forgive or pardon further refusal of my natural request. Now, miss—if your faith is good—if I can believe in you too, miss—in haste!”

She turned groping for the door, yet raising for a moment her pallid face, and blinking softly at him. Her grey figure pushed clumsily away.

Heans stood at the window, and twice watched the red and white of the sentry's jacket flicker away and return stealthily among the carven bushes. He turned and looked at the clock. It was still twelve minutes to six. Almost immediately he heard a scrape outside the door and Abelia pushed her way in.

Sir William was surprised. He turned at once and advanced about the table. “Ah, so soon, my dear!” he said, in a pleasant, if low voice.

She held the inner handle and followed him with her glassy eyes, till as he came near they fled and fluttered on the hearth. Her head shook, and she seemed for a while, in a sort of calm struggle, unable to speak.

“Come,” he said, more harshly; “you are standing there, miss!”

“Yes,” she said, slowly, “I have returned very quickly; I have been unfortunate.”

“Indeed now,” with a stern precision, “cannot you speak less muddled?”

“Sir William,” she said, serene and tremulous, “I have returned to tell you my father must not do it. It would be dangerous. He is not at liberty to give you his signature.”

“Is it so, miss; is it so, miss? I can hardly believe your father!” he cried, with his voice much in his throat And he put his hand for a brooding instant on the cloth, and then stood up and walked slowly towards the mantel. He put his right hand upon it. “And this is all” (harshly), “from your father, this beggarly answer?”

She began stealthily to look about her by the door, seeking half-flurried a new resting-place for tireless wings.

“There is nothing more to be expected,” breathed she, rather difficult in voice. “My father says he was warned last night,


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because that dangerous, drunken officer had hurt you. They think—and he thinks—it is the best for your safety.”

“Bless me,” he said, “they think of my safety! Hang them all, it would have been better for my safety—and less chance of mischief—if I could have got out of these walls to-night! Do my words trouble you, Miss Abelia?”

She fluttered glassy-eyed upon the window. “Such words—yes! they trouble me.”

He gave a cackling laugh.

“What, miss!” he said, and turned and gave her a sharp, slow glance. “What do you see, Abelia?” Here he seemed to remember her affliction, and laughing again, he turned and leant his brow upon his hands, saying, “Hush, miss: there is no more to say!”

The girl dropped her eyes, waiting a moment with her face in the old daylight, and then, with a disturbed and protesting exclamation, turned away and went out. Heans heard her wavering feet upon the boards till they met the carpet at the corner. She was gone and her pallid shred of peace.

Now to Sir William Heans, as he stood sore of heart and emptied of hope at the mantel-piece of his room, there occurred a last desperate and peculiar plan. At the first glance, as he wrote afterwards to his correspondent, “the idea appeared fantastic, even slightly disordered,” when a circumstance, “a noise heard at the other end of the building,” sharply thrust it into the feasible.

Resting near the left end of the mantel-piece, where he had put it the night previous, was the gilten leather book: the old carver's copy of the Plutarch. Being a prisoner in the same place, he recalled for his comfort men who had endeavoured to escape the same walls, and failed. Instantly there came to his memory Surridge's message and the legacy to “any other desperate man” who might come after. Some one had “pulled the body down,” if perhaps the last one in the murderer's anticipation. Suddenly, as he stood over the fireplace, Heans heard two sharp clanking reports from the direction of the Chamber, as if an iron substance had been dropped upon a deal board, and this brought to mind the ropes and wooden pulleys he had seen at Spafield's feet in the yard, and later, in the hall. It was just possible the rascal might be absent from the cave, and occupied with his pulleys in the former room. The clock struck a shrill ‘six’ in Sir William's ear. The house was for the moment almost somnolently quiet. From this time, until the first of the final arrivals, the yard and stable might be empty. Were a fellow slight enough in his person, and could he go so quietly across to the cave as to avoid the attention of the constable at the gate, he might make an attempt to climb by the convict's vent into the bushes on top; by them across to the broken wicket; thence descending along the wall in time to reach the carriage by way of the Hospital entrance.




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Sir William made this rash decision in the twinkling of an instant. He saw if he was to essay his freedom by the interior of the cleft, he had not a second to spare. He did not know how tight a squeeze it might be, or how much physical force it would need for a man of his height to progress through so small and slanting a fissure. For his comfort, Surridge had dragged himself some distance up the passage after he was shot in the body. The stone-mason had also found room in which to write and work. As for Heans' health and bodily well-being, he states that he was much fatigued, and indeed that his bruised temple and cheek ached provokingly, and that he undertook the rude trial rather on a sort of bitter understrength than in reckless heart. “At that moment,” says he, to his friend Sir Charles, “I would have given my ears to have possessed the strength and optimism with which I always begin the morning!”

The minute hand of the little clock was yet in line with the hour, when he removed his elbows from the mantel-piece, and taking his cap from the window-sill, went into the passage. There was no one now in the lighted hall, and in passing he stood and listened a moment, hearing a steady flow of talking in one of the rooms abutting on it, and deeper voices, he thought, beyond or above the stairs. The main-hall was open and not yet lit, but the great room beyond seemed dark with a light like that of a single candle alive by a violescent hanging. He hastened on into his bedroom, and taking the key from the inside of the door, turned it in and removed it from the outside. He knew that what he was about to do must be done swiftly. On reaching the cave he would pause only to see that he was not dogged at heel. Once in the cleft, he did not believe any one would suspect where he had gone. Should Oughtryn see him from a window, and, disapproving of his again entering the “blood-crow's” quarters, follow after him, he believed he would discredit his senses before he would look for him in the crack; that subsequently he would be likely to return, and finding his bedroom locked, dismiss him to his privacy, sooner than credit him with running out without a pass. The same with any one else who followed him, Spafield only being with them in the secret, and he a man at odds with his own bad wits.

Continuing to the back door, he opened it a couple of feet and surveyed the yard and stables. It was as he anticipated. Spafield's powder-keg was by the door, but he at least was not in view, while the old fellow in the broad-brimmed straw had gone, he and his saddle-horses. A warm reflected light was yet in the yard, but the tide of night was floating in about the tall shrubs. The weather had been pleasing and shy for so sad a day… When he had opened the door and passed out on the stones, he saw instantly that the Chamber shades were down, while the shutters were closed on several of the small upper windows. Beside him the kitchen door was shut, and he heard


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no sound from within the open sash. The yard was certainly empty of life. It was, or had the look of, dead-water here. In the opening of the gate the gig horse was no longer visible, nor could he see the constable from where he stood. Moreover, it was not of great importance if the latter should see him enter, nor would he be more likely, for that reason, to extend his watch to the ground above. At that debateable ground he stole one steady glance as he began to go across, convincing himself there was excellent concealment for a stooping man between the vent of the cleft and the old gate, the small bushes massing in a scarce-broken chain to the ruins of the breech. Now—if a fellow had the luck to find an empty stable!

Sir William Heans went at a rapid, rather important pace across, his head lowered and abstracted, as though desirous of procuring at the last moment something left in the cave. As he arrived at the door, he heard from within the house behind a low and rapid outburst, which rather resembled Spafield's style, though more echo than voice. He there and then decided, if he found the soldier in the cave, to turn upon his heel and return instantly to his rooms. As far as he could see in a side-glance, the gate-posts, and the lone lane between, were clear; though there was a repeated sound from there, or from the house, as if a man were rapidly striking on a large pebble with another.

Sir William stepped past the keg and came into the cave. Before he had well accustomed his sight to the troublesome borrowed gleams and slashed lights, he believed, from the quiet, his star was with him. There was nothing moving—horse or man—from him to the heap of straw. In the excitement of this impression he advanced and glanced into the harness-room. The close place had its usual fetid smell, but nothing stirred within. In the mouth of the arch he gave another few seconds to listening. As nobody stirred in either cave, he ran, rather than walked, the length of the stable, coming quick and quiet into the stall next the straw. Before climbing upon the manger, he flashed a look at his watch, discovering there were twenty-three to twenty-four minutes to the half-hour. He stood for a full minute listening beside the stone partition. There were voices talking in the house—in the open hall, he supposed—but they did not alter their even tone, or approach. There were other distant alarms, but no brush or slap of footsteps. Immediately he hauled himself up upon the manger. Here the fissure passed level with his face, not an inch wide and dark within. He thrust his fingers between the flat jaws, feeling no widening. He now got upon the wooden coping of the partition, and stood holding by the wall. As the straw was tight packed against the wall beside him, he threw himself, as he had seen the soldier do, upon the middle of the stack, landing in a sitting position with his feet towards the door. Swinging round to the wall, his legs found the hole they sought at the back of the


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stack, and clutching rather wildly at both straw and wall, he let himself slide rather than lowered his body, till one foot came heavily in contact with the bottom of the manger. He was now wedged between straw and wall, having fallen somewhat out of the well, while in the dust he had raised in that dark, confined space, he twice coughed, having much ado to stay other incontinent explosions. At once, forcing his body downward, till he sat upon the trough edge, he felt before him with his hands, his fingers striking immediately upon the edge of the chasm and giving in, the chasm itself opening to the left of the well.

He found, when he came to press in between straw and chasm-edge, that the way within had been made easier than it promised, evidently by the working in it of the miscreant's shoulders. Though it was dark in the well, the chasm itself showed blacker, and he had the aspect of its contour in his mind. Wrestling himself in quicker for the help of the sloping trough, he presently lay on his chest entirely inside the stone berth. It was well for him, as indeed he says, that he had not an instant to waste in speculation, or dismay, over the happenings of a few hours since within the little catacomb in which he lay. There was certainly, he tells us, a something foreign in the worn angle of the upper side of his couch which he touched for an instant with one knee—an object, coarse and soft like a fragment of cloth, in which was folded something nobbed and smooth like the stem of a pipe, but that it was nobbed at both ends. Beyond this, the place seemed as bare as your palm.

All was black within, but as he raised his cap towards the crack, he felt a waft of air in his face, while a little wind sang, far up, like the whining of a dog. Just above, through a narrow fracture, sadly contracted for his negotiation, he could see a portion of the cleft, about nine feet long, lit from the stable-side, and sloping far upwards, with room enough at its widest, in shape like a pair of praying hands. Pausing only to tauten his gloves, he rose to his knees, and testing the slope hands first (and finding it far smoother than he expected) he pushed upwards between the narrow walls; finding, when he was on his feet, that a hold or slot had been cut in the smooth slope into which his searching fingers fell, and the same higher up for his left hand, and, when he had drawn himself off his feet, a similar support, a few inches up, for his left boot. The slope here was fairly abrupt, but both the upper and lower surfaces were, or had been worked, smooth, a mercy for which he was thankful, seeing that for the most part the pass was so narrow he was compelled to keep his head turned sidelong. The middle and blacker part of these narrows, however, were wider than the rest. When he had wrestled up upon his left foot, his left hand, searching, found a slot in the middle of the sloping surface, his right feeling down and out till it found a holdfast on the lip of the opening—here not half an inch—over the third stall. Pulling over, his right foot now found


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the first hand-hold, and he struggled and wrestled up out of the black narrows into the half-light.

This struggling in the dark between two pressing walls was breathless work and exceedingly distressing.

It was now gentler and freer mounting for some fifteen to sixteen feet; but above that, the roof began to sag again in a sickening fashion, falling at a long angle till it seemed to meet the bottom flat. Hauling after him his trousered legs, he made for this without pause; working forward rapidly on his left elbow and hip; for a few lavish inches in a coffin-like niche even upon the dignity of his knees. The outward slope here was sharper, and he had much ado to keep himself in the wider portion: to prop himself, so to speak, on these slippery surfaces, out of the pinching narrows above the stable. He was never far from the surface of the stable wall—from twenty-four to forty inches—and though the opening into the stable below varied in width, its light was distracting rather than helpful, and he was better served by some small shafts and glimmers from about and nowhere. Portions of the silent stable and its stalls were startlingly clear to his passing glance, and his clothing sometimes more clear above them than met with his approval. However, with no leisure to heed or stop, he worked rapidly up under that sagging roof, till it had bent itself to a few inches over the rising floor, and himself just moving upon his chest. He could not get his shoulders further, nor gain a view beneath. He began to conclude that somewhere here must be the murderer's cut, yet he did not think, since he had last seen the stable, he had risen sufficiently high to have come above the harness-room. It was darkish here, the north opening being a deep and narrow crack. Feeling along the roof with his hands, he found a widening away from the stable, but nothing he liked. It was long, and the rise at most an inch, while within, it had a black unwindowed look. He did not see how any man, however driven and reckless, would have pushed his body into so cruel a place. Down the stable side there seemed little change in the roof, though there was a curious crescent-shaped rise near its lowest extremity. Here, feeling about, he found, under the pencil-width of stable light, a deep depression in the floor, formed probably by standing water. It took him a moment to realise that this was his way. It was excellently smooth if shallow, and though plainly a natural feature, resembled a V cut in the stone, its narrower end under the sag and deepest there. There it would be possible to climb upon the side. When he had slid down and edged into it along the stable-wall, he saw, in the cavern beyond, that the roof rose dread inch by dread inch off the steep slope, the basin continuing level into the rock perhaps an inch or two beyond the point where his head lay. It was not a pleasing place. The upper roof kept so low that, though there was one longish beam of light close above, yet he perceived little of the


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still higher parts, and what he saw, from the block of rocks, inclined him to think the cleft turned in. The climb had been more difficult than he thought, but the cut could hardly be many yards further up. He was inclined to high hope by the sight of some small ferns growing head-down in the grey light. Sir William conjectured he had been about five minutes climbing so far, and if he could manage it in another twelve, he would yet catch poor Jarvis.

Reclining on his left hip, his hands, an inch from his chin, found a couple of projections over the stable crack, by which he hauled his head and shoulders under the sag, and by further weals and projections disclosed by the light, lifted head and shoulders out of the socket, kicking forward upon his chest again out of the more crushing narrows. His face was still turned with his right cheek upward. Thus out of the worst and blowing somewhat, though in good spirits, he saw something through his arms which greatly disturbed him. Below his eyes, down the narrow opening, was a view of the stables, showing the ends of two stalls, and the back wall from the open to the second door. A sort of flicker of light attracted his eye downward. Just beyond the port-hole between the two doors, Spafield was standing in a draggling attitude, but looking in a direction near the lower part of the crack. There was a sort of stricken firmness in his bold figure. He held his shako by its chin strap and swiftly swung it, while his left hand he kept shifting off the wall and wiping across his open mouth and heavy chin, on which was fixed a smile that might have been a sneer, or a more horrid gape of reckless satiety. His long chin and cheek were wet with Heans knew not what, and his bold eye was heavy and mischievously cold. An appearance rather than a reality of humility was lent to his person by the long smooth hair which crept over the white of his collar upon the red below. Over his jacket-tails his “gully” hung at his cross-belt. There he was, in his way amiable enough, his pale face directed some few feet above the stack—whipping his dirty leg with his hat, and pushing up and wiping away at that amiable fixture.

Poor Sir William Heans, moving just free between the two walls, was doubtful if his struggles had been heard; or if the man had caught a rubbing in the cleft—was uncertain from what it was produced—and was watching the place in a kind of meek and deadly amazement. He watched him closely. He did not think the vile rascal was comfortable. He seemed yet blind to his position, and believed he was too meek for such a triumph. Heans squandered a few priceless moments eyeing the wicked fellow.

What now happened occupied the space of from three to four minutes, and took place in sharp succession.

Heans heard the man cry out a curious oath about “his body,” saw him spring round, flash his hand across his eyes,


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and bend his face to the port-hole. For an instant his head blocked the shaft of light, and Sir William saw his fingers go to his bayonet. Then he shot up, swore silently, and ran over into one of the stalls.

Heans was now out of Spafield's vision, and he began immediately to push upward. He was arrested with a deadly qualm by a voice calling his name. Next moment the caves vibrated with Abelia's voice, and he heard her call out, “Father says, please—please to come back, and he will go out with you himself.”

He looked down at the conflagration of the door, and saw her come groping through and feel her way calm and timid from stall to stall. He could see her fingers tremble on this post and on that. Again she stood still and beseeched him by name to “come back to the house.” She seemed persuaded he was in the cave. Now he almost lost the girl; next he saw her with her hands about her face by a port-hole beam.

Sir William chafed agonisingly in the crack. He was shockingly angry with Oughtryn and his daughter. He caught quickly at a projection and pulled upward a few feet.

He was agitated, however, at Spafield's disappearance, and once again sought Abelia's figure. He had not heard the slightest sound, but instantly he saw the gentle girl standing opposite the port-hole and thought from her face that she was listening, but saw that the man had crawled along the stall and had snatched at one of her hands. He was still holding down, and he could see his tall head only over the partition.

Perhaps in her amazement, or blindness, she had asked him who he was, for he seemed to Heans to be answering a question in his rapid way.

“Who am I?” jabbered he. “You remember my face! Good old Sly! No, I won't have crying—but mute crying! I agrees with you—I'm a sharp man. But I'm lonely in my life. And here you are, treasured lady, my company and only comfort. You took to me from the first, didn't you? We're a pair of lonely ones. Let you away—never! Don't you make me cruel with any one!”

“Cruel!” said Abelia, her trembling voice very quiet and precise: “Oh no, you're very good to me, officer!”

“Ah, you see I'se the advantage of you. There's a thing I'm friends with better than men. That's a thing I never ill-use. Playful like—feel how my 'and has you in a vice. What a good thing I'm tender fond of your liddle, pale face. Break your 'art, I loves you like a green jackass! And never ashamed of you—no, I'm true. Liddle drab, I'm true till the grave opens, and after that I'll be with you, if you want old Sly!”

“Oh, how your hand is trembling, soldier,” said the poor girl, trying to see him. “You mean me no harm? You are ill. Your hand is trembling.”




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“Look at that now! Feel how tired I am! Bah, I understand you, Abelia! You took to me from the first. We ran it together, didn't we? Yes, I can be patient and I can be cruel, just like you. But there, it's adoration! Keep quiet! I'll put my loving hand on your mouth!

The fellow staggered upright, the facings of his coat vying with her groping visage. He pulled her near to him. Heans saw her face drop. She struggled. He kissed her poor, weak eyes. She gave a slight cry, and he put his hand upon her mouth.

There came a groan from the wall.

Sir William Heans began to return, and with a side-wrench struggled back behind the sag. Somewhere here he stopped an instant, and in a sad distinct voice said, “Be calm, miss. I am close beside you. You will soon have aid.” He added, as calmly: “God pity you, you beggarly villain.” Looking out again, he saw the girl duck and (taking advantage, perhaps, of a spasm of amazement in the red-coat) near pull apart, wrestling a few steps over to the wall, but in the wrong direction, to the east of the port-hole. Spafield wavered slowly after her, his steady leaden glance on the wall behind. “Ah,” said he, swift and harshly, “I hears a old cat mewing. So that's where my noble was? I thought you was a dook—very near. You're coming to interfere between me and the drab!” He caught the girl again, and she hid her face. He dragged her hands away and again covered her mouth. The feeble girl struggled back, cowering into a corner of the black door.

Sir William swiftly pushed his way down under the sloping roof, and when presently he reached the cavern midway towards the narrows, he altered his posture head-downward, and so slid and struggled his way to the narrows below, into which—retaining his balance of mind I know not how—he entered on his chest and stomach, feeling for the hand-fasts, and guiding his person roughly from left to right, and vice versa, by his recollection of the ascent; steadily at first, for fear of a sprained hand, but, catching, with the fourth hand-fast, a glimmer of straw through the hole at the bottom, pushing and sliding with a jam and a heavy fall against the mouth or funnel; thence, flinging, rather than climbing, into the cavern beneath Jallet's broken key.

Feet first, he pushed out into the manger. In the gloomy straw-well there was a beam of light on the wall side, and in the sharp outline of the mouth. He rose in the manger, and climbing on the side, sought to get some hand and foot-holds in the straw, staying himself against the wall at his back. The holding proving inutile, he turned to the wall, and following up the crack with his glove, he found a foothold on which he pushed up within a few feet of the top. Here, touching, on a level with his thigh, a fresh unevenness—possibly the very carvings


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of the convict Jallet—he inserted his right boot, and turning, sprang up and struggled out upon the walled surface of the hay.

The dazzle of the port-hole was distracting, but across the stalls he could discern Abelia's figure clinging yet with her face against the door, and that of Spafield, at the same instant holding one of her hands from her face, and glaring back from a grim, depressed attitude. The man looked back at the stack, his bold, high-cheeked face very white under the eyes, which seemed both narrow, leaden, and angry. It was a quiet movement. As he straightened up, and as Heans jumped down upon the manger from the partition, the latter saw with fresh abhorrence—beside himself with anger, loathing, and grief as he was—that there was a staining of blood in the corner of Abelia's mouth.

Her restless eyes were shut.

Sir William Heans descended into the stall, and from thence walked slowly into the next but one, where he remembered seeing his hay-fork leaning on the partition. He found and secured the fork, wiping his face with his handkerchief, and regaining his breath. Presently he told the soldier to “drop the young girl's hand.”

The red-coat, who had been leaning on the door with his right hand, shovelled the girl's hand from his left to his right, and turned about till he faced Heans. He thrust his free hand, which was bandaged, under the facing of his jacket, pulled something out, and put his hand waveringly on the combing of the door. He took off this bunched hand, once, to meekly touch his tall, black head.

“We've 'ad a bit of a miff,” gabbled he, keeping that narrow stare on Heans. “Break your heart, she's not free like she used to be with me! I believe it's you.”

“You believe that!” said Sir William Heans, striving to hide the calm trembling of his hands on the hay-fork.

“My body, yes, and more!” said Spafield, with a pallid glitter of anger. “What was you about in those black cracks? You speak and tell me how high you was!”

“Yes,” said Heans, in a quiet voice; “behind the cut of your old master, you cruel and haunted wretch!”

The fellow did not move, nor did he seek his bayonet, only elevating his long, bold face for an instant towards the cleft. At that instant, Sir William flashed up the fork, and sprang in upon him, making a feint high upon the arm which held the girl's, but aiming with all his strength on the muscle of the other on the door. He was afraid the fellow concealed some beastliness in that hand. The soldier was quick, dodging twice, and, by luck or judgment, receiving the blow as much on the white shoulder-cushion as the arm beneath. He gave a quick grunt, dropped down against the door as if shot, and made a dart along the wall behind Heans. The latter, however, prepared for such attack, swung himself back, with the back-sweep of his weapon, into the


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mouth of a stall. He brought up stunningly against the right partition, with the red-coat raised on one knee in the way opposite.

The amber light at the few openings was softening, and tranquil eve was here.

Sir William spoke to Abelia, bidding her “run to the house,” and with an oath the ruffian bade her be mute, adding: “You move, and I'll lock your 'and!” She stood where he had dropped her arm, her serene face huddled against the door.

It may be wondered at this juncture why Sir William Heans did not himself call upon the nearer constable. We suggest as one reason, that his outwearied mind forgot the man's propinquity, in the narrowness of the event—the agony of disappointment—and the gravity and justice of his aversion. Perhaps he put it aside, and perhaps too long. When aloft in the cleft, he had made no outcry, and his reason is plain. After all that had happened on that day, and on the evening before, as a prisoner he would hesitate to summon a constable in such a juncture. With what hasty story? Where had he been—with that red tale on Abelia's lips? What story would Spars have given?

But more, was it not less than seven minutes to the half-hour? There was danger to Jarvis Carnt, who might, even now, have gained the Orphanage!

While against the partition, Heans—stained, breathless, and bestrawed as he was—tugged at and opened the breast of his spencer. He was unable to get as clear a vision of the ruffian as he wished, being confused by the beam of a port-hole which he kept behind him over his shoulder; but he had the hay-fork up, and kept his eye on the gleam of his legs. Spafield made, however, no advance, sudden or sly, on his antagonist. Backing sourly against the wall, he balanced with a kind of feebleness upon his legs, and began to retire towards the terrified girl. His right hand slipped stiffly along the stone. His bandaged arm hung low against his white leg. By thus returning, he a little lessened the distance between himself and Heans.

Sir William waited until he came closer by a couple of steps, when, stepping forward a half-step with his left foot, he aimed a flash-like blow at the back of his head, which the rascal, ducking forward, took on his pouch and bayonet; when swaying round off the wall, he flung himself on Sir William's left knee, catching that in his left hand and the ankle in his right. Doubling up his leg, he sent him, with a horrible sideways wrench, tumbling down on his two hands in the stall. Instantly, it seemed, the fellow's trembling hand closed across his mouth, and his uncertain knee pressed him heavily towards the stones.

The wicked man again beheld his prey from behind. He was now—like the tarantula—in his chosen position for attack. He had now that “advantage” on which he nourished. It was not difficult to say what this time he was about to do with it.




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Immediately after, Heans felt a string-like band pass over his head and face, and draw tight between his cravat and chin. It was not till the thing began to grip inexorably, and his breath and sight began to fail him, that he saw with what steady intention the twist was being exerted. He had sunken from his hands, yet was still propped upon his right elbow, his extremities kicking upon the man's buttock, the fingers of his right hand endeavouring to get between the band and his neck. He felt that his senses were becoming unreliable. With a supreme effort of mind, he left to its will the choking thing about his neck, and thrust his hand through the breast of his clawhammer. He felt immediately the hilt of that burlesque weapon. It was there, low in the pocket, but his chest being at strain, he had some difficulty in getting his fingers round it. He had reason to bless the irregularities that were upon it. At that instant, in a moment, perhaps, of stupid elation, Spafield slightly relaxed the tension of his instrument, and bending liquor-haunted lips to his ear, said, “You might have knowed, Mr. Silence, I'd never die in these caves!” whereon Heans, twitching the hilt upward with fore and great fingers, slipped his thumb upon it, and presently got sufficient of the handle in his glove to grip it. He felt Spafield sink heavily down upon his back, and again there came a sickening pressure at the tourniquet. At the same moment, Heans, making a wrench at the “poniard,” lifted it till the blade was free, and twice struck it back with all his force as high as he could get his arm.

Instantly the tourniquet relaxed, and with a grunt and a whinny Spafield sat rather than fell against the near partition of the stall. He was quite quiet. He breathed hard. His face, lying back in the port-hole beam, had for a moment a frightful look.

Heans wrestled from under him and struggled to his feet, staggering to the manger. Here he rested for a few seconds, when on turning with the intention of passing out of the stall, he saw the soldier sway up and tremble forward upon his right arm, his long face raised towards him grey as stone. He thought, indeed, the wretched man had something on his mind he wished to say, till in the port-hole light he saw that he was rising upon his knees. His right trouser leg was stained with a heavy soaking of blood. He rose very slowly, and with a groan fell forward upon his breast. He fell on his left side, and Sir William heard, between pity and loathing, that after he fell he muttered some loose prayer or petition for “heavenly mercy.” Heans—dazed and faint enough himself—might even then have pushed by him, when a spasm of the great body disclosed that the sheath of his bayonet, near the left coat-tail, was empty. He had fallen on his left side upon his arm, towards the other, and almost across the stall.

His right hand, palm downwards on the stones, was not three


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feet from the corner where Sir William stood. The latter quickly turned, and swung himself up by the partition to the manger. Spafield, who had been lying on his bayonet, shot forward on his left knee, brushing Sir William's boot with his fingers. The ruffian fell groaning under the manger, but as Heans, holding his knife in his hand, balanced along the sloping side, the soldier leapt up, and working rapidly along the manger-edge with his hands, hauled suddenly up, and aimed a ringing stab into the right partition, not a span beneath the strap of Heans' trousers, as he leapt over it upon his chest. Heans, however, was hardly lying upon the coping, and in the act of lifting his legs over, when Spafield was dragging steadily, in a curious sitting posture, for the mouth of the stall. His massive legs were crossed, and he pulled himself forward by his arms and hands, dragging the long weapon in the right. The angry patch on his leg now vied with his coat, but he held his betagged head obstinate and low. He was away so suddenly, and his progress was so steady and desperate, that Sir William saw he must be quick if he was to evade an encounter with the maimed wretch in the stall end. His judgment, however, being untrustworthy, and being still distressed in mind and breath from what he had escaped, he missed his footing on the manger-edge of the next stall, and fell heavily upon his side and elbow on the stones. He rose at once to his feet, and picking up the “poniard,” which had flown out of his hand, would yet have run for the mouth, but already he thought he could hear the slither of the bayonet out in the open way, and sure enough there, an instant later, was the man, sitting quiet, leaning on his hand, before the stall.

Sir William tells us that at the same instant, behind the red-coat, the grey dress of the child caught his eye. Her face was turned inward against the door.

As he backed into the corner, endeavouring to steady himself, Sir William was not certain what to do. He might run fair at the miscreant as he sat darkly eyeing him, and risk a stabbed leg or a fall; or he might leap up and scale perhaps the next two partitions, so gaining on him, and getting before him to the yard. Spafield, as if he divined the latter chance, dragged himself a few inches nearer the right partition, but there again stopped. It is possible that, having heard Heans fall, he imagined him more hurt than he appeared—perhaps unable to climb. He may well have thought this, seeing him standing against the manger, somewhat bowed, and leaning heavily on his arm.

Spafield eyed him for a time, and then began to drag himself into the stall along the opposite partition. He dragged himself in with much exertion, about four feet: pausing there and painfully moving his crossed legs outward across the stall. Afterwards he moved a few inches further—his face, as the other did not move, filling with a sort of black anger—and with some oaths and groaning began to draw in his left foot beneath him.


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Heans now thought him near enough for safety, and turning, backed himself by his right hand up upon the manger. In his left was his “poniard.” Here he stopped to see if the ruffian would continue (when he would have sprung back upon the coping); but seeing that he did not, but immediately whirled about towards the way, he leapt rather than stepped along the manger, and sprang upward upon the next partition.

It was sharp work now on both hands. Sir William Heans endeavoured to outdistance the wounded man in a climb across the next two or three stalls, while it was plainly the mad fellow's purpose to stop him ever reaching the door. Sir William swung across and dropped sharp upon the next manger. He put all the speed and judgment he could summon into the breathless race; the while, with a quick and groaning effort, Spafield flung himself into the open way, and with steady, dark head down, and tapping knife, was shouldering those heavy limbs after him along the stones.

Heans, avoiding a chain, and balancing with his knife-hand along the wall, was in three steps against the next partition, and as quickly astraddle it. Swinging over and dropping, he was aware that the red-coat, with powerful arms and hands, was bowing his steady way but a few inches behind it. The dragging noise of his limbs and the regular “slip-slip” of the steel upon the stones made an unpleasing and never to-be-forgotten sound. Again Sir William safely balanced his way along a manger-edge, and reached the stone division. As he pulled up upon it, glancing into the way behind, he saw the ruffian dragging but a few feet behind it, watching him from that low head. He seemed, as Heans saw him, to pull his whole leg beneath him, and propel himself forward with a sudden spring, which must have brought him alongside the division, as Heans dropped upon the next manger, for he was panting at the stall end as Heans went across. This time Sir William dropped into the manger itself, not trusting his wearied steps upon the edge. He knew by some furniture of the place that he was in the last stall but two, or the third from the door, and that the effort he was about to make must be made in the next, or the following stall; preferably the next, the first being much contracted by the overhanging of the harness-room. In the flash of that instant, as he stumbled his way across the manger, he knew that he would be unable to outdistance Spafield. By the time he had hauled up upon the next division, sprung clear, and dashed for the mouth, the red-coat would have dragged within the distance of a spring. He could hardly have thought his chance of serious worth, if upon the effort of another climb he were caught by those skilled hands. Two courses were open to the dazed man. He might make a black game of it back and forward over a partition till the hour, or beat him yet and get into the yard. The last was the main intention of his mind. As deep, indeed, as it seemed that of the wicked, panting ruffian to keep his own distress as quiet as he was able.




  ― 352 ―

Their quiet was a point on which they seemed agreed.

Even as he clambered up, half-blind and choking for breath upon the manger, Sir William had decided upon adopting a dangerous ruse, which, while it won him a pause, faced him, in a few minutes, with a precarious end. In the stall behind the one he was leaving, he had twice come near to missing his footing on the chains. He determined, when dropping from the top of the next, to counterfeit a slip and a second fall somewhat along from the corner of the stall, and so place the now exhausted murderer a second time in a quandary, whether to directly approach a fainting man, or, doubting his malady, which place of evasion to guard, the stall-mouth or the last partition.

Sir William made the leap twice—falling back into the manger with an intention only half-calculated—before he topped the partition. Throwing his leg up, he straddled the coping an instant, then swung over the stall towards the mouth. Even as he swung, Spafield, with a ghastly bowing and straining, struggled level with the partition. In the stall Heans fell upon his feet, but instead of letting go, clutched for a moment wildly at the coping, and sank with a slight cry upon his back, rising again in a faint and groping manner upon his elbow. At the same instant, the soldier came with a quick spring, and a slap and slither of steel, near to midway across the mouth. He fell prone, with his knife under his deadly face, but seeing instantly what had happened, wrenched himself round by his hands close to the division he had just passed. Sir William, with a sharp effort, sat upright, and got, with a white glare of fatigue and blindness, upon one knee. His rusty dagger hung half-forgotten in his left hand. His right glove clutched at the stones of the partition above his head—which, as something which knew its danger, seemed to waver towards it and yet steel its striving senses against the support. Here was, or seemed to be, a wounded quarry, after Spafield's heart.

The red-coat, however, was not so certain of his fortune. Pulling a foot inward, and raising himself on his arms, he examined the fallen man. The tired panting of both men became audible.

If the grisly fellow was not quite certain how to take the man before him, he quickly decided upon a course of experiment. He began to drag himself close in along the partition against which Heans leaned. The half fainting gentleman allowed him to come foot after foot into the stall; then, coming late to his senses, he groped feebly upon his feet, and limping half-upright, began to go back with knife held up and glaring face—back and outwards a few defensive inches towards the centre. Another inch and Sir William would have been by the deadly ruffian and out into the yard. Spafield, however, came no further. Plunging immediately round, he flung himself diagonally across the stall; and indeed made no wait there, but dragged back


  ― 353 ―
heavily to the bottom of the next partition. Heans, too, lost no second, but flung panting back, and sank beside the opposite wall, close to his first chosen spot.

Spafield sat blowing and panting here but a few moments. He had got himself round again with shoulders opposite Heans and his one leg drawn beneath him. There he lay and heaved, his long head mostly low, his eyes also low for the most part, though now and then the cold gaze looked up.

He began to drag forward again, almost straight for Sir William Heans, but in a direction a little behind him. This would have taken him across the centre of the stall; thus, making for a point just behind that where his enemy hung. He seemed to offer a gift to the dazed man of a sporting dash out, but in reality, and on the glaring face of it, had Heans delayed an instant where he was, it would have put Spafield, near the centre of the stall, within springing distance of Heans staggering out along his wall, or staggering back into the right corner of the manger. Heans' frantic defence was a retreat towards the left corner, with the threat of again negotiating the manger and in turn the last partition, provided the wearied and weakened ruffian enterprised so far into the stall, repeating his first attack on his exhausted and breathless opponent.

Spafield, however, showed an abnormal rawness and nervousness, instantly flinging round to the left across the mouth, even as the other struggled upright, making his white-eyed retreat. Almost as quickly Heans plunged back after him; but staggered again to his knee against the wall. Spafield lay there for a while upon his knife.

At last he rose again upon his trembling hands, and painfully shifting his legs round, moved further under the right partition. His face had a stonier, more exhausted look. He began to drag inward along that division, gasping heavily. He held his head low and sidelong, his face showing a mixture of jaded impatience and deadly qualms of faintness. In one of these he stopped, his head resting on his left elbow, and despondently eyeing the stones between himself and Heans. The bloody patch on his upper leg had spread below the knee. He looked weak and disillusioned—only half in step with his terrible work. His panting face, narrow as was the stare—and his straining body—had an air somewhat asking for agreement, somewhat familiar, somewhat ashamed. Was there a sneaking wish for clemency in Spar's grey look? Is not the demand for forgiveness often Wrong's last card?

Sir William, kneeling by his partition—himself at handgrips with exhaustion—wondered was he spent, and if not, where was the trap?

Where lay the plan in this distant stalking, and clinging to the other wall? As he advanced in, a foot at a time, Spafield began to give him nobler and nobler chances for a dash out. Was the


  ― 354 ―
wicked wretch stupid with his terrible exertions? Rather, was he tempting him out with a bait? The full length of the stall was about twelve feet. The spot where Sir William knelt was about three feet from the manger. Spafield pulled in along the opposite partition for some five feet, and then, after a pause, continuing his inward drag, began to roll out at an almost imperceptible angle nearer the centre. Sir William did not immediately notice the lessening of the distance between them by so deliberate a movement, but being puzzled by his daring so far in, and at his momently opening, with his approach to a level with himself, a more wonderful chance for egress, he happily discerned that he was no longer hugging his wall. Spafield was now over seven feet in and still two feet nearer the mouth than Heans. There was, even now, at the moment he was caught at it, a gap between his red jacket and the wall beside him of twenty-five inches. Heans no longer dallied with the alluring bait, but rose to his feet, and sprang half round to the manger. No sooner did Spafield see him get up than, quick as a flash, he swung up his bayonet by its point, and spun it whistling at the back of his head. The weapon caught the much enduring gentleman a blow on the side of his cap, and he fell wildly into the piled straw, his hands catching for support at partition and manger. His blood was up, and he endeavoured to see collectedly through the labouring and confusion of his senses. He was down on his right knee in the hay. He succeeded in doing so to the extent of perceiving that the ruffian was about to spring upon him. He heard the screaming cry of his breath. He saw some six feet in front of him his dark head, low—saw him jerk under him his left foot and fling out a red arm. In an instant the white facing of the soldier's coat hurled upwards, and with a defensive and instinctive memory of his chosen place of attack, Heans whipped up his left hand, with the “poniard” in it, to the cap of his knee. Spafield had again chosen that way. The man fell upon him with a terrible force, the knife entering his breast below the cross-belts. With a strong, long groan he sprang upright upon his feet, swayed life-like for a few seconds, then crashed down upon his back, rolling over and over into the mouth. There he lay, face up, for a while moving his arms like a man swimming; then falling quiet, the hilt still in his coat.

Sir William staggered to his feet after him, and sank again to his knee, and to his back among the hay under the manger—there watching the fellow die with a grave eye. Presently he removed his gaze with a sort of impatience, and looked sadly into space. So the day was over, and the evening's gaiety was about to begin! His despondency then came very heavily upon him, and as he lay there, he repeated to himself in a sort of monotone certain words which occur in a writing in the old book: “For where is now my hope; who shall see it?” again repeating, after a sad interval of quiet: “For we are saved by hope: but


  ― 355 ―
hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?”

Suddenly there crept upon his hearing the sound of some one crying.

It was the poor young girl. He called to her: “Do not weep, miss.”

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