MoboReader > Literature > Two Sides of the Face: Midwinter Tales

   Chapter 11 No.11

Two Sides of the Face: Midwinter Tales By Arthur Quiller-Couch Characters: 62531

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Trewlove in his Marlborough Street cell was a disgusting object- offensive to the eye and to one's sense of the dignity of man. At sight of me he sprawled, and when the shock of it was over he continued to grovel until the sight bred a shame in me for being the cause of it. What made it ten times worse was his curious insensibility-even while he grovelled-to the moral aspect of his behaviour.

"You will lie here," said I, "until to-morrow morning, when you will probably be fined fifty shillings and costs, plus the cost of the broken glass at Toscano's. I take it for granted that the money will be paid?"

"I will send, sir, to my lodgings for my cheque-book."

"It's a trifling matter, no doubt, but since you will be charged under the name of William John Trewlove, it will be a mistake to put 'G. A. Richardson' on the cheque."

"It was an error of judgment, sir, my giving your name here."

"It was a worse one," I assured him, "to append it to the receipt for Miss Jarmayne's rent."

"You don't intend to prosecute, Mr. George?"

"Why not?"

"But you don't, sir; something tells me that you don't."

Well, in fact (as you may have guessed), I did not. I had no desire to drag Miss Jarmayne into further trouble; but I resented that the dog should so count on my clemency without knowing the reason of it.

"In justice to myself, sir, I 'ave to tell you that I shouldn't 'ave let the 'ouse to hany-body. It was only that, she being connected with the stage, I saw a hopening. Mr. 'Erbert was, as you might say, a hafterthought: which, finding him so affable, I thought I might go one better. He cost me a pretty penny first and last. But when he offered to introjuice me-and me, at his invite, going back to be put up at No. 402 like any other gentleman-why, 'ow could I resist it?"

"If I forbear to have you arrested, Trewlove, it will be on condition that you efface yourself. May I suggest some foreign country, where, in a colony of the Peculiar People-unacquainted with your past-"

"I'm tired of them, sir. Your style of life don't suit me-I've tried it, as you see, and I give it up-I'm too late to learn; but I'll say this for it, it cures you of wantin' to go back and be a Peculiar. Now, if you've no objection, sir, I thought of takin' a little public down Putney way."

"You mean it?" asked Clara, a couple of hours later.

"I mean it," said I.

"And I am to live on here alone as your tenant?"

"As my tenant, and so long as it pleases you." I struck a match to light her bedroom candle, and with that we both laughed, for the June dawn was pouring down on us through the stairway skylight.

"Shall I see you to-morrow, to say good-bye?"

"I expect not. We shall catch the first boat."

"The question is, will you get Herbert awake in time to explain matters?"

"I'll undertake that. Horrex has already packed for him. Oh, you needn't fear: he'll be right enough at Ambleteuse, under my eye."

"It's good of you," she said slowly; "but why are you doing it?"

"Can't say," I answered lightly.

"Well, good-bye, and God bless you!" She put out her hand. "There's nothing I can say or do to-"

"Oh, yes, by the way, there is," I interrupted, tugging a key off my chain. "You see this? It unlocks the drawers of a writing-table in your room. In the top left-hand drawer you will find a bundle of papers."

She passed up the stair before me and into the room. "Is this what you want?" she asked, reappearing after a minute with my manuscript in her hand. "What is it? A new comedy?"

"The makings of one," said I. "It was to fetch it that I came across from Ambleteuse."

"And dropped into another."

"Upon my word," said I, "you are right, and to-night's is a better one-up to a point."

"What are you going to call it?"

"My Tenant."

For a moment she seemed to be puzzled. "But I mean the other," said she, nodding towards the manuscript in my hand.

"Indeed, that is its name," said I, and showed her the title on the first page. "And I've a really splendid idea for the third act," I added, as we shook hands.

I mounted the stairs to my room, tossed the manuscript into a chair, and began to wind up my watch.

"But this other wants a third act too!" I told myself suddenly.

You will observe that once or twice in the course of this narrative my pen has slipped and inadvertently called Miss Jarmayne "Clara."

THE RIDER IN THE DAWN.

A passage from the Memoirs of Manuel (or Manus) McNeill, agent in the Secret Service of Great Britain during the campaigns of the Peninsula (1808-1813). A Spanish subject by birth, and a Spaniard in all his up-bringing, he traces in the first chapter of his Memoirs his descent from an old Highland family through one Mantis McNeill, a Jacobite agent in the Court of Madrid at the time of the War of Succession, who married and settled at Aranjuez. The second chapter he devotes to his youthful adventures in the contraband trade on the Biscayan Coast and the French frontier, his capture and imprisonment at Bilbao under a two years' sentence, which was remitted on the discovery of his familiar and inherited conversance with the English tongue, and his imprisonment exchanged for a secret mission to Corsica (1794). The following extract tells of this, his first essay in the calling in which he afterwards rendered signal service to the Allies under Lord Wellington.-Q.

If I take small pleasure in remembering this youthful expedition it is not because I failed of success. It was a fool's errand from start to finish; and the Minister, Don Manuel Godoy, never meant or expected it to succeed, but furthered it only to keep his master in humour. You must know that just at this time, May, 1794, the English troops and Paoli's native patriots were between them dislodging the French from the last few towns to which they yet clung on the Corsican coast. Paoli held all the interior: the British fleet commanded the sea and from it hammered the garrisons; and, in short, the French game was up. But now came the question, What would happen when they evacuated the island? Some believed that Paoli would continue in command of his little republic, others that the crown would be offered to King George of England, or that it might go a-begging as the patriots were left to discover their weakness. I understand that, on the chance of this, two or three claimants had begun to look up their titles; and at this juncture our own Most Catholic King bethought him that once upon a time the island had actually been granted to Aragon by a certain Pope Boniface-with what right nobody could tell; but a very little right might suffice to admit Spain's hand into the lucky bag. In brief, my business was to reach the island, find Paoli (already by shabby treatment incensed against the English, as Godoy assured me), and sound him on my master's chances. Among the islanders I could pass myself off as a British agent, and some likely falsehood would have to serve me if by ill-luck I fell foul of the British soldiery. The King, who-saving his majesty-had turned the least bit childish in his old age, actually clapped his hands once or twice while his Minister gave me my instructions, which he did with a face as wooden as a grenadier's. I would give something, even at this distance of time, to know what Godoy's real thoughts were. Likely enough he and the Queen had invented this toy to amuse the husband they were both deceiving. Or Godoy may have wanted my information for his own purpose, to sell it to the French, with whom-though our armies were fighting them-he had begun to treat in private for the peace and the alliance which soon followed, and still move good Spaniards to spit at the mention of his name. But, whatever the farce was, he played it solemnly, and I took his instructions respectfully, as became me.

No: my mission was never meant to succeed: and if in my later professional pride I now think shame of it-if to this day I wince at the remembrance of Corsica-the shame comes simply from this, that I began my career as a scout by losing my way like any schoolboy. But, after all, even genius must make a beginning; and I was fated to make mine in the Corsican macchia.

Do you know it? If not-that is to say, if you have never visited Corsica-I despair of giving you any conception of it. But if chance has ever carried you near its coast, you will have wondered-as I did when an innocent-looking felucca from Barcelona brought me off the Gulf of Porto- at an extraordinary verdure spreading up the mountains and cut short only by the snows on their summits. You ask what this verdure may be, of which you have never seen the like. It is the macchia.

I declare that the scent of it-or rather, its thousand scents-came wafted down on the night air and met me on the shore as I landed at moonrise below the ruined tower, planted by the Genoese of old, at the mouth of the vale which winds up from Porto to the mountains. We had pushed in under cover of the darkness, for fear of cruisers: and as I took leave of my comrades (who were mostly Neapolitan fishermen), their skipper, a Corsican from Bastia, gave me my route. A good road would lead me up the valley to the village of Otta, where a mule might be hired to carry me on past Evvisa, through the great forest of A?tone, and so across the pass over Monte Artica, whence below me I should see the plain of the Niolo stretching towards Corte and my goal: for at Corte, his capital, I was sure either to find Paoli or to get news of him, and if he had gone northward to rest himself (as his custom was) at his favourite Convent of Morosaglia, why the best road in Corsica would take me after him.

In the wash of the waves under the old tower I bade the skipper farewell, sprang ashore, and made my way up the valley by the light of the rising moon. Of the wonders of the island, which had shone with such promise of wonders against yesterday's sunset, it showed me little-only a white road climbing beside a deepening gorge with dark masses of foliage on either hand, and, above these, grey points and needles of granite glimmering against the night. But at every stride I drank in the odours of the macchia, my very skin seeming to absorb them, as my clothes undoubtedly did before my journey's end; for years later I had only to open the coffer in which they reposed, and all Corsica saluted my nostrils.

Day broke as I climbed; and soon this marvellous brushwood was holding me at gaze for minutes at a time, my eyes feasting upon it as the sun began to open its flowers and subdue the scents of night with others yet more aromatic. In Spain we know montebaxos, or coppice shrubs (as you might call them), and we know tomillares, or undergrowth; but in Corsica nature heaps these together with both hands, and the Corsican, in despair of separating them, calls them all macchia. Cistus, myrtle and cactus; cytisus, lentisk, arbutus; daphne, heath, broom, juniper and ilex-these few I recognised, but there was no end to their varieties and none to their tangle of colours. The slopes flamed with heather bells red as blood, or were snowed white with myrtle blossom: wild roses trailed everywhere, and blue vetches: on the rock ledges the cistus kept its late flowers, white, yellow, or crimson: while from shrub to shrub away to the rock pinnacles high over my left shoulder honeysuckles and clematis looped themselves in festoons as thick as a man's waist, or flung themselves over the chasm on my right, smothering the ilex saplings which clung to its sides, and hiding the water which roared three hundred feet below. I think that my month in prison must have sharpened my appetite for wild and natural beauty, for I skipped as I went, and whistled in sheer lightness of heart. "O Corsicans!" I exclaimed, "O favoured race of mortals, who spend your pastoral days in scenes so romantic, far from the noise of cities, the restless ambition of courts!"

At the first village of Otta, where the pass narrows to a really stupendous gorge and winds its way up between pyramidal crags soaring out of a sea of green chestnut groves, one of this favoured race (by name Giuse) attempted to sell me a mule at something like twice its value. I hired the beast instead, and also the services of its master to guide me through the two great forests which lay between me and the plain of the Niolo, one on either side of the ridge ahead. He carried a gun, and wore an air of extreme ferocity which daunted me until I perceived that all the rest of the village-men were similarly favoured. Of his politeness after striking the bargain I had no cause to complain. He accepted-and apparently with the simplest credulity-my account of myself, that I was an Englishman bound in the service of the Government to inspect and report on the forests of the interior, on the timber of which King George was prepared to lend money in support of the patriot troops. He himself had served as a stripling in Paoli's militia across the mountains on the great and terrible day of Ponte Nuovo, and by fits and starts, whenever the road allowed our two mules to travel abreast in safety, he told me the story of it, in a dialect of which I understood but one word in three, so different were its harsh aspirates and gutturals from any sounds in the Italian familiar to me.

The mules stepped out well, and in the shade of the ravine we pushed on steadily through the heat of the day. We had left the macchia far below us, and the road wound between and around sheer scarps of grey granite on the edge of precipices echoing the trickle of waters far below. We rode now in single file, and so continued until Evvisa was reached, and the upper hills began to open their folds. From Evvisa a rough track, yet scored with winter ruts, led us around the southern side of one of these mountain basins, and so to the skirts of the forest of Aitone, into the glooms of which we plunged, my guide promising to bring me out long before nightfall upon the ridge of the pass, where he would either encamp with me, or (if I preferred it) would leave me to encamp alone and find his way back to Evvisa.

So, with the sun at our backs and now almost half-way below its meridian, we threaded our way up between the enormous pine-trunks, in a gloom full of pillars which set me in mind of Cordova Cathedral. From their dark roof hung myriads of cocoons white as satin and shone in every glint of sunlight. And, whether over the carpet of pine-needles or the deeper carpet of husks where the pines gave place to beech groves, our going was always easy and even luxurious. I began to think that the difficulties of my journey were over; and as we gained the bocca at the top of the pass and, emerging from the last outskirt of pines, looked down on the weald beyond, I felt sure of it.

The plain lay at my feet like a huge saucer filled with shadow and rimmed with snowy mountains on which the sunlight yet lingered. A good road plunged down into the gloom of Valdoniello-a forest at first glance very like that through which we had been riding, but smaller in size. Its dark green tops climbed almost to our feet, and over them Giuse pointed to the town of Niolo midway across the plain, traced with his finger the course of the Golo, and pointed to the right of it where a pass would lead me through the hill-chain to Corte.

I hesitated no longer: but thanked him, paid him his price and a trifle over, and, leaving him on the ridge, struck boldly downhill on foot towards the forest.

As with Aitone so with Valdoniello. The road shunned its depths and, leading me down through the magnificent fringe of it, brought me out upon an open slope, if that can be called open which is densely covered to the height of a man's knees at times, and again to the height of his breast, with my old friend the macchia.

It was now twilight and I felt myself weary. Choosing an aromatic bed by the roadside where no prickly cactus thrust its way through the heather, I opened my wallet; pulled forth a sausage, a crust, and a skin of wine; supped; and stretched myself to sleep through the short summer night.

"The howly Mother presarve us! Whist now, Daniel Cullinan, did ye'ver hear the like of it?"

I am glad to remember now that, even as the voice fell on my ear and awoke me, I had presence enough of mind to roll quickly off my bed of heath away from the road and towards the shelter of a laurestinus bush a few paces from my elbow. But between me and the shrub lay a fern-masked hollow between two boulders, into which I fell with a shock, and so lay staring up at the heavens.

The wasted moon hung directly overhead in a sky already paling with dawn. And while I stared up at her, taking stock of my senses and wondering if here-here in Corsica-I had really heard that inappropriate sound, soon across the hillside on my left echoed an even stranger one-yet one I recognised at once as having mingled with my dreams; a woman's voice pitched at first in a long monotonous wail and then undulating in semitones above and below the keynote-a voice which seemed to call from miles away-a sound as dismal as ever fell on a man's ears.

"Arrah, let me go, Corp'ril! let me go, I tell yez! 'Tis the banshee- who knows it better than I?-that heard the very spit of it the day my brother Mick was drowned in Waterford harbour, and me at Ballyroan that time in Queen's County, and a long twenty-five miles away as ever the crow flies!"

"Ah, hold your whist, my son! Mebbee 'tis but some bird of the country- bad end to it!-or belike the man we're after, that has spied us, and is putting a game on us."

"Bird!" exclaimed the man he had called Daniel Cullinan, as again the wail rang down from the hills. "Catch the bird can talk like yondhar, and I give ye lave to eat him and me off the same dish. And if 'tis a man, and he's anywhere but on the road, here's a rare bottle of hay we'll search through for him. Rest aisy now, Corp'ril, and give it up. That man with the mules, we'll say, was a liar; and turn back before the worse befalls us!"

Through my ferny screen I saw them-two redcoats in British uniform disputing on the road not ten paces from my shelter. They moved on some fifty yards, still disputing, the first sunrays glinting on the barrels of the rifles they shouldered: and almost as soon as their backs were turned I broke cover and crept away into the macchia.

Now the macchia, as I soon discovered, is prettier to look at than to climb through. I was a fool not to content myself with keeping at a tolerably safe distance from the road. As it was, with fear at my heels and a plenty of inexperience to guide me, I crawled through thickets and blundered over sharply pointed rocks; found myself on the verge of falls from twenty to thirty feet in depth; twisted my ankles, pushed my head into cactus, tangled myself in creepers; found and followed goat-tracks which led into other goat-tracks and ended nowhere; tore my hands with briers and my shoes on jagged granite; tumbled into beds of fern, sweated, plucked at arresting thorns, and at the end of twenty minutes discovered what every Corsican knows from infancy-that to lose one's way in the macchia is the simplest thing in life.

I had lost mine pretty thoroughly when, happening on what seemed at least a promising track, I cast my eyes up and saw, on a ridge some two or three hundred yards ahead and sharply outlined against the blue morning sky, a horse and rider descending the slope towards me.

The horse I presently discerned to be a light roan of the island breed: and my first thought was that he seemed overweighted by his rider, who sat erect-astonishingly erect-with his head cased in a pointed hood and his body in a long dark cloak which fell from his shoulders to his knees. Although he rode with saddle and bridle, he apparently used neither stirrups nor reins, and it was a wonder to see how the man kept his seat as he did with his legs sticking out rigid as two vine-props and his arms held stiffly against his sides. I wasted no time, however, in marvelling, but ran forward as he approached and stretched out my hand to his rein, panting out, "O, friend, be good enough to guide me out of this tangle!- for I am a stranger and indeed utterly lost."

And with that all speech froze suddenly within me: and with good excuse- for I was looking up into the face of a corpse!

His eyes, shaded by the hood he wore, were glazed and wide, his features- the features of an old man-livid in death. As I blenched before them, I saw that a stout pole held his body upright, a pole lashed firmly at the tail of his crupper, and terminating in two forking branches like an inverted V, against which his legs had been bound with leathern thongs.

And again as I blenched from the horrible face my eyes fell on the horse, and I saw that the poor little beast was no less than distraught with fright. What I had taken for grey streaks in his roan coat were in fact lathery flakes of sweat, and he nuzzled towards me as a horse will rarely nuzzle towards a stranger and only in extremest terror. A glance told me that he had been galloping wildly and bucking to free himself of his burden, but was now worn out and thoroughly cowed. His knees quivered as I soothed and patted him; and when I pulled out a knife to cut the corpse free from its lashings, he seemed to understand at once, and rubbed his nose gratefully against my waistcoat.

A moment later the knife almost dropped from my hand at the sound of a brisk hurrah from above, and looking up I saw the stalwart form of the Irish corporal wriggling along the branch of a cork-oak which overhung the slope. He carried his rifle, and, anchoring himself in a fork of the boughs, stared down triumphantly.

"Arrah now," he hailed, "which of you's the man that came ashore at Porto and passed through Evvisa overnight? Spake up quick now, and surrender, for I have ye covered!"

He lifted his rifle. I cast my eye over the space of macchia between us, and decided that I had only his bullet to fear.

"A poco, a poco," I called back. "Be in no hurry-piano, my friend: this gentleman has met with an accident to his stirrup!"

"The divvle take your impudence! Step forward this moment and surrender, or it's meat I'll be making of the pair of you!"

And he meant it. I slipped behind the corpse, and hacked at its lashings as his rifle roared out; and for aught I know the corpse received the bullet. With a heave I toppled it and its ghastly frame together headlong into the fern, sprang to the saddle in its place, pointed to it, and with a shout of "Assassino! Assassino!" shook rein and galloped down the path.

A few strides removed me out of further danger from the corporal, perched as he was in an attitude extremely inconvenient for reloading. Of his comrade I saw no signs, but judged him to be foundered somewhere in the macchia. The little roan had regained his wind. He took me down the precipitous track without a blunder, picked his way across the dry bed of a mountain torrent, and on the farther side struck off at right angles into a path which mounted through the macchia towards a wedge-shaped cleft in the foothills to the north. Now and again this path returned to the very lip of the torrent, across which I looked upon cliffs descending sheer for many scores of feet from the heathery slope to the boulders below. At the pace we held it was a sight to make me shiver. But the good little horse knew his road, and I let him take it. Up and up we mounted, his pace dropping at length to a slow canter, and so at an angle of the gorge came suddenly into full view of a grassy plateau with a house perched upon it-a house so high and narrow that at first glance I took it for a tower, with the more excuse because at first glance I could discern no windows.

As we approached it, however, I saw it to be a dwelling-house, and that it had windows, though these were shuttered, and the shutters painted a light stone colour; and I had scarcely made this discovery when one of them jetted out a sudden puff of smoke and a bullet sang over my head.

The roan, which had fallen to a walk-so steep was the pitch of ground immediately beneath the house-halted at once as if puzzled; and you may guess if his dismay exceeded mine. But I reasoned from his behaviour on the road that this must be his home, and the folks behind the window shutters must recognise him. So standing high in my stirrups I waved a hand and pointed at him, at the same time shouting "Amico! Amico!"

There was no answer. The windows still stared down upon us blankly, but to my relief the shot was not repeated. "Amico! Amico!" I shouted again, and, alighting, led the horse towards the door.

It was opened cautiously and held a little ajar-just wide enough to give me a glimpse of a black-bearded face.

"Who are you?" a voice demanded in harsh Corsican.

"A friend," I answered, "and unarmed: and see, I have brought you back your horse!"

The man called to someone within the house: then addressed me again. "Yes, it is indeed Nello. But how come you by him?"

"That is a long story," said I. "Be so good as either to step out or to open and admit me to your hospitality, that we may talk in comfort."

"To the house, O stranger, I have not the slightest intention of admitting you, seeing that the windows are stuffed with mattresses, and there is no light within-no, not so much as would show your face. And even less intention have I of stepping outside, since, without calling you a liar, I greatly suspect you are here to lead me into ambush."

"Oho!" said I, as a light broke on me. "Is this vendetta?"

"It is vendetta, and has been vendetta any day since the Saturday before last, when old Stephanu Ceccaldi swindled me out of that very horse from which you have alighted: and it fills me with wonder to see him here."

"My tale will not lessen your wonder," said I, "when you learn how I came by him. But as touching this Stephanu Ceccaldi?"

"As we hear, they were to have buried him last night at moonrise: for a week had not passed before my knife found him-the knife of me, Marcantonio Dezio. All night the voceri of the Ceccalde's women-folk have been sounding across the hills."

"Agreeable sir, I have later news of him. The Ceccalde (let us doubt not) did their best. They mounted him upon Nello here, the innocent cause of their affliction. They waked him with dirges which-now you come to mention them-were melancholy enough to drive a cat to suicide. They tied him upright, and rode him forth to the burial. But it would seem that Nello, here, is a true son of your clan: he cannot bear a Ceccaldi on top of him. For I met him scouring the hills with the corpse on his back, having given leg-bail to all his escort."

The Corsican has a heart, if you only know where to find it. Forgetting his dread of an ambush, or disregarding it in the violence of his emotion, Marcantonio flung wide the door, stepped forth, and casting both arms about the horse's neck and mane, caressed him passionately and even with tears.

"O Nello! O brave spirit! O true son of the Dezii!"

He called forth his family, and they came trooping through the doorway-an old man, two old women, a middle-aged matron whom I took for Marcantonio's wife, three stalwart girls, a stunted lad of about fourteen and four smaller and very dirty children. Their movements were dignified-even an infant Corsican rarely forgets his gravity-but they surrounded Nello one and all, and embraced him, and fed him on lumps of sugar. (Sugar, I may say, is a luxury in Corsica, and scarce at that.) They wept upon his mane and called him their little hero. They shook their fists towards that quarter, across the valley, in which I supposed the Ceccalde to reside. They chanted a song over the little beast while he munched his sugar with an air of conscious worth. And in short I imagined myself to be wholly forgotten in their delight at recovering him, until Marcantonio swung round suddenly and asked me to name a price for him.

"Eh?" said I. "What-for Nello? Surely, after what has happened, you can hardly bring yourself to part with him?"

"Hardly, indeed. O stranger, it will tear my heart! But where am I to bestow him? The Ceccalde will be here presently; beyond doubt they are already climbing the pass. And for you also it will be awkward if they catch you here."

I had not thought of this danger. "The valley below will be barred then?" I asked.

"Undoubtedly."

"I might perhaps stay and lend you some help."

"This is the Dezii's private quarrel," he assured me with dignity. "But never fear for us, O stranger. We will give them as good as they bring."

"I am bound for Corte," said I.

"By following the track up to the bocca you will come in sight of the high-road. But you will never reach it without Nello's help, seeing that my private affairs hinder me from accompanying you. Now concerning this horse, he is one in a thousand: you might indeed say that he is worth his weight in gold."

"At all events," said I smiling, "he is a ticklish horse to pay too little for."

"A price is a price," answered Marcantonio gravely. "Old Stephanu Ceccaldi, catching me drunk, thought to pay but half of it, but the residue I took when I was sober. Now, between gentlefolks, what dispute could there be over eighty livres? Eighty livres!-why it is scarce the price of a good mare!"

Well, bating the question of his right to sell the horse, eighty livres was assuredly cheap: and after a moment's calculation I resolved to close with him and accept the risk rather than by higgling over a point of honesty, which after all concerned his conscience rather than mine, to incur the more unpleasant one of a Ceccaldi bullet. I searched in my wallet and paid the money, while the Dezii with many sobs, mixed a half-pint of wine in a mash and offered this last tribute to the vindicator of their family honour.

So when Nello had fed and I had drunk a cup to their very long life, I mounted and jogged away up the pass. Once or twice I reined up on the ascent for a look back at the plateau. And always the Dezii stood there, straining their eyes after Nello and waving farewells.

On the far side of the ridge my ears were saluted by sounds of irregular musketry in the vale behind; and I knew that the second stage in the Dezio-Ceccaldi vendetta had opened with vigour.

Three days later I had audience with the great Paoli in his rooms in the Convent of Marosaglia. He listened to my message with patience and to the narrative of my adventures with unfeigned interest. At the end he said-

"I think you had best quit Corsica with the least possible delay. And, if I may advise you further, you will follow the road northwards to Bastia, avoiding all short cuts. In any case, avoid the Niolo. I happen to know something of the Ceccalde, and their temper; and, believe me, I am counselling you for the best."

MY LADY'S COACH.

From the Military Memoir of Capt. J. de Courcy, late of the North Wilts Regiment.

There were four of us on top of the coach that

night-the driver, the guard, the corporal and I-all well muffled up and swathed about the throat against the northwest wind; and we carried but one inside passenger, though he snored enough for six. You could hear him above the chink of the swingle-bars and the drumming of our horses' hoofs on the miry road. What this inside fare was like I had no means of telling; for when the corporal and I overtook the coach at Torpoint Ferry he was already seated, and being served through the door with hot kidney pasty and hot brandy-and-water. He had travelled down from London-so I learned from the coachman by whose side I sat; and as soon as he ceased cursing the roads, the inns, the waiters, the weather and the country generally, his snores began to shake the vehicle under us as with the throes of Etna in labour.

The corporal squatted behind me with his feet on the treasure-chest and his loaded musket across his thighs, and the guard yet farther back on the roof nursing a blunderbuss and chanting to himself the dolefullest tune. For me I sat drumming my heels, with chin sunk deep within the collar of my greatcoat, one hand in its left hip-pocket and the other thrust through the breast-opening, where my fingers touched the butts of a brace of travelling pistols.

I was senior ensign of my regiment (the North Wilts), and my business was to overtake a couple of waggons that had started some seven or eight hours ahead of us with a consignment of pay-money to be delivered at Falmouth, where two of His Majesty's cruisers lay on the point of sailing for the West Indies. The chest over which I mounted guard had arrived late from London: it was labelled "supplementary," and my responsibilities would end as soon as I transferred it to the lieutenant in charge of the waggons, which never moved above a walking-pace, and always, when conveying treasure, under escort of eight or ten soldiers or marines. "Russell's Waggons," they were called, and there was no record of their having being attacked.

The country, to which I was a stranger, appeared wild enough, with hedgeless downs rolling up black and unshapely against the night. But the coachman, who guessed what we carried, assured me that he had always found the road perfectly safe. I remember asking him how long he had been driving upon it: to which he gave no more direct answer than that he had been born in these parts and knew them better than his Bible. "And the same you may say of Jim," he added, with a jerk of his whip back towards the guard.

"He has a cheerful taste in tunes," I remarked.

The fellow chuckled. "That's his favourite. 'My Lady's Coach' he calls it, and-come to think of it-I never heard him sing any other."

"It doesn't sound like Tantivey." I strained my ears for the words of the guard's song, and heard-

"The wheels go round without a sound

Or tramp or [inaudible] of whip-"

The words next following were either drowned by the wind or muffled and smothered in the man's neck-cloths; but by-and-by I caught another line or two-

"Ho! ho! my lady saith,

Step in and ride with me:

She takes the baby, white as death,

And jigs him on her knee.

The wheels go round without a sound-"

This seemed to be the refrain.

"The wheels go round without a sound

Or [inaudible again] horse's tread,

My lady's breath is foul as death,

Her driver has no head-"

"Huh!" grunted I, sinking my shoulders deeper in my overcoat. "A nice sort of vehicle to meet, say on a night like this, at the next turn of the road!"

The man peered at me suddenly, and leaned forward to shorten his reins, for we were on the edge of a steepish dip downhill. The lamplight shone on his huge forearm (as thick as an ordinary man's thigh) and on his clumsy, muffled hands.

"Well, and so we might," he answered, picking up his whip again and indicating the dark moorland on our left. "That's if half the tales be true."

"Haunted?" I asked, scanning the darkness.

"Opposition coach-hearse and pair, driven by the Old Gentleman hisself. For my part, I don't believe a word of it. Leastways, I've driven along here often enough, and in most weathers, and I ha'n't met it yet."

"You're taking this bit pretty confidently anyhow," was my comment, as he shortened rein again; for the hill proved to be a precipitous one, and the horses, held back against the weight of the coach, went down the slope with much sprawling of hind-quarters and kicking up of loose stones. "Don't you put on the skid for this, as a rule?"

"Well, now, as you say, it might be wiser. This half-thaw makes the roads cruel greasy." With a tremendous wrench he dragged the team to a standstill. "Jim, my lad, hop down and give her the shoe."

I heard Jim clambering down, then the loud rattle of the chain as he unhitched the shoe, not interrupting his song, however-

"Ho! ho! my lady saith,

Step in and ride with me:

She takes the bride as white as death-"

"Hold up, there!" commanded a voice out of the darkness on my left.

"Hullo!" I whipped out one of my pistols and faced the sound, at the same instant shouting to the driver: "Quick, man! duck your head and give 'em the whip! Curse you for a coward-don't sit there hesitating!-the whip, I say, and put 'em at it!"

But the fellow would not budge. I turned, leaned past him, plucked the whip from its socket, and lashed out at the leaders. They plunged forward as a bullet sang over my head; but before they could break into a gallop the driver had wrenched them back again on their haunches. The coach gave a lurch or two and once more came to a standstill.

"Look here," said a voice almost at my feet, "you take it quiet, or you'll be hurt!" and a pair of hands reached up and gripped the footboard. I let fly at the man with my pistol and at the same moment heard the corporal's musket roar out behind my ear. Then I tried to do what I should have done at first, and whipped out my second pistol to lay its muzzle against the driver's cheek.

But by this time half a dozen dark figures were scrambling along the roof from the rear, and as I swung round I felt a sudden heavy push against my shoulder, tottered for a moment, trod forward upon air, and went sprawling, almost headlong, over the side of the coach.

Luckily I struck a furze-bush first, but for all that I hit the turf with a thud that stunned me, as I must believe, for a minute at least. For when next I opened my eyes driver and guard were standing helpless in the light of the lamps, while a couple of highwaymen dragged my chest off the roof. Another stood by the heads of the leaders, and yet another was spread on the footboard, with his head and shoulders well buried in the boot. The rest had gathered in the rear about the coach door in altercation with the inside passenger. Close behind the near hind wheel lay the corporal, huddled and motionless.

My head darted pain as though it had been opened with a saw, and as I lifted myself and groped about for my pistols, I discovered that my collar-bone was broken and my hip-muscles had taken a bad wrench. Hurt as I was, though, I managed to find one of my pistols, and crawling until I had the coach-door in view, sank into the ditch and began to reload.

The men at the rear of the coach were inviting the inside fare to come forth and hand over his money; which he very roundly refused to do, using the oddest argument; for he declared himself so far gone in consumption that the night air was as bad as death to him, the while that the noise he made proclaimed his lungs as strong as a horse's. This inconsistency struck the robbers, no doubt, for after a while a pistol was clapped in at the window and he was bidden to step forth without more ado.

But for my misery I could have laughed aloud at the queer figure that at length shuffled out and stood in the light of a lantern held to examine his money. In height he could not have been more than five feet two; and to say that he was as broad as he was long would be no lie, for never in my life have I seen a man so wrapped up. He wore a travelling cap tightly drawn about the ears, and round his neck a woollen comforter so voluminous that his head, though large (as I afterwards discovered), seemed a button set on top of it. I dare be sworn that he unbuttoned six overcoats before he reached his fob and drew out watch and purse.

"There," he said, handing over the money, "take it-seven good guineas- with my very hearty curse."

The robbers-they were masked to a man-pressed forward around the lantern to count the coins.

"Give us your word," said one, "that you've no more stowed about you."

"I won't," answered the old gentleman. "All the word you'll get from me is to see you hanged if I can. If you think it worth while, search me."

Just then they were summoned by a shout from the coach roof to help in lowering my treasure. My pistol was reloaded by this time, and I lifted myself to take aim and account for one of the scoundrels at least: but in the effort my broken bone played me false; my hand shook, then dropped, and I sank upon my face in a swoon of pain.

I came back to consciousness to find myself propped on the edge of the ditch against a milestone. The coach was gone. Driver, guard, highwaymen, even the corporal's body, had disappeared also. But just before me in the road, under the light of a newly-risen waning moon, stood the inside passenger, hopping first on one leg then on the other for warmth; and indeed the villains had despoiled him of three of his greatcoats.

I sat up, groaned, and tried to lift my hands to my face. My companion ceased hopping about and regarded me with interest.

"Lost money?" he inquired.

"Public money," I answered, and groaned again. "It means ruin for me," I added.

"Well," said he, "I've lost my own-every stiver about me." He began to hop about again, halted, and began to wag his forefinger at me slowly. "Come, come, what's the use? I'm sorry for you, but where's your heart?"

I stared, not well knowing what to make of his manner.

"Look here," he went on after awhile, "you're thinking that you've lost your character. Very well; any bones broken?"

"My collar-bone, I think."

"Which, at your age, will heal in no time. Anything else?"

"A twist of the hip, here, and a cut in the head, I believe."

"Tut, tut! Good appetite?"

He had approached, unwound his enormous woollen comforter, and was beginning to bandage me with it, by no means unskilfully. I thought his question a mad one, and no doubt my face, as he peered into it, told him so.

"I mean," he explained, "will you ever be able to eat a beef-steak again- say, a trifle underdone, with a dozen of oysters for prelude-and drink beer, d'ye think, and enjoy them both?"

"No doubt."

"And kiss a pretty girl, and be glad to do it?"

"Very likely."

"And fight?"

He eyed his bandage critically, stepped back upon the road and danced about, stamping with his feet while he cut and thrust at an imaginary enemy. "And fight, hey?"

"I suppose so."

"Then, bless the lad," he exclaimed, stopping and looking at me as fierce as a rat, "get on your legs, and don't sit moping as if life were a spilt posset!"

There was no disobeying this masterful old gentleman, so I made shift to stand up.

"We have but one life to live," said he.

"I beg your pardon?"

"-In this world. God forgive me, I'd almost forgotten my cloth! We have, I say, only one life to live in this world, and must make the best of it. I tell you so, and I'm a clergyman."

"Indeed, sir?"

"Damme, yes; and, what's more, I'll take odds that I'm not the rector of this very parish."

By this time, as you will guess, I had no doubt of his madness. To begin with, anyone less like a parson it would be hard to pick in a crowd, and, besides, I remembered some of his language to the highwaymen.

"It ought to be hereabouts," he went on meditatively. "And if it should turn out to be my parish we must make an effort to get your money back, if only for our credit's sake, hey?"

"Oh," said I, suspicious all of a sudden, "if these ruffians are your parishioners and you know them-"

"Know them?" he caught me up. "How the devil should I know them? I've never been within a hundred miles of this country in my life."

"You say 'tis your parish-"

"I don't. I only say that it may be."

"But, excuse me, if you've never seen it before-"

"I don't see it now," he snapped.

"Then excuse me again, but how on earth do you propose-here in the dead of night, on an outlandish moorland, in a country you have never seen-to discover a chest of treasure which seven or eight scoundrelly, able-bodied natives are at this moment making off with and hiding?"

"The problem, my friend, as you state it is too easy; too ridiculously easy. 'Natives' you say: I only hope they may be. The difficulty will only begin if we discover them to be strangers to these parts."

"Have mercy then on my poor dull wits, sir, and take the case at its easiest. We'll suppose these fellows to be natives. Still, how are you to discover their whereabouts and the whereabouts of my pay-chest?"

"Why, man alive, by the simple expedient of finding a house, knocking at the door, and asking! You don't suppose, do you, that seven or eight able-bodied men can commit highway robbery upon one of His Majesty's coaches and their neighbours be none the wiser? I tell you, these rural parishes are the veriest gossip-shops on earth. Go to a city if you want to lose a secret, not to a God-forsaken moor like this around us, where every labourer's thatch hums with rumour. Moreover, you forget that as a parish priest among this folk-as curator of their souls-I may have unusually good opportunities-" Here he checked himself, while I shrugged my shoulders. "By the way, it may interest you to hear how I came by this benefice. Can you manage to walk? If so, I will tell you on the road, and we shall be losing no time."

I stood up and announced that I could limp a little. He offered me his arm.

"It's an instructive story," he went on, paying no heed to my dejection; "and it may teach you how a man should comport himself in adversity. Six weeks ago this very night I lost two fortunes in less than six hours. You are listening?"

"With what patience I can."

"Right. You see, I was born with a taste for adventure. At this moment- you may believe it or not-I'm enjoying myself thoroughly. But the deuce of it is that I was also born with a poor flimsy body. Come, I'm not handsomely built, am I?"

"Not particularly," I answered; and indeed his body was shaped like an egg.

"Confound it, sir, you needn't agree quite so offensively. You're none too straight in the legs yourself, if it comes to that! However," he continued in a more equable tone, "being weak in body, I sought my adventures in a quarter where a long head serves one better than long legs-I mean the gaming table. Now comes my story. Six weeks ago I took a hand at lasquenet in a company which included a nobleman whom for obvious reasons I will only call the Duke. He is of the blood royal, sir; but I mention him no more closely, and you as a gentleman will not press me. Eh? Very well. By three o'clock in the morning I had lost fifteen thousand pounds. In such a case, young man, you would probably have taken your head in your hands and groaned. We called for wine, drank, and went on again. By seven in the morning I had won my money back, and was the Duke's creditor for twenty-two thousand pounds to boot."

"But," said I, "a minute ago you told me you had lost two fortunes."

"I am coming to that. Later in the day the Duke met me in St. James' Street, and said, 'Noy'-my name is Noy, sir, Timothy Noy-'Noy,' said he, 'I owe you twenty-two thousand pounds; and begad, sir, it's a desperate business for I haven't the money, nor the half of it.' Well, I didn't fly out in a rage, but stood there beside him on the pavement, tapping my shoe with my walking-cane and considering. At last I looked up, and said I, 'Your Grace must forgive my offering a suggestion; for 'tis a cursedly awkward fix your Grace is in, and one to excuse boldness in a friend, however humble.' 'Don't put it so, I beg,' said he. 'My dear Noy, if you can only tell me how to get quits with you, I'll be your debtor eternally.'"

The old gentleman paused, lightly disengaged his arm from mine, and fumbled among his many waistcoats till he found a pocket and in it a snuff-box.

"Now that," he pursued as he helped himself to a pinch, "was, for so exalted a personage, passably near a mot. 'Your Grace,' said I, 'has a large Church patronage.' 'To be sure I have.' 'And possibly a living-with an adequate stipend for a bachelor-might be vacant just now?' 'As it happens,' said the Duke, 'I have a couple at this moment waiting for my presentation, and two stacks of letters, each a foot high, from applicants and the friends of applicants, waiting for my perusal.' 'Might I make bold,' I asked, 'to enquire their worth?' 'There's one in Norwich worth 900 pounds a year, and another in Cornwall worth 400. But how the deuce can this concern you, man?' 'The cards are too expensive for me, your Grace, and I have often made terms with myself that I would repent of them and end my days in a country living. This comes suddenly, to be sure; but so, for that matter, does death itself, and a man who makes a vow should hold himself ready to be taken at his word.' 'But, my dear fellow,' cries his Grace, 'with the best will in the world you can't repent and end your days in two livings at once.' 'I might try my best,' said I; 'there are such things as curates to be hired, I believe, and, at the worst, I was always fond of travelling.'"

The Reverend Timothy stowed away his snuff-box and gave me his arm again.

"The Duke," he continued, "took my point. He is, by the way, not half such a fool as he looks and is vulgarly supposed to be. He wrote that same day to his brother-in-law (whom I will take leave to call the Bishop of Wexcester), and made me its bearer. It is worth quotation. It ran: 'Dear Ted,-Ordain Noy, and oblige yours, Fred.' The answer which I carried back two days later was equally laconic. 'Dear Fred,-Noy ordained. Yours, Ted.' Consequently," wound up Mr. Noy, "I am down here to take over my cure of souls, and had in one of my pockets a sermon composed for my induction by a gifted young scholar of the University of Oxford. I paid him fifteen shillings and the best part of a bottle of brandy for it. The rascals have taken it, and I think they will find some difficulty in converting it into cash. Hullo! is that a cottage yonder?"

It was a small cottage, thatched and whitewashed, and glimmering in the moonlight beside the road on which its whitewashed garden-wall abutted. The moonlight, too, showed that its upper windows were closed with wooden shutters. Mr. Noy halted before the garden-gate.

"H'm, we shall have trouble here belike. Poor cottagers living beside a highroad don't open too easily at this hour to a couple of come-by-chance wayfarers. To be sure, you wear the King's uniform, and that may be a recommendation. What's that track yonder, and where does it lead, think you?"

The track to which he pointed led off the road at right angles, past the gable-end of the cottage, and thence (as it seemed to me) up into the moorland, where it was quickly lost in darkness, being but a rutted cartway overgrown with grass. But as I stepped close to examine it my eye caught the moon's ray softly reflected by a pile of masonry against the uncertain sky-line, and by-and-by discerned the roof and chimney-stacks of a farmhouse, with a grey cluster of outbuildings and the quadrilateral of a high-walled garden.

"A farmhouse?" cried his reverence, when I reported my discovery. "That's more in our line by a long way. Only beware of dogs."

Sure enough, when we reached the courtlage gate in front of the main building his lifting of the latch was the signal for half a dozen dogs to give tongue. By the mercy of heaven, however, they were all within doors or chained, and after an anxious and unpleasant half-minute we made bold to defy their clamour and step within the gate. Almost as we entered a window was opened overhead, and a man's voice challenged us.

"Whoever you be, I've a gun in my hand here!" he announced.

"We are two travellers by the mail coach," Mr. Noy announced; "one a clergyman and the other an officer in the King's service."

"You don't tell me the coach is upset?"

"And one of us has a broken collar-bone, and craves shelter in Christian charity. What's the name of this parish?"

"Hey?" The man broke off to silence the noise of his dogs.

"What's the name of this parish?"

"Braddock."

"I thought so. Then mine is Noy-Timothy Noy-and I'm your rector. Weren't you expecting me?"

"Indeed, sir, if you're Mr. Noy, the Squire had word you might be coming down this week; and 'twas I, as churchwarden, that posted your name on the church door. If you'll wait a moment, sir-the coach upset, you say!"

He disappeared from the window, and we heard him shouting to awaken the household. By-and-by the door was unchained and he admitted us, exclaiming again, "The coach upset, you say, sir!"

"Worse than that: it has been robbed. We keep some bad characters in our parish, Mr.-"

"Menhennick, sir; George Menhennick-and this is Tresaher Farm. Bad characters, sir? I hope not. We keep no highway robbers in this parish."

He faced us, rush-lamp in hand, in his great vaulted kitchen, and the light fell on an honest, puzzled face. As for Mr. Noy's face, I regret to say that it fell when he heard this vindication of his flock.

"I brought ye into the kitchen, sirs," went on Farmer Menhennick, "because 'tis cosier. We keep a fire banked up here all night." He bent to revive it, but desisted as his wife entered with one of the house-wenches, and gave them orders to light a lamp, fetch a billet or two of wood, and make the place cheerful.

My face, I daresay, and the news of the robbery, scared the two women, who went about their work at once with a commendable quietness. But I think it was a whisper from the maidservant which caused the farmer to ejaculate, as he helped me to a chair:

"And you've walked across Blackadon Down at this hour of night! My word, sirs, and saving your reverence, but you had a nerve, if you'd only known it!"

"Why, what's the matter with Blackadon?" asked Mr. Noy sharply.

Farmer Menhennick faced him with a deprecatory grin.

"Nothing, sir-leastways, nothing more than old woman's tales, not worth a man's heeding."

"Has it by chance," said I, "anything to do with a hearse?"

"A hearse!" Mr. Noy stared at me, and then his eye fell on the farmer, who had been helping to unbutton my tunic, but was now drawn back a pace from me with amazement written all over his honest face. "A hearse?" repeated Mr. Noy.

"Why, however-" began the farmer, with his eyes slowly widening.

"A hearse," said I, "with black nodding plumes and (I believe) a headless driver. Let me see-" I began to hum the air sung by Jim the guard:-

"The wheels go round without a sound-"

The two women had dropped their work and stood peering at me, the pair of them quaking.

"He's seen it-he's seen it!" gasped the farmer's wife.

"A hearse?" cried Mr. Noy once more, and this time almost in a scream. "When? where?"

"On Blackadon Down, sir," answered Mr. Menhennick. "'Tis an old story that the moor's haunted, and folks have been putting it round that the thing's been seen two or three times lately. But there-'tis nothing to pay any heed to."

"Oh, isn't it!"

"You understand, sir, 'tisn't a real hearse-"

"Oh, isn't it!" repeated Mr. Noy in scorn.

"And you, sir-" He had almost caught and shaken me by the collar, but remembered my hurt just in time. "And do you, sir, sit there and tell me that you've known this all along, and yet-oh, you numskull!" He flung up two protesting hands.

"But even if it's a real hearse-" I began.

"That's the kind most frequently met, I believe. And 'the wheels go round without a sound.' Yes, they would-on Blackadon turf! Any more questions? No? Then I'll take my turn with a few." He wheeled round upon the farmer. "Ever seen it yourself?"

"No, sir."

"Has anyone here seen it?"

No; but the maidservant's father had seen it, three weeks ago-the very night that Squire Granville's house was tried-

Mr. Noy was almost capering. "Splendid!" he cried. "Splendid! That will sharpen his temper if it don't his wits. The Squire's house was tried, you say?" He turned on the farmer again. "Hullo, my friend! I understood there were no law-breakers in this parish?"

"'Tisn't known for certain that the house was tried," the farmer explained. "'Tis thought that some of the lads was giving the old boy a scare, he having been extra sharp on the poaching this year. All that's known is, he heard some person trying his shutters, and let fly out of his bedroom window with a gun; and what you can build on that I don't see."

"You shall though." He began to cross-examine the girl. "At what time that night did your father see the hearse?"

"I believe, sir, 'twas soon after eleven. He has a cow, sir, in calf, and went round to the chall to make sure she was all right-"

Mr. Noy nodded. "And the hearse was passing-in what direction?"

"Towards the church town, sir; or, as you may say, towards St. Neot parish."

"Inland, that is?"

"Yes, sir. But later on that same night Reub Clyma, up to Taphouse, saw it too; and this time 'twas moving fast and making towards Polperro."

"Fits like a puzzle. Is Polperro a seaport town?" he asked the farmer.

"A sort of fishing town, sir."

"Your nearest? Good. And you reach it by a road running north and south across the coach-road? Good. Now if you wanted to drive to Polperro you could do so across the downs for some distance, eh? before striking this road. Good again. How far?"

"You'll excuse me, but I don't know that I rightly take your meaning."

"Then we'll go slower. Suppose that you wished to drive towards Polperro over turf, never minding the jolts, and not to strike into the hard road until you were compelled. How far could you contrive to travel in this way?"

Farmer Menhennick found a seat and sat scratching his head. "Three miles, maybe," he decided at length.

"And what sort of road is this when you strike it?"

"Turnpike."

"Indeed? And where's the pike?"

"At Cann's Gate."

"That tells me nothing, I'm afraid; but we'll put the question in another form. Suppose that we are forced at length to leave the turf and fields and strike into the road for Polperro. Now where would this happen? Some way beyond the turnpike, I imagine."

"Indeed no, sir: it would be a mile on this side of the pike, or threequarters at the least."

"You are sure?"

"Sure as I sit here. Why the road goes down a coombe; and before you get near the turnpike, the coombe narrows so." The farmer illustrated the V by placing his hands at an angle.

Mr. Noy found his snuff-box, took a heavy pinch, inhaled it, and closed his box with a snap. Then he faced the farmer's wife with a low bow.

"Madam," said he, "you may put this young gentleman to bed, and the sooner the better. He has lost a large sum of money, which I am fairly confident I can recover for him without his help; and your parish-which is also mine-has lost its character, and this also I propose to recover. But to that end I must require your excellent husband to fetch out his trap and drive me with all speed to Squire Granville's." He paused, and added, "We are in luck to-night undoubtedly; but I fear I can promise him no such luck as to meet a hearse and headless driver on the way.… One moment, Mr. Menhennick! Have you such things as pen, ink and paper, and a farm-boy able to ride?"

"Certainly I have, sir."

"Then while you are harnessing your nag, I'll drop a line to the riding-officer at Polperro; and if after receipt of it he allows a single fishing-boat to leave the harbour, he'll be sorry-that's all. Now, sir-Eh? Why are you hesitating?"

"Well, indeed, your reverence knows best; and if you force me to drive over to Squire Granville's, why then I must. But I warn you, sir, that he hunts to-morrow; and if, begging your pardon, you knew the old varmint's temper on a hunting day in the morning-"

"Hunts, does he? D'ye mean that he keeps a pack of hounds?"

"Why, of course, sir!"

Farmer Menhennick's accent was pathetically reproachful.

"God forgive me! And I didn't know it-I, your rector! Your rebuke is just, Mr. Menhennick. And this Church of England of ours-I say it with shame-is full of scandals. Where do they meet to-day?"

"Four-barrow Hill, your reverence."

"Oh, no, they don't. On that point you really must allow me to correct you. If they meet at all, it will be at-what d'ye call it?- Cann's Gate."

And so they did. The Granville Hounds are, or were, a famous pack; but the great and golden day in their annals remains one on which they killed never a fox; a day's hunting from which they trailed homewards behind a hearse driven in triumph by a very small clergyman without a head (for Mr. Noy had donned the very suit worn by Satan's understudy, even to its high stock-collar pierced with eye-holes). That hearse contained my chest of treasure; and that procession is remembered in the parishes of Talland, Pelynt, Lanreath, and Braddock to this day.

I did not see it, alas! Bed claimed the invalid, and Mrs. Menhennick soothed him with her ministering attentions. But Parson Noy reported the day's doings to me in a voice reasonably affected by deep potations at the "Punch Bowl Inn," Lanreath.

"My son, it was glorious! First of all we ran the turnpike-man to earth, and frightened him into turning King's evidence. He was at the bottom of the mischief, of course; and the hearse we found-where d'ye think? Close behind his house, sir, in a haystack-a haystack so neatly hollowed that it beat belief-with a movable screen of hay, which the rogues replaced when the coach was stowed! We found everything inside-masks, mourners' hatbands, the whole bag of tricks; everything, barring your treasure, and that the preventive men dug out of the hold of an innocent-looking lugger on the point to sail for Guernsey. Four of the rascals, too, they routed up, that were stowed under decks and sleeping like angels."

"And the coachman? And the guard?"

"Squire Granville has posted off half a dozen constables towards Falmouth; but I'll lay odds that precious pair are on shipboard before this and heading out to sea. I'm sorry, too, for they were the wickedest villains of the piece; but they'll be sorry before they have finished waiting at Guernsey. One can't expect everything; and Providence has been mighty kind to us."

"To me, at all events."

"And to me, and to my parish."

"Yes, to be sure," said I; "the parish is well rid of such a bogey."

"I wasn't thinking of that," said he dryly. "I've recovered my sermon."

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares