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• Do you mean in this identical spot ? ” replied Coates, evasively.
“ You can have no difficulty in answering that question," said the major sternly.
“ Pardon me, sir. I find considerable difficulty in answer. ing any question, situated as I am.'
“ Have you seen Miss Mowbray?” asked Ranulph, eagerly. “Or my mother ? ” said the major, in the same breath. “Neither,” replied Coates, rather relieved by these questions.
“I suspect you are deceiving us, sir," said the major. “ Your manner is confused. I am convinced
you of this matter than you choose to explain ; and if you do not satisfy me at once fully and explicitly, I vow to Heaven and the major's sword described a glittering circle round his head. “ Are you privy to their concealment?” asked Ranulph.
. “ Have you seen aught of them, or of Luke Bradley ? ”
Speak, or this moment is your last,” said the major.
“ If it is my last, I cannot speak,"returned Coates, “I can make neither head nor tail of your questions, gentlemen.”
“And you positively assure me you have not seen Mrs. Mowbray and her daughter ? " said Ranulph. .
Turpin here winked at Coates. The attorney understood him. “ I don't positively assert that,” faltered he. “How ! you have seen them ? ” shouted Ranulph. “Where are they?— in safety — speak !” added the major.
Another expressive gesture from the highwayman, communicated to the attorney the nature of his reply.
“ Without, sir without — yonder,” he replied. “ I will show you myself - follow, gentlemen, follow." scampered Coates, without once venturing to look behind him.
In an instant the ruined hall was deserted, and Turpin alone left behind. In the excitement of the moment, his presence had been forgotten. In an instant afterwards, the arena was again occupied by a company equally numerous. Rust and Wilder issued from their hiding places, followed by a throng of the gipsy crew.
“ Where is Sir Luke Rookwood ? ” asked Turpin.
Stays there likewise.”
“No matter. Now make ready, pals. Give 'em one shout -Hurrah!”
“Hurrah !” replied the crowd, at the top of their voices.
Ranulph Rookwood and his companions heard this shout. Mr. Coates had already explained the stratagem practised upon them by the wily highwayman, as well as the perilous situation in which he himself had been placed ; and they were in the act of returning, to make good his capture, when the loud shouts of the crew arrested them. From the clamour it was evident that considerable reinforcement must have arrived from some unlooked-for quarter; and although burning to be avenged upon the audacious highwayman, the major felt it would be a task of difficulty, and that extreme caution could alone insure success. With difficulty restraining the impatience of Ranulph, who could scarcely brook these few minutes of needful delay, Major Mowbray gave particular instructions to each of the men in detail, and caused several of them to dismount. By this arrangement, Mr. Coates found himself accommodated with a steed, and a pair of pistols, with which latter he vowed to wreak his vengeance upon some of his recent tormentors. After a short space of time occupied in this manner, the troop slowly advanced towards the postern, in much better order than upon the previous occasion ; but the stoutest of them quailed, as they caught sight of the numerous gipsy-gang drawn out in battle array, within the abbey walls. Each party scanned the other's movements in silence and wonder, anxiously awaiting, yet in a measure dreading, their leader's signal to begin. That signal was not long delayed. A shot from the ranks of Rookwood did instant and bitter execution. Rob Rust was stretched lifeless upon the ground. Nothing more was needed. The action now became general. Fire-arms were discharged on both sides without much damage to either party. But a rush being made by a detachment of horse, headed by Major Mowbray, the conflict soon became more serious. The gipsies, after the first fire, threw aside their pistols, and fought with long knives, with which they inflicted desperate gashes, both on men and horses. Major Mowbray was slightly wounded in the thigh, and his steed receiving the blow intended for himself, stumbled, and threw his rider. Luckily for the major, Ranulph Rookwood was at hand, and with the butt-end of a heavy-handled pistol
felled the ruffian to the earth, just as he was upon the point of repeating the thrust.
Turpin, meanwhile, had taken comparatively a small share in the conflict. He seemed to content himself with acting upon the defensive, and except, in the case of Titus Tyrconnel, whom, espying amidst the crowd, he had considerably alarmed by sending a bullet through his wig, he did not fire a single shot. He also succeeded in unhorsing Coates, by hurling with great dexterity, the empty pistol at his head. Though apparently unconcerned in the skirmish, he did not flinch from it, but kept his ground unyieldingly. charmed life" he seemed to bear; for amid the shower of bullets, many of which were especially aimed at himself, he came off unhurt.
“ He that's born to be hanged, will never be drowned, that 's certain," said Titus. “It's no use trying to bring him down. But by Jasus ! he's spoiled my best hat and wig, any how. There's a hole in my beaver as big as a crown piece."
“ Your own crown's safe, and that's some satisfaction,” said Coates ; “ whereas mine has a bump on it, as large as a swan's egg. Ah! — if we could only get behind him.”
The strife continued to rage without intermission; and though there were now several ghastly evidences of its fury, in the shape of wounded men, and slaughtered, or disabled horses, whose gaping wounds flooded the turf with gore, it was still difficult to see upon which side victory would eventually declare herself. The gipsies, though by far the greater sufferers of the two, firmly maintained their ground. Drenched in the blood of the horses they had wounded, and brandishing their long knives, they presented a formidable and terrific appearance, the effect of which was not at all diminished by their wild yells and savage gesticulations. On the other hand, headed by Major Mowbray and Ranulph, the troop of yeoman pressed on undauntedly; and where the sturdy farmers could get a firm gripe of their lithe antagonists, or deliver a blow with their ox-like fists, they seldom failed to make good the advantages, which superior weight and strength gave them. It will thus be seen that as yet they were pretty well matched. Numbers were in favour of the gipsies, but courage was equally distributed, and, perhaps, what is emphatically called "bottom," was in favour of the rustics. Be this as it may, from Zoroaster,
what had already occurred, there was every prospect of a very serious termination to the fray.
From time to time Turpin glanced to the entrance of the cell, in the expectation of seeing Sir Luke Rookwood make his appearance ; and, as he was constantly disappointed in his expectation, he could not conceal his chagrin. At length he resolved to despatch a messenger to him, and one of the crew accordingly departed upon this errand. He returned presently with a look of blank dismay.
In our hasty narrative of the fight we have not paused to particularize, neither have we enumerated, the list of the combatants. Amongst them, however, were Jerry Juniper, the knight of Malta, and Zoroaster. Excalibur, as may be conceived, had not been idle ; but that trenchant blade had been shivered by Ranulph Rookwood in the early stage of the business, and the knight left weaponless.
who not merely a worshipper of fire, but a thorough milling-cove, had engaged to some purpose in a pugilistic encounter with the rustics; and, having fought several rounds, now “bore his blushing honours thick upon him.” Jerry, like Turpin, had remained tolerably quiescent. “ The proper moment,” he said, “ had not arrived.” A fatality seemed to attend Turpin's immediate companions. Rust was the first who fell ; Wilder also was now among the slain. Things were precisely in this condition when the messenger returned. A marked change was instantly perceptible in Turpin's manner. longer looked on with indifference. He seemed angry and distrustful. He gnawed his lip, ever a sign with him of vexation. Addressing a few words to those about him, he then spoke more loudly to the rest of the crew. Being in the jargon of the tawny tribe, his words were not intelligible to the opposite party ; but their import was soon made known by the almost instant and total relinquishment of the field by the gipsies. They took to their heels at once, to a man, leaving only a few desperately wounded behind them; and, flying along the intricate ruins of the priory, baffled all pursuit, wherever it was attempted. Jerry Juniper was the last in the retreat ; but, upon receiving a hint from Dick, he vaulted like a roe over the heads of his adversaries, and made good his escape. Turpin alone remained. He stood like a lion at bay, quietly
regarding the huntsmen hurtling around him. Ranulph Rookwood rode up and bade him surrender.
“ Detain me not,” cried he, in a voice of thunder. "If you would save her who is dear to you, descend into that vault. Off, I say."
And Turpin shook away, with ease, the grasp that Ranulph had laid upon him.
“ Villain, you do not escape me this time," said Major Mowbray, interposing himself between Turpin and the outlet.
“ Major Mowbray, I would not have your blood upon my head," said Dick. “Let me pass,” and he levelled a pistol.
“ Fire, if you dare!" said the major, raising his sword. “ You pass not.
I will die rather than allow you to escape. Barricade the door. Strike him down, if he attempts to pass. Richard Turpin, I arrest you in the king's name.
You hear, my lads, in his Majesty's name. I command you to assist me in this highwayman's capture. Two hundred pounds for his head.”
“ Two hundred devils !” exclaimed Dick, with a laugh of disdain. “Go, seek your mother and sister within yon vault, Major Mowbray, you will find employment enough there."
Saying which, he suddenly forced Bess to back a few yards; and then, striking his heels sharply into her sides, ere his purpose could be divined by the spectators, charged, and cleared the lower part of the mouldering priory walls. This feat was apparently accomplished with no great effort by his admirable and unequalled mare.
“ By the powers,” cried Titus, “and he's given us the slip after all. And just when we thought to make sure of him too. Why, Mr. Coates, that wall must be higher than a fivebarred gate, or any stone wall in my own country. It's just the most extraordinary lepp I ever set eyes on!”
“ The devil's in the fellow, certainly, or in his mare,” returned Coates ; “ but if he escapes me, I 'll forgive him. I know whither he's bound. He's off to London with my bill of exchange. I'll be up with him. I'll track him like a blood-hound, slowly and surely, as my father the thief-taker used to follow up a scent.
Recollect the hare and the tortoise. The race is not always to the swift. What say you ? ?T is a match for five hundred pounds; nay, for five thousand : for there is a certain marriage certificate in the way - a glorious