« 上一頁繼續 »
6 Met! whom do you mean?”
My sister meet him!” cried the major, angrily 6 think you he dare show himself at Rookwood ?”
“ Ho ! ho !” laughed Dick — " she is at Rookwood, then ? A thousand thanks, major. Good night to you, gentlemen.”
“ Take that with you, and remember the guard,” cried the fellow, who, unable to take aim from where he sat, had crept along the coach roof, and discharged thence one of his large horse pistols at what he took to be the highwayman's head, but which, luckily for Dick, was his hat, which he had raised to salute the passengers.
6 Remember you,” said Dick, coolly replacing his perforated beaver on his brow, “ you may rely upon it, my fine fellow, I'll not forget you, the next time we meet.”
And off he went like the breath of the whirlwind.
A ROAD-SIDE INN.
Moor. Take my horse, and dash a bottle of wine over him. 'Twas hot work!
We will now make inquiries after Mr. Coates and his party, of whom both we and Dick Turpin have for some time lost sight. With unabated ardour the vindictive man of law and his myrmidons pressed forward. A tacit compact seemed to have been entered into between the highwayman and his pursuers, that he was to fly, while they were to follow. Like blood-hounds, they keep steadily upon his trail ; nor were they so far behind as Dick imagined. At each post-house they passed, they obtained fresh horses, and, while these were saddling, a post-boy was dispatched en courier to order relays at the next station. In this manner they proceeded after the first stoppage without interruption. Horses were in waiting for them, as they, “ bloody with spurring, fiery hot with haste," and their jaded hacks arrived. Turpin had been heard or seen in all quarters. Turnpike men, waggoners, carters, trampers, all had seen him. Besides, strange as it may sound, they placed some faith in his word. York they believed would be his destination.
At length the coach which Dick had encountered hove in sight. There was another stoppage and another hubbub. The old gentleman's nightcap was again manifested, and suffered a sudden occultation, as upon the former occasion. The post-boy, who was in advance, had halted, and given up his horse to Major Mowbray, who exchanged his seat on the box for one on the saddle, deeming it more expedient, after his interview with Turpin, to return to Rookwood, rather than to proceed to town. The post-boy was placed behind Coates, as being the lightest weight ; and, thus reinforced, the party pushed forward, as rapidly as heretofore.
Eighty and odd miles had now been traversed—the boundary of another county, Northampton, passed ; yet no rest, nor respite, had Dick Turpin or his unflinching mare enjoyed. But here he deemed it fitting to make a brief halt.
Bordering the beautiful domains of Burleigh House, stood a little retired hostelrie of some antiquity, which bore the great Lord Treasurer's arms. With this house Dick was not altogether unacquainted. The lad who acted as ostler was known to him. It was now midnight, but a bright and beaming night. To the door of the stable then did he ride, and knocked in a peculiar manner. Reconnoitering Dick through a broken pane of glass in the lintel, and apparently satisfied with his scrutiny, the lad thrust forth a head of hair as full of straw as Mad Tom's is represented to be upon the stage. A chuckle of welcome followed his sleepy salutation. “ Glad to see you, Captain Turpin,” said he, “ can I do any thing for you?"
“Get me a couple of bottles of brandy, and a beef-steak," said Dick.
“ As to the brandy, you can have that in a jiffy — but the steak, Lord love ye, the old ooman wo'n't stand it at this time; but there's a cold round, mayhap a slice of that might door a knuckle of ham?”
“ D-n your knuckles, Ralph,” cried Dick, “ have you any raw meat in the house ? ”
“ Raw meat!” echoed Ralph, in surprise — "oh yes, there's a rare rump of beef. You can have a cut off that if
like.” “ That's the thing I want,” said Dick, ungirthing his mare ; give me the scraper
there I can get a whisp of straw from your head. Now run and get the brandy — better bring three bottles uncork 'em, and let me have half a pail of water to mix with the spirit.”
“ A pail full of brandy and water to wash down a raw steak — my eyes !” exclaimed Ralph, opening wide his sleepy peepers, adding, as he went about the execution of his task,
I always thought them Rum-padders, as they call themselves, rum fellows, but now I'm sartin sure on it.”
The most sedulous groom could not have bestowed more attention
the horse of his heart, than Dick Turpin now paid to his mare. He scraped, chafed, and dried her, sounded each muscle, traced each sinew, pulled her ears, examined the state of her feet, and, ascertaining that her “ withers were unwrung," finally washed her from head to foot in the diluted spirit; not however before he had conveyed a thimbleful of the liquid to his own parched throat, and replenished what Falstaff calls a pocket pistol,” which he had about him. While Ralph was engaged in rubbing her down after her bath, Dick occupied himself, not in dressing the raw steak in the manner the stable boy had anticipated, but in rolling it round the bit of his bridle.
“ She will now go as long as there's breath in her body," said he, putting the flesh-covered iron within her mouth.
The saddle being once more replaced, after champing a moment or two at the bit, Bess began to snort, and paw the earth, as if impatient of delay ; and, acquainted as he was with her indomitable spirit and power, her condition was a surprise even to Dick himself. Her vigour seemed inexhaustible, her vivacity was not a whit diminished, but as she was led into the open space, her step became as light and free as when she started on her ride, and her sense of sound as quick as ever. Suddenly she pricked her ears, and uttered a low neigh. A dull tramp was audible.
“ Hal” exclaimed Dick, springing into his saddle, “ they
“Who come, captain ?” asked Ralph. - The road takes a turn here don't it? " asked Dick
sweeps round to the right by the plantations in the hollow?"
* Ay, ay, captain,” answered Ralph, “it's plain you knows the ground."
“ What lies behind yon shed ? '
• A stiff fence, captain - a reg'lar rasper – beyond that a hill side steep as a house no oss as was ever shoed can go down it.”
“ Indeed,” laughed Dick.
A loud halloo from Major Mowbray, who seemed advancing upon the wings of the wind, told Dick that he was discovered. The major was a superb horseman, and took the lead of his party. Striking his spurs deeply into his horse, and giving him bridle enough, the major seemed to shoot forward like a shell through the air. The Burleigh Arms retired some hundred yards from the road, the space in front being occupied by a neat garden, with low clipped hedges. No tall timber intervened between Dick and his pursuers, so that the motions of both parties were visible to each other. Dick saw in an instant that if he now started, he should come into collision with the major exactly at the angle of the road, and he was by no means desirous of hazarding such a rencontre. He looked wistfully back at the double fence.
“ Come into the stable — quick, captain, quick,” exclaimed Ralph. 66 The stable ?" - echoed Dick, hesitating. Ay, the stable
it's your only chance. Don't you see he's turning the corner, and they are all coming — quick, sir, quick.”
Dick, lowering his head, rode into the tenement, the door of which was most unceremoniously. slapped in the major's face, and bolted on the other side.
“ Villain !” cried Major Mowbray, thundering at the door. " Come forth ! You are now fairly trapped at last caught like the woodcock in your own springe. We have you open the door I say, and save us the trouble of forcing it. You cannot escape us. We will burn the building down, but we will have you."
“ What do you want, measter ? ” cried Ralph, from the lintel, whence he reconnoitred the major, and kept the door fast. “ You're clean mistaken. There be no one here?”
“ We'll soon see that,” said Paterson, who had now arrived ; and, leaping from his horse, the chief constable took a short run, to give himself impetus, and with his foot burst open the door. This being accomplished, in dashed the major and Paterson, but the stable was vacant.
A door was open at the back. They rushed to it. The sharply sloping sides of a hill slipped abruptly downwards, within a yard of the door. It was a perilous descent to the horseman, yet the print of a horse's heels was visible in the dislodged turf, and scattered soil.
“ Confusion !” cried the major, “ he has escaped us.”
“ He is yonder,” said Paterson, pointing out Turpin mov. ing swiftly through the steaming meadow. “ See, he makes again for the road - he clears the fence. A regular throw he has given us, by the Lord !”
Nobly done, by heaven !” cried the major : “ with all his faults, I honour the fellow's courage, and admire his prowess. He's already ridden to-night, as I believe never man rode before. I would not have ventured to slide down that wall, for it's nothing else, with the enemy
heels. What say you, gentlemen, have you had enough. Shall we let him go, or —
“ As far as chase goes, I don't care if we bring the matter to a conclusion," said Titus. "I don't think, as it is, that I shall have a sate to sit on, this week to come. I've lost leather most confoundedly.”
“What says Mr. Coates ? asked Paterson. him." “ Then mount, and off," cried Coates.
“ Public duty requires that we should take him.” “ And private pique," returned the major.
“ No matter ! The end is the same. Justice shall be satisfied. To your steeds, my merry men all. Hark, and away."
Once more upon the move, Titus forgot his distress, and addressed himself to the attorney, by whose side he rode.
“ What place is that we're coming to ?” asked he, pointing to a cluster of moonlit spires belonging to a town they were rapidly approaching.
Stamford,” replied Coates. “ Stamford !" exclaimed Titus, “ by the powers ! then, we've ridden a matter of ninety miles. Why the great deeds
" I look to