ePub 版

finally disappear down the hill side, she sank to the ground, her frail strength being entirely exhausted. “Body and soul may now part in peace,” gasped she " All I live for is accomplished.” And ere one hour had elapsed, the night crow was perched upon her still breathing frame.

Long pondering upon this singular interview, Dick pursued his way. At length, he thought fit to examine the packet, with which the old gipsy had intrusted him - " It feels like a casket !” thought he; “it can't be gold. But then it may be jewels — though they don't rattle, and it ain't quite heavy enough. What can it be ? I should like to know. There is some mystery, that's certain, about it but I will not break the seal, not I. As to her spell that I don't value a rush; but I've sworn to give it to Sir Luke, and deliver her message, and I'll keep my word if I can. He shall have it.” Saying which, he replaced it in his pocket.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]


TIME presses.
We may not linger in our course.

We must fly on before our flying highwayman. Full forty miles shall we pass over in a breath. Two more hours have elapsed, and he still urges his headlong career, with heart resolute as ever, and purpose yet unchanged. Fair Newark, and the dashing Trent, “most loved of England's streams," gathered to his laurels. Broad Notts and its heavy paths, and sweeping glades ; its waste (forest no more) of Sherwood past ; bold Robin Hood and his merry men, his Marian and his moonlight rides recalled, forgotten, left behind. - Hurrah ! hurrah ! that wild halloo ! that waving arm that enlivening shout. What means it? He is once more upon Yorkshire ground ; his horse's hoof beats, once more, the soil of that

noble shire. So transported was Dick, that he could almost have flung himself from the saddle to kiss the dust beneath his feet. Thrice fifty miles has he run, nor has the morn yet dawned upon his labours. Hurrah! the end draws nigh. The goal is in view - halloo — halloo - on !

Bawtrey is past. He takes the lower road by Thorne and Selby. He is skirting the waters of the deep-channelled Don.

Bess now began to manifest some slight symptoms of distress. There was a strain in the carriage of her throat a dulness in her eye – a laxity in her ear

- and a slight stagger in her gate, which Turpin noticed with apprehension. Still she went on, though not at the same gallant pace as heretofore. But, as the tired bird still battles with the blast upon the ocean as the swimmer still stems the stream, though spent on went she; nor did Turpin dare to check her, fearing, that if she stopped, she might lose her force, or if she fell, she would rise no more.

It was now that grey and grimly hour, ere one flicker of orange or rose has gemmed the east, and when unwearying nature herself seems to snatch brief repose. In the roar of restless cities, this is the only time when their strife is hushed. Midnight is awake alive. The streets ring with laughter, and with rattling wheels. At the third hour, a dead, deep silence prevails. The loud-voiced streets grow dumb. They are deserted of all, save the few guardians of the night, and the skulking robber. But even far removed from the haunts of men, and hum of towns, it is the same. “ Nature's best nurse," seems to weigh nature down, and stillness reigns throughout. Our feelings are, in a great measure, influenced by the hour. Exposed to the raw crude atmosphere, which has neither the nipping, wholesome shrewdness of morn, nor the profound chillness of night, the frame vainly struggles against the dull, miserable sensations engendered by the damps, and at once communicates them to the spirits. Hope forsakes

We are weary, exhausted. Our energy is dispirited. Sleep does “not weigh our eyelids down.”

We stare upon the vacancy. We conjure up a thousand restless, di rtening images. We abandon projects we have formed, and which, viewed through this medium, appear fantastical, chimerical, absurd. We want rest, refreshment, energy.


We will not say that Turpin had all these misgivings. But he had to struggle hard with himself to set sleep and exhaustion at defiance.

The moon had set.

The stars,

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

had all save one, the herald of the dawn withdrawn their lustre. A dull mist lay on the stream, and the air became piercing cold. Turpin's chilled fingers could scarcely grasp the slackening rein, while his eyes, irritated by the keen atmosphere, hardly enabled him to distinguish surrounding objects, or even to guide his steed. It was owing, probably, to this latter circumstance, that Bess suddenly floundered and fell, throwing her master over her head.

Turpin instantly recovered himself. His first thought was for his horse. But Bess was instantly upon her legs covered with dust and foam, sides and cheeks — and with her large eyes glaring wildly, almost piteously, upon her master.

“ Art hurt, lass ?” asked Dick, as she shook herself, and slightly shivered. And he proceeded to the horseman's scrutiny. “Nothing but a shake though that dull eye those quivering flanks --” added he, looking earnestly at her. “She wo'n't go much farther, and I must give it what ! give up the race just when it's won ? No, that can't be. Ha ! well thought on. I've a bottle of liquid, given me by an old fellow, who was a knowing cove, and famous jockey in his day, which he swore would make a horse go as long as he'd a leg to carry him, and bade me keep it for some great occasion. I've never used it. But I'll try it now.

- It should be in this pocket. Ah! Bess, wench, I fear I'm using thee, after all, as Sir Luke did his mistress, that I thought so like thee. No matter ! It will be a glorious end."

Raising her head upon his shoulder, Dick poured the contents of the bottle down the throat of his mare. Nor had he to wait long before its invigorating effects were instantaneous. The fire was kindled in the glassy orb ; her crest was once more erected ; her flank ceased to quiver ; and she neighed loud and joyously.

· Egad, the old fellow was right,” cried Dick.


[ocr errors]

- The

[ocr errors]

drink has worked wonders. - What the devil could it have been ? — It smells like spirit,” added he examining the bottle. “ I wish I'd left a taste for myself. But here's that will do as well.

And he drained his flask of the last drop of brandy.

Dick's limbs were now become so excessively stiff, that it was with difficulty he could remount his horse. But this necessary preliminary being achieved by the help of a stile, he found no difficulty in resuming his accustomed position upon the saddle.

We know not whether there was any likeness between our Turpin and that modern Hercules of the sporting world, Mr. Osbaldeston. Far be it from us to institute any comparison, though we cannot help thinking that, in one particular, he resembled that famous “

copperbottomed” squire. This we will leave to our readers' discrimination. Dick bore his fatigues wonderfully. He suffered somewhat of that martyrdom which, according to Tom Moore, occurs to weavers and M. P.'s, from sitting too long” but again on his courser's back, he cared not for any thing.

Once more, at a gallant pace, he traversed the banks of the Don, skirting the fields of flax that bound its sides, and hurried far more swiftly than its current to its confluence with the Aire.

Snaith was past. He was on the road to Selby when dawn first began to break. Here and there a twitter was heard in the hedge ; a hare ran across his path, grey looking as the morning self; and the mists began to rise from the earth. A bar of gold was drawn against the east, like the roof of a gorgeous palace. But the mists were heavy in this world of rivers and their tributary streams. The Ouse was before him, the Trent and Aire behind ; the Don and Derwent on either hand, all in their way to commingle their currents ere they formed the giant Humber. Amid a region so prodigal of water, no wonder the dews fell thick as rain. Here and there, the ground was clear ; but then again came a volley of vapour, dim and palpable as smoke.

While involved in one of these fogs, Turpin became aware of another horseman by his side. It was impossible to discern the features of the rider, but his figure in the mist seemed gigantic; neither was the colour of his steed dis

tinguishable. Nothing was visible except the meagre-looking, phantom-like outline of a horse and his rider, and, as the unknown road upon the turf that edged the way, even the sound of his horse's hoofs were scarce audible. Turpin gazed, not without superstitious awe. Once or twice, he essayed to address the strange horseman, but his tongue clove to the roof of his mouth. He fancied he discovered in the mist-exaggerated lineaments of the stranger a wild and fantastic resemblance to his friend, Tom King. “ It must be Tom," thought Turpin ; "he is come to warn me of my approaching end. I will speak to him."

But terror o'ermastered his speech. He could not force out a word, and thus side by side they rode in silence. Quaking with fears he would scarcely acknowledge to himself, Dick watched every motion of his companion. He was still, stern, spectre-like, erect; and looked for all the world like a demon on his phantom steed. His courser seer

eemed, in the indistinct outline, to be huge and bony, and as he snorted furiously in the fog, Dick's heated imagination supplied his breath with a due proportion of flame. Not a word was spoken not a sound heard, save the sullen dead beat of his hoofs upon the grass. It was intolerable to ride thus cheek by jowl with a goblin. Dick could stand it no longer. He put spurs to his horse, and endeavoured to escape. But it might not be. The stranger, apparently without effort, was still by his side, and Bess's feet, in her master's apprehensions, were nailed to the ground. By and by, however, the atmosphere became clearer. Bright quivering beams burst through the vaporous shroud, and then it was that Dick discovered that the apparition of Tom King was no other than Luke Rookwood. He was mounted on his old horse, Rook, and looked grim and haggard as a ghost vanishing at the crowing of the cock.

“ Sir Luke Rookwood by this light !” exclaimed Dick, in astonishment. Why I took you for

* The devil, no doubt?” returned Luke, smiling sternly, “and were sorry to find yourself so hard pressed. Don't disquiet yourself, I am still flesh and blood.”

“Had I taken you for one of mortal mould,” said Dick, you should have soon seen where I'd have put you in the

That confounded fog deceived me, and Bess acted the

[ocr errors]


« 上一頁繼續 »