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gang. What will become of us? Have mercy upon us, I pray Heaven!"
“Don't 'e, Jane, don't 'e fret. I'll take all the blame, and please God I live to see poor dear Master again, I'll tell the whole truth from the beginning to the finish of it, and he'll soon see that you bad neither art nor part in it; so don't say another word, there's a dear good soul.”
“ Hush ! hark! they're dragging something weighty along the Hall."
“ Poor Mr. Thornton ! to ihink of all your silver dishes and covers, and the gold cups, and family relicts, to be took off like this. It makes me mad to think on't. Ab now I hear 'em opening the back door, the Lord send they may be a-going away!”
“ Amen!” responded Jane from her inmost heart.
“ You see my dear the taking of our lives wouldn't give Master back the vally of one of his salvers, so since the thing is done, let's hope the worst part is over and ended," and Hannah gasped for breath as she thus poured forth in whispers her hopes and fears.
“ No, no, no, they're not going away. I hear them coming up stairs. Oh this is too dreadful to bear! I shall die of fright, I know I shall."
“ Do 'e lay quite still, Jane, 'tis our only chance."
While she thus cautioned her trembling bed-fellow the step of the robbers became every moment more painfully audible, it was evident that they were now on the landing-place of the floor beneath. Something was discussed by them, and at the conclusion of their brief dialogue one of them descended, whilst the other mounted the stairs towards the upper floor.
The distracted Jane could contain herself no longer, holding the rope that encircled her neck on each side, so as to allow a free use of her voice, she cried out, in tones of the most piercing and heartrending agony
“ Murder! Murder!"
The advancing step was now heard more rapidly ascending the stairs, it gained the end of the passage, and was fast approachingsuddenly a ciash,—as though a door had been forced from its hinges, three or four heavy blows, the first accompanied by a cry of mortal anguish, a deep groan, and the fall of the person assailed, all reached the ears of the women, who at the fearful cry they heard, gave themselves up to despair.
But ere they could suffer a second thought to crowd upon the first, the old Soldier with a candle in his left hand, and brandishing a poker in the other, appeared before them, loudly exclaiming
“ Girls, my dear girls ! are ye both safe, both alive ?" then hastening to a table, he seized a huge pair of scissars, with which he speedily separated the cord round their necks, continuing, "Now free yourselves as fast as possible, and make haste to help me. I've done for the scoundrel who frightened you, I'll warrant: he'll do no more mischief."
“ But," exclaimed the Cook, hardly knowing what she said, “ there was two of 'em, we saw them both."
“ Did ye? by the Lord Harry then I've more work to do, and no time to lose," and lie hastened from the room.
· In less than three minutes the report of a pistol was heard, followed by a shout from the soldier of
“ Coward, villain, damned coward, run for your life !"
On this the back door was rapidly closed and bolted, and very speedily the voice of the old man again sounded in the passage
“ Bring the cords, girls, and tie this chap hand and foot, whilst I make myself decent."
And here Truth compels us to state that his recent visit to the women's bed-room was made in a costume, certainly no way calculated for a cold night in November, or for the apartment of two modest females. Fortunately they were spared the necessity of blushing, the overwhelming effects of fright entirely preventing them from observing that Mr. Goulding was literally en chemise.
They also had now their toilets to make, but as may well be believed, the occasion did not permit them to waste time in arraying themselves.
As yet, poor souls, all was confusion, they could not perceive nor understand their exact situation ;-it appeared, after some moments of reflection, that instead of being in any way connected with the thieves, the old Soldier had proved their preserver, and as this light broke in upon them, Hannah was especially delighted, her military blood mounted to her cheeks as she exultantly remarked
“I knew it all along ! 'twas an impossibility for any one wearing the King's uniform to rob and murder. Now, Jane, come and help me to secure the ruffian our guardian angel has knocked down." .
On reaching the passage they beheld a prostrate body lying between the door of the room the Soldier had occupied and their own, a convincing proof how near at hand their enemy had been. A stream of blood was flowing from the head of the robber, whose features were still concealed by crape. Jane at sight of the ensanguined evidence of what she imagined must be Death, became dreadfully agitated, and nearly fainted. Hannah on the contrary, remarked
“Yes, you scoundrel, better have your wicked head smashed, than our own poor dear throats cut, or our blessed brains blown out. Still it's our duty to help even such a wretch as you are. Fetch the Jug of water, Jane, and I'll see if he's got any life in him." · Whilst Jane obeyed her, the Cook, from the natural curiosity which is said to be inseparable from female character, lifted the black covering from the countenance of the fallen man, and had no sooner surveyed his features than she uttered in tones of surprise and horror
* Lord have pity upon us, 'tis Henry Marsh !"
She drew her breath with difficulty at this unexpected and dreadful discovery, and then with a presence of mind, and womanly feeling proving the goodness of her heart cried out, loudly
“ Stop where you are, Jane, don't come out of the room. Mr. Goulding and I can manage very well without you. You're not used to these things, my poor child, so stay where you are, I tell 'e."
. Goulding now joined her, he opened the Gaberdine, for so is a Carter's frock designated in Kent, and placing his hand over the region of the heart, was glad to find that it still pulsated, though but feebly.
“ Just sprinkle some water over his face, and pour a little into his mouth, ma'am. I should be sorry that he died at my hands, though he richly deserves it."
The Cook followed his instructions, and shortly a deep drawn sigh gave evidence of returning animation. Before the wounded man could awake to perfect consciousness, Hannah whispered to the soldier,
“ Don't breathe a syllable of what I'm going to say, to that poor girl, but this young man is our footman, and her sweetheart; what Devil tempted him to turn robber, I can't for the soul o'me guess. As soon as we can, we'll put him into his own bed, and perhaps you'd have the goodness to go for a Doctor ?"
“A Magistrate would be best, I should say, but you women are al ways merciful even to the bad. Where could I find one?"
As soon as ever it's light enough, for I hear the wind has sprung up, and I dare say the fog has quite cleared, you shall have particular directions, and I hope and trust you won't refuse to go on to London as fast as possible, and tell Master what has happened. He ought to bless the hour that brought you to his door, I'm sure; I do with all my heart and soul! Now you and me can lift this wretched boy into bed."
They did so. Cook ran down to the kitchen and speedily returned with vinegar, Friar's Balsam, and some linen rags. Goulding, who was more practised in the art of Surgery, drest, to the best of his skill, the ugly wounds his own hand had inflicted; a deep cut, made by the edge of the poker on the back of the neck, still welled forth blood; two other severe contusions were also visible, but the Friar's Balsam “ to the parts affected," and a bath of vinegar and water to the face and temples, appeared to afford much relief to the wounded man.
These various doings necessarily occupied some time, and the first dawn of dim twilight became visible through the window. The baffled robber lay perfectly still, now and then a heavy sigh escaped, and a lov murmuring, as though he vainly endeavoured to speak, but it was perfectly evident that he was revdered so thoroughly hors de combat that Hannah was now only anxious for Goulding's departure for London, calling on the Surgeon in his way.
“ Mr. Thornton's town house is in Lombard Street, he is a Banker; when you get there you ask to see him, don't tell your business to any body else. The Dover coaches will be passing soon, and you won't be long getting up to town by one o' them. You can have any money you want from me. Don't be angry at my freedom. Now, if you happen to reach Lombard Street before Master's up, though he's a very early gentleman, I should say you can't do better than go down the court, just opposite his house, to the Lamb and Flag public house, 'tis kept by the good people that have been father and mother to me, even so far as that I go by their name, for being left so young without a soul to claim me, I hardly feel I have any right to my own."
Doubtless Cook would have been still more communicative, but at this moment Jane's voice was heard, calling,
“ Hannah, what are you about? Not trying to bring the Robber to life again, are you?"
“I'll come t’ye directly, child, only I've just persuaded Mr. Goulding to go to London, and let Master know all about this terrible business, and our good friend is nearly ready."
“ What, and leave us in the house with a dead, or a dying man? Perhaps his companion may come back-"
“ The Doctor will be here in a minute or two, and then I'll take his advice about sending for a Constable to keep guard, or a Justice o' Peace, so make your mind easy, and just stay quiet in your own room. Why don't 'e lay down a bit ? 'twill do 'e good, I'm sure.”
Then turning to the Soldier, she continued
“ Why bless my stars I didn't notice your fine shining piece of silver and red riband last night.”
“For this reason, ma'am, when I found that I bad lost my track, I slipt it inside my jacket, through this slit in the cloth bere, in case any Gipsey or tramper might have taken a fancy to it, and given me the trouble of defending it, for 'tisn't a thing I'd lose easily, that I will say. But now I'm going to wait on a Grandee like, I shall show my colours, and sport my Waterloo medal in course.”
Hannah as they descended the stairs described the residence of the Surgeon, which stood on the high road. When they reached the Hall, to their inexpressible satisfaction they perceived a large crate, filled with plate and other valuables, standing close to the back door.
“ The runaway scoundrel then left his booty behind him," remarked Goulding, with a smile of joy.
“ Oh this is rare good luck! I vow I'll have 'em all put back in their proper places, before Mr. Thornton comes down."
" Don't touch 'em for your life, ma'am ; let every single thing remain just as it is, till you get further orders. I dare say your master will send down a Bow Street Officer to examine the premises, and take charge of Young Hopeful above stairs. Well, I declare though 'tis rather darkish, the morning looks fine, so I wish you Good bye, and I hope and trust to see you again one of these days, but I shall never forget you, as long as I live.”
And as he spoke he cordially shook both the hands of the worthy creature he addressed.
Off trudged the Soldier ;-after a mile's walk he reached the residence of the Surgeon, a light burning behind a glass globe full of crimson liquid placed over the door, plainly indicating it. He stated his business briefly, but did not forget to caution the Professional man to keep his knowledge of the identity of his patient from the unconscious Jane. As he passed through Welling a Canterbury coach overtook him, he mounted to the outside, and soon after seven o'clock arrived in Gracechurch Street.
Remembering the hint given him as regarded the Lamb and Flag, he first took a survey of the Banker's house, and satisfying himself by the undrawn window blinds that Mr. Thornton was not yet stirring, he proceeded down the Court, for the purpose of obtaining breakfast, from the adopted parents of his friend Hannah.
Goulding expressed his desire to have a basin of tea, &c., and the Landlord advancing, assured him that he should be served with the best his house afforded
“ For you see, Comrade," he added, “ although I am a Publican now, I wore a red coat all my young days, and served the King both in the West and East Indies."
He sat down whilst his guest partook of the substantial breakfast placed before him, and our Soldier took an early opportunity of mentioning his acquaintance with Hannah.
“ Then you know about as good a young woman as ever wore a petticoat ; she's all but my daughter. I was coming home from Madras when her poor mother died, she was the widow of a man I knew well and respected accordingly, Serjeant-Major Holtham."
“ Holtham ?” demanded the Soldier eagerly, “ that's very strange! Did you ever hear the mother's maiden name?”
“ To be sure I did, why I've got their marriage lives up stairs in my chest o' drawers,- her name, as a single woman, was Goulding."
“My own and only sister by the Heavens above us! Then that dear soul as saved my life last night, was neither more nor less than my flesh and blood niece !"
This discovery warmed the old man's heart, and he related to his new acquaintance the strange events of the preceding night, still keeping his own counsel as regarded the wounded Henry.
By the time he had concluded his narrative, which had been listened to with vast attention by Sauderson, he saw that the hour had arrived when he might expect to see the Banker, and accordingly expressed a wish to settle his score.
“ Not a penny from an old brother Soldier will I take. I hope as soon as ever you've passed the Board you'll find your way to the Lamb and Flag, and then we'll talk about matters together, over something a trifle stronger than tea.”
Goulding took his leave, and made his way to the Banker's, inquiring if Mr. Thornton was yet visible, of a porter who was sweeping down the steps,--he was told that the gentleman he sought was at breakfast, and seldom allowed any body to disturb him at that meal.
“ But I must see his honor,” said ihe Soldier, with a determined air, “mine's a matter of life and death, besides property of great value."
“ Then I'll call Mr. Fitzgerald the Butler, and you can say your say to him, 'tis no affair o'mine."
In a brief space the Butler made his appearance, a tall, respectable looking man, but apparently in delicate health, as his complexion which at first was ruddy enough, became deadly pale of a sudden, and soon after assumed a tint of deeper crimson than before.
What is your business?" he demanded with a pompous air, and in accents bespeaking him a native of Ireland.
“ My business is with your Master,” coolly replied Goulding.
“ You'll not see him, Sir," was somewhat bitterly remarked. “Mr. Thornton has other matters to mind than be bothered with any common soldiers.”
“I am a common soldier, Mr. Butler, but I'm an honest man, and see your Master I will, whether you like it or no. I've something of consequence to state to him, which I might have first mentioned to you, if you had known how to behave yourself civilly, but when, I suppose, I say that the house on Bexley Heath was robbed last night, and that one of the thieves is dead by this time, under his own roof, you'll take the trouble to let Mr. Thornton know as much.".