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One day, not long after his arrival at Athenbury, Kenneth Stuart was seated in Colonel Crusty’s drawing-room, awaiting the summons to dinner.

Pretty Bella sat beside him, endeavouring to get up a flirtation - for Bella was an inveterate flirt.  Besides being pretty, she was sprightly and full of life - a giddy gay thing, much addicted to that dangerous practice of fluttering round improprieties with cheerful recklessness.  She was one of those human moths whose wings, alas! are being constantly singed, sometimes burned off altogether.

Kenneth was not so stern as to object to a little of what the world calls innocent flirtation, but he did not like Bella’s style of procedure; for that charming piece of wickedness made it her aim in life to bring as many lovers to her feet as she could, and keep them there.  She never had too many of them, never tired of conquering them.  In the language of pugilists, “One down another come on,” was her motto.

She had just floored a captain of dragoons, who was expected that day to dinner, and was now engaged at her fortieth round with Kenneth; but he was too strong for her - at least she began to suspect so, and felt nettled.

“I never met with such a provoking man as you,” said Bella, pouting; “you promised to go round by Simpson’s and bring me a bouquet, and now you tell me you had not time.  That is not what I would have expected of you.  Sir Kenneth.”

Bella had knighted him with the poker the evening before!

“Well, really, I am sorry,” said Kenneth in a deprecating tone, “but I’m sure you will forgive me when I tell you that -

“I won’t forgive you,” interrupted Bella pettishly.  “You are a false man. Nothing should have prevented you from walking round by Simpson’s, as you said you would do.”

“Indeed!” said Kenneth, smiling, “suppose I had broken my leg, now, would that not have -

“No, it wouldn’t have been any excuse at all.  You would have hopped there if you had been a good and true man, like the knights of the olden time.  Oh! how I love that olden time, and wish that I had been born in it.”

Captain Bowels was announced at this moment.  He was a tall handsome man, with a heavy dark moustache and a set of brilliant teeth.  Bella instantly put the question to him whether, in the event of his being interrupted in the fulfilment of a promise to a lady by the accident of having his leg broken, he would not deem it his duty, as a man of honour, to hop out the engagement.

The captain expressed his earnest belief that that would be his duty, and added that if both legs happened to be broken, he would deem it his duty to walk out the engagement on his hands and knees, always assuming that the lady to whom the promise was made should be young and beautiful, and that the engagement did not involve dancing!

From this point Bella and the captain of dragoons cantered off into a region of small-talk whither it is not necessary that we should follow them.  They were interrupted by the entrance of Colonel Crusty and Miss Peppy.

The former shook hands with the captain somewhat stiffly, and introduced him to Miss Peppy.

“Dinner late as usual, Bella,” said the colonel, taking out his watch.

“Now, papa, don’t begin,” cried Bella, running up to her father and kissing his cheek, “because when you do begin to scold you never stop, and it takes away your appetite.  Dinners were meant to be late - it’s the nature of such meals.  No dinner that is ready at the appointed time can be good; it must be underdone.”

The colonel was prevented from replying by the entrance of the footman with a letter, which he presented to Kenneth.

“No letters for me!” cried Miss Peppy, with a slight look of disappointment; “but, to be sure, I’m not at home, though, after all, letters might come to me when I’m away if they were only rightly addressed, but letters are never legible on the back; it is a perfect mystery to me how the postmen ever find out where to go to with letters, and they are such illiterate men too!  But what can one expect in a world of inconsistencies, where things are all topsy-turvy, so to speak, though I don’t like slang, and never use it except when there is a want of a proper what-d’ye-call-it to express one’s thingumy-jigs.  Don’t you think so, Captain Bowels?”

“Certainly; I think your observations are very just, and much to the point.”

Kenneth Stuart retired to a window and read his letter, which ran as follows: -

“Wreckumoft, etcetera.

“My Dear Kenneth - Since you left I have been thinking over your affairs, and our last conversation, (which you must allow me to style disagreeable), in regard to Miss Gordon.  I trust that you have now seen the impropriety of thinking of that portionless girl as your wife.  At all events, you may rest assured that on the day you marry her you shall be disinherited.  You know me well enough to be aware that this is not an idle threat.

“In the hope and expectation that you will agree with me in this matter, I venture to suggest to you the propriety of trying to win the affections of Miss Crusty.  You already know that her fortune will be a large one.  I recommend this subject to your earnest consideration.

“Your affectionate father, George Stuart.”

“Deary me, Kennie,” said Miss Peppy, in some alarm, “I hope that nothing has happened!  You seem so troubled that -

“Oh! nothing of any consequence,” said Kenneth with a laugh, as he folded the letter and put it in his pocket.

“Ha! your lady-love is unkind,” cried Bella; “I know it is from her.”

“The writing is not lady-like,” replied Kenneth, holding up the back of the letter for inspection.  “It is a gentleman’s hand, you see.”

“Ladies sometimes write what I may call a masculine hand,” observed the captain.

“You are quite right, Captain Bowels,” said Miss Peppy; “some write all angles and some all rounds.  One never knows how one is to expect one’s correspondents to write.  Not that I have many, but one of them writes square, a most extraordinary hand, and quite illegible.  Most people seem to be proud of not being able to write, except schoolboys and girls.  There is no accounting for the surprising things that are scratched on paper with a pen and called writing.  But in a world of things of that sort what is one to expect?  It is just like all the rest, and I have given up thinking about it altogether.  I hope you have, Captain Bowels?”

“Not quite, but very nearly,” replied the gallant captain.

“Dinner at last,” said Colonel Crusty, as the gong sounded its hideous though welcome alarm.  “Captain Bowels, will you take my daughter?  Miss Stuart, allow me.  Sorry we’ve got no one for you, Mr Stuart.”

Kenneth fancied there was a touch of irony in the last observation, but he did not feel jealous, for two reasons - first, he knew, (from Miss Peppy), that the captain was no favourite with Colonel Crusty, and was only tolerated because of having been introduced by an intimate friend and old school companion of the former; and, second, being already in love with another, he did not wish to have the honour of handing Bella down to dinner at all.

During dinner Miss Peppy reminded Kenneth that he had promised to go to the Sailors’ Home that evening with the parcel which Mrs Gaff wished to be delivered to her cousin George Dollins.  Bella remarked, in a sweet voice, that Sir Kenneth’s promises were not to be relied on, and that it would be wiser to transfer the trust to Captain Bowels, a proposal which the gallant captain received with a laugh and a sotto voce remark to Bella that his fidelity to promises depended on the youth and beauty of the lady to whom they were made.

Soon after the ladies retired Kenneth rose, and, apologising for leaving the table so early, set forth on his mission.

The night was calm and pleasant, but dark - a few stars alone rendering the darkness visible.  Kenneth had to pass through the garden of the colonel’s house before reaching the road that led to the heart of the town where the Sailors’ Home was situated.  He felt sad that evening, unusually so, and wandered in the grounds for some time in a meditative mood.

There was a bower at the extremity of the garden to which, during the few days of his visit, he had frequently repaired with the volatile Bella.  He entered it now, and sat down.  Presently there was a rustle among the leaves behind him, and a light hand was laid on his shoulder.

“Faithless man!” said Bella in a tremulous voice, “I have been expecting you for half-an-hour at least.  My portmanteau is packed, and I only await the word from you, dearest Charles -

“Charles!” exclaimed Kenneth, starting up.

Bella uttered a suppressed scream.

“Oh!  Mr Stuart, you won’t tell my father?  I mistook you for capt .”

“Hold, Miss Crusty; do not speak hastily.  I know nothing of that of which you seem desirous that I should not speak.  Pray be calm.”

“Of course I know that you don’t know,” cried Bella passionately, “but you are capable of guessing, and - and -

The poor girl burst into a flood of tears, and rushed from the bower, leaving Kenneth in a most unenviable state of perplexity.

The words that she had uttered, coupled with what he had seen of the intimacy subsisting between her and Captain Bowels, and the fact that the name of the captain was Charles, were quite sufficient to convince him that an immediate elopement was intended.  He entertained a strong dislike to the captain, and therefore somewhat hastily concluded that he was a villain.  Impressed with this conviction, his first impulse was to return to the house, and warn the colonel of his daughter’s danger; but then he felt that he might be mistaken, and that, instead of doing good, he might lay himself open to severe rebuke for interfering in matters with which he had nothing to do.  After vacillating therefore, a few minutes, he at last made up his mind first to execute his errand to the cousin of Mrs Gaff, and then consider what should next be done.  He resolved on this course all the more readily that he was sure the mistake Bella had made would frustrate the elopement, at least on that night.

Kenneth carried the parcel, which Mrs Gaff had put up with so much care and anxiety, under his arm, and a thick stick in his right hand.  He was so passionately fond of the sea and all connected with it, that he liked to dress in semi-sailor costume, and mingle with seamen.  Consequently he went out on this occasion clad in a rough pea-jacket and a sailor’s cap.  He looked more like a respectable skipper or first-mate than a country gentleman.

Passing rapidly through the streets of Athenbury, he soon reached the docks, where he made inquiry for the Sailors’ Home.  He found it in a retired street, near the principal wharf.

A group of seamen were collected round the door, smoking their pipes and spinning yarns.  The glare of a street-lamp shone full upon them, enabling Kenneth to observe their faces.  He went up to one, and asked if a sailor of the name of Dollins was in the Home at the time.

The man said Dollins had been there that day, but he was not within at the present time.  He was usually to be found at the tavern of the “Two Bottles.”

Kenneth being directed to the “Two Bottles,” made his way thither without delay.

It was a low public-house in one of the dirtiest localities of the town, - a place to which seamen were usually tempted when they came off a voyage, and where they were soon fleeced of all their hardly-earned money.  Sounds of dancing, fiddling, and drinking were heard to issue from the doorway as Kenneth approached, and, as he descended the stair, he could not help wondering that any man should prefer such a place of entertainment to the comfortable, clean, and respectable Home he had just left.

He was met by the landlord, a large, powerful, and somewhat jovial man, whose countenance betrayed the fact that he indulged freely in his own beverages.

“Is there a sailor here of the name of Dollins?” inquired Kenneth.

The landlord surveyed the questioner with a look of suspicion.  Being apparently satisfied that he might be trusted, he replied that Dollins was not in the house at that moment, but he was expected in a few minutes.  Meanwhile he advised that the visitor should wait and enjoy himself over “a pot o’ beer, or a glass o’ brandy and water, ’ot.”

Kenneth said he would wait, and for this purpose entered one of the numerous drinking-stalls, and ordered a pot of porter, which he had no intention whatever of drinking.

Seated in the dirty stall of that disreputable public-house, he leaned his head on his hand, and began to meditate how he should act in regard to Bella Crusty on his return to the colonel’s house.

His meditations were interrupted by the entrance of three men into the adjoining stall.  Two of them belonged to the class of men who are styled roughs; one being red-haired, the other bearded; the third was a gentlemanly sort of man, about forty years of age, with a dissipated aspect.

They did not observe Kenneth, who had placed himself in the darkest corner of his stall.

“Now, lads, we’ll talk it over here, and settle what’s to be done; for whatever we do it must be done to-night.”

This much he heard of the conversation, and then his mind wandered away to its former channel.  How long he might have meditated is uncertain, but he was suddenly aroused by the sound of his own name.

“We’ll have to do it to-night,” said a voice which Kenneth knew belonged to the gentlemanly man of dissipated aspect; “the young fellow won’t likely go back for a day or two, and the old ’un an’t over stout.  There’s only one man in the house besides him, and he ain’t much worth speakin’ of; a groom, not very big, sleeps in the lower part o’ the house.  Old Stuart himself sleeps in a wing, a good bit off from the servants.  In fact, there’s nothing easier than to get into the house, and there’s no end of silver plate.  Now, what say you to start by the nine o’clock train to-night?  We’ll get there by eleven, and have supper before goin’ to work.  You see, I think it’s always well to feed before goin’ at this sort o’ thing.  It don’t pay on an empty stomach.  Shall we go?”

Kenneth’s heart beat fast as he listened for the reply.

“Wall, I doan’t much loik it,” said one of the roughs, in a coarse Yorkshire dialect; “but I’m hard oop for tin, so I says Yes.”

“Agreed,” said the other rough, who was evidently not a man of many words.

For some time Kenneth sat listening to the plans of the burglars, and considering how he should best frustrate their designs.  He at length made up his mind to return the parcel to his aunt, say that unexpected and pressing business called him home, and start by the same train with the burglars for Wreckumoft.  His intentions, however, were interfered with by the abrupt entrance of Dollins, who was drunk, and who, on being told that a friend wanted to see him within, came forward to Kenneth, and asked, “Wot it wos ’e wanted?”

Kenneth explained that he had been sent by a lady to deliver a parcel, which he presented, and, having fulfilled his mission, was about to return when the man caught him by the sleeve -

“Wot, are you Mister Stuart?  Jess Gaff wrote me a letter a day or two ago, tellin’ me you and yer aunt, Miss Peppy, as they calls her, wos a-comin’ here, and would send me a parcel.”

“Never mind, my good fellow, who I am,” said Kenneth sharply; “I’ve delivered the parcel, so now I’ll bid ye good-night.”

“It’s just him!” said one of the burglars in a hoarse whisper, as Kenneth reached the door.  The latter could not avoid turning round at this.

“Yes,” he cried sternly; “and I’ll spoil your game for you to-night.”

“Will you?” shouted the gentlemanly house-breaker, as Kenneth sprang into the street, closely followed by the three men.

Kenneth regretted deeply that he had so hastily uttered the threat, for it showed that he knew all, and set the men upon their guard.

He looked over his shoulder, and observed that they had stopped as if to consult, so he pushed on, and, soon reaching one of the principal thoroughfares, walked at a more leisurely pace.  As he went along he was deeply perplexed as to what course he ought to pursue, and while meditating on the subject, he stopped almost unintentionally in front of a brilliantly lighted window, in which were hanging a rich assortment of watches, gold chains, and specimens of jewellery.

The gentlemanly house-breaker, who had followed him up, observed this.  A sudden thought flashed across his mind, and he at once acted upon it.  Stepping quickly up to Kenneth’s side he stumbled violently against him, at the same time smashed a pane of glass in the shop-window with his gloved hand, turned quickly round, seized Kenneth by the collar, and shouted “Thief! help!” at the full pitch of his voice.

The red-haired and bearded accomplices at once responded to the call, came up behind, and also collared him, while a policeman, who chanced to be passing at the moment, seized him in front.  The shopman ran out in a frantic state, and at once swore that he was the man, for he had seen him looking through the window a moment before.  The whole scene passed in a few seconds, and Kenneth, thoroughly taken by surprise, stood in motionless and speechless amazement.

It is said, and apparently with truth, that thought flashes through the mind more rapidly than lightning darts through the sky.  Kenneth had only a few moments to think, for the policeman was applying that gentle force to his collar which was meant as a polite hint to “come along” quietly, else stronger force should be applied; yet, before he had taken the first step towards the police-office, the extreme awkwardness of his position was fully impressed on him.

He perceived that he should certainly be locked up for the night and brought before a magistrate next morning, and that, although his accusers would of course not appear against him, and his friends would be there to testify to his character and get him off, the consequence would be that the burglars would be able to start by the nine o’clock train and accomplish their purpose while he was in jail.  It did occur to him that he could warn the authorities, but he feared that they might refuse to believe or act upon the statements of a supposed thief.

The occasion was not a favourable one to correct or clear reasoning however, and as the policeman had applied a second persuasive pull to his collar, he suddenly made up his mind what he would do.  Grasping the gentlemanly house-breaker by the waist, he suddenly hurled that unfortunate heels over head into the kennel, tripped up the policeman, knocked the bearded accomplice into the arms of the jeweller, the red-haired one into the broken window, and bolted!

Instantly a wild chase began.  The crowd that had assembled on the first sound of the smash ran yelling after him, headed by the gentlemanly house-breaker, whose fall had been partially broken by a little boy.  The accomplices were too much damaged to do more than keep up with the tail of the crowd.

At first Kenneth ran without regard to direction, and with the simple view of escaping, but as he neared the head of the main street he determined to make for the house of Colonel Crusty.  Being fleet of foot he soon left behind the mass of the crowd that followed in full cry, with the exception of a few young men who were more of a match for him.  Ahead of all these ran the gentlemanly house-breaker and the policeman, both of whom were strong and supple.

The roar of the augmenting crowd, however, soon became so great that people in advance of him heard it, and some of these made demonstrations of a wish to try to stop him as he passed, but most of them wisely concluded that it would be nearly as safe to place themselves in the way of a runaway locomotive engine.  One man proved an exception.  He was a butcher, of great size and strength, who, being accustomed to knock down horned cattle with a hammer, naturally enough thought it not impossible to knock down a man with his fist, so he tried it.

Standing in the doorway of his own shop when Kenneth came tearing along, he waited until he was within four yards of him, and darted out.  Kenneth had fortunately observed the man.  He stooped, without slackening his pace, to let the blow delivered by his opponent pass over his head, and drove his right shoulder into the butcher’s broad chest.  The shock was so great as to completely check his career, while it sent the butcher back into his shop, over his own bench, and prostrated him on the carcase of a slaughtered ox which had been carried in just two minutes before, as if to form a bloody and congenial bed for its owner.

Kenneth instantly started off again and doubled suddenly down a by-street which led to the colonel’s residence.  Here he was smitten with a feeling of shame at the idea of appearing before his friends in such a plight, so, changing his mind, he doubled again into another by-street.

This chanced to be an unfortunate turn, for the policeman saw him take it, and, knowing every intricacy of the town, he was enabled to take a cross cut by a lane, accompanied by several of his brother constables, who had joined him by this time, and by such of the crowd as were good runners.

The worst runners now came in for an unexpected share of the sport in consequence of this new turn of affairs, for the by-road conducted Kenneth back to the main street, and when he debouched into it he ran into and overturned a number of those who had just made up their minds that it was useless for them to run any farther.

The tide was now turned.  The head of the crowd came rushing back, led by the policeman and the gentlemanly burglar.  Kenneth thus found himself between two fires, so, like a wise general, he made a flank movement, crossed the street, and darted down a dark lane.  Here the crowd gave in, but the policeman and the burglar continued the pursuit.

The lane led to the suburbs of the town, and the fugitive soon gained the open country, which in that part was a sort of uncultivated moorland.

The excitement of the chase and the suddenness of it had told upon the youth at first so much that he had been somewhat distressed while running; but this feeling now began to wear off.  Like a true thoroughbred, he improved in condition the longer he ran, and when at last the perspiration began to pour over his cheeks he felt as if he could have run on for ever!

To some extent this feeling was also experienced by a few of his pursuers, who kept him well in view.

On passing over a rising ground which for some minutes concealed him, Kenneth suddenly resolved to strike aside from the high road and cross the moor.  It was sufficiently light, he thought, to enable him to do this with safety.  He was wrong, however, for he had not run a hundred yards when he went splashing into a boggy place, and his pursuers, who had again caught sight of him, instantly followed.

The running now became very severe, and tested Kenneth’s powers to the utmost.  Of course it also proved as hard on the others, and he had at least the satisfaction of hearing them shout and gasp as they tumbled over stones and into hollows.  Still they held on with unflagging vigour, until they were almost exhausted and quite covered with mud.

To Kenneth’s relief he unexpectedly stumbled on the high road again.  Here he sat down for a few seconds to recover breath on one of the grey boulder stones with which the whole country was covered, and while wiping the perspiration from his brow his thoughts were busy.  Having left his pursuers far behind, he felt sure that he could afford to rest for a few moments.

It occurred to him that even although he should succeed in escaping, there was no chance of his being able to get away by the train from Athenbury, for the burglars and police would certainly be at the station on the look-out for him.  He remembered suddenly that there was a station twenty miles from Athenbury at which the ten o’clock train usually stopped.  It was two hours yet to the starting of the train, so that he might count on nearly three to get to the station.

“I’ll do it!” he exclaimed, starting up with animation, and looking in the direction of the moor.  The pursuers were now pretty close to him.  They panted much and ran very heavily.  A quiet smile lit up Kenneth’s countenance, for he felt his strength recruited even with the few minutes’ rest he had obtained.

“Now, then, let the memory of Eton days come over me,” he muttered, as he tied his pocket-handkerchief tightly round his waist.

Pulling his hat firmly down over his brows, he prepared to start, just as the policemen and the gentlemanly burglar stumbled on to the road, in a state of complete exhaustion, and covered from head to foot with mud!

Kenneth could not repress a cheer as he waved his hat to them and shouted farewell.

He then turned, and, stooping low, sped over the country like a greyhound.

He had not gone above four miles when he overtook a stout countryman in a smock-frock and slouch-hat plodding heavily along the road.

A new idea flashed into Kenneths mind.  He resolved to change costumes with this man; but felt that he had no time to waste in talking over the subject or explaining why he wanted to do so.  He therefore stopped abruptly when close to him, and said -

“My man, I’ve a fancy for your clothes.”

“You’ll ha’ to foight for ’em then.”

“Very well, begin at once,” said Kenneth, buttoning his coat, and suddenly seizing the countryman by the throat with a grip that made his eyes almost start out of their sockets.  “How shall it be, wrestling or fisticuffs?  But let me advise you to do it at once without fighting, for I don’t want to hurt you, and I do mean to have your clothes.  Besides, I’ll give you mine in exchange.  There now, strip!”

There was a fiery vehemence about Kenneth’s manner and look, and a tone of command in his voice that there was no resisting, especially when it was coupled with such physical strength, so the countryman heaved a sigh and took off his smock-frock and hob-nailed boots, while the supposed highwayman took off his coat and shoes.

“That’ll do, you needn’t mind the stockings,” said Kenneth, as he pulled on his new garments.  “You’ll find that you gain considerably by the exchange.  That’s it; now here’s a sovereign for you, my fine fellow, and many thanks.”

He finished by lifting the slouch-hat off the countryman’s head and placing his own thereon in its stead.

“Now, good-night.”

“Good-noight,” replied the man, from the sheer force of innate politeness, for he stood in such a condition of open-mouthed amazement that it was quite plain he did not very well know what he said or did.

In another minute Kenneth was again coursing along the road at full speed.