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J. C. (John Collis) Snaith.

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with a becoming modesty, the landlord seemed by no means so eager to
close with this tempting offer as I had fully expected he would be.

"Have you a character?" says he sharply.

"Oh yes, I think I have a very good character," says I.

"Humph," says he, "you think you have a very good character, do you?
Well, my lad, I should like to see it."

"Well," says I, "a character is not very easy to see, unless there is
something to show it by."

"I am quite aware of that," says the landlord sharply. "However, we
will leave this precious pair and go inside, light a candle and look at
it."

With that, man and wife led the way within, and we followed meekly,
leaving the discharged couple in the road to pursue their own devices.
In what way a candle would enable them to discern our characters we
could not tell, although we were half inclined to think that the common
phrase "to hold a candle to" might have in fact a more literal
significance than any we had dreamt of. The inn kitchen presented a
rosy fire and a cosy appearance. The sight of it seemed to increase
the sense of our unhappy plight, and I think we both anxiously awaited
the landlord's judgment, for it was impossible to contemplate being
turned out into the night again with equanimity.

"Now then, my lad," says the landlord, "I will thank you to let me see
your character."

"I do not know how I can show you my character, sir," I ventured to
say, "until I have been some little time in your service."

"Come, that won't do, my lad," says the landlord, "I must either see
your character or out you go."

Filled with misgiving, I was about to ask the landlord for an
explanation of this odd demand, when it suddenly occurred to me that he
wished to have it in writing, like any other master who was about to
engage a servant. I had to confess that I had not a character.

"Ha," says the landlord keenly. "Then why did you leave your last
place?"

I had to confess that I had never had a last place.

"You don't mean to tell me," says the landlord, "that you have had the
impidence to apply to me when you have never had no experience of the
dooties?"

I had to explain that such was the case, but earnestly stated that
whatever I might lack in knowledge I would certainly make up in zeal.
For all that it was like to have gone hard with our engagement had it
not been for the intervention of the landlord's wife. It may have been
that vanity which is inseparable from the male character, but it did
seem to me that from the first the good woman had been disposed to
regard me with favour.

"Well, Joseph," says she at this critical moment, "he is a very proper
looking young man, I am sure, and as honest looking as the day. I am
sure he will do his best if he says he will. Besides, they are man and
wife, which is a very main thing."

This reference to the pair of us had the effect of diverting the worthy
landlord's attention to Cynthia. No sooner did he observe her than his
objections became sensibly less formidable than they had been. And I
am afraid it was my little madam's _beaux yeux_ and not our
qualifications and accomplishments that got us the situation. Yet even
when we had been duly engaged at four pounds a year and our keep, there
was like to have been a hitch. The landlady's closer inspection of us
revealed the fact that although I might, as she had been good enough to
say be "a very proper-looking young man," Cynthia in her opinion was
vastly too fine-looking a young woman. She even went the length of
describing her as "a blue-eyed slut." Whatever the force of her
objections, however, as she herself was entirely responsible for the
engagement of the ostler, she could hardly have gainsaid, much as she
could have wished to have done so, her husband's right to engage the
chambermaid.

It was in this singular but fortunate fashion then that we found
ourselves once more provided for. The inn being on a coaching road was
not such a mean one as we had at first supposed. The host and hostess
of it did not seem to be such bad people either, and as they did not
except to have company in the place until later in the evening, and
observing that our travels had left us in a sorry condition, they
allowed us to make a rough meal, and afterwards to sit by the fire a
bit.

It went to my heart that my poor little companion should be brought to
this pass, but she acquiesced in it so cheerfully, and with such a
merry sense of the occasion as did a great deal to diminish my concern.
She was indeed a courageous little creature; and there was something
about her new duties that seemed to amuse her, for she went about them
with a humorous zest as though she was laughing at herself while she
did so. All the same we were genuinely glad when at last the hour came
for our retirement. We were thoroughly wearied and footsore too.

We rose in much better heart betimes on the following morning, and set
about our unaccustomed tasks with a vigour that compensated for our
inexperience. After all, they were of an elementary character, not at
all difficult to learn. To be sure it was more than a little strange
at first to find ourselves engaged in such lowly capacities, but when
after an hour or two the singularity had worn off, they became by no
means irksome. Indeed, the novelty of the thing might be said to pass
the time pleasantly. But as it happened, we were to be startled out of
these pursuits in the rudest manner.

It chanced that about noon I had led the horse of a gentleman, who had
passed the previous night at the inn, out of the stable round to the
front door. And while I was holding its head against its master's
departure there arose a clatter of wheels on the road. In a minute, or
less, a chaise drew up at the door. No glance was needed at its
occupants to tell me to whom it belonged. The peculiar shape and
colour were quite sufficient to advertise me of that matter. It was
the Duke in person, accompanied by the indefatigable Mr. Waring. His
Grace lost no time in relinquishing the reins, and together they
stepped from the vehicle to ease their legs somewhat, and entered the
inn in quest of any little refreshment it might afford them. Happily
neither paid much heed to me. Indeed beyond an order to give an eye to
the horses and to fetch them a drink of water, I claimed no share of
their attention.

No sooner had they entered the inn, however, than in the midst of some
self-congratulation on my present impunity from discovery, I was beset
with a sudden fear of Cynthia. What more likely than that they should
directly encounter her, unless she could be apprised of their
proximity? She must be warned at all costs. Fortunately at that
moment the owner of the horse, whose head I was holding, appeared and
relieved me of its charge. Thereupon I hastily entered to advise
Cynthia of her danger. Yet I did so only to find that the worst had
happened already.

From the parlour the Duke's voice issued in a tremendous key. There
could be no doubt that it was as I feared. I lost no time in hastening
to my poor little one's assistance, if only to divert a portion of her
father's wrath. The scene that confronted me when I entered the inn
parlour would not by any means have been devoid of a certain
whimsicality had it not had so sinister a bearing on our fortunes. The
innkeeper and his wife stood aghast. Mr. Waring was languidly helping
himself to a pinch of snuff with an air of the frankest amusement.
Cynthia was in a dreadful taking, and weeping bitterly. The Duke, her
father, was hopping about like a pea on a hot plate, and threatening to
go off any minute into an apoplexy. At my appearance he very nearly
did so.

"You villain," he squeaked, shaking his fist in my face, and dancing
round me, "you impudent, unblushing villain! Have I routed you out at
last? Have I run you to earth, you damned young scoundrel? By God,
you shall pay a price; yes, you shall, so help me. Your purse may be
bankrupt, but you shall pay this account with the last drop of blood
that is left in your black heart. Pass your box, Humphrey."

Mr. Waring passed his box with a grim chuckling countenance; and his
Grace paused in the midst of his violent denunciation to make use of
it. It appeared to lend him succour, whereon he continued with renewed
vigour. I would not like to set down here the number of hard names he
put his tongue to, every one of which was levelled at my devoted head.
To be sure I had used him pretty badly, but I fear that I was not in
the least repentant. I listened to his passionate abuse which he
delivered in a curious senile staccato, with an amusement possibly as
great as Mr. Waring's own, and certainly more cynical. I don't think
at the moment I cared much about the pass I was come to. I was utterly
desperate.

Poor little Cynthia, bitterly frightened as she was, and despite the
tears that streamed from her eyes, was still very brave. She could not
bear to hear my name degraded in this manner. In the face of her
father's wrath she came to my side and took my hand, and I loved her
the better for the deed.

"Landlord," says his Grace, "don't stand gaping there like a pig on a
spit. Just have the goodness to bestir yourself, and fetch the
constables. This young scoundrel shall not go out of my sight, except
in custody. The law hath wanted him long, and as I'm a person, it
shall have him, too."

It was somewhere about this point in the scene, I think, that a bold
expedient came unexpectedly into my head. It had a full measure of
audacity befitting the occasion. If only we could make a dash out into
the road and gain possession of the chaise one short instant before our
enemies, all was not lost even now. It was truly a remote chance, yet
it was the only one that offered. Therefore no sooner had it entered
my mind than I set my will to work to put it in practice. With this
end in view I gave a furtive eye to the position of the parlour door.
I found myself even now the nearest person to it. I must contrive to
get still nearer and acquaint Cynthia of the nature of my desperate
design without arousing the suspicions of our furious papa or the
languid Mr. Waring.

As the landlord stood hesitating as to which course he should adopt,
the Duke directed some attention to him, and gave him freely of his
orders. It was while our papa was thus engaged that I bent down to
Cynthia and whispered my audacious plan into her ear. From that moment
we turned all our energies towards getting closer to the door without
being suspected of doing so. Every step we could encroach might
presently be of the greatest possible service. Unfortunately the fact
that the parlour-door was closed was a great barrier. We should not
have time to open it and get away.

The Duke having at last prevailed on the landlord to go for the
constables, it was with inexpressible anxiety that we watched him go
out of the room. If he would but leave that door unlatched we had just
a chance of getting to the chaise in time. With a thrill of
satisfaction we saw him go out, leaving the door wide open behind him.
The Duke and Mr. Waring were apart at the other end of the room, quite
oblivious of any scheme we might be evolving. They had forgotten
apparently that a chaise and a pair of horses stood outside the door.
Carefully noting the actions of our enemies and the degree of attention
they thought fit to pay us, we sidled nearer and nearer, an inch at a
time, to the parlour-door. And at last, having concluded that the
landlord had got well clear of the premises, and was therefore not
likely to present any obstacle, I decided that now or never was the
moment. I whispered my last brief instructions to my little companion;
and then taking our careless captors entirely unawares, she darted out
through the door, and I as swiftly followed her.

The scheme had been thoroughly matured in my mind. To allow Cynthia
time to run on and gain access to the chaise, a proper control of the
reins, and to set the horses in motion, I did not follow her at once,
but preferred to bang the parlour-door in the face of our pursuers, and
clung with both hands to the handle that they might be impeded as much
as possible. Once aroused to their danger, they lost not a second of
time in besieging the door, but with my back firmly planted against the
opposite wall I was quite a match for them in the matter of hauling. I
was able to detain them the wrong side therefore, until a cry from
Cynthia informed me that she had fulfilled her part of the business.
Thereon I suddenly released the handle, and our enemies found
themselves so unexpectedly in possession, that they fell back one upon
another, whilst I ran forth to the chaise.

It was already starting briskly down the road. I was able to overtake
it and get in by the time the Duke and his friend showed at the door;
and though they ran after us for a few yards they soon came to the
conclusion, with the horses fleeing faster and faster, that immediate
pursuit was hopeless, and relinquished the chase accordingly. We had
not gone very far, however, when we overtook the landlord on his way to
fetch the constables. That puzzled fellow made no effort to detain us,
and in that I think he was well advised.

It was some little time before we could get the excitement engendered
by these events out of our minds, and realize that we were still in
possession of our freedom, that most cherished thing, for which we were
doing and suffering so much. We had a chaise and a pair of horses too.
But I do not think that any two persons could have looked so little in
their places in such a handsome vehicle. The appearance we presented
must have been highly ridiculous. Neither of us had cloaks or
coverings for our heads, whilst I, in the pursuit of my late
occupation, had divested myself of my coat in addition. We were thus
in absurd contrast to our fine manner of procedure. Having put an
honest mile between us and the inn, we began to examine the contents of
the chaise with an eager curiosity, not unmingled with anxiety. The
first articles to rejoice our hearts were several thick rugs, which we
lost no time in putting to use. There was a case of pistols, too; and
over and above these things we discovered to our supreme satisfaction a
couple of travelling valises, the property of Mr. Waring and his Grace.

Our straits were much too dire for our minds to be greatly oppressed
with the morality of things. To us it seemed as though these
travelling valises had come from heaven. Robinson Crusoe on his island
could not have had a devouter thankfulness when he recovered the
articles from the wreck than we had in the contemplation of our
treasure. We experienced an exquisite curiosity as we speculated on
what they might contain. However, we deferred the opening of them,
partly because the time and place would for the present be ill-chosen
(we must put many more miles between us and the enemy before we could
venture to draw rein) and again, because we desired, like a pair of
children, to draw out to the outmost the pains of our delicious
expectation.




CHAPTER XX

DISADVANTAGES OF A CHAISE AND A PAIR OF HORSES

In this rapt condition of mind, and in this remarkable fashion did we
proceed along the road. Through villages and hamlets, past churches
and inns, up hill and down we took our gallant way. The sense of rapid
motion made without the least inconvenience to our own jaded limbs,
coming after hours of arduous travelling by their painful exercise, was
incomparable, unless it be likened to what the soul must feel when
wafted to Elysium on a cloud, after suffering the slow agonies of
death. The exhilaration of our progress was wonderful indeed.
Steaming along the highways in an elegant equipage, the late oppression
fell off our spirits and gaiety came out in us once again. We did not
know whither we were going, to be sure; it was sufficient that we were
fortified with ways and means once more, and that we had so audaciously
contrived to leave our pursuers in the lurch.

"I wonder what are the contents of these boxes," says I, indulging a
delightful speculation as we sped along.

"I suppose we ought not to touch them, whatever they are," says Cynthia
nervously.

"In that case," says I, "we must not open them."

"Oh, I think we might safely do that," says Cynthia in a voice of the
deepest disappointment. "Although they are not ours, that is no
reason, as far as I can see, why we should not have just one peep at
what they are. That will be doing harm to no one, will it?"

"I fear it will be otherwise," says I mischievously. "For if we get so
far as the opening of the boxes I am sure we shall not be content with
a mere inspection of the contents."

"Oh, Jack," says the indignant Cynthia, "how can you talk so. I am
sure you cannot mean to infer that we should be guilty of anything - of
anything we ought not to be guilty of."

"Of appropriating articles that belong to others, for example."

"Yes," says she, "that is what I meant."

"Well," says I, "is there not the melancholy case of our refusing the
highwayman's booty in one form and accepting it in another?"

"That I am sure we did not," says Mistress Virtue. "We did not ask him
to pay our bill."

"To be sure we did not," says I, "but he paid it, none the less. Now,
had we acted in that matter according to your fine ideas, we should, in
the first place, have delivered that highwayman up to the King's
justice; then the rape of the squire's guineas would never have been
committed, and the landlord's bill would not have been paid at all.
That is why one is ever so perplexed by these high principles of
conduct. Why draw the line in one place and not in another? Do we not
make these arbitrary distinctions and often deny ourselves all manner
of things thereby, when we can least afford to do without them, and yet
there is not a day that passes but what we commit offences against our
codes of honour with a cheerful heart. So much depends upon the title
by which an act is dignified. Persons in our degree of life refer to
certain sources of their emolument as privilege and monopoly, whereas
if they were enjoyed by those in a humbler sphere, who would hesitate
to denounce them as robbery and fraud? Now these boxes being in our
possession, and as we are quite destitute of means, is not there a
hundred ways by which we can prevail upon our consciences to permit us
to enjoy their contents?"

Cynthia stoutly denied this specious reasoning at the time. But after
awhile, when the horses began to flag, and hunger, our ancient dogged
enemy, began once more to assert himself, she was inclined to look at
the matter in a rather more lenient light.

"We must incontinently perish of starvation by the way," says I,
"unless these chests of Mr. Waring and his Grace, your papa, can help
us. Now which course shall we adopt? And we to take the articles
therein as a loan, fully intending to recompense their owners at a more
fortunate season? or shall we simply take them without any reservation
whatever, as lawful prizes won from the enemy in open fight?"

"I think I like the idea of the 'borrowing' best," says the scrupulous
Cynthia.

"Very well, then, we will effect a loan," says I.

We could hardly venture to pull up at the door of any reputable inn in
our present state. We were the beggars no longer, but a lady and
gentleman of quality. Persons who drive about the country a pair of
fine horses and a chariot of the first fashion are compelled to support
their responsibilities. That is ever the eternal drawback. I, clad in
the meanest of garments, divested of my coat and hat, would have been
entirely at ease in my former mean character, and should have passed
unnoticed in it. But once I drove to the inn door in the Duke's
chaise, attired in that fashion, I should be the talk of the place.
Therefore I brought the horses to a halt, in a secluded part of the
road, and proceeded to investigate the nature of the articles in the
chests, in order to see if they could afford an embellishment to our
present unfortunate garb. We hoped to discover some money, too, for we
had not so much as a penny between us.

However, no sooner did we try to open these valises, than we received a
serious set back. They were both securely locked. Search as we might
among the cushions of the chaise, we could find, as we anticipated,
never a trace of the keys. We were greatly dashed, but still it was an
opportunity for the display of our resources. I got out of the
vehicle, and after much poking about in a ditch at the side of the
road, discovered a heavy stone. Armed with this, I attempted to knock
off the fastenings from Mr. Waring's box. It was a tedious, weary
business, for they were stout indeed, but at last patience, if not
virtue, met with its reward. The lid flew open and disclosed the
precious contents.

Conscious of our ragged, penniless condition, we enjoyed every thrill
that such treasure trove could afford us. To prolong our pleasure we
refrained from all reckless rummaging, but drew forth and duly examined
each article in the order in which it was packed. First came a suit of
clothes, and then silk stockings, shoes, another suit of clothes,
handkerchiefs, a razor, brushes, a cocked hat, and all the details that
go to make up the masculine attire.

But although we delved to the bottom of the box and searched every inch
of it, we could not discover so much as a copper piece in money. This
was a severe disappointment, and we addressed ourselves fearfully to
the opening of the Duke's box, for should that prove barren of it too,
our pass would be indeed a sore one.

It was no easier matter to force this box than it had been the other,
but at last our task was accomplished and the thing stood open before
us. The articles within it bore a striking resemblance to those in the
other, only that they were not so elegant and costly. They began with
a shirt and a white cotton night-cap, and below we came upon a wig and
a dressing-gown, but although our hearts might beat never so wildly it
was in vain that we looked for money. Indeed, the only things that we
might regard as a substitute for it were a few trifling articles of
jewellery, such as a solitaire and a gold pin or two for the Duke's
neckcloth, a pearl button, and a pair of shoes with silver buckles.

"Oh," says I, bitterly, "never again will I be at the trouble of
picking his Grace's baggage if this be the manner of his travelling.
One would have thought that a duke of all people would have gone
equipped handsomely. I expected to find guineas galore; or, allowing
his Grace to be a thrifty soul, and that he preferred to carry them in
his boots or next his heart, I had certainly looked for a profusion of
gold diamond ornaments. Why, curse it all, never one of his toilet
requisites hath so much as a pearl or silver handle. Why, even his
night-cap, which should be studded with precious stones, like the fez
of the Shah of Persia, is but a common affair of white cotton. A Duke
is not alive to the responsibilities of his position who goes about
with these mean accompaniments."

"Poor papa," says Cynthia, sadly, "I confess that I ought to have known
that we must go wanting should we rely on him. It was ever his chief
foible to make a halfpenny go as far as two farthings possibly could.
Even the solitaire surprises me. I am sure he must be proposing to
break his journey at the house of the rich widow at Bath, to whom he
hath been paying his addresses this twelvemonth, else he would never
have encumbered himself with such an extravagant finery."

We were, indeed, bitterly disappointed. Here we were, two persons of
quality, with our own horses and chariot, with two boxes of luggage and
a case of pistols, and not a grey groat piece to the two of us. This
fact seemed to acquire a new irony from our otherwise liberal
circumstances. Whatever could we do? Cynthia suggested that we should
sell one of the horses, as two were not essential. However, I was firm
in the opinion that so long as we retained the chaise we must have two
horses to draw it, for the Duke was certain to lose not an instant in
pursuing us in the hottest manner. I then proposed that we should part
with the vehicle itself and both the horses, and resume our wandering
nomad life once more.

Cynthia shuddered at this. She had plainly no zest now for our former
mode, nor could it be wondered at, poor child, when her trials and
exertions came to be considered. Had there only been me in the case I


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