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- The Splendid Spur - 4/44 -


Now, all this while I was considering what to do. So, as I put my hand in my pocket, and drew out the shillings, I said very slowly, looking him in the eyes (but softly, so that the lackey might not hear)----

"So thus you feed your expenses at the dice: and my shilling, no doubt, is for Luke Settle, as well as the rest."

For the moment, under my look, he went white to the lips; then clapped his hand to his sword, withdrew it, and answered me, red as a turkey-cock----

"Shalt be a parson, yet, Master Scholar: but art in a damn'd hurry, it seems."

Now, I had ever a quick temper, and as he turned on his heel, was like to have replied and raised a brawl. My own meddling tongue had brought the rebuff upon me: but yet my heart was hot as he walked away.

I was standing there and looking after him, turning over in my hand the "Life of Saint George," when my fingers were aware of a slip of paper between the pages. Pulling it out, I saw 'twas scribbled over with writing and figures, as follows:--

"Mr. Anthony Killigrew, his acct for Oct. 25th, MDCXLII.--_For herrings_, 2d.; _for coffie_, 4d.; _for scowring my coat_, 6d.; _at bowls_, 5s. 10d.; _for bleading me_, 1s. 0d.; _for ye King's speech_, 3d.; _for spic'd wine (with Marjory)_, 2s. 4d.; _for seeing ye Rhinoceros_, 4d.; _at ye Ranter-go-round_, 6 3/4d.; _for a pair of silver buttons_, 2s. 6d.; _for apples_, 2 1/2d.; _for ale_, 6d.; _at ye dice_, L17 5s.; _for spic'd wine (again)_, 4s. 6d."

And so on.

As I glanced my eye down this paper, my anger oozed away, and a great feeling of pity came over me, not only at the name of Anthony --the name I had heard spoken in the bowling-green last night--but also to see that monstrous item of L17 odd spent on the dice. 'Twas such a boy, too, after all, that I was angry with, that had spent fourpence to see the rhinoceros at a fair, and rode on the ranter- go-round (with "Marjory," no doubt, as 'twas for her, no doubt, the silver buttons were bought). So that, with quick forgiveness, I hurried after him, and laid a hand on his shoulder.

He stood by the entrance, counting up his money, and drew himself up very stiff.

"I think, sir," said I, "this paper is yours."

"I thank you," he answered, taking it, and eyeing me. "Is there anything, besides, you wished to say?"

"A great deal, maybe, if your name be Anthony."

"Master Anthony Killigrew is my name, sir; now serving under Lord Bernard Stewart in His Majesty's troop of guards."

"And mine is Jack Marvel," said I.

"Of the Yorkshire Marvels?"

"Why, yes; though but a shoot of that good stock, transplanted to Cumberland, and there sadly withered."

"'Tis no matter, sir," said he politely; "I shall be proud to cross swords with you."

"Why, bless your heart!" I cried out, full of laughter at this childish punctilio; "d'ye think I came to fight you?"

"If not, sir"--and he grew colder than ever--"you are going a cursed roundabout way to avoid it."

Upon this, finding no other way out of it, I began my tale at once: but hardly had come to the meeting of the two men on the bowling- green, when he interrupts me politely----

"I think, Master Marvel, as yours is like to be a story of some moment, I will send this fellow back to my lodgings. He's a long- ear'd dog that I am saving from the gallows for so long as my conscience allows me. The shower is done, I see; so if you know of a retir'd spot, we will talk there more at our leisure."

He dismiss'd his lackey, and stroll'd off with me to the Trinity Grove, where, walking up and down, I told him all I had heard and seen the night before.

"And now," said I, "can you tell me if you have any such enemy as this white-hair'd man, with the limping gait?"

He had come to a halt, sucking in his lips and seeming to reflect--

"I know one man," he began: "but no--'tis impossible."

As I stood, waiting to hear more, he clapp'd his hand in mine, very quick and friendly: "Jack," he cried;--"I'll call thee Jack--'twas an honest good turn thou hadst in thy heart to do me, and I a surly rogue to think of fighting--I that could make mincemeat of thee."

"I can fence a bit," answer'd I.

"Now, say no more, Jack: I love thee."

He look'd in my face, still holding my hand and smiling. Indeed, there was something of the foreigner in his brisk graceful ways--yet not unpleasing. I was going to say I had never seen the like--ah, me! that both have seen and know the twin image so well.

"I think," said I, "you had better be considering what to do."

He laugh'd outright this time; and resting with his legs cross'd, against the trunk of an elm, twirl'd an end of his long lovelocks, and looked at me comically. Said he: "Tell me, Jack, is there aught in me that offends thee?"

"Why, no," I answered. "I think you're a very proper young man--such as I should loathe to see spoil'd by Master Settle's knife."

"Art not quick at friendship, Jack, but better at advising; only in this case fortune has prevented thy good offices. Hark ye," he lean'd forward and glanc'd to right and left, "if these twain intend my hurt--as indeed 'twould seem--they lose their labor: for this very night I ride from Oxford."

"And why is that?"

"I'll tell thee, Jack, tho' I deserve to be shot. I am bound with a letter from His Majesty to the Army of the West, where I have friends, for my father's sake--Sir Deakin Killigrew of Gleys, in Cornwall. 'Tis a sweet country, they say, tho' I have never seen it."

"Not seen thy father's country?"

"Why no--for he married a Frenchwoman, Jack, God rest her dear soul!"--he lifted his hat--"and settled in that country, near Morlaix, in Brittany, among my mother's kin; my grandfather refusing to see or speak with him, for wedding a poor woman without his consent. And in France was I born and bred, and came to England two years agone; and this last July the old curmudgeon died. So that my father, who was an only son, is even now in England returning to his estates: and with him my only sister Delia. I shall meet them on the way. To think of it!" (and I declare the tears sprang to his eyes): "Delia will be a woman grown, and ah! to see dear Cornwall together!"

Now I myself was only a child, and had been made an orphan when but nine years old, by the smallpox that visited our home in Wastdale Village, and carried off my father, the Vicar, and my dear mother. Yet his simple words spoke to my heart and woke so tender a yearning for the small stone cottage, and the bridge, and the grey fells of Yewbarrow above it, that a mist rose in my eyes too, and I turn'd away to hide it.

"'Tis a ticklish business," said I after a minute, "to carry the King's letter. Not one in four of his messengers comes through, they say. But since it keeps you from the dice----"

"That's true. To-night I make an end."

"To-night!"

"Why, yes. To-night I go for my revenge, and ride straight from the inn door."

"Then I go with you to the 'Crown,'" I cried, very positive.

He dropp'd playing with his curl, and look'd me in the face, his mouth twitching with a queer smile.

"And so thou shalt Jack: but why?"

"I'll give no reason," said I, and knew I was blushing.

"Then be at the corner of All Hallows' Church in Turl Street at seven to-night. I lodge over Master Simon's, the glover, and must be about my affairs. Jack,"--he came near and took my hand--"am sure thou lovest me."

He nodded, with another cordial smile, and went his way up the grove, his amber cloak flaunting like a belated butterfly under the leaf less trees; and so pass'd out of my sight.

CHAPTER III.

I FIND MYSELF IN A TAVERN BRAWL: AND BARELY ESCAPE.

It wanted, maybe, a quarter to seven, that evening, when, passing out at the College Gate on my way to All Hallows' Church, I saw under the lantern there a man loitering and talking with the porter. 'Twas Master Anthony's lackey; and as I came up, he held out a note for me.

Deare Jack


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