JACK HARKAWAY AND HIS SON'S ESCAPE FROM THE BRIGANDS OF GREECE.
BEING THE CONTINUATION OF "JACK HARKAWAY AND HIS SON'S ADVENTURES IN GREECE."
BY BRACEBRIDGE HEMYNG
THE CONTESSA'S LETTER TO MR. MOLE—ON PLEASURE BENT—THE MENDICANT FRIAR—MIDNIGHT MARAUDERS—HOUSE BREAKING.
When Mrs. Harkaway's maid returned to the villa, she got scolded for being so long upon an errand of some importance with which she had been entrusted.
Thereupon, she was prepared with twenty excuses, all of which were any thing but the truth.
The words of warning which the brigand had called after her had not been without their due effect.
"She had been detained," she said, "by the Contessa Maraviglia for the letter which she brought back to Mr. Mole."
The letter was an invitation to a grand ball which was to be given by the contessa at the Palazzo Maraviglia, and to which the Harkaways were going.
Dick Harvey had been at work in this business, and had made the contessa believe indirectly that Mr. Mole was a most graceful dancer, and that it would be an eternal shame for a bal masque to take place in the neighbourhood without being graced by his—Mole's— presence.
The result was that during lunch Mr. Mole received from the maid the following singular effusion.
"Al Illustrissimo Signor Mole," which, being translated, means, "To the illustrious Mr. Mole."
"Hullo!" said the tutor, looking around him and dropping his eye on Dick, "who is this from?"
"From the Contessa Maraviglia," replied the girl.
Mr. Mole gave her a piercing glance.
The contessa's letter was a sort of puzzle to poor old Mole.
"The Contessa Maraviglia begs the honour of the Signor Mole's company on the 16th instant. She can accept no refusal, as the fete is especially organised in honour of Signor Mole, whose rare excellence in the poetry of motion has elevated dancing into an art."
Isaac Mole read and re-read this singular letter, until he grew more and more fogged.
He thought that the contessa had failed to express herself clearly in English on account of her imperfect knowledge of our language; but he was soon corrected in this impression.
The lady in question, it transpired, was English.
So poor Mole did what he thought best under the circumstances, and that was to consult with Dick Harvey.
"Dear me!" echoed Dick, innocently; "why, you have made an impression here, Mr. Mole."
"Do you think so?" said Mole, doubtfully.
"Beyond question. This contessa is smitten, sir, with your attractions; but I can assist you here."
"Thank you, my dear Harvey, thank you," replied Mr. Mole eagerly.
"Yes; I can let the contessa know that there is no hope for her."
Isaac Mole's vanity was tickled at this.
"Don't you think it would be cruel to undeceive her?"
"Cruel, sir!" said Dick, with severe air, "no, sir; I don't. It is my duty to tell her all."
Mr. Mole looked alarmed.
"What do you mean?"
"That you are a married man."
"I say, I say—"
"Yes, sir, very much married," pursued Dick, relentlessly; "that you have had three wives, and were nearly taking a fourth."
"All more or less black."
"However, there is no help for it; you will have to go to this ball."
"You will, though. The contessa has heard of your fame in the ball room—"
"In bygone years, no doubt—and she does not know of the little matters which have happened since to spoil your activity, if not your grace."
As he alluded to the "little matters," he glanced at Mr. Mole's wooden legs.
Mr. Mole thought it over, and then he read through the letter again.
"You are right, Harvey," he said with an air of determination; "and my mind's made up."
"So much the better, for your absence would be sadly missed at the ball."
"You misunderstand me, Harvey; I shall not go."
Dick looked frightened.
"Don't say that, Mr. Mole, I beg, don't; it would be dangerous."
"What on earth do you mean?"
"I mean that this lady is English by birth, but she has lived in the land of the Borgias, where they yet know how to use poison."
"And if her love were slighted, she might recollect it."
Mr. Mole looked precious uncomfortable.
"It is really very embarrassing, Harvey," said he; "my personal attractions are likely to get me into trouble."
And yet, in spite of his embarrassment, Mr. Mole was not altogether displeased at the fancy.
He strutted up and down, showing the fall in his back to the best advantage, and was very evidently conscious that he was rather a fine man.
"Yes, sir," said Harvey, with great gravity; "your fatal beauty is likely to lead you into a mess."
At the words "fatal beauty," Mr. Mole made a grimace.
It was rather a strong dose for even him to swallow.
"Draw it mild, Harvey," said he, "pray draw it mild."
Dick shook his head with great seriousness.
"Don't you be deceived, Mr. Mole," said he; "use the greatest care, for this poor countess is to be pitied. Her love is likely to turn to violent hate if she finds herself slighted—the poignard or the poisoned chalice may yet be called to play a part in your career."
Mr. Mole turned pale.
Yet he tried to laugh.
A hollow ghastly laugh it was too, that told how he felt more plainly than words could have done.
"Don't, Harvey; don't, I beg!" he said in faltering tones; "it sounds like some dreadful thing one sees upon the stage."
"In all these southern countries you know, Mr. Mole, a man's life is not worth much."
"A hired assassin or bravo will cut a throat or stab a man in the back for a few francs."
"I should advise you not to keep out after dark—and avoid dark corners. These people can poison you, too, with a bouquet or a jewel. Accept a flower or a nosegay, but don't smell it."
"Is it your wish to make me uncomfortable?"
"How can you think it?"
"Do you wish me to dream all night, and disturb Mrs. Mole, and not to get a wink of sleep?"
"Certainly not; that's why I am giving you advice; but pray understand the contessa thinks you are a single man."
"Good gracious me; it is very unpleasant to have a contessa in love with one."
"I don't know that; most men wouldn't say so. There are, I'll be bound, forty men within a mile of this house who would give their ears to have received such a letter."
Mr. Mole smiled—a self-satisfied, complacent smile,
"Do you think so?"
"I know it."
Mole lifted his collar and shot his cuffs over his hands, as he stomped across the room, and looked into a glass.
"Well, well, Harvey, I suppose I must go to the ball; but you will bear me witness that I only go for reasons of prudence, and that I am not going to be led away by any little silly reasons of vanity?"
"Of course," returned Dick, gravely.
"Besides, I go disguised."
"And what disguise would you recommend?"
"Why that is a matter for reflection," said Dick. "I should think that you ought almost to keep up the character."
"The character!" said Mole. "What character?"
"A Terpsichorean personage," replied Dick, with the air of one discussing a grave problem. "Say, for instance, a ballet girl."
Mr. Mole gasped.
"No, no; not a ballet girl."
"A fairy queen, then."
"Don't, Dick; don't, I beg."
"Or, if you object to the costume of the gentler sex, what do you say to the spangles and wand of a harlequin?"
"Do you really think that such a costume would become me?"
"Do I think?" iterated Dick. "Do I know! Of course it would become you. You will look the part to the life: it wants a figure to show off such a dress and to be shown off by it."
"But what about my—my wooden legs, Dick?"
"Oh, I'll provide you with cork ones, and here they are," said Harvey, producing a pair.
And so it was settled.
Mr. Mole was to go to the ball, and his disguise was to be well-known spangles and colours of a harlequin.
Harvey himself chose a clown's costume and carried over his shoulder Mole's wooden legs, in case any thing happened to the cork ones he was walking on for the first time.
Harkaway was to go as a knight of old.
Magog Brand selected the character of Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre Dame.
Jefferson selected the character of Julius Caesar, a costume which his fine, stalwart form set off to considerable advantage.
Mrs. Harkaway was to go as Diana, the huntress, and Mrs. Harvey made Marie Stuart her choice.
Little Emily and Paquita went in dresses of the Charles the Second period.
These young ladies were escorted by young Jack and Harry Girdwood, who were richly habited as young Venetian nobles of the sixteenth century.
As they passed through the garden door a man stood in their path.
He wore a long serge gown, with a cowl, like a mendicant monk, and as they approached he put out his open hand for alms.
"Bother the beggars!" said Mr. Mole, tartly.
The monk shrank back into his cowl, and stood aside while the party went by.
The garden door was held by the maid servant while they passed on, and when they were out of hearing, she dropped a small silver coin into the mendicant friar's hand.
"There," she said, "I can spare you something, father, although those rich English cannot or will not, the heretics and pagans!"
The friar, who was seemingly an aged man, muttered his thanks, and the girl retired and closed the door, locking it behind her.
No sooner was the door closed than the mendicant monk whistled a low but very distinct note, and lo! two men appeared upon the scene.
It looked as though they had just come up trap-doors in the earth, so suddenly did they show in sight.
"Captain Mathias," said the disguised monk to the first who came up, "I have learnt all we wish to know."
"You have?" ejaculated, not the man addressed by the mendicant monk, but the other. "Out with it, then."
"Still your impatience, Toro, if you can.—"
"Well, then, learn that Mole goes as—"
"Bother Mole!" interrupted Toro, harshly. "How does our great foe go?"
"An English knight of old."
"It shall be my task," said Toro, "to keep up his character, and give it a realistic look by a hand-to-hand fight."
"Don't be rash," said the mendicant friar, "or you may chance to be beaten."
"I can risk my life on it."
"You have—you do; every hour that you live here imperils it. Did you see the party go?"
"I did," said Mathias.
The latter was no other than the captain of the brigands. Already they were upon a footing of equality, for the two adventurers had had opportunities, which they had not failed to seize.
They had courage, ready wit, presence of mind, boldness daring, and cunning, and so it fell out that they who had made the acquaintance of the brigand's gang under such very unpleasant auspices, became two of the principal members of it within a few days.
But to resume.
"Tell me, Hunston," said Toro, "does Jefferson go to the ball?"
The Italian said nothing, but his lips moved, and his lowering brow was as expressive as words could be to his old comrade.
It boded ill for Jefferson.
They had met in fair fight, and he, Toro, had been defeated.
That defeat was as bitter as gall to him.
He would be avenged.
And if he could not cope with the doughty Anglo-American, then let him look to it.
What strength and skill failed to achieve, the assassin's knife would accomplish.
"Did you see the girl that attended him to the gate?" demanded the mendicant friar, or Hunston, as it would be better to call him, since there is no further need of concealment.
"And recognised her, Mathias?" he asked of the brigand captain.
"Yes; it is the pretty girl we stopped with her lover, the coy Marietta."
"Now that they are well off, we may as well set to work," said Hunston.
Hunston threw back his friar's cowl and produced a key.
"They have had many a good hunt for this," he said, with his old sinister laugh,
"I dare say."
"It was a lucky thing that the dainty little Marietta dropped it."
"Yes, it makes matters much easier for us to begin with."
The door yielded to the touch of the sham mendicant friar, and the three worthies entered the grounds.
Silently they stepped across a grassplot, keeping a thick shrubbery between them and the house as far as they could, when just as they gained the shelter of a trellissed verandah, a dog within set up a most alarming noise.
The three robbers exchanged uneasy glances.
"Curse the beast!" muttered Mathias the captain; "he will ruin us."
Toro got ready his long hunting-knife and looked about.
But the dog was out of sight.
A lucky thing it was too for our old friend little Mike, for a touch with that ugly instrument would soon have stopped his singing.
Now, just above the verandah was a half-opened window, and into this Mathias peered anxiously.
No signs of Mike.
A voice was heard now calling to the faithful guardian of the house to be silent, but Mike refused emphatically to be comforted; thereupon, the person very imprudently called the dog to her and tied him up.
This did not quiet him.
So the person in question tripped down the garden to see if there was really any reason for the dog's singular beheaviour.
In passing down the path she went so close to the verandah, that the skirts of her dress actually brushed aside the creeping plants which garnished the trellis work.
"Snarling, barking little beast!" quoth Marietta to herself, "and all about nothing; I wish they would lose him."
But when she got to the bottom of the garden and discovered the garden door open, she altered her tone.
"How very silly of me to leave the door unlocked," she said to herself. "Poor little fellow, poor Mike, I'm coming, good dog. Heard someone, I suppose. Good gracious, what's that? I thought I saw something move there. I'm getting as nervous as a cat ever since those men stopped us and made me kiss them, the beasts. Ugh I how I loathe them, although there was one of them that was really not very bad-looking. I wonder where that poor old friar went to. What was that? Oh, how nervous I feel. I wish they had left me some one in the house besides that old deaf Constantino; he's nice company truly for a girl. Bother the dog, what a noise he is kicking up."
And chatting thus, Marietta re-entered the house.
Meanwhile Mathias had clambered up the iron balcony and pushing open the glass door, or rather window, he entered the room.
It was the dining-room, and the remnants of a very sumptuous repast were yet upon the table.
"I'll just take a glass of wine."
He did, too.
He took several glasses of wine, and then, as the fumes of the good liquor mounted to his brain, he grew generous, and he lowered a bottle out of the window to his two comrades beneath.
Toro grasped it, and sucked down a good half of it before it left his lips.
Then Hunston finished it off at a draught.
When Mathias had regaled himself, he made a move to the door.
There was no one about.
Not a sound.
Now was his time.
His object was to explore the house, and ascertain in what particular part of it the cash, the jewels, and the plate were kept.
When they had secured these, they could content themselves for the present at least.
Firstly, therefore, he tied up the silver spoons and knives and forks from the dinner table in a napkin, and dropped the bundle into Toro's hat below.
Then he crept back through the room into the passage.
This done, he waited for a while to listen, and assuring himself that the coast was clear, he crept up.
On the next landing there were seven doors.
Six were shut, so he peeped into the seventh room, and just then he heard a noise below.
Someone coming up stairs.
What could he do?
He stole back to the stairs and listened. It was Marietta.
It was really a most embarrassing job now, for there was no retreat, so he crept upon tip-toe into the room, of which the door stood ajar.
It was a bedroom, dimly lighted by an oil lamp.
A cursory glance showed him that this room had only been lately vacated, and that one or more of the ladies had been dressing here for the ball.
Within a few feet of the door was a looking-glass let into the wall as a panel, and reaching from floor to ceiling.
Mathias listened in great anxiety for the footsteps on the stairs, and every moment they sounded nearer and nearer.
"I hope she will not come in here," thought the robber, "else I shall have to make her sure."
He showed how he meant to "make her sure" by toying with the hilt of his dagger.
Mathias crouched down, and crept under the bed, just in time, as the pert young lady skipped into the room.
Her first care was to turn up the lamp, and by its light she looked about her.
"I think they might have taken me to the ball with them," she said, saucily shaking her curls off her face. "I should have looked better than some of them, I'll be bound. I'm dead beat with fatigue. I've had all the work dressing them, and they are to get all the fun."
She was silent for some few minutes, and Mathias grew anxious.
What could be going forward?
He would vastly like to know.
Unable to control his curiosity, he peeped out, and then he saw pretty Marietta's portrait in the long looking-glass panel.
She looked prettier than ever now, for, shocking to relate, the young lady was undressing.
Mathias was not to say a bashful man, so he did not draw back.
On the contrary, he stared with all his eyes.
Pretty Marietta little thought, as she stood before the glass, that such a desperate villain was watching every movement.
Marietta, wholly unconscious that she was watched by the vile brigand chief, walked up and down before the glass, shooting admiring glances at herself over her white and well rounded shoulders.
"Dress, and rank, and money do wonders," she said. "Why are we not all about equal? I'm as good as the best of them, I'm sure, and very much better looking."
With this mixture of feminine vanity and republican sentiments, she bustled about, putting the room a bit in order.
Now her first job was to put away several dresses.
The first of these was a short Spanish skirt of pink satin, with deep black lace flounces.
"I wonder how I should look in this?" she murmured.
She held up the dress beside her to test the colour against her complexion.
Beautiful; yes, this was her frank opinion, and, really, we are by no means sure but that her own estimate was very near the mark.
On went the dress.
She strutted up and down, and then, when she had feasted her eyes enough upon her own loveliness, she plaited her hair, and, twisting it up into a rich knot behind, she stuck a high comb into it, and fastened the thick lace veil about her.
Mathias watched it all.
He gloated over that pretty little picture, and, shameless rascal! chuckled to think how little she suspected his presence.
"There," she said, folding the veil about her head with the most coquettish manner, "if I don't look the prettiest senorita alive, why, call me—call me anything odious—yes, even an Englishwoman—ha, ha, ha! How that would please my mistress!"
And then she figured about before the glass, and capered through a Spanish bolero with considerable grace and dexterity, while she sang an impromptu verse to an old air.
The verse was naturally doggerel, and maybe given in English as follows—
"Sweet Marietta, Rarely has been A sweeter or better Face or form seen; My chestnut tresses, And my Spanish fall, Would eclipse all the dresses At the masked ball. Then why, Marietta. Dally?—ah, no! Pluck up, you'd better, Your courage and go!"
And as she came to the last line, this impudent little maid whirled round, spinning her skirts about her like a top.
Mathias was enraptured.
With difficulty he kept himself from applauding.
"She'd make her fortune upon the stage," he said to himself.
Marietta had made quite a conquest; a double conquest, it might almost be said.
The hidden robber was enraptured, and she was scarcely less pleased with herself.
"I'll go," she said to herself, "Why should I not? They'll never find it out; I can do just as Cenerentola (Cinderella) did, and who knows but that some prince might fall over head and ears in love with me? I can get back long before they do."
Out she skipped too, and tripped down the stairs.
She was off to the ball.
Little dreamt she that for the last half hour her life hung upon the most slender thread.
And now, the coast being clear, the three brigands prepared to carry out their plans.
AT THE CONTESSA'S FETE-A ROMANTIC ADVENTURE BETWEEN CERTAIN OLD FRIENDS.
The most brilliant fete of the year was that given by the rich Contessa Maraviglia at her palazzo.
All the rank and fashion of the land were there.
The palazzo itself was a building of great beauty, and stood in grounds of great extent.
The contessa, who was a widow, had a princely fortune, and she spent it lavishly too.
Upon the night of the masquerade the gardens were brilliantly lighted.
Upon the miniature lake there was a fairy gondola, with a coloured lantern dangling at the prow, and hung with curtains of pale blue silk gauze.
In this gondola a lady was seated.
She had taken to the gondola, not alone for the sake of the freshness of the breeze upon the water, but to read without interruption a letter she had received from a mysterious man who professed to be deeply smitten with her charms, and who, the messenger of love let fall, was a prince.
She wore a black domino, but was not masked, for as she threw back its folds to breathe more freely, you could see that her only veil was a thick fall of black lace, fastened to a high comb in the back of her head.
"I hope he will not be long," said she to herself, while her heart beat high with expectation. "His note says clearly enough on the lake in the fairy gondola. Well, it will certainly be nice to be a princess, but I do hope that his highness may prove to be a dashing, handsome youth, such as a Cinderella might sigh for. Hush, boatman!"
"Do you hear?"
"Someone singing on the bank yonder? Yes! I hear, lady."
"Row that way."
A voice was heard carolling gently the serenade—"Fair shines the moon to-night."
The voice meant well, evidently, but something rather spoilt the effect.
It was not altogether in tune, nor had the singer the best idea in the world of time.
Perhaps his singing was spoilt by excess of love.
Perhaps by liquor.
The latter idea was suggested by a certain unsteadiness that would appear to indicate both love and liquor.
Be that as it may, the singer was not at all aware of the disadvantages under which he laboured.
On the contrary, he had the greatest belief in himself.
"Boatman," exclaimed the lady, impatiently, "row me ashore."
He obeyed, as he spoke, and as the boat grounded, the hidden minstrel stepped forward.
The gallant was rather a tall man, masked and habited in a long cloak, which almost concealed a glittering and gorgeous costume beneath.
This cavalier hastened to tender the lady his hand and to assist her to disembark.
As soon as she was fairly upon terra firma the gentleman led her away to a more secluded part of the garden, and then ensued a brief but highly interesting conversation.
It took place in the Italian language.
That beautiful tongue was not to say elegantly spoken upon either side.
The gentleman spoke as a foreigner, but imperfectly acquainted with the idiom.
"Sir," said the lady, after an embarrassing silence upon his part, "I scarcely know if I ought to be here."
"Nor I either, my dear lady," began the gallant.
But then, aware that this was not exactly what might have been expected of him, he stammered and broke down.
"Poor prince," thought the lady, with a very unladylike chuckle to herself. "How embarrassed he is."
The cavalier stared at her through the great eyes in his mask, as he muttered to himself—
"She is evidently in love with me very badly; I am curious to learn how a princess makes love. I am anxious only of course to study it as a matter of curiosity."
"I ought not to have come here, prince," said the lady, in a nervous tone.
The word made the masked gentleman stare.
"Prince! I suppose that she can't know I am a married man, and goes straight to the question. This is popping the question sharply."
He had never been made love to before by a lady of any degree, much less by a princess, so he was exceedingly anxious to see how she would begin upon this occasion.
But after they had got to a quiet and remote part of the garden, they came to a dead lock.
Not a word was spoken upon either side.
"I wish he would say something to me," thought the lady.
She was not used to such bashful suitors.
"I have kept your appointment, sir," she said, "although I fear I am very wrong."
"My appointment," muttered the cavalier in English, "Come, I like that."
However, he added in the softest tones he could assume—
"Fear nothing, princess, I am not a dangerous man."
She thought he was, though, for as he said this he chuckled.
The lady dropped her eyes before his bold glance and looked as timid as you could wish.
Now this appeared only to encourage the gentleman, for he seized her round the waist and pressed a kiss upon the only part of her cheek which was left uncovered by her veil.
She struggled feebly, oh, very feebly to release herself; but that libertine masker held her firmly; that is, as firmly as possible, for he was not very strong upon his pins.
"Sir, you must not take advantage of my unprotected situation," she faltered.
"I should be very sorry to, my coy princess," said the gallant.
These words set her heart beating like clockwork.
"He means well," she thought, growing quite easy in her mind.
Meanwhile the ardent young lover, growing bolder by encouragement, wanted to remove her veil.
"Grant me one favour, my princess," he said. "Let me bask in the sunshine of your eyes; let me feast my vision upon your rare beauty."
The lady was enraptured at such poetical imagery.
"It sounds like a lovely book," she murmured in ecstasy.
But she would not accede to his request.
She was so filled with joy, so supremely happy, that she feared to break the enchanting spell by any accident.
"Desist, prince," she said, struggling gently in his embrace,
"I must gaze on that angelic face," said the passionate Adonis.
"Why," exclaimed the lady, "since you know it so well?"
"Know it!" exclaimed the gallant in surprise.
"I have never seen it."
"Yet your letter praises each feature to the skies."
He was staggered evidently.
"I sent no letter."
The lady was amazed "If you sent no letter, why are you here?" she demanded.
"In obedience to yours," responded the gallant.
"Your note—your ever-to-be-treasured missive," gushed the swain.
Now what would have followed in the way of explanations it is impossible to say, for at the momentous crisis, a voice close by was heard repeating softly a couplet heard before—
"Dear Marietta, Never had been A sweeter or neater Face or form seen."
The lady started and screamed, and would have fallen had not the protecting arm of the gentleman been there to catch her.
But her veil fell aside.
When the lover saw her face, he was staggered, and he nearly let her fall,
"Marietta!" he exclaimed, "Marietta! Mrs. Harkaway's maid, by all that's wonderful."
"Oho," screamed the lady, "you're standing on my toe!" saying which she jerked herself back, and dragging his foot away too, down he went.
"It's Mr. Mole," shrieked the lady; and catching up her pink skirt and black lace flounces, she fled precipitately along the path, leaving her admirer scrambling in the most undignified manner upon the gravel walk.
Poor Mr. Mole.
But oh, poor Marietta; how sadly was she disappointed with her prince.
MR. MOLE—THE THREE DEVILS AND THEIR DEVILMENT—THE CONTESSA'S JEWELS—AN ALARM.
"Mr. Mole—Mr. Mole!"
It was Harvey's voice.
Now Mr. Mole was convinced at once that Dick was at the bottom of this comical conspiracy in which he had been made to look so ridiculous. So he resolved at first not to make any reply.
But Harvey was guided to the spot by information which had been furnished him concerning Mr. Mole, and soon he appeared in sight.
"Mr. Mole—Mr. Mole!" exclaimed Dick, in grave reproof.
"Help me up, Harvey," said Mole, "and don't be a fool."
"Well, that's polite."
"Quite as polite as you can expect."
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, you know what I mean well enough."
"I'm hanged if I do!" protested Harvey, stoutly.
His manner caught Mr. Mole immediately.
So this led the old gentleman to reflect.
If Dick did not know, it would be as well to keep the adventure to himself.
"Is it possible, Harvey, that you don't know what has occurred?"
"You don't know about Marietta?"
This decided Mole.
"Marietta is here."
"Never!" said Dick, in accents of deep mystery.
"Never! And who the dickens is Marietta when she is at home?"
"Mrs. Harkaway's maid, to be sure."
Dick burst out laughing at this.
"Why, Mr. Mole," he cried, "what a sly old fox you are."
Mr. Mole stared again.
"I don't quite understand what you are driving at, Mr, Harvey," said he.
"Don't you, though?—well, I do, old Slyboots."
"Oh, don't you try to come the old soldier over me."
"Sir!" said Mr. Mole, rearing himself up to his full height upon his timbers, "I don't understand your slangy allusions to the ancient military."
"Why, it is clear enough that you brought her."
"I what?" almost shrieked Mr. Mole, indignantly.
"Brought her, and your poor wife ought to know of it."
"Sir?" said Mole, "if you are bent on insulting me, I shall leave your company."
"Go it, Mole," said Dick, laughing until the tears came into his eyes; "go it. The fact is, you have been sneaking about after that little girl for a long while past; there can be no doubt about it."
"Harvey, I repudiate your vile insinuations with scorn, The fact is, that in your anxiety to fix some wickedness never contemplated upon me, you forget all the most important part of the tale."
"Why, that girl has left the villa unprotected."
"Nonsense! there's old Constantino there."
"He barks, but don't bite."
"Besides; you may be mistaken," urged Dick.
"Not I. I knew her at once, and what's more, she recognised me."
"And she bolted directly I pronounced her name."
"How was she dressed?"
Mr. Mole gave a hurried description of Marietta's dress, and they want off in search through the house and grounds after the flighty Marietta.
* * * * *
In another part of the grounds three men met.
"What have you learnt, Toro?"
"And you, captain?"
"Nothing, or next to nothing," was the reply.
"And you, Hunston?"
"I have gained knowledge," answered the latter; "good, useful knowledge."
The other two laughed heartily at this reply.
"You were always of a studious turn of mind, Hunston."
"Ha, ha, ha!"
It may be as well to mention that they had sought a secluded part of the contessa's gardens, and met now by appointment.
They were all three arrayed in that peculiar style of costume which the prince of darkness is popularly supposed to don when he makes his appearance to German students, in certain weird and wild works of fiction, or in the supernatural drama.
It sounded really remarkable to hear these three men, disguised as devils, discussing matters generally in such an offhand manner.
The dresses of all three were alike nearly in every particular.
The only mark of distinction between them was a small straight feather they wore in their caps.
One wore a yellow feather.
Another had a feather of brilliant red.
The third one's feather was of a bright emerald green.
Now these feathers were small, but yet, by reason of the conspicuous colours, could be seen at a considerable distance.
"What is it you have discovered?" asked the captain.
"Out with it, Hunston," said Toro, in his old impatient way.
"Well, in the first place," was Hunston's reply, "our letters to old Mole and to the girl Marietta were perfectly successful."
"The vanity of the one, and the conceit of the other, made it an easy matter."
"I saw the interview from a snug place of concealment, and took care to let her know it."
"By humming her song which you heard her sing up at the villa."
The latter looked somewhat alarmed at this.
"Was that prudent?"
"Of course she did not see me, only we must get a thorough hold over this girl, so as to have her as an accomplice in the enemy's camp always."
"Now let us get back to the ball-room, and see what is to be picked up there."
Back they went, and arrived in the large ball-room just as a dance was being got up.
The three diabolical companions deemed it prudent now to separate, that no undue attention might be drawn upon their movements.
And they went sauntering about the rooms, each upon the look-out for any slice of luck which might turn up.
Hunston had added a long red cloak to his costume, so as to envelope his figure and cover his arm, for fear of accidentally running across Harkaway or Harvey, or in fact, any of the party.
In this cloak he was wrapped, and silently watching two young and lovely girls, whose grace and elegance were commanding universal admiration,
One was fair as a lily, with light, golden, wavy hair, and full blue eyes.
This beautiful girl it was who excited Hunston's curiosity
"Who can she be? Perhaps Harvey's daughter," he thought
Now these two were equally lovely to gaze upon, the beauty of each being of a totally different character.
"If we can but spirit little Emily away to the mountains," said Hunston to himself, "I shall be able to repay them for all I have suffered. Nay, more, I shall be able to satisfy the greed of Mathias and the band, by making the accursed Harkaway disgorge some of his enormous wealth."
A hand was placed upon his shoulder.
"It is I," said a voice in his ear.
And looking up, he beheld the devil in the red feather.
"Hush! I have to rejoin a lady now, to whom I am engaged for the dance."
"She accepted at once a dance with the devil; I'll lead her a devil of a dance."
And the brigand captain laughed hugely at his own conceit.
But Hunston was not in laughing humour.
"I'm glad to find you so merry, captain."
The Greek did not observe his gloomy manner; he only replied—"You will be merry, too, when I tell you the cause."
"I have no thought for the pleasures of these fools," said Hunston, gruffly; "I only think of business."
"And yet you are going to dance, Captain Mathias."
"For business reasons, solely," said the Greek.
"My partner is positively bristling with diamonds," said the brigand, significantly.
Hunston was interested immediately.
"Aye! diamonds; and such diamonds, too. There is one as big as a nut, I swear."
"I must see this lady."
"Where is she to be seen?"
"Come with me," said the captain.
Away they went, squeezing through the crowds of dancers and maskers, until they came to the smaller ball-room, where a lady stood in conversation with a big man, admirably got up as a knight of the olden time.
The lady Hunston recognised at a glance, from the description which Mathias had given of her jewels.
Her finely-rounded arms were encircled by bracelets, set with the richest diamonds, that matched a necklet of priceless worth apparently.
She wore a tiara, too, of the same costly making and setting.
The dance began.
It was a waltz.
Now the gallant Mathias acquitted himself to perfection in the dance, carrying his fair and richly-attired partner through the crowded room without getting at all jostled by the dancers.
Hunston followed their movements with the greatest possible interest, and as they shot past him for the third time round the room, he contrived to take from the Greek captain's hand one of the lady's bracelets which he had with some dexterity removed.
The next round he was less successful.
As they shot past, the brigand's hand was outstretched, but Hunston missed it, and a glittering object dropped to the floor. Hunston stooped to recover it, when—
"The lady has dropped something," said a voice in his ear.
"What lady?" he demanded, recovering himself quickly,
"Ah! I see. But was it the contessa?" he asked.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. It is the lady dancing with your half-brother."
Hunston started a little after these words.
They sounded very unpleasantly in his ear.
He had evidently been associated with Mathias by the speaker.
Now the latter was a strange-looking little being.
A stunted man, with broad, square shoulders, and got up to represent the description which Victor Hugo has given us of his creation of Quasimodo.
"That is the contessa?" said Hunston, recovering his presence of mind.
"I am very glad of it, for I shall be able to restore this to its proper owner."
Hunston arose, and with a slight inclination of the head, crossed the room, as if in search of the contessa.
The dwarf regarded him eagerly as he went.
"That's a rum one," he said to himself. "He means to pocket the contessa's bracelet. What a swindle! I thought there was something more devilish about him than his dress."
* * * * *
Hunston fled precipitately to the gardens.
Close by the spot where he had previously met his companions in crime, there was a man awaiting him with a big bundle.
"Matteo, is it you?"
"Good; give me the other dress out. Quick! I must change, and be back before my absence can be noticed."
As he spoke, he had already torn from the hands of the man Matteo a pair of trunks of blue cloth slashed with amber silk, and quick as an eye could wink, he was into them.
And then he fastened on a similarly coloured mantle.
"Tell me, Matteo, does that change me?"
"Good! take this."
"Hush! hear all, see all, and say nothing. Away with you, now."
"Yes. Where to?"
"Back to the mountains, where we can always guard what we ourselves have made."
Just then there was a commotion in the ball-room, and a voice was heard to cry out—
"The contessa has lost her richest diamonds and other precious stones. There are robbers here. No one must leave the grounds."
"By Heaven!" ejaculated Hunston; "we are lost."
HUNSTON'S ADVENTURE—MOLE IN A MAZE—HE MEETS AN EVIL SPIRIT— GROSS OUTRAGE ON HIS WOODEN LEGS—MATHIAS IN TROUBLE-THE ASSASSIN'S KNIFE.
Quasimodo, who had detected one of the devils, was Magog Brand.
The audacity of the fearless Greek had carried him through so far, but Quasimodo had spoilt him at last.
A number of gentlemen in the company began to inquire very minutely into the affair.
Prominent amongst them was Harkaway.
He and Jefferson, prompt to act as ever, inquired into the circumstances of this gross outrage, and then it was elicited that the depredator was seen last in diabolical costume.
"A devil!" ejaculated one of the company. "Of course, I saw the man myself."
"I too," said another.
"Yes, he wore a red feather in his high-crowned hat."
"No," said another; "a feather, it is true, but the feather was green, I am sure."
Upon this, Magog Brand came forward.
"I saw it all done," he said. "I saw the man who did it"
"What, rob the contessa?"
"Yes, and as soon as I saw what It meant, I gave the alarm; but the devil disappeared like greased lightning."
"There!" exclaimed half a dozen at once, "I said it was the devil."
"Yes," added one of the guests, eagerly. "What coloured feather had he?"
"Red," ejaculated another, immediately.
"Green," retorted the opposite faction, loudly, but Magog Brand said—
"It was neither red nor green," said he, "but a bright yellow."
Now, while this inquiry was being proceeded with, nobody happened to observe one singular circumstance.
That was the presence, the whole of the time, in the motley-coloured crowd, of one of the diabolical trio in question.
This very devil no sooner heard the question raised about the coloured feathers in their head gear, than he doffed his hat unperceived and pulled out the feather.
And then, as the controversy grew warmer, he sneaked off.
He made all possible haste for the garden gate.
Once here he was about to rush through, when he was accosted by two men, whose uniform gave him an unpleasant twinge.
They were gendarmes.
"You cannot leave the ground yet, sir," said one of them sharply.
"I don't wish to," replied the devil, promptly. "I come to bring you orders."
"I beg your pardon," said the gendarme.
"A robbery has been committed."
"That is the reason you have had your orders to guard the gate. Oh, you know it. Well, what you don't know is that the robbery is supposed to have been committed by a masker dressed as I am. Take particular note of my dress."
The gendarme grinned as he said this.
"Keep your eyes open. These are the contessa's particular orders."
"Trust me, sir."
"There is a reward if you capture the thief."
The gendarme laughed at this, and said, with an air of self-confidence —"I think I shall get him."
The merry devil slapped the gendarme upon the back heartily.
"You are the sort of man for my money."
Saying which, he turned and left the spot.
Making his way to a place in the grounds previously agreed upon, he ran across the brigand Matteo armed with a change of dress for him.
The spot selected was up one of the narrowest alleys in the grounds, at the end of which was a species of Hampton Court maze in miniature.
Just as the diabolical one was about to divest himself of half of his skin, Matteo gave the alarm.
"The devil!" ejaculated the masker, which was, perhaps, the most natural exclamation he could make, all things considered. "What can this be? Somebody watched me here."
He waited a minute or so in anxiety.
An unsteady footfall was heard upon the gravel walk, and a man in a cloak came staggering along.
"They may call this a grand fete if they like," he mumbled. "I call it a shabby affair. Why, there's not a respectable drink in the place. The lucky thing is that I have provided my own."
He had a bottle with him, and he sucked at it from time to time as he staggered on, until all of a sudden he ran on to the alarmed masker, who was growing impatient to change his garments.
The staggering one looked up, and seeing such an alarming figure towering over him, he gave a wild howl and fled.
"The devil! the devil!" he shouted wildly. "Help! help!"
"Stop that fool, Matteo, or he will bring the whole house down about our ears."
Matteo seized the merrymaker, and was about to make short work with him, when his superior held his hand.
"Put by your knife," he said; "not that. Hold him tight and threaten him; but no knife."
But for this timely interference, it would have gone hard with the unfortunate new-comer, who was our old friend Mole,
Mole, it should be noted, had been compelled to change his cork legs, on which he could scarcely stand, for his old, familiar stumps, which Harvey had brought with him in case any accident should occur.
"Forgive me, Mr. Devil," he implored, in drunken tones, "oh, forgive me."
"Mole!" exclaimed the devil, in a thrilling voice, "your evil deeds are known to me."
"Oh, oh, oh!" groaned the wretched Isaac, piteously.
"Your time has come."
"Mercy, mercy!" gasped Mole.
"Give me a little time, Mr. Devil."
"Oh, do, do, for the sake of my twins," said Mole, in his most persuasive manner, "and I'll stand any thing you like to—hic—to name. Don't take me away, but come and liquor up with me."
"Silence!" thundered the irritable devil
"Away with you, and repent."
Mole staggered off.
As soon as he was gone, Matteo assisted his master to change his garments, and in the space of five minutes at the outside, the devil disappeared, and was replaced by a gay cavalier, habited in a rich costume of blue slashed with amber, and a broad-brimmed sombrero.
The excitement occasioned by the impudent robbery of the contessa Maraviglia's jewels had not by any means subsided, so the confusion prevailing in consequence was highly favourable to Hunston's new villany for trapping little Emily.
Nearing the entrance to the ball-room, he came to a conservatory, into which Mr. Mole had strolled, or let us say staggered, and then dropped into a seat.
Hunston glided in unperceived by Mole, and concealed himself behind some thick shrubs close to him.
Mole was bent upon making himself comfortable.
The irrepressible bottle was out again.
"I feel," mumbled Mole, little thinking there was a listener near, "I feel that I am a devil of a fellow. All the ladies love me, and all the men fear me. I'm too much for anyone of them, ha, ha, ha! I've taken a rise out of the devil himself."
Here he had a suck at the bottle.
"I'm getting quite familiar with evil spirits to-night," he said grinning; "I don't think he will see me again in a hurry—he, he!" He raised the bottle again to his lips, when a ghostly voice sounded in his ear—
He turned pale, and then got very red in the face.
"Who's there?" said Mole, looking nervously round; "come in, don't knock; what a fool I am."
"Remember!" said the same hollow voice as before.
"Oh, Lor', oh, Lor'!" cried Mole; "I'm gone; he's there again."
"I'm gone, I'm going," cried Mole; "oh, Lor', oh, Lor'!"
And off he ran, Hunston following closely behind him.
Now Hunston got near enough to him to see that he was really trying to get little Emily and Paquita to take care of him for a time, and walk with him in the grounds.
"There will be two of them to take care of," said Hunston, following them up as closely as was prudent; "that complicates matters. I hope Matteo has taken his measures carefully."
They drew near to the entrance of the maze, and then Hunston began to look anxiously about him for Matteo and the rest of their accomplices.
"I think we had better return," he heard little Emily say.
Suddenly a whistle was blown, and five or six men sprang out from the maze.
In less time than it takes to record the outrage, the two girls were seized and borne off in stout, relentless arms, their cries being stifled by thick wraps thrown over their heads.
"To the small gate," exclaimed Hunston.
Mole recognised the familiar voice of Hunston, and the whole danger flashed into his mind at once, sobering him most effectually.
"Hunston, you villain, I know you!" he cried. "And I will lose my life rather than harm should come to these dear girls."
Hunston turned and faced him savagely.
"If you know me, Mole," he said meaningly, "then beware of me."
Mole's only reply was to grapple with him with all his strength.
But the foolish old man was hurled to the ground, and then one of the brigands fell upon him, brandishing a huge knife.
Hunston here interfered, and gave a command which made the men laugh very heartily.
A fresh outrage was perpetrated, and in the space of two minutes, Mr. Mole found himself alone, and on his back.
"Hunston, you black-hearted thief," he cried, "I'll follow you if—"
He tried to rise, but down he went again.
He was lop-sided.
The brigands had amputated one of his wooden legs.
* * * * *
Leaving them for a moment, let us return to Mathias.
That daring scoundrel was not satisfied with having escaped a great danger scot free, and made a very rich prize, but he must needs return to the Palazzo Maraviglia in another dress, in quest of fresh plunder.
The fact was that he was flushed with wine.
Else he would have thought twice of returning.
Mingling with the crowd in the large ball-room, he came to a group discussing the late robbery in great excitement, and as he was pressing forward to learn what he could, he became entangled in a lady's lace flounces.
He turned sharply to apologise, and recognised the figure at once.
"The lovely Marietta," Mathias exclaimed.
She heard him, and made off to the other end of the room, closely followed by Mathias, who had conceived a violent fancy for her.
"Stay, Senorita," he exclaimed, seizing her hand.
"What do you want with me?" said Marietta.
"Only to plead—"
"Nonsense," she exclaimed, interrupting him abruptly; "you don't know me."
"Let me plead—"
"Nay," said the persistent robber, "if you will not hear me speak, hear me sing."
And then, being an admirable mimic, he imitated her strut before the looking-glass, and general coquettish behaviour in the dressing-room at the villa, while he sang in a falsetto voice—
"Sweet Marietta, Rarely has been A sweeter or better Face or form seen. Dear Marietta!"
"Hah!" cried the girl, starting back as if she had been shot.
Her first impulse was to faint.
But as soon as she gained the cooler air without, she recovered, and collecting her senses a little, she gave a pretty shrewd guess at the truth.
She was silly, yet not a bad-natured girl.
She saw her duty plainly enough.
She must make herself known at once to her master.
Harkaway was close at hand, discussing the robbery still with Jefferson.
The whole of this party were of course known to Marietta; so she made straight up to Harkaway, and said hurriedly—
"Have that man seized, sir—see, that one who is following me. I am Marietta. He has just said something to me which convinces me that he was hiding in the villa to-night."
"Hullo!" exclaimed Harkaway, not a little startled at this sudden address; "why, what in Heaven's name—"
"Lose no time," interrupted Marietta eagerly, "or he will go—see, he has taken the alarm."
"The girl's right," said Jefferson, striding off after Mathias.
The latter now began to perceive that he had made a false step, and he hurried through the crowded room towards the door, and was just passing out, when a dwarfed and ugly figure leaped upon him.
So sudden was the attack that Mathias was capsized, and together they rolled upon the floor.
"Let go!" said the Greek fiercely, "or I'll—"
"Not me!" exclaimed Magog Brand—for he was the Greek's assailant. "I know you, my yellow-feathered devil, even though you have shed your skin!"
"Let go," hissed the Greek brigand, with compressed lips, "or I'll have your life!"
"I'll not let go," cried the brave little Brand. "I have got you, villain, and will hold you. Ah!"
Mathias scrambled up, and tried to fly, but he was met with a blow from Jefferson's fist which might have felled an ox in the shambles.
He dropped lifeless on the ground beside Magog,
And then a sudden outcry arose, for it was found that in that brief struggle poor Magog Brand had been cruelly used.
A long-bladed poignard was buried up to the hilt in his side.
Death must have been almost instantaneous.
They tore the mask from Mathias' face, and thereupon an agent of the secret police stepped forward and made known who it was.
"This is the notorious Mathias," he said. "One of the most daring of the brigands hereabouts; we have been wanting him badly for some time past"
"You have got him," said Harkaway, "but oh!" he added, glancing at the lifeless form of Magog Brand, "at what a price for us!"
At this juncture Harvey reached the spot, and taking in the whole scene at a glance, he dropped on his knees beside the body of Magog Brand, where Jefferson was already kneeling, seemingly half stupefied by the catastrophe.
"He has fainted," said he to Harvey.
Harvey shook his head mournfully.
"He'll never faint again, Jefferson."
"You surely—no, no, Brand, dear old boy, look up."
He faltered and broke down.
"Yes, Jefferson," said Harvey in deep emotion. "Poor Magog Brand is at the end of his troubles and pleasures alike—he is dead!"
THE PURSUIT OF THE BRIGANDS—THE BATTLE—VARYING FORTUNES—HOW HUNSTON AND TORO WERE LAID BY THE HEELS.
Consternation was upon every face.
The catastrophe was so sudden and unlocked for, that the people about were half stupefied with fear.
On one side lay poor Magog Brand, lately so full of life and animation.
On the other was his assassin, felled by the dead man's best friend, the doughty Jefferson, and with scarcely more life in him than his victim.
And while the people were staring hopelessly at each other thus, a voice was heard giving the alarm hard by.
"Poor Brand, your murderer shall not escape," said Jefferson bitterly.
The noise continued, and presently the voice was recognised.
"It is Mole," cried Harkaway.
He was right.
Just then the poor old gentleman appeared upon the scene.
"Harkaway, Jefferson, Harvey!" he cried.
"What's the matter?"
"Murder!" returned Mole. "Hunston is here."
"By Heaven! I thought it," ejaculated Jefferson.
"He has carried off Emily and Paquita."
"I interfered, but they were too many for me. See how they have used me."
"Was he with the brigands?" demanded Harkaway.
"I suppose so. A whole mob of ruffians."
"Where are they gone?"
"By the small gate."
A hurried explanation ensued with the agent of the secret police, who gave them a few words of comfort.
"He'll never be able to pass my men at the gate," said the officer, with great confidence.
This was doubtful.
They knew too well Hunston's boldness and audacity.
But they lost no time in getting up a pursuit.
The contessa's stables were well furnished, and two horses were speedily saddled for Harkaway and Jefferson.
Harvey, too impatient to wait for a mount, had rushed wildly away in the direction of the small gate, followed by Mr. Mole.
Here he saw to his dismay that a scramble had taken place, in which the gendarmes had got decidedly the worst of it.
The two who had been on guard at the gate had got very roughly handled, one having a broken crown and the other showing an ugly wound in the side.
"They have gone this way, then?" exclaimed Harvey, eagerly.
"They made for the right," faltered one of the wounded men.
"Is it long?"
"No; a few moments."
"They can not get far," said the gendarme with the broken pate; "the two girls were struggling hard with him."
"Hurrah!" cried Harvey. "I'll save my child yet."
"You are not the first in the hunt," said the other gendarme, speaking with evident pain; "there are two black men after them."
"That must be Sunday and Monday," exclaimed Harvey.
And off he ran.
He bounded over the ground like a deer, and when he got about half a mile further on, he came suddenly upon two men struggling.
One of them was a negro.
Who, in fact, but our old friend the Prince of Limbi, the faithful Monday?
The other was one of the Greeks, a face unknown to Harvey, but one who has already figured in these pages.
And lying on the ground near him was a brigand struck down dead by brave Monday.
As Harvey came up, it was nearing the end of what had been a precious tough fight. Monday was uppermost, and Matteo, who had gradually succumbed to the wiry negro, was by this time in a very queer way indeed.
Monday held him by the throat, and in spite of his desperate efforts to set himself free, Matteo had lost his breath.
And there he lay completely at the negro's mercy.
"There, you dam tief!" exclaimed the Prince of Limbi, "take dat, an' dat, an' dat, an' now, be golly, have dis for a little bit in."
At every word he pressed harder and harder and jerked his adversary back.
The "little bit in" settled Matteo completely.
Something seemed to crack in the wretched Greek's throat, and he dropped back.
"Monday, Monday!" said Harvey, eagerly, "where are they?"
"Hullo, Massa Dick!" said faithful Monday; "I'se gwine to give this fellar toko an' den I'll jine yar."
"He's done for," said Dick, hastily. "Come now."
"He might come too," said Monday, in some doubt.
"Why, he'll never trouble anyone more," returned Harvey; "tell me, where have they gone?"
"They went straight on."
"Good. Come or stay. I'll go," exclaimed Harvey.
And off he ran.
Monday gave his silent enemy a shake to see if it was all over.
"He's a gone coon," he said to himself. "I'll bolt off after Massa Dick."
Away he ran at a good swinging trot.
In about ten minutes more he came up with him.
And this was under the most alarming circumstances.
Not very long after this a horseman dashed up to the spot, and only drew rein to give a glance at the lifeless form of the wretched Matteo.
"He's dead," said the horseman, who was none other than Jack Harkaway. "This looks like some of Dick's handiwork. Dick or some of our party. I hope Dick is safe." Saying which, he whipped up his horse, and tore on at a mad gallop.
A very few moments after this he came up with the brigands with their captives.
Just in the nick of time.
Hunston and Toro were there both with their hands full, while the Greeks had all their work to do to take care of the two captive girls.
Little Emily and Paquita, having now recovered from their surprise, were lending assistance to the cause by keeping all the Greeks fully occupied in looking after them.
And while they were thus occupied, Sunday and Dick Harvey were engaged with Toro and Hunston.
Dick had rushed so violently upon Hunston that the latter was toppled over, and it looked as though Harvey was about to make short work with their old enemy.
But alas for Sunday!
The poor negro was overmatched.
His heart was good, but the weight and enormous strength of the Italian were too much for him to vanquish.
That he had not as yet succumbed to Toro, was due only to his vastly superior agility and activity.
It was all in vain for the Italian ruffian to try and close with him.
Sunday would not have this.
He knew that his chance lay in keeping Toro at a respectful distance.
And so he danced round him, dropping in an occasional smart rap which goaded the Italian to fury.
"Help!" cried Hunston. "Cut him down! cut him down!"
One of the brigands rushed at Harvey knife in hand, and thus created a momentary diversion in his favour.
Had not Harkaway just then appeared upon the scene it might have gone hard with his comrade Dick.
Prompt, however, to act at this critical juncture, Harkaway spurred his horse into the group and rode them down.
Then reining up, he flung himself from his horse, and went into the melee.
"I'm in it, Dick, old boy," cried Jack; "here's one for Harkaway."
"Hurrah!" shouted Dick, in great excitement. "A Harkaway! a Harkaway to the rescue!"
Toro turned to Harkaway with a cry of rage.
"Curse you!" he exclaimed; "I'll have your life now, or you shall have mine."
"By all means," said old Jack, cheerfully.
"Come, now," said Harkaway, with subdued rage, "I can't stand that; take this!"
And before Toro knew where he was, he got it.
It was not as pleasant as he could have wished when he did get it.
A devil of a thud it came upon his nose, a fair blow with Harkaway's fist, and being delivered straight from the shoulder, it seemed to the Italian like the kick of a donkey.
Toro shook all over.
His eyes flashed fireworks, and he was half stunned for the moment.
Harkaway's triumph was but temporary.
One of the Greeks, who was watching the conflict between these giants of the combat in great interest, had by now crept up behind Jack, and seizing him suddenly round the middle, hurled him to the ground.
"Ha, ha!" yelled Toro.
And bounding forward, he fell upon Harkaway, knife in hand.
"At last, at last, your life is in my hands," he cried in fiend-like joy.
The knife gleamed in the air.
A piercing shriek from little Emily was heard.
A cry of fear from Paquita, and suddenly the latter, disengaging herself from her captors, bounded forward and seized Toro by the hair.
She dragged him back with all her strength, and little as it was, it saved the life of Jack Harkaway.
Jack put forth all his strength at this most critical juncture, and succeeded in grappling once more with his herculean opponent.
Toro lost his balance.
A moment more and he was rolling upon the ground in deadly battle with brave Jack Harkaway.
So fierce a strife could not last long.
In the heat of the combat cries were heard encouraging Harkaway and Harvey to fresh exertions, and up dashed the bold Monday, closely followed by Jefferson and several gentlemen from the contessa's fete.
The Greeks now began to lose heart.
The odds were veering round to the wrong side.
Greeks can fight moderately well when they are three or four to one Englishman, but when the numbers are equal, they do not care to provoke hostilities.
And so they blew upon their whistles for assistance, and soon the answering calls came in every direction, causing the gravest fears to the Harkaway faction.
"Hah!" ejaculated Jefferson; "they are coming to help you. But at least I'll make sure of you, Master Toro."
The Italian did not shirk the encounter.
Toro, to do him justice, was, with all his faults, no coward.
He had felt the weight of Jefferson's arm, and he had reason to remember it.
Yet he met his old adversary boldly.
Jefferson fell upon the huge Italian with tiger-like fury, and in spite of his prodigious size and weight, he lifted him in his arms, swung him round, and hurled him to the ground.
The Greeks now, seeing their leaders in such dire peril, thought of avenging themselves by the most dastardly o expedients.
"Kill the girls!" cried one of them.
The hint was caught up with avidity.
A savage yell responded to the bloodthirsty suggestion, and the lives of the two innocent girls were in real peril.
"Look to the girls!" shouted Dick Harvey, who was fully occupied with two of the Greek brigands who were pressing him closely.
There was a cheer in response to this appeal, and over went two of the Greeks.
Jefferson too lent a hand at this juncture.
Finding himself free from Toro's attentions, for the huge Italian had received such a desperate shaking with his fall that he was not fit for much now, he rushed into the melee, and dealt out such slogging blows that there were at least a dozen bleeding noses and black eyes distributed amongst the bandits in rather less time than it takes to note the fact.
The Greeks were thoroughly discouraged.
This unpleasant British mode of attack was not at all to their liking.
They could do pretty well with knives or swords, or even with firearms, but they could only regard men who used their fists in the lights of savages.
Gradually they retreated before the fierce onslaught of the Britishers and their gallant Yankee ally.
This was no small triumph.
The brigands mustered at least twenty men.
Their enemies were five.
The five were Harkaway, Harvey, Jefferson, and the two negroes Sunday and Monday.
The chicken-hearted Greeks, however, did not altogether turn tail, for ere they could get fairly off this hardly-contested field, they received considerable reinforcements.
About ten more Greeks put in an appearance.
A ragged, ruffianly crew, and ill armed.
The Harkaway party were not armed at all.
The Greeks fell back and made attempts to re-form in something like good order.
But Jefferson saw the danger, and he followed them up closely.
Jack and Dick Harvey were at his heels.
Neither of our old friends were inferior to the bold Jefferson in courage; but they did not possess his great advantages of size and strength.
Jefferson's right arm went out like a battering ram, and each time he struck out, down dropped his man.
At all events, the brigands did not give any particular signs of coming up for a repetition dose.
The huge American dashed into the thick of the enemy.
The assassination of poor little Magog Brand had fired his fury, and his charge was something terrific.
He dashed into the midst of the half cowed bandits, and swinging his arms around him like the sails of a windmill, he "grassed" a man at every stroke.
But this could not last for long.
As the Greeks grew stronger in numbers, they stood upon the defensive.
They were reassured.
They had seven-and-twenty men against the five.
The five, too, large-hearted though they were, had the two girls to look after.
Amongst the latest comers upon the bandits' side was one man who was a petty officer of the brigands, and he gave a few hurried commands, which had the effect of putting Harkaway and his friends into a very awkward predicament.
"Load and fire," said the brigand, "Shoot them all down."
If they could but succeed in getting a shot or two at the bold Jefferson, or at any of the party, it would speedily be all over with them.
But now, when individual bravery could no longer avail them, they had a rare slice of luck.
Suddenly a rattling volley of musketry was heard, and three of the Greeks bit the dust, while a number of cries told that several were hit.
And then a detachment of gendarmes dashed up into the open at a swinging trot.
And who headed this very welcome party?
Who but two youths that have been heard of before in these pages?
Who indeed but young Jack Harkaway and his friend Harry Girdwood?
SUNDAY RUBS OFF AN OLD SCORE—THE BRIGANDS—WHAT HAPPENED AT THE PORTER'S LODGE—A STRANGE BLIND BEGGAR.
"Give them another."
A rapid, irregular discharge followed, and the Greeks, with cries of fear and rage, dropped their arms and fled precipitately, panic-stricken.
The gendarmes followed them up, and several were knocked over and secured; and behind them the brigands had left no less than seven of their number who had not been able to get off.
Amongst those seven were two men that it was no small gratification to the Harkaway party to see once more in their power.
These two men were Hunston and Toro the Italian.
Sunday stood over the latter, leathering into his half insensible carcase in a way that threatened to cover it with bruises; and at every blow he had something fresh to say.
"Take dat!" he exclaimed, punching into Toro's ribs, "you dam nigger."
Toro, dazed with what he had suffered in his shaking, could offer no resistance.
"And dere's another, you ugly tief!" said the virtuous Sunday. "I'll gib you what for; you shall hab what Paddy gib the drum, you 'fernal black skunk; I show yar what John up the orchard is, you—you Italian organ-grinding sweep—You chestnut-munching beast!"
Sunday had never forgotten his first acquaintance with Toro.
The reader will doubtless bear it in mind, since with it is connected one of the most startling episodes of Jack Harkaway's history, in his voyage round the world with young Jack.
It was at the hotel in New York that the Harkaways first met with Sunday, too, for here they were the means of rescuing him from the brutal violence of the ruffian Toro.
It was, in fact, this which led up to that scene of terror—the firing of the hotel by Hunston and Toro.
Sunday had suffered at Toro's hands, but had never had his whack back.
But now the darkey showed the half insensible Italian the full signification of "John up de orchard," and likewise of "what for," and "what Paddy gave the drum."
* * * * *
Hunston and Toro were thrown into prison, with the few brigands captured and their discomfited chieftain Mathias.
Such was the end of their exploit.
When once they were in prison, however, it required some exertion on the part of the authorities to keep them there.
The gang were unceasing in their endeavours to release them.
Artifices of every kind were tried to accomplish it, but the Harkaways had foreseen that no stone would be left unturned by the murderous friends of the captured robbers; and they knew the good old-fashioned saying—"forewarned, forearmed.'"
The prison in which they we re confined was situated at the waterside, and it was approachable by boat, where the entrance was beneath a low, vaulted archway.
The day after the capture of the notorious robbers, a poor cripple hobbled up to the porter's lodge, dragging himself painfully along by the aid of a stick in one hand and a crutch under his other arm.
"Move off," said the porter gruffly; "we have nothing to give away here."
"I don't ask your charity," replied the cripple humbly; "accept this, good sir, as a peace offering."
And then, to the porter's surprise, he dropped a coin into his hand.
The porter looked hard at the coin in his hand, and then at the cripple.
He was a man of no sentiment, this porter, and so he asked the generous donor bluntly what he wanted for the money.
"I only want you to show some consideration and kindness, if possible, to some of the unfortunate inmates of this place," was the reply.
"If you expect that," said the porter "you had better take back your money, for I have nothing to do with the prisoners."
The cripple looked grave, and he muttered to himself—
"This fool is beastly conscientious. If he had only proved a bit of a rogue, there was a chance—the ass!"
But he did not mean to yield the point yet.
"You are a very good man," he said to the porter, "a worthy honest fellow, and you will know that I don't mean to offer you any thing like a bribe."
The porter started.
"A bribe!" he said, with an expletive. "You had better not."
"Ahem!" coughed the cripple. "My friend, I have confined in this prison my son, a poor misguided boy—"
"They are mostly that," said the porter shortly.
"But he is innocent."
"They are all innocent," said the porter.
"According to their own showing."
"But my boy is."
"And I only want to beg you to do what you can to soften his lot—a hard lot it is, too."
"I can do nothing, I tell you," said the porter; "I never see the prisoners."
"At least, when I say never, I mean only when they are allowed to walk in the prison yard."
"That is here?"
"When is that?"
"Once a day; sometimes more than that, if the doctor orders it."
"The doctor must order it, then?" said the cripple to himself.
"What is your son in for?" asked the porter.
"For an unfortunate resemblance he bears to a notorious brigand."
"Bah!" exclaimed the porter. "They don't imprison a man for being like another."
"Yes, they do; my unlucky son has been taken for Mathias the brigand."
"What," ejaculated the doorkeeper, "do you mean that Mathias is not Mathias?"
"I mean that my son has been taken for Mathias, to whom, indeed, he is so like that nothing but the capture of the real culprit can save my son."
The doorkeeper eyed the cripple sharply.
But the latter stood it coolly enough.
"Well," said the door porter, "if that is the case, it is certainly a very hard job for your son. What do you want me to do for him? I can't let him out."
"My friend," exclaimed the cripple, "think you I would suggest such a thing? No, all I would ask of you is to soothe him with a kind word."
"I'll tell him when next he comes out."
"At what time did you say?" asked the cripple, looking on the ground as though he only put the question casually.
The cripple's eyes glistened as he heard this.
"Well, well," he said, pressing some more money into the door porter's hand, "I'll call again, and perhaps you may have seen my boy, and comforted him with the assurance that I'll save him, in spite of all the ill these accursed English people can work by the aid of their money."
"Oh, that's it, is it?" said the porter. "The English are at work in it, eh?"
"Yes. They owe him some spite, and money, you know, can buy any thing— any thing." And blessing the gatekeeper, he hobbled off.
* * * * *
Near the prison he overtook a blind man begging by the roadside, and while stopping to drop a coin in his hat, the cripple contrived to whisper a few hurried words to this effect—
"I have made a step—almost made a breach in the fortress."
And the blind man turned his head to the right and to the left, almost as though looking out to see if they were unwatched.
"Yes; the prison yard is only the other side of the gate. Now that gate is kept by a porter who is already in our interest."
"Good, good, Tomaso!" quoth the blind man.
"Go on," returned the blind man, in an eager tone.
"At noon the prisoners are in the yard. If we could but get that gate open for an instant, and have our men ready hereabouts for a rush—"
"Who can tell what may happen?"
"Good again—good again! ha, ha, ha! that's brave, that is. Why, the mob of idle sightseers who crowd about the prison gates at noon to watch the prisoners might all be poor blind wretches or helpless cripples like you and I."
"And if the gate is left open but one instant—a single inch, no more— why, worlds might be done."
"A horse ready saddled near at hand might be worth thinking of."
"And a small keg of gunpowder blown up under the archway by the waterside entrance would divert attention."
"Tomaso," ejaculated the blind man, "you're born to be a captain of brigands some day!"
HOW TOMASO HELPED HIS FRIENDS IN TROUBLE—THE SKIRMISH IN THE PRISON—MATHIAS THE BRIGAND.
Tomaso, before the day was over, changed his garments and abandoned crutch and stick, and when he turned out with flaxen-dyed hair and spectacles, and presented himself at the other great entrance of the prison, as a German traveller who desired to go over the place, no one could possibly have imagined it to be the old cripple whose paternal lamentation had so touched the doorkeeper's heart.
"You have got here a notorious brigand, as I have heard tell," said the visitor.
"We have, sir," was the governor's reply; "a very remarkable man he is, too."
"Ah, so I have heard," said the visitor. "He is called Demetrius, I believe?"
"Nay; his name is Mathias."
The visitor looked surprised at this information.
"Mathias—Mathias!" he repeated to himself. "I was misinformed, then. I certainly thought that his name was Demetrius."
The governor smiled.
"You may be right, all the same," said he.
"Why, Mathias is but his avowed name; he may be known by a dozen different aliases."
"Is it possible?" ejaculated the sham German traveller.
"Indeed it is. These robbers are mostly adepts at disguise. Would you like to see this Mathias?" demanded the governor, courteously.
"Well, sir, I'll only warn you of one thing."
"Indeed! What is it?"
"A disappointment awaits you in this."
"Instead of seeing a ferocious fellow, such as you might expect, Mathias is really a very pleasant and innocent-looking man."
The governor of the prison then led the visitors through the long stone corridors of the place where Mathias was confined.
They stopped before a door of great thickness, heavily barred, and studded with iron bolts and nails.
The governor tapped at a small grated trap in the door, and it was pulled aside.
At the grating a broad-shouldered fellow appeared, who touched his cap at the visitors.
"So that is Mathias," said the German gentleman.
"No, no," said the governor; "that is the gaoler who is shut up with him."
"So that he might be watched night and day; the authorities have doomed him to—"
"To death," replied the governor, in a low but impressive voice.
"He is young."
"In years, yes," answered the governor, "but old in crime. This man has been guilty of nearly every crime under the sun—brigandage is one of his least offences. His last exploit, however, is the worst."
"What is that?"
And the German traveller looked inexpressibly shocked.
"Murder is a capital crime in every land."
"And rightly too," said the visitor, "rightly, too. But, sir, excuse my curiosity—"
"Ask all you will," returned the governor.
"This man had, I was told, a bold, dashing fellow to second him in all his exploits."
"No, no, sir, you mistake; I mean a Greek—a handsome, dashing fellow— a great favourite with the ladies—brave and daring."
"And how is this Apollo called?"
The governor burst into a loud fit of laughter at this,
"You are altogether mistaken about that brigand—that Tomaso. He is a scrubby and ill-favoured scamp—a sneaking, crawling rascal, capable of all the villany of his master, but not possessed of his courage."
Had the governor been looking at the visitor's face just then, he might have had his suspicions aroused.
The sham German philanthropist glared ferociously as this description was given.
The prisoner, who was seated at a rough deal table at the further end of the cell, here arose at the gaoler's order, and came to the window.
A single glance sufficed to show that a very noticeable change had taken place in the appearance of Mathias.
His face was pale and haggard, and the whole of one side of it, the eye, cheek bone, and forehead were bruised.
This was the mark that Jefferson had set upon him.
This was the bold American's only vengeance for the deathblow which the brigand had dealt upon his faithful friend and companion Magog Brand.
Jefferson's right arm came down like a steam hammer, and any man who had felt its full force as the scoundrel Mathias had did not forget it very readily.
Such a desperate shaking had it given Mathias that he had not yet recovered.
The bold, defiant bearing of the man was gone, and he looked ten years older than when Tomaso and he had last met.
It struck the visitor at once.
"Dear, dear me," exclaimed the latter, "is it possible that this can be the redoubtable Mathias?"
"It is he," said the governor, "yet scarcely so gay as is his wont, eh, Mathias?"
The prisoner shrugged his shoulders and sighed.
"Laugh on, your excellency," he said, rather bitterly, "it is your turn now."
"Aye, now. It may not always be."
"Why, surely you never think of getting out of this?"
"Indeed, I think of nothing else morning, noon, and night."
The governor gave a sharp glance about.
He looked toward the gaoler.
Now the gaoler was a huge fellow, over six feet high and broad in proportion, one who could have tackled Toro himself, as far as weight and sheer brute strength went.
"Your excellency," replied Mathias, "when I leave this place, my exit will be due to no violence. Bad as I am, I am not altogether what they would make out."
"Poor Mathias!" said the governor ironically, "one would almost think that murder was not his line of business."
"Your excellency," said the prison, drawing near to the grated window, "I repent sincerely of that poor little gentleman's death; it was no assassin's stab in the dark, but a most unfortunate blow in a fight, remember,"
"Bravo! Mathias! bravo!" ejaculated the visitor.
The prisoner looked up.
A strange expression flitted across his face.
Mathias was an adept in the art of dissimulation, and his face was schooled to tell neither more nor less than he wished.
"Now, your excellency," said the visitor, "this rascal appears strangely self-possessed."
"What does it mean?"
"Ah, you do not know him, sir, as well as I do."
"Perhaps not; but it might just be possible that he is in league with some of his comrades outside."
The governor smiled incredulously.
"What if that scoundrel, Tomaso, of whom we were speaking, should be at work?"
The prisoner's eyes glistened at this word.
A slight flash of intelligence passed between the prisoner and the visitor.
It was but momentary, and so slight as to be utterly unobserved by either the gaoler or the governor.
"And if such could be the case, sir, what could he possibly do, eh? What on earth, that's what I ask."
"There's no saying."
"Indeed you're right."
"Only he ought to be well guarded when you change him from one prison to another, or—"
"Stop, stop, my dear sir, why change him? He will never leave this place alive," said the governor.
"But surely you don't keep your prisoners all confined in these stifling places?"
"We do, though."
"And never let them breathe the air? Why, it is torture."
"They do breathe the air. At noon every day they are allowed to walk for an hour in the prison yard."
The visitor fixed his eyes strangely upon the prisoner.
"Very good; if I may be allowed to trespass again, I should like to see how this fellow bears himself in the yard amongst his fellow-criminals."
"By all means."
"I'll come, then, at noon."
* * * * *
At noon next day the German traveller was as good as his word.
The governor, full of his wonted courtesy, accompanied him to the yard, where all the prisoners were walking round two and two.
Some of the more desperate men were fastened by a single handcuff to the wrist of another man—a warder.
Of this category was the brigand Mathias.
His companion was a huge fellow, who topped him by a head and shoulders, and their wrists were linked securely together by a strong— if slender—pair of handcuffs.
The visitor's countenance fell when he observed this.
It upset all his plans at one fell swoop.
However, he did not utterly despair, but made an effort to get over the difficulty.
"Your excellency," said he, "this is indeed cruel."
"What," demanded the governor, "fastening them to the gaoler?"
"I only order it in special cases, such as that of Mathias."
"He is then very dangerous?"
"Well, I scarcely believe that, only such precautions are the established rules."
"I regret that."
"Partly on the score of humanity," was the reply.
"Ah, you would be too tender-hearted," said the governor.
"No. But I also regret it because I hoped to see the brigand more like he appears when not under restraint. I suppose you would not like to set him free?"
The governor shook his head.
"That is against custom, and I should really not like to do it."
The visitor reflected a moment as they walked on.
He could not abandon his scheme now that he had gone so far.
The effort should be made all the same.
They walked up to the porter's lodge beside the gates, where an eager crowd had assembled for a glimpse of the prisoners.
"And do you open those gates to admit the prisoners?" asked the visitor innocently.
"No, sir," replied the governor; "this little side door is all we open. Now watch how it is done. This bar, which is like a lever, stops the door, and renders it immovable, now—hah!"
The fallacy of his words was shown ere they were fairly uttered.
The visitor whistled in a very peculiar way.
And there was a sudden silent rush at the door in question.
The bar, immovable as it was, fell before that desperate onslaught, and the door was carried off its hinges.
The ragged and miserable-looking mob turned like magic into a crowd of armed desperadoes. And in they pressed.
On they came, tearing down the gates and dashing every thing before them.
The poor gatekeeper was trampled under foot, and the warders and governor got hustled and cruelly handled.
The mob of armed invaders made for Mathias and his companion, and bore them bodily outside the gates.
The brigands then wrenched off the handcuffs.
Once outside the gates, a horse was found waiting.
Suddenly there was a loud cry heard.
"The soldiers—the soldiers!"
The whole of the guard-room had turned out.
A charge was made, and it looked as though the rescue of Mathias were likely to cost them dear.
Cries of defiance and rage were heard.
Just when matters were at the worst for the robber band, a deafening explosion was heard, that shook the solid building to its base.