Page images
PDF
EPUB

betwixt them. They're both in my red barn, if you want their direction. .. ."

He hurried on suddenly up the hill, leaving me gazing upwards at him. When I caught him up he was swearing—as one did in those days and stamping his foot in the middle of the road.

“I tell you,” he said violently, “it's the most accursed business! That Castro, with his Cuba, is nothing but a blasted buccaneer ... and Carlos is no better. They go to Liverpool for a passage to Jamaica, and see what comes of it!”.

It seems that on Liverpool docks, in the owl-light, they fell in with an elderly hunks just returned from West Indies, who asks the time at the door of a shipping agent. Castro pulls out a watch, and the old fellow jumps on it, vows it's his own, taken from him years before by some picaroons on his outward voyage. Out from the agent's comes another, and swears that Castro is one of the self-same crew. He himself purported to be the master of the very ship. Afterwards—in the solitary dusk among the ropes and bales—there had evidently been some play with knives, and it ended with a Aight to London, and then down to Rooksby's red barn, with the runners in full cry after them.

“Think of it,” Rooksby said, “and me a justice, and ... oh, it drives me wild, this hole-and-corner work! There's a filthy muddle with the Free Traders—a whistle to blow after dark at the quarry. To-night of all nights, and me a justice ... and as good as a married man!”

I looked at him wonderingly in the dusk; his high coat collar almost hid his face, and his hat was pressed down over his eyes. The thing seemed incredible to me. Here was an adventure, and I was shocked to see that Rooksby was in a pitiable state about it.

“But, Ralph," I said, “I would help Carlos.”

“Oh, you," he said fretfully. “You want to run your head into a noose; that's what it comes to. Why, I may have to flee the country. There's the red-breasts poking their noses into every cottage on the Ashford road.” He strode on again. A wisp of mist came stealing down the hill. “I can't give my cousin up. He could be smuggled out, right enough. But then I should have to get across salt water, too, for at least a year. Why— "

He seemed ready to tear his hair, and then I put in my say. He needed a little persuasion, though, in spite of Veronica.

I should have to meet Carlos Riego and Castro in a little firwood above the quarry, in half an hour's time. All I had to do was to whistle three bars of Lillibullero," as a signal. A connection had been already arranged with the Free Traders on the road beside the quarry, and they were coming down that night, as we knew well enough, both of us. They were coming in force from Canterbury way down to the Marsh. It had cost Ralph a pretty penny; but, once in the hands of the smugglers, his cousin and Castro would be safe enough from the runners; it would have needed a troop of horse to take them. The difficulty was that of late the smugglers themselves had become demoralized. There were ugly rumors of it; and there was a danger that Castro and Carlos, if not looked after, might end their days in some marshdyke. It was desirable that someone well known in our parts should see them to the seashore. A boat, there, was to take them out into the bay, where an outward-bound West Indiaman would pick them up. But for Ralph's fear for his neck, which had increased in value since its devotion to Veronica, he would have squired his cousin. As it was, he fluttered round the idea of letting me take his place. Finally he settled it; and I embarked on a long adventure.

betwixt them. They're both in my red barn, if you want their direction. ..."

He hurried on suddenly up the hill, leaving me gazing upwards at him. When I caught him up he was swearing—as one did in those days—and stamping his foot in the middle of the road.

“I tell you," he said violently, “it's the most accursed business! That Castro, with his Cuba, is nothing but a blasted buccaneer ... and Carlos is no better. They go to Liverpool for a passage to Jamaica, and see what comes of it!”.

It seems that on Liverpool docks, in the owl-light, they fell in with an elderly hunks just returned from West Indies, who asks the time at the door of a shipping agent. Castro pulls out a watch, and the old fellow jumps on it, vows it's his own, taken from him years before by some picaroons on his outward voyage. Out from the agent's comes another, and swears that Castro is one of the self-same crew. He himself purported to be the master of the very ship. Afterwards—in the solitary dusk among the ropes and bales—there had evidently been some play with knives, and it ended with a flight to London, and then down to Rooksby's red barn, with the runners in full cry after them.

“Think of it,” Rooksby said, “and me a justice, and ... oh, it drives me wild, this hole-and-corner work! There's a filthy muddle with the Free Traders a whistle to blow after dark at the quarry. To-night of all nights, and me a justice ... and as good as a married man!”

I looked at him wonderingly in the dusk; his high coat collar almost hid his face, and his hat was pressed down over his eyes. The thing seemed incredible to me. Here was an adventure, and I was shocked to see that Rooksby was in a pitiable state about it.

“But, Ralph," I said, “I would help Carlos.”

“Oh, you,” he said fretfully. “You want to run your head into a noose; that's what it comes to. Why, I may have to flee the country. There's the red-breasts poking their noses into every cottage on the Ashford road." He strode on again. A wisp of mist came stealing down the hill. “I can't give my cousin up. He could be smuggled out, right enough. But then I should have to get across salt water, too, for at least a year. Why- "

ROMANCE

« PreviousContinue »