Press enter after choosing selection

A Highwayman Outwitted

A Highwayman Outwitted image
Parent Issue
Public Domain
OCR Text

[Froni London Society, Cliriistiüas numbcr, 1877.] D ingle farm was suoh a pretty place. Charmingly situated at the foot of a slope, it commanded an extensive view of a beautiful Kentish valley, thegrouod rising to a ridge of wooded hills in the far distance. lts steep tiled roof, covered with yellow lichens, indicated its antiquity, and the numerous farm-buildings, ricks and barns, which stood around ia picturesquo confusión, marked it as wealthy and prosperons in a language of their own. An orchard of venerable, but not the less full-bearing, apple and pear trees ran up the incline behind the house; the pasture-fields were intersected by woods of oaks, under which a tangled mass of undergrowth lent a wild beauty to the spot, the birds keepmg up a sweet incessant concert from sunrise to sunset in the branches above. Two shady lanes led down to Dingle farm from the high-road, which was more than half a mile distant. This old anu attractive place had been for generations in the possession of the Dales, a respectable and wealthy family of farmers, and amona; the -villages and country round was better known by the name of Dale's farm. It was inhabited at the time of our story - the latter part of the last century - by oíd Mr. Dale and his widowed in-la w. Richard Dale, her husband, died soon at'ter the birth of their youngest ehild, the only surviving son out of f our, three of whom die 1 in inf anoy. This boy, now 13 years old, was doted on by his grandf ather and widowed mother. An orphan grandohild of old Mr. Dale's- a bright, clever girl of 20, named Susan Stidolph - lived with them since the death of her mother, his only daughter, and was Mrs. Dale's riglit hand. She directed the servants, looked after rhe dairy, fed the poultry, kept the accounts, and always went to market on market days, Mr. Dale being now too inflrm to undertake the journey and transact business. The market was held at Hazleton, a town distant about seven miles ; and hither the farmers sent their oattle, poultry and vegetable produce for sale the flrst Wednesday in every month. These journeys wereattended with some anxiety and not a little danger from highwaymen, who still infested the roads, and who did not fail to make use ol market day as an available opportunity for plunder. As the road was mucïi frequented on these particular days, Susan went backward and forward without fear of au enoounter with these uncomfortable gentry. It was the evening before market-day. Supper was just over at the farm, and Mrs. Dale was busy removing it from the large old-fashioned oak table in the kitchen. A bright fire blazed on the spacious hearth, though it was the end of June, and oíd Mr. Dale sat in the chiinney-corner under the immense chimney, -where a oollection of hams hang iü various stages of smoking. " Now mind, Susan, that you be early for marJset to-morrow," said Mr. Dale, as she seated herself. " Kever fear, aunt ; I'll be off betimes. Thomas must start first with the two cows and the heifer, and I'll followwheij they're well on their way. Don't you disturb yourself in tlie morning, aunl dear." "Bless the ohild, a if I shouldn't bf up and abont ogainst your starting ! 3 ! sliall see to your breakfast, oí emirae.' " I wish you'd let me go, too, mother," i said Ren, tüe boy befóte mentioned, who was wliittling a stick at the door. "I kwow I could help Susy." "No, no, no, my dear ; you're too yomig," replied his mother, while the oíd man, removing his pipe, said, coaxïngly : " All in good time, my lad ; ril in good time. Let things come by degrees. Mind your schooiing now, and you'll be all the better farmer for a little booklarning." "But suppose Susy should meet a highwoyman, grandfather. Then I should be of use. Wouldn't I tackle him just ! It would be f mi. " " Eh, lad, eh ! Young folks talk a deal o' nonsense," laughed the old man. " Those gentry you epeak of are not so easy to tackle, I can teil you." ' ■ Did you ever meet one, grandfather ?" asked the boy. "Ay, ay, and I rode home as hard as I could, with him at my heels. But it's no use o' frightening Susan, when she's goiügto-morrow." T JTi .llOl "l'mnot frightened, grandad," said Susan, going up and kiesing tlie old man. Ben here ran across and, coming up UDpereeived, pulled one of Snsan's curls, which had tumbled from underneath her cap. "Don't, Ben, you plague I" cried Susan ; and she tried to catch him as he dnelced away from lier li and and juniped oyer a Bettee, where he sat on the floor in the attitude of a frog, ready to leap if she chose to follow him. But, seeing that she took no heed, he orawled up to her, and said : "What should you do, Susy, if a footpad came up and asked for your money or your life ? I wonder whether you'd call'me a plague then? Ha, ha 1" "I shouldn't want you,"laughed Sugan ; " for I should teil him to go about lus businees, and ask what held do with mylife whenhe'd gotit." " Ah ! it's all very fine to be pert now, but you'll;,long for poor plaguey Ben then, I know ;" and Ben here not only pulled the curl again, but tweaked the cap off the girl's head. She caught him, and was in the act of administering punishment by a box on the ear, when he leaped over her etooping form, and ran up-stairs to bed. The next morning Susan rose at 5, and dressed herself with much care and neatness. Ben met her as sbe oame to the kitchen door ; and Mrs. Dale, who was already down, began to cut large slices of bread-and-butter, and told him to be quiet and get his breakfast. Susan went to see that her basket of poultry, eggs and butter was ready packed. " Don't let the ducks go for less than six shillings thecouple, cnild," saidMrs. Dale, "and get as much as you can for the fowls. Ducks are in season, and ought to f etch a good pnce. " Susan's a duck hereelf," chimed in Ben. "You're a goose, at aü events, rejoined Susan; "thoughl shouldn't like to have the selling of you, for you would not fetch much. " And ene sat down opposite the boy and began her breakfast, the farm servante coming in soon af ter to get theirs. " Tummas started betimes," said Ben; "I heard him go. Make liaste, Susy - eat away." "There's no hurry, my dear," said Mrs. Dale, as she stirred her porridge; " but you can go and see if Jerry's all ready, and bnng him round." Je'rry was the horse, of respectable and ancient appearance and some'nhat clumsy build, on which Susan usually made her journeys to market. She was a good horsewoman, having been accustomed to ride about the farm with her grandfather sinoe she was quite a child, and she was rather impatient of Jerry's slow paces, though slie knew tliem to be a neces8ity on market-day. "Lady, your palfry waits," cried Ben, bowing at the kitchen door witli mock dignity. "Bless the boy I exclaimedhis mother; "he's full of fun, I declare. Come and help Susan with her baskets. " Jerrywasled to the mounting-stone, which stood in the yard, Susan was duly 8ettled ou her saddle, the baskt ts adjusted, and the horse ambled away up the wooded lane. "Think of me when you meet the robbers, Susy, squealed üen alter ner, as he pretended to be overeóme with grief at her departure. Susan rode along, enjoying tlie fre?h morning and the song of the birds. The dew twinkled on the grass and herbage, and the sun gliuted through the trees overhead, while the scent of the hay, now being made into rieks, fllled the air ■with its uelicious fragrance. When Susan turned into the highroad she found it f uli of carts, horsemen and farmers, all bent on the same errand as herself. It was of no moment whether she arrived at Hazleton sooner than her neighbors, so she took no pains to urge on the steady-going old horse, and she was soon left alone at the foot of a steep ascent. Bef ore many minutes had elapsed, a gentleman oh a fine bay horse overtook her, and, reining him in with difficmlty, asked if he were right for Hazleton, and if it -u-üre market-day there. Susan looked round at him, and was struck with the handsome aquiline face and iercing dark eyes which seemed to tead her tbrough. JUressed in tne beft fashion of the time, his horse carefully groomed tül its glossy coat shone brightly in the sunlight, he made a marked contrast to Susan, on her thickmade, clumsy animsl. " You are bound for the market, too, little maid !" inquired the gentleman, raising his hat as he spoke: "Yes, sir. ■ All the folks are going there a'niost, this morning, I think," answered Susan shyly. "And what have you there? Ohickens and butter?" her interlocutor went on to say. "Do you like the business of buying and selling ?" " It depends on the prices I get for them," returned Susan quickly. The gentleman laughed, and stopped tor a moment to arrange the leather of uis stirrup more to his liking ; whilo Susan rode on, wondering what a wellbred man, on a thorough-bred horse, conld want at Hazleton on a market da.Y'til ifi(') 'While she mused on these points, he lie again ovortook her. !! " May I ask your name 1" he said. "Myname is Susan Stidolph," she mswered simply; and, thoughshowoulc ;iave giyen much to ask him the same luestion, she refrained from innate feel ings of courtesy. As if he divined her thoughts, he iaid : ' My name is Hamilton St. John. Do fou like it ?" "Very much; and wliat do you oal your norse, sir ? " Wildfire; and e, famotts stepper he is Good-by, Mm-, 1 hope you'Jl ge good prices for your fowls and kicks." And away he sped at a tremendous pace. The market was becoming very full wheñ Susan reached Hazleton, and mnny soniids of life resounded on all sides. Here stood ranges of stalls covered with fruit, lieaps of vegetables beiug piled behind in glorious confusión. Baskets and coops containing live poultry lined the interior of the marketplace. Patther on came the pens fnll of sheep and lambs; tlien goodly oxen; then horses of various breeds, sizes and shapes; colts nd ponies, groupcd in a place set apart for the purpose. Tins, pans, crockery and woodcn vessels attracted the housewives to the center of the market, and toys and sweetsstalls kept their venders perpetually on tho alert, so attractive were these wares to the children of the community. Susbh having met Thomas, and given Jerry into his charge, entered the market, and did her best to effect the sale of her poultry; while the farnring-man imdertook the vending of the cows, submitting his bargains to Susan's judgment before concluding them. The day soon carne to a close; all their marketings were attended with good success, and Susan, having made her purchases at the draper'e- an old friend of her aunt's, at whose house she ususilly dined on these occasions - concealed lier money, to the amount of thiriy pounds in gold and notes, in the secret pockets of her stays, purposely made to stow away these treasures, and mounted Jerry for her ride homeward. Very blithe was Susan at the rt sult of her day's work. The cows. had fetched a capital price, and the heiier alone remained unpurchased. Her poultry was all sold, and not a pat of butter remained in her basket. Susan determined to return by a lañe which wound circuitously from the town of Hazleton to the borders of Dingle farm. By this she woultl avoid the society of 'several half-tipsy farmers and rough horsemen, whosê proximity was very undesiranle. Jerry stepped out as was his wont when he scented his atable in the far dietance ; and Susan hummed to herself as she looked on the beauty of the f vening and the scenery around. Birds wcre singing their soft evening lays ; shadows teil darkly across the road from the overhanging bows ; the last rays of the sun gleamed brightly tb rough e very gap in the hcdge ; and fleecy clouds, tinted with the gay colors of a parrot's wing, flóated away eastward in the pale-blue sky. Susan had not proceeded two miles when the sound of a horse's hoofs struck on her ear ; and, as she turned tolookup the lane to see who it might be, her well-dressed acquaintance of the morning rode up to her side and greeted her with a polite bow. " Well met, Susan ! Why, you're late from market. I hope you'vo been uccesfnl." " Pretty well." curtly replied the girl, who was inclined usuaily to be reserved to strangers. " Why, you've an empty basket, I perceive. Do you know I was not so far off as you might thiok ; I saw you while you were making your bargains," said the gentleman, looking straight at usan -with a knowing look. " Well," retumed she, raising lier eyerows, "I liad a notion that I caught ight of your face once ; but, seeing it elonged to a man in a smock-frock, of lourse I took no heed." The Btrariger laughed, and tliere was lomethirig in nis manner which made Sulan feel uncomfortable. He proceeded to ask her numerous juestione, to which she gave at last only nonosyllabic answers ; íortliQ.courteous nannerof Mr. HamiltonSt. John.which íad so attracted her in the morning, had jiven place to an unpleasast faniiliarity jf tone, that grated upon the girl's sense af refinement ; and ahe hoped that her Jisinclination to converse would presently induce him to ride on, and leave her. He soon remarked onher taeiturnifcy, and isked her why she was so nilent. " I don't care to talk nmch to stranjers," she replied. " But I have told you my name, and fou may judge wlien you see a gentleman," said he. " How do I know that you are a gentleman?" asked Susan bluntly. "I think üs very bad mannei'3 to ask so rnany questions. At all evtnts, it's not the way simple f olks are taiight. " ' ' Who do you think I can be, then, Susan, my dear?" inquired the horseman nsinuatingly. "You may be a highwayman for ught I know," courageously exclaimed lie girl. Her companioa laughed loudly and ong ; and Susan in anger, and desperaion at his pertinacity, endeavored to urge poor oíd Jerry to a better pace. 1 í Wliat a good guesser you are, my ear !" cried the horseman. "Suppose take you at your word, and ask you, alter the fashion of real highwaymen, o let me look at your purse." "I don't carry a purse," replied the girl. now somewhat alarmed, and believng that her suepicions as to his strange ehavior were not without foundation. "Do you sec this?" said the man, in a eering tone, drawing a small pistol from iie breast pocket. " It's a little instrument I carry, to induce peopletotell the ruth. Perhaps it'll make yoa do so. Come, out with yoxir money," he added, n a rough voice, catcümg iïoiu oí o ■ ry's bridle at the same moment. Susan was a spirited girl, but she turned pale. Theyhadarrived at a part of the road where it saai between high iedges, and a rising ground on either side bid it entirely from view. It was beooming dark, and, as Susan looked right and left, she heard nothing iut the fsint breeze among the trees, and the ohirp of the grasshopper in the long reeds at the roadside, and all idea of assistance from a casual passenger she knew to be almost hopeless. Though quite faint with terror, she rallied all her courage, and determined to brave out the attempt of the man to rob her of her money. For one moment hope revived. The etranger dismounted and pnssed his bridle over the low, overhanging bough of an elder-tree, and Susan took the opportunity to whip Jerry into something like a trot; but she had not proceeded many yards when the man carne running after, 'easily overtook her, and, laughing derisively, led her horse back to the same spot, where he againaskedherto deliver up her purse to his care. "Better do it quietly, Susan, my dear," he urged. "I shall take it by hook or by crook." Susan still stoutly refused, declaring with many asse.rlions that she carried no purse. "Well, then, we must try what can be done by searching. It's a tiresome prooess, but I'm very patiënt, and net pressed for time to-nignt." H liftert Susau out oí her saáá]fi 8 eaeily as if she had been a baby, unsaddled Jerry, tuming liim loose to grazo as he pleased, and commenced searchiiig lier baskets. Finding uotliing but a few pareéis of tea, calicó, and ribbon, which he oarelessly threw down in the road, he next begged the terrifled girl to remove her hat and cloak, and, coming close to her, began feeling for her pockets. Susan's indignation knew no botrads ; but the robber only laughed, and told her he should take every means to extract the gold from her, and, taking out a large clasp-knife, he said : "It's such a pity to cut this pretty bodice asimder ; but I must, if you are so obstinate. Bless you, do you think I've been years on the" road, and don't knowthe ways of you pretty little maids? The money that was p'aid for the cow is somewhere about, and I am pretty certain it's m a particular pocket of your corset. I shall cut your laces if you try my patience too long ;" and he began to insert the knife iato the Jaceof her bodice. Susan, trembling lest she should lose her senses, now made vp her mind to part with her money, and assured him that if he would retire out ot siglit íor a few minutes she would get atber pocket and give it into his hunda, The robber declared that he could not do that, but that he had no objection to turn bis back. I don't want to distress you, my dear," he said ; but he pulled out his pistol at the same time, and stood waiting. The poor girl proceeded to take off her dress, and, af tersóme difficulty, removed heratays, and, donninghercloakhastily, threw them down before the highwayman. He seized upon them, and, discovering the pocket, soon rifled it of its contents, and then picked up her dress, and began to feel about the linings, to find, if possible, more bank-notes which might be sewn up in them. As Susan stood shaking and irresolute a sudden thought seized her. Oatching up Jerry's saddle, which lay on the ground at her aide, she threw it over the hedge, exclairaing, "You shan't have it all, at any rate." The thief, off his guard for the moment, and thinkin that the eaddle might contain the greater part of the spoil, threw down the dress with an oath; and, cursing frightfully, clambered into and over the hedge to recover the saddle. One of his pistola feil from his coat to the ground; Susan threw it over the opposite hedge, and, releasing the bridle of the robber's horse, elimbed nimbly by the aid of the stirrup on to his back, passing her right knee over the large pistol holster, and giving the animal the reins, golloped up the lane at a tremendous pace. A loud curse and the crack of a pistol, which only cnused the horse to increase its speed, followed;butthe bulletmissed j its aim. Susan heard it whiz past in dangerous-proximity to her ear, and it then lodged harmlessly in the trunk of an old oak by the waye ide. Away flew Wildflre like the wind, with Susan on his baclr, and her courage rose every moment, as she remembered that old Jerry had wandered grazing up the lane, and that it would be impossible for the thief to o ver take her on the well-bred animal she rode, even if he ttempted pursuit. Por an instant, a tering of hoofs made her look hastily back; but the noise was only a lumbering attempt on the part of old Jerry to follow, and keep np with her. Susan's hurried ride off and the shot of the pistol had disturbed his calmgrazings, and he tumed with a clumsy start before the robber could lay hold on her, and, unincumbered by Susan, baskets, or saddle, trotted off at a novel and excited pace after her. Oertain now of safety, she urged the beautiful animal she sat on to its utmost speed, and dashed desperately homeward. " Why, here's a go, mother!" oried Ben, rushing into the faim-kitchen full tilt. "Here's Susy tearing down the lane like mad ! I never thought Jerry cjuld go so fast. I was on the hayrick, and saw her coming. She's something white on." "Susan in white ! It must have been her ghost," said poor superstitious Mrs. Dale, putting down her dishes, and turning pale with apprehension. A great elattering of hoofs over the stones of the yard soon divested her mind of this absurd notion; for, rattling up to the entrance, hardly reined in at the house-door, carne the dark-bay horse, fleoked with foam, having galloped for at least five miles at the top of his speed, with the excited, half-clad girl upon his back. It was the work of a moment for Ben to seize the bridle, and hold the animal's head, while Susan dropped, rather than dismounted, into her aunt's outstretched arms, and, overeóme by her previous emotion, burst into tears. " Goodness gracious !" cried the good woman, altogether scared, "whatever does it all mean 1" ' ' I've been robbed, aunt ! Oh, dear ! nll the money's gone !" wid she sobbed still more. "Poor girl I" said Ben, affectionately, seeing the girl's almost fainting condition. " Come in-doors, Susy." Her aunt led her into the kitchen, and Ben, though as curious as a kitten, knew about horses to see that the one he held must not be allowed to stand with his fianks reeking from recent txercise; so he led him off to the stable, and, having fastened and covered him well up, he returned to the house as quickly as his legs could carry hini. At this moment all were slartled, as old Jerry carne bungling into the yard with a clattering.urigainly gallop, stripped of his usual accontrements. He made his own way to the stable; and Ben, entering the kitohen, found Susan sittiig by his grandfather in the chimney-corner, -while she recounted the adventure she had met with. ' i Ben was right, you see, and I did meet a highwayman," she eaid, as her spirits bcgan to return. "Butl'mso grieved to have lost your money." " What does it matter, so long as you're safe, my dear?" said old Mr. Dale, patting hr hand. "WJjV, the horse you were riding is worth more than what you'vo lost, 111 be bound," oried Ben. " It's a beauty, grandfather 1 What a brave, clevci i riek you played in riding off on him, Susy ! But why was he so vexed aboul the saddle ? Why, of course he thought there was money in it. That's wherc robbers hide their plunder. 111 bt bound thcre's something in liis eaddle. Hl go and fetch it. Hurray !" Off ran the lad, and, culling one of the men, desired him to unsaddle the animal and groom him down immedi ately. The saddle, when xvmoved, proved to heavy for Ben to cvy into the house and old Mr. Dale, who had followed hirr to see the horse, aided him to briug i ín. They laid it 011 the kitchen teble añil (íommence'l searohing it al] ovm1. In the padding tliey found bank notes amounting to L200, and, from an artfully-conceaïed leathor lüring, under the saddle-flaps, golden guineas poured out in inerodible numbers on to the table. "Oh, myeye!" cried Ben. "Why, Suay, you're the robber, after all !" " Oh, don't Ben !" Baid Susan, beginning to cry. The astomshment of the old people was unbounded. They went on counting and counting till they arrived at the sum of L1,000, and they looked f rom one to the other, scarcely crediting their Benses. "Well!" exclaimed old Mr. Dale, "the flrst thing to be done is to give this ■np to the proper owners. Susan's nothing to do with it, nor have we. But I think it's our duty to inform the patrol wherethey are likely to find yonder ruffian. Deiarived of ïiis horse, he cannot proceed f ar from the spot, and Susan may as well have any reward that Government may bc ready to give; and this fellow is very likely to be the man who robbed the Yorkshire coach t'other day. They offer L100 to thoeethat find him." " Oh, pray don't, grandfather- pray don't let me be the cause of his being taken !" cried Susan, imploringly. "Tionsense. mv dear !" replied the old man; " when tlie path of duty is straight and olear before yon, you must walk up to it, though it's hard and unpleasant. ion don't wish ypnderthief totake more money, do yon, from those perhaps who can ill spare it? " Without delny Mr. Dale dispatched a man with a full description of the robber, and instructions to the patrol as to the likeliliood of his being ia the neighborhood, and early the next morning a search was set on foot in all directions by the officials at Ha ziet on. Within three days the notorious tliief Bob Reeve (for such was his real name, and that by which he was known on the road), was taken The patrol had been on his truck sinee his attack on the Yorkshire coaeh, and had no diflioulty m securing the villain when furnished by Mr. Dale with the parciculars of Susan's rencontre with him, and her desoription of his person. He was lodged in Greystone jail, and was shortly alter convicted and executed. The money f ound in the saddle was duly handed over to the Government, who offered half the reward set on the man's head to Susan. She, however, could not bring herself to accept it, but entroated thnt she miölit keep the bershorse Wildlire. This, alter much correspondence and deliberatie, slie was permitted to do, to her great satisfaction. as slie regarded tlie beautiful animal' as the cause of her escape f rom danger, and perchance death. The money found on the highwayman was restored to Mr. Dale, and poor Susan s mind -was thereiore relieved on this pomt. , Siie inarried before long a farmer m the neighborhood, and never ventured to market agaiu. Ben was in due time mvested witli tne longed-for dignity of selling the farmproduce. He failed to encounter any gentlemen of the road, and, as his grandfather often told bim, ït was too much to expect two out of the same family to meet and outfit a highwaymen.


Old News
Michigan Argus