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ARRIVED at the brow of the hill, whence such a beautiful view of the country surrounding the metropolis is obtained,* Turpin turned for an instant to reconnoitre his pursuers. Coates and Titus he utterly disregarded; but Paterson was a more formidable foe, and he well knew that he had to deal with a man of experience and resolution. It was then, for the first time, that the thoughts of executing his extraordinary ride to York first flashed across him; his bosom throbbed high with rapture, and he involuntarily exclaimed aloud, as he raised himself in the saddle, "By God! I will do it!"
Accordingly, as Turpin was by no means desirous of inconveniencing his mare in this early stage of the business, and as the ground was still upon an ascent, the parties preserved their relative distances.
At length, after various twistings and turnings in that deep and devious lane; after scaring one or two farmers, and riding over a brood or two of ducks; dipping into the verdant valley of West End, and ascending another hill, Turpin burst upon the gorsy, sandy, and beautiful heath of Hampstead. Shaping his course to the left, Dick then made for the lower part of the heath, and skirted a path that leads towards North End, passing the furze-crowned summit which is now crested by a clump of lofty pines.
It was here that the chase first assumed a character of interest. Being open ground, the pursued and pursuers were in full view of each other; and as Dick rode swiftly across the heath, with the shouting trio hard at his heels, the scene had a very animated appearance. He crossed the hill the Hendon Road passed Crackskull Common and dashed along the cross road to Highgate.
Hitherto no advantage had been gained by the pursuers; they had not lost ground, but still they had not gained an inch, and much spurring was required to maintain their position. As they approached Highgate, Dick slackened his pace, and the other party redoubled their efforts. To avoid the town, Dick struck into a narrow path at the right, and rode easily down the hill.
His pursuers were now within a hundred yards, and shouted to him to stand. Pointing to a gate which seemed to bar their further progress, Dick unhesitatingly charged it, clearing it in beautiful style. Not so with Coates's party; and the time they lost in unfastening the gate, which none of them chose to leap, enabled Dick to put additional space betwixt them. It did not, however, appear to be his intention altogether to outstrip his pursuers: the chase seemed to give him excitement, which he was willing to prolong as much as was consistent with his safety. Scudding rapidly past Highgate, like a swift-sailing schooner, with three lumbering Indiamen in her wake, Dick now took the lead along a narrow lane that threads the fields in the direction of Hornsey. The shouts of his followers had brought others to join them, and as he neared Crouch End, traversing the lane which takes its name from Du-Val, and in which a house frequented by that gayest of robbers stands, or stood, "A highwayman! a highwayman!" rang in his ears, in a discordant chorus of many voices.
The whole neighbourhood was alarmed by the cries, and by the tramp of horses: the men of Hornsey rushed into the road to seize the fugitive, and women held up their babes to catch a glimpse of the flying cavalcade, which seemed to gain number and animation as it advanced. Suddenly three horsemen appear in the road they hear the uproar and the din. "A highwayman! a highwayman!" cry the voices: "stop him, stop him!" But it is no such easy matter. With a pistol in each hand, and his bridle in his teeth, Turpin passed boldly on. His fierce looks his furious steed the impetus with which he pressed forward, bore down all before him. The horsemen gave way, and only served to swell the list of his pursuers.
"We have him now we have him now!" cried Paterson, exultingly. "Shout for your lives. The turnpike-man will hear us. Shout again again! The fellow has heard it. The gate is shut. We have him. Ha, ha!"
The old Hornsey toll-bar was a high gate, with chevaux-de-frise in the upper rail. It may be so still. The gate was swung into its lock, and, like a tiger in his lair, the prompt custodian of the turnpike trusts, ensconced within his doorway, held himself in readiness to spring upon the runaway. But Dick kept steadily on. He coolly calculated the height of the gate; he looked to the right and to the left nothing better offered; he spoke a few words of encouragement to Bess, gently patted her neck, then struck spurs into her sides, and cleared the spikes by an inch. Out rushed the amazed turnpike-man, thus unmercifully bilked, and was nearly trampled to death under the feet of Paterson's horse.
"Open the gate, fellow, and be expeditious," shouted the chief constable.
"Not I," said the man, sturdily, "unless I gets my dues. I've been done once already. But strike me stupid if I'm done a second time."
"Don't you perceive that's a highwayman? Don't you know that I'm chief constable of Westminster?" said Paterson, showing his staff. "How dare you oppose me in the discharge of my duty?"
"That may be, or it may not be," said the man, doggedly. "But you don't pass, unless I gets the blunt, and that's the long and short of it."
Amidst a storm of oaths Coates flung down a crown piece, and the gate was thrown open.
Turpin took advantage of this delay to breathe his mare; and, striking into a by-lane at Duckett's Green, cantered easily along in the direction of Tottenham. Little repose was allowed him. Yelling like a pack of hounds in full cry, his pursuers were again at his heels. He had now to run the gauntlet of the long straggling town of Tottenham, and various were the devices of the populace to entrap him. The whole place was up in arms, shouting, screaming, running, dancing, and hurling every possible description of missile at the horse and her rider. Dick merrily responded to their clamour as he flew past, and laughed at the brickbats that were showered thick as hail, and quite as harmlessly, around him.
A few more miles' hard riding tired the volunteers, and before the chase reached Edmonton most of them were "nowhere". Here fresh relays were gathered, and a strong field was again mustered. John Gilpin himself could not have excited more astonishment amongst the good folks of Edmonton, than did our highwayman as he galloped through their town. Unlike the men of Tottenham, the mob received him with acclamations, thinking, no doubt, that, like "the citizens of famous London town", he rode for a wager. Presently, however, borne on the wings of the blast, came the cries of, "Turpin! Dick Turpin!" and the hurrahs were changed to hootings; but such was the rate at which our highwayman rode, that no serious opposition could be offered to him.
A man in a donkey-cart, unable to get out of the way, drew himself up in the middle of the road. Turpin treated him as he had done the dub at the knapping jigger, and cleared the driver and his little wain with ease. This was a capital stroke, and well adapted to please the multitude, who are ever taken with a brilliant action. "Hark away, Dick!" resounded on all hands, while hisses were as liberally bestowed upon his pursuers.
It was now grey twilight. The mists of coming night were weaving a thin curtain over the rich surrounding landscape. All the sounds and hum of that delicious hour were heard, broken only by the regular clatter of the horses' hoofs. Tired of shouting, the chasers now kept on their way in deep silence; each man held his breath, and plunged his spurs, rowel deep, into his horse; but the animals were already at the top of their speed, and incapable of greater exertion. Paterson, who was a hard rider, and perhaps a thought better mounted, kept the lead. The rest followed as they might.
Had it been undisturbed by the rush of the cavalcade, the scene would have been still and soothing. Overhead a cloud of rooks were winging their garrulous flight to the ancestral avenue of an ancient mansion to the right; the bat was on the wing; the distant lowing of a herd of lone saluted the ear at intervals; the blithe whistle of the rustic herdsman, and the merry chime of waggon bells, rang pleasantly from afar. But these cheerful sounds, which make the still twilight hour delightful, were lost in the tramp of the horsemen, now three abreast. The hind fled to the hedge for shelter, and the waggoner pricked up his ears, and fancied he heard the distant rumbling of an earthquake.
On rush the pack, whipping, spurring, tugging for very life. Again they gave voice, in hopes the waggoner might succeed in stopping the fugitive. But Dick was already by his side. "Harkee, my tulip," cried he, taking the pipe from his mouth as he passed, "tell my friends behind they will hear of me at York."
"What did he say?" asked Paterson, coming up the next moment.
"That you'll find him at York," replied the waggoner.
"At York!" echoed Coates, in amaze.
Full of ardour and excitement, determined to execute what he had mentally undertaken, Turpin held on his solitary course. Everything was favourable to his project; the roads were in admirable condition, his mare was in like order; she was inured to hard work, had rested sufficiently in town to recover from the fatigue of her recent journey, and had never been in more perfect training. "She has now got her wind in her," said Dick; "I'll see what she can do hark away, lass hark away! I wish they could see her now," added he, as he felt her almost fly away with him.
Black Bess being undoubtedly the heroine of this Romance, we may, perhaps, be pardoned for here expatiating a little in this place upon her birth, parentage, breeding, appearance, and attractions. And first as to her pedigree; for in the horse, unlike the human species, nature has strongly impressed the noble or ignoble caste. He is the real aristocrat, and the pure blood that flows in the veins of the gallant steed will infallibly be transmitted, if his mate be suitable, throughout all his line. Bess was no cock-tail. She was thorough-bred; she boasted blood in every bright and branching vein
As to her pedigree. Her sire was a desert Arab, renowned in his day, and brought to this country by a wealthy traveller; her dam was an English racer, coal-black as her child. Bess united all the fire and gentleness, the strength and hardihood, the abstinence and endurance of fatigue of the one, with the spirit and extraordinary fleetness of the other. How Turpin became possessed of her is of little consequence. We never heard that he paid a heavy price for her; though we doubt if any sum would have induced him to part with her. In colour, she was perfectly black, with a skin smooth on the surface as polished jet; not a single white hair could be detected in her satin coat. In make she was magnificent. Every point was perfect, beautiful, compact; modelled, in little, for strength and speed. Arched was her neck, as that of the swan; clean and fine were her lower limbs, as those of the gazelle; round and sound as a drum was her carcase, and as broad as a cloth-yard shaft her width of chest. Hers were the "pulchrae clunes, breve caput, arduaque cervix", of the Roman bard. There was no redundancy of flesh, 'tis true; her flanks might, to please some tastes, have been rounder, and her shoulder fuller; but look at the nerve and sinew, palpable through the veined limbs! She was built more for strength than beauty, and yet she was beautiful. Look at that elegant little head; those thin tapering ears, closely placed together; that broad snorting nostril, which seems to snuff the gale with disdain; that eye, glowing and large as the diamond of Giamschid! Is she not beautiful? Behold her paces! how gracefully she moves! She is off! no eagle on the wing could skim the air more swiftly. Is she not superb? As to her temper, the lamb is not more gentle. A child might guide her.
But hark back to Dick Turpin. We left him rattling along in superb style, and in the highest possible glee. He could not, in fact, be otherwise than exhilarated; nothing being so wildly intoxicating as a mad gallop. Away, away! the road is level, the path is clear. Press on, thou gallant steed, no obstacle is in thy way! and, lo! the moon breaks forth! Her silvery light is thrown over the woody landscape. Dark shadows are cast athwart the road, and the flying figures of thy rider and thyself are traced, like giant phantoms, in the dust!
"Well," mused Turpin, "I suppose one day it will be with me like all the rest of 'em, and that I shall dance a long lavolta to the music of the four whistling winds, as my betters have done before me; but I trust, whenever the chanter-culls and last-speech scribblers get hold of me, they'll at least put no cursed nonsense into my mouth, but make me speak, as I have ever felt, like a man who never either feared death, or turned his back upon his friend. In the meantime I'll give them something to talk about. This ride of mine shall ring in their ears long after I'm done for put to bed with a mattock, and tucked up with a spade.
And thou, too, brave Bess! thy name shall be linked with mine, and we'll go down to posterity together; and what," added he, despondingly, "if it should be too much for thee? what if but no matter! Better die now, while I am with thee, than fall into the knacker's hands. Better die with all thy honours upon thy head, than drag out thy old age at the sand-cart. Hark forward, lass hark forward!"
Bess is now in her speed, and Dick happy. Happy! he is enraptured maddened furious intoxicated as with wine. Pshaw! wine could never throw him into such a burning delirium. Its choicest juices have no inspiration like this. Its fumes are slow and heady. This is ethereal, transporting. His blood spins through his veins; winds round his heart; mounts to his brain. Away! away! He is wild with joy. Hall, cot, tree, tower, glade, mead, waste, or woodland, are seen, passed, left behind, and vanish as in a dream. Motion is scarcely perceptible it is impetus! volition! The horse and her rider are driven forward, as it were, by self-accelerated speed. A hamlet is visible in the moonlight. It is scarcely discovered ere the flints sparkle beneath the mare's hoofs. A moment's clatter upon the stones, and it is left behind. Again, it is the silent, smiling country. Now they are buried in the darkness of woods; now sweeping along on the wide plain; now clearing the unopened toll-bar; now trampling over the hollow-sounding bridge, their shadows momently reflected in the placid mirror of the stream; now scaling the hillside a thought more slowly; now plunging, as the horses of Phbus into the ocean, down its precipitous sides.
The limits of two shires are already past. They are within the confines of a third. They have entered the merry county of Huntingdon; they have surmounted the gentle hill that slips into Godmanchester. They are by the banks of the rapid Ouse. The bridge is past; and as Turpin rode through the deserted streets of Huntingdon, he heard the eleventh hour given from the iron tongue of St. Mary's spire. In four hours (it was about seven when he started) Dick had accomplished full sixty miles!
We will now make inquiries after Mr. Coates and his party, of whom both we and Dick Turpin have for some time lost sight. With unabated ardour the vindictive man of law and his myrmidons pressed forward. A tacit compact seemed to have been entered into between the highwayman and his pursuers, that he was to fly while they were to follow. Like bloodhounds, they kept steadily upon his trail; nor were they so far behind as Dick imagined. At each post-house they passed they obtained fresh horses, and, while these were saddling, a postboy was despatched en courier to order relays at the next station. In this manner they proceeded after the first stoppage without interruption. Horses were in waiting for them, as they, "bloody with spurring, fiery hot with haste", and their jaded hacks arrived. Turpin had been heard or seen in all quarters. Turnpike-men, waggoners, carters, trampers, all had seen him. Besides, strange as it may sound, they placed some faith in his word. York they believed would be his destination.
Eighty and odd miles had now been traversed the boundary of another county, Northampton, passed; yet no rest nor respite had Dick Turpin or his unflinching mare enjoyed. But here he deemed it fitting to make a brief halt.
Bordering the beautiful domains of Burleigh House stood a little retired hostelrie of some antiquity, which bore the great Lord Treasurer's arms. With this house Dick was not altogether unacquainted. The lad who acted as ostler was known to him. It was now midnight, but a bright and beaming night. To the door of the stable then did he ride, and knocked in a peculiar manner. Reconnoitring Dick through a broken pane of glass in the lintel, and apparently satisfied with his scrutiny, the lad thrust forth a head of hair as full of straw as Mad Tom's is represented to be upon the stage. A chuckle of welcome followed his sleepy salutation. "Glad to see you, Captain Turpin," said he; "can I do anything for you?" "Get me a couple of bottles of brandy and a beefsteak," said Dick.
"As to the brandy, you can have that in a jiffy but the steak, Lord love ye, the old ooman won't stand it at this time; but there's a cold round, mayhap a slice of that might do or a knuckle of ham?"
"A pest on your knuckles, Ralph," cried Dick; "have you any raw meat in the house?"
"Raw meat!" echoed Ralph, in surprise. "Oh, yes, there's a rare rump of beef. You can have a cut off that, if you like."
"That's the thing I want," said Dick, ungirthing his mare. "Give me the scraper. There, I can get a wisp of straw from your head. Now run and get the brandy. Better bring three bottles. Uncork 'em, and let me have half a pail of water to mix with the spirit."
"A pail full of brandy and water to wash down a raw steak! My eyes!" exclaimed Ralph, opening wide his sleepy peepers; adding, as he went about the execution of his task, "I always thought them Rum-padders, as they call themselves, rum fellows, but now I'm sartin sure on it."
The most sedulous groom could not have bestowed more attention upon the horse of his heart than Dick Turpin now paid to his mare. He scraped, chafed, and dried her, sounded each muscle, traced each sinew, pulled her ears, examined the state of her feet, and ascertaining that her "withers were unwrung", finally washed her from head to foot in the diluted spirit, not, however, before he had conveyed a thimbleful of the liquid to his own parched throat, and replenished what Falstaff calls a "pocket pistol", which he had about him. While Ralph was engaged in rubbing her down after her bath, Dick occupied himself, not in dressing the raw steak in the manner the stable-boy had anticipated, but in rolling it round the bit of his bridle.
"She will now go as long as there's breath in her body," said he, putting the flesh-covered iron within her mouth.
The saddle being once more replaced, after champing a moment or two at the bit, Bess began to snort and paw the earth, as if impatient of delay; and, acquainted as he was with her indomitable spirit and power, her condition was a surprise even to Dick himself. Her vigour seemed inexhaustible, her vivacity was not a whit diminished, but, as she was led into the open space, her step became as light and free as when she started on her ride, and her sense of sound as quick as ever. Suddenly she pricked her ears, and uttered a low neigh. A dull tramp was audible.
"Ha!" exclaimed Dick, springing into his saddle; "they come."
"Who come, Captain?" asked Ralph.
"The road takes a turn here, don't it?" asked Dick "sweeps round to the right by the plantations in the hollow?"
"Ay, ay, Captain," answered Ralph; "it's plain you knows the ground."
"What lies behind yon shed?"
"A stiff fence, Captain a reg'lar rasper. Beyond that a hillside steep as a house; no oss as was ever shoed can go down it."
"Indeed!" laughed Dick.
A loud halloo from Major Mowbray, who seemed advancing upon the wings of the wind, told Dick that he was discovered. The major was a superb horseman, and took the lead of his party. Striking his spurs deeply into his horse, and giving him bridle enough, the major seemed to shoot forward like a shell through the air. The Burleigh Arms retired some hundred yards from the road, the space in front being occupied by a neat garden, with low, clipped edges. No tall timber intervened between Dick and his pursuers, so that the motions of both parties were visible to each other. Dick saw in an instant that if he now started he should come into collision with the major exactly at the angle of the road, and he was by no means desirous of hazarding such a rencontre. He looked wistfully back at the double fence.
"Come into the stable. Quick, Captain, quick!" exclaimed Ralph.
"The stable?" echoed Dick, hesitating.
"Ay, the stable; it's your only chance. Don't you see he's turning the corner, and they are all coming? Quick, sir, quick!"
Dick, lowering his head, rode into the tenement, the door of which was unceremoniously slapped in the major's face, and bolted on the other side.
"Villain!" cried Major Mowbray, thundering at the door, "come forth. You are now fairly trapped at last caught like the woodcock in your own springe. We have you. Open the door, I say, and save us the trouble of forcing it. You cannot escape us. We will burn the building down but we will have you."
"What dun you want, measter?" cried Ralph, from the lintel, whence he reconnoitered the major, and kept the door fast. "You're clean mista'en. There be no one here."
"We'll soon see that," said Paterson, who had now arrived; and, leaping from his horse, the chief constable took a short run, to give himself impetus, and with his foot burst open the door. This being accomplished, in dashed the major and Paterson, but the stable was vacant. A door was open at the back; they rushed to it. The sharply sloping sides of a hill slipped abruptly downwards, within a yard of the door. It was a perilous descent to the horseman, yet the print of a horse's heels was visible in the dislodged turf and scattered soil.
"Confusion!" cried the major, "he has escaped us."
"He is yonder," said Paterson, pointing out Turpin moving swiftly through the steaming meadow. "See, he makes again for the road he clears the fence. A regular throw he has given us, by the Lord!"
"Nobly done, by Heaven!" cried the major. "With all his faults, I honour the fellow's courage, and admire his prowess. He's already ridden tonight as I believe never man rode before. I would not have ventured to slide down that wall, for it's nothing else, with the enemy at my heels. What say you, gentlemen, have you had enough? Shall we let him go, or ?"
"As far as chase goes, I don't care if we bring the matter to a conclusion," said Titus. "I don't think, as it is, that I shall have a sate to sit on this week to come. I've lost leather most confoundedly."
"What says Mr. Coates?" asked Paterson. "I look to him."
"Then mount, and off," cried Coates. "Public duty requires that we should take him."
"And private pique," returned the major. "No matter! The end is the same. Justice shall be satisfied. To your steeds, my merry men all. Hark, and away."
Once more upon the move, Titus forgot his distress, and addressed himself to the attorney, by whose side he rode.
"What place is that we're coming to?" asked he, pointing to a cluster of moonlit spires belonging to a town they were rapidly approaching.
"Stamford," replied Coates.
"Stamford!" exclaimed Titus; "by the powers! then, we've ridden a matter of ninety miles. Why, the great deeds of Redmond O'Hanlon were nothing to this! I'll remember it to my dying day, and with reason," added he, uneasily shifting his position on the saddle.
Dick Turpin, meanwhile, held bravely on his course. Bess was neither strained by her gliding passage down the slippery hillside, nor shaken by larking the fence in the meadow. As Dick said, "It took a devilish deal to take it out of her." On regaining the high road she resumed her old pace, and once more they were distancing Time's swift chariot in its whirling passage o'er the earth. Stamford, and the tongue of Lincoln's fenny shire, upon which it is situated, are passed almost in a breath. Rutland is won and passed, and Lincolnshire once more entered.
We have before said that the vehement excitement of continued swift riding produces a paroxysm in the sensorium amounting to delirium. Dick's blood was again on fire. He was first giddy as after a deep draught of kindling spirit; this passed off, but the spirit was still in his veins the estro was working in his brain. All his ardour, his eagerness, his fury, returned. He rode like one insane, and his courser partook of his frenzy. She bounded; she leaped; she tore up the ground beneath her; while Dick gave vent to his exultation in one wild prolonged halloo. More than half his race is run. He has triumphed over every difficulty. He will have no further occasion to halt. Bess carries her forage along with her. The course is straightforward success seems certain the goal already reached the path of glory won. Another wild halloo, to which the echoing woods reply, and away!
Away! away! thou matchless steed! yet brace fast thy sinews hold, hold thy breath, for, alas, the goal is not yet attained!
Time presses. We may not linger in our course. We must fly on before our flying highwayman. Full forty miles shall we pass over in a breath. Two more hours have elapsed, and he still urges his headlong career, with heart resolute as ever, and purpose yet unchanged. Fair Newark, and the dashing Trent, "most loved of England's streams", are gathered to his laurels. Broad Notts, and its heavy paths and sweeping glades; its waste (forest no more) of Sherwood past; bold Robin Hood and his merry men, his Marian and his moonlight rides, recalled, forgotten, left behind. Hurrah! hurrah! That wild halloo, that waving arm, that enlivening shout what means it? He is once more upon Yorkshire ground; his horse's hoof beats once more the soil of that noble shire. So transported was Dick, that he could almost have flung himself from the saddle to kiss the dust beneath his feet. Thrice fifty miles has he run, nor has the morn yet dawned upon his labours. Hurrah! the end draws nigh; the goal is in view. Halloo! halloo! on!
Bawtrey is past. He takes the lower road by Thorne and Selby. He is skirting the waters of the deep-channelled Don.
Bess now began to manifest some slight symptoms of distress. There was a strain in the carriage of her throat, a dullness in her eye, a laxity in her ear, and a slight stagger in her gait, which Turpin noticed with apprehension. Still she went on, though not at the same gallant pace as heretofore. But, as the tired bird still battles with the blast upon the ocean, as the swimmer still stems the stream, though spent, on went she: nor did Turpin dare to check her, fearing that, if she stopped, she might lose her force, or if she fell, she would rise no more.
It was now that grey and grimly hour ere one flicker of orange or rose has gemmed the east, and when unwearying Nature herself seems to snatch brief repose. A dull mist lay on the stream, and the air became piercing cold. Turpin's chilled fingers could scarcely grasp the slackening rein, while his eyes, irritated by the keen atmosphere, hardly enabled him to distinguish surrounding objects, or even to guide his steed. It was owing, probably, to this latter circumstance, that Bess suddenly floundered and fell, throwing her master over her head.
Turpin instantly recovered himself. His first thought was for his horse. But Bess was instantly upon her legs covered with dust and foam, sides and cheeks and with her large eyes glaring wildly, almost piteously, upon her master.
"Art hurt, lass?" asked Dick, as she shook herself, and slightly shivered. And he proceeded to the horseman's scrutiny. "Nothing but a shake; though that dull eye those quivering flanks " added he, looking earnestly at her. "She won't go much further, and I must give it up what! give up the race just when it's won? No, that can't be. Ha! well thought on. I've a bottle of liquid, given me by an old fellow, who was a knowing cove and famous jockey in his day, which he swore would make a horse go as long as he'd a leg to carry him, and bade me keep it for some great occasion. I've never used it; but I'll try it now. It should be in this pocket."
Raising her head upon his shoulder, Dick poured the contents of the bottle down the throat of his mare. Nor had he to wait long before its invigorating effects were instantaneous. The fire was kindled in the glassy orb; her crest was once more erected; her flank ceased to quiver; and she neighed loud and joyously.
"Egad, the old fellow was right," cried Dick. "The drink has worked wonders. What the devil could it have been? It smells like spirit," added he, examining the bottle. "I wish I'd left a taste for myself. But here's that will do as well." And he drained his flask of the last drop of brandy.
Once more, at a gallant pace, he traversed the banks of the Don, skirting the fields of flax that bounds its sides, and hurried far more swiftly than its current to its confluence with the Aire.
Snaith was past. He was on the road to Selby when dawn first began to break. Here and there a twitter was heard in the hedge; a hare ran across his path, grey looking as the morning self; and the mists began to rise from the earth. A bar of gold was drawn against the east, like the roof of a gorgeous palace. But the mists were heavy in this world of rivers and their tributary streams. The Ouse was before him, the Trent and Aire behind; the Don and Derwent on either hand, all in their way to commingle their currents ere they formed the giant Humber. Amid a region so prodigal of water, no wonder the dews fell thick as rain. Here and there the ground was clear; but then again came a volley of vapour, dim and palpable as smoke.
The sun had just o'ertopped the "high eastern hill", as Turpin reached the Ferry of Cawood, and his beams were reflected upon the deep and sluggish waters of the Ouse. Wearily had he dragged his course thither wearily and slow. The powers of his gallant steed were spent, and he could scarcely keep her from sinking. It was now midway 'twixt the hours of five and six. Nine miles only lay before him, and that thought again revived him. He reached the water's edge, and hailed the ferry-boat, which was then on the other side of the river. At that instant a loud shout smote his ear; it was the halloo of his pursuers. Despair was in his look. He shouted to the boatman, and bade him pull fast. The man obeyed; but he had to breast a strong stream, and had a lazy bark and heavy sculls to contend with. He had scarcely left the shore, when another shout was raised from the pursuers. The tramp of their steeds grew louder and louder.
The boat had scarcely reached the middle of the stream. His captors were at hand. Quietly did he walk down the bank, and as cautiously enter the water. There was a plunge, and steed and rider were swimming down the river.
Major Mowbray was at the brink of the stream. He hesitated an instant, and stemmed the tide. Seized, as it were, by a mania for equestrian distinction, Mr. Coates braved the torrent. Not so Paterson. He very coolly took out his bulldogs, and, watching Turpin, cast up in his own mind the pros and cons of shooting him as he was crossing. "I could certainly hit him," thought, or said, the constable; "but what of that? A dead highwayman is worth nothing alive, he weighs 300l. I won't shoot him, but I'll make a pretence." And he fired accordingly.
The shot skimmed over the water, but did not, as it was intended, do much mischief. It, however, occasioned a mishap, which had nearly proved fatal to our aquatic attorney. Alarmed at the report of the pistol, in the nervous agitation of the moment Coates drew in his rein so tightly that his steed instantly sank. A moment or two afterwards he rose, shaking his ears, and floundering heavily towards the shore, and such was the chilling effect of this sudden immersion, that Mr. Coates now thought much more of saving himself than of capturing Turpin. Dick, meanwhile, had reached the opposite bank, and, refreshed by her bath, Bess scrambled up the sides of the stream, and speedily regained the road. "I shall do it yet," shouted Dick; "that stream has saved her. Hark away, lass! Hark away!"
Bess heard the cheering cry, and she answered to the call. She roused all her energies; strained every sinew; and put forth all her remaining strength. Once more, on wings of swiftness, she bore him away from his pursuers, and Major Mowbray, who had now gained the shore, and made certain of securing him, beheld him spring, like a wounded hare, from beneath his very hand.
"It cannot hold out," said the major; "it is but an expiring flash; that gallant steed must soon drop."
"She be regularly booked, that's certain," said the postboy. "We shall find her on the road."
Contrary to all expectations, however, Bess held on, and set pursuit at defiance. Her pace was swift as when she started. But it was unconscious and mechanical action. It wanted the ease, the lightness, the life of her former riding. She seemed screwed up to a task which she must execute. There was no flogging, no gory heel; but the heart was throbbing, tugging at the sides within. Her spirit spurred her onwards. Her eye was glazing; her chest heaving; her flank quivering; her crest again fallen. Yet she held on. "She is dying!" said Dick. "I feel it " No, she held on.
Fulford is past. The towers and pinnacles of York burst upon him in all the freshness, the beauty, and the glory of a bright, clear, autumnal morn. The ancient city seemed to smile a welcome a greeting. The noble Minster and its serene and massive pinnacles, crocketed, lantern-like, and beautiful; Saint Mary's lofty spire, All-Hallows Tower, the massive mouldering walls of the adjacent postern, the grim castle, and Clifford's neighbouring keep all beamed upon him, "like a bright-eyed face, that laughs out openly."
"It is done it is won," cried Dick. "Hurrah, hurrah!" And the sunny air was cleft with his shouts.
Bess was not insensible to her master's exultation. She neighed feebly in answer to his call, and reeled forwards. It was a piteous sight to see her to mark her staring, protruding eyeball her shaking flanks; but, while life and limb held together, she held on.
Another mile is past. York is near.
"Hurrah!" shouted Dick; but his voice was hushed. Bess tottered fell. There was a dreadful gasp a parting moan a snort; her eye azed, for an instant, upon her master, with a dying glare; then grew glassy, rayless, fixed. A shiver ran through her frame. Her heart had burst.
Dick's eyes were blinded, as with rain. His triumph, though achieved, was forgotten his own safety was disregarded. He stood weeping and swearing, like one beside himself.
"And art thou gone, Bess?" cried he, in a voice of agony, lifting up his courser's head, and kissing her lips, covered with blood-flecked foam. "Gone, gone! and I have killed the best steed that was ever crossed! And for what?" added Dick, beating his brow with his clenched hand "for what? for what?"
At this moment the deep bell of the Minster clock tolled out the hour of six.
"I am answered," gasped Dick; "it was to hear those strokes!"
Turpin was roused from the state of stupefaction into which he had fallen by a smart slap on the shoulder. Recalled to himself by the blow, he started at once to his feet, while his hands sought his pistols; but he was spared the necessity of using them, by discovering in the intruder the bearded visage of the gipsy Balthazar. The patrico was habited in mendicant weeds, and sustained a large wallet upon his shoulders.
"So it's all over with the best mare in England, I see," said Balthazar; "I can guess how it has happened you are pursued?"
"I am," said Dick, roughly.
"Your pursuers are at hand?"
"Within a few hundred yards."
"Then why stay here? Fly while you can."
"Never never," cried Turpin; "I'll fight it out here by Bess's side. Poor lass! I've killed her but she has done it ha, ha! we have won what?" And his utterance was again choked.
"Hark! I hear the tramp of horse, and shouts," cried the patrico. "Take this wallet. You will find a change of dress within it. Dart into that thick copse save yourself."
"But Bess I cannot leave her," exclaimed Dick, with an agonizing look at his horse.
"And what did Bess die for, but to save you?" rejoined the patrico.
"True, true," said Dick; "but take care of her. Don't let those dogs of hell meddle with her carcase."
"Away," cried the patrico; "leave Bess to me."
Possessing himself of the wallet, Dick disappeared in the adjoining copse.
He had not been many seconds when Major Mowbray rode up.
"Who is this?" exclaimed the major, flinging himself from his horse, and seizing the patrico: "this is not Turpin."
"Certainly not," replied Balthazar, coolly. "I am not exactly the figure for a highwayman."
"Where is he? what has become of him?" asked Coates, in despair, as he and Paterson joined the major.
"Escaped, I fear," replied the major. "Have you seen anyone, fellow?" added he, addressing the patrico.
"I have seen no one," replied Balthazar. "I am only this instant arrived. This dead horse lying in the road attracted my attention."
"Poor Black Bess!" said Major Mowbray, wistfully regarding the body of the mare, as it lay stretched at his feet. "Thou deservedst a better fate, and a better master. In thee, Dick Turpin has lost his best friend. His exploits will, henceforth, want the colouring of romance, which the unfailing energies threw over them. Light lie the ground over thee, thou matchless mare!"
To the Bowling-green the party proceeded, leaving the patrico in undisturbed possession of the lifeless body of Black Bess. Major Mowbray ordered a substantial repast to be prepared with all possible expedition.
A countryman in a smock-frock was busily engaged at his morning's meal.
"To see that fellow bolt down his breakfast, one would think he had fasted for a month," said Coates; "see the wholesome effects of an honest industrious life, Paterson. I envy him his appetite I should fall to with more zest were Dick Turpin in his place."
The countryman looked up. He was an odd-looking fellow, with a terrible squint, and a strange contorted countenance.
"An ugly dog!" exclaimed Paterson: "what a devil of a twist he has got!"
"What's that you says about Dick Taarpin, measter?" asked the countryman, with his mouth half full of bread.
"Have you seen aught of him?" asked Coates.
"Not I," mumbled the rustic; "but I hears aw the folks hereabouts talk on him. They say as how he sets all the lawyers and constables at defiance, and laughs in his sleeve at their efforts to cotch him ha, ha! He gets over more ground in a day than they do in a week ho, ho!"
"That's all over now," said Coates, peevishly. "He has cut his own throat ridden his famous mare to death."
The countryman almost choked himself, in the attempt to bolt a huge mouthful. "Ay indeed, measter! How happened that?" asked he, so soon as he recovered speech.
"The fool rode her from London to York last night," returned Coates; "such a feat was never performed before. What horse could be expected to live through such work as that?"
"Ah, he were a foo' to attempt that," observed the countryman: "but you followed belike?"
"And took him arter all, I reckon?" asked the rustic, squinting more horribly than ever.
"No," returned Coates, "I can't say we did; but we'll have him yet. I'm pretty sure he can't be far off. We may be nearer him than we imagine."
"May be so, measter," returned the countryman; "but might I be so bold as to ax how many horses you used i' the chase some half-dozen, maybe?"
"Half a dozen!" growled Paterson; "we had twenty at the least."
"And I ONE!" mentally ejaculated Turpin, for he was the countryman.