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My Lady Caprice(Chapter6)

2006-08-28 23:22

  VI. The Outlaw

  Everybody knew old Jasper Trent, the Crimean Veteran who had helped to beat the "Roosians and the Proosians," and who, so it was rumored, had more wounds upon his worn, bent body than there were months in the year.

  The whole village was proud of old Jasper, proud of his age, proud of his wounds, and proud of the medals that shone resplendent upon his shrunken breast.

  Any day he might have been seen hobbling along by the river, or pottering among the flowers in his little garden, but oftener still sitting on the bench in the sunshine beside the door of the "Three Jolly Anglers."

  Indeed, they made a fitting pair, the worn old soldier and the ancient inn, alike both long behind the times, dreaming of the past, rather than the future; which seemed to me like an invisible bond between them. Thus, when old Jasper fell ill and taking to his bed had it moved opposite the window where he could lie with his eyes upon the battered gables of the inn - I for one could understand the reason.

  The Three Jolly Anglers is indeed ancient, its early records long since lost beneath the dust of centuries; yet the years have but served to mellow it. Men have lived and died, nations have waxed and waned, still it stands, all unchanged beside the river, watching the Great Tragedy which we call "Life" with that same look of supreme wisdom, that half-waggish, half-kindly air, which I have already mentioned once before.

  I think such inns as this must extend some subtle influence upon those who meet regularly within their walls - these Sons of the Soil, horny-handed, and for the most part grey of head and bent with over much following of the plough. Quiet of voice are they, and profoundly sedate of gesture, while upon their wrinkled brows there sits that spirit of calm content which it is given so few of us to know.

  Chief among these, and held in much respect, was old Jasper Trent. Within their circle he had been wont to sit ensconced in his elbow-chair beside the hearth, his by long use and custom, and not to be usurped; and while the smoke rose slowly from their pipe-bowls, and the ale foamed in tankards at their elbows, he would recount some tale of battle and sudden death - now in the freezing trenches before Sebastopol, now upon the blood-stained heights of Inkermann. Yet, and I noticed it was always towards the end of his second tankard, the old man would lose the thread of his story, whatever it might be, and take up the topic of "The Bye Jarge."

  I was at first naturally perplexed as to whom he could mean, until Mr. Amos Baggett, the landlord, informed me on the Quiet that the "bye Jarge" was none other than old Jasper's only son - a man now some forty years of age - who, though promising well in his youth; had "gone wrong" - and was at that moment serving a long term of imprisonment for burglary; further, that upon the day of his son's conviction old Jasper had had a "stroke," and was never quite the same after, all recollection of the event being completely blotted from his mind, so that he persisted in thinking and speaking of his son as still a boy.

  "That bye were a wonder!" he would say, looking round with a kindling eye; "went away to make 'is fortun' 'e did - oh! 'e were a gen'us were that bye Jarge! You, Amos Baggett, were 'e a gen'us or were 'e not."

  "'E were!" Mr. Baggett would answer, with a slow nod.

  "Look'ee, sir, do'ee see that theer clock?" - and he would point with a bony, tremulous finger - 'stopped it were - got sum'mat wrong wi' its inn'ards - wouldn't stir a finger - dead it were! But that bye Jarge 'e see it 'e did - give it a look over 'e did, an' wi' nout but 'is two 'ands set it a-goin' good as ever: You, Silas Madden, you remember as 'e done it wi' 'is two 'ands?"

  "'Is two 'ands!" Silas would repeat solemnly.

  "An' it's gone ever since!" old Jasper would croak triumphantly. "Oh! 'e were a gen'us were my bye Jarge. 'Ell come a-marchin' back to 'is old feyther, some day, wi' 'is pockets stuffed full o' money an' bank-notes -I knaw - I knaw, old Jasper bean't a fule."

  And herewith, liftng up his old, cracked voice, he would strike up "The British Grenadiers," in which the rest would presently join full lustily, waving their long-stemmed pipes in unison.

  So the old fellow would sit, singing the praises of his scapegrace son, while his hearers wou1d nod solemn heads, fostering old Jasper's innocent delusion for the sake of his white hairs and the medals upon his breast.

  But now, he was down with "the rheumatics," and from what Lisbeth told me when I met her on her way to and from his cottage, it was rather more than likely that the high-backed elbow-chair would know him no more. Upon the old fellow's illness, Lisbeth had promptly set herself to see that he was made comfortable, for Jasper was a lonely old man - had installed a competent nurse beside him, and made it a custom morning and evening to go and see that all was well. It was for this reason that I sat upon the Shrubbery gate towards nine o'clock of a certain evening, swinging my legs and listening for the sound of her step along the path. In the fulness of time she came, and getting off my perch, I took the heavy basket from her arm, as was usual.

  "Dick," she said as we walked on side by side, "really I'm getting quite worried about that Imp."

  "What has he been up to this time?" I inquired.

  "I'm afraid he must be ill."

  "He looked anything but ill yesterday," I answered reassuringly.

  "Yes, I know he looks healthy enough," said Lisbeth, wrinkling her brows; "but lately he has developed such an enormous appetite. Oh, Dick, it's awful!"

  "My poor girl," I retorted, shaking my head, "the genus 'Boy' is distinguished by the two attributes, dirt and appetite. You should know that by this time. I myself have harrowing recollections of huge piles of bread and butter, of vast slabs of cake - damp and 'soggy,' and of mysterious hue - of glutinous mixtures purporting to be 'stick-jaw,' one inch of which was warranted to render coherent speech impossible for ten minutes at least. And then the joy of bolting things fiercely in the shade of the pantry, with one's ears on the stretch for foes! I sometimes find myself sighing over the remembrance, even in these days. Don't worry about the Imp's appetite; believe me, it is quite unnecessary."

  "Oh, but I can't help it," said Lisbeth; "it seems somehow so - so weird. For instance, this morning for breakfast he had first his usual porridge, then five pieces of bread and butter, and after that a large slice of ham - quite a big piece, Dick! And he ate it all so quickly. I turned away to ask Jane for the toast, and when I looked at his plate again it was empty, he had eaten every bit, and even asked for more. Of course I refused, so he tried to get Dorothy to give him hers in exchange for a broken pocket-knife. It was just the same at dinner. He ate the whole leg of a chicken, and after that a wing, and then some of the breast, and would have gone on until he had finished everything, I'm sure, if I hadn't stopped him, though I let him eat as long as I dared. Then at tea he had six slices of bread and butter, one after the other, not counting toast and cake. He has been like this for the last two days - and - oh, yes, cook told me to-night that she found him actually eating dry bread just before he went up to bed. Dry bread-think of it! Oh, Dick, what can be the matter with him?"

  "It certainly sounds mysterious," I answered, "especially as regards the dry bread; but that of itself suggests a theory, which, as the detective says in the story, 'I will not divulge just yet;' only don't worry, Lisbeth, the Imp is all right."

  Being now come to o1d Jasper's cottage, which stands a little apart from the village in a by-lane, Lisbeth paused and held out her hand for the basket.

  "Don't wait for me to-night," she said, "I ordered Peter to fetch me in the dog-cart; you see, I may be late."

  "Is the old chap so very ill ?"

  "Very, very ill, Dick."

  "Poor old Jasper!" I exclaimed.

  "Poor old Jasper!" she sighed, and her eyes were brimful of tenderness.

  "He is very old and feeble," I said, drawing her close, under pretence of handing her the basket; "and yet with your gentle hand to smooth my pillow, and your eyes to look into mine, I could almost wish - "

  "Hush, Dick!"

  "Peter or no Peter, I think I'll wait - unless you really wish me to say 'good-night' now?" But with a dexterous turn she eluded me, and waving her hand hurried up the rose-bordered path.

  An hour, or even two, does not seem so very long when one's mind is so full of happy thoughts as mine was. Thus, I was filling my pipe and looking philosophically about for a likely spot in which to keep my vigil, when I was aware of a rustling close by, and as I watched a small figure stepped from the shadow of the hedge out into the moonlight.

  "Hallo, Uncle Dick!" said a voice.

  "Imp !" I exclaimed, "what does this mean? You ought to have been in bed over an hour ago !"

  "So I was," be answered with his guileless smile; "only I got up again, you know."

  "So it seems!" I nodded.

  "An' I followed you an' Auntie Lisbeth all the way, too."

  "Did you, though; by George!"

  "Yes, an' I dropped one of the parcels an' lost a sausage, but you never heard."

  "Lost a sausage!" I repeated, staring.

  "Oh, it's all right, you know," he hastened to assure me; "I found it again, an' it wasn't hurt a bit,"

  "Imp," I said sternly, "come here, I want to talk to you."

  "Just a minute, Uncle Dick, while I get my parcels. I want you to help me to carry them, please," and with the words he dived under the hedge to emerge a moment later with his arms full of unwieldy packages, which he laid at my feet in a row.

  "Why, what on earth have you got there, Imp ?"

  "This," he said, pointing to the first, "is jam an' ham an' a piece of bread; this next one is cakes an' sardines, an' this one is bread-an'-butter that I saved from my tea."

  "Quite a collection !" I nodded. "Suppose you tell me what you mean to do with them."

  "Well, they're for my outlaw. You remember the other day I wanted to play at being outlaws? Well, two days ago, as I was tracking a base caitiff through the woods with my trusty bow and arrow, I found a real outlaw in the old boat-house."

  "Ah! and what is he like?" I inquired.

  "Oh, just like an outlaw - only funny, you know, an' most awfull' hungry. Are all outlaws always so very hungry, Uncle Dick?"

  "I believe they generally are, Imp. And he looks 'funny,' you say?"

  "Yes; I mean his clothes are funny - all over marks like little crosses, only they aren't crosses."

  "Like this ?" I inquired; and picking up a piece of stick I drew a broad-arrow upon the path.

  "Yes, just like that !" cried the Imp in a tone of amazement "How did you know? You're awfull' clever, Uncle Dick!"

  "And he is in the old boat-house, is he?" I said, as I picked up an armful of packages. "'Lead on, MacDuff!'"

  "Mind that parcel, please, Uncle Dick; it's the one I dropped an' lost the sausage out of - there one trying to escape now!"

  Having reduced the recalcitrant sausage to a due sense of law and order, we proceeded toward the old boat-house - a dismal, dismantled affair, some half mile or so downstream.

  "And what sort of a fellow is your outlaw, Imp?"

  "Well, I spected he'd be awfull' fierce an' want to hold me for ransom, but he didn't; he's quite quiet, for an outlaw, with grey hair and big eyes, an' eats an awful lot."

  "So you saved him your breakfast and dinner, did you?"

  "Oh, yes; an' my tea, too. Auntie Lisbeth got awfull' angry 'cause she said I ate too fast; an' Dorothy was frightened an' wouldn't sit by me 'cause she was 'fraid I'd burst - so frightfully silly of her!"

  "By the way, you didn't tell me what you have there," I said, pointing to a huge, misshapen, newspaper parcel that he carried beneath one arm.

  "Oh, it's a shirt, an' a coat, an' a pair of trousers of Peter's."

  "Did Peter give them to you?"

  "'Course not; I took them. You see, my outlaw got tired of being an outlaw, so he asked me to get him some 'togs,' meaning clothes, you know, so I went an' looked in the stable an' found these."

  "You don't mean to say that you stole them, Imp?"

  "'Course not!" he answered reproachfully. "I left Peter sixpence an' a note to say I would pay him for them when I got my pocket-money, so help me, Sam!"

  "Ah, to be sure!" I nodded. We were close to the old boat-house now, and upon the Imp's earnest solicitations I handed over my bundles and hid behind a tree, because, as he pointed out, "his outlaw might not like me to see him just at first."

  Having opened each package with great care and laid out their contents upon a log near by, the Imp approached the ruined building with signs of the most elaborate caution, and gave three loud, double knocks. Now casting my eyes about, I espied a short, heavy stick, and picking it up, poised it in my hand ready in the event of possible contingencies.

  The situation was decidedly unpleasant, I confess, for I expected nothing less then to be engaged in a desperate hand-to-hand struggle within the next few minutes; therefore, I waited in some suspense, straining my eyes to wards the shadows with my fingers clasped tight upon my bludgeon.

  Then all at once I saw a shape, ghostly and undefined, flit swiftly from the gloom of the boat-house, and next moment a convict was standing beside the Imp, gaunt and tall and wild-looking in the moonlight. His hideous clothes, stained with mud and the green slime of his hiding-places, hung upon him in tatters, and his eyes, deep-sunken in his pallid face, gleamed with an unnatural brightness as he glanced swiftly about him - a miserable, hunted creature, worn by fatigue, and pinched with want and suffering.

  "Did ye get 'em, sonny?" he inquired, in a hoarse, rasping voice.

  "Aye, aye, comrade," returned the Imp; "all's well!"

  "Bless ye for that, sonny !" he exclaimed, and with the words he fell to upon the food devouring each morsel as it was handed to him with a frightful voracity, while his burning, restless eyes glared about him, never still for a moment.

  Now as I noticed his wasted form and shaking limbs, I knew that I could master him with one hand. My weapon slipped from my slackened grasp, but at the sound, slight though it was, he turned and began to run. He had not gone five yards, however, when he tripped and fell, and before he could rise I was standing over him. He lay there at my feet, perfectly still, blinking up at me with red-rimmed eyes.

  "All right, master," he said at last; "you've got me!" But with the words he suddenly rolled himself towards the river, yet as he struggled to his knees I pinned him down again.

  "Oh, sir! you won't go for to give me up to them?" he panted. "I've never done you no wrong. For God's sake don't send me back to it again, sir."

  "'Course not," cried the Imp, laying his hand upon my arm; "this is only Uncle Dick. He won't hurt you, will you, Uncle Dick?"

  "That depends," I answered, keeping tight hold of the tattered coat collar. "Tell me, what brings you hanging round here?"

  "Used to live up in these parts once, master."

  "Who are you?"

  "Convict 49, as broke jail over a week ago an' would ha' died but for the little 'un there," and he nodded towards the Imp.

  The convict, as I say, was a tall, thin fellow, with a cadaverous face lined with suffering, while the hair at his temples was prematurely white. And as I looked at him, it occurred to me that the suffering which had set its mark so deeply upon him was not altogether the grosser anguish of the body. Now for our criminal who can still feel morally there is surely hope. I think so, anyhow! For a long moment there was silence, while I stared into the haggard face below, and the Imp looked from one to the other of us, utterly at a loss.

  "I wonder if you ever heard tell of 'the bye Jarge,'" I said suddenly.

  The convict started so violently that the jacket tore in my grasp.

  "How - how did ye know - ?" he gasped, and stared at me with dropped jaw.

  "I think I know your father."

  "My feyther," he muttered; "old Jasper - 'e ain't dead, then?"

  "Not yet," I answered; "come, get up and I'll tell you more while you eat." Mechanically he obeyed, sitting with his glowing eyes fixed upon my face the while I told him of old Jasper's lapse of memory and present illness.

  "Then 'e don't remember as I'm a thief an' convict 49, master?"

  "No; he thinks and speaks of you always as a boy and a pattern son."

  The man uttered a strange cry, and flinging himself upon his knees buried his face in his hands.

  "Come," I said, tapping him on the shoulder; "take off those things," and nodding to the Imp, he immediately began unwrapping Peter's garments.

  "What, master," cried the convict, starting up, "are you goin' to let me see 'im afore you give me up?"

  "Yes I nodded; "only be quick? In less than live minutes the tattered prison dress was lying in the bed of the river, and we were making our way along the path towards old Jasper's cottage.

  The convict spoke but once, and that as we reached the cottage gate: "is he very ill, sir?"

  "Very ill," I said. He stood for a moment, inhaling the fragrance of the roses in great breaths, and staring about him; then with an abrupt gesture he opened the little gate, and gliding up the path with his furtive, stealthy footstep knocked at the door. For some half hour the Imp and I strolled to and fro in the moonlight, during which he related to me much about his outlaw and the many "ruses he had employed to get him provision." How upon one occasion, to escape the watchful eyes of Auntie Lisbeth, he had been compelled to hide a slice of jam-tart in the trousers-pockets, to the detriment of each; how Dorothy had watched him everywhere in the momentary expectation of "something happening;" how Jane and Peter and cook would stand and stare and shake their heads at him because he ate such a lot, "an' the worst of it was I was aw full' hungry all the time, you know, Uncle Dick!" This and much more he told me as we waited there in the moonlight.

  At last the cottage door opened and the convict came out. He did not join us at once, but remained staring away towards the river, though I saw him jerk his sleeve across his eyes more than once in his furtive, stealthy fashion; but when at last he came up to us his face was firm and resolute.

  "Did you see old Jasper?" I asked.

  "Yes, sir; I saw him."

  "Is he any better?"

  "Much better - he died in my arms, sir. An' now I'm ready to go back, there's a police-station in the village." He stopped suddenly and turned to stare back at the lighted windows of the cottage, and when he spoke again his voice sounded hoarser than ever.

  "Thought I'd come back from furrin parts, 'e did, wi' my pockets stuffed full o' gold an' bank-notes. Called me 'is bye Jarge, 'e did!" and again he brushed his cuff across his eyes.

  "Masters I don't know who ye may be, but I'm grateful to ye an' more than grateful, sir. An' now I'm ready to go back an' finish my time."

  "How much longer is that?"

  "Three years, sir."

  "And when you come out, what shall you do then?"

  "Start all over again, sir; try to get some honest work an' live straight."

  "Do you think you can?"

  "I know I can, sir. Ye see, he died in my arms, called me 'is bye Jarge, said 'e were proud of me, 'e did! A man can begin again an' live straight an' square wi' a memory the like o' that to 'elp 'im."

  "Then why not begin to-night?"

  He passed a tremulous hand through his silver hair, and stared at me with incredulous eyes.

  "Begin-to-night!" he half whispered.

  "I have an old house among the Kentish hop-gardens," I went on; "no one lives there at present except a care-taker, but it is within the bounds of probability that I may go to stay there - some day. Now the gardens need trimming, and I'm very fond of flowers; do you suppose you could make the place look decent in - say, a month ?"

  "Sir," he said in a strange, broken voice, "you ain't jokin' with me, are you?"

  "I could pay you a pound a week; what do you say?"

  He tried to speak, but his lips quivered, and he turned his back upon us very suddenly. I tore a page from my pocket-book and scrawled a hasty note to my care-taker.

  "Here is the address," I said, tapping him on the shoulder. "You will find no difficulty. I will write again to-night. You must of course have money to get there and may need to buy a few necessaries besides; here is your first week's wages in advance," and I thrust a sovereign into his hand. He stared down at it with blinking eyes, shuffling awkwardly with his feet, and at that moment his face seemed very worn, and lined, and his hair very grey, yet I had a feeling that I should not regret my quixotic action in the end.

  "Sir," he faltered, "sir, do ye mean - ?" and stopped.

  "I mean that to-night 'the bye Jarge' has a chance to make a new beginning, a chance to become the man his father always thought he would be. Of course I may be a fool to trust you. That only time will show; but you see I had a great respect for old Jasper. And now that you have the address you'd better go; stay, though, you must have a hat; folks might wonder - take this," and I handed him my cap.

  "Sir, I can't thank ye now, I never can. It - it won't come; but - " with a nervous, awkward gesture he caught my hand suddenly pressed it to his lips, and was gone down the lane.

  Thus it was that old Jasper's "bye Jarge" went out to make a trial of life a second time, and as I watched him striding through the moonlight, his head erect, very different to the shambling creature he had been, it seemed to me that the felon was already ousted by the man.

  "I 'specks he forgot all 'bout me !" said the Imp disconsolately.

  "No," I answered, shaking my head; "I don't think he will ever forget you, my Imp."

  "I 'spose he's awfull' fond of you, Uncle Dick?"

  "Not that I know of,"

  "Then why did he kiss your hand?"

  "Oh, well - er - perhaps it is a way he has."

  "He didn't kiss mine," said the Imp.

  A door opened and closed very softly, and Lisbeth came towards us down the path, whereupon the Imp immediately "took cover" in the ditch.

  "He is dead, Dick!" she said as I opened the gate. "He died in his son's arms - the George he was always talking about. And oh, Dick, he died trying to sing 'The British Grenadiers."

  "Poor old Jasper!" I said.

  "His son was a convict once, wasn't he?"

  "Yes."

  "It was strange that he should come back as he did - just in time; it almost seems like the hand of Providence, doesn't it, Dick?"

  "Yes." Lisbeth was standing with her elbows upon the gate and her chin in her hands, staring up at the moon, and I saw that her eyes were wet with tears.

  "Why, where is your cap ?" she exclaimed when at last she condescended to look at me.

  "On the head of an escaped convict,"

  I answered.

  "Do you mean - "

  "The 'bye Jarge,'" I nodded.

  "Oh, Dick!"

  "Yes, Lisbeth; it was a ridiculous piece of sentiment I admit. Your 1aw abiding, level-headed citizen would doubtless be highly shocked, not to say scandalised; likewise the Law might get up on its hind legs and kick - quite unpleasantly; but all the same, I did it"

  "You were never what one might call - very 'level-headed,' were you, Dick?"

  "No, I'm afraid not."

  "And, do you know, I think that is the very reason why I - good gracious! - what is that?" She pointed toward the shadow of the hedge.

  "Merely the Imp," I answered; "but never mind that - tell me what you were going to say - 'the very reason why you' - what?"

  "Reginald!" said Lisbeth, unheeding my question, "come here, sir!" Very sheepishly the Imp crept forth from the ditch, and coming up beside me, stole his hand into mine, and I put it in my pocket.

  "Reginald?" she repeated, looking from one to the other of us with that expression which always renews within me the memory of my boyish misdeeds, "why are you not asleep in bed?"

  "'Cause I had to go an' feed my outlaw, Auntie Lisbeth."

  "And," I put in to create a diversion, "incidentally I've discovered the secret of his 'enormous appetite.' It is explained in three words, to wit, 'the bye Jarge."

  "Do you mean to say - " began Lisbeth.

  "Fed him regularly twice a day," I went on, "and nearly famished himself in the doing of it - you remember the dry-bread incident?"

  "Imp!" cried Lisbeth; "Imp!" And she had him next moment in her arms.

  "But Uncle Dick gave him a whole sovereign, you know," he began; "an' - "

  "I sent him to a certain house, Lisbeth," I said, as her eyes met mine; "an old house that stands not far from the village of Down, in Kent, to prune the roses and things. I should like it to be looking its best when we get there; and - "

  "An' my outlaw kissed Uncle Dick's hand," pursued the Imp. "Don't you think he must love him an awful lot?"

  "I gave him a month to do it in," I went on; "but a month seems much too long when one comes to consider - what do you think, Lisbeth?"

  "I think that I hear the wheels of the dog-cart!" she cried. Sure enough, a moment later Peter hove in view, and great was his astonishment at sight of "Master Reginald."

  "Peter," I said, "Miss Elizabeth has changed her mind, and will walk back with us; and - er - by the way, I understand that Master Reginald purchased a coat, a shirt, and a pair of trousers of you, for which he has already paid a deposit of sixpence. Now, if you will let me know their value - "

  "That's hall right, Mr. Brent, sir. Betwixt you and me, sir, they wasn't up to much, nohow, the coat being tightish, sir - tightish - and the trousis uncommon short in the leg for a man o' my hinches, sir."

  "Nevertheless," said I, "a coat's a coat, and a pair of trousers are indubitably a pair of trousers, and nothing can alter the fact; so if you will send me in a bill some time I shall be glad."

  "Very good, Mr. Brent, sir." Saying which Peter touched his hat and turning, drove away.

  "Now," I said as I rejoined Lisbeth and the Imp, "I shall be glad if you will tell me how long it should take for my garden to look fair enough to welcome you?"

  "Oh, well, it depends upon the gardener, and the weather, and - and heaps of things," she answered, flashing her dimple at me,

  "On the contrary," I retorted, shaking my head, "it depends altogether upon the whim of the most beautiful, tempting - "

  "Supposing," sighed Lisbeth, "supposing we talk of fish!"

  "You haven't been fishing lately, Uncle Dick," put in the Imp.

  "I've had no cause to," I answered; "you see, I am guilty of such things only when life assumes a grey monotony of hue and everything is a flat, dreary desolation. Do you understand, Imp?"

  "Not 'zackly - but it sounds fine! Auntie Lisbeth," he said suddenly, as we paused at the Shrubbery gate, "don't you think my outlaw must be very, very fond of Uncle Dick to kiss his hand?"

  "Why, of course he must," nodded Lisbeth.

  "If," he went on thoughtfully, "if you loved somebody - very much - would you kiss their hand, Auntie Lisbeth ?"

  "I don't know - of course not!"

  "But why not - s'posing their hand was nice an' clean ?"

  "Oh, well - really I don't know. Imp, run along to bed; do."

  "You know now that I wasn't such a pig as to eat all that food, don't you?" Lisbeth kissed him.

  "Now be off to bed with you."

  "You'll come an' tuck me up, an' kiss me good-night, won't you?"

  "To be sure I will," nodded Lisbeth,

  "Why, then, I'll go," said the Imp; and with a wave of the hand to me he went.

  "Dick," said Lisbeth, staring up at the moon, "it was very unwise of you, to say the least of it, to set a desperate criminal at large."

  "I'm afraid it was, Lisbeth; but then I saw there was good in the fellow, you know, and - er - "

  "Dick," she said again, and then laughed suddenly, with the dimple in full evidence; "you foolish old Dick - you know you would have done it anyway for the sake of that dying old soldier."

  "Poor old Jasper!" I said; "I'm really afraid I should." Then a wonderful thing happened; for as I reached out my hand to her, she caught it suddenly in hers, and before I knew had pressed her lips upon it - and so was gone.

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