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and I saw that the stagey aspect of the scheme had taken hold of his fancy. “We'll dine, and then, cloaked from head to heel, go silently and on foot” (I rather winced' at this—hate walking) to the stables : there, we shall frustrate this villainous plot. The Sergeant is coming up to see me at nine o'clock. I'll get him to send a constable to meet us at the scene of action."
I felt a little dull at dinner that night. Somehow the plan, in its altered form, e.g., minus the study and its comforts, seemed to have lost its attractions for me. Pouncer, however, was brim-full of enthusiasm, and when, at nine precisely, the Sergeant was shown in and asked to take a seat at the table, cart-ropes and wild horses wouldn't have kept my host from going through with the business.
"Help yourself, Sergeant,” he said, passing the port. And the Sergeant helped himself! He didn't want any pressing, that man; and when he left to return to his quarters and despatch a constable to our aid, Pouncer gently murmured, “Pretty swallow, homeward fly."
Snow was lightly falling as, hooded and cloaked like the villains in a transpontine melodrama, we started on our long tramp to the training stables. Pouncer, theatrical to the last, had insisted on the advisability of our wearing a disguise, though why we should do anything of the kind I was
utterly at a loss to think. He had pro“Golden Fleece."
duced a black wig, a pair of blue goggles, "Precisely," I answered. But as Ishock, and-er-as
a beard, and a false nose, and to my great
you say-er—why, didn't quite know what “it” was, I was there you are, you know.” hardly in a position to advise on the sub- “Yes, there you are,” he sighed, whilst ject. Another man would have admitted I began to crave for something a little his igrorance. Not so the cool and prac- more tangible than this before being called tised lawyer.
on to speak. Pouncer nodded his head three or four “At the dead of night, the villains will times in silence. Then he said, “Yes; it's make their attempt," resumed Pouncer, to be done—this dastard's deed—with a who is rather theatrical in manner/he was mallet.”
once a distinguished amateur actor, and I wondered if they were going to drive has never quite got over it. nails into the horse or cut pieces out of Having, stayed at Foxbrush Hall once him with a cold chisel. But I still kept before, I knew the situation of the stables, silence, and "sat tight.".
and remembered that they were directly “One blow on the hock, and—” Here overlooked by Pouncer's study window, a Pouncer's eyes turned up to Heaven-at most cosy little den. least, I think they must have. I know his “I have it !” I exclaimed. “Pouncer, we nose did; but that was chronic.
-just you and I, you know-must watch “Ahl I repeated, “one blow on the the stables all night. We will sit in your
study, make up a cheerful log fire, have the
Bluffington and Pouncer disguised.
your great skill in your own line, the law. I 'must admit that I did not feel 80 Do give me credit for knowing something eager. I-well, possibly I should not have about theatrical disguises, and when to suggested this plan had I guessed that the assume them.” And, somewhat mollified watching would have to be done outside. by his reference to my well-known legal There was a rawness in the air which gave acumen, I gave way, and put on the false promise of a fall of snow, too. I tried to nose, whilst he assumed the wig and beard. effect a strategic movement en retraite. Thus disguised, we silently trudged that
“I don't really know why the police awful five miles in the falling snow. shouldn't do the watching, after all, you Arriving within fifty yards of the long, know, Pouncer," I began.
low range of stabling, and hard by The Nobbler (as Pouncer imagined him). By no means," he interrupted, hastily; the trainer's cottage, Pouncer suddenly “One blow on the hock," &c.
“ by no manner of means, my dear fellow," gripped my arm and whispered
black leather pelisse. It was the con- We got colder and colder. The snow fell stable ! “Pelisse constable, grinned in intermittent showers, and before long, Pouncer, laughing at his own feeblo joke. my feet felt completely frozen; and, I did not appear to hear him. It was easy speaking for myself, I should have been enough for him to cut his jokes, I dare willing to abandon the enterprise altosay.
He hadn't had half of his teeth gether. Pouncer, however, was inexorloosened by this truculent brute. I had. able, and until I was afflicted with a terrific I accepted the constable's apologies with fit of sneezing, even refused to allow me to the best grace I could assume. Then he remove my false nose. greatly annoyed me again by bursting out The hours wore slowly on. It must have into boorish laughter at my false nose. been about four in the morning when the How I cursed Pouncer for making me constable, in hoarse tones (we were all wear the ridiculous thing. He himself was quite certain of violent colds by that time) rather improved in appearance by the wig remarked that he “could do with a drink. and beard he had assumed. Any disguise We passed by the observation in silence; it would be sure to improve a man with a was vulgar and in bad taste. But I took face like Pouncer's.
a surreptitious sip now and then at a small We took up our position round the pocket-flask I had with me-really too small corner of the stables to commence our to offer to the others. My teeth were weary vigil, and I will not deny that the chattering, and I sneezed at distressingly presence of the constable's stalwart form frequent intervals. No sign of any midhad its comforting influence on me. One night marauders_coming. Oh! why had 1 could not feel quite so lonely when stand- ever left the Temple, I asked myself, ing next to a man like the Eiffel Tower. despairingly, to be frozen to death watoh
Policeman attacks Bluffington.
“Ha! ha! look at those footprints. You see them ?”
I saw them; they were big enough, certainly, and evidently made by a very “ useful ” foot.
“He has gone_right up to the stable door," continued Pouncer.
Depend upon it, it is this man's hand which will be apparent in to-night's work !”
His foot is, anyhow," I replied. “We will track him down. But softly -sh! Bluffington, you go first."
“Think so ? Now, I should say, you go first, and make the main attack, as it were ; meantime, I could be doing splendid work, skirmishing round the rearl”
But even as we spoke, a fleeting moonbeam shot athwart the sky, and revealed to our gaze a dark, lurking figure boldly silhouetted against the white-painted stable. The apparition was so unexpected —and so big—that we both nearly dropped from fri—astonishment. Then the lurking form advanced rapidly on us, and simultaneously turned to—I mean, we both conceived the idea, curiously enough, at the same moment of time, that we really ought to go to the cottage and apprise the trainer, when, with a sudden spring, the man was upon me. Why he should have given me the preference over Pouncer, I don't know. I could have wished it otherwise, as he caught me by the collar and administered such a severe shaking that all the teeth in my head seemed to rattle again.
“So I've got yer, ’ave I? You're the party as has come to nobble the Golden Fleas, ’ave yer?" (Another shake.) “Got a false conkon, too!” (Shake number three.) “Well, you're buckled to rights this journey, and no error."
But just at this moment another fitful gleam of moonlight revealed the mystery. My assailant wore a helnet and shining
ing for villains who never come? Why tension—as I saw the big constable draw that insufferable idiot, Pouncer, actually dij I ever suggest this vigil to Pouncer? his truncheon, and lead the way to the turned round in a furious passion, and Wby did Oh! den Pouncer! stables.
laid the blame upon me! And I tried again to stamp the blood into We were upon them before they had The following week, the much-talked-of my frozen feet, and actually rubbed the time for any effective resistance—that is, Golden Fleece finished an inglorious last in tip of my false nose feelingly, my own the constable was. Pouncer and I held the Mudbury Grand Christmas Steeplebeing so numbed by this time that I ourselves in readiness, as a sort of reserve, 'chase. Pouncer has retired from the turf couldn't tell the real from the sham. in the background. The policeman's in disgust. John Grumpy and his head
The clock over the stables had just struck attack was splendid. With his staff he lad have brought actions against him to the hour of five, when Pouncer convul- knocked down the first man on the spot, recover heavy damages for assault and sively clutched my cloak. See, they then he half throttled the second; whilst battery; whilst the miserable ingrate himcome,” he exclaimed, in deep, tragic tones, we, Pouncer and I — as reserves, you self, meeting me in the hall of the Junior and sure enough, our patience was to be understand-advanced upon the boy. Al- International, called me a blithering idiot, rewarded at last, for approaching us through though small, he proved a desperate cus- before witnesses, and said he had half 6 the now thawing snow (it had been a tomer, and it was only after the constable mind to kick me down the stairs. Verily, beast of a night!) we could just discern bad secured and handcuffed his second gratitude is an extinct emotion in this the forms of two men and a boy. They man, and come to our assistance, that we world. What I feel to be harder than
“ Golden Fleece finished an inglorious last." spoke no word, and came steadily along to succeeded in making the capture. Unfor- anything_except perhaps that horrid little the stables.
tunately, the little ruffian had inflicted stable-boy's boot—is that Pouncer, with "I see it all!” murmured Pouncer. considerable injury upon us before accept- these two actions on hand, has gone to “The boy is to be put through the key- ing defeat, and Pouncer had received a another lawyer, and left me in the lurch. bole—the window I mean. He will then severe blow in the region of the lower admit the men by the door. Once aboard chest, whilst I was suffering from the STAR-CUM-MOONSHINE FOR DECEMBER.the lug Once inside, the deed will be effects of a kick somewhere at the back of At the time of the New Moon, Jupiter will done quickly. But we will frustrate them. me. A light was quickly struck, and the be triumphant, in spite of the efforts of Hist! Down with you! Down, man, for whole scene revealed to us.
Scorpio to cause trouble. Good fortune
I am bound to say that anything more to the Sultan of Turkey and the Junior And he shoved me violently into a painful and humiliating I have never wit- Common Law Judge, both of whom will squatting posture in the wet snow—most nessed before or since. unpleasant position, and wholly unneces- We had knocked down, captured, hand- racter.
receive congratulations of a pleasing cha
The 25th will be a great day for sary, as we were round the corner, and cuffed, or otherwise maltreated, not the holly and mistletoe. Boxing Day, 26th, quite out of sight—but Pouncer always nefarious-minded “nobblers” for whom we
generally lucky to tradesmen, officials, serwas so fond of stage effect.
had been watching, but Pouncer's emi- vants, and others. The weather will not We gave them about two minutes in nently respectable trainer, Mr. John disappoint expectations. Astrological (and which to effect an entrance. I turned my Grumpy, his head lad, and the boy in universal) motto for the month, "A Merry head and took just one last sip of the flask, attendance on Golden Fleece, all of whom Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of and then-well, I am free to confess that had just entered the stable in pursuance of I gave a great gulp, not exactly from ner- their ordinary early morning avocations. vousness, you know, but a great swallow, As the lately-contending parties gazed RIDDLES OF THE YEAR.– Why trave indicating tension-yes, that's the word, blankly and breathlessly at each other, abroad when you are happier at home?
CATALUMU UNAUNGANALDIQOMUNU QUNUTRAVARUUNUMURUMUUUUUUUUMMANUUUUUUUUTA
Designs for Mr. Punch's Goblin Tapestry.