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tenacity of a bird of prey, Peter for some time kept his station in security; but unluckily, at one dike rather wider than the rest, the horse, owing possibly to the mismanagement, intentional or otherwise, of Luke, swerved, and the sexton dislodged from his "high estate," fell at the edge of the trench, and rolled incontinently to the bottom.
Luke drew in the rein to inquire if any bones were broken; and Peter presently upreared his dusty person from the abyss, and without condescending to make any reply, yet muttering curses, not loud, but deep,” accepted his grandson's proffered hand, and remounted.
While thus occupied, Luke fancied he heard a distant shout, and noting whence the sound proceeded — the same quarter by which he had approached the heath he beheld a single horseman, spurring in their direction, at the top of his speed; and to judge from the rate at which he advanced, it was evident he was any thing but indifferently mounted. Apprehensive of pursuit, Luke expedited the sexton's ascent; and that accomplished, without bestowing further regard upon the object of his solicitude, he resumed his headlong flight. He now thought it necessary to bestow more attention to his choice of road, and, perfectly acquainted with the heath, avoided all unnecessarily hazardous passes. In spite of his knowledge of the ground, and the excellence of his horse, the stranger sensibly gained upon him. The danger, however, was no longer imminent.
"We are safe," cried Luke ; "the limits of Hardchase are past. In a few seconds, we shall enter Davenham Wood. will turn the horse loose, and we will betake ourselves to flight amongst the trees. I will show you a place of concealment. He cannot follow us on horseback, and on foot I defy him.
"Stay," cried the sexton. "He is not in pursuit—he takes another course-he wheels to the right. By heaven! it is the Fiend himself upon a black horse, come for bow-legged Ben. See, he is there already."
The horseman had turned, as the sexton stated, careering towards a revolting object, at some little distance on the righthand. It was a gibbet, with its grisly burden. He rode swiftly towards it, and, reining in his horse, took off his hat, bowing profoundly to the carcass that swung in the morning
breeze. Just at that moment a gust of air catching the fleshless skeleton, its arm seemed to be waved in reply to the salutation. A solitary crow winged its flight over the horseman's head as he paused. After a moment's halt, he wheeled about, and again shouted to Luke, waving his hat. "As I live," said the latter, "it is Jack Palmer." "Dick Turpin, you mean," rejoined the sexton. been paying his respects to a brother blade. Ha, ha! Dick will never have the honour of a gibbet; he is too tender of the knife. Did you mark the crow? -But here he comes." And in another instant Turpin was by their side.
A GIPSY ENCAMPMENT.
I see a column of slow-rising smoke
"THE top of the morning to you, gem'men," said Turpin, as he rode up at an easy canter. "Did you not hear my halloo? I caught a glimpse of you on the hill yonder. I knew you both, two miles off; and so, having a word or two to say to you, Luke Bradley, before I leave this part of the country, I put Bess to it, and she soon brought me within hail. Bless her black skin," added he, affectionately patting his horse's neck, "there's not her match in these parts, or in any other; she wants no coaxing to do her work no bleeders for her. I should have been up with you before this, had I not taken a cross cut to look at poor Ben.
One night, when mounted on my mare,
To Bagshot-Heath I did repair,
And saw Will Davies hanging there,
With a rustified, fustified, mustified air.
Excuse my singing. The sight of a gibbet always puts me in mind of the Golden Farmer. May I ask whither you are bound, comrades ?
"Comrades!" whispered the sexton to Lukedoes not so easily forget his old friends."
"You see he
"I have business that will not admit of delay," rejoined Luke; "and, to speak plainly
"You want not my society," returned Turpin; “I guessed as much. Natural enough! You have got an inkling of your good fortune. You have found out you are a rich man's heir, not a poor wench's bastard. No offence, I'm a plain spoken man, as you will find, if you know it not already. I have no objection to your playing these fine tricks on others, though it wo'n't answer your turn to do so with me." "Sir!" exclaimed Luke, sharply. “Sir, to you,” replied Turpin. you would now choose to be addressed.
"Sir Luke-as I suppose I am aware of all.
A nod is as good as a wink to me. Last night I learnt the fact ay, from her of Sir Piers's marriage from Lady Rookwood: ladyship. You stare - and old Peter, there, opens his ogles She let it out by accident; and I am in possession of what can alone substantiate your father's first marriage, and establish claims to the property."
"The devil!" cried the sexton, adding in a whisper to Luke, "You had better not be precipitate in dropping so obliging an acquaintance."
"You are jesting," said Luke to Turpin.
"It is ill jesting before breakfast," returned Dick: “I am seldom in the mood for a joke so early.
What if a certain
marriage certificate had fallen into my hand?"
"A marriage certificate!" echoed Luke and the sexton simultaneously.
"The only existing proof of the union of Sir Piers Rook"What if I wood with Susan Bradley," continued Turpin. had stumbled upon such a document―nay more, if I knew where to direct you to it?"
"Had you not better condescend to renew your former intimacy?" whispered Peter.
"Peace!" cried Luke to his tormentor; and then addressing Turpin, "if what you say be true, my quest is at an end. All that I need, you appear to possess. Other proofs are secondary What do you to this. I know with whom I have to deal. demand for that certificate?"
"We will talk about the matter after breakfast," said
Turpin. "I wish to treat with you as friend with friend. Meet me on those terms, and I am your man; reject my offer, and I turn my mare's head, and ride back to Rookwood. With me now rests all your hopes. I have dealt fairly with you, and I expect to be fairly dealt with, in return. It were idle to say now I have an opportunity that I should not turn this luck to my account. I were a fool to do otherwise. You cannot expect it. And then I have Rust and Wilder to settle with. Though I have left them behind, they know my destiWe have been old associates. I like your spirit — I care not for your haughtiness :- - but I will not help you up the ladder to be kicked down myself. Now you understand me. Whither are you bound?"
"To Davenham Priory, the gipsy camp."
"The gipsies are your friends?"
"I am alone."
"You are safe."
"You pledge your word that all shall be on the square. You will not mention to one of that canting crew what I have told you?"
"With one exception, you may rely upon my secrecy." "Whom do you except?"
"Bad! never trust a petticoat."
"I will answer for her with my life."
"And for your grand-dad there ?"
"He will answer for himself," said Peter. "You need not fear treachery in me. Honour among thieves, you know." "Or where else should you seek it?" rejoined Turpin; "for it has left all other classes of society. Your highwayman is your only man of honour. I will trust you both; and you shall find you may trust me. After breakfast, as I said before, we will bring the matter to a conclusion. Tip us your daddle, Sir Luke, and I am satisfied. You shall rule in Rookwood, I'll engage, ere a week be flown and then - but so much parleying is dull work :- let's make the best of our way to breakfast."
And away they cantered.
air felt chilly amidst the trees, the sun not having attained sufficient altitude to penetrate its depths, while over-head all was warmth and light. Quivering on the tops of the timber, the horizontal sunbeams created, in their refraction, brilliant prismatic colourings, and filled the air with motes like golden dust. Our horsemen heeded not the sunshine or the shade. Occupied each with his own train of thought, they silently rode on.
Davenham Wood, through which they urged their course, had, in the olden time, been a forest of some extent. It was then an appendage to the domains of Rookwood, but had passed from the hands of that family to those of wealthy adjoining land-owner and lawyer, Sir Edward Davenham, in the keeping of whose descendants it had ever after continued. A noble wood it was, and numbered many patriarchal trees. Ancient oaks, with broad gnarled limbs, which the storms of five hundred years had vainly striven to uproot, and which were now sternly decaying ; — gigantic beech-trees, with silvery stems shooting smoothly upwards, sustaining branches of such size, that each, dissevered, would in itself have formed a tree, populous with leaves, and variegated with rich autumnal tints; the sprightly sycamore, the dark chestnut, the weird wych-elm, the majestic elm itself, festooned with ivy, every variety of wood, dark, dense, and intricate, composed the forest through which they rode; and so multitudinous was the timber, so closely planted, so entirely filled up with a thick matted vegetation, which had been allowed to collect beneath, that little view was afforded, had any been desired by the parties, into the labyrinth of the grove. Tree after tree, clad in the glowing livery of the season, was passed, and as rapidly succeeded by others. Occasionally a bough projected over their path, compelling the riders to incline their heads as they passed; but, heedless of such difficulties, they pressed on. Now the road grew lighter, and they became at once sensible of the genial influence of the sun. The transition was as agreeable as instantaneous. They had opened upon an extensive plantation of full grown pines, whose tall, branchless stems grew up like a forest of masts, and freely admitted the pleasant sunshine. Beneath those trees, the soil was sandy, and destitute of all undergrowth, though covered with brown hairlike fibres and dry cones, shed by the pines. The agile squirrel,