“Fust thing I did arter breakfast,” ses Sam, “I took that di’mond ring to a pawnshop and found out it wasn’t a di’mond ring. Then I did a bit more thinking, and I went round to a shop I know and bought a couple o’ knuckle-dusters.”
“Couple o’ wot?” ses Ginger, in a choking voice.
“Knuckle-dusters,” ses Sam, “and I turned up to-night at Tower Hill with one on each ’and just as the clock was striking nine. I see ’em the moment I turned the corner—two enormous big chaps, a yard acrost the shoulders, coming down the middle of the road—You’ve got a cold, Ginger!”
“No, I ain’t,” ses Ginger.
“I pretended to be drunk, same as the tec told me,” ses Sam, “and then I felt ’em turn round and creep up behind me. One of ’em come up behind and put ’is knee in my back and caught me by the throat, and the other gave me a punch in the chest, and while I was gasping for breath took my purse away. Then I started on ’em.”
“Lor’!” ses Ginger, very nasty.
“I fought like a lion,” ses Sam. “Twice they ’ad me down, and twice I got up agin and hammered ’em. They both of ’em ’ad knives, but my blood was up, and I didn’t take no more notice of ’em than if they was made of paper. I knocked ’em both out o’ their hands, and if I hit ’em in the face once I did a dozen times. I surprised myself.”
“You surprise me,” ses Ginger.
“All of a sudden,” ses Sam, “they see they ’ad got to do with a man wot didn’t know wot fear was, and they turned round and ran off as hard as they could run. You ought to ha’ been there, Ginger. You’d ’ave enjoyed it.”
Ginger Dick didn’t answer ’im. Having to sit still and listen to all them lies without being able to say anything nearly choked ’im. He sat there gasping for breath.
“O’ course, you got your purse back in the fight, Sam?” ses Peter.
“No, mate,” ses Sam. “I ain’t going to tell you no lies—I did not.”
“And ’ow are you going to live, then, till you get a ship, Sam?” ses Ginger, in a nasty voice. “You won’t get nothing out o’ me, so you needn’t think it.”
“Wot on earth’s the matter, Ginger?”
“Nor me,” ses Peter. “Not a brass farthing.”
“There’s no call to be nasty about it, mates,” ses Sam. “I ’ad the best fight I ever ’ad in my life, and I must put up with the loss. A man can’t ’ave it all his own way.”
“’Ow much was it?” ses Peter.
“Ten brace-buttons, three French ha’pennies, and a bit o’ tin,” ses Sam. “Wot on earth’s the matter, Ginger?”
[Illustration: “‘Wot on earth’s the matter, Ginger?’”]
Ginger didn’t answer him.
[Illustration: “An elderly man with a wooden leg, who joined the indignant officer in the pursuit.”]