Fortunately for Captain Bligh, there were but few people about, and the only person who saw him trip Police-Sergeant Pilbeam was an elderly man with a wooden leg, who joined the indignant officer in the pursuit. The captain had youth on his side, and, diving into the narrow alley-ways that constitute the older portion of Wood-hatch, he moderated his pace and listened acutely. The sounds of pursuit died away in the distance, and he had already dropped into a walk when the hurried tap of the wooden leg sounded from one corner and a chorus of hurried voices from the other. It was clear that the number of hunters had increased.
He paused a second, irresolute. The next, he pushed open a door that stood ajar in an old flint wall and peeped in. He saw a small, brick-paved yard, in which trim myrtles and flowering plants stood about in freshly ochred pots, and, opening the door a little wider, he slipped in and closed it behind him.
“Well?” said a voice, sharply. “What do you want?”
Captain Bligh turned, and saw a girl standing in a hostile attitude in the doorway of the house. “H’sh!” he said, holding up his finger.
The girl’s cheeks flushed and her eyes sparkled.
“What are you doing in our yard?” she demanded.
The captain’s face relaxed as the sound of voices died away. He gave his moustache a twist, and eyed her with frank admiration.
“Escaping,” he said, briefly. “They nearly had me, though.”
“You had no business to escape into our yard,” said the girl. “What have you been escaping from?”
“Fat policeman,” said the skipper, jauntily, twisting his moustache.
Miss Pilbeam, only daughter of Sergeant Pilbeam, caught her breath sharply.
“What have you been doing?” she inquired, as soon as she could control her voice.
“Nothing,” said the skipper, airily, “nothing. I was kicking a stone along the path and he told me to stop it.”
“Well?” said Miss Pilbeam, impatiently.
“We had words,” said the skipper. “I don’t like policemen—fat policemen—and while we were talking he happened to lose his balance and go over into some mud that was swept up at the side of the road.”
“Lost his balance?” gasped the horrified Miss Pilbeam.
The skipper was flattered at her concern. “You would have laughed if you had seen him,” he said, smiling. “Don’t look so frightened; he hasn’t got me yet.”
“No,” said the girl, slowly. “Not yet.”
She gazed at him with such a world of longing in her eyes that the skipper, despite a somewhat large share of self-esteem, was almost startled.
“And he shan’t have me,” he said, returning her gaze with interest.
Miss Pilbeam stood in silent thought. She was a strong, well-grown girl, but she realized fully that she was no match for the villain who stood before her, twisting his moustache and adjusting his neck-tie. And her father would not be off duty until nine.