George Kettle walked up to the table as red as fire at being praised like that afore people and started loading the pistol. He seemed to be more awkward about it than the conjurer ’ad been the last time, and he ’ad to roll the watch-cases up with the flat-iron afore ’e could get ’em in. But ’e loaded it at last and stood waiting.
“Don’t shoot at me, George Kettle,” ses Bob. “I’ve been called a thief once, and I don’t want to be agin.”
“Put that pistol down, you fool, afore you do mischief,” ses the conjurer.
“Who shall I shoot at?” ses George Kettle, raising the pistol.
“Better fire at the conjurer, I think,” ses Bob Pretty; “and if things ’appen as he says they will ’appen, the watch ought to be found in ’is coat-pocket.”
“Where is he?” ses George, looking round.
Bill Chambers laid ’old of ’im just as he was going through the door to fetch the landlord, and the scream ’e gave as he came back and George Kettle pointed the pistol at ’im was awful.
[Illustration: “The scream ’e gave as George Kettle pointed the pistol at ’im was awful.”]
“It’s no worse for you than it was for me,” ses Bob.
“Put it down,” screams the conjurer; “put it down. You’ll kill ’arf the men in the room if it goes off.”
“Be careful where you aim, George,” ses Sam Jones. “P’r’aps he’d better ’ave a chair all by hisself in the middle of the room.”
It was all very well for Sam Jones to talk, but the conjurer wouldn’t sit on a chair by ’imself. He wouldn’t sit on it at all. He seemed to be all legs and arms, and the way ’e struggled it took four or five men to ’old ’im.
“Why don’t you keep still?” ses John Biggs. “George Kettle’ll shoot it in your pocket all right. He’s the best shot in Claybury.”
“Help! Murder!” says the conjurer, struggling. “He’ll kill me. Nobody can do the trick but me.”
“But you say you won’t do it,” ses John Biggs. “Not now,” ses the conjurer; “I can’t.”
“Well, I’m not going to ’ave my watch lost through want of trying,” ses John Biggs. “Tie ’im to the chair, mates.”
“All right, then,” ses the conjurer, very pale. “Don’t tie me; I’ll sit still all right if you like, but you’d better bring the chair outside in case of accidents. Bring it in the front.”
George Kettle said it was all nonsense, but the conjurer said the trick was always better done in the open air, and at last they gave way and took ’im and the chair outside.
“Now,” ses the conjurer, as ’e sat down, “all of you go and stand near the man woe’s going to shoot. When I say ‘Three,’ fire. Why! there’s the watch on the ground there!”
He pointed with ’is finger, and as they all looked down he jumped up out o’ that chair and set off on the road to Wickham as ’ard as ’e could run. It was so sudden that nobody knew wot ’ad ’appened for a moment, and then George Kettle, wot ’ad been looking with the rest, turned round and pulled the trigger.