None knew better than Dan’l that the grey was a screw. But he ran down to the stable, fetched the beast out, and didn’t even wait to shift his halter for a bridle, but caught up the half of a broken mop-handle that lay by the stable door, and with no better riding whip galloped off bare-back towards Tregarrick.
Aye, sir, and he almost won his race in spite of all. The hands o’ the town clock were close upon seven as he came galloping over the knap of the hill and saw the booths below him and sweet-stalls and standings—for on such days ’twas as good as a fair in Tregarrick—and the crowd under the prison wall. And there, above them, he could see the little open doorway in the wall, and one or two black figures there, and the beam. Just as he saw this the clock struck its first note, and Dan’l, still riding like a madman, let out a scream, and waved the paper over his head; but the distance was too great. Seven times the clapper struck, and with each stroke Dan’l screamed, still riding and keeping his eyes upon that little doorway. But a second or two after the last stroke he dropped his arm suddenly as if a bullet had gone through it, and screamed no more. Less than a minute after, sir, he pulled up by the bridge on the skirt of the crowd, and looked round him with a silly smile.
“Neighbours,” says he, “I’ve a-got great news for ye. We’ve a-taken St. Sebastian, and by all acounts the Frenchies’ll be drove out of Spain in less’n a week.”
There was silence in Boutigo’s van for a full minute; and then the old woman spoke from the corner:
“Well, go on, Sam, and tell the finish to the company.”
“Is there more to tell?” I asked.
“Yes, sir,” said Sam, leaning forward again, and tapping my knee very gently, “there were two men condemned at Tregarrick, that Assize; and two men put to death that morning. The first to go was a sheep-stealer. Ten minutes after, Dan’l saw Hughie his brother led forth; and stood there and watched, with the reprieve in his hand. His wits were gone, and he chit-chattered all the time about St. Sebastian.”
The house known as Vellan’s Rents stands in the Chy-pons over the waterside, a stone’s throw beyond the ferry and the archway where the toll-keeper used to live. You may know it by its exceeding dilapidation and by the clouds of steam that issue on the street from one of its windows. The sill of this window stands a bare foot above the causeway, and glancing down into the room as you pass, you will see the shoulders of a woman stooping over a wash-tub. When first I used to pass this window the woman was called Naomi Bricknell; later it was Sarah Ann Polgrain; and now it is (euphemistically) Pretty Alice. One goes and makes way for another, but the wash-tub is always there and the rheumatic fever; and while these remain they will never lack, as they have never lacked yet, for a woman to do battle for dear life between them.