“Some one is hurt! Confound these reckless drivers! Why can’t they watch where—”
“Come down off that!” shouted a voice at the wheel, and he saw a huge policeman brandishing his club at the driver above. “Come down, I say!”
“Aw, the d—— fool backed into me,” retorted the driver of Hugh’s hansom. His fare noticed that they were at the Sherry corner, and the usual crowd of seven-o’clock cabs was in full evidence.
“That’ll do—that’ll do,” roared the officer. “I saw the whole thing. Ye’ve cracked his head, you dirty cur.”
Two men were holding the horse’s head and other policemen were making their way to the side of their fellow-officer. Evidently something serious had happened.
“What’s the trouble?” Hugh called out to the officer.
“You’ll find out soon enough,” answered the policeman. “Don’t butt in—don’t butt in!”
“Here, here, now!” exclaimed Mr. Ridgeway. “You’ve no right to talk like that to—”
“Oh, I ain’t, eh? Well, we’ll see if somebody else has a right. You dudes can’t kill people and then get off with talk like that. Not much, my Johnny. You go along, too, an’ explain yer hurry to the captain.”
“But I’ve got a lady here—”
“Tush! tush! Don’t chew the rag. Stay in there!”
Other officers had dragged the driver from the cab, jostling him roughly to the outer circle of wheels. The man was protesting loudly. Rain had no power to keep a curious crowd from collecting. Hugh, indignant beyond expression, would have leaped to the ground had not a second and superior officer stepped up and raised his hand.
“Don’t get down, sir,” he said with gentle firmness. “I’m afraid you’ll have to go to the station for a few minutes.”
“But, confound it, officer—I have nothing to do with this row.”
“That may be true, sir. You can explain all that at the desk. We have to get at the bottom of this. This is no place to argue.”
A moment later the hansom, with a bent axle, was hobbling its way down the street engineered by bluecoats. Hugh, seeing that it was useless to remonstrate, sank back in the seat and swore audibly.
“Don’t worry about it, Hugh,” said a soft voice in his ear. “We can explain, can’t we?”
“You can’t explain anything to asses, Grace,” he lamented, “especially if they wear buttons.” They lapsed into a mournful, regretful silence. For five full minutes the hansom wobbled painfully along and then pulled up in front of a building which Hugh lugubriously recognized as a police station. “We’ve got to make the best of it, dear. Did you ever hear of such beastly luck? I’ll see if they won’t let me go in alone and square things. You won’t be afraid to sit out here alone for a few minutes, will you? There’s really nothing to be alarmed about. This driver of ours is in trouble, that’s all. We’re not to blame. A word or two will fix everything. I’ll be out in a jiffy.”