Jack’s first object was to seek out Blueskin, whom he had no doubt he should find at the New Mint, at Wapping, for the Old Mint no longer afforded a secure retreat to the robber; and, with this view, he made the best of his way along a bye-lane leading towards Hockley-in-the-Hole. He had not proceeded far when he was alarmed by the tramp of a horse, which seemed to be rapidly approaching, and he had scarcely time to leap the hedge and conceal himself behind a tree, when a tall man, enveloped in an ample cloak, with his hat pulled over his brows, rode by at full speed. Another horseman followed quickly at the heels of the first; but just as he passed the spot where Jack stood, his steed missed its footing, and fell. Either ignorant of the accident, or heedless of it, the foremost horseman pursued his way without even turning his head.
Conceiving the opportunity too favourable to be lost, Jack sprang suddenly over the hedge, and before the man, who was floundering on the ground with one foot in the stirrup, could extricate himself from his embarrassing position, secured his pistols, which he drew from the holsters, and held them to his head. The fellow swore lustily, in a voice which Jack instantly recognised as that of Quilt Arnold, and vainly attempted to rise and draw his sword.
“Dog!” thundered Sheppard, putting the muzzle of the pistol so close to the janizary’s ear, that the touch of the cold iron made him start, “don’t you know me?”
“Blood and thunder!” exclaimed Quilt, opening his eyes with astonishment. “It can’t be Captain Sheppard!”
“It is,” replied Jack; “and you had better have met the devil on your road than me. Do you remember what I said when you took me at the Mint four days ago? I told you my turn would come. It has come,—and sooner than you expected.”
“So I find, Captain,” rejoined Quilt, submissively; “but you’re too noble-hearted to take advantage of my situation. Besides, I acted for others, and not for myself.”
“I know it,” replied Sheppard, “and therefore I spare your life.”
“I was sure you wouldn’t injure me, Captain,” remarked Quilt, in a wheedling tone, while he felt about for his sword; “you’re far too brave to strike a fallen man.”
“Ah! traitor!” cried Jack, who had noticed the movement; “make such another attempt, and it shall cost you your life.” So saying, he unbuckled the belt to which the janizary’s hanger was attached, and fastened it to his own girdle.
“And now,” he continued, sternly, “was it your master who has just ridden by?”
“No,” answered Quilt, sullenly.
“Who, then?” demanded Jack. “Speak, or I fire!”
“Well, if you will have it, it’s Sir Rowland Trenchard.”
“Sir Rowland Trenchard!” echoed Jack, in amazement. “What are you doing with him?”
“It’s a long story, Captain, and I’ve no breath to tell it,—unless you choose to release me,” rejoined Quilt.