“He ain’t here, anyways,” said Joe. “When the row was over, we wouldn’t let him in. We didn’t want him about here.”
“I dare say not,” said the sergeant. “Now let me go and see the spot where the fight was.” So the two policemen, with the two young Brownbies, rode away, leaving Boscobel with the old man.
“He knows every thing about it,” said old Brownbie.
“If he do,” said Boscobel, “it ain’t no odds.”
“Not a ha’porth of odds,” said Jerry, coming out of his hiding-place. “Who cares what he knows? A man may do what he pleases on his own run, I suppose.”
“He mayn’t light a fire as ’ll spread,” said the old man.
“Bother! Who’s to prove what’s in a man’s mind? If I’d been Nokes, I’d have staid and seen it out. I’d never be driven about the colony by such a fellow as Heathcote, with all the police in the world to back him.”
Sergeant Forrest inspected the ground on which the fire had raged, and the spot on which the men had met; but nothing came of his inspection, and he had not expected that any thing would come of it. He could see exactly where the fire had commenced, and could trace the efforts that had been made to stop it. He did not in the least doubt the way in which it had been lit. But he did very much doubt whether a jury could find Nokes guilty, even if he could catch Nokes. Jacko’s evidence was worth nothing, and Mr. Medlicot might be easily mistaken as to what he had seen at a distance in the middle of the night.
All this happened on Christmas-day. At about nine o’clock the same evening the two constables re-appeared at Gangoil, and asked for hospitality for the night. This was a matter of course, and also the reproduction of the Christmas dinner. Mrs. Medlicot was now there, and her son, with his collar-bone set, had been allowed to come out on to the veranda. The house had already been supposed to be full, but room, as a matter of course, was made for Sergeant Forrest and his man. “It’s a queer sort of Christmas we’ve all been having, Mr. Heathcote,” said the sergeant, as the remnant of a real English plum-pudding was put between him and his man by Mrs. Growler.
“A little hotter than it is at home, eh?”
“Indeed it is. You must have had it hot last night, Sir.”
“Very hot, sergeant. We had to work uncommonly hard to do it as well as we did.”
“It was not a nice Christmas game, Sir, was it?”
“Eh, me!” said Mrs. Medlicot. “There’s nae Christmas games or ony games here at all, except just worrying and harrying, like sae many dogs at each other’s throats.”
“And you think nothing more can be done?” Harry asked.
“I don’t think we shall catch the men. When they get out backward, it’s very hard to trace them. He’s got a horse of his own with him, and he’ll be beyond reach of the police by this time to-morrow. Indeed, he’s beyond their reach now. However, you’ll have got rid of him.”