Chapter VII. Saved from a Villain

"I find that I have to give you thanks for yet another service, Cyril," Captain Dave said heartily, when they met the next morning. "Nellie tells me a young Court gallant had the insolence to try to address her yesterday in Cheapside, on her way back from St. Paul's, that you prevented his doing so, and that there was quite a scene in the street. If I knew who he was I would break his sconce for him, were he Rochester himself. A pretty pass things have come to, when a citizen's daughter cannot walk home from St. Paul's without one of these impudent vagabonds of the Court venturing to address her! Know you who he was?"

"No; I have never seen the fellow before, Captain Dave. I do know many of the courtiers by sight, having, when we first came over, often gone down to Whitehall with my father when he was seeking to obtain an audience with the King; but this man's face is altogether strange to me."

"Well, well! I will take care that Nellie shall not go abroad again except under her mother's escort or mine. I know, Cyril, that she would be as safe under your charge as in ours, but it is better that she should have the presence of an older person. It is not that I doubt your courage or your address, lad, but a ruffling gallant of this sort would know naught of you, save that you are young, and besides, did you interfere, there might be a scene that would do serious harm to Nellie's reputation."

"I agree with you thoroughly, Captain Dave," Cyril said warmly. "It will be far better that you or Mrs. Dowsett should be by her side as long as there is any fear of further annoyance from this fellow. I should ask nothing better than to try a bout with him myself, for I have been right well taught how to use my sword; but, as you say, a brawl in the street is of all things to be avoided."

Three or four weeks passed quietly. Nellie seldom went abroad; when she did so her mother always accompanied her if it were in the daytime, and her father whenever she went to the house of any friend after dusk.

Cyril one day caught sight of the gallant in Tower Street, and although he was on his way to one of his customers, he at once determined to break his appointment and to find out who the fellow was. The man sauntered about looking into the shops for full half an hour, but it was apparent to Cyril that he paid little attention to their contents, and was really waiting for someone. When the clock struck three he started, stamped his foot angrily on the ground, and, walking away rapidly to the stairs of London Bridge, took a seat in a boat, and was rowed up the river.

Cyril waited until he had gone a short distance, and then hailed a wherry rowing two oars.

"You see that boat over there?" he said. "I don't wish to overtake it at present. Keep a hundred yards or so behind it, but row inshore so that it shall not seem that you are following them."

The men obeyed his instructions until they had passed the Temple; then, as the other boat still kept in the middle of the stream, Cyril had no doubt that it would continue its course to Westminster.

"Now stretch to your oars," he said to the watermen. "I want to get to Westminster before the other boat, and to be well away from the stairs before it comes up."

The rest of the journey was performed at much greater speed, and Cyril alighted at Westminster while the other boat was some three or four hundred yards behind. Paying the watermen, he went up the stairs, walked away fifty or sixty yards, and waited until he saw the man he was following appear. The latter walked quietly up towards Whitehall and entered a tavern frequented by young bloods of the Court. Cyril pressed his hat down over his eyes. His dress was not the same as that in which he had escorted Nellie to the cathedral, and he had but small fear of being recognised.

When he entered he sat down at a vacant table, and, having ordered a stoup of wine, looked round. The man had joined a knot of young fellows like himself, seated at a table. They were dissipated-looking blades, and were talking loudly and boisterously.

"Well, Harvey, how goes it? Is the lovely maiden we saw when we were with you at St. Paul's ready to drop into your arms?"

"Things are going on all right," Harvey said, with an air of consciousness; "but she is watched by two griffins, her father and mother. 'Tis fortunate they do not know me by sight, and I have thus chances of slipping a note in her hand when I pass her. I think it will not be long before you will have to congratulate me."

"She is an heiress and only daughter, is she not, honest John?" another asked.

"She is an only child, and her father bears the reputation of doing a good business; but as to what I shall finally do, I shall not yet determine. As to that, I shall be guided by circumstances."

"Of course, of course," the one who had first spoken said.

Cyril had gained the information he required. The man's name was John Harvey, and Nellie was keeping up a clandestine correspondence with him. Cyril felt that were he to listen longer he could not restrain his indignation, and, without touching the wine he had paid for, he hastily left the tavern.

As he walked towards the city, he was unable to decide what he had better do. Were he to inform Captain Dave of what he had heard there would be a terrible scene, and there was no saying what might happen. Still, Nellie must be saved from falling into the hands of this fellow, and if he abstained from telling her father he must himself take steps to prevent the possibility of such a thing taking place. The more he thought of it the more he felt of the heavy responsibility it would be. Anxious as he was to save Nellie from the anger of her father, it was of far greater consequence to save her from the consequences of her own folly. At last he resolved to take John Wilkes into his counsels. John was devoted to his master, and even if his advice were not of much value, his aid in keeping watch would be of immense service. Accordingly, that evening, when John went out for his usual pipe after supper, Cyril, who had to go to a trader in Holborn, followed him out quickly and overtook him a few yards from the door.

"I want to have a talk with you, John."

"Ay, ay, sir. Where shall it be? Nothing wrong, I hope? That new apprentice looks to me an honest sort of chap, and the man we have got in the yard now is an old mate of mine. He was a ship's boy on board the Dolphin twenty-five years back, and he sailed under the Captain till he left the sea. I would trust that chap just as I would myself."

"It is nothing of that sort, John. It is another sort of business altogether, and yet it is quite as serious as the last. I have got half an hour before I have to start to do those books at Master Hopkins'. Where can we have a talk in a quiet place where there is no chance of our being overheard?"

"There is a little room behind the bar at the place I go to, and I have no doubt the landlord will let us have it, seeing as I am a regular customer."

"At any rate we can see, John. It is too cold for walking about talking here; and, besides, I think one can look at a matter in all lights much better sitting down than one can walking about."

"That is according to what you are accustomed to," John said, shaking his head. "It seems to me that I can look further into the innards of a question when I am walking up and down the deck on night watch with just enough wind aloft to take her along cheerful, and not too much of it, than I can at any other time; but then, you see, that is just what one is accustomed to. This is the place."

He entered a quiet tavern, and, nodding to five or six weather-beaten-looking men, who were sitting smoking long pipes, each with a glass of grog before him, went up to the landlord, who formed one of the party. He had been formerly the master of a trader, and had come into the possession of the tavern by marriage with its mistress, who was still the acting head of the establishment.

"We have got a piece of business we want to overhaul, Peter. I suppose we can have that cabin in yonder for a bit?"

"Ay, ay. There is a good fire burning. You will find pipes on the table. You will want a couple of glasses of grog, of course?"

John nodded, and then led the way into the little snuggery at the end of the room. It had a glass door, so that, if desired, a view could be obtained of the general room, but there was a curtain to draw across this. There was a large oak settle on either side of the fire, and there was a table, with pipes and a jar of tobacco standing between them.

"This is a tidy little crib," John said, as he seated himself and began to fill a pipe. "There is no fear of being disturbed here. There has been many a voyage talked over and arranged in this 'ere room. They say that Blake himself, when the Fleet was in the river, would drop in here sometimes, with one of his captains, for a quiet talk."

A minute later a boy entered and placed two steaming glasses of grog on the table. The door closed after him, and John said,--

"Now you can get under way, Master Cyril. You have got a fair course now, and nothing to bring you up."

"It is a serious matter, John. And before I begin, I must tell you that I rely on your keeping absolute silence as to what I am going to tell you."

"That in course," John said, as he lifted his glass to his lips. "You showed yourself a first-rate pilot in that last job, and I am content to sail under you this time without asking any questions as to the ship's course, and to steer according to orders."

Cyril told the story, interrupted frequently by angry ejaculations on the part of the old bo'swain.

"Dash my wig!" he exclaimed, when Cyril came to an end. "But this is a bad business altogether, Master Cyril. One can engage a pirate and beat him off if the crew is staunch, but when there is treason on board ship, it makes it an awkward job for those in command."

"The question is this, John: ought we to tell the Captain, or shall we try to take the affair into our own hands, and so to manage it that he shall never know anything about it?"

The sailor was silent for a minute or two, puffing his pipe meditatively.

"I see it is an awkward business to decide," he said. "On one side, it would pretty nigh kill Captain Dave to know that Mistress Nellie has been steering wild and has got out of hand. She is just the apple of his eye. Then, on the other hand, if we undertook the job without telling him, and one fine morning we was to find out she was gone, we should be in a mighty bad fix, for the Captain would turn round and say, 'Why didn't you tell me? If you had done so, I would have locked her up under hatches, and there she would be, safe now.'"

"That is just what I see, and it is for that reason I come to you. I could not be always on the watch, but I think that you and I together would keep so sharp a look-out that we might feel pretty sure that she could not get away without our knowledge."

"We could watch sharply enough at night, Master Cyril. There would be no fear of her getting away then without our knowing it. But how would it be during the day? There am I in the shop or store from seven in the morning until we lock up before supper-time. You are out most of your time, and when you are not away, you are in the office at the books, and she is free to go in and out of the front door without either of us being any the wiser."

"I don't think he would venture to carry her off by daylight," Cyril said. "She never goes out alone now, and could scarcely steal away unnoticed. Besides, she would know that she would be missed directly, and a hue and cry set up. I should think she would certainly choose the evening, when we are all supposed to be in bed. He would have a chair waiting somewhere near; and there are so often chairs going about late, after city entertainments, that they would get off unnoticed. I should say the most dangerous time is between nine o'clock and midnight. She generally goes off to bed at nine or soon after, and she might very well put on her hood and cloak and steal downstairs at once, knowing that she would not be missed till morning. Another dangerous time would be when she goes out to a neighbour's. The Captain always takes her, and goes to fetch her at nine o'clock, but she might make some excuse to leave quite early, and go off in that way."

"That would be awkward, Mr. Cyril, for neither you nor I could be away at supper-time without questions being asked. It seems to me that I had better take Matthew into the secret. As he don't live in the house he could very well watch wherever she is, till I slip round after supper to relieve him, and he could watch outside here in the evening till either you or I could steal downstairs and take his place. You can count on him keeping his mouth shut just as you can on me. The only thing is, how is he to stop her if he finds her coming out from a neighbour's before the Captain has come for her?"

"If he saw her coming straight home he could follow her to the door without being noticed, John, but if he found her going some other way he must follow her till he sees someone speak to her, and must then go straight up and say, 'Mistress Dowsett, I am ready to escort you home.' If she orders him off, or the man she meets threatens him, as is like enough, he must say, 'Unless you come I shall shout for aid, and call upon passers-by to assist me'; and, rather than risk the exposure, she would most likely return with him. Of course, he would carry with him a good heavy cudgel, and choose a thoroughfare where there are people about to speak to her, and not an unfrequented passage, for you may be sure the fellow would have no hesitation in running him through if he could do so without being observed."

"Matthew is a stout fellow," John Wilkes said, "and was as smart a sailor as any on board till he had his foot smashed by being jammed by a spare spar that got adrift in a gale, so that the doctors had to cut off the leg under the knee, and leave him to stump about on a timber toe for the rest of his life. I tell you what, Master Cyril: we might make the thing safer still if I spin the Captain a yarn as how Matthew has strained his back and ain't fit to work for a bit; then I can take on another hand to work in the yard, and we can put him on watch all day. He might come on duty at nine o'clock in the morning, and stop until I relieve him as soon as supper is over. Of course, he would not keep opposite the house, but might post himself a bit up or down the street, so that he could manage to keep an eye on the door."

"That would be excellent," Cyril said. "Of course, at the supper-hour he could go off duty, as she could not possibly leave the house between that time and nine o'clock. You always come in about that hour, and I hear you go up to bed. When you get there, you should at once take off your boots, slip downstairs again with them, and go quietly out. I often sit talking with Captain Dave till half-past nine or ten, but directly I can get away I will come down and join you. I think in that way we need feel no uneasiness as to harm coming from our not telling Captain Dave, for it would be impossible for her to get off unnoticed. Now that is all arranged I must be going, for I shall be late at my appointment unless I hurry."

"Shall I go round and begin my watch at once, Master Cyril?".

"No, there is no occasion for that. We know that he missed her to-day, and therefore can have made no appointment; and I am convinced by what he said to the fellows he met, that matters are not settled yet. However, we will begin to-morrow. You can take an opportunity during the day to tell Matthew about it, and he can pretend to strain his back in the afternoon, and you can send him away. He can come round again next morning early, and when the Captain comes down you can tell him that you find that Matthew will not be able to work for the present, and ask him to let you take another man on until he can come back again."

Cyril watched Nellie closely at meal-times and in the evening for the next few days. He thought that he should be certain to detect some slight change in her manner, however well she might play her part, directly she decided on going off with this man. She would not dream that she was suspected in any way, and would therefore be the less cautious. Matthew kept watch during the day, and followed if she went out with her father to a neighbour's, remaining on guard outside the house until John Wilkes relieved him as soon as he had finished his supper. If she remained at home in the evening John went out silently, after his return at his usual hour, and was joined by Cyril as soon as Captain Dave said good-night and went in to his bedroom. At midnight they re-entered the house and stole up to their rooms, leaving their doors open and listening attentively for another hour before they tried to get to sleep.

On the sixth morning Cyril noticed that Nellie was silent and abstracted at breakfast-time. She went out marketing with her mother afterwards, and at dinner her mood had changed. She talked and laughed more than usual. There was a flush of excitement on her cheeks, and he drew the conclusion that in the morning she had not come to an absolute decision, but had probably given an answer to the man during the time she was out with her mother, and that she felt the die was now cast.

"Pass the word to Matthew to keep an extra sharp watch this afternoon and to-morrow, John. I think the time is close at hand," he said, as they went downstairs together after dinner.

"Do you think so? Well, the sooner the better. It is trying work, this here spying, and I don't care how soon it is over. I only hope it will end by our running down this pirate and engaging him."

"I hope so too, John. I feel it very hard to be sitting at table with her and Captain Dave and her mother, and to know that she is deceiving them."

"I can't say a word for her," the old sailor said, shaking his head. "She has as good parents as a girl could want to have. They would give their lives for her, either of them, cheerful, and there she is thinking of running away from them with a scamp she knows nothing of and has probably never spoken with for an hour. I knew her head was a bit turned with young fellows dangling after her, and by being noticed by some of the Court gallants at the last City ball, and by being made the toast by many a young fellow in City taverns--'Pretty Mistress Nellie Dowsett'; but I did not think her head was so turned that she would act as she is doing. Well, well, we must hope that this will be a lesson, Master Cyril, that she will remember all her life."

"I hope so, John, and I trust that we shall be able to manage it all so that the matter will never come to her parents' ears."

"I hope so, and I don't see why it should. The fellow may bluster, but he will say nothing about it because he would get into trouble for trying to carry off a citizen's daughter."

"And besides that, John,--which would be quite as serious in the eyes of a fellow of this sort,--he would have the laugh against him among all his companions for having been outwitted in the City. So I think when he finds the game is up he will be glad enough to make off without causing trouble."

"Don't you think we might give him a sound thrashing? It would do him a world of good."

"I don't think it would do a man of that sort much good, John, and he would be sure to shout, and then there would be trouble, and the watch might come up, and we should all get hauled off together. In the morning the whole story would be known, and Mistress Nellie's name in the mouth of every apprentice in the City. No, no; if he is disposed to go off quietly, by all means let him go."

"I have no doubt that you are right, Master Cyril, but it goes mightily against the grain to think that a fellow like that is to get off with a whole skin. However, if one should fall foul of him some other time, one might take it out of him."

Captain Dave found Cyril but a bad listener to his stories that evening, and, soon after nine, said he should turn in.

"I don't know what ails you to-night, Cyril," he said. "Your wits are wool-gathering, somewhere. I don't believe that you heard half that last story I was telling you."

"I heard it all, sir; but I do feel a little out of sorts this evening."

"You do too much writing, lad. My head would be like to go to pieces if I were to sit half the hours that you do at a desk."

When Captain Dave went into his room, Cyril walked upstairs and closed his bedroom door with a bang, himself remaining outside. Then he took off his boots, and, holding them in his hand, went noiselessly downstairs to the front door. The lock had been carefully oiled, and, after putting on his boots again, he went out.

"You are right, Master Cyril, sure enough," John Wilkes said when he joined him, fifty yards away from the house. "It is to-night she is going to try to make off. I thought I had best keep Matthew at hand, so I bid him stop till I came out, then sent him round to have a pint of ale at the tavern, and when he came back told him he had best cruise about, and look for signs of pirates. He came back ten minutes ago, and told me that a sedan chair had just been brought to the other end of the lane. It was set down some thirty yards from Fenchurch Street. There were the two chairmen and three fellows wrapped up in cloaks."

"That certainly looks like action, John. Well, I should say that Matthew had better take up his station at the other end of the lane, there to remain quiet until he hears an uproar at the chair; then he can run up to our help if we need it. We will post ourselves near the door. No doubt Harvey, and perhaps one of his friends, will come and wait for her. We can't interfere with them here, but must follow and come up with her just before they reach the chair. The further they are away from the house the better. Then if there is any trouble Captain Dave will not hear anything of it."

"That will be a good plan of operations," John agreed. "Matthew is just round the next corner. I will send him to Fenchurch Street at once."

He went away, and rejoined Cyril in two or three minutes. They then went along towards the house, and took post in a doorway on the other side of the street, some thirty yards from the shop. They had scarcely done so, when they heard footsteps, and presently saw two men come along in the middle of the street. They stopped and looked round.

"There is not a soul stirring," one said. "We can give the signal."

So saying, he sang a bar or two of a song popular at the time, and they then drew back from the road into a doorway and waited.

Five minutes later, Cyril and his fellow-watcher heard a very slight sound, and a figure stepped out from Captain Dowsett's door. The two men crossed at once and joined her. A few low words were spoken, and they moved away together, and turned up the lane.

As soon as they disappeared from sight, Cyril and John Wilkes issued out. The latter had produced some long strips of cloth, which he wound round both their boots, so as, he said, to muffle the oars. Their steps, therefore, as they followed, were almost noiseless. Walking fast, they came up to the three persons ahead of them just as they reached the sedan chair. The two chairmen were standing at the poles, and a third man was holding the door open with his hat in his hand.

"Avast heaving, mates!" John Wilkes said. "It seems to me as you are running this cargo without proper permits."

Nellie gave a slight scream on hearing the voice, while the man beside her stepped forward, exclaiming furiously:

"S" death, sir! who are you, and what are you interfering about?"

"I am an honest man I hope, master. My name is John Wilkes, and, as that young lady will tell you, I am in the employ of her father."

"Then I tell you, John Wilkes, or John the Devil, or whatever your name maybe, that if you don't at once take yourself off, I will let daylight into you," and he drew his sword, as did his two companions.

John gave a whistle, and the wooden-legged man was heard hurrying up from Fenchurch Street.

"Cut the scoundrel down, Penrose," Harvey exclaimed, "while I put the lady into the chair."

The man addressed sprang at Wilkes, but in a moment his Court sword was shivered by a blow from the latter's cudgel, which a moment later fell again on his head, sending him reeling back several paces.

"Stay, sir, or I will run you through," Cyril said, pricking Harvey sharply in the arm as he was urging Nellie to enter the chair.

"Oh, it's you, is it?" the other exclaimed, in a tone of fury. "My boy of Cheapside! Well, I can spare a moment to punish you."

"Oh, do not fight with him, my lord!" Nellie exclaimed.

"My lord!" Cyril laughed. "So he has become a lord, eh?"

Then he changed his tone.

"Mistress Nellie, you have been deceived. This fellow is no lord. He is a hanger-on of the Court, one John Harvey, a disreputable blackguard whom I heard boasting to his boon-companions of his conquest. I implore you to return home as quietly as you went. None will know of this."

He broke off suddenly, for, with an oath, Harvey rushed at him. Their swords clashed, there was a quick thrust and parry, and then Harvey staggered back with a sword-wound through the shoulder, dropping his sword to the ground.

"Your game is up, John Harvey," Cyril said. "Did you have your deserts I would pass my sword through your body. Now call your fellows off, or it will be worse for them."

"Oh, it is not true? Surely it cannot be true?" Nellie cried, addressing Harvey. "You cannot have deceived me?"

The fellow, smarting with pain, and seeing that the game was up, replied with a savage curse.

"You may think yourself lucky that you are only disabled, you villain!" Cyril said, taking a step towards him with his sword menacingly raised. "Begone, sir, before my patience is exhausted, or, by heaven! it will be your dead body that the chairmen will have to carry away."

"Disabled or not," John Wilkes exclaimed, "I will have a say in the matter;" and, with a blow with his cudgel, he stretched Harvey on the ground, and belaboured him furiously until Cyril dragged him away by force. Harvey rose slowly to his feet.

"Take yourself off, sir," Cyril said. "One of your brave companions has long ago bolted; the other is disarmed, and has his head broken. You may thank your stars that you have escaped with nothing worse than a sword-thrust through your shoulder, and a sound drubbing. Hanging would be a fit punishment for knaves like you. I warn you, if you ever address or in any way molest this lady again, you won't get off so easily."

Then he turned and offered his arm to Nellie, who was leaning against the wall in a half-fainting state. Not a word was spoken until they emerged from the lane.

"No one knows of this but ourselves, Mistress Nellie, and you will never hear of it from us. Glad indeed I am that I have saved you from the misery and ruin that must have resulted from your listening to that plausible scoundrel. Go quietly upstairs. We will wait here till we are sure that you have gone safely into your room; then we will follow. I doubt not that you are angry with me now, but in time you will feel that you have been saved from a great danger."

The door was not locked. He lifted the latch silently, and held the door open for her to pass in. Then he closed it again, and turned to the two men who followed them.

"This has been a good night's work, John."

"That has it. I don't think that young spark will be coming after City maidens again. Well, it has been a narrow escape for her. It would have broken the Captain's heart if she had gone in that way. What strange things women are! I have always thought Mistress Nellie as sensible a girl as one would want to see. Given a little over-much, perhaps, to thinking of the fashion of her dress, but that was natural enough, seeing how pretty she is and how much she is made of; and yet she is led, by a few soft speeches from a man she knows nothing of, to run away from home, and leave father, and mother, and all. Well, Matthew, lad, we sha'n't want any more watching. You have done a big service to the master, though he will never know it. I know I can trust you to keep a stopper on your jaws. Don't you let a soul know of this--not even your wife."

"You trust me, mate," the man replied. "My wife is a good soul, but her tongue runs nineteen to the dozen, and you might as well shout a thing out at Paul's Cross as drop it into her ear. I think my back will be well enough for me to come to work again to-morrow," he added, with a laugh.

"All right, mate. I shall be glad to have you again, for the chap who has been in your place is a landsman, and he don't know a marling-spike from an anchor. Good-night, mate."

"Well, Master Cyril," he went on, as the sailor walked away, "I don't think there ever was such a good wind as that which blew you here. First of all you saved Captain Dave's fortune, and now you save his daughter. I look on Captain Dave as being pretty nigh the same as myself, seeing as I have been with him man and boy for over thirty years, and I feel what you have done for him just as if you had done it for me. I am only a rough sailor-man, and I don't know how to put it in words, but I feel just full up with a cargo of thankfulness."

"That is all right," Cyril said, holding out his hand, which John Wilkes shook with a heartiness that was almost painful. "Captain Dave offered me a home when I was alone without a friend in London, and I am glad indeed that I have been able to render him service in return. I myself have done little enough, though I do not say that the consequences have not been important. It has been just taking a little trouble and keeping a few watches--a thing not worth talking about one way or the other. I hope this will do Mistress Nellie good. She is a nice girl, but too fond of admiration, and inclined to think that she is meant for higher things than to marry a London citizen. I think to-night's work will cure her of that. This fellow evidently made himself out to her to be a nobleman of the Court. Now she sees that he is neither a nobleman nor a gentleman, but a ruffian who took advantage of her vanity and inexperience, and that she would have done better to have jumped down the well in the yard than to have put herself in his power. Now we can go up to bed. There is no more probability of our waking the Captain than there has been on other nights; but mind, if we should do so, you stick to the story we agreed on, that you thought there was someone by the gate in the lane again, and so called me to go down with you to investigate, not thinking it worth while to rouse up the Captain on what might be a false alarm."

Everything remained perfectly quiet as they made their way upstairs to their rooms as silently as possible.

"Where is Nellie?" Captain Dave asked, when they assembled at breakfast.

"She is not well," his wife replied, "I went to her room just now and found that she was still a-bed. She said that she had a bad headache, and I fear that she is going to have a fever, for her face is pale and her eyes red and swollen, just as if she had been well-nigh crying them out of her head; her hands are hot and her pulse fast. Directly I have had breakfast I shall make her some camomile tea, and if that does not do her good I shall send for the doctor."

"Do so, wife, without delay. Why, the girl has never ailed a day for years! What can have come to her?"

"She says it is only a bad headache--that all she wants is to be left alone."

"Yes, yes; that is all very well, but if she does not get better soon she must be seen to. They say that there were several cases last week of that plague that has been doing so much harm in foreign parts, and if that is so it behoves us to be very careful, and see that any illness is attended to without delay."

"I don't think that there is any cause for alarm," his wife said quietly. "The child has got a headache and is a little feverish, but there is no occasion whatever for thinking that it is anything more. There is nothing unusual in a girl having a headache, but Nellie has had such good health that if she had a prick in the finger you would think it was serious."

"By the way, John," Captain Dave said suddenly, "did you hear any noise in the lane last night? Your room is at the back of the house, and you were more likely to have heard it than I was. I have just seen one of the watch, and he tells me that there was a fray there last night, for there is a patch of blood and marks of a scuffle. It was up at the other end. There is some mystery about it, he thinks, for he says that one of his mates last night saw a sedan chair escorted by three men turn into the lane from Fenchurch Street just before ten o'clock, and one of the neighbours says that just after that hour he heard a disturbance and a clashing of swords there. On looking out, he saw something dark that might have been a chair standing there, and several men engaged in a scuffle. It seemed soon over, and directly afterwards three people came down the lane this way. Then he fancied that someone got into the chair, which was afterwards carried out into Fenchurch Street."

"I did hear something that sounded like a quarrel or a fray," John Wilkes said, "but there is nothing unusual about that. As everything was soon quiet again, I gave no further thought to it."

"Well, it seems a curious affair, John. However, it is the business of the City watch and not mine, so we need not bother ourselves about it. I am glad to see you have got Matthew at work again this morning. He tells me that he thinks he has fairly got over that sprain in his back."