Down he goes, offs with his stocking, and there was thirty golden guineas. "Now," says the Captain, "you've tried it on with me, but I scorns the advantage. Ten I said," he says, "and ten I take." So, dash my buttons, I call that man a man!' cried Sam in cordial admiration.
'Well, and then?' says Mr. Archer.
'Then,' resumed Sam, 'that old fat fagot Engleton, him as held the ribbons and drew up like a lamb when he was told to, picks up his cattle, and drives off again. Down they came to the "Dragon," all singing like as if they was scalded, and poor Tom saying nothing. You would 'a' thought they had all lost the King's crown to hear them. Down gets this Dicksee. "Postmaster," he says, taking him by the arm, "this is a most abominable thing," he says. Down gets a Major Clayton, and gets the old man by the other arm. "We've been robbed," he cries, "robbed!" Down gets the others, and all around the old man telling their story, and what they had lost, and how they was all as good as ruined; till at last Old Engleton says, says he, "How about Oglethorpe?" says he. "Ay," says the others, "how about the guard?" Well, with that we bousted him down, as white as a rag and all blooded like a sop. I thought he was dead. Well, he ain't dead; but he's dying, I fancy.'
'Did you say four watches?' said Jonathan.
'Four, I think. I wish it had been forty,' cried Sam. 'Such a party of soused herrings I never did see--not a man among them bar poor Tom. But us that are the servants on the road have all the risk and none of the profit.'
'And this brave fellow,' asked Mr. Archer, very quietly, 'this Oglethorpe--how is he now?'
'Well, sir, with my respects, I take it he has a hole bang through him,' said Sam. 'The doctor hasn't been yet. He'd 'a' been bright and early if it had been a passenger. But, doctor or no, I'll make a good guess that Tom won't see to-morrow. He'll die on a Sunday, will poor Tom; and they do say that's fortunate.'
'Did Tom see him that did it?' asked Jonathan.
'Well, he saw him,' replied Sam, 'but not to swear by. Said he was a very tall man, and very big, and had a 'ankerchief about his face, and a very quick shot, and sat his horse like a thorough gentleman, as he is.'
'A gentleman!' cried Nance. 'The dirty knave!'
'Well, I calls a man like that a gentleman,' returned the ostler; 'that's what I mean by a gentleman.'
'You don't know much of them, then,' said Nance.
'A gentleman would scorn to stoop to such a thing. I call my uncle a better gentleman than any thief.'
'And you would be right,' said Mr. Archer.
'How many snuff-boxes did he get?' asked Jonathan.
'O, dang me if I know,' said Sam; 'I didn't take an inventory.'
'I will go back with you, if you please,' said Mr. Archer. 'I should like to see poor Oglethorpe. He has behaved well.'
'At your service, sir,' said Sam, jumping to his feet. 'I dare to say a gentleman like you would not forget a poor fellow like Tom-- no, nor a plain man like me, sir, that went without his sleep to nurse him. And excuse me, sir,' added Sam, 'you won't forget about the letter neither?'
'Surely not,' said Mr. Archer.
Oglethorpe lay in a low bed, one of several in a long garret of the inn. The rain soaked in places through the roof and fell in minute drops; there was but one small window; the beds were occupied by servants, the air of the garret was both close and chilly. Mr. Archer's heart sank at the threshold to see a man lying perhaps mortally hurt in so poor a sick-room, and as he drew near the low bed he took his hat off. The guard was a big, blowsy, innocent- looking soul with a thick lip and a broad nose, comically turned up; his cheeks were crimson, and when Mr. Archer laid a finger on his brow he found him burning with fever.
'I fear you suffer much,' he said, with a catch in his voice, as he sat down on the bedside.
'I suppose I do, sir,' returned Oglethorpe; 'it is main sore.'
'I am used to wounds and wounded men,' returned the visitor. 'I have been in the wars and nursed brave fellows before now; and, if you will suffer me, I propose to stay beside you till the doctor comes.'
'It is very good of you, sir, I am sure,' said Oglethorpe.