The Dynamiter

Page 63

Thither, then, he bent his steps, seeming, as he went, to float above the pavement; and there, in the mouth of the entry, he found a man in a sleeved waistcoat, gravely chewing a straw. He passed him by, and twice patrolled the entry, scouting for the barest chance; but the man had faced about and continued to observe him curiously.

Another hope was gone. M'Guire reissued from the entry, still followed by the wondering eyes of the man in the sleeved waistcoat. He once more consulted his watch: there were but fourteen minutes left to him. At that, it seemed as if a sudden, genial heat were spread about his brain; for a second or two, he saw the world as red as blood; and thereafter entered into a complete possession of himself, with an incredible cheerfulness of spirits, prompting him to sing and chuckle as he walked. And yet this mirth seemed to belong to things external; and within, like a black and leaden- heavy kernel, he was conscious of the weight upon his soul.

I care for nobody, no, not I, And nobody cares for me,

he sang, and laughed at the appropriate burthen, so that the passengers stared upon him on the street. And still the warmth seemed to increase and to become more genial. What was life? he considered, and what he, M'Guire? What even Erin, our green Erin? All seemed so incalculably little that he smiled as he looked down upon it. He would have given years, had he possessed them, for a glass of spirits; but time failed, and he must deny himself this last indulgence.

At the corner of the Haymarket, he very jauntily hailed a hansom cab; jumped in; bade the fellow drive him to a part of the Embankment, which he named; and as soon as the vehicle was in motion, concealed the bag as completely as he could under the vantage of the apron, and once more drew out his watch. So he rode for five interminable minutes, his heart in his mouth at every jolt, scarce able to possess his terrors, yet fearing to wake the attention of the driver by too obvious a change of plan, and willing, if possible, to leave him time to forget the Gladstone bag.

At length, at the head of some stairs on the Embankment, he hailed; the cab was stopped; and he alighted--with how glad a heart! He thrust his hand into his pocket. All was now over; he had saved his life; nor that alone, but he had engineered a striking act of dynamite; for what could be more pictorial, what more effective, than the explosion of a hansom cab, as it sped rapidly along the streets of London. He felt in one pocket; then in another. The most crushing seizure of despair descended on his soul; and struck into abject dumbness, he stared upon the driver. He had not one penny.

'Hillo,' said the driver, 'don't seem well.'

'Lost my money,' said M'Guire, in tones so faint and strange that they surprised his hearing.

The man looked through the trap. 'I dessay,' said he: 'you've left your bag.'

M'Guire half unconsciously fetched it out; and looking on that black continent at arm's length, withered inwardly and felt his features sharpen as with mortal sickness.

'This is not mine,' said he. 'Your last fare must have left it. You had better take it to the station.'

'Now look here,' returned the cabman: 'are you off your chump? or am I?'

'Well, then, I'll tell you what,' exclaimed M'Guire; 'you take it for your fare!'

'Oh, I dessay,' replied the driver. 'Anything else? What's IN your bag? Open it, and let me see.'

'No, no,' returned M'Guire. 'Oh no, not that. It's a surprise; it's prepared expressly: a surprise for honest cabmen.'

'No, you don't,' said the man, alighting from his perch, and coming very close to the unhappy patriot. 'You're either going to pay my fare, or get in again and drive to the office.'

It was at this supreme hour of his distress, that M'Guire spied the stout figure of one Godall, a tobacconist of Rupert Street, drawing near along the Embankment. The man was not unknown to him; he had bought of his wares, and heard him quoted for the soul of liberality; and such was now the nearness of his peril, that even at such a straw of hope, he clutched with gratitude.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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