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The Count had forgotten his murderous intentions regarding his mistress, or had deferred them at least, under the consciousness of his own pressing danger. And it must be said, in the praise of a man who had fought for and against Marlborough and Tallard, that his courage in this trying and novel predicament never for a moment deserted him, but that he showed the greatest daring, as well as ingenuity, in meeting and averting the danger. He flew to the sideboard, where were the relics of a supper, and seizing the mustard and salt pots, and a bottle of oil, he emptied them all into a jug, into which he further poured a vast quantity of hot water. This pleasing mixture he then, without a moment's hesitation, placed to his lips, and swallowed as much of it as nature would allow him. But when he had imbibed about a quart, the anticipated effect was produced, and he was enabled, by the power of this ingenious extemporaneous emetic, to get rid of much of the poison which Mrs. Catherine had administered to him.
He was employed in these efforts when the doctor entered, along with Mr. Brock and Mr. Trippet ; who was not a little pleased to hear that the poisoned punch had not in all probability been given to him. He was recommended to take some of the Count's mixture, as a precautionary measure; but this he refused, and retired home, leaving the Count under charge of the physician and his faithful corporal.
It is not necessary to say what further remedies were employed by them to restore the Captain to health ; but after some time the doctor, pronouncing that the danger was, he hoped, averted, recommended that his patient should be put to bed, and that somebody should sit by him ; which Brock promised to do. “That she-devil will murder me, if you don't,” gasped the
“You must turn her out of the bedroom; or break open the door, she refuses to let you in.”
And this step was found to be necessary; for after shouting many times, and in vain, Mr. Brock found a small iron bar (indeed he had the instrument for many days in his pocket), and forced the lock. The room was empty, the window was open: the pretty barmaid of the “Bugle ” had fled.
“The chest," said the Count—"is the chest safe ?"
The Corporal flew to the bed, under which it was screwed, and looked, and said, “It is safe, thank heaven!” The window was closed. The Captain, who was too weak to stand without help, was undressed and put to bed. The Corporal sat down by his side; slumber stole over the eyes of the patient; and his wakeful nurse marked with satisfaction the progress of the beneficent restorer of health.
When the Captain awoke, as he did some time afterwards, he found, very much to his surprise, that a gag had been placed in his mouth, and that the Corporal was in the act of wheeling his bed to another part of the room. He attempted to move, and gave utterance to such unintelligible sounds as could issue through a silk handkerchief.
“If your honour stirs or cries out in the least, I will cut your honour's throat,” said the Corporal.
And then, having recourse to his iron bar (the reader will now see why he was provided with such an implement, for he had been meditating this coup for some days), he proceeded first to attempt to burst the lock of the little iron chest in which the Count kept his treasure, and failing in this, to unscrew it from the ground; which operation he performed satisfactorily.
“You see, Count,” said he, calmly, “when rogues fall out, there's the deuce to pay. You'll have me drummed out of the regiment, will you? I am going to leave it of my own accord, look you, and to live like a gentleman for the rest of my days. Schlafen Sie wohl, noble Captain : bon repos. The Squire will be with you pretty early in the morning, to ask for the money you owe him.”
With these sarcastic observations Mr. Brock departed ; not by the window as Mrs. Catherine had done, but by the door, quietly, and so into the street. And when, the next morning, the doctor came to visit his patient, he brought with him a story how, at the dead of night, Mr. Brock had roused the ostler at the stables where the Captain's horses were kept-had told him that Mrs. Catherine had poisoned the Count, and had run off with a thousand pounds; and how he and all lovers of justice ought to scour the country in pursuit of the criminal. For this end Mr. Brock mounted the Count's best horse—that very animal on which he had carried away Mrs. Catherine: and thus, on a single night, Count Maximilian had lost his mistress, his money, his horse, his corporal, and was very near losing his life.
IN WHICH MRS. CATHERINE BECOMES AN HONEST WOMAN
In this woful plight, moneyless, wifeless, horseless, corporalless, with a gag in his mouth and a rope round his body, are we compelled to leave the gallant Galgenstein, until his friends and the progress of this history shall deliver him from his durance. Mr. Brock's adventures on the Captain's horse must likewise be pretermitted; for it is our business to follow Mrs. Catherine through the window by which she made her escape, and among the various chances that befell her.
She had one cause to congratulate herself,—that she had not her baby at her back; for the infant was safely housed under the care of a nurse, to whom the Captain was answerable. Beyond this her prospects were but dismal : no home to fly to, but a few shillings in her pocket, and a whole heap of injuries and dark revengeful thoughts in her bosom: it was a sad task to her to look either backwards or forwards. Whither was she to fly? How to live? What good chance was to befriend her ?
There was an angel watching over the steps of Mrs. Cat—not a good one, I think, but one of those from that unnameable place, who have their many subjects here on earth, and often are pleased to extricate them from worse perplexities. Mrs. Cat, now,
had not committed murder, but as bad as murder ; and as she felt not the smallest repentance in her heart—as she had, in the course of her life and connection with the Captain, performed and gloried in a number of wicked coquetries, idlenesses, vanities, lies, fits of anger, slanders, foul abuses, and what not-she was fairly bound
over to this dark angel whom we have alluded to; and he dealt with her, and aided her as one of his own children.
I do not mean to say that, in this strait, he appeared to her in the likeness of a gentleman in black, and made her sign her name in blood to a document conveying over to him her soul, in exchange for certain conditions to be performed by him. Such diabolical bargains have always appeared to me unworthy of the astute personage who is supposed to be one of the parties to them; and who would scarcely be fool enough to pay dearly for that which he can have in a few years for nothing. It is not, then, to be supposed that a demon of darkness appeared to Mrs. Cat, and led her into a flaming chariot, harnessed by dragons, and careering through air at the rate of a thousand leagues a minute. No such thing: the vehicle that was sent to aid her was one of a much more vulgar description.
The “Liverpool carryvan,” then, which in the year 1706 used to perform the journey between London and that place in ten days, left Birmingham about an hour after Mrs. Catherine had quitted that town: and as she sat weeping on a hillside, and plunged in bitter meditation, the lumbering, jingling vehicle overtook her. The coachman was marching by the side of his horses, and encouraging them to maintain their pace of two miles an hour; the passengers had some of them left the vehicle, in order to walk up the hill; and the carriage had arrived at the top of it, and, meditating a brisk trot down the declivity, waited there until the lagging passengers should arrive: when Jehu, casting a good-natured glance upon Mrs. Catherine, asked the pretty maid whence she was come, and whether she would like a ride in his carriage. To the latter of which questions Mrs. Catherine replied truly yes; to the former, her answer was that she had come from Stratford : whereas, as we very well know, she had lately quitted Birmingham.
“Hast thee seen a woman pass this way, on a black horse, with a large bag of goold over the saddle?” said Jehu, preparing to mount upon the roof of his coach.
“No, indeed,” said Mrs. Cat.
“Nor a trooper on another horse after her--no? Well, there be a mortal row down Birmingham way about sich a one.
She have killed, they say, nine gentlemen at supper, and have strangled a German prince in bed. She have robbed him of twenty thousand guineas, and have rode' away on a black horse."
“That can't be I," said Mrs. Cat, naïvely, "for I have but three shillings and a groat."
“No, it can't be thee, truly, for where's your bag of goold? and, besides, thee hast got too pretty a face to do such wicked things as, to kill nine gentlemen and strangle a German prince.”
" Law, coachman,” said Mrs. Cat, blushing archly—“law, coachman, do you think so ?” The girl would have been pleased with a compliment even on her way to be hanged; and the parley ended by Mrs. Catherine stepping into the carriage, where there was room for eight people at least, and where two or three individuals had already taken their places.
For these Mrs. Catherine had in the first place to make a story, which she did; and a very glib one for a person of her years and education. Being asked whither she was bound, and how she came to be alone of a morning sitting by a roadside, she invented a neat history suitable to the occasion, which elicited much interest from her fellow-passengers : one in particular, a young man, who had caught a glimpse of her face under her hood, was very tender in his attentions to her.
But whether it was that she had been too much fatigued by the occurrences of the past day and sleepless night, or whether the little laudanum which she had drunk a few hours previously now began to act upon her, certain it is that Mrs. Cat now suddenly grew sick, feverish, and extraordinarily sleepy; and in this state she continued for many hours, to the pity of all her fellow-travellers. At length the carryvan” reached the inn, where horses and passengers were accustomed to rest for a few hours, and to dine; and Mrs. Catherine was somewhat awakened by the stir of the passengers, and the friendly voice of the inn-servant welcoming them to dinner. The gentleman who had been smitten by her beauty now urged her very politely to descend; which, taking the protection of his arm, she accordingly did.
He made some very gallant speeches to her as she stepped out; and she must have been very much occupied by them,