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Odd Charges
by [?]

Seated at his ease in the warm tap-room of the Cauliflower, the stranger had been eating and drinking for some time, apparently unconscious of the presence of the withered ancient who, huddled up in that corner of the settle which was nearer to the fire, fidgeted restlessly with an empty mug and blew with pathetic insistence through a churchwarden pipe which had long been cold. The stranger finished his meal with a sigh of content and then, rising from his chair, crossed over to the settle and, placing his mug on the time-worn table before him, began to fill his pipe.

“It’s no worse for you than it was for me,” ses Bob.

“Put it down,” screams the conjurer; “put it down. You’ll kill ‘arf the men in the room if it goes off.”

“Be careful where you aim, George,” ses Sam Jones. “P’r’aps he’d better ‘ave a chair all by hisself in the middle of the room.”

It was all very well for Sam Jones to talk, but the conjurer wouldn’t sit on a chair by ‘imself. He wouldn’t sit on it at all. He seemed to be all legs and arms, and the way ‘e struggled it took four or five men to ‘old ‘im.

“Why don’t you keep still?” ses John Biggs. “George Kettle’ll shoot it in your pocket all right. He’s the best shot in Claybury.”

“Help! Murder!” says the conjurer, struggling. “He’ll kill me. Nobody can do the trick but me.”

“But you say you won’t do it,” ses John Biggs. “Not now,” ses the conjurer; “I can’t.”

“Well, I’m not going to ‘ave my watch lost through want of trying,” ses John Biggs. “Tie ‘im to the chair, mates.”

“All right, then,” ses the conjurer, very pale. “Don’t tie me; I’ll sit still all right if you like, but you’d better bring the chair outside in case of accidents. Bring it in the front.”

George Kettle said it was all nonsense, but the conjurer said the trick was always better done in the open air, and at last they gave way and took ‘im and the chair outside.

“Now,” ses the conjurer, as ‘e sat down, “all of you go and stand near the man woe’s going to shoot. When I say ‘Three,’ fire. Why! there’s the watch on the ground there!”

He pointed with ‘is finger, and as they all looked down he jumped up out o’ that chair and set off on the road to Wickham as ‘ard as ‘e could run. It was so sudden that nobody knew wot ‘ad ‘appened for a moment, and then George Kettle, wot ‘ad been looking with the rest, turned round and pulled the trigger.

There was a bang that pretty nigh deafened us, and the back o’ the chair was blown nearly out. By the time we’d got our senses agin the conjurer was a’most out o’ sight, and Bob Pretty was explaining to John Biggs wot a good job it was ‘is watch ‘adn’t been a gold one.

“That’s wot comes o’ trusting a foreigner afore a man wot you’ve known all your life,” he ses, shaking his ‘ead. “I ‘ope the next man wot tries to take my good name away won’t get off so easy. I felt all along the trick couldn’t be done; it stands to reason it couldn’t. I done my best, too.”