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Statement Of Gabriel Foot, Highwayman
by [?]

“Well?” said I.

It was a heavy-looking drover that had touched me.

“Are you the chap that was tried to-day for murder of Jeweller Todd?” he asked.

“Well?” said I again, but I could see the crowd falling back, as if I was a leper, at his question.

“Well? ‘Taint well then, as I reckon, to be making so free with respectable folk.”

There was a murmur of assent from the mouths turned towards me. The landlord came forward from behind the bar.

“I was acquitted,” I urged defiantly.

“Ac-quitted!” said he, with big scorn in the syllables. “Hear im now–‘ac-quitted!’ Landlord, is this a respectable house?”

The landlord gave his verdict.

“H’out yer goes, and damn yer impudence!”

I looked round, but their faces were all dead against me.

“H’out yer goes!” repeated the landlord. “And think yerself lucky it aint worse,” added the drover.

With no further defence I slunk out into the night once more.

A small crowd of children (Heaven knows whence or how they gathered) followed me up the court and out into the street. Their numbers swelled as I went on, and some began to hoot and pelt me; but when I gained the top of the hill, and a lonelier district, I turned and struck among them with my stick. It did my heart good to hear their screams.

After that I was let alone, and tramped forward past the scattered houses, towards the open country and the moors. Up here there was scarcely any fog, but I could see it, by the rising moon, hanging like a shroud over the town below. The next town was near upon twelve miles off, but I do not remember that I thought of getting so far. I could not have thought at all, in fact, or I should hardly have taken the high-road upon which the jeweller had been stopped and murdered.

There was a shrewd wind blowing, and I shivered all over; but the cold at my heart was worse, and my hate of the man who had set it there grew with every step. I thought of the four months and more which parted the two lives of Gabriel Foot, and what I should make of the new one. I had my chance again–a chance gained for me beyond hope by that counsel but for whom I should be sleeping to-night in the condemned cell; a chance, and a good chance, but for that same cursed lawyer. Ugh! how cold it was, and how I hated him for it!

There was a little whitewashed cottage on the edge of the moorland just after the hedgerows ceased–the last house before the barren heath began, standing a full three hundred yards from any other dwelling. Its front faced the road, and at the back an outhouse and a wretched garden jutted out on the waste land. There was a light in each of its windows tonight, and as I passed down the road I heard the dismal music of a flute.

Perhaps it was this that jogged my thoughts and woke them up to my present pass. At any rate, I had not gone more than twenty yards before I turned and made for the door. The people might give me a night’s lodging in the outhouse; at any rate, they would not refuse a crust to stay the fast which I had not broken since the morning. I tapped gently with my knuckles on the door, and listened.

I waited five minutes, and no one answered. The flute still continued its melancholy tune; it was evidently in the hands of a learner, for the air (a dispiriting one enough at the best) kept breaking off suddenly and repeating itself. But the performer had patience, and the sound never ceased for more than two seconds at a time. Besides this, nothing could be heard. The blinds were drawn in all the windows. The glow of the candles through them was cheerful enough, but nothing could be seen of the house inside. I knocked a second time, and a third, with the same result. Finally, tired of this, I pushed open the low gate which led into the garden behind, and stole round to the back of the cottage.