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Fiat Justitia Ruat Solum
by [?]

“Lift, I tell ye! Lift! . . . What the–‘s wrong with that end o’ the beam? Stuck, is it? Jammed? Jammed your grandmothers! Nobbut a few pounds o’ loose lime an’ plaster beddin’ it. Get down on your knees an’ clear it. . . . That’s better! And now pull! PULL, I say! Oh, not that way, you rabbits!–here, let me show you!”

By efforts Herculean, first digging the rubbish clear with clawed hands, then straining and heaving till their loins had almost cracked, they levered up the table at length, and released not only the Admiral, but the two remaining magistrates, whom they found pinned under its weight, one unharmed, but in a swoon, the other moaning feebly with the pain of two broken ribs.

“Whew! What the devil of a smell of brandy!” observed Lord Rattley, mopping his brow in the intervals of helping to hoist the rescued ones up the moraine. At the top of it, the Inspector, lifting his head above the broken flooring to shout for help, broke into furious profanity; for there, in the empty court-room, stood young Trudgian and his wife, covered, indeed, with white dust, but blissfully wrapt in their own marvellous escape; and young Trudgian for the moment was wholly preoccupied in probing with two fingers for a piece of plaster which had somehow found its way down his Selina’s back between the nape of the neck and the bodice.

“Drop it, you fool, and lend a hand!” objurgated the Inspector; whereupon Mrs. Trudgian turned about, bridling.

“You leave my Tom alone, please! A man’s first call is on his wedded wife, I reckon.”

The rescued magistrates were lifted out, carried forth into fresh air, and laid on the turf by the wayside to recover somewhat while the rescuers again wiped perspiring brows.

“A thimbleful o’ brandy might do the Admiral good,” suggested the prisoner.

“Brandy?” cried Lord Rattley. “The air reeks of brandy! Where the–?”

“The basement’s swimmin’ with it, m’ lord.” The fellow touched his hat. “Two casks stove by the edge o’ the table. I felt around the staves, an’ counted six others, hale an’ tight. Thinks I, ’tis what their Worships will have been keepin’ for private use, between whiles. Or elst–“

“Or else?”

“Or else maybe we’ve tapped a private cellar.”

Lord Rattley slapped his thigh.

“A cache, by Jove! Old Squire Nicholas–I remember, as a boy, hearing it whispered he was hand-in-glove with the Free Trade.”

The prisoner touched his hat humbly.

“This bein’ a magistrates’ matter, m’ lord, an’ me not wishin’ to interfere–“

“Quite so.” Lord Rattley felt in his pockets. “You have done us a considerable service, my man, and–er–that bein’ so–“

“Forty shillin’ it was. He’s cheap at it”–with a nod towards the Admiral. “A real true-blue old English gentleman! You can always tell by their conversations.”

“The fine shall be paid.”

“I counted six casks, m’lord, so well as I could by the feel–“

“Yes, yes! And here’s a couple of sovereigns for yourself–all I happen to have in my pocket–“

Lord Rattley bustled off to the house for brandy.

“England’s old England, hows’ever you strike it!” chirruped the prisoner gleefully, and touched his forehead again. “See you at the Show, m’ lord, maybe? ‘Will drink your lordship’s health there, anyway.”

He skipped away up the road towards Tregarrick. In the opposite direction young Mr. and Mrs. Trudgian could be seen just passing out of sight, he supporting her with his arm, pausing every now and then, bending over her uxoriously.