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My Lady’s Coach
by [?]

“Huh!” grunted I, sinking my shoulders deeper in my overcoat. “A nice sort of vehicle to meet, say on a night like this, at the next turn of the road!”

The man peered at me suddenly, and leaned forward to shorten his reins, for we were on the edge of a steepish dip downhill. The lamplight shone on his huge forearm (as thick as an ordinary man’s thigh) and on his clumsy, muffled hands.

“Well, and so we might,” he answered, picking up his whip again and indicating the dark moorland on our left. “That’s if half the tales be true.”

“Haunted?” I asked, scanning the darkness.

“Opposition coach–hearse and pair, driven by the Old Gentleman hisself. For my part, I don’t believe a word of it. Leastways, I’ve driven along here often enough, and in most weathers, and I ha’n’t met it yet.”

“You’re taking this bit pretty confidently anyhow,” was my comment, as he shortened rein again; for the hill proved to be a precipitous one, and the horses, held back against the weight of the coach, went down the slope with much sprawling of hind-quarters and kicking up of loose stones. “Don’t you put on the skid for this, as a rule?”

“Well, now, as you say, it might be wiser. This half-thaw makes the roads cruel greasy.” With a tremendous wrench he dragged the team to a standstill. “Jim, my lad, hop down and give her the shoe.”

I heard Jim clambering down, then the loud rattle of the chain as he unhitched the shoe, not interrupting his song, however–

“Ho! ho! my lady saith,
Step in and ride with me:
She takes the bride as white as death–“

“Hold up, there!” commanded a voice out of the darkness on my left.

“Hullo!” I whipped out one of my pistols and faced the sound, at the same instant shouting to the driver: “Quick, man! duck your head and give ’em the whip! Curse you for a coward–don’t sit there hesitating!–the whip, I say, and put ’em at it!”

But the fellow would not budge. I turned, leaned past him, plucked the whip from its socket, and lashed out at the leaders. They plunged forward as a bullet sang over my head; but before they could break into a gallop the driver had wrenched them back again on their haunches. The coach gave a lurch or two and once more came to a standstill.

“Look here,” said a voice almost at my feet, “you take it quiet, or you’ll be hurt!” and a pair of hands reached up and gripped the footboard. I let fly at the man with my pistol and at the same moment heard the corporal’s musket roar out behind my ear. Then I tried to do what I should have done at first, and whipped out my second pistol to lay its muzzle against the driver’s cheek.

But by this time half a dozen dark figures were scrambling along the roof from the rear, and as I swung round I felt a sudden heavy push against my shoulder, tottered for a moment, trod forward upon air, and went sprawling, almost headlong, over the side of the coach.

Luckily I struck a furze-bush first, but for all that I hit the turf with a thud that stunned me, as I must believe, for a minute at least. For when next I opened my eyes driver and guard were standing helpless in the light of the lamps, while a couple of highwaymen dragged my chest off the roof. Another stood by the heads of the leaders, and yet another was spread on the footboard, with his head and shoulders well buried in the boot. The rest had gathered in the rear about the coach door in altercation with the inside passenger. Close behind the near hind wheel lay the corporal, huddled and motionless.