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My Lady’s Coach
by [?]

My head darted pain as though it had been opened with a saw, and as I lifted myself and groped about for my pistols, I discovered that my collar-bone was broken and my hip-muscles had taken a bad wrench. Hurt as I was, though, I managed to find one of my pistols, and crawling until I had the coach-door in view, sank into the ditch and began to reload.

The men at the rear of the coach were inviting the inside fare to come forth and hand over his money; which he very roundly refused to do, using the oddest argument; for he declared himself so far gone in consumption that the night air was as bad as death to him, the while that the noise he made proclaimed his lungs as strong as a horse’s. This inconsistency struck the robbers, no doubt, for after a while a pistol was clapped in at the window and he was bidden to step forth without more ado.

But for my misery I could have laughed aloud at the queer figure that at length shuffled out and stood in the light of a lantern held to examine his money. In height he could not have been more than five feet two; and to say that he was as broad as he was long would be no lie, for never in my life have I seen a man so wrapped up. He wore a travelling cap tightly drawn about the ears, and round his neck a woollen comforter so voluminous that his head, though large (as I afterwards discovered), seemed a button set on top of it. I dare be sworn that he unbuttoned six overcoats before he reached his fob and drew out watch and purse.

“There,” he said, handing over the money, “take it–seven good guineas– with my very hearty curse.”

The robbers–they were masked to a man–pressed forward around the lantern to count the coins.

“Give us your word,” said one, “that you’ve no more stowed about you.”

“I won’t,” answered the old gentleman. “All the word you’ll get from me is to see you hanged if I can. If you think it worth while, search me.”

Just then they were summoned by a shout from the coach roof to help in lowering my treasure. My pistol was reloaded by this time, and I lifted myself to take aim and account for one of the scoundrels at least: but in the effort my broken bone played me false; my hand shook, then dropped, and I sank upon my face in a swoon of pain.

I came back to consciousness to find myself propped on the edge of the ditch against a milestone. The coach was gone. Driver, guard, highwaymen, even the corporal’s body, had disappeared also. But just before me in the road, under the light of a newly-risen waning moon, stood the inside passenger, hopping first on one leg then on the other for warmth; and indeed the villains had despoiled him of three of his greatcoats.

I sat up, groaned, and tried to lift my hands to my face. My companion ceased hopping about and regarded me with interest.

“Lost money?” he inquired.

“Public money,” I answered, and groaned again. “It means ruin for me,” I added.

“Well,” said he, “I’ve lost my own–every stiver about me.” He began to hop about again, halted, and began to wag his forefinger at me slowly. “Come, come, what’s the use? I’m sorry for you, but where’s your heart?”

I stared, not well knowing what to make of his manner.

“Look here,” he went on after awhile, “you’re thinking that you’ve lost your character. Very well; any bones broken?”

“My collar-bone, I think.”

“Which, at your age, will heal in no time. Anything else?”

“A twist of the hip, here, and a cut in the head, I believe.”