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A Rogue's Life

Chapter 13
SECURE as I tried to feel in my change of costume, my cropped hair, and my
whiskerless cheeks, I kept well away from the coach-window, when the dinner at
the inn was over and the passengers were called to take their places again. Thus
far--thanks to the strength of my grasp on his neck, which had left him too weak
to be an outside passenger--Screw had certainly not seen me; and, if I played my
cards properly, there was no reason why he should see me before we got to our
destination.
Throughout the rest of the journey I observed the strictest caution, and fortune
seconded my efforts. It was dark when we got to Shrewsbury. On leaving the
coach I was enabled, under cover of the night, to keep a sharp watch on the
proceedings of Screw and his Bow Street ally. They did not put up at the hotel,
but walked away to a public house. There, my clerical character obliged me to
leave them at the door.
I returned to the hotel, to make inquiries about conveyances.
The answers informed me that Crickgelly was a little fishing-village, and that
there was no coach direct to it, but that two coaches running to two small Welsh
towns situated at nearly equal distances from my destination, on either side of it,
would pass through Shrewsbury the next morning. The waiter added, that I could
book a place--conditionally--by either of these vehicles; and that, as they were
always well-filled, I had better be quick in making my choice between them.
Matters had now arrived at such a pass, that nothing was left for me but to trust
to chance. If I waited till the morning to see whether Screw and the Bow Street
runner traveled in my direction, and to find out, in case they did, which coach
they took, I should be running the risk of losing a place for myself, and so
delaying my journey for another day. This was not to be thought of. I told the
waiter to book me a place in which coach he pleased. The two were called
respectively The Humming Bee, and The Red Cross Knight. The waiter chose
the latter.
Sleep was not much in my way that night. I rose almost as early as Boots
himself--breakfasted--then sat at the coffee-room window looking out anxiously
for the two coaches.
Nobody seemed to agree which would pass first. Each of the inn servants of
whom I inquired made it a matter of partisanship, and backed his favorite coach
with the most consummate assurance. At last, I heard the guard's horn and the
clatter of the horses' hoofs. Up drove a coach--I looked out cautiously--it was the
Humming Bee. Three outside places were vacant; one behind the coachman;
 
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