20. The Events Of Three Hours
1. MARCH THE TWENTY-THIRD. MIDDAY
Thirty-six hours had elapsed since Manston's escape.
It was market-day at the county-town. The farmers outside and inside the corn-
exchange looked at their samples of wheat, and poured them critically as usual
from one palm to another, but they thought and spoke of Manston. Grocers
serving behind their counters, instead of using their constant phrase, 'The next
article, please?' substituted, 'Have you heard if he's caught?' Dairymen and
drovers standing beside the sheep and cattle pens, spread their legs firmly,
readjusted their hats, thrust their hands into the lowest depths of their pockets,
regarded the animals with the utmost keenness of which the eye was capable,
and said, 'Ay, ay, so's: they'll have him avore night.'
Later in the day Edward Springrove passed along the street hurriedly and
anxiously. 'Well, have you heard any more?' he said to an acquaintance who
'They tracked him in this way,' said the other young man. 'A vagrant first told
them that Manston had passed a rick at daybreak, under which this man was
lying. They followed the track he pointed out and ultimately came to a stile. On
the other side was a heap of half-hardened mud, scraped from the road. On the
surface of the heap, where it had been smoothed by the shovel, was distinctly
imprinted the form of a man's hand, the buttons of his waistcoat, and his watch-
chain, showing that he had stumbled in hurrying over the stile, and fallen there.
The pattern of the chain proved the man to have been Manston. They followed
on till they reached a ford crossed by stepping-stones--on the further bank were
the same footmarks that had shown themselves beside the stile. The whole of
this course had been in the direction of Budmouth. On they went, and the next
clue was furnished them by a shepherd. He said that wherever a clear space
three or four yards wide ran in a line through a flock of sheep lying about a ewe-
lease, it was a proof that somebody had passed there not more than half-an-hour
earlier. At twelve o'clock that day he had noticed such a feature in his flock.
Nothing more could be heard of him, and they got into Budmouth. The steam-
packet to the Channel Islands was to start at eleven last night, and they at once
concluded that his hope was to get to France by way of Jersey and St. Malo--his
only chance, all the railway-stations being watched.
'Well, they went to the boat: he was not on board then. They went again at half-
past ten: he had not come. Two men now placed themselves under the lamp
immediately beside the gangway. Another stayed by the office door, and one or
two more up Mary Street--the straight cut to the quay. At a quarter to eleven the
mail-bags were put on board. Whilst the attention of the idlers was directed to the
mails, down Mary Street came a man as boldly as possible. The gait was
Manston's, but not the clothes. He passed over to the shaded part of the street:
heads were turned. I suppose this warned him, for he never emerged from the