A Rogue's Life HTML version

Chapter 16
ON our way back I received from the runner some explanation of his apparently
unaccountable proceedings in reference to myself.
To begin at the beginning, it turned out that the first act of the officers, on their
release from the workroom in the red-brick house, was to institute a careful
search for papers in the doctor's study and bedroom. Among the other
documents that he had not had time to destroy, was a letter to him from Alicia,
which they took from one of the pockets of his dressing-gown. Finding, from the
report of the men who had followed the gig, that he had distanced all pursuit, and
having therefore no direct clew to his whereabout, they had been obliged to hunt
after him in various directions, on pure speculation. Alicia's letter to her father
gave the address of the house at Crickgelly; and to this the runner repaired, on
the chance of intercepting or discovering any communications which the doctor
might make to his daughter, Screw being taken with the officer to identify the
young lady. After leaving the last coach, they posted to within a mile of
Crickgelly, and then walked into the village, in order to excite no special attention,
should the doctor be lurking in the neighborhood. The runner had tried
ineffectually to gain admission as a visitor at Zion Place. After having the door
shut on him, he and Screw had watched the house and village, and had seen me
approach Number Two. Their suspicions were directly excited.
Thus far, Screw had not recognized, nor even observed me; but he immediately
identified me by my voice, while I was parleying with the stupid servant at the
door. The runner, hearing who I was, reasonably enough concluded that I must
be the recognized medium of communication between the doctor and his
daughter, especially when he found that I was admitted, instantly after calling,
past the servant, to some one inside the house.
Leaving Screw on the watch, he went to the inn, discovered himself privately to
the landlord, and made sure (in more ways than one, as I conjectured) of
knowing when, and in what direction, I should leave Crickgelly. On finding that I
was to leave it the next morning, with Alicia and Mrs. Baggs, he immediately
suspected that I was charged with the duty of taking the daughter to, or near, the
place chosen for the father's retreat; and had therefore abstained from interfering
prematurely with my movements. Knowing whither we were bound in the cart, he
had ridden after us, well out of sight, with his countryman's disguise ready for use
in the saddle-bags-- Screw, in case of any mistakes or mystifications, being left
behind on the watch at Crickgelly.
The possibility that I might be running away with Alicia had suggested itself to
him; but he dismissed it as improbable, first when he saw that Mrs. Baggs
accompanied us, and again, when, on nearing Scotland, he found that we did not