Chapter XLV: The Invasion of Hampshire

There was much to be arranged as to their plan of action. Tom, Von Baumser, and the major talked it over in a low voice, while the two Socialists chatted together in German and consumed eternal cigarettes. Tom was for marching straight up to the Priory and demanding that Girdlestone should deliver his ward up to them. To the major and the German this seemed an unwise proceeding. It was to put themselves hopelessly wrong from a legal point of view. Girdlestone had only to say, as he assuredly would, that the whole story was a ridiculous mare’s nest, and then what proof could they adduce, or what excuse give for their interference. However plausible their suspicions might be, they were, after all, only suspicions, which other people might not view in as grave a light.

“What would you advise, then?” Tom asked, passing his hand over his heated forehead.

“Bedad! I’ll tell you the plan,” the old soldier answered, “and I think me friend Von Baumser will agray with me. I understand that this place is surrounded by a wall to which there is only one gate. Sure, we shall wait outside this wall, and one of us can go in as a skirmisher and find out how the land lies. Let him ascertain from the young lady herself if she requires immadiate help, and what she would wish done. If he can’t make his way to her, let him hang about the house, and see and hear all that he can. We shall then have something solid to work on. I have a dog whistle here on me watch-chain, given me by Charley Gill, of the Inniskillens. Our skirmisher could take that with him, and if he wants immadiate help one blow of it would be enough to bring the four of us over to him. Though how the divil I am to git over a wall,” concluded the major ruefully, looking down at his own proportions, “is more than I can tell.”

“I hope, my vriends,” said Von Baumser, “dat you vill allow me the honour of going first, for ven I vas in the Swabian Jager I vas always counted a very good spion.”

“That is my place,” said Tom with decision.

“You have the best claim,” the major answered. “What a train this is! Ged, it’s as slow as the one which Jimmy Travers, of the Commissariat, travelled in in America. They were staming along, according to Jimmy, when they saw a cow walking along the loine in front of them. They all thought that they were going to run into her, but it was all right, for they never overtook her, and she soon walked clane out of sight. Here we are at a station! How far to Bedsworth, guard?”

“Next station, sir.”

“Thank the Lord! It’s twinty to eight. We are rather behind our time.
You always are if you are in a particular hurry.”

It was nearly eight o’clock by the time they reached their destination. The station-master directed them to the Flying Bull, where they secured the very vehicle in which Kate and her guardian had been originally driven up. By the time that the horse was put in it was close upon the half-hour.

“Drive as hard as you can go to the Proiory, me man,” said the major.

The sulky ostler made no remark, but a look of surprise passed over his phlegmatic countenance. For years back so little had been heard of the old monastery that its very existence had been almost forgotten in Bedsworth. Now whole troops of Londoners were coming down in succession, demanding to be driven there. He pondered over the strange fact as he drove through the darkness, but the only conclusion to which his bucolic mind could come was that it was high time to raise the fare to that particular point.

It was a miserable night, stormy and wet and bitterly cold. None of the five men had a thought to spare for the weather, however. The two foreigners had been so infected by the suppressed excitement of their companions, or had so identified themselves with their comrades’ cause, that they were as eager as the others.

“Are we near?” the major asked.

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