Chapter XXXI
"We've gotten Beau Brocade!"

The presence of Philip at the inn had done much to cheer Patience in her weary waiting. He and John Stich had reached the Packhorse some time before cockcrow, and the landlord had been only too ready to do anything in reason to further the safety of the fugitive, so long as his own interests were not imperilled thereby.

This meant that he would give Philip a serving-man's suit and afford him shelter in the inn, for as long as the authorities did not suspect him of harbouring a rebel; beyond that he would not go.

Lady Patience had paid him lavishly for this help and his subsequent silence. It was understood that the fugitive would only make a brief halt at Brassington: some more secluded shelter would have to be found for him on the morrow.

For the moment, of course, the thoughts of every one in the village would be centred in the capture of Beau Brocade. The highwayman had many friends and adherents in the village, people whom his careless and open-handed generosity had often saved from penury. To a man almost, the village folk hoped to see him come out victorious from the awful and unequal struggle which was going on the Heath. So strong was this feeling that the beadle, who was known to entertain revengeful thoughts against the man who had played him so impudent a trick the day before, did not dare to show his rubicund face in the bar-parlour of either inn on that memorable night.

No one had gone to bed. The men waited about, consuming tankards of small ale, whilst discussing the possibility of their hero's capture. The women sat at home with streaming eyes, plaintively wondering who would help them in future in their distress, if Beau Brocade ceased to haunt the Heath.

Patience herself did not close an eye. Her hand clinging to that of Philip, she sat throughout the long, weary night watching and waiting, dreading the awful dawn, with the terrible news it would bring.

And it was when the first rosy light shed its delicate hue over the tiny old-world village, that the sweet-scented morning air was suddenly filled with the hoarse triumphal cry,--

"We have gotten Beau Brocade!"

"Hip! hip! hip! hurray!"

Wearied and dazed with the fatigue of her long vigil, Patience had sunk into a torpor when those shouts, rapidly drawing nearer to the village, roused her from this state of semi-consciousness.

She hardly knew what she had hoped during these past anxious hours: now that the awful certainty had come, it seemed to stun her with the unexpectedness of the blow.

"We've gotten Beau Brocade!"

The village folk turned out in melancholy groups from the parlour of the inn; they too had entertained vague hopes that their hero would emerge unscathed from the perils which encompassed him; to them too the news of his capture came as that of a sad, irretrievable catastrophe. They congregated in small, excited numbers on the village green, their stolid heads shaking sadly at sight of the squad of soldiers, who were bringing in a swathed-up bundle of humanity, smothered about the head in a scarlet coat, and with hands and legs securely strapped down with a couple of military belts. Only the fine brown cloth coat, the beautifully-embroidered waistcoat and silver-mounted pistols proclaimed that miserable, helpless bundle to be the gallant Beau Brocade.

The soldiers themselves were in a wild state of glee; they had carried their prisoner in triumph all the way from the Heath, and had never ceased shouting until they had deposited him on the green. Owing to the unusual hour, and to the absence of his Honour, Squire West, the pinioned highwayman was to be locked up in the pound until noon.

In the small parlour of the Packhorse Patience had sat rigid as a statue, while those shouts of triumph seemed to strike her heart as with a hammer. Her fist pressed against her burning mouth, she was making desperate efforts to smother the scream of agony which would have rent her throat.

But with one bound John Stich was soon out of the Packhorse, where he, too, with aching heart and mind devoured with anxiety, had watched and waited through the night.

It did not take him long to reach the green, and using his stalwart elbows to some purpose, he quickly made a way for himself through the small crowd and was presently looking down on the huddled figure which lay helpless on the ground.

There was the Captain's fine brown coat sure enough, with its ample, silk-lined, full skirts, and rich, cut-steel buttons; there was the long, richly-embroidered waistcoat; the lace cuffs at the wrists, and the handsome sword-belt, through which the finely-chased silver handle of the pistol still protruded. But John Stich had need but to cast one glance at the hands, and another at the feet encased in rough countryman's boots, to realise with a sudden, wild exultation of his honest heart that in some way or other his Captain had succeeded in once more playing a trick on his pursuers, and that the man who lay there muffled on the ground was certainly not Beau Brocade.

But even in the suddenness of this intense joy and relief, John Stich was shrewd enough not to betray himself. Obviously every moment, during which the captors enjoyed their mistaken triumph, was a respite gained for the hunted man out on the Heath. Therefore when the Sergeant ordered the rascal to be locked up in the pound awaiting his Honour's orders, and gave Stich a vigorous rap on the shoulder, saying lustily,--

"Well, Master Stich, we've got your friend after all, you see?"

The smith quietly replied,--

"Aye! aye! you've gotten him right enough. No offence, Sergeant! Have a small ale with me before we all go to bed?"

"'Tis nowt to me," he added, seeing with intense satisfaction the heavy bolts of the pound securely pushed home on the unfortunate Jock Miggs.

The Sergeant was nothing loth, and eagerly followed Stich to the bar of the Royal George, where small ale now flowed freely until the sun was high in the heavens.

But as soon as the smith had seen the soldiers safely installed before their huge tankards, he rushed out of the inn and across the green, back to the Packhorse, to bring the joyful news to Lady Patience and her brother.

In the privacy of the little back parlour he was able to give free rein to his joy.

"They'll never get the Captain," he shouted, tossing his cap in the air, "and, saving your ladyship's presence, we was all fools to think they would."

Patience had said nothing when the smith first brought the news. She smiled kindly and somewhat mechanically at the exuberance of his joy, but when honest John once more left her, to glean a more detailed account of the great man-hunt on the Heath, she turned to her brother, and falling on her knees she buried her fair head against the lad's shoulder and sobbed in the fullness of her joy as if her heart would break.