‘He’s enough to fret a man’s heart out,’ replied the hostler. ‘He’s the most wicious rascal — Woa then, will you?’

‘He’ll never stand still, if you call him names,’ said Mr Abel, getting in, and taking the reins. ‘He’s a very good fellow if you know how to manage him. This is the first time he has been out, this long while, for he has lost his old driver and wouldn’t stir for anybody else, till this morning. The lamps are right, are they? That’s well. Be here to take him tomorrow, if you please. Good-night!’

And after one or two strange plunges, quite of his own invention, the pony yielded to Mr Abel’s mildness, and trotted gently off.

All this time Mr Chuckster had been standing at the door, and the small servant had been afraid to approach. She had nothing for it now, therefore, but to run after the chaise, and to call to Mr Abel to stop. Being out of breath when she came up with it, she was unable to make him hear. The case was desperate; for the pony was quickening his pace. The Marchioness hung on behind for a few moments, and, feeling that she could go no farther, and must soon yield, clambered by a vigorous effort into the hinder seat, and in so doing lost one of the shoes for ever.

Mr Abel being in a thoughtful frame of mind, and having quite enough to do to keep the pony going, went jogging on without looking round: little dreaming of the strange figure that was close behind him, until the Marchioness, having in some degree recovered her breath, and the loss of her shoe, and the novelty of her position, uttered close into his ear, the words —

‘I say, Sir’ —

He turned his head quickly enough then, and stopping the pony, cried, with some trepidation, ‘God bless me, what is this!’

‘Don’t be frightened, Sir,’ replied the still panting messenger. ‘Oh I’ve run such a way after you!’

‘What do you want with me?’ said Mr Abel. ‘How did you come here?’

‘I got in behind,’ replied the Marchioness. ‘Oh please drive on, Sir — don’t stop — and go towards the City, will you? And oh do please make haste, because it’s of consequence. There’s somebody wants to see you there. He sent me to say would you come directly, and that he knowed all about Kit, and could save him yet, and prove his innocence.’

‘What do you tell me, child?’

‘The truth, upon my word and honour I do. But please to drive on — quick, please! I’ve been such a time gone, he’ll think I’m lost.’

Mr Abel involuntarily urged the pony forward. The pony, impelled by some secret sympathy or some new caprice, burst into a great pace, and neither slackened it, nor indulged in any eccentric performances, until they arrived at the door of Mr Swiveller’s lodging, where, marvellous to relate, he consented to stop when Mr Abel checked him.

‘See! It’s that room up there,’ said the Marchioness, pointing to one where there was a faint light. ‘Come!’

Mr Abel, who was one of the simplest and most retiring creatures in existence, and naturally timid withal, hesitated; for he had heard of people being decoyed into strange places to be robbed and murdered, under circumstances very like the present, and, for anything he knew to the contrary, by guides very like the Marchioness. His regard for Kit, however, overcame every other consideration. So, entrusting Whisker to the charge of a man who was lingering hard by in expectation of the job, he suffered his companion to take his hand, and to lead him up the dark and narrow stairs.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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