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Kilgorman by Talbot Baines Reed

I confess Biddy puzzled me a little by her talk


take shame to yourself, Mr Lestrange. Thank God you're not one of the fifty that ride in the tumbrel the morrow; thank God you've got a sweet wife that will bear with your grumblings; and thank God you've got a body like me that's not afraid to tell you what I think of yez. Hold yer tongue now, and get to your beds."

Biddy, as I learned later on, had stuck of her own accord to her master and mistress through all their troubles, and presumed on her position to take her chicken-hearted lord severely to task when, like to-night, the grumbling fit was upon him.

As for me, I was dismissed with little thanks from anybody; but Biddy bade me call now and again to have a crack with her.

"I had a liking for your father, poor soul!" said she, wiping a corner of her eye, "and thought he might have done worse than make me a mother to you and Tim, rest his soul! But it's as well as it is, maybe. Poor Tim! I always liked him better than you. He was his mother's son. Well, well, he's dead too. Barry, my boy, we can't all just have what we've not got; we all have to stand out of our own. Good-night to yez, and come and see an old body sometimes that held you in her arms when you were a fine kicking boy."

I confess Biddy puzzled me a little by her talk. Whenever she spoke of old days she had the air of keeping a secret to herself, which roused my curiosity,

and made me recall my poor mother's dying words to myself. That set me thinking of Kilgorman and the strange mystery that hung there; and that set me on to think of Knockowen, and his honour and my lady and Miss Kit; and so by the time I had reached my shabby kennel in the Rue Saint Antoine, I was fairly miserable and ready to feel very lonely and friendless.

However, I was not left much time to mope, for in the night the street was up with a rumour that a "federalist" deputy, who was known to be in the pay of Pitt, the English minister, had been traced to some hiding- place near, and that a strict house-to-house search was being made by the soldiers for him.

"_A bas les mouchards! a bas Pitt! a bas les etrangers! Vive la guillotine_!" shrieked the mob.

Whereat I deemed it prudent to join them and shriek too, rather than await the visit of the soldiers. Not, thought I, that any one would do me the honour of mistaking me for an agent of Mr Pitt; but there was no knowing what craze the Paris mob was not ready for, or on what slight pretext an innocent man might not be sent to the scaffold.

So I sneaked quietly down the stairs, where, alas! I found I had fallen from the frying-pan into the fire.

A file of soldiers was ready for me, and received me with open arms.

"Your name, your business, your destination," demanded they.

"Citizen soldiers, my name is Gallagher; I am a stranger in Paris in search of occupation."

"Enough. You are arrested. Stand aside!"

"But, citizen--"

A stroke with the flat of the soldier's sword silenced me, and I gave myself up for lost. But as a prisoner of the Revolution I should at least not be lonely, and on the guillotine itself I should have company.

The soldiers were too intent on watching for further fugitives to do more than keep me in sight of their loaded pistols. That was bad enough, however, and would have sufficed to land me in the Conciergerie, had not an alarm of fire, followed by volumes of smoke, just then proceeded from a house opposite that in which the fugitive deputy was supposed to be hidden. A rush took place for the spot and the loud sounding of the tocsin down the street, and in the midst of the confusion I dived between the legs of my captors, upsetting the one who covered me with his pistol, so that the weapon went off harmlessly over my head, and next moment I was safe in the thick of the crowd, struggling for a view of the fire.

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