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HOME > Classical Novels > The Admirable Tinker > CHAPTER SIX THE RESCUE OF ELIZABETH KERNABY
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 Sir Tancred paused now and again in his leisurely1 breakfast to scowl2 across the dining room at Mr. Biggleswade, who, with his sour-looking wife and woebegone little girl, was breakfasting at an opposite table. The Royal Victoria Hotel was second-rate. The cooking was poor, the wine was bad, and Solesgate itself was dull. But these misfortunes Sir Tancred would have endured cheerfully because the place suited Hildebrand Anne, who had but lately recovered from an attack of scarlet3 fever at Farndon-Pryze, but he could not endure Mr. Biggleswade. It was not so much that he had reckoned up Mr. Biggleswade as a large, fat, greasy4 rogue5, nor was it that no snub once and for all stopped Mr. Biggleswade from thrusting himself upon him with a snobbish6 obsequiousness7; it was Mr. Biggleswade's noisy and haphazard8 methods of disposing of his food, which left small portions of each course nestling in his straggling beard, and filled the air with the sound of the feeding of pigs.  
This Sir Tancred found unendurable, and the more unendurable that Mr. Biggleswade had made up his mind that he enjoyed his meals more in the presence of a baronet, and always waited for his coming.
Sir Tancred was eating his breakfast mournfully, therefore, reflecting on the unkindness of Fortune, who had afflicted9 Tinker with his fever at so inconvenient10 a time. For he had not been able to raise the money to take him to make his convalescence11 at one of the more expensive watering places, whither resort millionaires and the smart, whose fondness for games of chance and skill would have kept him in careless luxury. He had been driven to bring him to Solesgate, a town of six bathing-machines; and there the rest of his ready money dwindled12 to a few shillings. A sudden cessation of the sound of the feeding of pigs caught him from his mournful reflections. He looked up quickly, to see Mr. Biggleswade staring at his newspaper with a most striking expression of triumphant13 greed.
On the instant Sir Tancred filled with the liveliest interest; emotion, especially curious emotion, in his fellow creatures always aroused his interest, and not infrequently brought him profit, and Mr. Biggleswade's emotion seemed to him curiously14 violent to be excited by the perusal15 of a newspaper. He made half a movement to show it to his wife, caught Sir Tancred's eye, and setting it down, went on hastily with his breakfast. He had not been so quick but that Sir Tancred had seen that the paper was The Daily Telegraph, and the exciting paragraph on the first page.
Sir Tancred brightened to the rest of his breakfast; he had little doubt that he was on the track of some roguery or other, and he promised himself a hunt through the paper till he found it. When the Biggleswades, having finished their breakfast, went down to the beach, he lighted a cigar, took his folding-chair and his pile of newspapers, and settled down sixty yards away from them. As he had expected, their first act was to discuss the newspaper with great animation16, handing it backwards17 and forwards to one another. And he took The Daily Telegraph from his pile, and set about seeking the source of their excitement. He passed over the first advertisement in the agony column, the offer of a reward for the recovery of the stolen child of Kernaby, the Marmalade Millionaire, merely noting that it had been raised to 4000 pounds, and came to the conclusion that the second advertisement was genuine, while the third, which set forth18 at great length the woes19 of a young woman parted from a young man, seemed to him to read like thieves communicating. He had begun to eliminate the superfluous20 words, when Tinker, with Blazer, his bull-terrier, came suddenly up to him from behind, and bade him good-morning.
Tinker had breakfasted some three hours earlier, probably in the hotel kitchen, for, as was his invariable custom, he was on the best of terms with the servants; and for all that he had spent the intervening hours on the uncovered slimy rocks, was in his usual state of spotless cleanliness. He is the one living boy to whom dirt does not cling.
"How have you been amusing yourself?" said his father, his stern face lighting21 up with a delightful22 smile.
"I'm still teaching Blazer to be a bloodhound. He's slow—very slow."
Blazer cocked an apologetic ear and sniffed23.
"It must be tiring work."
"Yes," said Tinker sadly, and his eyes wandered slowly along the shore.
Sir Tancred flipped24 the ash off his cigar.
"Those Biggleswades are beasts!" Tinker broke out suddenly when his eyes fell on them. "They treat that little girl of theirs shamefully25! When I went to bed last night she was crying again. She always is. I don't believe she's their little girl at all. I believe they've stolen her."
"The deuce!" cried Sir Tancred, and catching26 up his Daily Telegraph, he read again the Marmalade Millionaire's advertisement. It ran:
The above sum will be paid to any person giving information leading to the recovery of Elizabeth E. Kernaby, aged27 seven years. She strayed or was stolen in Kensington Gardens between the hours of 10 and 11 a. m., on the 19th ultimo. She is fair with blue eyes, and long flaxen hair, speaks with a lisp, and answers to the name of Bessie. Any person bringing information to Messrs. Datchett & Hobb's, 127, Lincoln's Inn Fields, or to Mr. Joseph W. Kernaby, 11a, Cadogan Square, will receive:
He laid the paper on his knee, and began to consider the facts of the kidnapping, as he remembered them from the newspaper reports. Her nurse had taken her to Kensington Gardens, where she had foregathered with the little daughters of Sir William Uglow. The children's play had little by little drawn28 them away from their gossipping nurses, right out of their sight; and when their nurses went to look for them they found only the little Uglows; Elizabeth Kernaby had gone. The children said that a tall gentleman had come to them and, telling her that her mamma had sent him for her, had taken her away in a cab. The nurse had thought it strange, but suspected nothing wrong till she reached home and found that Elizabeth had not returned. She did not return; and since that day, in spite of all the efforts of Scotland Yard and the private-detective agencies, nothing had been seen or heard of her. The reward offered for her recovery had risen from 1000 pounds to 4000 pounds.
It had been a crime of a masterly simplicity29, and Sir Tancred had been sure that the child would not be forthcoming till the reward satisfied the cupidity30 of the child-stealers. He had reason to believe that the present reward did satisfy the cupidity of the child-stealers; and after a thoughtful glance at the Biggleswades, he turned to Tinker. Tinker could be of help to him.
He turned to him and said:
"Do you remember my telling you of a little girl, Elizabeth Kernaby, who was stolen a week or two ago?"
"Elizabeth Kernaby, aged seven, blue eyes, long flaxen hair, speaks with a lisp, and answers to the name of Bessie," said Tinker glibly31, in the manner of one reciting a lesson.
"Quite right," said Sir Tancred approvingly; "you'll be another Sherlock Holmes some day. Well, I have reason to believe that the little girl with the Biggleswades is Elizabeth Kernaby."
Tinker's face brightened. "Her eyes are blue, but her hair is black, and it's not very long."
"Hair can be dyed."
"Yes; and it doesn't match her face."
"It doesn't, doesn't it? Well, I want to know if she lisps, and if she answers to the name of Bessie. You will find out?"
"Yes, I'll find out. But Mrs. Biggleswade never lets her speak to anyone. I must think it out."
With that Tinker sat down; set his elbows on his knees, his chin on his hands; and plunged32 into deep thought. His father sat equally thoughtful; and their similar employment brought out extraordinarily33 their strong likeness34, for all that Tinker was a fair, angel child, and his father's face as dark and proud and stern as Lucifer's.
For a long while neither said a word, nor moved. Sir Tancred was trying to see how to work the affair on seven shillings, and debating whether to call in the help of the police. Instinct assured him that he had no time to lose, no time to walk to Beachley and pawn35 his watch, that he must not lose sight of them, and in delicate matters he relied chiefly on instinct. Mr. Biggleswade would not have looked so triumphant, had not the 4000 pound reward satisfied him; it seemed likely that he would leave for town that very day. On the other hand, Sir Tancred was averse36 to going to the police; he knew what the provincial37 police were. What was excellent evidence to him would seem no evidence at all to them; and they would move too late, or, if they moved in time, would muddle38 the whole business, and let the Biggleswades know they were suspected. Besides, it hurt his self-love to seek aid from anyone. No, the proper game was to rob the robbers, and he had seven shillings to play it with.
Suddenly Tinker stirred. "I'm going to try now," he said.
Sir Tancred looked at the Biggleswades. Mr. Biggleswade lay sprawled39 on his back, a handkerchief spread over his face; and mellowed40 by the distance, the music of a long-drawn snore murmured over the sands. Mrs. Biggleswade was nodding over a book.
Tinker rose, bade Blazer stay where he was; and walked off towards the hotel. Sir Tancred twisted round his chair, tore a hole in his Daily Telegraph, and watched him. Tinker fetched a circuit to within a hundred yards of the backs of the Biggleswades, threw his straw hat on the sand, dropped on to his stomach, and began to squirm along towards them, taking advantage of every ridge41 and hollow. It was a long business, but at last he lay in a hollow thirty yards away. He raised his head cautiously, and in a low, clear voice said, "Bessie."
The little girl sprang to her feet, and stared about her wildly. Tinker dropped his head and lay still. Mrs. Biggleswade, roused from her napping, caught the child by the arm, and shaking her, said savagely43, "Sit down, you little brat44! Keep quiet!"
The child sank down, and began to cry.
Tinker lay still for a while, and then began, to squirm away. When he reached his hat, he rose to his feet, knocked the sand off his clothes, and walked slowly back to his father.
"She answers to the name of Bessie, sir," he said quietly.
"Good!" said Sir Tancred, and he rose.
They walked down to the railway station; and on the way Sir Tancred informed Tinker that he was to take Elizabeth Kernaby up to London, to 11a Cadogan Square, and, at a cost of six out of his seven shillings, bought two half third-class tickets. On their way back he learned, no less to his surprise than his joy, that Tinker was the possessor of eighteenpence. To make assurance surer, therefore, he bought a basket of strawberries, and when the Biggleswades returned to the hotel for lunch, they found the Beauleighs in the porch, eating them.
"Would you like some strawberries, little girl?" said Tinker as they passed, and he held out the basket to the child.
"Yeth, pleath," she said, and stepped forward to take one.
"No, no, Keziah," broke in Mrs. Biggleswade. "You know they don't agree with you!" And she caught her away, and hurried her into the hotel.
"Children like sweet things; but they sometimes don't agree with them," said Mr. Biggleswade sapiently45, his loose and flabby bulk swelling46 yet bigger at the thought that he was speaking to a member of the aristocracy.
"That is very true," said Sir Tancred pleasantly.
Surprised by this affability, but swift to seize on a conversational47 opening with a baronet, Mr. Biggleswade stayed talking with him in the porch; he talked to him all lunch-time: and he talked to him on the sands after lunch. His unbridled appetite for the society of the aristocracy proved his undoing48. For at a few minutes to three Sir Tancred proposed a stroll along the shore. They went slowly, Mr. Biggleswade rising to the great social occasion for which he had so long hankered, and proving himself, in his talk, a thorough man of the world.
As they passed round the promontory49 at the end of the little bay, and Sir Tancred took out his handkerchief, Tinker was awaiting the signal, impatient, but cool; and as they passed out of sight, he began to steal up behind the drowsy50 Mrs. Biggleswade and presently, touching51 the child on the shoulder, beckoned52 her to come with him.
She looked timidly at Mrs. Biggleswade whose eyes were closed, and rose. Tinker drew her quietly away. They had not gone twenty yards when a jerking nod awoke Mrs. Biggleswade, and she missed the child. She scrambled53 up, turned and saw her, and cried, "Come here, you naughty girl. Come here at once!"
"Are you Bessie Kernaby?" said Tinker to the child.
"Yeth, yeth," she said, turning to go to her tyrant54.
Tinker gripped her arm, and cried, "Pstt! Pstt! Hold her, Blazer! Hold her!" and waved him at Mrs. Biggleswade.
Blazer darted55 forward, growling56 with a fine show of teeth.
Mrs. Biggleswade, like a wise woman, stood stock-still, and sent a shrill57 scream ringing down the shore, and another, and another, and another.
Tinker caught Elizabeth's hand and cried, "Come on! Come on! We've only just time to catch the train!" And the two children set off running to the station.
On the edge of the sands Tinker stopped for a moment, whistled shrilly58, brought Blazer racing59 after them, and ran on again. He could hear the far-away rattle60 of the express.
Mr. Biggleswade was too deeply engrossed61 in his talk with Sir Tancred to notice the first half-dozen screams from his wife; and they came faintly round the promontory. Then he heard them, said, "By Jove! that's Maria!" and started to run back. Sir Tancred ran by his side. When they came round the promontory they saw Mrs. Biggleswade waving frantically62 towards the station, and half-way to it two little figures running. Mr. Biggleswade showed himself a man of action. He swung round, and, with the swiftness of an accomplished63 boxer64, dealt Sir Tancred an unexpected blow on the side of the head which knocked him over half-stunned, and almost in the same moment started to run after the children. He was half a mile from them, and they were less than a quarter of a mile from the station, but naturally he ran much faster.
As the children reached the platform the express steamed in. Tinker hurried his prize into an empty third-class carriage, in the forepart of the train, and pushed the ticketless Blazer under the seat. Then he put his head out of the window, and saw to his disgust Mr. Biggleswade, his coat-tails flying, two hundred yards from the station, yelling lustily, but making a very good pace indeed for his flabby bulk. The doors were shutting, and Tinker watched the guard breathlessly. When he whistled, Mr. Biggleswade had yet fifty yards to go. At the sound he yelled louder than ever, and made a tremendous spurt65. The train was well on the move when he rushed into the station; but he dashed at a compartment66 in the last carriage, wrenched67 the door open, scrambled on to the footboard, and tumbled in, amidst the shouts of the indignant porters.
Tinker drew in his head with a blank face. It had been no part of his father's plan that Mr. Biggleswade should travel by the same train to London, and his heart sank a little. But remembering Blazer, his spirits rose, and he turned to the little girl with a cheerful face. She was panting, crying, and wringing68 her hands in a paroxysm of nervous excitement. He sat down beside her, thumped69 her on the back—a way he had with tearful females—wiped away her tears with his handkerchief, and poured comforting assurances of safety into her ears.
When at last he had soothed70 her he began to question her, and drew from her the story of her captivity71. She had driven miles and miles with the gentleman who had fetched her from Kensington Gardens, to a little house in a long street. There she had found the Biggleswades. Mrs. Biggleswade had taken away her nice clothes, and dressed her in these common things. Then she had cut off her hair.
"I was wondering about your hair," interrupted Tinker.
For answer the little girl lifted up her black locks, hat and all; displayed a fuzzy little fair poll underneath72 them, and let them drop on it again.
"I see," said Tinker, and he went on with his questioning.
She had stayed with the Biggleswades, shut up in a room upstairs, she did not know how many days; and then they had come down to Solesgate. All the while Mrs. Biggleswade had been very unkind to her, and slapped her whenever she cried for her mother.
The remembrance of her misfortunes set her crying again, and again, with quiet patience, he consoled her. Presently she was babbling73 cheerfully of her home, her mother, and her dolls, and asking many questions. He made the replies politeness demanded, but he lent an abstracted ear to her talk, for he was considering different plans for escaping Mr. Biggleswade, most of them useless by reason of the slowness of Elizabeth. He could only make up his mind that they must dash for a cab as quickly as they could, and trust to Blazer for protection.
It seemed to him a very long journey; and even when he had made his plan, he found it no little task to take his part in the conversation. As the train ran into London, he told her that Mr. Biggleswade was in the train, and they must bolt for the cab. At once she was all panic and tears, and he had much ado to brace74 her for effort before the train slowed down at the terminus. Before it had stopped he was out of the carriage, helping75 her down. They ran towards the barrier; but the platform was long, and Elizabeth was slow. While they were yet thirty yards from it, Mr. Biggleswade was on them. With a savage42 blow he sent Tinker flying, caught up the screaming Elizabeth, and dashed on, crying loudly, "The nearest hospital! The nearest hospital! My little girl! My little girl!"
Everyone made way for him; but Tinker picked himself up, bolted after him, hissing76 on Blazer, took a flying leap on to his back, and locked his arms round his neck in a strangling grip, as the prompt and nimble Blazer buried his teeth in his calf77. Mr. Biggleswade dropped Elizabeth and tore viciously at Tinker's hands. The passengers and porters came crowding round, and the moment the throng78 was thick enough, Tinker dropped to his feet and gripped Elizabeth by the arm, shouting, "Police! Police!"
Mr. Biggleswade struggled to choke Blazer off his leg. A police inspector79 pushed through the crowd, and cried, "What's all this?"
"The young rascal80 has enticed81 away my little girl, and brought her up to London!" cried Mr. Biggleswade, who had divested82 himself of Blazer, and was holding him off by the collar; and with the other hand he grabbed at Elizabeth.
"It's a lie!" cried Tinker, as the inspector grasped his shoulder. "This is Elizabeth Kernaby! He stole her!" And on the words he jerked off her hat and wig83.
At the sight of the fuzzy little bare poll light slowly dawned on the inspector; but even more quickly Mr. Biggleswade had seen that the game was up, flung Blazer away from him, and bolted through the barrier. The Inspector rushed after him; but Blazer, who apparently84 had not had enough of Mr. Biggleswade's calf, outstripped85 him, and pinned the fugitive86 on the very step of a hansom.
When Tinker and Elizabeth, escorted by an excited and applauding crowd, came out of the station they found Mr. Biggleswade, the inspector, two constables87, and Blazer in a tangled88, battling group. Tinker saw his chance of escaping any further aid from the police, thrust Elizabeth into a hansom, gave the cabman the address, whistled Blazer out of the fight, jumped in after her, and drove off amid the cheers of the crowd. By the time the dishevelled police had Mr. Biggleswade secured, and could turn their attention to them, the children were half a mile away.
Tinker's hands had been torn by the savage rascal, and on the way to Cadogan Square he was busy staunching their bleeding. By tearing his handkerchief in two he managed with Elizabeth's aid to bandage both; but he was vexed89 that they must make such an unpleasant appearance before her relatives. When they reached Cadogan Square he paid the cabman, and rang the bell; but when the door opened, Elizabeth assumed the leadership. She caught Tinker's hand, dragged him past the astonished footman, hurried him up the stairs, and burst with him into a drawing room, where half a score of mournful people were discussing over their tea the further measures for her recovery.
"I've come back, mamma! And this is Hildebrand Anne Beauleigh, but his real name is Tinker!" cried Elizabeth.
In a breath Mrs. Kernaby had her in her arms; there were screams and pantings, and a bandying to and fro of smelling salts. Everyone was hugging Elizabeth, or shaking hands with Mr. Kernaby, or slapping one another on the back and assuring one another that they had always said so. Tinker watched their exuberance90 with some distaste, which redoubled when Elizabeth's tangled and incoherent tale drew upon him the embraces of half a dozen animated91 and highly scented92 ladies of the kind who haunt the houses of unprotected millionaires. When at last quiet was restored, he told his story, omitting as many of his own doings as were not absolutely necessary to make it clear, in a fear lest they should provoke another outburst of embraces.
When he had clearly grasped the fact that Tinker was the son of Sir Tancred Beauleigh, all the warm-heartedness of his native Drumtochty bubbled up in Mr. Joseph Kernaby; he shook him warmly by the hand, and cried:
"Mah mannie; eh, but you're a braw sonsie laddie; an' aiblins ye need it, nor yoursel' nor any o' your noble an' deesteengueeshed family shall ne'er ask the twice a wee bit bite or soop unner this humble93 roof."
Tinker, not having the Gaelic, was somewhat taken aback by the cryptic94 utterance95; but an anxious-looking younger son of an embarrassed peer, who for a considerable consideration was bear-leading the millionaire through the social labyrinth96, hurriedly interpreted it to him as a standing97 invitation to dinner. He thanked Mr. Kernaby, and begged that a telegram might at once be sent to his father, informing him of his success and safety.
"They tallygrams they yanners the saxpences, mah mannie," said the millionaire with a falling face. "A poostcaird is a verra——"
But the anxious-looking younger son cut him short, said that it should be sent at once, and bade the footman charged with its despatch98 bring also a doctor to dress Tinker's wounded hands.
Meanwhile Sir Tancred, as soon as he learnt that Mr. Biggleswade had caught the express, had hurried hot-foot in a devouring99 anxiety to Beachley, where dwelt a pawnbroker100, raised money, and caught there a train to town. When he reached Cadogan Square he found Tinker making an excellent tea after his exhausting labours, and giving an account of the Biggleswades to a detective from Scotland Yard. When he had heard Sir Tancred's story, too, the detective said that Mr. Biggleswade would get five years; and the event proved him right.
There was no getting away from the grateful Kernabys, but after the cooking of the Royal Victoria hotel Sir Tancred was more than ready for a good dinner. He found in his host and hostess a strong disposition101 to adopt Tinker forthwith; and before the end of dinner he found them no less inclined to adopt him, too. But it could not be.
After dinner, disregarding the faint expostulations of the anxious-looking younger son, the millionaire rose to his feet and pronounced a glowing, fervid102, but, save for the couplet,
"The rank is but the guinea stamp
The maan's the maan for a' that"
unintelligible103 eulogy104 on the family of Beauleigh.
As he drove away with Tinker to the Hotel Cecil, Sir Tancred crinkled the millionaire's cheque in his waistcoat pocket, and said, "Four thousand pounds is a good day's work—two thousand for you—and two thousand for me. We'll move to Brighton. But I spent some of the most horrible hours of my life wondering if that beast had got into the same compartment with you. None of the fools at the station could tell me."
"I was afraid you'd be anxious, sir," said Tinker, patting his arm. "But I think that Blazer and I could have dealt with him."
Then he gave Blazer—who, distended105 by the fat of the land, was snoring heavily through happy dreams of the human calf, at the bottom of the cab—a gentle kick, and said with sad severity, "I shall never make a real bloodhound of Blazer. Bloodhounds leap at a man's throat; they don't collar him by the leg."

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