The Black Moth (Chapter 2, page 1 of 8)

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Chapter 2

"Sir Anthony Ferndale" sat before the dressing-table in his room at the White Hart, idly polishing his nails. A gorgeous silk dressing gown lay over the back of his chair, and, behind him, Jim was attending to his wig, at the same time hovering anxiously over the coat and waistcoat that were waiting to be donned.

Carstares left off polishing his nails, yawned, and leaned back in his chair, a slim, graceful figure in cambric shirt and apricot satin breeches. He studied his cravat for some moments in the mirror, and lifted a hand to it. Salter held his breath. With extreme deliberation the hand moved a diamond and emerald pin the fraction of an inch to one side, and fell to his side again. Salter drew a relieved breath, which brought his master's eyes round to himself.

"No trouble, Jim?"

"None at all, sir."

"Neither had I. 'Twas most surprisingly easy. The birds had no more fight in them than sparrows. Two men in a coach-one a bullying rascal of a merchant, the other his clerk. Gad! but I was sorry for that little man!" He paused, his hand on the rouge pot.

Salter looked an inquiry.

"Yes," nodded Carstares. "Very sorry. The fat man would appear to bully and browbeat him after the manner of his kind; he even blamed him for my advent, the greasy coward! Yes, Jim, you are right-he did not appeal to me, ce M. Fudby. So-" ingenuously, "I relieved him of his cash-box and two hundred guineas. A present for the poor of Lewes."

Jim jerked his shoulder, frowning.

:"If ye give away all ye get, sir, why do ye rob at all?" he asked bluntly.

His whimsical little smile played about my lord's mouth.

"'Tis an object for my life, Jim: a noble object. And I believe it amuses me to play Robin Hood-take from the rich to give to the poor," he added, for Salter's benefit. "But to return to my victims-you would have laughed had you but seen my little man come tumbling out of the coach when I opened the door!"

"Tumble, sir? Why should he do that?"

"He was at pains to explain the reason. It seems he had been commanded to hold the door to prevent my entering-so when I jerked it open, sooner than loose his hold, he fell out on to the road. Of course, I apologised most abjectly-and we had some conversation. Quite a nice little man. . . It made me laugh to see him sprawling on the road, though!"

"Wish I could have seen it, your honour. I would ha' liked fine to ha' been beside ye." He looked down at the lithe form with some pride. "I'd give something to see ye hold up a coach, sir!"

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