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Highway Pirates or, The Secret Place at Coverthorne   By: (1867-1943)

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[Frontispiece: For half a minute or so it rocked and swayed against the sky line.]









I. A Day of Trouble II. The Knocking on the Wall III. Men in Hiding IV. The Singing Ghost V. Nicholas Coverthorne Shows his Hand VI. A Mad Prank VII. Tried and Sentenced VIII. My Journey Begins IX. The Rising X. Highway Pirates XI. The Last of the "True Blue" XII. Within the Cavern XIII. The Brandy Kegs XIV. Abandoned XV. In Desperate Straits XVI. The Subterranean Tunnel XVII. Daylight at Last XVIII. A Further Find XIX. Brought to Bay


For half a minute or so it rocked and swayed against the sky line . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Frontispiece

There was a funny twinkle in his eyes as he spoke





"They've seen us! Run for it!"

My chosen friend, Miles Coverthorne, was the speaker. He sprang to his feet as he uttered the words, and darted like a rabbit into the bushes, I myself following hard at his heels. The seasons seem to have come earlier in those days, and though May was not out, the woods and countryside appeared clothed with all the richness of leafy June.

At headlong speed we dashed through the underwood, stung by hazel switches which struck us across the face like whips, and staggering as our feet caught in thick tufts of grass.

"Who is it keepers?" I inquired.

"No; 'Eagles'!" was the quick reply.

If anything had been needed to quicken my pace, this last word would have served the purpose. We both rushed wildly onward, as though our very lives were at stake.

It may be guessed that Miles did not mean to imply that a number of real eagles were swooping down upon us with the intention of bearing us away to some rocky crags, there to form an appetizing repast for their young; the word had, in this case, a special meaning, to explain which a slight digression will be necessary.

Many things have altered since the year 1830, and in no direction are greater changes manifested than in the schools and school life of that period compared with those of the present day. What the modern boy at Hobworth's School (so called after its worthy founder) would think of the place if suddenly transferred back to the days when I went there as a boarder, I cannot imagine. Whole chapters might be devoted to a comparison of the past with the present, but for the purposes of our story only one point need be considered, and that is the great difference in the style and character of recreation out of school hours.

Though organized games, such as cricket, no doubt existed in the big public schools, they were unknown at Hobworth's. Such sports as prisoner's base, marbles, and an elaborate form of leap frog called if I remember rightly "fly the garter," we certainly indulged in; but, as might be expected, such amusements did not always satisfy the bolder spirits the result being that these found vent for their adventurous inclinations in various expeditions, which more than once landed them in serious trouble with farmers and gamekeepers.

I cannot say that there was any vicious intention in these raids and forays. It was perhaps difficult for us boys to see the justice of certain men claiming all the birds' eggs, squirrels, or hazel nuts in the neighbourhood, especially as these things were of no value to their avowed owners. Again, if pheasants were disturbed, or fences broken, or perhaps a rabbit knocked over for the joy of subsequently cooking it surreptitiously in a coffee pot, it was, after all, a very small matter, and not worth making a fuss about. So, at least, the youngster of that period would have argued.

Those were not happy times for the small and weak. Brute force was far too highly esteemed, and the champion fighter of a school was thought as much or even more of than the leading cricket or football player is to day... Continue reading book >>

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