Later. More humiliation.

Sarah has come to save me! Oh joy! Oh happiness! My brilliance will not be lost to the world after all!

She unlocks the cell door, and I stagger upright. It is painful, yes, but I, Harry-le-beau, am not beaten so easily. And besides, there is the roast mutton, lying on the ground next to the gaoler …

But before I can take even a mouthful, Sarah scoops me up in her arms, saying, ‘That’s not for you, Snookums. That’s for Benji.’

What? She would deny me the comfort of roast mutton, when I have been through such trauma?

‘I’ve got to smuggle you out, see,’ she says, ‘which won’t be easy. They’re always on the watch for escaped convicts. Which means we’ve got to disguise you.’

The thought of disguise distracts me momentarily. ‘What would you like me to be?’ I ask. ‘An ageing Russian aristocat called Prince Felix Pushkin? Or a French intellectual like René Deschatte?’

I am still musing on the possibilities when Sarah tosses Benji into my old cell and throws the leg of mutton after him. The revolting dog falls on it immediately.

‘Put me down,’ I cry, forgetting all about disguises. ‘I want the roast. I deserve the roast. Dog, you are dead if you eat it! It is mine!’

Benji keeps eating. Sarah wraps the cover – still smelling of dog and mutton – tightly around me.

‘Stop wriggling,’ she says, ‘or I’ll leave you to hang.’

Then she locks Benji in the cell, steps over the gaoler and carries me back along the corridor. But before we go out into the yard, she bends her head and whispers, ‘You’re a dog now, Snookums. That’s your disguise. You’re Benji. So if anyone stops us, you give a nice little yap.’

A dog? Benji? A nice little yap?????

I am appalled. ‘I will not be a dog!’ I cry. ‘I will be Russian or French, or even American if there is no other alternative. But Harry-le-beau does not yap.

‘Shhhh!’ She pulls the cover over my face and steps out into the yard.

I am seething. I will not yap, not even to save myself from hanging. I will not.

‘Now!’ whispers Sarah.

I hear a jovial voice say, ‘What’s that you’ve got there, lass? Smuggling out one of the prisoners, are you, under that cloth? Haw haw haw!’

Sarah pokes me in the ribs with her finger.

‘Yap,’ I mumble.

‘Louder,’ she whispers. To the guard she says, ‘It’s the governor’s nasty little dog, sir. He’s a brute, for all his small size. I wish I could leave him here, I really do.’

‘Let’s have a look at him,’ says the voice, coming closer.

Sarah pokes me again and hisses, ‘Louder, or we’ll both hang!’

‘Yap.’ If this ever gets out I’ll be the laughing stock of Europe.

Poke.

‘Yap!’

‘Sounds feisty,’ says the voice. ‘Does he bite?’

‘Like a shark, sir. You’re at liberty to take a peek at him, of course, but the last man who tried lost a couple of fingers.’

Poke.

‘YAP! YAP YAP! YAP YAP YAP!’

harrylebeau_E17The voice backs off a little, and says, ‘I’ll take your word for it, lass. You hold him tight now, and don’t let him escape.’

‘Governor’d kill me, sir. I’ll take him home safe and sound, for all I’d rather drown him.’

I hear the prison gate creak open, and Sarah steps through. ‘Thank you kindly, sir,’ she says, bobbing a little curtsey.

And we are free.

 

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