He had stopped in the middle of the road, and they walked slowly past, through a great puddle, which drenched their feet.
‘Get in, Julia. Shall I open the door?’
‘No, no; think of Emily. I cannot, Hubert,—I cannot; it would kill her.’
The conversation paused, and in a long silence they wondered if the fly-man had heard. Then they walked several yards listening to the tramp of the hoofs, and then they heard the fly-man strike his horse with the whip. The animal shuffled into a sort of trot, and as the carriage passed them the fly-man again raised his arm and again repeated the same phrase, ’Drive you to the station in ten minutes!’ The carriage was her temptation, and Julia hoped the man would linger no longer. For the promise she had given to Emily lay like a red-hot coal upon her heart; its fumes rose to her head, and there were times when she thought they would choke her, and she grew so sick with the pain of self-denial that she could have thrown herself down in the wet grass on the roadside, and laid her face on the cold earth for relief. Would nothing happen? What madness! Night was coming on, and still they followed the road to Southwater. Rain fell in heavy drops.
‘We shall get wet,’ she murmured, as if she were answering the fly-man, who had said again, ‘Drive you to the station in ten minutes!’ She hated the man for his persistency.
‘Say you will come with me!’ Hubert whispered; and all the while the rain came down heavier.
’No, no, Hubert.... I cannot; I promised Emily that I never would. I am going back.’
‘Then we must say good-bye. I will not go back.’
’You don’t mean it. You don’t really intend me to go back to Emily and tell her?... She will not believe me; she will think I have sent you away to gain my own end. Hubert, you mustn’t leave me ... and in all this wet. See how it rains! I shall never be able to get home alone.’
’I will drive you on as far as the lodge-gate; farther than the lodge I will not go. Nothing in the world shall tempt me to pass it.’
At a sign from Hubert the little fly-man scrambled down from his box. He was a little old man, almost hunchbacked, with small mud-coloured eyes and a fringe of white beard about his sallow, discoloured face. He was dressed in a pale yellow jacket and waistcoat, and they both noticed that his crooked little legs were covered with a pair of pepper-and-salt trousers. They felt sure he must have overheard a large part of their conversation, for as he opened the carriage door he grinned, showing his three yellow fangs.... His appearance was not encouraging. Julia wished he were different, and then she looked at Hubert. She longed to throw herself into his arms and weep. But at that moment the heavens seemed to open, and the rain came down like a torrent, thick and fast, splashing all along the road in a million splashes.
‘Horrible weather, sir; shan’t be long a-takin’ you to Southwater. What part of the town be yer going to—the railway station?’