The startled lawyer discerned what he did, looked in his face, and saw that his eyes were glittering with excitement. But having no ear for hoof-beats Mr. Fishwick did not understand what was afoot, until the rider appeared at the road-end, and coming plump upon them, drew rein.
Then Sir George’s voice rang out, stern and ominous. ’Good evening, Mr. Dunborough,’ he said, and raised his hat. ’Well met! We are travelling the same road, and, if you please, will do the rest of our journey together.’
AN UNWILLING ALLY
Under the smoothness of Sir George’s words, under the subtle mockery of his manner, throbbed a volcano of passion and vengeance. But this was for the lawyer only, even as he alone saw the moonlight gleam faintly on the pistol barrel that lurked behind his companion’s thigh. For Mr. Dunborough, it would be hard to imagine a man more completely taken by surprise. He swore one great oath, for he saw, at least, that the meeting boded him 110 good; then he sat motionless in his saddle, his left hand on the pommel, his right held stiffly by his side. The moon, which of the two hung a little at Sir George’s back, shone only on the lower part of Dunborough’s face, and by leaving his eyes in the shadow of his hat, gave the others to conjecture what he would do next. It is probable that Sir George, whose hand and pistol were ready, was indifferent; perhaps would have hailed with satisfaction an excuse for vengeance. But Mr. Fishwick, the pacific witness of this strange meeting, awaited the issue with staring eyes, his heart in his mouth; and was mightily relieved when the silence, which the heavy breathing of Mr. Dunborough’s horse did but intensify, was broken on the last comer’s side, by nothing worse than a constrained laugh.
‘Travel together?’ he said, with an awkward assumption of jauntiness, ‘that depends on the road we are going.’
‘Oh, we are going the same road,’ Sir George answered, in the mocking tone he had used before.
‘You are very clever,’ Mr. Dunborough retorted, striving to hide his uneasiness; ‘but if you know that, sir, you have the advantage of me.’
‘I have,’ said Sir George, and laughed rudely.
Dunborough stared, finding in the other’s manner fresh cause for misgiving. At last, ‘As you please,’ he said contemptuously. ’I am for Calne. The road is public. You may travel by it.’
‘We are not going to Calne,’ said Sir George.
Mr. Dunborough swore. ‘You are d——d impertinent!’ he said, reining back his horse, ’and may go to the devil your own way. For me, I am going to Calne.’
‘No,’ said Sir George, ’you are not going to Calne. She has not gone Calne way.’
Mr. Dunborough drew in his breath quickly. Hitherto he had been uncertain what the other knew, and how far the meeting was accidental; now, forgetful what his words implied and anxious only to say something that might cover his embarrassment, ‘Oh,’ he said, ’you are—you are in search of her?’