IN THE CARRIAGE
Mr. Thomasson was mistaken in supposing that it was the jerk, caused by the horses’ start, which drew from Julia the scream he heard as the carriage bounded forward and whirled into the night. The girl, indeed, was in no mood to be lightly scared; she had gone through too much. But as, believing herself alone, she sank back on the seat—at the moment that the horses plunged forward—her hand, extended to save herself, touched another hand: and the sudden contact in the dark, conveying to her the certainty that she had a companion, with all the possibilities the fact conjured up, more than excused an involuntary cry.
The answer, as she recoiled, expecting the worst, was a sound between a sigh and a grunt; followed by silence. The coachman had got the horses in hand again, and was driving slowly; perhaps he expected to be stopped. She sat as far into her corner as she could, listening and staring, enraged rather than frightened. The lamps shed no light into the interior of the carriage, she had to trust entirely to her ears; and, gradually, while she sat shuddering, awaiting she knew not what, there stole on her senses, mingling with the roll of the wheels, a sound the least expected in the world—a snore!
Irritated, puzzled, she stretched out a hand and touched a sleeve, a man’s sleeve; and at that, remembering how she had sat and wasted fears on Mr. Thomasson before she knew who he was, she gave herself entirely to anger. ‘Who is it?’ she cried sharply. ‘What are you doing here?’
The snoring ceased, the man turned himself in his corner. ’Are we there?’ he murmured drowsily; and, before she could answer, was asleep again.
The absurdity of the position pricked her. Was she always to be travelling in dark carriages beside men who mocked her? In her impatience she shook the man violently. ’Who are you? What are you doing here?’ she cried again.
The unseen roused himself. ‘Eh?’ he exclaimed. ’Who—who spoke? I—oh, dear, dear, I must have been dreaming. I thought I heard—’
‘Mr. Fishwick!’ she cried; her voice breaking between tears and laughter. ‘Mr. Fishwick!’ And she stretched out her hands, and found his, and shook and held them in her joy.
The lawyer heard and felt; but, newly roused from sleep, unable to see her, unable to understand how she came to be by his side in the post-chaise, he shrank from her. He was dumbfounded. His mind ran on ghosts and voices; and he was not to be satisfied until he had stopped the carriage, and with trembling fingers brought a lamp, that he might see her with his eyes. That done, the little attorney fairly wept for joy.
‘That I should be the one to find you!’ he cried. ’That I should be the one to bring you back! Even now I can hardly believe that you are here! Where have you been, child? Lord bless us, we have seen strange things!’