‘How many were there?’ Sir George asked. There was an ugly light in his eyes and his cheeks burned. But he spoke with calmness.
’Two I saw, and there may have been more. The chaise had been waiting in the yard of the empty house at the corner, the old Nag’s Head. I saw it come out. That was the first thing I did see. And then the lady.’
‘Did she seem to be unwilling?’ the man in the Ramillies asked. ’Did she scream?’
‘Ay, she screamed right enough,’ the fellow answered lumpishly. ’I heard her, though the noise came faint-like. It is a good distance, your honour’ll mind, and some would not have seen what I saw.’
‘And she struggled?’
’Ay, sir, she did. They were having a business with her when I left, I can tell you.’
The picture was too much for Sir George. Gripping the landlord’s shoulder so fiercely that Smith winced and cried out, ’And you have heard this man,’ he said, ’and you chatter here? Fools! This is no matter for words, but for horses and pistols! Get me a horse and pistols—and tell my servant. Are you so many dolls? D—n you, sir’—this to Mr. Fishwick—’stand out of my way!’
MR. FISHWICK, THE ARBITER
Mr. Fishwick, who had stepped forward with a vague notion of detaining him, fell back. Sir George’s stern aspect, which bore witness to the passions that raged in a heart at that moment cruelly divided, did not encourage interference; and though one or two muttered, no one moved. There is little doubt that he would have passed out without delay, mounted, and gone in pursuit—with what result in the direction of altering the issue, it is impossible to state—if an obstacle had not been cast in his way by an unexpected hand.
In every crowd, the old proverb has it, there are a knave and a fool. Between Sir George bursting with passion, and the door by which he had entered and to which he turned, stood Lady Dunborough. Her ladyship had been one of the first to hear the news and to take the alarm; it is safe to say, also, that for obvious reasons—and setting aside the lawyer and Sir George—she was of all present the person most powerfully affected by the news of the outrage. But she had succeeded in concealing alike her fears and her interest; she had exclaimed with others—neither more nor less; and had hinted, in common with three-fourths of the ladies present, that the minx’s cries were forced, and her bonne fortune sufficiently to her mind. In a word she had comported herself so fitly that if there was one person in the hall whose opinion was likely to carry weight, as being coolly and impartially formed, it was her ladyship.
When she stepped forward therefore, and threw herself between Sir George and the door—still more when, with an intrepid gesture, she cried ‘Stay, sir; we have not done with you yet,’ there was a sensation. As the crowd pressed up to see and hear what passed, her accusing finger pointed steadily to Sir George’s breast. ‘What is that you have there?’ she continued. ‘That which peeps from your breast pocket, sir?’