“No, I cannot,” answered Mr. Ambrose, thrusting his hands into his pockets and biting his long upper lip.
“By the bye, did the fellow happen to say why he meant to lay violent hands on me?” inquired Mr. Juxon.
“Since you ask—he did. It appears that he saw you going into the cottage, and immediately became jealous—”
“Of me?” Mr. Juxon coloured a little beneath his bronzed complexion, and grew more angry. “Well, upon my word! But if that is true I am much obliged for your warning. Fellows of that sort never reason—he will very likely attack me as you say. It will be quite the last time he attacks anybody—the devil shall have his own, Mr. Ambrose, if I can help him to it—”
“Dear me! Mr. Juxon—you surprise me,” said the vicar, who had never heard his friend use such strong language before.
“It is enough to surprise anybody,” remarked the squire. “I trust we shall surprise Mr. Goddard before night. Excuse me, but when did he express his amiable intentions towards me?”
“Last night, I believe,” replied Mr. Ambrose, reluctantly.
“And when did he see me going into the cottage?”
“Yesterday afternoon, I believe.” The vicar felt as though he were beginning to break his promise of shielding the fugitive, but he could not refuse to answer a direct question.
“Then, when he saw me, he was either in the cottage or in the park. There was no one in the road, I am quite sure.”
“I do not know,” said the vicar, delighted at being able to say so. He was such a simple man that Mr. Juxon noticed the tone of relief in which he denied any knowledge of Goddard’s whereabouts on the previous day as compared with his reluctance to answer upon those points of which he was certain.
“You are not anxious that Goddard should be caught,” said the squire rather sharply.
“Frankly,” returned the vicar, “I do not wish to be instrumental in his capture—not that I am likely to be.”
“That is none of my business, Mr. Ambrose. I will try and catch him alone. But it would be better that he should be taken alive and quietly—”
“Surely,” cried the vicar in great alarm, “you would not kill him?”
“Oh no, certainly not. But my dog might, Mr. Ambrose. They are ugly dogs when they are angry, and they have a remarkable faculty for finding people who are lost. They used to use them in Russia for tracking fugitive serfs and convicts who escaped from Siberia.”
Mr. Ambrose shuddered. The honest squire seemed almost as bloodthirsty in his eyes as the convict Goddard. He felt that he did not understand Mr. Juxon. The idea of hunting people with bloodhounds seemed utterly foreign to his English nature, and he could not understand how his English friend could entertain such a thought; he probably forgot that a few generations earlier the hunting of all kinds of men, papists, dissenters, covenanters and rebels, with dogs, had been a favourite English sport.