“You can open now, Cousin Roger, they be all gone away.” I unbolted and pushed open the little door quickly enough then; and though I was dazed with the candlelight the first thing that I saw was Dolly’s face, her eyes as bright as stars with merriment and laughter, and her cheeks flushed to rose, looking up at me.
That ride of mine all night to London was such as I shall never forget, not from any outward incident that happened, but for the thoughts that went continually through my heart and brain; and I do not suppose that I spoke twenty words to James all night, until we saw about seven o’clock the smoke and spires of London against the morning sky.
* * * * *
So soon as the coast was clear, and the last sound of the horses was died away on the hill beyond the Castle Inn—for the men rode fast and hard to catch me—I was out and away in the opposite direction, to Puckeridge; but first we brought the horses back as softly as we could, with James (who, like a good servant had not stirred an inch from his orders through all the tumult which he had heard plainly enough from the meadow), round to the head of the little lane that leads from Hormead Magna into Hare Street. There we waited, I say, all four of us in silence, until we heard the hoofs no more; and then James and I mounted on our horses.
I had said scarcely a word to Dorothy, nor she to me; for we both felt, I think, that there was no great need of words after such an adventure, and that it had knit us closer together than any words could do; and, besides, that was no place to talk. Yet it was not all pure joy; for here was the knowledge which we both had, that I must go away, and that God only knew when I should get back again; and, whatever that knowledge was to Dorothy, it was as a sword for pain to me. As for my Cousin Tom, he was no better than a dummy; for he was still terrified at all that had happened, and at the magistrate’s words to him. I told them both, while we were still in the house, that I must go to London, partly for that that was the last place in the world that any would look for me in, and partly—(but this I told neither of them)—for that I must return the packet to His Majesty: and I said that from London I would go to France for a little, until it seemed safe for me to get back again. But there, waiting in the dark, I said nothing at all; but before I mounted I kissed Dorothy on the cheek; and her cheek was wet, but whether with the feigned tears she had shed in the house, or with tears even dearer to me than those, I do not know. But I dared not delay any longer, for fear that when Mr. Harris came to Barkway, which was five miles away, he might learn that no one that could be James and I had passed that way, and so return to search again.
* * * * *
The clouds had rolled away by now; and it was a clear night of stars until they began to pale about two o’clock in the morning; and I think that for a lover who desires to be alone with his thoughts, there is no light of sun or moon or candle so sweet as the light of stars; and by that time we were beyond Ware and coming out of the valley.