But he had no time at the moment to speculate on this very easy victory. The horses, alarmed by the pistol shot, were plunging madly, dragging the vehicle perilously near to the ditch on the left hand. Then Desmond’s familiarity with animals, gained at so much cost to himself on his brother’s farm, bore good fruit. He spoke to the horses soothingly, managed them with infinite tact, and coaxed them into submission. Then he let them have their heads, and they galloped on at speed, pausing only when they reached the turnpike going into Brentford. They were then in a bath of foam; their flanks heaving like to burst.
Learning from the turnpike man that he could obtain a change of horses at the “Bull” inn, Desmond drove there, and was soon upon his way again.
While the change was being made, he obtained from the lady the address in Soho Square where she was staying. The new horses were fresh; the carriage rattled through Gunnersbury, past the turnpike at Hammersmith and through Kensington, and soon after nine o’clock Desmond had the satisfaction of pulling up at the door of Sheriff Soames’ mansion in Soho Square.
The door was already open, the rattle of wheels having brought lackeys with lighted torches to welcome the belated travelers. Torches flamed in the cressets on both sides of the entrance. The hall was filled with servants and members of the household, and in the bustle that ensued when the ladies in their brocades and hoops had entered the house, Desmond saw an opportunity of slipping away. He felt that it was perhaps a little ungracious to go without a word to the ladies; but he was tired; he was unaccustomed to town society, and the service he had been able to render seemed to him so slight that he was modestly eager to efface himself. Leaving the carriage in the hands of one of the lackeys, with a few words of explanation, he hastened on towards Holborn and the city.
It was four o’clock, and Tuesday afternoon—the day before the Good Intent was to sail from the Pool. Desmond was kicking his heels in his inn, longing for the morrow. Even now he had not seen the vessel on which he was to set forth in quest of his fortune. She lay in the Pool, but Diggle had found innumerable reasons why Desmond should not visit her until he embarked for good and all. She was loading her cargo; he would be in the way. Captain Barker was in a bad temper; better not see him in his tantrums. The press gangs were active; they thought nothing of boarding a vessel and seizing on any active young fellow who looked a likely subject for his Majesty’s navy. Such were the reasons alleged.
And so Desmond had to swallow his impatience and fill in his time as best he might; reading the newspapers, going to see Mr. Garrick and Mistress Kitty Clive at Drury Lane, spending an odd evening at Ranelagh Gardens.