“Well, it’s nothing to you. And I am sure I don’t want you to dance attendance upon me just now. There’s a time for all things. I’ll have some chatter with you another day.”
“One would think you were hurrying to catch a train.”
“So I am—if you must have your curiosity satisfied. I am going on a little pleasure excursion, Mr. Inquisitive.”
“U—m! Home to-morrow, perhaps. Is it true that Mr. Carlyle’s elected?”
“Oh, yes; don’t go up that way, please.”
“Not up this way?” repeated Afy. “It’s the nearest road to the station. It cuts off all that corner.”
The officer laid his hand upon her, gently. Afy thought he was venturing upon it in sport—as if he deemed her too charming to be parted with.
“What do you mean by your nonsense? I tell you I have not time for it now. Take your hand off me,” she added grimly—for the hand was clasping her closer.
“I am sorry to hurt a lady’s feelings, especially yours, miss, but I daren’t take it off, and I daren’t part with you. My instructions are to take you on at once to the witness-room. Your evidence is wanted this afternoon.”
If you ever saw a ghost more livid than ghosts in ordinary, you may picture to your mind the appearance of Afy Hallijohn just then. She did not faint as she had done once before that day, but she looked as if she should die. One sharp cry, instantly suppressed, for Afy did retain some presence of mind, and remembered that she was in the public road—one sharp tussle for liberty, over as soon, and she resigned herself, perforce, to her fate.
“I have no evidence to give,” she said, in a calmer tone. “I know nothing of the facts.”
“I’m sure I don’t know anything of them,” returned the man. “I don’t know why you are wanted. When instructions are given us, miss, we can’t ask what they mean. I was bid to watch that you didn’t go off out of the town, and to bring you on to the witness-room if you attempted it, and I have tried to do it as politely as possible.”
“You don’t imagine I am going to walk through West Lynne with your hand upon me!”
“I’ll take it off, Miss Hallijohn, if you’ll give a promise not to bolt. You see, ’twould come to nothing if you did, for I should be up with you in a couple of yards; besides, it would be drawing folks’ attention on you. You couldn’t hope to outrun me, or be a match for me in strength.”
“I will go quietly,” said Afy. “Take it off.”
She kept her word. Afy was no simpleton, and knew that she was no match for him. She had fallen into the hands of the Philistines, was powerless, and must make the best of it. So they walked through the street as if they were taking a quiet stroll, he gallantly bearing the leather bag. Miss Carlyle’s shocked eyes happened to fall upon them as they passed her window. She wondered where could be the eyes of the man’s inspector.