In the meantime, Wilton was subjected to the same, or even greater pain, from the impossibility of saying all that he could have wished to say; and he had, moreover, to contend both against the civility of his landlord, individually, and the curiosity of the two magistrates, conjointly, who did not fail, during the time that he remained, both to press hire to eat and drink, in spite of all denials and remonstrances, and to torment him with questions, many of them frivolous in the extreme, not only concerning the events in which he had been lately engaged, but also in regard to everything that was taking place in London.
Nearly two hours passed in this unpleasant manner; but at length the joyful sound of carriage-wheels announced that the man who had been sent to Stroud had returned. Laura was eager to set out; but the motherly care of good Mrs. Jeffreys detained her for some time longer, by insisting upon wrapping her warmly up in cloaks, and mantles, and hoods, to guard against the cold of the wintry night.
At length all was ready; and Wilton led her down to the carriage, which it seems had been procured with difficulty; the machines called post-chaises being not so common in those days as they became within fifty years afterwards. The two magistrates stood bowing low to the young lady as she entered the tall, long-backed, but really not uncomfortable vehicle. The landlord of the inn, too, and his ostler, were there; and Wilton failed not to pay them liberally for the services they had rendered. He then briefly gave his own address, and that of the Duke to his reverend entertainer, and entered the carriage beside the Lady Laura, with a heart beating high with the hope and expectation of saying all and hearing all that the voice of love could speak.
For once—perhaps the only time that ever such a thing happened in this world—hope and expectation were not disappointed. Wilton seated himself by the side of Laura, the postilion cracked his whip, which was then as common in England as it is now in France, the horses went forward, and the wheels rolling through the little street of High Halstow, were soon upon the road to Stroud.
There was a silent pause between Wilton and Laura for some minutes, neither of them could very well tell why; for both of them had been most anxious for the opportunity, and both of them had been not a little grieved that their former conversation had been interrupted. The truth is, however, that very interruption had rendered the conversation difficult to renew; for love—sometimes the most impudent of all powers—is at other times the most shy and bashful. Wilton, however, found that he must not let the silence go on much longer, and he gently took Laura’s hand in his, saying, perhaps somewhat abruptly—
“Dear Laura, everything that we have to say to each other, must be said now.”