“If my sisters could see me now!” thought Wilfrid, half-smitten with a distant notion of a singularity in his position there, the mark for a frosty breeze, while his eyes kept undeviating watch over Penarvon.
After a time he went back to the inn, and got among coachmen and footmen, all battling lustily against the frost with weapons scientifically selected at the bar. They thronged the passages, and lunged hearty punches at one another, drank and talked, and only noticed that a gentleman was in their midst when he moved to get a light. One complained that he had to drive into Monmouth that night, by a road that sent him five miles out of his way, owing to a block—a great stone that had fallen from the hill. “You can’t ask ’em to get out and walk ten steps,” he said; “or there! I’d lead the horses and just tip up the off wheels, and round the place in a twinkle, pop ’m in again, and nobody hurt; but you can’t ask ladies to risk catchin’ colds for the sake of the poor horses.”
Several coachmen spoke upon this, and the shame and marvel it was that the stone had not been moved; and between them the name of Mr. Powys was mentioned, with the remark that he would spare his beasts if he could.
“What’s that block you’re speaking of, just out of Monmouth?” enquired Wilfrid; and it being described to him, together with the exact bearings of the road and situation of the mass of stone, he at once repeated a part of what he had heard in the form of the emphatic interrogation, “What! there?” and flatly told the coachman that the stone had been moved.
“It wasn’t moved this morning, then, sir,” said the latter.
“No; but a great deal can be done in a couple of hours,” said Wilfrid.
“Did you see ’em at work, sir?”
“No; but I came that way, and the road was clear.”
“The deuce it was!” ejaculated the coachman, willingly convinced.
“And that’s the way I shall return,” added Wilfrid.
He tossed some money on the bar to aid in warming the assemblage, and received numerous salutes as he passed out. His heart was beating fast. “I shall see her, in the teeth of my curst luck,” he thought, picturing to himself the blessed spot where the mass of stone would lie; and to that point he galloped, concentrating all the light in his mind on this maddest of chances, till it looked sound, and finally certain.
“It’s certain, if that’s not a hired coachman,” he calculated. “If he is, he won’t risk his fee. If he isn’t, he’ll feel on the safe side anyhow. At any rate, it’s my only chance.” And away he flew between glimmering slopes of frost to where a white curtain of mist hung across the wooded hills of the Wye.