“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.
Emilia was in skilful hands, and against anything less powerful than a lover mounted upon Hippogriff, might have been shielded. What is poison to most girls, Merthyr prescribed for her as medicine. He nourished her fainting spirit upon vanity. In silent astonishment Georgiana heard him address speeches to her such as dowagers who have seen their day can alone of womankind complacently swallow. He encouraged Tracy Runningbrook to praise the face of which she had hitherto thought shyly. Jewels were placed at her disposal, and dresses laid out cunningly suited to her complexion. She had a maid to wait on her, who gabbled at the momentous hours of robing and unrobing: “Oh, miss! of all the dark young ladies I ever see!”—Emilia was the most bewitching. By-and-by, Emilia was led to think of herself; but with a struggle and under protest. How could it be possible that she was so very nice to the eye, and Wilfrid had abandoned her? The healthy spin of young new blood turned the wheels of her brain, and then she thought: “Perhaps I am really growing handsome?” The maid said artfully of her hair: “If gentlemen could only see it down, miss! It’s the longest, and thickest, and blackest, I ever touched!” And so saying, slid her fingers softly through it after the comb, and thrilled the owner of that hair till soft thoughts made her bosom heave, and then self-love began to be sensibly awakened, followed by self-pity, and some further form of what we understand as consciousness. If partially a degradation of her nature, this saved her mind from true despair when it began to stir after the vital shock that had brought her to earth. “To what purpose should I be fair?” was a question that did not yet come to her; but it was sweet to see Merthyr’s eyes gather pleasure from the light of her own. Sweet, though nothing more than coldly sweet. She compared herself to her father’s old broken violin, that might be mended to please the sight;