“Come, young woman, come in,” he said, “and have adrop o’ something; you’re pretty well knocked up, I can see that.”
He took her into the bar and said to his wife, “Here, missis, take this young woman into the parlour; she’s a little overcome”—for Hetty’s tears were falling fast. They were merely hysterical tears: she thought she had no reason for weeping now, and was vexed that she was too weak and tired to help it. She was at Windsor at last, not far from Arthur.
She looked with eager, hungry eyes at the bread and meat and beer that the landlady brought her, and for some minutes she forgot everything else in the delicious sensations of satisfying hunger and recovering from exhaustion. The landlady sat opposite to her as she ate, and looked at her earnestly. No wonder: Hetty had thrown off her bonnet, and her curls had fallen down. Her face was all the more touching in its youth and beauty because of its weary look, and the good woman’s eyes presently wandered to her figure, which in her hurried dressing on her journey she had taken no pains to conceal; moreover, the stranger’s eye detects what the familiar unsuspecting eye leaves unnoticed.
“Why, you’re not very fit for travelling,” she said, glancing while she spoke at Hetty’s ringless hand. “Have you come far?”
“Yes,” said Hetty, roused by this question to exert more self-command, and feeling the better for the food she had taken. “I’ve come a good long way, and it’s very tiring. But I’m better now. Could you tell me which way to go to this place?” Here Hetty took from her pocket a bit of paper: it was the end of Arthur’s letter on which he had written his address.
While she was speaking, the landlord had come in and had begun to look at her as earnestly as his wife had done. He took up the piece of paper which Hetty handed across the table, and read the address.
“Why, what do you want at this house?” he said. It is in the nature of innkeepers and all men who have no pressing business of their own to ask as many questions as possible before giving any information.
“I want to see a gentleman as is there,” said Hetty.
“But there’s no gentleman there,” returned the landlord. “It’s shut up—been shut up this fortnight. What gentleman is it you want? Perhaps I can let you know where to find him.”
“It’s Captain Donnithorne,” said Hetty tremulously, her heart beginning to beat painfully at this disappointment of her hope that she should find Arthur at once.
“Captain Donnithorne? Stop a bit,” said the landlord, slowly. “Was he in the Loamshire Militia? A tall young officer with a fairish skin and reddish whiskers—and had a servant by the name o’ Pym?”
“Oh yes,” said Hetty; “you know him—where is he?”
“A fine sight o’ miles away from here. The Loamshire Militia’s gone to Ireland; it’s been gone this fortnight.”
“Look there! She’s fainting,” said the landlady, hastening to support Hetty, who had lost her miserable consciousness and looked like a beautiful corpse. They carried her to the sofa and loosened her dress.