St. Ives (Stevenson and Quiller-Couch)/Chapter 31
EVENTS OF THURSDAY: THE ASSEMBLY BALL
But I awoke to the chill reminder of dawn, and found myself no master even of cheerless mirth. I had supped with the Senatus Academicus of Cramond: so much my head informed me. It was Thursday, the day of the Assembly Ball. But the ball was fixed by the card for 8 p.m., and I had, therefore, twelve mortal hours to wear through as best I could. Doubtless it was this reflection which prompted me to leap out of bed instanter and ring for Mr. Rowley and my shaving water.
Mr. Rowley, it appeared, was in no such hurry. I tugged a second time at the bell-rope. A groan answered me: and there in the doorway stood, or rather titubated, my paragon of body-servants. He was collarless, unkempt; his face a tinted map of shame and bodily disorder. His hand shook on the hot-water can, and spilled its contents into his shoes. I opened on him with a tirade, but had no heart to continue. The fault, after all, was mine: and it argued something like heroism in the lad that he had fought his nausea down and come up to time.
"But not smiling," I assured him,
"O, please, Mr. Anne. Go on, sir; I deserve it. But I'll never do it again, strike me sky-blue scarlet!"
"In so far as that differed from your present colouring, I believe," said I, "it would be an improvement."
"Never again, Mr. Anne."
"Certainly not, Rowley. Even to good men this may happen once: beyond that, carelessness shades off into depravity."
"You gave a good deal of trouble last night. I have yet to meet Mrs. McRankine."
"As for that, Mr. Anne, said he, with an incongruous twinkle in his bloodshot eye, "she've been up with a tray: dry toast and a pot of tea. The old gal's bark is worse than her bite, sir, begging your pardon, and meaning as she's a decent one, she is."
"I was fearing that might be just the trouble," I answered.
One thing is certain. Rowley, that morning, should not be entrusted with a razor and the handling of my chin. I sent him back to his bed, with orders not to rise from it without permission; and went about my toilette deliberately. In spite of the lad, I did not enjoy the prospect of Mrs. McRankine.
I enjoyed it so little, indeed, that I fell to poking the sitting-room fire when she entered with the Mercury; and read the Mercury assiduously while she brought in breakfast. She set down the tray with a slam and stood beside it, her hands on her hips, her whole attitude breathing challenge.
"Well, Mrs. McRankine?" I began, upturning a hypocritical eye from the newspaper.
"'W'ell,' is it? Nhm!"
I lifted the breakfast cover, and saw before me a damnatory red herring.
"Rowley was very foolish last night," I remarked, with a discriminating stress on the name.
"'The ass knoweth his master's crib.'" She pointed to the herring. "It's all ye'll get, Mr.—Ducie, if that's your name."
"Madam"—I held out the fish at the end of my fork—"you drag it across the track of an apology." I set it back on the dish and replaced the cover. "It is clear that you wish us gone. Well and good: grant Rowley a day for recovery, and to-morrow you shall be quit of us." I reached for my hat.
"Whaur are ye gaun?"
"To seek other lodgings."
"I'll no say—— Man, man! have a care! And me but to close an eye the nicht!" She dropped into a chair, "Nay, Mr. Ducie, ye daurna! Think o' that innocent lamb!"
"That little pig."
"He's ower young to die," sobbed my landlady.
"In the abstract I agree with you: but I am not aware that Rowley's death is required. Say rather that he is ower young to turn King's evidence." I stepped back from the door. "Mrs. McRankine," I said, "I believe you to be soft-hearted. I know you to be curious. You will be pleased to sit perfectly still and listen to me."
And, resuming my seat, I leaned across the corner of the table and put my case before her without suppression or extenuation. Her breathing tightened over my sketch of the duel with Goguelat; and again more sharply as I told of my descent of the rock. Of Alain she said, "I ken his sort," and of Flora twice, "I'm wonderin' will I have seen her?" For the rest, she heard me out in silence, and rose and walked to the door without a word. There she turned. "It's a verra queer tale. If McRankine had told me the like, I'd have gien him the lie to his face."
Two minutes later I heard the vials of her speech unsealed above stairs, with detonations that shook the house.
I had touched off my rocket, and the stick descended—on the prostrate Rowley.
And now I must face the inert hours. I sat down, and read my way through the Mercury, "The escaped French soldier, Champdivers, who is wanted in connection with the recent horrid murder at the Castle, remains at large—" the rest but repeated the advertisement of Tuesday. "At large!" I set down the paper, and turned to my landlady's library. It consisted of Durham's Physico- and Astro-Theology, The Scripture Doctrine of Original Sin, by one Taylor, D.D., The Ready Reckoner or Tradesman's Sure Guide, and The Path to the Pit delineated, with Twelve Engravings on Copper-plate. For distraction I fell to pacing the room, and rehearsing those remembered tags of Latin verse concerning which M. de Culemberg had long ago assured me, "My son, we know not when, but some day they will come back to you with solace if not with charm." Good man! My feet trod the carpet to Horace's Alcaics. Virtus recludens immeritis mori Coelum— h'm, h'm—raro—
raro antecedentem scelestum
deseruit pede Pœna claudo.
I paused by the window. In this there was no indiscretion; for a cold drizzle washed the panes, and the warmth of the apartment dimmed their inner surface.
"Pede Pœna claudo," my finger traced the words on the damp glass.
A sudden clamour of the street-door bell sent me skipping back to the fireplace with my heart in my mouth. Interminable minutes followed, and at length Mrs. McRankine entered with my ball suit from the tailor's. I carried it into the next room, and disposed it on the bed—'olive-green coat with gilt buttons and facings of watered silk, olive-grcen pantaloons, white waistcoat sprigged with blue and green forget-me-nots. The survey carried me on to midday and the midday meal.
The ministry of meal-time is twice blest: for prisoners and men without appetite it punctuates and makes time of eternity. I dawdled over my chop and pint of brown stout until Mrs. McRankine, after twice entering to clear away, with the face of a Cumæan sibyl, so far relaxed the tension of unnatural calm as to inquire if I meant to be all night about it.
The afternoon wore into dusk; and with dusk she reappeared with a tea-tray. At six I retired to dress.
Behold me now issuing from my chamber, conscious of a well-fitting coat and a shapely pair of legs; the dignified simplicity of my tournure (simplicity so proper to the scion of an exiled house) relieved by a dandiacal hint of shirt-frill, and corrected into tenderness by the virgin waistcoat sprigged with forget-me-nots (for constancy), and buttoned with pink coral (for hope). Satisfied of the effect, I sought the apartment of Mr. Rowley of the Rueful Countenance, and found him less yellow, but still contrite, and listening to Mrs. McRankine, who sat with open book by his bedside, and plied him with pertinent dehortations from the Book of Proverbs.
"My heye, Mr. Hann, if that ain't up to the knocker!"
Mrs. McRankine closed the book, and conned me with austerer approval.
"Ye carry it well, I will say."
"It fits, I think."
I turned myself complacently about.
"The drink, I'm meaning. I kenned McRankine."
"Shall we talk of business, madam? In the first place, the quittance for our board and lodging."
"I mak' it out on Saturdays."
"Do so; and deduct it oat of this." I handed twenty-five of my guineas into her keeping: this left me with five and a crown piece in my pocket. "The balance, while it lasts, will serve for Rowley's keep and current expenses. Before long I hope he may lift the money which lies in the bank at his service, as he knows.
"But you'll come back, Mr. Anne ?"cried the lad.
"I'm afraid it's a toss-up, my boy. Discipline, remember!"—for he was preparing to leap out of bed there and then—"You can serve me better in Edinburgh. All you have to do is to wait for a clear coast, and seek and present yourself in private before Mr. T. Robbie of Castle Street, or Miss Flora Gilchrist of Swanston Cottage. From either or both of these you will take your instructions. Here are the addresses."
"If that's a' you need for the lad," said Mrs. McRankine, "he'll be eating his head off: no to say drinking." Rowley winced. "I'll tak' him on mysel'."
"My dear woman——"
"He'll be a brand frae the burnin': and he'll do to clean the knives."
She would hear no denial. I committed the lad to her in this double capacity; and equipped with a pair of goloshes from the wardrobe of the late McRankine, sallied forth upon the rain-swept street.
The card of admission directed me to Buccleuch Place, a little off George Square; and here I found a wet rag of a crowd gathered about a couple of lanterns and a striped awning. Beneath the awning a panel of light fell on the plashy pavement. Already the guests were arriving. I whipped in briskly, presented my card, and passed up a staircase decorated with flags, evergreens, and national emblems. A venerable flunkey waited for me at the summit. "Cloak lobby to the left, sir." I obeyed, and exchanged my overcoat and goloshes for a circular metal ticket. "What name, sir?" he purred over my card, as I lingered in the vestibule for a moment to scan the ball-room and my field of action: then, having cleared his throat, bawled suddenly, "Mr. Ducie!"
It might have been a stage direction. 'A tucket sounds. Enter the Vicomte, disguised.' To tell the truth, this entry was a daunting business. A dance had just come to an end; and the musicians in the gallery had fallen to tuning their violins. The chairs arrayed along the walls were thinly occupied, and as yet the social temperature scarce rose to thawing-point. In fact, the second-rate people had arrived, and from the far end of the room were nervously watching the door for notables. Consequently my entrance drew a disquieting fire of observation. The mirrors, reflectors, and girandoles had eyes for me; and as I advanced up the perspective of waxed floor, the very boards winked detection. A little Master of Ceremonies, as round as the rosette on his lapel, detached himself from the nearest group, and approached with something of a skater's motion and an insinuating smile.
"Mr.—a—Ducie, if I heard aright? A stranger, I believe, to our northern capital, and I hope a dancer?" I bowed. "Grant me the pleasure, Mr. Ducie, of finding you a partner."
"If" said I, "you would present me to the young lady yonder, beneath the musician's gallery——" For I recognised Master Ronald's flame, the girl in pink of Mr. Robbie's party, to-night gowned in apple-green.
"Miss McBean—Miss Camilla McBean? With pleasure. Great discrimination you show, sir. Be so good as to follow me."
I was led forward and presented. Miss McBean responded to my bow with great play of shoulders; and in turn presented me to her mother, a moustachioed lady in stiff black silk, surmounted with a black cap and coquelicot trimmings.
"Any friend of Mr. Robbie's, I'm sure," murmured Mrs. McBean, affably inclining. "Look, Camilla dear—Sir William and Lady Frazer—in laylock sarsnet—how well that diamond bandeau becomes her! They are early to-night. As I was saying, Mr.——"
"To be sure. As I was saying, any friend of Mr. Robbie—one of my oldest acquaintance. If you can manage now to break him of his bachelor habits! You are making a long stay in Edinburgh?"
"I fear, madam, that I must leave it to-morrow."
"You have seen all our lions, I suppose? The Castle, now? Ah, the attractions of London!—now don't shake your head, Mr. Ducie. I hope I know a Londoner when I see one. And yet 'twould surprise you how fast we are advancing in Edinburgh. Camilla dear, that Miss Scrymgeour has edged her China crape with the very ribbon trimmings—black satin with pearl edge—we saw in that new shop in Princes Street yesterday: sixpenny width at the bottom, and three-three-farthings round the bodice. Perhaps you can tell me, Mr. Ducie, if it's really true that ribbon trimmings are the height in London and Bath this year?"
But the band struck up, and I swept the unresisting Camilla towards the set. After the dance, the ladies (who were kind enough to compliment me on my performance) suffered themselves to be led to the tea-room. By this time the arrivals were following each other thick and fast; and, standing by the tea-table, I heard name after name vociferated at the ball-room door, but never the name my nerves were on the strain to echo. Surely Flora would come: surely none of her guardians, natural or officious, would expect to find me at the ball. But the minutes passed, and I must convey Mrs. and Miss McBean back to their seats beneath the gallery.
"Miss Gilchrist—Miss Flora Gilchrist—Mr. Ronald Gilchrist! Mr. Robbie! Major Arthur Chevenix!"
The first name plumped like a shot across my bows, and brought me up standing—for a second only. Before the catalogue was out, I had dropped the McBeans at their moorings and was heading down on my enemies' line of battle. Their faces were a picture. Flora's cheek flushed, and her lips parted in the prettiest cry of wonder. Mr. Robbie took snuff. Ronald went red in the face, and Major Chevenix white. The intrepid Miss Gilchrist turned not a hair.
"What will be the meaning of this?" she demanded, drawing to a stand, and surveying me through her gold-rimmed eyeglass.
"Madam," said I, with a glance at Chevenix, "you may call it a cutting-out expedition."
"Miss Gilchrist," he began, "you will surely not——"
But I was too quick for him.
"Madam, since when has the gallant Major superseded Mr. Robbie as your family adviser?"
"H'mph!" said Miss Gilchrist; which in itself was not reassuring. But she turned to the lawyer.
"My dear lady," he answered her look, "this very imprudent young man seems to have burnt his boats, and no doubt recks very little if, in that heroical conflagration, he burns our fingers. Speaking, however, as your family adviser"—and he laid enough stress on it to convince me that there was no love lost between him and the interloping Chevenix—"I suggest that we gain nothing by protracting this scene in the face of a crowded assembly. Are you for the card-room. Madam?"
She took his proffered arm, and they swept from us, leaving Master Ronald red and glum, and the Major pale but nonplussed.
"Four from six leaves two," said I; and promptly engaged Flora's arm and towed her away from the silenced batteries.
"And now, my dear," I added, as we found two isolated chairs, "you will kindly demean yourself as if we were met for the first or second time in our lives. Open your fan—so. Now listen: my cousin, Alain, is in Edinburgh, at Dumbreck's Hotel. No, don't lower it."
She held up the fan, though her small wrist trembled.
"There is worse to come. He has brought Bow Street with him, and likely enough at this moment the runners are ransacking the city hot-foot for my lodgings."
"And you linger and show yourself here!—here of all places! O, it is mad! Anne, why will you be so rash?"
"For the simple reason that I have been a fool, my dear. I banked the balance of my money in George Street, and the bank is watched. I must have money to win my way south. Therefore I must find you and reclaim the notes you were kind enough to keep for me. I go to Swanston and find you under surveillance of Chevenix, supported by an animal called Towzer. I may have killed Towzer, by the way. If so, transported to an equal sky, he may shortly have the faithful Chevenix to bear him company. I grow tired of Chevenix."
But the fan dropped: her arms lay limp in her lap; and she was staring up at me piteously, with a world of self-reproach in her beautiful eyes.
"And I locked up the notes at home to-night—when I dressed for the ball—the first time they have left my heart! O, false!—false of trust that I am!"
"Why, dearest, that is not fatal, I hope. You reach home to-night—you slip them into some hiding—say in the corner of the wall below the garden——"
"Stop: let me think." She picked up her fan again, and behind it her eyes darkened while I watched and she considered. "You know the hill we pass before we reach Swanston? it has a clump of firs above it, like a fin. There is a quarry on the east slope. If you will be there at eight—I can manage it, I think, and bring the money."
"But why should you run the risk?"
"Please, Anne—O, please let me do something! If you knew what it is to sit at home while your—your dearest——"
"The Viscount of Saint-Yves!"
The name, shouted from the doorway, rang down her faltering sentence as with the clash of an alarm bell. I saw Ronald—in talk with Miss McBean but a few yards away—spin round on his heel and turn slowly back on me with a face of sheer bewilderment. There was no time to conceal myself. To reach either the tea-room or the card-room, I must traverse twelve feet of open floor. We sat in clear view of the main entrance; and there already, with eyeglass lifted, raffish, flamboyant, exuding pomades and bad style, stood my detestable cousin. He saw us at once; wheeled right-about-face, and spoke to some one in the vestibule; wheeled round again, and bore straight down, a full swagger varnishing his malign triumph. Flora caught her breath as I stood up to accost him.
"Good evening, my cousin! The newspaper told me you were favouring this city with a stay."
"At Dumbreck's Hotel: where, my dear Anne, you have not yet done me the pleasure to seek me out."
"I gathered," said I, "that you were forestalling the compliment. Our meeting, then, is unexpected?"
"Why, no; for, to tell the truth, the secretary of the Ball Committee, this afternoon, allowed me a glance over his list of invités, I am apt to be nice about my company, cousin."
Ass that I was! I had never given this obvious danger so much as a thought.
"I fancy I have seen one of your latest intimates about the street."
He eyed me, and answered, with a bluff laugh. "Ah! You gave us the very devil of a chase. You appear, my dear Anne, to have a hare's propensity for running in your tracks. And begad, I don't wonder at it!" he wound up, ogling Flora with an insolent stare.
Him one might have hunted by scent alone. He reeked of essences.
"Present me, mon brave."
"I'll be shot if I do."
"I believe they reserve that privilege for soldiers," he mused.
"At any rate they don't extend it to——" I pulled up on the word. He had the upper hand, but I could at least play the game out with decency. "Come," said I, "a contre-danse will begin presently. Find yourself a partner, and I promise you shall be our vis-à-vis."
"You have blood in you, my cousin."
He bowed, and went in search of the Master of Ceremonies. I gave an arm to Flora. "Well, and how does Alain strike you?" I asked.
"He is a handsome man," she allowed. "If your uncle had treated him differently, I believe——"
"And I believe that no woman alive can distinguish between a gentleman and a dancing-master! A posture or two, and you interpret worth. My dear girl—that fellow!"
She was silent. I have since learnt why. It seems, if you please, that the very same remark had been made to her by that idiot Chevenix, upon me!
We were close to the door: we passed it, and I flung a glance into the vestibule. There, sure enough, at the head of the stairs, was posted my friend of the moleskin waistcoat, in talk with a confederate by some shades uglier than himself—a red-headed, loose-legged scoundrel in cinder-grey.
I was fairly in the trap. I turned, and between the moving crowd caught Alain's eye and his evil smile. He had found a partner: no less a personage than Lady Frazer of the lilac sarsnet and diamond bandeau.
For some unaccountable reason, in this infernal impasse my spirits began to rise, to soar. I declare it: I led Flora forward to the set with a gaiety which may have been unnatural, but was certainly not factitious. A Scotsman would have called me fey. As the song goes—and it matters not if I had it then, or read it later in my wife's library—
"Sae rantingly, sae wantonly
Sae dauntingly gaed he;
He played a spring and danced it round
never mind what. The band played the spring and I danced it round, while my cousin eyed me with extorted approval. The quadrille includes an absurd figure—called, I think, La Pastourelle. You take a lady with either hand and jig them to and fro, for all the world like an Englishman of legend parading a couple of wives for sale at Smithfield; while the other male, like a timid purchaser, backs and advances with his arms dangling.
"I've lived a life of sturt and strife,
I die by treacherie—"
I challenged Alain with an open smile as he backed before us; and no sooner was the dance over, than I saw him desert Lady Frazer on a hurried excuse, and seek the door to satisfy himself that his men were on guard.
I dropped laughing into a chair beside Flora. "Anne," she whispered, "who is on the stairs?"
"Two Bow Street runners."
If you have seen a dove—a dove caught in a gin! "The back stairs!" she urged.
"They will be watched too. But let us make sure." I crossed to the tea-room, and, encountering a waiter, drew him aside. Was there a man watching the back entrance? He could not tell me. For a guinea would he find out? He went and, returned in less than a minute. Yes, there was a constable below. "It's just a young gentleman to be put to the haw for debt," I explained, recalling the barbarous and, to me, still unmeaning phrase. "I'm no speiring," replied the waiter.
I made my way back, and was not a little disgusted to find my chair occupied by the unconscionable Chevenix.
"My dear Miss Flora, you are unwell!" Indeed, she was pale enough, poor child, and trembling. "Major, she will be swooning in another minute. Get her to the tea-room, quick! while I fetch Mrs. Gilchrist. She must be taken home."
"It is nothing," she faltered: "it will pass. Pray do not——" As she glanced up, she caught my meaning. "Yes, yes: I will go home."
She took the Major's arm, while I hurried to the card-room. As luck would have it, the old lady was in the act of rising from the green table, having just cut out from a rubber. Mr. Robbie was her partner; and I saw (and blessed my star for the first time that night) the little heap of silver which told that she had been winning.
"Miss Gilchrist," I whispered, "Miss Flora is faint: the heat of the room——"
"I've not observed it. The ventilation is considered pairfect."
"She wishes to be taken home."
With fine composure she counted back her money, piece by piece, into a velvet reticule.
"Twelve and sixpence," she proclaimed. "Ye held good cards, Mr. Robbie. Well, Mosha the Viscount, we'll go and see about it."
I led her to the tea-room: Mr. Robbie followed. Flora rested on a sofa in a truly dismal state of collapse, while the Major fussed about her with a cup of tea. "I have sent Ronald for the carriage," he announced.
"H'm," said Miss Gilchrist, eyeing him oddly, "well, it's your risk. Ye'd best hand me the teacup, and get our shawls from the lobby. You have the tickets. Be ready for us at the top of the stairs."
No sooner was the Major gone than, keeping an eye on her niece, this imperturbable lady stirred the tea and drank it down herself. As she drained the cup—her back for the moment being turned on Mr. Robbie—I was aware of a facial contortion. Was the tea (as children say) going the wrong way?
No: I believe—aid me Apollo and the Nine! I believe—though I have never dared, and shall never dare to ask—that Miss Gilchrist was doing her best to wink!
On the instant entered Master Ronald with word that the carriage was ready. I slipped to the door and reconnoitred. The crowd was thick in the ball-room; a dance in full swing; my cousin gambolling vivaciously, and, for the moment, with his back to us. Flora leaned on Ronals, and, skirting the wall, our party gained the great door and the vestibule, where Chevenix stood with an armful of cloaks.
"You and Ronald can return and enjoy yourselves," said the old lady, "as soon as ye've packed us off. Ye'll find a hackney coach, no doubt, to bring ye home." Her eye rested on the two runners, who were putting their heads together behind the Major. She turned on me with a stiff curtsey. "Good-night, sir, and I am obliged for your services. Or stay—you may see us to the carriage, if ye'll be so kind. Major, hand Mr. What-d'ye-call some of your wraps."
My eyes did not dare to bless her. We moved down the stairs—Miss Gilchrist leading, Flora supported by her brother and Mr. Robbie, the Major and I behind. As I descended the first step, the red-headed runner made a move forward. Though my gaze was glued upon the pattern of Miss Gilohrist's Paisley shawl, I saw his finger touch my arm. Yes, and I felt it, like a touch of hot iron. The other man—Moleskin—plucked him by the arm: they whispered. They saw me bare-headed, without my overcoat. They argued, no doubt, that I was unaware; was seeing the ladies to their carriage; would of course return. They let me pass.
Once in the boisterous street, I darted round to the dark side of the carriage. Ronald ran forward to the coachman (whom I recognised for the gardener, Robie). "Miss Flora is faint. Home, as fast as you can!" He skipped back under the awning. "A guinea to make it faster!" I called up from the other side of the box-seat; and out of the darkness and rain I held up the coin and pressed it into Robie's damp palm. "What in the name——!" He peered round, but I was back and close against the step. The door was slammed. "Right away!"
It may have been fancy: but with the shout I seemed to hear the voice of Alain lifted in imprecation on the Assembly Room stairs. As Robie touched up the grey, I whipped open the door on my side and tumbled in—upon Miss Gilchrist's lap.
Flora choked down a cry. I recovered myself, dropped into a heap of rugs on the seat facing the ladies, and pulled-to the door by its strap.
Dead silence from Miss Gilchrist!
I had to apologise, of course. The wheels rumbled and jolted over the cobbles of Edinburgh; the windows rattled and shook under the uncertain gusts of the city. When we passed a street lamp it shed no light into the vehicle, but the awful profile of my protectress loomed out for a second against the yellow haze of the pane, and sank back into impenetrable shade.
"Madam, some explanation—enough at least to mitigate your resentment—natural, I allow——" Jolt, jolt! And still a mortuary silence within the coach! It was disconcerting. Robie for a certainty was driving his best, and already we were beyond the last rare outposts of light on the Lothian Road.
"I believe, madam, the inside of five minutes—if you will allow——"
I stretched out a protesting hand. In the darkness it encountered Flora's. Our fingers closed upon the thrill. For five, ten beatific seconds our pulses sang together, "I love you! I love you!" in the stuffy silence.
"Mosha Saint Yvey!" spoke up a deliberate voice (Flora caught her hand away), "as far as I can make head and tail of your business—supposing it to have a modicum of head, which I doubt—it appears to me that I have just done you a service; and that makes twice."
"A service, madam, I shall ever remember."
"I'll chance that, sir; if ye'll kindly not forget yoursel'."
In resumed silence we must have travelled a mile and a half, or two miles, when Miss Gilchrist let down the sash with a clatter, and thrust her head and mamelone cap forth into the night.
Robie pulled up.
"The gentleman will alight."
It was only wisdom, for we were nearing Swanston. I rose. "Miss Gilchrist, you are a good woman; and I think the cleverest I have met." "Umph," replied she. In the act of stepping forth I turned for a final handshake with Flora, and my foot caught in something and dragged it out upon the road. I stooped to pick it up, and heard the door bang by my ear.
But the coach lurched forward; the wheels splashed me; and I was left standing, alone on the inclement highway.
While yet I watched the little red eyes of the vehicle, and almost as they vanished, I heard more rumbling of wheels, and descried two pairs of yellow eyes upon the road, towards Edinburgh. There was just time enough to plunge aside, to leap a fence into a rain-soaked pasture; and there I crouched, the water squishing over my dancing-shoes, while with a flare, a slant of rain, and a glimpse of flogging drivers, two hackney carriages pelted by at a gallop.