There was a brief pause in the state-room of the Maypole, as Mr Haredale tried the lock to satisfy himself that he had shut the door securely, and, striding up the dark chamber to where the screen inclosed a little patch of light and warmth, presented himself, abruptly and in silence, before the smiling guest.
If the two had no greater sympathy in their inward thoughts than in their outward bearing and appearance, the meeting did not seem likely to prove a very calm or pleasant one. With no great disparity between them in point of years, they were, in every other respect, as unlike and far removed from each other as two men could well be. The one was soft-spoken, delicately made, precise, and elegant; the other, a burly square-built man, negligently dressed, rough and abrupt in manner, stern, and, in his present mood, forbidding both in look and speech. The one preserved a calm and placid smile; the other, a distrustful frown. The new-comer, indeed, appeared bent on showing by his every tone and gesture his determined opposition and hostility to the man he had come to meet. The guest who received him, on the other hand, seemed to feel that the contrast between them was all in his favour, and to derive a quiet exultation from it which put him more at his ease than ever.
Haredale, said this gentleman, without the least appearance of embarrassment or reserve, I am very glad to see you.
Let us dispense with compliments. They are misplaced between us, returned the other, waving his hand, and say plainly what we have to say. You have asked me to meet you. I am here. Why do we stand face to face again?
Still the same frank and sturdy character, I see!
Good or bad, sir, I am, returned the other, leaning his arm upon the chimney-piece, and turning a haughty look upon the occupant of the easy-chair, the man I used to be. I have lost no old likings or dislikings; my memory has not failed me by a hairs-breadth. You ask me to give you a meeting. I say, I am here.
Our meeting, Haredale, said Mr Chester, tapping his snuff-box, and following with a smile the impatient gesture he had made perhaps unconsciouslytowards his sword, is one of conference and peace, I hope?
I have come here, returned the other, at your desire, holding myself bound to meet you, when and where you would. I have not come to bandy pleasant speeches, or hollow professions. You are a smooth man of the world, sir, and at such play have me at a disadvantage. The very last man on this earth with whom I would enter the lists to combat with gentle compliments and masked faces, is Mr Chester, I do assure you. I am not his match at such weapons, and have reason to believe that few men are.
You do me a great deal of honour Haredale, returned the other, most composedly, and I thank you. I will be frank with you
I beg your pardonwill be what?
Hah! cried Mr Haredale, drawing his breath. But dont let me interrupt you.
So resolved am I to hold this course, returned the other, tasting his wine with great deliberation; that I have determined not to quarrel with you, and not to be betrayed into a warm expression or a hasty word.
There again, said Mr Haredale, you have me at a great advantage. Your self-command
Is not to be disturbed, when it will serve my purpose, you would sayrejoined the other, interrupting him with the same complacency. Granted. I allow it. And I have a purpose to serve now. So have you.
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