Joe Willet rode leisurely along in his desponding mood, picturing the locksmiths daughter going down long country-dances, and poussetting dreadfully with bold strangerswhich was almost too much to bearwhen he heard the tramp of a horses feet behind him, and looking back, saw a well-mounted gentleman advancing at a smart canter. As this rider passed, he checked his steed, and called him of the Maypole by his name. Joe set spurs to the grey mare, and was at his side directly.
I thought it was you, sir, he said, touching his hat. A fair evening, sir. Glad to see you out of doors again.
The gentleman smiled and nodded. What gay doings have been going on to-day, Joe? Is she as pretty as ever? Nay, dont blush, man.
If I coloured at all, Mr Edward, said Joe, which I didnt know I did, it was to think I should have been such a fool as ever to have any hope of her. Shes as far out of my reach asas Heaven is.
Well, Joe, I hope thats not altogether beyond it, said Edward, good-humouredly. Eh?
Ah! sighed Joe. Its all very fine talking, sir. Proverbs are easily made in cold blood. But it cant be helped. Are you bound for our house, sir?
Yes. As I am not quite strong yet, I shall stay there to-night, and ride home coolly in the morning.
If youre in no particular hurry, said Joe after a short silence, and will bear with the pace of this poor jade, I shall be glad to ride on with you to the Warren, sir, and hold your horse when you dismount. Itll save you having to walk from the Maypole, there and back again. I can spare the time well, sir, for I am too soon.
And so am I, returned Edward, though I was unconsciously riding fast just now, in compliment I suppose to the pace of my thoughts, which were travelling post. We will keep together, Joe, willingly, and be as good company as may be. And cheer up, cheer up, think of the locksmiths daughter with a stout heart, and you shall win her yet.
Joe shook his head; but there was something so cheery in the buoyant hopeful manner of this speech, that his spirits rose under its influence, and communicated as it would seem some new impulse even to the grey mare, who, breaking from her sober amble into a gentle trot, emulated the pace of Edward Chesters horse, and appeared to flatter herself that he was doing his very best.
It was a fine dry night, and the light of a young moon, which was then just rising, shed around that peace and tranquillity which gives to evening time its most delicious charm. The lengthened shadows of the trees, softened as if reflected in still water, threw their carpet on the path the travellers pursued, and the light wind stirred yet more softly than before, as though it were soothing Nature in her sleep. By little and little they ceased talking, and rode on side by side in a pleasant silence.
The Maypole lights are brilliant to-night, said Edward, as they rode along the lane from which, while the intervening trees were bare of leaves, that hostelry was visible.
Brilliant indeed, sir, returned Joe, rising in his stirrups to get a better view. Lights in the large room, and a fire glimmering in the best bedchamber? Why, what company can this be for, I wonder!
Some benighted horseman wending towards London, and deterred from going on tonight by the marvellous tales of my friend the highwayman, I suppose, said Edward.
He must be a horseman of good quality to have such accommodations. Your bed too, sir!
No matter, Joe. Any other room will do for me. But cometheres nine striking. We may push on.
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|