The coach jingled, jolted, and rumbled on, and Ashwoode lay back in the crazy conveyance in a kind of stupefied apathy. The scene which had just closed was, in his mind, a chaos of horrible confusiona hideous, stunning dream, whose incidents, as they floated through his passive memory, seemed like unreal and terrific exaggerations, into whose reality he wanted energy and power to inquire. Still before him sate a breathing evidence of the truth of all these confused and horrible recollectionsthe stalwart, ruffianly figure of the constablewith his great red horny hands, and greasy cuffs, and the heavy coat buttoned up to his unshorn chinand the short, discoloured pipe, protruding from the corner of his mouthlounging back with half-closed eyes, and the air of a man who had passed the night in wearisome vigils among strife and riot, and who has acquired the compensating power of dividing his faculties at all times pretty nearly between sleep and wakinga kind of sottish, semi-existencesomething between that of a swine and a sloth. Over this figure
p.197the eyes of the young man vacantly wandered, and thence to the cheerful fields and trees visible from the window, and back again to the burly constable, until every seam and button in his coat grew familiar to his mind as the oldest tenants of his memory. Beside him, too, sate Chanceyhis artful, cowardly betrayer. Yet even against him he could not feel anger; all energy of thought and feeling seemed lost to him; and nothing but a dull ambiguous incredulity and a scared stupor were there in their stead. Onon they rolled and rumbled, among pleasant fields and stately hedge-rows, toward the ancestral dwelling of the miserable prisoner, who sate like a lifeless effigy, yielding passively to every jolt and movement of the carriage.
I say, Grimes, were you ever out here before? inquired Mr. Chancey. We'll soon be in the manor, driving up to Morley Court. It's a fine place, I'm given to understand. I never was here but once before, long as I know Sir Henry; but better late than never. Do you know this place, Mr. Grimes?
A negative grunt and a short nod relieved Mr. Grimes from the painful necessity of removing his pipe for the purpose of uttering an articulate answer.
Oh, dear me, dear me, resumed Mr. Chancey, but I'm uncommon hungry and dry. I wish to God we were safe and sound in Sir Henry's house. Grimes, are you dry?
Mr. Grimes removed his pipe, and spat upon the coach floor.
Am I dhry? said he. About as dhry as a sprat in a tindher-box, that's all. Is there much more to go?
Chancey stretched his head out of the coach window.
I see the old piers of the avenue, said he; and God knows but it's I that's glad we're near our journey's end. Now we're passing inwe're in the avenue.
Mr. Grimes hereupon uttered a grunt of approbation; and pressing down the ashes of his pipe with his thumb, he deposited that instrument in his waistcoat pocketwhence, at the same time, he drew a small plug of tobacco, which he inserted in his mouth, and rolled it about with his tongue from time to time during the remainder of their progress.
Sir Henry, we're arrived, said Chancey, admonishing the baronet with his elbow we're at the hall-door at Morley Court. Sir Henrydear me, dear me, he's very abstracted, so he is. I say, Sir Henry, we're at Morley Court.
Ashwoode looked vacantly in Chancey 's face, and then upon the stately door of the old house, and suddenly recollecting himself, he said with strange alacrity,
Ay, ayat Morley Courtso we are. Come, then, gentlemen, let us get down.
p.198Accordingly the three companions descended from the conveyance, and entered the ancient dwelling-house together.
Follow me, gentlemen, said Ashwoode, leading the way to a small, oak-wainscoted parlour. You shall have refreshments immediately.
He called the servant to the door, and continued addressing himself to Chancey, and his no less refined companion.
Order what you please, gentlemenI can't think of these things just now; and, sirrah, do you hear me, bring a large vessel of watermy throat is literally scorched.
Well, Mr. Chancey, what do you say? said Grimes. I'm for a couple of bottles of sack, and a good pitcher of ale, to begin with, in the way of liquor.
Well, it wouldn't be that bad, said Chancey. What meat have you on the spit, my good man?
I don't exactly know, sir, replied the wondering domestic; but I'll inquire.
And see, my good man, continued Chancey, ask them whether there isn't some cold roast beef in the buttery; and if so, bring it up in a jiffy, for, I declare to Gd I'm uncommon hungry; and let the cook send up a hot joint directly;and do you mind, my honest man, light a bit of a fire here, for it's rather chill, and put plenty of dry sticks
Give us the ale and the sack this instant minute, do you see, said Mr. Grimes. You may do the rest after.
Yes, you may as well, resumed Chancey; for indeed I'm lost with the drooth myself.
Cut your stick, saucepan, said Mr. Grimes, authoritatively; and the servant departed in unfeigned astonishment to execute his various commissions.
Ashwoode threw himself into a seat, and in silence endeavoured to collect his thoughts. Faint, sick, and stunned, he nevertheless began gradually to comprehend every particular of his position more and more fullyuntil at length all the ghastly truth stood revealed to his mind's eye in vivid and glaring distinctness. While Ashwoode was engaged in his agreeable ruminations, Mr. Chancey and Mr. Grimes were busily employed in discussing the substantial fare which his larder had supplied, and pledging one another in copious libations of generous liquor.