'You surprise me, Grueby,' said the gentleman. 'At a crisis like the present, when Queen Elizabeth, that maiden monarch, weeps within her tomb, and Bloody Mary, with a brow of gloom and shadow, stalks triumphant--'
'Oh, sir,' cied the man, gruffly, 'where's the use of talking of Bloody Mary, under such circumstances as the present, when my lord's wet through, and tired with hard riding? Let's either go on to London, sir, or put up at once; or that unfort'nate Bloody Mary will have more to answer for--and she's done a deal more harm in her grave than she ever did in her lifetime, I believe.'
By this time Mr Willet, who had never beard so many words spoken together at one time, or delivered with such volubility and emphasis as by the long-winded gentleman; and whose brain, being wholly unable to sustain or compass them, had quite given itself up for lost; recovered so far as to observe that there was ample accommodation at the Maypole for all the party: good beds; neat wines; excellent entertainment for man and beast; private rooms for large and small parties; dinners dressed upon the shortest notice; choice stabling, and a lock-up coach-house; and, in short, to run over such recommendatory scraps of language as were painted up on various portions of the building, and which in the course of some forty years he had learnt to repeat with tolerable correctness. He was considering whether it was at all possible to insert any novel sentences to the same purpose, when the gentleman who had spoken first, turning to him of the long wind, exclaimed, 'What say you, Gashford? Shall we tarry at this house he speaks of, or press forward? You shall decide.'
'I would submit, my lord, then,' returned the person he appealed to, in a silky tone, 'that your health and spirits--so important, under Providence, to our great cause, our pure and truthful cause'-- here his lordship pulled off his hat again, though it was raining hard--'require refreshment and repose.'
'Go on before, landlord, and show the way,' said Lord George Gordon; 'we will follow at a footpace.'
'If you'll give me leave, my lord,' said John Grueby, in a low voice, 'I'll change my proper place, and ride before you. The looks of the landlord's friend are not over honest, and it may be as well to be cautious with him.'
'John Grueby is quite right,' interposed Mr Gashford, falling back hastily. 'My lord, a life so precious as yours must not be put in peril. Go forward, John, by all means. If you have any reason to suspect the fellow, blow his brains out.'
John made no answer, but looking straight before him, as his custom seemed to be when the secretary spoke, bade Hugh push on, and followed close behind him. Then came his lordship, with Mr Willet at his bridle rein; and, last of all, his lordship's secretary--for that, it seemed, was Gashford's office.
Hugh strode briskly on, often looking back at the servant, whose horse was close upon his heels, and glancing with a leer at his bolster case of pistols, by which he seemed to set great store. He was a square-built, strong-made, bull-necked fellow, of the true English breed; and as Hugh measured him with his eye, he measured Hugh, regarding him meanwhile with a look of bluff disdain. He was much older than the Maypole man, being to all appearance five-and- forty; but was one of those self-possessed, hard-headed, imperturbable fellows, who, if they are ever beaten at fisticuffs, or other kind of warfare, never know it, and go on coolly till they win.
'If I led you wrong now,' said Hugh, tauntingly, 'you'd--ha ha ha!-- you'd shoot me through the head, I suppose.'
John Grueby took no more notice of this remark than if he had been deaf and Hugh dumb; but kept riding on quite comfortably, with his eyes fixed on the horizon.
'Did you ever try a fall with a man when you were young, master?' said Hugh. 'Can you make any play at single-stick?'
John Grueby looked at him sideways with the same contented air, but deigned not a word in answer.