"I say a horse at a gallop, Tom," returned the guard, leaving hishold of the door, and mounting nimbly to his place. "Gentlemen! In theking's name, all of you!"
With this hurried adjuration, he cocked his blunderbuss, and stoodon the offensive.
The passenger booked by this history, was on the coach-step, gettingin; the two other passengers were close behind him, and about tofollow. He remained on the step, half in the coach and half out of;they remained in the road below him. They all looked from the coachmanto the guard, and from the guard to the coachman, and listened. Thecoachman looked back and the guard looked back, and even theemphatic leader pricked up his ears and looked back, withoutcontradicting.
The stillness consequent on the cessation of the rumbling andlabouring of the coach, added to the stillness of the night, made itvery quiet indeed. The panting of the horses communicated atremulous motion to the coach. The hearts of the passengers beat loud enough perhaps to beheard; but at any rate, the quiet pause was audibly expressive ofpeople out of breath, and holding the breath, and having the pulsesquickened by expectation.
The sound of a horse at a gallop came fast and furiously up thehill.
"Come on at a footpace! d'ye mind me? And if you've got holstersto that saddle o' yourn, don't let me see your hand go nigh 'em. ForI'm a devil at a quick mistake, and when I make one it takes theform of Lead. So now let's look at you."
The figures of a horse and rider came slowly through the eddyingmist, and came to the side of the mail, where the passenger stood. Therider stooped, and, casting up his eyes at the guard, handed thepassenger a small folded paper. The rider's horse was blown, andboth horse and rider were covered with mud, from the hoofs of thehorse to the hat of the man.
"Guard!" said the passenger, in a tone of quiet business confidence.
The watchful guard, with his right hand at the stock of his raisedblunderbuss, his left at the barrel, and his eye on the horseman,answered curtly, "Sir."
"There is nothing to apprehend. I belong to Tellson's Bank. You mustknow Tellson's Bank in London. I am going to Paris on business. Acrown to drink. I may read this?"