There was no mistake about it: the carriage was slowing its relentless pace.
The two women hugged one another with excitement. “Perhaps we will be freed!” Alice said excitedly. The swift return of hope was enough to fill her cheeks with the flush of happiness again. “Perhaps it was all a mistake and we’re back home again!”
Lizzie, however, was slower to leap to frivolous conclusions. “Alice, I believe we would have seen more recognizable landmarks by now if we had returned,” she said, returning to a lecturing mode. “And note how the sun continues on the same side of the carriage. If we had changed directions, we should have noted a change in the direction of the sun as well.”
Logic was a dry subject, Alice thought to herself, but meekly replied, “As you say, Lizzie. But surely we have arrived somewhere.”
Indeed, the horses were slowing to a walk, no doubt fatigued by their hasty journey. Lizzie furtively peeked out the window of the carriage but found it difficult to make out where they were. “I see a sort of house, or perhaps it’s a public house. There is a sign hanging outside it, so I suspect it may be the latter.”
“It could be a baker’s,” Alice ventured shyly.
“Perhaps,” Lizzie admitted, “But I suppose it more likely to be a kind of place for refreshment. See! We are heading around the building. Perhaps the horses will be stabled and we will have something cool to drink.”
“Look, there is a pot of flowers!” Alice meant to be helpful, but even she could not see anything of gain in that observation.
“We have stopped!” Lizzie had unconsciously lowered her voice to a whisper. At last, their abductor might make himself known. The excitement was nigh on intolerable. The two felt the carriage lurch as their driver leapt down from the box. Voices drew near, undoubtedly addressing their abductor. The horses were being led away, undoubtedly to be well-fed and watered. Alice gasped as footsteps approached the side of the carriage; Lizzie grabbed her hand and they both stared toward the door.
When it suddenly opened, however, they were immediately blinded by the bright sunlight streaming through and ruining their first glance at the daring highwayman. Well, Lizzie had fancied some dashing robber perpetrating the crime, while Alice had still hoped for Kit Barrington’s visage. They were both soon disappointed by the squat masked man in the black hat who stepped into view. He was not the striking figure they had hoped for; further, he did not regard them with a cool, appraising stare nor did he smile devilishly at their beauty and vulnerability.
No, he simply pointed a pistol at the pair of them and demanded (in something less than dulcet tones) that they alight from the carriage to refresh themselves. “And look sharp about it, too, or my master will hear about it!”
This pronouncement had the immediate effect of motivating the two young women to scurry out of the carriage, but it also inspired them with a sense of relief that this unprepossessing figure was not in fact their nemesis, but only his servant.
“It could still be Kit,” Alice thought furtively, blushing before she corrected herself, “I mean, Mr. Barrington.” They both blinked to be out of the carriage’s shadowed interior and were scuttled into the public house without much of a look outside. Lizzie did manage to glance at the sign hanging from the front of the house and mentally recorded its name.
Never had the words “Pig and Whistle” provoked such an ominous gloom!