A Rogue's Life
FOR a couple of hours I walked on briskly, careless in what direction I went, so
long as I kept my back turned on Barkingham.
By the time I had put seven miles of ground, according to my calculations,
between me and the red-brick house, I began to look upon the doctor's writing-
desk rather in the light of an incumbrance, and determined to examine it without
further delay. Accordingly I picked up the first large stone I could find in the road,
crossed a common, burst through a hedge, and came to a halt, on the other side,
in a thick wood. Here, finding myself well screened from public view, I broke open
the desk with the help of the stone, and began to look over the contents.
To my unspeakable disappointment I found but few papers of any kind to
examine. The desk was beautifully fitted with all the necessary materials for
keeping up a large correspondence; but there were not more than half a dozen
letters in it altogether. Four were on business matters, and the other two were of
a friendly nature, referring to persons and things in which I did not feel the
smallest interest. I found besides half a dozen bills receipted (the doctor was a
mirror of punctuality in the payment of tradesmen), note and letter-paper of the
finest quality, clarified pens, a pretty little pin-cushion, two small account-books
filled with the neatest entries, and some leaves of blotting-paper. Nothing else;
absolutely nothing else, in the treacherous writing-desk on which I had implicitly
relied to guide me to Alicia's hiding-place.
I groaned in sheer wretchedness over the destruction of all my dearest plans and
hopes. If the Bow Street runners had come into the plantation just as I had
completed the rifling of the desk I think I should have let them take me without
making the slightest effort at escape. As it was, no living soul appeared within
sight of me. I must have sat at the foot of a tree for full half an hour, with the
doctor's useless bills and letters before me, with my head in my hands, and with
all my energies of body and mind utterly crushed by despair.
At the end of the half hour, the natural restlessness of my faculties began to
make itself felt.
Whatever may be said about it in books, no emotion in this world ever did, or
ever will, last for long together. The strong feeling may return over and over
again; but it must have its constant intervals of change or repose. In real life the
bitterest grief doggedly takes its rest and dries its eyes; the heaviest despair
sinks to a certain level, and stops there to give hope a chance of rising, in spite of
us. Even the joy of an unexpected meeting is always an imperfect sensation, for