A Rogue's Life
WE posted five-and-thirty miles, then stopped for a couple of hours to rest, and
wait for a night coach running northward.
On getting into this vehicle we were fortunate enough to find the fourth inside
place not occupied. Mrs. Baggs showed her sense of the freedom from restraint
thus obtained by tying a huge red comforter round her head like a turban, and
immediately falling fast asleep. This gave Alicia and me full liberty to talk as we
pleased. Our conversation was for the most part of that particular kind which is
not of the smallest importance to any third person in the whole world. One portion
of it, however, was an exception to this general rule. It had a very positive
influence on my fortunes, and it is, therefore, I hope, of sufficient importance to
bear being communicated to the reader.
We had changed horses for the fourth time, had seated ourselves comfortably in
our places, and had heard Mrs. Baggs resume the kindred occupations of
sleeping and snoring, when Alicia whispered to me:
"I must have no secrets, now, from you-- must I, Frank?"
"You must have anything you like, do anything you like, and say anything you
like. You must never ask leave--but only grant it!"
"Shall you always tell me that, Frank?"
I did not answer in words, but the conversation suffered a momentary
interruption. Of what nature, susceptible people will easily imagine. As for the
hard-hearted I don't write for them.
"My secret need not alarm you," Alicia went on, in tones that began to sound
rather sadly; "it is only about a tiny pasteboard box that I can carry in the bosom
of my dress. But it has got three diamonds in it, Frank, and one beautiful ruby.
Did you ever give me credit for having so much that was valuable about me?--
shall I give it you to keep for me?"
I remembered directly Old File's story of Mrs. Dulcifer's elopement, and of the
jewels she had taken with her. It was easy to guess, after what I had heard, that
the poor woman had secretly preserved some of her little property for the benefit
of her child.
"I have no present need of money, darling," I answered; "keep the box in its
present enviable position." I stopped there, saying nothing of the thought that