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Chapter 14 (continued)
Joe shook his head; but there was something so cheery in the buoyant hopeful manner of this speech, that his spirits rose under its influence, and communicated as it would seem some new impulse even to the grey mare, who, breaking from her sober amble into a gentle trot, emulated the pace of Edward Chester's horse, and appeared to flatter herself that he was doing his very best.
It was a fine dry night, and the light of a young moon, which was then just rising, shed around that peace and tranquillity which gives to evening time its most delicious charm. The lengthened shadows of the trees, softened as if reflected in still water, threw their carpet on the path the travellers pursued, and the light wind stirred yet more softly than before, as though it were soothing Nature in her sleep. By little and little they ceased talking, and rode on side by side in a pleasant silence.
'The Maypole lights are brilliant to-night,' said Edward, as they rode along the lane from which, while the intervening trees were bare of leaves, that hostelry was visible.
'Brilliant indeed, sir,' returned Joe, rising in his stirrups to get a better view. 'Lights in the large room, and a fire glimmering in the best bedchamber? Why, what company can this be for, I wonder!'
'Some benighted horseman wending towards London, and deterred from going on to-night by the marvellous tales of my friend the highwayman, I suppose,' said Edward.
'He must be a horseman of good quality to have such accommodations. Your bed too, sir--!'
'No matter, Joe. Any other room will do for me. But come--there's nine striking. We may push on.'
They cantered forward at as brisk a pace as Joe's charger could attain, and presently stopped in the little copse where he had left her in the morning. Edward dismounted, gave his bridle to his companion, and walked with a light step towards the house.
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