By the time we reached the door of my lodging, I felt sure I had confirmed his interest, and might venture, before I turned the pass-key, to beseech him to moderate his voice and to tread softly. He promised to obey me: and I admitted him into the passage and thence into my sitting-room, which was fortunately next the door.
'And now,' said he, when with trembling fingers I had lighted a candle, 'what is the meaning of all this?'
'I wish you,' said I, speaking with great difficulty, 'to help me out with these boxes--and I wish nobody to know.'
He took up the candle. 'And I wish to see your face,' said he.
I turned back my veil without a word, and looked at him with every appearance of resolve that I could summon up. For some time he gazed into my face, still holding up the candle. 'Well,' said he at last, 'and where do you wish them taken?'
I knew that I had gained my point; and it was with a tremor in my voice that I replied. 'I had thought we might carry them between us to the corner of Euston Road,' said I, 'where, even at this late hour, we may still find a cab.'
'Very good,' was his reply; and he immediately hoisted the heavier of my trunks upon his shoulder, and taking one handle of the second, signed to me to help him at the other end. In this order we made good our retreat from the house, and without the least adventure, drew pretty near to the corner of Euston Road. Before a house, where there was a light still burning, my companion paused. 'Let us here,' said he, 'set down our boxes, while we go forward to the end of the street in quest of a cab. By doing so, we can still keep an eye upon their safety, and we avoid the very extraordinary figure we should otherwise present--a young man, a young lady, and a mass of baggage, standing castaway at midnight on the streets of London.' So it was done, and the event proved him to be wise; for long before there was any word of a cab, a policeman appeared upon the scene, turned upon us the full glare of his lantern, and hung suspiciously behind us in a doorway.
'There seem to be no cabs about, policeman,' said my champion, with affected cheerfulness. But the constable's answer was ungracious; and as for the offer of a cigar, with which this rebuff was most unwisely followed up, he refused it point-blank, and without the least civility. The young gentleman looked at me with a warning grimace, and there we continued to stand, on the edge of the pavement, in the beating rain, and with the policeman still silently watching our movements from the doorway.
At last, and after a delay that seemed interminable, a four-wheeler appeared lumbering along in the mud, and was instantly hailed by my companion. 'Just pull up here, will you?' he cried. 'We have some baggage up the street.'
And now came the hitch of our adventure; for when the policeman, still closely following us, beheld my two boxes lying in the rain, he arose from mere suspicion to a kind of certitude of something evil. The light in the house had been extinguished; the whole frontage of the street was dark; there was nothing to explain the presence of these unguarded trunks; and no two innocent people were ever, I believe, detected in such questionable circumstances.
'Where have these things come from?' asked the policeman, flashing his light full into my champion's face.
'Why, from that house, of course,' replied the young gentleman, hastily shouldering a trunk.
The policeman whistled and turned to look at the dark windows; he then took a step towards the door, as though to knock, a course which had infallibly proved our ruin; but seeing us already hurrying down the street under our double burthen, thought better or worse of it, and followed in our wake.
'For God's sake,' whispered my companion, 'tell me where to drive to.'
'Anywhere,' I replied with anguish. 'I have no idea. Anywhere you like.'
Thus it befell that, when the boxes had been stowed, and I had already entered the cab, my deliverer called out in clear tones the address of the house in which we are now seated.