But now, as they faced each other, Barnabas observed something else; John Peterby's lips were compressed, and in his eye was anxiety, the which had, somehow, got into his voice when he spoke, though his tone was low and modulated: "Sir, if you are for London to-night, we had better start at once, the coach leaves Tenterden within the hour."
His silver-buttoned blue coat, high-waisted and cunningly rolled of collar, was a sartorial triumph; his black stockinette pantaloons, close-fitting from hip to ankle and there looped and buttoned, accentuated muscled calf and virile thigh in a manner somewhat disconcerting; his snowy waistcoat was of an original fashion and cut, and his cravat, folded and caressed into being by Peterby's fingers, was an elaborate masterpiece, a matchless creation never before seen upon the town.
Now when he said this, Barnabas turned to look at him again, and thus he noticed that Peterby's brow was anxious and careworn. "I wish, John," said he, "that you would remember we are no longer master and man." "Old habits stick, sir." "And that I brought you to this dismal place as my friend." "But surely, sir, a man's friend is worthy of his trust and confidence?"
And sir," here Peterby's voice grew uncertain "you shall find me worthy of your trust, so help me God!" Then he opened the door, went out, and closed it softly behind him. But as for Barnabas, he sat with his gaze fixed on the ceiling again, lost in reverie and very silent. After a while he spoke his thoughts aloud. "A race!" said he.
Now hereupon John Peterby's grave dignity relaxed, a twinkle dawned in his eyes, and his lips took on their old-time, humorous curve.
Without wasting time in needless words, the old groom set the stable-boys running to and fro, and himself brought Barnabas a pair of riding-boots, and aided him to put them on. Which done, Barnabas threw aside the fur cap, stripped off Peterby's rough coat, and looked about for other garments to take their place.
"Suspicion?" said Barnabas, and with the word he rose and laying his hands upon John Peterby's shoulders, looked into his eyes. Then, seeing the look they held, he smiled and shook his head. "Oh, friend," said he, "what matters it so long as you know my hands are clean?" "But, sir, if you are arrested " "They must next prove me guilty, John," said Barnabas, sitting down at the table.
Hereupon, having glanced at his solemn face, Barnabas rose, and surveyed himself, as well as he might, in the tarnished mirror on the wall. "Are they so bad as all that?" he inquired. Peterby's mouth relaxed, and a twinkle dawned in his eye. "As garments they are serviceable, sir," said he, gravely, "but as clothes they don't exist."
And now, mingled with his pity, Barnabas was conscious of a growing respect for this pleasant, small gentleman, and began to understand why a man might seek the "shorter way," yet be no great coward after all. So Mr. Bimby chattered on and Barnabas listened until the day declined to evening; until Barnabas began to hearken for Peterby's returning footstep on the uncarpeted stair outside.
"Well, what else happened?" inquired Tom "Not much more. I apologized to the man, and he to me, and we let go of each other." "Are you sure about the ring on his finger?" "Positive. His hand was right in the light. But wait, that isn't all. I hurried on, not thinking much about it, when, I saw another man step out of the dark shadows of Peterby's grocery, just beyond the bank.