At the same instant

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Now when I returned half an hour later I was engrossed in conversation with Mr. Fairman, and I had forgotten all about Peter's quest. The horse was trotting along at a creditable pace; Mr. Fairman sat upright beside me in starched and immaculate apparel, trying to appear unconcerned about his approaching fate; I, flicking the animal in the most artfully casual manner to keep him going fucoidan, had on my best company manners. Perhaps this phrase may suggest effort, constraint, artificiality, but I have been told by Marion that no one could possibly be more charming in manner than I, when I choose to be agreeable, but that when I—but there, I like to take the sweet without the bitter, and the rest is quite [Pg 202]irrelevant. I was suave, genial, sympathetic; Mr. Fairman, in that blissfully exalted mood so natural to the occasion, had just drawn my attention to the idyllic beauty of Nature's autumn garb, when suddenly up from the dry ditch at the roadside stumbled Peter Waydean, a dishevelled, disreputable blot upon the scene. Frantically waving his arms, he shouted an invitation to me to stop and give him a chance to do me up. I had an idea that he called me a pig, but we were bowling along at such a rate that I couldn't be sure of his words, though there could be no doubt of his general intentions. For various reasons I did not attempt to stop, and my attention was immediately distracted from him by the sight of Marion's old sun-bonnet bobbing up and down in the ditch some distance ahead. If it had been hanging on a tree or lying on the roadside, I would have been quite surprised, but to see it travel along with unvarying speed and apparent dogged intention in a straight line along the inner side of the ditch seemed very like a miracle. That it could do so without legs was inconceivable; that legs[Pg 203] could belong to it was marvellous, but if so, how many, what size and shape? I whipped up the horse, with a passing glance at Mr. Fairman. His eyes were riveted on the bonnet with eager wonderment; he had plainly forgotten for the moment that he was on his way to his wedding. As we neared the lower level of the road we were slightly ahead, and I checked the speed of the horse at the foot of a slope where the ditch ended; just in time, for like a dissolving view there dashed across the road directly in front of us the most grotesque object in the way of a quadruped that could be imagined. Its head was hidden in the sun-bonnet; the short fore-feet were completely encased in Paul's worn-out rubber boots; the body, instead of being hairy, was feathered like that of a Plymouth Rock hen; around the hind legs flapped a tiny pair of blue trousers—only a curly little tail remained to show it was a pig.

It came; it vanished. Joe Wrigley's horse stood up very straight on his hind legs and then prepared to sit down on our laps. Without a word,[Pg 204] Mr. Fairman leaned sideways and tried to climb head first over the wheel. I had just time to rescue him by seizing his coat-tails with one hand while I lashed the horse with the whip. The effect of that blow was electrical, for with a bound the animal sprang forward at a pace that first astonished, and then alarmed me part time diploma course business. We passed the Waydean gate at racing speed, and in a fleeting glimpse of William as he stood there I saw a broad grin merge into open-mouthed horror, and I had the grim satisfaction of knowing that the enjoyment of his handiwork was swallowed up in remorse. In vain I tugged at the reins; the horse had the bit between his teeth, and the only effect was to slacken the traces and put the strain of drawing the vehicle on my arms. Perhaps if I had been alone I would have felt afraid and have resigned myself to disaster, but I was filled with a fierce resolve to save Mr. Fairman and see him safely married, as arranged.




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