They came too late; the marauders were off, and all that they found of their mule was the dents of his hoofs, as he had been conveyed off at a round trot
, bearing his savory cargo to the hills, to furnish the scampering savages with a banquet of roast meat at the expense of the white men.
In this manner they travelled along, talking very little above a whisper, and wishing the road could be stretched out to some dozen times its natural length--at least that was Joe's desire--when, as they were getting clear of the forest and emerging on the more frequented road, they heard behind them the sound of a horse's feet at a round trot
, which growing rapidly louder as it drew nearer, elicited a scream from Mrs Varden, and the cry 'a friend!' from the rider, who now came panting up, and checked his horse beside them.
As the travellers had observed that day many indications of their drawing nearer and nearer to the race town, such as gipsy camps, carts laden with gambling booths and their appurtenances, itinerant showmen of various kinds, and beggars and trampers of every degree, all wending their way in the same direction, Mr Codlin was fearful of finding the accommodations forestalled; this fear increasing as he diminished the distance between himself and the hostelry, he quickened his pace, and notwithstanding the burden he had to carry, maintained a round trot
until he reached the threshold.
Catching up the light, they made the best of their way home, at a good round trot
; and long after their dusky forms had ceased to be discernible, the light might have been seen twinkling and dancing in the distance, like some exhalation of the damp and gloomy atmosphere through which it was swiftly borne.