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The Black Lion was so far off, and occupied such a length of time in the getting at, that notwithstanding the strong presumptive evidence she had about her of the late events being real and of actual occurrence, Dolly could not divest herself of the belief that she must be in a dream which was lasting all night. Nor was she quite certain that she saw and heard with her own proper senses, even when the coach, in the fulness of time, stopped at the Black Lion, and the host of that tavern approached in a gush of cheerful light to help them to dismount, and give them hearty welcome.
There too, at the coach door, one on one side, one upon the other, were already Edward Chester and Joe Willet, who must have followed in another coach: and this was such a strange and unaccountable proceeding, that Dolly was the more inclined to favour the idea of her being fast asleep. But when Mr Willet appeared--old John himself--so heavy-headed and obstinate, and with such a double chin as the liveliest imagination could never in its boldest flights have conjured up in all its vast proportions--then she stood corrected, and unwillingly admitted to herself that she was broad awake.
And Joe had lost an arm--he--that well-made, handsome, gallant fellow! As Dolly glanced towards him, and thought of the pain he must have suffered, and the far-off places in which he had been wandering, and wondered who had been his nurse, and hoped that whoever it was, she had been as kind and gentle and considerate as she would have been, the tears came rising to her bright eyes, one by one, little by little, until she could keep them back no longer, and so before them all, wept bitterly.
'We are all safe now, Dolly,' said her father, kindly. 'We shall not be separated any more. Cheer up, my love, cheer up!'
The locksmith's wife knew better perhaps, than he, what ailed her daughter. But Mrs Varden being quite an altered woman--for the riots had done that good--added her word to his, and comforted her with similar representations.
'Mayhap,' said Mr Willet, senior, looking round upon the company, 'she's hungry. That's what it is, depend upon it--I am, myself.'
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