By the time the coach paused at Buxton for a change of horses and the refreshment of its passengers, Emilina's disappointment in Dr. Cardew was fixed. While she had at first experienced a certain gratification that he, too, was bound for Nottingham, she now was only dismayed that the company would so long be burdened with his presence. She ignored him as the coach drew up before the Old Sun Inn, and busied herself gathering up her reticule, and straightening her bonnet.
She could not avoid him, however. When she moved to the door of the coach, he offered her his hand to aid her descent. With no more than a brief thank-you, she accepted his unavoidable assistance. She was disinclined to recognize his courtesy if it was extended only to herself and not the other passengers.
Emilina followed the young mother and the farm-wife into the inn. They were quickly led above-stairs to a retiring room. There, in the comfortable chamber, they were able to remove their gloves, wash away the dust of the journey, and enjoy a brief respite from the incessant motion of the coach.
The inn was ancient but well-kept, and its facilities for weary coach travelers were comfortable and considerable. Emilina dallied after her companions, but eventually the enticing smell of roasted beef and coffee wafting from the kitchens drew her down the stairs. A clatter of tankards and mumble of country voices identified the tap room as she stood at the foot of the staircase, and she found her way to the inn's coffee room by following the sound of cutlery clashing on china. On the threshold of the wide, low-ceilinged chamber, she paused and looked for her new acquaintances.
Dr. Cardew was hovering near the fireplace, having put off his greatcoat and his beaver. He was watching for someone and she hoped devoutly that it was not her. She overlooked him as pointedly as she could without blatant rudeness. The room was not crowded, but the women from her coach, in company with the child, were already seated at a small table that had no chair for her. The solicitor was engaged in earnest converse with the landlord and would, in any event, have offered no refuge. Emilina--looking for an unobtrusive seat--again attempted to fail to notice the doctor's eager smile and gesture, but found herself without excuse to ignore him completely.
He hurried to her side. She could not deny he presented a trim, gentlemanly appearance and found herself unwillingly flattered by his attention.
"Miss Brook," he said. "I have obtained a cold collation and a cup of coffee for you. I hope you will pardon my daring, but I feared you would have no opportunity to order refreshment. Our stop is not long."
Emilina sedately expressed her appreciation of the kindness. Though reluctant, she followed the doctor and sat at his table, seizing upon the cup of coffee there with delight. She tucked into a small but surprisingly tasty meal, listening with only half an ear to the physician's grandiose plans for his medical practice soon to be established in Nottingham.