The King's Highway
G. P. R. James
Part 4 out of 10
A sound in the hall below made her quicken her footsteps; and in two
or three minutes more the room she had just quitted was occupied by
five or six tenants of a very different character and appearance from
The first person that entered the room after the lady quitted it was
Monsieur Plessis himself, who, with a light in his hand, came quickly
on before the rest, and gave a rapid glance round, as if to insure
that no little articles belonging to its last tenant remained
scattered about, to betray the fact of her dwelling in his house.
He was followed soon after by a tall, thin, gloomy-looking personage,
dressed in dark clothing, and somewhat heavily armed, for a period of
internal peace. His complexion was saturnine, his features sharp and
angular, his eyes keen and sunk deep under the overhanging brows; and
across one cheek, not far below the eye, was a deep gash, which drew
down the inner corners of the eyelid, and gave a still more sinister
expression to the countenance than it originally possessed. He was
followed by two others, both of whom were much younger men than
himself. One was gaily dressed, and had a fat and somewhat heavy
countenance, which indeed seemed unmeaning, till suddenly a quick
fierce glance of the eye and a movement of the large massy lower jaw,
like that which is seen in the jaws of a dog eager to bite, showed
that under that dull exterior there were passions strong and quick,
and a spirit not so slow and heavy as a casual observer might
Besides these, there were one or two other persons whose dress
denoted them of some rank and station in society, though those who
had seen them in other circumstances might now have remarked that
various devices had been employed to disguise their persons in some
One of these, however, has been before introduced to the reader,
being no other than that Sir John Fenwick whom we have more than once
had occasion to mention. He was now no longer dressed with the
somewhat affected neatness and coxcombry which had marked his
appearance in London, but, on the contrary, was clad in garments
comparatively coarse, and bore the aspect of a military man no longer
in active service, and enduring some reverses. He also was heavily
armed, though many of the others there present bore apparently
nothing but the ordinary sword which was carried by every gentleman
in that day.
The first of the personages we have mentioned approached with a slow
step towards the fire, saying to Plessis as he advanced, "So the
Colonel has not come, I see?"
"No, Sir George," replied Plessis with a lowly inclination of the
head, "he has not arrived yet; but I had a messenger from him at noon
to-day, saying that he would be here to-night."
"Ha!" exclaimed Sir George Barkley, "that is more than I
expected--But he will not come, he will not come! Make us a bowl of
punch, good Plessis--make us a bowl of punch--the night is very
cold.--But he will not come, I feel very sure he will not come."
"I think I hear his horse's feet even now," replied Plessis--"at all
events, there is some one arrived."
"Keep him some minutes down below, good Plessis," exclaimed Sir
George Barkley hastily. "Run down and meet him. Make up some story,
and delay him as long as possible; for I have got something to
consult with these gentlemen upon before we see him."
Plessis hastened away; and as soon as the door was closed, Barkley
turned to the gaily dressed man we have mentioned, saying, "Charnock,
tell Sir John Friend and Captain Rookwood what we were saying as we
came along; and all that has happened in London."
The dull countenance of Charnock was lighted up in a moment by one of
those quick looks we have mentioned. "Listen, Parkyns, too," he
said, "for you have not heard the whole."
"Be quick, be quick, Charnock," said Sir George Barkley.
"Well, thus it is then, gentlemen," said Charnock--"matters do not
go so favourably as we could have wished. Sir John Fenwick, here,
the most active of us all, had got the Duke of Gaveston to join us
heartily, to concur in the rising, or, at all events, to hear all
that we propose, with a promise of perfect secrecy; but most
unfortunately, at the meeting at the Old King's Head, some one
unwisely suffered it to slip out that we were to have thirty thousand
French troops, forgetting that what is good to tell the lower classes
and those who are timid and fearful of not having means enough, does
not do to be told to the bold and high-minded, who are apt to be
foolishly confident. The Duke cried out at that, and vowed that if
his opinion were to have any weight, or if his co-operation was of
any import, not a foreign soldier should come into the land. This was
bad enough; but we might have smoothed that down, had not Lowick
chanced to hint the plan for getting rid of this Prince of Orange as
the first step. Thereupon both the Duke and the Earl of Aylesbury,
who were present, flew out like fire; and the Duke, vowing he would
hear no more, took up his hat and sword and walked away, in spite of
all that could be said. The Earl, for his part, stayed the business
out, saying, that he would have nothing to do with the affair, but
that he remained to show us that he would not betray anything."
"That is to say," exclaimed one of the others, "that the Duke will
"Not exactly," said Sir John Fenwick, with a grim smile. "We have
taken care of that, and perhaps may compel the Duke to join us
whether he likes it or not, when once the matter's done. However, Sir
George and I have determined that it is absolutely necessary and
needful for us all to understand, that we, who take the deeper part
in the matter, must keep our own counsel better for the future. Of
course, we must still endeavour to enrol as many names as possible;
but to all ordinary supporters we must tell nothing more, than that
the general rising is to take place, and that we have the most
perfect certainty of success by means which we cannot divulge."
"You will remark, gentlemen," said Sir George Barkley, "that the
assistance of the French troops is to be mentioned to no one at all,
without the general consent of the persons here present."
"And the execution, or putting to death, or call it what you will, of
the Prince of Orange," added Charnock, "is to be told to nobody on
any account whatever. We have quite sufficient hands to do it
ourselves without any more help; and if you and your men will take
care of the guards, I will undertake the pistoling work with my own
"But the Colonel," said one of the others, "you forgot to mention
about the Colonel, Charnock."
"Why, that is the worst spot in the whole business," said Sir George
Barkley. "No one expected his stomach to be queasy; but by heavens
he's worse than either the Duke or the Earl. He did not so much seem
to dislike the idea of foreign troops--though that did not please
him--but one would have thought him a madman to hear how he talked
about that very necessary first step, the getting rid of the usurper.
He said, not only that he would have nothing to do with it, but that
it should not be done; and he used very high and threatening language
even towards me--at present his Majesty's representative. He used
words most injurious to us all, and which I would have resented to
the death if it had not been for consideration of the high cause in
which we are all here engaged."
"What did he say? What did he say?" demanded two or three voices.
"In the first instance," answered Sir George Barkley, "he would not
come to the last meeting at the King's Head; and his first question,
when I went to seek him, was, whether the King knew of what we were
about to do? I said, certainly not; that I had a general commission,
which was quite enough, and that we had not told the King of an act
which was very necessary, but might not be pleasant for him to hear.
With that he tossed up his head and laughed, in his way, saying that
he thought so; and that the King did not know what bloody-minded
villains he had got in his service.--Bloody minded villains was the
word.--It is rather impudent, too, and somewhat strange, that he, of
all men, should talk thus--he who, for many a year now, has lived by
taking toll upon the King's Highway."
"Ay; but I insist say, Sir George," replied one of the others, "he
has always been very particular. I, who have been with him now these
many years, can answer for it, that in all that time he has never
taken a gold piece from any one but the King's enemies, nor I either:
and he vows that the King's commission which he still has, justifies
him in stripping them."
"Ay, so it does," replied Sir George Barkley, "and the King's
commission, too, justifies us in killing them. This gentleman only
makes nice distinctions when it suits him. However, we are taking
means to get all his people away from him. Byerly won't be such a
stickler, no doubt, and five or six of the others we can bribe."
"Ay, but will he not betray us," said Sir William Parkyns.
"I think not," said Sir George Barkley; and unwittingly he paid the
person he spoke of the highest compliment in his power, saying, "I
rather fancy the same sort of humour that prevents him from going on
in the business with us will keep him from betraying what he knows.
But we shall soon see that; and now having said all we have to say,
you had better go down, Fenwick, and see if he be come or not."
During the time that this conversation had been going on, there had
been various sounds of different descriptions in the house; and when
Sir John Fenwick rose and opened the door to seek the person last
spoken of, he was met face to face by Monsieur Plessis, and a
maid-servant, carrying an immense bowl of punch, at that time the
favourite beverage of a great part of the English nation.
"Was that the Colonel?" demanded Fenwick, as soon as he beheld
"Yes," replied the Frenchman; "but he is busy about his horses and
things, and said he would be up immediately."
"Has he got anybody with him?" demanded Sir John Fenwick in a low
voice, for Plessis had left the door partly open behind him.
"Only two," rejoined the other.
"Put down the punch, Plessis," said Sir George Barkley--"run down
and see if you cannot stop the others from coming up with him."
Before Plessis could do as he was bid, however, the door was flung
farther open, and our old acquaintance Green entered the room alone.
He was dressed as upon the first occasion of his meeting with Wilton
Brown, except that he had a sort of cloak cast over his other
garments, and a much heavier sword by his side. Plessis, who did not
seem very much to like the aspect of affairs, made his exit with all
speed, and closed the door; and Green, with a firm step and a
somewhat frowning brow, advanced to the table, saying, "I give you
good evening, gentlemen."
Sir John Fenwick, who was nearest to him, held out his hand as to an
old friend; but Green thrust his hands behind his back, and made him
a low bow, saying, "I must do nothing, Sir John, that may make you
believe me your comrade when I am not."
"Nay, nay, Colonel," said Sir John Fenwick, still holding out his
hand to him, "at least as your friend of twenty years' standing."
"That as you please, sir," replied Green, giving him his hand coldly.
"We have requested your presence here, Colonel," said Charnock, "to
speak over various matters--"
"Mr. Charnock," interrupted Green, "I have nothing to do with you. It
is with this gentleman I wish to have a word or two more than we
could have the other afternoon," and he walked directly up to Sir
"Well, sir, what is it that you want with me?" said Sir George. "I
hope you have thought better of what you said that night."
"Thought, sir," answered Green, "has only served to confirm
everything that I then felt. In the first place, Sir George Barkley,
you have dealt with me in this business uncandidly; and if I had not
had better information than that which you gave me, pretending to be
a friend, I should have been smuggled into a transaction which I
abhor and detest."
"How mean you, sir? How mean you? I was perfectly candid with you,"
said Sir George Barkley.
"Ha, ha, ha!" exclaimed Green, laughing scornfully. "Perfectly
candid! Yes, when you could not be otherwise. You told me, sir, that
you wanted my assistance with ten men well armed for a service of
great honour and danger; but until I put the question straightforward
to you--having already obtained a knowledge of your proceedings--you
did not tell me that the service you required was the cold-blooded
murder of William, wrongly called King of England."
"That, sir, was to be explained to you afterwards," said Sir George
"Afterwards!" exclaimed Green: "ay, sir, how soon afterwards? After
the deed was done, ha? or after I was so far committed that I could
not retract? And let me ask you, why it was that I was not to be
informed till afterwards, when every other person here present knew
it long before--I, who remained by the bloody waters of the Boyne
when you acted as the King's running footman, and heralded him back
to France? Nay, nay, you shall hear me out, sir, now. I believe not
that you would ever have told me, had it not been that this
intercepted letter fell into my hands, and informed me of all your
proceedings, when you thought I knew them not."
And as he spoke he held the letter out before him, and struck his
hand fiercely upon the paper.
The others looked round, each in his neighbour's face, with a
doubtful, and disconcerted look, and Green went on before any one
"Why was all this, Sir George Barkley?" he said. "Why was this
concealment? I will tell you why: because you dared not for your life
propose such a thing to me, till you thought I was so far committed
that I could not escape you; and if I had not asked you myself the
question, I should never have heard the truth till this day."
Dark and darker shades of passion had come over the countenance of
Sir George Barkley while Green had been speaking; and he, Charnock,
and one of the others, during the latter part of their new
companion's somewhat vituperative address, had been exchanging looks
very significant and menacing. At length, however, Sir George Barkley
exclaimed, "Come, come, Colonel--this language is too much. You have
been asking questions and answering them yourself. We have now one
or two to ask you, and we hope you will answer them as much to our
satisfaction as you have answered the others to your own."
"What are your questions, sir?" demanded Green, fixing his eye upon
him sternly. "Let me hear them, and if it suits me I will reply; if
not, you must do without an answer."
"To one question, at least," replied Sir George Barkley, "to one
question, at least, we must compel an answer!"
"Compel!" exclaimed Green, "compel!" and he took a step back towards
"Look to the door, Fenwick!" exclaimed Sir George Barkley. "Parkyns,
help Sir John! I should be sorry to take severe measures with you,
Colonel; but before you stir a step from this room you must pledge
yourself by all you hold sacred that you will not betray us."
Green heard him to an end without any further movement than the step
back which he had taken, and which placed him in such a position that
he could front either Barkley and the rest on the one side, or those
who were at the door upon the other, without the possibility of any
one coming upon him from behind without being seen. The moment the
other had done, however, he shook back the cloak from his shoulders,
and took from the broad horseman's girdle which girt him round the
middle, a pistol, the barrel of which was fully eighteen inches long,
while its counterpart appeared on the other side of the belt, in
which also were two more weapons of the same kind, but of less
dimensions. He leaned the muzzle calmly upon his hand for a moment,
and looking tranquilly in the face of Sir John Fenwick he said, in a
quiet tone, "Sir John Fenwick, you are in my way. You will do wisely
to retire from the door, and take your friend with you."
"Rush upon him!" cried a man named Cranburne; and as he spoke he
sprang forward himself, while Sir George Barkley and the rest came
somewhat more slowly after. The pistol was in a moment transferred
to Green's left hand, and with a back-handed blow of the right, which
seemed in fact but a mere touch, Cranburne was laid prostrate on the
ground, with his whole face and neck swimming in blood from his mouth
and nose. In his fall he nearly knocked down Sir George Barkley, who
took it as a signal for retreat towards the fire-place, and at the
same moment Green, who had not moved a step from the spot where he
stood, repeated in a louder voice, "You are in my way, Sir John
Fenwick! Move from the door!" and at the same instant, in the
silence which had followed the overthrow of Cranburne, the ringing
sound occasioned by a pistol being suddenly cocked made itself
"Move, move, Sir John Fenwick!" cried one of the others, a Captain
Porter--"this is all very silly: we risk a great deal more by making
a fracas here, than in trusting to the honour of a gentleman, such as
Sir John Fenwick did not require two recommendations to follow this
suggestion, but he and Parkyns drew back simultaneously, leaving the
way free for Green to go out. He advanced, in consequence, as if to
take advantage of this movement; but before he quitted the room, he
turned and fronted the party assembled.
"Sir George Barkley," he said, looking at him with a scornful smile,
"you are, all of you, afraid of my telling what I know; but now that
the way is clear, I will so far relieve you as to say, that nothing
which any of you have told me shall ever pass my lips again. The
knowledge that I have gained or may gain by other means is my own
property, with which I shall do as I like; but there are one or two
pieces of information which I carry under my doublet, and which you
may not be sorry to hear. As for you. Sir George Barkley, the secret
I have to reveal to you is, that you are a white-livered coward. This
I shall tell to nobody but yourself--Ha, ha, ha!--because your
friends know it already, and to your enemies you will never do any
harm. Fenwick, you are just sufficient of a fool to get yourself into
a scrape, and sufficient of a knave to drag your friends in too, in
the hopes of getting out yourself. Sir William Parkyns and Sir John
Friend, knights and gentlemen of good repute, with full purses and
with empty heads, you are paving a golden road to the gallows.
Charnock, you are a butcher; but depend upon it, you were not made to
slaughter any better beast than a bullock. The rest of you,
gentlemen, good night. As for you, Porter, I wish you were out of
this business. You are too honest a man to be in it; but take care
that you do not make a knave of yourself in trying to shake yourself
free from a cloak that you should never have put on."
It may easily be conceived that this speech was not particularly
palatable to any of the parties present. But Sir George Barkley was
the only one who answered, and he only did it by a sneer.
"Oh! we know very well," he said, "my good Colonel, that you can turn
your coat as well as any man. We have heard of certain visits to
Kensington, and interviews with the usurper; and, doubtless, we shall
soon see a long list of our names furnished by you, and stuck up
"He who insinuates a falsehood, sir," replied Green, turning sharply
upon him, "is worse than he who tells a lie, for a lie is a bolder
sort of cowardice than a covered falsehood. I have never been but
once to Kensington in my life, and that was to see Bentinck, Lord
Portland--whom I did not see. William of Nassau I have never spoken
to in my life, and never seen, that I know of, except once through a
pocket-glass, upon the banks of the Boyne. All that you have said,
sir, you know to be false; and as to my giving a list of your names,
that you know to be false also. What I may do to prevent evil actions
I do not know, and shall hold it over your heads. But of one thing
you may be quite sure, that no man's name would ever be compromised
by me, however much he may deserve it."
Thus saying, he turned upon his heel and quitted the room, still
holding the pistol in his hand. After closing the door, he paused for
an instant and meditated, then thrust the pistol back into his belt,
and walked along one of the many passages of the house, with the
intricacies of which he seemed perfectly well acquainted.
The scene of dismay and confusion, however, which he left behind is
almost indescribable. Every person talked at once, some addressing
the general number, not one of whom was attending; some speaking
vehemently to another individual, who in turn was speaking as
vehemently to some one else. The great majority of those present,
however, seemed perfectly convinced that their late companion would
betray them, or, at all events, take such measures for frustrating
their schemes, as to render it perilous in the extreme to proceed in
them. Sir John Friend was for giving it all up at once, and Parkyns
seemed much of the same opinion. Rookwood, Fenwick, and others
hesitated, but evidently leaned to the safer course.
Sir George Barkley and Charnock were the only persons who, on the
contrary, maintained the necessity and the propriety of abandoning
none of their intentions. To this, indeed, after great efforts, they
brought back the judgment of the rest; but it required all their
skill and art to accomplish that object. In regard to the general
question of proceeding, they urged, at first, that they might as well
go on, though cautiously, inasmuch as they were all committed to such
a degree, that they could not be more so, let them do what they
would. They were already amenable to the law of high treason, which
was sure not to be mitigated towards them, and therefore they had
nothing farther to fear but discovery. This having been conceded,
and fear beginning to wear away, after a little consideration, it was
easily shown to some of those present who proposed to abandon the
idea of calling in foreign troops, in the hope of bringing back the
Duke and the Earl of Aylesbury, with others, to their party, that
their great hope of security lay in the actual presence of those
foreign troops, who would, at all events, enable them to effect their
escape, even if they did not insure them success in their design. The
assassination was the next thing touched upon: but here Sir George
Barkley argued, that what had occurred should only be considered as a
motive for urging on their proceedings with the utmost rapidity.
"Let us leave it to be understood," he said, "by the great multitude
of King James's loyal subjects, that the matter of aid from France is
a thing yet to be considered of. In regard to the death of the
usurper, whatever it may be necessary to say to others, none of us
here present can doubt that it is absolutely necessary to our
success. The whole of the information possessed by the man who has
just left us is evidently gained from a letter which I wrote to Sir
John Hubbard in the north, which has somehow unfortunately fallen
into his hands. In that letter, however, I stated that the usurper's
life would come to an end in April next, as we at first proposed. If
the man have any design of betraying us--"
"No, no, he will not betray us," said several voices; "he has
pledged himself not to disclose our names; and when his word is once
given, it is sure."
"But," said Sir John Fenwick, "he straight-forwardly said that he
would frustrate our scheme, and in so doing, it is a thousand chances
to one that he causes the whole to be discovered."
"Then the way," exclaimed Sir George Barkley, "the only way is to
proceed in the business at once. This letter to Hubbard is what he
goes upon; he has no suspicion of our being ready to accomplish the
thing at once. Let us then take him by surprise; and while he is
waiting to see what April will produce, let us, I say, within this
very week, execute boldly that which we have boldly undertaken. We
can easily have sharp spies kept constantly watching this good friend
of ours in the green doublet, who seems to fancy himself a
second-hand sort of Robin Hood. Half of his people are mine already,
and the other half will be so soon. Let the thing be done before the
year be a week older; and let us to-morrow night meet at Mrs.
Mountjoy's in St. James's-street, and send over to hurry the
preparations in France. Gentlemen, it is time for action. Here
several months have slipped by, and nothing is done. It is high time
to do something, lest men should say we promised much and performed
Gradually all those who were present came round to the opinion of Sir
George Barkley, and everything was arranged as he had proposed it.
Some farther time was then spent in desultory conversation; and it
seemed as if every one lingered, under the idea that they were all to
go away together. Sir George Barkley, however, and Fenwick, seemed
somewhat uneasy, and whispered together for a moment or two; and at
length the latter said, "It may be better, gentlemen, for us to go
away by two or three at a time. You, Parkyns, with Sir John Friend,
had better take along the upper road; three others can take the low
road by the waterside; and Sir George with Charnock and myself will
wait here till you are safely on your way."
This proposal was instantly agreed to; but still some of the
gentlemen lingered, evidently to the discomposure of Sir George
Barkley, who at length gave them another hint that it was time to
"By Heaven!" he exclaimed, as soon as they were all gone, "I thought
they would have hung drivelling on here till the boat came down. The
tide served at ten o'clock, and before one they must be off the end
of the garden. How far is it from Erith?"
"Oh, certainly not four hours' sail," answered Charnock. "But had I
not better now write the letter we talked of to the Duke? I can
conceal my own hand well enough, and then if Fenwick is asked
anything about it, he can swear most positively that it is not his
"Oh! I care nothing about it," replied Fenwick. "The foolish old man
cannot betray me without betraying himself; and you will see he will
soon come round. In the meantime, however, I will go down and talk to
old Plessis about the ship. I should think it could be got ready two
days sooner easily; and as this that we have in view is a great
object, we must not mind paying a few pounds for speed."
Thus saying, he left the room; and Charnock, taking paper out of a
drawer, proceeded to write a letter according to the suggestions of
Sir George Barkley. Presently after, there was a sound of several
voices speaking, which apparently proceeded from some persons
approaching the front of the house. Both Sir George Barkley and
Charnock started up, the first exclaiming, "Hark! there they are!"
"Yes," exclaimed Charnock, "there's a woman's voice, sure enough! Why
the devil don't they stop her talking so loud?"
"You write out the letter, Charnock," said Sir George. "I must go
down and see that all is right."
Charnock nodded his head, and the other left the room.
When Wilton Brown reached the house of the Earl of Byerdale, he found
that nobleman, the Duke of Gaveston, and Lord Sherbrooke, sitting
together in the most amicable manner that it is possible to conceive.
The countenance of the Duke was certainly very much distressed and
agitated; but making allowance for the different characters of the
two men, Lord Byerdale himself did not seem to be less distressed.
Lord Sherbrooke, too, was looking very grave, and was thoughtfully
scribbling unmeaning lines with a pen and ink on some quires of paper
"Oh, Mr. Brown, I am very glad to see you," exclaimed the Duke.
"My dear Wilton," said the Earl, addressing him by a title which he
had never given him in his life before, "we are particularly in need
of your advice and assistance. I know not whether Sherbrooke, in his
note, told you the event that has occurred."
"He did so, to my great grief and surprise, my lord," replied Wilton.
"How I can be of any assistance I do not know; but I need not say
that I will do anything on earth that I can to aid my lord duke and
"The truth is," replied Lord Byerdale, "that I am as greatly
concerned as his grace: it having happened most unfortunately, this
very morning--I am sorry, through Sherbrooke's own fault--that Lady
Laura found herself compelled to break off the proposed alliance
between our two families, which was one of my brightest day-dreams.
The Duke knows well, indeed, that however high I may consider the
honour which I had at one time in prospect, I am perfectly incapable
of taking any unjustifiable means, especially of such a rash and
desperate nature, to secure even an alliance such as his. But other
people--the slanderous world at large--may insinuate that I have had
some share in this business; and therefore it is absolutely necessary
for me to use every exertion for the purpose of discovering whither
the young lady has been carried. At the same time, the circumstances
in which we are placed must, in a great degree, prevent Sherbrooke
from taking that active part in the business which I know he could
wish to do, and I therefore must cast the burden upon you, of aiding
the Duke, on my part, with every exertion to trace out the whole of
this mysterious business, and, if possible, to restore the young lady
to her father."
The Earl spoke rapidly and eagerly, as if he feared to be
interrupted, and wished, in the first instance, to give the matter
that turn which seemed best to him.
"I am very anxious, too, Mr. Brown," said the Duke, "to have your
assistance in this matter, for I am sure, you well know I place great
confidence in you."
Wilton bowed his head, not exactly perceiving the cause of this great
confidence at the moment, but still well pleased that it should be
"May I ask," he said, in as calm a voice as he could command, for his
own heart was too much interested in the subject to suffer him to
speak altogether tranquilly--"may I ask what are the particulars of
this terrible affair, for Lord Sherbrooke's note was very brief? He
merely told me the Lady Laura had disappeared; but he told me not
where she had last been seen."
"She was last seen walking on the terrace in the garden," said the
Duke, "just as it was becoming dusk. The afternoon was cold, and I
thought of sending for her; but she had been a good deal agitated and
anxious during the day, and I did not much like to disturb her
"On which terrace?" demanded Wilton, eagerly.
"On the low terrace near the water," replied the Duke.
"Good God!" exclaimed Wilton, clasping his hands, "can she have
fallen into the river?" and the horrible image presented to his mind
made his cheek turn as pale as ashes. In a moment after, however, it
became red again, for he marked the eye of the Earl upon him, while
the slightest possible smile crept round the corners of that
"My apprehensions, at first, were the same as yours, my young
friend," replied the Duke. "I was busy with other things, when one of
the servants came to tell me that they thought they had heard a
scream, and that their young lady was not upon the terrace, though
she had not returned to the house. We went down instantly with
lights, for it was now dark; and my apprehensions of one terrible
kind were instantly changed into others, by finding the large
footmarks of men in the gravel, part of which was beaten up, as if
there had been a struggle. The footsteps, also, could be traced down
the stone steps of the landing-place, where my own barge lies, and
there was evidently the mark of a foot, loaded with gravel, on the
gunwale of the boat itself, showing that somebody had stepped upon it
to get into another boat."
This intelligence greatly relieved the mind of Wilton; and at the
same time, Lord Sherbrooke, who had not yet spoken a word, looked up,
saying, "The Duke thinks, Wilton, that it will be better for you to
go home with him, and endeavour to trace this business out from the
spot itself. One of the messengers will be sent to you immediately
with a warrant, under my father's hand, [Footnote: It may be as well
to remark here, that much of the business which is now entirely
entrusted to police magistrates was then carried on by the
secretaries of state and high official persons; and a "secretary's
warrant" was an instrument of very dangerous and extensive power.] to
assist you in apprehending any of the participators in this business.
Do you think anything can be done to-night?"
Wilton was accustomed to read his friend's countenance with some
attention, and, from his whole tone and manner, he gathered that Lord
Sherbrooke was somewhat anxious to bring the conference to an end.
"Perhaps something may be done to-night," he replied, "especially if
no inquiry has yet been made amongst the watermen upon the river."
"None," replied the Duke, "none! To say the truth, I was so
confounded and confused, that I came away here instantly--for advice
and assistance," he added; but there was a pause between the words,
which left his real views somewhat doubtful. The rest of the business
was speedily arranged. The Duke's coach was at the door, and Wilton
proceeded into the Earl's library to write a note to his own servant,
containing various directions. He was followed in a minute or two by
Lord Sherbrooke, who seemed looking for something in haste.
"Where are the blank warrants, Wilton?" he said: "my father will sign
one at once."
As he spoke, however, he bent down his head over Wilton's shoulder,
and then added, "Get away as fast as you can, or you will betray
yourself to the keen eyes that are upon you. Go with the Duke,
rescue the girl, and the game is before you. I, too, will exert
myself to find her, but with different views, and you shall have the
benefit of it."
"Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke," said Wilton, "what madness is it that you
would put into my head?"
"It is in your heart already, Wilton," replied Lord Sherbrooke. "But
after all, it is no madness, Wilton; for I have this very night heard
my father acknowledge to the Duke that he knows who you really are;
that the blood in your veins is as good as that of any one in the
kingdom; and that your family is more ancient than that of the Duke
himself, only that on account of some of the late troubles and
changes it has been judged necessary to keep you, for a time, in the
shade. Thus, you see, it is no madness--Nay, nay, collect your
thoughts, Wilton.--Where are these cursed warrants? I say the game
is before you.--There is my father's voice calling. He has an
intuitive perception that I am spoiling his plans. Look to Sir John
Fenwick, Wilton--look to Sir John Fenwick. I suspect him strongly.
Hark how that patient and dignified father of mine is making the bell
of the saloon knock its head against the wall! By heavens, there's
his step! Fold up your note quickly! Where can these cursed warrants
be?--My lord," he continued, turning to his father, who entered at
that moment, "before you sent me for the warrants, you should have
given me a warrant to discover and take them up, for I can neither do
one nor the other."
The warrants were soon found, however; the Earl signed one and filled
up the blanks; one of the ordinary Messengers of State was sent for,
in order to follow Wilton and the Duke as soon as possible; and the
young gentleman, taking his place in the carriage, was soon upon the
way to Beaufort House, conversing over the events that had occurred.
What between agitation, grief, and apprehension, the Duke was all
kindness and condescension towards his young companion. He seemed,
indeed, to cast himself entirely upon Wilton for support and
assistance; and it speedily became apparent that his suspicions also
pointed in the direction of Sir John Fenwick, and the rash and
violent men with whom he was engaged.
"I could explain myself on this subject," said the Duke, "to no one but
you, my dear young friend, as you are the only person acquainted with
the fact of my having been at that unfortunate meeting, except, indeed,
the people themselves. Of course I could not say a word upon the subject
to Lord Byerdale or Lord Sherbrooke; but in you I can confide, and on
your judgment and activity I rely entirely for the recovery of my poor
"I will do my best, my lord," replied Wilton, "and trust I shall be
successful. Perhaps I may have more cause for anticipating a fortunate
result than even your grace, as I have means of instantly ascertaining
whether the persons to whom you have alluded have any share in this
matter or not; means which I must beg leave to keep secret, but which I
shall not fail to employ at once."
"Oh, I was sure," replied the Duke, "that if there was a man in England
could do it, you would be the person. I know your activity and your
courage too well, not to have every confidence in you."
The coachman had received orders to drive quick; and the hour of nine
was just striking on the bell of an old clock at Chelsea when the
carriage drove into the court-yard. Wilton sprang out after the Duke;
but he did not enter the house.
"I will but go to make some inquiries," he said, "and join your grace in
half an hour. I may learn something tonight, and under these
circumstances it is right to lose no time. I should be well pleased,
however, to have a cloak, if one of your grace's servants could bring me
either a common riding cloak or a roquelaure."
One was immediately procured; and, somewhat to the surprise and
admiration of the Duke, who was, as the reader may have perceived, one
of those people that are expressively denominated SLOW MEN, he set off
instantly to pursue his search, animated by feelings which had now
acquired even a deeper interest than ever, and by hopes of the
extraordinary circumstances in which he was placed proving the means of
attaining an object well worth the exertion of every energy and every
It was a fine frosty night, with the stars twinkling over head, but no
moon, so that his way amongst the narrow lanes which surrounded Beaufort
House at that time, was not very easily found. As he walked on, he heard
a sharp whistle before him, but it produced nothing, though he proposed
to himself to stand upon the defensive, judging from one or two little
signs and symptoms which he had seen, that the Green Dragon might
protect under the shadow of its wings many persons of a far more fierce
and dangerous description than it had itself proved, either as an
adversary of St. George, or as an inhabitant of the marshes near
He walked on fast, and a glimmering light in the direction from which he
had heard the sound proceed at length led him to the hospitable door of
the Green Dragon. One sign of hospitality, indeed, it wanted. It stood
not open for the entrance of every one who sought admission; and a
precautionary minute or two was suffered to pass before Wilton obtained
one glance of the interior.
At length, however, a small iron bolt, which prevented any impertinent
intrusion into the penetralia of the Green Dragon, was drawn back, and
the lusty form of the landlord made its appearance in the passage. He
instantly recognised Wilton, whose person, indeed, was not very easily
forgotten; and laying his finger on the side of his nose, with a look of
much sagacity, he led Wilton into a little room which seemed to be his
own peculiar abode.
"The Colonel is out, sir," he said, as soon as the door was closed;
"and there are things going on I do not much like."
Wilton's mind, full of the thought of Lady Laura, instantly connected
the landlord's words with the fact of her disappearance, but refrained
from asking any direct question regarding the lady. "Indeed, landlord,"
he said, "I am sorry to hear that. What has happened?"
"Why, sir," answered the landlord, "nothing particular; but only I wish
the Colonel was here--that is all. I do not like to see tampering with a
gentleman's friends. You understand, sir--I wish the Colonel was here."
"But, landlord," said Wilton, "can he not be found? I wish he were here,
too, and if you know where he is, I might seek him. I have something
important to say to him."
"Bless you, sir," replied the landlord, "he's half-way to Rochester by
this time. He went well nigh two hours ago, and he is not a man to lose
time by the way. You'll not see him before to-morrow night, and then,
may be, it will be too late. I'd tell you, sir, upon my life," he
continued, "if you could find him, for he bade me always do so; but you
will not meet with him on this side of Gravesend till to-morrow night,
when he will most likely be at the Nag's Head in St. James's Street
about the present blessed hour. I've known him a long time now, sir, and
I will say I never saw such another gentleman ON THE WAY, though there
is Mr. Byerly and many others that are all very gentlemanlike--but bless
you, sir, they do it nothing like the Colonel, so I do not wish him to
"Of course not," answered Wilton; "but tell me, landlord, had he heard
of this unfortunate business of the lady being carried off, before he
"Lord bless you, no, sir," replied the man--"I only heard of it myself
an hour ago. But one of our people was talking with a waterman just
above there, and he said that there was a covered barge--like a
gentleman's barge--came down at a great rate, about six o'clock; and he
vowed that he heard somebody moaning and crying in it; but likely that
is not true, for he never said a word till after he heard of the Duke's
young lady having been whipped up."
Wilton obtained easily the name and address of the waterman, and finding
that there was no chance whatever of gaining any further intelligence of
Green, or any means of communicating with him at an earlier period than
the following night, he took his leave of the good host, and rose to
depart. The landlord, however, stopped him for a moment.
"Stay a bit, Master Brown," he said. "You see, I rather think there are
one or two gentlemen in the lane waiting just to talk a word with my
good Lord Peterborough, who is likely to pass by; and as the Colonel
told me that you were not just in that way of business yourself, you had
better take the boy with you."
"No, indeed," replied Wilton, somewhat bitterly, "I am not exactly, as
you say, in that way of business myself. I am being taught to rob on a
"Oh, sir!" exclaimed the landlord, not at all understanding Wilton's
allusion to his political pursuits, "all these gentlemen keep the
highway a horseback too. This foot-padding is only done just for a
bit of amusement, and because the Colonel is out of the way. He would
be very angry if he knew it.--But I did not know you were upon the
road at all, sir."
"No, no," replied Wilton, smiling, "I was only joking, my good friend.
The sort of robbery I meant was aiding kings and ministers to rob and
cheat each other."
"Ay, ay, sir!" said the landlord, now entering into his meaning, and
taking as a good joke what Wilton had really spoken in sadness--"you
should have called it miching, sir--miching on a great scale. Well,
that's worse than t'other. Give me the King's Highway, I say! only
I'm too fat and pursy now."
This said, he went and called a little boy well trained in bearing
foaming pots from place to place, who soon conducted Wilton back in
safety to the house of the Duke, and then undertook to send up the
waterman with all speed. By this time the Messenger from the Earl of
Byerdale had arrived; but although the good gentlemen called
Messengers, in those days, exercised many of the functions of a
Bow-street officer, and possessed all the keen and cunning sagacity of
that two-legged race of ferrets, neither he nor Wilton could elicit
any farther information from the waterman than that which had been
"I think, sir, I think, your grace," said the Messenger, bowing low
to the statesman's secretary, and still lower to the Duke, "I think
that we must give the business up for tonight, for we shall make no
more of it. Tomorrow morning, as early as you please, Mr. Brown, I
shall be ready to go down the river with you, and I think we had
better have this young man's boat, as he saw the barge which he
thinks took the young lady away. Hark ye, my man," he continued,
addressing the waterman, "you've seen fifty guineas, haven't you?"
"Why, never in my own hand, your honour," replied the man, with a
"Well, then, you'll see them in your hand, and your own money too, if
by your information we find out this young lady; so go away now, and
try to discover any one of your comrades who knows something of the
matter, and come with a wherry to the Duke's stairs tomorrow morning
as soon as it is daylight."
"Ay, ay, we'll find her, sir, I'll bet something," said the man; and
with this speech, the only consolatory one which had yet been made by
any of the party, he left them. The Messenger having now done all
that he thought sufficient, retired comfortably to repose, shaking
from his mind at once all recollection of a business in which his
heart took no part. Nothing on earth marks more distinctly that the
Spirit or the Soul, with all its fine sensibilities and qualities,
both of suffering and acting, is of distinct being from the mere
Intellect, which is, in fact, but the soul's prime minister, than the
manner in which two people of equal powers of mind will act in
circumstances where the welfare of a third person, dear to the one,
and not dear to the other, is concerned. A sense of what is right,
some accidental duty, or mere common philanthropy, may often cause
the one to exert all his powers with the utmost activity to obtain
the object in view; but the moment that he has done all that seems
possible, the soul tells the mind to throw off the burden for the
time; and, casting away all thought of the matter, he lays himself
down comfortably to sleep and forgetfulness. The other, however, in
whose bosom some more deep interest exists, pursues the object also
by every means that can be suggested; but when all is done, and the
mind is wearied, the soul does not suffer the intellect to repose,
but, still engaged in the pursuit, calls the mind to labour with
anxious thought, even though that thought may be employed in vain.
For some hours after the Messenger was sound asleep, and had
forgotten the whole transaction in the arms of slumber, Wilton sat
conversing with the Duke, and endeavouring to draw from him even the
smallest particulars of all that had taken place during the last few
days, with the hope of discovering some probable cause for the event.
The Duke, however, though disposed to be communicative towards Wilton
on most subjects, showed a shyness of approaching anything connected
with the meeting in Leadenhall-street.
It was evident, indeed, that all his suspicions turned upon Sir John
Fenwick, and he admitted that a violent quarrel had occurred after
the meeting; but he showed so evident an inclination to avoid
entering into the subject farther, that Wilton in common delicacy
could not press him. Finding it in vain to seek any more information
in that quarter, Wilton at length retired to rest, but sleep came not
near his eyelids. He now lay revolving all that had occurred,
endeavouring to extract from the little that was really known some
light, however faint, to lead to farther discovery. In the darkness
of the night, imagination, too, came in, and pictured a thousand
vague but horrible probabilities regarding the fate of the beautiful
girl with whom he had so lately walked in sweet companionship on the
very terrace from which it appeared that she had been violently taken
away. Fancy had wide range to roam, both in regard to the objects of
those who had carried her off, to the place whither they had borne
her, and to the probability of ever recovering her or not. But Fancy
stopped not there--she suggested doubts to Wilton's mind as to the
fact of her having been carried off at all. The terrible apprehension
that she might, by some accident, have fallen into the river returned
upon him. The feet-marks upon the gravel, he thought, might very
naturally have been produced by the servants in their first search;
and it was not at all improbable that some one of them, thinking that
his young mistress had fallen into the water, might have placed his
foot upon the gunwale of the barge to lean forward for a clearer view
of the river under the terrace.
As he thought of all these things, and tortured his heart with
apprehensions, the conviction came upon the mind of Wilton, that,
notwithstanding every difference of station, and the utter
hopelessness of love in his case, Laura had become far, far dearer to
him than any other being upon earth; had produced in his bosom
sensations such as he had never known before; sensations which were
first discovered fully in that hour of pain and anxiety, and which,
alas! promised but anguish and disappointment for the years to come.
There was, nevertheless, something fascinating in the conviction,
which, once admitted, he would not willingly have parted with; and it
gradually led his thoughts to what Lord Sherbrooke had told him
concerning his own fate and family. That information, indeed, brought
him but little hope in the present case, though we should speak
falsely were we to assert that it brought him no hope. The gleam was
faint, and doubting that it would last, he tried voluntarily to
extinguish it in his own heart. He called to mind how many there
were, whose families, engaged in the late troubles during the reigns
of Charles and James, had never been able to raise themselves again,
but had sunk into obscurity, and died in poverty and exile. He
recollected how many of them and of their children had been driven to
betake themselves to the lowest, and even the most criminal courses;
and he bethought him, that if he were the child of any of these, he
might think himself but too fortunate in having obtained an inferior
station which gave him competence at least. The cloud might never be
cleared away from his fate; and he recollected, that even if it were
so, there was but little if any chance of his obtaining, with every
advantage, that which he had learned to desire even without hope. He
knew that the Duke was a proud man, proud of his family, proud of his
wealth, proud of his daughter, proud of his rank, and that he had
judged it even a very great condescension to consent to a marriage
between his daughter and the son of the Earl of Byerdale, a nobleman
of immense wealth, vast influence, most ancient family, and one who,
from his power in the counsels of his sovereign, might, in fact, be
considered the prime minister of the day. He knew, I say, that the
Duke had considered his consent as a very great condescension; and he
had remarked that very night, that Laura's father, even in the midst
of his grief and anxiety, had made the Earl feel, by his whole tone
and manner, that in the opinion of the Duke of Gaveston there was a
vast distinction between himself and the Earl of Byerdale. What
chance was there, then, he asked himself, for one without any
advantages, even were the happiest explanation to be given to the
mystery of his own early history?
Thus passed the night, but before daylight on the following morning
he was up and dressed; and, accompanied by the Messenger, he went
down the river with two watermen; both of whom declared that they had
seen the covered barge pass down at the very hour of Lady Laura's
disappearance, and had heard sounds as if from the voice of a person
We shall not follow Wilton minutely on his search, as not a little of
our tale remains to be told. Suffice it to say, that from Chelsea to
Woolwich he made inquiries at every wharf and stairs, examined every
boat in the least like that which had been seen, and spoke with every
waterman whom he judged likely to give information; but all in vain.
At that time almost every nobleman and gentleman in London, as well
as all merchants, who possessed any ready means of access to the
Thames, had each a private stairs down to the river, with his barge,
which was neither more nor less than a large covered boat, somewhat
resembling a Venetian gondola, but much more roomy and comfortable.
Thus the inquiries of Wilton and the Messenger occupied a
considerable space of time, and the day was far spent when they
turned again at Woolwich, and began to row up the stream. Wilton, on
his part, felt inclined to land, and, hiring a horse, to proceed to
the Duke's house with greater rapidity--but the Messenger shook his
head, saying, "No, no, sir: that wont do. We must go through the same
work all over again up the river. There's quite a different set of
people at the water-side in the morning and in the evening. We are
much more likely to hear tidings this afternoon than we were in the
early part of the day."
Wilton saw the justice of the man's remark, and acquiesced readily.
But he did so only to procure for himself, as it turned out, a bitter
and painful addition to the apprehensions which already tormented
him. In passing London bridge, one of the heavy barges used in the
conveyance of merchandise was seen moored at a little distance below
the bridge, and in the neighbourhood of the fall. A great number of
men were in her, rolling up various ropes and grappling irons, while
a personage dressed as one of the city officers appeared at their
head. Ile was directing them at the moment to unmoor the barge, and
bring her to one of the wharfs again; but the boatmen of Wilton's
boat, without any orders, immediately rowed up to the barge, and the
Messenger inquired what the officer and his comrades were about.
The officer, who seemed to know him, replied at once, "Why, Mr.
Arden, we are dragging here to see if we can get hold of the boat or
any of the bodies that went down last night."
"Ay, Smith," replied the Messenger, "what boat was that? I haven't
heard of it."
"Why, some stupid fools," replied the officer, "dropping down the
river in a barge about half-past eight last night, tried to shoot the
arch at half tide, struck the pier, got broadside on at the fall, and
of course capsized and went down. If it had been a wherry, the boat
would have floated, but being a covered barge, and all the windows
shut, she went down in a minute, and there she sticks; but we can't
well tell where, though I saw the whole thing happen with my own
"Did you see who was in the barge?" demanded the Messenger.
"I saw there were three men in her," the officer replied, "but I
couldn't see their faces or the colour of their clothes, for it was
very dark; and if it had not been for the two great lamps at the
jeweller's on the bridge, I should not have seen so much as I did. We
are going home now, for we have not light to see; but we got up one
of the bodies, drifted down nearly half a mile on the Southwark side
"Was it a man or a woman?" demanded Wilton, eagerly.
"A man, sir," replied the officer. "It turns out to be Jones, the
waterman by Fulham."
Wilton did not speak for a moment, and the Messenger was struck, and
silent likewise. When they recovered a little, however, they
explained to the officer briefly the object of their search upon the
river, and he was easily induced to continue dragging at the spot
where he thought the boat had disappeared. He was unsuccessful,
however; and, after labouring for about half an hour, the total
failure of light compelled them to desist without any farther
discovery. Wilton then landed with the Messenger; and with his brain
feeling as if on fire, and a heart wrung with grief, he rode back, as
soon as horses could be procured, to carry the sad tidings which he
had obtained to Laura's father.
A spirit--though rather of a better kind than that which drags too
many of our unfortunate countrymen into the abodes of wickedness and
corruption, now called Gin Pal--es, so liberally provided for them in
the metropolis--abodes licensed and patronised by the government for
the temptation of the lower orders of the populace to commit and
harden themselves in the great besetting vice of this country--a
spirit, I say, of a better kind than this, drags me into a house of
public entertainment, called the Nag's Head, in St. James's Street.
The Nag's Head, in St. James's Street!!!
Now, though nobody would be in the least surprised to have read or
heard of the Nag's Head in the Borough, yet there is probably not a
single reader who will see this collocation of the "Nag's Head" with
"St. James's Street" without an exclamation, or at least a feeling of
surprise, at it being possible there should ever have been such a
thing in St. James's Street at all--that is to say, not a nag's head,
either horsically or hobbyhorsically speaking, but tavernistically;
for be it known to all men, that the Nag's Head here mentioned was an
inn or tavern actually in the very middle of the royal and
fashionable street called St. James's. One might write a whole
chapter upon the variations and mutations of the names of inns, and
inquire curiously whether their modification in various places and at
various times depends merely upon fashion, or whether it is produced
by some really existing but latent sympathy between peculiar names,
as applied to inns, and particular circumstances, affecting
localities, times, seasons, and national character.
Having already touched upon this subject, however, though with but a
slight and allusive sentence or two, in reference to our friend the
Green Dragon, and being at this moment pressed for time and room, we
shall say no more upon the subject here, but enter at once into the
Nag's Head, and lead the reader by the hand to the door of a certain
large apartment, which, at about half-past nine o'clock, on the night
we have just been speaking of, was well nigh as full as it could
The people whom it contained were of various descriptions, but most
of them were gentlemanly men enough in their appearance, and these
were ranged round little tables in parties of five or six, or
sometimes more. It cannot, indeed, be said that their occupations
were particularly edifying. Dice, backgammon-boards, and cards were
spread on many of the tables; punch smoked around with a very
fragrant odour; and whatever might have been the nature of the
conversation in general, the oaths and expletives, with which it was
interlarded from time to time, spoke not very well for either the
morality or the eloquence of our ancestors: for such, indeed, I must
call these gentlemen, forming as they did part of the great ancestral
body of a hundred and fifty years ago; though I devoutly hope and
pray that none of my own immediate progenitors happened to be amongst
the number there assembled. The smell of punch and other strong drink
was, to the atmosphere of the place, exactly what the dissolute and
swaggering air of a great number of the persons assembled there was
to the natural expression of the human countenance. The noise, too,
was very great; so that the ear of a new comer required to become
accustomed to it before he could hear anything that was taking place.
Gradually, however, as habit reconciled the visitor to the din, the
oaths and objurgations, together with the words "cheat, liar, knave,"
&c. &c., separated themselves from the rest of the conversation, and
swam like a sort of scum upon the top of the buzz. Though all were
met there for enjoyment, too, it is worthy of remark, that many of
the countenances around bore strong marks of fierce and angry
passions, disappointment, hatred, revenge; and many a flushed cheek
and flashing eye told the often-told tale, that in the amusements
which man devises for himself he is almost always sure to mingle a
sufficient quantity of vice to bring forth a plentiful return of
While all this was proceeding in full current, the door, which opened
with a weight and pulley, rattled and squeaked as it was cast back,
and our often-mentioned friend Green--or the Colonel, as he was
called--entered the room. Giving a casual glance around him, he
proceeded to the other end of the saloon, where there was a small
table vacant, and called in a loud but slow voice for a pint of
claret. Whether this was his habit, or whether it was merely an
accidental compliance with the tavern etiquette of taking something
in the house which we visit, the claret was brought to him instantly,
as if it had been ready prepared, together with a large glass of the
kind now called a tumbler, and a single biscuit.
Green took no notice of any one in the room, for some minutes, but
ate the biscuit and drank the claret in two drafts of half a pint at
a time. When this was done, he gazed round him gravely and
thoughtfully; after which he walked up to one of the tables where
some people were playing at hazard, and spoke a word or two across it
to the man who was holding the dice-box. The man looked up with a
frank smile, and for his only reply nodded his head, saying, "In five
Green then went on to the next table, and spoke in the same low voice
to a person on the left-hand side, but the man looked down doggedly,
shrugged his shoulders, and said, "I can't leave my game now,
Colonel. If you had told me half an hour ago, it might have been
"Oh! you are very busy in your game, are you?" said Green. "And so I
suppose are you," he added, turning to another who was sitting at the
That man answered also in the same tone; and Green, muttering to
himself "Very well!" went on to two more tables at little distances
from each other, from one of which only, he received a nod in answer
to what he said, with the words, "Directly, Colonel--directly."
He was just going on to another, when the door again opened, and a
tall, graceful young man, APPARENTLY of one or two and twenty years
of age, entered the room, and advanced towards the table which Green
had left vacant. His whole manner and appearance was totally
different from that of the persons by whom the room had been
previously tenanted, and a number of inquiring eyes were naturally
turned towards him. Green looked him full in the face without taking
the slightest notice; nor did the stranger show any sign of remarking
him, except by brushing against him as he passed, and then turning
round and begging his pardon, while at the same time he laid the
finger of his right hand upon a diamond ring which he wore upon the
little finger of the left. He then advanced straight to the vacant
table, as we have said, and sat down, looking towards a drawer who
stood at the other end of the room, and saying--
"Bring me some claret."
At the same moment, Green advanced to the table, and bowing his head
with the air and grace of a distinguished gentleman, said--
"I beg your pardon, sir, for saying that this is my table; but there
is perfectly room at it for us both, and if you will permit me the
honour, I will join you in your wine. Shall we say a bottle of good
Burgundy, which will be better than cold claret on this chilly
"With all my heart," replied Wilton Brown, for we need hardly tell
the reader that it was he who had last entered the room at the Nag's
Head; and Green, turning to the drawer, said, "This gentleman and I
will take a bottle of Burgundy. Let it be that which the landlord
"I understand, sir--I understand," replied the drawer, "last Monday
night's;" and Wilton and his companion were soon busily discussing
their wine, and talking together, upon various indifferent things, in
a voice which could be heard at the neighbouring tables. Green spoke
with ease and grace, and had altogether so much the tone of a
well-bred man of the world, that he might have passed for such in the
highest society in the realm. Wilton found the task a more difficult
one, for his mind was eagerly bent upon other subjects. He laboured
to play his part to the best, however; and Green, laughing, showed
him how to drink his wine out of goblets, as he called it; so that
the matter was brought to a conclusion sooner than he had ventured to
As the bottle drew to its close, Green took an opportunity of saying,
in a low voice, "Come with me when I go out."
Wilton answered in the same tone, "Must you not make some excuse?"
"Oh, I will show you one--I will show you one!" exclaimed Green,
aloud--"if you have never seen one, I will show you one within five
minutes from this time. I have but to speak a word to some of my
friends at these different tables, and then you shall come with me."
This was heard all through the room; and Wilton seeing that the
excuse was already made, said no more, but, "Very well, I am ready
when you like."
Green then rose, and went round those to whom he had before spoken,
addressing each of them again in the same order.
"I will meet you, Harry," he said to the first, who had so readily
made an affirmative answer, "in three quarters of an hour. Don't be
longer, my good fellow, if you can help it. Master Williamson," he
added, when he came up to the other, speaking in as low a tone as
possible, "I think you would have given up your game at cards, if you
had known what I had to tell you and Davis there, opposite."
There was something dark and meaning in Green's look as he spoke, a
knitting of the brows, a drawing together of the eyelids, and a tight
shutting of the mouth between every three or four words, which made
the man turn a little white.
"Why, what is the matter, Colonel?" he said, in a much civiler tone
than before. "Cannot you tell me now?"
"Oh, yes," replied Green, in the same low tone, "I can tell you now,
if you like. It is no great matter: only that there are warrants out
against you and Davis; and against Ingram there at the other table,
for robbing the Earl of Peterborough last night in the Green Lane,
behind Beaufort House. They have got hold of Jimmy Law, poor fellow,
already, and he will be hanged to a certainty. It was discovered who
you all were by Harry Brown, who was one of your party when you went,
without my knowledge, to do business between Gravesend and Rochester.
He's one of my Lord Peterborough's led captains now, and was in the
carriage with him, though you didn't see him to know him. He gave all
your names, and they have sent down to the Green Dragon after you,
and have also people on the Rochester road. Tell Davis, and I will
tell Ingram; for it is better you should all get out of the way for
This was said in so low a tone, that none of those around could hear
distinctly; but the worthy gentleman to whom the words were addressed
did not seem near so cautious as the Colonel; for, after having
suffered his eyes and his mouth to expand gradually with a look of
increasing horror at every word, he started up from the table as
Green concluded, exclaiming, "By--!" and dashed the cards down upon
the board before him, scattering one half of them over the floor.
Green gave him one momentary look of sovereign contempt, and then
proceeded to the opposite table, where he told the same story to the
personage named Ingram, whose attention had been called by the
vehement excitement of his comrade. The effect now produced seemed
fully as deep, though not quite so demonstrative; for Master Ingram
sat in profound silence at the table for at least five minutes, with
his face assuming various hues of purple and green, as he revolved
the matter in his own mind.
It is probable, that very seldom any three men, except three sailors,
have ever thought so much of a rope at the same moment; and before
Green could finish his tour round the room and rejoin Wilton, those
to whom he had spoken were all hastening up St. James's Street as
fast as they could go. Green returned to the table where he had been
seated, called the drawer to receive the money for the Burgundy, and
then bowing his head to Wilton, with somewhat of a stiff' air, he
said, "Now, sir, if you please, I am ready to show you the way; and
as I have not much time-"
"I am quite ready," replied Wilton; and turning to the door, he and
Green left the house together, while those who remained behind,
immediately they were gone, gathered into two or three little knots,
discussing the scene which had just taken place.
In the meantime, Green led Wilton into St. James's Square, the centre
of which was not at that time enclosed, as now, by iron railings; and
walking to and fro there, he demanded eagerly what was the matter,
and heard with surprise all that his young companion had to tell him
of the sudden disappearance of the Duke's daughter, of which he had
previously received no intelligence.
We need not recapitulate the whole of Wilton's account to the reader;
but will only add, to that which is already known, one fact of some
importance with which the young gentleman concluded the detail of his
inquiries during that very day.
"When I arrived at Beaufort House," he said, "fully and painfully
impressed with the notion that this poor young lady was drowned, I
was met by the Duke at the very door of his library with a letter in
his hand. His eyes were full of tears of joy, for the news of a boat
having been lost had, by this time, reached him; and the letter,
which was dated from a distant part of the country, informed him of
his daughter's safety, in these words:-'Lady Laura Gaveston will be
restored to Beaufort House as soon as her father can make up his mind
to behave with spirit and patriotism, and follow out the only plans
which can save his country. This must be done by actions, not by
words; but a positive engagement under his hand will be considered
sufficient. In the meantime, she remains a hostage for his good
faith.' At the bottom was written, in a hand which he says is that of
Lady Laura herself--'My dear father, I am well; but this is all
they will let me write.'"
"Whence was it dated?" demanded Green sharply.
"Newbury," replied Wilton; "and the letter was brought by a person
who spoke with a foreign accent."
"This is strange," said Green: "I should think it was some of that
troop of--I know not well whether to call them villains or madmen. I
should think some of them had done this, were it not that I had seen
them all--I may say all the principal ones--last night, and they
certainly had not a woman with them then."
"The Duke's suspicions turn principally upon Sir John Fenwick," said
"It could not well be him," replied Green: "he was there, and none
but men with him. It is very strange! I wish I could see that letter.
Perhaps I might recognise the hand."
"That is evidently feigned," answered Wilton; "but I should think the
date of Newbury must be false, too."
"To be sure, to be sure," replied Green--"the exact reverse most
likely. They must have taken her towards the sea, not
inland--Newbury!--More likely towards Rochester or Sheerness; yet I
can't think there was any woman there. Yet stay a minute, Wilton,"
he continued, "stay a minute. I expect tidings to-night, from the
very house at which I met them last night. There is a chance, a bare
chance, of there being something on this matter in the letters; it is
worth while to see, however. Where can I find you in ten minutes from
this time ?-I saw the boy waiting near the palace when we came out."
"I will go into the Earl of Sunbury's, on that side of the square,"
replied Wilton, "where you see the two lights. There is nobody in it
but the old housekeeper, but she knows me and will admit me."
"She knows me, too," replied Green, drily; "and I will join you there
in ten minutes with any intelligence I may gain."
Green left him at once, with that peculiar sharpness and rapidity of
movement which Wilton had always remarked in him from their first
meeting. The young gentleman, on his part, went over to the house of
the Earl of Sunbury, and telling the old housekeeper, and the girl
who opened the door to him, that a gentleman would soon be there to
speak with him on business, he went up to the saloon, and as soon as
he was alone, raised the light that was left with him, to gaze upon
the picture which we have mentioned more than once, and to compare it
by the aid of memory with the lady whom he had seen but a few days
before. The likeness was very strong, the height was the same, the
features, examined strictly one by one, presented exactly the same
lines. The complexion, indeed, in the picture, was more brilliant;
and it was that, perhaps, as well as a certain roundness, which
marked a difference of age; but then the expression was precisely the
same--a depth, a tenderness even approaching to melancholy--in the
picture, as in her whom he had seen; and though he gazed, and
wondered, and wearied imagination for probabilities, he found none,
but could only end by believing that, in the facts connected with
that picture, lay the mystery of his fate, and of the link between
him and the Earl of Sunbury.
He was still gazing, when Green was ushered into the room, and
setting down the light, Wilton turned to meet him. There was a dark
and heavy frown upon the countenance of him whom we have so often
heard called the Colonel, as he entered: an expression of bitterness
mingled with sadness; but, nevertheless, he took up the light, and
walking up to the picture, gazed upon it for a minute or two, as
Wilton had done.
"It is wonderfully like," he said, after pausing for a moment or
two--"how beautiful she was! However, I have no time to think of
such things now. I have here tidings for you, Wilton. I know not yet
rightly what they are, for I caught but a glance of them; and had
other things to think of bitter enough, and requiring instant
attention. Here, let us look what this epistle says."
Setting down the lamp upon the table, he opened the letter and held
it to the light, reading it attentively, while Wilton, who stood
beside him did the same. It was written in fine small hand, and in
French; but the page at which Green had opened the sheet, after a few
words connected with a sentence that had gone before, went on as
follows:--"I should not have sent this till we were safe across, but
that circumstances have induced us to delay our departure; and you
would scarcely think that it is I who have urged Caroline to remain
for yet a little while: I, who some days ago was so fearful of
remaining, so anxious to depart. Nor is it solely an inclination to
linger near that dear boy, although I own the sight of him has been
to me like the foretaste of a new existence. Bless him for me, my
friend--bless him for me! But I found that the dear wild girl who is
with me had neither ceased to love, nor ceased entirely to hope. In
the last letter she received, mingled with reproaches for coming
hither, there was every now and then a burst of tenderness and
affection which made her trust, and me almost believe, that all good
and honourable feeling is not extinct. She thinks that if she could
see him, the better angel might gain the dominion, and I have not
only counselled her to remain yet a little while, but also even to go
to London should it be required. While we were talking over all these
things," the letter proceeded, "just after you were gone, we heard a
fresh arrival at this house, and, as I thought, a woman's voice
speaking in tones of remonstrance and complaint. I have this morning
learned who it is, and now write in great haste to ask you if these
things are right in any cause, or if you can have anything to do with
it. I will not believe it, Lennard--I will not believe it. Rash as
you have been in choosing your own fate--hasty as you have been in
all things connected with yourself--you would not, I am sure,
countenance a thing that is cruel as well as criminal."
Green laughed bitterly. "I am forced," he said, "to bear much that I
would not countenance. But look here--she goes on to say that it is
the daughter of the Duke. 'Young, and beautiful, and gentle,' she
says--that matches well, does it not, Wilton, ha?--I Who has been
torn from her father, the Duke of Gaveston, in this daring and
shameful manner, and brought hither by water with the intention, as I
believe, of sending her over to France in the ship that we have
hired. I have seen her twice, and spoken with her for some time, and
I beseech you, if it be possible, find means of setting her
free.'--Ay, but how may that be?" continued Green. "If they have got
her, and risk their necks to have her, they will take care to keep
her sure. They have men enough for that purpose, and they have taken
care to render me nearly powerless."
"I should have thought," replied Wilton, whose joy at the discovery
of where Laura really was had instantly blown up the flame of hope so
brightly, that objects distant and difficult to be reached seemed by
that light to be close at hand--"I should have thought, from what I
have seen and what I suspect, that you could have commanded a
sufficient force at any moment to set all opposition at defiance,
especially when you were engaged in a lawful and generous cause."
"I should have thought so, too," replied Green, "two days ago. But
times have changed, Wilton, times have changed, and, like the wind of
a tropical climate, turned round in a single moment. On my soul," he
continued, vehemently, "one would think that men were absolutely
insane. Here a set of people, whose lives are all in my own hand,
dare to tamper with my friends and comrades, to bribe them, to hire
them away from me, ay, and to do it so openly that I cannot fail to
see it, and that too, at the very moment when they know that I hate
and abhor their proceedings, and when they have just reason to
suppose that I will take means to frustrate their base and cowardly
designs, and only waver between the propriety of doing so, and the
wish not to give them over to the death they well deserve."
"If they have so acted," replied Wilton--"if they have shown such
base ingratitude towards you, as well as designs dangerous to the
country--for I will not affect to doubt or misunderstand you--why not
boldly, and at once, give them up to justice? Understand me, I wish
to hear nothing more of these men. I wish to be perfectly ignorant of
their whole proceedings. I wish to have no information whatsoever,
except my own suspicions, for if I had, I should feel myself bound
immediately to cause their arrest. But from what you have said in
regard to Sir John Fenwick; from what the Duke has said on various
occasions; and from what I myself have remarked, I am strongly
inclined to believe that there are matters going on which can but end
in ruin to those engaged in them, if not in all the horrors of a
"That I should not mind--that I should not mind!" cried Green--"let
us have a civil war; let every man lay his hand upon his sword and
betake him to his standard. That is the true, the right, the only
right way to get rid of an usurper. It has been with the very view of
that civil war you talk of that I have banished myself from the
station in which I was born, that I have walked by night instead of
by day, and that I have kept in constant preparation, throughout the
whole of the south of England, the seeds, as it were, of a future
army. And now what have they done? Not only trusted the command of
all things to others, but given that command to men who would do, by
the basest and most dastardly means, that which I would do by open
force and bold exertion: men who have mixed up crimes of the blackest
die with the noblest aspirations that ever led on men of honour to
the greatest deeds; who have soiled and sullied, disgraced and
degraded, the cause for which I have shed my blood, ruined my
fortune, and seen all the fair things of life pass away like a dream.
By heavens, I could cry as if I were a girl or a baby," and he dashed
away a tear from his eye which he could not restrain; "and now," he
continued, "and now if I do not prevent them they will put a damning
seal to all their follies and crimes, which will render that holy and
noble cause horrible in the eyes of all men, which will brand it for
ever with infamy and shame, and leave it blighted and loathsome, so
that men will shrink from the very thought thereof."
"But why not prevent them?" cried Wilton, "why not give up such
traitors and villains to justice at once?" "Why not?" replied Green;
"because there are men amongst them who have fought side by side with
me in the day of battle; because there are some foolish when others
are wicked; because that there are many who abhor their acts as much
as I do, but who would be implicated in the consequences of their
crimes. These are all strong reasons, Wilton, powerful, mighty
reasons, and I find now, alas I--I find now, most bitterly--that he who
seeks even the best ends, in dark and tortuous ways, is sure, sooner
or later, to involve himself in circumstances where he can neither
act nor refuse to act, neither speak nor be silent, without a crime,
a danger and a punishment. In that situation I have placed myself;
and I tell you that even now, since I have entered this room, I have
determined to call upon my own head those dangers, if not that fate,
which the mistake I have committed well deserves. I will frustrate
these men's designs. They shall not commit the act they purpose. But
yet I will betray no man; I will give no man up to death. They shall
not wring it from me; but they shall be sufficiently warned. Now,
however, let us leave all this, and only inquire how this girl can be
saved from their hands. You, Wilton, must be the person to rescue
her, for I feel sure that your fate and hers are bound up together. I
feel sure, too," he added with a faint smile, "that she would
rather it were your hand saved her than that of any one else. I have
seen you together more than once, remember. But how it is to be done
is the question. My time must be given to other things, for from
tidings I have received not a moment is to be lost. They have taken
such means that I find there are only two whom I can trust out of
very many who were with me near London. I have no time to send
either into Dorsetshire or Sussex, and the people there may have been
tampered with also. Besides, as we cannot call in the power of the
law upon our side, it would need a number to effect our purpose."
"But I will call in the power of the law," replied Wilton. "I have a
Messenger with the Secretary of State's warrant at my command; and
wherever this place may be, I can in a moment raise such a force in
the neighbourhood as will enable me to rescue her, and capture those
who have committed so daring an outrage.
"Ay, but that is what must not be, Wilton," replied Green. "There is
not one of those men whom you would capture whose head would be worth
ten days' purchase, were he within the walls of Newgate or the Tower.
No, no! to that I cannot consent. Her freedom must be effected
somehow, but their liberty not lost. I must think over it this night.
Where can I find you to-morrow morning early?"
"At my own lodgings," replied Wilton, "not four streets off."
"No, no!" answered Green; "I never enter London in the day. I might
risk much by doing so, and must not do it except in case of great
"Then let it be at Beaufort House," replied Wilton: "I sleep there
to-night. But why should we not settle and determine the whole at
once? Tell me but where is this place to which they have taken Lady
Laura, and I will undertake to rescue her."
"You alone, Wilton?" said Green.
"Aided by none but the Messenger," replied Wilton: "armed with the
force of the law, I fear not whom I encounter."
"Armed with the force of love!" answered Green, after looking at him
for a moment with eyes in which affection and admiration were equally
evident. "You want not the spirit of your race; and it will carry you
through. If you will promise me to take none but the Messenger with
you, you shall have some one to guide you to the house, and to aid
you on my part. I need not tell you what you have to do. Demand the
young lady's liberty simply and straightforwardly; say to all those
who oppose you, that the task of investigating what have been the
causes, and who the perpetrators of the outrage committed, must fall
upon the Duke; that you have no authority to meddle with that part of
the business. Say this, I repeat, and I doubt not that you will be
fully successful. They dare not--I am sure they dare not--resist you,
if you do not attempt to arrest any of their own number."
"I promise you most faithfully," replied Wilton, "to act as you have
said. I will go with the Messenger and the person you send only. But
where am I to meet this person? When, and how, and where, am I to
find the house?"
"You would find it with difficulty," replied Green; "for it lies far
off from the high road, not many miles from Rochester; and the lanes
and woods about it are not arranged for the purpose of making it
easily discovered. You must not, therefore, attempt to find your way
alone. However, set out early to-morrow with strong fresh horses, and
ride on till you come to the village of High Halstow. Should you
reach that place before nightfall, remain there till it turns dusk.
As it begins to become grey, ride out again, taking the way towards
Cowley Castle. As you go along that road, you will find some one to
show you the way. He will ask you what colour you are of. Answer him
'Brown,' but that 'Green' will do as well. I would be there myself if
I could; but that, I fear, cannot be. Let me hear of you and of your
success, however--though I will not doubt your success; and now, are
you going back to Beaufort House? If so, I will bear you company on
Wilton replied in the affirmative, and they accordingly left the
house of the Earl of Sunbury. Wilton, however, had to procure his
horse; and Green also was delayed, for a moment, by the same piece of
business. When all was prepared, he seemed to hesitate and pause
before he mounted; and while he yet remained speaking, with his foot
in the stirrup, a boy ran up, saying, "I have just been down, sir,
and seen him go in."
Green gave him a note which he had held in his hand during the whole
conversation at Lord Sunbury's, saying, "Take him that note! Tell the
servant to deliver it immediately. If Lord Sherbrooke asks who sent
it, tell him it was the gentleman who wrote it, and who hopes to meet
him at the appointed place." The boy ran off with the note as fast as
he could go, and Wilton and his companion turned their horses' heads
What he had heard certainly did surprise Wilton a good deal; and he
did not scruple to say, "You seem acquainted with every one, I think,
and to have an acquaintance with many of whom I did not know you had
the slightest knowledge."
"It is so," answered Green, in a grave and thoughtful tone, "and yet
nothing wonderful. It is with a man like me as with nature," he added
with a smile, "we both work secretly. Things seem extraordinary,
strange, almost miraculous, when beheld only in their results, but
when looked at near, they are found to be brought about by the
simplest of all possible means. You, having lived but little in the
world, and not being one half my age, yet know thousands of people in
the highest ranks of life that I do not know, though I have mingled
with that rank ten times as much as you have done: and I know many
whom you would think the last to hold acquaintance with me in these
changed times. You could go into any thronged assembly, a theatre, a
ball-room, a house of parliament, and point me out, by hundreds,
people with whose persons I am utterly unacquainted, and these would
be the greatest men of the day.
"But I could lay my finger upon this wily statesman, or that great
warrior, or the other stern philosopher, and could tell you secrets
of those men's bosoms which would astonish you to hear, and make them
shrink into the ground;--and yet there would be no magic in all
Wilton did not answer him in the same moralizing strain, but strove
to obtain some farther information in regard to his proceedings
proposed for the following day. But neither upon that, nor upon the
subject of the note to Lord Sherbrooke, would Green speak another
word, till, on arriving at the gates of Beaufort House, he said--
"Remember High Halstow."
It was night, and the large assembly of persons who had thronged the
palace at Kensington during the day had taken their departure.
Silence had returned after the noise and bustle of the sunshine had
subsided; scarcely a sound was heard throughout the whole building,
except the porter snoring in the hall. The King himself had taken his
frugal supper, and was sitting alone in his cabinet with merely a
page at the door; his courtiers were scattered in their different
apartments; and his immediate attendants were waiting in the distant
chambers where he slept, for the hour of his retiring to rest.
Such had been the state of things for some little time, when the
great bell rang, and the porter started up to open the door. A
gentleman on horseback appeared without, accompanied by two others,
apparently servants; and the principal personage demanded, in a tone
of authority, "Is the Earl of Portland in the palace?"
The porter, though not well pleased to be roused, replied, with every
sort of deference to the air and manner of the visitor, saying that
the Earl was in the palace, but he believed was unwell.
"I am afraid I must disturb him," said the stranger. "My business is
of too much importance to his lordship to wait till to-morrow
The porter then gave the speaker another look: the dress, the
demeanour, the horses, the attendants, were all such as commanded
respect, although he did not recollect the stranger's face. "Well,
sir," he said, "if you will come in, I will have his lordship
The stranger nodded his head, and turning to his followers, bade them
take away the horses. "I will walk back," he said, and then following
the porter, entered the palace. The janitor led him onward through
some large folding doors to a room where two or three servants were
sitting, into whose hands he delivered him, bidding one of them
conduct him to the page in waiting. This was speedily done; and the
page, on being informed of the stranger's desire, again examined him
somewhat curiously, and asked his name.
"That matters not," replied the stranger. "Tell him merely that it is
a gentleman to whom he rendered great service many years ago, and who
has now important intelligence to give him."
"I fear, sir," replied the page, "that my Lord Portland would not
like to be disturbed without some clearer information than that."
"Do as you are ordered, sir," replied the gentleman, in a tone of
stern authority, which seemed not a little to surprise his hearer.
"Tell Lord Portland it is a gentleman whose life he saved at the
battle of the Boyne."
The page retired with the air of one who would fain have been sullen
if he had dared; and the stranger remained standing with his hand
upon the table in the middle of the room, the doors closed round him
on all sides, and no one apparently near.
His first thought was one not often indulged in that place, though by
no means an unnatural one. It was a thought, for merely expressing
which, not less than twelve people were once committed to a severe
and lengthened imprisonment by a king of France. "How easy would it
now be," the stranger said mentally, "to kill a king, were one so
minded! Now, God forbid," he added, "that even the attempt of such
an act should ever stain our loyalty to our legitimate sovereign!
Those Romans, those splendid but most barbarous of barbarians, were
certainly the greatest cheats of their own understandings that ever
lived. There was scarcely a crime, a vice, or a folly upon earth,
that they did not hug to their hearts, when they had once gilded it
with a glorious name."
As he thus paused, moralizing, he laid down his hat upon the table,
and brushing back his grey hair from his brow, pressed his hand upon
his forehead as if his head ached, and then dropping it again, mused
for several minutes with his eyes fixed upon the floor. He was only
roused from this deep fit of thought by the door opening suddenly. A
gentleman rather below the middle height, with strong marked
features, and a keen but steadfast eye, entered the room with a paper
in his hand. His eyes were fixed upon the ground as he came in, and
he walked with a firm but somewhat heavy step, as if his limbs did
not move very easily, though he was by no means a man far advanced in
The stranger gazed at him for a moment with a look of inquiry, and
then advanced immediately towards him, bowing with a stately air, and
saying, "My Lord of Portland, since I last saw you, you are somewhat
changed, but perhaps not so much as I am, and therefore I may have to
recall myself to your remembrance; especially as those who confer a
benefit in a moment of haste and tumult, are more likely to forget
the person they obliged, than that person to forget his benefactor."
He spoke in French, as it was generally known that Lord Portland was
unwilling to speak English, though he understood it.
The other heard him out in perfect silence, and without the slightest
change of countenance; but looked him in the face attentively, as if
endeavouring to recollect his features.
"I have seen you somewhere before," he said at length, "but where I
really do not know. It must have been a long time ago. Pray what do
"It is a long time ago, my lord," replied the visitor, "and the place
where we met is far distant. It was upon the banks of the Boyne, just
when the battle was over."
"Oh, I think I remember now," replied the other: "did I not come up
just as one of our people had got his knee upon your throat, and was
going to fire his pistol into your head, because you would ask no
quarter, while another was wrenching your broken sword out of your
"You did," answered the stranger, "you did: you saved my life; and
when I jumped up and got to a horse, you would not let them fire
after me. It was not to be forgotten, my lord; but--"
At that moment the door was again thrown open, and the page
re-entered the room, speaking in a somewhat harsh and authoritative
tone as he came in, so as to cut across what the stranger was about
to say, with "My Lord of Portland--;" but the gentleman who had
entered just before waved his hand, saying, in a stern voice, "Leave
the room! and wait without."
The man obeyed immediately, and the other turning to the visitor,
added, "I am at this moment not very well, and extremely busy--even
pressed for a moment, so that I must leave you just now. If you will
sit down and write what you wish, it shall have favourable attention,
or if you would rather say it, and explain it more fully by word of
mouth, I will send an intimate friend of mine to you to whom you can
tell what you think proper. I will hear what it is, and give every
attention to it; but at this moment it is impossible for me to
remain. These papers in my hand require instant reply, and I was
seeking for some one to answer them when I came here."
"What I have to say," answered the stranger, "requires also instant
attention; that is to say, it must be told to your lordship before
to-morrow morning, and I will therefore, if you will permit me,
remain here till you are ready to hear. When once told to you, the
burden of it will be off my shoulders."
"I could have wished to have gone to bed," replied the other, with a
faint smile, "without any farther burden upon mine. But if it so
please you to wait, do it; but I fear I shall be long."
The visitor, however, signified his acquiescence by bowing his head;
and the other left him without saying anything more.
"Somewhat of the insolence of office!" he said to himself, as his
acquaintance quitted the room: "however, I must not forget the
obligation;" and seating himself, he fell into deep thought, which
seemed of a painful kind; for the muscles of his face moved with the
emotions of his mind, and one or two half-uttered words escaped him.
At length, he seemed weary of his own thoughts, and turning round as
if to look for some occupation for his thoughts, he said, "It matters
There were no books in the room, nor any pictures; there was nothing
that could attract the eye or amuse the mind, except the beautiful
forms of some of the gilded panel-frames, and the spots of the carpet
beneath his feet. The visitor began to grow weary, and to think that
Lord Portland was very long in returning.
At length, however, when he had been there about half an hour, a
somewhat younger man entered, splendidly dressed according to the
costume of the day, and advancing directly towards the stranger, he
said in very good English--
"My name is Keppel, sir, and I am directed to say that Lord Portland
will really be hardly able to see you to-night, as he is anything but
well; but as it would appear that what you have to say is important,
I wish to know whether it is important to the King or to the Earl
himself. If to the latter, the Earl will see you at two o'clock
to-morrow; if to the King, I am directed to request that you would
communicate it to me, by whom it shall be most faithfully reported,
both to Lord Portland and to the King himself."
"Sir," replied the stranger, "the motive of my coming is on no
private business. It is on business of importance to the state
generally--of the very utmost importance. I had wished to communicate
it to Lord Portland, because that gentleman once performed an act of
great kindness and generosity towards me, and I wished to give him
the means of rendering a great service to his master."
"The King and Lord Portland are both indebted to you, sir," replied
Keppel, better known as the Earl of Albemarle, with a grave smile;
"but in those circumstances, as the greatest favour to all parties,
you will be pleased to communicate anything you have to say to me.
From your whole tone and demeanour, I am perfectly sure that what you
have to say is none of the unimportant things with which we are too
often troubled here; and I may therefore confidently add, that, after
you have given me a knowledge of the business, either the King or
Lord Portland, as you may think fit, will see you to-morrow."
"Well, sir," replied the visitor, "I have no right to stand on
ceremony, especially at such a moment as this. What I have to say
would have been much more easily said to Lord Portland himself, as he
knows under what circumstances we met, knows probably who I am, and
would make allowances for my peculiar views. YOU may think it next to
high treason for me to call that Personage, who was not long ago
William Prince of Orange, by any other name than King of England"
"Oh no! oh no!" said Keppel with a smile--"names are but names, my
good sir; and in this boisterous land of England we are accustomed to
see things stripped of all ornaments. The difficulty you mention is
easily obviated, by calling him of whom you just have spoken, 'The
"Names, indeed, are nothing," said the other with a smile. "What I
have got to say, sir, is this, that I have undoubted reason to know
that the life of the High Personage we refer to is in hourly danger;
that there are persons in this realm who have not only designed to
kill him, but have laid with skill and accuracy their schemes for
effecting that purpose. I have heard that he is very apt--for I have
never seen the royal hunt--to go out to the chase nearly alone, or
rather, I should say, very slightly attended; and I came to tell Lord
Portland that if this were continued, that High Personage's life
could not be counted upon from day to day. Let him be well guarded;
let there be always some one near him as he rides; and, as far as
possible, let some of his guards be ready to escort him home on his
"Your information," said Keppel, "is certainly very important, and the
precaution you recommend wise and judicious; but yet I fear you must
give us some more information to render it at all efficient--I say
this, not at all from doubting you, but because we have had,
especially of late, so many false reports of plots which never
existed, that the King has become careless and somewhat rash. Nor
would it be possible for either Lord Portland or myself to persuade
him to take any precautions unless we had some more definite
information. If you know that such a plot really exists, you must
also know the names of those who laid it."
"But those names I will never give up," replied the other: "it is
quite sufficient for me, sir, to satisfy my own heart and my own
conscience, that I have given a full and timely warning of what is
likely to ensue. It matters not to me whether that warning be taken
or not; I have done what is right; I will tell no more. Lord Portland
knows that I am neither a, coward, nor a low born man. I expect
not--I ask not for favour, immunity, reward, or even thanks. All I do
ask is, in the words of the poet, 'that Caesar would be a friend to
"But you are doubtless aware," answered Keppel, after a pause, "that
by concealing the names, and in any degree the purposes of persons
guilty of high treason, you bring yourself under the same
"I both know the fact, sir," replied the other, "and I knew before I
came that it might be urged against me here; but I did not think that
Lord Portland would urge it. However that may be, I came fully
prepared to do what I think right, and as nothing, not even the cause
to which I am most attached, would induce me to become an assassin or
to wink at cold-blooded murder, so, sir, nothing on earth will induce
me to betray others to the death which I do not fear myself. At all
events, the truth of what I have told may be positively relied upon;
and that I ask no reward or recompence of any kind, may well be
received to show that the warning I have given is not vain."
Keppel again mused for a moment or two, and then said, "Well, sir, I
must not urge you by any harsh menace, nor was such my intention in
what I said. But there are other considerations which should induce
you to tell me more than you have told. One is, the safety of the
Great Personage we have mentioned himself. It is scarcely possible
for him to guard against the evil you apprehend in the manner you
propose. He is by far too fearless a man, as you well know, to shut
himself up within the walls of his palace, or even to conceal himself
in his carriage. If he rides out, he cannot always be surrounded by
guards, nor can he have a troop galloping after him through the
"Sir," replied the stranger, "to you and to his other friends and
attendants I must leave the guardianship of his person--I neither know
him nor his habits. I have done what I conceive to be my duty; I have
done it to the extreme limit of what I judge right; and neither fear
nor favour will make me go one step farther."
"These scruples are very extraordinary," replied Keppel--"indeed, I
cannot understand them: but at all events I must beg you to remain a
little, while I go and speak to Lord Portland upon the subject.
Perhaps, if the King himself were to hear you, you might say more."
"I should say no more to the Personage you mention," replied the
other, "than I should to Lord Portland--for to the one I am obliged,
to the other, not."
"Well, wait a few minutes," replied Keppel, and quitted the room.
The other remained standing where the courtier had left him, though
the thought crossed his mind, "My errand is now done. Why should I
remain any longer? I should risk less by going now than by
But still be stayed; and in two minutes, or perhaps less, the door
again opened, giving admission, not to Keppel, but to the elder
personage with whom he had spoken before. Advancing into the middle
of the room, he leaned upon the table, near which the other was
standing, and said--
"Monsieur Keppel has told me all that you have said, and, moreover,
what you have refused to say. First, let me tell you that I am much
obliged to you for the intelligence you have brought; and next, let
me exhort you to make it more full and complete to render it
"I have made it as complete, my lord," replied his visitor, "as it is
possible for me to do without betraying men who were once my friends,
and who have only lost my friendship by such schemes as these. I must
not say any more even at your request; for I must not take from you
the power of saying, that you saved the life of a man of honour. You
must contrive means to secure the Great Personage we speak of, and I
doubt not you will be able to do so. I had but one object in coming
here, my lord, and that object was not a personal one; it was to tell
you of the danger, and thereby enable you to guard against it; it was
to tell you, that a body of rash and criminal men have conspired
together, to assassinate a Personage who stands in the way of their
"Are there many of them?" demanded his companion.
"A great many," he replied--"enough to render their object perfectly
secure, if means be not taken to frustrate it."
"But," said the other, "the men must be mad, for many of them must be
taken and executed very soon."
"True," answered his visitor, "if we were to suppose the country
would remain quiet all the while. But assassination might only be the
prelude to insurrection and to civil war, and to the restoration of
our old monarchs to the throne."
"Such was the purpose, was it?" replied his companion.
"Assassination is a pitiful help, and has never yet been called in to
aid a great or good cause."
"Ay, my lord," replied his informant; "but in this instance it is a
base adjunct affixed to the general scheme of insurrection by a few
bloody-minded men, without the knowledge of thousands who would have
joined the rising, and without the knowledge, I am sure, of King
"I really do not see," said the other, "what should have caused such
hatred against the person they aim at--the post of King of England is
no bed of roses; and a thousand, a thousand-fold happier was he, as
Stadtholder of Holland, governing a willing people and fighting the
battles of freedom throughout the world, than monarch of this great
kingdom, left without a moment's peace, by divisions and factions in
the mass of the nation, which called him to the throne, and seeing
union nowhere but in that small minority of the people who oppose his
authority, and even attempt his life. His is no happy fate."
"Sir, there are some men," replied the other, "in whom certain
humours and desires are so strong, that the gratification thereof is
worth the whole of the rest of a life's happiness, and gratified
ambition may be sufficient in this case to compensate for the
sacrifice of peace. I mean not to speak one word against the master
that you serve. He has, as you say, fought the battles of liberty for
many years: he is a brave and gallant soldier, too, as ever lived: I
doubt not he is a kind friend and a good master"
"Stay, stay," replied the other, holding up his hand "before you go
farther, let me tell you that you are under a mistake. I am the
personage of whom you speak--I am the King. When I prevented the
soldiers from killing you, Bentinek was near me. He is taller than I
am: the Dutch guards saw him before me, and shouted his name, which
led to your error."
The effect of these words upon the other can hardly be imagined. He
turned pale--he turned red; but he yielded to the first impulse both
of gratitude and respect, and without taking time to think or
hesitate, he bent his knee and kissed the King's hand.
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