The King's Highway
G. P. R. James
Part 5 out of 10
"Rise, rise!" said William--"I ask nothing of you, sir, but to speak
to me as you would have done if I had really been Lord Portland. I
could not let you go on without explanation, for you had said all
that could be pleasant to a king's ears to hear; and you seemed about
to say those things which you might not have been well pleased to
remember, when you discovered my real situation."
"I thank you, sir, most deeply," replied the other, "for that act of
kindness, as well as for that which went before. I have hitherto, as
I need scarcely say, been a strenuous and eager supporter of King
James. I have served him with all my ability, and had he at any time
returned to this country, would have served him with my sword. That
sword, sir, however, can never now be drawn against the man who has
saved my life; and, indeed, though I have known many changes and
chances, yet I remember no one moment of joy and satisfaction greater
than this, when I think that, spontaneously, I have refused to take a
share in criminal designs against my benefactor, though I knew him
not to be so, and have revealed the schemes against his life, who
generously spared my own."
"I intended," said the King, "in the character of Lord Portland, to
press you to farther explanations; but now that you know who I am, I
may feel a greater difficulty in so doing. I must leave it to
yourself, then, to tell me all that you may think necessary for my
The other put his hand to his head, and for a few minutes seemed
embarrassed and pained. "The discovery, sir," he said, at length,
"alters my situation also; and yet I pray and beseech you, do not
press me to perform an act that is base and dishonourable; grant me
but one or two conditions, and I will go to the very verge of what I
ought to do, towards you."
"I will press you to nothing, sir," replied William; "what are the
"First," replied the other, "that I may not be asked to name any
names; secondly, that I may never be called upon to give any evidence
upon this subject in a court of justice."
"The names, of course, are important," said William, "as by having
them we are placed most upon our guard. However, you have come
voluntarily to render me a service, and I will not press hard upon
you. The conditions you ask shall be granted. The names shall not be
required of you, and you shall not be called upon to give evidence.
Call in Keppel! Arnold!" he added, raising his voice; and immediately
the door was opened, and Keppel entered, bowing low as he did so.
"I have promised this gentleman two things, Keppel," said the King.
"First, that he shall not be pressed to give up the names of the
conspirators; and, secondly, that he shall not be called upon to give
evidence against them."
"Your majesty is very gracious," replied Keppel: "without the
names of the persons, I scarcely think--"
William made a sign with his hand, saying, "That is decided. Now,
sir, what more have you to add?"
"Merely this, sir," replied the other: "it is not much, indeed, but
it will enable you to take greater measures for your safety. The
design to assassinate you has existed some time, but the period for
putting it in execution was formerly fixed for the month of April. My
opposition to the bloody design, and to the purpose of bringing
French troops into Great Britain, has deranged all the plans of these
base men. I had fancied that such opposition, and the falling away
of many others on whom the assassins counted, would have induced them
to abandon the whole design. Last night, however, I received
intelligence that, instead of so doing, their purpose was but
strengthened, and their design only hastened; that instead of April,
the assassination was to take place whenever it could be
accomplished; that even tomorrow, when it is believed you dine with
the Lord Romney, if it were found possible absolutely to surround the
house so as to prevent escape, the deed was to be attempted there; or
as you went; or as you came back. If none of these occasions suited,
you were to be assailed the first time that you went out to hunt; and
dresses such as those worn by many of your attendants in the chase
are already ordered for the purpose of facilitating the execution of
the murder, and the escape of the assassins. It has been calculated,
I find, that on the night of next Saturday you are likely to pass
across Turnham Green towards ten o'clock, and that is one of the
occasions which is to be made use of, if others fail."
William looked at Lord Albemarle, and Albemarle at the King; but the
latter remained silent for a minute or two, as if to give his
informant time to go on. The other, however, added nothing more; and
the King, after this long pause, said, "I must not conceal from you,
sir, that we have heard something of this matter, and may probably
soon have farther tidings."
"It is high time, sir," replied the other, "that you should have
farther tidings, for the first attempt will certainly be to-morrow
"Perhaps we have acted somewhat rashly," said Keppel; "but to say
truth, there have been so many reports of plots, that we thought it
but right to discourage the matter; his Majesty justly observing,
that if he were to give attention to everything of the kind, he would
have nothing to do but to examine into the truth of stories composed
for the purpose of obtaining rewards. We therefore gave this matter
not so much attention as it would seem to require."
"It requires every attention, sir," replied their visitor; "and from
whomsoever you may have obtained the information, if possible, obtain
more from him immediately. If he tell you what I have told, he tells
you truth; and if so, it is probable that any farther information he
may give will be true likewise. Did I know his name, perhaps I could
"Suppose his name were Johnstone?" said the King.
"I know of none such," replied the other, "who could give you much
information. There are many persons, whom men call Jacobites, of that
name, and many very gallant gentlemen who would sooner die than
become assassins. But none that I know of, in this business."
"What would you say, then," the King continued, "to the name of
Williamson, or Carter, or Porter?"
"Porter!" replied the other, gazing in the King's face--"Porter!--I
believe, sir," he added, "you are too generous to attempt to wring
from me the names of persons connected with this business in any
underhand manner; and therefore I reply to you straightforwardly,
that if Captain Porter should give you any information upon this
matter consistent with the tidings that I have given, or in
explanation thereof, you may believe him. He is not a gentleman I
either very much respect or esteem; but I do not believe that he is
one who would willingly take a part in assassination, or who would
falsify the truth knowingly."
"Sir, you confirm my good opinion of you," replied the King: "we have
intimation of some of these proceedings from Porter, and have had
intimation from other quarters also, but none such as could be relied
upon till the information that you have given us to-night. Porter's,
indeed, might have proved more satisfactory; but he does not bear a
good reputation, and it was judged better to discourage the thing
altogether. He shall now be heard, and very likely the whole will be
explained. On the complete discovery of the plot, I need hardly say
that any reward within reason which you may require shall be given
The stranger waved his hand somewhat indignantly. "There was a man
found, sir," he said, "to sell the blood of Christ himself for thirty
pieces of silver; and therefore it can scarcely be considered as
insulting to any of the sons of men to suppose that they would follow
that example. I, however, do not trade in such things, and I require
no reward whatsoever for that which I have done. I trust and see now
that it will prove effectual, and I am perfectly satisfied. If these
men fall into your hands by other means than mine, and incur the
punishment they have justly deserved, I have not a word to say for
them, but I have only to beseech you, sir, to separate the innocent
from the guilty; to be careful--oh! most careful, in a moment of
excitement and just indignation--not to confound the two, and to make
a just distinction between fair and open enemies of your government,
and base and treacherous assassins."
"I shall strive to do so, sir," answered the King, "and would always
rather lean towards mercy than cruelty. And now, as it grows late, I
would fain know your name, and would gladly see you again."
"My name, sir," replied the other, "must either be kept secret, or
revealed to your Majesty alone. I have long been a nameless man,
having lost all, and spent all, in behalf of that family opposed to
"Who have, doubtless, shown you no gratitude," said William.
"They have had no means, sir," replied the Jacobite, "and I have made
no demand upon them."
"It is but right, however," said the King, changing the subject,
"that I should know your name. When I inquired who you were when we
last met--the only time, indeed, we have met, till now--they gave me
a name which I now see must have been a mistaken one. Do you object
to give it before this gentleman?"
"To give my real name, sir," replied the other, "I do. But I have no
objection to give it to you yourself in private."
"Leave us, Arnold," said the King; and Lord Albemarle immediately
quitted the presence.
The day which we have just seen terminate at Kensington we must now
conduct to a close in another quarter, where events very nearly as
much affecting the peace and safety of this realm, and far more
affecting the peace of various personages mentioned in this history
than the events which took place at the palace, were going on at the
same time. It was a bright, clear, frosty day, with everything
sparkling in the sunshine, the last dry leaves of the preceding year
still lingering in many places on the branches of the trees, and
clothing the form of nature in the russet livery of decay.
Wilton Brown was up long before daylight, and ready to set out by the
first streak of dawn in the east. Not having seen the Duke on the
preceding night--as that nobleman, worn with anxiety and grief, had
fallen ill and retired to seek repose--he sat down and wrote him a
note, while waiting for the Messenger, informing him that he had
obtained information concerning Lady Laura's situation, and doubted
not to be enabled to set her free in the course of the following day.
The Messenger was somewhat later up than himself, and Wilton sent
twice to hasten his movements. When he did appear, he had to be
informed of the young gentleman's purposes, and of the information he
had obtained the night before; and this information Wilton could of
course communicate only in part. When told in this mysterious manner,
however, and warned that there might be some danger in the enterprise
which they were about to undertake, he seemed to hesitate, as if he
did not at all approve of the affair. As soon as Wilton remarked
this, he said, in a stern tone, "Now, Mr. Arden, are you or are you
not willing to go through this business with me? If you are not, let
me know at once, that I may send for another messenger who has more
determination and spirit."
"That you wont easily find," replied the Messenger, a good deal hurt.
"It was not at any danger that I hesitated at all, for I never have
in my life, and I wont begin now, when I dare say there is not half
so much danger as in things that I do every day.--Did not I apprehend
Tom Lambton, who fired two pistols at my head? No, no, it is not
danger; but what I thought was, that the Earl very likely might not
like any of these bargains about not taking up the folks that we find
there, and all that. However, as he told me to obey your orders in
everything, I suppose that must be sufficient."
"It must, indeed," answered Wilton; "for I have no time to stop for
explanations or anything else; and if you hesitate, I must instantly
send for another messenger."
"Oh, I shall not hesitate, sir," replied the Messenger; "but you must
take all the burden of the business on yourself. I shall do exactly
as you order me, neither more nor less; so that if there comes blame
anywhere, it must rest at your door."
"Come. come, Arden," said Wilton, seeing that he was likely to have a
lukewarm companion where a very ardent and energetic one was much
wanted, "you must exert yourself now as usual, and I am sure you will
do so. Let us get to our horses as fast as possible."
Wilton tried to soothe the Messenger out of his ill-humour as they
rode along, but he did not succeed in any great degree. The man
remained sullen; being one of those who like, when clothed with a
little brief authority, to rule all around them rather than be
directed by any. So long as he had conducted the search himself, it
had been pleasant enough to him to have one of the minister's
secretaries with him, following his suggestions, listening to his
advice, and showing deference to his experience; but when the young
gentleman took the business into his own hands, conducted the whole
proceedings, and did not make him acquainted even with all the
particulars, his vanity was mortified, and he resolved to assist as
little as possible, though he could not refuse to act according to
the directions which he received. This determination was so evident,
that, before they had reached Gravesend, Wilton felt cause to regret
that he had not put his threat in execution, and sent for another
messenger. His companion's horse must needs be spared, though he was
strong, quick, and needed nothing but the spur; he must be fed here,
he must be watered there; and the young gentleman began to fear that
delays which were evidently made on purpose, might cause them to be
late ere they arrived at the place of their destination. He had
remarked, however, that the Messenger was somewhat proud of the beast
that carried him, and he thought it in no degree wrong to make use of
a stratagem in order to hurry his follower's pace.
After looking at the horse for some time with a marking and critical
eye, he said, "That is a fine, powerful horse of yours, Mr. Arden. It
is a pity he's so heavy in the shoulder."
"Heavy in the shoulder, Mr. Brown!" said Arden--"I don't think he
can be called that, sir, any how; for a really strong, serviceable
horse, he's as free in the shoulder as any horse in England."
"I did not exactly mean," replied Wilton, "to say that he was heavy;
I only meant that he could not be a speedy horse with that shoulder."
"I don't know that, sir; I can't say that," replied the Messenger,
evidently much piqued: "you reckon your horse a swift horse, I should
think, Mr. Brown, and yet I'll bet you money, that at any pace you
like, for a couple of miles, mine wont be a yard behind."
"Oh, trotting will do, trotting will do," replied Wilton--"there's
no such made horse as mine in England. Let him once get to his full
pace, and he will out-trot any horse I ever saw."
"Well, sir," replied his companion, "let us put to our spurs and
"With all my heart," answered Wilton, and away they accordingly went,
trotting as hard as they could go for the next four or five miles.
Nevertheless, although the scheme was so far successful, Wilton and
the Messenger did not reach the village of High Halstow above an hour
before sunset. The horses were by this time tired, and the riders
somewhat hungry. Provisions were procured in haste to satisfy the
appetite of the travellers, and the horses, too, were fed. It was
some time, however, before the tired animals would take their food,
and Wilton and his companion at length determined to proceed on foot.
Before they did so, as both were perfectly ignorant of the way,
application was made to the host for directions, and the reply, "Why,
there are three roads you can take!" somewhat puzzled the inquirers,
especially when it was followed by a demand of where they were going
"When I know that," said the landlord, "I shall be able to tell you
which is the best road."
"Why, I asked the way to Cowley Castle," said Wilton, both
embarrassed and annoyed; for the Messenger stood coolly by, without
any attempt to aid him, and, in truth, enjoying a little difficulty.
"But you are not going to Cowley Castle at this time of night," said
the man: "why, the only house there is the great house, and that is
"My good friend," said Wilton, "I suppose the next question you will
ask me is, what is my business there? I ask you the way to Cowley
Castle, and pray, if you can, give me a straightforward answer."
"I beg your pardon, sir," replied the man, with a determined air--"I
have given you a straightforward answer. There are three roads, all
of them very good ones, and there is, besides, a footpath."
As he spoke, he stared into Wilton's face with a look half dogged,
half jocular; but in the end, he added,--
"Come, come, sir--you might as well tell me the matter at once. If
you are going to Master Plessis's--the mountseer, as we call him
here--I'll put you upon your road in a minute: I mean the gentleman
that, folks think, has some dealings with France."
It struck Wilton, instantly, that this gentleman, who was supposed to
have dealings with France, must have something to do with the
detention of Laura, and he therefore replied, "Perhaps it may be as
you suppose, my good friend. At all events, put me upon the principal
horse-road towards Cowley Castle."
"Well, sir, well," replied the host, "you have nothing to do but to
turn to the right when you go out of the door, and then you will find
a road to the left; then take the first road to the right, which will
lead you straight down to Cowley Church. Now, if you're going to
Master Plessis's, you had better not go farther than that."
"That way will not be difficult to find," replied Wilton; and
followed by the Messenger, he quitted the little inn, or rather
public-house, for it was no better, and traced accurately the road the
landlord had pointed out.
"He had better go no farther than Cowley Church, indeed," said a man
who was sitting in the bar, as soon as he was gone; "for if he be
going to Master Plessis's, he'll be half a mile beyond the turning by
"Jenkin, Jenkin!" cried the landlord, not minding what his guest
said, but addressing a boy who was cleaning some pewter stoups in a
kitchen at the end of the passage--"come here, my man. Run down by
the lanes as fast as you can go, and tell Master Plessis that there
are two gentlemen coming to his house, whose looks I don't like at
all. One is a state messenger, if I'm not much mistaken. I've seen
his face before, I'm sure enough, and I think it was when Evans the
coiner was taken up at Stroud. You can get there half an hour before
them, if you run away straight by the lanes."
The boy lost not a moment, very sure that any one who brought
Monsieur Plessis intelligence of importance would get something at
least for his pains.
In the meantime, Wilton and his companion walked on. The sky was
clear above, but it had already become very dark, and a doubt
occurred, both at the first and second turning, as to whether they
were right. Wilton and the Messenger had furnished themselves with
pistols, besides their swords; and the young gentleman paused for a
moment to ascertain that the priming had not fallen out; but nothing
would induce the Messenger to do so likewise; for his sullen mood had
seized upon him again more strongly than ever, and he merely replied
that his pistols would do very well, and that it would be lucky if
Mr. Brown were as sure of his way as he was of his pistols.
"I should like you to give me my orders, Mr. Brown," he added, in the
same dogged tone, "for I am always glad to know beforehand what it is
I am to do, that I may be ready to do it."
"I shall of course give orders," replied Wilton, somewhat sharply,
"when they are required, Mr. Arden. At the present moment, however, I
have only to tell you that I expect every minute to meet a person who
will lead us to the house where Lady Laura is detained. At that
house, we shall have to encounter, I understand, a number of persons
whose interest and design is to carry her off, probably to the coast
of France. I intend to demand her in a peaceable and tranquil manner,
and in case they refuse to give her up, must act according to
circumstances. I expect your support on all the legal points of the
case, such as the due notice of our authority, et cetera; and, in case
it should become necessary or prudent either to menace or to use
force, I will tell you at the time."
The Messenger made no reply, but sunk again into sullen silence; and
Wilton clearly saw that little help, and indeed little advantage, was
to be derived from the presence of his self-sufficient attendant,
except in as much as the appearance of such a person in his company
was likely to produce a moral effect upon those to whom he might be
opposed. Messengers of state were in those days very awful people,
and employed in general in the arrest of such criminals as were very
unlikely to escape the axe if taken. Yet it seldom if ever happened
that any resistance was offered to them; and we are told that at the
appearance of a single individual of this redoubted species, it often
happened three or four traitors, murderers, spies, or pirates, whose
fate if taken was perfectly certain, would seem to give up all hope,
and surrendering without resistance, would suffer themselves to be
led quietly to the shambles.
Thus if Arden did but his mere duty, Wilton knew that the effect of
his presence would be great; but as he walked on, he began to
entertain new apprehensions. For nearly two miles, no one appeared to
guide them to the place of their destination; at length a church,
with some cottages gathered round it, announced that they had reached
the little hamlet of Cowley, where, as several roads and paths
branched off in different directions, he found it advisable to follow
the counsel of the landlord, and not go any farther.
He consequently turned back again; but a thin white fog was now
beginning to come on--a visitation to which that part of the country
near the junction of the Thames and the Medway is very often subject.
The cloud rolled forward, and Wilton and the Messenger advanced
directly into it; so that at length the hedge could only be
distinguished on one side of the road, and beyond it, on either side,
nothing could be seen farther than the distance of five or six yards.
The Messenger lingered somewhat behind, muttering, "This is
pleasant;" but ere long, as they were approaching the top of a narrow
lane which Wilton had before remarked, as they passed, he thought he
heard people speaking at a distance, and stopped to listen. The tones
were those of a male and a female voice conversing evidently with
eagerness, though with slow and measured words and long pauses.
Wilton thought that the sound of one voice was familiar to him,
though the speaker was at such a distance that he could not catch any
of the words.
Not doubting at all, however, that one of the interlocutors was the
person who was to guide him on his way, Wilton paused, determined to
wait till they came up.
A loud "So be it then!" was at length uttered; and the next moment
steps were heard advancing rapidly towards him, and the figure of a
man made its appearance through the mist, first like one of the
fabled shades upon the dim shores of the gloomy river, but growing
into solidity as it came near.
For the right understanding of all that is to follow--strange as it
may appear to the reader, we are only just at the beginning of the
story--it may be necessary to go back to the house of Monsieur
Plessis, and to trace the events of the past day, till we have
brought them exactly down to that precise time Wilton was walking, as
we have described, with a mist around him both moral and physical,
upon the road between High Halstow and Cowley. We must even go beyond
that, and introduce the reader into a lady's bedchamber, on the
morning of that day, as she was dressing herself after the night's
repose; though, indeed, repose it could scarcely be called, for those
bright eyes had closed but for a short period during the darkness,
and anxiety and grief had been the companions of her pillow. Yet it is
not Lady Laura of whom we speak, but of that gentle-looking and
beautiful lady whom we have described as sitting in the saloon of
Plessis's house, shortly before the conspirators assembled there.
Without any of the aids of dress or ornament, she was certainly a very
beautiful being, and as, sitting before the glass, she drew out with
her taper fingers the glossy curls of her rich dark hair, nothing
could be more graceful than the attitudes into which the whole form
was cast. Often as she did so, she would pause and meditate, leaning
her head upon her hand for a moment or two. Sometimes she would raise
her eyes imploringly towards Heaven, and once those eyes became full
of tears. She wiped them away hastily, however, as if angry with
herself for giving way, and then proceeded eagerly with the task of
While she was thus engaged, some one knocked at the door, which she
unlocked, and the next instant, another lady, to whom the reader has
been already introduced, entered the chamber. It was the same person
whom we have called the Lady Helen, in her interview with Wilton
Brown; and there was still in the expression of her countenance that
same look of tender melancholy which is generally left upon the face
by long grief acting upon an amiable heart. It was, indeed, less the
expression of a settled gloom on her own part, than of sympathy with
the sorrows of others, rendered more active by sorrows endured
herself. On the present occasion she had a note in her hand, which
she held out towards the fair girl whom she had interrupted at her
toilet, saying, with a faint smile, "There, Caroline--I hope it may
bring you good news, dear girl." The other took it eagerly, and broke
the seal, with hands that trembled so much that they almost let the
"Oh, Lady Helen," cried the younger lady, while the colour came and
went in her cheek, and her eyes sparkled, and then again nearly
overflowed, "we must, indeed, we must stay over to-day. He says he
will come down to see me this afternoon. Indeed we must stay; for it
is my last chance, Helen dear, my last chance of happiness in life."
"We will stay, of course, Caroline," replied the other; "but I trust,
my poor girl, that if you see him, you will act both wisely and
firmly. Let him not move you to yield any farther than you have done;
left him not move you, my sweet Caroline, to remain in a degrading
and painful state of doubt. Act firmly, and as you proposed but
yesterday, in order, at least, if you do no more, not to be, as it
were, an accomplice in his ill-treatment of yourself."
"Oh no!" replied the other--"oh no! Fear not, dear lady, that I will
deal with him otherwise than firmly. But yet you know he is my
husband, Helen, and I cannot refuse to obey his will, except where he
requires of me a breach of higher duties."
"Ay," replied the Lady Helen. "When he claims you openly as his wife,
Caroline, then he has a right to command, and no one can blame you
for obeying; but he must not take the whole advantage of his
situation as your husband, without giving you the name and station,
or suffering you to assume the character of his wife. Let him now do
you justice in these respects, or else, dear Caroline, leave him!
fly from him! strive to forget him! Look upon yourself as widowed,
and try to bear your sorrow as an infliction from the hand of Heaven,
for having committed this action without your father's knowledge and
"Oh, Helen!" replied the other, mournfully, "you know my father was
upon the bed of death; you know that Henry was obliged to depart in
three weeks; you know that I loved him, and that if I had parted with
him then, without giving him the hand I had promised, it might have
been years before I saw him again; for then I should have had no
title to seek him as his wife, and the ports of France were not
likely to be opened to him again. Would you have had me agitate my
father at that moment? Could I refuse to be his, under such
circumstances, when I believed every word that he said, when I
thought that if he departed without being my husband, I might not
behold him for many years to come?"
"Forgive me for glancing at the past, poor child," replied her
friend--"I meant not to imply a reproach, Caroline; but all I wish is
to counsel you to firmness. Let not love get the better of your
judgment. But tell him your determination at once, and abide by it
when it is told. If you would ever obtain justice for yourself,
Caroline, now is the moment. He himself will love and respect you
more for it hereafter. He assigns no reason for farther delay; and
his letters, hitherto, have certainly suggested no motives which
could lead either your judgment or your affection to consent to that
which is degrading to yourself. I have seen enough of these things,
Caroline, and I know that they always end in misery."
"Misery!" replied the younger lady, "alas! Helen, what have I to
expect but misery? Oh, Helen, it is not that he does not openly
acknowledge our marriage, and forbids me to proclaim it--it is not
that which makes me unhappy. Heaven knows, were that all, I could
willingly go on without the acknowledgment. I could shut myself from
the day, devote myself to him alone, forswear rank, and station, and
the pleasures of affluence, for nothing but his love; so long that,
knowing I myself was virtuous, I also knew that he continued to love
me well. It is not that, Helen, it is not that; but all which I have
heard assures me, that notwithstanding every vow of amendment, of
changed life, of constant affection towards me, he is faithless to me
in a thousand instances; that his wish of longer concealment
proceeds, not from necessity, but from a libertine spirit; in short,
Helen, that I have been for a week the creature of his pleasure, but
that he never really loved me; that his heart rested with me for an
hour, and has now gone on to others."
As she spoke, she sank again into her chair, and clasping her hands
together as they rested on her knee, fixed her eyes upon the ground
during a moment or two of bitter thought.
The other lady advanced toward her, and after gazing at her for a
minute, she kissed her beautiful brow affectionately, saying,
"Nevertheless, Caroline, he does love you. He is a libertine by
habit, Caroline, I trust not a libertine in heart; and I see in every
line that he writes to you that he loves you still, and always will
love you. It is my belief, dear Caroline, that if you behave well to
him now, firmly, though kindly, gently, though decidedly; if you
yield nothing, either to love, or importunity, or remonstrance, but
tell him that you now bid him farewell for ever if he so chooses it,
and that you will never either see him, or hear from him, or write to
him, till he comes openly as your husband, and gives you the same
vows and assurance of future affection and good conduct that he did
at first--it is my firm conviction, I say, that the love for you
which I see is still strong within him, the only good thing perhaps
in his heart, will bring him back to you at last. Passion may lead
him astray, folly may get the better of reason, evil habits may rule
him for a time; but the memory of your sweetness, and your beauty,
and your firmness, and your gentleness, will come back upon his mind,
even in the society of the gay, the light, and the profligate, and
will seem like a diamond beside false stones."
"Hush, hush, hush!" said the younger lady, blushing deeply--"I must
not hear such praises, Helen: praises that I do not deserve."
"Nay, my dear child, I speak but what I mean," replied the Lady
Helen--"I say that the recollection of you and your young fresh
beauty, and your generous mind, will return to his remembrance, my
Caroline, at all times and in all circumstances, even the most
opposite: in the midst of various enjoyments, in the heated revel,
and in the idle pageant; when lonely in his chamber, when suffering
distress, or pain, or illness; amidst the reverses and the strife, as
well as in the prosperity and the vanities, of the world, he will
remember you and love you still. That memory will be to him as a
sweet tune that we have loved in our youth, the recollection of which
brings with it always visions of the only joys that we have known
without alloy. But still, remember, Caroline, that the condition on
which this is to be obtained, the condition on which his recollection
of you is to be, as it were, a precious antidote to the evils of his
heart, is, that you now act towards him with firmness and with
"But suppose, dear lady," said the other, "that he were to ask me to
remain with him, still concealing our marriage. Nay, look not
terrified--I am not going to do it. I have told you how I am going to
act, and, on my honour, I will keep to my determination. I only ask
you what you think would then be the consequences?"
"Destruction both to you and to him," replied the Lady Helen: "he
would never look upon you entirely as his wife, he would never treat
you entirely as such. You would dwell with him almost as a
concubine.--Forgive me, but it must be spoken.--He would grow tired
of your beauty, weary of your society; your virtues would be lost
upon him, because he would see that firmness was not amongst them,
and he would not respect you because you had not respected yourself.
There is something, Caroline, in the state and dignity, if I may so
call it, which surrounds a virtuous married woman, that has a great
effect upon her husband, ay, and a great effect upon herself. There
is not one man, Caroline, out of a million, who has genuine nobility
of heart enough to stand the test of a long concealed private
marriage. I never saw but one, Caroline, and I have mingled with
almost every scene of human life, and seen the world with almost all
its faces. However, here, there can be no cause which should justly
induce you to consent to live with him under such circumstances, and
there are a thousand causes to prevent you from so doing. If you were
to do it, you would lose your respect for yourself, and how then
could you expect that he would retain any for you?"
The conversation was some time protracted in the same tone, and
nearly a whole hour was thus passed ere the younger lady was dressed
and ready to accompany her friend to breakfast.
Monsieur Plessis was there to do the honours of his table, treating
his fair guests not exactly as his equals, but yet behaving not at
all as an Englishman, under such circumstances, could have demeaned
himself He was polite, attentive, deferential; but he was still
Monsieur Plessis in his own house. There can be no doubt that all he
furnished them with was amply paid for; but yet he had an air of
conferring a favour, and indeed felt that he did so when he received
them into his dwelling at all. There was thus an air of gallantry
mingled with his respectfulness, a sweet smile that bent his lips
when he pressed either of them to their food, a courteous and affable
look when he greeted them for the first time that clay, all of which
spoke that Monsieur Plessis felt that he was laying them under an
obligation, and wished to do it in the most graceful manner possible.
The breakfast table was beautifully laid out, with damask linen of
the finest quality, and more silver than was usually displayed at
that day even in families of distinction. Both the ladies seated
themselves; and Plessis was proceeding to recommend some of the most
exquisite chocolate which had ever been brought from Portugal--at
least so he assured them--when the elder lady interrupted its praises
by saying, "Had we not better wait a little, Monsieur Plessis, for
the young lady whom we saw yesterday?"
Plessis, however, put his finger on his large nose, saying, "Her
breakfast will be taken to her in her chamber, Miladi. There are
mysteries in all things, as you well know. Now here you are; and
there are nine or ten gentlemen meet at my house every night, from
whom I am obliged to hide that you are in the place at all. Here is
this young lady, whom, it seems, I should have concealed from you in
the same way: only I could not refuse to let you see her and speak
to her yesterday, in order that you might be kind to her on board the
ship; for she is to go in the ship with you, you know, and she seems
quite helpless, and not accustomed to all these things. When the
worthy gentlemen found that the ship was not to sail last night, they
were in great embarrassment, and charged me strictly not to let her
see any one till the ship sailed; and I find they have put a man to
watch on both sides of the house, so that no one can go out or come
in without being seen. They told me nothing about it; and that was
uncivil; but, however, I must keep her to her own room; for the man
that they left in the house, with my consent, to keep guard over her,
watches sharply also."
The elder lady said nothing, but the colour of the younger heightened
a good deal at this detail, and she started up indignantly as soon as
Plessis had finished, exclaiming, "Nonsense, sir. I never heard of
such a thing!--You, a man of honour and gallantry," she continued,
with a gay smile, such as had once been common to her countenance,
passing over it for a moment--"you, a man of honour and gallantry,
Monsieur Plessis, consenting to see a lady discourteously used and
maltreated in your house, and a stranger put as a spy upon you in
your own dwelling. Fie! For shame! I never heard of such a thing! I
shall go immediately to her, with your compliments, and ask her to
come to breakfast. And let me see if this spy upon you will dare to
"Oh no, Miladi," replied Plessis, "he is not a spy upon me; but I
said myself I would have nothing to do with the young lady being
detained; that it was no part of my business, and should not be done
by my people; that they might have the rooms at the west corner of
the house if they liked, but that I would have nothing to do with it.
I beseech you, dear lady," he continued, seeing Caroline moving
towards the door--"I beseech you, do not meddle; for this is a very
dangerous and bad business, and I fear it will end ill, Nay, nay!"
and springing towards the door, he placed himself between it and the
lady, bowing lowly, with his hand upon his heart, and exclaiming,
"Humbly on my knees I kiss your beautiful feet, and beseech you not
to meddle with this bad business."
"A very bad business, indeed," said Caroline; "and it is for that
very reason that I am going to meddle, Monsieur Plessis. Do me the
favour of getting out of my way. I thought you were a man of
gallantry and spirit, Monsieur Plessis.--I am determined; so there is
no use in opposing me."
Plessis shrugged up his shoulders, bowed his head low, and with a
look which said as plainly as any look could say, "I see there is
never any use of opposing a woman," he suffered the fair lady to pass
out, while her friend remained sitting thoughtfully at the table.
The lady whom we have called Caroline walked quietly along one of the
corridors of the house till she came to a spot where a man in the
garb of a sailor was sitting on a large chest, with his elbows on his
two knees, and his chin on his two hands, looking very much wearied
with his watch, and swinging one of his feet backwards and forwards
disconsolately. There was a door farther on, and towards it the lady
walked, but found that it was locked, though the key was on the
outside. The sailor personage had started up as she passed, and then
gazed at her proceedings with no small surprise; but as she laid her
hand upon the lock, he came forward, saying, "Ma'am, what do you want
"I want," replied the lady, turning round, and looking at him from
head to foot, "I merely to call this young lady to breakfast. Be so
good as to open the door: the lock is rather stiff."
She spoke so completely with the tone of calm authority, that the man
did not even hesitate, but opened the door wide, taking it for
granted that she had some right to enter. The lady was about to go
in; but suddenly a feeling of apprehension seized her, lest the man
should shut the door and lock it upon her also; and pausing in the
doorway, she addressed Lady Laura, who we need scarcely tell the
reader was within,--"I have come to ask you," she said, "if you will
go with me to breakfast."
"Oh gladly, gladly!" cried the poor girl, darting forward, and
holding out her hands to her; and Caroline, drawing one fair arm
through her own, led her onward to the room where she had left the
The man paused and hesitated, and then followed the two ladies along
the passage; but before he was near enough to hear what was said,
Caroline had whispered to her companion, "It is already done: I have
had an answer to my note, which went in the same packet, so that the
place of your detention is now certainly known to those who will not
fail to send you aid."
The bright joy that came up in the eyes of Laura might very well have
betrayed to the man who guarded her, had he seen her face, that she
has received more intelligence than his employers could have wished.
He followed, however, at some distance, without taking any notice;
and seeming to think it enough to watch her movements, and prevent
her egress from the house, he seated himself again near the door of
the chamber where breakfast had been prepared, while Laura and her
fair companion entered the room.
They found the Lady Helen and Monsieur Plessis in eager conversation,
the lady having just announced to him her intention of delaying their
departure till another day; and he, who was in fact part proprietor
of the vessel which was to bear them to France, and was actuated by
very different views, urging her eagerly to follow her first
intention of sailing that night. He made representations of all sorts
of dangers and difficulties which were to arise from the delay; the
two ladies were likely to be arrested; he was likely to be ruined;
the master of the ship would sail without them; and in short,
everything was represented as about to happen which could induce them
to take their departure with all speed.
The Lady Helen, however, was resolute. She replied that, from what
she had heard in London, she was convinced there was not the least
chance whatsoever of their even being inquired after, and much less
of their being arrested; that his ruin was only likely to be a
consequence of the arrest, and therefore that was disposed of. Then
again, in regard to the captain of the vessel sailing without them,
she said that was improbable, inasmuch as he would thereby lose the
large sum he was to receive, both for bringing them thither and
taking them back.
Now, though Monsieur Plessis was, in his way, a very courageous and
determined person, who in dealing with his fellow men could take his
own part very vigorously, and, as we have shown, successfully, yet he
was much feebler in the presence of a lady, and on the present
occasion, with three to one, they certainly made him do anything they
liked. The consequence was, that Laura was permitted to spend a great
part of that day with the two accidental tenants of Monsieur
Plessis's house; and not a little comfort, indeed, was that
permission to her.
It was a moment when any society would have been a great consolation
and relief. But there was in the two ladies with whom she was now
associated for the time much more to interest and to please. The
manners of each were of the highest tone; the person of each was
highly pleasing; and when Laura turned to the Lady Helen, and marked
the gentle pensiveness of her beautiful countenance, listened to the
high, pure, noble words that hung upon her lips, and marked the deep
feelings which existed beneath an exterior that people sometimes
thought cold, the remembrance of her own mother rose up before her,
and she felt a sort of clinging yearning towards a being who
resembled her in so many respects.
With the younger lady, too, she had many a thought and many a feeling
in common. Caroline was a few years older than herself, and evidently
more acquainted with the world; but there were deep strong feelings
apparent in every word she uttered--a thoughtfulness (if we may so
express ourselves) which blended with an air of carelessness--a depth
to be seen even through occasional lightness, which was only like a
profound river rippled by a rapid breeze. Each had subjects for
thought; each had more or less matter for grief or apprehension; but
each found relief in the society of the other; and the day passed
over more happily than Laura could have imagined it would have done
in such circumstances.
Towards evening, indeed, she became anxious and apprehensive, for no
attempt to deliver her had, apparently, been made, and she had been
warned that she was to embark for France that night. From this
apprehension, however, the Lady Helen speedily relieved her, by
assuring her that there was no other ship to convey her but that
which was hired to take herself and her young friend to France, and
that they had determined upon putting off their departure till the
About the same hour, however, Caroline became uneasy and agitated.
She rose often; she looked often at her watch; she gazed out froth
the window; she turned her eyes to the sky; and in the end she
retired for a time to her own chamber, and returned shortly after,
dressed for going out, with a short black cloak, richly trimmed, cast
over her shoulders, and a silk hood, stiffened with whalebone and
deeply fringed with lace, covering her head and the greatest part of
"Who are you going to take with you, my dear child, to show you the
way?" said the Lady Helen.
"No one, sweet lady," replied the other. "While you were away from me
in London I had plenty of opportunity to explore every path round
this house, and the place is so distinctly marked, that neither he
nor I can mistake it."
Lady Helen looked in her face for a moment with an expression
somewhat sad as well as inquiring; and her beautiful companion, as if
comprehending at once what she meant, advanced quietly towards her,
knelt on the footstool at her feet, and putting her two hands in
hers, she said, "I promise you most solemnly, dearest lady--most
solemnly and firmly do I promise, not to suffer myself to be shaken
in any one of the resolutions which I have taken with your advice."
"Thank you, my child, thank you," cried the elder lady, "thank you
for giving me the prospect, Caroline, of seeing you ultimately happy.
But oh, do not be late, my sweet child. Return to us soon. The
country is in a distracted state--the hour is very late. You see it
is already growing dusk."
"I will return as soon as I can," replied Caroline, and left the
The man who was still on watch in the passage looked at her
attentively, but said nothing; and Plessis, who was at the door
speaking to two ship-boys, said merely, "It is very cold and very
late, madame. I wonder you don't get cold with such late walks."
She made no reply, but went on: and taking one or two turns through
the tortuous lanes in the neighbourhood, arrived at a spot where a
small obelisk, of no very graceful form or great dimensions, planted
in the middle of the road, marked the boundary of four distinct
parishes. She paused there for a moment, and leaned upon the
landmark, as if from fatigue, weakness, or agitation. The light was
now dim, but it was not yet dark; and in a moment or two she saw a
figure appear suddenly in the lane before her.
It advanced rapidly towards her, and she pressed her hand tight upon
her heart. One might have heard it throbbing. The gentleman came on
with a pace like lightning, and held out his hand towards her. She
gave him her hand, but turned away her head; and after gazing on her
for a moment, he drew her gently to his bosom, saying, "One kiss at
least, my Caroline."
She did not refuse it, and he pressed her warmly to his heart. There
was a moment's silence, and then his arms relaxed their hold, and he
exclaimed, "Oh Heaven!"
He then drew her arm within his, and walked on with her.
"Oh, Caroline," he said at length, "would that you did know how I
"If I did know, Sherbrooke," she replied, "that you really did love
me, it would make me far, far happier than I am. But how can I
believe it, Sherbrooke? how can I believe it?"
"Is it," he demanded, "is it because I have asked you to conceal our
marriage a little longer? Is it for that reason that you doubt my
love? Is it for that reason that you have come over to England,
risking all and everything, affecting my fate in ways that you have
no idea of? Is it for this, Caroline?"
There was a pause for several minutes, and at length she answered,--
"Not entirely. There may have been many reasons, Sherbrooke, joined
therewith. There were many that I stated in my letters to you. There
were others that you might have imagined. Was it unnatural that I
should wish to see my husband? Was it unnatural I should believe that
he would be glad to see me? As I told you, the circumstances were
changed; my father was dead; I had none to protect me in France; the
Lady Helen was coming to England. When she was gone, I was left quite
alone. But oh, Sherbrooke, tell me, tell me, what cause have I had to
believe that you love me? Have you not neglected me? Have you not
forgotten me? Have you not----"
"Never, never, Caroline!" he cried, vehemently--"in my wildest
follies, in my rashest acts, I have thought of you and loved you. I
have remembered you with affection, and with grief, and with
tenderness. Memory, sad memory, has come upon me in the midst of the
maddest efforts for gaiety, and cast me into a fit of deep, anxious,
sorrowful, repentant, remorseful thought, which I could not shake
off: it seemed as if some vengeful spirit seized upon me for its
prey, and dinned in my ears the name of love and Caroline, till my
heart was nearly broken."
"And the moment after," she said, "what was it, Sherbrooke, that you
did? Did you sit down and write to Caroline, to her who was giving
every thought to you? or did you fly to the side of some gay
coquette, to dissipate such painful thoughts in her society? or did
you fly to worse, Sherbrooke?"
He was silent. "Sherbrooke," she added, after a time, "I wish not to
reproach you. All I wish is to justify myself, and the firm
unchangeable resolution which I have been obliged to take. I have
always tried to close my ears against everything that might make me
think less highly of him I love. But tales would reach me--tales most
painful to hear; and at length I was told that you were absolutely on
the eve of wedding another."
"They told you false!" exclaimed Lord Sherbrooke, wildly and
vehemently--"whoever said so, lied. I have been culpable, and am
culpable, Caroline; but not to that extent. I never dreamed of
wedding her. Did I not know it could not be? But you speak of your
resolutions. Let me know what they are at once! To declare all, I
suppose! Publicly to produce the proofs of our marriage! To announce
to my father, already exasperated against me, that in this, too, I
have offended him! To call down, even upon your own head, the revenge
of a man who has never yet, in life, gone without it! To tell
all--all, in short?"
"No, no, no, Sherbrooke!" she said--"I am going to do none of all
these things. Angry and thwarted, you do not do that justice to your
wife which you ought. You speak, Sherbrooke, as if you did not know
me. I will do none of these things. You do not choose to acknowledge
me as your wife. You are angry at my having come to England. I will
not announce our marriage till the last moment. I will not publish it
till my dying hour, unless I be driven to it by some terrible
circumstance. I will return to France. I will live as the widow of a
man that I have loved. But I will never see you more, Sherbrooke; I
will never hear from you more; I will never write to you more; till
you come openly and straightforwardly to claim me as your wife in the
face of all the world. Whenever you declare me to be your wife, I
will do all the duties of a wife: I will be obedient to your will,
not alone from duty but from love; but till you do acknowledge me as
your wife, you can plead no title to such submission."
"Ah, Caroline," replied Lord Sherbrooke, "you speak well and wisely,
but coldly too. You can easily resign the man that you once loved. It
costs you but little to give him over to his own course; to afford
him no solace, no consolation, no advice; to deprive him of that
communication, which, distant as it was, might have saved him from
many an error. It costs you nothing to pronounce such words as you
have spoken, and to sever our fate for ever."
"It is you that sever it," she replied, in a sad and reproachful
tone. "Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, you do me wrong--you know you do me
wrong--Oh, how great wrong! Do you think I have shed no tears? Do you
think my heart has not been wrung? Do you think my hours have not
passed in anguish, my days in sadness, and my nights in weeping? Oh,
Sherbrooke, since you left me, what has been my fate? To watch for
some weeks the death-bed of a father, from whose mind the light had
already departed; to sorrow over his tomb; to watch the long days for
the coming of my husband--of the husband whom all had doubted, all
had condemned, but my own weak heart, whose vows of amendment I had
believed, to whose entreaties I had yielded, even to that rashest of
all acts, a secret marriage; to find him delay his coming from day to
day, and to see the sun that rose upon me in solitary sadness go down
in grief; to lose the hope that cheered me; to look for his letters
as the next boon; to read them and to weep over them; to remain in
exile, not only from my native land, but also from him to whom I had
given every feeling of my heart, to whom I had yielded all that a
virtuous woman can yield; to remain in a strange court, to which I
had no longer any tie, in which I had no longer any protector; and
every time I heard his name mentioned, to hear it connected with some
tale of scandal, or stigmatized for some new act of vice; and worse,
worse than all, Sherbrooke, to be sought, idly sought, by men that I
despised, or hated, or was indifferent to, and forbade to say the
words which would have ended their pursuit at once, 'I am already a
wife.' Sherbrooke, you have given me months and months of misery
already. I weep not now, even with the thought of parting from you
for ever; but it is, I believe, that the fountain of my tears is
dried up and exhausted. Oh, Sherbrooke, when first I knew you, who
was so blithe and joyous as myself? and now, what have you made me?"
He was much moved, and was about to speak; but she held up her hand
beseechingly, and said, "Let me go on--let me go on. You said it
costs me little to act as I proposed to act. Think, Sherbrooke, think
what it does really cost me. Even were I all selfishness, how bitter
is the part that I have assigned myself to play! To pass my time in
solitude, without the pleasures of youth and gaiety; debarring myself
from all the advantages of an unmarried woman, yet without the name,
the blessings, the station, the dignity, of a wife; voluntarily
depriving myself of every sort of consolation, relinquishing even
hope. But if I am not altogether selfish, Sherbrooke--and you have no
cause to say I am so--if, as you know too well, there is deep, and
permanent, and pure and true affection for you at the bottom of my
heart, judge what the after-hours of life will be, judge what a long
dreary lapse lies before me, between the present instant and the
Sherbrooke was moved, and again and again he assured her that he
loved her more than any other being upon earth; and the conversation
continued for nearly half an hour longer. He begged her to stay with
him in England, still concealing their marriage; he pressed her in
every way to break her resolution; he urged her, if it were but for
one week, to remain with him, in order to see whether he could not
make arrangements to render their marriage public. But she remembered
her resolution, and held to it firmly, and even rejected that last
proposal, fearing consequences equally dangerous to herself and to
him. Opposition began to make him angry; he entered not into her
reasons; he saw not the strength of her motives; he spoke some harsh
and unkind words, which caused her to weep, and then again he was
grieved at having pained her, and kissed the tears away, and urged
and argued again. Still she remained firm, however, and again he
At the end of half an hour, both Caroline and her husband heard the
sound of feet approaching them on both sides; and though it seemed
that the people who were coming from the direction of Plessis's house
walked lightly and with caution, yet there were evidently many of
them, and Caroline became alarmed for her husband.
"The people are coming from the house, Sherbrooke," she cried--"they
must not, oh, they must not find you here!"
"Why not?" he demanded, sharply.
"Oh, because they are a dangerous and a desperate set," she
said--"bent, I am sure, from what I have heard, upon bloody and
terrible schemes. Me they will let pass, but I fear for you--the very
name of your father would be sufficient to destroy you, with them. We
must part, indeed we must part!"
"And can you, Caroline," he demanded, still lingering, but speaking
in a bitter and irritated tone, angry alike with himself, and her, and
with the interruption--"can you hold to your cold and cruel
"I can, I must, Sherbrooke," she replied,--"nothing shall shake me."
"Well, then, be it so!" he answered sharply; and turning away, walked
rapidly up the lane.
Caroline stood, for a single instant, on the spot where he left her;
but then all the feelings with which she had struggled during the
whole of that painful conversation with her husband, seemed to break
loose upon her at once, and over-power her. Her head grew giddy, a
weary faintness seemed to come over her heart, and she sank,
unconscious, on the ground.
The next moment six or seven men came quickly up.
"Here's a woman murdered!" cried one--"and the fellow that did it is
off up the lane."
A few hasty exclamations of surprise and pity followed, and then
another man exclaimed, in a hasty and impatient tone, "Take her up in
your arms, Jim, and bring her along. Perhaps we may find this
Messenger the boy talked of, and the murderer together; but let us
make haste, or we shall lose both."
"Mind," said another, speaking almost at the same time, "don't knock
the Messenger's brains out. We will just take and plant him in the
marsh, tie his arms, and put him up to the arm-pits. The boys will
find him there, when they come to drive back the cattle.--The lady
don't seem quite dead, I think."
"Bring her along! bring her along!" cried another voice--"we shall
miss all, if you are so slow;" and thus speaking, the leader of the
party quickened his pace, while the others, having raised the lady
from the ground, bore her onward towards the end of the lane.
We have said that Wilton Brown paused and gazed through the mist at
the figure of a man advancing towards him, and to the reader it need
not be told who the person was that thus came forward. To Wilton,
however, the conviction was brought more slowly; for though he had
heard the sound of a familiar voice, yet it seemed so improbable that
voice should be the voice of Lord Sherbrooke, that the idea never
struck him, till the figure became so distinct as not to leave a
"Good God, Sherbrooke!" he exclaimed, advancing towards him at
length--"can it be you?"
"And I may well ask, Wilton, if it be you," said Lord Sherbrooke, in
a tone so sharp and angry, so unlike his usual voice and manner of
speaking, that Wilton drew back astonished, imagining that he had
given his friend some unknown offence. But Lord Sherbrooke grasped his
arm, exclaiming, "Hark! There they are! They are close upon us,
Wilton! I have fallen in with a nest of Jacobites, I fancy, ready for
an outbreak, and they are after me. Have you any arms?"
"Here are plenty of pistols, my lord," said the Messenger, who knew
"Ah, Arden, is that you?" he exclaimed. "Give me a pistol!" and he
took one from the Messenger's hand. "Here are three of us now,
Wilton," he exclaimed, with a laugh, "and one of us a Messenger:
enough surely for any dozen Jacobites in England."
There was something wild, hasty, and strange in Lord Sherbrooke's
manner, which startled and alarmed Wilton a good deal.
"For Heaven's sake, Sherbrooke," he said, "do nothing rashly. Let us
see who they are before you act."
"Oh, I will do nothing rash," replied Sherbrooke. "But here they
come! just like Jacobites, gabbling at every step. Who goes there,
my masters?" he exclaimed, at the same moment. "Don't advance, don't
advance! We are armed! The first man that advances, I shoot upon the
"Those are the men! those are the men!" cried a loud voice from the
other party, who were now seen coming up in a mass. "Rush upon them!
Rush upon them, and tie the Messenger!"
"Oh, oh!" cried Arden. "They have found me out, have they! Stand by
me, my lord! Stand by me, Mr. Brown! They are rushing on!"
"Then here's for the midst of them!" cried Lord Sherbrooke; and
instantly levelling his pistol, he fired, though Wilton was in the
very act of holding forth his hand to stop him.
The moment the fatal flash had taken place, there was a reel back
amongst the advancing party, though they were at several yards'
distance when the pistol was fired. A confusion, a gathering together,
a murmur, succeeded; and while Lord Sherbrooke was in the very act of
exclaiming, "Give me another pistol, Arden!" there was heard, from
amongst the party who had been approaching, a loud voice, exclaiming,
"By, he has shot the lady!--and she was only fainting, after all. See
how the blood flows!"
The words were perfectly distinct. Lord Sherbrooke's hand, which had
just seized the other pistol that the Messenger had held out to him,
suddenly let it drop upon the ground. It was not possible to see the
expression of his face fully, for his head was turned away; but
Wilton felt him grasp his arm, as if for support, trembling in every
"Good God! What have you done, Sherbrooke?" exclaimed his friend.
"I have killed her! I have killed her!" cried Lord Sherbrooke,
gasping for breath--"I have killed the dear unfortunate girl!" and
letting go Wilton's arm, he rushed forward at once into the midst of
the other party, exclaiming, "Stand back! Let me forward! She is my
wife! Stand out of my way! How, in the name of Heaven, did she--"
He left off, without concluding; and nobody answered. But the tone of
bitter grief and agony in which Lord Sherbrooke spoke was not to be
mistaken: there was in it the overpowering energy of passionate
grief; and everybody made way for him. In a moment he bad snatched
the form of the unhappy lady from the man who held her in his arms,
and supporting her himself, partly on his knee, partly on his bosom,
he kissed her again and again vehemently, eagerly, we may almost say
frantically, exclaiming, "And I have killed thee, my Caroline! I
have killed thee, my beloved, my wife, my own dear wife! I have
killed thee, noble, and true, and kind! Oh, open your eyes, dear
one, open your eyes and gaze upon me for a minute! She is living, she
is living!" he added wildly--"she does open her eyes!--Quick, some
one call a surgeon!--A hundred guineas to the first who brings me a
surgeon!--God of Heaven! how has this happened?--Oh yes, she is
living, she is reviving!--Wilton, for pity's sake, for mercy's sake,
Wilton Brown had followed Lord Sherbrooke rapidly; for a sudden
apprehension had crossed his mind immediately the words were
pronounced, "He has shot the lady," lest by some accident Lady Laura
had fallen into the hands of the people who were approaching, and
that she it was who had been wounded or killed by the rash act of his
friend. The moment he came up, however, he perceived that the lady's
face was unknown to him, and he saw also that the men who stood
round, deprived of all power and activity by a horrible event, which
they only vaguely comprehended, were anything but the persons he had
expected to see. They seemed to be almost all common sailors; and
though they were in general evidently Englishmen, they were habited
more in the fashion of the Dutch seamen of that day. They were well
armed, it is true, but still they bore not the slightest appearance
of being connected with Sir John Fenwick and the party to which lie
was attached; and the horror and consternation which seemed to have
taken possession of them all, at the injury which had been inflicted
on the unhappy lady, showed that they were anything but feelingless
One rapid glance over the scene before his eyes had shown Wilton
this; and he now stood beside Lord Sherbrooke, gazing with painful
interest on a picture, the full horror of which he divined better
than the others who surrounded them.
Almost as Lord Sherbrooke spoke, however, and before Wilton could
reply, the lady made a slight movement of her hand, and raised her
head. Her eyes were open, and she turned to Lord Sherbrooke, gazing
on his face for a moment, as if to be certain who he was.
"Oh, Sherbrooke," she said at length, in a faint voice, "fly, fly!--I
was very foolish to faint.--I am better now. The men will be upon
you in a minute--Oh Heaven, they are all round us! Oh how weak it was
to faint and keep you here till they have taken you.--I am better
now," she said, in answer to a whispered inquiry of Lord Sherbrooke,
as he pressed her to his heart. "But I must have hurt my shoulder in
falling, for it pains me very much." And putting her hand towards it,
she drew it suddenly away, exclaiming, "Good Heaven, it is blood!"
"Yes, dearest--yes, beloved," replied Lord Sherbrooke--"it is
blood--blood shed by your husband's hand; but oh, inadvertently,
clear girl. I rashly fired amongst the men that were pursuing me, and
have killed the only woman that I ever loved!" And he struck his hand
vehemently against his forehead, with a gesture of despair that could
not be mistaken.
"Come, come, young gentleman," said a man who seemed the leader of
the bluff sailors around him, "don't take on so. Some one has gone
for a surgeon. There's a clever one at Halstow, I know, and mayhap
the young lady is not so much hurt. At all events, you did not do it
to hurt her, that's clear enough; and I rather fancy we've all been
in a mistake together. For if you were flying from people looking out
to take you, you were not the goods we were after--for we were
looking for people that were coming to take us.
"They came down and said that a gentleman had come down with a
Messenger to look after our little traffic, and have some of us up
for it. Now we intended to plant the Messenger in the bog till we had
got all things ready and the ship off, and it was him and his people
we were after. But come along--bring down the lady to Master
Plessis's. She will be taken good care of there, I warrant you. Here,
Jack Vanoorst!--you're a bit of a surgeon yourself, for you doctored
my head when the Frenchman broke my crown one day. See if you can't
stop the blood, at least till we get the lady to old Plessis's, and
the surgeon comes."
A broad-built elderly man advanced, and, with whatever materials
could be obtained upon the spot, made a sort of bandage and compress
by the dim light, and applied it dexterously enough, while Caroline
lay with her head upon her husband's bosom, and her hand clasped in
Sherbrooke looked down in her face while this was done with agony
depicted in his countenance; nor was that agony rendered the less by
seeing a faint look of happiness come over her face as she thus
rested, and by feeling her hand press gently upon his. It all seemed
to say, "I could willingly die thus."
When the bandage had been applied, Lord Sherbrooke, though he shook
in every limb with agitation and anxiety, took her in his arms and
raised her, saying to the men, "Now show me the way."
But that way was long. The young nobleman put forth his strength too
much at first in the effort to carry her quickly, and after bearing
her on for about a mile, he paused and faltered.
"Let one of our people carry her," said the captain of the vessel,
which was lying in the river at no great distance from Plessis's
house--"there is near a mile to go yet."
Lord Sherbrooke turned and looked round. Wilton was close by his
"Wilton," he said, "Wilton, you take her. With the exception of
herself, you are my best friend. Gently, oh gently! She is my wife,
Wilton, and I know you will not mind the burden."
"Pardon me, lady," said Wilton, as he took her gently out of Lord
Sherbrooke's arms, and she raised her head with a faint look of
inquiry; "it is your husband's sincere friend, and I will bear you as
carefully as if I were your brother."
She made no opposition; but no answer, only stretching forth her left
arm, which was the unwounded one, to Lord Sherbrooke: she let her
hand rest in his, as if she wished him to retain it; and Wilton
remarked, but not displeased, that she suffered not her head to rest
upon his bosom, as it had done upon that of his friend.
Considerably taller, and altogether of a more powerful frame than
Lord Sherbrooke, he bore her with greater ease; but still anxiety
made it seem an age till a glimmering light was seen through the
trees at no great distance.
Lord Sherbrooke was then in the act of proposing to carry her again;
but the good sailor who had spoken before interfered, saying, "No, no,
let him carry her. It will only hurt her to change so. There's the
house close by, and he's stronger than you are; and not knocked down
with fright, you see, either, as you are, naturally enough.--Run on,
boy, run on," he continued, somewhat sharply, to a lad who was with
them--"run on, and tell old Plessis to get down a mattress to carry
the lady up in."
The boy sped away to execute this kind and prudent order; and in a
few minutes more, the whole party stood upon the little stone
esplanade before the dwelling of Monsieur Plessis. That worthy
personage himself was down, and already in a state of great anxiety
and tribulation, being one of those who have an excessive dislike to
anything which may bring upon them too much notice of any kind.
The mattress, too, had been brought down, but when Wilton gazed
through the door, he turned quickly to his friend, saying, "I had
better carry her up at once, Sherhrooke. I can do it easily, and it
will save her the pain of changing her position more than once."
Without waiting for any one's consent, he accordingly began to mount
the staircase, and had just reached the balustrade of the little sort
of square vestibule at top, when the door of an opposite room opened,
and the Lady Helen stood before him.
To Wilton, who knew nothing of all the secrets of Plessis's house,
which the reader is already informed of, the sight was like that of
an apparition; and to the Lady Helen herself, the sight of Wilton
bearing Caroline in his arms, while the light of the lamp that
Plessis carried before them shone upon the pale but still beautiful
countenance of the poor girl, and showed her dress and that of Wilton
both thickly stained and spotted with blood, was not less astounding.
"Oh, Wilton, Wilton," she cried--"what is this?--Caroline, my sweet
Caroline, for Heaven's sake speak!--for Heaven's sake look at me!"
The next moment, however, her eyes fell upon Lord Sherbrooke; his
countenance also as pale as death, his coat, and collar, and face
"Oh young man, young man," she cried, "is it you that have done
"Yes, Lady Helen," he answered, rather bitterly--"yes, after nearly
killing her in another way, it is I who have shed her blood. But the
first was the criminal act, not the last. The shot was
unintentional: the wounds given by my words were the guilty ones."
"No, no, Sherbrooke!" said Caroline, raising her head faintly, and
again stretching out her hand towards him--"No, no, dear Henry. You
love me; that is enough!"
She could speak no more; and Plessis, whose senses were in a state of
greater precision than those of any other person, exclaimed, eagerly,
"Don't stand here talking about it, but carry the lady to her
bedchamber.--This way, young gentleman; this way, this way!"
And passing by, he led onward to the room in which the unfortunate
lady had received her husband's note that very morning. Wilton laid
her gently on the bed; and closing her eyes for a moment, she gave a
slight shudder, either with chilliness or pain. But a movement in
the apartment caused her to look round again, and she said, eagerly,
"Do not leave me, Sherbrooke! Do not leave me, my husband. You must
stay with me NOW."
"Leave you, my Caroline!" he said, "oh no! I will never leave you
more! I must atone for what I have done. Only promise me, promise
me, Caroline, to live, to forgive, and to bless me."
"I do forgive you, I do bless you, Sherbrooke," she answered.
Before he could reply, a gentleman habited in a riding dress, and a
large red roquelaure, entered the room hastily, threw off his hat and
cloak, and advanced at once with a somewhat rough air to the bedside.
"What is this?" he said, quickly, but not in an ungentle tone. "Where
is the lady hurt?--Bring me linen and water.--You may give her a
little wine too.--She is faint from loss of blood;" and advancing to
the bedside, he took Caroline's hand kindly in his own, saying, "Do
not be alarmed, my dear. These things happen every day in battle;
and women get well better than soldiers, for they are more patient
and resigned. I see where the wound is. Do not be afraid;" and he
put his hand upon her shoulder, running it round on both sides. The
moment he had done so, he looked about him with a bright and beaming
smile upon his lip, and the colour coming somewhat up into his cheek.
"She will do well," he said--"let no one alarm themselves: the ball
has passed upon the right of the artery, and I feel it just above the
scapula. She will do well!"
An audible "Thank God!" burst from every lip around; and Caroline
herself, at the sudden change, from the apprehension of death to the
hope of life, burst into silent tears.
"What are all these men doing here?" demanded the good surgeon,
turning bluffly round. "Leave none but the women with me, and not
too many of them."
The sailors began to move away at this command, and Wilton followed;
but Lord Sherbrooke kept his place, saying, "I must remain!"
"And why should you remain, sir?" demanded the surgeon. "Who are
"I am her husband, sir," replied Lord Sherbrooke, firmly and
"Oh, sir, that makes a very great difference," replied the surgeon.
"I make you a very low bow, and have nothing to say; only I hope you
will behave quietly and rationally, and talk as little as possible."
"I will do everything, sir," replied Lord Sherbrooke, with a somewhat
stately look--"I will do everything that may tend to promote the
recovery of one I love so well."
At this moment, Wilton was in the doorway: but the Lady Helen laid
her hand upon his arm, saying, "Wait for me in the neighbouring room,
Wilton. I must speak with you before you go."
Wilton promised to remain, and quitted the chamber. He found at the
top of the stairs the greater part of the sailors whom he had seen
before, and with them Plessis himself and another man.
The sailors were talking with Plessis vehemently; and Wilton soon
found that the worthy Frenchman was using all his powers of
vituperation in various tongues--French and English, with a word or
two of Dutch every now and then, and some quaint specimens of
Portuguese--to express his indignation at the sailors for the unlucky
business in which they had engaged.
The master of the vessel was defending himself stoutly, saying, "Why,
didn't I meet the boy from the Blackamoor's Head at the very door of
the place here? and didn't he tell me that there was a man coming
down with a Messenger of State to seize the ship and the cargo, and
you, and I, and every one else?"
"Poo! nonsense, nonsense!" cried Plessis: "all stuff and
exaggeration. No Messenger, I dare say, at all. So be off, all of
you, as fast as you can go; and get out of the way, for fear of any
inquiries being made."
"Why here's the young gentleman himself!" cried the master: "he don't
look like a Messenger, sure enough. But there was another man that
ran away, he may have been the Messenger."
The man looked to Wilton as he spoke, who instantly replied, "You are
right, sir. He was a Messenger; but neither he nor I came hither
about anything referring to you. Indeed, neither of us even knew of
your existence before we saw you."
At that moment, the stranger who was standing beside Plessis, and who
was very different from the sailors in appearance, stepped forward to
Wilton, and said in a low tone, "May I, sir, ask your name?"
The countersign that Green had given him immediately returned to
Wilton's memory, and he replied, "My name is Brown, sir, but it might
as well have been Green."
"Oh no, sir," replied the stranger, in the same tone, "every man
should keep his right name, and be in his right place, which is the
case with yourself in both respects at present;" and turning to
Plessis, he said, "This is a friend of the Colonel's, Plessis. He
sent me down to meet him and bring him here, because he could not
"Oh, oh!" said Plessis, looking wise, "that's all right, then. I saw
that he spoke to the Lady Helen. Take him into the saloon, Captain,
and I'll come to you in a minute, as soon as I've got the house
clear, and everything quiet again. I expect some gentlemen to meet
here to-night, to take their bowl of punch, you know."
"This way, sir," said the person whom the Frenchman had called
Captain, turning to Wilton, and leading him on into the large room,
which was now quite vacant. The moment that he was there, and the
door closed, the stranger came close up to him, saying, "Where is the
Messenger? Had you not a Messenger with you? I waited on the road
for you three-quarters of an hour."
"I rather think," replied Wilton, "that I was misdirected by the
landlord of the inn, and a series of unhappy mistakes has been the
"Which are not over yet," exclaimed the other; "for here are we, only
two men, with very likely a dozen or two against us, with no power or
authority to take the lady from out of their hands, and with nothing
but our swords and pistols."
"Oh no!" answered Wilton--"you mistake. I have sufficient authority
both from her father and from the Secretary of State."
"Ay, but not like the face of a Messenger!" replied the other--"that
is the best authority in the world with people like these. By
Heaven, the only way that we can act is to make a bold push for it at
once, to get hold of the young lady, and carry her off before these
men arrive. Plessis is sending away all the sailors: he'll not try
much to oppose us himself. There is one man, I see, at the end of
the other corridor, but we can surely manage him; and very likely we
may get the start of the others by an hour or so."
"Let us lose not a moment," answered Wilton. "I will send for the
Lady Helen, who may give us more information."
"Let me go and get it from Plessis himself," replied the man "I will
be back in a minute. I know how to deal with the rogue of a
Frenchman better than you do. If he comes back with me, take a high
tone with him; determination is everything."
Thus saying, he quitted the room, and for about five minutes Wilton
remained alone meditating over what had passed, if that could be
called meditating, which was nothing but a confused series of
indistinct images, all out of their proper form and order.
THE first person that entered the room was the Lady Helen, who came
forward towards her young friend with her eyes sparkling and a smile
upon her lips.
"Oh, my dear boy," she cried, "this has been a terrible night, but
she is better: there is every hope of her doing well. The ball has
been extracted in a moment, the bleeding has ceased, and the comfort
of her husband's love will be more to her--far more to her, than the
best balm physician or surgeon could give. But now tell me, Wilton,
what brings you here? Did you come with this gay gallant, or have
you--though I trust and believe that you have not--have you taken any
part in the wild schemes of these rash, intemperate, and vicious
"I am taking part in no schemes, dear lady," replied Wilton. "I only
come here to frustrate evil purposes. I came furnished with
authority, and accompanied by a Messenger of State, to deliver Lady
Laura Gaveston, who, I understand, is at this very moment in this
"That is most strange," said the Lady Helen--"I wrote to--to him
who--who--whom you saw me with; in short, to tell him that they had
brought the poor girl here, never thinking that you, my boy--"
"It was the person you speak of," interrupted Wilton, "who told me of
her being here. One of his people is in the house with me at this
present moment; but the Messenger has fled in the late affray. I
understand that a number of the men who brought her hither are to be
here to-night: we shall be then but two against many, if we delay;
and it is absolutely necessary that we should find out where the lady
is, and carry her off at once."
"Oh! I will find her in a moment," replied the Lady Helen. "But I
know not whether they will suffer her to pass out of her chamber."
At that moment, however, Plessis, and the personage whom he called
Captain, entered the room in eager conversation.
"It will be ruin and destruction to me," cried Plessis--"I cannot
permit it! I cannot hear of it! nor can you manage it. There are
three men here, one in the house, and one at each gate. You are only
"But we are two men together, and two strong men, too," replied the
Captain, "and they are all separate. So I tell you we will do it."
"Oh, if you choose to use force, you may," replied Plessis; "but the
consequence be upon your own head."
"Come, come, Plessis," replied the other--"you know you don't like a
noise and a piece of work more than any one else. Do the matter
cunningly, man, as you are accustomed to do. Get the fellow in the
hall, there, down quietly out of the passage into the brandy
cellar--I will follow him and lock him in. When that's done, all the
rest is easy."
Plessis smiled at a trick exactly suited to his taste; but he
hesitated, nevertheless, at putting it in execution, lest the fact of
his having taken any part therein should come to the knowledge of
men, from whom, at different times, he derived considerable
advantage. Present evils, however, are always more formidable than
distant ones, and Wilton bethought him of trying what a little
intimidation would do with the good Frenchman.
"Listen to me, sir," he said, in a stern tone. "Instantly do what
you are told, or take the consequences. Here is my authority from
the Secretary of State, to demand the person of this young lady from
the hands of any one with whom I may find her. A Messenger came down
with me to High Halstow, with a warrant for the arrest of any person
who may be found detaining her. It is, however, my wish to do all
things quietly, if you will allow me. The Duke, her father, does not
desire the business to be conducted with harshness--"
"A duke!" exclaimed Plessis, opening his eyes with astonishment. "A
duke and peer! Why, they only told me that she was the daughter of
some turncoat, who would betray them, they feared, if they had not
his daughter in pawn."
"They deceived you!" replied Wilton--"she is the daughter of the Duke
of Gaveston. But I have no time to discuss such points with you.
Instantly do what you are told. Get the man out of the way quietly;
give the lady up into my hands, as you are hereby formally required
to do, or I immediately quit the house, raise the hue and cry, and in
less than an hour this place shall be surrounded by a hundred men."
Plessis hesitated no longer. "Force majeure!" he cried. "Force
majeure! No one can resist that. What am I to do? I will act
exactly according to your bidding. You are witness, madam, that I
yield to compulsion."
"Yes, Monsieur Plessis," replied the Lady Helen, "lawful compulsion."
"Well, Plessis, do as I bid you, at once," replied the Captain. "Get
the man down into the brandy cellar, quickly!--I saw the door open as
I passed--and either lock him in or let me do it."
"You are a tall man, and I am a small man," replied Plessis--"I have
not the gift of turning keys, Captain. I'll send him down, however;"
and taking a Venice glass from the mantelpiece, he went to the little
vestibule at the top of the stairs, and called to the man who was
sitting in the corridor beyond.
"Here, Harrison," he said--"I wish you'd go down and get the gentleman
a glass of brandy out of the cellar. The door's open. Make haste, and
don't drink any--there's a good fellow."
The tone in which Master Plassis spoke showed that he was no bad
actor when well prompted. The man, who was completely deceived, came
forward without the slightest hesitation, took the glass out of his
hand, and went down stairs.
The moment he had passed, Plessis put in his head, and beckoned with
his finger to the Captain, who ran down after the other in a moment,
leaving the door open, and Plessis listening beyond, with some slight
apprehension. That apprehension was increased, by hearing a word or
two spoken sharply, a struggle, and the sound of glass falling and
being broken. Wilton sprang out of the room to aid his companion; but
at that moment there was the sound of a door banged sharply to, a key
turned, and he met the Captain coming up the stairs laughing aloud.
"By Heaven, the fellow had nearly bolted," he said. "But there he is
now, safe enough, and I dare say will find means to console himself
with Master Plessis's brandy casks. He might have made himself quite
comfortable if he hadn't dropped the glass, like a fool.--Now,
Plessis," he continued, entering the room, "go for the lady as quick
as lightning. Let us lose no time, but make sure of the business
while we can; and I dare say, if you get yourself into any little
scrape soon--as indubitably you will, for you never can expect to die
unhanged--this gentleman will speak a good word for you to those who
can get your neck out of the noose before it is drawn too tight.
Come, make haste, man! or we may all get into trouble."
"I will go," said the Lady Helen, "I had better go. It will alarm her
less, and she has been terrified and agitated too much already, poor
Thus saying, she left them; but the lady returned alone in a moment
after, saying, with some consternation, that the man had got the key
of the door with him.
"Oh, that is nothing!" exclaimed Plessis, laughing; "I am never
without my passe-partout;" and producing a key attached to a large
ring, from his pocket, he gave it into the hands of the Lady Helen,
who returned to her kind task once more.
Scarcely had she left the room when there came the sound of a man's
step from the passage, and Plessis darted out. The footfall which he
heard was that of Lord Sherbrooke, who was seeking Wilton; and as
soon as the young nobleman saw him, he advanced towards him with both
his hands extended, saying,--
"Oh, Wilton, dear friend, this has been a terrible night. But it is
in the fiery furnace of such nights as this that hard hearts are
melted and cast in a new mould. I feel that it is so with mine. But
to the business that makes me seek you," he continued, in a low tone,
seeing that there was another person in the room, and drawing Wilton
on one side. "Listen to me! Quit this house as fast as possible. I
find you are in a nest of furious Jacobites, and there may be great
danger to you if found here. I remain with my poor Caroline; and far
away from all the rest, have nothing to fear, although the warning
that she gave was intended for me. You speed away to London as fast
as possible. But remember, Wilton! remember: mention no word of this
night's event to my father. He does not expect me in town for
several days, and I must choose my own time and manner to give him
the history of all this affair. He holds me by a chain you know not
of--the chain of my heavy debts. I am at liberty but upon his
sufferance, and one cold look from him to Jew or usurer would plunge
me in a debtor's prison in an hour. The man who has debts he cannot
pay, Wilton, is worse than any ordinary slave, for he is a slave to
many masters. But I must away," he continued, in his rapid manner,
"for I have left her with no one but the servant girl, and I must
watch her till all danger be past."
"I trust she is better," said Wilton; "I trust there is no danger."
"They tell me not, they tell me not, Wilton," replied Lord
Sherbrooke; "but now that I have been upon the very eve of losing a
jewel, of which I was but too careless before, I feel all its value,
and would fain hide it trembling in my heart, lest fate should snatch
it from me. Say nothing of these things--remember, say nothing of
"But Arden, but Arden," said Wilton, as Lord Sherbrooke was turning
away--"but the Messenger, Sherbrooke. May he not tell something?"
"The cowardly villain ran away so soon," replied Lord Sherbrooke, "he
could hear nothing, and understand less. He is a cautious scoundrel,
too, and will hold his tongue. Yet you may give him a warning, if you
see him, Wilton."
"Here is the lady, sir," said Plessis, entering, and addressing
Wilton. "I will go down stairs and see that all is safe below."
"He will not let the man out of the cellar?" demanded Wilton, as
"I have taken care of that," replied the Captain, holding up a key;
"but let us not lose time."
While these few words were passing, Lady Helen and Laura entered, the
latter, pale, agitated, and trembling, less with actual apprehension
than from all she had lately undergone. At that moment, she knew not
with whom she was going, or what was the manner of escape proposed.
All that the Lady Helen had told her was, that somebody had come to
set her free, and that she must instantly prepare to depart. She had
paused but for an instant, while the lady who brought her these glad
tidings wrapped round her some of the garments which had been
procured for her journey to France, by those who had carried her off;
and all the agitation consequent upon a sudden revival of hopes that
had been well nigh extinguished was still busy in her bosom, when, as
we have said, she entered the room.
The first object, however, which her eye fell upon was the fine
commanding form of Wilton Brown. It were scarcely fair to ask
whether, in the long and weary hours of captivity, she had thought
much of him. But one thing at least may be told, that with him, and
with a hurried and timid examination of the feelings of her own bosom
regarding him, her thoughts had been busied at the very moment when
she had been dragged away from her own home. The sight of him,
however, now, was both joyful and overpowering to her; the very idea
of deliverance had been sufficient to agitate her, so that she shook
in every limb as she entered the room; but when she saw in her
deliverer the man whom, of all others, she would have chosen to
protect her, manifold emotions, of a still more agitating kind, were
added to all the rest. But joy--joy and increased hope--overcame all
other feelings, and stretching out her hands towards him, she ran
forward as he advanced to meet her, and clung with a look of deep
confidence and gladness to his arm.
"Do not be frightened, do not be agitated," he said--"all will go
quite well. Are you prepared to quit this place immediately?"
"Oh yes, yes, instantly!" she cried; but then her eyes turned upon
Lord Sherbrooke, and the sight of him in company with Wilton seemed
to cloud her happiness; for though she still looked up to Wilton's
countenance with the same affectionate and confiding glance, yet
there was evidently a degree of apprehension in her countenance,
when, for a moment, she turned her eyes to Lord Sherbrooke. She bowed
her head gracefully to him, however, and uttered some broken thanks to
him and to Wilton, for coming to her deliverance.
"Pardon me, dear Lady Laura," replied Lord Sherbrooke. "I must accept
no part of your thanks, for my being here is entirely accidental, and
I cannot even offer to escort you on your departure. It is Wilton who
has sought you bravely and perseveringly, and I doubt not you will go
with him with perfect confidence."
"Anywhere, anywhere," said Lady Laura, with a tone and a look which
at another moment might have called up a smile upon Lord Sherbrooke's
countenance; but his own heart was also so full of deep feelings at
that time, that he could not look upon them lightly enough even for a
smile, when he detected them in another.
"I will go down and make sure that there is no trickery below," said
the man called the Captain; "and when I call--Now! come down with the
lady, Mr. Brown."
Lord Sherbrooke at the same moment took leave of them, and left the
room; and Lady Laura, without quitting her position by Wilton's side,
which she seemed to consider a place of sure refuge and support, held
out her hand to the Lady Helen, saying, "Oh, how can I thank you,
lady, for all your kindness? Had it not been for you, I should never
have obtained this deliverance."
"I need no thanks, my sweet friend," replied the lady "the only
things that give sunshine to the memories of a sad life are some few
acts of kindness and sympathy which I have been able to perform
towards others. But if you want to thank me," she added, looking
with a smile upon Wilton, "thank him, Lady Laura, for he is the being
dearest to me upon earth."
Lady Laura looked somewhat surprised; but Wilton held up his finger,
thinking he heard their companion's call. It was not so, however, but
only a quick step upon the stairs; and the next moment the Captain
entered, with some marks of agitation on his countenance.
"By ---!" he said, "there seems to me to be a whole troop of horse
before the house--such a clatter of iron-shod feet. I fear we have
the enemy upon us, and Plessis has run to hide himself; frightened
out of his wits. What can we do?"
"Come all into the lady's chamber, or into mine," said Lady
Helen--"perhaps they may not think of searching for her. At all
events, it gives us a chance, if we can but get across the vestibule
before they come up. Quick, Wilton! come, quick!" and she was
leading the way.
Before she got to the door, however, which the Captain had closed
behind him, the tramp of heavy boots was heard upon the stairs, and a
voice calling, "Plessis! Plessis! Where the devil are you? The
whole house seems to be deserted! Why, what in Satan's name is
here? Here's blood all the way down the stairs! By Heaven, it
wouldn't surprise me if the Orangemen had got into the house. We
must take care that there isn't a trap. Give me that lamp,
Cranburne. You had better have your pistols ready, gentlemen. How
can we manage now?--Two of you stay and guard each corridor, while we
go in here."
There seemed now to take place a low-toned conversation amongst them,
and the Lady Helen, with a pale countenance, drew back towards Wilton
and Laura. The Captain, on his part, unbuttoned his coat, and drew
out a pistol from the belt that he wore underneath: but Wilton said,
"Put it up, my good friend, put it up. Do not let us set any example
of violence. Where there are nine or ten against two, it is somewhat
dangerous to begin the affray. We can always have recourse to
resistance at last."
"Oh, not for my sake! not for my sake!" said Lady Laura, in a low
voice. "For Heaven's sake, risk not your life for me!"
"Let us keep this deep window behind us," said Wilton, speaking to
his companion, "for that will give us some advantage, at all events.
Draw a little behind us, dear Lady Laura. We will manage all things
as gently as we can."
"Let me speak to them, Wilton," said the Lady Helen--"from one
circumstance or another, I must know them almost all."
As she spoke, the large heavy latch was lifted, and the door slowly
and cautiously opened.
A PAUSE of expectation, even if it be but for a minute, is sometimes
the most painful thing in the world; and the heart of poor Laura at
that moment, while the door was being slowly opened, and all their
eyes were fixed eagerly upon it, felt as if the blood were stayed in
it till it was nearly bursting. Wilton, who saw all that took place
more calmly, judged by the careful opening of the door, that there
was a good deal of timidity in the persons whom it hid from their
view. But when it was at length opened, the sight that it presented
was not well calculated to soothe any one's alarm.
In the doorway itself were three well-armed men, with each his sword
drawn in his hand, while behind these again were seen the faces of
several more. The countenance of the first, Sir George Barkley, which
we have already described, was certainly not very prepossessing, and
to the eyes of Laura, there was not one who had not the countenance
of an assassin. It was evident that Sir George Barkley expected to
see a much more formidable array than that presented to him and his
companions, in the persons of two ladies and two armed gentlemen, for
his eyes turned quickly from the right to the left round the room, to
assure himself that it contained no one else. There was a momentary
pause at the door; but when it was clear that very little was to be
apprehended, the troop poured in with much more hasty and confident
steps than those with which they had first approached.
Two or three of Sir George Barkley's party were advancing quickly to
the spot where Wilton and the lady stood; but the young gentleman
held up his right hand suddenly, putting his left upon one of the
pistols which he carried, and saying, "Stand back, gentlemen! I do
not permit men with swords drawn to come too close to me, till I know
their purpose--Stand back, I say!" and he drew the pistol from his
"We mean you no harm, sir," said Sir George Barkley, pausing with the
rest. "But we must know who you are, and what you are doing here, and
"Who I am, can be of no more consequence to you, sir," replied
Wilton, "than who you are is to me--which, by your good leave, I
would a great deal rather not know, if you will suffer me to be
ignorant thereof;--and as to what I am doing here, I do not see that
I am bound to explain that to anybody but the master of the house, or
to some person authorized by law to inquire into such particulars."
"Mighty fine, sir," said the voice of Sir John Fenwick, as he
advanced from behind--"Mighty fine! But this is a mere waste of time.
In the first place, what are you doing with that lady, who, as her
father's friend, I intend immediately to take under my protection."
"Her father, sir," replied Wilton, with a contemptuous smile, "judges
that the lady has been somewhat too long under your careful but
somewhat forcible protection already. I beg leave to give you notice,
Sir John Fenwick, that I am fully authorized by the Duke of Gaveston,
Lady Laura's father, by a writing under his own hand, to seek for and
deliver her from those who have taken her away. I know you have been
too wise and prudent to suffer yourself to be seen in this business
hitherto, and if you will take my advice, you will not meddle with it
now.--Stand back, sir; for as I live, I will shoot you through the
head if you take one single step forward; and you know I will keep my
"But there is more to be inquired into, sir," exclaimed Sir George
Barkley--"there is blood--blood upon the stairs, blood--"
"Hear me, Sir George," said Lady Helen, advancing. "You know me well,
and must believe what I say."
"I have the pleasure of recollecting your ladyship very well,"
replied Sir George; "but I thought that you and Miss Villars had
sailed back for France by this time."
"Alas! Sir George," replied the lady--"poor Caroline, I fear, will
not be able to be moved. She has met with a severe accident to-night,
and it is her blood, poor child, that you saw upon the stairs. This
gentleman has had nothing farther to do with the matter, except
inasmuch as he was accidentally present, and kindly carried her
upstairs to the room where she now lies."
"That alters the case," said Sir George Barkley: "but who is he? We
have heard reports by the way which give us alarm. Will he pledge his
honour, as a gentleman, never to mention anything he has seen this
night--or, at least, not for six months?"
"On that condition," demanded Wilton, "will you give me perfect
freedom of egress with this lady and the gentleman who is with me?"
"Not with the lady!" exclaimed Sir George Barkley, sharply; and at
the same moment Sir John Fenwick, Rookwood, and Parkyns all
surrounded the Jacobite leader, speaking eagerly, but in a low tone,
and evidently remonstrating against his permitting the departure of
any of the party. He seemed puzzled how to act.
"Come out here again," he said--"come out here, where we can speak
more at ease. They cannot get out of this room, if we keep the
"Not without breaking their neck from the window," replied Rookwood.
"What is that small door there at the side?" said Sir George
Barkley. "Let some one see!"
"'Tis nothing but a cupboard," said Sir John Fenwick--"I examined it
the other night, for fear of eavesdroppers. There is no way out."
"I shall consider your proposal, sir," said Sir George Barkley,
turning to Wilton: "stay here quietly. We wish to offer no violence
to any man; we are very harmless people in our way."
A grim smile hung upon his thin lip as he spoke; and looking from
time to time behind him, as if he feared the use which Wilton might
make of the pistol in his hand, he left the room with his
companions. The moment after, the lock of the door was heard to
turn, and a heavy bar that hung beside it clattered as it was drawn
"A few minutes gained is a great thing," cried Wilton. "I have heard
of people defending themselves long, by forming a sort of temporary
barricade. A single cavalier in the time of Cromwell kept at bay a
large force for several hours. In this deep window we are defended
on all sides but one. Let us do what we can to guard ourselves on
The furniture was scanty; but still the large table in the middle of
the room, and a sideboard which stood in one corner, together with
chairs and various smaller articles, were speedily formed into a
little fortress, as it were, which enclosed the opening of the window
in such a manner as to leave a space open towards the enemy of not
more than two feet in width. Wilton exerted himself to move all
these without noise, and the Captain aided him zealously; while Laura
clung to Lady Helen, and hid her eyes upon her new friend's bosom,
anticipating every moment the return of the other party, and the
commencement of a scene of strife and bloodshed.
It is to the proceedings of those without the room, however, that we
must more particularly direct our attention.
"In the name of Heaven, Sir George," exclaimed both Rookwood and
Fenwick, as soon as they were on the outside of the door--"do not let
them go, on any account. Our whole plan is blasted, and ourselves
ruined for ever, if such a thing is to take place!"
"Why," continued Fenwick, "this youth, this Wilton Brown, is
secretary to the Earl of Byerdale, a natural son of Lord Sunbury, it
is supposed, brought up from his infancy in the most violent Orange
principles; and he will think himself justified in breaking his word
with us the moment he is out of the house, and bringing upon us the
troops from Hoo. He knows me well by sight, too; and if he be let
loose, I shall not consider my life worth a moment's purchase."
"Even if you could trust him," said Rookwood, "there is the other,
Captain Byerly as they call him, Green's great friend, who threw the
money, which Lowick offered him to quit Green, in his face. If the
tidings we just now heard, that the matter has taken some wind, be
true, this fellow Byerly will bring down the soldiers upon us, and
swear to us anywhere."
"But what am I to do?" demanded Sir George Barkley, hesitating. "We
shall have bloodshed and much noise, depend upon it."
"Leave them all, locked in, where they are," said Sir William
Parkyns--"they can do no harm there. Let us ourselves, like brave
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