“I see!” cried Parravicin. “A capital project!”
“Pillichody has contrived to ingratiate himself with Blaize,” pursued the earl, “and through him the matter can be easily managed. The keys of the stables, which are now intrusted to Chiffinch, shall be stolen—the horses set free—and the two damsels caught in the trap prepared for them, while the only person blamed in the matter will be Leonard.”
“Bravo!” exclaimed Parravicin. “I am impatient for the scheme to be put into execution.”
“I will set about it at once,” returned Rochester.
And separating from Parravicin, he formed some excuse for quitting the royal presence.
About an hour afterwards, Pillichody sought out Blaize, and told him, with a very mysterious air, that he had something to confide to him.
“You know my regard for the Earl of Rochester and Sir Paul Parravicin,” he said, “and that I would do anything an honourable man ought to do to assist them. But there are certain bounds which even friendship cannot induce me to pass. They meditate the worst designs against Amabel and Nizza Macascree, and intend to accomplish their base purpose before daybreak. I therefore give you notice, that you may acquaint Leonard Holt with the dangerous situation of the poor girls, and contrive their escape in the early part of the night. I will steal the keys of the stable for you from Chiffinch, and will render you every assistance in my power. But if you are discovered, you must not betray me.”
“Not for the world!” replied Blaize. “I am sure we are infinitely obliged to you. It is a horrible design, and must be prevented. I wish all this flying and escaping was over. I desire to be quiet, and am quite sorry to leave this charming place.”
“There is no alternative now,” rejoined Pillichody.
“So it appears,” groaned Blaize.
The substance of Pillichody’s communication was immediately conveyed to Leonard, who told Blaize to acquaint his informer that he should have two pieces of gold, if he brought them the keys. To obtain them was not very difficult, and the bully was aided in accomplishing the task by the Earl of Rochester in the following manner. Chiffinch was an inordinate drinker, and satisfied he could turn this failing to account, the earl went into the ball where he was stationed, and after a little conversation, called for a flask of wine. It was brought, and while they were quaffing bumpers, Pillichody, who had entered unperceived, contrived to open a table-drawer in which the keys were placed, and slip them noiselessly into his doublet. He then stole away, and delivered his prize to Blaize, receiving in return the promised reward, and chuckling to himself at the success of his roguery. The keys were conveyed by the porter to Leonard, and the latter handed them in his turn to John Lutcombe, who engaged to have the horses at the lower end of the south avenue an hour before midnight.