About half-past ten, and when it was supposed that the king and his courtiers had retired to rest (for early hours were kept in those days), Mrs. Buscot and Leonard repaired to Amabel’s chamber. The good housekeeper noticed with great uneasiness that her niece looked excessively pale and agitated, and she would have persuaded her to abandon all idea of flight, if she had not feared that her stay might be attended with still worse consequences.
Before the party set out, Mrs. Buscot crept down stairs to see that all was safe, and returned almost instantly, with the very satisfactory intelligence that Chiffinch was snoring in a chair in the hall, and that the usher had probably retired to rest, as he was nowhere to be seen. Not a moment, therefore, was to be lost, and they descended the great staircase as noiselessly as possible. So far all had gone well; but on gaining the hall, Amabel’s strength completely deserted her, and if Leonard had not caught her in his arms, she must have fallen. He was hurrying forward with his burden towards a passage on the right, when Chiffinch, who had been disturbed by the noise, suddenly started to his feet, and commanded him to stop. At this moment, a figure enveloped in a cloak darted from behind a door, and extinguishing the lamp which Chiffinch had taken from the table, seized him with a powerful grasp. All was now buried in darkness, and while Leonard Holt was hesitating what to do, he heard a voice, which he knew to be that of Pillichody, whisper in his ear, “Come with me—I will secure your retreat. Quick! quick!”
Suffering himself to be drawn along, and closely followed by Nizza Macascree and Mrs. Buscot, Leonard crossed the dining-chamber, not without stumbling against some of the furniture by the way, and through an open window into the court, where he found Blaize awaiting him. Without waiting for thanks, Pillichody then disappeared, and Mrs. Buscot, having pointed out the course he ought to pursue, bade him farewell.
Hurrying across the court, he reached the south avenue, but had not proceeded far when it became evident, from the lights at the windows, as well as from the shouts and other noises proceeding from the court, that their flight was discovered. Encumbered as he was by his lovely burden, Leonard ran on so swiftly, that Nizza Macascree and Blaize could scarcely keep up with him. They found John Lutcombe at the end of the avenue with the horses, and mounting them, set off along the downs, accompanied by the keeper, who acted as their guide. Striking off on the right, they came to a spot covered over with immense grey stones, resembling those rocky fragments used by the Druids in the construction of a cromlech, and, as it was quite dark, it required some caution in passing through them. Guided by the keeper, who here took hold of the bridle of his horse, Leonard