“Well, well, all in good time,” replied Judith. “As soon as you are better, you shall go back to your father, and then you can do as you please.”
“No, no, I cannot go back to him,” returned Amabel. “I am the Earl of Rochester’s wife—his wedded wife. Am I not Countess of Rochester?”
“To be sure you are,” replied Judith—“to be sure.”
“I sometimes think otherwise,” rejoined Amabel, mournfully.
“And so my dear lord is gone to Oxford?”
“He is,” returned Judith, “but he will be back soon. And now,” she added, with some impatience, “you have talked quite long enough. You must take your composing draught, and go to sleep.”
With this she arose, and stepping to the table which stood by the side of the bed, filled a wine-glass with the contents of a silver flagon, and gave it to her. Amabel drank the mixture, and complaining of its nauseous taste, Judith handed her a plate of fruit from the table to remove it. Soon after this she dropped asleep, when the nurse arose, and taking a light from the table, cautiously possessed herself of a bunch of keys which were placed in a small pocket over Amabel’s head, and proceeded to unlock a large chest that stood near the foot of the bed. She found it filled with valuables—with chains of gold, necklaces of precious stones, loops of pearl, diamond crosses, and other ornaments. Besides these, there were shawls and stuffs of the richest description. While contemplating these treasures, and considering how she should carry them off without alarming the household, she was startled by a profound sigh; and looking towards the bed, perceived to her great alarm, that Amabel had opened her eyes, and was watching her.
“What are you doing there, nurse?” she cried.
“Only looking at these pretty things, your ladyship,” replied Judith, in an embarrassed tone.
“I hope you are not going to steal them?” said Amabel.
“Steal them?” echoed Judith, alarmed. “Oh, no! What should make your ladyship think so?”
“I don’t know,” said Amabel; “but put them by, and bring the keys to me.”
Judith feigned compliance, but long before she had restored the things to the chest, Amabel had again fallen asleep. Apprised by her tranquil breathing of this circumstance, Judith arose; and shading the candle with her hand, crept noiselessly towards the bed. Dark thoughts crossed her as she gazed at the unfortunate sleeper; and moving with the utmost caution, she set the light on the table behind the curtains, and had just grasped the pillow, with the intention of plucking it from under Amabel’s head, and of smothering her with it, when she felt herself restrained by a powerful grasp, and turning in utmost alarm, beheld the Earl of Rochester.
“Wretch!” cried the earl. “An instinctive dread that you would do your poor charge some injury brought me back, and I thank Heaven I have arrived in time to prevent your atrocious purpose.”