Leonard, was about to answer, when he felt a light and trembling hand placed upon his own. “Do not answer inconsiderately, Leonard,” said a low, sweet voice, which he recognised as that of the Lady Isabella; “I am here to receive your determination.”
“I am glad of it,” replied the apprentice. “The deep devotion you have displayed towards me deserves to be requited. I will strive to render myself worthy of you, and I feel that by so doing I shall best fulfil the injunctions of her who lies beside us. Henceforth, Lady Isabella, I wholly devote myself to you.”
A murmur of delight escaped her. “My blessings on you both!” exclaimed her father. “Give me your hand, Isabella,” he added, taking it and placing it in that of the apprentice. “Here, beside the grave of her whom you both loved, I affiance you. Pursue the course I point out to you, Leonard, and she will soon be yours.”
As he spoke, the light of a lantern was suddenly thrown upon them, disclosing two persons who had noiselessly approached. They were Lord Argentine and Pillichody. “You affirm more than you have warrant for, my lord,” said the former. “I will never consent to this ill-assorted and dishonourable union; and, so far from permitting it, will oppose it to the utmost of my power. If this presumptuous apprentice dares to raise his views towards my sister, let him look to himself. Your safety lies in instant flight. The officers are in search of you.”
“They shall find me,” replied Thirlby, sternly.
“As you please,” rejoined Argentine. “Come with me, Isabella,” he added to his sister. But she flew with a cry towards Leonard.
“Ah!” exclaimed her brother, drawing his sword. “Do you dare to detain, her? Deliver her to me, villain, instantly!”
“Not when thus menaced, my lord,” rejoined Leonard, likewise drawing his sword, and standing upon the defensive.
“Then look to yourself,” replied Argentine, assaulting him.
Isabella uttered a wild shriek, and Thirlby tried to rush between them. But before they could be separated, Lord Argentine’s fury had exposed him to his adversary, whose sword passed through his body. He fell to the ground, weltering in his blood. While Leonard stood stupefied and confounded at what had occurred, and Isabella, uttering a loud cry, threw herself upon the body and tried to stanch the wound—two men, with halberds in their hands rushed forward, and seizing Thirlby, cried, “We arrest you as a murderer!”
Thirlby, who seemed utterly overcome by surprise and horror, offered no Resistance. At this juncture Leonard felt his arm seized by a bystander—he did not know whom—and scarcely conscious of what was taking place, suffered himself to be dragged from the scene.
BOOK THE SIXTH.