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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 293 pages of information about A Perilous Secret.

“Oh, papa,” cried Mary, “you’ve said more to comfort me than Mrs. Easton or anybody can; but I feel the change will do me good.  I am, oh, so grateful!”

So Mary wrote her letter, and went to Mrs. Easton next day.  After the usual embraces, she gave Mrs. Easton the letter, and was duly installed in the state bedroom.  She wrote to Julia Clifford to say where she was, and that was her way of letting Walter Clifford know.

Walter himself arrived at Clifford Hall next day, worn, anxious, and remorseful, and was shown at once to his father’s bedside.  The Colonel gave him a wasted hand, and said: 

“Dear boy, I thought you’d come.  We’ve had our last quarrel, Walter.”

Walter burst into tears over his father’s hand, and nothing was said between them about their temporary estrangement.

The first thing Walter did was to get two professional nurses from Derby, and secure his father constant attention night and day, and, above all, nourishment at all hours of the night when the patient would take it.  On the afternoon after his arrival the Colonel fell into a sound sleep.  Then Walter ordered his horse, and in less than an hour was at Mrs. Gilbert’s place.

CHAPTER XI.

THE KNOT CUT.—­ANOTHER TIED.

The farm-house the Gilberts occupied had been a family mansion of great antiquity with a moat around it.  It was held during the civil war by a stout royalist, who armed and garrisoned it after a fashion with his own servants.  This had a different effect to what he intended.  It drew the attention of one of Cromwell’s generals, and he dispatched a party with cannon and petards to reduce the place, whilst he marched on to join Cromwell in enterprises of more importance.  The detachment of Roundheads summoned the place.  The royalist, to show his respect for their authority, made his kitchen wench squeak a defiance from an upper window, from which she bolted with great rapidity as soon as she had thus represented the valor of the establishment, and when next seen it was in the cellar, wedged in between two barrels of beer.  The men went at it hammer and tongs, and in twenty-four hours a good many cannon-balls traversed the building, a great many stuck in the walls like plums in a Christmas pudding, the doors were blown in with petards, and the principal defenders, with a few wounded Roundheads, were carried off to Cromwell himself; whilst the house itself was fired, and blazed away merrily.

Cromwell threatened the royalist gentleman with death for defending an untenable place.

“I didn’t know it was untenable,” said the gentleman.  “How could I till I had tried?”

“You had the fate of fortified places to instruct you,” said Cromwell, and he promised faithfully to hang him on his own ruins.

The gentleman turned pale and his lips quivered, but he said, “Well, Mr. Cromwell, I’ve fought for my royal master according to my lights, and I can die for him.”

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