“Pish! boy, no more of that! ’Twas as chance would have it. I’m never meant for staying here. Come, take this letter, as I said, and make haste to carry it. ’Twill serve nothing to have you moping here. Fare you well, and see that you sleep sound.”
Will Law turned, obedient as ever to the commands of the superior mind. He passed out through the heavily-guarded door as the turnkey swung it for him; passed out, turned and looked back. He saw his brother standing there, easy, calm, indifferent, a splendid figure of a man.
To Will Law, as he turned away from the prison gate upon the errand assigned to him, the vast and shapeless shadows of the night-covered city took the form of appalling monsters, relentless, remorseless, savage of purpose. He passed, as one in some hideous dream, along streets that wound and wound until his brain lost distance and direction. It might have been an hour, two hours, and the clock might have registered after midnight, when at last he discovered himself in front of the dark gray mass of stone which the chairmen assured him was his destination. It was with trepidation that he stepped to the half-lighted door and fumbled for the knocker. The door slowly swung open, and he was confronted by the portly presence of a lackey who stood in silence waiting for his word.
“A message for Lady Catharine Knollys,” said Will, with what courage he could summon. “’Tis of importance, I make no doubt.” For it was to the Lady Catharine that John Law had first turned. His heart craved one more sight of the face so beloved, one more word from the voice which so late had thrilled his soul. Away from these—ah! that was the prison for him, these were the bars which to him seemed imperatively needful to be broken. Aid he did not think of asking. Only, across London, in the night, he had sent the cry of his heart: “Come to me!”
“The Lady Catharine is not in at this hour,” said the butler, with, some asperity, closing the door again in part.
“But ’tis important. I doubt if ’twill bear the delay of a night.” Indeed, Will Law had hitherto hardly paused to reflect how unusual was this message, from such a person, to such address, and at such an hour.
The butler hesitated, and so did the unbidden guest at the door. Neither heard at first the light rustle of garments at the head of the stair, nor saw the face bent over the balustrade in the shadows of the hall.
“What is it, James?” asked a voice from above.
“A message for the Lady Catharine,” replied the servant. “Said to be important. What should I do?”
“Lady Catharine Knollys is away,” said the soft voice of Mary Connynge, speaking from the stair. Her voice came nearer as she now descended and appeared at the first landing.
“We may crave your pardon, sir,” said she, “that we receive you so ill, but the hour is very late. Lady Catharine is away, and Sir Charles is forth also, as usual, at this time. I am left proxy for my entertainers, and perhaps I may serve you in this case. Therefore pray step within.”