“Of the worst. Madam, to make plain with you, he is in prison, charged with the crime of murder.”
Mary Connynge sank back into her chair. The blood fled from her cheek. Her hands caught each other in a genuine gesture of distress.
“In prison! John Law! Oh heaven! tell me how?” Her voice was trembling now.
“My brother slew Mr. Wilson in a duel not of his own seeking. It happened yesterday, and so swift I scarce can tell you. He took up a quarrel which I had fixed to settle with Mr. Wilson myself. We all met at Bloomsbury Square, my brother coming in great haste. Of a sudden, after his fashion, he became enraged. He sprang from the carriage and met Mr. Wilson. And so—they passed a time or so, and ’twas done. Mr. Wilson died a few moments later. My brother was taken and lodged in jail. There is said to be bitter feeling at the court over this custom of dueling, and it has long been thought that an example would be made.”
“And this letter without doubt bears upon all this? Perhaps it might be well if I made both of us owners of its contents.”
“Assuredly, I should say,” replied Will, too distracted to take full heed.
The girl tore open the inclosure. She saw but three words, written boldly, firmly, addressed to no one, and signed by no one.
“Come to me!” Thus spoke the message. This was the summons that had crossed black London town that night.
Mary Connynge rose quickly to her feet, forgetting for the time the man who stood before her. The instant demanded all the resources of her soul. She fought to remain mistress of herself. A moment, and she passed Will Law with swift foot, and gained again the stairway in the hall, the letter still fast within her hand. Will Law had not time to ask its contents.
“There is need of haste,” said she. “James, have up the calash at once. Mr. Law, I crave your excuse for a time. In a moment I shall be ready to go with you.”
In two minutes she was sobbing alone, her face down upon the bed. In five, she was at the door, dressed, cloaked, smiling sweetly and ready for the journey. And thus it was that, of two women who loved John Law, that one fared on to see him for whom he had not sent.
The turnkey at the inner door was slothful, sleepy and ill disposed to listen when he heard that certain callers would be admitted to the prisoner John Law.
“Tis late,” said he, “and besides, ’tis contrary to the rules. Must not a prison have rules? Tell me that!”
“We have come to arrange for certain matters regarding Mr. Law’s defense,” said Mary Connynge, as she threw back her cloak and bent upon the turnkey the full glance of her dark eye. “Surely you would not deny us.”
The turnkey looked at Will Law with a hesitation in his attitude. “Why, this gentleman I know,” he began.