Chapter XVIII: The Release
Five days, however, elapsed at Poghley before any news came from Arthur at Oxford, and then it was brought by Dr. Langton, who, upon Dalaber’s return, had started forth again to that place, partly to set his house in order and arrange his books and papers before his departure for foreign lands, partly because he hoped his skill in medicine and the arts of healing might prove of use to the victims of the prison house on their release.
For the sisters and Dalaber those days were happily passed, despite the anxiety they felt as to what might be passing in Oxford. To them it seemed as though the clouds of peril which had hung so long in their sky were rolling fast away. Dalaber was relieved from that burden of remorse and bitter humiliation which had been weighing upon him. Humble and contrite for past errors, past weaknesses, he was, and would remain; but he had delivered his soul by his frank admissions to the cardinal, and he could respect and admire the dignity and clemency of that powerful man, and be grateful to him for both.
Freda was his own, as she had never been before—her mind at rest, her heart satisfied, her old esteem and admiration and trust restored. Together they wandered through orchard, meadow, and woodland, speaking to each other from the bottom of their hearts, unveiling their most sacred thoughts and feelings, and sharing every aspiration, every hope, every plan for present or future. The world for them was a pure Arcadia; they almost forgot for the time being the more troublous world without.
It was like a green oasis in their lives, like a haven of rest and peace after driving storms and perilous hurricanes. They lived in the sunshine, and thanked God in their hearts, and received that rest and refreshment of body, soul, and spirit of which both stood rather sorely in need.
Then on the fifth day, as the sun was drawing towards its setting, Dr. Langton returned. They pressed eagerly round him to learn the news. His face was thoughtful and very grave.
“They are bringing Master Clarke. He is not more than a few miles distant. He will be here before dark. I have come to make all ready for him.”
“Is Arthur with him?” asked Magdalen, whose hands were clasped about her father’s arm.
“Yes; he is riding at a foot pace beside the litter. We have had to carry him thus all the way, and by very gentle stages. At the first I doubted if he could bear the journey. But he was himself desirous to see Poghley once again, and we decided to risk it. He has borne the journey almost better than I had feared.”
“And now we will nurse him back to health and strength,” cried Magdalen, with earnestness. “Alas that so good a man should have to suffer so sorely!”
Freda observed that her father turned his head slightly away. She felt a sort of constriction at the heart, but it was Dalaber who put the next question.