“Ay, ay! It’s no matter,” said Lawrence, gathering up his huge, ungainly form from the floor; “but I have had your betters, Master Michael Lambourne, under the little turn of my forefinger and thumb, and I shall have thee, before all’s done, under my hatches. The impudence of thy brow will not always save thy shin-bones from iron, and thy foul, thirsty gullet from a hempen cord.” The words were no sooner out of his mouth, when Lambourne again made at him.
“Nay, go not to it again,” said the sewer, “or I will call for him shall tame you both, and that is Master Varney—Sir Richard, I mean. He is stirring, I promise you; I saw him cross the court just now.”
“Didst thou, by G—!” said Lambourne, seizing on the basin and ewer which stood in the apartment. “Nay, then, element, do thy work. I thought I had enough of thee last night, when I floated about for Orion, like a cork on a fermenting cask of ale.”
So saying, he fell to work to cleanse from his face and hands the signs of the fray, and get his apparel into some order.
“What hast thou done to him?” said the sewer, speaking aside to the jailer; “his face is fearfully swelled.”
“It is but the imprint of the key of my cabinet—too good a mark for his gallows-face. No man shall abuse or insult my prisoners; they are my jewels, and I lock them in safe casket accordingly.—And so, mistress, leave off your wailing.—Why! why, surely, there was a woman here!”
“I think you are all mad this morning,” said the sewer. “I saw no woman here, nor no man neither in a proper sense, but only two beasts rolling on the floor.”
“Nay, then I am undone,” said the jailer; “the prison’s broken, that is all. Kenilworth prison is broken,” he continued, in a tone of maudlin lamentation, “which was the strongest jail betwixt this and the Welsh Marches—ay, and a house that has had knights, and earls, and kings sleeping in it, as secure as if they had been in the Tower of London. It is broken, the prisoners fled, and the jailer in much danger of being hanged!”
So saying, he retreated down to his own den to conclude his lamentations, or to sleep himself sober. Lambourne and the sewer followed him close; and it was well for them, since the jailer, out of mere habit, was about to lock the wicket after him, and had they not been within the reach of interfering, they would have had the pleasure of being shut up in the turret-chamber, from which the Countess had been just delivered.
That unhappy lady, as soon as she found herself at liberty, fled, as we have already mentioned, into the Pleasance. She had seen this richly-ornamented space of ground from the window of Mervyn’s Tower; and it occurred to her, at the moment of her escape, that among its numerous arbours, bowers, fountains, statues, and grottoes, she might find some recess in which she could lie concealed until she had an opportunity of addressing herself to a protector, to whom she might communicate as much as she dared of her forlorn situation, and through whose means she might supplicate an interview with her husband.