Charnock nodded his head, and the other left the room.
When Wilton Brown reached the house of the Earl of Byerdale, he found that nobleman, the Duke of Gaveston, and Lord Sherbrooke, sitting together in the most amicable manner that it is possible to conceive. The countenance of the Duke was certainly very much distressed and agitated; but making allowance for the different characters of the two men, Lord Byerdale himself did not seem to be less distressed. Lord Sherbrooke, too, was looking very grave, and was thoughtfully scribbling unmeaning lines with a pen and ink on some quires of paper before him.
“Oh, Mr. Brown, I am very glad to see you,” exclaimed the Duke.
“My dear Wilton,” said the Earl, addressing him by a title which he had never given him in his life before, “we are particularly in need of your advice and assistance. I know not whether Sherbrooke, in his note, told you the event that has occurred.”
“He did so, to my great grief and surprise, my lord,” replied Wilton. “How I can be of any assistance I do not know; but I need not say that I will do anything on earth that I can to aid my lord duke and your lordship.”
“The truth is,” replied Lord Byerdale, “that I am as greatly concerned as his grace: it having happened most unfortunately, this very morning—I am sorry, through Sherbrooke’s own fault—that Lady Laura found herself compelled to break off the proposed alliance between our two families, which was one of my brightest day-dreams. The Duke knows well, indeed, that however high I may consider the honour which I had at one time in prospect, I am perfectly incapable of taking any unjustifiable means, especially of such a rash and desperate nature, to secure even an alliance such as his. But other people—the slanderous world at large—may insinuate that I have had some share in this business; and therefore it is absolutely necessary for me to use every exertion for the purpose of discovering whither the young lady has been carried. At the same time, the circumstances in which we are placed must, in a great degree, prevent Sherbrooke from taking that active part in the business which I know he could wish to do, and I therefore must cast the burden upon you, of aiding the Duke, on my part, with every exertion to trace out the whole of this mysterious business, and, if possible, to restore the young lady to her father.”
The Earl spoke rapidly and eagerly, as if he feared to be interrupted, and wished, in the first instance, to give the matter that turn which seemed best to him.
“I am very anxious, too, Mr. Brown,” said the Duke, “to have your assistance in this matter, for I am sure, you well know I place great confidence in you.”
Wilton bowed his head, not exactly perceiving the cause of this great confidence at the moment, but still well pleased that it should be so.