“Oh, oh!” said Plessis, looking wise, “that’s all right, then. I saw that he spoke to the Lady Helen. Take him into the saloon, Captain, and I’ll come to you in a minute, as soon as I’ve got the house clear, and everything quiet again. I expect some gentlemen to meet here to-night, to take their bowl of punch, you know.”
“This way, sir,” said the person whom the Frenchman had called Captain, turning to Wilton, and leading him on into the large room, which was now quite vacant. The moment that he was there, and the door closed, the stranger came close up to him, saying, “Where is the Messenger? Had you not a Messenger with you? I waited on the road for you three-quarters of an hour.”
“I rather think,” replied Wilton, “that I was misdirected by the landlord of the inn, and a series of unhappy mistakes has been the consequence.”
“Which are not over yet,” exclaimed the other; “for here are we, only two men, with very likely a dozen or two against us, with no power or authority to take the lady from out of their hands, and with nothing but our swords and pistols.”
“Oh no!” answered Wilton—“you mistake. I have sufficient authority both from her father and from the Secretary of State.”
“Ay, but not like the face of a Messenger!” replied the other—“that is the best authority in the world with people like these. By Heaven, the only way that we can act is to make a bold push for it at once, to get hold of the young lady, and carry her off before these men arrive. Plessis is sending away all the sailors: he’ll not try much to oppose us himself. There is one man, I see, at the end of the other corridor, but we can surely manage him; and very likely we may get the start of the others by an hour or so.”
“Let us lose not a moment,” answered Wilton. “I will send for the Lady Helen, who may give us more information.”
“Let me go and get it from Plessis himself,” replied the man “I will be back in a minute. I know how to deal with the rogue of a Frenchman better than you do. If he comes back with me, take a high tone with him; determination is everything.”
Thus saying, he quitted the room, and for about five minutes Wilton remained alone meditating over what had passed, if that could be called meditating, which was nothing but a confused series of indistinct images, all out of their proper form and order.
The first person that entered the room was the Lady Helen, who came forward towards her young friend with her eyes sparkling and a smile upon her lips.
“Oh, my dear boy,” she cried, “this has been a terrible night, but she is better: there is every hope of her doing well. The ball has been extracted in a moment, the bleeding has ceased, and the comfort of her husband’s love will be more to her—far more to her, than the best balm physician or surgeon could give. But now tell me, Wilton, what brings you here? Did you come with this gay gallant, or have you—though I trust and believe that you have not—have you taken any part in the wild schemes of these rash, intemperate, and vicious men?”