“I saw you knock his arm up, sir,” replied Wilton; “and though I was not aware of the name of the person who entered, I was not a little rejoiced to see, at least, one man of honour amongst them.”
“Alas! sir,” replied the Duke, in a lower tone, “they are all, more or less, men of honour; but you must remember that there is a fanaticism in politics as well as in religion, and men will think that a great end will justify any intermediate means. An oak, planted in the sand, sir, is as soon blown down as any other tree; and it is not every heart that is firm and strong enough constantly to support the honour that is originally implanted in it against the furious blasts of passion, interest, or ambition. You must remember, too, that those who are called Jacobites in this country have been hunted somewhat like wolves and wild beasts; and nothing drives zeal into fanaticism so soon as persecution.”
“My lord, I am now ready to depart,” said Sir George Barkley, approaching, “and doubt not to be able to make my views and motives good to my royal master.”
“There is none, sir, who will abhor your views so much,” replied the Duke of Berwick, proudly, “though he may applaud your motives. But you linger, Sir George. Can I do anything for you, or for those other gentlemen by the door?”
“Nothing, your grace,” replied Sir George Barkley; “but we would fain see you provide for your own safety.”
“Oh, no fear, no fear,” replied the Duke. “Gentlemen, good night. I trust to hear, when in another land, that this bad affair has ended without evil consequences to yourselves. To the cause of your sovereign it may be a great detriment; but I pray God that no whisper of the matter may get abroad so as to affect his honour or bring suspicion on his name. Once more, good night!”
Sir George Barkley bowed his head, and followed by three others, who had still lingered, quitted the room.
There came a pause after the conspirators were gone, and the Duke of Berwick gazed down upon the floor for a moment or two, as if thinking of what was next to be done.
“I shall be obliged to stop,” he said at length, “for an hour or so, till my horses can feed, for they want refreshment sadly. To say the truth, I want some myself, if I can obtain it. I must go down to the stable, and see; for though that is not exactly the place to procure food for a man, yet, in all probability, I shall get it nowhere else. I found the good master of the house, indeed, who is an old acquaintance of mine, hid in the farthest nook of his own stable, terrified out of his life, and assuring me that there would certainly be bloodshed up stairs.”
“I will go down and look for him, your grace,” replied Captain Byerly, coming more forward than he had hitherto done. “You will find no lack of provisions, depend upon it, in Monsieur Plessis’s house.”