With those few words, which, however, from William III., conveyed a great deal of meaning, the King bowed his head to signify that Wilton’s audience was over; and the young gentleman withdrew from his presence, very well satisfied with the termination of an affair, which certainly, in some hands, might have ended in evil instead of good.
Wilton Brown, on quitting the King, did not find Lord Sherbrooke where he expected; but little doubting that he should have to encounter a full torrent of wrath from the Earl of Byerdale, on account of his having concealed the fact of the Duke of Berwick’s visit to England, he set spurs to his horse to meet the storm at once, and proceeded as rapidly as possible to the Earl’s office at Whitehall. His expectations were destined to be disappointed, however. Lord Byerdale was all smiles, although as yet he knew nothing more than the simple fact that Captain Churchill had acknowledged his presence at a scene in which he had certainly played no part. His whole wrath seemed to turn upon Arden, the Messenger, against whom he vowed and afterwards executed, signal vengeance, prosecuting him for various acts of neglect in points of duty, and for some small peculations which the man had committed, till he reduced him to beggary and a miserable death.
He received Wilton, however, without a word of censure; listened to all that passed between him and the King, appeared delighted with the result; and although, to tell the truth, Wilton had no excuse to offer for not having communicated the facts to him before, which h-; had abstained from doing simply from utter want of confidence in the Earl, yet his lordship found an excuse himself, saying,—
“I’m sure, Wilton, I am more obliged to you even than the King must be, for not implicating me in your secret at all. I should not have known how to have acted in the least. It would have placed me in the most embarrassing situation that it is possible to conceive, and by taking the responsibility on yourself you have spared me, and, as you see, done your self no harm.”
Wilton was puzzled; and though he certainly was not a suspicious man, he could not help doubting the perfect sincerity of the noble lord. All his civility, all his kindness, which was so unlike his character in general, but made his secretary doubt the more, and the more firmly resolve to watch his conduct accurately.
A few days after the events which we have just related, the Duke of Gaveston and Lady Laura left Beaufort House for the Earl’s seat in Hampshire, which Lord Aylesbury had pointed out as the best suited to the occasion. It was pain ful for Wilton to part from Laura; but yet he could not divest his mind of the idea that Lord Byerdale did not mean altogether so kindly by the Duke as he professed to do, and he was not sorry the latter nobleman, now that he could do so without giving the slightest handle to suspicion, should follow the advice of Lord Aylesbury.