His utterance was difficult, for his heart was too full to admit of his speaking freely, and it required a great effort to prevent his own feelings from bursting forth.
“But your horse must be tired,” said the Duke, feeling somewhat ashamed of the part he was acting.
“Not too tired, my lord,” replied Wilton, “to bear his master from a house where he is unwillingly received. Were it necessary, my lord, I would walk, rather than force your grace to make any change in your domestic arrangements. You will permit me to tell the porter to call round my groom;” and going out for a moment, he bade the porter in a loud clear voice order his horses to be saddled again, and his groom to come round. He then returned to the chamber where the Duke remained, and both continued silent and embarrassed. It was some time, indeed, before Wilton’s orders could be obeyed, for his valise had been carried up to his usual apartments. At length, however, the horse was announced, and Wilton went towards the door,—
“I now take my leave of you, my lord,” he said, “and in doing so, shall endeavour to bear with me all the bright memories of much kindness experienced at your hands, and forgetfulness of one night’s unkindness, which I trust and believe I have deserved even less than I did your former goodness towards me. For yourself I shall ever retain feelings of the deepest regard and esteem; for your daughter, undying love and attachment.”
The Duke was somewhat moved, and very much embarrassed; and whether from habit, embarrassment, or real feelings of regard, he held out his hand to Wilton as they parted. Wilton took it, and pressed it in his own. A single bright drop rose in his eye, and feeling that if he remained another moment his self-command would give way, he left the Duke, and sprang upon his horse’s back.
Two or three of the old servants were in the hall as he passed, witnessing, with evident marks of consternation and grief, his sudden departure from Somersbury. The Duke’s head groom kept his stirrup, and to his surprise he saw the old butler himself holding the rein.
As Wilton thanked him and took it, however, the man slipped a note into his hand, saying in a low voice, “From my young lady.” Wilton clasped his fingers tight upon it, and with one consolation, at least, rode away from the house where he had known so much happiness.
The light was fading away as Wilton took his path through the thick trees of the park up towards the lodge at the gates; but at the first opening where the last rays of the evening streamed through, he opened Laura’s note, and found light enough to read it, though perhaps no other eyes than those of love could have accomplished half so much; and oh, what a joy and what a satisfaction it was to him when he did read it! though he found afterwards, that note had been written while the eyes were dropping fast with tears.