“Come hither, then, come hither, Byerly,” said Green, leading him away; “we must see the contents of the bag, take what we want, and dispose of the rest. You had better come with me too, sir,” he added, addressing Lord Sherbrooke; “for as good Don Quixote would have said, ‘The adventure is yours, and it is now happily achieved.’”
Thus saying, the three left the room together, and were absent for nearly half an hour.
It was evident to Wilton, that whatever was the enterprise in which Lord Sherbrooke and Green were engaged, it was one which, without absolutely wanting confidence in him, they were anxious to conceal from his knowledge; and, to say truth, he was by no means sorry that such should be the case.
He knew Lord Sherbrooke too well to hope that any remonstrance would affect him, and he was therefore glad not to be made a partaker of any secret regarding transactions which he believed to be dangerous, and yet could not prevent. In regard to Green too, there were particular feelings in his bosom which made him anxious to avoid any further knowledge of that most hazardous course of life in which he was evidently engaged; for he could not shut his eyes to what that course of life really was. Although, as we have already said, at that period the resource of the King’s Highway had been adopted by very different people from those who even ten or twenty years afterwards trafficked thereon: though many a man of high education, gallant courage, and polished manners, ay, even of high birth, cast from his station by the changes and misfortunes of the day—like parts of a fine building thrown down by an earthquake, and turned to viler purposes—sought the midnight road as their only means of support: nay, though there were even some names afterwards restored to the peerage, which are supposed to have been well known amongst the august body of traffickers in powder and lead: yet Wilton could not but feel grieved that any one in whom he felt an interest should be tempted or driven to such an expedient, and at all events, he thought that the less he knew upon the subject the better.
That, however, which struck him as the most strange, was to find two beings such as those who were now left alone with him, graceful, beautiful, gentle, high-toned in manners, distinguished in appearance, fitted to mingle with the highest society, and adorn the highest rank, cognizant of, if not taking part in, things so dangerous and reprehensible.
A momentary silence ensued when he was left alone with the two ladies, and the first words that he spoke evidently showed to the Lady Helen what was passing in Wilton’s mind. She looked at him for a moment with a grave smile, and after she had herself alluded more directly to the subject, he expressed plainly the regret that he felt at what he witnessed.