The King's Highway eBook

George Payne Rainsford James
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 646 pages of information about The King's Highway.


It was the ninth hour of the evening on the following day when a carriage stopped at the gates of Newgate, and a lady got out and entered the prison.  It was by this time dark, for the year was already beginning to show a slight diminution in the length of the days; and there were few people just at that moment in the streets to remark that she left a male companion behind her in the vehicle, who, with his arms crossed upon his chest, and his eyes bent thoughtfully upon the other side of the carriage, remained buried in deep and seemingly gloomy meditation.

After the lapse of about ten minutes the lady returned, and said, “You may come; but the governor says your visit must not be long, and on no account must be mentioned.” [Footnote:  It is an undoubted historical fact, that more persons visited and conversed long with Fenwick in prison than the court was at all aware of.]

Wilton instantly stepped out of the carriage as Lady Mary Fenwick spoke, and followed her into the prison.  A turnkey was in waiting with a light, and led them round the outer court and through one or two dark and narrow passages to the cell in which Sir John Fenwick was confined.  There was another turnkey waiting without; and Wilton, being admitted, found the wretched man whose crimes had brought him thither, and whose cowardly treachery was even then preparing to make his end disgraceful, sitting pale, haggard, and worn, with his elbow resting on the small table in the middle of the cell, and his anxious eye fixed upon that door from which he was never more to go forth but to trial, to shame, and to death.

Lady Mary Fenwick, his unfortunate wife, whose eager and strenuous exertions in her husband’s behalf were sufficient to atone in some degree for the error of countenancing those calumnies by which he hoped to escape his well-deserved fate, accompanied or rather followed Wilton into the cell; and as she did so, remarking the haggard glance with which Sir John regarded the visitor, she held up her finger with a meaning look, as if to entreat him to assume more calmness, at least in his demeanour.

Sir John Fenwick made an effort to do so; and, with one of those painful smiles wherewith wretchedness often attempts to cover its own misery, he said, “Good evening, Mr. Brown.  This is a poor place for me to receive you in.  I could have done better, if you had honoured me by a visit in Northumberland.”

“I grieve much, Sir John, to see you in it,” replied Wilton, “and trust that you may be enabled to free yourself speedily.”

A look of anguish came over Sir John Fenwick’s countenance; but Wilton went on, saying, “When last we met, Sir John, it was not, perhaps, on the best of terms, and I certainly thought that you treated me ill; but let all that be forgotten in the present circumstances.”

“Do you mean,” asked Sir John Fenwick, with a cynical look, “that we are both to forget it, or that I am to forget the whole business, and you to recollect it at my trial for the benefit of my accusers?”

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The King's Highway from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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