“I should think not,” replied Wilton; “I should certainly think not. I had a letter from him not long ago, dated from Paris, and I think he certainly would have written to inform me if he had been coming.”
“I am not so sure of that, by any means, Wilton,” replied his friend. “I can tell you, that two or three things have happened to his good lordship lately, which, with all his kindness and benevolence, might make him wish to see two or three other people before he saw you. There is a report even now busy about town that he is corresponding from Paris privately and directly with the King, and that his arrival in England will be followed by a change of ministry, if he will consent to take office again, which seems to be very doubtful.”
These tidings interested Wilton not a little; and perhaps he felt a curiosity to ascertain whether Lord Sherbrooke’s suspicion was or was not correct. His mind, however, was too high and delicate to admit of his taking any steps for that purpose, and after some more conversation on the same subject, he and his friend parted.
On the following morning Wilton had an opportunity of visiting the Duke of Shrewsbury’s office, and found Mr. Vernon disengaged. To him he communicated all that he had to say in defence of the Duke, and found Vernon mild in his manners and expressions, but naturally cautious in either promising anything or in giving any information. He heard all that Wilton had to say, however, and assured him that he would lay the statement he made before the King on the ensuing morning, adding, that if he would call upon him in the course of the next day he would tell him the result. He smiled when Wilton requested him to keep his visit and its object secret, and nodded his head, merely replying, “I understand.”
On the following day Wilton did not fail to visit him again, and waited for nearly an hour till he was ready to receive him.
“I am sorry,” said Vernon, when he did admit him, “that I cannot give you greater satisfaction, Mr. Brown; but the King’s reply, upon my application, was, that he had already spoken with the Earl of Byerdale on the subject. However, it may be some comfort to you to know that his grace of Shrewsbury takes an interest in the situation of the Duke, and has himself written to the King upon the subject.”
It was about the hour of noon, and the day was dull and oppressive. Though the apartments assigned to the Duke were high up, and in themselves anything but gloomy, yet no cheering ray of sunshine had visited them, and the air, which was extremely warm, seemed loaded with vapour. The spirits of the prisoner were depressed in proportion, and since the first hour of his imprisonment he had never, perhaps, felt so much as at that moment, all the leaden weight of dull captivity, the anguish of uncertainty, and the delay of hope, which, ever from the time of the prophet