“He has forgotten too many things,” said the King, “and yet his memory is good when he pleases. Fetch me the warrant, Arnold. Colonel, I grant this warrant, you see, not to you. You must think of some other boon at another time. Young gentleman, I have been requested; by a true friend of yours and mine, to hear your petition upon various points, and to do something for you. I can hear no more petitions to-day, however, but perhaps you may find a kinder ear to listen to you; and as to doing anything for you,” he continued, as he saw Keppel return with a paper in his hand—“as to doing anything for you, the best thing I can do is to send you to the Tower. There, take the warrant, and either get into a boat or on your horse’, back, and bear the good tidings to the Duke yourself.”
As he spoke, the King gave the paper into Wilton’s hand, and turned partly round to the Earl of Portland with a smile; then looked round again calmly, and, by a grave inclination of the head, signified to Wilton and his companion that their audience was at an end.
As soon as they were in the lobby, Green grasped his young friend’s hand eagerly in his own, demanding, “Now, Wilton, are you happy?”
“Most miserable!” replied Wilton. “This paper is indeed the greatest relief to me, because it puts me beyond all chance of dishonour. No one can impute to me now that I have done wrong, or violated my word, even by a breath; but still I am most unhappy, and the very act that I am going to do seals my unhappiness.”
“Such things may well be,” replied Green, “I know it from bitter experience. But how it can be so, Wilton, in your case, I cannot tell.”
Wilton shook his head sorrowfully. “I cannot stay to explain all now,” he said, “for I must hasten to the Duke, and not leave his mind in doubt and fear for a moment. But in going thither, I go to see her I love for the last time. The metropolis will henceforth be hateful to me, and I shall fly from it as speedily as possible. I feel that I cannot live in it after that hope is at an end. I shall apply for a commission in the army, and seek what fate may send me in some more active life; but before I go, probably this very night, if you will give me shelter, I will seek you and the Lady Helen, to both of whom I have much, very much to say. I shall find you at Lord Sherbrooke’s cottage, where I last saw you? There I will explain everything. And now farewell.”
Thus saying, he shook Green’s hand, mounted his horse, and at a very rapid pace spurred on towards London by all the shortest roads that he could discover.