“How so?” demanded Wilton, “how so? You do not suppose, Sherbrooke, that I would ever join in overturning the religion, and the laws, and the liberties of my country—how so, then?”
“As thus,” replied Lord Sherbrooke—“I will answer you as if I had been born the grave-digger in Hamlet. King James comes over—well, marry go to, now—a certain duke that you wot of, who is a rank Jacobite, by the by, instantly joins the invader; then comes King William, drives me his fellow-king and father-in-law out of the kingdom in five days, takes me the duke prisoner, and chops me his head off in no time. This headless father leaves a sorrowful daughter, who at the time of his death is deeply and desperately in love, without daring to say it, her father’s head being the only obstacle in the way of the daughter’s heart. Then comes the lover to console the lady, and finding her without protection, offers to undertake that very needful duty. Now see you, Wilton? Now see you?—But there’s the door of your dwelling. Get you in, man, get you in, and try if in your dreams you can get some means of bringing it about. By my faith, Wilton, you are in a perilous situation; but there’s one thing for your comfort,—if I can get out of all the scrapes that at this moment surround me on every side, like the lines of a besieging enemy, you can surely make your escape out of your difficulties, when you have love, and youth, and hope, to befriend you.”
“Hope?” said Wilton, in bitter sadness; but at the moment he spoke, the door of the house was opened, and, bidding Lord Sherbrooke “Good night,” he went in.
During the greater part of the next day Wilton did not set eyes upon Lord Sherbrooke. The Earl of Byerdale, however, was peculiarly courteous and polite to his young secretary. There was much business, Earl was obliged to be very rapid in all his movements; but the terms in which he gave his directions were gentle and placable, and some letters received in the course of the day from Ireland seemed to please him well. He hinted even in a mysterious tone to Wilton that he had something of importance to say to him, but that he had not time to say it at the moment, and he ended by asking his secretary to dine at his house on the following day, when he said the Duke of Gaveston and Lady Laura were to be present, with a large party.
He went out about three o’clock: and Wilton had not long returned to his lodgings when Lord Sherbrooke joined him, and insisted on his accompanying him on horseback for a ride into the country.
Wilton was at that moment hesitating as to whether he should or should not go to the rendezvous given him by his strange acquaintance, Green. He had certainly left the theatre on the preceding night determined so to do; for the various feelings which at this time agitated his heart had changed the anxiety which he had always felt to know the circumstances of his birth and family into a burning thirst, which would have led him almost anywhere for satisfaction.