“But I must fly,” she cried out, “and how—where?”
“My dear Miss Washington,” said Maximilian, in his kindest tones, “I have a dear mother, who will be glad to welcome you as her own child; and in our quiet home you can remain, safe from the power of the Prince, until you have time to think out your future course of life; and if you conclude to remain with us forever you will be only the more welcome. Here is Rudolph, who will vouch for me that I am an honorable man, and that you can trust yourself to me with safety.”
“Yes,” said Rudolph; “Maximilian Petion is the soul of honor. His simple word is more than the oath of another.”
“Then let us fly at once,” said Estella.
“No,” replied Rudolph, “that would not do; this house is guarded and full of spies. You would be followed and reclaimed.”
“What, then, do you advise?” asked Maximilian.
“Let me see,” replied the old man, thinking; “this is Thursday. On Monday night next the members of ‘the government’ have their meeting here. There will be a number of visitors present, and more or less confusion; more guards will be necessary also, and I can contrive to have one of the Brotherhood act as sentinel at the door which opens into a hall which connects with this room; for you see here is a special entrance which leads to a stairway and to the door I speak of. I will procure a gentleman’s dress for Miss Estella; she is tall and will readily pass in the dark for a man. I will secure for you a permit for a carriage to enter the grounds. You will bring a close carriage and wait with the rest of the equipages, near at hand. But I must have some one who will accompany Miss Estella from this room to the carriage, for I must not show myself.”
I stepped forward and said, “I will be here.”
“But there is some danger in the task,” said Rudolph, looking at me critically. “If detected, your life would pay the forfeit.”
“I would the danger were ten times as great,” I replied. Estella blushed and gave me a glance of gratitude.
“There is one difficulty I perceive,” said Maximilian.
“What is that?” asked Rudolph.
“I hesitate about leaving Miss Washington exposed to the danger of remaining four days longer in this horrible house.”
“I will look after that,” replied Rudolph. “She had better pretend ill health, and keep her room during that time. It is on an upper floor, and if she remains there the danger will be very slight that the Prince will see her.”
“Miss Washington,” I said, handing her the dagger which Max had given me, “take this weapon. It is poisoned with the most deadly virus known to the art of man. A scratch from it is certain death. Use it to defend yourself if assailed.”
“I know how I shall use it in the last extremity,” she said, meaningly.
“Better,” I replied, “purity in death than degradation in life.”