When they were all on the other side of it, lord Charles turned and held up the light. Dorothy turned also and looked: there was nothing to indicate whence they had come. Before her was the rough rock, seemingly solid, certainly slimy and green, and over its face was flowing a tiny rivulet.
‘See there,’ said lord Charles, pointing up; ’that little stream comes the way thy dog Marquis and the roundhead Heywood came and went. But I challenge anything larger than a rat to go now.’
Dorothy made no answer, and they went on again for some distance in a passage like the former, but soon arrived at the open quarry, whence Tom knew the way across the fields to the high road as well, he said, as the line of life on his own palm. Lord Charles lifted Dorothy to the saddle, said good-luck and good-bye, and stood with Caspar watching as she rode up the steep ascent, until for an instant her form stood out dark against the sky, then vanished, when they turned and re-entered the castle.
The untoothsome plum.
It was a starry night, with a threatening of moonrise, and Dorothy was anxious to reach the cottage before it grew lighter. But they must not get into the high road at any nearer point than the last practicable, for then they would be more likely to meet soldiers, and Dick’s feet to betray their approach. Over field after field, therefore, they kept on, as fast as Tom, now and then stopping to peer anxiously over the next fence or into a boundary ditch, could lead the way. At last they reached the place by the side of a bridge, where Marquis led Richard off the road, and there they scrambled up.
‘O Lord!’ cried Tom, and waked a sentry dozing on the low parapet.
‘Who goes there?’ he cried, starting up, and catching at his carbine, which leaned against the wall.
‘Oh, master!’ began Tom, in a voice of terrified appeal; but Dorothy interrupted him.
‘I am an honest woman of the neighbourhood,’ she said. ‘An’ thou wilt come home with me, I will afford thee a better bed than thou hast there, and also a better breakfast, I warrant thee, than thou had a supper.’
‘That is, an’ thou be one of the godly,’ supplemented Tom.
‘I thank thee, mistress,’ returned the sentinel, ’but not for the indulgence of carnal appetite will I forsake my post. Who is he goeth with thee?’
’A fellow whose wit is greater than his courage, and yet he goeth with many for a born fool. A parlous coward he is, else might he now be fighting the Amalekites with the sword of the Lord and of Gideon. Yet in good sooth he serveth me well for the nonce.’
The sentry glanced at Tom, but could see little of him except a long white oval, and Tom was now collected enough to put in exercise his best wisdom, which consisted in holding his tongue.
’Answer me then, mistress, how, being a godly woman, as I doubt not from thy speech thou art, thee rides thus late with none but a fool to keep thee company? Knowest thou not that the country is full of soldiers, whereof some, though that they be all true-hearted and right-minded men, would not mayhap carry themselves so civil to a woman as corporal Bearbanner? And now, I bethink me, thou comest from the direction of Raglan!’