’Then will he not heed the tale thou wouldst yield him concerning me.’
’What tale should I yield him but that I find—thee here and the prisoner gone?’
’The tale I read in thy face and thy voice. Thou lookest and talkest as if I were a false woman.’
‘Verily to my eyes the thing looketh ill.’
’It would look ill to any eyes, and therefore I need kind eyes to read, and just ears to hear my tale. I tell thee this is a matter for my lord, and if thou spread any report in the castle ere his lordship hear it, whatever evil springs therefrom it will lie at thy door.’
’My life! what dost take me for, mistress Dorothy? My age and holding deserves some consideration at thy hands! Am I one to go tattling about the courts forsooth?’
’Pardon me, madam, but a maiden’s good name may be as precious to Dorothy Vaughan as a matron’s respectability to mistress Watson. An’ you had left me with that look on your face, and had but spoken my name to it, some one would have guessed ten times more than you know—or I either for that gear.’
‘I must tell the truth,’ said mistress Watson, relenting a little.
’Thou must, or I will tell it for thee—but to the marquis. Thou shalt be there to hear, and if, after that, thou tell it to another, then hast thou no mother’s heart in thee.’
Dorothy gave way at last and burst into tears. Mistress Watson was touched.
‘Nay, child, I would do thee no wrong,’ she rejoined. ’Get thee to bed. I must rouse the guard to go look for the prisoner, but I will say nothing of thee to any but my lord marquis. When he is dressed and in his study, I will come for thee myself.’
Dorothy thanked her warmly, and betook herself to her chamber, considerably relieved.
Dorothy had hardly reached her room when the castle was once more astir. The rush of the guard across the stone court, the clang of opening lattices, and the voices that called from out-shot heads, again filled her ears, but she never once peeped from her window. A moment, and the news was all over the castle that the prisoner had escaped.
Lord Charles went at once to his father’s room. The old man woke instantly. He had but just laid his hand on his mane, not mounted the shadowy steed, and was ill pleased to be already, and the second time, startled back to conscious weariness. When he heard the bad tidings he was silent for a few moments.
’I would Herbert were at home, Charles, to stop this rat-hole for me,’ he said at length. ’Let the roundhead go—I care not. I had but half a right to hold him, and he deserves his freedom. But what a governor art thou, my lord? Prithee, dost know the rents in thine own hose, who knowest not when thy gingerbread bulwarks gape? Find me out this rat-hole, I say, or I will depose thee and send for thy brother John, whom the king can ill spare.’