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“Hush !” said the young man, almost sternly, as he pressed his arms down with the convulsive dread that he seemed to feel-"I have seen enough lately in this house, Stephen, to assure me that that villain Linton would even sell his own daughter to serve his own base ends, if driven to it-and mark me, he will be driven to it ere long!
“Whatever has put that notion into your head, Walter ?". demanded Stephen, struck with his earnest manner.
“No matter! it is enough that it is so; men sometimes dread the loss of a treasure most at the moment they are placing it out of their keeping, and something of this sort may affect me with respect to Dinah. I cannot, however, shake off this presentiment, and therefore, Stephen, will you promise me simply and earnestly that you will watch over her safety as zealously as I would if I were here myself.”
“I will, Wat,” said Stephen, wringing his hand.
“Then God bless you, Stephen, and good bye. I will write you the first moment I can, and my lad, do you write me very frequently," and with another pressure of the hand he was gone.
Stephen had scarcely rejoined his companions, and the little party were still very far from having recovered their habitual serenity, when Mr. Joseph Linton's cab drove up to the door, and that gentleman, accompanied by Lord Cavendish, alighted. At the same moment a sinister-looking vagabond, whose figure was pretty well concealed by a loose overall he wore, and who further strove to avoid observation by burying the lower part of his features in a large shawl.handkerchief, glided out of the shadow of the neighbouring houses, and confronted them on
“Ha! ha! Harry, are you here, my lad?” said Joseph Linton.
“ Ees, sur! you were awanting me, were you not ?" retorted this man, gruffly, as he made an awkward obeisance to his lordship; "sarvent, sur!”
“Yes, Harry, I do, but come in, and then we can talk of it,” said Joseph Linton, glancing furtively from his suspicious confederate over to his aristocratic aquaintance, who was swinging backwards and forwards on his cane, and humming a bar of a fashionable opera; and then reassured by the expression he read in the face of the latter, he led the way into his study, where candles were already lighted, and motioning to the man to take a chair, waited until his lordship had taken a second, and then, throwing himself into his own, said, addressing Lord Cavendish,
“This is the man I told your lordship about, if you still hold to what you said at our last interview ; he is the
very fellow to help us at such a pinch, and as true as steel itself.”
“Hold ! hang it, Linton!” ejaculated Lord Cavendish, with an affronted air. “Do you think I'm going to run back, when once I pass my word ?”
“I never meant to insinuate any thing of the kind my lord,” said Joseph, with a dignified air ; " but in our present position it would not become me to press the matter against your lord. ship's inclination.”
“Bosh ! do drop this wearisome palaver, Linton,” said Lord Cavendish, yawning. " If you want me to have your daughter, do let me have her at once--if not
“My wishes go with your lordship,” said Joseph, eagerly ;“ it only remains to devise the scheme by which our wishes are to be attained. As I explained to you not many evenings ago, Dinah is not agreeable.”
“Bah! refuse a lord !"
“It is most odious taste, and yet the fact must be confessed," said Joseph, with an involuntary smile. “Dinah I have discovered is already-or fancies herself to be already in love." “The Devil! and with whom, pray ?" demanded his lordship, with darkening visage.
“An old play-fellow, or something of the kind, that she knew down in that place in Herefordshire. I had in fact," continued Joseph Linton, with deep humiliation in his tone,“ allowed the young man to visit here occasionally, I believe he is in town just now.”
“Then the only thing to be done,” said his lordship,“ is to run away with the girl by main force; she'll thank us for it afterwards,” cried his lordship, with a coarse laugh.
Precisely, your lordship,” said Joseph, chiming in with his humour; “and with this end in view I ordered our friend here to attend us this evening. Your lordship need not be afraid to trust him, as I have frequently employed him in matters of a delicate nature.”
His lordship nodded, and surveyed Harry with great attention, who on his part returned his scrutiny with interest.
“We wish, you see, to give my daughter a little country airing,” said Joseph, laughing gaily, as he turned to his villainous confederate; “and as she has a great reluctance to leaving town just now, on account of an old sweet-heart of hers being here, why we're afraid a little gentle persuasion may be necessary; and as we know you've a very winning way with you at times, why we just want you to ride on the dickey of my lord's carriage and give him a helping hand, if occasion require it. Eh, do you understand now ?"
“Perfectly, sir ; the business resolves itself into a case of abduction, eh?" demanded the man, grinning.
“ I'm afraid that it looks very like that,” rejoined Joseph. “But if girls dont know what's good for them, why they must be gently taught, you know."
Certainly, muster Linton ; and when shall we start, eh?”inquired the rascal, coolly.
“Stay, I'll just make some little entiries, and let you know,” said Joseph Linton, hurrying away. He returned presently, rubbing his hands, and smiling all over his over-fed countenance, as he cried out
“ There never was such luck in this world ; the coast's clear, my lord. I find that the young jackanapes who has for some time past been dangling after Dinah, has just set off for Herefordshire on very urgent business ; if you can get all your arrangements made by to-morrow night, she is yours !”
“To-morrow night," echoed his lordship ;“ why not set off this instant?" “No! no !” we must wait until to-morrow,
“ said Joseph, smiling at the other's impatience, “The poor little girl would scarcely be such a flat as to set off with you at such a time as this, and besides, Harry here must make his preparationsyou must have relays all down the road for some way from town, to distance pursuit, if any should occur, although, who there is that would care to follow you, when master Mordaunt is out of the way, beats my comprehension. By the by, that valet of yours seems a trusty dog! couldn't you set him forward to prepare the cattle ?"
“A capital idea. I'll despatch him in an instant ; there is nothing more we can do to-night, is there ?” and he rose to go.
“No, no," rejoined Joseph Linton, thoughtfully. “I shall see you in the morning, probably.”
“You may depend upon that. Au revoir ! " and with a shake of the hand his lordship departed.
Joseph and his ally, however, did not part so early, for they sat in very eager debate until long after midnight, quaffing bumpers of port to the success of their unnatural scheme. They laughed very often, and very loudly too, and as their mirth was always in concert, it is to be presumed that some very merry topic occupied their minds; and as both Walter Mordaunt's name was very frequently mentioned, as well as that of Joseph Linton's future son-in-law, it is to be presumed that one or the other of those gentlemen formed the subject of their merriment.
The clock of a neighbouring church struck two, as Mr. Joseph Linton was winding his watch up with praiseworthy patience. He counted the strokes ; they were not very many, or he would scarcely have been able to keep count, and then, with another long yawn, tumbled into bed, and soon fell asleep.
He had a very ugly dream, notwithstanding all the magnificent visions that had floated through his brain for the last few hours, consequent upon Lord Cavendish's determination to run away with his daughter, for he dreamed that he was standing on the very verge of a dizzy cliff with a stormy sea howling beneath, and that some unseen hand all at once pushed him over and he fell toppling from cliff to cliff, snatching in his agony at every tuft of grass or rocky fissure, until at length he fell into the sea and sunk down, down, down, hundreds of fathoms, the boiling waves seething and hissing around him; and at that moment he awoke with an
odd sensation of pain in his head, and found it was a dream. And yet for all that, he felt not a wbit more comfortable now that he was awake than he had done asleep. That dull, gnawing, never-ending pain, which seemed to deaden every faculty within him, haunted him long after the dream and its hideous fantasies were forgotten.
He got up, wretchedly ill, and yet eagerly determined to carry out the scheme they had planned overnight, notwithstanding his serious indisposition.
Dinah was sitting near the window, engaged with some needlework when he entered the room, and her first glance showed him that she had detected his illness. She had long since ceased to exhibit any tenderness towards him, even if she felt it, but which, however, with such a being, I could never imagine to be her case.
I have had a rather bad night, Dinah,” he said, in a husky tone, “but in fact I always look worse than I really am."
“You look very ill,” she said, in a clear calm voice, but without looking up from her employment.
“Illor well, that shan't prevent our going to the opera to-night, my dear,” he said, making a desperate plunge into the business at once. “It was a very stupid thing the last time we were there; you must tell that woman of yours to get you ready; but as v , are not going to the boxes, you can just put on a dark dress, ad go as you are now.”
“I think you will scarcely be in a condition to go, sir," she said, now looking fixedly at him. “You really look very ill."
“A mere bagatelle !” said Joseph Linton, attempting to laugh, “ it will wear off before night; though, to confess the truth, we were indulging rather freely overnight, and I'm paying the penalty this morning, but that shan't prevent my giving my little girl a treat, and so you must be ready, mind, at the usual time.”
There was a miserable mockery in all this that deceived neither father nor daughter. Both understood their connection too well to believe that Mr. Linton would so far inconvenience himself as to take Dinah to any place of amusement, if it did not suit his own purposes. As it was, however, she did not make any objection; and Mr. Linton, feigning business, soon after with
December, 1848.-VOL. LIII.-NO. COXIT.
drew, to keep his appointment with Lord Cavendish at the house of the latter.
All the way as he walked up Piccadilly and so on, until he came out upon the Park, that dull dead pain lay upon him, with a weight like that of death, and yet so subtile and indefinite that once when he leaned up against a railing, and attempted to analyse it he could not do so for the life of him, nor determine where it had its origin or seat. It was there, however, now running up one side and paralyzing every muscle and linib, and presently pressing like lead upon his brain, until it became so blind and stupified as neither to see nor feel those against whom he stumbled, and who thought him either drunk or mad, and so he went on, with death upon his heart, to hurry his daughter to perdition.
His confederate, with all the selfishness of his age and class, neither saw nor noticed the ghastly pallor of his countenance; he thought him singularly slow and stupid ; but set all this down to a widely different cause, and even permitted himself to wonder once or twice why his worthy father-in-law hesitated and pondered so much in conversation; it was lucky for them both that all the arrangments had been made overnight, and were in fact all executed ere this, as far as they could be, or the affair might have fallen through after all. And so they parted to meet by appointment again at eight o clock.
From that time until the evening the pain he endured, terrible as it was, was almost forgotten in his anxiety lest this precious scheme, on which all his hopes of sustaining the false position he assumed in society rested, should prove abortive; and great was his terror lest any untoward circumstance should arise to peril its success. Nothing of the kind, however, occurred, and it was evident that fate seemed to have given up Dinah to her evil destiny.
At eight-o-clock, then, a close carriage, with a single pair of horses, stood at Joseph Linton's door, and within a minute after it drew up, Joseph Linton descended to his drawing-room to join his daughter. To deaden the pain of the strange complaint that was rioting upon his frame, he had drunk deeply, but not so much so as to stupify him, and his manner, false and specious as it was, seemed to poor Dinah more than usually kind and affectionate, as he drew her shawl around her graceful shoulders, and imprinted a kiss upon her forehead. It was not the first time in the world's history that a kiss has sealed a deed of the blackest treachery.
As they went down the stairs, Dinah felt him leaning heavily upon her for support, and terrified beyond measure she ventured to look into his face. It was as pallid and ghastly as that of a corpse, and now thoroughly alarmed, she had the hardihood to press him to defer their visit to the opera to a future day.