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ordered the constables to take our prisoners over to his house, we will at once walk over thither, as our depositions will be necessary at the examination.
He rose as he spoke, and reaching down his hat, took Cecil's arm and led the way through the inn garden out upon a bridle path, which led to the magistrate's house. The morning air was fresh and bracing, and a thousand delicious perfumes were wafted past in the balmy air, which soon routed the langour and weariness that oppressed Cecil's frame. The walk they traversed was only such as the southern English counties can produce—a walk, matted over with the greenest of mosses, running between high banks from which the crowsfoot, and the rathe primrose, and the oxlip grew luxuriantly at the foot of every old tree; whilst a brawling brook overhung with alder and hazel bushes, foamed and whirled over its pebbly bed, lending a wild fantastic beauty, to a scene which had otherwise been tamely beautiful. Every step they took unfolded some new scene of sylvan loveliness, some sunny coppice, where a perfect choir of blackbirds, were making the welkin ring with their flute-like song; or some far winding vista in the woodland glade, where the timid hare couched on its form, and the shadows lay deep on the upland lone.
Cecil had all this to himself, for Linden, in truth, never turned his gaze right nor left, but walked on with his chin up in the air, stern and silent, scarcely breaking in upon his com- . panion's musings, but with some observations which only sufficed to show how far removed from his thoughts was all that was around them. Cecil noted all this in silence, remembered it years afterwards, when subsequent events had unravelled the mystery that hung about that day's proceedings.
He was not sorry when the magistrate's house did come in sight, as he was heartily sick of the monotony of their walk, although he scarcely noticed the plain brick mansion entirely devoid of all ornament, they were now approaching. Linden's abstraction lasted until they had traversed the dull gravel sweep, flanked by a smooth shaven lawn, unrelieved by a single shrub; but Cecil thought that the arm that rested on his own trembled, as they stood for a brief space in the portico, whilst waiting an answer to the summons of the bell.
A grave servant in a drab livery (and very sober and sad, that looked, too,) came to the door, who ushered them into a small library, where he desired them to wait until he had acquainted his master of their arrival. There was something about the whole air of the house, the hurrying, bewildered manner of the two or three domestics whom they passed in their way thither, that struck them both at the same moment;
every thing seemed topsy-turvy about the place, which was ludicrously in contrast with the palpable air of prim neatness and order every where apparent. The man, however, was gone in an instant, and neither of them had an opportunity of inquiring the cause. After a long delay, during which the only incidents that
a occurred to enliven its tedium was the slamming of a great many doors, and the running to and fro of the servants, the door opened, and a head was thrust into the room, and then immediately withdrawn, the door being shut resolutely to, as if the intruder had made some great mistake and considered that the only way to rectify it.
“Very strange people, these, Cecil,” said Linden, smiling; "I should remember that white face and the spectacles any where again.”
He had scarcely ceased speaking before the head appeared again. It was this time followed by a body dressed in rusty black, and Cecil then saw that the body was lank, and somewhat ungainly in its movements, which it endeavoured to conceal by a studied solemnity of manner, that by no means imposed upon those in whose company it now found itself.
“Please to walk this way, gentlemen," said this worthy, with an awkward bow, drawing back a large splay foot in the operation; "a very painful circumstance has transpired in our family during the night, but his worship will see you for all that, particularly as I understand you wish to give your evidence in a robbery case that occurred at the inn in the village, last night," and so saying, Linden and Cecil were marshalled into the justice-room, where three sturdy constables were keeping guard over the prisoners.
Cecil eyed the latter with a curious glance, as he entered. One was a tall, broad-built, herculean fellow, with a stern, determined visage, which bore in its deeply-ploughed lines the traces of many wild, unbridled passions. The man was still in his prime, for he could not have numbered more than forty summers, and get the broad high brow was deeply ploughed with the heavy lines of passion, the eyes were inflamed and bloodshot, and the eyes had that peculiar expression and nervous twitching which a long course of profligacy and crime so surely produce. This was the man whom Linden had grappled with, in their short and singular struggle, and now when Cecil eyed him as he sat, sullen, and dogged, and houndlike, on the narrow bench, with the short, black, crisped hair barely concealing the deep gash he had received in the mêlée, noting with Do unpractised eye the immense girth of chest and brawny
limbs, he could not but own that such a man would prove a formidable antagonist for the most expert combatant that ever entered the ring.
The other two men seemed vastly inferior in physical strength when compared with this giant. One of them had a hang-dog, careworn look, that scarcely seemed to be occasioned by his present position; whilst all the fright and terror that the other felt, could not dim the bright twinkle of his little black eyes, nor dispel the good-natured smirk of his oily, well-fed countenance.
Then there was a little bustle as the door opened, and in rushed half-a-dozen servants crying out for Mr. Boodle; and before the white-faced gentleman could stride three steps to the door, there came in another personage with his wig all thrust awry, wringing his hands in the apparent vehemence of his grief, before whom the domestics fell back, leaving Linden alone standing before him.
Immediately the new comer clapped eyes upon him, his cadaverous visage grew absolutely yellow, his knees shook, his lips moved, although nothing but a hissing murmur came from tiem, he stood transfixed and paralysed, apparently deprived of the power of utterance; whilst Linden, who seemed to grow and dilate, even beyond his commanding stature, advanced towards him with one arm stretched out, his eye dark and flashing fire, his menacing attitude, his very silence, driving back the blood to the hearts of those who beheld this singular
And still Jasper Vernon, for it was no other, retreated step by step, as if some terrible dream, some dreadful phantasm, held him, and still that singular being advanced upon him.
Not a syllable escaped his lips, although his breast heaved and his strong frame shook with some hidden emotion, whilst Cecil, who had instantly recognized Jasper Vernon, stood rooted to
And at length Vernon faltered out, “Where is the boy? where is Herbert ? Speak, thou strange, mysterious being. He was here yesterday; he escaped last night. Oh! for the love of mercy, do not torture me further. Dalton! Dalton ! for I recognize you even after the lapse of so many years, Edward Dalton, much as you may despise me, I entreat you to end this terrible and cruel suspense!”
“Sir," said Linden, hoarsely, as a wintry smile swept across his stern visage, “where is Herbert Clarendon?”
"Ay, where is he?" shrieked Jasper Vernon, wildly, as his cowardly looks sank beneath the withering gaze of that terrible
man; "by all that you love and cherish, I charge you to tell me where he is.”
“That is a question I should ask of Mr. Jasper Vernon," said Linden, sternly ; “were you not the boy's protector?"
“I was ! I was !” faltered Vernon, “but yesterday night—" “Go on, sir,” said Linden, as Vernon struggled to speak.
“Yesterday night he ran away. He retired to rest at the usual time, and Mr. Boodle in going to awake him this morning discovered that he was no where to be found. I immediately despatched messengers in every direction, but, what is the most singular of all, have not been able so far to learn the slightest intelligence about him. No one in the neighbourhood has seen a boy answering to his description, and I am lost in a perfect labyrinth of fears, as to the means by which he has been conveyed from my house. Oh, Dalton ! Dalton! for pity's sake, I entreat you to tell me if you know where the boy is. Oh ! oh!” and Jasper Vernon wrung his hands, and looked up piteously in the face of his tormentor.
“Mr. Vernon, I do not know where the boy is. But why has he left your protection ? I hope no ill treatment has forced him to fly from a home in which he should have been fostered and protected.” “Oh, no! no ! I ved him as my own son.
Oh, Mr. Boodle, did I not treat poor Herbert, our dear Herbert, as if he were my own?” gasped Jasper Vernon, whose degradation made him even stoop to solicit exculpation from the lips of Mr. Boodle; "oh! oh! oh!”
“What are they saying of Herbert ?” asked Cecil of the tutor, as a sickly qualm came over him; "oh, merciful heaven! can it be that Herbert is lost?"
“Yes ! yes !” groaned Boodle, almost terrified out of his wits by every thing he heard about him. “Master Herbert
“ Clarendon has run away, or been decoyed by some one or other."
Cecil neither groaned nor swooned: his feelings were too acute for either; but he started up, and with three strides was standing, confronting the sneaking, cowardly, cowering magistrate.
“Wretch ! for what hateful scheme have you dared to make away with that child, whom a dying father placed in your charge? Dare to tell me one lie with that glozing tongue, and I will annihilate you as you stand," and, with a face blazing over with a thousand conflicting terrors, and a form quivering with passion, Cecil shook the cowardly wretch until he shrieked with pain;
answer me, d’ye hear? I will know where you have concealed him. I will know it before I stir from this
plot, for I know you to be bad, and base, and vile enough for any abominable plot, and my brother has been the victim of a spot as black and horrible as ever cried for justice at God's throne.”
He was wild with the mingled excitement of passion and terror. The sweat stood in great drops on his ashy brow; the veins of his forehead were swollen as thick as whipcord; his face was deathly pale; and his eyes glittered with a wild brilliancy, as he loosened his hold of Jasper Vernon. In a moment, by a great effort, like the lull of a mighty tempest ere the wild surging waves burst out into redoubled fury, he grew desperately calm; he folded his arms over his breast; his brows were knit; his eye grew dark; a deep flush overspread his cheeks; and his voice rattled in his throat, as he groaned,
“Man-if I can indeed call you a man-if you have one single spark of compassion remaining in that guilty breast, I command you to confess where you have concealed the boy.”
Another change came over him. The same wild, brilliant light shone in his eye; the same ghastly hue overspread his cheeks: and yet he stood firm, and never moved. terrible to look upon him; even the strong man, who had never yet known what fear was, he whose herculean frame and reckless courage had set all danger at defiance, - even he trembled at this terrible emotion in a youth: even he felt the blood curdle at his heart as he gazed on that precociously manly form, as it stood confronting Jasper Vernon, one word of whose lips were enough to deprive it of all motion.
“ Be calm ! oh Mr. Cecil, be calm, I entreat you,” gasped Jasper, wildly clasping his hands over his head, "oh! oh!”
"Calm! I know not what you say,” shrieked Cecil, swaying backwards and forwards, as if moved by some irresistible emotion ; “where, where, I conjure you, is Herbert ?”
“I do not know; as I am a living man I do not,” groaned Jasper, retreating a step.
A wild scream followed; Cecil sprang forward, staggered, groaned, and would have fallen on Jasper, had not Linden caught him insensible in his arms.
"He is dying ! for heaven's love, fetch a doctor,” whispered he, reeling under the weight; “oh, run! run! a thousand guineas to the first that shall bring relief, or the poor lad will get away before it comes."
“As I'm a living man,” faltered Jasper Vernon, wringing his hands, as he stooped over the insensible youth, “I have had no hand in the abduction of Herbert.”