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mine? We shall live together in one house, and look at one another all day long ! Wilt thou consent ?”
Cicely looked and lisped an affirmative: Willie was delighted.
“When," cried he, “ when shall we be wedded ? Speak, O my charmer.”
“Not,” replied Cicely, “ until Mistress Kate's marriage release me from the duty of attending her."
“Thou and Kate then,” said Willie,"ye pair of charmers, shall be wedded on the self-same day ; I will persuade Sir Edward to marry Mistress Kate immediately!" Willie then grew very red at the thought of what he was about to perform; he looked at his plighted lady, and, in a low, insinuating voice,
“A kiss, Cicely," whispered he.
Cicely stood perfectly quiet, ready to receive the favour ; but Willie had expected her to be more forward. He looked at her as she stood demurely by his side, felt a cold qualm at his heart; mastered his fears at one gulp, and, throwing his arms around his charmer's neck, was imprinting an energetic kiss upon her lips, when,
“Make way, ye fat pair of turtle doves!” said the voice of Andrew Westrill, who stood, with Sir Richard Ellerton, waiting to pass out.
Willie and Cicely stood abashed, one on each side of the passage. Andrew smiled as he passed ; Sir Richard appeared not to observe their presence.
Meanwhile Mat Maybird had paced up and down without the house, wondering at Edward's delay. He feared that some untoward circumstance must have occurred to foil his plans, and was about to enter, for the purpose of ascertaining what had happened, when Andrew Westrill and Sir Richard passing out of the house, verified his suspicions. He had not seen them enter—they must have found their way into Andrew's cottage from the garden behind; Mat walked on, as if he were accidentally passing, and met the two conspirators.
“ Well met, Sir Richard !” said he ; “ I have to demand increased pay now that
services have increased in value." “The man is taken,” replied the other, “he is doomed.-Put Bruton in my power, and I will reward thee well !"
“I saw Heringford in the village," said Mat, "not half an hour since."
“ He is safely now locked up," replied Andrew, “ with Curts as
a guard; we shall not take his life until we have formed our plan of doing so securely. Curts is known in London ; but thou might'st with ease impose upon Bruton--we need some spy upon him : wilt enter his service, and Sir Richard will pay thee good wages?"
“Why am I to be Bruton's servant ?" asked Mat.
“To insinuate thyself into his confidence,” replied Sir Richard Ellerton; "to make thyself seem his dearest friend, whilst thou informest us of all his words and actions, and givest us notice of the first fair opportunity of effecting his destruction."
“That is rather dirty work!" remarked Mat Maybird.
“ Here is that,” said Sir Richard, putting gold into Mat's hand; “ bere is that which may hide the stain, though it cannot wipe it off. There is more. Thou shalt be well paid for thy trouble.”
Sir Richard and Andrew Westrill walked on; Mat remained looking at the gold, as it lay on his extended palm.
“ Money, forsooth !” said he; "gold too! An honourable hire ! It almost burns my hand !"
Taking up one of the coins, he threw it away: "there—that is expended! Heaven help the man that picks it up.” A bird flew rapidly above him; he aimed a coin at it and missed. “ Lucky bird !” said he,“ lucky bird ! the touch of this gold would have murdered thee, hadst thou not escaped it; it was directed first against a nobler game; but, whilst I live, it shall not hit the mark!” Scattering the remaining pieces in all directions: “ Away !" cried he, “ attendant imps of a human devil, ye lead me not astray !" Having thus, in a satisfactory manner, disposed of his wages, Mat Maybird, with a light step and very light heart, walked to the cottage of Father Francis. “ Do not fear,” said he, when he found the old man ;
do not be alarmed at seeing me return alone : Edward is a prisoner, and Kate too: there was a slight failure in my plan-an unforeseen circumstance—"
In the mean time Edward and Kate Westrill remained in their prison, each happy in the other's society, and utterly regardless of the dangers by which they were surrounded. Once only they had sought the means of escape, but their search was unsuccessful; they relinquished it, therefore, without much sorrow, and sitting by the window, that looked down upon the cottage garden, watched the declining sun.
“Such, Kate, are our hopes,” said Edward : " like yon briglit, VOL. 11.-10. I.
unclouded orb, they will soon cease to cheer us; we shall feel night awhile, but again they will rise within our souls; a fair morning will cheer our spirits, and break, in good time, into the warm and sunny happiness of reviving day.”
“See,” said Kate, “as the setting sun is lost to our eyes, how the blushing west smiles placidly upon us: it seems to bid us be of good cheer, and giveth hope of a bright morrow. Oh, who would wish that his life should be one continued noon? I care not to possess a boon so dazzling! Give me, give me the darkness of night, whence sweet, merry morn ariseth. I feel, Edward, already the fresh pleasure that will be ours when we end our night of trouble.”
Such, and ever cheerful, was the nature of the converse with which Edward and Kate whiled the hours rapidly away; Spenton remaining bound in the next room, and Curts diligently on guard without.
The hour of twilight was passed ; darkness crept on; the stars shot forth, one after the other; the night breeze rustled cold among the trees, and was the only sound that broke night's silence.
Edward and Kate still sat quietly by the window : the calmness of the scene was stealing over their spirits ; it was long since either had spoken.
“Seest thou that, Kate ?" cried Edward, suddenly: "there is a man moving in the garden ; it is dark, and I cannot distinguish more than that a man is there."
The figure now glided slowly along. Kate perceived it. Suddenly it stopped beneath the window at which they were seated. It was of a person with his face masked, and his dress evidently a disguise. Edward opened the window, and was made aware of the presence of Mat Maybird.
“What dost thou intend doing?" asked Edward.
“ Patience, and thou wilt see,” replied Mat, and disappeared among the trees. It was not long before he returned with a ladder, which, being placed against an adjacent window, Mat ascended, until his eyes were sufficiently raised to peep in. The sight that encountered him appeared to arouse his indignation, for he made a demonstration against the interior ; and then, rapidly descending, planted his ladder beneath the window of Kate Westrill's room. Kate and Edward soon stood without, and looked up, light-hearted, at the empty chamber.
“ Now for my fun !" said Mat. Again the ladder was placed against the other window; again Mat Maybird ascended; this time, opening the lattice, he entered the passage in which Curts was stationed. The guard was sleeping vigilantly at his post. With noiseless step Mat moved about him, and, having removed the barricades from the fastened door, unlocked and opened it; advancing then, on tip-toe, to the window, he beckoned Edward. Both lightly took up between them the snoring body of Curts, and, carrying it into the inner chamber, laid him on Kate Westrill's bed. Retiring to the outer room, they made fast, as well as they could, the door Edward had forced open ; and taking no notice whatever of Spenton,—who, wearied by exertions to get free, lay now dreaming where he had been placed by Heringford,--they returned to the passage, once more locked and barred the door, carefully replaced the barricades, and, descending the ladder, having fastened the lattice, found themselves again in the open air.
“There !” said Mat: “now Curts and Spenton have changed places with you ; in legal warfare we have but made an exchange of prisoners, and if they intended to starve you, which is very likely, they will find that they have starved themselves. But we have left your lattice open ; it were as well to close it, else may
Curts catch cold."
The lattice was closed, the ladder returned to its place, and Mat, with the two released prisoners, proceeded to the old priest's cottage.
CHAPTER THE TWENTY-SIXTH.
THE VILLAGERS' SABBATH.
The next day was the Sabbath; the day of rest. It broke peacefully upon the waking villagers. Snow had fallen during the night; and as the sun, brightly shining in the clear, wintry sky, poured its beams upon the whitened roofs of the cottages, the water trickled from them in glancing, diamond drops. The snow, as it lay upon the winding road, bore impress of no footsteps; for this was the day of rest, and man went not to his labour.
How calm, how placid is the Sabbath of those happy men who, apart from the cares and anxieties of the restless world, live amongst one another in a community of peace; men whose minds have not been warped by one prevailing passion, whose only thirst for fame is sated by the approbation of their associates, whose only ambition leads them to the right performance of the task each day brings with it. These men are truly to be envied; they know not the bitterness of disappointment; they feel not the painful excitement of an expectation overstrained. Their necessary duties honestly fulfilled, there ends their care; wearied with a healthy labour, an undisturbed rest yields each night refreshment; and, ever in its turn, the peaceful, holy Sabbath comes to reunite the divided family, imparting to each household bliss, the purest earth affords.
Bright wood fires, faggot upon faggot, glowed within each cottage; and the light, as it would have been seen through the windows, was intercepted by those crowding around them. There was comfort throughout the village. From cot to cot the good priest might have been seen to pass, in every one of them joyfully received by old and young. Spending with each of his family a short time in such converse as befitted the day, (and this was a constant custom,) he passed the time previously to public prayer.
Heringford, meanwhile, had left his own cottage to visit the old priest and the orphan whom he once more sheltered. His way lay by the village church, a building with which the reader ought, long since, to have been made acquainted.
Ellerton church was situated in the midst of the village, among the houses of which it arose, greatly predominant. It was an old building, in the Gothic style, formed of grey stone, rendered by age yet darker; its square tower was already crumbling, overgrown with ivy and moss, that crept around the whole of the sacred edifice. In the church-yard were a few yews, and many evergreen shrubs, but the bloom of rose and violet that, in summer, decked the graves, was then lost for a season. Snow now lay upon those resting places of the dead-snow where the daisy and buttercup had grown ; snow thawed upon trees that the hands of love had planted; snow sprinkled the grey walls of the old church, in which those who now slept silently around it had once met their fellows in life and health ; but that snow, like the chilling influence of the world in which they had moved, was but the incumbrance of an hour, for a bright sun shone forth from above, beneath whose beams it soon would disappear.
As Heringford pursued his walk through the church-yard, he encountered Sir Richard Ellerton and Andrew Westrill, walking slowly towards him, in eager conversation. Edward might have