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an hour since the young girl left, and he thought that her wonted prudence and consideration should have brought her back.
Stupit lassie!” he muttered to himself, “ this fine nicht will hae tempted her to gang owre fur. She'll get her death o'cauldher that's no used wi' bein' oot in the nicht air."
He turned again to the fire, but could not relapse into another calm train of thought, for the first feeling of alarm was beginning to creep over him.
Minute after minute passed away, till another half-hour went by, and still no appearance of the wanderer. An. drew rose from his stool, opened the dour, and listened for her step on the stair; but all was silent.
“ Dear me, this is very thochtless o’ Diamond,” he said, in an audible voice and serious tone. “ It's seldom, seldom, indeed, that I hae to find faut wi' her abuot ony thing, but railly I maun dae sae the picht. It's no richt for a young lassie to be oot by her lane at sic an hour. Mercy me! can ony thing hae happened her, and her sae canty, tae, whan she gaed awa?"
Down he sat again, but only for a minute. He was too frightened and alarmed to rest. For relief, he walked back and forward across the floor, glancing now and then at the clock, the very ticking of which was becoming insupportable. Thus he remained till the hour of twelve pealed froin the tower of St Giles', and was echoed by the Tron, when in agony he resolved to go out, ill as he was, and search for her. It was a very unwise determination; for he had not been able to go out for some weeks, and the cold air of a March night was sure, in these circumstances, to make sad havoc on bis frame. But for Diamond's sake he would risk any thing; and hardly staying to put on his hat and great-coat, he left the room without locking the door, and ran rather than walked down the stair.
He reached the mouth of the court, looked up and down the Lawnmarket, and paused, for it struck him then for the first time that he knew not in what direction to go. Diamond had said no: thing to indicate in what direction she was going; and of all the paths which stretched out before him, he knew not which to choose. Naturally thinking, however, that as the fresh air was the object of her walk, she would go where that was soonest to be met with, he went along George IV. Bridge, and the avenue to the Meadows, looking carefully as he walked in all directions.
Even at that late, or rather early hour, for it was now morning, à few stragglers were to be met with on his route, and these he eagerly questioned; but none had seen a girl such as he described. It is unnecessary to tell the story of that night's fruitless search. Returning from the Meadows, in the hope that Diamond would have reached the house in his absence, and finding her still absent, the distracted old man went to the police-office, and gave notice of her disappearance, with a minute description of her person and dress,
For many hours more he walked the streets, feeling no fatigue because of the aguny within; and in the morning he went down to the Canongate, and made Mrs Ford almost as miserable as himself by the startling news.
But what could either of them do? They were powerless to conduct the search. They could only urge on the officials, and mourn in bitterness of heart at their utter want of success. Mrs Ford being somewhat calmer than Andrew, did what the latter never would have thought of. She wrote to Mr Everly, telling him briefly what had occurred—asking him to break the news gently to Henry, and seeking his assistance and advice in the strange matter. This letter she despatched by the first post.
On the following morning, Richard and Henry were seated in the breakfast room at Netherton, when the boy, who had been to the village, brought in the letters and papers.
"Surely I should know that handwriting,” said Richard, looking, curiously at the address of Mrs Ford's letter, which he held in his hand unopened. “It is quite familiar, and yet I cannot recollect whose it is."
" Perbaps you may know better when you get inside," suggested Henry, with a laugh. “O, let me see it," he added, after glancing at it from the other side of the table. “Why, that is Mrs Ford's handwriting. Don't you recognise the y's and h's of your good landlady's weekly hill? What can she be writing to you about? Come, break the seal, and let us see."
“She no doubt sends me an injunction to take particular care of youấto keep you from losing yourself in the woods, or prevent you from getting on horseback, or something to that effect.”*
Richard said this gaily while he was opening the letter; but no sooner had he read the first few lines, than he became pale, and full of constervation,
"Goodness, Mr Everly! has any thing happened?" inquired Henry, who noticed the other's sudden change of countenance.
Richard replied not, but read on with the same appearance of consternation.
“What is it? what is it? I see there is something dreadful. Do tell me what it is ?” cried Henry, earnestly.
Still Richard spoke not; but casting a looking of sorrowful agony upon the other, rose hurriedly from his seat, and traversed the apartment.
" For Heaven's sake, speak to me! Tell me what has agitated you so, pleaded the youth, following his friend to and fro.
"There, read the letter," answered Richard, thrusting it into his band.
“I cannot comply with Mrs Ford's kind, considerate wish; and
Id her ent, la
you will learn what has occurred from her own words, better than from my lips."
Henry snatched eagerly at the letter, and prepared to read it with a wondering dreail. “ Diamond lost !” he shrieked, ere he had read many
words. “Keep calm, my poor friend,” said Richard, though he himself much needed the advice. “It may not be so bad as at present it appears."
“0, I must go immediately, this very moment,” cried the young man, wildly.
“Yes, yes; we shall both go. I will order the carriage at once."
Saying which, Richard hastily left the apartment, and Henry, with blanched cheek and sinking heart, read Mrs Ford's letter anew.
In less than two minutes, his friend returned, and found him lying, with heaving breast, yet tearless eye, upon the sofa.
“ Merciful Heaven! what can it mean ?” he asked, starting frantically up: “Will she, O, Mr Everly, will she be dead?”
And be clutched at Richard's arm, and gazed with a look of horror into his face.
“ Nay, nay; I hope to God it is not so," replied Richard, soothingly. “She may have re-appeared ere this, at least, ere we reach town. Come, come, Henry; bear up. This is, no doubt, a heavy trial; but meet it like a man. Give not way to this benumbing terror, For her sake, preserve your firmness and presence of mind: her situation may require it all.” “ You are right,” said Henry, striving to regain composure.
“I will be calm. I am calın now. But let us set out; for the suspense and distance are dreadful."
In a very short time, they had passed the park gates in the carriage; and at the horses' utmost speed, whirled along the Edinburgh road. Little did they know that the girl, whose disappearance had caused them so much anxiety, wan, when they began their journey, little more than a mile distant from them; and that, instead of travelling towards her, as they hoped, every moment was making that distance greater. In due time, or rather in much less than due time, they reached Edinburgh, and learned that no tidings had yet been heard of the missing one. Every kind of search was at once instituted; bills were posted in all directions, and a large reward offered for her discovery; but day after passed, and all was as dark and mysterious as before.
We cannot possibly describe the state of mind into which Henry was plunged; and his condition was all the more unbearable, because he had to remain comparatively inactive. The utter absence of any thing like a clue, made him and the others helplessly stationary. A trace, however faint, would have afforded ground for the exertion they panted for, but this was denied them; for, as our readers know, Diamond's capture was effected in such a way as completely to baffle all pursuit.
In spite of the danger by which she was immediately surrounded, Diamond had many hours of delight. Her thoughts flew beyond her prison walls, and she revelled in visions of bliss, rejoicing in her parents' smiles and Henry's love. There was no cold, agonizing doubt now to disturb that, or prevent her from returning it with all the ardour of her nature. Á future of almost fairyland magnificence appeared before her, and she contemplated it with calm, exquisite satisfaction.
Four days had passed of the week granted by Sir Edward, and satisfactory means of escape had not been thought of by Mrs Dogwood. A grave, personal difficulty stood in that woman's way. Her resolution to befriend Diamond had not in any way abated; but she had naturally a desire to do it in such a way, as not to be suspected by the others. And it was just here that she could not see her way clearly. She might enable the girl to make good her escape, and still manage to conceal her share in the matter, though this was somewhat problematic; but when Diamond, after her liberation, revealed herself to her parents, this would immediately open their eyes,
because they would know that, unless Mrs Dogwood had told her who her parents were, she could not possibly have known. She frankly stated to Diamond this difficulty in which she was placed. “But do not,” she added, “ do not dread that I will desert you on this account.
If at the end of the week we cannot hit
upon a plan to get over this difficulty, I will take the risk of it. They cannot do more than murder me, and I will rather die than see you injured."
* No, no; you must not incur their vengeance,” said Diamond, hastily.
“I fear it cannot be avoided,” rejoined the other. “I see no way of escape.”
“There is a way,” faltered Diamond; and when the woman looked up, the fair girl was pale as death.
"What mean you? Why are you so agitated ?” were the questions hurriedly asked by Mrs Dogwood.
Je utta elplesi
“Forgive me," was the answer, a tear starting into either eye. " It is the sacrifice I must make that affects me; but I will bear it."
,as 67 FBJd
“I do not understand you,” said the woman, looking at her in wonder,
“I mean, that since I cannot reveal myself to my parents without bringing you into trouble, I shall remain silent. If you enable me to effect my escape, I will go back to my former position, and conceal from every one the information I have received."
“ What! you will really make such a sacrifice to save me?" cried Mrs Dogwood, in astonishment.
“Yes, I will," answered Diamond, though she could not forbear hearing a sigh.
“ Noble, heroic girl!” exclaimed her listener, with enthusiasm. “But, no. I will not take advantage of such self-denying generosity. You have this moment shown me my duty. I will dare all, every thing, rather than allow you to undergo such a hard fate.”
« That it will be hard, I cannot deny,” rejoined Diamond, with gentle sadness; for she knew she would not only be still separated from her parents, but must still be prevented from uniting herself to Henry. “Nevertheless," she added, “it would be better thus, than that you should suffer harm at the bands of that terrible man."
Stay, I think I see a way out of the difficulty," said the woman, starting as if a good thought seemed suddeniy to strike ber. "Did not Sir Edward give you to understand that your parents were alive, and mourning for your loss ?”
“He did," replied Diamond, her face flushing with indignation. “ And he made my consent to become bis wife, the price for making us known to each other."
“ Then the matter may be managed in this way,” said her companion. “Once effect your escape from his power, and to secure your silence, he will be glad to give you the same information you have got from me. Now, if you can refrain from bringing him to justice for the outrage he has committed, this may be made the price of your forbearance, and you can then reveal yourself without implicating me at all."
“ I understand you," rejoined Diamond, with a brightened, joyful countenance. “I have no desire whatever to make his odious conduct public; and even if I had, I would, for your sake, sacredly refrain. Still, as you say, I hold this card in my hand, and may threaten to play it, unless he informs me what he knows concerning my parents.
"And that he will do so, I have no doubt. So that important matter is nicely settled: let us then fix upon the plan of escape, which had better be to-morrow night, in case of accidents. You can retire early to your bed-room, and I will lock you up as usual
, taking care to turn the key before the door is closed. By this means, they will impute your departure to my carelessness, and not
Once in the passage, you will descend the flight
to my connivance.