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MEANWHILE, Diamond pursued her way, threading her difficult steps among the brushwood, keeping near enough the edge of the wood to be sure that she did not diverge from her route, and yet not near enough to be seen by any one in the adjoining field. She had enough of work to keep her fully occupied, looking out for the overhanging branches, that she might avoid them, pushing through the thickly-entwined young firs with as little damage as possible to her dress, and keeping an eye behind and around, lest any one was pursuing, and might come upon her unawares. This latter fear was not very strongly cherished, because she did not imagine that her flight would be discovered till the morning; and it was not likely that she would, in this place and at that hour, meet either the baronet or Dogwood, the only individuals whom she feared. Still she felt she could not be too cautious and watchful, especially while near the mansion; and this prudence, in connection with her natural woman's weakness, caused her to do as we have said.
She walked on, and on, and on, in heat and perspiration, till she grew alarmed at the length of the way, and began to dread that she had, after all, taken the wrong direction. The devious windings she had been compelled to take made the distance she had traversed much longer than it really was; yet it was a relief from positive agony when she found herself in front of a high, intersecting hedge, and knew she had reached the Netherton fence. But how was she to get to the other side? for though the overshadowing trees made many gaps, yet these were closely paled up, and could not be climbed without great agility. Looking this way and that, she saw a place, a little distance from the edge of the wood, which she thought she could manage, and at once ran towards it. Fatal step! It took her out into the broad moonlight, and revealed her to Dogwood, who was running furiously across the field.
She, too, saw bin; but it was too late, for he was but a little way off, and every moment brought him nearer to her side.
Poor Diamond's heart sank within her. She scrambled desperately over the fence, and did manage to get to the other side, when she staggered to her feet; and with bursting, panting heart, began to run. Hopeless, however, was the effort, and in bitter despair she felt so; for bow could she, all wearied and encumbered
no more nonsense.
as she was, outstrip the strong, eager man who pursued her? She
she sank down on the ground utterly exhausted.
“So, miss, this is a fine trick you have played us,” said Dogwood, grimly; yet was there a smile of satisfaction on his countenance, for he was truly glad that she had been prevented from escaping, Come,” he added,
You must rise, and walk quietly back with me.”
“O, spare me! let me go !" gasped Diamond, piteously. “I never did you any harm. I never-never-wronged you, and never will; only let me go, and I will bless you for ever."
“It's no use," was the gruff, determined rejoinder. “You may as well pray to the winds as to me; for, by Heaven, you go to the Hall with me again, if I should carry you every inch of the way." No, no; you
will save me!" “ Save you from what? From being made a lady of? O no, pretty one;
you will stand in your own light, we must not allow you to be so foolish; and the time will come, when you will thank us for what we now do. Come now; rise, and let us return. The night air is not good for you."
“Oh that I might die!” murmured Diamond, in accents of the bitterest anguish.
“ Die! nonsense. What should you die for?” said Dogwood, impatiently. “You will live long enough to laugh at this night's foolishness. Just please to get up, and let us return."
Never, never; rather kill me at once." “ Now, miss, let me tell you, once for all, that it is no use praying and beseeching in that manner. I don't want to frighten or hurt you, but back with me you shall go, and that immediately. So if
you don't choose to do it of your own accord, I will throw you over my shoulders, and manage you in that way. But I would advise you to walk. You will find it much more pleasant and comfortable.”
Still Diamond lay panting on the ground, with a determined, though hopeless spirit of resistance in her heart.
“Do you mean to go or not ?" asked Dogwood, in an angry tone. “O, well, it's all the same, It will be po trouble to me to carry
And he stooped down, and seized her by the waist. This roused her to indignant terror, and she sprang up out of his reach.
“For shame, sir!" she exclaimed, her eyes tlashing through the
tears that nearly blinded them, “ Have you no manhood, no sense of justice or of honour, that you would thus persecute and overpower a helpless girl?”
“Pshaw! your preaching will do you as little good as your prayers,” answered the ruffian, springing forward, and seizing her again. "Help! help!" shrieked the terrified girl, with wild vehemence.
“ Ha, ha! scream away,” said Dogwoud, with a brutal laugh. " It will be long ere any one comes to your assistance here."
“ Not so long as you imagine,” cried a tall man, jumping over the low hedge of the plantation, and alighting within two paces of them. With another, yet a different cry, Diamond slipped from the arnis of the astonished Dogwood, and ran in behind the new comer.
“O, save me! save me!” she said, clasping her hands, and looking earnestly upwards.
“So, Mr Dogwood, I have caught you poaching, have I ?” said the man, significantly.
Why, Ned Oakham, is this you ?” laughed Dogwood. “Just me," answered Ned, cuolly. “ But I don't see as how this is any laughing matter. Poachers and gamekeepers don't Usually laugh together when they meet of a night."
“ Poachers ! nonsense, Ned. You don't see any thing like poaching about me. I have neither gun nor suare."
“And yet you have bunted this pretty deer, till she has turned at bay," retorted Ned, coolly.
"What! the girl ?' 0, she belongs to the Hall. The fact is, she is-in short, she is mad, and made her escape to-night. Sir Edward sent me after her, to bring her back." · No, no; I am not mad," exclaimed Diamond.
« They would do me a foul wrong. I was entrapped, and made my escape. Do protect me! O, good sir, have pity, and save me!"
“I thought you said you had no snare!" said Ned, quietly, looking at Dogwood with a twinkling eye.
“ You would not give heed to the ravings of a maniac, would you?" asked Dogwood, getting alarmed.
“ You don't take me for a fool, do you ?" replied Ned, shortly. “ Then, why believe her statement, as you seem to do ?”
“ Because I think she is not mad, and that she is speaking the truth.” “I tell you she is mad, and I am answerable to my master for
So let me take her back at once." Nut so fast,” answered Ned. “She is on the Netherton estate now, and therefore beyond your master's jurisdiction, So you may tell him, if you like, that one Ned Oakhamn, gamekeeper tu bis particular friend, Mr Everly, has taken her in charge, and will look after her as carefully as her best friend could desire."
Come, drop this nonsense, Ned. You know you are meddling with what does not concern you. Just go your ways, and let me manage the girl as I know best how."
Indeed,” said Ned, with a speer. “Hark ye, Mr Dogwood. There need be no more said about the matter. That the lady, is not mad, I know from what I overheard before I came over the hedge just now, and I am determined to protect her. So go
back to your worthy master, and tell him that she is in good hands."
* Beware, Ned Oakham, beware!” said Dogwood, menacingly.. “ Interfere not with that which does not concern you, else you may come to rue it."
“ And beware you, Master Dogwood!” answered Ned, with a deliberate nod. “It is my strong suspicion that there has been foul play going on regarding this girl, and that fouler was intended; and, if this is the case, I warrant you my master will not leave a stone unturned to punish the guilty parties. You will have an idea, I think, that Sir Edward need expect no mercy at his hands,
any of his base marauders escape. So take that for your comfort, during your moonlight walk home. And now, I will thank you to scale that fence, as cleverly as you did a few minutes ago.".,
“I will do no such thing," roared Dogwood, in a passion; " at least, not without that girl. If you dare to prevent me from taking her, you shall bitterly feel the consequences.
Shall I indeed 7” said Ned, contemptuously. “Now, Mr Dogwood,” he added, " do you see this gun ?”
"To be sure I do,” replied Dogwood, dubiously.
“Well," resumed Ned, deliberately cooking it, and speaking in a most determined tone, “if in two minutes you are not over that fence, you will not be able to go over it for a long time to come.”
““ What! would you dare to shoot me ?" “ I shall wing you, at any rate. Now, if
don't want a handful of shot in your legs, just be quick and jump, and be thankful that I give you the chance."
“Oh! don't think to frighten me," said Dogwood, boldiy. “You know you
dare not do it." “Won't I?” said Ned, slowly presenting the piece. “Now, if you are not over when I count three, I fire.”
The moon shone full upon his face, revealing a determination in it which made Dogwood quail
. That he would do as he said, he felt assured, and be gnashed his teeth with rage and fear.
Ere Ned could finish the third numeral, Dogwood had cleared the fence, and the gamekeeper silently took the gun from his shoulder,
You have the advantage of 'me now," roared the baffled valet; “ but my time will come by-and-by.” Saying which, he darted iute the wood, and was lost to view.
; “Now, my pretty fair one," said Ned, turning to Diamond, after he had carefully uncocked his piece, “what do you wish me to do?"
“0, protect me, sir, if you please," pleaded the girl, with touching importunity.
“That I mean to do. Never fear," answered Ned, kindly. do not ask to know who you are, or what you fear from those you have just escaped. It is enough for me to know that you are ill-treated, and want assistance. Come along, and I will take you to my mistress, who, my life upon it, will make you comfortable. How lucky I was in this wood to-night!"
“O, thank you, sir, thank you !" cried Diamond, with a glad, confiding heart. May Heaven reward you for the succour you have afforded me!"
"Nay, nay; say nothing of reward,” replied the honest fellow, whose bosom glowed at the moment with the softest feelings. “I would be worse than the brute I rescued you from, had I kept back, and let him have his owo Way. Now, ma'am, I see you are completely done up with your hard run. If you please to lean on my arm, I think you will get along much better. We have a good piece to walk."
Diamond thankfully accepted this proffered help; for, in truth, she was utterly exhausted ; and, on the sturdy arm of Ned, who half carried her, she made brave progress.
She felt she had gained a for no one could doubt that open, manly countenance, and the hearty friendliness of the voice. She clung closely and confidingly to him, and Ned felt proud of her implicit confideuce.
Having gained the end of the wood, her guide pointed to a light in the distance. “ Youder is our little cottage,” he said, gaily. " There you will meet with as warm a welcome as a loving little woman can give you, and be as safe as if you were at Netherton House itself.”
"Where is Mr Everly's house ?” asked Diamond, with thrilling interest; for she knew that Henry had been there not many days ago, though she truly imagined that, when the news of her disappearance reached him, he would fly to town.
“ You can't see it from here," answered Ned. “ It lies to the south beyond yon tall, old trees."
“Is-is Mr Everly there at present?" she asked, in a low tone, almost in a whisper,
“No; he went to Edinburgh a few days ago."
“ He too !” echoed Ned, looking at her in wonder.
friend at last;