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had by this time informed his wife of all he knew and had expe-
“ Fifty, if you like, miss," said Ned, with enthusiasm. “What are they?”
Simply that you will liberate your prisoners, and maintain a profound silence regarding the occurrences of this night."
Ned was literally struck dumb with astonishment, and sat staring at her as if he thought she had taken leave of her wits.
“ You are surprised at this,” continued Diamond; "and I dare say you have a right to be so. I know that I have no power to secure your silence, and that you would be quite justified in asking the law to punish those who so murderously assaulted you. But, perhaps, when you know that this course would seriously annoy and distress me, you may be induced to do for my sake what you would not otherwise. Listen for a few minutes. I am a foundling. I was taken from the street, and brought up by humble yet
per. sons, in a simple way. Up to last week, I knew not who my parents were; but it seems Sir Edward Rockhart came to know all about it, and, for a very selfish purpose, wished me to become his wife. He sent Dogwood and his wife to get me secretly conveyed from Edinburgh. I at once went with them, believing what they told me that they had come to take me to my parents. I was, however, brought to Rockhart Hall, and Sir Edward made the proposition; but, to his very great astonishment, I refused. He was furious, gave me a week to think of it, and threatened that, if I refused then, he would use force. Meanwhile, Mrs Dogwood was grieved at what had been done. She thought it was a plan at which I would thankfully grasp; but when she knew how resolved I was against it, she sympathized deeply with me, and promised to assist me to escape, on condition that neither Sir Edward nor her busband should be brought to justice for what they had done. I made that promise. She then told me who my parents were; and I can now reveal myself to them. But you will see, Mr Oakham, that I am bound in honour not to make the matter public. My promise and inclination alike tend to this; for, had it not been for Mrs Dogwood, I never could have escaped. Now you know why I request your
silence." 6 Even to Mr Everly?" inquired Ned, with a fallen countenance.
“ No; my private friends must know all the particulars, and Mr Everly among the rest; but if you will oblige me so far, I should like to make him acquainted with them in my own time and way; and I assure you I shall not fail to let him know the invaluable
rendered me.” Ned looked satisfied at this; and then, scratching his head, he
asked somewhat ruefully if the baronet must be released immediately. As Diamond intimated her wish for this to be the case, he consented; but stoutly contended that Dogwood must remain in limbo till morning, just as a little bit of merited punishment, and a security that they would not attempt another attack; and this point: Diamond elded. She sat down with Elizabeth by the kitchen fire, while the gamekeeper departed to release the baronet.
“Well, it seems you are to get Scot free," said Ned, grufily, as he entered the apartment. “ It's a great deal more than you deserve; but as the young lady says it is her wish, for her sake I will, take off those straps, and let you go. But if you or your valet play peep in this girl's direction again, by all the powers on earth, you shall swing for it yet."
“I have no intention of doing anything more in this matter," said Sir Edward, striving by a great effort to restrain his fury.
Ned approached, and dexterously untied the cords; but for several moments the cramped limbs of the baronet refused to get into motion. He rose at length, and strode from the apartment into the moonlight, without uttering a word. The gamekeeper followed, and ohserved him apparently looking for Dogwood.
You will have a solitary walk home, Sir Edward,” he observed. "Your worthy servant is locked in that coal-house, and shall not be released till morning, when the lady shall be put under efficient protection."
The baronet answered not, but Ned heard his teeth gnashing furiously. In a moment he was walking rapidly through the fields in the direction of Rockhart Hall.
Watching him till he was lost to view in the distance, the sturdy gamekeeper returned into the cottage, and informed the ladies that the villain had gone.
In another hour, the inhabitants of that little, secluded habitation were sunk in profound repose.
FROM THE COTTAGE TO THE MANSION.
Late as it was when Ned went to rest, and exciting as had been the previous occurrences, he slept very soundly, and got up in good time on the following day. Immediately he thought of his prisoner, and concluded that it would be as well to liberate him. What with his broken head, and the pain which the cords must have inflicted on his limbs, he well knew that he must have passed a miserable night, though he thought the punishment a thousand times too
light for the wrong actually done, and the crime meditated. Howe
Reaching down the key of the coal-house from the top of the
Ned softly turned the key in the lock, threw the door wide open, and walked in. Dogwood lay where he had been placed, and turned a quick restless look upon his visitor.
“Good morning, Master Dogwood," said Ned, jocularly. "I hope you have had a pleasant night's rest."
Dogwood only scowled. The blow which Ned fetched him so
“You don't look very good-tempered," continued Ned, sitting
“You know you can do so at present with perfect safety."
had not put your finger into another's pie, you would not have heen
" Burned ” laughed Ned, inquiringly. 6 But I was not burned: I was not even scorched. It is those who were couking the pie that have been burned. Well, all I is, you
bave got yourselves into a pretty mess."
" Where is Sir Edward ?” asked Dogwood, anxiously. “What became of him and the girl?”
“O, as to your worshipful master, the baronet, I served him
So you see it's all up, my boy."
And why should I be cursed?" inquired Ned, gravely. “It
Had I got
“Well, what are you going to do with me?" roared Dogwood, in desperation. “These confounded cords are cutting nearly to the bone, my limbs are as stiff as sticks with the cramp, and
head aches desperately."
“I should think it does," observed Ned, with a grin. “A thick head is not always a disadvantage. But, let me see; what would you give me if I slacked the cords ?"
O, a good deal. They pain me dreadfully.” The gamekeeper said nothing; but, stooping down, undid the fastenings, and the valet began languidly to move his stiffened limbs. It was many minutes ere he could rise; but when the blood got renewed circulation, his impotence wore off. Ned watched him all the while with grim satisfaction.
"A walk would do you good, would it not?” he asked, drily.
"I think it would,” answered Dugwool, louking at him with a doubtful countenance.
" Then I would advise you to try it,” observed the other, pointing to the door.
" You don't mean it?" ejaculated Dogwood, in astonishment.
“I do; and you may thank your stars that it is so. my own will, of course, you would have been treated very differently; but your master and the lady have made a compact, and, as the result, you are free to go to the Hall when you like. But I would advise both you and your master to be very careful to fulfil the bargain. There, that's the way; and mind how you come poaching on the Netherton grounds again.”
The amazed Dogwood for a time deemed him to be joking; but at length comprehending that he really was at liberty to depart, he began to walk off as fast as his benumbed legs would permit.
Ned watched him with a most contemptuous louk so long as he remained in sight, and then turned slowly into the house. His wife was by this time astir, and she informed him that Diamond was nearly dressed, being eager to place a greater distance between herself and Rockhart Hall.
Hardly had Elizabeth done speaking, when the girl appeared, and again thanked Ned warmly for his services of the previous night. The honest fellow actually blushed with pleasure as the beautiful creature took his hand so frankly, and pressed it between both of hers. Probably he had not felt so much satisfaction all his life; and he was sorely tempted to take her in bis arms, and dance about the room with her for very joy.
But rough as he was, he instinctively felt this would be improper, and refrained. Breakfast was now begun; and while they were partaking of it with happy feelings, one of the labourers on the estate called to inform Ned that his master wished to see him that morning at the Mansion."
“ Has master returned ?" cried Ned, starting up, and glancing at Diamond.
“ Yes; he came home late last night," answered the labourer. "I was leaving the kitchen when he drove to the door; and he ordered me to come here the first thing in the morning.”
“ Ask if he came alone," whispered Diamond, breathlessly.
Ned understood her in a moment. “ Was the young gentleman with him ? " be inquired, carelessly.
" No one was with him," replied the man; “and he drove the carriage himself.”
“ Thank you. I will go along immediately," said Ned, as the labourer withdrew.
“ How fortunate !" exclaimed Diamond, eagerly. “Mr Everly will advise me what to do first."
“ No doubt of it. Hilloa, little wife ; here is another visitor."
The cause of the latter remark was a knock which came to the door as Ned was speaking. Elizabeth ran to open it, and before her stood Mrs Dogwood, with a small parcel in her hand,
“ Isis Diamond still here?” she asked, hurriedly.
“ Yes, Mrs Dogwood, I am here," she exclaimed, joyously. “Pray, come in."
She was welcomed by all, for they knew that she was the primary instrument of Diamond's liberation; and Ned, uuceremonious as he had been to her husband, treated her with kindness and respect.
Diamond went, at her request, with her into the inner room.
“Now,” she exclaimed, when the door was shut, “tell me all about it. Sir Edward was too furious to give me the particulars."
The young girl told the tale as simply and briefly as she could;
escaped thus,” she exclaimed, warmly. “Sir Edward appears very anxious to fulfil his part
of the contract; for he despatched me to give you full information respecting your birth, and put you in possession of the necessary proofs for the satisfaction of your parents, not deeming, of course, that I had already told you most. Here, however,” continued Mrs Dogwood, opening out the little bundle,
are a few articles which your parents will at once recognise. They are the clothes you wore when you were brought to me, and which I carefully kept, in case of an emergency of this kind. I feel now, my dear young lady, how cruel and wicked it was in me to use you
your parents as I did. But you will plead with them for their