Page images


** Whew!" whistled Ned, with eager admiration; "I twig it. You want them to think they are all safe?”

Mr Strickland nodded and smiled.

“What scheming brains you lawyers must have! It would have been doomsday before such a notion would have entered


head." The lawyer was by this time looking over the letters. “We will be obliged to give them one or two of these,” he said. “ These too? Why, these can be of no use.

• No, but they will render their notion of security more profound. What more natural than that the lady should keep her husband's letters beside the certificate! Now, if Dogwood doesn't find any of these, they will suppose that they have fallen into our hands. But let him have one or two of the more unimportant ones, and he and his master will imagine that they have secured every thing."

"Right again,” observed Ned, with a broad grin. “But about the certificate ? Had you not better write the false one yourself? These clerks of yours might blab.”.

"That is just the conclusion I have come to; for if we can possibly manage it, I would have our discovery and plan kept from every one, even from your master and his friend. Our triumph at the end will thus be all the greater, you know.”

“No fear of me saying a word, Mr Strickland," observed Nedo with a wink. “ Then you understand what to do this afternoon ?”

Perfectly. You give me what papers you think fit, which I must manage to pop into the drawer before Dogwood comes, and allow him to walk quietly off with them.”

"Exactly. You know your part nost thoroughly, and will do it to perfection. Don't you feel in a perfect ecstasy, Ned, in doing these fellows so completely?”

"I never was more satisfied all my life,” replied Ned, “ unless it was when I had the baronet lying on the ground, bound hand and foot."

“He is not less securely bound now, I can tell you," added Strickland. Possibly, by this fortunate turn, we may not only whirl the estate out of his hands, but convict him of wilful fraud a crime which I well knew he was guilty of, but could not see my way to prove. By-the-by, you will take care to keep out of Dogwood's sight."

"All right. I know he must not suppose any of us knows him.*

“Now, then, will you be good enough to go down to the office and wait there? I have got a somewhat difficult task to perform, and should like to be alone when I'in doing it. My two boys will divert you." 5. “Very civil boys those of yours, Mr Strickland," observed Ned, rising to go. The Tom one especially is a promising youth."

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

" What! you were taken with Tom, were you ?” asked the lawyer, much gratified.

« Just about taken-in with him," muttered Ned to himself. “ Ah! he is a smart one, I take,” he said, aloud,

“So he is, so he is-rather too wild, though. I wonder who he takes that of ? Neither his mother por me, at least.”

“Bless my heart, sir! is he your son ?" inquired Ned, turning
short round.

Fact, sir; my eldest and only boy, Tom. Glad you like him.
Go and cultivate the acquaintance.”

“ He's not a chip of the old block, at any rate,” said Ned,
inwardly, as he stept down the stair.

“ The old boy must keep a tighter hand on him, or he'll run into mischief. "I believe the strapping he got from me will do him no harm.”

When the gamekeeper entered the office, the two youths, who had beard him coming, were very busy with their pens, but looked up when they observed that he was alone. Ned took his old seat ou the high stool; and folding his arms, locked deliberately at Tom, and siniled.

Toi gazed back rather dubiously; but taking courage from the
smile, he smiled too, and Ned was glad to see that it was a bright,
open, ungrudging relaxation of feature.

“Well, young gent," said the gamekeeper, “what are you and I
going to say to each other now ?"
“ Have you split ?” asked Tom, anxiously.
Split ! Didn't

that I wouldn't do that? Of
course, I havu't. If you knew Ned Oakham, you would kyow be
wouldn't do that."

“ You're a real true brick," observed Toni, coming forward, and offering his hand.

“Ab! then you bear no grudge for the liberty I took ? " said Ned, glancing at the stool.

" It was just what I deserved," answered the boy, frankly, “Will you forgive me?"

“Of course, I will. But tell me now, though you like to laugh at a country fellow, and take your fun off wim, would


to live in the country at times yourself ?

* Ay, that I would; and get rides on horseback, and a climb
upon the tall trees."
“I thought so; and some sport with the gun. Well, why don't

father to let you ?”


I don't know; we have no friends in the country.”
“O yes, you have. Mr Everly would allow you to come to

“O, would he?" cried Tom, with delight. “That would be so
nice. Do you know Mr Everly ?”


hear me say




[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

" I should think so," roared Ned, with a laugh. “Why, I'm hiş gamekeeper; and if you come, we'll have a day's shooting together."

" What a capital fellow you are !” exclaimed the admiring and grateful boy. “I'll take care not to quiz country people again.”

At this point, the lawyer descended with the packet made up, and advised Ned to hasten to the Canongate, for it was near three o'clock. Ned promised to attend to the various instructions, and find an early opportunity of visiting the office again, to tell how the manæuvre succeeded.

"Weel, Maister Oakham, ye hinna lost yersel', I see,” cried the smiling landlady, as she opened the door to him. 6. But I'm shure ye'll be hungry now, and I'll hae yer tea ready in twa minutes."

Ned thanked her; for, in truth, he was somewhat hungry. No sooner was he in Mr Everly's room, than he noiselessly drew forth the packet, and opening the door of communication, deposited it safely in the recess of the bureau.

There, that's all right,” he muttered, when he got safe back again. Dogwood will be here very soon, and I shall take the liberty of observing his motions.”

He was not mistaken. Before he was half done with his tea, he heard a knock at the outer door; and, in a little after, Mrs Ford ushered the disguised valet into the adjoining apartment.

“ Just sit ye doon, sir,” she said, in her kind, hospitable way. « Maister Smith will be shure to be here at four, and it just wants teu minutes."

“Thank you, ma’am; thank you,” said Dogwood, in his assumed English tone. “I shall have much pleasure in waiting. Don't let me keep you up: pray retire, and go on with your kitchen operations."

“That's it, Dogwood; you are doing it prime. Lay the butter on thick, and get her out of the way,” mumbled Ned, with his mouth full, as he took up his position by the door. The good landlady, altogether unconscious that the visitor had come for a sinister purpose, withdrew, closing the door behind her; and the moment she was gone, he threw off his indifferent look, sat upright in his seat, and looked eagerly towards the bureau. In another instant he rose, passed across the roum, withdrew the drawer from its place, darted forward his hand, and secured the packet, conveying it rapidly to his pocket, while a gleam of triumph lighted up his grey eyes.

“It's all right," Ned heard him mutter to himself, as he put in the drawer, reclused the spring, and locked the former, as before, with the little key which he had in his pocket.

“Do you think so?” grinned Ned through the keyhole. "Well, you are welcome to the idea, but take care that you don't find yourself mistaken one day. Now, I wonder if he will stay till Henry come, and what kind of a lie he will hatch to impose on the

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

A very

wod thum brate


[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

youth? All right, indeed. Yes; it is-not for you, though, but
for us."

The valet did remain. Possibly he thought it might raise
suspicion were he to depart without seeing Henry, and he trusted
to his disguise. He felt curious to see the real heir to Rockhart
Hall, though he was doing, without compunction, his very best to
deprive him of his rights.

few minutes had passed ere the sound of arrivals were heard in the house, and Henry entered the room.

“ Mr Smith, I presume ?” said Dogwood, rising and making a bow.

“The same, sir," answered Henry, returning it, and regarding his unknown visitor with an inquiring look.

“ You don't know me, of course; but my name is Fenton. I am connected with the great printing establishment of Reid & Co., Paternoster Row, and am down in the north for the purpose of engaging a few hands. Scotchmen, you know, are preferred in London. I understand you are a compositor, and shall be happy to come to terms with you, if you think of crossing the Border.

“I am obliged to you,” replied Henry, politely;" “ but circumstances prevent me from leaving Scotland."

“Oh, indeed! I am sorry for that,” said the soi-disant Mr Fenton.
“I am sure a youth of your appearance and activity would soon rise
to eminence in England."

You are very good, sir," returned Henry. “But it is possible
I may soon leave the printing business.”
“Oh! I see; other prospects in view, I suppose? Well

good-day. If you think better of it, just drop a note to Messrs
Reid & Co., and use my name-Mr Fenton.”

I shall not forget," replied Henry, and he very kindly showed his visitor to the door, nor remarked that the sharp grey eyes had been scanning him very keenly.

Meanwhile, Ned had with great reluctance to leave his post by the door, and prepare to meet his master, who had returned along with Henry. Mr Everly met his gamekeeper with kind cordiality; but an old man who was behind him, sprang unceremoniously forward, and threw his arms round Ned's neck, hugging him with a vehemence which utterly confounded the rough yet honest fellow.

“ Heaven bless ye, Maister Oakham!” said å tremulous voice. “ Man, I'm glad to see ye.”

“So it would appear,” returned Ned, striving to get his mouth free enough to speak.

“ But in order that I


feel a similar
pleasure, you must tell me who you are."
" Wha I am ?
Od, that's a guid ane tae.

Dae ye no kea
Andrew Pringle? Did Diamond no say ony thing tae ye
auld Andrew ?"

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

66 Thank you.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

What a

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

“O yes; of course she did. It was you who brought her up."
Ay was it, man; and prood am I o the bonnie lassie.”
“So you may," said Ned, warmly returning the old man's embrace.

“But, man, let's hae a richt look at ye,” cried Andrew, standing at arm's-length to have a proper view of Ned.

“With all my heart,” laughed Ned, turning himself round, and smiling to his master, who was heartily enjoying the scene. 66 Losh

preserve us, but ye are a lang, strappin'chield ! roond, red, hairy face ye hae gotten! and sic muckle hands ! A thump frae ane o' them wad be nae joke. But, О man, yon was a braw nicht's wark! We hae a' blessed ye for it ever sin syne.'

“You see what friends you have got in Edinburgh, Ned," observed his master.

“More, far more than I deserve,” replied Ned.

“ Dinna say that, sir," interrupted Andrew. 6. What wad hae come ower Diamond and us a', if ye hadna taen her out o' the hands o thae rascals ? She wad hae been murdered, and Henry and me tae wad hae sune dee'd o'grief. But here we are a' happy. She has fun' oot her folk, and so has Henry, a' by your daein's. Maister Oakham, ye are an angel, sir, in disguise."

Well, he has taken upon him a very substantial shape," said Richard, laughing loudly. “ I did not know that angels had been 80 very stalwart. However, Ned, lad, you must make up your mind to a great deal of this kindness. Here comes another of your admirers.

This was Henry, who greeted Ned with more refinement, yet with equal sincerity, and thanked him for the brave protection he extended to the idol of his heart. We may leave this

group, as they have doubtless many things to say to each other, more interesting to themselves than to us, and follow Dogwood on his triumphant way to Rockhart Hall.

Never was devoted valet more elated. He thought he had accomplished his mission to perfection, and might now enjoy ease for the rest of his life. He was to receive a thousand pounds for the certificate and his silence, and would not this suffice to a man of his modest desires ! But Dogwood was not entirely influenced by mercenary feelings in the transaction. No, he had thrown his whole soul into the cause.

He had served Sir Edward so long and 80 faithfully, that he had come to identify himself with his position, and he proceeded in the business with the same interest as if it had

On reaching the Hall, he was not long in seeking out his master, who was as usual in his private room. During his valet's absence, the baronet had suffered severely in mind. It was, in truth, an anxious period for bin, because if he failed, his chance was lost; and though they had thought of many plans to gain their object,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

been his own,

to be

« PreviousContinue »