Chapter 2: Denounced
"Charlie," Sir Marmaduke said on the following morning, at breakfast, "it is quite possible that that villain who acted as spy, and that other villain who employed him–I need not mention names–may swear an information against me, and I may be arrested, on the charge of being concerned in a plot. I am not much afraid of it, if they do. The most they could say is that I was prepared to take up arms, if his majesty crossed from France; but, as there are thousands and thousands of men ready to do the same, they may fine me, perhaps, but I should say that is all. However, what I want to say to you is, keep out of the way, if they come. I shall make light of the affair, while you, being pretty hot tempered, might say things that would irritate them, while they could be of no assistance to me. Therefore, I would rather that you were kept out of it, altogether. I shall want you here. In my absence, there must be somebody to look after things.
"Mind that rascal John Dormay does not put his foot inside the house, while I am away. That fellow is playing some deep game, though I don't quite know what it is. I suppose he wants to win the goodwill of the authorities, by showing his activity and zeal; and, of course, he will imagine that no one has any idea that he has been in communication with this spy. We have got a hold over him, and, when I come back, I will have it out with him. He is not popular now, and, if it were known that he had been working against me, his wife's kinsman, behind my back, my friends about here would make the country too hot to hold him."
"Yes, father; but please do not let him guess that we have learnt it from Ciceley. You see, that is the only way we know about it."
"Yes, you are right there. I will be careful that he shall not know the little maid has anything to do with it. But we will think of that, afterwards; maybe nothing will come of it, after all. But, if anything does, mind, my orders are that you keep away from the house, while they are in it. When you come back, Banks will tell you what has happened.
"You had better take your horse, and go for a ride now. Not over there, Charlie. I know, if you happened to meet that fellow, he would read in your face that you knew the part he had been playing, and, should nothing come of the business, I don't want him to know that, at present. The fellow can henceforth do us no harm, for we shall be on our guard against eavesdroppers; and, for the sake of cousin Celia and the child, I do not want an open breach. I do not see the man often, myself, and I will take good care I don't put myself in the way of meeting him, for the present, at any rate. Don't ride over there today."
"Very well, father. I will ride over and see Harry Jervoise. I promised him that I would come over one day this week."
It was a ten-mile ride, and, as he entered the courtyard of Mr. Jervoise's fine old mansion, he leapt off his horse, and threw the reins over a post. A servant came out.
"The master wishes to speak to you, Master Carstairs."
"No ill news, I hope, Charlie?" Mr. Jervoise asked anxiously, as the lad was shown into the room, where his host was standing beside the carved chimney piece.
"No, sir, there is nothing new. My father thought that I had better be away today, in case any trouble should arise out of what took place yesterday, so I rode over to see Harry. I promised to do so, one day this week."
"That is right. Does Sir Marmaduke think, then, that he will be arrested?"
"I don't know that he expects it, sir, but he says that it is possible."
"I do not see that they have anything to go upon, Charlie. As we agreed last night, that spy never had any opportunity of overhearing us before, and, certainly, he can have heard nothing yesterday. The fellow can only say what many people know, or could know, if they liked; that half a dozen of Sir Marmaduke's friends rode over to take supper with him. They can make nothing out of that."
"No, sir; and my father said that, at the worst, it could be but the matter of a fine."
"Quite so, lad; but I don't even see how it could amount to that. You will find Harry somewhere about the house. He has said nothing to me about going out."
Harry Jervoise was just the same age as Charlie, and was his greatest friend. They were both enthusiastic in the cause of the Stuarts, equally vehement in their expressions of contempt for the Dutch king, equally anxious for the coming of him whom they regarded as their lawful monarch. They spent the morning together, as usual; went first to the stables and patted and talked to their horses; then they played at bowls on the lawn; after which, they had a bout of sword play; and, having thus let off some of their animal spirits, sat down and talked of the glorious times to come, when the king was to have his own again.
Late in the afternoon, Charlie mounted his horse and rode for home. When within half a mile of the house, a man stepped out into the road in front of him.
"Hullo, Banks, what is it? No bad news, I hope?"
And he leapt from his horse, alarmed at the pallor of the old butler's face.
"Yes, Master Charles, I have some very bad news, and have been waiting for the last two hours here, so as to stop you going to the house."
"Why shouldn't I go to the house?"
"Because there are a dozen soldiers, and three or four constables there."
"And my father?"
"They have taken him away."
"This is bad news, Banks; but I know that he thought that it might be so. But it will not be very serious; it is only a question of a fine," he said.
The butler shook his head, sadly.
"It is worse than that, Master Charles. It is worse than you think."
"Well, tell me all about it, Banks," Charlie said, feeling much alarmed at the old man's manner.
"Well, sir, at three this afternoon, two magistrates, John Cockshaw and William Peters–"
("Both bitter Whigs," Charlie put in.)
"–Rode up to the door. They had with them six constables, and twenty troopers."
"There were enough of them, then," Charlie said. "Did they think my father was going to arm you all, and defend the place?"
"I don't know, sir, but that is the number that came. The magistrates, and the constables, and four of the soldiers came into the house. Sir Marmaduke met them in the hall.
"'To what do I owe the honour of this visit?' he said, quite cold and haughty.
"'We have come, Sir Marmaduke Carstairs, to arrest you, on the charge of being concerned in a treasonable plot against the king's life.'
"Sir Marmaduke laughed out loud.
"'I have no design on the life of William of Orange, or of any other man,' he said. 'I do not pretend to love him; in that matter there are thousands in this realm with me; but, as for a design against his life, I should say, gentlemen, there are few who know me, even among men like yourselves, whose politics are opposed to mine, who would for a moment credit such a foul insinuation.'
"'We have nothing to do with that matter, Sir Marmaduke,' John Cockshaw said. 'We are acting upon a sworn information to that effect.'
"Sir Marmaduke was angry, now.
"'I can guess the name of the dog who signed it,' he said, 'and, kinsman though he is by marriage, I will force the lie down his throat.'
"Then he cooled down again.
"'Well, gentlemen, you have to do your duty. What do you desire next?'
"'Our duty is, next, to search the house, for any treasonable documents that may be concealed here.'
"'Search away, gentlemen,' Sir Marmaduke said, seating himself in one of the settles. 'The house is open to you. My butler, James Banks, will go round with you, and will open for you any cupboard or chest that may be locked.'
"The magistrates nodded to the four soldiers. Two of them took their post near the chair, one at the outside door, and one at the other end of the room. Sir Marmaduke said nothing, but shrugged his shoulders, and then began to play with the ears of the little spaniel, Fido, that had jumped up on his knees.
"'We will first go into the study,' John Cockshaw said; and I led them there.
"They went straight to the cabinet with the pull-down desk, where Sir Marmaduke writes when he does write, which is not often. It was locked, and I went to Sir Marmaduke for the key.
"'You will find it in that French vase on the mantel,' he said. 'I don't open the desk once in three months, and should lose the key, if I carried it with me.'
"I went to the mantel, turned the vase over, and the key dropped out.
"'Sir Marmaduke has nothing to hide, gentlemen,' I said, 'so, you see, he keeps the key here.'
"I went to the cabinet, and put the key in. As I did so I said:
"'Look, gentlemen, someone has opened, or tried to open, this desk. Here is a mark, as if a knife had been thrust in to shoot the bolt.'
"They looked where I pointed, and William Peters said to Cockshaw, 'It is as the man says. Someone has been trying to force the lock–one of the varlets, probably, who thought the knight might keep his money here.'
"'It can be of no importance, one way or the other,' Cockshaw said roughly.
"'Probably not, Mr. Cockshaw, but, at the same time I will make a note of it.'
"I turned the key, and pulled down the door that makes a desk. They seemed to know all about it, for, without looking at the papers in the pigeonholes, they pulled open the lower drawer, and took two foreign-looking letters out from it. I will do them the justice to say that they both looked sorry, as they opened them, and looked at the writing.
"'It is too true,' Peters said. 'Here is enough to hang a dozen men.'
"They tumbled all the other papers into a sack, that one of the constables had brought with him. Then they searched all the other furniture, but they evidently did not expect to find anything. Then they went back into the hall.
"'Well, gentlemen,' Sir Marmaduke said, 'have you found anything of a terrible kind?'
"'We have found, I regret to say,' John Cockshaw said, 'the letters of which we were in search, in your private cabinet–letters that prove, beyond all doubt, that you are concerned in a plot similar to that discovered three years ago, to assassinate his majesty the king.'
"Sir Marmaduke sprang to his feet.
"'You have found letters of that kind in my cabinet?' he said, in a dazed sort of way.
"The magistrate bowed, but did not speak.
"'Then, sir,' Sir Marmaduke exclaimed, 'you have found letters that I have never seen. You have found letters that must have been placed there by some scoundrel, who plotted my ruin. I assert to you, on the honour of a gentleman, that no such letters have ever met my eye, and that, if such a proposition had been made to me, I care not by whom, I would have struck to the ground the man who offered me such an insult.'
"'We are sorry, Sir Marmaduke Carstairs,' Mr. Peters said, 'most sorry, both of us, that it should have fallen to our duty to take so painful a proceeding against a neighbour; but, you see, the matter is beyond us. We have received a sworn information that you are engaged in such a plot. We are told that you are in the habit of locking up papers of importance in a certain cabinet, and there we find papers of a most damnatory kind. We most sincerely trust that you may be able to prove your innocence in the matter, but we have nothing to do but to take you with us, as a prisoner, to Lancaster.'
"Sir Marmaduke unbuckled his sword, and laid it by. He was quieter than I thought he could be, in such a strait, for he has always been by nature, as you know, choleric.
"'I am ready, gentlemen,' he said.
"Peters whispered in Cockshaw's ear.
"'Ah yes,' the other said, 'I had well-nigh forgotten,' and he turned to me. 'Where is Master Charles Carstairs?'
"'He is not in the house,' I said. 'He rode away this morning, and did not tell me where he was going.'
"'When do you expect him back?'
"'I do not expect him at all,' I said. 'When Master Charles rides out to visit his friends, he sometimes stays away for a day or two.'
"'Is it supposed,' Sir Marmaduke asked coldly, 'that my son is also mixed up in this precious scheme?'
"'It is sworn that he was privy to it,' John Cockshaw said, 'and is, therefore, included in the orders for arrest.'
"Sir Marmaduke did not speak, but he shut his lips tight, and his hand went to where the hilt of his sword would have been. Two of the constables went out and questioned the grooms, and found that you had, as I said, ridden off. When they came back, there was some talk between the magistrates, and then, as I said, four constables and some soldiers were left in the house. Sir Marmaduke's horse was brought round, and he rode away, with the magistrates and the other soldiers."
"I am quite sure, Banks, that my father could have known nothing of those letters, or of any plot against William's life. I have heard him speak so often of the assassination plot, and how disgraceful it was, and how, apart from its wickedness, it had damaged the cause, that I am certain he would not have listened to a word about another such business."