"I am sure of that, too," the old butler said; "but that is not the question, Master Charles. There are the papers. We know that Sir Marmaduke did not put them there, and that he did not know that they were there. But how is it to be proved, sir? Everyone knows that Sir Marmaduke is a Jacobite, and is regarded as the head of the party in this part of the country. He has enemies, and one of them, no doubt, has played this evil trick upon him, and the putting of your name in shows what the motive is."
"But it is ridiculous, Banks. Who could believe that such a matter as this would be confided to a lad of my age?"
"They might not believe it in their hearts, but people often believe what suits their interest. This accusation touches Sir Marmaduke's life; and his estate, even if his life were spared, would be confiscated. In such a case, it might be granted to anyone, and possibly even to the son of him they would call the traitor. But the accusation that the son was concerned, or was, at any rate, privy to the crime intended by the father, would set all against him, and public opinion would approve of the estates passing away from him altogether.
"But now, sir, what do you think you had best do?"
"Of course I shall go on, Banks, and let them take me to join my father in Lancaster jail. Do you think I would run away?"
"No, sir, I don't think you would run away. I am sure you would not run away from fear, but I would not let them lay hands on me, until I had thought the matter well over. You might be able to do more good to Sir Marmaduke were you free, than you could do if you were caged up with him. He has enemies, we know, who are doing their best to ruin him, and, as you see, they are anxious that you, too, should be shut up within four walls."
"You are right, Banks. At any rate, I will ride back and consult Mr. Jervoise. Besides, he ought to be warned, for he, too, may be arrested on the same charge. How did you get away without being noticed?"
"I said that I felt ill–and I was not speaking falsely–at Sir Marmaduke's arrest, and would lie down. They are keeping a sharp lookout at the stables, and have a soldier at each door, to see that no one leaves the house, but I went out by that old passage that comes out among the ruins of the monastery."
"I know, Banks. My father showed it to me, three years ago."
"I shall go back that way again, sir, and no one will know that I have left the house. You know the trick of the sliding panel, Master Charles?"
"Yes, I know it, and if I should want to come into the house again, I will come that way, Banks."
"Here is a purse," the butler said. "You may want money, sir. Should you want more, there is a store hidden away, in the hiding place under the floor of the Priest's Chamber, at the other end of the passage. Do you know that?"
"I know the Priest's Chamber of course, because you go through that to get to the long passage, but I don't know of any special hiding place there."
"Doubtless, Sir Marmaduke did not think it necessary to show it you then, sir, but he would have done it later on, so I do not consider that I am breaking my oath of secrecy in telling you. You know the little narrow loophole in the corner?"
"Yes, of course. There is no other that gives light to the room. It is hidden from view outside by the ivy."
"Well, sir, you count four bricks below that, and you press hard on the next, that is the fifth, then you will hear a click, then you press hard with your heel at the corner, in the angle of the flag below, and you will find the other corner rise. Then you get hold of it and lift it up, and below there is a stone chamber, two feet long and about eighteen inches wide and deep. It was made to conceal papers in the old days, and I believe food was always kept there, in case the chamber had to be used in haste.
"Sir Marmaduke uses it as a store place for his money. He has laid by a good deal every year, knowing that money would be wanted when troops had to be raised. I was with him about three weeks ago, when he put in there half the rents that had been paid in. So, if you want money for any purpose, you will know where to find it."
"Thank you, Banks. It may be very useful to have such a store, now."
"Where shall I send to you, sir, if I have any news that it is urgent you should know of?"
"Send to Mr. Jervoise, Banks. If I am not there, he will know where I am to be found."
"I will send Will Ticehurst, Master Charles. He is a stout lad, and a shrewd one, and I know there is nothing that he would not do for you. But you had best stop no longer. Should they find out that I am not in the house, they will guess that I have come to warn you, and may send out a party to search."
Charlie at once mounted, and rode back to Mr. Jervoise's.
"I expected you back," that gentleman said, as he entered. "Bad news travels apace, and, an hour since, a man brought in the news that Sir Marmaduke had been seen riding, evidently a prisoner, surrounded by soldiers, on the road towards Lancaster. So that villain we chased last night must have learnt something. I suppose they will be here tomorrow, but I do not see what serious charge they can have against us. We have neither collected arms, nor taken any steps towards a rising. We have talked over what we might do, if there were a landing made from France, but, as there may be no landing, that is a very vague charge."
"Unfortunately, that is not the charge against my father. It is a much more serious business."
And Charlie repeated the substance of what Banks had told him, interrupted occasionally by indignant ejaculations from Mr. Jervoise.
"It is an infamous plot," he said, when the lad had concluded his story. "Infamous! There was never a word said of such a scheme, and no one who knows your father would believe it for an instant."
"Yes, sir, but the judges, who do not know him, may believe it. No doubt those who put those papers there, will bring forward evidence to back it up."
"I am afraid that will be the case. It is serious for us all," Mr. Jervoise said thoughtfully. "That man will be prepared to swear that he heard the plot discussed by us all. They seized your father, today, as being the principal and most important of those concerned in it, but we may all find ourselves in the same case tomorrow. I must think it over.
"It is well that your man warned you. You had best not stay here tonight, for the house may be surrounded at daybreak. Harry shall go over, with you, to one of my tenants, and you can both sleep there. It will not be necessary for you to leave for another two or three hours. You had better go to him now; supper will be served in half an hour. I will talk with you again, afterwards."
Harry was waiting outside the door, having also heard the news of Sir Marmaduke's arrest.
"It is villainous!" he exclaimed, when he heard the whole story. "No doubt you are right, and that John Dormay is at the bottom of it all. The villain ought to be slain."
"He deserves it, Harry; and, if I thought it would do good, I would gladly fight him, but I fear that it would do harm. Such a scoundrel must needs be a coward, and he might call for aid, and I might be dragged off to Lancaster. Moreover, he is Ciceley's father, and my cousin Celia's husband, and, were I to kill him, it would separate me altogether from them. However, I shall in all things be guided by your father. He will know what best ought to be done.
"It is likely that he, too, may be arrested. This is evidently a deep plot, and your father thinks that, although the papers alone may not be sufficient to convict my father, the spy we had in our house will be ready to swear that he heard your father, and mine, and the others, making arrangements for the murder of William of Orange; and their own word to the contrary would count but little against such evidence, backed by those papers."
They talked together for half an hour, and were then summoned to supper. Nothing was said, upon the subject, until the servitors had retired, and the meal was cleared away. Mr. Jervoise was, like Sir Marmaduke, a widower.
"I have been thinking it all over," he said, when they were alone. "I have determined to ride, at once, to consult some of my friends, and to warn them of what has taken place. That is clearly my duty. I shall not return until I learn whether warrants are out for my apprehension. Of course, the evidence is not so strong against me as it is against Sir Marmaduke; still, the spy's evidence would tell as much against me as against him.
"You will go up, Harry, with your friend, to Pincot's farm. It lies so far in the hills that it would probably be one of the last to be searched, and, if a very sharp lookout is kept there, a body of men riding up the valley would be seen over a mile away, and there would be plenty of time to take to the hills. There Charlie had better remain, until he hears from me.
"You can return here, Harry, in the morning, for there is no probability whatever of your being included in any warrant of arrest. It could only relate to us, who were in the habit of meeting at Sir Marmaduke's. You will ride over to the farm each day, and tell Charlie any news you may have learnt, or take any message I may send you for him.
"We must do nothing hastily. The first thing to learn, if possible, is whether any of us are included in the charge of being concerned in a plot against William's life. In the next place, who are the witnesses, and what evidence they intend to give. No doubt the most important is the man who was placed as a spy at Sir Marmaduke's."
"As I know his face, sir," Charlie said eagerly, "could I not find him, and either force him to acknowledge that it is all false, or else kill him? I should be in my right in doing that, surely, since he is trying to swear away my father's life by false evidence."
"I should say nothing against that, lad. If ever a fellow deserved killing he does; that is, next to his rascally employer. But his death would harm rather than benefit us. It would be assumed, of course, that we had removed him to prevent his giving evidence against us. No doubt his depositions have been taken down, and they would then be assumed to be true, and we should be worse off than if he could be confronted with us, face to face, in the court. We must let the matter rest, at present."
"Would it be possible to get my father out of prison, sir? I am sure I can get a dozen men, from among the tenants and grooms, who would gladly risk their lives for him."
"Lancaster jail is a very strong place," Mr. Jervoise said, "and I fear there is no possibility of rescuing him from it. Of course, at present we cannot say where the trial will take place. A commission may be sent down, to hold a special assizes at Lancaster, or the trial may take place in London. At any rate, nothing whatever can be done, until we know more. I have means of learning what takes place at Lancaster, for we have friends there, as well as at most other places. When I hear from them the exact nature of the charge, the evidence that will be given, and the names of those accused of being mixed up in this pretended plot, I shall be better able to say what is to be done.
"Now, I must mount and ride without further delay. I have to visit all our friends who met at Lynnwood, and it will take me until tomorrow morning to see and confer with them."
A few minutes after Mr. Jervoise had ridden off, his son and Charlie also mounted. A man went with them, with a supply of torches, for, although Harry knew the road–which was little better than a sheep track–well enough during the day, his father thought he might find it difficult, if not impossible, to follow it on a dark night.
They congratulated themselves upon the precaution taken, before they had gone very far, for there was no moon, the sky was overcast, and a drizzling rain had begun to come down. They could hardly see their horses' heads, and had proceeded but a short distance, when it became necessary for their guide to light a torch. It took them, therefore, over two hours to reach the mountain farm.
They were expected, otherwise the household would have been asleep. Mr. Jervoise had, as soon as he determined upon their going there, sent off a man on horseback, who, riding fast, had arrived before night set in. There was, therefore, a great turf fire glowing on the hearth when they arrived, and a hearty welcome awaiting them from the farmer, his wife, and daughters. Harry had, by his father's advice, brought two changes of clothes in a valise, but they were so completely soaked to the skin that they decided they would, after drinking a horn of hot-spiced ale that had been prepared for them, go at once to bed, where, in spite of the stirring events of the day, both went off to sleep, as soon as their heads touched the pillows.
The sun was shining brightly, when they woke. The mists had cleared off, although they still hung round the head of Ingleborough, six miles away, and on some of the other hilltops.