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not expect to add to your chances of escape,-the people of the house are all in my pay as well.”
He opened the carriage door, as he concluded, and springing out, held his arm to assist her to alight. Dinah, however, thrust it roughly by, and sprang lightly out, determined to lose no opportunity of making her escape, if any such should present itself. Her companion did not trouble himself to proffer his assistance, but walked alongside of her, up the uneven and dilapidated steps of the house before which they had stopped.
Dinah cast a wistful glance up to the black, deserted-looking windows and gloomy front, and her heart died within her as the faint hopes of escape she had cherished vanished as rapidly as they had come. The house looked as if it had been deserted for years, as in all probability it had, for it bore about it none of the usual tokens of life, but looked as grim and sinister as if it had long been given over to the evil genius of ruin and decay.
A figure—it might have been that of a ruffianly villain, for aught the face and expression testified to the contrary, but which, in reality, was a woman,-stood within the gloomy, damp passage, shading a black, guttering candle, with a still blacker hand; who muttered something as they came up, which Dinah, however, could not catch. Dinah shrunk with terror from the terrible expression of the hard, repulsive features, which, lighted up with two wild, Serce eyes, were perfectly appalling in their vindictive hideousness. This gaunt giantess leering on the startled beauty of the fair young thing she saw before her, as if she gloated over the thought that it could not save its owner from perdition, led them along an unevenly-paved, filthy passage, and up some creaking stairs, into a room, the chilly dampness of which made even Cavendish himself shiver with cold.
“ Haven't you a better room than this to put the young lady in, mother ?” he demanded.
“ Anan! 'tis a very pretty room, and gay and cool these nice hot summer nights; only old bones like mine can't abear it," she croaked, in a hoarse, rough voice. “Sid down, dearie,” she added, rubbing her wrinkled hands as hier keen, cold eyes were fastened on Dinah's pallid face.
“Tell the men to niake haste, mother, for this dainty summer house of yours is enough to kill one;" said the other, shivering as he spoke. Why didn't you light a fire, you old fool ?"
“Dearie! dearie ! what extravagance that would be in July," croaked the old beldam, with a horrid laugh ; "there was a gay fire in the kitchen, a while ago, but Madge put that out afore she went up to bed, and that's more than an hour agone.”
« Then tell them to make haste and bring the new horses out,” cried the man, eagerly ; “ do you hear, mother?”
“Anan !” answered the old woman, with a stolid smile; “Dearie! dearie! did you complain of the cold, lovey ?”
“Cold enough, in all conscience, you old fool ;" growled her interlocutor, gruffly. “Here, just watch a moment there, and I will go to them myself.”
The old woman leered and nodded, and the man running out, she presently mounted guard at the door, crooning and muttering to herself as she looked now at Dinah, and now at the carriage at the door, by turns; about which some accident seemed to have occurred. Presently the postillion came in, and casting a look at the old woman as he passed, came and stood before the fire.
“Eh, dearie ! dearie ! how slow they are !” forgetting Dinah, in her anxiety to inspect the operations without. “If I don't go, they'll never get on again;" and she tottered to the door.
The postillion waited for a moment, but she did not come back; something had certainly happened to the carriage.
“Yes; hush !” and Stephen stole to the door and listened. Presently he returned again, as noiselessly as he had gone. Dinah had now risen up, her knees trembling beneath her, and her heart throbbing as if it would burst.
“ You are astonished to see me,” said Stephen, smiling.
“O what happiness !” ejaculated the poor girl, sinking back in her chair. “ You will save me, Stephen,-you must-you can-oh, let us fly this instant.”
“I am here for that purpose, Dinah, but you must be calm," whispered Stephen, with great rapidity; " be only cautious, and we will outwit them yet.'
“I am quite calm, Stephen,” said Dinah, with an effort; can we not fly this instant ?”
“No, no; wait one moment,” and once more he crept to the door, and listened.
Dinah also listened : her very life seemed to hang upon the events of the next minute; but, to all outward appearance, she was perfectly unmoved. She heard them bustling about in front of the house, the voices of Lord Cavendish and that of a strange man rising above all the rest; and it could easily be seen that something delayed their further progress, for the one cursed the delay, whilst the other scolded right and left, and even exchanged blows with those who came in his way. Presently she heard Lord Cavendish cry out:
What, are you here, old death's head? Didn't I bid you keep guard over the young woman within, there ?”
“Eh, dearie! dearie ! I'couldn't stay in, but left the gal with the postboy, love;" croaked the old beldam.
“She's safe with him, old lass,” was the satisfactory rejoinder; and the next moment Stephen crept back.
“Now, Dinah, listen !” he whispered. “It would be very easy to run away, here, only there is one little obstacle to such a step. That villain brought a man on the dickey with him, who is more than a match for me, of himself; and until we can get rid of him, it's no use our running away; do that ?"
“Well, then, I must just contrive, some way or other, to get rid of him," continued he; "and until then, just you keep quiet, and say nothing; if the worst come to the worst, why it can't be long before we come to some town, and then your deliverance is certain, though if the postboy had been a creature of that dastardly villain's, you would scarcely have had such a chance of marrying Wat. Now, do keep quiet Di, and leave the rest to me. If once rid of the bully on the dickey, I'd give his master such a dressing, as would leave him an easy skin for one while. Now I must be off, or they'll begin to suspect,” and whistling a tune, Stephen lounged out, and Dinah presently heard him storming and swearing as lustily as the best of them.
In five minutes time, the old beldam hobbled back, and with a leering smile, snatched hold of Dinah's wrist, and said that her lovey was a-waiting for her. Dinah, acting up to her instructions, feigned resistance, and the next moment her abductor himself rushed in, apparently in a very bad temper.
“Come, come; this is no time to play the fool, madam," he said, unceremoniously; "you know that resistance would be vain, you silly little fool. Come! come !” and he took hold of her by the wrist, and led her to the door, where his accomplice, aided by two or three rough-looking country louts, had managed to repair the accident, which must have only been trifling. “Here, open the door, there !” and Dinah suffered herself to be hustled in, and her companion leaping in after her, the door was closed, and they were again in motion.
“How ridiculous it is of you," said his lordship, after they had ridden several miles in silence, "to persist in placing yourself in obstruction to my wishes. Can you not see that you are completely in my power, you little simpleton ? Not another accident, I bope,” he growled, as the carriage came to a dead stop; and he let down the window.
“It's only that fool of a postboy dropped his whip,” growled his accomplice, in answer to his hasty enquiries, as he rolled off his perch; “hang the clumsy rascal, does he think other folk
have nothing to do but wait upon him ?” and the next in. stant he was twenty yards behind, seeking for the missing instrument.
The peer fell back into his own corner, perfectly paralysed, for a moment, at this new and unexpected misfortune. The carriage flew forward so rapidly, that it was only too evident that the horses had taken fright, and they might be killed at any moment now; everything had been managed so skilfully, that he never suspected for one moment that it was all the result of a preconcerted plan, or he would scarcely have been so uneasy as to the result. After a time, however, the carriage seemed to rush forward less rapidly, and although it still progressed much more rapidly than it had heretofore done, the gentle and regular oscillation showed that the horses were once more perfectly under the command of their driver.
Dinah now, for the first time since she had left her own home, that evening, breathed freely; for she had now no fear for her own safety, and could even afford to listen, with some complacency, to the muttered oaths her companion wasted upon the maladventure which had deprived them of the assistance of his worthy ally. He still, however, did not suspect that anything more disastrous could ensue. But Dinah soon began to feel impatient, and wondered why Stephen did not at once cut the adventure short, especially as she could distinguish, every now and then, dwellings scattered by the roadside, which would have been an excellent asylum for them in case they were compelled to seek a lodging for the night.
Chancing to look out at one of those times when her uneasiness made her almost give vent to her thoughts aloud, she noticed that they had apparently deviated from the broad highway, on which they had hitherto travelled; this gave her fresh courage, and she lay back again in her own corner, determined to bear everything patiently a little longer.
Her companion had fallen into a heavy, dozing slumber, for he had drunk pretty deeply, to keep his courage to the sticking place, when he was very rudely aroused from his slumbers, by the carriage door being suddenly opened, and a powerful arm, the next instant, dragged him out.
“ Murder! murder ! help! help! Postboy ! help, I say," screamed my lord, struggling with his assailant.
The only answer was a lusty blow, that laid bare one side of
his left jaw, and covered our unfortunate adventurer with his own blood.
"You infamous dastardly villain !" muttered a gruff voice, as the blows still fell, like a thresher's flail, now on his head, on his chest, neck, back and limbs, “I could thrash you to a mummy! I could break every bone in your skin! there! there! there!” and again, the full force of that fearful cudgel, wielded by Stephen Harding's athletic arm, came down upon his helpless antagonist; “Do you know me now, you abortion ! you disgrace to humanity! you pitiful dastard ?"
Never had Stephen before been so eloquent; never before had his lordship yelled so lustily.
“Murder! murder ! you will kill me!” he cried piteously, as Stephen still belaboured him with hearty good-will.
“Do you know why I thrash you so soundly ?" demanded the other, shaking him with so much force, that his teeth chattered in his head.
“Oh! oh! but you shall smart for this—I will bring you to a pretty reckoning-oh! oh !” and down again came Stephen's cudgel upon his quivering back.
“ You will, will you !” said Stephen, sturdily; "you cowardly seducer! I dare you to do it--out upon you, it is such vile things as you, that men should spurn and spit upon-do you know that the girl you had the hardihood to force away with you, is my cousin," and Stephen's cudgel was flourished 'menacingly over his head.
“ Have mercy upon me!” entreated his cowardly opponent, in a piteous tone; “I sadly fear you have broken my arm.”
“I only hope that I have,-it will be a lasting lesson for you, in all time to come, never to plot and plan against those defenceless beings, whose very weakness should defend them against the ruthless violence of such vile beings like yourself.
– I say again, I hope I have given you some mark of this night's adventures, that you will carry about with you through life. Before you go, however, down on your knees, and beg that lady's pardon, for your share in this night's wrong to her-down, I say !” and the peer, whether he would or no, fell prostrate before the carriage.
“For goodness sake, Stephen, let him go,” said Dinah, who sickened at the sight of the suffering depicted in the wretch's face, infamous as had been his behaviour to herself—"and, oh! do let us get away from this place, Stephen, at once," she cried, ursting into tears.
“ As your lordship had the kindness to bring us here,” said Stephen, with cutting irony; "we will take the liberty of using your conveyance as far as the next town-should you be fortunate enough to reach that place, by to-morrow morning, I