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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Flight Of The Shadow - Chapter 21. A Foiled Attempt
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The Flight Of The Shadow - Chapter 21. A Foiled Attempt Post by :win_thomas Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :996

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The Flight Of The Shadow - Chapter 21. A Foiled Attempt


The morning after my uncle's return, came a messenger from Rising with his lady's compliments, asking if Mr. Whichcote could tell her anything of her son: he had left the house unseen, during a feverish attack, and as she could get no tidings of him, she was in great anxiety. She had accidentally heard that he had made Mr. Whichcote's acquaintance, and therefore took the liberty of extending to him the inquiry she had already made everywhere else among his friends. My uncle wrote in answer, that her son had come to his house in a high fever; that he had been under medical care ever since; and that he hoped in a day or two he might be able to return. If he expressed a desire to see his mother, he would immediately let her know, but in the meantime it was imperative he should be kept quiet.

From this letter, Lady Cairnedge might surmise that her relations with her son were at least suspected. Within two hours came another message--that she would send a close carriage to bring him home the next day. Then indeed were my uncle and I glad that we had come. For though Martha would certainly have defended the citadel to her utmost, she might have been sorely put to it if his mother proceeded to carry him away by force. My uncle, in reply, begged her not to give herself the useless trouble of sending to fetch him: in the state he was in at present, it would be tantamount to murder to remove him, and he would not be a party to it.

When I yielded my place in the sick-room to Martha and went to bed, my heart was not only at ease for the night, but I feared nothing for the next day with my uncle on my side--or rather on John's side.

We were just rising from our early dinner, for we were old-fashioned people, when up drove a grand carriage, with two strong footmen behind, and a servant in plain clothes on the box by the coachman. It pulled up at the door, and the man on the box got down and rang the bell, while his fellows behind got down also, and stood together a little way behind him. My uncle at once went to the hall, but no more than in time, for there was Penny already on her way to open the door. He opened it himself, and stood on the threshold.

"If you please, sir," said the man, not without arrogance, "we're come to take Mr. Day home."

"Tell your mistress," returned my uncle, "that Mr. Day has expressed no desire to return, and is much too unwell to be informed of her ladyship's wish."

"Begging your pardon, sir," said the man, "we have her ladyship's orders to bring him. We'll take every possible care of him. The carriage is an extra-easy one, and I'll sit inside with the young gentleman myself. If he ain't right in his head, he'll never know nothink till he comes to himself in his own bed."

My uncle had let the man talk, but his anger was fast rising.

"I cannot let him go. I would not send a beggar to the hospital in the state he is in."

"But, indeed, sir, you must! We have our orders."

"If you fancy I will dismiss a guest of mine at the order of any human being, were it the queen's own majesty," said my uncle--I heard the words, and with my mind's eyes saw the blue flash of his as he said them--"you will find yourself mistaken."

"I'm sorry," said the man quietly, "but I have my orders! Let me pass, please. It is my business to find the young gentleman, and take him home. No one can have the right to keep him against his mother's will, especially when he's not in a fit state to judge for himself."

"Happily I am in a fit state to judge for him," said my uncle, coldly.

"I dare not go back without him. Let me pass," he returned, raising his voice a little, and approaching the door as if he would force his way.

I ought to have mentioned that, as my uncle went to the door, he took from a rack in the hall a whip with a bamboo stock, which he generally carried when he rode. His answer to the man was a smart, though left-handed blow with the stock across his face: they were too near for the thong. He staggered back, and stood holding his hand to his face. His fellow-servants, who, during the colloquy, had looked on with gentlemanlike imperturbability, made a simultaneous step forward. My uncle sent the thong with a hiss about their ears. They sprang toward him in a fury, but halted immediately and recoiled. He had drawn a small swordlike weapon, which I did not know to be there, from the stock of the whip. He gave one swift glance behind him. I was in the hall at his back.

"Shut the door, Orba," he cried.

I shut him out, and ran to a window in the little drawing-room, which commanded the door. Never had I seen him look as now--his pale face pale no longer, but flushed with anger. Neither, indeed, until that moment had I ever seen the _natural look of anger, the expression of _pure anger. There was nothing mean or ugly in it--not an atom of hate. But how his eyes blazed!

"Go back," he cried, in a voice far more stern than loud. "If one of you set foot on the lowest step, and I will run him through."

The men saw he meant it; they saw the closed door, and my uncle with his back to it. They turned and spoke to each other. The coachman sat immovable on his box. They mounted, and he drove away.

I ran and opened the door. My uncle came in with a smile. He went up the stair, and I followed him to the room where the invalid lay. We were both anxious to learn if he had been disturbed.

He was leaning on his elbow, listening. He looked a good deal more like himself.

"I knew you would defend me, sir!" he said, with a respectful confidence which could not but please my uncle.

"You did not want to go home--did you?" he asked with a smile.

"I should have thrown myself out of the carriage!" answered John; "--that is, if they had got me into it. But, please, tell me, sir," he went on, "how it is I find myself in your house? I have been puzzling over it all the morning. I have no recollection of coming."

"You understand, I fancy," rejoined my uncle, "that one of the family has a notion she can take better care of you than anybody else! Is not that enough to account for it?"

"Hardly, sir. Belorba cannot have gone and rescued me from my mother!"

"How do you know that? Belorba is a terrible creature when she is roused. But you have talked enough. Shut your eyes, and don't trouble yourself to recollect. As you get stronger, it will all come back to you. Then you will be able to tell us, instead of asking us to tell you."

He left us together. I quieted John by reading to him, and absolutely declining to talk.

"You are a captive. The castle is enchanted: speak a single word," I said, "and you will find yourself in the dungeon of your own room."

He looked at me an instant, closed his eyes, and in a few minutes was fast asleep. He slept for two hours, and when he woke was quite himself. He was very weak, but the fever was gone, and we had now only to feed him up, and keep him quiet.

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CHAPTER XX. A STRANGE VISITOn the fifth night after that on which he left me to walk home, I was roused, about two o'clock, by a sharp sound as of sudden hail against my window, ceasing as soon as it began. Wondering what it was, for hail it could hardly be, I sprang from the bed, pulled aside the curtain, and looked out. There was light enough in the moon to show me a man looking up at the window, and love enough in my heart to tell me who he was. How he knew the window mine, I have always