Dick ordered the postboys to return to the chaise.

“We will return with you to Bath,” said he. “Put the harness of your horse which was shot on mine. We will join you before you have got the horse in the traces. Carry the man to the bank and lay him among the trees.”

“Not back to Bath, Dick—not back to Bath,” said Betsy, when the postboys had gone.

“Good heavens! if not to Bath—whither?” he cried.

“The thought came to me just now—an inspiration,” she said. “I will not return home. I have not the courage. Do you know what has happened? I have told Mr. Long that I cannot marry him, and when my father heard it he was furious, and gave me notice that I must begin singing once more at his concerts. I cannot do that! Oh, it would kill me, Dick!”

“Dear one,” he said, “I will do my best to carry out any plan that you may suggest—I give you my promise, dear Betsy.”

“I spoke to Mr. Long of my hope—of the one longing there is in my heart, Dick. Your sisters told me of the convent at Lille, beside where they lived. The old grey building among the ancient trees—far away from any sound of the world. Oh, surely that is the one spot in the world where rest—the divine rest—the peace of God—may be found. O Dick, Dick, if you could know how I long for it!”

He started away from her.

“Is it possible that that is your choice, Betsy?” he cried, and there was agony in his voice. “Is it possible that you can shut yourself off from your friends—from those who love you? Ah, dear child, you know that I——”

“Do not say it—ah, do not say the words that are trembling on your lips, Dick. You will not say them when you know that they will make me miserable. Dick, I will think of you as my dear, dear brother, and you will take me away to that place of rest. Ah, I feel that all I have gone through to-day since that man sent a forged message to me at nine o’clock to the effect that my father wished me to play the harpsichord in his place at the concert, and so trapped me into the chair which he had waiting and on to the chaise, the linkmen whom he had bribed standing so close to the windows that I was quite concealed, and my cries to the passers-by were unheeded,—all that I have gone through, I say, must have been designed by Heaven to enable me to reach my goal—my place of rest.”

“I will take you there, Betsy,” he said in a low voice. “You may trust me to take you there, dear sister—sweet sister Betsy.”

She put her arms about him and kissed him on both cheeks.

It was the scheme of a boy and a girl, that flight of Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Elizabeth Linley to France as brother and sister. It has never been explained, nor can any explanation of it be offered that is not founded upon the passionate yearning of that purest-minded girl that ever lived in the world, for a time of seclusion such as she had never known—for a period of tranquillity such as had never come to her.

Dick led her to the chaise, and gave the postboys orders to go on to the next stage at which Mathews had ordered fresh horses to await his arrival. The men grumbled. Dick threatened them with hanging. They should have trouble in proving to any jury that they were not privy to the abduction of the lady, he said; adding, that if they did not keep the secret of the change in the lady’s companionship at the various stages of the journey, they would be running their heads into the hangman’s noose. The men protested that they were on his side down to every rowel of their spurs, and one of them went so far, in demonstration of his good-will, as to curse soundly Captain Mathews and all his connections.

In the chaise Betsy gave Dick a circumstantial account of the attack made by the highwaymen—the highwaymen of Providence, Dick ventured to term them. The two shots which he had heard in the distance when he was assuring himself that his horse had become lame, were fired, the first by Mathews on the appearance of the highwaymen, the second by one of the highwaymen. Only the latter had taken effect; it had brought down the off-wheeler, and then, the chaise coming to a standstill, a man had stood with a cocked pistol at each of the windows until Mathews handed over his purse. The robbers had then ridden off, and while Mathews was helping the postboys to disentangle the harness of the dead horse, she had, unperceived by any one, crept out of the chaise and made her way up the bank where she had hidden among the trees.

“But I never doubted that you would come to my help, Dick,” she said in conclusion. “Oh, no! I had faith in you from the very first to the very last. When we saw the figures of the two highwaymen in the distance, I cried out, ‘’Tis Dick—Dick and Mr. Long come to save me!’ And when I heard the sound of your horse galloping on the road I said, ‘’Tis Dick come to save me!’ I had called out your name before the horse came abreast of the bank. But how did you learn what had happened? Who could have been near us when that man dragged me from the chair and forced me into the chaise?”

He told her that it was Mrs. Abington who had come to him with the news, and she was amazed.

“But how could she—why should she be at that part of the road at such an hour?”

“Alas, my dear Betsy, she had a fancy that you were being carried off, not by Mathews, but another,” said Dick. “She must have acquired by some means an inkling of the plot, and she was foolish enough to take it for granted that the man who was playing the chief part was—some one else. But we cannot refuse her our gratitude. When she had found out that it was Mathews who was the abductor, she did not falter in her purpose. It is to her that we owe your safety.”

There was a long pause before Betsy said:

“She acted honourably—nobly. ’Tis for us to respond in like. We shall not fail, Dick.”

At the end of the next stage Dick wrote a letter to Mr. Long acquainting him in brief with all that had occurred, and telling him of Betsy’s desire to go to the convent at Lille. He ordered the letter to be posted to Bath at once. Betsy wrote to her father.

When they reached London he drove with her to the house of a friend of his—a Mr. Ewart; and Mr. Ewart and his wife assumed that Betsy was his elder sister.

“Yes, this is Elizabeth,” said Dick. “I am taking her on to Lille for a holiday.”

Mrs. Ewart, knowing that the Sheridan family had lived at Lille for some years, merely said:

“You must have formed many friendships in France, my dear?”

“I have got some dear friends there,” said Betsy.

Mr. Ewart found out that a packet was leaving Margate in two days for Calais, and at Dick’s request wrote to secure cabins aboard. After staying two nights at the Ewarts’ house, the boy and girl posted to Margate, and duly set sail in the packet, which was really only a smack, but one with a reputation for making rapid passages. It acted up to its traditions by landing them at Calais in twenty-two hours.

The first person whom they met on the quayside was Mr. Long.

They were both astonished. How on earth did he contrive to reach Calais before them? they inquired.

Well, he had got Dick’s letter the morning after Dick had posted it, and he had set out at once for Dover, where he had found a faster boat even than the Margate smack. He had been at Calais since the previous afternoon.

He led them to his inn, and ordered breakfast. When they were alone together after that repast, he said:

“My dear children, I do not think that this story of ours should have an unhappy ending, and every young woman of sense who has read Mr. Richardson’s novels—assuming that any young woman of sense ever read novels—will tell you that a convent in a foreign land cannot possibly be regarded as furnishing a happy ending to a story. Ah, my dear Betsy, when I saw you and Dick just now walking side by side on the quay, I knew that you were meant by Heaven to walk side by side through life. Will you not consent to make me happy? I have money enough to allow of your living in some peaceful cottage until Dick gets a footing in a profession. Dear child, I know that you love him, and I think that he loves you, too.”

“I will consent with joy if he consent,” said she. “But I know that he will not. I do not think that I could love him if he were to consent. Dear sir, ’tis to Mrs. Abington I owe my safety, and can I act with such base ingratitude to her as to do what you suggest?”

“God help me!” said Dick. “I am weak—oh, so weak! It seems as if I should be turning my back upon all the happiness which I could ever hope for in the world, were I to refuse now what is offered to me. O Betsy, tell me what to do! Will you not raise your finger to help me, Betsy?”

“I dare not, dear. There is one who stands between us. You owe everything to her. I owe everything to her.”

“You have helped me,” he said in a low voice. “Mr. Long, you will take Betsy on to Lille. I shall return alone to Bath.”

“No, my boy,” said Mr. Long, “we shall return to Bath together. Mrs. Abington is more than generous—she is sensible. She came to me before I started on my journey. She brought with her a letter, charging me to put it into your hands. Read it, Dick.”

Dick, with nervous fingers, tore open the letter which Mr. Long handed to him. He read it, but he gave no cry of gladness. Tears were in his eyes. He handed it to Betsy. She read it. It dropped from her grasp. There was a long pause. Then each looked into the face of the other.

The next moment they were in each other’s arms.

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