Raleigh’s Revolt Edit
At this sound Towner half raised himself from the arm-chair, where he sat, cowering. “Don’t let him in! Don’t let anybody in!” he breathed, in an alarmed whisper.
The knock was repeated urgently. I stepped to the door and opened it a crack. Raleigh was without, — the man about town, of noble instincts and unworthy courses, who has already passed across these pages.
“Pray, drop in again, Raleigh,” said I; “I have some people here on business.”
“I must see you now. It may be life and death.”
“To whom?” I asked, eagerly. He too had been a friend of Densdeth’s. He might have knowledge of these mysteries.
“To one worth saving.”
I observed him more particularly. All his usual nonchalance had departed. He was pale and anxious; but withal, his face expressed his better self, the nobler man I had always recognized in him.
“What is it?” said I, stepping out into the corridor.
“Not here!” said Raleigh in a whisper. And he pointed to the door of Densdeth’s dark room.
“What?” I also whispered, with an irrepressible dread stealing over me, “Densdeth again!”
“Come in then,” I continued; “we are already trying and condemning him.”
“Who are these?” said Raleigh, bowing slightly to Churm, and pointing to Locksley and Towner. The latter sat with his face covered by his hands.
“Foes of Densdeth, both! Sufferers by him!”
“Mr. Churm,” said Raleigh, “I know you do not trust me much. But I came here to find you and Byng. Meeting you saves precious time. I have wasted hours already, struggling in my heart to throw off the base empire of Densdeth. I have done it. I am free of him forever. I can speak. I have seen your ward, Clara Denman!”
“Speak! speak!” cried Churm, seizing his arm.
“Alive, and in danger! I was riding home this morning before dawn, from Bushley, — never mind on what unworthy errand I had been. Going down a hill, my horse slipped on the ice, and fell badly. I was getting him on his legs again, when a carriage came slowly climbing up the slope beside me. You know what a night it was, — stormy, with bursts of moonlight. There was light enough to give me a view of the people in the carriage. Two women, one a hag I well know, the other veiled. Two men, Densdeth and that black rascal, his servant. I knew them. They could not recognize me kneeling behind my horse. ‘Mischief!’ I thought. It was none of my business, but I got my horse up, and followed. Do you know Huffmire’s Asylum?”
“Locksley!” said Churm, “quick! Run to my stable, and have the bays put to the double wagon! Quick, now! Have them here in five minutes!”
Locksley hurried off.
“Right!” said Raleigh, “you understand me. Yes, Densdeth had Clara Denman in that carriage.”
“My poor child!” said Churm. “Her innocent life bears all the burden of others’ sins.”
“I rode after the carriage until I saw it stop at Huffmire’s gate. Then I dismounted, let my horse go, and ran up in the shelter of some cedars by the road-side. I knew that Huffmire’s Insane Asylum is no better than a private prison for whoever dares to use it. No one was stirring at that early hour, and it was some time before the bell was answered. At last, Huffmire himself came to the gate. Densdeth got out to parley with him. While they talked, the veiled lady managed, by a rapid movement with her tied hands, to strike aside her veil and look out. I saw her. I cannot be deceived. It was Clara Denman!”
“Is Locksley never coming with those horses?” muttered Churm.
“It was she, strangely dressed, altered, and pale, but firm and resolute as ever. I had but a glimpse. The hag and Densdeth’s servant dragged her back. Huffmire undid the gate. They drove in. I caught my horse and rode off.”
“Why did you not tear her away from that villain?” said Churm, fiercely.
“Mr. Churm, hear me through! I said to myself, ‘This is none of my business. Clara Denman, whom the world thought dead, has come to light, mad, and Densdeth, the friend of the family, her betrothed, has very naturally been selected to put her into a madhouse.’”
“But the hour, the place! And Densdeth!”
“Yes; these excited my suspicions. I remembered the impression that Miss Denman had committed suicide rather than be forced into a marriage with Densdeth. Intimate as I have been with him, I can comprehend how to a nature like hers he would be a horror.”
“But,” said I, “this seems almost incredible, this audacious abduction of a young lady.”
“Densdeth knew that she had no friends,” said Churm, bitterly. “He knew that the manner and place of her hiding would favor his charge.”
“It is audacious,” said Raleigh, “and so is Densdeth. Success has made the man overweening. If it is true that Clara Denman baffled him for a time, I believe she is the only one, woman or man, who has done so, when he had fairly tried to conquer. Who knows but he feels that, once beaten, his prestige to himself is gone? He no doubt considers himself safe against Denman, and supposes, too, that the lady’s flight and concealment have put her out of the pale of society.”
“But what does he intend?” said I, looking at them both by turns.
“Will Locksley never come?” said Churm, striding to the window. “Towner has told us what he intends.”
“Basely, I fear,” replied Raleigh. “At least to compel her to a hateful marriage, if no worse. At least to have her where he can insult and scoff at her, and beat down her resistance. He means to master her, soul and body, and take some cruel revenge, such as only a fiend could devise.”
“Your eyes seem to be opened, Mr. Raleigh,” said Churm, “to the character of your bosom friend.”
“They are opened, thank God! It has cost me a great and bitter struggle, this day, to tear that man out of my heart, to overcome my pride and inertia, and come and tell you, Mr. Churm, that I miserably despise myself; yes, and to say that I need the help and countenance of men like you to aid me to be a true man again, — to abandon Densdeth, and set myself forever against him and all his kind.”
“Is that your purpose? My poor help you shall have,” said Churm.
“Yes; I have been all day resisting my impulse to come and betray the man, if this is treachery. But the remembrance of Miss Denman’s pale face, as she looked friendlessly out of the carriage, has been shaming me all day, commanding me to break my fealty to sin, and obey my manly nature, — what there is left of it. I have obeyed at last.”
“You have done well and honorably, Mr. Raleigh,” said Churm, grasping his hand.
“Yes,” said I, “Raleigh, I knew it was in you, and would come out.”
“Thank you, Byng. Thank you, Mr. Churm,” said he, gravely. “And now to help the lady! What are you going to do?”
“I am going to drive straight to Huffmire’s, and demand her.”
“Will he give her up without legal proceedings?”
“Probably not. I must take them, in time. I am convinced that Denman does not know of this. He still believes his daughter dead. But he would act with Densdeth. I mean to-day to let Huffmire know that the lady has friends, who are not to be trifled with, and that he is held responsible for her safety. Perhaps I shall set Byng sentinel over the house, to see that she is not spirited away again.”
“Are we to be rough or smooth?” said I. “Do we want arms?”
And I glanced toward the table, where, at Towner’s elbow, lay a long, keen, antique dagger, out of Stillfleet’s collection. Its present peaceful use was to cut the leaves of novels, or the paper edges of a cigar-box.
“No arms!” said Churm, following my eye.
“We might meet a wrong-doer, and be tempted to anticipate the vengeance of God.”
I had forgotten, and did forget, in this excitement, to ask Towner what use Densdeth made of his dark room.