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altogetherwithout the slightest fear of
any hindrance on my part. At the end of the
three days, the charge would, no doubt, be
withdrawn; and the attendance of the witness would
be perfectly useless.

My indignation, I may almost say, my despair,
at this mischievous check to all further progress
so base and trifling in itself, and yet so
disheartening and so serious in its probable results
quite unfitted me, at first, to reflect on the
best means of extricating myself from the
dilemma in which I now stood. I had the folly
to call for writing materials, and to think of
privately communicating my real position to
the magistrate. The hopelessness and the
imprudence of this proceeding failed to strike
me before I had actually written the opening
lines of the letter. It was not till I had
pushed the paper awaynot till, I am ashamed
to say, I had almost allowed the vexation of
my helpless position to conquer methat a
course of action suddenly occurred to my mind,
which Sir Percival had probably not anticipated,
and which might set me free again in a few
hours. I determined to communicate my
situation to Mr. Dawson, of Oak Lodge.

I had visited this gentleman's house, it may
be remembered, at the time of my first inquiries
in the Blackwater Park neighbourhood; and I
had presented to him a letter of introduction
from Miss Halcombe, in which she recommended
me to his friendly attention in the strongest
terms. I now wrote, referring to this letter,
and to what I had previously told Mr. Dawson
of the delicate and dangerous nature of my
inquiries. I had not revealed to him the truth
about Laura; having merely described my
errand as being of the utmost importance to
private family interests with which Miss
Halcombe was concerned. Using the same caution
still, I now accounted for my presence at
Knowlesbury in the same mannerand I put it
to the doctor to say whether the trust reposed
in me by a lady whom he well knew, and the
hospitality I had myself received in his house,
justified me or not in asking him to come to my
assistance in a place where I was quite friendless.

I obtained permission to hire a messenger to
drive away at once with my letter, in a conveyance
which might be used to bring the doctor
back immediately. Oak Lodge was on the
Knowlesbury side of Blackwater. The man
declared he could drive there in forty minutes, and
could bring Mr. Dawson back in forty more. I
directed him to follow the doctor wherever he
might happen to be, if he was not at homeand
then sat down to wait for the result with all the
patience and all the hope that I could summon
to help me.

It was not quite half-past one when the
messenger departed. Before half-past three, he
returned, and brought the doctor with him. Mr
Dawson's kindness, and the delicacy with which
he treated his prompt assistance quite as a matter
of course, almost overpowered me. Bail was
offered, and accepted immediately. Before four
o'clock, on that afternoon, I was shaking hands
warmly with the good old doctora free man
againin the streets of Knowlesbury.

Mr. Dawson hospitably invited me to go back
with him to Oak Lodge, and take up my
quarters there for the night. I could only reply
that my time was not my own; I could only ask
him to let me pay my visit in a few days, when
I might repeat my thanks, and offer to him all
the explanations which I felt to be only his due,
but which I was not then in a position to make,
We parted with friendly assurances on both
sides; and I turned my steps at once to Mr.
Wansborough's office in the High-street.

Time was now of the last importance. The
news of my being free on bail would reach Sir
Percival, to an absolute certainty, before night.
If the next few hours did not put me in a position
to justify his worst fears, and to hold him
helpless at my mercy, I might lose every inch of
the ground I had gained, never to recover it
again. The unscrupulous nature of the man,
the local influence he possessed, the desperate
peril of exposure with which my blindfold
inquiries threatened himall warned me to press
on to positive discovery, without the useless
waste of a single minute. I had found time to
think, while I was waiting for Mr Dawson's
arrival; and I had well employed it. Certain
portions of the conversation of the talkative old
clerk, which had wearied me at the time, now
recurred to my memory with a new significance;
and a suspicion crossed my mind darkly, which
had not occurred to me while I was in the vestry.
On my way to Knowlesbury, I had only
proposed to apply to Mr. Wansborough for information
on the subject of Sir Percival's mother.
My object, now, was to examine the duplicate
register of Old Welmingham Church.

Mr. Wansborough was in his office when I
inquired for him.

He was a jovial, red-faced, easy-looking man
more like, a country squire than a lawyer
and he seemed to be both surprised and amused
by my application. He had heard of his father's
copy of the register; but had not even seen it
himself. It had never been inquired afterand
it was no doubt in the strong-room, among other
old papers that had not been disturbed since his
father's death. It was a pity (Mr. Wansborough
said) that the old gentleman was not alive to hear
his precious copy asked for at last. He would
have ridden his favourite hobby harder than ever,
now. How had I come to hear of the copy? was
it through anybody in the town?

I parried the question as well as I could. It
was impossible at this stage of the investigation
to be too cautious; and it was just as well not
to let Mr. Wansborough know prematurely that
I had already examined the original register. I
described myself, therefore, as pursuing a family
inquiry, to the object of which every possible
saving of time was of great importance. I was
anxious to send certain particulars to London
by that day's post; and one look at the duplicate
register (paying, of course, the necessary
fees) might supply what I required, and save me
a further journey to Old Welmingham. I added