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Title: The Light of Scarthey
Author: Castle, Egerton, 1858-1920
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE LIGHT OF SCARTHEY

A Romance

by

EGERTON CASTLE

  Author of
  "The Pride of Jennico," "Young
  April," etc.



"Take whichsoever way thou wilt--the ways are all alike;
But do thou only come--I bade my threshold wait thy coming.
From out my window one can see the graves, and on my life
The graves keep watch." _Luteplayer's Song._



New York
Frederick A. Stokes Company
MCM

Copyright, 1899,
by Frederick A. Stokes Company.
All rights reserved.

Fourth Edition.



  I Dedicate
  THIS BOOK TO THE
  MEMORY OF
  FREDERICK ANDREWS LARKING
  OF THE ROCKS, EAST MALLING, KENT
  THAT, SO LONG AS ANYTHING OF MINE SHALL ENDURE,
  THERE MAY ENDURE ALSO
  A RECORD OF OUR FRIENDSHIP AND OF
  MY SORROW



PREFACE TO THE AMERICAN EDITION.


_Among the works of every writer of Fiction there are generally one or
two that owe their being to some_ haunting _thought, long communed
with--a thought which has at last found a living shape in some story
of deed and passion._

_I say one or two advisedly: for the span of man's active life is
short and such haunting fancies are, of their essence, solitary. As a
matter of fact, indeed, the majority of a novelist's creations belong
to another class, must of necessity (if he be a prolific creator) find
their conception in more sudden impulses. The great family of the
"children of his brain" must be born of inspirations ever new, and in
alluring freshness go forth into the world surrounded by the
atmosphere of their author's present mood, decked in the colours of
his latest imaginings, strengthened by his latest passional
impressions and philosophical conclusions._

_In the latter category the lack of long intimate acquaintance between
the author and the friends or foes he depicts, is amply compensated
for by the enthusiasm appertaining to new discoveries, as each
character reveals itself, often in quite unforeseen manner, and the
consequences of each event shape themselves inevitably and sometimes
indeed almost against his will._

_Although dissimilar in their genesis, both kinds of stories can, in
the telling, be equally life-like and equally alluring to the reader.
But what of the writer? Among his literary family is there not one
nearer his heart than all the rest--his_ dream-child? _It may be the
stoutest of the breed or it may be the weakling; it may be the
first-born, it often is the Benjamin. Fathers in the flesh know this
secret tenderness. Many a child and many a book is brooded over with a
special love even before its birth.--Loved thus, for no grace or merit
of its own, this book is my dream-child._

       *       *       *       *       *

_Here, by the way, I should like to say my word in honour of
_Fiction_--"fiction" contradistinguished from what is popularly termed
"serious" writing._

_If, in a story, the characters and the events are truly convincing;
if the former are appealingly human and the latter are so carefully
devised and described as never to evoke the idea of improbability,
then it can make no difference in the_ intellectual pleasure _of the
reader whether what he is made to realise so vividly is a record of
fact or of mere fancy. Facts we read of are of necessity past: what is
past, what is beyond the immediate ken of our senses, can only be
realised in imagination; and the picture we are able to make of it for
ourselves depends altogether on the sympathetic skill of the recorder.
Is not Diana Vernon, born and bred in Scott's imagination, to the full
as living now before us as Rob Roy Macgregor whose existence was so
undeniably tangible to the men of his days? Do we not see, in our
mind's eye, and know as clearly the lovable "girt John Ridd" of_ Lorna
Doone _the romance as his contemporaries, Mr. Samuel Pepys of the hard
and uncompromising_ Diary _or King James of_ English Annals?

_Pictures, alike of the plainest facts or of the veriest imaginings,
are but pictures: it matters very little therefore whether the man or
the woman we read of but never can see in the flesh has really lived
or not, if what we do read raises an emotion in our hearts. To the
novelist, every character, each in his own degree, is almost as
living as a personal acquaintance; every event is as clear as a
personal experience. And if this be true of the story written_ à la
grâce de la plume, _where both events and characters unfold themselves
like the buds of some unknown plant, how much more strongly is it the
case of the story that has so long been mused over that one day it had
to be told! Then the marking events of the actors' lives, their
adventures, whether of sorrow or of joy, their sayings and doings,
noble or bright or mistaken, recorded in the book, are but a tithe of
the adventures, sayings and doings with which the writer seems to be
familiar. He might write or talk about them, in praise or
vindictiveness as he loves or dreads them, for many a longer day--but
he has one main theme to make clear to his hearers and must respect
the modern canons of the Story-telling Art. Among the many things
therefore he could tell, an he would, he selects that only which will
unravel a particular thread of fate in the tangle of endless
consequences; which will render plausible the growth of passions on
which, in a continuous life-drama, is based one particular episode._

_Of such a kind is the story of Adrian Landale._

_The haunting thought round which the tale of the sorely
tempest-tossed dreamer is gathered is one which, I think, must at one
time or other have occurred to many a man as he neared the maturity of
middle-life:--What form of turmoil would come into his heart if, when
still in the strength of his age but after long years of hopeless
separation, he were again brought face to face with the woman who had
been the one passion of his life, the first and only love of his
youth? And what if she were still then exactly as he had last seen
her--she, untouched by years even as she had so long lived in his
thoughts: he, with his soul scarred and seamed by many encounters
bravely sustained in the Battle of Life?_

_The problem thus propounded is not solvable, even in fiction, unless
it be by "fantastic" treatment. But perhaps the more so on this
account did it haunt me. And out of the travail of my mind around it,
out of the changing shadows of restless speculation, gradually
emerged, clear and alive, the being of Adrian Landale and his two
loves._

_Here then was a man, whose mind, moulded by nature for grace and
contemplation, was cast by fate amid all the turmoils of_ Romance _and
action. Here was one of those whose warm heart and idealising
enthusiasm must wreathe the beauty of love into all the beauties of
the world; whose ideals are spent on one adored object; who, having
lost it, seems to have lost the very sense of love; to whom love never
could return, save by some miracle. But fortune, that had been so
cruelly hard on him, one day in her blind way brings back to his door
the miraculous restitution--and there leaves him to struggle along the
new path of his fate! It is there also that I take up the thread of
the speculation, and watch through its vicissitudes the working of the
problem raised by such a strange circumstance._

_The surroundings in a story of this kind are, of the nature of
things, all those of_ Romance. _And by_ Romance, _I would point out,
is not necessarily meant in tale-telling, a chain of events fraught
with greater improbability than those of so-called real life. (Indeed
where is now the writer who will for a moment admit, even tacitly,
that his records are not of reality?) It simply betokens, a
specialisation of the wider genus_ Novel; _a narrative of strong
action and moving incident, in addition to the necessary analysis of
character; a story in which the uncertain violence of the outside
world turns the course of the actors' lives from the more obvious
channels. It connotes also, as a rule, more poignant emotions--emotions
born of strife or peril, even of horror; it tells of the shock of arms
in life, rather than of the mere diplomacy of life._

_Above all_ Romance _depends upon picturesque and varied setting; upon
the scenery of the drama, so to speak. On the other hand it is not
essentially (though this has sometimes been advanced) a narrative of
mere adventures as contrasted to the observation and dissection of
character and manners we find in the true "novel." Rather be it said
that it is one in which the hidden soul is made patent under the
touchstone of blood-stirring incidents, of hairbreadth risks, of
recklessness or fierceness. There are soaring passions, secrets of the
innermost heart, that can only be set free in desperate
situations--and those situations are not found in the tenor in
every-day, well-ordered life: they belong to Romance._

_Spirit-fathers have this advantage that they can bring forth their
dream-children in what age and place they list: it is no times of
now-a-days, no ordinary scenery, that would have suited such
adventures as befell Adrian Landale, or Captain Jack, or "Murthering
Moll the Second."_

_Romantic enough is the scene, which, in a manner, framed the display
of a most human drama; and fraught it is, even to this day, in the
eyes of any but the least imaginative, with potentialities for strange
happenings.[A] It is that great bight of Morecambe; that vast of brown
and white shallows, deserted, silent, mysterious, and treacherous with
its dreaded shifting sands; fringed in the inland distance by the
Cumbrian hills, blue and misty; bordered outwards by the Irish sea,
cold and grey. And in a corner of that waste, the islet, small and
green and secure, with its ancient Peel, ruinous even as the noble
abbey of which it was once the dependant stronghold; with its still
sturdy keep, and the beacon, whose light-keeper was once a Dreamer of
Beautiful Things._

[Footnote A: _Those who like to associate fiction with definite places
may be interested to know that the prototype of Scarthey is the_ Piel
of Foudrey, _on the North Lancashire coast, near the edge of Morecambe
Bay, and that Pulwick was suggested by Furness Abbey. Barrow-in-Furness
was then but a straggling village. A floating light, facing the mouth
of the Wyre, now fulfils the duties devolving on the beacon of Scarthey
at the time of this story._]

_And romantic the times, if by that word is implied a freer scope than
can be found in modern years for elemental passions, for fighting and
loving in despite of every-day conventions; for enterprise, risks,
temptations unknown in the atmosphere of humdrum peace and order. They
are the early days of the century, days when easy and rapid means of
communication had not yet destroyed all the glamour of distance, when
a county like Lancashire was as a far-off country, with a spirit, a
language, customs and ideas unknown to the Metropolis; days when, if
there were no lifeboat crews, there could still be found rather
experienced "wreckers," and when the keeping of a beacon, to light a
dangerous piece of sea, was still within the province of a
public-spirited landlord. They are the days when the spread of
education had not even yet begun (for weal or for woe) its levelling
work; days of cruel monopolies and inane prohibitions, and ferocious
penal laws, inept in the working, baleful in the result; days of
keel-hauling and flogging; when the "free-trader" still swung, tarred
and in chains, on conspicuous points of the coast--even as the
highwayman rattled at the cross-road--for the encouragement of the
brotherhood; when it was naturally considered more logical (since hang
you must for almost any misdeed) to hang for a sheep than a lamb, and
human life on the whole was held rather cheap in consequence. They are
the days when in Liverpool the privateers were daily fitting out or
bringing in the "prizes," and when, in Lord Street Offices, distant
cargoes of "living ebony" were put to auction by steady, intensely
respectable, Church-going merchants. But especially they are the days
of war and the fortunes of war; days of pressgangs, to kidnap
unwilling rulers of the waves; of hulks and prisons filled to
overflowing, even in a mere commercial port like Liverpool, with
French prisoners of war._

_A long course of relentless hostilities, lasting the span of a
full-grown generation, had cultivated the predatory instinct of all
men with the temperament of action, and seemed to justify it.
Venturesome, hot-spirited youths, with their way to make in the world
(who in a former age might have been reduced to "the road") took up
privateering on a systematic scale. In such an atmosphere there could
not fail to return a belief in the good old_ border rule, _"the simple
plan: that they should take who have the power, and they should keep
who can." And it must be remembered that an island country's border is
the enemy's coast! On that ethical understanding many privateer owners
built up large fortunes, still enjoyed by descendants who in these
days would look upon high-sea looting of non-combatants with definite
horror._

_The years of the great French war, however, fostered a species of
nautical enterprise more venturesome even than privateering, raiding,
blockade-running and all the ordinary forms of smuggling that are
usual when two coast lines are at enmity. I mean that smuggling of
gold specie and bullion which incidentally was destined to affect the
course of Sir Adrian's life so powerfully._

       *       *       *       *       *

_As Captain Jack's last venture may, at this distance of time, appear
a little improbable, it is well to state here some little-known facts
concerning the now rather incomprehensible pursuit of gold
smuggling--a romantic subject if ever there was one._

_The existence at one time of this form of "free-trade" is all but
forgotten. Indeed very little was ever heard of it in the world,
except among parties directly interested, even at the time when it
played an important part in the machinery of governments. Its rise
during the years of Napoleonic tyranny on the continent of Europe, and
its continuance during the factitious calm of the First Restoration in
France, were due to circumstances that never existed before and are
little likely to occur again._

_The accumulation of a fund of_ gold _coin, reserved against sudden
contingency, was one of Bonaparte's imperial ideas. In a modified and
more modern form, this notion of a "war-chest," untouched and
unproductive in peace-time, is still adhered to by the Germans: they
have kept to heart many of their former conqueror's lessons, lessons
forgotten by the French themselves--and the enormous treasure of gold
bags guarded at Spandau is a matter of common knowledge. Napoleon,
however, in his triumphant days never, and for obvious reasons, lacked
money. It was less an actual treasure that he required and valued so
highly for political and military purposes, than an ever ready reserve
of wealth easily portable, of paramount value at all times;
"concentrated," so to speak. And nothing could come nearer to that
description than rolls of English guineas. Indeed the vast numbers of
these coins which fitfully appeared in circulation throughout Europe
justified the many weird legends concerning the power of "British
Gold"_--l'or Anglais!

_There is every reason to believe that, in days when the national
currency consisted chiefly of lumbering silver_ écus, _the Bourbon
government also appreciated to the full the value of a_ private _gold
reserve. At any rate it was at the time of the first Restoration that
the golden guinea of England found in France its highest premium._

_Without going into the vexed and dreary question of single or double
standard, it will suffice to say that during the early years of the
century now about to close, gold coin was leaving England at a rate
which not only appeared phenomenal but was held to be injurious to the
community._

_As a matter of fact most of it was finding its way to France, whilst
Great Britain was flooded with silver. It was then made illegal to
export gold coin or bullion. The prohibition was stringently, indeed
at one time, ruthlessly, enforced. In this manner the new and highly
profitable traffic in English guineas entered the province of the
"free-trader"; the difference introduced in his practice being merely
one of degree. Whereas, in the case of prohibited imports, the chief
task lay in running the illicit goods and distributing them, in the
case of guinea-smuggling its arduousness was further increased by the
danger of collecting the gold inland and clearing from home harbours._

_Very little, as I said, has ever been heard of this singular trade,
and for obvious reasons. In the first place it obtained only for a
comparatively small number of years, the latter part of the Great War:
the last of it belonging to the period of the_ Hundred Days. _And in
the second it was, at all times, of necessity confined to a very small
number of free-trading skippers. Of adventurous men, in stirring days,
there were of course a multitude. But few, naturally, were the men to
whose honour the custody of so much ready wealth could safely be
intrusted. "That is where," as Captain Jack says sometimes in this
book, "the 'likes of me' come in."_

_The exchange was enormously profitable. As much as thirty-two
shillings in silver value could, at one time, be obtained on the other
side of the water for an English guinea. But the shipper and broker,
in an illegal venture where contract could not be enforced, had to be
a man whose simple word was warranty--and indeed, in the case of large
consignments, this blind trust had to be extended to almost every man
of his crew. What a romance could be written upon this theme alone!_

_In the story of Adrian Landale, however, it plays but a subsidiary
part. Brave, joyous-hearted Captain Jack and his bold venture for a
fortune appear only in the drama to turn its previous course to
unforeseen channels; just as in most of our lives, the sudden
intrusion of a new strong personality--transient though it may be, a
tempest or a meteor--changes their seemingly inevitable trend to
altogether new issues._

       *       *       *       *       *

_It was urged by my English publishers that, in_ "The Light of
Scarthey," _I relate two distinct love-stories and two distinct phases
of one man's life; and that it were wiser (by which word I presume was
meant more profitable) to distribute the tale between two books, one
to be a sequel to the other. Happily I would not be persuaded to cut a
fully composed canvas in two for the sake of the frames. "It is the
fate of sequels," as Stevenson said in his dedication of _Catriona_,
"to disappoint those who have waited for them." Besides, life is
essentially continuous.--It may not be inept to state a truism of this
kind in a world of novels where the climax of life, if not indeed its
very conclusion, is held to be reached on the day of marriage! There
is often, of course, more than one true passion of love in a man's
life; and even if the second does not really kill the memory of the
first, their course (should they be worth the telling) may well be
told separately. But if, in the story of a man's love for two women,
the past and the present are so closely interwoven as were the reality
and the "might-have-been" in the mind of Adrian Landale, any
separation of the two phases, youth and maturity, would surely have
stultified the whole scheme of the story._

_I have also been taken to task by some critics for having, the tale
once opened at a given time and place, harked back to other days and
other scenes: an inartistic and confusing method, I was told. I am
still of contrary opinion. There are certain stories which_ belong,
_by their very essence, to certain places. All ancient buildings have,
if we only knew them, their human dramas: this is the very soul of the
hidden but irresistible attraction they retain for us even when
deserted and dismantled as now the Peel of Scarthey. For the sake of
harmonious proportions, and in order to give it its proper atmosphere,
it was imperative that in this drama--wherever the intermediate scenes
might be placed, whether on the banks of the Vilaine, on the open sea,
or in Lancaster Castle--the Prologue should be witnessed on the green
islet in the wilderness of sands, even as the Crisis and the Closing
Scene of rest and tenderness._

  _E. C.,
  49, Sloane Gardens,
  London, S. W.

  October 1899._



TABLE OF CONTENTS


PART I

SIR ADRIAN LANDALE, LIGHT-KEEPER OF SCARTHEY

  CHAP.                                                         PAGE

       I. The Peel of Scarthey                                     1
      II. The Light-Keeper                                         6
     III. Day Dreams: A Philosopher's Fate                        16
      IV. Day Dreams: A Fair Emissary                             32
       V. The Awakening                                           43
      VI. The Wheel of Time                                       53
     VII. Forebodings of Gladness                                 63
    VIII. The Path of Wasted Years                                70
      IX. A Genealogical Epistle                                  85


PART II

"MURTHERING MOLL THE SECOND"

       X. The Threshold of Womanhood                              97
      XI. A Masterful Old Maid                                   113
     XII. A Record and a Presentment                             122
    XIII. The Distant Light                                      136
     XIV. The Tower of Liverpool: Master and Man                 144
      XV. Under the Light                                        156
     XVI. The Recluse and the Squire                             174


PART III

"CAPTAIN JACK," THE GOLD SMUGGLER

    XVII. Gold Smuggler and the Philosopher                      191
   XVIII. "Love Gilds the Scene and Woman Guides the Plot"       211
     XIX. A Junior's Opinion                                     224
      XX. The Quick and the Dead                                 244
     XXI. The Dawn of an Eventful Day                            252
    XXII. The Day: Morning                                       262
   XXIII. The Day: Noon                                          276
    XXIV. The Night                                              294
     XXV. The Fight for the Open                                 309
    XXVI. The Three Colours                                      323
   XXVII. Under the Light Again: The Lady and the Cargo          335
  XXVIII. The End of the Thread                                  349
    XXIX. The Light Goes Out                                     364
     XXX. Husband and Wife                                       375
    XXXI. In Lancaster Castle                                    382
   XXXII. The One He Loved and the One Who Loved Him             393
  XXXIII. Launched on the Great Wave                             406
   XXXIV. The Gibbet on the Sands                                413
    XXXV. The Light Rekindled                                    430



PART I

SIR ADRIAN LANDALE, LIGHT-KEEPER OF SCARTHEY

    _We all were sea-swallowed, though some cast again;
    And by that destiny to perform an act,
    Whereof what's past is Prologue._

    THE TEMPEST



THE LIGHT OF SCARTHEY



CHAPTER I

THE PEEL OF SCARTHEY

    He makes a solitude and calls it peace.

    BYRON.


Alone in the south and seaward corner of the great bight on the
Lancastrian coast--mournfully alone some say, gloriously alone to my
thinking--rises in singular unexpected fashion the islet of Scarthey;
a green oasis secure on its white rocky seat amidst the breezy
wilderness of sands and waters.

There is, in truth, more sand than water at most times round Scarthey.
For miles northward the wet strand stretches its silent expanse, tawny
at first, then merging into silver grey as in the dim distance it
meets the shallow advance of briny ripple. Wet sand, brown and dull,
with here and there a brighter trail as of some undecided river
seeking an aimless way, spreads westward, deep inland, until stopped
in a jagged line by bluffs that spring up abruptly in successions of
white rocky steps and green terraces.

Turn you seaward, at low tide there lies sand again and shingle
(albeit but a narrow beach, for here a depth of water sinks rapidly)
laved with relentless obstinacy by long, furling, growling rollers
that are grey at their sluggish base and emerald-lighted at their
curvetting crest. Sand yet again to the south, towards the nearer
coast line, for a mile or perhaps less, dotted, along an irregular
path, with grey rocks that look as though the advance guard of a giant
army had attempted to ford its insecure footing, had sunk into its
treacherous shifting pits, and left their blanching skull-tops half
emerging to record the disaster.

On the land side of the bight, far away beyond the grandly desolate,
silent, yellow tract, a misty blue fringe on the horizon heralds the
presence of the North Country; whilst beyond the nearer beach a
sprinkling of greenly ensconced homesteads cluster round some peaceful
and paternal looking church tower. Near the salty shore a fishing
village scatters its greystone cabins along the first terrace of the
bluffs.

Outwards, ever changing in colour and temper roll and fret the grey
waters of the Irish Sea, turbulent at times, but generally lenient
enough to the brown-sailed ketches that break the regular sweep of the
western horizon as they toil at the perpetual harvest of the deep.

Thus stands Scarthey. Although appearing as an island on the charts,
at low tides it becomes accessible dry-foot from the land by a narrow
causeway along the line of the white shallow reefs, which connect the
main pile to the rocky steps and terraces of the coast. But woe betide
man or beast that diverges many feet from the one secure path! The
sands of the great bay have already but too well earned their sinister
reputation.

During the greater part of the day, however, Scarthey justifies its
name--Skard- or Scarth-ey, the Knoll Island in the language of the old
Scandinavian masters of the land.

In fair weather, or in foul, whether rising out of sunny sands when
the ebbing waters have retired, or assailed on all sides by ramping
breakers, Scarthey in its isolation, with its well-preserved ruins and
its turret, from which for the last hundred years a light has been
burning to warn the seafarer, has a comfortable look of security and
privacy.

The low thick wall which in warlike times encompassed the bailey (now
surrounding and sheltering a wide paddock and neat kitchen gardens)
almost disappears under a growth of stunted, but sturdy trees; dwarf
alders and squat firs that shake their white-backed leaves, and swing
their needle clusters, merrily if the breeze is mild, obstinately if
the gale is rousing and seem to proclaim: "Here are we, well and
secure. Ruffle and toss, and lash, O winds, the faithless waters, _we_
shall ever cling to this hospitable footing, the only kindly soil
amid this dreariness; here you once wafted our seed; here shall we
live and perpetuate our life."

On the sea front of the bailey walls rise, sheer from the steep rock,
the main body and the keep of the Peel. They are ruinous and shorn of
their whilom great height, humbled more by the wilful destruction of
man than by the decay of time.

But although from a distance the castle on the green island seems
utterly dismantled, it is not, even now, all ruin. And, at the time
when Sir Adrian Landale, of Pulwick, eighth baronet, adopted it as his
residence, it was far from being such.

True, the greater portion of that mediæval building, half monastic,
half military, exposed even then to the searching winds many bare and
roofless chambers; broken vaults filled with driven sands; more than
one spiral stair with hanging steps leading into space. But the
massive square keep had been substantially restored. Although roofless
its upper platform was as firm as when it was first built; and in a
corner, solidly ensconced, rose the more modern turret that sheltered
the honest warning light.

The wide chambers of the two remaining floors, which in old warlike
days were maintained bare and free, and lighted only by narrow
watching loopholes on all sides, had been, for purposes of peaceful
tenanncy, divided into sundry small apartments. New windows had been
pierced into the enormous thickness of stone and cement; the bare
coldness of walls was also hidden under more home-like panellings.
Close-fitting casements and solid doors insured peace within; the wind
in stormy hours might moan or rage outside this rocky pile, might hiss
and shriek and tear its wings among the jagged ruins, bellow and
thunder in and out of opened vaults, but it might not rattle a window
of the modern castellan's quarters or shake a latch of his chamber
door.

There, for reasons understood then only by himself, had Sir Adrian
elected, about the "year seven" of this century and in the prime of
his age, to transplant his lares and penates.

The while, this Adrian Landale's ancestral home stood, in its placid
and double pride of ancient and settled wealth, only some few miles
away as the bee flies, in the midst of its noble park, slightly
retired from the coast-line; and from its upper casements could be
descried by day the little green patch of Scarthey and the jagged
outline of its ruins on the yellow or glimmering face of the great
bay, and by night the light of its turret. And there he was still
living, in some kind of happiness, in the "year fourteen," when, out
of the eternal store of events, began to shape themselves the latter
episodes of a life in which storm and peace followed each other as
abruptly as in the very atmosphere that he then breathed.

For some eight years he had nested on that rock with no other
companions but a dog, a very ancient housekeeper who cooked and washed
for "t' young mester" as she obstinately persisted in calling the man
whom she had once nursed upon her knee, and a singular sturdy foreign
man (René L'Apôtre in the language of his own land, but known as Renny
Potter to the land of his adoption); which latter was more than
suspected of having escaped from the Liverpool Tower, at that time the
lawful place of custody of French war prisoners.

His own voluntary captivity, however, had nothing really dismal for
Adrian Landale. And the inhabited portions of Scarthey ruins had
certainly nothing prison-like about them, nothing even that recalled
the wilful contrition of a hermitage.

On the second floor of the tower (the first being allotted to the use,
official and private, of the small household), clear of the
surrounding walls and dismantled battlements, the rooms were laid out
much as they might have been up at Pulwick Priory itself, yonder
within the verdant grounds on the distant rise. His sleeping quarters
plainly, though by no means ascetically furnished, opened into a large
chamber, where the philosophic light-keeper spent the best part of his
days. Here were broad and deep windows, one to the south with a wide
view of the bay and the nearer coast, the other to the west where the
open sea displayed her changeable moods. On three sides of this room,
the high walls, from the white stone floor to the time-blackened beams
that bore the ceiling, almost disappeared under the irregular rows of
many thousand of volumes. Two wooden arm-chairs, bespeaking little
aversion to an occasional guest, flanked the hearth.

The hearth is the chief refuge of the lone thinker; this was a cosy
recess, deep cut in the mediæval stone and mortar; within which, on
chilly days, a generous heap of sea-cast timber and dried turf shot
forth dancing blue flames over a mound of white ash and glowing
cinders; but which, in warmer times, when the casements were unlatched
to let in with spring or summer breeze the cries of circling sea-fowls
and the distant plash of billows, offered shelter to such green plants
as the briny air would favour.

At the far end of the room rose in systematical clusters the pipes of
a small organ, built against the walls where it bevelled off a corner.
And in the middle of the otherwise bare apartment stood a broad and
heavy table, giving support to a miscellaneous array of books, open or
closed, sundry philosophical instruments, and papers in orderly
disorder; some still in their virginal freshness, most, however,
bearing marks of notemaking in various stages.

Here, in short, was the study and general keeping-room of the master
of Scarthey, and here, for the greater part, daily sat Sir Adrian
Landale, placidly reading, writing, or thinking at his table; or at
his organ, lost in soaring melody; or yet, by the fireside, in his
wooden arm-chair musing over the events of that strange world of
thought he had made his own; whilst the aging black retriever with
muzzle stretched between his paws slept his light, lazy sleep, ever
and anon opening an eye of inquiry upon his master when the latter
spoke aloud his thoughts (as solitary men are wont to do), and then
with a deep, comfortable sigh, resuming dog-life dreams.



CHAPTER II

THE LIGHT-KEEPER

    He who sits by the fire doth dream,
    Doth dream that his heart is warm.
    But when he awakes his heart is afraid for the bitter cold.

    _Luteplayer's Song._


The year 1814 was eventful in the annals of the political world.
Little, however, of the world's din reached the little northern
island; and what there came of it was not willingly hearkened to.
There was too much of wars past and present, too many rumours of wars
future about it, for the ear of the recluse.

Late in the autumn of that red-letter year which brought a short
respite of peace to war-ridden Europe--a fine, but rather tumultuous
day round Scarthey--the light-keeper, having completed the morning's
menial task in the light-turret (during a temporary absence of his
factotum) sat, according to custom, at his long table, reading.

With head resting on his right hand whilst the left held a page ready
to turn, he solaced himself, pending the appearance of the mid-day
meal, with a few hundred lines of a favourite work--the didactic
poems, I believe, of a certain Doctor Erasmus Darwin, on the analogies
of the outer world.

There was quite as little of the ascetic in Adrian Landale's physical
man as of the hermitage in his chosen abode.

With the exception of the hair, which he wore long and free, and of
which the fair brown had begun to fade to silver-grey, the master of
Scarthey was still the living presentment of the portrait which, even
at that moment, presided among the assembly of canvas Landales in the
gallery of Pulwick Priory. Eight years had passed over the model since
the likeness had been fixed. But in their present repose, the features
clear cut and pronounced, the kindly thoughtful eyes looked, if
anything, younger than their counterfeit; indeed, almost
incongruously young under the flow of fading hair.

Clean shaven, with hands of refinement, still fastidious, his long
years of solitude notwithstanding, as to general neatness of attire,
he might at any moment of the day have walked up the great stair of
honour at Pulwick without by his appearance eliciting other remarks
than that his clothes, in cut and colour, belonged to fashions now
some years lapsed.

The high clock on the mantelshelf hummed and gurgled, and with much
deliberation struck one. Only an instant later, lagging footsteps
ascended the wooden, echoing stairs without, and the door was pushed
open by the attendant, an old dame. She was very dingy as to garb,
very wrinkled and feeble as to face, yet with a conscious achievement
of respectability, both in appearance and manner, befitting her post
as housekeeper to the "young master." The young master, be it stated
at once, was at that time fast approaching the end of his second score
years.

"Margery," said Adrian, rising to take the heavy tray from the
knotted, trembling hands; "you know that I will not allow you to carry
those heavy things upstairs yourself." He raised his voice to
sing-song pitch near the withered old ear. "I have already told you
that when Renny is not at home, I can take my food in your kitchen."

Margery paused, after her wont, to wait till the sounds had filtered
as far as her intellect, then proceeded to give a few angry
headshakes.

"Eh! Eh! It would become Sir Adrian Landale o' Pulwick--Barrownite--to
have 's meat i' the kitchen--it would that. Nay, nay, Mester Adrian,
I'm none so old but I can do my day's work yet. Ah! an' it 'ud be well
if that gomerl, Renny Potter, 'ud do his'n. See here, now, Mester
Adrian, nowt but a pint of wine left; and it the last," pointing her
withered finger, erratically as the palsy shook it, at a cut-glass
decanter where a modicum of port wine sparkled richly under the
facets. "And he not back yet, whatever mischief's agate wi' him,
though he kens yo like your meat at one." And then circumstances
obliged her to add: "He is landing now, but it's ower late i' the
day."

"So--there, Margery," sang the "Squire," giving his old nurse
affectionate little taps on the back. "Never fash yourself; tides
cannot always fit in with dinner-hours, you know. And as for poor
Renny, I believe after all you are as fond of him, at the bottom of
your heart, as I am. Now what good fare have you got for me to-day?"
bending from his great height to inspect the refection, "Ah--hum,
excellent."

The old woman, after another pause for comprehension, retired battling
with dignity against the obvious pleasure caused by her master's
affectionate familiarity, and the latter sat down at a small table in
front of the south window.

Through this deep, port-hole-like aperture he could, whilst disposing
of his simple meal, watch the arrival of the yawl which did ferrying
duty between Scarthey and the mainland. The sturdy little craft,
heavily laden with packages, was being hauled up to its usual place of
safety high on the shingle bank, under cover of a remnant of walling
which in the days of the castle's strength had been a secure
landing-place for the garrison's boats, but which now was almost
filled by the cast-up sands and stone of the beach.

This was done under the superintendence of René, man of all work, and
with the mechanical intermediary of rollers and capstan, by a small
white horse shackled to a lever, and patiently grinding his steady
rounds on the sand.

His preliminary task achieved, the man, after a few friendly smacks,
set the beast free to trot back to his loose pasture: proceeding
himself to unship his cargo.

Through the narrow frame of his window, the master, with eyes of
approval, could see the servant dexterously load himself with a
well-balanced pile of parcels, disappearing to return after intervals
empty-handed, within the field of view, and select another burden, now
heavier now more bulky.

In due course René came up and reported himself in person, and as he
stopped on the threshold the dark doorway framed a not unstriking
presentment; a young-looking man for his years (he was a trifle junior
to his master), short and sturdy in build, on whose very broad
shoulders sat a phenomenally fair head--the hair short, crisp, and
curly, in colour like faded tow--and who, in smilingly respectful
silence, gazed into the room out of small, light-blue eyes, brimful of
alertness and intelligence, waiting to be addressed.

"Renny," said Adrian Landale, returning the glance with one of
comfortable friendliness, "you will have to make your peace with
Margery; she considers that you neglect me shamefully. Why, you are
actually twenty minutes late after three days' journeying, and perils
by land and sea!"

The Frenchman answered the pleasantry by a broader smile and a scrape.

"And, your honour," he said, "if what is now arriving on us had come
half an hour sooner, I should have rested planted there" (with a jerk
of the flaxen head towards the mainland), "turning my thumbs, till
to-morrow, at the least. We shall have a grain, number one, soon."

He spoke English fluently, though with the guttural accent of
Brittany, and an unconquerable tendency to translate his own jargon
almost word for word.

In their daily intercourse master and man had come for many years past
to eschew French almost entirely; René had let it be understood that
he considered his proficiency in the vernacular quite undeniable, and
with characteristic readiness Sir Adrian had fallen in with the little
vanity. In former days the dependant's form of address had been
_Monseigneur_ (considering, and shrewdly so, an English landowner to
stand in that relation to a simple individual like himself); in later
days "Monseigneur" having demurred at the appellation, "My lord," in
his own tongue, the devoted servant had discovered "Your honour" as a
happy substitute, and adhered to this discovery with satisfaction.

"Oh, we are going to have a squall, say you," interpreted the master,
rising to inspect the weather-glass, which in truth had fallen deep
with much suddenness. "More than a squall, I think; this looks like a
hurricane coming. But since you are safe home, all's well; we are
secure and sound here, and the fishing fleet are drawing in, I see,"
peering through the seaward window. "And now," continued Adrian,
laying down his napkin, and brushing away a few crumbs from the folds
of a faultless silk stock, "what have you for me there--and what
news?"

"News, your honour! Oh, for that I have news this time," said Mr.
Renny Potter, with an emphatic nod, "but if your honour will permit, I
shall say them last. I have brought the clothes and the linen, the
wine, the brandy, and the books. Brandy and wine, your honour, I
heard, out of the last prize brought into Liverpool, and a Nantes ship
it was, too"--this in a pathetically philosophical tone. Then after a
pause: "Also provisions and bulbs for the devil's pot, as Margery will
call it. But there is no saying, your honour eats more when I have
brought him back onions, eschalot, and _ail_; now do I lie, your
honour? May I?" added the speaker, and forthwith took his answer from
his master's smile; "may I respectfully see what the old one has
kitchened for you when I was not there?"

And Adrian Landale with some amusement watched the Frenchman rise from
the package he was then uncording to examine the platters on the table
and loudly sniff his disdain.

"Ah, ah, boiled escallops again. Perfectly--boiled cabbage seasoned
with salt. Not a taste in the whole affair. Prison food--oh, yes, old
woman! Why, we nourished ourselves better in the Tower, when we could
have meat at all. Ah, your honour," sighed the man returning to his
talk; "you others, English, are big and strong, but you waste great
things in small enjoyment!"

"Oho, Renny," said the light-keeper squire, as he leant against the
fireplace leisurely filling a long clay pipe, "this is one of your
epigrams; I must make a note of it anon; but let me see now what you
really have in those parcels of books--for books they are, are they
not? so carefully and neatly packed."

"Books," assented the man, undoing the final fold of paper. "Mr. Young
in the High Street of Liverpool had the packets ready. He says you
must have them all; and all printed this year. What so many people can
want to say, I for my count cannot comprehend. Three more parcels on
the stairs, your honour. Mr. Young says you must have them. But it
took two porters to carry them to the Preston diligence."

Not without eagerness did the recluse of Scarthey bend over and finger
the unequal rows of volumes arrayed on the table, and with a smile of
expectation examine the labels.

"The Corsair" and "Lara" he read aloud, lifting a small tome more
daintily printed than the rest. "Lord Byron. What's this? Jane Austen,
a novel. 'Roderick, last of the Goths.' Dear, dear," his smile fading
into blankness; "tiresome man, I never gave him orders for any such
things."

René, battling with his second parcel, shrugged his shoulders.

"The librarian," he explained, "said that all the world read these
books, and your honour must have them."

"Well, well," continued the hermit, "what else? 'Jeremy Bentham,' a
new work; Ricardo, another book on economy; Southey the Laureate,
'Life of Nelson.' Really, Mr. Young might have known that naval deeds
have no joy for me, hardly more than for you, Renny," smiling grimly
on his servant. "'Edinburgh Review,' a London magazine for the last
six months; 'Rees's Cyclopædia,' vols. 24-27; Wordsworth, 'The
Recluse.' Ah, old Willie Wordsworth! Now I am anxious to see what he
has to say on such a topic."

"Dear Willie Wordsworth," mused Sir Adrian, sitting down to turn over
the pages of the 'Excursion,' "how widely have our lives drifted apart
since those college days of ours, when we both believed in the coming
millennium and the noble future of mankind--noble mankind!"

He read a few lines and became absorbed, whilst René noiselessly
busied himself in and out of the chamber. Presently he got up, book in
hand, slowly walked to the north window, and passively gazed at the
misty distance where rose the blue outline of the lake hills.

"So my old friend, almost forgotten," he murmured, "that is where you
indite such worthy lines. It were enough to tempt me out into men's
world again to think that there would be many readers and lovers
abroad of these words of yours. So, that is what five and twenty years
have done for you--what would you say to what they have done for
me...?"

It was a long retrospect.

Sir Adrian was deeply immersed in thought when he became aware that
his servant had come to a standstill, as if waiting for a return of
attention. And in answer to the mute appeal he turned his head once
more in René's direction.

"Your honour, everything is in its place," began the latter, with a
fitting sense of his own method. "I have now to report that I saw your
man of business in Lancaster, and he has attended to the matter of the
brothers Shearman's boat that was lost. I saw the young men themselves
this morning. They are as grateful to Sir Adrian as people in this
country can express." This last with a certain superiority.

Sir Adrian received the announcement of the working of one of his
usual bounties with a quiet smile of gratification.

"They also told me to say that they would bring the firewood and the
turf to-morrow. But they won't be able to do that because we shall
have dirty weather. Then they told me that when your honour wants fish
they begged your honour to run up a white flag over the lantern--they
thought that a beautiful idea--and they would bring some as soon as
possible. I took on myself to assure them that I could catch what fish
your honour requires; and the prawns, too ... but that is what they
asked me to say."

"Well, well, and so you can," said the master, amused by the show of
sub-acute jealousy. "What else?"

"The books of the man of business and the banker are on the table. I
have also brought gazettes from Liverpool." Here the fellow's
countenance brimmed with the sense of his news' importance. "I know
your honour cares little for them. But this time I think you will read
them. Peace, your honour, it is the peace! It is all explained in
these journals--the 'Liverpool Mercury.'"

Renny lifted the folded sheets from the table and handed them with
contained glee. "There has been peace these six months, and we never
knew it. I read about it the whole way back from the town. The Emperor
is shut up on an island--but not so willingly as your Honour, ah,
no!--and there is an end of citizen Bonaparte. Peace, France and
England no longer fighting, it is hard to believe--and our old kings
are coming back, and everything to be again as in the old days."

Sir Adrian took the papers, not without eagerness, and glanced over
the narrative of events, already months old, with all the surprise of
one who, having wilfully shut himself out from the affairs of the
world, ignored the series of disasters that had brought about the
tyrant's downfall.

"As you say, my friend, it is almost incredible," he said, at length.
Then thoughtfully: "And now you will be wanting to return home?" said
he.

René, who had been scanning his master's face with high expectation,
felt his heart leap as he thought he perceived a hidden tone of regret
in the question.

He drew himself up to his short height, and with a very decided voice
made answer straightway:

"I shall go away from your honour the day when your honour dismisses
me. If your honour decides to live on this rock till my hour, or his,
strikes--on this rock with him I remain. I am not conceited, I hope,
but what, pray, will become of your honour here without me?"

There was force in this last remark, simply as it was pronounced.
Through the mist of interlacing thoughts suggested by the word Peace!
(the end of the Revolution, that distant event which, nevertheless,
had had such sweeping influence over the course of his whole life), it
brought a faint smile to Sir Adrian's lips.

He took two steps forward and laid his hand familiarly on the man's
broad shoulder, and, in a musing way, he said at intervals:

"Yes, yes, indeed, good Renny, what would become of me?--what would
have become of me?--how long ago it seems!--without you? And yet it
might have been as well if two skeletons, closely locked in embrace,
blanched by the grinding of the waters and the greed of the crabs, now
reposed somewhere deep in the sands of that Vilaine estuary.... This
score of years, she has had rest from the nightmare that men have made
of life on God's beautiful earth. I have been through more of it, my
good Renny."

René's brain was never equal to coping with his master's periodic fits
of pessimism, though he well knew their first and ever-present cause.
In a troubled way he looked about the room, so peaceful, so retired
and studious; and Sir Adrian understood.

"Yes, yes, you are right; I have cut off the old life," he made answer
to the unspoken expostulation, "and that I can live in my own small
world without foregoing all my duties, I owe to you, my good friend;
but startling news like this brings back the past very livingly, dead
though it be--dead."

René hesitated; he was pondering over the advisability of disburdening
himself of yet another strange item of information he had in reserve;
but, as his master, rousing himself with an effort as if to dismiss
some haunting thought, turned round again to the table, he decided
that the moment was not propitious.

"So you have seen to all these things," said Sir Adrian wearily.
"Good; I will look over them."

He touched the neat pile of books and papers, listlessly, as he spoke,
yet, instead of sitting down, remained as he was, with eyes that had
grown wondering, staring out across the sea.

"Look," he said presently, in a low voice, and René noticed a rare
flush of colour rise to the thin cheeks. "Look--is not this day just
like--one we both remember well...? Listen, the wind is coming up as
it did then. And look at yonder sky!"

And taking the man by the arm, he advanced slowly with him towards the
window.

In the west the heavens on the horizon had grown threateningly dark;
but under the awe-inspiring slate-coloured canopy of clouds there
opened a broad archway filled with primrose light--the luminous arch,
well known to seafarers, through which charge the furious southwestern
squalls. The rushing of the storm was already visible in the distance
over the grey waters, which having been swayed for days by a steady
Aquilon were now lashed in flank by the sudden change of wind.

The two men looked out for a while in silence at the spectacle of the
coming storm. In the servant's mind ran various trivial thoughts
bearing on the present--what a lucky matter it was that he should have
returned in time; only just in time it was; from the angry look of the
outer world the island would now, for many a day be besieged by seas
impassable to such small craft as alone could reach the reef. Had he
tarried but to the next tide (and how sorely he had been tempted to
remain an hour more in the gatekeeper's lodge within sight and hearing
of buxom Moggie, Margery's grand-daughter), had he missed the tide,
for days, maybe for weeks, would the master have had to watch and
tend, alone, the beacon fire. But here he was, and all was well; and
he had still the marvellous news to tell. Should he tell them now? No,
the master was in one of his trances--lost far away in the past no
doubt, that past that terminated on such a day as this. And Sir
Adrian, with eyes fixed on the widening arch of yellow light, was
looking inwards on the far-away distance of time.

Men, who have been snatched back to life from death in the deep,
recall how, before seeming to yield the ghost, the picture of their
whole existence passed in vivid light before the eye of their mind.
Swift beyond the power of understanding are such revelations; in one
flash the events of a good or an evil life leap before the seeing
soul--moment of anguish intolerable or of sublime peace!

On such a boisterous day as this, some nineteen years before, by the
sandy mouth of the river Vilaine, on the confines of Brittany and
Vendée had Adrian Landale been drowned; under such a sky, and under
the buffets of such an angry wind had he been recalled to life, and in
the interval, he had seen the same pictures which now, coursing back
many years in a few seconds, passed before his inward vision.



CHAPTER III

DAY DREAMS: A PHILOSOPHER'S FATE

Le beau temps de ma jeunesse ... quand j'étais si malheureux.


The borderland between adolescence and manhood, in the life of men of
refined aspirations and enthusiastic mettle, is oftener than not an
unconsciously miserable period--one which more mature years recall as
hollow, deceiving, bitterly unprofitable.

Yet there is always that about the memories of those far-off young
days, their lofty dreams long since scattered, their virgin delights
long since lost in the drudgery of earthly experience, which ever and
anon seizes the heart unawares and fills it with that infinite
weakness: that mourning for the dead and gone past, which yet is not
regret.

In the high days of the Revolutionary movement across the water,
Adrian Landale was a dreamy student living in one of those venerable
Colleges on the Cam, the very atmosphere of which would seem
sufficient to glorify the merits of past ages and past institutions.

Amidst such peaceful surroundings this eldest scion of an ancient,
north-country race--which had produced many a hardy fighter, though
never yet a thinker nor even a scholar--amid a society as prejudiced
and narrow-minded as all privileged communities are bound to become,
had nevertheless drifted resistlessly towards that unfathomable sea
whither a love for the abstract beautiful, a yearning for
super-earthly harmony and justice, must inevitably waft a young
intelligence.

As the academical years glided over him, he accumulated much classical
lore, withal read much latter-day philosophy and developed a fine
youthful, theoretical love for the new humanitarianism. He dipped
æsthetically into science, wherein he found a dim kind of help
towards a more recondite appreciation of the beauties of nature. His
was not a mind to delight in profound knowledge, but rather in
"intellectual cream."

He solaced himself with essays that would have been voted brilliant
had they dealt with things less extravagant than Universal Harmony and
Fraternal Happiness; with verses that all admitted to be highly
polished and melodious, but something too mystical in meaning for the
understanding of an every-day world; with music, whereof he was
conceded an interpreter of no mean order.

In fact the worship of his soul might have been said to be the
Beautiful in the abstract--the Beautiful in all its manifestations
which include Justice, Harmony, Truth, and Kindliness--the one
indispensable element of his physical happiness, the Beautiful in the
concrete.

This is saying that Adrian Landale, for all his array of definite
accomplishments, which might have been a never-failing source of
interest in an easy existence, was fitted in a singularly unfortunate
manner for the life into which one sudden turn of fortune's wheel
unexpectedly launched him.

During the short halcyon days of his opening independence, however, he
was able to make himself the centre of such a world as he would have
loved to live in. He was not, of course, generally popular, either at
college or at home; nor yet in town, except among that small set in
whose midst he inevitably found his way wherever he went; his
inferiors in social status perhaps, these chosen friends of his; but
their lofty enthusiasms were both appreciative of and congenial to his
own. Most of them, indeed, came in after-life to add their names to
England's roll of intellectual fame, partly because they had that in
them which Adrian loathed as unlovely--the instinct and will of
strife, partly; it must be added, because they remained free in their
circumstances to follow the lead of their nature. Which freedom was
not allotted to him.

       *       *       *       *       *

On one magnificent frosty afternoon, early in the year 1794, the
London coach deposited Adrian Landale in front of the best hostelry in
Lancaster, after more than a year's separation from his family.

This separation was not due to estrangement, but rather to the
instigation of his own sire, Sir Thomas--a gentleman of the "fine old
school"--who, exasperated by the, to him, incomprehensible and
insupportable turn of mind developed by his heir (whom he loved well
enough, notwithstanding, in his own way), had hoped, in good
utilitarian fashion, that a prolonged period of contact with the
world, lubricated by a plentiful supply of money, might shake his "big
sawney of a son" out of his sickly-sentimental views; that it would
show him that _gentlemen's_ society--and, "by gad, ladies' too"--was
not a thing to be shunned for the sake of "wild-haired poets, dirty
firebrands, and such cattle."

The downright old baronet was even prepared, in an unformed sort of
way, to see his successor that was to be return to the paternal hearth
the richer for a few gentlemanly vices, provided he left his nonsense
behind him.

As the great lumbering vehicle, upon the box seat of which sat the
young traveller, lost in dreamy speculation according to his wont,
drew clattering to a halt, he failed at first to notice the central
figure in the midst of the usual expectant crowd of inn guests and inn
retainers, called forward by the triumphant trumpeting which heralds
the approach of the mail. There, however, stood the Squire of Pulwick,
"Sir Tummus" himself, in portly and jovial importance.

The father's eyes, bright and piercing under his bushy white brows,
had already detected his boy from a distance; and they twinkled as he
took note, with all the pride of an author in his work, of the
symmetry of limb and shoulders set forth by the youth's faultless
attire--and the dress of men in the old years of the century was
indeed calculated to display a figure to advantage--of the lightness
and grace of his frame as he dismounted from his perch; in short of
the increased manliness of his looks and bearing.

But a transient frown soon came to overshade Sir Thomas's ruddy
content as he descried the deep flush (an old weakness) which mantled
the young cheeks under the spur of unexpected recognition.

And when, later, the pair emerged from the inn after an hour's
conversation over a bottle of burnt sherry--conversation which, upon
the father's side, had borne, in truth, much the character of
cross-examination--to mount the phaeton with which a pair of
high-mettled bays were impatiently waiting the return homewards, there
was a very definite look of mutual dissatisfaction to be read upon
their countenances.

Whiling away the time in fitful constrained talk, parcelled out by
long silences, they drove again through the gorgeous, frost-speckled
scenery of rocky lands until the sheen of the great bay suddenly
peered between two distant scars, proclaiming the approach to the
Pulwick estate. The father then broke a long spell of muteness, and
thus to his son, in his ringing country tones, as if pursuing aloud
the tenor of his thoughts:

"Hark'ee, Master Adrian," said he, "that you are now a man of parts,
as they say, I can quite see. You seem to have read a powerful lot of
things that do not come our way up here. But let us understand each
other. I cannot make head or tail of these far-fetched new-fangle
notions you, somehow or other, have fallen in love with--your James
Fox, your Wilberforce, your Adam Smith, they may be very fine fellows,
but to my humble thinking they're but a pack of traitors to king and
country, when all is said and done. All this does not suit an English
gentleman. You think differently; or perhaps you do not care whether
it does or not. I admit I can't hold forth as you do; nor string a lot
of fine words together. I am only an old nincompoop compared to a
clever young spark like you. But I request you to keep off these
topics in the company I like to see round my table. They don't like
Jacobins, you know, no more do I!"

"Nor do I," said Adrian fervently.

"Nor do you? Don't you, sir, don't you? Why, then what the devil have
you been driving at?"

"I am afraid, sir, you do not understand my views."

"Well, never mind; I don't like 'em, that's short, and if you bring
them out before your cousin, little Madame Savenaye, you will come off
second best, my lad, great man as you are, and so I warn you!"

In tones as unconcerned as he could render them the young man sought
to turn the intercourse to less personal topics, by inquiring further
anent this unknown cousin whose very name was strange to him.

Sir Thomas, easily placable if easily roused, started willingly enough
on a congenial topic. And thus Adrian conceived his first impression
of that romantic being whose deeds have remained legendary in the
French west country, and who was destined to exercise so strong an
influence upon his own life.

"Who is she?" quoth the old gentleman, with evident zest. "Ay. All
this is news to you, of course. Well: she _was_ Cécile de Kermelégan.
You know your mother's sister Mary Donoghue (murthering Moll, they
called her on account of her killing eyes) married a M. de Kermelégan,
a gentleman of Brittany. Madame de Savenaye is her daughter (first
cousin of yours), that means that she has good old English blood in
her veins and Irish to boot. She speaks English as well as you or I,
her mother's teaching of course, but she is French all the same; and,
by gad, of the sort which would reconcile even an Englishman with the
breed!"

Sir Thomas's eyes sparkled with enthusiasm; his son examined him with
grave wonder.

"The very sight of her, my boy, is enough to make a man's heart warm.
Wait till you see her and she begins to talk of what the red-caps are
doing over there--those friends of yours, who are putting in practice
all your fine theories! And, bookworm as you are, I'll warrant she'll
warm your sluggish blood for you. Ha! she's a rare little lady. She
married last year the Count of Savenaye."

Adrian assumed a look of polite interest.

"Emigré, I presume?" he said, quietly.

"Emigré? No, sir. He is even now fighting the republican rapscallions,
d--n them, and thrashing them, too, yonder in his country. She stuck
by his side; ay, like a good plucked one she did, until it became
palpable that, if there was to be a son and heir to the name, she had
better go and attend to its coming somewhere else, in peace. Ho, ho,
ho! Well, England was the safest place, of course, and, for her, the
natural one. She came and offered herself to us on the plea of
relationship. I was rather taken aback at first, I own; but, gad, boy,
when I saw the woman, after hearing what she had had to go through to
reach us at all, I sang another song. Well, she is a fine
creature--finer than ever now that the progeny has been satisfactorily
hatched; a brace of girls instead of the son and heir, after all! Two
of them; no less. Ho, ho, ho! And she was furious, the pretty dear!
However, you'll soon see for yourself. You will see a woman, sir, who
has loaded and fired cannon with her own hands, when the last man to
serve it had been shot. Ay, and more than that, my lad--she's brained
a hulking sans-culotte that was about to pin her servant to the floor.
The lad has told me so himself, and I daresay he can tell you more if
you care to practise your French with master René L'Apôtre, that's the
fellow! A woman who sticks to her lord and master in mud and
powder-smoke until there is precious little time to spare, when she
makes straight for a strange land, in a fishing-smack, with no other
protector than a peasant; and now, with an imp of a black-eyed infant
to her breast (Sally Mearson's got the other; you remember Sally, your
own nurse's daughter?), looks like a chit of seventeen. That's what
you'll see, sir. And when she sails downstairs for dinner, dressed up,
powdered and high-heeled, she might be a princess, a queen who has
never felt a crumpled roseleaf in her life. Gad! I'm getting poetical,
I declare."

In this strain did the Squire, guiding his horses with strong,
dexterous hand, expatiate to his son; the crisp air rushing past them,
making their faces glow with the tingling blood until, burning the
ground, they dashed up the avenue that leads to the white mansion of
Pulwick, and halted amidst a cloud of steam before its Palladian
portico.

What happened to Adrian the moment after happens, as a rule, only once
in a man's lifetime.

Through the opening portals the guest, whose condensed biography the
Squire had been imparting to his son (all unconsciously eliciting
thereby more repulsion than admiration in the breast of that
fastidious young misogynist), appeared herself to welcome the return
of her host.

Adrian, as he retired a pace to let his father ascend the steps, first
caught a glimpse of a miraculously small and arched foot, clad in pink
silk, and, looking suddenly up, met fully the flash of great dark
eyes, set in a small white face, more brilliant in their immense
blackness than even the glinting icicles pendant over the lintel that
now shot back the sun's sinking glory.

The spell was of the kind that the reason of man can never sanction,
and yet that have been ever and will be while man is. This youth,
virgin of heart, dreamy of head who had drifted to his twentieth
year, all unscathed by passion or desire, because he had never met
aught in flesh and blood answering to his unconscious ideal, was
struck to the depth of his soul by the presence of one, as unlike this
same ideal as any living creature could be; struck with fantastic
suddenness, and in that all-encompassing manner which seizes the
innermost fibres of the being.

It was a pang of pain, but a revelation of glory.

He stood for some moments, with paling cheeks and hotly-beating heart,
gazing back into the wondrous eyes. She, yielding her cheek carelessly
to the Squire's hearty kiss, examined the new-comer curiously the
while:

"Why--how now, tut, tut, what's this?" thundered the father, who,
following the direction of her eyes, wheeled round suddenly to
discover his son's strange bearing, "Have you lost all the manners as
well as the notions of a gentleman, these last two years? Speak to
Madame de Savenaye, sir!--Cécile, this is my son; pray forgive him, my
dear; the fellow's shyness before ladies is inconceivable. It makes a
perfect fool of him, as you see."

But Madame de Savenaye's finer wits had already perceived something
different from the ordinary display of English shyness in the young
man, whose eyes remained fixed on her face with an intentness that
savoured in no way, of awkwardness. She now broke the spell with a
broader smile and a word of greeting.

"You are surprised," said she in tripping words, tinged with a
distinct foreign intonation, "to see a strange face here, Mr.
Adrian--or, shall I say cousin? for that is the style I should adopt
in my Brittany. Yes, you see in me a poor foreign cousin, fleeing for
protection to your noble country. How do you do, my cousin?"

She extended a slender, white hand, one rosy nail of which, bending
low, Adrian gravely kissed.

"_Mais, comment donc!_" exclaimed the lady, "my dear uncle did you
chide your son just now? Why, but these are Versailles manners--so
gallant, so courtly!"

And she gave the boy's fingers, as they lingered under hers, first a
discreet little pressure, and then a swift flip aside.

"Ah! how cold you are!" she exclaimed; and then, laughing, added
sweetly: "Cold hands, warm heart, of course."

And with rapping heels she turned into the great hall and into the
drawing-room whither the two men--the father all chuckles, and the son
still struck with wonder--followed her.

She was standing by the hearth holding each foot alternately to the
great logs flaming on the tiles, ever and anon looking over her shoulder
at Adrian, who had advanced closer, without self-consciousness, but
still in silence.

"Now, cousin," she remarked gaily, "there is room for you here, big as
you are, to warm yourself. You must be cold. I know already all about
your family, and I must know all about you, too! I am very curious, I
find them all such good, kind, handsome people here, and I am told to
expect in you something quite different from any of them. Now, where
does the difference come in? You are as tall as your father, but in
face--no, I believe it is your pretty sisters you are like in face."

Here the Squire interrupted with his loud laugh, and, clapping his
hand on his stalwart son's head:

"You have just hit it, Cécile, it's here the difference lies. Adrian,
I really believe, is a little mistake of Dame Nature; his brain was
meant for a girl and was tacked on to that big body by accident, ho,
ho, ho! He is quite lady-like in his accomplishments--loves music, and
plays, by gad, better than our organist. Writes poetry, too. I found
some devilish queer things on his writing-table once, which were not
_all_ Latin verses, though he would fain I thought so. And as for
deportment, Madame Cécile, why there is more propriety, in that
hobbedehoy, at least, more blushing in him, than in all the
bread-and-butter misses in the county!"

Adrian said nothing; but, when not turned towards the ground, his gaze
still sought the Countess, who now returned the look with a ripening
smile open to any interpretation.

"Surely," she remarked, glancing then at the elder for an instant with
some archness, "surely you English gentlemen, who have so much
propriety, would not rather ... there was young Mr. Bradbury, we heard
talked of yesterday, whom every farmer with a red-cheeked lass of his
own--"

"No, no!" hastily interrupted the baronet, with a blush himself, while
Adrian's cheek in spite of the recent indictment preserved its smooth
pallor--in truth, the boy, lost in his first love-dream, had not
understood the allusion. "No, I don't want a Landale to be a
blackguard, you know, but--" And the father, unable to split this
ethical hair, to logical satisfaction, stopped and entered another
channel of grumbling vituperation, whilst the Countess, very much
amused by her private thoughts, gave a little rippling laugh, and
resumed her indulgent contemplation of the accused.

"What a pity, now, school-boy Rupert is not the eldest; there would be
a country gentleman for you! Whereas, this successor that is to be of
mine is a man of books and a philosopher. Forsooth, a first-class
bookworm; by gad, I believe the first of our race! And he might make a
name for himself, I've been told, among that lot, though the pack o'
nonsense he treats us to at times cannot, I'm thinking, really go down
even among those college fuzzle-heads. But I am confounded if that
chap will ever be of any use as a landlord whenever he steps into my
shoes. He hates a gun, and takes more pleasure--what was it he said
last time he was here?--oh, yes, more pleasure in watching a bird dart
in the blue than bringing it down, be it never so neat a shot. Ho, ho!
did ye ever hear such a thing? And though he can sit a horse--I will
say that for him (I should like to see a Landale that could not!)--I
have seen this big boy of mine positively sicken, ay! and scandalise
the hunt by riding away from the death. Moreover, I believe that, when
I am gone, he will always let off any poaching scoundrel on the plea
that the vermin only take for their necessity what we preserve for
sport."

The little foreign lady, smiling no longer, eyed her big cousin with
wondering looks.

"Strange, indeed," she remarked, "that a man should fail to appreciate
the boon of man's existence, the strength and freedom to dominate, to
be up and doing, to _live_ in fact. How I should long to be a man
myself, if I ever allowed myself to long for anything; but I am a
woman, as you see," she added, rising to the full height of her
exquisite figure, "and must submit to woman's lot--and that is just
now to the point, for I must leave you to go and see to the wants of
that _mioche_ of mine which I hear whining upstairs. But I do not
believe my uncle's account of you is a complete picture after all,
cousin Adrian. I shall get it out of you anon, catechise you in my own
way, and, if needs be, convert you to a proper sense of the glorious
privileges of your sex."

And she ran out of the room.

"Well, my lad," said Sir Thomas, that evening, when the ladies had
left the two men to their decanter, "I thought my Frenchwoman would
wake you up, but, by George, I hardly expected she would knock you all
of a heap so quick. Hey! you're winged, Adrian, winged, or this is not
port."

"I cannot say, sir," answered Adrian, musing.

The old man caught up the unsatisfactory reply in an exasperated
burlesque of mimicry: "I cannot say, sir--you cannot say? Pooh, pooh,
there is no shame in being in love with her. We all are more or less;
pass the bottle. As for you, since you clapped eyes on her you have
been like a man in the moon, not a word to throw to a dog, no eyes, no
ears but for your own thoughts, so long as madam is not there. Enter
madam, you're alive again, by George, and pretty lively, too! Gad, I
never thought I'd ever see _you_ do the lady's man, all in your own
queer way, of course; but, hang it all, she seems to like it, the
little minx! Ay, and if she has plenty of smiles for the old man she's
ready to give her earnest to you--I saw her, I saw her. But don't you
forget she's married, sir, very much married, too. She don't forget it
either, I can tell you, though you may think she does. Now, what sort
of game is she making of you? What were you talking about in the
picture gallery for an hour before dinner, eh?"

"To say the truth," answered the son, simply, "it was about myself
almost the whole time."

"And she flattered you finely, I'll be bound, of course," said his
elder, with a knowing look. "Oh, these women, these women!"

"On the contrary, sir, she thinks even less of me than you do. That
woman has the soul of a savage; we have not one thought in common."

The father burst into a loud laugh. "A pretty savage to look at,
anyhow; a well-polished one in the bargain, ho, ho, ho! Well, well, I
must make up my mind, I suppose, that my eldest son is a lunatic in
love with a savage."

Adrian remained silent for a while, toying with his glass, his young
brow contracted under a painful frown. At length, checking a sigh, he
answered with deliberation:

"Since it is so palpable to others, I suppose it must be love, as you
say. I had thought hitherto that love of which people talk so much was
a feeling of sweetness. What I feel in this lady's presence is much
more kin to anguish; for all that, as you have noticed, I appear to
live only when she is nigh."

The father looked at his son and gaped. The latter went on, after
another pause:

"I suppose it is so, and may as well own it to myself and to you,
though nothing can come of it, good or bad. She is married, and she is
your guest; and even if any thought concerning me could enter her
heart, the merest show of love on my part would be an insult to her
and treason to you. But trust me, I shall now be on my guard, since my
behaviour has already appeared strange."

"Tut, tut," said the Baronet, turning to his wine in some dudgeon, his
rubicund face clouding as he looked with disfavour at this strange
heir of his, who could not even fall in love like the rest of his
race. "What are you talking about? Come, get out of that and see what
the little lady's about, and let me hear no more of this. She'll not
compromise herself with a zany like you, anyhow, that I'll warrant."

But Adrian with all the earnestness of his nature and his very young
fears was strenuously resolved to watch himself narrowly in his
intercourse with his too fascinating relative; little recking how
infinitesimal is the power of a man's free-will upon the conduct of
his life.

The next morning found the little Countess in the highest spirits.
Particularly good news had arrived from her land with the early
courier. True, the news were more than ten days old, but she had that
insuperable buoyancy of hopefulness which attends active and healthy
natures.

The Breton peasants (she explained to the company round the breakfast
table), headed by their lords (among whom was her own _Seigneur et
Maître_) had again crushed the swarms of ragged brigands that called
themselves soldiers. From all accounts there was no hope for the
latter, their atrocities had been such that the whole land, from
Normandy to Guyenne, was now in arms against them.

And in Paris, the hot pit whence had issued the storm of foulness that
blasted the fair kingdom of France after laying low the hallowed heads
of a good king and a beautiful queen, in Paris, leaders and led were
now chopping each other's heads off, _à qui mieux mieux_. "Those
thinkers, those lofty patriots, _hein, beau cousin_, for whom, it
seems, you have an admiration," commented the lady, interrupting her
account to sip her cup of cream and chocolate, with a little finger
daintily cocked, and shoot a mocking shaft at the young philosopher
from the depth of her black eyes.

"Like demented wolves they are destroying each other--Pray the God of
Justice," quoted she from her husband's letter, "that it may only
last; in a few months, then, there will be none of them left, and the
people, relieved from this rule of blood, will all clamour for the
true order of things, and the poor country may again know peace and
happiness. Meanwhile, all has yet to be won, by much devotion and
self-sacrifice in the cause of God and King; and afterwards will come
the reward!...

"And the revenge," added Madame de Savenaye, with a little, fierce
laugh, folding the sanguine budget of news. "Oh! they must leave us a
few for revenge! How we shall make the hounds smart when the King
returns to his own! And then for pleasures and for life again. And we
may yet meet at the mansion of Savenaye, in Paris," she went on gaily,
"my good uncle and fair cousins, for the King cannot fail to recall
his faithful supporter. And there will be feasts and balls. And there,
maybe, we shall be able to repay in part some of your kindness and
hospitality. And you, cousin Adrian, you will have to take me through
pavanne and gavotte and minuet; and I shall be proud of my northern
cavalier. What! not know how one dances the gavotte? _Fi donc!_ what
ignorance! I shall have to teach you. Your hand, monsieur," slipping
the missive from the seat of war into her fair bosom. "La! not that
way; with a _grace_, if you please," making a profound curtsey. "Ah,
still that cold hand; your great English heart must be a very
furnace. Come, point your right foot--so. And look round at your
partner with--what shall I say--_admiration sérieuse_!"

That she saw admiration, serious enough in all conscience in Adrian's
eyes, there was little doubt. With sombre heart he failed not to mark
every point of this all-human grace, but to him goddess-like beauty,
the triumph and glory of youth. The coy, dainty poise of the adorable
foot--pointed _so_--and treading the ground with the softness of a
kitten at play; the maddening curve of her waist, which a sacque,
depending from an exquisite nape, partly concealed, only to enhance
its lithe suppleness; the divinely young throat and bust; and above
all the dazzling black rays from eyes alternately mocking, fierce or
caressing.

Well might his hand be cold with all his young untried blood, biting
at his heart, singing in his head. Why did God place such creatures on
His earth to take all savour from aught else under the sun?

"Fair cousin, fair cousin, though I said serious admiration, I did not
mean you to look as if you were taking me to a funeral. You are
supposed to be enjoying yourself, you know!"

The youth struggled with a ghastly smile; and the father laughed
outright. But Madame de Savenaye checked herself into gravity once
more.

"Alas! _Nous n'en sommes pas encore là_," she said, and relinquished
her adorer's hand. "We have still to fight for it.... Oh! that I were
free to be up and doing!"

The impatient exclamation was wrung out of her, apparently, by the
appearance of two nurses, each bearing an infant in long, white robes
for the mother's inspection; a preliminary to the daily outing.

The elder of these matrons was Adrian's own old nurse who, much
occupied with her new duties of attendant to Madame de Savenaye and
one of her babies, now beheld her foster-son again for the first time
since his return.

"Eh--but you've grown a gradely mon, Mester Adrian!" she cried, in her
long-drawn Lancastrian, dandling her bundle energetically from side to
side in the excess of her admiration, and added with a laugh of
tender delight: "Eh, but you're my own lad still, as how 'tis!" when,
blushing, the young man crossed the room and stooped to kiss her,
glancing shyly the while at the white bundle in her arms.

"Well, and how are the little ones?" quoth Madame de Savenaye,
swinging her dainty person up to the group and halting by beaming
Sally--the second nurse, who proudly held forth her charge--merely to
lay a finger lightly on the infant's little cheek.

"Ah, my good Sally, your child does you credit!--Now Margery, when you
have done embracing that fine young man, perhaps you will give me my
child, _hein_?"

Both the nurses blushed; Margery at the soft impeachment as she
delivered over the minute burden; her daughter in honest indignation
at the insulting want of interest shown for her foster-babe.

"No, I was not made to play with puppets like you, mademoiselle," said
the comtesse, addressing herself to the unconscious little being as
she took it in her arms, but belying her words by the grace and
instinctive maternal expertness with which she handled and soothed the
infant. "Yes, you can go, Sarah--_au revoir_, Mademoiselle Madeleine.
Fie the little wretch, what faces she pulls! And you, Margery, you
need not wait either; I shall keep this creature for a while. Poor
little one!" sang the mother, walking up and down, and patting the
small back with her jewelled hand as she held the wee thing against
her shoulder, "indeed I shall have soon to leave you----"

"What's this--what's this?" exclaimed the master of the house with
sudden sharpness. He had been surveying the scene from the hearthrug,
chuckling in benevolent amusement at little Madam's ways.

Yes, it was her intention to return to her place by the side of her
lord, she explained, halting in her walk to face him gravely; she had
come to that resolution. No doubt her uncle would take the children
under his care until better times--those good times that were so fast
approaching. Buxom Sally could manage them both--and to spare, too!

Adrian felt his heart contract at the unexpected announcement; a look
of dismay overspread Sir Thomas's face.

"Why--what? what nonsense, child!" cried he again in rueful tones.
"_You_, return to that place now ... what good do you think you could
do--eh?" But here recollecting himself, he hesitated and started upon
a more plausible line of expostulation. "Pooh, pooh! You can't leave
the little ones, your husband does not ask you to come back and leave
them, does he? In any case," with assumed authority, "I shall not let
you go."

She looked up with a smile.

"Would _you_ allow your friends to continue fighting alone for all you
love, because you happened to be in safe and pleasant circumstances
yourself?" she asked. Then she added ingenuously: "I have heard you
say of one that was strong of will and staunch to his purpose, that he
was a regular Briton. I thought that flattering: I am a Briton, of
Brittany, you know, myself, uncle: would you have _me_ be a worthless
Briton? As to what a woman can do there--ah, you have no idea what it
means for all these poor peasants of ours to see their lords remain
among them, sharing their hardship in defence of their cause.
Concerning the children," kissing the one she held and gazing into its
face with wistful look, "they can better afford to do without me than
my husband and our men. A strong woman to tend them till we come back,
is all that is wanted, since a good relative is willing to give them
shelter. René cannot be long in returning now, with the last news.
Indeed, M. de Savenaye says that he will only keep him a few days
longer, and, according to the tidings he brings must I fix the date
for my departure."

Sir Thomas, with an inarticulate growl, relapsed into silence; and she
resumed her walk with bent head, lost in thought, up and down the
great room, out of the pale winter sunshine into the shadow, and back
again, to the tune of "Malbrook s'en va t'en guerre," which she hummed
beneath her breath, while the baby's foolish little head, in its white
cap from which protruded one tiny straight wisp of brown hair, with
its beady, unseeing black eyes and its round mouth dribbling
peacefully, bobbed over her shoulder as she went.

Adrian stood in silence too, following her with his eyes, while the
picture, so sweet to see, so strange to one who knew all that was
brewing in the young mother's head and heart, stamped itself upon his
brain.

At the door, at length, she halted a moment, and looked at them both.

"Yes, my friends," she said, and her eyes shot flame; "I must go
soon." The baby bobbed its head against her cheek as if in
affirmative; then the great door closed upon the pair.



CHAPTER IV

DAY DREAMS: A FAIR EMISSARY


Many guests had been convened to the hospitable board of Pulwick upon
the evening which followed Adrian's return home; and as, besides the
fact that the fame of the French lady had spread enthusiasm in most of
the male breasts of the district and anxious curiosity in gentler
bosoms, there was a natural neighbourly desire to criticise the young
heir of the house after his year's absence, the county had responded
in a body to the invitation.

It was a goodly company therefore that was assembled in the great
withdrawing rooms, when the Countess herself came tripping down the
shallow oaken stairs, and found Adrian waiting for her in the hall.

He glanced up as she descended towards him to cover her with an ardent
look and feast his eyes despairingly on her beauty; and she halted a
moment to return his gaze with a light but meaning air of chiding.

"Cousin!" she said, "you have very singular manners for one supposed
to be so shy with ladies. Do you know that if my husband were here to
notice them you might be taken to task?"

Adrian ran up the steps to meet her. The man in him was growing apace
with the growth of a man's passion, and by the boldness of his answer
belying all his recent wise resolutions, he now astonished himself
even more than her.

"You are going back to him," he said, with halting voice. "All is
well--for him; perhaps for you. For us, who remain behind there is
nothing left but the bitterness of regret--and envy."

Then in silence they descended together.

As they were crossing the hall there entered suddenly to them,
stumbling as he went, René, the young Breton retainer, whom the lord
of Savenaye had appointed as squire to his lady upon her travels, and
who, since her establishment at Pulwick, had been sent to carry news
and money back to Brittany.

No sooner had the boy--for such he was, though in intelligence and
blind devotion beyond his years--passed into the light, than on his
haggard countenance was read news of disastrous import. Recent tears
had blurred his sunburnt cheek, and the hand that tore the hat from
his head at the unexpected sight of his mistress, partly in
instinctive humility, partly, it seemed, to conceal some papers he
held against his breast, twitched with nervous anguish.

"René!" cried the Countess, eagerly, in French. "What hast thou
brought? Sweet Jesu! Bad news--bad news? Give!"

For an instant the courier looked around like a hunted animal seeking
a retreat, and then up at her in dumb pleading; but she stamped her
foot and held him to the spot by the imperiousness of her eye.

"Give, I tell thee," she repeated; and, striking the hat away,
snatched the papers from his hand. "Dost thou think I cannot bear ill
news--My husband?"

She drew nearer to a candelabra, and the little white hands
impatiently broke the seals and shook the sheets asunder.

Sir Thomas, attracted by his favourite's raised tones and uneasy at
her non-appearance, opened the drawing-room door and came forward
anxiously, whilst his assembled guests, among whom a sense that
something of importance was passing had rapidly spread, now gathered
curiously about the open doorway.

The Countess read on, unnoticing, with compressed lips and knitted
brows--those brows that looked so black on the fair skin, under the
powdered hair.

"My husband! ah, I knew it, my André ... the common fate of the
loyal!" A sigh lifted the fair young bosom, but she showed no other
sign of weakness.

Indeed those who watched this unexpected scene were struck by the
contrast between the bearing of this young, almost girlish creature,
who, holding the written sheets with firm hands to the light, read
their terrible contents with dry eyes, and that of the man who had
sunk, kneeling, at her feet, all undone, to have had the bringing of
the news.

The silence was profound, save for the crackling of the pages as she
turned them over, and an occasional long-drawn sob from the messenger.

When she came to the end the young widow--for such she was
now--remained some moments absorbed in thought, absently refolding the
letter into its original neatness. Then her eyes fell on René's
prostrate figure and she stooped to lay a kind hand for an instant on
his shoulder.

"Bear up, my good René," she said. At her voice and touch he dragged
his limbs together and stood humbly before her.

"We must be brave," she went on; "your master's task is done--ours,
yours and mine, is not."

He lifted his bloodshot eyes to her with the gaze of a faithful dog in
distress, scraped an uncouth bow and abruptly turned away, brushing
the tears from his cheek with his sleeve, and hurrying, to relieve his
choking grief in solitude. She stood a while, again absorbed in her
own reflection, and of those who would have rushed to speak gentle
words to her, and uphold her with tender hands, had she wept or
swooned, there was none who dared approach this grief that gave no
sign.

In a short time, however, she seemed to recollect herself and awaken
to the consciousness of the many watching eyes.

"Good uncle," she said, going up to the old man and kissing his cheek,
after sweeping the assembled company with dark, thoughtful gaze. "Here
are news that I should have expected sooner--but that I would not
entertain the thought. It has come upon us at last, the fate of the
others ... André has paid his debt to the king, like many hundreds of
true people before--though none better. He has now his reward. I glory
in his noble death," she said with a gleam of exaltation in her eyes,
then added after a pause, between clenched teeth, almost in a whisper:

"And my sister too--she too is with him--but I will tell you of it
later; they are at rest now."

Jovial Sir Thomas, greatly discomposed and fairly at a loss how to
deal with the stricken woman, who was so unlike any womankind he had
ever yet come across, patted her hand in silence, placed it within his
arm and quietly led her into the drawing-room, rolling, as he did so,
uneasy eyes upon his guests. But she followed the current of her
thoughts as her little feet kept pace beside him.

"That is bad--but worse--the worst of all, the cause of God and king
is again crushed; everything to begin afresh. But, for the present,
we"--here she looked round the room, and her eyes rested an instant
upon a group of young men, who were surveying her from a corner with
mingled admiration and awe--"we, that is René and I, have work to do
in this country before we return. For you will keep us a little
longer?" she added with an attempt at a smile.

"Will I keep you a little longer?" exclaimed the squire hotly, "will I
ever let you go, now!"

She shook her head at him, with something of her natural archness.
Then, turning to make a grave curtsey to the circle of ladies around
her:

"I and my misfortune," she said, "have kept your company and your
dinner waiting, I hardly know how long. No doubt, in their kindness
they will forgive me."

And accepting again her uncle's arm which, delighted at the solution
of the present difficulty, and nodding to Adrian to start the other
guests, he hastened to offer her, she preceded the rest into the
dining-hall with her usual alert bearing.

The behaviour of the Countess of Savenaye, had affected the various
spectators in various ways. The male sex, to a man, extolled her
fortitude; the ladies, however, condemned such unfeminine strength of
mind, while the more charitable prophesied that she would pay dearly
for this unnatural repression. And the whispered remark of one of the
prettier and younger damsels, that the loss of a husband did not seem
to crush her, at any rate, met, on the whole, with covert approval.

As for Adrian, who shall describe the tumult of his soul--the regret,
the hungering over her in her sorrow, the wild unbidden hopes and his
shame of them? Careful of what his burning eyes might reveal, he
hardly dared raise them from the ground; and yet to keep them long
from her face was an utter impossibility. The whispered comments of
the young men behind him, their admiration, and astonishment drove him
to desperation. And the high-nosed dowager, whom it was his privilege
to escort to his father's table, arose from it convinced that Sir
Thomas's heir had lost in his travels the few poor wits he ever
possessed.

The dinner that evening was without doubt the most dismal meal the
neighbourhood had ever sat down to at the hospitable board of Pulwick,
past funeral refections not excepted. The host, quite taken up with
his little foreign relative, had words only for her; and these,
indeed, consisted merely in fruitless attempts to induce her to
partake largely of every course--removes, relieves, side-dishes,
joints, as their separate turn came round. Long spells of silence fell
upon him meantime, which he emphasised by lugubriously clearing his
throat. Except for the pretty courtesy with which she would answer
him, she remained lost in her own thoughts--ever and anon consulting
the letter which lay beside her to fall again, it seemed, into a
deeper muse; but never a tear glinted between her black lashes.

More than once Adrian from his distant end of the table, met her eyes,
fixed on him for a moment, and the look, so full of mysterious
meanings made his heart beat in anguish, expecting he knew not what.

Among the rest of the assembly, part deference to a calamity so
stoutly borne, part amazement at such strange ways, part discomfort at
their positions as feasters in the midst of mourning, had reduced
conversation to the merest pretence. The ladies were glad enough when
the time came for them to withdraw; nor did most of the men view with
reluctance a moment which would send the decanters gliding freely over
the mahogany, and relieve them from this unwonted restraint.

Madame de Savenaye had, however, other interests in store for these
latter.

She rose with the rest of the ladies, but halted at the door, and
laying her hand upon her uncle's arm, said an earnest word in his ear,
in obedience to which he bundled out his daughters, as they hung back
politely, closed the door upon the last skirt, and reconducted the
Countess to the head of the table, scratching his chin in some
perplexity, but ready to humour her slightest whim.

She stood at her former place and looked for a moment in silence from
one to another of the faces turned with different expressions of
astonishment and anticipation towards her--ruddy faces most of them,
young, or old, handsome or homely, the honest English stamp upon each;
and distinct from them all, Adrian's pallid, thoughtful features and
his ardent eyes.

Upon him her gaze rested the longest. Then with a little wave of her
hand she prayed them to be seated, and waited to begin her say until
the wine had passed round.

"Gentlemen," then quoth she, "with my good uncle's permission I shall
read you the letter which I have this night received, so that English
gentlemen may learn how those who are faithful to their God and their
King are being dealt with in my country. This letter is from Monsieur
de Puisaye, one of the most active partisans of the Royal cause, a
connection of the ancient house of Savenaye. And he begins by telling
me of the unexpected reverses sustained by our men so close upon their
successes at Chateau-Gonthier, successes that had raised our loyal
hopes so high. 'The most crushing defeat,' he writes, 'has taken place
near the town of Savenaye itself, on your own estate, and your
historic house is now, alas! in ruins.... During the last obstinate
fight your husband had been wounded, but after performing prodigies of
valour--such as, it was hoped or trusted, the king should in time hear
of--he escaped from the hands of his enemies. For many weeks with a
few hundred followers he held the fields in the Marais, but he was at
last hemmed in and captured by one of the monster Thureau's _Colonnes
Infernales_, those hellish legions with an account of whose deeds,' so
says this gallant gentleman our friend, 'I will not defile my pen, but
whose boasts are like those of Attila the Hun, and who in their malice
have invented obscene tortures worthy of Iroquois savages for all who
fall into their clutches, be they men, women, or children.... But, by
Heaven's mercy, dear Madame,' says M. de Puisaye to me, 'your noble
husband was too weak to afford sport to those demons, and so he has
escaped torment. He was hanged with all speed indeed, for fear he
might die first of his toils and his wounds, and so defeat them at the
last.'"

A rustling murmur of horror and indignation went round the table; but
the little woman faced the audience proudly.

"He died," she said, "as beseems a brave man. But this is not all. I
had a sister, she was very fair--like me some people said, in
looks--she used to be the merry one at home in the days of peace," she
gave a little smile, far more piteous than tears would be--"She chose
to remain among her people when they were fighting, to help the
wounded, the sick." Here Madame de Savenaye paused a moment and put
down the letter from which she had been reading; for the first time
since she had begun to speak she grew pale; knitting her black brows
and with downcast eyes she went on: "Monsieur de Puisaye says he asks
my pardon humbly on his knees for writing such tidings to me, bereaved
as I am of all I hold dear, but 'it is meet,' he says, 'that the
civilised world should know the deeds these followers of _liberty_ and
_enlightenment_ have wrought upon gallant men and highborn ladies,'
and I hold that he says well."

She flashed once more her black gaze round upon the men, who with
heads all turned towards her and forgetting their wine, hung upon her
words. "It is right that I should know, and you too! It is meet that
such deeds should be made known to the world: my sister was taken by
these men, but less fortunate than my husband she had life enough left
for torture--she too is dead now; M. de Puisaye adds: Thank God! And
that is all that I can say too--Thank God!"

There was a dead silence in the room as she ceased speaking, broken at
last, here and there, along the table by exclamations and groans and a
deep execration from Sir Thomas, which was echoed deep-mouthed by his
guests.

Adrian himself, the pacific, the philosopher, with both arms,
stretched out on the table, clenched his hands, and set his teeth and
gazed into space with murderous looks.

Then the clear young voice went on again:

"You, who have honoured mothers and wives of your own, and have young
sweethearts, or sisters or daughters--you English gentlemen who love
to see justice, how long will you allow such things to be done while
you have arms to strike? We are not beaten yet; there are French
hearts still left that will be up and doing so long as they have a
drop of blood to shed. Our gallant Bretons and Vendéens are uniting
once more, our émigrés are collecting, but we want aid, brave English
friends, we want arms, money, soldiers. My task lies to my hand; the
sacred legacy of my dead I have accepted; is there any of you here who
will help the widow to maintain the fight?"

She had risen to her feet; the blood glowed on her cheek as she
concluded her appeal; a thousand stars danced in her eyes.

Old men and young they leapt up, with a roar; pressing round her,
pouring forth acclamations, asseverations and oaths--Would they help
her? By God--they would die for her--Never had the old rafters of
Pulwick rung to such enthusiasm.

And when with proud smiles and crimsoned face she withdraws at last
from so much ardour, the door has scarcely fallen behind her before
Sir Thomas proposes her health in a bellow, that trembles upon tears:

"Gentlemen, this lady's courage is such as might put most men's
strength to shame. Here is, gentlemen, to Madame de Savenaye!"

And she, halting on the stairs for a moment, to still her high-beating
heart, before she lay her babe against it, hears the toast honoured
with three times three.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the Lancastrian ladies had succeeded at length in collecting and
carrying off such among the hiccupping husbands, and maudlin sons, who
were able to move, Sir Thomas re-entering the hall, after speeding the
last departing chariot, and prudently leaning upon his tall son--for
though he had a seasoned head the night's potations had been deep and
fiery--was startled well-nigh into soberness, at the sight of his
niece waiting for him at the foot of the stairs.

"Why, Cis, my love, we thought you had been in bed this long while!
why--where have you been then since you ran away from the dining-room?
By George!" chuckling, "the fellows were mad to get another glimpse of
you!"

His bloodshot eye hung over her fondly. There was not a trace of
fatigue upon that delicate, pretty face.

"I wanted to think--I have much to think on now. I have had to read
and ponder upon my instructions here,"--tapping her teeth with the
letter, she still carried, "Good uncle, I would speak with you--yes,
even now," quick to notice Adrian's slight frown of disapproval (poor
fellow, he was sober enough at any rate!), "there is no time like the
present. I have my work to do, and I shall not rest to-night, till I
have planned it in my head."

Surely the brilliancy of those eyes was feverish; the little hands she
laid upon them to draw them into the dim-lit library were hot as fire.

"Why, yes, my pretty," quoth the good uncle, stifling a portentous
yawn, and striving to look wondrous wise, "Adrian, she wants to
consult me, sir, hic!"

He fell into an arm-chair as he spoke, and she sank on her knees
beside him, the firelight playing upon her eager face, while Adrian,
in the shadow, watched.

"Do you think," she asked of the old man, eagerly, "that these
gentlemen, who spoke so kindly to me a few hours ago, will be as much
in earnest in the morning?"

"Why d--n them! if they go back on their word, I'll call them out!"
thundered Sir Thomas, in a great rage all of a sudden. She surveyed
him inquiringly, and shot a swift keen glance from the placid, bulky
figure in the chair, to Adrian pale and erect, behind it, then rose to
her feet and stood a few paces off, as it were pondering.

"What is now required of me--I have been thinking it well over," she
said at last, "can hardly be achieved by a woman alone. And yet, with
proper help and support, I think I could do more than any man by
himself. There is that in a woman's entreaties which will win, when a
man may fail. But I must have a knight at my side; a protector, at the
same time as a faithful servant. These are not the times to stand on
conventional scruples. Do you think, among these gentlemen, any could
be found with sufficient enthusiasm, for the Royal cause, here
represented by me, to attend, and support me through all the fatigues,
the endless errands, the interviews--ay, also the rebuffs, the
ridicule at times, perhaps the danger of the conjuration, which must
be set on foot in this country--to do all that, without hope of other
reward than the consciousness of helping a good cause, and--and the
gratitude of one, who may have nothing else to give?"

She stopped with a little nervous laugh: "No, it is absurd! no man,
on reflection would enter into such a service unless it were for his
own country."

As the last words fell from her lips, she suddenly turned to Adrian
and met his earnest gaze.

"Or for his kindred," said the young man, coming up to her with grave
simplicity, "if his kindred required it."

A gleam of satisfaction passed across her face. The father, who had
caught her meaning--sharp enough, as some men can be in their
cups--nodded his head with great vigour.

"Yes, why should you think first of strangers," he grumbled, "when you
have your own blood, to stand by you--blood is thicker than water,
ain't it? Am I too old, or is he too young, to wait on you--hey,
madam?"

She extended her hand, allowing it to linger in Adrian's grasp, whilst
she laid the other tenderly on the old man's shoulder.

"My good uncle! my kind cousin! Have I the choice already between two
such cavaliers? I am fortunate indeed in my misfortune. In other
circumstances to decide would be difficult between two men, each so
good; but," she added, after a moment's hesitation, and looking at
Adrian in a manner that made the young man's heart beat thickly, "in
this case it is obvious I must have some one whom I need not fear to
direct."

"Ay, ay," muttered the baronet, "I'd go with you, my darling, to the
world's end; but there's that young philosopher of mine breaking his
heart for you. And when all's said and done, it's the young fellow
that'll be the most use to you, I reckon. Ay, you've chosen already,
I'll be bound. The gouty old man had best stop at home. Ho, ho, ho!
You've the luck, Adrian; more luck than you deserve."

"It is I who have more luck than I deserve," answered Madame de
Savenaye, smiling upon her young knight as, taking heart of grace, he
stooped to seal the treaty upon her hand. "To say the truth, I had
hoped for this, yet hardly dared to allow myself to count upon it. And
really, uncle, you give your own son to my cause?--and you, cousin,
you are willing to work for me? I am indeed strengthened at the outset
of my undertaking. I shall pray that you may never have cause to
regret your chivalrous goodness."

She dropped Adrian's hand with a faint pressure, and moved sighing
towards the door.

"Do you wonder that I have no tears, cousin?" she said, a little
wistfully; "they must gather in my heart till I have time to sit down
and shed them."

Thus it was that a letter penned by this unknown M. de Puisaye from
some hidden fastness in the Bocage of Brittany came to divert the
course of Adrian Landale's existence into a channel where neither he,
nor any of those who knew him, would ever have dreamed to see it
drift.



CHAPTER V

THE AWAKENING

    Oh, what hadst thou to do with cruel Death,
    Who wast so full of life, or Death with thee?

    LONGFELLOW.


Sir Adrian Landale, in his sea-girt fastness, still absorbed in dreams
of bygone days, loosed his grasp of faithful René's shoulder and fell
to pacing the chamber with sombre mien; while René, to whom these fits
of abstraction in his master were not unfamiliar, but yet to his
superstitious peasant soul, eerie and awe-inspiring visitations,
slipped unnoticed from his presence.

The light-keeper sate down by his lonely hearth and buried his gaze in
the glowing wood-embers, over which, with each fitful thundering rush
of wind round the chimney, fluttered little eddies of silvery ash.

So, that long strife was over, which had wrought such havoc to the
world, had shaped so dismally the course of his own life! The monster
of selfish ambition, the tyrannic, insatiable conqueror whose very
existence had so long made peaceable pursuits unprofitable to mankind,
the final outcome of that Revolution that, at the starting point, had
boded so nobly for human welfare--he was at last laid low, and all the
misery of the protracted struggle now belonged to the annals of the
past.

It was all over--but the waste! The waste of life and happiness, far
and wide away among innocent and uninterested beings, the waste
remained.

And, looking back on it, the most bitter portion of his own wrecked
life was the short time he had yet thought happy; three months, spent
as knight-errant.

How far they seemed, far as irrevocable youth, those days when, in the
wake of that love-compelling emissary, he moved from intrigue to
intrigue among the émigrés in London, and their English sympathisers,
to bustling yet secret activity in seafaring parts!

The mechanical instrument directed by the ingenious mind of Cécile de
Savenaye; the discreet minister who, for all his young years, secured
the help of some important political sympathiser one day, scoured the
country for arms and clothing, powder and _assignats_ another; who
treated with smuggling captains and chartered vessels that were to run
the gauntlet on the Norman and Breton coast, and supply the means of
war to struggling and undaunted loyalists. All this relentless work,
little suited, on the whole, to an Englishman, and in a cause the
rights of which he himself had, up to then, refused to admit, was then
repaid a hundredfold by a look of gratitude, of pleasure even, a few
sweet moments of his lady's company, before being sent hence again
upon some fresh enterprise.

Ah, how he loved her! He, the youth on the threshold of manhood, who
had never known passion before, how he loved this young widowed mother
who used him as a man to deal for her with men, yet so loftily treated
him as a boy when she dealt with him herself. And if he loved her in
the earlier period of his thraldom, when scarce would he see her one
hour in the twenty-four, to what all-encompassing fervour did the
bootless passion rise when, the day of departure having dawned and
sunk, he found himself on board the privateer, sailing away with her
towards unknown warlike ventures, her knight to protect her, her
servant to obey!

On all these things mused the recluse of Scarthey, sinking deeper and
deeper into the past: the spell of haunting recollection closing on
him as he sat by his hearthside, whilst the increasing fury of the
gale toiled and troubled outside fighting the impassable walls of his
tower.

Could it have been possible that she--the only woman that had ever
existed for him, the love for whom had so distorted his mind from its
natural sympathies, had killed in him the spring of youth and the
savour of life--never really learnt to love him in return till the
last?

And yet there was a woman's soul in that delicious woman's body--it
showed itself at least once, though until that supreme moment of union
and parting, it seemed as if a man's mind alone governed it, becoming
sterner, more unbendable, as hardships and difficulties multiplied.

In the melancholy phantasm passing before his mind's eye, of a period
of unprecedented bloodshed and savagery, when on the one side Chouans,
Vendéens, and such guerillas of which Madame de Savenaye was the
moving spirit, and on the other the _colonnes infernales_ of the
revolutionary leaders, vied with each other in ferocity and cunning,
she stood ever foremost, ever the central point of thought, with a
vividness that almost a score of years had failed to dim.

When the mood was upon him, he could unfold the roll of that story
buried now in the lonely graves of the many, or in the fickle memories
of the few, but upon his soul printed in letters of fire and blood--to
endure for ever.

Round this goddess of his young and only love clustered the sole
impressions of the outer world that had ever stirred his heart: the
grandeur of the ocean, of the storm, the glory of sunrise over a
dishevelled sea, the ineffable melancholy of twilight rising from an
unknown strand; then the solemn coldness of moonlight watches, the
scent of the burnt land under the fierce sun, when all nature was
hushed save the dreamy buzz of insect-life: the green coolness of
underwood or forest, the unutterable harmony of the sighing breeze,
and the song of wild birds during the long patient ambushes of
partisan war; the taste of bread in hunger, of the stream in the fever
of thirst, of approaching sleep in exhaustion--and, mixed with these,
the acrid emotions of fight and carnage, anguish of suspense, savage
exultation of victory--all the doings of a life which he, bred to
intellectual pleasures and high moral ideas, would have deemed a
nightmare, but which, lived as it was in the atmosphere of his longing
and devotion, yet held for him a strange and pungent joy: a cup of
cruel memories, yet one to be lingered over luxuriously till the
savour of each cherished drop of bitterness be gathered to the
uttermost.

Now, in the brightness of the embers, between the fitful flames of
crumbling wood, spreads before his eyes the dreary strand near
Quiberon, immense in the gathering darkness of a boisterous evening.
Well hidden under the stone table of a Druidical men-hir glows a small
camp-fire sedulously kept alive by René for the service of The Lady.
She, wrapped up in a coarse peasant-cloak, pensively gazes into the
cheerless smoke and holds her worn and muddy boots to the smouldering
wood in the vain hope of warmth.

And Adrian stands silently behind her, brooding on many things--on the
vicissitudes of that desultory war which has left them not a roof
whereunder they can lay their heads, during which the little English
contingent has melted from them one by one; on the critical action of
the morrow when the republican columns, now hastening to oppose the
landing of the great royalist expedition to Quiberon (that supreme
effort upon which all their hopes centre) must be surprised and cut
off at whatever cost; on the mighty doings to follow, which are to
complete the result of the recent sea fight off Ushant and crown their
devoted toil with victory at last....

And through his thoughts he watches the pretty foot, in its hideous
disguise of patched, worn, ill-fitting leather, and he sees it as on
the first day of their meeting, in its gleaming slipper and dainty
silken stocking.

Now and then an owl-cry, repeated from point to point, tells of
unremitting guard, but for which, in the vast silence, none could
suspect that a thousand men and more are lying stretched upon the
plain all around them, fireless, well-nigh without food, yet patiently
waiting for the morrow when their chiefs shall lead them to death; nor
that, in a closer circle, within call, are some fifty _gars_, remnant
of the indomitable "Savenaye band," and tacitly sworn bodyguard to The
Lady who came back from ease and safety over seas to share their
peril.

No sound besides, but the wind as it whistles and moans over the
heath--and the two are together in the mist which comes closing in
upon them as if to shroud them from all the rest, for even René has
crept away, to sleep perhaps.

She turns at last towards him, her small face in the dying light of
this sullen evening, how wan and weather-beaten!

"Pensive, as usual, cousin?" she says in English, and extends her
hand, browned and scratched, that was once so exquisite, and she
smiles, the smile of a dauntless soul from a weary body.

Poor little hands, poor little feet, so cold, so battered, so
ill-used! He, who would have warmed them in his bosom, given his heart
for them to tread upon, breaks down now, for the first time; and
falling on his knees covers the cold fingers with kisses, and then
lays his lips against those pitiful torn boots.

But she spurns him from her--even from her feet:

"Shame on you!" she says angrily; and adds, more gently, yet with some
contempt: "_Enfant, va!_--is this the time for such follies?"

And, suddenly recalled to honour and grim actuality, he realises with
dismay his breach of trust--he, who in their earlier days in London
had called out that sprightly little émigré merely for the vulgar
flippancy (aimed in compliment, too, at the grave aide-de-camp), "that
the fate of the late Count weighed somewhat lightly upon Madame de
Savenaye;" he, who had struck that too literary countryman of his own
across the face--ay, and shot him in the shoulder, all in the secret
early dawn of the day they left England--for daring to remark within
his hearing: "By George, the handsome Frenchwoman and her cousin may
be a little less than kin, but they are a little more than kind."

But yet, as the rage of love contending in his heart with
self-reproach, he rises to his feet in shame, she gives him her hand
once more, and in a different voice:

"Courage, cousin," says she, "perhaps some day we may both have our
reward. But will not my knight continue to fight for my bidding, even
without hope of such?"

Pondering on this enigmatic sentence he leaves her to her rest.

       *       *       *       *       *

When next he finds himself by her side the anticipated action has
begun; and it is to be the last day that those beautiful burning eyes
shall see the glory of the rising sun.

The Chouans are fighting like demons, extended in long skirmishing
lines, picking out the cluster of gunners, making right deadly use of
their English powder; imperceptibly but unflinchingly closing their
scattered groups until the signal comes and with ringing cries:
"_Notre Dame d'Auray!_" and "_Vive le roi!_" they charge, undismayed
by odds, the serried ranks of the Republicans.

She, from the top of the druidical stone, watches the progress of the
day. Her red, parted mouth twitches as she follows the efforts of the
men. Behind her, the _gars_ of Savenaye, grasping with angry clutch,
some a new musket, others an ancient straightened scythe, gaze
fiercely on the scene from under their broad felts. Now and then a
flight of republican bullets hum about their ears, and they look
anxiously to Their Lady, but that fearless head never bends.

Then the moment arrives, and with a fervent, "God be with you, brave
people," she hurls, by a stirring gesture, the last reserve on to the
fight.

And now he finds himself in the midst of the furious medley, striking
mechanically, his soul away behind on that stone, with her. Presently,
as the frenzy waxes wilder, he is conscious that victory is not with
them, but that they are pressed back and encompassed, and that for
each blue coat cast down amidst the yells and oaths, two more seem to
come out of the rain and smoke; whilst the bare feet and wooden shoes
and the long hair of his peasants are seen in ever-lessening ranks.
And, in time, they find themselves thrown back to the men-hir; she is
there, still calm but ghastly white, a pistol in each hand. Around
her, through the wet smoke, rise and fall with sickening thuds the
clubbed muskets of three or four men, and then one by one these sink
to the ground too. With a wailing groan like a man in a nightmare, he
sees the inevitable end and rushes to place his body before hers. A
bullet shatters his sword-blade; now none are left around them but the
begrimed and sinister faces of their enemies.

As they stand prisoners, and unheeding the hideous clamour, he, with
despair thinking of her inevitable fate at the hands of such victors,
and scarcely daring to look at her, suddenly sees _that_ in her eyes
which fills his soul to overflowing.

"All is lost," she whispers, "and I shall never repay you for all you
have done, cousin!"

The words are uttered falteringly, almost plaintively.

"We are not long now for this world, friend," she adds more firmly.
"Give me your forgiveness."

How often has Adrian heard this dead voice during the strange
vicissitudes of these long, long years! And, hearing it whisper in the
vivid world of his brain, how often has he not passionately longed
that he also had been able to yield his poor spark of life on the last
day of her existence.

For the usual fate of Chouan prisoners swiftly overtakes the surviving
leaders of the Savenaye "band of brigands," as that doughty knot of
loyalists was termed by their arch-enemy, Thureau.

A long journey towards the nearest town, in an open cart, under the
pitiless rain, amidst a crowd of evil-smelling, blaspheming, wounded
republicans, who, when a more cruel jolt than usual awakens their
wounds, curse the woman in words that should have drawn avenging bolts
from heaven. She sits silent, lofty, tearless; but her eyes, when they
are not lost in the grey distance, ever wistfully seek his face.

The day is drawing to a close; they reach their goal, a miserable,
grey, draggled town at the mouth of the Vilaine, and are roughly
brought before the arbiter of their lives--Thureau himself, the
monstrous excrescence of the times, who, like Marat and Carrier, sees
nothing in the new freedom but a free opening for the lowest instincts
of ferocity.

And before this monstrous beast, bedizened in his general's frippery,
in a reeking tavern-room, stand the noble lady of Savenaye and the
young heir of Pulwick.

The ruffian's voice rings with laughter as he gazes on the silent
youthful pair.

"Aha, what have we here; a couple of drowned rats? or have we trapped
you at last, the ci-devant Savenaye and her _godam_ from England? I
ought really to send you as a present to the Convention, but I am too
soft-hearted, you see, my pigeons; and so, to save time and make sure,
we will marry you to-day."

One of the officers whispers some words in his ear, which Thureau,
suddenly growing purple with rage, denies with a foul oath and an
emphatic thump of his huge fist on the table.

"Hoche has forbidden it, has he? Hoche does not command here. Hoche
has not had to hunt down the brigands these last two years. Dead the
beast, dead the venom, I say. And here is the order," scribbling
hurriedly on a page torn from a pocket-book. "It shall not be said
that I have had the bitch of Savenaye in my hands and trusted her on
the road again. Hoche has forbidden it! Call the cantineer and hop:
the marriage and quick--the soup waits."

Unable to understand the hidden meaning of the order, Adrian looks at
his lady askance, to find that, with eyes closed upon the sight of the
grinning faces, she is whispering prayers and fervently crossing
herself. When she turns to him again her face is almost serene.

"They are going to drown us together; that is their republican
marriage of aristocrats," she says in soft English. "I had feared
worse. Thank heaven there is no time now for worse. We shall be firm
to the last, shall we not, cousin?"

There is a pathetic smile on her worn weather-stained face, as the
cantineer and a corporal enter with ropes and proceed to pinion the
prisoners.

But, as they are marched away once more under the slanting rain, are
forced into a worn-out boat and lashed face to face, her fortitude
melts apace.

"There, my turtle-doves," sneers the truculent corporal, "another
kindness of the general. The Nantes way is back to back, but he
thought it would amuse you to see each other's grimaces."

On the strand resounds the muffled roll of wet drums, announcing the
execution of national justice; with one blow of an axe the craft is
scuttled; a push from a gaff sends it spinning on the swift swollen
waters into the estuary. Adrian's lips are on her forehead, but she
lifts her face; her eyes now are haggard.

"Adrian," she sobs, "you have forgiven me? I have your death on my
soul! Oh, Adrian, ... I could have loved you!"

Helpless and palsied by the merciless ropes, she tries passionately to
reach her little mouth to his. A stream of fire rushes through his
brain--maddening frenzy of regret, furious clinging to escaping
life!--Their lips have met, but the sinking craft is full, and, with a
sudden lurch, falls beneath the eddies.... A last roll of the drums,
and the pinioned bodies of these lovers of a few seconds are silently
swirling under the waters of the Vilaine.

And now the end of this poor life has come--with heart-breaking sorrow
of mind and struggle of body, overpowering horror at the writhings of
torture in the limbs lashed against his--and vainly he strives to
force his last breath into her hard-clenched mouth.

Such was the end of Adrian Landale, aged twenty--the end that should
have been--The pity that it was not permitted!

After the pangs of unwelcome death, the misery of unwelcome return to
life. Oh, René, René, too faithful follower; thou and the other true
men who, heedless of danger, hanging on the flanks of the victorious
enemy, never ceased to watch your lady from afar. You would have saved
her, could courage and faithfulness and cunning have availed! But,
since she was dead, René, would thou hadst left us to drift on to the
endless sea! How often have I cursed thee, good friend, who staked thy
life in the angry bore to snatch two spent bodies from its merciless
tossing. It was not to be endured, said you, that the remains of the
Lady of Savenaye should drift away unheeded, to be devoured by the
beasts of the sea! They now repose in sacred ground, and I live on!
Oh, hadst thou but reached us a minute later!--ah, God, or a minute
earlier!

Rarely had Sir Adrian's haunting visions of the past assumed such
lurid reality. Rising in torment from the hearth to pace unceasingly
the length and breadth of the restful, studious room, so closely
secure from the outer turmoil of heaven and earth, he is once more
back in the unknown sea-cave, in front of the angry breakers. Slowly,
agonisingly, he is recalled to life through wheeling spaces of pain
and confusion, only that his bruised and smarting eyes may see the
actual proof of his own desolateness--a small, stark figure wrapped in
coarse sailcloth, which now two or three ragged, long-haired men are
silently lifting between them.

He wonders, at first, vaguely, why the tears course down those wild,
dark faces; and then, as vainly he struggles to speak, and is gently
held down by some unknown hand, the little white bundle is gone, and
he knows that _there_ was the pitiful relict of his love--that he will
never see her again!

       *       *       *       *       *

Sir Adrian halted in front of his seaward window, staring at the
driven rain, which bounded and plashed and spread in minute torrents
down the glass, obscuring the already darkening vision of furious sea
and sky.

The dog, that for some moments had shown an anxious restlessness in
singular concert with his master's, now rose at last to sniff beneath
the door. No sound penetrated the roar of the blast; but the old
retriever's uneasiness, his sharp, warning bark at length recalled Sir
Adrian's wandering thoughts to the present. And, walking up to the
door, he opened it.

Oh, God! Had the sea given up its dead?

Sir Adrian staggered back, fell on his knees and clapped his hands
together with an agonised cry:

"Cécile...!"



CHAPTER VI

THE WHEEL OF TIME

                     And to his eye
    There was but one beloved face on earth,
    And that was shining on him.

    BYRON.


Upon the threshold she stood, looking in upon him with dark, luminous
eyes; round the small wet face tangles of raven hair fell limp and
streaming; dark raiments clung to her form, diapered with sand and
sea-foam, sodden with the moisture that dripped from them to the
floor; under the hem of her skirt one foot peered forth, shoeless in
its mud-stained stocking.

Sir Adrian stared up at her, his brain whirling with a frenzy of joy,
gripped in its soaring ecstasy by terror of the incomprehensible.

On the wings of the storm and the wind had she come to him, his
love--across the awful barriers that divide life and death? Had his
longings and the clamour of his desolate soul reached her, after all
these years, in the far-beyond, and was her sweet ghost here to bid
him cease from them and let her lie at rest? Or, yet, had she come to
call him from the weary world that their souls might meet and be one
at last?... Then let her but lay her lips against his, as once in the
bitterness of death, that his sorely-tried heart may break with the
exquisite pang and he, too, may die upon their kiss.

Swift such thoughts were tossing in the turmoil of his mind when the
vision smiled ... a young, rosy, living smile; and then reason,
memory, the wonder of her coming, the haunting of her grave went from
him; possessed by one single rapturous certainty he started up and
gathered the wet form into his strong arms--yet gently as if he feared
to crush the vision into void--and showered kisses on the wet face.

Not death--but life! A beating heart beneath his; a lithe young form
under his hand, warm lips to his kisses, ... Merciful Heaven! Were,
then, these twenty years all an evil, fevered dream, and was he awake
at length?

She turned her face from him after a moment and put her hand against
his breast to push him from her; and as she did so the wonder in the
lovely, familiar eyes turned to merriment, and the lips parted into
laughter.

The sound of the girlish laughter broke the spell. Sir Adrian stepped
back, and passed his hand across his forehead with a dazed look.

And still she laughed on.

"Why, cousin Landale," she said, at length between the peals; "I came
to throw myself upon your kindness for shelter from the storm, but--I
had not anticipated such a reception."

The voice, clear and sweet, with just a tinge of outlandish
intonation, struck Adrian to the heart.

"I have not heard," he faltered, "that voice for twenty years...!"

Then, coming up to her, he took her hands; and, drawing her towards
the firelight, scanned her features with eager, hungering eyes.

"Do not think me mad, child," he said at last; "tell me who you
are--what has brought you here? Ah, God, at such a moment! Who is it,"
he pursued, as if to himself, whilst still she smiled mockingly and
answered not; "who is it, then, since Cécile de Savenaye is dead--and
I am not dreaming--nor in fever? No vision either--this is flesh and
blood."

"Yes, indeed," mocked the girl with another burst of merriment; "flesh
and blood, please, and very living! Why, cousin Landale, you that knew
Cécile de Savenaye so well have you forgotten two babes that were born
at your own house of Pulwick? I believe, 'tis true, I have somewhat
altered since you saw me last."

And again the old room echoed to the unwonted sound of a girl's
laughter.

Now was the hallucination clearing; but the reality evoked a new and
almost as poignant tenderness. Cécile--phantom of a life-time's love,
reborn in the flesh, young as on the last day of her earthly
existence, coming back into his life again, even the same as she had
left it! A second wonder, almost as sweet as the first! He clung to
it as one clings to the presence of a dream, and, joy unspeakable, the
dream did not melt away, but remained, smiling, beautiful, unchanged.

"Cécile's daughter ..." he murmured: "Cécile's self again; but she was
not so tall, I think," and drew trembling, reverent hands from her
head to her straight young shoulders. And then he started, crying in a
changed voice:

"How wet and cold you are! Come closer to the fire--sit you into this
chair, here, in the warmth."

He piled up the hearth with faggots till the flames roared again. She
dropped into the proffered chair with a little shiver; now that he
recalled her to it, she was wet and cold too.

He surveyed her with gathering concern.

"My child," he began, and hesitated, continuing, after a short pause
of musing--for the thought struck him as strange--"I may call you so,
I suppose; I that am nearly old enough to be your father; my mind was
so unhinged by your sudden appearance, by the wonderful resemblance,
that I have neglected all my duties as host. You will suffer from
this--what shall we do to comfort you? Here, Jem, good dog! Call
René!"

The old retriever who, concluding that the visitor was welcome, had
returned to his doze, here gathered his stiff limbs together, hobbled
out through the doorway to give two or three yelping barks at some
point on the stairs, and then crawl back to his cosy corner by the
hearth.

The girl laughed again. It was all odd, new, exciting. Adrian looked
down at her. Cécile, too, had had a merry heart, even through peril
and misfortune.

And now there were hasty steps upon the stairs, creaking above the
outer tumult of sea and wind; and, in accordance with the
long-established custom of summoning him, René appeared upon the
threshold, holding a pair of candles.

At the sight of the figure sitting by the fire he halted, as if rooted
to the ground, and threw up his hands, each still clutching its
candle.

"Mademoiselle...!" he ejaculated. "Mademoiselle here!" Then, rapidly
recovering his quick wits, he deposited his burden of light upon the
table, advanced towards the lady, made an uncouth but profound bow,
and turned to his master.

"And this, your honour," he remarked, oracularly, and in his usual
manner of literal adaptation, "was also part of the news I had for
your honour from my last journey; but, my faith, I did not know how to
take myself to it, as your honour was so much occupied with old times
this evening. But I had seen Mademoiselle at the castle, as
Mademoiselle can tell you herself. And if your honour," he added, with
a look of astonishment, "will have the goodness to say how it is
possible that Mademoiselle managed to arrive here on our isle, in this
weather of all the devils--reverence speaking, and I humbly beg the
pardon of Mademoiselle for using such words--when it was with pain I
could land myself, and that before the storm--I should be grateful to
your honour. For I avow I cannot comprehend it at all. Ah, your
honour!" continued René, with an altered tone, "'tis a strange thing,
this!"

The looks of master and man crossed suddenly, and in the frank blue
eyes of the Breton peasant, Sir Adrian read a reflex of his own
thoughts.

"Yes," he said, more in answer to the look than to the exclamation,
"yes, it is a strange thing, friend."

"And his Honour cannot read the riddle any more than you yourself,
René," quoth Mademoiselle de Savenaye, composedly from her corner;
"and, as for me, I can give no explanations until I am a little
warmer."

"Why, truly," exclaimed Sir Adrian, striking his forehead, "we are a
very pair of dolts! Hurry, Renny, hurry, call up Margery, and bid her
bring some hot drink--tea, broth, or what she has--and blankets. Stay!
first fetch my furred cloak; quick, René, every moment is precious!"

With all the agitation of a rarely excited man Sir Adrian threw more
wood on the fire, hunted for a cushion to place beneath her feet, and
then, seizing the cloak from René's hands, he helped her to rise, and
wrapped its ample folds round her as carefully as if she were too
precious almost to be touched.

Thus enveloped she sank back in the great arm-chair with a cosy,
deliberate, kitten-like movement, and stretched out her feet to the
blaze, laying the little shoeless one upon Jem's grey muzzle.

Adrian knelt beside her, and began gently to chafe it with both hands.
And, as he knelt, silence fell between them, and the storm howled out
yonder; he heard her give a little sigh--that sigh which would escape
from Cécile's weariness in moments of rest, which had once been so
familiar and so pathetic a sound in his ear. And once more the power
of the past came over him; again he was upon the heath near Quiberon,
and Cécile was sitting by him and seeking warmth by the secret fire.

"Oh, my darling," he murmured, "your poor little feet were so cold;
and yet you would not let me gather them to my breast." And, stooping
slowly, he kissed the pretty foot in its torn, stained stocking with a
passion he had not yet shown.

The girl looked on with an odd little smile. It was a novel
experience, to inspire--even vicariously--such feelings as these; and
there was something not unpleasant in the sense of the power which had
brought this strange handsome man prostrate before her--a maidenly
tremor, too, in the sensation of those burning lips upon her feet.

He raised his eyes suddenly, with the old expectation of a rebuff; and
then, at the sight of the youthful, curious face above him, betook
himself to sighing too; and, laying the little foot back tenderly upon
the cushion, he rose.

From between the huge fur collar which all but covered her head, the
black eyes followed him as alertly as a bird's; intercepting the soft
melancholy of his gaze, she smiled at him, mischievous, confident, and
uncommunicative, and snuggled deeper into the fur.

Leaning against the high mantel-board, he remained silent, brooding
over her; the clock ticked off solemnly the fleeting moments of the
wonderful hour; and ever and anon the dog drew a long breath of
comfort and stretched out his gaunt limbs more luxuriously to the
heat. After a while Sir Adrian spoke.

"He who has hospitality to dispense," said he, smiling down at her
mutinous grace, "should never ask whence or how the guest came to his
hearth ... and yet--"

She made a slight movement of laziness, but volunteered nothing; and
he continued, his look becoming more wistful as he spoke:

"Your having reached this rock, during such weather, is startling
enough; it is God's providence that there should live those in these
ruins who are able to give you succour. But that you should come in to
me at the moment you did--" He halted before the bold inquisitive
brightness of her eyes. "Some day perhaps you will let me explain," he
went on, embarrassed. "Indeed I must have seemed the most absolute
madman, to you. But he who thinks he sees one returned from death in
angry waters, may be pardoned some display of emotion."

The girl sat up briskly and shook herself as if in protest against the
sadness of his smile and look.

"I rise indeed from a watery grave," she said lightly, "or at least
from what should have been my grave, had I had my deserts for my
foolishness; as it has turned out I do not regret it now; though I
did, about midway."

The red lips parted and the little teeth gleamed. "I have found such
kindness and welcome." She caressed the dog who, lazily, tried to lick
her hand. "It is all such an adventure; so much more amusing than
Pulwick; so much more interesting than ever I fancied it might be!"

"Pulwick; you come from Pulwick?" said Sir Adrian musing; "true, René
has said it but just now. Yet, it is of a piece with the strangeness
of it all."

"Yes," said Mademoiselle de Savenaye, once more collecting her cloak,
which her hurried movement had thrown off her shoulder. "Madelon and I
are now at Pulwick--I am Molly, cousin, please to remember--or rather
I am here, very warm now, and comfortable, and she is somewhere along
the shore--perhaps--she and John, as wet as drowned rats. Well, well,
I had best tell you the tale from the beginning, or else we never
shall be out of the labyrinth.--We started from Pulwick, for a ride by
the shore, Madelon and I. When we were on the strand it came on to
rain. There was smoke out of your chimney. I proposed a canter as far
as the ruins, for shelter. I knew very well Madelon would not follow;
but I threw poor Lucifer--you know Lucifer, Mr. Landale has reserved
him for me; of course you know Lucifer, I believe he belongs to you!
Well, I threw him along the causeway. John, he's the groom you know,
and Madelon, shrieked after me. But it was beautiful--this magnificent
tearing gallop in the rain--I was not going to stop.--But when we
were half way, Lucifer and I, I saw suddenly that the foam seemed to
cover the sand in front of me. Then I pulled up quick and turned round
to look behind me. There was already a frightful wind, and the sand
and the rain blinded me almost, but there was no mistake--the sea was
running between the shore and me. Oh! my God! but I was frightened
then; I beat poor Lucifer until my whip broke, and he started away
with a will. But when his feet began to splash the water he too became
frightened and stopped. I did not know what to do; I pulled out my
broach to spur him with the pin, but, at the first prick I gave him,
he reared, and swerved and I fell right on my face in the froth. I got
up and began to run through the water; then I came to some stones and
I knew I was saved, though the water was up to my knees and rushing by
like a torrent. When I had clambered up the beach I thought again of
poor Lucifer. I looked about and saw him a little way off. He was
shaking and tossing his dear black head, and neighing, though I really
did not hear him, for the wind was in my ears; his body was stock
still, I could not see his legs.... And gradually he sank lower, and
lower, and lower, and at last the water passed over his head. Oh! it
was horrible, horrible!"

The girl shuddered and her bright face clouded. After a moment she
resumed:

"It was only then I thought of the moving sands they spoke of the
other day at Pulwick--and that was why Madelon and that poltroon groom
would not follow me! Yet perhaps they were wise, after all, for the
thought of being buried alive made me turn weak all of a sudden. My
knees shook and I had to sit down, although I knew I had passed
through the danger. But I was so sorry for poor Lucifer! I thought if
I had come down and led him, poor fellow, he might have come with me.
Death is so awful, so hideous; he was so full of life and carried me
so bravely, only a few minutes before! Is it not a shame that there
should be such a thing as death?" she cried, rebelliously, and looked
up at the man above her, whose face had grown white at the thought of
the danger she had barely escaped.

"I waited," she resumed at length, "till I thought he must be quite
dead, there below, and came up to the ruins, and looked for an
entrance. I knocked at some doors and called, but the wind was so
loud, no one heard. And then, at last, there was one door I could
open, so I entered and came up the stairs and startled you, as you
know. And that is how I came here and how Lucifer is drowned."

As she finished her tale at last, she looked up at her companion. But
Sir Adrian, who had followed her with ever-deepening earnestness of
mien, remained silent; noticing which she added quickly and with a
certain tinge of defiance:

"And now, no doubt, you are not quite so pleased as you seemed at
first with the apparition which has caused you the loss of one of your
best horses!"

"Why child," cried Sir Adrian, "so that you be safe you might have
left all Pulwick at the bottom of the sands for me!" And René who
entered the room at that moment, heading the advance of Dame Margery
with the posset, here caught the extraordinary sound of a laugh on his
master's lips, and stepped back to chuckle to himself and rub his
hands.

"Who would have believed that!" he muttered, "and I who was afraid to
tell his honour! Oh, yes, there are better times coming. Now in with
you, Mother Margery, see for yourself who is there."

Holding in both hands a fragrant, steaming bowl, the old crone made
her slow entrance upon the scene, peering with dim eyes, and dropping
tremulous curtseys every two or three steps.

"Renny towd me as you wanted summat hot for a lady," she began
cautiously; and then having approached near for recognition at last,
burst forth into a long-drawn cry!

"Eh, you never says! Eh, dear o' me," and was fain to relinquish the
bowl to her fellow-servant who narrowly watching, dived forward just
in time to catch it from her, that she might clasp her aged hands
together once and again with ever-renewed gestures of astonishment.
"An' it were truth then, an' I that towd Renny to give over his
nonsense--I didn't believe it, I welly couldn't. Eh, Mester Adrian,
but she's like the poor lady that's dead and gone, the spit an' image
she is--e-eh, she is!"

Molly de Savenaye laughed aloud, stretched out her hand for the bowl,
and began with dainty caution to sip its scalding contents.

"Ah, my dear Margery," said the master, "we little thought what a
guest the sea would cast up at our doors to-night! and now we must do
our best for her; when she's finished your comforting mixture I shall
give her into your charge. You ought to put her to bed--it will not be
the first time."

"Ah! it will not, and a troublesome child she was," replied Margery,
after the usual pause for the assimilation of his remark, turning to
the speaker from her palsied yet critical survey of her whilom
nursling.

"And I'll see to her, never fear, I'll fettle up a room for her at
once--blankets is airing already, an' sheets, an' Renny he's seen to
the fire, so that as soon as Miss, here, is ready, I am."

Upon which, dropping a last curtsey with an assumed dignity which
would have befitted a mistress of the robes, she took her departure,
leaving Adrian smiling with amusement at her specious manner of
announcing that his own bedroom--the only one available for the
purpose in the ruins--was being duly converted into a lady's bower.

"It grieves me to think," mused he after a pause, while René still
bursting with ungratified curiosity, hung about the further end of the
room, "of the terrible anxiety they must be in about you at Pulwick,
and of our absolute inability to convey to them the good news of your
safety."

The girl gave a little laugh, with her lips over the cup, and shrugged
her shoulders but said nothing.

"My God, yes," quoth René cheerfully from his corner. "Notre Dame
d'Auray has watched over Mademoiselle to-day. She would not permit the
daughter to die like the mother. And now we have got her ladyship we
shall keep her too. This, if your honour remembers his sailor's
knowledge, looks like a three-days' gale."

"You are right, I fancy," said Sir Adrian, going over to him and
looking out of the window. "Mademoiselle de Savenaye will have to take
up her abode in our lighthouse for a longer time than she bargained. I
do not remember hearing the breakers thunder in our cave so loud for
many years. I trust," continued the light-keeper, coming down to his
fair guest again, "that you may be able to endure such rough
hospitality as ours must needs be!"

"It has been much more pleasant and I feel far more welcome already
than at Pulwick," remarked Mademoiselle, between two deliberate sips,
and in no way discomposed, it seemed, at the prospect held out to her.

"How?" cried Sir Adrian with a start, while the unwonted flush mounted
to his forehead, "you, not welcome at Pulwick! Have they not welcomed
a child of Cécile de Savenaye at Pulwick?... Thank God, then, for the
accident that has sent you to me!"

The girl looked at him with an inquisitive smile in her eyes; there
was something on her lips which she restrained. Surrendering her cup,
she remarked demurely:

"Yes, it was a lucky accident, was it not, that there was some one
to offer shelter to the outcast from the sea? It is like a tale of
old. It is delightful. Delightful, too, not to be drowned, safe and
sound ... and welcome in this curious old place."

She had risen and, as the cloak fell from her steaming garments, again
she shivered.

"But you are right," she said, "I must go to bed, and get these damp
garments off. And so, my Lord of Scarthey, I will retire to my
apartments; my Lady in Waiting I see yonder is ready for me."

With a quaint mixture of playfulness and gravity, she extended her
hand, and Adrian stooped and kissed it--as he had kissed fair Cécile
de Savenaye's rosy finger-tip upon the porch of Pulwick, twenty years
before.



CHAPTER VII

FOREBODINGS OF GLADNESS


Molly de Savenaye in her improvised bedroom, wet as she was, could
hardly betake herself to disrobing, so amused was she in surveying the
fresh and romantic oddity of her surroundings, with their mixture of
barbarous rudeness and almost womanish refinement.

Old Margery's fumbling hands were not nimble either, and it was long
since she had acted as attendant upon one of her own sex. And so the
matter progressed but slowly; but the speed of Margery's tongue was
apparently not affected by its length of service. It wagged
ceaselessly; the girl between her own moods of curious speculation
vouchsafing an amused, half-contemptuous ear.

Presently, however, as the nurse's reminiscences wandered from the
less interesting topic of her own vicissitudes, the children she had
reared or buried, and the marvellous ailments she had endured, to an
account of those days when she had served the French Madam and her
babes, Molly, slowly peeling a clinging sleeve from her arm, turned a
more eager and attentive face to her.

"Ah," quoth Margery, appraising her with blear eyes, "it's a queer
thing how ye favour your mother, miss. She had just they beautiful
shoulders and arms, as firm an' as white; but you're taller, I think,
and may be so, to speak, a stouter make altogether. Eh, dear, you were
always a fine child and the poor lady set a deal of store on you, she
did. She took you with her and left your sister with my Sally, when
she was trapesing up to London and back with Mester Adrian, ay, and me
with ye. And many the day that I wished myself safe at Pulwick! And I
mind the day she took leave of you, I do that, well."

Here Dame Margery paused and shook her head solemnly, then pursued in
another key:

"See now, miss, dear, just step out of they wet things, will ye now,
and let me put this hot sheet round ye?"

"But I want to hear about myself," said Molly, gratefully wrapping the
hot linen round her young beauty, and beginning to rub her black locks
energetically. "Where was it my mother parted from me?"

"Why, I'll tell you, miss. When Madam--we allus used to call her
Madam, ye know--was goin' her ways to the ship as was to take her to
France, I took you after her mysel' down to the shore that she might
have the very last of ye. Eh, I mind it as if it were yesterday.
Mester Adrian was to go with her--Sir Adrian, I should say, but he was
but Mester Adrian then--an' a two three more o' th' gentry as was all
fur havin' a share o' th' fightin'. Sir Thomas himsel' was theer--I
like as if I could see him now, poor owd gentleman, talkin' an'
laughin' very hard an' jov'al, an' wipin' 's e'en when he thought
nobody noticed. Eh, dear, yes! I could ha' cried mysel' to see th'
bonny young lady goin' off fro' her bairns. An' to think she niver
came back to them no more. Well, well! An' Mester Adrian too--such a
fine well-set-up young gentleman as he were--and _he_ niver comed back
for ten year an' when he did, he was that warsened--" she stopped,
shook her head and groaned.

"Well, but how about me, nurse," observed Molly, "what about _me_?"

"Miss, please it was this way. Madam was wantin' a last look at her
bairn--eh, she did, poor thing! You was allus her favoryite, ye know,
miss--our Sally was wet-nurse to Miss Maddyline, but Madam had you
hersel'. Well, miss, I'd brought you well lapped up i' my shawl an'
William Shearman--that was Thomas Shearman's son, feyther to William
an' Tom as lives over yonder at Pulwick village--well, William was
standin' in 's great sea-boots ready to carry her through th' surf
into the boat; an' Mester Adrian--Sir Adrian, I mean--stood it might
be here, miss, an' there was Renny, an' yon were th' t'other gentry.
Well, Madam stopped an' took you out o' my arms, an' hugged you to her
breast--an' then she geet agate o' kissin' you--your head an' your
little 'ands. An' you was jumpin' an' crowin' in her arms--the wind
had blown your cap off, an' your little downy black hair was standing
back. (Just let me get at your hair now, miss, please--Eh! it's cruel
full of sand, my word, it is.)"

"It's 'ard, when all's said an' done, to part wi' th' babe ye've
suckled, an' Madam, though there was niver nought nesh about 'er same
as there is about most women, an' specially ladies--she 'ad th'
mother's 'eart, she 'ad, miss, an when th' time coom for her to leave
th' little un, I could see, as it were, welly burstin'. There we stood
wi' th' wind blowin' our clothes an' our 'air, an' the waves roarin',
an' one bigger nor th' t'others ran up till th' foam reached Madam's
little feet, but she niver took no notice. Then all of a sudden she
gets th' notion that she'd like to take you with 'er, an' she turns
an' tells Mester Adrian so. 'She shall come with me,' she says, quite
sharp an' determined, an' makes a sign to William Shearman to carry
'em both over. 'No, no,' says Mester Adrian, 'quite impossible,' says
he, as wise as if he'd been an owd man i' stead o' nobbut a lad, ye
might say. 'It would be madness both for you an' th' child. Now,' he
says, very quiet an' gentle, 'if I might advise, I should say stay
here with the child.' Eh, I couldn't tell ye all he said, an' then Sir
Tummas coom bustlin' up, 'Do, now, my dear; think of it,' he says,
pattin' her o' th' hand. 'Stay with us,' he says, 'ye'll be welcome as
th' flowers in May!' An' there was Renny wi' 's 'at off, an' th' tears
pourin' down his face, beggin' an' prayin' Madam to stop--at least, I
reckoned that was what he were sayin' for it was all in 's own
outlandish gibberish. The poor lady! she'd look from one to th'
t'other an' a body a' must think she'd give in--an' then she'd
unbethink hersel' again. An' Sir Thomas, he'd say, 'Do now, my dear,'
an' then when she'd look at him that pitiful, he'd out wi' 's red
'andkercher an' frown over at Mester Adrian, an', says he, 'I wonder
ye can ax her!' Well, all of a sudden off went th' big gun in th'
ship--that was to let 'em know, miss, do ye see--an' up went Madam's
head, an' then th' wind fetched th' salt spray to her face, an' a kind
o' change came over her. She looked at the child, then across at the
ship--an' then she fair tossed ye back to me. Big William catched her
up in his arms just same as another bairn, an' carried her to the
boat."

"Yes," said Molly, gazing into the burning logs with brilliant eyes,
but speaking low, as if to herself, so that her attendant's deaf ears
failed to catch the meaning of the words. "Ah, that was life indeed!
Happy mother to have seen such life--though she did die young."

"As ye say, miss," answered Margery, making a guess at the most likely
comment from a daughter's lips, "it was cruel hard--it was that.
'Come, make haste!' cries the other young gentlemen: my word, they
were in a hurry lest Madam happen to change her mind. I could welly
have laughed to see their faces when Mester Adrian were trying to
persuade her to stop at Pulwick, and let the men go alone. 'T wern't
for that they reckoned to go all that road to France, ye may think,
miss. Well, miss, in a few minutes they was all out i' the boat wi'
th' waves tossin' 'em--an' I stood watchin' with you i' my arms,
cryin' and kickin' out wi' your little legs, an' hittin' of me wi'
your little 'ands, same as if ye knowed summat o' what was agate, poor
lamb, an' was angry wi' me for keepin' ye. Then in a little while the
big, white sails o' th' ship went swellin' out an' soon it was gone.
An' that was th' last we saw o' Madam. A two-three year arter you an'
Miss Maddyline was fetched away, to France, as I've been towd. I doubt
you didn't so much as think there was such a place as Pulwick, though
many a one there minds how they dandled and played wi' you when you
was a wee bairn, miss."

"Well, I am very glad to be back in England, anyhow," said Molly,
nimbly slipping into bed. "Oh, Margery, what delicious warm sheets,
and how good it is to be in bed alive, dry, and warm, after all!"

A new atmosphere pervaded Scarthey that night. The peaceful monotony
of years, since the master of Pulwick had migrated to his "ruins," was
broken at last, and happily. A warm colour seemed to have crept upon
the hitherto dun and dull surroundings and brightened all the
prospects.

At any rate René, over his busy work in the lantern, whistled and
hummed snatches of song with unwonted blithesomeness, and, after
lighting the steady watch-light and securing all his paraphernalia
with extra care, dallied some time longer than usual on the outer
platform, striving to snatch through the driven wraith a glance of the
distant lights of Pulwick. For there, in the long distance, ensconced
among the woods, stood a certain gate-lodge of greystone, much covered
with ivy, which sheltered, among other inmates, the gatekeeper's
blue-eyed, ripe and ruddy daughter--Dame Margery's pet grandchild.

The idea of ever leaving the master--even for the sake of the
happiness to be found over yonder--was not one to be entertained by
René. But what if dreams of a return to the life of the world should
arise after to-day in the recluse's mind? Ah, the master's eyes had
been filled with light!... and had he not actually laughed?

René peered again through the wind, but nothing could be seen of the
world abroad, save grey, tumbling waters foaming at the foot of the
islet; fretful waters coalescing all around with the driven, misty
air. A desolate view enough, had there been room for melancholy
thoughts in his heart.

Blithely did he descend the steep wooden stairs from the roaring,
weather-beaten platform, to the more secure inhabited keep; and,
humming a satisfied tune, he entered upon Margery in her flaming
kitchen, to find the old lady intent on sorting out a heap of feminine
garments and spreading them before the fire.

René took up a little shoe, sand-soiled and limp, and reverentially
rubbed it on his sleeve.

"Well, mother," he said, cheerfully, "it is a long while since you had
to do with such pretty things. My faith, these are droll doings,
ah--and good, too! You will see, Mother Margery, there will be good
out of all this."

But Margery invariably saw fit, on principle, to doubt all the
opinions of her rival.

Eh, she didn't hold so much wi' wenches hersel', an' Mester Adrian,
she reckoned, hadn't come to live here all by himsel' to have visitors
breaking in on him that gate!

"There be visitors _and_ visitors, mother--I tell you, I who speak to
you, that his honour is happy."

Margery, with a mysterious air, smoothed out a long silk stocking and
gave an additional impetus to the tremor Nature had already bestowed
upon her aged head.

Well, it wasn't for her to say. She hoped and prayed there was nowt
bad a coomin' on the family again; but sich likenesses as that of Miss
to her mother was not lucky, to her minding; it was not. Nowt good had
come to Mester Adrian from the French Madam. Ah, Mester Adrian had
been happy like with her too, and she had taken him away from his
home, an' his people, an' sent him back wi'out 's soul in the end.

"And now her daughter has come to give it him back," retorted René,
as he fell to, with a zest, on the savoury mess he had concocted for
his own supper.

"Eh, well, I hope nowt bad's i' the road," said Margery with senile
iteration. "They do say no good ever comes o' saving bodies from
drowning; not that one 'ud wish the poor Miss to have gone into the
sands--an' she the babby I weaned too!"

René interrupted her with a hearty laugh. "Yes, every one knows it
carries misfortune to save people from the drowning, but there, you
see, her ladyship, she saved herself--so that ought to bring good
fortune. Good-night, Mother Margery, take good care of the lady....
Ah, how I wish I had the care of her!" he added simply, and, seizing
his lantern, proceeded to ascend once more to his post aloft.

He paused once on his way, in the loud sighing stairs, struck with a
fresh aspect of the day's singular events--a quaint thought, born of
his native religious faith: The Lady, the dear Mistress had just
reached Heaven, no doubt, and had straightway sent them the young one
to console and comfort them. Eh bien! they had had their time of
Purgatory too, and now they might be happy.

Pleasant therefore were René's musings, up in the light watcher's
bunk, underneath the lantern, as, smoking a pipe of rest, he listened
complacently to the hissing storm around him.

And in the master's sleeping chamber beneath him, now so curiously
turned into a feminine sanctum, pleasant thoughts too, if less formed,
and less concerned with the future, lulled its dainty occupant to
rest.

Luxuriously stretched between the warm lavender-scented sheets,
watching from her pillow the leaping fire on the hearth, Miss Molly
wondered lazily at her own luck; at the many possible results of the
day's escapade; wondered amusedly whether any poignant sorrow--except,
indeed poor Madeleine's tears--for her supposed demise, really
darkened the supper party at Pulwick this evening; wondered agreeably
how the Lord of the Ruined Castle would meet her on the morrow, after
his singular reception of her this day; how long she would remain in
these romantic surroundings and whether she would like them as well at
the end of the visitation.

And as the blast howled with increasing rage, and the cold night drew
closer on, and the great guns in the sea-cave boomed more angrily with
the risen tide, she dimly began to dwell upon the thought of poor
Lucifer being sucked deeper into his cold rapacious grave, whilst she
was held in the warm embrace of a man whose eyes were masterful and
yet gentle, whose arm was strong, whose kisses were tender.

And in the delight of the contrast, Mademoiselle de Savenaye fell into
the profound slumber of the young and vigorous.



CHAPTER VIII

THE PATH OF WASTED YEARS

    And I only think of the woman that weeps;
    But I forget, always forget, the smiling child.
                                          _Luteplayer's Song._


That night, even when sheer fatigue had subdued the currents of blood
and thought that surged in his head, Sir Adrian was too restless to
avail himself of the emergency couch providently prepared by René in a
corner. But, ceasing his fretful pacing to and fro, he sat down in the
arm-chair by the hearth where she had sat--the waif of the
sea--wrapped round him the cloak that had enfolded the young body,
hugging himself in the salt moisture the fur still retained, to spend
the long hours in half-waking, firelight dreams.

And every burst of tempest rage, every lash of rain at the window,
every thud of hurricane breaking itself on impassable ramparts, and
shriek of baffled winds searching the roofless halls around, found a
strangely glad echo in his brain--made a sort of burden to his
thoughts:

Heap up the waters round this happy island, most welcome winds--heap
them up high and boiling, and retain her long captive in these lonely
ruins!

And ever the image in his mind's eye was, as before, Cécile--Cécile
who had come back to him, for all sober reason knew it was but the
child.

The child----! Why had he never thought of the children these weary
years? They, all that remained of Cécile, were living and might have
been sought. Strange that he had not remembered him of the children!

Twenty years since he had last set eyes upon the little living
creature in her mother's arms. And the picture that the memory evoked
was, after all, Cécile again, only Cécile--not the queer little
black-eyed puppet, even then associated with sea-foam and salty
breeze. Twenty years during which she was growing and waxing in
beauty, and unawares, maturing towards this wonderful meeting--and he
had never given a thought to her existence.

In what sheltered ways had this fair duplicate of his love been
growing from a child to womanhood during that space of life, so long
to look back upon--or so short and transient, according to the mood of
the thinker?

And, lazily, in his happier and tender present mood he tried to
measure once again the cycles of past discontent, this time in terms
of the girl's own lifetime.

It is bitter in misery to recall past misery--almost as bitter, for
all Dante's cry, as to dwell on past happiness. But, be the past
really dead, and a new and better life begun, the scanning back of a
sombre existence done with for ever, may bring with it a kind of
secret complacency.

Truly, mused Sir Adrian, for one who ever cherished ideal aspirations,
for the student, the "man of books" (as his father had been
banteringly wont to term him), worshipper of the muses, intellectual
Epicurean, and would-be optimist philosopher, it must be admitted he
had strangely dealt, and been dealt with, since he first beheld that
face, now returned to light his solitude! Ah, God bless the child!
Pulwick at least nursed it warmly, whilst unhappy Adrian, ragged and
degraded into a mere fighting beast, roamed through the Marais with
Chouan bands, hunted down by the merciless revolutionists, like
vermin; falling, as months of that existence passed over him, from his
high estate to the level of vermin indeed; outlawed, predatory,
cunning, slinking, filthy--trapped at last, the fit end of vermin!

Scarcely better the long months of confinement in the hulks of
Rochelle. How often he had regretted it, then, not to have been one of
the chosen few who, the day after capture, stood in front of six
levelled muskets, and were sped to rest in some unknown charnel!
Then!--not now. No, it was worth having lived to this hour, to know of
that fair face, in living sleep upon his pillow, under the safeguard
of his roof.

Good it was, that he had escaped at last, though with the blood of one
of his jailors red upon his hands; the blood of a perhaps innocent
man, upon his soul. It was the only time he had taken a life other
than in fair fight, and the thought of it had been wont to fill him
with a sort of nausea; but to-night, he found he could face it, not
only without remorse, but without regret. He was glad he had listened
to René's insidious whispers--René, who could not endure the captivity
to which his master might, in time, have fallen a passive, hopeless
slave, and yet who would have faced a thousand years of it rather than
escape alone--the faithful heart!

Yes, it was good, and he was glad of it, or time would not have come
when she (stay, how old was the child then?--almost three years, and
still sheltered and cherished by the house of Landale)--when she would
return, and gladden his eyes with a living sight of Cécile, while René
watched in his tower above; ay, and old Margery herself lay once more
near the child she had nursed.

Marvellous turn of the wheel of fate!

But, who had come for the children, and where had they been taken? To
their motherland, perhaps; even it might have been before he himself
had left it; or yet to Ireland, where still dwelt kinsfolk of their
blood? Probably it was at the breaking up of the family, caused by the
death of Sir Thomas, that these poor little birds had been removed
from the nest, that had held them so safe and close.

That was in '97, in the yellow autumn of which year Adrian Landale,
then French fisherman, parted from his brother René L'Apôtre upon the
sea off Belle Isle; parted one grizzly dawn after embracing, as
brothers should. Oh, the stealthy cold of that blank, cheerless
daybreak, how it crept into the marrow of his bones, and chilled the
little energy and spirits he had left! For a whole year they had
fruitlessly sought some English vessel, to convey this English
gentleman back to his native land. He could remember how, at the
moment of separation, from the one friend who had loved both him and
her, his heart sank within him--remember how he clambered from aboard
the poor little smack, up the forbidding sides of the English brig;
how René's broken words had bidden God bless him, and restore him
safely home (home!); remember how swiftly the crafts had moved apart,
the mist, the greyness and desolateness; the lapping of the waters,
the hoarse cries of the seamen, all so full of heart-piercing
associations to him, and the last vision of René's simple face, with
tears pouring down it, and his open mouth spasmodically trying to give
out a hearty cheer, despite the sobs that came heaving up to it. How
little the simple fellow dreamed of what bitterness the future was yet
holding for his brother and master, to end in these reunions at last!

The vessel which had taken Adrian Landale on board, in answer to the
frantic signals of the fishing-smack, that had sailed from Belle Isle
obviously to meet her, proved to be a privateer, bound for the West
Indies, but cruising somewhat out of her way, in the hope of outgoing
prizes from Nantes.

The captain, who had been led to expect something of importance from
the smack's behaviour, in high dudgeon at finding that so much bustle
and waste of time was only to burden him with a mere castaway seeking
a passage home--one who, albeit a countryman, was too ragged and
disreputable in looks to be trusted in his assurances of
reward--granted him indeed the hospitality of his ship, but on the
condition of his becoming a hand in the company during the forthcoming
expedition.

There was a rough measure of equity in the arrangement, and Adrian
accepted it. The only alternative, moreover, would have been a jump
overboard. And so began a hard spell of life, but a few shades removed
from his existence among the Chouan guerillas; a predatory cruise
lasting over a year, during which the only changes rung in the gamut
of its purpose were the swooping down, as a vulture might, upon
unprotected ships; flying with superior speed from obviously stronger
crafts; engaging, with hawk-like bravery, everything afloat that
displayed inimical colours, if it offered an equal chance of fight.

And this for more than a year, until the privateer, much battered, but
safe, despite her vicissitudes made Halifax for refitting. Here, at
the first suitable port she had touched, Adrian claimed and obtained
his release from obligations which made his life almost unendurable.

Then ensued a period of the most absolute penury; unpopular with most
of his messmates for his melancholy taciturnity, despised by the more
brutal as one who had as little stomach for a carouse as for a bloody
fight, he left the ship without receiving, or even thinking of his
share of prize-money. And he had to support existence with such mean
mechanical employment as came in his way, till an opportunity was
offered of engaging himself as seaman, again from sheer necessity, on
a homeward-bound merchantman--an opportunity which he seized, if not
eagerly, for there was no eagerness left in him, yet under the
pressure of purpose.

Next the long, slowly plodding, toilsome, seemingly eternal course
across the ocean.

But even a convoy, restricted to the speed of its slowest member, if
it escape capture or natural destruction, must meet the opposite shore
at length, and the last year of the century had lapsed in the even
race of time when, after many dreary weeks, on the first of January
1801, the long low lines of sandhills on the Lancastrian coast loomed
in sight. The escort drew away, swiftly southwards, as if in joyful
relief from the tedious task, leaving the convoy to enter the Mersey,
safe and sound.

That evening Adrian, the rough-looking and taciturn sailor, set foot,
for a short while, on his native land, after six years of an exile
which had made of him at five and twenty a prematurely aged and
hopelessly disillusioned man.

And Sir Adrian, as he mused, wrapped in the honoured fur cloak, with
eyes half closed, by his sympathetic fire, recalled how little of joy
this return had had for him. It was the goal he had striven to reach,
and he had reached it, that was all; nay, he recalled how, when at
hand, he had almost dreaded the actual arrival home, dreaded, with the
infinite heart-sickness of sorrow, the emotions of the family welcome
to one restored from such perils by flood and field--if not indeed
already mourned for and forgotten--little wotting how far that return
to Pulwick, that seemed near and certain, was still away in the dim
future of life.

Yet, but for the fit of hypochondriacal humour which had fallen black
upon him that day of deliverance and made him yearn, with an intensity
increasing every moment, to separate himself from his repugnant
associates and haste the moment of solitude and silence, he might have
been rescued, then and for ever, from the quagmire in which perverse
circumstances had enslaved him.

"Look'ee here, matey," said one of his fellow-workers to him, in a
transient fit of good-fellowship which the prospect of approaching
sprees had engendered in him even towards one whom all on board had
felt vaguely to be of a different order, and disliked accordingly,
"you don't seem to like a jolly merchantman--but, maybe, you wouldn't
take more kindly to a man-o'-war. Do you see that there ship?--a
frigate she is; and, whenever there's a King's ship in the Mersey that
means that it's more wholesome for the likes of us to lie low. You
take a hint, matey, and don't be about Liverpool to-night, or until
she's gone. Now, I know a crib that's pretty safe, Birkenhead way;
Mother Redcap's, we call it--no one's ever been nabbed at Mother
Redcap's, and if you'll come along o' me--why then if you won't, go
your way and be damned to you for a----"

This was the parting of Adrian Landale from his fellow-workers. The
idea of spending even one night more in that atmosphere of rum and
filth, in the intimate hearing of blasphemous and obscene language,
was too repulsive to be entertained, and he had turned away from the
offer with a gesture of horror.

With half a dozen others, in whose souls the attractions of the town
at night proved stronger than the fear of the press party, he
disembarked on the Lancashire side, and separating from his
companions, for ever, as he thought, ascended the miserable lanes
leading from the river to the upper town.

His purpose was to sleep in one of the more decent hotels, to call the
next day for help at the banking-house with which the Landales had
dealt for ages past, and thence to take coach for Pulwick. But he had
planned without taking reck of his circumstances. No hotel of repute
would entertain this weather-beaten common sailor in the meanest of
work-stained clothes. After failing at various places even to obtain a
hearing, being threatened with forcible ejectment, derisively referred
to suitable cribs in Love Lane or Tower Street, he gave up the
attempt; and, in his usual dejection of spirit, intensified by
unavowed and unreasonable anger, wandered through the dark streets,
brooding. Thus aimlessly wandering, the remembrance of his young
Utopian imaginings came back to him to mock him. Dreams of universal
brotherhood, of equality, of harmony. He had already seen the apostles
of equality and brotherhood at work--on the banks of the Vilaine. And
realising how he himself, now reduced to the lowest level in the
social scale, hunted with insult from every haunt above that level,
yet loathed and abhorred the very thought of associating again with
his recent brothers in degradation, he laughed a laugh of bitter
self-contempt.

But the night was piercing cold; and, in time, the question arose
whether the stench and closeness of a riverside eating-house would not
be more endurable than the cutting wind, the sleet, and the sharper
pangs of hunger.

His roaming had brought him once more to that quarter of the town
"best suited to the likes of him," according to the innkeeper's
opinion, and he found himself actually seeking a house of
entertainment in the slimy, ill-lighted narrow street, when, from out
the dimness, running towards him, with bare feet paddling in the
sludge, came a slatternly girl, with unkempt wisps of red hair hanging
over her face under the tartan shawl.

"Run, run, Jack," she cried, hoarsely, as she passed by breathless,
"t' gang's comin' up...."

A sudden loathly fear seized Adrian by the heart. He too, took to his
heels by the side of the slut with all the swiftness his tired frame
could muster.

"I'm going to warn my Jo," she gasped, as, jostling each other, they
darted through a maze of nameless alleys.

And then as, spent with running, they emerged at last into a broader
street, it was to find themselves in the very midst of another party
of man-of-war's men, whose brass belt-buckles glinted under the
flickering light of the oil-lamp swinging across the way.

Adrian stopped dead short and looked at the girl in mute reproach.

"May God strike me dead," she screamed, clapping her hands together,
"if I knew the bloody thieves were there! Oh, my bonny lad, I meant to
save ye!" And as her words rang in the air two sailors had Adrian by
the collar and a facetious bluejacket seized her round the waist with
hideous bantering.

A very young officer, wrapped up in a cloak, stood a few paces apart
calmly looking on. To him Adrian called out in fierce, yet anguished,
expostulation:

"I am a free and independent subject, sir, an English gentleman. I
demand that you order your men to release me. For heaven's sake," he
added, pleadingly, "give me but a moment's private hearing!"

A loud guffaw rang through the group. In truth, if appearances make
the gentleman, Adrian was then but a sorry specimen.

The officer smiled--the insufferable smile of a conceited boy raised
to authority.

"I can have no possible doubt of your gentility, sir," he said, with
mocking politeness, and measuring, under the glimmering light, first
the prisoner, from head to foot, and then the girl who, scratching and
blaspheming, vainly tried to make her escape; "but, sir, as a
free-born English gentleman, it will be your duty to help his Majesty
to fight his French enemies. Take the English gentleman along, my
lads!"

A roar of approbation at the officer's facetiousness ran through the
party.

"An' his mother's milk not dry upon his lips," cried the girl, with a
crow of derisive fury, planting as she spoke a sounding smack on a
broad tanned face bent towards her. The little officer grew pink.
"Come, my men, do your duty," he thundered, in his deepest bass.

A rage such as he never had felt in his life suddenly filled Adrian's
whole being. He was a bigger man than any of the party, and the rough
life that fate had imposed on him, had fostered a strength of limb
beyond the common. A thrust of his knee prostrated one of his captors,
a blow in the eye from his elbow staggered the other; the next instant
he had snatched away the cutlass which a third was drawing, and with
it he cleared, for a moment, a space around him.

But as he would have bounded into freedom, a felling blow descended on
his head from behind, a sheet of flame spread before his eyes, and
behind this blaze disappeared the last that Adrian Landale was to see
of England for another spell of years.

When he came back to his senses he was once more on board ship--a
slave, legally kidnapped; degraded by full and proper warrant from his
legitimate status for no crime that could even be invented against
him; a slave to be retained for work or war at his master's pleasure,
liable like a slave to be flogged to death for daring to assert his
light of independence.

       *       *       *       *       *

The memory of that night's doing and of the odious bondage to which
it was a prelude, rarely failed to stir the gall of resentment in Sir
Adrian; men of peaceable instincts are perhaps the most prone to the
feeling of indignation.

But, to-night, a change had come over the spirit of his dreams; he
could think of that past simply as the past--the period of time which
would have had to be spent until the advent of the wonder-working
present: these decrees of Fate had had a purpose. Had the past, by one
jot, been different, the events of this admirable day might never have
been.

The glowing edifice on the hearth collapsed with a darting of sudden
flame and a rolling of red cinders. Sir Adrian rose to rebuild his
fire for the night; and, being once roused, was tempted by the
ruddiness of the wine, glinting under the quiet rays of the lamp, to
advance to the table and partake of his forgotten supper.

The calm atmosphere, the warmth and quiet of the room, in which he
broke his bread and sipped his wine, whilst old Jem stretched by the
hearth gazed at him with yellow up-turned eyes full of lazy inquiry
concerning this departure from the usual nightly regularity; the
serene placidity of the scene indoors as contrasting with the angry
voices of elements without, answered to the peace--the strange
peace--that filled the man's soul, even in the midst of such
uncongenial memories as now rose up before him in vivid concatenation.

She was then five years old. Where was she, when he began that
seemingly endless cruise with the frigate _Porcupine_? He tried to
fancy a Cécile five years old--a chubby, curly-headed mite, nursing
dolls and teasing kittens, whilst he was bullied and browbeaten by
coarse petty officers, shunned and hated by his messmates, and flogged
at length by a tyrannizing captain for obduracy--but he could only see
a Cécile in the spring of womanhood, nestling in the arm-chair yonder
by the fire and looking up at him from the folds of a fur cloak.

She was seven years old when he was flogged. Ah, God! those had been
days! And yet, in the lofty soul of him he had counted it no disgrace;
and he had been flogged again, ay, and a third time for that obstinate
head that would not bend, that obstinate tongue that would persist in
demanding restitution of liberty. The life on board the privateer had
been a matter of bargain; he had bartered also labour and obedience
with the merchantman for the passage home, but the king had no right
to compel the service of a free man!

She was but twelve years old when he was finally released from
thraldom--it had only lasted four years after all; yet what a cycle
for one of his temper! Four years with scarce a moment of
solitude--for no shore-leave was ever allowed to one who openly
repudiated any service contract: four years of a life, where the sole
prospect of change was in these engagements, orgies of carnage, so
eagerly anticipated by officers and men alike, including himself,
though for a reason little suspected by his companions. But even the
historic sea-fights of the _Porcupine_, so far as they affected Adrian
Landale, formed in themselves a chain of monotony. It was ever the
same hurling of shot from ship to ship, the same fierce exchange of
cutlass-throws and pike-pushes between men who had never seen each
other before; the same yelling and execrations, sights, sounds, and
smells ever the same in horror; the same cheers when the enemy's
colours were lowered, followed by the same transient depression; the
cleansing of decks from stains of powder and mire of human blood, the
casting overboard of human bodies that had done their life's work,
broken waste and other rubbish. For weeks Adrian after would taste
blood, smell blood, dream blood, till it seemed in his nausea that all
the waters of the wide clean seas could never wash the taint from him
again. And before the first horrid impressions had time to fade, the
next occasion would have come round again: it was not the fate of
Adrian Landale that either steel or shot, or splintered timber or
falling tackles should put an end to his dreary life, welcome as such
an end would have been to him then.

Then ... but not now. Remembering now his unaccountable escape from
the destruction which had swept from his side many another whose
eagerness for the fray had certes not sprung, like his own, from a
desire to court destruction, he shuddered. And there arose in his mind
the trite old adage:

"Man proposeth..."

God had disposed otherwise.

It was not destined that Adrian Landale should be shot on the high
seas any more than he should be drowned in the rolling mud of the
Vilaine--he was reserved for this day as a set-off to all the
bitterness that had been meted out to him; he was to see the image of
his dead love rise from the sea once more. And, meanwhile, his very
despair and sullenness had been turned to his good. It would not be
said, if history should take count of the fact, that while the Lord of
Pulwick had served four years before the mast, he had ever disgraced
his name by cowardice....

Whether such reasonings were in accordance even with the most
optimistic philosophy, Sir Adrian himself at other times might have
doubted. But he was tender in thought this stormy night, with the
grateful relaxation that a happy break brings in the midst of
long-drawn melancholy.

Everything had been working towards this end--that he should be the
light-keeper of Scarthey on the day when out of the raging waters
Cécile would rise and knock and ask for succour at his chamber.

Cécile! pshaw!--raving again.

Well, the child! Where was she on the day of the last engagement of
that pugnacious _Porcupine_, in the year 1805, when England was freed
from her long incubus of invasion? She was then twelve.

It had seemed if nothing short of a wholesale disaster could terminate
that incongruous existence of his.

The last action of the frigate was a fruitless struggle against
fearful odds. After a prolonged fight with an enemy as dauntless as
herself, with two-thirds of her ship's company laid low, and commanded
at length by the youngest lieutenant, she was tackled as the sun went
low over the scene of a drawn battle, by a fresh sail errant; and, had
it not been for a timely dismasting on board the new-comer, would have
been captured or finally sunk then and there. But that fate was only
held in reserve for her. Bleeding and disabled, she had drawn away
under cover of night from her two hard-hit adversaries, to encounter a
squall that further dismantled her, and, in such forlorn conditions,
was met and finally conquered by the French privateer _Espoir de
Brest_, that pounced upon her in her agony as the vulture upon his
prey.

Among the remainder of the once formidable crew, now seized and
battened down under French hatches, was of course Adrian Landale--he
bore a charmed life. And for a short while the only change probable in
his prospects was a return to French prisons, until such time as it
pleased Heaven to restore peace between the two nations.

But the fortune of war, especially at sea, is fickle and fitful.

The daring brig, lettre de marque, _L'Espoir de Brest_, soon after her
unwonted haul of English prisoners, was overtaken herself by one of
her own species, the _St. Nicholas_ of Liverpool, from whose swiftness
nothing over the sea, that had not wings, could hope to escape if she
chose to give the chase.

Again did Adrian, from the darkness among his fellow-captives, hear
the familiar roar and crash of cannon fight, the hustling and the thud
of leaping feet, the screams and oaths of battle, and, finally, the
triumphant shouts of English throats, and he knew that the Frenchman
was boarded. A last ringing British cheer told of the Frenchman's
surrender, and when he and his comrades were once more free to breathe
a draught of living air, after the deathly atmosphere under hatches,
Adrian learned that the victor was not a man-of-war, but a free-lance,
and conceived again a faint hope that deliverance might be at hand.

It was soon after this action, last of the fights that Adrian the
peace-lover had to pass through, and as the two swift vessels, now
sailing in consort, and under the same colours cleaved the waters,
bound for the Mersey, that a singular little drama took place on board
the _Espoir de Brest_.

Among the younger officers of the English privateer, who were left in
charge of the prize, was a lad upon whom Adrian's jaded eyes rested
with a feeling of mournful sympathy, so handsome was he, and so young;
so full of hope and spirits and joy of life, of all, in fact, of which
he himself had been left coldly bare. Moreover, the ring of the merry
voice, the glint of the clear eye awakened in his memory some fitful
chord, the key of which he vainly sought to trace.

One day, as the trim young lieutenant stood looking across the waters,
with his brave eager gaze that seemed to have absorbed some of the
blue-green shimmer of the element he loved, all unnoting the haggard
sailor at his elbow, a sudden flourish of the spy-glass which he, with
an eager movement, swung up to bear on some distant speck, sent his
watch and seals flying out of his fob upon the deck at Adrian's feet.

Adrian picked them up, and as he waited to restore them to their
owner, who tarried some time intent on his distant peering, he had
time to notice the coat and crest engraved upon one of the massive
trinkets hanging from their black ribbons.

When at last the officer lowered his telescope, Adrian came forward
and saluted him with a slight bow, all unconsciously as unlike the
average Jack Tar's scrape to his superior as can be well imagined:

"Am I not," he asked, "addressing in you, sir, one of the Cochranes of
the Shaws?"

The question and the tone from a common sailor were, of course, enough
to astonish the young man. But there must be more than this, as Adrian
surmised, to cause him to blush, wax angry, and stammer like a very
school-boy found at fault. Speaking with much sharpness:

"My name is Smith, my man," cried he, seizing his belongings, "and
you--just carry on with that coiling!"

"And my name, sir, is Adrian Landale, of Pulwick Priory. I would like
a moment's talk with you, if you will spare me the time. The Cochranes
of the Shaws have been friends of our family for generations."

A guffaw burst from a group of Adrian's mates working hard by, at this
recurrence of what had become with them a standing joke; but the
officer, who had turned on his heels, veered round immediately, and
stood eyeing the speaker in profound astonishment.

"Great God, is it possible! Did you say you were a Landale of Pulwick?
How the devil came you here then, and thus?"

"Press-gang," was Adrian's laconic answer.

The lad gave a prolonged whistle, and was lost for a moment in
cogitation.

"If you are really Mr. Landale," he began, adding hastily, as if to
cover an implied admission--"of course I have heard the name: it is
well known in Lancashire--you had better see the skipper. It must have
been some damnable mistake that has caused a man of your standing to
be pressed."

The speaker ended with almost a deferential air and the smile that had
already warmed Adrian's heart. At the door of the Captain's quarters
he said, with the suspicion of a twinkle in his eye:

"A curious error it was you made, I assure you my name is Smith--Jack
Smith, of Liverpool."

"An excusable error," quoth Adrian, smiling back, "for one of your
seals bear unmistakably the arms of Cochrane of the Shaws, doubtless
some heirloom, some inter-marriage."

"No, sir, hang it!" retorted Mr. Jack Smith of Liverpool, his boyish
face flushing again, and as he spoke he disengaged the trinket from
its neighbours, and jerked it pettishly overboard, "I know nothing of
your Shaws or your Cochranes."

And then he rapped loudly at the cabin-door, as if anxious to avoid
further discussion or comment on the subject.

The result of the interview which followed--interview during which
Adrian in a few words overcame the skipper's scepticism, and was
bidden with all the curiosity men feel at sea for any novelty, to
relate, over a bottle of wine, the chain of his adventures--was his
passing from the forecastle to the officers' quarters, as an honoured
guest on board the _St. Nicholas_, during the rest of her cruise.

Thinking back now upon the last few weeks of his sea-going life, Sir
Adrian realised with something of wonder that he had always dwelt on
them without dislike. They were gilded in his memory by the rays of
his new friendship.

And yet that this young Jack Smith (to keep for him the nondescript
name he had for unknown reasons chosen to assume) should be the first
man to awaken in the misanthropic Adrian the charm of human
intercourse, was singular indeed; one who followed from choice the
odious trade of legally chartered corsair, who was ever ready to
barter the chance of life and limb against what fortune might bring in
his path, to sacrifice human life to secure his own end of enrichment.

Well, the springs of friendship are to be no more discerned than
those of love; there was none of high or low degree, with the
exception of René, whose appearance at any time was so welcome to the
recluse upon his rock, as that of the privateersman.

And so, turning to his friend in to-night's softened mood, Sir Adrian
thought gratefully that to him it was that he owed deliverance from
the slavery of the King's service, that it was Jack Smith who had made
it possible for Adrian Landale to live to this great day and await its
coming in peace.

The old clock struck two; and Jem shivered on the rug as the
light-keeper rose at length from the table and sank in his arm-chair
once more.

Visions of the past had been ever his companions; now for the first
time came visions of the future to commingle with them. As if caught
up in the tide of his visitor's bright young life, it seemed as though
he were passing at length out of the valley of the shadow of death.

       *       *       *       *       *

René, coming with noiseless bare feet, in the angry yellow dawn of the
second day of the storm, to keep an eye on his master's comfort, found
him sleeping in his chair with a new look of rest upon his face and a
smile upon his lips.



CHAPTER IX

A GENEALOGICAL EPISTLE

                    ... and braided thereupon
    All the devices blazoned on the shield,
    In their own tinct, and added, of her wit,
    A border fantasy of branch and flower.

                                _Idylls of the King._


Pulwick Priory, the ancestral home of the Cumbrian Landales, a
dignified if not overpoweringly lordly mansion, rises almost on the
ridge of the green slope which connects the high land with the sandy
strand of Morecambe; overlooking to the west the great brown breezy
bight, whilst on all other sides it is sheltered by its wooded park.

When the air is clear, from the east window of Scarthey keep, the tall
garden front of greystone is visible, in the extreme distance, against
the darker screen of foliage; whitely glinting if the sun is high;
golden or rosy at the end of day.

As its name implies, Pulwick Priory stands on the site of an extinct
religious house; its oldest walls, in fact, were built from the spoils
of once sacred masonry. It is a house of solid if not regular
proportions, full of unexpected quaintness; showing a medley of
distinct styles, in and out; it has a wide portico in the best
approved neo-classic taste, leading to romantic oaken stairs; here
wide cheerful rooms and airy corridors, there sombre vaulted basements
and mysterious unforeseen nooks.

On the whole, however, it is a harmonious pile of buildings, though
gathering its character from many different centuries, for it has been
mellowed by time, under a hard climate. And it was, in the days of the
pride of the Landales, a most meet dwelling-place for that ancient
race, insomuch as the history of so many of their ancestors was
written successively upon stone and mortar, brick and tile, as well
as upon carved oak, canvas-decked walls, and emblazoned windows.

       *       *       *       *       *

Exactly one week before the disaster, which was supposed to have
befallen Mademoiselle Molly de Savenaye on Scarthey sands, the acting
Lord of Pulwick, if one may so term Mr. Rupert Landale, had received a
letter, the first reading of which caused him a vivid annoyance,
followed by profound reflection.

A slightly-built, dark-visaged man, this younger brother of Sir
Adrian, and vicarious master of his house and lands; like to the
recluse in his exquisite neatness of attire, somewhat like also in the
mould of his features, which were, however, more notably handsome than
Sir Adrian's; but most unlike him, in an emphasised artificiality of
manner, in a restless and wary eye, and in the curious twist of a thin
lip which seemed to give hidden sarcastic meaning even to the most
ordinary remark.

As now he sat by his desk, his straight brows drawn over his
amber-coloured eyes, perusing the closely written sheets of this
troublesome missive, there entered to him the long plaintive figure of
his maiden sister, who had held house for him, under his own minute
directions, ever since the death in premature child-birth of his young
year-wed wife.

Miss Landale, the eldest of the family, had had a disappointment in
her youth, as a result of which she now played the ungrateful _rôle_
of old maid of the family. She suffered from chronic toothache, as
well as from repressed romantic aspirations, and was the _âme damnée_
of Rupert. One of the most melancholy of human beings, she was tersely
characterised by the village folk as a "_wummicky_ poor thing."

At the sight of Mr. Landale's weighted brow she propped up her own
long sallow face, upon its aching side, with a trembling hand, and,
full of agonised prescience, ventured to ask if anything had happened.

"Sit down," said her brother, with a sort of snarl--He possessed an
extremely irritable temper under his cool sarcastic exterior, a temper
which his peculiar anomalous circumstances, whilst they combined to
excite it, forced him to conceal rigidly from most, and it was a
relief to him to let it out occasionally upon Sophia's meek, ringleted
head.

Sophia collapsed with hasty obedience into a chair, and then Mr.
Landale handed to her the thin fluttering sheets, voluminously crossed
and re-crossed with fine Italian handwriting:

"From Tanty," ejaculated Miss Sophia, "Oh my dear Rupert!"

"Read it," said Rupert peremptorily. "Read it aloud."

And throwing himself back upon his chair, he shaded his mouth with one
flexible thin hand, and prepared himself to listen.

"CAMDEN PLACE, BATH, October 29th," read the maiden lady in those
plaintive tones, which seemed to send out all speech upon the breath
of a sigh. "MY DEAR RUPERT,--You will doubtless be astonished, but
your invariably affectionate Behaviour towards myself inclines me to
believe that you will also be _pleased_ to hear, from these few lines,
that very shortly after their receipt--if indeed not before--you may
expect to see me arrive at Pulwick Priory."

Miss Landale put down the letter, and gazed at her brother through
vacant mists of astonishment.

"Why, I thought Tanty said she would not put foot in Pulwick again
till Adrian returned home."

Rupert measured the innocent elderly countenance with a dark look. He
had sundry excellent reasons, other than mere family affection, for
remaining on good terms with his rich Irish aunt, but he had likewise
reasons, these less obvious, for wishing to pay his devoirs to her
anywhere but under the roof of which he was nominal master.

"She has found it convenient to change her mind," he said, with his
twisting lip. "Constancy in your sex, my dear, is merely a matter of
convenience--or opportunity."

"Oh Rupert!" moaned Sophia, clasping the locket which contained her
dead lover's hair with a gesture with which all who knew her were very
familiar. Mr. Landale never could resist a thrust at the faithful
foolish bosom always ready to bleed under his stabs, yet never
resenting them. Inexplicable vagary of the feminine heart! Miss
Sophia worshipped before the shrine of her younger brother, to the
absolute exclusion of any sentiment for the elder, whose generosity
and kindness to her were yet as great as was Rupert's tyranny.

"Go on," said the latter, alternately smiling at his nails and biting
them, "Tanty O'Donoghue observes that I shall be surprised to hear
that she will arrive very shortly after this letter, if not before it.
Poor old Tanty, there can be no mistake about her nationality. Have
the kindness to read straight on, Sophia. I don't want to hear any
more of your interesting comments. And don't stop till you have
finished, no matter how amazed you are."

Again he composed himself to listen, while his sister plunged at the
letter, and, after several false starts, found her place and
proceeded:

"Since, owing to his most _unfortunate_ peculiarity of Temperament and
consequent strange choice of abode, I cannot apply to my nephew
Adrian, _à qui de droit_ (as Head of the House) I must needs address
myself to you, my dear Rupert, to request hospitality for myself and
the two young Ladies now under my Charge."

The letter wavered in Miss Sophia's hand and an exclamation hung upon
her lip, but a sudden movement of Rupert's exquisite crossed legs
recalled her to her task.

"These young ladies are _Mesdemoiselles de Savenaye_, and the
daughters of Madame la Comtesse de Savenaye, who was my sister Mary's
child. She and I, and Alice your mother, were sister co-heiresses as
you know, and therefore these young ladies are _my_ grand-nieces and
your _own_ cousins once removed. Of Cécile de Savenaye, her _strange_
adventures and ultimate _sad_ Fate in which your own brother was
implicated, you cannot but have heard, but you may probably have
forgotten even to the _very existence_ of these charming young women,
who were nevertheless born at Pulwick, and whom you must at some time
or other have beheld as infants during your _excellent_ and _lamented_
father's lifetime. They are, as you are doubtless also unaware--for I
have remarked a _growing_ Tendency in the younger generations to
neglect the study of Genealogy, even as it affects their own
Families--as well born on the father's side as upon the maternal. M.
de Savenaye bore _argent à la fasce-canton d'hermine_, with an
_augmentation of the fleurs de lis d'or_, _cleft in twain_ for his
ancestor's _memorable_ deed at the siege of Dinan."

"There is Tante O'Donoghue fully displayed, _haut volante_ as she
might say herself," here interrupted Mr. Landale with a laugh. "Always
the same, evidently. The first thing I remember about her is her
lecturing me on genealogy and heraldry, when I wanted to go fishing,
till, school-boy rampant as I was, I heartily wished her impaled and
debruised on her own Donoghue herse proper. For God's sake, Sophia, do
not expect me to explain! Go on."

"He was entitled to eighteen quarters, and related to such as Coucy
and Armagnac and Tavannes," proceeded Miss Sophia, controlling her
bewilderment as best she might, "also to Gwynne of Llanadoc in this
kingdom--Honours to which Mesdemoiselles de Savenaye, being sole
heiresses both of Kermelégan and Savenaye, not to speak of their own
mother's share of O'Donoghue, which now-a-days is of greater
substance--are personally entitled.

"If I am the _sole_ Relative they have left in these Realms, Adrian
and you are the next. I have had the charge of my two young Kinswomen
during the last six months, that is since they left the Couvent des
Dames Anglaises in Jersey.

"Now, I think it is time that your Branch of the Family should incur
the share of the _responsibility_ your relationship to them entails.

"If Adrian were _as_ and _where_ he should be, I feel sure he would
embrace this opportunity of doing his duty as the Head of the House
without the smallest hesitation, and I have no doubt that he would
offer the _hospitality_ of Pulwick Priory and his _Protection_ to
these amiable young persons for as long as they _remain unmarried_.

"From you, my dear Nephew, who have undertaken under these melancholy
family circumstances to fill your Brother's place, I do not, however,
_expect_ so much; all I ask is that you and my niece Sophia be kind
enough to _shelter_ and _entertain_ your cousins for the space of two
months, while I remain at Bath for the benefit of my Health.

"At my age (for it is of no use, nephew, for us to deny our years when
any Peerage guide must reveal them pretty closely to the curious),
and I am this month passing sixty-nine, at my _age_ the charge of two
high-spirited young Females, in whom conventional education has failed
to subdue Aspirations for worldly happiness whilst it has left them
somewhat inexperienced in the Conventions of Society, I find a _little
trying_. It does not harmonise with the retired, peaceful existence to
which I am accustomed (and at my time of life, I think, entitled), in
which it is my humble endeavour to wean myself from this earth which
is so full of Emptiness and to prepare myself for that other and
_better_ Home into which we must all resign ourselves to enter. And
happy, indeed, my dear Rupert, such of us as will be found worthy; for
come to it we all must, and the longer we live, the sooner we may
expect to do so.

"The necessity of producing them in Society, is, however, rendered a
matter of greater responsibility by the fact of the _handsome_
Fortunes which these young creatures possess already, not to speak of
their expectations."

Rupert, who had been listening to his aunt's letter, through the
intermediary of Miss Sophia's depressing sing-song, with an abstracted
air, here lifted up his head, and commanded the reader to repeat this
last passage. She did so, and paused, awaiting his further pleasure,
while he threw his handsome head back upon his chair, and closed his
eyes as if lost in calculations.

At length he waved his hand, and Miss Sophia proceeded after the usual
floundering:

"A neighbour of mine at Bunratty, Mrs. Hambledon of Brianstown, a
_lively_ widow (herself one of the Macnamaras of the Reeks, and thus a
distant connection of the Ballinasloe branch of O'Donoghues), and whom
I had reason to believe I could trust--but I will not anticipate--took
a prodigious fancy to Miss Molly and proposed, towards the beginning
of the Autumn, carrying her away to Dublin. At the same time the wet
summer, producing in me an acute recurrence of that Affection from
which, as you know, I suffer, and about which you _never fail_ to make
such kind Enquiries at Christmas and Easter, compelled me to call in
Mr. O'Mally, the apothecary, who has been my very _obliging_ medical
adviser for so many years, and who strenuously advocated an immediate
course of waters at Bath. In short, my dear Nephew, thus the matter
was settled, your cousin Molly departed _radiant_ with _good_ spirits,
and _good_ looks for a spell of gayety in Dublin, while your cousin
Madeleine, prepared (with _equal_ content) to accompany her old aunt
to Bath. It being arranged with Mrs. Hambledon that she should herself
conduct Molly to us later on.

"We have been here about three weeks. Though persuaded by good Mr.
O'Mally that the waters would benefit my old bones, I was actuated, I
must confess, by another motive in seeking this Fashionable Resort. In
such a place as this, thronged as it is by all the Rank and Family of
England, one can at least know _who is who_, and I was not without
hopes that my nieces, with their faces, their name, and their
fortunes, would have the opportunity of contracting suitable
Alliances, and thus relieve me of a charge for which I am, I fear,
little fitted.

"But, alas! my dear Rupert, I was most woefully mistaken. Bath is
_distinctly not_ the place for two beautiful and unsophisticated
Heiresses, and I am certainly neither possessed of the Spirits, nor of
the Health to guard them from fortune-hunters and _needy nameless_
Adventurers. While it is my desire to impress upon you, and my niece
Sophia, that the conduct of these young ladies has been _quite_ beyond
reproach, I will not conceal from you that the attentions of a certain
person, of the name of _Smith_, known here, and a favorite in the
circles of frivolity and fashion as _Captain Jack_, have already made
Madeleine _conspicuous_, and although the dear girl conducts herself
with the utmost propriety, there is an air of _Romance_ and _mystery_
about the Young Man, not to speak of his unmistakable good looks,
which have determined me to remove her from his vicinity before her
Affections be _irreparably_ engaged. As for Molly, who is a thorough
O'Donoghue and the image of her grandmother, that celebrated
Murthering Moll (herself the toast of Bath in our young days), whose
elopement with the Marquis de Kermelégan, after he had killed an
English rival in a duel, was once a nine-days' wonder in this very
town, and of whom you must have heard, Mrs. Hambledon restored her to
my care only three days ago, and she has already twenty Beaux to her
String, though favouring _nobody_, I am bound to say, but her own
amusement. Yesterday she departed under Mrs. Hambledon's chaperonage,
in the Company of a dozen of the highest in rank here, on an
expedition to Clifton; the while my demure Madeleine spends the day at
the house of her dear friend Lady Maria Harewood, whither, I only
learnt upon her return at ten o'clock under his escort, _Captain
Jack_--in my days that sort of _captain_ would have been strongly
suspected, of having a shade too much of the _Heath_ or the _London
Road_ about him--had likewise been convened. It was long after
midnight when, with a great _tow-row_, a coach full of very merry
company (amongst whom the widow Hambledon struck me as over-merry,
perhaps) landed my other Miss _sur le perron_.

"This has decided me. We shall decamp _sans tambou ni trompette_.
To-morrow, without allowing discussion from the girls (in which I
should probably be worsted), we pack ourselves into my travelling
coach, and find our Way to you. But, until we are fairly on the Road,
I shall not even let these ladies know _whither_ we are bound.

"With your kind permission, then, I shall remain a few days at
Pulwick, to recruit from the _fatigues_ of such a long Journey, before
leaving your fair cousins in your charge, and in that of the gentle
Sophia (whom I trust to entertain them with something besides her
usual melancholy), till the time comes for me to bring them back with
me to Bunratty.

"Unless, therefore, you should hear to the contrary, you will know
that on Tuesday your three _unprotected_ female relatives will be
hoping to see your travelling carriage arrive to fetch them at the
Crown in Lancaster.

"Your Affectionate Aunt,

  "ROSE O'DONOGHUE."

As Miss Landale sighed forth the concluding words, she dropped the
little folio on her lap, and looked at her brother with a world of
apprehension in her faded eyes.

"Oh, Rupert, what shall we do?"

"Do," said Mr. Landale, quickly turning on her, out of his absorption,
"you will kindly see that suitable rooms are prepared for your aunt
and cousins, and you will endeavour, if you please, to show these
ladies a cheerful countenance, as your aunt requests."

"The oak and the chintz rooms, I suppose," Sophia timidly suggested.
"Tanty used to say she liked the aspect, and I daresay the young
ladies will find it pleasant to look out on the garden."

"Ay," returned Rupert, absently. He had risen from his seat, and
fallen to pacing the room. Presently a short laugh broke from him.
"Tolerably cool, I must say," he remarked, "tolerably cool. It seems
to be a tradition with that Savenaye family, when in difficulties, to
go to Pulwick."

Miss Landale looked up with relief. Perhaps Rupert would think better
of it, and make up his mind to elude receiving the unwelcome visitors
after all. But his next speech dashed her budding hopes.

"Ay, as in the days of their mother before them, when she came here to
lay her eggs, like a cuckoo in another bird's nest--I wish they had
been addled, I do indeed--we may expect to have the whole place turned
topsy-turvy, I suppose. It is a pretty assortment, _faith_ (as Tanty
says herself); an old papist, and two young ones, fresh from a convent
school--and of these, one a hoyden, and the other lovesick! Faugh!
Sophia you will have to keep your eyes open when the old lady is gone.
I'll have no unseemly pranks in this house."

"Oh, Rupert," with a moan of maidenly horror, and conscious
incompetence.

"Stop that," cried the brother, with a contained intensity of
exasperation, at which the poor lady jumped and trembled as if she had
been struck. "All your whining won't improve matters. Now listen to
me," sitting down beside her, and speaking slowly and impressively,
"you are to make our relatives feel welcome, do you understand?
Everything is to be of the best. Get out the embroidered sheets, and
see that there are flowers in the rooms. Tell the cook to keep back
that haunch of venison, the girls won't like it, but the old lady
knows a good thing when she gets it--let there be lots of sweet things
for the young ones too. I shall be giving some silver out this
afternoon. I leave it to you to see that it is properly cleaned. What
are you mumbling about to yourself? Write it down if you can't
remember, and now go, go--I am busy."



PART II

"MURTHERING MOLL THE SECOND"


    _Then did the blood awaken in the veins
    Of the young maiden wandering in the fields._

    LUTEPLAYER'S SONG.



CHAPTER X

THE THRESHOLD OF WOMANHOOD

    Onward floweth the water, onward through meadows broad,
    "How happy," the meadows say, "art thou to be rippling onward."
    "And my heart is beating, beating beneath my girdle here;"
    "O Heart," the girdle saith, "how happy art thou that thou beatest."

                             _Luteplayer's Song._

DUBLIN, _October 15th, 1814_.--This day do I, Molly de Savenaye, begin
my diary.

Madeleine writes to me from Bath that she has purchased a very fine
book, in which she intends to set forth each evening all that has
happened her since the morning; she advises me to do so too. She says
that since _real life_ has begun for us; life, of which every
succeeding day is not, as in the convent, the repetition of the
previous day, but brings some new discovery, pleasure, or pain, we
ought to write down and preserve their remembrance.

It will be so interesting for us to read when a new life once more
begins for us, and we are _married_. Besides it is the _fashion_, and
all the young ladies she knows do it. And she has, she says, already
plenty to write down. Now I _should_ like to know what about.

When ought one to start such a record? Surely not on a day like this.

"Why _demme_" (as Mrs. Hambledon's nephew says), "_what the deyvil_
have I got to say?"

_Item:_ I went out shopping this morning with Mrs. Hambledon, and,
bearing Madeleine's advice in mind, purchased at Kelly's, in Sackville
Street, an album book, bound in green morocco, with clasp and lock,
which Mr. Kelly protests is quite secure.

_Item:_ We met Captain Segrave of the Royal Dragoons (who was so
attentive to me at Lady Rigtoun's rout, two days ago). He looked very
well on his charger, but how conceited! When he saw me, he rolled his
eyes and grew quite red; and then he stuck his spurs into his horse,
that we might admire how he could sit it; which he did, indeed, to
perfection.

Mrs. Hambledon looked vastly knowing, and I laughed. If ever I try to
fancy myself married to such a man I cannot help laughing.

This, however, is not diary.--_Item:_ We returned home because it
began to rain, and to pass the time, here am I at my book.

But is _this_ the sort of thing that will be of interest to read
hereafter? I have begun too late; I should have written in those days
when I saw the dull walls of our convent prison for the last time. It
seems so far back now (though, by the calendar it is hardly six
months), that I cannot quite recall how it felt to live in prison. And
yet it was not unhappy, and there was no horror in the thought we both
had sometimes then, that we should pass and end our lives in the cage.
It did not strike us as hard. It seemed, indeed, in the nature of
things. But the bare thought of returning to that existence now, to
resume the placid daily task, to fold up again like a plant that has
once expanded to sun and breeze, to have never a change of scene, of
impression, to look forward to nothing but _submission_, sleep, and
_death_; oh, it makes me turn cold all over!

And yet there are women who, of their own will, give up the _freedom
of the world_ to enter a convent _after_ they have tasted life! Oh, I
would rather be the poorest, the ugliest peasant hag, toiling for
daily bread, than one of these cold cloistered souls, so that the free
air of heaven, be it with the winds or the rain, might beat upon me,
so that I might live and love _as I like_, do right _as I like_; ay,
and do wrong _if_ I liked, with the free will which is my _own_.

We were told that the outer world, with all its sorrows and trials,
and dangers--how I remember the Reverend Mother's words and face, and
how they impressed me then, and how I should laugh at them,
_now!_--that the world was but a valley of tears. We were warned that
all that awaited us, if we left the fold, was _misery_; that the joys
of this world were _bitter_ to the taste, its pleasures _hollow_, and
its griefs _lasting_.

We believed it. And yet, when the choice was actually ours to make,
we chose all we had been taught to dread and despise. Why? I wonder.
For the same reason as Eve ate the apple, I suppose. I would, if I had
been Eve. I almost wish I could go back now, for a day, to the cool
white rooms, to see the nuns flitting about like black and white
ghosts, with only a jingle of beads to warn one of their coming, see
the blue sky through the great bare windows, and the shadows of the
trees lengthening on the cold flagged floors, hear the bells going
ding-dong, ding-dong, and the murmur of the sea in the distance, and
the drone of the school, and the drone of the chapel, to go back, and
feel once more the dull sort of content, the calmness, the rest!

But no, no! I should be trembling all the while lest the blessed doors
leading back to that _horrible_ world should never open to me again.

The sorrows and trials of the world! I suppose the Reverend Mother
really meant it; and if I had gone on living there till my face was
wrinkled like hers, poor woman, I might have thought so too, in the
end, and talked the same nonsense.

Was it really I that endured such a life for seventeen years? O God! I
wonder that the sight of the swallows coming and going, the sound of
the free waves, did not drive me mad. Twist as I will my memory, I
cannot recall _that_ Molly of six months ago, whose hours and days
passed and dropped all alike, all lifeless, just like the slow tac,
tac, tac of our great horloge in the Refectory, and were to go on as
slow and as alike, for ever and ever, till she was old, dried,
wrinkled, and then died. The real Molly de Savenaye's life began on
the April morning when that dear old turbaned fairy godmother of ours
carried us, poor little Cinderellas, away in her coach. Well do I
remember my birthday.

I have read since in one of those musty books of Bunratty, that
_moths_ and _butterflies_ come to life by shaking themselves out, one
fine day, from a dull-looking, shapeless, ugly thing they call a
_grub_, in which they have been buried for a long time. They unfold
their wings and fly out in the sunshine, and flit from flower to
flower, and they look beautiful and happy--the world, the wicked
world, is open to them.

There were pictures in the book; the ugly grub below, dreary and
brown, and the lovely _butterfly_ in all its colours above. I showed
them to Madeleine, and said: "Look, Madeleine, as we were, and as we
are."

And she said: "Yes, those brown gowns they made us wear were ugly; but
I should not like to put on anything so bright as red and yellow.
Would you?"

That is the worst of Madeleine; she never realises in the least what I
mean. And she _does_ love her clothes; that is the difference between
her and me, she loves fine things because they are fine and dainty and
all that--I like them because they make _me_ fine.

And yet, how she did weep when she left the convent. Madeleine would
have made a good nun after all; she does so hate anything ugly or
coarse. She grows quite white if she hears people fighting; if there
is a "row" or a "shindy," as they say here. Whereas Tanty and I think
it all the fun in the world, and would enjoy joining in the fray
ourselves, I believe, if we dared. I know _I_ should; it sets my blood
tingling. But Madeleine is a real princess, a sort of Ermine; and yet
she enjoys her new life, too, the beauty of it, the refinement, being
waited upon and delicately fed and clothed. But although she has
ceased to weep for the convent, if it had not been for me she would be
there still. The only thing, I believe, that could make me weep now
would be to find one fine morning that this had only been a dream, and
that I was once more _the grub_! To find that I could not open my
window and look into the wide, wide world over to the long, green
hills in the distance, and know that I could wander or gallop up to
them, as I did at Bunratty, and see for myself _what lies
beyond_--surely that was a taste of heaven that day when Tanty Rose
first allowed me to mount her old pony, and I flew over the turf with
the wind whistling in my ears--to find that I could not go out when I
pleased and hear new voices and see new faces, and men and women who
_live each their own life_, and not the _same_ life as mine.

When I think of what I am now, and what I might have remained, I
breathe deep and feel like singing; I stretch my arms out and feel
like flying.

Our aunt told us she thought Bunratty would be dull for us, and so it
was in comparison with this place. Perhaps _this_ is dull in
comparison with what _may_ come. For good Tanty, as she likes us to
call her, is intent on doing great things for us.

"Je vous marierai," she tells us in her funny old French, "Je vous
marierai bien, mes filles, si vous êtes sages," and she winks both
eyes.

_Marriage!_ _That_, it is quite evident, is the goal of every properly
constituted young female; and every respectable person who has the
care of said young female is consequently bent upon her reaching that
goal.

So marriage is _another_ good thing to look forward to. And _love_,
that love all the verses, all the books one reads are so full of;
_that_ will come to us.

They say that _love is life_. Well, all I want is to live. But with a
grey past such as we have had, the present is good enough to ponder
upon. We now can lie abed if we have sweet dreams and pursue them
waking, and be lazy, yet not be troubled with the self-indulgence as
with an enormity; or we can rise and breathe the sunshine at our own
time. We can be frivolous, and yet meet with smiles in response, dress
our hair and persons, and be pleased with ourselves, and with being
admired or envied, yet not be told horrid things about death and
corruption and skeletons. And, above all--oh, above _all_, we can
think of the future as different from the past, as _changing_, be it
even for the worse; as unknown and fascinating, not as a repetition,
until death, of the same dreary round.

In Mrs. Hambledon's parlour here are huge glasses at either end;
whenever you look into them you see a never-ending chain of rooms with
yourself standing in the middle, vanishing in the distance, every one
the same, with the same person in the middle, only a little smaller, a
little more insignificant, a little darker, till it all becomes
_nothing_. It always reminds me of life's prospects in the convent.

I dislike that room. When I told Mrs. Hambledon the reason why, she
laughed, and promised me that, with my looks and disposition, my life
would be eventful enough. I have every mind that it shall.

       *       *       *       *       *

_October 18th._--Yesterday, I woke up in an amazing state of
happiness, though for no particular reason that I can think of. It
could not be simply because we were to go out for a visit to the
country and see new people and places, for I have already learned to
find that most new people are cut out on the same pattern as those one
already knows. It must have been rather because I awoke under the
impression of one of my lovely dreams--such dreams as I have only had
since I left my _grub_ state; dreams of space, air, long, long views
of beautiful scenery, always changing, always wider, such as swallows
flying between sky and earth might see, under an exquisite and
brilliant light, till for very joy I wake up, my cheeks covered with
tears.

This time, I was sitting on the prow of some vessel with lofty white
sails, and it was cutting through the water, blue as the sky, with
wreaths of snow-like foam, towards some unknown shores, ever faster
and faster, and I was singing to some one next to me on the prow--some
one I did not know, but who felt with me--singing a song so perfect,
so sweet (though it had no human words) that I thought _it explained
all_: the blue of the heaven, the freshness of the breeze, the
fragrance of the earth, and why we were so eagerly pressing onwards. I
thought the melody was such that when once heard it could never be
forgotten. When I woke it still rang in my ears, but now I can no more
recall it. How is it we never know such delight in waking hours? Is
that some of the joy we are to feel in Heaven, the music we are to
hear? And yet it can be heard in this life if one only knew where to
go and listen. And this life is beautiful which lies in front of us,
though they would speak of it as a sorrowful span not to be reckoned.
It is good to be young and think of the life still to come. Every
moment is precious for its enjoyment, and yet sometimes I find that
one only knows of a pleasure when it is just gone. One ought to try
and be more awake at each hour to the happiness it may bring. I shall
try, and you, my diary, shall help me.

This is really _no_ diary-keeping. It is not a bit like those one
reads in books. It ought to tell of other people and the events of
each day. But other people are really very uninteresting; as for
events, well, so far, they are uninteresting too; it is only what they
cause to spring up in our hearts that is worth thinking upon; and that
is so difficult to put in words that mostly I spend my time merely
pondering and not writing.

Last night Mrs. Hambledon took me to the _play_. It was for the first
time in my life, and I was full of curiosity. It was a long drama,
pretty enough and sometimes very exciting. But I could see that though
the actress was very handsome and mostly so unhappy as to draw tears
from the spectators, there were people, especially some gentlemen, who
were more interested in looking at the box where I sat with Mrs.
Hambledon. Indeed, I could not pretend, when I found myself before my
glass that night, that I was not amazingly prettier than that Mrs.
Colebrook, about whose beauty the whole town goes mad.

When I recalled the hero's ravings about his Matilda's eyes and
cheeks, and her foot and her sylph-like waist, and her raven hair, I
wondered what _that_ young man would say of me if he were my lover and
I his persecuted mistress. The Matilda was a pleasing person enough;
but if I take her point by point, it would be absurd to speak of her
charms in the same breath with mine. Oh, my dear Molly, how beautiful
I thought you last night! How happy I should be, were I a dashing
young lover and eyes like _yours_ smiled on me. I never before thought
myself prettier than Madeleine, but now I do.

Lovers, love, mistress, bride; they talked of nothing else in the
play. And it was all ecstasy in their words, and nothing but _misery_
in fact (just as the Reverend Mother would have had it).

The young man who played the hero was a very fine fellow; and yet when
I conceive _him_ making love to me as he did last night to Mrs.
Colebrook, the notion seems really _too_ ludicrous!

What sort of man then is it I would allow to love me? I do not mind
the thought of lovers sighing and burning for me (as some do now
indeed, or pretend to) I like to feel that I can crush them with a
frown and revive them with a smile; I like to see them fighting for my
favour. But to give a man the right to love me, the right to my
smiles, the _right to me_! Indeed, I have yet seen _none_ who could
make me bear the thought.

And yet I think that I could love, and I know that the man that I am
to love must be living somewhere till fate brings him to me. He does
not think of me. He does not know of me. And neither of us, I suppose,
will taste life as life is till the day when we meet.

CAMDEN PLACE, BATH, _November 1st_.--Bath at last, which, must please
poor Mrs. Hambledon exceedingly, for she certainly did _not_ enjoy the
transit. I cannot conceive how people can allow themselves to be so
utterly distraught by illness. I feel I can never have any respect for
her again; she moaned and lamented in such cowardly fashion, was so
peevish all the time on board the vessel, and looked so very begrimed
and untidy and _plain_ when she was carried out on Bristol quay. The
captain called it _dirty_ weather, but I thought it _lovely_, and I
don't think I ever enjoyed myself more--except when Captain Segrave's
Black Douglas ran away with me in Phoenix Park.

It was beautiful to see our brave boat plough the sea and quiver with
anger, as if it were a living thing, when it was checked by some great
green wave, then gather itself again under the wind and dash on to the
fight, until it conquered. And when we came into the river and the sun
shone once more it glided on swiftly, though looking just a little
tired for a while until its decks and sails were dry and clean again,
and I thought it was just like a bird that has shaken and plumed
itself. I was sorry to leave it. The captain and the mate and the
sailors, who had wrapped me up in their great, stiff tarpaulin coats
and placed me in a safe corner where I could sit out and look, were
also sorry that I should go.

But it was good to be with Madeleine again and Tanty Donoghue, who
always has such a kind smile on her old wrinkled face when she looks
at me.

Madeleine was astonished when I told her I had loved the storm at sea
and when I mimicked poor Mrs. Hambledon. She says she also thought she
was dying, so ill was she on her crossing, and that she was quite a
week before she got over the impression.

It seems odd to think that we are sisters, and twin sisters too; in so
many things she is different from me. She has changed in manner since
I left her. She seems so absorbed in some great thought that all her
words and smiles have little meaning in them. I told her I had tried
to keep my diary, but had not done much work, and when I asked to see
hers (for a model) Madeleine blushed, and said I should see it this
day year.

_Madeleine is in love_; that is the only way I can account for that
blush. I fear she is a sly puss, but there is such a bustle around us,
and so much to do and see, I have no time to make her confess. So I
said I would keep mine from her for that period also.

It seems a long span to look ahead. What a number of things will
happen before this day year!

BATH, _November 3rd_.--Bath is delightful! I have only been here two
days, and already I am what Tanty, in her old-fashioned way, calls
_the belle_. Already there are a dozen sparks who declare that my eyes
have _shot death_ to them. This afternoon comes my Lord of Manningham,
nicknamed _King of Bath_, to "drink a dish of tea," as he has it, with
his "dear old friend Miss O'Donoghue."

Tanty has been here three weeks, and he has only just discovered her
existence, and remembered their tender friendship. Of course, I know
very well what has really brought him. He is Lord Dereham's
grandfather on the mother's side, and Lord Dereham, who is the son of
the Duke of Wells, is "the catch," as Mrs. Hambledon vows, of the
fashionable world this year. And Lord Dereham has seen me twice, and
_is in love with me_.

But as Lord Dereham is more like a little white rat than a man, and
swears more than he converses--which would be very shocking if it were
not for his lisp, which makes it very funny--needless to say, my diary
dear, your Molly is not in love with him--He has no chance.

And so Lord Manningham comes to tea, and Tanty orders me to remain and
see her "old friend" instead of going to ride with the widow
Hambledon. The widow Hambledon and I are everywhere together, and she
knows all the most entertaining people in Bath, whereas Madeleine,
whom I have hardly seen at all except at night, when I am so dead
tired that I go to sleep as soon as my head touches the pillow (I vow
Tanty's manner of speech is catching), Miss Madeleine keeps to her own
select circle, and turns up her haughty little nose at _my_ friends.

So now Madeleine is punished, for Tanty and I have had the honour of
receiving the _King of Bath_, and I have been vouchsafed the stamp of
his august approval.

"My dear Miss O'Donoghue," he cried, as I curtsied, "do my senses
deceive me, or do I not once more behold _Murthering Moll_?"

"I thought you could not fail to notice the likeness; my niece is,
indeed, a complete O'Donoghue," says Tanty, amazingly pleased.

"Likeness, ma'am," cried the old wretch, bowing again, and scattering
his snuff all over the place, while I sweep him another splendid
curtsey, "likeness, ma'am, why this is no feeble copy, no humble
imitation, 'tis _Murdering Moll herself_, and glad I am to see her
again." And then he catches me under the chin, and peers into my face
with his dim, wicked old eyes. "And so you are Murdering Moll's
daughter," says he, chuckling to himself. "Ay, she and I were very
good friends, my pretty child, very good friends, and that not so long
ago, either. Ay, _Mater pulchra, filia pulchrior_."

"But I happen to be her grand-daughter, please my lord," said I, and
then I ran to fetch him a chair (for I was dreadfully afraid he was
going to kiss me). But though no one has ever accused me of speaking
too modestly to be heard, my lord had a sudden fit of deafness, and I
saw Tanty give me a little frown, while the old thing--he must be much
older than Tanty even--tottered into a chair, and went on mumbling.

"I was only a boy in those days, my dear, only a boy, as your good
aunt will tell you. I can remember how the bells rang the three
beautiful Irish sisters into Bath, and I and the other dandies stood
to watch them drive by. The bells rang in the _belles_ in those days,
my dear, he, he, he! only we used to call them 'toasts' then, and your
mother was the most beautiful of 'the three Graces'--we christened
them 'the three Graces'--and by gad she led us all a pretty dance!"

"Ah, my lord," says Tanty, and I could see her old eyes gleam though
her tone was so pious, "I fear we were three wild Irish girls indeed!"

Lord Manningham was too busy ogling me to attend to her.

"Your mother was just such another as you, and she had just such a
pair of dimples," said he.

"You mean my grandmother," shouted I in his ear, just for fun, though
Tanty looked as if she were on pins and needles. But he only pinched
my cheek again and went on:

"Before she had been here a fortnight all the bucks in the town were
at her feet. And so was I, so was I. Only, by gad, I was too young,
you know, as Miss O'Donoghue here will tell you. But she liked me; she
used to call me her 'little manny.' I declare I might have married
her, only there were family reasons, and I was such a lad, you know.
And then Jack Waterpark, some of us thought she would have had _him_
in the end--being an Irishman, and a rich man, and a marquis to
boot--he gave her the name of _Murthering Moll_, because of her
killing eyes, young lady--he! he! he!--and there was Ned Cuffe ready
to hang himself for her, and Jim Denham, and old Beau Vernon, ay, and
a score of others. And then one night at the Assembly Rooms, after the
dancing was over and we gay fellows were all together, up gets
Waterpark, he was a little tipsy, my dear, and by gad I can hear him
speak now, with that brogue of his. 'Boys,' he says, 'it's no use your
trying for her any more, for by God _I've won her_.' And out of his
breast-pocket he pulls a little knot of blue ribbon. Your mother, my
dear, had worn a very fine gown that evening, with little knots of
blue ribbon all over the bodice of it. The words were not out of his
mouth when Ned Cuffe starts to his feet as white as a sheet: 'It's a
damned lie,' he cries, and out of his pocket _he_ pulls another little
knot. 'She gave it to me with her own hands,' he cried and glares
round at us all. And then Vernon bursts out laughing and flourishes a
third little bow in our eyes, and I had one too, I need not tell you,
and so had all the rest, all save a French fellow--I forget his
name--and it was he she had danced with the most of all. Ah, Miss
O'Donoghue, how the little jade's eyes sparkle! I warrant you have
never told her the story for fear she would want to copy her mother in
other ways besides looks--Hey? Well, my pretty, give me your little
hand, and then I shall go on--pretty little hand, um--um--um!" and
then he kissed my hand, the horrid, snuffy thing! but I allowed it,
for I did so want to hear how it all ended.

"And then, and then," I said.

"And then, my dear, this French fellow, your papa he must have
been--so I suppose I must not abuse him, and he was a very fine young
man after all, and a man of honour as well--he stood and cursed us
all."

"'You English fools,' he said, 'you braggards--cowards.' And he
seized a glass of wine from the table and with a sweep he dashed it at
us and ended by flinging the empty glass in Lord Waterpark's face. It
was the neatest thing you ever saw, for we all got a drop except
Waterpark, and he got the glass. 'I challenge you all,' said the
Frenchman, 'I'll fight you one by one, and I shall have her into the
bargain.' And so he did, my dear, he fought us all, one after the
other; there were five of us; he was a devil with the sword, but Ned
Cuffe ran him through for all that--and he was a month getting over
it, but as soon as he could crawl again he vowed himself ready for
Waterpark, and weak as he was he ran poor Waterpark through the lungs.
Some said Jack spitted himself on his sword--but dead he was anyhow,
and monsieur your father--what was his name? Kerme-something--was off
with your mother before the rest of us were well out of bed."

"Fie, fie, my lord," said Tanty, "you should not recall old stories in
this manner!"

"Gad, ma'am, I warrant this young lady is quite ready to provide you
with a few new ones," chuckled my lord; and as there was no more to be
extracted from him but foolish old jokes and dreadful smiles, I
contrived to free my "pretty little hand," and sit down demurely by
Tanty's side like the modest retiring young female I should be.

But my blood was dancing in my veins--the blood of Murthering
Moll--doddering old idiot as he is, Lord Manningham is right for once,
I mean to take quite as much out of life as she did. That indeed is
worth being young and beautiful for! We know nothing of our family,
save that both father and mother were killed in Vendée. Tanty never
will tell us anything about them (except their coats of arms), and I
am afraid even to start the subject, for she always branches off upon
heraldry and then we are in for hours of it. But after Lord Manningham
was gone I asked her when and how my grandmother died.

"She died when your mother was born, my dear," said Tanty, "she was
not as old as you are now, and your grandfather never smiled again, or
so they said."

That sobered me a little. Yet she lived her life so well, while she
did live, that I who have wasted twenty precious years can find in my
heart rather to envy than to pity my beautiful grandmother.

       *       *       *       *       *

_November 5th._--It is _three o'clock in the morning_, but I do not
feel at all inclined to go to bed. Madeleine is sleeping, poor pretty
pale Madeleine! with the tears hardly dry upon her cheeks and I can
hear her sighing in her sleep.

I was right, she is in love, and the gentleman she loves is not
approved of by Tanty and the upshot of it all is we are to leave dear
Bath, delightful Bath, to-morrow--to-day rather--for some unknown
penitential region which our stern relative as yet declines to name. I
am longing to hear more about it; but Tanty, who, though she talks so
much, can keep her own counsel better than any woman I know, will not
give me any further information beyond the facts that the delinquent
who has dared to aspire to my sister is a person of _the name of
Smith_, and that it would not do at all.

I have not the heart to wake Madeleine to make her tell me more, though
I really ought to pinch her well for being so secretive--besides, my
head is so full of my own day that I want to get it all written down,
and I shall never have done so unless I begin at the beginning.

Yesterday, then, at 3 o'clock in the afternoon Lord Dereham's coach
and four came clattering up to our door to call for me. Mrs. Hambledon
was already installed and Lady Soames and a dozen other of the
_fashionables_ of Bath. My little Lord Marquis had kept the box seat
for me, at which the other ladies, even my dear friend and chaperon,
looked rather green. The weather was glorious, and off we went with a
flourish of trumpets and whips, and I knew I should enjoy myself
monstrously.

And so I did. But it was the drive back that was the _best_ of all. We
never started till near nine o'clock, and Lord Dereham insisted on my
sitting beside him again--at which all the ladies looked daggers _at
me_ and all the gentlemen daggers _at him_. And then we sang songs and
tore along uphill and down dale, under the beautiful moonlight,
through the still air, till all at once we found we had lost our way.
We had to drive on till we came to an inn and we could make inquiries.
There the gentlemen opened another hamper of wine, and when we set
off again I promise you they were all pretty _lively_ (and most of
the ladies too, for the matter of that). As for me, who never drank
anything but milk or water till six months ago, I have not learnt to
like wine yet, so, though I sipped out of the glass to keep the fun
going, I contrived to dispose of the contents, quietly over the side
of the coach, when no one was looking.

It was a drive to remember. We came to a big hill, and as we were
going down it at a smart pace the coach began to sway, then the ladies
began to screech, and even the men looked so scared that I laughed
outright. Lord Dereham was perfectly tipsy and he did not know the
road a bit, but he drove in beautiful style and was extraordinarily
amusing; as soon as the coach took to swaying, instead of slackening
speed as they all begged him, he _lashed_ the horses into a tearing
gallop, looking over his shoulder at the rest and cursing them with
the greatest energy, grinning with rage, and looking more like a
little white rat than _ever_.

"Give me the whip," said I, "and I shall whip the team while you
drive."

"_Cuth me_," cried he, "if you are not worth the whole coach-load a
dozen times over."

On we went; the coach rocked, the horses galloped, and I knew at any
moment the whole thing might upset, and I flourished my whip and
lashed at the steaming flanks and I never felt what it was to really
enjoy myself before.

Presently, although we were tearing along so fast, the coach steadied
itself and went as straight as an arrow; and this, it seems, it would
never have done had not Lord Dereham kept up the pace.

And all the rest of the drive his lordship wanted to kiss me. I was
not a bit frightened, though he was drunk, but every time he grew too
forward I just flicked at the horses with the whip, and I think he saw
that I would have cracked him across the face quite as readily if he
dared to presume.

No doubt a dozen times during the day I could have secured a coronet
for myself, not to speak of future 'strawberry leaves,' as my aunt
says, if I had cared to; but who could think of loving a man like
_that_? He can manage four horses, and he has shot two men in a duel,
and he can drink three bottles of wine at a sitting, and when one
tries to find something more to say for him, lo! that is all!

When we at length arrived at Camden Place, for I vowed they must leave
me home the first, there was the rarest sport. My lord's grooms must
set to blow the horns, for they were as drunk as their master, while
one of the gentlemen played upon the knocker till the whole crescent
was aroused.

Then the doors opened suddenly, _and Tanty appears_ on the threshold,
holding a candle. Her turban was quite crooked, with the birds of
Paradise over one eye, and I never saw her old nose look so hooked.
All the gentlemen set up a shout, and Sir Thomas Wrexham began to crow
like a cock for no reason on earth that I can think of. The servants
were holding up lanterns, but the moon was nigh as bright as day.

Tanty just looked round upon them one after another, and in spite of
her crooked turban I think they all grew frightened. Then she caught
hold of me, and just whisked me behind her. Next she spied out Mrs.
Hambledon, who had been asleep inside the coach, and now tumbled
forth, yawning and gaping.

"And so, madam," cries Tanty to her, not very loud, but in a voice
that made even me tremble; "so, madam, this is how you fulfil the
confidence I placed in you. A pretty chaperon you are to have the
charge of a young lady; though, indeed, considering your years, madam,
I might have been justified in trusting you."

Mrs. Hambledon, cut short in the middle of a loud yawn by this attack,
was a sight to see.

"Hoighty-toighty, ma'am!" she cried, indignantly, as soon as she could
get her voice; "here's a fine to-do. It is my fault, of course, that
Lord Dereham should mistake the road. And my fault too, no doubt, that
your miss should make an exhibition of herself riding on the box with
the gentlemen at this hour of night, when I implored her to come
inside with me, were it only for the sake of common female propriety."

"Common female indeed!" echoed Tanty, with a snort; "the poor child
knew better."

"Cuth the old cats! they'll have each other'th eyeth out," here cried
my lord marquis, interposing his little tipsy person between them. He
had scrambled down the box after me, and was listening with an air of
profound wisdom that made me feel fit to die laughing. "Don't you mind
her, old lady," he went on, addressing Tanty; "Mith Molly ith quite
able to take care of herself--damme if she'th not."

Aunt Donoghue turned upon him majestically.

"And then that is more than can be said for you, my poor young man,"
she exclaimed; and I vow he looked as sobered as if she had flung a
bucket of cold water over him. Upon this she retired and shut the
door, and marched me upstairs before her without a word.

Before my room door she stopped.

"Mrs. Dempsey has already packed your sister's trunks," she said, in a
very dry way; "and she will begin to pack yours early--I was going to
say to-morrow--but you keep such hours, my dear--it will be _to-day_."

I stared at her as if she had gone mad.

"You and your sister," she went on, "have got beyond me. I have taken
my resolution and given my orders, and there is not the least use
making a scene."

And then it came out about Madeleine. At first I thought I would go
into a great passion and refuse to obey, but after a minute or two I
saw it was, as she said, no use. Tanty was as cool as a cucumber. Then
I thought perhaps I might mollify her if I could cry, but I couldn't
pump up a tear; I never can; and at last when I went into my room and
saw poor Madeleine, who has cried herself to sleep, evidently, I
understood that there was nothing for us but to do as we were told.

And now I can hear Tanty fussing about her room still--she has been
writing, too--cra, cra, cra--this last hour. I wonder who to? After
all there is some fun in being taken off mysteriously we don't know
where. I should like to go and kiss her, but she thinks I am abed.



CHAPTER XI

A MASTERFUL OLD MAID


No contrary advice having reached Pulwick since Miss O'Donoghue's
_letter of invoice_, as Mr. Landale facetiously described it, he drove
over to Lancaster on the day appointed to meet the party.

And thus it came to pass that through the irresistible management of
Miss O'Donoghue, who put into the promotion of her scheme all the
energy belonging to her branch of the family, together with the long
habit of authority of the _Tante à héritage_, the daughters of Cécile
de Savenaye returned to that first home of theirs, of which they had
forgotten even the name.

Mr. Landale had not set eyes on his valuable relative for many years,
but her greeting, at the first renewal of intercourse which took place
in the principal parlour of the Lancaster Inn, was as easily detached
in manner as though they had just met again after a trifling absence
and she was bringing her charges to his house in accordance with a
mutual agreement.

"My dear Rupert," cried she, "I am glad to see you again. I need not
ask you how you are, you look so extremely sleek and prosperous.
Adrian's wide acres are succulent, hey? I should have known you
anywhere; though to be sure, you are hardly large enough for the
breed, you have the true Landale stamp on you, the unmistakable
Landale style of feature. _Semper eadem._ In that sense, at least, one
can apply your ancient and once worthy motto to you; and you know,
nephew, since you have conveniently changed your faith, both to God
and king, this sentiment strikes one as a sarcasm amidst the
achievements of Landale, you backsliders! Ah, we O'Donoghues have
better maintained our device, _sans changier_."

Rupert, to whom the well-known volubility of his aunt was most
particularly disagreeable, but who had nevertheless saluted the
stalwart old lady's cheek with much affection, here bent his supple
back with a sort of mocking gallantry.

"You maintain your _device_, permit me to say, my dear aunt, as
ostentatiously in your person as we renegade Landales ourselves."

"Pooh, pooh! I am too old a bird to be caught by such chaff, nephew;
it is pearls before.... I mean it is too late in the day, my dear.
Keep it for the young things. And indeed I see the sheep's eyes you
have been casting in their direction. Come nearer, young ladies, and
make your cousin's acquaintance," beckoning to her nieces, who,
arrayed in warm travelling pelisses and beaver bonnets of fashionable
appearance, stood in the background near the fireplace.

"They are very like, are they not?" she continued. "Twins always are;
as like as two peas. And yet these are as different as day and night
when you come to know them. Madeleine is the eldest; that is she in
the beaver fur; Molly prefers bear. Without their bonnets you will
distinguish them by their complexion. Molly has raven hair (she is the
truest O'Donoghue), whilst Madeleine is fair, _blonde_, like her
Breton father."

The sisters greeted their new-found guardian, each in her own way.
And, in spite of the disguising bonnets and their surprising
similarity of voice, height, and build, the difference was more marked
than that of beaver and bear.

Madeleine acknowledged her kinsman's greeting with a dainty curtsey
and little half-shy smile, marked by that air of distinction and
breeding which was her peculiar characteristic. Molly, however, who
thought she had reasonable cause for feeling generally exasperated,
and who did not see in Mr. Rupert Landale, despite his good looks and
his good manner, a very promising substitute for her Bath admirers
(nor in the prospect of Pulwick a profitable exchange for Bath), came
forward with her bolder grace to flounce him a saucy "reverence,"
measuring him the while with a certain air of mockery which his
thin-skinned susceptibility was quick to seize.

He looked back at her down the long tunnel of her bonnet, appraising
the bloom and beauty within with cold and curious gaze, and then he
turned to Madeleine and made to her his courteous speech of welcome.

This was sufficient for Miss Molly, who, for six months already
accustomed to compel admiration at first sight from all specimens of
the male sex that came across her path, instantly vowed a deadly
hatred to her cousin, and followed the party into the Landale family
coach--Rupert preceding, with a lady on each arm--in a temper as black
as her own locks.

It fell to her lot to sit beside the objectionable relative on the
back seat, while, by the right of her minute's seniority, Madeleine
sat beside Tanty in the front. The projecting wings of her headgear
effectively prevented her from watching his demeanour, unless, indeed,
she had turned to him, which was, of course, out of the question; but
certain fugitive conscious blushes upon the young face in front of
her, certain castings down of long lashes and timid upward glances,
made Molly shrewdly conjecture that Mr. Landale, through all the
apparent devotion with which he listened to Tanty's continuous flow of
observations, was able to bestow a certain amount of attention upon
her pretty neighbour.

Tanty herself conducted the conversation with her usual high hand,
feigning utter oblivion of the thundercloud on Molly's countenance;
and, if somewhat rambling in her discourse, nevertheless contriving to
plant her points where she chose.

Thus the long drive wore to its end. The sun was golden upon Pulwick
when the carriage at length drew up before the portico. Miss Sophia
received them in the hall, in a state of painful flutter and timidity.
She had a constitutional terror of her aunt's sharp eyes, and, though
she examined her young cousins wistfully, Madeleine's unconscious air
of dignity repelled her as much as Molly's deliberate pertness.

Rupert conducted his aunt upstairs, and down the long echoing corridor
towards her apartment.

"Ha, my old quarters," quoth Tanty, disengaging herself briskly from
her escort to enter the room and look round approvingly, "and very
comfortable they are. And my two nieces are next door, I see, as gay
as chintz can make them. Thank you, nephew, I shall keep you no
longer. We shall dine shortly, I feel sure. Well, well, I do not
pretend I am not quite ready to do justice to your excellent
fare--beyond doubt, it will be excellent! Go to your room, girls, your
baggage is coming up, you see; I shall send Dempsey to assist you
presently. No, not you, Sophia, I was speaking to the young ones. I
should like to have a little chat with you, my dear, if you have no
objection."

One door closed upon Rupert as he smiled and bowed himself out, the
other upon Molly hustling her sister before her.

Tanty in the highest good humour, having accomplished her desire, and
successfully "established a lodgment" (to use a military term not
inappropriate to such a martial spirit) for her troublesome nieces in
the stronghold of Pulwick, once more surveyed her surroundings: the
dim old walls, the great four-post bed, consecrated, of course, by
tradition to the memory of some royal slumberer, the damask hangings,
and the uncomfortable chairs, with the utmost favour, ending up with a
humorous examination of the elongated figure hesitating on the
hearthrug.

"Be seated, Sophia. I am glad to stretch my old limbs after that
terrible drive. So here we are together again. What are you sighing
for? Upon my soul, you are the same as ever, I see, the same tombstone
on your chest, and blowing yourself out with sighs, just as you used.
That will never give you a figure, my poor girl; it is no wonder you
are but skin and bones. Ah, can't you let the poor fellow rest in his
grave Sophia? it is flying in the face of Providence, I call it, to go
on perpetually stirring up his ashes like that. I hope you mean to try
and be a little more cheerful with those poor girls. But, there, I
believe you are never so happy as when you are miserable. And it's a
poor creature you would be at any time," added the old lady to
herself, after a second thoughtful investigation of Miss Landale's
countenance, which had assumed an expression of mulishness in addition
to an increase of dolefulness during this homily.

Here, to Miss Landale's great relief, the dying sunset, wavering into
crimson and purple, from its first glory of liquid gold, attracted her
aunt's attention, and Miss O'Donoghue went over to the window.

Beneath her spread the quaint garden, with its clipped box edges, and
beyond the now leafless belt of trees, upon the glimmer of the bay,
the outline of Scarthey, a dark silhouette rose fantastically against
the vivid sky. Even as she gazed, there leapt upon its fairy turret a
minute point of white.

The jovial old countenance changed and darkened.

"And Adrian is still at his fool's game over there, I suppose," she
said irately turning upon Sophia. "When have you seen him last? How
often does he come here? I gather Master Rupert is nothing if not the
master. Why don't you answer me, Sophia?"

       *       *       *       *       *

The dinner was as well cooked and served a meal as any under Rupert's
rule, which is saying a good deal, and if the young ladies failed to
appreciate the "floating island," the "golden nests," and "silver
web," so thoughtfully provided for them, Tanty did ample justice to
the venison.

Indeed the cloud which had been visible upon her countenance at the
beginning of dinner, and which according to that downright habit of
mind, which rendered her so terrible or so delightful a companion, she
made no attempt to conceal, began to lift towards the first remove,
and altogether vanished over her final glass of port.

After dinner she peremptorily ordered her grand-nieces into the
retirement of their bedchambers, unblushingly alleging their exhausted
condition in front of the perfect bloom of their beautiful young
vigour.

She then, over a cup of tea, luxuriously stretching her thin frame in
the best arm-chair the drawing-room could afford, gave Rupert a brief
code of directions as to the special attentions and care she desired
to be bestowed upon her wards, during their residence at Pulwick,
descanting generously upon their various perfections, gliding
dexterously over her reasons for wishing to be rid of them herself,
and concluding with the hint--either pregnant or barren of meaning as
he chose to take it--that if he made their stay pleasant to them, she
would not forget the service.

Then, as Mr. Landale began, with apparent guilelessness, to put a few
little telling questions to her anent the episodes which had made Bath
undesirable as a residence for these young paragons, the old lady
suddenly became overwhelmed with fatigue and sleepiness, and professed
herself ready to be conducted to her bower immediately.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile, despite the _moue de circonstance_ which Molly thought it
incumbent on her to assume, neither she nor Madeleine regretted their
compulsory withdrawal from the social circle downstairs.

Madeleine had her own thoughts to follow up, and that these were both
engrossing and pleasant was easily evident; and Molly, bursting with a
sense of injury arising from many causes, desired a special
explanation with her sister, which the presence in and out upon them
of Tanty's woman had prevented her from indulging in before dinner.

"So here we are at last," cried she, indignantly, after she had walked
round and severely inspected her quarters, pausing to "pull a lip" of
extreme disfavour at the handsome portrait of Mr. Landale that hung
between the windows, "we are, Madeleine, at last, kidnapped,
imprisoned, successfully disposed of, in fact."

"Yes, here we are at last," echoed Madeleine, abstractedly, warming
her slender ankles by the fire.

"Have you made out yet what particular kind of new frenzy it was that
seized chère Tante?" asked Miss Molly, with great emphasis, as she sat
down at her toilet-table. "You are the cause of it all, my dear, and
so you ought to know. It is all very well for Tanty to pretend that I
have brought it on myself by not coming home till three o'clock (as if
that was _my_ fault). She cannot blink the fact that her Dempsey
creature had orders to pack my boxes before bedtime. Your Smith must
be a desperately dangerous individual. Well," she continued, looking
round over her shoulder, "why don't you say something, you
lackadaisical thing?"

But Madeleine answered nought and continued gazing, while only the
little smile, tilting the corners of her lips, betrayed that she had
heard the petulant speech.

The smile put the finishing touch to Molly's righteous anger.
Brandishing a hairbrush threateningly, she marched over to her sister
and looked down upon the slender figure, in its clinging white dress,
with blazing eyes.

"Look here," she cried, "there must be an end of this. I can put up
with your slyness no longer. How _dare_ you have secrets from me,
miss?--your own twin sister! You and I, who used never to have a
thought we did not share. How dare you have a lover, and not tell me
all about him? What was the meaning of your weeping like a fountain
all the way from Bath to Shrewsbury, and then, without rhyme or reason
apparently, smiling to yourself all the way from there to Lancaster.
You have had a letter, don't attempt to deny it, it is of no use....
Oh, it is base of you, it is indeed! And to think that it is all
through you that I am forced into this exile, through your _airs
penchés_, and your sighing and dreaming, and your mysterous
_Smith_.... To think that to-night, this very night, is the ball of
the season, and we are going to bed! Oh, and to-morrow and to-morrow,
and to-morrow, with nothing but a knave and a fool to keep us
company--for I don't think much of your female cousin, Madeleine, and,
as for your male cousin, I perfectly detest him--and all the tabbies
of the country-side for diversion, with perhaps a country buck on high
days and holidays for a relish! Pah!"

Molly had almost talked her ill-humour away. Her energetic nature
could throw off most unpleasant emotions easily enough so long as it
might have an outlet for them; she now laid down the threatening
brush, and, kneeling beside her, flung both her arms round Madeleine's
shoulders.

"Ma petite Madeleine," she coaxed, in the mother tongue, "tell thy
little sister thy secrets."

A faint flush crept to Madeleine's usually creamy cheeks, a light into
her eyes. She turned impulsively to the face near hers, then, as if
bethinking herself, pursed her lips together and shook her head
slightly.

"Do you remember, ma chèrie," she said, at last, "that French tale
Mrs. Hambledon lent us in which it is said _'Qui fuit l'amour, l'amour
suit.'_"

"Well?" asked Molly, eagerly, her lips parted as if to drink in the
expected confidence.

"Well," replied the other, "well, perhaps things may not be so bad
after all. Perhaps," rising from her seat, and looking at her sister
with a little gentle malice, while she, too, began to disrobe her
fairer beauty for the night, "some of your many lovers may come after
you from Bath! Oh, Molly!" with a little scream, for Molly, with eyes
flashing once more, had sprung up from her knees to inflict a vicious
pinch upon the equivocator's arm.

"Yes, miss, you shall be pinched till you confess." Then flouting her
with a sudden change of mood, "I am sure I don't want to know your
wonderful secret,"--seizing her comb and passing it crackling through
her hair with quite unnecessary energy--"Mademoiselle la Cachotière.
Anyhow, it cannot be very interesting.... _Mrs. Smith!_ Fancy caring
for a man called Smith! If you smile again like that, Madeleine, I
shall beat you."

The two sisters looked at each other for a second as if hesitating on
the brink of anger, and then both laughed.

"Never mind, I shall pay you out yet," quoth Molly, tugging at her
black mane. "So our lovers are to come after us, is _that_ it? Do you
know, Madeleine," she went on, calming down, "I almost regret now that
I would not listen to young Lord Dereham, simpleton though he be. He
looked such a dreadful little fright that I only laughed at him.... I
should have laughed at him all my life. But it would perhaps have been
better than this dependence on Tanty, with her sudden whims and
scampers and whisking of us away into the wilderness. Then I should
have had my own way always. Now it's too late. Tanty told me yesterday
that she sees he is a dissolute young man, and that his dukedom is
only a Charles II. creation, and 'We know what that means,' she added,
and shook her head. I am sure I had not a notion, but I shook my head
too, and said, 'Of course, that made it impossible.' I was really
afraid she would want me to marry him. She was dreadfully pleased and
said I was a true O'Donoghue. Oh, dear! I don't know _anything_ about
love. I can't imagine being in love; but one thing is certain, I could
never, never, never allow a horrid little rat like Lord Dereham to
make love to me, to kiss me, nor, indeed, any man--oh, horror! How you
are blushing, my dear! Come here into the light. It would be good for
your soul, indeed it would, to confess!"

But Madeleine, burying her hot cheeks in her sister's neck and
clasping her with gentle caresses, was not to be drawn from her
reticence. Molly pushed her off at last, and gave a hard little
good-night kiss like a bird-peck.

"Very well; but you might as well have confessed, for I shall find out
in the long run. And who knows, perhaps you may be sorry one day that
you did not tell me of your own accord."



CHAPTER XII

A RECORD AND A PRESENTMENT.


The gallery of family portraits at Pulwick is one of the most
remarkable features of that ancient house.

It was a custom firmly established at the Priory--ever since the first
heralds' visitation in Lancashire, when some mooted point of claims to
certain quarterings had been cleared in an unexpected way by the
testimony of a well-authenticated ancestral portrait--for each
successive representative to add to the collection. One of the first
cares of every Landale, therefore, on succeeding to the title was to
be painted, with his proper armorial and otherwise distinguishing
honours jealously delineated, and thus hung in the place of honour
over the high mantelshelf of the gallery--displacing on the occasion
his own immediate and revered predecessor.

The chain was consequently unbroken from the Elizabethan descendants
of the first acquirers of ecclesiastical property at Pulwick, down to
the present Light-keeper of Scarthey.

But whilst the late Sir Thomas appeared in all the majesty of
deputy-lieutenant, colonel of Militia, magistrate, and sundry other
honourable offices, in his due place on the right of the present
baronet, the latter figured in a character so strange and so
incongruous that it seemed as if one day the dignified array of
Landales--old, young, middle-aged, but fine gentlemen, all of
them--must turn their backs upon their degenerate kinsman.

Over the chimney-piece, in the huge carved-oak frame (now already two
centuries old), a common sailor, in the striped loose trousers, the
blue jacket with red piping of a man-of-war's man, with pigtail and
coarse open shirt--stood boldly forth as the representative of the
present owner of Pulwick.

Proud of their long line of progenitors, it was a not unusual thing
for the Landales to entertain their guests at breakfast in a certain
sunny bow-window in the portrait gallery rather than in the breakfast
parlour proper, which in winter, unmistakably harboured more damp than
was pleasant.

It was, therefore, with no surprise that Miss Landale received an
early order from her brother to have a fire lighted in the apartment
sacred to the family honours, and the matutinal repast served there in
due course.

Whether Mr. Landale was actuated by a regard for the rheumatism of his
worthy relative, or merely a natural family pride, or by some other
and less simple motive, he saw no necessity for informing his docile
housewife on the matter.

As Sophia was accustomed to no such condescension on his part even in
circumstances more extraordinary, she merely bundled out of bed
unquestioningly in the darkness and cold of the morning to see his
orders executed in the proper manner; which, indeed, to her credit was
so successfully accomplished that Tanty and her charges, when they
made their entry upon the scene, could not fail to be impressed with
the comfortable aspect of the majestic old room.

Mr. Landale examined his two young uninvited guests with new keenness
in the morning light. Molly was demure enough, though there was a
lurking gleam in her dark eye which suggested rather armed truce than
accepted peace. As for Madeleine, though to be serene was an actual
necessity of her delicate nature, there was more than resignation in
the blushing radiance of her look and smile.

"Portraits of their mother," said Rupert, bringing his critical survey
to a close, and stepping forward with a nice action of the legs to
present his arm to his aunt. "Portraits of their mother both of
them--I trust to that miniature which used to grace our collection in
the drawing-room rather than to the treacherous memory of a school-boy
for the impression--but portraits by different masters and in
different moods."

There was something patronising in the tone from so young a man, which
Molly resented on the spot.

"Oh, we should be as like as two peas, only that we are as different
as day and night, as Tanty says," she retorted, tossing her white chin
at her host, while Miss O'Donoghue laughed aloud at her favourite's
sauciness.

"And after all," said Rupert, as he bestowed his venerable relative on
her chair, with an ineffable air of politeness, contradicted, though
only for an instant, by the look which he shot at Molly from the light
hazel eyes, "Tanty is not so far wrong--the only difference between
night and day is the difference between the _brunette_ and the
_blonde_," with a little bow to each of the sisters, "an Irish bull,
if one comes to analyse it, is but the expression of the too rapid
working of quick wits."

"Faith, nephew," said Tanty, sitting down in high good humour to the
innumerable good things in which her Epicurean old soul delighted,
"that is about as true a thing as ever you said. Our Irish tongues are
apt to get behind a thing before it is there, and they call that
making a bull."

Rupert's sense of humour was as keen as most of his other faculties,
and at the unconscious humour of this sally his laugh rang out
frankly, while Molly and Madeleine giggled in their plates, and Miss
O'Donoghue chuckled quietly to herself in the intervals of eating and
drinking, content to have been witty, without troubling to discover
how.

Sophia alone remained unmoved by mirth; indeed, as she raised her
drooping head, amazed at the clamour, an unwary tear trickled down her
long nose into her tea. She was given to revelling in anniversaries of
dead and gone joys or sorrows; the one as melancholy to her to look
back upon as the other; and upon this November day, now very many
years ago, had the ardent, consumptive rector first hinted at his
love.

"And now," said Miss O'Donoghue, who, having disposed of the most
serious part of the breakfast, pushed away her plate with one hand
while she stirred her second cup of well-creamed tea lazily with the
other, "Now, Rupert, will you tell me the arrangements you propose to
make to enable me to see your good brother?"

Rupert had anticipated being attacked upon this subject, and had fully
prepared himself to defend the peculiar position it was his interest
to maintain. To encourage a meeting between his brother and the old
lady (to whom the present position of affairs was a grievous offence)
did not, certainly, enter into his plan of action; but Tanty had put
the question in an unexpected and slightly awkward shape, and for a
second or two he hesitated before replying.

"I fear," said he then, gliding into the subject with his usual easy
fluency, "that you will be disappointed if you have been reckoning
upon an interview with Adrian, my dear aunt. The hermit will not be
drawn from his shell on any pretext."

"What," cried Tanty, while her withered cheek flushed, "do you mean to
tell me that my nephew, Sir Adrian Landale, will decline to come a few
hundred yards to see his old aunt--his mother's own sister--who has
come three hundred miles, at seventy years of age, to see him in his
own house--_in his own house_?" repeated the irate old lady, rattling
the spoon with much emphasis against her cup. "If you _mean_ this,
Rupert, it is an insult to me which I shall never forget--_never_."

She rose from her seat as she concluded, shaking with the tremulous
anger of age.

"For God's sake, Tanty," cried Rupert, throwing into his voice all the
generous warmth he was capable of simulating, "do not hold me
responsible for Adrian in this matter. His strange vagaries are not of
my suggesting, heaven knows."

"Well, nephew," said Miss O'Donoghue, loftily, "if you will kindly
send the letter I am about to write to your brother, by a safe
messenger, immediately, I shall believe that it is _your_ wish to
treat me with proper respect, whatever may be Adrian's subsequent
behaviour."

Mr. Landale's countenance assumed an expression of very genuine
distress; this was just the one proof of dutiful attachment that he
was loth to bestow upon his cherished aunt.

"I see how it is," he exclaimed earnestly, coming up to the old lady,
and laying his hand gently upon her arm, "you entirely misunderstand
the situation. I am not a free agent in this matter. I cannot do what
you ask; I am bound by pledge. Adrian is, undoubtedly, more
than--peculiar on certain points, and, really, I dare not, if I would,
thwart him."

"Oh!" cried Tanty, shooting off the ejaculation as from a pop-gun.
Then, shaking herself free of Rupert's touch, she sat down abruptly in
her chair again, and began fanning herself with her handkerchief. Not
even in her interchange of amenities with Mrs. Hambledon, had Molly
seen her display so much indignation.

"You want me to believe he is mad, I suppose?" she snapped, at last.

"Dear me! No, no, no!" responded the other, in his airy way. "I did
not mean to go so far as that; but--well, there are very painful
matters, and hitherto I have avoided all discussion upon them, even
with Sophia. My affection for Adrian----"

"Fiddlesticks!" interrupted Tanty. "You meant something, I suppose;
either the man's mad, or he is not. And I, for one, don't believe a
word of it. The worst sign about him, that I can see, is the blind
confidence the poor fellow seems to put in you."

Here Molly, who had been listening to the discussion "with all her
ears"--anything connected with the mysterious personality of the
absent head of the house was beginning to have a special fascination
for her--gave an irrepressible little note of laughter.

Rupert looked up at her quickly, and their eyes met.

"Hold your tongue, Miss," cried Miss O'Donoghue, sharply; aware that
she had gone too far in her last remark, and glad to relieve her
oppression in another direction, "how dare you laugh? Sophia, this is
a terrible thing your brother wants me to believe--may I ask what
_your_ opinion is? Though I'll not deny I don't think that will be
worth much."

Sophia glanced helplessly at Rupert, but he was far too carefully
possessed of himself to affect to perceive her embarrassment.

"Come, come," cried Miss O'Donoghue, whose eyes nothing escaped, "you
need not look at Rupert, you can answer for yourself, I suppose--you
are not absolutely a drivelling idiot--_all_ the Landales are not
ripening for lunatic asylums--collect your wits, Sophia, I know you
have not got any, but you have _enough_ to be able to give a plain
answer to a plain question, I suppose. Do you think your brother mad,
child?"

"God forbid," murmured Sophia, at the very extremity of those wits of
which Miss O'Donoghue had so poor an opinion. "Oh, no, dear aunt, not
_mad_, of course, not in the least _mad_."

Then, gathering from a restless movement of Rupert's that she was not
upon the right tack she faltered, floundered wildly, and finally drew
forth the inevitable pocket-handkerchief, to add feelingly if
irrelevantly from its folds, "And indeed if I thought such a calamity
had really fallen upon us--and of course there _are_ symptoms, no
doubt there are symptoms...."

"What are his symptoms--has he tried to murder any of you, hey?"

"Oh, my dear aunt! No, indeed, dear Adrian is gentleness itself."

"Does he bite? Does he gibber? Oh, away with you, Sophia! I am sure I
cannot wonder at the poor fellow wanting to live on a rock, between
you and Rupert. I am sure the periwinkles and the gulls must be
pleasant company compared to you. That alone would show, I should
think, that he knows right well what he is about. Mad indeed! There
never was any madness among the O'Donoghues except your poor uncle
Michael, who got a box on the ear from a windmill--and _he_ wasn't an
O'Donoghue at all! You will be kind enough, nephew, to have delivered
to Sir Adrian, no later than to-day, the letter which I shall this
moment indite to him."

"Perhaps," said Rupert, "if you will only favour me with your
attention for a few minutes first, aunt, and allow me to narrate to
you the circumstances of my brother's return here, and of his
subsequent self-exile, you will see fit to change your opinion, both
as regards him and myself."

A self-controlled nature will in the long run, rightly or wrongly,
always assume the ascendency over an excitable one. The moderateness
of Rupert's words, the coolness of his manner, here brought Tanty
rapidly down from her pinnacle of passion.

Certainly, she said, she was not only ready, but anxious to hear all
that Rupert could have to say for himself; and, smoothing down her
black satin apron with a shaking hand, the old lady prepared to listen
with as much judicial dignity as her flustered state allowed her to
assume. Rupert drew his chair opposite to hers and leant his elbow on
the table, and fixed his bright, hard eyes upon her.

"You remember, of course," he began after a moment's pause, "how at
the time of my poor father's death, Adrian was reported to have lost
his life in the Vendée war--though without authoritative
confirmation--at the same time as the fair and unhappy Countesse de
Savenaye, to whose fortune he had so chivalrously devoted himself."

Tanty bowed her head in solemn assent; but Molly, watching with the
most acute attention, felt her face blaze at the indefinable shade of
mockery she thought to catch upon the speaker's curling lip.

"It was," continued he, "the constant strain, the long months of
watching in vain for tidings, that told upon my father, rather than
the actual grief of loss. When he died, the responsibilities of the
headship of the house devolved naturally upon me, the only male
representative left, seemingly, to undertake them. The months went by;
to the most sanguine the belief in Adrian's death became inevitable.
Our hopes died slowly, but they died at last; we mourned for him,"
here Rupert cast down his eyes till the thick black lashes which were
one of his beauties swept his cheek; his tone was perfect in its
simple gravity. "At length, urged thereto by all the family, if I
remember rightly by yourself as well, dear aunt, I assumed the title
as well as the position which seemed mine by right. I was very young
at the time, but I do not think that either then, or during the ten
years that followed, I unworthily filled my brother's place."

There was a proud ring of sincerity in the last words, and the old
lady knew that they were true; that during the years of his absolute
power as well as of his present more restricted mastership, Rupert's
management of the estate was unimpeachable.

"Certainly not, my dear Rupert," she said in softer tones than she had
hitherto used to him, "no one would dream of suggesting such a
thing--pray go on."

"And so," pursued the nephew, with a short laugh, relapsing into that
light tone of banter which was his most natural mode of expression;
"when, one fine day, a hired coach clattered up Sir Rupert Landale's
avenue and deposited upon his porch a tattered mariner who announced
himself, in melancholy tones that would have befitted the ghost no
doubt many took him for, as the rightful Sir Adrian, erroneously
supposed defunct, I confess that it required a little persuasion to
make me recognise my long-lost brother--and yet there could be no
doubt of it. The missing heir had come to his own again; the dead had
come back to life. Well, we killed the fatted calf, and all the rest
of it--but I need not inflict upon you the narrative of our
rejoicing."

"Faith, no," said Tanty, drily, "I can see it with half an eye."

"You know, too, I believe, the series of extraordinary adventures, or
misadventures, which had kept him roaming on the high seas while we at
home set up tablets to his memory and 'wore our blacks' as people here
call it, and cultivated a chastened resignation. There was a good deal
of correspondence going on at the time between Pulwick and Bunratty,
if I remember aright, and you heard all about Adrian's divers attempts
to land in England, about his fight with the King's men, his crack on
the head and final impressment. At least you heard as much as we could
gather ourselves. Adrian is not what one would call a garrulous person
at the best of times. It was really with the greatest difficulty that
we managed to extract enough out of him to piece together a coherent
tale."

"Well, well," quoth Tanty, with impatience, "you are glib enough for
two anyhow, my dear! All this does not tell me how Adrian came to live
on a lighthouse, and why you put him down as a lunatic."

"Not as a lunatic," corrected Rupert, gently, "merely as slightly
eccentric on certain points. Though, indeed, if you had seen him
during those first months after his return, I think even you with your
optimistic spirit would have feared, as we did, that he was falling
into melancholia. Thank heaven he is better now. But, dear me, what we
went through! I declare I expected every morning to be informed that
Sir Adrian's corpse had been found hanging from his bedpost or
discovered in a jelly at the bottom of the bluffs. And, indeed, when
at length he disappeared for three days, after he had been last
observed mooning along the coast, there was a terrible panic lest he
should have sought a congenial and soothing end in the embraces of
the quicksands.... It turned out, however, that he had merely strolled
over to Scarthey--where, as you know, my father established a beacon
and installed a keeper to warn boats off our shoals--and, finding the
place to his liking, had remained there, regardless of our feelings."

"Tut, tut!" said Tanty; but whether in reproof of Rupert's flippant
language or of her elder nephew's erratic behaviour, it would have
been difficult to determine.

"Of course," went on Rupert, smoothly, "I had resolved, after a decent
period, to remove my lares and penates from a house where I was no
longer master and to establish myself, with my small patrimony (I
believe I ought to call it _matrimony_, as we younger children benefit
by our O'Donoghue mother) in an independent establishment. But when I
first broached the subject, Adrian was so vastly distressed, expressed
himself so well satisfied with my management of the estate and begged
me so earnestly to consider Pulwick as my home, vowing that he himself
would never marry, and that all he looked forward to in life was to
see me wedded and with future heirs to the name springing around me,
that it would have been actual unkindness to resist. Moreover, as you
can imagine, Adrian is not exactly a man of business, and his
spasmodic interferences in the control of the property being already
then of a very injudicious nature, I confess that, having nursed it
myself for eleven years with some success, I dreaded to think what it
would become under his auspices. And so I agreed to remain. But the
position increased in difficulty. Adrian's moroseness seemed to grow
upon him; he showed an exaggerated horror of company; either flying
from visitors as from the pest, and shutting himself up in his own
apartments, or (on the few disastrous occasions when my persuasions
induced him to show himself to some old family friends) entertaining
them with such unusual sentiments concerning social laws, the
magistracy, the government, his Majesty the King himself, that the
most extraordinary reports about him soon spread over the whole
county. This was about the time--as you may remember--of my own
marriage."

Here an alteration crept into Mr. Landale's voice, and Molly looked
at him curiously, while Miss Sophia gave vent to an audible sniff.

"To be sure," said Tanty, hastily. Comfortably egotistic old ladies
have an instinctive dislike to painful topics. And that Rupert's
sorrow for his young wife had been, if self-centred and reserved, of
an intense and prolonged nature was known to all the family.

The widower himself had no intention of dilating upon it. His wife's
name he never mentioned, and no one could guess, heavily as the blow
was known to have fallen upon him, the seething bitterness that her
loss had left in his soul, nor imagine how different a man he might
have been if that one strong affection of his life had been spared to
soften it.

"Adrian fled from the wedding festivities, as you may remember, for
you were our honoured guest at the time, and greatly displeased at his
absence," he resumed, after a few seconds of darkling reflection.
"None of us knew where he had flown to, for he did not evidently
consider his owl's nest sufficiently remote; but we had his fraternal
blessing to sustain us. And after that he continued to make periodical
disappearances to his retreat, stopping away each time longer and
longer. One fine day he sent workmen to the island with directions to
repair certain rooms in the keep, and he began to transfer thereto
furniture, his books and his organ. A dilapidated little French
prisoner next appeared on the scene (whom my brother had extracted
from the Tower of Liverpool, which was then crammed with such gentry),
and finally we were informed that, with this worthy companion, Sir
Adrian Landale was determined to take up his abode altogether at
Scarthey, undertaking the duties of the recently defunct light-keeper.
So off he went, and there he is still. He has extracted from us a
solemn promise that his privacy is to be absolutely respected, and
that no communications, or, above all, visits are to be made to him.
Occasionally, when we least expect it, he descends upon us from his
tower, upsets all my accounts, makes the most absurd concessions to
the tenants, rides round the estate with his eyes on the ground and
disappears again. _Et voilà_, my dear aunt, how we stand."

"Well, nephew," said Miss O'Donoghue, "I am much obliged to you, I am
sure, for putting me _au courant_ of the family affairs. It is all
very sad--very sad and very deplorable; but----"

But Mr. Landale was quite aware that Tanty was not yet convinced to
the desired extent. He therefore here interrupted her to play his last
card--that ace he had up his sleeve, in careful preparation for this
trial of skill with his keen-witted relative, and to the suitable
production of which he had been all along leading.

Rising from his chair with slow, deliberate movement, he proceeded, as
if following his own train of thought, without noticing that Miss
O'Donoghue was intent on speech herself:

"You have not seen him, I believe, since he was quite a lad. You would
have some difficulty in recognising him, though he bears, like the
rest of us, what you call the unmistakable Landale stamp. His portrait
is here, by the way--duly installed in its correct position. That,"
with a laugh, "was one of his freaks. It was his duty to keep up the
family traditions, he said--and there you will approve of him, no
doubt; but hardly, perhaps, of the manner in which he has had that
laudable intention carried out. My own portrait was, of course,
deposed (like the original)," added Mr. Landale, with something of a
sneer; "and now hangs meekly in some bedroom or other--in that, if I
mistake not, at present hallowed by my fair cousins' presence. Well,
it is good for the soul of man to be humbled, as we are taught to
believe from our earliest years!"

Tanty was fumbling for her eye-glasses. She was glad to hear that
Adrian had remembered some of his obligations (she observed,
sententiously, as she hauled herself stiffly out of her chair to
approach the chimney-piece); it was certainly a sign that he was more
mindful of his duties as head of the house than one would expect from
a person hardly responsible, such as Rupert had represented him to be,
and ...

Here, the glasses being adjusted and focussed upon the portrait, Miss
O'Donoghue halted abruptly with a dropping jaw.

"There is a curious inscription underneath the escutcheon," said Mr.
Landale composedly, "which latter, by the way, you may notice is the
only one in the line which has no room for an impaled coat (Adrian's
way of indicating not only that he is single, but means to remain
such); Adrian composed it himself and indeed attached a marked
importance to it. Let me read it for you, dear Tanty, the picture
hangs a little high and those curveting letters are hard to decipher.
It runs thus:

_Sir Adrian William Hugh Landale, Lord of Pulwick and Scarthey in the
County Palatine of Lancaster, eighth Baronet, born March 12th, 1775.
Succeeded to the title and estate on the 10th February 1799, whilst
abroad. Iniquitously pressed into the King's service on the day of his
return home, January 2nd, 1801. Twice flogged for alleged
insubordination, and only released at last by the help of a friend
after five years of slavery. Died_ [Here a space for the date.] It is
a record with a vengeance, is it not? Notice my brother's
determination to die unmarried and to retire, once for all, from all
or any of the possible honours connected with his position!"

They had all clustered in front of the picture; even Madeleine roused
from her sweet day-dreams to some show of curiosity; Miss Landale's
bosom, heaving with such sighs as to make the tombstone rise and fall
like a ship upon a stormy sea; Molly with an eagerness she did not
attempt to hide; and Miss O'Donoghue still speechless with horror and
indignation.

Mr. Landale had gauged his aunt's temperament correctly enough. To one
whose ruling passion was pride of family, this mockery of a
consecrated family custom, this heirloom destined to carry down a
record of degradation into future generations, was an insult to the
name only to be explained to her first indignation by deliberate
malice--or insanity.

And from the breezy background of blue sky and sea, contrasting as
strangely with the dark solemnity of the other portraits as did the
figure itself in its incongruous sailor dress, the face of the eighth
baronet looked down in melancholy gravity upon the group gathered in
judgment upon him.

"Disgraceful! Positively disgraceful!" at length cried the last
representative of the O'Donoghues of Bunratty, in scandalised tones.
"My dear Rupert, you should have a curtain put up, that this
exhibition of folly--of madness, I hardly know what to call it--be not
exposed to every casual visitor. Dear me, dear me, that I should live
to see any of my kin deliberately throw discredit on his family, if
indeed the poor fellow is responsible! Rupert, my good soul, can you
ascribe any reason for this terrible state of affairs ... that blow on
the head?"

"In part perhaps," said Mr. Landale. "And yet there have been other
causes at work. If I could have a private word in your ear," glancing
meaningly over his shoulder at the two young girls who were both
listening, though with very different expressions of interest and
favour, "I could give you my opinion more fully."

"Go away now, my dear creatures," hereupon said Miss O'Donoghue,
promptly addressing her nieces. "It is a fine morning, and you will
lose your roses if you don't get the air. I don't care if it has begun
to rain, miss! Go and have a game of battledore and shuttlecock then.
Young people _must_ have exercise. Well, my dear Rupert, well!"--when
Molly, with a pettish "battledore and shuttlecock indeed!" had taken
her sister by the arm and left the room.

"Well, my dear aunt, the fact is, I believe my unhappy brother has
never recovered from--from his passion for Cécile de Savenaye, that
early love affair, so suddenly and tragically terminated--well, it
seems to have turned his brain!"

"Pooh, pooh! why that was twenty years ago. Don't tell me it is in a
man to be so constant."

"In no _sane_ man perhaps; but then, you know, Tanty, that is just the
point.... Remember the circumstances. He loved her madly; he followed
her, lived near her for months and she was drowned before his eyes, I
believe. I never heard, of course, any details of that strange period
of his life, but we can imagine." This was a difficult, vague, subject
to deal with, and Mr. Landale wisely passed on. "Moreover, his
behaviour when in this house on his return at first has left me no
doubt. I watched him closely. He was for ever haunting those rooms
which she had inhabited. When he found her miniature in the
drawing-room he went first as white as death, then he took it in his
hand and stood gazing at it (I am not exaggerating) for a whole hour
without moving; and, finally, he carried it off, and I know he used to
talk to it in his room. And now, even if I had not given my poor
brother my word of honour never to disturb his chosen solitude, I
should have felt it a heavy responsibility to promote a meeting which
would inevitably bring back past memories in a troublous manner upon
him. In fact, were he to come across the children of his dead
love--above all Molly, who must be startlingly like her mother--what
might the result be? I hardly like to contemplate it. The human brain
is a very delicately balanced organ, my dear aunt, and once it gets
ever so slightly out of order one cannot be too careful to avoid
risk."

He finished his say with an expressive gesture of the hand. Miss
O'Donoghue remained for a moment plunged in reflection, during which
the cloud upon her countenance gradually lifted.

"It is a strange thing," she said at last, "but constancy seems to run
in the family. There is no denying that. Here is Sophia, a ridiculous
spectacle--and you yourself, my dear Rupert.... And now poor Adrian,
too, and his case of mere calf-love, as one would have thought."

"A calf may grow into a fine bull, you know," returned Mr. Landale,
who had winced at his aunt's allusion to himself and now spoke in the
most unemotional tone he could assume, "especially if it is well
fostered in its youth."

"And I suppose," said Miss O'Donoghue, with a faint smile, "you think
I ought to know all about bulls." She again put up her glasses to
survey the portrait with critical deliberation; after which,
recommending him once more strenuously to have a curtain erected, she
observed, that it would break her heart to look at it one moment
longer and requested to be conducted from the room.

Mr. Landale could not draw any positive conclusion from his aunt's
manner of receiving his confidence, nor determine whether she had
altogether grasped the whole meaning of what he had intended
delicately to convey to her concerning his brother's past as well as
present position; but he had said as much as prudence counselled.



CHAPTER XIII

THE DISTANT LIGHT


In spite of their first petulant or dolorous anticipation, and of the
contrast between the even tenor of country life and the constant
stream of amusement which young people of fashion can find in a place
like Bath, the two girls discovered that time glided pleasantly enough
over them at Pulwick.

Instead of the gloomy northern stronghold their novel-fed imagination
had pictured (the more dismally as their sudden removal from town
gaieties savoured distantly of punishment at the hand of their irate
aunt), they found themselves delivered over into a bright,
admirably-ordered house, replete with things of beauty, comfortable to
the extremity of luxury; and allowed in this place of safety to enjoy
almost unrestricted liberty.

The latter privilege was especially precious, as the sisters at that
time had engrossing thoughts of their own they wished to pursue, and
found more interest in solitary roamings through the wide estate than
in the company of the hosts.

On the fifth day Miss O'Donoghue took her departure. Her own
travelling coach had rumbled down the avenue, bearing her and her
woman away, in its polished yellow embrace, her flat trunk strapped
behind, and the good-natured old face nodding out of the window, till
Molly and Madeleine, standing (a little disconsolate) upon the porch
to watch her departure, could distinguish even the hooked nose no
longer. Mr. Landale, upon his mettled grey, a gallant figure, as Molly
herself was forced to admit, in his boots and buckskins, had cantered
in the dust alongside, intent upon escorting his aged relative to the
second stage of her journey.

That night, almost for the first time since their arrival, there was
no company at dinner, and the young guests understood that the
household would now fall back into its ordinary routine.

But without the small flutter of seeing strangers, or Tanty's lively
conversation, the social intercourse soon waned into exceeding
dulness, and at an early hour Miss Molly rose and withdrew to her
room, pretexting a headache, for which Mr. Landale, with his usual
high courtesy, affected deep concern.

As she was slowly ascending the great oaken staircase, she crossed
Moggie, the gatekeeper's daughter, who in her character of
foster-sister to one of the guests had been specially allotted to them
as attendant, during the remainder of their visit to Pulwick.

Molly thought that the girl eyed her hesitatingly, as if she wished to
speak:

"Well, Moggie?" she asked, stopping on her way.

"Oh, please, miss," said the buxom lass, blushing and dropping a
curtsey, "Renny Potter, please, miss, is up at our lodge to-night, he
don't care to come to the 'ouse so much, miss. But when he heard about
you, miss, you could have knocked him down with a feather he was so
surprised and that excited, miss, we have never seen him so. And he's
so set on being allowed to see ye both!"

Molly as yet failed to connect any memories of interest with the
possessor of the patronymic mentioned, but the next phrase mentioned
aroused her attention.

"He is Sir Adrian's servant, now, miss, and goes back yonder to the
island, that is where the master lives, to-morrow morning. But he
would be so happy to see the young ladies before he goes, if the
liberty were forgiven, he says. He was servant to the Madam your
mother, miss.

"Well, Moggie," answered Miss Molly, smiling, "if that is all that is
required to make Renny Potter happy, it is very easily done. Tell
Renny Potter: to-morrow morning." And she proceeded on her way
pondering, while the successful emissary pattered down to the lodge in
high glee to gather her reward in her sweetheart's company.

       *       *       *       *       *

When later on Madeleine joined her sister, she found her standing by
the deep recessed window, the curtains of which were drawn back,
resting her head on her hand against the wainscot, and gazing abroad
into the night.

She approached, and passing her hand round Molly's waist looked out
also.

"Again at your window?"

"It is a beautiful night, and the view very lovely," said Molly. And
indeed the moon was riding high in a deep blue starry heaven, and
shimmered on the strip of distant sea visible from the windows.

"Yes, but yesterday the night was not fine, and nothing was to be seen
but blackness; and it was the same the day before, and yet you stared
out of this window, as you have every night since our coming. It is
strange to see _you_ so. What is it, why don't you tell me?"

"Madeleine," said Molly, suddenly, after a lengthy pause, "I am simply
_haunted_ by that light over yonder, the Light of Scarthey. There is a
mystery about those ruins, on which I keep meditating all day long. I
want to know more. It draws me. I would give anything to be able, now,
to set sail and land there all unknown to any one, and see what manner
of life is led where that light is burning."

But Madeleine merely gave a pout of little interest. "What do you
think you would find? A half-witted middle-aged man, mooning among a
litter of books, with an old woman, and a little Frenchman to look
after him. Why, Mr. Landale himself takes no trouble to conceal that
his poor brother is an almost hopeless lunatic."

"Mr. Landale--" Molly began, with much contempt; but she interrupted
herself, and went on simply, "Mr. Landale is a very fine gentleman,
with very superior manners. He speaks like a printed book--but for all
that I _would_ like to know."

Madeleine laughed. "The demon of curiosity has a hold of you, Molly;
remember the fable they made us repeat: _De loin c'est quelque chose,
et de près ce n'est rien._ Now you shall go straight into your bed,
and not take cold."

And Miss Madeleine, after authoritatively closing the curtains, kissed
her sister, and was about to commence immediate disrobing, when she
caught sight of the shagreen-covered book, lying open on the table.

"So your headache was your diary--how I should like to have a peep."

"I daresay!" said Molly, sarcastically, and then sat down and, pen in
hand, began to re-read her night's entry, now and then casting a
tantalising glance over her shoulder at her sister. The lines, in the
flowing convent hand, ran thus:

"Aunt O'Donoghue left us this morning, and so here we are, planted in
Pulwick; and she has achieved her plan, fully. But what is odd is that
neither Madeleine nor I seem to mind it, now. What has come over
Madeleine is her secret, and she keeps it close; but that _I_ should
like being here is strange indeed.

"And yet, every day something happens to make me feel connected with
Pulwick--something more, I mean, than the mere fact that we were born
here. So many of the older people greet me, at first, as if they knew
me--they all say I am so like 'the Madam;' they don't see the same
likeness in Madeleine for all her _grand air_. There was Mrs. Mearson,
the gatekeeper, was struck in amazement. And the old housekeeper,
whenever she has an opportunity tries to entertain me about the
beautiful foreign lady and the grand times they had at Pulwick when
she was here, and 'Sir Tummas' was still alive.

"But, though we are made to feel that we are more than ordinary
guests, it is not on account of Mr. Landale, but _on account of Sir
Adrian_--the Master, as they call him, whom we never see, and whom his
brother would make out to be mad. Why is he so anxious that Sir Adrian
should not know that Aunt Rose has brought us here? He seemed willing
enough to please her, and yet nothing that she could say of her wish
could induce him even to send a messenger over to the rock. And now we
may be here all these two months and never even have caught a sight of
the _Master_. I wonder if he is still like that portrait--whether he
bears that face still as he now sits, all alone, brooding as his
brother says, up in those ruined chambers, while the light burns calm
and bright in the tower! What can this man of his have to say to me?"

Molly dotted her last forgotten "i," blotted it, closed and carefully
locked the book. Then, rising, she danced over to her sister, and
forced her into a pirouette.

"And now," she cried gaily, "our dear old Tanty is pulling on her
nightcap and weeping over her posset in the stuffy room at Lancaster
regretting _me_; and I should be detesting her with all my energies
for leaving me behind her, were it not that, just at present, I
actually find Pulwick more interesting than Bath."

Madeleine lifted her heavy-lidded eyes a little wonderingly to her
sister's face, as she paused in her gyration.

"What fly stings thee now?" she inquired in French.

"You do not tell me about _your_ wounds, my dear, those wounds which
little Dan Cupid has made upon your tender heart, with his naughty
little arrow, and which give you such sweet pain, apparently, that you
revel in the throes all day long. And yet, I am a good child; you
shall guess. If you guess aright, I shall tell you. So now begin."

They stood before the fire, and the leaping tongues of light played
upon their white garments, Madeleine's nightgear scarcely more
treacherously tell-tale of her slender woman's loveliness than the
evening robe that clung so closely to the vigorous grace of Molly's
lithe young figure.

The elder, whose face bore a blush distinct from the reflected glow of
the embers, fell to guessing, as commanded, a little wildly:

"You begin to find the _beau cousin_ Rupert a little more interesting
than you anticipated."

"Bah," cried Molly, with a stamp of her sandalled foot, "it is not
possible to guess worse! He is more insufferable to me, hour by hour."

"I think him kind and pleasant," returned Madeleine simply.

"Ah, because he makes sweet eyes at you, I suppose--yet no--I express
myself badly--he could not make anything sweet out of those hard, hard
eyes of his, but he is very--what they call here in England--attentive
to you. And he looks at you and ponders you over when you little think
it--you poor innocent--lost in your dream of ... _Smith_! There, I
will not tease you. Guess again."

"You are pleased to remain here because you are a true
weather-cock--because you like one thing one day another the
next--because the country peace and quiet is soothing to you after the
folly and noise of the great world of Bath and Dublin, and reminds you
refreshingly, as it does me, of our happy convent days." The glimmer
of a dainty malice lurked in the apparent candour of Madeleine's
grave blue eyes, and from thence spread into her pretty smile at the
sight of Molly's disdainful lip, "Well then, I give it up. You have
some mischief on foot, of that at least I am sure."

"No mischief--a work of righteousness rather. Sister Madeleine, you
heard all that that gallant gentleman you think so highly of--your
cousin Rupert, my dear" (it was a little way of Molly's to throw the
responsibility of anything she did not like, even to an obnoxious
relationship, upon another person's shoulders), "narrated of his
brother Sir Adrian, and how he persuaded Tanty that he was, as you
said just now, a hopeless madman--"

"But yes--he does mad things," said the elder twin, a little
wonderingly.

"Well, Madeleine, it is a vile lie. I am convinced of it."

"But, my darling----"

"Look here, Madeleine, there is something behind it all. I attacked
that creature, that rag, you cannot call her a woman, that female
cousin of yours, Sophia, and I pressed her hard too, but she could not
give me a single instance about Sir Adrian that is really the least
like insanity; and last night, when the young fool who escorted me to
dinner, Coventry his name was, told me that every one says Sir Adrian
is shut up on the island and that his French servant is really his
keeper, and that it was a shame Rupert was not the eldest brother, I
quite saw the sort of story Master Rupert likes to spread--don't
interrupt, please! When you were wool-gathering over the fire last
night (in the lively and companionable way, permit me to remark in
parenthesis, that you have adopted of late), and you thought I was
with Tanty, I had marched off with my flat candlestick to the picture
gallery to have a good look at the so-called lunatic. I dragged over a
chair and lit the candles in the candelabra each side of the
chimney-piece, and then standing on my perch still, I held up my own
torch and I saw the sailor really well. I think he has a beautiful
face and that he is no more mad than I am. But he looks so sad, so
sad! I longed to make those closed lips part and tell me their secret.
And, as I was looking and dreaming, my dear, just as you might, I
heard a little noise, and there was Rupert, only a few yards off,
surveying me with such an angry gaze--Ugh!" (with a shiver) "I hate
such ways. He came in upon me with soft steps like some animal. Look
at his portrait there, Madeleine!--Stay! I shall hold up the light as
I did last night to Sir Adrian--see, it flickers and glimmers and
makes him seem as if he were alive--oh, I wish he were not hanging in
front of our beds, staring out at us with those eyes! You think them
very fine, I daresay, that is because his lashes are as thick and dark
as a woman's--but the look in them, my dear--do you know what it
reminds me of? Of the beautiful, cruel greyhound we saw at the
coursing at that place near Bunratty (you remember, just before they
started the hare), when he stood for a moment motionless, looking out
across the plain. I can never forget the expression of those
yellow-circled eyes. And, when I see Rupert look at you as if he were
fixing something in the far distance, it gives me just the feeling of
horror and sickness I had then. (You remember how dreadful it was?)
Rupert makes me think of a greyhound, altogether he is so lithe and so
clean-cut, and so full of eagerness, a sort of trembling eagerness
underneath his seeming quiet, and I think he could be cruel."

Molly paused with an unusually grave and reflective look; Madeleine
yawned a little, not at all impressed.

"How you exaggerate!" she said. "Well what happened when he came in
and caught you? The poor man! I suppose, he thought you were setting
the house on fire."

"My dear, I turned as red as a poppy and began blowing out all my
illumination, feeling dreadfully guilty, and then he helped me off my
chair with such an air of politeness that I could have struck him with
pleasure, but I soon gathered my wits again. And, vexed with myself
for being a ninny, I just dropped him a little curtsey and said, 'I've
been examining my mad cousin.' 'Well, and what do you think of him?'
he asked me, smiling (his abominable smile!). But I can keep my
thoughts to myself as well as other people. 'I think he is very
handsome,' I answered, and then I wagged my head and added, 'Poor
fellow,' just as if I thought he was really mad. 'Poor fellow!' said
cousin Rupert, still with his smile. Whereupon we interchanged
good-nights, and he ceremoniously reconducted me to my door. What was
he spying after me for, like that? My dear, your cousin has a bad
conscience.--But I can spy too--I have been questioning the servants
to-day, and some of the people on the estate."

"Oh, Molly!"

"Come, don't be so shocked. It was diplomatically, of course, but I am
determined to find out the truth. Well, so far from looking upon Sir
Adrian as a lunatic, they all adore him, it seems to me. He comes here
periodically--once every three months or so--and it is like the King's
Justices, you know--St. Louis of France--he redresses all wrongs, and
listens to grievances and gives alms and counsel, and every one can
come with his story, down to the poorest wretch on the estate, and
they certainly gave me to understand that they would fare pretty
hardly under Mr. Landale if it were not for that mild beneficent
restraining influence in his tower yonder. It is very romantic, do you
know (you like romance, Madeleine). I wonder if Sir Adrian will come
over while we are here. Oh, I hope, I hope he will. I shall never rest
till I have seen him."

"Silly child," said Madeleine, "and so that is the reason you are glad
to remain here?"

"Even so, my dear," answered the other, skipped into the big four-post
bed, carefully ascertained and selected the softest pillow, and then,
smiling sweetly at her sister from under a frame of dark curls, let
her white lids drop over the lustre of her eyes and so intimated she
desired to sleep.



CHAPTER XIV

THE TOWER OF LIVERPOOL: MASTER AND MAN

    A prison is a house of care,
    A place where none can thrive,
    A Touchstone True to try a friend,
    A Grave for man alive.
    Sometimes a place of right,
    Sometimes a place of wrong,
    Sometimes a place of rogues and thieves,
    And honest men among.

    _Old Inscription._

It was soon after sunrise--at that time of year an hour not
exorbitantly early--when Molly awoke from a tangle of fantastic dreams
in which the haunting figure of her waking thoughts, the hermit of
Scarthey, appeared to her in varied shapes; as an awe-inspiring,
saintly ascetic with long, white hair; as a young, beautiful,
imprisoned prince; even as a ragged imbecile staring vacantly at a
lantern, somewhere in a dismal sea-cave.

The last vision was uppermost in her mind when she opened her eyes;
and the girl, under the impression of so disgusting a disillusion,
remained for a while pondering and yawning, before making up her mind
to exchange warmth and featherbed for her appointment without.

But the shafts of light growing through the chinks in the shutters
ever brighter and more full of dancing motes, decided her.

"A beautiful morning, Madeleine," she said, leaning over and pulling
one of the long fair strands upon her neighbour's pillow with sisterly
authority. "Get up, lazy-bones, and come and have a walk with me
before breakfast."

The sleeping sister awoke, smiled with her usual exquisite serenity of
temper, and politely refused. Molly insisted, threatened, coaxed, but
to no avail. Madeleine was luxuriously comfortable, and was not to be
disturbed either mentally or bodily; and Molly, aware of the resisting
power of will hidden under that soft exterior, at length petulantly
desisted; and wrapped up in furs, with hands plunged deep into the
recesses of a gigantic muff, soon sallied forth herself alone into the
park.

Half-way down the avenue she met blue-eyed Moggie with round face
shining out of the sharp, exhilarating atmosphere like a small sun.
The damsel was overcome with blushes and rapture at her young
mistress's unexpected promptitude in carrying out her promise, and ran
back to warn her sweetheart of that lady's approach.

       *       *       *       *       *

As Molly drew near the keeper's lodge--a sort of Doric temple,
quaintly standing in the middle of a hedge-enclosed garden, and
half-buried under thickly-clustering, interlacing creepers--from the
side of the enormous nest of evergreen foliage there emerged, in a
state of high excitement strenuously subdued, a short, square-built
man (none other than René L'Apôtre), whilst between the boughs of the
garden-hedge peeped forth the bashful, ruddy face of the lady of his
fancy, eager to watch the interview.

René ran forward, then stopped a few paces away, hat in hand, scraping
and bowing in the throes of an overwhelming emotion that strove hard
with humility.

"Ah, Mademoiselle, Mademoiselle!" he ejaculated between spells of
amazed staring, and seemed unable to bring forth another word.

"And so you have known my mother, René," said Miss Molly (in her
native tongue) with a smile.

At the sound of the voice and of the French words, René's face grew
pale under its bronze, and the tears he had so strongly combated,
glistened in his eyes.

"If I had not heard last night," he said at length, "that these ladies
had come back--it was Moggie Mearson who told me, who was foster
sister to you, or was it Mademoiselle your sister? and proud she is of
it--if I had not known that the young ladies were here again, when I
saw Mademoiselle I would have thought that my lady herself had
returned to us (may the good God have her soul!). Ah, to think that I
should ever see her again in the light of the sun!"

He stopped, suffocated with the sob that his respect would not allow
him to utter.

But Molly, who had had other objects in view when she rose from her
couch this cold, windy morning, than to present an objective to a
serving-man's emotion, now thought the situation had lasted long
enough for her enjoyment and determined to put an end to it.

"Eh bien, René," she said gaily, "or should I call you Monsieur
Potter? which, by the way, is a droll name for a Frenchman, I am very
glad to see that you are pleased to see me. If you would care to have
some talk with me you may attend me if you like. But I freeze standing
here," stamping her feet one after the other on the hard ground. "I
must absolutely walk; and you may put on your hat again, please; for
it is very cold for you too," she added, snuggling into her muff and
under her fur tippet.

The man obeyed after another of his quaint salutes, and as Molly
started forward, followed her respectfully, a pace in rear.

"I daresay you will not be sorry to have a little talk with a
compatriot in your own tongue, all English as you may have grown,"
said the young lady presently; "and as Moggie has told me that you
were in my mother's service, there is a whole volume of things which,
I believe, you alone can relate to me. You shall tell me all that, one
day. But what seems to me the most curious, first of all, is your
presence here. We ourselves are only at Pulwick by chance."

"Mademoiselle," said René in an earnest voice, "if you knew the whole
story, you would soon understand that, since it was not to be, that I
should remain the humble servitor of Monseigneur le Comte de Savenaye,
Mademoiselle's father, or of Madame, who followed him to heaven,
notwithstanding all our efforts to preserve her, it is but natural
that I should attach myself (since he would allow it) to my present
master."

"Mr. Landale?" asked Molly, affecting ignorance.

"No, Mademoiselle," cried the Frenchman, hotly. "My master is Sir
Adrian. Had Mr. Landale remained the lord of this place, I should have
been left to die in my prison--or at least have remained there until
this spring, for it seems there is peace again, and the Tower of
Liverpool is empty now."

"_Voyons, voyons, conte moi cela_, René," said Molly, turning her
face, beautifully glowing from the caress of the keen air, eagerly to
her companion. And he, nothing loth to let loose a naturally garrulous
tongue in such company, and on such a theme, started off upon a long
story illustrated by rapid gesticulation.

"I will tell you," cried he, and plunged into explanation with more
energy than coherence, "it was like this:

"I had been already two years in that prison; we were some hundreds of
prisoners, and it was a cruel place. A cruel place, Mademoiselle,
almost as bad as that where we were shut up, my master and I together,
years before, at La Rochelle--and that I will tell you, if you wish,
afterwards.

"I had been taken by the marine conscription, when their Republic
became the French Empire. And a sailor I was then (just, as I heard
later, as Sir Adrian also was at the time; but that I did not know,
you understand), for they took all those that lived on the coast. Now
I had only served with the ship six months, when she was taken by the
English, and, as I say, we were sent to the prison in Liverpool, where
we found so many others, who had been already there for years. When I
heard it was Liverpool, I knew it was a place near Pulwick, and I at
once thought of Mr. Landale, not him, of course, they _now_ call Mr.
Landale, but him who had followed my mistress, Madame your mother, to
help to fight the Republicans in the old time. And I thought I was
saved: I knew he would get me out if it was possible to get any one
out. For, you see, I thought his honour was home again, after we had
been beaten, and there was no more to be done for my lady. We had
contrived to find an English ship to take him home, and he had gone
back, as I thought, Mademoiselle. Well, a prisoner becomes cunning,
and besides, I had been in prison before; I managed to make up a
letter, and as I knew already some English, I ended by persuading a
man to carry it to Pulwick for me. It was a long way, and I had no
money, but I made bold to assure him that Mr. Landale--oh, no! not
_this_ one," René interrupted himself again with a gesture eloquent of
resentful scorn, "but my master; I assured the man that he would
receive recompence from him. You see, Mademoiselle, I knew his heart
was so good, that he would not allow your mother's servant to rot in
the tower.... But days afterwards the man came back. Oh, he was angry!
terribly angry with me, and said he should pay me out--And so he did,
but it is useless to tell you how. He had been to Pulwick, he said,
and had seen Mr. Landale. Mr. Landale never knew anything of any
French prisoner, and refused to give any money to the messenger. Ah,
Mademoiselle, it was very sad! I had not signed my letter for fear of
its getting into wrong hands, but I spoke of many things which I knew
he could not have forgotten, and now I thought that he would not
trouble his mind about such a wretch as René--triple brute that I was
to conceive such thoughts, I should have deserved to remain there for
ever!... I did remain, Mademoiselle, more than three years; many and
many died. As for me, I am hard, but I thought I should never never
walk free again; nor would I, Mademoiselle, these seven years, but for
him."

"He came, then?" said the girl with sympathetic enthusiasm. She was
listening with attention, carried away by the speaker's earnestness,
and knew instinctively to whom the "him," and the "he" referred.

"He came," said René with much emphasis. "Of course he came--the
moment he knew." And after a moment of half-smiling meditation he
pursued:

"It was one May-day, and there was some sun; and there was a smell of
spring in the air which we felt even in that dirty place. Ah, how I
remember me of it all! I was sitting against the wall in the courtyard
with two others who were Bretons, like you and me, Mademoiselle,
shifting with the sun now and then, for you must know a prisoner loves
the sun above all; and there, we only had it a few hours in the day,
even when it did shine. I was carving some stick-heads, and
bread-plates in wood--the only thing I could do to put a little more
than bread, into our own platters," with a grin, "and whistling,
whistling, for if you can't be gay, it is best to play at it.... Well,
that day into our courtyard there was shown a tall man--and I knew him
at once, though he was different enough in his fine coat, and hat and
boots, from the time when I had last seen him, when he was like me, in
rags and with a woollen cap on his head, and no stockings under his
shoes--I knew him at once! And when I saw him I stood still, with my
mouth round, but not whistling more. My blood went phizz, phizz, all
over my body, and suddenly something said in my head: 'René, he has
come to look for you.' He was searching for some one, for he went
round with the guardian looking into each man's face, and giving money
to all who begged--and seeing that, they all got up, and surrounded
him, and he gave them each a piece. But I could not get up; it was as
if some one had cut out my knees and my elbows. And that was how he
saw me the sooner. He noticed I remained there, looking at him like a
dog, saying nothing. When he saw me, he stood a moment quite quiet;
and without pretending anything he came to me and looked down
smiling.--'But if I am not mistaken I know this man,' he said to the
guardian, pretending to be astonished. 'Why, this is René L'Apôtre?
Who would have thought of seeing you here, René L'Apôtre?' says he.
And then he smiled again, as much as to say, 'You see I have come at
last, René.' And once more, as if to explain: 'I have only lately come
back to England,' in a gentle way, all full of meaning.... I don't
know what took me, but I cried like an infant, in my cap. And the
guardian and some of the others laughed, but when I looked up again,
his eyes shone also. He looked so good, so kind, Mademoiselle, that it
was as if I understood in words all he meant, but thought better not
to say at the time. Then he spoke to the guardian, who shook his head
doubtfully. And after saying, 'Have good courage, René L'Apôtre,' and
giving me the rest of his money, he went away--but I knew I was not
forgotten, and I was so happy that the black, black walls were no more
black. And I sang, not for pretence this time, ah no! and I spent all
my money in buying a dinner for those at our end of the prison, and we
even had wine! You may be sure we drank to his happiness."

Here the man, carried away by his feelings, seized his hat and waved
it in the air. Then, ashamed of his ebullition, halted and glanced
diffidently at the young lady. But Molly only smiled in encouragement.

"Well, and then?" she asked.

"Well, Mademoiselle," he resumed, "it was long before I saw him again;
but I kept good courage, as I was told. One day, at last, the guardian
came to fetch me and took me to the governor's cabinet; and my master
was there--I was told that my release had been obtained, though not
without trouble, and that Sir Adrian Landale, of Pulwick Priory, had
gone warranty for me that I should not use my liberty to the prejudice
of His Majesty, the King of England, and that I was to be grateful to
Sir Adrian. I almost laughed at him, Mademoiselle. Oh! he took care to
advise me to be grateful!" And here René paused ironically, but there
was a quiver on his lips. "Ah, he little knew, Monsieur the Governor,
that when my master had taken me to an inn, and the door was closed
over the private room, he who had looked so grand and careless before
the governor, took me by both hands and then, in his fine clothes,
embraced me--me the dirty prisoner--just as he did when he left me in
the old days, and was as poor and ragged as I was! And let me weep
there on his breast, for I had to weep or my heart would have broken.
But I wander, Mademoiselle, you only wanted to know how I came to be
in his service still. That is how it was; as I tell you."

Molly was moved by this artless account of fidelity and gratitude, and
as she walked on in attentive silence, René went on:

"It was then his honour made me know how, only by accident, and months
after his own return, he chanced to hear of the letter that some one
had sent to Mr. Landale from the Tower of Liverpool, and that Mr.
Landale had said he knew nothing of any French prisoner and had
thought it great impudence indeed. And how he--my master--had suddenly
thought (though my letter had been destroyed) that it might be from
me, the servant of my lady your mother, and his old companion in arms
(for his honour will always call me so). He could not sleep, he told
me, till he had found out. He started for Liverpool that very night.
And, having discovered that it was me, Mademoiselle, he never rested
till he had obtained my liberty."

       *       *       *       *       *

Walking slowly in the winter sunshine, the one talking volubly, the
other intently listening, the odd pair had reached a rising knoll in
the park where, under the shelter of a cluster of firs, stood a row of
carved stone seats that had once been sedillas in the dismantled
Priory Church.

From this secluded spot could be obtained the most superb view of the
whole country-side. At the end of the green, gently-sloping stretch of
pasture-land, which extended, broken only by irregular clusters of
trees, down to the low cliffs forming the boundary of the strand, lay
the wide expanse of brown sand, with its streamlets and salt pools
scintillating under the morning sun.

Further in the western horizon, a crescent of deep blue sea, sharply
defined under a lighter blue sky and fringed landwards with a
straggling border of foam, advanced slowly to the daily conquest of
the golden bay. In the midst of that frame the eye was irresistibly
drawn, as to the chief object in the picture, to the distant rock of
Scarthey--a green patch, with the jagged red outline of the ruins
clear cut against the sky.

Since this point of view in the park had been made known to her, on
the first day when she was piloted through the grounds, Molly had more
than once found her way to the sedillas, yielding to the fascination
of the mysterious island, and in order to indulge in the fancies
suggested by its ever-changing aspect.

At the fall of day the red glow of the sinking sun would glint through
the dismantled windows; and against the flaming sky the ruins would
stand out black and grim, suggesting nought but abandonment and
desolation until suddenly, as the gloom gathered upon the bay, the
light of the lamp springing to the beacon tower, would reverse the
impression and bring to mind a picture of faithful and patient
watching.

When the sun was still in the ascendant, the island would be green and
fresh to the gaze, evoking no dismal impression; and as the rays
glanced back from the two or three glazed windows, and from the roofed
beacon-tower, the little estate wore a look of solid security and
privacy in spite of its crumbling walls, which was almost as
tantalising to her romantic curiosity.

It was with ulterior motives, therefore, that she had again wended her
way to the knoll this sunny, breezy morning. She now sat down and let
her eyes wander over the wide panorama, whilst René stood at a humble
distance, looking with eyes of delight from her to the distant abode
of his master.

"And now you live with Sir Adrian, in that little isle yonder," said
she, at length. "How came it that you never sought to go back to your
country?"

"There was the war then, Mademoiselle, and it was difficult to
return."

"But there has been peace these six months," insisted Molly.

"Yes, Mademoiselle, though I only learned it yesterday. But then, bah!
What is that? His honour needs me. I have stopped with him seven
years, and my faith, I shall stop with him for ever."

There was a long silence.

"Does any one know," asked Molly, at length, with a vague air of
addressing the trees, mindful, as she spoke, of the manner in which
Mr. Landale had practically dismissed her and her sister at a certain
point of his version of his brother's history, "_why_ Sir Adrian has
shut himself up in that place instead of living at the Hall all this
time?"

A certain dignity seemed to come over the servant's squat figure. He
hesitated for a moment, and then said very simply, his honest eyes
fixed upon the girl's face: "I am only his humble servant,
Mademoiselle, and it is enough for me that it is his pleasure to live
alone."

"You are indeed faithful," said Molly, with a little generous flush of
shame at this peasant's delicacy compared to her own curiosity. And,
after another pause, she added, pensively: "But tell me, does Sir
Adrian never leave his solitude? I confess I should like to meet one
who had known my mother, who could talk of her to me."

René looked at the young girl with a wistful countenance, as though
the question had embarked him on a new train of thought. But he
answered evasively: "His honour comes rarely to Pulwick--rarely."

Molly, with a little movement of pique, rose abruptly from her seat.
But quickly changing her mood again she turned round as she was about
to depart, and smiling: "Thank you, René," she said, and held out her
dainty hand, which he, blushing, engulfed in his great paw, "I am
going in, I am dreadfully hungry. We shall be here two months or more,
and I shall want to see you again ... if you come back to Pulwick."

She walked quickly away towards the house. René followed the
retreating figure with a meditative look, so long as he could keep her
in sight, then turned his gaze to the island and there stood lost in a
deep muse, regardless of the fact that his sweetheart, Moggie, was
awaiting a parting interview at the lodge, and that the tide that
would wait for no man was swelling under his boat upon the beach.

       *       *       *       *       *

A sudden resolution was formed in Molly's mind as the immediate result
of this conversation, and she framed her behaviour that morning solely
with a view to its furtherance.

Breakfast was over when, glowing from her morning walk, she entered
the dining-room; but, regardless of Mr. Landale's pointedly elaborate
courtesy in insisting upon a fresh repast being brought to her, his
sarcastically overacted solicitude, intended to point out what a deal
of avoidable trouble she gave to the household, Molly remained
perfectly gracious, and ate the good things, plaintively set before
her by Miss Landale, with the most perfect appetite and good humour.

She expatiated in terms of enthusiasm on the beauty of the estate and
the delight of her morning exploration, and concluded this
condescending account of her doings (in which the meeting with René
did not figure) with a request that Mr. Landale should put horses at
the disposal of herself and her sister for a riding excursion that
very afternoon. And with determined energy she carried the point,
declaring, despite his prognostications of coming bad weather, that
the sunshine would last the day.

In this wise was brought about the eventful ride which cost the life
of Lucifer, and introduced such heart-stirring phantasmagories into
the even tenor of Sir Adrian Landale's seclusion.

       *       *       *       *       *

That evening the news rapidly spread throughout Pulwick that the cruel
sands of the bay had secured yet another victim.

In an almost fainting condition, speechless with horror, and hardly
able yet to realise to the full her own anguish, Madeleine was
conducted by the terrified groom, through the howling wind and
drenching rain, back to the Priory.

And there, between the fearful outcries of Miss Landale, and the deep
frowning gravity of her brother, the man stammered out his tale.--How
the young lady when the rain first began, had insisted,
notwithstanding his remonstrances, upon taking the causeway to the
island, and how it was actually by force that he prevented the other
lady from following so soon as she understood the danger into which
her sister was running.

There was no use, he had thought (explained the man, half
apologetically), for two more to throw away their lives, just for no
good, that way. And so they had sat on their horses and watched in
terror, as well as they could through the torrents of rain. They had
seen in the distance Lucifer break from the young lady's control, and
swerve from the advancing sea. And then had come the great gust that
blew the rain and the sand in their faces and set their horses
dancing; and, when they could see again, all traces of horse and rider
had disappeared, and there lay nothing before them but the advancing
tide, though the island and its tower were still just visible through
the storm.

No amount of cross-examination could elicit any further information.
The girl's impulse seemed to have been quite sudden, and she had only
laughed back at the groom over her shoulder upon his earnest shout of
warning, though she had probably expected them to follow her. And as
there could be no doubt about the calamity which had ensued, and no
possible rescue even of the body, he had returned home at once to
bring the disastrous news.

Madeleine had been carried completely unconscious to her bed, but
presently Miss Sophia was summoned to her side as the girl showed
signs of returning animation, and Rupert was left alone.

He fell to pacing the room, lost in a labyrinth of complicated and
far-reaching reflections.

Beyond doubt he was shocked and distressed by the sudden and horrible
disaster; and yet as an undercurrent to these first natural thoughts,
there ran presently a distinct notion that he would have felt the
grievousness of it more keenly had Madeleine perished in that cruel
manner and her sister survived to bring the tale home.

The antagonism which his cousin, in all the insolence of her young
beauty and vigorous self-esteem, had shown for him had been mutual. He
had instinctively felt that she was an enemy, and more than that--a
danger to him. This danger was now removed from his path, and by no
intervention or even desire of his own.

The calamity which had struck the remaining sister into such
prostration would make her rich indeed; by anticipation one of the
great heiresses in England.

"Sorrow," thought Mr. Landale, and his lip curled disdainfully, "a
girl's sorrow, at least, is a passing thing. Wealth is an everlasting
benefit."

Madeleine was a desirable woman upon all counts, even pecuniary
considerations apart, or would be to one who had a heart to give--and
even if the heart was dead...?

Altogether the sum of his meditations was assuming a not unpleasing
aspect; and the undercurrent in time assumed almost the nature of
self-congratulation. Even the ordeal which was yet to come when he
would have to face Miss O'Donoghue and render an account of his short
trust, could not weigh the balance down on the wrong side.

And yet a terrible ordeal it would be; women are so unreasonable, and
Aunt Rose so much more so even than the average woman. Still it had to
be done; the sooner the better; if possible while the storm lasted and
while roaring waters kept all ill news upon land and the interloping
heir on his island.

And thus that very evening, whilst Madeleine sobbed on her pillow and
Molly was snugly enjoying the warm hospitality of Scarthey, a mounted
messenger departed from the Priory to overtake Miss O'Donoghue on the
road to Bath and acquaint her with the terrible fatality that had
befallen her darling and favourite.



CHAPTER XV

UNDER THE LIGHT


DECEMBER 16TH.--Again I separate your green boards, my diary. No one
has opened you; for your key, now a little rusty, still hangs upon my
watch--my poor watch whose heart has ceased to beat, who, unlike its
mistress, has _not_ survived the ordeal by sand and water! What is
better, no one has attempted to force your secrets from you; which,
since it appears that it had been agreed that Molly de Savenaye was
dead and buried in Scarthey sands, speaks well for all concerned. But
she is not dead. She is very much alive; and very happy to be so.

This will indeed be an adventure worth reading, in the days to come;
and it must be recounted--though were I to live to a hundred years I
do not think I could ever forget it. Tanty Rose (she has not yet
stopped scolding everybody for the fright she has had) is in the next
room with Madeleine, who, poor dear, has been made quite ill by this
prank of mine; but since after the distress caused by her Molly's
death she has had the joy of finding her Molly alive again, things are
balanced, I take it; and all being well that ends well, the whole
affair is pleasant to remember. It has been actually as interesting as
I expected--now that I think it over--even more.

Of all the many pictures that I fancied, not one was at all like the
reality--and this reality I could not have rested till I had found. It
was René's account decided me. I laid my plans very neatly to pay the
recluse a little visit, and plead necessity for the intrusion. My
machinations would have been perfect if they had not caused Madeleine
and poor old Tanty unnecessary grief.

But now that I know the truth, I cannot distinctly remember what it
was that I _did_ expect to find on that island.

If it had not been that I had already gone through more excitement
than I bargained for to reach that mysterious rock, how exciting I
should have found it to wander up to unknown ruins, to knock at the
closed doors of an enchanted castle, ascend unknown stairs and engage
in devious unknown passages--all the while on the tiptoe of
expectation!

But when I dragged myself giddy and faint from the boiling breakers
and scrambled upon the desolate island under the rain that beat me
like the lashes of a whip, pushing against a wind that bellowed and
rushed as though determined to thrust me back to the waters I had
cheated of their prey, my only thoughts were for succour and shelter.

Such warm shelter, such loving welcome, it was of course impossible
that I could for a moment have anticipated!

Conceive, my dear diary, the feelings of a poor, semi-drowned
wanderer, shivering with cold, with feet torn by cruel stones, who
suddenly emerges from howl and turmoil into a warm, quiet room to be
received as a long and eagerly expected guest, whose advent brings
happiness, whose presence is a highly prized favour; in fact not as
one who has to explain her intrusion, but as one who in the situation
holds the upper hand herself.

And _this_ was my welcome from him whose absence from Pulwick was more
haunting than any presence I can think of!

Of course I knew him at once. Even had I not expected to see him--had
I not come to seek him in fact--I should have known him at once from
the portrait whose melancholy, wide-open eyes had followed me about
the gallery. But I had not dreamed to see him so little altered. Now,
apart from the dress, if he is in any way changed from the picture, it
is in a look of greater youth and less sombreness. The portrait is
handsome, but the original is better.

Had it not been so, I imagine I might have felt vastly different when
I was seized and enfolded and--kissed! As it was I cannot remember
that, even at the moment of this extraordinary proceeding, I was
otherwise than pleased, nor that the dark hints of Mr. Landale
concerning Sir Adrian's madness returned to disturb my mind in the
least.

And yet I found myself enveloped in great strong arms out of which I
could not have extricated myself by the most frantic efforts--although
the folding was soft and tender--and I loved that impression. Why? I
cannot say.

His words of love were not addressed to me; from his exclamation I
knew that the real and present Molly was not the true object of his
sudden ecstasy.

And yet I am glad that this is the first man who has been able to kiss
Molly de Savenaye. It is quite incomprehensible; I ought to be
indignant.

Now the whole secret of my reception is plain to see, and it is
pathetic; Sir Adrian Landale was in love with my mother; when she was
an unprotected widow he followed her to our own country; if she had
not died soon after, he would have married her.

What a true knight must this Sir Adrian be, to keep so fresh for
twenty years the remembrance of his boyish love that when I came in
upon him to look at him with _her_ eyes, it was to find him pondering
upon her, and to fill his soul with the rapturous thought that his
love had come back to him. Though I was aware that all this fervour
was not addressed to me, there was something very gratifying in being
so like one who could inspire such long-lived passion.--Yes, it was
unexpectedly pleasant and comforting to be so received. And the tender
care, the thoughtful solicitude next bestowed on the limp and
dishevelled waif of the sea by my _beau ténébreux_ were unmistakably
meant for Molly and no one else, whatever his first imaginings may
have been, and they were quite as interesting to receive.

The half-hour I spent, cosily ensconced by his hands, and waited upon
by his queer household, was perhaps the best I have ever known. He
stood by the fireplace, looking down from his great height, with a
wondering smile upon me. I declare that the loving kindness of his
eyes, which he has wide, grey, and beautiful, warmed me as much as the
pyramid of logs he had set burning on the hearth!

I took a good reckoning of the man, from under the gigantic collar, in
which, I felt, my head rested like a little egg at the bottom of a
warm nest. "And so," I thought, "here is the Light-keeper of Scarthey
Island!" And I was obliged to confess that he was a more
romantic-looking person than even in my wildest dreams I had pictured
to myself--that in fact I had found out for the first time _the man_
really approved of.

And I congratulated myself on my own cleverness--for it was evident
that, just as I had suspected from René's reticent manner, even by him
our existence at Pulwick had not been mentioned to "the master."

And as Mr. Landale was quite determined to avail himself of his
brother's _sauvagerie_ not to let him know anything about us, on his
side, but for me we might have remained at and departed from Pulwick
unknown to the head of the house! And what a pity that would have
been!

Now, _why_ did not Mr. Landale wish his brother to know? Did he think
(as indeed has happened) that the Light-keeper would take too kindly
to the Savenaye children? Or to one of them? If so, he will be _bien
attrappé_, for there is no doubt that my sudden and dramatic arrival
upon his especial domain has made an impression on him that no meeting
prepared and discussed beforehand could have produced.

Adrian Landale may have been in love with our beautiful mamma in his
boyish days, but now, Sir Adrian, the _man_ is in love with the
beautiful Molly!

That is positive.

I was a long time before I could go to sleep in the tower; it was too
perfect to be in bed in such a place, safe and happy in the midst of
the rage I could hear outside; to have seen the unknown, to have found
him such as he is--to be under _the Light_!

What would have happened if my cousin had really been mad (and René
his keeper, as that stupid country-side wit suggested in my ear the
other night at dinner)? It would have been still more of an adventure
of course, but not one which even "Murthering Moll the Second" can
regret. Or if he had been a dirty, untidy hermit, as Madeleine
thought? That would have spoilt all.

Thus in the owl's nest, as Mr. Landale (spiteful creature!) called it
to Tanty, there lives not owl any more than lunatic. A polished
gentleman, with white, exquisite hands, who, when he is discovered by
the most unexpected of visitors, is shaven as smooth as Rupert
himself; has the most unexceptionable of snowy linen and
old-fashioned, it is true, but most well-fitting clothes.

As for the entertainment for the said casual visitor, not even Pulwick
with all its resources (where housekeeping, between the fussy brother
and the docile sister is a complicated science) could have produced
more real comfort.

In the morning, when I woke late (it was broad daylight), feeling as
if I had been beaten and passed through a mangle, for there was not an
inch of my poor body that was not sore, I had not turned round and so
given sign of life, before I heard a whisper outside my door; then
comes a sturdy knock and in walks old Margery, still dignified as a
queen's housekeeper, bearing a bowl of warm frothy milk.

And this being gratefully drunk by me, she gravely inquires, in her
queer provincial accent, how I am this morn; and then goes to report
to some anxious inquirer (whom?--I can easily guess) that with the
exception of my cut foot I am very well.

Presently she returns and lights a blazing fire. Then in come my dress
and linen and my one shoe, all cleaned, dried and mended, only my poor
habit is so torn and so stiff that I have to put up with Margery's
best striped skirt in lieu of it, till she has time to mend and wash
it. As it is she must have been at work all night upon these repairs
for me.

Again she goes out--for another consultation, I suppose--and comes
back to find me half clad, hopping about the room; this time she has
got nice white linen bandages and with them ties up my little foot,
partly for the cuts, partly for want of a sandal, till it is twice the
size of its companion. But I can walk on it.

Then my strange handmaid--who by the way is a droll, grumbling old
soul, and orders me about as if she were still my nurse--dresses me
and combs my hair, which will not yet awhile be rid of all its sand.
And so, in due course, Molly emerges from her bower, as well tended
almost as she might have been at Bath, except that Margery's striped
skirt is a deal too short for her and she displays a little more of
one very nice ankle and one gouty foot than fashion warrants.

And in this manner the guest goes to meet her host in the great room.

He was walking up and down as if impatiently expecting me, and when I
hobbled in, he came forward with a smile on his face which, once more,
I thought beautiful.

"God be praised!" he said, taking both my hands and kissing one of
them, with his fine air of gallantry which was all the more delightful
on account of his evident earnestness, "you seem none the worse for
this terrible adventure. I dreaded this morning to hear that you were
in a fever. You know," he added so seriously that I had to smile, "you
might easily have had a fever from this yesterday's work; and what
should we have done without doctor and medicines!"

"You have a good surgeon, at least," said I laughing and pointing at
my swaddled extremity. He laughed too at the _enmitouflage_. "I tried
to explain how it was to be done," he said, "but I think I could have
managed it more neatly myself."

Then he helped me to the arm-chair, and René came in, and, after a
profound bow (which did not preclude much staring and smiling at me
afterwards), laid, on a dazzling tablecloth, a most tempting
breakfast, explaining the while, in his odd English, "The bread is
stale, for we bake only twice a month. But there are some cakes hot
from the fire, some eggs, new laid last evening, some fresh milk, some
tea. It was a happy thing I arrived yesterday for there was no more
tea. The butter wants, but Mistress Margery will have some made
to-morrow, so that the demoiselle will not leave without having tasted
our Scarthey butter."

All the while Sir Adrian looked on with a sort of dreamy smile--a
happy smile!

"Poor René!" he said, when the man had left the room, "one would think
that you have brought to him almost as much joy as to me."

I wondered what Mr. Landale would have said had he through some magic
glass been able to see this little feast. I never enjoyed a meal more.
As for my host, he hardly touched anything, but, I could see, was all
absorbed in the delight of looking at me; and this he showed quite
openly in the most child-like manner.

Not one of the many fine gentlemen it has been my fate to meet in my
six months' apprenticeship to the "great world," not cousin Rupert
himself with all his elaborate politeness (and Rupert has de _grandes
manières_, as Tanty says), could have played the host with a more
exquisite courtesy, and more true hospitality. So I thought, at least.
Now and again, it is true, while his eyes were fixed on me, I would
see how the soul behind them was away, far in the past, and then at a
word, even at a movement, back it would come to me, with the tenderest
softening I have ever seen upon a human face.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was only at the end of breakfast that he suddenly adverted to the
previous day.

"Of course," he said, hesitatingly, but keeping a frank gaze on mine,
"you must have thought me demented when--when you first entered,
yesterday."

Now, I had anticipated this apology as inevitable, and I was prepared
to put him at his ease.

"I----? Not at all," I said quite gravely; and, seeing the puzzled
expression that came upon his face, I hastened to add in lower tones:
"I know I am very like my mother, and it was her name you called out
upon seeing me." And then I stopped, as if that had explained
everything.

He looked at me with a wondering air, and fell again into a muse.
After a while he said, with his great simplicity which seems somehow
in him the last touch of the most perfect breeding: "Yes, such an
apparition was enough to unhinge any one's mind for the moment. You
never knew her, child, and therefore never mourned her death. But
we--that is, René and I, who tried so hard to save her--though it is
so long ago, we have not forgotten."

It was then I asked him to tell me about the mother I had never known.
At first it was as if he could not; he fell into a great silence,
through which I could feel the working of his old sorrow. So then I
said to him quickly, for I feared he thought me an indiscreet
trespasser upon sacred ground, that he must remember my right to know
more than the vague accounts I had been given of my mother's history.

"No one will tell me of her," I said. "It is hard, for I am her own
daughter."

"It is wrong," he said very gently; "you ought to know, for you are
indeed, most verily, her own daughter."

And then by fragments he tried to tell me a little of her beauty, her
loving heart, her faithfulness and bravery. At first it was with
great tripping sighs as if the words hurt him, but by and by it came
easier, and with his eyes fixed wistfully on me he took me, as it
were, by his side through all their marvellous adventures.

And thus I heard the stirring story of the "Savenaye band," and I felt
prouder of my race than I had ever been before. Hitherto, being a
Savenaye only meant the pride our aunt tried to instil into us of
being undeniably _biennées_ and connected with numbers of great
families. But the tale of the deeds mine had done for the King's
cause, and especially the achievements of my own mother in starting
such an expedition after my father's death, and following its fortunes
to the bitter end, made my blood tingle with a new emotion.

Little wonder that Sir Adrian should have devoted his life to her
service. How madly enthralled I should have been, being a man, and
free and strong, by the presence of a woman such as my mother. I, too,
would have prostrated myself to worship her image returning to
life--and I am that living, living portrait!

When he came to the story of her death, he hesitated and finally
stopped. It must have been horrible. I could see it in his eyes, and I
dared not press him.

Now, I suppose I am the only one in the world, besides René, who knows
this man as he is. And I am proud of it.

And it is for this constancy, which no vulgar soul of them can
understand, that Rupert and his class have dubbed the gallant
gentleman a madman. It fills me with scorn of them. I do not yet know
what love is, therefore of course I cannot fathom its grief; but this
much I know--that if I loved and yet could not reach as high as ever
love may reach both in joy and sorrow, I should despise myself. I,
too, would draw the utmost from life that life can give.

He never even hinted at his love for my mother; speaking of himself
throughout as René might, as of her humble devoted servant merely. And
then the question began to gnaw at me. "Did she love him?" and
somehow, I felt as if I could not rest till I knew; and I had it on my
lips twenty times to cry out to him: "I know you loved her: oh! tell
me, did she love you?" And yet I dared no more have done so, and
overstepped the barrier of his gentle, reticent dignity, than I could
have thrust the lighthouse tower down; and I could not think, either,
whether I should be glad to hear that she had loved him, or that she
had not. Not even here, alone with myself, can I answer that question.

But though I respect him because he is as I have found him, and
understand how rare a personality it takes to achieve such refinement
of faithfulness, it seems to me, that to teach this constant lover to
forget the past in the present, would be something worth living
for--something worthy of _me_!

Molly!--What is the meaning of this? You have never before put that
thought in words, even to yourself! But let me be frank, or else what
is the use of this diary?

Looking back to those delightful three days, did not the _thought_
come to me, if not the words? Well, well, it is better, sometimes, I
believe, to let oneself drift, than to try and guide the boat; and I
must hurry back to Scarthey or I shall never have told my story....

How swiftly time had flown by us! I sitting in the arm-chair, with the
old dog's muzzle on my lap, and Sir Adrian standing by his great
chimney; the clock struck twelve, in the midst of the long silence,
and I had thought that barely an hour had passed.

I got up, and, seeing me limp in my attempt to walk, Sir Adrian gave
me his arm; and so we went round the great room _bras dessus_, _bras
dessous_, and it already seemed quite natural to feel like an intimate
friend in that queer dwelling.

We paused a long time in silence by the window, the tempest wind was
still raging, but the sky was clear, and all round us was a wonderful
sight; the sea, as far as eyes could reach, white with foam, lashed
and tossing in frenzy round the rock on which we stood so safely, and
rising in long jets of spray, which now and then dashed as far as our
window; and when I looked down nearer, I could see the little stunted
trees, bending backwards and forwards under the blast, and an odd idea
came to my mind:--they looked to me when they caught my sight, as
though they were bowing deep, hurriedly and frantically greeting me
among them.

I glanced up at my silent companion, the true knight, and found his
wide grey eyes fixed upon me with the same expression that was
already familiar to me, which I had especially noted as he told me his
long tale of olden times.

This time I felt the look go to my heart. _And then the thought first
came to my mind, all unformed, but still sweet._

I don't know exactly why, but in answer to his sad look, I smiled at
him, without a word, upon which he suddenly grew pale. After a while
he gave a sigh, and, as he drew my arm again through his, I fancy his
hand trembled a little.

When he had taken me back to my chair, he walked to and fro in
silence, looking at me ever and anon.

A long time we passed thus, without speaking; but it seemed as if our
thoughts were intermixing in harmony in the midst of our silence. And
then the spell was broken by René, who never came in without making me
his great scrape, trying hard not to beam too obtrusively in the
delight that evidently overtakes him whenever he sets eyes on me.

It was after a prolonged talk between him and the master, I fancy,
concerning the means of attending fitly upon my noble and delicate
person, that Sir Adrian, brought back, evidently, to the consideration
of present affairs, began to be exercised about the best means of
whiling away my time. When he hinted at the difficulty, I very soon
disposed of it.

I told him I had never been so happy in my life before--that the hours
went all too quickly--I told him there was so much he and René had yet
to tell me of their wonderful adventures, that I thought I should have
to carry them back to Pulwick with me. At the mention of Pulwick his
brow darkened, and René turned away to cough into his hand, and I saw
that I had gone too fast. (N.B.--Pulwick is evidently a sore subject;
I am sure I am not surprised. I can conceive how Rupert and Sophia
would drive a man of Sir Adrian's sensitiveness nearly to desperation.
Yet I _have_ brought Sir Adrian back to Pulwick, in spite of all. Is
not that a feather in my cap?)

But to return; I next made René laugh aloud and Sir Adrian give his
indulgent smile--such as a father might give to his child--by adding
that when I was bored I would soon let them know. "I always do," I
said, "for I consider that a duty to myself."

"God knows," said this strange man then, half smiling, "I would we
could keep you here for ever."

It was almost a declaration, but his eyes were far off--it was not
addressed to me.

I soon found that the recollection of all the extraordinary incidents
Sir Adrian had lived through, is one neither of pride nor pleasure to
him, but, all the same, never has anything in books seemed to me so
stirring, as the tale of relentless fate, of ever-recurring battles
and struggles and misfortunes told by the man who, still in the
strength of life, has now chosen to forego everything that might for
the remainder of his days have compensated him.

Willing as he was to humour me, however, and disproportionately
anxious to amuse me, it was little more than the dry bones of his
history, I was able to obtain from him.

With René's help, however, and my own lively imagination I have been
able to piece together a very wonderful skeleton, from these same dry
bones, and, moreover, endow it with flesh and blood and life.

René was very willing to descant upon his master's exploits, as far as
he knew them: "Whew, Mademoiselle should have seen him fight!" he
would say, "a lion, Mademoiselle, a real lion!"

And then I would contrast the reposeful, somewhat immobile
countenance, the dreaming eye, the almost womanly softness of his
smile, with the picture, and find the contrast piquant in the extreme.

Concerning his present home Sir Adrian was more willing to speak--I
had told him how the light on the little island had fascinated me from
the distance, and all the surmises I had made about it.

"And so, it was in order to see what sort of dungeon they kept the
madman in," he said, laughing quietly, "that you pushed the
reconnaissance, which nearly sent you into the jaws of death!"

I was so struck, at first, by his speaking of himself as the reputed
"madman" that I could not answer. To think of him as serenely
contemptuous of the world's imputation--and an imputation so galling
as this one of being irresponsible for his actions--and deliberately
continuing his even way without taking the trouble to refute it, has
given me an insight into his nature, that fills me with admiration,
and yet, at the same time, with a sort of longing to see him
reinstated in his proper place, and casting out those slandering
interlopers.

But, as he was waiting to be answered, I had to collect my thoughts
and admit, not without a little bashfulness, that my first account of
my exploit had contained a slight prevarication.

In all he has to say about his little Scarthey domain, about the
existence he has made for himself there, I cannot help noticing with
what affection he speaks of René. René, according to Sir Adrian, is
everything and everywhere; a perfect familiar genius; he is counsellor
as well as valet, plays his master's game of chess as well as shaves
him, can tune his organ, and manage his boat, and cast his nets, for
he is fisherman as well as gardener; he is the steward of this
wonderful little estate, and its stock of one pony, one cow, and
twelve hens; he tends the light, and can cook a dinner a great deal
better than his great rival, old Margery.

Of this last accomplishment we had good proof in the shape of various
dainties that appeared at our dinner. For when I exclaimed in
astonishment, the master said, well pleased, and pointing to the
attentive major-domo: "This is René's way of spoiling me. But now he
has surpassed himself to celebrate so unique an occasion."

And René's face was all one grin of rapture. I observe that on
occasions his eyes wander quite tenderly from me to his master.

Shall I ever enjoy dinners again like those in that old ruined tower!
Or hours like those during which I listened to tales of peril and
adventure, or to the music that pealed forth from the distant corner,
when Sir Adrian sat down to his organ and made it speak the wordless
language of the soul: that language that made me at times shiver with
a mad yearning for life, more life; at times soothed my heart with a
caress of infinite softness.

How is it that our organ-songs at the convent _never_ moved me in this
fashion?

Ah! those will be days to remember; all the more for being certain
that they will not be forgotten by him. Yes, those days have brought
some light into his melancholy life.

Even René knows that. "Oh, my lady," said he to me as he was leaving
the island yesterday. "You have come like the good fairy, you have
brought back the joy of life to his honour: I have not heard him
really laugh--before this year passed I did not believe he knew any
more how to laugh--what you can call laugh!"

It is quite true. I had made some droll remark about Tanty and Cousin
Sophia, and when he laughed he looked like a young man.

He was quick enough in grasping at a pretext for keeping me yet
another day. Yesterday the wind having suddenly abated in the night,
there was quite a bevy of little fishing-boats sailing merrily away.
And the causeway at low water was quite visible. As we looked out I
know the same idea came to both our minds, though there was no word
between us. At last it was I who spoke. "The crossing is quite safe,"
said I. And I added, as he answered nothing, "I almost wish now it was
not. How quick the time has gone by, here!"

His countenance when I looked up was darker. He kept his eyes fixed in
the distance. At last he said in a low voice:

"Yes, I suppose it is high time you should go back."

"I am sure I don't wish it," I said quite frankly--he is not the sort
of man with whom one would ever think of _minauderie_, "but Madeleine
will be miserable about me."

"And so you would really care to stop here," said he, with a smile of
wonder on his face, "if it were not for that reason?"

"Naturally I would," said I. "I feel already as cosy as a tame cat
here. And if it were not for Madeleine, poor little Madeleine, who
must be breaking her heart!--But then how can I go back?--I have no
wraps and only one shoe?"

His face had cleared again. He was walking up and down in his usual
way, whilst I hopped back, with more limping than was at all
necessary, to my favourite arm-chair.

"True, true," he said, as if speaking to himself, "you cannot walk,
with one shoe and a bandaged foot. And your clothes are too thin for
the roundabout sea journey in this cold wind. This is what we shall
do, child," he went on, coming up to me with a sage expression that
struggled with his evident eager desire. "René shall go off, as soon
as the tide permits, carrying the good news of your safety to your
sister, and bring back some warm things for you to wear to-morrow
morning, and I shall write to Rupert to send a carriage, to wait for
you on the strand."

And so, pleased like two children who have found a means of securing a
further holiday, we wrote both our letters. I wonder whether it
occurred to Sir Adrian, as it did to me, that, if we had been so very
anxious that I should be restored to the care of Pulwick with the
briefest delay, I might have gone with René that same day, wrapped up
in a certain cloak which had done good warming service already; and
that, as René had constructed with his cunning hands a sufficient if
not very pretty sandal for my damaged foot out of some old piece of
felt, I might have walked from the beach to the fishing village; and
that there, no doubt, a cart or a donkey might have conveyed me home
in triumph.

Perhaps it did _not_ occur to him; and certainly I had no desire to
suggest it on my side.

Thus, soon after mid-day, Master René departed alone. And Sir Adrian
and I, both very glad of our reprieve, watched, leaning side by side
upon the window-sill, the brave little craft glide away on the still
ruffled waters, until, when it had grown very small in the distance,
we saw the sail lowered and knew René had reached mainland.

And that was perhaps the best day of the three. René having been
unexpectedly despatched, we had to help to do everything ourselves
with old Margery, who is rather feeble. The sky was clear and
beautiful; and, followed gravely by Jem the dog, we went round the
little outer domain. I fed the hens, and Sir Adrian carried the pail
when Margery had milked the cow; we paid a visit in his wide paddock
to the pony, who trotted up to his master whinnying with pleasure. We
looked at the waters rushing past like a mill race on the further side
of the island, as the tide was rising, and he explained to me that it
was this rush which makes the neighbourhood of Scarthey so dangerous
to unwary crafts; we went down into the sea-caves which penetrate deep
under the ruins.--They say that in olden days there was a passage
under the rocky causeway that led as far as the old Priory, but all
traces of it have been effaced.

Then, later on, Sir Adrian showed me in detail his library.

"I was made to be a man of books," he said, when I wondered at the
number he had accumulated around him--there must be thousands, "a man
of study, not of action. And you know how fate has treated me. These
have been my one consolation of late years."

And it marvelled me to think that one who had achieved so many manly
deeds, should love musty old tiresome things so much. He really turned
them over quite reverentially. I myself do not think much of books as
companions.

When I made that little confession he smiled rather sadly, and said
that one like me never would lack the suitable companions of youth and
happiness; but that a creature of his unfortunate disposition could
find, in these long rows of folded leaves, the society of the best and
the loftiest minds, not of our age, but of all ages, and, what was
more, could find them ready for intercourse and at their best humour,
just in those hours when he himself was fit and disposed for such
intercourse--and this without dread of inflicting his own misery and
dulness upon them.

But I could not agree with his appreciation. I felt my nose curl with
disdain at the breath of dust and must and age these old tomes gave
forth, and I said again it was, to my mind, but a poor and tame sort
of fellowship.

He was perched on his ladder and had some odd volume in his hand, from
which he was about to give an example in point; on hearing, however,
this uncongenial sentiment he pushed back the book and came down
quickly enough to talk to me. And this was the last of our excursions
among the bookshelves.

Of this I was glad, for I confess it was there I liked Sir Adrian the
least.

When the end of the short day drew near it was time to go and attend
to the beacon. We ascended the ladder-like wooden stairs leading to
the platform. Then I had the _reverse_ of that view that for so many
days had engrossed my interest.

_Pulwick from Scarthey!..._ What a long time it seemed then since I
had left those rooms the windows of which now sent us back the rays of
the setting sun! and I had no desire to return, though return I must
on the morrow.

René, of course, had left everything in his usual trim order, so all
we had to do was to see to the lamp. It pleased my fantasy to light
the beacon of Scarthey myself, and I struck the steel and kindled the
brimstone and set fire to the huge, ill-smelling wicks until they gave
a flame as big as my hand; and "there is the light of Scarthey at
close quarters," I thought. And the Light-keeper was bending over me
with his kindly look, humouring me like a child.

As we sat there silently for a while in the twilight, there came from
the little room adjoining the turret an odd sound of flapping and
uncanny, melancholy cries. Sir Adrian rose, and we remembered the
seagull by which he had played the part of good Samaritan.

It had happened on the second day, as the storm was at its height.
There had come a great crash at the window, and we saw something white
that struggled on the sill outside; Sir Adrian opened the casement
(when we had a little tornado of our own inside, and all his papers
began dancing a sarabande in the room), and we gathered in the poor
creature that was hurt and battered and more than half stunned,
opening alternately its yellow bill and its red eyes in the most
absurd manner.

With a solicitude that it amused me to watch, Sir Adrian had tended
the helpless, goose-like thing and then handed it to René's further
care.

René, it seemed, had thought of trying to tame the wild bird, and had
constructed a huge sort of cage with laths and barrel-hoops, and
installed it there with various nasty, sea-fishy, weedy things, such
as seagulls consider dainty. But the prisoner, now its vigour had
returned, yearned for nothing but the free air, and ever and anon
almost broke its wings in sudden frenzy to escape.

"I wonder at René," said Sir Adrian, contemplating the animal with his
grave look of commiseration; "René, who, like myself, has been a
prisoner! He will be disappointed, but we shall make one of God's
creatures happy this day. There is not overmuch happiness in this
world."

And, regardless of the vicious pecks aimed at his hands, he with
firmness folded the great strong wings and legs and carried the gull
outside on the parapet.

There the bird sat a moment, astonished, turning its head round at its
benefactor before taking wing; and then it rose flying away in great
swoops--flap, flap--across the waves till we could see it no longer.
Ugly and awkward as the creature looked in its cage, it was beautiful
in its joyful, steady flight, and I was glad to see it go. I must have
been a bird myself in another existence, for I have often that longing
to fly upon me, and it makes my heart swell with a great impatience
that I cannot.

But I could not help remarking to Sir Adrian that the bird's last look
round had been full of anger rather than gratitude, and his answer, as
he watched it sweep heavily away, was too gloomy to please me:

"Gratitude," said he, "is as rare as unselfishness. If it were not so
this world would be different indeed. As it is, we have no more right
to expect the one than the other. And, when all is said and done, if
doing a so-called kind action gives us pleasure, it is only a special
form of self-indulgence."

There is something wrong about a reasoning of this kind, but I could
not exactly point out where.

We both stood gazing out from our platform upon the darkening waters.
Then across our vision there crept, round the promontory, a beautiful
ship with all sails set, looking like some gigantic white bird;
sailing, sailing, so swiftly yet so surely by, through the dim light;
and I cried out in admiration: for there is something in the sight of
a ship silently gliding that always sets my heart beating. But Sir
Adrian's face grew stern, and he said: "A ship is a whitened
sepulchre."

But for all that he looked at it long and pensively.

Now it had struck me before this that Sir Adrian, with all his
kindness of heart, takes but a dismal view of human nature and human
destiny; that to him what spoils the face of this world is that strife
of life--which to me is as the breath of my nostrils, the absence of
which made my convent days so grey and hateful to look back upon.

I did not like to feel out of harmony with him, and so almost angrily
I reproached him.

"Would you have every one live like a limpet on a rock?" cried I.
"Great heavens! I would rather be dead than not be up and doing."

He looked at me gravely, pityingly.

"May _you_ never see what I have seen," said he. "May you never learn
what men have made of the world. God keep your fair life from such
ways as mine has been made to follow."

The words filled me, I don't know why, with sudden misgiving. Is this
life, I am so eager for, but horror and misery after all? Would it be
better to leave the book unopened? They said so at the convent. But
what can they know of life at a convent?

He bent his kind face towards mine in the thickening gloom, as though
to read my thoughts, and his lips moved, but he did not speak aloud.
Then, above the song of the waves as they gathered, rolled in, and
fell upon the shingle all around, there came the beat of oars.

"Hark," said Sir Adrian, "our good René!"

His tone was cheerful again, and, as he hurried me away down the
stairs, I knew he was glad to divert me from the melancholy into which
he had allowed himself to drift.

And then "good René" came, bringing breezy life and cheerfulness with
him, and a bundle and a letter for me.

Poor Madeleine! It seems she has been quite ill with weeping for
Molly; and, indeed, her dear scrawl was so illegible that I could
hardly read it. René says she was nearly as much upset by the joy as
by the grief. Mr. Landale was not at home; he had ridden to meet Tanty
at Liverpool, for the dear old lady has been summoned back in hot
haste with the news of my decease!

He for one, I thought to myself, will survive the shock of relief at
learning that Molly has risen from the dead!

       *       *       *       *       *

Ting, ting, ting.... There goes my little clock, fussily counting the
hour to tell me that I have written so long a time that I ought to be
tired. And so I am, though I have not told you half of all I meant to
tell!



CHAPTER XVI

THE RECLUSE AND THE SQUIRE


I thought I should never get away from supper and be alone! Rupert's
air of cool triumph--it was triumph, however he may have wished to
hide it--and Tanty's flow of indignation, recrimination, speculation,
and amazement were enough to drive me mad. But I held out. I pretended
I did not mind. My cheeks were blazing, and I talked _à tort et à
travers_. I should have _died_ rather than that Rupert should have
guessed at the tempest in my heart. Now I am alone at last, thank God!
and it will be a relief to confide to my faithful diary the feelings
that have been choking me these last two hours.

"Pride must have a fall." Thus Rupert at supper, with reference, it is
true, to some trivial incident, but looking at me hard and full, and
pointing the words with his meaning smile. The fairies who attended at
my birth endowed me with one power, which, however doubtful a blessing
it may prove in the long run, has nevertheless been an unspeakable
comfort to me hitherto. This is the reverse of what I heard a French
gentleman term _l'esprit de l'escalier_. Thanks to this fairy
godmother of mine, the instant some one annoys or angers me there
rises on the tip of my tongue the most galling rejoinder that can
possibly be made in the circumstances. And I need not add: _I make
it_.

To-night, when Rupert flung his scoff at me, I was ready for him.

"I trust the old adage has not been brought home to you, _Sir_
Rupert," said I, and then pretending confusion. "I beg your pardon," I
added, "I have been so accustomed to address the head of the house
these last days that the word escaped me unawares." The shot told
_well_, and I was glad--glad of the murderous rage in Rupert's eyes,
for I knew I had hit him on the raw. Even Tanty looked perturbed, but
Rupert let me alone for the rest of supper.

He is right nevertheless, that is what stung me. I am humbled, _and I
cannot bear it_!

Sir Adrian has left.

I was so triumphant to bring him back to Pulwick this morning, to have
circumvented Rupert's plans, and (let me speak the truth,) so happy to
have him with me that I did not attempt to conceal my exultation. And
now he has gone, gone without a word to me; only this miserable letter
of determined farewell. I will copy it--for in my first anger I have
so crumpled the paper that it is scarcely readable.

"My child, I must go back to my island. The world is not for me, nor
am I for the world, nor would I cast the shadow of my gloomy life
further upon your bright one. Let me tell you, however, that you have
left me the better for your coming; that it will be a good thought to
me in my loneliness to know of your mother's daughters so close to me.
When you look across at the beacon of Scarthey, child, through the
darkness, think that though I may not see you again I shall ever
follow and keep guard upon your life and upon your sister's, and that,
even when you are far from Pulwick, the light will burn and the heart
of Adrian Landale watch so long as it may beat."

I have shed more tears--hot tears of anger--since I received this than
I have wept in all my life before. Madeleine came in to me just now,
too full of the happiness of having me back, poor darling, to be able
to bear me out of sight again; but I have driven her from me with such
cross words that she too is in tears. I must be alone and I must
collect myself and my thoughts, for I want to state exactly all that
has happened and then perhaps I shall be able to see my way more
clearly.

       *       *       *       *       *

This morning then, early after breakfast, I started across the waters
between René and Sir Adrian, regretting to leave the dear hospitable
island, yet with my heart dancing within me, as gaily as did our
little boat upon the chopping waves, to be carrying the hermit back
with me. I had been deadly afraid lest he should at the last moment
have sent me alone with the servant; but when he put on his big cloak,
when I saw René place a bag at the bottom of the boat, I knew he
meant to come--perhaps remain some days at Pulwick, and my spirits
went up, up!

It was a lovely day, too; the air had a crisp, cold sparkle, and the
waters looked so blue under the clear, frosty sky. I could have sung
as we rowed along, and every time I met Sir Adrian's eye I smiled at
him out of the happiness of my heart. His look hung on me--we French
have a word for that which is not translatable, _Il me couvait des
yeux_--and, as every day of the three we had spent together I had
thought him younger and handsomer, so this morning out in the bright
sunlight I said to myself, I could never wish to see a more noble man.

When we landed--and it was but a little way, for the tide was
low--there was the carriage waiting, and René, all grins, handed over
our parcels to the footman. Then we got in, the wheels began slowly
dragging across the sand to the road, the poor horses pulling and
straining, for it was heavy work. And René stood watching us by his
boat, his hand over his eyes, a black figure against the dazzling
sunshine on the bay; but I could see his white teeth gleam in that
broad smile of his from out of his shadowy face. As, at length, we
reached the high road and bowled swiftly along, I would not let Sir
Adrian have peace to think, for something at my heart told me he hated
the going back to Pulwick, and I so chattered and fixed his attention
that as the carriage drew up he was actually laughing.

When we stopped another carriage in front moved off, and there on the
porch stood--Rupert and Tanty!

Poor Tanty, her old face all disfigured with tears and a great black
bonnet and veil towering on her head. I popped _my_ head out of the
window and called to them.

When they caught sight of me, both seemed to grow rigid with
amazement. And then across Rupert's face came such a look of fury, and
such a deathly pallor! I had thought, certainly, he would not weep the
eyes out of his head for me; but that he should be stricken with
_anger_ to see me alive I had hardly expected, and for the instant it
frightened me.

But then I had no time to observe anything else, for Tanty collapsed
upon the steps and went off into as fine a fit of hysterics as I have
ever seen. But fortunately it did not last long. Suddenly in the
middle of her screams and rockings to and fro she perceived Sir Adrian
as he leant anxiously over her. With the utmost energy she clutched
his arm and scrambled to her feet.

"Is it you, me poor child?" she cried, "Is it you?"

And then she turned from him, as he stood with his gentle, earnest
face looking down upon her, and gave Rupert a glare that might have
slain him. I knew at once what she was thinking: I had experienced
myself that it was impossible to see Sir Adrian and connect his
dignified presence for one second with the scandalous impression
Rupert would have conveyed.

As for Rupert, he looked for the first time since I knew him
thoroughly unnerved.

Then Tanty caught me by the arm and shook me:

"How _dare_ you, miss, how dare you?" she cried, her face was flaming.

"How dare I what?" asked I, as I hugged her.

"How dare you be walking about when it is dead you are, and give us
all such a fright--there--there, you know what I mean.--Adrian," she
whimpered, "give me your arm, my nephew, and conduct me into your
house. All this has upset me very much. But, oh, am I not glad to see
you both, my children!"

In they went together. And my courage having risen again to its usual
height, I waited purposely on the porch to tease Rupert a little. I
had a real pleasure in noticing how he trembled with agitation beneath
his mask.

"Well, are you glad to see me, Cousin Rupert?" said I.

He took my hand; his fingers were damp and cold.

"Can you ask, my fair cousin?" he sneered. "Do you not see me overcome
with joy? Am I not indeed especially favoured by Providence, for is
not this the second time that a beloved being has been restored into
my arms like Lazarus from the grave?"

I was indignant at the heartlessness of his cynicism, and so the
answer that leaped to my lips was out before I had time to reflect
upon its unladylikeness.

"Ay," said I, "and each time you have cried in your soul, like Martha,
'Behold, he stinketh.'"

My cousin laughed aloud.

"You have a sharp tongue," he said, "take care you are not cut with it
yourself some day."

Just then the footmen who had been unpacking Tanty's trunks from the
first carriage laid a great wooden box upon the porch, and one of them
asked Rupert which room they should bring it to.

Rupert looked at it strangely, and then at me.

"Take it where you will," he exclaimed at last. "There lies good
money-value wasted--though, after all, one never knows."

"What is it?" said I, struck by a sinister meaning in his accents.

"Mourning, beautiful Molly--mourning for
you--crape--gowns--weepers--wherewith to have dried your sister's
tears--but not needed yet, you see."

He bared his teeth at me over his shoulder--I could not call it a
smile--and then paused, as he was about to brush past into the hall,
to give me the _pas_, with a mocking bow.

He does not even attempt now to hide his dislike of me, nor to draw
for me that cloak of suave composure over the fierce temper that is
always gnawing at his vitals as surely as fox ever gnawed little
Spartan. He sees that it is useless, I suppose. As I went upstairs to
greet Madeleine, I laughed to myself to think how Fate had
circumvented the plotter.

Alas, how foolish I was to laugh! Rupert is a dangerous enemy, and I
have made him mine; and in a few hours he has shuffled the cards, and
now he holds the trumps again. For that there is _du Rupert_ in this
sudden departure of my knight, I am convinced. Of course, _his_
reasons are plain to see. It is the vulgarest ambition that prompts
him to oust his brother for as long as possible--for ever, if he can.

And now, _I_ am outwitted. _Je rage._

I have never been so unhappy. My heart feels all crushed. I see no
help anywhere. I cannot in common decency go and seek Sir Adrian upon
his island again, and so I sit and cry.

       *       *       *       *       *

Immediately upon his arrival Tanty was closeted with Sir Adrian in the
chamber allotted to her for so long a space of time that Rupert,
watching below in an inward fever, now flung back in his chair biting
his nails, now restlessly pacing the room from end to end, his mind
working on the new problem, his ears strained to catch the least sound
the while, was fain at last to ring and give orders for the immediate
sounding of the dinner bell (a good hour before that meal might be
expected) as the only chance of interrupting a conference which boded
so ill to his plans. Meanwhile Madeleine sobbed out the story of her
grief and joy on Molly's heart; and Miss Sophia, who thus
inconsiderately arrested in the full congenial flow of a new grief,
was thrown back upon her old sorrows for consolation, had felt
impelled to pay a visit to the rector's grave with the watering-can,
and an extra pocket-handkerchief.

Never perhaps since that worthy clergyman had gasped out his last
struggling breath upon her bosom had she known more unmixed
satisfaction than during those days when she hovered round poor
prostrate Madeleine's bed and poured into her deaf ear the tale of her
own woes and the assurances of her thoroughly understanding sympathy.
She had been looking forward, with a chastened eagerness, to the
arrival of the mourning, and had already derived a good deal of
pleasure from the donning of certain aged weeds treasured in her
wardrobe; it was therefore a distinct though quite unconscious
disappointment when the news came which put an untimely end to all
these funereal revels.

At the shrill clamour of the bell, as Rupert anticipated, Adrian
emerged instantly from his aunt's room, and a simultaneous jingle of
minor bells announced that the ladies' attention was in all haste
being turned to toilet matters.

Whatever had passed between his good old relative and his sensitive
brother, Rupert's quick appraising glance at the latter's face, as he
went slowly down the corridor to his own specially reserved apartment,
was sufficient to confirm the watcher in his misgiving that matters
were not progressing as he might wish.

Sir Adrian seemed absorbed, it is true, in grave thought, but his
countenance was neither distressed nor gloomy. With a spasm of fierce
annoyance, and a bitter curse on the meddling of old females and
young, Rupert had to admit that never had he seen his brother look
more handsome, more master of the house and of himself, more _sane_.

A few minutes later the guests of Pulwick assembled in the library one
by one, with the exception of Sophia, still watering the last
resting-place of the Rev. Herbert Lee.

Adrian came first, closely followed by Tanty, who turned a marked
shoulder upon her younger nephew and devoted all her attention to the
elder--in which strained condition of affairs the conversation between
the three was not likely to be lively. Next the sisters, attired alike
in white, entered together, bringing a bright vision of youth and
loveliness into the old room.

At sight of them Adrian sprang to his feet with a sudden sharp
ejaculation, upon which the two girls halted on the threshold, half
shy, half smiling. For the moment, in the shadow of the doorway, they
were surprisingly like each other, the difference of colouring being
lost in their curious similarity of contour.

My God, were there then two Céciles?

Beautiful, miraculous, consoling had been to the mourner in his
loneliness the apparition of his dead love restored to life, every
time his eyes had fallen upon Molly during these last few blessed
days; but this new development was only like a troublous mocking
dream.

Tanty turned in startled amazement. She could feel the shudder that
shook his frame, through the hand with which he still unconsciously
grasped at the back of her chair. An irrepressible smile crept to
Rupert's lips.

The little interlude could not have lasted more than a few seconds
when Molly, recovering her usual self-possession, came boldly forward,
leading her sister by the tips of her fingers.

"Cousin Adrian," she said, "my sister Madeleine has many things to say
to you in thanks for your care of my valuable person, but just now she
is too bashful to be able to utter one quarter of them."

As the girls emerged into the room, and the light from the great
windows struck upon Madeleine's fair curls and the delicate pallor of
her cheek; as she extended her hand, and raised to Adrian's face,
while she dropped her pretty curtsey, the gaze of two unconsciously
plaintive blue eyes, the man dashed the sweat from his brow with a
gesture of relief.

Nothing could be more unlike the dark beauty of the ghost of his
dreams or its dashing presentment now smiling confidently upon him
from Tanty's side.

He took the little hand with tender pressure: Cécile's daughter must
be precious to him in any case. Madeleine, moreover, had a certain
appealing grace that was apt to steal the favour that Molly won by
storm.

"But, indeed, I could never tell Sir Adrian how grateful I am," said
she, with a timidity that became her as thoroughly as Molly's
fearlessness suited her own stronger personality.

At the sound of her voice, again the distressful nightmare-like
feeling seized Sir Adrian's soul.

Of all characteristics that, as the phrase is, "go in families,"
voices are generally the most peculiarly generic.

When Molly first addressed Sir Adrian, it had been to him as a voice
from the grave; now Madeleine's gentle speech tripped forth upon that
self-same note--Cécile's own voice!

And next Molly caught up the sound, and then Madeleine answered again.
What they said, he could not tell; these ghosts--these speaking
ghosts--brought back the old memories too painfully. It was thus
Cécile had spoken in the first arrogance of her dainty youth and
loveliness; and in those softer tones when sorrow and work and failure
had subdued her proud spirit. And now she laughs; and hark, the laugh
is echoed! Sir Adrian turns as if to seek some escape from this
strange form of torture, meets Rupert's eye and instinctively braces
himself into self-control.

"Come, come," cried Miss O'Donoghue, in her comfortable, commonplace,
cheerful tone: "This dinner bell of yours, Adrian, has raised false
hopes, which seem to tarry in their fulfilment. What are we waiting
for, may I ask?"

Adrian looked at his brother.

"Rupert, you know, my dear aunt," he said, "has the ordering of these
matters."

"Sophia is yet absent," quoth Rupert drily, "but we can proceed
without her, if my aunt wishes."

"Pooh, yes. Sophia!" snorted Miss O'Donoghue, grasping Sir Adrian's
arm to show herself quite ready for the march, "Sophia! We all know
what she is. Why, my dear Adrian, she'll never hear the bell till it
has stopped this half hour."

"Dinner," cried Rupert sharply to the butler, whom his pull of the
bell-rope had summoned. And dinner being served, the guests trooped
into that dining-room which was full of such associations to Sir
Adrian. It was a little thing, but, nevertheless, intensely galling to
Rupert to have to play second gentleman, and give up his privileges as
host to his brother. Usually indeed Adrian cared too little to stand
upon his rights, and insisted upon Rupert's continuing to act in his
presence as he did in his absence; but this afternoon Tanty had left
him no choice.

Nevertheless, as Mr. Landale sat down between the sisters, and turned
smiling to address first one and then the other, it would have taken a
very practised eye to discern under the extra urbanity of his
demeanour the intensity of his inward mortification. He talked a great
deal and exerted himself to make the sisters talk likewise, bantering
Molly into scornful and eager retorts, and preventing Madeleine from
relapsing into that state of dreaminess out of which the rapid
succession of her recent sorrow and joy had somewhat shaken her.

The girls were both excited, both ready to laugh and jest. Tanty,
satisfied to see Adrian preside at the head of the table with a grave,
courteous, and self-contained manner that completely fulfilled her
notions of what family dignity required of him, cracked her jokes, ate
her dinner, and quaffed her cup with full enjoyment, laughing
indulgently at her grand-nieces' sallies, and showing as marked a
disfavour to Rupert as she deemed consistent with good manners.

The poor old lady little guessed how the workings in each brother's
mind were all the while, silently but inevitably, tending towards the
destruction of her newly awakened hopes.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was silence between Sir Adrian and Rupert when at last they were
left alone together. The elder's gaze wandering in space, his absent
hand softly beating the table, his relaxed frame--all showed that his
mind was far away from thought of the younger's presence. The relief
to be delivered from the twin echoes of a haunting voice--once the
dearest on earth to him--was immense. But his whole being was still
quivering under the first acuteness of so disturbing an impression.

His years of solitude, moreover, had ill prepared him for social
intercourse; the laughter, the clash of conversation, the noise on
every side, the length of the meal, the strain to maintain a fit and
proper attitude as host, had tried to the utmost nerves by nature
hypersensitive.

Rupert, who had leisure to study the suddenly lined and tired
lineaments of the abstracted countenance before him, noted with
self-congratulation the change that a few hours seemed to have wrought
upon it, and decided that the moment had come to strike.

"So, Adrian," he said, looking down demurely as he spoke into the
glass of wine he had been toying with--Rupert was an abstemious man.
"So, Adrian, you have been playing the chivalrous rôle of rescuer of
distressed damsels--squire of dames and what not. The last one would
have ascribed to you at least at this end of your life. Ha," throwing
up his head with a mirthless laugh; "how little any of us would have
thought what a blessing in disguise your freak of self-exile was
destined to become to us!"

At the sound of the incisive voice Adrian had returned with a slight
shiver from distant musing to the consciousness of the other's
presence.

"And did you not always look upon my exile as a blessing undisguised,
Rupert?" answered he, fixing his brother with his large grave gaze.

Rupert's eyelids wavered a little beneath it, but his tone was coolly
insolent as he made reply:

"If it pleases you to make no count of our fraternal affection for
you, my dear fellow; if by insisting upon _our_ unnatural depravity
you contrive a more decent excuse for your own vagaries, you have my
full permission to dub me Cain at once and have done with it."

A light sigh escaped the elder man, and then he resolutely closed his
lips. It was by behaviour such as this, by his almost diabolical
ingenuity in the art of being uncongenial, that Rupert had so largely
contributed to make his own house impossible to him. But where was the
use of either argument or expostulation with one so incapable of even
understanding the mainsprings of his actions? Moreover (_he_, above
all, must not forget it) Rupert had suffered through him in pride and
self-esteem. And yet, despite Sir Adrian's philosophic mind, despite
his vast, pessimistic though benevolent tolerance for erring human
nature, his was a very human heart; and it added not a little to the
sadness of his lot at every return to Pulwick (dating from that first
most bitter home-coming) to feel in every fibre of his being how
little welcome he was where the ties of flesh and blood alone, not to
speak of his most ceaseless yet delicate generosity, should have
ensured him a very different reception.

Again he sighed, this time more deeply, and the corners of Rupert's
lips, the arch of his eyebrows, moved upwards in smiling
interrogation.

"It must have given you a shock," said Mr. Landale, carelessly, "to
see the resemblance between Molly and poor Cécile; not, of course,
that _I_ can remember her; but Tanty says it is something startling."

Adrian assented briefly.

"I daresay it seems quite painful to you at first," proceeded Rupert,
much in the same deliberate manner as a surgeon may lay bare a wound,
despite the knowledge of the suffering he is inflicting, "I noticed
that you seemed upset during dinner. But probably the feeling will
wear off."

"Probably."

"Madeleine resembles her father, I am told; but then you never saw the
_feu Comte_, did you? Well, they are both fine handsome girls, full of
life and spirits. It is our revered relative's intention to leave them
here--as perhaps she has told you--for two months or so."

"I have begged her," said Sir Adrian gravely, "to make them understand
that I wish them to look upon Pulwick as their home."

"Very right, very proper," cried the other; "in fact I knew that was
what you would wish--and your wishes, of course, are my law in the
matter. By the way, I hope you quite understand, Adrian, how it
happened that I did _not_ notify to you the arrival of these guests
extraordinary--knowing that you have never got over their mother's
death, and all that--it was entirely from a wish to spare you.
Besides, there was your general prohibition about my visitors; I did
not dare to take the responsibility in fact. And so I told Tanty."

"I do not wish to doubt the purity of your motives, though it would
have grieved me had _these_ visitors (no ordinary ones as you yourself
admit) come and gone without my knowledge. As it fell out, however,
even without that child's dangerous expedition, I should have been
informed in any case--René knew."

"René knew?" cried Rupert, surprised; and "damn René" to himself with
heart-felt energy.

That the infernal little spy, as he deemed his brother's servant,
should have made a visit to Pulwick without his knowledge was
unpleasant news, and it touched him on his tenderest point.

But now, replenishing his half-emptied glass to give Adrian no excuse
for putting an end to the conference before he himself desired it, he
plunged into the heart of the task he had set himself without further
delay:

"And what would you wish me to do, Adrian," he asked, with a pretty
air of deference, "in the matter of entertaining these ladies? I have
thought of several things likely to afford them amusement, but, since
you are here, you will readily understand that I should like your
authorisation first. I am anxious to consult you when I can," he
added, apologetically. "So forgive my attacking you upon business
to-night when you seem really so little fitted for it--but you know
one cannot count upon you from one minute to another! What would you
say if I were to issue invitations for a ball? Pulwick was noted for
its hospitality in the days of our fathers, and the gloom that has
hung over the old home these last eight years has been (I suppose)
unavoidable in the circumstances--but none the less a pity. No fear
but that our fair cousins would enjoy such a festivity, and I think I
can promise you that the sound of our revels should not reach as far
as your hermitage."

A slow colour had mounted to Adrian's cheeks; he drew his brows
together with an air of displeasure; Rupert, quick to read these
symptoms, hastened to pursue the attack before response should be
made:

"The idea does not seem to please you," he cried, as if in hurt
surprise. "'Tis true I have now no legal right to think of reviving
the old hospitable traditions of the family; but you must remember,
Adrian, you yourself have insisted on giving me a moral right to act
host here in your absence--you have over and over again laid stress
upon the freedom you wished me to feel in the matter. Hitherto I have
not made use of these privileges; have not cared to do so, beyond an
occasional duty dinner to our nearest neighbours. A lonely widower
like myself, why should I? But now, with these gay young things in the
house--so near to us in blood--I had thought it so much our duty to
provide fitting entertainment for them that your attitude is
incomprehensible to me. Come! does it not strike you as savouring a
little of the unamiable dog in the fable? I know you hate company
yourself, and all the rest of it; but how can these things here affect
you upon your island? As for the budget, it will stand it, I assure
you. I speak hotly; pray excuse me. I own I have looked forward to the
thought of seeing once more young and happy faces around me."

"You mistake me," said Sir Adrian with an effort; "while you are
acting as my representative you have, as you know, all liberty to
entertain what guests you choose, and as you see fit. It is natural,
perhaps, that you should now believe me anxious to hurry back to the
lighthouse, and I should have told you before that it is my intention
this time to remain longer than my wont, in which circumstance the
arrangements for the entertaining of our relatives will devolve upon
myself."

Rupert broke into a loud laugh.

"Forgive me, but the idea is too ludicrous! What sort of funeral
festivities do you propose to provide to the neighbourhood, with you
and Sophia presiding, the living images of mourning and desolation?
There, my dear fellow, I _must_ laugh. It will be the skeleton at the
feast with a vengeance. Why, even to-night, in the bosom of your
family, as it were, your presence lay so like a wet blanket upon us
all that, 'pon my soul, I nearly cracked my voice trying to keep those
girls from noticing it! Seriously, I am delighted, of course, that you
should feel so sportive, and it is high time indeed that the
neighbourhood should see something of you, but I fear you are
reckoning beyond your strength. Anyhow, command me. I shall be anxious
to help you all I can in this novel departure. What are your plans?"

"I have laid no plans," answered Sir Adrian coldly, after a slight
pause, "but you do not need me to tell you, Rupert, that to surround
myself with such gaiety as you suggest is impossible."

"You mean to make our poor little cousins lead as melancholy an
existence as you do yourself then," cried Rupert with an angry laugh.
Matters were not progressing as he could have wished. "I fear this
will cause a good deal of disappointment, not only to them but to our
revered aunt--for she is very naturally anxious to see her charges
married and settled, and she told me that she more or less counted
upon my aid in the matter. Now as you are here of course I have, thank
Heaven, nothing more to say one way or another. But you will surely
think of asking a few likely young fellows over to the house,
occasionally? We are not badly off for eldest sons in the
neighbourhood; Molly, who is as arrant a little flirt, they tell me,
as she is pretty, will be grateful to you for the attention, on the
score of amusement at least."

Mr. Landale, speaking somewhat at random out of his annoyance to have
failed in immediately disgusting the hermit of the responsibilities
his return home might entail, here succeeded by chance in producing
the desired impression.

The idea of Molly--Cécile's double--marrying--worse still, making
love, coquetting before his eyes, was intolerable to Adrian. To have
to look on, and see _Cécile's_ eyes lavish glances of love; _her_
lips, soft words and lingering smiles, upon some country fool; to have
himself to give this duplicate of his love's sweet body to one
unworthy perhaps--it stung him with a pain as keen as it was
unreasonable. It was terrible to be so made, that the past was ever as
living as the present! But he must face the situation, he must grapple
with his own weakness. Tender memories had lured him from his retreat
and made him for a short time almost believe that he could live with
them, happy a little while, in his own home again; but now it was
these very memories that were rising like avengers to drive him hence.

Of course the child must marry if there her happiness lay. Ay, and
both Cécile's children must be amused, made joyful, while they still
could enjoy life--Rupert was right--right in all he said--but he,
Adrian, could not be there to see. That was beyond his endurance.

It was impossible of course, for one so single-minded himself, to
follow altogether the doublings of such a mind as Rupert's; but
through the melancholy relief of this sudden resolution, Adrian was
distinctly conscious of the underlying duplicity, the unworthy motives
which had prompted his brother's arguments.

He rose from the table, and looked down with sad gaze at the younger's
beautiful mask of a face.

"God knows," he said, "God knows, Rupert, I do not so often inflict my
presence upon you that you should be so anxious to show me how much
better I should do to keep away. I admit nevertheless the justice of
all you say. It is but right that Mesdemoiselles de Savenaye should be
surrounded with young and cheerful society; and even were I in a state
to act as master of the revels (here he smiled a little dreamily), my
very presence, as you say, would cast a gloom upon their
merrymaking--I will go. I will go back to the island to-night--I can
rely upon you to assist me to do so quietly without unnecessary scenes
or explanations--yes--yes--I know you will be ready to facilitate
matters! Strange! It is only a few hours ago since Tanty almost
persuaded me that it was my duty to remain here; now you have made me
see that I have no choice but to leave. Have no fear, Rupert--I go. I
shall write to Tanty. But remember only, that as you treat Cécile's
children, so shall I shape my actions towards you in future."

Slowly he moved away, leaving Rupert motionless in his seat; and long
did the younger brother remain moodily fixing the purple bloom of the
grapes with unseeing eyes.



PART III

"CAPTAIN JACK," THE GOLD SMUGGLER



CHAPTER XVII

THE GOLD SMUGGLER AND THE PHILOSOPHER


On the evening of the day which had seen Miss Molly's departure for
the main land, René, after the usual brisk post-prandial altercation
with old Margery by her kitchen fire, was cheerfully finding his way,
lantern in hand, to his turret, when in the silence of the night he
heard the door of the keep open and close, and presently recognised
Sir Adrian's tread echoing on the flagged steps beneath him.

Astonished at this premature return and full of vague dismay, he
hurried down to receive his master.

There was a cloud on Sir Adrian's face, plainly discernible in spite
of the unaltered composure of his manner.

"I did not expect your honour back so soon," said René, tentatively.

"I myself did not anticipate to return. I had thought I might perhaps
stay some days at Pulwick. But I find there is no home like this one
for me, René."

There was a long silence. But when René had rekindled a blaze upon the
hearth and set the lamp upon the table, he stood a moment before
withdrawing, almost begging by his look some further crumb of
information.

"My room is ready, I suppose?" inquired Sir Adrian.

"Yes, your honour," quoth the man ruefully, "Margery and I put it back
exactly as--as before."

"Good-night then, good-night!" said the master after a pause, warming
his hands as the flames began to leap through the network of twigs. "I
shall go to bed, I am tired; I had to row myself across. You will take
the boat back to-morrow morning."

René opened his mouth to speak; caught the sound of a sigh coming from
the hearthside, and, shaking his head, in silence obeyed the implied
dismissal. And bitterly did he meditate in his bunk, that night, upon
the swift crumbling of those air-castles he had built himself so
gaily erstwhile, in the rose and blue atmosphere that _La Demoiselle_
had seemed to bring with her to Scarthey.

       *       *       *       *       *

From the morrow the old regular mode of life began again in the keep.

Sir Adrian read a good deal, or at least appeared so to do; but René,
who kept him more than ever under his glances of wistful sympathy,
noted that far from being absorbed, as of old, in the pages of his
book, the recluse's eyes wandered much off its edges into space; that
when writing, or at least intent on writing, his pen would linger long
in the bottle and hover listlessly over the paper; that he was more
abstracted, even than his wont, when looking out of the eastern
window; and that on the platform of the beacon it was the landward
view which most drew his gaze.

There was also more music in the keep than was the custom in evener
days. Seated at his organ the light-keeper seemed to find a voice for
such thoughts as were not to be spoken or written, and relief for the
nameless pity of them. But never a word passed between the two men on
the subject that filled both their hearts.

It was Sir Adrian's pleasure that things at Scarthey should seem to be
exactly the same as before, and that was enough for René.

"And yet," mused the faithful fellow, within his disturbed mind, "the
ruins now look like a house the day after an interment. If we were
lonely before, my faith, now we are desolate?" and, trying to find
something or somebody to charge with the curse of it, he invariably
fell to upon Mr. Landale's sleek head, why, he could hardly have
explained.

Three new days had thus passed in the regularity, if not the serenity
of the old--they seemed old already, buried far back in the past,
those days that had lapsed so evenly before the brightness of youthful
and beautiful life had entered the keep for one brief moment, and
departing, again left it a ruin indeed--when the retirement of
Scarthey was once more invaded by an unexpected visitor. It was about
sundown of the shortest day. Sir Adrian was at his organ, almost
unconsciously interpreting his own sadness into music. In time the
yearning of his soul had had expression, the echo of the last sighing
chord died away in the tranquil air, yet the musician, with head bent
upon his breast, remained lost in far-away thoughts.

A slight shuffling noise disturbed him; turning round to greet René as
he supposed, he was astonished to see a man's figure lolling in his
own arm-chair.

As he peered inquiringly into the twilight, the intruder rose to his
feet, and cried with a voice loud and clear, pleasant withal to the
ear:

"Sir Adrian, I am sorry you have stopped so soon; I never heard
anything more beautiful! The door was ajar, and I crept in like a cat,
not to disturb you."

Still in doubt, but with his fine air of courtesy, the light-keeper
advanced towards the uninvited guest.

"Am I mistaken," he said, with some hesitation, "surely this is Hubert
Cochrane's voice?"

"Jack Smith's voice, my dear fellow; Jack Smith, at your service,
please to remember," answered the visitor, with a genial ring of
laughter in his words. "Not that it matters much here, I suppose! Had
I not heard the peal of your organ I should have thought Scarthey
deserted indeed. I could find no groom of the chambers to announce me
in due form."

As he spoke, the two had drawn near each other and clasped hands
heartily.

"Now, to think of your knowing my voice in this manner! You have a
devilish knack of spotting your man, Sir Adrian. It is almost four
years since I was here last, is it not?"

"Four years?--so it is; and four years that have done well by you, it
would appear. What a picture of strength and lustiness! It really
seems to regenerate one, and put heart of grace in one, only to take
you by the hand.--Welcome, Captain Smith!"

Nothing could have more succinctly described the outer man of him who
chose to be known by that most nondescript of patronymics. Sir Adrian
stood for a moment, contemplating, with glances of approval such as he
seldom bestowed on his fellow-man, the symmetrical, slender, yet
vigorous figure of his friend, and responding with an unwonted
cheerfulness to the smile that lit up the steel-blue eyes, and parted
the shapely, strong, and good-humoured mouth of the privateersman.

"Dear me, and what a buck we have become!" continued the baronet,
"what splendid plumage! It is good to see you so prosperous. And so
this is the latest fashion? No doubt it sets forth the frame of a
goodly man, though no one could guess at the 'sea dog' beneath such a
set of garments. I used to consider my brother Rupert the most
especial dandy I had ever seen; but that, evidently, was my limited
experience: even Rupert cannot display so perfect a fit in
bottle-green coats, so faultless a silken stock, buckskins of such
matchless drab!"

Captain Jack laughed, blushed slightly under the friendly banter, and
allowed himself to be thrust back into the seat he had just vacated.

"Welcome again, on my lonely estate. I hope this is not to be a mere
flying visit? You know my misanthropy vanishes when I have your
company. How did you come? Not by the causeway, I should say," smiling
again, and glancing at the unblemished top-boots.

"I have two men waiting for me in the gig below; my schooner, the
_Peregrine_, lies in the offing."

The elder man turned to the window, and through the grey curtain of
crepuscule recognised the rakish topsail schooner that had excited
Molly's admiration some days before. He gazed forth upon it a few
meditative moments.

"Not knowing whether I would find you ready to receive me," pursued
the captain, "I arranged that the _Peregrine_ was to wait for me if I
had to return to-night."

"Which, of course, is not to be heard of," said Sir Adrian. "Here is
Renny; he will carry word that with me you remain to-night.... Come,
Renny, do you recognise an old acquaintance?"

Already well disposed towards any one who could call this note of
pleasure into the loved voice, the Breton, who had just entered,
turned to give a broad stare at the handsome stranger, then burst into
a guffaw of pure delight. "By my faith, it is Mr. the Lieutenant!" he
ejaculated; adding, as ingeniously as Tanty herself might have done,
that he would never have known him again.

"It is Mr. the Captain now, Renny," said that person, and held out a
strong hand to grip that of the little Frenchman, which the latter,
after the preliminary rubbing upon his trousers that his code of
manners enjoined, readily extended.

"Ah, it is a good wind that sent you here this day," said he, with a
sigh of satisfaction when this ceremony had been duly gone through.

"You say well," acquiesced his master, "it has ever been a good wind
that has brought Captain Jack across my path."

And then receiving directions to refresh the gig's crew and dismiss
them back to their ship with instructions to return for orders on the
morrow, the servant hurried forth, leaving the two friends once more
alone.

"Thanks," said Captain Jack, when the door had closed upon the
messenger. "That will exactly suit my purpose. I have a good many
things to talk over with you, since you so kindly give me the
opportunity. In the first place, let me unburden myself of a debt
which is now of old standing--and let me say at the same time," added
the young man, rising to deposit upon the table a letter-case which he
had taken from his breast-pocket, "that though my actual debt is now
met, my obligation to you remains the same and will always be so. You
said just now that I looked prosperous, and so I am--owing somewhat to
good luck, it is true, but owing above all to you. No luck would have
availed me much without _that_ to start upon." And he pointed to the
contents of the case, a thick bundle of notes which his host was now
smilingly turning over with the tip of his fingers.

"I might have sent you a draft, but there is no letter-post that I
know of to Scarthey, and, besides, it struck me that just as these
four thousand pounds had privately passed between you and me, you
might prefer them to be returned in the same manner."

"I prefer it, since it has brought you in person," said Sir Adrian,
thrusting the parcel into a drawer and pulling his chair closer
towards his guest. "Dealings with a man like you give one a taste of
an ideal world. Would that more human transactions could be carried
out in so simple and frank a manner as this little business of ours!"

Captain Jack laughed outright.

"Upon my word, you are a greater marvel to me every time I see
you--which is not by any means often enough!"

The other raised his eyebrows in interrogation, and the sailor went
on:

"Is it really possible that it is to _my_ mode of dealing that you
attribute the delightful simplicity of a transaction involving a
little fortune from hand to hand? And where pray, in this terraqueous
sublunary sphere--I heard that good phrase from a literary exquisite
at Bath, and it seems to me comprehensive--where, then, on this
terraqueous sublunary globe of ours, Sir Adrian Landale, could one
expect to find another person ready to lend a privateersman, trading
under an irresponsible name, the sum of four thousand pounds, without
any other security than his volunteered promise to return it--if
possible?"

Sir Adrian, ignoring the tribute to his own merits, arose and placed
his friendly hand on the speaker's shoulder: "And now, my dear Jack,"
he said gravely, "that the war is over, you will have to turn your
energies in another direction. I am glad you are out of that unworthy
trade."

Captain Jack bounded up: "No, no, Sir Adrian, I value your opinion too
much to allow such a statement to pass unchallenged. Unworthy trade!
We have not given back those French devils one half of the harm they
have done to our own merchant service; it was war, you know, and you
know also, or perhaps you don't--in which case let me tell you--that
my _Cormorant_ has made her goodly name, ay, and brought her commander
a fair share of his credit, by her energy in bringing to an incredible
number of those d----d French sharks--beg pardon, but you know the
pestilent breed. Well, we shall never agree upon the subject I fear.
As for me, the smart of the salt air, the sting of the salt breeze,
the fighting, the danger, they have got into my blood; and even now it
sometimes comes over me that life will not be perfect life to me
without the dancing boards under my feet and the free waves around me,
and my jolly boys to lead to death or glory. Yet, could you but know
it, this is the veriest treason, and I revoke the words a thousand
times. You look amazed, and well you may: ah, I have much to tell you!
But I take it you will not care to hear all I have been able to
achieve on the basis of your munificent help at my--ahem, unworthy
trade."

"Well, no," said Sir Adrian smiling, "I can quite imagine it, and
imagine it without enthusiasm, though, perhaps, as you say, such
things have to be. But I should like to know of these present
circumstances, these prospects which make you look so happy. No doubt
the fruits of peace?"

"Yes, I suppose in one way they may be called so. Yet without the war
and your helping hand they would even now hang as far from me as the
grapes from the fox.--When I arrived in England three months after the
peace had been signed, I had accumulated in the books of certain banks
a tolerably respectable account, to the credit of a certain person,
whose name, oddly enough, you on one or two occasions have applied,
absently, to Captain Jack Smith. I was, I will own, already feeling
inclined to discuss with myself the propriety of assuming the name in
question, when, there came something in my way of which I shall tell
you presently; which something has made me resolve to remain Captain
Smith for some time longer. The old _Cormorant_ lay at Bristol, and
being too big for this new purpose, I sold her. It was like cutting
off a limb. I loved every plank of her; knew every frisk of her! She
served me well to the end, for she fetched her value--almost. Next,
having time on my hands, I bethought myself of seeing again a little
of the world; and when I tell you that I drove over to Bath, you may
perhaps begin to see what I am coming to."

Sir Adrian suddenly turned in his chair to face his friend again, with
a look of singular attention.

"Well, no, not exactly, and yet--unless--? Pshaw! impossible----!"
upon which lucid commentary he stopped, gazing with anxious inquiry
into Captain Jack's smiling eyes. "Ah, I believe you have just a
glimmer of the truth with that confounded perspicacity of yours,"
saying which the sailor laughed and blushed not unbecomingly. "This is
how it came about: I had transactions with old John Harewood, the
banker, in Bristol, transactions advantageous to both sides, but
perhaps most to him--sly old dog. At any rate, the old fellow took a
monstrous fancy to me, over his claret, and when I mentioned Bath,
recommended me to call upon his wife (a very fine dame, who prefers
the fashion of the Spa to the business of Bristol, and consequently
lives as much in the former place as good John Harewood will allow).
Well, you wonder at my looking prosperous and happy. Listen, for here
is the _hic_: At Lady Maria Harewood's I met one who, if I mistake
not, is of your kin. Already, then, somewhere at the back of my memory
dwelt the name of Savenaye----Halloa, bless me! I have surely said
nothing to----!"

The young man broke off, disconcerted. Sir Adrian's face had become
unwontedly clouded, but he waved the speaker on impatiently: "No, no,
I am surprised, of course, only surprised; never mind me, my thoughts
wandered--please go on. So you have met her?"

"Ay, that I have! Now it is no use beating about the bush. You who
know her--you do know her of course--will jump at once to the only
possible conclusion. Ah, Adrian!" Captain Jack pursued, pacing
enthusiastically about, "I have been no saint, and no doubt I have
fancied myself as a lover once or twice ere this; but to see that
girl, sir, means a change in a man's life: to have met the light of
those sweet eyes is to love, to love in reality. It is to feel ashamed
of the idiotic make-believes of former loves. To love her, even in
vague hope, is to be glorious already; and, by George, to have her
troth, is to be--I cannot say what ... to be what I am now!"

The lover's face was illumined; he walked the room like one treading
on air as the joy within him found its voice in words.

Sir Adrian listened with an extraordinary tightness at his heart. He
had loved one woman even so; that love was still with him, as the
scent clings to the phial; but the sight of this young, joyful love
made him feel old in that hour--old as he had never realised before.
There was no room in his being for such love again. And yet...? There
was a tremulous anxiety in the question he put, after a short pause.
"There are _two_ Demoiselles de Savenaye, Jack; which is it?"

Captain Jack halted, turned on his heels, and exclaimed
enthusiastically: "To me there is but one--one woman in the
world--Madeleine!" His look met that of Sir Adrian in full, and even
in the midst of his own self-centred mood he could not fail to notice
the transient gleam that shot in the elder's eyes, and the sudden
relaxation of his features. He pondered for a moment or two, scanning
the while the countenance of the recluse; then a smile lighted up his
own bronzed face in a very sweet and winning way. "As her kinsman,
have I your approval?" he asked and proceeded earnestly: "To tell the
truth at once, I was looking to even more than your approval--to your
support."

Sir Adrian's mood had undergone a change: as a breeze sweeping from a
new quarter clears in a moment a darkening mist from the face of the
earth, Captain Jack's answer had blown away for the nonce the
atmosphere of misgiving that enveloped him. He answered promptly, and
with warmth: "Being your friend, I am glad to know of this; being her
kinsman, I may add, my dear _Hubert_"--there was just a tinge of
hesitation, followed by a certain emphasis, on the change of name--"I
promise to support you in your hopes, in so far as I have any
influence; for power or right over my cousin I have none."

The sailor threw himself down once more in his arm-chair; and, tapping
his shining hessians with the stem of his long clay in smiling
abstraction, began, with all a lover's egotism, to expatiate on the
theme that filled his heart.

"It is a singular, an admirable, a never sufficiently-to-be-praised
conjunction of affairs which has ultimately brought me near you when I
was pursuing the Light o' my Heart, ruthlessly snatched away by a
cunning and implacable dragon, known to you as Miss O'Donoghue. I say
_dragon_ in courtesy; I called her by better names before I realised
what a service she was unconsciously rendering us by this sudden
removal."

"Known to me!" laughed Sir Adrian. "My own mother's sister!"

"Then I still further retract. Moreover, seeing how things have turned
out, I must now regard her as an angel in disguise. Don't look so
surprised! Has she not brought my love under your protection? I
thought I was tolerably proof against the little god, but then he had
never shot his arrows at me from between the long lashes of Madeleine
de Savenaye. Oh, those eyes, Adrian! So unlike those southern eyes I
have known so well, too well in other days, brilliant, hard,
challenging battle from the first glance, and yet from the first
promising that surrender which is ever so speedy. Pah! no more of such
memories. Before _her_ blue eyes, on my first introduction, I
felt--well, I felt as the novice does under the first broadside."

The speaker looked dreamily into space, as if the delicious moment
rose again panoramically before him.

"Well," he pursued, "that did me no harm, after all. Lady Maria
Harewood, who, I have learned since, deals strongly in sentiment, and,
being unfortunately debarred by circumstances from indulgence in the
soothing luxury on her own behalf, loves to promote matches more
poetical--she calls it more 'harmonious'--than her own very prosaic
one, she, dear lady, was delighted with such a rarity as a bashful
privateersman--her 'tame corsair,' as I heard her call your humble
servant.--I was a hero, sir, a perfect hero of romance in the course
of a few days! On the strength of this renown thrust upon me I found
grace before the most adorable blue eyes; had words of sympathy from
the sweetest lips, and smiles from the most bewitching little mouth in
all the world. So you see I owe poor Lady Maria a good thought.... You
laugh?"

Sir Adrian was smiling, but all in benevolence, at the artlessness of
this eager youth, who in all the unconscious glory of his looks and
strength, ascribed the credit of his entrance into a maiden's heart to
the virtue of a few irresponsible words of recommendation.

"Ah! those were days! Everything went on smoothly, and I was debating
with myself whether I would not, at once, boldly ask her to be the
wife of Hubert Cochrane; though the casting of Jack Smith's skin would
have necessitated the giving up of several of his free-trading
engagements."

"Free trading! You do not mean to say, man alive, that you have turned
smuggler now!" interrupted Sir Adrian aghast.

"Smuggler," cried Jack with his frank laugh, "peace, I beg, friend!
Miscall not a gentleman thus. Smuggler--pirate? I cut a pretty figure
evidently in your worship's eyes. Lucky for me you never would be
sworn as a magistrate, or where should I be ... and you too, between
duty and friendship?--But to proceed: I was about, as I have said, to
give that up for the reasons I mentioned, when, upon a certain fine
evening, I crossed the path of one of the most masterful old maids I
have ever seen, or even heard of; and, would you believe it?"--this
with a quizzical look at his host's grave face--"this misguided old
lady took such a violent dislike to me at first sight, and expressed
it so thoroughly well, that, hang me if I was not completely brought
to. And all for escorting my dear one from Lady Maria's house to her
own! Well, the walk was worth it--though the old crocodile was on the
watch for us, ready to snap; had got wind of the secret, somehow, a
secret unspoken even between us two. This first and last interview
took place on the flags, in front of No. 17 Camden Place, Bath. Oh! It
was a very one-sided affair from the beginning, and ended abruptly in
a door being banged in my face. Then I heard about Miss O'Donoghue's
peculiarities in the direction of exclusiveness. And then, also, oddly
enough, for the first time, of the great fortune going with my
Madeleine's hand. Of course I saw it all, and, I may say, forgave the
old lady. In short, I realised that, in Miss O'Donoghue's mind, I am
nothing but an unprincipled fortune-seeker and adventurer. Now you,
Adrian, can vouch that, whatever my faults, I am none such."

Sir Adrian threw a quiet glance at his friend, whose eyes sparkled as
they met it.

"God knows," continued the latter, "that all I care for, concerning
the money, is that _she_ may have it. This last venture, the biggest
and most difficult of all, I then decided to undertake, that I might
be the fitter mate for the heiress--bless her! Oh, Adrian, man, could
you have seen her sweet tearful face that night, you would understand
that I could not rest upon such a parting. In the dawn of the next
morning I was in the street--not so much upon the chance of meeting,
though I knew that such sweetness would have now to be all stolen--but
to watch her door, her window; a lover's trick, rewarded by lover's
luck! Leaning on the railings, through the cold mist (cold it was,
though I never felt it, but I mind me now how the icicles broke under
my hand), what should I see, before even the church-bells had set to
chiming, or the yawning sluts to pull the kitchen curtains, but a
bloated monster of a coach, dragging and sliding up the street to
halt at her very door. Then out came the beldam herself, and two
muffled-up slender things--my Madeleine one of course; but I had a
regular turn at sight of them, for I swear I could not tell which was
which! Off rattled the chariot at a smart pace; and there I stood,
friend, feeling as if my heart was tied behind with the trunks."

The sailor laughed, ran his fingers through his curls and stamped in
lively recollection.

"Nothing to be drawn from their landlady. But I am not the man to
allow a prize to be snatched from under my very nose. So,
anathematising Miss O'Donoghue's family-tree, root, stem, and
branch--except that most lovely off-shoot I mean to transplant (you
will forgive this heat of blood; it was clearing for action so to
speak)--I ran out and overtook the ostler whom I had seen putting the
finishing touch to the lashing of boxes behind! _'Gloucester!'_ says
he. The word was worth the guinea it cost me, a hundred times
over.--In less than an hour I was in the saddle, ready for pursuit,
cantering boot to boot with my man--a trusty fellow who knows how to
hold his tongue, and can sit a horse in the bargain. Neither at
Gloucester, nor the next day, up to Worcester, could we succeed in
doing more than keep our fugitives in view. When they had alighted at
one inn, as ascertained by my squire, we patronised the opposition
hostelry, and the ensuing morning cantered steadily in pursuit, on
_our_ new post-horses half an hour after they had rumbled away with
_their_ relays. But the evening of our arrival at Worcester, my fellow
found out, at last, what the next stage was to be, and--clever chap,
he lost nothing for his sharpness--that the Three Kings' Heads had
been recommended to the old lady as the best house in Shrewsbury. This
time we took the lead, and on to Shrewsbury, and were at the glorious
old Kings' Heads (I in a private room, tight as wax) a good couple of
hours before the chariot made its appearance. And there, man, there!
my pretty one and I met again!"

"That was, no doubt," put in Sir Adrian, in his gentle, indulgent way,
"what made the Kings' Heads so glorious?"

"Ay. Right! And yet it was but a few seconds, on the stair, under a
smoky lamp, but her beauty filled the landing with radiance as her
kindness did my soul.--It was but for a moment, all blessed moment,
too brief, alas! Ah, Adrian, friend--old hermit in your cell--_you_
have never known life, you who have never tasted a moment such as
that! Then we started apart: there was a noise below, and she had only
time to whisper that she was on her way to Pulwick to some
relatives--had only heard it that very day--when steps came up the
stairs, creaking. With a last promise, a last word of love, I leaped
back into my own chamber, there to see (through the chink between door
and post) the untimely old mischief-maker herself pass slowly, sour
and solemn, towards her apartments, leaning upon her other niece's
arm. How could I have thought _that_ baggage like my princess?
Handsome, if you will; but, with her saucy eye, her raven head, her
brown cheek, no more to be compared to my stately lily than brass to
gold!"

The host listening wonderingly, his eyes fixed with kindly gravity
upon the speaker as he rattled on, here gave a slight start, all
unnoticed of his friend.

"The next morning, when I had seen the coach and its precious freight
move on once more northward, I began the retreat south, hugging myself
upon luck and success. I had business in Salcombe--perhaps you may
have heard of the Salcombe schooners--in connection with the fitting
out of that sailing wonder, the _Peregrine_. And so," concluded
Captain Jack, laughing again in exuberance of joy, "you may possibly
guess one of the reasons that has brought her and me round by your
island."

There ensued a long silence, filled with thoughts, equally pressing
though of widely different complexion, on either side of the hearth.

       *       *       *       *       *

During the meal, which was presently set forth and proclaimed ready by
René, the talk, as was natural in that watchful attendant's presence,
ran only on general topics, and was in consequence fitful and
unspontaneous. But when the two men, for all their difference of age,
temper, and pursuits so strongly, yet so oddly united in sympathy,
were once more alone, they naturally fell back under the influence of
the more engrossing strain of reflection. Again there was silence,
while each mused, gazing into space and vaguely listening to the
plash of high water under the window.

"It must have been a strong motive," said Sir Adrian, after his dreamy
fashion, like one thinking aloud, "to induce a man like you to abandon
his honourable name."

Captain Jack flushed at these words, drew his elbows from the table,
and shot a keen, inquiring glance at his friend, which, however, fell
promptly before the latter's unconscious gaze and was succeeded by one
of reflective melancholy. Then, with a slight sigh, he raised his
glass to the lamp, and while peering abstractedly through the ruby,
"The story of turning my back upon my house," he said musingly,
"shaking its very dust off my feet, so to speak, and starting life
afresh unbeholden to my father (even for what he could not take away
from me--my own name),--is a simple affair, although pitiful enough
perhaps. But memories of family wrongs and family quarrels are of
their nature painful; and, as I am a mirth-loving fellow, I hate to
bring them upon me. But perhaps it has occurred to you that I may have
brought some disgrace upon the name I have forsaken."

"I never allowed myself to think so," said Sir Adrian, surprised.
"Your very presence by my fireside is proof of it."

Again the captain scrutinised his host; then with a little laugh:
"Pardon me," he cried, "with another man one might accept that likely
proof and be flattered. But with you? why, I believe I know you too
well not to feel sure that you would have received me as kindly and
unreservedly, no matter what my past if only you thought that I had
repented; that you would forgive even a _crime_ regretted; and having
forgiven, forget.... But, to resume, you will believe me when I say
that there was nothing of the sort. No," he went on, with a musing
air, "but I could tell you of a boy, disliked at home for his stubborn
spirit, and one day thrashed, thrashed mercilessly--at a time when he
had thought he had reached to the pride of man's estate, thrashed by
his own father, and for no just cause.... Oh, Adrian, it is a terrible
thing to have put such resentment into a lad's heart." He rose as he
spoke, and placed himself before the hearth.

"If ever I have sons," he added after a pause, and at the words his
whole handsome face relaxed, and became suffused with a tender glow,
"I would rather cut my right hand off than raise such a spirit in
them. Well, I daresay you can guess the rest; I will even tell you in
a few words, and then dismiss the subject.--I have always had a
certain shrewdness at the bottom of my recklessness. Now there was a
cousin of the family, who had taken to commerce in Liverpool, and who
was therefore despised, ignored and insulted by us gentry of the
Shaws. So when I packed my bundle, and walked out of the park gate, I
thought of him; and two days later I presented myself at his mansion
in Rodney Street, Liverpool. I told him my name, whereat he scowled;
but he was promptly brought round upon hearing of my firm
determination to renounce it and all relations with my father's house
for ever, and of my reasons for this resolve, which he found
excellent. I could not have lighted upon a better man. He hated my
family as heartily as even I could wish, and readily, out of spite to
them, undertook to aid me. He was a most enterprising scoundrel, had a
share in half a dozen floating ventures. I expressed a desire for life
on the ocean wave, and he started me merrily as his nephew, Jack
Smith, to learn the business on a slaver of his. The 'ebony trade,'
you know, was all the go then, Adrian. Many great gentlemen in
Lancashire had shares in it. Now it is considered low. To say true, a
year of it was more than enough for me--too much! It sickened me. My
uncle laughed when I demurred at a second journey, but to humour me,
as I had learned something of the sailing trade, he found me another
berth, on board a privateer, the _St. Nicholas_. My fortune was made
from the moment I set foot on that lucky ship, as you know."

"And you have never seen your father since?"

"Neither father, nor brothers, nor any of my kin, save the cousin in
question. All I know is that my father is dead--that he disinherited
me expressly in the event of my being still in the flesh; my eldest
brother reigns; many of us are scattered, God knows where. And my
mother"--the sailor's voice changed slightly--"my mother lives in her
own house, with some of the younger ones. So much I have ascertained
quite recently. She believes me dead, of course. Oh, it will be a good
day, Adrian, when I can come back to her, independent, prosperous,
bringing my beautiful bride with me!... But until I can resume my name
in all freedom, this cannot be."

"But why, my dear fellow, these further risks and adventures? Surely,
even at your showing you have enough of this world's goods; why not
come forward, now, at once, openly? I will introduce you, as soon as
may be, in your real character, for the sake of your mother--of
Madeleine herself."

The sailor shook his head, tempted yet determined.

"I am not free to do so. I have given my word; my honour is engaged,"
he said. Then abruptly asked: "Have you ever heard of guinea
smuggling?"

"Guinea smuggling! No," said Sir Adrian, his amazement giving way to
anxiety.

"No? You surprise me. You who are, or were, I understand, a student of
philosophical matters, freedom of exchange, and international
intercourse and the rest of it--things we never shall have so long as
governments want money, I am thinking.--However, this guinea smuggling
is a comparatively new business. Now, _I_ don't know anything about
the theory; but I know this much of the practice that, while our
preventive service won't let guineas pass the Channel (as goods) this
year, somebody on the other side is devilish anxious to have them at
almost any cost. And the cost, you know, is heavy, for the risk of
confiscation is great. Well, your banker or your rich man will not
trust his bullion to your common free trader--he is not quite such a
fool."

"No," put in Sir Adrian, as the other paused on this mocking
proposition. "In the old days, when I was busy in promoting the
Savenaye expedition, I came across many of that gentry, and I cannot
mind a case where they could have been trusted with such a freight.
But perhaps," he added with a small smile, "the standard may be higher
now."

Captain Jack grinned appreciatively. "That is where the 'likes of me'
comes in. I will confess this not to be my first attempt. It is known
that I am one of the few whose word is warranty. What is more, as I
have said, it is known that I have the luck. Thus, even if I could
bring my own name into such a trade, I would not; it would be the
height of folly to change now."

For all his disapproval Sir Adrian could not repress a look of
amusement. "I verily believe, Jack," he said, shaking his head, "that
you are as superstitious yourself as the best of them!"

"I ought to make a good thing out of it," said Jack, evasively. "And
even with all that is lovely to keep me on shore, I would hardly give
it up, if I could. As things stand I could not if I would. Do not
condemn me, Adrian,--that would be fatal to my hopes--nay, I actually
want your help."

"I would you were out of it," reiterated Sir Adrian; "it takes so
little to turn the current of a man's life when he seems to be making
straight for happiness. As to the morals of it, I fail, I must admit,
to perceive any wrong in smuggling, at least in the abstract, except
that a certain kind of moral teaches that all is wrong that is against
the law. And yet so many of our laws are so ferocious and inept, and
as such the very cause of so much going wrong that might otherwise go
well; so many of those who administer them are themselves so ferocious
and inept, that the mere fact of a pursuit being unlawful is no real
condemnation in my eyes. But, as you know, Jack, those who place
themselves above some laws almost invariably renounce all. If you are
hanged for stealing a horse, or breaking some fiscal law and hanged
for killing a man, the tendency, under stress of circumstances is
obvious. Aye, have we not a proverb about it: as well be hanged for a
sheep as for a lamb?... There are gruesome stories about your free
traders--and gruesome endings to them. I well remember, in my young
days, the clanking gibbet on the sands near Preston and the three
tarred and iron-riveted carcases hanging, each in its chains, with the
perpetual guard of carrion crows.... Hanging in chains is still on the
statute book, I believe. But I'll stop my croaking now. You are not
one to be drawn into brutal ways; nor one, I fear, to be frightened
into prudence. Nevertheless," laughing quietly, "I am curious to know
in what way you expect help from me, in practice. Do you, seriously,
want me to embark actually on a smuggling expedition?--I demur, my
dear fellow."

Obviously relieved of some anxiety, the other burst out laughing.
"Never fear! I know your dislike to bilge water too well. I
appreciate too well also your comfortable surroundings," he returned,
seating himself once more complacently in his arm-chair, "much as I
should love your company on board my pleasure ship--for, if you
please, the _Peregrine_ is no smuggling lugger, but professes to be a
yacht. Still, you can be of help for all that, and without lifting
even a finger to promote this illicit trade. You may ignore it
completely, and yet you will render me incalculable service, provided
you do not debar me from paying you a few more visits in your
solitude, and give me the range of your caves and cellars."

"You are welcome enough," said the recluse. "I trust it may end as
well as it promises." And, after a pause, "Madeleine does not know the
nature of your present pursuit?"

"Oddly enough, and happily (for our moments of interview are short, as
you may imagine) she is not curious on the subject. I don't know what
notions the old Lady Maria may have put into her head about me. I
think she believes that I am engaged on some secret political intrigue
and approves of such. At least I gathered as much from her sympathetic
reticence; and, between ourselves, I am beginning to believe it
myself."

"How is that?" asked the listener, moved to fresh astonishment by this
new departure.

"Well, I may tell you, who not only can be as silent as the tomb, but
really have a right to know, since you are tacitly of the conspiracy.
This time the transaction is to be with some official of the French
Court. They want the metal, and yet wish to have it secretly. What
their motive may be is food for reflection if you like, but it is no
business of mine. And, besides the fact that one journey will suffice
for a sum which at the previous rate would have required half a score,
all the trouble and uncertainty of landing are disposed of; at any
rate, I am, when all is ready, to be met by a government vessel, get
my _quid pro quo_ as will be settled, and there the matter is to end."

"A curious expedition," mused Sir Adrian.

"Yes," said the sailor, "my last will be the best. By the way, will
you embark a few bags with me? I will take no commission."

Sir Adrian could not help laughing.

"No, thank you; I have no wish to launch any more of my patrimony on
ventures--since it would be of no service to you. I had almost as lief
you had made use of my old crow's nest without letting me into the ins
and outs of your projects. But, be it as it may, it is yours, night
and day. Your visits I shall take as being for me."

"What a man you are, upon my soul, Sir Adrian!" cried Captain Jack,
enthusiastically.

       *       *       *       *       *

Later on, when the "shaking down" hour, in Captain Jack's phraseology,
had sounded, and the two friends separated to rest, the young man
refused the offer, dictated by hospitality, of his host's own bedroom.
Sir Adrian did not press the point, and, leaving his guest at liberty
to enjoy the couch arranged by René in a corner under the bookshelves,
even as when Mademoiselle de Savenaye had been the guest of the peel,
himself retired to that now hallowed apartment.

"Odd fellow, that," soliloquised Captain Jack, as, slowly divesting
himself, he paced about the long room and, in the midst of roseate
reflections, examined his curious abode. "Withal, as good as ever
stepped. It was a fine day's work our old _St. Nicholas_ did, about
this time eight years ago. Rather unlike a crowded battery deck,
this," looking from the solemn books to the glinting organ pipes, and
conscious of the great silence. "As for me, I should go crazy by
myself here. But it suits him. Queer fish!" again ruminated the young
sailor. "He hates no one and yet dislikes almost everybody, except
that funny little Frenchy and me. Whereas _I_ like every man I
meet--unless I detest him!... My beautiful plumage!" this whilst
carefully folding the superfine coat and thereon the endless silken
stock. "Now there's a fellow who does not care a hang for any woman
under the sun, and yet enters into another chap's love affairs as if
he understood it all. I believe it will make him happy to win my cause
with Madeleine. I wish one could do something for _his_ happiness. It
is absurd, you know," as though apostrophising an objector, "a man
can't be happy without a woman. And yet again, my good Jack, you never
thought that before you met Madeleine. He has not met his Madeleine,
that's what it means. Where ignorance is bliss.... Friend Adrian! Let
us console ourselves and call you ignorantly happy, in your old crow's
nest. You have not stocked it so badly either.--For all your ignorance
in love, you have a pretty taste in liquor."

So thinking, he poured himself a last glass of his host's wine, which
he held for a moment in smiling cogitation, looking, with the mind's
eye, through the thick walls of the keep, across the cold mist-covered
sands of Scarthey and again through the warm and scented air of a
certain room (imagination pictured) where Madeleine must at that hour
lie in her slumber. After a moment of silent adoration he sent a
rapturous kiss landwards and tossed his glass with a last toast:

"Madeleine, my sweet! To your softly closed lids."

And again Captain Jack fell to telling over the precious tale of that
morning's interview, furtively secured, by that lover's luck he so
dutifully blessed, under the cluster of Scotch firs near the grey and
crumbling boundary walls of Pulwick Park.



CHAPTER XVIII

"LOVE GILDS THE SCENE AND WOMAN GUIDES THE PLOT"


Tanty's wrath upon discovering Sir Adrian's departure was all the
greater because she could extort no real explanation from Rupert, and
because her attacks rebounded, as it were, from the polished surface
he exposed to them on every side. Madeleine's indifference, and
Molly's apparently reckless spirits, further discomposed her during
supper; and upon the latter young lady's disappearance after the meal,
it was as much as she could do to finish her nightly game of patience
before mounting to seek her with the purpose of relieving her
overcharged feelings, and procuring what enlightenment she might.

The unwonted spectacle of the saucy damsel in tears made Miss
O'Donoghue halt upon the threshold, the hot wind of anger upon which
she seemed to be propelled into the room falling into sudden
nothingness.

There could be no mistake about it. Molly was weeping; so
energetically indeed, with such a passion of tears and sobs, that the
noise of Tanty's tumultuous entrance fell unheeded upon her ears.

All her sympathies stirred within her, the old lady advanced to the
girl with the intention of gathering her to her bosom. But as she drew
near, the black and white of the open diary attracted her eye under
the circle of lamplight, and being possessed of excellent long sight,
she thought it no shame to utilise the same across her grand-niece's
prostrate, heaving form, before making known her presence.

_"And so I sit and cry."_

Miss Molly was carrying out her programme with much precision, if
indeed her attitude, prone along the table, could be described as
sitting.

Miss O'Donoghue's eyes and mouth grew round, as with the expression of
an outraged cockatoo she read and re-read the tell-tale phrases. Here
was a complication she had not calculated upon.

"Dear, dear," she cried, clacking her tongue in disconsolate fashion,
so soon as she could get her breath. "What is the meaning of this, my
poor girl?"

Molly leaped to her feet, and turning a blazing, disfigured
countenance upon her relative, exclaimed with more energy than
politeness: "Good gracious, aunt, what _do_ you want?"

Then catching sight of the open diary, she looked suspiciously from it
to her visitor, and closed it with a hasty hand. But Miss O'Donoghue's
next words settled the doubt.

"Well, to be sure, what a state you have put yourself into," she
pursued in genuine distress. "What has happened then between you and
that fellow, whom I declare I begin to believe as crazy as Rupert
says, that you should be crying your eyes out over his going back to
his island?--you that I thought could not shed a tear if you tried.
Nothing left but to sit and cry, indeed."

"So you have been reading my diary, you mean thing," cried Miss Molly,
stamping her foot. "How dare you come creeping in here, spying at my
private concerns! Oh! oh! oh!" with unpremeditated artfulness,
relapsing into a paroxysm of sobs just in time to avert the volley of
rebuke with which the hot-tempered old lady was about to greet this
disrespectful outburst. "I am the most miserable girl in all the
world. I wish I were dead, I do."

Again Tanty opened her arms, and this time she did draw the stormy
creature to a bosom, as warm and motherly as if all the joys of
womanhood had not been withheld from it.

"Tell me all about it, my poor child." There was a distinct feeling of
comfort in the grasp of the old arms, comfort in the very ring of the
deep voice. Molly was not a secretive person by nature, and moreover
she retained quite enough shrewdness, even in her unwonted break-down,
to conjecture that with Tanty lay her sole hope of help. So rolling
her dark head distractedly on the old maid's shoulder, the young maid
narrated her tale of woe. Pressed by a pointed question here and
there, Tanty soon collected a series of impressions of Molly's visit
to Scarthey, that set her busy mind working upon a startlingly new
line. It was her nature to jump at conclusions, and it was not strange
that the girl's passionate display of grief should seem to be the
unmistakable outcome of tenderer feelings than the wounded pride and
disappointment which were in reality its sole motors.

"I am convinced it is Rupert that is at the bottom of it," cried Molly
at last, springing into uprightness again, and clenching her hands.
"His one idea is to drive his brother permanently from his own
home--and he _hates me_."

Tanty sat rigid with thought.

So Molly was in love with Sir Adrian Landale, and he--who knows--was
in love with her too; or if not with her, with her likeness to her
mother, and that was much the same thing when all was said and done.
Could anything be more suitable, more fortunate? Could ever two birds
be killed with one stone with more complete felicity than in this
settling of the two people she most loved upon earth? Poor pretty
Molly! The old lady's heart grew very tender over the girl who now
stood half sullenly, half bashfully averting her swollen face; five
days ago she had not known her handsome cousin, and now she was
breaking her heart for him.

It might be, indeed, as she said, that they had to thank Rupert for
this--and off flew Tanty's mind upon another tangent. Rupert was very
deep, there could be no doubt of that; he was anxious enough to keep
Adrian away from them all; what would it be then when it came to a
question of his marriage?

Tanty, with the delightful optimism that seventy years' experience had
failed to damp, here became confident of the approach of her younger
nephew's complete discomfiture, and in the cheering contemplation of
that event chuckled so unctuously that Molly looked at her amazed.

"It is well for you, my dear," said the old lady, rising and wagging
her head with an air of enigmatic resolution, "that you have got an
aunt."

       *       *       *       *       *

Some two days later, René, sitting upon a ledge of the old Scarthey
wall, in the spare sunshine which this still, winter's noon shone
pearl-like through a universal mist, busy mending a net, to the tune
of a melancholy, inward whistle, heard up above the licking of the
waves all around him and the whimper of the seagulls overhead, the
beat of steady oars approaching from land side.

Starting to his feet, the little man, in vague expectation, ran to a
point of vantage from which to scan the tideway; after a few seconds'
investigation he turned tail, dashed into the ruins, up the steps, and
burst open the door of the sitting-room, calling upon his master with
a scared expression of astonishment.

Captain Jack, poring over a map, his pipe sticking rakishly out of one
side of his mouth, looked up amused at the Frenchman's evident
excitement, while Adrian, who had been busy with the uppermost row of
books upon his west wall, looked down from his ladder perch, with the
pessimist's constitutional expectation of evil growing upon his face.

"One comes in a boat," ejaculated René, "and I thought I ought to warn
his honour, if his honour will give himself the trouble to look out."

"It must be the devil to frighten Renny in this fashion," muttered
Captain Jack as distinctly as the clench of his teeth upon the pipe
would allow him. Sir Adrian paled a little, he began to descend his
ladder, mechanically flicking the dust from his cuffs.

"Your honour," said René, drawing to the window and looking out
cautiously, "I have not yet seen her, but I believe it is old
miss--the aunt of your honour and these ladies."

Captain Jack's pipe fell from his dropping jaw and was broken into
many fragments as he leaped to his feet with an elasticity of limb and
a richness of expletive which of themselves would have betrayed his
calling.

Flinging his arm across one of Adrian's shoulders he peeped across the
other out of the window, with an alarm half mocking, half genuine.

"The devil it is, friend Renny," he cried, drawing back and running
his hands with an exaggerated gesture of despair through his brown
curls; "Adrian, all is lost unless you hide me."

"My aunt here, and alone," exclaimed Adrian, retreating from the
window perturbed enough himself, "I must go down to meet her. Pray God
it is no ill news! Hurry, Renny, clear these glasses away."

"In the name of all that's sacred, clear me away first!" interposed
Captain Jack, this time with a real urgency; through the open lattice
came the sound of the grating of the boat's keel upon the sand and a
vigorous hail from a masculine throat--"Ahoy, Renny Potter, ahoy!"
"Adrian, this is a matter of life and death to my hopes, hide me in
your lowest dungeon for goodness' sake; I do not know my way about
your ruins, and I am convinced the old lady will nose me out like a
badger."

There was no time for explanation; Sir Adrian made a sign to René, who
highly enjoying the situation and grinning from ear to ear, was
already volunteering to "well hide Mr. the Captain," and the pair
disappeared with much celerity into the inner room, while Adrian,
unable to afford himself further preparation, hurried down the great
stairs to meet this unexpected guest.

He emerged bareheaded into the curious mist which hung pall-like upon
the outer world, and seemed to combine the opposite elements of glare
and dulness, just as Tanty, aided by the stalwart arm of the boatman,
who had rowed her across, succeeded in dragging her rheumatic limbs up
the last bit of ascent to the door of the keep.

She halted, disengaged herself, and puffing and blowing surveyed her
nephew with a stony gaze.

"My dear aunt," cried Adrian, "nothing has happened, I trust?"

"Sufficient has already happened, nephew, I should _hope_," retorted
the old lady with extreme dignity, "sufficient to make me desire to
confer with you most seriously. I thank you, young man," turning to
William Shearman who stood on one side, his eager gaze upon "the
master," ready to pull his forelock so soon as he could catch his eye,
"be here again in an hour, if you please."

"But you will allow me to escort you myself," exclaimed Adrian, rising
to the situation, "and I hope there need be no hurry so long as
daylight lasts--Good-morning, Will, I am glad the new craft is a
success--you need not wait. Tanty, take my arm, I beg, the steps are
steep and rough."

Gripping her nephew's arm with her bony old woman's hand, Miss
O'Donoghue began a laborious ascent, pausing every five steps to
breathe stertorously and reproachfully, and look round upon the
sandstone walls with supreme disdain; but this was nothing to the air
with which, when at last installed upon a high hard chair, in the
sitting-room (having sternly refused the easy one Sir Adrian humbly
proffered), she deliberately proceeded to survey the scene. In truth,
the neatness that usually characterised Adrian's surroundings was
conspicuously absent from them, just then.

Two or three maps lay overlapping each other upon the table beside the
tray with its flagon of amber ale, which had formed the captain's
morning draught; and the soiled glass, the fragments of his pipe, and
its half-burnt contents lay strewn about the prostrate chair which
that lively individual had upset in his agitation. Adrian's ladder,
the books he had been handling and had not replaced, the white ash of
the dying fire, all contributed to the unwonted aspect of somewhat
melancholy disorder; worse than all, the fumes of the strong tobacco
which the sailor liked to smoke in his secluded moments hung rank,
despite the open window, upon the absolute motionlessness of the
atmosphere.

Tanty snorted and sniffed, while Adrian, after picking up the chair,
began to almost unconsciously refold the maps, his eyes fixed
wonderingly upon his visitor's face.

This latter delivered herself at length of some of the indignation
that was choking her, in abrupt disjointed sentences, as if she were
uncorking so many bottles.

"Well I'm sure, nephew, I am not surprised at your _extraordinary_
behaviour, and if this is the style you prefer to live in--style, did
I say?--sty would be more appropriate. Of course it is only what I
have been led to expect, but I must say I was ill prepared to be
treated by you with actual disrespect. My sister's child and I your
guest, not to speak of your aunt, and you your mother's son, and her
host besides! It is a slap in the face, Adrian, a slap in the face
which has been a very bitter pill to have to swallow, I assure you--I
may say without exaggeration, in fact, that it has cut me to the
quick."

"But surely," cried the nephew, laughing with gentle indulgence at
this complicated indictment, "surely you cannot suppose I would have
been willingly guilty of the smallest disrespect to you. I am a most
unfortunate man, most unfortunately situated, and if I have offended,
it is, you must believe, unwittingly and unavoidably. But you got my
letter--I made my motives clear to you."

"Oh yes, I got your letter yesterday," responded Tanty, not at all
softened, "and a more idiotic production from a man of your
attainments, allow me to remark, I never read. Adrian, you are making
a perfect fool of yourself, and _you cannot afford it_!"

"I fear you will never really understand my position," murmured Adrian
hopelessly.

Tanty rattled her large green umbrella upon the floor with a violence
that made her nephew start, then turned upon him a countenance
inflamed with righteous anger.

"It is only three days ago since I gave you fully my view of the
situation," she remarked, "you were good enough at the time to admit
that it was a remarkably well-balanced one. I should be glad if you
will explain in what manner your position could have changed in the
space of just three hours after, to lead you to rush back to your
island, really as if you were a mole or a wild Indian, or some other
strange animal that could not bear civilised society, without even so
much as a good-bye to me, or to your cousins either? What is
that?--you say you wrote--oh, ay--you wrote--to Molly as well as to
me; rigmaroles, my dear nephew, mere absurd statements that have not a
grain of truth in them, that do not hold water for an instant. You are
not made for the world forsooth, nor the world for you! and if that is
not flying in the face of your Creator, and wanting to know better
than Providence!--And then you say, 'you cast a gloom by your mere
presence.' Fiddle-de-dee! It was not much in the way of gloom that
Molly brought back with her from her three days' visit to you--or if
that is gloom--well, the more your presence casts of it the
better--that is all I can say. Ah, but you should have seen her, poor
child, after you went away in that heartless manner and you had
removed yourself and your shadow, and your precious gloom--if you
could have seen how unhappy she has been!"

"Good God!" exclaimed the man with a paling face, "what are you
saying?"

"Only the truth, sir--Molly is breaking her heart because of your base
desertion of her."

"Good God," muttered Adrian again, rose up stiffly in a sort of
horrified astonishment and then sat down again and passed his hand
over his forehead like a man striving to awaken from a painful dream.

"Oh, Adrian, don't be more of a fool than you can possibly help!"
cried his relative, exasperated beyond all expression by his
inarticulate distress. "You are so busy contemplating all sorts of
absurdities miles away that I verily believe you cannot see an inch
beyond your nose. My gracious! what is there to be so astonished at?
How did you behave to the poor innocent from the very instant she
crossed your threshold? Fact is, you have been a regular gay Lothario.
Did you not"--cried Tanty, starting again upon her fine vein of
metaphor--"did you not deliberately hold the cup of love to those
young lips only to nip it in the bud? The girl is not a stock or a
stone. You are a handsome man, Adrian, and the long and the short of
it is, those who play with fire must reap as they have sown."

Tanty, who had been holding forth with the rapidity of a loose
windmill in a hurricane, here found herself forced to pause and take
breath; which she did, fanning herself with much energy, a triumphant
consciousness of the unimpeachability of her logic written upon her
heated countenance. But Adrian still stared at her with the same
incredulous dismay; looking indeed as little like a gay Lothario as it
was possible, even for him.

"Do you mean," he said at last, in slow broken sentences, as his mind
wrestled with the strange tidings; "am I to understand that Molly,
that bright beautiful creature, has been made unhappy through me? Oh,
my dear Tanty," striving with a laugh, "the idea is too absurd, I am
old enough to be her father, you know--what evidence can you have for
a statement so distressing, so extraordinary."

"I am not quite in my dotage yet," quoth Tanty, drily; "neither am I
in the habit of making unfounded assertions, nephew. I have heard what
the girl has said with her own lips, I have read what she has written
in her diary; she has sobbed and cried over your cruelty in these very
arms--I don't know what further evidence----"

But Sir Adrian had started up again--"Molly crying, Molly crying for
me--God help us all--Cécile's child, whom I would give my life to keep
from trouble! Tanty, if this is true--it must be true since you say
so, I hardly know myself what I am saying--then I am to blame, deeply
to blame--and yet--I have not said one word to the child--did
nothing...." here he paused and a deep flush overspread his face to
the roots of his hair; "except indeed in the first moment of her
arrival--when she came in upon me as I was lost in memories of the
past--like the spirit of Cécile."

"Humph," said Tanty, pointedly, "but then you see what you took for
Cécile's spirit happened to be Molly in the flesh." She fixed her
sharp eyes upon her nephew, who, struck into confusion by her words,
seemed for the moment unable to answer. Then, as if satisfied with the
impression produced, she folded her hands over the umbrella handle and
observed in more placid tones than she had yet used:

"And now we must see what is to be done."

Adrian began to pace the room in greater perturbation.

"What is to be done?" he repeated, "alas! what can be done? Tanty, you
will believe me when I tell you that I should have cut off my right
hand rather than brought this thing upon the child--but she is very
young--the impression, thank heaven, cannot in the nature of things
endure. She will meet some one worthy of her--with you, Tanty, kindest
of hearts, I can safely trust her future. But that she should suffer
now, and through me, that bright creature who flitted in upon my dark
life, like some heaven-sent messenger--these are evil tidings. Tanty,
you must take her away, you must distract her mind, you must tell her
what a poor broken-down being I am, how little worthy of her sweet
thoughts, and she will learn, soon learn, to forget me, to laugh at
herself."

Although addressing the old lady, he spoke like a man reasoning with
himself, and the words dropped from his lips as if drawn from a very
well of bitterness. Tanty listened to him in silence, but the tension
of her whole frame betrayed that she was only gathering her forces for
another explosion.

When Adrian's voice ceased there was a moment's silence and then the
storm burst; whisking herself out of her chair, the umbrella came
into play once more. But though it was only to thump the table, it was
evident Miss O'Donoghue would more willingly have laid it about the
delinquent's shoulders.

"Adrian, are you a man at all?" she ejaculated fiercely. Then with
sudden deadly composure: "So _this_ is the reparation you propose to
make for the mischief you have wrought?"

"In God's name!" cried he, goaded at length into some sort of
despairing anger himself, "what would you have me do?"

The answer came with the promptitude of a return shot:

"Do? why marry her, of course!"

"_Marry her!_"

There was a breathless pause. Tanty, leaning forward across the table,
crimson, agitated, yet triumphant; Adrian's white face blasted with
astonishment. "Marry her," he echoed at length once more, in a whisper
this time. Then with a groan: "This is madness!"

Miss O'Donoghue caught him up briskly. "Madness? My good fellow, not a
bit of it; on the contrary, sanity, happiness, prosperity.--Adrian,
don't stand staring at me like a stuck pig! Why, in the name of
conscience, should not you marry? You are a young man still--pooh,
pooh, what is forty!--you are a very fine-looking man, clever,
romantic--hear me out, sir, please--_and you have made the child love
you_. There you are again, as if you had a pain in your stomach; you
would try the patience of Job! Why, I don't believe there is another
man on earth that would not be wild with joy at the mere thought of
having gained such a prize. A beautiful creature, with a heart of gold
and a purse of gold to boot."

"Oh, heavens, aunt!" interrupted the man, passionately, "leave that
question out of the reckoning. The one thing, the only thing, to
consider is _her_ happiness. You cannot make me believe it can be for
her happiness that she should marry such as me."

"And why shouldn't it be for her happiness?" answered the dauntless
old lady. "Was not she happy enough with you here in this God-forsaken
hole, with nothing but the tempest besides for company? Why should not
she be happy, then, when you come back to your own good place? Would
not you be _kind_ to her?--would not you cherish her if she were your
wife?"

"Would I not be kind to her?--would I not cherish her?--would I
not----? My God!"

"Why, Adrian," cried Tanty, charmed at this unexpected disclosure of
feeling and the accent with which it was delivered, "I declare you are
as much in love with the girl as she is with you. Why, now you shall
just come back with me to Pulwick this moment, and she shall tell you
herself if she can find happiness with you or not. Oh--I will hear no
more--your own heart, your feelings as a gentleman, as a man of
honour, all point, my dear nephew, in the same direction. And if you
neglect this warning voice you will be blind indeed to the call of
duty. Come now, come back to your home, where the sweetest wife ever a
man had awaits you. And when I shall see the children spring up around
you, Adrian, then God will have granted my last wish, and I shall die
in peace.... There, there, I am an old fool, but when the heart is
over full, then the tears fall. Come, Adrian, come, I'll say no more;
but the sight of the poor child who loves you shall plead for her
happiness and yours. And hark, a word in your ear: let Rupert bark and
snarl as he will! And what sort of a devil is it your generosity has
made of _him_? You have done a bad day's work there all these years,
but, please God, there are better times dawning for us all.--What are
you doing, Adrian? Oh! writing a few orders to your servant to explain
your departure with me--quite right, quite right, I won't speak a word
then to interrupt you. Dear me! I really feel quite in spirits. Once
dear Molly and you settled, there will be a happy home for Madeleine:
with you, we can look out a suitable husband for her. Well, well, I
must not go too fast yet, I suppose: but I have not told you in what
deep anxiety I have been on _her_ account by reason of a most
deplorable affair--a foolish girl's fancy only, of course, with a most
undesirable and objectionable creature called _Smith_.... Oh! you are
ready, are you?--My dear Adrian, give me your arm then, and let us
proceed."

       *       *       *       *       *

Silence had reigned for but a few seconds in the great room of the
keep when Captain Jack re-entered, bearing on his face an expression
at once boyishly jubilant and mockingly astonished. He planted
himself in front of the landward window, and gazed forth a while.

"There goes my old Adrian, as dutifully escorting that walking
sack of bones, that tar-barrel ornament--never mind, old lady,
from this moment I shall love you for your brave deeds of this
morning--escorting his worthy aunt as dutifully as though he were a
penniless nephew.... Gently over the gunnel, madam! That's done! So
you are going to take my gig? Right, Adrian. Dear me, how she holds
forth! I fancy I hear her from here.--Give way, my lads! That's all
right. Gad! Old Adrian's carried off on a regular journey to Cythera,
under a proper escort!"

With this odd reminiscence of early mythological reading, the sailor
burst into a loud laugh and walked about slapping his leg.

"Would ever any one have guessed anything approaching this?
Star-gazing, book-grubbing Sir Adrian ... in love! Adrian the
solitary, the pessimist, the I-don't-know-what superior man, in love!
Neither more nor less! In love, like an every-day inhabitant of these
realms, and with that black-eyed sister of mine that is to be! My
word, it's too perfect! Adrian my brother-in-law--for if I gauge that
fine creature properly--splendid old lady--she won't let him slide
back this time. No, my dear Adrian, you are hooked for matrimony and a
return to the living world. That black-eyed jade too, that Molly
sister of my Madeleine, will wake up and lead you a life, by
George!... Row on, my lads," once more looking at the diminishing
black spot upon the grey waters. "Row on--you have never done a better
day's work!"

René, entering a few moments later, with an open note in his hand,
found his master's friend still chuckling, and looked at him
inquisitively.

"His honour has returned to Pulwick," said he, in puzzled tones,
handing the missive.

"Ay, lad," answered the sailor, cheerily. "The fact is, my good Renny,
that in that room of Sir Adrian's where you ensconced me for safety
from that most wonderful specimen of her sex (I refer to your master's
worthy aunt), it was impossible to avoid overhearing many of her
remarks--magnificent voice for a storm at sea, eh? Never mind what it
was all about, my good man; what I heard was good news. Ah!"
directing his attention to the note; "his honour does not say when he
will return, but will send back the gig immediately; and you, M.
Potter, are to look after me for as long as I choose to stop here."

René required no reflection to realise that anything in the shape of
good news which took his master back to his estate must be good news
indeed; and his broad face promptly mirrored, in the broadest of
grins, the captain's own satisfaction.

"For sure, we will try to take care of M. the captain, as well as if
his honour himself was present. He told me you were to be master
here."

"Make it so. I should like some dinner as soon as possible, and one of
my bro----of Sir Adrian's best bottles. It's a poor heart that never
rejoices. Meanwhile, I want to inspect your ruins and your caves in
detail, if you will pilot me, Renny. This is a handy sort of an old
Robinson Crusoe place for hiding and storing, is it not?"



CHAPTER XIX

A JUNIOR'S OPINION


A rarely failing characteristic of very warm-hearted and strongly
impulsive people is their inability of graduating their likes and
dislikes; a state of mind which cannot fail to lead to frequent
alterations of temper.

On more than one occasion, since the domineering old lady had started
upon her peregrinations, had her favour for the two brothers undergone
reversal; but the ground Rupert gained by Adrian's offences was never
of safe tenure. At the present hour, under the elation of her
victorious sally upon the hermit's pessimistic entrenchments--the only
thing in him of which she disapproved--he at once resumed the warm
place she liked to keep for him in her heart. And as a consequence
"Master Rupert," as she contemptuously called the "locum tenens
Squire," who, in the genealogical order of things, should have been a
person of small importance, fell promptly into his original state of
disgrace.

During the drive from the village (where she had ordered the carriage
to await her return) to the gates of Pulwick, Miss O'Donoghue
entertained her companion with an indignant account of his brother's
ingratitude, of his hypocritical insinuating method of disparagement
of Sir Adrian himself, winding up each indictment with a shrewd, "but
he could not impose upon _me_," which, indeed, she firmly believed.

Her object was, of course, to strengthen the baronet in his resolve to
return to the headship of his family--little guessing what a strong
incentive to seclusion these very tales of a state of things he
suspected but too well would have proved, had it not been for the new
unforeseen motive that the morning's revelation had brought.

"Does Molly know of your visit to me?" he asked, as the carriage
halted before the gate, and the enormous, red-headed Cumbrian
gatekeeper with his rosy Moggie, proudly swung it open to stand on
either side, the one bowing with jubilant greeting and the other
curtseying with bashful smiles at the real master. "Does she expect my
visit?" relapsing into gravity after returning the salutation in
kindliness.

"I have told no one of my purpose this day. Rupert walked off to the
stables immediately after breakfast--going a-hunting he said he was,
and offered to bear the girls to the meet. And then, feeling lonely
without his company," added Tanty, with a wink, "I ordered the
carriage and thought I would go and have a peep at the place where
poor Molly was drowned, just for a little diversion. Whether the
little rogue expects you or not, after your note of the other day, I
am sure I could not take upon myself to say. She sits watching that
crazy old tower of yours by day and your light by night. Well, well, I
must not tell tales out of school, you may find out for yourself. But
mind you, Adrian," she impressed on him, sagely, "it is not I who
bring you back: you return of your own accord. The child would murder
me, if she knew--with that proud heart of hers."

"My dear Tanty, trust me. This incomprehensible discovery of yours,
which I cannot yet believe in, really is, so far as my discretion is
concerned, as if I had never heard of it. Heavens! I have been a
blundering fool, but I could not insult her with a hint of it for the
world. I have come to see Rupert to-day, as usual, of course--and, as
you say ... I shall see for myself. You have opened my eyes."

Miss O'Donoghue looked at her nephew with admiration. "_Voyez un
peu_," she said, "_comme l'amour vous dégourdit_ even a doleful Sir
Adrian! Faith, here we are. This has been a pleasant ride, but my old
bones are so tired, and you and yours have set them jogging so much of
late, that I think I'll never want to stir a foot again once I get
back to Bunratty ... except indeed to come and be godmother to the
heir."

Having lent a dutiful arm up the stairs to his now beaming relative,
Sir Adrian came down pensively and entered the library.

There, booted and spurred, but quietly installed at a writing table,
sat Mr. Landale, who rose in his nonchalant manner and with cold looks
met his brother.

There was no greeting between them, but simply thus:

"I understood from Aunt Rose you were out hunting."

"Such was my intention, but when I found out that she had gone to see
you--don't look so astonished, Adrian--a man must know what is going
on in his household--I suspected you would escort her back; so I
desisted and waited for you. It is an unexpected pleasure to see you,
for I thought we had sufficiently discussed all business, recently.
But doubtless you will profit of the opportunity to go into a few
matters which want your attention. Do you mean to remain?"

Speaking these words in a detached manner, Mr. Landale kept a keenly
observant look upon his brother's countenance. In a most unwonted way
the tone and the look irritated Sir Adrian.

"I came back, Rupert, because there were some things I wished to see
for myself here," he answered frigidly. And going to the bell, rang it
vigorously.

On the servant's appearance, without reference to his brother, he
himself, and very shortly, gave orders:

"I shall dine here to-day. Have the tapestry-room made ready for me."

Then turning to Rupert, whose face betrayed some of the astonishment
aroused by this most unusual assumption of authority, and resuming as
it were the thread of his speech, he went on:

"No, Rupert, I have no desire to talk business with you. It is a pity
you should have given up your day. Is it yet too late?"

"Upon my word, Adrian," said Mr. Landale, clenching his hand nervously
round his fine cambric handkerchief, "there must be something of
importance in the wind to have altered your bearing towards me to this
extent. I have no wish to interfere. I came back and gave up good
company for the reason I have stated. I will now only point out that,
with your sudden whims, you render my position excessively false in a
house where, at your own wish, I am ostensibly established as master."

And without waiting for another word, the younger brother, having
shot the arrow which hitherto never failed to reach the bull's-eye of
the situation, left the room with much dignity.

Once more alone, Sir Adrian, standing motionless in the great room,
darkened yet more in the winter light by the heavy festoons of
curtains that hung over the numerous empty bookshelves, the souls of
which had migrated to the peel to keep the master company, cogitated
upon this first unpleasant step in his new departure, and wondered
within himself why he had felt so extraordinarily moved by anger
to-day at the cold inquisitiveness of his brother. No doubt the sense
of being watched thus, held away at arm's-length as it were, was cause
sufficient. And yet that was not it; ingratitude alone, even to
enmity, in return for benefits forgot could not rouse this bitterness.
But had it not been for Tanty's interference he would be now exiled
from his home until the departure of Cécile's child, just as, but for
chance, he would have been kept in actual ignorance of her arrival. It
was his brother's doing that he had blindly withdrawn himself when his
presence would have caused happiness to her. Yes, that was it. Rupert
had a scheme. That was what dwelt in his eyes,--a scheme which would
bring, indeed did bring, unhappiness to that dear guest.... No wonder,
now, that the unconscious realisation of it awoke all the man's blood
in him.

"No, Rupert," Sir Adrian found himself saying aloud, "I let you reign
at Pulwick so long as you crossed not one jot of such pleasure and
happiness that might belong to Cécile's child. But here our wills
clash; and now, since there cannot be two masters in a house as you
say, _I_ am the master here."

       *       *       *       *       *

As Sir Adrian's mind was seething in this unusual mood, Miss
O'Donoghue, entering her nieces' room, found Molly perched, in riding
dress, on the window-sill, looking forth upon the outer world with
dissatisfied countenance.

Mr. Landale had sent word at the last moment that, to his intense
regret, he could not escort the ladies to the meet, some important
business having retained him at Pulwick.

So much did Miss Molly pettishly explain in answer to the
affectionate inquiry concerning the cloud on her brow, slashing her
whip the while and pouting, and generally out of harmony with the
special radiance of the old lady's eye and the more than usual
expansiveness of the embrace which was bestowed upon her.

"Tut, tut, tut, now," observed the artful person in tones of deep
commiseration. "Ah well, Rupert's a poor creature which ever side he
turns up. Will you go now, my child, and fetch me the letters I left
on the drawing-room table? Isn't it like me to spend half the morning
writing them and leave them down there after all!"

Molly rose unwillingly, threw her whip on the bed, her hat on the
floor; and mistily concerned over Tanty's air of irrepressible and
pleasurable excitement, walked out of the room, bestowing as she
passed her long pier glass a moody glance at her own glowering beauty.

"What's the use of _you_?" she muttered to herself, "Anybody can fetch
and carry for old aunts and look out of windows on leafless trees!"

The way to the drawing-room was through the library. As Molly,
immersed in her reflections, passed along this room, she stopped with
a violent start on perceiving the figure of Sir Adrian, a tall
silhouette against the cold light of the window. As she came upon him,
her face was fully illumined, and there was a glorious tale-telling in
the widening of her eyes and the warm flush that mounted to her cheek
that on the instant scattered in the man's mind all wondering doubts.
A rush of tenderness filled him at one sweep, head and heart, to the
core.

"Molly!" he cried, panting; and then with halting voice as she
advanced a pace and stood with mouth parted and brilliant expectant
eyes: "You took away all light and warmth with you when you left my
lonely dwelling. I tried to take up my life there, but----"

"But you have come back--for me?" And drawn by his extended hands she
advanced, her burning gaze fixed upon his.

"I dared not think of seeing you again," he murmured, clasping her
hands; "yet my return ... pleases you?"

"Yes."

Thus was crowned this strange wooing, was clenched a life's union,
based upon either side on fascinating unrealities.

She was drawn into his arms; and against his heart she lay, shaking
with little shivers of delight, looking into the noble face bent so
lovingly over hers, her mind floating between unconscious exultation
and languorous joy.

For a long while without a word he held her thus on his strong arm,
gazing with a rending conflict of rapture and anguish on the beautiful
image of his life's love, until his eyes were dimmed with rising
tears. Then he slowly stooped over the up-turned face, and as she
dropped her lids with a faint smile, kissed her lips.

There came a warning rattle at the door handle, and Molly, disengaging
herself softly from her betrothed's embrace, but still retaining his
arm, turned to witness the entrance of Miss O'Donoghue and Mr.
Landale.

On the former's face, under a feigned expression of surprise, now
expanded itself in effulgence the plenitude of that satisfaction which
had been dawning there ever since her return from the island.

Rupert held himself well in hand. He halted, it is true, for an
instant at the first sight of Sir Adrian and Molly, and put his
handkerchief furtively to his forehead to wipe the sudden cold sweat
which broke out upon it. But the hesitation was so momentary as to
pass unperceived; and if his countenance, as he advanced again, bore
an expression of disapproval, it was at once dignified and restrained.

"So you are there, Molly," exclaimed the old lady with inimitable
airiness. "Just imagine, my dear, I had those letters in my pocket all
the while, after all. You did not find them, did you?"

But Adrian, still retaining the little hand on his arm, came forward
slowly and broke through the incipient flow.

"Aunt Rose," said he in a voice still veiled by emotion, "I know your
kind heart will rejoice with me, although you may not be so surprised,
as no doubt Rupert will be, at the news we have for you, Molly and I."

"You are right, Adrian," interrupted Rupert gravely, "to any who know
your life and _your past_ as I do, the news you seem to have for us
must seem strange indeed. So strange that you will excuse me if I
withhold congratulations. For, if I mistake not," he added, with a
delicately shaded change of tone to sympathetic courtesy, and slightly
turning his handsome face towards Molly, "I assume that my fair
cousin de Savenaye has even but now promised to be my sister, Lady
Landale."

Sir Adrian who, softened by the emotion of this wonderful hour, had
made a movement to grasp his brother's hand, but had checked himself
with a passionate movement of anger, instantly restrained, as the
overt impertinence of the first words fell on his ears, here looked
with a shadowing anxiety at the girl's face.

But Molly, who could never withhold the lash of her tongue when Rupert
gave the slightest opening, immediately acknowledged her enemy's
courtly bow with sauciness.

"What! No congratulations from the model brother? Not even a word of
thanks to Molly de Savenaye for bringing the truant to his home at
last? But you malign yourself, my dear Rupert. I believe 'tis but
excess of joy that ties your tongue."

With gleaming smile Mr. Landale would have opposed this direct thrust
by some parry of polished insult; but he met his elder's commanding
glance, remembered his parting words on two previous occasions, and
wisely abstained, contenting himself with another slight bow and a
contemptuous shrug of the shoulders.

At the same time Miss O'Donoghue, with an odd mixture of farcically
pretended astonishment and genuine triumph, fell on the girl's neck.

"It is possible, soul of my heart, my sweet child--I can't believe
it--though I vow I knew it all along! So I am to see my two favourites
made one by holy matrimony!" punctuating her exclamation with kisses
on the fair young face, and wildly seeking in space with her dried-up
old fingers to meet Adrian's hand. "I, the one barren stock of the
O'Donoghues, shall see my sister's children re-united. Ah, Adrian,
what a beautiful coat this will make for you to hand to your children!
O'Donoghue, Landale, Kermelégan, Savenaye--eighteen quarters with this
heiress alone, Adrian child, for the descendants of Landale of
Pulwick!" And Miss O'Donoghue, overcome by this culminating vision of
happiness and perfection, fairly burst into tears.

In the midst of this scene, Mr. Landale, after listening mockingly for
a few instants, retired with ostentatious discretion.

Later in the day, as Madeleine bent her pretty ears, dutifully yet
with wandering attention, to Molly's gay prognostications concerning
Pulwick under her sway; whilst the servants in the hall, pantry and
kitchen discussed the great news which, by some incomprehensible
agency, spread with torrent-like swiftness through the whole estate;
while Miss O'Donoghue was feverishly busy with the correspondence
which was to disseminate far and wide the world's knowledge of the
happy betrothal, Sir Adrian met his brother walking meditatively along
the winding path of the garden, flicking with the loop of his crop the
border of evergreens as he went. From their room, Molly and Madeleine,
ensconced in the deep window-seat, could see the meeting.

"How I should like to hear," said Molly. "I know this supple wretch
will be full of Adrian's folly in marrying me--first, because, from
the Rupertian point of view, it is a disastrous thing that his elder
should marry at all; and secondly, because Molly, mistress at Pulwick
Priory, means a very queer position indeed for Mr. Rupert Landale. How
I wish my spirit could fly into Adrian's head just for a moment!
Adrian is too indulgent. It requires a Molly to deal with such
impertinence."

"Indeed you are unjust with our cousin," said Madeleine, gently. "Why
this hatred? I cannot understand."

"No, of course not, Madeleine. Rupert is charming--with you. I am not
blind. But take care he does not find out _your_ secret, miss. Oh, I
don't ask you any more about it. But if he ever does--_gare, ma
chère_."

But at the present juncture, Molly's estimate of Sir Adrian's mood was
mistaken. His love of peace, which amounted to a well-known weakness
where he alone was concerned, weighed not a feather in the balance
when such an interest as that now engaged was at stake.

As a matter of fact, Rupert Landale was to be taken by surprise again,
that day, and again not pleasantly. On noticing his brother's
approach, he stopped his angry flickings, and slowly moved to meet
him. At first they walked side by side in silence. Presently Sir
Adrian began:

"Rupert," he said gravely, "after our first interview to-day, it was
my intention to have begged your pardon for a certain roughness in my
manner which I should have controlled and which you resented. I would
have done so, had you allowed me, at that moment when I announced my
forthcoming marriage and my heart was full of good-will to all,
especially to you. Now, on the contrary, to re-establish at least that
outward harmony without which life in common would be impossible, I
expect from you some expression of regret for your behaviour."

The first part of his brother's say was so well in accordance with his
more habitual mood, that Mr. Landale had already sketched his equally
habitual deprecating smile; but the conclusion changed the entire
standpoint of their relations.

"An expression of regret--from _me_?" cried he, exaggerating his
astonishment almost to mockery.

"From any one but my brother," said Adrian, with a slight but
perceptible hardening in his tone, "I should say an apology for an
impertinence."

Mr. Landale, now genuinely taken aback, turned a little pale and
halted abruptly.

"Adrian, Adrian!" he retorted, quickly. "This is one of your mad
moments. I do not understand."

"No, brother, I am not mad, and never have been, dearly as you would
wish me to be so in reality--since Death would have none of me. But
though you know this yourself but too well, you have never understood
me really. Now listen--once for all. Try and see our positions as they
are: perhaps then matters will go more pleasantly in the future for
you as well as for me."

Mr. Landale looked keenly at the speaker's face for a second, and then
without a word resumed his walk, while Sir Adrian by his side pursued
with quiet emphasis:

"When I returned, from the other world so to speak, at least from your
point of view (one which I fully understood), I found that this very
return was nothing short of a calamity for all that remained of my
kin. I had it in my power to reduce that misfortune to a great extent.
You loved the position--that worldly estimation, that fortune, all
those circumstances which, with perfect moral right, you had hitherto
enjoyed. They presented little attraction to me. Moreover, there were
many reasons, which I am quite aware you know, that made this very
house of mine a dismal dwelling for me. You see I have no wish to
give too generous a colour to my motives, too self-denying a character
to the benefits I conferred upon you. But, as far as you are
concerned, they were benefits. For them I received no gratitude; but
as I did not expect gratitude it matters little. I might, however,
have expected at least that you should be neutral, not directly
hostile to me----Pray let me finish" (in anticipation of a rising
interruption from his companion), "I shall soon have done, and you
will see that I am not merely recriminating. Hostile you have been,
and are now. So long as the position you assumed towards me only bore
on our own relations, I acquiesced: you had so much more to lose than
I could gain by resenting your hidden antagonism. I held you, so to
speak, in the hollow of my hand; I could afford to pass over it all.
Moreover, I had chosen my own path, which was nothing if not peaceful.
I say, you always were hostile to me; you have been so, more than ever
since the arrival of Cécile de Savenaye's children. You were, however,
grievously mistaken if you thought--I verily believe you did--that I
did not realise the true motives that prompted you to keep me away
from them.--I loved them as their mother's children; I love Molly with
a sort of love I myself do not understand, but deep enough for all its
strangeness. Yet I submitted to your reasoning, to your plausible
representations of the disastrous effects of my presence. I went back
to my solitude because it never entered my mind that it could be in my
power to help their happiness; you indeed had actually persuaded me of
the contrary, as you know, and I myself thought it better to break the
unfortunate spell that was cast on me. Unfortunate I thought it, but
it has proved far otherwise."

They had reached the end of the alley, and as they turned back, facing
each other for a moment, Sir Adrian noticed the evil smile playing
upon his brothers lips.

"It has proved otherwise," he repeated. "How I came to change my
views, I daresay you have guessed, for you have, of late, kept a good
watch on your mad brother, Rupert. At any rate you know what has come
to pass. Now I desire you to understand this clearly--interference
with me as matters stand means interference with Molly: and as such I
must, and shall, resent it."

"Well, Adrian, and what have I done _now_?" was Mr. Landale's quiet
reply. He turned a gravely attentive, innocently injured countenance
to the paling light.

"When I said you did not understand me," returned Sir Adrian with
undiminished firmness; "when I said you owed me some expression of
regret, it was to warn you never again to assume the tone of
insinuation and sarcasm to me, which you permitted yourself to-day in
the presence of Molly. You could not restrain this long habit of
censuring, of unwarrantable and impertinent criticism, of your elder,
and when you referred to my past, Molly could not but be offended by
the mockery of your tones. Moreover, you took upon yourself, if I have
heard aright, to disapprove openly of our marriage. Upon what ground
that would bear announcing I know not, but let this be enough: try and
realise that our respective positions are totally changed by this
unforeseen event, and that, as Molly is now to be mistress at Pulwick,
I must of course revoke my tacit abdication. Nevertheless, if you
think you can put up with the new state of things, there need be
little alteration in your present mode of life, my dear Rupert; if you
will only make a generous effort to alter your line of conduct."

And here, Sir Adrian, succumbing for a moment to the fault, so common
to kindly minds, of discounting the virtue of occasional firmness by a
sudden return to geniality, offered his hand in token of peace.

Mr. Landale took it; his grasp, however, was limp and cold.

"I am quite ready to express regret," he said in a toneless voice,
"since that would seem to be gratification to you, and moreover seems
to be the tacit condition on which you will refrain from turning me
out. I ought indeed to have abstained from referring, however vaguely,
to past events, for the plain reason that anything I could say would
already have come too late to prevent the grievous deed you have now
pledged yourself to commit."

"Rupert--!" exclaimed Sir Adrian stepping back a pace, too amazed, at
the instant, for indignation.

"Now, in your turn, hear me, Adrian," continued Mr. Landale with his
blackest look. "I have listened to your summing up of our respective
cases with perfect patience, notwithstanding a certain assumption of
superiority which--allow me to insist on this--is somewhat ridiculous
from you to me. You complain of my misunderstanding you. Briefly, this
is absurd. As a matter of fact I understand you better than you do
yourself. On the other hand it is you that do not understand me. I
have no wish to paraphrase your little homily of two minutes ago, but
the heads of my refutation are inevitably suggested by the points of
your indictment. To use your own manner of speech, my dear Adrian, I
have no wish to assume injured disinterestedness, when speaking of my
doings with regard to you and your belongings and especially to this
old place of yours, of our family. You have only to look and see for
yourself...."

Mr. Landale made a wide comprehensive gesture which seemed to embrace
the whole of the noble estate, the admirably kept mansion with walls
now flushed in the light of the sinking sun, the orderly maintenance
of the vast grounds, the prosperousness of its dependencies--all in
fact that the brothers could see with the eyes of the body from where
they stood, and all that they could see with the eyes of the mind
alone: "Go and verify whether I fulfilled my duty with respect to the
trust which was yours, but which you have allowed to devolve upon my
shoulders, and ask yourself whether you would have fulfilled it
better--if as well. I claim no more than this recognition; for, as you
pointed out, the position carried its advantages, if it entailed
arduous responsibility too. It was my hope that heirs of my body would
live to perpetuate this pride--this work of mine. It was not to be.
Now that you step in again and that possibly your flesh will reap the
benefits I have laboured to produce, ask yourself, Adrian, whether
you, who shirked your own natural duties, would have buckled to the
task, under _my_ circumstances--distrusted by your brother, disliked
and secretly despised by all your dependants, who reserved all their
love and admiration for the 'real master' (oh, I know the cant
phrase), although he chose to abandon his position and yield himself
to the stream of his own inertness, the real master who in the end can
find no better description for these years of faithful service than
'hostility' and 'ingratitude.'"

Sir Adrian halted a pace, a little moved by the speciousness of the
pleading. The incidental reference to that one grief of his brother's
life was of a kind which could never fail to arouse generous sympathy
in his heart. But Mr. Landale had not come to the critical point of
his say, and he did not choose to allow the chapter of emotion to
begin just yet.

"But," he continued, pursuing his restless walk, "again to use your
own phraseology, I am not merely recriminating. I, too, wish you to
understand me. It would be useless to discuss now, what you elect to
call my hostility in past days. I had to keep up the position demanded
by our ancient name; to keep it up amid a society, against whose every
tenet almost--every prejudice, you may call them--you chose to run
counter. My antagonism to your mode of acting and thinking was
precisely measured by your own against the world in which the
Landales, as a family, hold a stake. Let that, therefore, be
dismissed; and let us come at once to the special hostility you
complain of in me, since the troublesome arrival of Aunt Rose and her
wards. As the very thing which I was most anxious to prevent, if
possible, has, after all, come to pass, the present argument may seem
useless; but you have courted it yourself."

"Most anxious to prevent--if possible...!" repeated Sir Adrian,
slowly. "This, from a younger brother, is almost cynical, Rupert!"

"Cynical!" retorted Mr. Landale, with a furious laugh. "Why, you have
given sound to the very word I would, in anybody else's case, have
applied to a behaviour such as yours. Is it possible, Adrian," said
Rupert, turning to look his brother in the eyes with a look of
profound malice, "that it has not occurred to you yet, that _cynical_
will be the verdict the world will pass on the question of your
marriage with that young girl?"

Sir Adrian flushed darkly, and remained silent for a pace or two;
then, with a puzzled look:

"I fail to understand you," he said simply. "I am no longer young, of
course; yet, in years, I am not preposterously old. As for the other
points--name and fortune----"

But Rupert interrupted him with a sharp exclamation, which betrayed
the utmost nervous exasperation.

"Pshaw! If I did not know you so well, I would say you were playing at
candour. This--this unconventionality of yours would have led you
into curious pitfalls, Adrian, had you been obliged to live in the
world. My 'hostility' has saved you from some already, I know--more is
the pity it could not save you from this--for it passes all bounds
that you should meditate such an unnatural act, upon my soul, in the
most natural manner in the world. One must be an Adrian Landale, and
live on a tower for the best part of one's life, to reach such a pitch
of--unconventionality, let us call it."

"For God's sake," exclaimed Sir Adrian, suddenly losing patience,
"what are you driving at, man? In what way can my marriage with a
young lady, who, inconceivable as it may be, has found something to
love in me; in what way, I say, can it be accounted cynical? I am not
subtle enough to perceive it."

"To any one but you," sneered the other, coming to his climax with a
sort of cruel deliberation, "it would hardly require special
subtleness to perceive that for the man of mature age to marry the
_daughter_, after having, in the days of his youth, been the lover of
the _mother_, is a proceeding, the very idea of which is somewhat
revolting in the average individual.... There are many roués in St.
James' who would shrink before it; yet you, the enlightened
philosopher, the moralist----"

But Sir Adrian, breathing quickly, laid his hand heavily on his
brother's shoulder.

"When you say the mother's lover, Rupert," he said, in a contained
voice, which was as ominous of storm as the first mutters of thunder,
"you mean that I loved her--you do not mean to insinuate that that
noble woman, widowed but a few weeks, whose whole soul was filled with
but one lofty idea, that of duty, was the mistress--the mistress of a
boy, barely out of his teens?"

Rupert shrugged his shoulders.

"I insinuate nothing, my dear Adrian; I think nothing. All this is
ancient history which after all has long concerned only you. You know
best what occurred in the old days, and of course a man of honour is
bound to deny all tales affecting a lady's virtue! Even you, I fancy,
would condescend so far. But nevertheless, reflect how this marriage
will rake up the old story. It will be remembered how you, for the
sake of remaining by Cécile de Savenaye's side, abandoned your home to
fight in a cause that did not concern you; nay, more, turned your
back for the time upon those advanced social theories which even at
your present season of life you have not all shaken off. You travelled
with her from one end of England to the other, in the closest
intimacy, and finally departed over seas, her acknowledged escort. She
on her side, under pretext of securing the best help on her political
mission that England can afford her, selected a young man notoriously
in love with her, at the very age when the passions are hottest, and
wisdom the least consideration--as her influential agent, of course.
Men are men, Adrian--especially young men--small blame to you, young
that you were, if then ... but you cannot expect, in sober earnest,
the world to believe that you went on such a wild pilgrimage for
nothing! Women are women--especially young women, of the French
court--who have never had the reputation of admiring bashfulness in
stalwart young lovers...."

Sir Adrian's hand, pressing upon his brother's shoulder, as if
weighted by all his anger, here forced the speaker into silence.

"Shame! Shame, Rupert!" he cried first, his eyes aflame with a
generous passion; then fiercely: "Silence, fellow, or I will take you
by that brazen throat of yours and strangle the venomous lie once for
all." And then, with keen reproach, "That you, of my blood, of hers
too, should be the one to cast such a stigma on her memory--that you
should be unable even to understand the nature of our intercourse....
Oh, shame, on you for your baseness, for your vulgar, low
suspiciousness!... But, no, I waste my breath upon you, you do not
believe this thing. You have outwitted yourself this time. Hear me
now: If anything could have suggested to me this alliance with the
child of one I loved so madly and so hopelessly, the thought that such
dastardly slander could ever have been current would have done so. The
world, having nothing to gain by the belief, will never credit that
Sir Adrian Landale would marry the daughter of his paramour--however
his own brother may deem to his advantage to seem to think so! The
fact of Molly de Savenaye becoming Lady Landale would alone, had such
ill rumours indeed been current in the past, dispel the ungenerous
legend for ever."

There were a few moments of silence while Sir Adrian battled, in the
tumult of his indignation, for self-control again; while Rupert,
realising that he had outwitted himself indeed, bestowed inward curses
upon most of his relations and his own fate.

The elder brother resumed at length, with a faint smile:

"And so, you see, even if you had spoken out in time, it would have
been of little avail." Then he added, bitterly. "I have received a
wound from an unforeseen quarter. You have dealt it, to no purpose,
Rupert, as you see ... though it may be some compensation to such a
nature as yours to know that you have left in it a subtle venom."

The sun had already sunk away, and its glow behind the waters had
faded to the merest tinge. In the cold shadow of rising night the two
men advanced silently homewards. Sir Adrian's soul, guided by the
invidious words, had flown back to that dead year, the central point
of his existence--It was true: men will be men--in that very house,
yonder, he had betrayed his love to her; on board the ship that took
them away and by the camp fire on the eve of fight, he had pleaded the
cause of his passion, not ignobly indeed, with no thought of the
baseness which Rupert assigned to him, yet with a selfish disregard of
her position, of his own grave trust. And it was with a glow of pride,
in the ever living object of his life's devotion--of gratitude
almost--that he recalled the noble simplicity with which the woman,
whom he had just heard classed among the every-day sinners of society,
had, without one grandiloquent word, without even losing her womanly
softness, kept her lover as well as herself in the path of her lofty
ideal--till the end. And yet she did love him: at the last awful
moment, sinking into the very jaws of death, the secret of her heart
had escaped her. And now--now her beauty, and something of her own
life and soul was left to him in her child, as the one fit object on
which to devote that tenderness which time could not change.

       *       *       *       *       *

After a while, from the darkness by his side came the voice of his
brother again, in altered, hardly recognisable accents.

"Adrian, those last words of yours were severe--unjust. I do not
deserve such interpretation of my motives. Is it my fault that you are
not as other men? Am I to be blamed for judging you by the ordinary
standard? But you have convinced me: you were as chivalrous as Cécile
was pure, and if needs be, believe me, Adrian, I will maintain it so
in the face of the world. Yes, I misunderstood you--and wounded you,
as you say, but such was not my intention. Forgive me."

They had come to the door. Sir Adrian paused. There was a rapid
revulsion in his kindly mind at the extraordinary sound of humble
words from his brother; and with a new emotion, he replied, taking the
hand that with well-acted diffidence seemed to seek his grasp:

"Perhaps we have both something to forgive each other. I fear you did
not misjudge me so much as you misjudged her who left me that precious
legacy. But believe that, believe it as you have just now said,
Rupert, the mother of those children never stooped to human
frailty--her course in her short and noble life was as bright and pure
as the light of day."

Without another word the two brothers shook hands and re-entered their
home.

Sir Adrian sought Miss O'Donoghue whom he now found in converse with
Molly, and with a grave eagerness, that put the culminating touch to
the old lady's triumph, urged the early celebration of his nuptials.

Mr. Landale repaired to his own study where in solitude he could give
loose rein to his fury of disappointment, and consider as carefully as
he might in the circumstances how best to work the new situation to
his own advantage.

       *       *       *       *       *

Even on that day that had been filled with so many varied and poignant
emotions for him; through the dream in which his whole being seemed to
float, Sir Adrian found a moment to think of the humble followers whom
he had left so abruptly on the island, and of the pleasure the
auspicious news would bring to them.

It was late at night, and just before parting with the guest who was
so soon to be mistress under his roof, he paused on the stairs before
a window that commanded a view of the bay. Molly drew closer and leant
against his shoulder; and thus both gazed forth silently for some
time at the clear distant light, the luminous eye calmly watching over
the treacherous sands.

That light of Scarthey--it was the image of the solitary placid life
to which he had bidden adieu for ever; which even now, at this brief
interval of half a day, seemed as far distant as the years of despair
and vicissitude and disgust to which it had succeeded. A man can feel
the suddenly revealed charm of things that have ceased to be, without
regretting them.

With the dear young head that he loved, with a love already as old as
her very years, pressing his cheek; with that slender hand in his
grasp, the same, for his love was all miracle, that he had held in the
hot-pulsed days of old--he yet felt his mind wander back to his nest
of dreams. He thought with gratitude of René, the single-minded,
faithful familiar; of old Margery, the nurse who had tended Cécile's
children, as well as her young master; thought of their joy when they
should hear of the marvellous knitting together into the web of his
fate, of all those far-off ties.

In full harmony with such fleeting thoughts, came Molly's words at
length breaking the silence.

"Will you take me back to that strange old place of yours, Adrian,
when we are married?"

Sir Adrian kissed her forehead.

"And would you not fear the rough wild place, child," he murmured.

"Not for ever, I mean," laughed the girl, "for then my mission would
not be fulfilled--which was to make of Adrian, Sir Adrian, indeed. But
now and again, to recall those lovely days, when--when you were so
distracted for the love of Murthering Moll and the fear lest she
should see it. You will not dismantle those queer rooms that received
so hospitably the limping, draggled-tailed guest--they must again
shelter her when she comes as proud Lady Landale! How delicious it
would be if the tempest would only rage again, and the sea-mew shriek,
and the caverns roar and thunder, and I knew you were as happy as I am
sure to be!"

"All shall be kept up even as you left it," answered Sir Adrian moved
by tender emotion; "to be made glorious again by the light of your
youth and fairness. And Renny shall be cook again, and maid of all
work. My poor Renny, what joy when he hears of his master's happiness,
and all through the child of his beloved mistress! But he will have to
spend a sobering time of solitude out there, till I can find a
substitute for his duties."

"You are very much attached to that funny little retainer, Adrian!"
said Molly after a pause.

"To no man alive do I owe so much. With no one have I had, through
life, so much in common," came the grave reply.

"Then," returned the girl, "you would thank me for telling you of the
means of making the good man's exile less heavy, until you take him
back with you."

"No doubt." There was a tone of surprise and inquiry in his voice.

"Why, it is simple enough. Have you never heard of his admiration for
Moggie Mearson, our maid? Let them marry. They will make a good pair,
though funny. What, you never knew it? Of course not, or you would not
have had the heart to keep the patient lovers apart so long. Let them
marry, my Lord of Pulwick: it will complete the romance of the
persecuted Savenayes of Brittany and their helpful friends of the
distant North."

Musing, Sir Adrian fell into silence. The faithful, foolish heart that
never even told its secret desire, for very fear of being helped to
win it; by whom happiness and love were held to be too dearly bought
at the price of separation from the lonely exile!

"_Eh bien_, dreamer?" cried the girl gaily.

"Thank you, Molly," said Sir Adrian, turning to her with shining eyes.
"This is a pretty thought, a good thought. Renny will indeed doubly
bless the day when Providence sent you to Pulwick."

And so, the following morn, Mr. Renny Potter was summoned to hear the
tidings, and informed of the benevolent prospects more privately
concerning his own life; was bidden to thank the future Lady Landale
for her service; was gently rebuked for his long reticence, and
finally dismissed in company of the glowing Moggie with a promise that
his nuptials should be celebrated at the same time as those of the
lord of the land. The good fellow, however, required first of all an
assurance that these very fine plans would not entail any
interference with his duties to his master before he would allow
himself to be pleased at his fortunes. Great and complex, then, was
his joy; but it would have been hard to say, as Moggie confessed to
her inquiring mistress that night, when he had returned to his post,
whether the pride and delight in his master's own betrothal was not
uppermost in his bubbling spirits.



CHAPTER XX

TWO MONTHS LATER: THE QUICK AND THE DEAD

    Neighbour, what doth thy husband when he cometh home from work?
    He thinks of her he loved before he knew me

    _Luteplayer's Song._


_February 18th._ Upon the 18th of January, 1815, did I commit that
most irreparable of all follies; then by my own hand I killed fair
Molly de Savenaye, who was so happy, so free, so much in love with
life, and whom I loved so dearly, and in her stead called into
existence Molly Landale, a poor-spirited miserable creature who has
not given me one moment's amusement. How could I have been so stupid?

Let me examine.

It is only a month ago, only a month, 4 weeks, 31 days, millions of
horrible dreary minutes, Oh, Molly, Molly, Molly! since you stood,
that snowy day, in the great drawing-room (_my_ drawing-room now, I
hate it), and vowed twice over, once before the Jesuit father from
Stonyhurst, once before jolly, hunting heretical parson Cochrane to
cleave to Adrian Landale till death bid you part! Brr--what ghastly
words and with what a light heart I said them, tripped them out, _ma
foi_, as gaily as "good-morning" or "good-night!" They were to be the
_open sesame_ to joys untold, to lands flowing with milk and honey, to
romance, adventure, splendour--and what have they brought me?

It is a cold day, sleeting, snowing, blowing, all that is abominable.
My lord and master has ridden off, despite it, to some distant farm
where there has been a fire. The "Good Sir Adrian," as they call him
now--he is _that_; but, oh dear me--there! I must yawn, and I'll say
no more on this head, at present, for I want to think and work my
wretched problem out in earnest, and not go to sleep.

It is the first time I have taken heart to write since yonder day of
doom, and God knows when I shall have heart again! Upon such an
afternoon there is nothing better to do, since Sir Adrian would have
none of my company--he is so precious of me that he fears I should
melt like sugar in the wet--he never guessed that it was just because
of the storm I wished the ride! Were we to live a hundred years
together--which, God forfend--he would never understand me.

Ah, lack-a-day, oh, misery me! (My lady, you are wandering; come back
to business.)

What, then, has marriage brought me? First of all a husband. That is
to say, another person, a man who has the right to me--to whom I
myself have given that right--to have me, to hold me, as it runs in
the terrible service, the thunders of which were twice rolled out upon
my head, and which have been ringing there ever since. And I, Molly,
gave of my own free will, that best and most blessed of all gifts, my
own free will, away. I am surrounded, as it were, by barriers; hemmed
in, bound up, kept in leading strings. I mind me of the seagull on the
island. 'Tis all in the most loving care in the world, of course, but
oh! the oppression of it! I must hide my feelings as well as I can,
for in my heart I would not grieve that good man, that _excellent_
man, that pattern of kind gentleman--oh, oh, oh--it will out--that
_dreary_ man, that dull man, that most melancholy of all men! Who
sighs more than he smiles, and, I warrant, of the two, his sighs are
the more cheerful; who looks at his beautiful wife as if he saw a
ghost, and kisses her as if he kissed a corpse!

There is a mate for Molly! the mate she chose for herself!

So much for the husband. What else has marriage brought her?

Briefly I will capitulate.

A title--I am _my lady_. For three days it sounded prettily in my
ears. But to the girl who refused a duchess' coronet, who was born
comtesse--to be the baronet's lady--Tanty may say what she likes of
the age of creation, and all the rest of it--that advantage cannot
weigh heavy in the balance. Again then, I have a splendid
house--which is my prison, and in which, like all prisoners, I have
not the right to choose my company--else would Sophia and Rupert still
be here? They are going, I am told occasionally; but my intimate
conviction is, however often they may be going, _they will never go_.
_Item four:_ I have money, and nothing to spend it on--but the poor.

What next? What next?--alas, I look and I find nothing! This is all
that marriage has brought me; and what has it not taken from me?

My delight in existence, my independence, my hopes, my belief in the
future, my belief in _love_. Faith, hope, and charity, in fact,
destroyed at one fell sweep. And all, to gratify my curiosity as to a
romantic mystery, my vanity as to my own powers of fascination! Well,
I have solved the mystery, and behold it was nothing. I have eaten of
the fruit of knowledge, and it is tasteless in my mouth.

I have made my capture with my little bow and spear, and I am as
embarrassed of my captive as he of me. We pull at the chain that binds
us together; nay, such being the law of this world between men and
women, the positions are reversed, my captive is now my master, and
Molly is the slave.

Tanty, I could curse thee for thy officiousness, from the tip of thy
coal black wig to the sole of thy platter shoe--but that I am too good
to curse thee at all!

Poor book of my life that I was so eager to fill in, that was to have
held a narrative all thrilling, and all varied, now will I set forth
in thee, my failure, my hopelessness, and after that close thee for
ever.

Of what use indeed to chronicle, when there is nought to tell but
flatness, chill monotony, on every side; when even the workings of my
soul cannot interest me to follow, since they can now foreshadow
nothing, lead to nothing but fruitless struggle or tame resignation!

I discovered my mistake--not the whole of it, but enough to give me a
dreadful foreboding of its hideousness, not two hours after the
nuptial ceremony.

Adrian had borne himself up to that with the romantic, mysterious
dignity of presence that first caught my silly fancy; behind which I
had pictured such fascinating depths of passion--of fire--Alas! When
he looked at me it was with that air of wondering, almost timid,
affection battling with I know not what flame of rapture, with which
look I have become so fatally familiar since--without the flame of
rapture, be it understood, which seems to have rapidly burnt away to a
very ash of grey despondency and self-reproach. I could have sworn
even as he gave me his arm to meet and receive the congratulations of
our guests, that the glow upon his cheek, the poise of his head
denoted the pride any man, were he not an idiot nor a brute, must feel
in presenting his bride--such a bride!--to the world. Then we went in
to the great dining hall where the wedding feast, a very splendid one,
was spread. All the gentlemen looked with admiration at me; many with
envy at Adrian. I knew that I was beautiful in my fine white satin
with my veil thrown back, without the flattering whispers that reached
me now and again; but these were sweet to hear nevertheless. I knew
myself the centre of all eyes, and it elated me. So too did the
tingling flavour of the one glass of sparkling wine I drank to my
fortunes. Immediately upon this silent toast of Lady Landale to
herself, Rupert rose and in choice words and silver-ringing voice
proposed the health of the bride and bridegroom. There was a merry
bustling pause while the glasses were filled; then rising to their
feet as with one man, all the gentlemen stood with brimming goblets
one instant extended, the next emptied to the last drop; and then the
cheers rang out, swelling up the rafters, three times three, seeming
to carry my soul along with them. I felt my heart expand and throb
with an emotion I never knew in it before, which seemed to promise
vast future capacities of pain and delight. I turned to my husband
instinctively; looking for, expecting, I could not explain why, an
answering fire in his eyes. This was the last moment of my illusions.
From thence they began to shrivel away with a terrifying rapidity.

Adrian sat with a face that looked old and lined and grey; with
haggard unseeing eyes gazing forth into space as though fixing some
invisible and spectre show. He seemed as if wrapt in a world of his
own, to which none of us had entrance; least of all, I, his wife.

The shouts around us died away, there were cries upon him for
"Speech--speech," then playful queries--"How is this, Sir Adrian? So
bashful, egad!" next nudges were exchanged, looks of wonder, and an
old voice speaking broadly:

_"Yes, by George,"_ it was saying, _"I remember it well, by George, in
this very room, now twenty years ago, 'Here, gentlemen,' says old Sir
Tummas, 'Here's to Madam de Savenaye,' and gad, ma'am, we all
yelled,--she was a lovely creature--Eh--Eh?"_

"Hush," said some one, and there was a running circle of frowns and
the old voice ceased as abruptly as if its owner had been seized by
the weasand. In the heavy embarrassed silence, I caught Tanty's red
perturbed look and Rupert's smile.

But Adrian sat on--like a ghost among the living, or a live man among
the dead. And this was my gallant bridegroom! I seized him by the
hand--"Are you ill, Adrian?"

He started and looked round at me--Oh that look! It seemed to burn
into my soul, I shall never forget the hopelessness, the dull sadness
of it, and then--I don't know what he read in my answering glance--the
mute agonised question, followed by a terror.

"They want you to speak," I whispered, and shook the cold hand I held
in a fury of impatience.

His lips trembled: he stared at me blankly. "My God, my God, what have
I done?" he muttered to himself, "Cécile's child--Cécile's child!"

I could have burst out sobbing. But seeing Rupert's face bent down
towards his plate, demure and solemn, yet stamped, for all his
cleverness, with an almost devilish triumph, my pride rose and my
courage. Every one else seemed to be looking towards us: I stood up.

"Good friends," I said, "I see that my husband is so much touched by
the welcome that you are giving his bride, the welcome that you are
giving him after his long exile from his house, that he is quite
unable to answer you as he would wish. But lest you should
misunderstand this silence of his, I am bold enough to answer you in
his name, and--since it is but a few moments ago that you have seen us
made one, I think I have the right to do so.... We thank you."

My heart was beating to suffocation--but I carried bravely on till I
was drowned in a storm of acclamations to which the first cheers were
as nothing.

They drank my health again, and again I heard the old gentleman of the
indiscreet voice--I have learned since he is stone deaf, and I daresay
he flattered himself he spoke in a whisper--proclaim that I was _my
mother all over again: begad--so had she spoken to them twenty years
ago in this very room!_

Here Tanty came to the rescue and carried me off.

I dared not trust myself to look at Adrian as I left, but I knew that
he followed me to the door, from which I presumed that he had
recovered his presence of mind in some degree.

Since that day we have been like two who walk along on opposite banks
of a widening stream--ever more and more divided.

I have told no one of my despair. It is curious, but, little wifely as
I feel towards him, there is something in me that keeps me back from
the disloyalty of discussing my husband with other people.

And it is not even as it might have been--this is what maddens me. _We
are always at cross purposes._ Some wilful spirit wakes in me, at the
very sound of his voice (always gentle and restrained, and echoing of
past sadness); under his mild, tender look; at the every fresh sign of
his perpetual watchful anxiety--I give him wayward answers, frowning
greetings, sighs, pouts; I feel at times a savage desire to wound, to
anger him, and as far as I dare venture I have ventured, yet could not
rouse in him one spark, even of proper indignation.

The word of the riddle lay in that broken exclamation of his at our
wedding feast.

"Cécile's child!"

His wife, then, is only Cécile's child to him. I have failed when I
thought to have conquered--and with the consciousness of failure have
lost my power, even to the desire of regaining it. My dead mother is
my rival; her shade rises between me and my husband's love. Could he
have loved me, I might perhaps have loved him--and now--now I,
_Molly_, I, shall perhaps go down to my grave without having known
_love_.

I thought I had found it on that day when he took me in his arms in
that odious library--my heart melted when he so tenderly kissed my
lips. And now the very remembrance of that moment angers me.
Tenderness! Am I only a weak, helpless child that I can arouse no
more from the man to whom I have given myself! I thought the gates of
life had been opened to me--behold, they led me to a warm comfortable
prison! And this is Molly's end!

There is a light in Madeleine's eyes, a ring in her voice, a smile
upon her lip. She has bloomed into a beauty that I could hardly have
imagined, and this is because of this unknown whom she _loves_. She
breathes the fulness of the flower; and by-and-by, no doubt, she will
taste the fulness of the fruit; she will be complete; she will be fed
and I am to starve. What is coming to me? I do not know myself. I feel
that I could grudge her these favours, that I _do_ grudge them to her.
I am sick at heart.

And she--even she has proved false to me. I know that she meets this
man. Adrian too knows it, and more of him than he will tell me; and he
approves. I am treated like a child. The situation is strange upon
every side; Madeleine loving a plebeian--a sailor, not a king's
officer--stooping to stolen interviews! Adrian the punctilious, in
whose charge Tanty solemnly left her, pretending ignorance, virtually
condoning my sister's behaviour! For though he has distinctly refused
to enlighten me or help me to enlighten myself, he could not, upon my
taxing him with it, deny that he was in possession of facts ignored by
me.

Then there is Rupert paying now open court to this sly damsel--for the
sake of her beautiful eyes, or for the beautiful eyes of her casket?
And last and strangest, the incongruous friendship struck up this week
between her and that most irritating of melancholy fools, Sophia. The
latter bursts with suppressed importance, she launches glances of
understanding at my sister; sighs, smiles (when Rupert's eye is not on
her), starts mysteriously. One would say that Madeleine had made a
confidant of her--only that it would be too silly. What? Make a
confidant of that funereal mute and deny _me_ the truth! If I had the
spirit for it I would set myself to discovering this grand mystery;
and then let them beware! They would have none of Molly as a friend:
perhaps she will yet prove one too many upon the other side.

If I have grown bitter to Madeleine, it is her own fault; I would have
been as true as steel to her if she had but trusted me. Now and
again, when a hard word and look escape me, she gives me a great
surprised, reproachful glance, as of a petted child that has been
hurt; but mostly she scarcely seems to notice the change in
me--Moonlike in dreamy serenity she sails along, wrapt in her own
thoughts, and troubles no more over Molly's breaking her heart than
over Rupert's determined suit. To me when she remembers me, she gives
the old caresses, the old loving words; to him smiles and pretty
courtesy. Oh, she keeps her secret well! But I came upon her in the
woods alone, last Friday, fresh, no doubt, from her lover's arms;
tremulous, smiling, yet tearful, with face dyed rose. And when to my
last effort to attain the right of sisterhood she would only stammer
the tell-tale words: _she had promised!_ and press her hot cheeks
against mine, I thrust her from me, indignant, and from my affections
for ever. Yet I hold her in my power, I could write to Tanty, put
Rupert on the track.... Nay, I have not fallen so low as to become
Rupert's accomplice yet!

And so the days go on. Between my husband's increasing melancholy, my
own mad regrets, Rupert's watchfulness, Madeleine's absorption and
Sophia's twaddle, my brain reels. I feel sometimes as if I could
scream aloud, as we all sit round the table, and I know that _this_ is
the life that I am doomed to, and that the days may go on, go on thus,
till I am old. Poor Murthering Moll the second! Why even the convent,
where at least I knew nothing, would have been better! No, it is not
possible! Something is still to come to me. Like a bird, my heart
rises within me. I have the right to my life, the right to my
happiness, say what they may.



CHAPTER XXI

THE DAWN OF AN EVENTFUL DAY


Rupert's behaviour at home, since his brother's wedding, had been, as
even Molly was bound to admit to herself, beyond reproach in
tactfulness, quiet dignity, and seeming cheerfulness.

He abdicated from his position of trust at once and without the
smallest reservation; wooed Madeleine with so great a discretion that
her dreamy eyes saw in him only a kind relative; and he treated his
sister-in-law, for all her freaks of bearing to him, with a perfect
gentleness and gentility.

At times Sir Adrian would watch him with great eyes. What meant this
change? the guileless philosopher would ask himself, and wonder if he
had judged his brother too harshly all through life; or if it was his
plain speaking in their last quarrel which had put things in their
true light to him, and awakened some innate generosity of feeling; or
yet if--this with misgiving--it was love for pretty Madeleine that was
working the marvel. If so, how would this proud rebellious nature bear
another failure?

Rupert spoke with unaffected regret about leaving Pulwick, at the same
time, in spite of Molly's curling lip, giving it to be understood that
his removal was only a matter of time.

For the ostensible purpose, indeed, of finding himself another home he
made, in the beginning of March, the second month after his brother's
marriage, several absences which lasted a couple of days or more, and
from which he would return with an eager sparkle in his eye, almost a
brightness on his olive cheek, to sit beside Madeleine's embroidery
frame, pulling her silks and snipping with her scissors, and talking
gaily, persistently, with such humour and colour as at last to draw
that young lady's attention from far off musings to his words with
smiles and laughter.

Meanwhile, Molly would sit unoccupied, brooding, watching them, now
fiercely, from under her black brows, now scornfully, now
abstractedly; the while she nibbled at her delicate finger-nails, or
ruthlessly dragged them along the velvet arms of her chair with the
gesture of a charming, yet distracted, cat.

Sir Adrian would first tramp the rooms with unwitting restlessness,
halting, it might be, beside his wife to strive to engage her into
speech with him; and, failing, would betake himself at length with a
heavy sigh to solitude; or, yet, he would sit down to his organ--the
new one in the great hall which had been put up since his marriage, at
Molly's own gay suggestion, during their brief betrothal--and music
would peal out upon them till Lady Landale's stormy heart could bear
it no longer, and she would rise in her turn, fly to the shelter of
her room and roll her head in the pillows to stifle the sound of sobs,
crying from the depths of her soul against heaven's injustice; anon
railing in a frenzy of impotent anger against the musician, who had
such passion in him and gave it to his music alone.

During Rupert's absences that curious intimacy which Molly had
contemptuously noted between her sister and sister-in-law displayed
itself in more conspicuous manner.

Miss Landale's long sallow visage sported its airs of mystery and
importance, its languishing leers undisguisedly, so long as her
brother Rupert's place was empty; and though her visits to the
rector's grave were now almost quotidian, she departed upon them with
looks of wrapt importance, and, returning, sought Madeleine's chamber
(when that maiden did not herself stroll out to meet her in the
woods), her countenance invariably wreathed with suppressed, yet
triumphant smiles, instead of the old self-assertive dejection.

       *       *       *       *       *

The 15th of March of that year was to be a memorable day in the lives
of so many of those who then either dwelt in Pulwick, or had dealings
on that wide estate.

Miss Landale, who had passed the midnight hour in poring over the
delightful wickedness of Lara, and, upon at length retiring to her
pillow, had had a sentimental objection to shutting out the romantic
light of the moon by curtain or shutter, was roused into wakefulness
soon after dawn by a glorious white burst of early sunshine. As a
rule, the excellent soul liked to lie abed till the last available
moment; but that morning she was up with the sun. When dressed she
drew a letter from a secret casket with manifold precautions as though
she were surrounded with prying eyes, and, placing it in her reticule,
hastened forth to seek the little lonely disused churchyard by the
shore. She afterwards remarked that she could never forget in what
agitation of spirits and with what strange presentiment of evil she
was led to this activity at so unwonted an hour. The truth was,
however, that Miss Landale tripped along through the damp wooded path
as gaily as if she were going to visit her living lover instead of his
granite tomb; and that in lieu of evil omens a hundred fantastically
sentimental thoughts floated through her brain, as merrily and
irresponsibly as the motes in the long shafts of brilliancy that
cleaved, sword-like through the mists, upon her from out the east.
Visions of Madeleine's face when she would learn before breakfast that
Sophia had actually been to the churchyard already; visions of whom
she might meet there; rehearsals of a romantic scene upon that
hallowed spot, of her own blushes, her knowing looks, her playful
remonstrances, with touching allusions to one who had loved and lost,
herself, and who thus, &c. &c.

Miss Landale tossed her long faded ringlets quite coquettishly, turned
one slim bony hand with coy gesture before her approving eyes. Then
she patted her reticule and hurried on with fresh zest, enjoying the
tart whisper of the wind against her well bonneted face, the exquisite
virginal beauty of the earth in the early spring of the day and of the
year.

As she stepped out of the shadow of the trees, her heart leaped and
then almost stood still as she perceived in the churchyard lying below
her, beside the great slab of granite which lay over the remains of
her long-departed beloved one, the figure of a man, whose back was
turned towards her, and whose erect outline was darkly silhouetted
against the low, dazzling light.

Then a simper of exceeding archness crept upon Miss Landale's lips;
and with as genteel an amble as the somewhat precipitate nature of the
small piece of ground that yet divided her from the graveyard would
allow, she proceeded on her way.

At the click of the lych-gate under her hand the man turned sharply
round and looked at her without moving further. An open letter
fluttered in his hand.

His face was still against the light, and Miss Landale's eyes had wept
so many tears by day and night that her sight was none of the best.
She dropped a very elegant curtsey, simpered, drew nearer, and threw a
fetching glance upwards. Then her shrill scream rang through the still
morning air and frightened the birds in the ruined church.

"You are early this morning, Sophia," said Mr. Landale.

Sophia sank upon the tombstone. To say that she was green or yellow
would ill describe the ghastliness of the tint that suffused her
naturally bilious countenance; still speechless, she made a frantic
plunge towards the great urn that adorned the head of the grave. Mr.
Landale looked up from his reading again with a quiet smile.

"I shall have done in one minute," he remarked, "It is a fine
production, egad! full of noble protestations and really high-sounding
words. And then, my dear Sophia, you can take charge of it, and I
shall be quite ready for the other, which I presume you have as usual
with you--ah, in your bag! Thanks."

"Rupert?" ejaculated the unfortunate lady, first in agonised query,
and next in agonised reproach, clasping her hands over the precious
reticule--"Rupert!"

Mr. Landale neatly folded the sheet he had been reading, moistened
with his tongue a fresh wafer which he drew from his waistcoat pocket,
and, deftly placing it upon the exact spot from which the original one
had been removed, handed the letter to his sister with a little bow.
But, as with a gesture of horror the latter refused to take it, he
shrugged his shoulders and tossed it carelessly into the urn.

"Now give me Madeleine's," he said, peremptorily.

Rolling upwards eyes of appeal the unhappy Iris called upon heaven to
witness that she would die a thousand deaths rather than betray her
solemn trust. But even as she spoke the fictitious flame of courage
withered away in her shrinking frame; and at the mere touch of her
brother's finger and thumb upon her wrist, the mere sight of his face
bending masterfully over her with white teeth just gleaming between
his twisting smile and half-veiled eyes of insolent determination, she
allowed him, unresisting, to take the bag from her side; protesting
against the breach of faith only by her moans and the inept wringing
of her hands.

Mr. Landale opened the bag, tossed with cynical contempt upon the flat
tombstone, sundry precious relics of the mouldering bones within, and
discovered at length in an inner pocket a dainty flower-scented note.
Then he flung down the bag and proceeded with the same deliberation to
open the letter and peruse its delicate flowing handwriting.

"Upon my word," he vowed, "I think this is the prettiest she has
written yet! What a sweet soul it is! Listen, Sophia: 'You praise me
for my trust in you--but, Jack, dear love, my trust is so much a part
of my love that the one would not exist without the other. Therefore,
do not give me any credit, for you know I could not help loving you.'
Poor heart! poor confiding child! Oh!" ejaculated Mr. Landale as if to
himself, carefully proceeding the while with his former manoeuvres
to end by placing the violated missive, to all appearance intact,
beside its fellow, "we have here a rank fellow, a foul traitor to deal
with!"

Then, wheeling round to his sister, and fixing her with piercing eyes:
"Sophia," he exclaimed, in tones of sternest rebuke, "I am surprised
at you. I am, indeed!"

Miss Landale raised mesmerised, horror-stricken eyes upon him; his
dark utterances had already filled her foolish soul with blind dread.
He sat down beside her, and once more enclosed the thin arm in his
light but warning grasp.

"Sophia," he said solemnly, "you little guess the magnitude of the
harm you have been doing; the frightful fate you have been preparing
for an innocent and trusting girl; the depth of the villainy you are
aiding and abetting. You have been acting, as I say, in ignorance,
without realising the awful consequences of your folly and duplicity.
But that you should have chosen _this_ sacred place for such illicit
and reprehensible behaviour; that by the grave of this worthy man who
loved you, by the stones chosen and paid for by my fraternal
affection, you should plot and scheme to deceive your family, and
help to lead a confiding and beautiful creature to ruin, I should
never have expected from _you_, Sophia--Sophia!"

Miss Landale collapsed into copious weeping.

"I am sure, brother," she sobbed, "I never meant any harm. I am sure
nobody loves the dear girl better than I do. I am sure I never wished
to hide anything from you!--Only--they told me--they trusted me--they
made me promise--Oh brother, what terrible things you have been
saying! I cannot believe that so handsome a young gentleman can mean
anything wrong--I only wish you could have seen him with her, he is so
devoted--it is quite beautiful."

"Alas--the tempter always makes himself beautiful in the eyes of the
tempted! Sophia, we can yet save this unhappy child, but who knows how
soon it may be too late!--You can still repair some of the wrong you
have done, but you can only do so by the most absolute obedience to
me.... Believe me, I know the truth about this vile adventurer, this
Captain Jack Smith."

"Good Heavens!" cried Sophia, "Rupert, do not tell me, lest I swoon
away, that he is married already?"

"The man, my dear, whose plots to compromise and entangle a lovely
girl you have favoured, is a villain of the deepest dye--a pirate."

"Oh!" shivered Sophia with fascinated misery--thrilling recollections
of last night's reading shooting through her frame.

"A smuggler, a criminal, an outlaw in point of fact," pursued Mr.
Landale. "He merely seeks Madeleine for her money--has a wife in every
port, no doubt--"

Miss Landale did not swoon; but her brother's watchful eye was
satisfied with the effect produced, and he went on in a well modulated
tone of suppressed emotion:

"And after breaking her heart, ruining her body and soul, dragging her
to the foulest depths he would have cast her away like a dead
weed--perhaps murdered her! Sophia, what would your feelings be then?"

A hard red spot had risen to each of Miss Landale's cheek bones; her
tears had dried up under the fevered glow.

"We believed," she said trembling in every limb, "that he was working
on a mission to the French court--"

"Faugh--" cried Mr. Landale, contemptuously, "smuggling French brandy
for our English drunkards and traitorous intelligence for our French
enemies!"

"Such a handsome young man, so gentlemanly, such an air!" maundered
the miserable woman between her chattering teeth. "It was quite
accidental that we met, Rupert, quite accidental, I assure you.
Madeleine--poor dear girl--came down with me here, I wanted to show
her the g-grave----" here Sophia gurgled convulsively, remembering her
brother's cruel reproaches.

"Well?"

"She came here with me, and as I was kneeling down, planting crocuses
just here, Rupert, and she was standing _there_, a young man suddenly
leaped over the wall, and fell at her feet. He had not seen
_me_--Alas, it reminded me of my own happiness! And he was so
well-dressed, so courteous--and seemed such a perfect gentleman--and
he took off his hat so gracefully I am sure I never could have
believed it of him. And they confided in me and I promised
by--by--those sacred ashes to keep their secret. I remembered of
course what Tanty had said in her letter, and quite understood he was
the young gentleman in question--but they explained to me how she was
under a wrong impression altogether. He said that the instant he laid
eyes upon me, he saw I had a feeling heart, and he knew they could
trust me. He spoke so nobly, Rupert, and said: What better place could
they have for their meetings than one consecrated to such faithful
love as this? It was so beautiful--and oh dear! I can't but think
there is some mistake." And Miss Landale again wrung her hands.

"But I have proof!" thundered her brother, "convincing proof, of what
I have told you. At this very moment the man who would marry
Madeleine, forsooth, runs the risk of imprisonment--nay, of the
gallows! You may have thought it strange that I should have opened and
read letters not addressed to me, but with misfortune hanging over a
beloved object I did not pause to consider myself. My only thought was
to save her."

Here Mr. Landale looked very magnanimous, and thrust his fingers as he
spoke through the upper buttons of his waistcoat with the gesture
which traditionally accompanies such sentiments: these cheap effects
proved generally irresistible with Sophia. But his personality had
paled before the tremendous drama into which the poor romance-loving
soul was so suddenly plunged, and in which in spite of all her woe she
found an awful kind of fascination. Failing to read any depth of
admiration in her roving eye, Rupert promptly abandoned
grandiloquence, and resuming his usual voice and manner, he dropped
his orders upon her heat of agitation like a cool relentless stream
under which her last protest fizzed, sputtered, and went out.

"I mean to unmask the gay lover at my own time and in my own way;
never fear, I shall deal gently with _her_. You will now take this
letter of his and put it in your bag, leaving hers in that curious
post-office of yours."

"Yes, Rupert."

"And you will give his letter to her at once when you go in without
one word of having met me."

"Y ... yes, Rupert."

"As you are too great a fool to be trusted if you once begin to talk,
you will have a headache for the rest of the day and go to bed in a
dark room."

"Y ... yes, Rupert."

"You will moreover swear to me, now, that you will not speak of our
interview here till I give you leave; say I swear I will not."

"I swear I will not."

"So help me God!"

"Oh, Rupert."

"_So help me God_, you fool!"

Sophia's lips murmured an inaudible something; but there was such
complete submission in every line and curve of her figure, in the very
droop of her ringlets and the helpless appeal of her gaze that Rupert
was satisfied. He assisted her to arise from her tombstone, bundled
the clerical love-tokens back into the bag, duly placed Captain Jack's
letter in the inner pocket, and was about to present her with his arm
to conduct her homewards, when he caught sight of a little ragged
urchin peeping through the bars of the gate, and seemingly in the very
act of making a mysterious signal in the direction of Miss Landale's
unconscious figure.

Rupert stared hard at the ruddy, impudent face, which instantly
assumed an appearance of the most defiant unconcern, while its owner
began to devote his energies to shying stones at an invisible rook
upon the old church tower with great nicety of aim.

"Sophia," said her brother in a low tone, "go to the gate: that boy
wants to speak to you. Go and see what he wants and return to me."

Miss Landale gasped, gazed at her brother as if she thought him mad,
looked round at the little boy, coloured violently, then meeting
Rupert's eye again staggered off without a word of protest.

Rupert, shaken with silent laughter, humming a little song to himself,
stooped to pick a couple of tender spring flowers from the border
beside the grave, and after slipping them into a button-hole of his
many caped overcoat, stood looking out over the stretch of land and
sea, where Scarthey rose like a dream against the sparkle of the water
and the exquisite blue of the sky.

Presently rapid panting breaths and a shuffling rustle of petticoats
behind him informed him of his sister's return.

"So you are there, my dear," he said loudly. "One of your little
fishing friends from the village, I suppose--a Shearman, unless I am
mistaken. Yes, a Shearman; I thought so. Well, shall we return home
now? They will be wondering what has become of us. Pray take my arm."
Then beneath his breath, seeing that words were struggling to Sophia's
lips, "Hold your tongue."

The small ragged boy watched their departure with a derisive grin, and
set off at a brisk canter down to the shore, jingling some silver coin
in his pocket with relish as he went.

When Rupert and Sophia had reached the wood the former paused.

"Letter or message?"

"Oh, Rupert, it was a letter; had I not better destroy it?"

"Give it to me."

       *       *       *       *       *

A hasty scrawl, it seemed, folded anyhow. Only two or three lines, yet
Rupert conned them for a curiously long time.

"My darling," it ran, "meet me to-day in the ruins at noon. A
misfortune has happened to me, but if you trust me, all will still be
well.--Your Jack." Mr. Landale at length handed it back to Sophia.

"You will give it to Madeleine with the other," he said briefly.
"Mention the fact of the messenger having brought it." And then in a
terrible bass he added, "And remember your oath!"

She trembled; but as he walked onwards through the wood, his lips were
smiling, and his eyes were alight with triumph.



CHAPTER XXII

THE DAY: MORNING


The appointment of a regular light-keeper at Scarthey, intended to
release René and old Margery from their exile, had been delayed so as
to suit the arrangement which was to leave for a time the island
domain of Sir Adrian at the disposal of Captain Jack. Meanwhile
Moggie's presence greatly mitigated the severity of her husband's
separation from his master.

On his side the sailor was in radiant spirits. All worked as he could
wish, and Sir Adrian's marriage, besides being a source of unselfish
satisfaction, was, with regard to his own prospects, an unexpected
help; for, his expedition concluded, he would now be able in the most
natural manner to make his appearance at Pulwick, an honoured guest of
the master, under the pride of his own name. And for the rest, hope
unfolded warm-coloured visions indeed.

During the weeks which had elapsed since Sir Adrian's departure,
Captain Jack's visits to the island had been fitful and more or less
secret--He always came and left at night. But as it was understood
that the place was his to be used and enjoyed as he thought best,
neither his sudden appearances with the usual heavy travelling-bag,
nor his long absences excited any disturbance in the arcadian life led
by René between his buxom young wife and the old mother--as the
good-humoured husband now termed the scolding dame.

A little sleeping closet had been prepared and allotted to the use of
the peripatetic guest in one of the disused rooms when René's own
accommodation under the light tower had been enlarged for the new
requirements of his matrimonial status. And so Monsieur the Captain
(in René's inveterate outlandish phraseology) found his liberty of
action complete. Both the women's curiosity was allayed, and all
tendency to prying into the young stranger's mysterious purposes amid
their seclusion condemned beforehand, by René's statement: that
Monsieur the Captain was a trusted friend of the master--one indeed
(and here the informant thought fit to stretch a point, if but
slightly) to whom the Lord of Pulwick was indebted, in bygone days,
for life and freedom.

Except when weather-bound, a state of things which at that time of
year occurred not unfrequently, René journeyed daily as far as the
Hall, ostensibly to report progress and take possible orders, but
really to gratify himself with the knowledge that all was well with
the master.

About the breakfast hour, upon this 15th of March, as Sir Adrian was
discussing with the bailiff sundry matters of importance to the
estate, a tap came to the door, which he recognised at once as the
Frenchman's own long accustomed mode of self-announcement.

Since he had assumed the reins of government, the whilom recluse had
discovered that the management of such a wide property was indeed no
sinecure; and moreover--as his brother, who certainly understood such
matters in a thoroughly practical manner, had warned him--that a
person of his own philosophical, over-benevolent and abstracted turn
of mind, was singularly ill-fitted for the task. But a strong sense of
duty and a determination to act by it will carry a man a long way. He
had little time for dreaming and this was perhaps a providential
dispensation, for Sir Adrian's musings had now lost much of the grave
placidity born of his long, peaceful residence in his Thelema of
Scarthey. The task was long and arduous; on sundry occasions he was
forced to consult his predecessor on the arcana of landed estate
government, which he did with much simplicity, thereby giving Mr.
Landale, not only inwardly mocking satisfaction, but several
opportunities for the display of his self-effacing loyalty and
superior capacities.

The business of this day was of sufficiently grave moment to make
interruption unwelcome--being nothing less than requests from a number
of tenants to the "Good Sir Adrian," "the real master come to his own
again"--for a substantial reduction of rent; a step towards which the
master's heart inclined, but which his sober reason condemned as
preposterous. But René's countenance, as he entered, betrayed news of
such import that Sir Adrian instantly adjourned the matter on hand,
and, when the bailiff had retired, anxiously turned to the new-comer,
who stood in the doorway mopping his steaming brow.

"Well, Renny," said he, "what is wrong? Nothing about your wife--?"

"No, your honour," answered the man, "your honour is very good.
Nothing wrong with our Moggie. But the captain.... I ran all the way
from the Shearmans."

"No accident there, I hope."

"I fear there is, your honour. The captain--he has been attacked this
morning."

"Not wounded--!" exclaimed Sir Adrian. "Not dead, Renny?"

"Oh no, your honour, well. But he has, I fear, killed one of the
men ... the revenue men--"

Then, seeing his master start aghast, he went on rapidly;

"At least he is very bad--but what for did he come to make the spy
upon our island? We have left him at the Shearmans--the mother
Shearman will nurse him. But the captain, your honour"--the speaker
lowered his voice to a whisper and advanced a step, looking
round--"that is the worst of all, the captain has turned mad, I
believe--Instead of going off with his ship and his crew, (they are
safe out to sea, as they should be) he remains at Scarthey. Yes--in
your honour's rooms. He is walking up and down and clutching his hair
and talking to himself, like a possessed. And when I respectfully
begged him to consider that it was of the last folly his having rested
instead of saving himself, I might as well have tried to reason a
mule. And so, knowing that your honour would never forgive me if
misfortune arrived, I never drew breath till I reached here to tell
you. If his honour would come himself he might be able to make Mr. his
friend hear reason--Your honour will run no risk, for it is only
natural that you should go to the peel after what has occurred--but if
you cannot get Mr. the captain to depart this night, there will arrive
to us misfortune--it is I who tell you so."

"I will go back with you, at once," said Sir Adrian, rising much
perturbed. "Wait here while I speak to Lady Landale."

Molly was standing by the great log fire in the hall, yawning fit to
dislocate her pretty jaws, and teasing the inert form of old Jim, as
he basked before the flame, with the tip of her pretty foot. She
allowed her eyes to rest vaguely upon her husband as he approached,
but neither interrupted her idle occupation nor endeavoured to
suppress the yawn that again distended her rosy lips.

He looked at her for a moment in silence; then laying a hand upon her
shoulder, said gently: "My child, I am called back to Scarthey and
must leave instantly. You--you will be careful of yourself--amuse
yourself during my absence--it may be for two or three days."

Lady Landale raised her black brows with a fine air of interrogation,
and then gazed down at the old dog till the lashes swept her cheek,
while a mocking dimple just peeped from the corner of her mouth and
was gone again. "Oh yes," she answered drily, "I shall take endless
care of myself and amuse myself wildly. You need have no fear of
that."

Sir Adrian sighed, and his hand fell listless from her shoulder.

"Good-bye, then," he said, and stooped it seemed hesitatingly to lay
his lips between the little dark tendrils of hair that danced upon her
forehead. But with a sudden movement she twitched her face away.
"Despite all the varied delights which bind me to Pulwick," she
remarked carelessly, "the charms of Sophia and Rupert's company, and
all the other _amusements_--I have a fancy to visit your old owl's
nest again--so we need not waste sentiment upon a tender parting, need
we?"

Sir Adrian's cheek flushed, and with a sudden light in his eyes he
glanced at her quickly; but his countenance faded into instant
melancholy again, at sight of her curling lip and cold amused gaze.

"Will you not have me?" she asked.

"If you will come--you will be welcome--as welcome," his voice shook a
little, "as my wife must always be wherever I am."

"Ah--oh," yawned Lady Landale, "(excuse me pray--it's becoming quite
an infirmity) so that is settled. I hope it will storm to-night, that
the wind will blow and howl--and then I snuggle in the feather bed in
that queer old room and try and fancy I am happy Molly de Savenaye
again."

Adrian's lip quivered; yet in a second or two he spoke lightly. "I do
not want to hurry you, but I have to leave at once." Then struck by a
sudden thought, by that longing to bring pleasure to others which was
always working in him, "Why not let Madeleine come with you too?" he
asked, "she could share your room, and--it would be a pleasure to her
I think." He sighed as he thought of the trouble in store for the
lovers.

Lady Landale grew red to the roots of her hair and shot a look of
withering scorn at her husband's unconscious face. "It would be
charming," she said, sarcastically, "but after all I don't know that I
care to go so much--oh, don't stare at me like that, for goodness'
sake! A woman may change her mind, I suppose--at least, in a trifle
here and there if she can't as regards the whole comfort of her
life.--Well, well, perhaps I shall go--this afternoon--later--you can
start now. I shall follow--I can always get a boat at the Shearmans.
And I shall bring Madeleine, of course--it is most kind and thoughtful
of you to suggest it. _Mon Dieu_, I have a husband in a thousand!"

She swept him a splendid curtsey, kissed her hand at him, and then
burst out laughing at the pale bewilderment of his face.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Sir Adrian returned to the morning-room, he found René, half
hidden behind the curtain folds, peering curiously out of the window
which overlooked the avenue. On his master's entrance, the man turned
his head, placed his finger on his lip, and beckoned him to approach.
"If I may take the liberty," said he with subdued voice, "will his
honour come and look out, without showing himself?"

And he pointed to a group, consisting of Mr. Landale and two men in
blue jackets and cockaded hats of semi-naval appearance, now slowly
approaching the house. Mr. Landale was listening with bent head,
slightly averted, to the smaller of his two companions--a stout
square-looking fellow, who spoke with evident volubility, whilst the
other followed defferentially one pace in rear. Presently the trio
halted, a few yards from the entrance, and Mr. Landale, cutting
designs upon the sand with the end of his stick in a meditative way,
appeared to be giving directions at some length, on the conclusion of
which the two men, touching their hats with much respect, departed
together, while the magistrate pensively proceeded on his way to the
house.

"Those, your honour," said René, "were with him that was struck in the
fight this morning. It was I rowed them over, together with the
wounded. I left them at the Shearmans, and slipped away myself to
carry the news. If I might take upon myself to advise, it would be
better if your honour would come with me now, at once, for fear Mr.
Landale should delay us by questioning me--Mr. Landale being a
magistrate, as I heard these men say; and Moggie has assured me that
he always arranges himself for knowing when I arrive from the
island--ever since the day when the demoiselles had just come, and I
found it out. Ever since then he has not liked me, Mr. Landale. Come
away, your honour, before he finds out I have been here to-day."

Following upon this advice, which he found to the point, Sir Adrian
left his house by a back passage; and, through a side garden, found
his way to the coast and to the fishing village.

The wounded man who had not recovered consciousness, lay in the
brother Shearman's hut, as René had said, surrounded by such uncouth
attendance as the rude fisherfolk could dispense. After giving
directions for the summoning of medical aid and the removal, if it
should prove advisable, of the patient to the Hall, but without a
single comment upon the unfortunate occurrence, Sir Adrian then took
the road of the peel.

During the transit, walking rapidly by his master's side, across the
now bare causeway, René gave his account of events.

The captain (he related) after three days' absence had re-appeared the
night before the last, and requested him to warn the womankind not to
be alarmed if they heard, as no doubt they would, strange noises on
the beach at night. He was, said he, storing provisions and water for
the forthcoming journey, and the water in the well was so excellent
that he had determined to take in his store. Of course his honour
understood well that René did not concern himself in these matters;
but that was the explanation he conveyed to his wife, lest she should
be alarmed and wonder. As for the old mother, she was too deaf to be
awakened out of sleep by anything short of the trumpet of the last
judgment.

As announced, there had been during the night the noise of a party of
men landing, of the hoisting and rolling of barrels--a great
_remue-ménage_ altogether--and the next morning, that was yesterday,
the captain had slept sound in his bunk till late.

During several hours of the following day, he had some secret work to
do in the caves of which René had shown the ins and outs, and whilst
so engaged had requested that watch should be kept from the
light-tower, and message sent by some arranged signal should any one
approach the island. But no one had come near. Whilst at his post, the
watcher had heard at different times the sound of hammering; and when
the captain had come to relieve him, the good gentleman was much
begrimed with dust and hot with work, but appeared in excellent
humour. In the castle, he sang and whistled for joyfulness, and made
jokes with Moggie, all in his kind way, saying that if he were not to
be married himself soon, he would feel quite indignant and jealous at
the happiness of such a rascal as her husband.

Oh! he was happy--Monsieur the Captain--he had brought Moggie a
beautiful shawl; and to René, he had given a splendid watch, telling
him to keep count of the hours of his unmerited bliss. Alas, this
morning all had been different indeed! The captain looked another man;
his face was as white as linen. The very look of him would have told
any one that a misfortune had occurred. René did not quite understand
it himself, but this is what had taken place:

The captain had left Scarthey on foot late in the evening, and when he
returned (he was not long away) he bade René again not to mind what he
heard during the night; and, in faith, once more there had been a real
noise of the devil; men coming to and fro, a deal of rowing on the
water, away and back again, in the early night and then once more
before dawn.

"But I was not unquiet," said René, "I knew they had come for the
remainder of what Mr. Smith was pleased to call his provisions. From
our room I could see by the light on the stairs that the lamp was
burning well, and Moggie slept like a child, so sound, she never
moved. Just before the rising sun, I had got up and put out the lamp,
and was going to bed again, when there came thumps of the devil at the
lower door. Well knowing that the captain had his own way of
entering--for he had spent many days in finding out all sorts of droll
passages in the ruins--I was quite seized; and as I hurried down, the
thumps came again and great cries for the lighthouse-keeper. And, your
honour, when I unbarred the door, there was a man in uniform whom I
did not know, and he asked me, grumbling, if I knew of the pretty
doings on the beach, whilst I slept like pig, he said--Of course I
made the astonished as his honour may imagine: I knew nothing, had
heard nothing, though my heart was beating like to burst not knowing
what was coming. Then he ordered me to lend a hand and bring a ladder
to carry away one of his men who had been murdered by the smugglers,
he said. And there, on the sands, in front of the small cave was
another man, in a blue coat too, watching over the body of one who was
stretched out, quite tranquil, his face covered with blood and his
eyes closed. They are gone, says the gross man. And I was glad, as
your honour may well think, to see the chaloupe full of the captain's
men rowing hard towards the vessel. She had just come out of the river
mouth and was doubling round the banks. We carried the man on his
ladder to the kitchen and we and the women did all we could, but he
remained like a log. So after a time the two men (who said they had
come along the dyke soon after midnight, on foot, as they thought it
would be more secret, and had watched all night in the bent) wanted to
eat and drink and rest. They had missed their game, the big man said;
they had been sent to find out what sort of devil's tricks were being
played on in the island unbeknown to Sir Adrian;--but it was the
devil's luck altogether, for the smugglers had slipped away and would
not be seen in this part of the world again. That is the way the fat
man spoke. The other had nothing to say, but swallowed our bacon and
our beer as if he did not care. And then, your honour, they told me I
should have to lend them the yawl to go on land, and go myself to
help, and take the body with us. And as he was speaking, I saw Moggie
the wife, who had been backwards and forwards serving them, looking at
me very straight but without blowing a word, as if she had fear. And
all at once I felt there was something on foot. So I drew the men more
beer and said I would see after the yawl. Outside the door the wife
whispered: 'Upstairs, quick! Renny,' and she herself whisked back into
the kitchen so that she should not cause suspicion to those
others--Ah, your honour, that is a woman!"

"Well, well," interrupted his master, anxiously.

"Well, I went upstairs, four by four; and there, in your honour's
room, without an attempt to conceal himself (when any moment it might
have entered into those brigands' heads downstairs to search the
place), there was Monsieur the Captain, raging up and down, like a
wolf in cage, as I had the honour to describe before. No wonder Moggie
was afraid for him. A woman is quick to feel danger ahead. He looked
at me as if he did not know me, his face all unmade. 'You know what
has happened;' he says. 'Am I not the most unfortunate...? All is
lost.' 'With respect,' says I; 'nothing is lost so long as life is
safe, but it is not a good thing Monsieur the Captain that you are
here, like this, when you should be on your good ship as many miles
away as she can make. Are you mad?' to him I say, and he to me, 'I
think I am.' 'At least let me hide you,' I beg of him, 'I know of many
beautiful places,' and so for the matter of that does he. But it was
all lost trouble. At length he sits down at the table and begins to
write, and his look brightens: 'You _can_ help me, my good friend,' he
says; 'I have a hope left--who knows--who knows,'--and he writes a few
lines like an enraged and folds them and kisses the billet. 'Find
means,' says he, 'René, to get Johnny, the Shearman boy, to take this
to the old churchyard and place it in the place he knows of; or,
better still, should he chance upon Miss Landale to give it to her. He
is a sharp rogue,' says he, 'and I can trust his wits; but should you
not find him, dear René, you must do the commission for me yourself.
Now go--go,' he cries, and pushes me to the stairs. And, as I dared
remain no more, I had to leave him. Of course Monsieur the Captain has
not been here all this time without telling me of his hopes, and it is
clear that it is to bid farewell to Mademoiselle Madeleine that he is
playing with his life. It is as ill reasoning with a lover as a
lunatic: they are the same thing, _Ma foi_, but I trust to your honour
to bring him to his senses if any one can. And so, to continue, I went
down and I told the men in blue the boat was ready, we carried the
body; I left them at the Shearmans, as your honour knows. I found
Johnny and gave him the letter; he knew all about what to do, it
seemed. And then I came straight to the Hall."

"It is indeed a miserable business!" said Sir Adrian.

René heaved a great sigh of sympathy, as he noticed the increasing
concern on his master's face.

"You heard them mention my brother's name?" inquired the latter, after
following the train of his misgivings for a few moments. "You have
reason to think that Mr. Landale knew of these men's errand; other
reason, I mean, than having seen them with him just now?"

René's quick mind leaped at the meaning of the question:

"Yes, your honour. 'Mr. Landale will want to know of this,' says the
fat one; 'though it is too late,' he says." And René added ruefully:
"I have great fear. The captain is not at the end of his pains, if Mr.
Landale is ranged against him!"

Such was also Sir Adrian's thought. But he walked on for a time in
silence; and, having reached Scarthey, rapidly made his way into the
peel.

Captain Jack was still pacing the room much as René had described when
Sir Adrian entered upon him. The young man turned with a transient
look of surprise to the new-comer, then waved away the proffered hand
with a bitter smile.

"You do not know," he said, "who it is you would shake hands with--an
outlaw--a criminal. Ah, you have heard? Then Renny, I suppose, has
told you."

"Yes," groaned the other, holding his friend by both shoulders and
gazing sorrowfully into the haggard face, "the man may die--oh, Jack,
Jack, how could you be so rash?"

"I can't say how it all happened," answered Captain Jack, falling to
his walk to and fro again in the extremity of his distress, and ever
and anon mopping his brow. "I felt such security in this place. All
was loaded but the last barrel, when, all of a sudden, from God knows
where, the man sprang on me and thrust his dark lantern in my face.
'It is Smith,' I heard him say. I do believe now that he only wanted
to identify me. No man in his senses could have dared to try and
arrest me surrounded by my six men. But I had no time to think then,
Adrian. I imagined the fellow was leading a general attack.... If that
last barrel was seized the whole secret was out; and that meant ruin.
Wholesale failure seemed to menace me suddenly in the midst of my
success. I had a handspike in my hand with which I had been helping to
roll the kegs. I struck with it, on the spur of the moment; the man
went down on the spot, with a groan. As he fell I leaped back, ready
for the next. I called out, 'Stretchers, lads; they want to take your
captain?' My lads gathered round me at once. But there was silence;
not another creature to be seen or heard. They set to work to get that
last blessed bit of cargo, the cause of all the misery, on board with
the rest; while I stood in the growing dawn, looking down at the
motionless figure and at the blood trickling into the sand, trying to
think, to settle what to do, and only conscious of one thing: the
intense wish that I could change places with my victim. Can you
wonder, Adrian, that my brain was reeling? You who know all, all this
means to me, can you wonder that I could not leave this shore--even
though my life depended on it--without seeing her again! Curwen, my
mate, came up to me at last, and I woke up to some sort of reason at
the idea that they, the crew and the ship, must be removed from the
immediate danger. But the orders I gave must have seemed those of a
madman: I told him to sail right away but to double back in time to
have the schooner round again at twelve noon to-day, and then to send
the gig's crew to pick me up on Pulwick sand. 'Life and death,' said I
to him, and he, brave fellow, 'Ay, ay, sir,' as if it was the most
simple thing in the world, and off with him without another word."

"What imprudence, what imprudence!" murmured Sir Adrian.

"Who knows? None will believe that I have not seized the opportunity
of making my escape with the others. The height of imprudence may
become the height of security. I have as yet no plan--but it will
come. My luck shall not fail me now! who knows: nothing perhaps is
damaged but an excise man's crown. Thank heaven, the wind cannot fail
us to-day."

"But, meanwhile," urged Sir Adrian, quite unconvinced, highly
disturbed, "that treasure on board.... I know what has been your
motive, Jack, but indeed it is all nothing short of insanity, positive
insanity. Can you trust your men?"

"I would trust them with my own secrets, willingly enough; but not
with those of other people. So they do not know what I have in those
barrels. Four thousand golden guineas in each...! No, the temptation
would be too terrible for the poor lads. Not a soul knows that, beyond
you and me. Curwen has charge of the cargo, such as it is. But I can
answer for it none of them will dream of tampering with the casks.
They are picked men, sober, trusty; who have fought side by side with
me. I am their best friend. They are mine, body and soul, I believe.
They do know there is some risk in the business, but they trust me.
They are sure of treble pay, and besides, are not troubled with
squeamishness. As for Curwen, he would go to hell for me, and never
ask a question. No, Adrian, the scheme was perfect, but for this
cursed blow of mine this morning. And now it is a terrible
responsibility," continued the young man, again wiping his forehead;
"every ounce of it weighs on my shoulders. But it is not that that
distracts me. Oh, Adrian ... Madeleine!"

The elder man felt his heart contract at the utter despairing of that
cry.

"When my handspike crashed on that damned interferer's skull," the
sailor went on, "I felt as if the blow had opened an unfathomable
chasm between her and me. Now I am felon--yes, in law, a felon! And
yet I am the same man as yesterday. I shall have to fly to-night, and
may never be able to return openly to England again. All my golden
dreams of happiness, of honour, vanished at the sound of that cursed
blow. But I must see her, Adrian, I _must_ see her before I go. I am
going to meet her at noon, in the ruins of Pulwick."

"Impossible!" ejaculated the other aghast. "Listen, Jack, unfortunate
man! When I heard of the--the misfortune, and of your folly in
remaining, I instantly planned a last meeting for you. As it fell
out, my wife has a fancy to spend the night here: I have asked her to
bring her sister with her. But this inconceivably desperate plan of
leaving in your ship, in broad light of day, frustrates all I would
have done for you. For God's sake let us contrive some way of warning
the _Peregrine_ off till midnight; keep hidden, yourself; do not
wilfully run your head into the noose!"

But the young man had stopped short in his tramping, and stood looking
at his friend, with a light of hope flaming in his eye.

"You have done that, Adrian! You have thought of that!" he repeated,
as if mechanically. A new whirlwind of schemes rushed through his
mind. For a while he remained motionless, with his gaze fixed on Sir
Adrian, putting order in his own thoughts with that genius of
precision and swiftness which, in strong natures, rises to meet a
crisis. Then advancing, and seizing him by both hands:

"Adrian," he cried, in something more like his own voice, again, "I
shall yet owe my happiness to you, to this thought, this sublime
thought of your heart!"

And, as Sir Adrian, astounded, unable to understand this extremity of
hopefulness, following upon the previous depth of misery, stared back
at him, speechless, the latter proceeded in still more surprising
fashion.

"Now, you listen to me, this time. I have been selfish in running the
risk of having you mixed up in my dangerous affairs. But, God is my
witness, I acted under the belief that all was absolutely secure. Now,
however, you must do nothing more that might implicate you. Remember,
do nothing to let people suspect that you have seen me to-day. Renny,
too, must keep close counsel. You know nothing of my future movements.
Remain here for a while, do not even look out of the window.... I fear
we shall not meet for a long time. Meanwhile, God bless you--God bless
you!"

After another wrench of the hands he held in his, the sailor released
them and fairly ran out of the room, without heeding his friend's
bewildered expostulations. At the door of the keep he met René again.
And after a brief but earnest colloquy, the man whose life was now
forfeit to the community and upon whose head there would soon be a
price, was quietly walking along the causeway, making for the shore,
with the greatest apparent unconcern and deliberation.

And whilst Sir Adrian, alone in his chamber, with his head resting
upon his hand, anxiously pondered upon the possible issues of this
nefarious day's doings, the sailor advanced, in broad daylight towards
the land to keep his appointment.

       *       *       *       *       *

A solitary speck of life upon the great waste, with the consciousness
of the precarious thread of chance upon which it hung! What wonder
that, for all his daring, the traveller felt, as he deliberately
regulated his pace to the most nonchalant gait, a frantic desire to
run forward, or to lie down! How many approach glasses might now be
laid, like so many guns, upon him from secret points of the coast
until he came within range of recognition; what ambushes those clumps
of gorse and juniper, those plantations of alders and young firs on
the bluffs yonder, might conceal? The eye could reach far and wide
upon the immense stretch of sand, along the desert coast; and his
solitary figure, moving upon the yellow strand was a mark for miles
around. Steadily, nevertheless did he advance; the very daring, the
unpardonable foolhardiness of the deed his safety. And yet the strain
was high. Were they watching the island? Among the eager crew, to each
of whom the capture might mean a splendid prize and chance of
promotion, was there one would have the genius of suddenly suspecting
that this foolhardy wayfarer might be the man they wanted and not
merely Sir Adrian returning on foot towards his home?... And then came
the answer of hopeful youth and hardy courage----.

No. The preventive are a lubberly lot--It will require something
better than a water-guard to track and take Lucky Jack Smith!

       *       *       *       *       *

But for all his assurance Lucky Jack Smith drew a long breath of
relief when he felt the shadow of Pulwick woods closing around him at
last.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE DAY: NOON

    There stood two men and they did point their fingers at that house.
    And on his finger one had blood; the other's finger shook.

    _Luteplayer's Song._

Broken lengths of wall, a crumbling indication of the spring of once
exquisite arches, windows gaping darkly like the eye sockets of a
skull--this was all that was left of the old priory of Pulwick, whilom
proud seat of clerical power and learning. But the image of decay was
robbed of all melancholy by the luxuriance of climbing vegetation, by
the living screen of noble firs and larches arranged in serried ranks
upon the slopes immediately behind it, with here and there a rugged
sentinel within the ruinous yards and rooms themselves; by wild bushes
of juniper and gorse and brambles. And, with the bright noon sun
pouring down upon the worn red sandstone, and gilding the delicate
tassels of the larches' green needles; with the light of young love,
spreading glamour upon every leaf and stone, in the eyes of the
lovers, the scene, witness of so many sweet meetings, bore that day a
beautiful and home-like aspect.

Captain Jack was standing upon the grass-grown floor of what had been
the departed monks' refectory, with ears eagerly bent to listen.

Three ragged walls, a clump of fir trees, and a bank of brambles
screened him from any chance passer-by, and he now and again peered
through a crevice on to a path through the woods, cautiously, as if
fearful to venture forth. His face was pale beneath its tan, and had
none of its usual brightness; his attire for him was disordered; his
whole appearance that of a man under the pressure of doubt and
anxiety. Yet, when the sound of a light footfall struck among the
thousand whispering noises of wind and leaf that went to make up the
silence of the ruins, the glory of joy that lit up eye and lip left no
room for any other impression.

Madeleine stood in the old doorway: a vision of beautiful life amid
emblems of decay and death.

"I come alone to-day," she said, with her half-shy smile. And then,
before she could utter a further word of explanation, she was gathered
into her lover's strong arms with a passion he had never as yet shown
in his chivalrous relations with her. But it was not because they met
without the sympathetic rapture of Miss Landale's eye upon them; not
because there was no other witnesses but the dangling ivy wreath, the
stern old walls, the fine dome of spring sky faintly blue; not because
of lover's audacious joy. This Madeleine, feeling the stormy throbbing
of his heart against hers, knew with sure instinct. She pushed him
gently from her as soon as she could, the blushes chased from her
cheeks by pale misgivings, and looked at him with eyes full of
troubled questioning.

Then he spoke, from his full heart:

"Madeleine, something has happened--a misfortune, as I wrote to you. I
must now start upon my venture sooner than I thought--at once. I shall
have to _fly_ in fact, to-day. There have been spies upon me, and my
secret trust is in danger. How they have tracked me, how suspicion has
been aroused, I cannot guess. But I have been tracked. A fellow came
at dawn. I had to defend my secret--the secret not my own, the charge
entrusted to me. The man was hurt. I cannot explain, dear love, there
is no time; even now I run the risk of my life by being here, and life
is so dear to me now, my Madeleine! Hush! No, do not be afraid! I am
afraid of nothing, so long as you trust me. Will you trust me? I
cannot leave you here behind; and now, with this cursed stroke of
ill-luck, this suspicion upon me, it may be long before I can return
to England. I cannot leave you behind, I cannot! Will you trust me,
Madeleine, will you come with me? We shall be married in France, my
darling. You should be as a queen in the guard of her most humble
slave. I am half mad to think I must go. Ah, kiss me, love, and say
yes! Listen! I must sail away and make believe that I have gone. My
_Peregrine_ is a bird that none can overtake, but I shall come back
to-night. Listen: If you will be on the island to-night--Sir Adrian is
there already, and I hear your sister is coming--a freak of fancy--and
he, God bless him, has told her to bring you too (it shows my luck has
not deserted me yet). I shall be there, unknown to all except Renny. I
cannot meet you nearer home, but you will be my own brave bride and
keep your own counsel. You will not be frightened, will you, my
beautiful love? All you have to do is to follow Renny's instructions.
My ship will be back, waiting, an hour after dark, ready, when you set
foot on it, to spread its wings with its treasures--treasures, indeed!
And then we shall have the world before us--riches, love, such love!
And once safe, I shall be free to prove to you that it is no common
blood I would mate with that dear and pure stream that courses in your
veins. You shall soon know all; will you trust me?"

She hung upon his hot words, looking at him with loving, frightened
eyes. Now he gathered her to his arms again, again his bursting heart
throbbed its stormy passion to her ear. She was as one carried away by
a torrent against which resistance is useless. He bent his head over
her face; the scent of the bunch of violets in her breast rose
deliciously to his nostrils. Alas! Hubert Cochrane was not to reach
that kiss of acquiescence, that kiss from which it seemed that but so
small a fraction of space and time divided him! Some one, who had
stepped along in the shadow as silently as a cat coming upon a bird,
clapped here a hand upon his shoulder.

"Who are you, sir, and what do you want?" exclaimed Captain Jack,
wrenching himself free, falling back a pace and measuring the
new-comer from head to foot with furious glances, while, with burning
blushes Madeleine faltered:

"Rupert!"

Nothing awakens anger in hot blood sooner than an unsanctioned touch.
In certain moods the merest contact is as infuriating as a blow. Such
an insult, added to the irreparable injury of interrupting their
meeting at the most exquisite and crucial moment, drove Captain Jack
beside himself with rage.

But Madeleine's hand was still on his arm. She felt it suddenly harden
and twitch with murderous anger. But, by an effort that made the
veins of his temple swell like whipcord, he refrained from striking
the double offender.

Mr. Landale surveyed the pair for a moment in silence with his grave
look; then coldly he answered the sailor's irate speech.

"My name, fellow, is Rupert Landale. I am here to protect my cousin
from an unprincipled and criminal adventurer."

"You take a sharp tone sir," cried Captain Jack, the flush on his face
deepening yet a shade, his nostrils ominously dilated, yet speaking
without further loss of self-control. "You probably count upon the
presence of this lady to prevent my resenting it; but as my time with
her is short and I have still much to say, I shall be forced promptly
to eject you from the ruins here, unless you will be good enough to
immediately remove yourself. I shall hope for another meeting with you
to discuss the question as to your right of interference; but
to-day--I cannot spare the time."

Rupert smiled without moving; then the sailor gently disengaging
himself from Madeleine would have put her behind him but that she
pressed forward and laid a hand upon an arm of each of the men.

"Stay, Jack," she pleaded, "let me speak. There is some mistake here.
Cousin Rupert, you cannot know that I am engaged to this gentleman and
that he is a friend of your brother's as well as of other good friends
of mine."

"My poor child," answered Rupert, closing a cold hand gently over hers
and speaking with a most delicate tenderness of accent, "you have been
grossly imposed upon, and so have others. As for my poor brother
Adrian, he is, if anything, easier to deceive than you, innocent
convent-bred girl! I would have you to go home, my dear, and leave me
to deal with this--gentleman. You have bitter truths to learn; would
it not be better to wait and learn them quietly without further
scandal?"

This was too much for Captain Jack, who fairly ground his teeth.
Rupert's honeyed tones, his grasp of Madeleine's hand were more
unbearable even than the words. He advanced upon the elder man and
seizing him by the collar whirled him away from the girl as easily as
a straw puppet.

The fine gentleman of sensitive nerves and unworked sinews had no
chance against the iron strength of the man who had passed all the
years of virility fighting against sea and storm. The two faced each
other; Jack Smith, red and panting with honest rage, only the sense of
his lady's proximity keeping him from carrying his high-handed
measures a little further. Mr. Landale, livid, with eyes suddenly
black in their orbits, moistening his white lips while he quivered
from head to foot with a passion so tense that not even his worst
enemy could have attributed it to fear.

An unequal match it would seem, yet unequal in a way that the young
man, in the conscious glory of his strength could not have conceived.
Madeleine neither screamed nor fainted; she had grown white, in
natural apprehension, but her eyes fixed upon her lover's face shone
with admiration. Mr. Landale turned slowly towards her.

"Madeleine," he said, readjusting his stock and smoothing the folds of
his collar with a steadfast striving after coolness, "you have been
grossly deceived. The man you would trust with your life and honour is
a mere smuggler. He has no doubt told you fine stories, but if he has
given himself out for aught else he lied, take my word for it--he
lied. He is a common smuggler, and the vessel he would carry you away
in is packed with smuggled goods. To-day he has attacked and wounded
an officer, who, in the discharge of his duty, endeavoured to find out
the nature of his suspicious purpose. Your would-be lover's neck is in
danger. A felon, he runs the risk of his life every moment he remains
on land--but he would make a last effort to secure the heiress! Look
at him," his voice raising in spite of himself to a shriller
pitch--"he cannot deny it!"

Madeleine gazed from one to the other. Her mind, never a very quick
one at decision, was too bewildered to act with clearness; moreover
with her education and ignorance of the world the indictment conveyed
no special meaning to her.

But there was an agony of suspense and beseeching in the glance that
her lover cast upon her; and to that appeal she smiled proudly. Hers
were no true love, she felt, were its confidence shaken by the
slandering of anger. Then the thought of his danger, danger admitted
by his own lips, flashed upon her with terror. She rushed to him,

"Oh go, Jack, go!--As you love me, go!"

Mr. Landale, who had already once or twice cast impatient looks of
expectation through a window of the east wall, taken by surprise at
this unforeseen result of his speech, suddenly climbed up upon a
broken piece of stone-work, from which there was an abrupt descent
towards the shore, and began to signal in eager gesticulation. There
was a sound of heavy running footfalls without. Captain Jack raised
his head, every nerve on the alert.

"Go, go," again cried Madeleine, dreading she knew not what.--A fat
panting red face looked over the wall; Mr. Landale turned for a second
to throw at the lovers a glance of elation.

But it seemed as if the sailor's spirits rose at the breath of danger.
He rapidly looked round upon the ruins from which there were no other
outlets than the window guarded by Mr. Landale, and the doorway in
which the red-faced new-comer now stood, framed in red stone; then,
like a cat he darted on to the ledge of the wall at the opposite end,
where some invading boughs of larch dropped over the jagged crest,
before the burly figure in the blue coat of the preventive service had
recovered from the surprise of finding a lady in his way, or gathered
his wits and his breath sufficiently to interfere.

There the nimble climber stood a moment balancing himself lightly,
though the ivied stones rocked beneath him.

"I go, love," he cried in ringing voice, "but one word from you and I
go----"

"Oh, I trust you! I will trust you!" screamed the girl in despair,
while her fascinated gaze clung to the erect figure silhouetted
against the sky and the stout man looked up, open-mouthed. Mr. Landale
snarled at him:

"Shoot, fool--shoot!" And straining forward, himself drew a pistol
from the man's belt, cocked it and thrust it into his grasp.

Captain Jack kissed his hand to Madeleine with a joyful gesture, then
waved his hat defiantly in Rupert's direction, and with a spring
disappeared, just as the pistol cracked, drawing a shriek of terror
from the girl, and its bullet flattened itself against the upper stone
of the wall--considerably wide of the mark.

"Come, this way----!" screamed Mr. Landale from his window sill, "you
have another!"

But the preventive shook his head, and thrust his smoking barrel back
through his belt, with an air of philosophical resignation; and slowly
approaching the window, through which the fugitive could now be seen
steadily bowling down the seaward slope, observed in slow, fat tones:

"Give you a hand, sir?"

Rupert, thrusting his extended arm aside jumped down beside him as if
he would have sprung at his throat.

"Why are you so late?--why have you brought no one with you? I gave
you notice enough. You fool! You have let him slip through your
fingers, now, after all! Couldn't you even shoot straight? Such a mark
as he made against the sky--Pah! well may the sailors say, lubberly as
a land preventive----!"

"Why, there you are, Mr. Landale!" answered the man with
imperturbable, greasy good-humour. "The way you shoved that there
pistol into my hand was enough to put off anybody. But you country
magistrate gentlemen, as I have always said, you are the real sort to
make one do illegal actions with your flurry and your hurry over
everything. 'Shoot!' says you, and damme, sir, if I didn't shoot
straight off before I knew if I were on my head or on my heels. It's a
mercy I didn't hit the sweet young lady--it is indeed. And as for the
young gentleman, though to be sure he did show a clean pair of heels
at the sight of me, I had no proper time for i-dentification--no time
for i-den-ti-fi-cation, Mr. Landale, sir. So I say, sir, it's a mercy
I did not hit him either, now I can think of it. Ah, slow and sure,
that's my motter! I takes my man on his boat, in the very middle of
his laces and his brandy and his silk--I takes him, sir, in the very
act of illegality, red-handed, so to speak, and then, if he shows
fight, or if he runs away, then I shoots, sir, and then if I hits, why
it's a good job too--but none of this promiscuous work for Augustus
Hobson. Slow and sure, that's my motter."

The speaker who had been rolling a quid of tobacco in his mouth during
this exposition of policy, here spat emphatically upon the grass, and
catching Madeleine's abstracted eye, begged pardon for the liberty
with a gallant air.

"Aye, so slow, man, that you are pretty sure to fail," muttered Mr.
Landale.

"I knows my business, sir, meaning no offence," retorted Mr. Hobson
serenely. "When I has no orders I acts on regulation. I brought no one
with me because I had no one to bring, having sent, as per regulation,
my one remaining man to give notice to the water service, seeing that
that there schooner has had the impudence to come back, and is at this
very moment cruising quite happy-like just the other side of the bank;
though if ever their cutter overhauls her--well, I'm a Dutchman! You
might have done wiser, perhaps (if I may make so bold as to remark),
to leave the management of this business to them as understands such
things. As to being late, sir, you told me to be in the ruins at
twelve noon, and I beg to insinuate that it's only just past the hour
now."

At this point the preventive man drew from his capacious breeches a
brass time-piece, of congenial stoutness, the face of which he turned
towards the magistrate.

The latter, however, waved the proffered witness impatiently aside.
Furtively watching his cousin, who, leaning against the door-post, her
pale head thrown out in strong relief by the dark stones, stood as if
absolutely detached from her surroundings, communing over troubled
thoughts with her own soul, he said with deliberate distinctness:

"But have I been misled, then, in understanding that you were with the
unfortunate officer who was so ferociously assaulted this morning?
that you and he did come upon this Captain Smith, red-handed as you
call it, loading or unloading his vessel on Scarthey Island?"

"Aye, sir," rolled out the other, unctuously, "there you are again,
you see. Poor Nat Beavor, he was one of your hot-headed ones, and see
what it has brought _him_ to--a crack in his skull, sir, so that it
will be days before he'll know himself again, the doctor says, if ever
he does in this world, which I don't think. Ah, I says to him, when
we started in the dawn this morning agreeable to our arrangement with
you: 'For peeping and prying on the quiet without any running risks
and provoking others to break the law more than they're doing, I'm
your man,' says I; 'but as for attacking desperate individles without
proper warrant and authority, not to speak of being one to ten, I tell
you fair, Nat Beavor, I'll have nothing to do with it.' But Nat, he
went off his head, clean, at the sight of Captain Jack and his men a
trundling the little kegs down the sands, as neat and tidy as could
be; and so he cut out from behind the rocks, and I knew there was
mischief ahead! Ah, poor fellow, if he would only have listened to me!
I did my best for him, sir; started off to call up the other man, who
was on the other side of the ruins, as soon as I saw his danger, but
when I came back----"

"The birds were flown, of course," interrupted Rupert with a sneer,
"and you found the body of your comrade who had been dastardly
wounded, and who, I hear, is dead now. So the villain has twice
escaped you. Cousin Madeleine," hastily breaking off to advance to the
girl, who now awakening from her reflective mood seemed about to leave
the ruins, "Cousin Madeleine, are you going? Let me escort you back."

She slowly turned her blue eyes, burning upon him from her white face.
"Cousin Rupert, I do not want your company." Then she added in a
whisper, yet with a passion for which Rupert would never have given
her credit and which took him vastly by surprise, "I shall never
forgive you."

"My God, Madeleine," cried he, with genuine emotion, "have I deserved
this? I have had no thought but to befriend you, I have opened your
eyes to your own danger----"

"Hold your tongue, sir," she broke in, with the same repressed anger.
"Cease vilifying the man I love. All your aspersions, your wordy
accusations will not shake my faith in him. _Mon Dieu_," she cried,
with an unsteady attempt at laughter, looking under her lashes and
tilting her little white round chin at Mr. Hobson, who, now seated
upon a large stone, and with an obtrusive quid of tobacco bulging in
an imperfectly shorn cheek, was mopping his forehead with a doubtful
handkerchief. "_That_ is the person, I suppose, whose testimony I am
to believe against my Jack!"

"Your Jack was prompt enough in running away from him, such as he is,"
retorted her cousin bitterly. He could not have struck, for his
purpose, upon a weaker joint in her poor woman's armour of pride and
trust.

She caught her breath sharply, as if indeed she had received a blow.
"Well, say your say," she exclaimed, coming to a standstill and facing
him; "I will hear all that you and your--your friend have to say,
lest," with a magnificent toss of her head, "you fancy I am afraid, or
that I believe one word of it all. I know that Jack--that Captain
Smith, as he is called--is engaged upon a secret and important
mission; but it is one, Rupert, which all English gentlemen should
wish to help, not impede."

"Do you know what the mission is--do you know to whom? And if, my fair
cousin, it is such that all English gentlemen would help, why then
this secrecy?"

She bit her lip; but it trembled. "What is it you accuse him of?" she
asked, with a stamp of her foot.

"Listen to me," said Rupert gently, "it is the kinder thing that you
should know the truth, and believe me, every word I say I can
substantiate. This Captain Jack Smith, whatever his real name may be,
was picked up when a mere boy by an old Liverpool merchant, starving
in the streets of that town. This merchant, by name Cochrane, an
absurd person who gave himself out to be a relative of Cochrane of
Shaws, adopted the boy and started him upon a slaver, that is a ship
which does trade in negro slaves, my dear--a pretty trade. He next
entered a privateer's ship as lieutenant. You know what these
are--ocean freebooters, tolerated by government for the sake of the
harm they wreck upon the ships of whatever nation we may happen to be
at war with--a sort of pirate ship--hardly a much more reputable
business than the slaver's; but Captain Smith made himself a name in
it. Now that the war is over, he has taken to a lower traffic
still--that of smuggling."

"But _what_ is smuggling?" cried the girl, tears brimming up at last
into her pretty eyes, and all her heat of valiance suddenly gone.
"What does it mean?"

"What is smuggling? Bless your innocence! I beg your pardon, my
dear--miss I should say--but if you'll allow _me_ I think I'm the man
to explain that 'ere to you." The husky mellifluous tones of the
preventive-service man, who had crept up unnoticed to listen to the
conversation, here murmured insinuatingly in her ear.

Rupert hesitated; then reading shrinking aversion upon Madeleine's
face, shrewdly conjectured that the exposition of her lover's doings
might come with more force from Mr. Hobson's lips than from his own,
and allowed the latter to proceed unmolested.

"Smuggling, my pretty," wheezed the genial representative of the
custom laws, "again asking pardon, but it slipped out, smuggling is,
so to say, a kind of stealing, a kind of cheating and that of a most
rank and heinous kind. For, mind you, it ain't stealing from a common
man, nor from the likes of you and me, nor from a nobleman either:
it's cheating and stealing from his most gracious Majesty himself. For
see you, how 'tis, his Majesty he says, 'Every keg of brandy,' says
he, 'and every yard of lace and every pipe o' tobacco as is brought
into this here country shall be paid for, so much on, to me, and
that's called a tax, miss, and for that there are the custom houses
and custom officers--which is me--to see his Majesty paid right and
proper his lawful dues. But what does your smuggler do, miss--your
rollicking, dare-devil chap of a smuggler? Why he lands his lace and
his brandy and his 'baccy unbeknownst and sells 'em on the sly--and
pockets the profit! D'ye see?--and so he cheats his Majesty, which is
a very grievous breaking of the law; so much so that he might as well
murder at once--Kind o' treason, you may say--and that's what makes
'em such desperate chaps. They knows if they're caught at it, with
arms about them, and two or three together--it's--clank."

Mr. Hobson grasped his own bull neck with an unpleasantly significant
gesture and winked knowingly at the girl, who turned white as death
and remained gazing at him with a sort of horrified fascination which
he presently noted with an indulgent smile.

"Don't take on now, my lass--no offence, miss--but I can't bear to see
a fine young 'oman like you upset-like--I'm a damned, hem, hem, a real
soft hearted fellow. Your sweetheart's heels have saved his gullet
this time--and though he did crack poor Nat upon the skull (as I can
testify for I as good as saw him do it--which makes it a hanging
matter twice over I won't deny), yet there's a good few such as him
escapes the law and settles down arter, quite respectable-like. A bit
o' smuggling now is a thing many a pretty fellow has taken to in his
day, and has made a pretty penny out of too, and is none the worse
looked to arter, as I said. Aye, and there's many a gentleman and a
magistrate to boot as drinks his glass of smuggled brandy and smokes
his smuggled baccy and finds them none the worse, oh dear no! Human
nature it is and human nature is a queer thing. Even the ladies, miss,
are well-known to be soft upon the smuggled lace: it's twice as cheap
you see as t'other, and they can get double as handsome for the money.
Begging your pardon--if I may make so bold--" stretching out a great,
coarse, tobacco-stained finger and thumb to close them appreciatively
upon the hanging lace of Madeleine's neck handkerchief, "may be your
spark brought you that there, miss, now? He, he, he--as pretty a bit
of French point it is as has ever been my fate to lay hands on--Never
fear," as the girl drew back with a gesture of loathing from the
contact. "I ain't agoing to seize it off you or take you up,
he--he--he--eh, Mr. Landale? I'm a man o' my duty, I hope, but our
orders don't run as far as that."

"Rupert!" cried Madeleine, piteously turning a dark gaze of anguish at
him--it seemed as if she were going to faint.

He hastened up to her, shouldering the clumsy form of Mr. Augustus
Hobson unceremoniously out of the way: the fellow had done his work
for the time being, and this last piece of it so efficaciously indeed
that his present employer felt, if not remorse, at least a certain
pity stir within him at the stricken hopelessness of the girl's
aspect. He passed his arm round her waist as she shivered and swayed.
"Lean on me," he said, his fine eyes troubled with an unwonted
softness and anxiety.

"Rupert," she whispered, clutching at his sleeve, eagerly fixing him
with a look eloquent of unconscious pleading, "all these things
this--this man talks of are things which are brought into England--are
they not? I know that--_he_ was bringing nothing into the country,
but he was going to another country upon some important trust, the
nature of which he had promised not to reveal. Therefore he cannot be
cheating the King, if that is smuggling--Oh Rupert, is there not some
grievous mistake?"

"My poor child," said Rupert, holding her close and tenderly, and
speaking with a gentle gravity in which there was this time less
hypocrisy, "there is one thing which is smuggled out of England, and
it is as dishonest and illegal work as the other, the most daring and
dangerous smuggling of all in fact; one in which none but a desperate
man would engage--that of gold."

"Yes, gold," exclaimed the girl sharply, withdrawing herself from her
cousin's arms, while a ray of intelligence and hope lit up her face.
"Gold for the French King's service."

Rupert betrayed no emotion; he drew from the inner pocket of his coat
a crushed news-sheet.

"Deceived there, as well as everywhere else, poor little cousin," he
said. "And did the scoundrel say so? Nay, he is a damnable scoundrel
who could betray your trustfulness to your own sweet face. Gold
indeed--but not for the King--gold for the usurper, for the tyrant who
was supplied already, no doubt, by the same or similar traitor hands
with enough to enable him to escape from the island where he was so
justly imprisoned. See here, Madeleine, Bonaparte is actually landed
in France: it has all been managed with the most devilish ingenuity
and takes the whole world by surprise. And your lover, doubtless, is
engaged upon bringing him fresh supplies to enable him to begin again
and rack humanity with hideous wars. Oh, he never told you of the
Corsican's escape, yet this news is three days old. See you, my dear,
this explains the whole mystery, the necessity for absolute secrecy;
all England is friendly to the French monarch; no need to smuggle gold
for his aid--but the other...! It is treason, the blackest treason on
every side of it, treason to his King, to his country, to _your_ King,
to you. And he would have cozened you with tales of his loyalty to the
rightful cause!"

"Give me the paper," said Madeleine. A tide of blood had swept into
her face; she was no longer white and shaken, but erect and beautiful
in strong indignation. Rupert examined her, as if a little doubtful
how to take the sudden change; but he handed her the printed sheet in
silence. She read with lips and nostrils expanded by her quick
breathing; then crumpled up the sheet and cast it at his feet. And
after a pause, with her princess air of dignity, "I thank you, cousin
Rupert," she said; then, passing him with stately steps, moved towards
the house.

He pressed forward to keep up with her; and upon the other side,
smiling, irrepressible, jocose, Mr. Hobson did the same.

"You are not fit to go alone," urged the former, while the latter
engagingly protruding an elbow, announced that he'd be proud to give
her an arm as far as the Hall.

She drew away from this well-meaning squire of dames with such
shuddering distaste, and looked once more so white and worn and
sickened after her sudden blaze of passion, that Mr. Landale, seeing
that the only kindness was to let her have her will, arrested his
companion roughly enough, and allowed her to proceed as she wished.

       *       *       *       *       *

And so, with bent head, Madeleine hurried forth. And the same glorious
sun smiled down upon her in her anguish that had greeted her when she
hastened an hour before glowing and light-hearted--if, indeed, a heart
so full of love could be termed light--to meet her lover; the same
brambles caught her dress, the same bird trilled his song. But
Madeleine thought neither of ray nor leaf, nor yet of mating
songsters: all the spring world, as she went, was to her strewn with
the wreck of her broken hopes, and encompassed by the darkness of her
lonely future.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Landale and the preventive service man stood some time watching
her retreating figure through the wood, and then walked slowly on for
a while, in silent company.

Presently the latter, who during the last part of the interview, had
begun to feel a little ruffled by the magistrate's persistently
overbearing manner, inquired with something of dudgeon in his voice:
"Begging your pardon, sir, what was that I heard the young lady call
out just now? 'Gold!' she cries. Is it guineas that nipping young man
is a taking over seas, if I may make so bold? Now you see, sir, we
haven't had no orders about no gold on this station--that sort of
thing is mostly done down south. But what I wants to know is: Why, if
you knew all about the fellow's little games, you sent us to spy on
him? Ah, poor Nat would want a word or two with you on that score, I
fancy! Now it's as plain as Salisbury...."

"But I know nothing certain," impatiently interrupted Mr. Landale. "I
know no more than you do yourself. Only not being a perfect idiot, I
can put two and two together. What in the name of goodness can a man
smuggle _out_ of England but gold? But I wanted the proofs. And your
business, it was agreed with the Chief Officer, was to follow my
instructions."

"And so we did," grumbled Mr. Hobson; "and a pretty business it's
turned out! Nat's to pocket his bludgeoning, I suppose, and I am to
bear the blame and lose my share. A cargo of guineas, by God! I might
have nosed it, down south, but here.... Blast it! But since you was so
clever over it, sir, why in blazes--if I may speak so to a gentleman
and a magistrate," pursued the man with a rueful explosion of disgust,
"didn't you give _me_ the hint? Why, guineas is contraband of
war--it's treason, sir--and guineas is a cargo that's _fought_ for,
sir! I shouldn't have moved with two men in a boat patrol, d'ye think?
I should have had the riding officers, and the water-guard, and a
revenue cruiser in the offing, and all tight and regular. But you
_would_ have all the credit, and where are you? and _where's_ my
share? and where is Nat?--Bah!"

"You are forgetting yourself, officer," said Mr. Landale, looking
severely into the eyes of the disappointed preventive man, whose
rising ebullition became on the instant reduced.

"So I am, sir, so I am--and beg your pardon. But you must admit, it's
almost enough to make ... but never mind, sir, the trick is done.
Whatever it may be that that there schooner carries in her bottom, she
is free now to take it, barring accident, wherever she pleases. I'll
trouble you to look this way, sir."

They had emerged from the wooded part of the park, and the rising
ground on which they stood commanded a wide sea-view, west of the
great bay.

"There she is again, sir," said Mr. Hobson, waving his broad paw, like a
showman displaying his goods, with a sort of enraged self-satisfaction.
"There is the schooner, ready to hoist sail as soon as he comes
alongside. And that there black point which you may see, if your eyes
are good enough, is a six-oared galley with as ship-shaped a crew--if
it's the same as I saw making off this morning--as ever pulled. Your
Captain Smith, you may take your oath, is at the tiller, and making
fun of us two to the lads. In five minutes he will be on board, and
then the revenue cutter from the station may give chase if she
likes!... And there she is, due to the time--about a mile astern.
But bless you, that's all my eye, you may take your oath! They know
well enough that in an open sea they can't run down a Salcombe
schooner. But to earn their pay they will hang on till they lose
her, and then sail home, all cosy.--I'm thinking," he added slily,
with a side glance at the magistrate: "we won't hang him _this_ time."

Mr. Landale made no answer; during the last few minutes his
reflections had enabled him to take a new view of the situation. After
all the future fate of Captain Jack was of little moment. He had been
successfully exposed before Madeleine, whose love for the young man
was, as had just been sufficiently proved, chiefly composed of those
youthful illusions which dispelled once, never can return.

Rupert fell gradually into a reverie in which he found curious
satisfaction. His work had not been unsuccessful, whatever Mr.
Hobson's opinion might be. But, as matters stood between Madeleine and
her lover, the girl's eyes had been opened in time, and that without
scandal.... And even the escape of Captain Jack was, upon reflection,
the best thing that could have happened.

And so it was with a return to his usual polite bearing, that he
listened to the officer's relapse into expostulation.

"Now if you had only given me the hint first of all," the man was
grumblingly saying, "and then let me act--for who would have suspected
a boat, yacht-rigged like that?--A friend of Sir Adrian's, too! If
you'd only left it to me! Why that six-oared galley alone is agin the
law unless you can prove good reason for it ... as for the vessel
herself...."

"Yes, my dear Mr. Hobson," interrupted Mr. Landale, smiling
propitiously. "I have no doubt you would have secured him. I have made
a mess of it. But now you understand, least said, soonest mended, both
for me and (between ourselves, Mr. Hobson) for the young lady."

The man, in surprise at this sudden alteration of manner, stopped
short and gaped; and presently a broad smile, combined with a knowing
wink, appeared on his face. He received the guineas that Mr. Landale
dropped in his palm with an air of great candour, and, without further
parley, acted on the kind advice to repair to the Priory and talk with
one Mrs. Puckett the housekeeper, on the subject of corporeal
refreshment.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Well," said Molly, bursting in upon her sister, who sat by her
writing-table, pen in hand, and did not even raise her head at the
unceremonious entrance. "This is evidently the day for mysterious
disappearances. First Rupert and Sophia; then my lord and master who
is fetched hurriedly to his island (that isle of misfortune!) God
knows for what--though _I_ mean to know presently; then you,
Mademoiselle, and Rupert again. It is, faith, quite a comedy. But the
result has been that I have had my meals alone, which is not so gay.
Sophia is in bed, it turns out; Rupert out a-riding, on important
business, of course! all he does is desperately important. And there
you are--alone in your room, moping. God, child, how pale you are!
What ails you then?"

"Molly," cried Madeleine, ignoring Lady Landale's question and
feverishly folding the written sheet which lay under her hand, "if you
love me, if ever you loved me, will you have this letter conveyed by a
safe messenger to Scarthey, and given to René--to none but René, at
once? Oh, Molly, it will be a service to me, you little guess of what
moment!"

"_Voyez un peu!_" said Lady Landale coolly. "What trust in Molly, all
at once! Aha, I thought it would come. If I love you? Hum, I'm not so
sure about that. If ever I loved you?--a droll sort of plea, in truth,
considering how you have requited my love!"

Madeleine turned a dazed look upon her sister, who stood surveying
her, glowing like a jewel of dazzling radiance, from her setting of
black mantle and black plumed hat. "So you will not!" she answered
hopelessly, and let her forehead fall upon her hand without further
protest.

"But I did not say I would not--as it happens I am going to the island
myself. How you stare--oh you remember now do you? Who told you I
wonder?--of course, such a couple as we are, Adrian and I, could not
be divided from each other for over half a day, could we? By the way,
I was to convey a gracious invitation to you too. Will you come with
me?--No?--strange girl. So even give me the letter, I will take it
to--no, not to René, 'tis addressed to Captain Smith, I see. Dear
me--you don't mean to say, Madeleine, that you are corresponding with
that person; that he is near us? What would Tanty say?"

"Oh, Molly, cease your scoffs," implored poor Madeleine, wearily. "You
are angry with me, well, now rejoice, for I am punished--well
punished. Oh, I would tell you all but I cannot! my heart is too sick.
See, you may read the letter, and then you will understand--but for
pity's sake go--Do not fail to go; he will be there on the island at
dark--he expects _me_--Oh, Molly! I cannot explain--indeed I cannot,
and there is no time, it will soon be dusk; but there is terrible
danger in his being there at all."

Molly took the letter, turned it over with scornful fingers and then
popped it in her pocket. "If he expects you," she asked, fixing cold,
curious eyes on her sister's distress, "and he is in danger, why
_don't_ you go?"

A flush rose painfully to Madeleine's face, a sob to her throat.
"Don't ask me," she murmured, turning away to hide her humiliation. "I
have been deceived, he is not what I thought."

Lady Landale gazed at the shrinking figure for a little while in
silence. Then remarking contemptuously: "Well you are a poor
creature," turned upon her heel to leave her. As she passed the little
altar, she paused to whisk a bunch of violets out of a vase and dry
the stems upon her sister's quilt.

"Molly," cried Madeleine, in a frenzy, "give me back my letter, or
go."

"I go, I go," said Lady Landale with a mocking laugh. "How sweet your
violets smell!--There, do not agitate yourself: I'm going to meet your
lover, my dear. I vow I am curious to see the famous man, at last."



CHAPTER XXIV

THE NIGHT

    So the blood burned within her,
    And thus it cried to her:
    And there, beside the maize field
    The other one was waiting--
      He, the mysterious one.

    _Luteplayer's Song._


The mantle of night had already fallen upon the land when Lady
Landale, closely wrapped in her warmest furs, with face well ensconced
under her close bonnet, and arms buried to the elbow in her muff,
sallied from her room on the announcement that the carriage was
waiting. As, with her leisurely daintiness, she tripped it down the
stairs, she crossed Mr. Landale, and paused a moment, ready for the
skirmish, as she noticed the cynical curiosity with which he examined
her.

"Whither, my fair sister," said he, ranging himself with his best
courtesy against the bannisters, "so late in the day?"

"To my lord and master's side, of course," said Molly.

"Why--is not Adrian coming back to-night?"

"Apparently not, since he has graciously permitted me to join him upon
his rock. I trust you will not find it too unhappy in our absence:
that would be the crowning misfortune of a day when everything seems
to have gone wrong. Sophia invisible with her vapours; Madeleine with
the megrim; and you in and out of the house as excited and secret as
the cat when she has licked all the cream. I suppose I shall end by
knowing what it is all about. Meanwhile I think I shall enjoy the
tranquillity of the island--although I have actually to tear myself
away from the prospect of a tête-à-tête evening with you."

But as Rupert's serenity was not to be moved, her ladyship hereupon
allowed herself to be escorted to the carriage without further parley.

As she drove away through the dark night, first down the level,
well-metalled avenue, then along the uneven country road, and finally
through the sand of the beach in which hoofs and tyres sank
noiselessly, inches deep, Molly gave herself up, with almost childish
zest to the leaven of imagination.... Here, in this dark carriage, was
reclining, not Lady Landale (whose fate deed had already been signed,
sealed and delivered to bring her nothing but disappointment), but her
happier sister, still confronted with the fascinating unknown,
hurrying under cover of night, within sound of the sea, to that
enthralling lure, a lover--a real lover, ardent, daring, _young_,
ready to risk all, waiting to spread the wings of his boat, and carry
her to the undiscovered country.

Glowing were these fleeting images of the "might have been," angry the
sudden relapses into the prose of reality.

No, Madeleine, the coward, who thought she had loved her lover, was
now in her room, weak and weeping, whilst he, no doubt, paced the deck
in mad impatience (as a lover should), now tortured by the throes of
anxiety, now hugging himself with the thought of his coming bliss ...
that bliss that never was to be his. And in the carriage there was
only Molly, the strong-hearted but the fettered by tie and vow, the
slave for ever of a first girlish fancy but too successfully
compassed; only Lady Landale rejoining her husband in his melancholy
solitude; Lady Landale who never--never! awful word! would know the
joys which yonder poor fool had had within her grasp and yet had not
clutched at.

Molly had read, as permitted, her sister's letter, and to some
purpose; and scorn of the girl who from some paltry quibble could
abandon in danger the man she professed to love, filled her soul to
the exclusion of any sisterly or ever womanly pity.

At the end of half an hour the carriage was stopped by the black
shadow of a man, who seemed to spring up from the earth, and who,
after a few rapid words interchanged with the coachman, extinguished
both the lights, and then opened the door.

Leaning on the offered elbow Molly jumped down upon the yielding
sand.

"René?" she asked; for the darkness even on the open beach was too
thick to allow of recognition.

"René, your ladyship--or Mademoiselle is it?" answered the man in his
unmistakable accent. "I must ask; for, by the voice no one can tell,
as your ladyship, or Mademoiselle knows--and the sky is black like a
chimney."

"Lady Landale, René," and as he paused, she added, "My sister would
not come."

"Ah, _mon Dieu_! She would not come," repeated the man in tones of
dismay; and the black shadow was struck into a moment of stillness.
Then with an audible sigh Mr. Potter roused himself, and saying with
melancholy resignation, "The boat is there, I shall be of return in a
minute, My Lady," took the traveller's bag on his shoulder and
disappeared.

The carriage began to crunch its way back in the darkness and Molly
was left alone.

       *       *       *       *       *

In front of her was a faint white line, where the rollers spread their
foam with mournful restless fugue of long drawn roar and hissing sigh.

In the distance, now and then glancing on the crest of the dancing
billows, shone the steady light of Scarthey. The rising wind whistled
in the prickly star-grass and sea-holly. Beyond these, not a sight,
not a sound--the earth was all mystery.

Molly looked at the light--marking the calm spot where her husband
waited for her; its very calm, its familiar placidity, monotony,
enraged her; she hearkened to the splashing, living waves, to the
swift flying gusts of the storm wind, and her soul yearned to their
life, and their mysteriousness.

What she longed for, she herself could not tell. No words can
encompass the desire of pent-up young vitality for the unknown, for
the ideal, for the impossible. But one thing was overpoweringly real:
that was the dread of leaving just then the wide, the open world whose
darkness was filled to her with living scenes of freedom and space,
and blood-stirring emotions; of re-entering the silent room under the
light; of consorting with the shadowy personality, her husband; of
feeling the web of his melancholy, his dreaminess, imprison as it were
the wings of her imagination and the thoughtful kindness of his gaze,
paralyse the course of her hot blood through her veins.

And yet, thither she was going, must be going! Ah Madeleine, fool--you
may well weep, yonder on your pillow, for the happiness that was yours
and that you have dropped from your feeble hands!

       *       *       *       *       *

In a few minutes the black shadow re-appeared close to her.

"If My Lady will lean on my shoulder, I shall lead her to the boat."
And after a few steps, the voice out of the darkness proceeded in
explanation: "I have not taken a lantern, I have put out those of the
carriage, for I must tell My Lady, that since what arrived this
morning, there may be _gabelous_--they call them the preventive
here--in every corner, and the light might bring them, as it does the
night papilions, and ... as I thought Mademoiselle was to accompany
you--they might have frightened her. These people want to know so
much!"

"I know nothing of what has happened this morning, that you speak of
as if the whole world must know," retorted Lady Landale coolly. "You
are all hatching plots and sitting on secrets, but nobody confides in
me. It seems then, that you expected Mademoiselle, my sister, here for
some purpose and that you regret she did not come; may I ask for an
explanation?"

A few moments elapsed before the man replied, and then it was with
embarrassment and diffidence: "For sure, I am sorry, My Lady ... there
have been misfortunes on the island this morning--nothing though to
concern her ladyship--and, as for Mademoiselle, mother Margery would
have liked to see her, no doubt ... and Maggie the wife also--and--and
no doubt also Mademoiselle would have liked to come.... What do I
know?"

"Oh, of course!" said Molly with her little note of mocking laughter.

Then again they walked a while in silence. As René lifted his mistress
in his arms to carry her over the licking hissing foam, she resumed:
"It is well, René, you are discreet, but I am not such a fool as
people seem to think. As for her, you were right in thinking that she
might easily be frightened. She was afraid even to come out!"

René shoved his boat off, and falling to his sculls, suddenly relapsed
into the old vernacular: "_Ah Madame_," he sighed, "_c'est bien
triste--un gentilhomme si beau--si brave!_"

During the crossing no further words passed between them.

"So brave--so handsome?" The echo of the words came back to the woman
in every lap of the water on the sides of the boat, in every strain of
the oars.

The keel ground against the beach, and René leaped out to drag the
boat free of the surf. As he did so, two blacker outlines segregated
themselves from the darkness and a rough voice called out, subdued but
distinct: "Savenaye, St. Malo!"

"Savenaye, St. Malo!" repeated René, and helped Lady Landale to
alight. Then one of the figures darted forward and whispered a rapid
sentence in the Frenchman's ear. René uttered an exclamation, but his
mistress intervened with scant patience:

"My good René," said she, "take the bag into the peel, and come back
for me. I have a message for these gentlemen."

René hesitated. As he did so a rustle of anger shook the lady in her
silks and furs. "Do you hear me?" she repeated, and he could guess how
her little foot stamped the yielding sand.

"_Oui, Madame_," said he, hesitating no longer. Immediately the other
two drew near. Molly could just see that they stood in all deference,
cap in hand.

"Madam," began one of these in hurried words, "there is not a moment
to be lost: the captain had to remain on board."

"What!" interrupted Lady Landale with much asperity, "not come in
person!" She had been straining her eyes to make out something of her
interlocutor's form, unable to reconcile her mind's picture with the
coarse voice that addressed her--And now all her high expectations
fell from her in an angry rush. "Have I come all this way to be met by
a messenger! Who are you?"

"Madam," entreated the husky voice, "I am the mate of the _Peregrine_.
The captain has directed me to beg and pray you not to be afraid, but
to have good courage and confidence in us--the schooner is there; in
five minutes you can be safe on board. You see, madam," continued the
man with an earnestness that spoke well of his devotion, "the captain
found he couldn't, he dared not leave the ship--he is the only one who
knows the bearings of these waters here--any one of us might run her
on the bank, and where would we be then, madam, and you, if we were
found in daylight still in these parts?--'For God's sake, Curwen,'
says he, 'implore the lady not to be afraid and tell her to trust, as
she has promised,' so he says. And for God's sake, say I, madam, trust
us. In five minutes you will be with him? Say the word, madam, am I to
make the signal? There he is, eating his heart out. There are all the
lads ready waiting for your foot on the ladder, to hoist sail. No time
to lose, we are already behind. Shall I signal?"

Molly's heart beat violently; under the sudden impulse, the
fascination of the black chasm, of the peril, the adventure, the
unfathomed, took possession of her, and whirled her on.

"Yes," she said.

On the very utterance of the word the man, who had not yet spoken,
uncovered a lantern, held it aloft, as rapidly replaced it under his
coat, and moved away.

Almost immediately, against the black pall, behind the dim line of
grey that marked the shore, suddenly sprang up three bright points in
the form of a triangle.

It was as if all the darkness around had been filled with life; as if
the first fulfilment of those promises with which it had been drawing
this woman's soul was now held out to her to lure her further still.

"See, madam, how they watch!--By your leave."

And with no further warning, Molly felt herself seized with
uncompromising, but deferential, energy, by a pair of powerful arms;
lifted like a child, and carried away at a bear-like trot. By the
splashing she judged it was through the first line of breakers. Then
she was handed into another irresistible grasp. The boat lurched as
the mate jumped in. Then:

"Now give way, lads," he said, "and let her have it. Those lights must
not be burning longer than we can help. Tain't wholesome for any of
us."

And under the pulse of four willing pairs of arms the skiff, like a
thing of life, clove the black waters and rose to the billows.

"You see, madam," explained the mate, "we could not do without the
lights, to show us where she lay, and give us a straight course. We
are all right so long as we keep that top 'un in the middle--but he
won't be sorry, I reckon, when he can drop them overboard. They can't
be seen from the offing yet, but it's astounding how far a light will
reach on a night like this. Cheerily, lads, let her have it!"

But Molly heeded him not. She had abandoned herself to the thrilling
delight of the excitement. The die was cast--not by her own hand, no
one should be able to hold her responsible--she had been kidnapped.
Come what might she must now see the adventure out.

The lights grew larger; presently a black mass, surmounted by a kind
of greyish cloud, loomed through the pitch of the night; and next it
was evident that the beacon was hanging over the side of a ship,
illuminating its jagged leaping water line.

A voice, not too loud, yet, even through the distance, ringing clear
in its earnestness sounded from above. "Boat ahoy! what boat is that?"

And promptly the helmsman by Molly's side returned: "Savenaye, St.
Malo."

On the instant the lights went out. There was a creaking of block and
cordage, and new ghostly clouds rose over the ship--sails loosened to
the wind. As the skiff rowers came alongside, boat-hooks leaped into
action and gripped the vessel; an arm, strong as steel, was held out
for the passenger as she fearlessly put her foot on the ladder;
another, a moment later, with masterful tenderness bent round her
waist, and she was fairly lifted on board the _Peregrine_. But before
her foot touched the deck, she felt upon her lips, laid like a burning
seal, a passionate kiss; and her soul leaped up to it, as if called
into sudden life from slumber, like the princess of fairy lore. She
heard Madeleine's mysterious lover whisper in her ear: "At last! Oh,
what I have suffered, thinking you would not come!"

From the warm shelter of her loosened cloak the violets in her bosom
sent forth a wave of sweetness.

For a moment these two were in all creation alone to each other,
while in a circle the _Peregrine's_ crew stood apart in respectful
silence: a broad grin of sympathy upon the mouth of every mother's
son.

Released at last, Lady Landale took a trembling step on the deck. Into
what strange world had she come this night?

The schooner, like a mettled steed whose head is suddenly set free,
was already in motion, and with gentle forward swaying leaps rising to
the wave and gathering speed under her swelling sails.

Captain Jack had seized Molly's hand, and the strong clasp trembled
round the little fingers; he said no more to her; but, in tones
vibrating with emotion which all the men, now silently seeking their
posts in the darkness, could hear:

"My lads," he cried, "the lady is safe with us after all. Who shall
say that your skipper is not still Lucky Smith? Thank you, my good
fellows! Now we have yet to bring her safe the other side.
Meanwhile--no cheering, lads, you know why--there is a hundred guineas
more among you the hour we make St. Malo. Stand to, every man. Up with
those topsails!"

Scarcely had the last words been spoken when, from the offing, on the
wings of the wind, came a long-drawn hail, faint through the distance,
but yet fatally distinct: "Ahoy, what schooner is that?"

Molly, who had not withdrawn her hand, felt a shock pass over Captain
Jack's frame. He turned abruptly, and she could see him lean and
strain in the direction of the voice.

The call, after an interval, was repeated. But the outlook was
impenetrable, and it was weird indeed to feel that they were seen yet
could not see.

Molly, standing close by his side, knew in every fibre of her own body
that this man, to whom she seemed in some inexplicable fashion already
linked, was strongly moved. Nevertheless she could hardly guess the
extremity of the passion that shook him. It was the frenzy of the
rider who feels his horse about to fail him within a span of the
winning post; of the leader whose men waver at the actual point of
victory. But the weakness of dismay was only momentary. Calm and
clearness of mind returned with the sense of emergency. He raised his
night-glass, with a steady hand this time, and scanned the depth of
blackness in front of him: out of it after a moment, there seemed to
shape itself the dim outline of a sail, and he knew that he had waited
too long and had fallen in again with the preventive cutter. Then
glancing aloft, he understood how it was that the _Peregrine_ had been
recognised.

The overcast sky had partly cleared to windward during the last
minutes; a few stars glinted where hitherto nothing but the most
impenetrable pall had hung. In the east, the rays of a yet invisible
moon, edging with faint silver the banks of clouds just above the
horizon, had made for the schooner a tell-tale background indeed.

On board no sound was heard now save the struggle of rope and canvas,
the creaking of timber and the swift plashing rush of water against
her rounded sides as she sped her course.

"Madeleine," he said, forcibly controlling his voice, and bringing, as
he spoke, his face close to Molly's to peer anxiously at its
indistinct white oval, "we are not free yet; but in a short time, with
God's help, we shall have left those intermeddling fools yonder who
would bar our way, miles out of the running. But I cannot remain with
you a moment longer; I must take the helm myself. Oh, forgive me for
having brought you to this! And, should you hear firing, for Heaven's
sake do not lose courage. See now, I will bring you to your cabin;
there you will find warmth and shelter. And in a little while, a very
little while, I will return to you to tell you all is well. Come, my
dearest love."

Gently he would have drawn her towards the little deck-cabin, guiding
her steps, as yet untutored to the motion of the ship, when out of the
black chasm, upon the weather bow of the _Peregrine_, leaped forth a
yellow tongue of light fringed with red and encircled by a ruddy
cloud; and three seconds later the boom of a gun broke with a dull,
ominous clangour above the wrangling of sea and wind. Molly
straightened herself. "What is that?" she asked.

"The warning gun," he answered, hurriedly, "to say that they mean to
see who we are and that if we do not stop the next will be shotted.
Time presses, Madeleine, go in--fear nothing! We shall soon be on
their other side, out of sight in darkness again."

"I shall stop with you. Let no thought of me hinder you. I am not
afraid. I want to see."

At these words the lover was struck with a surprise that melted into a
proud and new joy. He had loved Madeleine for her woman's grace and
her woman's heart; now, he told himself, he must worship her also for
her brave soul. But this was no time for useless words. It was not
more unsafe for her on deck than in the cabin, and at the thought of
her beside him during the coming struggle the strength of a god rose
within him. "Come," he answered, briefly, and moved with her to the
helm which a sailor silently surrendered to him whilst she steadied
herself by holding to the binnacle--the only place on board at that
time where (from sheer necessity) any light had been allowed to
remain. It was faint enough, but the reflection from the
compass-board, as he bent to examine it, was sufficient to make just
visible, with a dim fantastic glow, the strong beauty of his face, and
put a flash into each wide dilated eye.

And thus did Molly, for the first time, see Captain Jack.

She sank down at the foot of the binnacle, her hands clasped round her
knees, as if hugging the new rapture as closely to her as she could.
And looking up at the alert figure before her which she now began to
discern more clearly under the lightening sky; at the face which she
divined, although she could only see the watchful gleam of the eyes as
now and again they sought her down in the shadow at his feet, she felt
herself kindle in answer to the glow of his glorious life-energy. They
were going, side by side, this young hero of romance and she, to fight
their way through some unknown peril!

"Madeleine, my sweet bride, my brave love, they are about to fire
again, and this time you will hear the shot burring; but be not
afraid, it will strike ahead of us."

Another flash sprang out of the night, much nearer this time, and
louder, for it belched forth a shot which ploughed its way in the
water across the schooner's bow.

"I am not afraid," said Molly again; and she laughed a little fierce,
nervous laugh.

"They are between us and the open sea. Thus far the luck is on their
side. Had you come but half an hour sooner, Madeleine, we should be
running as free as any king's ship. Now they think, no doubt, they
will drive me on to the sand; but," he tossed back his head with a
superb gesture; "there is no power from heaven or hell that can keep
me out of my course to-night."

By this time the preventive cutter was faintly discernible two cables
length on the larboard bow. There came another hail--a loud, husky
bellow from over the water, "Schooner ahoy! Heave to, or we'll sink
you!"

"Madeleine," said Captain Jack; "come closer to me, lie down, behind
me, quick--The next shot will be in my rigging. Heave to?--with my
treasures, my bride on board and a ten knot breeze...!" And he looked
down at Molly, laughing in his contempt. Then he shouted some order
which brought the _Peregrine_ some points more off the wind, and she
bounded forward with renewed zest. "Sink us! Why don't you fire now,
you lubbers?" He glanced back over his shoulder to see the beacon of
Scarthey straight over the stern. "You have got us in line with the
light, and that's your last chance. In another minute I shall be past
you. Ah, I can see you now, my fine fellows!--Courage, Madeleine."

To Molly, of course, his words conveyed no meaning, except that the
critical moment had come, that the ship which carried her flying upon
the water like a living thing, eager, yet obedient in all its motions
to the guiding will of the man beside her, was rushing to the fray.
The thought fired her soul, and she sprang up to look over the side.

"What," she exclaimed, for the little cutter on close quarters looked
insignificant indeed by the side of the noble vessel that so
scornfully bore down on her. "Is that all!"

"They have a gun, and we have none," answered Captain Jack. "Down,
Madeleine! down behind, in the name of God!"

"Why should I crouch if you stand up?"

The man's heart swelled within him; but as he looked with proud
admiration at the cloaked and hooded figure by his side, the cutter's
gun fired for the third time. With roar and hiss the shot came over
the bow of the schooner, as she dipped into the trough, and raking the
deck, crashed through her side on the quarter. Molly gave a shriek and
staggered.

A fearful malediction burst from Captain Jack's lips: he left the
tiller and sprang to her.

One of the hands, believing his skipper to have been struck, ran to
the helm, and again put the vessel on her proper course which a few
moments later was to make her shoot past the revenue cutter.

"Wounded, Madeleine! Wounded through my fault! By the living God, they
shall pay for this!"

"Oh," groaned Molly, "something has cut me in the arm and shoulder."
Then rapidly gathering composure, "But it's not much, I can move it."

At one glance the sailor saw from the position of the shot hole in the
vessel's side that the wound could only have been made by a splinter.
But the possibility of exposing his beloved to such another risk was
not to be borne--a murderous rush of blood flew to his brain.

The cutter, perceiving the tactics of the swifter schooner, was now
tacking about with the intention of bringing the gun to bear upon her
once more as she attempted to slip by. But Captain Jack in his
new-fanned fury had made up his mind to a desperate cast of the die.

"Starboard, hard a starboard," he called out in a voice that his men
had known well in old fighting days and which was heard as far as the
cutter itself. "They shall not fire that gun again!"

With a brief, "Starboard it is, sir," the man who had taken the helm
brought the ship round, and the silent, active crew in a trice were
ready to go about. Majestically the schooner changed her course, and
as the meaning of the manoeuvre became fearfully apparent, shouts
and oaths arose in confusion from the cutter.

"What are you going to do?" eagerly asked Molly, enthralled by the
superb motion of the vessel under her foot as it swept round and
increased speed upon the new tack.

He held her in his arms. His hand had sought her wounded shoulder and
pressed the lacerated spot in his effort to staunch the precious blood
that rose warm through the cloth, torturing his cold fingers.

"I am going to clear those men from our way to freedom and to love! I
am going to sink that boat: they shall pay with their lives for this!
Come to the other side, Madeleine, and watch how my stout _Peregrine_
sweeps our course--and then I may see how these scoundrels have
mangled you, my love. But, nay, this is no sight for you. Hold on
close to me, sweet, and hide your eyes while they go."

He steadied himself firmly with one hand on the rigging.

Now musket shots flashed on board the cutter in quick succession, and
sundry balls whizzed over the poop, intended for the helmsman by their
side. Captain Jack gnashed his teeth, as the menacing drone of one of
them came perilously close to the beloved head by his cheek.

"Look out, every man. We'll run her down!" he called. His voice was
like the blast of bugles. Cheers broke out from every part of the
ship, drowning the yells of execration and the shouts of fear from
below. And now, with irresistible sway, the rushing _Peregrine_ heavy
and powerful was closing and bearing down upon her frailer enemy.

There was a spell of suspense when all was silence, save the rush and
turmoil of the waters, and the flapping of the cutter's sails,
helpless for the moment in the teeth of the breeze. Like a charging
steed the schooner seemed to leap at her foe. Then came the shock.
There was a brief check in her career, she rose by the head; the
rigging strained and sighed, the masts swayed groaning, but stood.
Over the bows, in the darkness was heard a long-drawn crash, was seen
a white wall of foaming water rising silently to break the next moment
with a great roar.

The cutter, struck obliquely amidships, was thrown straightway on her
beam ends: the _Peregrine_, with every sail spread and swollen, held
her as the preying bird with outstretched wings holds its quarry, and
pressed her down until she began to fill and settle. It was with
wide-open eyes, with eager, throbbing heart that Molly watched it all.

"Lights, my lads," cried Captain Jack, with a shout of exultation,
when the anxious instant had passed. "Take in every man you can save
but handspike is the word for the first who shows fight! Curwen, do
you get her clear again."

All around upon the deck, sprang rumour and turmoil, came shouts and
sounds of scuffling and the rushing of feet; from the blank waters
came piteous calls for help. But paying little heed to aught but
Molly, Captain Jack seized a lighted lantern from the hands of a
passing sailor and drew her aside.

Fevered with pain and fascinated by the horror of fight and death's
doings, yet instinctively remembering to pull her hood over her face,
she allowed herself to be taken into the little deck cabin.

He placed the lantern upon the table:

"Rest here," he said quickly, once more striving to see her beneath
the jealous shade. "I must find out if anything is amiss on board the
ship and attend to these drowning men--even before you, my darling!
But I shall be back instantly. You are not faint?"

The light shone full on his features which Molly eagerly scanned from
her safe recess. When she met his eyes, full of the triumph of love
and hope, her soul broke into fierce revolt--again she felt upon her
lips that kiss of young passionate love that had been the first her
life had ever known ... and might be the last, for the disclosure was
approaching apace.

She was glad of the respite.

"Go," she said with as much firmness as she could muster. "Let me not
stand between you and your duty. I am strong."

Strong indeed--Captain Jack might have wondered whence had come to
this gentle Madeleine this lioness-strength of soul and body, had he
had time to wonder, time for aught but his love thoughts and his fury,
as he dashed back again panting for the moment when he could have her
to himself.

"Any damage, Curwen?"

"Bowsprit broken, and larboard bulwark stove in, otherwise everything
has stood."

"Casualties?"

"No, sir. We have three of the cutter's men on board already. They
swarmed over the bows. One had his cutlass out and had the devil's
impudence to claim the schooner, but a boat-hook soon brought him to
reason. There they be, sir," pointing to a darker group huddled round
the mast. "I have lowered the gig to see if we can pick up the others,
damn them!"

"As soon as they are all on board bring them aft, I will speak to
them."

When, with a master's eye, he had rapidly inspected his vessel from
the hold to the rigging, without finding aught to cause anxiety for
its safety, Captain Jack returned to the poop, and there found the
party of prisoners arranged under the strong guard of his own crew.
Molly stood, wrapped up in her cloak, at the door of the cabin,
watching.

One of the revenue men came forward and attempted to speak--but the
captain impatiently cut him short.

"I have no time to waste in talk, my man," he said commandingly. "How
many were you on board the cutter?"

"Nine," answered the man sullenly.

"How many have we got here?"

"Six, sir," interposed Curwen. "Those three," pointing to three
disconsolate and dripping figures, "were all we could pick up."

"Hark ye, fellows," said the captain. "You barred my road, I had to
clear you away. You tried to sink me, I had to sink you. You have lost
three of your ship-mates, you have yourselves to blame for it; your
shot has drawn blood from one for whom I would have cut down forty
times your number. I will send you back to shore. Away with you! No, I
will hear nothing. Let them have the gig, Curwen, and four oars."

"And now God speed the _Peregrine_," cried Jack Smith, as the revenue
men pushed off in the direction of the light and the wind was again
swelling every sail of his gallant ship. "We are well out of our
scrape. Shape her course for St. Malo, Curwen. If this wind holds we
should be there by the nineteenth in the morning, at latest."



CHAPTER XXV

THE FIGHT FOR THE OPEN

    As o'er the grass, beneath the larches there
    We gaily stepped, the high noon overhead,
    Then Love was born--was born so strong and fair.
    Knowest thou! Love is dead.

    _Gipsy Song._


At last he was free. He had wrested his bride and the treasure trusted
to his honour from the snares so unexpectedly laid on his path;
whatever troubles might remain stored against him in the dim distance
of time, he would not reck them now. The present and the immediate
future were full of splendour and triumph.

All those golden schemes worked out under yonder light of
Scarthey--God bless it--now receding in the gloom behind his swift
running ship, whether in the long watches of the night, or in the
recent fevered resolves of imminent danger, they had come to pass
after all! And she, the light of his life, was with him. She had
trusted her happiness, her honour, herself, to his love. The thought
illumined his brain with glory as he rushed back to the silent muffled
figure that still stood awaiting his coming.

"At last!" he said, panting in the excess of his joy; "At last,
Madeleine ... I can hardly believe it! But selfish brute that I am,
you must be crushed with fatigue. My brave darling, you would make me
forget your tender woman's frame, and you are wounded!"

Supporting her--for the ship, reaching the open sea, had begun to roll
more wildly--he led her back into the little room now lighted by the
fitful rays of a swinging lamp. With head averted, she suffered
herself to be seated on a kind of sofa couch.

When he had closed the door, he seized her hand, on which ran streaks
of half-dried blood, and covered it with kisses.

"Ah, Madeleine! here in the sanctuary I had prepared for you, where I
thought you would be so safe, so guarded, tell me that you forgive me
for having brought this injury to you. Wounded, torn, bleeding.... I
who would give all my blood, my life, if life were not so precious to
me now that you have come into it, to save you from the slightest
pain! At least here you are secure, here you can rest, but--but there
is no one to wait on you, Madeleine." He fell on his knees beside her.
"Madeleine, my wife, you must let me tend you." Then, as she shivered
slightly, but did not turn to him, he went on in tones of the most
restrained tenderness mingled with humblest pleading:

"Had it not been for your accident, I had not ventured even to cross
the threshold of this room. But your wound must be dressed; darling,
darling, allow me, forgive me; the risk is too great."

Rising to his feet again he gently pulled at her cloak. Molly spoke
not a word, but untied it at the neck and let it fall away from her
fair young body; and keeping her hooded face still rigidly averted,
she surrendered her wounded arm.

He muttered words of distress at the sight of the broad blood stains;
stepped hurriedly to a little cupboard where such surgical stores as
might be required on board were hoarded, and having selected scissors,
lint, and bandages, came back and again knelt down by her side to cut
off, with eager, compassionate hands, the torn and maculated sleeve.

The wound was but a surface laceration, and a man would not have given
a thought to it in the circumstances. But to see this soft, white
woman's skin, bruised black in parts, torn with a horrid red gap in
others; to see the beauty of this round arm thus brutally marred, thus
twitching with pain--it was monstrous, hideously unnatural in the
lover's eyes!

With tenderness, but unflinchingly, he laved the mangled skin with
cool, fresh water; pulled out, with far greater torture to himself
than to her, some remaining splinters embedded in the flesh; covered
the wound with lint, and finished the operation by a bandage as neat
as his neat sailor's touch, coupled with some knowledge of surgery,
gained in the experiences of his privateering days, could accomplish
it. He spoke little: only a word of encouragement, of admiration for
her fortitude now and then; and she spoke not at all during the
ministration. She had raised her other hand to her eyes, with a
gesture natural to one bracing herself to endurance, and had kept it
there until, his task completed, her silence, the manner in which she
hid her face from him awoke in him all that was best and loftiest in
his generous heart.

As he rose to his feet and stood before her, he too dared not speak
for fear of bruising what he deemed an exquisite maidenliness, before
which his manhood was abashed at itself. For some moments there was no
sound in the cabin save that of the swift rushing waters behind the
wooden walls and of the labour and life of the ship under full sail;
then he saw the tumultuous rising of her bosom, and thought she was
weeping.

"Madeleine," he cried with passionate anxiety, "speak! Let me see your
face--are you faint? Lie upon this couch. Let me get you wine--oh that
these days were passed and I could call you wife and never leave you!
Madeleine, my love, speak!"

Molly rose to her feet, and with a gesture of anger threw off her hood
and turned round upon him. And there in the light of the lamp, he
glared like one distraught at the raven locks, the burning eyes of a
strange woman.

She was very pale.

"No," said Molly, defiantly, when twice or thrice his laboured breath
had marked the passing of the horrible moment, "I am not Madeleine."
Then she tried to smile; but unconsciously she was frightened, and the
smile died unformed as she pursued at random:

"You know me--perhaps by hearsay--as I know you, Captain Smith."

But he, shivering under the coldness of his disappointment, answered
in a kind of weary whisper:

"Who are you--you who speak with her voice, who stand at her height
and move and walk as she does? I have seen you surely--Ah, I know....
Madam, what a cruel mockery! And she, where is she?"

Still staring at her with widely dilated eyes, he seized his forehead
between his hands. The gesture was one of utter despair. Before this
weakness Molly promptly resumed the superiority of self-possession.

"Yes," she said, and this time the smile came back to her face, "I am
Lady Landale, and my sister Madeleine--I grieve to have to say so--has
not had that courage for which you gave her credit to-night."

Little was required at a moment like this to transmute such thoughts
as seethed in the man's head to a burst of fury. Fury is action, and
action a relief to the strained heart. There was a half-concealed,
unintended mockery in her tones which brought a sudden fire of anger
to his eyes. He raised both hands and shook them fiercely above his
head:

"But why--why in the name of heaven--has such a trick been played on
me ... at such a time?"

He paused, and trembling with the effort, restrained himself to a more
decent bearing before the woman, the lady, the friend's wife. His arms
fell by his side, and he repeated in lower tones, though the flame of
his gaze could not be subdued:

"Why this deception, this playing with the blindness of my love? Why
this comedy, which has already had one act so tragic?--Yes, think of
it, madam, think of the tragedy this is now in my life, since she is
left behind and I never now, with these men's lives to account for,
may go back and claim her who has given me her troth! Already I staked
the fortune of my trust, on the bare chance that she would come. What
though her heart failed her at the eleventh hour?--God forgive her for
it!--surely she never sanctioned this masquerade?... Oh no! she would
not stoop to such an act, and human life is not a thing to jest upon.
She never played this trick, the thought is too odious. What have you
done! Had I known, had I had word sooner--but half an hour
sooner--those corpses now rolling under the wave with their sunken
ship would still be live men and warm.... And I--I should not be the
hopeless outlaw, the actual murderer that this night's work has made
of me!"

His voice by degrees rose once more to the utmost ring of bitterness
and anger. Molly, who had restored her cloak to her shoulders and sat
down, ensconced in it as closely as her swaddled arm would allow her,
contemplated him with a curious mixture of delight and terror; delight
in his vigour, his beauty, above everything in his mastery and
strength; and delight again at the new thrill of the fear it imposed
upon her daring soul. Then she flared into rage at the thought of the
coward of her blood who had broken faith with such a man as this, and
she melted all into sympathy with his anger--A right proper man most
cruelly used and most justifiably wrathful!

And she, being a woman whose face was at most times as a book on which
to read the working of her soul, there was something in her look, as
in silence she listened and gazed upon him, which struck him suddenly
dumb. Such a look on a face so like, yet so unlike, that of his love
was startling in the extreme--horrible.

He stepped back, and made as if he would have rushed from the room.
Then bethinking himself that he was a madman, he drew a chair near her
in a contrary mood, sat down, and fixed his eyes upon her very
steadily.

She dropped her long lids, and demurely composed her features by some
instinct that women have, rather than from any sense of the impression
she had produced.

A little while they sat thus again in silence. In the silence, the
rolling of the ship and the manner in which, as she raced on her way,
she seemed to breathe and strain, worked in with the mood of each; in
his, with the storm and stress of his soul; in hers, as the very
expression of her new freedom and reckless pleasure.

Then he spoke; the strong emotion that had warmed her had now left his
voice. It was cold and scornful.

"Madam, I await your explanation. So far, I find myself only the
victim of a trick as unworthy and cruel as it is purposeless."

She had delayed carrying out her mission with the most definite
perverseness. She could not but acknowledge the justice of his
reproof, realise the sorry part she must play in his eyes, the
inexcusable folly of the whole proceeding, and yet she was strung to a
very lively indignation by the tone he had assumed, and suddenly saw
herself in the light of a most disinterested and injured virtue.

"Captain Smith," she exclaimed, flashing a hot glance at him, "you
assume strangely the right to be angry with me! Be angry if you will
with things as they are; rail against fate if you will, but be
grateful to me.--I have risked much to serve you."

The whole expression of his face changed abruptly to one of eager,
almost entreating, inquiry.

"Do me the favour," she continued, "to look into the pocket of my
cloak--my arm hurts me if I move--you will find there a letter
addressed to you. I was adjured to see that it should reach you in
safety. I promised to place it in your own hands. This could hardly
have been done sooner, as you know."

The words all at once seemed to alter the whole situation. He sprang
up and came to her quickly.

"Oh, forgive me, make allowances for me, Lady Landale, I am quite
distracted!" There had returned a tinge of hope into his voice. "Where
is it?" he eagerly asked, seeking, as directed, for the pocket. "Ah!"
and mechanically repeating, "Forgive me!" he drew out the letter at
last and retreated, feverishly opening it under the light of the lamp.

Molly had turned round to watch. Up to this she had felt no regret for
his disillusion, only an irritable heat of temper that he should waste
so much love upon so poor an object. But now all her heart went to him
as she saw the sudden greyness that fell on his face from the reading
of the very first line; there was no indignation, no blood-stirring
emotion; it was as if a cold pall had fallen upon his generous spirit.
The very room looked darker when the fire within the brave soul was
thus all of a sudden extinguished.

He read on slowly, with a kind of dull obstinacy, and when he came to
the miserable end continued looking at the paper for the moment. Then
his hand fell; slowly the letter fluttered to the floor, and he let
his eyes rest unseeingly, wonderingly upon the messenger.

After a little while words broke from him, toneless, the mere echo of
dazed thoughts: "It is over, all over. She has lost her trust. She
does not love me any more."

He picked up the letter again, and sitting down placed it in front of
him on the table. "'Tis a cruel letter, madam, that you have brought
me," he said then, looking up at Molly with the most extraordinary
pain in his eyes. "A cruel letter! Yet I am the same man now that I
was this morning when she swore she would trust me to the end--and she
could not trust me a few hours longer! Why did you not speak? One word
from you as you stepped upon the ship would have saved my soul from
the guilt of these men's death!" Then with a sharper uplifting of his
voice, as a new aspect of his misfortune struck him: "And you--you,
too! What have I to do with you, Adrian's wife? He does not know?"

She did not reply, and he cried out, clapping his hands together:

"It only wanted this. My God, it is I--I, his friend, who owes him so
much, who am to cause him such fear, such misery! Do you know, madam,
that it is impossible that I should restore you to him for days yet.
And then when, and where, and how? God knows! Nothing must now come
between me and my trust. I have already dishonourably endangered it.
To attempt to return with you to-night, as perhaps you fancy I
will--as, of course, I would instantly do had I alone myself and you
to consider, would be little short of madness. It would mean utter
ruin to many whom I have pledged myself to serve. And yet Adrian--my
honour pulls me two ways--poor Adrian! What dumb devil possessed you
that you did not speak before. Had you no thought for your woman's
good name? Ill-fated venture, ill-fated venture, indeed! Would God
that shot had met me in its way--had only my task been accomplished!"

He buried his head in his hands.

Lady Landale flushed and paled alternately, parted her lips to speak,
and closed them once more. What could she say, and how excuse herself?
She did not repent what she had done, though it had been sin all
round; she had little reck of her woman's good name, as he called it;
the death of the excise men weighed but lightly, if at all, upon her
conscience; the thought of Adrian was only then a distasteful memory
to be thrust away; nay--even this man's grief could not temper the
wild joy that was in her soul to-night. Fevered with fatigue, with
excitement, by her wound, her blood ran burning in her veins, and beat
faster in every pulse.

And as she felt the ship rise and fall, and knew that each motion was
an onward leap that separated her further and ever further from dull
home and dull husband, and isolated her ever more completely with her
sister's lover, she exulted in her heart.

Presently he lifted his head.

"Forgive me," he said, "I believe that you meant most kindly, and as
you say, I should be grateful. Your service is ill-requited by my
reproaches, and you have run risk indeed--merciful Heaven, had my old
friend's wife been killed upon my ship through my doings! But you see
I cannot command myself; you see how I am situated. You must forgive
me. All that can be done to restore you to your home as soon as
possible shall be done, and all, meanwhile, to mitigate the discomfort
you must suffer here--And for your good intention to her and me, I
thank you."

He had risen, and now bowed with a dignity that sat on his sailor
freedom in no wise awkwardly. She, too, with an effort, stood up as if
to arrest his imminent departure. A tall woman, and he but of average
height, their eyes were nearly on a level. For a second or two her
dark gaze sought his with a strange hesitation, and then, as if the
truth in him awoke all the truth in her, the natural daring of her
spirit rose proudly to meet this kindred soul. She would let no
falsehood, no craven feminine subterfuge intervene between them.

"Do not thank me," she exclaimed, glowing with a brilliant scorn in
which the greatness of her beauty, all worn as she was, struck him
into surprise, yet evoked no spark of admiration. "What I did I did,
to gratify myself. Oh, aye, if I were as other women I should smile
and take your compliments, and pose as the martyr and as the
self-sacrificing devoted sister. But I will not. It was nothing to me
how Madeleine got in or out of her love scrapes. I would not have gone
one step to help her break her promise to you, or even to save your
life, but that it pleased me so to do. Madeleine has never chosen to
make me her confidant. I would have let her manage her own affairs
gaily, had I had better things to occupy my mind--but I had not,
Captain Smith. Life at Pulwick is monotonous. I have roaming blood in
my veins: the adventure tempted, amused me, fascinated me--and there
you have the truth! Of course I could have given the letter to the men
and sent them back to you with it--it was not because of my promise
that I did not do it. Of course I could have spoken the instant I got
on board, perhaps----" here a flood of colour dyed her face with a
gorgeous conscious crimson, and a dimple faintly came and went at the
corner of her mouth, "perhaps I would have spoken. But then, you must
remember, you closed my lips!"

"My God!" said Captain Jack, and looked at her with a sort of horror.

But this she could not see for her eyes were downcast. "And now that I
have come," she went on, and would have added, "I am glad I did," but
that all of a sudden a new bashfulness came upon her, and she
stammered instead, incoherently: "As for Adrian--René knew I had a
message for you, and René will tell him--he is not stupid--you
know--René, I mean."

"I am glad," answered the man gravely, after a pause, "if you have
reasonable grounds for believing that your husband knows you to be on
my ship. He will then be the less anxious at your disappearance: for
he knows too, madam, that his wife will be as honoured and as guarded
in my charge as she would be in her mother's house."

He bowed again in a stately way and then immediately left her.

Molly sank back upon her couch, and she could not have said why, burst
into tears. She felt cold now, and broken, and her stiffening wound
pained her. But nevertheless, as she lay upon the little velvet
pillow, and wept her rare tears were strangling sobs, the very ache of
her wound had a strange savour that she would not have exchanged for
any past content.

       *       *       *       *       *

René, having obeyed his mistress's orders, and left her alone with the
sailors on the beach, withdrew within the shelter of the door, but
remained waiting, near enough to be at hand in case he should be
called.

It was still pitch dark and the rollers growled under a rough wind; he
could catch the sound of a man's voice, now and again, between the
clamour of the sea and the wuthering of the air, but could not
distinguish a word. Presently, however, this ceased, and there came to
him the unmistakable regular beat of oars retreating. The interview
was over, and breathing a sigh of relief at the thought that, at last,
his master's friend would soon be setting on his way to safety, the
servant emerged to seek her ladyship.

A few minutes later he dashed into Sir Adrian's room with a livid
face, and poured forth a confused tale:

Milady had landed without Mademoiselle; had stopped to speak to two of
the _Peregrine_, whilst he waited apart. The men had departed in their
boat.

"The _Peregrine_ men! But the ship has been out of sight these eight
hours!" ejaculated Sir Adrian, bewildered. Then, catching fear from
his servant's distraught countenance:

"My wife," he exclaimed, bounding up; and added, "you left her,
Renny?"

The man struck his breast: he had searched and called.... My Lady was
nowhere to be found. "As God is my witness," he repeated, "I was
within call. My Lady ordered me to leave her. Your honour knows My
Lady has to be obeyed."

"Get lanterns!" said Sir Adrian, the anguish of a greater dread
driving the blood to his heart. Even to one who knew the ground well,
the isle of Scarthey, on a black, stormy night, with the tide high,
was no safe wandering ground. For a moment, the two--comrades of so
many miserable hours--faced each other with white and haggard faces.
Then with the same deadly fear in their hearts, they hurried out into
the soughing wind, down to the beach, baited on all sides by the
swift-darting hissing surf. Running their lanterns close to the
ground, they soon found, by the trampled marks upon the sand, where
the conclave had been held. From thence a double row of heavy
footprints led to the shelving bit of beach where it was the custom
for boats to land from seawards.

"See, your honour, see," cried René, in deepest agitation, "the print
of this little shoe, here--and there, and here again, right down to
the water's edge. Thank God--thank God! My Lady has had no accident.
She has gone with the sailors to the boat. Ah! here the tide has
come--we can see no farther."

"But why should she have gone with them?" came, after a moment, Sir
Adrian's voice out of the darkness. "Surely that is strange--and
yet ... Yes, that is indeed her foot-print in the sand."

"And if your honour will look to sea, he will perceive the ship's
lights yonder, upon the water. That is the captain's ship.... Your
honour, I must avow to you that I have concealed something from
you--it was wrong, indeed, and now I am punished--but that poor
Monsieur the Captain, I was so sorry for him, and he so enamoured. He
had made a plan to lift off Mademoiselle Madeleine with him to-night,
marry her in France; and that was why he came back again, at the risk
of his life. He supplicated me not to tell you, for fear you would
wish to prevent it, or think it your duty to. Mademoiselle had
promised, it seemed, and he was mad with her joy, the poor gentleman!
and as sure of her faith as if she had been a saint in Heaven. But My
Lady came alone, your honour, as I said. The courage had failed to
Mademoiselle, I suppose, at the last moment, and Madame bore a message
to the captain. But the captain was not able to leave his ship, it
seems; and, my faith," cried Mr. Potter; his spirits rising, as the
first ghastly dread left him, "the mystery explains itself! It is
quite simple, your honour will see. As the captain did not come to the
island, according to his promise to Mademoiselle--he had good reasons,
no doubt--Madame went herself to his ship with her message. She had
the spirit for it--Ah! if Mademoiselle had had but a little of it
to-night, we should not be where we are!"

Sir Adrian caught at the suggestion out of the depths of his despair.
"You are right, Renny, you must be right. Yet, on this rough sea, in
this black night--what madness! The boat, instantly; and let us row
for those lights as we never rowed before!"

Even as the words were uttered the treble glimmer vanished. In vain
they strained their eyes: save for the luminous streak cast by their
own beacon lamp, the gloom was unbroken.

"His honour will see, a boat will be landing instantly with My Lady
safe and sound," said René at last. But his voice lacked confidence,
and Sir Adrian groaned aloud.

And so they stood alone in silence, forced into inaction, that most
cruel addition to suspense, by the darkness and the waters which
hemmed them in upon every side. The vision of twenty dangerous places
where one impetuous footfall might have hurled his darling into the
cruel beating waves painted themselves--a hideous phantasmagory--upon
Sir Adrian's brain. Had the merciless waters of the earth that had
murdered the mother, grasped at the child's life also? He raised his
voice in a wild cry, it seemed as if the wind caught it from him and
tore it into shreds.

"Hark!" whispered René, and clasped his master's icy hand. Like an
echo of Sir Adrian's cry, the far-off ring of a human voice had risen
from the sea.

Again it came.

"_C'est de la mer, Monseigneur!_" panted the man; even as he spoke the
darkness began to lift. Above their heads, unnoticed, the clouds had
been rifted apart beneath the breath of the north wind; the horizon
widened, a misty wing-like shape was suddenly visible against the
receding gloom.

The captain's ship! The _Peregrine_!

As master and man peered outward as if awaiting unconsciously some
imminent solution from the gliding spectre, it seemed as if the night
suddenly opened on the left to shoot forth a burst of red fire. A few
seconds later, the hollow boom of cannon shook the air around them.
Sir Adrian's nails were driven into René's hands.

The flaming messenger had carried to both minds an instant knowledge
of the new danger.

"Great Heavens!" muttered Adrian. "He will surrender; he must
surrender! He could not be so base, so wicked, as to fight and
endanger _her_!"

But the servant's keener sight, trained by long stormy nights of
watching, was following in its dwindling, mysterious course that misty
vision in which he thought to recognize the _Peregrine_.

"_Elle file, elle file joliment la goëlette!_ Mother of Heaven, there
goes the gun again! I never thought my blood would turn to water only
to hear the sound of one like this. But your honour must not be
discouraged; he can surely trust the captain. Ah, the clouds--I can
see no more."

The wild blast gathering fresh droves of vapour from the huddled
masses on the horizon was now, in truth, herding them fiercely across
the spaces it had cleared a few moments before. Confused shouts,
strange clamour seemed to ring out across the waves to the listeners:
or it might have been only the triumphant howlings of the rising
storm.

"Will not your honour come in? The rain is falling."

"No, Renny, no, give me my lantern again, friend, and let us examine
anew."

Both knew it to be of no avail, but physically and mentally to move
about was, at least, better than to stand still. Step by step they
scanned afresh the sand, the shingle, the rocks, the walls, to return
once more to the trace of the slender feet, leading beside the great
double track of heavy sea boots to the water's edge.

Sir Adrian knelt down and gazed at the last little imprint that seemed
to mock him with the same elusive daintiness as Molly herself, as if
he could draw from it the answer to the riddle.

René endeavouring to stand between his master and the driving blast
laid down his lantern too, and strove by thumping his breast
vigorously to infuse a little warmth into his numbed limbs and at the
same time to relieve his overcharged feelings.

As he paused at length, out of breath, the noise of a methodical thud
and splash of oars arose, above the tumult of the elements, very near
to them, upon their left.

Sir Adrian sprang to his feet.

"She returns, she returns," shouted René, capering, in the excess of
the sudden joy, and waving his lantern; then he sent forth a vigorous
hail which was instantly answered close by the shore.

"Hold up your light, your honour--ah, your honour, did I not say
it?--while I go to help Madame. Now then, you others down there,"
running to the landing spot, "make for the light!"

The keel ground upon the shingle.

"My Lady first," shouted René.

Some one leaped up in the boat and flung him a rope with a curse.

"The lady, ay, ay, my lad, you'd better go and catch her yourself.
There she goes," pointing enigmatically behind him with his thumb.

Sir Adrian, unable to restrain his impatience, ran forward too, and
threw the light of his lantern upon the dark figures now rising one by
one and pressing forward. Five or six men, drenched from head to foot,
swearing and grumbling; with faces pinched with cold, all lowering
with the same expression of anger and resentment and shining whitely
at him out of the confusion. He saw the emptying seats, the shipped
oars, the name _Peregrine_ in black letters upon the white paint of
the dingey; and she?... she was not there!

The revulsion of feeling was so cruel that for a while he seemed
turned to stone, even his mind becoming blank. The waves lashed in up
to his knees; he never felt them.

René's strong hands came at last to drag him away, and then René's
voice, in a hot whisper close to his ear, aroused him:

"It is good news, your honour, after all, good news. My Lady is on
board the _Peregrine_. I made these men speak. They are the revenue
men--that God may damn them! and they were after the captain; but he
ran down their cutter, that brave captain. And these are all that were
saved from her, for she sank like a stone. The _Peregrine_ is as sound
as a bell, they say--ah, she is a good ship! And the captain, out of
his kind heart, sent these villains ashore in his own boat, instead of
braining them or throwing them overboard. But they saw a lady beside
him the whole time, tall, in a great black cloak. My Lady in her black
cloak, just as she landed here. Of course Monsieur the Captain could
not have sent her back home with these brigands then--not even a
message--that would have compromised his honour. But his honour can
see now how it is. And though My Lady has been carried out to sea, he
knows now that she is safe."



CHAPTER XXVI

THE THREE COLOURS


The sun was high above the Welsh hills; the _Peregrine_ had sheered
her way through a hundred miles or more of fretted waters before her
captain, in his hammock slung for the nonce near the men's quarters,
stirred from his profound sleep--nature's kind restorer to healthy
brain and limbs--after the ceaseless fatigue and emotions of the last
thirty-six hours.

As he leaped to his feet out of the swinging canvas, the usual vigour
of life coursing through every fibre of him, he fell to wondering, in
half-awake fashion, at the meaning of the unwonted weight lurking in
some back recess of consciousness.

Then memory, the ruthless, arose and buffeted his soul.

The one thing had failed him without which all else was as nothing;
fate, and his own hot blood, had conspired to place his heart's desire
beyond all reasonable hope. Certain phrases in Madeleine's letter
crossed and re-crossed his mind, bringing now an unwonted sting of
anger, now the old cruel pain of last night. The thought of the
hateful complication introduced into his already sufficiently involved
affairs by the involuntary kidnapping of his friend's wife filled him
with a sense of impotent irritation, very foreign to his temper; and
as certain looks and words of the unwished-for prisoner flashed back
upon him, a hot colour rose, even in his solitude, to his wholesome
brown cheek.

But in spite of all, in spite of reason and feeling alike his
essential buoyancy asserted itself. He could not despair. He had not
been given this vigour of soul and body to sit down under misfortune.
Resignation was for the poor of heart; only cravens gave up while it
was yet possible to act. His fair ship was speeding with him as he
loved to feel her speed; around him spread the vast spaces in which
his spirit rejoiced--salt sea and vaulted heavens; the full air of the
open, the brisk dash of the wind filled him with physical exhilaration
at every breath, and tingled in his veins; the sporting blood, which
had come to him from generations of hunting squires, found all its
craving satisfied in this coursing across the green ocean fields, and
the added element of danger was as the sting of the brine to his
palate. What--despair now? with his perilous enterprise all but
accomplished, the whole world, save one country, before him, and
Madeleine unwed! Another might, but not Jack Smith; not Hubert
Cochrane!

He was actually trolling out the stave of a song as he sprang up the
companion ladder after his rough breakfast in the galley, but the
sound expired at the sight of the distant flutter of a woman's scarf
in the stern of the ship. He halted and ran his fingers through his
crisp hair with an expressive gesture of almost comical perplexity;
all would be plain sailing enough, with hope at the prow again, but
for this--he stamped his foot to choke down the oath of
qualification--this encumbrance. Adrian's wife and Madeleine's sister,
as such entitled to all honour, all care, and devotion; and yet, as
such again, hideously, doubly unwelcome to him!

As he stood, biting his lips, while the gorgeous sunshine of the young
spring morning beat down upon his bare head, the brawny figure of the
mate, his mahogany-tinted face wrinkled into as stiff a grin as if it
had been indeed carved out of the wood in question, intervened between
his abstracted gaze and the restless amber beyond.

"It's a fine day, sir," by way of opening conversation.

The irrepressible satisfaction conveyed by the wide display of
tobacco-stained teeth, by the twinkle in the hard, honest eyes called
up a queer, rueful grimace to the other man's face.

"Do you know, Curwen," he said, "that you brought me the wrong young
lady last night?"

The sailor jumped back in amazement. "The wrong young lady, sir,"
staring with starting, incredulous eyeballs, "the wrong, young lady!"
here he clapped his thigh, "Well of all--the wrong young lady! Are you
quite sure, sir?"

Captain Jack laughed aloud. But it was with a bitter twist at the
corners of his lips.

"Well I'm----," said poor Curwen. All his importance and
self-satisfaction had left him as suddenly as the starch a soused
collar. He scanned his master's face with almost pathetic anxiety.

"Oh, I don't blame you--you did your part all right. Why, I myself
fell into the same mistake, and we had not much time for finding it
out, had we? The lady you see--the lady--she is the other lady's
sister and she came with a message. And so we carried her off before
we knew where we were--or she either," added Captain Jack as a
mendacious after thought.

"Well I'm----," reiterated Curwen who then rubbed his scrubby,
bristling chin, scratched his poll and finally broke into another
grin--this time of the kind classified as sheepish.

"And what'll be to do now?"

"By the God that made me, I haven't a notion! We must take all the
care of her we can, of course. Serve her her meals in her cabin, as
was arranged, and see that she is attended to, just as the other young
lady would have been you know, only that I think she had better be
served alone, and I shall mess downstairs as usual. And then if we can
leave her at St. Malo, we shall. But it must be in all safety, Curwen,
for it's a terrible responsibility. Happily we have now the time to
think. Meanwhile I have slept like a log and she--I see is astir
before me."

"Lord bless you, sir, she has been up these two hours! Walking the
deck like a sailor, and asking about things and enjoying them like.
Ah, she is a rare lady, that she is! And it is the wrong one--well
this is a go! And I was remarking to Bill Baxter, just now, that it
was just our captain's luck to have found such a regular sailor's
young woman, so I said--begging pardon for the word. And not more than
he is worth, says he, and so said I also. And she the wrong lady after
all! Well, it's a curious thing, sir, nobody could be like to guess it
from her. She's a well-plucked one, with her wound and all. She made
me look at it this morning, when I brought her a cup of coffee and a
bite: 'You're old enough to be my father,' says she, as pretty as can
be, 'so you shall be doctor as well as lady's maid; and, if you've
got a girl of your own, it'll be a story to tell her by the fire at
night, when you're home again,' so she said; and never winced when I
put my great fingers on her arm. I was all of a tremble, I declare,
with her a smiling up at me, but the wound--it's doing finely; healing
as nice as ever I see, and not a sign of sickness on her. The very
lady as I was saying, for our captain--but here she comes."

This was an unwontedly long speech for Curwen; and, silent again, he
effaced himself discreetly, just in time to avoid the angry
ejaculation that had sprung to his captain's lips, but not without a
backward glance of admiration at the tall, alert figure now bearing
down in their direction with steps already firmly balanced to the
movement of the ship.

At a little distance from Captain Jack, Molly paused as if to
scrutinise the horizon, and enjoy the invigorating atmosphere. In
reality her heart was beating fast, her breath came short; and the
gaze she flung from the faint outline of coast upon one side to the
vast monotony of sparkling sea upon the other conveyed no impression
to her troubled mind. The next instant he was by her side. As she
smiled at him, he noticed that her face was pale, and her eyes darkly
encircled.

"Ah, madam," said he, as he drew close and lifted his hand to his
head, with a gesture of formal courtesy that no doubt somewhat
astonished a couple of his men who were watching the group with covert
smiles and nudges, being as yet unaware of the misadventure, "you
relieve my mind of anxiety. How is the arm? Does it make you suffer
much? No! You must be strong indeed."

"Yes, I am strong," answered she, and flushed, and looked out across
the sea, inhaling the air with dilated nostrils.

Within her, her soul was crying out to him. It was as if there was a
tide there, as fierce and passionate as the waves around her, all
bearing, straining to him, and this with a struggle and flow so
resistless, that she could neither remember the past, nor measure the
future, but only feel herself carried on, beaten and tossed upon these
great waters, like a helpless wreck.

"I trust you are well attended to," began the man constrainedly again.
"I fear you will have to endure much discomfort. I had reckoned----."
Here he halted galled by the thought of what it was he had reckoned
upon, the thought of the watchful love that was to have made of the
little ship a very nest for his bride, of the exquisite joy it was to
have harboured! And he set his teeth at fate.

She played for a while with her little finger tips upon the rail, then
turned her gaze, full and bold, upon him.

"I do not complain," she said.

He bowed gravely. "We will do our best for you, and if you will take
patience, the time will pass at last, as all time passes. I have a few
books, they shall be brought into your cabin. In three days we shall
be in St. Malo--There, if you like----" he hesitated, embarrassed.

"There!" echoed Lady Landale with her eyes still fixed upon his
downcast face--"If I like--what?"

"We could leave you----"

Her bosom rose and fell quickly with stormy breaths. "Alone,
moneyless, in a strange town--that is well and kindly thought!" she
said.

Whence had come to her this strange power of feeling pain? She had not
known that one could suffer in one's heart like this; she, whose
quarrel with life hitherto had been for its too great comfort,
security and peace. She felt a lump rise to her throat, and tears well
into her eyes, blurring all the sunlit vision and she turned her head
away and beat her sound left hand clenched upon the ledge.

"Before heaven," cried Jack, distressed out of his unnatural
stiffness, "you mistake me, Lady Landale! I am only anxious to do what
is best for you, what Adrian would wish. To leave you alone, deserted,
helpless at St. Malo, you could not have thought I should mean that?
No, indeed, I would have seen you into safe hands, in some comfortable
hotel, with a maid to wait upon you--I know of such a place--Adrian
could not have been long in coming to fetch you. I should have had a
letter ready to post to him the instant we landed. As to money,"
flushing boyishly, "that is the least consideration--there is no
dearth of that to fear. If you prefer it I can, however, convey you
somewhere upon the English coast after we quit St. Malo; but that will
entail a longer residence for you here on board ship; and it is no fit
place for you."

Still looking out across the sea, Molly replied, in a deep shaken
voice, unlike her own, "You did not think it unfit for my sister."

"Your sister? But your sister was to have been my wife!"

Burning through the mists of her unshed tears once more her glance
returned to his: "And I--" she cried and here was suddenly silent
again, gazing at the thin circlet of gold upon her left hand, beneath
the flashing diamonds. After a moment then, she broke out
fiercely--"Oh do with me what you will, but for God's sake leave me in
peace!" And stamping, turned her shoulder on him to stare straight
outwards as before.

Captain Jack drew back, paused an instant, clutched his hair with a
desperate gesture and slowly walked away.

       *       *       *       *       *

The voyage of the _Peregrine_ was as rapid as her captain had hoped,
and the dawn of the fourth day broke upon them from behind the French
coast, where Normandy joins old Armorica.

For a little while, Lady Landale, awakened from her uneasy sleep by
the unusual stir on deck, lay languidly watching the light as it
filtered through the port-hole of her little cabin, the colours
growing out of greyness on the walls; listening to the tramp of feet
and the mate's husky voice without. Then her heart tightened with a
premonition of the coming separation. She sat up and looked out of her
window: as the horizon rose and fell giddily to her eye there lay the
fatal line of land. The land of her blood but to her now, the land of
exile!

She had seen but little of Captain Jack these last two days;
interchanged but few and formal words with him, now and then, as they
met morning and evening or came across each other during the day. She
felt that he avoided her. But she had seen him, she had heard his
voice, they had been close to each other upon the great seas, however
divided, and this had been something to feed upon. Now what prospect
before her hungry heart but--starvation?

At least the last precious moments should not be lost to her. She rose
and dressed in haste; a difficult operation in her maimed state.
Before leaving her narrow quarters, she peered into the looking-glass
with an eagerness she had never displayed in the days of her vain
girlhood.

"What a fright!" she said to the anxious face that looked back at her
with yearning eyes and dark burning lips. And she thought of
Madeleine's placid fairness as Cain might of Abel's modest altar.

When she emerged upon deck, a strange and beautiful scene was spread
to her gaze. A golden haze enveloped the water and the coast, but out
of it, in brown jagged outline, against the blazing background of
glowing sunlight rose the towers, the pointed roofs and spires of that
old corsair's hive, St. Malo. The waters were bright green, frothed
with oily foam around the ship. The masts cast strange long black
shadows, and Molly saw one spring from her own feet as she moved into
the morning glow. The _Peregrine_, she noticed, was cruising parallel
with the coast, instead of making for the harbour, and just now all
was very still on board. Two men, conspicuous against the yellow sky,
stood apart, a little forward, with their backs turned to her.

One of these was Captain Jack, gazing steadily at the town through a
telescope; the other the mate. Both were silent. Silently herself and
unnoticed Molly went up and stood beside them; observing her sister's
lover as intently as he that unknown distant point, she presently saw
the lean hand nearest her tremble ever so slightly as it held the
glass; then he turned and handed it to his companion, saying briefly,
"See what you make of it."

The man lifted the glass, set it, looked, dropped his hand and faced
his captain. Their eyes met, but neither spoke for a second or two.

"It is so, then?" said the captain at last.

"Aye, sir, no mistake about that. There's the tricolour up again--and
be damned to it--as large as life, to be sure!"

The healthy tan of the captain's face had not altered by one shade;
his mouth was set in its usual firm line, but, by the intuition of her
fiery soul, the woman beside him knew that he had received a blow.

"A strange thing," went on Curwen in a grumbling guttural bass, "and
it's only a year ago since they set up the old white napkin again. You
did not look for this, sir?" He too had his intuitions.

"No, Curwen, it is the last thing I looked for. And it spells failure
to me--failure once more!"

As he spoke he turned his head slightly and perceiving Molly standing
close behind him glanced up sharply and frowned, then strove to smooth
his brow into conventional serenity and greeted her civilly.

Curwen, clenching his hard hands together round the telescope, retired
a step and stood apart, still hanging on his captain's every gesture
like a faithful dog.

"What does it mean?" asked Molly, disregarding the morning salutation.

"It means strange things to France," responded Captain Jack slowly,
with a bitter smile; "and to me, Madam, it means that I have come on a
wild goose chase----"

He stretched out his hand for the glass once more as he
spoke--although even by the naked eye the flag, minute as it was,
could be seen to flash red in the breeze--and sought the far-off
flutter again; and then closing the instrument with an angry snap,
tossed it back.

"But what does it mean?" reiterated Molly, a wild impatience, a wild
hope trembling in her breast.

"It means, Madam, that I have brought my pigs to the wrong market,"
cried Captain Jack, still with the smile that sat so strangely upon
his frank lips; "that the goods I have to deliver, I cannot deliver.
For if there is any meaning in symbols, by the wave of that tricolour
yonder the country has changed rulers again. My dealings were to be
with the king's men, and as they are not here, at least, no longer in
power--how could they be under that rag?--I must even trot the cargo
home again. Not a word to the men, Curwen, but give the order to sheer
off! We have lowered the blue, white and red too often, have not we?
to risk a good English ship, unarmed, under the nozzles of those
Republican or Imperial guns."

The man grinned. The two could trust each other. Molly turned away and
moved seawards, for she knew that the joy upon her face was not to be
hidden. Captain Jack fell to pacing the deck with bent head, and long,
slow steps.

Absorbed in dovetailing the last secret arrangements of his venture,
and more intent still, during his very few hours of idleness, on the
engrossing thought of love, he had had no knowledge of the
extraordinary challenge to fate cast by Bonaparte, of that challenge
which was to end in the last and decisive clash of French and English
hosts. He had not even heard of the Corsican's return to France with
his handful of grenadiers, for newspapers were scarce at Scarthey. But
even had he heard, like the rest of the world, he would no doubt have
thought no more of it than as a mad freak born of the vanquished
usurper's foolhardy restlessness.

But the conclave of plenipotentiaries assembled at Vienna were not
more thunderstruck when, on that very 19th of March, the semaphore
brought them news of the legitimate King of France once more fled, and
of his country once more abandoned to the hated usurper, than was
Captain Jack as he watched the distant flagstaff in the sunrise, and
saw, when the morning port gun had vomited forth its white cloud on
the ramparts of St. Malo, the fatal stripes run up the slender line in
lieu of the white standard.

But Jack Smith's mind, like his body, was quick in action. The sun had
travelled but a degree or two over the wide undulating land, the mists
were yet rising, when suddenly he halted, and called the mate in those
commanding tones that had, from the first time she had heard them,
echoed in Molly's heart:

"Bring her alongside one of those smacks yonder, the furthest out to
sea."

Thereupon followed Curwen's hoarse bellow, an ordered stampede upon
the deck, and gracefully, with no more seeming effort than a swan upon
a garden pond, the _Peregrine_ veered and glided towards the rough
skiff with its single ochre sail and its couple of brown-faced
fishermen, who had left their nets to watch her advance. Captain Jack
leant over the side, his hands over his mouth, and hailed them in his
British-French--correct enough, but stiff to his tongue, as Molly
heard and smiled at, and loved him for, in woman's way, when she loves
at all.

"Ahoy, the friend! A golden piece for him who will come on board and
tell the news of the town."

A brief consultation between the fisher pair.

"_Un écu d'or_," repeated Captain Jack. Then there was a flash of
white teeth on the two weather-beaten faces.

"_On y va, patron_," cried one of the fellows, cheerfully, and jumped
into his dinghey, while his comrade still stared and grinned, and the
stalwart lads of the _Peregrine_ grinned back at the queer foreign
figure with the brown cap and the big gold earrings.

Soon the fisherman's bare feet were thudding on the deck, and he stood
before the English captain, cap in hand, his little, quick black eyes
roaming in all directions, over the wonders of the beautiful white
ship, with innocent curiosity. But before Captain Jack could get his
tongue round another French phrase, Molly, detaching herself from her
post of observation, came forward, smiling.

"Let me speak to him," she said, "he will understand me better, and it
will go quicker. What is it you want to know?"

Captain Jack hesitated a moment, saw the advantage of the suggestion,
and then accepted the offer with the queer embarrassment that always
came over him in his relations with her.

"You are very good," he said.

"Oh, I like to talk the father and mother tongue," she said, gaily and
sweetly. Her eyes danced; he had never seen her in this mood, and, as
before, grudgingly had to admit her beauty.

"And if you will allow it," she went on, "I am glad to be of use too."

The fisherman, twirling his cap in his knotted fingers, stared at her
open mouthed. _Une si belle dame!_ like a queen and speaking his
tongue that it was a music to listen to. This was in truth a ship of
marvels. _Ah, bon Dieu, oui, Madame_, there were news at St. Malo, but
it depended upon one's feelings whether they were to be regarded as
good or bad--_Dame_, every one has one's opinions--but for
him--_pourvu qu'on lui fiche la paix_--what did it matter who sat on
the throne--His Majesty the King--His Majesty the Emperor, or Citizen
Bonaparte. Oh, a poor fisherman, what was it to him? He occupied
himself with his little fishes, not with great folk. (Another
white-teethed grin.) What had happened? _Parbleu_, it began by the
military, those accursed military (this with a cautious look around,
and gathering courage by seeing no signs of disapproval, proceeding
with greater volubility). The poor town was full of them, infantry
and artillery; regiments of young devils--and a band of old ones too.
The veterans of _celui là_ (spitting on the deck contemptuously) they
were the worst; that went without saying. A week ago there came a
rumour that he had escaped--was in France--and then the ferment
began--duels every day--rows in the cafés, fights in the ports. At
night one would hear shouts in the streets--_Vive l'Empereur!_ and it
spread, it spread. _Ma foi_--one regiment mutinied, then another--and
then it was known that the Emperor had reached Paris. Oh, then it was
warm! All those gentlemen, the officers who were for the King, were
arrested. Then there was a grand parade on the _place d'armes_--Yes,
he went there too, though he did not care much about soldiers. All the
garrison was there. The colonel of the veterans came out with a flag
in its case. _Portez armes!_ Good. They pull out the flag from the
case: it's the old tricolour with the eagle on the top! _Presentez
armes!_ And this time it was all over. Ah, one should have seen that,
heard the houras, seen the bonfires! _Monsieur le Maire_ and the rest,
appointed by the King, they were in a great fright, they had to give
way--what does Madame say? Traitors? Oh, _bédame_ (scratching his
head), it was no joke with the military just now--the whole place was
under military law and, _saperlotte_, when the strong commands it is
best for the weak to obey. As for him, he was only a poor fisherman.
What did he know? he was not a politician: every one to his trade. So
long as they let one have the peace--He thanked the gentleman, thanked
him much; thanked the lady, desired to wish her the good-morning and
_Monsieur_ too. Did they like no little fresh soles this morning? He
had some leaping then below in his boat. No? well the good-morning
then.

They had heard enough. The fisherman paddled back to his skiff, and
Molly stood watching from a little distance the motionless figure of
the captain of the _Peregrine_ as with one hand clenching the
hand-rail he gazed towards St. Malo with troubled eyes.

After a few minutes Curwen advanced and touched him lightly on the
arm.

Captain Jack turned slowly to look at him: his face was a little pale
and his jaw set. But the mate, who had served under him since the day
he first stepped upon the old _St. Nicholas_, a gallant, fair-faced
lad (and who knew "every turn of him," as he would have expressed it
himself), saw that he had taken his decision; and he stepped back
satisfied, ready to shape his course for the near harbour, or for the
Pacific Ocean, or back to Scarthey itself at his master's bidding.

"Call the men up," said the captain, "they have earned their bounty
and they shall have it. Though their skipper is a poorer man than he
thought to be, by this fool's work yonder, his good lads shall not
suffer. Tush, man, that's the order--not a word. And after that,
Curwen, let her make for the sea again, northwards."



CHAPTER XXVII

THE LIGHT AGAIN--THE LADY AND THE CARGO

    Does not all the blood within me
    Leap to meet thee, leap to meet thee,
    As the spring to meet the sunshine!

    _Hiawatha._


"Curwen," said Captain Jack, suddenly--the two stood together at the
helm on the afternoon of the same day, and the _Peregrine_ was once
more alone, a speck upon the waste of waters, "I have made up my mind
to return to Scarthey."

The mate wagged his bushy eyebrows and shifted his hand on the helm.
"Ay, ay, sir," he said, after just an instant's pause.

"I would not run you and the men into unnecessary danger, that you may
be sure of; but the fact is, Curwen, I'm in a devil of a fix all
round. There's no use hiding it from you. And, all things considered,
to land the lady and the cargo at the lighthouse itself, gives me as
fair a chance of getting out of it as any plan I can think of. The
cargo's not all my own and it's a valuable one, I daresay you have
guessed as much; and it's not the kind we want revenue men to pry
into. I could not unload elsewhere that I know of, without creating
suspicion. As to storing it elsewhere, it's out of the question.
Scarthey's the place, though it's a damned risky one just now! But
we've run many a risk together in our day, have we not?"

"Ay, sir; who's afraid?"

"Then there's the lady," lowering his voice; "she's Lady Landale, my
friend's wife, the wife of the best friend ever man had. Ay, you
remember him, I doubt not--the gentleman seaman of the _Porcupine_--I
owe him more than I can ever repay, and he owes me something too.
That sort of thing binds men together; and see what I have done to
him--carried off his wife!"

Curwen grunted, enigmatically, and disengaged a hand to scratch his
chin.

"I must have speech with him. I must, it is enough to drive me mad to
think what he may be thinking of me. What I purpose is this: we'll
disguise the ship as far as we can (we have the time), paint her a new
streak and alter those topsails, change the set of the bowsprit and
strike out her name."

"That's unlucky," said the mate.

"Unlucky, is it? Well, she's not been so lucky this run that we need
fear to change the luck. Then, Curwen, we'll slip in at night at a
high tide, watching for our opportunity and a dark sky; we'll unship
the cargo, and then you shall take command of her and carry her off to
the East Coast and wait there, till I am able to send you word or join
you. It will only be a few hours danger for the men, after all."

Still keeping his seaman eye upon the compass, Curwen cleared his
throat with a gruesome noise. Then in tones which seemed to issue with
difficulty from some immense depth:

"Beg pardon, sir," he said, "that ain't a bargain."

"How now?" cried his captain, sharply.

"No, sir," rolling his head portentously; "that don't run to a
bargain, that don't. The lads of the _Peregrine_ 'll stick to their
skipper through thick and thin. I'll warrant them, every man Jack of
them; and if there was one who grumbled, I'd have my knife in him
before another caught the temper from him--I would, or my name's not
Curwen. If ye bid us steer to hell we'll do it for you, sir, and
welcome. But for to go and leave you there--no, sir, it can't be
done."

Captain Jack gave a little laugh that was as tender as a woman's tear.
Curwen rolled his head again and mumbled to himself:

"It can't be done."

Then Jack Smith clapped his hand on the sailor's shoulder.

"But it's got to be done!" he cried. "It is the only thing you can do
to help me, Curwen. To have our _Peregrine_ out in the daylight on
that coast would be stark madness--no disguise could avail her, and
you can't change your ugly old phiz, can you? As for me, I must have a
few days on shore, danger or no danger. Ah, Curwen," with a sudden,
passionate outbreak, "there are times when a man's life is the least
of his thoughts!"

"Couldn't I stop with you, sir?"

"I would not trust the ship to another, and you would double the risk
for me."

"I could double a blow for you too," cried the fellow, hoarsely. "But
if it's got to be--it must be. I'll do it, sir."

"I count on it," said the captain, briefly.

As the ring of his retreating steps died away upon his ear the mate
shook his head in melancholy fashion:

"Women," he said, "is very well, I've nought to say against them in
their way. And the sea's very well--as I ought to know. But women and
the sea, it don't agree. They's jealous one of the other and a man
gets torn between."

As Molly sat in her cabin, watching the darkening sky outside with
dreaming eyes, she started on seeing Captain Jack approach, and
instead of passing her with cold salute, halt and look in.

"I would speak a word with you," he said.

"On deck, then," said Molly. She felt somehow as if under the broad
heaven they were nearer each other than in that narrow room. The sea
was rough, the wind had risen and still blew from the north, it was
cold; but her blood ran too fast these days to heed it.

She drew one of the capes of her cloak over her head and staggering a
little, for the schooner, sailing close to the wind, pitched and
rolled to some purpose, she made for her usual station at the
bulwarks.

"Well?" she asked.

He briefly told her his purpose of returning to Scarthey direct.

Her eye dilated; she grew pale.

"Is that not dangerous?"

He made a contemptuous gesture.

"But they must be watching for you on that coast. You have sunk the
boat--killed those men. To return there--My God, what folly!"

"I must land my goods, Madam. You forget that I have more contraband
on board than, smuggler as I am, even I bargained for."

"If it is for me?--I would rather fling myself into the waves this
instant than that you should expose yourself to danger."

"Then I should fling myself after you, and that would be more
dangerous still."

He smiled a little mockingly upon her as he spoke; but the words
called a transient fire into her face.

"You would risk your life to save me?" she cried.

"To save Adrian's wife, Madam."

"_Bah!_"

He would have gone then, but she held him with her free hand. She was
again white to the lips. But her eyes--how they burned!

He would have given all his worth to avoid what he felt was coming. A
woman, at such a juncture may forbid speech, or deny her ear: a man,
unless he would seem the first of Josephs or the last of coxcombs,
dare not even hint at his unwelcome suspicions.

"I will not have you go into this danger, I will not!" stammered Molly
incoherently. The dusk was spreading, and her eyes seemed to grow
larger and larger in the uncertain light.

"Lady Landale, you misunderstand. It is true that to see you safely
restored to your husband's roof is an added reason for my return to
Scarthey--but were you not on board, I should go all the same. I will
tell you why, it is a secret, but you shall know it. I have treasures
on board, vast treasures confided to me, and I must store them in
safety till I can give them back to their rightful owners. This I can
only do at Scarthey--for to cruise about with such a cargo
indefinitely is as impossible as to land it elsewhere. And more than
this, had I not that second reason, I have yet a third that urges me
to Scarthey still."

"For Madeleine?" she whispered, and her teeth gleamed between her
lips.

He remained silent and tried gently to disengage himself from her
slender fingers, but the feeling of their frailness, the knowledge of
her wound, made her feeble grasp as an iron vice to his manliness.

She came closer to him.

"Do you not remember then--what she has said to you? what she wrote to
you in cold blood--the coward--in the very moment when you were
staking your life for love of her? I remember, if you do not--'You
have deceived me,' she wrote, and her hand never trembled, for the
words ran as neatly and primly as ever they did in her convent copy
books. 'You are not what you represented yourself to be--You have
taken advantage of the inexperience of an ignorant girl, I have been
deluded and deceived. I never wish to see you, to hear of you again.'"

"For Heaven's sake, Lady Landale----" cried the man fiercely.

Molly laughed--one of those laughs that have the ring of madness in
them.

"Do I not remember? Ah, that is not all! She knows you now for what
you are, knows what your 'mission' is--but you must not believe she
writes in anger. No, she----"

Captain Jack's patience could bear no further strain.

"Be silent," he commanded fiercely, and wrenched his arm away to face
her with menacing eyes.

"Ah, does it rouse so much anger in you even to hear repeated what she
did not hesitate to write, did not hesitate to allow me to read? And
yet you love her? If you had seen her, if you knew her as I do! I tell
you she means it; when she wrote that she was not angry; it was the
truth--she did it in cold blood. She loved you, you think, and yet she
believed you a liar; she loved you, and she thinks you a traitor to
all she holds dear. She believes that of _you_, and you ... you love
her still!"

"Lady Landale!"

"Listen--she could never love you, as you should be loved. She was not
born your kin. Between you and her there is nothing--nothing but your
own fancy. Do not risk your life again for her--your life!"

She stopped, drew her breath with a long gasp, the spray from a
turbulent wave came dashing across the bows into her face, and as once
the blood of Cécile de Savenaye had been roused by the call of the
wild waters to leave safety and children and seek her doom, so now the
blood she had transmitted to her child, leaped to the same impulse
and bore her onwards with irresistible force.

"When," she pursued, "in the darkness you took me in your arms and
kissed me; what did the touch of my lips bring to you? My lips, not
Madeleine's.... Were you not happy then? Oh, you were, do not deny it,
I felt, I knew our souls met! My soul and yours, not yours and
Madeleine's. And I knew then that we were made for each other. The sea
and the wide free life upon it: it draws me as it draws you; it was
that drew me to you before I had ever seen you. Listen, listen. Do not
go to Scarthey--you have your beautiful ship, your faithful
crew--there are rich and wonderful worlds, warm seas that beckon. You
can have life, money, adventure--and love, love if you will. Take it,
take me with you! What should I care if you were an adventurer, a
smuggler, a traitor? What does anything matter if we are only
together? Let us go, we have but one life, let us go!"

Bereft of the power of movement he stood before her, and the sweat
that had gathered upon his brow ran down his face. But, as the meaning
of her proposition was borne in upon him, a shudder of fury shook him
from head to foot. No man should have offered dishonour to Jack Smith
and not have been struck the next instant at his feet. But a woman--a
woman, and Adrian's wife!

"Lady Landale," he said, after a silence during which the beating of
her heart turned her sick and cold, and all her fever heat fell from
her, leaving nothing but the knowledge of her shame, her misery, her
hopeless love. "Lady Landale, let me bring you back to your cabin--it
is late."

She went with him as one half-conscious. At the door she paused. The
light from within fell upon his face, deeply troubled and white, but
upon the lips and brows, what scorn! He was a god among men.... How
she loved him, and he scorned her! Poor Murthering Moll!

She looked up.

"Have you no word for me?" she cried passionately.

"Only this, Lady Landale: I will forget."

       *       *       *       *       *

Back towards the distant northern light the schooner clove her
valiant way in spite of adverse winds and high seas.

The return journey was slower than the outward, and since the second
day of it the lady kept much to her cabin, while the captain would
pace the deck till far into the night, with unwonted uneasiness. To
him the white wings of his _Peregrine_ were bearing him all too slowly
for endurance, while to the stormy woman's heart that beat through the
night watches in passionate echo to his restless tread, every instant
that passed but brought nearer the prospect of a future so intolerable
that she could not bring herself to face it.

A gloom seemed to have come over the tight little craft, and to have
spread even to the crew, who missed the ring of their captain's jolly
laugh and the sound of his song.

When, within a day's sail of the goal, the planned disguise was
finally carried out upon the schooner's fair sides and rigging, her
beautiful stretch of sail curtailed, and her name (final disgrace),
superseded by the unmeaning title of _The Pretty Jane_, open murmurs
broke out which it required all Curwen's severity--and if the old
martinet did not execute the summary justice he had threatened he was
quite equal to the occasion nevertheless--and all Jack's personal
influence to quell.

The dawn of the next day crept gloomily upon a world of rain; with
long faces the men paddled about the deck, doing their duty in
silence; Curwen's old countenance, set into grimmer lines than ever,
looked as if it had just been detached from the prow of some vessel
after hard experience of stress and storm. The spirits of the captain
alone seemed to rise in proportion as they drew nearer land.

"The moon sets at half-past eleven," he said to Curwen, "but we need
not fear her to-night. By half-past twelve I reckon on your having
those twenty-five damned casks safe in the cave you took them from; it
is a matter of three journeys. And then the nose of the _Pretty Jane_
must be pointed for the Orkneys. All's going well."

       *       *       *       *       *

Night had fallen. "The gaudy bubbling and remorseful day" had "crept
into the bosom of the sea." From the cross-trees the look-out man had
already been able to distinguish through the glass the faint distant
glimmer of Scarthey beacon, when Captain Jack knocked for admittance
at Lady Landale's cabin for the last time, as he thought, with a sigh
of relief.

"In the course of an hour, Madam," he said in a grave tone, "I hope to
restore you to land. As for me, I shall have again to hide in the
peel, though I hope it will not be for long. My fate--and by my fate I
mean not only my safety, but my honour, which, as you know, is now
bound up in the safety of the treasures--will be in your hands. For I
must wait at Scarthey till I can see Adrian again, and upon your
return to Pulwick I must beg you to be the bearer of a message to ask
him to come and see me."

She replied in a voice that trembled a little:

"I will not fail you."

But her great eyes, dark circled, fixed upon him with a meek,
sorrowful look, spoke dumbly the troublous tale of her mind. In her
subdued mood the likeness to Madeleine was more obtrusive than it had
ever yet been. He contemplated her with melancholy, and drew a heavy
sigh.

Molly groaned in the depths of her soul, though her lips tight set
betrayed no sound. Oh, miserable chaos of the human world, that such
pent up love should be wasted--wasted; that they, too, young and
strong and beautiful, alone together, so near, with such glorious
happiness within their reach, should yet be so perversely far asunder!

There was a long silence. They looked into each other's eyes; but he
was unseeing; his mind was far away, dwelling upon the memory of that
last meeting with his love under the fir trees of Pulwick only ten
days ago, but now as irrevocably far as things seem that may never
again be. At length, she made a movement which brought him back to
present reality--a movement of her wounded arm as if of pain. And he
came back to Lady Landale, worn with the fatigue of these long days in
the cramped discomfort of a schooner cabin, thinned by pain and
fevered thinkings, shorn of all that daintiness of appearance which
can only be maintained in the midst of luxury, and yet, by the light
of the flickering lamp, more triumphantly beautiful than ever.

His thoughts leaped to his friend with a pang of remorse.

"You are suffering--you are ill," he said. "Thus do I bring you back
to him who last saw you so full of strength.... But you will recover
at Pulwick."

"Suffering, ill! Ah, my God!" As if suffocating, she pressed her hand
upon her heart, and bowed her head till it rested on the table. And
then he heard her murmur in a weary voice:

"Recover at Pulwick! My God, my God! The air at Pulwick will stifle
me, I think."

He waited a moment in silence and saw that she was weeping. Then he
went out and closed the door behind him with gentle hand.

Nearly all the lights of the ship were now extinguished, and in a
gloom as great as that in which they had started upon their
unsuccessful venture, the _Peregrine_ and her crew returned to the
little island which had already been so fateful to them.

Captain Jack had taken the helm himself, and Curwen stood upon his
right hand waiting patiently for his commands. For an hour or so they
hung off the shore. The rain fell close and fine around them; it was
as if sea and sky were merging by slow imperceptible degrees into one.
The beacon light looming, halo encircled, through the mist, seemed,
like a monster eye, to watch with unmoved contempt the restlessness of
these pigmies in the grand solitude of the night.

Who shall say with what conflict of soul Molly, in her narrow
seclusion, saw the light of Scarthey grow out of the dimness till its
rays fell across the darkened cabin and glimmered on her wedding ring?

At last the captain drew his watch, and by the faint rays upon the
binnacle saw the hour had come.

"Boat loaded, Curwen?" he asked in a low voice.

"This hour, sir."

"Ready to cast?"

"Right, sir."

"Now, Curwen."

Low, from man to man, the order ran through the ship, and the anchor
was dropped, almost within a musket shot of the peel. It was high
tide, but no hand but Captain Jack's would have dared risk the vessel
so close. She swung round, ready to slip at a moment's notice.

He left the helm; and in the wet darkness cannoned against the burly
figure of his mate.

"You, Curwen? Remember we have not a moment to lose. Remain here--as
soon as the men are back from the last run, sheer off."

He grasped the horny hand.

Curwen made an inarticulate noise in his big throat, but the grip of
his fingers upon his master's was of eloquence sufficient.

"Let some one call the lady."

A couple of men ran forward with dark lanterns. The rest gathered
round.

"Now, my lads, brisk and silent is the word."

The cabin door opened, and Molly came forth, the darkness hid the
pallor of her face, but it could not hide the faltering of her steps.
Captain Jack sprang forward and gave her his arm, and she leant upon
it without speaking, heavily. For one moment she stopped as if she
could not tear her feet from the beloved planks, but Curwen caught her
by the other arm; and then she was on the swinging ladder. And so she
left the _Peregrine_.

       *       *       *       *       *

The gig was almost filled with barrels; there was only room for the
four oarsmen selected, besides the captain and herself. The boat
shoved off. She looked back and saw, as once before, the great wall of
the ship's side rise sheer above the sea, saw the triangle of light
again slide down to lie a span above the water-line. With what a
leaping heart she had set forth, that black night, away from the
hateful lighthouse beam to that glimmer of promise and mystery! And
now! She felt herself grow sick at the thought of that home-coming; at
the vision of the close warm rooms, of her husband's melancholy eyes.
Yet, as she sat, the sleeve of the captain's rough sailor coat touched
her shoulder, and she remembered she was still with him. It was not
all death yet.

In less than three minutes they touched ground. He jumped into the
water, and stretched out his arms for Molly. She rose giddily, and his
embrace folded her round. The waves rolled in with surge and thud and
dashed their spray upon them; and still the rain fell and beat upon
her head, from which she had impatiently pushed her hood. But her
spirit had no heed for things of the body this night.

Oh, if the sea would open sudden deeps before them! if even the
quicksand would seize them in its murderous jaws, what ecstasy the
hideous lingering death might hold for her, so that only she lay,
thus, in his arms to the end!

It was over now; his arms had clasped her for the last time. She stood
alone upon the dry sand, and her heart was in hell.

He was speaking; asking her pardon for not going at once with her to
see her into the keep, but he dared not leave the beach till his cargo
was landed, and he must show the men the way to the caves. Would she
forgive him, would she go with him?

Forgive him! Go with him! She almost laughed aloud. A few poor moments
more beside him; they would be as the drops of water to the burning
tongue of Dives.

Yes, she would go with him.

One by one the precious caskets were carried between a couple of men,
who stumbled in the darkness, close on their captain's heels. And the
lady walked beside him and stood beside him without a word, in the
falling rain. The boat went backwards and forwards twice; before the
hour had run out, the luckless cargo was all once more landed, and the
captain heard with infinite relief the last oar-strokes dwindling away
in the distance, and saw the lights suddenly disappear.

"You have been very patient," he said to Molly then, with a gentle
note in his voice.

But she did not answer. Are the souls of the damned patient?

       *       *       *       *       *

"My Lady and Mr. the Captain! My God--my God! so wet--so tired!
Enter--enter in the name of heaven. It is good, in verity, to have My
Lady back, but, Mr. the Captain, is it well for _him_ to be here? And
Madam is ill? She goes pale and red by turns. Madam has the fever for
sure! And her arm is hurt, and she is as wet as the first time she
came here. Ah, Lord God, what are we coming to? Fire we must have. I
shall send the wife."

"Ay, do so, man," cried Captain Jack, looking with concern at Lady
Landale, who in truth seemed scarcely able to stand, and whose
fluctuating colour and cracked fevered lips gave painful corroboration
to René's surmise, "your mistress must be instantly attended to."

But Molly arrested the servant as he would have hurried past upon his
errand.

"Your master?" she said in a dry whisper, "is he at Pulwick?"

"His honour! My faith, I must be but half-awake yet. Imbecile that I
am, his honour--where is he? Is he not with you? No, indeed, he is not
at Pulwick, My Lady; he has gone to St. Malo to seek you. Nothing
would serve him but that he must go. And so he did not reach in time
to meet you? Ah, the poor master--what anxiety for him!"

Captain Jack glanced in dismay at his friend's wife, met her suddenly
illumined gaze and turned abruptly on his heel, with a grinding noise.

"See to your mistress," he said harshly, "I hear your women folk are
roused overhead; hurry them, and when Lady Landale no longer requires
you, I must speak with you on an urgent business of my own. You will
find me in my old room."

"Go with the captain at once, René, since he wants you," interposed
Molly quickly, "here comes Moggie. She will take care of me. Leave me,
leave me. I feel strong again. Good-night, Captain Smith, I shall see
you to-morrow?"

There was a wistful query in her voice and look.

Captain Smith bowed distantly and coldly, and hastened from the room,
accompanied by René, while open-mouthed and blinking, rosy, blowsy,
and amazed, Mrs. Potter made her entry on the scene and stared at her
mistress with the roundest of blue eyes.

       *       *       *       *       *

"My good Renny," said the captain, "I have no time to lose. I have a
hard hour's work to do, before I can even think of talking. I want
your help. Your light will burn all safe for the time, will it not?
Hark ye, man, you have been so faithful a fellow to my one friend that
I am going to trust to you matters which concern my own honour and my
own life. Ask no question, but do what I tell you, if you would help
one who has helped your master long ago; one whom your master would
wish you to help."

Thus adjured, René repressed his growing astonishment at the
incomprehensible development of events. And having, under direction,
provided the sailor with a lantern, and himself with a wide tarpaulin
and sundry carpenter's tools, he followed his leader readily enough
through the ruinous passages, half choked up with sand, which led from
the interior of the ruins to one of the sea caves.

Before reaching the open-mouthed rocky chamber, the captain obscured
the light, and René promptly barked his shins against a barrel.

"_Sacrebleu_," he cried, feeling with quick hands the nature of the
obstruction, "more kegs?"

"The same, my friend! Now hang that tarpaulin against the mouth of the
cave and be sure it is close; then we may again have some light upon
the matter. What we must do will not bear interference, and moving
glimmers on a dark night have told tales before this."

As soon as the beach entrance was made secure, the captain uncovered
his lantern; and as the double row of kegs stood revealed, his eyes
rapidly scanned their number. Yes, they were all there: five and
twenty.

"Now, to work, man! We have to crack every one of these nuts, and take
the kernels out."

Even as he spoke, he turned the nearest cask on end, with a blow of
chisel and mallet stove in the head and began dragging out quantities
of loose tow. In the centre of the barrel, secured in position on to a
stout middle batten, was a bag of sailcloth closely bound with cord.
This he lifted with an effort, for it was over a hundred-weight, and
flung upon the sand in a corner.

"That's the kernel you see," he said to René, who had watched the
operation with keen interest. "And when we have shelled them all I
will show you where to put them in safety. Now carry on--the quicker
the better. The sooner we have it all upstairs, the freer I shall
breathe."

Without another word, entering into the spirit of haste which seemed
to fill his companion, and nobly controlling his seething curiosity,
René set to work on his side, with his usual dexterousness.

Half an hour of speechless destructive labour completed the first part
of the task. Then the two men carried the weighty bags into the room
which had been Captain Jack's in the keep. And when they had travelled
to and fro a dozen times with each heavy load, and the whole treasure
was at length accumulated upstairs, René, with fresh surprise and
admiration, saw the captain lift the hearthstone and disclose a recess
in the heavy masonry--presumably a flue, in the living days of
Scarthey peel--which, although much blocked with stony rubbish, had
been evidently improved by the last lodger during his period of
solitary residence into a convenient and very secure hiding-place.

Here was the precious pyramid now heaped up; the stone was returned to
its place, and the two stood in front of each other mopping their
faces.

"Thank goodness, it is done," said Jack Smith. "And thank you too,
Renny. To-morrow, break up these casks and add the staves to your
firewood stack; then nobody but you, in this part of the world, need
be any the wiser about our night's work.--A smart piece of running,
eh?--Phew, I am tired! Bring me some food, and some brandy, like a
good fellow. Then you can back to your pillow and flatter yourself
that you have helped Jack Smith out of a famous quandary."

René grinned and rushed to execute the order. He had less desire for
his pillow than for the gratification of his hyper-excited curiosity.

But although pressed to quaff one cup of good fellowship and yet
another, he was not destined to get his information, that night, from
the captain, who had much ado to strangle his yawns sufficiently to
swallow a mouthful or two of food.

"No one must know, Renny," was all he said, at last, between two
gapes, kicking the hearthstone significantly, and stretching his arms,
"not even the wife." Then he flung himself all dressed upon his bed.

"And my faith," said René, when he sought his wife a moment later, "he
was fast asleep before I had closed the door."



CHAPTER XXVIII

THE END OF THE THREAD


Madeleine had appeared greatly distressed at the thought that, through
her, her sister was now in so doubtful and precarious a situation. It
was part of her punishment, she told herself for her sins of deceit
and unmaidenliness in encouraging and meeting a clandestine lover.

She had gone through some very bitter hours since her tryst at the
ruins. The process of cutting off a malignant growth that has become
part of oneself is none the less painful because the conviction is
clear that it is for one's health to do so, and the will is firm not
to falter. Not the less is the flesh mangled, do nerves throb, and
veins bleed. But Madeleine was determined that nobody should even
guess her sufferings.

Rupert had counted upon Sophia's old habit of obedience to him, and
upon her superstitious terrors not to betray to the young girl the
part he had played in the unmasking of her lover; but he had an
unexpected, and even more powerful ally in Madeleine's own pride. When
Miss Sophia had tremblingly endeavoured to falter out a few words of
sympathy and sorrow, upon the distressing subject, Madeleine quickly
interrupted her.

"Never speak even his name again, Sophia; all that is finished for
me."

There was such a cold finality in her voice, that the poor confidant's
expansiveness withered up within her beyond even the hope of
blossoming again.

When Rupert heard of Captain Jack's latest doings, and especially of
his sister-in-law's disappearance, he thought that the fates were
propitious indeed. In his wildest schemes he could not have planned
anything that would have suited his game more perfectly.

Though he thought it incumbent upon him to pull a face of desperate
length whenever the subject was touched, in his innermost soul he had
hardly ever enjoyed so delightful a joke as this dénouement to his
brother's marriage and to his cousin's engagement. And, strange to
say, though he would most gravely protest against any interpretation
of his kinswoman's disappearance save the one which must most redound
to her credit, the story, started by the gossips in the village upon
the return of the revenue men, that Lady Landale had bolted with the
handsome smuggler, grew and spread apace all over the county, more
especially from such houses as Rupert was wont to visit.

That all his hints and innuendoes should fail, apparently, to make
Madeleine put upon the case the interpretation he would have liked,
was at once a matter of secret sneering and of admiration to his
curiously complicated mind.

The days went by, to all appearance placidly enough, for the trio at
Pulwick. Madeleine shunned none of the usages of life in common,
worked and talked with Sophia of a morning, rode or walked out with
Rupert of an afternoon; and passed the evening at her embroidery frame
meeting his efforts to entertain her as amiably as before.

Rupert thought he knew enough of the human heart, and more especially
the feminine, to draw satisfactory conclusions from this behaviour.
For a girl to bear no malice to the man who had taken it upon himself
to demonstrate to her the unworthiness of her lover, argued, to his
mind, that her affections could not have been very deeply engaged in
that quarter. It was clear that she felt gratitude for a timely
rescue. Nay, might he not go further, and lay the flattering unction
to his soul that she would not be unwilling to transfer these same
blighted feelings to a more suitable recipient?

A slight incident which took place a few nights later, tended still
more to increase the kindness of Madeleine's manner to him upon the
next day; but this was for a reason that he little suspected.

It had been an anniversary with Sophia--none less indeed than that of
the lamented Rector's demise. When her young cousin had retired to her
room, the desire to pursue her thither with a packet of old letters,
and other treasures exhumed from the depths of her cupboards, had
proved too strong for a soul burning for congenial sympathy; and
Sophia had spent a couple of very delightful hours pouring forth
reminiscences and lamentations into the bosom of one who, as she said,
she knew could understand her.

Madeleine a little wearied, stifling a sigh or a yawn as the minutes
ticked by, was too gentle, too kind-hearted to repel the faithful, if
loquacious mourner; so she had sat and listened, which was all that
Sophia required.

Upon the stroke of twelve, Miss Landale rose at length, collected her
relics, and mopping her swollen eyes, embraced her cousin, and bade
her good-night with much effusion, while with cordial alacrity the
latter conducted her to the door.

But here Sophia paused. Holding the flat silver candlestick with one
hand, with the other clasping to her bosom her bundle of superannuated
love letters, she glanced out into the long black chasm of corridor
with a shudder, and vowed she had not the courage to traverse it alone
at such an hour. She cast as she spoke such a meaning glance at
Madeleine's great bed, that, trembling lest her next words should be a
proposal to share it for the night, the young girl hurriedly
volunteered to re-conduct her to her own apartment.

Half way down the passage they had to pass the door of the picture
gallery, which was ajar, disclosing light within. At the sight of
Rupert standing with his back to them, looking fixedly at the picture
upon the opposite wall, Sophia promptly thought better of the scream
she was preparing, and seized her cousin by the arm.

"Come away, come away," she whispered, "he will be much displeased if
he sees us."

Madeleine allowed herself to be pulled onward, but remembering Molly's
previous encounter upon the same spot, was curious enough to demand an
explanation of Rupert's nocturnal rambles when they had reached the
haven of Sophia's bedroom. It was very simple, but it struck her as
exceedingly pathetic and confirmed her in her opinion of the
unreasonableness of her sister's dislike to Rupert.

He was gazing at his dead wife's picture. He could not bear, Sophia
said, for any one to find him there; could not bear the smallest
allusion to his grief, but at night, as she had herself discovered
quite by accident, he would often spend long spells as they had just
seen him.

There was something in Madeleine's own nature, a susceptible proud
reserve which made this trait in her cousin's character thoroughly
congenial; moreover, what woman is not drawn with pity towards the man
who can so mourn a woman.

She met him therefore, the next day, with a softness, almost a
tenderness, of look and smile which roused his highest hopes. And when
he proposed, after breakfast, that they should profit by the mild
weather to stroll in the garden while Sophia was busy in the house,
she willingly consented.

Up the gravel paths, between the gooseberry bushes, to the violet beds
they went. It was one of those balmy days that come sometimes in early
spring and encourage all sorts of false hopes in the hearts of men and
vegetables. "A growing day," the farmers call them; indeed, at such
times you may almost hear the swelling and the bursting of the buds,
the rising of the sap, the throbbing and pushing of the young green
life all around.

Madeleine grew hot with the weight of her fur tippet, the pale face
under the plumy hat took an unusual pink bloom; her eyes shone with a
moist radiance. Rupert, glancing up at her, as, bent upon one knee, he
sought for stray violets amid the thick green leaves, thought it was
thus a maiden looked who waited to be won; and though all of true love
that he could ever give to woman lay buried with his little bride, he
felt his pulses quicken with a certain æsthetic pleasure in the
situation. Presently he rose, and, after arranging his bunch of purple
sweetness into dainty form, offered it silently to his companion.

She took it, smiling, and carried it mechanically to her face.

Oh, the scent of the violets! Upon the most delicate yet mighty
pinions she was carried back, despite all her proud resolves to that
golden hour, only five days ago, when she lay upon her lover's broad
breast, and heard the beating of his heart beneath her ear.

Again she felt his arm around her, so strong, yet so gentle; saw his
handsome face bent towards her, closer--ever closer--felt again the
tide of joy that coursed through her veins in the expectation of his
kiss.

No, no, she must not--she would not yield to this degrading folly. If
it were not yet dead, then she must kill it.

She had first grown pale, but the next moment a deep crimson flooded
her face. She turned her head away, and Rupert saw her tremble as she
dropped the hand that held the flowers close clenched by her side. He
formed his own opinion of what was passing within her, and it made
even his cold blood course hotly in his veins.

"Madeleine," he said, with low rapid utterance; "I am not mistaken, I
trust, in thinking you look on me as a good friend?"

"Indeed, yes;" answered the girl, with an effort, turning her
tremulous face towards him; "a good friend indeed."

Had he not been so five days ago? Aye, most truly, and she would have
it so, in spite of the hungry voice within her which had awaked and
cried out against the knowledge that had brought such misery.

He saw her set her little teeth and toss her head, and knew she was
thinking of the adventurer who had dared aspire to her. And he gained
warmer courage still.

"Nothing more than a friend, sweet?"

"A kind cousin; almost a brother."

"No, no; not a brother, Madeleine. Nay, hear me," taking her hands and
looking into her uncomprehending eyes, "I would not be a brother, but
something closer, dearer. We are both alone in the world, more or
less. Whom have you but a mad-cap sister, a poor dreamer of a
brother-in-law, an octogenarian aunt, to look to? I have no one, no
one to whom my coming or my going, my living or my dying makes one
pulse beat of difference--except poor Sophia. Let us join our
loneliness and make of it a beautiful and happy home. Madeleine, I
have learned to love you deeply!"

His eyes glowed between their narrowing eyelids, his voice rang
changes upon chords of most exquisite tenderness; his whole manner was
charged with a courtly reverence mingled with the subtlest hint of
passion. Rupert as a lover had not a flaw in him.

Yet fear, suspicion, disgust chased each other in Madeleine's mind in
quick succession. What did he mean? How could it be that he loved her?
Oh! if _this_ had been his purpose, what motive was prompting him
when he divided her from her deceiving lover? Was no one true then?
Was this the inconsolable widower whose grief she had been so
sympathetically considering all the morning; for whose disinterested
anxiety and solicitude on her behalf her sore heart had forced itself
to render gratitude? Oh! how terrible it all was ... what a hateful
world!

"Well, Madeleine?" he pressed forward and slid his arm around her.

All her powers of thought and action restored by the deed, she
disengaged herself with a movement of unconscious repulsion.

"Cousin Rupert, I am sure you mean kindly by me, but it is quite
impossible--I shall never marry."

He drew back, as nonplussed as if she had struck him in the face.

"Pshaw, my dear Madeleine."

"Please, Cousin Rupert, no more."

"My dear girl, I have been precipitate."

"Nothing can make any difference. That I could never marry you, so
much you must believe; that I shall never marry at all you are free to
believe or not, as you please. I am sorry you should have spoken."

"Still hankering after that beggarly scoundrel?" muttered Rupert, a
sneer uncovering his teeth betrayed hideously the ungenerous soul
within. He was too deeply mortified, too shaken by this utter
shattering of his last ambitions to be able to grasp his usual
self-control.

Madeleine gave him one proud glance, turned abruptly away, and walked
into the house.

She went steadily up to her room, and, once there, without hesitation
proceeded to unlock a drawer in her writing-table and draw from it a
little ribbon-tied parcel of letters--Jack's letters.

Her heart had failed her, womanlike, before the little sacrifice when
she had unshrinkingly accomplished the larger one. Now, however, with
determined hand, she threw the letters into the reddest cavern of her
wood-fire and with hard dry eyes watched them burn. When the last
scrap had writhed and fluttered and flamed into grey ash, she turned
to her altar, and, extending her arm, called out aloud:

"I have done with it all for ever----"

And the next instant flinging herself upon her bed, she drew her brown
ringlets before her face, and under this veil wept for her broken
youth and her broken heart, and the hard cold life before her.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is a kind of love a man can give to woman but once in his
lifetime: the love of the man in the first flush of manhood for the
woman he has chosen to be his mate, untransferable and never to be
forgotten: love of passion so exquisite, of devotion so pure, born of
the youth of the heart and belonging to an existence and personality
lost for ever. A man may wed again, and (some say) love again, but
between the boards of the coffin of his first wife--if he has loved
her--lie secrets of tenderness, and sweetness, and delight, which,
like the spring flowers, may not visit the later year.

But, notwithstanding this, a second wooing may have a charm and an
interest of its own, even the wooing which is to precede a marriage of
convenience.

So Rupert found. The thought of an alliance with Madeleine de Savenaye
was not only engrossing from the sense of its own intrinsic
advantages, but had become the actual foundation-stone of all his new
schemes of ambition.

Nay, more: such admiration and desire as he could still feel for
woman, he had gradually come to centre upon his fair and graceful
cousin, who added to her personal attractions the other indispensable
attributes, blood, breeding and fortune. Mr. Landale was as
essentially refined and fastidious in his judgment as he was
unmeasured in his ambition.

His error of precipitancy had been pardonable enough; and mere
self-reproach for an ill-considered manoeuvre would not have
sufficed to plunge him into such a depth of bitter and angry
despondency as that in which he now found himself. But the rebuff had
been too uncompromising to leave him a single hope. He was too shrewd
not to see that here was no pretty feminine nay, precursor of the
yielding yea, not to realise that Madeleine had meant what she said
and would abide by it. And, under the sting of the moment betrayed
into a degradingly ill-mannered outburst, he had shown that he
measured the full bearings of the position.

So, the wind still sat in that quarter!

Failing the mysterious smuggler, it was to be nobody with the Savenaye
heiress--and least of all Rupert Landale.

And this, though the scoundrel had been thoroughly shown up; though he
had started upon his illegal venture and was gone, never to return if
he valued his neck, after murdering four officers of the crown and
sinking a king's vessel; though he had carried away with him (ah!
there was consolation in that excellent jest which had so far
developed into Sir Adrian's wild goose chase to France and might still
hold some delicate dénouement), had carried with him no less a person
than Lady Landale herself (the fellow had good taste, and either of
the sisters was a dainty morsel), he still left the baneful trail of
his influence behind him upon the girl he had deluded and beguiled!

Rupert Landale, who, for motives of his own had pleased himself by
hunting down Madeleine's lover, had felt, in the keenness of his
blood-hound work, something of the blood-hound instinct of destruction
and ferocity spring up within him before he had even set eyes on his
quarry. And the day they had stood face to face this instinctive
hatred had been intensified by some singular natural antagonism. Added
to this there was now personal injury and the prey was out of reach.
Impotence for revenge burned into the soul of him like a corrosive
poison. Oh, let him but come within his grip again and he should not
escape so easily.

Sits the wind still in that quarter?

The burthen droned in his head, angry conclusion to each long spell of
inconclusive thought, as he still paced the garden, till the noon hour
began to wane. And it was in this mood, that, at length, returning to
his study, he crossed in one of the back passages a young woman
enveloped in a brilliant scarlet and black shawl, who started in
evident dismay on being confronted with him.

Rupert knew by sight and name every wench of kitchen and laundry, as
well as every one of the buxom lasses or dames whom business brought
periodically to the great hall. That this person was neither of the
household nor one of the usual back-door visitors, he would have seen
at a glance, even had not her own embarrassment drawn his closer
attention. He looked keenly and recognised the gatekeeper's daughter
Moggie.

Having married Sir Adrian's servant and withdrawn to take up her abode
in the camp of the enemy, so to speak, she was not one whom Mr.
Landale would have regarded with favour in any case; but now,
concentrating his thoughts from their aimless whirl of dissatisfaction
upon the present encounter, he was struck by the woman's manner.

Yes, she was most undoubtedly frightened. He examined her with a
malevolent eye which still discountenanced her. And, though he made no
inquiry, she forthwith stammered out: "I--I came, sir, to see if there
be news of her Ladyship ... or of Sir Adrian, sir--Renny can't leave
the island, you know, and he be downright anxious."

"Well, my good woman, calm yourself. Nothing wrong; nothing to hide in
this very laudable anxiety of you and your good man! No, we have no
news yet--that is quickly told, Mrs. Potter."

He kept her for a moment quailing and scared under his cruel gaze,
then went on his way, working upon the new problems she had brought
him to solve. No matter was too small for Rupert's mind, he knew how
inextricably the most minute and apparently insignificant may be
connected with the most important events of life.

The woman was singularly anxious to explain, reflected he, pausing at
his chamber door, singularly ready with her explanation--too ready.
She must have lied. No doubt she lied. Liar was written upon every
line of the terrified face of her. What was that infernal little
French husband of hers hatching now? He had been in the Smith plot, of
course. Ah, curse that smuggling fellow: he cropped up still on every
side! Pray the fates he would crop up once too often for his own
safety yet; who knew!

Meanwhile Mrs. Potter, the innocent news-gatherer, must not be allowed
to roam unwatched at her own sweet will about the place. Hark! what
clumping, creaking, steps! These could only be produced by René's
fairy-footed spouse: the house servants had been too well drilled by
his irritable ear to venture in such shoe leather within its range.
He closed his door, and gently walked back along the corridor.

As he passed Molly's apartment, he could hear the creaking of a
wardrobe door; and, a startling surmise springing into his brain, he
quietly slipped into an opposite room and waited, leaving the door
slightly ajar.

As he expected, a few minutes later, Moggie re-appeared loaded with a
bulky parcel, glancing anxiously right and left. She tiptoed by him;
but, after a few steps, suddenly turning her head once more, met his
eyes grimly fixed upon her through the narrow aperture. With a faint
squeal she paddled off as though a fiend were at her heels.

"Something more than anxiety for news there, Mrs. Potter," said Mr.
Landale, apostrophising the retreating figure with a malignant, inward
laugh! Then, when the last echo of her stout boots had faded away, he
entered his sister-in-law's room, looked around and meditatively began
to open various presses and drawers. "You visited this one at any
rate, my girl," thought he, as he recognised the special sound of the
hinges. "And, for a lady's maid, you have left it in singular
disorder. As for this," pulling open a linen drawer half-emptied, and
showing dainty feminine apparel, beribboned and belaced, in the most
utter disorder--"why, fie on you, Mrs. Potter! Is this the way to
treat these pretty things?"

He had seen enough. He paused a moment in the middle of the room with
his nails to his lips, smiling to himself.

"Ah, Mrs. Potter, I fancy you might have given us a little news,
yourself! Most unkind of my Lady Landale to prefer to keep us in this
unnatural anxiety--most unkind indeed! She must have singularly good
reasons for so doing.... Captain Smith, my friend, Mr. Cochrane, or
whatever may be your name, we have an account to settle. And there is
that fool of an Adrian scurrying over the seas in search of his
runaway wife! By George! my hand is not played out yet!"

Slowly he repaired to his study. There he sat down and wrote, without
any further reflection, an urgent letter to the chief officer of the
newly established Preventive Service Station. Then he rang the bell.

"One of the grooms will ride at once to Lancaster with this," he said
to the servant, looking at the missive in his hand. But instead of
delivering it he paused: a new idea had occurred. How many of these
servants might not be leagued in favour of that interloper, bribed, or
knowing him, perhaps, to have been a friend of Sir Adrian, or yet
again out of sheer spite to himself? No; he would leave no loop-hole
for treachery now.

"Send the groom to me as soon as he is ready," he continued, and when
the footman had withdrawn, enclosed the letter, with its tale-telling
superscription, in another directed to a local firm of attorneys, with
a covering note instructing them to see that the communication, on His
Majesty's Service, should reach the proper hands without delay.

When the messenger had set forth, Mr. Landale, on his side, had his
horse saddled and sallied out in the direction of Scarthey sands.

As from the top of the bluff he took a survey of the great bay, a
couple of figures crossing the strand in the distance arrested his
attention; he reined in his horse behind a clump of bushes and
watched.

"So ho! Mrs. Potter, your careful husband could not leave the island?"
muttered he, as he marked the unmistakable squat figure of the one, a
man carrying a burden upon his shoulder, whilst, enveloping the woman
who walked briskly by his side, flared the brilliant-hued shawl of
Moggie. "That lie alone would have been sufficient to arouse
suspicion. Hallo, what is the damned _crapaud_ up to?"

The question was suggested by the man's movements, as, after returning
the parcel to his consort at the beginning of the now bare causeway,
he turned tail, while she trudged forward alone.

"The Shearman's house! I thought as much. Out he comes again, and not
by himself. I have made acquaintance with those small bare legs
before. I should have been astonished indeed if none of the Shearman
fellows had been mixed up with the affair. I shall be even yet with
those creditable friends of yours, brother Adrian. So, it's you again,
Johnny, my lad; the pretty Mercury.... Can it be possible that Captain
Smith is at his old games once more?"

Mr. Landale's eyes shone with a curious eager light; he laughed a
little mirthless laugh, which was neither pleasant to hear nor to
give. "Dear me," he said aloud, as he watched the pair tramp together
towards Scarthey, "for plotters in the dark, you are particularly easy
to detect, my good friends!"

Then he checked himself, realising what a mere chance it had been,
after all--a fortuitous meeting in the passage--that had first aroused
his suspicions, and placed between his fingers the end of the thread
he now thought it so simple to follow up. But he did hold the thread,
and depended no longer upon chance or guess-work, but on his own
relentless purpose to lay the plotters by the heels, whatever their
plot might be.

In the course of an hour and a half, Johnny Shearman, whistling,
light-hearted, and alone, was nearing his native house once more, when
the sight of a horseman, rapidly advancing across the sands, brought
him to a standstill, to stare with a boy's curiosity. Presently,
however, recognising Mr. Landale--a person for whom he had more dread
than admiration--he was starting off homeward again at a brisk canter,
when a stern hail from the rider arrested him.

"Johnny!" The boy debated a moment, measured the distance between the
cottage and himself, and shrewdly recognised the advisability of
obeying. "Johnny, my boy, I want you at the Hall; take hold of my
stirrup, and come along with me."

The boy, with every symptom of reluctance, demurred, pleading a
promise to return to his mother. Then he suddenly perceived a look in
the gentleman's eye, which gave him a frantic, unreasoned desire to
bolt at once, and at any cost. But the horseman anticipated the
thought; bending in the saddle, he reached out his arm and seized the
urchin by the collar.

"Why, you little devil, what is the matter with you?" he asked,
grinning ominously into the chubby, terrified face. "It strikes me it
is time you and I should come to a little understanding. Any more
letters from the smuggler to-day, eh? Ah, would you, you young idiot!"
and Mr. Landale's fingers gave a sudden twist to the collar, which
strangled the rising yell. "Listen, Johnny," tightening his grasp
gradually until the brown face grew scarlet, then purple, and the
goggling eyes seemed to start out of their sockets; "that is what it
feels like to be hanged. They squeeze your neck so; and they leave you
dangling at the end of a rope till you are dead, dead, dead, and the
crows come and eat you. Do you want to be hanged?"

For some moments more he kept the writhing lad under the torture; then
loosening his grip, without however relinquishing his hold, allowed
him to taste once more the living air.

"Do you want to be hanged, Johnny Shearman?" he asked again gravely.
The lad burst into gasping sobs, and looked up at his captor with an
agony of fear in his bloodshot eyes. "No," continued Mr. Landale, "I
am sure you don't, eh?" with a renewed ominous contraction of the
hand. "It's a fearful thing, is hanging. And yet many a lad, hardly
older than you, has been hanged for less than you are doing.
Magistrates can get people hanged, and I am a magistrate, you know.
_Stop that noise!_"

"Now," continued the gentleman, "there are one or two little things I
want to know myself, Johnny, and it's just possible I might let you
off for this time if by chance you were able to tell them to me. So,
for your sake, I hope you may be."

He could see that the boy's mind was now completely turned with
fright.

"If you were to try to run away again I should know you had secrets to
keep from me, and then, Johnny Shearman, it would go hard with you
indeed! Now come along beside me, up to the Hall."

Quite certain of his prey, he released him, and, setting his horse to
a trot, smiled to note the desperate clutch of the lad upon his
stirrup leather, as, with the perspiration dripping from his face, and
panting breath, he struggled to keep up the pace alongside.

Marched with tremendous ceremony into the magistrate's study and
directed to stand right opposite the light, while Mr. Landale
installed himself in an arm-chair with a blood-curdling air of
judicial sternness, Johnny Shearman, at most times as dare-devil a
pickle of a boy as ever ran, but now reduced to a state of mental and
physical jelly, underwent a terrible cross-examination. It was
comparatively little that he had to say, and no doubt he wished most
fervently he had greater revelations to make, and could thus
propitiate the arbiter of the appalling fate he firmly believed might
lie in store for him. Meagre as his narrative was, however, it quite
sufficed for Mr. Landale.

"I think, Johnny," he said more pleasantly, well knowing the
inducement that a sudden relaxation from fear offers to a witness's
garrulity, "I think I may say you will not hang this time--that is,"
with a sudden hardening of his voice, and making a great show of
checking the answers with pen and ink in his most magisterial manner,
"that is if you have really told me _all_ you know and it be all
_true_. Now let us see, and take care. You saw no one at the peel
to-day but Renny Potter, Mrs. Potter and Mrs. Crackenshaw?"

"No, sir."

"But you heard other voices in the next room--a man's voice--whilst
you were waiting?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then Renny Potter came back and gave you a message for your brothers.
This message they made you repeat, over and over again. How did it
go?" And as Mr. Landale frowningly looked at his paper, the boy
tremblingly repeated:

"I mun tell brothers Will an' Rob, that one or t'other mun watchen the
light o' nights, to-night, to-morrow night, an' ontil woord coom
again. If light go out they mun setten forth in they ketch thot
moment, fettled op for a two-three days' sailing. If wind is contrairy
like, they mun take sweeps. This for the master's service--for Sir
Adrian's service!"--amending the phrase with a sharp reading of the
blackness of Mr. Landale's swift upward look.

"Yes," murmured the latter after a pause. "And you were to tell no one
else. You were to keep it above all from getting to my ears. Very
good, Johnny. If you have spoken the truth, you are safe."

There was a special cell, off the official study, with high windows,
bolts and bars, and a wooden bench, for the temporary housing of such
desperate criminals as might be brought to the judgment of Rupert
Landale, Esquire, J.P. There he now disposed of the young offender who
snivelled piteously once more; and having locked the door and
pocketed the key, returned to his capacious arm-chair, where, as the
twilight waned over the land, he fell to co-ordinating his scheme and
gloating upon this unexpected turn of Fortune's wheel.

       *       *       *       *       *

At that hour Madeleine, alone in her chamber, knelt before her little
altar, wrestling with the rebellion of her soul and besieging the
heavens with a cry for peace.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sir Adrian having failed to hear aught of the _Peregrine_ at St. Malo,
filled with harassing doubt about its fate but clutching still at
hope--as men will, even such pessimists as he--stood on the deck of
his homeward bound ship, straining his eyes in the dusk for the coast
line.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the peel, the beacon had just been lighted by René, in whose
company, up in his secluded turret, sat Captain Jack, smoking a pipe,
but so unusually silent as to have reduced even the loquacious
Frenchman to silence too. Below them Lady Landale, torn between the
dread of a final separation from the loadstar of her existence and the
gnawing anxiety roused in her bosom by Moggie's account of Mr.
Landale's watchfulness, was pacing the long book-lined room with the
restlessness of a caged panther.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the road from Lancaster to Pulwick a posse of riding officers and a
carriage full of hastily gathered preventive men were trotting on
their way to the Priory.



CHAPTER XXIX

THE LIGHT GOES OUT


The light of Scarthey had not been shining for quite an hour over the
wilderness, when Lady Landale, suddenly breaking the chain of her
restless tramp, ran to the door and called for Moggie.

There was so shrill a tone of anguish in the summons that the young
woman rushed into the room in trembling expectancy: yet it was to find
her mistress alone and the place undisturbed.

"Moggie," said Lady Landale, panting and pressing her hands upon her
side as if in the endeavour to control the beating of her heart,
"something is going to happen; I know it, I feel it! Tell Captain
Smith that I must speak to him, here, at once."

Infected by the terror upon her mistress's face, Madame Lapôtre flew
upon her errand; a moment later, Captain Jack entered the room and
stood before Lady Landale with a look of impatient inquiry.

"Oh, it is wicked, it is mad!" cried she passionately; "it is tempting
God to remain here!"

"Of whom are you speaking?" he asked, with an involuntary glance of
contempt at the distracted figure. "If it is of yourself, I entirely
concur. How often these last days, and how earnestly have I not begged
of you to return to Pulwick? Was not the situation you placed me in
with regard to Adrian already odious enough that it needed this added
folly? Oh, I know--I know what you would say: spare it me. My safety?
You fear for me? Ah, Lady Landale, that you could have but left me in
peace!"

He had waxed hot with anger from his first would-be calmness, as he
spoke. This dismal life of close but inharmonious proximity, started
upon the seas and continued under his absent friend's own roof had
tried his impetuous temper to the utmost. Upon the morrow of their
return he had, indeed, exercised all his powers of persuasion to
induce Lady Landale to proceed to the Priory; but, impelled by her
frantic dread of the separation, and entrenching herself behind the
argument that her mysterious re-appearance would awaken suspicion
where people would otherwise believe the _Peregrine_ still in foreign
parts, she had declared her irrevocable determination not to quit the
island until she knew him to be safe. And he had remained, actuated by
the dual desire, first to exonerate himself personally in her
husband's eyes from any possible suspicion of complicity in Molly's
flight--the bare thought of which had become a horrible torment to
him--then to encompass through that good friend's means an interview
and full explanation with Madeleine, which not only the most ordinary
precaution for his life, but likewise every instinct of pride forbade
him now to seek himself.

Thus began a state of affairs which, as the days succeeded each other
without news of Sir Adrian, became every moment more intolerable to
his loyalty. The inaction, the solitary hours of reflection; the
maddening feeling of unavailing proximity to his heart's dearest, of
impotency against the involving meshes of the present false and
hateful position; all this had brought into the young man's soul a
fever of anger, which, as fevers will, consumed him the more fiercely
because of his vigour and strength.

It was with undisguised hatred and with scorn immeasurable that he now
surveyed the woman who had degraded him in his own eyes. At another
time Molly might have yielded before his resentment, but at this hour
her whole being was encompassed by a single thought.

"It is for you--for you!" she repeated with ashen lips; "you must go
before it is too late."

"And is it not too late?" stormed he. "Too late, indeed, do I see my
treachery to Adrian, my more than brother! Upon my ship I could not
avoid your company, but here--Oh, I should have thought of him and not
of myself, and done as my honour bade me! You are right; since you
would not go, I should have done so. It was weak; it was mad; worse,
worse--dishonourable!"

But she had no ears for his reproaches, no power to feel the wounds
he dealt her woman's heart with such relentless hand.

"Then you will go," she cried. "Tell René, the signal."

He started and looked at her with a different expression.

"Have you heard anything; has anything happened?" he asked, recovering
self-restraint at the thought of danger.

"Not yet," she replied, "not yet, but it is coming."

Her look and voice were so charged with tragic force that for the
moment he was impressed, and, brave man though he was, felt a little
cold thrill run down his spine. She continued, in accents of the most
piercing misery:

"And it will have been through me--it will have been through me! Oh,
in mercy let me make the signal! Say you will go to-night."

"I will go."

There followed a little pause of breathless silence between them. Then
as, without speaking, he would have turned away, a loud, peremptory
knock resounded upon the door of the keep and echoed and re-echoed
with lugubrious reverberation through the old stone passages around
them.

At first, terror-stricken, her tongue clave to her palate, her feet
were rooted to the ground; then with a scream she flung herself upon
him and would have dragged him towards the door.

"They have come--hide--hide!"

He threw up his head to listen, while he strove to disengage himself.
The blood had leaped to his cheek, and fire to his eye. "And if it be
Adrian?" he cried.

Another knock thundered through the still air.

"It is but one man," cried René from his tower down the stairs. "You
may open, Moggie."

"No--no," screamed Molly beside herself, and tighter clasped her arms
round Captain Jack's neck.

"Adrian, it is Adrian!" said he. "Hush, Madam, let me go! Would you
make the breach between me and my friend irreparable?"

Both his hands were on her wrists in the vain endeavour to disengage
himself from her frenzied grip; the door was flung open and Rupert
Landale stood in the opening, and looked in upon them.

"Damnation!" muttered Jack between his teeth and flung her from him,
stamping his foot.

Rupert gazed from one to the other; from the woman, who, haggard and
dishevelled, now turned like a fury upon him, to the sailor's fierce
erect figure. Then he closed the door with an air of grave
deliberation.

"What do you want?" demanded Molly--"you have come here for no good
purpose. What do you want?"

As she spoke she strove to place herself between the two men.

"I came, my dear sister-in-law," said Rupert in his coldest, most
incisive voice, "to learn why, since you have come back from your
little trip, you choose to remain in the ruins rather than return to
your own house and family. The reason is clear to see now. My poor
brother!"

The revulsion of disappointment had added to the wrath which the very
sight of Rupert Landale aroused in Jack Smith's blood; this
insinuation was the culminating injury. He took a step forward.

"Have a care, sir," he exclaimed, "how you outrage in my presence the
wife of my best friend! Have a care--I am not in such a hurry to leave
you as when last we met!"

Mr. Landale raised his eyebrows, and again sent a look from Molly back
to the sailor, the insolence of which lashed beyond all control the
devils in the sailor's soul.

"We have an account to settle, it seems to me, Mr. Landale," said he,
taking another step forward and slightly stooping his head to look the
other in the eye. Crimson fury was in his own. "I doubt much whether
it was quite wise of you, assuming that you expected to find me here,
to have come without that pistolling retinue with which you provided
yourself last time."

Rupert smiled and crossed his arms. Cowardice was no part of his
character. He had come in advance of his blood-hounds, in part to
assure himself of the correctness of his surmises, but also to feast
upon the discomfiture of this man and this woman whom he hated. To
have found them together, and thus, had been an unforeseen and
delicious addition to his dish of vengeance, and he would linger over
it while he could.

"Well, Captain Smith, and about this account? Lady Landale, I beg of
you, be silent. You have brought sufficient disgrace upon our name as
it is. Nay, sir," raising his voice, "it is useless to shake your head
at me in this furious style; nothing can alter facts. _I saw._ Who has
an account to demand then--you, whose life is already forfeit for an
accumulation of crimes; you, screened by a conspiracy of bribed
servants and ... your best friend's wife, as you dare call your
paramour; or I, in my brother's absence the natural guardian of his
family, of his honour? But I am too late. One sister I saved from the
ignominy you would have brought upon her. The other I could not save."

With a roar Jack Smith would have sprung at the speaker; but, once
more, his friend's wife rushed between.

"Let him speak," she cried, "what matter what he says? But
you--remember your promise. I will make the signal."

The signal! The mask of Rupert's face, sternly and sadly rebuking, was
not proof against the exquisite aptness of this proposal. His men
outside were waiting for the signal, surrounding the island from land
and seaward, (for the prey was not to be allowed to escape them
again); but how to make it without creating suspicion had not yet
suggested itself to his fertile brain. Now, while he held her lover in
play, Molly would herself deliver him to justice. Excellent,
excellent! Truly life held some delightful jokes for the man of
humour!

The light of triumph came and went upon his countenance like a flash,
but when the life hangs upon the decision of a moment the wits become
abnormally sharp. Jack Smith saw it, halted upon his second headlong
onslaught, and turned round.--Too late: Molly was gone. He brought his
gaze back upon his enemy and saw he had been trapped.

Their gleams met like duelling blades, divining each other's purpose
with the rapidity of thrust answering thrust. Both made a leap for the
door. But Rupert was nearest; he first had his hand on the key and
turned it, and, with newly-born genius of fight, suddenly begotten of
his hatred, quickly stooped, eluded the advancing grasp, was free for
one second, and sent the key crashing through the window into the
darkness of the night.

Baffled by the astounding swiftness of the act, the sailor, wheeling
round, had already raised his fist to crush his feebler foe, when, in
the midst of his fury, a glimmer of the all-importance of every second
of time stayed his hand. He threw himself upon the heavy ladder that
rested against Sir Adrian's rows of books, and, clasping it by the
middle, swung it above his head. The battering blow would, no doubt,
have burst panel, lock, and hinges the next instant, but again Rupert
forestalled him, and charged him before the door could be reached.

Overbalanced by the weight he held aloft, Captain Jack was hurled down
headlong beneath the ladder, and lay for a moment stunned by the
violence of the fall.

When the clouds cleared away it was to let him see Rupert's face
bending over him, his pale lips wreathed into a smile of malignant
exultation.

"Caught!" said Mr. Landale, slowly, pausing over each word as though
to prolong the savour of it in his mouth, "caught this time! And it is
your mistress's hand that puts the noose round your neck. That is what
I call poetical justice."

The prostrate man, collecting his scattered wits and his vast
strength, made a violent effort to spring to his feet. But Rupert's
whole weight was upon him, his long thin fingers were gripping him by
each shoulder, his face grinned at him, close, detested, infuriating.
The grasp that held him seemed to belong to no flesh and blood, it was
as the grasp of skeleton hands, the grinning face became like a
death's head.

"I shall come to your hanging, Captain Jack Smith, or rather, Mr.
Hubert Cochrane of the Shaws."

These were the last words of Rupert Landale. A red whirl passed
through the sailor's brain, his hands fell like lashes round the
other's neck and drew it down. _If Hubert Cochrane dies so does Rupert
Landale: that throat shall never give sound to that name again._

Over and over they roll like savage beasts, but yet in deathly
silence. For the pressure of the fingers on his gullet, fingers that
seem to gain fresh strength every moment and pierce into his very
flesh, will not allow even a sigh to pass Rupert's lips, and Jack can
spare no atom of his energy from the fury of fight: not one to spare
even for the hearing of the frantic knocks at the door, the calls,
the hammering at the lock, the desperate efforts without to prise it
open.

_But if Rupert Landale must die so shall Hubert Cochrane, and by the
hangman's hand, treble doomed by this._ The same thought fills both
these men's heads; the devil of murder has possession of both their
souls. But, true to himself to the last, it is with Rupert a
calculating devil. The officers must soon be here: he will hold the
scoundrel yet with the grasp of death, and his enemy shall be found
red-handed--red-handed!

His hatred, his determination of vengeance, the very agony of the
unequal struggle for life gave him a power that is almost a match for
the young athlete in his frenzy.

The dying efforts of his victim tax Jack's strength more than the
living fight; but his hands are still locked in their fatal clutch
when at last, with one fearful and spasmodic jerk, Rupert Landale
falls motionless. Then exhaustion enwraps the conqueror also, like a
mantle. He, too, lies motionless with his cheek on the floor, face to
face with the corpse, dimly conscious of the voluptuousness of
victory. But the dead grasp still holds him by the wrists, and it
grows cold now, and rigid upon them. It is as if they were fettered
with iron.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lady Landale's dread of her once despised kinsman, now that she knew
what a powerful weapon he held in his hands, this night, was almost
fantastic.

As she darted from the room, she fell against René, who, with a white
face and bent ear, stood at the door, eavesdropping, ready to rush to
the help of Sir Adrian's friend upon the first hint of necessity. But
he had heard more than he bargained for.

The scared, well-nigh agonised look of inquiry with which he turned to
his mistress was lost upon her. In her whirlwind exit, she seized upon
him and dragged him with her to the ladder that led to the tower.

"Quick, René, the signal!"

And with the birdlike swiftness of a dream flight she was up the steps
before him.

Panting in her wake, ran the sturdy fellow, his brain seething in a
chaos of conflicting thought. Mr. the Captain must be helped, must be
saved: this one thing was clear at any rate. His honour would wish it
so--no matter what had happened. Yes, he would obey My Lady and make
the signal. But, what if Mr. Landale were right? Not indeed in his
accusation of Mr. the Captain, René knew, René had seen enough to
trust him: he was no false friend; but as regarded My Lady? Alas! My
Lady had indeed been strange in her manner these days; and even
Moggie, as he minded him now, even Moggie had noticed, had hinted, and
he had not understood.

The man's fingers fumbled over the catch of the great lantern, he
shook as if he had the palsy. Goodness divine, if his master were to
come home to this!

Impatiently Lady Landale pushed him upon one side. What ailed the
fellow, when every second was crucial, life or death bringing?
Medusa-like for one second her face hung, white-illumined, set into
terrible fixity, above the great flame, the next instant all was
blackness to their dazzled eyes. The light of Scarthey was out!

She groped for René; her hot fingers burnt upon his cold rough hand
for a second.

"I will go down to the sands," she said, whispering as if she feared,
even here, the keenness of Rupert's ear, "and you--hurry to him, stop
with him, defend him, your master's friend!"

She flitted from him like a shadow, the ladder creaked faintly beneath
her light footfall, and then louder beneath his weighty tread.

His master's friend!

Ay, he would stand by him, for his master's sake and for his own sake
too--the good gentleman!--And they would get him safe out of the way
before his honour's return.

       *       *       *       *       *

Out upon the beach ran Molly.

It was a mild still night; through veils of light mist the moon shone
with a tranquil bride-like grace upon the heaving palpitating waters
and the mystery of the silent land.

A very night for lovers, it seemed; for sweet meetings and sweeter
partings; a night that mocked with its great passionless calm at the
wild anguish of this woman's impatience. Yet a night upon which sound
travelled far. She bent her ear--was there nothing to hear yet,
nothing but the lap of the restless waters? Were those men false?

She rushed to and fro, from one point to another along the sands in a
delirium of impotent desire.

Oh, hurry, hurry, hurry!

And as she turned again, there, upon the waters out in the offing,
glimmered a light, curtseying with the swell of the waves; the sails
of a ship caught the moonbeams. She could see the vessel plainly and
that it was bearing full for the island. Alas! This might scarcely be
the little Shearman boat manned by two fishermen only; even she,
unversed in sea knowledge could tell that. It was as large as the
_Peregrine_ itself--certainly as large as the cutter.

The _cutter_!

She caught her breath, and clapped her hands to her lips to choke down
the wild scream of fear that rose to them.

At the same instant, a dull thud of oars, a subdued murmur of a deep
voice rose from the other side of the island.

They were coming, coming from the landward, these rescuers of her
beloved. And yonder, with swelling canvas, came the hell ship from out
the open sea, sent by Rupert's infernal malice and cleverness, to make
their help of no avail; to seize him, in the very act of flight.

She ran in the direction of the sound, and with all her strength
called upon the new-comers to speed.

"Here--here, for God's sake! Hasten or it will be too late!"

Her voice seemed to her, in the midst of the endless space, weak as a
child's; but it was heard.

"Coming!" answered a gruff shout from afar. And the oar beat came
closer, and fell with swifter rhythm. Stumbling, catching in her
skirts, careless of pool or stone beneath her little slippered feet,
Lady Landale came flying round the ruins: a couple of boats crashed in
upon the shingle, and the whole night seemed suddenly to become alive
with dark figures--men in uniform, with gleams upon them of brass
badges and shining belts, and in their hands the gleam of arms.

For the moment she could not move. It was as if her knees were giving
way, and she must fall.

None of them saw her in the shadow; but as they passed, she heard them
talking to each other about the signal, the signal which they had been
told to look for, which had been brought to them ... the signal _she_
had made. Then with a wave of rage, the power of life returned to her.
This was Rupert's work! But all was not lost yet. The other boat was
coming, the other boat must be the rescue after all; the Shearman's
boat, or--who knows?--if there was mercy in Heaven, the _Peregrine_,
whose crew might have heard of their captain's risk.

Back she raced to the seaward beach, hurling--unknowing that she spoke
at all--invectives upon her husband's brother.

"Serpent, blood-hound, devil, devil, you shall not have him!"

As she reached the landing-place, breathless, a boat was landing in
very truth. Even as she came up a tall figure jumped out upon the
sand, and crunched towards her with great strides.

She made a leap forward, halted, and cried out shrilly:

"Adrian!"

"Molly--wife! Thank God!" His arms were stretched out to her, but he
saw her waver and shudder from him, and wring her hands. "My God, what
has happened? The light out, too! What is it?"

She fastened on him with a sudden fierceness, the spring of a wild
cat.

"Come," she said, drawing him towards the peel, "if you would save
him, lose not a second."

He hesitated a moment, still; she tugged at him like one demented,
panting her abjurations at him, though her voice was failing her.
Then, without a word, he fell to running with her towards the keep,
supporting her as they went.

The great door had swung back on its hinges, and the men were
pressing, in a dark body, into the dim-lit recesses, when Sir Adrian
and his wife reached the entrance.

The sight of the uniforms only confirmed the homecomer in his own
forebodings anent the first act of the drama that was being enacted
upon his peaceful island. He needed no further pushing from the
frantic woman at his side. Lost in bringing her back, perhaps, his
only friend! Lost by his loyalty and his true friendship!

They dashed up the stone stairs just as the locked door of the
living-room burst with a crash, under the efforts of many stalwart
shoulders; they saw the men crush forwards, and fall back, and herd on
again, with a hoarse murmur that leaped from mouth to mouth.

And René came running out from the throng with the face of one that
has seen Death. And he caught his mistress by the arm, and held her by
main force against the wall. He showed no surprise at the sight of his
master--there are moments in life that are beyond surprise--but cried
wildly:

"She must not see!"

She fought like a tigress against the faithful arms, but still they
held her, and Sir Adrian went in alone.

A couple of men were dragging Captain Jack to his feet, forcing his
hands from the dead man's throat; it seemed as if they had grown as
rigid and paralysed in their clasp like the corpse hands that had now,
likewise, to be wrenched from their clutch of him.

He glanced around, as though dazed, then down at the disfigured purple
face of his dead enemy, smiled and held out his hands stiffly for the
gyves that were snapped upon them.

And then one of the fellows, with some instinctive feeling of decency,
flung a coat over the slain man, and Captain Jack threw up his head
and met Adrian's horror-stricken, sorrowful eyes.

At the unexpected sight he grew scarlet; he waved his fettered hands
at him as they hustled him forth.

"I have killed your brother, Adrian," he called out in a loud voice,
"but I brought back your wife!"

Some of the men were speaking to Sir Adrian, but drew back
respectfully before the spectacle of his wordless agony.

But, as Molly, with a shriek, would have flung herself after the
prisoner, her husband awoke to action, and, pushing René aside, caught
her round the waist with an unyielding grip: his eyes sought her face.
And, as the light fell on it, he understood. Aye, she had been brought
back to him. But how?

And René, watching his master's countenance, suddenly burst out
blubbering, like a child.



CHAPTER XXX

HUSBAND AND WIFE

    Tout comprendre--
      c'est tout pardonner.


Staring straight before her with haggard, unseeing eyes, her hands
clasped till the delicate bones protruded, her young face lined into
sudden agedness, grey with unnatural pallor, framed by the black
masses of her dishevelled hair, it was thus Sir Adrian found his wife,
when at length he was free to seek her.

He and René had laid the dead man upon the bed that had been occupied
by his murderer, and composed as decently as might be the hideous
corpse of him who had been the handsomest of his race. René had given
his master the tale of all he knew himself, and Sir Adrian had ordered
the boat to be prepared, determined to convey Lady Landale at once
from the scene of so much horror. His own return to Pulwick, moreover,
to break the news to Sophia, to attend to the removal of the body and
the preparation for the funeral was of immediate necessity.

As he approached his wife she raised her eyes.

"What do you want with me?" she asked, with a stony look that arrested
him, as he would gently have taken her hand.

"I would bring you home."

"Home!" the pale lips writhed in withering derision.

"Yes, home, Molly," he spoke as one might to a much-loved and
unreasonable sick child--with infinite tenderness and compassion--"your
own warm home, with your sister. You would like to go to Madeleine,
would not you?"

She unclasped her hands and threw them out before her with a savage
gesture of repulsion.

"To Madeleine?" she echoed, with an angry cry; and then wheeling
round upon him fiercely: "Do you want to kill me?" she said, between
her set teeth.

Sir Adrian's weary brow contracted. He paused and looked at her with
profoundest sorrow.

Then she asked, hoarsely:

"Where have they taken him to?"

"To Lancaster, I believe."

"Will they hang him?"

"I pray God not."

"There is no use of praying to God, God is merciless. What will they
do to him?"

"He will be tried, Molly, in due course, and then, according to the
sentence of the judges.... My poor child, control yourself, he shall
be defended by the best lawyers that money can get. All a man can do
for another I shall do for him."

She shot the sombre fire of her glance at him.

"You know that I love him," she said, with a terrible composure.

A sudden whiteness spread round Sir Adrian's lips.

"Poor child!" he said again beneath his breath.

"Yes, I love him. I always wanted to see him. I was sick and tired of
life at Pulwick, and that was why I went on board his ship. I went
deliberately because I could not bear the dulness of it all. He
mistook me for Madeleine in the dark--he kissed me. Afterwards I told
him that I loved him. I begged him to take me away with him, for ever.
I love him still, I would go with him still--it is as well that you
should know. Nothing can alter it now. But he did not want me. He
loves Madeleine."

The words fell from her lips with a steady, cruel, deliberateness. She
kept her eyes upon him as she spoke, unpityingly, uncaring what
anguish she inflicted; nay, it seemed from some strange perversity,
glad to make him suffer.

But hard upon a man as it must be to hear such a confession from his
wife's lips, doubly hard to such a one as Adrian, whose heart bled for
her pain as well as for his own, he held himself without departing for
a second from his wonted quiet dignity. Only in his earnest gaze upon
her there was perhaps, if possible, an added tenderness.

But she, to see him so unmoved, was moved herself to a sudden scorn.

What manner of man was this, that not love, nor jealousy, nor anger
had power to stir?

"And now what will you do with me?" she asked him again, with superb
contempt on eye and lip. "For a guilty wife I am to you, as far as the
will could make me, and I have no claim upon you any more."

"No claim upon me!" he repeated, with a wonder of grief in his voice.
"Ah, Molly, hush child! You are my wife. The child of the woman I
loved--the woman I love for her own sake. You can no more put yourself
out of my life now than you can out of my heart; had you been as
guilty in deed as you may have been in purpose my words would be the
same. Your husband's home is your home, my only wish to cherish and
shelter you. You cannot escape my care, poor child, and some day you
may be glad of it. My protection, my countenance you will always have.
God! who am I that I should judge you? Is there any sin of human
frailty that a human being dare condemn? Guilty? What is your guilt
compared to mine for bringing you to this, allying my melancholy age
with your bright youth?"

He fell into the chair opposite to her and covered his face with his
hands. As, for a minute's space, his self-control wavered, she watched
him, wearily. Her heat of temper had fallen from her very quickly; she
broke into a moan.

"Oh, what does it matter? What does anything matter now? I love him
and I have ruined him--had it not been for me he would be safe!"

After a little silence Sir Adrian rose. "I must leave you now, I must
go to Pulwick," he said. His heart was yearning to her, he would have
gathered her to his arms as a father his erring child, but he
refrained from even touching her. "And you--what would you do? It
shall be as you like."

"I would go to Lancaster," she said.

"The carriage shall be sent for you in the morning and Renny and his
wife shall go with you. I will see to it. After Rupert's funeral--my
God, what a night this has been!--I will join you, and together we
shall work to save his life."

He paused, hesitated, and was about to turn away when suddenly she
caught his hand and kissed it.

He knew she would as readily have kissed René's hand for a like
promise; that her gratitude was a pitiable thing for him, her husband,
to bear; and yet, all the way, on his sad and solitary journey to
Pulwick, the touch of her lips went with him, bringing a strange
sweetness to his heart.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a vast deal of wonder in the county generally, and among the
old friends of his father's house in particular, when it became known
that Sir Adrian Landale had engaged a noted counsel to defend his
brother's murderer and was doing all he could to avert his probable
doom. In lowered tones were whispered strange tales of Lady Landale's
escapade. People wagged wise and virtuous heads and breathed
scandalous hints of her power upon her infatuated husband; and then
they would tap their foreheads significantly. Indeed it needed all the
master of Pulwick's wide-spread reputation for mental unsoundness to
enable him to carry through such proceedings without rousing more
violent feelings. As it was, it is to be doubted whether his
interference had any other effect than that of helping to inflame the
public mind against the prisoner.

The jury's verdict was a foregone conclusion; and though the learned
lawyer duly prepared a very fine speech and pocketed some monstrous
fees with a great deal of complaisance, he was honest enough not to
hold out the smallest hope of being able to save his client.

The conviction was too clear, the "crimes" the prisoner had committed
were of "too horrible and bloody a character, threatening the very
foundations of society," to admit of a merciful view of the case.

As the trial drew near, Sir Adrian's despondency increased; each day
seemed to bring a heavier furrow to his brow, an added weight to his
lagging steps. He avoided as much as possible all meetings with his
wife, who, on the contrary, recovered stronger courage with the flight
of time, but whose feverish interest in his exertions was now
transferred to some secret plans that she was for ever discussing with
René. The prisoner himself showed great calmness.

"They will sentence me of course," he said quietly to Adrian, "but
whether they will hang me is another question. I don't think that my
hour has come yet or that the cord is twisted which will hang Jack
Smith."

In other moods, he would ridicule Sir Adrian's labours in his cause
with the most gentle note of affectionate mockery. But, from the
desire doubtless to save one so disinterested and unworldly from any
accusation of complicity, he was silent upon the schemes on which he
pinned his hopes of escape.

The first meeting of the friends after the scene at Scarthey had been,
of course, painful to both.

When he entered the cell, Adrian had stretched out his hand in
silence, but Captain Jack held his own pressed to his side.

"It is like you to come," he said gloomily, "but you cannot shake the
hand that stifled your brother's life out of him. And I should do it
again, Adrian! Mark you, I am not repentant!"

"Give me your hand, Jack," said Adrian steadfastly. "I am not of those
who shift responsibility from the dead to the living. You were
grievously treated. Oh, give me your hand, friend, can I think of
anything now but your peril and your truth to me?"

For an instant still the younger man hesitated and inquiringly raised
his eyes laden with anxious trouble, to the elder man's face.

"My wife has told me all," said Sir Adrian, turning his head to hide
his twitching lip.

And then Jack Smith's hand leaped out to meet his friend's upon an
impulse of warm sympathy, and the two faced each other, looking the
words they could not utter.

       *       *       *       *       *

The year eighteen hundred and fifteen which delivered England at last
from the strain of outlandish conflict saw a revival of official
activity concerning matters of more homely interest. The powers that
were awoke to the necessity, among other things, of putting a stop by
the most stringent means to the constant and extensive leakage in the
national revenue proceeding from the organisation of free traders or
smugglers.

After twenty years of almost complete supineness on the part of the
authorities, the first efforts made towards a systematic "Preventive"
coast service, composed of customs, excise and naval officials in
proportion varied according to the localities, remained singularly
futile. And to the notorious inability of these latter to cope with
the experience and the devilish daring of the old established free
traders, was due no doubt to the ferocity of the inquisitional laws
presently levelled against smuggling and smugglers--laws which
ruthlessly trenched upon almost every element of the British subjects'
vaunted personal freedom, and which added, for the time, several new
"hanging cases" to the sixty odd already in existence.

That part of the indictment against Captain Jack Smith and the other
criminals still at large, which dealt with their offences against the
smuggling act, would in later times have broken down infallibly from
want of proper evidence: not a tittle of information was forthcoming
which could support examination. But a judge of assizes and a jury in
1815, were not to be baulked of the necessary victim by mere
circumstantiality when certain offences against society and against
His Majesty had to be avenged; and the dispensers of justice were less
concerned with strict evidence than with the desirability of making
examples. Strong presumption was all that was required to them to hang
their man; and indeed the hanging of Captain Jack upon the other and
more serious counts than that of unlawful occupation, was, as has been
said, a foregone conclusion. The triple charge of murder being but too
fully corroborated.

Every specious argument that could be mooted was of course put forward
by counsel for the defence, to show that the death of the preventive
men and of Mr. Landale on Scarthey Island and the sinking of the
revenue cutter must be looked upon, on the one hand, as simple
manslaughter in self-defence, and as the result of accidental
collision, on the other. But, as every one anticipated, the charge of
the judge and the finding of the jury demanded strenuously the extreme
penalty of the law. Besides this the judge deemed it advisable to
introduce into the sentence one of those already obsolete penalties of
posthumous degradation, devised in coarser ages for the purpose of
making an awful impression upon the living.

"Prisoner at the bar," said his lordship at the conclusion of the last
day's proceedings, "the sentence of the law which I am about to pass
upon you and which the court awards is that you now be taken to the
place whence you came, and from thence, on the day appointed, to the
place of execution, there to be hanged by the neck until you be dead,
dead, dead. And may God have mercy on your soul!"

Captain Jack, standing bolt upright, with his eyes fixed upon the
speaker, calm as he ever had been when awaiting the enemy's broadside,
hearkened without stirring a muscle. But when the judge, after
pronouncing the last words with a lingering fulness and
impressiveness, continued through the heavy silence: "And that, at a
subsequent time, your body, bound in irons, shall be suspended upon a
gibbet erected as near as possible to the scenes of your successive
crimes, and shall there remain as a lasting warning to wrong-doers of
the inevitable ultimate end of such an evil life as yours," a wave of
crimson flew to the prisoner's forehead, upon which every vein swelled
ominously.

He shot a glance of fury at the large flabby countenance of the
righteous arbiter of his doom, whilst his hands closed themselves with
an involuntary gesture of menace. Then the tide of anger ebbed; a
contemptuous smile parted his lips. And, bowing with an air of light
mockery to the court, he turned, erect and easy, to follow his turnkey
out of the hall.



CHAPTER XXXI

IN LANCASTER CASTLE


All that his friendship for the condemned man, all that his love and
pity for his almost distracted wife, could suggest, Sir Adrian Landale
had done in London to try and avert Captain Jack's doom. But it was in
vain. There also old stories of his peculiar tenets and of his
well-known disaffection to the established order of things, had been
raked up against him. Unfavourable comparisons had been drawn between
him and Rupert; surprise and disapproval had been expressed at the
unnatural brother, who was displaying such energy to obtain mercy for
his brother's murderer. Finally an influential personage, whom Sir
Adrian had contrived to interest in the case, in memory of an old
friendship with his father, informed the baronet that his persistence
was viewed with extreme disfavour in the most exalted quarter, and
that His Royal Highness himself had pronounced that Captain Jack was a
damned rascal and richly deserved his fate.

From the beginning, indeed, the suppliant had been without hope.
Though he was resolved to leave no stone unturned, no possibility
untried in the effort to save his friend, well-nigh the saddest part
of the whole business to him was the realisation that the prisoner had
not only broken those custom laws (of which Sir Adrian himself
disapproved as arbitrary) but also, as he had been warned, those other
laws upon which depend all social order and security; broken them so
grievously that, whatever excuses the philosopher might find in heat
of blood and stress of circumstances, given laws at all, the sentence
could not be pronounced otherwise than just.

And so, with an aching heart and a wider horror than ever of the cruel
world of men, and of the injustices to which legal justice leads, Sir
Adrian left London to hurry back to Lancaster with all the speed that
post-horses could muster. The time was now drawing short. As the
traveller rattled along the stony streets of the old Palatine town,
and saw the dawn breaking, exquisite, primrose tinted, faintly
beautiful as some dream vision over the distant hills, his soul was
gripped with an iron clutch. In three more days the gallant heart,
breaking in the confinement of the prison yonder, would have throbbed
its last! And he longed, with a desire futile but none the less
intense, that, according to that doctrine of Vicarious Atonement
preached to humanity by the greatest of all examples, he could lay
down his own weary and disappointed life for his friend.

Having breakfasted at the hotel, less for the necessity of food than
for the sake of passing the time till the morning should have worn to
sufficient maturity, he sought on foot the quiet lodgings where he had
installed his wife under René's guard before starting on his futile
quest. Early as the hour still was--seven had but just rung merrily
from some chiming church clock--the faithful fellow was already astir
and prompt to answer his master's summons.

One look at the latter's countenance was sufficient to confirm the
servant's own worst forebodings.

"Ah, your honour, and is it indeed so. _Ces gredins!_ and will they
hang so good a gentleman?"

"Hush, Renny, not so loud," cried the other with an anxious look at
the folding-doors, that divided the little sitting-room from the inner
apartment.

"Oh, his honour need have no fear. My Lady is gone, gone to Pulwick.
His honour need not disquiet himself; he can well imagine that I would
not allow her to go alone--when I had been given a trust so precious.
No, no, the old lady, Miss O'Donoghue, your honour's aunt and her
ladyship's, she has heard of all these terrible doings, and came to
Lancaster to be with My Lady. _Ma foi_, I know not if she be just the
person one would have chosen, for she has scolded a great deal, and is
as agitated--as agitated as a young rabbit. But, after all, she loves
the poor young lady with all her heart, and I think she has roused her
a little. His honour knows," said the man, flushing to the roots of
his hair, whilst he shifted nervously from one foot to another, "that
My Lady has been much upset about the poor captain. After his honour
went, she would sit, staring out of the window there, just where the
street turns up to the castle, and neither ate nor slept, nor talked
to speak of. Of course, as I told the old Demoiselle, I knew it was
because My Lady had taken it to heart about the signal that she
made--thinking to save him--and which only brought the gabelous on
him, that his honour's infernal brother (God forgive me, and have
mercy on his soul) had set to watch. And My Lady liked to see me
coming and going, for she sent me every day to the prison; she did not
once go herself."

Sir Adrian drew a long breath. With the most delicate intuition of his
master's thoughts, René avoided even a glance at him while he
continued in as natural a tone as he could assume:

"But the day after the old miss came, she, My Lady, told me to find
out if he would see her. He said no; but that the only kindness any
one could do him now would be to bring him Mademoiselle Madeleine, and
let him speak to her once more. And My Lady, when she heard this, she
started off that day with the old one to fetch Mademoiselle herself at
Pulwick. And she left me behind, your honour, for I had a little plan
there."

René faltered and a crestfallen look crept upon his face.

Sir Adrian remembered how before his departure for London his servant
had cheerily assured him that Mr. the Captain would be safe out of the
country long before he returned, "faith of him, René, who had already
been in two prisons, and knew their ways, and how to contrive an
escape, as his honour well knew." A sad smile parted his lips.

"And so you failed, Renny," he said.

"Ah, your honour, those satanic English turnkeys! With a Frenchman,
the job had been done; but it is a bad thing to be in prison in
England. His honour can vouch I have some brains. I had made plans--a
hundred plans, but there was ever something that did not work. The
captain, he too, was eager, as your honour can imagine. My faith, we
thought and we thought, and we schemed and contrived, and in the end,
there was only one thing to complete our plot--to bribe the jailer.
Would your honour believe--it was only that one little difficulty. My
Lady had given me a hundred guineas, I had enough money, your honour
sees. But the man--I had smoked with him, drunk with him, ay, and made
him drunk too, and I thought all was going well, but when I hinted to
him what we wanted--Ah! he was a brute--I tell you I had hard work to
escape the prison myself, and only for my leaving him with some of the
money, I should now be pinched there too. I hardly dare show my face
in the place any more. And my poor Lady builds on the hope, and Mr.
the Captain--I had to tell him, he took it like an angel. Ah, the poor
gentleman! He looked at me so brave and kind! 'I am as grateful, my
poor friend, as if you had done it,' said he, 'and perhaps it is all
for the best.' All for the best--ah, your honour!"

René fairly broke down here, and wept on his sleeve. But Sir Adrian's
eyes, circled and worn with watching and thought, shone dry with a far
deeper grief, as, a few moments later, he passed along the street
towards the walls of the castle.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was in those days little difficulty in obtaining admission to a
condemned prisoner; and, in the rear of the red-headed, good-tempered
looking jailer--the same, he surmised, whose sternness in duty had
baffled the Breton's simple wiles--he stepped out of the sweet morning
sunshine into the long stone passages. The first tainted breath of the
prison brought a chill to his blood and oppression to his lungs, and
the gloom of the place enveloped him like a pall.

With a rattle of keys a door dismally creaking on its hinges was swung
back at last, and the visitor was ushered into the narrow cell, dark
for all its whitewashed walls, where Captain Jack was spending his
last hours upon earth. The hinges groaned again, the door slammed, and
the key once more grated in the lock. Sir Adrian was alone with his
friend.

For a moment there was silence; the contraction of the elder man's
heart had brought a giddiness to his brain, a dimness of his eyes,
through which he was ill able to distinguish anything.

But then there was a clank of fetters--ah, what a sound to connect
with lucky Jack Smith, the gayest, freest, and most buoyant of men!
And a voice cried:

"Adrian!"

It had a joyful ring, well-nigh the old hearty tones. It struck Adrian
to the soul.

He could have borne, he thought, to find his friend a broken man,
changed out of all recognition, crushed by his misfortunes; but to
find him the same, a little pale, indeed, and thinner, with a steady
earnestness in the sea-blue eyes instead of the old dancing-light, but
still gallant and undaunted, still radiating vigorous life and breezy
energy by his very presence, this was a cruelty of fate which seemed
unendurable.

"I declare," the prisoner had continued, "I declare I thought you were
only the incorruptible jailer taking his morning survey. They are
desperately careful of me, Adrian, and watch me with maternal
solicitude lest I should strangle myself with my chains, these pretty
bracelets which I have had to wear ever since poor Renny was found
out, or swallow my pillow--dash me! it's small enough--and spoil the
pretty show for Saturday! Why, why, Adrian, old friend?"

There was a sudden change of tone to the warmest concern, for Sir
Adrian had staggered and would have fallen had not Jack, as nimbly as
his fetters would allow him, sprung to support him and conduct him to
the bed.

A shaft of light struck through the tiny barred window on to the elder
man's face, and showed it against the surrounding darkness deathly
white and wet with anguish.

"I have done all I could, Hubert," he murmured, in an extinguished
voice, "but to no avail."

"Ay, man, I guessed as much. But never fret for me, Adrian: I have
looked death too often in the face to play the poltroon, now. I don't
say it's the end I should have chosen for myself; but it is
inevitable, and there is nothing, as you know, my friend, that a man
cannot face if he knows it must be faced."

The grasp of his strong warm hands, all manacled as they were, upon
the other's nerveless clammy fingers, sent, more than the words,
something of the speaker's own courage to his friend's wrung heart.
And yet that very courage was an added torment.

That from a community, so full of evil, feeble, harmful wretches, this
noble soul, no matter how it had sinned, should be banished at the
bidding of justice--what mockery of right was this? The world was out
of joint indeed. He groaned aloud.

"Nay, I'll have none of it," cried Jack. "Our last talk, Adrian, must
not be spoiled by futile regrets. Yes, our last talk it is to be,
for"--the prisoner's face became transfigured with a tenderness so
exquisite that Adrian stared at its beauty, amazed--"I have begged
her, Madeleine, to come and see me once more. I think she can be here
to-day, at latest to-morrow. And after that I would not see any of
those I love again, that I may fit myself to meet my God."

He spoke with the utmost simplicity. Adrian bowed his head silently.
Then averting his eyes, he said: "My wife has gone to Pulwick to fetch
her."

Captain Jack crimsoned. "That is kind," he answered, in a low voice;
and, after a pause, pursued: "I hope you do not think it wrong of me
to wish to see her. But you may trust me. I shall distress her as
little as is possible in the circumstances. It is not, as you can
fancy"--his face flushed again as he spoke--"to indulge in a pathetic
parting scene, or beg from her sweet lips one last kiss--that would be
too grossly selfish, and however this poor body of mine, so soon to be
carrion, may yearn to hold her once more closely, these lips, so soon
to touch death, shall touch hers no more. I have risen so far above
this earthliness, that in so many hours I am to shake off for ever,
that I can trust myself to meet her soul to soul. She must believe me
now, and I would tell her, Adrian, that my deceit was not
premeditated, and that the man she once honoured with her love is not
the base wretch she deems. I think it may comfort her. If she does
mourn for me at all--she has so proud a spirit, my princess, as I used
to call her--it may comfort her to know that I was not all unworthy of
the love she once gave me, of the tears she may yet give to its memory
and mine."

Sir Adrian pressed his hand, but again could not speak, and Captain
Jack went on:

"You will give her a happy home, will you not, till she has one of her
own? You and your old dragon of an aunt, whose bark is so much worse
than her bite, will watch and guard her. Ah, poor old lady! she is one
of those that will not weep for Jack Smith, eh, Adrian? Well, well, I
have had a happy life, barring one or two hard raps of fate, and when
only I have seen Madeleine once more, I'll feel all taut for the port,
though the passage there be a rough one."

Sir Adrian turned his gaze with astonishment upon him. The sailor read
his thoughts:

"Don't think," he said, while a sudden shadow crossed his face, "don't
think that I don't realise my position, that I have not had to fight
my battle. In the beginning I had hopes; never in the success of
your mission, but, absurd as it was, in Renny's scheme. The good
fellow's own hopefulness was infectious, I believe. And when that
fell through--well then, man, I just had to make up my mind to what
was to be. It was a battle, as I told you. I have been in danger
of death many a time upon the brave old _St. Nicholas_, and my
_Cormorant_--death from the salt sea, from musket ball and cannon
shot, fearful deaths of mangling and hacking. But death on the
gallows, the shameful death of the criminal; to be hung; to be
executed--Pah! Ay! it was a battle--two nights and one day I fought
it. And I tell you, 'tis a hard thing to bring the living flesh and
the leaping blood to submit to such as that. At first I thought
indeed, it could not be borne, and I must reckon upon your or Renny's
friendship for a secret speed. I should have had the pluck to starve
myself if need be, only I am so damned strong and healthy, I feared it
could not have been managed in the time. At any rate, I could have
dashed my brains out against the wall--but I see it otherwise now. The
prison chaplain, a good man, Adrian, has made me realise that it would
be cowardly, that I should accept my sentence as atonement, as
deserved--I _have_ deserved to die."

It had been Sir Adrian's own thought; but he broke out now in
inarticulate protest. It seemed too gross, too monstrous.

"Yes, Adrian, I have. You warned me, good friend, in your peaceful
room--ah, how long ago it seems now! that night, when all that could
make life beautiful lay to my hand for the taking. Oh, man, why did I
not heed you! You warned me: he who breaks one law will end by
breaking many. You were right. See the harm I wreaked--those poor
fellows, who were but doing their duty bravely, whose lives I
sacrificed without remorse! Your brother, too, whose soul, with the
most deliberate vindictiveness, I sent before its Maker, without an
instant's preparation! A guilty soul it was; for he hounded me down,
one would almost think for the sport of it.... God! when I think that,
but for him, for his wanton interference--but there, the devils are
loose again! I must not think on him. Do I not deserve my fate, if the
Bible law be right? 'He who sheds blood, his blood shall be shed.'
Never was sentence more just. I have sinned, I have repented; I am now
ready to atone. I believe the sacrifice will be accepted."

He laid his hand, for a minute, upon the Bible on the table, with a
significant gesture.

But Sir Adrian, the philosopher, though he could find no words to
impeach the logic of his friend's reasoning, and was all astir with
admiration for a resignation as perfect as either Christian or Stoic
could desire, found his soul rising in tumultuous rebellion against
the hideous decree. The longing that had beset him in the dawn, now
seized upon him with a new passion, and the cry escaped his lips
almost unwittingly:

"Oh, if I could die for you!"

"No, no," said Jack, with his sweet smile, "your life is too valuable,
too precious to the world. Adrian, believe me, you can still do much
good with it. And I know you will be happy yet."

It was the only allusion he had made to his friend's more personal
sorrows. Before the latter had time to reply, he hastened to proceed:

"And now to business. All the gold entrusted to me lies at Scarthey
and, faith, I believe it lies as weightily on my mind as if it was all
stored there instead! Renny knows the secret hiding-place. Will you
engage to restore it to its owners, in all privacy? This is a terribly
arduous undertaking, Adrian, and it is asking much of your friendship;
but if I know you, not too much. And it will enable my poor bones to
lie at rest, or rather," with a rueful laugh, "hang at rest on their
gibbet; for you know I am to be set up as a warning to other fools,
like a rat on a barn door. I have, by the kindness of the chaplain,
been able to write out a full schedule of the different sums, and to
whom they are due. He has taken charge of the closed packet directed
to you, and will give it to you intact, I feel sure. He is a man of
honour, and I trust him to respect the confidence I have placed in
him.... Egad! the poor old boys will be right glad to get their coin
back in safety. A couple of them have been up here already, to
interview me, in fear and trembling. They were hard set to credit me
when I assured them that they would be no losers in the end, after
all--barring the waiting. You see, I counted upon you."

"I shall never rest until it is done," said Sir Adrian, simply. And
Captain Jack as simply answered: "Thank you. Among the treasure there
is also £10,000 of my own; the rest of my laboriously acquired fortune
is forfeit to the Crown, as you know--much good may it do it! But this
little hoard I give to you. You do not want it, of course, and
therefore it is only to be yours that you may administrate it in
accordance to my wishes. Another charge--but I make no apology. I wish
you to divide it in three equal shares: two to be employed as you see
best, for the widows and families of those poor fellows of the
preventive service, victims of my venture; the third, as well as my
beautiful _Peregrine_, I leave to the mate and men who served me so
faithfully. They have fled with her, and must avoid England for some
time. But Renny will contrive to hear of them; they are bound to
return in secret for tidings, and I should like to feel that the
misery I have left behind me may be mitigated.... And now, dear
Adrian, that is all. The man outside grows impatient. I hear him
shuffling his keys. Hark! there he knocks; the fellow has a certain
rude feeling for me. An honest fellow. Dear Adrian, good-bye."

"My God! this is hard--is there nothing else--nothing--can indeed all
my friendship be of no further help?--Hubert!"

"Hush, hush," cried Jack Smith hastily, "Adrian, you alone of all
living beings now know me by that name. Never let it cross your lips
again. I could not die in peace were it not for the thought that I
bring no discredit upon it. My mother believes me dead--God in His
mercy has spared me the crowning misery of bringing shame to her white
hairs--shame to the old race. Hubert Cochrane died ten years ago.
Jack Smith alone it is that dies by the hangman's hand. One other,"
his voice softened and the hard look of pain left his face, "one other
shall hear the secret besides you--but I know she will never speak of
it, even to you--and such is my wish."

It was the pride of race at its last and highest expression.

There was the sound, without, of the key in the lock.

"One last word--if you love me, nay, as you love me--do not be there
on Saturday! This parting with you--the good-bye to her--that is my
death. Afterwards what happens to this flesh," he struck at himself
with his chained hands, "matters no more than what will happen to the
soulless corpse. I know you would come to help me with the feeling of
your love, your presence--but do not--do not--and now good-bye!"

Adrian seized his friend by the hands with a despairing grip, the door
rolled back with its dismal screech.

The prisoner smiled at him with tender eyes. This man whom, all
unwillingly he had robbed of his wife's heart, was broken with grief
that he could not save the life that had brought him misery. Here was
a friend to be proud of, even at the gate of death!

"God be with you, dear Adrian! God bless you and your household, and
your children, and your children's children! Hear my last words: _From
my death will be born your happiness, and if its growth be slow, yet
it will wax strong and sure as the years go by_."

The words broke from him with prophetic solemnity; their hands fell
apart, and Adrian, led by the jailer, stumbled forth blindly. Jack
Smith stood erect, still smiling, watching them: were Adrian to turn
he should find no weakness, no faltering for the final remembrance.

But Adrian did not turn. And the door closed, closed upon hope and
happiness and life, shut in shame and death. Out yonder, with Adrian,
was the fresh bright world, the sea, the sunshine, the dear ones; here
the prison smells, the gloom, the constraint, the inflicted dreadful
death. All his hard-won calm fled from him; all his youth, his immense
vitality woke up and cried out in him again. He raised his hands and
pulled fiercely at his collar as if already the rope were round his
neck strangling him. His blood hammered in his brain. God--God--it
was impossible--it could not be--it was a dream!

Beyond, from far distant in the street came the cry of a little child:

"Da-da--daddy."

The prisoner threw up his arms and then fell upon his face upon the
bed, torn by sobs.

Yes, Adrian would have children; but Hubert Cochrane, who, from the
beautiful young brood that was to have sprung from his loins would
have grafted on the old stock a fresh and noble tree, he was to pass
barren out of life and leave no trace behind him.



CHAPTER XXXII

THE ONE HE LOVED AND THE ONE WHO LOVED HIM


On the evening of the previous day Lady Landale and her Aunt had
arrived at Pulwick. The drive had been a dismal one to poor Miss
O'Donoghue. Neither her angry expostulations, nor her tender
remonstrances, nor her attempts at consolation could succeed in
drawing a connected sentence from Molly, who, with a fever spot of red
upon each cheek only roused herself from the depth of thought in which
she seemed plunged to urge the coachman to greater speed. Miss
O'Donoghue tried the whole gamut of her art in vain, and was obliged
at last to desist from sheer weariness and in much anxiety.

Madeleine and Sophia were seated by the fireside in the library when
the unexpected travellers came in upon them. Sophia, in the blackest
of black weeds, started guiltily up from the volume of "The Corsair,"
in which she had been plunged, while Madeleine, without manifesting
any surprise, rose placidly, laid aside her needlework--a coarse
flannel frock, evidently destined for charity--and bestowed upon her
sister and aunt an affectionate though unexpansive embrace.

She had grown somewhat thinner and more thoughtful-looking since Molly
and she had last met, on that fatal 15th of March, but otherwise was
unchanged in her serene beauty. Molly clutched her wrist with a
burning hand, and, paying not the slightest attention to the other
two, nor condescending to any preamble, began at once, in hurried
words to explain her mission.

"He has asked for you, Madeleine," she cried, her eyes flaming with
unnatural brilliance as they sought her sister's mild gaze. "He has
asked for you, I will take you back with me, to-morrow, not later than
to-morrow. Don't you understand?" shaking her impatiently as she held
her, "he is in prison, condemned to death, he has asked for you, he
wants to see you. On Saturday--on Saturday----" Something clicked in
her throat, and she raised her hand to it with an uneasy gesture, one
that those who surrounded her had grown curiously familiar with of
late.

Madeleine drew away from her at this address, the whole fair calm of
her countenance troubled like a placid pool by the casting of a stone.
Clasping her hands and looking down: "I saw that the unfortunate man
was condemned," she said. "I have prayed for him daily, I trust he
repents. I am truly sorry for him. From my heart I forgive him the
deception he practised upon me. But----" a slight shudder shook her,
"I could not see him again--surely you could not wish it of me."

She spoke with such extreme gentleness that for a minute the woman
before her, in the seething turmoil of her soul, failed to grasp the
meaning of her words.

"You could not go!" she repeated in a bewildered way, "I could not
wish it of you--!" then with a sort of shriek which drew Tanty and
Miss Sophia hurriedly towards her, "Don't you understand--on
Saturday--if it all fails, they will hang him?"

"A-ah!" exclaimed Madeleine with a movement as if to ward off the
sound--the cry, the gesture expressive, not of grief, but of shrinking
repugnance. But after a second, controlling herself:

"And what should that be now, sister, to you or to me?" she said
haughtily.

Lady Landale clapped her hands together.

"And this is the woman he loves!" she cried with a shrill laugh. And
she staggered, and sank back upon a chair in an attitude of utter
prostration.

"Molly, Molly," exclaimed her sister reprovingly, while she glanced in
much distress at Miss O'Donoghue, "you are not yourself; you do not
know what you are saying."

"Remember," interposed Sophia in tragic tones, "that you are speaking
of the murderer of my beloved brother." Then she dissolved in tears,
and was obliged to hide her countenance in the folds of a vast
pocket-handkerchief.

"Killing vermin is not murder!" cried Molly fiercely, awakening from
her torpor.

Miss O'Donoghue, who in the most unwonted silence had been watching
the scene with her shrewd eyes, here seized the horrified Sophia by
the elbow and trundled her, with a great deal of energy and
determination, to the door.

"Get out of this, you foolish creature," she said in a stern whisper,
"and don't attempt to show your nose here again till I give it leave
to walk in!" Then returning to the sisters, and looking from Molly's
haggard, distracted face to Madeleine's pale one: "If you take my
advice, my dear," she said, a little drily, to the latter, "you will
not make so many bones about going to see that poor lad in the prison,
and you'll stop wrangling with your sister, for she is just not able
to bear it. We shall start to-morrow, Molly," turning to Lady Landale,
and speaking in the tone of one addressing a sick child, "and
Madeleine will be quite ready as early as you wish."

"My dear aunt," said Madeleine, growing white to the lips, "I am very
sorry if Molly is ill, but you are quite mistaken if you think I can
yield to her wishes in this matter. I could not go; I could not; it is
impossible!"

"Hear her," cried the other, starting from her seat. "Oh, what are you
made of? Is it water that runs in your veins? you that he loves"--her
voice broke into a wail--"you who ought to be so proud to know he
loves you even though your heart be broken! You refuse to go to him,
refuse his last request!... Come to the light," she went on, seizing
the girl's wrists again; "let me look at you. Bah! you never loved
him. You don't even understand what it is to love.... But what could
one expect from you, who abandoned him in the moment of danger. You
are afraid; afraid of the painful scene, the discomfort, the sight of
the prison, of his beautiful face worn and changed--afraid of the
discredit. Oh! I know you, I know you. But mind you, Madeleine de
Savenaye, he wishes to see you, and I swore you would go to him, and
you shall go, if I have to drag you with these hands of mine."

Her grip was so fierce, her eyes so savage, the words so strange, that
Madeleine screamed faintly, "She is mad!" and was amazed that Miss
O'Donoghue did not rush to the rescue!

But Miss O'Donoghue, peering at her from the depths of her arm-chair,
merely said snappishly: "Ah, child, can't you say you will go, and
have done! Oughtn't you to be ashamed to be so hard-hearted?" and
mopped her perspiring and agitated countenance with her kerchief. Then
upon the girl's bewildered mind dawned a glimmer of the truth; and,
blushing to the roots of her hair, she looked at her sister with a
growing horror.

"Oh, Molly, Molly!" she said again, with a sort of groan.

"Will you go?" cried Molly from between her set teeth.

Again the girl shuddered.

"Less than ever--now," she murmured. And as Molly threw her from her,
almost with violence, she covered her face with her hands and fell,
weeping bitter tears, upon the couch behind her.

Lady Landale, with great steps, stormed up and down the room, her eyes
fixed on space, her lips moving; now and again a word escaped her
then, sometimes hurled at her sister, sometimes only in desperate
communing with herself.

"Base, cowardly, mean! Oh, my God, cruel--cruel! To go back without
her."

After a little, with a sudden change of mood, she halted and stood a
while, as if in deep reflection, holding her hand to her head, then
crossing the room hurriedly, she knelt down, and flung her arms round
the weeping figure.

"_Ma petite Madeleine_," she said in a voice of the most piteous
pleading, "thou and I, we were always good friends; thou canst not
have the heart to be so cruel to me now. See, my darling, he must die,
they say--oh, Madeleine, Madeleine! And he asked for you. The one
thing, he told René, the only thing we could do for him on earth was
to let him see you once more. My little sister, you cannot refuse: he
loves you. What has he done to offend you? Your pride cannot forgive
him for being what he is, I suppose; yet such as he is you should be
proud of him. He is too noble, too straightforward to have
intentionally deceived you. If he did wrong, it was for love of you.
Madeleine, Madeleine!"

Her tones trailed away into a moan.

Miss O'Donoghue sobbed loudly from her corner. Madeleine, who had
looked at her sister at first with repulsion, seemed moved; she
placed her hands upon her shoulders, and gazed sadly into the flushed
face.

"My poor Molly," she said hesitatingly, "this is dreadful! But I
too--I too was led into deceit, into folly." She blushed painfully. "I
would not blame you; it was not your fault that you were carried away
in his ship. You went only for my sake: I cannot forget that. Yet that
he should have this unhappy power over you too, you with your good
husband, you a married woman, oh, my poor sister, it is terrible! He
is a wicked man; I pray that he may yet repent."

"Heavens," interrupted Molly, her passion up in arms again, loosening
as she spoke her clasp upon her sister, and rising to her feet to look
down on her with withering scorn, "have I not made myself clear? Are
you deaf, stupid, as well as heartless? It is you--you--_you_ he
loves, _you_ he wants. What am I to him?" with a curious sob, half of
laughter, half of anguish. "Your pious fears are quite unfounded as
far as he is concerned--the wicked man, as you call him! Oh, he spurns
my love with as much horror as even you could wish!"

"Molly!"

"Ay--Molly, and Molly--how shocked you are! Yes, I love him, I don't
care who hears it. I love him--Adrian knows--he is not as virtuous as
you, evidently, for Adrian pities me. He is doing all he can, though
they say it is in vain, to get a reprieve for him--though I _do_ love
him! While you--you are too good, too immaculate even to soil your
dainty foot upon the floor of his prison, that floor that I could kiss
because his shoe has trod it. But it is impossible! no human being
could be so hard, least of all you, whom I have seen turn sick at the
sight of a dead worm--Madeleine----!"

Crouching down in the former imploring manner, while her breast heaved
with dry tearless sobs: "It cannot hurt you, you who loved him." And
then with the old pitiful cry, "it is the only thing he wants, and he
loves you."

Madeleine disengaged herself from the clinging hands with a gesture
almost of disgust.

"Listen to me," she said, after a pause, "try and compose yourself and
understand. All this month I have had time to think, to realise, to
pray. I have seen what the world is worth, that it is full of horror,
of sin, of trouble, of dreadful dissensions--that its sorrow far
outweighs its happiness. I _have_ suffered," her pretty lips quivered
an instant, but she hardened herself and went on, "but it is better
so--it was God's will, it was to show me where to find real comfort,
the true peace. I have quite made up my mind. I was only waiting to
see you again and tell you--next week I am going back to the convent
for ever. Oh, why did we leave it, Molly, why did we leave it!" She
broke down, and the tears gushed from her eyes.

Lady Landale had listened in silence.

"Well--is that all?" she said impatiently, when her sister ceased
speaking, while in the background Tanty groaned out a protest, and
bewailed that she was alive to see the day. "What does it matter what
you do afterwards--you can go to the convent--go where you will then;
but what has that to say to your visit to _him_ now?"

"I have done with all human love," said Madeleine solemnly, crossing
her hands on her breast, and looking upward with inspired eyes. "I did
love this man once," she answered, hardening herself to speak firmly,
though again her lips quivered--"he himself killed that love by his
own doing. I trusted him; he betrayed that trust; he would have
betrayed me, but that I have forgiven, it is past and done with. But
to go and see him now, to stir up in my heart, not the old love, it
could not be, but agitation, sorrow--to disturb this quietness of
soul, this calm which God has given me at last after so much prayer
and struggle--no, no--it would not be right, it cannot be! Moreover,
if I would, I could not, indeed I could not. The very thought of it
all, the disgrace, that place of sin and shame, of him in chains,
condemned--a criminal--a murderer!..."

A nervous shudder shook her from head to foot, she seemed in truth to
sicken and grow faint, like one forced to face some hideous nauseating
spectacle. "As for him," she went on in low, feeble tones, "it will be
the best too. God knows I forgive him, that I am sorry for him, that I
regret his terrible fate. But I feel it would be worse for him to see
me--if he must die, it would be wrong to distract him from his last
preparations. And it would only be a useless pain to him, for I could
not pretend--he would see that I despise him. I thought I loved a
noble gentleman, not one who was even then playing with crime and
cheating."

The faint passionless voice had hardly ceased before, with a loud cry,
Molly sprang at her sister as if she would have strangled her.

"Oh, unnatural wretch," she exclaimed, "you are not fit to live!"

Tanty rushed forward and dragged the infuriated woman away.

Madeleine rose up stiffly--swayed a moment as she stood--and then fell
unconscious to the ground.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next day in the dawn Lady Landale came into her sister's bedroom. Her
circled eyes, her drawn face bespeaking a sleepless night.

Madeleine was lying, beautiful and white, like a broken lily, in the
dim light of the lamp; Sophia, an unlovely spectacle in curl papers,
wizened and red-eyed from her night's watch, looked up warningly from
the arm-chair beside her. But Molly went unhesitatingly to the window,
pulled the curtains, unbarred the shutters, and then walked over to
the bed.

As she approached, Madeleine opened her blue eyes and gazed at her
beseechingly.

"There is yet time," said Molly in a hollow voice. "Get up and come
with me."

The wan face upon the pillow grew whiter still, the old horror grew in
the uplifted eyes, the wan lips murmured, "I cannot."

There was an immense strength of resistance in the girl's very
feebleness.

Molly turned away abruptly, then back again once more.

"At least you will send him a message?"

Madeleine drew a deep breath, closed her eyes a moment and seemed to
whisper a prayer; then aloud she said, while, like a shadow so faint
was it, a flush rose to her cheeks:

"Tell him that I forgive him, that I forgive him freely--that I shall
always pray for him." The flush grew deeper. "Tell him too that I
shall never be any man's bride, now."

She closed her eyes again and the colour slowly ebbed away. Molly
stood, her black brows drawn, gazing down upon her in silence.--Did
she love him after all? Who can fathom the mystery of another's heart?

"I will tell him," she answered at last. "Good-bye, Madeleine--I shall
never see you or speak to you again as long as I live."

She left the room with a slow, heavy step.

Madeleine shivered, and with both hands clasped the silver crucifix
that hung around her neck; two great tears escaped from her black
lashes and rolled down her cheeks. Miss Sophia moaned. She, poor soul,
had had tragedy enough, at last.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the jailer brought in the mid-day meal after Adrian's departure,
he found the prisoner seated very quietly at his table, his open Bible
before him, but his eyes fixed dreamily upon the space of dim
whitewashed wall, and his mind evidently far away.

Upon his guardian's entrance he roused himself, however, and begged
him, when he should return for the dish, to restore neatness to the
bed and to assist him in the ordering of his toilet which he wished to
be spick and span.

"For I expect a visitor," said Captain Jack gravely.

When in due course the fellow had carried out these wishes with the
surly good-nature characteristic of him, Jack set himself to wait.

The square of sky through his window grew from dazzling white to
deepest blue, the shadows travelled along the blank walls, the street
noises rose and fell in capricious gusts, the church bells jangled,
all the myriad sounds which had come to measure his solitary day
struck their familiar course upon his ear; yet the expected visitor
delayed. But the captain, among other things, had learnt to possess
his soul in patience of late; and so, as he slowly paced his cell
after his wont, he betrayed neither irritation nor melancholy. If she
did not come to-day, then it would be to-morrow. He had no doubt of
this.

The afternoon had waned--golden without, full of grey shadows in the
prison room--when light footfalls mingled with the well-known heavy
tread and jangle of keys, along the echoing passage.

There was the murmur of a woman's voice, a word of gruff reply, and
the next moment a tall form wrapped in a many-folded black cloak and
closely veiled, advanced a few steps into the room, while, as before,
the turnkey retired and locked the door behind him.

His heart beating so thickly that for the moment utterance was
impossible, Captain Jack made one hurried pace forward with
outstretched hands, only to check himself, however, and let them fall
by his side. He would meet her calmly, humbly, as he had resolved.

The woman threw back her veil, and it was Molly's dark gaze, Molly's
brown face, flushed and haggard, yet always beautiful, that looked out
of the black frame.

An ashen pallor spread over the prisoner's countenance.

"Madeleine?" he asked in a whisper; then, with a loud ring of stern
demand, "_Madeleine!_"

"I went for her, I went for her myself--I did all I could--she would
not come."

_She would not come!_

It is a sort of unwritten law that the supremely afflicted have the
right, where possible, to the gratification of the least of their
wishes. That Madeleine could refuse to come to him in his last
extremity, had never once crossed her lover's brain. He stood
bewildered.

"She is not ill?"

"Ill!" Lady Landale's red lips curved in scorn, "No--not ill--but a
coward!" She spat the word fiercely as if at the offender's face.

There fell a minute's silence, broken only by a few labouring
deep-drawn breaths from the prisoner's oppressed lungs. Then he stood
as if turned to stone, not a muscle moving, his eyes fixed, his jaw
set.

Molly trembled before this composure, beneath which she divined a
suffering so intense that her own frail barriers of self-restraint
were well-nigh broken down by a torrent of passionate pity.

But she braced herself with the feeling of the moment's urgency. She
had no time to lose.

"Hear me," she cried in low hurried tones, laying a hand upon his
folded arm and then drawing it away again as if frightened by the
rigid tension she felt there. "Waste no more thought on one so
unworthy--all is not lost--I bring you hope, life. Oh, for God's
sake, wake up and listen to me--I can save you still. Captain Smith,
Jack--_Jack!_"

Her voice rose as high as she dare lift it, but no statue could be
more unhearing.

The woman cast a desperate look around her; hearkened fearfully, all
was silent within the prison; then with tremulous haste she cast off
her immense cloak, pulled her bonnet from her head, divested herself
of her long full skirt and stood, a strange vision, lithe,
unconscious, unashamed, her slender woman's figure clad in complete
man's raiment, with the exception of the coat. Her dark head cropped
and curly, her face, with its fever-bloom, rising flower-like above
the folds of her white shirt.

With anxious haste she compared herself with the prisoner.

"René told me well," she said; "with your coat upon me none would tell
the difference in this dark room. I am nearly as tall as you too.
Thanks be to God that he made me so. _Jack_," calling in his ear,
"don't you see? Don't you understand? It is all quite easy. You have
only to put on these clothes of mine, this cloak, the bonnet comes
quite over the face; stoop a little as you go out and hold this
handkerchief to your face as if in tears. The carriage waits outside
and René. The rest is planned. I shall sit on the bed with your coat
on. It is a chance--a certainty. When I found René had failed, I swore
that I would save you yet. Ever since I came from Pulwick this morning
he and I have worked together upon this last plan. There is not a
flaw; it must succeed. Oh, God, he does not hear me! Jack--Jack!"

She shook him with a sort of fury, then, falling at his feet, clasped
his knees.

"For God's sake--for God's sake!"

He sighed, and again came the murmur:

"She would not come----" He lifted his hand to his forehead and looked
round, then down at her, as if from a great height.

She saw that he was aroused at last, sprang to her feet, and poured
out the details of the scheme again.

"I run no risk, you see. They would not dare to punish me, a
woman--Lady Landale--even if they could. Be quick, the precious
moments are going by. I gave the man some gold to leave us as long as
he could, but any moment he may be upon us."

"Poor woman," said Jack, and his voice seemed as far off as his gaze;
"see these chains."

She staggered back an instant, but the next, crying:

"The file--the file--that was why René gave it to me." She seized the
skirt as it lay at her feet, and, striving with agonised endeavours to
control the trembling of her hands, drew forth from its pocket a file
and would have taken his wrist. But he held his hands above his head,
out of her reach, while a strange smile, almost of triumph, parted his
lips.

"The bitterness of death is past," he said.

She tore at him in a frenzy, but, repulsed by his immobility, fell
again broken at his feet.

In a torrent of words she besought him, for Adrian's sake, for the
sake of the beautiful world, of his youth, of the sweetness of
life--in her madness, at last, for her own sake! She had ruined him,
but she would atone, she would make him happy yet. If he died it was
death to her....

When at length her voice sank away from sheer exhaustion, he helped
her to rise, and seated her on the chair; then told her quietly that
he was quite determined.

"Go home," said he, "and leave me in peace. I thank you for what you
would have done, thank you for trying to bring Madeleine," he paused a
moment. How purely he had loved her--and twice, twice she had failed
him. "Yet, I do not blame her," he went on as if to himself; "I did
not deserve to see her, and it has made all the rest easy. Remember,"
again addressing the woman whom hopelessness seemed for a moment to
have benumbed, "that if you would yet do me a kindness, be kind to
her. If you would atone--atone to Adrian."

"To Adrian?" echoed Molly, stung to the quick, with a pale smile of
exceeding bitterness. And with a rush of pride, strength returned to
her.

"I leave you resolved to die then?" she asked him, fiercely.

"You leave me glad to die," he replied, unhesitatingly.

She spoke no more, but got up to replace her garments. He assisted her
in silence, but as his awkward bound hands touched her she shuddered
away from him.

As she gathered the cloak round her shoulders again, there was a noise
of heavy feet at the door.

The jailer thrust in his rusty head and looked furtively from the
prisoner to his visitor as they stood silently apart from each other;
then, making a sign to some one whose dark figure was shadowed behind
him without, entered with a hesitating sidelong step, and, drawing
Captain Jack on one side, whispered in his ear.

"The blacksmith's yonder. He's come to measure you, captain, for them
there irons you know of--best get the lady quietly away, for he wunnut
wait no longer."

The prisoner smiled sternly.

"I am ready," he said, aloud.

"I'll keep him outside a minute or two," added the man, wiping his
brow, evidently much relieved by his charge's calmness. "I kep' him
back as long as I could--but happen it's allus best to hurry the
parting after all."

He moved away upon tiptoe, in instinctive tribute to the lady's
sorrow, and drew the door to.

Molly threw back her veil which she had lowered upon his entrance, her
face was livid.

"What is it?" she asked, articulating with difficulty.

"Nothing--a fellow to see to my irons."

He moved his hands as he spoke, and she understood him, as he had
hoped, to refer only to his manacles.

She drew a gasping breath. How they watched him! Yet all was not lost
after all.

"I will leave the file," she said, in a quick whisper; "you will
reflect; there is yet to-morrow," and rushed to hide it in his bed.
But he caught her by the arm, his patience worn out at length.

"Useless," he answered, harshly. "I shall not use it. Moreover, it
would be found, and I am sure it is not your wish to bring unnecessary
hardship upon my last moments. I should lose the only thing that is
left to me, the comfort of being alone. And to-morrow I shall see no
one."

The door groaned apart:

"Very sorry, mum," came the husky voice in the opening, "Time's up."

She turned a look of agony upon Captain Jack's determined figure. Was
this to be the end? Was she to leave him so, without even one kind
word?

Alas, poor soul! All her hopes had fallen to this--a parting word.

He was unpitying; his arms were folded; he made no sign.

She took a step away and swayed; the turnkey came forward
compassionately to lead her out. But the next instant she wheeled
round and stood alone and erect, braced up by the extremity of her
anguish.

"I _have_ a message," she cried, as if the words were forced from her.
"I could not make her come, but I made her send you a message. She
told me to say that she forgave you, freely; that she would always
pray for you. She bade me tell you too that she would never be any
man's bride now."

It had been like the rending of body and soul to tell him this. As she
saw the condemned man's face quiver and flush at last out of its
impassiveness, she thought hell itself could hold no more hideous
torment.

He extended his arms:

"Now welcome death!" he exclaimed.

And she turned and fled down the passage as though driven upon this
last cry.

       *       *       *       *       *

"E-h, he be a strange one!" said the jailer afterwards to his mate.
"If ye'd heard that poor lady sob as she went by! I've seen many a one
in the same case, but I was sore for her, I was that. And he--as
cool--joking with Robert over the hanging irons the next minute. 'New
sort of tailor I've got,' says he. 'Make them smart,' he says, 'since
I'm to wear them in so exalted a position.' So exalted a position,
that's what he says. 'And they've got to last me some long time, you
know,' says he."

"He'll be something worth looking at on Saturday. I could almost wish
he could ha' got off, only that it's a fine sight to see a real
gentleman go through it. Ah, it's they desperate villains has the
proper pluck!"



CHAPTER XXXIII

LAUNCHED ON THE GREAT WAVE


Sir Adrian made, at first personally, then through Miss O'Donoghue,
two attempts to induce his wife to return to Pulwick, or at any rate
to leave Lancaster on the next day. But the contempt, then the fury,
which she opposed to their reasoning rendered it worse than useless.

The very sight of her husband, indeed, seemed to exasperate the
unfortunate woman to such a degree that, in spite of his anxiety
concerning her, he resolved to spare her even to the consciousness of
his presence, and absented himself altogether from the house.

Miss O'Donoghue, unable to cope with a state of affairs at once so
distressing and so unbecoming, finally retired to her own apartment
with a book of piety and some gruel, and abandoned all further
endeavour to guide her unruly relations. So that Molly found herself
left to her own resources, in the guardianship of René, the only
company her misery could tolerate.

Three times she went to the castle, to be met each time with the
announcement that, by the express wish of the prisoner, no visitors
were to be admitted to him again. Then in restless wandering about the
streets--once entering the little chapel where the silent tabernacle
seemed, with its closed door, to offer no relenting to the stormy cry
of her soul, and sent her forth uncomforted in the very midst of
René's humble bead-telling, to pace the flags anew--so the terrible
day wore to a close for her; and so that night came, precursor of the
most terrible day of all.

The exhaustion of Lady Landale's body produced at last a fortunate
torpor of mind. Flung upon her bed she fell into a heavy sleep, and
Tanty who announced her intention of watching her, when René's
guardianship had of necessity to cease, had the satisfaction of
informing Adrian, as he crept into the house, like one who had no
business there, of this consoling fact before retiring herself to the
capacious arm-chair in which she heroically purposed to spend the
night.

The sun was bright in the heavens, there was a clatter and bustle in
the street, when Molly woke with a great start out of this sleep of
exhaustion. Her heart beating with heavy strokes, she sat up in bed
and gazed upon her surroundings with startled eyes. What was this
strange feeling of oppression, of terror? Why was she in this sordid
little room? Why was her hair cut short? Ah, my God! memory returned
upon her all too swiftly. It was for to-day--_to-day_; and she was
perhaps too late. She might never see him again!

The throbbing of her heart was suffocating, sickening, as she slipped
out of bed. For a moment she hardly dared consult the little watch
that lay ticking upon her dressing table. It was only a few minutes
past seven; there was yet time.

The energy of her desire conquered the weakness of her overwrought
nerves.

Noiselessly, so as to avoid awakening the slumbering watcher in the
arm-chair, but steadily, she clothed herself, wrapt the dark mantle
round her; and then, pausing for a moment to gaze with a fierce
disdain at the unconscious face of Miss O'Donoghue, which, with snores
emerging energetically and regularly from the great hooked nose,
presented a weird and witchlike vision in the frame of a nightcap,
fearfully and wonderfully befrilled, crept from the room and down the
stairs.

At René's door she paused and knocked.

He opened on the instant. From his worn face she guessed that he had
been up all night. He put his finger to his lips as he saw her, and
glanced meaningly towards the bed.

The words she would have spoken expired in a quick-drawn breath. Her
husband, with face of deathlike pallor and silvered hair abroad upon
the pillow, lay upon the poor couch, still in his yesterday attire,
but covered carefully with a cloak. His breast rose and fell
peacefully with his regular breath.

The scorn with which she had looked at Miss O'Donoghue now shot forth
a thousand times intensified from Molly's circled eyes upon the
prostrate figure.

"Asleep!" she cried.

And then with that incongruity with which things trivial and
irrelevant come upon us, even in the supremest moments of life, the
thought struck her sharply how old a man he was. Her lip curved.

"Yes, My Lady--asleep," answered René steadily--it seemed as if the
faithful peasant had read her to her soul. "Thank God, asleep. It is
enough to have to lose one good gentleman from the world this day. If
his honour were not sleeping at last, I should not answer for him--I
who speak to you. I took upon myself to put some of the medicine, that
he has had to take now and again, when his sorrows come upon him and
he cannot rest, into his soup last night. It has had a good effect.
His honour will sleep three or four hours still, and that, My Lady,
must be. His honour has suffered enough these last days, God knows!"

The wife turned away with an impatient gesture.

"Look, Madame, at his white hairs. All white now--they that were of a
brown so beautiful, all but a few locks, only a few months past! Well
may he look old. When was ever any one made to suffer as he has been,
in only forty years of life? Ah, My Lady, we were at least tranquil
upon our island!"

There was a volume of reproach in the quiet simplicity of the words,
though Lady Landale was too bent on her own purpose to heed them. But
she felt that they lodged in her mind, that she would find them there
later; but not now--not now.

"It is to be for nine o'clock, you know," she said, with desperate
calmness. "I must see him again. I must see him well. Alone I shall
not be able to get a good place in the crowd. Oh, I would see all!"
she added, with a terrible laugh.

René cast a glance at his master's placid face.

"I am ready to come with My Lady," he said then, and took his hat.

A turbulent, tender April day it was. Gusts of west wind, balmy and
sweet with all the sweet budding life of the fields beyond, came
eddying up the dusty streets and blowing merrily into the faces of the
holiday crowd that already pressed in a steady stream towards the
castle courtyard to see the hanging. In those days there were hangings
so many after assizes that an execution could hardly be said to
possess the interest of novelty. But there were circumstances enough
attending the forthcoming show to give it quite a piquancy of its own
in the eyes of the worthy Lancastrian burghers, who hurried with wives
and children to the place of doom, anxious to secure sitting or
standing room with a good view of the gallows-tree.

It was not every day, indeed, that a _gentleman_ was hanged. So
handsome a man, too, as the rumours went, and so dare-devil a fellow;
friend of the noble family of Landale, and a murderer of its most
respected member. Could justice ever have served up a spicier dish
whereon to regale the multitude?

First the courtyard, then, the walls, the roofs of the adjoining
houses, swarmed with an eager crowd. Every space of ground and slate
and tile, every ledge and window, was occupied. As thick as bees they
hung--men, women, and children; a sea of white faces pressed together,
each still, yet all as instinct with tremulous movement as a field of
corn in the wind; while the hoarse, indescribable murmur that seizes
one with so strange and fearsome an impression, the voice of the
multitude, rose and fell with a mighty pulsation, broken here and
there by the shriller cry of a child.

Overhead the sky, a delicious spring blue sky, flecked with tiny white
clouds, looked down like a great smile upon the crowd that laughed and
joked beneath.

No pity in heaven or on earth.

But as the felon came out into the air, which, warm and fickle, puffed
against his cheek, he cast one steady glance around upon the black
human hive and then looked up into the white flecked ether, without
the quiver of a nerve.

He drew the spring breath into his lungs with a grateful expansion of
his deep chest. How fresh it was! And the sky, how fair and blue!

As the eagerly expected group emerged from the prison door and was
greeted by a roar that curdled the blood in at least one woman's heart
there, an old Irish hag, who sat in a coign of vantage, hugging her
knees and crooning, a little black pipe held in her toothless jaws,
ceased her dismal hum to concentrate all her attention upon the
condemned man.

The creature was well known for miles around as a constant attendant
at such spectacles, and had become in the course of time a privileged
spectator. No one would have dreamt of disputing the first place to
old Judy. Since the day when, still a young woman, she had seen her
two sons, mere lads, hanged, the one for sheep-stealing, the other for
harbouring the booty, she had, by a strange freak of nature, taken a
taste for the spectacle of justice at work, and what had been the
cause of her greatest sorrow became the only solace of her life. Judy
and her pipe had become as familiar a figure at the periodical
entertainment as the executioner himself--more so, indeed, for she had
seen many generations of these latter, and could compare their styles
with the judgment of a connoisseur.

But as Captain Jack advanced, the pallor of his clean shorn, handsome
face illumined not so much by the morning sun without it seemed as by
the shining of the bright spirit within; as gallantly clad as he had
ever been, even in the old Bath days when he had been courting fair
Madeleine de Savenaye; his head proudly uplifted, his tread firm,
strong of soul, strong of body--some chord was struck in the perverted
old heart that had so long revelled in unholy and gruesome pleasure.
She drew the pipe from her lips, and broke out into screeching
lamentations.

"Oh, me boy, me boy, me beautiful boy! Is it hang him they will, and
he so beautiful and brave? The murthering villains, my curse on
them--a mother's curse--God's curse on them--the black murtherers!"

She scrambled to her feet, and shook her fist wildly in the face of
one of the sheriff's men.

A woman in the crowd, standing rigid and motionless, enveloped in
mourning robes, here suddenly caught up the words with a muttering
lip.

"Murderers, who said murderers? Don't they know who murdered him?
Murdering Moll, Murdering Moll!"

"For heaven's love, Madam," cried a man beside her, who seemed in such
anxiety concerning her as to pay little heed to the solemn procession
which was now attracting universal attention, "let me take you away!"

But she looked at him with a distraught, unseeing eye, and pulled at
the collar of her dress as if she were choking.

Old Judy's sudden expression of opinion created a small disturbance.
The procession had to halt; a couple of officials good-naturedly
elbowed her on one side.

But she thrust a withered hand expanded in protest over their
shoulders, as the prisoner came forward again.

"God bless ye, honey, God bless ye: it's a wicked world."

He turned towards her; for the last time the old sweet smile sprang to
lip and eye.

"Thank you, mother," he said, and raised his hand to his bare head
with courteous gesture.

The crowd howled and swayed. He passed on.

And now the end! There is the cart; the officers draw back to make way
for the man who is to help him with his final toilet. The chaplain,
too, falls away after wringing his hand again and again. Good man, he
weeps and cannot speak the sacred words he would. Why weep? We must
all die! How blue the sky is: he will look once more before drawing
down the cap upon his eyes. His hands are free, for he is to die as
like a gentleman as may be. Just the old blue that used to smile down
at him upon his merry _Peregrine_, and up at him from the dancing
waves. He had always thought he would have liked to die upon the sea,
in the cool fresh water ... a clean, brave death.

It is hard to die in a crowd. Even the very beasts would creep into
cave or bush to die decently--unwatched.

A last puff of sweeping wind in his face; then darkness, blind,
suffocating....

Ah, God is good! Here is the old ship giving and rising under his feet
like the living creature he always thought her, and here is dazzling
brilliant sunshine all around, so bright he scarce can see the free
white-crested waves that are dashing down upon him; but he is upon the
sea indeed, upon the sea alone, and the waves are coming. Hark how
they roar, see how they gather! The brave _Peregrine_ she dips and
springs, she will weather the breakers with him at the helm no matter
how they rear. On, on they come, mountain high, overwhelming, bitter
drenching.

A great wave in very truth, it gathers and breaks and onward rolls,
and carries the soul of Hubert Cochrane with it.

The woman in the black cloak falls as if she had been struck, and as
those around her draw apart to let her companion and another man lift
her and carry her away, they note with horror that her face is dark
and swollen, as if the cord that had just done its evil work yonder
had been tightened also round her slender throat.



CHAPTER XXXIV

THE GIBBET ON THE SANDS

    Woman! take up thy life once more
    Where thou hast left it;
    Nothing is changed for thee, thou art the same,
    Thou who didst think that all things
    Would be wholly changed for thee.

    _Luteplayer's Song._


Pulwick again. The whirlwind of disaster that upon that fatal
fifteenth of March had burst upon the house of Landale has passed and
swept away. But it has left deep trace of its passage.

The restless head, the busy hand, the scheming brain of Rupert Landale
lie now mouldering under the sod of the little churchyard where first
they started the mischief that was to have such far reaching effects.
Low, too, lies the proud head of the mistress of Pulwick, so stricken,
indeed, so fever-tortured, that those who love her best scarce dare
hope more for her than rest at last under the same earth that presses
thus lightly above her enemy's eternal sleep.

There is a great stillness in the house. People go to and fro with
muffled steps, the master with bent white head; Miss O'Donoghue,
indefatigable sick nurse; Madeleine, who may not venture as far as the
threshold of her sister's room, and awaits in prayer and tears the
hour of that final bereavement which will free her to take wing
towards the cloister for which her soul longs; Sophia, crushed finally
by the sorrows she has played at all her days. Seemingly there is
peace once more upon them all, but it is the peace of exhaustion
rather than that of repose. And yet--could they but know it, as the
sands run down in the hour-glass of time there are golden grains
gathering still to drop into the lives of each.

But meanwhile none may read the future, and Molly fights for her life
in the darkened room, the gloom of which, to the souls of the dwellers
at Pulwick, seems to spread even to the sunny skies without.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Lady Landale was brought back to her home from Lancaster, it was
held by every one who saw her that Death had laid his cold finger on
her forehead, and that her surrender to his call could only be a
matter of hours.

The physician in attendance could point out no reasonable ground for
hope. Such a case had never come within his experience or knowledge,
and he was with difficulty induced to believe that it was not the
result of actual violence.

"In every particular," said he, "the patient's symptoms are those of
coma resulting from prolonged strangulation or asphyxia. These
spectacles are very dangerous to highly sensitive organisations. Lady
Landale no doubt felt for the miserable wretch in the benevolence of
her heart. Imagination aiding her, she realised suddenly the horror of
his death throes, and this vivid realisation was followed by the
actual simulacrum of the torture. We have seen hysterical subjects
simulate in the same manner diverse diseases of which they themselves
are organically free, such as epilepsy, or the like. But Lady
Landale's condition is otherwise serious. She is alive; more I cannot
say."

According to his lights, he had bled the patient, as he would have
bled, by rote, to recall to life one actually cut down from the beam.
But, although the young blood did flow, bearing testimony to the fact
that the heart still beat in that deathlike frame, the vitality left
seemed so faint as to defy the power of human ministration.

The flame of life barely flickered; but the powers of youth were of
greater strength in the unconscious body than could have been
suspected, and gradually, almost imperceptibly, they asserted
themselves.

With the return of animation, however, came a new danger: fever,
burning, devastating, more terrible even than the almost mortal
syncope; that fever of the brain which wastes like the rack, before
which science stands helpless, and the watcher sinks into despair at
his impotence to screen a beloved sufferer from the horrible,
ever-recurring phantoms of delirium.

Had not Sir Adrian intuitively known well-nigh every act of the drama
which had already been so fatal to his house, Molly's frenzied
utterances would have told him all. Every secret incident of that
storm of passion which had desolated her life was laid bare to his
sorrowing heart:--her aspirations for an ideal, centred suddenly upon
one man; her love rapture cruelly baulked at every step; the consuming
of that love fire, resisting all frustration of hope, all efforts of
conscience, of honour; how her whole being became merged into that of
the man she loved and whom she had ruined, her life in his life, her
very breath in his breath. And then the lamentable, inevitable end:
the fearful confrontation with his death. Again and again, in never
ceasing repetition, was that fair, most dear body, that harrowed soul,
dragged step by step through every iota of the past torture, always to
fall at last into the same stillness of exhaustion--appalling image of
final death that wrung Adrian with untold agonies of despair.

For many days this condition of things lasted unaltered. In the
physician's own words it was impossible that life could much longer
resist such fierce onslaughts. But one evening a change came over the
spirit of the sufferer's vision.

There had been a somewhat longer interval between the paroxysms; Sir
Adrian seated as usual by the bed, waiting now with a sinking heart
for the wonted return of the frenzy, clamouring in his soul to heaven
for pity on one whom seemingly no human aid could succour, dared yet
draw no shadow of hope from the more prolonged stillness of the
patient. Presently indeed, she grew restless, tossed her arms,
muttered with parched lips. Then she suddenly sat up and listened as
if to some deeply annoying and disquieting sound, fell back again
under his gentle hands, rolling her little black head wearily from
side to side, only however to start again, and again listen. Thus it
went on for a while until the haunted, weary eyes grew suddenly
distraught with terror and loathing. Straining them into space as if
seeking something she ought to see but could not, she began to speak
in a quick yet distinct whisper:

"How it creaks, creaks--creaks! Will no one stop that creaking! What
is it that creaks so? Will no one stop that creaking!" And again she
placed her cheek on the pillow, covering her ear with her little,
wasted hand, and for a while remained motionless, moaning like a
child. But it was only to spring up again, this time with a cry which
brought the physician from the adjacent sleeping room in alarm to her
bedside.

"Ah, God," she shrieked, her eyes distended and staring as if into the
far distance through walls and outlying darkness. "I see it! They have
done it, they have done it! It is hanging on the sands--how it creaks
and sways in the wind! It will creak for ever, for ever.... Now it
spins round, it looks this way--the black face! It looks at _me_!" She
gave another piercing cry, then her frame grew rigid. With mouth open
and fixed eyeballs she seemed lost in the frightful fascination of the
image before her brain.

As, distracted by the sight of her torments, Adrian hung over her,
racking his mind in the endeavour to soothe her, her words struck a
chill into his very soul. He cast a terrified glance at the doctor who
was ominously feeling her pulse.

"There is a change," he faltered.

The doctor shrugged his shoulders.

"I have told you before," he retorted irritably, "that you should
attach no more importance to the substance of these delirious
wanderings than you would to the ravings of madness. It is the fact of
the delirium itself which must alarm us. She is less and less able to
bear it."

The patient moaned and shuddered, resisting the gentle force that
would have pressed her down on her pillow.

"Oh the creaking, the creaking! Will no one stop that creaking! Must I
hear it go on creak, creak, creak for ever, and see it sway and
sway.... Will no one ever stop it!"

Sir Adrian took a sudden resolution. "I will," he said, low and clear
into her ear. She sank down on the instant and looked at him, back
from her far distance, almost as if she understood him and the pitiful
cry for the help he would have given his heart's blood to procure for
her, was silent for the moment upon her lips.

"I will prepare an opiate," said the physician in a whisper.

"And I," said Sir Adrian to him, with a strange expression upon his
pale face, "am going to stop that creaking."

The man of medicine gazed after him with a look of intense
astonishment which rapidly changed to one of professional interest.

"It is evident that I shall soon have another mentally deranged
patient to see to," he remarked to himself as he rose to seek the
drugs he meant to administer.

Downstairs, Sir Adrian immediately called for René, and being informed
that he had left for the island early in the afternoon and had
announced his return before night, cast a cloak over his shoulders and
hurried forth in the hope of meeting him upon his homeward way. His
pulses were beating well-nigh as wildly as those of the fever stricken
woman upstairs in the house. He dared not pause to reflect on his
purpose, or seek to disentangle the confusion of his thoughts, for
fear of being confronted with the hopelessness of their folly. But the
exquisite serenity of the night sky, where swam the moon, "a silver
splendour;" the freshness of the sweeping breeze that dashed, keen
from the east, over the sea against his face; all the glorious
distance, the unconsciousness and detachment of nature from the fume
and misery of life, brought him unwittingly to a calmer mood.

He had reached the extreme confine of the pine wood, when, across the
sands that stretched unbroken to the lips of the sea, a figure
advanced towards him.

"Renny!" called Sir Adrian.

"Your honour!" cried the man, breaking into a run to meet him. O God!
how ghostly white looked the master's face in the moon-flood!

"My Lady----?"

"Not worse; yet not better--and that means worse now. But there is a
change. Renny," sinking his voice and clasping the man's sturdy arm
with clammy hand, "is it true they have placed him on the sands
to-day?"

The man stared.

"How did your honour know? Yes--they have done so. It is true: the
swine! not more than an hour, in verity. How could it have come so
soon to your honour's ears? This morning, indeed, they came from the
town in a cart, and planted the great gibbet on Scarthey Point, at low
water. And to-night they brought the body, all bound in irons, and
from a boat, for it was high tide, they riveted it on the chain. And
it is to remain for ever, your honour--so they say."

"Strange," murmured Sir Adrian to himself, gazing seaward with
awestruck eyes. "And did you," he asked, "hear its creaking, Renny, as
it swayed in the wind?"

Again René cast a quick glance of alarm at his master. The master had
a singular manner with him to-night! Then edging closer to him he
whispered in his ear:

"They say it is to hang for ever. There is a warning to those who
would interfere with this justice of theirs. But, your honour, there
came one to the island to-day, I do not know if your honour knows him,
the captain's second on that vessel of misfortune. And I believe, your
honour, the dawn will never see that poor, black body hanging over
yonder like a scarecrow, to spoil our view. This man, this brave
mariner, Curwen is his name, he is mad furious with us all! He has
just but come from hearing of his captain's fate, and he is ready to
kill us, that we let him be murdered without breaking some heads for
him. Faith, if it could have done any good, it is not I that would
have balanced about it! But, as I told him, there was no use running
one's own head into a loop of rope when that would please nobody but
Mr. the Judge. But he is not to be reasoned with. He is like a wild
animal. When I left him," said René, dropping his voice still lower,
"he was knocking a coffin together out of the old sea wood on
Scarthey. He said his captain would rest better in those boards that
were seasoned with salt water. And when I went away, your honour, and
left him hammering there--faith, I thought that the coffin was like to
be seasoned by another kind of salt water too."

His face twitched and the ready tears sprang to his own eyes which,
unashamed, he now wiped with his sleeve after his custom. But Sir
Adrian's mind was still drifting in distant ghastly companionship.

"How the wind blows!" he said, and shuddered a little. "How the poor
body must sway in the wind, and the chains creak."

"If it can make any difference to the poor captain he will lie in
peace to-night, please God," said René.

"Ay," said Sir Adrian, "and you and I, friend, will go too, and help
this good fellow in his task. I hope, I believe, that I should have
done this thing of my own thought, had I had time to think at all. But
now, more hangs upon those creaking chains than you can dream of. This
is a strange world--and it is full of ghosts to-night. But we must
hurry, Renny."

       *       *       *       *       *

Bound even to the tips of her burning little fingers by the spell of
the opiate, Lady Landale lay in the shadowed room as one dead, yet in
her sick brain fearfully awake, keenly alive.

At first it was as if she too was manacled in chains till she could
not move a muscle, could not breathe or cry because of the ring round
her breast; and she was hanging with the black figure, swaying, while
the rusty iron links went creak, creak, creak, with every swing to and
fro. Then suddenly she seemed to stand, as it were, out of herself and
to be seeing with the naked soul alone. And what she saw was the great
stretch of beach and sea, white, white, white, in the moonlight and
spreading, it seemed, for leagues and leagues, spreading till all the
world was only beach and sea.

But close to her in the whitest moonlight rose the great gibbet, gaunt
and black, cutting the pale sky in two and athwart; and hanging from
it was the black figure that swayed and swung. And though the winds
muttered and the waves growled, she could not hear them with the ears
of the soul, for that the whole of this great world of sea and sand
was filled with the creaking of the chains.

But now, across the bleak and pallid spaces came three black figures.
And, as she looked and watched and they drew nearer, the dreadful
burthen of the gibbet swung round as if to greet them, and she too,
felt in her soul that she knew them all three, though not by names, as
creatures of earth know each other, but by the kinship of the soul.
This man with hair as white as the white beach, hair that seemed to
shine silver as he came; and him yonder who followed him as a dog his
master; and yonder again the third, in the seaman's dress, with hard
face hewn into such rugged lines of grief and fury--she knew them all.
And next they reached the gibbet: and one swarmed up the black post,
and hammered and filed and prised, and then, oh merciful God! the
creaking stopped at last!

Now she could hear the wash of the waves, the rush of the wholesome
wind!

A mist came across her vision; faintly she saw the stiffened
disfigured corpse which yet she felt had once been something she had
loved with passion, laid reverently upon a stretcher, its irons
loosened and cast away, and then covered with a great cloak. Then the
sea, the beach, the white moon faded and waved and receded. Molly's
soul went back to her body again, while blessed tears fell one by one
from her hot eyes. She breathed; her limbs relaxed; round the tired
brain came, with a soft hush like that of gentle wings, dark oblivion.

Bending over her, for he was aware that for good or evil the crisis
was at hand, the physician saw moisture bead upon the suddenly
smoothed brow, heard a deep sigh escape the parted lips. And then with
a movement like a weary child's she drew her arms close and fell
asleep.

       *       *       *       *       *

Having laid his friend to his secret rest, deep in the rock of
Scarthey, where the free waves that his soul had revelled in would
beat till the world's end, Sir Adrian returned to Pulwick in the early
morning, spent with the long and heavy night's toil--for it had taxed
the strength of even three men to hollow out a grave in such a soil.
On the threshold he was greeted by the physician.

"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messengers of
glad tidings!" From afar, by the man's demeanour, he knew that the
tidings were glad. And most blessed they were indeed to his ears, but
to them alone not strange. Throughout every detail of his errand his
mind had dwelt rather with the living than the dead. What he had done,
he had done for her; and now, the task achieved, it seemed but natural
that the object for which it had been undertaken should have been
achieved likewise.

But, left once more with her, seeing her once more wrapt in placid
sleep, whom he had thought he would never behold at rest again save in
the last sleep of all, the revulsion was overpowering. He sat down by
her side, and through his tears gazed long at the lovely head, now in
its pallor and emaciation so sadly like that of his dead love in the
sorrowful days of youth; and he thanked heaven that he was still of
the earth to shield her with his devotion, to cherish her who was now
so helpless and bereft.

And with such tears and such thoughts came a forgetfulness of that
anguish which in him, as well as in her, had for so long been part of
actual existence.

When Tanty entered on tiptoe some hours later, she saw her niece
motionless upon her pillow, sleeping as easily and reposefully as a
child. And close to her head, Sir Adrian, reclining in the arm-chair,
asleep likewise. His arm was stretched limply over the bed and, on its
sleeve still stained with the red mud of the grave in Scarthey, rested
Lady Landale's little, thin, ivory-white fingers.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus ended Molly's brief but terrible madness.

"Then you have hope, real hope?" asked Sir Adrian, of the physician as
they met again that day in the gallery.

"Every hope," replied the man of science with the proud consciousness
of having, by his wisdom, pulled his patient out of the very jaws of
death. "Recovery is now but a question of a time; of a long time, of
course, for this crisis has left her weaker than the new-born babe.
Repose, complete repose, sleep: that is almost everything. And she
will sleep. Happily, as usual in such cases, Lady Landale seems to
have lost all memory. But I must impress upon you, Sir Adrian, that
the longer we can keep her in this state, the better. If you have
reason to believe that even the sight of _you_ might recall
distressing impressions, you must let me request of you to keep away
from the sick room till your wife's strength be sufficiently restored
to be able to face emotions."

This was said with a certain significance which called the colour to
Sir Adrian's cheek. He acquiesced, however, without hesitation; and,
banished from the place where his treasure lay, fell to haunting the
passages for the rest of the day and to waylaying the privileged
attendants with a humble resignation which would have been sorrowful
but for the savour of his recent relief from anguish.

But the next morning, Lady Landale, though too weak of body to lift a
finger, too weak of mind to connect a single coherent phrase,
nevertheless took the matter into her own hands, and proved that it is
as easy to err upon the side of prudence as upon its reverse.

Miss O'Donoghue, emerging silently from the room after her night's
vigil, came upon her nephew at his post, and, struck to her kind heart
by his wistful countenance, bade him with many winks and nods enter
and have a look at his wife.

"Don't make a sound," she whispered to him, "and then she won't hear
you. But, faith she's sleeping so well, it's my belief if you danced a
jig she would not stir a limb. Go in, child, go in. It's beautiful to
see her!"

And Adrian, pressed by his own longing, was unable to resist the
offer. Noiselessly he stepped across the forbidden threshold and stood
for a long time contemplating the sleeper in the dim light. As he was
about to creep out at length, she suddenly opened her eyes and fixed
them wonderingly upon him. Fearful of having done the cruel deed
against which he had been warned, he felt his heart contract and would
have rushed away, in an agony of self-accusation, when there occurred
what seemed to him a miracle.

A faint smile came upon the pale lips, and narrowed ever so little the
large sunken eyes. Yes; by all that was beautiful, it was a
smile--transient and piteous, but a smile. And for him!

As he bent forward, almost incapable of believing, the lips relaxed
again and the lids drooped, but she shifted her hands upon the bed,
uneasily, as if seeking something. He knelt, trembling, by her side,
and as with diffident fingers he clasped the wandering hands he felt
them faintly cling to his. And his heart melted all in joy. The man of
science had reasoned astray; there need be no separation between the
husband who would so dearly console, and the wife who needed help so
sorely.

For a long while he remained thus kneeling and holding her hands. It
seemed as though some of the life strength he longed to be able to
pour from himself to her, actually passed into her frame: as though
there were indeed a healing virtue in his all encompassing tenderness;
for, after a while, a faint colour came to the sunken cheeks. And
presently, still holding his hand, she fell once more into that
slumber which was now her healing.

After this it was found that the patient actually became fretful and
fevered again when her husband was too long absent from her side; and
thus it came to pass that he began to supersede all other watchers in
her room. Tanty in highest good humour, declared that her services
were no longer necessary, and volunteered to conduct Madeleine to the
Jersey convent, whither (her decision being irrevocable) it was
generally felt that it would be well for the latter to proceed before
her sister's memory with returning strength should have returned
likewise.

This memory, without which the being he loved would remain afflicted
and incomplete, yet upon the working of which so much that was still
uncertain must hinge--Sir Adrian at once yearned for, and dreaded it.

Many a time as he met the sweet and joyful greeting in those eyes
where he had grown accustomed to find nought but either mockery or
disdain, did he recall his friend's prophetic words: "Out of my death
will grow your happiness." Was there happiness indeed yet in store in
the future? Alas, happiness for them dwelt in oblivion; and, some day,
"remembrance would wake with all her busy train, and swell at _her_
breast," and then----

Meanwhile, however, the present had a sweetness of its own. There was
now free scope for the passion of devotedness which almost made up the
sum of this man's character--a character which, to the Molly of
wayward days, to the hot-pulsed, eager, impatient "Murthering Moll,"
had been utterly incomprehensible and uncongenial. And to the Molly
crushed in the direst battle of life, whom one more harshness of fate,
even the slightest, would have straightaway hurled back into the grave
that had barely been baulked of its prey, it gave the very food and
breath of her new existence.

Week after week passed in this guise, during which her natural
healthiness slowly but surely re-established itself; weeks that were
happy to him, in later life, to look back upon, though now full of an
anxiousness which waxed stronger as recovery drew nearer.

There was little talking between them, and that kept by him studiously
on subjects of purely ephemeral, childish interest. Her mind, by the
happy dispensation of nature which facilitates healing by all means
when once healing has begun, was blank to any impressions save the
luxury of rest, of passive enjoyment, indifferent to ought but the
passing present. She took pleasure in flowers, in the gambols of pet
animals, in long listless spells of cloud-gazing when the heavens were
bright, in the presence of her husband in whom she only saw a being
whose eyes were always beautiful with the light of kindness, whose
touch invariably soothed her when fatigue or irritation marred the
even course of her feelings.

She had ever a smile for him, which entered his soul like the radiance
of sunshine through a stormy sky.

Thus the days went by. Like a child she ate and slept and
chattered--irresponsible chatter that was music to his ear. She
laughed and teased him too, as a child would; till sad, as it was, he
hugged the incomplete happiness to his heart with a dire foreboding
that it might be all he was to know in life.

But one evening, in sudden freak, she bade him open the shutters, pull
the curtains, and raise the window that she might, from her pillow,
look forth upon the night, and smell the sweet night air.

She had been unusually well that day, and on her face now filling out
once more into its old soft oval, bloomed again a look of warm life
and youth. Unsuspecting, unthinking Sir Adrian obeyed. It was a dim,
close night, and the blush-roses nodded palely into the room from the
outer darkness as he raised the sash. There was no moon, no stars
shone in the mist hung sky; there was no light to be seen anywhere
except one faint glimmer in the distance--the light upon Scarthey
Island.

"Is that a star?" said Molly, after a moment's dreamy silence.

Sir Adrian started. A vision of all that might hang upon his answer
flashed through his brain. With a trembling hand he pulled the
curtain. It was too late.

Molly sat up in bed, with a contracted brow and hands outstretched as
one who would seize a tantalising escaping memory.

"I used to watch it then, at night, from this window," she whispered.
"What was it? The light of Scarthey?" Then suddenly, with a scream;
"The light of Scarthey!"

Adrian sprang to her side but she turned from him, shrank from him,
with a look of dread which seared him to the soul.

"Do not come near me, do not touch me," she cried.

And then he left her.

       *       *       *       *       *

Miss O'Donoghue was gone upon her journey with Madeleine. There was
none in whom he might confide, with whom seek counsel. But presently,
listening outside the door in an agony of suspense, he heard a storm
of sobs. In time these gradually subsided; and later he learnt from
Moggie, whom he had hurriedly ordered to her mistress's side, that his
wife was quiet and seemed inclined to rest.

On the next day, she expressed no desire to see him and he dared not
go to her unsought. He gathered a great dewy bunch of roses and had
them brought to her upon her breakfast tray instead of bringing them
himself as had been his wont.

She had taken the roses, Moggie told him, and laid them to her cheek.
"The master sent them, said I," continued the sturdy little matron,
who was far from possessing the instinctive tact of her spouse; "an'
she get agate o'crying quiet like and let the flowers fall out of her
hands on the bed--Eh, what ever's coom to her, sin yesterday? Wannut
you go in, sir?"

"Not unless she sends for me," said Sir Adrian hastily. "And remember,
Moggie, do not speak my name to her. She must not be worried or
distressed. But if she sends for me, come at once. You will find me in
the library."

And in the library he sat the long, long day, waiting for the summons
that did not come. She never sent for him.

She had wept a good deal during the day, the faithful reporter told
him in the evening, but always "quiet like;" had spoken little, and
though of unwonted gentleness of manner had persistently declined to
be carried to the garden as usual, or even to leave her room. Now she
had gone back to bed, and was sleeping peacefully.

An hour later Sir Adrian left his home for Scarthey once again. It is
to be doubted whether, through all the vicissitudes of his existence
he ever carried into the sheltering ruins a heart more full of cruel
pain.

When Tanty returned to Pulwick from her travels again, it was to find
in Miss Landale the only member of the family waiting to greet her.
The old lady's displeasure on learning the reason of this defection,
was at first too intense to find relief in words. But presently the
strings of her tongue were loosened under the influence of the usual
feminine restorative; and, failing a better listener, she began to
dilate upon the situation with her wonted garrulity.

"Yes, my good Sophia, I will thank you for another cup of tea. What
should we do without tea in this weary world? I declare it's the only
pleasure left to me now--for, of all the ungrateful things in life,
working for your posterity is the most ungrateful. Posterity is born
to trample on one.... And now, sit down and tell me exactly how
matters stand. My niece is greatly better, I hear. The doctor
considers her quite convalescent? At least this is very satisfactory.
Very satisfactory indeed! Just now she is resting. Quite so. I should
not dream of disturbing her; more especially as the sight of me would
probably revive painful memories, and we must not risk her having a
bad night--of course not. Ah, my dear, memory, like one's teeth, is a
very doubtful blessing. Far more trouble than pleasure when you have
it, and yet a dreadful nuisance when you have not--But what's this I
hear about Adrian? Gone back to that detestable island of his again! I
left him and Molly smiling into each other's eyes, clasping each
other's hands like two turtle-doves. Why, she could not as much as
swallow a mouthful of soup, unless he was beside her to feed her--And
now I am told he has not been near her for four days. What is the
meaning of this? Oh, don't talk to me, Sophia! It's more than flesh
and blood can bear. Here am I, having been backward and forward over
nine hundred miles, looking after you all, at my age, till I don't
know which it is, Lancashire or Somerset I'm in, or whether I'm on my
head or my heels, though I'm sure I can count every bone of my body by
the aching of them;--and I did think I was coming back to a little
peace and comfort at length. That island of his, Sophia, will be the
death of me! I wish it was at the bottom of the sea: that is the only
thing that will bring your brother to his senses, I believe. Now he
might as well be in his grave at once, like Rupert, for all the good
he is; though, for that matter it's more harm than good poor Rupert
ever did while he was alive----"

"Excuse me, Aunt Rose," here exclaimed Sophia, heroically, her
corkscrew ringlets trembling with agitation, "but I must beg you to
refrain from such remarks--I cannot hear my dear brother...."

But Miss O'Donoghue waved the interruption peremptorily away.

"Now it's no use your going on, Sophia. _We_ don't think a man flies
straight to heaven just because he's dead. And nothing will ever make
me approve of Rupert's conduct in all this dreadful business. Of
course one must not speak evil of those who can't defend themselves,
but for all that he is dead and buried, Rupert might argue with me
from now till doomsday, and he never would convince me that it is the
part of a gentleman to act like a Bow Street runner. I _hope_, my
dear, he has found more mercy than he gave. I _hope_ so. But only for
him my poor dear grand-niece Molly would never have gone off on that
mad journey, and my poor grand-niece Madeleine would not be buried
alive on that other island at the back of God's speed. Ah, yes, my
dear, it has been a very sad time! I declare I felt all the while as
if I were conducting a corpse to be buried; and now I feel as if I had
come back from the dear girl's funeral. We had a dreadful passage, and
she was _so_ sick that I'm afraid even if she wanted to come out of
that place again she'd never have the courage to face the crossing.
She was a wreck--a perfect wreck, when she reached the convent. Many a
time I thought she would only land to find herself dead. _I_ wanted
her to come to the hotel with me, where I should have popped her into
bed with a hot bottle; but nothing would serve her but that she must
go to the convent at once. 'I shall not be able to rest till I am
there,' she said. 'And it's precious little rest you will get there,'
said I, 'if it's rest you want?--What with the hard beds, and all the
prayers you have to say, and the popping out of bed, as soon as you
are asleep, to sing in the middle of the night, and those blessed
little bells going every three minutes and a half. There is no rest in
a convent, my dear.' But I might as well have talked to the wall.

"When I went to see her the next day, true enough, she declared that
she was more content already, and that her soul had found what it
yearned for--peace. She was quite calm, and sent you all messages to
say how she would pray for you and for the repose of the souls of
those you loved--Rupert, your rector and all--that they may reach
eternal bliss."

"God forbid!" exclaimed the pious Protestant, in horrified tones.

"God forbid?--You're a regular heathen, Sophia. Oh, I know what you
mean quite well. But would it not have been better for you to have
been praying for that poor fellow who never lived to marry you, all
these years, than to have been wasting your time weeping over spilt
milk? Tell me _that_, miss. Please to remember, too, that you could
not have come to be the heretic you are, if your great grandfather had
not been the time-server he was. Any how, you need not distress
yourself. I don't think Madeleine's prayers will do any one any harm,
even Rupert; though, honestly, I don't think they are likely to be of
much good in _that_ quarter. However, there, there, we won't discuss
the subject any more. Poor darling; so I left her. I declare I never
liked her so much as when I said good-bye, for I felt I'd never see
her again. And the Reverend Mother--oh! she is a very good, holy
woman--a Jerningham, and thus, you know, a connection of mine. She was
an heiress but chose the cloister. And I saw the buckles sable on a
memorial window in the chapel erected to another sister--also a
nun--they are a terribly pious family. I knew them at once, for they
are charges I also am entitled to bear, as you know, or, rather, don't
know, I presume; for you have all the haziest notion of what sort of
blood it is that runs in your veins. Well, as I said, she is a holy
woman! She tried to console me in her pious way. Oh, it was very
beautiful, of course:--bride of heaven and the rest of it. But I had
rather seen her the bride of a nice young man. Many is the time I have
wished I had not been so hasty about that poor young Smith. I don't
believe he _was_ purely Smith after all. He must have had some good
blood in his veins! Oh, of course, of course, he was dreadfully
wicked, I know; but he was a fine fellow, and all these complications
would have been avoided. But, after all, it was Rupert's fault if
everything ended in tragedy ... there, there, we won't speak another
word about your brother; we must leave him to the Lord--and," added
Miss O'Donoghue, piously under her breath, "if it's not the devil, He
is playing with him, it's a poor kind of justice up there!--Alas, my
poor Sophia, such is life. One only sees things in their true light
when they're gone into the darkness of the past. And now we must make
the best of the present, which, I regret to find, seems disposed to be
peculiarly uncomfortable. But I have done what I could, and now I owe
it myself to wash my hands of you and look after my own soul.--I'll
take no more journeys, at any rate, except to lay my bones at
Bunratty; if I live to reach it alive."



CHAPTER XXXV

THE LIGHT REKINDLED

    Look not upon the sky at eventide,
    For that makes sorrowful the heart of man;
    Look rather here into my heart,
    And joyful shalt thou always be.

    _Luteplayer's Song._


It was on the fifth day after Sir Adrian's return to his island home.
Outwardly the place was the same. A man had been engaged to attend to
the lighthouse duties, but he and his wife lived apart in their own
corner of the building and never intruded into the master's apartments
or into the turret-room which had been Captain Jack's.

From the moment that Sir Adrian, attended by René, had re-entered the
old rooms, the peel had resumed its wonted aspect. But the peace, the
serenity which belonged to it for so many years, had fled--fled, it
seemed to Sir Adrian, for ever. Still there was solitude and, in so
far, repose. It was something to have such a haven of refuge for his
bruised spirit.

The whole morning of this day had been spent in counting out and
securing, in separate lots, duly docketted and distinguished, a
portion of that unwieldy accumulation of wealth, the charge of which
he had accepted, against the time when it should be called for and
claimed by its depositors.

The task was by no means simple, and required all his attention; but
there is a blessing even in mere mechanical labour, that soothes the
torment of the mind. In the particular occupation upon which he had
been engaged there was, moreover, a hidden touching element. It was
work for the helpless dead, work for that erring man but noble soul
who had been his loyal friend. As Sir Adrian tied up each bag of gold
and labelled it with the name of some unknown creditor who had trusted
Jack, dimly the thought occurred that it would stand material proof,
call for recognition that this Captain Smith, who had died the death
of a felon, had been a true man even in his own chosen lawless path.

On the table, amid the papers and books, a heap of gold pieces yet
untold, remainder of his allotted day's task, awaited still his
ministering hand. But he was tired. It was the dreamy hour of the day
when the shadows grow long, the shafts of light level; and Sir Adrian
sat at his open window, gazing at the distant view of Pulwick, while
his thoughts wandered into the future, immediate and distant. With the
self-detachment of his nature these thoughts all bore upon the future
of the woman whom he pictured to himself lying behind those sunlit
windows yonder, framed by the verdure of leafy June, gathering slowly
back her broken strength for the long life stretching before her.

Unlike the musings which in the lonely days of old had ever drifted
irresistibly towards the past and gathered round the image of the
dead, all the power of his mind was now fixed upon what was to come,
upon the child, still dearer than the mother, who had all her life to
live. What would she do? What could _he_ do for her, now that she
required his helping hand no more? Life was full of sorrow past and
present; and in the future there lurked no promise of better things.
The mind of man is always fain, even in its darkest hour, to take
flight into some distant realm of hope. To those whom life has utterly
betrayed there is always the hope of approaching death--but this,
even, reason denied to him. He was so strong; illness had never taken
hold of him; he came from such long-lived stock! He might almost
outlive her, might for ever stand as the one ineluctable check upon
her peace of mind. And his melancholy reflections came circling back
to their first starting-point--that barren rock of misery in a vast
sea of despondency--there was nothing to be done.

The barriers raised between them, on his side partly by the poisonous
words of his brother, partly by the phantom of that old love of which
the new had at first been but an eluding reflex, and on hers, by the
chilly disillusion which had fallen so soon upon her ardent nature;
these sank into insignificance, contrasted to the whirl of baulked
passion which had passed over her life, to leave it utterly blasted,
to turn her indifference to hate.

Yes, that was the burden of his thoughts: she hated and dreaded him.
His love, his forbearance, his chivalrousness had been in vain. All he
had now to live upon was the memory of those few days when, under the
spell of oblivion the beloved child had smiled on him in the
unconscious love born of her helplessness and his care. But even this
most precious remembrance of the present was now, like that of the
past, to be obscured by its abrupt and terrible end.

Death had given birth to the first and last avowal of love in her who
had perished between his arms under the swirling waters of the
Vilaine--but it was Life itself, returning life and health of mind,
which had changed looks of trust and affection into the chilly stare
of dread in the eyes of her whom with all the strength of his hoarded
manhood he now loved alone. The past for all its sorrows had held
sweetness: the present, the future, nothing but torment. And now, even
the past, with its love and its sorrow was gone from him, merged in
the greater love and sorrow of the present. How long could he bear
it?--Useless clamour of the soul! He must bear it. Life must be
accepted.

Sir Adrian rose and, standing, paused a moment to let his sight,
wandering beyond the immense sands, seek repose for a moment in the
blue haze marking the horizon of the hills. The day was pure,
exquisite in its waning beauty; the breeze as light and soft as a
caress. In the great stillness of the bay the sisters sea and land
talked in gentle intermittent murmurs. Now and then the cries of
circling sea-fowl brought a note of uncanny joy into the harmony that
seemed like silence in its unity.

A beautiful harmonious world! But to him the very sense of the outer
peace gave a fresh emphasis to the discordance of his own life. He
brought his gaze from afar and slowly turned to resume his work. But
even as he turned a black speck upon the nearer arm of sea challenged
his fleeting attention. He stood and watched--and, as he watched, a
sensation, the most poignant and yet eerie he had ever known clutched
him by the heart.

A boat was approaching: a small row-boat in which the oars were plyed
by a woman. By the multi-coloured, glaring shawl (poor Jack's
appreciated gift) he knew her, but without attaching name or
personality to his recognition; for all his being was drawn to the
something that lay huddled, black and motionless, in the stern. He
felt to the innermost fibre of him that this something was a woman
too--this woman Molly. But the conviction seized him with a force that
was beyond surprise. And all the vital heat in him fled to his heart,
leaving him deadly cold.

As her face grew out of the distance towards him, a minute white patch
amid the dark cloud of silk and lace that enwrapt it, it seemed as
though he had known for centuries that she was thus to come to him.
And the glow of his heart spread to his brain.

When the boat was about to land, he began, like one walking in his
sleep, to move away; and, slowly descending the stairs of the keep, he
advanced towards the margin of the sea. He walked slowly, for the body
was heavy whilst the soul trembled within its earthly bounds.

Molly had alighted and was toiling, with her new born and yet but
feeble strength upon the yielding sand, supported between René and
Moggie. She halted as she saw him approach, and, when he came close,
looked up into his face. Her frail figure wavered and bent, and she
would have fallen on her knees before him, but that he opened his arms
wide and caught her to him.

An exclamation rose to Moggie's lips, to die unformed under an
imperious glance from René who, with shining eyes and set mouth, had
stood apart to watch the momentous issue.

Adrian felt his wife nestle to him as he held her. And then the tide
of his long-bound love overflowed. And gathering her up in his arms as
if she were a child, he turned to carry the broken woman with him into
the shelter, the silence of the ruins.

At the foot of the outer wall, just out of reach of high water, yet
within reach of its salt spray, a little mound of red stony soil rose
very slightly above the green turf; at its head, a small stone cross,
roughly hewn, was let into the masonry itself. The grave of Hubert
Cochrane was not obtrusive: in a few months it would have merged again
into the greensward, and its humble memorial symbol would be covered
with moss and lichen like the matrix of stone which encompassed it.

Involuntarily as he passed it, the man, with his all too light burden,
halted. A flame shot through him as Molly turned her head to gaze too:
he shook with a brief agony of jealousy--jealousy of the dead! The
next instant he felt her recoil, look up pleadingly and cling to him
again, and he knew into the soul of his soul that the words spoken by
those loyal lips--now clay beneath that clay--were coming true, that,
out of his house laid desolate to him was to rise a new and stately
mansion.

Grasping her closer he hurried into the sanctuary of the old room,
where he had first seen her bright young beauty.

At the door he gently suffered her to stand, still supporting her with
one arm about her waist. As they entered, she cast a rapid glance
around: her eyes, bedewed with rising tears, fell upon the heap of
gold glinting under the rays of the sinking sun, and she understood
the nature of the task her coming had interrupted. Her tears gushed
forth; catching his hand between hers, and looking up at him with a
strange, wonderful humility, she pressed it to her lips.

What need for words between them, then?

He stood a little while motionless in front of her, entranced yet
still almost incredulous, as one suddenly freed from long intolerable
pain, when there rose once more, for the last time, before his mind's
eye the ideal image that had been the companion of twenty years of his
existence. It was vivid almost as life. He saw Cécile de Savenaye bend
over her child with grave and tender look, then turn and smile upon
him with the old exquisite sweetness that he had adored so madly in
that far off past. And then, it was as if she had merged into Molly.
Behold, she was gone! there was no Cécile, only Molly the woman he
loved. Molly, whom now he seized to his heart, who smiled at him
through her tears as he bent to kiss her lips.

Twilight was waning and the light of Scarthey beamed peacefully over
the yellow sands; and the waves receded dragging away sand and shingle
from the foot of the hidden grave.





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